Ode to COVID Confinement

I cannot walk wherever I want, but I can walk.
I cannot talk with whomever I wish, but I can talk.
I cannot see whoever I want, but I can see.
I cannot do whatever I want, but I can be.
I cannot eat whatever I want, but I can eat.
I am confined in many ways, but life’s still sweet.

I cannot hug, but I can love.
I can’t do all I’m dreaming of.
I cannot touch, but I can keep.
I cannot guard, but I can sleep.
I cannot save, but I can pray.
Thank you, Father, for this day!

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

(No, we’re not on vacation with our two youngest sons in Ireland this morning; I’m sheltering in place at home. But, I am very grateful to be alive and more or less well after significantly recovering from the flu or a light case of COVID-19)!

C.S. Lewis Thinks About COVID-19

A friend sent this to me, and I think it’s timely. In point of fact, C.S. Lewis was writing about the atomic bomb back in 1948, not the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, so there are some important distinctions. COVID-19 is not a future threat; it is a present reality, and every precaution needs to be taken. We should not be out taking walks in crowded parks or enjoying carefree fellowship with friends and neighbors. However, the point is well taken—which is that the threat of death isn’t novel.* We should prepare for our own death and do all we can to prevent untimely death, but we should not live in a state of fear or panic. We need to keep our minds and hearts “stayed upon Jehovah” and at peace so that we can continue to live lives of love and good will!

This is what C.S. Lewis had to say seventy years ago:

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the COVID-19 Virus [replacing ‘the atomic bomb’ and so on throughout]. ‘How are we to live?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, an age of violence, an age of motor accidents.’

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the virus began: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics and antibiotics. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by a virus, let that virus, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things—praying, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, taking a walk, caring for our family, friends, and neighbors—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about things we cannot see. They may break down our bodies, but they need not dominate our minds or destroy our spirits.” (Written by C.S. Lewis “On Living in an Atomic Age” in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays).

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

*If you are not prepared to die and would like to be, please click on the link at the top of this page that says “Coming To Christ.” It explains what the Bible teaches about how to make peace with God through repentance from our sins, faith in Christ—who died in our place so that we can be reconciled to God—and receiving the free gift of eternal life. Please let me know how/if I can pray for you!!

The Importance of Stress Relief: Meditation and Looking Unto the Hills

I wrote a few years ago about attending a lecture at Harvard’s Annual Intensive Review of Internal Medicine on the importance of daily meditation as one of the medically verifiable “best practices” for Mind-Body health. In our world of frenetic activity, meditation has almost become a lost art, but I want to stress (??) the importance of this ancient practice and encourage all of us to pursue meditation, particularly during our time of world crisis.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” ( Psalm 121:1-2).

According to the gurus from Harvard, even twenty minutes per day makes a statistically significant difference in a person’s emotional/physical health. A healthy immune system is our first line of defense against COVID-19 (and myriad other infections), and long-term stress and fatigue clearly reduce the human body’s ability to fight off infections. SO, we not only need to practice “sheltering in place,” but we also need to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, and as much as possible reduce stress and learn how to relax.

The Harvard research group studied the health benefits of meditation on people from various religious persuasions, but because I am a Christian, I am going to explain meditation from a Christian perspective, which has been my personal approach for the past 55 years. Meditation, by definition, is contemplation on a subject. Unlike some Eastern religions, which teach that people are to clear their minds and “think about NOTHING,” Christian meditation has as its goal to focus our attention on God and find our rest and peace in Him.

Yesterday I got a note from a dear friend who returned from visiting India (her homeland) recently with double vision. Mayo Clinic was able to determine that her problem is caused by a palsy of her sixth cranial nerve with no “pill” to ameliorate the symptoms. She has to wait six months to see if her nerve will heal spontaneously, but if it does not, she will need surgery by a neuro-ophthamologist. Meanwhile, one of her friends recommended that she practice an ancient Indian Ayurveda exercise called “Trataka,” where the person sits quietly, intently focusing her gaze on the tip of a candle flame. After doing this exercise for a few days, my friend feels like this is actually helping!

This is a perfect example of spiritual mediation on God and His Word. As we focus intently on God, our blurry, double spiritual vision becomes clearer. God instructs us to meditate daily on the Bible: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want a promise to cling to in this troubled time? I’ve been clinging to this one since I first learned it!!

How does one meditate? I usually try to memorize a verse or passage on which to focus, and as part of that process, I pray and ask God to teach me what it means for me at this time in my life. As a girl, I was taught that meditation is like cogitating on a thought the way a cow ruminates on its cud. The cow chews its food, then swallows it, where it is fermented by microbial activity in a specialized stomach before being regurgitated as a “cud.” The cow continues to chew on the cud for a while before eventually swallowing it again (and so on) until it is finally digested.

This is what God wants us to do daily! Jesus taught us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The Bible is our daily spiritual bread, and God wants us to munch on it . . . chew on it . . . think and rethink on it . . . focus on it . . . feed on it, until it is absorbed into our very being to strengthen us! Meditating on the truths in the Bible feeds our spirits! (It also helps reduce stress and relax us as we’re able to trust God to help us with our burdens.) My girlfriend who’s been struggling with double vision has a lifetime mantra that she also passed on to me: “Feed your faith and your fears will starve.”

Feeling fearful and stressed under all the pressure? I am! Let’s lift up our eyes and focus our hearts and minds on the flame of God’s love. Let’s meditate on our heavenly Father, who is our creator, our sustainer, and our help!

Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Prescription for Health by Martin Luther

Perhaps you’ve already seen this wise, practical approach to dealing with a plague. It was written half a millennium ago by Martin Luther to his friend, Reverend Dr. John Hess, while Europe was still trying to recover from the Black Plague that swept Eurasia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, killing an estimated 75-200 million people. Luther’s letter is entitled “Whether one my flee from a Deadly Plague.” I think the advice is still as useful for COVID-19 as it was 500 years ago:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529 (Public Domain)

For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth . . . that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Exodus 9:14,16).

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).

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

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).