In my 2020 Saga I wrote, “In a word, 2020 sucked! Roll in 2021.” I’m not entirely sure what I expected would happen with the roll-over into another year. I suppose I hoped we’d see covid-19 gradually peter out. Instead, it continues its relentless journey, taking more and more lives. And sadly, here in the U.S. it continues to be treated more as a political issue than a deadly pestilence. Many, mainly of the conservative kind, refuse to get vaccinated, social distance or wear a mask. Any mandates to do any of these things are viewed as an infringement of their personal freedom. As a result, 2021 has been another quiet year for me, especially the first half. I ‘went’ to church on zoom until we opened a few months ago. Occasionally had friends over for the odd meal and/or cheese and wine. Stayed mostly in my small world of Orange City, N. W. Iowa until I was fully vaccinated.
I think when I wrote “Roll in 2021” I was thinking that God would smooth the path for us! But, as I keep reminding myself, that’s not what happens, even to the faithful. In fact, Jesus was up-front about life getting worse before it gets better, as I was reminded when writing Advent Devotions for 2021. I chose to follow the theme, Making All Things New, picking common and not so common Advent Scripture lessons. As I reread Jesus' warnings from Luke 20 and 21, it became clearer to me that Jesus told his disciples to expect trials and troubles and not assume they meant the end had come or about to come. Don’t be led astray, he warned. You can read my devotions, which began on the first Sunday of Advent on November 28, at: https://www.storymakerlife.com/advent-2021
In 2020, once we’d grasped that covid-19 was messing with our lifestyles, I began offering Lectio Divina Gone Virtual. I kept going through 2020 and continued into 2021, offering virtual lectio twice a month. Each time a very diverse group in age, geography, church background, theological perspectives gathers for a prayerful reflection on a biblical passage. I think this has become one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in this period of exile (my name for what covid has done to us; it feels like an exile). The virtual group is insightful, welcoming, open to people and different ideas. We’ve discovered new ways of looking at familiar texts finding newness in them, courageously tackled unfamiliar passages and learned from each other. I’ve often said that the Bible is a communal book, written for a very specific community, the people of God, and therefore should be read and interpreted in community. Our bi-monthly gatherings that include people from different U.S. States and different countries has demonstrated how critical it is to read and study the Bible with a community. I will continue the practice in 2022. If you’re interested in joining us and discovering a welcoming and open community, a space where the Spirit works (and yes, the Spirit can work through virtual means) please contact me and I’ll keep you posted about details for Lectio Divina Gone Virtual.
Some of the other highlights of 2021 can best be told in pictures.
My first get-away was a wonderful few days with like-minded friends. We'd all followed the CDC's guidelines and kept our distance. Once we'd been fully vaccinated we felt at peace about finally getting together again. We traveled to Jester Park in south east Iowa, shared a well-equipped log cabin, hiked the woods until we dropped, ate good meals with good wine and enjoyed stimulating conversation and just being together in the presence of God and God's marvelous creation.
As the year progressed, I grew more adventurous and flew to spend a couple weeks with a friend in New Jersey. On a beautiful day, we drove to the Jersey shore and enjoyed, sun and sand and sea. One of the reasons I went there was to lead a retreat in my friend's Taiwanese church and preach on Sunday, via google meet. A group of church members and other friends are at work translating my book Journey to Jesus into Mandarin.
From New Jersey I flew New Mexico for a visit with a good friend. We were adventurous. We made a strenuous 6-hour hike up (climbed about 1000 feet/300 metres) the Colorado trial. It took us 6 hours in the heat, leaving us tired but exhilarated. Another adventure was a visit to Mesa Verde, a national park in Colorado. Mesa Verde protects the ancient building structures of Native Americans. Their communal dwellings and gatherings places were built high up on cliff edges. Not my choice for a home; too much cliff climbing and living on very high edges. The little hiking we did there was exhausting, not only because of the heat and the dryness, but also because of the high altitude. We were amazed and humbled at the creative engineering of those ancient civilization. The area was mostly deserted by 13th century.
As covid-19 appeared to settle, or so I thought, and I’d gotten my booster shot, I made plans to escape another Iowa winter for a South African summer. Thanks to the new variant (discovered by South African scientists) resulting in more panic reactions, travel bans and restrictions, I made the sad decision to cancel my trip for now. I’ll tough out another frigid winter and hope that 2022 will allow me to travel abroad once again.
May 2022 bring healing and wholeness to our world, and an end to covid-19. And may we grow in wisdom and understanding of what is right and true.