The Top 10 Gifts Of COVID-19

To say there has been a storm of information and misinformation on COVID-19 would be an understatement. To say people have given into induced panic would also…be an understatement. And yet, I propose that COVID-19 is a gift our world needs at this very time. I write this understanding that people are dying and so I am not trying to be insensitive. Often times we can become overwhelmed with strain and are unable to see the positives resulting in our current challenges. So here is my top 10 list to encourage you and perhaps give some guidance on how we can pray during these times.

GIFT#10: It reveals how selfish we have become. How can this be a gift? Sometimes its hard to see how much our hearts have shifted into focusing on self. Intrinsically we are all selfish. You disagree? How many times have parents needed to teach their small children to be selfish? From a very young age we are on a constant parenting path to teach them HOW TO SHARE. It wasn’t long ago that we might find memes of people hoarding toilet paper and now the internet has common videos and pictures of people with carts overflowing with “white gold” and people with cube vans packing them to the brim with paper products. Bizarre! The good is that when we see how selfish we have become and “wake up”, we can change. PRAY, for those who are hoarding, that they might see we live in a time of plenty and they are in a wonderful position to bless others and share.

GIFT #9: It brings us opportunities to bless others. If I could have a dollar for every time, before this month, that I’d considered going to my neighbours’ homes to see if they needed toilet paper….I’d have none. Yet now, I find myself preparing to go out and see how I can help. Its been so great being in grocery stores seeing people on their cell phones asking friends and family if they need anything when they are out. Just a moment ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she needed to head out and asked if she could get anything for anyone. WOW! It is a stark reminder of how far we have strayed from having a mentality that seeks to bless. In times of plenty we have become blind to seeing what others may need. When the toilet paper gets fully stocked again and there are bags of flour in the stores, guess what? People still have needs! It might not be grocery or personal items one can purchase, but there are personal items internally that form needs. PRAY, that we retain the desire to bless others and the sensitivity in the future to pursue blessing.

GIFT #8: It has levelled the playing field of the social classes. So often we believe there are those in our society who are untouchable. This Corona flue has reminded us that everyone is touchable — from movies stars, athletes, presidents, doctors all the way to the homeless — everyone is touchable. It seems like suddenly people are now becoming aware that they are part of humanity no matter how much status, money or power they have. Perhaps we have become blinded to this great divide between classes of people but now it becomes painfully apparent as people become so concerned for Tom Hanks “struggling” through isolation while most likely giving little thought to the small business owner in Wuhan in lockdown worried about her business. PRAY, that we continue to truly see people having worth because each person is priceless!

GIFT #7: It has reminded us to appreciate our families and friends. I am sure people are finding it a challenge to be quarantined with each other. To go from seeing your children 3 hours a day to 24/7 would be a harrowing experience I am sure. Some spouses have been quarantined together for two plus weeks! I can only imagine. And yet! In a time when families have been spending less and less time together, now they get to rediscover who each other is. Most of our conflicts come from not really understanding the other person and now, like it or not, we are being forced to face each other, to see each other, to decide how we spend time together. This can either make or break relationships but it is a gift that can bear fruit for years to come! Your children will remember the time they got to spend day after day with you! Spouses who have been so busy working to pay the bills now can finally sit down and talk. PRAY, people use this time constructively to build relationships that will be enhanced for the rest of their lives. Perhaps we should build some quarantine time every year into the schedule of our lives.

GIFT #6: It has given us opportunity to rediscover getting healthy again. Yesterday I saw a video of the waters of Venice. Within a week of people being quarantined the waters of Venice now run crystal clear and are once again filled with fish! This time of forced rest has enabled nature to be restored from humankind pollution! Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us in this. I’ll be the first to admit that I need to become less of a man than I am today. As I am typing I’m looking outside and seeing the sun. I am hearing the birds chirp. I won’t get a sunburn being outside but it looks like a lovely day for a walk (which I fully plan to take). This being forced to SLOW DOWN is a huge gift that people could only dream of in the past but now, for many, it is being enforced. Physical health, mental health, spiritual health can all benefit from this time! Having time to exhale and write a gratitude list would be incredibly beneficial for people. Taking time to think of family and friends and call them up could be therapeutic to be sure. Sitting down and spending time reading God’s Word and seeing His heart for our world, for us, would bring calm and peace to our hearts and GIVE HOPE! PRAY, people would see this time as a gift for self-care and purposefully take the time to decompress from a life that is often far too busy so they too can be restored.

GIFT #5: It has forced unity to become a focus and a desire. I am SO tired of reading headlines about COVID-19. However, I was way more tired of headlines about the Democrats, Republicans, Russiangate, and Bernie Sanders, black, white, gay, straight, Hollywood, Weinstein, blah, blah, blah. China battling the US in tradewars. Palestine in a never ending saga of division. On and on and on…UGH! Isn’t it amazing what a global crisis can do for unity? Every country no matter how big or small, every city to village, every ethnicity, every sexual orientation, every religion, every age…we all need to do our part to help curb the spread of this virus and protect the vulnerable among us. Yes, there will always be those among us who become predators and take advantage of others in times of crisis but for the most part it has been so encouraging to see a world-wide message of the need for us all to come together. PRAY, this concept of unity continues to grow past the crisis of COVID-19…that we would see and appreciate each other with fresh perspectives and respect…that we would desire peace and unity to be our continued experience.

GIFT #4: It reminds us that we have vulnerable people among us. As I think about the elderly during this time it has brought to mind my own parents and how they sit in the categories of those most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. As I wander to and fro to seek out the all-illusive toilet paper I think of my mom and dad needing to stand in line in the wee hours of the morning at a grocery store who just got an order before the doors open, hoping they can find toilet paper for themselves. I think of people pushing each other in grocery stores trying to get to the products they think they need and how my mom and dad are simply not able to physically compete. Whether its the exposure to others, the physical inability to stand in a line or the intimidating prospect of grocery shopping, they have levels of stress I cannot relate to. They have not shared this with me…I am simply imagining myself in their position. Perhaps that is what we all should be doing! And that is just my parents. What about those who have social anxiety who, in one moment, have no issue with the concept of isolation, but then realize they also need to go get food. What about those who have respiratory issues that naturally make them the target of a flu that is so incredibly transmittable. We need to help each other, but, more specifically, we need to be aware of and help those among us who truly do need help. PRAY, that God opens our eyes to see those who need help and that He opens our hearts with compassion to move us to action.

GIFT #3: It has caused us to have gratitude for those who serve (even if it is their job). Parents, at this very moment, should be feeling a sense of gratitude for teachers. All of us should be having a growing respect for our nurses and doctors who are hip-deep in the middle of one of the most contagious flus our generations have ever seen. We should be grateful for the police who need to maintain peace in a time of unrest and our firefighters in a time when they too may be battling colds, flus and other bugs yet show up to their jobs to keep us safe. What about our military who get called in when things get out of control. We hear about the military being sent in and it gives us a sense of peace — that everything will be ok. Why is that? Do they have a magic wand that can suddenly bring solutions? I think its because, like others I have mentioned, their presence brings hope. I think of pastors who continue to meet with and minster to people feeling lost and without hope — some of whom have no one else to care for them. Churches that historically once were places that helped serve during times of disease and plagues are once again becoming active in helping others. PRAY, for those people who are in the thick of this crisis and still serving. Even if it is part of their job they are still showing up! Thank you to all of them!!

GIFT #2: It has causes us to be thankful for what we have. You can fill in the blank here yourself because you are most likely getting a clearer picture of what you yourself have taken for-granted in the past. It could be something pedestrian like eggs and flour, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It can also be relationships with others. The heating in your home. Your spouse. Warm clothing as you stand in line. Fuel for your vehicle to get to the grocery store or food bank. It could be your employment or the health care coverage you have. For me, in this moment, it makes me think of my church family and how much I miss them. We get together once a week but that time is significant for my heart and soul. I love them and I miss them. It makes me think of my Starbucks family that I adopted (whether they like it or not 😘). If you want to meet amazing people who can brighten your day, Orangeville Starbucks is filled with wonderful people who can bring a smile. I think of my mom and dad, my sister and family. How often do I take things for-granted in my life? PRAY, to God thanking Him for all the things you are grateful for and cherish the moment for we are blessed!

GIFT #1: It reminds us we are mortal beings designed to seek out God. This is perhaps the most profound and greatest gift of all — to know we are both mortal and spiritual beings. We see the death toll rising and are reminded that our time on earth here is short. The speed of which this virus has spread reminds us that our time on earth can be very short. The expanse of this virus reminds us that we are touchable and we are not islands unto ourselves. The reports remind us that we are people that seek hope. Where will we find hope when all of our earthly technologies and health care and government are unable to protect us? We need someone beyond ourselves to anchor our hearts and minds to. We need someone who can give us true peace beyond this world. Some seek to place blame onto God with the rationale, “If God is all-loving and all-powerful then why doesn’t He stop this?” I think these times are fruitful for seeking solace in God when perhaps we would never have sought Him before! For those who come to Him He promises He will never leave them or forsake them. For those looking for peace He promises peace beyond what this world could every give or understand. As for love, God loves you beyond measure and does want the best for you — He wants you to want Him. He is the best for you. He helps you see beyond the now. He can give you strength to endure. He can fill you with His love so you can love others beyond measure. He can do this because He is God. Each of us sets out to fill the God-shaped hole in our being and we seek far and wide to be fulfilled. The shape of that hole can only be filled by Him…and his name is Jesus. He gave his life that you may have life, true life, in him. Have peace. Draw near to God. He can help you gain perspective on all the chaos surrounding us and bring calm.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

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Love & Fear, Doubt & God’s Steadfastness

It’s amazing how busy life can get and how we begin to allow voices and others’ priorities to squeeze our focus away from God. One day you wake up and begin to think, “When was the last time I spent focused time just being with and listening to the Lord?“ Relationships take time and are grown through spending time with others and so we begin to take on guilt and shame about “neglecting” time with the Lord.  I want to encourage you today with a biblical promise God gives to His children: He will never leave us or forsake us.  In fact, Jesus, in the book of John, says to his disciples that when we believe in him, he is IN us and we are IN him just as he is IN the Father.  And we know this unity is possible via the Holy Spirit. God is with you…He is always with you…He never has left you and He never will.  

Then why are there times I feel so far from God?  It’s a great question. It’s a reasonable question. I love this quote I’ll to share with you and I pray it blesses your spirit.  The context: Andrew Farley, in his book The Naked Gospel, is writing about how we as believers say we are under New grace but live strapped to Old Testament Law that demands performance.  He writes…

“Having raised my antennae toward the Christian world around me, I intercepted the subtle message that there are requirements to remain in God’s favor. This collection of “Thou shalts”—read your Bible, share your faith, participate in a lot of “church”—was a measuring stick by which I determined my worth and standing. These criteria served as a concrete way of determining whether or not I was in right relationship with God. I had already accepted the work of Christ as the means to heaven. But it was my approach to daily living that was beating me up…What does the writer of Hebrews say? The Old is “weak and useless” in its attempts to perfect us. Today, we have a better option—the New. This new system introduced through the death of Jesus Christ actually works. It places us in perfect standing even though we don’t perform perfectly. Only through the New can we genuinely draw near to God. When I’m feeling distant from God, it’s because I’ve measured myself and have come up short. This leads me to believe that God must be measuring me by this same standard. So I end up with the false conclusion that he’s distant from me. Under this logic, how would I get close again? Obviously, the only option would be to achieve in a way that I hadn’t achieved previously. But the Scriptures are clear: there’s only one way to get close to God—through the New Covenant. Any other way is a counterfeit that is invariably rooted in ill-conceived parallels with human relationships and driven by moment-to-moment feelings.”

Did you know that when God looks at you He is never disappointed in you?  Did you know that He doesn’t love you based on your “performance”?  God sees every part of you. God sees how busy you are. God sees your stress, your strain, your failings, your desires, you wins, your losses, the deepest parts of you and GOD LOVES YOU!  I love what Farley wrote because it so clearly explains years and years of how I was feeling — that God was measuring me according to my own standards which I wasn’t meeting at all and so He ‘stayed away’ from me until I could do better.  What a total and complete LIE!  It makes no sense at all yet it can consume us and cause us to become obsessed (and frustrated/exhausted) with our performance. 
1 John 4:15-19 says this,

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

Have you ever feared that God would leave you? It’s because you don’t truly believe in His love for you. You are still believing the lies that His love is based on your performance and you will either be rewarded by your achievements or punished because of your failures. We have forgotten the basic truth of the gospel: that while we were God’s enemies, while we were failing spectacularly, God loved us and saved us. When we come to know the love of God we find our life is in Him and His life is in us. We don’t need to measure up. We don’t need to perform. We don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to do anything but live FROM Christ.  I recently heard that from someone: Jesus doesn’t need you to live FOR him…he wants you to live FROM him.  “I [Jesus] am the Vine and you are the branches” takes on such a rich meaning when we live FROM Jesus. 

So, today, take heart, be encouraged.  God’s love is steadfast and sure. Speak with God throughout your day and live from His strength and love…because really, that’s all we are told to do…and that’s all we can do. And now…you can exhale and enjoy your day living from Jesus and living in his love.  

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