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Unexpected Lessons

Unexpected Lessons

by Jan Cooke on November 03, 2020

For the past twelve years, one of the great joys of my life has been leading a wonderfully diverse group of adults in weekly Bible study on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday marked a very special milestone, as it was the first time this group had met in person since early March. The heartfelt joy of being together in the same space felt like an electric current in the room, masks and careful social distancing notwithstanding.

It has been our habit on occasion to make lists of words which apply to a particular discussion topic and then examine and learn from the lessons which always emerge from that practice. It seemed both appropriate and indeed necessary to give everyone the opportunity to “speak their truth” about The Year 2020, so we made a list. And yes, as you would expect, there were plenty of negative words called out to describe the COVID-19 experience. Then, however, something very interesting began to happen. Words which could only be described as POSITIVE began to appear!

There were deep words like rest, creativity, flexibility, perseverance, trust, time, and hope. Positive actions took shape in phrases like meeting neighbors, finishing projects, noticing nature, starting to exercise, surviving the anxiety of clearing the family calendar (and learning to love the open spaces!) By the time the 2020 list was completed, I was amazed to see that the list of positive words was basically equal in number to the list of negative descriptions. The feel of the whole room began to lighten as the lesson became so clear right in front of our eyes: nothing is all bad or all good. We were reminded that there are challenges in EVERY situation and that life will keep bringing us opportunities to stay light on our feet, open to surprise, willing to grow and be flexible, and perhaps a little more thoughtful about the labels we choose.

Unexpected Lessons

When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor Frankl

Trouble creates a capacity to handle it.
Meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it
and had better be on speaking terms with it.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.
Helen Keller

The secret to change is to focus all your energy,
not on fighting for the old,
but in building the new.
Socrates

The word “impossible” exists only in the mind,
not in the heart.
Sri Chinmoy

The environment you fashion out of your thoughts,
your beliefs, your ideals, your philosophy,
is the only climate you will ever live in.
Alfred Montepert

The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

When there is a disappointment,
I don’t know that it is the end of the story.
It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.
Pema Chodron

Only by dealing with difficulty
does creativity come forth.
Brian Swimme


The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:5

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