If your family is anything like mine, I’m sure you have some family traditions that are a bit silly but that help make your family your own. Many might even be shared with other families. For instance growing up my family had a tradition on Christmas Eve many years that after we went to church, we would take a drive through a couple surrounding towns and look at people’s Christmas lights. As a kid that always felt like something unique to my family, although I’m sure that many other families had similar traditions.
One family tradition passed down from my household growing up to my kids now has to do with breakfast cereal. In general we do not eat a lot of cereal in our household. There are several factors that led to our lack of cereal eating. First of all, our older two kids get breakfast at school many mornings. Second of all, Kathleen bakes amazing bread, and we all like eggs, so often we have an egg on toast. Lastly, Kathleen is not that fond of cereal. We do have cereal though, and we basically limit our cereal choices to those that are not primarily sugar. That isn’t to say they do not have sugar in them (look up the ingredients list for cheerios - there is plenty of sugar). These cereals just have less sugar. On camping vacations; however, we let the kids choose any cereal they want. It is fun, short lived, and a treat.
Every year when we go down the cereal aisle and the the kids choose a box of their own, I am amazed at how many choices there are for cereal. Dozens of choices all with a different “mascots” on the box and “games” on the back of the box to show how Coco Puffs is so much different and better then Coco Krispys (spoiler alert Coco Krispys are way better!). We take this choice seriously in our household, and the kids often take a good deal of time trying to make just the right choice. Last year Daniel saw a new type of cereal he had never tried before. It was Sour Patch Kids cereal. If you are not familiar with them, Sour Patch Kids are a delicious sour candy that Daniel likes. Well after careful consideration, he choose that cereal. All it took was one spoonful; however, for Daniel to realize he had made a mistake. Spoiler alert: Sour Patch Kids cereal is way more disgusting than it sounds, and let’s be honest, it doesn’t sound good unless you are seven.
I share this story, because it reminds me of how many choices we seem to always have around us. We are often swamped by an endless barrage of really trivial choices. We have to choose which TV show to binge on Netflix, which scent of dish soap we want most, what color shirt we want to wear, and what country we want our coffee from on a particular day. Honestly all of these options mean basically nothing in the overall picture of our lives. They are some of the wonderful/paralyzing array of options our modern life throws at us.
The real potential problem with them though is that they can start to distract us from the really important decisions we do need to make. We start to feel either the day to day decisions we make do not really matter, or that all decisions no matter how trivial carry the weight of the world with them. Neither of these two things is good or helpful. t is incredibly important that we see the difference between choosing a type of cereal and choosing to treat our annoying neighbor with dignity. We need to know that the world does not hinge on whether my dish soup is lemon or berry scented, but my community’s health might be affected by my decision to stay apart from other people during a pandemic.
As Christians we are not immune to this kind of confusion. Many times during the history of the Church and of our church, we have become confused with regard to what is truly important and what does not really matter. In James 1:2-8 we are provided with some guidance for how we can make good, wise, Godly decisions:
James 1:2-8 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
As God’s people may we use this time of limited choices, frustration, and confusion to grow perseverance, and may we be assured that if we feel like we need wisdom, we would ask God - trusting that through the Holy Spirit, we will indeed grow in our ability to know which decisions are important and how to make the important decisions.
What Kathleen is listening to right now: The Porter’s Gate: Neighbor Songs especially Nothing to Fear.
Podcasts Chris likes to listen to that help him connect with God: The Bible Project and The Holy Post.
If you have any music or podcasts that you listen to that help you feel connected to God share them!
Here we are in a time of unparalleled social disruption. As a people we have been through incredibly difficult times in the past. September 11th, 2001 comes to mind as a time, when it seemed like everything in our lives was uncertain and there was really no way to know what would come next. The actual disruption to life though was pretty insignificant and short lived compared with the reality we are all now facing. I’m far too young, but I have to imagine that the last time daily life for average Americans was this drastically altered was during WWII.
More than that though for followers of Jesus the very thing we do best - be the hands and feet of Jesus to hurting people - has been interrupted. The most remarkable thing about our faith is that we think God came as one of us and lived as one of us. We have a fancy theological word for that: incarnation. God knows that there is something dramatic that happens when we are together. Barriers break down, forgiveness becomes possible, and lives are transformed.
The Bible paints this wonderful picture of the people who follow Jesus. We are His body now. The image works on many levels, but two show just how important it is for us as humans to be together. The first image is that a body is made up of a bunch of different parts that all have to work together if anything good is to be accomplished. To that end we all have a place and we all need to come together as Jesus body if we are to become everything God wants us to be. We were not designed to do that on our own. The second image of Jesus followers as His body serves another purpose especially applicable in our current circumstances. Jesus uses us His followers to be His presence on earth now. We are the way God is incarnational in the world now. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, and when we interact with others, we bring God into the room with us! What does that look like now that we should not be in the same room as other people?
That is the question left to those trying to follow Jesus. We know that we need to stay away from one another for a time. God has given us intelligence to understand that a virus we cannot even see is spreading. We know that it has the ability to make many people sick and the real potential to overwhelm our hospitals, and we know what we can do to help slow that spread. We must not gather in groups, which is the opposite of what our faith would teach us to do. What a strange quandary. To best love my neighbor I need to not go visit them. Does that mean I abandon them though - I think not. God has given us creativity and ingenuity for a reason. We can use those abilities to do good even at a time like this. We can call those around us, and I would encourage you to make a list of people you can call/text/Facetime once a week to check in with and just to be God’s presence from your own home. We can be gracious to one another. We can realize that people are scared, uncertain, and insecure at a time like this. We can be a listening ear for them, and by doing so, we remind them that God is a listening ear for them all the time.
We are living day to day, not sure of exactly what tomorrow will bring. In the days ahead, we will strive to be posting to this blog daily. Our prayer is that we will be able to use this blog as one way to connect with one another. Feel free to comment. Feel free to share with friends. Let’s be creative in how we continue forward as the body of Christ.