BE STILL & KNOW
Psalm 46:10 is one of my life verses and has helped to anchor me in times of great distress more often than I can count. As I say the words out loud, Be still and know that I am God, I am almost immediately taken to a place of serenity. Recently, I read that verse in the Passion translation and had a new appreciation for its impact.
Surrender your anxiety!
Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations,
and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth. – Psalm 46:10 (Passion)
To my delight, several weeks ago, I learned of the change in plans for the Muskoka Bible Centre’s Women of Grace Spring Retreat when they announced they would be going virtual with a new theme based on this Psalm 46 verse. So, along with several of you (AWC women) we spent the greater part of a Saturday with hundreds of other women from around the world, at the Muskoka Bible Centre’s Women of Grace Virtual Retreat. It was a wonderful time of connecting and learning how to be still, how to study the Bible, and how to pray. I left that day feeling filled-up and strengthened in my faith.
Dr. Linda Reed was the keynote presenter and spoke about how the practice of stillness is hard for people to achieve but how useful it is in our faith. She talked about how this time of quarantine became a season for her to be still and connect with God on an even deeper level.
Can you relate to that? Have you been able to use some of this time at home to be still?
Dr. Reed’s presentation focused on the “know” portion of “be still and know”, titled: “Be Still and Know: To Know His Strengthening Power”. She spent time in Colossians which teaches us how to know Jesus (Col 1), how to know what to think and not to think (Col 2:1-3:4), how to know what to wear and not to wear (Col 3) and how to know what to say and not to say (Col 4). As she zoomed in on His strengthening power, she also shared hundreds of Scriptures on strength in the Bible. You may watch her presentation here and use this link to download a copy of the handout.
It is always encouraging to hear other women with similar roles and responsibilities share their faith journeys to give us hope as we navigate our different stages of life. I trust that you can find a bit of time, within your hectic schedules, to spend being still with God as He strengthens you to attain all steadfastness and patience.
By: Yolande A. Knight
Our song this week is "Still" by Hillary Scott & the Scott Family
ARLINGTON WOODS CHURCH DAILY PRAYER TIME
Editorial Note: Both Larry & Janet McClung regularly lead the Tuesday night prayers at Arlington Woods Church. As Larry describes in this guest post, when COVID-19 restrictions were implemented by the Province, this led to some God-inspired creativity. We are thankful to Larry for providing this post which will be sure to inspire your prayer life.
How do you react when God whispers, asking you to do something unusual? Something that should fail?
In mid-March we, like others, were faced with the inability to use our church building for any activity, including gathering for prayer on Tuesday evenings. Man said – just use Zoom (ignoring the fact that more than half of the people who attended had never heard of Zoom). God added – and do it every night (yes, even weekends). We chose to trust God (isn’t that why we pray, because we trust Him, and want to hear from Him?). So, starting on the following Tuesday evening (March 17), we held a Zoom-based prayer meeting that continues to meet every evening, now into June. We were pleasantly surprised when a slightly larger group than normal appeared in the Zoom windows; we were even more surprised when the numbers continued to rise on the second and third nights and, after 11 weeks, have remained higher than our former once-a-week meeting.
Traditional shut-ins can attend as easily as all of us new shut-ins. People that rely on public transit can get there just as fast as those who own cars. Parents of young children can arrive only a minute after tucking the last child into bed – or even while cuddling a fussy child, if they know how to use the mute button. People can arrive late or leave early without disrupting the meeting. And God is still in the room – every room – just as in our “normal” prayer times.
Even more satisfying, while deliberately allowing “social” time, the focus of the gathering has remained on prayer. This includes prayer that we will be protected from the debilitating effects of the pandemic, or that specific individuals will be strengthened as they face troubling situations. But a core element of the prayer time remains on praying that God will continue to break down barriers between our church and our community, taking us out into the community and bringing community members into God’s kingdom – which does not require a building.
By: Larry McClung
Listen to "One Moment" by Highlands Worship about how time spent with God changes everything!
RACE & RESTORATION IN THE CHURCH
Like many of you, I have been saddened and deeply hurt by the incidents of injustice and racism that have flooded our airways over the past two weeks. As a Black woman, this has hit close to home because, though I do not have a son; I have nephews, and Black brothers-in-law, friends with Black young men, and male friends who are Black and I feel the angst and pain they suffer whenever their Black men leave their homes, afraid they would not return, ending up another victim.
I recognize that many of you reading this post are white and do not understand why this pain is so real to Black people because you’ve not had encounters with racism. It’s even difficult for many of us to explicitly share our feelings because it’s hard to find the right words to express what we feel in a way that you may comprehend. Or some may even fear repercussion for being considered an “activist”. Every Black person I know, in Canada and the U.S., has had an encounter that they would classify as having racial undertones, running the gamut of outright racism to covert prejudice.
Over the past few weeks, I have gone out of my way to re-educate myself on the issues of race and inequality that permeate our society and what the church’s response should be, as I believe, the church can lead the way in fostering restoration. The Bible commands us to do so in several places (Isaiah 1:17; 58:6-7, Micah 6:8).
In fact, before we get to the so-called "Proverbs 31 Woman" found in Proverbs 31:10-31, verses 8 and 9 ask us to speak up for those being crushed. I could not escape the impact of that word “crushed” in view of the recent events in Minneapolis as the phrase “I can’t breathe” kept going through my mind.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice. (Prov 31:8-9 NLT)
So, I’d like to share a powerful resource with you that I believe, sheds light on the issue of racism in North America from a Christian perspective. Understanding the issue is a first step toward finding a solution. The interview was initiated by Christine Caine, a white Christian woman who founded the anti-trafficking organization, a21. Christine spoke to a Black Christian Mental Health Therapist, Dr. Anita Phillips, about how white people can help in the fight against racism as we all seek an end to injustice.
Dr. Anita, who specializes in trauma, explains that the problem is deeper than racism; it is about dehumanization – a term that may be foreign to some but that brings clarity to a complex social issue. I hope that you will take the time to listen with an open heart and be prepared to learn a few things.
Similarly, I would direct you to a recent research on the topic, “What is the church’s role in Racial Reconciliation” that was conducted by Barna Group, a research firm that conducts research related to faith and values. This study was published in July 2019, 400 years after slaves were brought to America and is also an enlightening read.
Like the late Dr. Martin Luther King, I am confident that we will get to the mountaintop; I hope we do so in some of our lifetimes.
By: Yolande A. Knight
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO DIG INTO THE OLD TESTAMENT!
August 2017, the month I chose to turn to God and run in his direction. Sometime later that month, I found a local Christian store and walked into it ready to conquer the Word of the Almighty! With fresh interest in the Word, I was excited and determined! I walked out of, what would soon be, my new favourite store with a pack of gel highlighters, colourful pens and a plain black journaling Bible.
God must have been cheering me on because he had waited for this moment for 23 years and finally here, I was, approaching his throne with a smile on my face and a fierce fire in my soul.
It has now been almost 3 years since that day, and I have read through the vast majority of the Bible. I must say the Old Testament is truly something special!
I mean, we all love Jesus and he is an extremely important part of how the story ties together, but sometimes we tend to forget why we need Jesus. It is so much easier to embrace the New Testament with all the goodies packed inside just the first 4 books! And it’s amazing to read all the wisdom filled letters from Paul, especially being in prison when he wrote 7 of those letters over the course of 3 years. Amazing!
Before I give you 3 of my favourite reasons why reading the Old Testament is so important, I want to give you a little history. I decided to begin reading the Old Testament from Genesis and work my way through; by the time I got to Deuteronomy, I dropped down to my knees in serious praise. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed to God, feeling so ashamed of every little thing I’d ever done, knowing that through it all he never stopped loving me. I can truly say that was the first day my eyes were actually opened, and I had an understanding heart.
How appreciative I am to have a God who still loves me no matter what! A God who knew we would all need Jesus! A God who did not just leave us hanging out to dry on a cold day, but a God who invited us into his palace to be with him and get to know him personally through Jesus!
We must never take the Old Testament for granted and must educate ourselves through the Old Testament as to why Jesus had to come.
We understand the main points: He died for our sins, he is the way, the truth, the light, but why? Why did Jesus do what he did and why does he claim to love us so much?
So, here are my 3 reasons why reading the Old Testament is so important and why it should NEVER be watered down!
- We need to get rid of our boastful attitudes and humble ourselves before the Lord. Reading the Old Testament is the perfect way to do this. (Ref. Psalm 12:3 NIV)
Reading 3-4 chapters of the Old Testament daily can really transform your heart and your understanding of God’s true love for us. Sin is just as bad now as it was back then, as it will be 1000 years from now.
You might be thinking: “I’m not as bad as the people back in the Old Testament days.”
And I would reply: “Maybe not, but we’re still very sinful.”
For example; people cheat on their taxes, steal items from stores, remove discount tags and attach them to an item in their carts and think nothing about committing those kinds of sins. Lying, whether big or small is sin. There’s talking about others behind their backs and mistreating others because they look or act a certain way that’s different from you. We can be really mean, rude and hurtful and those are all sins in God’s eyes. So, thank God we do NOT have to bring animal sacrifices every time we sin!
- The Old Testament also teaches us on how to pray through every situation - when they didn’t have Jesus as their example.
The Old Testament is filled with real people going through some really hard situations. These folks also did not have Jesus as their guide; they trusted in a very invincible God with mighty powers!
God knows we are going to fail; he is not condemning us for that. He wants us to learn how to fully rely on Him and not on ourselves, our pleasures or our friends. Bear your troubles at the Lord’s feet. He wants to hear from you; He wants to help you!
Nehemiah was a perfect example of a man of prayer not just for himself but for Israel! (Nehemiah 1:3-11)
Would you say you have a healthy prayer life? Would you say you have a vital connection to the Lord? He wants to know your heart not your practiced or repetitive prayers.
As Sheila Walsh puts it, “what would you ask Jesus for if you could see Him? If He was sitting right across from you at your kitchen table, listening, inviting you to ask for anything that was on your heart, what would you ask for?” (Praying Women by Sheila Walsh)
Putting prayer this way could really change your perspective on who you’re actually praying to - an almighty God with might powers!
- The tough books should be read to realize our sins are not far off from theirs, and this is why we need Jesus.
One of the most common sins most people don’t put much thought into is their words. We might not kill people, but there are some serious consequences with the words we use; some words have driven others to suicide. Let’s be real, our tongues are no laughing matter when used at a disadvantage to others! (Ref. Psalm 52:2 NIV)
So, here’s the thing; we might not enjoy reading everything in the Old Testament, but shall I remind you, the Old Testament isn’t meant to make us feel comfortable. The Bible is a book about God and who He is! It’s about God's unfailing love for His people no matter how rebellious they were, and no matter how rebellious we still are!
Time and time again I’ve heard the same reason why people avoid the Old Testament - the violence! It can be uncomfortable to read about all the murderous activities, but it should be read to help everyone understand how much more they needed a Saviour just as we do now.
We see real people chasing after God’s own heart, getting down on their knees and tearing their clothes in true agony, weeping out loud, begging the Lord for help. And then we see people tearing down temples and sacrificing their children to Baal just because they could. So thankfully we have two sides to one large story; two examples we should follow:
- The Old Testament folks should be our leading example of what NOT to do.
- Jesus as our PRIME example of what to do.
If we are always reading just one side of a good story, eventually we start overlooking what’s actually good about it. Sounds a little funny right? But it’s the truth!
All things aside, are YOU in his Word? The Lord is waiting for you to chase after His heart and get to know Him through His Word which He graciously gave to us. The Lord wants to hear from YOU!
Thank you, Father, thank you for your Word!
Thank you for our beloved Saviour Jesus Christ and everything He had to endure to become our Saviour.
I pray over the wonderful women who are reading this article which You guided me to write.
I pray you give each and every one of them renewed excitement in their souls, to open up their Bibles and turn to the Old Testament and start digging into your grace and forever unfailing love and guidance.
Lord, be with each and every one of these women, guide them as they journey back with a grateful heart and open their eyes to new perspectives.
Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do!
In Jesus’ name
By: Sheena Frederick
Photo Credit: All photos used were provided by Sheena.
Below is a photo of Sheena with her first Bible!
Listen to the deep lyrics of one of Cory Asbury's latest songs: "The Father's House".
Ten weeks into quarantine and we are beginning to see signs of re-entry for various sectors of our society sparking joy in some and fear in others.
The question that remains on the minds of many of us is this: when is the church going to get back together?
Whether churches are in Phase 2 or 3 of the government’s opening plan, we can all agree that it will not be business-as-usual. But what will that mean for us?
Just like we pivoted to virtual community gatherings when the quarantine began, we’d be required to pivot yet again to a “new normal” when it ends. As individuals and families, I believe that we ought to give some consideration to how we see ourselves functioning in this “new normal” reality, making informed decisions for ourselves and our families.
As Christians, this presents an opportunity for us to reflect on how quarantine has deepened our commitment to lives that truly honour God and demonstrate that we are his ambassadors.
When I emerge from this quarantine, I’m hoping that my life reflects one that shows:
- God-dependency - This pandemic has stripped us all of things that we held close to our hearts and that we may have believed were accomplished in our own strength. I pray that this pandemic also strips me of my self-sufficiency as I acknowledge my need for God in every area of my life.
- Gratitude - For many of us, we’ve assumed that all the things we enjoy would always be available and accessible to us, taking so much for granted. I pray that my new normal reflects a life that is grateful for all the blessings I enjoy, even the simplest ones.
- Growth - It’s easy to go through life running on autopilot. I pray that I will come out of this pandemic determined to grow through life as I learn from my experiences and fully apply myself to the mission for which I was created.
Finally, I hope to quit “doing” church and instead move to “being” the church.
Recently I saw a poster that said, “The church has left the building” and it caused me to think about how, generally speaking, we may have been too focused on looking inwardly. Perhaps this is a time for us to focus more of our resources on the needs of the world around us and away from the comforts of church buildings.
I continue to reflect on the question that Bishop Cliff asked of us to contemplate during this pandemic: “What is God allowing to die?”
I may have said in a previous post that when I get on the other side of this pandemic, I hope to be changed for the better – to someone who is more on fire for God, intentionally serving Him first and then to intentionally serve others.
By: Yolande A. Knight
It's the intention expressed in this Sanctus Real song "On Fire"
FOSTERING COMMUNITY THROUGH VIRTUAL PRAYER
I’ve recently acquired my very own copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together, a must-read for every Christian who desires to do life in a thriving Christian community, in my humble opinion.
I am thankful to belong to such a community at Arlington Woods, which some feared would have been weakened through the physical distancing in this time of pandemic. I am happy to report that the opposite is true; I see a community strengthened through the nightly practice of meeting for prayer as well as intentionally finding ways to connect. I believe the same is true for many church communities around the world; for what the enemy meant for evil, God has used for good and his glory. (Ref: Gen 50:20)
While not every member of our church gathers each night for prayer, the ones who do are interceding on behalf of the entire church. I believe that the earnest prayers offered up for every person who attends Arlington Woods Church, or those who visit from time to time, will have lasting impact in their lives. Because at the heart of every prayer is a desire to see the church community grow closer to God & each other and be more effective in its outreach to the wider community.
But how has it impacted me?
I can think of at least three specific ways these nightly gatherings have impacted me during this time of isolation:
- Enriched Prayer Life - Listening to the variety of prayers by everyone has helped to enrich my own prayer time as I learn from some of the seasoned prayer warriors of our church community.
- Enhanced Faith - To say that my faith has been stirred would be a huge understatement! As we spend time recounting God’s goodness and experience the answers to prayers each night, it bolsters our faith and deepens our trust in God.
- Encouragement to Persevere - I have been challenged to listen, to be comfortable in the silence, to wait and trust God’s timing and to keep running the race even when life gets hard knowing that others are praying on my behalf.
So let me invite you to drop in to one of these nightly prayer Zoom meetings; you don’t have to say anything or even show your face, but I promise, you will be richly blessed by the prayers of God’s people over you as they stand in the gap against this pandemic. (If you are a part of the AWC community, send an email to Alanna for the info to sign in at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By: Yolande A. Knight
One of the viral songs of this season is "The Blessing" by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes & Elevation Worship. Be blessed by the Symphonic Version from Passion City Church.
I wish I could tell you that every time God speaks to me, I clearly hear his voice or that I always get it right when I believe I’ve heard from God. I wish I could tell you that I know when God gives me a word for someone, and that I eagerly relay that message with confidence and conviction. Unfortunately, I can’t; more often than not, I get it wrong.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sensing that God is asking me to listen to him and to tune out the distractions around me – and let me quickly say, there are many! For starters, I’m always working on multiple projects at the same time. Then, I spend too much time on my smartphone, scrolling through Social Media, discovering new playlists, responding to those annoying alerts, etc. I also thrive on staying in touch with people, and I occasionally watch too much Netflix.
As I journal my thoughts each morning, I normally get the process started by writing this question in my journal: “Holy Spirit, what are You saying to me today?” On Saturday, April 18th, here is part of what I believed I heard the Holy Spirit say to me:
“When you hear from God, you will know exactly what to do. So keep listening. Tune in and adjust your frequency to hear from God. Get rid of all the distractions and keep the frequency clear. Adjust your antennas.”
Now, I wish I had edited that entry for grammar and spelling but that was what I captured. A few days later, on April 25th, I received a similar message.
Imagine my reaction when our leader at Nightly Prayer on Tuesday, May 5th, instead of starting with the usual Scripture reading, made this announcement: I believe God wants for us to hear his voice and he is asking us to listen to him.
Wow, God! I thought.
You see, I firmly believe that God is preparing us for a great harvest that is going to come out of this season of global hardship. But, he needs his people to be mature and ready for those whom he will send to us.
The question is not; is God still speaking but rather, are we listening? This is the essence of John 10:3-5, that as we grow closer to God, we will recognize his voice.
As I began delving deeper into this topic, I was led to the parable of the sower that Jesus told and was recorded in Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15 where Jesus says “who has ears, let them hear.” This is one of the few parables that Jesus took the time to explain, which is quite significant, as it removes any doubt as to its meaning - that we need to have prepared hearts to “hear” God clearly. Take some time to read this parable again and get a fresh perspective.
Here are my takeaways from that parable as it pertains to the obstacles that prevent us from clearly hearing God speak:
- A Polluted Heart - We may have too much stuff in our hearts to hear God clearly – these may be self-inflicted, unconfessed sin or they may be relationships that we need to restore. (James 1:21 NLT)
- A Distracted Heart - Hell is determined to keep us from hearing from God so we may need to turn down the world’s volume that keeps us distracted from hearing God’s voice. (Luke 10:39-40 AMP)
- A Neglected Heart - We may need to stop making excuses and start making changes in our life and our worship that helps us to mature in our relationship with God. (Heb 12:1-2 GNT)
Ultimately, God is looking for a Prepared Heart - We can prepare our hearts when we offer true repentance, refocus our priorities, and ask God to bring a revival in our lives. (2 Cor 7:1 MSG)
In this current global crisis, many are calling on God to hear us from heaven and heal our land. I submit that God is listening to us and waiting for us to get our hearts set right and make ourselves truly humble and available (2 Chron 7:14 ESV).
One of the new releases from Elevation Worship - "Available" speaks to this issue.
By: Yolande A. Knight
I can honestly say that I’ve never met someone who enjoys waiting though I’m sure that such a person exists; I’ve just not met them yet. Let me tell you that I am not that person; my patience meter is usually running on empty on any given day. Needless to say, this current perpetual state of waiting has been very difficult for me as it’s been for many of you.
Yet God is asking us to wait! Millions of believers around the world are praying and seeking God for an end to this crisis and no one knows when that time will be.
This reminds me of the Israelites who waited 400 years for deliverance and even then, God took them the long way around, through the desert, to get to the Promised Land. As we have studied their journey and reflected on their response, we have often criticized their grumbling, lack of faith and trust in God. You can read the account in Exodus 13-17.
But how are we measuring up in the face of COVID-19 in 2020?
I’ve read somewhere that in an average lifetime of 80 years, we spend approximately six of those years waiting. Of course, not all at once, but broken down into chunks of time; waiting at traffic lights, in lines at various places for services, waiting on people, waiting for a response to a question, for a baby to arrive, for a call back from our doctor, a job offer, and the like. It all adds up. It begs the question about how our waiting, during this time of COVID-19, will affect that average of six years!
Waiting is not easy, even for the most patient person but it does not have to be unbearable. I have found that waiting is less painful when I shift my focus.
May I share three ways that have consistently helped me to shift focus during extended periods of waiting:
- Refining my worship - Waiting reveals the “thing” that we worship the most. Our worship can be aimed at success, acquisitions, something, or someone other than God. I’ve learned to increase my worship of Jesus while I wait on him and I do so by saturating myself with his Word, being in constant communion with him through prayer, and surrounding myself with uplifting music that glorifies God.
- Recalling God’s unchanging faithfulness in my life - As someone who journals on a regular basis, this has been easy for me to do. During this current time, I have spent hours re-reading journals from several years ago and I have been reminded of and astounded by the many times when God showed up for me in miraculous ways. Will he do it again? Absolutely!
- Preparing for my next season - I recognize that this term “season” is one that we (Christians) frequently use which may cause it to lose its effectiveness. I do believe that, just like God’s natural order has distinctive seasons such as spring, summer, fall, and winter; so too do our lives. I don’t always recognize when I am heading out of a season, but I have come to distinguish when I am being prepared for a next season. I believe that “The Church” is in a time of preparation for its next season.
As I have been reflecting on this time, I discovered this worship song by Lincoln Brewster, "While I Wait" which had me completely undone. I urge you to listen to the lyrics of this song which I believe will encourage you today.
By: Yolande A. Knight
ANXIETY & TRUST
Can I be honest with you? I’m scared. I wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day when I start to feel sick. Being completely transparent here; I’ve been battling anxiety for the past couple years. When I say anxiety, I don’t mean regular, everyday stress, such as traffic, or making it to work on time. I mean a general fear of the world. The best way I’ve been able to explain it to myself is that the world feels unsafe to me. What has gotten me through the daily feeling of dread and quickened breaths is acknowledging that the thoughts are in my head, and the world, out there, is actually safe.
And then coronavirus happened. I woke up, and the world instantly became unsafe. And everything changed! Suddenly, going outside, which always felt scary for me, now had a “real” sense of danger. What makes this more challenging is that I am a Christian. For many, the idea that someone can have anxiety and be a Christian doesn’t add up. Some days, I feel like I’m not “Christian enough” because I’m scared of the big, bad world. I imagine that others who deal with anxiety feel this way as well.
So, what does this look like for me on a daily basis, as someone who loves Jesus? It means a lot of time talking to God and being honest about my fears. It looks like some deep, but faithless prayers throughout my day, asking for calm. In the midst of this current global pandemic, it looks like me scribbling my prayers in a notebook, being real with my thoughts to God.
The thing is, the Bible knew that we would have anxious thoughts and that the world would be unsafe. Some believe that's why the phrase “Fear not” is used 365 times in the Bible – some say, there’s a fear-not command for every day of the year. In fact, Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this world but that he is with us in the midst of those troubles (John 16:33). That we are to trust him, even when it’s not clear that the answer will be what we’re looking for. I believe that for many, coronavirus is revealing what trust in our relationship with God really looks like.
So how do we get through each day with the heightened anxiety that we may all be feeling right now?
As I pondered that question, I was reminded of something that I learned during my time as a competitive figure skater. During training, especially leading up to competition, my sports psychologist and coach would remind me to focus on what I could control. I couldn’t control what the judges would think of me, if the event was running on time, or what the other skaters were doing. As a figure skater, what I could control was my training, my mental state, and my own elements (to a certain extent). Basically, I did my part, and the rest was up to God.
What can we control during this time, and what do we need to let go? For me, I’ve learned that I can’t control how this virus is going to spread. I can’t control the news, or how the government will respond. I can’t control how people practice physical distancing, or how the future is going to unfold. But I can control how I practice physical distancing and stay home. I can control how much of the news I watch or read, how much sleep I get, how I move through my days - by exercising, and eating healthy. I can also control how I support those in my circle during this time - a friend reminded me that for many, this is the hardest thing that most people have had to face in their lifetime. I can also draw on my “training”, on past difficulties that I have gone through which have all equipped me to handle this current challenge. I can lean on my support system of friends, family and my church community. The rest is up to God.
Easier said than done, I know! As a Type A perfectionist with anxiety, I KNOW how hard this is in reality. Right now, each time I think about planning my week, I take a step back and pray first; the uncertainty of this crisis is causing me to put Proverbs 16:9 into action, which talks about how we make our plans but it’s God who actually turns those plans into reality. Maybe this is a lesson I needed to learn a long time ago, maybe you do too. For the first time, I’m taking things one day at a time, and it’s a strange feeling.
Hoping not to sound like one of those annoying Instagram Influencers (who are apparently making many feel that they’re not doing enough), may I encourage you to try to find something you can learn during this period. Personally, I want to accept the lessons God may be imparting to me during this season. I continue to pray for the virus to be stopped in its tracks and for God to keep us all safe. But how he responds, is not up to me, which honestly, is probably a good thing.
By: Yelena Knight
Here is a Casting Crowns song "Oh My Soul" that puts perspective on the worry of our souls.
LIVING WITH COVID-19
Editorial Note: Susi Steier, a thirty-something young lady living in England and a friend to one of our AW young moms, has graciously agreed to share her story of living with COVID-19 on our blog. She first posted this account on her Facebook page on March 25th. She has since recovered from the virus and is doing well.
Published with permission.
Many of you might be wondering what it’s like to be one of the many suspected cases of coronavirus, so I thought I’d share a bit of my experience with you.
I started feeling ill last Saturday, March 21, 2020. First, I was just unusually tired, but towards the evening I got a mild fever. Then I developed the dreaded cough.
I spent the next day in bed with a fever, but by Monday I felt slightly better. Less fever, more fatigue, more coughing. I get out of breath easily, even when I just speak or eat, and I often feel dizzy. My fever has been up and down since the symptoms started, but all in all they have been relatively mild.
I talked to a friend from church yesterday who works with COVID patients in London and he said that the symptoms reach their peak on day 5-7. So, let’s see how the next few days will go.
Something that kept coming to my mind over the last few days was how God repeatedly calls his people to trust him in the face of danger. In the book of Isaiah, we see the Assyrian army coming, they have already taken the Northern Kingdom and now they’re on their way to Jerusalem. How are they supposed to trust in God when the danger is so real and so immediate? Before the pandemic, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated what it might feel like to trust in God rather than in other people. In governments making the right decisions, in doctors who help the critically ill, in researchers who develop a vaccine, in my own body to fight the virus.
God eventually delivers Jerusalem from the Assyrian army. But even this rescue is only temporary because only two chapters later we see hints of the next enemy, Babylon, who will in only a few years’ time destroy Jerusalem and drag the people into exile.
Will our rescue from the coronavirus be just as temporary? When we finally get through this, what will the world look like? What’s the next danger we need to be rescued from?
In Isaiah, God promises his people a rescue that lasts. A rescue from this broken world to a world where there is no more danger, no more coronavirus or unemployment or loneliness. A world where there is no more death.
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.”
This is so much better than any rescue this world has to offer because it means we won’t ever need another rescue. We often think the idea of a new world, or of heaven, is irrelevant for us, but during this time I’m reminded that heaven is exactly what we all need. We’ll finally be safe and perfectly happy. Isn’t this what we’re all longing for?
By: Susi Steier
Absolutely Susi, our ultimate goal is to be with the Father in Heaven - Enjoy Chris Tomlin's "Home"
The Season of Easter, and Social-Distancing
Editorial Note: We are thrilled to bring you the following blog which was written and first published on March 16th, 2020 by Melissa Reeve on her blog “Because of a Sticker”.
Published with permission.
We’re in the middle of March, in the middle of Lent, and in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t think anyone thought that the church as a whole would start giving up church services for Lent. We’ve been told to sit tight for a couple of weeks, and reassess then. We’re about 4 weeks away from Easter. We might be giving that up for Lent as well.
It’s hard to imagine Good Friday and Easter passing by without church services, but it might come to that. I think it’s best to prepare ourselves, in case that happens. It’s one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, and one of the busiest. And we might all be stuck inside our own homes.
I think there are a few very important things to keep in mind this year as Easter approaches. I know it hurts to consider cancelling services that are probably already in the planning stages. Easter comes with special services, special speakers, special music, church potlucks, family dinners etc. But as hard as it is to imagine cancelling, should it become necessary, we need to keep the big picture in mind – two big pictures, really.
First, God is still God regardless of circumstances. History is still history regardless of current circumstances. Who God is, or what He did on the cross, will not change just because we have to cancel services. Even if we have to celebrate at home, we can do that. God hears us individually as well as corporately, and His plan for us does not change based on church attendance. The big picture is that God is ultimately in control of our lives here, and in heaven. For a Christian, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Christ is our hope, our peace, and our joy here on earth, and whenever we do die, we get to experience Him in person. Missing even the most important of church services will never change that.
Second, as long as we live, our commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). How can we best love our neighbours right now? A good way to start is by being sensible during a pandemic. It’s hard to adjust to the idea of loving people by avoiding them, but spreading a potentially deadly virus is not a good way to love your neighbour. Stay home, when possible, for the good of the vulnerable people around you. This virus moves quickly, and the best way to keep hospitals from being overrun, and to keep our families and communities safe, to is keep our distance. It’s everyone’s job to take proactive measures as much as possible.
It’s easy to think that Lent, Good Friday and Easter are necessities of the Christian faith. You know what? They are. But the celebrations and traditions that accompany them are not. Easter is still Easter without a service. During this time in the church calendar, we focus on Christ’s sacrifice which atoned for our sins so that we could be seen as blameless before God. That is incredibly important. Without that, we’re just a group of broken and sinful people with no hope. But God is our hope, and God does not change when our traditions have to change.
Hang onto the big picture, in terms of community health, and eternal hope. Keep being proactive about this public health crisis. Remember that God is with us even when we can’t be with each other. Keep praying, singing praise songs, and reading your Bibles at home, and come out of this with a stronger faith. Set a good example in loving your neighbour enough to stay home. And as I heard in a sermon online this week, the building is not the church: the body of Christ is the church. As much as we’re social-distancing, we’re still not alone. We’re still connected.
By Melissa Reeve
As Melissa has so eloquently stated, and echoed in this beautiful song by Kari Jobe, (we) "I am Not Alone".