PCC Scroll – Editor’s Corner

We just finished up the 75th Issue of the PCC Scroll! It’s a double issue, and I am so excited. I’ve published the articles I wrote for the latest issue except my intro :).

Over the last issues of the PCC Scroll, we have come from the overarching theme of “Anchored.” Two issues ago, we came from the subtheme of “Getting your house together.” In this issue, we are coming from the topic of “Maintaining healthy habits.”

The first half of 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride. The events, one on top of another, that have happened illustrate the importance of being firmly anchored in God. This year, we have seen crop-threatening locusts in east Africa, fires in Australia, the military downing of a commercial airplane, the impeachment of an American president, floods, earthquakes and volcano eruptions around the globe and that is just scratching the surface. Most recently, we are in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest. This list is not meant to invoke doom and gloom. It’s just an observation that we have experienced many years’ worth of incidents in a matter of months and have not been able to catch our breath.

COVID-19 rocked the world, bringing sickness, death, record job loss, loss of businesses and market drops. People have been impacted in different ways. There was a piece I saw on Facebook that resonated. It says, with COVID-19, even though we are in the same storm, we are on different boats. Some have contracted the illness, and it led to hospitalization or death. Some have contracted the illness and showed no symptoms and may never know they had it. 10s of millions have lost their jobs, been furloughed or have had their pay cut. For some, this also equated to the loss of health insurance. Some can work from home and have been for months, while some are required to go to their workplace. Parents with school-aged children were having to balance work and helping their children with school. Many businesses were forced to close, and some, unfortunately, will not weather the storm and reopen.

Our country has also faced civil unrest as people around the country and world protest ongoing police brutality in America, particularly toward the black community. Emotions are heightened and some have become more entrenched in their own corner as years of racial tension continues to explode.

In my own corner of the world, there are many areas in which I feel my house is in order, and I am maintaining healthy habits. But, sometimes, things come that rock our boats and challenge us. Recently, I had a health scare that shook me to my core. This led to a series of tests. Thank God the results have been good, overall. In the end, health concerns I’ve had have been addressed and have given me base results for the future.

In line with this issue, I am focusing on things I can do to maintain healthy habits, particularly toward my health. Those habits include walking, reducing stress, following doctors’ orders and watching what I eat. The ironic thing is that at the beginning of the year, I talked about the importance of getting my health together, physically and emotionally. I just didn’t think I would get special motivation to do so. Please keep me in your prayers as I focus on getting my health in order.

One healthy habit I hope we all find is seeking what gives us joy. I have turned toward writing and blogging. For others, it could be cooking, knitting or baking. For others it could be outside activities like hiking and walking. Whatever your release, embrace it.

2020 has been a year that is extremely volatile, and it feels like we are in a never-ending storm. As we continue the rollercoaster ride that is 2020, be sure you are firmly anchored in the Lord. Meditate on the scriptures, and commune with God in prayer.

Anchored_text-05

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter—Maintaining healthy habits

Here is the latest Word of the Quarter from the PCC Scroll.

In this issue of the PCC Scroll, we continue the overarching theme of “Anchored.” The overarching focus started in the fall issue with the subject “Returning to the source” followed by “Getting your house together” in the winter and “Silencing the voices” in the spring. In this issue, the overarching thought concludes with the topic of “Maintaining healthy habits.”

On the spiritual side, some habits we should develop include prayer, Bible study and fasting. In the Men and Women of the Bible sections, we feature examples of people whose healthy habits were the foundations of their lives and achievements. In the case of the Proverbs 31 Woman, her habits centered around providing for her family and making sure her household was well taken care of. The editing team wondered how she balanced her needs, both naturally and spiritually, with those of her household.

Balance is a key word. We have so many tasks to maintain daily. How do we give attention to them all? It starts with your foundation, so build good habits around it and build up. As the Bible says, seek God first. He will direct your path and all things will fall into place. As you begin, take inventory. What do you feel strong in? What don’t you feel strong in?

The impact of COVID-19 illustrates the need to be anchored. The editing team talked about how the pandemic was not a drill. It was the real thing and a wakeup call to get our houses together. It reminded us of the wise virgins who were prepared and ready from natural and spiritual points of view. How would you grade your readiness?

Joseph knew a famine was coming, so he prepared for it by putting aside crops during bountiful years. It took discipline (healthy habits) to be prepared. In this case, they had to be strategic with crops, but the principle is the same in all areas of life. Being prepared was necessary then, and it is necessary now. It is times like these that illustrate the importance of having healthy habits.

Some studies say that it takes 21 days to form a new habit and 66 days for the habit to become automatic. If you want to develop healthy habits, make a goal to do it for 21 days with no interruptions. Whether its walking for 30 minutes daily, drinking eight glasses of water daily or getting eight hours of sleep each night, build the habits until they become instinct. Try to build habits one at a time, so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Use this time as a catalyst to take control of your finances, health (mental and physical) and spiritual disciplines.

We are all at different levels in developing healthy habits and disciplines so be cautious when comparing yourself to others. Offer yourself and others grace amid all that is happening, but continue to do something (no matter how small) to grow. If you feel like you missed the mark or it wasn’t perfect, give yourself credit for the attempt. Continue to do something and push yourself toward the goal.

COVID-19 has slowed us down, and some daily distractions have gone away. In a storm and crisis, we learn if we are anchored. Are you easily moved and swayed and tossed during this season? If so, ask yourself where is your hope?

We want to leave you with 3 John 2:1 which says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

 

Men of the Bible: Daniel

This the latest Men of the Bible. It’s on Daniel.

Name: Daniel

Meaning: God is my judge

His Character: Daniel was a man of wisdom who was able to flourish in a foreign land.

His Sorrow: He and his people lived in exile.

His Triumph: Because of his strong faith, he survived tests. His insight led to him advising kings and becoming governor in Babylon.

Key Scriptures: Book of Daniel

Daniel was from a well-known family, possibly of royal or noble descent (perhaps a descendant of King Hezekiah), during the time when the Hebrews were exiled in Babylon. Even as a young person, Daniel was wise in both actions and words. Daniel went on to eventually serve as an advisor in the royal courts of Babylonian and Medo-Persian kings while remaining committed to his faith. Daniel is one of the major prophets, and the book of Daniel is filled with prophecies and visions of events based on revelations from God.

 

It is believed that Daniel was taken to Babylon when he was around 15. He was given the Babylonian name Belteshazzar. Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (also known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) were part of a training for courtiers taught by Ashpenaz. Their education was well-rounded. Besides receiving solid learning, they had access to the lush tables of the royal court. But, even in this new environment, they remained loyal to their faith. Instead of consuming the rich diet of the king’s table, Daniel was able to persuade the palace to give he and his friends a vegetarian diet.

 

When presented to King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah found favor with the king because of their wisdom and understanding. Daniel would go on to live and work at the court for decades under different kings.

 

King Nebuchadnezzar had dreams that his wise men could not interpret. This enraged the king, and he had them all killed. Daniel knew he and his friends could be targeted next, so they sought God. God gave Daniel the interpretation to the dreams. In gratitude, the king made Daniel prefect over all the wise men of the region and governor of the province of Babylon. The king also credited Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of kings, but this was soon forgotten. The king was once again reminded when he attempted to burn Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in a fiery furnace.

 

Eventually King Nebuchadnezzar died and was succeeded by King Belshazzar, who is believed to be King Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. His reign was short-lived, but he too turned to Daniel, who was elderly, for insight. The next king, Darius, made Daniel one of the most powerful men of the kingdom. This caused jealousy and some sought to discredit him. This led to Daniel being thrown into a lions’ den, but he was unscathed, much to the king’s relief. Daniel’s accusers and their families suffered the fate they had wished for Daniel. King Darius ordered that Daniel’s God be honored.

 

Even though he was a member of royal courts of different empires, Daniel did not go against his convictions. He had formed healthy habits as a youth, and he kept them all his days. His physical and spiritual diets were important for him to maintain, so he was careful of what he ate and had a strong devotional life.

 

When Daniel’s key tests came, he was prepared because of his healthy habits. These habits gave him the discipline and stability to be in control, no matter what life brought. He didn’t wait until he was in the lions’ den before he reached out to God in prayer. Prayer was his normal stance and was tied to his strong faith.

 

 

Your Money Matters: Maintaining healthy habits

Here is the Your Money Matter Sections from the latest PCC Scroll.

This section has covered topics from creating a savings account, building an emergency fund, getting out of debt, the importance of having a will, planning for retirement and more.

The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt. 10s of millions of Americans have lost their jobs and many are struggling. With the economy being hit, it’s a reminder about the importance of developing and maintaining healthy financial habits for unforeseen events like this. Here are some healthy financial habits to develop to weather future storms.

Set financial goals

These goals depend on where you are right now. They could be saving, eliminating debt, investing, etc.

Create and use a budget

Knowing how much money you bring in vs. spend each month is crucial. It’s helpful to put expenses into categories. For example, housing: mortgage, insurance, water, utilities, etc. As you create your budget, look for expenses you can cut back on.

Separate wants vs. needs

A subset to creating your budget is separating what you want vs. what you need. This line is easy to blur.

Spend less than you make

In our debt-ridden society, many spend more than they make each month, so they are never able to get above water. Spending less gives you room to save, pay off debt, invest and save for things like vacations. I know this may be a luxury but save as much as you can.

Have a savings account

Pay yourself first. Have a savings account for unexpected expenses such as car repairs or new appliances. It may help to have money automatically deducted from your check into this account.

Build an emergency fund

Your emergency fund is separate from your savings account. This fund should be three to six months of your essential expenses. This is a huge task and will take a while. Income tax refunds, stimulus checks and unexpected checks are great ways to get this started. Again, I know this is a luxury, but seasons like this illustrate its importance.

Invest toward retirement

Pretax benefits are your friend. If your employer offers a pre-tax retirement plan, use it. If your employer has a matching fund, be sure to take advantage of it.

Be honest about debt

It’s important to track your debt, which includes anything from car payments, student loans or credit card debt. If possible, try to pay debt off early.

Pay attention to your statements

I check my bank and credit accounts a few times a week. This diligence helped me discover fraud on my checking account quickly. I also have alerts for online use, over-the-phone use, international use and over certain amount use on my debit and credit cards.

Avoid late fees

Be sure to pay bills on time to avoid any late fees. If needed, set monthly calendar reminders a few days before bills are due.

Don’t spend your raise

When you get a raise, it may be tempting to spend it. Instead, use the money to pay off debt, save or build an emergency fund. If these are done, increase the amount you put toward your retirement accounts.

Cash is king

There is a saying that cash is “king.” When possible, use cash or your debit card before your credit card. If you use your credit card for mileage, like me, be sure to pay it off each month.

Know before you go

From shopping for groceries to clothes, creating a list before you go may help you resist impulse buys. When shopping for bigger-ticket purchases like cars or appliances, do your research to know what features are important to you and be sure to shop around.

Keep the end in mind

Know what your financial goals are and let your decisions match them. For example, if a comfortable retirement is a goal, you must be putting money aside for it now.

 

I wish…

Since I have been working from home, I have been taking almost daily walks in the neighborhood. Sometimes, like yesterday, I get two long walks in. Last night during my walk, I was thinking about the people with confederate flags in Snohomish County who were standing vigil to protect property from “looting.”

 

When I first saw the pictures on Twitter, I immediately thought, “I wish people were as outraged about the number of unarmed black men who have died as they are about looting.” It is painful to me to see people who have never once condemned the systematic racism that allows these executions to keep happening be so vocal over the loss of property without ever once have been vocal about the loss of lives.

 

The truth is that the looting gives people an excuse to look away from George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and the names go on and on.

 

I think of Amy Cooper and people who were more outraged over the treatment of her dog than what could have been easily been Christian Cooper’s addition to the names above.

 

During the walk, I thought about things that I wished:

 

  • I wish people were as outraged over the death of George Floyd and many others as they are of the looting.
  • I wish people would be as vocal on their outrage over the murder of George Floyd as they are of looting.
  • I wish people were not so quick to try to criminalize people to “justify” their deaths.
  • I wish the wellbeing of Christian Cooper was just as important as the wellbeing of a dog.
  • I wish people would come from their far right and far left corners and find common ground to build on.
  • I wish that we could mobilize in such a way that we vote out leaders who are clearly racist, incompetent, and power-hungry, starting with the president.
  • I wish we had a president who did not use chaos as a weapon.
  • I wish we had a president who did not promote violence.
  • I wish we had a president who didn’t refer to the racist of the Charlottesville march as “very fine people.”
  • I wish we had leaders who were less interested in keeping power and more interested in maintaining checks and balances.
  • I wish that the stress of being black in America did not cause a disproportion of health issues in my community.
  • I wish another black man, David McAtee, had not been killed by police early Monday morning.
  • I wish people would understand and live out the basic commandment to love.
  • I wish we had police chiefs who did not say things like protesters are just as responsible for George Floyd’s death as the police.
  • I wish people would denounce the KKK, neo-Nazis and skinheads as loudly as ANTIFA.
  • And finally, I wish people would understanding saying “Black Lives Matter” in no way suggests that other lives do not.

 

Becoming and other thoughts

I watched a documentary on Netflix called Becoming, which follows (former) First Lady Michelle Obama as she toured for her book.

 

I have always been struck by her intelligence, grace, passion and what I consider to be laidback/humble/down-to-earth attitude. As a black woman, it was a delight to see her – a fellow black woman – from Chicago’s South Side who attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She delighted me in the same way as Condoleezza Rice. Both ladies having come from strong families and through hard work and dedication accomplishing so much.

 

Seeing this triggered some thoughts I have been sorting out. I was struck by the media’s portrayal of her as the angry black woman. Passion is labeled as being a zealot. Assertiveness is labeled as being aggression. Words are twisted and turned. The angry black woman image has always been a trigger for me. Especially now. Here is where I want to post a bunch of pictures that I do not have the rights to because I got to tell you, most black women are cool right about now. We are not the angry ones.

 

Here are a few things that I have been thinking:

 

  1. Please stop calling it “Trump’s economy” when giving the current administration “credit” for (what was) a strong economy, which was inherited. It was built by President Obama and his administration. Look at the economy President Obama inherited, which was a disaster from the Bush administration. And compare it to when he left office.
  2. Regardless of who the president was, the economy would have been weakened by the COVID-19, but the tariff and foreign trade policies of the Trump administration weakened the economy before the virus hit.
  3. Americans will not go hungry if meat processing plants are closed to keep workers safe. Essential or sacrificial? You tell me.
  4. I get wanting to get the economy going, but I do not get opening it too soon. If I hear one more person insinuate that people dying is something I am going go to have to get over, I just may lose it. Those CEOs and politicians (or their families) will not be the ones on the front line.
  5. Please do not compare the Michigan protestors who stormed the capitol to the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers stormed to protest an anti-gun bill citing the need to protect themselves against the continued harassment of police officers toward the black community. And after that happened the NRA suddenly supported the bill. I do not hear NRA talking gun control now, do you?
  6. I am over evangelicals. I am going to need you to open a Bible.
  7. I am not sure if the current president has dementia or is just a serial liar. I am not sure how one can say something two days before and then totally deny it. We have you on video.
  8. I am not sure how McConnell and Pence sleep at night. Do you really believe what you are saying?
  9. Please stop telling me that a “Republican” president “freed the slaves.” I am very attracted to intelligence and repulsed by stupidity, especially when it is willful. During the time of slavery, the south was “Southern Democrats” and the liberal party was “Republican.” The South voted as “Southern Democrats” until the Civil Rights vote when they turned “Republican.” The parties shifted and morphed. Either way yesterday’s Democrats and todays Republicans are the same. People who wanted to see my people enslaved and were against my Civil Rights.

 

With all the protest happening this past week and today, I have such a heaviness on my heart. Writing is away to sort it out.

A change is going to come?

On May 2, 1967, gun carrying members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense stormed the state capitol of California. Why? They were demonstrating in opposition to an anti-gun state bill introduced by Don Mulford. As background, in Oakland, members of the party had been legally carrying firearms openly. Why? To protect the black community against ongoing harassment from the Oakland Police Department. After this, the NRA backed the gun-control bill for the state because the state capitol had been “invaded,” to use the word the Sacramento Bee used in its headline.

 

Fast forward to now when the NRA is silent about white men storming a state capitol, and police continue to execute unarmed black men, which brings me to recent events.

 

For context, as I have mentioned before, I am not a feminist. During the women’s movement, white women from the south refused to march if black women were allowed to. To me, this says while they wanted to fight the patriarchy, they still wanted to keep their race privilege. More recently the number of white women who voted for Trump was surprising. Earlier numbers said it was 52%, but I have seen the number as low as 47%. Regardless, that is still high. To me, it indicates a higher faith in race privilege than gender privilege. Race privilege gives more bang for the buck.

 

Then enter the Amy Coopers of the world, who will always fall back on race privilege when it suits them. And quite frankly, some people were more offended by her treatment of her dog than her Oscar-winning, I feel threatened by a scary black man performance. By all accounts, she would be considered liberal based on her history of campaign donations. But, living in the PNW, I am all too aware of the passive aggressive racism of liberals.

 

I walk in my neighborhood full of “Black Lives Matters” signs and am too aware that it comes with conditions: as long as their full privilege remains in place, they are not made uncomfortable, and I stay in my lane and know my place. Which, based on the side-eyes and seconds looks I get while walking in my own neighborhood – whose gentrification (though I am beginning to use the term colonization) has been almost completed  – is no longer here.

 

Racism is not new, and I have always wondered what causes it. Fear? Insecurity? Both? To the point you must find someway to feel better about yourself and so you fall to race. I may not (insert whatever the scenario is) but at least I am not an X (insert racially derogatory term). How fragile do you have to be if your self-worth is tied to something as arbitrary as race? It is something you have not earned or accomplished. It is an accident of birth. It is something that would be easy to think exists only among poor people needing to find an enemy, but it would be a fallacy to think it is just an issue of economics. It is also an issue of power and control.

 

Exactly how many names am I going to have to say before the sang for (and prayed for) change comes? I notice how immediately the justification begins as people are criminalized. Like policing always follow an “If…then” pattern. I had a conversation with a friend of mine from Canada. We were talking about racism in America, and she made the comment that there is racism everywhere. This is of course is true. Unfortunately, racism is universal. But, my main point about racism in America goes back to slavery. In slavery, slaves were 3/5 of a person. I’ve heard this 3/5 of a person explained two ways. One as each slave as 3/5 of a person, so not fully human. Two 3 of every 5 slaves were considered a person for population counting. How many generations does it take to wipe that ideology out? I have mentioned before (because it had a profound impact on me) the first time I can recall being called the “N word.” We were both in first grade. The young child – who I never liked from that moment – only repeated what he had heard, probably at home.

 

And yes. Slavery was many years ago, but the systematic racism has never gone away. I can point to events like urbanization. As black families moved to the cities, immigrants from Europe were hired over black men whose ancestors helped build this country (for free), while black women were able to find works as domestics in white households. And a hierarchy developed. American born white, European born white and guess who was at the bottom?

 

For generations, the black community has been taught acquiescence, how to suffer in silence and to forgive. The community has finally decided enough is enough. So, no. People today are not wimps or snowflakes. They are tired of being silent so you can be comfortable. Uncomfortable reading about race? Imagine living it. And it is not just the black community.

 

Today, people of Asian descent are being hit, spat on and verbally abused in the wake of COVID-19. All are being lumped together as “Chinese.” People of Middle Eastern descent are looked at with suspension. People from Mexico (Latin America) are being lumped together as illegals who fill the streets with drugs. And don’t get me started on the treatment of those who are native to this land.

 

It’s times like this that remind me (some) people are looking/waiting for an excuse to exercise their hatred/racism, which is really born out of their fear and self-hate.

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Your Money Matters on the impact of social media.

 

I write a yearly “Christmas Letter” that outlines my year. It’s a reel of highlights where I focus on the positive. I always put a disclaimer to that effect, so readers recognize that. Sometimes I feel like a similar disclaimer needs to be added to social media platforms. A mountain of debt may be attached to exotic vacations, big houses, new cars, frequent restaurant dining and flashy jewelry. The grass is not greener. He or she who has the biggest toys doesn’t win. All that glitters is not gold.

 

According to a survey conducted by financial services company Charles Schwab, social media is the biggest bad influence on how people spend and manage money. One-third surveyed said that social media influenced them to spend money on experiences they saw on their friends’ timelines. It’s described as “social media envy” as people try to “keep up with the Joneses” because of “fear of missing out” (FOMO). Responders felt pressured to spend.

 

The survey also found that one-third of responders spent more than they could afford to participate in events with friends and family because of FOMO. While I think it’s important to spend time with loved ones, let it be based on what your wallet can handle. If you can’t afford dinner at the new, trendy restaurant, try lunch or happy hour or a place within your budget.

 

Half of the responders said that they paid more attention on how their friends spent than on how much they (their friends) were spending. This is especially interesting since 60% said they didn’t understand how their friends could afford the vacations and restaurants they posted about. So, people were having envy on posts even when they questioned how it was being paid for or if it could be afforded.

 

Among those surveyed:

  • 59% were living paycheck to paycheck
  • 44% had a rolling credit card balance
  • 38% had an emergency fund

 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember your financial goals. These goals should influence your financial decisions. If your goal is climbing out of credit card debt, joining your friends on a two-week safari that you have not financially planned for is outside of your budget. For example, I would love to take multiple “big” trips a year, however, my current budget allows for one. My desire to pay off my mortgage early, have an emergency fund and be comfortable in retirement and other goals trumps any short-term pleasure I would receive from more travel.

 

Social media is also full of advertisements tempting you to buy. Remember these ads are targeted directly to you: age, gender and location. Yes, they know who you are. It’s all designed to make you want more, like what you have is not enough. Your happiness and self-worth are not tied to that $1,000 purse that is flashing on your screen. Because once you have it, they will flash the wallet you “must have” to go with it.

 

I am not advocating closing all of your social media accounts. But just take what you see with a grain of salt, and don’t let consumption and comparison keep you down a rabbit hole of debt.

 

Focus on what brings you joy, not something you want or want to do just because someone else has it or did it. Don’t let FOMO derail your financial goals because it appears that someone else is better off. Despite what you see on social media, save more and spend less. We are a consumer nation, but let’s not normalize obscene credit card debt.

 

Why not add inspiration to your timeline? Follow people like Dave Ramsey who will give you pointers on keeping your finances on track.

 

Let’s go back to using social media for what it’s for. Sharing positive news with our friends and family. Don’t let it influence how you spend your hard-earned money.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible: Zechariah

Men of the Bible is Zechariah.

Name: Zechariah

Meaning: Jehovah remembers, or Jehovah is renowned

His Character: Zechariah was a devout priest, and he and his wife, Elisabeth, were known for their holiness.

His Sorrow: Despite his faith, he experienced doubt when told his long-standing prayers for a son were to be answered.

His Triumph: In their elderly years, he and his wife had a son, John (the Baptist).

Key Scriptures: Luke 1

Zechariah was a priest, who was a member of the priestly order of Abijah. He was a minister of God, who worked in the temple. There he managed the upkeep, taught scripture and directed services. He and his wife, who was of the priestly line of Aaron, were well respected in the community. The couple were orthodox, and their life centered around reading the Torah and religious traditions. They were known as righteous and for doing work for God.

 

Despite long-standing prayers, they were childless. During this time, children would care for parents in their old age and added to financial security and social status. Not having children was considered not having God’s blessing. So, they dealt not only with the pain of not having children but also social expectations.

 

One day, while serving in the temple, Zechariah was chosen to be the priest to enter the Holy Place and offer incense to God on behalf of the people. While there, he was visited by the angel Gabriel, becoming one of a few people to be directly addressed by an angel. Although Gabriel spoke to Zechariah about the coming Messiah, that message was eclipsed by the news of another child, his child. Gabriel told Zechariah that his wife would conceive. They would have a son, and they would name him John. Gabriel told Zechariah what John’s mission in life would be and instructed Zechariah on how John should be cared for.

 

Although devout, Zechariah’s faith faltered. It’s possible, by then, he and his wife had accepted the belief that they would not have children. He doubted his ability to father a child. He asked for proof that this long-awaited son would be granted so late in life. Then he was struck mute for doubting the message. He was told he would not speak again until after the baby was born. The people were waiting for Zechariah to emerge and probably wondered what was taking so long. When he finally emerged, unable to speak, they realized he must have had an encounter in the Holy Place.

 

Between Zechariah’s encounter with Gabriel and John’s birth, Mary was visited by Gabriel, and Elisabeth was visited by Mary. At last, Zechariah’s son was born! At eight days, the baby was circumcised. When it was time to name the baby, Elisabeth named him John. Many assumed the child would be named Zechariah, so they looked toward him. Zechariah, who was still mute, wrote down the name Gabriel had given him and was then able to speak. He praised God, and he made a prophecy about John and Jesus, outlining John’s mission to prepare the way by preaching salvation through repentance.

 

The Bible says that Zechariah and Elisabeth were righteous in God’s eyes and that they were careful to obey the commandments and regulations. This obedience came from their hearts. Perhaps this is the reason that Zechariah was the first to learn that God was setting in motion the coming of the Messiah. As parents with insight on the purpose of their child, Zechariah and Elisabeth were able to prepare John for his purpose.

 

Zechariah is very appropriate for this issue. He had to dig down and silence the voices around him (internal and external) that told him that he and Elisabeth were too old to have a child, despite God’s promise. In the end, his long-desired son was born. There are times when our desires and assignments seem out of reach and impossible because of our limitations. But, with God, all things are possible.

 

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

The Editor’s Corner for the latest newsletter. The topis is “Silencing the voices.”

As I began writing this article, we were in a pivotal time in history. COVID-19 was having a major impact around the world as new cases and deaths continued to rise. We were practicing “social distancing” to slow down the spread of the disease. I wonder how the world will look weeks from now when this article is published. Will new cases and death rates have plateaued, or will they still be climbing? Will we still be quarantined?

 

What I do know and understand is that there is no going back to business as usual, or at least we shouldn’t. The pandemic is leading to much-needed conversations around healthcare, medical costs, sick leave, childcare, how we work, etc.

 

My heart broke for the many who were unable to go to work because their salon, store or restaurant closed, which meant the loss of income. I was heartbroken for parents who faced extra expenses in childcare because schools were closed for weeks. Parents were faced with work and homeschooling their children. I was saddened by people who pressed their way to work regardless of the danger because not going to work equated to not getting paid.

 

But I was impressed with the response of the community. Schools offered breakfast and lunch to children. Some restaurants offered free meals to children or those in need. People reached out to help their loved ones and community. Local, state and federal governments looked for ways to help those impacted. Humanity came together. The future of the economy is unknown, but I believe we are setting the groundwork to come together as a community for whatever the future holds. Let us continue checking on loved ones and continue to find creative ways to spend with those we love.

 

There are other ways we can help now and in the future. If we all spent $5 a week on non-perishables foods for our local food banks, we would have a tremendous impact in making sure local families are fed. We can continue to remember our family and friends who may need help with errands. We can donate to programs like Meals on Wheels that provides food for those in need. We can also donate blood, which is always needed.

 

When all is said and done, I think many of us have been given a precious gift: time. Since we are “stuck” at home, we have quality time to spend with family. Since many are working from home, we have been given back hours that we would have spent commuting. I am sure many have a list of “To Dos.” Use this time to tackle that list and those projects you have been putting off. Use this time to write down those words you have been holding onto until you found the time to get them out. Use this time to withdraw with your household and have family dinners and family game nights. Use this time to withdraw into your secret place and spend time with God in prayer and Bible study.

 

As the season of Lent ends, use this time as an opportunity to withdraw and get away from the voices and noises that so easily distract us. When this is over, perhaps we will have more appreciation for the little things like hugging each other, meeting friends for coffee or lunch or even the routine of going to work. Our worlds are normally so busy. I hope that we can use this time for some much-needed self-care and focused time to commune with God and our loved ones.