Sunday, March 22, 2020

Step Away From the Panic Button


I said I would not continue writing about the current COVID-19 epidemic but it would seem to be impossible not to address this current crisis since pretty much everyone else is.  Covid and its subsequent repercussions are a hard truth in our current day-to-day lives. Yet, I have tried to be quiet, tried to look the other way, tried to just post that which is most cheerful.... but it is like trying to cheer someone who doesn't understand why they are sad and can't seem to move past the fact that they are just down.  Without understanding root and truth, one can never move beyond the moment or embrace the cure.

So, today, I'm going out on a limb.  Perhaps it is the "teacher" in me, wanting to share some knowledge and encourage others to think as well.  Maybe it is me, at the bottom of the barrel, tired of the heaping on and ready to say something.  I can promise one thing: my blog is NOT going the direction of always posting in this thread.  I don't like standing in this place because it is so polarizing and I tend to like to avoid confrontation and focus on more important issues like Eternity and reflecting Christ in every aspect of our lives including serving others in our home.  So please forgive this momentary pause from my norm.  I pray, if anything, it sparks thinking motors to move...

The Panic Button
As everyone panics about this latest virus, has anyone stopped to ask "why"?  Who hit the panic button to begin with?  Simply, from what I can tell: the media did it.  I spent the past week taking time each day to watch the President's addresses and updates to our nation, un-edited, no commentary, straight up CSPAN style.  Most days I walked away feeling encouraged and hopeful.  Then, I would turn on a news outlet (pick one, any one, both sides of the fence) and my confidence began to nose-dive as each commentator and group of "experts" began their dose of opinion and speculative reporting while also hurling attacks across to various sides of the colorful debates.

It was sickening.

So I turned it off.  I would still watch the daily briefings and keep an eye on my state's latest issuances concerning public restrictions, otherwise, I shut it all off.  And you know what?  I didn't feel so stressed or worried. I didn't feel panicked or as if the "end is near".  I could see sense and think clearly for myself.

Then....

Consequences of Pushing the Panic Button  
As I adjusted this past week to my husband working from home, grateful he had the type of job which allowed him to do so while many were furloughed in other industries, I also knew nothing should be taken for granted.  My daughter's hours were deeply cut at work and I grew concerned that both my son's jobs (one of them being brand new and starting on April 1st) would see drastic cuts as well since many positions were being deemed disposable under buckling economic strain.

Then Friday, as I prepared to pay our monthly bills, I heard my husband in his office area trying to muster positivity and courage.  "I understand.... yes, I can get that done.... so you are saying 2 weeks?... no, it's ok, God is in control...." and suddenly I paused.  At the completion of his phone conversation I learned that his company is preparing to lay off 70% of their contractors and, for the next two weeks while he completes a critical systems project, he has been deemed "critical staff", however, at the end of his deadline, he may very well find himself furloughed as his company's stocks join others in a free-fall.

A Dose of the Actual Reality 
Yes, as my husband stated, God IS in control, and that is my one comfort.  As well meaning grocery store clerks, who are among the few remaining busy in these times, unwittingly remark "At least you'll get unemployment compensation" I can't help but think they have never received it themselves... an amount only a fraction of your regular pay which just barely (if at all) keeps you from drowning.

Bail-outs don't solve long term problems.

Relief is only relief if it puts hard-working Americans back to work.

The numbers aren't adding up but everyone is too busy panicking to notice while good people are put into very difficult positions.

I'm not buying  
The sad thing is, most Americans suffer from short-term memory loss.  It is like listening to a salesman say, "Buy my gadget it will complete every task for you in record time" and so you buy and then it doesn't live up to snuff.... and a few months or years later another salesman offers, "My gadget is even better than the other guy's....." and you buy, duped by the snazzy sale pitch again.

I'm.not.buying.

I will bend and try to practice some of that "social distancing" and "self-quarantining" everyone is so critically promoting if ONLY because...

For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. 
By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died
Romans 14:15 

I do my best to smile, be polite and not flaunt the fact that I am NOT buying it. Because others are just doing what they think is best (never mind the mounting number of people out of work now and about to be displaced because someone pushed the panic button... never mind the facts contrary to the current 'need' to panic.)

Truth Matters  
We've gotten lazy.  We are happy to turn on the news or grab our headlines from favorite apps and outlets.  We don't pay attention to the wording and we ignore the "facts", which is easy, because they are too often left out altogether.  I feel as though the digging has been left to those deemed too extreme... when in fact, we are all called to be seekers of truth (both Biblically and lifewise)

So here is truth:

  • H1N1 had (and continues to have) more annual rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths than Corona Virus.
  • Covid-19 aka Wuhan Virus (because most viruses are named after their origin) aka SARS-CoV-2.  That is right, "SARS", "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome" from 2003 and also first detected in China, is Covid-19's ugly brother.
  • Corona Virus is the cause of 30% of the common cold every year and has been since the mid-twentieth century.
  • Many outlets, including science periodicals, are using CDC and WHO data for worldwide outbreaks against U.S. data of the outbreaks to give deceptive information.  For example, one science journal reported that the mortality rate of Covid is anywhere from 1-3 % compared to H1N1 at .02% when, in fact, the Covid # they reported came from world population to date of the Corona outbreak while the H1N1 stat is only for U.S. population for the span of 1 year.  If you even the playing field, the actual statistic for the U.S. alone is only about .01 for Covid19 and .02 for H1N1.  
  • That's right, H1N1 has twice the mortality rate and continues to hospitalize and infect more Americans to date than the Corona Virus.
  • H1N1's first year (2009) stats = 60.8-89.3 MILLION Americans contracted; 274,304-402,719 hospitalized; 12,469-18,306 deaths.  (Total affected worldwide was 1.4 BILLION)
  • Last year in the U.S. alone, according to the CDC, 34,200 people died from H1N1.  That is more than the current tally of Americans simply infected with Covid-19 (current total deaths are 400). There is just NO way, at our current trajectory, we could even come close to last year's H1N1 fatalities, let alone even hit the ballpark statistics for 2009's mortality rates.

Why the Panic Button Then?  
I think there are a few reasons.  Some, political, but I won't cover that at this time because it is mostly speculation.  What we do know to be fact: new and unknown = scary. And in these new and unknown situations, the media can either help or hinder.

There was a time when news outlets did their part to inform and help calm the public's fears. Case in point:

Why was the media of 2009 playing down a virus which was, in fact, very deadly and infecting considerably more individuals than Covid-19?  Why didn't the stock market plummet?  Why didn't the country get shut down? Why didn't they encourage "social distancing" and "self-quarantine" and why don't they still when variations of the flu, including the still-in-existance H1N1, continue to infect, hospitalize and take more lives than Covid?

I can speculate.  You can speculate.  We all can speculate.  But all speculation aside, if the media was doing their part, they might help ease fears rather than feed them.  You may think that is an off-handed statement, however, one quick search of major media headlines shows a sharp contrast to those you would have seen in 2009.  Just today:










(That middle one was Fox, I couldn't fit the title in)  I'm not trying to minimize the fact that this is serious and people DO need to be careful.  However, in comparing various charts, including those from the CDC and WHO, I believe part of the panic is also that Covid is hitting faster and harder than H1N1... but... it is tapering off and even going down in some areas already, where H1N1 did not.  As a matter of fact, H1N1 continued a dizzying climb which is still fought against to this day with the annual flu vaccine. Most charts shared in defense of Covid panic leave this small but important fact out.

Solution?  
I don't know.  Well, I do know: quit panicking.  Restart life at the end of these 14 days. Start a campaign to ignore media outlets until they decide they want to report FACTS, fairness and see to what is best for public peace instead of fueling discord and panic. I know that is a utopian thought which we are no where near seeing though.

So then what?  Well, I keep remembering Romans 14.  While I won't feed the panic or perpetuate it in any shape or form, I will quietly listen and observe what I can. I will respect those who choose to hide-out in homes, wear masks and gloves and slide change across the counter as if it stops cross-contamination (even though it doesn't).  When people, like me, speak out against the panic pushing, I will give them high-fives and stand by their side (no social distancing necessary).

In the meantime, I will readjust my life out of necessity. To fight it is futile.  I will mind my spending so if hubby is furloughed we won't feel the pinch too badly.  I will re-configure our daily schedule to accommodate chore variations in light of him working from home.  I will plan a full 3-meal-a-day menu plus buy or make snacks since more bodies are here 24/7 to require the fuel (and avoid fridge raiding and bad eating habits!!).  Most of all I will be more deliberate in scheduling family and down time, especially for my 17 year old since she needs the most encouragement.

The Unspoken Victims
It is deemed selfish to speak of this last point, and maybe that is true.  I guess my angle is: if this were truly a massive crisis and highly deadly, I could understand the need to cancel life... but because of the panic button pushing and skewed information, canceling big life events leaves un-necessary heartache.

What about a child who is fear-mongered into believing we all could die or hope is lost? Their nightmares and trauma which will have lasting effects.

How about a couple's wedding plans.  The ones the bride dreamed of since she was a little girl?  Down-sized or cancelled all because of un-necessary panic?

What about the graduate and their hard work... will commencements be cancelled too? All other milestone senior year activities have been.

This last reality has really hit home because this year was that long-awaited for year. My heart hurts for my daughter who has been dreaming and preparing and hoping since middle school for those fabulous senior year moments... the last youth conference (cancelled), the last weeks of youth group (cancelled), senior Sunday at church and sharing her Call for the future (cancelled), attending friends' graduations and parties (tabled), invited to prom and buying a lovely new dress for the Cinderella occasion (cancelled), her own graduation with friends and family from all over (downsized).

Not Insensitive, Just Common Sense
You may think I am insensitive... I have seen others on social media with similar views to mine being attacked in that regard.  I am not.  I have aging and weak immune systemed parents, one of whom lives in the massively populated and currently shut-down Chicagoland area... I have friends with children who have compromised health... but all of these people are more susceptible to H1N1/Flu right now then to Covid and I would tell them all the same thing: 

wear a mask, 
limit excursions during flu season, 
wash your hands, 
use antibacterial cleaners,
attend to your healthy choices as best you can so your immune system has a boost

.... and to others who might visit them, I say the same thing I said when I was helping my step-dad recover from his cancer surgery: don't visit if you are sick!!!  That has been a rule of thumb for years that, if anything, maybe Covid-19 can serve as a reminder on: if you don't feel well, avoid human contact, especially with infants, elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

This whole thing is like when your brother broke the neighbor's window but everyone got grounded because they happened to be standing near-by... and especially the sibling who tattled because he tattled... when only one person required the punishment.

Common sense action. I heard a report that people in my parents' age group were not taking the mandates seriously.... I believe it is because they remember... they are not buying it... they know that common sense action is all that is required, not over-the-top mass hysteria over a virus with considerably higher recovery rates than H1N1/flu! I've talked to medical workers who don't understand or agree with the panic.  I've talked with those in the 'highest risk' groups are are equally skeptical of the hype.

We can't change the effects of SARS-CoV-2/aka/Corona Virus/aka/Covid-19/aka/Wuhan Virus... but we can roll into another day with hope, with peace, knowing we will be OK and, even if the bottom falls out of the economy in the process, we will pull through that too.  God has a plan.

I may be hard on the true numbers here, but I do want to acknowledge: while it isn't as bleak as we are led to believe, people are still sick and some have died.... pray for them, pray for their families, and pray for viable treatment to come soon.... of this, of the flu and of the many other critical diseases and viruses claiming lives each and every day.

A Parting Thought  
I can complain about how this virus is being handled, but I would be remiss to not consider some interesting points in the process:
  • Families are re-connecting
  • Homeschooling is on the rise, even if only temporarily (what if this method of learning drastically increased on regular time!!)
  • The art of Homemaking is being re-visited
  • Church cancellations may open people up to see who/what the Church was intended to be and deepen their faith and spirituality!
If these points become the most life-altering outcomes... all of the trouble has been more-than worth it!!


Are you feeling hopeless right now? Turn off the news.  Turn on some good Christian music. Open your Bible. Set-up an alternative daily household plan. Make time for kids and spouse. Breathe. Remember, this too WILL pass and it really isn't as bad as everyone is saying. Focus on the brighter 'other side' and be the hope to those around you... especially to your kids or family or friends who suddenly find themselves panicked or displaced or missing out. I know I may be bummed for my daughter right now and concerned about my husband's job, but truthfully, it is an opportunity to remember what really matters in life... not the pageantry or the paycheck, rather, it is that Vertical relationship and how we administer it horizontally!  THIS must be my heart and focus and I pray it would be yours as well ♥️
 
Blessings,







Just a few of my sources:
Health.com
CDC
Quartz
Gisanddata.maps



Monday, March 16, 2020

Adorning the Dark

I'm back from 4 months of off-and-on travels inside of 6 months of somewhat chaotic fluctuations.  Packing, "Adorning the Dark" by Andrew Peterson, along to doctor's appointments, hospital visits and plane rides was to be the corner of peace and encouragement this on-pause writer's heart needed. At it's start my pencil found many passages to highlight... encouragement from a man who has spent his life in the music and writing industry.  However, it also had its daunting moments.

Truth be told: I had never heard of Andrew Peterson before obtaining this book. I requested it because, as a creative myself, I thought I might be able to find hope and encouragement in its pages. I did a quick YouTube search in order to ascertain details on the author and grab a better grounding as I dove in. 

His writing felt personal and conversational yet I also felt like I should know something of various references he would casually make and therefore, at times, I felt like a bit of an outsider. I began to realize, while some nuggets may be personally edifying, much of his sharing would perhaps find deeper inspiration in a seasoned fan or musician. 

None-the-less, I plugged on, finding encouragement and relativity through those self-defeatist ideas the Enemy is so good at planting in my mind.  It is always wonderful to 'meet' someone who share their troubles so explicitly that you can say, "YES! Me too!!", a sentiment I felt often enough through the first quarter of the book to drive me through any marshyness.

Rounding the first quarter, though, I was becoming more and more aware of an odd mix of biblical and secular awareness.  Just as I wondered if and where he drew strength from the Spirit because the writing seemed so focused on the world, he would pop out a powerful side-note of how God truly is the center of a creative's work.

Again, I would push on.  After all, aren't we all just mere mortals? Then, I hit just past the halfway point at 35,000 feet over the Southeastern United States, ironically Mr. Peterson's stomping ground, and suddenly I was gaping.

You see, growing up, I always had an obsession with music.  Both construction and lyric, I am very passionate about understanding the messages we hear.  Some people just hear tune and words... but not me.  I always here message and metric.  Words matter and, as a Christian, if I had to choose; words matter more than melody.

Biblically speaking, I could quote rows of verses, but the most common one is probably the hardest one for us humans... the "whatever is's"...

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

As he shared the importance of discernment, ironically, he expounded using a story of mentoring his musically gifted daughter and how all his teaching came full circle when she received a Christian Kids Bop CD to which he cringed as it played... and then was relieved when she identified its poor musical quality and asked that it be turned off and replaced with a specific secular artist. His proud papa moment was acknowledging how a bit of snobbery in music was good because, "it is better to listen to a great song by someone who wasn't a Christian than a bad song by someone who was..."

I disagree.

Suddenly vague references earlier in the pages began to rise above grace.  In a world where Christianity constantly wars with secular... where spiritual warfare is very real and very weakening... where young people, like I was, take lyrics to heart and let them sing the melody of mood and decision... I couldn't understand WHY he would encourage a young girl to gravitate towards such messages all for the sake of melody.  Yes, there is bad music written by Christians but the lyrics will always keep our eyes heavenward. Besides, there is also great Christian music which could rival any secular band... if it was only given the chance.

After this point in the book, the shaky respect I had, began to full-on crumble.  I couldn't bring myself to burn the time required for the remaining chapters when a quick skim told me it was only going to get worse.

I don't like having to give a book a bad review.  As a writer, I know how much passion is poured into the pages of any installment.  I can say Mr Peterson gave his all and, from a certain standpoint, he did produce an encouraging memoir.  However, as a Christian reviewer, my bar is always set on a few simple marks:
  • Does this book spiritually encourage it's reader
  • Is this book Biblically sound
  • Does this book cause the reader to draw closer to Christ and choose more Godly actions
Secondarily:
  • Are the prose well written.
  • Is the book well organized.
  • Is the writer engaging.
  • Is the material relatable and accessible.

Sadly the marks were not met by "Adorning the Dark".

Do you have criteria for the books you read?


Blessings,






I received a complimentary copy of this book from Lifeway in exchange for my review. This review is my opinion alone.


Friday, March 13, 2020

FMF: Less... and more

 
My hiatus is slowly coming to a close, I am working my way back to a regular blogging schedule while life remains busy with the plans of graduation + moving my mother-in-law into our spare 'cottage' + moving adult kids on their own. For all intents and purposes, though, I am working my way back here because, at the end of the day, writing is my quiet place... it is my 'idea board'... it is my Call and all that has kept me away for the past few months will undoubtedly make its way into articles I share as I move forward.  For now, what better way to kick back off than with a Five Minute Friday drill? So here goes........


*******************
Less.

Just now this word rings in my heart.  At a time when everyone is grabbing for more.... more toilet paper, more cleaner, more of any and every little thing deemed "necessary" to "survive".  A looming apocalypse in the minds of many when, compared with historic data, it all honestly feels more and more like a bloated crises over an understandable health concern.  Only time will tell.

I don't normally like to get 'political' on here because politics are so polarizing, therefore, I will NOT dive into that side of it.  But what I WILL do is stay on the heart of what this blog is all about..... FAITH.

Over the years, our family has endured both feast and famine.  I truly love the full passage in Philippians 4 when Paul expresses:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned 
in whatever situation I am to be content.  
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. 
In any and every circumstance, I have learned 
the secret of facing plenty and hunger, 
abundance and need. 
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

ALL things through [Christ] who strengthens him... from having LESS to having more.  From illness to wellness.  From harsh government policy to freedoms to live autonomously.

The more I reflect on the current climate the more I want to panic over how things are handled... then I see the word of God and, instead of panic, the more I hear that gentle "shhhhhhh".

I may not be able to stock up or control how policy is handled... my worry may not be illness but rather dabbles in freedom and ability... ability to travel, to walk into my store and purchase what we need whenever we need it, to see my kids find good careers instead of  "closed" signs, to turn on the computer and t.v. and NOT be bombarded with "doomsday".... and then I am reminded: less.

Less in my cupboards is opportunity for culinary creativity.

Less concern over economy since our grandparents and great-grands survived the Great Depression and IF we find ourselves on that path again, we will too.


Less worry because God truly does have this, He is still on His thrown.  And whether this whole thing truly is bad... or whether it passes like last year's influenza when the weather warms... none of it truly matters because God IS at work.

*******************


My apologies if this offends anyone.  I do NOT want to cause controversy nor do I want to debate.  I am merely observing and sharing what I see... like so many others. This will be the ONLY post anywhere on any of my platforms where I will address the issue because, honestly, I want to focus on living and less on a ton of 'what-ifs'.  I want to be that quiet peace in the storm of information and hysterical overload because I am finding God at my own center and author of my own peace.

I respect that some do feel passionately about caution and preparedness.  I AM staying informed and doing my own research for personal understanding... I think it is just as detrimental if we stick our head in the sand when major issues play in our country... however, what I do not want to do is add to hype or craze or validate all the "more" milling around.  I will cling to less.

Less hype, less panic, less politicizing.  I will reach for more hope and more optimism while grounded in reality. It is what I know I am called to do as darkness and debate swarm social media and the news and any pop-up in my browser. In the midst of the chaos I stake my flag on PEACE, the only lasting peace: that which is found in the Word and presence of God who says, whether less or more, He is in the midst and He has got this.

Less of me and all those burdens.... more of Him♥️

Blessings,












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