They were my kinfolk, my people - many of whom I'm still friends with today, though we've scattered across the country, spilling out in different directions as fast as we could once we'd tossed our graduation caps in the air.

Aimee Nezhukumatathail - World of Wonders

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

How to Get Through 2021: Shoulder to Shoulder

Last month I wrote about how to get through 2021 by advocating adherence to the lyrics of  Day by Day from the musical Godspell. I've been in a bit of a musical renaissance lately.  I've been listening to music for 2 to 3 hours each day and much of it has had an encouraging effect on my outlook on life.  

On the way to work, I listen to the same playlist each morning which features a lot of music from Allen Levi.  In a live concert Allen, who lives and has his recording studio on a Georgia farm describes how he saw two purple finches at the bird feeder outside of his studio.  The first was blind in his right eye and the second blind in the left eye.  

Levi wrote a fictional conversation from one bird to the other about teaming up "to make it through this obstacle course called life. "

Levi's finch also tells his prospective traveling partner that 

"If we travel all alone the danger's plenty but side by side were perfect 20/20."

This got me thinking about the obstacle course that was the year 2020 and how that 2020 was far from perfect in seemingly every aspect. 

2021seems to be shaping up like a movie called 2020: The year that wouldn't leave.  Political turmoil, Covid, Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl.  

If the answer to getting through this year is shoulder to shoulder, a new question that emerges is how do we do that 6 feet apart? 


I might suggest 3 ways.

1) Stay positive with each other.

Discontentment is a more infectious virus than even Covid. When one person complains a line soon forms so everyone can get in on the act. 

To stay positive with each other, you first need to stay positive yourself so you can pass it on to others.  In the same way, walking in step with positive people will help you combat negative thoughts and behavior patterns.

Consider the ripple effects of Phillippians 4:4- 9 ...

First have a pattern of rejoicing always (vs.4). add to that gentleness (vs. 5) remove anxiety by presenting your needs to God (vs 6 )and God's peace will guard your heart (vs. 7).  Then to cap it all off think and act only in ways that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent,  and 
praiseworthy (verses 8&9)

2. Encourage each other.

The English Standard (ESV) New International (NIV) and New American Standard (NASB) version of the Bible (3 of my favorite versions) all translated the 1st word of Isaiah 35:3 as strengthen.

ESV: Strengthen the weak hands,
         and make firm the feeble knees. 

NIV: Strengthen the feeble hands,
        steady the knees that give way;

NASB: Strengthen the exhausted, and make the feeble strong. 

In 1995 the NASB went through a revision and the verse is now translated ...

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.

When you think about it, encouragement is a kind of strengthening. And you have to admit that 2021 life is enough to make the strongest among us exhausted and feeble.  Words and acts of encouragement can provide an oasis in a barren wasteland. 

3. Find Common Ground

Acts chapter 17:16-34  is generally considered a passage that gives a blueprint on evangelism.  Paul in Athens is able to study the culture and then use the culture as a way of sharing the message of Jesus.  One ministry I know took this pattern and developed a method called ask, admire and admit as a way of presenting the gospel to others.

I believe that Paul's model can also be used beyond the scope of evangelism to promote unity.  As you may have noticed we live in an increasingly divisive society even among Christ-followers.  I sometimes think I can only use 24 letters on Facebook as I always seem to be minding my p's and q's. The thing about Facebook is that ideally our circle is composed of friends, relatives, and acquaintances with whom we once shared common bonds.  Sometimes it helps me to remember those bonds and post those memories as a way of strengthening those bonds rather than focussing on differences. 

In January I wrote that depending on God is a good way to get through 2021.  Depending on each other seems to be the next logical step as God created us to be in relationship with one another.  Working in concert through this obstacle course called life is much better than being each other's obstacles.