Posts Tagged ‘virus


Breathing Lessons


Dodged another COVID bullet.

Joan and I just heard from a close friend – one we had recently been in physical proximity with – that she and her husband both tested positive for the virus. 

Fortunately, their symptoms are mild, but she wanted us to know they caught the bug so that we could go get tested right away. 

So we did. And – Praise the Lord and pass the nasal swabs! – we both tested negative. 

This makes probably the fourth VERY close call for us since the beginning of the pandemic. And so far – knock wood – we have tested negative each time.

So, what do you think; why are some people infected while others are not? And what are the factors that either increase or decrease contagiousness? Joan and I are both TRIPLE vaccinated, but I know even that has not prevented people from catching the virus. 

But since I have exactly ZERO training in medical science, I am going to move this question out of the realm of HEALTH, if I may, and transplant it into the realm of LIFE IN GENERAL. First, because I CAN and secondly, because I believe contagiousness is a relevant topic for us to consider… even beyond its medical definitions.

How about in the realm of MOODS, for example? 

I am sure you’ve noticed how another person’s MOOD can be contagious, either positively or negatively. When you pass that cheerful woman walking on the street, her sunny disposition immediately crosses the blood barrier and moves right on into your system. Suddenly YOUR step seems a little bouncier in a way you can’t readily explain.

In the same way, handing your credit card to the guy behind the counter who would CLEARLY rather be anywhere but here rubs off, too. His sour demeanor can easily become yours in a matter of moments.

And here in the age of information, IDEAS and BELIEFS can also be pretty contagious, too, can’t they? Most of us have ready access to machines that are capable of communicating with large groups of people, spread across a wide area. 

All it takes is a crazy notion with flimsy scientific support, a passionate belief, a few keystrokes… and VIOLA! We have successfully infected hundreds of people with a virus cleverly designed to produce fear and hatred of some unknown group of ENEMIES!

I hate to promote the gloomy view of contagiousness here, but lately it seems to me that the DARK and NEGATIVE viruses are spreading much faster than the HOPEFUL, LIFE-GIVING strains. I will admit that the negative stuff sometimes seems to work its way into my bloodstream more quickly. I’m pretty sure that “daily news reading” lowers my spirit’s defenses from these insidious viruses. 

The challenge I am setting for myself today is this: How can I be more intentional about my contagiousness? As you can readily see that challenge has two parts. First, how do I strengthen my defenses against the SOUL-SUCKING viruses, and SECOND, how do I assure that my positive, life-affirming germs are the ones I am spreading to the people I meet?

The Apostle Paul has some sound, simple advice on this, oddly enough. He says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6, NRSVU). 

Easy peasy, right? Just set your mind on the Spirit and life and peace are there at your fingertips. The operative phrase here being, “… set your mind…” 

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul puts a little more detail in his instructions on the best ways to avoid the negative infections. He says, “Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:14-16, NRSVU). 

There certainly are a LOT of germs and viruses flying around these days. And I am not just talking about COVID. And sadly, even the best N95 masks are not effective against them. 

But as Paul and his mentor Jesus are certainly helping me understand, what I breathe IN has a whole lot to do with what I put OUT.  

Abundant blessings;


What Do YOU Need?

You wore a mask! 

Good for you!

And you did it for the most altruistic of reasons! You did it, first and foremost, for the benefit of people around you. I mean, sure, you were also doing it to protect yourself. But as the scientists told us repeatedly, the wearing of face masks was primarily a measure designed to keep ME from spreading the disease to YOU.

Thank you very much and KUDOS!

Today though, as the number of new cases of COVID-19 gets smaller and smaller every day, mask requirements are being relaxed. People are returning to Disneyland, to ball parks, to concerts, and to grocery stores, brazenly showing the bottom half of their faces.

As we revel in our newfound freedom, though, I worry. 

Yes, I worry about a “fourth wave” (or is it the fifth?) of COVID that might return to take more lives. But I also worry that the relaxation of mask requirements will also cause a relaxation of our practice of acting “for the benefit of others.”

Let’s start out by admitting right out of the gate that Americans have never really been good at the whole, “… for the benefit of others” thing. We are the land of the rugged individual where the word FREEDOM means MYfreedom to do as I darned well please… and to heck with how my actions might affect YOU.

  • We are, after all, the people who hacked and shot and blasted our way across the prairies of North America, snatching the land away from people who were here thousands of years before us. 
  • We are the self-appointed “protectors of the planet” (unless, of course, we are talking about protecting the planet from global climate change) who will stop at nothing to make the world safe for democracy.
  • We are the people who invent and innovate and devise our own solutions to problems, regardless of the work other people have done.

But the pandemic seemingly changed all that. The overwhelming majority of us came to understand that simply “looking out for number 1” is an ethos that can carry deadly consequences.

At first, looking around and seeing people wearing masks – “for the benefit of others” – was incredibly exciting for me. It almost made me believe I was watching the emergence a whole new national ethos. 

Now I’m not so sure. 

Now it seems as if we are quickly falling back into our old habits and patterns. It is almost as if we’ve decided that the idea of measuring our actions by the yardstick of how they affect, or benefit others is something that only applies when there is a global supervirus lurking about.

To which I say, just as the heartbroken young boy said to Shoeless Joe Jackson as he left the courthouse following his trial for perpetrating the Chicago Black Sox scandal in 1919, “SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE!”

As the popular internet meme so wisely says, “Bees don’t make honey for themselves. Trees don’t eat the fruit they produce. They each demonstrate the truth that says life is best when it is lived FOR OTHERS.” 

Or as this guy named Jesus of Nazareth also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, NRSV). The people listening to him in that moment knew exactly what he meant by the phrase, “… as I have loved you.” They knew that it meant they were called to love one another TOTALLY… UNCONDITIONALLY… and SACRIFICIALLY.

They knew he meant that – if it came to it – they were called to give up their lives for someone else… just as Jesus had.

Like many others I am really, really tired of masking. I am likewise tired of staying six feet away from people who aren’t part of my “tribe.”

But – with the help of God – I am going to try and shape my actions by what YOU need instead of what I want.

Abundant blessings;


Lockdown Freedom

Covid in jailYesterday kind of sucked.

It was day 4,845,154 of the Great Lockdown of 2020 (not that anyone is counting, of course).

It was another day of wearing our masks in public, another day of super-fastidious hand washing, another day of not traveling anywhere, another day of no concerts or in-person sporting events, and another day of watching our nation’s infection numbers continue to rise because this highly contagious virus has somehow become a political debate rather than a matter of scientifically-considered public health.

What made yesterday different from the other 4,845,153 days before it was smoke, haze, and 96-degree weather. The smoke and haze come from a 12,000-acre forest fire burning some 20 miles to the west of our house. The 96-degree weather comes, of course, from the calendar.

On most days, Joan and I can break up the monotony of retirement quarantine life by getting out and walking the dogs, working on projects in the yard, reading our novels, and doing some laundry. Occasionally I amuse myself by reading and/or writing a blog post or two.

But then, when the Great Outdoors decides to conspire against your skin and bronchial passages all at once, the world suddenly closes in on you. You’re trapped inside! And worse yet… you are trapped inside with all of your inside chores done!

There is suddenly nothing to do, but read, nap, chit-chat, snack and repeat.


All I can say is, thank God Joan was there for the “chit-chat” part of the equation, or I’m not sure what I would have done!

For those of you who don’t know me, I happen to be a guy with a lot of excess energy zipping around through my cells. Consequently, the skills of sitting quietly and meditating are not skills that come readily to hand. I am not saying that I suddenly knew how prisoners must feel, but I kind of felt like I knew how prisoners must feel.

It was then, in the middle of my anxious thumb-twiddling, that I suddenly remembered the devotion I’d read only hours before. It was a devotion focused on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the folks who comprised the church he had started earlier in the region of Galatia.

The thematic thread that runs throughout the entire six chapters of the book of Galatians is FREEDOM. As Paul says in the first verse of the fifth chapter, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NRSV).

The more I thought about those words, the more convinced I became that Paul was probably not talking about the freedom to go outside and walk your dogs. Or the freedom to go to a movie theater or baseball game. Or even – strange as it may seem – the freedom to go grocery shopping without a facemask.

No. He is more likely talking about an entirely different kind of freedom… something rooted much more deeply inside each one of us. Something not dependent on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

It sounds to me as if Jesus’ kind of freedom is the radical kind of freedom. It is probably more like freedom from our pasts. Freedom from our fears. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from worry about what other people think about us. Freedom from our insecurities. Freedom from our self-doubts.

A kind of freedom – in other words – that nothing and no one can take away from us.

Not a pandemic.

Not air pollution.

Not 96-degree weather.

Not even a completed “TO DO” list.


Abundant blessings;


The Waiting Game

Waiting“Let’s put that off for a while,” said the doctor, regarding my possible need for shoulder surgery.

“Let’s wait a bit,” said the out-of-state family member about an upcoming visit.

“Nope. Not happening anytime soon,” said the travel company about our long-awaited 20th anniversary cruise.

“Sorry. That’s on the back burner for now,” said the concert promoter.

“Don’t think we’ll be doing that for a while,” say the organizers of community-wide festivals and celebrations.

“It’ll be back sometime, but we really can’t say when,” say the owners of major league sports teams.

“For the foreseeable future, we are going to have to continue operating remotely,” said the pastor.

“Let’s put a pin in that for now,” said the counselor.

“Yeah… maybe later,” says just about everybody about just about everything.

Welcome to the time of WAITING. Welcome to the Cosmic Pause.

As the time of global pandemic and quarantine drags into its third month, we are all getting a little “antsy,” as my mother used to say. We were more than willing to isolate, sanitize, and mask up at the beginning of this, but the patience of many is beginning to wear a bit thin.

“When can we stop all of this stuff?” we each silently wail… aware that these safety measures are good and necessary and that complaining too loudly about them would be childish and dangerous.

But for those of us who occasionally think the microwave is taking too long to heat our tea water, it is not a bad thing at all to learn how to WAIT… to SLOW DOWN… to cultivate a little PEACE and COMPOSURE in our souls.

Because to wait is to HOPE.

So while we are here at home, studying our jigsaw puzzle pieces and cleaning our kitchen floors with our toothbrushes, I would like to present here a list of some things we DON’T have to wait for;

  • We don’t have to wait to reach out to someone in need.
  • We don’t have to wait to tell someone we love them.
  • We don’t have to wait to be grateful.
  • We don’t have to wait to re-connect with someone we haven’t seen for a while.
  • We don’t have to wait to learn something new.
  • We don’t have to wait to forgive someone.
  • We don’t have to wait to encounter a new idea.
  • We don’t have to wait to see the situation a different way.
  • We don’t have to wait to pray.
  • We don’t have to wait to discover beauty.
  • We don’t have to wait to “… be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NRSV)

We can do each of those things RIGHT NOW!

And who knows… when all is said and done, we just might find we had reserves of patience that we never knew we had.

Abundant blessings;

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