Posted tagged ‘virus’

Realizing What We No Longer Have

April 2, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 2, 2020

                        

When I recently taught 7th Grade Language Arts for 8 weeks, I noticed somber-faced students entering the building at 7:30. Although some were excited about being at school for another day of broadening their educational experience, most were as excited as a skateboarder at a geriatric bingo night.

Many of them longed to be anywhere but a classroom. Some of them had arrived at the notion that their purpose in life was to drive teachers looney. 

And now they are just one example of a long, long list of realizations of how good we, and they, had it! E-learning has been more taxing than their 57 minute class times in the school building. Teachers expect them to still be students and most of them can no longer be convincing when they say to their parents that they don’t have any homework.

Sometimes we don’t realize what we had until we no longer have it. No workouts at the Y! No booth at Red Lobster! No library to browse amongst the rows of books! Our routines have been knocked down like Lego blocks that we assumed were firmly in place, and now new routines, less certain and more like a Jenga tower, are being assembled.

Last Sunday I attended three worship services in different parts of the country- southern Ohio; Champaign, Illinois; and Pleasanton, California. Of course, all three were streamed into my study at home. It was a unique experience, and it made me realize how much I miss the “community of presence” when a church congregation meets together. I was fed the Word and yet I missed the fellowship that touches my spirit.

Grandkids miss grandparents and vice-versa. Waving to one another from the other side of a car window doesn’t do it. In some ways, it elevates the loneliness. 

I miss my writing stool at my local Starbucks and the baristas who I would joke with each day, giving each other new first names that began with our first initial, like Bartholomew for my “B” and “Catastrophic” for the barista whose first name begins with “Cat.” 

I miss the days when you didn’t look at people with suspicion— Does he have it? Shouldn’t those young people not be hanging around there?— or cut a wide berth around an elderly couple walking in the opposite direction.

We realize that things will never, in our lifetime, be what they once were. Our future plans are on hold. Our questions about when we might take a vacation have no clear answers. Our special events just lose some of their specialness when we participate by Zoom.

And I also think, in the midst of these cataclysmic changes, that many of us have come to realize how much of our lives have been revolved around things and events that, in the larger scheme of things, really aren’t that important. Many of us are coming to the discovery that our lives don’t have much depth to them at all. We’re shallow, like multiple text messages that just keep saying “Hi!” and “What’s up?” Perhaps, in the midst of this journey, we’ll dig deeper roots into things that matter…relationships, purpose, and spiritual nourishment. 

I think of the story of Job in the Old Testament. It’s painful, in many ways to read. Job has the good life, things seem to be in perfect harmony for him. And then it all comes crashing down…wealth, health, the respect people showed toward him. But at the end of the story, after Job has everything else stripped away from his life, he finds that nothing and no one can strip away his relationship with God.

Realizing what we no longer have may help us understand what we do have and can’t be taken away! 

Getting Hungry Again

May 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         May 20, 2016

                                      

Excuse me for being blunt, but stomach viruses suck! They are a nauseating form of “unloading.” I’ve been the “Baptist priest” a few times over the years for people going through 12-step programs, and the fifth step is a time of confession. It’s the unloading of all the “stuff” that they’ve done.

Stomach viruses are the unloading of all the stuff that has accumulated. Unfortunately for me I had a large dinner just a few hours before the virus raised its ugly head. It will be a while before I can look at stuffed baked potatoes again!

I won’t go into details about my kneeling positions for a day, but let’s just say the refrigerator was safe from me invading it for a whole day. I got a lot lighter in a short amount of time. It was not pretty! I was not pretty!

Yesterday afternoon I started getting hungry again. Last night was my first meal in two days: wood plank salmon cooked on the grill, with asparagus and white rice.

Today I’m reflecting on the experience…not the porcelain throne kneeling moments, but rather the similarities between unloading all the stuff in our life and coming back to a point of being spiritually hungry.

We have that tendency, that habit, of filling our lives with “the stuff” of the world…the craving for more money, the lust for more power and prestige, for things that aren’t beneficial, for moments of escape from reality that distort our view of that reality. And then we have, what I call a “Come To Jesus Moment”, where sometimes by our own choice, but, more often than not, because of someone else’s pressure, we come clean. It’s an excruciating experience that we feel ashamed about as we throw up all the deception and garbage that we’ve been hiding.

And yet it is a freeing experience as well! Confession is good for the soul, and yet we rarely come to it of our own volition. It’s like a colonoscopy that we dread like crazy, but after having it experience a peace of mind that everything is okay. (My wife has one next week, so I thought I would just thrown that example in there.)

And then…there is the point where we reach “hunger” again. The grace of God and forgiveness of God wrapped in the love of the saints brings us to that point in the journey where we seek to stay on the path…to go deeper…to experience a drawing close to the Holy. It’s a special time, unobstructed by what I’ve allowed to block the way. Words from the Word take on special meaning. Prayer becomes a time of listening and less of talking. Worship becomes more intimate, less noisy, and not defined by a church bulletin.

It’s a place we want to stay at, and yet we know we won’t. In the midst of the hunger we know that there will be some of those other urges that gradually creep in. Hopefully we will learn from what we have just been through and be wiser because of it. Hopefully the hunger for spiritual nourishment will guide our coming days, that the kneeling we will be doing will be more about surrendered worship and less about remorse.

And so we journey freer…for now…comforted by the fact that the grace of God goes with us, and his peace is upon us.

Stomach viruses still suck, but at least it made me think!