The Pastor’s Corner is written by the pastor of Coronado Bible Church.

Cabin Fever

The diagnosis was applied to me when I was a kid … usually in the dead of winter. Days when the biting windchill made it unwise to be outside. Days when I was done with being inside. My general kid-impression was that cabin fever was mild craziness caused by confinement. 

The first time I thought about it seriously was in a Jr. High class focusing on Kansas history. We read several stories of people who were driven mad by the extreme isolation of the prairies. Some became so disoriented and distraught that they made irresponsible decisions leading to great harm or death. After white-out conditions that raged for weeks, one man calmly hitched his team to a wagon and headed to town. Completely unconscious of his family’s entreaties, he rode undissuaded to an icy demise.

Sorry for the bleak story, but at least the snow part won’t happen in Panama. History also gives a bit of perspective. What we’ve been facing can’t be compared to wintering in a 12-foot square cabin on a frozen prairie before any modern forms of communication. Things could be worse.

Now, I’m not saying our situation isn’t real … or hard … or real hard. There was a reason I looked up the symptoms of “Cabin Fever.” Turns out Sue and I have experienced several of the less serious indicators from this list I found online:     lethargy; sadness or depression; trouble concentrating; lack of patience; food cravings; decreased motivation; difficulty waking; frequent napping; hopelessness. I guess it helped me to see that “Cabin Fever” is a real phenomenon … well documented and often observed. I also appreciated the article’s common sense suggestions for regulating the effects of isolation or confinement: get out of the house (whenever possible); maintain normal eating habits; set goals; use your brain (Facebook and Netflix don’t actually qualify); exercise. As I write, Sue is rapidly walking laps in the living room as a healthy break from her video editing.

We’ve also been blessed by the need to keep ministering. Thinking of you and thinking of families that need to be fed, gets us outside ourselves. Turns out that thinking of others is not only Biblical, but healthy. These commands to the church come to mind.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Romans 15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.


Keep Running

They called it P.E. … Physical Education. I guess the title was accurate. It was physical and I learned something. Actually, I learned two things: I can’t run … and I sure can’t count while I’m running.

Windom’s dusty little track set at the edge of what was loosely considered a town. There wasn’t a tree in sight to stop the prairie gale. Clouds sped across the sky mocking my pace around the limestone gravel track.

I was nearing the end of sixth grade and Kansas was already baking. It was way too hot for strenuous exercise, but this was our P.E. final. Everyone had to run a mile.

I shuffled around the track as best I could, choking on the dust of the herd ahead of me. The cloud died down as one kid after another pulled off the track. There were only a few still “running.” It was the usual suspects. That percentile of children specifically created for the coach’s vocal entertainment. “Pick it up Wiziarde … the bus is leaving!”

I ran up the straightaway opposite the low section of bleachers where my classmates were lounging. Hot air scorched my lungs, sweat seared my eyes, I rounded the corner staggering, but picked up the pace as I saw the finish line drawing closer. And … was I hallucinating? It looked as if my peers were cheering me on … encouraging me to finish the race. A few more strides, and the wind carried the truth to my ears. They were all chanting “One more lap!” I nearly collapsed. Not only was I finishing dead last … I couldn’t even count to four.

There have been times since … when I thought I couldn’t go on. Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. There have been times when I thought I had finished a race and passed a test only to discover I had to go around again. It seems I still can’t count. Maybe l should listen to Coach Paul … “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12

Actually, Paul and the other apostles have been much better coaches to me than Mr. Beaver and Mr. Heim. But I guess that shouldn’t surprise me since … physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

Being at the end of the pack in a physical race can be awfully discouraging … but spiritually it’s a sweet spot. All the people in the stands are proof that the race can be won. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faithHebrews 12:1–2
Just keep running!

Two-Way Worship

Are there any advantages to “digital church?” Well … there’s the comfort of pajamas. The brain cells saved by not deciding what you’ll wear … or trying to remember what you wore last week. How about comfortable seating? Please text me if you’ve managed to stay awake from your Lazy Boy. That would be the ultimate encouragement to a preacher. You can get up and use the restroom without rubbing knees with an entire row of nearly strangers. You can receive a call without glaring around, pretending it’s not your phone.

Funny story about that. During the video service we broadcast that had such serious sound issues, one of our people texted me and said, “Talk to me, I can help you with those sound issues.” So I called him. I was embarrassed … but a little pleased when he hoarsely whispered, “Not now, I’m listening to the pastor!”

Here’s my last one … you can unwrap a hard candy in the middle of the sermon without receiving the collective glare of shame.

Now, let’s talk about what you can’t do from home. Our CBC Bible readthrough just started the book of Romans. This book is considered by many, the Apostle Paul’s greatest work. It’s studied for its deep theological, Christological insights. It’s so well written that excerpts of it have made their way into non-Christian literature classes. I’ve read it many times, but I saw something new this time. I think my eyes were opened to this by my isolation from all of you. In his opening Paul writes …

I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:10–12

Pastor Paul was in the first few strokes of penning his greatest sermon ever … and right there, he admitted, “I can’t accomplish everything I’d like to through this medium.” Paul says he wants to see them and impart a spiritual gift to make them strong and then he qualifies that remark. I long to see youthat you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I have tried to keep encouraging you through these unusual times … but not everything can happen through video. There is something irreplaceable that happens when we worship face to face. Sue and I can sing our heads off … but it’s not the same as joining our voices together. I can muster all my passion in front of the camera … but oh what I’d give for one nodding head. I long to see you, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith!

My Pain … Your Pain

Sue and I were returning from an anniversary getaway. Not quite ready to jump back into the fray, we dragged our tires slowly through the Mississippi River Valley. A pristine almost empty highway snaked beneath majestic limestone cliffs. We drove to the top of a cliffside park and enjoyed the spectacular views.

That’s when I first noticed some discomfort and commented to Sue that lunch wasn’t agreeing with me. By the time we had gone a few more miles towards home, discomfort had turned to pain … and then alarming pain. I pulled over and let Sue drive. The ache grew by the second and we quickly decided we needed to have someone check me out. The GPS showed a large city on the other side of the river. The bridge finally came into view, but as we swung onto the road to head across, we encountered a row of construction cones. There was no roadbed across the bridge and nothing like civilization for miles on our side of the river. We finally rolled into a little town and Sue hastily parked next to the local fire station. When she emerged with an EMT, he didn’t even get to the car … just looked through the window and got on the radio for an ambulance.

Once in the ambulance, I got the classic question, “Sir, on a scale from one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” It was the worst pain I’d ever experienced, so I said “Ten!”  After they quickly ruled out a few things, they got permission to do some pain management. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would utter the prayer, “Father, thank you for morphine.” I won’t leave you hanging … it was a kidney stone.

Physical pain is hard to quantify. People have different pain thresholds and diverse pain experiences. My “10” might be your “6” and someone else’s “20.” I don’t think it’s that different with how we experience things emotionally. Some of us have simply suffered more and built up a certain immunity. Others have suffered too long with no respite and their emotional reserves are depleted. They are one giant frayed nerve. Still others have little experience with emotional suffering and recoil from the test of our times.

It’s been interesting to see the breadth of response from people to the Covid-19 crisis. Some are almost in tears with fear, while others laugh the whole thing off. What’s disturbing to me is how harshly both groups are judging one another. At least as Christians, one barometer for how well we’re handling the crisis should be how we’re handling the people God places in our path.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1–3

Keep Rolling

The first time Sue and I ministered via video was back in 2016 when I was providing pulpit fill for a church in Panama City. The learning curve was brutal. Our camera split every video into ten minute segments. So, I would try to edit my sermon into appropriately timed chunks. I would preach until Sue held up her hand, then hold very still while she restarted the video. Sue was spending hours editing the fragments into one sermon. Then we discovered that if we just kept filming, the camera would combine the segments for us. We needed to just keep rolling.

This new Covid-curve is also pretty steep.  Thankfully, we started doing Facebook Live before we knew we needed it. Still each week of the isolation measures has brought a new challenge. The first Sunday I preached to 21 people, the second Sunday to six and the third Sunday to a one-eyed parishioner on a tripod. Facebook live with a phone was relatively simple … but then thousands of churches around the world jumped on the bandwagon effectively crashing the servers.

That’s why we decided to prerecord and preload the service. We had the service recorded Saturday night, got up extra early to post it to the server … and it aired at Noon. That was the first time in 26 years of fulltime ministry that I was late to church.  It’s been a little stressful, very challenging, and super exciting. Even with the setbacks and frustrations it’s been fun to be reminded that Sue can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. It’s also nice to know that every challenge in life is an opportunity to come out the other side with new skills.

I think the hardest thing to do when making a video … is to just keep rolling. If you make a mistake in front of a live audience, you squirm a little, laugh a little and move on. That’s true even with Facebook Live. What choice do you have? But when you’re prerecording video, it’s tempting to stop and restart every time you goof up. The only trouble is that can turn in to hours of retakes and hours of editing. In life and videos it’s better to just keep rolling. Believers in Jesus have this awesome thing called “grace” that allows us to just keep rolling. Paul put it this way, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13–14

God bless and thanks for your patience.