COVID19: It’s not real until it is. It’s real

Most scary things in the world are just scary for someone else. Tornados, hurricanes, human trafficking, school shootings. We recognize those things when they happen to others, acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, feel empathy toward the victims, and then we move on. It is not until tragedy strikes us personally that we truly are forced to stop and fully appreciate it for its real life impact. The same has been true of the COVID19 pandemic.

Before it was a pandemic, we watched the spread from afar in my office. We checked the number of cases in China. Noticed the trickle of a spread to a few European areas. Then we saw the cases on the west coast of the US and the case or two in Chicago. Still, we did not fully appreciate the coming storm. It couldn’t happen here, this is where we live. Things of that magnitude just do not happen here. We have the best healthcare in the world. We won’t have to deal with this on a large scale. Someone will do something. We will be fine. 

Now I’ve worked more days in a row than I care to count. I don’t even know for sure what day it is. We watch as the virus ramps up in heavily populated cities like New York and kind of understand better how that can happen there. But how do we explain the outbreak in a small Alabama town? How do we respond to their hospital’s plea for more ventilators?

How do we supply our staff with adequate PPE in this new world where not enough PPE exists to go around? How do you reconcile relaxing infection prevention standards in a heightened infectious situation? You listen to plans for disinfecting disposable PPE and wonder if you have been transported to a third world mission hospital.

How do you look co-workers in the eye when they drive through your COVID19 testing site because they have been exposed and are now exhibiting symptoms? What about when one of them ends up in your own ICU fighting for their very life?

I wonder what that person would say to those who still think this thing is being blown out of proportion. I wonder if they would beg folks to stay home and follow the social distancing guidelines out there. I wonder if they would tell people this thing is for real, and now is not the time to be skeptical or critical of those in leadership who are trying to deal with a bigger problem than we have faced in this lifetime. I bet they wouldn’t care that most are bored out of their minds at home, trying to figure out how to deal with kids out of school and a faltering economy. I would think that landing in the ICU on a ventilator kind of puts it all in perspective. 

I want normal life back. Well, mostly. Some things we have given up can stay gone as far as I am concerned. But I’d like to keep the compassion I am seeing. We could hang on to the sense of community in the midst of separation that is growing. The ingenuity of great Americans who are busy meeting the needs my co-workers are facing on the front lines would be a keeper. The spirit that makes America great… we’ve all but forgotten that, but it is nice to see it peeking back through. Those things I’d like to see hang around after all this is over and we find our new normal. 

Most things aren’t real until they are. COVID19 is real. As we experience our first COVID19 related deaths in our institution this week, it doesn’t get any more real for us than that. Healthcare workers are posting pictures to social media stating “We are staying at work for you, stay at home for us”. It is a small ask, really. For all of us who are working hard during this time, do your part. Stay home. Stay safe. Deal with the boredom and be glad you have it. Wash your hands. Pray for our world.

Anniston Blocks Coronavirus: Come on, guys, this is embarrassing…

It’s been a while since I posted here on Cracked Pot Pieces blog. I’ve just not been really motivated to write so much lately. Life is busy and full of distractions. I think you all understand that! We are all busy and distracted. It’s kind of an epidemic in our society… which brings me to the reason I feel motivated to write today.

It is about the novel coronavirus epidemic that has the attention of the world right now. The position I have requires that I pay attention to those sorts of things. Things like Influenza, Ebola, and new, emerging viruses that threaten to make us all sick, and worse. I am proud to say that the healthcare institution I work for has earned the designation as an Ebola (or other serious infection disease) Receiving Station for our region. That means that a team of professionals have trained (and continue to train), and the institution is prepared to take care of, a victim of a serious infectious disease at our facility until that patient can be transported to Emery Hospital in Georgia. We are proud of that designation. The community is proud of that designation. We could never imagine anyone from our community that would stand in opposition to us helping a person in such need.

And yet, that is what is happening with regard to the novel coronavirus that is plaguing the world right now. (Perhaps I should not say plaguing?) Not sure to what I am referring? You simply have to go to CNN to find out that the good folks in Anniston have refused to allow Americans who were exposed to the novel coronavirus ride out their quarantine at the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness located there. This center trains First Responders from around the country to handle chemical, biological, and radiological threats. These people know what they are doing. They are well prepared and ready to help. But no. Not in “our town” because “we are afraid”.

This is embarrassing.

Here’s the thing. If you have ever had the common cold, it is highly likely that you have had a coronavirus. It is a fact that the one plaguing, err, impacting the world right now is brand new, and we are just getting acquainted with it… it is still a common kind of virus. We know its family, but this branch of the family tree is still new to us. We don’t like new. We don’t like how quickly it is spreading across the world. But spread it has. And it has affected some of our own… but we don’t want to help them here in Alabama. Can you tell that this bothers me? Seriously? We are going to turn AMERICANS away when we have a proper facility, with properly trained people, to help them? What is our problem?

Fear. Fear is our problem. We have a lot of emotions. Fear, however, is a spirit. You doubt these words? Let’s fact check. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”. Fear is not an emotion. It is a spirit and it wasn’t given to us by God. No, from God we get power. We get love. And we get self-discipline. All of which stand in complete opposition to the fear that has led our politicians to block fellow AMERICANS from coming to our state for help.

During times like these, I am reminded, sadly, of just how fragile our polite society is, and just how easily something like fear can change us. We are not the kind of people who turn fellow Americans in need away. Alabama people are good people. Alabama people help their neighbors and stand up for those in need. At least we used to. It’s time we remember that we are to be motivated by power, love, and by self-discipline. It is those things we employ when we need to help a neighbor in need. Fear never helped anyone.

Life Moves Pretty Fast

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

That’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which came out in 1986.

I am not proud to say that I am guilty of not stopping and looking around often enough. Ferris was right. Life does move pretty fast. I mean, it’s already been thirty-three years since Matthew Broderick looked into the camera and delivered that line. Mercy. 

I teach my students in Sociology class about situational awareness. Most of us are flying through life, our noses in our phones, and missing the world going on around us. It’s sort of epidemic in its impact. Life is happening right in front of us, and we would rather see what’s happening on a six inch screen. Our grandparents and great grandparents would truly think we are nuts. Maybe we are. In a world that is growing more dangerous all the time, we are paying less and less attention to it… like lambs to the slaughter. 

I’m not preaching. I am guilty. So guilty. I am super busy. I work a full time job at a large hospital in town, and I teach Sociology at a local ministry school. My father, 82, lives with me. I have six mostly grown children, but you never stop being a mom. And I am a full time wife. I have a few friends, hobbies, and interests I pay attention to when I have a minute to slip them in. I know. It’s absurd.

But I am aware that I don’t hold a corner on the busy market. We all pack in as much as we can each day, and most of us fall into bed only after the alternative would lead us to a potentially catastrophic result. Then we get up the next morning, stumble into the shower to start the whole thing over again. I’m exhausted just writing about it.

My point is… we need to slow down a bit. Once in a while.

I decided to do that recently. I attended an event in support of an organization (www.blessedbrokenness.org) that I am privileged to serve which offers help to couples dealing with infertility. It was sort of a nice Thank You to all those who had supported the ministry with their financial gifts this year. It was held in a snazzy little art gallery. I decided to slow my roll a bit, take the time to look at the art hanging on the walls, appreciate the artistry and talent, and soak it all in.

My daughter is an artist. She hopes to one day support herself through her art, but currently she still has a day job or two. She is so very talented, and I believe that one day her art will hang in galleries like the one I visited last night. As I walked through the gallery I prayed, again, for that reality.

As I turned my attention to the presentation for the evening, a really nice video played that spoke to the mission and vision of the organization. Right smack dab in the middle of the video was a piece that my daughter had drawn more than two years ago for the study book this group uses with those it tries to help. Right there, projected on the wall of that gallery, was a piece of art my daughter created. Not ten minutes prior, I had prayed for her art to be on the walls of a gallery like that one, impacting people for the glory of God.

I know, you know, and God knows that’s not exactly what I meant. But I saw it as a confirmation to me that He heard me. And I certainly heard Him. But only because I decided to slow my roll long enough to be able to hear Him.

I hope that in the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, you will take some time, a moment here and there, to slow down and listen. Let’s lift our heads, turn our hearts to Him, and pay attention. He is speaking, and we don’t want to miss it.

He Doesn’t Believe In God

Matthew and I just returned from what has become our annual trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. That sounds pretty awesome, right? Well it is. I am a blessed woman. We go to refresh, renew, and Re-LAX. It takes a day or so for each of us to unplug and fully be able to take a breath. Life is busy, and while I know we are no busier than most people… it just FEELS like we are.

This year, we met a very interesting fellow. I will call him John. John is from Europe. It’s the place where everyone seems to say “bloody hell” a lot. John said it a lot. He is very direct, and he talks entirely too fast for my southern American liking, but Matthew and I enjoyed talking to him. We listened fast.

Inevitably, John asked us what we do. It’s an identity thing. It’s a connection thing. For me, it’s easy. I just say I am a nurse. Bam. People get that. They assume I take care of sick people. I don’t take care of sick people anymore, but if the relationship continues, I get in to all that later. But for Matthew, it gets a little sticky for him.

He doesn’t like to tell people what he does. So he hems and haws and then people begin to think he’s a drug dealer or something else he can’t really talk about in polite company. It’s not that. Matthew has worked in Christian ministry his whole life. Most of the time when he tells people that, they change. They drag out whatever Christianese they happen to know, and it gets weird really quickly.

As predicted, John asked us what we do. I pipe up that I am a nurse, get the usual “that’s a very noble profession” response, and I nod my head as if to say, “Yes. Yes it is.” Matthew does his hemming and hawing thing. At that point I just sit back to see how he is going to frame his occupation this time… He says he is a teacher. And he is. But he is also an Academic Dean in a ministry college seeking accreditation and he holds a doctoral degree and two master’s degrees (and he is working on a third. Such a show off).

Usually it ends there. But this time it didn’t. Eventually, John learned what Matthew’s role is and that we are both Christians. John is decidedly not a believer, and at that point was likely counting how many times he had dropped the F bomb thus far. See? Weird. This was going to get interesting.

As it turned out, John had some legit questions about faith as it relates to marriage and God. Mind you, they were the same old questions most people have. John has a long time girlfriend he has no intention of marrying. His parents are in a four decade marriage and they are miserable. Yet John sees us at thirty years and happy and that confuses him. So we (I) launch into the difference between a marriage contract and a covenant marriage. That was fun.

Then he wonders who made God. This is where Matthew jumped in and talked about how John’s perspective is off. He is concerned about how things got started. Perhaps a better focus would be on how things are going to end. I know. Matthew is good.

We enjoyed our time talking to John. I do believe in divine appointments, so I think the Lord is ready to move in his life. I hope we were able to plant some seeds for the next appointment to water.

I wonder about folks who think a belief in God is silly. Many sociologists believe that as a society evolves and it fills in many of the blanks through scientific discovery, it ceases to have the need for religion to explain the unexplainable. We evolve to a higher existence and become self-actualized.

Pish posh.

God gave us so much information in His word, but He also made us curious. He left truths, His truths, for our discovery all around us. You see, all truth is God’s truth, wherever it is found. The more we learn about ourselves and this universe, the more we realize what an awesome God He is, and the more we need Him in our lives.

The Current Falling Away

I am always interested in the things that push and stress our culture. Change occurs to a society through conflict. When there is conflict it must be resolved or the society is destroyed. We are facing a great deal of conflict in our current society. The tension is palpable. There is a challenge to all kinds of authority. To be in a position of authority is not the esteemed position it once was. Very few people value the word of those in authority. This is partly due to the fact that there has been an epidemic of authoritative abuses unearthed of late. It is the label of postmodernism to shun those in authority. 

Policemen and teachers face challenges to the authority that was once a given in their roles. Even physicians face challenges to their authority in modern day medicine. All of us are arm chair physicians with the internet at our fingertips. Hello WebMD. Patients (especially nurses like me) show up at the doctor’s office with a diagnosis already in mind… and more and more, they are not wrong. The paternal system of medicine is going by the wayside as patients grow more and more resistant to the authority that used to rest on their doctors. Once a society that trusted in its authority figures, we are falling away from that. We disrespect those in positions of authority, skeptical that they can truly be trusted. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Our society is full of once faithful believers who are leaving the faith. We call it apostasy. The Bible frequently calls it a falling away. It includes people who once appeared solid in the faith that choose to no longer trust in the God of the universe. Despite evidence to the contrary, they decide the gospel they staked their lives on is unfounded, and the authority they allowed the Bible to have over them is no longer valid. Such changes of heart stymie those of us who hold the truths of scripture dear. But it really shouldn’t. 

Scripture tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2 that there will be a falling away prior to the coming of the antichrist (There are a truckload of other scriptures that talk about it, too.) Most Christians are keeping a cautious eye for that guy to show up, but according to scripture this falling away will occur first. So what are we talking about here? As a sociologist, I deal in statistical relevance. In my estimation, this falling away will be fairly significant, or it would not have warranted a mention by Paul to the Thessalonians. We will continue to see it in the media, because along with apostasy there seems to be an accompanying pridefulness. Most will speak louder of their leaving the faith than they ever spoke while following Christ. Pride. It is the tool of satan. Once again, scripture bears itself out right before us.

When people fall away from the truths of the Bible they are then left with “living their own truth”. That phrase always gets a raised eyebrow from me. It causes me to think of the Old Testament scripture that tells the story of what happens when people do what is right in their own minds. (Judges 21) It’s nothing good, by the way. 

In the absence of real authority we fail to find a consistency in values and morality. When it is fine for us each to seek our own truth and the rest must accept that, then we must all be fine with abortion, divorce, theft, torture, rape and the holocaust. The elimination of the Jews was Hitler’s own truth. If my own truth is okay, so was his. But no one really believes that… yet it must be accepted if it is okay for us all to decide what is right and wrong on our own with no unmovable, unchanging home base. 

Apart from absolute truth, we make our own unstable definitions of love, grace, integrity, and honor. To each his own, and we better not speak out against it or we will be labeled uneducated and unenlightened. Pish posh. I am neither. My truth is His truth. And it has been the same from before the beginning of time. It is not dependent on the whims of society or the selfish desires of my flesh. I can choose to walk in it or not, but while I change, it is the eternal, unmovable, unshakable truth. It is His truth. And it is the only truth. 

I believe the current apostasy will begin to affect many of us as we see friends, family members, and those we look to as heroes in the faith joining this falling away. It makes us sad, confused, and heartbroken, but it should not catch us off guard. I don’t have to like the truth, but neither should I deny it. What I can do is stay close, anchor myself to the Word of God, dedicate myself to prayer and worship, and surround myself with those who are doing the same. The old adage is still true. Show me your friends, and I will show you your future. Stay close, my friends. 

Anxiety (among other things) is a choice

I realize my next statement is not terribly popular these days. But there are a lot of people copping out on the phrase, “I can’t help it, I was born this way.” 

I know. Me, too. 

And??

I was born into sin just like everyone, since the first mom and dad started populating the earth. I have plenty of things that I could just lay on the fact that “I was born this way”… but it always has been, and always will be, the excuse of the self-centered whiner. 

Harsh? Sure. Absolutely. But it’s true. It’s true when you say it, and it is true when I say it. 

There are many different issues I could talk about here, but I want to talk about anxiety. That’s a pretty politically and socially safe, non-polarizing issue, isn’t it? I mean, who isn’t anxious every now and again? There are entire chapters in psychology books devoted to the subject of anxiety. I know… I’ve been studying human behavior on a master’s level for the last several years and I have discovered some very interesting truths. 

First… science is finally catching up with theology, and I find that super cool. Psychologists are learning that if we simply change the way we think about certain things we can get past many of the phycological disorders that people deal with. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I find that really interesting. Especially when you find that very thing in the lines of scripture. 

We are instructed, much like patients receiving CBT counseling, to capture every thought… that just because we think a thought, does not make it true. But the Bible goes a bit further and tells us not only to capture the thought, but to set it against the measure of Christ and see if it rings true. If it does, we keep it. If it does not… we march it at spear point (take it captive) right out of our minds. Psychology is also teaching us that we actually CAN control what we think about, and neuropsychology tells us that what we think about really does change the physical construction in our brains. We are hard wiring our own brains with the thoughts we choose to keep. 

So back to anxiety. Anxiety is not a condition, it is a choice. How can I be so sure? Well, the Bible tells us in Philippians, “Do not be anxious…”. Why would it tell us not to be something we have no control over? When we find ourselves anxious, it is because we are choosing to hold onto the thoughts that are making us anxious. (That’s an oversimplification, but you get my drift.) The Bible tells us that we cannot add one day to our lives by worrying about things. Research backs this up by saying that eighty-five percent of the things that cause us worry or anxiety never happen. Eighty-five percent. Those odds aren’t bad. 

Did you know that we were born with only two fears? The fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. We learn or convince ourselves of all the others. The Bible bears this out. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” He gave us power. He gave us love. He gave us, what? A sound mind. Not fear. Not anxiety. Not PTSD. Not depression. Not identity confusion. Not a whole host of other things either. Those things have come upon us because we have chosen not to take our thoughts captive. We have just allowed whatever thoughts running through our brains be welcomed with open arms.

And that mistake is quite literally destroying us. 

Don’t mess with the Sacred

The gap between where we are and where we want to be is real. Most of us look at our lives and can find at least one thing that just doesn’t line up to the ideal self-image we have in our minds. Maybe it’s our job. Our weight. Our relationships. The list is long and can get really heavy. It is easy to feel less than, or not fully fulfilled, in this life. Take a look, everyone has something… some longing for something to be different. But maybe the gap over which we gaze is about something more.

In any society, people are born into an already clearly defined world. We slide into this world not really having to decide much on our own. People, plenty of people, are there already telling us stuff about the world around us. They tell us that the sloppy dog licking our face is man’s best friend, and we are to love them. They tell us that sticking a fork into a light socket is a bad idea. We learn what things are good and what things are bad by the people who have gone before us and are there to make sure we get it right. “This is a cup, you drink from this. That is spaghetti, it goes in your mouth, not on the ceiling.” Not too much left for us to figure out.

Because of this, change comes to society with great difficulty, and currently, there are a lot of things changing in our society that make many of us uncomfortable. We are being made to feel less than because of standards that we try to uphold. I mean people wear pajamas to Walmart! But I’m not really talking about that. I’m not talking about hem lines or what we really mean by business casual either. There are things that have been established norms since creation. Because there are some who feel uncomfortable in their skin, who find the gap between where they are and where they want to be seemingly unreachable, we are being asked to extend them tolerance and acceptance in whatever they need to do to feel better.

So… now if I stand for traditional marriage, then I am intolerant. If I insist that “God made them male and female. Male and female he made them”, then I am being closed minded and ignorant. If I accept people not based on “the color of their skin but by the content of their character” then I stop elevating my own skin color and realize that race is a social construct and nothing in reality. Oh wait… that one’s okay. If I support the pro-life stance and denounce abortion as murder, then I am being insensitive and stealing away a woman’s right to choose.

For non-believers, and even some believers who haven’t thoroughly thought these things through… there is a reason why Christians just cannot give in to the current societal pressure for changes in these areas.

Sacredness.

It has to do with sacredness. A person’s gender is sacred. We are designed male and female, down to the genes that make up the DNA in every cell of our bodies. Our design is sacred. Our skin color is sacred. The space inside a woman’s womb is sacred. It is the very place designed to bring forth the Savior of the world. Marriage is sacred, also. A piece of paper does not make a marriage. A piece of paper makes it legal, but God made marriage. He defined it as a relationship between a man and a woman, entered into it, and made it sacred. We. Do. Not. Mess. With. The. Sacred.

So what about the person who feels uncomfortable in their skin? Isn’t the prevailing statement these days, “You do you”? What is the right answer for those who struggle with their identity? The answer was, is, and will always be Jesus. I think Jesus had to struggle with His identity some, too, don’t you? I mean He was God, after all, and He was limited in His earthly body during His stay on the planet. I think it stands to reason there were times when He gazed across a similar identity gap. But He never did forsake the sacred. He knew in due time, all would be made right again.

I do not doubt the real gaps that exist in the world today where identity is involved, and neither am I insensitive to them. But when we stop finding our identity in Christ, we are left to finding it in the world, and the world is a harsh, disappointing, unfaithful, misleading place. There are so many people who are bouncing from here to there looking for an identity that makes them feel comfortable when their identity was established before the foundation of the earth. It is the great lie of the age, and a gap that only Jesus can bridge.