On the Other Side of the Screen

On the other side of the screen, the “service” had just ended. The cameras and lights were turned off. The faithful few, who had come to serve and livestream the service, left with a quiet goodbye and a distanced wave.

In the still, dark and empty sanctuary, the events of the past weeks finally caught up with me. I looked out over the vacant rows of seats and felt a wave of grief. The color, action, and life that once danced around the sanctuary had been deployed. Like ghosts, I could see the faces of my church family. I could see their warm smiles, hands raised in praise, a caring hand on a shoulder. I could hear the echoes of music, prayer, and our youngest members calling out my name in hellos and giggles. Tears welled up in my eyes, and for the first time in weeks, I cried.

This is difficult. This is sad. This is loss.

Loss is a great magnifier. It highlights the many things we may have taken for granted. It leads us to discover the things most important to us. And it has a way of putting a value on invaluable things.

Without knowing it, I’ve taken for granted gathering with my church family. Attending services, the many Bible studies offered, and the extra events now seem like a dream luxury afforded only to those who live in fantasy, far off-places not affected by an invisible virus. I have taken for granted the way songs and praise fills a room, and how it turns into a life force that changes hearts. I miss the face-to-face conversations, seeing eyes filled with emotion, and having the honor of praying with someone in person. I miss hearing voices and the noises in the background of church life. I miss human touch- the handshakes, high fives, and hugs.

This is difficult. This is sad. But, could this be gain?

On the other side of this loss is joy. It has been an incredible thing to watch our church family rise up, bind together, and help & support each other. We’ve been creative in the ways to connect. We’ve started worshiping in a new way- livestreaming our service for the first time. We’ve started ending our day together with online prayer, word and worship. Encouragers are encouraging. Givers are giving. Servers are serving. Teachers are teaching. Gifts and talents are been utilized and used for God’s Kingdom. In many ways, we have been more intentional, more grateful, and feel more connected than ever before.

It is a strange thing to be joyful when you are grieving, but grief and joy can coexist. In fact, I think they complement and balance each other. Human feelings do not evaporate in times of trouble and uncertainty. But in the midst of our feelings and emotions, we can take hope in the fact that the Spirit will continue to empower us to move forward in unseen, unexplained strength.

Relying on our own power will only exhaust us, but relying on faith’s power will energize us. When we keep our eyes on the promises of God, this current situation is not the finality of reality. Our daily reality comes full of troubles and situations, but our eternal reality brings us joy and life. As a follower of Christ, we can be hopeful, future-focused, and embrace “for such a time as this” in both our joy and grief.

When this time passes, and it will pass, we will come out on the other side stronger. And what a perspective we will have. We will want to open our church doors wider, shout salvation, gather together more often, linger with each other longer. Our sanctuaries will be filled with color, life and action again. And praise, prayer and laughter will raise the roof.

Until then, we’ll keep being creative in connecting. We’ll keep showing up for our online services. We’ll keep loving those around us one step closer to Jesus. And we’ll continue to cling to hope and truth. Our future is secured by a sacrifice on a cross, and the Holy Spirit continues to help us and unite our hearts together, no matter which side of the screen we are on.

A memory to look back upon….

    


It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be anxious.
It’s okay to be confused.
It’s okay to be angry.
It’s okay to be tired.
It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal.”

Our “normal” life had been turned completely upside down. It’s not “normal” to be isolated from loved ones, to have to talk to our parents and grandparents from driveways and through open windows. It is not “normal” to be forced to adhere to rules that limit the number of family members who can say a final goodbye to a loved one in the hospital. It is not “normal” to have to stand six feet apart from others in a store while trying not to give or receive suspicious glances.

Jesus knows all about “normal” turned upside down. Fully divine, and fully human. Jesus, Son of God, came to earth and turned the world upside down by his words and actions. He treated the downcasts, outcasts, and those suffering in ways that shook up, derailed, and challenged norms. Jesus met people where they were. He did not minimize fears, worries, pain, or situations. He did not ignore people’s realities; but he joined them in their present circumstances, often turning a life upside down, and right side up. He asked questions and listened. He invited and he provided. He loved. And loved. And loved.

The same Jesus that walked the earth thousands of years ago, is the same Jesus that lives today. He is the same Jesus who is very aware of our fears, worries, pains, and situation. He is aware of our struggle to find a new normal. He doesn’t minimize our feelings, but wants to join us in our circumstances. He sees every tear shed. He hears every cry for help. And he wants us to turn to him, and say to him, “This is not normal. I’m not okay. Please help.”

And when we turn to Him, Jesus answers us with love and his word:
It’s okay! You don’t have to be not okay alone. (Joshua 1:9)
It’s okay to be scared, but I am will be here with you. (John 14:27)
It’s okay to be sad, but joy will come again. (Psalm 30:5)
It’s okay to be anxious, let me help you with your worry. (1 Peter 5:7)
It’s okay to be confused, let me give you understanding and guide you. (Psalm 119:169)
It’s okay to be angry, but let’s talk about it. I want to help you forgive and find safety and security in me. (Colossians 3:13)
It’s okay to be tired, come to me and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)
It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal,” but maybe try to see that I am doing a new thing in your life. (Isaiah 43:19)

Jesus wants us to cling to him in all our imperfections, weariness, abnormal and “not-okayness.” He wants to help us. He wants to lead us to places where new “normals” might be found. And he wants to love. love. love us.

Take heart, dear one. It’s okay to be not okay. Just keep taking the next step.


The Shadows

I’m not much of a poet, but poetry seemed a good way to try to express my feelings for a group of people I call “The Forgotten.” The Forgotten are those whose pain and afflictions were at the top of the news headlines only weeks ago. Their stories captured our attention, their struggle and causes were held in our prayers. Replaced by the viral news of a virus and its impacts, their unseen fight continues and their lives go on. This is my attempt of a reminder to give “old news” our attention and focus some of our prayers toward “the shadows.” We are the warriors in the poem, whose prayers can change our hearts and the world.

THE SHADOWS

From the shadows,

A weary mother wails for her opioid addicted son.

An unemployed father fears for the future of his family.

A grandparent grieves over the suicide of their loved one.

A homeless veteran retreats further back into the void.

A community struggles to rebuild after disaster.

From the shadows,

invisible and forgotten stories    

vanish away likes vapors,

old news replaced by viral headlines

now wisps of causes

that once held the world’s attention.

In the shadows,

life goes on.

Needs still exists.

Violence still destroys.

Death still steals.

Depression still drowns and drags down,

and fear tries to rule.

BUT….

Into the shadows,

Light it breaking through.  

The overlooked are seen.

The forgotten are found.

Into the shadows,

warriors release the cries of their hearts.

The incense of the saints fill the air.

Love calls out,

surrender is heard.

Armies of angels are dispatched.

Trust turns to transformation,

Faith forges ways through.

Into the light,

the weary find rest.

The mourners find comfort.

The afflicted are affirmed.

A Redeemer, Protector, and Friend stands guard over hearts and minds.

In Him is faithfulness.

In Him is victory.

In Him is Light.

In His glorious light,

life is not invisible, but abounds in majestic proportion.

Peace protects beyond understanding.  

Hope strengthens and gives confidence.

Joy consoles and brings forth gladness.

And Love rules over fear forever.


“You have listened to fears, Child.”


It’s almost impossible to be immune to the constant commentary on the coronavirus and to avoid devastating news of disasters and loss. Here’s the truth, this world can be a scary place.

While reassurances, reminders of wise actions, and fact checking are helpful, washing one’s hands will not make fear go down the drain with the germs. Fear compounded by divisions, blaming, isolation, and the unknown can spiral out of control.

Fear makes us face our humanity. It challenges our control. It tricks us into hesitation and uncertainly. Fear gets louder and louder until we are forced to listen and to respond.

Will fear freeze us or free us? It has the power to do both. It is how we deal with fear that makes the difference. Ignoring it will not make it go away; facing it, even in the smallest of ways, frees us to start focusing on other things. Our life.

A few tips to facing fear:

  1. Acknowledge the fear.
  2. Silence the noise (take a break from the TV and social media.)
  3. Make a list of all the things you are thankful for in your life.
  4. Recall a past fearful and scary situation, and think how you made it through it. What helped? What didn’t?
  5. Talk to a trusted friend, mentor, or pastor. No one should have to deal with fear alone.
  6. Read and repeat scripture. “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” -Deuteronomy 31:8
  7. Relinquish control to God. This is often difficult to do. I find when my Will is not willing, I ask the L“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”-Psalm 56:3
  8. Allow faith to cover & extinguish fear. “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” -Psalm 18:2

“You have listened to fears, Child,’ said Aslan.

‘Come, let me breathe on you.

Forget them. Are you brave again?”

C.S. LEWIS

Finally, I came across this quote in the book Prince Caspian and it gave me a beautiful image of faith and fear fighting. Susan, one of the main characters, was struggling with fear and disbelief, and Ashlan (who represents Jesus) encourages her by acknowledging her struggle and offering her hope and relief. He does not condemn her, but gently strengthens her with his words and the breath of life.

As followers of Christ, we have been left with the gifts of The Word and the very breath of life, the Holy Spirit. We can confess our fear and depend on the Holy Spirit for help, guidance, and power. With the Holy Spirit’s help we can take hold of peace and hope in all of life’s situations, and find the freedom from the bondage of fear.

I would love to hear your best fear fighting tips. Also, if you would like prayer or want to talk more about fear/faith, please send me a message. I would love to hear from you.