• Steve Johnson

Life Refocused - by Dr. Cheri Kommel

I was thinking last week that for many people Lent may be getting lost in all the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus. But I have noticed specifically this week how pieces of our spiritual and personal life seem to be coming together and tying into Lent whether we think about it or not.

The Lenten devotional by Jesse Middendorf reads each day like it was written with COVID-19 in mind, yet it was written long before anyone but God knew about the virus. God is using these devotionals to pull Lent and the present situation together so that we can hear him speak in fresh ways during this Lenten season.

Songs we hear on the radio and our phones are usually heard at an individual level – my situation and my struggles. They speak to us of God’s presence at a personal level. The past couple weeks those same songs have been speaking in new ways. We can hear the lyrics speak in much broader terms to the situation in which our faith community and the world finds itself, encourage our faith and trust as the collective of God’s people.

Another area of ‘coming together’ is the increased family time. The busyness of life leads to fragmentation of family time and thus to the fragmentation of the family. We focus our days on our individual agendas and what ‘I’ have to do. The past couple weeks have offered us the opportunity to shift from me to our as we spend time together and connect to one another. Again, the shift of focus from ourselves to those around us.

I have been studying the book of Matthew the past months. Even as I read it over and over and read commentaries, I am hearing God speak from the pages to a nation (Israel) of his desire to heal and restore, far beyond the individual healings and miracles he performed. We see again the shift from the individual to the larger body of Christ and to the needs of our nation and of our world.

Aristotle is often misquoted as saying: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What he actually said is: the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts. God did not design us to be a mere group (heap) of individuals doing our own thing. We were meant to live with each other, to be mindful of one another, to live with others in mind and not only ourselves. As a whole, we are stronger and better than we are as individuals. In light of the present stressful situation and all the changes in our lives, our prayers are also changed. We are looking beyond ourselves more and thinking of others in our faith community, in our nation, and globally.

It is interesting to observe these shifts and to believe that God can use a bad and fearful situation to reshape our lives, to bring beauty from the ashes . . .

to provide for those who mourn in Zion (or wherever we may be) to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

Isaiah 61.3

We can rise above the ashes, our mourning, and our faint spirits to become strength and righteousness, to display his glory in our families, neighborhoods, the work place, and our community of faith during this time of crisis. God can use us to bring beauty from the ash heap.

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Photos by Michelle Gould Photography,

Heather K. Barclay & Justin Leonard