How do I “Fear Not” when I am Afraid?

2020 has been a year we never expected.  Since March, our country and in many cases the entire world has been locked down.  Schools were closed.  Stores were tightly controlled. Offices were all but abandoned.  Traffic was non-existent.  The daily Covid-19 updates have become as important as any stock market or oil price index.  We’ve been told not to wear mask and then mandated to wear a mask or be fined.  Businesses count people to be sure the “magic” occupancy number is never passed.  Restaurants struggle with full costs with 50% capacity requirements.  Churches have been shuttered.  Weddings have been postponed or greatly reduced in scope.  Trips were cancelled.  We have hidden away in an effort to escape the corona virus. 

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  

Psalm 56:3 NIV

I will say that I have been amazed at the fear (and honestly the panic) I have witnessed among my friends and family.  Maybe because I’m a numbers person, I’ve not been as alarmed by the daily counts.  Statistics are just that:  statistics.  Without clearly defined parameters, statistics are often useless.  I have read the daily Covid-19 updates.  I have seen the upticks in positive tests.  It seems that the media uses raw numbers to fuel the panic.  I can’t help but ask about the parameters:   How many of the positive tests were retests?  What is the % of positive tests to the total number of tests?  What is the false positive/negative rate used to normalize the data?  Why are we not using the Diamond Princess (a quarantined, microcosm) for forecasting and comparisons?

“For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.” 

2 Timothy 1:7 TLB

The schools are beginning to open up to the great relief (and even joy) of many parents and students.  There is still great fear.  But, if we look at previous years, the beginning of school always signaled the spread of colds, viruses, flu, etc.  This year, with sanitation as the focal point, I would think they students and teachers are safer than ever.  I fully expect that the Covid-19 virus will move from epidemic to a part of regular life.  It will never fully disappear.  We have to learn to live with it and its varying mutations much as we currently do with the various flu strains.  Just as we had to build an immunity to the viruses that caused measles, mumps, smallpox, chickenpox, polio, etc., we will have to find a level of immunity to this virus.   

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me..”  Psalm 23:4 NIV

Psalm 23:4 NIV

I know that this virus is virulent and can be deadly.  (I know the same thing about the measles.  I survived my 2 week bout with the measles during the outbreak of 1977.) For those that have lost loved ones to this pandemic, I have the deepest sympathy.  I know others that have recovered but are still suffering the after effects.  I have truly sorry.  But, at some point, we have to allow people the freedom to live the best life that they can.  We have to move forward in the best way that we can. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

Matthew 6:34 NIV

Today, I have a selection of masks to wear when I leave the house.  I have hand sanitizer in my purse, in my car and on my desk at work.  I’ve have grown accustomed to “attending” church in my living room.  I’ve learned to use Zoom and have actually connected faces to names in my weekly Zoom prayer meeting.  I’ve enjoyed the lack of traffic as I journeyed to the office as an “essential person.”  I’ve tried take-out from new places with varying degrees of success.  Curb-side pickup was already a favorite of mine and that hasn’t changed. I’m doing my best to be safe and free of fear.  I’ve grown accustomed to asking for permission before entering an elevator with another person. 

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” 

Psalm 34:4 NIV

I hope the day comes (very soon) when masks are an option not a mandate.  I look forward to seeing friends and hugging or shaking hands without hesitation.  I’m praying for all businesses to fully reopen and for people to be allowed to return to work.    

These are my goals for today:

  • To live my life as fully as God will allow
  • To follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every undertaking
  • To be sensitive the fears and concerns of other with feeling guilt for not sharing those same fears and concerns
  • To avoid the frenzy that has become the media
  • To ask questions, seek the fact, act on the truth

What are your goals to get through the next few months, weeks, days or even hours?  How will you move forward?

Partnership or Merger

I’ve read several articles recently about celebrity couples that are divorcing.  Most of them contain a statement similar to this:  “they still love each other very much, but. . .” The current quarantining was listed as the turning point in many of the articles.  One entry said they have “felt more like brother and sister”.  All I can do is shake my head. 

What is Love?  Most of us begin our relationships in breathless anticipation.  The butterflies and warm bubbly feeling is intoxicating.  You don’t want to be separated from your beloved and eagerly anticipate your next encounter. Is that really love?   Although there may be some love involved, I think it has more to do with infatuation and even lust.  Infatuation is defined as “falling in love with or becoming extremely interested in someone or something for a short time.”  While the definition of lust is “a psychological force producing intense desire for an object, or circumstance fulfilling the emotion while already having a significant other or amount of the desired object.”  Not very romantic, but very often this is the starting point of love. 

How many marriages do I know that were built on the intense desire to be married? It’s being married, part of a couple that is the focus.  The “who” in the relationship is often secondary to the need to have someone to love.  The picture is all rosy and blissfully wonderful. It’s all about living happily ever after. The object is finding “A” person willing to become “THE” person.

When we are caught up in the excitement of a new connection and the possibility of finding that “one” person, we are able to overlook anything and everything.  There are no obstacles that cannot be overcome in claiming this relationship.  Much like the fog covers the challenges of climbing a sheer mountain, desire masks the issues that may cause problems in a long term relationship.  We disregard the things that would normally signal a need for caution.  Repeatedly, the warnings are dismissed.  It doesn’t matter if there are hints of anger, unfaithfulness, insobriety, detachment, or domination.  The tendency is to ignore differences in faith, questions about step-parenting roles, and the handling personal finances.   The hard questions are left unasked rather than risk lifting the curtain and ending the dream. 

There is a very big difference between infatuation and being in love. Infatuation is when you first see someone that you are attracted to and immediately feel there is a connection based on that whereas love is knowing the good and bad of someone and still loving them all the same.  One cannot be truly in love and be unable to acknowledge the negatives in the relationship.  Unconditional love, the love we all say that we want, means we face the good and the bad and love in spite of it all.  We are willing to work through the difficult things.  We are able to love through the darkness and get to the light. 

I understand the “brother and sister” statement.  I remember thinking this very thing about my first husband.  Our relationship was good, just not very exciting.  We had two very active teenagers.  Life was busy.  We spent our time together, but after 18 years I wasn’t breathless when he walked into the room.  Still, we looked forward to the future together.  There are worse things than being married to a really good friend.  Trust me.  Burying that friend, the husband I planned to live with into old age was far worse.  It had been so easy to take our marriage and our love for granted, that I had lost touch with how deeply in love with him I was.  I made a promise to myself to never allow that to happen again. 

Marriage is characterized as a partnership.  So, what happens if:   

  1. the partners fail to cooperate?
  2. they don’t participate equally, or don’t agree on major life decisions?
  3. they are no longer physically or emotionally attracted to each other?
  4. when one of the partners treats the partnership unequally?
  5. when one of the partners becomes too sick to do their share?

Do you dissolve the marriage partnership? 

I recently read an article by Steven Berman that states: 

“Real marriage is not an equal partnership.  It’s not a partnership at all.  It’s a merger, a permanent joining to create something new.

If you look at marriage as anything other than a lifetime commitment to a mate, you’re looking at something other than marriage.  You’re looking at a friendship with benefits, a shack-up, a good time, or a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend.  Adding a piece of paper to it labeled “marriage license” adds nothing to the relationship except a tax break.”

Steven Berman

Both of my weddings included the vows:  “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” Sounds pretty permanent to me.  Don’t get me wrong, if you are in an abusive relationship – get out!.  If you are in danger, you are not being cherished.  However, not getting your way, not being happy, or (especially) finding someone more interesting are not reasons to divorce.  Marriage is not about what feels good.  Marriage is about commitment.  Marriage is about giving up everything to join together. 

So, what happens when you miss the spark, when the grass looks greener somewhere else?  What’s a person to do?  Basically, fertilize your own grass and make it the greenest thing around.  Put in the work.  There’s a psychological term:  “Fake it till you make it.”  Basically,

“Faking it until you make it only works when you correctly identify something within yourself that’s holding you back. Behaving like the person you want to become is about changing the way you feel and the way you think.”

Psychology Today

Accept that you only control yourself and not your partner.   Understand happiness and contentment are a choice you make for yourself.  Stop placing blame and accept responsibility for where you are in this marriage.  Offer love with no conditions, no reciprocation.  And, I think most importantly, immerse yourself in God’s love and continually pray for your partner.  Not what you want to see changed, but for true God’s guidance for your partner.  In the best marriages both people are giving more than themselves, which is impossible if you don’t believe in anything more than yourself.  A union of two people beyond the physical requires something beyond the physical to bind us.  Emotions are not enough.

 “Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV

Looking for the best that God has for you will bleed into your relationship(s).  As you focus on Him and His plan for you, the greener pasture becomes your own.  You are able to love even the most unlovable.  You will find happiness & joy in a way you never imagined.  Even if your marriage partner doesn’t get it.  God will and He will honor your faithfulness. 

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” 

1 Peter 4:7-8 MSG

And Still, There is Hope

Psalm 18:28 NIV
Darkness envelopes

The only way I get up every morning is because I have hope. There would be no reason to even try to function if I did not believe there was some kind of plan, some dream to fulfill. My hope is in my faith, my God.

Before you write me off as some eccentric religious nut, take a moment to understand why I have this hope. I have lived in the black hole of depression. I know what it is to be totally broken and directionless, helpless to pull myself together. I was a prisoner of my deepest hurt, my deepest fear, my deepest loss.

I went to sleep on November 1, 2005 as a happily married mother of two. But, at five minutes past midnight, November 2, all of that changed. I was thrust into the role of single-parent, widow, head-of-household. Not only did my husband die, but so did all of our dreams. I had always considered myself to be a strong and independent woman. I now knew that I was a weak, lonely and totally directionless person. How could I provide for my two teenage children when I could hardly dress myself? How would I comfort them when all I wanted to do was sit and cry and scream at God? Why did I have to live this way and could I escape from the agony that had become my life? I saw absolutely no hope. And then I began to search. . .

I found comfort from others who had walked a similar path. They understood and they shared their own sorrows with me. I learned what the writer of Galatians meant when he said to “carry each other’s burdens”. By sharing our fears and our grief, we helped each other. I started to see the darkness lighten.

I questioned every belief that I professed to believe. I researched. I examined them. And, I found hope in them. The familiar 23rd Psalm came to mean something completely new to me:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 NIV

As I struggled to get through the absolute worst time in my life, I found hope and even joy. I found joy in my children and hope for their future. I had friends who surrounded me and showed me that there is hope where there is love and caring. My faith brought me to a closer walk with the God I had for so long taken for granted. I may not understand all of the reasons, but I do understand that God has the best in mind for me.

As we are in a time where our country and our world is plunged into the unknown, I have hope. I don’t have to like what’s going on around me. It’s not required that I understand or even agree with actions that are being taken. I have only to do my very best to follow the command “Love others as well as you love yourself.” If I give as much consideration to the comfort and well-being of others as I do for myself, my world will be a better place.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Matthew 6:34 MSG

I am LIVING PROOF of this!

When darkness lifts. . .

Doom, Despair & Agony

Is that all there is?

I have a confession:  I’m tired.  It’s not too little sleep tired.  Rather, it’s mental and emotional exhaustion.  There’s too much being said, too much noise and no one seems to be listening.  The issues seem to circle around and attack again and again with no solution. I feel helpless and out of control. Does anyone else feel this way?

I’m tired of the constantly second guessing anything I say or do to be sure I’m not about to offend or upset ANYONE.  I recently witnessed a good friend attack a mutual friend on Facebook for a post that was meant to be a call for peace.  The attack wasn’t about the content of the post, but the motivation of the one who posted it.  The anger displayed stunned me.  And quite honestly, the pain I felt at seeing this attack was as real as if I had been slapped.  When did friendship become only for those that agree completely?  When did we lose the capacity to talk, discuss, debate and even disagree while maintaining a level of respect for our friend?

I’m exhausted by the basic selfishness of people.  Sometimes, I think the old rhyme I used for spelling has been changed.  It’s no longer “I before E except after C”.  The mantra now seems to be: “I before We and only for ME!”  Has common courtesy and caring are been eliminated?  The actions that we see highlighted day after day in the media (social and otherwise) would lead one to believe they are extinct or at least severely threatened.  Our world contains extremely selfish people.  I refuse to believe that they are in the majority.  So where is the majority?  How do we change the focus?

I’m drained by the politics of today.  I remember hearing State Representative Bill Heatly and Senator Jack Hightower give talks.  Even as a high school student, I was amazed at how little could be said with so many words.  I also knew there was great power wielded by both men.  Because, power is the real issue, isn’t it?  We fight about who has the most power, the most influence, and the best ideas.  Mud-slinging is a full time and expensive occupation.  No wonder very little gets accomplished.     At what point, do we as the electorate demand that things change?  When do we expect the posturing to end and the cooperation to begin?  There’s enough blame for all sides in this.  None of the parties or their figureheads are innocent. 

I’m worn out by trying to keep up with the “latest” pandemic information.  Truthfully, we won’t know the real data for many years.  Yet, we seem to have only two options:  1) total fear and panic or 2) complete dismissal of it all as over-exaggerated nonsense.  I do not want to live in either extreme.  Having grown up in the 60’s & 70’s, I’ve contracted and survived measles, chicken pox and mumps.  My small pox scar is still visible on my left arm.  I was a child during the Hong Kong Flu Pandemic of 1968 that killed over 1 million people around the world.  As an adult, I have witnessed the panic brought on by the Swine Flu, the Bird Flu, the Ebola virus and now Covid-19.  As a result, I take my annual flu shot as well as other recommended vaccinations.  I keep disinfectant spray in my purse, on my desk at work and in my car.  I wash my hands often and try to social distance.   I’m doing the best that I can and have no idea if any of it matters.

I’m weary of not being able to appreciate people as individuals.  I don’t care where you trace your racial heritage, how you dress, what god (if any) you choose to worship or your sexual preferences.  I want to know YOU.  What makes up YOU? If other topics come to light as we develop a relationship, that’s find.  But, I don’t need to know any of those things up front.   I want to get to know you and treat you as a person of value first and foremost.  And, I would hope to receive the same consideration.  I don’t expect that we will always agree, have the same thoughts or desires.  Our backgrounds may look similar or very different, and that’s what makes life interesting.  I want the opportunity to like or dislike you based on who you are at your center. 

I’m just tired.  I’m trying to be genuine. But, I’m drained by the accusations and the hatred that is spewed from every direction. When will the rhetoric be replaced with sincere dialog and meaningful action? Can we “fix” things and get along?

Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Buck Owens & Roy Clark The Hee-Haw TV Show

No Beauty Queen

When I was 11 years old, I desperately wanted to have glasses or braces or both.  My friends and I would talk about it at school.  It would be so cool to be one of “those” kids. I would look at my bottom teeth, and I was sure I needed braces to straighten them up.  On a routine visit to my dentist, my mother asked him about the possibility of braces for me.  He looked at me and said that although my teeth were crowded, there was really no need for braces.  “After all”, he continued, “She’ll never be a beauty queen.”  Obviously, that statement has stuck with me.  (And before you get all bent out of shape, my dentist was not being cruel.  In the early 70’s not everyone got braces.  Only the most crowded, out of alignment teeth endured the torture of the orthodontist.  Cosmetic orthodontia was something that only those with dreams of the competing in beauty pageants or performing on stage would receive.  That was not where I was headed and thus the comment. )

I was disappointed that I would just be a normal kid with crowded lower teeth.  Later that year, I would get my wish and bifocals!  And so began the next phase of my journey, explaining why I wore bifocals and trying to get “OUT” of wearing glasses.   Through the years, my love affair with glasses has changed.  As a high schooler, I decided I wanted contact lenses.  The optometrist told me that I could see “too well” for contacts and to just wear my glasses when I needed them.  So, I went to a part time glasses wearer.  After college, I pursued the contact lens idea again and wore them for several years.  But, I could see almost as well with them as without them, so I went back to my glasses.  I’ve bemoaned the expense of glasses and the inconvenience.  And, I’ve come to accept that I can neither read nor drive without my glasses.  They are no longer an option for me.  I have my “regular” glasses, my computer glasses and my sunglasses.  All are important to me. 

There are so many things throughout a life time that we believe we really need.  Through the years, my “needs” have changed.  Many times, I’ve applied the “beauty queen” reality to my “need”.  Do I really need this to complete my life?  Do the benefits outweigh the struggle to get it? 

Sometimes, I’ve answer with a resounding yes.  I’ve never regretted getting married.  I’ve been married, widowed, and married again.  I’ve been blessed with two fabulous husbands.  Life as part of a couple is difficult.  Marriage is my ‘beauty queen” moment.  It’s worth every struggle, every tear, every sacrifice to celebrate the joy and the fulfillment of being with my husband. 

Sometimes, I realize I don’t really need or want that desire.  There are so many relationships that crumble and fail.  Many times, the failure is rooted in spending more time looking around than looking inward.  There was a time in my first marriage, when our kids were both toddlers that I began to look around at my single friends and the freedom that they had.  They didn’t have to hurry home to take care of kids.  They didn’t spend their “extra” cash on kid’s stuff.  It was a dangerous time for me.  Discontent was ready to swoop in and take over.  But, I was reminded that I was on the “beauty queen” track.  All the struggles were worth it in the long run.  I just had to focus on the goal. 

And, there have been other times that I pushed forward anyway only to regret my decision.  Have you ever wanted that new car that was just a little out of your price range?  Or what about the bigger house?  Or maybe a snazzier wardrobe?  It’s easy to get caught in the trap of “keeping up with the Jones’”.  You spend too much money, you over extend, you cheat on your spouse.  You ignore the path you’ve been following a veer off in another direction.  You throw caution to the wind and pay no heed to consequences or costs.  It’s all or nothing, come hell or high water.  You lose sight of the crown and pay the price.  There’s no do over.  There’s only the choice to pick up and move forward, to get back on the right track.

My dentist knew the pain that would come from braces.  He knew the best orthodontist in the area had a reputation for being mean.  He knew I was not destined for the beauty queen stage.  As a result, I’ve lived my life with a perfectly good set of crowded teeth.  I’ve never had braces. 

But, I keep hearing about the new invisible braces that come through the mail. . .

 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Matthew 6:34 MSG

An Extra Piece

With all that is happening in our country and in our world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Today, we hear & experience concern about our jobs, our health, and our safety:  Do I wear a mask?  Will I still have a job next week?  Is it safe to venture out?  All of these questions are valid for some or all of us.  So what is to be done?

 I feel like a very small piece in a very large machine.  Honestly, I feel like the one item that isn’t really required.  You know exactly to which item I refer.  It’s that piece that’s left-over when you build or repair something. That ingredient in a recipe that you just don’t have.  Or the extra dish with no matching cup.   It doesn’t seem to matter and everything works without it, so it must be superfluous.  I identify with that item. 

But, with time, we may discover how important that one item, as small and insignificant as it seems, really is to the whole thing.  Have you ever had washers left over when putting together a project?  You wonder if you missed a place for a minute.   But, it’s just a washer, right?  The problem comes later when the screw pulls loose because the washer wasn’t there to keep it tight.  The entire project may collapse because that one, insignificant piece wasn’t used. 

I enjoy baking sour dough bread.  When I first began learning how to bake sour-dough, I had some pretty dismal result.  Once, I didn’t have enough all-purpose flour for the recipe.    So I used self-rising flour as a substitute.  It looked the same and I’d seen baking shows use it as a substitute.  The bread was dense and had a very salty taste.  Self-rising flour has salt added.  I didn’t adjust my recipe to account for that because it was such a small amount.  Another time, I was in a rush to get my bread into the oven. I didn’t wait for the sour dough sponge to double in size.  I rationalized that it had grown some and that was enough.  Again, the bread was very dense and not particularly pleasant to eat.  The smallest ingredient, or the smallest amount of time, can make all of the difference.

So, how does that relate to my life today?  I live in my own little bubble.  How do I make a difference?  I make a difference when I treat others the way I want to be treated.  I don’t have to wait to see how I will be treated to be kind, polite and helpful.  If wearing a mask in public makes others feel more comfortable, then I’ll wear a mask.  If spraying my credit card or cash with disinfectant makes the cashier smile, then I’ll do that.  Others may not be able to see me smiling behind my mask, but a pleasant hello and a wave may convey the thought.  There’s so much going on around us and so many emotions that are being rubbed raw by the current news, common courtesy and consideration goes a long way. 

 I’m realize that I am not going to make a huge difference in the political arena.  It doesn’t matter how loudly I talk or how passionate I am about the current climate, I’m probably not going to be “known” to the people that make decisions.  But, my voice, my letter or my phone call, when considered in context with many others, will be recognized.  I don’t understand all of the race issues.  But, I try my best to see people as who they are.  I want describe others as nice, beautiful, helpful, kind, grumpy, rude or just weird instead of black, white, male, female or any other racial/sexist designation. 

I may be too simplistic in my ideas.  But this is the only place I know to begin my battle.  I change my little bubble which may affect another little bubble and continue on down the line.    I can only change myself and try to have an impact on others.  Sometimes, you need the extra dish for the special treats. That’s my hope, anyway.

‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 

Mark 12:31 MSG

Fishing or just Fishy?

I have heard different versions of the idiom “fish or cut bait” for as long as I can remember.  If someone is dragging their feet in a situation, fish or cut bait was a way to tell them to get busy or get out of the way.  There are so many times when it’s easier to stay busy or “fish” without really committing to anything.  For some, it’s hard to understand why it’s so difficult. 

Change is hard.  When change is thrust upon me, I have been known to dig in and do my best to stay put.  It’s not always possible to avoid or to predict change.  When my husband died, my brain knew he was gone, but my emotions were in denial for a very long time.  I went through the motions of moving forward.  I put on a good show.  The reality, however, was that I just chose not to face things that were too difficult.  My house fell apart around me.  I spent money on things I didn’t really need.  I buried myself in my kid’s activities.  I refused to really engage in moving forward with my life.  And, I did a pretty good job of fooling everyone, including myself for almost ten years. That’s when I realized that I wanted to live again.  Love again.  And to do that, I had to commit to pulling my life together.   

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

The decision to love again was a simple one for me.  The reality of opening up my heart and confronting ALL of my feelings was a lot harder.  I had to admit that I loved Terry with all that I had for a very long time.  I had to face the pain that comes with that kind of love.  I had to sort through the various emotions and process them.  My husband had been gone almost ten years, but allowing my heart to love again felt dishonest, disrespectful.  Again, my brain was very logical about it all.  It was my emotions that were struggling.  I had to make the decision to move forward.  I had to decide where and how I wanted to live my life:  in the past full of memories or in the future adding new memories to my list.  It kind of sounds like a “no brainer” as I type these words, but the struggle to fish or cut bait was very real to me during that time.  I could continue to sit and watch my life as a spectator or I could commit to accept the joys and the pain that come with actively participating in life. 

There are people everywhere that struggle with making similar decisions.  And, unfortunately, many of those people are in an unending cycle of martyrdom.  The need for attention, support and even adoration from others because of their ordeal (real or imagined) is more important than living, changing or progressing.  Have you ever had a friend that keeps reconciling with an ex?  There may be a list a mile long of the problems that come with that particular relationship.  All logic is superseded by the need to have “someone”, even a bad someone in their life.  For a while, things may go well.  Life is great.  But, those bad behaviors resurface.   And, it’s now your responsibility to sympathize with your friend, to encourage her to be strong, to relieve her of any blame.  The cycle will continue, over and over, as long as the game is played.  It’s easier to sit on the bank and pretend you are fishing with a knotted and tangled line than it is to cut the line and move to another spot. 

“One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment.

 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in disclosing what is on his mind.”

Proverbs 18:1-2 NEV

Our world is more interested in the sob stories than in the happy endings.  Check out what you watch for entertainment.  I grew up watching Gunsmoke and Bonanza.  There were sad story lines, but the good guy always triumphed in the end.  There was always an upside.  In every episode, decisions were made and life moved forward.  In some of my favorite shows today, it’s sometimes hard to decide who the good guy is.  We root for the anti-hero; the brooding, suffering guy that’s just doing “the wrong thing for the right reason.”   We adore and celebrate the darkness.  And, we seem to need to emulate it. 

I believe that we can grow and mature through our trials and mistakes.  In an attempt to reconcile ourselves with the flaws that come with being human, we too often elevate these very flaws and venerate them as favors.  We become enamored with the cracks that appear in life due to the struggles we endure.  We seek the compassion and tenderness that is provided by our support system rather than strive to advance and perfect our own lives.  It’s not easy to admit mistakes and correct the path forward. 

When we are told to fish or cut bait, it doesn’t mean you have to walk away and start over.  It just means you have to be committed to the path you choose.   Invest fully in life choices.  Stop complaining and looking for sympathy. Embrace your decision and don’t apologize.

So what will it be?  Do you fish where you are; or, do you cut bait and move forward? 

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” 

James 3:17-18 MSG

WHO NEEDS PEOPLE?

“People,

People who need people,

Are the luckiest people in the world”

“People”
Jule Styne (music)
Bob Merrill (lyrics)

There words are from the 1964 song by Barbra Streisand.  I have come to a greater understanding of the meaning during the past weeks.  While I have been very grateful to keep in touch with my small group, my prayer team and my church family through Zoom, WebEx, Email and Streaming platforms, I have missed the physical connection.  I miss the greetings and interaction with Billy and Carol every Sunday in “our” seats at Regal.  I miss the hugs, laughter and discussion time with Otto, Sharon, Richard and others in our small group time on Wednesday.  I miss sharing the joys and concerns of others during prayer time every Sunday with Dawid, Jane, Robert, et al.  I miss hearing all of the voices together with the worship team in corporate worship time.  I crave the actual physical interaction that comes with each of these groups.  Hebrew 10:25 states:

 “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:25 TLB

Attending church services has been a part of my life for years.  But, I now realize how very precious that time together truly is. 

The Pandemic has also highlighted a few other things in our lives (some good and some not so good.) We have seen firsthand how self-serving actions can cause others to suffer with the toilet paper shortage. Panic came to the forefront and hoarding was the name of the game.  I’ve lived through a few hurricanes and floods that caused Houston to shut down.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever see things quite as bad, especially when there were no real shortages.  There were people out to make a buck through stockpiling, but there were also people that were willing to give.  One example is “Katy Neighbors Helping Neighbors”, a Facebook page started to share needs.  If someone need baby wipes, or formula, or cleaning supplies or anything else, they could post their need.  Usually, someone would offer to share or knew a store that had it in stock.  I saw LOTS of sharing and meeting needs on that site. Food pantries were stretched to the extreme, and people stepped up to help and meet the needs. 

Families have been forced to be together.  Kids are doing school on line from home.  Parents may be working from home.  There’s no escaping with restaurants only serving take-out and malls and movie theaters closed.  I’ve seen parents step up and get involved with their kids school time.  Game nights (or afternoons) have come back into style.  This has been an opportunity to learn something new through on-line classes.  I’ve heard of some grandmothers that have done sewing and/or cooking lessons with their grandchildren via facetime or other apps. There has been time for family walks or bike rides, family meals, or just family time. 

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony! 

Psalm 133:1 TLB

As we begin the process of reopening Texas and the rest of these United States, I hear mixed messages.  There is frustration that things are not moving faster.  And, there is the fear that we are moving too fast.  I hear about the need to return to work as well as the complaints from those who receive more on unemployment than they do at their job.  I see the excitement for the return of socializing mixed with concern over the continued social distancing guidelines.  It’s easy to fall prey to fear and depression that accompanies the seemingly overwhelming task ahead of us.  We are approaching a “new” normal.  Masks will continue to be the accessory of choice for many.  Hand-washing has moved up in priority (where it should have been all along.)  I’ve joined the ranks of actually USING the hand-sanitizer I carry with me.  Fist bumps will replace handshakes.  Air hugs and kisses may be the “thing” for a while.  We will survive this time.  We will adjust.  I refuse to give into fear mongering. 

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. 

Matthew 6:34 TLB

What has your experience during the Covid-19 pandemic been?  Have you found meaning in some of the “norms” that you took for granted.  Have you spent time with your family and strengthened those ties?  Are you ready to step back into the reopened world? 

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.

     He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.

 Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

 You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.

 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23 TLB

Social Media: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

(and the questionable)

Social Media affects all parts of our life.   Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube (just to name a few) are ingrained in our day to day routines.  During the recent pandemic and social media has been the place to get information, to attend church and to just stay in touch.  There are some really good things that occur on the platforms.

I love keeping up with my extended family through Facebook.  I have watched my great-nieces and nephews grow up through posts.  I have reconnected with school friends and teachers.   I have been able to host “watch parties” of church services for The Bridge on Sundays during our time of social distancing.  It’s been great to share my church with others all over the state.  Our small group has been meeting through WebEx and we even had a family wedding via Zoom.  All of these things have been great.  I love seeing posts that recognize local accomplishments during this time.  We’ve seen food distributed by schools and organizations, hand sanitizer made and distributed by local distilleries, masks being handed out in central areas.  All of these things have been good. 

But, along with the good, there are some bad things that occur because of social media posts.  Information that is not correct is often posted as fact and then the false information gets passed along (very quickly).  Those that live with a “glass half-full” attitude concerning life, can promote panic among others.  (I suspect the hoarding of toilet paper was exacerbated by panicked posts.)  Rumors become “truth” in a flash when they are shared across the social media platform.  It’s easy to make negative and/or hurtful comments with a post on Facebook or Instagram.  There is empowerment that comes from the facelessness of a keyboard.  We will post words on these sites that we would NEVER say out loud to a person’s face.  We attack friends and family with a simple comment. 

And then, there’s the Ugly.  Social media platforms while promoting social equality and interaction between users, has given us a way to deepen the gulf between the differences.  Political ads and campaigns have always been harsh and often ugly.  But, social media has allowed “US” to be included in the muck and mire.  Opinions are no longer welcome (unless you agree with me?!)  Because the written word doesn’t convey emotions, there is no tempering of the vitriol that we spew to protect/support THE side.  Half-truths and out and out lies take an equal if not greater footing with truth.  I’ve seen (and felt) relationships dissolve for these reasons.  I believe in healthy debate.  I think you have as much right to your opinion as I have to mine.  But, I don’t get the need to attack, the need for emotional vomit when I say something that is contrary to your thoughts. 

Another aspect of the ugly side of social media is the opportunity for sex trafficking.  Underage students are posting/receiving explicit photos on various platforms. Sex traffickers seek out the disenfranchised youth and make offers that are “too good to be true.”  How many busts have been reported that originated in a chatroom or some other social media app?  My kids grew up at the beginning of chat rooms and there were way too many girls/guys sneaking out at night to meet someone they only knew from a chatroom.  Sometimes it turned out ok.  But, the times that it didn’t outweighed them. 

So, what’s the questionable part of social media?  I will admit to be old.  But, I will add, that I have also been called an “over-sharer” on social media.  With that in mind, I have to wonder some posts I’ve seen most recently.  Is it really necessary to document every moment of the day and post it for others to see?  Am I missing something here?  I understand the YouTube tutorials and have watched several to figure out how to use or do certain things.  But, why do I need to see how you get dressed for the day or other intimate details of your life?  Most of us wouldn’t live on a busy street and leave the windows uncovered for any voyeur to watch the details of our daily lives.  So, why do we exhibit these same things on the web?   Is privacy being sacrificed on the altar of self-importance?  Have we raised a generation that does not know how to be an individual and only feels accomplished when others “like” or comment on our posts?

We live in a world of fast food and microwaves.  We have lost the art of planning, patience and perseverance.   I would hope during this time of recovery, we can take the time to consider our interactions and decide:

  1. Finding the good things and keep them up
  2. Being aware of the comments I make and the way they may hurt others.
  3.  Avoid being pulled into the dangerous world of misinformation and vitriol. 
  4. Concentrate on encouraging the living breathing people around me.

Not Me!

I’m not the problem!!

Social distancing.  It can be boring.  And, we all think that we are OK to be out and about.  It’s those OTHER people that are the problem.  Here are some things to consider in today’s environment:

  1. While people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.  There have been reports of this occurring with this new corona-virus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.  The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community. So, we should probably enact the “better safe than sorry” attitude. 
  2. You may be taking every precaution and feel very safe about visiting with an at-risk person.  But, can you guarantee that the people with which you have contact are taking the best precautions?  What about their interactions with others?  The best advice may be “Act like you are already contagious.”
  3. Wearing gloves can protect your hands from coming in contact with the virus, but you still can pick up and spread the virus on the gloves.  Wearing a pair of gloves all day may actually do more harm than good.  Good hygiene is the best alternative. 
  4. Be aware of what you touch.  Don’t forget to clean your phone, your mouse, your keyboard. Antibacterial gels/hand washing won’t do much good if the items your touch most often are never cleaned/sanitized. 

Some of us are still required to go into the office to work.  I carry a disposable towel with me from the car to the office and use it as a barrier when I have to touch the stair railing, door handles, elevator buttons and light switches. I dispose of it when I enter the office.  I have a bottle of disinfectant that I used daily on my desk items, my desk phone and my cell phone, the copier buttons, light switches and door handles in the office.  I wash my hands often and use Hand Sanitizer quite often.  When I leave for the day, I reverse the process and use a disposable towel on the way to the car, taking advantage of the garbage cans in the parking garage.  Then, I use my hand sanitizer before touching my steering wheel. 
Because I am still working in an office, I am hesitant to be around any high risk persons. 

Social distancing is challenging.  But, the better job I do at protecting others from ME, the faster the curve will flatten and life will return to normal (whatever that might be.)