This is an adaptation of a reflection I offered recently (February 27) on the daily prayer call that I coordinate. I am generally not in the habit of contributing my own voice to this particular endeavor because I am not very comfortable as a contemporaneous speaker. However, this past year has been one of stepping outside of my self-contained comfort zone. What I have posted here are the notes from my speaking outline, what I actually said on the call, and a little more to fill in the spaces. Because I got positive feedback, I wanted to share it for posterity.
What A Difference A Day Makes is a song by jazz/blues singer Dinah Washington, which she recorded in 1959. She also won a Grammy for the song, and it inspired this reflection as I was thinking about the events that were taking place this time a year ago.
You see, a year ago when this prayer call was still only on Mondays, it was just around this time that our service changed and we got a new call-in number. For those who had been calling into the prayer call prior to last February know that we had been dialing in to a different number, one that I had made available for use when this prayer line was established back in 2014. And that number came with a free conference call service that I had signed up for back in 2010, when I had no idea that we could do anything other than call in--no ability mute lines, or anything like that. Thus, when I learned that the number would be changing, I did not know that meant an upgrade to the service. That was functionality I would discover later.
But a year ago when our number changed, I was in Florida on Winter Break with my family. A week later, we would travel to New York City for my niece's baby shower, and while we were there, we knew about the coronavirus but had no idea how bad it could be. At the time, we were told that this virus would be contained because of a travel ban, and that any isolated cases would be minimal. Sitting at the table with my in-laws, we assumed that all would be well, even though there was already an outbreak of cases on the West Coast.
Literally, within a week, New York City went on lock-down. And then a week later, so would the DC area. The Sunday of our first week of quarantine, Rev. TB suggested that our Monday prayer call should become a daily call to last for the duration of the quarantine. And I agreed, because at the time, my beleif was that this was to be a temporary situation. Maybe for a month.
At that point, what a difference a couple of weeks had made. A month before the pandemic, my biggest worry was how the city was going to dispose of a deer that had died in my backyard. In a month, my biggest worry was whether I could protect my family from a virus that no one knew much about.
Over the course of the days that became weeks and then months, our daily prayer call continued on and it began to grow. At a certain point, it became necessary to figure out how to better manage the call or perhaps upgrade to a paid service in order gain more control of the technical aspects of the call. That was how I learned about the moderator controls, and how I came to provide an opening greeting every morning a few minutes before the start of the call. I learned that I could manage the call from my computer and how to selectively mute and un-mute callers on the line. During a re-organizing session with Rev. TB, we outlined a schedule and some new procedures, and he suggested that I could offer reflections if I felt so inclined. And I was pretty clear then that I did not feel so inclined--I was happy to remain behind the scenes on the technical side of things.
When I reflect on the words of our theme song for today, the lyrics refer to the change that can occur overnight. Based on something that is said or an action, our emotions can go from one extreme to the other. The song is about love and relationships, but in a day, we know that any and everything are bound to change.
I think specifically back to November and the roller coaster of emotions I experienced Election Week. I went from hope to despair and back to hope in a span of days. Then we went through the same process in January, from hope to horror and then back to hope. When we look back over this past year, this cycle has repeated itself multiple times.
How have you changed for the better during this pandemic? What difference have these days, weeks, and months made in your life? Do you pray more? How are you engaged in fellowship with others? Have you found new and innovative ways to express your creativity? How have you improved? What do you need to change moving forward?
In response to those questions, I thought I would offer an example from my own life. Having the courage to offer a reflection on this prayer call has been a major change. As I mentioned, Rev. TB suggested that I should feel free to offer an occasional reflection, and as Mother P is my witness, I said no thank you. And for months, I was content to stay in my lane, which was behind the scenes. But God tends to have other ideas about what we are capable of, so one day last summer at the last minute, Rev. TB couldn't make the call and I thought it was too late to ask Mother P to prepare a reflection for the next morning. So, I found my voice. I recall how it all unfolded because it was a mixture of confidence (how hard can this be) and terror (who do I think I am). I sat outside in my backyard with my notes and spoke about the seeds that I had planted in containers. A few weeks later, I gave another reflection for Rev. TB's birthday. And here I am today, under similar circumstances--stepping out of my comfort zone, finding my voice.
During this pandemic, are there friends or family that you haven't spoken to in years? Have you thought about them, have you reached out? Have you been willing to forgive some ancient wrong or sought forgiveness for some hurt you may have caused someone else?
Through this pandemic God has been telling us that we have time. We have learned that we have lots of time, but also not nearly enough. We have time to repair old relationships. We have time to learn new skills. We have time for prayer and worship. We have time to grow in grace. But we were not given this time to squander or waste.
What a difference a day makes.