I'll be honest. I'm intimidated by all the people who continue to say that during the Covid quarantine we should, among others things, start a hobby, lose weight, learn a language, write a book, organize old pictures, sanitize the house, create a family mission statement, or strategize world peace. Navigating the new landscape of job, home, school, neighboring, and food shopping consumes most of my day - physically and emotionally. Learning Spanish, playing guitar, and writing my life's story will have to wait.
I've been setting more manageable goals: no yelling, pray whenever I get the urge, tell people I love them, stop looking in the fridge as if some answer to the chaos is to be found there, read ... something ... that isn't about the virus, floss (it's not like I don't have time), and go to bed at a reasonable hour. These are doable. It makes me feel good to check off things. This is what I'm capable of right now.
I have, however, added one goal to my daily routine: see better. I won't be teaching my children thermodynamics during this time, and we may not create the Lord of the Rings battle for Minis Tirith out of pipe cleaners, staples, and discarded fidget spinners while locked down. But maybe I can notice things about my world - particularly the people in my world, particularly my family - that I didn't see before this whole dry run for the apocalypse started.
Jesus did this. All the time. Just look at how he treated children around him. "He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:36-37). Children in Jesus’ day were not Gerber babies, lovely, sweet, and cuddly. The only real worth they offered was their potential to become adults and whatever menial task they could perform for the family. A young child was on par with a slave, and only after reaching maturity was he or she a free person who could inherit the family estate. The term ‘child’ or ‘children’ could be used as a serious insult. Children were invisible. But Jesus never really followed cultural norms. Instead of ignoring the invisible, he gave them worth and dignity. He put them center stage in his Kingdom initiatives.
In the verses previous to these in Mark, the disciples want to know who is the MVD – the most valuable disciple. Jesus’ response is: “Do you see this child? The message is clear: “Start seeing the invisible.” Start seeing the invisible, not because it is virtuous to do so, not so that we can congratulate ourselves on being the greatest at seeing or so we can get any credit whatsoever. Start seeing the invisible because to receive the invisible is to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus is to receive the one who sent him.
This isn't rocket science. It's not even the earth science that you might be tasked with helping your own child or grandchild with at home these days. This is simply ... seeing better. Longer, with more intentionality, less distraction, and with love.
I've started to pay more attention when people are talking - notice their expressions, look for things I didn't see before, and generally study the people (and world) around me. I've been noticing things about my children and my wife that make me incredibly thankful for who they are and who they are becoming. I've noticed things about myself - most of which I not thankful for (that I'm too busy, I don't often listen very well, and that their irritating expressions come mostly from me). I've been trying to see Jesus better too. That always leads to seeing everything better. I'm a richer man because of it.
During Covid, you don't need to change the world. But maybe you could start to see a little better. Try it - you'll be richer too.
Just a little levity for another day of self-isolation and distance learning. Also, make sure to check out the links below. They're from someone who is ACTUALLY funny!
Here's another resource to encourage your devotional life. Every three months the Covenant Church puts out a devotional called the Home Altar. You can find it on-line at this link ...
Covenant Home Altar
As I begin my comments here on our "Quarantine Corner" page my thoughts immediately go to the limited capacity we all have to meet the myriad of needs around us living in the midst of a pandemic. Whether it's juggling 'stay at home' restrictions, homeschooling responsibilities, keeping tabs on elderly parents or neighbors, trying to make ends meet in a business that has been forced to close, finding ways to stay connected to friends on social media so as not to go crazy, deciding where and when to go out to buy what is needed, or figuring out how to pay the mortgage with no income coming in, the stress levels are high and the fear is lurking.
I wanted to start here because personally I know ... I can't do it all - I can't meet all the needs around me. And I feel guilty about not doing much of anything well. It is only when I take a minute to gain some perspective and listen to God say to me, "I love you, Marc. Remember that. And remember too ... you're not God", that my spirit begins to settle and I can function with a certain level of competency and cohesion. I need that and so do we all. We need God to remain on the throne. We need God to remind us who we are. We need God to order our chaos. We need God to be primary in our lives. We need God to rise above our circumstances, stress, and burdens
The only way this happens is if we give priority to God, take a breath, take a moment, and let God be God. I'm reminded of the instructions that flight attendants give us each time we fly: "In the case of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Make sure to put your mask on before assisting others." The reason is, you can't help anyone else if you yourself are struggling, in this case, to breath.
What is true of flying is true of living during a pandemic and always. Take time to be with Jesus before and in the midst of tackling the day. Let him give you perspective, order, encouragement, and a proper posture toward all that you are facing. You can't help others breath when you have stopped breathing. Jesus himself took time to be with his father when facing the challenges of his day. (Mark 1:35) "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (see also Lk. 5:15-16, 6:12-13; Mat. 14:13, 23; Mk. 3:7, 14:32).
I completely understand that you may not have much time to yourself. Time and space may seem cramped right now. However, even a step out onto the porch along with a 'help me' prayer or a walk to the end of the driveway or just a silent moment in the bathroom announcing, "I need a minute" will suffice. Of course, the more moments you can string together the better. The more spiritual oxygen you can inhale the better. But before you let stress overtake you, or even before you meet the needs of the day ... put your mask on first. Breathe deep in God's love and presence with you.
Grace & Peace,
A couple of additional thoughts about how we do this...
A blog dedicated to encouraging you during this quarantine time!