BUT NOT COMPLETELY!

Well, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson. . .

It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts, emotions, and questions in blog form. This respite has been intentional; I’ve been in a season of observation and reflection. At this stage of my spiritual journey I have come to understand how priceless observation and reflection are navigating this world as a citizen and warrior of the Kingdom of God.

Some of the observations and reflections resulted in my previous and current sermon series. Some of my observations and reflections have been planted in my “thinking about it” garden to see what grows out of it. And honestly, this was not going to be my “return to blogging” article. But then. . .real life happened.

It started on the afternoon of Sunday, July 12. After preaching 2 services I engaged in my Sabbath Discipline, A.K.A. a nap. When I woke up, I just didn’t feel good. Tried doing a couple of things and nausea set in. Nausea turned into more pain and then vomiting. All Sunday night the pain only intensified. But late Monday the pain eased up and I thought the worst was over. So much for my thinking. Finally, I told Debbie I needed to go to the emergency room. The rules at our small rural hospital meant she could drop me off, but not stay with me. But my high threshold for pain had been exceeded.

I signed in and then had to wait even though, on a scale of 1 to 10, my current pain was at 12.5. When they finally called me back the first order of business was a COVID-19 test, and then the reason why I was there. An injection of  Dilaudid became a gift from God to me. Then things started happening pretty fast. A CT-Scan with contrast revealed a ruptured appendix. The nurse came in with the bad news and said “The helicopter will be here in just a few minutes.” It seems the hospitals closest to me that had the facilities to care for me didn’t have any beds.

When I arrived at University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, another COVID-19 test, conversation with some doctors, I was sent to the appropriate unit. Once there I was hooked up to IV antibiotics–and constant care. Wednesday was another day of pain and pain killers. Thursday morning was another whirlwind. I was taken for another scan; returned to my room, only to be turned around and taken back for 2 drainage tubes (one of those tubes was inserted into an orifice that shall remain unnamed).

In this same time my IV stick had to be moved 6 or 7 times because my vein had blown. My daily routine was pain, pain-killers, more IVs, and walking the halls for my physical therapy. Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, so I took a shower and even shaved. I was feeling a bit hopeful, that is, until the usual returned on Sunday night. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I had been on the Roller Coaster From Hell.

Finally, on Monday, the numbers started moving in my favor. The pain was subsiding and I was feeling hopeful again. Tuesday morning one of my doctors came in and removed the most invasive drainage tube (remember the orifice I mentioned earlier?) and I wanted to sing the doxology. A little later he cleared me to go home with the other drainage tube. After a “how to flush the drainage tube” lesson and extensive discharge orders, 1 week later I arrived back to where this all started. Now I am home reflecting on these part 2 weeks. Allow me to share one of the lessons I have been learning.

We have no control over most of what happens to us in life

The need to be in control is only adding to the anger and chaos that is consuming and destroying our nation. I looked all through my calendar and to-do list and no where have I found “ruptured appendix” in my plans. The need to be in control over life, relationships, other people, families, even church–goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan offered that lie to Adam and Eve. Now I want to really upset some people:

We are not equipped to be in control!

Now that the bad news is out of the way–there is one thing over which we have absolute control. No thing or no one can control it for you. It is your reaction to what happens that you and you alone control. No whining and no excuses. Your reactions come from your perspective and no one can give you or choose for you that perspective. While lying in that hospital bed did I have a pity party? Of course I did! In fact, I had more than one. But I had a choice–do I choose to live in that pity party or do I choose to change my focus? I chose the later–and when I focused on God’s faithful presence, which at times I doubted; the pity party ended because I know that regardless of how I feel–God hasn’t abandoned me–and He is loving on me. Tomorrow I will share another lesson.

The Perspective Of Facts

In this time of fear, panic and exponential hoarding people need to be reminded of simple, basic facts about viruses. Perspective helps all of us process what is happening with clarity on any given day; especially in these days. You may say that it’s just not that simple. Oh, yes it is. It’s not easy–but it is just this simple.

1) This pandemic is not the first. For example, the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009. There were more cases and fatalities than in the current pandemic. Yet there were no closings or shortages of toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and life continued.

2) COVID-19 is serious, but not apocalyptic. Basic precautions are enough to keep the wolf at bay.

3) The elderly, young children and people with autoimmune diseases are always at high risk. Upper respiratory infections, Type A Influenza, Type B Influenza and other viral diseases are a serious threat for those in these groups. Every year people in these groups die from these types of diseases or complications from these diseases every year that are projected to die from COVID-19.

4) Do NOT self diagnosis yourself. Don’t assume it’s just a cold or allergies. Get a professional diagnosis before going out into the public.

5) Respect other people’s space. Simply put, STAY PUT UNTIL YOU ARE SYMPTOM FREE AT LEASE 48 HOURS, LONGER IF THE DOCTOR SAYS SO. Because so many do not have the common sense and common decency to stay at home when sick, government officials are having to step in and tell them what to do and not do. This is why “gathering” is being discouraged and “social distancing” is being encouraged. We should not have to depend on the government to regulate our conduct in this time, but because people really DON’T CARE ABOUT OTHERS, government is forced to act. A side note: IF YOU GO OUT IN PUBLIC WHEN YOU ARE SICK IT SHOWS YOU DON’T GIVE A RAT’S TAIL ABOUT ANYONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF. If you disagree with this statement–you’re still wrong.

6) Three Last Words: Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene! When I was in school, we had a class on Hygiene. It’s time to bring it back. Wash your hands with soap and water multiple times each day. Keep your whole body clean. Put tissues in the garbage can rather than leaving them laying on a desk or table. Use disinfectant cleaners in your homes or apartments. Keep your vehicles clear of trash and clutter. Cleanliness has been said to be next to godliness. Cleanliness also protects you and the people around you.

GUIDE TO MANAGING AND MANEUVERING THROUGH COVID-10 CRISIS–ALL You Need To Know

I’ve made many satirical and snarky comments and analysis about the current News Media fed panic about COVID-19. Some of those comments were made in private conversations among friends and family, and a couple of snarky comments via social media (see the above graphic as an example). But today, though I usually reserve Friday’s for something funny, I want to be serious, transparent and truthful.

Here is your complete, yet simple GUIDE TO MANAGING AND MANEUVERING THROUGH COVID-19 CRISIS. For this to effectively work, you must first take a moment to breathe in deeply. Hold that breath and imagine it’s everything you’ve heard, been told, or assumed about COVID-19. Now exhale and as you do imagine that everything you’re heard, been told, or assumed is leaving your mind with that breath. Have you done that? If you are still have any of what you’ve heard, been told, or assumed still in your mind, repeat the process until you reach ultimate Zen. OK, let’s get going to the truth:

1. Understand the difference between a PANDEMIC and an EPIDEMIC

This is absolutely the first step, and the longest section of this blog. Without this knowledge you will dive deeper and deeper in fear and chaos. The word PANDEMIC is being tossed around like a football. I call your attention to that famous line from The Princess Bride:

According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia a PANDEMIC “refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people”. Do not panic at the word EPIDEMIC. By definition (of the CDC as well as epidemiologists) an EPIDEMIC “refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected”. Stay calm because we need to understand these definitions and their appropriate applications.

Look at this part of the definition of EPIDEMIC: a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected. To help, I’ve emphasized those last 2 words. Here’s an example and application. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control normally expects 3 cases of Spotted Zebra Measles (not a real disease). In 2018 they had exactly 3 cases. Normal, right?

But in 2019 they find 6 cases of Spotted Zebra Measles. By definition, since the number of Spotted Zebra Cases have doubled, from 3 to 6, we have an EPIDEMIC. The 6 cases were not normally expected. Are you with me so far? Good. Now let’s imagine that 2 of those 6 cases were in 2 other countries. You now have a PANDEMIC. Remember that a PANDEMIC refers to an EPIDEMIC that has spread over several countries or continents, USUALLY affecting a large number of people. Two is not a large number–however it does fall outside the parameters of NORMALLY EXPECTED. And notice that word in the definition of PANDEMIC: USUALLY affecting a large number of people.

Not always affecting a large number of people; just usually. And what defines a large number of people? Now apply all this to COVID-19. Less than 1 out of 500,000+ people world-wide have had presumptive positive tests for COVID-19. Only 1 out of 500,000 isn’t a large number. BUT, because of the first case of COVID-19 exceeded normal expectations, you have an EPIDEMIC and because it’s been found in other countries you have a PANDEMIC.

Let’s put all this in PERSPECTIVE. Since 29 September 2019 there have been 207,466 confirmed cases of Type A and Type B Influenza in the United States. Can we agree is 207,466 is a large number? Presumptive Positive cases of COVID-19 are minuscule compared to 207,466. In the same period there have been an estimated 16,000 deaths from Types A and B Influenza in the United States, primarily among young children, elderly adults, and those with chronic health issues. Yet, there is NO Epidemic because these numbers have not exceeded what has been established as NORMAL.

I’m not insisting that you go forward with reckless abandon and ignore potential dangers. That would be like seeing decaying boards on a swinging bridge over a 5,000 foot deep crevice and saying, “Oh, those decaying board will hold me up!” But there are some simple guidelines you can follow.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Regularly wash your hands using both soap and water. This ancient practice (FYI–it was given to the Hebrews as a law from God) is time tested and a proven method for remaining healthy. In addition to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer during the day. HOWEVER avoid using any of the online HOMEMADE VARIETIES. Unless the alcohol contention is greater than 60% they are not effective. You cannot know this unless you have a degree in chemistry and a lab at home to test it. If your local store has sold out of hand sanitizer because of the rush of idiots, you can use undiluted Isopropyl rubbing alcohol or undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Both are proven to kill the COVID-19 Virus as well as both Type A and Type B strains of Influenza.

3. Keep Personal Spaces Clean

Put tissues in the garbage can and don’t leave them on a desk, table, vehicle, or chair. Wipe areas down regularly. Again, simple soap and water does the trick if packaged wipes are unavailable. Remember rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.

3. Stay Home

If you have sniffles, cough, body aches or fever–don’t share your marvelous presence under any circumstances. I missed my last family Christmas with my Mother before she died because I had the flu. I also missed the first family Christmas after she died because of the flu. Don’t consider it just a simple cold or allergies. Go to a clinic or doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Don’t trust self-diagnosis. This applies to you, your spouse, your significant other, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins all the way to your 7th cousin twice removed, as well as the stranger within your gates. And please don’t expect your pastor to pay you a visit!

4. Don’t Visit Others Who Are Sick

This step is for you compassionate folks. Whether someone is isolated at home, or especially in a hospital don’t go visit them to show that you care. You can call them (letting them know why you are not there in person), send flowers or a fruit/snack basket. If they are at home and you want to bring them over a meal, call ahead and let them know what you are doing and when you get there, ring the doorbell or knock on the door and leave the food in a designated location. Add a nice handwritten note as well. Avoid nursing homes as much as possible to avoid spreading the Influenza or catching Influenza. As much as you may want to see a family member who is sick, show them how much you care by waiting until they are well.

5. Carefully Plan Your Shopping

This step really makes sense. The more often you are in a public setting the greater the probability you will come in contact with someone who has the Flu and has chosen to have no respect for human life and ignored Step 3. Don’t go to a store each time you need something. Change your menu, or adjust your plans as much as possible. Make a list and go once a week or every other week if possible. Some businesses will allow you to order online or with an app and you can simply drive up to the designated location, or walk to a specific location and everything is ready for you.

This is neither Rocket Surgery or Brain Science folks. Simple precautions and a hefty dose of common sense will begin to ease both the panic and stupidity that is currently in over-abundance. You are going to be perfectly alright….unless you see this in your neighborhood…