Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
During these times of social distancing, it is abundantly clear that this is a season to refrain from embracing, refrain from getting closer than 6 feet from another human in public and not shaking hands. In trying to limit exposure to an invisible enemy, I am not going out much except on a drive to see the world every day or two. I am staying away from what stores are still open but going to grocery stores occasionally to get supplies. In not going to my favorite restaurants which are closed, I am beginning to crave my favorite foods which I can’t make in the same way at home. On a typical day, when I crave a certain food, I would go and get it. But now, when cravings for my favorite foods at restaurants hit, I am only left with the food that I already have in my pantry. As Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes 3 there is a time for everything; in my case, it’s a time to crave.
One thing is clear: teachers across the world are embracing technology. As a teacher during these times of remote online learning, I have been consumed during our first week out of school with sharing resources such as ones at my school website, building a new website for my team, fielding many emails as the STREAM (Technology) teacher about how to login on Chromebooks from home and figuring out how online learning will look for our students. I know that educators are craving online materials which will engage our students in their time out of school. In my case, I love to learn and share educational websites but it can be all encompassing. In other words, as a teacher, it is tough to disconnect from technology and just be me again. I am now realizing that a marathon not a sprint mentality is in order which was a wise observation of my principal to our staff through a Zoom video conference call last week. I must take care of my health including my physical, mental and spiritual health.
When I see Facebook notifications wanting me to push the button to hear the latest news about the pandemic, I have begun to wait. It can be overwhelming to keep hearing the news so I have made adjustments as my week went on. Even though I crave news and don’t want to miss out on resources being shared by innovative educators on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, I am having to be intentional about hitting the Pause Button. I am giving myself the grace and permission to not be online constantly during a lunch break while working at home and all evening.
While listening to my pastor share his online message today, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit to see the days ahead as ones where I have to follow hard after God. I made a list today of how to follow after God knowing that it will be His Presence that leads the way, guides us into all truth, protects us, provides, guards us with His peace and comforts us as we process these troubling times. I need to embrace this time as a time to learn new skills as a teacher, to discover how to parent while home schooling my children, to manage time differently and to keep my mental health by filling my “need to know” with not only news and educational resources but also filling it with Jesus.
I have craved my favorite restaurant meals, news and educational resources, but was convicted today that I haven’t craved God’s Word. So many other distractions have tried to fill my longings this week. It has been way too easy to listen to everyone else this past week before reading God’s message to me in the Bible. I had begun to feel sad, wondering what will happen to our world. I know people are suffering. I know businesses are closed. I know our health care system is strained. It’s perfectly fine to have seen the realities of our world; what is not fine is that I didn’t choose to frame the past week with God’s Word in the way that I should have done.
I decided today to list ways that I can elevate God’s Word in my life this week which will help me focus on truth and not on chaos or the unknown. I am sharing it in hopes that it may also encourage you. My pastor phrased it as “Listening to Him (God) before listening to them.”
As I read God’s Word today, I found a wonderful passage in the Bible to give me focus for craving God’s Word:
1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT) “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”
Here’s my list to guide my hunger to follow hard after God:
- Read the Bible in the morning before I listen to news or check social media.
- Pray in the morning and be in a prayerful mindset throughout the day. Lift my praise and offer my requests for my family, friends and the world.
- Listen to Christian encouragement through my church’s Christian leaders: my church’s Sunday morning online service and Monday night online prayer meeting at https://www.centralnc.org/ AND music and encouragement from my church’s Pause Segments at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. at https://cf-templates-81xnquhwcq8k-us-west-2.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/032120PAUSE4update-sync.mp4
- Listen to the Bible commentary from my friend Denise Pass who has also devised a Bible Reading Plan with daily videos which I watch on FB: https://denisepass.com/bible-reading-plan/
- Write in my journal about my reflections on my Bible reading and how the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart.
- Pray for Government leaders, school leaders, teachers, students, sick friends, people who’ve lost jobs or income, people who are shut in and feel overwhelmed.
- Memorize a Scripture.
- Praise God by singing and playing worship songs on piano to focus my mind on truth.
- Be thankful and meditate on what is just, good, honest, of a good report while doing loads of dishes, chores and laundry. Philippians 4:8 (ESV) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ”
- Call family and friends to express my care for them and share a Scripture either in person, through a text or online on social media. Hebrews 4:12 ” For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
I encourage you to also make a list of what will work for you to help focus on life and truth. I pray that you will trust God as we learn to live and not be consumed by all of the overwhelming situations. I have prayed for others who are home with children and learning to navigate and respect boundaries as well as many other requests. God is faithful. Each morning, His mercies are new. Great is His faithfulness!