The Coronavirus…Is it Real?

“I see it, I see it,” said Hazel, pointing to my small paisley decorated retractable tape measure.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“The virus. I see the virus!”

For over a year now our lives have been rerouted and turned upside down because of “the virus”. Hazel has often referred to “the sickness”. Hazel is four and, despite being her grandma, I declare she is nigh a genius. 🙂 Her mind is continually picking up things said, things seen, things smelled, and integrating them quickly into her vast repertoire of knowledge, then easily figuring out a way to express those new discoveries. So, like a true nurse educator and science lover, I said,

“Oh, nobody can see the virus except with a very powerful microscope. But Hazel, here… (I pulled up the image on my phone), this is the coronavirus. See, they made a picture of what it looks like under a microscope.”

PHIL.cdc.gov

Even Julian, my curious two year old grandson, came near to see it too. They both studied it.

Hazel paused for a while…..

“But, is it real?” she asked.

“Well, this is a picture of it, but this is not the actual virus here in my hands.” I said.

“What?” answered Hazel.

“Well–like when I have a picture of you–see?” I showed her a picture of herself on my phone. “That is a picture of you. You are real, but that is not you. You are real, but that is just a picture of you.”

At this point I was even getting confused. We started taking pictures of things with the iPhone and then showing the real thing next to the picture of the real thing, but she kept saying,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

This was the first time I had encountered Hazel being stumped and it surprised me.

But it got me thinking. Thinking about this world she’s raised in. Watching TV, animation and news come into the living room back to back. Every Christmas and Easter we walk the tightrope of whether Santa or the Easter Bunny are real. Then there’s God and Jesus. We read Bible stories and then Paw Patrol stories, Anatomy books and books of fairies, then of angels. We go to church and say grace at meals and even whisper prayers in the air from time to time:

“Is there really a Chase and Rubble? Is that really what my body looks like inside? Are angels real? Are fairies? Is God really real? Is Jesus God?

What is real?

And, how do you explain that to a four year old. And how do we even know that ourselves?

Because of art and books and movies and TV, and video games, anyone’s imagination can become visible. So, anything and everything seems real when brought to the vision and hearing–especially to that of a child. Is this touching on why Jesus said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will no receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Children are sponges and readily receive the reality of the kingdom of God. Even great thinkers like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton entered kingdom realities through the portals/wardrobes of childhood’s believing. To my logical mind, this seems reckless. Hazel has imaginary friends and talks to them. Who knows, but that to her, our prayers seem like talking to imaginary friends. We have “pictures” of Jesus, but we explain that’s not really a photograph or even painting of the real Jesus–nor is the picture the actual Jesus himself. And then there comes the explaining that not all people even believe that God is real. And not all people believe Jesus is God. He wants us to come to him in faith. Our belief in him is what takes us to the doorknob to open the door and “see him”.

But this is not just a God conundrum. There are some who do not believe there is a coronavirus and they live as though there isn’t. There are consequences to that action; but the virus doesn’t exist or not exist, infect or not infect, its substance and reality do not change, based on whether we believe strongly enough in it. It just is what it is.

Hazel and Julian in the time of “the virus”

The God of the Old Testament introduced himself as, “I Am Who I Am.”

The substance, the reality of God, does not rely on our belief, but our faith in him opens or shuts the door to our friendship with him. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do the crowds say I am?” Then Jesus asks the REAL question: “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?”

Jesus introduced himself as I Am:

“I am the bread of life.”

“I am the light of the world.”

“I am the door.”

“I am the good shepherd.”

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” he asked.

Do you believe this? Is God real? … even if we don’t have a microscopic close up photo of him? Are you living like God is real? Today Jesus asks each one of us what he asked his disciple:

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Scriptures referenced above include Exodus 3:14, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18, Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, John 6:35, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 11:25, 26, John 14:6, John 15:5

Advent

Photo of our Jessamine farm front yard on the first snow of 2020

Hule and I have decided to do more this year for Advent. That’s new for me. Lent had been new for me the last few years: not the concept of Lent—just the idea that it’s more than the horrific prospect of no chocolate for 40 days! In a similar way, the concept of Advent is not new to me, it has just mostly been a time for slick purple and pink candles in crunchy Styrofoam wreaths, opening little calendar doors each day, a countdown of shopping days ‘till presents, cookie baking and tree decorating. So, being a virtual “nubie” at Advent and an information junkie—I went to the stacks. (Thank you Richland County Public Library.)

I checked out about a dozen books on Advent and have been reading the Advent Lessons and Carols Scriptures for this year: Genesis 2 & 3, Isaiah 7 & 53, Luke 1 & 2, Hebrews 1 and John 1. I’m finding that Advent is a time of waiting for the Messiah—the fruition of all of the Messianic promises. Wait, Prepare, Rejoice, Love are the 4 “watchwords”.[1] This week is about waiting. Ireton informed me that: “In Hebrew, the word for wait is also the word for hope.” (Ireton 2008, 22)

Hope has been one of my special words lately–one I’ve thought about a lot. Hope=Esperanza in Spanish; the name I would give myself if I could rename me. It seems there are two kinds of hope. One is a hope in people: fallible humans. This hope is less sure. This hope has the capability of disappointing. “I hope he will do what he said.” “I hope she will make it.” It implies some sort of trust, some kind of vulnerability, but the open-endedness of not being certain. Secondly there is hope in God. If we cannot hope in God, in whom can we hope? This is a more certain hope—a hope that does not disappoint. Here, once one believes God is true and good and all-powerful, then hope feels more like waiting, and our hope is in that we heard his promise correctly, discerned rightly, what he meant when he said in Isaiah (about 735 years before Christ came[2]): Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. In Isaiah 7:14b Immanuel means God with us. God doesn’t mind making us hope a long time—wait for many years. Just as we wait now for Christ’s second coming! And so, part of Advent is to put myself back in that time between 735 B.C. and C.

C=Christ is here!!! Christmas!! Wahoo!!!

I’ll have to admit that it takes a little pretending to wait—hope—for the Messiah when I know he has already come. It’s like Good Friday when we mourn for Christ’s death but we really know he will rise again. I guess it’s also like watching a really sad movie the 2nd time around: crying, hoping, fingernail biting is not the same when you know it will end well.

And so this week, I wait… I hope… for GOD WITH US!!!


[1]Ireton, Kimberlee Conway. The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
[2] Thank you ESV Study Bible

The writing above is from a 2011 post on a previous blog that I wrote when I was newly worshipping with the liturgical calendar in “the Anglican way”…

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I was born into motherhood nearly 39 years ago. It is one of the highest privileges and deepest mysteries I’ve ever encountered. Birthing and Mothering allows women to participate in Sacrament—in unconditional Love, Creation, Christ-mas, Baptism, and Communion.

I’ve written a poem for all mothers and their children, for my daughters, granddaughter, and for my mother. It only scratches the surface of this unfathomable mystery. I share it with you here:

I am Mother

by Loretta Goddard

I lie down and surrender to love and risk.

Protection withdrawn, my womb opens to receive another.

My fertile bed prepared by God opens its lips to the seed.

The race is on—unpredictable and exciting—one possibility meets thousands and chooses one.

A match is made

A fire strikes

Burning and burrowing beneath the soil of blood and mystery.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

 

We test “waste” to know your presence. We listen and peer in with sound waves.

I lie down once again and look to screen and risk seeing you and falling madly,

deeply,

forever in love.

I carry you around in my purse and pouch and put you on my refrigerator and marvel at the blurry, fuzzy jelly bean sized person in me,

Who is you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

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I begin to pant and feel squeezing—tightness

Yes—pain

Intense—severe

I risk death with joy and moaning, for you.

You have kicked in me, punched my ribs, rolled like a bowling ball inside me.

How I have longed to see you and touch you and now it is immanent and I am scared.

As you emerge I am born.

I am mother.

I hold you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

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I give my days and nights to you.

I give my body once again—my rest and food, vitamins and drink all churn inside me until milk comes flowing through my chest to nourish you…sustain you.

My hours are yours, my body is given—scarred, stretched, engorged.

This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat.

You snort and grunt, draw near to suckle, your hands knead like a cat on a blanket, like a baker with his dough.

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I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. We lie still.

Selah

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Stay at Home Orders

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I slept late this morning.  Night before last I barely slept.  During this time of Covid-19 and “Stay at Home” orders all structure has been thrown out the window.

Actually what I have now is what I long for often–long periods of time alone to read and pray and journal…and drink coffee; less biddings to go and do, less social necessities, a monk-like/nun-like existence: Ora et Labora, Ora et Labora.  That is it mostly.

My evangelical Christian worldview brings guilt that I need to be out there spreading the word, helping people.  Indeed that is what Jesus and the disciples did.  They didn’t hole up and stay in caves praying–quarantining.  They didn’t even stay in one place like the desert mothers and fathers, or in a monastery or Christian commune, and let others come to them (except maybe some like John who was exiled to Patmos and Paul in prison).

But I am not Jesus nor His first century disciple.  The early church had a mix of calls for each person according to their gifts–according to what “body part” they were, according to their unique vocation.  And this pandemic time is a unique, likely, temporal time too.

My very good friend, Jan Kaneft, is the Archdeacon at Church of the Apostles in Columbia, SC.  She wrote a devotional during this time that really spoke to me.  I include it below:

SCRIPTURE: The LORD your God is in your midst, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
THOUGHT: Last week we ZOOMED with dear friends in North Carolina. Almost immediately, the conversation centered upon our grandchildren, a common occurrence with grandparents. Bill, our friend, laughingly described his new garden apprentice-his three-year-old grandson.
He loves to help me feed the birds. We end up with more seeds on the ground than in the feeder. It’s always messy. It would be easier and much quicker to do it myself, but I just love being with him.
He went on to say, Time spent with my grandson reminds me of what our relationship with Jesus is all about-He doesn’t need us; He wants us.
The prophet, Zephaniah, proclaims a similar message to the Israelites in Judah. God, the covenant keeper, initiates with His people a call back to relationship. He is faithful even when His children are making messes of their lives. He blesses with His presence because He delights in His people. Pure and simple, He just loves being with us.
Locked in the constraints of COVID-19, much of our activity has been curtailed. Has this restraint unveiled a fear inside that busyness has kept buried: does God really love me? Many of us believe that we are required to achieve something to prove to God and to the world that we are worth loving. In other words, what we do engages His love. The doing can become a lifeline to our significance, affirmation, security, acceptance—our value. It is difficult for us to believe that He just wants us. If this is your struggle, let the words of Zephaniah remind and encourage you today: God rejoices over you with gladness. God quiets you with His love. God exults over you with loud singing. Friends, He doesn’t need us; He wants us.

First, this includes one of my favorite Scriptures–Zechariah 3:17. This reminds me–We are/I am not socially distanced from God!  He’s in my midst.  He’s here.

And, as Jan reminded me, He loves me more than I love my grandchildren, Hazel and Julian, from whom we’ve been “socially distancing”.  And He wants to be with me more than Hule and I long to be with Hazel and Julian.  Wow!  That’s a lot.  Being around them, distancing 6 feet away and outside, and not getting to hold them was excruciating.  So I’m asking myself:

Do I distance myself from You, God?

Not going all the way to embrace You and sit on Your lap and be quieted by Your love?

Receive Your cheek kisses?

Hear Your ho-ho-ho; Your songs and shouts of joy and gladness over me?

I watched yesterday as Hule previewed a new video just sent of the grandkids.  Hule’s face was priceless–rejoicing over, smiling deep, deep face furrows of joy watching their every move.

God, if You indeed, rejoice over us–over me–in that way, it is an amazing privilege.  I want to acknowledge and soak it in.  I want to live seated in Your lap, in Your embrace, surrounded and covered with Your love and never let the wetness of Your kisses on my cheek evaporate.

Once again I’m reminded of another of my life Scriptures: Romans 8:38 & 39.

What can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

Not coronavirus

Not social distancing

Not job insecurity

Not economic catastrophe

Not sickness or even death

Nothing

This incomprehensible, unbelievable, ever-present love of God is the eternal foundation of life!

Covid-19 from the farm

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I began the morning while it was still dark–6:30ish a.m.

A quiet house

Heating blanket on

Furnace catching up from nighttime turn down to morning turn up

67 to 72 degrees

No coffee yet

Papers shuffled

Nest made

Bible at side…waiting

Candle lit

A week ahead

The new way…

Last week I was “off” from babysitting because it was my daughter’s spring break; but the whole world is shuttering now for the novel coronavirus–isolation, lockdown, shelter in place….  On Wilmore Anglican Church’s Sunday morning sermon Facebook feed, Hule echoed musings by Andy Crouch who was referencing Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist, asking:  Is this a blizzard? a winter? or an ice age? We went into this thinking–a blizzard–just a few weeks.  Now it’s apparent it will be at least a winter.  But with political stalemates and the tenacity of those numbers and climbing curve, and the falling stock market, we are all wondering if it’s ushering in a new metaphorical ice age.

Lord, You are in control and You are good!  Hule’s quote of “Granny Rene” is right:

“God is God.  God is good.  And God loves us!”  This is what we know.

But God, what are you up to?

I am reading the Old Testament book of Job.  What God was up to in Job was not apparent to Job’s children, his employees, his country, his wife, his friends–not even to Job; but from heaven’s perspective it was made clear.  In human eyes we might say, “That’s not fair!”  “I don’t get it!”  But God is God.  His ways don’t have to be explained or justified.  He is sovereign.  We are not equipped to push back the works of God, or meant to question them.  God allows Satan, with limits, to seemingly wreak havoc at times for His own purposes.  Jesus himself experienced that:

His corona–His crown–His thorny, blood-stained crown, because God loves us;

His isolation and His own body shut-up, quarantined–in a cave, a tomb,

While hell was harrowed.

And Job lost it all:  his livelihood; his house and farm; his children and his wealth.  When he faced the sudden calamity, the sudden blizzard, he said:

Naked came I from the womb

Naked shall I return.

The Lord it is who gives

and the Lord takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

And “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”  God is good.

Then entered winter.

Satan was given even more permission and Job’s body was ravaged.  Was it a novel virus that was unleashed on him?  His wife told him to “curse God and die.”  And Job said, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”  “And in all this Job did not sin with his lips.”  When we never acknowledged that it was the Lord who gave and it was the Lord who provided good all along–when we think it was our own goodness that brought it about—besides being extremely blind and arrogant–we don’t know what we don’t know.

How is it that we believe so often that we create the good but it is God who brings the bad?  And how is it that we believe it’s all about us?  That our purposes are at the center instead of God’s purposes?  Do we fault God for acting like God?  …for putting His purposes above our own?

The suddenness of Job’s losses brought on a stunning: a sitting together on the ground in silence together for 7 days before a word was uttered.  A 7 day silence.  7 days of ground-sitting together before a word was spoken.  Something gigantic is there–something absent from our culture; a language few of us speak!  A practice foreign to our list of possibilities: sitting together 7 days in utter silence.

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know that I

Be still and know that

Be still and know

Be still and

Be still

Be…

It’s that empty, wordless nothingness–

Silence

Stillness

No raging

No questioning

No figuring out

No philosophizing

No doctoring

No leading

No consulting

No data collecting

But sitting still with the circumstance together with a few friends in wordlessness–on the ground:

We are but dust and to dust we will return.

Naked came we–Naked shall we return–Blessed be the name of the Lord!

This is part of practicing Lent.

And what we always know is:

God is God.

God is good.

God loves us.