In Praise of Snail Mail

Snail Mail Art Print by adrianserghie | Society6

As we move through the 21st century, snail mail is rapidly disappearing.  We make use of email, text messages, facebook, and technology and platforms that are foreign to me.  Most of my bills come via email now, and I pay most of my bills on line or via credit card rather than writing a check and dropping it in the mail.  In all of this we have forgotten the power of words written on a piece of paper and received in the mail.

I recently learned that my siblings had saved some of the letters I had written them when they were leaving home for the first time.  I’m sure I offered lots of big sisterly wisdom.  I was surprised to hear they still have them 30-40 years later.  Generally speaking, emails are not something we save and reread.  I have a file where I save the notes and cards I receive expressing appreciation.  They mean so much to me, and on a bad day it’s nice to look back on them. 

I have been corresponding with someone who is currently incarcerated.  She is only allowed to receive metered postcards, so I have become something of an expert at writing small so I can fit as much possible on the postcard.  She is very grateful for those cards, and recently told me that they are something she can keep and reread when she gets discouraged.  She has also received a number of postcards from the congregation, in fact, one day she received 5.  She was overwhelmed by the love those represented.

For her, these are a very concrete reminder that she is remembered, she is loved, and she is surrounded with prayer.  What a wonderful gift they are for her. There are others who need the encouragement of a note or card.  There are others who need concrete reminders of our love and prayers.  We may be out of the habit, but it really isn’t that hard to write a simple note and drop it in the mail to someone. 

Challenge for the week:  send someone a handwritten note by mail. 

Stumbling Blocks

But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  1 Corinthians 8:9

This verse is part of a longer passage in 1 Corinthians.  In the passage, Paul is talking about eating foods sacrificed to idols.  Depending on their backgrounds, some saw it as sinful and some did not.  While he acknowledged that they had the liberty to eat food sacrificed to idols, he also reminded them that for some people, this was a problem.  He encouraged them to respect those beliefs, even if they didn’t share them. 

I’ve been thinking about facemasks recently.  The guidance on when they are and aren’t needed seems to be constantly changing.  Lena and I are both fully vaccinated.  According to some guidance, that means we no longer need to wear facemasks.  There are many people who still haven’t (or won’t) be vaccinated.  Does wearing a facemask mark us as someone who hasn’t been vaccinated?  I have a friend who wants to wear a facemask that says, “I am fully vaccinated.”  Even though she has been vaccinated, she plans to continue to wear a mask for a variety of reasons, including the reality that not everyone has been vaccinated. 

Like my friend, I will continue to wear a facemask when I go into stores.  I will do it not because I believe I need the protection, but because I want to help others to feel safe, and I don’t want those who haven’t been vaccinated to feel singled out.  How long will I continue to wear a facemask?  I don’t know.  I do know, however, that I am willing to wear it as long as there are people who are required to wear facemasks.  I will do it in support of them, so it will be easier for them to continue to wear a facemask and not feel singled out.  I will contribute in any way I can to the safety of the most vulnerable in our community.  I will do it to prevent providing another place for the Covid 19 virus to mutate and form a more dangerous variant. 

I will do it because my liberty doesn’t give me the freedom to be a stumbling block for others.    

The Power of Grace

Recently I saw the power of grace, and I think that too often we forget exactly how powerful it is.  We have become a society that emphasizes building up self-esteem, and that can make it harder to recognize how much we need God’s grace.  When we see people doing stupid things that totally mess up their lives, it can be hard to remember that God still loves them, and that God’s grace is more powerful than their sin. 

On a number of occasions over my years in ministry, I have seen the power of grace in the lives of individuals.  I never knew in advance how powerful something so simple as love and acceptance could be in their lives.

There was the church employee who had struggled with anger and violence.  When I praised him for walking away from a situation that was headed toward violence, he was amazed.   He came to me a day later and said, “Why do you care?  You care about me more than my own family.”  He set up a phone call with his mother so I could tell her how well he was doing.  He was amazed that we saw him as more than the sum of his mistakes.  That is the power of grace.

There was the woman I invited to go to lunch with me after worship one Sunday.  She had had a very tough life and had spent time living on the streets.  When I went to get her so we could head out to lunch, I found her staring in the mirror.  “I was just trying to figure out how I’ve changed that you would want to go to lunch with me.”  She had not seen herself as someone who was worthy of being taken to a restaurant for a meal.  That is the power of grace.

There was the child who was so surprised to discover that the adults in the church thought she was worthy of friendship.  As the youngest child in a large family, she was often forgotten and overlooked.  She didn’t feel loved, and didn’t see herself as worthy of love.   Her face lit up when she heard that she was worthy of love.  That is the power of grace.

When as a congregation we didn’t reject someone who had made very big mistakes, but continued to love and support her, we had a powerful impact on her life.  When we affirmed that she was still a beloved child of God, worthy of another chance, she was amazed.  “Most of my family is done with me, yet you are loving and accepting,” she said in amazement.  That is the power of grace.

After many years, I finally accepted the fact that I didn’t have to be perfect to be loved.  God knows my imperfections, and loves me anyway.  A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.  That is the power of grace. 

God’s love for us is beyond measure.  If you haven’t done so already, recognize and claim that love and grace for you.  Our love for others flows out of God’s love for us.  Never underestimate what can happen and how a person can be impacted when we allow God’s love to flow through us. That is the power of grace.

Mother’s Day

Several years ago I was shopping at Meijer.  As I stood gazing at the groceries a woman complimented me on the sweatshirt I was wearing.  I thanked her, and before she departed, she said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”  I was surprised, but returned the greeting.  How did she know I was a mother?  I continued to think about her Mother’s Day greeting throughout the weekend.  I knew that it would be a challenging Mother’s Day for me.  My daughter was in one of her moods, so I wasn’t even sure if she would acknowledge the day.   There was a possibility that I would become the target of her anger. I thought about how I was only a mother because I had agreed to take in a child of the first church I served “for the weekend.”  I thought about the conversation I had had with my daughter about Mother’s Day one year.  She had told me that she wasn’t sure what to do with the day, because she also had a birth mother.  Which mother was she supposed to celebrate?  How should she feel about that birth mother, love for giving her birth or anger for failing to keep her safe?   The woman’s kind wish brought up so many different feelings within me.  

Then I began to think about the women for whom Mother’s Day is painful:

  • Women who grieve their inability to have healthy children.  I remember the story of a family in the church I grew up in.  She had 11 miscarriages, and each time the doctor told her there was nothing wrong with her, and she should just keep trying.  Finally, she successfully carried a baby to term.  Her daughter was very disabled, with multiple issues.  She couldn’t talk, and even walking was a challenge for her.  As she grew up, life became more difficult as she would lash out in her frustration. 
  • Women who grieve the death of their child(ren).  No mother should have to bury her child, yet we know that it happens.  I remember how hard it was on my grandmother when her oldest daughter died. 
  • Women who are estranged from their child(ren).  It happens, and not being together on Mother’s Day can be a very painful reminder of that estrangement.
  • Women who never had the opportunity to marry and have children.

It’s not just women who find this day painful.  It can be painful for a variety of reasons.

  • People who grew up without their mothers.
  • People who grew up with abusive mothers.
  • People who are grieving the death of their mother.
  • People who are estranged from their mothers.
  • People, like my daughter, for whom the day raises conflict and is a painful reminder that they were born to someone who wouldn’t or couldn’t take care of them.

There are many other reasons why people find the day painful.  If Mother’s Day makes you happy, celebrate!  Enjoy the time with your family.  Remember, though, that everyone is different and for some the day is hard.  Recognize their pain.  Pray for those people.   

Rejoice!

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24 NRSV

My first call was to be pastor of a church in the inner city.  I learned a great deal during the 10 years I spent there.  The majority of the church was African-American.  As head of staff, I was the youngest person on staff and the only white person.  Every Monday we had a staff meeting.  In addition to the normal secretary and custodian, we had individuals who worked in our urban ministry, overseeing the food pantry, the soup kitchen, the clothing ministry and ministering to the needs of our hurting neighbors.  We took turns opening the meeting with prayer and Scripture. 

The economy was in a downturn, and several of our staff members were trying to scrape by on very little money after being laid off from good paying jobs in the industrial sector.  They worked hard at the church and in other part time jobs, but none of them paid well.  One of our urban ministry staff members was in that position, as was our custodian.

I remember my surprise the first time I heard one of them pray in that staff meeting, “Lord, I thank you for my lying down last night and my rising up this morning.”  I could never recall thanking God for a night of sleep and waking up in the morning.  I couldn’t recall having heard anyone else do that, either. Here was a man who had been laid off and was struggling to provide for his family.  He offered me a new perspective, and I am grateful.  

It’s a chilly, gray spring morning, not the kind of day that makes me want to rejoice and be glad in it.  Yet I woke up this morning with all the opportunities this day will give me.  God has made this day, and it is a gift.  I will rejoice and be glad in it, even when it rains.  I will even praise God for the rain, remembering that “April showers bring May flowers.” 

Thank you, God, for the gift of this day.   

Turn Your Worries into Prayers

worries

This morning I got up and turned on the news.  I could hear the stress in the anchor’s voice, as she provided updates on what’s happening with COVID 19.  Lena finally said, “Mom, turn that off!”

As I got into the shower, I was still thinking about what I’d heard.  As I thought about it, I realized that I needed to be in prayer as I watched the news.  As I hear about the guidance as to who gets ventilators, I can pray for those who have to make those decisions, and the patients and families of those who don’t get ventilators.  I can pray that they would find the resources to provide all people the care they need.  As I hear about health care workers getting sick, I can pray for them and that resources would be distributed to keep all health care workers safe during this time.  As I hear about the unemployed, who are worried about paying  for food and rent, I can pray that they will find ways to earn money, and that food pantries will be able to continue to provide food to those in need.

The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letter to the church in Philippi.  He is writing from prison, and facing death.  He explains how he is able to find strength and stay hopeful during this difficult time:

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  –Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

The session and deacons took this passage and made one of our guiding principles for this year, “Turn your worries into prayers.”  This is the time to put this into practice.  Not only can we pray for our own worries and fears, we can pray for those around us who are experiencing stress, like the anchor this morning who sounded so anxious.  It truly is wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of our lives.  Turn your worries into prayers, and God will take those worries and give you peace.

Prayer:

Loving God, we confess that there are times when the worry and anxiety of this time feels overwhelming.  Keep us mindful of the power of prayer.  As we watch the news, help us to pray for the people whose stories we hear.

We lift up to you those who are forced to make difficult decisions.

We pray for those who are sick and their families.

We pray for healthcare workers, first responders, and the truckers and workers keeping the grocery stores stocked.

We lift up the lonely, who are isolated from friends and families during this time.

We pray that the resources would be found to care for the sick and protect the healthy.

We pray for individuals and businesses dealing with the loss of income.  Help them find the opportunities and resources they need.

We pray for your peace, that peace that passes all understanding, that we would find our security in you.

We pray through Christ, our hope and our salvation.  Amen.

 

Be Still

The last few days I have been searching for a way to reframe a very challenging time.  I’ve been looking for the upside to all of this.  Today I want to reflect with you on Psalm 46.  Hear the first three verses:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I fear.  There are times when I look at all that is going on in the world and feel so helpless.  There are times I feel like the mountains are shaking.  Sometimes I’m able to remember God is my refuge and strength.  Sometimes I find that knowledge gives me hope and peace in the midst of turmoil, other times it’s harder.  The psalmist continues:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Amid the uproar of COVID 19 and the political upheaval and accusations in places of leadership, it can be hard to hear God’s voice.  It certainly doesn’t seem like those in power are going to be quiet long enough to hear God’s voice.  If they can’t hear the scientists and medical doctors who are in the room with them, how are they going to hear God?

Yet still, for the psalmist there is hope, there is always hope:

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[d]Selah

We forget the power of God.  It’s hard to remember that God is with us.  In a world that is focused on doing, it can be challenging to be still long enough to see God’s hand at work around us.  Perhaps the most significant verse in this psalm is verse 10:  Be still and know that I am God!  I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.

If we want to experience God’s presence, if we want to claim God as our strength and our refuge, we need to be still.  We not only need to be still, we need to be silent, and silence all the distractions around us.  One of the challenges we face as a society is that with computers, smart phones, and the internet, we are always accessible.

One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is that we are unable to do the things we normally do.  We don’t know how to sit at home and just be.  Psalm 46 talks about God being a refuge and strength in times of trouble.  It talks about how we don’t need to fear when the whole world is falling apart around us.  It talks about the power of God to stop wars.

So why don’t we experience that peace?  Why are we afraid?  Why is this so hard for us?  We have forgotten how to be still.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  We have forgotten God’s power.  We have forgotten how to let God be God.  This time of forced isolation is also an opportunity.  It is a time to stop doing and make use of the time to just be.  “Be still and known that I am God.”  Set aside the electronics.  Sit comfortably.  Breathe deeply.  As you breathe in, remind yourself, “Be still,” as you breathe out, “and know that I am God.”  Let go of your cares and concerns.  Let go of your desire to do.  Let go of your desire to know. Let go of the distractions around you.  Let go of your desire to be in control.  Sit.  Be.  Know.  God is still God.  God will still win.  I knew a woman who had a challenging life.  She was caregiver for a loved one, and he could be very challenging.  Every day when she sat down to pray, she would imagine herself climbing into God’s lap to sit, to rest, to talk, sometimes to complain, and always to be comforted.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still.  Be.  During this time of staying home and staying safe, we have an opportunity to know God.  We have an opportunity to set aside the distractions and just be in God’s presence.  We have an opportunity to remember we are loved for who we are, not for what we do.  We have an opportunity to climb into God’s lap and claim God as our refuge and strength.  We have an opportunity to just be.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know.  Be still.  Be.

 

Let us pray

Loving God we ask you to help us see the gifts in these times of uncertainty.  Help us to set aside our need to do and be in control and just rest and be with you.  Teach us how to quiet not only the world around us, but our own thoughts and fears.  Give us the faith and the patience to just be with you, that you might feed and comfort us.

We give you thanks for all the people who are taking responsibility during this uncertain time and serving.  We thank you for medical personnel and warehouse workers, for truck drivers and child care workers.  We thank you for the ability to keep in touch with one another through our electronic devices.

We pray for those who are living in fear.  We pray for those who are overworked.  We pray for those who are unemployed, and don’t know how they will buy food or pay rent.  We pray for the sick and the grieving.  We lift up those who are charged with making difficult decisions.   We pray that you will help us learn the lessons you can teach us through this time.

We pray in the name of Christ, who regularly took time away for prayer.  Amen.

God Is at Work Around Us

flowers in the desert

Prayer

 Loving God, we come confessing that we are afraid.  We are hearing different things about this pandemic, and we don’t know who to trust.  We cry out, “How long, O Lord?”  Forgive us our fear, and strengthen our trust in you.  Help us to see you at work around us, that we might know and share the hope you offer.  Lift us out of fear, and into the shelter of your love and grace.  We pray through Christ, our hope and our salvation.  Amen.

God is at work around us

 I had an appointment at the vet for my dog and cat on Thursday.  On Wednesday I received a reminder call, along with directions.  When I arrived, I was to call them and wait in my car.  When they had a room ready, they would call me, and we could go in.  That made sense.  About an hour later, I received a second call.  They were cancelling all appointments that weren’t urgent and asked me to reschedule for April.

Things are changing quickly, and it’s hard to keep up.  There is very little good news being shared, as we watch the number of people with coronavirus go up, the number of deaths go up, and the stock market fall.  We look around and wonder where God is.  How can God allow all of this to happen?

Today I focus on the second guiding principle the Session and Deacons wrote for this year: God is at work around us.  Once again, I turn to the prophet Isaiah, who wrote to a people deep in despair and feeling totally cut off from God.

16-21 This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself
,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

I have always found this passage intriguing, because it begins with reminding the people that God has powerfully delivered them in the past, rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and providing a dry path through the Red Sea so they could cross.  It then tells us to forget about the past and focus on the present.  Are we to remember the Red Sea, or forget it?  How can we do both?

We need to remember that God has delivered us from impossible situations in the past.  God is still at work among us, but God is doing it in new ways.  Don’t get so focused on God creating a dry path through the sea that you fail to see the road through the desert that God is creating.  This time, instead of dry land in the sea, God is providing water in dry land.

So, what does it mean?  What does this have to do with the struggles of social isolation and COVID19 fears?  What does it mean that God is doing something so wonderful that the wild animals will say “thank you?”  As we look around, where do we see signs of hope, signs of God working in this situation?

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

  • There are medical personnel putting their lives at risk to care for the sick.
  • There are people shopping for the elderly and other high-risk individuals.
  • A landlord told restaurants, “Don’t worry about the rent, pay your employees.”
  • In this politically polarized time, governors are working together across party lines to coordinate their responses.
  • Yes, there are people hoarding food (and toilet paper), and there are other people sharing food (and toilet paper).
  • There are singers and musicians offering free online concerts.
  • There are businesses transforming their production to meet the needs of this crisis.
  • Teachers are reading stories online.
  • Educational companies are making their material available free online to help parents while the schools are closed.
  • A trucker told the story of people who had helped him get restaurant food and even pay for it (you can’t drive a semi through the drive through lanes).
  • In a society that had become so “me” oriented, we are beginning to see people thinking of others.
  • Closer to home, our Session chose to view this not as a disaster for the church, but as an opportunity to try new ways of worshiping and being the church together.

This willingness to make sacrifices, to change, to think of others, is a welcome change.  I see it as a sign of God at work around us.  My hope and prayer is that all these good things will continue beyond this current crisis.

Look for signs of God at work around us.  Look for opportunities to do God’s work around us.  Even if you can’t get out, you can make some phone calls to others who are feeling isolated, write some notes, offer encouragement. You can be a helper, you can be a sign of God at work around us.

Prayer

After each phrase, pause to name people you know and add your own prayers.

O Lord, who makes a way through the sea and brings water to the desert, open our eyes that we may see you at work around us, and find hope.  Open our hearts that we might see opportunities to offer help and hope and be your church in the world.

We give you thanks for those who are doing your work during this difficult time.

We give you thanks for those who are working long hours and putting their lives at risk.

We give you thanks for those who are reaching out and offering hope.

We give you thanks for those who are thinking of those around them and reaching out a helping hand.

We give you thanks for those who are working cooperatively to find the best way forward.

We give you thanks for the opportunity to slow down and focus on you.

We pray for those who are sick and those who are mourning the death of loved ones.

We pray for those who are working long hours to provide us with food and other basic necessities.

We pray for the medical personnel who are putting their own lives at risk to care for the sick and the scared.

We pray for those who are lonely and isolated, living in fear.

We pray for the scientists who are looking for answers.

We pray for those responsible for making hard decisions.

We pray for parents struggling to balance the needs of their children with their own work commitments.

We pray for those who are out of work and wondering how they will pay for life’s necessities.

We pray for those who fail to see the danger and are putting others at risk by their behavior.

We pray for the church, that you would help us to discover new ways of serving you and being your people.

We pray all these things in the name of Christ, who even death couldn’t stop.  Amen.

God Is For Us

One of the things that I’ve been pondering since COVID-19 turned our lives upside down is what I could say to you that would point to God and give hope amidst the uncertainty. The sermon series I had planned for Lent didn’t seem appropriate to this new reality. Then I remembered the guiding principles the Session and Deacons came up with in January.

To begin our work together this year, the Session and Deacons spent some time reflecting on two passages of Scripture, one from the book of Isaiah and one from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. As we worked with these passages, we came up with six guiding principles. We thought they would serve us well as we looked at the future of the church.

Between now and Easter, we will be looking at these principles and the hope they offer during this challenging time. I will post reflections on Wednesday and Sunday. So today I start with our first principle: “God is for us.”

Right now, it is easy to wonder where God is. Why is God allowing this to happen? Is this God’s judgment for something we’ve done? Where is God, and why isn’t God stopping this in response to our prayers? As many of you have heard me say, God doesn’t promise protection from suffering and challenges, God promises to be present with us through them. This passage from Isaiah 43 was for the exiles in Babylon (and us). Israel had been defeated, the temple destroyed, and the people forced to move to Babylon. They felt cut off from God and had lost the land God had promised them. They were very discouraged. Into their despair came this message of hope:

43 1-4 But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.

                                                     Isaiah 43:1-4 The Message

This passage is from Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message. I chose to use this translation because it helps us to see the passage in a new light.

It starts with God reminding us that we were created by God and have been named and claimed by God. We belong to God, and are loved by God. God is for us. That doesn’t mean we won’t get in over our heads, that doesn’t mean we won’t experience rough waters, it means that God will bring us through.

During a pandemic we have more questions than answers. How long will this last? Are we going to run out of food (or toilet paper)? Will we get sick? Will loved ones get sick? Are people we care about going to die? How long will this last? When can we get back to our normal life?

I’m not going to try to provide answers, because I don’t have them. It’s literally a situation where only God knows, and as of right now, God isn’t revealing the answers to us. God is asking us to trust, to remember that God’s love for us is bigger than we can even imagine. God is reminding us that in the midst of all of this, God is still with us.

As we live through these challenging times, I encourage you to read Isaiah 43:1-21 and Philippians 4:4-14 daily. What jumps out at you? Claim some guiding principles for yourself, and then share them on the church’s Facebook page, or let me know by phone or email.

Know that you are all in my prayers, and that If you need to talk, I’m available. Let’s continue to pray for one another and reach out to one another in the midst of this challenge. Let’s make this a time when we grow in our faith and learn to trust God more.

 

Thoughts on the Pandemic

First it was in China, and unless we had family members there, it really didn’t concern us. Then it began to spread, and arrived on U.S. soil. Even then it was on the west coast, and the majority of the deaths were nursing home residents. It was still far away, and since we are healthier than nursing home residents we still didn’t worry. Then there were 2 cases in the state, but they weren’t around here. Overnight 2 grew to 12, including one nearby.

Suddenly we were faced with difficult decisions. Should we go to work? What about school? What about our concert tickets? Would it be safe to go to worship? Then the decisions were made for us. Schools were closed, churches were encouraged to cancel worship, and there was talk of needing to stay home for a couple of weeks. If we need to stay home for 2 weeks, would we have enough food? What about toilet paper? What about facial tissues? What did we need to make sure we would be okay?

A look at the store shelves and the things that are out show us the efforts people have made to be sure they have enough for their family. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our own needs and our own fears that we forget about others, who may have bigger needs.

With school closed for 3 weeks, there are children who will no longer have access to food. The people who will be most likely to be out of work will be those who can least afford to miss a paycheck. With nursing homes closed to visitors, the loneliness of their residents will grow even more. Medical personnel will be overworked, dealing not only with those who have the disease, but with those who fear the disease.

So, now that we are in the midst of it, how do we respond to it? As Christians, what should we do now? I offer some ideas for you.

Pray. In your prayers, remember those who are suffering, whether from the virus, grief, hunger, fear, or just the stress of it all.

Reach out to those who are isolated. Think of those who are isolated and lonely. Call them. Send them a card. Let them know you are thinking of them and holding them in your prayers.

Offer a helping hand. Do you know someone who isn’t going out, and might need some groceries? Give them a call and offer to pick some up for them next time you are at the store.

The church has agreed to allow the Delta-Waverly Rotary Club to use our building for their school backpack program while the schools are closed. They are still figuring out details, so watch for opportunities to help them continue to provide food for our children while they are out of school. Look for other opportunities to help fill in during this crisis.

Even if you aren’t in one of the high risk categories, take appropriate precautions. Some people don’t show signs of being sick, but they can still pass the disease on to others. Your safety precautions not only protect you, they help protect the most vulnerable in our community.

Live. Do something new. Start a project around the house. Play games with the family. Try a new recipe. Write some letters. Call old friends.

Trust God. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard it is right now, remember: God always wins.