But God never left us without evidence

Acts 14:15-17 [After a man crippled from birth was healed, people in Lystra thought Paul and Barnabas were gods and prepared to sacrifice bulls to them.] Barnabas and Paul shouted, “Friends, we are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them … In the past he permitted the nations to go their own ways, but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness.

Romans 1:20 Through everything God made, people can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.

Colossians 1:15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

I have just learned that our friend and colleague Doug Lamp died last night from complications of Covid. Doug and his wife Barbara spent their lives sharing the Good News about God’s goodness, first in Bolivia and then in Cuiabá, São Paulo (living three blocks from us), and Natal in Brazil. When I left São Paulo to accompany Karis through intestinal transplant, they reached out to our other daughters. Barbara did some “mom” things for and with Valerie at school I wasn’t there to do. We last saw Doug in Natal in January 2020, before any of us had heard of Covid. I will miss my cheerful email exchanges with him over the news in their prayer letters and ours. My husband Dave was a guest in their home countless times, in Cuiabá, São Paulo, and Natal. They traveled seven hours to attend our daughter Valerie’s wedding in southern Brazil.

Ironically, Doug and Barbara had their bags packed and tickets purchased to retire to the U.S. three weeks from the day Doug learned he had Covid. We talked about them visiting us in Pittsburgh. We are heartbroken for Barbara and for their family. Doug’s long battle did not end as we hoped and prayed.

What does Doug’s death have to do with this passage from Acts 14? I’m thinking this sad morning of Doug no longer dependent on the evidence of himself God gives us here on earth, but there, with him, joining Karis and all your loved ones and mine in awe around God’s throne. One day you and I will be there too. What will matter then of all that troubles us now?

Lord, reorder my preoccupations and priorities. Because you are good.

But God answered, by Elaine Elliott, Antigua, Guatemala

Job 30:20; 38:1-2, 12-13 I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look. … Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. “Who is this that questions my wisdom? … Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth?” [KJV: “Hast thou commanded the dayspring to know its place?”]

Luke 1:78-79 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven [KJV “the dayspring from on high”] is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.

My sister sent us home from San Diego in mid-March after my husband Steve and I had helped her recover from a health crisis. Though we had heard of Covid, arriving in the Guatemala airport to a temperature check and instructions to self-quarantine for two weeks seemed surprising.   The next day we heard that all air travel to the country would be suspended, and we went into lockdown two days later.  We arrived home just in time.

Our daughter suggested a weekly Zoom call, a lifeline to anchor our family.  Having this connection allowed us to hear about their lives, to share ours, to watch the three grandchildren grow, and to be present as our son adopted two boys.  My Bible study group started a weekly Zoom meeting, and several friends and I talked frequently as well.  On-line books, magazines, newspapers, and documentaries expanded our world. Thank you, God, for technology!

Covid confinement became my sabbatical for writing. I sent scripture reflections to family and friends, then wrote a novel about recent events in Guatemala.  Sharing my drafts became a way of connecting with friends as readers helped me with my story. 

When two close Mayan friends died, and another friend shared her grief over not being with her husband in the hospital as he died, the Covid tragedy became personal. We saw the economic devastation as people on the streets waved white flags to indicate they needed food. Added to the pandemic, two tropical storms devastated communities, making more food relief necessary. 

Our patio garden with its lavish flowers, hummingbirds, butterflies, bright fountain, and fresh grass made a welcoming outdoor space without leaving the house.  Thanksgiving dinner had all the trimmings and none of the guests.  Similarly, we spent Christmas home alone. However, the brilliance of this year’s conjunction of planets shone in the clear evening sky as a hopeful sign like the first Christmas star.  Zoom allowed us to connect with extended family, all socially distanced in my sister’s back yard.

When I gained confidence to hike outdoors with friends, we enjoyed soaking in trees, sunlight, and landscapes. Prayer, music, devotional reading and encouragement from family and friends kept us cheerful, and when tempted to become gloomy, habits of gratitude lifted us up.  I felt grateful for our good health, survival of Covid for several in the family, and for my 91-year-old mom’s vaccination.

Even in a pandemic, Easter Sunday celebrates resurrection, and I set a cheerful spring table with bright flowers and delicious food.  I had read an appropriate line from Gerard Manley Hopkins that referred to Christ in a time of shadows: “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”

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