Keeping the Faith

By Dr. Jim Ferguson
Few Americans would argue that life has changed dramatically in the last month. For me, even 9/11 and retirement pale in comparison to the COVID–19 pandemic.

All my life I was racing somewhere: college, then medical school, my office or the hospital, even family dinners or my daughters’ activities. In the late fall of my life, I find that I have finally arrived at my destination where I am to spend the rest of my days helping family, serving friends and my concierge patients and witnessing for the Way.

Several have asked me what happens in a coronavirus infection. About 2500 years ago the ancient Greeks described the telltale results of injury or infection as redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function. Science now understands these signs of inflammation are due to chemical messengers called cytokines. These are released with injury or infection and rev up the immune system and orchestrate, as well as modulate, the inflammatory and healing process. Theoretically, a severe injury may produce a severe cytokine response with collateral damage as in shock-lung or ARDS (adult respiratory distress syndrome). The response to a severe coronavirus infection has been pictured as a “cytokine storm” where the virus is attacked by the immune system, but collateral damage occurs in the lung and other organs.

Becky and I have been sheltering in place since President Trump advised most of us to stay home to avoid the coronavirus plague. As a result, >80% of American workers are on the sideline and the $22 trillion US economy has been halted. I’m fortunate to be sequestered with the grace-filled and tolerant Becky, but even she has limits. If the country doesn’t accept some risk and return to work soon, the country will be lost.

Telemedicine has become fashionable with the coronavirus crisis. I’ve been doing telemedicine for five years in my Concierge practice. Recently, I’ve talked several patients off the proverbial ledge, who were worried about coronavirus infection. Several had simple colds and another hay fever. In Knoxville simple colds or allergies to the pollen on car hoods are still the most likely cause of respiratory symptoms.

I’m not being critical because Becky and I recently noticed after a hard day of farm work. we felt rough. We even took our temperature and were shocked to find fevers of 100°! At least until I changed the battery in my digital thermometer and our “coronavirus fever” was cured.

Life has changed for the foreseeable future. Some may be afraid to pick up a Focus newspaper. Becky and I now spray groceries with alcohol. I carry a hand sanitizer with me everywhere and I no longer shake hands. And we have given up Tuesday night suppers with neighbors.

However, I have confidence that treatments for this modern plague will be found and preventive vaccinations will be developed. Remember, smallpox has been eradicated and polio no longer cripples in the United States. Our coinage says, “In God We Trust.” I do. And though it may trigger some, I Trust in Trump.

As the plague marches across America, I recalled a book I read years ago called “Generations, the History of America’s Future, 1584-2069.” Yes, you read the title correctly. Authors Strauss and Howe charted America’s history, beginning with the defeat of the Spanish Armada which allowed northern Europeans to begin migration to North America in the early 1600s. These historians found recurring cycles in the ensuing 400 years of American history as well as identifiable generational characteristics such as The Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. Understandably, America has gone through many periods of internal strife (soul searching), such as the turbulent sixties, and external challenges like WWII.

What stunned me was the historian’s predictions. In rereading this sentinel 1991 book, I am struck by Strauss and Howe’s prediction that America’s next “climactic event” will come from outside and confront us in 2020!

History is a great teacher and the findings of these researchers and especially their predictions seem plausible, given the coronavirus invasion. (I find less plausible the illusions to a “Wohan-400 virus” in Dean Koontz’s 1981 book “The Eyes of Darkness” or the 2011 movie Contagion.)

I am not a starry-eyed optimist, but I am comforted by the advances in medical science since Generations was published in 1991. And we have a wartime president who comprehends the “invisible enemy,” the dishonest media and the duplicitous, swampy Pelosi and Schumer.

A friend of mine recently quipped, “It’s a good time to be an older person.” Like me she is a seasoned citizen and devout Christian. I understand her sentiment that our time here is nearly over. However, I refuse to give up the fight against the Chinese Communist Plague or progressive socialists and leftists.

In circa 62 AD, the Apostle Paul was under house arrest awaiting the Roman Emperor’s judgement. He spent the time preparing his protege Timothy to take over his ministry if things went badly for Paul. It did, and he was martyred in 63 AD by Nero. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I have adopted, but modified, Paul’s perspective by changing his past tense to a future tense of I will fight, I will finish and I will keep the faith.

In these troubled times we wonder what we can do to help our country and each other. The President and his Task Force have sensible guidelines we should all be following, but there is more.

Bill Hybels in his book “Too Busy Not To Pray” described a useful acronym for prayer – ACTS. A stands for adoration or praise of God. C is for confession or a call to repentance. T reminds us to be thankful for life and other blessings. And S is for supplication where we get to ask for courage, strength, wisdom, insight, hope and peace.

As I center on God, a sense of peace occurs in me and I often think of the enduring hymn,

“It is well, it is well, with my soul…

I challenge you to reflect on the words of this hymn written by Horatio Spatford. Google the story of its writing.

I think your coronavirus worries will lessen.

 

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