The Five People You Meet In Crisis

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Hello, fellow wigged-out citizens of the world!

As the old proverb goes, “May you live in interesting times”.  The coronavirus has provided a nuisance for everybody, a challenge for many, and a life-and-death situation for some.

Although we are limiting our in person social interaction with each other these days, we’re staying in touch in smaller groups, grocery stores, and most certainly, online.

Have you noticed that everybody has a “take” on this whole thing?  Everyone is affected, so everyone has a perspective.  Below are my unscientific thoughts on 5 kinds of folks you may have encountered.  See if you recognize yourself.

1.  THE EXPERT.  Some folks are hard to talk to, even in good times.  In stressful times like these, they can become insufferable.  They have all the facts.  They don’t ask questions, or ponder philosophically, they just tell you the way it is.  Except they don’t really know any more than the rest of us.  They get their info from a TV network or news source that they have identified as the most reliable, and that info, to them, becomes law. (Listen carefully, and then go and fact check later!)

2.   THE THEORIST.  The theorist isn’t quite so interested in facts.  They’re more interested in rumors.  THEORISTS (Short for Conspiracy Theorists) look for the darkest, most sinister explanations.  They will gravitate to the most sensational, unverified news, and spew it out into the world for the rest of us to chew on.  What’s frustrating is when there’s this tiny tickle in the back our minds that wonders, “what if it’s true?”  (Enticing as some ideas may be, try not to get sucked in.)

3. THE CURATOR.   The curator has a seeming addiction to sharing.  Oversharing.  Every semi-funny meme about running out of toilet paper.  Every sentimental picture about getting through this tough time.  Every news report or blog post or YouTube video about the virus — they consider it their job to get this info out to the world. Regardless of helpful or unhelpful intentions, CURATORS overshare, and that can clog up our feeds and our brains.  (Engage where you can, but if it gets to be too much…learn how to scroll on by.)

4. THE FLAILER.  You have 6 rolls of toilet paper in your cart.  They have 60.  You’re stressed out.  They’re apoplectic. Like somebody who can’t swim, thrown into the deep end, they are clearly not handling the pressure well. There’s plenty of panic to go around these days, but FLAILERS seem unable to throttle it back.  If protecting themselves and their family gets in the way of social correctness, so be it. FLAILERS are drowning because they’ve forgotten, or never learned, how to tread water.  (Look for ways of lending a hand without being pulled under.)

5. THE NORMAL.  If you don’t firmly fit in any of the above categories, congratulations! That likely means you’re just one of the more NORMAL people dealing with this crisis. ——

Wait.  Are you kidding me?  There are NO NORMAL PEOPLE in a crisis.  There’s only you, and me, and the myriad of ways we deal with anxiety.  Every person you encounter is anxious in some way or another, like a child that wants its mother.  That emerges in different ways at different times.

The truth is, while some of the above categories might actually ring true for people you know, everybody is afraid.  The folks who deny it, the folks who analyze it, or can’t stop talking about it, or retreat from it, or thrash around in it, or do what they’re told, or lend a hand, or write devotions about it.

You’re bound to meet all kinds of people in a crisis.  All of us reacting against fear.  In different ways and in different amounts, if you begin to look and listen for it, you’ll recognize it. It’s an epidemic.

But God is bigger than coronavirus.  God is bigger than anxiety.  I’m sure you already knew that, but here’s a reminder.  Take a deep breath and read:

For this is what the Lord says:

“I will extend peace to her like a river,
    and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
    and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
    so will I comfort you;
    and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:12-13

In a crisis, perhaps we could return to this image of God tenderly comforting, holding us, bringing us back into our right minds. That’s actually one of the most effective ways to overcome panic–to be held.  It helps our brains reengage.  Can you feel God, rocking  you gently, reminding you who you are?

Covid 19? Meet Isaiah 66.  The cure for the common coronavirus may not be readily available, but a welcome salve for all the kinds of people you’ll meet in crisis is the calming peace of God.  It is transmitted by humans in acts of compassion and kindness.  And we can all get it, directly, in prayer and moments of grace.

God can calm EXPERT anxiety, and THEORIST, and FLAILER, and CURATOR anxiety too.  And God can calm you.  Spread the word.  Be the gentle arms of Christ for all the people you meet.

Okay, you may want to maintain social distancing, but even across our self-imposed quarantines…

Love is highly contagious.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Elastigirl

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 Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. –2 Corinthians 10:15b-16a

I would fold laundry, do the dishes, and play video games.  All at the same time.

I would open the front door, pay the pizza delivery person, open the box, and eat a hot slice. All from my easy chair.

I would clean my office and — okay, let’s not get carried away.

But you get the picture.  If I had the powers of Elastigirl, from the Pixar super-family movies, I could really   s t r e t c h   myself.

She’s pretty amazing, even without her superpowers.  The way she balances raising kids with working a full time job.  She clearly knows how to stretch herself.  Then you add her rubber band flexibility, and you’ve got somebody who can go beyond your everyday living.

Would you like to be able to stretch like that?  There are other variations out there.  Plastic man, Stretch-Arm Strong.  I prefer the grace with which Elastigirl makes the miraculous seem attainable.

Actually, Elastigirl makes me think of a different kind of stretchiness.  Really, what I want is to stretch myself spiritually.  I want my faith to be adaptable.  I want my mind to be expanded.  I want to be able to reach out to God and neighbor with the confidence of a believer.

I want to stretch myself.  Not my muscles, but my soul.  I want Lent to yield something life changing, not just a month without Diet Pepsi.

I want to be a more flexible Christian, come Easter Sunday.  I want to believe in the resurrection with all of the mystery of that day.  I want to look at my Bible as less of a rigid rule book and more of an adventure anthology about faith in God.

I want to stretch my preconceived notions–not abandoning that faith I was taught to believe, but able to listen to other notions, other points of view, to see what I might learn from them.

Perhaps I’ll adopt a new way of praying.  Perhaps I’ll carefully read the Bible books I’ve thought of as “problematic”.  Perhaps I’ll find new ways of serving others, new ways to worship.

I want to stretch myself, so that I can embrace the full wideness of God’s Kingdom as it unfolds here on Earth.  I want to share the Love of Jesus Christ as far and wide as my arms can reach.

If stretching like this requires a superpower, than that power is grace, and it’s available not just for the select few.  Elastigirl has not cornered the market on flexibility, she has simply figured out how to put it to use.

Are you ready to stretch yourself?  I think I am.  Let’s reach out to each other, the way Christ is reaching for us.  Together, we’ll reach out to the world.

And the whole thing will be so very

Incredible.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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Making Believe

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I was an imaginative kid.  At 5 I thought my parents were robots.  At 7 I wrote my first novel — a Hardy Boys book!  By the time I was 13, I’d decided aliens were visiting my neighborhood.

But then I grew up, and put away childish things.  Except, no, I haven’t.  I’m still making believe.  And so are you.

It is part of the human condition to think outside what we can see.  We believe in the U.S. Constitution —  that’s a belief that we’ve made.  We believe in not breaking mirrors or walking under ladders — clearly, those superstitions are things we’ve made.

Every once in a while, I’m confronted by a terrifying thought:  Is God make believe?

You know, Gods have been part of the human story since prehistory.  Greeks and Romans had their Gods.  Hindus have their own, even more ancient, pantheon of Gods.  In modern society, we have our own Gods, too — we just call them Marvel superheroes!

But what about THE God?  The one true God of Israel?  Is God just something of our own making?  The product of millennia of collective imagination?  I could see it happening that way, you know.  Humans look to the skies to explain why rain comes, or why people die, or why good things happen to some people but not others.  A little making believe, and we’ve concocted this God idea to give us some much needed answers.

Is that it?  Is Christianity nothing more than made up?  Is Jesus a figment of our imagination, ranking slightly above Santa Claus?  Is the Holy Spirit nothing more than another spooky ghost story?

No, no, and no. Making believe is not just some childish distraction; it is essential to faith.  Without imagination we can never embrace a Creator beyond all comprehension.  Without creativity we can never take up what it means to live in the Imago Dei (the image of God).  Without the ability to color outside the lines and step into the mystery of the Unknown-Yet-Fully Known, God could never mean more to us than some conjectures in an ancient book.

Robots and aliens may have honed my powers of imagination, but all in the service of expanding my capacity for faith.  Isn’t that what making believe is all about? The math is easy:  Making belief = making room for faith.

Because of making believe, we can be faithier.

Make yourself believe in a world governed by radical love.  Make yourself believe in a messiah who would give up everything to reveal that love to us.  Make yourself believe in a spirit that inspires rather than scares us.

Make believe.  I heartily recommend it.  Seek more of the God yet to be fully revealed, and you’ll meet someone who

is so much more than your imaginary friend.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Listening To October

Today, one of my favorite songs.  Perfect for this week.

Press Play, and listen, with a few of my suggestions below.

  • Much of this song is instrumental.  The pictures above don’t really matter, but the music does.
  • As you listen, take a few deep breaths, and picture your concerns, your possessions, your obstacles as if they were leaves, falling down from a tree.
  •  Here are the lyrics Bono sings:
    • October

      And the trees are stripped bare

      Of all they wear

      What do I care?

      October

      And kingdoms rise

      And kingdoms fall

      But you go on and on

  • As the song concludes, remind yourself what (who) is most important and eternal in your life, and rededicate yourself to God through prayer.
  • Now go and have a glorious October.

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Wow.  I really needed that today.

U2?

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

Going Freestyle

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So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Exodus 15:24

Let me tell you. Olive Garden will refill your iced tea quicker than you can drink it.  Carlos O’Kelly’s has gigantic 32oz tumblers that they’re more than happy to fill with Diet Mountain Dew.  A Route 44 Arnold Palmer from Sonic never fails to hit the spot.

Good stuff, one and all, but these can’t compare to Freestyle.  It’s been around for about a decade, I’d guess, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen it.

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It is, as I like to call it, an amusement park for thirsty people.   And I am a thirsty person.

Freestyle boasts 100+ drink options, and I’ve likely tried them all. The possibilities are only limited by the room my internal organs can set aside for liquid.  Let’s see…

I’ll start with something fruity and exotic, maybe Dasani sparkling cherry&Minute Maid lemonade&Fuze unsweet tea.  Ahhh.  Then something a little more traditional:  Coke Zero&Barq’s crème soda.  Nice. And then, something in the flavored ginger ale oeuvre.  Freestyle is a marvel of the modern world.

I should mention, however, that there is no Living Water button on the Freestyle.  So if you’re looking to meet a spiritual thirst, you may be out of luck.

Where today can somebody get their hands on Living Water?  The Hebrews complained about it enough so Moses gushed some out of a rock.  Jesus offered some to the woman at the well.  And whoever wrote the 23rd Psalm sounds like they got good and quenched.

What about us?  It’s funny, but when I think about Living Water, a spiritual experience of the Holy Spirit, Freestyle seems just too….Freestyle to me.  Too much flexibility, and sugar and aspartame and caffeine and weird stuff I can’t pronounce.

When I think about whetting my whistle with Living Water, interesting places spring up in my mind:  1)  Drinking from a Garden Hose, as a kid.  2) That 1-in-a-thousand drinking fountain with the perfect combination of temperature, pressure, and arc.  3) Cool water from a mountain stream, drunk right from my cupped hands. None of those places were labeled “Living Water”…but I just knew.

What about you?  Where have you found Living Water?  I suppose it doesn’t have to be water, we’re really talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but my thirstiness ties the two notions together for me much like the scriptures do.  So where you do you drink of the Spirit?

I realize that what my life needs is to be Structured, more than Freestyled.  That doesn’t mean I’ll give up the occasional Lemonade&Raspberry PowerAde&Mello Yellow concoction.  It just means that, deep down, I’ll pay attention to my thirst for the singular, elemental, spiritual guidance of God most of all.

It comes in just one flavor:

Holy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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You suck.

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Anyone who eats blood must be cut off from their people.’”  Leviticus 7:27

For the past several weeks Jan and I have been watching the 90s/00s cult favorite show “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.”

It’s our third time.

The show may or may not be your cup of comedy/horror/drama, but we tend to rank it as some of the most clever writing ever on TV.  I’m not recruiting new fans, so don’t go snooping on my account.  I just wanted to explain why I’ve got vampires on the brain.  (on the neck?)

In the show, vampires are evil.  Mostly.  They are undead creatures that literally suck the life out of their victims.  I am convinced that you and I have some vampire in us.  I’ve never met someone who doesn’t.  In our most unhealthy moments we can leech other people’s energy and power. We’re needy like that.

I can recall a dating relationship from my high school and college days.  I could never figure out why we stayed together so long.  We always fought, we weren’t compatible.  We didn’t even much like each other.  She’d hurt me, and I’d hurt her. It wasn’t healthy, but for some reason we just kept feeding off each other. It was a bloody mess.

In my later life, there were times when I felt weak, helpless, and powerless.  Instead of asking for help or reaching out, I found myself manipulating people to my own ends,  unhealthily trying to steal their trust and energy.  I’ve scared a few people away that way.

Think about the energy flow between you and others.  Who gets fed from the relationship, and who leaves feeling a quart low? When a healthy balance of give and take doesn’t exist, who is feeding on you, or who do you find yourself stealing life from?

In Leviticus, we learn about ancient Israel’s system of sacrifice, in this case, a pigeon:

 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. –Leviticus 1:15

This was how people dealt with their sins and deficiencies, by splashing the blood of an animal against the altar, and barbecuing the meat as an offering to God.  All the way up through the time of Jesus, this was the practice.  We look at this as an archaic and perhaps misguided practice, but instead of stealing an animal’s blood and energy, today we tend to steal each others.

Do you think this pleases God?  Not at all.  No more than killing animals as an empty sacrifice did.  Blood, more than anything, must be associated with life.  God given, precious life.  To misuse another’s life is to deny God’s purpose and power.

The next time you feel that unholy thirst to take what isn’t yours, look at the cross.  It repels vampires, after all.  And as for blood?

Jesus is offering his for free.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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130 devotions, complete with study questions! Perfect for individual reflection or group discussion. Get yours on Amazon! CLICK HERE

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Bible, Volume 3?

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So, I really liked parts 1 and 2 (The Old and New Testaments), but do you think it’s time to for another installment?  Should we reopen the canon?

The canon is the collection of writings that have come to be known as The Bible. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago we assembled it carefully and declared it sufficient. But then again, that was before cloning. Maybe we could use some instruction on that.

It was before technology of any sort, really. It was before talk of global warming, or gay marriage, or reality television. Should we commission a supplemental volume to clarify what Jesus wants us to do about these things?

Who would decide what goes in to a Bible Part III? Would scholars? Pastors? You or me?Would we have a 1-800 call in voting system? I wonder. Would we come to blows over what constitutes The Word of God? Probably.

Come to think of it, we already do that with the Bible we have. Okay then. No Bible Part 3.  No point in adding to the “canon fodder”. And it’s a tenet of Christianity that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation. That’s comforting, but here’s a thought: If God had intended the Bible to be the last word on everything — why have libraries?

Sure, the Bible may be the most important book on the shelf, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the whole library around you, right? No, I think God inspires people even today, in a variety of ways.  The written word, for example, has the power to enlighten and instruct us in supplemental ways even beyond the life-giving pages of The Bible.

Someone, right now, may be writing words on a page that will one day convey a life-changing insight, one that may cause you or I to revise even the most die-hard opinions we’ve had about how we read The Bible.  I’m going to stay open to that possibility, because although God may not change, our understanding of God continues to unfold and expand.

I firmly believe that The Good Book points me to a relationship with God, through Christ. It shows me what salvation means. It welcomes me into a life of Kingdom-living. It is the foundation by which I try to live my life.

But just the same…

When it comes to something like cloning, or global warming, or gay marriage…

I can’t help but think that God

is still speaking volumes.

Mitch

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originally posted in 2014

MY NEW BOOK! A collection of my favorite devotions from over the years, complete with study questions. Perfect for individual reflection or group discussion. Get yours on Amazon! CLICK HERE

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barefoot.: devotions & discussions by Rev. Mitch Todd
by Rev. Mitch Todd (Author)