House arrest. At least it feels like I imagine it must feel like. It could be worse! I could actually be locked in a cell and chained to a wall. Still, the Covid-19 shut-down is starting to feel more and more like a lockdown. People generally, and U.S. citizens in particular, tend to react poorly to the loss of their freedoms. Our nation was after all born in a bloody revolution as our forefathers fought for their rights of self-determination and economic independence. As the days of stay at home orders extend, and those orders expand to more and more corners of our country, we are beginning to brace ourselves for the repercussions and the reports of death, loss, anger, violence, and other forms of bad behavior and civil disobedience or unrest. I'm praying for God's people to rise above their fleshly inclinations to exert their rights and to instead, embrace their responsibilities and purpose. I'm praying for God to be glorified as those who claim the name of Jesus represent him well in our society as loving servants doing good deeds and extending compassion to those who are struggling or suffering.
On Wednesday my wife Kimber and I spent a wonderful day together attending to some scheduled maintenance our her personal vehicle. It's the one she uses for her job. The job that each day is being disrupted more and more. A furlough is becoming more and more a real possibility.
Wednesday wasn't the most convenient day, but due to her work schedule shifting, we rescheduled the appointment which had been scheduled for my day off on Friday. We made a nearly two-hour trip south to a Subaru dealer (did I mention it was a significant, time-consuming, and costly maintenance?). Due to how extensive the work was, we were offered a courtesy car for the day, which we gladly accepted. The only problem was the "lock down." Virtually every business in the area, and most all of the public spaces were closed. We were able to visit some stores that carry grocery items, but I confess I felt uncomfortable being out in public. I felt like I was cheating, even though we were observing all the social distancing requirements of the establishments and the governor's order. To be honest we didn't really need any of the items we purchased. We can use and enjoy them over time, but I didn't feel very good about just browsing given the circumstances of our community. So, we cut short those trips.
We decide to go thru the Chick-Fil-a drive-thru. Comfort food for transplanted southerners for sure! We love it, but took it for granted for so many years when we lived in Texas and Oklahoma. It's presence in Oregon, albeit several hours away makes us smile, and we rarely skip the opportunity to stop by one when we happen to be in Portland or now Medford. The no contact ordering and pick-up works well. So we enjoyed our lunch, in the parking lot of a closed mall. The opportunity for Kimber and I to just sit and talk was worth the price of the trip!
The remainder of the day was surreal. We visited Ashland and conducted a driving a walking tour to kill time. With only essential stores open, and seemingly every restaurant and coffeehouse closed, and many not evening offering curbside, the Safe-way Starbucks was the only place we could get a coffee (and a bad one at that). Lithia Park's amenities were closed, so I sat briefly (stealthily) at a picnic table to record a message for the prayer meeting I was hosting that might. With my talk in the can, my work for the day was mostly completed. We still had time to kill.
We took the "scenic route" of old 99 north thru Phoenix and poked our heads in Harry and David in Medford for something sweet, perusing a nearly empty store reading labels on gourmet gift products. The cashier was so helpful and so desperate to make a sale! We bought a small item and once we got home and opened it we regretted not buying multiples for gifts.
Dinner came courtesy of the Outback drive-thru. Weird. Right? A previous outing hadn't gone so well, and an attentive and kind manager provided us with some courtesy gift cards. So we just had burgers and fries, and left a great tip. There were only two people working. When we opened our bag of food, they had comped us a dessert. Amazing!
Nearly seven hours after we left our car it was finished. When we got the bill a very generous discount had been applied. We were grateful and impressed by the courtesy shown. We'll definitely be back. After popping into their showroom to look at the classic Subaru's (two of the three I had never seen), we began the journey home. I was racing the clock a little to be live at 7:00 pm. The drive was uneventful, peaceful and we mainly just enjoyed being in each other's company, grateful for a day spent together.
This lock-down day was a gift! We needed it. We found ourselves simply being present with and for one another. Much of the stress of the previous ten days just sort of evaporated in the comfortable, easy and slow pace of the day. And yet, even as I say how good it was, Im aware of how huge a cost is being extracted on all of those closed businesses and laid of employees. I'm back home today, my lock-down taking me out of contact with friends, coworkers and those businesses I frequent and support. The owners, operators and employees are home today anxious about their future. I'm anxious for their well-being! I'm deeply concerned about all of our emotional, spiritual, and physical health. We can't allow a lock-down to shut us down. It is imperative we stay connected and engaged in productive and appropriate pursuits including supporting our local business community and encouraging our health care and first responders.
House arrest or prison? Our current stay at home orders may feel like it to you and I. But it really hasn't risen to that level yet for most of us. We're voluntarily sheltering ourselves and others in cooperation with our employers and government in an attempt to reduce the health risk and the overwhelm of our medical system. I'm praying it works.
While reading the Scriptures in this season it struck me once again just how much of the New Testament was written by the Apostle Paul while quite literally imprisoned or under house arrest. I think this makes it that much more remarkable how uplifting and encouraging the tenor of these works often is Even when serious issues of correction are necessary, Paul remains positive.
One passage I find myself returning to over in this season is in the opening of Philippians. It conveys my faith and the prayer I have for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I particularly want the flock I am responsible for to hear these words. Keep holding on to one another and to your faith in God.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,[d] for all of you share in God’s grace[e] with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)