The birds missed the governor’s order to shelter in place. From my perch in the bedroom (or is it my home office now?), I can see a gaggle of crows chasing a hawk from the neighborhood. On my run this morning, birdsong rang from all directions. The blue jay is up to his usual games, clearing his throat with enough bravado that the other birds just roll their eyes and keep away. I wonder if blue jays have trouble making friends?

While our world is upended by the spread of COVID-19, the birds carry on being birds. The sun was bright this morning. Spring is springing. Most of creation seems unaware of latest hand-washing guidelines or the wonders of video conferencing. This perspective is both comforting and disturbing.

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap, yet your heavenly Parent feeds them. … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendor was not clothed like one of these.

– Jesus, as reported by Matthew 6:25-29

David Kessler calls the anxiety we feel right now a “collective grief in the air.” Individually and as a society, we are grieving “the loss of normalcy, the fear of economic toll, the loss of connection, the loss of safety,” and the anticipation of grief that comes with uncertainty about the future. His proposal: Come into the present. Take stock of your physical surroundings. Notice your senses.

Look at the birds of the air… Consider the lilies of the field…

Now is the time to lean in to those practices that sustain us at the core. Eat well, exercise, find ways to pray that allow you to know gratitude, beauty, and joy, and that give you permission to name your worst fears before God. Be sure to laugh, too.

Of course, for all of us at FMC, community is one of these core practices. We find beauty and joy and humor and the strength to name our fears when we are with each other in the flesh. “The body of Christ” is not a virtual reality; it is a physical and spiritual one (spirituality has as much to do with ‘presence’ as physicality). As we navigate this tension, we hope this weekly e-Vine can serve as another connecting point at a time when close proximity is not available.

I’ve heard from many of you how you are finding ways to make extra connections with friends and family, including checking on each other with phone calls, texts, notes, and cards. This is heartening and beautiful! Consider using this time to make a connection with an FMCer you don’t know well. (What a great excuse to reach out to someone in your Care Group). And if you have or know of needs – tech support, financial, health-related, practical support, or if you just need a listening ear – please be in touch with Pastor Deb or me. Your church family can help.

Remember that this time of physical distancing means something different for each of us. Some are finding stay-at-home an unexpected blessing of “forced sabbath,” a time for renewed connection with self, others, and God. Others are fearful for their job or healthcare access. Some are lonely. Some want a hug. Some are suddenly full-time parents, full-time homeschoolers, and full-time employees all at the same time. All of us are more reliant on the internet than we were two weeks ago.

It is strange how both the stresses and the blessings of our lives can be amplified in a time of crisis. We feel everything with more force. These are unusual days. And yet, not unlike the birds, FMCers carry on being FMCers. Even when we can’t hear our neighbors singing on Sunday morning, we remain in harmony with Christ: rooted in the love of God, committed to each other through the presence of Jesus in our lives, and connected to one another through the powerful bonds of the Holy Spirit.