One year ago today I wrote in my journal:
03/12/20 Thursday: COVID 19 is causing quite a stir. Quarantine Day 1.
I stopped counting in my journal on “Q Day 65”. It was supposed to take two weeks to help flatten the curve and here we are, 365 days later, still figuring things out. What does one call this day? It certainly isn’t Happy Anniversary. Unhappy Anniversary? A Year to Remember or maybe Forget?
We’ve all had plenty of time to be with ourselves, by ourselves, learning about ourselves. What did you gain? What did you lose? What did you like? What did you not? What have you changed? What has stayed the same? What did you miss? What didn’t you miss? What have you discovered about yourself? Your people? Others? Church? God? What did you learn you could do even when you didn’t think you could?
There’s no way to answer all these questions in one 1,000-word post. I’m still perusing them in my head, as well as others. (My mind is in need of some garden therapy, truth be told. Soon, dear heart. Soon.)
There is something God began teaching me a couple years ago that perhaps I didn’t appreciate until these past 12 months and that is the art of finding sacred in the simple, of learning to lean into the ordinariness of every day and being grateful for hallowed simplicity.
The smell of fresh bread baking.
The way the light shines across the wood floor in late afternoon.
The first tiny green bean.
Eating a tomato fresh off the vine.
The ticking of the grandfather clock.
The daffodils breaking through the cold ground of winter.
Gathering eggs each day.
A lit candle.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
This past year has me longing for more as well. More prayer and less scared. More tradition and less thrill. More depth of teaching and less fluff. More cathedral and less concert. More being and less doing. More transformation and less information. More faith that is unshakable and less excuses that I am unable.
I wonder if, in my pre-covid days, I missed opportunities to serve, to be, to learn, to experience, to trust because I was looking past the simple in search of something with grandeur, something greater, a bigger stage, a wider audience? I wonder if I missed the sacred moments with God because I was making it too difficult to see what seemed like the unimportant thing?
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In Exodus chapter three we find Moses doing a very routine thing on an ordinary day tending to the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro. He sees a burning bush that doesn’t get burnt up. He gets to experience the Lord out there in the middle of nowhere like no one has ever experienced him.
The Lord has a conversation with Moses about his people, Moses’ lineage and God’s chosen ones. God sees their misery under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and wants Moses to go to Pharaoh and free the people. Moses gives God all manner of excuses: Who am I to do such a thing? What if they ask me who it is that is sending me? What if they don’t believe me.
God has a response to every objection and the assurance of his presence. Moses still isn’t convinced. Then the Lord asks Moses this simple question: What is that in your hand? To which Moses replies, My staff.
Something so familiar. Something Moses has used every single day while taking care of Jethro’s sheep. Something that is simply an extension of him after such a long period of time working in the wilderness.
I love this. I love that God would squelch some fears with something familiar. Moses would soon become a shepherd of people and tend to them on a journey into the unknown with something known, into the uncomfortable with something comforting.
I imagine when he grabbed hold of his staff there was familiar groove that fit his hand perfectly, reminding him that God could take this simple thing to free his people. God could take that which was in the hand of Moses and use it for his glory.
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God uses the simple, the familiar to do spectacular things. I realized this past year that I’ve made serving God too complicated. I’m like Moses in many ways. When God asks me to do something that seems too hard or I make too hard, that I feel unable or inadequate to do and I just want him to leave me to tend to my things, I can hear him ask me, What is that in your hand?
I’ve often discounted the simple things as serving. That somehow serving has to be done at church, through an organization, with much fanfare, pomp and circumstance. But in reality, God can use the ordinary to do the extraordinary when we answer his question.
What is that in your hand?
For me, I’m learning, it can be as simple as giving the fruits of my labor from the garden to someone as a gift because they love homegrown things. I can give a dozen of the most gorgeous blue and brown eggs as a gift. Better yet, I can bake brownies for someone using my Granny’s recipe with my fresh eggs. Or it can be giving someone something they need from out of our abundance.
I’m learning to see the words I write as a gift given to me so that I can use them to encourage, empower and enlighten.
I’m learning that listening to someone’s story is as holy a ground as Moses walked, a sacred space, not to be taken lightly.
It would be easy to overlook that which has become so familiar as something God can use in service to him. But isn’t it like him when we bring our excuses to ask us the same question he asked of Moses?
What is that in your hand? Let me show you how I can use it to free people, shepherd people, love people, direct people, feed people, stretch people, give people a drink of cold water, make a way for people.
How would you answer that question? How could God use what you hold?
This past year was challenging. We didn’t have a choice but to sit with it and in it and endure it. And we DID!
What has this past year of only two weeks taught you?
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