Taking blessings where we can in these troubled times

Pastor Dan delivered a powerfully moving message during Sunday’s live-stream worship service online. The genuineness and vulnerability carried the words of God straight to the heart. He bared his soul. And in these times when people seek answers and relief to a confusing and horrifying phenomenon plaguing the world, a personal story about how God works is comforting and hopeful. His was a story of faith, hope and trust.

Just like last Sunday’s online worship, yesterday’s was very special in a sacredly intimate way – like God was speaking directly to me through Pastor Dan’s preaching. Obviously, it was with great pain that he shared a trial culled from his wife’s very difficult ectopic pregnancy, supposedly with their first baby. It was heart-rending, especially when the doctor urged the couple to make a life or death decision. Horrific for this couple who always strived to be steadfast in their faith and convictions. Alone in my room while watching this man on the screen agonizing over his testimony with such raw emotion, I sat at the edge of my seat, in uncomfortable suspense for the resolution of the couple’s dilemma, and in empathy, strangely I  prayed to hear something good.

A stark reminder, there still is beauty in this world even in the midst of chaos — from Jeanne’s garden in Spain (photo courtesy of Jeanne J. Ashkenazi)

When we are in the depths of our agony or grief, when all else seems blurred by the magnanimity of the seeming hopelessness that engulfs, there really is nothing else but to reach out to One so powerful whose love and compassion are unequaled. And that exactly is what the pastor and his wife did – lifted it all before the Lord, and left it for Him to do what He deemed best. The next morning, the mother’s hormones dropped. The answer was God’s, not man’s. The decision was God’s. Pastor Dan said with such conviction and gratitude – that through all their grief and pain, God stopped the chaos for them.

This young pastor of a Palo Alto church extolled, God can stop the chaos in the world. He is in control. Such heartening message in this dark age of fear and despair.

That’s the thrust of Pastor Dan’s sermon in the series entitled “Shattered”, centered on the life of Job in the bible — that God takes control and stops the chaos. There is a battle raging in the world these times, and the enemy is invisible. The uncertainty invokes tremendous fear, and fear itself is hard to contend with. But God is much bigger than that, much bigger than the enemy. We have to believe and, in humility, acknowledge that He is God.

This morning, I received a surprise and most welcomed email from a church friend I had not heard from in over a year. The last I saw Scott, his wife and daughter was two Christmases ago, at a gathering in my home. Scott asked how I was doing during this Shelter-in-Place time and he kindly offered to do grocery shopping or errands for this baby boomer Lola. What a noble heart. I said perhaps, next weekend, considering that I might be low on food supplies by then (the reason — I didn’t “panic shop” like maybe I should have). Confirming this with him before next weekend is on my agenda. My niece and her husband offered the same – and I am truly grateful.

This reminds me of many heartwarming stories about numbers of people volunteering to help or contribute or do errands especially for those who cannot or should not escape the shelter of their homes, like the sick and the elderly.

There’s news about folks in certain communities in Italy who, at a certain time of the day, would simultaneously open their windows to yell out or sing praises to health professionals and first responders to COVID-19 threat, as the doctors and nurses who risk their lives to be on the front line, and the prolonged applause would follow the loud cheers. A very touching public display of appreciation.

Others have organized groups to greet older seniors on their birthdays and serenade them outside their tightly shut windows. Though muffled or hardly heard, the song must have seemed like sweet music to the old celebrants’ ears. A sweet blessing.

Remarkably, numerous educators and education-oriented individuals offer suggestions, tools or materials to the myriad parents frazzled by having to find ways to keep their children occupied while schools and daycare centers are closed.

And many, many more noble deeds. The world isn’t so dark after all. There is so much love, care, beauty and goodness in the world – blessings more than enough for you and me. And remember, God is in control. With Him, we shall overcome.

My grandson treated me to a delightful session of watching him practice his piano. The piece he was learning was Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga del Anghel, music so enchanting and captivating. The composition is a montage of slow and rushing movements that peak to a dramatic pause as though to create an emotion suspended for an innuendo of fortissimos. I googled what Milonga meant – it means slow tango. Aha! No wonder, I thought the music carried the fascinating pace and beat of a tango. I can hardly wait for when my grandson has masterfully learned all the notes and nuances of the piece. What a delight and blessing to hear him on the piano, even with the occasional grunts and sighs as he diligently struggled with getting familiar with the music.

After his piano lesson, I received first-hand instructions on how to play a Harry Potter game. To this baby boomer Lola, the hot tips sounded interesting, intriguing and simple. But my comprehension will be tested when I actually play with him. One thing sure, my grandson is a very articulate and smart instructor. I think I will know how to manage the game next time I visit. For now, I’m just grateful that I can play with him from afar, even as I’m sheltered-in.

Linda P. Jacob