Would an Ebola Quarantine Work?

quarantineThere has been a lot of buzz about the possibility of quarantines of health care staff. It is time that someone explained how a quarantine works and discussed whether it makes sense in this setting.

What is a Quarantine?

An important distinction needs to be made between quarantine and isolation. Isolation is to take people who are infectious and isolate them to prevent them from spreading the disease. Isolation can be mandatory or voluntary. Historically, Ebola has had mandatory isolation but for the most part, patients and families were willingly isolated to prevent the spread of the disease to others. Isolation is very good practice for a disease like Ebola.

A quarantine is more aggressive. Quarantines are where a population of healthy people are isolated because they might become infectious. They are usually involuntary because no one wants to be locked in with infectious people. It is usually accompanied by aggressive state actions to enfoce the quarantine.

When would a Quarantine make sense?

The justification for a quarantine requires two elements. First, the illness must be infectious. It would make no sense to quarantine cancer patients because they can’t transmit their disease. In the epidemiology community, the measure of infectivity is the Basic Reproduction Number or R-Naught (written as R0). It is the number of people you would expect, on average, to get an illness from an infectious person. Influenza has an R0 of 2-3, smallpox 5-7, measles is 12-18. The 2014 Ebola outbreak has an R0 of about 1.7 in West Africa. In the US, it is much lower with only two transmissions from the seven patients who have been treated.

The second factor is the severity of the illness.  Ebola, of course, is one of the deadlier illnesses out there, so its severity is certainly enough that isolation and quarantine are worth considering.

Both factors are important. Rabies and Mad Cow disease, which are nearly %100 fatal, do not require a quarantine because they are relatively difficult to transmit. Chicken Pox may be very infectious, but it is not so severe that we should consider isolation and quarantine. We would live in quite an oppressive society is the common cold was justification for isolation just because it was infectious despite the fact it is fairly benign as an illness.

What are the Advantages of a Quarantine?

At least in theory, quarantining an illness should isolate it to a small group of people where it can be safely treated or allowed to fizzle out on its own. To separate the potentially sick from the healthy does protect the healthy and may minimize the spread of the illness.

Another major advantage of quarantines is that they are a simple solution that makes the healthy feel safer. Quarantines are usually done by the healthy to the potentially sick. It allows the local leaders to say they did something which pacifies a frightened public.

One of the most justifiable and terrible quarantines in history is Typhoid Mary, who was an symptom free carrier of Typhoid. She was quarantined for 26 years of her life to protect the public from the outbreaks of typhoid that followed her. She was essentially imprisoned for life because of a disease she had.

What are the Disadvantages of a Quarantine?

Quarantines are not particularly effective. The only moderately effective quarantine I can find is management of Mad Cow Disease. It involved slaughtering 4.5 million head of cattle, which was the only effective solution because Mad Cow is universally fatal and untreatable.

Of course, this is not an option for humans. Quarantines have been rare in modern times. In 2007, a man named James Speaker was quarantined with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. The last American quarantine before him was in 1963.

Quarantines can pacify a large segment of the population, but they often enrage the quarantined. During a smallpox outbreak in 1983, Local authorities attempted to quarantine the municipality of Muncie, Indiana. The population did not believe they had smallpox and several local officials were shot. Not only was the quarantine unenforceable, it created more problems than it solved.

Another difficulty of quarantines has been how often they are thinly veiled racial oppression. When a majority views a minority as dirty or disease ridden, it lowers the threshold necessary to quarantine them as a group. In 1900, California quarantined a section of San Francisco which was almost exclusively made of Chinese immigrants and their businesses. The effects were devastating to the local businesses and the quarantine was later thrown out by a federal court.

Does a Quarantine make sense for Ebola in America?

Ebola is certainly a dangerous illness with a 70% fatality rate in West Africa. A quarantine was tried in Liberia and Sierra Leone and both seem to have had no benefit and generally only aggravated an already tense public.

Ebola also is quite contagious to those performing funerals and direct caregivers of the sick. So the basic criteria for a quarantine are met in West Africa. Despite this, the quarantines that have been tried were failures. The energy and resources placed in the quarantine would have been much better spent on caring for the sick.

So would and Ebola quarantine in America make sense? The severity of Ebola in a modern health care setting has been much better than in Africa. There has been one death of Ebola in the US with this outbreak of the seven who have been treated. The death of Thomas Duncan was not surprising because even when he came for treatment in Dallas, he was sent home for several days. Despite this, Duncan only gave Ebola to the people you would expect him to transmit to, direct caregivers.

In fact, despite a botched handling of that outbreak, no one in the community developed Ebola. This is consistent with European treatment of Ebola patients where only direct caregivers of the sick have gotten Ebola.

So Ebola is not as severe nor as transmittable in a Western setting. This is not surprising as the toilet may be a greater safeguard than anything else. To take those infected body fluids away and have then adequately treated is probably more important than all of the personal protective equipment on the planet.

Taking all of this into consideration, I think a quarantine of health care workers or civilians who are not sick (which is to say, not contagious) would be neither effective nor beneficial. It is a political band-aid for a non-existent problem. In the history of this outbreak, no one has caught Ebola from a Western health care worker and no one has caught Ebola on a plane. There is simply no evidence to justify a quarantine.

But if even one person would get Ebola, wouldn’t a quarantine be justified?

This is an objection I have found is pretty common. As long as the life of a West African carries as much weight as an American, then this makes no sense. The small risk of an American getting Ebola much be weighted against the hundreds and thousands of lives that traveling health care staff going to West Africa can save. It only makes sense to say this if their lives don’t count. And their lives count!

Isn’t it selfish of those health care workers to risk the public by not quarantining themselves?

No more risk than when you get behind the wheel of your car. 34,000 Americans die in car accidents every year, so far one has died of Ebola ever. When you stop driving for public health reasons, get back to me.

As I have argued before, the burden on the health care workers who go overseas is heavy and to make it heavier only discourages us from going, which is a loss for everyone.

In conclusion

Let me end by asking that we, who want to go to West Africa, not be hindered. Care enough for the dying in West Africa to allow us to go and do what we are good at. It is no risk to you and a very great risk for them. Love them enough to overcome your fear.

And even if you are afraid, know that quarantines don’t really work that well. Find a better solution before you shackle us with a quarantine.

-Chip

Advertisements

Seven Difficulties Health Care Workers Face to Fight Ebola

1280px-Ebola_virus_virion

As a nurse, I am one of the many who wishes to run toward Ebola. Don’t credit us with too much courage. We of all people know how manageable Ebola is and how few health care workers get it when good precautions are used and how many fewer die when given good treatment. Ebola is not as dangerous as advertised.

We see how many will die in West Africa if no one runs toward the explosion. In our protective gear, we are quite safe from contracting Ebola unlike the people of West Africa are in danger with about 70% of the infected dying. With the total cases now crossing 10,000 and a bleak future ahead if nothing changes, we feel the urgency to go.

With the new quarantines in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida, it is becoming increasingly difficult. There is a presumption on health care workers that our time and resources are acceptable sacrifices so that Americans can feel safe from their irrational fears. While West Africa is in serious danger, America is not. Even if 1000 sick patients got in a plane today and flew to every major American city, the outbreak would be under control within a few weeks.

The very first case of a nurse returning to the U. S. from an Ebola ward shows how needlessly aggressive the quarantining of health care workers can be. She was not treated as a kind person who took a risk for others and more like a  criminal waiting for the DA to charge her.

I don’t believe the public at large understands the sorts of barriers we face in getting to West Africa.

I hope to show you the difficulties I have faced in my own attempt to go to Liberia so that you can see that our help should not be presumed upon. We are not asking for your support as much as we ask that you not stand in our way.

1. The Fear for my Family

My greatest fear in all this is to come home and give Ebola to one of my kids. This is a remote possibility and a devastating one. It weighs so much on me that I plan on not returning home for the 21 days I could be infectious.

Lest I be accused of being hypocritical, I am not returning home because I can’t avoid close physical contact with my kids or my wife. It’s hard to avoid close contact with the lady sleeping in my bed or the kids climbing in my lap. I plan on returning to work (I have a phone job, so no close physical contact there either) and resuming my normal life. The public is at a minimal/non-existent risk and my life is not terribly inconvenienced.

Additionally, I will be checking my temperature multiple times a day and would promptly report a fever to the authorities. It is entirely possible I will be hospitalized with full protective gear for a minor stomach bug, but so be it.

2. The Fears of my Family

The next greatest weight we carry is the fear of those who love us. They mean well and wish for us to be safe. Of course, if I were sick with Ebola, my family would hope someone who had the resources and knowledge to help would come from far away to help me. I am hoping to be that person for someone else’s son or sister or mother or friend.

Their concern is not crazy. This is a dangerous disease. I don’t fear for myself because I am not in particular danger, but I understand their concern.

3. The Financial Pressure

When I go, I will be using my vacation time to do it. In fact, to even take three weeks of vacation time is difficult for my employer. I can’t support a house payment and our other expenses while taking significant time off. In addition, I am adding some expenses even though most NGOs pay for the travel and expenses there. Who will shovel my driveway when it snows? There are countless little things that need to be attended to while I am gone.

4. Work Pressures

My employer has been very understanding of my trip. Even so, many of my coworkers aren’t thrilled with the idea that someone who has been near Ebola will be working in the cube next to them. I suspect that I will given a wide berth when I arrive back.

Additionally, I feel that because people would be concerned that I should alert them that I have been to an Ebola hit country. I don’t want them to wonder if they should have shaken hands with me. They should be afforded the courtesy of making that decision for themselves even if I am comfortable with it.

 5. Public Pressures

Many health care workers have been afforded a return from West Africa like the Vietnam Veterans received. Many are thankful for their sacrifice and a vocal and frightened few are quite vicious to the nurse who was needlessly quarantined in New Jersey.  Here are several choice examples just posted in the comments from the link above:

Nurse Medusa with the outdated snake hair,showing her true liberal democrat selfish roots.

Then Jesus said, ‘How selfish of you to care for the afflicted at risk of your own life. And how dare you complain about unwarranted ill treatment on your return. You must be a liberal. I hate you’.

If she was a responsible health provider, who respects her profession and her fellow Americans, she would have quarantined herself for 1 month before stepping on a plane home. Isolation is a key factor when trying to contain an epidemic, one does not have to work in the health sciences field to figure that out. Selfish and ignorant!

I now see the Kaci is going by private carrier to her home in Maine where she will “self quarantine”. A small part of me hopes she develops Ebola, and like the Dallas nurse recovers fully.

Additionally, we are treated like public property. There is no great discussion of the rights of these workers. As a libertarian myself, I have been stunned at the lack of discussion of the civil liberties of the health care community. We are not a resource or commodity, we are human beings.

6. The Difficulty of Even Getting To West Africa

It is not small feat to get the time to do the CDC training and get over to West Africa. While many of the NGOs pay for the travel, it is a lot of time and phone calls to even get to that point. We, like all of you, have busy lives with many responsibilities. Getting to West Africa is no small feat.

7. The Uncertainty of How the Government will Treat Us

When I take off in that plane to go to West Africa, at any moment the policy of Minnesota or the Federal Government could change requiring me to be quarantined for three additional weeks on my return. It would be a serious financial burden on my family if this happened.

A week ago, I might have agreed to go through JFK or Newark airport once I returned, now I will specifically request to avoid these airports to avoid the quarantines that have been placed there. There is even talk of health care community of flying into Toronto and driving home to avoid these onerous requirements.

Should I go?

As you can see, there are many barriers to going to serve these patients. I don’t want applause for this, I simply don’t want to be hindered. A few more roadblocks and, in the name of public safety, I will be prevented from going at all.

If we don’t go to help those in West Africa, this outbreak will spread and grow. Do you think that if Ebola exploded in Guatemala it would be contained well there. Wouldn’t it then march into Mexico and start walking across our own border there? The only way the U. S. will be safe from Ebola is if it is stopped where it is.

Without the aid of U. S. health care volunteers, it will never be stopped in West Africa. For their safety and for your safety, please let us go unhindered and return without barriers placed before us. If we don’t go, who will?

-Chip

Against Againstness

against

Inside my generation is a gnawing need to be part of something. To belong to something greater than ourselves, to be part of something great.

The problem is that belonging to great things involves a lot of work and determination. We aren’t really into working or determination, so we choose the next best thing.

Againstness

You see, it is easy to belong to a growing mass of critics. You read watch a video of Ray Rice punching his wife. You are filled with outrage. You tweet a nasty denunciation of Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, The Baltimore Ravens, the Western Culture, Men, and the spiraling failure of humanity. If you are especially industrious, you even wrote a blog post about it.

Take a deep breath. That was hard work. You did something.

But you didn’t. What you did was join the large mass of humanity in agreeing that Ray Rice had done something terrible. You aren’t a lone voice bringing attention to a terrible situation. You are part of a large self-congratulating mob patting each other on the backs for how much they are against domestic violence. Againstness gives you the illusion of doing something. As Barnabas Piper clear shows in his article Defined by What We Aren’t, againstness is at its best laziness and at its worst Pharisaical.

Throughout my teen years I traveled with an organization called Teen Missions International. Every year, the great Bob (he has a last name, but we all just called him Bob), would stand in the darkness on commissioning night. We were all ready to have a pizza party that night as we headed out to our overseas work, but Bob would solemnly say.

“Do you see this darkness. It is better to light a candle than it is to curse the darkness.”

He would light a single candle in that large tent. We would see the outlines of people even in that large space, with the lighting of a single candle.

Darkness cursing is easy. Candle cursing is even easier. Wouldn’t a bigger candle be better? If you really want to light that space, why not get some big halogen bulbs? Candles are bad for the environment. That message he spoke after lighting the candle wasn’t that inspiring.

Bob did something. The rest of us are just critics.

Hating sin is not loving God. Hating the effects of sin is not caring for people. We need to define ourselves by what we are FOR.

Yes, I know. This sounds an awful lot like work. We need to make a hard choice, stop pretending we are loving people by being critical of their enemies. Don’t pretend you love God because you hate his enemies. We need to actually love our God and love his people.

Ironically, this is really mundane. Loving God looks quite boring, even domesticated. For most, it means living a quiet life working their jobs and loving their families. It means we complain less and compliment more. It means looking at God and asking why I don’t delight in him more.

The greatest sinner you know is reading this article right now. Is it possible that you are so critical because you feel your own sin. It is easier to justify my sin if Ray Rice and Chris Brown are evil. At least I don’t do that! But that nagging knowledge that you have failed your God won’t go away.

The cure for againstness is to look deeply at what God has done FOR you. If you are so screwed up (and you are, much more than you realize) and God loves you so much anyway, WOW. That is good news. When you look out of your broken heart and see other sinners, the bent of your heart won’t be to condemn, because if I condemn them, I condemn myself. God does not condemn me, even though he really should.

I want that for others too.

We stand with the God of the Universe at our back and in front. With that kind of security, we have so much to be for and too much work to do. Sometimes that means being against evil. Most of the time it means proactively teaching and training and loving and building. It means being rather boring most of the time. If we don’t build, the world will fall apart.

So let’s do some building.

-Chip

I would also like to recommend the excellent book Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers. In its pages, I discovered much of my own againstness and where it came from.

The image above is courtesy of Acid Pix and is used with permission.

Ebola and Barnie (a true story)

liberiaThe following is based on real events.

When Abdulah walked home that Sunday, he did not know what he brought with him. He thought he only brought home fruit. He thought wrong.

Ballajah had been under quarantine along with the whole surrounding region. The Ebola scare was felt throughout. The air itself was heavier with the silent menace. Men and women were afraid to go out and work, but they would quickly starve if they didn’t.

Abdulah was forced out of his house by his poverty. Today, he was glad for the food he had to bring home. For the first time in a long time he had plenty of food for Seidia and his two children, Fatu and Barnie. They would have a veritable feast tonight.

With a full stomach and a happier outlook, Abdulah slept well that night. As Monday morning approached, his throat began to feel sore. He tried not to worry. The Ebola patients he had heard of looked very sick and he felt fine otherwise. This couldn’t be Ebola. As the day moved forward, he became feverish, very feverish.

Seidia was clearly worried about him. She tried to feed him and give him plenty to drink, but the vomitting started Tuesday. Abdullah was beginning to look very ill. His eyes were sunken and he grew progressively weaker with each passing hour. Seidia strictly warned the children not to tell anyone in Ballajah of the illness. Whether it was Ebola or not, she knew the elders would cut them off from any community support if they knew that Abdulah was sick.

Things worsened. Abdulah developed severe diarrhea and was too weak to make it to the latrine. He soiled himself several times during the night. With no gloves or running water, she had not protection for herself and he needed to be cleaned up. She washed her hands as best she could with some bleach water left by the government in town. She prayed that God would protect them.

The days stretched on. When the bleeding began from Abdulah’s eyes and ears, they knew he had Ebola.

Mariam, a family friend, had come in unanounced and as soon as she saw Abdulah, she ran out and told the elders. Within minutes a small crowd had come to the front door. They angrily questioned Seidia as to why she had not told them of Abdulah’s illness. She tried ot explain, but nothing would pacify the crowd.

From then on, they were outcasts. Everyone gave Seidia and the children a wide berth. Fatu was chased from the market by several village men. Barnie had no playmates any more. Seitia was cursed by the local women whenever she tried to leave her home. She and the children had run out of food. They could only get water from the river at night when everyone in the village was asleep.

Abdulah had fallen unconscious. He had been sick for more than a week. His breathing had become harsh and rattled. Seitia, grief stricken and at her wits end, began to despair. When Abdulah died on Wednesday, she could only sit in a stupor, staring at his lifeless body. He had been sick for about 10 days.

Seidia now faced two dilemmas. Her husband was dead of a disease that was clearly Ebola. She and the children might get sick. Despite this, the more pressing need is for food. Ballajah had become a prison more than a village. No one would help them. No one would even come near them. Seidia did manage to get the elders to call the authorities to pick up Abdulah’s body.

And so the waiting began. One day passed, then two. No one had come to pick up the body. The smell was becoming overwhelming. It felt unloving to throw him in the street, but what was she to do. It took all of her strength to get him out the door. Tired from the effort, she walked into her house and sat on a stool. It was then that she first felt it. She was nauseated.

It came on fast. She quickly began vomiting and she spiked a fever within hours. With Abdulah’s body rotting outside the door, Seidia now was sure she would join him soon. With none of the village to help her, she cared for herself as best she could. She made sure Fatu and Barnie did not touch her or care for her.

The following day, Fatu became feverish as well. As Abdulah’s body spent a fourth day rotting by the house, a feeling of death reigned inside. Seidia instructed Barnie, who was 15 years old, to go into the bush. Maybe he could be spared this sickness. Barnie resisted but Seidia was firm. Barnie was better on his own than with them.

The following morning, men arrived from the government wearing strange white outfits. They took Abdulah’s body and confirmed that both Seidia and Fatu had Ebola. Seidia had hoped for help from the men, maybe medicine or transportation to a hospital. Instead, she watched as the man instructed the villagers not to go near them.

And then the men left.

No one was going to help them.

In a strange irony, Abdulah’s body had protected Fatu and Seidia from the village. Because he was laying next to the doorway, no one would approach the house. Now that he was gone, the unthinkable happened. The villagers covered the windows and sealed the doorway. Their home had gone from a figurative prison to an actual one.

Fatu was scared. She had been scared for two weeks. Mama had taken care of papa when he was sick, and now he had died.

There was a lot to be afraid of.

The days lengthened in the dark, hot, house. Fatu’s throat was inflamed. As the days passed, mama became too weak to care for her any more. The semi-light of the house made daytime dim and night pitch black. She cried all the time. She cried in her dreams. She cried and yet no tears came out. She was so thirsty. She screamed for help, but no one came.

On Sunday, August 10, Fatu awoke in the dim morning light and looked at her mother. The coarse breaths that Fatu had gotten used were now gone. She looked into the vacant eyes of her mother’s body.

She screamed.

For hours she screamed. The agony of the previous weeks now poured out in a stream of inconsolable sadness. The deep sense of abandonment crashed into a river of sound that would not stop coming.

And still, no one came to help her.

Barnie stayed in the bush nearby. He heard Fatu’s scream. He heard all of her screams. He wanted to go to her. He was afraid of dying. He wanted to run. He wanted to stay.  He wanted to live, but if living is like this, then he wanted to die.

Fatu screamed on and off for a day. She could be heard moaning the following day. On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, she went silent. Her corpse, along with her mother’s, was not picked up by the authorities. It remains rotting in that grim sealed tomb that used to be their home.

Barnie moved into an abandoned home in Ballajah. After the Sherrif family had been sealed in their home, the villagers fled into the bush. No one wanted to be the next victim of Ebola.

Barnie was left to survive on his own. A 15-year-old orphan, he cries all the time. With resources growing thin around the nation, the odds are not in Barnie’s favor. Even if Ebola doesn’t get him, starvation and exposure probably will. He has some of the skills he needs to survive, but lacks others.

As he sits on the stoop of his ‘new’ house. The bright African sun does not help his grief. The silence of Ballajah oppresses him. Ebola had robbed him of a family, home, a village, and probably his life. He feels his inadequacy to survive this. As he sits, he prays that someone will come and help him. Maybe God will send someone to save him, the last of his family.

Maybe God is sending you.

-Chip

The story above is a dramatization of a true story. I have taken some liberties, but I felt their story should be told. 

The Image Above is courtesy of Ken Harper and is used with permission

A Dream for Kitty (on her High School Graduation)

6117920326_29df6221dc_b (1)

Kitty,

I know you don’t like to be called Kitty any more. You have grown into a young woman who has the world in front of her. A sea of expectations, hopes, fears, and dreams. A commander of your destiny who will choose to battle the storms and find a new country for herself. Bold, curious, and determined, you have a bright future.

Such a person really shouldn’t be call Kitty.

But I don’t see you that way. To me, you will always be, to some degree, that little girl sitting in that van with a ridiculous number of pets in it. With brown hair and tender eyes, that little girl’s sweet disposition shined through. A tender soul who looked at life with curiosity and a healthy dose of caution.

That little girl visited us often. I remember when she visited us in our apartment in Knoxville. I remember when she lived in our basement, when she drove a car for the first time, when she pursued her first job. Soon, I will remember when she graduated High School and moved into a strange and exciting world.

Please permit and old man like me to see you as a little girl and, because I love the name, to call you Kitty.

What should I say to you? How do I encapsulate all of the hopes, fears, and joys I feel for you in a single letter? Even for an old man like me, this is too grand a task. Your life cannot be wrapped up in a few fumbling words, even if I wish it could. The tender affections I feel for you and the deep hopes I hold for you could fill volumes and yet would not fully describe them.

When God sat down to create the world, he had many things on his mind. The molding of atoms and galaxies. He hand-carved the Earth and threw it gently into its orbit. He formed the first seeds and scattered them over the whole Earth. He then worked on men and women. Even as he gathered the dust up to make Adam he pondered the people who would come from what he was doing. God has a nostalgic side.

He thought of you. Deep in his enormous heart a fountain of joys poured out as he considered the way you would walk and the funny things you would say. He cried quietly about your hurts and laughed with you at the joys you would have. He chose to love you deeply and to hold you close to his heart.

He also took a bit of that affection and was kind enough to give it to me. What a sweet gift!

From that tender place in my heart, I see a future for you. That future has not happened, but I pray for it. Allow an old man like me to show you what I hope for you.

Love Jesus (Choose your God Well)

Kitty, give your heart wholly to Jesus. My affection for you is a tiny spark that was flung from the inferno of his affection. He walked through a dark and painful world out of his love for you. He died for you. One of the stunning revelations we will experience on crossing into Heaven will be the deep and tender care he has for us. Love him!

Love Your Husband (Choose your Husband Well)

God knows I am very pro-marriage. There are few more beautiful things in the world than a sweet marriage. But there also few uglier things than terrible marriage. Most awful marriages could have been prevented while only a few of them can be fixed.

The fact is, most people don’t change. I mean the core of them. Sure some surface things are refined in life, but most of the deepest parts of us are fixed and we cannot change them, even when we want to. Most people do mean to be faithful when they marry, but they are then are unwilling to deeply and truly love when the challenge is put to them.

Kitty, one day soon a young man will walk into your life and will see you and see a glimpse of how precious you are. He will honestly and deeply desire you. This is a good thing! He will pour his creativity and heart into winning you. This too is good! He will be sincere and it will feel really good that he wants you that passionately. This is wonderful as well!

But his sincerity and desire are not good enough. It takes more than good intentions to be a good husband. Please be careful. Take your time. Bring in trusted adults with stable marriages to look him over and to see what substance there is to him. It will be so wonderful to see you happily in love. I want that to last a lifetime. Be careful.

Love Your Life

Soon you will have the wonderful privilege of making big decisions. As you stand at the crossroad you will realize that when you choose one path, you are choosing not to go down another. If you want to become a doctor you can’t simultaneously become an interior designer. God gave you a limited life in this world and you will have to let things go to fully embrace what is good.

Don’t be afraid. We have all faced this.

When you choose, throw your heart into that choice. None of the choices are wrong, but give yourself to your choice and pursue it with passion. Pray about it. God gives wisdom to those who ask.

Holiness and Joy are the Same Thing

You will be presented choices that will look like God is holding a joy away from you: that if you do the right thing you will be choosing misery.

That is a lie.

Certainly you will suffer for doing the right thing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung from a gallows naked for his choices. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down for his choices. Were they fools?

No, they suffered because they believe that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Jesus commended us to not “store up treasure on Earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”

The fact is, your God loves you and the rules he has placed are there because he loves you. The guard rails at the Grand Canyon are not limitations for you, they are guides to keep you safe. Remember, holiness and joy are the same thing.

In Closing

Well, I seem to be rambling a bit. Kitty, you have a bright future that is full of joys and sorrows that you cannot imagine. I don’t know what they will be but I promise you this: as long as I am able to, I will walk them with you. To the extent I am able to support you and care for you as you strike out in this world, I will do it.

In this way, I am acting like my Father. He too will walk with you. Unlike me, he knows what is coming and is already preparing you for it. Unlike me, he is never out of resources to help you. Unlike me, he will not die and cannot be stopped. He will never be sick and he will never sin against you. Trust me a little bit. Trust him a lot.

Kitty, I am so excited to see what this life has for you. Permit me to take part in your journey.

-Chip

The lovely image above is courtesy of Ephriam Ragasa and is used with permission

Gifts from My Father

dad

My Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, many of us are considering what to give our fathers. Amazon is convinced I should buy him a new Fire TV setup (I haven’t had the heart to tell them he wouldn’t want it). Personalization Mall really feels like he needs a personalized tie and Best Buy believes I don’t love him unless I get him a laptop.

As a father myself, I have come to the conviction that Father’s Day should be all the more about what we as fathers can do to serve our wives, our children, and our community. It is good to celebrate fatherhood and fathers. There are few more daunting tasks than to be a good father.

I did not buy my dad a Father’s Day present, as is my custom. It is not a sign of ingratitude, I’ve never been much on giving gifts (sorry Amazon). In many ways, this is not as much a celebration of what I can do for my father and more of a memorial for what he has done for me. This Father’s Day, let’s take a walk back and remember what I have been given by my father.

His Work Ethic

My dad did something truly amazing. Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but my dad did something even better. He got up early every morning and trudged to a job he didn’t like because he loved us. Dad worked for years with difficult people and frustrating demands. He rarely complained to us, but I know the toll that took on him.

That sort of work ethic is commendable, even excellent. I strive to live up to that. Thank you dad for that gift.

His Love of Learning

One of dad’s better kept secrets is his deep intelligence. He reads more than anyone I know. One of the jokes from our childhood is how rich we would be if dad had just been willing to go on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (answer: we would have been millionaires). He introduced me to some of the greatest authors out there including C. S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur C. Clark, H. G. Wells, and many more. I am a little bitter that I had to find The Lord of the Rings on my own, but I have since forgiven him.

In addition, he was able to speak intelligently on most topics in science and in particular space. Dad always had a secret dream of being an astronaut. He even applied to be the teacher on the Challenger Mission in 1986. Being that it blew up on lift-off, I am glad he didn’t win.

To this day, I still call dad and we chat about science and history and whatever is on our minds. Thanks dad.

His Love of Family

The classic Easop’s Fable of The Tortoise and the Hare ends with the mantra, “Slow and steady wins the race.” In that case, dad won. You will never find my dad creating a viral video where he break-dances or sings some Sinatra to my mom. He is not a flashy guy. A little uncomfortable in crowds, I doubt many of you know him the way we do.

Dad’s unwavering, determined, firm, and emphatic dedication to my mom is legendary. He is truly in love with her. He extends that dedication to us kids. Daily I am challenged to love my family to be faithful to them like that.

Thank you dad.

His Love of God

Many mornings I would wake up and find my dad sitting and reading his Bible. He was always conversant about any biblical topic I could bring up. Far from being an intellectual snob, he never once treated a question of mine as stupid (though some of them were, in fact, stupid). Certainly I was overwhelming to him at times, but he was always respectful with me.

The patience and dedication of God showed through in his life. The challenge has been laid to me to give to my family in the same way.

Thank you dad.

For Being My Dad

This Father’s Day I don’t want to celebrate what I can give my dad but rather to celebrate what I have been given from my dad. The debt I owe is beyond repayment, but being my dad, he has always told me to pay it by caring for my own children well. For the rest of my life, the work he did for me will, by the goodness of God, echo for a thousand generations to come.

One day, my dad will stand in Heaven. There will be a crowd there but dad will be off to the side. He never really liked crowds. He will see 10,000 men and women walking by who will each and every one will owe him deeply for the sacrifices he made. Generation after generation of those who will now know that pains, trials, and joys he experienced to bring them to Heaven as well. They will know because dad’s Father in Heaven will have told them. You see, He promised to exalt the humble.

These are the gifts from my father.

-Chip

Being a Passive Husband

husband signI get it. An author sits down and writes a book about marriage. He takes a moment to pray and consider how he will assist couples through the difficult waters of marriage. He wants to encourage men to be leaders in their homes who are worth following, but he has to be careful. He doesn’t want to encourage an abusive husband to be even more abusive. It would break this author’s heart get a letter from a wife who was beaten by her husband after reading his marraige book.

So he writes his book and it is a best seller. It really breaths life into many a marriage and shows many pushy jerks of husbands how to be compassionate and thoughtful husband who hears his wife. Many marriages are helped by his timely and thoughtful words.

Except mine.

You see, in my marriage, I am the wimp. Many of you who know me are scratching your heads, “What, no way! Chip is pushy if he is anything.” You’re right to say that, but this is true in almost every relationship except with my wife. The way I have learned to work with her is under the very reliable code of “Don’t Do Evil.”

This plan looks really good on paper. The author mentioned above can rest assured that I will never beat my wife or abuse her. In fact, many societal ills would be helped if more guys were passive like me. Much of the crime and violence in the world would be much reduced. Sounds great, right?

It’s fine unless you are my wife. She was hoping to get a husband who was assertive enough to lead in our home. She didn’t ask for a passive husband who simply didn’t make waves. God will not judge me simply on the evils I failed to do, but on the good I did.

So, ever ready with the marriage book, I can hear the real answer, Leadership!

That is a fine answer, I just don’t really know what leadership is. If I were fundamentally more capable at most of life than my wife, it would be easier, but I married the lady who is really good at life and family and just about everything else. She is driven and capable and were she to enter the corporate world, I would soon be working for her.

I am very grateful she has taken all of that superior talent and drive and is an amazing mother and wife. Not every guy is so blessed, but it does leave me in a bit of a lurch. I am not confident in my own abilities and judgement compared to hers. Sure I am competent, but in most of life, she is excellent.

Is the competent guy really going to forcefully challenge the excellent lady?It is easy to just let it ride. Really, peace is much better than being right. Whatever it takes for peace. I may not know what it is to be a leader, but I know that this is not it. So I am back to where I started, trying not to fail. Wouldn’t it be great to be trying to succeed and not simply avoiding failure? Maybe I should read a marriage book.

But every author is so concerned with not setting off Mr. Abuse that many of them don’t have much for me. Where is the marriage book for the wimp? There aren’t any. In addition, many Christian Marriage books seem like manuals for suffocating my wifes wonderful talents and gifts. That can’t be the way marriage was meant to be: the place where my dear wife goes to be less than she can be.

So, to all the wimps out there, I don’t have all the answers for you. I know you are out there because I know many of you. We have bought into the lie that avoiding failure is the most important thing. So here are the few answers I have found in my few years of marriage. I hope that they are helpful to you.

You are Loved by Your Daddy in Heaven

This may feel like a non-sequitor, but I think the most important thing we need to do is be willing to take a risk of failing. It is easy to say, “take a risk” and it is hard to do it. What has helped me? It is knowing that my God will honestly, tenderly, kindly, and sweetly love me if and when I fail. He will not be angry with me even if my wife is. If God is for me, who can be against me.

This has been a source of immense courage. Jesus went to God when he was afraid and asked for the pain to end or the courage to face it. This should be a common prayer for us wimps.

Leadership is the Same Thing as Initiative

Leadership is a painfully vague word that makes me imagine a general commanding an army with confidence and boldness. This is totally unattainable for me. I can’t be that guy, particularly at home.

Fortunately, I don’t think God is asking me to do that. What he is asking is for me to bring my thoughts and concerns forward? To be the first to say something. In fact, I think he is asking me to bring up things when I am not sure I am right and where my motives are clouded. One of the most paralyzing forces in my life is my introspection of my motives. Sometimes, I need to just say how I think and feel and take the risk of being completely wrong.

Leaders Apologize

One of the mantras of leadership is that it takes responsibility for the situation. I’m not sure what the means. I’m responsible enough. I mow my lawn and hug my kids and wash the dishes. I show up to work and come home.

Certainly part of taking responsiblity is to go press on through the requirements of life to care for my family, but taking responsibility is more than that. It is the feeling that the problem is my problem. It is the urge to correct the problem and maintain the solution. It is the drive in my heart to make Earth just a little more like Heaven.

In a real sense, taking responsibility is the same thing as the urge to apologize for the failure and weaknesses of my life, my home, and my community. It is the sense of ownership of the problem that does what is necessary to fix (or at least try). My natural bent is to avoid problems because I can then be blamed for the failure to solve them. If my fingerprints aren’t on it, then when it goes wrong, no one can blame me.

This is yet another variety of avoiding failure and not seeking success.

Recognize the Strengths of Being more Passive

There is a myth that I have believed that passivity is all weakness. Many Fruits of the Spirit give the appearance of weakness: gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control. Many passive men and women excel in these virtues and far from being weak, they are a serious strength. My family is well-served if I am steady and reliable, gentle and affectionate.

Recognize the Weaknesses of Being more Passive

As with every character quality, passivity has a dark side. Much of maturity is to capitalize on your strengths while blunting your weaknesses. To effectively blunt the harms of my passivity I must know what they are!

I need to face the fact that many times my family needs me to resist my overly cautious nature and do what I think is right. Some men are too quick to act, I am too slow to act. Maturity for them is to slow down and think. Maturity for me is to consider and move forward even when I am uncertain.

Look for Contexts in Life Where You are More Confident

While I am more passive at home, I am much more confident and assertive in certain church contexts and at work. What’s the difference between them?

In exploring why I am more comfortable in some settings has been quite fruitful. It is good to see places where my natural leadership strengths show themselves. It is confidence building to just know that those places exist.

A Few Final Thoughts

I fear that someone will read this article and conclude that my wife is a battle-axe of a woman. She has her sins, but I feel immensely blessed to have her in my life. No, the main problems lay with me. She has been a thoughtful, gracious, forgiving, and wise friend for our marriage.

My hope is that you, the passive man or woman, will be given hope and encouragement. God loves you as you are and he made you to be a gentler soul. He also calls you to be more than just your natural self. He is refining you into something much more than you are today. Jesus didn’t come to make you mediocre. He came to make you a precious and fully redeemed bride for himself. He really loves you. He will continue to work with you and love you.

You may be passive, but he is actively pursuing you. We are so blessed to have him.

-Chip

The image above is courtesy of Keoni Cabral and is used with permission