I always tell my kids when they go through a tough time or a set back in life to focus on the positive. Find the lesson you have learned and look at the good in a situation. Even in the depths of grief and despair you can find good. So, I decided maybe I should take my own advice, and dig deep to find the lessons from 2020. Here is my list, they are in no particular order and this is not exhaustive, as I am sure there are plenty more things I have learned, so I will continue to ponder. What about you? What would you add to this list for yourself?
Don’t ever underestimate being prepared. I am typically someone who does plan ahead. I don’t like to wait to the last minute to pack, to plan meals, etc. But what I didn’t typically do was stock up on necessities, like toilet paper! 2020 taught me to be sure to have the bare necessities on hand at all times.
Creating community is very important. We created all kinds of communities in various ways. One community that I am taking with me into 2021 and beyond is a small group of ladies we now call, “The Dream Team.” We were supposed to plan a Post Prom together in 2020, but instead we created friendships and bonded over the misery of the disappointments our 18 year olds experienced being seniors and starting college. 2020 gave me a great group of new friends!
Family dinners are important. We always made time in our home for family dinners, as much as possible. The pandemic has given us so much more time to sit together and eat. Not only do we gather together, we also spend ample amount of time after dinner at the table chatting. Even though we are in the same home all day together, with work/school, dinner is still our time to catch up with our day.
Church is more than Sunday morning worship. Everyone learned to accommodate remote worship. Church leaders have learned to be so creative! From live streaming worship, to drive-in worship and everything in between. But I think we learned that church has to be a verb. Neighbors taking care of neighbors, that is also church. Also, the amount of people that can be reached with online worship is far beyond anything we would ever see in a building on a Sunday morning, but if you are not creating community, worship isn’t going to be enough.
Breaking tradition can be very refreshing. Nothing has been “typical” about 2020. But for our family, a high school graduation celebration became something that had to be reimagined. The Senior Parade (Seniors were in their cars driving a route around town) was such a fun event, and it would never have happened without the pandemic. I also had to scramble to recreate a long standing tradition of a youth conference that I help head up at work, and after almost 50 years, we pulled together a virtual event. These are just a couple things out of many traditions that were broken for our family this year, but we still made so many memories together!
Time is relative and timing is everything. What day is it anyway? We all lost our sense of time this year! No one knows what day it is. and how in the world is it already the end of December? In a sense, time slowed down, calendars cleared and it felt like we had all the time in the world. The lesson I learned was make each moment count otherwise days slip by. We made a move this year, in the middle of summer right before sending our daughter to college, and it was by far a great decision. In the midst of it, I was going crazy, but once we sent our baby off to school, I was so happy to have a fresh start. The timing was perfect, and it gave me something to focus on other than a quiet, empty home.
Creativity is exhausting. When the calendar cleared overnight, I had to reimagine my job duties. With that came a clean slate and a rethinking of what the future could look like for the ministry I’m charged with. All of that was actually excited and rejuvenating. However, it is taxing on the brain. It is easy to do the same thing, week after week, month after month. The calendar dictated my to do list. But once I was freed from that list, and could start reimagining, it became exhausting. I quickly learned to take some time in fresh air to clear my mind give myself some space to think and at times, daydream.
Quiet time is more important than you think. If we spent time on screens in 2019, you could multiply that by 100 in 2020. With all of the time we spend in front of our computers, on zoom, our phones and mindless TV (Tiger King, need I say more?) quiet time became evermore important. I have always had a creative, crafty interest. Pandemic+becoming an empty nester=time to start hobbies again! I refinished furniture, started painting again, learned to make hot chocolate bombs and got a Cricut for Christmas. So, I plan on using some of my quiet time in 2021 to continue crafting!
Tik Tok is a black hole. I have always tried to keep up on the latest social media apps and trends, it’s part of my job, but also a way to stay in communication with my own kids. So, I have spent too much time on Tik Tok, I admit, but it became a late night past time with my daughter as we laughed until we cried watching all the silly things out there. Memories were made together over Tik Tok, if you can imagine! (I might have even let her talk me into participating in a couple!)
God’s got this, don’t stress about it. As we worked through what we thought was going to be a two week shut down, that ended up being two months that we thought would ease up in the summer and then all the sudden it was Thanksgiving, things at times became stressful. This year has taught me that I am not in control. Our lives changed weekly, and there was nothing I could do about it. But, God remain constant and steadfast. We still don’t know when the end of this will come, but knowing that with faith, we will get through this has brought some sense of peace.
These are things I have learned personally. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to stay employed, and our family has remained healthy. Not everyone has been as fortunate. So, please know we are praying for those of you who may have more heavy hearts and trials that you are facing.
In order to understand racism today, we need to review the history as it has lead us to this point. Below you will find a few helpful links and other resources to help individuals who want to educated themselves and who are leading others. Be sure you listen to the podcast as well for more thoughts and information.
Mary Turner was mentioned in the podcast. Be sure you take time to learn about her as well as other African Americans whose lives have been taken senselessly.
The year 1619 was referenced. This is the year that the first enslaved Africans were brought to North America. Here is a resource to learn more.
Another important point made in the podcast is around the theology of Imago Dei, made in the image of God. It is hard to understand racism if as Christians we believe that EVERYONE is made in the image of God. This is a great way to begin a small group talk on the subject of racism.
We also talk of the merger that happened in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. You can find out more information here and see the impact that had on the church and on the black communities.
A couple of resources to understand the United Methodist Church’s stand on racism can be found through our Social Principles.
There are six questions that are helpful to guide your conversation:
Who have you talked to/shared this information with?
How have you stepped out of your “comfort zone” to hear from/learn from the affected demographic?
What have you read or learned to increase your knowledge of the subject? What does the Bible say?
How have you invested (time and money) in addressing this issue/topic?
Have you identified policy (in the UMC and in government) that needs to change and considered impact and history?
This podcast was recorded weeks ago and is the final in our Bible series this school year. While the events in the last week have seemed gut wrenching, this podcast and blog can be a beginning of some discussion on how God is still speaking. Pentecost is a time for us to celebrate the Holy Spirit uniting us together in ministry. Use this as a spring board for your devotion, education and conversation that is needed for the Holy Spirit to move us into a place of unity and understanding of one another.
Interestingly, the word “Pentecost” doesn’t have anything to do with the Holy Spirit or anything spiritual at all. It means “fiftieth” and refers to a festival that was celebrated 50 days after Passover.
We now understand Pentecost to have been a moment when God poured out the Holy Spirit on early followers of Jesus, fulfilling the promise to be with them always and inspiring the birth of the early church.
There is a neat parallel between the story of Pentecost and the “Tower of Babel” story from Genesis 11 (also in today’s readings). In the Genesis story, diverse language becomes a stumbling block for the people, dividing them and limiting their power. In Acts, the Holy Spirit allows people to transcend differences in language, bringing people together and empowering them to join together in ministry.
After the drama of Pentecost, Peter makes some pretty lofty statements about how the Spirit of God will be made manifest in people’s lives. Do you feel like those statements are true of Christians today? How so?
Does the story of Pentecost tell us anything about how God intends to be at work in the world? Does it tell us anything about the role we have to play? (This is an interesting contrast to last week’s eschatological worldview in which God will single-handedly sweep in and perform a “divine cleanup” of the world.)
Can you think of places or situations in which you have seen a “Pentecost moment”? Or, perhaps, places or situations in which you would pray to see a Pentecost moment?
The United Church of Christ uses the phrase “God is still speaking” to describe their understanding of God’s continuing activity in and through us. Do you think God is still speaking? How? Or why not?
What do you think of the idea that we are writing the “Third Testament” or “Continuing Testament” of God’s ongoing presence and action in the world? What books or writings (or podcasts or blogs) would you include in that Third Testament? What would you write?
The Class of 2020 will go down in history. They will be forever bonded because of their experiences they have shared being quarantined this spring. As the parents of these young people, we, too, share a special bond that others can’t understand. In this blog and podcast, three moms talk about our different experiences being in the same situation.
Bishop Tracy Malone has a daughter graduating high school and one graduating college. Lillian has a son in the class of 2020, a son in 8th grade and a daughter in 7th. My youngest is a daughter graduating high school this spring. So, we are all experiencing the circumstances of having our kids go through the disappointments of missing out on all sorts of important experiences. In the podcast, we talk about the phases of grief we have witnessed in our children as well as the emotions we have felt as we walk through this time with them.
We share our thoughts from our experience. As we watch our graduates process their emotions, we have had to ride this roller coaster along the way. But giving them time and space seems to have helped our own kids. We have also see that finding new or different ways to celebrate these milestones with them helps us all. Ways to allow the seniors to be a part of the discussion and decisions will help them feel more in control of their chaotic life right now.
All three moms agree that it is also vital to look for the blessings in the situation we are in currently. What have you learned? What is something new you are doing? Who is someone you’ve come to know during the quarantine? (Or someone you know better, even a family member.) Focusing on the positives helps us get through tough times. Also, find ways to be a blessing to others. We have made cookies to deliver. I know other families have made cards to take to shut-ins. There are all kinds of ways to reach out to others.
Three months ago, no one would believe where we would be right now. Our seniors dreamed of all the “lasts” they were going to get to encounter. All the fun that comes with being a senior, especially the last few months. But that isn’t how our lives played out. It has been a difficult season, but we have managed to pull through it together. As parents of the class of 2020, we, too, will be forever bounded with one another through our common experiences with our children. Together we will be stronger because of it. Congratulations parents and a special congratulations to the Class of 2020!
We typically only think of palm branches and celebration. But this study will dive a little deeper into Palm Sunday.
Scripture Reading: Luke 19:28-48
Roman generals returning from battle rode into Jerusalem on their warhorses, celebrated for their victory in battle. Seen against that backdrop, what might we understand from Jesus’ ride into town on a donkey?
Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on a donkey was a deeply political act. Do we typically think of Jesus as having been involved in politics? Why or why not?
Why does Jesus weep over the city of Jerusalem? In whom is he disappointed and why?
There have been many different interpretations of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. What do you make of this show of anger and disgust? (It might help to read other gospel versions of the story.)
What might be a modern analog (equivalent) to these actions of Jesus? What sort of actions are own time are as controversial as the things Jesus did during the final week of his life?
Might we learn anything about God’s attitude toward violence/nonviolence from this passage?
We often say that faith and politics should not intermingle (separation of church and state). How does that attitude align with this passage and Jesus’ actions in it?
It is interesting to know that the four gospels were not written in the order they appear in the Bible. Mark is also an interesting book to look at, especially the last 10 verses that were added in the past century. Nonetheless, it is important that we approach this book like we have been reading the rest of the Bible in this series of blogs, as the truth. Searching for God to find His messages and how we fit into it even today.
Scripture Reading: Reading the entire gospel of Mark is great project! Or just Mark 3:1-12
The gospel of Mark was written in Greek for a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience.
Mark probably dates from around 66-70CE. This is right around when the second temple was destroyed, which may well explain why Jewish followers of Jesus (remember, they aren’t “Christian” yet) started actually writing down their stories and memories about Jesus. The temple was destroyed for ongoing Jewish revolt, and the people began to be more widely oppressed, so they wanted to make sure their stories were preserved.
We will discover as we go along that the authorship of the gospels is largely unknown and their names were assigned largely for traditional purposes. The author of Mark may have been someone named Mark (we don’t know), but it was certainly not one of the disciples or anyone famous to history. There has been some speculation (based on textual clues) that the young person who flees the garden on the night of Jesus’ arrest (see Mark 14:51-52) might have been the author himself, but this will never be known for sure.
There is almost universal agreement amongst scholars that Mark was a source for both Matthew and Luke when they wrote their gospel accounts somewhat later. Thus, we might see Mark as our most “raw” and early account of Jesus’ life. This makes reading the gospel of Mark a very interesting endeavor.
You might recall that we do not have a single manuscript of any of the gospels. Our earliest versions of Mark have the gospel ending at verse 16:8 with the women fleeing in fear from the empty tomb. Some manuscripts add a “short ending” (largely unknown), but the majority of later versions are the “long ending” (verses 9-20), which includes resurrection appearances.
The gospel of Mark has many unique attributes: for example, Jesus frequently asks those he has healed not to tell anyone who he is (see our reading for today). Also, the disciples are portrayed as rather idiotic in Mark’s gospel and almost always fail to understand who Jesus is and what he is doing. Mark also uses the terms “Son of God” and “Son of Man” to describe Jesus, both of which would have been laden with meaning for early readers.
Last week, we noted that Mark does not contain a birth narrative. It also does not contain a genealogy. It is likely that Mark had no problem with the idea that Jesus came from normal, human parentage and felt no need to connect him to the Davidic line to “prove” his significance. How do we feel about these things?
Mark portrays Jesus very much as a healer and miracle worker with supernatural powers. How do we make sense of this in our own time, when so many people are skeptical of miraculous events?
What do we make of the very short “original” ending to Mark?
Why do you suppose Mark has Jesus so often telling people to remain silent about him? There remains scholarly disagreement on this point, though there are several theories. What do you think?
Talking to young people about hot topics can be a bit difficult. However, those of us that live and work with teens and young adults can not avoid these conversations especially if we are in the church. Today we talk about immigration with Letty who is a US citizen and has just recently had to say good-bye to her husband of 13 years because he is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Be sure to listen to her story in our podcast.
Our young people are talking about these things and forming their opinions and it is important that the adults around them, especially the Church, engage them in conversations. Open the door, ask the question, and allow them a safe place to talk.