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An accurate and important cliché 

You can never have too much of a good thing, they say.

I have never figured out who “they” are, but I think I disagree with them when it comes to cliché  quotes. Too much is definitely too much.

You’ve seen those beautiful pictures of some scenic route, with spring flowers spilling onto the path, a girl in a ruffled dress, carrying some kind of basket in her hand and a cute dog on a leash. The picture reads “Life is a journey, pick flowers along the way” or something cutesy like that. It's a better outlook on life than some others, but when you see it over and over again it tends to fall on deaf ears.

If you’ve been around church people for more than a minute, you may have heard things like “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” which is false, or “God works in mysterious ways,” which is not in the Bible. We hear phrases like these all the time, so when we hear actual, life-giving, biblical truth, we stick our fingers in our ears and assume we’ve heard it one too many times before.

One particular sermon illustration about fear falls in that category for me. It has been used frequently across denominations for years. Ironically, I’m going to use it here. Don’t turn into a Krispy Kreme donut on me and glaze over.

It’s always some variation of this: “Did you know the phrase, “Do not fear!” is used 365 times in the Bible? That’s one for every day!”

Unlike some of the other clichés in Christian culture, this one is true. The Bible does say not to fear 365 times. It's what comes after the phrase “do not fear” that gives it its weight.

Genesis 26:24 “That night the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham, do not be afraid, for I am with you…”

Deuteronomy 31:8 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, of the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9  “…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 118:6  “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid…”

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Notice a pattern here? Yes, the Bible says “Do not fear” over and over again. But it‘s always with the implication that God is with you.

It doesn’t say not to fear  because the situation isn’t that scary or because you're strong and you can do it. It doesn’t say “Don’t fear because you should have a more positive outlook.” It says “Do not fear for I am with you.”

God is with you. That is why this is profound.

So, yes. That fear or anxiety you have is bigger than what you can deal with. Stop beating yourself up because you haven’t handled it yet.

That situation you can’t seem to sort through? You’re right, it is too complex – for you.

Here’s the real truth: God takes the impossible and and makes it possible. He’s in control, and he’s got a plan and it is the best one, and he’s going to get it right the first time.
So let him work it all for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Do not fear for he is with you.
 

I’m negative

05 IMG 7480I work at maintaining a positive outlook on life, no matter the circumstances around me. In fact, I’m on record for years as saying the only thing I want from negative people is ... away.

This is one time I’m happy to say, “I’m negative!”

I returned five days ago from spending 10 days on business in the Philippines. There were some travel concerns circulating when I left the U.S.

March 1. By the time I was ready to return, things on the global scale had escalated dramatically.

Though the Philippines is a hotter climate, which is less friendly to the COVID-19 virus, and there were relatively few cases there, the concern was growing throughout my in-country travels. Frequently before boarding an inter-island flight, we were temp scanned before being allowed to board. Sometimes even before being allowed to enter the terminal.

The day before returning home, I came down with a nasty cold. I hit it hard with every kind of concoction and remedy I could get my hands on, but I still felt pretty rough — even a bit feverish — as I prepared to fly home.

I was concerned that if they were temp scanning at the Manila airport, I could find myself writing a blog — Marooned in Manila — for the next 14 days. That wouldn’t have been so bad since I have people there, and the Shangri-La Hotel would be a nice place to hole up (if that would have been allowed). And I had an endless supply of Filipino mangoes — the best anywhere.

But I did not want to make it to Tokyo and get hung up there. No offense to my many Japanese friends, but to be in a country with no contacts and a total language barrier was not at all attractive.

Fortunately, they weren’t temp scanning in either Manila or Tokyo, and after 20+ hours of traveling, I was back on North Carolina soil. It did help a lot that for the two longest legs of my trip, I had my own private cubicle in the front part of the plane. I’ve never loved Delta One more than on those flights.

I found out that literally within hours of my departure from Manila, the president of the Philippines announced a closure of both air and sea travel. I sort of felt like I was on “the last helicopter out of Vietnam.” Not really, but “Whew!”

The day after I returned home, I went to see my doctor to get tested for both the flu and the COVID-19/Coronavirus. My doc and his assistant met me in the parking lot, masked and gowned, to collect the test samples, and I went home to hunker down.

I’ve spent the last five days huddled in our downtown condo, rarely stepping outside, enjoying the sounds of city life four stories below me, which is now much quieter than five days ago.

I’m web-connected to the world, so business goes on without much interruption. I sincerely feel for all the local shop owners around me and throughout the world. Many will not survive this total disruption of their business. That’s sad. Very sad. I do have to say, with nothing but deep gratitude, it’s a great day to be a network marketer.

The results of my flu test came back quickly — negative. I figured that would be the case. I’ve had both colds and flu before and knew I didn’t feel fluish. The doc felt that my symptoms weren’t consistent with what seemed to be the emerging pattern with the virus, but you don’t know until you know for sure.

So, to get the call today and hear the words, “You’re negative!” was indeed a relief.

I’ve never been so glad to declare that I was negative. From now on, I affirm that Rebekah and I are facing the unknown challenges of the days ahead with a positive outlook. We embrace the principle of adaptability. We’re glad to already have a home-based business helping people learn about a product that everyone needs and couldn’t be more timely, especially considering the current demand for increased immunity protection.

I have had an eye-opening, question-generating experience with a prescription drug purchase through all of this. I’ll save that for another post. Watch for it. It’s somewhat shocking.
 

Takeaways from the pandemic

03 N2004P64024CWe began the month of March secure in our work and personal lives and routines. We ended it sheltering in our homes, apart from our families and friends, unsure of our own and our nation’s futures. Many, if not most, of us, are reeling both from the speed of change and the unknown nature of what we face as individuals and as a country in a global economy.
In no particular order, here are several observations about our situation. Some are mine, and some have been triggered by lots of reading during my confinement. Each of us undoubtedly has our own thoughts about the pandemic and its implications.
We do not know yet and may not know for some time when the pandemic “curve” has spiked, and when we are on the downside of it. This will be different in different parts of our nation for months to come. There will likely be smaller, scattered outbreaks as we weather this storm.

The pandemic is an equal opportunity threat, neither Democratic nor Republican. Our response to it is startlingly partisan, though. Pollster Nate Silver noted last week that detected cases rose by 31% in states Trump won in 2016 and by 21% in states taken by Clinton. This means it is rising faster in the South and Midwest and slower in California; Washington, D.C.; and New York, outside New York City. We can all interpret these numbers however we choose. Still, many observers speculate that red states are following Trump’s lead that the virus is not as threatening as others say while blue states are following social distancing advice of medical experts. The good partisan news is that Congress, both the House and the Senate, overwhelmingly passed a desperately needed economic stimulus package that will help people of all political stripes.
Human beings are herding creatures. Proof of this can be found in most any grocery store’s shelves empty of toilet paper, disinfectants, canned soups and certain other consumer products. If our neighbors are stocking up, we feel compelled to do the same.

There is a dark joke making the rounds that we are likely to see a baby boom in the coming months — as well as a spike in divorces and more than a few “justifiable homicides.” It is a way of saying that enforced and sudden togetherness, even with people we love, can be trying. Working parents whose children have been in day care or school are finding hands-on, 24/7 parenting challenging. Couples who enjoy each other’s company are getting too much of a good thing. Some of the solitary walks we have been taking may not be just for exercise.

This is going to go on for a while. Even after the pandemic subsides and our economy begins to reopen, flareups will continue as will some degree of social distancing. Experts say we should brace ourselves for a year or longer.

Americans are a clever bunch. All across our country during this bizarre and frightening time, we are laughing out loud as funny after funny scrolls across our screens.

Pictures of people who have been cutting, coloring or otherwise doing their own hair without much success. Clips from late-night TV comedians. Photos of rolls of toilet paper encased in birthday and holiday wrap. I crank up the computer every morning with a smile.

Not much is certain right now, but we can have faith that this will end at some point. Researchers will develop a vaccine and the world will move forward again, however changed we all may be.

COVID-19: A wake-up call for America

04 problem 2731501 1920Column Gist: As the world struggles to address the COVID-19, we are provided with a perfectly conditioned opportunity for self-reflection and honest assessment. That is true for the whole world, but especially for America.

I am starting this column March 18 and must have it to the editor by the 23rd. I expect that between now and then, there will be many more cases of COVID-19 in America and around the world. Given the predictions of medical experts, infections and deaths will likely still be on the increase when these thoughts appear in Up & Coming Weekly the following week.

I sit here thinking about my trip to the grocery store yesterday and how it was crowded with people stocking up on food and other items, especially looking for toilet paper. I think of liberal media reports that I have watched regarding this crisis. They all seem to make a concerted effort to identify what is not going well — to stir distrust of President Trump and generate panic. Even though the political situation for addressing this crisis is somewhat positive, there are still politicians who are clearly looking for political advantage from a devastating crisis.

I suggest we face this stressful situation with calm resolve. That means, without panic or selfishness, working together in a loving fashion to overcome this virus and move ahead together. What I contend now is that America does not have the wherewithal for such a response. If we are honest in reflecting on and assessing the political and social condition of America, we can only conclude that the country does not have what is required to address this crisis with calm resolve. No, we will go on consumed by panic, fear, some political posturing, and feeding of the hatred that is consuming us as a nation. All of this is made even worse by liberal media.

The reason we lack the capacity for calm resolve is that we, as a nation, have turned from the only source of calm resolve for an individual or nation. The turn is not complete, but it is far enough along that we will simply, with far greater than necessary hardship, stumble our way through this crisis. Say what you will about the early leaders of this nation; they had failings and faults but seriously looked to God for direction. They set our nation’s course based on God’s principles. From a Google search, I found this definition of principles: “A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

So much of what is happening in America absolutely confirms this turn from God. Consider the response of too many young people to the guidelines regarding the COVID-19. Those recommendations from medical professionals called for avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people. Initially, it was 100, then 50, but in a matter of a few days went to 10. Further, we were encouraged to maintain at least 6 feet between individuals.

Despite this call for avoiding crowds and maintaining distance from others, thousands of young people crowded Florida beaches for spring break. With seeming defiance, they disregarded the guidelines and, in doing so, exposed themselves to possible infection. If some of these young people were to become infected, it would allow them to infect older people, including their parents and grandparents, who are more likely to have a difficult illness experience and even die. This is especially true of seniors with underlying medical conditions.

From the Ten Commandments, a principle that God calls us to is respect and appreciation for parents. Exodus 20:12 (HCSB) says: “Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Those young people crowded onto Florida beaches totally disregarded this principle of God.
Then there is an astounding revelation that has come to the forefront because of the COVID-19. That has to do with our dependence on China for the production of medications. It is a fact that China is not a friend, not an ally, of the United States. In the face of that fact of life, consider the following segments from an article by Matthew Perrone and Linda A. Johnson titled, “US reports first drug shortage tied to virus outbreak.”

It states, “Health officials reported the first U.S. drug shortage tied to the viral outbreak that is disrupting production in China, but they declined to identify the manufacturer or the product.

“The FDA previously said it had reached out to 180 drug manufacturers to check their supply chain and report any potential disruptions. The agency also said it had identified 20 drugs produced or sourced exclusively from China, but it declined to name them.

“For decades, the pharmaceutical industry has shifted manufacturing to China, India and other countries to take advantage of cheaper labor and materials. Today, roughly 80 percent of the ingredients used in U.S. medicines are made abroad, according to federal figures. India and other Asian nations rely on Chinese drug ingredients to make finished generic pills.”

I believe in capitalism, but what has happened with our substantial dependence on China for drugs goes beyond reasonable profit-making. The article referenced above is accurate; the driving force in this decision is “cheaper labor and materials,” which result in greater profits. Putting the health of a nation at risk by substantially entrusting our drug production to foreign countries, especially China, goes beyond what is reasonable and does not give due consideration to how innocent people may be adversely impacted. This gets to love of money, and lack of love for others, which is totally contrary to God’s principles.

These are just two of many indicators that we are a nation that has dramatically turned from God. If, in this moment of COVID-19 crisis, the American people will honestly reflect and assess, our turning from God will be crystal clear. The remaining question is, what does this turning from God have to do with our inability to exercise calm and resolve in the midst of this crisis?

I contend the Apostle Paul gives the answer in Romans 7:7-25. Paul explains that the law made him aware of what constituted sin. However, in his humanness, he was not able to say no to sin. It required something more than his mere awareness of sin. He puts it this way in verses 22 and 23 (NIV): “22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”

He concludes that the only way to be the person we ought to be is to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In verse 25, he writes,” Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

So, in our flesh, in our sinful nature, we have this always present call to sin; but when in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we know God’s principles and, from him, receive power to live by those principles. In this relationship, when we fail, God is there to forgive us and continue walking with us through all that life presents. It is only in this relationship with God that we can, individually and as a nation, exercise the needed calm and resolve in the face of this COVID-19 crisis. Absent relationship with God and the resulting support for our living, we, in our flesh, in our sinful nature, yield to the panic, fear, selfishness, political manipulation, and liberal media destructive behavior that make calm resolve impossible.

We better wake up, honestly reflect and assess quickly. Time is of the essence.
 

County leadership proactive with economic-impact survey

02 careerpicturesEDITWith COVID-19 impacting our country’s economy, nearly every industry sector is feeling the effects.  As part of our efforts to support our business community and better understand their needs during this time of uncertainty, we have released an economic-impact survey for our local business leaders. Created through a partnership of the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, FCEDC, Cumberland Community Foundation, Center for Economic Empowerment and Development, Cool Spring Downtown District, Greater Fayetteville Chamber, and Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the survey’s goal is to inform recovery efforts and direct aid where it can be most effective. 

“We have incredible and unique businesses in downtown Fayetteville. We want to make sure we understand the impact COVID-19 has on their business models,” said Bianca Shoneman, president and CEO of the Cool Spring Downtown District.

Designed to automatically self-customize based on the respondent’s input, this 21-question form should take roughly five minutes to complete.  Participants have the option of remaining anonymous or can request to receive program information and one-on-one assistance from corresponding partners.  Entrepreneurs and industry leaders in Fayetteville and Cumberland County can participate by visiting www.FCComeback.com. 

Survey questions cover topics including COVID-19’s impact on supply chain, workforce, customers, markets and operations. Also included are opportunities to share specific needs and direct connections to local agencies ready to help. “The results will be critical to maximize local, state and federal recovery resources and help our community get back to work as quickly as possible,” said Robert Van Geons, FCEDC president and CEO.

Together, your community and economic development partners are striving to quickly and efficiently combine efforts, working as a central resource hub for every type of employer.  From restaurants to manufacturers, from military contractors to independent retailers, we want to do all that we can to help your business weather this storm, with hopes for rapid growth once it passes. 

Finding ourselves in uncharted territory, we are all navigating new paradigms and doing our best to quickly adapt to a constantly evolving economic landscape. Our community has a proud history of standing firm when confronted with adversity.  Working together, we can protect both our people and our economy.  Please help us be as effective as possible by visiting www.FCComeback.com today. 

To take the COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey or to learn more about local resources for your business and employees go to www.FCComeback.com.

Latest Articles

  • County leadership proactive with economic-impact survey
  • Takeaways from the pandemic
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  • Social distancing, virtual togetherness and community support
  • An accurate and important cliché 

 

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