I found myself googling the symptoms of the Coronavirus as I anxiously waited for a fever to pop. Thankfully, my body’s temperature did not go along with the horror story playing out in my head.
Tabitha reassured me, as we tried to figure out what was going on. She told me that I sounded just like I do when I get a cold… my yearly man cold.
By Friday, I was miserable. I was tired of not having energy and coming home and crashing in the evening. A couple hours after being home though, I felt okay. It was then that Tab and I realized something, my workplace has been making me sick.
At certain times of the year, my workplace zaps my body. I have googled sick building syndrome, etc., but have never figured out why. Until last year, when we discovered that there were no air filters in the building’s air conditioning units. Once we installed filters, I felt fine. All of my bad allergy symptoms, including the daily almost losing of my voice, vanished. Nothing like putting one’s detective skills to use.
It’s funny–not really–how we can jump to the worst case scenario. Thinking we are:
Infected with the plague
About to lose our jobs
Going to die thanks to Google and WebMD
When our typical life outcomes are far more chill and often as simple as changing an air filter at work (which I did this morning).
Where we spend our time (social media, articles, comics, video games, blogs, etc.) affects us; What we breathe in, literally, affects us too.
Before the pandemic, my wife and I were balcony dwellers at church. A throwback to a time when our Sunday school class would all sit together, on high, in the balcony. A great place to watch all the movements below and be hidden from the pastor’s view due to the bright lights.
Unnecessary Explanatory Note: We have stayed in the balcony due to the ease of finding seats. When you serve, easy seat access is a plus.
Since we have returned to church from the dark pandemic times, Tab and I have sat downstairs. Free from Sunday school, serving, and any other positions we may hold, we have been free to just attend… to just be.
Sitting where we have been sitting, I have smiled to myself many a time. You see, church goers joke about members having assigned seating. When I say joke, I speak of a partial truth. One of those things that is awkwardly grinned at but often experienced in the form of a wordless glare. The “Hey, why are you sitting in my seat” glare. But why are you talking about assigned seating and “the glare”, Bryan?
On the other side of COVID-19, everything is new at church. Months of not meeting together have erased ingrained habits. We’ve had to figure out what the church looks like when it does not meet; We’ve had to figure out what church looks like when it does meet with a lurking virus.
My key here is that the old is gone. The boardgame has been reset. New habits, even those as small as seating, are allowed to begin anew.
I have loved being able to talk with those I didn’t normally see by sitting in the balcony.
I have loved feeling more a part of the worship service, not so distant–proximity is huge–.
I have loved the feeling of a new beginning.
As we experience a reset of the old norms, I want to encourage you to shake things up. Talk to those you didn’t talk to before. Allow yourself to experience the Body of Christ in a whole new way.
Leaders are called to lead and leading means making decisions. As it relates to worship services within our church, some people will be thrilled if we choose to remain outdoors for the next three months. Others will be frustrated if we choose to endure the July and August heat outdoors in Camden, SC. Neither decision is morally superior to the other, but either decision will be judged right by some and wrong by others.
“So, how often do you do that?” A co-worker asked me the other day.
I had been caught in the act of wiping down office door knobs and light switches.
“About once a day. I am the only one doing this.“
The conversation naturally stopped, I continued wiping things down and left the break room.
Not patting myself on the back here, but if I didn’t wipe things down, no one would. I’ve even tested this theory by waiting a day or two to see if anyone else–SOMEBODY, ANYBODY!–would jump in. Nothing.
Got me thinking about how we can talk a big game. How we can say and even act like something bothers us and yet how that “concern” ends up being…
Hiding behind those words, that often false sense of concern, lies a lack of action on our parts. If the frequency of wiping things down in the office bothers someone, they can step in and help out.
Beyond our words, our daily actions show our true priorities and concerns to a world watching.
Woke up this morning, and I hit the snooze button. I hit the snooze button, over and over again, for the next hour. I didn’t want to get out of bed today. But I did get up, make my coffee, and manage to eat a few lemon poppy seed muffins–thanks, Tab!–with some oatmeal.
In the process of getting ready, I happened to check my social media feeds. Friends and family, who are normally pretty chill people, are upset and angry right now. The topics of Coronavirus and racial injustice overwhelm my normal places of fun escape.
This has been one of those weeks where I have hit the snooze button more; this has been one of those weeks where I haven’t read my Bible as much. Instead of starting my mornings in the Word, I have been starting my mornings with a different type of word.
I am tired this morning.
Mentally exhausted from being told that I should fear something. That instead of engaging history, we think that that engagement equals erasing the past. We live in some sort of Orwellian nightmare.
Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)
I am also heart tired. As Augustine wrote, I long for how our human experience could/should be versus what it actually is. While we may not put this longing into words, this is a longing for Jesus to return. His return will fulfill that deep human longing for the restoration of all things, for justice. No more:
A future where we will work alongside the Creator of the Universe. The curse of Adam, against work, removed from us.
In writing all of this, I realize that I need to pray for strength to overcome being tired. I also need to pray for grace… maybe for myself with the snooze button… more so for those whose actions I do not understand right now. When you have been living a pretty normal life, for more than a month, and your friends and family have not been, it can feel like talking to people on Mars. Irregardless of that Martian divide, I think grace continues to be the word.
The Coronavirus has wounded the American Church in a way that many cannot see yet. As social distancing measures lift and other post-pandemic precautions ease, some Christians are hesitant to return to the Church. Presented with the convenience of watching a worship service on Facebook or YouTube, many believers are making the intentional choice to stay at home. Telling themselves, “The virus is still out there, we still need to protect ourselves for another month or two.” Happy in their newfound sermon consumption that doesn’t require one to ever leave the home. Or better yet, require them to sit with their kids in the worship service due to the church’s children’s program not being up and running.
Meanwhile, In Social Media Land…
I can see that you recently volunteered on a project.
I can see that you went and visited the zoo.
I can see that you are hanging out with friends and family.
I can see you doing all of these things, and yet, I haven’t seen your happy face at church.
Gathering with fellow believers, attending church, this is a Christian discipline. What I have hated seeing, in these pandemic times, is how quickly that discipline has been let go; convenience and inconvenience pushing against one another.
I am not advocating for fellow believers to come back to church in order to check a box. I am advocating for fellow believers to come, grow, and encourage other believers with your presence.
I keep asking myself, “Is Jesus enough of a commonality to hold believers together in these times?” My answer is of course, Jesus is enough. But, I think these pandemic times are revealing who church attendance is important to.
All of these things communicate to both the world and our fellow believers where our priorities lie.
I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to push past their preferences and convenience. The withdrawal of your presence is hurting others, silently wounding the Church in the process. Please do not let being in the habit of attending church slip away and become your new normal. Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ miss you.
“Cleaning. If I don’t clean this space now, I won’t get to it for awhile.”
I had a co-worker leave on Friday. After putting in his two weeks and serving them with a smile, he left Friday never to walk into the office again. I didn’t know him too well; he didn’t know me too well either. Perhaps we could both feel that his term, in the office, was going to be temporary? Either way, he left, ready to start a new adventure.
I got thinking, what would you do, Bryan, if you could do anything? If money wasn’t an object, what would you do? The longer I work in my office, the harder those questions are becoming to answer. I know that I want to make more money. That I want to feel more engaged throughout my work day. I get tired of working in a role that is 75% administrative assistant and 25% office manager.
Stayed up late thinking I was almost done with a game. I ended up playing through the climax and resolution to the game’s story. Only to find out that there was another chapter to the story… saying goodbye to the cast of characters. I decided it would be best to go to bed about then.
Just as the adoption path has been silent, so has my search for a new line of work. I was driving back to work from lunch the other day, and I saw a sign that advertised x-amount of money for working on an assembly line at a local business. For a moment, I considered that job. It paid more than what I currently make per hour. But then you start to think about vacation time, having to work weekends, general hours, and one starts to talk themselves out of such things.
I know that God has me where I am for a reason. That He has grown me, changed me, and molded me into a totally different person than I was when I first started working here. In the twelve years I’ve worked here, I’ve become:
A Sunday school teacher
A father waiting to become a father again, through adoption
The time that I have worked here, in this office, has not been wasted. I feel like God has been teaching me to find my fulfillment in Him, not in my job title or what I do 7 days a week. But I wonder what else there is… I wonder what other challenges await. I wonder how far we’ll have to go–will we have to move?–to find such prospects. I want to work again in a place where I am friends with my co-workers. If anything, the Coronavirus has shown me how alone I feel at work.
I am ready for something new.
Time for some more coffee.
Q:When was the last time you stayed up late trying to finish a book, movie, or game? Was it worth it? 🙂
Growing up, Sunday mornings could often become tense. While getting ready for church, words would be said and feelings hurt as all six of us hurried to get out the door.
Even with a family of three, there can occasionally be a morning where we pull up into the church parking lot and say, “Everyone smile.”
Tab and I serve in our church’s kids ministry by helping check kids in, Sunday mornings. As parents walk up to the check in desk, they will often look relieved to be dropping off their children. Maybe their morning had been harried/tense while trying to get to church? I am never sure. But I get it. I try and reassure those parents with a sincere smile and a quick, “Hey, ya’ll made it today.” Sometimes merely getting to the destination is the biggest family battle of all.
In the wake of the pandemic, my church has started meeting once again. This week will be week five of meeting physically, together. We’ve been meeting with some rules/modifications in place:
Not shaking hands, although elbows are encouraged
A row of spacing, behind and in front of, each occupied row
No passing of the offering plate.
Masks and gloves offered to those in attendance (not mandatory)
And this week, we are beginning to offer an earlier service for those ages 60+/vulnerable
Our small groups have yet to restart and have been meeting online.
One of the bigger changes now is that our children are sitting with us in the service.
Sunday morning, during the worship service, I got looking around. Trying to see if any of my little friends were in attendance; kids I used to check in each week. A few of the kids were there, sitting alongside their parents or even grandparents. For the most part though, the kids from our kids ministry have vanished.
I understand the need to practice social distancing.
I understand a parents desire to want to keep their children healthy.
I understand wanting to protect the vulnerable.
At some point though, I wonder if there is another reason I’m not seeing my little friends anymore. I wonder if their parents do not want to sit with them in the service.
Serving in the kid’s ministry, I have seen how amazing our children’s minister is. I have sat through her teaching time; I have seen the way she handles the kids and the expectations she holds them to. Yes, your child can sit through the service without getting up to pee.
Get’s me thinking about the way we can pass our children along to others, expecting them to teach/raise them. I see this pandemic time as the perfect time to model through action how to sit in big church. Pulling out, if needed, items to help your child:
Blank pages to draw on
And, depending on age, maybe even–gasp!–an iPad (with headphones)
I’m not sure about your church, but our children’s minister offers a kids sheet for sermon notes. Our pastor, each week, provides notes for his sermon. This is a great way to encourage our kids to engage in the service. I’m not interested so much in behavior as I am in teaching our children how to worship God.
I get tired of parents treating their children like they are the plague. Yes, I am a parent of one (and God-willing, more one day) but that doesn’t lessen my experience… nor my overall encouragement to bring your kids to church right now. This is the perfect time to grow spiritually as a family.
In closing, I say this with love: Some of us need to stop hiding behind this virus and using it as an excuse to forgo meeting with fellow believers. So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?
Last night, we had dinner outside on our patio. Tabitha made this awesome shrimp stir-fry. Which may have even rivaled the Thai food, that we had picked up for date night, the night before. My wife is an amazing cook.
Sitting outside, enjoying the fresh air and cool breeze, I think we all felt liberated from the house. The warmer temperatures we’ve been experiencing, combined with humidity, have triggered us running the air conditioning.
Air conditioning, in the State of Texas, is a serious thing. Summers here make it feel like you are suddenly an astronaut. Your home, your car, even your place of work become your climate controlled spaceship. Every once in awhile, you’ll adventure out for an away mission. Perhaps you’ll even venture forth to work in the lawn followed up by a mandatory dip in the pool. But eventually, summers here make the pool water match the outside temperature. Nothing like diving into 80-85 degree water on a 90-100 degree day. Ah, so refreshing!
The Coronavirus, or as those more in the know call it COVID-19, has forced upon us social distancing as well as self quarantine. Even as the Governor of Texas opens up the State, the virus damage has already been inflicted. Self quarantine has triggered those mid-summer cabin fever feelings already. It is only May, and I am ready to escape the spaceship–I mean house–and enjoy fresh air.
That is why last night, I enjoyed spending time with family outdoors. Being able to enjoy the non-spaceship air; being able to eat good food and not eat family. We even managed to get a game of Ticket to Ride going. Wyatt (green train cars) destroyed Tabitha (yellow train cars) and I (red train cars).
Playing Ticket to Ride, as a family, is a completely different experience than the silent games Tabitha and I play together. No longer is the game a battle between two powerful rail tycoons. Instead, Wyatt introduces a random element to the mix, another player to foil our track laying schemes.
As Wyatt cut me off from a crucial move, I whined out loud, “No!”. And then I kept whining until he won. Darth Vader would be proud.
It’s interesting to think that one day we could have another Ticket to Ride player in our house (nothing happening on the adoption front, FYI, all is quiet). Until that day, I’ll be working on destroying a little boy’s dreams… I mean… blocking a young man’s trains.
As the final points were counted, I ended up placing third. I am in no way salty about my ranking, as I am used to being beaten by Tabitha. Tabitha is the Ticket queen. Or maybe I should say, she was?
“I believe one of the ways that the enemy will seek to divide our ranks within the church is by tempting us to use our opinions against each other. If the Devil has his way, we’ll be throwing stones of accusation from all sides, calling the cautious people “soft,” labeling the optimists of being “reckless.” More than that, the enemy especially loves when we cement ourselves in political corners; adding opinionated fuel to the already tumultuous fire of conflict.”
An invisible enemy is scarier than most enemies. For how does one combat what one cannot see? An invisible enemy could be anywhere. They might even be sitting next to you right now.
A few weeks ago, Wyatt and I walked into a local cupcake shop. We quickly noticed a piece of tape marked out on the ground that read:
“Stop. Stand Here.”
From behind the counter, the shop employee was wearing a mask. She was trying to fight against the invisible enemy. But underneath that mask, Wyatt and I both could read the look on her face. Which screamed in terror (and I’m not trying to be mean):
“Why aren’t you two wearing a mask?”
And even louder:
“Why are you two even here?”
A cupcake for momma; A simple Easter treat. I had wanted to surprise Tabitha, and Wyatt had come along for the ride. But here we were, in the cupcake shop, and feeling like we shouldn’t be in there.
It was in that moment that I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet…
I smiled, “We’ll be back.”
How we respond to the invisible enemy matters. Even weeks later, Wyatt and I can still remember the cupcake employee’s face. I hate the way this pandemic has caused us to view others. To think differently about something as simple as human touch. I want my personal response to be different, but I’m finding it hard to wade through the daily onslaught of online negativity. How about you?
Life for me, in this pandemic, hasn’t changed much. I still get up in the morning and drive to work. I spend my day at the office, filled with bosses and coworkers, where we push forward on projects. At home, my wife continues to homeschool our son. His home education hasn’t stopped even due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19. Life hasn’t changed much for the Texas Halls.
And yet life has changed all around us. From the local grocery store being out of such things as rice, yeast, and other baking supplies. To hearing stories about people around us dying, oftentimes alone/separated from their spouses, due to hospital quarantines.
Spring, in the South, is filled with severe weather days. Days where we:
See the skies darken
Hear the thunder, off in the distance
Watch for for rotation in the clouds
Find ourselves praying over the weather
Tornadoes are a real threat in the violence of Spring. A time of pollen and a time for death from above. There are days where we feel like we are waiting for the bomb to go off, for the hammer to drop. That feeling of anticipation we experience every Spring is the same feeling I feel, right now, in the midst of this pandemic. Even though my life hasn’t changed one bit, I feel as if I am on edge.
To all my friends and family, who live in places where the weather doesn’t try to kill you, welcome to feeling like you are living in the South. A place founded on sweet tea, sweet people, and the subtle feeling of dread. From experience though, I can tell you, Summer is coming. Threats of rain-soaked death will cease. This pandemic is only for a season, as is the pollen. Soon the sun will come and bake it all away… or try and kill us too.
I kept playing through the same sequence in Ori and the Blind Forest the other night. There were times where I would make significant progress; there were times were I would explode in a ball of light instantly. No matter what though, I couldn’t make it through this particular sequence.
So I did the thing that I had long fought against doing, I lowered the game’s difficulty from normal to easy. Filled with stupid shame, I battered my platforming skills against Mount Horu once more. But changing the difficulty only made the enemies easier! The platforming was still stinking hard! I felt mad. I felt angry. I felt ashamed for lowering the difficulty. Someone with my level of video game experience, at this stage in my life, shouldn’t have issues like this.
In my discouragement, I realized that I was super tired. I could feel the wave of emotions wash over me from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So much uncertainty… no one sure of what is going to happen next. I tweeted out asking:
What do you do when you feel beaten down by a game?
No answers. But I know the answer to this question: You Quit. You put the controller down. You try again another day.
I played Ori some more the next night. I breezed through the section that had been giving me trouble. My skills were intact! Weird to have a video game discourage me enough to confront my emotions. Thankful for the reminder that sometimes we need to quit, rest, and tackle things again another day. I will beat this game. We will get through this crazy virus situation, toilet paper shortages and all.
One thing we need to carefully guard against at a time of uncertainty is the irresponsible use of hyperbole. Just because people are behaving in different ways, does not mean they are behaving in panicked ways. Just because things are not normal, does not mean they are chaotic. Fifty people queuing to get into Costco may be surprising and even alarming, but, as long as those people are waiting their turn calmly, it is not panic (“sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior”). People responding to government advisories by heading home from overseas and flooding O’Hare airport’s customs hall does not constitute chaos (“complete disorder and confusion”). Preparation is not panic and confusion is not chaos.
Though these photos are a few days old now, they still show a scene many of us have only seen in movies. The Chinese city of Wuhan looks like a ghost town due to the Coronavirus quarantine. The photo of the super market, the way it stretches out (the market looks huge, almost as if a mirror is making it look bigger), is but a glimpse of a much different culture. Yet life goes on, and residents exercise in the street (see photo in slideshow linked below).