Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 4

One of the greatest challenges of this Covid-19 pandemic is the need to distance ourselves from each other. We are seeing the economic effects of the pandemic but what about the emotional ones? What effects will distancing ourselves from other human beings have on us as a culture. My wife had to go to the post office yesterday and the line was out the door due to social distancing. Normally everyone would have been inside within a foot or two of each other. But now taped to the floor of the Post office are heart shaped pieces of paper with the reminder to stay six feet apart. Social distancing is not just distancing our bodies but our hearts. These little hearts taped to the floor got me to wondering not only how connected are our hearts right now, but how connected were they before this pandemic struck? Our societies attempt at social distancing isn’t the result of a virus called Covid-19 it’s been going on for a long time. As a society we have been distancing ourselves from each other for decades and it shows up in many different aspects of our lives, architecture and building being just one. In the 20’s through the 50’s we build homes with porches on the front of our houses so we could interact with our neighbors. Not only to wave at them as they passed by but invite them over to sit and catch up on life. Then in the 60’s there was a noticeable shift, we started building decks on the back of our homes and putting up privacy fences, so we didn’t have to deal with our neighbors. We attached garages to our houses so we could drive in close the garage door and go into our home without having to see or deal with other people. But it wasn’t just the outside of our homes that we structured to distance ourselves from our neighbors but also the inside creating distance with our families. We traded the dining room for the breakfast bar. After all its only purpose was a place to eat, right? Wrong the dining room table was more than just a place for food but also fellowship. It was where we sat and talked together, even a place to play games together. It was in essence the family front porch, that place where we connected and found out what was going on in each other’s lives. But what happens when you remove the front porch that connects you to your neighborhood and the family front porch, the dining room table that connects you to your family? What is the result of social distancing, isolation and loneliness. I believe the real pandemic our nation if facing is not the virus of Covid-19 but the virus of social distancing that leads to isolation and loneliness. When was the last time you really listened to someone and what was really going on in their life? Right now, there are nursing homes filled with lonely people because nobody can come to visit them, but how many of us did before? After this virus passes there will still be home bound people who nobody goes to see, shut away in isolation. Right now, millions want out of their homes they feel trapped. We want things to go back to normal, but what is normal, our old lives of social and relational disconnection with the freedom to leave our homes? If you could leave your home right now what would you do? I for one don’t want things to go back to normal where we are free to leave our homes but still socially distant. The truth is we were a socially distant society before this virus and unless something changes, we will remain relationally distant. The only thing this pandemic has done is to help us physically see the six-foot distance between us. I have seen lots of tongue and cheek posts about families killing each other because they have to be together. Spouses sick of being cooped up with each other and parents frustrated with their kids. On the surface it’s just a joke but under the surface there is a grain of truth because while we are not going to kill each other many are sick of having to be together. The truth is we are so used to social distancing that now that we are cooped up together, we don’t know how to be around each other. What we are doing is train the next generation to believe that we don’t like each other. We are passing the virus on and infecting the next generation. Unlike Covid-19 that we are told will die out if we socially distance ourselves from each other the real socially destructive virus, the distance between our hearts, will only die out if we come back together. So, what led to our social distancing, I believe our social distancing was the result of our soul distancing. We were created to walk with God in the garden, but sin distanced our hearts from God. The solution to our sin is the Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross of Calvary to pay for our sin. Yet many of us have never accepted His free gift of grace and among those who have, many view it as a get out of hell free card instead of an invitation into a relationship with Jesus. We worship on Sunday and go back to work on Monday, without ever letting our worship impacting our work. The greater the soul distance the more we socially distance. This is not an extravert verses an introverted thing this is a heart thing. We all need to feel loved and to love others. As a society we are starving the heart of what it was really made to do love others. We have made labor not love our greatest priority. Yes, we need to work but why, so we will have something to give to others. But we have made work primarily about self not service. We have become results driven instead of relationship driven. Social distancing leads to surface living, where we ask how are you doing? But we don’t take the time to find out. Asking people how they are doing in our culture is not really a question its more of a greeting. We were a culture of social distancing long before Covid-19, this virus has just exposed what was always there the distance between our hearts. Instead of turning to Jesus as the lover of our soul we have turned to technology. Why are we constantly looking at social media? Because we yearn for connection. The problem is Facebook doesn’t bring us not face to face, neither does my back-yard deck or my breakfast bar. We just had our first grandbaby and right now we can’t see him except through technology. Facetime is great but it’s not the same as snuggle time. Something happens to my heart when I get to physically hold him, emotionally and even physiologically our hearts connect. Something deep in my soul gets fed and feels full just being together. We need to start connecting on a soul level and not just a surface level. It’s been interesting to watch a culture that was previously distancing itself socially because of technology now try to use that same technology to bring us back together. Will it work, I don’t think so because we were built for connection not connectivity. We need we not Wi-Fi. Just living under the same roof doesn’t make a house a home love does. Why not take some time to evaluate where your heart is at. If you are the post office person with way too much distance between your heart and others what do you need to do to close the distance. The worst thing that could happen is for us to go through a pandemic and come out unchanged.  




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Pandemic Perspective – Part 3

It’s the weekend which is easy to forget in our current crisis. You see for many of us we split our week into two parts, the work week and the weekend. As I have mentioned in previous blogs there are several blessings that have come out of this pandemic, like the reminder that my security is not in the shifting sands of stuff but in my Savior and the discovery that my hurried heart is the result of sinking my heart beat to the pace of the world instead of the peace of Jesus. But I wonder if the greatest lesson as I have read the headlines and resulting Facebook posts about non-essential workers is still to be learned. A lesson we need to pay attention to because school is still in session even if it is physically closed. We should never stop learning and if we don’t learn this lesson then humanity is doomed to repeat the same mistakes. What will destroy the world is not tied to our economy but to our empathy. Many of us non-essential workers have been ordered to stay home, our work what consumes most of our day has changed. As a result, many are asking do we need sport stars or musicians, yet the same could be asked of teachers they are also part of the non-essential workers now! But in my heart, I know the answer to that, without a doubt we need teachers, for me personally they have forever shaped my life. You see I am dyslexic and while my dyslectic Mom in her day was diagnosed by the educational community as stupid, I had a teacher who believed in me and regularly told me that he did. Thank you, Mr. Ashine for believing in me, your short influence in my life before you were tragically killed forever changed the course of my life. I went on to do all the things you said I could that everyone else said I couldn’t. My kids were raised by a confident and caring father instead of an angry beat up and bitter one. So yes, I believe we need teachers, but I also believe we need everyone. Right now, our essential worth is being based on a virus, as a result some are deemed more critical than others. But when the virus passes, and it will, we will need teachers and lawyers, butchers and bus drivers. When this is over, we will relish that music concert or sporting event, we need entertainment as much as we need education and economics. The tough lesson we can’t seem to learn is this, that we need each other. Why is this lesson so hard for humanity to learn? That our value and worth is not based in our work and what we do but in God’s Word and what He says about us. Do the disabled or the retired who no longer work not have worth? In Ephesians 1:4-5 God says this, Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” I bring my Creator great pleasure not because of what I do but because of what He has done. Before the foundation of the world, before I was born, before I could contribute a single thing, God’s Word spoke worth over me. So why have we tied our worth to our work? Because a paycheck seems more tangible than God’s personal proclamation about me. I can deposit a paycheck, I can cash and spend a paycheck, I can buy food and shelter with my paycheck. But if I am not careful my paycheck may become the source of my worth more than God’s Word. And now that our paychecks are threatened so is our worth. For many of us our worth has become more tied to our work than what God’s Word says about us. So now that us non-essential workers are side lined do, we have any worth? Well we need to talk about that  paycheck. How we value people’s contribution is often seen it what we pay them. Look at what we pay a teacher compared to a doctor and one could argue but we pay doctors more because they can save lives, they are more essential. But then why does a sports star get paid millions of dollars a year when their contribution kicking a ball or running fast? What we need to understand is what we get paid often has little to do with what we can contribute and more to do with how much money others can make off of us. We can’t make as much off a teacher as we can a doctor and we can’t make as much off a doctor as we can a sports star. While there is a lot a paycheck can bring us one thing it can’t is real lasting worth. If we keep tying our worth to our work, then it will lead not only to a life striving instead of thriving but one of valuing those we see as successful while we look down on those we don’t. We need to stop valuing people based on their paycheck and start valuing them as a person. When I travel is the guy who cleans the bathrooms in the airport less important that the pilot? Or is it the size of their paycheck or what they do what matters most? So, go ahead and applauded those who right now are deemed essential workers, I am thankful for them, but let’s stop this devaluing of those who are deemed not as essential. As long as we do the real VIRUS the hole in the human heart that causes us to value people based on their work instead of their worth will be what destroys us. I wonder if maybe we are worried about the wrong virus, because while Covid-19 is serious it will pass, but the hate in our heart will not if we don’t get serious about eliminating its spread. Both Genesis 1:27 and James 3:9 remind us that we have been created in the image of God, all of us. Until we see everyone through God’s eyes, as valuable we will be a people in a state of perpetual pandemic. A diseased people who esteem or despise others based on a position instead of as a person. What if we started valuing people’s worth based on God’s Word and not their work? It breaks my heart to see people on social media putting some people up while putting others down based simply on how essential they seem right now. Let’s stop valuing people based on their work and instead love them based on their worth.  No parent says I hope my kid grows up to be a truck driver but right now without them we would all die. We see their valuable contribution to society in the midst of a pandemic, but will we still see their worth when this is over? We won’t if we keep seeing them only as a truck driver instead of as a person. My fear is that the virus that invades the heart will cause us to go back to tying their worth to their work.  Maybe the greatest blessing of this pandemic is the reminder of where our real worth comes from. What if this pandemic has the power to reset our hearts and not just our heads so that we value empathy more than economy? I believe that the greatest tragedy would be an economy recovery void of an empathetic one. Where we have more money but not more mercy. Where we are once again economically stable but emotionally unavailable.