“My Neighbor’s Hand”, from L.Willows (Mercy, Loving One Another, Blessing)

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My Neighbor’s Hand, by L.Willows

Yesterday I broke a rule. It was a beautiful day and I was eager to take a walk in the morning so I was “suited up” with my mask, sunglasses, sunscreen, tissues for my hands as I would need to handle some door-nobs and the elevator buttons in my apartment building to exit and a sun hat for protection when I walked. I had ear-plugs so that I could listen to scripture on my iPhone as I paced through God’s beauty in a nearby garden park. I was set to go and covered with protection.

But life is full of the unexpected. As I locked my door and glanced down the hall I saw my neighbor that I had not seen in many months. She is an Ethiopian woman in her nineties that I have revered and deeply loved. She is my friend. Since the beginning of the Pandemic, I have not been able to visit with her. Her Caretaker told me that her sons and family stopped visiting at the same time so she has been alone- something which never happened before COVID. I remember that her home was full day and night “before”, filled with the aroma of Ethiopian cooking and the chatter of her visitors.

There she was in the distance in her cotton whites that fell upon the ground as she slowly struggled to walk in the hall with her Caretaker. She looked fragile. I waved and she waved back. My heart was drawn to go to greet her. Most of her petite face was hidden beneath her mask. It was a sweet reunion. Her large eyes were shining. I took off my prescription sunglasses. We were probably both blurry eyed. Her vision was most likely better than mine.

“Oh Sweet One. I have missed you. Are you well?” I asked? She looked directly into me with concern and said, “Yes. Yes. Well, but I am feeling very weak. I have not seen you. I walked by your apartment but did not see you. I was worried about you. We don’t see you. So much time…” I told her that I was home all the while, the same as she was, just staying safe inside of my apartment and that I was fine, very good!

Then, I said, “I love you. I miss you.” My heart was overwhelmed by her loveliness. I told her that she is like part of my family to me, that my own family is far away, some parts of it very distant for a long time. Here she was, sweet and kind, steps away and separated from the ones that she loves. I knew that no one had hugged or greeted her with love for a very long time. That was when I broke the rule.

I put my hand upon hers. It was the first time that I touched a person’s hand since isolating in the Pandemic. (the Rule-breaker alarm went off in my head) I said to her, “Is this alright? Is it alright that I touch your hand?” I knew that I was breaching the “code”.  She looked at me knowingly. Then she placed her other hand on top of mine and cupped mine as if in a blessing.

The breach became Blessed. In that moment, I knew that love was stronger than anything in this world. Is the Love Code larger? When? How? Why? I did not intend to break the laws of man or to disobey safety. The moment seemed to be pointing to a deeper truth.

When we reach in the Name of Love, in the Motive of Love, namely because the Love of Christ is our cause- then our steps become Blessed, wherever they lead. There is no breach, no break because we walk under the Law of God not the law of man. We are sons and daughters of His Covenant. God covers us with His Protection though His Promises.

I did not “think” in the moment.  It only felt full, lasting with Love and sent to me by God’s Spirit. The memory is vivid to recall. I pray protection for my dear friend and for us all. As I walked afterward, I prayed in all of God’s beauty for my precious family, my spiritual family, my community, the suffering everywhere and for our wisdom and discernment as we walk forward with our neighbors- whoever and wherever in the world they are. Lord, bring us together as Your Own and give us hearts that do not know separation.

© 2020 Linda Willows

“Here in The Garden of Summer’s Slow End”, a poem from L.Willows

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Here in the Garden of Summer’s Slow End

Summer days seeming, long seeming to end,
The green deepens and circles to close every bend.
Birds spread their wings and fly low in the sky
Flocked to far away warmth into the sun’s eye.

You will always be there Heart, remembering that we are One.
Seasons change, time shifts, like the afternoon sun.
See the glow, feel the warmth, in the stillness that comes.
Here we all live where God’s love is spun.

Here in the garden of the summer’s slow end,
There are new beginnings, this in Love’s sweet lend.
When the birds fly like arrows with songs of mystery
Our heart goes with them, in joy’s jubilee.

Summer end days, Heart – summer’s redeem.
How we linger, how we long dream.
In the heavy full sweetness of the last swooning gleam.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

“C.S. Lewis on Facing Trials”, with article by Gary Selby on the Screwtape Letters (Trusting God, Faith, God’s Will)

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The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis on Facing Life’s Trials

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”
C.S. Lewis, (Spiritual Direction)

“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.”
C.S. Lewis, (Mere Christianity)

This wonderful article by Gary E. Selby offers the wisdom of C.S. Lewis from “The Screwtape Letters”  was in Christianity Today 

Screwtape’s Practical Advice for Dealing with the Present

What you should do is imagine all the bad things that could happen. Picture each awful possibility as you lie awake at 3 a.m., letting image after image flood your mind. Think about how you would bear it if you were sick from the coronavirus, or if COVID-19 struck someone you loved.

That’s what Screwtape would advise. A lot of people are looking for practical counsel at the present, and one excellent resource is a series of letters “written by Screwtape” and published by C. S. Lewis. Of course the author of The Screwtape Letters (which fell into Lewis’s hands sometime during the relentless Nazi bombing of London in 1940–1941), does not speak to our situation specifically. Screwtape said nothing about the coronavirus in his advice to his nephew Wormwood, a junior devil tasked with temping one particular human in the World War II era. Nevertheless, there is much to learn from the senior devil, and the lessons can be applied to our present situation.

For example, Screwtape has suggestions for what we might think about when we’re lying awake in bed at night. He tells Wormwood to encourage the human’s mind to run. “We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear.” Humans love to have “courage.” They like to imagine how they would “be strong” and exert control over the universe in lots of different hypothetical futures. “Let him forget,” Screwtape writes, “that, since they are incompatible, they cannot all happen to him, and let him try to practice fortitude and patience to them all in advance.”

Lewis, who was a rather old-fashioned Christian, tried to dissuade people from listening to this sage counsel. “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar,” he wrote in the preface The Screwtape Letters in 1942. “Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”

Lewis would say that what we need to do in this situation is to “accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to [us]—the present anxiety and suspense.” For him, the anxiety we feel about our future is our present cross. The Christian challenge is to take it up, like Jesus took up his cross. We should acknowledge our fear, ask God for help, and then to pray as Christ taught us, “Thy will be done.” When we do that, an amazing thing begins to happen. The power that fear holds over us, if not eliminated, is at least diminished, and we find the strength to carry on.

One only has to lay awake for an hour or two, though, mulling over the facts from that informative article on the first symptoms of COVID-19, to know that Screwtape’s advice is far more compelling. The choice between trusting prayer and sleepless worry is hardly a choice at all!

Author, GARY S. SELBY 

Christianity Today Magazine