Sharing the love and Gospel of God in Lockdown

As Christians we are called to share the love and joy of the gospel, even in times of lockdown.

But of course, this throws up a range of challenges or obstacles in the way of our ‘usual’ methods of sharing with others.  I mean, we can’t hang out at our local bakery or café, where many of our ‘faith conversations’ may usually happen, nor are we likely to bump into others in the butchers, or Richie’s at the moment.  Most of us are unable to lend a hand to a neighbour or go hang with the Mum’s at playgroup.

So, what can we do?

What can we do to share life, love and the Gospel of Jesus with those around us in this season?

 

How to share with those already in our lives

I am sure we all have several friends, or neighbours that we already know, and have already shared life and faith with.  Which is great, because we already have a foundation of friendship.  We can continue sharing God’s love with those people by…

 

Praying for them – What committed prayer can achieve is boundless!  Taking time regularly, to pray intentionally for the salvation and spiritual growth of friends, family and neighbours, is vital.  People may sometimes feel that prayer is passive, but it most certainly is not.  It is absolutely essential to the growth of God’s Kingdom and paves the way in the spiritual realms for what can be done in the physical. Here are some ideas…

  • Make a list of people for whom you will pray
  • Make a regular time to pray for those people
  • Put that time in your calendar.In a digital calendar, set an alarm to remind yourself.
  • Create a prayer partnership! Inviting another Christian friend to pray along with you.This is really powerful and encouraging.
  • Have pen and paper with you as you pray, so you can jot down anything God may prompt you with as you pray for people.

 

Picking up the phone – During lockdown we still have the ability to reach for our phone to call, text or video chat.  It is really important at this time to continue to connect with our friends, but sometimes we need to be intentional about this, because, let’s be honest, we all get complacent and distracted by other things.

  • Pop a reminder in your calendar to give them a buzz regularly.
  • Check in, see how they are going, be ready to listen and go from there.
  • Spontaneous calls are great for some, but you might also like to arrange a virtual ‘catch up’ with people, so you get that quality time. It is hard to have a good conversation while cooking dinner, or helping kids with school work.

 

Be Active in Caring for people – There is a lot of need in our community right now, and we have so many wonderful opportunities to care for others. Here are just a few ideas…

  • Write a thoughtful card or encouragement letter and post it to them.
  • The next time you are heading to the store for essentials, give someone from your list a call and ask if they need any groceries.
  • Make a meal, or give someone a treat by giving a voucher for a local take away.
  • Chat with your neighbours’ kids if they are playing outside or maybe play a game over the fence, such as Eye Spy with them.Kids get lonely too.
  • Send a care pack in the mail, with items that help that person feel valued.

 

 

Organise a bible study/discipleship catch up:

You may have people in your life who are new or young Christians, and though you are praying for them, you would like to help them grow in their faith. In this case, why not…

 

  • Arrange a time with them to do a bible study over the phone or video call?There are lots of resources on the net, as well as some the STM staff would be happy to send your way.  Just ask.
  • Send encouraging scriptures or articles.
  • Read a book together, perhaps one you can gift to them via Koorong or the like.
  • Share your faith stories, testimony, what God has done in your life with them.These kinds of anecdotes can be very inspiring and faith building.

 

 How to share with those NOT YET in our lives

 

You may think we currently have little to no opportunity to make new friends, or share with strangers, but…  we can:

 

Take a walk around the block

If you go at roughly the same time each day, you will start to recognise people in your neighbourhood.

  • Start with a ‘Hi, how are you’ and build from there. Soon, those strangers will be ‘neighbours’!
  • While exercising in your area, take the time to pray for your street/suburb and the people there.Ask God for opportunities to connect with people and love them.

 

Do a letterbox drop

  • Write a card or letter of introduction, and offer of help should they ever need it. Place this in the letter box of those in your street.It is a great ice breaker and can open up more opportunities to connect.
  • Get specific.You might have noticed a particular older resident, who may need someone to talk to.  Let them know you are there, and they can call you if they want to. Or a parent struggling with juggling work, supervising kids school work and housekeeping.  Post some chocolate and an encouragement card in their letterbox. Let them know, you care.

 

Share on social media

If you are on Facebook, or the like, these are a great tool for sharing God’s love and gospel.  There are so many people in great need of seeing good news on their feed.  Be a positive voice in their ‘scroll’.

  • Think about what you share.You can encourage and inspire others by posting encouraging articles, songs of hope, scripture, videos of testimonies.
  • You might join or be part of a local community ‘group’ such as ‘The Emerald and Around Notice Board’, The Hills and the Dandong’s group’ or ‘Mums of The Hills’, Facebook groups.Friendships can be formed in these communities.

Broadening your online horizons, you will start to see, a lot of need.  People struggling, people hurting.  You can really impact someone by messaging them words of understanding and care.

  • Share things St. Mark’s is doing, such as courses or events.Share our online services, or let people know what the church and Echo do for the community.  Promote NILS, or Careline.  Let people know what practical care we can offer.

 

So, as you can see there is so much we can still be doing in this wonderful mission field we call home. We hope there is some helpful ideas for you here.  At times it might feel strange, it might be different to what we have been used to but we are equipped to ‘go make disciples. (Matt 28:19).

Bless you, as you share the love of our Father.

 

 

 

Waiting in the Confusing In-Between

When we began our first period of lockdown I started a series of blog posts on the topic of how periods of grief and loss can be times of spiritual and emotional growth. I think this is appropriate again in this new lockdown period when we have been thrown back into that experience, perhaps in an even deeper way this time.

The process I am talking about is based on four stages of wrestling with grief and loss identified in the book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ by Peter Scazzero, as he describes how the biblical character Job works through his own grief. The first step he identifies is the need to ‘pay attention’ to our situation, to ourselves and our feelings, to slow down, be present to our situation and accept the opportunity to learn more. Upon losing everything Job sits down and laments his situation, opening his heart honestly to God and to his friends.

The second stage he discusses is the need to ‘Wait in the Confusing In-Between’, which is to allow that there will be a time in this process when things do not make sense and we can’t see what will come next. Job was plagued by his ‘comforter’ friends who tried to find reasons for his suffering rather than journeying through it with him. In doing so they merely heaped more pain on Job and brought judgement on themselves. In our present situation of re-entering lockdown we are certainly in a ‘confusing in-between’ when we do not know the future or how to make sense of how respond to our ongoing crisis. In that space we are tempted to find ‘reasons’ for our suffering – to identify people or groups to blame, to jump to interpretations of God’s will in this, or to explain to others what is happening to them and how they should feel.

The story of Job invites us instead to remember that we do not have all the answers, and that the complexity of the world is often beyond our grasp. Moving through grief and loss is not about finding explanations that will make sense of everything, but remaining open to God’s love and transforming presence in the midst of confusion, trusting that on the other side we will find something new. And perhaps that ‘something new’ will be the more healthy and loving people that God intends us to become.

The Journey of Grief and Loss: Paying Attention

By Andrew Bowles

In my years as a minister I have seen a lot of grief. It seems to me that grief is about how we feel when we lose something that we value. Like the loss that people feel at the time of someone’s death. Like grief at a broken relationship and the lost joy and time it represents, or over a family member that has moved away. The loss of a job. The grief of sickness and loss of health. The grief of disappointment in God and in other people who have not lived up to our expectations, and the loss of hope that comes with this. All of us grieve something at some point because we all have seasons of loss.

However, this past few weeks has been a time of grief that has been almost universal in our community, not just touching some people but touching us all. We have gone through a sudden and dramatic experience of loss that has touched every household. Without much warning we have lost our freedom to move, our confidence in our future health, our regular routines and our sense of stability and normalcy. Many people have lost their jobs already, or are seeing that coming. We are losing the economic prosperity and growth we have come to expect. We are losing our daily connections with our friends and family and people we work with (except perhaps through a screen).

I want to write for the next couple of weeks about loss and grief and some ways that we can experience that as Christians. I will share some responses to these experiences that take into account the reality of grief and the way we might face its challenges and opportunities. These points are drawn from the book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ by Peter Scazzero (www.emotionallyhealthy.org). He gives us four encouragements to people of faith in a time of grief and loss, and how this time can be an opportunity to ‘enlarge our souls’ in relationship with God, ourselves and others. I will share the first one today and the others in upcoming posts.

  1. Pay Attention

The first thing we might do when we experience grief is to ‘pay attention’, which basically means to acknowledge our feelings and the reality of the situation as truthfully as we can. Many of us find we want to ignore grief and loss because of the pain that it brings. Maybe for a season that can work, while we get through a short-term crisis or the shock of a sudden loss. But over time this can get us ‘stuck’, and make it difficult to ever move through these situations and find what might be possible on the other side. So paying attention acknowledges that things are genuinely difficult and that feeling bad in that is okay and normal. The Bible is filled with people who spent lots of time ‘lamenting’, or bringing their sadness and grief to God, even in very raw and honest ways. God appears to welcome people’s anger, sadness and questions in the midst of grief. Grieving is a normal part of the spiritual life and is a healthy process to go through.

In paying attention, in slowing down, we become aware of what is going on in ourselves, and what the situation is really like for us, and acknowledge that truth. This begins the process that can lead to personal and spiritual growth in this kind of time, because all spiritual growth is based on truth.

So today I would encourage us to take a moment to stop and pay attention and be aware of what we might be feeling, and know that it is okay to share those feelings with God in prayer in whatever way is appropriate for you.

Talking to other people can help too of course, who will acknowledge the reality and normality of what we are feeling. To find information about a variety of phone counselling services that are helpful for different groups of  people and situations you can go to https://www.mymentalhealth.org.au/page/services/self-care-and-informal-support/helplines-and-online-support/.

 

Next week we start the school holidays. Many people in our church also take the time in winter to head away on holidays to warmer places. Some of us wish we could join them! In our sermon series at St. Mark’s on ‘Finding Our Pattern of Life’ we are going through the topic this week of how we care for our ‘souls’. Our soul is another word for our ‘life’ – the thoughts and feelings we have, the things that we do, our energy, our personality, our passions. These things are our soul. Part of caring for them is understanding what gives life and what takes it away. Rest and holidays are something that give life and remind us that we are more than just working machines. Jesus promised that those who followed him would find ‘rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:29). So, enjoy your holidays, and let’s help each other bring the cares of our souls to Christ, for His rest. -Andrew-

Across my life I have learnt to play a number of musical instruments. When you first pick up a new instrument, it feels very odd and you make terrible noises. But, with practice, it can come over time to feel like an extension of your body, and you know just what to do to make the sound and music that you want. As Christians, one of our challenges is to see our physical bodies as an ‘instrument’ of God, an instrument that as Psalm 139 says is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and capable of producing the beautiful and powerful ‘music’ that God wants to make in the world. This week at St. Mark’s we are thinking about how the way we care for our bodies is part of our discipleship as followers of Jesus. This opens up many fruitful and interesting topics to consider as we grow in our knowledge of God – thinks like what we eat, how we sleep and how we exercise our bodies, and do all these things in a way that leads to Jesus – as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’. -Andrew –