COVID-19, Lasting Church Changes

There is something I’ve heard a lot. It’s a common theme for church members and leaders:

“I can’t wait until we are back to normal.”

I understand the statement. We eagerly await the day the full congregation returns to public worship, and everything members need.

Some things we want to return:

  • Nursery care
  • Children’s programs
  • Youth classes
  • Adult classes
  • The regular service schedule
  • Seeing everyone together

Some things we want to end:

  • Face coverings
  • Social distancing
  • Checking for fever
  • Everything wiped down
  • Fear of touching or being touched
  • The perpetual talk about Covid-19

However, there is a growing awareness that the “normal” we long for may never materialize. Nobody knows for sure, but as churches reopen across the country, we are learning some things. Here are five things that shape a new normal.

  1. Many churches will not see the attendance they had prior to COVID.
  2. Some members will choose to remain home and participate online.
  3. Some worship services and bible studies will continue digitally.
  4. We became multi-site churches and that will remain on some level.
  5. A heightened sense of risk may stay with us for a long time.

Church leaders need to embrace the new normal instead of grieving for the church they once knew. Smart leaders will view the differences as opportunities and not as disruptions. It won’t be easy. It feels different and strange. But work through it.

New technology can help the church. Most churches haven’t had a large digital footprint, they didn’t need one, but those days are ending. Churches that upgrade their digital capabilities will be able to meet the needs of their congregants and community. The churches that don’t will struggle to catch up.

To Close

Churches that were growing before COVID-19 will continue to grow, even with the new normal. Churches that were declining will probably continue to decline.

Here is a thought.

Proud leaders see something they don’t understand and say, “That’s wrong.”

Humble leaders see something they don’t understand and say, “Please teach me.”  

The church culture has changed. But it’s the same gospel, the same Savior and the same Heavenly Father. May he bless and guide us as we navigate through different waters.

Saying Goodbye


It’s all natural. No, not food or food additives, but of the natural way of life, that it ends.


Sunday: I took a gift from a family at church to another family from church who very recently lost a child. I knew the gift would richly bless the family who will soon gather around their Christmas tree with their two children, but not three.  

Monday: I had coffee with one of our ministers and the conversation wandered onto the topic of death. I shared about our stillborn child. Our baby boy never saw the light of day. But he was perfectly formed, perfectly whole and perfectly beautiful. During  labor there was a complication. He didn’t make it. 

Tuesday: I attended a Christmas Party for our group of retired seniors. One of the couples I sat with brought their beautiful baby granddaughter Just a few weeks ago I had the honor of conducting the “Baby Blessing” for her and her family. It was lovely.

Wednesday: Today I’ll attend the “Celebration of Life” service for the father of one of our members. This family has experienced a long, cold season of grief and loss. I can’t recall another family who’s endured so much. It’s heartbreaking and it continues this morning at 10:30.



We know that life doesn’t last forever. But we hope it lasts a very long time. And when it does it’s still a soul crushing event. When life doesn’t last a long time, but comes all too early, it’s even harder. People say, “No parent should outlive their children” True enough. But it still happens. 

The writer of Hebrews wrote that it’s appointed once for man to die. Solomon said, “There is a time to be born and there is a time to die.” I think He was right. 

Our minds tell us that death is just a part of the human experience. True enough. But the experience of saying goodbye to a loved one is altogether more difficult than chalking it up to the human experience. 


So far this week I wept with a family who has lost a child. I got emotional in the memory of losing our baby boy. I’ll attend the service of a friend saying goodbye to his dad. And I got to experience the exquisite joy of a radiant infant filled with beauty, light and life. 

We say goodbye to those we lose.

We say hello to those we gain.

And We Say Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord

It’s All Natural


The Scars of Life

Here are a few of the scars of my childhood.

  • Left Middle Finger: stuck my hand in a metal blade fan.
  • Right Thigh: pocket knife slipped off a piece of wood I was carving.
  • Right Forearm: a gash from being tackled in a Friday night game. 
  • Face and Shoulders: unusually large and painful blemishes/boils.
  • Broken Heart: when Becky, my first girl friend, broke up with me.

Some scars I wear like badges of honor. Not necessarily smart badges, but still. Some are painful reminders of a difficult and awkward adolescence. Some I show and talk about freely. Some I hide and prefer not to mention. 

“We all have scars, scars of body, mind, and soul.”

 Scar Tissue

Scars are formed when our skin is cut or ripped. The scars on our souls form when we are torn from within. Some result from deep grief and others from the battles of daily survival. Others are deeply painful memories. 

The Apostle Paul

Here is something Paul wrote to the churches in the Galatian Province, Galatians 6:14:

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

The cross was invented not by the Romans but it was certainly perfected by them. The body of Jesus was pierced by nails and a spear point. Not to mention his scalp and forehead from the crown of thorns and the deep cuts from the brutal scourging.

“To boast in the cross of Christ is to welcome the pain and persecution of others.” 

The Bible

He went on to say this in 6:17:

“Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

He did. In 2 Corinthians 11 he mentioned that along with other violent treatment that he five times received the forty lashes minus one. From the back of his neck to the back of his knees must have been nothing but scar tissue. 

The Scars of Life

We all have them. While some are the result of accidents, others are the result of cruelty from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Perhaps most painful are the scars of the soul, and the memories we can’t let go of.

To Close

May the grace of our Lord be yours in abundance. May his peace be a balm to your soul. May his love immerse you like the warm embrace of a caring Father. 

Whatever your scars, I pray you find rest in the comfort that only He provides. 


It Was A Wake-Up Call!

“Stop! In the Name of Love”

What Is That?

It’s a lyric, and title, from a song the Supremes released on February 8, 1965. It quickly reached the top, going #1 on the Billboard Pop Singles, nearly 52 years ago.

Here’s Why It Matters

Yesterday, while driving home, I ran a red light.

The road I use has a crosswalk that isn’t at an intersection, it’s in-between intersections, in the middle of a long block, with a blinking yellow light.

When someone wants to cross, they push the button and the light blinks red, and then it turns red. The cars stop, the people cross, and it goes back to blinking yellow.

I didn’t notice the light had changed from yellow to red. By the time I saw the cars  stopped in the other lanes, it was too late to even brake, with no one in front of me, I drove right through it. As I did, I noticed someone with a bike was getting ready to cross. It was a young girl.

And Then?

I was scared, rattled, and sick to my stomach. I could have severely injured her, or worse. All I could think about was how close I came to destroying her life. I thought about her family. I was shaking when I pulled into my driveway. I’m shaking now. 

Now Jesus, Matthew 5:14-15

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone.”

Those verses have much meaning and application. But included must be the reminder of our responsibility to God, to our families, and to our community. Our world!

Just So You Know, I wasn’t…

  1. Playing with my phone.
  2. Talking on my phone.
  3. Distracted by music in the car.

But I was distracted. I was deep in thought, concerned about something, and was going over it in my head. Frankly, I wasn’t paying attention, was driving on autopilot. And a little girl very nearly paid for it.

kids in crosswalk

To Close

It’s a sharp reminder, a call to stop deluding myself. I tend to act like whatever is going on with me is more important than anything, or anyone. For the well-being of others and for the light of Christ to better shine, I need to listen to the call. And what’s the call?

Stop! In the Name of Love

Trouble After The Storm?

“Not everyone bounces back, some just keep bouncing.”


It’s a quote, regarding the emotional impact of experiencing a major storm like Harvey or Irma. While most people can pick up the pieces and get back to normal, others  struggle, sometimes for months.


  1. General anxiety
  2. Post-traumatic stress
  3. Inability to sleep
  4. Gnawing sense of fear
  5. Depression

Studies reveal that 25% of people experiencing a severe hurricane can still be struggling six months later, or longer. It’s especially true for those affected by the worst aspects of storms: flash floods, loss of home and property, witnessing injuries, drowning’s, and storm related deaths.

 An Example

I read about a woman who was trapped on a roof with her three children. They huddled together as she shielded them from the rain and prayed to be rescued.

During the eight hours they waited, she witnessed four people die. She watched a woman and child trapped in a car as the water rose over and swept them away. She saw a woman clinging to a tree who lost her grip and quickly drowned. She watched as a man was being rescusitated, but died in the attempt.

Those images emerge whenever she closes her eyes. It’s why she’s hardly slept since she and her children moved into a downtown Houston shelter.

people waiting to be rescued

Other Challenges

People traumatized can feel overwhelmed to restart their lives. There’s frustration with contractors, insurance companies, and government agencies, and with basic needs like medical support and food and water.

Storm victims often lose their jobs due to devastation of businesses. They face financial trouble and then the shame of finding help from government agencies or the community. They know the feeling of standing in lines for help instead of being the one helping. 

Here’s some gently offered advice:

  1. Find a good church, faith and spiritual family will help.
  2. Join a support group, sharing your story could be beneficial.
  3. Resist the urge to feel like you’ve failed, you haven’t.
  4. Pursue positive short term goals, moving forward is healthy.
  5. Find a good counselor or mental health professional. You may need it.

To Close

“Not everyone bounces back, some just keep bouncing.” So, please try to remember these words from Jesus in John 16:33,

“In this world, you will have much trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”


Believe It or Not!

Some things don’t make sense. Or, they don’t make sense to me.

Some Examples

  1. I don’t understand the internet, how so much information comes through a tiny wire into millions of homes and to millions of cell phones.
  2. I don’t understand road construction. Enough said.
  3. I don’t understand airplanes. I get there is less air over the wing and more air under it. Still, the weight of a passenger plane seems too heavy for flight.

Here’s A Thing

I recently went on an ATV trip into the Colorado high country. We got up to 12,000 feet. It was the last day of June, the sun was warm, and used sunscreen to prevent burning.

It was so hot I nearly took my shirt off. Nobody wanted me too.

Yet, there were large patches of snow, and drifts over my head. I wore a shirt and shorts, and was often too warm. Was tempted to take off my shirt!  

A huge snowdrift in summer!

Here’s Another Thing

I learned about Bristlecone Pine trees. They only grow at high elevation and rugged conditions. They appear to be rooted in stone. They are known to live for 3,000 years there’s a tree in California believed to be 5,000 years old. It’s the oldest known living tree in the world.

The Bristlecone Pine, living at 12,000 feet and rooted in rock!

Here’s One More Thing

Jesus walked on water. He cured the sick and healed diseases. He gave hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, and mobility to the lame. He cured the decaying skin of lepers and raised the dead.

I don’t comprehend that kind of power. On the other hand, he was there when his Father created the world. And nothing was made that wasn’t made through him, (John 1:1-2).

Do I believe God’s son created the world then balk at his power to heal? The former makes the latter a reality.  

To Close

Snow in summer, the internet, air travel, and the Bristlecone. Each are a mystery. Jesus our Messiah was raised from the dead, forgave sin, healed people, and then gave us the Holy Spirit.


I believe. 


A Bone Marrow Transplant

I’m not an expert, so please bear that in mind.

Stem Cell Transplants

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow, where the blood cells are made. One treatment is to have a bone marrow transplant. The first step is to undergo a heavy course of chemotherapy, destroying the cancerous bone marrow, blood cells, and the immune system.

Then, the patient is given a bone marrow transplant with new stem cells. If successful, the new bone marrow will produce healthy blood cells and restore the immune system. Even the patient’s blood type changes.

bone marrow
Basically, something dies so something new can live, its transformation.

It’s a process of transformation. The cancerous bone marrow is destroyed so healthy  bone marrow can live, producing healthy blood cells. It’s almost miraculous.

The Power of Transformation

Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Spiritual transformation is triggered by the renewing of the mind. As if to say, “If you want changed behavior, then first change your mind, if you want to be different, then get a different mind.”

Some Parallels

  1. Leukemia-Sin
  2. Diseased bone marrow-The ravages of sin
  3. Chemo kills the blood cells-The blood of Jesus gives new life
  4. Leukemia destroys the immune system-The Holy Spirit revives us
  5. What destroys must be destroyed-He who died makes new creations

A Renewed Mind?

It’s becoming holy in our thoughts, speech, and behavior. It’s the remodeling of that which was sinful and selfish into that which is holy and divinely beautiful.

The Holy Spirit is the architect of renewal. He will help you every day and in any moment. The Spirit offers renewal, if we allow it, if we seek it.

To Close, Simply

We can be changed, we can be transformed into the very image of Christ.


The Ubiquitous Straw

The ubiquitous drinking straw. As a child I thought they were pretty amazing. Clearly it didn’t take much to amaze me. 

The Straw

I see people using straws in different ways. Some drink from them. Some chew on a straw until it’s all chewed up. Others use them as drum sticks, beating the time to whatever song is playing in their heads. Some people twist them into shapes.

Marvin C. Stone

 Do you know Mr. Stone of Washington D.C.? He patented the drinking straw on January 3, 1888. He came upon the idea while enjoying a cool drink on a hot day. His straws were made of paper.

Joseph B. Friedman

Forty years after Mr. Stone’s patented paper straw, Mr. Friedman, of San Francisco, CA, invented the plastic, flexible, bending straw. It revolutionized the industry.

Yet Vestergaard Frandsen

A straw of a different color. In 2006, Mr. Frandsen, and his Swiss based company, conceived, designed and manufactured the LifeStraw, a microbiological filter tube that can take in filthy water and purify it by the time it reaches the user.


LifeStraw removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 98% of waterborne viruses. People in third world countries can drink from contaminated ponds, rivers, and stagnant pools.


In Haiti

LifeStraw is saving lives in Haiti. After hurricane Matthew, many are tempted to drink the contaminated flood waters, or from polluted rivers and streams. The LifeStraw makes it possible to stay hydrated and avoid disease. It’s a modern miracle of science. And a donation to Hope For Haiti’s Children will help them get more of these little miracles into Haiti.



I personally prefer the little plastic stir sticks found in coffee houses and wherever better coffee is served. They aren’t really straws but that doesn’t matter. They are small, compact, and great for chewing. I don’t really chew them but thought it made me sound cool.

To Close

There are many great ideas for helping people in 3rd world countries. But unfortunately, most of them require some kind of infrastructure, a better government, or something to already in place in order work.

The LifeStraw isn’t complicated. It doesn’t require an infrastructure, a better government or anything at all.


Now, if you will excuse me, my coffee needs stirring. 


Healing In Hard Times, Pt. 3

What does it mean to heal? Is it feeling better, moving past the gut-wrenching pain of grief and loss? Is it returning to a place of normalcy?

Levels Of Loss

Loss causes grief and grief causes pain. But it’s been my experience that the pain is somewhat relative to the loss.

Examples of Loss

  1. A Pet
  2. An old Friend
  3. Extended family
  4. Grandparents
  5. Parents
  6. A child
  7. Your spouse

Categorizing Grief?

We shouldn’t categorize grief; it just complicates our pain. Nor should we judge the pain of others. We recognize that some losses are tougher than others, and harder to recover from. The hardest losses are the sudden, unexpected ones, with a phone call. They tear the soul and rip the heart.

Sometimes grief is like being on fire and sometimes it’s sunburn. The former may destroy us while the latter is painful, but not debilitating.



I’ve lost a parent, a brother, a brother-in-law, grandparents, extended family, best friends, and a baby that died in delivery.

How then should we heal? There are stages of grief and I believe they should be acknowledged, understood, and processed. That sounds more academic than personal, just the same.

Some Suggestions About Healing:

  1. Don’t blindly hope that the pain goes away, it doesn’t. Think of it as slowly receding into the background, becoming less dominant, not so overwhelming.
  2. It doesn’t betray the memory of your loved one to move forward with life. You will laugh again and have fun and enjoy people, and you should.
  3. Some days are better. Some days aren’t. It’s normal.
  4. Grief recovery is measured in months, not weeks or days.
  5. A lack of energy, desire, and motivation is normal, but it gets better.
  6. Millions have experienced loss, of all kinds. It doesn’t deaden your pain, but it’s helpful to realize that your’s isn’t an isolated experience.
  7. Like the body needing time to recover from illness or injury, the mind and soul need time to rest. You can’t rush the healing, fix the pain, or alter the experience. But you can believe that a brighter day is coming, because it is.

And Finally

Healing in the hard times?

Healing is resting and recovering. It’s gives you time to accept and adjust to a new normal of happiness. Healing is finding your way back to the person you once were, and wish to be again.

God Bless You


Healing In Hard Times, Pt 1

Coping with grief seems an oxymoron. The idea of coping with deep emotional pain seems similar to a house coping with a hurricane.

It’s not so much coping as hoping to survive.

man on bench

The Deepest Pain

The most painful emotions are those associated with loss, as with losing someone you love, but there are other painful losses as well:

  1. Position-Profession
  2. End of a friendship
  3. Spouse by divorce
  4. Your reputation
  5. Your health

But Death

But death eclipses them all. The two most traumatic types of grief are losing a spouse or a child.


The closest I’ve come to “hurricane level” grief was a stillborn child. He died in delivery and would have been our first child.

What Doesn’t Help

Caring people will offer their help. But they often make things harder through their unaware and unintended mistakes.

Here are three things that people did that didn’t really help us. These are things not to look for if you are looking for help with your loss and grief.

  1. People Who Wont Listen: they only want to tell you their story, to talk about their loss. They don’t listen, don’t really support you, they just assume that you will feel better by hearing about their pain and misery.
  1. People Who Ask To Help: This one is hard. Many people asked, “What can we do to help?” When someone is coping with loss, they can’t think, they aren’t thinking, and asking the question is just a burden. They don’t know what you can do. The people asking have the best of intentions, but ultimately, it’s a fruitless gesture. If you want to help someone grieving, take over food, go mow their grass, take their kids out for pizza, go do some cleaning if you know them well enough.
  1. The Wrong Messages: People will way things that are difficult to hear. Again, the mean well but often don’t really think about what is being said. Here are a few examples:
  • “God loved your baby so much that he just had to have him for himself.”
  • “Whatever you did to cause your baby to die, I’m sure you won’t do it again.”
  • “Don’t worry, you can always have another one.”
  • “You are young, there’s still time for lots of babies.”
  • “God is testing you, to see if you are worthy.”
  • “It’s time to stop grieving, get on with life”

To Close

Here is some advice about coping with grief.

Identify one good friend, someone who will listen and not weary of listening. Who will pitch in without asking what’s needed. Who refrains from empty words and cheap, hurtful advice. They will hold you when you cry, understand when you are sad, and make you laugh when you need too. They won’t judge you. They will just love you.

To be continued…