Like storm clouds gathering, I felt the darkness creeping in the last couple of weeks. I fought hard to stave it off. Yet, it’s a battle I wage from time to time.
Just as I sensed clarity and brightness in my well-being, the world fell victim to COVID-19. Each day’s news included escalating numbers of cases and staggering deaths. No treatment, no vaccine, no real plan for a pandemic. I began to read and listen.
It is a topic hard to push aside. My best try was to take time off from social media and online news. And yet what I’m trying to ignore seeps in.
On May 25, 2020, it was as if a second catalyst took our country by storm. George Floyd, an African-American man, was murdered in Minneapolis by a police officer.
No, this is not the April I expected. And it’s likely not the April you expected either.
We looked forward to March Madness, an indicator April and spring training are ahead. Golf fans looked forward to the Masters Tournament at Augusta and a chance to see Amen Corner. We wanted to go to church on Easter Sunday. People planned outings to Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm (see image above) for the 2020 Tulip Festival. Sorry, folks, not this year.
This is the first time I can remember Holy Week when we haven’t gathered at our church on Maundy Thursday. Nor gather on Good Friday to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary.
What happened on Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection? Ordinarily, music by brass instruments and the choir singing start the service. Often there is also a children’s choir somewhere in the service. The singing of beautiful hymns offering the message of Easter is a favorite part of the service for me. This Easter the sanctuary was quiet.
We were told to stay home. After all, we are in an elite age group at high risk in this time of the pandemic. And if not at home, we were to stay at least six feet apart. How do you hold church services under these circumstances?
Enter Zoom and Facebook Live. We have been virtually worshipping together since March 15, 2020, a total of seven weeks. I miss gathering with the community of believers at our church, hearing the choirs and musicians, and coffee fellowship after the service.
Here we are in the last week of April. All around flowers are blooming. Trees budding, rain showers falling, hummingbirds humming, bees buzzing, and more. It still isn’t the April I expected.
With May arriving on Friday, Oregon’s pandemic guidelines loosed two restrictions. The first is the performing of elective surgeries in hospitals and clinics.
Also, dental offices may reopen. Yet, dentists countered by noting the risk to staff and patient. Powerful dental equipment in the mouth forces saliva and moisture into the air. In turn, this increases the risk of spread of the coronavirus. We still have a curve to flatten here and this wouldn’t be helpful.
With the departure of April, May sits on the horizon expecting some planting to happen. But currently, with our age keeping us away from nurseries and garden shops, we have nothing to plant. Looks like it will be a late planting this year. It’s a wait-and-see proposition.
How about you? Was this the April you expected? And will May meet your expectations? Just something to ponder.
I did not intend to use the COVID-19 label in my post title, because you have heard enough about the virus without my adding it to headlines. Yet this was the catchiest title I could come up with today.
One item Bob and I have on our daily calendar is our time for morning devotional and prayers. In recent days, we’ve been following Henri Nouwen. The daily meditation is waiting in our inbox before we get up and out of bed. It’s been a good day starter for us.
Yesterday’s meditation seemed chosen specifically for this time of crisis for all of us. As we read it, I thought of all the things that are happening around us. What could we possibly find joy in right now? My recovery, the birth of our new great-granddaughter Aurora, a friend who suffered a traumatic skiing accident a week ago and is recovering, and the joy of being together in this time of stress and tension. It made us more aware of what joy really is. I thought perhaps it might help someone else if I shared it here:
Be Surprised by Joy
Learn the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. As we grow old . . . there is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road. . . . But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.
For more information on Henri Nouwen, his writings and work, click here.
Whisper is an intriguing word. It’s a word that can mean more than the soft, hushed undertones of the voice. For example, the dahlia above is faintly colored, somewhat hushed and faded, with a whisper of pink.
On Sunday, a guest pastor shared the morning’s message of Pentecost with our children. She asked a couple of questions, both answered by the same little girl. Margo is about four, one of three children in a family where both parents are teachers. Needless to say, a lot of learning goes on in her home.
As I listened, it was difficult to hear Margo’s soft, quiet tones as she answered the questions. I listened with the power of intention to grasp what she was saying. My determination was rooted in the expression on the face of the young woman pastor. A look which denoted something profound had been said.
When the pastor turned to the morning’s adult message, the theme was the same. In so doing, she also asked the adults questions.
One of the questions was to think of one thing that stood out in the morning’s Scriptures, the sermon, the hymns. Like an epiphany, I was suddenly struck with the image of Margo and her quiet, tiny voice. And by my need to listen intently to what she said.
I was reminded of how important it is to listen the same way to what God has to say to me in my daily life. By listening to the still, small voice of God enriches my relationship with Him. It will also broaden my understanding of what He expects of me.
The words “and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6 NKJV) come to mind. A reminder that even the littlest among us may be wise in ways we don’t understand.
First things first on Sundays. Once awake and with my feet under me, I prepare breakfast. It’s simple and quick. I have other tasks to do before leaving for church.
This Sunday is special as it’s musical from beginning to end.
At church, we expect the sounds of our Children’s Choir. Hearing these young voices is always a joy-filled experience. Children present the fresh and unadulterated faith we all should carry in our hearts.
Under the direction of a talented young man, the children sing a new arrangement of Down by the Riverside. Our choristers range in age from kindergarten through grade school. Their abilities follow the same range. Their performance gets rousing affirmation with applause.
From here, we dash for a cup of coffee and some fellowship with friends and new faces. We can only stay a short while as we have other places to be.
Early afternoon and after a bite of lunch, we head out to attend a concert by the Bach Cantata Choir. This organization is made up of some very talented vocalists and musicians. The choir’s goal is to sing all Bach’s cantatas in 30 years. I have no idea where they are in accomplishing this.
Yesterday’s concert was billed as “Super Bach Sunday.” The group’s director offers this concert as a substitute for an annual football game on TV. We were blessed with some awe-inspiring and spiritual cantatas by Bach. Pieces by siblings, Felix and Fanny Mendelsohn, and Handel finished the program. We left feeling overwhelmed in a joyous way. We commented to the director that yesterday was a WOW! performance.
It was a beautiful blessing, both morning and afternoon. The feeling will carry us through this week.