Until Further Notice – Connect

“In this age of omniconnectedness, words like ‘network,’ ‘community’ and even ‘friends’ no longer mean what they used to. Networks don’t exist on LinkedIn. A community is not something that happens on a blog or on Twitter. And a friend is more than someone whose online status you check.”

Simon Sinek

Social distancing is a term that has gained significant popularity as a result of the COVID-19 disturbance. The term is used to imply staying away from each other in order to prevent the spread of the virus in hopes of flattening the curve to avoid overtaxing our healthcare systems and hopefully minimizing the death toll.

I really think they should have used physical distancing instead of social distancing. Physical distancing implies physical separation. Social distancing implies social separation.

We were made for community (even if you are an introvert), and social separation points towards a breakdown of community.

We live in a time when social distancing is not completely necessary. While I long for a return to face-to-face interactions, I’m grateful I can attend my church on-line. My Rotary club continues to meet weekly thanks to the wonders of Zoom. And I continue to meet with business colleagues over the phone and other meeting software applications.

We still need to connect. We still need human interaction. We still need community.

Until further notice, connect with others!

Prayer: Help us be intentional when it comes to connecting with others. Thank you for making us for community.

Ponder & Discuss: How are you connecting with others while you’re maintaining your physical distance? (Please share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Be Active

“To me, if life boils down to one thing, it’s movement. To live is to keep moving.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Have you heard about the Corona 15?

The Corona 15 refers to the 15+ pounds people are expected to gain as a result of being isolated during the Corona Virus pandemic.

I can see how that might be possible. All the gyms are closed. Many parks are shut down, and people are left confused as to what to do. Instead of figuring out a way to be active, it’s easier to find that comfortable place on the couch watching Tiger King on Netflix.

Yesterday, I made the decision to take a long walk. My wife dropped me off about ten miles from our home, and I walked home.

Despite the need to physically distance ourselves, we can still be active.

“A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

Proverbs 13:4 (NIV)

Don’t be a sluggard. Don’t be lazy. Don’t settle for the Corona 15.

I encourage you to go for a walk, go for a run, or go for a bike ride. Find a way to be active.

Until further notice, be active!

Prayer: Don’t let me be lazy. Help me take action today.

Ponder & Discuss: How will you be active today? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Be Responsible

“I try to lead by example, being conscious of others and being responsible.”

Angelina Jolie

Some people think and say “You better look out for yourself, because nobody else will.”

Do you believe this?

One of the things that has greatly concerned me about our society throughout this whole COVID-19 crisis is the run on toilet paper. I know it sounds minor to some, but think about it for a minute. Many households in our communities and in our country are filled with far more rolls of toilet paper than they will use anytime soon while some people cannot find toilet paper for their homes.

Obviously, being responsible during COVID-19 if more than controlling your purchase of toilet paper. It means following the CDC guidelines (washing your hands, wearing a cloth mask in public, social distancing, etc.). It means checking in on your neighbors. It may mean ordering takeout from your favorite local restaurant. The toilet paper thing just got under my skin.

The hoarding, the all-out self-focus, and the failure to think of others has me concerned. Some people may disagree with me, but I believe capitalism can be a good thing when it comes from a position of responsibility; however, the hoarding, self-focus possibility that comes with capitalism is not a good thing especially if it keeps necessities out of the hands of those who can’t get to the grocery store for one reason or the other.

When I think about trying to be responsible, I think about words I often pray, “Lord, help me represent You well in my home, in my career, and in my community. Help me be a good steward of the resources You have given to me.” We have a responsibility to look after others – not just ourselves.

This is a crucial time for our generation. Will people look at this period of our history as a time when people took responsibility and made the world a better place? Or will people look at this period of our history as the end of “love your neighbor.”

It’s important for each of us to think about what it means to be responsible – especially in times of crisis. Is it possible to take care of others while taking care of ourselves?

Until further notice, be responsible.

Prayer: Help me be responsible. Help me represent You well in my home, in my career, and in my community. Help me be a good steward of the resources You have given to me.

Ponder & Discuss: What does responsibility mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”

James 2:8 (NI

Until Further Notice – Something Good Is Happening

“Hope is the most exciting thing there is in life.”

Mandy Moore

I wonder what it might have been like that first day after Jesus’ resurrection. I’d like to think there was a buzz in the air. People were hearing rumors about Jesus coming back to life after the brutal trial and crucifixion. People were probably whispering hoping that the news was correct. There was a sense that something new and exciting was happening.

Today is Easter Monday. For many of us, there is confusion about what to think. We are still feeling stuck in the isolation left in the wake of COVID-19, and yet there is this feeling that something good is about to happen.

God is still up to great things. If we open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts, we will see the new things He is doing right in front of us.

As you head into this new day and this new week, I encourage you to look for the good things happening.

Until further notice, something good is happening!

Prayer: Open my eyes to the good things going on around me.

Ponder & Discuss: What is one good thing going on right now? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Take Time to Celebrate

“Lord knows, every day is not a success, every year is not a success. You have to celebrate the good.”

Reese Witherspoon

Today is Easter Sunday. Typically this day would be marked by going to church and gathering with family and friends. It is a day for celebration.

This year, Easter Sunday will be different. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we can’t go to our church buildings, and we must refrain from larger gatherings with family and friends. I think we are all a little confused about what it might look like to celebrate Easter this year.

Our family will be attending one of our church’s on-line services this morning. We decided to dress up as if we were going to our church on Easter morning. We will spend time cooking and eating a delicious Easter meal. And we will more than likely connect with our extended family thanks to the wonderful technology of high-speed internet, video cameras, and Zoom software. We will find news ways to celebrate this year, and I’m guessing it will be an Easter we will long remember.

In the middle of crisis, it’s important to find reasons to celebrate. There is still good going on around us. While the pain and hardship of this current pandemic is real, there is reason to celebrate.

Today, I celebrate a risen Savior. I celebrate time with family. I celebrate God’s beautiful creation. I celebrate the healthcare workers in our communities. I celebrate friendship. I celebrate you.

Until further notice, take time to celebrate!

Prayer: Remind us of Your goodness. Teach us to be thankful and to celebrate. Thank you for Easter.

Ponder & Discuss: What can you celebrate today? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Keep Going

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Winston Churchill

When I came home from work last night, I honestly felt warn out and depleted of energy and life. I would chalk this feeling up to the reality that my work week had been extremely challenging. I think many resonate with the feeling that the past several weeks of the COVID-19 crisis seem more like a few years.

I’ve run three full-length marathons in my life. 26.2 miles seems so easy when you are driving your car, but this distance can be grueling when you are on foot. I remember wanting to give up in the middle of each of those marathons. During the first marathon in Philadelphia, I wanted to give up around mile marker 21 when my right quadriceps muscle cramped up leaving me in quite a bit of pain. During the second marathon in Baltimore, I wanted to give up around mile marker 14 when my IT band decided it didn’t enjoy running very much leaving me to hobble along for 12 more miles. During the third marathon in New York City, I remember simply wanting the whole thing to be over despite running on healthy legs.

In each marathon, I kept going. It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always pretty. But it was worth it. I remember crossing the finish line in each of the three marathons. The feelings were all a bit different, but there was a sense of accomplishment knowing I had persevered in spite of the pain and fatigue.

We are all navigating a time in which we’d like to give up. But now is the time to keep going.

The apostle James reminds us (in James 1) that trials eventually lead us to maturity. When we face times of crisis, we can give up or we can press on knowing we will grow through the experience.

Until further notice, don’t give up. Keep going!

Prayer: In the midst of adversity, give us the courage and the strength to persist. Remind us of the prize that waits for us at the finish line.

Ponder & Discuss: How are you handling your crisis? What helps you to keep going? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:4 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Be Kind

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain

Crisis brings out the best and worst of humanity.

The other day I had someone pay for my McDonald’s Shamrock Shake in the drive thru line. This was a big deal to me. First of all, I only go to McDonald’s for one reason, and one reason only – to get a Shamrock Shake during the month of March. Secondly, it was a totally, unexpected gift of kindness from a complete stranger. I don’t know who paid for it, but it made my day.

I’ve heard a few stories of rude and unkind patrons in grocery stores who either hoard toilet paper or completely lose it on someone who violated their personal social distance space.

As a human race, we can do better.

“Be kind to you web-footed friend, for a duck could be somebody’s mother….”

Kindness was meant to be given as a gift to those around us.

As people face the unknown of COVID-19, now is the time to be kind. Your smile, your random act of kindness, your thoughtfulness has the power to transform someone’s day – and perhaps even someone’s life.

What are you waiting for? Until further notice, be kind!

Prayer: Help me be kind. Help me think of others before I think of myself.

Ponder & Discuss: How has kindness impacted your life? How can you be kind in the midst of crisis? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

Job 6:14 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Remain Calm

“Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.”

Simon Sinek

Yesterday afternoon, I received some news regarding my job and the COVID-19 crisis. I’m not the only one who is getting unsettling news. I’ve heard stories of friends being laid off, businesses being shut down, and people being separated from their loved ones. My news could be a whole lot worse, but it still caused some anxiety in my life.

In the middle of a crisis, it can be extremely challenging to remain calm. For many of us, our natural inclination is to lose our minds and to think the absolute worst.

It’s times like this we must remember to remain calm.

As I shared yesterday, God is still in control. He’s got this. This doesn’t mean everything will work out with a nice bow on it. In fact, I don’t believe there is any place where we are guaranteed utopia while we live this life.

Nevertheless, we can be confident that God will fight for us. Remaining calm in the midst of crisis is possible when we give our problems and our worries to God.

If you are struggling to stay calm these days, I encourage you to practice these four basis steps:

  1. Breathe.
  2. Surround yourself with calming influences (ie. calm music, nature, calm people, etc.).
  3. Practice gratitude – there are reasons to be thankful in the middle of the storm.
  4. Go to God.

Until further notice, remain calm.

Prayer: In the middle of the chaos, give us peace. Help us remain calm.

Ponder & Discuss: How are you responding the crisis in your life? How would your life be different if you remained calm? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“You only need to remain calm; the Lord will fight for you.”

Exodus 14:14 (NCV)

Until Further Notice – God Is With Us

“I’ve said all along that God is in control.”

Tony Dungy

What comes to mind when I say the word ‘Emmanuel’?

For most people they think of Christmas and the little baby Jesus born in a stable. “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel….”

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

I had the blessing of talking with a good friend last night. Like me, he is a leader at his job. The past ten days have not been fun for him at all. He has faced the difficulty of furloughing a quarter of his team, and he is also faced with a significant pay cut while his company tries to survive the storms caused by COVID-19.

After a long conversation, my friend said something profoundly simple but often overlooked. He said “It has been comforting and reassuring knowing that God is with us – even in the midst of crisis. I feel bad for those who don’t know this truth.”

It’s a truth we often overlook. After Christmas, we forget Emmanuel. Emmanuel means ‘God with us.” And Emmanuel is not just for Christmas. Emmanuel, God with us, is there for us all year long.

Have you lost hope? Have you faced discouragement? Look to the One who is in control – who is our fortress in times of trouble. Until further notice, look to Emmanuel.

Prayer: When the world seems bleak and hopeless, look to the one who is with us. Ask for a reminder of this truth today.

Ponder & Discuss: How have you experienced God’s presence recently? How as Emmanuel made a difference in your life? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

The Lord Almighty is with us.

Psalm 46:7 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Pray For Our Leaders

Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God.

Henri Nouwen

Nearly three years ago, I took over leadership of my department. With over 80 team members, leading can easily become exhausting and at times overwhelming. I am blessed to have a fantastic department with a group of key leaders under me and around me.

Nevertheless, leadership can be lonely.

Leaders are often left with big decisions. They are looked upon for wisdom and guidance when everything else seems to be in crisis.

As we navigate COVID-19, there will be many people second guessing leadership. He should have acted more quickly. She shouldn’t have treated her team so poorly. They should have put more rules in place. People will debate leadership decisions for years to come.

Regardless of your position on your leadership at work, at church, in your communities, or in your country, you have a choice to make. While there is a time to speak up and take a stand, there is also a time to pray. Chose prayer. Our leaders need prayer. They need prayer for wisdom, for strength, for courage, for humility, for grace, and for help.

Until further notice, I encourage you to pray for your leaders. They need it now more than ever!

Prayer: In times of turmoil, guide and direct those in leadership. Give them just what they need to lead with wisdom, with confidence, with humility, and with strength.

Ponder & Discuss: Have you taken time to pray for your leaders? What might praying for your leaders make possible? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)