Posted in From soup to nuts, reflections

Wearing masks and loving neighbors

It’s July 4 and I’m inside.

What a strange place to be during our nation’s birthday celebration. But this year in Texas, we had a guest show up uninvited. His name? Mr. COVID-19 and he doesn’t mix well with others.

Our Governor just ordered Texans to wear masks when going out in public. (To show he wasn’t joking, he pushed the announcement to our cell phones, like an AMBER alert for missing children). In Houston, San Antonio, as well as in Austin (where I live), a recent surge in COVID hospitalizations means that intensive care units are at near capacity.

It’s difficult to say to what extent people are complying with the Governor’s order. My observations are only anecdotal. A quick trip for groceries to our North Austin Walmart yesterday would indicate that people are taking this pandemic seriously. I watched as parents in the parking lot put on their own mask then helped their young children adjust theirs. Waiting in the line outside the door, we stood 6 feet apart and shuffled slowly toward the entrance. We were Black, White, Latinx, and Asian, a multi-cultural crowd, and I heard no one griping as we waited for admission.

Good citizenship aside, you don’t need to look far in the Bible to find a reason for Christians to wear a mask. The Second Great Commandment from our Lord is relevant: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NIV). And since any of us can be a spreader of corona virus, even if we show no symptoms, our mask becomes a visible symbol of our consideration for others’ welfare. If Jesus were here, he’d have his mask on.

In practice, our Christian duty is sometimes elbowed aside by other considerations. There’s a libertarian streak in us Americans. We place a premium on self-expression and individualism. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” become a hit for a reason. Still, there are times when both our individual and collective interests are served by adhering to what experts advise. This is one of those times.

So here’s to a happy July 4th, from behind the mask. Let’s pray that this time next year, such measures will be unnecessary and we can get back to the group activities that make this day special.

Posted in Uncategorized

Of Mountains and Smog

They saw the Himilayas this morning –

The first time in 30 years, the old-timers say.

Tall, majestic, snow-capped,

Like plates of gold they shine in the sunlight.

People stayed home and so did the cars

That spew pollution.

We see things more clearly when the veil is removed.


As in nature, so at home, the smog has lifted,

The obscurity of relentless busy-ness,

The smoke-screen of bigger and better,

The noxious clouds of never-ending noise.

They have evaporated as we slow down,

As we huddle with loved ones too long neglected,

As we take a collective Pause.


Like the younger residents of Jalendhar,

We’ve woken and beheld for the first time

What is most beautiful –

The smile of a loved one,

The purr of a kitten,

The rhapsody of children clustered around a jig-saw puzzle,

The aroma of cookies in the oven.

For one breathtaking moment, we’ve seen the glorious mountains.

Can we ever again be resigned to the smog?

_______________

Image credit: The Himilayas, from weather.com

Posted in Uncategorized

Lemonade

Note to the reader: This poem was inspired by an NBCNews.com story about how parents are managing to balance work and family life, all while living in COVID-19 lock-down at home.


He was hanging upside down

his belly button peeking out,

a gleeful smile on his face,

his Dad’s strong hands clasping his 4-year-old son’s ankles.

He was hanging upside down…

a familiar pose, one that evoked my own Dad doing the same with me and my brothers when we were little

or me having fun with my own 2 young sons.

He was hanging upside down…

no anxiety, no fear, no thought that his Dad might drop him on his head

concussion, contusion — These words have no place in a 4-year-old boy’s vocabulary

He was hanging upside down…

A father and son moment of joy, something normal, a reassuring reminder in this lemon of a time that some still know how to make lemonade


Image credit

Wikimedia commons, Arnold Gatilao from Oakland, CA, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

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Feelings in a pandemic

If I had titled this essay before August 2019, I would have chosen the title “Thoughts in a pandemic.” But I’m a hospital student chaplain this year, and “thoughts” seemed too cerebral. With the novel corona virus raging, it has stirred up emotions in me, feelings like fear, sadness, anxiety, dread, and disorientation.

When I get scared, portions of Scripture calm me. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) assures:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Some Christians find comfort in the “God is in control” mantra. The problem with that statement is that with total control comes total responsibility. But I don’t hold God responsible for COVID-19 because that kind of a sadistic God doesn’t fit who Jesus is, and Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father (John 14:9). God is not the cause of this pandemic nor of the various sicknesses I see in patients I visit at the hospital. But what I do hold God responsible for is coming alongside us in the middle of our suffering, strengthening us, and helping us through. That’s the take-away from Isaiah 41. God is with us! The LORD will sustain us; God will help us in the middle of the storm.

Take a deep breath. Slowly let it out. Are you afraid today? God is on your side. Inhale his love and compassion; exhale your anxiety. All will be well.

———————-

Image credit

Pablo Jarrín / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)