What We’re Doing about COVID-19

Many of you don’t follow me, or my church on Facebook and, although you probably don’t worship with us either, I thought I’d pass along a message I sent out that describes what we’re doing as a local church about the Corona virus/COVID-19.  There are, so far, only four official cases in Ohio, but statistically, that means that there are, at least, hundreds of people infected.  And, since many of our members belong to vulnerable populations, we need to take steps to keep everyone safe.  In any case, I thought that by posting our list here, some of you who attend churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship, Rotary Clubs, etc. might find something useful. 

Stay safe everyone.


Christ United Methodist Church *will* be having church on Sunday. But, while we refuse to give in to panic, we do want to be prudent and act with caution. Toward that end, we are making a few minor changes to keep everyone safe.

We hope that everyone will wash their hands before they come, and after they get home, but hand sanitizer is available in the lounge. Please use it.

We will not be shaking hands, but feel free to bump elbow, bow, curtsy, wave, or share the Vulcan sign for “live long and prosper.”

We have removed all of the registration pads from the pews so we won’t be passing them hand-to-hand.

Similarly, during Sunday’s offering, we won’t be passing the offering plate. Instead, our ushers will bring the plate to you (as much as possible). In the weeks ahead, we may just have the collection plates at the door at the end of the service.

We ordinarily spread out across the sanctuary, but we ask that everyone consider doing this even more than usual. We have plenty of room, so we ask that worshipers keep some space in between one another.

And finally, although this is always good advice, we feel it is important to emphasize this, if you feel ill, or have sniffles, or a cough, or are sneezing, please stay home. Many of our members belong to vulnerable populations and we must all do our best to keep everyone safe and healthy.

If you belong to a vulnerable population, or if someone in your home is vulnerable, and you feel that you need to stay home, we completely understand. My wife, Patti, is immune suppressed and we are taking particular care to keep her safe.

These are difficult times. No one needs to panic, but we do need to be prudent. Please do what you need to do to stay safe and healthy and care for one another as best we can. We *will* get through this.

 


Also note that since I’ve posted this, I’ve seen recommendations  against fist bumps, elbow bumps, or any kind of physical contact at all.

Further, although we have already put video of our services online on YouTube (see the link below), we are taking a good look at how we can do it better, livestream, etc.  Hopefully, we will begin implementing some of those options in the next few weeks even if we don’t have to cancel church in the months ahead.

Again, stay safe out there everyone, and take care of one another.  Check on your neighbors and your friends who are elderly, on chemo, are immune suppressed, or who belong to other vulnerable groups.

 

Blessings,
Pastor John

 

 

 


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When There Are No Words

“When There Are No Words”

Blue Christmas Service

December 22, 2019

By John Partridge*

 

This isn’t really a Christmas story.  But it is a story about how God met me at a time when I had no idea what to do next.

In 2001 I was working for Lectrotherm, a company near the Akron-Canton airport that manufactured, and remanufactured, induction melting equipment for the molten metals industry.  We made furnaces that melted steel for companies like Navistar, John Deere, and other companies in the Fortune 500 as well as tiny little places that you’ve never heard of.  I was an electrical engineer doing work that I liked and I thought I had a career that would keep me interested and well employed until retirement.  But, one day I was called into the boss’s office where I was dismissed and given an hour to clean out my office and leave the building.  My termination was totally unexpected.  They tried to say that it was performance related, but since my reviews were all good, they really didn’t have a reason at all.  Later I found that I was just the first of many, as the company struggled with financial problems that would ultimately end in its bankruptcy.

I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me.  I had no idea what to do next.  I remember sitting on our front porch trying to pray and finding nothing to say.  I couldn’t form sentences. 

There were no words. 

And so, I just sat on the steps and groaned and cried out to God.

Sometimes we don’t have words.  And that’s okay because God understands our thoughts anyway.  In Exodus 2:23-24, we hear a story of how God heard the groans of his people:

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.

And in Judges 2:18 we hear: Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.

God hears our prayers, even when all that comes out of our mouths are groans and weeping.

For me, what followed was two years of unemployment.  As I looked for a job in what was supposed to be a good economy and a solid job market, I had nothing. 

I wondered why.

I was active in my church.  We gave.  We volunteered.  We had leadership positions in the church.  And still, nothing.  I wondered why I lost my job, why I was unemployed, why I couldn’t find work, why God had allowed this to happen.  And God didn’t give me any easy answers.  And so, I began to read scripture as I had never done before.  I read books that my pastor recommended, and I struggled to discover, not only why I was unemployed, but if, somewhere in my pain, God had a bigger plan.  I wondered if God had allowed this to happen because he wanted to tell me something, or because he wanted me to change directions, and if so, where, and to what. 

The answers weren’t easy.  My prayers sometimes seemed to go nowhere. 

Job once felt as if his prayer to heaven just bounced off.  In Job 37:17-19 we hear these words:

17 You who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hushed under the south wind, 18 can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?

19 “Tell us what we should say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.

For Job, it felt as if the skies were as hard as a mirror of cast bronze and his prayers just bounced off.  And even if they got through, he had no idea what he would say to God or how to make his case.

But we know that God heard him, even when it felt like he didn’t.  Behind the scenes, God knew Job’s character. God knew the future.  God had a plan.  It took a long time, but eventually Job began to see a small part of God’s plan and, over time, God restored to Job all the things that had been taken from him.  For me, after a lot of time, prayer, pain, confusion, and struggle, it began to seem as if God had a new plan for my life.  And as I began to explore that possibility, things began to get better.  It seemed less and less like I was swimming upstream and more and more like I was going with the flow and was a part of God’s plan.  With the help of my pastor, I explored something different.  That exploration led me to seminary, and to here as a pastor, and no longer as an engineer.  I am certain that, for now, this is where God has led me, but I am still keenly aware that this might not be permanent.  At some point, should God have a new and different plan for my life, someday I could pivot and start doing something else.

My life has been nothing like Job’s, but I learned a lesson that was similar to something that Job saw.  Even when it seemed that God was far away, even when I had no words, even when everything seemed to be confused and senseless, even then God was a part of my life.  Even then, God had a plan and a purpose for my life.  Even then, God was leading me toward something new.

No matter where you are in your journey, I hope that you will hear me when I say that I am confident that the same is true for you.  Regardless of your pain and confusion, regardless of who, or what you wrote on your star today, God knows where you are.  God hears your groaning.  God has a plan.  God is working in you, on you, and through you so that you can become the person that he created you to be.  Even now, God is leading you to a new place, and possibly to a new mission.

My prayer is that you will hold tight to Jesus.  May you will trust him with your journey, even when the journey is hard, even when there are no words and your prayers are only groans.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Depression:You Can’t Just “Get Over It”

darknessdepressionA friend was recently criticized for being depressed. His friend reminded him that he had a great job, a beautiful wife, life was going great and he didn’t have any reason at all to be depressed.  Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.  Those who suffer from depression are often told to “Get over it” or “Suck it up,” or  “It’s all in your head.”

But depression doesn’t work like that.

Imagine that you have a friend who limps. Would you ever dream of saying, “Dude, you have a great job and a beautiful family, you eat right, and sleep well, why do you have to limp all the time?” That seems silly because you understand that while all those things are true, there’s something about your friend’s knee that doesn’t work quite right. Maybe it’s arthritis, or a bone spur, or some degeneration of some kind, but whatever it is, it isn’t quite what it’s supposed to be, it’s painful and so he limps. You get it.

Depression really isn’t that different.

Instead of a knee that doesn’t work quite right, there are chemical reactions in your friend’s brain that don’t work quite right. It could be dopamine, or a bunch of other possibilities, but whatever it is, it isn’t quite the way it’s supposed to be and his brain “limps.”  Maybe even worse, these negative attitudes are so common that people are afraid to get help, or accept a prescription for medication.

That’s depression.

Heck, that describes a host of mental illnesses.

Instead of telling your suffering friends that they should just magically “feel better” why not do the same thing that you’d do for a friend with a limp.  Encourage them to see their doctor, or a specialist who treats those sorts of illnesses.  Often, like knees, brains with a limp can get a little better with treatment and the right medication.

Don’t just complain that your friend is sick.

Be a friend.

Do something to help.

Now do you get it?

The Forgotten 93 Percent


    Today, Governor John Kasich added Ohio to the list of several other states that are refusing to accept even one refugee from the war torn areas of Syria and other nations.  This announcement is purely political and is entirely lacking in common sense and human compassion. 
    Judging by the Facebook posts I’ve been reading for two days, I’ve just offended many of my friends. 
I don’t care.
    Why? Because if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are completely ignoring nearly every instruction that Jesus ever gave.
Let me explain.
    It is obviously apparent that terrorists have infiltrated the flood of refugees landing in Europe and elsewhere.  But while estimates of how many terrorists might be among them range from a few to as many as 15 percent, most estimates go no higher than 7 percent.  Still, considering that there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, 7 percent is a lot.  Allowing 10,000 refugees into the United States could mean admitting 700 terrorists.
That is unacceptable.
So why do I think that Governor Kasich and a whole host of other politicians have it wrong?
    Because closing the doors on legal immigrants, even in the face of this enormous threat, conveniently ignores too much human pain and suffering.  Before I get around to Jesus, let’s first take a look at who these refugees are and why they are fleeing to other countries.
    The civil war in Syria isn’t just about one group of radicals who are fighting against the government.  We think that way because we think of the Confederate States fighting against the Union, but that example is just wrong.  In Syria, there are literally dozens of armed factions that are warring, not only with Syria’s government, but against one another.  And so thinking that this is like the Rebs against the Yankees doesn’t really do it justice.  Instead, imagine that every church that you passed this week represented the headquarters of a different armed group.  Imagine that, in your community, the Baptists are fighting the Lutherans, the Catholics are killing Pentecostals, and the Republicans are at war with Democrats.  Not only is your neighborhood a war zone, every week or two, another group tries to capture it from the group that captured it the last time.  Some towns have been blown up and shot up multiple times, churches have been burned, women raped, and entire towns lined up in the streets and murdered.
This is daily life in much of Syria.
    And so, not surprisingly, a lot of people, both Christian and Muslim, have left their homes, their families, and all that they own, to literally walk across several entire countries in hope of finding something better.
Are there “bad guys” mixed in with the “regular” refugees?  Yes.
But those of us who claim to follow Jesus are called to see the world in a different way.  Not through the lens of Democrat or Republican, but through the lens of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
    If we look at what Jesus taught, we won’t find words like revenge, retaliation, or retribution.  We won’t find instructions to hate our neighbor or to fear the foreigners.  Instead, what we find are instructions to be merciful, compassionate, loving, and helpful.  Our mission is to rescue the lost, heal the sick, clothe the naked, and help others find hope and a future so that they too might hear the message of the Prince of Peace.
    We have every right to be concerned about the possibility of allowing hundreds of jihadi terrorists into our country, but that fear cannot allow us to slam the door on the 93 percent who are only looking for a place to live that won’t get blown up next week.
    It is convenient and easy for politicians to preach from a pulpit of fear and xenophobia.  But as Christians, we are not called to follow the teachings of John Kasich or any other politician.  We are called to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t expect us to be stupid or act foolishly.
We remember that Jesus teaches love, mercy, and compassion, but he also said, 
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”(Matthew 10:16 NIV)
We are called to be merciful, but to be smart about how we do it.
Governor Kasich and other politicians are looking for easy, and popular, solutions but in doing so they sell Ohio, and the people of the United States short. 
We are smarter than they give us credit for.
We are more than capable of sorting through the refugees and discerning which ones can be allowed in safely.
It won’t be easy.
But we can do it.
And it’s the right thing to do.

Reprogramming My Head


    A week or so ago, I returned to my audiologist, John, who programs my cochlear implant.  It’s a little confusing when I describe it, because I still see Walt, the audiologist who takes care of the hearing aid in my other ear.  Anyway, we started out the way that the last couple sessions started.  John connected my implant to his computer and ran through a series of tones to see how my brain was adapting to the electrical impulses from my implant.
    But before we got very far, he took me down the hall to the soundproof booths that are used for hearing tests.  There, he re-ran the test that was required to be approved for surgery.  In that test, a voice reads random sentences and you have to repeat back any words (or whole sentences) that you can understand.  This test is run one ear at a time, so I took off my hearing aid and listened only with my implant.  I thought I did well, but John seemed excited.  We laughed because one of the sentences said something about the gecko that is on television commercials.  For some reason, John was very pleased that I had understood the word “gecko.”
    After he did the math and calculated the results of my test, I understood why he was so pleased.  In the same test, prior to my surgery, I had understood 7 percent of the words.  Now, four months post-implant, I understood 70 percent of the words.  No wonder people keep telling me that my hearing is noticeably better.
    After the testing, John tried some more programming.  Whatever he did was too much made everything sound like my head was inside a garbage can, so he tried some other things.  Along the way, we discovered that of the 12 electrodes that were inserted into my cochlea, two of them don’t seem to be doing much.  Ten of them I can “hear” but the last two, while I can “feel” them, I don’t really “hear” anything with them.  For each electrode, John turns up the volume until I say that it is “uncomfortably loud.”  But for those two electrodes, there really isn’t a “loud” and a “soft.”  I sort of hear something, but it doesn’t really get louder as he turns up the input.  What I notice, is that in one ear, instead of getting loud, I can feel the volume pounding in my head much like you can feel a loud bass thump from a big speaker at a rock concert.  I feel it more than hear it.  The other electrode is similar, I don’t hear it or feel it, but instead, at high “volumes” I can feel my head hurt.  It’s like I have a bad headache that pules with the beat, on, off, on, off, on, off.
    In the end, John turned off those two electrodes.  His thinking is that if these electrodes aren’t working by now, they aren’t going to.  Most likely, they are in a part of the cochlea that has more nerve damage and isn’t really “talking” to my brain anymore.  In any case, my implant can function with only four electrodes, so I should be just fine with ten.  Before I left, John finished reprogramming everything using the ten working electrodes, as well as some additional changes and enhancements that I now have to get used to.  It wasn’t as much as he had hoped to do, but we’re still moving forward.  John said that for being only four months after my surgery, he felt I was doing very well.
And so the adventure continues.   Not with giant leaps forward, but with baby steps.
But forward is still forward.
Onward.

 

———

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Surgery and Recovery


The deed is done.
    A little over two weeks ago I received my new cochlear implant.  I had hoped to post sooner, but mine was not, apparently, a model recovery.  While it was expected that I would be off work for one week, it turned out to be a bit more than that, and while the dizziness and nausea was supposed to pass in two or three days, mine lasted considerably longer.  In any case, I am now back to work and gradually getting back up to speed.
    As I recovered, I took a few notes in case others are interested in comparing their own recovery.  I don’t suppose that many people will be interested, but my purpose in writing is so that those facing implant surgery might be realistic and not envision their recovery with rose colored glasses.
    The surgery it self was easy.  I slept through it.  Afterward, I felt fine but was likely still under the influence of anesthetics and several pain killers as well as anti-nausea drugs.  Once home, I slept most of the day.  From my, now deaf left ear, I heard noises.  I had read that I might experience ringing in my ears so I was curious what might happen.  I did hear some ringing but also something like distant boat horns.  Overnight I slept, but with a gigantic pressure bandage over my ear, along with the pain, I only slept about an hour at a time.
    On day two I slept a little less.  I heard ringing, but also a sound like wind in the trees before a thunderstorm.  If I looked down (a bad idea) I heard a single tone like your audiologist uses in the soundproof testing room.  My head hurt, but much of the discomfort came from wearing the pressure bandage.  It was sort of like how your foot feels when your hiking boots don’t fit.  As the meds from the previous day wore off my headache got worse.
    On Day three the compression bandage had finally come off, which was great, but I stopped writing things down.  Why?  I felt like poo.  I had been wrestling with post surgical pain, headaches, dizziness and nausea as expected, but also had a runny nose.  Initially, I assumed that it had something to do with the implant surgery, but my wife (Patti) reminded me that two of our kids had been sick the week before and I might have picked up a bug on top of everything else.  Regardless of the cause, aches and pains turned into a full blown, flat on my back, sick to my stomach, head-pounding migraine.  During this time, Patti reminded me that my post surgical instructions were to keep moving and that the more I moved the quicker my nausea would clear up.  The problem was that I felt too awful to do anything.
    By Sunday (Day 6) I stayed home from church but was well enough to get up, shower, get dressed and go to my daughter’s high school graduation and then out to dinner with the family.  It was a great day but I paid for it on Monday.  I don’t know if I overdid it or if whatever bug I had rebounded, but I woke up with a headache again.  After doing a few things in the morning, I ended up back in bed sick the rest of the day (headache, nausea, dizziness, etc.) and was again sick all night.
    The good news is that Tuesday was better and by Wednesday I was back to work.  At work I was still a little wobbly (not quite dizzy, but not really steady on my feet either) and by Sunday I was in the pulpit preaching.  With hearing in only one ear I sounded weird to myself, but everyone assured me that they could hear and understand me just fine.
    The oddest thing was the new sound that I hear in my left ear.  Have you ever listened as you dragged a drinking straw in and out of a cup with a lid at a fast food restaurant?  In one direction it squeaks, and in the other it makes a weird kind of ‘hoot’ sound.  For days, whenever I walked, with each footstep, I heard that ‘hoot’ sound.  Hoot, hoot, hoot, everywhere I went.  Weird.  Today, this has mostly stopped but I still hear it occasionally and while I continue to improve, I am still fighting daily headaches and just a bit of occasional dizziness.
    Perhaps this isn’t exactly a textbook recovery, but that’s usually the kind of luck I seem to have.
    I went in for my post surgical follow-up a few days ago and the doctor said that everything looks really good.  He will see me again for my activation in three weeks.

Stay tuned, I guess.

 

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Managing Expectations


    I recently read an article encouraging people like me (those waiting for a cochlear implant) to spend some time “managing” the expectations of their family, friends, coworkers and others close to them.  Why?  Because the advances in modern medicine and the pervasiveness of technology have, sometimes irrationally, raised our expectations.  When I was in elementary school, my grandmother had cataract surgery.  She went to the hospital, they sandbagged her head to keep her immobile, and she stayed in the hospital for weeks.  A few years ago, my father had the same surgery.  He went to the doctor’s office, had the surgery in an hour or so, drove himself home and slept in his own bed that night.  Today, if we need a new computer or an electronic device, we go to the store and we expect that it will work “right out of the box.”
    These experiences lead us to expect miracles.  When we talk about a cochlear implant, a device that will restore my hearing, many will assume that, as other modern miracles, or electronic devices, that overnight, my hearing will be restored.
But that isn’t the way it works.
    Those of us who grew up watching The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman need to know that a cochlear implant is not a bionic ear.  There are however, more accurate comparisons that will give us a more realistic understanding of what to expect.  The Broken Leg analogy: Many of us have heard about young athletes who receive a traumatic leg injury on the football field, ski slopes, or other sporting event.  Despite their skill and athleticism, after weeks and even months in a cast, they must spend a significant amount of time in physical therapy re-learning how to walk and rebuilding what was lost.  Receiving a cochlear implant might look more like that than expecting a miracle “right out of the box.”
But even that doesn’t go far enough.
    Those who know me know that I am a reader.  When my brother and I started keeping aquarium fish, I read voraciously about fish-keeping.  Knowing that I was traveling down the road to getting a cochlear implant, I did the same thing.  I spent hours reading the information and watched the DVD that my doctor gave me, and hours more searching the Internet for scientific studies, odds of success, and the blogs of people who had regularly written about their experiences following surgery. I also wrote to my cousins who received implants years ago following a childhood illness.
    From this study and reading, I think that the “Broken Leg analogy” doesn’t go far enough.  Perhaps a better analogy, as gruesome as it might sound, is the “War Veteran analogy.”  Think about “Dave,” a young soldier in Iraq or in Afghanistan who is injured in an explosion.  Dave’s leg isn’t broken, it’s lost altogether.  Because of the miracles of modern medicine, materials science, and electronics, Dave has the opportunity to receive a next generation, computer controlled, prosthetic leg.  While this new leg is a marvel of modern technology, and it will, eventually, give Dave the ability to walk, he isn’t going to just put the thing on and run a marathon.  There will be months of physical therapy and rehab, and even then, because this isn’t Star Wars, Dave’s new leg is never going to be as good as the one he was born with.
That is more like what I expect from receiving a cochlear implant.
    I might be back to work a week or two after surgery, but even after it gets “switched on,” my hearing isn’t going to magically return to normal.  There will be months of rehab as my brain re-learns how to hear.  While I have hope that I will eventually be able to understand conversations, listen to the radio, and even listen to music, I know that my hearing may never be as good as it once was.
I am trying to “manage” my expectations.

I hope that you are too.

 

 

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