Fear Not

A Christian’s perspective on the coronavirus pandemic

My husband and I traveled to San Diego in February. By some miracle, we avoided infection by the coronavirus, even though we went through four different airports. Naturally, we were aware that the coronavirus was running rampant in China, and that there were already a few cases in the United States. Having a background in science and biology, I was a little concerned, but I admit that I didn’t think much of it. My husband certainly didn’t seem to be worried, and he followed the news more closely than I did.

All the information I heard amounted to this: 1) COVID-19 is an upper respiratory infection like a bad case of the flu that could develop into pneumonia 2) it’s lethality is restricted to the elderly and immunocompromised 3) the media is just trying to get everyone hyped up, as per usual 4) there aren’t many cases in the U.S. and 5) we’ve got this coronavirus thing under control.

“We’ll ride this out, just like we did with SARS and H1N1. This too, shall pass.”

That was the lulling siren song I subscribed to until we returned home from California. Until the reports grew ever more alarming – it was spreading like wildfire in Italy and young people were dying – and people had begun to die here, too. Here. In the invincible U.S. of A.

Far too quickly, this stealthy evil was found to be present and advancing throughout my home state. The peril is among us. If it continued unchecked, there was a real danger of overwhelming our health care system. Social distancing quickly became my new mantra, and I realized that our fragile eggshell society could crack and collapse beneath the weight of this threat. After all, I’ve always believed that – collectively – we Americans are a complacent and arrogant set of entitled brats who require humbling.

What if that is God’s will?

I guess we’ll find out, eventually, won’t we? This too, shall pass. In the meantime, I will trust in God. I pray for all our health care workers and all people in danger of contracting this virus (ahem, i.e. everyone). So far, my family has been spared, and for that I praise God. My husband and I are both still employed and working, and for that I praise God. We still have internet access so that our boys can keep up with their schoolwork, and for that I praise God. I have an outlet in my writing, and for that I praise God.

Throughout all of this, I am thankful for one other thing: so far this disease appears to be sparing young children. God-willing, this will continue to be the case until the end.

I can only pray that during these troubled times we see one another as beloved children of God, instead of as possible sources of contagion and therefore objects to be feared and avoided.

“May you live in interesting times,” indeed! I have always considered that saying as both a curse and a blessing. However, there is much to learn and much to be thankful for. There are opportunities for Christians to shine a light into the Stygian darkness.

Some words of comfort

Our savior is a risen Lord who has conquered death – namely, the fear of death. Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their savior from sin need have no fear of death, the sinful world, or the devil. God has promised us that this is the case, and he is a God who keeps His promises. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to read the entire Bible and point out a single instance where God made a promise and did not eventually deliver the goods. Keep in mind that we are creatures bound by time but that God is eternal.

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He took up our weaknesses and carried away our diseases.”

Matthew 8:17 (After Jesus heals a man with leprosy, a centurion’s servant, and many other people)

In all things, God’s will is done and it is good. That is a bitter pill to swallow in times like these, when we look at the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases online and grow even more anxious and afraid. It might seem like God has abandoned us, but He has not. Our prayers for Him to take away this horrible new evil that spreads so efficiently via asymptomatic carriers seem to fall on deaf ears. However, this is not the case. God is always listening. He is not a wishing well, but He always answers our prayers…in His time and according to His good purpose. Meanwhile, our loving Father wants us to keep talking with Him and read His messages to us in the Bible. This is an excellent time to lay your fears down at the feet of Jesus in prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

Good health is a blessing from God. Our personal health is neither a prize for us to obsess and fret over nor is it a possession to abuse in debauchery. God gave us the precious endowment of good health for use in benefiting others, not only ourselves. If you remain healthy and symptom-free, praise God! And then, maybe instead of hiding inside of your fortress built of 200 rolls of toilet paper with your 14 bottles of hand sanitizer, you could be looking for ways to help others less fortunate than yourself. At the very least, you could donate a few of those containers of hand sanitizer to your local hospital or clinic.

In every way I gave you an example that, by working hard like this, we need to help the weak and to remember the words that the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35

We are not in control. It was all just an illusion that we cultivated while things were going well. The fact is: we never were in control. God is and always has been in control of the universe that He lovingly created. It is human beings in their sinful arrogance that wrecked everything and brought death into God’s perfect creation. We have only ourselves to blame for this pestilence. Fortunately, despite our continually rebellious and arrogant nature, our loving God had a plan to redeem us all.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

And finally, one of our pastors preached last Sunday on Psalm 42 & 43. I suggest you visit our church’s website and watch his sermon.

And here are the Psalms:

An Exile’s Prayer: Why Are You Cast Down?

Heading

For the choir director. A maskil by the Sons of Korah.

Longing for the Temple

As a doe pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and appear before God?
My tears have been food for me day and night,
while people are saying to me all day,
“Where is your God?”

I am overcome by my emotions
whenever I remember these things:
    how I used to arrive with the crowd,
    as I led the procession to the house of God,
    with loud shouts of thanksgiving,
    with the crowd celebrating the festival.

Refrain

Why are you so depressed, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I will again praise him
    for salvation from his presence.

Remembrance of the Lord

My God, my soul is depressed within me.
Therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan,
from the heights of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your rapids.
All your breakers and your waves have swept over me.
By day the Lord commands his mercy,
and at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go around mourning because of oppression by the enemy?”
10 It is like breaking my bones when my foes taunt me.
All day long they say to me, “Where is your God?”

Refrain

11 Why are you so depressed, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I will again praise him
    for my salvation from the face of my God.

Psalm 43

A Plea for Vindication

Judge me justly, O God,
and plead my case against an ungodly nation.
Rescue me from the deceitful, wicked man.
I know you are God, my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go around mourning
    because of oppression by the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth.
Let them guide me.
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and gladness.
Then I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Refrain

Why are you so depressed, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I will again praise him
    for my salvation from the face of my God.

An uplifting message from neighborhood kids.

A Book with 2 Prologues

I was kind of in shock after I completed editing the final chapter of Wyldling Snare this afternoon. I didn’t know what to feel. I just…sat there for a minute. I said to myself: “Well, there’s Revision Number Two.” I certainly never thought: “Yippee! This is actually done, now. Who wants a cupcake to celebrate?”

This was after I spent nearly three hours writing an alternative prologue that I believe is okay but doesn’t really fit into the narrative that follows. The original prologue takes place about fourteen years before the events of the novel and is roughly ten pages long (double-spaced.) It is from the point of view of a character that does not play a role in the events of the Wyldling series, but it introduces several important characters that you meet at some point early in the series, if not in the first book. The action takes place during an evacuation from a garrison town that’s about to be overrun by a vicious enemy, so the narrative is gritty, fast-paced and reeks of desperation.

The new prologue is three pages long (double-spaced) and takes place concurrently with the first chapter. It is a dream sequence from the point of view of an important character that you meet in the middle of the first novel. No names are used. It is almost the antithesis of the original prologue. There is no sense of danger or violence, only curiosity and vague yearning. I portray the scene in a mysterious fashion – the narrator is dreaming, and realizes it – but I’m not sure that it really adds anything to the story, or that the prose is compelling enough to encourage someone to read further.

Why, you ask, would I waste my time writing a different prologue – especially something I consider so-so at best? Because two out of three people who read my original prologue said it was too “dark” or “sad.” One of them – whom I shall refer to as R.M. – did not want to read any further because he claimed it made him feel depressed.

I wanted to try a different approach with the new prologue. Make it less “deathy,” or something. Well, I’m not sure that’s going to work. I’m writing a sword and sorcery type fantasy novel for young adults, not a chapter book for young children about a magic tree house. Now, I’m not dissing the Magic Tree House series – far from it; I think they’re great books – but that isn’t the sort of audience I’m writing for at the moment.

Perhaps the new prologue served its purpose, after all: now R.M. has decided that the original prologue is actually okay. Or, at least, he thinks the original is more suitable for the novel than the new one – the three pages that I worked so hard on this afternoon and enjoyed writing because I thought I was being so mysterious and clever with my descriptions without actually naming the characters.

Sigh

When it comes to critiquing and editing, I am definitely my own worst enemy.

Oh well. I’ll ask the beta readers to read both of them. They can tell me which works best for the book.

Or maybe neither will make the cut. Who says that I need to have a prologue, anyway? Jim Butcher doesn’t include a prologue in any of the Dresden Files novels and people still love reading them.

Speaking of which, I can hardly wait for Peace Talks to come out…

Apropos of nothing, here is a picture of a cat sitting on my Bible study questions so that I can no longer work on them.

Doctor thinks it is time to stop working and start paying attention to him, instead.

March Back…and Fourth!

It’s haiku time – mainly about cats!
Majestic feline,
queen of all she surveys:
a filthy bathroom
A blue tardigrade
peeks out of the blue coat hood
on a blue Monday
Window dreaming cat
it goes without saying that
Walter is naughty
Marmalade Harry
yawns majestically at
his adoring fans
Marmalade kitty
stares at his kick tube toy and
contemplates mayhem
Singing that old song:
“I’m leaving on a jet plane…”
Toob Cat sez: hoo carez?
Winging the way home
I didn’t want to come back…
Don’t jump off the plane!

Hello, it is Ash Wednesday

Sun of a Beach!
A view of the Pacific Ocean from a beach in Carlsbad, California

Greetings! We have officially entered the 40-day season of Lent! One derivation of the word “lent” comes from the Old English term lencten which possibly means “to lengthen,” a reference to the longer days as spring approaches (thanks, wikipedia). This seasonal shift takes longer in snow-drifted Wisconsin than in say, sunny California; however – God-willing – eventually spring will be sprung in the Midwest, too.

Holy Snow!
And this is my backyard, in Sun Prairie Wisconsin.

According to age-old tradition, Christians are supposed to give up some enjoyable and/or luxurious item in Lent. Formerly, this was abstention from meat or alcohol. Nowadays it seems to me that Lent is typically used as an impetus to kick some persistent bad habit – such as smoking – or to revive the New Year’s resolution diet/exercise plan that conked out after the first week.

Self-improvement is all well and good. God wants our bodies to be healthy temples wherein His Spirit dwells. However, there is a danger that one focuses on purely physical health to the detriment of one’s spiritual health. One could lose sight of the true reason for the Lenten season: walking with Jesus Christ, the sinless sacrifice for our sins, to his death on the cross and also to prepare our hearts to receive the gospel message of his triumph on Easter morning (spoiler alert – he rises from the dead!)

So, go ahead and abstain from eating [insert favorite junk food here] for Lent, but why not ADD some good practices to the mix – such as studying the Bible more and having more frequent scriptural devotions? If you are having trouble knowing where to begin, here is a good verse to start with:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

In case you were wondering, the high priest referred to in the verse is Jesus. As high priest, he sacrificed himself (the unblemished lamb) to atone for our sins. Have you ever heard of a high priest who served both roles – the one offering up the sacrifice, and the one being sacrificed? Yes, I know it sounds weird, but this is how our almighty God chose to carry out our salvation. Only Jesus could accomplish this, because only he is both fully God (totally perfect) and fully human (able to die). Writing of this, I am suddenly reminded of another Bible verse:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Now, go ahead and do whatever special thing you were planning on doing for Lent – whether it be giving up chocolate, vanquishing bad habits…or taking up better ones. As for me, I plan on reading more of my Bible during Lent, and paying more attention to what my savior has to say. His advice is always good. In fact, I’ll even go out on a limb and say that his advice is the very BEST.

Apropos of nothing: did you know that California has a Mediterranean climate?

Postscript: I wonder if I can claim that I gave up California sunshine and beaches for Lent?

Just for Grins

Esperity Dashnell strikes again…uh…for the very first time!
A list of truly novel novel titles from a “fake” sci-fi space odyssey / fantasy / detective / thriller / spy / archaeologist adventure series.

One March day back in the good old year of 2017, I was feeling particularly quirky. So, I decided to fabricate an entire series of books that really didn’t fit into any existing genre but were actually a mash-up of several different genres (sorry, no romance here – those make me uncomfortable).

First, I came up with a killer main character name (female, naturally). Next, I dreamed up six fairly ridiculous sounding titles, a la Indiana Jones (I could easily have come up with more than six; if only the whiteboard was bigger). Finally, I managed to convince my husband – for all of ten minutes – that Esperity Dashnell was a REAL SERIES of totally awesome books and he should look them up on Amazon.

Granted, I did not go so far as to actually write and publish these books on Amazon; that would be too much like work. If I had only waited a few weeks this would have been a pretty funny April Fool’s Day joke!

At least, it would have been humorous to me.

Progress on Wyldling Snare?

Okay, so this whole process is turning out to take longer than I hoped it would!

Yes, I suppose I can say that I completed the first draft by the end of last month. Woohoo! Yay me?

I thought that I would be done with the first round of edits/revision by the middle of February, and then I could ask the few folks who volunteered to read through it. You know, beta readers (just like Jim Butcher.) I figured, the way I was constantly revising my work almost as soon as I wrote it – which I do NOT recommend and counsel sternly against doing – that it should be “pretty okay,” as my eldest son would say.

Wrong!

Currently, we are a quarter of the way into the month and I have plowed through “editing” only eight out of twenty-three “chapters.” Things are…complicated. There were some areas where the narrative was inconsistent. That’s what happens when you revise at the same time that you are “creating,” people! You get this cool idea to include in the first chapter and then you forget to carry it through down the road. For example, you change one major detail about a character and suddenly the scenes you already wrote including him/her that take place a hundred pages later suddenly don’t work. Or you decide to cut out a bunch of exposition from chapter three (because you decide it’s boring) and realize that the actions that the characters take (or don’t take, in this case) in chapter seven no longer makes sense.

Now, I would never rank the complexity of my story on the same level as, say, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, but the Wyldling series is still a complicated enough story that I probably need a spreadsheet to keep track of character arcs and objects and whatnot. Unlike the late, great Robert Jordan -may he rest in peace (and thank you to Brandon Sanderson for finishing that wonderfully rich behemoth of a series!)- I decided to limit the point-of-view narrative in Wyldling Snare to three main characters (two Wyldling protagonists and a villain). That will change later on in the series, because (spoilers!) I will introduce more Wyldling characters as the story marches on. Eventually there will be more than three storylines. So maybe I end up emulating Mr. Robert Jordan, after all? I can’t remember how many storylines he wove into the fabric of his magnum opus, but it was definitely more than three! Probably more like twenty – some of which EVENTUALLY converge – and only three or four of the storylines were actually resolved. But don’t quote me on that; it’s been a while since I read The Wheel of Time. Like, years. Man, but that was a good, long series. All the books are still sitting on my shelf…

Hmmm.

But I digress! Which shouldn’t be possible in a blog, right? Most people would edit that stuff out, right? Not me! I am saving all of that editorial power for my book. This is all just rambling, now, so I should shut up and get back to work. Okay, self, back to the first order of business: the revision process!

Further bulletins as events warrant.

May the LORD bless your day, and my efforts.

Thanks for sticking with me so far! To reward you for your patience, here’s a cute picture of Graefin trying to snooze on top of bath towels in my bathroom.

Back in 2019…

Captivated by
snow covered branches in a
winter wonderland
Poor Doctor kitty,
soon to be victim of a
soot panther attack
O tractor sublime
abandoned and alone
it’s unnatural
Little shadow cat
her amber eyes watching me
in silent judgment
The sunshine without
bears no reflection upon
the gloom within
See the mini mouse?
Isn’t it adorable?
Where is the Mickey?

And that wraps up the haiku poetry from 2019!