Sometimes this COVID-19 feels like we’re walking through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death,” especially when we see the staggering statistics from Italy and realize how quickly the virus is spreading in places like New York City.
A friend told me today he feels we’re living in a period akin to the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl era. Songs are being composed about it. There are thoughtful essays being written. Scientists are creating impressive graphs showing the statistics of known contagions to death tolls and analyzing the relationships to age and climate. Novels will be written that will be classics in the decades to come.
How do we live through this “Valley of the Shadow of Death” without fear?
There are the usual responses: pray, sequester and meditate, have faith, bury your head…
But, while I do believe in the power of our Maker, and I pray daily for the Source of all comfort to bring us healing and peace, there are a few other ways I keep myself FROM feeling the gloom that seems to be enveloping so many. You probably have a list of ways, too. I’d love to have you share yours with me.
Here are my four favorite remedies for avoiding the paralysis of fear:
Music – sing, play, or listen to uplifting songs on YouTube or XM Radio. I love seeing those folks on their balconies in Italy making joyful music together, don’t you? I just listened to Bono and Will.i.am singing a song they wrote for/to the Italians. Google it! Music soothes the soul and uplifts the spirit.
Write – as a blogger, you know how therapeutic it is to put words on paper, in a journal, on a card to a friend, or here on WordPress. Write about what keeps you positive and passionate.
Connect – on the internet or by phone, through a window or across a fence. I just installed a new app on my phone and iPad. It’s called ZOOM. Do you know it? The basic version is free. It’s like FaceTime, but it works on other platforms besides Apple products. My friends in California and Bob & I had a great conversation. It was like sitting across the table from our friends who are 1200 miles away from us. We miss them and it lifted our spirits to see and reconnect with them.
Walk – when the weather permits, go for a walk with your dog or a friend or both. I did that yesterday in our Lion’s Club Park. Yes, we practiced social distancing, but we could chat and laugh and encourage one another. It’s good for body and soul. And TazE loved it, too.
Do tell your dog he’s gotta walk, too!
Tell me, what ways do you avoid walking in the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” these days?
I wrote this post back in February of 2012 as a new blogger. I decided today would be a good day to revive and update it, because it is as pertinent today (maybe even more pertinent) as it was eight years ago!
Work at Loving!
Like you, I want to be more kind, more loving, more at peace. In giving, we receive. Kindness is reciprocal. Peace of mind is a gift to those who live in the fullness of LOVE. But, in a world full of hate and devisiveness, illnesses like depression and the current Corona Virus, we have to work at loving and finding peace!
Very few of us have the privilege of finding a spot like this one where we can sit quietly at the top of a peaceful place and just breathe the clear air slowly.
Where can we find peace in the midst of our bustling real world?
Work to Find Time to Know Him
I schedule TIME each morning to be with the Holy Spirit. In my quiet meditation time that morning back in 2012, I stumbled upon 2Peter 1:2-7. The question that starts that scripture caught my heart. “Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace?”
I was reading the Living Bible, paraphrased – a large print copy that used to belong to my father-in-law. Gratefully, I inherited it when he passed on to his eternal home. This passage was underlined. Grandpa Beekman had double-underlined the next sentence, “Then learn to know Him better and better.”
Meditation and Study Time
My sanctuary time each morning is all aboutgetting to know Him better, and listening for His still small voice. As I study God’s Word, and get to know Him better, there are many benefits. The rest of this passage spells them out – and I easily connected the idea of “increased faith” with the reality of “increased love.” But there is a long pathway that leads to increased love (which equates to more of God’s kindness and peace). It takes plain old good, hard work!
2Peter 1:3 “For as you know Him better, He will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: He even shares His own glory and His own goodness with us!”
Study to Know His Goodness and His Promises
I have added the capitals to “His.” The Bible doesn’t capitalize it. For me, the word requires a capital case letter when the him/his is not just any old him or his, but the One HIM, our Lord and Savior, God. So, when I share in His glory and goodness, it is special indeed! The scripture doesn’t stop there, though.
2Peter 1, Verse 4- “And by that same mighty power, He has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings He promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us His own character.”
Wow! What a promise!! How can I attain such blessings? Some would say it is totally by His grace. I don’t have to DO anything. Just because I BELIEVE I am His “chosen,” I will receive all these blessings. Well, not according to 2Peter 1: 5-7. Read on!
Work at Increased Faith
“BUT, to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what He wants you to do.”
(That’s always a trick to discern what He wants me to do!)
With Patience, Put Aside Your Own Desires
“Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have His way with you.”
I am reminded of my oldest grandson, Mikey. He’s now 28, but when he was barely able to pull himself up by his mother’s apron strings and stand knee-high next to her, he would tug on that apron as she warmed his bottle in hot water on the stove. Sure he was starving to death, he would cry, “Paaaay-shuns! Paaaay-shuns!”
(Ah yes, we long for paaay-shuns even as we are barely able to verbalize a sentence!)
Walk the Path to Grow in the Capacity to Love
“This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply.”
Grow to love. Grow in faith. Work at it.
Take the path that has “exercise stops” along the way.
Exercise your goodness first – the goodness Christ has given you.
Then stop to exercise wisdom – the knowledge we gain as we study God’s Word and practice being more and more like Christ.
Next, exercise selflessness and self-control, the fruits that the Holy Spirit has planted in you.
Practice patience and gentleness.
Your next stop on the exercise trail is labeled “Gratitude.” It is there that you learn to be grateful for the gifts you have been given while you focus on the gifts in others.
Put On Your Jesus Glasses
When you put on your Jesus glasses, you see the goodness, compassion, and faithfulness of others as God sees them. When you put on your Jesus glasses and appreciate all that is unique and wonderful about others, you see them as God’s creations. You have exercised enough now to love them.
Love Takes Effort!
Love is a gift worth working for. Thank God, He has freely loved us long before we knew how to love Him back. But now we do! We are getting to know God better and better. Praise the Lord!
The Bottom Line
Yes, the bottom line is the key:
Love One Another.
What will you do today to demonstrate your love for others? Tell me about it!
An especially bright spot in the heart of downtown Faribault is the Second Street Garden, a pocket garden with positive messages like this one. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo August 2019.
BY NATURE, I AM a quiet observer. Not introverted. But a watcher, a listener, the person who mostly sits back, especially in a room filled with strong personalities.
But that doesn’t mean I embrace overpowering people, especially those who talk over and at others. That type of self-centered behavior bothers me, bothers being a tempered word choice. Lack of empathy, understanding and compassion hurt personal relationships, communities, countries. I see too many people driven by their goals, their agendas, their misinformed/uninformed assessments of others and of situations. Their “I’m right” and “I don’t care if I’m hurting you” perspectives.
How do you fix that on a personal level? The answer: We usually can’t. I’ve learned that unless someone is willing to engage in civil dialogue, it’s probably a waste of time to even have a discussion. I can only control how I react. And sometimes the best way to react is simply to walk away, to let it go, to extract myself from those who are toxic, who lack empathy and the ability to think beyond themselves.
The Minnesota Nice part of me screams, “That’s not very nice!” But the reality is that we all deserve respect. To be heard and understood and loved. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
My thought on this blog is that Audrey is so right! As a culture, we seem (in the USA) to be losing sight of common courtesy. We seem to be forgetting the power of mutual respect. We seem to be going down a rat hole… and it’s not pretty!
So, Audrey’s blog spoke to me. We DO have a choice. We do not have to travel down that ugly hole. We can walk away “from those who are toxic, who lack empathy and the ability to think beyond themselves.”
I posted “Walk with Me” a couple of days ago. It was a physical walk around our beautiful neighborhood here in Rancho Mirage, CA. Yesterday Bob & I walked around the beautiful polo grounds in the La Quinta/Indio area.
Today, I am walking again… but this time, it is around a desert path in Thousand Palms. I send funny little kisses to you… from Snapchat … with a tooth in the way. Oh my!
Thank you, Audrey, for your thoughtful blog. I am taking it to heart. If there are toxic people out there, intent on spreading hate, I am walking again…
… Not around the neighborhood or the lake or the desert, but walking way from hate and disrespect.
“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In some others’ eyes, my life is the epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have paled and become meaningless in the face of my death.
You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you. Material things lost can be found or replaced. But there is one thing that can never be found when it’s lost – Life. Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down.
Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others. As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down – you go down with it
Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness! Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food.
The One who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!
The six best doctors in the world aresunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.”
Thanks for reading this, my blogging friends. I found it to be sad, and yet very inspirational. Certainly worth reading and heeding. It’s not the six “doctors” I expected to hear about! The absence of faith or any mention of God hit me. I wonder if that void accounted for his sentence, “… aside from work, I have little joy.”
Steve wrote, “You are loved when you are born.” I pray that is true of everyone, but sadly, I fear it is not. I am painfully aware of the fact that some children are born to a parent who does not want him/her. Some are abused, neglected, or abandoned.
Steve wrote, “You will be loved when you die.” I wish that were true for everyone, but sadly, I fear it is not always the case, either. Some people die alone, feeling very unloved.
He said, “… in between, you have to manage.” Yes, we do! But how? What guides your “management”?
Which of his pieces of advice were most meaningful for you? What bits of wisdom would you add?