March 29

Last night in my dream world I had a full social life.  For some reason I’d been picked as a judge in a piano contest at a school; I had all the chairs and extra in my living room set up for a family movie night and all my family was scheduled to arrive along with a few friends; I planning a wedding with a couple whose parents were planning an extremely large reception; but accidentally messed up a food order and ended up with with a dozen cases of canned mushrooms at the church. Almost a lifetime ago now, Elizabeth Kubler Ross published a book–The Five Stages of Grief.  Since that time other researchers have noted that the stages aren’t like stair-steps and they can come in any order.  Plus, people can be in two or three stages at once and hop around through the multiple facets of grief.  Some have even suggested there are more than five stages.  Last night in my dream world, my mind was in denial.  I was plunging ahead with multiple large social events–except none of them ever quite materialized in the end.  In complete denial I’d plunge ahead with an event, only to have it canceled, and plunge ahead with another.

     During my daytime hours when I see frustrated or oblivious people trying to work around the shields or extended distance barriers meant to protect cashiers and other customers or hear people vent frustration over all the unnecessary inconvenience right now, I find myself saddened.  But, I also remind myself “denial” and “anger” two of the stages of grief.  It helps me get to a better, more patient place personally.  That is important for me right now as my role is to empower others to be their best selves for the sake of each other during a very difficult time.  I’ve noticed over the past couple weeks that’s meant creating video devotions and live-stream worship that says, 1) “Covid-19 is very real and extremely contagious, ” 2) “it is OK to be sad over empty churches and cancelled important events”; 3) “God has given us tools to live in a time like this such as Micah 6:8 (do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God); and I Corinthians 13:4-8 (Love is patient, love is kind…it isn’t irritable or rude).”
     I’ve also found myself encouraged hearing what creative ways others are leaning into their best selves.  One who wears a smart watch says when the heart rate begins to race, repeating the Apostles’ Creed brings it back down; another shared about diving deep into the Lenten Study book “Reckless Love: Jesus’ Call to Love our Neighbor”; another picked up the directory and simply started calling people to check in.  Lydia circle created a call list and began making calls.  Some are doing frequent video chats with family.  Another is sending cards of care.  This Sunday, I found myself responding with a note to each person who commented on livestream worship.  It soothed my soul.  Have you found your “something” that brings calm to your soul amidst the chaos?  I’d love to hear about the “something” that is working for you and share it with others in a future weekly devotion.  If you’re willing to share a practice that is blessing you and/or others during this time, simply send me an e-mail at graceunitedmethodistpastor@gmail.com
     Please know this, I am praying over our church directory each day for all of you…and miss seeing you.  I pray you will find ways to do more than cope.  I pray God might breathe a bit of new life into you even in the midst of the challenge.
QUICK NOTES:  Please keep in your prayers:
1) JoAnn Oelke.  Doctor’s have identified inoperable heart issues that will be addressed through medication and therapy.
2) Richard Wagner and Family – Margaret’s funeral service is postponed to July 18th.
3) Pray for Medium Risk and High Risk “essential workers” who interact with dozens to hundreds of people each day.
4) Pray for many who are unable to visit loved ones in hospitals, some who are unable to be with loved ones during times of death,
    some who can’t be in delivery rooms with Mom’s because of lack of masks.
5) Pray for those who’ve been laid off and are actively waiting to see what resources are available and how to access them.
ADDRESS UPDATES/CORRECTIONS:
 for Richard Wagner:  511 40th St. S #120, Fargo, ND  58103
 for Don and Pat Walter  3102 S. Univ. Dr. (Villa Maria) Fargo, ND  58103
LEADERSHIP TEAM:
I will be subscribing to a $9.95/month app called Blue Jeans to create a virtual room for us to meet in, do some work and planning together, and stay connected.  Our building and physical gatherings will be closed until at least May 10th.
 
THANKS FOR MAILING & DROPPING OFF OFFERINGS IN THE MAIL SLOT.
If you are out and about getting essentials, the church could use AA Alkaline batteries for our mics and hearing assistance devices.  We will gather in person to worship again!!!  Simply Slide a 4, 8 or 16 pack in the mail slot.  Double A Alkaline–Duracell and Energizer seem to last the best.
Blessings,
Pastor Roger