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Taking a short break, from the Scripture Notebook

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My eyes are cast on new things, perhaps after being thrust into a season with so much uncertainty and change… with little notice, time for preparation.  I’ve decided to take a short interlude in my adventuring through my Great Uncle’s Scripture notes, and share what has been also rolling through my heart and mind.

Matthew 25:1-13 –

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Right now churches, ministries, schools, and businesses were over all unprepared for what the Covid19 pandemic would bring to our doorsteps.  With many staying home in order to practice social distancing & flatten the curve, everything we had depended on for our “normal” day to day lives went out the window.  In quick order we had to take our work into the digital world, having to make decisions on which software and platforms to use with neck-breaking speed, then learn to use it and manage to keep business as usual.  In addition, we also took over the responsibility of overseeing our children complete the school year, and our churches asked us to be a part of their digital presence.  It’s been a lot.

Several times now, I have shared in conversation that the world we are in right now feels like a mess.  We were thrust into it, like a child being thrown into a pool with the hopes he’ll figure out how to swim.  However, in the long run, what we work through today will better prepare us for what is to come.  Whether that is another pandemic, war, or even the persecution of the church as the day of our Lord’s return draws nearer.  We are getting creative, we are learning and adapting quickly, and we are prioritizing our lives in a way we never have before.  My calendar looks so empty because all of those things that “I had to do” … apparently… didn’t have to be done.  They were non essential.

They didn’t become non essential, they always were.  It was my perception of those things that changed.

In Matthew 25, the Parable of the 10 Virgins, we can see what happens when you are prepared and unprepared.  We don’t know the day or the hour the Lord will return, so Matthew 25 reminds us that we must be prepared for it to happen at any moment.

We also do not know the day or the hour another crisis will land on our doorsteps, but we are learning now that we do need to be prepared for it non the less.  Churches or ministry leaders that have been opposition to live streaming services, or using social media as a connection for the church have been thrown into the deep end and seeking grace for the learning curve.

Just today, I helped to coordinate a very last minute online conference.  There was something that was overlooked and now we know to be mindful of it next time.  Even those of us who had a idea of what we were doing in some areas were not fully prepared to extend that knowledge into other areas of our work and ministry.  But, here we are.

My main focus today, and what I really want to share is this… right now, we are all being thrust into our great commission calling. It’s no longer up to the collective building called the “church” to bear the weight of sharing Jesus, reaching the lost, serving others, coordinating events, etc.  It’s time for the people to be the church.  We should, if we as leaders have done our job right, have prepared those under our leadership to be able to share the gospel effectively, to read & study the Word for themselves, how to pray, and put within them a spirit of service to the community they live in.  We should have prepared them to be the hands and feet of Christ, and how to continue to grow in the Word even when we are unable to meet.

We have a responsibility to be those who prepare.

It’s Okay to Say No, Not Right Now.

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We are in unprecedented times.  Every single one of us is navigating a new reality that we didn’t sign up for and were not prepared for.  You may have always dreamed of working from home, and now when tossed into the reality of it… maybe it’s less than you dreamed of.  Your kids may have begged you to homeschool them, and if you are like me… your kids are dying to back among their fellow students. I think the complexity of this is compounded because it’s not just working or schooling from home… but the inability to break from the home that makes it so much harder.  We didn’t get what we were dreaming of, instead we got a haphazard version of it.

Additionally it is all being hurled at us all at once.  We didn’t get a slow transition into working from home, homeschooling, etc.  It was left on our doorstep, for us to tend to, without any idea or experience of how we would get off the ground running.  For those of us who also serve in our churches or ministry, we are also being asked to add to that already daunting load to lead our Small Groups online, to find ways to connect with members of the church, to run our ministry virtually.  We are learning new software, new programs, new ways to communicate, and it can seem to much.

I am a go with the flow kind of gal.  I love learning new things.  I enjoy challenges and don’t mind putting in the work.  I embrace change as new opportunity.  But, as much as I do love it… I also can become very overwhelmed with too much, too fast, at one time.  This led to a full on break down just a few days ago.  I sat on my bed, eating my gluten free oatmeal, crying.  I wasn’t afraid.  I was overwhelmed by expectations.  I was overwhelmed by the lack of an end in sight.  For how long would this continue?  I was overwhelmed by the lack of clear strategy and planning for so many different things at once.  The idea of just winging it and hoping for the best doesn’t work in my mind.  I can go with the flow, but I still like to have an idea of where we are going, how we are getting there, and what the general timeline is.

Maybe I’m not as go with the flow as I thought.

Here is what I learned that day, when I sat crying over my oatmeal.  It is okay to say no.  It is okay to say not now.  I realized that it was important to me to keep my commitments, but it was also okay for me to say “not right now” to anything new.  Just as it was important for me to share that with the people whom I work with in ministry.  My life is adjusting just as much as anyone else, and my life has a new set of needs to meet just like everyone else.

So, for right now, I know what I can do… and what I can’t do.  What is most important for me in this moment is ensuring my kids online/virtual school gets up and running and in to routine.  It is okay for me to wait on adding any new tasks or responsibilities until the dust settles from this change.  During this time of wait, I can begin to familiarize myself with different virtual resources for my ministry without the pressure of needing to perform right NOW.  Then once I feel ready and equipped, I can reach out to those I serve with and let them know that I’m ready to tackle something new.

It is okay to say no.

It is okay to say not now.

It is okay to ask for extra time.

It is okay to let the dust settled.

It is okay to adjust to your new home life first.

The rest of it, will happen, as it needs to & when it needs to.  And if in the end, before you are ready to go virtual … life resumes to the way it once was.  No big deal.  You are ready to pick up where you left off.  That is okay, too.

What we have learned from this experience will be valuable to our future.  It will change how we respond and react when some other crisis comes knocking.  We will be prepared for then, because of now.  So, once life goes back to normal… I’m going to put into practice learning and using some of these virtual resources so that when crisis comes knocking in the future… I’m not feeling so overwhelmed by it.   Next go around our businesses, schools, churches, and ministry will already have a basic response to refer to.  Next time, it will go easier, faster, smoother.  This is just the season of bumpy roads.

He is my Shelter

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Empty seats.  In classrooms.  In churches.  In offices.  In Arenas.

We have been asked to NOT go into the public unless we must.  We have been asked to TRUST our government recommendations.  We have FAITH that God will still move among our people even when we are social distancing.

That REVIVAL could come as a result of recommended or forced exile into ones own home would be astounding.

Imagine that.  Coming on the other side of “shelter in” we saw that more people turned to God? That our desire for connection was cut off to the world but OPENED UP, DIRECT TO THE FATHER?

Imagine that.  People who had created walls and distanced themselves from society end up craving human touch and connection after being cut off for so long.  That we long to see each others faces, that those annoying phone calls become welcomed reprieves, the sound of someone else’s voice is a balm to our souls.  Greeting your neighbor is the high light of your day, you’ve gotten to know that same grocery clerk who serves you every Friday morning at 10am.

Imagine that.

Exile birthing community.

In times of uncertainty, we just don’t know what God will do… but we have faith in what He CAN do.  He is not limited, He is not exiled, He is not Sheltering In… because HE IS OUR SHELTER.  In this time, we can rest in Him.  In this chaos, there is blessing as He has given us an opportunity to Sabbath.  His creation, His people, His earth … RESTS.  And in rest finds HEALING.

Waters clearing up, and life returning to those springs.  Pollution disappearing from air and skies are seen with fresh eyes.  Bodies are rested, forced from the daily hustle and bustle to rest.  There is nothing to do, no where to go.  This is not just extra time off to run errands, vacation, or explore.  It is a time to BE STILL.