Domestic Violence During COVID

This is a tough subject, but one that needs addressing! I was out walking our lane last week and a young woman was trespassing, although when I stopped to talk to her, I discovered that she was either mentally ill or being abused, or most likely some of both. In the process of trying to help her, I’ve been digging into research and discovered that domestic abuse and violence is becoming distressingly higher during the world’s COVID lock down. Hospitals that are not overflowing with COVID patients are actually significantly down in their censuses. Our psychiatric hospital’s census has been down, and I naively imagined it was because families were home together and better able to attend the needs of their mentally ill family members. I don’t know the “true” truth, but it appears that people are avoiding hospitals for fear of contracting COVID, but this does not mean that the mentally ill are being graciously and patiently cared for by loving family members. In fact, alcoholism, drug use, and abuse are sky rocketing, and in the areas where reporting of abuse has gone down, the fear is that this is only because it’s become harder to get the privacy to make calls for help without being detected.

If you or anyone you know or love is being abused, there is a Hotline for National Domestic Violence in America: 1-800-799-7233. I haven’t actually tested this number, but if you call and find it unhelpful, there probably is a number in your city or country where you can call for help. In America, you can always call “911” and they can direct you. For most people, the danger of coronavirus, though real, may not be as potentially lethal as a violent spouse. For instance, an article in the New York Times on April 17, 2020 reported that “according to various unofficial Covid-19 trackers that calculate the death rate by dividing total deaths by the number of known cases, about 6.4 percent of people infected with the virus have now died worldwide.” This same article went on to say that the death rate “in the United States, [is] around 4.3 percent, according to the latest figures on known cases and deaths.” According to other sources, at this point 80% of those dying are over 65 or have an underlying medical condition. So, if you are under 65 and otherwise in good health, your chance of sustaining a serious or life-threatening injury from a violent partner is greater than your risk of death from COVID, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

Last night Alan and I watched the 2019 adaptation of John Bunyan’s immortal tale, Pilgrim’s Progress (animated version). We both loved it, and I want to recommend it. But beyond thinking it was a well done retelling of one of the world’s greatest classics, one the most significant points of the movie is that if we call out to God for HELP, He will help us. This is not just fairy-tale romance, this is true! God will reveal himself to those who seek him sincerely: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God is alive and well, and He is able to help you. I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do if you’re in distress, but I can promise you that if you sincerely repent and surrender your heart to God, He will save you and show you the right path to take. He can do for each of us what no human being can do, and He will if we ask.

My (new) young friend at first could not believe that God loved her, as her father had never claimed her and her mother had died in January. She said she wanted to kill herself because God—if he did exist—did not love her and wouldn’t want her or help her. Thankfully, she did listen to God’s Word and did believe! “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If you will reach out and ask God for help, he will help you too! Please reach out!

(Please don’t think I’m taking this problem lightly in any way by using graphics from the animated version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but (of course) I can not use real photographs of real people for this terribly difficult subject. God knows what you need. He can help you!)

Disturb Us, Lord, As You Disturbed The Soldier

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; when having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build the new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. Stir us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes, and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope and love. All this we pray through Jesus Christ. Amen” (—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, based on an older prayer that has been attributed to Sir Francis Drake, which I heard last Sunday during my son Stephen’s church service).

Isn’t this a beautiful prayer? By the way, how was your Easter Sunday? Despite my initial disappointment over not being able to attend a live church service and my sorrow over not having nineteen kids and grandchildren over for dinner after church, it was a truly wonderful day! As a result of worshiping virtually on-line, Alan and I ended up “attending” three church services: the first in Detroit where our son-in-law had participated in the production of a marvelous 30-minute movie; the second in Hilton, New York, where one of our sons is the pianist (and where I heard the wonderfully disturbing prayer above!), and the last service here in GR—our home church. We could never have done that in person in real time!!

Our pastor mentioned not long ago that one of his worst fears when he accepted the call to minister at our church was that someday he might be preaching to an empty church. I don’t think he ever dreamed that he’d literally be preaching in a sanctuary with 2,000 empty seats, but he was on Easter Sunday. His comment was that even if our “worst fears” actually occur, they probably won’t be as terrible as we imagine beforehand, because God provides a grace in ways we can’t imagine.

I don’t think one of my worst fears was not being surrounded by family and friends on some holiday, but I will say that Alan and I had a truly happy and very spiritually fulfilling Easter. Not only did we get to attend three services online, we had a family Zoom call with many of our children, and over the course of the day were in contact with all our kids and grand kids.

We walked our lane in the sunshine, listened to a beautiful concert at the Duomo sung by Andrea Bocelli (recommended by our CA family), and watched a fantastic production of the Life of Jesus (filmed live in front of an audience) in the evening. Christians, churches, and Christian organizations around the world were offering all sorts of free opportunities.

What a blessed day it was! The COVID Grinch had no chance to steal Easter, and in some ways, our Easter celebration was even sweeter and more focused on God that it is usually. There was no temptation for me to be a “too busy Martha” caught up with serving others. Very quiet but deeply satisfying to my spirit.

One of the highlights of the day for me personally was watching the service at Northridge, which included a 30-minute film imagining how one of the soldiers who participated in the crucifixion of Jesus might have felt, and how he transitioned from disturbed to finding peace, despite (probably) his worst fear coming true. If you have time to watch this some evening, please do! It’s still available here:

https://www.thesoldierfilm.com/ (click on this link, not the photo below)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Passover Prayer

Have you ever thought of praying for the Lord to “pass over” your family as the tidal wave of COVID sweeps our world? I know some people don’t believe COVID is a significant threat, since many people are asymptomatic and 80% of those who get infected are able to recover without hospitalization. Others believe the whole pandemic is really some sort of conspiracy to take over the world and destroy human rights and freedoms, citing the officers in Colorado who handcuffed a 33-year-old man who was playing T-ball with his six-year-old daughter.

I don’t look at COVID as trumped up hype or conspiracy. I look at it as something akin to the plague nearly 3,500 years ago when God sent his Death Angel to kill the firstborn in every family throughout Egypt except those families which had smeared the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes, as God had directed them to do: “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

Last night began the week long Passover festival to commemorate God’s deliverance, which faithful Jews still celebrate today. I know God has not told us to pray for God to “pass over” us today concerning the COVID-19 plague, but I also see no reason why we can’t ask if he will! Maybe he will be gracious and deliver us, as he did the Israelites so long ago.

On the other hand, God absolutely tells us to apply the blood of the Lamb to the doorposts of our hearts so that we will be delivered from spiritual death and receive eternal life. If you read through both the Old and New Testaments, you will see that God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, although at the last minute, God provided a ram instead: “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).

About four hundred years later, God told the Israelites to sacrifice lambs so that the Death Angel would pass over them. This “Passover” was a literal reality which saved them from literal, physical death, but it also occurred to teach a greater spiritual truth to the entire world—the necessity of a blood sacrifice to save us from spiritual death. It wasn’t until Jesus died on the Passover about 1,500 years later (2020 years ago) that God revealed to the world that he was willing to sacrifice his “uniquely begotten son”—God in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ—as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world. As John the Baptist exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Do you think the stories about Jesus are trumped up hype and his resurrection just some sort of conspiracy theory, or have you beheld the Lamb of God? I am praying for people to recognize the true plague that sin is and acknowledge its power to kill us. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Unlike COVID, sin will cause the death of 100% of us. Have you asked Jesus to take away your sins and deliver you from spiritual death?

Painting by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlightministries.com

Will you behold the Lamb of God and pray with me? “Dear God and Father, I understand that you are the Almighty God who has created heaven and earth, and all that is within, including me. I acknowledge my sin and ask you to forgive me based on the sacrificial death of Christ, who was and is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God. Christ died for the sins of the world, and for all who will believe in him, he freely offers spiritual rebirth. I accept this gift, knowing that I therefore become your child—a child of God—and possess eternal life through Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord. Thank you for saving me from spiritual death. I also ask you to save my family! I am asking today—on this Passover—almost 3,500 years since the first Passover—that you might pass over my home and family and deliver us from death via COVID-19. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3).

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).

Covid-19 Pandemic: Taking the Problem Seriously

Is the Covid-19 crisis real or a scam? What if China’s information has been inaccurate? What if it turns out that Covid-19 kills fewer people than the flu this year and we end up ruining our economy trying to self-isolate? What if the virus is part of biological warfare? What if this has all been planned by the Illuminati in order for them to take over the world? What if? What if? What if?

Stats on Coronavirus Spread as of 1:13 yesterday afternoon

Today I just want to put in a plea for people to take this problem seriously regardless of the “What ifs.” The aged mother of one of my friends—after using the same spoon as 300 other senior citizens had used to add mustard to her hotdog at a big picnic in her Arizona community last week—assured my friend that she wasn’t attending any big events and was practicing social distancing. Apparently, this dear lady assumed that a “large” gathering was a major symphony or concert—not just a group of her cronies!

Stats on Coronavirus Spread as of 10:13 am this morning

When I wrote last week on how to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, I got some strong criticism from a few (senior citizen) readers who thought the whole thing was being blown out of proportion and that Covid-19 isn’t as lethal as the flu. However, as we follow the steep curve in the number of confirmed cases, it is becoming more clear that this is not just a passing fancy. It is estimated that Covid-19 is 3-4 times more contagious as flu, with a higher percentage of deaths overall, and a profoundly higher death rate among the aged and already infirm.

For whatever reasons, this is a pandemic unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 70 years. I believe it will be every bit as defining for the Gen Z’ers as 9//11 was to the Millennials or Kennedy’s assassination was to the Baby Boomers. In California, where my eldest son lives, everything is shut down and no one is supposed to go out except for food or medications. In Belgium, where my second son lives, schools and restaurants are all closed down and the unofficial restrictions are the same as California’s, although people are still allowed to go to work. Similar restrictions are in place for my kids who live in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and now even in Grand Rapids. Police are starting to question people who are out and about in Italy, where some of the hospitals are at 200% capacity.

Why shut down? Why go into isolation? That’s a valid question. If 90% of the young and healthy people will be asymptomatic or have symptoms no more challenging than a bad flu, then why shut down our entire country and risk the collapse of our economy? Why not let the young and healthy continue to work (with care)? Why not just restrict the activities of the old and infirm to protect them? If I were the president, maybe that’s what I would choose, thinking that protecting the livelihood of the young and financially unstable is a higher priority than protecting the elderly at any rate. BUT, I am not the president, and therefore it’s my job to respect our leadership and pray for them to make wise decisions.

What’s the theory behind social distancing? The hope is to slow down the spread of Covid-19, because we don’t have vaccines yet, and our hospitals aren’t equipped with enough oxygen and respiratory equipment to handle too many cases at once. Yes, most of us are likely to be exposed at some point, but if we can contain the virus (not too likely in the “land of the free”) or even slow down the spread of this very contagious illness, then potentially we will be able to save thousands or possibly millions of lives. It’s true that Covid-19 manifests with only mild symptoms in children and healthy adults, but it can be a killer for older adults, particularly if they have underlying medical conditions— respiratory problems, diabetes, etc.

So, my first plea is for you to take this problem seriously, especially if you are a senior citizen or have compromised health. My husband and sons are unilaterally working remotely (except for the ones in healthcare); all my grandchildren are home due to schools being closed. If you’re not concerned for yourself, please be concerned for the sake of those around you! This is a worldwide problem that will require worldwide participation to solve.

Want to be part of the solution? Beyond social distancing, may I suggest praying? You may have memorized this verse so long ago that it almost seems passe, but it’s just as true today as it was 3,000 years ago when God appeared to Solomon: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Prayer Needs for our World:
* For youngsters to feel secure and have their needs met during this unsettling time
* For the vast majority of young adults and those with no jobs or low-paying jobs who don’t have the financial resources to withstand losing their jobs for weeks or months
* For those who are experiencing dire illness, those who are caring for the ill, and those who are grieving the loss of loved ones
* For those who are in positions of authority—from national leaders to leaders in each home—for the ability to make wise decisions that will protect the lives and welfare of all people around the world
* For people everywhere to repent and turn to God, asking Him for salvation and deliverance

Blessings for St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I prepared this post before Covid-19 took the world by storm and I was thinking I’d be in Texas, so it may seem a little too lighthearted for the mood of our world, but then it occurred to me that we all we could all use a little cheer. Also, I’ve been sick with a wretched cold/flu (thankfully, probably not Covid-19), so I don’t have quite the umph to prepare a serious blog, although my hope is to begin sharing soon some ideas for what to do while we’re all confined. However, today I am praying over each of you who reads this some of these sweet blessings!

lll

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

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.

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).

Harriet and Slavery . . . Past and Present

It’s terrifying to face the evils of society. Incredibly painful. Gut-wrenching. We’d rather not even think about it.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman

However, the battle between good and evil rages whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it or engage in the battle.

Leslie Odom Jr. as Abolitionist William Still

Blind eyes and hard hearts allowed the horrors of the death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated during World War 2. Deaf ears and love of comfort allowed the terrors of black slavery that existed before the Civil War in the U.S.

Harriet was helped by Quakers

We like to think that we’d all be abolitionists if we’d lived during the 1800’s . . . but would we?

Harriet is a powerful look into the lives and times of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and I wish everyone would take the time to watch it, even if it makes us wince and lose some sleep.

Harriet Tubman’s Last Words

Harriet recounts the true story of one of America’s bravest women: Harriet Tubman. She was born around 1822 as a slave; she died in 1913 at about age 91 and was an amazing example of courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and compassion.

As a small child, Harriet was beaten every time the white baby she was tending would cry. She recalled being beaten 5 times before breakfast one morning!

Photo of the notice run in the newspaper offering a $100 reward for the capture of “Minty” (Harriet) and her brothers after they escaped in 1849. (Wiki)

Much of her life as portrayed in the 2019 story is consistent with history (with the usual literary license and compacting of some historical events).

It is true that Harriet rescued 70 slaves in 13 expeditions and advised many more.

She usually left on Saturday evenings during winter to avoid detection, because notices about runaway slaves wouldn’t be printed until Monday, and plantation owners didn’t like going outside in the cold to search for themselves.

Harriet experienced visions directing her, which she attributed to God. She was deeply Christian. She really did pray for God to kill her evil master, who died suddenly a week later! (She later expressed ambivalence about her prayer after her cruel master died.)

Nicknamed “Moses” for her God-inspired ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet never lost a single soul: “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” (Wiki).

During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and made pies and rootbeer in the evenings to sell so she could support herself.

She also worked as a spy and map maker, and she was one of few women in American history to ever lead an armed assault during war—along the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were freed.

“Unidentified photographer, A large albumen photograph of Harriet Tubman by Tabby Studios in Auburn, NY. Enlarged from an older print.” Public Domain (Wiki)

As an elderly woman, Harriet needed surgery to relieve pain from the childhood head injury she had received, but instead of using anesthesia, she chose to bite down on a bullet, as she’d seen Civil War soldiers do while having their limbs amputated! She was one tough lady!

In honoring Harriet Tubman when her biography was written, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wrote this: “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

If you watch Harriet and lose sleep the way I have, I would like to encourage you to start praying about what you might be able to do to help stop slavery, because slavery is not just an artifact of history. Slavery is very much an alive and evil ongoing issue. In fact, human trafficking is the fastest growing “enterprise” in the world today. Thursday I want to share some information about present day slavery and one avenue for helping fight it.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (70): 7-Eleven Knocking

7-Eleven stores are not only popular in America, where there are thousands of these little convenience stores attached to gas stations, but there are now more 68,000 “7-Eleven” stores in seventeen different countries around the world! The stores first used the name 7-Eleven because they were open between 7:00 am -11:00 pm, but now most locations provide 24-hour access to food, gasoline, and various small necessities you might discover a need for in the middle of the night when other stores aren’t open.

In Matthew 7 and Luke 11 (7-Eleven), Jesus gives three invitations with promises attached: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As I pondered Jesus’s teaching, I couldn’t help but notice the 7-Eleven theme—on several counts! First, the teaching is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7-Eleven (which makes it easy to remember)! 🙂 Second, Jesus’s seemingly carte blanche statement is so much more extravagant than what any 7-Eleven store could possibly hope to provide! Third, these promises follow Jesus’s teaching on prayer and are couched between two parables in Luke’s gospel, the first of which is a story about a man needing something in the middle of the night:

Jesus Knocking at the Door of our Heart by Warner Sallman (1892-1968)

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:5-10).

Jesus Knocking at the Door. German Steel engraving

Back in the time of Christ, you couldn’t just head to your local 7-Eleven store in the middle of the night if you needed something, so you had to bother your closest neighbor instead. As Jesus explains, even your favorite friend is unlikely to be thrilled if you show up on his doorstep at midnight looking for food. However, if you persist (and he doesn’t heave a rock out his window to drive you off 🙂 )—since he really is your friend—he will get up and give you what you need. He won’t actually throw stones, he will give you bread. If you ask for a fish, he’ll check out his fridge and share his leftover fish’n’chips. He won’t fish around in the dark corners of his house looking for a spare snake or scorpion to pawn off on you instead. True? Yes! Tired and cranky and selfish as we are, most of us will come to the aid of those we love if they ask.

Jesus starts by recommending perseverance in making a clamor until we get the help we need, and he ends by assuring us that our heavenly Father is a kinder, more compassionate, more capable, and more generous giver than the best earthly father. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13).

The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. 1851-56.
Manchester Art Gallery.

There are two seemingly insignificant codicils at the end of Jesus’s statement that are actually immeasurably important. The first is a reminder that the best gifts are spiritual, and the second is that we must ask! If aren’t humble enough to ask, at some point, God may withhold His graces. Why? Because God loves us too much to continue showering us with his daily benefits while we blindly refuse to recognize his bounty for what it is—love gifts intended to draw us to Himself! God wants us to seek for him like we would search for hidden treasure, and if we will, He promises that He will reveal himself to us! But, if we refuse to acknowledge His existence or obey the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit, at some point He may withdraw such that we no longer recognize him for the great and wonderful God that He is! Why? Because he is better than buried treasure, and He doesn’t want us to continue callously through life without recognizing him as the source of all goodness. God wants us to knock, and knock, and knock until He answers. Why? Because He wants us to trust Him. To love Him. To wait on Him. To know that He is good, even when things are going wrong and we’re in great pain. Can you believe this? Are you willing to ask?

The second point that’s probably overlooked (at least, I’ve tended to over the years) is that God offers to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. What’s that? Who’s He? Why do we need the Holy Spirit? God gives us the Holy Spirit, but it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we are actually born again and receive eternal life. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive all spiritual blessings and graces! Blessed Holy Comforter and Guide! The One who seals us and insures our safe delivery to heaven! Don’t miss out! There’s something greater than even our need for daily bread, health, and security!

One last thought . . . but perhaps the most touching of all to me. In Revelation 3:20 we see Jesus reaching out to us too, knocking patiently at the door of our hearts: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:17-22). Will you ask? Will you seek? Will you knock? Will you open the door?

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Also: Luke 11:5-13, as quoted above.