Steve Macchia Blog

Permission to Lament: A Legitimate Response to COVID-19

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Dear Friends,

This article by N.T. Wright on Christianity’s perspective of COVID-19 hit a raw nerve in my soul. In it Wright suggests that our role as Christians is not to give answers to why, how, or even what or who, is most related to COVID-19. Instead, to simply be present with one another in the virus. Not providing explanations or even compelled toward declaring hope or sighs of relief. Instead, to join our hearts in lament: a collective stillness of poised, anxious sorrow.

I relate to this article, not just because I’m prone to melancholy myself, but because of all the genuine sorrow being experienced worldwide. And, without a defined ending point, solution, or even a clear light at the end of this virus’ dark tunnel. We wait, not in rest, but in collective anxiety. We try to defer or distract from our sorrow, and sweet stories of goodness and kindness bring a brief smile to our face and a tear to our eye. But, then the sorrow returns.

Lament. It’s what the psalms are filled with, and our prayers invite. Lament. Crying out to God for relief of our suffering, our pain, our heartache, our endless days of sadness and gloom. Lament. It’s universal, not just for the least, the lost, and the lonely, but for the upwardly mobile, the winners, and the socialites. If we’re honest, it’s something you’ve seen and felt and known too.

What I’m discovering in my own soul is that the lament of our world today is uncovering the lament of my world today. Lament. Over broken relationships that make no sense in times like these. Lament. Because of my own selfishness, defensiveness, and dare I confess: sinfulness. Lament. In spite of our collective desire to be people of hope, we are known more for our competitive spirits and our uncooperative unwillingness to bend…even an inch. Lament. Sorrow for how much our selfish humanness must hurt the heart of our selfless God. Lament.

Those of us in soul work understand lament because we hear it when we meet with others in confidential spaces. We listen to stories of real people in real settings dealing with real hardship, suffering, angst, disillusionment. We aren’t surprised by what we hear. Mostly because of our common humanity, but specifically because we can actually imagine it for ourselves. If we’re willing to empathize. And lament.

How are you dealing with the out-of-control nature of the pandemic? You are hereby given permission to embrace the response of lament. It’s actually quite good for your soul. The psalms are our comfort, for they are filled with prayers of lament. Express your lament to God. He can handle it. His broad shoulders can carry your lament. Trust him and encourage others to do likewise.

“…it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope. New wisdom for our leaders? Now there’s a thought.” (N.T. Wright)

With our prayerful lament we also long for hope. Like the Lenten season and Holy Week, both filled with hard images of suffering and sorrow, we do know that Easter will burst forth with resurrection light and power. Christ reigns supreme, he is indeed on his throne, and the life he offers to all is resplendent with joy. Lament is only for this side of heaven. Eternity won’t have anything to offer lament except to be crushed by hope.

As we all suffer through this trial and tribulation, our anchor is Christ and Christ alone. So, even as we lament, let’s keep pointing one another to the cross, the empty tomb, and the gift of eternal life. And, ultimately, to God: Father Almighty, Jesus our Savior, and the Spirit we call Holy. There is no better way forward.

Your friends at Leadership Transformations have pivoted toward several online offerings. Take advantage of them over this coming month. We are here for you in whatever state your soul is found today. In lament. In humility. In anticipation. In prayer. In joy.

Check out our COVID-19 page on our website where you’ll find helpful FREE offerings for the care of your soul…and, a healthy handful ofONLINE offerings too.

Your brother in Christ,

Steve Macchia

 



19 Ways to Care-for-your-soul…during Stay-at-Home COVID-19

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19 Ways to Care-for-your-Soul…during Stay-at-Home COVID-19

During these challenging stay-at-home days, let me encourage you to cultivate your friendship with God, deepen your friendship with the community of God, and consider ways to serve others in the name of our Triune God, our loving Father, gracious Savior, and empowering Holy Spirit. As we all practice social distancing and collectively fight the pandemic, it’s important that we care for our own soul and the souls of others within our reach, in both new and ancient ways:

  1. Pray – now more than ever, we need to be in our prayer closets entrusting our hearts and lives and concerns into the loving hands of our faithful God.
  2. Walk – sheltering inside days on end will contribute to sadness, boredom, fretting, fearing, and obsessing…take a daily walk and get some fresh air.
  3. Rest – pay attention to your body and get much needed rest; perhaps even consider a daily nap to keep your heart, mind, body, and spirit fresh.
  4. Play – maybe it’s time to get out those puzzles, board or card games, and engage with a loved one around something less weighty and more relaxing.
  5. Write – write a note, craft a poem, start or restart your journal, or simply put words down on paper that describe the current state of your soul.
  6. Read – starting with the Bible, Christian materials, and perhaps a good novel, or a self-help book, read slowly, purposefully, restfully, meditatively.
  7. Create – contemplative creative play is worth practicing, bringing to life that “other” side of your productivity: color, paint, mold clay, take photos.
  8. Cook – instead of eating instant foods made by manufacturers, pull out a fun, easy, or even a more complex recipe and enjoy a good meal or treat.
  9. Call – in this digital age it’s tempting to think we can stay in touch with friends and loved ones only one way; pick up the phone and call instead.
  10. Serve – guaranteed there are neighbors around you in need of an act of kindness and grace; ask the Lord to lead you to do something simple for another.
  11. Forgive – in the busy fray of life we often ignore our anger, frustration, and conflict with others; ask the Lord if it might be time to forgive and move on.
  12. Laugh – we all need some good news to counter all the sad news; give yourself permission to be lighthearted, knowing that laughter is good for the soul.
  13. Notice – with open space and less responsibilities (unless you’re on the front lines of medical care, etc.) observe springtime popping all around you.
  14. Hope – in times of trouble, hardship, suffering, and sadness, look in God’s Word for words of hope and comfort that will keep you moving forward.
  15. Declutter – take it one room or one drawer or one closet or one file at a time and purpose to simplify, clear out, and/or dust off what’s been ignored.
  16. Slow – choose a different pace for your days and watch how your world slows down with you; linger over tasks, lessen the load, and live more fully.
  17. Thank – lean fully into gratitude, for it will heal and strengthen you like few other attitudes; as you practice thankfulness your heart will swell with joy.
  18. Listen – as tempting as it may be to focus on yourself, practice the fine art of listening – to God and to others, without competing or correcting them.
  19. Love – the most important way to care for your soul is to love God, and then love your neighbor as yourself; love will empower us through this season.

Add your own ways to care for your soul during this season of at-homeness, practicing the presence of God and a preference for God, in all aspects of our lives as friends of God and friends with others in his name.

God bless you with an abundance of his grace, joy, and peace as you experience God’s kindness and goodness amidst this worldwide pandemic. Lord, have mercy!

 

 



Fasting from the Intuitive

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During the coronavirus pandemic we are being asked to do so many things that are counterintuitive to what has been our preferred norm. No concerts, plays, theme parks, or sporting events. No restaurants. No cruises. No church. No school. No parties. No hugs or handshakes. No gatherings above 500, then it was 250, then 50, 25, and now no more than 10 people in immediate proximity. Keep your distance. Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t cough or sneeze unless into your arm.

 

Being forced into a fast is rarely preferred. Normally we choose our fasts according to what seems most dominant and in greatest need of pause. Today we are in the midst of a culturally mandated fast. And all for the good of the most vulnerable, which is reason enough to join an abundance of wisdom and caution.

 

What part of this pandemic is most troubling to you? Are you fearful of the disease? Or of the dis-ease? Concerned about the health of loved ones? Or skeptical about the need to panic or even prepare? Worried about the stock market and your/our financial future? Not liking the social distancing? Or is it the government’s evolving demands?

 

We seem to be all over the map in our response. Some are approaching it with grace and patience. Others are selective or oblivious. Still others are filled with fear and anxiety. We need to recognize and honor one another in spite of our opinions. Bottom line: we need to flatten the curve, do all we can to spare lives, optimize the medical community, and pray for God’s protection, mercy, strength, and healing.

 

It’s timely that we’re also in the season of Lent. A time to fast, to be humbled, to let go of ourselves and look to the greater good. The call today is for compassion, humility, grace, and patience. All of which are incredibly counterintuitive to our common humanity. But, rise to the occasion we must, and will, and we will eventually look back and reflect, reconsider, and recalibrate for the days ahead.

 

Fasting from the intuitive has become our shared mission…“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

 

May it be so! Amen.