The coronavirus pandemic has exacted a grim toll on the world in general, and on the United States specifically. Over 250,000 have died from this virus during this year in our country. Businesses have struggled; some have closed their doors, perhaps never to open again. Millions unexpectedly have found themselves unemployed or underemployed, while others found their jobs suddenly described as essential, and as a consequence, worked harder in a more highly stress charged environment than before. Doctors and nurses literally have risked their lives trying to save others. This crisis has been compounded by the subtraction of some normal means of coping and encouraging one another. Schools have met virtually; churches have done the same. Funeral assemblies have been restricted to immediate families in many places, removing the comforting care of a community of friends and extended family.
I love meeting together with fellow Christians to sing praises to God, to share communion, to pray, to hear the word of God read and discussed. My monthly activities included preachers meetings and American Legion activities. These have morphed into Zoom or YouTube experiences. Hugs and handshakes have disappeared. Both my surviving adult children live more than four hours away and extended family members live even farther away. Modified coping experiences were required.
First, my wife and I have sung together at home more. She and I have watched more documentaries and Hallmark movies. Zoom meetings for me and Zoom graduate school classes for her have provided some give and take with the outside world. I put my job search on hold until she graduates in May. I've learned how to bake communion bread. We have worn masks when out in public in crowds. We have practiced social distancing. We have worshiped online, which is sadly not sufficient, but still somewhat helpful.
Second, I blew past my goal of reading sixty books this year. I've read a mixture of scholarly theology and history tomes, best selling and classic novels, poetry, books on sports, homiletics, and political science, and all the big books of the Outlander series. I have reviewed some of these books on this site. I've also finished reading the New International Version 2011 edition of the Bible for the first time and am reading it again (I have read through nine or so other translations over the past fifty years since I first read through the King James Version at age 12). I've read books on civil rights and racism. I've read biographies. Some books have encouraged me. Others have depressed me. Most have made me think and evaluate others' perspectives on life.
Third, I've served an American Legion post as its chaplain remotely, praying on Zoom and making telephone calls to members. I spoke about lessons learned from a book I had reading, Preaching in the Shadow of Hitler, to a group of Kansas City preachers in November.
Fourth, I have continued to write, although it has been a struggle at times. Writing my blog on prayer (https://callforfireseminar.wordpress.com) have deepened my faith and understanding of prayer. Expanding the scope of this blog has given me the opportunity to explore more means of encouraging one another.
Fifth, and most consistently, perhaps most unexpectedly, I have exercised. Pandemic related regulations in my area have allowed exercise outdoors with precaution and I have taken advantage of that permission. I expanded from just walking several times a week to walking, running, and bicycling (with elliptical on bad weather days) during the pandemic. I had not run for more than three years (despite doing so regularly for the previous twenty-four). Prayer remained constant.
How has your religious practice changed during 2020? How has that effected the depth of your faith? Has your mental or emotional health been challenged this year? What difficulties have you confronted in maintaining ties with family and friends? How has your fitness regimen changed during this time of quarantines, isolation, and restricted assembly? Have you adapted your routines because of the crisis or have you ignored warnings and pressed on with your usual activities? What has given you great joy during a year that has witnessed a varied of unusual happenings? What will you miss most after 2020?
The words of Isaiah 40 have continued to anchor me during this strange year. I still remember that "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31 NIV2011).