Christians & COVID: Politicizing, Theorizing (& Apologizing)

The only maladies more contagious than COVID right now are the rapidly-mutating accusations and politically-charged conspiracy theories surrounding it.

Wow.

And yikes.

I haven’t heard them all yet… but I’ve heard a smattering. And a whole lot of them are coming from Christians. (Disclaimer: I realize that some people who’d identify themselves as such don’t know a whole lot about what Jesus said, did or taught.)

Frankly, I just don’t get it.

Because what does polarizing/politicizing/promoting conspiracy theories – in a pandemic (or ever) – actually accomplish? Especially in regards to what Christ told us to do?

Jesus made it pretty clear that we’ve got two essential tasks before us:

Love God with everything we’ve got.

And love people. Strangers, friends and foes alike.

^ I’m not exactly sure how speculating and insinuating and implicating fit into that.

If we really want people to be drawn to Jesus (and all His goodness/grace/mercy), then we – the people who follow Him – ought to (at least try to) be good and gracious and merciful ourselves. If Christians aren’t the kind of people others are drawn to, then it would seem we’re not doing our job. (Love draws people in and makes them feel heard… seen… safe… special. Not scolded/slandered/dismissed/detested.)

News flash: We’re supposed to point people to Jesus by looking – and living – like He did.

There’s a surprising number of people who know something’s broken/wrong/ missing/stuck in their lives. And they’re just waiting for someone to introduce them to the One who can fix/forgive/fill/free them.

I’ve said this before (probably during the last election cycle) but I think it bears repeating:

My dear brothers and sisters, if we want to win some, we need to be…

Winsome.

Based on what I see on social media lately, I’d say we’re falling embarrassingly short.

I’ve seen some pretty insensitive/offensive/capricious remarks in response to people with differing views on COVID and the issues surrounding it. That over-the-top defensiveness smacks of pride… or paranoia. And it hurts my heart.

And really, what good does it do? The odds of convincing someone with an opposing view – on a platform like Twitter or Facebook – are next to nil.

Maybe these folks can’t find anything better to do.

Or maybe (after two months in lockdown) they’re starting to lose it.

(Coronanervousbreakdown?)

Ranting and raving rarely convince anyone of anything… except that the person doing it is out in left field (or right, as the case may be.) Explain how being argumentative – or spittin’ mad – is going to invite others to love and follow Jesus?

Can we all just take a deep breath… and a step back… and remind ourselves:

The enemy is… the enemy.

Not people created in God’s image and loved like crazy by Him. (Regardless of political perspective, party affiliation, personal preferences or past mistakes.)

We Christians need to pull it together (and pull together). We need to ask the Holy Spirit to empty us of ourselves and fill us full of His love. We need to listen and pray, give and forgive, serve and bless.

when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23

Peace… not pot-stirring.

Patience… not pushback.

Kindness… not contempt.

Gentleness… not hostility.

Self-control… not volatility.

A friend of mine recently shared this quote from Oswald Chambers, and it struck a chord:

The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women; or they are making us more captious and fault-finding, more insistent upon our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God. If we say — “Thy will be done,” we get the consolation of John 17, the consolation of knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom. When we understand what God is after we will not get mean and cynical. Jesus has prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself as He was one with the Father. Some of us are far off it, and yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him, because Jesus has prayed that we may be. 

The response to this pandemic has elicited all kinds of politically-charged accusations and public shaming. I’m not denying there’s lots of lousy reporting, misinformation and not-so-hidden agendas – money and power come to mind – in both political parties and every media outlet around. But why this startling impulse (of some individuals) to push conspiracy theories and wild speculation and gloom-and-doom prognostication? 

None of it is helping. It’s not healing a single sick patient or helping a weary front-line worker or feeding a hungry family or lifting anyone out of despair.

So let me be the first to apologize.

To our doctors and nurses and pharmacists and first-responders.

To our grocery store workers and truck drivers and delivery people.

To our researchers and scientists and statisticians.

To my neighbors, friends and fellow citizens whose newsfeed looks uglier by the day.

And to those who have lost loved ones… or their livelihood.

I’m sorry.

Please don’t reject Jesus because of those who claim to follow Him including…

Yours Truly,

Wendy

P.S. I know I’ll probably get some grief for this post… and that’s okay. I may hear some explanations/generalizations/justifications like: “I want the truth! I’m just trying to educate people! Jesus spoke truth!”

Yes He did. (He IS truth.) But when Jesus spoke truth, it was thoroughly wrapped in humility and grace. He wasn’t presumptuous or pushy. Ever.

In fact, the only times He got really riled?

He was calling out…

Religious hypocrites.

*******

Father, forgive us.

 

All Kinds of Crazy

What a strange new world.

The rhythms and routines of daily life – once barely noticed – came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. And now the world as we knew it is suspended… indefinitely.

I don’t know about you, but my schedule looks vastly different than it did before March 13th. Except for showering and sleeping. Well… some days.

(Today is not one of them.)

It’s tough to get your bearings when you can’t see anything but the backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, I pray for the preservation of your sanity. (Seriously.)

This is our new normal.

Personally, I’d like to get back to the old one. (Maybe with an extra helping of perspective. And heaping sides of gratitude and compassion.)

But I guess that isn’t an option. Not entirely anyway. Because this virus is taking a heavy toll.

I remember how different the world seemed after 9/11. Then – like now – most of us really came together. We cared… gave… grieved. We comforted and consoled.

And we counted the cost.

And here we are… counting again.

41,000 lives lost. (And by the time you finish reading this, it’ll tick even higher.)

That’s a whole lot of bereft families and broken hearts.

And that number doesn’t include the other victims of this crisis. The collateral damage, if you will.

I’m not minimizing the death toll. Not one iota. But I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge our other losses too. To say it’s ok to feel dazed/ disoriented by the far-reaching effects of this pandemic. It’s normal to feel discouraged/distressed about how different the future looks from just a few weeks ago. It’s understandable if you feel distraught/devastated… even if none of your loved ones have died from COVID-19.

This. Is. Hard.

And this “virtual” reality feels… well… unreal.

Trying to outlast this virus seems like a lost cause because folks are dropping every day. Not only those who die from Coronavirus but those who succumb in other ways.

To slashed income. Or domestic violence. Or burnout from working 12-hour shifts. Day after day. Week after week. (No relief in sight.)

There’s other unsettling fallout too. Like the shocking and sudden realization that there isn’t much you/I/we can control.

Like job security… financial security… food security.

There’s more than a little desperation going around. And nobody coming around. That’s a profoundly negative equation. (Isolation + desperation = unmitigated disaster.)

I think it’s high time the people who deliver the news start reporting (loud and clear) that we’re smack in the middle of another pandemic.

A mental health emergency.

This crisis has followed right on the heels of the contagious disease and even those who’ve outrun or recovered from Coronavirus are starting to feel the effects of its ruthless twin. Regardless of where we live, more and more are finding ourselves in…

An acutely SAD state.

(As in… Stressed. Anxious. Depressed.)

And who can blame us? Coping skills – in unprecedented global crises – can be scarce. And when there’s no place to go…

We go all kinds of crazy.

Relationships come unraveled. Sobriety is shattered. Suicides (and attempts) skyrocket.

How do we dig up some hope in all this wreckage? Where’s the steady calm when the whole world’s spinning out? Who’s got answers? And antidotes?

Anyone?

Human beings are pretty resilient and resourceful. But we’re not invincible. (We’re not infinitely clever/creative/capable either.) We don’t have enough willpower or prescience or inner zen to anchor ourselves (when we’re adrift) or find our way (when we’re lost) or develop a cure (for all that ails us).

Not one of us.

We need someone a whole lot stronger and smarter than our so-called best and brightest. We need a superhero.

A savior.

We need a hope-provider and healer. One that specializes in bodies, psyches and spirits. One that can fling stars and split atoms and soothe troubled souls.

Pretty sure every single one of us could use a good doctor/therapist/holistic healthcare provider right now.

Let me introduce you to a great physician and wonderful counselor.

His name is Jesus. And he can see you anytime.

He’s the answer and the antidote.

And he will carry us through.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (1 Peter 5:9-11, The Message)

Wendy

P.S. Please know I’m not trying to put a spiritual Band-aid on a severed artery. Stress, anxiety and depression are complex mental health issues with physical, emotional and spiritual causes and effects. (And God has given us amazing doctors/therapists/holistic healthcare providers to help us in times like this.) If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, please, please schedule a Telehealth appointment.

Stat.

Spread This

I hope by now everyone is following directions. (Meaning… doctors’ orders.)

If you’re not working on the front lines fighting this pandemic, kindly imitate your dog.

Sit.

Stay.

Good boy.

If however, you can’t stay home because your work is essential (s/o to all the brave, beautiful souls working in healthcare, pharmacy, scientific research, food prep/packaging/transport/stocking, medical equipment manufacturing, warehouse distribution, supply chain)…

Godspeed.

We can’t thank you enough. (Because no amount of gratitude is sufficient right now.) Please know that we are with you, for you, behind you.

Every day.

Every (double) shift.

Every step of the way.

As dark as these days have been, the past couple weeks have shed a lot of light. You can learn alot about people in times of crisis. Some freak out. Some shut down. Some bully. Some blame. Some wail about the seemingly insurmountable problem we’re facing. Others work around the clock trying to solve it. Some cower under the covers. Others run into burning buildings/emergency rooms/nursing homes/ICU units to rescue whomever they can.

It’s heartening to hear stories of devoted workers who – at great risk to themselves – continue to do their life-saving and life-sustaining jobs. They are real-life heroes, every single one of them.

(How beautiful would it be if each one of us found ways to “show and tell” the battle-weary pandemic warriors we know how much we love, admire and appreciate them?)

And then – sadly, always – there are the antiheroes.

For every inspiring story of tireless courage or tender care, there’s a disheartening one about some idiot/inciter/narcissist/nitwit making things worse for everyone.

(Don’t be that guy. ^)

We’ve got to stop the spread of this virus. Absolutely. As soon as possible. But can we stop spreading false information and unfounded rumors too? Can we quit the fearmongering and finger-pointing and foolishness?

Where can we get personal protective equipment to stop the spread of that s#*t?

Scare tactics and death counts and divisive politicizing – while plentiful – aren’t helpful. Ever.

But especially at a time like this.

Finger-pointing isn’t a cure. (I’m not a nurse, doctor or medical researcher, but as far as I know, assigning blame doesn’t alleviate a single symptom of any infectious disease.)

And fear?

It’s a killer.

In the past week, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been tested for COVID-19. We’ve all heard about the dire shortage of hospital beds and ventilators and PPE. But those aren’t the only things in short supply around here.

With a long way to go, we’re seeing an alarming increase in the number of patients… but very little…

Patience.

We have one job to do – #stayhome – and some folks just can’t seem to follow directions. People are getting antsy. And anxious. And agitated. And it isn’t helping our collective cause. When people freak out/flake out/go out… they put others at risk. And that isn’t OK. Being bored/restless/stressed is not an adequate defense for manslaughter.

(Read that again. If you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, your selfishness – venturing out unnecessarily, hosting a get-together, taking that trip – could kill somebody.)

We’ve got a whole lot of brain power and creativity and generosity and tenacity teaming up to tackle this runaway problem and arrest this pandemic.

But one by one, hour by hour, it seems…

We’re losing heart.

Despair is in the air.

Just like this virus, diminishing hope is contagious… and dangerous.

Yes, it’s ok to feel sad/scared/lonely right now. (Especially if someone you love is sick or dying. Or if you’ve lost your job… or your bearings.) But we’ve got to hang in there. We need to keep doing the hard thing that has to be done.

Stay home.

Stay hopeful.

And wait for the storm to pass.

It’s tough, I know. My crew is experiencing noticeable symptoms of stir crazy/cabin fever/delirium and all that.

Next to my grandmother’s Bible, my favorite book is an old-school, leather-bound weekly calendar. (I’m currently detoxing from my addiction to scheduling.) I’m a perpetual planner… and a girl on the go. And I currently have nothing to plan and nowhere to go, so…

(Solitaire?)

Nobody said it would be easy, this business of being still. It drags us straight into the face of our angst, fear and discontent. It forces us to confront our own dismay and dread. It’s an undeniable, unsettling reminder that we have very little control.

Virtually none.

But maybe that’ll turn out to be a good thing.

If we want protection, peace, patience, perseverance, we’re gonna have to look outside ourselves. (Because clearly, there’s a global shortage of that kind of PPE.)

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him. 

God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure. God saves me and honors me. He is that mighty rock where I find safety.

Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. 

God is our place of safety. (Psalm 62:5-8, CEV)

How about we spread this?

Peace that’s impenetrable.

Hope that’s unyielding.

Love that’s relentless.

When this is all behind us – and it will be one day – those rare, chronic conditions will remain. And we will be better, stronger, healthier because of it.

Please… don’t be an April fool.

Hold the line.

And hold onto hope.

Wendy

P.S. We can do this. We can. But we’ve got to stick together… and stay apart… and spread only the good stuff. #staystrong #stayhopeful #stayhome

 

Survivor: Summer Break Edition

It’s officially, finally, happily SUMMERTIME! (Except on the East Coast where they prefer to keep children holed up in stuffy classrooms until nearly – literally – Independence Day. May God help those wild-eyed, desperate… teachers.)

Now I know it isn’t actually summer summer. It’s the tail end of spring. But school’s out, pools/parks/playgrounds are packed, grills are fired up and the ice cream truck is making its rounds.

I’ll take a raspberry Sno-Cone, please. I know, I know… artificial colors and corn syrup.

(That crunchy ice, though.)

Despite the fact that the same kids who’ve been whining and fussing and moaning and complaining about school have finally been released from the routines and rigors of formal education, it’ll likely only be about 10 days – give or take – before they start whining and fussing and moaning and complaining again.

Just days after the kids have emptied their cubbies/lockers/desks and ditched their backpacks/lunch sacks/socks/alarm clocks, parents will hear that dreaded refrain:

I’m bored.

‘Tis the season.

The wearisome, exasperating, sweltering season of sunblock, bug spray, Band Aids, and… inexplicable boredom.

Mornings seem to last seventeen hours… and afternoons stretch for days. By dinnertime, Quiet, Calm, Kind and Compliant have vacated the premises. And their wicked cousins Whiny, Messy, Loud and Unruly have settled in for the evening.

If not for babysitters, central air and Advil, very few parents would survive until TFDOS. (The First Day of School… cue the Hallelujah Chorus.)

Don’t get me wrong. Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can spark creativity, increase focus, forge friendships… and give parents good reason to assign extra chores. And while I always maintained that it wasn’t my job to be a summer camp counselor/cruise director/party planner, I didn’t want to be a total killjoy either.

Once upon a summertime, I made a list (both because I’m a compulsive list-maker and because summer always seemed to suck the creative/playful/fun right out of me) of indoor and outdoor boredom-busters. Essentially a “bucket list” of activities, adventures and outings for the preschool/primary set. When the natives got restless, I’d turn to my strategic summer survival guide for ideas – and relief. Here’s a sampling:

Backyard picnic. (Basically – lunch outside on a blanket). Amazing how a change of scenery magically distracts and delights. Bonus: no spills or crumbs on the kitchen floor.

Coloring or drawing contest… or a painting party (for those who like to live on the edge).

Wash the car, water the flowers or clean the bikes. (Who cares if the plants get watered or the car/bikes get cleaned?) Keep a stack of towels by the door.

Make your own pizza. Got mozzarella and tomato sauce? I used to buy pre-made crusts, but if you’ve got flour, olive oil and such, let little fingers knead dough for a homemade pie.

Catch fireflies. Give the kids a clear glass mayo/mason jar and send them on an early evening expedition in the backyard. 

Snail mail. Write a letter or send original artwork to the grandparents or the troops.

Dance party. Create a playlist of favorites… and let ’em dress up and wear themselves out!

Lemonade stand. Proceeds to a children’s charity. (Let your kids deliver their donation.)

Photo contest. Hand over the iPhone, choose a theme (colors, nature, shapes, favorite things) and let them take 10 photos. Print and display the best photos on the frig.

Sugar cookie decorating. (Not for the faint of heart, but a tablecloth or tarp makes the frosting and sprinkles cleanup a little less daunting.) 

Blanket fort or bedsheet teepee. (Climb inside and read some books by flashlight.)

Leaf prints and flower pressing. Easy, artsy, frame-worthy fun.

Ice cream-for-lunch day. (Make sure it’s a nice day, so they can “detox” from the sugar buzz outside.)

DIY project: homemade play-dough, slime, suncatchers or birdfeeders.

Busy bags. Filled with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, stickers, puzzles, glow sticks and bath toys.

Plenty of (free or inexpensive) places to go too:

Library (story time). Nature trail. Outdoor concert or theater performance. Factory tour. Farmer’s market. Fire station visit. Free movie or museum days. 

Pool or water park. Pack up those floaties, sunscreen, beach towels, pool toys (including those unwieldy giant noodles), ear plugs, nose plugs, swim diapers (for heaven’s and health inspectors’ sake, please do not forget these), snacks and water bottles, swim shoes, change of clothes… Never mind. Just stay home and turn on the hose. Everyone will still get wet. And hopefully wiped out, so… naps for all. Including the parent(s).

I wryly (and somewhat wistfully) refer to 1990-2005 as the nap-and-tuck years.

Partly because I felt like I was constantly counting the minutes ’til nap time… or wishing for bedtime tuck-in. And God-willing, a little peace. (And quiet.) But also because…

Is there anything sweeter than watching your little one sleep?

Honestly, back in those rough-and-tumble, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, feeding/ folding/sighing/crying, cleaning-up and carting-around, daunting and desperate days, I soaked up every single sweet, snuggly, blissful and lovely moment to be had… and stored them in my heart for safekeeping. (Those little graces helped me soldier on.)

But the real game-changer/life-saver/sanity-preserver of the nap-and-tuck years was this:

Putting MYSELF on time-out.

Not. Even. Kidding.

When my strength was sapped, morale low, bedtime still hours away… and I found myself utterly emptied of kindness, compassion, patience, gentleness and anything resembling self-restraint, I’d drag myself into our closet… and lock myself in… until my agitation and aggravation subsided. (Yes, I was sometimes on mommy-time-out for an hour. And only twice did a minor catastrophe take place in my absence.)

I remember the kids staring wide-eyed the first time I informed them I was giving myself a time-out. They were stunned into relative tranquility… or maybe they were terrified? Either way, it got eerily quiet all through the house and I made a break for the stairs.

Sometimes, you just need to step away… exhale (or cry)… pray… and regroup.

And remember that (in the words of my dear mother and other sages):

“This too shall pass.”

Those really hard days will fade into distant memory. The endless summers will be a blur. And believe it or not, you’ll fondly reminisce about this. All of it. (Even the sticky fingerprints.)

You know why?

Togetherness.

Because someday those little people are gonna grow up.

And leave you.

(Oh sure, they’ll probably come back from time-to-time – for holidays, home-cooking or a much-needed hug. And, trust me, your heart will soar when they do.)

But they will lead increasingly separate lives. Just as they should.

Just as you raised them to.

Yes, dear parents of littles, the days are excruciatingly long… but the years fly by.

And someday… you will miss this.

More than you can imagine.

Wendy

P.S. If your kiddos are lucky enough to have devoted grandparents, godparents, aunts or uncles who are nearby/helpful/involved, thank the good LORD… and them. Often.