March 20

I arrived home after a quick trip to West Acres at closing time–so I could get a picture.  West Acres felt like one of those movies where Zombies might appear any moment.  When I arrived home I was very glad I had a sharp hunting knife.  (Wow-hold on; this really isn’t as weird as it sounds).  I arrived home and heard a faint hum that wasn’t stopping.  Sure enough, the sump pump was running, but unable to pump through a frozen hose.  Hence, I was thankful for a really sharp knife to cut the ice-filled hose quickly–though not so quickly, I did get a full body, outdoor, in 40 mph winds, cold shower.  As miserable as that may sound, for a while life was back to normal.  I had a project with a beginning, a solution and an ability to fix, after a quick trip to Tractor Supply for hose and clamps.
     For a little while life was normal again.  It took my mind off questions that were weighing on me.  1) Those on ventilators with hospital visiting restrictions, are they suffering without family being allowed to visit; 2) those four senators (republican and democrat) who sold stocks as soon as they had the intelligence report on Covid-19 virus three weeks ago, how do they live with that choice? 3) The US Senator, a former accountant, that did the math of “well 97% will live?  We don’t need extraordinary measures,” wasn’t he listening when the physicians said, “without social distancing 50% of the population will be infected within 8 weeks?”  In the FM area alone that would be an extra 3,000 deaths in 8 weeks; many days without Covid-19 our local hospitals and emergency rooms are near capacity.  4) Who came up with the idea to suggest medical personnel could use handkerchiefs and scarves to protect themselves?  Did all of that entire group skip 9th grade biology?  5) How will my parents fare in all of this? how will church members fare? 6) how will Grace church pay bills without regular Sunday offerings? 7) What happens when the Spring Breakers come home to closed colleges and move in with their older parents?
     I don’t know what questions are running through your mind in this time of social distancing.  I do know the questions are not normal, everyday questions.  I do know we need emotional and spiritual breaks from those heavy questions.  While I don’t wish a frozen sump-pump hose on anyone, I do wish normal life moments for each of you.  I encourage you to create normal-life moments.  In talking with one of our members over the phone, he indicated shared a normal life practice that was encouraging him during social distancing.  In a phone conversation, Bill Krogen told me how chapter five of “Reckless Love:  Jesus’ Call to Love Our Neighbor” was speaking to him.  Today Lydia Circle is working on creating a volunteer phone callers team to connect with the home-bound.  The great Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is choosing to play beautiful, soothing music that people can access online for a sense of calm and spiritual renewal.  I am still returning to the Bible I set out at the beginning of Lent–open to I Corinthians 13:4-8.  “Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful, arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way, etc.”  Great words especially in times when we need to treat those we love with an extra measure of patience and care.
     In these far from normal times, ask God to keep bringing you back to those things that restore your soul and mind.  Ask God to show you how you might help someone else find a sense of “normal” and “peace” today.  
Blessings and Health,
Pastor Roger

March 13

I am torn.  Sunday at Grace do we put locks on our TP dispensers or do we advertise, “A free roll for every attender.”  ☺ Truth is, since one of these packs is already spoken for, I probably don’t have enough rolls for every attender.  Plus, news reports are that yesterday Dilworth, Walmart was out, Costco was out and Moorhead, Target was out and Dilworth, CVS was almost out.  This is an odd way to start a weekly devotion.  But, this week those in attendance at Grace will meet the Woman Jesus met at the well.  She came to the well for a necessity–water.  Jesus offered her what she did not know she needed, “Living Water”–that is hope, forgiveness and freedom from her soul ever thirsting again.  (See John 4:5-30).  
     I’ve a hunch the TP shortage is fueled by more than a need for toilet paper.  I suspect human beings have a longing to feel safe, prepared, and able to do something to provide for ourselves.  I also believe Jesus was telling the woman at the well she needed something she could not provide or store up for herself.  We all do.  We need a “higher power” to do for us what we can not do for ourselves.  Courage in the face of adversity, calm in the presence of the storm, strength for the journey, at some point in life we all run out of the emotional wherewithal we attempt to muster up for ourselves.  Living water or the peace that passes understanding comes only from God.  During these anxious times I invite us to take a moment a few times a day to whisper a simple prayer:  “Jesus, provide for me what I can not provide for myself–the assurance that you are with us always,” is one options.  Another is, “God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Amen
     A quick word about Covid-19 Corona Virus and Grace UMC.  Some basic behaviors for us to follow are:
            1)  frequent hand-washing with soap. 
            2)  stay home if experiencing cough, fever, chills, weakness or exposed to person with such symptoms,
            3)  refrain from handshakes for now, 
            4)  cover mouth with inner elbow when coughing or sneezing,
            5)  avoid groups over 250,
            6)  use extra caution if over 60 years of age or if you have a health impairment,
            7)  please understand unfolding circumstances we necessitate alternative communion without bread or juice,
            8)  before visiting friends in larger facilities call ahead to see if there are visitor restrictions, 
            9)  be patient with measures that may seem extreme; most of us have loved ones whose age
                    and/or current health challenges place them in the highest mortality segment of people.  
                    Though US death rates are not high at present, each person who does die was loved by someone,
           10)  since Covid-19 tests are not readily available the situation is more complex; 
                   Pray for widespread availability soon.
Blessings and Love in Jesus’ Name, 
Pastor Roger