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Posts Tagged ‘#covid19’

A few days ago I was organizing photos of 2020.

I found myself smiling as I noted that through January and February I had taken ten photos. In March I had taken thirty-three. The numbers remained high throughout the rest of the year.

There were photos of birthdays, nature, a bathroom reno, short local trips in summer, the Wonderdog … but there were also pics of my self-haircut, me sitting at my desk during online schooling, zoom pics and so many morning sunrises that I would text to my mom.

This Covid pandemic has changed our world, how we live but also how we think about things in our lives.

The small amount of photos at the start of 2020 illustrates to me how I was thinking before the pandemic in my collection. I was busy, going and doing. No time for taking pictures.

When I think of those first two months of 2020 I hear John 13:7 echoing in my mind :

you don’t understand now
what I am doing,
but someday you will

Those two months were before change became the new normal. They were the days of innocence, in a way. Days that were self-driven, self-focused.

Then the calendar turned to March and as the second week enfolded, we were faced with change … cancellations, closures and limitations on the daily, the hourly.

It was quiet, so quiet. The streets were not longer bustling with morning and afternoon traffic. The calendars were not longer directing our waking hours.

As I was organizing and editing images to move off my computer I was struggling to know which photos were worth keeping and which were unimportant. I deleted few, for each one held significance for me, of this year. Each one helped tell the story of 2020.

At the beginning of the year, I might not have saved an image of a cup and saucer I wanted to buy, but it’s message was part of my (our) 2020 year story. As are the ones of a vase of iris’ daily blooming, the many selfies of the steps of my self haircut, or the sunrise photos I would take to send my mom. All of them, together, wordlessly speak the history of my 2020 year.

Let’s back to John 13:7, “you don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

Peter had just refused Jesus desire to wash his feet. Peter, instead, wanted to wash the feet of him. Jesus, though, had a plan behind his act of hygiene for his followers. He needed them to see and understand that as followers of Christ, they (and we) could only be cleansed by his act of humility. That they (we) cannot accomplish this (or anything) on our own. This foot washing was a hint of the coming cross and how he, Jesus, would take away, would cleanse the sins of the world, through his humility.

If I have learned nothing in 2020, it was that prior to March, when the pandemic shut down our lives, we were primarily doing things in our own will. Busily working to do the will of God … but often on our own steam, in our own strength, prioritizing things as we saw fit. We spent so much time doing in our churches, in our communities, with others. Then we were forced to be face to face with the ones who God put most intimately into our lives … maybe God had a bigger plan? a different plan?

Maybe our social distancing was to remind us of our first loves? Of our relationship with God, our relationships with our spouses, our children, our parents?

In the Pulpit Commentary, on John 13:7 (including a few more verses), we read a re-wording :

If you refuse this manifestation of humble love from me, if you put your own pride between yourself and me, if you disdain this act of self-surrender, claiming to understand me and our mutual relations better than I, you have no part with me. This is a symbol of my love to you, and of what is to be your love to one another”

I truly feel that this pandemic has been an opportunity to re-set our lives, on what is important. On the value of humility, community. On the place of Jesus in our lives. On living and walking, not as we have always done, but how he desires. Remember, we only see in part, a few pics … he’s got the whole album in view!

We may not understand what he will do with this pandemic, but he does … and that is enough for me.

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As this 2020 is sliding in for home, I have been pondering the year, through the rear view mirror … which is how, I expect, most of us have been desiring to view this year.

This has been the year of the Coronavirus disease, resulting in memories of a year that leave a bad taste in one’s mouth (unless you had Covid-19 and lost your sense of taste).

  • isolation
  • toilet paper hoarding
  • cancelled plans
  • halted travel
  • sanitizer
  • online schooling
  • working from home
  • face masks
  • cancelled arts, sporting and other entertainment
  • cancelled plans
  • cancelled parties
  • closed businesses (some permanently)
  • job losses
  • illness (so some)
  • death (sadly, also true for some)

And all of this on top of the non-Coronavirus struggles of life like racism, politics, riots, natural disasters, relationship struggles, ended marriages, illnesses and … murder hornets?!

This Covid Pandemic season has tested us in ways our communities have not been tested in a lifetime. This year with Covid-19 will be talked about in terms of the tough, the struggles, the hard stuff, the losses, the negative.

Yet, as I have been looking back at 2020, there have also been amazing, encouraging and uplifting aspects that have shown human kindness, strength, resilience and love. Truly the cream has risen to the top, as I look more closely at 2020.

  • society is celebrating real community heroes … nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, those who work in senior’s care homes, those who work in daycares, preschools and schools and (add your own)
  • we are learning to say than-you, for through our wants and needs, we are leaning appreciation and gratitude
  • people have had opportunity to really get to know who lives under our own roofs
  • hand crafts, baking, board games and puzzles have reemerged in our homes
  • we opted, choose to stay connected through distanced meet-ups in parking lots with lawn chairs, outside windows of senior’s homes, Zoom meetings, FaceTime, live (online) church services and small groups, online games and even letter writing
  • weddings still happened and were more intimate
  • graduations occurred with great creativity
  • we started noticing others
  • we cleaned out our closet, basements and garages
  • we got out in nature to exercise by biking, hiking, walking, running and (fill in your preference)
  • we began to see that we are part of something bigger, that our actions can have affect on others … that staying home, wearing a mask are little things done with great love … for others.

2020 is coming to a close and it will go down in history as a pandemic year … but this coronavirus storm has also a year when we began to look at our jobs, businesses, education, shopping, needs … at our lives differently. Though we are all looking forward to returning to many of the good things that have been on pause this year, our new focus might not have us return to the rat race of before, maybe, just maybe we will begin to realize that there is more to life than what we had before …

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Advent arrived this weekend … with hope as it’s theme.

I had intentions this weekend. Intentions to haul out the Christmas decorations, to stand the tree in the window to declare to our neighbors that we are celebrating.

It didn’t happen. Other things happened, errands, grocery shopping, chores, but mostly I sat on my behind, watching too much TV and going to bed early.

I find I am so … weary.

I think this Christmas season we are all weary. Though this pandemic may not have touched most of us directly with illness or the death of a loved one, we are all feeling the effects of isolation, withdrawal from social activities and an almost palpable tension in the air.

Then, this morning, I read quote, that a friend had posted :

“As my prayer become more attentive and inward, I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent. I started to listen. I first thought that praying entailed speaking. I then learnt that praying is hearing, not merely being silent. This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking, Prayer involves becoming silent, And waiting until God is heard.”

Søren Kierkegaard

And I found myself wondering … what if, rather than just be weary, lifeless and silent … what if I listened? What if we listened in the silence, until a still small voice cries out in our pandemic desert? What if, rather than succumb to weariness and apathy, what if we listen for the one who gives us reason to rejoice, to hope?

It is not trees, and concerts, and parties, and gift exchanges, and church services that are the reason for the season … HE is the reason that our weary world can rejoice, can have hope!

Perhaps we need to fall on our knees … and hear.

… the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine

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Old Man in Sorrow
(On the Threshold of Eternity),
by Vincent van Gogh

I remember years ago hearing of the delays of children who had been in orphanages in Romania (known as dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu’s children). They spent their days in cribs, where they were kept alive with bottles and diaper changes. What they were deficient in was physical contact, stimulation, love.

The impacts of their growing up in that environment went beyond the fact that these rooms full of babies and toddlers were without cooing or crying. These little souls were impacted in their physical, mental, emotional, social and probably every other area of their health and development … all because they were deficient in that which all humans need … human contact, interaction and love.

Now, thirty some years later, another group of humans is experiencing a type of failure to thrive, brought on, not by a nation’s dictator, but by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The news this week had been of a report finding that loneliness is impacting the mental health of Canadians (no doubt others as well). But if we, who are able to go to work, who have the ability to get out of our homes, who have human interaction every day are struggling with our mental health due to loneliness …

what about our seniors?

what about those who are living in isolation?

I have been reading lately that loneliness is a greater fear to those who are alone than Coronavirus. Read that again …

And, some studies hint that during our current pandemic more people may die of the effects of loneliness than of the virus itself.

For those who are isolated from human interaction, stress of this pandemic as well as the the loneliness that accompanies it can mean that they may be at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, depression and even premature death.

“I very much feel my solitude.”

Renata Cafferata (87, Italy)

What that says to me is that this is a need human need that we need to address … and I don’t mean that we need to write to our government officials.

What we need to do it to check in on our neighbors, friends and family who may live alone. Offer to pick up their groceries. Stop by for a visit on their porch or deck, or in their garage (make sure they are bundled up warmly). Take them a meal, drop off flowers, make a call to them, write a note, a letter … make contact with them!

These connections could save a life! This is important … it could be life or death for them!

In an article in The Atlantic, Charles H. Zeanah, a child-psychiatry professor (who was part of a study of orphaned children in Bucharest in 2000), said,

“Imagine how that must feel—to be miserable and not even know that another human being could help.”

He was speaking of babies, or children, who knew no better. They had been born into a world without their need of human interaction and attachment being met.

During this duel pandemic of Covid19 and loneliness, those who are miserable DO know that another human could help … but they are alone.

It is up to the rest of us to ensure that they do not feel the weight of that loneliness … that it does not reach down to the depths of human despair.

This, my fellow humans, especially to those of us who claim the name of Christ, is our opportunity to be the hands and feet of God.

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Back to school is always a paradox of excitement and anxiety. This year, this 2020 September … in the midst of a pandemic … there might just be more anxiety than excitement.

Returning to work in a secondary school, last week, I found myself less anxious as I leaned into the F-word that needs to be the focus of the school year … flexibility. I also gained strength by praying … for the administration, for colleagues, for the students and their parents.

Prayer is our best back to school tool. It reminds us that we are not in control, but we know who is and that he doesn’t leave us in our time of need, our time of anxiety.

Prayer gives us a place to speak our fears, to name them, to be real.

Prayer gives us an amen … meaning ‘so be it’ or ‘truth’. It is the release of our burden … not just the giving of our worry and concern to God, but trusting him with our prayer (ie. not taking it back).

So … let’s pray for this school year:

God,

We come to you, acknowledging that you are God … we are not, Coronavirus is not … only you are God and you are God over everything.

God our kids (we) are starting a new school year and we confess that we might be allowing worry to control us. We confess that we have given far too much attention and time to social media and it has left us anxious, even hopeless. We confess that we often look first to those in government, in education to calm our fears. Lord we give the things that cause us to be anxious to you. We seek you first for confidence, for protection, for comfort.

We also seek your leading, for some are unsure about their return to school. There are staff, students, or family members at home with compromised immune systems, or pre-existing conditions that make us unsure about the wisdom of returning to school. Please, Lord, guide and lead those who are unsure. Lead them to their physicians who can help them make the best decision for themselves, their children and those they love. And Lord, if they choose to not return, help the rest of us to embrace them in their personal decision.

There is such anxiety about the start of this school year, Lord. There are those who may be frozen with fear. Bring them reminders of peace and comfort. Bring your people to them, to embrace and encourage them where they are, but also who will walk them through the fear to a place of ease.

May we, who follow you, hold tightly to you, so that we can be beacons of your love to those around us.

Thank-you that you give to us a spirit of power, and love, and a sound mind … those are your gifts to us (the evil one brings fear). With our sound minds we can make the decisions that are best for those we love. With the power from you, we can be confident in our decisions. With love we can make decisions based on what is best for not just we and those we love but for those around us … and in doing so, we are your hands and feet.

May we encourage those who are returning (or have already returned) to work in classrooms. May we hold up in prayer to you those who will be cleaning, teaching, administrating, assisting students in our schools. May we be like Aaron and Hur for Moses, holding his hands high in the midst of Joshua’s battle … holding school staff up to God as they battle for educating in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

God, we give this school year to you. We give the families represented, the school staff, those who sit in tall buildings making decisions about education and safety … to you. And we walk in faith that you will not leave us alone in the path ahead of us.

Amen … and amen.

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It can seem that our world is a dire place, with so many evil acts, selfishness and hatred. It can seem hopeless … we can feel hopeless.

For Christ-followers, hope is the gift that we have accepted, that we are purposed to share, in acts and attitudes of love.

1967 might have felt similarly hopeless. It was during the time of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Detroit riots, China tested it’s first hydrogen bomb, the Six-Day war (between Israel and neighboring Arab countries).

It was at this time that song writers Bob Thiele and George David Weiss wrote a song, that would be sung by Louis Armstrong … What a Wonderful World … in the midst of such a hopeless time in history.

Thiele stated, “We wanted this immortal musician and performer to say, as only he could, the world really is great: full of the love and sharing (that) people make possible for themselves and each other every day.”

Though this song was not written or sung as a song of praise, or from a Christian perspective, I find myself thinking of the words of writer and theologian, Fredrick Buechner:

“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

As a Christ-follower, I have been called to my family, my community around me physically, as well as this virtual one. My deep gladness is simple, it comes from the gift of love that God has offered and I have accepted … this is where I meet ‘my world’, who is hungry, ravenous for the life-giving hope of the love of Christ.

But I cannot meet my world’s hunger, I cannot offer nourishment from a place of hopelessness, from a place of fear. I need to first be fed the good fruits, be encouraged in hope which will allow the love to grow … hopefully spilling over to the world around me.

Garbage in = garbage out

Good people, we do life in the midst of such sorrow, for so many reasons these days … but we cannot allow it to dim the light that is in us.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.

LR Knost, author, feminist, social justice activist, said:

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

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O Canada
by Fran Alexander

Today may well be the quietest Canada Day in our one hundred and fifty-three year history.

Though provinces, cities, towns and even villages are slowly opening up, large crowds are not gathering, fireworks are not happening, nor will we stand shoulder to shoulder and sing O Canada.

And that is because we are Canada … a vast land filled with leaders from coast to coast.

I don’t mean elected officials or public health offers. I mean the over 37 million individuals who call Canada home. We who recognize that the whole is of more value than the individual, that self sacrifice is for the greater good. That the greatest way to attain freedom as a citizen is by looking out for others.

During this pandemic we have done what the public heath officials have asked of us … kept our distance, stayed home, washed out hands (again, and again and again), worn masks and, when we didn’t quite feel well … we stayed home. Our united goal was to flatten the curve, stop the spread of Covid 19, protect others … our families, our neighbors, others who have never met.

In our following of their health orders, in our others-centered living, we, the citizens, have become leaders in the world … in our home and native land.

“This is one country. We’re all playing for Team Canada right now. Making the announcement as we did today was just part of getting Canada back on its feet and healthy again.” (CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie after the league postponed the start of its regular season)

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

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This season of our lives, this Covid pandemic, in so many ways is surreal. Many of us continue our work, school,  lives as always, just at home. Yet, there is this invisible cloud called change and I wonder if it might be affecting us all, more than we are aware.

Our lives have changed, been altered by this pandemic that has touched every corner of the Earth.

Our work, school, places of worship and social lives have changed. How we shop, spend our time do recreation and entertainment has changed. Now, as summer is just around the corner, how we vacation has changed.

Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and so many other special events have changed.

Though things are ever so gradually opening up, officials are quick to remind us that we are not going back to what we knew to be ‘normal’ but we are moving towards a new normal …

and, well … we can’ see or envision what that looks like, because it is still enfolding. With this, even our ability to dream or foresee what the future looks like has changed.

There are those who are eager to leap into what is opening up, those that are more cautious, or even more fearful. Fear has been on the rise over these months … and it will destroy even more than Covid 19.

Change is hard. Change without knowledge of what is to come … that can be destructive.

My thoughts go back to this invisible cloud called change and I wonder if it might be affecting us all, more than we are aware.

“Before we had airplanes and astronauts, we really thought that there was an actual place beyond the clouds, somewhere over the rainbow. There was an actual place, and we could go above the clouds and find it there.” – Barbara Walters

I wonder if Barbara Walters knew something of that place above and beyond the clouds. I wonder if she understood that what was, what is beyond our troubles, is a place and a person to put our hope in, when the heaviness of life weighs us down.

Look up!

Turn your eyes toward Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace


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When the impact of a pandemic began to touch our lives, in British Columbia, when restrictions began to be put into place, when we all became home bound the message began …

be calm, be kind, be safe

That has been the consistent message from the PHO (Public Health Officer), Dr. Bonnie Henry, in her (almost) daily press conferences, where she updates the province on the the spread and treatment of Covid 19. But the numbers aren’t all that she has communicated.

She has also shared, what comes across as most genuine sorrow for the loved ones of those who have died.

When an outbreak in the community has occurred (at a seniors care home, a prison, a packaging plant, etc.) she presents that information with clarity, sensitivity and a lack of panic. When PPE (personal protective equipment) was needed, she would share what was being done. When reporters seemed to ask questions to initiate scandal, she, gently, confidently pointed out what was known, rather that what was suspected.

Each day there has been a message of the facts …

… reminds me of a song from the Anne of Green Gables musical, in which Anne is telling of what she imagines her upbringing might have been, in a most fanciful way. The women around her, Mrs Spencer, Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs Blewett, sing out their response of “the facts, the facts, the facts … the plain, simple, homely, unembroidered facts” to her.

Which brings me to the other part of Dr. Bonnie’s press conferences that (personally) blesses my east coaster heart. She grew up in Prince Edward Island and each day I hear her island of origin in her breathy speech, the way she sometimes says about (aboat), the elongation of her vowels.

Mostly, though, what I hear is the style of leadership that we rarely get treated to and which exudes through her every word. She is a quiet, confident, shamelessly unshaming, facts-first, sensitive, human leader. She has created confidence in the people of this province, at a time when fear, speculation and panic could have taken over.

When I have heard the health authorities of other provinces and countries speak, I have realized what a gem of a leader we have here. She has not encouraged us to keep an eye on our neighbors for wrongdoing, but for care, kindness. She has not focused on the minority who break the rules, but reminded us that we do not always know the whole story, that the majority of people are following the rules. She has reminded us that it is we who bend the curve, not the heavy hand of rules and laws.

She has empowered us in this fight against Covid 19.

When our lives begin to slowly open to our ‘new’ normal, I pray a cure, a vaccine is found. But I also pray that Dr. Bonnie’s style of leadership becomes a new norm as well.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

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In this season of Covid 19, it is not difficult to find ways to love one another, for the need to be loved, to experience love, to feel love are great?

The easiest way to show love is to self isolate, reduce interactions with others, keep our distance. Those who are volunteering at places which meet the needs of the elderly, the homeless, the disadvantaged. There are those who are donating money or goods to various causes.

“This is my commandment,
that you love one another 
as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

During this pandemic and our isolation from society, I have wondered about those, not dealing with Covid 19, but those dealing with an internal, virus-like condition. This condition attacks the mind. This condition can alter the individual’s ability to work, or parent, or study. It can alter their personality, habits, view of the world around them. It can create actions and reactions that are filled with misinterpretation, anger, sadness, doubt, lack of trust, hopelessness, even rage.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” ― C.S. Lewis

Mental health issues are the invisible struggles of many in our society. Though the fallout of mental health struggles can be easily seen on the sketchier streets of most cities, where substance abuse is one of the symptoms, if we look more close to home, we might discover it’s presence as well.

Symptoms of struggling with mental health can be found in the struggles to look for or maintain a job … or addiction to work. Anger, passivity, apathy. Struggles with relationships resulting in isolation from loved ones or divorce. Sadness, depression or perfectionism. Struggles with their own behaviours, or the behaviours of others. Loneliness, isolation or a constantly filled calendar. Struggles with anxiety, causing an inability to act, withdrawing into themselves and planting a hedge of self protection all around … resulting in near-impossibility of penetration from the help of others.

Those struggling with their mental health need advocates. People who will step in and be their voice … even when they resist, reject and refuse such help. They need people who will dig their feet in the soil beside them, with teflon-like armour (for they may receive opposition to help … adamant denial of a problem … that may injure, deeply). They need people who are willing to go the distance, even if it means (temporarily) losing peace, in order to reach out for help from professionals

… and help from professional must be achieved for health to be restored. Who would not race to contact medical advise if a loved one presented symptoms of Covid 19? Mental health issues can be as dangerous, untreated.

Today is the last day of mental health week, in the province of British Columbia … lets love those around us who are struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or one of the many other mental health realities that affect our friends, co-workers, family … possibly even within ourselves. It can be a potentially life-endangering struggle …

help them get help, love them … pray for them.

“I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.” Charles Spurgeon

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