yeah…

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
Charles Dickens

A friend sent me this little quarantine meme a couple of weeks back.
It was the first week into our time of sequestering.

I laughed.

Now, a month in…I am the seal.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouting.

Job 8:21

“Shadow of the Almighty rather than the shadow of death”

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
Psalm 91:1


(image courtesy decidingvoteblog)

As the fluid situation of all of our lives continues to swirl, the post I had hoped to
write today…a post about looking back at how we Americans have overcome past crises
is now on hold.

We’ve been called into a bit of action—for we are off to fetch the Mayor today
with the Sherrif following in a few more days.

With the schools now shuttering in Georgia, our daughter-in-law the teacher
will find herself at home. She will be home with two little ones, along with
a husband (our son) who is already working from home.
And as a teacher, she will be responsible for conducting virtual learning classes
so in turn, they will need help with the kids….so…
the kids will be coming to us.

For how long is yet to be determined.
Therefore, any blogging will be sporadic.

The Mayor tends to demand a great deal of her staff’s time and energies.
And as a governing official, she has her hands full…as we all do.

But before I leave you, I wanted to offer you some lovely words of hope.

The following message…a message of hope in the face of global adversity,
is from our dear friend The Wee Flea, David Robertson.

Living now in Australia but with family still in Scotland as well as England,
David understands first hand the fretfulness we are all feeling during these
times of uncertainty as well as times of fear…

How do we as Christians respond?

My wish is that you will find comfort in the following words…
the link to the full post is found at the end…

Be blessed, stay well and be safe…

One of my greatest concerns is that the Church far more often reflects the society
than it does lead or love it.
This pandemic is a real test for the reality of our faith and the relevance of our doctrines.
And there is no doubt that our world is being taught some real lessons –
lessons the Christian should, if we believe the Bible, already know.

Humility

We are being taught humility.
Fintan O ‘Toole had a marvelous article in The Irish Times pointing out that we are not
kings of the world and we are not masters of our own fate.
It’s a hard lesson to learn. And one that humanity, in our hubris,
has to keep being taught.

History

We have a lot to learn from history –
not least because we keep forgetting it.
Plague and disease are not new to humanity.
When we look at how the Church in the past has dealt with plague –
whether in ancient Rome, medieval Europe, 19th century London or numerous other examples
we can get a better perspective.
My predecessor in St Peter’s Dundee, Robert Murray McCheyne died aged 29 after he visited
the sick and dying in an epidemic among the poor in the city.
The Church today seems to be more concerned about not getting sick, rather than visiting the sick.

Hebel

I love this Hebrew word.
I don’t really know an exact English equivalent.
It’s what Solomon uses in Ecclesiastes when he describes everything as ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’.
It carries the idea of trivial froth.
The coronavirus is exposing our societies’ Hebel.
Sport, wealth, leisure, entertainment –
how light and frothy they appear to be in the light of such a foe!

I was in a barber’s in Sydney yesterday where my fellow clientele would normally have been
outraged at the cancelling of the major sporting events which play such
a large part in our lives, but there was general agreement that it didn’t really matter.
(I loved the sign above the door – “if you’re sick you need a doctor, not a barber!”).

Hope

That is the great missing thing.
Real hope has to be more than the wish that this would soon be over and that we could carry on
with life as normal. This virus has exposed the shallowness of that approach to life.
Where do we find hope?
As always I find it in the word of God.
Let me share with you three readings from this morning.

Proverbs 1:20-33 warns us of what happens when we neglect the wisdom that is calling aloud
“in the public square”.
There will be calamity and “disaster that sweeps over you like a whirlwind”.
The waywardness of the simple and the complacency of fools destroys them but
“whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”.

Then there are the great words of Psalm 91 –
a Psalm that sustained me when I lay on my bed in the ICU unit in Ninewells hospital,
helpless and fearful.
We can rest in the ‘Shadow of the Almighty’ (rather than the shadow of death).
We are covered by his feathers, and his faithfulness is our shield and rampart.
“You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday” (v.5-6).

Finally, my song for this morning was Psalm 139 where,
amongst other things, we are assured that all the days ordained for us were written in the
Lord’s book before they came to be. These verses surely speak to our situation.
Are we listening?
Or are we listening to the voices of doom both within our fearful selves
and our frightened society?

Listening to what God says is not burying our head in the sand;
it is allowing the light to expose our darkness and to point us to a greater and better truth –
to The Rock that is higher than us.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
my anxious thoughts survey.
Show me what gives offence to you,
And lead me in your way”

(Psalm 139:23-24 – Sing Psalms – The Free Church of Scotland)

Three Bible passages to Replace Fear of Coronavirus with Hope in God

Rights and Responsibility–somewhere in there, should be compassion

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Bob Dylan

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
Helen Keller

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

― Albert Einstein

DSCN8284
(emerging fall color / Julie Cook / 2014)

The news as of late, has been rife with the stories of the growing cases of Ebola emerging outside of the so called West African “hot zones”—With most cases occurring in individuals who have traveled to and from theses specific hot zone— such as doctors, healthcare providers, aid workers, with a few emerging cases from average citizens who simply wanted to “get away.”

After reading the headlines and watching the latest breaking news concerning this growing global worry, I have become a bit troubled by one story in particular, which has been capturing a great deal of attention. It is the story of nurse Kaci Hickox from Maine, who after returning from Seirra Leone, has refused to be quarantined against, what she claims, to be her will. She was initially detained in Newark, NJ as soon as she disembarked from the plane. Eventually leaving the hospital in New Jersey, heading home to Maine, where the state of Maine has asked that she at least “self quarantine” at home, avoiding contact with anyone and to not leave her home for the requested (note requested) 21 days.

A defiant Hickox has refused, claiming that she is healthy, perfectly fine, and refuses to be a “prisoner” or allow her “rights” to be jeopardized. She claims that not being able to have contact with loved ones, after returning from a stressful situation, is simply too much to ask.

Really?

I certainly do not adhere to the “Henny Penny the sky is falling” school of panic, but I do believe in common sense and responsibility. With any new, scary, unknown factor there is indeed going to be a certain level of concern and even panic on the part of the general population. The thought of a modern day “plague” is very frightening. The unknown itself is simply very frightening to people.
Somehow I don’t think the taking of a defiant stance helps to calm heightened concern.

Modern day science and medicine is indeed a marvel. We have made so many wonderful advancements in the treatments of deadly diseases and viruses, even taking on the so called super bugs as we wage a war of eradication.

Unlike the days of the Middle Ages when those, having contracted leprosy, were required to wear bells around their necks so as to warn those passing near to be cautious and move away as a leper was in the vicinity, we have learned that we cannot contract certain viruses and diseases by mere touch or being in the presence of the “sick.” Yet many individuals are still concerned, cautious and afraid.

It was reported that the local hospital in Ms Hickox’s town has had up to 10 individuals cancel elective surgeries out of concern that Ms Hickox could become symptomatic requiring her to have to go the hospital for treatment. It was reported that she was craving a pizza from the local pizzeria. The restaurant was inundated with calls concerned about her showing up as other patrons did not want to be there when and if she arrived.

Some may consider such behavior in her community as bordering on hysteria, some may see it as merely precautionary. I do believe however that Ms Hickox, especially as a healthcare provider, does indeed have a responsibility to her community—in which she should want to work to ensure calm, reassurance and the bridging of gaps and not create or add to the hype, the rising sense of panic or fear that a belligerent, spiteful and defiant attitude breeds.

I’m not saying that we should give in to hysteria and panic but I am saying that we should be brave enough and smart enough to execute judicious precautionary action. 21 days is said to be the time for the incubation of the virus, should someone having been exposed, contract Ebola. I don’t think 21 days of quarantine is much to ask of anyone coming back from the so called hot zones. We’ve already seen how several healthcare providers, who felt perfectly fine upon leaving the country or having worked with sick patients, eventually came down with the virus.

I find Ms Hickox’s lackadaisical and caviler attitude bordering not on the knowledgeable and scientific and constitutional as she claims, but rather of the selfish. She is hellbent, having already “lawyered up” as it were, on maintaining her “rights” to come and go as she pleases—despite the fact that she has caused contention, consternation and division within her small rural hometown of Maine.

Is it fair to the town, the state, the Nation, or to the Global family at large, to throw caution to the wind and go merrily about one’s individual world while those around are questioning, fretting, arguing, debating, panicking—which gives way to the fact that our lives are not so single and individual as we think but are actually linked inextricably to and with that of our fellow human-beings.

Maybe this all boils down to an inconsistent policy dealing with this new “threat” to humanity as it seems we, our Governments and Medical Communities, are learning on the proverbial fly. Each day and each new case brings with it, its own unique set of circumstances. We’ve seen the quarantining of the pets of victims. Spain opted not to quarantine a beloved dog of a nurse who had come home bearing the virus, but opted rather to put the dog down. Global leaders are grabbling with how best to quell the growing worry of an ever growing weary world. Not everyone is making the most wise of decisions as we continue living in the midst of the learning curve.

Ms Hickox’s responsibility to her fellow human beings, in my opinion, outweighs her so called constitutional rights. To claim one’s individual rights when it is affecting the wellbeing of countless other lives, businesses, decisions. . .particularly when one is supposedly about the business of selflessly caring for others, rings of selfish, self centered egotism.

I’m all for defending our rights and freedoms, but I think we must ask ourselves is it fair to put countless others at risk without a bit of cautious reflection? In this case a time of evaluation and observation of 21 days is the “cost” of being cautious. The responsibility taken to travel to a highly volatile region brings with it obvious risks—those risks don’t simply disappear when one hops in a plane and flies away, leaving it all hopefully behind. There are consequences for all actions, good and bad—if we are willing to jump into a risk filled situation then we must be prepared for the followthrough—in Ms Hickox’s case, that followthrough is a 21 day time period of quarantine. It’s that cut and dry.

Groups such as the ACLU and various civil liberty groups seem to throw common sense out the window just to argue a point. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve allowed “the law” to overshadow reason, compassion and the doing of the right things for and by people. Oh I know what many will say to such, that the law is the law is the law and it is our duty to defend it. . .especially when a body of one, a minority, is concerned. I fear we’ve seen far too often how we now bend over ourselves for the few, often forgetting the whole. . .
As a nurse, Ms Hickox should know that sometimes there are some hard consequences as part of a profession and if a 21 day quarantine is requested, not necessarily required, but merely requested, should not precaution trump the selfish clamoring of violated rights? Could not her self imposed quarantine perhaps not be the best teaching example to help educate and quell fears?

Ms Hickox was selfless in her desire to work with the organization Doctors without Borders–demonstrating a concern and compassion for those afflicted, sick and dying–yet in her having come home, that same sense of concern and compassion no longer seems applicable to her very neighbors as she choses to cause division in her very own community. I’m thankful that she is “free of Ebola” and has returned home, as she continues to claim, very much well and healthy, but the issue here is one of caution, of which she has been asked to observe and of which she is vehemently refusing.

May we be willing to take and bear the responsibilities for our actions. May we work to put the wellbeing of others above our own wants and desires for in so doing we create a more compassionate and kinder global community. May we learn to yield our self governing egos to that of compassion, giving, caring, not demonstrated to but a few, but to all we encounter. . .if I should see that my hellbent desires are causing so much ire, so much pain, so much contention and consternation around me, may I learn to back off, taking on the spirit of gentleness with my responsibilities verses the combativeness of self.