This morning I came across a verse in Psalms that made me think. Isn’t that what Scripture is supposed to do? Make us think? And it seemed very appropriate for my current season of life, because the future is a bit cloudy and uncertain at present, as far as my career goes. This is the verse:
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
Psalm 84:5 NKJV
In this instance the psalmist was referring to the Jewish pilgrimage to Zion. But the verse made me think of my life journey, my season in life, in a different way.
Because isn’t this earthly life just that–a pilgrimage–from one place, one season, one job, one event (happy or tragic) to another place, season, job, event? And, ultimately, the pilgrimage from this life on earth as a physical being with a spiritual soul to the afterlife as a fully spiritual being? I’ve lost some beloved family members and friends and have been able to soothe my grief with the acknowledgement that they had just completed that final pilgrimage.
But right now, for me, the verse speaks to my personal pilgrimage, that of passing from one season of this earthly life into another, from one phase of my career to another. And it reminds me not to be frightened of or resistant to the changes that must come as long as my strength is in God.
Lord, help me to remember that I do not face these changes, these challenges, alone. Remind me minute by minute that this life is not mine to control. I see your hand in so many opportunities you have granted. I see your hand in so many decisions that I thought I made, but that you directed. You have blessed, and I trust that you will continue to guide, direct, and strengthen me. I pray in your blessed Son’s name, Jesus. Amen
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
April 1, 2019, the price of unleaded gasoline was two dollars and seventy cents. Look at it today. Did you ever imagine?
One year ago when we encountered family and friends in the south, we hugged. Even business aquaintances were generally met with a handshake. Some folks who were really germophobic (or carefree youths celebrating athletics or just life) might substitute a fist bump. Now we are mandated to keep a six (or ten) foot distance, and I saw today that COVID-19 can be detected in droplets twenty-seven feet away.
A year ago the economy was sound. Politics was controversial, as always. Maybe a little more so, but relatively consistent as far as party lines and liberal vs conservative lines and personalities go. The speaker of the House didn’t like the President and the aversion was mutual. Republicans thought Democrats were “out to get” President Trump, and Democrats thought Republicans were blind.
And look at us now. Gasoline almost half the price. The economy, they say, is now a “bear” market. I wasn’t sure about the derivation of this term. It made sense to think that things slow down, like a bear in hibernation. Or that personal losses in the market made people growl like a bear when they sensed their retirement money cycling down the drain. Wrong! It seems that bears attack with a downward swipe of their big bear paws, and, therefore, when the market slumps or goes down (like someone attacked by a bear–sorry, my black humor coming through) it is characterized as the aforementioned bear market.
However you look at it, the world has turned upside down and inside out. And we all are reeling with the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, almost minute-to-minute change. The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused global distress. If Rod Serling were still alive, what material he would have for more episodes of The Twilight Zone!
I’ve seen some posts that seem to ascribe the current pandemic to a deliberate act of God. It may rather be a permissive act of God, like when we do things we shouldn’t and have to suffer the consequences. I agree that God probably created the first virus, or created creation to allow the development of virus. It goes counter to my personal theology to think that God in heaven looked down on this earth, which is obviously full of sinful people and sinful acts, and said, “I will send a novel coronavirus to get their attention because I don’t like what they’re doing down there.” I have been taught that God is a God of mercy and grace. And, yes, righteous indignation and necessary judgment. But I believe that Jesus Christ is making intercession for his church as the creation which we are destroying falls apart.
Did you get that? The “creation which we are destroying” part. Gobal warming. Our constant search for more throw-away convenience. Who cares about the environmental impact of plastic bags and bottles and aluminum cans and foam? My little bit won’t make a difference. We think. Did you know that these commonly used and discarded products can take ten to a hundred years to decompose in a landfill? Even milk cartons take five years. And styrofoam does not biodegrade, meaning it is here forever.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been as lazy and complacent as anyone out there. But as I view God’s glorious creation it makes me sad to think that the polar ice caps are melting and polar bears and penguins are suffering. God is, of course, omniscient and I suppose he must have known that man would strive to be ever “smarter” and would create gas-guzzlers, aerosols, unbiodegradeble substances and anything that would make life “easier.” He knew that mankind wouldn’t be able to foresee the damage we were doing, that we were generally disrespecting God’s creation, until it was too late and we were too “set in our ways” (a good southern term) to change. Perhaps the ability of virus to transform itself genetically, becoming more virulent and deadly, and resulting in COVID-19, is a part of creation’s natural demise.
After all, the Bible does foretell not only a new heaven, but also a newearth. It looks like we’re close to needing one. I am thinking that, rather than this pandemic being a judgmental act of God, perhaps it is more of a time of testing for us. Do we really believe and follow those two greatest commandments that a Jesus shared?
I’m thinking this may be a time of testing for all of us. Is our faith strong enough, are we loving enough, and are we self-disciplined enough to follow these commandments during this pandemic? Are we maintaining a living, active faith that includes praise and thanksgiving as well as petition in our prayer life? Are we daily seeking to strengthen our faith-walk through opening God’s word to find the message he has for us?
Are we selflessly seeking the health and safety of all by following guidelines of social distancing? How often do we have the “it’s all about me mentality” versus the Golden Rule attitude of looking out for others first? Where does hoarding of food and supplies fit into the picture?
I don’t know about you but I see room for improvement in my life. Just something to think about…..
I remember my days as a young nurse, days all in white, head to toe, with white dress and stockings and freshly polished white shoes. There were bandage scissors in my pocket, and a watch with a second hand on my wrist. I was an oddity in the small community hospital–an RN with a four year college degree in nursing, stethoscope hung round my neck, daring to listen to heart and lung and bowel sounds as I made rounds to assess the thirty patients on the medical ward where I was charge nurse. The LPN, displaced from the charge nurse position by my arrival on the scene, was somewhat dubious of this upstart young nurse who thought nurses’ notes ought to say more than “a good day” or “slept well” or “up in chair” and “ate well”.
I remember the excitement I felt the first time I recognized the signs of congestive heart failure in the patient before the doctor had diagnosed it. And the satisfaction of receiving a call from the OR with the surgeon’s message, “Tell Ms. Parish the appendix was hot.” It was oh, so satisfying, since I had called so many times to convey my concern for the patient that she was finally taken to the OR. The memories that fill my mind, the stories I could tell, the love that I have had for this profession sometimes overwhelm me. Often I have said, “I came up in the glory days of nursing.” No IV pumps–we counted drops to control the flow of IV fluid. I can shake down a mercury thermometer and take temperatures without the aid of a machine. I can use manometer and stethoscope to check a blood pressure–no Datascope needed here. I wrote legible, meaningful notes and enjoyed the confidence placed in me by both my coworkers and the physicians with whom I worked.
It’s all changing now, you know. Some things are so much better. It is nice to have an IV pump to control the flow of intravenous fluids and blood and medications. And it’s nice to have patients on continuous cardiac monitors that detect changes real time. Temporal scan thermometers are cool. Heart attacks can be stopped by a trip to the cardiac catheterization lab and an angiogram and balloon angioplasty with stent. Slow heart rates can be corrected with pacemakers. Sudden death can be aborted by implantable defibrillators. There are now a multitude of medications to treat hypertension and diabetes and high cholesterol that were not on the market when I started.
Some changes, though, leave me with a sense of sadness. The paper chart that used to be the story of the patient’s hospitalization, to be safeguarded and reviewed and valued as a communication tool is becoming obsolete. Electronic medical records are the future, and the future is now. Please understand that I’m not bemoaning the advent of electronic records in their totality. They’ve made my life easier in so many ways. And, to the extent that they contribute to a seamless delivery of care to the patient in a high quality manner, they are a gift to both patient and practitioner. But, in some of their incarnations they serve only to tie nurses to computers and turn physicians into clerical workers, and those iterations bother me. Are we losing some of the humanity of healthcare? Is the relationship of caregiver to patient being disrupted by the presence of mere machines?
But, there’s no going back. So the white cap is on a closet shelf, and I wear scrubs instead of white. And I struggle to adapt to the changes while still cultivating the patient and family relationships that make this profession so rewarding. I remind myself that life itself is a series of changes, as is the profession I have chosen and enjoyed for so many years, and I try to develop a sense of anticipation that better things will come from this struggle.