Category Archives: Health

Trust God and Keep on Keeping On

Beth Emhoff is not very likable.  She is a fictional character played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2011 film “Contagion”.

(For me, Paltrow was the perfect person to play her. She is also unlikable.)

Beth comes back to the United States after a business trip to Asia and makes a stopover in Chicago to meld with her lover. At home waiting for her is her husband Mitch (Matt Damon).

Although Beth is not a very nice person, what happens to her after she gets home shouldn’t happen to anyone. She has seizures and surprisingly dies.

Beth is a young woman. So is her son, six-year old Clark. He catches whatever Beth has and also passes away.

They are only the tip of the iceberg  in terms of the effects of the illness that killed them. Eventually, the virus multiplies and becomes a pandemic, causing the deaths of millions around the globe.

“Contagion” is a flick that explores such a disaster from different perspectives. It shows how the general population might react. As expected, mankind doesn’t handle the epidemic well.

Different segments of society deal with the disease in their own way. The politicians and medical people who have advance knowledge of the spread of the illness arrange to get preferential treatment.

The rest of the poor saps are left to their own devices. Mobs turn violent in some cases to save their own hides.

One particularly heinous human in “Contagion” is a blogger by the name of Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law).  He fancies himself an investigative journalist, when in reality he is a narcissistic conspiracy theorist seeking to use the pandemic for his own selfish ambitions.


Some folks in in the film “Contagion” respond to a crisis negatively. One is a blogger (played by Jude Law) who seeks to use it for his own selfish ends.

On the other hand, the film also reveals that people can be heroic. Indeed, “Contagion” really concerns the brave exploration of the medical folks who seek to stem its effects.


In the film “Contagion”, doctors explore ways to overcome a pandemic that is killing millions.

The doctors seeking a cure for the disease risk their own lives. One physician working for the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually succumbs to the illness.

Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould) courageously defies orders from the CDC to destroy his work. His actions moves the needle forward in discovering a vaccine.

(Spoiler Alert)

The ultimate risk taker in “Contagion” is physician Ally Hextall. She develops a promising vaccine and in order to expedite its distribution, she injects herself with it to make sure it works. Dr. Hextall exposes herself to her father, who has contracted the disease.

As a result of her deed, the vaccine is made available in bulk to the world in as timely a fashion as possible.


Dr. Ally Hextall injects herself with an untested vaccine in order to save millions of lives.


The doctors of “Contagion” are fictional role models. They seek to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. including human opposition, and continue to explore ways to stop the pandemic.  It is eventually stopped in its tracks.

A couple of men from the Bible are similar to these heroic physicians. Joshua and Caleb are among 12 Israelite spies sent forward to explore ancient Palestine in order to determine the feasibility of conquering the natives.

God had promised the area to Abraham. His descendants were on their way through the desert to take the Lord up on his offer. They had just escaped Egypt through God’s miraculous intervention at the Red Sea (an event popularized in modern culture, including in the classic film “The Ten Commandments”).

Despite God’s work on their behalf, the Israelites wavered when most of the spies brought back bad news: the people in the land were giants and thus impossible to defeat.

Joshua and Caleb did not agree. Their minority report noted that the same God who brought the people out of Egypt in the face of a huge army and wrathful ruler could help them win in Palestine.

It was not to be. The Israelites stayed in the desert.

It was 40 years later, after almost all of this cowardly generation had died, that Joshua and Caleb led the nation to victory and won the land.

It behooves me and my fellow believers in the God of the Bible to follow the actions of these two men. Surely they had to put up with annoying delays, dangerous enemies, and indifferent neighbors. However, they persevered and won in the end.

On a personal level, I need to emulate the doctors of “Contagion” and Joshua and Caleb. I am working on a major project that today just about caused me to tear my hair out.

There is no reason for the project not to be accomplished, at least on my end. However, some people are standing in the way, folks that should know better.

In order to do the tasks required to meet the demands of the project, I need these people. Unfortunately, I am dealing with some difficult folks. Some are narrow minded. They refuse to look at the big picture and stay mired in minutiae.

Others are indifferent. They just don’t care about helping me and don’t want to be bothered.

I am having the same problems on the institutional level as well.  One key element in the project is being handled by two different organizations. The group who must perform the first steps in accomplishing this task requires things done a certain way. On the other hand, an outfit which is responsible for taking the first group’s work and completing have their own approach.

Guess who is caught in the middle? You guessed her, Chester. Yours truly. I have been Ground Zero the Emails flying between the key stakeholders entire day.

This morning as I encountered these problems I did some soul searching. I began to wonder if God was in it.

One fellow helping me, a believer, prayed with me, seeing my obstacles as the devil’s work. (I surely see over regulation that way!)

Whatever the truth is, I am spending a lot of time and money as I bang my head against the wall.

However, as I view the docs of “Contagion” and the heroes of the Bible, I see virtues worthy of copying. They kept seeking to move the needle forward in accomplishing their goals. They persevered.

As I wrote in my journal this morning, I thought that my perspective must be two-fold. As I face my obstacles, I have to take my hands off and let God work when I encounter them. In the meantime, I need to keep pushing forward, keep exploring and seeking answers,  until it is absolutely clear that my task is impossible, or until I gain victory.

It’s the only way to maintain sanity when meeting up with any problem.


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Writing as therapy and spiritual healing

I’ve always loved writing. It is probably what I do best and I enjoy it.

Talking about it, teaching it, and doing it has always been fun for me. This summer It has become something more. Writing has become therapy and a source of guidance for me.

I owe a lot of that to the work of Julia Cameron, whose book “The Right to Write” has been accompanying me to Starbucks for weeks.  It contains over 40 small chapters of teaching and exercises.

Cameron begins each chapter with an “invitation”, in which she describes her own personal experiences related to writing and life. Then she provides what she calls an “initiation tool” to use to apply her thoughts.

Three of Cameron’s ideas have been of particular help to me. One has been her effort to convince her readers that writing is not some great task reserved for only the elite and talented.  This teaching literally has given me the right to write.  Because of this I have felt unchained in terms of getting thoughts on paper.

Once she freed me from my intellectual prison, Cameron gave me a couple of practical devices to unleash my own ruminations. Her Morning Pages (sometimes “mourning pages) are three pages of handwritten writing first thing before the day starts. This is “stream of consciousness” writing. Night Notes are the posing of questions right before bed for up to ten minutes.

The beauty of any teaching is that you can make it your own. I have tried to stick to Julia’s dictums despite my weaknesses. I am not a morning person and find it difficult to get going. I have found others struggle with this exercise for the same reason.

As a result, I find I don’t get these pages done every day, or that I do them later on in the morning. This would probably be fine with Cameron.  She says that Morning Pages are “not high art” and that “there is no wrong way to do Morning Pages.”

This morning I struggled to get through three pages. I found myself drawing regular and irregular shapes on the lines in my composition books just to get through. Even this strategy was helpful because it reminded me that one of the best ways to get something done well is to think outside of the box.

With Night Notes the writer is supposed to sleep on the questions and allow the subconscious to provide answers. Because I actually forgot this feature I have been answering the questions as I pose them before sleeping. Again, I have come upon some beneficial ideas although I “broke the rules.”

What I have found is that these tools have helped me to clear the deck in my mind. A lot of the baggage is done away with. One effect of this is my thinking becomes more focused. Another is that my emotions are stabilized because I have vented them on the page.

Cameron has offered to me in organized form the wisdom of the greats. For example, Bob Dylan uses similar thinking and methods as hers to get his ideas down. He was asked by interviewer Paul Zollo how he got thoughts out of his mind. He replied,

Well, first of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind. Some people are more loaded down with one than another. Nevertheless, they come through. And you have to be able to sort them out, if you want to be a songwriter, if you want to be a good song singer. You must get rid of all that baggage. You ought to be able to sort out those thoughts, because they don’t mean anything, they’re just pulling you around, too. It’s important to get rid of all them thoughts.”

When the mind is clean of garbage and issues come into clearer focus by getting them onto the page, movement can be made. Dylan says once the baggage is gotten rid of, “then you can do something from some kind of surveillance of the situation. You have some kind of place where you can see but it can’t affect you. Where you can bring something to the matter, besides just take, take, take, take, take.”

Getting rid of the mud of the mind allows God to enter into our thinking. In my post about Dylan’s divine inspiration, I noted how his lyrics were influenced by the divine. I also explained that Cameron makes no bones about the benefits of listening to spiritual sources as we write.

While her writings about this are more eclectic in terms of who or what to access than I personally would prefer, I have gained by not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Applying her axioms in the context of my own beliefs about God and truth have been quite profitable.

As a Christian I seek to learn what God wants of me through reading the Bible and through prayer. Thus, I try to ask questions of Him, tell Him my own desires, and listen for His answer.

Further, I use my own God-given brain combined with what seems to be God’s leading to make decisions.  Before you claim that this is all “pie in the sky bye and bye”, I must explain how I believe the process works.

I see God’s leading as working more like a GPS device than a road map.  20th century pastor J. Vernon McGee said that God does not hand out road maps. In fact, he decried false piety in which people claimed to have a direct pipeline to the Almighty.

I recently listened  to a sermon by McGee about the story Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, from whose line Jesus would come, and how she decided to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi when they were poor. Ruth decided to glean grain from local fields. Gleaning was a practice allowed in Israel in ancient times as a means to support the needy.

One day she came to two fields from which to glean grain. One was owned by Boaz, who was a distant relative of Naomi. Ruth had come to Israel with her when her husband, Naomi’s son, died. She did this as a step of faith and out of a willingness to follow the God of Naomi’s people.

McGee said that Ruth did not have a vision or a dream from God. He explained that she reasoned on the spot to go into the field of Boaz based on the situation before her. One thing led to another and she married Boaz, and thus became a distant grandmother of Jesus.

“God’s leading-yes,” said McGee. “But He’s leading a heart that’s willing to be led, and going step by step by faith.” Ruth was such a person.

Thus, the writing tools taught by Cameron and used by expert artists such as Bob Dylan have helped me to seek God and His leading as Ruth did.  As I write I believe He leads me step-by-step to great truths and informs decisions that have to be made.

What I have learned has given me great peace. It has also produced spiritual healing. I can live one day at a time, trusting God to communicate with me, not necessarily in spectacular ways, but through normal means of grace like the Bible and prayer, and though practical tasks such as writing, a practice I love anyway.

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