Together but apart. . . .
Never before in my lifetime have I felt more connected to the world at large than right now. I communicate with friends in places like Costa Rica, Israel and Palestine, and I stay in contact with others within the United States from Virginia to Hawaii. I can talk face to face with any of them by phone, Zoom, Facebook and various other means of virtual communication. But on the other hand, never before in my life have I felt more disconnected to my immediate neighborhood and the community around me than I do right now. I have no ideal what goes on in the house across the street or next door, because many folks are staying inside behind locked doors and appearing in public only behind face masks. I feel very isolated and insulated at a time when news abounds and fear, discontent and frustration have become a present reality. We are truly together in amazing new ways, but at the same time, so very distanced and apart from each other in equally new ways.
During this very unique time in the history of the world when my calendar has been cleared and I'm not running here and there to meetings and fulfilling commitments, I am more aware that I've ever been of how very easy it is to allow ourselves to "social distance" from the Presence of God. For those of us who grew up in an era when parents worked hard and expected the same from their children, it's been difficult to give ourselves permission to just "chill" and make the most of this time by renewing and deepening that ONE must important relationship.
So as I continue to stay connected to friends and acquaintances around the globe, I know that my relationships with those around me will be strengthened because of the time I've been given to renew my spirit and rest my body. At least for that much I am very grateful during this exceptional time in history.
After covid-19, what . . . .
Well, it's been no church for five weeks now without a re-start date on the calendar as of this post. During this time I've experienced a lot of virtual church services, especially those from my own familiar place of worship with my favorite worship leaders in place. Daily devotion time has been rich, and I've spent more time in prayer and quiet reflection than for a long time simply because it's easier to be still and focused when ordered to stay put. It was very hard to begin with not to be able to visit in hospitals, homes and nursing homes, but finally reality set in and I resigned myself to just staying put for a time.
I've taken long walks with others who live with me and watched a lot of TV. That means I've caught re-runs of re-runs of Mash, Andy Griffin, Hogan's Heroes, Colombo, etc. and I've spent a considerable amount of time working from home on my laptop. I have the Johns Hopkins COVID19 dashboard saved as a shortcut on my desktop (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/) and I refer to it several times a day to keep up with the latest "virus" statistics. What I do not do is keep my TV tuned to a station that broadcasts news continually. The local news at 5:00 am, 6:00 and 11:00 pm are sufficient to keep me posted on world events and local virus related news. Finally, I'm enjoying the benefits of the Amazon Prime membership I pay for, other than free shipping on purchases. To my amazement, there are some wonderful documentaries on the Holy Land and Jerusalem, as well as some of my favorite old movies.
I have my masks, and I've listened to those who say it's essential to wear them in public and also to those who say it's really not a good idea or advisable unless you're symptomatic. And typical of so many subjects in America today, the debate goes on, and on and on. So I just keep one in my car, and one in my purse, and several at home and in my office at church, and decide on what seems appropriate for the moment.
Living in a four generation household makes life during a pandemic anything but boring. When I said I've watched a lot of TV and Amazon Prime, did I mention movies like Sonic the Hedgehog, Spongebob Square Pants, Winnie the Pooh, and a bizillion Blippi videos for kids? I've also "learned" to play a Nintendo Switch and PacMan. When the weather has cooperated, and we can play outside, I've been outsmarted at soccer by a five year old and played catch and kick ball until my very out of shape body gasped for help. Finally another adult in the family will say, "Ammaw, why don't you act your age?" And I say, "I think I'll do just that!" as I collapse.
Well, now for the question, "After COVID-19, what?" Whatever our immediate future holds, life won't be the same as it was on January 1st. But one thing is very clear, even if our way of life is uncertain, there is one constant that has not and will not change - God is still in control and He is absolutely present in our world. According the the ancient writing of Isaiah, "I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. . . Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one." (Isaiah 44:6b, 8) Take heart and be of good courage, dear ones. Our God is awake, and His Spirit is stirring among us in our world. Let's stay alert and see what He's about to do. Claim the peace He promises and experience the wonder of just being in His Presence.
Social Distancing. . . . .
If we had heard the term "social distancing" back in December, 2019 we might possibly have thought we were being asked to "take a break" from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other online social networking platform. Who could possibly have conceived that in such short a period of time we would be asked to distance ourselves physically rather than digitally from each other and to stay home.
I never fully realized how very much I enjoyed physical human touch - a hug, a handshake or even a pat on the back - until we were ordered to eliminate all such social contact. How very quickly our lives can change and our focus become entirely redirected. For those with strong faith and an active prayer life, this "time apart" can be a time of refreshing and renewal - a time when the pace of daily life slows from hectic to quite slow and peaceful. In the absence of such a connection with the One only and true God, it can be a very disturbing and anxious time. From the very beginning of human history, God has wasted no opportunity to offer reconciliation and forgiveness to those who turn to Him in times of trouble and distress. This present time is no exception.
Whatever we choose to call this period in history - pandemic, corona virus, COVID-19, or simply "the virus" - it will be remembered as the time the whole world was brought to a stand-still. And I believe with all my heart that it will be a moment in time when God got our attention and brought to Himself brand new sons and daughters. As I look around see the signs of spring in flowering trees and new foliage, I sense God sending forth His Spirit to renew the face of the earth in our time and in our presence. This is the time, today is the day to rejoice in His goodness and to expect great things in the time of trouble. (When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19)
After spending 36 years in a Social Services career, Barbara became a Licensed Local Pastor. She was appointed to Pleasant View UMC as Associate Pastor, and has truly found her "sweet spot" in ministry.