Lock down and shielding made life very simple, if lonely. It was quite clear, I could go nowhere and see no one. All contact had to be virtual, which was tough at times, but a lovely new way of connecting.
Then lock down began to be eased, and shielding “paused” three weeks ago. Now life has become much more complicated, because I have to be the one to make decisions and try and manage other people’s expectations of me. Service things are very easy, the internet will provide most things I might need to buy or the lovely Mr W gets the food. I have had several medical appointments over the phone quite effectively, and when I have had to go in, they are entirely geared up for safety. I do not, it turns out, need to go to the pub or restaurants. I have not been able to go to a cinema or theatre for a long time, I have no need of a casino, bowling would be a disaster and church comes to me via zoom. We will even survive without a holiday.
The difficult decisions are about people – people that I love. Who and where. I have to decide that for myself, what I think is safe and what level of risk I am willing to take. With lungs like mine, people are very dangerous at any time. I do not really need a cold, never mind Coronavirus. They have take a major setback from the pneumonia I had earlier in the year and I am still struggling with that. But no person is an island. Seeing people is good for anyone’s mental health. However physically exhausting that is, it is always one of the trade offs I am willing to make.
I am having to do all the decision making on who I am willing to see, who I heartbreakingly have to say no to, when it is only sensible to see people outside (and I find sitting outside really difficult because I don’t have my specific, comfortable seating) and who it might be safe to let inside. That is before I even start to wonder if it is safe or advisable for me to visit anyone else. Is it sensible for me to go and sit in a park? Can I trust others to keep two meters away, or wear a mask correctly? I am being forced into choices I would rather not have to make about who I see.
I am finding the decisions totally emotionally exhausting. Finding the balance is hard work, and continually needs reassessing. I feel guilty about some of the decisions I feel I have had to make, and wish they could be other, however much they are made in love and with the best of intentions. It turns out coming out of shielding is far harder for me than shielding ever was.
This is my offering for today’s devotions for our circuit website.
The text is printed here for those who prefer that.
In 1983, the absolute heyday of music, Howard Jones recorded a song , whose lyrics begin
“I love you whether or not you love me I love you even if you think that I don’t”
I think of those words when I hear today’s reading from John. Again I am working my way through the readings suggested in The Prayer Handbook, where Jesus continues to tell his disciples all he wants them to know before he has to leave them, his way to live for when they are without his physical presence among them.
9 I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you. 10 If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him.
11 I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. 12 Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you. 13 The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. 14 And you are my friends, if you obey me.15 Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me.
16 You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name. 17 So I command you to love each other.
The chorus of Howard Jones song goes on to ask
“What is Love anyway, does anybody love anybody anyway”
A question you could ask in response to Jesus’ entreaty. What is love? What is Jesus asking of us?
You ask us to love, to love each other as you have loved us.
What does it look like that kind of love.
Is it words said to get what I want? Feelings easily given and easily taken back? A passing fad, loved today forgotten tomorrow? An emotion wasted on nice food, a new tv programme, the latest fashion?
None of those are love.
Love is sacrificial. putting your needs before mine; giving without waiting for something in return: wanting hope for you; sharing your burdens and your joys; supporting you in what you do; loving without needing love back; letting you be the person you are wonderfully created to be.
This is love, love that will bear fruit, that will make us strong.
Love that if each of us share, we will receive what we need too. A circle of love, hope, peace and life in all it’s fulness for all.
Thank you for love Lord. Your love for me, given so freely by you and by others.
Teach me to love as you love, to love without counting the cost, without waiting for someone else to make the first move, without waiting to see what I get in return.
Give me your love, tender, true, that keeps on loving.
The love of being your friend, chosen and loved.
I could suggest you listen to Howard Jones’ What is Love for my song suggestion, but I also offer you Love Like Jesus from Rhett Walker Band
8 Then, a new king, who knew nothing about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 He said to his people, “These Israelites are so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. 10 In case of war they might join our enemies in order to fight against us, and might escape from the country. We must find some way to keep them from becoming even more numerous.” 11 So the Egyptians put slave drivers over them to crush their spirits with hard labor. The Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses to serve as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites, the more they increased in number and the farther they spread through the land. The Egyptians came to fear the Israelites 13-14 and made their lives miserable by forcing them into cruel slavery. They made them work on their building projects and in their fields, and they had no pity on them.
15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to Shiphrah and Puah, the two midwives who helped the Hebrew women. 16 “When you help the Hebrew women give birth,” he said to them, “kill the baby if it is a boy; but if it is a girl, let it live.” 17 But the midwives were God-fearing and so did not obey the king; instead, they let the boys live. 18 So the king sent for the midwives and asked them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the boys live?”
19 They answered, “The Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they give birth easily, and their babies are born before either of us gets there.” 20-21 Because the midwives were God-fearing, God was good to them and gave them families of their own. And the Israelites continued to increase and become strong. 22 Finally the king issued a command to all his people: “Take every newborn Hebrew boy and throw him into the Nile, but let all the girls live.”
The Birth of Moses
2 During this time a man from the tribe of Levi married a woman of his own tribe, 2 and she bore him a son. When she saw what a fine baby he was, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could not hide him any longer, she took a basket made of reeds and covered it with tar to make it watertight. She put the baby in it and then placed it in the tall grass at the edge of the river. 4 The baby’s sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.
5 The king’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, while her servants walked along the bank. Suddenly she noticed the basket in the tall grass and sent a slave woman to get it. 6 The princess opened it and saw a baby boy. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
7 Then his sister asked her, “Shall I go and call a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Please do,” she answered. So the girl went and brought the baby’s own mother. 9 The princess told the woman, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So she took the baby and nursed him. 10 Later, when the child was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. She said to herself, “I pulled him out of the water, and so I name him Moses.”
He didn’t know why there were so many Israelites in Egypt. He didn’t know how Joseph had saved us, that it is because him any of us are still here, that he was the one who organised us in our fight against the famine, he was the reason we didn’t starve. His family prospered only because we all did.
But this king knew nothing of that. he saw only those he perceived as ‘foreigners’ overrunning ‘his’ land; People he thought of as ‘other’ prospering where he thought his people should be.
In fear he acted to keep them down, crush their spirit, make life difficult, reduce their numbers.
Yet the more he oppressed them, the greater they grew. Hard work, menial tasks and slave labour could not keep them down.
So he thought he would go straight to the route of the problem. Get rid of every new born male. That should soon bring them into line, stop them growing.
But he hadn’t reckoned with the love of one woman, unwilling to let her child go, and another who felt the same. A baby kept safe by his mother, discovered by the Princess and kept safe. However much her father considered him other, she now called him her own. One of the very children the King was trying to rid himself of, ultimately brought up under his own roof.
Man plots, but God will always find a way.
Forgive me Lord, when I fear the other, their success and well being.
Save me, when I jump to conclusions without finding out the truth.
Forgive me when I act from what I think I know and make others suffer.
Thank you for those who love and those who have courage to stand up for that love.
Bless those who are care givers, whatever the situation.
Thank you that you are always working.
1. Almighty Father, who dost give The gift of life to all who live, Look down on all earth’s sin and strife, And lift us to a nobler life.
2. Lift up our hearts, O King of kings, To brighter hopes and kindlier things; To visions of a larger good, And holier dreams of brotherhood.
3. Thy world is weary of its pain; Of selfish greed and fruitless gain; Of tarnished honor, falsely strong, And all its ancient deeds of wrong.
4. Hear Thou the prayer Thy servants pray, Uprising from all lands today, And o’er the vanquished powers of sin, O bring Thy great salvation in.