April 2020 —
I hope you are all doing well and maintaining your sanity! As I write this, we are facing new restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are now under a stay-at-home order issued by NC Governor Roy Cooper. That means new roles and routines for us all. Many are working from home (if their jobs allow), home-teaching their children, managing supplies and just generally trying to stay positive. At the risk of stating the obvious again, it is a difficult time! For some it is easier than others to stay at home and spend time in contemplation. But for some, this is torture! They crave that human interaction and ability to be out and moving. So please be patient with one another during this time. We are all dealing with this situation in our own way. Give each other space and grace as we all feel our way through this. I would like to offer some advice that might help a little.
First, I know it can be frustrating to be sequestered without the ability to get out and do what we want. Some are dealing with it by filling up every moment with activity which is understandable especially if you have little ones around! But, I would caution you, “don’t peak early”. Take a breath and pace yourself for the long haul. Even little ones can (and should!) learn the art of patience. Romans 12:12 challenges us, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We often complain about the pace and complexity of daily life and have wished for the ability to ‘slow down’. Here is that chance to pause, take that breath and practice simplicity for a short time to see what lessons may be there for us.
Second, use this time to connect with neighbors, family, church family and others in a genuine and meaningful way. We don’t usually take the time to care for one another and support one another in all the ways we should. Now is the time to love our neighbors in tangible ways. Galatians 6: 2 says we are to “bear one another’s burdens, and in this you will fulfill the law of Christ”. Help meet the needs of those without and do not be one of those who hoards things for yourself. Comfort each other in lonely times with a call, a card, a text, a video chat. There are many ways for us to continue to connect even when we cannot be physically present. Pray for our community and all those who are on the front lines of this fight. Are there ways you can help support our doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and first responders? Why not explore the possibilities and see what God may be calling you to do?
Third, of utmost importance, keep yourself healthy and safe! This disease is nothing to toy with and should not be taken too lightly. Listen to the instructions of the CDC and other health professionals. Take care of the body God has given you and by this you will also be taking care of others. Social distancing is the only weapon we have at the moment to slow the spread of COVID-19. So by protecting yourself, you are also loving your neighbor. Psalm 139 reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and are a beautiful creation of God. We are also told in 1 Corinthians 6 that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Lastly, a word of encouragement. Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and playwright, passed away in Dublin on 30 August, 2013, after a short illness.
Seamus Heaney is widely recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century. A native of Northern Ireland, Heaney was raised in County Derry, and later lived for many years in Dublin. He was the author of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism, and edited several widely used anthologies. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.” Heaney taught at Harvard University (1985-2006) and served as the Oxford Professor of Poetry (1989-1994). He died in 2013.
His last words, sent by text message to his wife, Marie, minutes before he died, were Noli timere. This Latin phrase, Noli timere, appears about 70 times in the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, translated by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. The words show up in many places with the same message. They were spoken to the prophets Daniel (10:19) and Isaiah (43:1-2). They were spoken by Jesus to his disciples to encourage them in tough times. Noli timere simply means, “Do Not Be Afraid” and it is the message of God to all those who trust him.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”
God’s Peace Be With You,
 Isaiah 43: 1-3b