• Mowed the grass yesterday, for the first time in almost four years.  I haven't been letting it grow all that time.  The church here, up until this year, had a lawn service mow the parsonage grass.  In an cost-cutting move, I volunteered to mow my own, especially since I like doing it.  It is one of the few things I do in life where I can get the satisfaction of seeing immediate change in something.
  • Everyone in my family is staying healthy, and among my friends and parishioners, no one has tested positive for COVID 19.  Almost everyone I know is being wise and avoiding unnecessary physical proximity to others.
  • As we put services online, it has provided the unexpected joy of hearing from people I haven't seen or talked with in years.  I'm getting notes from people who live all over the U.S. and world who have been watching our online worship services.  We spend quite a bit of energy trying to put out a video that has quality in both its content and its form.  
  • Click Here if you would like to watch today's worship video.  The topic is "Worry," and I argue a bit with Jesus, who tells us NOT to worry.  Spoiler alert:  I don't exactly win the argument... but I don't lose either... in my mind!
  • I've also been updating my own personal website to handle all the additional work that is going out through it.  That website contains all my Sunday letters going back several years, if you get really bored and need something to read. It also contains all the sermons I've preached here in Mattoon.  But don't listen to them all in one sitting!  You can find that link in the right hand panel below.

March  22, 2020
Something Other than Virus Stuff
Here are some things that you might have missed while 24-hour news has been all-coronavirus all the time.
A second moon was discovered orbiting our planet on February 15 by two astronomers in Tucson, Arizona.  It appears to be an asteroid temporarily caught in our orbit.  About the size of a car, named "2020 CD3" it danced around the earth for a few weeks, and then decided to head back into orbiting the sun.  Think of all the poetry that will have to be re-written if one of those little guys gets permanently attached to us.
The Chinese are drinking less beer (10 percent less than seven years ago) but spending more for it.  If you are worried about why, it appears that younger Chinese are switching to wine.  And the older Chinese, getting more affluent, are spending their money on better quality beer.  As a Methodist pastor, I belong to a denomination that has historically frowned upon alcohol.  No problem for me personally, as I don't generally like it.  But I do know about how much it costs to switch to better quality drinks, such as coffee.  And it's those darn young people and affluent seniors who've made my life more expensive.
Back to the sky:  SpaceX (a private aerospace company based in California) is trying to put enough satellites in orbit so that every part of the globe can have wireless internet.  This would be great for rural places.  The trouble is, so many satellites in the sky are messing with the astronomers, as the light reflecting from them looks like new asteroids...or other space stuff.  Some may even think the earth has adopted a bunch of new moons.  So SpaceX started painting them black.  But they still reflect light enough light that the designers are heading back to the drawing board.
China, which shut down its businesses and factories during the coronavirus outbreak there (along with other extremely strict mobility measures), has now been able to reopen 600-700 movie houses, along with factories and many other businesses.  Restaurants and retail shops are also opening again, while enforcing maximum limits of people who can be in a space.  While still not back to normal there, things are improving.  The first outbreak of the virus in China occurred in December.  China didn't put restrictions into place until January 23.  In a little over three months, and with ample free testing and strict quarantines, they are now able to get their economy going again.  (Okay, a little virus related stuff...but it's mostly about the light at the end of the tunnel.)
We've long complained that weather forecasts aren't right.  But they are more wrong in recent days than ever. Reason?  Weather forecasting is partially dependent on data from airplanes.  And with 34% of U.S. flights grounded, and a 17% decline in world-wide flights, we are just going to have to look out the window more to see what is happening... and listening to old geezers like me, who have arthritis, to figure out what will happen tomorrow.
College is changing, even before the massive switch to online classes during this past month. In a survey done several months ago, it was discovered that only 27% of all undergraduates are considered "traditional college students."  A traditional college student is define as someone "enrolled full-time without significant job or family responsibilities."  My dad went through college and seminary after he was married and had kids.  He also worked two and three jobs at a time to support the family (in the 1950s and 60s.)  My mom went through college with four kids still at home.  I pastored churches the entire time I was in college and seminary.  I think all that extra stuff made it harder on my dad.  But for myself, the lab of life and work helped my education seem more relevant.  I am hoping in my retirement, however, to learn some things I had to short the first time through.
According to Quartz, one of the news sources I check almost every day, it is interesting to see what different countries consider "essential services" as governments shut various businesses down.  If you are in Belgium, French fries are still considered essential, as kiosks selling them are permitted to stay open.  France is allowing people to buy wine and fine foods still.  In the Netherlands, you can still get supplies from the local cannabis shop. And in most states, gun shops are considered essential and still open.
And finally, if you are looking for somewhere to invest your money in these uncertain times, think cauliflower.  The Wall Street Journal reports that this is the food of the future.  Rich in protein and fiber but low in calories and carbs, it can be substituted for both flour and dairy in recipes.  Farmers like to grow it because it grows in 30 days (compared to 70-100 days for peppers and tomatoes) and the market demands is growing, as it is now used for things ranging from tortilla chips to pizza crusts to rice substitute.  Cauliflower.  Don't expect any other wise financial advice from me.  That's all I have.

Until next week...
Practice curiosity, community, and creativity.
Treasure humor, hope, and health.

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I used to write it when I first woke up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation. Now I write it on a Saturday, revise it, and send all of them out by email.This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than pontificating.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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