First off, let me say it is stinking cold up here in the Northland! As I write this, right now the air temperature is -13, and the wind chill (for those of you wanting to take a nice brisk walk in February) is -38 degrees. It’s possible that before tonight is over, we may reach -50 wind chill, when the wind picks up. It’s basically pouring cold from the Arctic Circle, where the temperature this morning is -49 (still temperature – not windchill). I am just saying that it’s cold, and won’t get above zero until late next weekend. These are the days when you go out into the garage, and open up the freezer so you can warm up.
So, Cheri had to go to the pharmacy yesterday to pick up a prescription. I drove her and dropped her off, and then went circling around the parking lot t keep the car warm. After about ten minutes, she came out from the grocery store, where the pharmacy is, and I could tell by her beautiful blue eyes that something was amiss. She got into the car and proceeded to tell me that when she went into the store, people were all looking at her strangely. She walked over to the pharmacy counter, and then happened to notice her reflection in the glass. She gasped, and immediately covered the lower half of her face.
She had forgotten to put on a face mask before she went into the store.
Through her gloves, she apologized to the pharmacist, completely mortified that she had simply forgotten it. They had some extra free ones at the counter, so Cheri put on the mask, and finished her stuff, and then walked out as quickly as she could. Now, this is a woman who wears a face mask for more than 10 hours/day in a clinic setting, and she has had both doses of vaccine, so she wasn’t trying to make a point, like a few other rude or boneheaded people who refuse to put on a mask, believing somehow that 450,000 Americans dead so far is just made up stats. She just forgot.
We’ve been doing this since mid-Spring. I can remember a few times in March and even April, when we went a few different places, and the people in the store would say if we didn’t want to wear a mask, it was ok, and they wouldn’t either – as though it would be the case that as long as we were polite about it, the CoVid would just stand down, and all would be well… One of the reasons I go so few places is that I utterly detest and hate wearing anything over my mouth, and even though they may say that you can breathe just fine with a mask on, it t’aint so, McGee…
You know as well as I do, that it has been rare over the last century that so much could change in the way we live and operate in our daily lives. Maybe the Great Depression, or World War 2, but for the majority of Americans alive today, those are historical eras, only to be read about in books. Imagine what will be written about us, having to wear masks to go buy a head of lettuce, or not gathering in large groups. We cashed in our Elton John concert tickets that we were supposed to go to last June. I don’t know when or if the tour will be rescheduled.
Certainly work has changed for most folks. Our son Adam works out of our basement, spending hours in conference calls, or in video conferencing, or writing emails. Before I retired, there was a sudden shift from traveling to churches and meetings, and I’ll bet I logged in way more that 250 hours in staring at a little screen, trying to do church business.
Speaking of church, some congregations are back meeting face to face, but most report only a small percentage of their membership is back. And how do you even begin to attract new persons, outside of announcing they can go online and “watch” church on the small screen. Sunday schools, mission trips, youth meetings, women’s and men’s Bible studies all have become “virtual” – which is defined as the opposite of what it means. I’ve said before that the word virtual is from the Latin, meaning, “force, or fact.” Instead of saying you “literally” did something, which actually means you either read or wrote, using the meaning of the words, you should say you “virtually” did something, which honestly means it is something in fact that you actually did. However, nowadays, we have flipped the meaning of virtual, and it has become “on screen,” or something that is only projected, and not real or face to face. It has become the code word for “get on your computer and log in, and we will ‘meet.’”
Family dynamics have suffered as much as anything else. From the two ends of the spectrum, you have on one end, different generations and parts of extended families who take this pandemic with a deadly serious understanding, and they haven’t seen each other for nearly 10 months, which included all the major holidays in a year. Where once it was a fun, exciting time to travel and see the relatives, now is only a dream of what may happen sometime in the future, or it carries a huge extra burden of just traveling. On the other end of everything, you have families that are simply not used to spending the enormous time together and the coordination of meals, cleaning, entertainment, and everything else becomes another huge burden. To “get on each other’s nerves” is a real true statement, and makes things very hard. In the middle of course, you have folks who no longer care. They “did” this pandemic thing for a while, but it’s no longer novel or fun or worth the effort, it seems, and so schools are back open, huge sporting events in towns are occurring, and tons of other potentially dangerous infectious things can occur. The latest statistic shows that the group which is responsible for the greatest spread of this killer disease are adults 20-49. Granted, that’s a 30 year spread, but isn’t it interesting that those folks in that demographic may be responsible for extending this odd and strange time in our world?
Lots of experts have been asked when this will all end, and we can get back to life as normal. Those answers are also interesting, because they range from “as soon as we can attain herd immunity,” which means we have an overwhelming percentage of people who have either gotten vaccinated, or have gotten the disease and lived through it with new antibodies – or have simply died from CoVid, and no longer are part of the active statistics. The other end? This is the new life. We may never be done with facemasks. We don’t know how long the vaccine is effective, or what other new variants and strains of the virus have or will emerge.
Wow – not a very cheerful column today – sorry about that. Sometimes, however, it’s important to take stock of where we are, and to reclaim the perseverance and will to keep moving through all of this. We do know and can trust that our future is not just a thing of happenstance, but instead is held in the hands of God, and if we end up walking through those dark valleys or uncertainty or on the edge of despair, when we lift up our eyes, and become more aware of what is around us, we find that as we walk, our hand is holding on to God’s hand, and our steps match the steps God takes with us, and that a dark valley is only a valley. On the other end, wherever that will be, the sun is shining, and new life will be ours.
This is what I believe, and I do so intentionally, as I walk through my own dark valley. I would hope and pray you would do the same today.
Word for the Day: abbreviature. Pronounced uh-BREE-vee-ah-chur. It sounds like words you know, like “abbreviate,” and you wouldn’t be wrong. It all comes from the Latin, abbrevio, or ad-brevio, which means either to shorten, or to “make brief of something.” Abbreviature is the process or the product of taking the original, and either shortening it, or expecting everyone to know the rest of it. Like, if I were to say, “Birds of a feather,” to describe someone or something, most everyone would know the rest, “flock together.” Basically, you are taking something, and making a Readers Digest version of it. Does it save time? Jury’s out on that one, but it does sound kind of cool and hip, doesn’t it?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.