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.
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:
I was sent to the grocery store for one thing. Sweet and condensed milk. (I'm not completely sure what it is, but I know it's in a can.) I walked through the automatic door and saw bananas. I accidentally grabbed organic bananas, so I went back to exchange them for "real" bananas.
Then I saw blueberries on sale. Then Frosted Mini-Wheats. "Do I get the brand name or off brand?" And then I realized we needed salsa. There are 33 kinds of salsa! Decision overload! Then I noticed cute little bottles of Tito’s vodka for $1.89. "Whoa! That woman just put 50 little bottles of Tito’s in her cart. Why not just get one big bottle?" Then I paused, "I came here for one thing. What was it?"
There’s so much in the store, you forget the one thing you came for. Life is like this too. There is so much in our lives, we forget the one thing. In a world of "too much," we need the ancient Christian discipline of simplicity.
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.