Tag Archives: covid-19

photo of man laying on sidewalk

Making it Personal

This is part of an on going series about the Ministry of Reconciliation. A three-minute read.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

Last year I wrote about some personal cases of poverty and arrived at the idea that while wholesale action is good, retail action is better.

By wholesale I mean pushing for change at all levels, from my neighborhood to the international stage. Large-scale action does bring change, but it’s impersonal and transactional. Counter-intuitively, it doesn’t result in transformational change. It only looks good on the score card.

There’s progress, sure, and I don’t minimize that. The UN World Food Programme reports there are two billion more of us than in 1990, but 216 million fewer of us are going hungry. That’s good news, at least for those of us privileged enough to eat regularly.

But hold that thought for a moment while we stay on this idea of wholesale versus retail.

The British government is engaged in a large-scale assessment of the nation’s food system. The goal is to transform it. The result, intended or no, would be to have us make retail changes (the personal level) because of policy changes (the wholesale level).

Policy can drive behavior, but ultimately only our behavior makes the policy work. The report is worth reading, because it shows in stark terms how we could be much kinder to our own bodies. If we were, we would be kinder to the food system and to the environment.

The facts are clear that those of us with physical conditions exacerbated by poor eating habits (i.e. diabetes, obesity, heart disease) are much more likely to be severely affected by disease. Nowhere have we seen this than in the statistics around Covid-19 fatalities.

Unfortunately, these important markers have been all but drowned out by the constant clamor surrounding the virus (is it still a pandemic?), the daily case counts and death counts, and the political response to all this – as opposed to the public health response.

Without falling too far down that rabbit hole, let’s pull back and take a stark quote from the aforementioned report:

‘At the same time, the virus has shown with terrible clarity the damage being done to our health by the modern food system. Diet-related illness is one of the top three risk factors for dying of COVID-19. This has given a new urgency to the slow-motion disaster of the British diet.’

Did you catch the named culprit? ‘Diet-related illness’. And the result? ‘Slow-motion disaster’. Of course, where there is slow-motion disaster there can also be slow-motion recovery. In all things, be patient. There is no quick fix.

If you are an American reader, don’t be smug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 94% of covid deaths in the United States involve co-morbitities.

So, we have found another place that needs reconciliation: our relationship with food. Not about growing, marketing, transport or packaging. Rather, what we eat and how we eat. You could say it’s reconciliation with our own bodies.

Unless we are reduced to begging for our meals, what we put in our bellies drives our decision-making about food. It’s not the other way around. If I’m in the habit of loading up on salty snacks or sweet, I develop a yearning for the same. If I eat a more balanced diet, my cravings lessen and I tend to make wiser choices.

As my AA sponsor would say, ‘choices have consequences.’ And nowhere are these more stark than in how we treat ourselves: spiritually, emotionally and physically. The last one is easiest for me to see. I only need to look at the roll around my middle! Only I can change that.

Good news: if I do change that, it can lead to change for others. My retail action feeds into the wholesale. When millions of us do it, meal by meal, day by day, that slow-motion disaster can stop.

Read more in this series.

Image by Harrison Haines via Pexels

Light at the end of the tunnel

Coming Out of Exile

This is developed from material written for my memoir, The Lie Called Cancer, but not included in the book. (A four-minute read)

I’m a big believer in the power of language. This would seem obvious because I’m a writer and a speaker, but I mean more than simply using language for description. I want to go beyond making sense, into cultivating sensitivity. Spoken and written words do more than motivate; they carry great power to create: a mood, a feeling, an atmosphere, an attitude.

In truth, the words I speak over myself affect how I feel and what I think about.

A simple example

I’ll be 65 in a few weeks. This isn’t necessarily a remarkable thing, but it is an age where many people (far too many), speak of themselves as old or infirm. I read a Tom Clancy novel recently in which the author referred to someone 60 years old as ‘elderly’. SMH. Or as the elderly might say, ‘Tsk tsk’.

I don’t do ‘old’, I only do ‘bold’. I’m never ‘infirm’ or ‘unwell’, instead I just say that I don’t feel like I want to feel. Only people who don’t know me well would dare buy one of those birthday cards, or bring a handful of black balloons, or joke that I’m 455 in dog years.

Speaking About the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us speak, and the way some of us think. Certainly the way some of us live. New terms have entered the language, a few of which make no sense. So I don’t use them. My least favorite is the ubiquitous and useless term, ‘social distancing.’

Maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or avoiding direct contact, even to prevent potential infection is not a ‘social’ activity. It’s actually ‘anti-social distancing’. Or perhaps more accurately, ‘social equi-distancing’. It smacks of the Newspeak out of George Orwell’s 1984.

Here’s another one: Lockdown. Used to be that a ‘lockdown’ was limited and temporary. An area might be ‘locked down’ for a short time while police search for a suspect. Or a school would be ‘locked down’ because someone was seen nearby with a gun. Lockdown shouldn’t mean months-long involuntary quarantine of an entire population, 96% of whom have absolutely nothing to fear.

Forget ‘lockdown’ then. Instead let’s call it ‘exile.’ Like Israel’s exile in Babylon, we were all taken away from the lives we were used to. Only in our case it wasn’t because we messed up and received promised punishment (see Deuteronomy 28). I’ll refrain from offering further criticism of government policy decisions. It’s always easy to cast blame in hindsight. None of our opinions about it matter anyway after the fact. The deal is done. It’s all over but the whining.

What’s important now is how we come out of exile. How do we re-engage with one another? This is especially important for the church to consider, not only within itself, but with its relationship to the world. Read the post-exilic books for some clues (Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). Do we ‘build back better’ to borrow a phrase, or do we go back to the same old sins?

The leaders and prophets in these five books continued to tell the people where they were corrupt or astray, and called the few believers among them to a life of holiness. That’s the key for believers today: that we set ourselves apart and not sink into the secular post-pandemic muck that’s sure to come.

I’m particularly struck by the book of Haggai. Twice in the opening prophecy, Haggai warns us to ‘consider our ways.’ 1 The word translated ‘ways’ is the word derek, which could easily be rendered in modern idiom as ‘lifestyle.’ As the world comes out of exile, I should be careful to consider my lifestyle.

Exile is a hard, lonely and uncertain place. It’s length is unforseen. Exile can create fear and anxiety, and these can be tough to shake off. But there’s an upside to exile. Good things can come out of exile, after we re-emerge. Take heart from Jeremiah’s ‘Prayer of Confidence’.

‘The Lord says, “Now I will show them my power; now I will show them my might. At last they will know and understand that I am the Lord.” 2

If I carefully consider my ways, I’m confident this will be true. If not, it will still be true. But I won’t like it.

  1. Haggai 1:5-7
  2. Jeremiah 16:21 (NLT)

NHS Letter on Coronavirus safety

Time to Repent

I wrote this during the UK Covid-19 lockdown in April, 2020. As London heads back into a time of further restrictions, it bears another look.

(A three minute read)

I had to undertake some serious repentance this morning.

My thinking was all wrong.

Two days ago I wrote about being deemed a so-called ‘Vulnerable Adult,’ at a heightened risk of a serious run-in should I contract what’s going around.

I wrote, So, I’m now locked in my home for 12 weeks. I have 81 days of confinement remaining, as of this writing.’

For this, Lord, I am sorry.

Here’s where I was wrong.

My mindset had me counting down to freedom. My eyes were only set on the day when I will no longer be confined to my home.

But what is freedom, really? Is it truly measured by my ability to come and go as I wish? Do I define it only by an untrammelled lifestyle? Or is there more to it than that?

What hauled me up short this morning was the reminder that I am not my own. When I gave my life to Christ, I set myself at His bidding and I look to Him for my freedom, not the ability to pass through the door of my flat.

I am so, so wrong to dumb down my definition of freedom to something mundane.

The classic verse on this is Galatians 5:1, ‘For freedom Christ freed us. Stand fast therefore and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.’

Or, put another way, ‘Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free – not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.’ (TPT)

Again it begs the question, how do I define my freedom? If my freedom comes from surrender to Christ, I can hold onto that freedom wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.

There are lots of memes floating about on social media right now about how Paul wrote half the New Testament while under house arrest, and how Sir Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravitation while ‘self-isolating’ from the plague.

That’s all well and good, but puts the focus in the wrong place. That focus is still on doing. We need to focus on being. It’s out of a state of being that all our doing becomes well-anchored, and makes sense.

Remember, God doesn’t call us to a life of doing to earn His love. He calls us to a relationship of love with Him, which stirs our hearts to then get busy and do, which is how we love others.

He calls us to take action out of love, not just be people who love to take action. There is all freedom in the former and less freedom in the latter.

‘Beloved ones, God has called us to live a life of freedom in the Holy Spirit. But don’t view this wonderful freedom as an opportunity to set up a base of operations in the natural realm. Freedom means that we become so completely free of self-indulgence that we become servants of one another, expressing love in all we do.’ (Galatians 5:13, TPT)

Back to my need to repent, and change my thinking.

I’m no longer counting the days to freedom. That would leave me ‘setting up a base of operations’. I’d be hunkered in my bunker, waiting to be let out.

The truth is that I was released from prison the day I gave my life to Jesus.

I have my freedom today. The only question left is, what shall I do with it?

After I celebrate with joy, that is.