Tuesday, June 30 — Tuesday, July 28
The Covid-19 crisis has brought many unknowns our way, and in the midst of these times, we can find ourselves not knowing how to navigate back into a sense of normalcy–but what if a “better normal” is what we needed all along? Join us in this 5-week series as we encourage one another and learn to keep our eyes on Jesus through it all. Check back here for a new article each week!
Hey! My name is Greg. I am the Ministry Development Pastor at Compassion Christian Church. In this series A Better New Normal, we want to help everyone come out of this crisis better than when we went in.
I am a big history buff. I love history, specifically church history. One of the amazing things about history is that it can shed a light on things in our age that we would be blind to without it. This is not (by a long shot) the biggest epidemic the Church has ever had to deal with. The Antonine Plague (165-180AD), the Cyprian Plague (250AD), the Justinian Plague (541 AD), Bubonic Plague (1350sAD), the Spanish Flu (1918)AD); all of these plagues were not only dealt with by the Church, but the Church thrived on the other side of them due to how they loved people well during them.
Tertullian, alive during the Antonine Plague, when the Church was still getting her feet underneath her, wrote this, “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another!’” (Apology 39, 1989 ed.)
So before moving on to talking about what life looks like after the Coronavirus makes its way, we need to pause and recognize that in the United States alone it has already killed over 100,000 people. We need to heed Tertullian’s advice and love one another so much that people will be compelled by our loving kindness to know that we are Christians. For this reason, we have not been gathering.
I use that word very specifically because it is a very important word in our belief. See the Ekklesia of God is the real word for Church, and there are some people that would translate it as “gathering of people.” Implied in the church is a gathering of people to BE with Jesus.
America struggles with this. We like to think of my faith, my church, my relationship with Jesus, but to quote John Wesley, “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” There is no such thing as a solo-faith, it doesn’t exist. We collectively are the body of Christ. There are times (and this has not been the only time) where it is wise to postpone meeting because of our love for other people. In Christianity it is always We>Me. That does not mean we should forsake gathering entirely. (Hebrews 10:25)
My concern in a post-COVID world is just that. That we have built up habits that will have ramifications for many years to come. Habits can be good or bad (for a good habit you can build during this time see Mike’s article in this series on Scripture reading); but once a habit forms it is hard to break. I want to address three conversations that I have encountered that could potentially help reinforce bad habits and walk through each of them.
Whenever there is a crisis, it is an amazing time to reflect and try to determine where our priorities lie. The goal is never to go back to the way things were, but to examine and improve our lives to continue to head toward where Jesus is. That is what the Coronavirus allows us to do. Looking ahead then we have to figure out what is the “better normal” that Jesus is calling his gathered people to in this time. As a church, our hope is that this better normal means that each of us will learn to Be with Jesus more, to Become more like Jesus, and to Do more of what Jesus wants us to do.
I think it is clear. When something is missing, you get to realize how important it is. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. When the time comes for us to regather (which all depends on the Lord’s timing) my prayer for you is that you realize how vitally important gathering actually is. Please hear that this is not an attempt to shame you to come to church when it is not safe to do so, but to realize that habits can be formed in times of crises that need to be fought against once that time has passed.
I hope that you can reflect back on the time in quarantine and realize that something vital was missing. That we need each other to fully worship. That we need to be inconvenienced when we can’t find a parking space, that we need to have a person behind us talking during a song, that we need a baby to cry during the middle of a sermon. Because, without those things, we as Americans can very easily slip into this “church thing” is all about me.
If on the other side of this virus we can look back and see that this virus taught us how to love our neighbor more fully and to appreciate being with the bride of Christ more frequently, then in the light of eternity we will have achieved the better normal.
It has been a good run working from home these past months. I must confess however that it was great getting back to my organized office and my favorite reading spot. I found years ago that if you give God a place and you agree to meet Him there regularly… He shows up. In my pre-COVID-19, normal, and comfortable routine, I would stop at my office reading spot with my Bible and a good book I was working through before I would even sit down in front of my computer; and all would be well for the day (see picture above).
As I was settling into my office with a deep sigh, thinking all is right again, I became overwhelmed with the memories of how God had shown up when my life was not “normal.” I realize that I don’t want to forget the fresh beauty that was experienced in my new, social distanced reading spots outside, on porches or in the dark corners in my house for days. I don’t want to forget the lessons learned in the unexpected.
As we are all trying to see what our new normal looks like, let’s not lose the good things that emerged from this very un-normal time for us.
Our families are different after this time of social distancing. Those of you with school-aged children have been facing parenting challenges that none of us alive today have ever lived through before. The lists of hard things during this time have been spoken regularly. However, the list of good things may be something we need to look at and celebrate.
As families we have been together for Work, Play and Worship. That is something I can celebrate! I have three COVID-19 memories that have become the pictures in my brain illustrating this season.
Work at home Daddy: In the middle of our team Zoom meeting a cute little boy appears and tells his Daddy something important, very quietly, then kisses Dad on the cheek and runs off.
For this reason alone I will miss Zoom calls. I think little boys are supposed to see Daddy work. They need to know: “what Dad does is important, so I need to be quiet, but I’m important too.”
Play together, not alone on a tablet: Showing up at my son’s house to catch them in the middle of a Chinese Checkers game.
I will always remember the visual of looking down on the colorful war of pegs, with all different-sized hands playing the game, and the sound of laughter being heard.
Worship at home: My eight and nine year old grandchildren standing by the cup of juice and plate of bread telling each person that took communion about the body and blood of Jesus.
That’s a mini movie I will keep and play in my head regularly, even without the help of my iPhone!
I share all of these pictures in my head to say that when we look back on this time, we may have some good things that came out of a hard time. I think that some of the things that have been going on in our Work, Play and Worship might be closer to what God had intended for us in our home and family.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for you young moms that are on duty right now. I have three daughters that became mine when my sons married them. I have always been thankful for them, but this year I am in awe of them. They are walking through uncharted waters; this world changed on them without notice. The way they run their homes and take care of their families turned on a dime.
I just want to say to all of you parents, whether you feel like it or not: you are doing a great job! Time with you is a good thing for your kids. Kids are made for time. I think God created this beautiful thing called family so little people could walk alongside the big people in their lives and watch how it’s done. The things you are doing well and the things you are struggling with… they need to see it all.
They will look back to a time that wasn’t perfect, but a time where you walked through it… ALL together. Thanks for having your tables full of games that aren’t on a device. Thanks for having your kitchen counters messy because little hands have helped cook dinner. Thanks for reading great stories out loud together… that will paint better pictures in their hearts and brains than any video version could. Thanks for the extra chore charts on the refrigerator because it takes everyone working together to get through this. Thanks for keeping Jesus right in the middle of it. Being a parent is the hardest and best job I’ve ever had but I couldn’t have done it without Him. The great thing is Jesus longs to be a part of your family activity.
Finally one of the best sources of help for families are other families. If you have anything that has been going great for your family please share it so others can try it. One great book I have heard about through my family is called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. This is a great source to help us take some of the things that have been good for our family with us into the future for a Better New Normal that is packed full of God’s old timeless wisdom.
Quarantine? Shelter at home? I’m enjoying it. I’m an introvert, so physical distancing and sheltering in place have felt like heaven. I am a 5 on the Enneagram Profile. For others, this long confinement has felt like a crisis. And when you’re facing a crisis, it’s easy to let your feelings spill over into your marriage and family life.
My wife (Gayle) stated the other day that she was feeling “distant” with me which is code for “you’re not talking very much,” which is code for “you’re in your head and not sharing your thoughts,” which is code for “I don’t like it,” which is code for “you know where this is going.”
My thoughts were, I have spent most of my waking moments with you since March 28th, watched movies, read books, worked on the house together, and yet she thought I was distant. I wondered if there was a version of COVID-19 that was just for women who thought that their husbands were distant. And all the women said!
I wanted to respond, but thought better, and stated that I had been thinking about Manichaeism. She said, “What is that?” You know Manichaeism! I thought: “That will teach her to ask me what I am thinking about!” I have spent the last trillion hours next to her (or at least in the same room-that counts!) and watched every episode of Fixer Upper, Home Town, and Fixer to Fabulous since March 28th. I am believing that there is something sinister about HGTV.
Oh, Manichaeism! (Third century philosophy that states that everything gets better with knowledge, which in my opinion is what our country is dealing with currently. Google It!
Spoiler Alert: things don’t necessarily get better with knowledge, but it can if you have a life-changing relationship with Christ. If you are not a believer, I can only help you this much. If you are a believer, I can help you a whole lot more.
If your marriage is challenged by COVID-19 or the version for men that keeps thoughts in their head, I’d like to offer some perspective and share ways you can let COVID-19 or this time of uncertainty change your marriage for the better.
Interested? Read more…
Don’t allow loss and uncertainty to divide you as a married couple. Instead, unite against a common enemy: uncertainty. This is an opportunity to unite and function like a powerful team. Battle the uncertainty together! Read Philippians 2:2-3.
Improve your “Out of Your Head Talk” (OOYHT- Sounds like HOOT with a soft h sound. Code for communication.) Yes, I made it up!
The sheer volume of decisions that must be made each day to keep your family functioning, especially now with uncertainty, is overwhelming. These include daily financial decisions, medical choices, the question: are we going back to shelter at home, schooling, and more. It’s exhausting!
So, talk about how to divide the cooking, cleaning, housework, home-schooling, shopping, and work schedules. You and your spouse already have expectations around how these things will be divided and how your “better normal” is supposed to function. It’s important to bring these expectations out and verbalize what you hope each one will look like and what you expect from each other. As you engage in OOYHT talk, remember you’re on the same team and need to find solutions that both people feel good about. The current uncertainty gives you the opportunity to develop new habits about how to talk through big and small decisions as a team.
The last few words of 1 Corinthians 13:12 explain the essence of connection: “…then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” These conversations are all about fully “knowing” and being fully “known.” It’s about completely knowing your spouse’s inner world (their worries, disappointments, hopes, fears, wants, needs, and dreams) and allowing your spouse to completely know your inner world.
As a better normal, attempt to spend about 10 minutes each day talking about meaningful things and getting to know each other’s inner life. Ask about highs and lows of your day. Talk about your gains and losses caused by COVID-19: health, income, independence, social interaction, and more. Make it your goal to care about how COVID-19 is affecting your spouse. Consider out of your head talk and from your heart talk: OOYHTFYHT-It’s German for COVID-19. No, not really! Okay, I’ll stop with all the acronyms.
Being quarantined at home has forced us to develop other ways to play and have fun together. We have built puzzles, colored, played video games, watched HGTV (Gayle has been so sorry that there is nothing on ESPN for us to watch; but I don’t think she is serious) gone for long walks, watched shows that we always wanted to see. but didn’t take the time to watch (written with sarcasm), cooked together, read, and painted. What fun activities do you want to continue doing after the better normal begins?
The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea. However, there are no outlet streams. All of this life-giving water from the Jordan River goes into the Dead Sea, but nothing flows out. God doesn’t want “Dead Sea” marriages. He blesses us so we can bless others. Hebrews 13:16 says: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (ESV). Don’t neglect to share what you have been given in your marriage, even if it’s merely being an encouragement, by having a great marriage that proves what is possible with Christ. Genuine sacrifice is giving away something that we own and value as an investment in someone else. This is the highest action of love. God doesn’t want us to be “takers,” He wants us to be sacrificial givers, people who invest in others by sharing the many gifts they have been given. Discipleship Groups are a great place for this to happen.
We have so many neighbors who are hurting. COVID-19 is on the rise. Millions have filed for unemployment as businesses have closed. Add in social distancing and being quarantined, cultural issues, and it’s hard to care for others when we can’t give them a hug or share a meal together. As a couple, you can look for ways to invest in those around you. Commit to praying daily for a couple that is dealing with health problems, have lost their job, or had their income reduced.
Pray for our front-line workers: nurses and doctors, police officers and firefighters, and don’t forget grocery store clerks, sanitation workers, and delivery people. Connect with Compassion Christian Church Volunteer Outreach and choose how you would like to invest in others. It’s a way that you can spread the hope of Jesus from your home during a time of disruption and uncertainty for people around the world.
So, the next time your spouse asks: “What are you thinking?” you can now say “Manichaeism.”
(It is pronounced B short u sound fabn) Sorry, last one. For an interesting and stimulating conversation, try these questions to discover or rediscover who your partner is.
The one quality to keep in mind for the questions below is to treat the responses with respect. Try not to argue or negatively judge any of the responses. Be like a compassionate spouse who is wanting to know more.
Here is what you can ask your partner, or that your partner can ask you. You can even test how you each think the other would answer the question first; I went ahead and have given you some prompts.
Now that I got you started let me know how it turned out.
Now I’m done! NID! LOL! Here is my favorite: BYDOTWANHO. A gift card to the first three couples that send in the correct answer (firstname.lastname@example.org) and where it comes from in the Bible. ACLUE–it stands for a clue! Ok, now I am being ridiculous and have gone over my word limit.
Things I’ve heard my friends say during this season of sheltering and distancing:
Rather than over-dosing on social media, Netflix, sugar or worse, I suggest we consider saturating ourselves in a hearty dose of wisdom from Scripture — at least once daily! Wherever you are on this wide spectrum, most of us agree we are “saturated” from information overload. The thing about information is that it is not wisdom, it is just information — maybe helpful, maybe not.
For hundreds of years, in the best of times and the worst of times, followers of Jesus have been turning to the Bible for insight and direction. Jesus himself was a big fan of Scripture. Scholars tell us that He likely spent years in training as a youngster — listening, learning, thinking, praying and memorizing Scripture. In the Gospel accounts, we see that Jesus quoted, interpreted, meditated on, wrestled with, built His ethics and framed His world view around The Scriptures. (Remember how well equipped He was as a 12-year-old in the temple with the PhDs of Theology?) Such insightful questions, He amazed the scholars. Luke 2: 41-52.
As we think about a “better normal” and reconnections, here are a few things I find helpful to remember and ask myself about the priority of SCRIPTURE in my daily life:
When I notice my reading of Scripture is dry or lifeless, here are a few “ways of reading” that I try to recall:
One way of reading Scripture, that has been fundamental to followers of Jesus for centuries, is reading large portions of the Bible out loud in one sitting. Historically, Christians would crowd together in a room with a single copy (or usually just parts) of the Scriptures, and one person would read aloud whole books or large chunks of the Bible while everyone listened intently. In certain parts of the world the Bible is still considered illegal propaganda. Sometimes the church community does not have enough money to purchase Bibles for everyone, or the Bible hasn’t actually been fully translated into their language. Followers of Jesus still crowd together to listen to the Bible being read out loud! In the spirit of this tradition, try gathering with your family or a few friends and reading a book of the Bible together. (If you decide to do this, please let us know how it goes.) Here are a few books/passages to consider:
I’m praying that during these days of reconnection, we will all consider making scripture reading a priority in our daily schedules. I encourage you to plan for it, make this practice a part of your daily life, keep it as a high value. Join a d-group and process your experience in community with others. It’ll be a life-changer!
Greetings! My name is Jim and I am the Executive Pastor of Discipleship at Compassion Christian Church. We are starting a series entitled “A Better New Normal” where we intend to review the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 crisis and discern how we can utilize this experience to walk closer and in a more intentional way with Jesus. Regardless of what happens in this world and throughout our individual lives, our Heavenly Father has promised to be with us, never leaving nor forsaking us (Deuteronomy 31:8). We can depend on His Promises and lean on His understanding. As we prepare to slowly get back to “normal”, I hope we all realize that truth.
The virus has forced the Global community to shut down economically and divert all available resources to fighting the spread of the virus. In the process, it has forced all of us into a “new normal” of family isolation and sheltering in place. We now see signs, from the influx of “increased sales reports” and pictures of over-crowded beaches, that our society is moving to get life back to the way it was before, to make life “normal” again.
Before we move too quickly in that direction, I think it would be wise to first realize what we’ve actually gained throughout these past months of sheltering in place. It’s interesting to realize that gasoline prices dropped dramatically because we weren’t going anywhere! Yet, demand for board games, bicycles and books has skyrocketed. As a result of being forced to stay home, we’ve also been able to enjoy family worship time through on-line services. We’ve suddenly found time to engage in personal Bible study, family devotions and prayer.
The question is: Do we really want to give all that up for busyness and incessant activities that possess no eternal value?
The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel is very applicable to where we find ourselves today. In this chapter, we read of Jesus recruiting his Disciples, teaching in the Synagogue, calling out evil spirits and healing the sick. He was so busy that Mark records “the whole town gathered at the door” (1:33). Then we read in verses 35-38 that on the next day when everyone came looking for Jesus, they eventually found him alone, in a solitary place, praying in preparation for his departure to another town to preach. Because, he said, “this is why I have come”(1:38).
Jesus put boundaries around the demands of His time in order that He could properly prioritize his life.
Today, the pressure is mounting to “get things back to normal”. Our culture is demanding that we reconnect….that YOU reconnect. Have you given thought to boundaries you may need to install in your life? In the life of your family? Have you given any thought to or devoted time in prayer seeking what will receive the highest priorities in your life, such as your personal walk with Christ or your marriage? Is the old normal worth returning to?
Let’s all take advantage of this present moment, the time BEFORE the demands for our time and attention begin gathering at OUR doors!
Let’s all go to our own solitary place, to pray and seek God’s priorities for our lives. Let’s all take advantage of this unusual moment in time to BE with Jesus…..to seek God’s best for our lives and those of our families. By doing so, we will have utilized this time of crisis to reorder our lives in God honoring ways….and THAT would truly be creating a better new normal.