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

Bloom

Bloom where you’re planted. Have you ever heard someone say that? What did you think when you heard it? Did you agree? Or did you feel a little bit anxious?  I would probably be in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we just need to stay put and learn to adapt and grow where ever we find ourselves. We need to persevere throughout the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in. But, then there are other times when we need to move on. Sometimes change can be good for us, but it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck where we are.

The known is comfortable and safe. We might not like our circumstances, but we are afraid to step out and try something new and different. For some of us we are afraid of getting hurt again. For others we are afraid of failure. Or we are afraid of rejection. So, we stay in our circumstances and become fruitless, rather than fruitful.

When my husband was in the military, we moved to new stations about every three to five years. Every move was a chance to start over, learning a new area, its culture, its best food places and stores, and changing churches. Some people might not understand this nomadic lifestyle, but I actually enjoyed it very much. I really like to travel and I like to discover new places. I actually get bored if I am in a place too long without finding something new to discover.

Over the years I have learned that to be fruitful I need others who will inspire me. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I would always begin with a search for a new church home. We would choose carefully, looking at doctrine and fellowship. There were times when churches shifted their focus and doctrines and we needed to find another church.

Now that we are retired, we don’t move as often and there have been times when we have grown complacent with church. It’s too easy to stay than to try somewhere new. We put up with doctrine and people who did little to encourage and spur us on to be fruitful. We needed to be challenged to move on and find others who spur us on to bloom.

Sometimes it is true that we do need to bloom where we find ourselves, but if we aren’t blooming then maybe we need to ask if God is telling us to step out of our comfortable complacency. Maybe we need a new church or new friends.

This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and found myself reminded how much Paul encourages this church. He was an encourager, who prayed for them and wrote encouraging letters to them. He sent others to encourage them and promised to visit them. We all need Paul’s in our life and we need to be Paul’s in other’s lives. we need good friends who will build us up not drain us. We are called to be fruitful, not fruitless and we need others to bloom who encourage us to bloom. The point is to bloom. Blooms produce fruit. Are you blooming?  -God Bless Nancy

Inspire

What inspires you? Or maybe I should say who inspires you? If you’ve been a Christian for some time you might answer this question with “The Bible of course!” But aside from a typical Sunday school answer, let’s consider other ways we can be inspired: from each other.

Recently I visited my sister in law in her new home. As she showed my husband and I around the house, she pointed out all the improvements she had done. She had painted the walls, added tiles to her bathroom and kitchen and decorated each room carefully. She and my brother in law had recently moved in and she was taking the time she had while looking for a new job to decorate her home.  After seeing their home, I left inspired. I began to think of what changes I could make in my own home. My husband and I moved into our current home about eight months ago and we really haven’t done much to change what was already in the house. In our last home, we did many projects and updates in anticipation of downsizing and selling it. So, we were tired of doing projects and updates and our new home looks much the same as when we moved in.

Sometimes it takes a visit to a friend’s house to get inspired for change. Or, to a local home improvement store to get inspired for changes in our homes, but what inspires your faith? Do you ever find yourself just going through the motions in your faith life? It’s just the same old thing? Well, aside from reading the Bible which IS a great place to start to read about others who have gone before us and learn and be inspired from them; we can find faith inspiration from one another. An example of this is found in Hebrews.

The Book of Hebrews was written for a group of believers who needed inspiration. They had been recent converts from Judaism and needed to understand that their new beliefs were on track and that they could continue on hoping in Christ, even if their circumstances seemed difficult. The author of Hebrews writes; “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV). It wasn’t just the author of Hebrews job to inspire and encourage, but he was asking the Hebrews to encourage each other. To spur each other, to inspire each other if you will.

So, maybe we should ask ourselves, “How are we inspiring others?”  instead of asking ourselves why we are bored in our faith. Sometimes we need to take the focus off ourselves and how we are feeling and examine how we are influencing and inspiring others. My sister in law might not have realized how she was inspiring me, but she did. As Christians, we need each other to grow and be encouraged in our faith. Be sure to share your ideas, your stories, and your own inspiration with others. You never know just how they might have needed to be encouraged today. God Bless- Nancy