Monday, April 27, 2020

Whatever We Trust In

I woke up the other day feeling anxious and depressed, more than I think I ever have before.  I could write all the thoughts I felt crushing me that have been feeding that, many that are serious enough things to be concerned about, but somehow I had let these things become out of perspective in my thinking.  Many of these things are important and need to be discussed and hashed out in our society, but most of them are not my responsibility. I started to write about the things I’m concerned and frustrated and depressed about several times, but each time I felt a check in my spirit, and I decided to keep the details to my private journal and private prayer closet.  Except for this one: I miss church.  I just do. I miss the refreshing of the soul we get when we see each other singing and see each other responding to the Word being preached.  Virtual services are nice, since we can’t have the embodied meeting together, but in no way is it enough. 

So, with that background, the blues that hit hard the other day and which I’m battling to keep in proper perspective, today, during my morning prayer time I read this in one of the prayers from The Valley of Vision and it spoke right to my heart: 

“Remember, O my soul,
It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favors of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
for whatever a man trusts in,
from that he expects happiness.”

As I read and prayed through that, when I got to those words, “for whatever a man trusts in, from that he expects happiness,” I stopped and realized that the frustration and depression I am feeling in response to all these things I’m not discussing in detail are, in fact, a gift of grace, because that anxiety and depression are pin-pointing areas I have been sinfully placing my trust and hope for happiness in, without even realizing it.  

We are working on our last lesson from the book of Romans in our women’s Bible study this week, and after months of focusing mostly on Romans 8, this gentle reminder to check the idols in my heart and keep my focus and trust and hope grounded on nothing but God Himself is landing on prepared soil in my heart, where I’ve been meditating and pondering just what it means that God works ALL THINGS for the good of the people who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  All things means all things, even this season of not being able to meet together as a church family, and even those things I woke up anxious and depressed about. So, while the tears are real, and the concerns are real, so, too, and more so, is the genuine, deep, underlying, soul uplifting hope real.  I don’t have to be crushed by anxiety and depression.  I may not be able to control all the physical responses or stop the tears immediately, but I can fix my eyes, even when tear-filled, on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith and purpose in my heart to present my body as a living sacrifice and renew my mind by the washing of His word and choose joy, because He is the sustainer of our joy. 

A few other practical things I’m doing to reorient my thinking and keep things in perspective:

-I’m taking a mental health break away from Facebook and Next-door.  I don’t need one more preachy article about how anxious the secular world thinks we need to be right now and I’m tired of the memes and lectures
-Focusing more purposefully on the scripture passages I’m trying to memorize
-Taking time to pray whenever I feel the anxiety or depression rear up
-Talking through these things with my husband, who often has a great way of helping me see things in proper perspective
-Staying in God’s word and remembering that He is sovereign and His Providence is good all the time
-Listening to good podcasts (Truth for Life with Alistair Begg, Wretched Radio with Todd Friel, Just Thinking with Virgil Walker and Darrell Harrison)
-Making sure to take some time often to listen to doctrinally rich music

Because whatever a man trusts in, from that he expects happiness.  

Psalm 33:18-22
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their souls from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Status Update - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Taking...a break before lunch. After taking a walk with my daughter this morning and cleaning out the mess in the fridge that I’m not sure what happened in there but is clean now, I decided I haven't written a blog post in a few days and want to, and even though it’s not Monday, somehow here on week six of these stay-at-home times the days are a little muddled together anyhow and a status update seems to be all I have mental energy for right now. So, here it is - a very Monday sort of post on this fine Tuesday.

Drinking….Constant Comment tea, my favorite.  My husband, my hero, my go-out-in-public-so-no-one-else-in-the-house-has-to sweetheart couldn’t find any at the store, shelves still being a tad sparse at times, so I ordered some from Amazon.  I now have plenty to last for the long haul, and I’m enjoying it. My sweet husband is retaining his awesome sense of humor in all of this.  I got this text before he came home from the store that night, “We apologize as we may have had to substitute a few items….”  Haha.  I’m still laughing from that.  Remember he’s always been so good about not taking things too seriously.  His favorite phrase when we were dating and early married was, “Lighten up, Beck.”  Hopefully I’ve gotten a little better through the years, as he hasn’t had to say that as often in recent years.  

Reading….Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Russ Ramsey. I am usually a little wary of books that make a narrative of scripture, but Tim Challies recommended this and several people I respect and trust endorsed it so I thought I’d try it.  I’m liking it so far - he does a good job with scripture references and adding historical details about the time period without too much iffy speculation, and I’m enjoying reading it. I’m also reading The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis with my daughter as we continue our journey together through The Chronicles of Narnia.  We’re having a great time reading them together, and I continually get choked up as I read them, no matter that I’ve read them uncountable times before. The end of The Silver Chair really gets to me when Caspian dies just as his son is reunited with him, then we get to see the other side in Aslan’s country.  And I’m planning to start The Secret of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, which is the sequel to The Letter for the King pretty soon also.

Scripture Memory….since last post when I mentioned what I’m going to be working on, I have worked some on it, but I need to focus more intensely.  I’m working on Romans 8:37-39, and I have gotten up to Colossians 2:3.  Once I get that firmed up this week, my hope is to continue to the next set of verses, Colossians 2:4-7 next week.  

Feeling….a little distracted and still having a hard time sitting still to concentrate.  Granted, I’m getting a lot of reading done, but I find that I allow social media to drain away more of my time and mental and emotional energy than I should.  I’ve always struggled with that temptation, and it seems even harder now with all the general anxiety around us not to scroll, scroll, scroll looking for different news.  I will say, I have discovered what a good thing the snooze function on Facebook is.  You can snooze certain people for 30 days, and that allows you not to see their posts for that long but still remain connected.  If a friend is on a tear about some conspiracy theory….snooze. If a friend is constantly sharing all the anxiety riddled click bait….snooze.   If a friend is finding new and ever increasingly petty things to lecture us about and take offense about….snooze. If a friend is being the neighborhood police and lecturing us on why we need to be as anxious as they are….snooze. If a friend is constantly sharing scripture out of context and twisting it to share bad doctrine….snooze.  After a while, it’s not quite as anxious a place to visit anymore until the snooze wears off.  

Encouraged….my daughter and I have been taking long walks around the neighborhood together and it’s been a sweet time to talk with her and listen to what’s on her heart.  I just so much enjoy her.  Not only do I love her, I like her, too. Same with all my children.  They are just pleasant people to know, and how kind God has been to allow me to be their mom and redeem the mistakes and sin and flaws in my parenting as He has graciously drawn them to Himself. My daughter shared with me how during their Sunday night online youth meeting, the middle school youth director talked to them about not letting entertainment become an idol and how subtle a thing that can be.  He encouraged them to think about their habits and sources of entertainment and take one day this week and turn off one distracting source of entertainment, and every time they thought about turning it on or clicking on it to take time to pray.  I think maybe I need to do that with Facebook and Twitter - my two biggest time wasters. 

Thinking (get ready for a bit of a rant, and you may think I’m earning a, “lighten up, Beck”)….about something we saw on our walk today that disturbed me and I’m probably reading too much into.  Someone had written what I’m sure they meant to be encouraging messages in chalk on the sidewalk.  One said, “Trust in Jesus & in science & in the doctors and nurses.”  Um.  No.  I can’t read the heart of the person who wrote it, and I’ll assume the best, but part of me reads it as a criticism of people of Christian faith.  I will listen to the scientists and medical professionals and follow their educated advice, sure.  But for all that, science is fallible.  We’re seeing even in the six weeks this thing has been going strong here how often models and scientific data are revised and shift.  Sure, I will follow reasonable physical distancing and guidance and listen to advice, but trust in them?  Trust IN scientists and doctors and nurses? No.  To phrase it the way that message is phrased? No.  I think my problem was the word “in” and the implication that trusting in human wisdom is equal weight to trusting in Jesus.  To me, to say to trust in something implies putting the weight of my hope in that thing I trust in.  I can trust THAT what someone like a scientist or doctor says is as true as they’re able to be and helpful and worth listening to, but trusting IN them for my ultimate well-being?  No.  My trust in Jesus is ultimate.  Only He is sovereign.  He is the Creator, the very Word of God.  He alone is infallible.  He alone can save my soul.  And, get this, He alone can determine whether someone will contract this virus or anything else and what the effect will be.  We are not to be foolish and should listen to wise counsel and do our part to love others and protect where we can, but trust in science as I trust in Jesus?  Absolutely not.  I trust Him to grant wisdom to those who are studying this disease, and for those who are on the front lines to combat it and help those who are afflicted, and for our government officials who have very difficult decisions to make, whether they are trusting Him or not.  Ultimately all of life is under the Providence of God who cares for His creation and loves His people. THAT is what I put my trust IN. I’m probably asking too much from a sidewalk chalk message, but that was what struck me in my gut as I walked by, feeling kind of offended by what I’m sure was meant as an encouraging message, but felt more like one of those lectures I’m getting oh, so tired of hearing from people who seem to think we should all be living more in fear of this virus than in fear of the One who controls even this virus.  

Weight Loss Journey….and now for a lighter note, this is a new category for the status update, but I decided to use this stay-at-home time to try to lose some of the pesky pounds I’ve wanted to shed for quite some time now.  In addition to taking walks with my daughter, we got out the old Wii Fitness Plus and we’ve been having fun with that - not intensive exercise, of course, but fun. I did find it annoying today, though when my Fitbit app needed an update and required me to sign in and then proceeded to completely erase the over 5000 steps I got on my walk this morning.  Grrr. Anyway….. I’m also paying attention to what I eat and trying to make wiser choices, limiting sugar and lowering carbs and monitoring snacking.  So far I’m down 2.5 pounds.  Not much, but trending the right direction, and that was on a Monday morning after a weekend, so I’m encouraged.  

And that’s probably enough for today. Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Memorizing Scripture

Our Women's Ministry director has been sending a weekly encouragement since this whole stay-at-home went into effect.  This week in her video message she encouraged us to hide God's word in our hearts by memorizing scripture and shared how meaningful that has been to her, especially in this time of potential anxiety for many. I was already encouraged, as I mentioned yesterday, from that Romans 8 recitation from John Piper that I shared, to pull out my notebook and start working again on Colossians.  After listening to Bethany's video message, I'm even more determined to work on this again.  She asked us to share what verses we are memorizing and meditating on during this stay-at-home time, so I'm using my blog here to do just that.

Besides getting back to working on Colossians, where I am just starting on chapter 2, I also am memorizing Romans 8:1 and Romans 8:37-39 to keep what we've been learning in our weekly study fresh and at the front of my thinking daily.  Also, I plan to review Romans 12, which a group of us from my church in San Antonio spend a good deal of last year memorizing.  Eventually, I'd like to also review Philippians, which I spent four months of 2011 memorizing and had meant to review regularly, but somehow let slide away.

Rather than let this enforced rest period continue to let me spiral or wallow, I'm choosing joy, and this is one great way to occupy my mind.  I find that I need to really limit how much of the anxiety posts and conspiracy click bait that people are posting on NextDoor and Facebook that I read, and even limit how much of the news sites I'm allowing myself to focus on, and spending time really delving into memorizing the Word is a great way to bring that necessary balance and fill my mind with truth that transcends all else.

My main reason for writing this post is to encourage anyone who may read it to find your refuge in Christ and plant your thinking in His word.  I'm also hoping to try to keep myself accountable to keep on with my own memorizing projects and hide God's Word in my heart.  I'm thinking I may add scripture memory project to my status update posts, and hopefully keep writing them as I try to blog more, too.

What about you? Can I challenge you to be memorizing scripture that focuses your mind on the One who is sovereign and pulls you out of the darkness of anxiety and depression that is swirling around us? I'd love to hear what scripture is bringing you peace as you meditate on it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Encouragement Today

It’s amazing how encouraging a video conference with friends from church can be during this time of isolation.  We had our Wednesday morning study together online today, and it’s so nice to hear their voices and see their faces.  We have been studying Romans 8, and it has proven to be just so very perfect for the times we find ourselves in right now.  

Our leader shared a video of John Piper reciting Romans 8, and I’m sharing it here because it’s just so powerful to hear scripture read this way, especially after several months of studying the passage first.  He speaks, not as one reading, but with the passion of a preacher, and it’s quite moving to hear it this way.  It's almost as if you're hearing Paul's passion as he wrote it. I was in tears by the end of it.  Often I find that reading scripture out loud helps me to grasp it better, but this is even beyond that.  It encourages me to get back to working on my memorization of Colossians. I remember when I was working to memorize Philippians how alive the words became as I was able to recite them out loud more as one speaking the full message of the passage rather than reading individual verses by themselves.  So, take a listen to this and be encouraged! 

After my last post when I shared the struggle I’m having with the edge of that depression pit, I am reminded once again how diligent we must be to remind ourselves of what is true when the darkness rages around us. We also talked about this today, how the beginning and ending of Romans 8 have the phrase, “in Christ,” and how incredibly significant that is regarding the teaching those verses bookend. It is only in Christ that the rest of the promises are true.  He is everything.  Because of who He is, we have hope, real, true, abiding hope that transcends any anxiety or depression the world may present to us. We discussed how we can intentionally remind ourselves every day that there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and live in that light.  One or our members shared how she memorized the books of the Bible as a child and she will go through each one and remember a verse or truth from that book.  I was reminded of this song which has been meaningful to me for a long time.  Take a listen to this and, again, be encouraged! Joy!

I’m thankful, once again, for the technology that’s allowing us to not be quite so isolated during this time of physical isolation, and I’m incredibly thankful for the way we are able to read and study and discuss together God’s Word to stir each other up to encouragement and good works.  As I shared in an earlier post, our longing to be together again is just a glimpse of our greater longing for the day when Jesus gathers us together when He returns.  But for now, how sweet that He places the lonely in families - the Body of Christ, our fellow believers, is a family and what an encouragement we can be for each other when we invest in each others’ lives, care about and for each other, and remind each other of the truths we learn and the hope we share in our loving, saving God as we study His word together.  What an awesome God He is.  

Monday, April 13, 2020

Finding Solace in the Psalms

I hit a bit of a wall this morning and admitted that I’m more depressed by the stay-at-home/quarantine situation than I realized. I’ve been trying to be positive in my posting for the most part, but this morning, I cried. I'm feeling not at all convinced we as a society are handling this situation exactly right, and I find it difficult to know what to believe from the bits of news media I allow myself to read (and I try to listen to different providers and find balance in the stories), not to mention all the click bait that gets posted on Facebook, but that is all I'm going to say about that, and I'm not willing to argue or discuss with anyone about it, either. I do know my post about the monsters is more and more accurate every day.  Seeing neighbors tattling on neighbors for interacting with others safely but not being quite as anxious as they think we should be is depressing. It is distressing how nervous I am about how some of these neighbors are going to act whenever we finally get the official notice that we are allowed to be social again and some of us try to return to some semblance of normal out there. 

One thing I'm a little concerned about is my own tendency to be a hermit.  What I mean is that I actually prefer being home and reading my books and I often have to force myself out of my turtling ways to be social, even though I am always so incredibly glad I did. This social isolation thing we're having to do right now is not a good thing for me, emotionally.  I find myself falling back into thinking too internally and not outwardly enough again. We were just starting to feel like we were getting to know people after the loneliness of moving to a new place and now we're all sheltering in place at home, isolated. And with my natural tendency toward inertia, I really hope once we are released to go back to being able to socialize again, that I don't find it even harder to push out of my hermitage than usual just by the inertia of having been out of the habit of getting out for so long. I miss people so much more than I thought possible, though.  I think once we're allowed to be with people again, it won't be so hard after all.  I'm so looking forward to being able to get to gather with the church and choir practice again.  May I never again complain about how hard it is to push past my introversion to go out. 

I saw a story today about a Texas band director who made a way to visit, safely, his senior students one last time and it made me cry. I think about the seniors who had to forfeit the best part of senior year, some without the closure of knowing they were saying good-bye to their friends for the last time.  We got an email last week from my daughter’s band director letting us know, officially, what we already knew, unofficially, that all scheduled band events for the rest of the year are cancelled. No spring concert, no solo and ensemble festival, no trip to King’s Dominion, no getting to say good-bye to friends, and summer band camp is a big fat “we just don’t know for now.” I know, first world problems, but it is worth mourning, even so. 

Our church did a beautiful job with our online Easter service - to include a virtual performance by the orchestra - all in little screenshots playing their instruments individually from their homes and recorded videos of the choir and orchestra from past Easter services which all brought me to tears thinking, “The darkness can NOT overcome the light. Jesus is alive!” And our pastor’s message about Yahweh is the Good Shepherd was extremely encouraging. How thankful I am that we at least get to have that ability for our pastors and elders to feed the flock, though in no way is it the same as being together.  I miss my church family. 

I think I hit the wall today, though, because after all that I just shared, it just hit me so hard that due to our move last summer and living so far away and life being what it has been, I have not been able to see my parents in almost two years.  Last week we were supposed to go to Florida to visit them and I had been so looking forward to that, but then all this awfulness happened and we had to cancel our trip.  We do have it tentatively rescheduled for late summer, but there are no guarantees we will be free to go even then. Y’all.  Two years is too long. I miss them.  Talking on the phone is great, but being with them is better. So, forgive my raw honesty and my tears. 

BUT, choosing not to dwell in depression, and choosing to fight for joy, I pulled out my Bible and looked to the Psalms for solace. God allowed me to land on Psalm 40.  What a balm for my soul. As I read it, I felt the depression melting a little and a calm peace settle in my heart. I’ll quote it at the end and sign off for today. It doesn’t ultimately matter whether we are overreacting or not. That is not my call or responsibility to decide. It doesn’t matter what’s fueling the anxiety we sense all around us. No matter what circumstances are raging, no matter what depression fights for my heart and emotions, no matter how convinced I am or not by the restrictions we are living under, no matter what, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is truth. I do not have to spiral into the anxiety of everyone around me.  Jesus is Lord.  Here I stake my life. Jesus is Lord, and He is the Good Shepherd and He loves His sheep.  And praise HIs name, I am one of those sheep.  Thank You, Jesus.

Psalm 40 
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;

    do not delay, O my God!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Not the Same

I have some thoughts I’m working through during this “safer at home” or “stay at home order” time we find ourselves in. 

Mainly what I’m thinking about today is how tired I am of people trying to cheer us up about not being able to meet together as a church with words like, “The church is not the building, it’s the people.” “The church isn’t empty, it’s been deployed.” “We are the church.” 

True.  All of it.  Church is truly not that building on the corner where we gather. The church is truly the people who love Jesus and belong to Him, and we are to be actively following Him as we go about our lives out in the world.  We rejoice because the grave is empty, HALLELUJAH! Yes and amen.  

But what is bothering me is that it feels a little like people are rebuking me for not thinking it is enough to settle for virtual fellowship. It is right to grieve not being able to be the church gathered anymore during this time.  I am not wrong to grieve what we lose when we cannot be physically with the people who are the church. I miss my church family.  While I am immensely thankful for the technology that allows my little Bible study group to meet via video conference, it is NOT the same as being with them in the same room.  And while I am also immensely thankful for the technology that allows our music directors and pastors and elders to live stream a version of the Sunday morning service each week, and thankful for how beautifully they are doing it because it is better than not being able to meet at all, it still is just not the same as being together in the same location lifting our voices and prayers together in the same place. 

We are embodied people, created for fellowship. We need this. Look at all the “one another” commands in the Bible and all the encouragement to not neglect the meeting together to stir one another up to love and good works.  We do the best we can under the circumstances we find ourselves in - yes, even from love of one another in this time of global pandemic - and stay away physically for a time.  But it is not the same.  And it is right to grieve this. It is right to miss being the gathered church.  And, yes, we can and do worship Jesus from our living room, separated from others.  Indeed, He hears our prayers and He is with us.  But still, something in us longs to see our brothers and sisters in person and join together to lift our praises to Him and encourage and stir each other up in praising Him.  It is right to long for this. 

There is something intangible, almost indescribable about the energy that comes from standing in a room with other people who really truly love Jesus and believe what they are singing and praying with all their hearts that lifts all of us closer to the throne when we jointly worship our King. I miss that. And it is right to miss it.  

The day that we lose that hunger to fellowship as the gathered church, the day we no longer grieve that loss, is the day lose something beautiful and we begin to drift from a real understanding of what it means that we are the church.  

Another thing this has brought home to me in a way I’ve never been able to appreciate before is that we have brothers and sisters in areas of the world where not being able to gather with other believers is the norm because of persecution and other hardships.  This temporary time of separation from our local church families ought to give us a heart and burden to pray for our persecuted brethren around the world in a way we never have before.  

So, for now, we settle for virtual fellowship, because for now we must.  But let us never think it is enough. And maybe even let’s stop being so quick to shut down that grief over it not being the same and not being enough when someone expresses it. It’s ok to grieve. We are the church, yes. And we miss each other.  Also true. 

And here is another thought I had about all this: Can you just imagine how when the restrictions are finally able to be lifted and we are free to meet together with our local church family again, what a celebration that’s going to be? Can you just anticipate the joy in our singing, the urgency in our praying and the joy our pastors will have to be able to speak face-to-face with the people again instead of preaching in an empty room before a camera? Don’t you think it’s going to be just a pale glimpse of what Heaven will be like? And doesn’t this just make you long for that day? And in that way, even on the best days when we are able to be together here on earth, won’t it fuel even more our longing for the ultimate gathering of the saints when Jesus comes again?

Just think what it’s going to be one day when this vapor of a life is over, and all the saints are gathered together and we finally get to see Jesus face to face. We will finally know Him as we are known, the veil fully gone and we will worship more deeply and more fully than we’ve ever been able to before. We will forever sing the Hallelujah to our Savior, the risen Lord Jesus who has loved us and forgiven us and saved us and made us His forever. 

Yes, this Easter will be a different sort of Easter. But the grave is empty.  Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed!  Let our worship be sweeter for the longing. Our joy is real, and deep, and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Nothing can separate us! There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

Let this time of separation be a time to draw near to Jesus. Once again, the song, “Is He Worthy” spoke to my heart today.  The words, “Do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through,” gripped me. Even the dark of coronavirus and the fear and anxiety of the people around us will not stop the light of Christ from getting through. Even the dark of our isolation will not stop the light from getting through.  Draw near, love Him more, and let it fuel our longing to be together again with those who love Him. And when we are together again, let it be fuel for our greater longing for His return. Because Christ is our hope in life and in death.  

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus. 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Don't Be the Monster

An episode of The Twilight Zone that originally ran on March 4, 1960 was called “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” If you haven’t seen it, this is an edited look that gives the basic idea of it. Youtube isn't cooperating this morning for me to get the embed link, but you can click here to see it. 

Basically, strange things like the power going out, for example, start happening on Maple Street, and at first the neighbors are talking together about it and wondering what’s happening.  One neighbor decides to go over a few blocks and see if the power is out in other parts of the neighborhood, while other neighbors start listening to conspiracy theories about a more sinister reason the strange things are happening - maybe it’s aliens that look like us who have infiltrated and are coming to do more harm. One neighbor attempts to be a voice of calm and reason  and eventually decides to go into town to see if he can find out what’s going on. Meanwhile the neighbors continue to spin up their worry and look upon certain neighbors with suspicion. The question becomes, who can you really trust? They begin turning on each other en masse as the mob mentality begins to take over when people voice their various suspicions.  The voice of reason man returns, and the neighbors now suspect him. Eventually the episode ends in tragedy when, now that it is becoming dark, they see a lone figure walking slowly up the street and in panic one neighbor shoots.  It turns out it was just the neighbor who had decided to walk a few blocks away to investigate.  At the end, the actual aliens who have been turning the lights on and off discuss how easy it is to generate the mob mentality and turn people on each other.  They don’t even have to conquer, just sit back and watch them destroy themselves. The point is, who, exactly were the monsters here?

I’m bringing that up today because I have found that the more I read comment threads on the NextDoor app, the more I think about this episode.  Especially now that we find ourselves in this unusual crisis, I’m feeling this when I make the mistake of following the rabbit hole in the comment threads. I don’t know what your neighborhood is like on that app, but the two I’ve been part of now have both seemed to draw out the kind of people who seem bent to assume the absolute worst rather than assume the best.  The worry-warts come out in droves and peddle panicky posts and theories. If they ever see someone in the area doing something that doesn’t fit their understanding of things, they post about it and shame strangers all over the comment threads.  Never, ever give someone the benefit of the doubt that they might have a truly valid reason for what they are doing that you don't understand, or might have made a simple mistake while driving, or had a bad day, or been swamped with work and couldn’t mow the lawn as soon as the neighbor thinks they should have. Nope. They are portrayed as idiots who we have every right to shame all over social media.  It’s so easy to see a snippet of a moment of someone’s life and assume the worst rather than try to put the best construction on it.  It’s so easy to assume motives, but, truly you DO NOT KNOW what someone is thinking if they don’t tell you! Just because people don’t think exactly like you or do things exactly like you does not mean they are bad people.  They might just be different. They might be having a difficult day.  You DO NOT KNOW.  Everyone makes mistakes - even the people who write those shaming posts.  How about we treat each other with the same gentleness we would like to be treated with when we mess up - and we will mess up.  Everyone has a bad day, and everyone makes mistakes, no matter how careful we try to be. Would you want to be judged all over social media based on a bad moment you had which isn’t a true picture of who you are all time? 

And then you get the comment threads.  Oh my.  People pile on with judgment and assumptions and vilification that makes me cringe and hurts my heart.  

When I watch all that go down, on almost a daily basis, it makes me sick to my stomach.  We are all just one crisis away from what we see on that Twilight Zone episode.  I truly do hope that not ALL of us are as easily triggered, this lacking in understanding, gentleness, and grace as what the NextDoor app dredges up.  Maybe it’s just a small portion of people who feel the need to get on there and vent against any and every grievance or quirk or perceived gripe and the rest of us more rational people choose to stay away.  I hope there are more of us like the voice of reason guy on that episode.  Truly, I do.  But looking at that app on any given day, I do feel like I’ve dropped into Maple Street on The Twilight Zone.  So much so, that I have to severely limit my exposure to it.  Once in a while there is good information, but the bulk of it - we act like the monsters of Maple Street, so easily spun up, so quick to think the worst of our neighbors and people who are just trying to live their lives, so quick to be suspicious and griping , so quick to make sure we point out when someone does something we perceive as wrong, rather than extend the grace of trying to put the best construction on things and assume the best as long as we possibly can.  Nope.  We are inherently selfish and thinking much too highly of ourselves.  

The point isn't that there was no danger.  There apparently was someone manipulating things.  The point here isn't that there isn't an actual crisis that we need to be aware of and taking reasonable precautions about.  The point is how quickly we seem to degenerate into mistrusting each other and being quick to assume the worst of others and quick to go from caring about and helping our neighbors to worrying about how to protect me and mine and mistrust our neighbors and turn on people because we assume the worst and how easily we can allow ourselves to get spun up and feed off of other people's anxiety. 

Don’t be the monster.  Be the voice of reason and calm.  Assume the best and don’t let yourself get spun up by everyone else’s paranoia and anxiety.  Take reasonable measures to be safe and love your neighbors and stop assuming that others don’t actually want to do the same.