God, these days.

God, these days.

These days after days after days.

We’re way past 80 days here in China, and it’s starting to show.

Even with things opening up, we’re still locked in these days.

It’s the same. I wake up around 6:45 and take a shower. Then drink my coffee while doing my morning internet surfing, and then getting things ready for my six year old’s school work. Then we get him going with his online class around 10:30 and I go take the neighbor’s dog for a walk. Then I have a bit of time in another empty neighbor’s apartment trying to meditate before coming home. Then lunch, then I do my own online classes while trying to help our six year old with his online classes. And then dinner, and then watching whatever series we’re on lately and then bedtime.

And then tomorrow? Repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And we’re ahead of the curve here in China, or so they tell us. Things are returning to normal. Or so they say.

But still, we’re repeating the days here.

I really hope that we get to a new normal soon. While the normal we’re currently enduring is certainly not physically taxing, it does take a toll on one’s emotions.

There’s something about the typical that is just so challenging. You’d think it was comforting, and in some ways it is, but in other ways it just feels unnatural.

Life is about more than predictability.

Life is about seeking out the newness every day.

Looking for new challenges and new vistas and new connections.

But this virus has reduced us to monotony. And that may be the most challenging thing of all.

My kingdom for some unpredictability. My kingdom for something different. My kingdom for a new day.

Don’t click this on this link. Just don’t.

I spent some time this evening reading media accounts of the outbreak, and now I wish I hadn’t.

Seriously. The temptation is to read what everyone is saying about the virus, but just remember that everyone is trying to get hits.

Yes, we’re experiencing a pandemic like the world has never seen. But still, there are plenty of people out there who just want to cash in on the panic, and they’re publishing all kinds of nonsense so that they can continue to get hits. Because even during a pandemic, hits equals cash.

Keep that in mind. Everyone wants to be be read. So they will publish all manner of nonsense to get you to click and read. The result? They get the credit, and you get more and more paranoia.

This is cash-in time for the hucksters. And just like folks used to swarm to the snake oil salesmen in years past, folks today will lap up the nonsense that hucksters are spewing today.

Be on your guard.

Avoid clicking the tempting links.

I know. You’re sitting at home with nothing but time, and clicking the links will satisfy some dopamine need, but still… avoid it. Don’t click. Don’t read.

Spend time with your family. Go outside (if you’re able) and breathe the fresh air. Listen to a Mozart Aria. Watch Firefly. Focus on what is right in front of you, not what is virtually in front of you.

Every click is cash for someone. They don’t care about you, they just want to profit during uncertainty.

Trust me on this.

Oh, and happy Easter. He is most certainly risen.

Here’s the thing about the Resurrection…

Here’s the thing about the Resurrection.

It signaled a difference between what had come before and what would come next.

To the ones who were there… the ones who had walked with Him for years before that specific Passover… it seemed pretty clear. Probably, to them, they remembered the things he had said to them in public and private. Things about the big changes that were coming. And then, when the nails were driven and the bleak reality was made clear, everything changed.

Suddenly, the lives they had been living before became irrelevant. Now they were living in a new time.

Everything changed.

The memory of the way things had been before was attractive. It was familiar. It was what we would have wanted.

But they couldn’t go back to that.

We can’t go back to that.

We’re experiencing something similar now.

We want things to be like they were. We want today to be like yesterday to be like last week to be like last year.

But it can’t be.

It won’t be.

Everything has changed. And we have to come to terms with that.

We aren’t going back to what was. We are moving forward to what will be.

We want things to return to normal, but they can’t. They won’t. What was normal has been relegated to our memory. What will be normal has become our future.

It’s not all bad. There’s a lot about our past that needed to be put to pasture. There’s so much pain and heartbreak and suffering and injustice that existed back then. It needs to be in our past. It needs to be a memory.

But our future… our who we will be…

That’s totally on us. And this weekend… this celebration of resurrection… this is when we need to start choosing who we will be. How will the “us” moving forward be different than the “us” a few weeks ago? How will the me moving forward be different than the me a few weeks ago?

Resurrection has not – in my lifetime – meant more than it means today.

Arundhati Roy: ‘The pandemic is a portal’;
…..

Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.

Visiting IKEA during the Pandemic

Life in China during the outbreak, day 79.

We went to IKEA today.

This is something I don’t care to do on normal days, but during a pandemic?

In my experience, on normal days, IKEA China is packed. Wall to wall people. An introvert’s worst nightmare. People sleeping on the pretend beds in the pretend bedrooms, old people taking their sweet time strolling down the aisles pushing the enormous empty IKEA shopping carts, it’s like half the city descends on Sweden at the same exact moment.

It is hell.

But Koolyash wanted to go, and things are opening up here, so okay.

Thankfully, IKEA was mercifully uncrowded. There were still more people then I would hope for, but not so many that you couldn’t walk the aisles freely. Everyone was bemasked, and there were disinfectant stations regularly located. Even in the cafeteria, which is normally packed, people were social distancing. It was something of a relief.

And then we got on the bus to go home.

When this thing was at its worst here in China, the buses were empty. It was almost a pleasure to ride, because so few people were on public transport. But bus 70 went from a reasonable number of passengers to packed to the gills much more quickly than I was comfortable with.

And then there was the guy in the back who was coughing up a lung.

I was spritzing with hand sanitizer like a madman, like that would somehow help form a protective shield around my entire body.

So this guy gets on the bus and ends up standing right over me. Then, when he realized I was a foreigner, he moved away.

Yeah, like I’m the problem. The majority of new cases in China have been from Chinese people coming home. I’m clean, dude. You should be sitting on my lap. But, whatever. Move away. It definitely makes me feel better.

We’re home now, and hopefully fine. And lesson learned. Go to IKEA, but take a taxi home. Don’t want to be surfing on a second wave.

God’s Grace is Sufficient

My post tonight is specifically to those who follow Jesus. If you don’t, you’re welcome to read it. But it’s a note specifically to the body of Christ.

I’ve been thinking about the heroes of the faith recently.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Corrie Ten Boom. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. And others. There are so many.

Believers who have found themselves in difficult times, and rose to the occasion. Sometimes in martyrdom, sometimes surviving. But always remaining faithful.

And I look at myself, and how I’ve been responding to the pandemic.

I used to think that if I was put into a position of a hero of the faith I would certainly live up to it. I’m told to recant my faith upon pain of death? Bring on the guillotine. I’m told to bow to the King as my god? I’m standing. That king is not my God.

And suddenly, we find ourselves in one of those linchpin moments. We find ourselves living in a situation where we are confronted with what we believe, and we’re asked… will you be a hero of the faith?

But here’s the thing. I don’t find myself identifying with the Bonhoeffers, the Ten Booms, the Elliots. I’m not rising to the occasion to become some sort of spiritual leader. I’m hardly able to lead myself or my family. Sometimes, I find I struggle to get through the day.

And it has started to occur to me that while the heroes of the faith were taking their historic stands, there were hundreds and thousands of people who were just trying to survive.

Now, I find that I am identifying with the Christians who were terrified of standing up to Hitler. I’m understanding the Christians who didn’t want to leave their homes to go and share the gospel with the people in South America. I finally understand that there were people of faith in those times who were scared… people who felt isolated… people who had trouble sleeping at night.

People whose faith was not strengthened in adversity.

And I’m wondering if we – as followers of Jesus – haven’t been missing the mark a bit by only celebrating people who did the “right” thing in times of duress.

Sure. People doing the hard thing in difficult times is admirable.

But here’s the thing about grace. It covers everyone – including the ones whose response to adversity isn’t noteworthy. Grace says, “I know you struggled. I know you failed. I love and accept you anyway.”

When things were normal, this was something I hung my hat on… that things hinged on God’s grace and not my actions. God’s grace was there for all of us, even in our failures. And now that things aren’t normal, the rubber is meeting the road.

Either God’s grace is sufficient to cover us in the worst possible scenarios, or it isn’t.

I choose to believe that it is.

And while I’m hopeful that we will have new heroes of the faith arise during the COVID19 crisis, I am also hopeful that those of us who are just trying to make it, those of us trying to get through the monotony of each day, those of us who are having trouble sleeping at night because of our anxiety…

Well, we’ll be okay too. We may not be the subject of future Bible studies, but maybe we should be.

Because in the end, theologically and otherwise, what really matters is God’s grace, not us and the things that we do.

And my prayer for you is that you are living in God’s grace today. Because it covers a multitude of things, including how we respond to this pandemic.

To the Class of 2020 during the COVID19 Virus

I’ve been thinking about seniors recently, the class of 2020, the ones who were supposed to be finishing their academic study this year.

Here in Shenzhen, we have a host of kids who had all sorts of plans for these months. Proms, performances, senior trips, final exams, walking and getting diplomas… all the things that seniors do, and have done for years.

And this year, those things aren’t happening.

This year, the virus has brought everything to a grinding halt.

My students are devastated, and rightly so.

This isn’t the way this was supposed to go down. This isn’t right. It isn’t fair.

And if you are one of those seniors, you have every right to be disappointed. In fact, I would go even further, and say that you have every right to grieve.

You have had an incredibly important rite of passage that has been stripped away from you. Grief is an appropriate response.

What does it mean to grieve? I could give you a dictionary definition, but to me – as a person who lost a mother very recently – it means to feel the ache and the pain of loss as a very real and tangible thing. It means to think about what could have been – what should have been and is not – and to feel such strong emotions about it not being that way that it hurts. It physically hurts. In your body and soul and mind, it hurts.

And if this is how you are feeling, then it’s okay.

You didn’t ask for this. You wanted to finish strong. You wanted to run the race to the end and look back to see all the people who cheered you as you ran.

But now, you’re trying to finish the year in Zoom meetings.

It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to mourn what you’ve lost. It’s okay to allow yourself that.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Even though if things had been normal you would have been complaining to be in school right now, it’s where you should have been.

But I’d also encourage you to consider this.

You are the graduating class of opportunity.

Sure. Nobody else has experienced what you are experiencing. Nobody else has lost what you have lost. But at the same time, nobody else has experienced what you are experiencing. Nobody else has lost what you have lost.

If you had had a graduation ceremony, the guest speaker would have spoken platitudes about what the future held for you. They would have told you stories about success and failure and possibilities. You might have listened. You might have applied those stories to some aspect of your life.

But the virus has stripped that away.

The virus has given you a gift.

The virus has revealed what matters.

The virus has done this in a way that few graduation speakers could have effectively done.

What is most important to you right now? Since you’ve entered your stay-at-home time, what has been most important to you? What really matters? Yes, you’ve lost the senior year accoutrements, but at the end of the day, you’re probably more concerned about the health of your parents, your grandparents, the older people in your community.

People. Our close ones.

You have more perspective on what really matters than any other senior class in many, many years.

It may be hard to see right now. Maybe you’re in a stay-at-home situation and nobody in your family has the virus. Maybe you’re in a stay-at-home situation and you’ve lost your grandmother to the virus but can’t go to the funeral.

Here’s the thing. Don’t waste it. Don’t waste your experience. Don’t spend so much time mourning what you have lost that you miss what you will need to do next.

Nobody knows what is coming next, but the undeniable truth is that YOU are our next. You are going to inherit this mess that we, your moms and dads, have made, and you are going to have the opportunity to make it a less destructive mess.

So don’t waste it.

And I’m sorry if this sounds like a lame graduation speech.

But it’s true.

Class of 2020, you rock. You absolutely rock.

And nobody – no virus or person – can ever take that away from you.

Give yourself a break.

Give yourself a break.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, give yourself a break.

You’re going through an unprecedented time. You are experiencing things that people have never experienced before.

Give yourself a break.

If you aren’t being productive, it’s okay.

If you aren’t being creative, it’s okay.

If you aren’t reinventing the wheel, it’s okay.

The entire world is dealing with containing a virus that can kill a lot of people. There’s a lot of anxiety and stress and fear floating around in the world that just wasn’t there a few weeks ago. Now it is. And it impacts us all.

So if you’re finding that you aren’t using this “down time” to do all sorts of wonderful projects that you thought you might be doing, it’s okay.

You just need to be doing what you can do to get through these days.

Maybe it’s playing a lot of Xbox with your six year old.

Maybe it’s reading Star Wars novels.

Maybe it’s doing something that seems so silly that you can’t even write it on Facebook.

On the airplanes, back in the normal times, they said that in case of the cabin losing pressure you should put your own mask on first, and then help your dependents.

That’s what you need to be doing now.

If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to help the ones in your care.

So, give yourself a break. Take care of yourself.

Then you’ll be able to take care of the ones in your care.

Give yourself a break.

We’re Stronger Than This

Seems like I was telling you guys about this weeks ago.

Thankfully, most of you were listening. Most of you started preparing and supplying up and staying at home, if you were able.

But not all of you. There were a few of you who thought it was just a bunch of hokey. Just a Chinese hullabaloo. And now look where you got the rest of us.

Because here’s the thing. If everyone had been isolating a month ago, the American story would be different today. And if everyone will isolate today, the American story will be different a month from now.

I hate going on social media these days, because I’m seeing so many tragic stories. People suffering. People barely surviving on ventilators. Hospitals overrun. Doctors and nurses contracting the virus they’re fighting. Here in China, we didn’t get the personal stories. Maybe because they were censored. Maybe because we aren’t Chinese and aren’t tapped into same social media. Either way, we just saw numbers. Now we’re seeing stories. How real people’s lives are being directly impacted by this thing spreading. And it’s distressing, to say the least.

I’m dreaming about the virus now. That didn’t happen before. Last night I dreamt that I took my kids to a barber shop and there were too many people in the barber shop. More than the government allowed. And people weren’t wearing masks. The night before, I dreamt I was fighting a monster on a cruise.

A monster on a cruise. I’ve never even been on a cruise. But I was on one, and there was a monster that I had to kill.

I think it’s all because I’m worried for my country. We’re such a land of freedom and movement, but this is a virus that exploits freedom and movement. The only way to defeat it is to go against the truths that we hold to be self-evident – at least for a while. And that runs counter to everything we hold dear. But, if we don’t, more and more people will get infected and die.

We must think that our ideals are stronger than all of this. This is a temporary fight, and we will eventually overcome it and our lives will return to something resembling normal. Probably not the normal we had before all of this began, but something better than what we’re experiencing right now.

But for now, we must continue doing what we’re doing – not let up – not relax our defenses. That’s how we’ll defeat this thing. That’s how we’ll come out the other side.

So regardless of whether or not you listened to me weeks ago, I hope you’re listening now, and I hope that you will keep on doing what you’re doing, staying at home, flattening the curve.

You’re doing the right thing.

Just keep doing it.

Stay at home.

I don’t get it.

Who are these people who are still congregating? Who are these people who are still going out and being with others? Who are they?

Do they just not get it?

Don’t they realize what is happening in the world?

Don’t they realize what is happening in their communities?

Yes. It sucks.

This isn’t what we’d planned for spring 2020.

But this is what we’ve been given. COVID2019. It’s what we have to experience and live with and deal with.

And the only option we have – which runs counter to everything we’ve learned about people a person – is getting away from other people.

If we get away, we don’t spread. If we don’t spread then then people live rather than die. It’s so simple. It’s hard, but it’s simple.

This isn’t a video game. It’s not a movie. It’s actual real life. And the choices we make today will impact the lives of the people around us.

We’re not in our normal reality. We’re in a new reality. And this is the reality. Stay home and save lives. Go out and risk lives.

It’s not difficult. We want to get out of this, and what needs to happen to help us get out of this is not difficult.

Well, it is difficult, but it needs to happen.

Just stay. home. Stay. Home. Stay. Home. Stay. Home.

Life in China is returning to normal

Took the family for a walk to the grocery store. Got some Subway for Noah and some tofu soup for Koolyash. My daughter went on a dinner date with a boy. She’s still out now, and I’m readying my shotgun.

And social distancing seems to be a thing of the past, if this restaurant we passed on our walk is any indication.

Maybe it’s some form of PTSD, but I still can’t compute that things could be returning to an actual normal, but that does seem to be what’s going on here. If not for the ever-present masks and the constant temperature checks, nothing would be out of the ordinary on the streets of Shenzhen.

And I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I do want to remind you that it took us two months of strict social distancing, staying at home, and quarantine to get us to this point.

We did it. You can do it.

Onward!IMG_7090