Together

I’ll be honest, I’ve been putting this off for awhile. I don’t like to be controversial and I fear rejection most of all, but it is something that has been weighing on my heart and mind. See, if you’re like most people, you are probably feeling a bit anxious with the world in the state it finds itself: a global pandemic and social and political unrest. Here in the United States, we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s a time to celebrate with thankful hearts what God has provided. It has its roots in the early pilgrims who risked it all to leave England and sail to America to establish a community of religious freedom for themselves and their children. The first year was difficult as they were not fully prepared for the conditions in New England. Many of the new immigrants died of sickness and disease. Without the aid of the local people, they would have all died. So, according to history, they gathered together and celebrated to thank God for His provision. We in the United States remember that early celebration by having our own version. Some people gather for a large meal with family or sometimes with friends; a friendsgiving.

But, as we have been repeated told by media, this year is different. Well, sort of…. It’s true many avoided family and friends this year for Thanksgiving, but what is actually different this year is the silent crisis that is growing, that a few are talking about, but should be.

There is a real pandemic that is creating problems that are more widespread than the Covid virus. See, we are not made for this pandemic I’m talking about. With Covid, are bodies can fight it off, if we have a healthy immune system, but with this accompanying silent pandemic, few are immune, because we are wired for each other. We will all be touched by it in someway.

What am I talking about? The accompanying mental health crisis and addiction crisis that has far reaching effects than the Covid could ever have. We simply are wired by God for each other; for relationships. Genesis 2:18 makes it pretty clear, when God saw Adam alone, He said it wasn’t good. Being alone isn’t good. So God created a partner for Adam, Eve.

If you don’t believe the Bible, but prefer science than here are some science facts: The Heath Resources and Service Administration reported in 2019, (before the pandemic) that 20% of Americans felt socially isolated and lonely, creating the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day. (Christian Counseling Today, vol. 24, no.3) Let that soak in: the health affects of being lonely and socially isolated touch you physically as if you smoked. Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing because of the social isolation imposed upon people. Drug and alcohol addictions are on the rise as well, creating more problems for society.

There are connections between our mental health and our physical health, as noted above and are called pre-disease pathways (The Loneliness Epidemic, 2020.Mayfield, CCT, vol. 24, no. 3). According to Mayfield, loneliness and isolation can “Predict both morbidity and mortality.”(Mayfield, 2020). Heart disease alone claims 647,000 and cancer 606,500, or one in four people. Many of these diseases are scientifically linked to loneliness as much as other factors, such as nutrition. Our bodies are simply not made to be alone. We are meant to be together, doing life with one another.

Please don’t get me wrong, Covid is very real. It is dangerous for some, but not all people. By now, we probably have all known someone who has gotten Covid. We may have known someone who died from it, or someone who has survived. The real question we should be asking ourselves, is whether we know someone who is struggling emotionally through all of this? Can we recognize mental health issues as accurately as we do physical systems? Can we recognize this in our children? Many professional educators and counselors are very concerned with the effects of social isolation upon the younger generations. Kids need each other for proper development and growth. Are we making them afraid of other people? Are we prepared for the long term results of social isolation?

We are creating a ticking time bomb by isolating our children and ourselves from others, particularly the multi generational connections. The elderly are very vulnerable to virus, because they are weaker sometimes due to other complications. However, they are also very isolated and lonely. Depression is high for this age group as well and this takes a toll on their physical health.

I know not everyone will agree with me that we should be spending time together with our families and friends despite a pandemic. I also want to make sure you understand that I believe we should exercise care, such as wearing a mask, especially if we are not sure if we are a carrier of the virus. But we really should not refrain from visiting our families or keep children from attending school. I learned several years ago the most important things in life were not things; they are people. We all want to believe we are somehow doing the best thing by staying away from our older relatives, but really, can we be certain? I know I am not God. I do not know when any of my family members might die. None of us do. We might believe we somehow will “keep them from dying” if we refuse to visit them in person, but… do we know that for certain? Are we God?

I’m being honest and vulnerable here; I would give anything for just one more day to spend with my Mom. I enjoyed talking to her and appreciated her wisdom and advice from a life well lived. I cannot imagine not seeing her, to spend time with her when she was in the nursing home and hospital. Even at the end, I visited her at the hospital and read to her, although I wasn’t sure if she could hear me or not. We cannot get back those moments, once they are gone, they are gone. But I do know that I will see her again, when we get together once again and celebrate with thanksgiving and praise to God for His provision; Jesus, so that we can be together with Him and one another, who have called upon Him for salvation.

Life is too short and too precious to give up seeing my family and friends. We must be careful to be sure, but we really do need each other, to be together. It is what we are made for.- God Bless- Nancy

Risk

           “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” ( 1 Timothy 4:16, NIV).

I thought for a moment about choosing a different title for this week’s blog. Maybe “mediocre” or “status quo” would work instead of “risk”, but what am I really trying to say here?  In the end I hope always to encourage you to move forward. So, it seems “risk” would work better.

What has set me on this path today is my daughter. She has been working on researching our family tree. Over the weeks, she has made some impressive discoveries about who we really are. I shared earlier about the puritan movers and shakers in my family tree and of those who were locked in towers and faced beheading for their beliefs. Recently I have learned of knights and of Ladies and Lords in the family tree. A big surprise this week has been finding that John Locke was a relative. John Locke has been credited with ideas that would later shape the United States. He was the great grandson of one of my great, great great (etc) grandfathers -a mover and shaker who once fled to Geneva to keep his head attached to his body in fear of Queen Mary, who was seeking to take his life.

Which made me think about where we are today as a culture.Are we a culture of movers and shakers? Of thinkers? Of philosophers who change countries? Of country builders? Are we so concerned with technology and sciences, that we have forgotten to think for ourselves? Are we leaders or followers?

Recently,  I asked some younger people just what is important to them in today’s culture. Their answer; acceptance, and of fitting in. Which decidedly is not something exclusive to generation Z or  the millennials; its all of us, every generation We all want to feel like we fit in and are accepted, its how God has wired us for relationship with others and with Him.Yet, for many keeping the status quo becomes more important than seeking change. No one likes to stand out and fear rejection by friends and colleagues. When the status quo changes or shifts, so do we and are swept along with the crowd.

I included the quote from Paul’s letter to Timothy as a reminder that status quo was a thing in the first century too. Here, Paul reminds Timothy to live out what he has come to believe for it not only affected him, but those he was teaching. Paul told him to persevere in what he taught and model it in front of those he was teaching.

It is easy to go with the flow of the crowd and to let others think for you. It is harder to think for yourself and go against the current of trends. I am proud to come from a family tree that included those who thought for themselves and refused to go along with the crowd, even risking death for upholding the truths of the Bible, in opposition to what was being taught by the state church. They sought to persevere for their faith and move across an ocean so their children could have a new life, free of religious corruption.

I thought about what this means for me. Am I willing to go against the current? Have I settled into acceptance of popular thought? Even popular christian thought? How does my own doctrine, my own teaching stand up to the criteria of Biblical truth? Do I want acceptance from the status quo, or am I willing to risk standing out from the crowd because I believe the Bible? Standing out might be uncomfortable for a moment, but I am so thankful that those in my family tree did just that. I would not be here if they hadn’t, living in a country where I am free to worship apart from a government controlled church.

So, I encourage you to step out and follow what God has been putting on your heart. If it a little different than what others do, but still compatible with what the Bible teaches, than take a chance. Have you been told you’re too young or too old by culture? Or its just not done by everyone else?  You don’t have to follow the crowd, just follow Jesus. Some day your descendants just might thank you for not accepting the status quo, but on taking a risk, their lives might be impacted just as mine has. I like to think that I have inherited some of my ancestor’s tenacity and stubbornness and maybe even their intellectual keenness as John Locke had, who knows? But I do know that I will not settled on being mediocre or status quo, but will attempt to persevere in my life and doctrine.  -God Bless -Nancy