COVID-19: Day 201

Here we are more than six months into the lockdown and 99.94% of Americans haven’t died from the disease… but that’s still over 200,000 dead Americans. If you look at all the US military deaths in every war/skirmish/conflict of since the end of World War 2, whether it was in combat or not, COVID has still killed more people and it’s clearly not done yet. We’ll probably be able to throw World War 1 into that equation before we’re done.

I haven’t written a post for about six weeks, but the story hasn’t changed much. Every time I think about writing a post I realize that I’ve already said that. So today let’s look back at some quotes from previous posts and see how they held up:

One challenge is that new data is arriving all the time as the world’s scientific community joins forces to figure this virus out. (March 6)

This quote came on March 6 which is one week before my lockdown counter started, but it’s still true today. There’s a lot we don’t understand and the scientific community is still learning. This is never going to end. We’re still learning about how the common flu spreads and that’s been around for 100 years. The one thing clear about this virus is that it is the perfect mix of incubation rate and mortality rate to be smack dab in that gray area where people can argue about it while the bodies pile up.

Humans aren’t great at absorbing the implications of math, especially in two ways that make this a tough problem. First, it’s hard to grasp the speed of exponential growth. … The second math complication is that humans don’t process probability well. (March 14)

Yep. If people understood the data, why would they be pushing back so hard against the lockdown guidance? I realize that my simplistic engineering-brain logic is flawed, but I ask myself this question daily.

Do we all agree that it’s bad if this spreads unabated? … Do we all agree that this spreads very quickly when we don’t do anything about it? (March 24)

I don’t have these questions anymore because it’s very clear that we don’t all agree on these fundamental issues.

In the end, my bar is “If everyone did this, would it be ok?” You can twist that in lots of ways to make anything seem permissible or not, but when viewed honestly and for lack of anything better, it feels like a reasonable starting point. (April 6)

That ethical bar of “if everyone did this, would it be ok?” isn’t my own idea but it always stuck with me as a good guideline. Are you going to die from COVID if you attend a party? Probably not, but it’s clearly not good if everyone did that. Unfortunately, Americans (and sinful humans in general) focus on optimizing for personal happiness.

Now that there is a glimmer of hope, people are starting to think about when we can lift the bans. Short summary: don’t hold your breath. Let’s look at the data. We just peaking now. We’re roughly halfway through this. (April 15)

“Halfway through this”. Nope. Not even close. My new guess is that either we start getting back to “normal” next summer or we live in some sort of hybrid situation for a very long time. I do believe that science will solve this eventually, but it remains to be seen how good the vaccines are, how long they last, and how many people will take them.

What’s the right balance point? I think all we know for sure right now is that “it depends”. With this heavy social and political push to end the lockdown, it feels pretty inevitable that we’re going to start growing exponentially again. Very little has changed since the first growth period. Social distancing is the only tool we have to fight this. … I do think we’re going to oscillate back and forth a bit until we find the least amount of lockdown that keeps us at some sustainable balance of infections and economic pain. I don’t think anybody has the answers about what that balance point is yet so we’ll have to fail a few times as we get it figured out. (April 29)

We’ve seen this play out across the country as various states go through waves alternating of infection and lockdown. The waves are getting smaller but they’re still coming. Here in King County we’ve been through two waves but it’s looking like wave 3 is starting.

As if deciding how to handle things inside my own family wasn’t enough of a challenge, I’m also an elder at church which means I’ve been having a lot of difficult meetings to figure out how to minister to our members…. My main challenge in this was separating out valid Christian needs and desires from political anger and frustration. (June 13)

Being part of the leadership at church is the toughest job I’ve ever had at church. I’m asked to guide people away from human weakness and sin while accepting viewpoints that differ from my own but still align with the Bible.

So in conclusion, as I look back over all these posts, I see lots of data that explains the spread of the virus and the impact it’s having on our world, but I think there’s plenty of that available now. These are the key ones that I look at to form my opinions:

I feel like I’ve made all the points I can make with data showing the spread of the virus and why we as Christians are bound to comply with the lockdown, but I know I can’t change the world. So if I post on this again, it will be because I’ve figured out how to post about the impact this pandemic is having on our family without getting too far into the “why” of our choices. If the why isn’t clear yet, more posts aren’t going to change that.

On a more positive note, school has been a bright spot in our life. We struggled with the decision about whether to send Elijah or not, but after watching the school go through months of preparation for this year and reading through the comprehensive plan they created to comply with all the guidelines, we’re happy to see it going smoothly. Not only are people following the rules but they seem to be doing so willingly and with cheer. It has been a very positive experience.

I struggle with how to wrap up these thoughts, but I want to mention that Pastor is going through a new Bible study series on the Psalms. While we haven’t gotten to Psalm 62 yet, it felt like a fitting way to end this post:

My soul, rest quietly in God alone,
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.
I will not be disturbed.
My salvation and my honor depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people.
Pour out your hearts before him.
God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Homecoming by Jon Schmidt

I’m still chugging my way through this piano book by Jon Schmidt. The latest one I learned was Homecoming (Spotify link). I decided to just record this one at home instead of doing it on the nicer piano at church. I plugged an audio recorder into the headphone jack on the piano and that worked well, but I couldn’t get a good camera angle so it’s more obvious when I change splice two clips together to take out my page turn.

Come To Church With Me?

Have I ever invited you to come to church with me? If not, now is a super easy time for you to accept the invitation. Throughout the lockdown, I’ve been working with Pastor and our organists to post full service videos every Sunday morning at 8am.

Our church follows a standard liturgy (order of events) for each service and sometimes it can be tricky to know where we are in the hymnal, but with the online videos, everything you need to know is right on the screen. We even include the pre and post service music from our organists.

By the way, wonder WHY we use a liturgy? There are a few reasons, but one is that even if the Pastor were to give a total dud of a sermon (which would hopefully result in a chat from the elders!), we’d still cover key parts of the service like confession and absolution along with a pre-planned/organized series of readings and prayers.

Here’s a direct link to our playlist of full services on YouTube or you can find them on our Facebook page too. Or if you just want something embedded here, check out this service which talks about how faith grows in our hearts. If you watch any of these and have questions, I’d love to chat with you.

They’ll Never Believe Me

I don’t remember the source, but recently I heard some people talking about totally absurd things that happened in their lives. Things where people would struggle to believe it if they weren’t there. I came up with quite a few but here are three of my favorites:

Up the Middle
I spent a lot of my time on the baseball field on the pitcher’s mound. While pitching, one of the scariest (in retrospect) parts was the line drive rocketing back at me faster than I threw it. If you do the math, there’s less than half a second from the time a pitcher releases the ball until it reaches home plate and makes the return trip. It hurts. A lot. I feel like I remember every ball that came back at me but one from high school stands out. It was all I could do to spin out of the way in what I’m sure was a very undignified manner, but once I realized I wasn’t broken, I looked out towards center field to see where it had ended up. But nobody was moving… why were they cheering instead of chasing the ball? One of them pointed at my glove and when I looked down, there it was! As I had spun to the left, my left hand went behind my back and the ball not only hit my glove, but lodged itself in and stayed there. That’s one out, the scary lucky way.

One Down, One Million to Go
When we were kids, Dad built us an amazing treehouse. Over the years, the squirrels got a lot of use out of it. The siding on the treehouse was a smorgasbord for them. From my bedroom window, Google Maps says it was 65 feet to the treehouse. One of my windows didn’t have a screen on it and Dad gave me permission to open it up and shoot squirrels from my room with my BB gun. I could usually scare them enough to make them leave but nothing more than that. One morning, as usual, I spooked one enough that it headed back towards the woods. I quickly put another pellet into my gun, pumped it 10 times and fired as the squirrel was on a dead run across the yard, 85 feet away. My mouth dropped in amazement when the squirrel did a somersault and didn’t get up. I ran to tell Dad and he gave me a .410 to go make sure it was dead. It turns out I didn’t even need the shotgun because I had sent the pellet right through its tiny little skull.

The Kickball Shot
I don’t remember what grade I was in, at some point in grade school, I was walking across the parking lot during recess with the kickball. Someone behind me asked if they could have it. I said sure and instead of turning around nicely and rolling it to them, I punted it backward over my head as I was walking away. I turned around to see where it landed and to our collective surprise, it flew directly over the backboard of the hoop that was probably 20-30 feet behind me and swished through. These were big kickballs so making a basket at all was difficult. Doing it from that far away accidentally with a kick backwards over your head? I could try for the rest of my life and never repeat that.