Nature conducts business as usual

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Lately, whenever I sit at the keyboard to write, something about the Coronavirus seems to naturally appear on my laptop screen. I think it would be inaccurate to say the pandemic isn’t on everyone’s mind. Excuse me for adding more fuel to your ad nauseam state of mind, but I must write this.

Preoccupation with the Coronavirus has taken our minds from just about everything except paper towels and toilet paper. There doesn’t seem to be a place on the planet that’s not infected or at risk of being so. It’s almost as if we have forgotten that there are other things happening, many of them are even devastating. As a species, we are forced to multi-task.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Chris and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Yesterday there was an event in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a city of roughly 75,000, two hours drive from Little Rock. My oldest child and many of my relatives reside in Jonesboro.  A tornado struck Jonesboro, causing significant damage. Fortunately, no one lost their life. The major shopping location for the city, Turtle Creek Mall was severely damaged. Homes and other structures were damaged also. I was quick to seek information about my family using social media. The news outlets were prompt in airing reports, but they couldn’t provide information specific to my family and friends. In short order, I had all the information required to put my mind at ease. Don’t say that social media is a complete waste of time. I think many who have said that in the past will have a thee hundred- and sixty-degree change of attitude very soon, if they haven’t already.

As I looked at a video of the tornado raking its way through Jonesboro, I couldn’t help but think the world continues to turn (with all its joys and sorrows) despite the blanket of suffering and death brought on by Covid-19. There are still wars going on in places of which many of us can’t name. People are still dying from ailments that have long existed before we even heard of the Coronavirus.

Jonesboro is getting a big pinch of salt added to the international wound that is daily increasing in size. Some things will continue to conduct business as usual; nature is one of those things.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A Sunday drive on a Thursday afternoon

Corona, as in Coronavirus has been personified. It infiltrates numerous conversations these days and rightfully so. Chris and I decided to escape our self-imposed isolation for a few minutes yesterday. Our plan was to hop in the SUV, turn on the air conditioning and take a leisurely spin, no route in mind. It was 87 degrees yesterday afternoon, quite warm even for this time of year. We thought about taking the Shi-Tzu, Ari with us, but decided to leave her at home. She’s an at-home dog anyway, so she doesn’t need a Corona break.

As we exited the neighborhood, we didn’t notice anything different than normal. Traffic was about the same as it normally is. There were a few pedestrians on the streets. Several small businesses had none to a few cars parked in their parking lots. Restaurants were open for business, with services provided through their drive through windows. Our governor has made this business model available to restaurants; they had to close their dining rooms but could continue operating under this social-distancing model.

With National Public Radio playing, we drove unto the freeway, at this point with some sense of where we were going. We figured this would be a good time to checkout Pinnacle Mountain State Park. If you’re reading this and you’re not familiar with Pinnacle Mountain, it’s a volcano looking mountain just outside of Little Rock. There are acres of park land around it, offering space for picnicking, bird watching, just hanging out and enjoying nature. Yeah, this was the place to go to on such a fine, early spring day. Since we were in no hurry, we meandered through the western part of the city until we reached the park.

Obviously, there were more folks than us, who thought getting out to enjoy the nice weather was a good idea. For some reason, there were several state police vehicles parked on the side of the road near the entrance to the park.  Blue lights were also flashing. As we approached the entrance to the park, a quick survey showed that people were out and about as if it were a holiday weekend. No way were we going to pull off into that. What about social distancing? All around the park, bicyclists were hunkered down on their sleek, expensive-looking bikes, carefully navigating on the narrow shoulders of the roads. Drivers couldn’t drive too far in any direction without pulling over into the middle of the road to prevent hitting a cyclist.

This was like the Sunday drives of old, when I was a kid. We’d all hop into the reasonable facsimile of a car we owned and just go for a ride, no destination in mind. We might have stopped at a dairy stand somewhere, which as I recalled would have had a window specifically set aside for folks who looked like us. (Have you figure that out yet?) Yesterday, we chose not to stop anywhere. The cautionary measures we took to keep us from contracting the Coronavirus provided another type of segregation (social distancing). We got some fresh air, a look at some things that had changed, some things we hadn’t seen in a while. Then, back home where Ari greeted us at the door with the same toy she had before we left the house. It’s a strange new world for a Sunday drive, even on a Thursday afternoon.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A Prayer for a time like this

I have no doubt that God loves us all. His word tells us that He loved us so much that He gave His only son as a sacrifice; providing an opportunity for us all to reside in perfect fellowship with Him.

I need not pray for God to show His love and compassion for us during this difficult time.

I do, however, feel a strong need to pray that we all will demonstrate the God-like love and compassion that He has shown and continues to show us. I pray:

That we will all follow common sense.

That we place the needs and safety of others above our selfish desires to pursue risky courses of action.

That we develop a God-like attitude of love for all humankind, not pointing fingers of division at any group.

That when any nation is attacked by this virus, we’re all being attacked.

That hoarding and preparing to protect our bounty, where there’s no threat to life, with violence is not the way.  

That we take this time to connect with family, friends and neighbors in meaningful ways.

That we sincerely pray for our political leaders, although we might not be of the same party stripe.

That each of us takes account each day of this crisis to realize that if you’re still here, you’re blessed.

That we realize this crisis should be a lesson to us that we’re not in control.

That we realize the coronavirus has no respect of persons.

That a vaccine, indeed a cure is found quickly, and that no one capitalizes economically on its development.

That the lessons learned from this experience will not be forgotten.

Amen

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

How sound is your mind?

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There are some Christian brothers and sisters who are stronger in faith than I am. That stands to reason, since all of us are different, and we respond to things differently, including God. I had a conversation with someone recently, who said they know of some churches that are still congregating despite the coronavirus threat. These folk lean heavenly on the scripture that tells us we weren’t given a spirit of fear. Here’s that scripture in its entirety: II Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Please let me draw your attention to Matthew 4: 7 – Jesus said to him, “It is written again, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” This response was given by Jesus to the devil when he asked Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple. He told Jesus to do this, if He was in fact the Son of God. This was a test (dishonest one, of course) the devil was trying to entice Jesus to perform. We all know Jesus had no doubt about the power of His Father, but why should He do something that was undoubtedly not a good show of faith.

Let’s look closely at II Timothy 1:7. It is my opinion, you may have a different one, that many people put the end of this scripture at the wrong punctuation mark. Jesus’ quote didn’t end at FEAR. He went on to say, “…but power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In the face of the Coronavirus, we all have:  1) the power to do what we can to stop the spread of the deadly attack on humanity; 2) the love of God to show our concern and compassion for our community of believers, by not putting them in harm’s way; and 3) exercising the mechanics of a sound mind, by demonstrating one part of the Triade being God created in us, in His image. God gave us a body, a spirit and a mind. Doesn’t He expect us to use them practically?

If we choose to walk into a tunnel, when a speeding freight train is barreling toward us, can we really expect to pass a test like that considering the entirety of II Timothy 4:7? Are we not putting God to the test, an unnecessary one at that?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

What Now?

I do something that you may or may not do. I watch YouTube Videos of Ted Talks. The TED stands for Technology Environment and Design. These short videos provide interesting and informative ideas from various thinkers about topics I usually find of great interest. Recently, I was watching a talk recorded August 30, 2018, given by Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuhah. He is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Sokoto, Nigeria. I must admit, I didn’t listen very much to the content of his speech, because I couldn’t get pass the topic: What Now? The topic drew me to what’s happening now.

History shows us that viral and bacterial infections have nearly brought civilization to a halt before.  For example, the Bubonic Plague was the cause of the Black Death that swept through Asia, Europe and Africa in the 14th century. It killed an estimate 50 million people (Wikipedia). When the Europeans invaded the Americas, the population of indigenous people was nearly emptied within just a few generations. Some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas. No medieval force, no matter how bloodthirsty, could have achieved such enormous levels of genocide. Instead, Europeans were aided by a deadly secret weapon they weren’t aware they were carrying, Smallpox (Guns Germs and Steel).

During contemporary times, we’ve seen scares prompted by Ebola, Zika, HIV, Measles and many nasty microscopic critters that seemed to have pulled together campaigns to take us all out. Do you remember the Swine Flu pandemic of 2009? It lasted from January 2009 to August 2010. The CDC estimates that as many as 575,000 people world-wide died from the Swine Flu.

I penned these words not to scare us, or to paint some fatalistic picture portraying the eventual eradication of the human race by microscopic life forms from inner space, but to remind us of the reality that the occupiers of the top of the food chain stand confidently on a somewhat shaky pedestal.

Too often what we can’t see can hurt us the most. Maybe the world should (collectively) be developing an inner space force? It might help us deal with the never-ending wave of microscopic enemies, and to address the question What Now? more effectively.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Is blissful ignorance better?

There was a time when it took, what seems like forever today, for news to travel from one point on earth to the other. For example, the French invasion of Russia on 24 June 1812 was confirmed by several sources and published in The London Times on 13 July 1812. The Battle of Waterloo fought in Belgium between Napoleon Bonaparte’s army and the allied armies under Wellington and Blücher was fought on 18 June 1815. News of the victory was published in the London Gazette on 22 June 1815. ( https://historyhouse.co.uk/articles/speed_of_news.html ) I remember when I was a boy in rural Cross County, Arkansas back in the 1950s, we didn’t get news of events that happened with our relatives in Chicago until days, sometimes weeks after it happened. Relatives would pass information along by telephone, if someone owned one, or word of mouth, which was the most used method to transport information. For some reason, the immediate dramatic quality of a messages’ content had evaporated to a certain degree when we finally received it.

I’ve been watching, reading and listening to the 24/7 onslaught of information and confusion being effortlessly served up about the Coronavirus. It seems every news outlet, legitimate and otherwise is champing at the bit to be exclusive in efforts to let us know how many have been affected, how many are hospitalized, quarantined, and God forbid died. As our fears grow like fungus on the north side of a tree, we develop a greater thirst for being even more scared to death. The reliability of facts tends to lose their character, as we rush out to purchase every mask, bottle of hand sanitizer and whatever else we can get our hands on to defend ourselves from the untimely Armageddon.

According to the World Health Organization, worldwide approximately 5 million people die yearly from smoking. In the United States the number of smoking-related deaths from 2000 to 2004 was 443,000, of which 49,000 were estimated to be from second-hand smoke. According to Safer America Consumer Information, every year, roughly 1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide – an average of 3,287 deaths per day. I could go on; however, the point I’m probably failing to make is that there are all kinds of boggy men out there vying to slay us daily. The difference between them and Covid-19 is that they have less marketability in the news cycle. I apologize for what might seem like insensitivity, but I hope you get the point. Can you imagine high fearful we all might be if there was continual bombardment in the 24/7 news cycle of every threat to life and limb of folks on earth from all sources of harm and death? The fact that most of these threats to life on earth are caused by our own hands should, in no way, be minimized.

Which is better to be told that an unusual meteor shower is headed our way, and it suddenly takes a right turn for space beyond our solar system, or to be walking peacefully in your neighborhood and have a piece land in front of you, and you were never told it was coming? In the former scenario, you would have skipped you exercise. In the latter, you got your exercise and you were never armed. I guess it all depends on whether you’ve raided your local Walmart to stock up on toilet paper, or you’ve just returned home from walking the dog.

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I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.


Don’t you like being honest about how you feel?

There’s a greeting that’s often given me: Are you okay? I usually respond to the soul who shows concern for my wellbeing in this manner by simply saying, “Fine and you.” Occasionally, if the person who greets me is close in our relationship, I might say, “I’m better today than yesterday, but I pray not as good as tomorrow.” If I’m really connected to the person, I have no hesitation about telling them how I really feel.


The preceding is the normal kind of civil greeting that most of us give to one another, or some version thereof. I often experience something that only another with a chronic health condition can understand. I remember shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, folks would ask me how I was doing. With chemotherapy and all manner of other drugs being a part of my routine, there were times when I felt horrible. There was this one person who would admonish me for being honest about how I really felt. The conversation would go something like: “Hello Brother Long. How are you doing today?” I would offer an honest, but not complete assessment of how I felt by saying, “Thanks for asking. I’m a little tired today. I just came from cancer clinic.” He would admonish me, or at least it felt that way, by saying something like, “Aw, come on you’re doing fine. You’re up and moving around, aren’t you? Thank God!” At that moment, I felt like I really needed a good dose of compassion, but it didn’t come. Each time I suffered this experience, I intellectually understood what he was trying to do; however, intellectualizing my feelings isn’t what I needed.

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People who suffer from chronic illness are often faced with people, who try their best to show good intentions, but fail to consider what someone might be feeling. There’s an old saying about walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins. You know the one that says you can’t know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes/moccasins. I used to use that expression frequently, but after living with cancer for twenty years, I try to no longer cause chronically ill folks to suffer from my insensitive attempts to get them to feel better than the state in which they exist. These days, I even find myself pausing to listen to what they have to say. Oftentimes, listening is all I do. You see I can’t walk in their moccasins. At my very best, I can only walk beside them, listen and pray, if they so desire. It’s been my experience that giving the opportunity to allow a person to honestly tell you how they feel is good medicine. It doesn’t take the physical pain away, but it often works wonders for the psyche.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Spring: a sure sign of life

This winter has been damp, gray and dreary in Arkansas. Although we haven’t seen much cold weather, the sogginess of it has caused me to stay inside most of the time. Then came the last few days, the latter part of February and first part of March. Now I’m seeing a preview of what’s to come. What I’ve been seeing, the white blossoms on the Dogwood trees, and daffodils poking their heads out, as if they’re getting a whiff of the early spring air, give me an impressive gander at life itself.

I could be wrong, but I think most people think of heart and lungs encased within sinews, bones and an outer epidural layer as life. We look at the miracle of the human body and all the warm- and cold-blooded animals around us as the most obvious examples of life on earth. Although I can understand that limited perspective of life, there is a much more expansive way to perceive life on our little blue ball. Spring is the perfect time of the year for me to get a universal feel for what life really is.

As far back as I can recall, even when we’ve had the most frigid of winters, spring comes early in Arkansas and the rest of the Southern United States. As I mentioned earlier, I’m seeing softwood trees blooming and daffodils itching to share their beauty with winter weary denizens already. According to the calendar, the spring equinox won’t occur until Mach 20. By the mid-April, I’ll see my Apple tree that I planted in my backyard last year showing signs of life; life that simply took a nap for the last few months. My lawn, my Crape Myrtles, rose bushes and more will reach for the sky, as if they’re stretching their muscles to be the best they can be for the rest of the growing season. Then, with the precision of a digital clock, they will fall into deep slumber again to protect themselves from the harsher climes of October through February.

Life, though created by God, is still a mystery. It’s a system that’s connected in ways we cannot see. Each component is depended on the other to support the whole. It’s confusing to me how all humankind can’t see and be amazed at the awesomeness of life and all it has to offer. God Himself, according to ancient scripture, looked at creation at the point of completion and thought it to be very good. I can only imagine the glow of universal life that shone on everything at that time. With my small imagination, I tend to liken spring to that time; a time when I can see all things plant and animal trying their best to show their shiny best.

Give me spring…a veritable portrait of life in its many portrayals.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.