From: William Gibbons Jr
Sent: Friday, April 10, 2020 12:05 PM
To: william's email list 2018
Subject: Good Friday - Covid19 - Happy Easter

Greetings to each of you on this Good Friday,

This day being referred to as Good Friday has always amazed me when you consider the gruesome historical events which took place on the day making it something to remember. Of course, it would not be remembered at all if it were not for the resurrection which occurred on what we now refer to as Easter. What was seen as something horrible at the time, God intended for good to come from it. In the story of Joseph, of the Old Testament, Joseph makes the same observation about the results in his life to some very startled brothers of his. It is difficult to relate such stories to where we are when in the midst of something which feels terrible. But remembering them is a good way to take a step back for a broader perspective, and maybe even a moment of peace. 

A Confession

I do not actually like the work of writing. Years ago I started writing poetry as a way to cope. I write prose when I feel God is asking me to include it as a part of my calling, since sharing is a core value of what I do. It often begins as random thoughts which feel like they are not going to pass by until I write them down. I still have pads of paper everywhere. It is a practice I started in my poetry days which can often lead to a stack of notes that become stressful just to look at when they pile up on my desk. Over the years, anytime someone would refer to me as a writer, I would correct them explaining I see myself as a photographer who writes, not a writer. I write "off the cuff." None of what I write is meant to be a scholarly work. I cringe at the thought of needing to take the time to research something, though I will look up reliable sources if I am putting in statistics or other facts. In truth, it often annoys me when I have to find something elsewhere that I placed in my notes to reference, like a Scripture verse, or quoting someone else. So, here I am, writing more than I intended. On Monday, this was supposed to be a short Good Friday email about my looking up populations to help me gain a broader perspective on Covid19. It did not quite work out that way, and as a result this is my newsletter format with a link to the "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say. If for some reason you cannot access the site from a device you might be reading this on, but are interested, just let me know, and I can copy and paste the remainder of the text into an email reply. 

http://www.wsharing.com/WS-NLE-200410-GF.htm#Finished

The above link will take you to the rest of the Good Friday - Covid19 - Happy Easter newsletter online, but I also added my previous email to the other three Covid19 emails online. All four are on a single link accessed through Newsletters, or What Is New. The PDF attachment in the April 3rd email where the New York doctor answered questions, is the last item on that link. I copied and pasted the text into the document, so it would be more accessible. 



Thank you for continuing online with this Good Friday - Covid19 - Happy Easter newsletter . . . .

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“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
The Dalai Lama

In one of the replies to my previous email, a couple mentioned their struggle with the submit-to-authority issue. They pointed out that our constitution forbids the state from curtailing people's religious assembly. Based on the news reports I have seen, religious assembly is exempt from any governmental executive orders. Most likely, because of it being a part of the constitution. However, many of the churches I am familiar with switched to online to keep members safe. The church where Donna is a member, started drive-in style services. You probably have to be close to 50, or older, to relate. The people stay in their cars in the parking lot facing the building. The pastor, with a few assistants, all of whom are six feet or more from one another, does the service from the church entrance area which faces the parking lot, broadcasting it on a radio frequency to the people in their vehicles. Challenging times sometimes require creative alternatives. 

The email reply also talked about "Mother Theresa, and missionaries who continue to minister to others despite the physical afflictions present, despite the fact that they might themselves be germ transporters." They referenced Jesus telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. These, and all of the other things they included, are very valid considerations when someone is asking the question what would Jesus have me do

One of the primary tenets of In His Steps groups, taken straight from the In His Steps book written in the late 1800s, is that nobody can tell another what Jesus would have them do. A person can seek input from others, dogmas and doctrines, or wherever. But, it is the person's own ultimate choice to decide what they believe Jesus would do, or ask them to do. 

Peace Pilgrim said there is a spark of God in every person, regardless of how hidden it might be. I tend to believe a person could not exist without it. Most baptized Christians believe at baptism the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Indeed, one piece of the story of Good Friday in Scripture is that, upon Jesus' death, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two. All of the denominations I am familiar with interpret this as God showing His accessibility to every person through Christ. 

I believe God is indeed available to each of us. Not just corporately, but individually. Please be aware, there is a reason I sometimes switch to the first person singular when I write. It does not surprise me that when I personally asked "what would Jesus have me do," God led me to verses about obedience to authority. I have been a sole-proprietor almost all of my adult life of over half a century. I am used to thinking, and functioning, independently. Part of the influence for that is I do not respond well to being told what to do, where to go, or when to be there. I am good at following instructions when I volunteer for something, but then it is still my choice. 

There is also the issue of the letter of the law, versus the spirit of the law. Jesus told his followers to obey the authorities in the Temple, but not to emulate them. And, of course, as I said in the prior email, if something is in direct contradiction to what God tells me to do, or not do, He is the ultimate Authority. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other people who I look to for inspiration, would have accomplished nothing, if they were completely obedient to every human authority. Even with God suggesting I would do well to learn a little obedience besides just to Him, I still might take exception. Yesterday (as I am writing this), on the news, some authority person said we would all do well to stay inside our homes. I totally disagree, and would not, because I see spiritual, mental, and emotional wellbeing as important as physical. Each of us is one human, not a bunch of separate pieces which happen to function in the same body. Upon being discharged after a short stay years ago, when a psychiatrist at Pinerest Mental Hospital asked for my recommendations, I said get them [the patients] outside as often as possible, even if just right here, to connect with nature. I am supposed to do my cardiac exercise every day. Even when the cold weather keeps me mostly on the treadmill, I still look for a day when I can exercise outside in the fresh air. And, I try to get outside for at least a few minutes every day. Even if I cannot go for a walk in the woods, I might walk around the block, or just in the backyard on treadmill days. But that is me. 

In Scripture, when Pilate asks Jesus if He [Jesus] realizes he [Pilate] has the authority to have Him crucified, or set Him free, Jesus' response is he [Pilate] would have no authority at all over Him [Jesus] if it had not been given to him [Pilate] from above. Then, even though He had the power and resources [legions of angels] available to do otherwise, He obeyed the authorities all the way to the cross. It was very horrible, that day we now refer to as Good Friday. However you might interpret that in relation to your life personally, is entirely up to each of you to decide. In the end, it will only be between you and Jesus, the One who died for you on the cross on Good Friday. 

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image which accompanied the below email

From https://www.thenivbible.com/blog/it-is-finished

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19:30

All of human history had been moving toward one climactic moment: the death of Jesus Christ. From the first hint in Genesis 3:15 that the serpent would strike the heel of the man to Simeon’s prophecy to Mary that a sword would pierce her soul (see Luke 2:34–35), history has held its breath — waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. Those prophecies were finally, painfully fulfilled as the Lifegiver gave up His spirit on the cross. 

All of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to this moment. At this juncture, the great High Priest became the sacrificial Lamb. The symbolism and mysterious predictions became a reality in the life and death of this man who was God. This God-man who turned himself over to death so that His murderers could be forgiven. This man-God whose death would remove the sins of His own mother, who watched with sorrow as the prophecies became reality on that hideous cross. This God-man whose willing sacrifice sufficiently and completely covered the sins of men and women past, present, and future. 

Angels, prophets, and Jesus Christ himself predicted His death at the hands of sinners. But His death was also for those sinners. God’s justice demands death for sin. God’s mercy provided the willing, perfect sacrifice for sin. The cross is God’s love gift. On that cross love made a man die so that His enemies could live. There, the only perfect human died so that we sinners can be forgiven. On that day, everything that separates people from God was torn in the brutal tearing of Christ’s body. 

He did it for you. This sacrifice was the only way your sins could be paid for without your own eternal death. Christ’s death paid the price of your sin. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he meant there was nothing else to do, nothing left to pay. He paid it all—totally, completely, permanently. 

It is finished. 

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image courtesy of Passover.org

The Jewish Holy Day of Passover started at sundown on Wednesday. The calendar on my wall says Passover ends at sundown on the 16th. The Passover event in the Bible was one night (Exodus 13 explains how it became eight days). If you have ever seen The Ten Commandments movie starring Charlton Heston, which is often shown on TV this time of year, you are familiar with the event. I watched the last half of it the other night. 

For those who might not know the story, the Israelites have been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. An exiled Moses has returned to Egypt to tell Pharaoh that the God of Israel wants His people set free to return to their own land. When Pharaoh mocks the idea, a series of plagues ensue. After each one Pharaoh has the opportunity to let the people go. Sometimes he said yes, but then did not. Other times, he just mocked Moses and his God. 

Then came the final plague. At sundown, a pestilence would show up that would kill the first born males in Egypt. How did the Jews avoid getting killed by the pestilence? They were told to identify their households by putting lamb's blood over the door, and on the door posts. Then go inside, and close the door. They were told to wait there till dawn until the pestilence passed by. They had some things they were to do while inside, but I will not get into those. 

The reason for sharing this, is I was struck by how it all sounded a little familiar. After thousands of years, with all of our enlightenment, medical advancements, and modern stuff, it seems to me our basic Covid19 strategy is pretty much the same, except for the literal lamb's blood, of course. Stay home. Close the door. Wait for the virus to pass you by. However, after all those years of enduring slavery, they only had to deal with one night of pestilence, not week after week, or months, as this appears to be playing out. 

Pharaoh did finally let them go, but even then he changed his mind. It took the parting of a sea, and closing it up again on his army of chariots with no survivors before (in the movie version) he decided it might be time to consider showing a little respect toward the God of Israel. The movie proceeds on to ultimately receiving the Ten Commandments, and events surrounding it, but it was the whole stay inside wait it out familiarity that I found interesting enough to share. 

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Even on NBC, which touts the slogan "facts not fear," watching too much TV news can leave you feeling like death is waiting just the other side of your front door. Or if you do venture out, and someone crosses your path with less than a six feet berth, you are doomed to catch Covid19. I tend to absorb the energy being put out by those around me, or even on a screen. I have always joked it makes me a movie producer's dream audience. But, since Donna likes to watch the news, I need to either be somewhere else, or find ways to decompress. 

On Monday, I decided some additional facts might help. Raw numbers, or percentages, all alone can often be of little help seeing the bigger picture, especially when you are looking for some relief. So I went online to look up the populations of Michigan, Eaton County (where we live), Ingham Co (the closest big population area), and Ionia Co (where Donna sometimes get called to work). Then I compared the populations with the confirmed Covid19 cases, and deaths. 

I rechecked the stats late on Wednesday to see how they had changed. The last I saw the news, Michigan was considered a hot spot. According to the census website, our state has a population of 10,045,029. As of 4/8/20 we had 20,306 confirmed cases (up from 15,718 on Monday). That comes to .2 % of our population. If my math serves me correctly, that means we would need five times (5x) that many to get to 1%, or 1 out of 100. It could happen if we are not diligent. Plus, those are only confirmed cases, not including anyone walking around with the virus who does not know it yet. In our current social distancing status, it would take me weeks to cross paths with 100 people, unless I need to make a trip to the grocery store. Even so, knowing that I am not even likely to see one person who has Covid19 brings me some comfort and relaxation from the stress absorbed watching the TV news. Deaths in Michigan were 959 (up from 617). That equates to .01%. I am reminded that with colonization, whole native tribes were wiped out by smallpox, and other diseases, brought by those arriving on these shores just a few hundred years ago. And the plagues of Europe in the Middle Ages killed extremely large percentages of their populations. It helps me to take a deep sigh of relief, and give thanks for the time we live in, when I get a broader perspective. 

Eaton County, where Donna and I live, had 67 confirmed cases (up from 55). With a population of 110,268 it translates to .06% of the people who live here. Ingham County, where Donna's (Hospice of Lansing) office is located, had 205 cases (up from 172) which is .07% of 292,406 residents. And Ionia County, where Donna is occasionally called out of retirement to work, had 11 cases (up from 8) against a population of 64,697 (.02%).

Both Eaton and Ingham had a cumulative total of 2 deaths both dates (no change), and Ionia 1 (up from 0). These become .0018%, .0006%, and .0015% respectively. Raw numbers by themselves paint too bleak a picture for me. I need to be able to see things in a much bigger framework. 

Speaking of which, I just started reading the book "Faith is for Weak People," which was offered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association recently for a contribution of any amount. In fact, I began the book late Wednesday night after laying out much of this newsletter. It is, of course, about how to respond to such accusations from others. But, that is not why I mention it. In the very first chapter, speaking about the conditions in the world, it says the New York Times reports: "Even in a mild year, flu kills about 12,000 Americans, the CDC estimates. In a bad year, it kills up to 56,000 . . . ." The book was written in 2019. The New York Times article cited was from 2018. 

I started referring to this pandemic as Covid19 because I learned early on that we have had to deal with other corona viruses like MERS and SARS. Even the common cold is a corona virus. The experts tell us we should not see this as just similar to a really bad flu season however. I think most everybody gets the reasons why by now. I get it. But the above perspectives, and staying away from too much TV news, will go a long way in helping me decompress from all the stress I naturally absorb in spite of my best efforts to do otherwise. 

I have had good interactions with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association over the years. I saw on the TV the other day a Covid19 prayer line they set up for anyone struggling to cope, or who wants to know more about God. The number shown is 1-888-388-2683. I have not tried dialing it, but I would not hesitate to do so. They are also linked on this website in several categories.  

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We will not be doing our traditional gathering, but I wish you all a Happy Easter on Sunday.

I hope, and pray, each of you finds a way to have a very blessed day.




Regardless of the fact I am constantly looking for ways to see the glass as half full (which if I am looking at an actual glass I do), I tend to have a natural negative default. I am not sure if I was just born that way, or if it is something I learned at a very early age that became entrenched. Either way, worry, or apprehension, are no strangers. My faith has never been strong enough to replace worry. But, it is what gives me courage to move forward in spite of any apprehensions. 

I have already shared my below poem of a little over a year ago in the 2019 St. Patrick's Day newsletter, but I think it bears repeating. I was reading the book of James, and became quite annoyed with what James wrote regarding doubt. Often, someone will remark that worry, much like doubt, shows a lack of faith. I am not sure if they think saying it is somehow going to help, but for a worrier, it is just one more thing to worry about. 

 


In spite of my natural default for worry, and other negative thoughts, I have given my life over to God in trust. Even with Peace Pilgrim's admonition that worry is a waste of energy. Even with God telling Israel in the Old Testament if they have it their way it is not going to be pretty, and Jesus saying to people who thought they were solidly in, "I never knew you." Even with TV news, and a whole host of other things to feed my apprehensions, or doubts, I will trust in God. I have seen enough of life to know I would not have it any other way. It takes some effort on my part to decompress, and work through my natural defaults. Yet, if I were in the end totally wrong about everything, my journey has still been more blessed, more fulfilling, and more content, having surrendered my life to God decades ago. Unanswered prayers could turn out to be a blessing in themselves. I do not know why God allows that penchant for worry to cling to me wrapped around an unrealistically absorbed sense of responsibility. Only God knows the big picture for sure. He remains, however, the best place I have ever found to place my trust. 

It is told Martin Luther once said, in regards to thoughts, something about not being able to prevent a bird from flying over your head, but being able to keep it from building a nest in your hair. So, I put in a DVD rather than watch more TV news. Or perhaps, I look up populations to see things from a different perspective. Whatever it takes to stop that bird from nesting. I hope and pray each and every one of you, even the natural worriers, can find your own helpful things as well. In fact, finding ways to be of help to someone else, even at a distance if need be, is a great positive focus aid which ultimately helps us. It is still in giving, that we receive our own greatest blessings. 

The Creator of all that is seen, and unseen, is still sovereign.

And, as my friend Ted says, "this too shall pass."

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God's peace,

 

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