COVID-19

Open Doors

Acts 16:25-28

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

Well, we’ve been quarantined for awhile now, and much of Texas has gotten restless. So restless, in fact, that as of Friday, May 1, many restrictions have been lifted here (with the exception of a few guidelines regarding capacity and whatnot). But for our family, I can’t say that much has changed—if anything. It can be hard to put into words exactly why this is. But I just listened to a sermon that I think will help.

Long story short, Paul and Silas had been flogged and beaten and thrown into jail for delivering a woman from an evil spirit (no good deed goes unpunished, right?). And as any of us would (not) do when wrongfully accused and detained, they spent the night singing hymns. But they were interrupted by a huge earthquake that shook the prison’s foundations and flung the doors wide open.

Now, the obvious thing to do with this fortuitous freedom would be to flee. That would have been the fair thing to do, as they were being wrongfully imprisoned in the first place. It would have been the convenient thing to do, because they could have gotten back about their mission more quickly. It would have been the comfortable thing to do; I mean, who wants to be sitting in a nasty, stinky prison full of God knows what kind of vermin. But they didn’t flee…why?

Because of the jailer. He had already been threatened with his life should anything happen to the prisoners, and to avoid this, he was all ready to take his own life instead. So one way or another, he was going to die. And worse, he was going to die without Jesus. We know this because when he found out that the prisoners were still there, and that they had willingly given up their freedom to save his life, he “fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:29-30). Ultimately, he and his entire family were saved and baptized, and were filled with joy.

Paul and Silas could have chosen to act in their own self-interest. But they didn’t. They followed their own advice: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). And that’s my reason, too. If one person, or one family, has an opportunity to live one more day—a day that may by God’s grace be the day of their salvation—because of what I do with my freedom, then who am I to be behindhand?

And look, I fully recognize that staying home is a privilege that is not afforded everyone. Some are essential workers and have been fighting on the front lines for the rest of us this whole time. And now that other industries are opening back up, I realize that some who have been struggling to make ends meet finally have the opportunity to begin providing for their families again. Still others are probably being forced to go back to work, against their will, for fear of losing their jobs.

But I can’t help but feel (and see the evidence around me) that this is not the case for everyone. That sermon I mentioned, it highlighted the point that Paul and Silas both had and took the opportunity to choose a better story, and a better outcome—a better YES, if you will. When this is all said and done, I have hope that my temporary disappointments, struggles, and sacrifices will have amounted to a better story—and “a glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17)!

Be well. Be safe.

Shelter in THIS Place

I’m not gonna lie. I miss the days of endless chips and salsa brought to my table at a Mexican restaurant. I look forward to a future when the Happy Hour specials are back in force and I can sit across from (or even NEXT to!) a friend to enjoy them. But for the moment, we—like so many—have been ordered to SHELTER IN PLACE.

Huge caveat there, though, because this order (at least for us) doesn’t apply to “essential” products and services. And let’s be honest, the nature and extent of what we consider essential is an indictment against our society and our way of life. But that’s a topic for another day.

For today, I know there are many people who are a little anxious over being saddled with any restrictions on their personal freedoms. A word to the wise, though, from the wise, tells us that “the prudent see danger and take cover, but the simple keep going and suffer the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3). If that isn’t a poignant commentary on our time, I don’t know what is.

Consequences notwithstanding, the current conditions may have you sheltering in a tiny studio apartment, on a sprawling ranch, or somewhere in between. You may be quarantined with a large family or all alone, or again, somewhere in between. You may be lonely, overwhelmed, or stir-crazy. You may be working from home alongside three “coworkers” under the age of five. In any event, I want to share some encouragement with you today.

The Scriptures are jam-packed with verses reminding us that no matter our earthly living arrangements, GOD HIMSELF is our true shelter, our refuge, and our hope (see Psalm 34:8; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 61:3; Psalm 62:8; Psalm 73:28a; Psalm 91:1; Proverbs 18:10; Nahum 1:7). To highlight just a few of these:

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 61:3

“For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy.”

Psalm 73:28a

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD GOD my refuge.”

Psalm 91:1

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Nahum 1:7

“The LORD is good. A strong

hold in the day of trouble,
and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

So then, let us affirm with Paul that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Yes, wherever you find yourself—in body or in spirit—may you find shelter in THIS place.

 

 

Spirit of Sound Mind

Who am I to be weighing in on the global debate surrounding the Coronavirus?

  • True, I’m a doctor—but the philosophical kind.
  • I’m also a mother of two who takes pride in the value of “building up immunity” by allowing contact with the germs and dirt of this world.
  • And I’m a planner who has therefore thought of contingency plans for a range of crises, including those of pandemic proportions.
  • I’m a Christ-follower, and one who’s been chomping at the bit to get to heaven…like, my whole life…as in, I have to remind myself regularly that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)…as in, I believe so strongly that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that I felt it necessary to start a blog about it. I. LONG. FOR. HEAVEN. PERIOD. I also firmly believe that God is forever on His throne—and that includes now, today, and in the months from now. All that is to say, I have no cause or inclination toward fear or anxiety over the thought of death as a result of this virus.

So I suppose it could be argued that I have no business at all throwing my two cents in on the topic.

BUT….and this is a big but…

Between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon of this past week, over the span of 24 hours, I experienced a drastic shift in perspective about the so-called “Christian” response to this virus.

It’s based on the ideas that we should be “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16), that we should “look to the interests of others, and not only ourselves,” (Philippians 2:4), and that “God has given us a spirit of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7), to name a few. But again, I’m NOT an epidemiologist. I’m NOT a virologist. I’m NOT a public health expert. So take what I have with a grain of salt…but hopefully with a grain of light, as well.

A couple of days ago, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t quite get it. I felt like maybe we were all overreacting just a bit. I mean, I wasn’t out licking subway polls, but I thought, “Of course I’ll go to church,” and, “Gosh, I really want to see the ‘I Still Believe,’ movie coming out next week.” But a few things intervened that caused me to begin wrestling with those thoughts.

First of all, I saw the responses of my friends living literally all over the world—Italy, Poland, France, Australia…they were responses of proactive caution, not panic or hysteria, but also not complacency or (God forbid) arrogance. I also saw the responses of the epidemiologists—yes, plural epidemiologists—that I know personally, and read the accounts they shared about how responding earlier as opposed to later might well shorten the length of time that we need to take these more severe measures. Doing so might also keep health care facilities from becoming too overwhelmed to provide needed care for those who become very ill, and by extension may save lives. And finally, I saw the responses of my friends who were adopting the attitude that all of the closures and cancellations we’re now facing are somehow tantamount to “extra vacation.” Well, at that I felt like I was looking into a mirror at my own calloused heart—and I didn’t like what I saw. I was disgusted—not with them, but with myself—and praise God, I was repentant.

Of course, we Christians have freedom from fear—but does that mean we should flaunt it? Does it mean we should cavalierly take others’ lives and eternities’ into our own hands by hastening their suffering, or their deaths? “By no means!”, in the words of the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:2). If even one life or one soul can be saved by our actions, then isn’t that worth the inconvenience that comes from a little bit of social distancing and a few (okay, a lot of) changed plans?

You see, when my epidemiologist friends warn that school closures do not equal additional vacation, that this is not the time to visit the zoo, the museum, the park, the movie theater…not the time to have block parties or social gatherings of any size…I want to believe them. They are the experts, after all. Their math is far more reliable than mine will EVER be (says the qualitative researcher who only dabbles in statistics when it is ABSOLUTELY necessary). We MUST heed their warnings. We can’t wait to act until there’s “at least one confirmed case locally.” By then, it will be too late. Besides, if we stand with Moses in praying that God would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90: 10-12), and recognize that their entirety is but a handbreadth (Psalm 39:5), then what’s a few weeks of “lost time”?

Please don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Christians of the early Church, who according to Dionysius,

“showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and
ministering to them in Christ….Many, in nursing and curing others,
transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…”

And rest assured, if and when the local healthcare facilities call on laypersons to start doing field triage, I will be the first one to put myself in harm’s way for the sake of my neighbors. However, it seems that for the moment, the better part of wisdom and godliness is to help keep that demand under control in the first place, by practicing prudence (aka social distancing).

Certainly, as in Esther’s day, should we fail to act, “relief and deliverance…will arise from another place.” But who knows? Perhaps we have been brought to this place, to our positions, “for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Lord, let not one death from this virus be on our hands—be it directly or indirectly. Guide us in your ways and give us YOUR wisdom. Amen.