By Sandy Mittelsteadt, Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
During this difficult time of forced retreatment from the world, God is teaching me lessons that I would probably never have learned any other way.
The first thing that God is teaching me is about using my time. I always equated busyness with achievement and meeting goals. Before the pandemic, I was always on the go. I could not sit still except in meetings. Actually, I hated being still and quiet. And, I thought that being on the go meant I was completing tasks and getting stuff done. However, I seldom had anything to show for all my comings and goings, except a feeling of satisfaction when I laid my head on my pillow at night. Now, God is teaching me to reflect and ponder on things. I may not be traveling as far, but I am still accomplishing goals and am more content with my life. And, I am more appreciative of where I am and of the people around me. I feel that not being so busy has enriched my relationships and enhanced my life. This first lesson led me to realize that I need an organized Bible reading time.
Thus, an organized Bible reading time is my second lesson. One of the most important components to an organized Bible reading time is selecting WHEN you will read. All the Bible reading programs I have researched talk about rising early in the morning, which does not work for me since I am an evening person. I needed to select a specific time. Also, my husband wanted to join me, so we selected to read the Bible between 8 and 10 pm. And, we have been faithful almost every single evening since the pandemic began. We choose a book out of the Bible and read one chapter every night until we finish that book. In building a habit, we choose to sit in our rocking chairs in the family room. It has been pleasant to read with my husband, because that keeps me accountable and helps me to stay consistent. Now, the hard part for me is to apply what I have read.
Organized prayer time, which accompanies the Bible reading, is my third lesson. The pandemic has focused my attention to recognize the needs of all around me. Prayer time was easier to organize, because my husband and I decided to pray right after reading our chapter from the Bible. The “who” and “how” was harder to select. After about a month, I decided to put together a list and typed it up on the computer. The typed list became six pages, so we pray for people on one page of the list every night.
The fourth lesson is staying in touch with my neighbors. I always thought that I had great neighbors, but now I know so. That is because I have more social interactions with them. And, my neighbors are now names on my prayer list. For example, one of my neighbors fell and shattered her elbow and broke her foot. I started taking meals to her, because it is almost impossible for her to cook. (My husband appreciates this neighbor as our evening meals have greatly improved, since we started sharing with her.) This is a win for her and win for us. And, just this week, I was out cutting roses when one of my neighbors passed by and stopped to chat. I discovered that she is currently unemployed. I told her that I would pray for her and now her name is added to my list. (I am so glad that I put my list on the computer, because it is so easy to modify.).
Daily prayer time has taught me that danger is all around us, and that is my fifth lesson. I always knew that danger is there, but when you are praying every day for people it becomes more of a reality. I am cognizant that I need God every day, every hour, and every minute of the day. Life is a gift that God gives me and although, danger surrounds me, I feel more safe and secure than ever. Could it be that I am more grounded in the Word of God? My strategies for confronting danger are to read out of the Book of Psalms and to stop listening to so much news on the TV.
My sixth lesson is my most enjoyable one. Now I walk every day around our neighborhood and through the park. I love seeing the beautiful white egrets eating worms on the Hart Elementary School playground and the frogs at the Pin Oak Park pond. Also, on Sundays after church, my husband and I hike at Wind Wolves Preserve. What a beautiful place! In a way, hiking draws me closer to God. Looking around me at our local park and at Wind Wolves leaves me speechless at the beauty that God created. After climbing to the top of a hill, the views at Wind Wolves are spectacular. Hiking allows me to see the world as a bigger place and especially makes me aware of my little place in it. I see hiking as my very own spiritual journey. Hiking vanishes the noise all around me and causes me to be still before God. I can marvel at God and ponder on His greatness. Hiking shows me that God is still there and that God is still in control.
I saved my seventh lesson for the last, because it is the most important lesson I learned during the pandemic. Throughout everything, I am a still a sinner. Even staying at home and staying mostly to myself, I still sin. I am so aware of sin in my life right now. I pray God to forgive my unintentional sin, but there is still intentional sin. How can that be? I wrestle with sin and my will against God’s will in my life. James 1:14-15 states, “but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” I pray every day for God to help me do better, but living a sinless day has eluded me. Like David, I ask God to renew a right spirit within me. As long as I have breath, I will keep asking God for forgiveness until the day I die. In the meantime, I have to guard my heart.
In fact, Solomon in Proverbs states several times to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.”. Out of my heart comes the thoughts of my life, which control my attitudes. And out of my attitudes, come my actions. It behooves me to guard my heart is lesson number seven.
What lessons have you learned during the pandemic? I would love to read your answers. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your lessons learned and I will use your answers in a future column.