Signs of Health

The weather this week was not as bad as I feared, so we were able to take some nice walks around town and spend a lot of our afternoons out in the back yard 1. Our normal route by the river is very crowded at the moment, and trying to keep distance from people is next to impossible 2, so yesterday we opted to head away from the river instead.

It was a wonderful time, and we were able to stop at a friend’s house and do a “social distance visit 3.” In ordinary times, it’s where Bump spends his days while my wife and I are working, so he was ecstatic to see the other kids. Their family had been busy coloring the sidewalk with helpful advice 4 and encouraging messages. I was so happy I remembered to put my wide-angle lens on my camera!

After we chatted for a bit we began our walk home, altering our path any time we found someone on the path in front of us 5. When we were a few blocks from home I noticed something which I found remarkable. Palmyra has a train tracks which run down our main drag 6. On the one side of the tracks a nice promenade runs through part of the town, which is a lovely feature I’d love to see us utilize more. As we came towards Broad Street I noticed what I guess was a father and daughter duo, kneeling on the walkway. It was then I saw the pieces of sidewalk chalk in their hands and, fascinated, I diverted my walk to see what they were drawing 7. I didn’t want to force these folks to move back from me, so I couldn’t get as close as I would have liked to the drawing to take my photos 8, but what I saw gave me great joy. It was one word, in huge letters, “Breathe.”

Father-Daughter Partners, spreading joy

Just, Breathe.

I thanked the pair and rejoined my family to finish our walk. And after we’d arrived at home I noticed the partners coming down our street, stopping on occasion to draw some encouragement on the sidewalk. This his how they were spending the beautiful afternoon–blessing others with hope and compassion.

It was a beautiful thing. A sign of health.

For the rest of my images from the walk, see my SmugMug Gallery.

  1. Bump loves running. 
  2. Bump and I walked one block along the road, but bailed when we looked at the more narrow part of the street and saw a mass of people. 
  3. Six feet apart, Bump couldn’t get out to play with the kids. 
  4. Wash your hands! 
  5. It is an odd thing to feel the need to treat other walkers like potential bio-hazards. 
  6. It splits broad street, which is an interesting quirk of the town, but it also reduces the scope of our downtown area, which is a bit of a bummer. 
  7. Always being mindful of my physical distance from folks. 
  8. I may go back today if the rain holds off some. 

A Penny Gnomes Live Reading

As we practice physical distancing during the CoVid-19 pandemic, I wanted to offer story time to folks. Surf in at 1PM on March 26 for a live reading from my novel In The Land Of The Penny Gnomes.


The video should appear below this text when the live stream begins. If it doesn’t, you can see it on my Facebook Page.

Random Thoughts #10

It’s Wednesday, and that means random thoughts!

  1. This is my tenth random thoughts. I rather enjoy these.
  2. I took a free enneagram test. I my “winged” score was 5w6, which is “The Troubleshooter.” I read the description and went, “Yup.” Now I want to do the real version because I find it interesting.
  3. Last night I worked on trying to set up my old Raspberry Pi as an RTMP server. I couldn’t get it fully operational, but I loved every minute of it.
  4. We considered getting take out last night. It made me feel very uncomfortable so we didn’t.
  5. The teenager was not happy about #4.
  6. Bump has hit the stage when he shakes his head and sighs at my obliviousness anytime he says something I can’t decipher.
  7. Yesterday my live streaming technology worked.
  8. I used to have dozens of 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cables. I have no idea where they all went. They’re probably hanging out with the micro USB cables, which have also been raptured.
  9. The rapture is one of the silliest theological innovations of the last 200 years.
  10. Monday night, for three wonderful hours, I was a Half-Elven Paladin. He’s good, but has a rather inflated view of himself so it causes friction with the rest of the party.
  11. I’m a nerd. What’s your super power?

Oh The Stress

Today marks the beginning of week 2 of social distancing. I’m an introvert, so the idea of distance doesn’t bother me all that much. I live life watching from a corner on a good day, coming out to engage on occasion and then retreating back to my natural state. Being stuck in the corner with others, however, is a new experience–it’s a bit more stressful.

I wanted to take a bit of a snapshot this week, letting folks see where I am in my own journey. It’s good to journal this way, but it might also validate where you are if you feel stress rising from the smallest triggers–you’re not “crazy,” this is normal.

Looking back on the last few weeks, I probably should have taken the mental step of cancelling my Florida trip a week earlier than I did. When I see a break on the horizon I tend to sprint to the goal, and then collapse into rest. When I cancelled my trip only a few days before I was set to depart I’d already been “sprinting.” My heart and mind are ready to collapse into rest, but instead I’ve been caught by an entire world that is now swept up into a new reality. As such, I’m facing a bit of mental fatigue.

This means I need to be very deliberate in how I set my goals for each day. I need to make sure I’m finding moments to sit and reflect so I can exercise my mind on something. As we transition into this new reality I’m finding this difficult to do. On1 Photo, for example, released a major update last Friday, and I only just installed it today. My mental energy reserves were too depleted to take the steps to do it. I’m thankful for my wife, who is making sure that we both have space to do our work. She’s a teacher, so my instinct is to just watch Bump so she can spend the hours she needs to be with her students–but she’s having none of it.

My mental and social depletion is also leading to silly errors in my tech use, and I’m experiencing a rising impatience for providing tech support for people who become panicky and immobile when confronted with a tool they’ve not used before 1. These are things I need I need to keep an eye on, breaks are going to be essential if I’m going to be functional by the end of all this. And with it raining all week I’ll need to get my elliptical set up to make sure I’m getting in some exercise. Walks are not going to be a thing.

So here’s my advice to folks, which I need to follow myself.

First, and I saw this from a post on Facebook, it is OK to be grieving–even for “little” things. What we consider “normal” is now long gone, and it won’t be coming back. Seniors have lost the end of their senior year and all that comes with it. “Once in a lifetime” trips have been cancelled, and may never be rescheduled. Weddings have been postponed, birthdays are being celebrated in solitude, and family gatherings have been pulled off the schedule. In the grand scheme of things none of these things is a big deal. Compared, that is, to families grieving a loved one for whom then cannot have funeral or to medical professionals who working in dangerous circumstances without protective equipment.

But even if, comparatively speaking, our grief is not over “big issues” it’s still ok to grieve loss. Steer into it and start the journey forward, because grief will out whether we deny it our not. And toxic grief is a destructive force, while healthy grief leads people to seek life.

Second, breathe. Breaths are moments of pause, reflection, and self-understanding, and it’s been difficult for take these moments because my breathes tend to be taken in solitude–which is now in short supply. I’m going have to develop an ability to breathe in more crowded circumstances, and my education has already begun. I’m writing this post while Bump watches TV, which is not something I would attempt in typical circumstances, but it’s necessary for me to decompress this way, so I can return to being “present” again. If you find yourself flustered by small things you know you’re capable of doing–find a way to quiet down and take some breaths of pause.

Third, take a day a week to be “frivolous.” At least, that’s what our culture has taught us to call it. In reality, it’s rest. Just take a day and say, “This is not a day for productivity, I’m going to recharge.” Play a game, pursue a hobby, read a book, or just do nothing–and don’t feel guilty about it one bit. Even now we need some re-creation.

We will get through this, but some deliberation is required.

  1. And I’m not very patient with that scenario on a good day. 

Staying Connected

What are we going to do to get people to come back when this is all over?

This is a refrain I’ve heard from pastors in various settings ever since the reality of the pandemic’s reach began forcing a suspension of our worship gatherings. Some are afraid that people will get used to worshipping online and not see a need for physical church any more. Others are afraid that people will be afraid to come back into large(ish) groups and therefor will stay away.

The common link between the two, of course, is fear. The real question these folks are asking is, “How will the institution survive?”

It’s the wrong question to ask, and it is always the wrong question to ask.

Why? Because any institution whose membership fixates on that question freezes in place. They can’t adapt to a changing culture 1, lament that legacy communications strategies aren’t working, and are unprepared to demonstrate the peculiarities of the faith with any sort of clarity or faithfulness. That’s because surviving isn’t living. It’s just existing.

So how do we “get people to come back?”

We don’t.

We never go away in the first place.

We are living in a time of necessary social distancing. “Social,” however, is probably a poor choice of words. What we are practicing is physical distancing–we can still be social 2! Pastors can still reach out to folks in the congregation, using the myriad of ways available to us in the Information Age. We can stream during our normal worship time, keeping as much of the normal rhythm of worship as we are able. We can share conversations with our wider communities–with members who are being creative as they practice physical distancing, people who might have some guidance for dealing with the outbreak, or local officials to assure folks that our first responders are still on the job. We can even continue the deliberate work of being connected to one another though prayer.

If we never go away, and if we are deliberate to be visible during this crisis, people will be reminded of what it used to be like when there wasn’t a public health ban on us meeting together for worship. And, just maybe, it will help folks miss that.

Pastors, let’s not be worried about survival right now 3. Let’s heed our calling and spread life, wherever it might take root. The Kingdom call us to move.

Stay healthy. Be wise. Live with grace.

  1. And, no, this does not mean changing music to a current popular genre. 
  2. This introvert is exhausted by how social I’m being. 
  3. Or ever, really, it’s a dead end. 

Random Thoughts #9

It’s Wednesday, even with social distancing this means random thoughts!

  1. Disney, thank you for releasing Frozen 2 early.
  2. I have more direct connection 1 with other human beings during this pandemic than I normally have in the better part of a week.
  3. I should be in Florida right now. In the town where all the irresponsible people are at the beach.
  4. Colbert did a show from his bathtub. I don’t think I could pull that off for worship, but I kind of want to try.
  5. Teachers everywhere are trying to figure out how these remote instruction day work, have patience.
  6. Parents with school-age children, your kids didn’t read the instructions.
  7. When public life is allowed again, I’m taking a month off. Seriously, I have the vacation time.
  8. I’m slowly coming to grips which how Scrivener creates it’s eBooks. Writing CSS for custom looks is kind of fun.
  9. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a nerd.
  10. I’m very tired.
  11. I dropped off something for a congregant today. I told them to stay away, put what I was dropping off on the ground, and then backed away while ordering them to wash their hands immediately. That was weird.

  1. Over the Interwebs.