Monthly Archives: March 2020

A Medical Perspective

My wife read to me last evening that the governor of our state had ordered the closure of all restaurants and bars. The stock market posted a tiny upswing, and I also read the first article I’ve seen pointing out that the virus may not be as vial or deadly as the media has shouted from the roofs in most of their coverage since the outset.

So where did we get reliable information about this danger anyway? Where does it start? Medical professionals, correct? Why and how does it swell to fear and panic so quickly? I realize that history and time may show that it was merited. But from the beginning it seems the amount of fear and the corresponding over reaction could have been avoided by more truthful and objective reporting of the facts, and more courage and less fear among our leaders and our people.

This particular version of the coronavirus is new and therefore its characteristics are somewhat unknown. I get that. So it’s been under a microscope, pun intended, for a few months now (since December 2019) like other coronavirus cousins of the recent past, SARS and MERS, until their characteristics where better known for tracking, prevention, containment, and future vaccinations.

So we’ve learned that [1] You can be contagious for 14 days before you have any flu like symptoms making it likely you will infect others during that time before you begin staying home to recover. [2] It’s not as contagious as its cousin influenza, the common version of the flu. [3] It’s up to 3x more fatal than the flu in the USA (2%vs.6%), especially in those with other health problems, compromised immune systems, and the elderly.

Just Doing What They Do

While I was pondering all the seemingly irrational reaction to this phenomena, and voicing it to one of my best friends who recently retired as a successful CEO of a large hospital and medical center, he helped me see a little better the medical origins of the scare and how some of those in the medical profession look at it. In a text he related the following:

Talked to couple of physicians yesterday p.m..  here’s another perspective:   They have both full resolve and are somewhat disheartened! On one hand, social separation strategy is aimed at getting us to warmer weather with people outside in the hopes the virus dissipates and goes away in 4-6 weeks.  Thus, saving lives potentially. They think of little else beyond that it seems – economics, jobs, etc.  In my experience this is typical doctor thinking. They are disheartened by the level of cynicism about this, feeling if it works people will say -“they over did it for nothing”. And if it doesn’t work that “ they weren’t prepared”. I can understand some of that. They blame the media by in large for distortion of reality – as I do – and the populous for falling for it. Interesting [their perspective] and thought I’d share. There are some warriors in healthcare, not all, and I love them for what they do.–

Thanks Bill! Well said! Insightful! True!

Medical people are just doing what they are trained to do. Treat patients. Educate people. They even practice drills on how to deal with epidemics or pandemics, to insure they can treat people with the disease while continuing to treat those routinely in their care. They are in many cases “warriors” who sacrifice of themselves to care for others, and we should love them for it, thank them for it, and honor them for it.

The real responsibility is with, I believe, our leaders, our media, and us, the people who’ve “fallen for it.”

The issue at this point is not to cast blame, but to do what we can to come out of it, while noting lessons that can be learned. Especially spiritual lessons.

Thanks Friends

Bob Goff

As the truth about the Coronavirus continues to be researched and debated in the privacy of homes, in the media, and on social media, I’m grateful for some of the best things my friends sent me yesterday. To provide different perspectives, and some big picture truth.

To be honest I’ve been a wee bit angry at our leaders, media, and people for letting fear of this flu virus escalate into panic that has very likely caused unnecessary damage to us all far exceeding anything the virus could have done. And I’m perplexed about all the fear and concern with so little evidence of the danger?

But alas, the possible small crisis has taken on a personality of its own and become a crisis, with little sign of abating until it runs its course. Still I’d like to stand against the storm in some small way and pray others will too. Pray may be the key word. There is One with power to act, and He hears prayer. In fact it’s His idea.

That said, yesterday I received a blog link through an email from my good friend and spiritual mentor for decades. Because I know his spiritual sensitivity, heart, and wisdom, I knew I should give credence to everything he said, and was feeling. So I did. It changed my attitude and helped me get on with the reality of the thing, and remembering people are important, and people serving people. And to be obedient and faithful in natural things, like the presidential directive, was practical and important.

It didn’t take away the truth from anything I was seeing or feeling, but it changed my focus to a trajectory in a healthier direction. Thank you Charles.

The next best thing I got was from a beautiful, sweet spiritual sister who had been very angry about what was happening too. We shared thoughts and she shared something from C.S Lewis someone sent her that deserves a blog all by itself without comment. Thank you Patty.

I share it here:

The following from C. S. Lewis. It was written in 1948 after the dawn of the atomic age.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

Corona Humor

I thought it worth while to share a little humor about the coronavirus before writing more or moving on to ponder a bit about how we got here, thoughts on how to behave while we are here, and lessons hopefully learned and being learned by us during this time.

Although it’s no light or laughing matter and will no doubt get to be more so, humor has a way of arresting our brains and spirits and gets us to thinking in different paths — more healthy ones. It offers a little respite from anxiety and restores hope in mysterious ways. I’m smiling even thinking about it.

A few Scriptures come to mind as I think about it. The Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the future.” And we’re told in Proverbs 17 that, “A merry heart does good like medicine.” And in Philippians 4 we’re instructed focus on good things, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things.” Thus, we allow our minds out of a fear or worry loop, and then we can think more clearly and better enjoy the moment and live in the moment.

Take a breath and a break with me and just think of the funny things your friends have said and sent you since this whole corona thing began. I think you will find it healing and enjoyable.

Feel free to share some of them with me if you like, and keep sharing them with your friends and those you love. It can only help! Keep smiling!!

Pondering A Virus

Already I feel a little bit silly spending almost a whole day pondering a virus. My research was completed rather quickly and can be by anyone a little bit savvy on the Internet. I feel there are much better uses of time. But since I’m into it, if it helps one person a little bit with their fear or faith, or looking at this objectively, I think it’s worth it.

First let me state my qualifications, which are few. I have a degree in mathematics from the University of Arkansas. However let me truthfully say that I feel more like an escapee than a graduate. That said with no false humility, I was exposed to statistics, many algorithms from algebra, geometry, calculus, number theory, and algebraic theory. So I’m mathematically ( the universal language ) inclined enough for simple deduction and reasoning, with statistical validity and error analysis skills, to look at this threat to humanity simply and objectively, by the numbers.

I’m using the KISS principle if you will, (Keep It Simple Stupid), which suits me and most of humankind I believe.

Definitions

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius

Solomon said 500 years earlier that,”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We won’t argue or even discuss the “beginning” part, which could be semantics or context? But I love history, and I love wisdom. I also like to view life through the eyes of the ancients, seeing what’s been valid enough or meaningful enough to be passed down through history as truth. Certainly when discussing or researching a matter and looking for truth, one has to be clear on words and their meanings, or “calling things by their right names.”

[1] co·ro·na·vi·rus: any of a group of RNA viruses that cause a variety of diseases in humans and other animals. Or if you prefer something from the medical community rather than the dictionary, this is from John Hopkins: A newly identified type (of coronavirus) has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness now called COVID-19 that started in China.

[2] swine flu: The 2009 flu pandemic or swine flu was an influenza pandemic that lasted from early 2009 to late 2010, and the second of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, albeit a new strain. And: According to the latest WHO statistics (as of July 2010), the virus has killed more than 18,000 people since it appeared in April 2009….” Wikipedia.

[3] Spanish flu: The 1918 influenza pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus, with the second being the swine flu in 2009. The Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the world, or about 27% of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion. Wikipedia

OK, simply put I’ve listed above three major outbreaks of the flu in history. Actually and factually the coronavirus isn’t even honorable mention yet. Check it out by the numbers you can search any day of the week. By any metric: total number of cases, how contagious, how fatal when contracted, etc. It’s just not that destructive by the numbers. And it’s hard to tell why the experts the media chooses to quote think it is? You get a different picture when you read medical journals, etc. So why don’t we? Is it because our default is to slave toward fear? Or slave to the media who make their money that way, having turned long ago from objective reporting of the facts to sensationalism and fear? Just a thought.

I’ll go ahead and prescribe my simple math operations to calculate and compare the threat the coronavirus is today compared with past versions of the flu in our country and perhaps the world. But I think a better approach might be to demonstrate what other experts are saying without being filtered through the media. And encourage you to turn off the hype and do some research yourself.

Numbers of People With The Virus

[1] # COVID-19 Cases CDC Reports as of March 16 / US Population = % of Population
3487 / 330,435,890 = .0011%
[2] #Swine flu Cases CDC Reports as November 2009/ US Population = % of Population
200,000 / 309,300,000 = .0645 %
[3] # Spanish flu Cases CDC Report 1918-1919 / US Population = % of Population
34,485,000 /104,500,000 = 33% (est. 1/3 of the population at the time)

Number of Deaths Due to The Virus

[1] # COVID-19 Deaths CDC Reports as of March 16 / US Population = % of Population
68 / 330,435,890 = .00002%
[2] #Swine flu Deaths CDC Reports as November 2009/ US Population = % of Population
10,000 / 309,300,000 = .0032%
[3] # Spanish flu Deaths CDC Report 1918-1919 / US Population = % of Population
675,000 / 104,500,000 = .646%

These are the numbers, verifiable from the CDC Website and from history. They certainly don’t indicate a pandemic yet, and if it were to become one, it seems likely to be small compared to 1918 and 2009. So it would seem to me the USA needs a good slap in the face to be snapped out of hysteria and back to reality.

Click here to see the up-to- date numbers world wide by John Hopkins.

Click here to see the up to date numbers in Arkansas on two maps.

Click here to see the up to date U.S. numbers as reported by the CDC.

There is some troubling uncertainty of course because it’s new, specifically the Italy numbers. I would assume they are accurate and growing while the numbers in China and South Korea are diminishing. But even the numbers as percentages of the population are quite small in all these countries.

Compare the coronavirus with another virus in the USA this year. According to a US News & World Report article February 7, 2020, “Influenza has taken the lives of 10,000 Americans this season. At least 19 million have caught the flu, with 180,000 landing in the hospital because of it.” “The CDC predicts that at least 12,000 Americans will die from the flu in any given year. As many as 61,000 people died in the 2017-2018 flu season, and 45 million were infected.”
That puts coronavirus in a different perspective with it 3487 cases and 68 deaths. It’s the flu season. Take precautions. Take courage. Live life, without fear.

Finally read this John Hopkins up-to-date article about COVID-19 and other such medical journal articles. They seem far away from the media’s hype and spin. You will get a much different perspective of the disease and the associated risk it poses to the health of our citizens and country. May you farewell.

Here are a couple quotes from the article. “As of Mar. 16, 2020, 6,705 deaths [world wide] have been attributed to COVID-19. However, 77,657 people have recovered from the illness.” “In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.” Does this sound like what you’ve been hearing?

If more people would take a positive, you might say “faith filled,” attitude about life, and exercise common sense with a historical perspective, there would be a lot more toilet paper, paper towels, and bleach on the shelves of our local markets. And our economy and our lives could return to normal. May it be so, and may it be soon.


“Overheard in an Orchard” by Elizabeth Cheney

Said the robin to the sparrow,”I would really like to know Why those anxious human beings rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

COVID-19 And We The People

Pandemic of Fear, Star date 5780, I mean March 11, 2020. That’s not really when this scare started, but the real date is obscure or unknown, much like its cause, the coronavirus, and COVID-19.

I picked that date because it is and was the last time the Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball team played in the SEC tournament in Nashville, TN in front of fans. By then the announcers assured their millions of viewers that the games would be played going forward in a mostly empty arena for precaution against spreading the coronavirus. The NBA had already, beyond belief, suspended the rest of their season including the 2020 championships. I wonder how much that cost the NBA, advertisers, TV networks, venues, and suppliers? The next day as I and my wife, who is more of a sports fan than me, settled in to watch the South Carolina v.s. Arkansas game, I couldn’t find it? Soon it became clear and known that the SEC suspended or canceled the tournament. The following day the NCAA cancelled March Madness, and the 2020 college championship series!? Our TV has been off since then.

I know it’s only sports. But I also know it’s something these young men have trained for most of their lives experiencing sacrifice, effort, courage, endurance, and skill. Like the Olympics it reminds us of what’s best and most most admirable in humans and the human experience. For this to be ripped away from them, a once in a life time opportunity to show who they are and the team or community they love, is tragic, — if it’s for no compelling reason.

This is March Madness! I’m thinking now. For what? Why? I keep waiting for some valid reason, some evidence of the impending disaster, but none has appeared. Except the obvious, to me anyway — fear, fear of law suits, fear of the unknown.

Fear on an irrational scale. Fear is largely irrational by the way. We may get to that later. But fear on an irrational scale at an irrational rate, made possible by information technology at everyone’s fingertips or in their pockets. As my M.D. cousin said this morning by phone, “The media is feeding oxygen to the flame (of unmerited fear).”

I am a trusting person, largely because of good and faithful parents, a good community of faith growing up, and a trustworthy relationship for many years with the God of the Bible and his son Jesus Christ.

I want to believe there is a reason for all this March madness. I believe there are scientists and wise people who work on such matters, whose main concern is human welfare. I’ll gladly admit I’m wrong if this turns into a real pandemic, and applaud their efforts to prevent it or contain it. I am just saying to date, Pandemic of Fear Day 5, I see much chaos and havoc, and do not see that much evidence for its cause.

In my next blog, I’ll cover my sources, the kind I would suggest to anyone trying to sort real news from fake news. There’s so much out there, so I’ll keep it simple. And, I realize I’m speaking against the storm. But my summary to date is exercise caution, then choose courage not fear, and choose life.

I heard Dr. Ben Carson speak in our city a few years back and he ended his most excellent speech with these words. “American will continue to be the land of the free, as long as she’s the home of the brave.”

March Madness

I think maybe it’s time to start at the gym? Maybe today? I know in light of all the coronavirus chatter in the media, you may think that’s the last thing I should do? But God told Jeremiah the prophet that even though the children of Israel were going to go into Babylon as captives that he should buy a piece of property, put the deed in a jar, and bury it — a symbol that the Lord would have mercy and that they would be coming back to the land.

I don’t know if that’s really apropos to this article but that’s what I am hearing this morning as I ponder and write. These days I find what really brings me joy and what I’m passionate about is spending time with God: reading, journaling, and sometimes sharing what I see with the faith community and seekers, on the web via this blog, maybe in preparation for another book.

But I feel compelled or at least the freedom to pause this morning and talk about the coronavirus. I promise I’ll get back to doing what I’m passionate about very soon, and stay there. Abiding is key for all of us in these days.

I haven’t written about the pandemic — and even thought about it that much. If it is a pandemic? It seems more like a pandemic of “fear.” Shutting off life to a relatively healthy culture and economy to me.

In the early morning hours my son has been texting that he’s been called back to New York City from the West Coast where he’s been visiting successful businesses—to discuss [1] If he should come into the office since he’s been traveling? [2] If they should close some stores?
Mind you, this is an expanding, healthy, thriving business until the “scare.”

Locally, store shelves are empty of toilet paper, paper towels, breathing masks, and who knows what else?

Of course I’ve been curious, even incredulous, at the wide sweeping closures and paranoia about this supposed threat to public health, our nation, and our way of life.

So I check the web from time to time to see the numbers of people who are infected with the disease and who have died because of it, as best as can be known in this instant information age, and compare it with the total populations of the countries and what has happened historically with other viral infections, commonly known as the flu, since the Influenza outbreak in the early 1900s.

Very few! One could say extremely few statistically. As this has progressed a few days now, the statistics on the spreading virus haven’t climbed as one would expect given all the hysteria, yet the hysteria seems to escalate.

This prompts me to think and say, “It’s the flu, people.”

Sadly, there will be people die from it. And I’m sad about that, and would not say anything to diminish their pain or that of their loved ones. Death hurts, and leaves a void. But it’s also a part of life and living.

I don’t fear death, largely due to faith in Jesus Christ, the One who overcame it for Himself, for me, and for millions who call upon his Name and put their trust in Him.

Even without faith in God, Jesus, the hereafter, or the Bible; it doesn’t make sense to fear death, the flu, or anything else so much that you quit living your life with courage and joy.

Yes wash your hands with soap and hot water, which is my M.D. daughter tells me is a better protection from viruses than wipes. But use both if you like, and keep informed about real news and real numbers and take precautions until the threat subsides or it is better known.

But don’t let it rob you of life and living – a single day. Death comes too soon to all of us for that. Life is a precious gift to be used, enjoyed, spent, and given away or shared with others.

Choose life!

“…So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” Deuteronomy 30:19b

The Word & The Wilderness

“The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Word of God transforms us as we read it, mediate upon it, memorize it, pray it, sing it, share it, and fellowship with the One Who wrote it. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are strengthened, and our behavior is changed; not by external force, but by internal transformation.”

I borrow that from the beginning remarks of Charles Simpson’s excellent pastoral letter this month. You can read the whole of it here. I’ve been in a spiritual wilderness of late, experiencing both the isolation, cleansing, and terrible beauty, reorienting as it is; and I’ve been in the Word experiencing it’s beauty, cleansing and reorientation.

Against the mostly hidden enemy of our souls, there is no substitute nor defense like the Word. Indeed Christ used the Word of God His Father, the the King of the Universe, when attacked in the wilderness by Satan.

Words from Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, come to mind: “…one little Word shall fell him.”

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

So we see the Word can silence our enemy and put him to flight — very important indeed, and the order of things in our earth journey in the seen and unseen realms.

But I’m thinking in this early morning moment by the fire of the “transformation and the renewing or our minds” power of the Word. It’s beautiful. It’s holy. It’s relational. It’s mystical. It’s joyful. It’s reorienting. It’s life and light really. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful to experience.

Our Catholic brothers have a saying, “Don’t read the Word, let the Word read you.” Indeed.

I have a very, very high view of Scripture. Yet once I felt the Lord impress me, “I didn’t give the Word for you to serve it; but for it to serve you.”That’s at once humbling, and important to know, if it is true. It’s an important distinction, even if both are true at the same time.

Jesus in His wilderness experience quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” We need food every day, in the natural and in the spiritual.

And we need to practice good hygiene every day to stay healthy. Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus “washes us with water through the word.”

We need healthy relationships each day to thrive. Our Father meets us when we read and meditate on His Word, to illumine us, love us, and just be with us, like a friend.

Recent visit to the College of the Ozarks with two friends

Please excuse me. It’s time to wash up, and have breakfast, with a Friend.