An Answer of Peace

What’s the solution to racial injustice? The root problems are pride, hatred, and fear, and I don’t see an end to these evils until people—one by one—have a true change of heart about what’s good and what’s evil. God gave us each the color of the skin we wear, and it’s all beautiful, unique, and made out of the same stuff for the same purposes . . . just like the hides of cows!

Skin color is no different from flower color, and I’m sure some people prefer pink over red, but personal preference has nothing to do with intrinsic value, and in people, our preferences should have nothing to do with how we respect or treat anybody! We’re all made by God and in His image. There is no difference in our basic nature or in our human rights and responsibilities. “For he [Jesus] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14).

Can we claim anything that makes us “better” than anyone else? Unique and diverse? Yes! “Better than?” NO! According to the Bible, none of us is morally perfect and without sin, nor do we seek God without his Spirit drawing us: “There is none righteous, no not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11). Likewise, every external gift we possess—be it beauty, strength, intelligence, natural talent, or charismatic personality . . . whatever we value about ourselves or admire in others is a gift from God! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

There is nothing innately “good” within or without us that is not a gift from God, which should be accepted with grateful appreciation and used for His glory, not as a point of pride. BTW, skin color is a gift too, and there’s no such thing as a bad gift from our gracious Father, who declared everything in his creation good and intends every circumstance to be for our good: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Black is every bit as valuable as white or brown or yellow or purple. If you don’t think so, take your prejudice to the feet of our heavenly Father and ask Him to help you see others from His eyes. Every person is precious in His sight!

And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me:
God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16).

Ten Shopping Tips for Once-a-Month Shopping

By the time Alan and I had finished our one-hour shopping spree yesterday, I was so hot from my winter coat and double mask that perspiration was dripping down my face into my mouth. “Great!” I despaired. “My mask has become a condenser to allow all the COVID viruses people are coughing my way to trickle straight from my forehead into my throat.” So,

Tip One: Dress lighter than usual. I had on a winter coat, because it’s snowing here, but I didn’t want to take it off lest it pick up COVID-19 viruses, so I kept it on. On one of these shopping marathons, people are stressed and concentrating like runners, so temperatures run higher. Masks also seem to make people a little hotter, too, so dress less.

Tip Two: Clean everything properly as soon as you return home. If you don’t know what that means, one of our neighbors (a doctor whose daughter used to take piano lessons from one of our sons) made an excellent video. Here’s a link for a 1.22 second version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1RSRApcfBg

Here’s the full 8-minute version

Tip Three: AFTER you’ve cleaned everything appropriately, keep your fresh fruits and veggies protected from drying out or wilting by storing them in plastic. I use clean plastic bags and close them with clothes pins. Super simple; super easy access. (Depending on the humidity in your climate, make sure the produce isn’t “sweating.” If moisture accumulates too much inside the plastic bags, wipe everything dry with clean paper towels and try again. Too much moisture will accelerate mold and degeneration. It’s a balance.)

Tip Four: Keep fruits and veggies super chilled but not freezing. If you can’t fit it all in your fridge, find a cold storage area, like an unheated porch or inside the trunk of your car inside your garage (if you live in Michigan, where it’s still cold). All breads freeze well, but if you don’t have freezer space, at least keep them cold if you can. However, for fresh produce, the temperature needs to be between ideally about 34°F.- 41°F. I put all meats, dairy, eggs, and delicate fruits and veggies in my refrigerator, but allow the overflow of vegetables and fruits to go into “cold storage” wherever I think the temperature will be the coldest without freezing. I tuck my bananas in with a blanket at night. Sweet dreams, little fruits! 🙂

Tip Five: This may seem obvious, but buy the firmest, freshest produce you can find. I had some berries that lasted almost three weeks but others that started to mold in under a week. Blackberries need to be totally BLACK when you buy them; any red means they’re already starting to age and are a bit overripe. Peppers with very firm skin (NO wrinkles or softness) can last almost a month. If you have produce that becomes over-ripe or starts to brown before you can use it, you can always process it for freezing. Almost all fresh produce that you freeze will become mushy when you defrost it, but most will still work fine in pasta sauces, soups, and (almost, but not so well) in stir-fry dishes. Apples can be turned into apple sauce and then will freeze well, etc. Berries freeze great and can retain their color and flavor for months, although they do become mushy when thawed.

Tip Six: List of Fresh Fruits and Veggies that can last a month if kept cold without freezing:

Fruits:
*Citrus in particular, anything with a thick skin. If you’ve never been a fan of grapefruits, this might be a good time to make friends with them, as they last well
*Melons, especially if you catch them before they’re super ripe. I had one watermelon that lasted over a month!
*Apples (keep them protected from the air with plastic)
*Bananas. Bananas?? Yes; if you don’t damage them by bruising pressures, they can last almost a month if you keep them cold enough. The skins will turn black, but the bananas will still be reasonably solid. If they get too mushy, you can always make banana bread (or a good smoothie).

Veggies:
*Root vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas, and beets. In the olden days (on the prairies when my mother was a little girl 100 years ago), pioneers kept their apples and root vegetables through the winter by burying them in sand (below the frost line) or stashed in containers in their “root” cellars. The sand kept them from drying out and regulated the humidity. Modern organic gardeners use some of the same principles today.
*Other great veggies for long-term storage: winter squash (hard-shelled types, like butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.) and cabbage (green and red). Cabbage is extremely versatile, low in calories, and packed with vitamins. Think about it!

Tip Seven: Many refrigerated dairy products will last a month (or much longer)
* Yogurts
*Cottage cheese
*Cheese
*Butter: (Butter also freezes fine if you have the space)
*Milk: believe it or not, fresh milk freezes just fine if you have freezer space. A couple of days before you’re ready to use it, let it start defrosting overnight in your kitchen sink (with a pan under it just in case there’s a crack in the container from freezing). Give it another day or so to completely defrost, shaking it often to break apart the crystals. Make sure it always stays icy cold. As soon as it’s mostly defrosted, store it in the refrigerator.
*Half’n’half: look for the “Ultra Pasturized” types. Some stay fresh for over a month!

Tip Eight: Eggs can last much longer than Americans think! In many places (Australia and Asia in particular), eggs aren’t even refrigerated. I was shocked to discover this! Look at the “Best By XXXX” labels on your food. Choose the furthest out date you can find. The rule is that any food should be good for up to a week after the due date (if refrigerated properly), so even if your milk or eggs (etc.) say “Best By XXX” they can be used for up to a week after that date.

Tip Nine: Meats are the only seriously dangerous food and should be handled with great care. (Obviously, there are other ways of getting food poisoning—such as salmonella from unwashed eggs or botulism from poorly canned foods, but I’m talking about fresh foods.) Small packages of sealed pepperoni can stay in the refrigerator for months (look at the date) and make for great pizzas with not much cost or space. Salami freezes well, and a little can go a long way. I may be overly zealous, but my rule is to use any meat that’s been served for dinner within one week, and I usually try to reheat it before serving it again. As soon as your meal is over, place any meat or meat-product dishes straight into the refrigerator. Never leave them lying out!!

Tip Ten: If you have any doubts about the freshness of food but are still needing it (as opposed to starving), then cook it for at least 3 minutes at an internal temperature of 170°F. or so. However, throw out meat or meat dishes that haven’t been properly refrigerated or are too old. The last thing you want is to end up in the hospital because you ate something that was full of bacteria! Many foods won’t “kill you” even if they’re bruised or moldy. Most old breads and cheeses are still edible even if there is mold on them. Just take off the moldy part. Obviously (which you doubtless already know), bruised fruits and veggies are still edible even if wilty or bruised. Remove any dark spots and use normally. This may not sound very appetizing, and hopefully you won’t have to resort to the dregs of food, but it might be worth knowing in a hard pinch!

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:3-5). Think of what a difference it would make if we all tried as hard to have pure hearts as we are trying to have clean hands these days!

COVID Shopping In Style!

Having not been shopping in more than a month, Alan and I weren’t sure what to expect for our “Senior” hour shopping trip from 7:00-8:00 am yesterday. We set the alarm and woke up before dawn, feeling as tense as if we were about to leave for a transcontinental flight! It was snowing lightly, so I bundled up in my winter coat and dawned my handy, dandy double face mask along with a pair of rubber gloves. We were at the store and ready to shop by 6:59 am, and Meijer was ready for us . . . along with a straggley stream of older folks.

We were intent on being in and out before 8:00 am when the general public is welcome to shop, so I divided our carefully organized shopping list in two. Alan’s list included the pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and non-food supplies, and I concentrated on food.

The store was fairly well stocked, although I did overhear one husband complaining to his wife in the baking aisle, “Welcome to the decimation of the cake mixes!” We were allowed only 2 boxes of kleenex and 2 packages of toilet paper.

There was no fels naptha soap to be found (best over-the-counter way to get rid of poison ivy we know) and no tomato soup or frozen grape juice. No rubber gloves or disinfectant wipes, but they did have some toilet bowl cleaner this time . . . and some leftover Easter candy. 🙂

We felt like treasure hunters, and YES! We were back in the car with our treasures loaded by 8:00 am, although it took me the rest of the morning to wash, separate, isolate, store, and wash down every surface of everything we touched from the shopping bags to the frozen foods, door handles, keys, and credit card. Now we have to wait 14 days to see if we’ll catch COVID (again??) or if we’re going to be okay.

Strange times, aren’t they? And this is in Grand Rapids, which so far has not yet been hit by the COVID tidal waves that are moving in from Chicago to our west and Detroit from the east. (Grand Rapids is in the middle between them, where there’s not much action yet.) Will we be hit by terrible cross-currents, or will COVID fly over our heads like a tornado that never really touches down? The prognosticators are saying we should know in a month.

Tomorrow I want to share a few ideas for shopping strategies, and a poem written by my brother, but today I wanted to share photos of fellow shoppers, just in case you’re wondering what’s in vogue for dress while shopping these days. 🙂

The horse is prepared against the day of battle:
but safety is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

Of course, I didn’t really see any of these amazing get-ups at Meijer yesterday. They all came from a forward of a friend on line infinitum, so I have no clue who took them or where they occurred, but I thought we all might benefit from some styling tips! 🙂

Holy Week: Meet Me Online for Prayer?

Perhaps our first and last resort as Christians is to pray, and what more crucial time than as we contemplate “Holy Week” amidst the crushing global COVID crisis? I’ve been involved in a lot of prayer groups over the years, but never so many that meet online! Nevertheless, virtual prayer groups work very well when distance—or in this case mandatory social distancing—makes meeting in person impossible.

Are you part of a prayer group? If so, have you been able to find an online venue (or telephone service) that provides for your needs? My son Jonathan has a ministry called Aqueduct Project which has a 24/7 prayer center that is open and available for anyone from anywhere to meet for prayer at any time. He uses Zoom, which I think anyone with internet access can download free. In fact, you can get your own free Zoom account, although I think this will limit you to 45 minute meetings. (BTW, Zoom has had some hacker problems lately, but they’ve redoubled their security, and I also wonder if hackers are targeting particular audiences, like schools, rather than every Zoom meeting. There have been no indiscretions during any of our prayer services so far.)

If you don’t have your own Zoom account, or don’t want your own Zoom account, or would like to meet for more than 45-minutes, then you are welcome to use the Aqueduct Prayer Center for your prayer meeting, which can be accessed here:

https://www.aqueductproject.org/

If you click on the “Pray” link at the top of this page, it will take you to the Prayer Center, where there are two rooms available. You can occupy either room, and if you don’t already have Zoom on your smart phone or computer, it will prompt you for how to download the app so you can use the prayer room.

If you scroll down on that page, it will tell you when there are already ongoing meetings. If you would like to have a weekly meeting, then you can contact Samantha Lind (info at the bottom of the page) to have her schedule a spot for you. Otherwise, you are welcome to pray spontaneously with your friends at any time wherever there’s a free space.

I am part of a weekly prayer meeting on Monday evenings at the Prayer Center, but I’m also going to be in “Room A” this coming Friday from 9:00-10:00 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) to be available for anybody who reads this and would like to pray together. We can think of it as a special “Good Friday” prayer service, but if people join in and have any enduring interest, it could become an ongoing prayer meeting. I am thinking we’ll be praying for specific requests as well as for the COVID crisis and global needs of our human family. If you’d like to join me, I would be honored to pray with you!

Have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day” (1 Kings 8:28).

Recipe for No-Sew, Washable, Reusable Face Masks

I’d lost my heart for publishing new recipes after the COVID-19 crisis stopped us all in our tracks. After all, who wants to shop when shopping is somewhat risky, and who wants to spend money not knowing how long they’ll have any income coming in? However, yesterday Michigan’s chief medical executive said that everyone should “strongly consider” wearing a face mask anytime we’re in public. Do you have a face mask? I didn’t think I did, and I’m not a good seamstress, so I was thrilled when my brother sent me a link to how to make an easy, no-sew face mask. NOW, I thought—this is a recipe worth sharing!

One No-Sew, Washable, Reusable Face Mask

Ingredient List:
1 washable cotton handkerchief (other fabrics can work; the tighter the weave, the better)
2 hair ties

Step One: Flip the scarf or square of material over and fold the top quarter over so that it comes to the middle (center) of the cloth.

Step Two: Bring the bottom quarter of the material up so that it meets the top quarter in the middle. You now have a double layer of material.

Step Three: Carefully flip over your scarf so that the folds are on the bottom and the surface facing up is one smooth piece.

Step Four: Repeat the folding process exactly as you did in Step One, folding down the top 1/4 of the material so that it reaches the center line.

Step Five: Fold up the bottom quarter so that it reaches the middle. You should now have four layers of material.

Step Six: TURN THE CLOTH OVER (so that when you’re done, the front has no openings and is one piece with pleats).

Step Seven: Put one of the hair ties over each end of the material, about 1/4 of the way, although you can adjust this as needed to make it larger or smaller, depending on the size of the child or adult you’re trying to fit.

Step Eight: Fold over the left side of the mask toward the middle and smooth it down as much as you can. (It won’t really stay flat unless you have silk or something very thin.)

Step Nine: Fold over the right side of the mask so that they meet approximately in the middle.

Step Ten: TURN THE MASK OVER, so that the front (which you will wear away from your face) has pleats but NO open spaces.

Adjust the mask to your face, using the hair ties to secure it around your ears on both sides. Try to place it as far up on your nose as you can without interfering with your vision, and make sure it’s snuggly under your chin. You may wonder if the mask will slip off. I think this is a possibility with very thin material. The heavy cotton material that I used does not seem to slip at all and stays in place nicely, although it doesn’t really fit tightly around my nose.

Because my husband has asthma, he has to use masks to keep out dust and fumes when he’s doing some types of yard work, and thankfully I found a couple left over from last summer. They aren’t the really good ones (N-95), but they’re better than nothing, and they have a metal strip to pinch around the top of your nose to help keep out dust. I’ve read that you can also use certain types of vacuum cleaner filters that are certified to keep out 99% of dust and are antibacterial. If you have some, you could carefully cut them apart to make extra inserts for your face mask. (I think as many as 4 or more.)

We don’t have such. BUT, if you have anything extra as a more protective shield, I would recommend that you use it!

If you have any type of dust/face mask, fit that on UNDER your washable, reusable mask. This will really make a tighter, more protective fit, particularly around your nose.

After fitting any inner mask (if you have one), adjust your reusable mask over it, and you’re good to go. Or at least, as “good” as possible. Obviously, the paper masks or filters are NOT washable. I’m hoping that as long as they don’t get directly exposed, they might be reusable for at least a few shopping trips. So far, we’ve not ventured to a grocery store since lock down, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before we run out of something pretty essential. BTW, some of my kids are going to the grocery store twice a week. If you can, please limit your shopping to once a week or less for your own sake! I’ve read that in several Asian countries, they’re only allowing one family member to shop at a time.

Here is the link where I learned how to make the no-sew mask. It has a video to help you visualize the process: http://blog.japanesecreations.com/no-sew-face-mask-with-handkerchief-and-hair-tie

P.S.—This is probably obvious, but one of my girlfriends mentioned that the mask “IS IN ADDITION TO” social distancing, careful hand washing, and other safety precautions. This is not “INSTEAD OF.” Also, she put in a plea for everybody to wear them (as we are supposed to do here in Michigan), pointing out that if everybody wears a mask, we’re all doubly protected AND nobody has to feel “funny” about wearing one. I’d rather look “stupid” and be safer, but I do understand the sentiment, particularly for younger people who are more sensitive to social norms. May we all keep safe and well, especially in our hearts and spirits!

Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17).

Let’s Talk About Food

First, by way of reassurance, the FDA says there should be no long-term shortages of food and toiletries, although there are short-term problems in some communities right now because of hoarding. So, if you’re hungry, keep trying. Call around. In Orlando, where one of my sisters lives, three of her closest grocery stores have closed down (at least temporarily), but there is food out there, so don’t give up the search!

Second, there’s been no proven connection between food and the spread of COVID-19. Most cases are linked to clusters of people who have met in a group, and it is thought to be spread most commonly by droplet transmission from coughing and sneezing. Coronavirus is said to be fairly fragile and destroyed by hand soap, disinfectant wipes, and cleaning solutions, although a report just in from studies on two cruise ships found live viruses after 17 days of rest. Typically, respiratory viruses reproduce along the respiratory tract, which is a different pathway from the digestive tract, so the theory is that you can eat food with respiratory viruses on it without becoming contaminated even though you can’t safely inhale the viruses.

Should we be using anti-bacterial soaps? COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria, so anti-bacterial soap is not necessary to break it down and wash it away. Viruses are protected by a lipid membrane that can be dissolved by any soap that will cut grease, so just make sure you wash well with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.

Is it more dangerous to eat take out or do your own shopping? So far, the infection seems to be spreading from person to person contact more than through eating contaminated food. The main risk factor is proximity to other people, so inasmuch as you have a higher chance of coming in contact with other people outside your own home, picking up food is a higher risk than having it delivered or cooking it yourself. That being said, I plan to shop for myself when we need food, although they say to make fewer trips for more supplies, so I’m keeping a running list and don’t plan to go out until I find a critical shortage of something vital.

Our local Meijer has now closed from 10 pm until 8:00 am at night for deep cleaning and restocking, but it has also started having special hours for essential service workers and senior citizens: Monday and Wednesdays essential service workers can shop from 7:00-8:00 am (before the general public), and Tuesday and Thursday senior citizens have a special 7:00-8:00 am shopping time. My oldest brother, who is now 80, said he felt a little flattered to be carded to prove he’s actually 65 or older in California, where they have a similar policy. SO, if you go early on Monday or Wednesday, be sure you can prove you’re an essential worker, and if you go early Tuesday or Thursday, be sure you can prove you’re at least 65! If you’re not sure there are any special hours where you live, call and ask!! Keep 6 feet away from any other shopper. At Meijer, I hear that they’ve taped lines on the floor to keep shoppers 6 feet apart.

Hand sanitizers (if you can get them, which I can’t!) aren’t necessary at home, but they are useful when you’re in public to use after touching a screen, using your credit card, handling shopping carts, and before re-entering your car or house. I’ve only been out once, but I wore rubber gloves and used a disinfectant spray to sanitize everything I had touched: keys, steering wheel, door handles, touch screens, credit card, driver’s license, etc.

What about preparing your food after it comes in through your door? For that matter, what about mail, or even people? The general wisdom is to treat everything as potentially contaminated. Disinfect your keys, steering wheel, and door handles. Let non perishables (like mail, packages, and canned goods) rest for several days before processing them. Wash your hands after carrying in groceries and supplies, sanitize packaging if you can or transfer fresh produce to clean containers after washing and drying them carefully. I’ve read this rule of thumb: “Clean, separate, cook, chill.”

What about the cooking process? Wash your hands before, during, and after cooking. So far, there’s no peer-reviewed article that gives time and temperature standards, but the suggestion at this time is 149°F (65°C) for 3 minutes (FOR YOUR INTERNAL FOOD TEMPERATURE, not your heating source). There is a “danger zone” for all foods generally: Bacteria thrives between 41°F-135°F, so no food should be kept between those temperatures for more than 4 hours before eating.

This isn’t about food, but I thought it was worth adding as a P.S. since Alan and I have both been quite sick, and I’m guessing some of you have been too. How long are you or your loved ones still considered contagious? According to the CDC, if you’ve had classic flu symptoms that include fever, coughing, sneezing, congestion, or shortness of breath but haven’t been tested for COVID-19, then stay home for at least 72 hours after your fever clears and for at least 7 days from the first sign of symptoms. This has been the case for both Alan and me, and there is not available testing in Michigan unless you’re so ill you probably need to be hospitalized, which has (very thankfully) not been true of us, although we’re into our second week, and our symptoms also included bad headaches, achiness, bronchitis, extremely low energy, and diarrhea (for me).

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 but haven’t been hospitalized, then the CDC recommends home isolation (i.e. staying in a designated sick room in your home with minimal contact with other people) until your fever and symptoms have cleared and two tests taken 24 hours apart both return negative results. I’m not sure where in America we have the luxury of such testing, but that’s the theory! By these standards, Alan and I are still both possibly contagious, either to share our flu or COVID-19. Before too long, there’s a rumor that they will be able to test retrospectively to see if a person has antibodies for COVID-19, which would indicate that they did have COVID but have recovered. That will be helpful for those who are trying to keep our civilization in tact while the old and infirm are still trying to shelter in place and the young people are trying to keep the economy from collapsing!

For a more detailed discussion of food concerns, this website was very helpful in my research: washttps://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html?fbclid=IwAR3rkoYBBkEjk6ngtD9789kdi56OrZd3PhWvUFZbm6VtNqHOt1ffBL2Moq4

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:21).

More Ideas for Boring Days

Here is a list of ideas that you may have already thought of, but I hope maybe one or two will be novel and helpful for you if you or your family have some extra time on your hands. Many of them would work just as well for adults as for children:

Write stories or poems, keep a journal about this “special” time at home

Coloring, drawing, painting

Origami; all sorts of YouTubes on how to paint, draw, etc.

Free printable coloring pages can be found by googling a subject such as “large format, free printable images of cats” (or whatever else)

YouTubes on animals and plants

Skype with friends and/or cousins

Free online course on typing for children

Organize your very own “homeschool!”

Make a star chart for your kids: make bed, brush teeth, pick up room, memory verse

Subjects each day? Devotions, prayer, and memory work

Memory work: Bible verses, poetry, songs

Games: treasure hunts, variety shows, share memories from years gone by; look at photo albums and tell stories about what you remember from past holidays or family vacations

Read books aloud or to one another (let kids draw while listening)

Check out these sources for reading materials: Revival.com

Hoopla library app

Cooking together; pass along recipes to one another

Nature hunts around yard. Google what you find

Color a picture and then cut it into about 20-30 pieces to make a puzzle

Bird stories (I have written a bunch on Summer Setting under “A Few of My Favorite Birds”)

Make cards or write e-cards to elderly friends and family

Picnic in unusual place around house

Build fort with blankets or sheets

Math practice: use playing cards, dominoes, cooking

 Let kids use exercise machine while watching videos

Air Force Exercises: look online and help kids exercise together as a family

Music class: what have you got? Learn instruments, make up and share songs

Tell stories: Have one person start and go around the room taking turns adding

“Art for Kids Hub”: lots of resources for artwork

Kids’ programs that can be found online:

Adam’s Answers (You Tubes made by a friend from Grand Rapids)

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Sesame Street

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Coronavirus: Are You Prepared?

Are you ready for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that’s sweeping the world? Instead of enjoying a trip to San Antonio this morning for a medical meeting (which got canceled), my husband—as the chief medical officer of a local hospital— is acutely involved in preparing to meet the crisis which has come to Michigan. Two days ago (March 10, 2020) there were no confirmed cases in Michigan, although there were 760 cases confirmed in U.S. However, by 6:33 am on March 11, there were 1,039 confirmed cases throughout America and 119,476 world wide with 4,291 deaths. As of today, March 12th, there are 1,323 confirmed cases throughout America and 127,863 worldwide with 4,718 deaths. If you do the math, it’s shocking how fast this is traveling.

We also now have confirmed cases in Michigan. The schools have shut down in Grand Rapids, as they are where my kids live in California, Chicago, and New York. Belgium (where one of my sons lives) was leading the pack for new cases in Europe yesterday. I am amazed to read of people not taking this seriously. Come on, guys! Where’s your Boy Scout spirit? Semper paratus. Better safe than sorry! Don’t panic, but don’t ignore taking wise precautions, either, please!

Coronavirus is everywhere in the news, so this post may be too late to be particularly helpful, but just in case you haven’t done a lot of research yet, here’s the best up-to-the-moment coverage I have gleaned:

What are the symptoms of a COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection? Most commonly, it presents like flu and can include fever, tiredness and a dry cough, although other symptoms, such as achiness, pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea are all possible. According to Dr. Martha Blum, MD PhD: “The most common presentation was one week prodrome of myaglias, malaise, cough, low grade fevers gradually leading to more severe trouble breathing in the second week of illness. It is an average of 8 days to development of dyspnea and average 9 days to onset of pneumonia/pneumonitis. It is not like Influenza, which has a classically sudden onset. Fever was not very prominent in several cases.”

How long does it take to determine if someone has COVID-19? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “symptoms may appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure, with the average patient seeing onset at around five days.”

What should you do if you suspect you may be developing a COVID-19 infection ? Call (don’t visit) your doctor or your local health department. They can ask appropriate questions to determine whether on not you need to be tested. Obviously, you should not GO to the doctor’s office or health department directly, lest you expose others, but these health care locations can tell you where you would need to go for testing.

What can we do to prepare? Make sure all your immunizations are up to date. It’s still not too late to get your flu shot or a pneumonia vaccine if you are in the right age and risk group. Check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for specific guidelines (and other pertinent information concerning COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/

Beyond being properly immunized, all the sites I’ve studied say the #1. best advice is easy: limit your exposure as best you can and wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds often and specifically after you’ve had contact with people in public places. Do NOT touch your face with your hands until after you’ve washed your hands carefully. If you have hand sanitizer as a second step (AFTER washing), that’s a plus, but most stores are out of hand sanitizer. You can also use rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant. I was able to find some this morning. Have a 14-30-day supply of food and medications on hand. I liked this list from USA Today (March 10, 2020 issue, and I quote):

Food. Fresh fruits and vegetables will likely spoil over 14 days, so canned foods that have a long storage life and need little or no cooking are recommended. Meat products, fish or beans, soups, broths and stews, fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, canned (or powdered) milk, are among good supply choices recommended by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Disaster Education Network.

Frozen foods are an option, too. Other recommended foods are peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, granola bars, bouillon cubes, and staples like sugar, salt, pepper. (Keep in mind you may need to include some special foods for babies and family members on special diets, as well as pet foods.)

Water and liquids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you have plenty of fluids on hand, such as bottled water and supply of fluids with electrolytes, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade. cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/drinking/creating-storing-emergency-water-supply.html(opens in a new tab)

Medicine. You will want to have a 14-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. You may also want over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Supplies. Many homes already have a 14-day supply of most daily items on hand. But make sure you have toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine supplies, diapers, laundry detergent and disinfectant.

Other items. Perhaps have some board games, cards, toys books, magazines and other fun items to keep the family occupied.

Okay, back to my editorializing: To keep abreast of what’s happening minute by minute around the world and in the U.S., you can access the Johns Hopkin Dashboard here:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

To track what’s happening in Michigan, here’s a link:

https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/

In case you think everybody’s overreacting, here’s a link that explains the importance of insulating ourselves and our communities as well as we possibly can. It can make a huge difference in the number of cases and the outcomes:

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Below is a potpourri of various recommendations for immunizations, graphs and charts, a brief history of coronavirus, and other pertinent information that I’ve copy-and-pasted from websites, mostly the CDC.

When you are 65 years old, please get the PCV-13 first. Then you should get the Pneumovax 6-12 months afterwards. But if you’ve already had your Pneumovax, then get your PCV-13 one year later. If you are younger than 65, you might need a pneumonia vaccine if you have special conditions. Read more at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/public/index.html for more information

Shingles: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/vaccination.html “Two shingles vaccines are licensed and recommended in the United States. Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been used since 2006, and recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been used since 2017, and is recommended as the preferred shingles vaccine.” My vaccine made both my sister and me quite ill briefly, and it does have transiet flu-like side effects for more than half the population, so choose a day when you don’t have much scheduled. We chose a Friday afternoon with a clear weekend.

Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this virus and the outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action.

For historical perspective from the CDC: “An outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, and has spread throughout China and to 31 other countries and territories, including the United States (1). As of February 23, 2020, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China (1). There have been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide; no deaths have been reported in the United States. Fourteen cases have been diagnosed in the United States, and an additional 39 cases have occurred among repatriated persons from high-risk settings, for a current total of 53 cases within the United States. This report summarizes the aggressive measures (2,3) that CDC, state and local health departments, multiple other federal agencies, and other partners are implementing to slow and try to contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. These measures require the identification of cases and contacts of persons with COVID-19 in the United States and the recommended assessment, monitoring, and care of travelers arriving from areas with substantial COVID-19 transmission. Although these measures might not prevent widespread transmission of the virus in the United States, they are being implemented to 1) slow the spread of illness; 2) provide time to better prepare state and local health departments, health care systems, businesses, educational organizations, and the general public in the event that widespread transmission occurs; and 3) better characterize COVID-19 to guide public health recommendations and the development and deployment of medical countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. U.S. public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely, and CDC is coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global partners. Interim guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. As more is learned about this novel virus and this outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action by CDC, state and local health departments, health care providers, and communities.

“Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly by respiratory transmission. How easily the virus is transmitted between persons is currently unclear. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath (4). Based on the incubation period of illness for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses, as well as observational data from reports of travel-related COVID-19, CDC estimates that symptoms of COVID-19 occur within 2–14 days after exposure. Preliminary data suggest that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus (5).

Information for travelers: CDC.gov/Travel

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

“There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

“There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.”

Why is it so much more dangerous for elderly people? According to Bruce Aylward (who leads the World Health Organization’s infectious disease response team), “These people are dying of an inflammatory process in their lungs. It’s not an infectious process, like a bacterial or viral infection. It’s inflammatory, like we see with SARS. We’re not sure of the mechanism. We do know the proportion of people who die who had cancer was half compared to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is a little bit lower than those two, and cancer lower again.

Italy is currently locked down. In China, the cases are diminishing. In America, the confirmed cases are growing rapidly!

After all is said and done, I would like to remind people to prepare, but not panic! Prepare, watch, and pray: “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord ” (Proverbs 21:31). Our world, our times, and our lives are ultimately in the hands of the One who has created us. As Solomon taught, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). I am totally convinced that this current plague is intended by God for our good, to bring us all to the foot of the cross, where we can find rest and peace for our souls—and eternal life through faith in Christ—despite the present crisis. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).

Please feel free to write a response, ask any questions, or request me to pray for you specifically.

Springing Forward is Just Plain Harder than Falling Back!

The old “Spring Forward, Fall Back” way of remembering which way to turn our clocks for Daylight Savings Time is even more intuitive for most of us if we think about just how much harder it is to spring out of bed an hour earlier in the spring than it is to fall back into bed for an extra hour of sleep in the fall!

Some cheerful souls try to encourage us with comments like, “Just look at it as getting to have breakfast an hour earlier!”

I’m more in the zone with those who lament, “Why can’t the time change come at 8:00 pm. on Friday night?”

Or, “Why do they consider less sleep and less light in the morning a good thing???”

There are a lot of things in life that aren’t easy, but we do them anyway, just to be good sports or good citizens, or to conform to societal norms.

So, this Saturday night before I go to bed, I’ll change all my clocks so they’re one hour later, which means I’ll have to get up one hour earlier on Sunday to make it to church on time.

Although only 62 of 230+ countries use Daylight Savings Time (DST), it’s a small matter, really, don’t you think? I’m thankful for my cozy bed here in America, so I’d best keep my chin up and support the laws of the land! I’ve read that DST was first initiated to conserve energy during World War I but has continued to help maximize daylight hours for children going to and from school safely, and that’s certainly an admirable goal! (More than half our 50 states have legislation on the table to consider either dropping Daylight Savings Time or making it permanent year round.)

In any family, church, organization, or country, there are all sorts of rules and regulations that aren’t immoral but are inconvenient. As one who benefits from the good aspects of governing authorities, I will attempt to appreciate the spirit of the law and not groan when I have to get up “early” this Sunday!

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:12-14).

Did You Know There’s an Underground Railroad TODAY?!

Yes, former CIA member, Tim Ballard, has founded Operation Underground Railroad to combat the fastest growing “enterprise” (criminal business) in the world: human trafficking. There are about 30 million people being trafficked worldwide in 2020, 8 million of whom are children, largely used for the sex industry or for harvesting organs. Tim’s voice message to the world? “There’s slavery, and it’s alive. It’s terrifying to talk about this. It takes guts to listen to this interview [link below] and guts to engage. You think you would have been an abolitionist. Now is your chance! There are more people enslaved today than ever before.”

Once I started listening to the interview on the Candace Owens Show, I couldn’t stop! I’m going to share a few of his most cogent points, but if you think slavery is wrong and should be eradicated, please take time to listen to the discussion. A few “must knows;”

*The U.S. is the greatest problem, because our nation is the world’s largest consumer of trafficking services. This is shocking and horrifying. No wonder we are accused by some as being “the Great Satan.” We need to repent as a nation and pray for an end to this grotesque immorality.

*There’s been a 5000% increase in child rape videos in the past few years [we’re talking 5-7 year-olds, not teens].

*Should we legalize prostitution? According to Ballard, no, but we should not be prosecuting prostitutes. Rather, we should be prosecuting pimps. If we legalize prostitution, children will be even more terribly abused. We must protect children. (Listen to his explanation; it makes sense.)

*Should there be a “wall” of protection between Mexico and the U.S. “YES!” Ballard cited the case of one young woman they rescued who was kidnapped and taken through the dessert of Mexico into the U.S. She estimated that she had been raped 60,000 times before being freed and said if there had been any opportunity at a border, she would have cried out for help. (Editorial note from me: Victims are frightened for their lives in most cases if they’re not too drugged.)

*What can we do? In Michigan, there is MAP (“Michigan Abolition Project”). If you want to learn more or help support those who are on the front lines, I can now recommend two international organizations:

Operation Underground Railroad is working in 25 states within America and in 22 countries around the world. Their website is:

http://ourrescue.org/

The Nazarene Fund, which also works alongside OUR, can be accessed here: https://thenazarenefund.org/

If you have time to listen to the interview between Candace Owens and Tim Ballard, it can be found here:

https://www.prageru.com/video/the-candace-owens-show-tim-ballard/?fbclid=IwAR3PYQ9ZumPpsvmRJycZxw6IdptvhZftZTLPquXxoImHWSzbspXqhvpbAnQ

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23).