Posted in Belief in God, faith, God, Worship

Why I Believe in God and How This Changes My Life

“Imagine there’s no heaven, easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.” –John Lennon

It’s attractive–the idea of no religion. Nothing to divide people. No ultimate standard. No God. No judgement.

John Lennon’s utopia was imaginary and impossible. The reason is because people need to understand why they are on this earth and how they got here and who is responsible for their being here and what this implies. Hence, religions.

God-fearing people live their lives as though God is watching. Religion has exploited believers in numerous ways, so I don’t particularly want to associate myself with the common understanding of religion. I want to distill my faith to the basics, one of which is a belief in an eternal God who sees all. From here I move on to his son, Jesus Christ, and the significance of his life, death and resurrection. I am a believer in Christ because my research has led me to the conclusion that the evidence for his life, death and resurrection is overwhelming.

Mine is not a defence of religion, or of faith, or of belief in God. Mine is a call to an honest search. Jesus said, “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it.” I cannot find your way for you. You have to find it for yourself. For me it meant casting aside my previously held beliefs and then examining every piece before I decided which ones I would pick up and keep. It is a brave thing to do. You don’t know at the outset what the outcome will be.

I watched a small bird hop around on my balcony and I allowed my imagination to wander to what went into the design of this little winged creature. Then I thought about the seeds it was eating, and the plants that produced those seeds, and the sun that shone on the plants, the rain that fell on them, the soil that nurtured the plants. I thought of the seasons. I thought of the galaxies. I thought of the perfect distance of the sun from the earth so that we are not scorched and do not freeze. I thought about the exquisite balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. I thought about gravity and the rotation of the earth around the sun, and the moon around the earth. And on and on and on. I thought about all the things that are not explained by the theory of evolution. Let’s remember it is only a theory. And it was a theory introduced as a reaction to the concept of religion and the possibility of a Creator. It is a theory that, when you really think about it, makes no sense at all. But people don’t want to think. Deep thinking scares them. It shakes their fabricated reality.

There is no possible way that this earth is an accident that happened over billions of years. So the only other alternative is that we are dealing with a Designer. A Designer with intent. From this point on I think it is reasonable to believe that this Designer wants to communicate with his creation. This is where religion begins. And there are many ways that religions have explained and tried to understand God.

It is the order of the universe that makes me a believer in a Creator. It is the fact that we have a conscience that makes me a believer in the righteousness of a Creator God. Up to this point most religions are similar but from here they begin to branch out with many tangents. I do not believe that all religions lead to God. God transcends religions. Religion is just a series of beliefs organized to understand God and to attempt to know how to respond to him. What I believe is that righteousness is at the heart of true religion. And I believe that God bridges the gap between his complete righteousness and our partial righteousness when we seek him and put our faith in him. However, this does require a type of re-birth, a dying of the old, a seed falling into the ground and a new life springing forth. The nature of God transcends all, even our human understanding. I cannot explain or describe God any more than I can explain or describe the wind and even this is a totally inadequate analogy. But I have felt God. And I worship him. I seek him with all my being. I desire to fulfill the design he had in creating me. My knowledge of God gives meaning to all I do.

My faith journey has been a life-long process and I have discovered many wonderful resources along the way. A book I recommend, and which profoundly impacted my search, is written by the late J. I. Packer, entitled Knowing God.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, dealing with stress, faith, Health, Leadership, stress

Surviving the Pandemic – Family with Covid-19

Snow Globe Jar

Our snow globe broke this week and I was out looking for a replacement and saw this interesting ‘do it yourself’ idea.

Now that I look at the photo I realize the globe has a church, which somehow seems significant. This Christmas I’ve wanted to get a T-shirt that says, “Don’t hate my holiday and I won’t hate yours.”

Has anybody been getting Christmas hate? Last year I was stunned when I was at Michaels and saw a nativity scene where someone had replaced baby Jesus with a pig. My husband tried to explain it away. It was probably kids goofing off. It could also have been staff, I said. The little plastic pig was in a separate department away from the display, so how did those responsible come up with the idea, was my question? It wasn’t just, “Oh, here’s a pig, let’s take baby Jesus out and put it in there.” They had to walk to another area and get the pig.

My girlfriend and I performed Christmas music at seniors’ homes a few years back and mostly we were very well received but there was one location where the coordinator was angry with us for coming to play Christmas music in December during their “Happy Hour.” Some residents wouldn’t come, she told us, even though this had been set up in advance as a Christmas special. She clearly let us know how inappropriate this was.

I grew up in a time when Christmas was a “hallowed” season. Each year schools and churches would re-enact the nativity or have a similar, uplifting play or program that always referenced the birth of Christ.

The truth is I don’t really like Christmas today without the sacred focus. The songs grate on me when I hear them played over and over again in stores that set out their displays way to early. Watching Hallmark movies where people dance to “Silent Night, Holy Night”??? And have you tried finding a Christmas card with any message related to Christ, lately? Impossible.

For awhile I immersed myself in the Hallmark version of the “spirit of Christmas” where the focus is on good things like love and generosity. There is merit to this, but in the end it still rings hollow for me, a season reduced to tinsel and activity and commerce, with a nod to family. Christmas, of all seasons, is about worship–come and worship Christ the King. Without worship, life is empty and void of meaning.

Do you ever feel like your nerves are a bit raw? Well, that’s how I feel. I try and ignore it as I put up more lights in the hope of adding brightness and joy to my part of the world.

But my nerves feel on edge. This past week my mother was hospitalized for Covid-19. The hospital was full and her bed was needed so she was sent home the next day. She had fluid in her lungs and could barely walk, she was so weak. There is a very serious outbreak in her area of Manitoba. People don’t believe the virus is a real thing to be concerned about. It looks like the medical system is collapsing. Nurses did not have time to check on her when we called to ask how she was doing. I admit I was relieved that she could go home.

My sister who cares for my mother was diagnosed with Covid-19 first and she thought she got it from my mother who probably contracted it at the lab where she goes weekly for tests. My sister said it was way worse than any flu she had ever had. She isolated in the basement of her house and is recovering now.

A family member has been checking up daily on my mother. We are aware of the risk, but we cannot leave her uncared for.

At my husband’s parents’ assisted living residence there is a total lockdown, starting this week, because of an outbreak. My father-in-law walks 35 minutes every day, down the halls or outside, weather permitting. He had open heart surgery and he does this for his health but he’s not allowed to walk now.

What I find heartbreaking is that care homes are not getting any better at meeting the needs of their clients more than eight months after the first lockdowns.

And in the middle of this we have the slow motion drama of U.S. election results. Biden talking about healing feels to me like an abuser talking about healing to his victim. After all, it was his party that called Trump voters the “deplorables” and worse. It was his party that spent four years invalidating the Trump administration. It was his party that controlled the media narrative the whole time. And his party is currently talking about reforming Trump voters. How do you heal that?

There is still a God in heaven. I remind myself.

Back to my mother, I’m extremely grateful that she is doing a little better this week.

The anti-dote to the distress we feel is to find beauty and be grateful and take note of the many small blessings we experience every day. I’ve been trying to do that.

I suspect that I may have had the virus, as I was sick for four weeks and now I still feel tightness in my chest, several weeks later. I could not endure the thought of waiting in line with a lot of other sick people for a covid test, so I just monitored myself at home. My husband was sick first but only for a week.

During the time I was sick my sisters took a road trip to visit me. When I told them I was not well, the morning of the day they were to arrive, they turned around and didn’t come. This is really not the time to be travelling and seeing family. Even though I was sad not to see them, I felt relieved.

I was getting better earlier that week, but I re-used my mask without washing it and I think I re-infected myself.

I’m trying to do all the right things to stay healthy and to keep my spirits up but there are difficult days. I find myself lacking in energy, which means I don’t get out as much to exercise. Exercise and movement are so key, as is cooking at least one good meal a day and getting quality sleep. When one area falters there is often a ripple effect. I just tell myself to do my best. Tomorrow will be different.

I mentioned the church at the outset. How is our faith influencing our covid response? I, for one, am praying. I am trying to be supportive of others who are struggling. I am holding on to my firm belief in the goodness of God. However, there is a flip side I am only too aware of. God does not smile on evil and injustice. The pandemic could be a sign of his displeasure. One religious leader has said that if this is so, then there is more to come.

I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs and am impressed by these words, “The fear of the Lord, is the beginning of wisdom.” We need to see more wise leaders in this world.

Rex Murphy writes today: Governments have caused us to lose faith in our pandemic response, “…the inconsistent messaging, the exceptions granted to certain activities and the disparity of its impact on private sector workers compared to those in the public sector have broken the faith citizens had in our overall response. The common spirit that was present at the beginning of the crisis is not here now.”

Covid has magnified the importance of good leadership. The double standard of our leaders is one of the saddest things I’ve seen. Those advocating for lockdowns and penalties are found traveling and attending large gatherings and protests as though they are exempted from regulations. This does not feel like pulling together. In the absence of corporate leadership we will have to assume leadership as individuals.

The truth is that if it were not for the overwhelming of our health care system and the deaths of the vulnerable elderly, we could probably go about our lives as usual, save for the fact that it is now becoming apparent that there can be long term organ damage from covid among those who recover. None of us want to be super-spreaders. Every day nurses and doctors and care workers are falling ill. They don’t have the option of isolating. I read this week that the doctor in a small town who was “assigned” to be the covid doctor just contracted the virus. What happens then? Another doctor is “assigned”?

Is there a silver lining? The saying comes from a “sliver lining” around storm clouds, reassuring us that there is sunshine behind the clouds. I do believe good can and will come out of this.

Posted in Abuse, faith, feminism, Home, Leadership, Social Media, women

Will Amy Barrett become a Supreme Court Judge?

When I heard that President Trump was nominating Amy Barrett for the Supreme Court I thought two things, he’s ticking the “female” box–this should please some people, and the media is going to shred her.

Even so, it has surprised me how mean-spirited the media can be and how low they are willing to stoop and how they are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel. I mean, claiming that adopting children from Haiti is somehow a sign of racism? The article was rather entertaining but I don’t want to promote it here.

So, forget that she is a woman. Let’s attack her motherhood. This gaslighting is now happening to other parents who have adopted children of color who are asking–are we racist? It’s insanity.

Another really amazing article drew attention to who attended one of her speeches–someone from a non-profit labeled “hate group.” Gasp! I’m sure that people from “hate groups” never attend speeches of Democrat judges.

And then it seemed really significant that she goes to a church that adheres to the belief of a husband being the head of a family, as if this accomplished judge was somehow oppressed in her career or personal life by the obviously supportive husband and father of her children. Another more balanced article related that Ms. Barrett manages her hectic life with the help of her husband who picks up the slack at home. But that won’t make headlines.

Yes, her every move and word will be under scrutiny. Maybe there will be a Facebook post from twelve years ago…. Incidentally, my web browser–duckduckgo–reported the other day that it blocked Facebook from tracking me. How does Facebook even know I exist after I deleted my account a year ago?

I wish these vultures would look in the mirror. They really are ugly. They might take note that by maligning a woman, a mother, a person of considerable accomplishment and apparent integrity, they are presenting as a foil and this may, in actuality, serve in Ms. Barrett’s favor. As a matter of fact, there were those warning the media not to be too vicious as this might backfire, but they can’t help themselves.

It really makes one wonder about the character of these reporters and those who are endorsing their behavior. It looks suspiciously like they are a “hate group,” and will stop at nothing to prevent Amy Barrett from becoming a Supreme Court Judge.

Foil character:  A foil character is any character in literature that, through his or her actions and words, highlights and directly contrasts the personal traits, qualities, values, and motivations of another character.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, Depression, faith, Friendship, happiness

Surviving the Pandemic – When I’ve Exhausted My Creative Resources

My Desk

So, I’m a pretty creative person.

I tend to have a lot of ideas. I’m not easily bored.

I think of myself as a resourceful person who can find solutions.

I used to say to our kids that if they were bored it was because they lacked imagination and I still think that people with a good imagination are not likely to be bored. Lately, however, I’ve begun to lack imagination. Or, put another way, I’ve begun to exhaust my creative resources.

It’s not exactly the same as burnout, because I’ve been there. It’s more like ‘dry out.’ I’ve squeezed every drop out of this sponge of creativity or imagination or resourcefulness. I’m in the, “just put one foot in front of the other,” stage. Methodical.

This has its merits. At least the things that need to be done, still get done.

I’ve been here before, in some measure, maybe not exactly to this extreme. I recognize the territory. I tell myself this is not permanent. It is a phase. I will emerge, once again, and there will be creativity and passion.

When I feel this way, I tend to ask if there is a cause. If I can identify a cause, maybe I can find a treatment or an antidote. There are things I can pay attention to, like getting more sleep, eating better, relaxing, lightening up.

But this is about a deeper need.

I remind myself to delight in the little things. This adds sparkles to my day. Sparkles are beautiful and distracting and they make me happy.

Are sparkles enough?

And there is the constant rub. That word–enough. That sense of something missing. Maybe even a latent guilt over the very fact that I question whether I have enough, whether I am enough.

I’m not pursuing happiness, exactly. It’s just that happiness and contentment is a byproduct of something greater. It’s how I feel when my cup is full.

So, what goes in my cup?

And when do I know it is full?

It might also be helpful to ask, how do I know it is not full?

And why is it so important for my cup to be full?

Is it really necessary for me to always be concerning myself with having a full cup?

Can I live, fairly contentedly, with a less than full cup?

The last question is one I can answer and the answer is, yes.

If there is one thing I have realized during COVID-19 it is that I can do with less than. I can adjust my expectations.

My husband just brought me coffee in a fancy cup. His response when I asked him, why the fancy cup, was, because it’s Sunday. I asked, what flavor is it? Coffee.

COVID-19 has caused me to distinguish between the things that nourish and the things that add flavor to my life.

I like flavor. I like pretty things. I like stimulation. I like entertainment. And these are really important and even necessary. But they can be delayed. I can wait for them.

What makes me really sad is when people have to wait a very, very long time for ‘flavor’ in their lives. I don’t live in a bubble. I feel the pain of humanity. I think about what others are suffering, not in order to compare and rationalize, and console myself by telling myself my situation could be so much worse, but simply because I have compassion.

One of the most meaningful things in life is knowing we are making a difference, however small or great an impact it is that we are making.

My mother is in her eighties and recently when I have spoken to her on the phone she has frequently alluded to the thought that she is no longer making a difference. I say things to her like, “As long as you can smile and speak an encouraging word, you are making a difference.” Or I remind her of the things she has told me she has done recently.

Her days stretch long before her and I know that what makes the most difference for her is if her time is punctuated by visits from others. These are the highlights of her life. I remind her that she bakes muffins or cinnamon rolls or pies and this is a special thing she does for the people who visit her. In our family we have used common sense and not cut off visits to our mother during COVID-19, since the place where she lives is not on strict lockdown and she has a patio door, so people do not need to walk through the building when they visit her. Staying connected fills her cup.

It is something that fills the cup for most people. We are designed for connection. I think about the many people who cannot go to their place of worship, the place where they meet their extended “family.” This is a difficult time for them. Others connect by going to clubs and parties. Some connect by going shopping. A senior friend told me, during the strictest COVID-19 lockdown period, that she would go grocery shopping almost every other day, just to be around people. Unfortunately my mother no longer drives and barely is able to walk, so she depends on people coming to her house.

Visits with my grandchildren fill my cup like nothing else does. They expose me to so much spontaneity, so much personality, so much unconditional love, so much amusement.

It takes a lot of work to remain connected in this world. I come from a family where we easily back away from others when there is a slight altercation. We don’t like conflict. But even more, we don’t like the sense that our views or our person is not respected. I have to keep going back, keep trying to connect again, keep believing in the importance of maintaining the path, not letting it become overgrown with weeds. This requires courage and sometimes humility, but most of all faith in humanity.

Without these connections, I think we dry up. Without the sense that we are able to make a contribution, even a smile or a kind word, I think we dry up. It is not unreasonable to expect and desire this nourishment in our lives. I have not seen my grandchildren for months, or my mother. COVID-19 means we cannot travel to see one another. But a phone call helps.

I can spend my life employing all my creativity and all my resourcefulness and still come up short, lacking, feeling a need. For me this is not always about having enough, but about being enough.

In my life I have had periods when I have not lacked for friends and meaningful relationships and then there have been other months and years when friends seemed to be impossible to find. As the apostle Paul said, ‘I have learned both how to be abased and how to abound.’

I watched my husband during the months when he had no work. He teaches children music–a very stimulating and emotionally rewarding job. He is the optimist who will always talk about the cup as half full, not half empty. But I saw the truth when he wasn’t working. He felt the emptiness. Life wasn’t enough and it made him come to the conclusion that he will never retire. He will teach as long as he is able.

I have seen doctors and teachers and caregivers become depressed in retirement because they can no longer help. My husband’s father has nightmares of being back in his managerial position. He, on the other hand, loves his retirement.

During COVID-19 I have thought a lot about addictions. Some of us are addicted to helping. We get “high” only if we are helping others in some way, whether that is through our job, making our boss happy, volunteering, cooking food for our family, creating something to bring joy to others, or any other ‘helping’ activity. We have to be making a meaningful contribution. And when that well dries up, and we are no longer giving, we become depressed. In some ways this depression is a good thing, because it signals to us that things are not as they ought to be, and we ought to be contributing in some ways with our lives, but it does not signal that our lives are insignificant if we are not giving in the usual ways.

Work, itself, can be a drug. A stimulus. We get that sense of accomplishment. That high feeling that accompanies completion, after the rigorous employment of our mental and physical resources.

During COVID-19 we have to find substitutes. Some people are more creative and imaginative in filling the gap. Others have more energy to burn and feel frustrated because of this. If ever there has been a time to reflect and to come to know ourselves, this is it.

I’ve been engaged in a number of self-improvement exercises in the past months, which I will not go into here. I’ve also looked at what brings me joy, what is life-giving. I’ve watched to see how I am impacted by the various things I do. I’ve analyzed why I do them. I’ve asked if they are helpful? Are they truly me?

So what do I do when I’ve exhausted my creative resources? When it becomes difficult to motivate myself? When I don’t seem to be able to fill my own cup?

When my children were young and used to get cranky I would ask myself if they were hungry, tired, or needed a diaper change. If these were all looked after, then I asked myself if they were in pain or some sort of discomfort. Sometime they were teething. Sometimes a bath helped to ‘refresh’ them. Sometimes they needed a cuddle and a lullaby.

These are still the basic needs we need to address in our own lives and the lives of others, young and old. We need self-care and we need comfort.

There is another thing we need as adults. We need to feel like we are enough, and like we are good enough. If we live our lives being less than kind, we will feel disturbed, understandably so. This is contrary to our design, which is to be life-givers. Because we are designed to give life, not doing so makes us feel like we are falling short.

There is a longing in all of us to have the sense of being really valuable human beings. If I live my life reasonably well, I might still come under a sense of guilt, a feeling of not being adequate, maybe of not doing enough. Often this is a false guilt.

I’ve battled these feelings and I think most people do. If not, then I would tend to question if there has been any real introspection.

I’ve been interested in why some people are so quick to reject Christianity, when Christianity, rightly applied, is really a very hopeful religion. Wrongly applied, it can result in despair, so maybe this is the reason for objections.

Probably the central unique and attractive feature of the Christian faith is the introduction of forgiveness. The Bible is full of stories of men and women constantly failing and falling miserably short of the ideals God has specified in the Ten Commandments.

God can look like a stern judge, condemning us, but in reality he is a shepherd, guiding us, trying to keep us from falling off a cliff, trying to keep us from destroying ourselves.

When Jesus came on the scene he essentially brushed away all the extra rules that were added to the commandments and condensed them into two laws–love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus taught about the importance of having a good heart–keeping our heart attitude right. And of course, we all know that it’s impossible to keep our attitude right, so he introduces “redemption.” Essentially he tells us that we will never be free of the sense that we are failures, so we need some help. He offers forgiveness.

I’ve had to forgive myself. I’ve had to realign myself with the truth I know. I’ve had to learn to trust that I am enough. To believe that I am loved.

My mother has to embrace a new way of living in which she cannot derive her value from her ‘works.’ She has to derive value from her essence. The person she is. The person people meet when they visit her.

We are enough. I am enough. And when I fail, there is a remedy. It’s called forgiveness.

I still have resources at my disposal, even though they seem rather depleted now. My creative resources may feel like they’ve dried up, but it helps to remind myself that no matter what I feel, or what I experience, I, as a person, am still enough.

Even if I was paralyzed in a wheelchair, the very fact that I have life in me is enough to tell me I am worthy. I like to meditate on the miracle of life. This helps fill my cup.

This sense of worthiness, of knowing my life has value, restores my hope. It is a well from which I draw sustenance. So, when I feel like my creative flow is down to a trickle, I remind myself it’s not about doing. It’s about being. Everything I do flows out of the person I am and I am enough.

Things will turn around again. My strength will be renewed. This restful “nothing” phase is probably an important part of my recovery.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, happiness, mental health

Surviving the Pandemic – Coping When the Props are Removed

Available at Art’s Nursery

If there is one thing that seems to be common to everyone, as a result of COVID, it is that this has presented us with time for reflection. I have looked at my life and identified a number of props I relied on for my contentment. Your props will be similar in some ways, yet different. For instance we find various ways of meeting our need to be with people. We have different forms of entertainment to occupy our time. We take care of our physical needs in different ways. We find a variety of ways to refresh ourselves. Many of our former options are not open to us now.

I’ve slowed down and had time to look inside, to evaluate my choices and my lifestyle. In a sense I’ve taken stock of the “essential services” in my own life—the things I can scarcely do without.

My greatest burden these days is for people who are responsible for caring for other people. They have to do this while postponing their own needs. My hat goes off to the parents and care givers.

I’ve looked inside and had a sort of crisis of faith. Or, put another way, I’ve seen that in crisis, faith is all I have. I can only continue to cast my cares on God and believe he will make a way. And if he doesn’t, I have no alternative but to wait and see what happens next, still trusting for a good outcome down the road.

I want to give answers, but I don’t have anything besides what I am doing. What I am doing is looking at my life when the props are gone, when the things I relied on for a good life are stripped down, or stripped away.

Who am I without props? How do I face my day without these “helps”?

Many times I have gone back to thinking about pioneers, people who came to a strange country and built it up. The props we’ve relied on are things others have put in place for us. They were instituted by people who had little to work with. I find it encouraging to think about the basics. In some ways I find myself at a kind of “Ground Zero.” This is when I become aware of the importance of inner resources like faith, courage, steadfastness, hope, insight, creativity, resiliency, perseverance.

These are the building blocks that are still available to us for the future even when we have lost many familiar supports. I’ve seen the importance of doing all I can to preserve my inner strength and I know nobody will do this for me.

I think we will find that some of the props we relied on will not be as necessary to our well-being, going forward. Life is going to be more about essentials and inner strength.

Posted in anxiety, Children, Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith, Health

Teachers Return to Work

Teachers are returning to work today in the province of British Columbia. They asked for more time before starting classes, in order to prepare, and were given two extra days before classes open on September 10.

Many, if not all, are filled with trepidation. This is understandable, with their concern for their own safety and that of their students, not to mention the vulnerable people in all of their lives.

It is a great blessing that the coronavirus does not affect children and young people as severely as those who are older and have underlying health issues. But we are still afraid because children can be asymptomatic. They can have no symptoms and yet carry the virus and be capable of spreading it.

Many of us have a faith background and believe in the power of prayer in these times. Some do not. Some may have become cynical after years of unanswered prayer. The truth I have experienced is that my prayers will not always be answered and I will not always get what I pray for. God is not like some magic wish-granting genie in a bottle. We may pray and still not be assured that we will escape harm.

Last week I prayed fervently for someone in need and even asked others to pray. On the weekend I asked this person how their week had gone. It had gone very badly. Much worse than before. I was shocked, because, after all, we had prayed.

Yesterday as we drove along the road we encountered two accidents less than a mile apart. Emergency vehicles blocked portions of the road and first responders stood next to the damaged vehicles, assessing the situation and providing assistance. As we continued on I became anxious. What if we were the next accident victims? In quick succession a couple of drivers made dangerous and unexpected moves in front of us. I was on high alert. The sight of actual damage reminded me of my vulnerability.

We’ve probably all been on high alert for months now. Each day we make choices that we hope will reduce our vulnerability. We decide when we need to wear our masks. We avoid certain high traffic areas. We are conscious of maintaining distance between us and others. We hear of the virus at a place near us, or near our loved ones, or perhaps someone we know has the virus or has died of it and this makes us anxious because we wonder if we are going to be affected next.

As we drove along I had to calm myself and reassure myself that there was no reason to expect we would be accident victims. Yes, the possibility was there, but the probability was low. It was no higher than on any other day and I needed to remain calm.

Anxiety itself has health risks and although we cannot entirely control our anxious response, we can do something about it. I know, because I have tried, and it has worked.

I wish, for the teachers, that they could avoid the situations that are causing them anxiety. But this is not reality for any of us. For months we have cheered on medical staff, first responders and essential workers. They are our heroes. They have worked on our behalf. Maybe you have been one of them. We are intensely grateful for the work of these brave souls. Now it is the teachers’ turn to step up to the plate. And it’s a scary thing to do.

Stepping up to the plate requires bravery. It means taking risk. There is the risk of harm.

All of the essential workers we have acknowledged and thanked during the past months have taken risks. They have been brave in the face of adversity. Somehow they have moved beyond fear to serve the public.

Bravery is what we need in the face of adversity. It is not the absence of fear, but the control of our fear that we need, so that it does not paralyze us.

I don’t want to have the coronavirus and I pray that my loved ones don’t get it. I do the sensible things I know to do to protect myself and them, and I hope this is enough.

As teachers prepare their classes, they are doing the same. They plan how the students and staff will take measures to protect themselves. After preparation, all we can do is hope for the best. The outcome is out of our hands. We have been faithful to implement the protections we know to have in place. The rest is beyond our control.

It’s very difficult to live with a life-threatening virus. It is frightening indeed when we increase our exposure to risk by going back to work. Having studied cognitive behavioral therapy I understand that there are ways in which we can alter our thoughts and our behavior that can make us more calm as we face the things we fear. In other words, we can have rituals and we can talk to ourselves to allay our fears, even if we cannot rid ourselves of them entirely. There are also unhealthy ways of coping that we need to reduce or eliminate.

One unhealthy way of coping is to not be honest about the actual risk. In other words, pretend that the risk does not exist. It is actually healthier to be honest about the risk, but not be overwhelmed by this realization. The reason for this is that then we can prepare ourselves appropriately. This means we take responsibility for seeking out information and get as complete a picture as possible so that we know what to do and what not to do.

Some say that this increased knowledge will also increase fear. If we habitually avoid facing up to hard truths in order to feel safe, then this will be difficult to do, because it can initially increase our fear. Facing up to challenging facts can be very frightening. It is easier to shield ourselves and to live in a protective bubble. Knowledge of the bad things that are happening in the world can overwhelm us. But not knowing certain facts can be dangerous and can put us at risk.

Dealing with disturbing information requires a few basic skills. I’ve already mentioned one—honesty about the truth of the matter. And I’ve alluded to another—limiting how much time we spend thinking about the problem and also limiting how many times we allow the problem to enter our thoughts.

When I think about teachers returning to classes, I think to myself there are probably two groups of people among the teachers. There are the ones who rely entirely on their own understanding of the situation, without any consideration for faith, or prayer or a divine will. For them this is probably the safest way to be, because I don’t think they would willingly choose this path if they did not believe it was best. They don’t want to rely on something or someone they do not understand and cannot see.

The second group opens their minds and hearts to the possibility that there is indeed a divine power or person that operates in the universe, outside of human sight and beyond our understanding. Their belief is in the goodness of this divinity. They may have derived their understanding from teaching in a church, or it may have grown as a result of observing the intricate balance and beauty of all that surrounds us. How could this world exist by accident? It does not seem reasonable to think so. There must be something, someone who is wise, who is insightful behind its design. And it follows that the author of life might ultimately care about matters pertaining to life. Therefore it is reasonable to trust this entity, beyond our comprehension, to actually look out for the good of the earth and its inhabitants.

This thought has brought me comfort. I embrace words I read in my Bible, such as, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whole shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” And, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling.” And, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27)

I find that these messages anchor me. They help me face adversity with courage. I can choose to trust God with the outcome, even when my circumstance is challenging or unpleasant. In the face of sickness, or debilitation, or even death, I draw strength from this knowledge.

There are things in life that can cause us to lose faith. I’ve been tempted to abandon my faith in God when I have not understood how a loving Creator could allow evil, suffering, and decay. Although he allow this, he also promises a remedy that counters the difficulties of life and enables us to endure them. It is not his will for evil and suffering to prevail indefinitely. He is about the business of restoration and we can participate in this.

I prefer to live my life believing that the same God who looks after the intricacies of life and keeps nature in balance, who created the ecosystem, and the biome, whose wisdom is so infinite that we can spend a lifetime of study and still only scratch the surface in understanding the solar system, or microbiology, or human anatomy—this God is worthy of my trust.

As we go forward in the coming months, we can also draw courage from those who serve us daily, those whose services, we are reminded, are essential to our wellbeing. Today I specifically want to acknowledge the significance of the role of teachers in the training and care of our children. Parents need you. We need to work together and support one another as we train the future generation. Thank you for stepping forward in these incredibly challenging times. We wish you well as we entrust our children into your care.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted in anxiety, faith

Surviving the Pandemic – Dealing With Anxiety

jochabed
Jochebed, Mother of Moses. Circa 1883. Marble. Franklin B. Simmons

We have more than the pandemic to be anxious about today, with protests and riots going on. Anyone listening to, or reading, or watching the news has plenty to be distressed about.

There are three stress responses, flight, fight, and freeze. Freezing is reflexive, a kind of temporary paralysis. When it comes to flight or fight, we choose one or the other. We have to be in a healthy place where we can think rationally about our response. 

I used to have a dream of being chased by a bear. Suddenly I would turn around and face the bear. The bear stopped running and eventually slinked away from me. This has always been a sign to me. If you can’t outrun your enemy, face him.

  • The first thing I do to relieve stress is to get a comprehensive understanding of what is happening. Knowledge tends to be equipping. I listen to a lot of sources to determine what is going on.
  • The very thing I do to alleviate stress, also causes stress and I need to know when to take a break to calm myself, so it follows that I need to know what calms me. What are calming activities for me that I can do safely? Over-eating or consuming anything that alters my mental state is not what I recommend. This is a time, when, more than ever, we need to have optimum health and be mentally alert. How well we cope depends a lot on whether we can calm ourselves.

I once heard advice in a parenting seminar by Al Friesen who explained that we all have an angry “bear” inside us that rises up from time to time and wants to dominate. It is up to us to keep our “bear” in its cage. If we let him loose to do as he pleases, he can do a lot of damage.

I think it was wise to draw attention to the fact that we struggle with destructive emotions and that there is actually another part of us that can exercise control over these emotions. We are not helpless.

  • Next I ask, What can I do to change the situation? The first answer is always, pray. Many times this will calm me. I have seen remarkable answers to prayer. Even if I had not, prayer is a way of aligning with God’s purposes. If I don’t know what to pray, I simply say, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • My secret weapon is reading the Bible. Does anyone ever ask why communist China is so intent on eradicating the Bible? The Bible is a source of strength. The image above is a carving of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. She dared defy the Egyptian edict that Israelite male babies be destroyed and as a result her son delivered a nation from slavery. The Bible is filled with admonitions not to be afraid. It reassures us that God, who created us, will also watch over us, protect us and bless us. There is a condition, however. We must seek truth and righteousness. The God of the Bible is the enemy of the wicked. We can take comfort in this.

The Bible also does another thing for me. It tells me it is no strange thing to be hated for choosing the good. There is no better example of this than the story of the crucifixion of Christ. People who do good can expect to face opposition. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told Herod that it was unlawful for him to take his brother’s wife.

  • I also read stories of men and women who prevailed through incredible hardship and opposition. While some caved under pressure, others, in the same circumstances, prevailed. We can choose suicide. We can choose escape. We can choose a slow form of dying through addictive behaviors that ruin our health and erode our mental capacity. Or we can choose life. To choose life is difficult and requires courage. It is my firm belief that each person is born with a potential to make a difference. Each life has value. The enemy of our souls wants to steal from us our sense of worth and significance on this earth.

I can’t be sure I would choose life if I didn’t have faith in a living, active, caring God. We are in a battle with a real spiritual adversary that wants us to despair of life itself. We cannot afford to give in and allow him to silence us and make us ineffective and destroy us.

The “politically correct” and “cancel culture” people have been after me for generations, only I didn’t have a name for them back then. Two or three years ago I had an all out confrontation and I was in the grip of fear. I took a few steps back and evaluated how I was going to move forward. I knew I had to move forward, but I needed to take time and decide the best way for me to do this.

  • Each of us must take a moment to assess the situation. This is what a first responder will do at the scene of an accident–assess who can be revived, what can be done to help those who can survive, and what should be done first.
  • It takes faith to believe there is an appropriate action for you to take. Initially you may simply need to go up on a mountain by yourself, figuratively speaking, and clear your mind. You may need to get your own personal vision. It could take awhile, possibly years. At various points you will find yourself engaging, in big and small ways, in a battle for truth and life.
  • Support your family. Support those nearest to you. Don’t neglect them. Make space for them. You are the only person in that unique relationship of brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, son, or daughter. Or maybe it is a co-worker, boss or friend you need to support, as well. Imagine a world where everyone took care of their family. Make these close relationships as good as you possibly can.

These are things I prioritize. It is vital for us to learn how to remain calm and composed. We also need to know how to find our way back when we get off track. Remember, calm, rational heads will prevail.

And finally….

  • Know your adversary. Know what they stand for. Get a clear picture. Face the fact that we have a real enemy that seeks to destroy all that is good.
  • Embrace faith. I cannot see a way to win this battle without help from above. We need a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, and to be able to comprehend the “exceeding greatness of HIS power toward us who believe.” (Read Ephesians 1)

We will find courage and strength if we are convinced that we have a purpose and a vital role here on earth. This requires clarity about our beliefs and priorities.

Do the difficult thing. Take action, small or great. Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos, suggests we start by making our bed, daily.

Regroup after battle. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to get it right the first round. Get up, shake off the dust, and start again. Another day means another opportunity.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith

Mostly Ignoring the Pandemic

deep pink flowersI’ve poured myself a cup of tea. I’ve watered the flowers on the balcony and finished a few other morning chores. Now I’m ready to sit down and write a little.

I’ve been mostly ignoring the coronavirus pandemic these past weeks. It’s as though I think it’s run its course and has taken up enough of my life. However, it is still around, and I am reminded when I go out. This week I went to Fabricland and needed to wear a mask to enter the store, after waiting in a line outside.covid signsWe made some changes in the bedroom and now I am eager to clean up a few boxes that are still sitting on the floor, so that I can see the new look. The boxes contain files from the last few decades which I need to go through and sort and organize. This is not my favorite task. That’s an understatement. I wish a fairy would just swoop down and touch it with her magic wand and the job would be done. But instead, I will have to toil through it.

As I was thinking about this I looked outside through a crack in the open door to our patio and saw a hummingbird lingering above the petunias in our hanging basket. It was so lovely and reassuring. God cares for the birds and the flowers and he will care for me.

Earlier I couldn’t find my phone. I looked everywhere and then I said a little prayer and immediately I saw just the edge of my phone peeking out from under a blanket on the sofa. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had exactly this experience when I’ve looked for something. Almost before my prayer is spoken, I have the answer and I find the thing I am looking for in an unexpected place.

It doesn’t happen every time. When I don’t get an answer to my prayer, or don’t get the answer I want, all I can do is wait and see what will come next. Last week I exhausted all the places I could look for an item. My husband suggested it might be in our storage room which is in the underground parking area. He went to look, and sure enough, it was there. All the praying and looking I could do would never help me find it until I went down there.

I’m forever trying to discover the reasoning or logic behind answered and unanswered prayers. There isn’t really a formula, I’ve learned. It seems this whole process is about just that–the process. In other words, what happens as a result of asking and seeking.

I don’t know if anyone else has this kind of personal experience around finding things, but for me finding things when I need them is really important. That is why I don’t want to throw out my papers. One day I will need to find something I have in those boxes. For example, yesterday I found a selection of songs I wrote before I was married. As I looked through the songs I noticed that they were in the wrong sequence in the notebook. The songs were dated a few years earlier than the entries before them. I must have copied them from notes, at a later date. It occurred to me that the New Testament books, recorded around 80 AD, were most likely also a collection of notes taken over years and compiled at a later time.

On Sunday our son and his wife were over for a BBQ. For the first time, ever, my son sat down at the piano and began to play around on it. He probably sat there for half an hour. He’s a computer programmer. Maybe he thought he could unlock the code to the piano. Or maybe he’s creating a piano app. I’d love it if he persisted but of course I didn’t urge him, because some things are so delicate you can destroy them if you talk about them.

bear treeWe went for our customary walk after dinner. It’s precious how our son and his wife have made a point of inviting us out for a walk every weekend since COVID-19 began. At first it was a “distancing” walk. Now we are more relaxed.

We video-chatted with our other son on Saturday. Our youngest grandchild has learned how to drive a bike this past month and yesterday he showed off how he could ride a scooter, lifting one leg. It’s not quite like being there, but it’s so fun to be able to share these moments. They had a few fireworks for that day–the 4th of July–and lit a some small ones for us.

Last Monday a friend invited me to go for a walk in a local park. It was a gorgeous day. The rest of the week we had rain, so sunshine this weekend was especially appreciated.red maple close upThe news continues to disturb me when I read or watch various reports. I don’t write much about news on this website but use my tinafriesen.com blog for occasional commentary on news.

This morning in my Bible reading I read about King Solomon building the temple in Jerusalem. Does anyone else ever think about God’s design? I think about it all the time. Not only the plan for the tabernacle and the temple, but how everything else in nature works together so perfectly.

We finally received a long awaited personal update from Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life. It sounds like he is finally on the other side of an unbearably harrowing experience trying to get off of benzodiazepine. Incidentally, thinkspot has an interesting, and somewhat disturbing, for me, June 15 article entitled, Why People Hate Jordan Peterson so Much.

Although there are objections to the Bible, most people accept the teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If the world only lived by these words.

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith, Health, Home, mental health

Surviving the Coronavirus Pandemic – Week 10

irisI’ve been home this week, after my ventures out into the community last week. On Saturday I face-timed with my son and the grandchildren. It is so lovely to see them. According to some insider information, it looks like the border will not be opening until after the July 4th weekend, so it will still be some time before we can have the grandkids over.

We also spent time with our other son and his wife on Sunday, meeting at a park and then actually having them over to our home! We haven’t had them come to visit since March 1, almost three months! In B.C. we are allowed to enlarge our contact circle, cautiously, beginning this past week.

park

There are some mornings when I wake up and almost have to convince myself that this is real. It is not just a bad dream. It’s like my mind wants to forget it’s true.

I continue to read, rather than watch the news. I’ve mostly stopped listening to the local daily updates by Dr. Bonnie Henry. I’m very selective about what I watch these days. No murder mysteries. Nothing intense.

I’m very curious to see how Sweden will fare without lockdown. Unfortunately they are seeing an upward trend in deaths. It is reported that, “while overall deaths are on the decline, Sweden’s had 6.25 deaths per million inhabitants per day in a rolling average between May 12 and May 19….the highest in Europe on a per capita basis and just above the United Kingdom, which had 5.75 deaths per million.”

The reason the world is watching Sweden with interest is because we want to be assured that lockdown is making a difference and is justified, given the high economic and emotional toll it is taking. Sweden has about a quarter of the population of Canada, so one would think that it should have a quarter of the deaths, however, at this time it has two thirds the deaths reported in Canada.

Canada is easing its two month lockdown as of this past week. My husband has noted, on his walks, that pubs, restaurants, clothing stores, hair and nail salons, and even a massage business, are open, with restrictions. Limited numbers of people are allowed. No walk-in customers. Only alternate tables are being used in some restaurants. A few restaurants have not yet opened.

I’ve been noting my response, this week, and the fact that I am avoiding the business area of town as it is opening up. While I went out to “normalize” myself last week, this week I wanted to remain home.

family

My husband brings me reports of what he observes downtown but I feel as though I need to mentally condition myself before I go and investigate what is happening. I think it is because I am not eager to see evidence of the struggle for survival I know many of these business owners are still facing. As I mentioned before, we once owned a restaurant and it can potentially be impossible to survive when you can only utilize half of your available seating. In addition, there are many people like us who are avoiding eating out and spending on anything besides groceries because we are still not working.

Don’t worry about us, though. We will manage. We’ve always been in the habit of keeping our expenses low and have little debt and a small savings to fall back on.

There is a plan to open schools on an optional attendance basis for the month of June. Some students of essential workers have been in school these past months. There will be distancing and alternating of attendance, with students only going to classes a few days a week. We will see how this will be worked out. My husband will likely not begin to teach again until September. Many of his classes are in daycares and pre-schools so his work will depend on whether these centers can remain open with reduced numbers.

As I mentioned, I try to be careful how much I dwell on sad stories. I’m glad when I see an uplifting article out there. I found a great article by AnotherSlice commemorating Memorial Day, today.

Awhile ago I wrote a light-hearted series of vignettes about the life of Dennie and Rosie in A Happy Life. “Denny and Rosie have downsized. They feel the squeeze of their small one bedroom condo and occasionally trip over one another, metaphorically speaking….After three decades together, the days are not as predictable as you might think. But for the most part Denny and Rosie have a happy life.”

denny and rosie
A Happy Life

When the coronavirus panic buying started, we said to our kids that we were pretty well stocked up. We didn’t even buy sanitizer. In February we ordered packets of individually wrapped hand sanitizer online. I like to carry them in my purse and have a supply in the car. We could only order them in quantities of 1000 from a restaurant supplier. Little did we know that we were facing a pandemic. Small things like this remind me that God cares for us in ways we could never anticipate.

I’m reminded of the verse, which is also a song, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee, Oh LORD.” I continually turn my mind back to the goodness and faithfulness of God. This is my unmovable rock of comfort.

worship cover

This week I edited a short book I published on Smashwords (above). I also improved my system for note-taking and keeping track of my progress as I work on various writing projects.

Another thing I did was create a recipe for fibre cookies to help me keep on track with my fibre intake. (I don’t think you’d like the taste so I’m not posting the recipe.) I noted that I need to cull my recipes. I’ve collected a lot of recipes over the years but we can find anything online so I only need to keep a few tested favorites.

The house is definitely getting more organized. Every drawer and cupboard and closet has been inspected and brought up to standard. I’m still anticipating the day when I apply the same diligence to cleaning up my files.

IMG_2416

Well, what’s next? Yes, we plan to tape Mr. Sheldon‘s Music this week again. One school is using the video in their classes so we will continue to create it until classes invite him back again to teach.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ravi Zacharias this week. I’ve only recently become aware of his teaching on YouTube. We have lost a great mind and an extraordinary communicator. Right to the end he was brilliant. He died of a cancerous tumor and spent his last days at home with family. I pray for comfort for the Zacharias family and so many who have lost loved ones during the past few months. Take care!

 

 

Posted in anxiety, Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 8 at Home

tulips

We’ve had two months of isolation. In Canada, things are beginning to open up.

This week I have been thinking about the economy and wondering what the impact will be of closing down businesses, schools, etc. We are seeing resistance to closures. We need to find a middle ground, a new normal going forward.

For Mother’s Day we met at the border with our children and grandchildren. It was 28 degrees Celcius which is 82 Farenheit. The sun was beating down as we sat next to the pavement on 0 Avenue. Two roads run parallel to each other, one on each side of the border, with a small ditch between them.

0 avenue

I wanted to pass our umbrellas over to the other side, but we were not allowed to pass anything. This is the border. There is surveillance. However, sitting here is allowed. Marked and unmarked border patrol vehicles constantly drive by. Not ideal, but so nice to see the family after so many weeks.

The grandchildren don’t like coming here, we are told. I don’t blame them. They have seen their cousins and their other grandparents here. There are many families doing the same thing along this stretch of road these days.

As we drove back we got a phone call from our son telling us that his wife’s friend works in border patrol and she said that the Peace Arch Park had just opened. It is a no-man’s land, between Canada and the U.S. A symbol of peace. We decided to see if we could meet there, and to our surprise, we could. What a difference! But so eery to see the closed boarders, normally packed with vehicles, completely empty! Only one lane was open.

empty borders

We need to get back to work. We need to get back to normal, as much as possible. Thank you to everyone who cooperated so well and helped to flatten and lower the curve in B.C. Now that we know what we are up against, as we have seen around the world, I think we can loosen the restraints.

As I said before, I have been trying to picture what this will be like. My imagination fails me as I begin to visualize who has all been put out of work.

I am haunted by homeless tent cities that have been dismantled as people have been placed in motels, locally. Haunted as I think about how many more people will be homeless in coming months.

I am haunted by seniors’ homes that are understaffed, where there is sub-standard care and unacceptable neglect. Haunted as I think of a country that is facing a financial crisis.

I am haunted by playgrounds that have yellow hazard tape around them. Haunted by the thought of how long we will fear this virus.

I am haunted by hearing of a woman being fined for taking her child to a swing in a park.

We will all be scarred.

playground

“Look for the helpers” – Mr. Rogers. Look for the good people.

We are incredibly blessed to have people who continue to put themselves in harm’s way to help. Meanwhile there are those who now do not want to go to work. The “help” our Canadian government has given could turn into a nightmare. I’m concerned about the impact of CERB. There will be some dismantling to do and I know not everyone will be happy.

Sometimes my husband is irritable when I bring up these subjects. I try to strike a balance. I have a bit of an obsession with trying to figure out where we are headed. Yes, it might make me a bit anxious, but this is better for me than not knowing and then being taken by surprise.

In the midst of all this I understand how important it is to keep faith. Faith in people, and faith in God and his goodness. He will carry us through.

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I wanted to drive to a church parking lot and just pray and read a scripture. The lot was empty. We don’t have a home church right now, and the first church we went to had a gate that was closed so we drove on to another church.

After that we went to a small park and had a time of “worship.” That’s how it felt, being out in the fresh air, viewing the beauty of God’s creation. Someone had made a chalk drawing on the sidewalk.

brighter days

Yes, brighter days. My sister is recovering from surgery, and it feels like brighter days. I noticed I was very distracted this week, as she went in for surgery. I did not write anything in my planner. That’s a sign. My mother seems to be doing well, still going for weekly tests. Her calcium is still high, but not so high that she needs treatment. This need for constant monitoring is concerning, though.

I called my mother on Friday and she was doing well. Another thing I failed to do, for the first time ever, was to send Mother’s Day cards. I can scarcely believe it.

One of the centers where my husband teaches notified him that they are opening, however, he has not been called back at this time. He is hopeful that things will open and he will be able to teach again, soon.

Tomorrow we will record another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. Last week we sent a package of activities to the grandkids which they will receive any day now. They still had not watched this past week’s “Mr. Sheldon” when we met them yesterday. Maybe our son is distracted too, and forgot.

My heartfelt prayers are for all the various needs of people around the world, and specifically in Canada and the U.S. at this time. I just wrote another article about hope and salvation. I have a site entitled Faith Insights where I write about spirituality.

I hope this is the last “Isolation” article I need to write. I hope we are open for business after this week and I can write about normal life. But of course, we know life will not be normal for sometime. In the meantime, take courage, all of you “helpers” out there!

be calm

Saw this and the end of season tulips on a “distancing” walk in New West on Saturday.

more tulips