Pausing for Poetry in Luke’s Gospel

Rembrandt “Simeon’s Song of Praise”

Anna Carrington

One of my favorite distance learning opportunities in 2020 is a disruptive practice I call “pause for poetry.” My sons really enjoy this seemingly random occurrence; it means a break from worksheets, and the alliterative repetition of “p” makes it fun to announce.

“Pause for poetry” is simple: we just take a few minutes to read a poem. Both of my sons tend to be analytical and linear, and poetry doesn’t follow patterns they would expect or choose. But they have solid reference points: participating in liturgy at church and reciting poetry at Morning Star have both helped them experience poetry in community.

As we step into the light of Advent, I wonder how we might “pause for poetry” as we encounter the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke. When telling the story to children, we often skim along familiar plot points like the terrified shepherds and the smelly stable. The people in the story matter of course—but so do the things they proclaim. The praise of Mary, the prophecy of Zechariah, and the prayer of Simeon all reflect God’s promises to his people.

With John the Baptist’s arrival, God ends 400 years of silence (a pause!) to fulfill the words of Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon all recognize God’s faithfulness, and they respond in faith, recalling the Old Testament poetry in which they were steeped. This included the Psalms, the Song of Moses (Exodus 15), and the words of Isaiah.

Take Zechariah’s prophecy: Filled with the Holy Spirit after months of being mute, Zechariah proclaims a rich tapestry of Old Testament promises—and how Jesus fulfills them. His words link us to God’s Big Story and to the generations that came before. Suddenly we see why the manger is the moment, the cross the hinge, the resurrection the beginning.

How can we consider—and cling to—these weighty words in Luke 1 and 2? Here are a few ideas: Pick one of these three poem-prayers to read aloud each week leading up to Christmas. Reflect on it with your family, and dig deeper into the Old Testament verses it references. Stage your own Christmas pageant in the den, with your older children reading the longer verses. Listen to one of the innumerable settings of Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat. Pray Simeon’s prayer with your younger ones as you turn on nightlights. Pray that Emmanuel, God with us, will come light our hearts.

Anna Carrington is a graduate of Wheaton College (IL), a freelance editor, and an avid reader. She teaches children’s Sunday School and Bible studies for women who speak English as a second (or third) language at Christ Church in Moline. Anna and her husband Wes have two sons at Morning Star.

I Hit a Wall

Kendra Thompson

We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know He is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good?

Yesterday, to use a phrase I’ve been hearing more and more lately, I hit a wall. I was clearing plates from the table not long after dinner and I just had to stop. I had to sit down, then lie down. I had to desist from all activity for a few minutes – and then for a few minutes more. Looming, though not heavily, was the prompt for this blog theme. At first, I saw these two things in contrast. But now I see that my predicament yesterday was an answer to the question. How do I know God is trustworthy, beautiful, and good? Because yesterday, I hit a wall.

Yesterday, I hit a wall and I just had to rest a minute. I couldn’t tick one more thing off my to do list I couldn’t fold one more pair of socks, nor could I bag up one more pile of fallen pine needles. I hit a wall and I needed to sit down.

In many ways, my reflection is just an echo of what the other bloggers have said. There is so much that is outside of our control and in those moments when we smack squarely into our lack (like a wall) we are reminded of the 2nd Corinthians passage about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” In chapter 12, Paul writes,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

How do I know that God is good? Because through moments of limitation and restriction, I am reminded that I’m not in charge of the universe, I’m not in control. Universe set aside, I can’t even control – or schedule – my next fit of exhaustion! But rest comes, grace comes, and God reigns. It doesn’t mean I’m always so quick to grasp this, but God’s mercy comes into focus more clearly when I face my own powerlessness and fatigue.

This is where the Christian life contrasts with the way of the world. There are millions of products and just as many “life hacks” to convince us we need not skip a beat; we can be healthy, organized, centered and successful at all times. These products and promises, though seemingly benign, stand in contrast with the truth of the gospel. And what is that? That we’re not fine, we don’t “got this,” and it might be time to sit out a round. And sometimes (like me, yesterday) we don’t acknowledge this truth, though we know it deep down in our heart, until we hit a wall.

So today, after a good night’s rest, and a dose of humility, I thank God for the wall. And perhaps even more, I thank Him for his sufficiency and grace.

Kendra Thompson is a children’s minister, a writer, a Morning Star parent and part-time director of communications for the school. She and her husband, John, love that their kids’ faith is incorporated into their learning at Morning Star Academy.

Shadows and Light

We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know he is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good? 

Joel Rohde

Almost two years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my grandfather was put into a care facility.  Some call the disease “The Long Goodbye” and anyone who has lived with someone who suffers from it knows the brutality that accompanies the sickness.  Not only does Alzheimer’s wreak havoc on the brain, but it causes daily heartbreak to those around the patient.  Though you understand that the person you love has a disease there is little that can soften the blow of a loved one suddenly not able to recognize who you are.

Placing my grandpa in a care facility was a painful decision for my grandmother.  She had taken care of grandpa for as long as she had known him.  They had come through wars together.  They had faced trials of all kinds together.  Now she was being forced to admit that she had met her match in Alzheimer’s.  She had fought long and hard but there was nothing more that could be done.  He needed care she couldn’t give him so there he sat on the other side of a window.  Due to COVID-19 she wasn’t even allowed to be with him.

His health rapidly declined.  He didn’t understand why he had been separated from the only person he still recognized.  Grandma could only watch through a pane of glass as he retreated deeper into his disease.

Shortly after taking up his new residence I found myself sitting in my grandparents’ living-room across from grandma.  She would talk in waves.  One moment she would be recalling memories of our different family gatherings.  The next we’d be sitting together silently.  In one of these beats of rest, as I listened to the clock steadily remind us of what we were up against, I realized that I probably have never sat alone with my grandma before.  I come from a huge family and there was always a brother accompanying me.  At the very least, grandpa would be around.  Now it was just the two of us.

Then my grandma said, “You know, the Bible says that you should rejoice always and be thankful in all circumstances but I’ve never really understood that until now.”

This wasn’t where I expected the conversation to go.  My grandma had just let it slip that she had cried more in the last week than maybe the whole rest of her life combined and now she was talking about being thankful.  Things were pretty dark in her world and she went to thankfulness in all circumstances.

As I drove home I was forced to re-evaluate my own attitude.  If my grandma could find reason to be thankful then why do I spend so much time inwardly complaining?  Right now we find ourselves standing in two very ominous shadows.  COVID-19 is looming and so is an election.  Both of those shadow-casting circumstances are surrounded with misinformation, campaigns, conspiracy theories, and noise; lots and lots of noise.

What an opportunity to live as a people who are brimming with thankfulness.  After all, we are living in the light of a love that casts out shadows.  We are not surprised by these circumstances but instead find that our only comfort in life and in death is that we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ who has fully paid for all of our sins with his precious blood.  All truth, all goodness, and all beauty flows out of the cross and the empty tomb and therefore so does a legacy of thankfulness and hope.

Joel Rohde served as pastor of worship and youth at North Ridge Community Church in Eldridge for 14 years before transitioning to his current role as pastor of worship and discipleship.  Joel has a deep love for the church and Classical Christian Education. He coaches fifth and sixth grade students at Morning Star Academy and is committed to using the sport as a tool to guide students toward a life of discipleship and service in God’s Kingdom.

Holding It Lightly

Mary Sievers

We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know he is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good? 

The past six months have been a time that the Lord has used to reveal idols, and do the work of “chipping away” at them. When we are stripped of our comforts and our control, idols become evident quickly. I thrive on routine and a schedule. With a personality that strongly resembles the “Enneagram 3 – Achiever” profile, I prefer to have all of the details, desire that situations occur in reality the same way they do in my mind, and shy away from spontaneous plans. When I slip into worshipping this idol of control, my heart grows rapidly weary.

Seemingly overnight in March, the majority of our plans were put on indefinite hold. I stopped crossing things off of our calendar and quit looking at one all together (I’m pretty sure March had 72 days this year). I felt discouraged as benchmark dates passed and uncertainty loomed large. But God, in the midst of what often felt like a thick cloud of disappointment, gave my soul relief from a schedule that had been far too busy, one that did not allow for true soul rest.

Since that time, God revealed His goodness and His majesty, over and over again: remote work schedules and cancelled sports commitments gave us the gift of time. Time to take family walks on our property, to sit around a campfire and debate the qualities of a perfectly roasted marshmallow (slow roasted, golden brown, gooey on the inside, for some – charred on the outside and barely warm on the inside, for others), creek walking, and discovering rhythms of stillness and rest.

As the community around us continues to “re-open”, I am able to hold loosely to our schedule, knowing that tomorrow could look completely different than our penciled-in plans (if it does, maybe it will hold more time for cozy blankets and hot coffee). Cancelled ball games create time to cook a healthy meal at home, and time to gather people around our table.

In the moments that I forget to trust in God’s goodness and recognize that my heart is weary, I am reminded of James 4:13-15,

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 

Whatever tomorrow may hold, God’s plans are greater than our own; unwavering, and certain. He is steadfast. Whatever our desires for tomorrow, God’s plans are greater – for His glory and our good.

Mary Sievers, and her husband Jon, raise four children on an acreage just west of the Quad Cities. Their four children attend Morning Star Academy. Mary enjoys being outdoors, great coffee, and is a “work from home mom” as a co-owner of a women’s boutique, Caty + Rose Market, in the Village of East Davenport.

Good Mood Gift

Kaitlin Walsh

For this blog, I was asked a simple prompt: We’ve found ourselves still living in the midst of a global pandemic. Death tolls rise and restrictions remain. And yet, God, too, is steadfast. What is God revealing to you so you know He is Trustworthy, Beautiful, and Good? 

Immediately my mind went to the highlights of the summer: The wind in my hair as I rode on a speedboat, the kids finally seeing their grandparents after quarantine, the one day my two year old actually used the potty and I thought I was seeing the end of almost a decade of diapers (spoiler: I wasn’t). These were moments that filled me with joy, and absolutely God was in every one of them. However, where I really see the proof of His presence is when I feel a joy that stems from… nothing.

Let me explain. During the slog of spring quarantine I remember telling my mom that I seemed to be on a “three days on, one day off” schedule. That is, I typically had a run of three “I got this” days, tackling the home schooling, the extra cleaning, cooking and stress with relative grace. Then came day four and it was bad news bears—I’d feel overwhelmed, crabby, lonely, you name it. My mom said she noticed the same in herself and we had a good laugh about the predictability of our mood swings and how our husbands should mark their calendars for the Day Four Meltdowns. While we spent much more time discussing the nuances of the bad days, I got to thinking about the wonder of those good ones. How I would sometimes go to bed feeling as though I just could not handle this, and wake up with a completely new outlook. Nothing in the world had changed, my circumstances were the same and the news was just as frustrating and terrifying as the day before, but something in me just felt more capable, hopeful and joyful.

And that’s it. That transformation from bad mood to positivity are the moments where God has proven His goodness and trustworthiness to me. That ability to find joy when the day before you could find none, the potential to suddenly see the good side in a bad situation, that is where God resides. An unfounded good mood is God’s beautiful gift to us and we should recognize it as such.

Our friend St. Paul is a wonderful example of a man who recognized and drew on this gift of joy regardless of hardship. Take Philippians 4:11-13: “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul experienced imprisonment, beatings, being stoned, isolation and more. But through it all, his writings transmit a feeling of joy, contentment and peace. 

I’ll admit that I am not yet at his level. Facing what he faced, or for that matter, what Jesus faced, it’s hard to imagine a good mood shift taking place quickly. And I will acknowledge that I am lucky to have experienced a 3:1 ratio of happy to sad days during quarantine. I do know the beast of depression and anxiety, of experiencing more of a thirty-days-off, one-day-on type of schedule. But I know this as well: with a combination of prayer, love, faith and time, God will help those brain chemicals to shift, so that one day you will wake up ready to face the day, even when the day seemed so lousy just yesterday. 

So bring on the pandemic, the riots, the economic turmoil, the hurricanes and fires. God will be there at the moment you think you can’t handle anymore, adjusting your attitude, inducing a calmness that seems completely out of place given the circumstances. That is His good mood gift and proof of His goodness and love for us.

Painting note: This is a rather serious-looking self portrait I made after quarantine. In it I’ve highlighted the limbic system in the brain, which is your emotion-control center. I like to imagine God right there, pulling the strings on that limbic system, creating more happy hormones that put the peace right there in my brain, body and heart.

Kaitlin Walsh is an independent artist specializing in abstract anatomy paintings. She spends her time portraying the beauty and complexity of the human body through her store, Lyon Road Art. Kaitlin lives happily in Bettendorf, Iowa with her husband and three children. Two of her kids are students at MSA.

Stay the Course

Betsy Tubbs

My son began attending Morning Star Academy as a 3-year-old preschooler.  He came home from his first day of school and told his Dad and me that “School was fun, except for the work part.”  This was the beginning of a challenging educational journey through MSA up to his graduation! 

School can be hard and for a lot of kids, it is hard.  And that hard is tough for students and parents alike and sometimes we can lose perspective.  Sitting at the kitchen table night after night watching and listening to them struggle, cry, and feel dumb is so very difficult!  Sometimes it’s tempting to throw in the towel.  However, from someone on the other side of the challenging educational journey MSA offers, know it is worth it and God is good through it all.

My son graduated from MSA, went on to college, where he thrived, enjoyed learning and graduated with his BA.  MSA prepared him to defend his beliefs and respectfully challenge his professors!  The transition from MSA to college was easy.  He watched his new friends struggle while he adapted easily.  He finally felt like the smart one!  He wrote numerous papers, was regularly praised for his writing ability and was asked to present and defend one of his undergraduate papers at a national conference.  Who would have guessed that the struggling MSA student would earn the honor graduate award of his major?   

Fast forward a few years, he is in an intense language program for his job.  He is taught Spanish for 8 hours a day, for 6 months with the goal of passing an oral interview test that grades his fluency in the language.  When he started the program, he told me he was light years ahead of his co-workers.  He could see exactly where his Shurley grammar lessons were helping; he could see exactly where his Latin classes were helping and of course, he could see where his Spanish classes were helping.  My son, 20+ years after beginning MSA can truly see and experience the benefits of his challenging educational journey.

To those parents that are tired – stay the course!  To the teachers that are tired – stay the course.  To the students that feel dumb and don’t understand why MSA is having them do what they have to do – stay the course.  Know your parents and MSA teachers want the very best for you and of you!  When you feel like throwing in the towel, don’t!  It is worth it – every dollar, every assignment and every night at the kitchen table!  God is good and He is working through the Morning Star Academy community.

Betsy Tubbs is the Senior Parks Manager for the City of Davenport Parks and Recreation Department. She and her husband are members of Bettendorf Christian Church.  Betsy served on the MSA school board for 12 years. The Tubbs’ have two children – a son and a daughter – both are graduates of Morning Star Academy.  

One Day at a Time

Mary Sievers

The week of March 8th, 2020 feels like one that will be engrained in my memories for the rest of my days. “Coronavirus” had become a household term, the jokes were clogging our Facebook feeds, and cruise ships coming back to the United States were being quarantined. My husband had been telling me for several weeks prior to be ready for the possibility that Coronavirus could hit the United States fast and hard, and that it likely meant sheltering in place with our family for a period of time. To which he assured me “You won’t have to do it alone.”

That week, we were taking care of the final plans for our spring break trip to Florida, but I could sense that things were changing quickly. Cities on the west and east coasts were issuing shelter-in-place orders, and the “stay home” hashtags were popping up on social media. I thought through some of the simple pleasures of life that might be put on pause and tried to make sure to cram them in to our week: lingering in the coffee shop, ruining our supper with “Here’s The Scoop” ice cream on our way home from school, and enjoying dinner out with friends.

Throughout the week, the inevitable toilet paper jokes began, but the actual panic was evident as I entered Costco and watched the people head to the toilet paper aisle in droves. Rare was the passed cart that didn’t have a case, as I checked off our grocery list. As the last pallet of toilet paper emptied, I noticed a woman following people around the store waiting on the abandoned cart to find her opportunity to purchase some. Honestly, it was an eerie feeling and I began to wonder if this is how heading to the grocery store would always look, from now on.

As our children played at home that evening, my husband and I began to discuss the distinct possibility that on Monday morning our children would not be returning to the school building. That he would likely not be headed in to his office, and the feeling that things were beginning to feel, different. But, as I watched my children at play, the peace of the Holy Spirit came over me, and laid on my heart “I know what is going on, I am in control, I have given you enough for today”. I snapped a quick picture of my children at play, and fired off a quick text to a friend that said “quarantine us for 14 days, we’ll be fine”.  

I clearly remember picking my children up from school the next day. As I watched them come out of school, a couple of tears slid down my face. We had been paying close enough attention at home to be prepared that our kids would not be headed back to school for a few weeks, and likely not at all. And yet, as the announcements came about at the end of March that schools in Iowa would not open for the remainder of the school year, my heart was grieved again. 

The 2019-2020 school year was our family’s first year as a part of the Morning Star Academy family, and I was sad to watch it end prematurely and abruptly. I suddenly felt that they had been robbed of precious time and memories. And yet again, the Holy Spirit quickly laid on my heart “I know what is going on, I knew that this is how their first year at Morning Star was going to look, and you can do this one day at a time.

As we continued to navigate distance learning and “crisis schooling,” a close friend and I talked through that same sentiment, one day at a time. Within days of that conversation, it was Easter Sunday. That morning, I received an e-mail from my mom. She was sharing a link to the sermon from her church, and encouraged me to watch, because the pastor was sharing a story about my dad (whom we had lost to cancer in May of 2019). The sermon was answering the question, “Where do we put our hope?”. The pastor had walked closely with my dad during his battle, and was sharing words from some of the last pages of my dad’s journal. “This is my walk with the Lord. One day a a time. God is my refuge and strength, my ever present help in trouble. I rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to carry me through. I turn myself over to his strength.” One day at a time.

I have been learning, through all of this, that when we stop putting our hope in things of this world (for me, through this: vacation, our children’s education and activities, social gatherings, friends, and being in control of our schedule), and shift our hope to the Savior, who has taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) we begin to better know our Savior that reminds us that we should not worry about tomorrow (v 34). While we sleep, our Father is at work. When we knock, He answers (Matthew 7:7). When we put our hope in the Risen King, who has won victory over the grave, we can put our eyes on eternity and find our refuge in God. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Mary Sievers, and her husband Jon, raise four children on an acreage just west of the Quad Cities. Their three sons attend Morning Star Academy, with their daughter headed to MSA preschool in the fall. Mary enjoys being outdoors, great coffee, and is a “work from home mom” as a co-owner of a women’s boutique, Caty + Rose Market, in the Village of East Davenport.

Quarantine Heat

Amanda Dean

Eight-and-a-half weeks ago on a Friday night I gathered with some of my girlfriends at a local restaurant to celebrate two of our birthdays. We lingered at the table for several hours, the atmosphere was busy and full of laughter and conversation. No one was wearing a mask.

Two days later my family attended church. We worshipped side by side with other believers, exchanged handshakes and hugs, had conversations with friends standing much closer than six feet apart. Little did I know that those events would be the last social gatherings that I would experience for a very long time.

Looking back on the past 8 weeks, the amount of change that has occurred is surreal. So many of the things that we have depended on as a normal part of daily life have been stripped away. Corporate worship, gathering with friends and the privilege of sending my children to a classical Christian school where they are enriched in so many ways. These especially feel like deep, deep losses. And indeed they are! There are many things to grieve during this season.

Transitions tend to bring out the worst in us. When we are deprived of what we
think we need to be happy and comfortable, our true nature is revealed. This pandemic hasn’t suddenly turned us into irritable, frustrated, demanding people. Rather, these circumstances have not-so-subtly revealed the sin that has been there all along. A couple months ago, it was easier to prevent these hidden sins from bleeding out because we could apply our bandaids of choice: shopping, sports, dining out, coffee indulgences, time with friends…busyness. Personally, the “2 hour stroll through TJ Maxx” bandaid is one of my favorites. I just know that finding a cute new pair of shoes would surely settle this discontentment in my soul!

Our current situation has turned up the heat on our idols. Much like the method that a goldsmith uses to purify gold, the heat of our circumstances has brought the impurities in our hearts to the surface. It has revealed even more deeply to me my idol of comfort.

There is nothing comfortable about our current situation. I’m uncomfortable teaching my children, which has been revealed by my lack of patience and knowledge. I am uncomfortable navigating Zoom calls. I am uncomfortable with the constant swirling of noise around me and lack of alone time.

It is good to look forward to something better and to long for the other side of this
darkness. But we are often mistaken at what that better thing is, and what we should be longing for. I have found myself thinking when things get back to normal, and making plans for all of the places we will go, things we will do and restaurants we will visit. I know I am grasping at the air for some sense of control and hope.

Placing our hope in life post-quarantine will only prove to disappoint and fail us. A
world free from Covid-19 will still be covered in a dark blanket of sin. Even when life returns to normal, we will still suffer from discontentment and unhappiness, and our hidden sins will still fight to overtake us.

Our hearts have been crafted to long for and rest in Christ alone. In all circumstances, we are called to believe His promises. He is making all things new, even when we don’t understand His plans and can’t see the outcome.

The stripping away of comforts and the revealing of idols is painful. But much like the goldsmith at work, the heat is full of purpose. My prayer is that on the other side of this pandemic, hindsight will show that this was a season of our deep need driving us to the Father, and refining us in ways that our bandaid-covered life never could.

Amanda is a stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She and her husband, Justin, planted Sacred City Church nine years ago. Amanda is a true homebody. In her downtime she enjoys painting, singing, decorating, and just about anything creative. All four of Justin and Amanda’s kids attend Morning Star Academy.

A few thoughts from our foxhole:

Kat Carter

Having just retired from the Army within days of the COVID-19 quarantine (yes, God’s timing is perfect!), I’m still somewhat in the military mindset.  In the Army, we typically document significant operations with an After Action Review (AAR). Oftentimes, an AAR is abbreviated with “three ups and three downs.”  Looking back after nearly eight weeks of quarantine, I thought I’d share a few of our family’s AAR comments:

Three Ups

1.) Unhurried family time. Everyone eats together every night with no rushing to get to activities. Our evenings now often include walks around the neighborhood, board games, or just sitting around the firepit. When we look back on the Quarantine of 2020, I’m confident we’ll remember the slower pace of life and increased family time with fond memories and thankful hearts.

2.) Learning is fun! It has been a great joy to learn alongside my kids. It’s a thrill to see their eyes sparkle when they understand a concept for the first time. It’s also been fun to see my kids’ “school personalities” and eavesdrop overhear their conversations in class Zoom sessions. (Other parents do this too, right?)

3.)  Family devotions.  This often-allusive goal has been difficult for us to achieve and maintain. With less competing demands, we’ve been able to prioritize this time.  Though sometimes awkward and never without a handful of distractions, our devotion time frequently leads to deeper follow-up conversations later in the day.

Three Downs

1.)  IT support. We were not prepared, tech-wise, for online schooling. There were not enough laptops or tablets to go around, the printer was out of ink, and our internet is sometimes spotty.  Adding to these frustrations was the fact that our kids had never really used a computer before. Nevertheless, four kids sharing devices has been an opportunity to accommodate others, as well as a chance to learn how to prioritize tasks and manage time.

2.)   Burn out. We are all approaching electronic burn out.  Even my young children get tired of screen time, yet most resources from school and our church require computer/internet access.  As a result, my kids have become even more interested in imaginary play.  Schooling now frequently occurs in superhero costumes (over PJs, of course) so that they are ready to dash out to play at recess.

3.)  The human touch. We really miss our friends and our in-town grandparents. After two months of waving through the car windows or saying hi from the front porch, my parents came over last week wearing clear plastic tarps so they could pick up the kids and hug them.  For years to come, we will all have a greater appreciation of the gift of giving and receiving physical affection.

These AAR comments have been helpful to us as we reassess what getting back to “normal” will look like once quarantine restrictions begin to lift. What are your family’s quarantine AAR reflections?  What new habits or practices might your family add back in or, conversely, leave out, as quarantine lifts?   Praying for all our families of faith as we Charlie Mike (Army for “continue the mission”) on our Great Commission.

Kat Carter provides operational, logistical, and emotional care support services for her squad on a full time basis (AKA stay-at-home mom). She and her husband, Bill, are the parents of Jon (4th grade), Ben (2nd grade), Nate (1st grade) and Hope (preschool).

COVID-19 and Lectio Divina

Reid Walters

The Christian tradition is rich with liturgies and practices designed to bring the practitioner closer to their Heavenly Father. One such practice is that of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading, is composed of four equally important parts: Lectio, Meditatio, Contemplatio, and Oratio. In order, these terms translate too: read, reflect, respond, and rest. The practice of the Lectio Divina can be a bit time consuming and slightly tedious when first beginning but that is precisely what makes it perfect for when COVID-19 thrusts us into a time of social distancing.

As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I was sitting on a beach south of Tampa with friends, blissfully unaware of the coming pandemonium. Suddenly, life as we knew it changed. I first received an email warning me of the possibility that my medical mission trip to Papua New Guinea could be cancelled. What came next, I could not have predicted. Within a matter of 36 hours I would no longer be returning to school, my summer mission trip was cancelled, and I would be moving home for the foreseeable future. As soon as I arrived at home, I found myself sitting in my bed thinking “Wow, I have way too much time on my hands.” The abundance of time brought me back to a practice I had learned about in an epistemology class I took in the Fall of 2019, Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina, draws from the way in which Jews read the Haggadah on the first night of Passover. The word Haggadah means “telling” and the practice finds its origins in Exodus 13:8. In this passage, God commands the Israelites, who have just been freed from Egypt, to tell their children of the miracles He performed. In Lectio Divina, a passage of scripture is read four times to let the hearer internalize the scripture. Followed by a time of silent meditation on what stands out. It is here that we give the spirit time to work, time to bring to light what we might otherwise read over or fail to grasp. Next, it is important to respond to what has been brought to mind. Some do this through journaling while others, like myself, prefer to spend the next few minutes in intent prayer. Lastly, is to take a brief time to rest. This time of rest looks different for everyone. Some simply sit silently and allow their mind time to return to the present before proceeding with the day, while others prefer continuing to reflect until their mind is drawn elsewhere.

In the days to come, there is a good chance that you will find yourself with little or nothing to do. It is with this time that we have been blessed. While being made to slow down and sit still can certainly be a challenge, let us not waste this glorious opportunity to commune with our Heavenly Father. The word of the Lord holds teachings for all who are willing to pause and listen. Will you?

Reid Walters graduated from Morning Star Academy in 2017 and now is a senior at Olivet Nazarene University. Reid majors in philosophy with minors in biology and chemistry with the hope of going to medical school after graduation. Outside of school Reid is an avid reader, rock climber, and photographer.