A Better Normal

“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know. I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

We all have our breaking point. It might be different for you than me, but if we’re being honest, we all have a time when we just fall down. There’s a weight that overcomes us in that particular moment. It’s part of being human, and being humble. We are not completely invincible, and we were never meant to be. That is part of what makes life so precious, but the secret to it all is not to stay there too long.

I found my breaking point on Easter evening. Twenty-two tornados were swirling over the state of Georgia and around my home in the span of a couple of hours. I could handle Covid-19. I could handle the stock-market crash and the loss of my near-retirement savings. I could even handle the possibility of job losses. But now I was hunkered down in a corner of my home while a freight-train sounding wind just outside the walls threated my family and my home. At 2 AM. On the evening following Easter. I began to shake, and I began to cry. And I sure prayed too.

Gratefully and thankfully, there was no damage to our home and my family was all safe under one roof. It came close though, with one of the twenty-two tornados touching down about twenty miles north of us. Living in the South, we’ve had our share of tornado scares before, but this one was my breaking point. I was shaken, and there was a tiredness that stayed with me for days. I laid around the house without much motivation. And just a week later on the same Sunday evening, we had another threat for more storms and tornados. I froze. I had a PTSD-like feeling. I couldn’t sleep, and I was useless all day until the threat had passed. I finally understood how people with anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder must feel all the time. This feeling went on for a couple of weeks, until I realized this was no way to live. I had to get back up.

“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

I began talking with God in my prayers and telling Him how I felt. “Lord, I’m tired”, I would say. God likes us to be honest in our prayers to Him. He can work with that. After a few days of me telling God how I felt, I noticed something when I went down to the kitchen in the morning for my usual cup of coffee. As I opened the pantry and reached for the coffee, I saw shelves stocked full of food. I had stocked up at the grocery store so I wouldn’t have to go out as often during this pandemic. My refrigerator and freezer were full too. Suddenly I was thankful we had enough food to eat during this crisis without worry. I looked around my house. I was thankful for my comfortable home that held so many precious lifetime memories, and for my family that was healthy and safe still sleeping upstairs. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but today, right now, was good. And every morning since, I’ve begun my day with honest and thankful prayers to God. In the quiet of the evenings after everyone else has retired upstairs, I do one last check around the house and then step outside on the back deck to look up at the heavenly stars and give one more “thank you” for the day and for peace during the night.

These are certainly trying times for all. Everyone in the entire world is affected. But what may become our biggest tragedy of all, is if we as a community and as a world, waste this crisis and go back to our normal lives when all of this is over. Sure, we all want some normalcy back in our lives, and I do miss those nostalgic carefree days we had only a few months ago. But I also remember other things: I remember people complaining about how crazy-busy they were and stressed out over things that don’t really matter; cutting each other off in traffic just to save a few seconds; being glued to our phones instead of enjoying each other’s company; and complaining. Yes, I mentioned that last one twice. And for those of us who are people of faith, we prayed for revival at Christmas time and New Year’s. Did we mean it? Most revivals and great changes in society come from some sacrifice or tragedy. Rarely do we change our behavior when things are going great. When we are comfortable, we often forget gratitude. We forget how to be creative and innovative. We forget the simple joys, and what is truly important in life.

So when we hear of the “new normal”, I hope we will strive for a “better normal” instead. It will surely be different, but how? We have a new start and a new chance with the reopening. Let’s not go back to the way we were or we will not have learned anything from our mistakes. Those who died will have died for nothing, the sacrifices will mean nothing, and our faith that has been put to the test will show we failed when it counted the most. We have a chance to do better, be better, show our true faith in times of trial! There is a hurting world out there, far more than just the virus. Let’s come out of this tragedy more compassionate, more observant, more kind, and not take the good things for granted. Let’s create again, let’s collaborate and put our brightest minds together to invent a vaccine, and let’s show the people who will be reading our history books that we as a people rose above this and made a better world for them. And through it all, may they also read about how we turned to God during this time for our hope, and He delivered us.

Just Keep Flying

Pilots are trained for emergencies. They are taught that when the unexpected happens, the number one thing you do is to keep flying. You may have to make some adjustments, but you keep flying the plane. And that’s where we are right now. We keep living. We make adjustments and be prepared, but we keep on living, and hopefully do it in a more mindful way. Slow down, spend more time with family, call an elderly friend, take a walk outdoors, or sit in your backyard and listen to the birds. Fresh air, sunshine, and God’s nature are all good, healthy things to enjoy. No one wants circumstances like we have right now to remind us what is truly important, but let’s not waste the opportunity either. Live now. Enjoy God’s beauty around us. Be kind. Pray more. Less sensational news and social media. Look up.
And now, I think I’ll go bake some cookies with all that extra flour, sugar, butter and eggs I recently bought. Live your fullest, my friend! Don’t waste a moment.

Pray for Our World: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa.  25-50% of the population fled the country following the economic and social meltdown, and scourge of disease.  Independent from Britain since 1965, it was followed by intense guerrilla warfare and government fraud and corruption.  The church has grown amidst these trials as a refuge and to help meet the many desperate physical and social needs of the people.  Pray for the strength of these churches, for desperately needed resources, and the healing of their country.

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This is the last country (alphabetically) in a year of prayer around the world.  This is the final image too.  If nothing else, I hope you remember this picture.  It is a real part of the world we all live in, that we all participate in. 

Someday, God is going to ask each of us, “What did you do to help?”  Jesus’ direction to us was very clear: “Love God, love others, and tell others about Me.” For those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior, we are completely covered in His grace and forgiveness, so we should act like it.  Go out and do things for God, and then you’ll worry less about all the “don’ts”.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17

Pray for Our World: Zambia

Zambia is a landlocked central southern African country. Debt, corruption and AIDS have driven the economy spiraling downward, so that 86% live below the poverty threshold. Independent from Britain in 1964, then under socialism until 1991 when Chiluba, an active Christian, was elected and declared Zambia a Christian country but with full religious freedom for all faiths. It was written into their constitution in 1996.

There is still much to be done to help the country economically and socially. Health services are overwhelmed with AIDS, leadership training is urgently needed, and Islam has been aggressively targeting Zambia. Pray that the country and people will turn to God as their source of strength and help.

Pray for Our World: Yemen

Yemen lies south of Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea and Arabian Sea.  97% are Arab, and there are over 1700 clans and tribes.  It is the poorest country in the Arab world.  Oil-poor, dwindling water supplies, high unemployment and rapid population growth plague the country.  75% make their living through agriculture, especially from the drug qat. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, they have a turbulent history of wars and conquests.  Islam is the official religion and the legal system is based on sharia’a law.  Islam is very conservative in Yemen, and there is very little religious freedom.  Only .08% are Christian, and the rest are Muslim.

According to tradition, Shem, the son of Noah founded the city of Sanaa, the largest city in Yemen. The Queen of Sheba also reigned in Yemen and sought wisdom from King Solomon almost 3000 years ago. The prophet Isaiah recorded these words of prophecy mentioning Sheba in Isaiah 6:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Herds of camels will cover your land,
    young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
    bearing gold and incense
    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”

Despite the difficult circumstances in modern day Yemen, increasing numbers are finding life in Christ through radio, Bible distribution, and the Lord’s use of dreams and visions. God is still working today just as He did in the Bible! Believers meet in secret and in small groups, but they are also learning how to honor their culture and family while still being faithful to Christ. God has not forgotten them! Pray for the people of modern day Yemen, that they too will seek wisdom from God.