Reflections of Covid19: Finding Meaning in the Stillness

 

As I sat outside this morning watching the birds in my yard dart from tree to tree, stopping to sip from the gently bubbling, crushed stone birdbath, it occurred to me that I have learned a very valuable lesson during these last few months. I have learned to just be.

As the dreaded Covid19 swept across our country, our routines changed, stores and restaurants closed, our busy schedules ceased to be and we found ourselves at home with extra time on our hands—unheard of in this age of over-commitment and hurried living.

My morning quiet time was once again a joy—something I looked forward to and could actually focus fully on as I studied God’s Word and spent time in intentional, pointed, prayer. It was no longer a rushed, ‘check that off my list’ task I completed while simultaneously wrestling my mind back from thoughts of the day’s to-do list. There was now time to truly seek God and to hear from Him.

Also, before Covid19 I spent very little time outside on my patio enjoying the natural world around me—too busy with errands, appointments and duties to spend any time out there. However, after the implementation of stay-at-home orders and self-isolation, I suddenly found great joy in spending time in the peace and quiet of our rural backyard which is bordered by a forested area of oaks, pines and elm trees. I began to watch the birds and squirrels (my college-aged daughter, home early because of Covid19, often sat outside with me) and learned to identify the 15 or so bird species that inhabit our Florida backyard. Funny enough, I began to see numerous bird and backyard photos on social media from my friends who were also apparently, finding new joy in nature and in God’s feathered creatures. Who knew all this was out here?! Haha!

As an aside: One day as I was sitting by myself on the patio watching the birds, a full-grown black bear came lumbering around the corner of my house onto the patio—not more than 15 feet from me—looked me square in the eye, then turned around and sauntered back into the woods—a close encounter with nature that I hope I never have again!

So without an endless list of places to be, things to do and responsibilities to fulfill, there was suddenly time for reflection—time to look into the eyes of our loved ones and truly see them. Time to play board games and have dinner together. Time to enjoy nature and study the subtleties of God’s amazing creation. Time to reconnect with God through His Word and in prayer. Time to just be.

To me this time has been a great gift. As the country slowly returns to normal and my calendar fills once again with events, meetings and appointments, I hope I will continue to make time in my life for quiet reflection and stillness. It is in those times that God speaks to us—guiding, directing, shaping—leading us toward better relationships, clarity of purpose, inner peace, and most importantly, a closer walk with Him.

This week make time to just be.

The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.              Exodus 14:14

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.                                               Psalm 46:10

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.                                     Psalm 5:3

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.                                                                                             Isaiah 30:15

But now ask the beasts and they will teach you; And the birds of the air and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?                                                                                                   Job 12:7-10

 

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Humility: Revisiting a Long-Lost Friend

 

What exactly is humility? Are you picturing a mousy little person in drab clothing, mumbling, head down, afraid to share their opinions—hesitant to use their gifts for the kingdom due to fear and lack of self-esteem? That certainly is not how humility is presented in the Bible, but the Bible does have a lot to say about this essential godly trait. Humility is most often—and rightly—presented as the antithesis of pride:

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.” Proverbs 29:23

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

“When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

One day when Jesus was eating with a group of pharisees, he noticed that they were choosing the very best seats for themselves. He began to tell them a parable about a wedding feast and how when invited to a wedding, they should choose the lowliest seats for themselves, not the very best. Within this story Jesus says the following:

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

In today’s “me first” culture, believers would do well to remember this crucial warning.

The most beautiful word picture of humility however, has to be the passage of scripture in the book of John that depicts Jesus washing the disciples’ feet as he met with them on the night of his betrayal and arrest. The God of heaven and earth bent down and with a basin and towel, washed the disciples’ dirty, dusty feet. In those tense, universe-altering moments before His death on the cross, Jesus taught his disciples how to love, serve and submit to their fellow man.

“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'” John 13:12-17

Of course, the ultimate example of humility for the Christian is what Jesus did for us, giving His life so that we could live—God becoming human to offer us the gift of salvation and eternal life with Him.

“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

As I thought about this scripture and others related to humility this week, I began to form a picture of what humility should look like in the life of a believer. I hope this list will be helpful to you as you try to walk in a way that is pleasing to God in this fallen world of ours—where hubris, self-importance, and self-gratification are the rule.

A truly humble person will:

Listen respectfully to the ideas and opinions of others.

Never insist on their own way.

Refrain from judging others based on their perceived weaknesses, economic status, physical traits or personalities.

Understand that having status, wealth, education, power or influence does not give one more value as a person.

Never consider a task or service to be beneath them when something needs to be done in service to others, even if that task is simple, difficult, or “behind the scenes”. God’s people should always be willing to help.

Give to ministries or individuals in need without seeking recognition or acknowledgement. Anonymous giving is a truly humble thing.

Point people to Christ rather than drawing attention to themselves when afforded opportunities for visible (or not so visible) leadership positions.

 View every good thing in their life (possessions, opportunities, people) as coming from God above—first and foremost belonging to Him. 

Use any leadership positions, influence, wealth or material possessions  to further the kingdom of God, spread the gospel or serve his or her fellow man in Jesus’ name.

Realize that they cannot function in this life without the daily sustaining, guiding hand of God—they cannot do life on their own power. 

See his or her self as they truly are: a sinner saved by grace—with failings and shortcomings— no more or less valuable to God than any other person on the planet.

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www.bible.com/114/1jn.4.10.nkjv

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Wounded for My Transgressions

 

“When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.”

Matthew 27:29-30

“Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ Sitting down they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”

Matthew 27:35-37

Today was the day that Jesus was mocked, beaten and tortured for you and for me. It was the day that he was marched to the the hill called Golgotha—the place of the skull—to die a criminal’s death on a wooden cross. Jesus could have called a legion of angels to rescue Him but he knew it was His father’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Take a moment today to say a prayer of thanks for the sacrifice he made for you. Take a moment to picture in your mind the glory that awaits us in heaven—our eternal home—because Jesus endured the cross for us.

Did you know that hundreds of prophecies exist in the Old Testament, written centuries ago, pointing to the the suffering Jesus endured on the cross and in the days leading up to it? Here are some examples:

Isaiah was written between 739 and 686BC! (Before Christ)

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet he opened not His mouth.” Isaiah 53:7 (Mark 15:5)

“He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:3 (John 1:10-11)

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (1 Peter 2:24)

Zechariah was written between 520 and 518 BC

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (John 12:12-15)

Psalm was written between 1400 and 500 BC.

“I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue clings to my jaws; You have brought me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. They look and stare at me. They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Psalm 22:14-18 (John 19:23-24 Luke 24:39)

(The number of prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament is really astounding! Check it out for yourself sometime.)

Today, even as we ponder the painful sacrifice made by our Lord, we look forward to celebrating the greatest day in all of history—the resurrection of our Savior!

Spend some time today reading the story of Easter with your family. Help them to understand the profound importance of this Christian holiday. God bless you all!

 

 

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10 Interesting Ways to Spend Your Time During Covid-19 Lockdown

 

Now that so many of us are under stay-at- home orders due to Covid-19, we may actually have a little extra time on our hands—especially those of us who no longer have little ones at home. I know that those mamas (and dads) are very busy supervising distance learning, preparing several meals a day for their crew and planning outdoor activities to keep everyone from going stir-crazy. You may actually have less time than you did before the pandemic. And, I know that many of you are essential personnel continuing to go to work every day—some on the front lines of the battle against this terrible virus.

But, for those of us who do have some extra time and are stuck at home for what might turn out to be many weeks, here are a few ideas to help us make the most of it:

  1. Learn to play an instrument. Do you have a musical instrument lying around gathering dust or a piano or keyboard at your home? Have you always wanted to learn to play the piano? If so, why not take advantage of the many websites/apps that teach you how to play an instrument right there in your home. It’s as easy as googling “How to play the piano”. You’d be amazed how far you can get in a few weeks. I am a pianist but have always wanted to play the violin so, I intend to pull my daughter’s violin out of the closet and look up some “virtual” lessons. If you don’t have an instrument lying around, perhaps a family member or neighbor has one that’s not being used that you can borrow.
  2. Research your family tree. I have been a member of Ancestry.com for quite a while now and have really enjoyed researching my family roots. Since being home due to Covid-19 I have made a lot of progress, tracing my family all the way back to the 1600’s. There are other sites, as well, such as Myheritage.com and others, Most are very user friendly. It’s fun to learn the countries where your family originated. Mine are mostly from England, Germany, France, and Switzerland.
  3. Begin exercising or “up” your exercise game. Take this opportunity to become a more regular exerciser. Through word of mouth I have found online “Zoom” and “Facebook Live” exercise classes of all kinds–toning with weights, stretching, Zumba, yoga, etc. Also, remember, “outside” is not closed! Go out and enjoy nature. Take a walk, hike, or bike ride.
  4. Take up a new hobby such as painting, cooking, or gardening. You may have to order your supplies for some of these things online, of course, as most non-essential stores are now closed.But I can attest to the fact that Amazon and USPS deliveries are still happening, and if you haven’t tried it, online ordering is super easy.
  5. Play board games as a family. Family game night is one of our favorite things! It’s so rare in today’s busy, activity-packed culture to just sit across from each other and interact—to communicate without constant interruptions or having everyone on their phone. This is especially great for those of us who have high school and college kids at home with us right now. (Older kids may tell you they don’t like playing board games, but secretly they do!) And even older kids need their parents’ undivided time and attention.
  6. Keep a journal. These are unprecedented times in which we live. Some day, the world will need to know what day-to-day life was like for you during this pandemic. And if not the world, then future generations of your family. It can be handwritten or done on your computer. Just save your personal story for posterity. Be sure to include the blessings you experience as God walks through this season with you and your family. The blessings are there, believe me (!), you just have to look for them.
  7. Deep clean your home. I know, this one isn’t fun…unless you get joy from organization like I do! But just think of how marvelous you’ll feel in a few months when you open your linen closet to find all the towels and sheets folded in matching sets and organized by color! You might just jump for joy! Seriously, how long has it been since you climbed up on a chair and wiped the top of your refrigerator? Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.
  8. Write encouraging notes, cards or letters to someone who needs it. Many people are suffering through sickness, depression and loneliness during this time. An encouraging note from someone who cares could really make a difference to them. Maybe you could send a note to a family member who is unable to be with you due to travel restrictions. Or how about those in nursing homes who are currently not allowed to have even their family come for visits. Another idea is to write a note of encouragement to healthcare workers at your local hospital. It’s hard to imagine having to go to work in full protective gear and still have that gnawing fear that you may be bringing something home to your family. There are so many who could use encouragement right now. All it takes is a pen and a card or note.
  9. Start a home-based business. I know, this is a big one. But, if you have ever wanted to do this, now may be the time. By the time you get all the kinks worked out our country will be up and running again! Perhaps you could think of a business that addresses a new need that we’ll have post-Covid-19.
  10. Spend concentrated time reading the Word of God. (I saved the best for last!) Before the recent “stay-at-home” and “social distancing” orders, most of us had trouble finding time for prayer and Bible reading amidst our busy schedules and long “To Do” lists. We would wake up in a rush, gulp down our coffee and promise ourselves we would get to it later—but later almost never happened. Take this opportunity to dive deeper into God’s Word and truly learn who he is. Spend time in prayer—there is certainly plenty to pray about in these difficult days. There are many great online devotionals/Bible studies and apps that you can use if you’d like something to help guide you in your study. The point is to use this little bit of extra time to strengthen your relationship with the Father through prayer and the study of His Word.
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