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.
Impeachment debate and acquittal.
Kobe helicopter crash.
Iowa caucus (debacle).
State of the Union Address.
These are headlines from the last few days. The volume of significant (and heavy) events invading our head (and heart) space is overwhelming. The news cycle is like a carousel spinning out of control. If our only reading material is the endlessly urgent front page, we are trapped in a myopic moment.
I prefer the enduring over the instant. A bit of marinated wisdom instead of a tweet vomited in a moment of impulse.
Here's an actionable step. Limit the reading of "headlines," the new, urgent, up-to-the-minute. Make space to read what is "old," tested, and true. There is C.S. Lewis's classic quote on reading old books:
After the killing of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani and retaliatory missile strikes on U.S. bases, there are millions of prayers being prayed around the world.
There are many Americans praying for Americans. For our leaders, military, and national security.
There are Iranians praying for Iranians.
There are Christians praying for Christians.
There are Muslims praying for Muslims.
In all the praying, here is the most radical prayer: Christians praying for Iranian Shia Muslims.
The impeachment proceedings have me thinking about power. Who has power? How are they using it? The characters are before us. Donald Trump. Nancy Pelosi. Mitch McConnell. Adam Schiff. And so on.
We tend to think this is an exceptional time in history, but the struggle for power is a repetitive story. Same plot, different characters. Caesar Augustus. Herod the Great. They were the power brokers of their time. Today they are mere footnotes in a history book.
Trump. Biden. Pelosi.
There are days that I'm fatigued. Every tragedy and crisis requires emotional energy. Bad news is a burden assumed by the head and heart. At some point, compassion fatigue sets in. We turn numb to violence, pain, and death.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims . . ." It is a pre-packaged catchphrase that rings hollow because we can't find words that really help. So what do we do when we're fatigued by bad news?
The reception desk was staffed with a team of bright, smiley 27-year-olds when I walked into Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. They were hip, casual, and optimistic. After receiving credentials, we met Alex, a friend of a friend, and our "in" to FB HQ.
Accompanied by a small team from my church on a mission expedition to the San Francisco Bay Area, we followed Alex to a corral with rows of bikes. To traverse the complex of buildings, we gleefully biked like kids, calling them "Mark's bikes," a shout out to CEO Zuckerberg.
Like it's own city, the Menlo Park hub has everything, and it's all free. An employee will find:
A sense of optimism permeated the grounds. There was a feeling that "we're changing the world." It seemed less a company and more a cause, nearly religious in nature.
Common reactions to the growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse.
"I'm so disappointed."
"They're dropping like flies."
"I can't believe it. I would never have guessed . . ."
"Who's next? The Pope? The Rock?"
We should all be saying that such behavior is unacceptable.
We speak on behalf of the dignity of women.
We work to break systems of lewd perversion and abuse of power.
We press for a new transparency in workplace and society.
We stand for those violated and look for ways to provide healing and support.
While we certainly say all these things, I'm also looking for what no one else is saying.
It's a growing list of recent tragedy. Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Mexico City. Las Vegas . . . and on top of it all, Tom Petty died on Monday. There are tragedies of all kinds, and they all cause a piercing pain.
There are times in life when the compounded effect of tragedy leaves you helpless. "What's going on? What can I do?"
We all have our ways of responding: cry, pray, give, post, advocate, etc. I've been reflecting on my own response to overwhelming tragedy. Here are some thoughts.
The San Francisco Bay Area is trendy, techie, and cool.
New York is the impressive intersection of the world - business, media, arts, culture . . .
Nashville and Austin are hot and happening cities with booming populations.
I live in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was hot at the turn of the century - the 20th century. We hosted the World's Fair in 1904 and were the fourth largest American city, the Gateway to the West. Today, we're a worn and tired city. We've lost our NFL team and a few Fortune 500 companies. We suffer from a history of racism, white flight, and social disparity.
We're anxious right now because of tension over the acquittal of a white police officer who shot and killed a black man. Over the weekend, we witnessed clashes between protesters and police that returned us to 2014 and the unrest that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Twelve years ago, I resisted St. Louis residency. I did not choose to live here. It was chosen for me. Today, I claim this territory as my hometown.
What happens when God calls you to a place you don't want to be?