Sunday, April 5, 2020

Coming Out of Quarantine Stronger


"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."  

~1 Timothy 4:8

There may never be another opportunity in our lifetimes like the opportunity we have now. This is my 18th day of shelter in place--since my employer told me to pack up my office and move it home. And suddenly, overnight, I go from a person who has more to do than hours in the day to do them to a person that has more hours in the day than I have to do. And it looks like I have at least 30 more days ahead of me. I'm just one of millions in this same boat.

One question I've been asking myself is how do I come out of this quarantine stronger than when I went into it.  And my answer is to spend more time in prayer.  More time in the scripture.  More time reading inspirational works. And for the past 18 days that's what I've been doing. I have at a minimum another 30 days before I can return to work, and I plan to have some of the things I'm doing right now so well ingrained in my daily routine that it has become force of habit.  


Here's a few tips for you. Some of them I'm doing, and some of them friends have shared with me:


Begin Your Day With Prayer

Get up a few minutes earlier if you need to, or replace another habit with this one.  Find a good devotional you enjoy, and take a few minutes to read it.  I'm very fond of Our Daily Bread. You can get it three months at a time in a booklet, one page for each day, or go to their website to read the day's devotional at ourdailybread.org--you can even get the app and read it right on your phone. There are many many devotionals like this, and almost all of them are set up the same way--little booklet, or website, or app. Your choice.  And once you've read it, take a few minutes and begin your day with prayer. 

Read the Bible

Many Christians rarely read their Bibles. It's true. There's been many surveys done that show this. But God wants us to come to know him through his Word. Get a good study bible (I'd recommend the Life Application Bible to start), pick a chapter, and begin going through it. Read a verse, and read the study notes, and repeat. It's difficult at first, but for many of us, reading the Bible daily is the easiest habit to establish. I don't know how many times I intend to read for a few minutes before bed, and before I know it, an hour or more has passed. There are a lot of very good Bible studies. If you're interested in broadening your understanding of a particular subject, you'll certainly find resources if you look for them. Just like devotionals, you'll find Bibles printed on paper, you can read it for free online in a number of places, or you can download it right to your Nook, Kindle, or iPad. Whatever method serves you best. But read it--and like James tells us, do what it says!

Write About Your Faith

I've been keeping a journal for decades. One thing I do each day in my journal is I keep a gratitude log. Every time something good happens to me and I'm grateful for it, I jot it down on my gratitude list. It might be a free cup of coffee at Starbucks, or a nice remark somebody made. I write it down.  I also write down things I want to remember to pray about. People in sickness and distress. Situations that I'm challenged with.  All those little things I want to bring to the Lord. I write these things in a special color so that at the end of the day, before I go to bed, I can look back over the day and the remember these things before I pray. I've found this to be a powerful tool. Not only does it become a long, long list of things I'm blessed with, but it reminds me not only to pray for my own wants and needs, but to remember those other concerns I've written down throughout the course of the day and week.

Turn The Channel

In our world today, sermons aren't just for Sundays.  I listen to one each morning on my way to work.  And now that I'm home, I listen to one over coffee in the morning.  I'm particularly fond of Chuck Swindoll.  There's a local station that runs Chuck's "Insight For Living" every morning. It's a great way to start your day.  Find a Christian radio program you like and listen to it every day--the earlier in the day you listen the better. Again, it's the information age. You can find pastors preaching on the radio, there are Christian channels on XMRadio in your car if you have that, and you can listen to entire collections of broadcasts archived on websites. You'll even find these guys preaching on YouTube.  Just look, and you'll be astounded at what's out there. 

Use this time away from the outside world to improve your relationship with Jesus Christ--live in the Christian world for awhile.  We're warned about the influence of the outside world many times in the Bible--what an amazing opportunity we've been given away from that wicked world to work on our suit of Christian armor. We all know these verses well:


"11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
~Ephesians 6:11-17

~TEC

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A New Perspective On Gratitude

"Would they have enough if all the 
fish in the sea were caught for them?"

~Numbers 11:22

It's suddenly become a very strange world to live in since the Corona Virus has arrived.  My family was sitting in the living room last Sunday morning, watching our church service on an iPad as so many have been doing for the last couple weeks.  Our pianist plays beautifully, but you can tell from the echo as she plays that there's nobody in the sanctuary, and the same with our pastor.  He gives a fine message every Sunday, but it's different.  Nobody there to laugh at his jokes. I look forward to getting back to church.  I think a lot of people are.  Sometimes we don't appreciate the things we have until they're gone.  

In our world today, we tend to complain without thinking rather than show gratitude.  It's a world of instant gratification, and if things aren't as perfect as we expect them to be we have a tendency to express our disapproval very freely. Unfortunately, when we live in that mindset we miss many of the good things in life--a lesson many of us have been learning the hard way over the last couple weeks.

This season will pass, and eventually we will leave our homes and return to society again.  When we do, we should think about all the things we missed while we were gone--both good and bad.  I sure miss my annoying co-workers--I really do!  I miss the cheerful young woman at the coffee shop.  And the bookstore!  Oh, how I miss the bookstore!  I've even complained a few times about that bookstore, but I can't wait to get back to it.  It's unlikely I'll complain about that bookstore any time soon.

Many Americans are missing the job they complained about endlessly.  We miss going to the restaurant with the bad service but excellent cuisine.  We miss the time to think in our cars as we're commuting to work each day.  Some of us are missing our paychecks altogether.  Some of us are frightened about getting sick, or having members of our family get sick.  Suddenly all those little petty complains and annoyances in life that filled our thoughts a couple weeks ago seem very far away and very unimportant. 

This virus has been a real slap awake for many of us about what's important, and what's not. Perhaps when all is said and done and life in America returns to some level of normalcy, we will remember the time when the world suddenly stopped and we realized, with tremendous gratitude, what we actually had all along.  Perhaps we'll learn from this crisis to be more grateful for the abundance that God has given us, and less likely to complain about those little things that really don't matter that much at all.

~TEC


Saturday, March 28, 2020

A New Mission And A New Blog

I've made a major decision over the last year.  I'm almost to retirement.  My long-time friends and co-workers are dropping out rapidly--skipping off to that often dreamed of land of retirement they've worked so hard to get to.  I've thought about that a lot as well--it's what gets us through some of those rough patches in our careers, knowing that eventually, if we work hard there's a time coming when we'll be able to relax and enjoy "the good life."

Much to my own amazement, I've decided over the last year or so that's not what I want to do.  Instead of retiring, I'm going to start a brand new chapter.  I've decided to dedicate my remaining years to God's mission here on Earth.

It's something I've considered at various points in my life since I became a Christian thirty-five years ago.  Each time in the past, I realized at some point that I was pursuing the idea for the wrong reasons.  This time is very different--I feel as if the decision has already been made, and instead of trying to find reasons why I should do it, I've been scrambling over the last year to find excuses why I shouldn't do it--or more accurately, why I couldn't do it.  And all the excuses I've found so far have been pretty poor.

So to my friends, enjoy your retirement!  You've earned it, but it's not for me--at least not quite yet.  I started my seminary classes at the Urbana Theological Seminary and have begun a program that provides additional ministerial training and support through the American Baptist Churches.  If all goes well, I'll have all the necessary education, training, and experience necessary to begin this new mission by the time I retire from my professional career.  I have no idea what form my ministry will take.  It may be a writing ministry, or a music ministry.  It could even be a missionary ministry.  I may even pastor a church one day--that program through the American Baptist Church will prepare me for that possibility.  In the end, I know that God will show me what He wants me to do when I get there.

What I intend to do with this blog is share good news.  All we see in the media is bad news, and it tends to paint an unrealistic picture of the world we live in.  There is tragedy in this world we live in, but there is a lot of good also if you look for it.  I plan to post weekly, at one minute past midnight Sunday mornings. Short pieces that I hope give you something you can use--it may be an original piece, or an inspiring link, quote, some music, or a story of hope and faith. It will be waiting for you when you wake up on Sunday mornings.

That's the simple idea behind this blog. I hope you enjoy it!

~Todd E. Creason