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

The Truth About Gratitude

The rain has been falling steadily this morning, so I have been taking my time to get ready for the day. Rainy days make me want to stay inside and enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning. Growing up on a farm, I know the importance these Spring rains are for the crops. The rain loosens the soil and softens it, enabling the plow to carefully til the soil for the seeds to be planted. So, sometimes the rainy mornings are good for the soil of our own hearts as we can be willing to slow down and take our time before heading out for our day.

This morning was like that as I was watching a streaming program as I slowly enjoyed my second cup of coffee. The program I was watching provides a Bible teaching that has practical application for the everyday life. But, for this morning the programing was about the previous year’s(2018) outreaches that this ministry had been involved in. I have to admit that watching the recap of the natural disasters from last year, made me realize how soon I had forgotten about these. There seems to be so many of them so often, that I have become complacent about them.

But the real message I began to think about as I watched was how much outreach had been provided. Thousand of gallons of water, food and supplies were given. Hundreds of people were helping to load cars with these supplies after having unloaded large semi trucks of donated goods. Groups were carrying buckets full of supplies on foot to homes that could not be reached by car. Volunteers were sifting through the rubble of burned out homes to find valuables for the home owners who had lost everything to wildfires. Many of these teams spent time praying with the homeowners to encourage them and offer hope. So many people were helping in the video, it began to spring up a bit of guilt in me. I wished I had helped out too.

But, what also struck me as I watched was how this particular ministry is criticized because it is run by a woman. In the past I have heard many criticisms from fellow Christians such as she has had plastic surgery, owns a mansion and has a private jet. Or that she teaches prosperity. But the truth is there in what she does as a fellow Christian reaching out to those who are in need. No, this isn’t a plug for her either, but just a realization, that should we should all be challenged to do something for others. We might not have the financial means to give a thousand dollars to over seven hundred and fifty families who lost their homes to fire, but we can do something. It starts with a grateful heart.

But honestly, it’s not about being thankful for what we have, or that its not us that is being affected by a disaster. That’s really not the motivation that I am talking about. It’s the motivation that we should have towards what God has done in our lives. The gratitude that comes from realizing what Christ did on the cross for us, to save us from ourselves. To save us from being separated from Him forever, the thing we deserved, but He took instead in our place, defeating death, once for all. That’s the kind of gratitude we need to have. That is the motivation we need to help others.

Colossians 3:15-17 offers a look into what this attitude should be like; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts toward God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (NIV).

It’s a long passage, but it offers us an idea of how we should be doing life. If we find ourselves faltering in being grateful and thankful, which according to the passage should be our attitude in what we say or do, it offers the direction to stay in the Word, letting it dwell in you. In other words, reading your Bible, keeps you grateful. Probably because you can be reminded just what you have to be grateful for. It has challenged me today to check my attitude. Have I been grateful lately? Not just thankful. Not just counting my blessings. Not just thankful for what I have. Gratitude isn’t about being thankful for the what in our lives, but the who, Christ, and what He did on the cross. Maybe this upcoming Easter season, we shouldn’t be celebrating new beginnings, but thanksgiving and gratitude, letting God’s Word soften the hardness of our complacent hearts, much like the Spring rains softens the soil, making it ready for planting. -God Bless -Nancy

Prepare For The Best

Shout out to all the Boy Scouts out there! I remember when my two sons were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and there was this motto to always be prepared. I can also think of the old adage to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile and finally found a point to consider with you all. Being prepared. We all like to be prepared and don’t like being blind sided by unforeseen events, but they happen.

Recently, in the United States we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends and remember all we have to be thankful for. It also commemorates the first thanksgiving feast on the shores of Massachusetts. The Pilgrims from England had left in search of religious freedom. The first winter they were in the New World was tough, many died of sickness and starvation. If not for the Native Americans, they probably would have been wiped out entirely. I am proud to have recently learned that one of my distant relatives came from England to the New World on board the Mayflower. So, one of my family was present at that first Thanksgiving, thanking God for His provision and protection, to make it through that first year. I am sure the meal was not as elaborate as our current traditional Thanksgiving foods, but one thing I’m sure about, it took time to prepare. Eating Thanksgiving dinner is easy, but behind the scenes, it takes time and effort to prepare for such a big celebration. Turkeys come frozen at the grocery store and must be thawed several days before the big day. Pies are made, potatoes peeled and rolls baked and kept warm in cute little baskets lined with pretty cloths. A meal such as Thanksgiving is not something that can be created at the last minute, likeĀ  a grilled cheese sandwich.

But, what if you find yourself totally unprepared for something? Well, welcome to the world. Life does not always give us opportunity to be prepared. Parenting for example. Despite the multitude of books out there, no one is ever ready to be a parent. Most days you just wing it. Recently, I began my graduate studies in Christian Apologetics. I thought I knew what to expect, having been a recent graduate last Spring from an undergrad program, but boy was I wrong. It is much more work than anyone told me. It is alot like being a parent. You just gotta do it and hope for the best, while being tired all the time and stressed out.

In one of my courses, I was reading an article on preparing for preaching a sermon, and I thought this was a perfect way to make my point this week. The article was written in the early 2000’s and made the claim that preaching sermons in the traditional sense would never be out of style. The author was balking at a comment made that film production and technology would replace a pastor standing up and preaching. Well, welcome to the new era of reaching the world for Christ with the Gospel! It is amazing to reach others on multiple platforms, across borders and cultures. The author of the article might not have been prepared for the future, but boom, here it is anyway.

You see, we can’t prepare for everything that will happen in our futures. How we deal with the future is what matters. This becomes our own testimony to the world, which is our sermon to a lost and dying world. People are looking at our lives not just our words. 1Peter 3: 15 says we are to set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord and always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have (NIV). Being prepared might not mean to have a rehearsed answer, but be able to give a reason. Why do you have hope? Why do you believe in God? Why are you a Christian? The key is in the first part of this verse, set apart Christ as Lord. It’s like saying keep your focus on Christ and you’ll be prepared to give anyone who asks the reason for your hope. Someone might study and prepare a sermon, but not be living it as an example in their daily lives. Being prepared for something such as sharing the Good News of Christ with others, means preparing our own hearts. Life can throw us many curve balls and we might not be prepared to deal with events well, especially the ones that overwhelm us, but we can have our hearts prepared, by focusing on Christ, keeping Him first. There will be plenty of times when we aren’t prepared, but how we deal with the events will reveal if our hearts are prepared or not. Believe me, I’m not saying that I am always prepared or that my heart is prepared, but I am a work in progress. -God Bless- Nancy