Encouragement From The Word

Toilet paper fear

Okay, what’s with the run on toilet paper, people?

Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around this one.  Apparently, scientists are not suggesting that ‘the runs’ are part of Coronavirus.  Perhaps people are afraid of being quarantined in their homes, and fear running out of essentials.  (The good news for me is that most people, apparently, do not consider bacon an essential.)  And besides, when one can’t get out of the house, there are online vendors who will cheerfully drop necessities on your doorstep!

The sense of fear among many people around Coronavirus is unprecedented.  Almost 20 years ago, when SARS was running rampant, there wasn’t this kind of trouble finding things like toilet paper.

The SARS phenomenon occurred a long time ago, and social media as we know it today didn’t exist.  I suspect that it may be playing a role.

Until the last few days, I was <ahem> poo-pooing the whole matter.  But then the World Health Organization declared that Coronavirus is a pandemic.  Flights are being cancelled.  School is being delayed in some places.  Professional sports are postponing their seasons indefinitely.

This is a serious matter – more serious than I was initially prepared to believe.  People are getting very sick, and some are dying from Coronavirus.  And it’s important to take precautions, but for most of us, these precautions are normal precautions:  handwashing, for example…and staying home if you are sick with any communicable illness.

Coronavirus is not the end of the world.  In my opinion, we should not be cancelling our worship gatherings, nor most of our regular activities, because of this concern, provided we take careful precautions.  We should expect people to be responsible adults and avoid public interaction if they are ill, and to wash their hands often to avoid communicating any kind of illness to others.  I’ll admit that this may be unusually optimistic, and I’ll certainly be monitoring the matter in my own congregation and life.

It’s wise to avoid hoarding things like soap and hand sanitizer, since we all need such substances in order to maintain public health.

And we should trust the Lord to be our Protector.  This does not absolve us of our responsibilities, but it should free us from captivity to fear.  And I think fear is a big deal right now…maybe even a bigger deal than Coronavirus.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Anonymous comments don’t edify

You’ve heard me say it before:  nobody gets too much encouragement.  That’s axiomatic.  Yet one of the most common ways to discourage a leader is through anonymous comments.  (That’s one reason why so many blogs and news feeds turn off the comments section – people find it very easy to be rather unvirtuous when they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.)

It’s surprising, but even though most people know that encouragement goes a lot further than discouragement, sometimes unsigned comments still come along from time to time.

My usual response to them is to ignore them; after all, if someone isn’t willing to stand behind what she or he writes, then it obviously isn’t worth pursuing.

I want to give you an example that isn’t personal, and so isn’t discouraging – it’s just disappointing.  Last Sunday, I received a connection card that didn’t have a name on it.  On the back, rather than responding in some way to the message (which was on having a heart to listen like Solomon, 1 Kings 3), the individual simply printed, “The NLT sounds gosh awful”.

I started preaching from the New Living Translation about a year ago, after the editors of the New International Version made significant changes to the translation.  The program we use to display the Scriptures on the screens moved to that new edition, thus rendering our pew Bibles different from what would be on the screens.  (Besides, I’m not a fan of the grammatical changes that were made to the NIV.)  Given all that, it seemed logical to change to reading and preaching from a translation that used good grammar and reads in contemporary language.  Most folks have just gone with the flow on this.

Had my anonymous connection card submitter affixed her or his name to the card, I would have explained all this, and given more reasons for why I have opted to use this translation.  But because the comment was anonymous, the individual lost the opportunity to benefit from that explanation, and any pastoral care I might have offered in the context of the conversation.  And I lost out on a chance to encourage another person.

Anonymous comments don’t build up.  Whether you’re saying something helpful or something that bothers you, when you deal with other people, always identify yourself.  It opens doors for effective communication, and even spiritual growth!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7 – yes, in the NLT!).