Zooming In, Zooming Out
In these unprecedented and uncertain times many people are writing about their perspective or their understanding or their derived meaning from the covid-19 global pandemic. It is fascinating. As a human species we are meaning-makers. We cannot help but try to make sense of what is happening. What is this all about? What does it mean for me? What does it mean for us? There are big questions and small questions, impacts on the personal and global levels. The ripple effects of the restrictions we currently live with are wide and globally spread. Unprecedented indeed.
A common theme that I’m recognizing in various arenas of writing, reflecting and public forum is reference to the interconnection between the micro stories and the larger or ultimate macro story in which we all live. I see it in Kerry Flemington’s lent reflection for this week – that we can get so caught up in the circumstances of our lives that we forget the bigger picture of what God is up to in the world. I read it in Richard Rohr’s daily meditations – we can get so focused on our own suffering (sometimes petty) and live in the illusion that life is all about us, that we forget the universal work and person of Christ that we are called to participate in. I heard it yesterday in Randy Holm’s sermon – in scripture we can find both the plain text that spells out what is clearly happening – Lazarus is dead! - and the deeper text that points toward the spiritual cosmic reality in which God is present bringing about God’s ultimate purposes for all of creation - the glory of God. I read it in the Time article written by Yuval Noah Harari - that providing better health care for Iranians and Chinese helps protect Israelis and Americans too. And I see it as we Zoom together for worship on Sundays - we're excited to see and chat with each other before the service begins and we know that in gathering together all of us as the body, we experience something larger than ourselves, for indeed Christ is present with us. As my spiritual director used to tell me, “Wilma, this isn’t about you. You are an important part of it and you have a role to play, and it isn’t about you. It is about something far bigger than you.”
My thoughts during these days of isolation and imposed restriction are in a continual flow between the personal and the universal impacts, not only of covid-19, but of all that is happening because of this virus. I’m zooming in to the personal and zooming out to the universal, global. Two spiritual practices that help me pay attention to the personal and the universal are running and sitting in silent contemplative prayer. The one grounds me (literally) in the reality of life as it is. The other grounds me in the endless and very real embrace of Christ who holds all of us together, though we are usually so very unaware of that embrace.
A few other things that I’m doing during these days of staying home are reading (finally getting to a growing pile of books and working my way through the gospels), cleaning out kitchen cupboards, water color painting (at this point it’s strictly sunrises from photos I take from our balcony – like the attached photo taken this morning), going for regular afternoon walks with Dan and our dog Spirit, listening to daily news – local and international – it is grim and so important to not forget the many who continue to suffer.
What are you doing? Have you taken up a new hobby? What are you reading or watching? Where do your thoughts take you? What are you paying attention to? How are you filling your hours and days?
I/we would love to hear from you!
We are in crazy times.
These past two months, the first 4 weeks in Mexico and then 4 weeks here at home confined within our condo, have given me a lot of time for reading and thinking. The time alone in Mexico without the usual business of activities and entertainment prepared me well for this past month. I can only say that God has given me an increased feeling of enjoyment in reading my Bible and praying. It’s also amazing now that I have ‘time’ what treasures were waiting to be rediscovered on my library shelves.
With the advent of the virus sweeping across the world I am concerned about how to pray. As the disciples asked Jesus I also asked “Lord, how should I pray”? Jesus particularly left us with many promises regarding prayer and I wondered as well as with the ‘how to’ what were the conditions for having prayers answered. An old classic written by Andrew Murray “With Christ in the School of Prayer” has brought some answers and more questions.
This winter 2 Chronicles was part of our bible reading program. It is likely one of the least read historical OT books but as often happens it was very much alive and applicable to our present life. I went on to other Bible readings and chapter 7 wasn’t actively in my thoughts. One night I woke up with verse 14 in my thoughts. For seasons or celebrations in the church calendar I have usually had a verse memorized that I would frequently quote to myself during the day and now God was giving me one for this time. “If my people, who are called by my name (that’s me), will humble themselves (confess, repent) and pray and seek my face, I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land. “ 1. God has a claim on my life 2. I need to humbly admit that I have fallen short. I have particularly fallen short in that I have not loved God or people enough to share the salvation message 3. I need to actively pray in order t have a close relationship 4. I need to turn away from what I know to be wrong about the way I live my life.
Could anything be clearer than that? The conditions are clearly stated. As with Israel in chapter seven, God requires the same thing from me.
In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 7, fire comes down from heaven and the glory of the Lord fills the temple and everyone knows that this is God. We live in a world of atheists, agnostics, of people seeking gods of their own making. I hear of many reports of the present dire situation, of acts of compassion and expressions of thankfulness. Where is there any mention of God in all of this? So why doesn’t God just do it again, unleash some incredible miracle so everyone will believe. But will they? Belief is about evidence and will. The big story of the Bible is that, in spite of our tendency to turn away from God, he keeps on loving us. Verse 3 says, “He is good, his love endures forever”
It is important to pray for those who are actively working to care for us, for those suffering from the affects of this crisis, to thank God for the acts of compassion and generosity we see and experience. But can we plead for his mercy to take this away?
In v 14 God is challenging me, and the church, to clean up our lives, our land and our cities, and he promises healing. When that will happen or what that will look like, I don’t know but I will keep on praying for that.