Covid-19 Infects Us All

August 3, 2021

The Old Testament of the Bible contains an odd story, among many odd stories: the story of Job.  For those not familiar with it, the plot revolves around a bet made between God and Satan in which Satan claims that no one is strong enough to remain faithful to God in the midst of unending adversity.  Job, a faithful, righteous, and prosperous man, is selected as the “guinea pig” for the bet, and so his calamities begin.

This blog is not an interpretation of the Book of Job, but takes two passages from it that speak to today’s Covid situation in the United States.  The first passage is from Chapter 38, verses 1-2, when God finally speaks after hearing a multitude of words from Job and his companions:  “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:  ‘Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’”  Clearly, we have been in a whirlwind since March 2020, and just as we thought the whirlwind might be sputtering out, it has reappeared with greater force as the Delta variant.  And it spread and continues to spread by the proliferation of “words without knowledge.” 

Words Without Knowledge

After listening to their queries, theories, and speculations, God basically is asking Job and his human companions exactly who they think they are. It is these same “words without knowledge” that infect each one of us, whether we actually contract the Covid/Delta virus or not.  We read them.  We hear them on the news.   They spill out of the mouths of politicians.  We share them with family members and friends.  Tinier than the tiniest droplet of virus, these words are carried on the air and land on all of us.

What are these infectious words?  They are words of division.  Of superiority.  Of ridicule.  Of self-righteousness.  Of fear.  Of violence (Capitol attack, Jan 6, 2021).  They are words of ignorance.  Words of blame.  Words of suspicion.  Words of scorn.  Often they are selfish and self-centered words.  They are words that break down the system (our very country), not words that heal and unite.  They are words that cause anxiety, depression, bewilderment, and hopelessness. They are Republican, Democratic, Independent words that know no single party or faith. Heated words.  Searing words.  “I am right and you are wrong” words that carry no real knowledge but which continue to infect and divide, again and again, into “us” and “them.”

A tiny virus has taught us that we cannot make creation, God, or others bend to our wills, and we are infuriated.

Another Way

But there is a way out of this whirlwind, a way to avoid this virus.  The second passage in the story of Job is found in Job’s reply to God, and it is a relevant piece of ancient wisdom:  “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Chapter 40: 3-5).  In the midst of adversity, Job chooses humility.  Job doesn’t know why what is happening to him is happening.  He is not going to spread conspiracy theories.  He is not going to proclaim that he is more righteous or smarter than others.  He is not going to spout his opinions or try to control others as if he were God because Job knows that he is not God.  Neither are we.

I lay my hand on my mouth.  The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.”  How many of us are willing to lay our hands on our mouths during this ongoing pandemic, to attempt this way out of the whirlwind?  How many of us are willing to admit with all humility that we don’t have all the answers?  How many of us are able to make the decisions for ourselves that we feel we need to make, to take the actions that we believe are in our best interest, and then lay our hands over our mouths?  When our words do not contribute to unity, to hope, to dialogue, to trust, and to healing, they are not words that need to be said, or spread.

For me, the words I need to anchor myself to are the teachings of the Christ.  That is my faith tradition, the one I best know, the one whose words promise that the Light cannot be overcome.  For others it may be the words of Yahweh, Allah, Nature, Spirit, Love, Poetry, the Universe.  Wherever love is uttered, wherever peace is proclaimed, wherever the Light is shining is where we are called, now, to ground ourselves so that the virus cannot continue to take root in us.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@rosemarymcmahan

A Time to Keep

Garden Benches (C) Rosemary McMahan

April 30, 2021

“A time to keep, and a time to throw away.” Eccl. 3: 6

A few days ago, we entertained a couple in our home for dinner—a couple we had not seen in well over a year due to the pandemic.  On the one hand, the experience felt surreal, and on the other, it felt like we had picked up right where we left off, as if the pandemic had been some kind of time warp.

After catching up on our lives over the past thirteen months (not that there was a lot to tell), our friend asked a question.  He said, “What it is that you want to keep from this pandemic experience, that you don’t want to lose as we go back to our routines?”  I found his question thought-provoking and deserving of reflection.  As I have mentioned in a couple of former blogs, I believe that the pandemic gave all of us, the global community, a time to reassess and reconsider how we want to spend our lives and who we want to be, who we want our communities, our nations, our world to be.  The four of us shared our various thoughts, and a common thread was a desire to keep a sense of discernment before jumping right back into all those obligations and commitments, to weigh what and who are life-giving and what and who are not, to decide where and with whom we are called to expend energy, and where and with whom we are not.  In other words, we have been given the opportunity to decide, with love and wisdom, what time to keep and what time to let go.

After reflecting on the conversation, the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes Chapter Three of the Old Testament came to mind.  The Book of Ecclesiastes is considered part of the “Wisdom” tradition of Hebrew Scripture and is thought to have been written sometime between c. 450–200 BCE, over two thousand years ago. The first eight verses state that there is a time and a season for every aspect and experience of human life.  Plagues and pandemics and political upheaval were as much a part of life then as they are now, and the author knew something of what he wrote.  As he pairs each experience, each time and season, he invites us to discern, to listen with our hearts, to the seasons that we are in and to perhaps even discover a blessing, or at least a reassurance, that there is something to be learned, a gift to be received.  Who we are as we exit each season says something about how we lived through it.

We have been in a long and, in parts of the world, continuing season of dying, of weeping, of not touching, of silence, and we are all ready for it to end, but what will we keep without rushing back to a normal that no longer really exists?  What has become something unexpectedly precious to us?  What is one insight, one observation, one “ah ha!” moment, one touch of the heart, one glimpse of the Divine One, one understanding that gently unfolded for us and has the capacity to make us more loving and our lives more sacred?  Those are questions worth our reflection; those are questions that can transform us, and, in turn, transform the world.  Blessings to you ~ Rosemary

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


April 23, 2021

The novelist Alice Walker writes, “Look closely at the present you are constructing.  It should look like the future you are dreaming.”  I find myself reflecting on her advice as I come out of a year of enforced hibernation and squint at the sun in my eyes.  Here in the States, and in particular my own state, even while Covid-19 still thrives, it feels as if the gates have been opened and the race horses are ready to charge.  Where restaurants were once closed or offered only take-out, now they are open and serving dinners, some at full capacity.  Where once grocery stores and big box stores limited the number of shoppers, now people stream, uncounted, in and out.  Places of worship have opened back up, some no longer enforcing social distancing or masking, and, in my own state, there is no longer a requirement that we wear masks in public.  It’s all optional.  Just as quickly as our world shut down, locked down, it now is opening itself up as fast as it can.  And I am not ready.

Part of my reluctance to charge forth is that Covid is still here, and not in its original form.  Just as it is a “novel” virus, so too are the vaccinations.  Many questions still remain to be answered about how long our protection lasts and from what variants we are protected, along with whether the virus will pick up steam as people return to gatherings.   I am one of the fortunate vaccinated people and, yes, there is a huge sigh of relief that comes with that, but also still some caution.

More of my reticence, however, stems from the fact that somewhere along the way, I got used to staying home.  While it wasn’t optimal, Zoom interactions with friends and family sufficed in the face of their distance.  Twice a month shopping trips for groceries became the norm as I avoided crowds, and I learned to live with longer hair and no new piece of clothing.  Being at home every night, while at first anxiety-inducing, began to offer its own rhythm and security as I realized how busy I had been simply trying to stay busy.  I am not saying I prefer being locked-down.  No, I want choices like every other human, but I also want to be careful about how and what and who I choose instead of joining the human “race” again just because I can.

In some ways, I feel like a pup licking its wounds before it can play again.  And wounds we have.  The New York Times quotes Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves as saying, “We’ve been so traumatized by all of this.  I think we need to have a little bit of compassion for the people having trouble letting go.”  Healing from trauma takes time. We all have lost something or someone in the past thirteen months, including our freedom and missed opportunities.  We have lost unity as a nation, steadfastness in science, dignity in politicians, and too many of us have lost friends and family, through death from Covid, physical distance, lack of keeping in contact, or political dissention.  Even the Earth that at least had a chance to breathe during lockdown is again being exploited and trampled.  I am not ready to accept that kind of race as my future.  Instead, I believe compassion is a gift we can share as we each discern how to make our way in this new world.

So I ask my family, my friends, my community, my world for compassion, allowing me to unfold like a first spring fern, in my own time and in my own way as we all re-emerge.  Some of us will be a little slower in getting back to what was routine as we feel our way forward and discern where we are headed, with whom, and why.   We seek compassion from others to loosen their expectations of us and allow us to emerge, to unfold, as our hearts guide us, not as the world does.  We are creating a future together, hopefully a better one than what we left behind, as we pause to step out of the door.


Like a fern unfolding in early spring
or a bear stirring in the shadows of its den
or even like a child cautiously leaving
the corner she was forced to endure
I ponder my steps as I re-enter a world
now altered by a single unseen virus.
Around me, like horses pawing and snorting
at the starting gate
and springing forth at the clanging of the bell,
humanity rushes forward as restrictions
fall way and protocols fade into normalcy
though all around us normal no longer
exists. Whatever might have been unveiled,
appreciated, gauged, during enforced
hibernation soon falls to the sidewalk
like so many discarded masks while people
clamor to eat their burgers, choose their new shoes,
cheer from bleachers, stream into places of worship
to worship . . . what? What new eyes will we keep,
what changed ears will we use, what brave communities
will we build, what fresh yearnings
will nudge us in a different direction from what
and where and who we were before? Or,
unthinking, will we simply race, once again
skimming the surface, skirting the edges
of all that could take us deeper
to the core of Love and Gratitude
and our very Being?
I hold my hand against the sun
streaming over my threshold and pause,
one hand holding onto wisdom
while the other reaches for

© Rosemary McMahan