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How To Thrive in Quarantine

Sunday, April 19, 2020

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It has been a while, they have been quarantined away from everything they know, they feel like the past is so distant and they miss all those things they used to have. The foods, the tastes, the experiences. They don't know how long it is going to take until they go back to some kind of normalcy. Every day they wake up and wonder... how much longer? It has been difficult, living down to the bare minimal. Eating the same thing every day. No, I am not talking about us. These are the Israelites crossing the desert towards the promised land. Except their quarantine lasted forty years, not forty days as the term "quarantine" means. 

Forty years, can you imagine that? Suddenly reading the stories about the Israelites complaining in the desert is like placing a mirror in front of my own face. I used to think how spoiled they were acting, not trusting God and missing things like melons. And yet, here I am, after a few weeks of quarantine with enough food to make any Israelite jealous, complaining about the lack of melons. Funny how we think highly of ourselves until difficulty hits, and then we realize that we are actually much worst than the Israelites and would probably not survive one day in the desert!

Influenced by a multitude of gentiles who also came out from Egypt with them, the Israelites also started to complain about their misfortunes, they complained about eating manna (the daily bread from heaven), about the lack of foods like fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. And they were punished by God for complaining. Why? Because they were being ungrateful for all the good that God had done for them, rescuing them from Egypt where they were slaves and destroying all their enemies after dividing the Red Sea in two. They forgot the privilege of having God's very presence in their middle and the fact that he was leading them towards the promised land!

As much as we humans enjoy complaining, first it doesn't solve any problem and second it places ours hearts in a position of ungratefulness. How can we give thanks and be ungrateful at the same time? The Israelites had a miracle happening every morning in the desert when the manna appeared. Yet, their taste buds wanted more seasoning and less miracle. How sad when our eyes become blind to the miracle!

Moses had a strong word to the Israelites, "When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to be full, because the Lord has heard your grumble (or complain) against him - what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord." Exodus 16:8

Ouch! Every time we complain we are blaming God for not giving us the perfect life we expected. We forget all that he has already given us, when he sent his son to die for us on the cross. When he created us in his own image and gives his own Spirit to live inside those who believe in him. But we forget, and we want more seasoning and less miracle.

We have been complaining for a while. The very first man Adam after disobeying God was ready to complain. "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree and I ate." Genesis 3:2 And since then, we have not stopped.

As I read the Bible, I realize that complaining is not a proper attitude towards God. He says, "Do all things without grumbling (or complaining) or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as light in the world." Phi 2:14

I have yet to feel better after complaining. The truth is that the more I focus on my complaint list, the more miserable I feel, and yet when I focus on my thanksgiving list, I actually feel better! God does not tell us to stop complaining because he wants us to suffer more. He instead wants us to experience his goodness in full. He wants us to realize that nothing compares to his presence, and if the Israelites filled their mouths with melons, onions and garlic they would still feel ungrateful. Because their ungratefulness did not come from their stomachs but from their hearts. 

God loves us so much that he gave up his son to be quarantined away from him. Jesus chose to come down to this world as the baby of a poor teenager. He chose to quarantine himself away from heaven into a life of difficulty, lack of comfort and eventually painful death. And he never complained, even when he spent forty days in the desert without food. Why? "Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb. 12:2

Jesus understands what it feels to suffer, to go through difficulty, and he tells us "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matt 11:28

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

What are you thankful for today?
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Ten Ways To Cope With Fear In This Chaotic World

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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April has just started and a lot of us feel a little uncertain about this month. If you are a mom, you are probably dealing with a bombardment of negative news, financial insecurity and a house filled with lots of hungry mouths to feed around the clock. Your usual daily routine has being turned upside down and every day is another step into the unknown, while you try to figure out this new reality.

With uncertainty comes fear, and the feeling of lack of control over the situation feeds into more worry and stress. So how do we cope with this moment in time and feel peace amidst the chaos? As much as I would love to be an expert, I am right there where you are, learning as I go. What I can offer are some of the things that have helped me and I hope they will be useful for you as well.

So here are ten helpful ways to cope with fear in this chaotic world:

1. Recognize that what is making you afraid are your thoughts. The virus, the numbers, the news, the governors, the list of things to do, the people around you, none of them are causing your emotions to go everywhere. Your thoughts are causing your fear and worry. Five months ago we were not afraid of this situation, even though it was something that was going to happen, because we did not have thoughts about it, so we were not afraid. I love reading Philippians 4 because it tells us exactly that. "Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus... Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Through prayer we can share our fears and worries with God and then let go of these thoughts focusing instead on all the other thoughts listed above. 

2. What is true? The first thing God recommends we think about is what is true. I love that the Bible is filled from cover to cover with truth, so time spent reading the Bible and learning about what is true is the perfect medicine to calm down our anxious thoughts. What is true? God is in control and he loves the world so much that he sent his only Son to die for all who believe in him. He does not promise an easy life, but he promises to be present with us and work all things for good for those who love him. Keeping our thoughts focused on truths dissipate the "what ifs". Can we rest on God's hand at this moment? He is holding you, let go of fear. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." Psalm 23:4

3. Focus on the big picture. There is a story in the Bible about a jewish queen named Esther who found herself in a stressful situation in a chaotic time in history. Her uncle offered an interesting advice when she was trying to decide what to do. He said "And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Have you ever thought about the fact that we are part of a bigger picture, we are here for such a time as this? What can we offer to others from the position we hold? Esther chose to do her role at that moment even though it could have led her to death. She says "If I perish, I perish." Maybe as a mom, our role may seem small, loving our kids, providing care for our family, reaching out to help other people. At this moment, the world needs more of us, not less. 

4. Fear focus on the future. Have you ever notice that when our brains start to worry we go to imaginary worst case scenarios in the future? You prepare for the future, but there is not need to obsess every minute about it. It has not arrived yet, and we waste a lot of emotional energy with things that have not happened. When I feel my mind going to the future I pause and start to notice all the things I am thankful for in the present. The sunshine I see coming through the window, my kids laughter I hear from the other room, the smell of food baking in the oven, how soft my sweater feels, the chirping of the birds outside. Thanksgiving is mentioned so many times in the Bible because it pulls our minds away from fear and focus on the gifts God has given us, both physical and spiritual. Thanksgiving keeps our hearts content with what God has given us, at this moment. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." Col. 3:15

5. Recognize how you make decisions. When we are afraid, we don't make rational decisions. So before making decisions of any kind in a moment like this, recognize that we are all prone to base our decisions on different factors. Some people make decisions based on facts, some out of fear, some emotions, some traditions, some after what experts say, some based on what the majority is doing, or what the social norm is, or even some by impulse. This also allow us to understand why other people may not be making the same decisions as we are, and even if we told them one thousand facts, they would still not make the same decision as us because they don't make decisions based on facts. Maybe they trust their intuition, or just go with the flow. And we can still love them despite the fact they may not make the same decisions as we do. Pray about your decisions, seek God's guidance in what you are supposed to do, and then make a decision and feel at peace with it. Don't blame yourself next week about the decision you made this week, you will probably have more information next week that you did not know this week, and that is ok.

6. Embrace this season. When we feel uncomfortable we try to run away, make it go away, wish we could jump ahead. There is something to be embraced during this season. "We know that tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has pure out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." Romans 5:3-4 These are things we can't purchase, learn through an online course or read a book about it. Perseverance, character, hope. We learn these things living through difficulty. Athletes don't just show up at the Olympic Games ready to win, they go through years of suffering, practice and conditioning. They become athletes, they are not born athletes. However, they know that it is all worthy when they get the medal at the end, when they finish the race.  "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb. 12:1-2

7. It is not your job as a mom to keep everybody happy. Remember item number 6? We need to recognize that at this moment everybody is learning perseverance, character and hope and we don't need to protect our kids from every disappointment so they can feel happy. It is an illusion to think that we can make other people happy, we can support them, offer our presence, but we can't make anybody happy. We can pray for the people we love and share God's truths with them, so that they can experience real peace. We don't need to control everybody's emotions. 

8. Nobody is making you feel afraid. We choose to have thoughts that make us afraid. When we feel afraid is easy to start blaming everybody and everything for our emotional discomfort. The authorities are not doing their job, the neighbors are not following the rules, the media is making false claims, and so on and on. Are any of these thoughts helpful? No, they actually make us angry against people who don't even know us. A better alternative? "Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." 1 Pet 5:7 Turn off the news, let go of social media comments, feed your mind with the things you want to think about. "Fixing our eyes on Jesus." Heb 12:2

9. This moment is all we have. We have never been promised anything more than this moment. Regardless if there is a disease out there or not, we live day by day, moment by moment. What is the best thing I can do with this moment I have been given? "And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

10. Keep perspective. This is not the end of the world. Or the end of anybody's world. We as humans are eternal, and God sent his son to give eternal life to those who believe in him. Eternal life can't be stopped by a virus. Think about it, this virus is not threatening our existence, it may take our mortal bodies, it may produce uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms, but as believes in Jesus we are not done. I like to think that I have survived the pain of giving birth to a child, one of the worst pains available, and I survived it and don't even regret it. We are stronger than we think and God is our strength. "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phil. 4:11-13

"So we do not lose heart. Thought our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Col. 4:16-18 Think about these things...

Further readings: How to Prepare for the Coronavirus and How to Thrive in Quarantine
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