Jackson Five Friday: My Last Testament

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. A glimmer of normalcy occurred at our house last night with some intense sports arguing over the NFL draft. Sports arguing was a hallmark of our daily existence pre-COVID, and honestly I can’t say I’ve really missed it. Sports cheering? Yes! Sports playing? Oh my yes! But I’ve not been longing for the perpetual and sometimes heated debate over the worth of every athlete in every sport.

So, yes, this is my last testament, not in a morbid personal sense, but in terms of the pandemic. I’m promising myself, and you, sweet faithful reader, that this will be the last time I sound off about the pandemic. I’ve written about it for all of March and all of April, but next Friday will be May. Spur will therefore be a no COVID-19 zone. However, since this is the last time I’m letting myself weigh in, this post is longer than usual.

Mourning with those who mourn is a foundational tenet of the Christian life (this is a great article on it). Sadly, it is not a practice consistently on display in today’s culture. I mean sometimes it’s easy to sympathize: the case of that gorgeous little five-year-old who died in Detroit. Her parents are both first responders and she was their only child. It’s a heartbreaking story. Who wouldn’t mourn with them?

But a different set of facts played out in Ohio. A guy doubted the severity of the disease on Twitter and then died from it. The response was stunning: “karma is a B*%#H” and “got what he deserved” were representative. The poor family was planning to livestream his virtual funeral for friends and family, but all the mean-spirited condemnation made them change their minds. Fortunately, there is a cure for self-righteous hard-heartedness: “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel‬ ‭11:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬. Hallelujah, God can change heart‬‬s. I can’t. I tried to soften a hateful Facebook friend just this week. It’s futile. I can’t change a single heart, even in my own home. Why do I so often forget that only God can do that? We need to be praying for revival.

More than a month ago, when it looked like we would have major and widespread shortages of ventilators, I wrote about how important it is to have end-of-life discussions. If I were seventy-five or older, my preference would be to die at home. An increased use of “home care” was also the strong recommendation of a group of Italian doctors in a March 21, 2020 NEJM Catalyst article. But I am not at all convinced such options are being thoughtfully analyzed.

I volunteer at my local hospital holding NICU babies. Obviously that program is suspended right now, but when I was training to do the NICU program they showcased another volunteer opportunity. They have volunteers who sit with people who are dying and would otherwise be alone. Can’t we do something like that with people who already have coronavirus antibodies? Chattanooga has not yet experienced a surge, by God’s grace, but can’t New York City hospitals implement something?

It just seems crazy to me to have so many old people hooked up to ventilators, alone, when one study suggests only 12% will survive. Are families able to make educated and informed decisions? The default to extend life no matter what is not a philosophy to which I ascribe, and I worry that some of the horrific aspects to this whole situation could be avoided if we engaged in candid conversations. It’s not PC to talk about how we’d like to die, but in years gone by pneumonia was even described as old man’s friend. Emotionally charged discussions are counterproductive. I am praying that families will have wisdom in looking at the reality of death in a loving and honest way. Let’s not live in denial and let’s pray for revival. May droves of people open the doors of their hearts to Jesus who stands there knocking. After all, as Frederick Buechner so aptly quips, for the Christian, “The end is life.”

Loving your neighbor is, of course, an even more foundational Christian belief than “mourning with those who mourn.” I have been thinking about what this looks like in the midst of a highly contagious viral outbreak. It would be terrible to knowingly or even negligently expose others to the coronavirus, but the discussion of the unknowing, non-negligent transmission has gone off the rails. I’m sure you’ve seen the vitriol of those who condemn leaving the house for any reason.

If I get behind the wheel of my car tanked that is reckless endangerment, and clearly not loving my neighbor. If I get behind the wheel of my car sober, it is nevertheless possible that I could kill someone. Having no such history, I could still stroke or seize and plow into a pedestrian. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Still, it is not unloving or even inconsiderate for me to drive. We need to soberly analyze the rate at which we might be infecting others. There are loud voices who would have you believe that living your life is akin to driving drunk, that it is reckless endangerment to society. Again, highly charged emotional discussions are not remotely helpful. Using common sense and thinking through the potential impact of our actions are part of loving others. We may hold those who intentionally or negligently transmit the virus legally liable, but people are going to have to start living again at their own risk. It won’t look the same for everybody, just like not everybody chooses to swim at an unguarded beach. I’d love to know of someone who’s written on this more extensively from a Christian ethics perspective. I will certainly keep thinking about it, but I promise I won’t post about it again!

The bottom line is life has never been and will never be safe. God numbers our days and directs our steps. We can’t ever take “every precaution,” but we can take some, so we should be discerning about which ones. And on a macro scale, it’s no longer really debatable if completely shutting down the economy was the most neighbor-loving thing to do. It wasn’t. The resultant suffering is already enormous. I am praying that leaders will right our course and be wise, openly weighing unintended consequences. It is hard to even imagine that being the reality, but I am praying for it regardless.

Heavenly Father, help us all to number our days aright, that we may gain hearts of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Help us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and may we love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: “You Seem to Be!”

Hey Friends,

I started out the week resolved to be of good cheer, thanks to this webinar, but the school cancellation news brought me to a whole new quarantine low. People who look at actual data and are not making a living off of fear mongering seem to draw a consistent conclusion: “Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic. But evidence is evidently irrelevant. What matters are snippets of misleading information and hyperbolic headlines.

Did you know there is research that suggests the way we are intentionally prolonging the duration of the virus could potentially raise the death rate by 50%? Obviously, flattening the curve is another way of saying elongating the curve. The goal being not to directly save lives — it’s not a cure for the virus after all. The goal is to make it last longer so that there are enough ICU beds to go around. As an aside, I was talking to a young mom recently and she told me she thinks most Americans understand “flattening the curve” to be a means by which we save lives directly. I don’t know how anyone could look at the graph and not see that it is only changing the duration, but she was convinced that people don’t understand. I really hope she’s wrong. People don’t think flattening the curve itself saves lives, do they? How would that even work? What would be the mechanism? We’d have to wait for a cure or vaccine. No one thinks we could actually do that, do they? What would the unemployment number be by then? Of course, I am still praying that God will make it just disappear one day. And who knows, He may. I so want us all shaking our heads in wonder saying, “Only God!”

But back to the way in which we are attempting, at the direction of experts, to artificially manipulate the curve. This manipulation could result in a peak in winter, which could cause the death rate to increase dramatically. I’m not suggesting this would happen. But I am very much in favor of potential unintended consequences being part of the discussion. Instead, we march forward without any pushback or questions for fear of being labeled uncaring. It’s disturbing, to say the least.

And, for me, the worst thing about it is the self-loathing.

I don’t know how many iterations there were of Candid Camera, but when I was in law school twenty-ish years ago, it was my favorite show. I think the intensity of studying lowered my threshold for hilarity, and it’s always been pretty low. Anyway, an episode from that era is one that Will and I still quote with fair frequency.

The joke was set up like this: a man, who has swam laps every morning for decades, arrives at the pool one day to find out that a new policy had been implemented. All of the lap swimmers were now required to wear life jackets. The man is infuriated, and explains that the policy is absurd, that he has been swimming laps at that very pool for years and years. The Candid Camera guy deadpans and explains nevertheless that’s the policy. He hands the swimmer a clumsy-looking orange life jacket, like you’d be issued on a cruise ship.

The swimmer, while strapping on the life jacket says, “I am NOT cooperating!”

And the Candid Camera guy perfectly and nonchalantly quips, “Well, you seem to be.”

It’s absolutely hilarious. Or it was, till 2020 arrived and I realized I am that guy. I feel like in my spirit I am fighting decision-making based on fear instead of evidence, but at the same time I’m strapping on the life jacket. It is so shameful.

I want to rip the life jacket off and set it ablaze.

Literally the worst thing that could happen to me as a follower of Christ is to meet my Savior face to face. And really that’s not even right. The worst thing that could happen is I meet my Savior face to face a few years earlier than I otherwise would have. Uhhh, okay! Sounds good to me. Sounds real good to me. May I die embracing truth and living courageously. May I never ever live in fear.

I honestly don’t even know how we got on this track. Why in the world would we voluntarily destroy the future of our children to pretend that we are avoiding deaths? If Whitney were still alive maybe she could use that unreal talent to remind us that the children are indeed our future. And there is no avoiding death. I’m gonna die. You are gonna die. Healthy young people are at essentially zero risk from the coronavirus. Why on earth would we be forcing them to stay home? It’s a course of action that is guaranteed to cause human suffering. Meanwhile both the models and the experts are proving to be tragically wrong, and to an utterly mind-boggling degree. The nosedive of civilization makes time of the essence. We are in desperate need of truth-tellers. We need courageous decision-makers. Where the heck are they?

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:8-12 ESV

Psalm 5:8-12 ESV

Sadly some of the loudest voices in our culture are those with open grave throats. Be sure to avoid them, and seek refuge with the Lord. He is our faithful shield. He is where we can sing for joy.

Rejoicing that this life isn’t all there is, and praising God that He loves me even in my most unlovable moments, like when I strap on the lemming’s lifejacket instead of cling to Him.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: More Than a Watchman

Friends,

It’s a breezy, cool, spectacular day on my mountain, which really doesn’t seem fitting at all for Good Friday. It’s the one day of the year where dark and dreary seem appropriate. The only sad thing about the landscape is that there are now more cherry blossoms on my path than on my tree. Its glory is so short-lived.

I wish that the pandemic had the lifespan of the cherry blossoms. In another week’s time the tree will have no evidence it ever blossomed at all.

Please Lord let us have that kind of recovery, one that is undeniably due to Your mercy alone. And in the meantime, may we all marinate more on Your Word than on the headlines. May we be sober-minded in evaluating data and not influenced by those who peddling fear and drama. Let us be like the Psalmist who said, My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

My skill set is limited and does not include being a lookout. I know this not because I have ever been a watchwoman, but because I require a lot of sleep and cannot even stay up late. My husband used to work many overnight shifts. A decade ago he did many 7pm to 7am shifts per month as a teleICU physician. He’d call to check on me and the boys before we went to bed, and I would invariably yawn my head off. Not only could I not stay up all night if my life depended on it, I couldn’t manage to not make it worse for the person actually living the watchmen life.

Nevertheless, I love the imagery. Can you imagine how hard the watchman looks for the first hint of morning light? How intently he surveys the horizon? How elated he is when dawn breaks? This is how we should feel on Good Friday. We know, just as the watchman knows, what is coming, but we should be waiting for Sunday, with an intense longing.

After all today is a reminder of how we short we fall. James Boice wrote, “We need to recover a sense of sin. We need to discover how desperate our condition is apart from God. We need to know that God’s wrath is not an outmoded theological construct but a terrible and impending reality.”

Today is the day we recognize that Jesus paid the price for all our sins, that he bore the wrath of that terrible and impending reality. We stand waiting for the Lord, knowing that Sunday is coming. But before we turn to one another and once again proclaim, “He is risen,” may we embody these words of Jesus more than ever before:

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

Luke 7:47

May we love much because we have the tiniest glimpse of what we’ve been forgiven.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: An Easy Thing

Hey Friends,

I hope wherever you are that things are springing up and blooming and bringing you encouragement. Isn’t it awesome that after even the darkest, foggiest, gloomiest winter days, spring always comes every single year, without fail? This cherry blossom with the sun rising in the background this morning lifted my spirits immensely.

And yesterday I got a sweet text from a friend and in it she said the simplest thing, but such an important truism, especially for the COVID era: “Grace for the moment — one day at a time.” Are you living one day at a time? Are you focusing on the grace of moment? It’s perfect advice. Find the most fantastic time of the day to capture a fabulous scene in your own yard. Savor the sound of your offspring laughing. Enjoy the simplest of pleasures like eating and walking with a purposeful spirit. Read the Psalms and contemplate God’s love and faithfulness. Grace for the moment —one day at a time. As A.W. Tozer said, faith is the gaze of the heart at God. Isn’t this exactly what we should be doing?

Now, if faith is the gaze of the heart at God, and if this gaze is but the raising of the inward eyes to meet the all-seeing eyes of God, then it follows that it is one of the easiest things possible to do. It would be like God to make the most vital thing easy.

A.W. Tozer

It is easy, and yet we often prefer to fret than to raise our inward eyes. No matter how spiritually mature we are, or aren’t, raising our eyes is never our default mode. We must choose to lift our eyes, just like the Psalmist.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 121:1-4

Praying you are keeping the faith and raising your eyes up to the hills. And may you know that your hope comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

With Love,

Kristie


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