What a Conversation Starter!

See the source image(image courtesy of pinterest)

As we continue to face the challenges and changes the corona virus outbreak is having on all of us, I have also discovered a few silver linings in my daily life.

One of these is the on-going discovery of people I do not know who live in my neighborhood.  As you may recall, Faithful Reader, I have worked primarily out of our home for the last 3 and a half years.  On any given day, I will take two or three long walks with our Golden Doodle, Violet (my computer would not let me use any of my own pictures of her, but this photo from pinterest is strikingly close to what she looks like).

Previously, these walks have been completed almost exclusively without seeing anyone to speak to.  Over these past few days, that is no longer the case! Parents prevented from going to their workplaces are outside at times they never were before.  Many, like me, are on potty runs for their dogs.

The pastor in me tries to take these meetings as opportunities to share hope.  Having Violet along has certainly made conversations easy to start.  Almost everyone is taken by her soft coat, soulful eyes and goofy personality.  As we share info on our different pooches, the talk invariably comes around to the current circumstances that have led us to meet.

I am not now, never been, and probably never will be a very successful evangelist.  I don’t have the gift of gab, if you will, that allows words to smoothly and cohesively flow from my mouth.  No, my strength seems to be more in the walking out of my faith.  This, I have been told, is most evident in my peaceful demeanor.  “You are easy to talk to,” and, “thanks for listening” are things I hear quite often.

So it is with those gifts that I engage my new-found neighbors in conversation.  By asking what their ‘normal’ was before this all started, I can begin to get the sense of what is most troubling them in these days.  Invariably, they will then ask me the same question to which I reply that my routine is pretty much as it was.  I then offer to tell them about our home-based ministry and some of the care we bring to our community.  As I do, I extend the invitation to them as well by asking if there is a specific area of concern for which I can be praying for them.  I gladly tell them of the resources we have available that may be of some help.

I share this with you today as an encouragement to take the new opportunities that are presented to you through this radical shift in your day to day life.  I understand the fear and uncertainty you may be experiencing, but my encouragement is that you not let them dominate your life.  In the midst of being careful and making preparations for the days to come, please stay aware of the people who have now appeared on your radar.  Please don’t be afraid to lend a listening ear or offer to help if appropriate.

Together, we will get through this.  Just ask Violet, she has heard me encourage quite a few of this recently.

Blessings and thanks for taking the time to read this,

Pastor Chuck

 

Are You Contagious?

See the source imageimage courtesy of bing images

I was called in to work at my part-time job yesterday by the Program Manager.  It seems that the other full-time staffer had come to work his shift, even though he was obviously quite sick with a cold.  The big boss got one look at him, called me and sent him home to get some rest.  In the closed environment that is our halfway house, the very last thing she wanted was to have that sickness spread to the rest of the staff and our residents.

“Didn’t he know how contagious he was,” she said to me with exasperation. “You’d think he would use better judgment.” Though I agreed with her, I also thought of the more than a few times over the years I had gone into my place of regular employment sick enough to have stayed home.  Whatever rationalization I used then, not wanting to fall behind/save my sick time for when I really need it, etc., I dragged me and my contagion into the shop to share with everyone who dared to breath the same air as me.

As often happens to me these days in my roll of pastor/preacher, the common place occurrences of life rattle around in my brain until they form some type of illustration for a future sermon or lesson to be taught.  Yesterday’s encounter with a sick co-worker is yet another example.

I woke this morning thinking of my cold-stricken friend, and prayed that God would give him the strength to be able to work today (after all, I don’t really want to get called in again today!).  The idea of spreading what is inside of us then came to mind.  What am I exhaling, metaphorically, that might affect others today? What are my words, thoughts and attitudes doing to the people I will encounter?

To my way of thinking, there are two answers to these questions: I can either bring people down, infecting them with negativity, or I can attempt to be an encourager, spreading hope and care when the opportunity to do so is presented.

With so much bad news spiraling around us these days, it can be easy to be drawn into it.  My advice, to both you and me, is to be careful.  Though it may at times seem easier to simply join the rising tide of negativism, I urge you to not give in.  Don’t allow your current circumstances to be the sole director of the way you feel and/or respond to life.  Many times in my role of pastor I have encouraged folks to do this (I even take my own advice, sometimes). The problem, as I see it about zeroing in on my current situation only, is that this approach puts me squarely in the middle of everything.  When I go tunnel-vision in this way, it is only the largest, most current problem that comes into focus.  The next thoughts then become inevitable, ‘if this is bad now, it most likely will only get worse.’ Seeing anything good or hopeful is obscured by what I have centered my thoughts on.

Carrying this weight with me into the day will most likely make me negatively contagious.  I tend to seek the company, not comfort, of those feeling as I do.  Here it is easy to infect each other with pessimism and lament.  Misery loving company can most assuredly be seen in this group.

I understand that it is often easier to simply go with the flow in this way.  It’s as if we become just comfortable enough with the problems we have to not want to really be rid of them.

Conversely, will being the carrier of a more positive contagion make all our problems go away? I’m afraid not.  But choosing (and it is a choice we have to make) to swim against the current can be a powerful example to others.

Bottom line: If I choose to be and spew miserable all day, the chances are quite high that I will be at least as miserable at days end that I was at the beginning.  Might I suggest a change in approach? Find something, anything, that holds some attainable hope to you.  Once identified, spend more time thinking about this than you do staying in the familiar spin of the bad stuff.

Remember, it is not the fulfilling of this particular hope that will make you a happier, more serene carrier.  Though it might help to see it come to fruition in the short-term, being in this condition long-term is a commitment each one of us will have to take on.

Back to my ill co-worker; I’m sure he didn’t choose to catch a hard cold.  Exposure happens, many times beyond our control.  What is in control is our reaction.  In his case, stay home, rest up and drink plenty of healthy fluids.  As for the rest of us, our attitude self-care is important as well.  I know I handle the challenges of each day much better when I am rested and properly nourished.  But most importantly,taking care of myself puts me in a better position to make the correct choice about what kind of carrier I will be.

If you are struggling with any of this, please know you at not alone.  What I’ve suggested is not some miracle cure-all.  But I am convinced, from my own personal experiences, that when I make the effort to choose to be in a more positive state of mind, the bad things that show up on my radar don’t dominate the screen.

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Chuck