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The Present

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We’re the only country in the world with the motto, “In God We Trust” plastered on our money,  We are a uniquely spiritually based place.  So I’m shocked at the flood of virus fear rocking the U.S.A.  The panic has exposed, like the Emporer in the fairy tale strutting about in his birthday suit, that for many, our faith has rested not on God, but on two powerless gods: Science and Government.

I’m the wife of a scientist; my husband is a doctor, as are two of my children.  I’ve also run for political office, worked on local political campaigns, and investigate candidates before I vote for them.  I admire and respect our scientists and politicians for their work.  But in this crisis, they will not save us.

People can see that.  There’s no way out.  There’s no epidemiological chart that will protect anyone 100%. For all the explanations, there are some people dying that ‘don’t meet the criteria.’  Panic!

We  set ourselves up for this.  We built special schools for our kids called “STEM” schools, because Science (along with math and technology) is the Most Important subject.  We love facts.  Yet science cannot, for as much as it tries, tell us where we came from, what our life’s meaning is, or predict the future.  I’m a Floridian.  I’ve lived through hundreds of Spaghetti models of hurricanes’ track.  Meteorologists  can tell you a hurricane is coming, but not where it will land exactly or how catastrophic the devastation will be.  Ask thousands of cancer survivors about their supposed ‘life expectancy.’

As for the power of our country’s elected leaders to help us in this crisis:  in general, I grew up thinking Democrats thought they could do more, and Republicans expected to do less. But in this event, both Democrats and Republicans are falling over each other to Help.  Two weeks ago our Republican sheriff began posting  “closed signs” at every beach entrance and “non-essential” business.   This to ‘slow the spread.’  The President’s Virus Team, a group of dedicated doctors and politicians (‘politics makes strange bedfellows’!) informs and entertains each evening on the television regarding their Plans For Us.  Unfortunately, for all the testing, shut downs, masks, etc., they cannot control the virus.  If the truth is told, much of what is stated is pure conjecture.  A guess.

They’re not telling us the truth: only God is in control.

“You can’t handle the truth!”  the famous quote from the military film, “A Few Good Men” indicts most of us.  It’s a hard pill to swallow for many in the United States, because with our brilliant scientists and the American Way, God has been on the back burner or off the stove completely.

We now have time in our viral induced seclusion to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask the hard questions about what I believe my life is all about.

Put your trust in God.

Psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl, survivor of the Nazi concentration camps that killed over 3 million, wrote,

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

We can choose faith in God.  I keep hoping to hear, during the televised Virus Team meetings in our capital, some acknowledgment by our leaders, several of whom are people of faith, that our country has a need for deliverance that can only be met by God.  I did hear the word ‘miracle’ used once or twice, but that is not near the credit God deserves.  Medical treatments, lower than expected mortality rates or the coveted vaccine will come, but will the team, or we as individuals, give credit to God,  the source of all healing and good?

In a favorite episode of the comedy “Dick Van Dyke Show”, Laura and neighbor Millie have spent an overnight petrified because they thought they heard robbers in the house.  To drown out their terror,  they blast the TV and radio, and turn on all the lights.   After hearing one more crash, they dash out to the garage.  Millie begins screaming hysterically.  Then, shockingly, Laura slaps Millie in the face.

“Pull yourself together!”  Laura cries.

Millie immediately stops.

During the show, we the viewers were shown some of the harmless events that got translated into high anxiety.   We know the night is not as scary as Laura and Millie’s experience. We’re laughing, because their fear was all nonsense.

This virus is no joke.  But it is something we can trust God with.  And must, if we want to be true to what we say we believe, and the very money we print.

That slap is what we all need right now.

Put our trust in God.  This is our opportunity to see him provide for us.

“This I declare about the LORD.  He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him.  For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.”  Psalm 91: 2-3

 

 

 

 

 

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I can still feel the chilly breeze on my cheeks that May morning we visited Hotel Dieu, in Beune, France.  The French word  ‘hotel’ has roots in the Latin ‘hospes,’ meaning ‘a place of caring for a stranger.’  Our word, ‘hospitality.’

In 1443, Nicolas Rolin, a wealthy ‘old man’ of 47, and his third wife, the 18 year old Guigone de Salins, built Hotel Dieu, or the House of God.  The people of the area were destitute and suffering from the plague, a contagious illness that had no cure.

 

On the tour we heard that Nicolas built Hotel Dieu as an act of Christian charity.   His wife, Guigone, was the heart of the work.   An educated noblewoman, she furnished the rooms of the hospital with art because she believed healing the body was inseparable from healing the spirit.   The motto  Nicolas had inscribed on floor tiles and walls, “Seulle,” as a tribute to his wife, means ‘only her.”

After Nicolas died,  Guigone joined the order she and her husband established at Hotel Dieu, “Les sœurs hospitalières de Beaune”, serving the destitute there until she died in 1470.  The mission continued until the 1970s.

The furnishings we saw in The Room of the Poor, above, date from the 19th century, when each bed held two patients!  The chapel sits in the same space, through the wooden gothic arch, so the bedridden could still attend Mass.

In 2020 with a new plague afflicting us,  I remember our visit to Hotel Dieu.  Through the centuries,  Jesus’ followers are the courageous caregivers serving the sick, poor and needy.

“Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

And Jesus will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”   Matthew 25:38-40

 

 

 

 

 

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong.

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam…

 

…The delicious singing of the mother,

or of the young wife at work,

or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him

or her and to none else….”

– Walt Whitman  (I didn’t quote the entire poem but its worthwhile)

I open the ‘Daily Gleanings’ calendar to “Tuesday March 24, 2020.”  I scan the verse for the day as I set my foot on the plank floor.

“I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Micah 7:7

Dating all the way back to the days of Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea, Israel was taught to “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD…(Exodus 14:13).”

Written thousands of years ago, It’s as if a fortune teller predicted exactly what I needed to read in the present day.

For those of us who are introverts, the present ‘social distancing’ and the idea that we need to stay home is like a Christmas gift.  Except the reality is that with reduced work and nonexistent school hours, I’ve had more people around than usual.  People I love…   But… I need more than solitude to write.  Like Captain Hook, in the Broadway version of “Peter Pan,”  I need inspiration.

“Inspire me!  Play, you dogs, play!”  Captain Hook demands music of his rag tag pirate urchins.

After days of dismal discouragement, fresh air came blowing in the window from listening to Dr. Deborah Birx last evening during a White House press conference.  “Who is this intelligent woman, sharing clear and helpful statistics?” Duane and I wondered.  This morning, I dug around and found she is one of the doctors on the President’s crisis team and she graduated from Houghton, a Christian college, in New York.

And Walt Whitman’s poem inspires me, describing the vibrant  joy of work.  Specifically, the heroism of every American worker.  Some U.S. officials are deciding, these days, what to keep ‘open’ and what is ‘nonessential.’  All work is essential; our efforts to feed, cloth, shelter and protect each other,  all bring meaning and blessing.

Interesting that we have a phrase for our work: ‘what we do for a living.’  Our work isn’t only about a paycheck.  Our work, illustrated in Whitman’s poem, is one of the things that keeps us alive.

For ‘home managers,’ now we’re on the battle’s front lines.  Psalm 84 illuminates the beauty of ‘place.’  Verse 3 describes security,  “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”

In Lance Morrow’s excellent article, “What to Do When You’re Sheltering in Place,” he shares practical ideas for creating a haven of peace for our families.

Saturday I planted flowers outside the kitchen window. I’m making simple but tasty dinners, using the recipes on the back of the Stove Top Stuffing box.  Yesterday we listened to Rimsky -Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” while we made S’mores.

The German bombs that killed 43,000 civilians in Britain during WWII created the slogan of resilience its people carried in their hearts, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

We must do the same.

 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  John 1:5

 

 

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