Will the isolation ever end? Really? The first couple of weeks we have spent adjusting to working from home, buying more groceries than ever before, and learning the true meaning of words like self-isolation and self-quarantine. Now we are asking when will it end? How do we survive the financial blow to the markets and the business shutdowns as well as the loss of jobs and income for millions of people? Lately, to stay sane, I have been playing a mental game of gratitude. Really it is not a game because I am so very grateful for so many things. I have a home, a job, food, a car, and most of all my health. And it goes without saying that I am beyond thankful for my family and friends too. With all that gratitude, why am I sometimes stuck in the emotional depths of loneliness or better yet, aloneness? Honestly, I miss the energy of people. I miss the energy of coffee shops, stores, church services, work conversations etc. I don’t mind spending time alone, but this extended period makes me crazy!
The COVID 19 virus has changed our lives in so many unexpected ways. One of the most cherished rituals for Christians is the Sunday worship service. In order to stay in touch with people and continue to provide a worship experience, our church, like thousands of others, have gone to a virtual way of reaching people through online worship. It is not an easy task to produce two quality services with a limited amount of staff and social distancing. Kudos to everyone involved in every way. The pastors at our church have added a bonus time to connect by inviting attendees to a sermon chat following the services. People are beginning to catch on, however the groups are still small and intimate. Today a question was posed at one of the chats asking us to identify where we are seeing God in the world with Corona Virus. The group members gave answers that encompassed their friends, family and neighbors. Other answers went further by seeing God through the medical and grocery staff, police and all essential workers in their commitment to care for people who were sick in mind, body and spirit. Everyone identified that they could still see God at work in this time of threat and fear. One of the members of the group mentioned that she thought that God was more present in her life during this time. Which made me pose the question, if she thought God was more present now or does she just think so because she feels more dependent on God at this time? And I will add follow up to that question by asking, if we are seeing God in a new way in this time of isolation and quarantine? I have continued to ponder these questions long after the chat was done.
Because of this deadly virus, except for essential workers, the world has been forced to slow down. Despite the fear and anxiety of COVID 19 virus, positive news stories provide us with a glimpse into the lives of people working together from a distance. People are banding together to share music with each other, create signs and colorful window decor to brighten their neighbor’s day, food and blood donations are pouring into the most needed areas. One of the best demonstrations of support is the applauding and honking in gratitude for the medical personnel doing their everyday jobs with extraordinary courage and faithfulness. Because of the virus, people are getting more sleep, spending more time playing games with their families, and one of my favorites, sharing “happy hour” with family and friends. During this time of isolation, most nonessential workers have set up offices in their homes. Working from home is a challenge for me. Around the office I am known as “she-bop” because I bop in and out of my co-workers’ offices throughout the day just to say hi. “She” is not able to do any bopping from home. It has been an adjustment. When I am not working, I spend a good deal of time walking to relieve some of my energy and it helps me process my thoughts and gets me out into nature. I also have a great deal of balcony time to read, pray, journal and write. One of our pastors encouraged us to sit for about 20 minutes in meditation, focusing on a word or two to help release the constant busyness in our minds and focus on listening for God’s voice. As I have adjusted to my new schedule at home, I have been challenging myself to spend more time listening for God to speak into my life.
So back to my questions: Is God more present now or is it that we feel the Divine’s presence because we need him more? And the second, are we seeing God in a new way? For me, it is both or should I say, a work in progress to develop a faith in God that answers both affirmatively. We all know that there are times when we feel the need for God more than others, especially when we are in pain, or covered in anxiety, unable to control the chaos that happens in life. I will confess that when my life feels out of control, I am more aware of my weaknesses and desperately want or need God’s help. To be sure I know God is ever present however in times of anxiety and fear I am acutely aware of my need for his Holy Presence. I believe my answer to the first question is yes God’s presence is always near and I do need him more and more. The second question I believe supports the first. In the past few weeks, our pastor is challenging the staff and lay leaders to identify the coming year’s top priorities for the church and her ministries. He goes on to explain that once we are back to “normal”, rather than being satisfied with going back to what was, can we re-imagine how to do ministry in a new way or as he says, how are we becoming new. It seems to me that this question can be adapted into our relationship with Christ. In the biblical text, 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” I am one of those Christians that has known, worshiped and believed in God my entire life and at times I take that faith for granted. I become lazy in my faith and faith-practices. This time of isolation offers me an opportunity to prioritize my faith in new ways. As I stated earlier, I want to spend more intentional time in meditation to slow my mind from my work, the news and social media. I want to hear God’s small voice in the whisper of the Almighty presence. This is a time to change my focus from the fears and anxiety of my present circumstances and see to the needs of others and help them find the hope that is always present in Christ. In our Palm Sunday message, we were challenged to be a window where people can see God’s Spirit within us and by doing so, people will wonder about the hope we carry in this dark time. Do my actions, words and prayers reflect that hope to others? The writer of the Book of Proverbs states that, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart,” (27:19). So yes, I feel God’s presence now and have the faith that it will continue in the future regardless of my circumstances. And yes, I am seeing God in a new way because I am faithfully seeking God’s love and mercy in a new way. Come look in my window and find hope…
My heart is full...
The sun shines unchallenged in the cloudless blue sky,
Dignified trees sway in the gentle breeze,
Blades of grass stand at attention.
Birds tweet and whistle a symphony of song,
Clear blue waters ripple in the gushing fountain.
Sunlight glistens in the water's ripples.
Fragrant flowers of red and orange bloom brightly,
Their fragrance flourishes.
There is quiet here,
Gentle peaceful stillness.
God is fully present.
My heart is full...
Denise seeks to empower people to live into their true potential...