Welcome to the Devo Circle
At 7:45 am every weekday morning, HoneyRock gathers for devotionals. It's always been a time to center our hearts and minds on Christ before starting the day. That feels more important than ever so now, we want to invite you in.
Over the next few weeks, we'll post written versions of our (almost) daily devotionals shared by our staff team (from our virtual devo circle) to this page.
I went on a walk and saw a tiny tulip peaking out of the ground. It made me stop and think...
How brave it is for the little tulip to boldly venture into the unknown not because it’s comfortable not because it’s guaranteed but because it’s simply the next step to take?
There are many dangers that await it: chipmunks emerging looking for a fast meal or the snow and cold with its frosty embrace capable of literally freezing this brave flower in its tracks.
It doesn’t emerge unfazed by the world it exists in. Those almost-perfect green stems will most assuredly end the season looking different—maybe torn or a little nibble missing by a curious critter. Perhaps this is the year a chipmunk finds its root bulb and it becomes a meal. That isn’t something new to this flower.
Regardless of the dangers, this flower simply is an image of steadfastness. In the midst of great danger it feels the call to grow to take the next step. So it does. And in doing so brings hope to the cold frozen landscape.
It’s a reminder of a promise of better things to come. May we be as brave as this little flower as together we all step into the unknown.
We break from our normal routine this morning to remember the breaking of Jesus, the breaking of the temple, and ultimately the breaking of death. This was not a normal day 2000 years ago.
- Read Luke 22:66 – 23:56, slowly, imagining yourself in the story
- Focus in on the ‘good’ thief – the thief that repents. Reflect on his words in Luke 23:40-42. In what ways do you relate to the thief? In what ways do you relate, perhaps, to the other thief, who insults Jesus?
- Write, pray, or draw an image of the words in Luke 23:42: “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom”. Sit with this prayer for a while.
- Next focus on the words in Luke 23:29. Imagine yourself as one of those standing at a distance. What are you feeling, thinking or doing as you watch all this happen?
- Return to the question from Thursday, in John 13:12, and reflect on your response. Do you understand what He has done for you?
- As you begin to think about wrapping up, don’t close your time formally. Try not to mark the end of this reflection. Leave your bible and journal open. Carry these reflections and images with you throughout the day and into tomorrow, returning to intentional reflection as you feel led.
Good Friday marks the beginning of two days of darkness when Jesus was absent from the world.
From where we stand today, we know that Sunday is coming. Jesus will rise again! This hope is important, but it is also important to sit in the darkness for a while, to make the light of Sunday even brighter.
The family, disciples, and friends of Jesus may have had some thought that He would return, but certainly, many of them doubted and questioned. For them, the man they had given their lives to, the man they believed was the Son of God, had just died. Can you imagine the confusion in their minds and hearts? They spent the next two days dealing with the weight of that grief, unsure exactly what would happen next. Over the next two days, spend some time sitting in that disequilibrium for a while. Ponder what this world would be like without the resurrection. For two days, this was their world. Then, as you move into Easter, join with the disciples as you remember that He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
In the progression of Holy Week, Thursday marks a couple of key events:
First and perhaps most well known is the last supper. On this night, Jesus would share the Passover meal with his disciples and it is from this gathering that we get the tradition of eucharist or communion. This whole meal is full of symbolism, from the breaking of the bread to the fact that they are eating the Passover meal, the meal that traditionally celebrated the moment when God spared any Israelite that marked their door frame with the blood of a lamb—there’s just a lot of really meaningful things to think about in this event.
Secondly, Thursday night is when Jesus would have prayed in agony in Gethsemane while the disciples fell asleep nearby. Late in the evening on Thursday night Judas betrayed Jesus and as they move into the early hours of Friday Jesus underwent the initial stages of torture from the guards.
Thirdly, and less well known, Thursday is a night that we remember how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. It is actually from this story that we get the term “Maundy Thursday”.
Maundy—not Monday as in the day of the week, but Maundy—comes from the Latin word “mandatum”, which means commandment, and is related to John 13:34 where Jesus gives the disciples a new command to love one another. This event is also chalk full of rich symbolism regarding washing, cleansing, and sacrificial love.
There is a lot to explore regarding each of these three key events and we don’t have time for all of them, so I’ve decided to focus this morning on the washing of the disciples' feet because I think it provides us with one of the most thought-provoking questions in the entire Bible.
I encourage you to pull out your Bible and read John 13: 1-12.
The context of this story is an upper room in a house in Jerusalem. It is highly unlikely that this meal was actually eaten at a large table. Instead, it was likely eaten while sitting down, either on the ground or at a small, low table.
As they are eating, Jesus gets up and begins to demonstrate in a very sensory and vulnerable way everything that He is about, everything that He will do in the next 48 hours and everything that He wants his disciples to do going forward.
If we zoom in a bit on versus 3 and 4, we see Jesus taking on the physical position of a servant, and doing so with great humility. Verse 3 tells us that Jesus “Knew that the Father had put all things under His power and that He had come from God and was returning from God”. Jesus knows that He is God, that He has power, that He is in a position, at least by worldly standards, of authority. And it is out of that position that He gets up and begins to serve. Knowing fully who He is, rooted in His identity, He communicates something deeper about that identity with the actions that follow.
“So he got up, removed His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist” (John 13:4)
When He removes his outer layer, He was most likely left with a tunic, which would be exactly what a servant would wear in Jesus’ time. The verse from Hebrews about how Jesus “Took on the very nature of a servant” is very clearly seen in this action.
Then, He begins to wash His disciples’ feet. If you’ve ever been to a foot-washing ceremony before you know that this is not a thorough scrubbing. He’s not using pumice stones and loofas and lavender-scented soap to make their feet squeaky clean.
It’s not really about having perfectly clean feet at this moment. He is providing them with a rich symbol that they will never forget – the Lord of the Universe, taking on the very nature of the servant, serving in the most humble of ways. This is both a foreshadowing of what will happen on Friday when He does the exact same thing on the cross and a commission to the disciples to do the same for others.
He finishes up washing the feet of each disciple and we hear Him ask what I think is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF THE SEASON OF EASTER.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” (John 13:12).
Oof. This question hits me like a brick wall every single year. As I think about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, do I really, truly, actually understand what He has done for me? I like to think that each year I get a little closer to answering ‘yes’ to that question, but I'm not there yet.
Jesus follows this question up with an explanation. “Now that I the Lord have washed your feet; you also should wash others’ feet. I have set you as an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Understanding is made evident by our response, and that’s how I know that I cannot yet answer yes to that question.
This weekend I want us all to think about this critical question. “Do you understand what He has done for you?”.
To really wrestle with this question we will need to take time to remember and recount His work on the cross. Reading any or all of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion is a great place to start. Imagine yourself being there. It may also be helpful to journal through your responses to each aspect of His crucifixion. Thinking about what it stirs or doesn’t stir in you as you remember His sacrifice.
Tomorrow we will not be having our normal devo circle, but I will post a few reflection questions to guide a time of silent reflection. If you are not already planning on it, I would encourage you to join one of the many live stream and recorded Good Friday services being offered this weekend as you continue to think about this question “Do you understand what I have done for you?”
Recently I began rereading a C.S Lewis classic – The Screwtape Letters. If you haven’t read this book, essentially it is a story written from the perspective of the devil, as he coaches some of his ‘angels’ through the process of winning over the souls of men, ‘saving’ them from God.
As I thought about Holy Week, I was reflecting on how this year, it would be easy to let Satan steal this week. Holy Week—THE most important week in the life of the Christian—is a time to put aside all of our personal fears and concerns, to cease striving, and to focus on God. Let’s not let COVID distract us from that.
If you come from a modern evangelical background, the notion of Holy Week may seem a bit foreign. For me, I always thought that Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter were all there was to it. More recently, through involvement in different styles of worship and some church history courses, I’ve begun to explore the other days in Holy Week. Yesterday we explored what happened on Monday, and today we will look at Jesus's Tuesday visit to Jerusalem.
After spending the night in Bethany, Jesus returns to Jerusalem with his disciples to speak in the temple. The gospel of Matthew provides the most extensive account of his time in the temple, so we will look at that this morning. If you have time, I would encourage you to read through Matt 21:23 – 25:46. I’ll provide a few summary comments and reflections this morning.
When we look at this passage, I think we see Jesus giving to mini-sermons: one to the Pharisees and one to the disciples.
First, to the Pharisees, Jesus's message seems to be one of conviction. Speaking with more clarity than he has in the past, Jesus convicts them of their pride and arrogance in both their position and in their identity. When they question Jesus's identity, He responds by questioning their ability to question. Though they are scholars and teachers, Jesus is highlighting how little they really know.
Then, through the parable of the two sons, the parable of the tenants, and the parable of the wedding banquet, Jesus convicts them regarding their pride in their position. In Matthew 21: 31, Jesus says to them: “The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God AHEAD of you”. Later, in Matthew 21:43, Jesus says “The Kingdom of God will be TAKEN FROM YOU and GIVEN TO A PEOPLE who will produce its fruit”. Up till now, they have been the highest-ranked people in the Kingdom. And yet, in Jesus's world, they will be the lowest. Their position means nothing in the Kingdom of God.
Moving on from the parables, Jesus is met with questions from the angered Pharisees and His answers to these questions stump them. Then, Jesus gives one final lesson on hypocrisy, warning the crowds, the disciples and the Pharisees themselves to that hypocrisy has no place in the Kingdom of God.
I’ve heard it said before that “There’s a Pharisee in all of us,” and I think as we approach Holy Week this year it is worth it taking some time to reflect on that Pharisee in all of us. What are the areas of our lives that God is convicting us of this week?
Turning now from the Pharisees to the disciples, Jesus begins is a journey, likely back to Bethany, with his disciples following along. Along this journey, Jesus shifts his tone and after convicting the Pharisees he begins to commission the disciples. Speaking clearly, and articulates to them that they must wait, watch and be faithful. He paints a picture of the end times, explains how they will know that He has come, and implores them to be His hands and feet on earth – faithful servants, rooted in their relationship with their Lord.
“Those who stand firm to the end will be saved,” Jesus says in Matthew 24:13. What does it mean for us to stand firm today? The commission of Jesus to the disciples was a long-suffering one. A marathon, not a sprint. As we reflect on conviction, it is also important to take time to reflect on our commission. Like the disciples, we receive from Jesus a daily commission: stand firm, watch, wait, do as I have done.
Holy Week is a time to remember that commission and to breathe new life into it. As Jesus prepares to go to the cross, and we prepare to follow him there, let’s remember together that we are now His hands and feet.
Ashley Kiley and Mallory Alpert bring the Easter joy & energy with our first devotional for Holy Week. Watch below!
Every Friday, we open up our devo circle for anyone to share how they’ve seen God at work and what they’re thankful for from the past week. Here are quick notes from this weeks’ time of sharing:
- Brent: Leading devos has been a stretch—but I’ve seen God give me confidence through the experience. I’m thankful for that.
- Charlie: Laura’s mom has been able to come up and be here with us to help with the kids. It’s been a huge blessing. It looks like it’s going to turn into a long term thing but it feels like it’s going to be really fruitful and a huge gift from God during this time.
- Rob: I’ve heard that our graduate students have a “campfire meeting” online at night where they gather and talk about class and life; it’s been cool to see how class can go on in spite of everything.
- Erin: I’m thankful for the sounds of spring! The birds are especially full of hope.
- Scott: I’ve seen my girls get fascinated with our creek—it’s been there their whole life but they’re really interested now. They walk down by the creek every day and play. I praise God for that—we want them outside and finding the peace of God in Creation. My girls probably aren’t thinking about it like that, but that’s my prayer for their “creek time” – that it would soothe their souls.
- Muhia: I’m thankful for being able to get out and walk in the open!
- Brent: I’ve gained a lot of great perspective this week as I’ve been checking in with our international employees. They’re so full of thanks even though their summer jobs have shifted because of COVID-19. They’re full of great hope and gratitude. I really look up to their perspective.
- Kirstin: Yesterday I was on a run and I was reflecting on a difficult season in my family’s life growing up. I was thinking about a lot of the hopelessness that was in it. I’m looking back and seeing how God has redeemed it. To me it feels kind of similar now—not knowing how God could be glorified, feeling hopeless…but it’s been helpful to look back and see how God has restored and redeemed things that seemed impossible in the moment.
- Sarah: I’m thankful to be able to join the devo circle—being based in Wheaton, I usually can’t join in. In just a week of “tuning in”, I can feel a shift in how I start my day. It’s incredible and speaks to the strength of our community, even when you’re limited to screens.
We encourage you to do the same with your community—family, friends, neighbors.
So, I feel like a lot of people these days feel like they’re in prison with the shelter-in-place—we’re not. However, it’s definitely a shift to our rhythm of life and introduces some new and unique challenges.
We have incredible technology to keep us connected with friends, family, and neighbors, so I don’t want to overstate things, but the fact remains that things are scary and lonely and that is an overwhelming feeling. So, for my last devo I just wanted to focus on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Because in his letter to the Philippians Paul is in this terrible situation – he is actually imprisoned, he is facing possible execution and yet he has this great perspective that could be useful in our time.
In his letters to the Philippians, he begins with a prayer of gratitude—from death row.
Paul talks about how great it is to be in prison! He’s like listen guys–I get it. This is not the ideal situation, but here’s the thing: I have this opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus to the guards. I’m emboldening others to share the good news without fear.
Worst case scenario? He says I’m executed. Which selfishly sounds great, because then I can be with Jesus.
So, he’s taking his time in prison as this incredible opportunity! He’s even looking at his possible execution as an opportunity. He says, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in this flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor, yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful to you.” Philippians 1:21-24
He’s saying that the sacrificial thing for him would be to live on and continue to serve them.
And Paul ends his letters with incredible advice on how to be happy even in adversity – advising them to set aside quarrels and be united and joyful in prayer. I hope we can take his words to heart and be united and joyful in prayer.
By following Paul’s example, we can begin to grow our light in what feels like a dark time for the world. When we do this inner, spiritual work, we’re strengthened to handle whatever may be thrown our way. We can face trouble with joy. We can see the bigger picture. And we can recognize opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even in the dark—that’ where it’s needed.
As St. Oscar Romero declared, “Our Lent should awaken a sense of social justice.”
He also pressed, “A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what Gospel is that?”
I keep thinking about when things will go back to “normal” and what that will even look like and I can’t help but feel like it won’t and, in many ways, I hope that it doesn’t. I hope that we can use this time of solitude to dream and do the inner work necessary to come out of this the type of people who can do incredible new things.
Rob sent us an article to consider and I was struck by this paragraph:
And there is this other sobering reality: this will not be the last pandemic, nor the last disaster. In any case, even while some of us in the “developed” world were insulated for a time from the worst kinds of vulnerabilities, billions of human beings have been living with that level of vulnerability all along, while much of the world paid minimal attention to their plight. We human beings are far more dependent on God and one another, than we acknowledge in times of affluence and ease. We should not want to simply return to the normalcy of the past years, in which so much injustice was unaddressed and in which countless shared, systemic vulnerabilities grew and grew.
I hope that we can continue the momentum of goodness this period has awoken...of great charity and cooperation, where companies are pivoting resources to make medical supplies, businesses are voluntarily shutting down to protect workers, friends and neighbors are leaving gifts at each other’s steps, debtors are delaying or forgoing collections, and people are realizing how important all of our essential workers are, amongst so many other things.
And we can do more. I saw last night that Goldman Sachs predicts 15% unemployment this year. It will be hard times for many and it is an incredible opportunity for us as Christians to step up and show our love and share one another’s burdens.
In Rob’s devo on Monday he had quoted Micah 6:8 and discussed the idea of walking humbly during this period. I would also like us to focus on justice in this period. Biblically the Hebrew word used to mean justice is Mishpat – which is more about care for the vulnerable and restorative justice than some retributive justice as we define it in our society.
This is from Timothy Keller and a piece he wrote for Relevant Magazine in '12 regarding Mishpat:
This is why, if you look at every place the word is used in the Old Testament, several classes of persons continually come up. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.”
In premodern, agrarian societies, these four groups had no social power. They lived at subsistence level and were only days from starvation if there was any famine, invasion or even minor social unrest. Today, this quartet would be expanded to include the refugee, the migrant worker, the homeless and many single parents and elderly people.
The mishpat, or justness, of a society, according to the Bible, is evaluated by how it treats these groups. Any neglect shown to the needs of the members of this quartet is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of justice, of mishpat. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.”
I think that we have an incredible opportunity to care for the vulnerable now and in the near future. Right now a lot of people are scared and living in darkness and we can be a great light.
I'd like to end our time together today with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Draw us into your love, Christ Jesus: and deliver us from fear.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Last summer when I was waterskiing, I believe it was behind Paul Elsen’s boat, I tore my hamstring. It still flares up occasionally.
This last week, it flared up. Instead of my daily run, I’m having to walk.
Walking is a very inefficient activity. You don’t go anywhere. I’m burning half the calories. The feeling of accomplishment I feel after a run just isn’t there.
Yet I’ve also realized that there are some benefits of walking, I’m noticing some things that I wouldn’t normally, like 2 pileated woodpeckers chasing each other through the forest. I’m more reflective. I’m more prayerful. The best benefit is that Jackie is able to go with me, which creates space for us to talk.
Yesterday I was challenged in a sermon by Nate Oates, who some of you might know from his time as camp pastor at HoneyRock.
He said “walking is the natural human pace.” Which, paired with my new routine of walking, I thought was interesting timing. One of the big things that Coronatime* has taught me is to slow down. For me and many of us, life has, in many ways, screeched to a halt. I’ve had two international trips cancelled. I haven’t been to town or church in weeks. Three of four kids came home for spring break and haven’t gone back. With all of us on the same wifi, it’s…slow.
So our evenings are spent doing reviving old ping pong tournaments, playing board games, puzzling, and reading. It’s been refreshing.
All kinds of things come into our life when we slow down. When Nate brought up the idea that “walking is the natural human pace” in his sermon yesterday, it got me thinking about Jesus and how he walked. Everywhere.
Jesus walked all the time. I could only think of one time that he’s not walking as a mode of transportation, and that’s on a donkey on Palm Sunday.
I never picture Jesus in a hurry or a rush to get anywhere. He always seems to be present and aware. He noticed stuff those of us in a hurry would likely miss. Because he was walking, it was easier to stop...to talk, to meet a need, to ask a reflective question. His pace allowed for a lot more “interruptions”.
As I’ve been thinking about walking, three verses come to mind.
The first is from Genesis 3. Just after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Hearing this, they hid.
This leads me to a couple of questions: Heard him walking. Was this God the Father? God the Son? We don’t know. But part of me thinks that this was a normal activity…a daily ritual. Right after that verse, you see that “God was calling out for them.” This was their daily time to walk and talk.
The next verse is Micah 6:8. He has told you oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you, to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. In this verse I hear God calling us to be present with him. To move with him by setting the world right and by being aware of others and caring for them. The idea of doing this humbly speaks to being aware of who we are walking alongside...the sovereign, all powerful, all loving God. It is humbling that He would want to be with me. I’m deeply honored and touched that this is how he would want to spend His time.
The final passage that came to mind was Isaiah 43:1-3. It says…
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“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.”
The passage starts with “do not fear”. This is always God’s first word when he shows up. How many times is this phrase in the bible? The passage then talks about crossing the river, passing through raging waters. I suspect this is referencing the people of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and Jordan River. It’s my understanding that they crossed the Jordan River during flood stage. I’ve been to the Jordan River and its normal level is more like a creek, it’s kind of like 9-Mile Creek here at HoneyRock. However when it is flooding…it’s about 15-ft higher and a raging river. They actually have markers on the side of the river showing where it is during the flood stage. When I read “walk through the waters,” I think of Daniels 3 friends in the fiery furnace...joined by a fourth. God was with them.
Here is how I take this passage: when we face challenges we are still His. When we pass through the waters, He’s here. When we pass through the rivers, they will not sweep us away. When we walk through the fire, we won’t be burned.
In hard and challenging times, God is walking with us.
One of the beauties of HoneyRock is that Coach Chrouser designed it to be a place of walking. Separating the activity areas from the camper cabins and the camper cabins from the dining hall. Timer Hollow is way back on the way to Ski Hill—the campers living there have to make the walk from Timber Hollow to Chrouser at least three times a day. At HoneyRock...there is A LOT of walking.
From my office, I see people walking back and forth all summer…cabin groups heading out on their overnight trips. Counselors having one-on-ones walking down the road. Campers headed to their activity areas. Very seldom is anyone walking alone....and they are always talking. It is interesting to me that WALK and TALK are almost the same words.
During this time, when it feels like everything is slowing down, my prayer is that we’d learn how to walk (and talk!), to slow down, and to be with God and others and ourselves. This idea of “with-ness” is one of God’s favorite activities
Maybe this will make us more available to him and more available to others.
My prayer to end our time:
“Father God, thank you for this day. Thanks for the promise of your presence. Thank you for this season that hopefully teaches us to walk. To slow down. To be present. With you, with others, and with ourselves. Father God, we continue to pray for all the challenges of this time. For those who are sick. That you would heal them. For those caring for the sick that you would protect them and give them strength. We pray for our leaders as they seek to manage the crisis and make wise decisions. We pray for the researchers who are trying to figure out treatment and a vaccine. That they would come to a solution quickly.
We pray for our day here at HoneyRock—as we study, serve, play, wait on you for guidance and direction. We know you are with us....help us to be with you.
Thank you for technology that allows us to connect over space. Father help us to be open for what you want to teach us in this time. We pray all this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
My brother is one of the wisest people I know. He’s calming and unafraid and with 70+ years behind him, he’s got perspective.
He’s also in the high-risk category for COVID-19.
A few days ago, I texted him to get his thoughts on everything. He simply stated: “this too shall pass,” which triggered a memory of when I was laid off in 2010 during the housing downturn, a defining moment in my life. COVID-19 feels a bit like that.
Defining moments help us clarify our thinking. We’re invited (forced?) to ask questions like “who am I” “why am I here.” When we’re in community like a family or with HoneyRock, we do this collectively. We ask together: “who are we?” “why are we here?”
Let’s look at Acts 16. Paul and Silas are imprisoned for causing a disturbance (casting a demon out of a slave girl in Philippi, thus ending the magistrates’ source of money) in the marketplace.
Imagine the scene with me. It’s about midnight. Paul and Silas have been beaten—flogged and put in the innermost cell with their feet fastened. It’s dark, dingy, and desolate. But then, a prayer. And then a hymn. As they continue praying and signing suddenly they’re moved out of their current circumstances and drawn into a bigger reality.
The earth quakes. Their prison chains fall away. They continue baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ.
So often we’re frustrated by our circumstances or the times our plans get rocked—but should we? Paul learned the secret: finding contentment in all situations (Phil 3). He prays and praises despite the circumstances and God works through it. Paul keeps living.
There’s been a C.S. Lewis quote circulating recently. Readers are instructed to replace the words “atomic bomb” with COVID-19. I want to share it with you now,
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays
Do you see how Lewis tells us to keep going? To pull ourselves together and keep doing sensible and human things? I think of Mike collecting sap to make maple syrup. I think of Rachel continuing to run. I think of us gathered here – though 6 feet apart – to start our day in Christ and with one another.
We’re not huddled together like frightened sheep. We’re not imprisoned with our head down. No – we keep praying and we keep singing like Paul and Silas. We will continue to live well—wisely, but well.
Embrace the moment. Engage what’s in front of you—don’t hide. Maybe you’re unsure of how you got here, but it’s exactly where you should be. Give yourself fully to the work in front of you, whether it’s the work you expected or the work that was thrown on you because of unforeseen circumstances.
Rob and I became empty-nesters this past fall. Our fourth child left for a gap year and just like that we were setting only two plates at the table. While sad to end that chapter of our lives, if I’m honest I would say there was also a great relief. Relief of not being responsible for someone every day. Relief of having flexibility in my schedule to do more of what I wanted to do. Relief of not having to face ten loads of laundry. Relief that they were launched into the world…
And then the Coronavirus.
As of tonight, three of our four adult children will be back home. My inner mama bear is so happy. My heart needs to see them and know they are safe. I crave the strength that comes from our family being together. But I am also a lot of other emotions. I’m disappointed that the plans have changed. I’m sad at so much loss. I’m scared of getting sick or spreading the virus. I’m anxious about tomorrow.
And now I’m uncertain of how to live in this new reality of everyone back home.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
How simple, but how profound. I just need to ask.
I turned off the TV. I got down on my knees. I poured out my heart to God. I pled for mercy and asked for wisdom. I read scripture after scripture. I prayed and talked with Rob. I listened to peaceful music. I talked to God again, and again and again.
And I began to hear his voice.
I don’t know why I am surprised that it comes, because that was His promise, but I am. I just had to stop and listen. His voice is in the inner hope that I can face the day. His voice is in the reflex I have to open my arms to my children and the strength to bear the sadness of their cries on my shoulder. His voice is in the unity between Rob and I. His voice is in the laughter over old family stories and renewed competitions of ping pong and board games. His voice is in listening to each other’s hearts. His voice guides us in a family meeting to hash out this new reality of living together.
His voice is everywhere.
I encourage you to pause and ask God to speak. He might not say that this crisis will be over soon. He might not say that your kids will go back to school in a few weeks, or that they will have a graduation ceremony or start that new summer job. But he will tell you what you need for today.
And that is enough.
Unsurprisingly because of current events my almost 12-year-old daughter, who struggles with anxiety, came up to me and with a very somber look on her face said, “Mom, I’m scared.”
As a parent, I’m feeling the very real need to protect and defend my children while supporting our family culture of “no secrets.” Today, it’s an especially tough balance.
I looked deep into her eyes and could see that everything in her world had seemingly changed in a moment as she learned about the Coronavirus. She was looking for something, anything to reassure her.
If you know me you know I don’t spend any time sugar coating anything. “There is reason to be fearful right now,” I tell her, “The feeling of so much unknown can be very scary for sure.” The power of un-jaded truth is something I value—a lot. So we talked through the statistics. We looked at the short history of this virus but how, despite that, it’s impacting the groups of people it’s quickly working its way through.
I could sense her working very hard to find the silver lining in the statistics.
Instead of helping her find it, I said “the impact of this virus is going to change this world’s form of “normal” going forward.”
This has been reminding me of how I felt about 9/11. There was a distinct “before” and “after” with a lot of unknowns in between. So I shared about what life looked like before 9/11 and how what’s “normal” can change—quickly.
Catastrophic events always change those they encompass. Some of those changes are painful and some can actually be beneficial.
As I was feeling the weight of this conversation, I reminded her, “There is something that isn’t changing, isn’t going to change, and isn’t altered by events: God and the promises He has given us.”
We spent the following minutes reflecting on what the Bible tells us about things we know are unwavering: God's provision for us. His unending love for each and every person on the face of this earth. How we are all seen by the Creator of heaven and earth.
In our house when we can feel the grip of the evil one trying to pull us under we boldly speak this phrase, “Satan you can NOT have me. The battle is already won! I am a daughter/son of the high KING.” We look fear in its face and declare in that moment that a battle line is drawn. We acknowledge that we belong to the Creator of heaven and earth and that He is powerful.
I encourage you, parents, to speak the truth. Share what’s really happening but don’t forget to also infuse eternal truth into the conversation.
A tool I love to use to inject that eternal truth is this: when things begin to feel insecure, we name who Christ IS. Make a list of at least ten things with your family. Here was ours:
- The King of kings
- Our Everlasting father
- Our Healer
- Our Protector
- Our Teacher
- A help to those in trouble
- Strength when I am weak
- Light in the darkness
- Our Provider
- A Home for the homeless
When you look at the list you’ve made as a team—you and your child—you’ll also see the qualities you have in yourselves. You were made in the image of Christ. Your team has all the qualities you have listed because of God working through you.
Parents, don’t be afraid to discuss what’s going on. Our kids need us now more than ever. Don’t try and be perfect—perfect answers, perfect questions, or perfect attitudes—but be available. Lift the fear up in prayer. Listen—really listen to their concerns in a way that makes your child feel heard. The simple act of actively listening, eye-contact, focus, and empathy—it will open incredible doors for you and your family in this time.
Rest assured that the one who controls the waves on the wild seas also sees you and longs to comfort you in the midst of uncertainty. As your child leans into you with their questions and fear, do the same with Jesus.
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These past days have been a unique opportunity to take a close look at the pace I keep in my “normal” routine. How my “normal” pace provides some opportunities but also restricts others.
My house is groaning under the changing of gears as we are experiencing a required change. This change means we’re all in close quarters—constantly. It’s pretty simple to find a nerve to step on.
It’s easy to look at all of these changes and allow my mind to get stuck in a rut of “woah is me”. Except upon closer examination, when you press past the awkward feeling of leaving a routine, there is infinite freedom.
It’s shocking to realize how restricted my creativity is to routine. As I step out of the normal my mind first sees all the things I can’t do. Except, if you stand in that moment a few seconds longer another light will shine in—one that illuminates all the possibilities.
Just as most kids can find hours of entertainment with a cardboard box I must train my eyes to open to the wide world this change of routine opens up for me and those who are stuck with me!
Let’s get creative! There is so much to do, see, learn and experience within the confines of the space the current state of affairs allows all while surrounded by our most precious treasures!
Here’s how we’ve been getting creative:
- Daily Family Line Dance Competitions
- Making Our Own Puzzles
- Making Cookies
The birds are beginning to sing about spring. But this post isn’t about the birds, it’s about poop.
At about this time every year, I’m shocked how much manure the layers of snow cover-up. Fun fact: at HoneyRock, we have to shovel out manure every so often to ensure the fences stay high enough to keep the horses in.
Back to my point. This manure? Unbridled potential. It takes so much work to keep these animals fed. So if we don’t use the result of the feeding? Wasted.
So we invest. We invest this second-hand hay back into the ground. It goes to work full-time in the summer, making rich and nutrient-dense soil.
That secondhand hay? It produces crazy good growth.
Manure, compost…it’s where it’s at! How do you use your secondhand hay?