When I think back to last week it seems like eons ago. We have faced unprecedented change in one week’s time. The amount of decisions and the speed at which they have come at me has been mind boggling. I imagine each of you feel the same. As a pastor, one of the things that has really burdened my heart in all of these changes we are adapting to is how do we take care of ourselves and our loved ones during this extended time of isolation from our usual routines and family and friends? This will feel more like a marathon and not a sprint. Or as someone said, this is not a snow day but a snowy winter. And as we were making plans as a staff on Monday, Ben, our youth director, said that many of the youth were texting him bored out of their minds. It was day ONE of self distancing/quarantining.
So let’s talk about how we can emotionally and spiritually take care of ourselves and others through this season of altered schedules and extended home time. You can get news updates and health best practices from other sources. However, as a graduate from the UNC School of Public Health I just have to give a shout out to all of the Public Health workers out there who are working hard to educate leaders and the public about what to do. This is exactly what public health is all about and I value the ways they are impacting our country and each of us for the better.
But my expertise now is more in the spiritual realm than the physical health realm these days. If you are introverted, this invitation to slow down, stay home, and keep to yourself may be a welcomed rhythm you have no problems adjusting to. If you are extroverted and live in a family unit of one or two persons at home, this might be a hard season for you. If you are at home with a large family and lots of kids, this may feel exhausting trying to keep everyone busy and at peace. If you are not used to spending so much time together as a married couple, this could be tense at times. And if you are living solo, this could mean going extended periods of time without talking to someone. All of us, however, are wired to be social creatures so whether we are introverted or extroverted, this could become a lonely time if we don’t take some intentional measures to care for ourselves and those we care about.
To care for your spiritual health during these times I invite you to take advantage of some of the extra time on your hands to engage in spiritual practices. Turn off the devices and the TV and spend time in quiet prayer and reflection. Listen for God’s voice in ways you may not have had time or quiet space to hear before. Go for walks without ear buds. Light a candle and choose your favorite image of God to look at while you pray. Read your favorite Scripture verse or story. Just give God your attention in the silent spaces. Or maybe journal your thoughts and prayers so you can capture your feelings and wonderment during this unique time in your life.
Try praying the Scriptures using Lectio Divine. Here is a link to guide the process of reading Scripture in a way that repeats the same passage of scripture and invites you to listen deeply. Choose a parable of Jesus or a Psalm or a story from the Gospels and give it a try.
You get the point- use this precious gift of time in ways that care for your spirit and strengthen your relationship with God. Being “too busy” will not be a viable excuse over the next several weeks.
Spend time with your family in ways you haven’t had time to because of the break neck pace we live our lives. My brother and I were talking on the phone and decided our family would have weathered the Coronavirus pretty well when we were growing up. We loved to play games and do things together around our home. Decrease the screen time and pull out some board games or cards.
If you are a single person household it will be so important to use your phone to text, FaceTime or call friends and family. Make sure you don’t go a whole day without talking or communicating with someone. If you know of folks in your neighborhood or life that may be more isolated make sure you call them and connect.
It looks like I may get more time to color my adult coloring prayer journal this Lent than I planned. Maybe your house will get a spring cleaning like it’s never seen before! Now you have time to make those recipes you never had time to cook before. Those repair projects around the house might finally get some attention. Use this time to develop better sleep patterns if you have been struggling getting enough sleep lately.
My point is there is much opportunity here with this gift of time we are all being given. Maybe if we look at it with a different lens instead of a punishment or annoying limitation we can live through it with a healthier mindset. However as I type this, I realize that there are folks for whom this means a loss of work and income and access to food and needed daily resources that makes this difficult to balance. I pray that the community will step up in ways that I have seen already being planned to provide the safety net everyone needs so none is stressed beyond their capacity or goes without what they need. Boone UMC will help respond by continuing our Thursday Night Dinner (TND) as a Grab and Go option delivered out of our Children’s Portico entrance. TND will also become a site that offers families that need them food boxes provided by one of our local food pantries. This is part of why your continued financial gifts to the church are important so we can help respond as a safety net to struggling ASU students, or families in our community affected by loss of their typical resources.
And even those struggling with hardship will have to figure out how to care for their mental and emotional health as well. So I believe we all have opportunity to practice the art of slowing down, listening and being present to life and what we truly and deeply appreciate and maybe even take for granted.
Be still, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
For those of you who are part of Boone UMC, you can always check BUMC COVID-19 Updates for the latest updates of what our church is offering you during this time of disruption. We will constantly be figuring out new and different ways to offer ministry to you and inviting you to care for one another. We will worship each Sunday morning at 11:00 on Facebook Live and Instragram live and soon on our Boone UMC Youtube channel (still working this one out).
Please follow the recommendations to self-distance and wash hands, etc. Take good care of yourselves and loved ones, trusting that God will be present with us most especially during our time of drawing back and slowing down. And let’s never cease from praying for those affected and caring for the sick and researching solutions for our country and world.
Pastor Lory Beth