Covid Thoughts: Misc. 1

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist), the inexplicably controversial idea of wearing a mask, and the experience of grocery shopping.

I had planned to do a ‘Misc’ when all of this was over, or winding down, which I had hoped would be mid summer, but things are only getting worse and it seems all the work we did in spring has been wasted with our hasty ‘re-opening’, making all the early economic damage for naught. So, I figured I’d go ahead and list a few short thoughts as they come.

  • We finally know someone personally who has Covid. Some time early last week a friend of mine from church, and member of the community group I lead, woke up with the common symptoms and went to get tested. He has not yet heard his results. A few days later, his wife became sick. Interestingly, her results are already back, and she tested positive. He tells me it was much worse than any flu and that his was considered moderate, especially for his age group (late 50’s).
  • I went to church on Father’s Day. It was odd, but good. The worship leader was hit with come emotion to actually hear responses during the call to worship. I counted about 40 people in the room (it holds about 450 and we limited it to 75 people, all the chairs in ‘pods’ and everyone was required to wear masks). There was no childcare, so it was mainly people with older kids (teen+). Only one of the elders (because they are old). So, maybe only one person my age, and he was alone, as was the elder in attendance, and we were the only three to come alone. I had expected to see more fathers there.
  • We’ve been gone the previous two Sunday’s visiting Mrs. MMT’s family, but I go back again this Sunday to run sound (if not, she would have gone). With cases spiking, I wonder what attendance will look like.
  • The trip was nice, everyone quarantined so that we could have a bubble with her parents and sister’s family. It was surreal, and you could almost forget everything was happening. In fact, I did. I had to make a quick run to the gas station the day before we left, and just causally walked in with no masks. Then I saw the check out area had plastic covers and the attendant was wearing a masks. Unfortunately, it made me look like one of those people, the ones that don’t wear masks because of their ‘freedom’. It was also hard to leave, there was a layer of sadness thinking about going back home, having to wear masks. I even hugged everyone, twice in some instances (typically, a head nod from across the room is sufficient physical interaction for me).
  • Schools. It is the only thing we are thinking/talking about some days. The risks are extremely low for Sprout to be infected, and still quite low for her to spread it. We are also low risks, but then we could spread to others as well. It is hard to balance with the educational/emotional/psychological impacts of her not attending in person. Or the near impossibility of doing school with her while we work (which neither of us is doing form home anymore). It is also a lonely feeling. Inexplicably, my division (eight people) her office (six) has no one with kids at home, just a few empty-nesters and mostly people who have no children. On top of that, we live in a rich area, so most of the women in our church don’t work (or at least not full-time). So, we are struggling to have anyone to talk to about two working parents during this time.
  • I wrote about rhythm early on, but a new one has been forced on us. I work in a public facility and my office is one of the most outward facing, so most of my people in the office three days a week, I’m in four, by only seven to noon, then switch to get the kids. Mrs. MMT’s boss decided that even though there was no policy requiring being in the office every day before the pandemic, now there need to be. It is wild to see just poor leadership, but not unexpected I guess. You learn a lot about who people truly are during a crisis. I’d lay it out, like I did previously, but our scheduled seem to change every week or two, and school is only three weeks away on top of the other uncertainty. Also, it seems unavoidable at this point that we will shut down again, probably in six(ish) weeks, would be my guess.

That’s it for now. I have a few more longer posts still to come, and probably another misc or two. Everyone stay safe out there and wear a mask.

 

BLM, Protests, and Removing Confederate Memorials

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I wanted to post something about all that is going on. However, I didn’t feel like I had much new to add to anything, and then there was the somewhat confusing message of people were maybe not supposed to write things last week. I am supportive of Black Lives Matter and the protesters (Mrs. MMT and I have been trying to figure out a way to go to one while juggling the kids), and removing Confederate names/flags/statues.

I wrote about Black Lives Matter and the police almost four years ago, so check that out if you want further thoughts from me. I also wrote about removing the Confederate Flag (with little more detail here, but that goes pretty tangential) and I would extend those thoughts to statues and base names (I didn’t even know Benning and Bragg were Confederate Generals).

I’m not sure I have much more to add, then what I’ve already written. This, again, was one reason I was hesitant to put anything up. But then a good friend of mine wrote something on his blog (it is good, go read it), so I felt I should at least do something. I think the writers at the Gospel Coalition are feeling the same way, so they wrote a short post that refers back to an older, longer one, about Confederate monuments and whether Christians should support them.

This may be naive, but this time does feel a little different. Maybe we are making some more progress and taking a few more strides. Hopefully, I won’t have to write another post in another four or five years, but I doubt it. There are still people who are in denial that there even is a problem. Think of all the officers (like Officer Karen) that keep talking about how they are being singled out, or categorized all as one group. The tone deafness of these complains is mystifying, this is basically what black people have been saying for decades. I think people noting this irony is actually helping to change some minds. Public support seems to be growing that there are more problems than we’d like to admit and we need to remove memorials. That is encouraging, but on the other hand there is often a rush to support gun laws after a dozen or so children die, but then we don’t do anything. We have to keep praying and doing what we can to move towards more equality.

Covid Thoughts: Grocery Store

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist), and the inexplicably controversial idea of wearing a mask. Today’s entry is pretty short and to the point, the experience of grocery shopping.

20200529_084703This is me about to head to the grocery store today. Obviously, still wearing a mask, but have dropped wearing gloves as they have been shown to be unhelpful and the risk of surface contamination is must less than originally feared (this is how science work, hypothesis based on existing conditions and prior knowledge, then tested against updated data). You can also see that I have, unfortunately, not been able to get a hair cut yet.

The first drip during the pandemic was odd. We usually go to the store at the end of the week, so this was a full week of people being at home. I didn’t wear a mask, but had gloves, and when I cam back home, I took my shoes off in the garage and went straight upstairs to put my jeans and shirt in the laundry. I took a travel pack of Clorox and we also whipped everything down before putting it away.

As most of you know by know, there were massive shortages of many things, and then went a few returned, limits were placed on most. Some of the shortages or other issues we ran into:

Toilet Paper – This is the most famous of the shortage, and one that was pretty much stabilized. We were told to stay inside for two weeks, so people started buying 10 and 20 packs of paper. It took a few weeks for people to realize that they had bought nearly years worth of paper. Luckily, third party sellers (Amazon) stopped allowing people to sell them (as well as banning hand sanitizer) and most grocery stores stopped returns. As of today, which is the end of Week 10 as I’ve counted it, Aldi has had single ply packs for about three weeks, and I haven’t seen any in Publix. With one exception, and I don’t know the exact time. It was maybe Week 5 or 6, and I was there fairly early for some reason, and they were unloading all the toilet paper, I asked the guy for the biggest pack they had. He told me the limit was two, and asked if I wanted another. I told him, I didn’t want to be one of ‘those people’, but he said they fact that I cared meant I wasn’t, but that I should take another anyway, because so they would soon all be gone again. We haven’t even finished the first pack, so I feel good about that.

Baby Wipes – This might not have affected too many people, but the same jackassess who took all the toilet paper, also took a all the baby wipes. Normally, I suppose I wouldn’t care, but I happen to be quarantined with two infants, so this really started to piss me off. Luckily, as a gift, my mom bought me a giant pack (over 1,000) of wipes, and around the same time I found the toilet paper, I also found a three pack of wipes (as in three containers of 100 bound together) and grabbed two of those.

Paper Towels – This was another thing that was hoarded, and I’m not entirely sure why, unless they were back up toilet paper. All the stores were instantly out, and it wasn’t until around the time I found toilet paper did they have them again. I don’t know what normal people do, but Mrs. MMT uses paper towels like a villain from Captain Planet, so this was a huge issue for us (except it really wasn’t, we just used cloth napkins to eat and old washcloths to clean).

Hand Sanitizer/Soap/Clorox Wipes (and bleach for injecting) – This wasn’t really a big deal for us. Of course, all the stores were cleaned out instantly. People were hoarding hand sanitizer and then trying to sell it on mark up (this jackass is my favorite story). I wasn’t too worried about this, for two reasons, I read a story early on about the ridiculousness of sanitizer being empty while soap sat on the shelf (it was soon gone, but I grabbed a pack first) and we happened to have a few of the foam ones from the hospital. Also, we somewhat randomly (long story) had a few triple packs of full containers of wipes and maybe 10 travel packs.

Meat – This has been the wildest one. The first week, there was pretty much everything. It was right before St. Patrick’s, so I grabbed two corned beefs (they last a long time, I have one in there now that is use by the end of June). The next week I went, there was nothing. No meat at all, Aldi had a curtain over the section. The next week had some ground beef and dark meat chicken, so we smoked a bunch of wings. Publix was the same; this was the pattern for about a month. Close to Easter, there were a few hams, so we grabbed some of them, and pork was back, so I smoked shoulder. Still no white meat until maybe Week 8. Everything seems back to normal now, but warning of shortages(ish) are coming. The first problem was people hoarding, not it is not being able to process all the meat due to the amount of people out sick. I’ve read a few things that said we have plenty of meat, it just may not be the cuts (or not cut at all, like whole chickens) that Americans are used it. Of course, prices could always go up; which then makes all the right-wing ‘free-marketers’ want government investigations into ‘gouging’.

Bread – Most of the bread we eat comes from the Publix bakery, which seems to have no issues, at least in our area. Early on, all the sugar bread in the middle isles was gone, as were hamburger/hotdog buns. Maybe Week 3, Aldi had no bread at all, but I think that was a logistical/shipping issue. Bread hasn’t been an issue.

Frozen Fruit/Veggies – When this thing started the Nuggets were eating baby food, which for us means veggies blended up. So, I did hoard a little when it came to frozen veggies (especially whatever the ‘California mix’ was, which was cheap and they liked it) and grabbed a couple of bags of frozen fruit. Aldi always had some, but Publix until week 4 or so, was almost completely out of veggies. Have you ever been to a liberal city in a red state? People there are always quick to smugly point out that they are ‘blueberry in a tomato soup’ or something along those lines. That is kind of how it is where I live, but with it being South/Not South. The northside of this metro is basically Ohio or New Jersey. So, all frozen veggies were out except: butter beans, black eyed peas, okra, cut okra, collards. At least we were set.

Formula – When this started, we were going through about three containers of formula a week, so I’d usually grab four to have a little lead time. Sometimes Aldi only had three, so other weeks I’d get five or six. However, a few weeks in, they put a limit of two. I put four in the buggy anyway. I figured I could explain that I had two babies (show pictures if needed) and they’d understand. They did understand, and were sympathetic, but the limit is actually in the system; they literally could run the extra. It wasn’t too big a deal, I’d just hop back in line and buy the other two. Luckily, we are off formula now.

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Eggs/Milk – Of formula and straight into three to four gallons a milk a week. Luckily, by this transition, there was no more limit (though Aldi, due to how good the price it, usually has a four or six limit, I don’t remember which). There was never a shortage of milk. There was a fun on eggs maybe a week or so after the run on meat. We go through two or thee dozen a week, but never had issues, except the price has almost doubled. Still cheap and easy, though.

Beans/Pasta – This one was another that had a big run, then limits, though some of the limits have now been relaxed or removed. We are usually pretty well stocked with these, especially dry beans. Legumes are a staple for us and we eat them more days than we eat meat, and always use them to supplement meat. Similarly, we make a lot of soups with beans. They are also perfect for the Nuggets. All of our kids started on butter beans and it is one of their favorites (and mine) now. Luckily, they never went out of stock, and my parents grow them, so no issues there. Dry pasta seems to be back, but fresh or specialty is still short. It is more perishable, so I wonder if this is a logistical or change in production focus situation.

Medicine – When this first hit, people really started grabbing all the Advil and Tylenol because that is what doctors where telling people to take to treat themselves at home. This wasn’t too big a deal for us, though the first few times I went to the store, everything was out, brand name and generic. The only problem we had was that all of the children’s medication was out as well. There was no Motrin and only one generic Tylenol the first time I went out. This was problematic because both of the Nuggets had ear infections.

That is about it for the weird waves of things being in and out of stock. The Nuggets transitioned to eating solid foods and out of formula since this has started. Sprout went from eating two meal a day at school to all at home and likewise Mrs. MMT went from having business lunches almost every day, to eating them all at home. People often look at me like I am hoard, due to what feeding a family of five three meals a day, seven days a week looks like.

I’ll have only one pack of chicken, but four gallons of milk, three to four dozen eggs, three to four bunches of bananas (breakfast for the Nuggets, good for PB&J for Sprout), three to four bags of grapes (just because Mrs. MMT is crazy), and usually a 10 pound bag of potatoes, among other various things.

I admit I was nervous at first, and did try to load up our freezer. Then for the first maybe four or five weeks, I’d buy thinking in terms of having food for two weeks, but go every week, that way we had some lag time, just in case. I also doubled our supply of dry and canned beans. Things seem generally normal now, and I’m not too worried. I think the food supply has stabilized, and the hoarding/rush buying has stopped. I’m sure there will be blips and other issues over the next few weeks/months. I stopped taking a list around Week 3, because meals would just be whatever they had, but things are normalized enough now, that I’ll probably take one next week.

Somewhat related, the liquor store was always full; despite all the jokes wondering why there was a run on toilet paper but now booze when we were now all stuck with our wife and kids all day long. The clerks would make jokes about needing to see ID, despite the fact that I was wearing a mask. In my ID, I’m clean shaven with also buzzed hair. My hair now is easily over 6 inches long and I have a beard, which I didn’t trim for the first 6 weeks, so I pulled down my mask once and they guy agreed he wouldn’t recognize me either way. One of the Publix people appreciated me being willingly to pull down the mask, he obviously had been fighting too many people about it. Twice at Aldi, I was told they ‘knew’ I was old enough (mid-30’s, so that’s fair), but I asked why. One told me because I laid the wine bottle down on the conveyor belt (instead of up, which falls) and the other because I made a dad joke. I thought that was pretty funny.

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This was before I received any proper masks (I use this for fishing), still used gloves and a grocery list, and, of course, before my hair was too crazy. It was really been an odd time.

Covid Thoughts: Masks

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, and about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist). Today, I have a few quick thoughts about wearing masks. This wasn’t originally going to be its own post, but just a bullet point in the miscellaneous posts I’ve had ongoing to be published at the (hopefully near) end. I’m writing this May 22, which is the end of Week 9 of quarantine (as I count it). A few weeks ago, the idea of wearing a mask was fairly common place, but now, almost certainly fomented by Russian bots, it is a divisive issue. As unfortunately often happens, Fox News conspiracies spill over into ‘opinion’ within the church, so that, now, masks have become an point of contention in churches returning to in person service. I’ll come back to that, but first my original masks thoughts, why there is(was) legitimate confusion, why I decided to write more (a terrible article I read), and how I think churches should respond.

Masks are terrible. They are incredible annoying to wear, I have way more respect for the healthcare works and others who have to wear them all day. Around Week 2 of everything the CDC was still saying we didn’t need to wear masks. Their reasoning was based on flu research, and the fact that most people wear them incorrectly, and the concern that wearing a masks would cause you to touch your face more. I was actually discussing this with a neighbor the day before they changed their recommendation (she was thinking of wearing one to the grocery store). The few trips I had made to the store, I just wore gloves, as did most people (though a few wore masks), and we cleaned and wiped down everything we brought into the house.

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However, the next week I followed the revised guidelines to go to the store. Interestingly, they have since stated not to wear gloves (not because they are ineffective, but due to the false sense of security and people are now not washing/cleaning their hands; and touching their face/adjusting their masks with the gloved hands). I was slightly early in adopting wearing one (not yet half the people at the store had them). I didn’t actually have a true masks. I had originally planned to wear the particle masks you might wear when painting or when cutting the grass (I don’t have allergies, but when we are in a drought it gets quite dusty), however we didn’t have any more in the garage and I was certain the hardware store would be out, so I wore the next best thing I had, a fishing buff. It is light and fairly comfortable, making it easy to wear. Here is a picture of me heading to get groceries new the end of Week 3 (I’m hold sanitation wipes and a grocery list).

A week or so later, masks became seemingly ubiquitous, almost everyone at the store had on (which made most people stop wearing gloves). Articles about how to wear them popped up on most news site; informing me that the buff wasn’t a good idea. Homemade masks proliferated, and my work even provided most of us with our own masks. Unfortunately, they were all mediums, which fit perfectly, in some sense, and looked kind of cool (gave me a Sub Zero/Mortal Kombat look), except it was so fitted, that I couldn’t talk. That is more or less fine for running to the store, but was problematic for work. Luckily, Mrs. MMT’s mom randomly decided to send us a few masks she made her self.

meeting

This is a picture of me wearing a masks at a public meeting (held virtually, but there were other people in our conference room). It was a formal meeting, so I’m wearing a jacket, but also the masks. It was incredibly annoying. The meeting last almost four hours, with no break, in which I had to interact, talk, and read out loud, all while wearing this thing. On top of that, I need glasses for distance (such as looking at a screen across the room) and talking fogged them, making them almost useless to wear. This was taken Week 7, in which it was normal to wear these. People had homemade one with fun colors, or that matched their clothes, or (of course) your football team.

That all changed some time last week. It started with an article I saw someone post. This was from a respected Christian site, from a good writer, but it really bothered me and I was frustrated by where this was posted. It started off well enough, as brothers/sisters in Christ, we are going to have some differences in going back to in person church. Is it too soon or too late, or about right? How man people to let in at a time? These are serious issues, not just for church but for life in general. It is a true problem of economics versus public health. For instance, my state was the first and most reckless to open. I thought it was a bad idea, and may well still be, but it has been three weeks now and our hospitalizations/deaths (which have at three to four week lag) have been flat.

But then the article goes on to make an idiotic use of false equivalency, whether or not to wear a mask at church. Unlike the balance of health/economy, there is no balance here. The CDC recommends you should (though the WHO doesn’t recommend universal wearing) and has advice on how to wear and even make them, experts think it is important to do what we can, some even think that if 60% of people did we could end this thing. There is obviously a lot of confusion, especially as recommendations change and new data/studies come out. Even what I linked is about a month old, even more recent studies have shown the importance of wearing a mask, though it might no do a whole lot for you, it is about protecting others. Yet, even that leads to the idea that I protect you, you protect me. In the end, it does do more for you, just not directly. So, sure in some sense, the efficacy could be debated, or how it protects is misunderstood.

That isn’t what wasn’t the reason stated though, there was a quick thought of ‘living in fear.’ As in some people would think those wearing masks are afraid (despite the fact that you would be loving that person by protecting them from you, while they disrespected you and your family by being careless). Then, Mrs. MMT was talking to an old friend, and while this friend is often a walking Fox News talking point, her husband works at a hospital and a close relative has gone in and out of remission with cancer for over a decade. Her friend dropped the ‘living in fear’ line on her. Despite her husband wear masks and protective clothing all day, coming home, undressing in the garage, putting the clothes straight to the wash, and showering. Or the fact that her relative, and occasionally those around her, wear masks after chemo treatments due to her being immune-compromised.

I hopped on the cesspool that is twitter (which I typically just use for book reviews and sports) and found this talking point everywhere, including protesters comparing masks to slavery, rape, and of course Nazi’s. Apparently it is tyranny to not potentially cause people to die. This is really a fascinating and disturbing trend. I don’t crush a six pack then drive 100 miles an hour without a seatbelt because I ‘live in fear’. I didn’t vaccinate my children (even the anti-vaxx people don’t use ‘fear’ nonsense, they just don’t understand/reject science) because I ‘live in fear’. People don’t go through chemo or take medicine or wash their hands because they ‘live in fear’. These are all just practical, common sense ways of living life and protecting yourself and others. Also known as loving your neighbor. Jesus says, go the extra mile if someone ask you to go on and to give someone your coat also if they ask for a shirt. Are we seriously now saying, as Christians, that we won’t wear a piece of cloth on our face for an hour to protect our brothers and sisters and their families?

I wish that were more rhetorical, but the answer is clearly ‘no’. An issue in America is that both liberal and conservative ideologies continually end up with the ‘self’ (the individual) as the most important thing. As Christians we don’t believe this. We should be serving others, thinking of ourselves last. But right now, on my end in the conservative Christian world, we are saying ‘no’, ‘no, my individual rights and freedom and comfort are far more important than your well-being or the care of others’. As always, I’m too long winded and this is longer than I thought, so I’ll wrap up now. I was happy to hear from a few Catholics that I work with that their churches will be requiring masks when they open (could be a diocese thing) and that even my parents’s conservative SBC is asking for masks. I’m still not sure what my church will do, but I know if these are not part of the guidelines, I will not attend.

 

 

 

 

Covid Thoughts: Time with Sprout

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, today I want to note a few things about spending time with my daughter.

Sometimes I catch her dreamin’ and wonder where that little mind meanders. – Little Miss Magic

I remember hearing on a podcast, though I’m not entirely sure which one, but I think it was one of the Financial Independence ones, that roughly half of the hours you will ever spend with your child will happen by age eight (give or take a few years, I don’t remember the exact age). Which sounds wild at first, but it kind of makes sense. Teenagers don’t want to spend time with their parents, then they leave the house, and you have good, quality time after that, but really only a few hours every few months, or less. Of course, infants are just always there, but it isn’t really the best time. Anyway, I tried to find the article or whatever it was they were referencing, but to no avail. Then I found a few articles about naming children and really went down a rabbit hole when I should have been writing this post.

I ramble to bring up this point: I’ve been thinking about that ‘fact/stat’ often, recently. It dawned on me a few weeks ago (maybe Week 3 of Covid Quarantine), that this is probably the most time I will ever spend with Sprout, certainly it is the most time I’ve spent with her so far in her short, little life. As I mentioned in my ‘finding rhythm‘ post, she and I spend about an hour and a half every morning together, just the two of us. We usually walk, somewhere between three and five miles, all over our neighborhood and the trails in the wetlands and parks that it connects to. The trails take us by a creek to a little river, and many of the sidewalks on the larger streets boarder HOA property that has trees we climb.

She has learned how to identify deer (I had her draw some, and it was surprisingly accurate), raccoon, rabbit, and dog tracks; we followed some frog eggs through a few stages of development until the puddle dried up and they all died (that was a little disappointing, I think seeing frogs come out would have blown her mind); she can name about four or five birds (we’ve even been tracking a mama bird, named Gwenivere, build a nest and hopefully we’ll see eggs soon; she is either a mourning dove or a northern mocking bird, I’m leaning towards to latter due to the thrasher tail) and maybe 10 types of shrubs and trees. We’ve also ‘learned’ to use binoculars and maps. The seasons have changed from winter to spring to summer during this as well, so we’ve gone through bare trees on the trails, to everything blooming, to all the leaves being full and green. I think that has been a fun thing for her to track and see.

We’ve seen a surprising number of deer, I think our highest in one day was 11, and for some reason she seems to want to keep a running tally to tell my dad. We’ve seen a few snakes and fish. The other day, she decided to search for snails. She told me she was betting at finding them because she was paying attention. I told her it was because she was closer to the ground. Which, while hilarious, she didn’t understand. I’ve also tried teaching her the different types of animals, such as birds versus mammal (eggs vs. milk, because half my life revolves around trying to find groceries). You forget what things kids don’t know, like when I told her humans were mammals, she asked me what humans were. We’ve also baked a few different kinds of bread and started a garden.

I feel compelled to teach her things, but as a book I recently reviewed points out, play is far more important at this age. I also feel the pressure to make this a fun time, because she is not in school and doesn’t really have anyone else to play with and, as I mentioned above, this will be the most time I ever spend with her. Other times I wonder if she will even remember this time. There are days that I am excited because I don’t know what to do, and other times when I just really don’t want to have the same walk, to see the same things, to play the same games for the fourth day in a row.

Sprout is pretty wild. She is loud and friendly and full of personality. She has been called the ‘mascot’ of our church and I think she knows more people there than I (certainly more know her). Even in school, the other classrooms knew who she was. Most of this is her personality, she (as is apparently common in little girls) talks incessantly. Well, there are some times she isn’t talking, but if she isn’t, it is because she is singing (we were recently down at my parents and during lunch she was eating her sandwich while humming the whole time, my parent were laughing, but I didn’t even think to notice anymore). It is also physical, she is fairly tall for her age, but she also has giant, wavy, blonde hair. It has been mid back since she was about 2.5/3ish, so when you see her from behind, she is 25-33% hair. The combination of this leads to a funny visual as we walk down the sidewalk and so many of the other neighbors out walk, especially, women just look and laugh (even more so if they hear the stories she tells).

So, I don’t really have anything profound or interesting to say about either children or parenthood (both great, though), but in true journal format, I will just list a number of incidents or things she has said that I want recorded for my own enjoyment, and maybe you will like them as well.

First, her little ticks and ways of talking (maybe these are common, but I don’t care):

  • When it rains a good deal, the creek and river run pretty high, which she has concerns will ‘oversplode’.
  • When we wander off into the woods, the says we are going to go ‘splore’ and puts her hand to her head, as if shielding her eyes from the sun, and pans her face, as if spanning the horizon.
  • She merges the words hopefully and actually, and uses them as emphasis or transition words (the way people incorrectly use ‘literally’) and says, ‘hopecually’.
  • Excurses – I will fix these pronunciations, but I do enjoy them now. When she was maybe 3/4 she couldn’t say yellow, it was something like ‘le-to’, but it was cute and we let it go, maybe longer than we should, but corrected it when other kids were confused. 
  • We have been working on her excitability and that things all kids do where their little brains get rolling and their mouths can’t keep up. She’ll get wound up, put her hands up and say, ‘Hold on, let me collect my thoughts’ take a deep breath and then, ‘what I would like to say to you is…’
  • Similarly, a few times when she has started to get an idea, she’ll say, ‘I think I have a thought’
  • Like most children (I assume), she doesn’t quite understand how contractions work. So, she doesn’t know that ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ are similar. It ends up something like this, I will say I don’t want to do something, and she will say, ‘why do you don’t want to do it?’
  • The ‘happy and you know it’ song. For one, she says, ‘if you very want to show it’, but what’s more, she seems to have made up her own verse. At least I’ve never heard it before. I whistle too much, and we do this song as we walk often, so she came up with, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, give a whistle’, then waits for me to make noise, because can’t whistle.

Next, funny stories or other things she has told me:

Most people with small children know they take a very long, long time to tell any story. I like to joke that she can tell me the plot of a 12 minute PJ Masks show in an hour. One of my favorite ones she has told me was about a ‘dream’ she had (she conflates dreams with thoughts/wishes/fantasies/something like daydreaming). It involved a motorcycle that she designed in which she road around with her eponymous doll.

Her motorcycle was pink in the front, blue in the back and had her and her ‘doll’s name’ on either side. Also, the motorcycle had a seat for the doll. It also had doors, and four wheels, and a seat behind them. I explained that she just invented a car, she told me it didn’t have roof; I told her about convertibles. The motorcycle also had a radio that played her favorite songs, which were – Frozen Songs (she also told me there should be an Elsa doll that sings all the songs from both movies; if this doesn’t exist, it is a pretty good idea), ‘Mommy songs’, ‘Fire’ songs, Piano songs, and finally ‘pizza songs’ (these are Irish pub songs, long story). Maybe I’ll make a play list with all these. She started her description of this ‘motorcycle’ right as we left, and had not finished it’s description or features by the time we arrived back home over an hour and half later.

One of our neighbors cut down a nice tree in his front yard, a day later not only did another crew come out to cut another neighbor’s tree, but, as we walked, we saw the same crew cut maybe five other houses’s front yard tree down. She told me they were the bad guys from the The Lorax (book), she couldn’t remember the ‘onceler’. Except they were worse, because the didn’t even make Thneeds.

It has been raining a lot and we walk through the flood plain, so she has been learning about stormwater management and that some of the water becomes what we drink. So, she told us that when she grows up she wants to be a wastewater treatment engineer, make jelly, and be a mom.

I caught her dramatically counting with her hand (think the way refs do during boxing) as we were walking. I figured out later she was practicing holding her breath and was counting.

On one walk she was point a fake baby toy remote at trees, then waving her hand up and pointing somewhere else with the remote. She was pretending to relocate the trees to places she thought would be better.

She also had another similar ‘dream’ about her and her best friend from school, that took a good 30 minutes to tell me. The both had little powerwheels type ‘trucks’ that are the John Deere front load tractors that Lowes sells.  I’m certain she did not actually dream this, but I have no idea how she remembered those things, she saw them probably six or nine months ago.

Which kind of leads to some of the sadder parts. She often talks about her friends. Yesterday she listed off all the people from school she missed and how she wanted to go to their house to play or have them here for a sleepover. She tells me that the sickness makes her sad and that she wants to go back to school. At least a few times a week she asks me when the sickness is going to be gone. I really have no answers for her, I just tell her, ‘hopefully soon, but it’ll probably be a while.’ Schools have been canceled for the rest of the academic year. She is supposed to start Kindergarten in August. I am hopeful she will, but skeptical of what it may look like. Unlikely to be the fun milestone it usually is. So, that is about it. It certainly is an unprecedented time. When I’m stressed, I do try to look on the bright side and think about all the time I have to spend with her right now, all our exploring and experiences, all the conversations, all these moments I have with her, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ll end with some of her chalk artwork.

 

                 

Covid Thoughts: Sundays and At Home Worship

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, which was excluded what Sundays and at home worship looked like, so I’ll do that today.

Before the quarantine, we typically left for church around 9:15 and returned home around noon, ate lunch, then had community group at 1:00, which usually lasted to 3-3:30 depending on how things went. We do a rotation of group, then just the girls, then group, then guys, with the fifth Sunday either being off or a party.

We were one Sunday into Meaning of Marriage, so when our church made the decision to go online for service on March 15, it worked out well, because it was going to be the girls meeting. So, we switched to a video call for the girls, figuring we’d do guys the next week, and then maybe we’d be meeting again in person. That obviously hasn’t happened, as I write this on April 25, tomorrow will be the seventh straight week of not meeting in person. Our new rhythm is rotating girl/guys video call, as I didn’t think we’d be able to really have a discussion as a group over video. This also means the ‘meetings’ have been shorter, usually only about an hour.

So now our days look something like this: sleep as late as the Nuggets will allow us (usually 6:30-7:00), have breakfast and hang out as a family: 9ish Nuggets go down for a nap (though tomorrow we’ll try to push them a little so they will sleep through service), Mrs. MMT and Sprout clean the house while I read or do some other chore; Service is at 10:00 more on that below; 11:00 Nuggets are usually up and service is over, go for a Bottle Walk (in which we’ve run into our pastor a few times, because he wishes he could live in this neighborhood) and then eat lunch before the call at 1:00; Glorious Quiet Time from 2:00 to 3:30, then another Bottle Walk, then just hang out before dinner, family devotional and bedtime.

We have much more time with our immediate family, but no time with our community group or church family (except those that live in this neighborhood).

At home worship has been…interesting. The first Sunday (March 15) did not go as planned. Our church decided to do a Zoom Webinar where the lead pastor would make announcements from his home, our adjunct preacher would give a short message from his home, the Chair of the Elder Board would give the (previously scheduled) update from his home, and then Mrs. MMT was tapped to sing a few songs and play the piano. As we had announcements and the service was only going to be an hour, she was going to sing two songs between announcements and the sermon, and then one at the end while people took communion at home.

We spent almost two hours the day before doing a run through, testing lighting and testing a microphone to see what would pick up the best, and how people could hear both her and the piano well. Then Sunday came. She starts the first song, and about a minute into it, Zoom drops us. We wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had my phone also running as a participant. Our pastor comes back on to say we’ve been dropped and gets ready to move us to the sermon, but then we are back on. Obviously, just some glitch, so she starts the song again. Then, about a minute into it, Zoom drops us again. Both of our phones are blowing up with texts. Hers was from her friends with words of encouragement such as ‘so sorry, I know how hard you prepped’ or ‘sounded beautiful while it lasted.’ I just had texts from jackasses with things like ‘get it together’ or people who apparently thought we didn’t have internet. Guys versus girls, right?

Anyway, we were on the phone with our lead pastor while the sermon was going on and decided that we’d try again, but with no video, in case it was bandwidth. So, she was still able to sing during communion, and it worked out pretty well. A few people took video and sent it to us. The next week, they decided to stream from our church building, but it was all at once, and the bandwidth couldn’t hold and many people either had a lag or the video dropped. Finally, the follow week (March 29), they split it into to streams at different times and there were no issues.

We’ve not had Sprout in service yet, so our at home worship was the first time she has been with us to sing songs or listen to the sermon. She sings as much as she can, and actually knows some of the hymns. Even if she doesn’t know the song, she tries to sing along because she enjoys it and considers herself a good singer. I find it difficult to sing, one because her cuteness make me laugh, but also Mrs. MMT is a trained singer and can sing out like normal, but be able to lower her volume. I cannot do that, so it is either me singing loudly, over the two of them, or me trying to turn the volume down, but that devolves to something like quite talking (somewhat) in tune. She also likes to sing the harmony, but unfortunately, I often don’t know the melody.

Sprout can’t quite make it through the sermon, despite it being shorted to the 15-20 minute range. So, we’ve given in and allow to her play on a tablet during the sermon, before the last few songs. I actually wish the sermons would be longer, if not back to the full length, but I understand trying to keep the whole service to an hour, plus I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to preach to an empty room (or one with four or five people). We don’t even make it through a whole service before we have to get the Nuggets, so I’d miss it either way. We take communion before a final song and the benediction. I know the in home communion is controversial (or even not allowed in some denominations), but our church does it every Sunday, so I appreciate attempting to keep that rhythm. (It feels a little weird opening a bottle of wine before 10:00 A.M., but if the pastor says so…) That is not to say that it is the same. It isn’t, and I miss going to place to worship with other people. I’ve already about worship during separation, while lacking, it is our only option.

Our church has also posted some kids worship videos. It is really geared for just over Sprout’s age, so it doesn’t work very well for us, but I have heard great things from people who have kids that age, that know the songs and movements with most of them. We’ll try them anyway, especially on rainy days when we can’t walk after service. This usually ends up with us watching other songs, typically Wolves at the gate.

              

That is Sprout dancing to one of the songs, in the other picture, we can just barely make out her Ukelele, while she plays along with the song, and, yes, those are maracas she brought so that the Nuggets can also join in the fun.

Sadly, Easter was spent at home. We did have a successful Zoom call with Mrs. MMT’s sister and family, her parents, and grandma. We had a fairly diasterious video call with our community group, which includes 14 adults and seven kids (all under five, with four less than a year old). Then a nice video chat with my parents before watching that opera guy sing from a church in Italy and having a huge Easter lunch.

So, that is about it. Sundays feel empty, compared to how we used to spend them. Worship is falling into place, but also lacking and a reminder of our call to be together, but we continue on and remember the anticipation our coming reunion with our brothers and sisters, and our future hope of worship with all Christians together with Christ, forever.

 

Covid Thoughts: Trying to Find Rhythm

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

So, here we go. I figured I kick off with our attempt to settle into a routine, and what that looks like now(ish).

Most decisions about what work would be like were made around (somewhat ominously) Friday, March 13. Most schools in the area, including out district, were closed for two to three weeks, which would then lead into Spring Break (the first full week in April). The city in which I work has generally poor leadership, especially compared to our peer cities; most of which had announced their decisions to close until either April 4th or 12th. We knew that Mrs. MMT would be working from home, but I went to work each day the following week not knowing every day whether we would be closed that morning, later that day, the next, or not at all. So, we knew Week 1 (March 16) would be a daiseter for Mrs. MMT, who is the Director of Communications for her organization. She would need to lead crisis communication while trying to manager a five year old and two 10 month olds. Including, potentially, as it was still unclear, having me work late (9-10 PM) on Tuesday for a public meeting. We were the last city to postpone such meetings.

As expected, it did not go well for her, so that I ended up taking time off and not working any full days in the office the rest of the week. We did finally close City Hall (for one week) on March 20th. This meant Week 2 (March 23), we’d all be at home. Work for me was fairly light. I had a few emails and phone calls, but I think most clients and others expected we’d all just sit tight for a week or two, so I had the feeling that most people were just holding off. Mrs. MMT’s work continued at a pretty frenzied pace. Most other people I know were generally working from home as best they could, but many people saw it as just some time off, expecting this to be a very short situation.

We would sleep in, generally waking up around 6:30, which is more or less when all the kids started to wake. I would check email and follow-up with anyone as needed around 7 (my usual time to start work anyway). The Nuggets nap from 9-10:30 and 1:30(at least the first two week, now it is 2:00) to 3:30. We also have Sprout do some quiet time in her room during this second nap. During the first nap, I would take Sprout at for a walk in the trails and parks around our neighborhood (there is a floodplain with a creek that leads to a small river that provides us with roughly four miles of trails). I dawned on me about two weeks in, that the hour and a half I spent one on one with her every morning was the most time I’ll ever spend with her, more on that later.

Week 2 somewhat fell into place, with a loose structure, but Week 3 (March 3) was terrible for me. I have often have trouble sleeping, with occasional bouts of insomnia, and it hit me this week, probably due to the lack of structure in the day and the growing fear of the pandemic and how it might affect us. It became nearly impossible not to lay awake a night thinking about these things. It would manifest in one of two ways, either be unable to sleep until 1-2 A.M., or go to sleep but wake up around 3-4, and be unable to go back to sleep. I write more about that later as well.

Week 4 (April 6), we went back to setting an alarm and getting up every morning at 6. I actually got up every morning and went for a run (it was probably in the mid 60s). Unfortunately, our motivation waned the following week  (Week 5, April 13), and we went back to sleep after the alarm. It also decided to drop down to the 40s, so I had not motivation (which was always lacking anway) to run. However, during these two weeks, we kept the general times of me working at 7, 12, quiet time(ish) and 5. As work remained somewhat slow, and I was struggling mentally, I got the idea that I would use quite time to challenge myself with something (maybe more on that later, but includes a few days of studying Biblical Greek). My work load picked up this week, as my office provided me with a laptop that has the applications and software systems I need to do more of my job.

I write this on Friday the 24th of April, the end of Week 6 (April 20). I should hear in the next few hours whether my office will be open on Monday. I anticipate ‘no’, however our Governor has taken the most aggressive ‘re-open’ (whatever that means) stance, including the idiotic and dangerous plan of dine-in restaurants and movie theaters. All this despite the fact that he closed schools for the rest of the year. However, in a surprise move, the Mayor for the city for which I work, was interviewed on CNN and stated disagreement with this opening plan. I do expect to be back in the office in the next few weeks.

Our Saturdays have generally been the same as before, with the exceptions of hanging out with people or going anywhere (expect one park trail, before they closed). Sundays are completely blown up as we are isolated from church and our community group, (more on that later). Other complications and events during this time include doing Good Friday and Easter remotely, and without family; and one of the Nuggets (Hawk) getting an ear infection (his fifth in three months), and despite being prescribed an antibiotic that cost nearly $90, he had another one within five days. So, he has to go to the pediatrician, twice, during a pandemic. We would also see a specialist (ENT) with both Nuggets (where we found Cheeks had some hearing loss) and they both ended up having tubes places, more on that later. We also experienced our first Tornado Warning, and had to get everyone up and downstairs at 1:30 A.M. the morning after Easter. These things do not help with sleep.

This (as always) turned out much longer and more narrative than I expected, so here is our routine for posterity.

6-8:00 A.M. – I wake up, bike/run (or occasionally attempt bodyweight exercises), get dressed, grab coffee and start work. Mrs. MMT has coffee and occasionally a few minutes of quite to herself before checking email on her phone before kids. Sprout and Nuggets usually up around 6:30/45.

8-9:00 – Make sure everyone is fed and dressed. I attempt a few emails (and as of Week 6 some plan reviews) in the kitchen.

9-10:30 – Nuggets take their morning nap, Mrs. MMT works hard (until 10:00, which she has a Zoom staff meeting), Sprout and I head out into the woods.

10:30-11:00 – Sprout and I return and wake up the Nuggets, Mrs. MMT finishes her Zoom, occasionally has a follow up phone call or other work to do, then we head out for a walk.

11-12:00 – Generally the time frame of our walk, typically 45 minutes or more, if we can. The Nuggets have their bottles and Sprout walks/rides a scooter/bike. This is the easier, more enjoyable (also cooler) walk and we shoot for two to three miles. Return, disembark the Nuggets.

12-2:00 – Nuggets and Sprout play and we get everyone fed. I email and cover plan reviews as needed. Mrs. MMT occasionally has to get some work done. We switch off between who is in the kitchen with the kids and who is in the office doing work.

2-3:30 – The Blessed Quiet Time. The Nuggets nap and Sprout goes to her room, where recently she has actually been napping the whole time (she hasn’t napped at home in three years), we are not sure if this is physical tiredness or boredom, though they do take naps in Pre-K. This is the most productive time of work for us.

3:30-4:00 – Similar to the 10:30 timeframe, wrap up work (we usually get off at 4:00 anyway, back in real life), and prep for Bottle Walk Number 2.

4-5:00 – Shorter walk, maybe a mile or mile and a half. Hotter, more crying.

5-6:00 – Kids play, we hopefully finish up the last of the emails, I make dinner.

6-8:00 – Dinner, Nuggets go up 6:30/45 for bath and stories before bed, games (checkers, Shoots/Ladder, Sleeping Queens) with Sprout until she goes up at 7:30ish for stories before bed.

8 – Finally finish up and emails, calls, plan reviews needed that day. Try to get some reading in, and then either watch an hour show or maybe two half hour show (Mrs. MMT’s mom shared their Netflix with us at the start of quarantine). Eventually sleep before starting all over again the next day.

Saturday is essentially the same, except much less (sometimes no) work related activities. Sunday will be a post on a whole post itself.

So, that is it. Routine’s are important, even more so right now, not only for your productivity, but especially for your mental health. Maybe ours will help, or least be somewhat amusing. I’ll have more of my Covid thoughts over the next few weeks. Thanks for playing along.

 

We are all feeling this right now

A little old, but it has been making the rounds. Pretty accurate for what I’ve been experiencing recently. Prior to a month ago, I don’t think I had done a video conference. I’ve done some video chats with some family members, but never multiple people or groups at once. I saw this a few weeks ago, but didn’t quite get all of it. Now, having done multiple conferences over the past week weeks, this only gets more funny.

 

Thoughts on Covid-19, Quarantine, and Community

I suppose it was inevitable that I would write something about all that is going on. I wanted to get back to posting my reviews and some other thoughts, but it seems impossible to get Covid-19 off your mind, especially after having remote church service again yesterday.

Providentially, perhaps, I was reading part of Psalm 42 yesterday. Psalm 42 & 43 were likely originally one but were broken up at some point for an unknown reason. The psalm is a pretty well-known one, it is where we get the song ‘as the deer pant(eth) for the water.’ It is not written by David, but by the Sons of Korah (or Korathites), yet it is often attributed to David as a prayer and during a when he is away from the temple, possibly when he was hiding from Absalom. Some modern critics, of course, give no attribution to David, but what is not in dispute is we have a man who is not in Jerusalem, and is longing to be back so that he can worship God.

Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we no longer need a temple or priest or anything else to worship God. We can go directly to God with our prayers, songs, praise and lemants. However, when we are seperated from our community of worship, as we have been the past few weeks, there is a sense of loss. The psalm is in three stanzas, each ending with –

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

It struck me how I do long to praise him again, in community, with other believers and friends at our church home. Again, we can all sing and praise God on our own, in our homes, as we have been doing. But I think it is important to remember that it is still lacking, something is missing, it just isn’t the same. Pastors can ask their congregants to post pictures of their families singing and taking communion together, and that helps, but we must acknowledge the longing. We miss some aspects of God that He reveals to us in and through community and taking communion together. So, I feel that deeply right now, that as a deer longs for streams of water, I long to worship again in community.

This time of longing should also remind us of future hope. That one day in the new Earth we will have perfect communion, all believers worship together, before God himself. We need to remember, always, that one day perfection will come and all the feelings of missing and lacking will be no more.

While it isn’t as enjoyable, please remember we are all ‘social distancing’ for the good of others. This is loving your neighbor. It is important to remember that no matter how inconvenient it is to be stuck in your house, it is far less of a pain than being hospitalized or seeing a loved one on a ventilator. It is a sacrifice for us, but Christians should not be scared to love others in this way. Another thing to remember is that while you may be able to work from home (which, again, is quite inconvenient) others may have no work at all.

Ask your pastors or community group leaders if they know of someone in your community in need, someone who has not received a paycheck in a week or who may not receive one in the next few weeks. I’d challenge everyone to personally decide if the need all (or any) of the stimulus money they are receiving in a few weeks. Maybe you need to shore up your own emergency fund first, but if you are still receiving your regular paycheck, consider giving most or all of it to your Church to be distributed to those who really need it. This wouldn’t be the first time Christians did this (see Acts, Galatians, etc. in the New Testament) and is unlikely it will be the last.

Also, keep in touch with your community and your actual neighbors. Maybe some are old or immunocompromised and cannot go out to the grocery store or to the pharmacy. This should be a time of Christians being once again known for charity in the community.

Remember, too, that while it is annoying, staying at home will help. In a month or so when rates are (hopefully) dropping, let’s remember not to look back and see it was all for nothing, that not that many people were impacted. It will be because of the actions we took to slow the spread, that the rates will decline. As a population, it is hard to see counterfactuals, something that cannot be proven. It is easy to see rates drop and be flippant, but it is because they are actually effective measures that are taken. It is a good reminder that the original vaccine was for Cow Pox (vaccine roughly means ‘no cow’ in Latin) and it took only a single generation before we have the original anti-vaxxers, people who questions the use of vaccines (and this was over 300 years ago). Of course, we still have these problem today, such as the measles outbreak last fall, a disease that was eradicated in the US 20 years ago.

Finally, look for the good where you can. Sure, maybe your babies are crying during communion, but maybe you also have the opportunity to talk with your other children about the significance of communion or what it means to be baptised. Our daughter is too young to attend service at our church regularly, but now she watches it with us. And she loves to sing, whether she knows the words or not. If she doesn’t, sometimes we laugh as she pretends she does. Or yesterday, there was a song she did know – It is Well – which is quite significant to us and so she sings and you wish you had closed the windows because no the pollen is getting to you and making your eyes water. Maybe like us, you have tried to keep your community group going by video conference. It isn’t always the best, and soon all men will have only two hairstyle – buzz cut and hat – but it is good to see everyone and at least check in on each other.

So, keep connected, everyone, we will be together eventually. Admit that longing to be together again. Remember that we are in a fallen broken world, but will live on day perfectly, together. Hope in God.

2020 Reading Challenge

I didn’t not reach my goal last year, so I’m trying to be even more realistic this year. I was really torn on setting the goal at 12 or 15. Going with 12 really seems doable, but that isn’t very challenging is it? So, I’ll try to push myself and get the 15 I’d like to read. I have 10 laid out already, one more fiction that will be one or the other depending on which one is in stock at the Library this weekend. The other four will be some combination of the many books on my past few challenges that I have not gotten to yet, a book I want to borrow from a buddy, and ARC books (which, I really plan to ramp down this year).

Non-fictionGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, at 822 pages, this is the second biggest book on my list for this year and one of my top five life goal, big book, non-fiction books to pick up. I started it last year, and only went a few chapters in, it isn’t really the amazing book I had heard, but maybe it picks up. If not, it will be the first major book I’ve given up on. If I have time, I want to get to is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which is a book I bought for Mrs. MMT a few years ago on the advice of MxPx front man Mike Herrera

Biography/autobiographyA Full Life: Reflections at Ninety was on my list the last three years, but I didn’t make it to it, so I’ll stick it back on this list. Thankfully, Jimmy has hung on with me.

Fiction – At 864 pages, Anna Karenina, will be my biggest book this year and the third longest single volume fiction book I’ve ever read. This was on my list last year, but Mrs. MMT stole it; however, she did enjoy it. Next up for fiction is either Dune or The Gunslinger. I’ve heard good things about both, and I always like sci-fi, but even better, they are both intro’s to long series, which is nice because I don’t have to think about what to read next. Not sure which it will be, heading to the library with Sprout this weekend and I’ll grab which ever they have. Rounding out fiction for the year will be The World’s Great Short Stories, because I like short stories.

Christian-y type books – Only four books are planned in this category this year, though this categories tends to be the largest due to ARC books and loans from friends. Technically, I’ve already one (Jesus Skeptic). The other three are The Meaning of Marriage by Keller, which is supposed to be one of the best and one my community group may do. One we’ve already started is The Great Divorce. Another book I’ve had on my list for a few years is Speaking Truth in Love, so I fully intend to finally knock that out.

This category is also good for my unplanned mostly due to ARCs, but also my long list of books I’d like to read such as Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand, Basic Christianity, and Church History in Plain Language. I also have the idea of potentially read reading Prayer (Keller), which is something I rarely do.

Commentaries, Theology, and Language – No big commentary this year and Greek for the Rest of Us, will, unfortunately, remain on the backburner for now. The only goal I have this year is Foundations of the Christian Faith (Boice). I’ve read chapters of this at various time for different studies of Theology, but I’ve never sat down to read the whole thing cover to cover, despite it being the one I recommend to people. Boice was a pastor, so this volume is less technical than others, while still being thorough (740) pages. To that end, it is on the list because Mrs. MMT wants to study theology, so I am reading it with her.

Time permitting, I’ll finally knock out Five Views on Biblical Inearrency. This has also been on my list for about three years, and it has been awhile since I’ve been able to read one of the X Views on… type books, so maybe I will be able to get to it at some point.

Devotional – I read the Bible last year (ish), so I’m back to a true devotional. It must be the year of Keller for me, so I’m doing Songs of Jesus, which is a devotional based on the Psalms. I did a devotional/commentary on Psalms a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

That is it for this year, hopefully life will permit me to get to these.