Magnified Living

So, we attended virtual church, this morning.  Through the utility of Zoom…there was pastor Kerry preaching a powerful sermon, and Kathy playing, masterfully, a  beautiful hymn, and Carlyn singing a lovely and uplifting song.  I could see my fellow congregants, smiling and in little boxes, and I reflected on the significance of our shared time together.

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I am still enjoying my daily walks, as I heard our governor’s medical advisor say this afternoon that it was important for people to get outside…for their mental health.  I am addicted to snapping as many photos as I can of the beautiful spring blossoms on the campus trees.  The brilliance and vibrance of their, coat of many colors, is inspirational to me…in the darkness of our 2020 pandemic.

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I was shopping for some necessary groceries in Kroger, yesterday, with my mask on…and my glasses kept fogging up…and once they fell off of my face.  The shelves were emptier than I had seen them since the scourge began.  Suddenly…there was my old friend, Brad, with a big smile on his face and an encouraging word…and I felt better and took heart, and thought that we will make it through this terrible event.

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So often we do not realize what a word or smile or our phone call can mean to someone else.  Many of us feel alone in a crowd.  We are worried and afraid and unsure of what our future brings…we need each other, now, more than ever.

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This is Holy Week for Christians.  The time of the last supper, and Judas betrayal of Christ, and Jesus’s trial by Pontus Pilate…and his scourging…and his carrying of the cross that he would be crucified upon.

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‘Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought him into the high priest’s house.  But Peter followed at a distance.  Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him.’  But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’  And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them.’  But Peter said, “Man I am not!’  Then about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.’  But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!’  Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.  So Peter went out and wept bitterly.’    Luke 22: 54-62    NKJV

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Now, we have arrived at our great test and our passion…and our promise.  Will we let kindness be our daily creed?  Will we know, and remember, and stand with, our brothers and sisters that we have broken bread with at the table of humanity?  We are separated by a medical necessity…but we are more together and more united…than before…

 

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We will come out of this pandemic…but we will be changed…we will never be the same.

‘A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love’    Marianne Williamson

 

Servant Leaders

I have been watching Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, during his daily press conferences.  But, first of all, have your ever visited New York city?  It is full of people who are so tightly packed together that they seldom make eye contact with you…they do not have either the time or the energy.  Life is so fast paced, at least to this Southern Illinois native, that if you do not have your head in the game…you will be left behind.  We were staying in the Hotel Edison…when we decided to purchase a cup of coffee in the restaurant.  As I sat down at the bar, the person behind the bar came up to me in a hurried manner and asked me, I think, what I wanted.  As I looked up from the menu and paused, momentarily, he went to the person next to me and served them.  He then came back to me and said, ‘this is New York…you have to be quick!’  When we left the hotel and the bell man was assisting us with our luggage, I gave him what I thought was a healthy tip and smiled and thanked him, whereupon he stared at me and did not acknowledge either the tip or the thank you.  I felt somewhat like my buddy, Lee, who told MJ and I the story of visiting Chicago and not understanding a instruction that a traffic cop had uttered to him…and so the Chicago police officer yelled, ‘come on….Country!’ So, I love New York city…and yet I am wary of revealing my genteel up-bringing.  Yet, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated a compelling servant leadership.  His humanity is a constant member of his press briefings.  When he speaks of the city’s desperate need for ventilators and PPE for his health care workers and his pleas for any health care worker who is not engaged in fighting the pandemic to come to New York and help…

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Governor Cuomo is real.  As I listen to him I not only feel his pain, but I understand his fear that with his best efforts…he is not enough to battle the unseen and devastating enemy of our generation.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.  He is considered a national treasure and has been the recognized authority regarding infectious diseases for decades.  Threats have risen against this good man, who is 79 years old, and he has had to have his security detail increased.  Dr. Fauci has had to speak truth to power, which takes courage, and he has not been afraid to do so. When asked if he was concerned about the increasing threats to his wellbeing and life…he responded that, ‘I’ve chosen this life.  I mean, I know what it is.  There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing.  But you focus on the job you have to do.  And just put all that other stuff aside and try as best as possible not to pay attention to it.  And just forge ahead.  We have a really, really, very, very, difficult situation ahead of us.  All of that other stuff is secondary,’ he said.’    ABC News

‘We’re being seen as walking Petri dishes.’

‘Anna Jones had just finished her shift at St. Rose Hospital in Las Vegas, where she works as an emergency nurse, when she received an email from her landlord labeled ‘Quick Action Needed.’  Her landlord – a quiet woman who lived downstairs from Ms. Jones and her husband – informed her that she would need to vacate the premises within 24 hours.  The reason, she said, was COVID-19.’    DailyBeast

As Mr Rodgers told us, many years ago, ‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’

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The Earth Renews

As I enjoyed my daily stroll across campus, today, I considered that our Earth is engaged in it’s annual spring renewal, irrespective of our pandemic.  The trees are resplendent with their blossoms.  Squirrels are playing and frisky in their antics.  They have always been comfortable on the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…but they are additionally so..due to the lack of humans in the way of their happy antics.  Today was cool and pleasant…and it had that, certain feeling, of promise and hope and renewal of life!

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I enjoyed a few puffs of my wonderful Christmas gift from Aaron, my Christmas pipe, in my automobile.  Remember, we are on a stay at home order due to the coronavirus, and I was on my way to Walmart for needed groceries…which is permissible…from necessity.  I thought of friends and family and suffering and joy.  MJ and I have a dear friend who is receiving chemo therapy for cancer.  Another of our friends was in the hospital for a recent stroke.  An old friend of mine is a new grandmother…with a beautiful new grandchild.  The sky, above me, was a brilliant blue.  The new grass was forest green…with the pleasant odor of wild green onions.  Everything is a gift.  Every moment is a photograph…in time…of our precious lives.

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Jonathon arises at 5:00 A.M. and prepares for work, in the event that he is called in to his job at Key Control.

Aaron is working so hard to ensure that his warehouse and drivers are able to deliver the vital cleaning products and PPE that is so essential to the health and safety of hospitals.

I parked at our local Walmart this afternoon, at the end of the store that I customarily enter.  The doors were locked and a gate had been hastily constructed to block, even, going up to attempt entry.  Thus, I walked the length of the mega-store, and found more gates to facilitate the entrance and exit from the store.  There was a nice young woman who greeted me and asked me how I was doing and cautioned me that Walmart was practicing social distancing and that I should stay 6 feet apart from other patrons.  I am noticing more people who are wearing face masks or bandanas or scarfs…and people nod and, perhaps,  smile when you make eye contact with them.

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I ordered a Swiss Arm Knife, as a true Southern Illinoisan can never have to many pocket knifes.  It is sky blue in color and made of aluminum.  It has 2020 embossed on it’s back.  Sky blue is a happy and hopeful color…2020 is the year of our pandemic.

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The natural wonder of our Earth is progressing forward on it’s perfect clock.  It is wondering where the humans have gone.  It is up to us…how we return….

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Hope…Not Hubris

As I was driving to my walk, this afternoon, I noticed a group of young men who were jogging…and not social distancing.  It is funny how I noticed this, now oddity, when not long ago the close pact group of athletes would have appeared normal and uneventful.  They ran with the unabashed abandon of the invincible.

‘Dozens of choir members became ill after a rehearsal earlier this month in Mount Vernon.  According to Skagit County Public Health, 60 members of Skagit Valley Chorale met on March 10.  Within several days, 45 members became ill, 28 tested positive for COVID-19, and 17 members did not get tested but had consistent symptoms.  Two people in their 80’s died.’   Q13 Fox

‘The city of Lynchburg is furious.

‘We had a firestorm of our own citizens who said, ‘What’s going on?’ said Treny Tweedy, the mayor.’

‘Some Liberty officials accuse alarmed outsiders of playing politics.  Ms. Tweedy has called Mr. Falwell ‘reckless.’  And within the school, there are signs of panic.’

‘I am not allowed to talk to you because I’m an employee here,’ one student wrote in an email.  But, he pleaded, ‘we need help to go home.’   New York Times

Have you ever gone cave exploring?  I did when I was a much younger man.  Caves are fascinating…they represent another and an unseen world.  A cave is so completely pitch dark, you can not see your hand before your face…until you light your lamp.  There are stalagmites and stalactites and flowing streams and dangerous drop-offs.  It is not unusual for a cave explorer…a spelunker…to become lost in the strange and dark world of the underground…and never finding their way out, again, into the light of the noon day sun.

Light is hope…darkness is despair.  The light that we have, that is illuminating our winding and rocky path through the 2020 pandemic is the advice of our medical professionals.  Our faith is essential…it is vital to our survival.  ‘But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.’    I Corinthians 12: 9-10   NIV

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birks, President Trump’s key health advisors,  predict up to 200,000 Coronavirus deaths in the United States…’if we do things almost perfectly.’  This is the best case scenario.

We humans have been united by a terrible force.  No matter if some of us feel so young and vibrant and in tip top shape…that we believe that we are invincible.  No matter if some of us have such a powerful christian faith that we are certain that God will protect us…in recognition of our zeal and religious fervor…we are all in this together.  What I do…affects you.  What you do…affects me.

What we are experiencing is a bit like the movie, Dead Poet’s Society, staring the magnificent Robin Williams, who played, John Keating, an English professor.  One of the memorable quotes of his character was, ‘And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.  But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for.’

Our lives, as dues paying members of the human family…must be guarded and protected and revered…if we are to ever hope for economic well-being!

The Joy Of Seeing Friends, Or Zoom To Happiness!

This morning our church had a ‘Zoom’ worship service.  What a joy to see our friends doing well, in their homes.  The Spanish flu, pandemic, occurred from January 1918 – December 1920.  ‘It infected 500 million people-about a quarter of the world’s population at the time.’    Wikipedia.  Zoom and other social streaming programs are a   tremendous aid in humanities world-wide effort at social distancing, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Modern technology has proven to be a blessing.  This morning, I was in church!

Fear is an insidious and compelling emotion.  It tends to present itself in the darkest hours before the dawn.  It hides in the shadows of creatures that are half seen…or felt as a dull dread and a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs.  At times we see the sudden movement of our fear out of the corner of our eye…and when we turn to observe it more fully…it is gone.  

There is a family that has been fishing on the far side of a pond that several of the families in our sub-division own a partial of.  I hear the father call out, joyfully, each time that he or one of his children catches a fish.  I can hear him as he carefully trains his children in the art of fishing.  I hear the joy and exuberance in their voices.  I also hear the, fear in their dad’s voice…that he has worked to mask…in order that his precious kids…are not aware of his worries for them.

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Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

On campus, this morning, Jonathon and I saw a family… mom and dad and their little children, as they walked and laughed and enjoyed a beautiful Spring…Sunday in late March.  In days gone by, it was somewhat unusual to be greeted by those whom you pass…now it is customary to smile and wave and say hello.  We Baby-Boomers and all of the generations that have followed us…have not experienced a more communal event…than our fight with this 2020 pandemic.  We see each other…we know each other…we understand that we are united in our fear and our hope…we feel the darkness like a sackcloth…and we rejoice in the brilliance of the sun!  

 

 

Peace In The Storm

Several words that are used to describe our profound emotions as we travel the long and curving path of life, are difficult to describe.  We often say that we love someone or something or someplace, and yet if hard pressed to elaborate regarding about what it is that caused us to use that powerful word…we find it a bit like attempting to capture a beautiful cloud before it changes and morphs into something else.  I see love when I see our nurses and doctors risk their lives to care for us during our pandemic.  They work countless hours…often without the proper personal protective equipment…knowing that they have a great potential of contracting the disease.

Many times I have been comforted by a fellow traveler and made to feel less afraid of what I was facing and secure in the courage of their kind words…to only understand later that they were as a afraid as I was, and yet they cared about my wellbeing.

‘Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.’  I Corinthians 13: 4-5   NIV

I entered Schnucks supermarket and was greeted by a friendly attendant who offered to wipe my grocery cart with sanitizer and provide me sanitizer for my hands.  This lovely person is in as much danger from the virus, as I am.  Yet, she performed her work with a smile and the courage of protecting others!  She did not ask me if I was a democrat or a republican…she recognized me as a fellow human being who was in need of protection from an unseen enemy.

We visited New York city on two occasions.  One thing that I noticed was the regular sounds of sirens, both day and night.  New Yorkers are reporting that they are hearing sirens as frequently as 9/11.  The governor of New York, nor is any governor, exaggerating the need for more ventilators…now!  The coronavirus is not a political issue…it is not a red or blue issue.  Sadly…the scope of the pandemic…will affect families of all political and religious persuasions…and the loved ones of the ill people…will want them to have access to a ventilator!

Three and one half million people filed for unemployment insurance last week…and this is an increase of 1,500%, according to the most recent report.  These are numbers that eclipse all records.  The restaurant industry has been devastated.  There are millions of Americans who not only eligible for unemployment insurance and 80% of our fellow citizens live from pay day to pay day.  The Food Pantry’s in our area are shut-down…they are out of food!  When I see people who care and are, visibly, burdened by the suffering of others…I see love.

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Faith has always been a word that I find difficult to explain.  ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’    Hebrews 11:1   KJV

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Grandmother Askew, who passed away in 1969, read her Bible, daily.  She told me that times were coming upon the world that would ‘try men’s souls.’  She had lived through the Great Depression.  Grandma and her five children had been hungry…and had been forced to forage for persimmons to stave off starvation.

Media and movies and reality shows and Facebook and social media…have demanded our attention and captivated our minds.  Now, in real time…as we are recently fond of saying, we desperately need each other.

My faith is increased when when I witness the love and concern and selflessness of our first responders, and our custodians, and our grocery store workers.

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My faith is increased as we all stay inward…and  look outward… to all who need our love and assistance and our, virtual, hand of love and help in this dark storm of the soul.

I spoke with my good friend, Jeff, this morning.  Jeff and Margo live in London.  They are experiencing a similar stay at home order.  We commiserated regarding the rapidity and randomness of the virus.  We committed to meet, somewhere in the world, once the pandemic is over…friends are precious…

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Azure Sky

As I walked the Campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, today, I was struck with the profound beauty of the picturesque blue sky…an azure sky.  Although the state of Illinois is on a stay at home order, issued by our Governor, we are allowed to; walk, run, or hike, outside our homes.  Campus is an ideal place to facilitate social distancing…as I seldom see another human.  I was thrilled to hear my name called out and when I turned to see who was greeting me…there was my friend Sarah and her distinguished dog.

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We are living, in real time, in a pandemic.  People are dying.  The United States has just experienced it’s deadliest 24 hours.  This is someone’s mom…or dad…or sister…or brother…or grandmother…or grandfather.  Lives have, already, been inalterably altered…forever.

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When fiction and ‘Tall Tales’…bump their head against the hard tungsten steel of facts…the fanciful narratives evaporate like fog on a sunny morning.

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Our medical professionals are heroes!  Our grocery store cashiers and those who bag our food…along with custodians across the world…are heroes!

Our son, Aaron, is working long hours to ensure that his company’s, vital, cleaning and health and safety products, continue, to be delivered to hospitals and so many areas that desperately need the items.

It appears that our government is going to do the right thing in getting money into the hands of working people.  It is difficult to shelter in place…if you have no ‘place.’

I read of so many of my friends who are now, from necessity, homeschooling.  The comments are spot on and funny!  Due to my working nights and, thus, not being able to see our sons, accept on weekends, MJ homeschooled Aaron and Jonathon…for several years.  She is an extremely talented person.

Now is the time for us to reach out and help our neighbors who are financially hurting.  The majority of our fellow citizens would have difficulty in laying their hands on $400 in event of an emergency…we are in the emergency of our lives!

If any truth has emerged from our present distress, it is that we are all in this together.  The fragility of governments and economies, the political musings and hate speech of both political parties, the hollow promises of those who want to manipulate others for their own benefit…as the truth of an unseen virus…. jars us back into reality!

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‘Quick reminder that if the roles were reversed and young people were more likely to die, our parents and grandparents would do absolutely anything and everything to save us.’

The rate of increase of the coronavirus, in Italy, has decreased for 3 days in a row.

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World War II changed the world and created a new normal.  Our 2020 pandemic…will give us a new normal.  Hopefully it will be the normal of loving each other.  Hopefully it will be the realization that we are much more alike than we are different.  Hopefully…when we see the elderly…we will see our parents or our grandparents.  We will bring the homeless and the cold and the lonely and those who are despondent and have lost all hope…into our homes and our hearts…