Monthly Archives: February 2021

Let’s NOT go “Back to Normal”

With the Covid nightmare end in sight (no, we are not out of the woods, but, yes, the end is coming) the Big Question people are asking is: When can we get “back to normal?” By that phrase, they mean: When can we stop wearing masks? When can we hug our grandchildren? When can we go to a ball game? Sit in a crowd? Not be socially distant? Be normal

This may surprise you: I hope we don’t go back to normal. I’m not talking about masks or crowds. I’m talking life

For many people, “normal” wasn’t good in 2019. Pandemic shutdowns and the quarantines of 2020 simply exposed the ugly truth that “normal” wasn’t working. Talk to any social worker, school psychologist, pastor or just about anyone else, and they will tell you that 2020 has been mentally and spiritually taxing on everyone. More than likely, you know someone who committed suicide in the last year. Read that last sentence again. That is NOT OK. Some of those individuals, concluded that the pressures of this world were too much, may have been pushed over the edge by the events of 2020. But they probably didn’t get to their mental state solely based on the events of the last year. More than likely, in 2019 and long before, they were walking toward this lonely destination (most suicides happen when the people are alone). “Normal” wasn’t working for them and 2020 exposed it. 

It’s not just the tragedies of suicide and a lack of mental health awareness and care that have exposed the fallacies of the old normal. The angst that led to the capitol building insurrection; the racism that George Floyd’s death sadly once again revealed; the societal trajectory toward godlessness; and the reality that social media has made us both more informed and more isolated than at any time in history– all show the old “normal” was not working. 

As more people get vaccinated and the pandemic restrictions loosen, let’s determine to not go back to the way things were.Instead, let’s do all we can to notice God’s children who are lonely in the crowd. Let’s hear the ones who have been shut down, shut out, and shut up by the old normal.  Let’s care for those whom society has missed.  Let’s keep pointing all to the One who said, “See, I am doing thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19). Let’s not go back to the old normal, let’s work for a new, better, hope-filled normal.

P.S. If you know someone struggling with life today, don’t wait for a vaccine. Call, text or (heaven forbid) visit. Sit with them. Listen to them. Cry with them. Point them to Jesus. 

King Sized Miracles Still Happen

Hear ye! Hear Ye! The Princes are now sleeping on a king!! On Tuesday, Karla and I put together a new king bed, box springs and mattress. This was no small accomplishment given our ancient history.  As we were gathering the 107 pieces to assemble the aforementioned king size bed my mind went back to two previous occasions and shuddered:

The Great Entertainment Center Fiasco of 1988. As newlyweds, we had decided to purchase an entertainment center to hold our wedding gifted TV and VCR. It was mass produced of questionable quality, pressed wood, and assembly required. Sadly, the photo on the front of the box did not match the assembly instructions on the inside of the box; neither did the number of screws match the number of holes to place such screws; and the phrase “some assembly required” should have been replace with “mechanical engineering degree from MIT required.” All of which produced our first post-wedding day spat. 

The Wallpaper Debacle of 1990. The parsonage for the Bad Axe Church of the Nazarene was a curious abode. The most interesting feature was a six-foot underground hallway connecting the church building and parsonage. This hallway also meant the parsonage basement was the church fellowship hall and the parsonage first floor, half bath restroom often served as the restroom facility for the church’s fellowship times. With such usage, Karla decided the restroom needed a wallpaper upgrade. The tiny little restroom (think: phone booth size) was more crooked than anyone in Washington. In other words, the project was small but tricky. The job consisted of baptizing the wallpaper in the upstairs bathtub, then delivering it to the main floor restroom (without dripping glue on the green and gold circa 1964 shag carpet). As the duly appointed wallpaper runner in this process, I was rarely successful. The wallpaper was either too wet, too dry or had ripped in transit. We learned this important fact that day: Wallpaper projects account for 68% of divorces in America (That’s a number I just made up). Thankfully, our marriage survived the Bad Axe restroom wallpapering project of 1990.  

From those two projects early in our marriage, we learned to stick to the things we know best. Karla handles small home improvement projects. I preach. We’ve kept this rule, until the 107 Piece King Bed Construction Project of 2021.

We laid out 106 of the 107 pieces (one washer was a no show). We assembled the necessary tools: a provided Allen wrench and another thing-a-ma-bob (sorry for the technical jargon). We took a deep breath and began. What happened next might be considered a miracle on par with the splitting of the Red Sea. There were no disagreements. No tears. No items thrown in disgust. The bed, box springs (no assembly required) and rolled up king size mattress, which came in a tiny box, and exploded into king size following a few snips of the plastic wrap, were all in place. Easy Peasy.

I did not sleep on the couch (neither because the project was incomplete nor by upsetting my bride with my handy man ineptitude). Instead, we slept in our new Prince worthy king-sized bed. 

The 107 (technically 106) piece King-size Bed Project of 2021 proves:

1). Karla has learned great patience during our soon-to-be-celebrated 33-years of marriage.

2). Rob has learned his best attributes are encourager and final bolt tightener. 

3). God still work miracles.

I can’t say with certainty that there was divine intervention in our bed assembly project, but I am praying for far greater miracles in your homes. This last year has been difficult on our families and marriages. But know this: God loves you. God loves everyone under your roof too. God still works miracles. It doesn’t take 107 pieces (106 technically) to figure that out.

This Lenten 2021 Fasting List Might Surprise You

Usually in the season of Lent, Christians’ fast. We give up things like chocolate, Facebook or coffee. Little did we know mid-way through Lent 2020, we’d give up things far more important than sweets or soda. We stopped meeting together. Stopped seeing each other. Stopped so many things at the beginning days of the pandemic. We sat home on Easter Sunday. Thanks for nothing Covid-19! None of those things we stopped doing were on our fasting list on Ash Wednesday 2020. As we embark in a new season of Lent, maybe in our pandemic-fatigued minds we are thinking, “Lent 2021– Let me count the things I’d gladly give up.”

Let’s give up: masks, social distancing, Zoom meetings, on-line learning, hybrid school schedules, and all other things “Covid” for Lent 2021.

Not so fast (pun intended).

Obviously, we aren’t out of the Covid woods. We still have a few hurdles to jump before this race gets back to normal. Instead of dropping our guard, here are a few suggestions of things we could give up in Lent 2021:

Fast from jumping to conclusions.

Fast from skipping gratitude.

Fast from running our mouths before using our ears.

Fast from stomping on people’s feelings.

Fast from hopping to negative talk.

Fast from leaping to one’s favorite news channel.

Fast from flying off the handle.

Fast from bouncing our initial thoughts on social media.

Fast from shooting ugly looks at those who happen to disagree with our opinions.

Fast from firing off gossipy or rumor-mongering emails 

And while we’re at it: 

Fast from always expecting to get our way.

Fast from limiting what God can do.

Fast from all those things that get our eyes off Jesus

Instead let’s win the race and do what the author of Hebrews calls us to do (in the Lenten season or not): 

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 12:1-3)

Lent 2020 didn’t end nearly was well as we had hoped. Lent 2021 might end far better than we imagine if we keep moving upward with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate?

If Shakespeare were writing in 2021, maybe his famous line would read: “To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate?  That is the question.”

I have friends (people I love and care about) who have said, “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeve.” I have other friends (people I love and care about) who have said, “I’m going to wait. I’m going to see how this plays out. I’m in no hurry.”

People ask me my opinion on vaccinations. “Pastor, should I get the vaccine?” I get asked this a few times a week (PLEASE NOTE: I do not have a medical degree or a degree in immunology, I was a psychology major who went on to get a Master of Divinity degree). 

I have searched the scriptures (not medical journals). The only thing being shot in the Bible are arrows. The only needles are the ones “rich people can’t go through the eye of” according to Jesus.  The Bible doesn’t mention Covid, worldwide pandemics or anything close to what we are experiencing. So which is it?  To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

Like in all things medical, you need to talk to your doctor. Again, that’s not me. Although I have a dear friend, going through cancer treatments, who frequently refers to me as “Dr. Rob” and, just as frequently, she calls her oncologist “Pastor So and So.” Neither of us mind the mix up, but no one should expect me to give medical advice, and I don’t think her Hindu doctor is going to be preaching in a Christian church anytime soon. 

I’ve been vaccinated. All pastors in Genesee County are eligible. The county health department has deemed pastors as essential workers (duh!). Many (not all) of the Central Church pastors have received their first injection. Hopefully this will allow us to get back in hospitals and nursing homes to pray with folks. Hopefully, it will allow us to minister and shepherd our flock the only way I know how to do it: Loving God and Loving people. 

I look forward to the day when all people will feel comfortable coming back to church. I can’t wait. There are some of our folks who are in the super high risk category that have legitimately stayed away, watched on-line, faithfully sent in their tithe and have tried hard to stay engaged. Oh how I love and miss these people. Even before Covid, I was not a hugger. I’m more of a slap-you-on-the-backer. But I’ll be tempted to give hugs– of the big bear variety—when I see them again. Face to face. Moreover, I can’t wait to hear a church full of people singing the praises of Jesus once again. I can’t wait for folks to invite their friends to church and see those friends become fully devoted followers of Jesus. I just can’t wait.

I’m not sure when/if you should get vaccinated. That’s between you and your doctor. As your pastor, I can’t wait to see your smiling faces.  Until then, Grace and Peace, my friends, Grace and Peace!