Resilience in the Covid-19 aftermath

I’ve frequently posted about the physical property of resilience referred to scientifically as the coefficient of restitution.

The coefficient of restitution is a number which indicates how much kinetic energy (energy of motion) remains after a collision of two objects.

In simple terms, if an object has a high coefficient of restitution (C of R) it will bounce back when colliding with a hard surface, quickly returning to its original shape, while something with a very low C of R tends to lose its shape. In other words, the C of R tells just how resilient matter is under stress or pressure.

These terms may be applied to organizations and individuals, as well. As we begin to try to bounce back from the harsh impact of Covid-19, our country, its businesses, churches, families, and individuals will require an extra measure of resilience, not merely endurance, if we are to return to anything near our original shapes.

During social distancing Christians have been reminded the church is its people, not its buildings. Many congregations have thrived through online services and social media. Some have even expanded their outreach, while others have struggled. The strength of these churches depends on the spiritual resiliency of the members. This is true of all organizations, businesses, and even countries. How each weathers the fallout from the pandemic will depend on the response of individual members.

Each of us has a responsibility to be as resilient as possible, not only for ourselves, but for our families, communities, and our country.

While not a factor in the coefficient of restitution of physical matter, when it comes to spiritual resilience an attitude of optimism, and faith in God go a long way in determining how we respond to and recover from the hard knocks of life.

In March I wrote, “Modern culture in the West has received many assaults and knocks, throwing it off the solid center we once knew. However, if enough of us strengthen our own spiritual resiliency, we might increase the country’s Coefficient of Restitution so we can all bounce back together.”

Spiritual resiliency is key to our recovery from the Corona Virus, as well.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28,
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When all this is over

With the encouraging reports coming out daily, we are beginning to think about what our lives will be like when the corona virus shut-down is behind us. Most of the comments I hear are about how different everything will be, spoken with an undercurrent of fear of the unknown.

The optimists among us are hoping our “new normal” will include improvements brought about by the changes in the last few weeks, concentrating on the silver lining principle. The pessimists seem to expect a downward spiral into a previously unknown level of chaos and poverty. I suppose that is simply human nature when trying to predict the future. Usually the reality falls someplace in between these two scenarios.

I tend to lean toward optimism and I haven’t really been giving too much concern to the long-term effects of the pandemic. When I think about, “when all this is over,” I’m usually thinking about when my physical life is over and I begin my journey in eternity.

When a Christian dies, we often talk about how we will miss that person, for now, but that one day we will all be together in Heaven, never separated again. I have to confess that I sometimes have the uncharitable thought that I might not want to share eternity with a few of my fellow believers whom I find annoying.

It was only recently that I had the stunning insight (for me) that we will all be our best selves in Heaven. There will be no need to complain about aches and pains, no need to try to impress others, no political disputes or snide remarks, no jealousy or resentments; in short, nothing to get in the way of loving, respecting, and appreciating one another.

What a blessing it would be if we could live that way now. That would be Heaven on Earth, indeed.

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:43 English Standard Version (ESV)
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We are all in this together

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

All day, everyday, our thoughts are on this pandemic and the ways it has changed and restricted our lives. While we try not to panic, there is a mist of fear floating above our heads. We fear getting sick, losing our jobs, our income, our homes, losing touch with friends and loved ones, and ultimately, we fear dying.

None of our fears is new or unique. Many people worry about some of these all the time, many have already experienced most of these catastrophes through the years, and we will all die someday.

What is unique here is that we are all in the same boat at the same time.

Suddenly, we are forced to face situations we always thought would only happen to others. We are compelled through circumstances against our will to experience what many others deal with every day.

Is there a lesson here?

With the announcement this week of plans to restore our economy and freedoms, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is my prayer that once things are “back to normal” we will not lose the feelings of connectedness and compassion our crisis developed in so many of us

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Good? Are you kidding?

Today is Good Friday, when Christians around the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

This may seem like an unusual designation for a day of such horrific suffering and death. We know from historical accounts that crucifixion as practiced by the Romans of that time was not only excruciating (where we get that word, in fact), but aside from the physical torture, it was a humiliating way to die; displayed naked in full view of everyone.

Although there were some mockers in the crowd, as well as those who had pushed for Christ to be killed in this way, for many this was a shocking, completely unexpected end to the week begun with Palm Sunday’s triumphal entry. No one had time to prepare for such a turn of events.

Why, then, would anyone consider this day to be Good? Are Christians merely being perverse?

You know the adage about hindsight being 20-20, of course. Well, although Christ’s followers were in despair and disarray on Friday night and all day Saturday, Sunday held a glorious surprise with the news of Our Savior’s resurrection. Suddenly, everything changed. God’s Word lays out the explanation for the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice. While His suffering wasn’t in any way pleasant or enjoyable, it is not only proof of the goodness of God, but it was good in itself as the means of forgiveness and eternal life for all believers. It is especially good because it gives us hope.

The lesson seems particularly appropriate this year. Our world is in despair and disarray following the unexpected assault of this pandemic. We had been enjoying a life of plenty and freedom and have been plunged into fear, shortages, and isolation.

Few would suggest we might ever remember this as the Good Year. However, we are still in the midst of our Friday and Saturday experiences. We have no way of knowing what Sunday will bring.

Whatever lies ahead for us after this pandemic goes away, the blessings of that long ago Good Friday and resultant Resurrection Sunday remain.

He lives, and He will see us through.

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Patience is a virtue, Contentment is a choice

This crazy episode in all our lives as we practice social distancing and sheltering in place calls for oodles of patience.

Unfortunately, patience, that blessed fruit of the Spirit, has fallen out of fashion. In this country we’ve come to demand almost instant gratification and to expect quick solutions to every problem.

Sitting at home waiting for things to get back to normal isn’t easy.

This is especially difficult in light of our American can-do, entrepreneurial character. It’s in our creative nature to try to improve things. We are always striving to make things bigger, better, faster, etc. This drive has resulted in the amazing life we share.

However, in situations beyond our control, we have a tendency to become critics. If we can’t fix this, at least we can complain, right? Despite having little experience in dealing with such an extraordinary circumstance, we can offer our own brilliant insights and facile quick fixes, while loudly pointing out the perceived failures of those tasked with getting us all through.

Perhaps surprisingly, that reaction is seldom helpful. Our sniping only adds to an already stressful situation and makes us even more frustrated.

Patience is a virtue requiring practice to perfect. It helps to remember that the only thing we have total control over is our own response to circumstances. We can choose to impotently rail against the situation, or we can decide to be content with what we cannot change.

And we can opt to use our innate creativity to help when an opportunity presents itself. We can be strict in our compliance with social distancing to help halt the spread of this insidious disease. We can check on elderly family or neighbors and offer to include their list of needs in our periodic shopping excursions. The opportunities are endless if we are willing to set aside our own annoyance and free up our creative thought.

The Apostle Paul understood about suffering and learned how to carry on with his life without wasting his limited energies on frustration and despair.

11 … for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11  (ESV)
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A reason to celebrate

Earlier this week our President said that he hoped businesses and public places could begin to open up and our country start to return to normal by Easter. When I heard that I felt a surge of hope followed by the thought, “How cool would that be for everyone in the country to be celebrating together at Easter?”

I could imagine church sanctuaries all across the United States filled to overflowing with joyous worshipers eager to share in celebration at our salvation from the shadow of death hanging over us.

I imagined the advent of an era of unity and peace as, despite our differences, everyone recognized the greater importance of living in harmony with our fellow humans, now that we’ve seen how interconnected we are and how each one’s actions impact those around us.

While envisioning this society based upon gratitude for our rescue, as opposed to our current dog-eat-dog struggle for power, I was struck by a powerful thought; why should anyone need another reason to celebrate Easter, the remembrance of our Lord’s victory over sin and death?

Our Savior’s death and resurrection conquered a much greater threat than the corona virus. Thanks to His substitutionary suffering and death, followed by His victorious return to life, everyone willing to accept this extraordinary gift has the blessing of eternal life free from guilt, suffering, and pain.

Isn’t that enough to fill our houses of worship? Enough to fill every heart with an overflow of gratitude and love?

Whether this current situation ends soon or drags on, I choose to concentrate on the glory to come.

We may be limited to “virtual worship” this Easter, but the promise remains and the celebration will go on.

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Joy and peace to you

What? Joy and peace in the midst of the corona virus turmoil? How is that possible?

While we are under attack from all sides by the attempts of various factions to use this crisis for their own ends, it is important for people of faith to remember that worldly circumstances are temporary and do not change our relationship with God nor our responsibility to follow His Word. Just as with the experiences of Joseph recorded in Genesis 50, situations and plans meant for evil can be used for good.

Christians are the body of Christ, His physical hands and feet, and it is important dor each one of us to use this time to demonstrate His love and testify to the hope we have because of Him. Even though social separation and shelter in place guidelines may hinder our corporate celebrations of Resurrection Day this year, the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection remain.

How can we live as resurrection people during (and after) this pandemic upheaval? It may require some creativity to see and respond to the opportunities God puts before us, but it is in such a time as this when living witness has the greatest impact.

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13 ESV
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Guilty of Love?

One of my guilty pleasures is reading and watching crime dramas. In them, the police are always emphasizing the need to show means, motive, and opportunity to prove guilt. That made me wonder; if Christianity were a crime, would I be a suspect? Could anyone prove that I’ve got the means, motive, and opportunity?

A cursory search of my home would reveal numerous copies of the Bible, devotionals, and study guides. There would probably be a few church bulletins lying around, as well. That pretty well shows that I’ve had the means and opportunity to worship Christ. But does studying the Bible and going to church prove that I’m a Christian?

What is a Christian, anyway? By definition, a Christian is a follower of Christ. A lover of Christ. Jesus himself said, “If you love me you will obey my commands” John 14

Have I been observed obeying the Lord’s commands?

He gave His disciples this command:

“… make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28: 19-20

When asked which of His instructions was most important, this was His response: 

29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

Are there witnesses to me obeying either the Great Commission or the greatest Commandments? I’ve certainly had the means and many opportunities to do so, although I haven’t taken advantage of as many as I should.  There should be records of my giving to missions and a few people might have observed me worshiping God and doing good deeds a time or two for my neighbors.

All that remains to prove is my motivation and that goes back to “If you love Me…

Motives are the hardest to prove. I might read the Bible or go to church to impress my friends. I may even do my good works out of pride or an attempt to buy my salvation. The only One who knows my heart is the True Judge.

We speak as Christians of being convicted. When we stand before His throne, will we be found guilty of truly loving Jesus? God only knows.

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The historical Saint Patrick

white and green ceramic floral mug

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

There is usually a germ of truth behind every legend. As with St. Valentine and St. Nicolas, the mythology we celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day was built upon the life and history of a real person.

As the day of parades, shamrocks, and green beer approaches, I’m sharing this fascinating article by Stephen Nichols of Ligonier Ministries:

Who Was Saint Patrick and Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

When it comes to Saint Patrick, the true story is even more exciting than the legend and the myth. The facts are far better than the fable. This day that belongs to St. Patrick has become about leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold, and green—green everywhere. Famously, the City of Chicago dumps forty pounds of its top-secret dye into the river. A green racing stripe courses through the city. But long before there was the St. Patrick of myth, there was the Patrick of history. Who was Patrick?

Patrick was born in 385 in Roman Britannia in the modern-day town of Dumbarton, Scotland. Patrick opens his autobiographical St. Patrick’s Confession with these opening lines:

“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers…”

Patrick skips over much of his first sixteen years. But who can blame him? At sixteen and being captured by barbarian Irish pirates is a pretty exciting place to begin a story. When the pirates landed on the Irish coast, they took Patrick about 200 miles inland where he was a shepherd and farm laborer. Six years passed and Patrick had either a vivid dream or a vision in which he was shown an escape route. Emboldened, Patrick made his break from his captors, traveling back over the 200 miles to the shoreline. As he approached the docks, a British ship stood waiting. The sails unfurled and Patrick was home. But he didn’t stay long… READ MORE

 

 


 

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How do you see it?

I’ve recently lost a not-insignificant amount of excess weight after decades of frustrating attempts to lower my BMI. One surprising discovery from this change is just how much my mood affects my perceptions; when the scale shows me that my weight is going down, I look in the mirror and am amazed at the progress I’m making. However, if there is a gain of even a few ounces, I see my previous fatter self looking back at me.

I’ve been surprised to find that my mood has such an impact on what I see in the mirror. Feelings of discouragement seem to cloud my vision, while a sense of accomplishment shows me not only my current reality, but future possibilities, as well.

That old saying, “It’s all a matter of perspective,” holds true. Where I am emotionally can change what I see as real.

perspective

Although that philosophy has been used prop up relativism and to undermine the idea of absolute truth, we mustn’t dismiss the idea simply because it has been misused. There are times when a person’s perspective clearly makes all the difference.

Those of us with a Christian perspective are motivated by a wish to please our Lord, while the secular viewpoint is to please oneself. How we react to circumstances, either good or bad, grows out of our perspective, the way we view the world. We may respond to difficulties with forbearance, looking for God’s will in unhappy events and feeling gratitude for our blessings. Or we can try to blame others for our troubles, pity ourselves in difficulties, and feel proud and self-satisfied when fortune smiles.

A skewed worldview based on lies can give us a false sense of where we are and where we are going. We are much more balanced and secure when we stand on the bedrock of truth.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32 (NIV)

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