Reflecting on COVID-19 through the Lens of John 9

“Surely we are not blind, are we?” John 9:40


That the Works of God Might be Revealed

Here at the Transforming Center, we are John 9 people. What I mean by that is that this story has shaped us profoundly over time. So much so that it has become a lens through which we look at our world and process what we see.  

The story begins with Jesus healing a man who had been born blind, but unlike other such stories in the New Testament where the healing is the main event, in this account the healing itself is only briefly the focus. The bulk of this lengthy chapter is about all the characters in the story who witness the healing but fail to recognize the work of God in their midst. For all sorts of reasons, they all have trouble discerning what is really going on. This is often our struggle as well.

Asking the Wrong Question

One aspect of the John 9 story is that the disciples, in particular, engage the situation by trying to affix blame: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responds by refusing to engage the question as they have asked it, and totally reframes the situation with this statement: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

In effect, what Jesus is saying is, “You are asking the wrong question.”

Why am I calling attention to this now, in the midst of a global crisis created by the corona virus pandemic? Because the blame question is as unhelpful today as it was back then, but what is helpful is the way Jesus reframes the question. With this reframing, he helps us get in touch with the deepest cry of our hearts—as Christians and as leaders:  God, what are you doing in all of this and how can I join you in it? What are you saying and how can I hear you better? What are the works of God waiting to be revealed in me and in each of us through this covid-19 global crisis that affects each of us so intimately and personally?  

I think if we knew the answer to that, we would know what to do on any day.  Even as we navigate the most significant crisis most have ever seen, we must not forget to ask this all-important question,  What is happening right now—spiritually speaking—and how can we join God in it?

Tied in a Single Garment of Destiny

One of the truths that keeps pressing in on us in so many different ways is the one Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states,” he says.  “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham… We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly.” 

Of course, I have left out the all-important statement that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” not because I am trying to ignore it or set it aside but because at this moment it is the experience of our interrelatedness in all matters that is so riveting. Justice, yes, but right now it is our interconnectedness and how we are navigating that reality that is a life and death issue, impacting every aspect of our existence together on this planet. Right now it is “the inescapable network of mutuality” that has our attention.  It’s this being tied together in a single garment of destiny that we can no longer deny.  The systemic nature of things—the fact that whatever affects one directly does indeed affect us all indirectly—is now both obvious and beyond comprehension all at the same time.  

Has there ever been a moment when we have experienced so profoundly the truth of what Dr. MLK, Jr. was saying?  I think not.  

So how do we steward this moment?  I have been wondering if one of the works of God being revealed in this situation is that it will change forever how we understand and experience ourselves within the human community.  If we work it right, this experience of knowing that each and every decision we make or don’t make about social distancing, hoarding toilet paper, over-buying groceries, following federal and state mandates about sheltering in place, disinfecting our spaces, staying away from friends and loved ones even when we want to be close…will change us. We will never again be able to think of ourselves as being separate from one another, even across the lines that usually divide us.  Dr. King was right, and now we know it for sure. 

I can’t help wondering how this experiential knowing might impact what God is able to do in and through us–both now and later!  

It is to Your Advantage that I Go Away 

One of the strangest moments in the disciples’ life with Jesus might have been that conversation where he is trying to talk to them about his impending death and then says, “It is to your advantage that I go away.”  At that moment I’m sure they could not have imagined how that could possibly be true.  To them, the physical presence of Jesus right there with them had been their greatest good; but they would soon learn differently. 

For us as Christians, one of the most confounding things about this pandemic is the need to practice social distancing and almost complete withdrawal into our own homes.  And yet, to refrain from gathering and hugging and passing the peace and ministering with the sign of the cross goes against everything we know and practice. The cancellation of group gatherings where we can be physically, emotionally and spiritually present with one another along with being prohibited from participating in our normal in-person connections with family and friends is excruciatingly difficult, in part because it feels unloving.  

And that is why this statement from Jesus is oddly helpful and encouraging. It points out that there are moments when it IS loving to “go away”—and clearly this is one of them.  In our current situation, to stay away is as an expression of love and care for others as much (if not more) as it is protection for ourselves; seeing this “staying away” as a loving gesture helps somehow.  Henri Nouwen comments, “In Jesus’ absence a new and more intimate presence became possible, a presence which nurtured and sustained and created the desire to see him again.”  My guess is that once we make it through this crisis, we will never again take for granted the ability to gather, the privilege of being together body and soul. Our desire to be together again will be strong and sweet and will nurture something new among us.  

The Strength of Spiritual Community 

We know what happened to the disciples after Jesus went away:  his Spirit came to them in a most dramatic way as tongues of fire resting upon their heads in the Upper Room.  Against the backdrop of Jesus’ physical absence, they experienced a new reality—the reality of presence in absence.   

So I wonder if this, too, is something God wants to be teaching us—what it means to be present even when we’re absent.  Even as we seek ways of staying connected with those whom God has given us and continue to do ministry in creative and caring ways, we might also trust that absence can foster a different kind of intimacy and presence.  By prayerfully holding those we love in God’s presence even when we can’t be physically present, we might  experience something of what Rosemary Dougherty describes: “In spiritual community, there is a bonding that goes beyond human expectations…At times the strength of spiritual community lies in the love of people who refrain from getting caught in the trap of trying to fix everything for us, who pray for us and allow us the pain of our wilderness and our wants, so that we might become more deeply grounded in God.” 

As leaders, could we enter more deeply into this reality—that sometimes it is good that we go away, so our people can become more deeply grounded in God rather than being so dependent upon us?  In this season when the balance of presence and absence is, of necessity, going to be weighted a little more toward absence, can we trust that absence, too, can bring its own gifts? 

Invitation to Solitude, Silence, and Retreat

Last week I saw Invitation to Solitude and Silence tagged in an Instagram post as #quarantineread. It caught me by surprise AND it made so much sense!  I had already been sensing that this devastating season contains a strong invitation to seek God and listen deeply for what he has to speak deep into our souls at this time.  It is not lost on me that here we are in the middle of Lent and like Jesus we, too, are being driven into the wilderness. We do not have a choice about being in this wilderness; in a very real sense retreat is being forced on all of us and the only choice we do have is whether we will cooperate and lean in.  

So I have been wondering if God is calling us to approach this time of social distancing and sheltering in place not merely as something to tough out and get through, but to see it as an invitation to intimacy with God—a time of quieting ourselves and seeking to hear what God has to say to us now that our normal distractions and activities are being stripped away. 

I also hear God speaking to me about discipline and refusing to squander this opportunity. “Don’t let yourself get drawn into a boundary-less existence—working remotely all hours of the day and night just because you can, watching the news incessantly just because it’s there, vegging out with Netflix just because distraction from hard reality feels good. I am calling you. I have things I want to say to you.  I am inviting you to craft the minutes and hours of your days so there is some time for us to listen and commune together. I am calling you to establish sacred rhythms for this season because I am longing to be with you and we may never pass this way again.” 

Making Space for Grief and Gratitude 

I never thought I would see a day when I was so grateful for a package of toilet paper.  I had just begun hearing about the hoarding that was going on—toilet paper, in particular—and I was late to the game.  So I thought, “I’d better get out there and get toilet paper.” I went to Target and tried to act nonchalant as I walked by whole shelves where toilet paper had once been that were now completely empty.  I happened to notice a Target employee who had a rather beaten up 6 mega roll package in her hands and seemed to be trying to figure out what to do with it.  I watched carefully as she ended up putting it back on the shelf—one lonely package of toilet paper in a vast wasteland of empty shelves. I snapped it up, feeling a strange sense of elation that I eventually recognized as gratitude!  

Even in these difficult days, we all have occasions for gratitude each and every day and we can create space to practice thanksgiving.  Gratitude is a powerful energy in the spiritual life and God knows it will take as much of that as we can find to get us through.   And mostly it will be the simple things—that you like your spouse and realize there’s no one else you’d rather shelter in place with.  That your kids behaved and didn’t kill each other today.  That if, like me, you are someone who travels a lot, it feels so good to be home. That the weather was nice and you got to take a walk.  That you’ve been playing games as a family at night.  That you found what you needed at the grocery store and had the money to buy it. That you are in touch with God at the center of your being.   

Of course, each of us has our own occasions for deep sadness as well—whether it’s in response to what we see in the news or whether it’s what’s happening to us personally: Commencement exercises that will not take place and graduating seniors who will not get to walk. A championship season that must end before the final game can be played.  Weddings and birthday parties that have been postponed. Long-planned vacations that must be cancelled.  Massive unemployment and lost wages. Businesses and not-for-profit ministries that will not survive.  Retirement savings lost. Whole industries that may never recover. The physical suffering and death of loved ones. This is the stuff of our lives these days and they are just plain sad.  So let’s be sad together.  

One of the points of connection we can make with each other during this time is to create space for being with gratitude and grief—alone, together and with God.  During these days when nothing is as it was and so much is happening each day, it would be a great gift to structure at least part of the dinner time conversation around these questions:  What are you grateful for today?  What made you sad today?  What are you afraid of?  And then like Jesus with the two disciples on the Emmaus road, we can stand still looking sad, at least for a few moments—long enough for Jesus to stand there with us, knowing that he knows, and feeling the comfort of his presence. 

From Where Does my Help Come?

If we are paying attention, we might also notice that our sadness, fear and anxiety can become an occasion for asking the deepest question of the spiritual life and that is—where am I placing my trust?  Is my deepest trust in my job, my 401K, the stock market, in my own ability to control things or be present with people? 

I’ll never forget a startling (if not, shocking!) cover headline from the Christian Century a number of years ago that proclaimed—”God doesn’t love your 401(k) and other hard truths.” It is startling because it immediately calls into question where we are placing our trust. For some of us a significant source of sadness and anxiety has to do with what is happening with our investments. I do not mean to be insensitive but noticing our anxiety about these matters can cause us to reflect at least a little bit on where we are placing our trust for our futures and for our ultimate security. We might be able to loosen our grip just a bit and drop into a deeper place of trust in God for our survival. 

One of my great sadnesses right now is that just as the corona virus was causing nursing homes and long-term care facilities to lock down and close their doors to visitors, my dad began the last leg of his journey. While I/we were able to be with him to make the transition, we are now not allowed to make the daily visits that are so important to him and to us.  As the one who has been local to my parents all these years, it is unthinkable that I am not seeing him and that he is alone right now.  I cannot fix this; I can only bear it.  There is a silent river of sadness that flows underneath everything else and all I can do is let it flow.  

So when the sadness comes I have to drop into the deepest place of faith within me and affirm one of the simplest aspects of that faith, that the Lord is my shepherd and the Lord is my dad’s shepherd, too.  Even though I cannot be there to shepherd my dad in person, the way I always thought I would, he is being shepherded by the One who has loved him longer and better than I ever could.  I must trust God with my dad’s journey, in a way I never thought I would be asked to do.  

So what is it for you?  Where is your deepest sadness, your most troubling anxiety in these days—and does that surface the question of where you are putting your trust?  

A Future with Hope

During these days we here in the Transforming Center are praying and seeking to discern the works of God among us.  We are cancelling events through mid-May, we are working remotely, and we are reaching out to those—like you—whom God has given us to love.  As we try to envision our future, we are finding ways to continue offering what is ours to offer in the world—like a virtual Good Friday service we will be announcing shortly.   Even though there is so much more that could be said and will be said in the days to come, for now I close with these words forwarded to me by my lovely daughter, Charity.  They are from retired teacher Kitty O’Meara.   

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and grew gardens full of fresh food, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.  Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they themselves had been healed.”

These words touch me deeply with the vision that we will get through this, that beauty will rise from the ashes, that faith will conquer fear and we will be better people on the other side, if we can keep asking the right question:  What are the works of God being revealed in this time and place, and how can we join God in it? 


©Ruth Haley Barton, 2020. Not to be used without permission.

  Great quarantine read Book to read during covid-19 quarantine

Ruth Haley Barton

(Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founding president/CEO of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

68 Comments

  1. Jayne on April 1, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Thank you so much for these encouraging words. So much to think about and process deep in our hearts and souls and I have always appreciated the way you express how to get in touch with the deeper things God is revealing. This is so needed during this difficult and uncertain time.

  2. Kate Mylin on March 27, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing the comfort of the Good Shepherd regarding your dad at the nursing home. My mom had a mini stroke on the first day when we were told not to visit. I needed to be reminded that He is her Good Shepherd & even thought that I want to be there, She is not walking this way alone . Much love & prayers as we walk a similar path.

  3. Janice Gutierrez on March 27, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Ruth,
    I am so thankful to be facing this having just completed TC14. What preparation you have given us for such a time like this. I am so thankful to be honing what I am finding to be a “pandemic proof” Rule of Life. Practicing so many beautiful sacred rhythms over the past “TC” years have helped me “drop into that deepest place of faith within me” (love your words about this) in the middle of this unthinkable event.

    I also share your heart regarding your Dad. It is the same for me. So very strange to be so close and not to be able to get his daily hug. It is unimaginable and yet is.

    Thinking of you all at the Transforming Center with love and prayer today. Take care and stay healthy!

  4. Dan on March 27, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Your beautiful words are comforting, but I have difficulty preying to a supposedly loving and forgiving God after He has not prevented 26,000 mostly good people from dying, with many more to follow within the next several months. Please help me to understand this seemingly contradictory dilemma. Dan

    • David Hughes, TC Ambassador and Resident Theologian on April 1, 2020 at 9:38 am

      Dan, Ruth has asked me to offer a response to your very pertinent question. You have raised the age-old problem of evil which has vexed theologians and people of faith for centuries. I can not possibly do justice to this question in a blog response! One of many resources you might review if you wish to explore this issue further is N.T. Wright’s, Evil and the Justice of God. Wright observes that the Bible does not answer our many questions about evil in a straight-forward way. Rather “it is written to tell the story of what God has done, is doing, and will do about evil.” Wright explains that the ultimate defeat of evil resides in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, events which we will commemorate in just a few days. We don’t possess easy answers, nor are we invulnerable to sickness and death. But we do have a constant Presence with us in this pandemic that reassures us, strengthens us, and ultimately will deliver us into God’s embrace where suffering and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4).

  5. Martin Contant on March 27, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Ruth, your excellent, thoughtful article resonated deeply with me on so many different levels. As a spiritual director, I appreciated the way you used scripture and these difficult times we are living in, to ask deeply spiritual questions that get at our anxiety, our grief, our sadness and our wondering what God is up to in the world right now. Your article was a reassuring balm in the chaos, pointing us back to God who never leaves or forsakes us. Praying God’s blessing on your leadership, and also your own grief in not being able to be fully present physically to your father in a care home. Thank you for sharing your gifts to bless so many of us.

  6. Zofia on March 27, 2020 at 11:13 am

    A timely and intimate invitation to abiding in Christ. Thank you Ruth, you have away of calling us into God’s presence with your words. Many a creating community in the midst of COVID-19 more so than when they were rushing past each other. Grateful for you and your ministry.

  7. Maiya Lueptow on March 26, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you for your words, Ruth. As always, God gives you the words to touch the souls of so many with His love and comfort. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. As you know, my dad died suddenly & unexpected on March 11 in Denver. As difficult as it was to decide not to go out there to be with my mom who also lost her closest brother, her last sister and oldest brother within the last two years, the decision was made easier by the restrictions that became more severe during the week after his death. In some ways it’s a blessing to not be able to have his memorial service until after the pandemic is over. It’s giving us all more time to process our grief without having to deal with all the logistics of planning a funeral and just care for each other, if from a distance.

    I was blessed to be at what was to be the last Transforming Center retreat before the restrictions on people gathering became so severe. God met me in such a tender, profound way, knowing He was able to call my dad home the night I got home from TC16 #5. His invitation to me was to lean into my relationship with Him, not just on retreat or to sustain me in ministry or otherwise prepare for anything in particular, but to just enjoy and deepen our relationship. Even as a TC alum I have to admit I haven’t focused on my relationship with God as deeply as I am now. Not only did I accept God’s invitation, the sheltering in place has given me the opportunity to do it in a way and at a time when I might otherwise be tempted to do other things. I have never felt God’s presence so deeply and consciously before and I have a deep sense of peace even during this unprecedented pandemic. God is so faithful & indeed God’s work is being displayed in so many little and enormous ways in all of this. To Him be all glory, honor and praise!

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      This is so good, Maiya! There is so much here that speaks deeply to how God meets us and so carefully orchestrates our lives for good. Thank you for sharing this in such encouraging detail! Much love to you on your journey.

  8. Ruth Ann Leduc on March 26, 2020 at 11:18 am

    I’m involved in Member Care for 250+ overseas workers serving in Europe. The current situation creates additional stress and anxiety, but also rich opportunities for being beacons of light and hope in the midst of the uncertainties. I’ll be inserting this article in a communication to our workers – so much to reflect on and ponder. A great encouragement. Thanks! Merci!!

    • Ruth Barton on March 27, 2020 at 11:02 am

      I am so glad this piece can be a support in your important ministry! May God bless you and all those who serve with you.

  9. Susan Faye Ness on March 26, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Beautifully profound and ministering. Peace to you, peace and strength to your family in the tender place with your father, and peace and clarity as you discern how Transforming Center continues to reach so many, in the midst of this season. Thank you.

  10. Arthur Guina on March 26, 2020 at 1:02 am

    Thank you, Ruth, for articulating so well a similar reflection that the Lord has been impressing upon my heart when this current crisis started… how he is calling the entire world to stillness to get our attention, helping us experience the reality of the interrelatedness of the entire human race…where each one is dependent on our one heavenly Father and in another sense to other members of the worldwide community. His invitation for me personally is to open myself up to new life He wants to bring forth in me come Easter!

  11. Amber on March 26, 2020 at 12:51 am

    Thank you Ruth!! Your words are healing, calming, and grounding right now. I’ve looked up to you since I first read your “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” book over 15 years ago. I’m deeply grateful for the ways your writing (and your presence at a TC retreat in San Diego SO long ago — 2008?) has impacted me. Thank you for always pointing the way home. Home to the heart of God. Grace and peace be with you in this difficult time of separation and sorrow. <3 <3 <3

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 5:50 pm

      I receive it. Thank you.

  12. Michael Fox on March 26, 2020 at 12:03 am

    Dear Ruth: I happened to be reviewing my notebooks from TC6 this very evening when this letter arrived. My heart ached for the beauty of my TC experience. I have endured much these past three years that would have been impossible to navigate without the transformative teaching of the retreats. But all that I learned through our mutual association has made these difficult years fruitful and calming and more. So, continued gratitude and love. To your article. I have read your everything. I have sat at your feet and learned. But this my precious teacher and friend, may be the most beautiful, and compelling piece I have received from you. I know you have had a difficult season, but know this: i doubt there is a more essential ministerial effort in the large Christian world than your work..

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      You are so loving and kind, Michael. Thank you!

  13. Rica on March 25, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Thank you for these very encouraging words. I have been able to look at John 9 in a different light and it has become more real and personal to me now.

  14. Whitney Alexander on March 25, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you Ruth for these words shared for all of us to lean into God during lent and beyond… we have been given a gift to draw closer to Jesus…. Silence and solitude is my daily rhythm, and I am most grateful to your writings that bring my heart calm in the midst of uncertain times. May God be glorified in all we do, and this includes being still… just “BE”.

  15. Roger Sharp on March 25, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    YES!! This will be in my sermon this week:
    “So I have been wondering if God is calling us to approach this time of social distancing and sheltering in place not merely as something to tough out and get through, but to see it as an invitation to intimacy with God—a time of quieting ourselves and seeking to hear what God has to say to us now that our normal distractions and activities are being stripped away.”

    Thanks, Ruth!

  16. Ian on March 25, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    Oh my, Ruth … this is beautiful. There is so much in it. I need to read it again and again to allow the Spirit to prompt me with His leanings for me.

    As another reader said it’s very prophetic and that quote your girl provided is sensational for these times.

    And “Invitation to S&S” is indeed a #quarantineread … it changed my life.

    And dear Dad … I’m sad for you. Allow our great shepherd to also shepherd you in this final season of Dad’s. May you especially experience the shepherd’s goodness and tenderness.

    Grace an peace,

    • Ruth Barton on March 25, 2020 at 8:44 pm

      You have brought tears to my eyes, Ian. Thank you!

  17. Vicki Phillips on March 25, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this message! What is God doing now, and how can I actively participate with Him in His purpose and plan!!
    I have gained a deeper relationship with Jesus since I have read your books. (along with Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, F.W. Boreham, Jerry Bridges etc.) I am semi retired and have time to practice silence and solitude daily before my morning devotions. This practice, along with other spiritual disciplines, have helped me to brave up and lead a Bible study in my home. We study scripture and encourage each other as we work through the study guides in these books. I will make sure to direct all my friends to this post! Thanks again!

  18. Colleen on March 25, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    So good! Especially this “It points out that there are moments when it IS loving to “go away”—and clearly this is one of them.”

  19. Mavourene Robinson on March 25, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Ruth,
    You have touched the heart of many of our questions with such peace-filled guidance. Thank you for reminding us in practical and deeply spiritual ways that God is still in control and that in Him all things work together for the good. Be blessed.

  20. Sam on March 25, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you for your reflection. It helps reframe this time. One thing I noticed after looking into that quote by Katheeln that you cited. I think it’s actually by this person.

    https://the-daily-round.com/2020/03/16/in-the-time-of-pandemic/

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      We fixed this, Sam. Thank you for pointing it out!

  21. Camie on March 25, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you for your words. They ministered to my heart. To day. I have found myself losing my focus on Him because I am watching too much news. Feelings of fear taking root. I know that is not of God. Thank you for speaking to my heart. I look forward to joining God in His work. This moment.
    In Christ
    Camie

  22. Don Pape on March 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    Wow. I am going back to this over and over today. Thank you for this very thoughtful prose. I just shared on my Facebook page. (AND on a more personal note, praying for you as you and your father journey together yet apart.) My love & prayers, Don

    • Ruth Barton on March 27, 2020 at 10:14 am

      Thanks so much, Don. So encouraging. Great to hear from you!

  23. Ruth Barton on March 25, 2020 at 11:59 am

    All, I am reading each and every one of your comments and they mean the world to me! One of the things these responses highlight for me is how connected we all are and how much that connection means. How sustaining it is! Please know that just as my words have ministered to you, your words are ministering to me–deeply. See, we are already experiencing presence in absence! I love that!

  24. Pam Moore on March 25, 2020 at 11:32 am

    This ministered to me deeply today. Thank you, Ruth, for the way you continue to speak so powerfully to my soul, This is such a helpful perspective to maintain in the midst of all of this.

  25. Deborah Tillman on March 25, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Ms. Ruth, You are such a blessing to the Kingdom of God. Your words always seem to calm my spirit. Sending love to you.

  26. Becky on March 25, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart about your Father. My Father fell on Feb 19 and after being in the hospital and rehab we had to make the very hard decision to place him in a long term care facility. We moved him in on Tuesday and Wednesday all visiting was ceased. He is 90 years old with mild dementia and has lived in the same house since 1949. I too live local and never thought anything like this would happened. Thank you for sharing your sadness, my sadness finds comfort that someone understands. Thank you, Becky Peters

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Thank you for sharing your tender journey. It IS good to know that we are not the only ones experiencing this particular sadness. God be with you in this and in all.

  27. David Ivany on March 25, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Prophetic, powerful, peace-filled.

  28. David Ivany on March 25, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Powerful, prophetic, peace-evoking.

  29. Ralph Skinner on March 25, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Really loved reading your article!! Some of this might show up in a future sermon :>) With proper attribution and recognition!! Thanks for sharing your heart-felt thoughts!!

    Ralph

  30. Nancy Turley on March 25, 2020 at 9:52 am

    This heart-felt article is a blessing today. It put into words what my hear has been feeling! Thank you Ruth!

  31. Linnea Boese on March 25, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Ruth, this speaks deeply to our present moment. But I want to tell you something that goes far beyond this moment: through your books, you have been one of my “mentors”, without knowing it. My husband and I spent 40 years as missionaries in Ivory Coast (where I worked in Bible translation), and your books taught me how to keep myself rooted spiritually in the middle of extremely challenging times. In particular, I learned how to use “solitude and silence” to refresh my soul after a week crammed with words and discussions and needs all around me. For three hourse each Saturday morning (unless other necessities interrupted it) I sat under the golden rain trees in my courtyard. I found out that the solitude and silence “let the mud puddle settle,” the swirling thoughts quieted, so that I could just be with my Lord, and listen to him. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned with so many of us. You are a wonderful pastoral servant of the Father! and now you are finding new ways to reach out into the Family.

  32. Linnea Spicer on March 25, 2020 at 9:15 am

    I hear your tender heart and am grateful for the way you continue to lead us to what really matters. My heart breaks to think of the pain of you not with your dad, but trust our Emmanuel with you. Blessings to you and all the TC friends.

  33. Elisa Sywulka on March 25, 2020 at 9:06 am

    SO helpful in maintaining and adjusting perspectives!

  34. Karen Gygax Rodriguez on March 25, 2020 at 8:48 am

    My soul needed this, this morning. I would ask prayers for those who suffer from mental health realities like anxiety and depression. May the angels minister to their souls in this wilderness time.

  35. Michael Miller on March 25, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Ruth thank you so much this is so encouraging. You are and awesome friend, mentor, servant of the God most high. Your family is in my utmost Prayers.
    Blessings My Dear Sister

  36. Ricky on March 25, 2020 at 8:30 am

    Thank you for sharing this Ruth. Been waiting to see what you might encourage us toward during this insane uncertainty. So continually grateful for my TC time, as I sit here praying holding my Palm cross! Praying for you and the TC fam.

    • Patrice Oakley on March 25, 2020 at 9:02 am

      Thank you for this gift of reflection, Ruth. As I reflect, as I go through my day of online teaching responsibilities and ask God what is He wishing me to hear, I thank Him for this season of slowing down. We are being given the gift of time. Now, what do we do with it? I ask Jesus that He strengthen me to not squander this holy opportunity.

    • Brenda Storm on March 25, 2020 at 10:03 am

      Thank you for your tenderness as you helped us to see with new eyes and hear with new ears – how carefully and lovingly our Savior, Jesus Christ, spoke and taught His Disciples – knowing that He would be leaving them physically – but also leaving them resting securely in His Promises. Which is also for us! As my heart weeps with tears of joy and hope – while trusting, and walking, with my Shepherd – who is laying His Staff by my side to guide us in the Light of the Holy Spirit – over this new and rough terrain. To remember that we are never alone, especially, during our time in the wilderness – and for this l am deeply and humbly grateful. From my heart…

    • Ruth Haley on March 27, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Aww Ricky, It is so good to hear from you. I can’t think of a better picture than you sitting, directing, loving your wife, holding that new baby…all with your palm cross in hand. I so value your love and prayers and its coming back atcha!

  37. Teresa McCloy on March 25, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Thank you, my friend, for these reminders and truths. May we be invited to a season of rest.

  38. Chris Romig on March 25, 2020 at 8:00 am

    Thank you … with love and prayers for you, your family, and everyone at the Transforming Center.

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 8:24 am

      Thanks, so much, Chris. I and we receive your love with deepest gratitude.

  39. DENNIS L KING on March 25, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Thank you for this wonderful article. For what it’s worth, I’ve discovered numerous sources that attribute the poem at the end of your article to a current-day poet named Kitty O’Meara.

    • Ruth Barton on March 26, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Thanks, Dennis! We are looking into confirming this source and will correct it immediately when we’ve confirmed. Correct attributions are important!

  40. Darlene on March 25, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Thank you Ruth for your heart words. I am thankful this morning for the deep truth of your words and it gives me hope in the stillness to trust in God for those things that I’m even to afraid to speak of losing. Thank you dear woman. Praying for you this morning and the Transforming Center.

  41. Vicki Helgesen on March 25, 2020 at 7:47 am

    Love this. I was listening to Rick Warren of Saddleback church the other day. He said during the Black Plague thousands were dying. People started leaving the city and moving into the country. The Christians moved into the city. That is how the first hospital was started and the Roman Empire took note that Christians helped other people. That was the beginning of the change in the Roman empire to Christianity.
    This is a great time for the believers of Jesus to rise up and shine.
    Thank you again.

  42. Kim Kirk on March 25, 2020 at 7:40 am

    This writing spoke so deeply to me. Thank you for sharing the deepest parts of you to encourage and move us forward. Praying for you in the loss of your father.

  43. Kit Elmer on March 25, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Ruth I am so grateful for your words of comfort and truth this morning. And I am so saddened to think of your pain of being away from your father at this time. I am holding you in my prayers today.

  44. Rodney Page on March 25, 2020 at 7:32 am

    Profound truth and wisdom! Be still! Thanks for sharing!

  45. Daniel-Chad Hoffman, CG on March 25, 2020 at 7:08 am

    I have been waiting for this word of guidance and faithfulness. Thanks so much, Ruth. I will encourage my brothers and sisters in the Community of the Gospel to read this article, as they are invited into a time of spiritual deepening and listening.

  46. Hilda Stewart on March 25, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Ruth,
    I am going to journal a piece of this each day to hear God’s heart to me…..should take about a week hoping to be lifted higher to experience this more from that place … the tug is real to be earthy. ❤️

  47. LInda Werner on March 25, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Ruth,
    Your words are life-giving to my soul. Thank you for leading me to God’s Word and a picture for a new and desired future. I am praying for you and all that is on your heart for the work of the Transforming Center.

    Love and Peace to you and yours today.

    Linda

    • Ruth Barton on April 4, 2020 at 9:18 am

      So great to hear from you, Linda! Thank you for your love and prayers.

  48. Michael McGinnity on March 25, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Dear Ruth,
    What you have shared in this reflection is full of hope and faith. I feel deeply the invitation you describe; to become more grounded in God’s reality and live each moment in his presence so that I can live more fully in the presence of others both now and in the future. As you say gratitude is a key to savouring the present moment.

    Keep safe and well, Michael

  49. Anthony Smith on March 25, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Thank you for this. This is my sermon text this Sunday at our church Mission House @missionhousenc in Salisbury, NC. Providential!

  50. galem on March 25, 2020 at 6:29 am

    So sorry about the separation from your father. That hurts. God be merciful to you both.

  51. Brenda Burns on March 25, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Thank you so much Ruth – your voice is a gift and your words nourish like choice morsels.

  52. James E Cox on March 25, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Great reading for me this morning Ruth as I sit in self quarantine here in Upstate NY. Thank you for your words of wisdom and for the Transforming Community that came at just the right time in my life and ministry. May God bless you this Lenten season.

  53. Christine Labrum on March 25, 2020 at 6:15 am

    Loved this. So meaningful – your words echo my heart cry. Thank you, Ruth.

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