I didn’t sleep last night. My native state is in turmoil. Minneapolis and St. Paul are burning. My friend Andy messaged at 3:00AM, “Police sirens all night, but at least the chopper isn't near my house anymore.” My brother and sister-in-law live in downtown Minneapolis. I worry.
I’m having flashbacks to my own experience in St. Louis after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014. Black Lives Matter was born. Six years later, we are still struggling with which lives matter most.
I wrote this in 2016. These days, every day might be a "tenth day." Maybe you can relate.
"How are things going?" I'm asked.
"Every ten days I want to quit." I've given this answer a few times in recent months. Am I really going to turn in my keys? Probably not . . . but maybe.
Anything of significance is worth sacrificing for. And anything worth sacrificing for will leave you with a "tenth day." Nine days can be good, even great. But about every tenth we are sobered by harsh reality.
There are numerous challenges in this pandemic. Medical. Economic. Educational. Political. With plans for re-entry slowly unfolding, I see a bigger underlying challenge: People.
For a few days I’ve been crabby. Is it the Easter hangover? There seems to be an invisible cloud of anxiety wherever I go.
My wife noticed the agitation in me (she always does). “Why am I crabby?” I asked. In straightforward fashion, she called it. “Jeff, everyone is feeling anxiety right now. We’re in a crisis.” “Oh, yeah.”
Disaster always creates emotional and spiritual turmoil. It’s an obvious fact, and it’s critical to name it. I’ve talked to dozens of people this week who feel the same way. We’re nearing the apex of an anxiety curve.
I was doing some video recording in our church building last night. The building was eerily empty. It will be quiet on Easter as well. Is it really Holy Week if no one gathers?
I believe this will be the most authentic Easter in your lifetime.
Still early in this crazy time, here are a few things I’m seeing. What are you learning?
There’s an old saying, “Never waste a good crisis.” What began as a health crisis has spread to economics, business, education . . . everyday life. God has a history of flipping crisis for his glory.
So what is God working in this?
What is he teaching us?
What good could come from crisis?
A gut check for faith.
You can talk about faith. You can do a Bible Study on faith. But you cannot understand faith until it is tested.
You trusted him when things are good. Will you trust him now? You waited on the Lord when the stock market was at 29,000. Will you wait on him when it’s at 21,000 (or lower)? Will you refuse to give into fear or panic? Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:10)
After prayer and discussion among our congregation's staff and leadership, we commit to the following. This is not only a response to the threat of the coronavirus, but also to outbreaks of influenza in our community.
We will refrain from hugs and handshakes for a time. Regrettably, we will forgo our typical greetings for the time being. Human contact is an important part of our life together. A hug has the ability to convey the love of Christ. For now, an elbow or fist bump will need to suffice. And this always remains true: If you’re sick, stay home.
Keep death before your eyes daily.”
This instruction is found in the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 4) which provides direction for monastic communities of the Benedictine order. Why so morbid? Aren’t Christians to be hopeful?
Our society celebrates excess. Supersize, jumbo size, all-you-can-eat. I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it, as much as I want. I can push a button and have it delivered in two hours. Why have one when you can have more? Why have some when you can have it all? It is a value of our culture: Having more is better. Having the most is best.
My Ethiopian friend Wondimu was telling me about Christians in Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians average two meals a day. In spite of this, Wondimu told me of people in his church giving up a meal a day in order to support a missionary. They don’t have to give up food, but they willing choose to do so. In culture of “more,” this seems silly. Why would you go without when you could have more?
Our societal system incentivizes "more." "Find your identity in stuff, and more of it. Your worth is tied to having 'more.' You’ll happier with more food, more likes on social media, more money, friends, career success, or pleasure."
But this system is broken. The stock market is at an all time high. At the same time, research is showing all time highs of depression, loneliness, drug abuse, and suicide rates. We're the wealthiest country in the world, but we have a poverty of soul.
We’re the wealthiest country in the world, but we have a poverty of soul."
I wonder if we’re so deep in the system of excess that we don’t realize it. I wonder if we can push back.