Tag Archives: Pandemic

“Fear Not” — Are You Kidding Me?

(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.) 

Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)  

Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.

The majority, however, look scared.

Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.

Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.

Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”

They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.

The children are safe. Cherished.

I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.

These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?

Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.    

In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned.  A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.

Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.

Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”

Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.

Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”

Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.

Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.

“Fear not.”

He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.

Joy and peace to you this Christmas.

Really.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV

Um, This Is Church?

First, we were advised not to go to church. Then forbidden to go.

What?

I’ve attended since a newborn. As a toddler, I sat on the front pew as my mother played the piano. Mom dressed my brother and me in sleepers, as we nodded off before services ended.

Sleepers! In front of God and everybody! An indignity not to be endured.

Finally, Mom gave in, and I wore proper church attire.

Our small church supplied infinite hugs. I played hide-and-seek after services with friends more like cousins. And the potlucks! I still embrace the credo that the church supplies the ultimate food for both body and soul.

Best of all, I not only learned the song, “Jesus Loves Me,” at church, I grew in that truth.

As a teen, though, I fantasized about skipping services. Later, as a busy church music director, I occasionally longed to worship per TV, where everyone sang on key.

Sometimes, the following prayer cropped up: “God, just this Sunday, may I stay in bed?” Worshipping while wearing sleepers sounded downright spiritual.

Then the coronavirus, a dark angel, swooped in.

Watching online worship while wearing bathrobes, our shaggy-haired congregation probably looked quite biblical. So good to see our pastors. To drink in the Scriptures, living water for parched people in a COVID-19 desert.

Yet, a cyber hug can never replace a real one. When restrictions were lifted, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Except those — including seniors — considered high risk.

Steve and I took Communion at home on Maundy Thursday.

As a teen, I’d wanted to sneak out of services. Now I considered sneaking in.

Could I lie about my age to attend church? What if a bouncer carded me — “She’s got Medicare B!” — and tossed me out?

Reluctantly, Hubby and I continued online worship. The small congregation practiced “social distancing,” as if all had forgotten to shower. The long-haired, masked group resembled a gathering of hippie surgeons.

Weird.

Yet, I ached to be there. …

Finally, when seniors received a sort-of green light, Hubby and I donned masks and went to church, sitting miles away from friends we’d missed so much.

My mask fogged my glasses, causing hymn lyrics to disappear. The mask contracted when I inhaled, poufed when I sang. Still, loving the church family voices around us, Hubby and I belted out hymns with vigor.

Despite the odd, reduced gathering, Jesus was there.

We and our brothers and sisters at home pray fervently that soon, we will all be together again. Meanwhile, we connect through prayer, technology, and conversations across yards, streets, and parking lots.

Above all, we connect through joy that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Even wearing sleepers for church can’t take that away.

Upland Community Church — I’m not sneaking out now!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Has the pandemic changed your church?

Screen Education Then and Now

With the rise of online coursework because of COVID-19, many assume screen education was invented only recently.

Wrong.

Long before the Internet, there were (drumroll, please) classroom movies. Projectors with reels of film shone images onto tipsy screens.

We students sometimes questioned the claim they were educational. Sex ed films we viewed were created in 1920, before sex was invented.

I did enjoy science films. What wasn’t to love about tap-dancing chromosomes?

Movies also promoted catching up on sleep. Sometimes the most exciting part involved counting backward with screen numbers at the beginning and hearing the film’s flap-flap-flap at the end. Or if our instructor wanted to fill the final five minutes of class, he’d bid the AV boy to hit “reverse.” Then, we could watch chromosomes tap dance backward.

During that era, I learned two facts about AV assistants: a) they had to be boys and b) some teachers should have allowed them to also run overheads. Adult attempts often blurred images beyond recognition. Half the time they were upside-down. This new technological advancement really messed with my already math-challenged mind. How did mutant polynomials improve on blackboards and chalk?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Later, as an adjunct professor, I fought with plastic overheads stuck together like Glad® Wrap. At course’s end, my students excelled in one area: I’d taught them to write upside-down.

Screen education during the dark ages. Yay.

Given the current pandemic, we can be thankful modern screen education encompasses all subjects and ages. But even before COVID-19, it was touted as more flexible, more productive, and less expensive than traditional methods.

Screen education provides other unique advantages, e.g., an online student can spend her entire life wearing jammies. When he grows tired of a teacher or subject, he can, with one click, banish the annoyance — until a parent checks his online report card.

My teachers could only fantasize about making me disappear. On difficult days in 2020, those teaching online must be sorely tempted to dispense with an entire class: “Oops. Hit the wrong button.”

However, computers will never take the place of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, who read stories every day. Or Mr. Carpenter, my band teacher, who encouraged me in music and writing.

They weren’t saints. We students weren’t, either. We pressed each other’s buttons, but we couldn’t click each other off. We dealt with real human beings. Every. Day.

And learned to get along.

During this pandemic, screen learning, originally touted as superior, has generated many tough days for teachers and students alike. Most can’t wait until (drumroll, please) they can resume face-to-face education. Rediscover the joys of the human touch …

More than ever before.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How would you grade screen learning?