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Grace-Full Reset

Grace-Full Reset

Vaccinations rates are climbing, and our public spaces are re-opening. Being fully vaccinated, I have also started to re-connect face to face with friends again. I think it was common that our social circles shrank during lockdown – despite our best efforts. It has been amazing to start meeting up face-to-face again, with both good and a few painful experiences.

What is now most apparent is that we are in a once-in-a-lifetime moment right now. A gift, an opportunity. By lets step back…

Change is Strange

First off, being in public and around groups of strangers felt unsettling after a year of maintaining social distance. I’ve stayed pretty good about only going out when needed and doing lots of remote/distanced shopping. If you’ve been a remote worker for the whole year, you’ve probably gotten used to more …. relaxed attire, grooming, and eating habits. Time to get nice clothes out of the closet (do they fit!?) and re-learn table manners. Even where you go isn’t the same old brewpub or weekly happy hour. Masks, seating restrictions, smaller/different menus, new/changed staff – all have changed the experience.

One of the things that caught me most off guard seems obvious – but hit me harder than I expected. It actually took me a while to realize what I was feeling. Your friend/family member is going to look and behave a little different. Maybe a lot different. People have been away from barbers, gyms, and the public eye for a long time. Haircuts will be different, hair color, beards, fitness levels, weight gain/loss. Mannerisms and phrasing will be different. Even if you kept up online – seeing someone changed in person is a shock. You’ll also realize how much time has passed as you talk. Much has happened in people’s lives and it may feel like there is a gulf of lives moving on in different directions to surmount. I remember after my first few meetings that I felt upset and a tinge of sadness/loss. It wasn’t until later I realized it was because of the changes. While I know it’s not true, there was this feeling that this wasn’t exactly my old friend anymore – or at least not as I remembered them. I was going to need to reconnect my old feelings with this ‘newer’ person. Which leads us to the toughest reality of all…

Reality Check

I expected meeting up again to be a joyful jump right into catching up on what we’d missed. Like the good old times! In most cases, that was true, but I also wished I’d had better foresight for two big reasons.

Even if you’ve kept in reasonable touch, you are likely to find some have serious struggles in at least some part of their life -and it may not become apparent until you are face to face. Some have lost loved ones, have lost/unstable jobs, had health issues (COVID or otherwise), be in financial distress, experiencing very common isolation-induced mental health issues, find themselves in troubled home lives, or even facing divorce. Isolation changes us mentally – and seeing the effects might be unsettling. We’ve also not been intimately sharing these stories – so be ready for you/them to open up with possibly hard experiences. Go slowly, tread lightly, and be aware of what you can, or can’t, offer. Every single person I’ve talked with has experienced some rough times this last year – including yourself. Sometimes the stories come out like a flood – unexpected and full of emotions.

Change That Divides

But there was one thing that was even more shocking. You are likely to find that they (or you!) are taking passionately different, maybe even radical, stances than you expect. The last year has had months of social and civil unrest, politically polarizing elections/candidates/policy, differing opinions about wearing masks, vaccinations, dealt with the serious mental stress of isolation, etc. All of us have been affected by these events and most of us have processed them in isolation, with very small friend/family circles, or worse: toxic online forums.

On at least two separate occasions, something they said was a shock and it hit me with the blinders off. Our social filters have been off for a long time – and they/you are likely going to say very pointed things as if they expected you to already agree. Arguments they’ve had on social media/family will come out with passion. There will almost certainly be moments while the gravity of these disconnects hits for both of you. Openly hostile words may even burst out.

People tend to be more callous, unforgiving, and divisive when they’re behind the masks of anonymity (ex: forum posts, social media, etc) because anonymity gives a sense of freedom to say whatever one wants without fear of reprisal. The kind of discourse many have been having online is not acceptable in a work place or face-to-face. We’re going to have to re-engage in actually civil civil discourse. This is something that I think is a VERY good thing – but it reminded me that I need to be ready to help each other get back to rational, civil, and reasoned discussions. That means being ready to be shocked, be patient, forgiving, and ready to respond with civility and reason – not passion. On a side note, toxicity bred from anonymity is just one of the many scientifically proven reasons why you should get off of social media and comment forums.

A Gift Of Opportunity

These things may sound bad, and they could be. But I think we have the opportunity for one of the most profound moments of grace in our lifetime – if we engage it. Our whole lives and the whole world has been brought to a halt; and now we get to start anew.

A priest friend of mine challenged me with this sentence: “What have you done with the gift of covid?” This shocked many, especially those that definitely didn’t feel like covid was a gift. He himself had buried family members, helped and heard the stories of countless suffering financially, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and physically. Visited care facilities of desperately lonely elderly and assisted those displaced by wildfires. How could he say such a thing?

After the initial shock, I felt the reality of his words. In recalling the works of saints, one only has to look at previous world pandemics to feel convicted. It was precisely in these FAR more dangerous plagues, civil unrests, wars, and persecutions that some of the greatest saints did their hardest work. Instead of hiding, they threw themselves into the assistance of others and standing for the truth. How much had I really done to ease the suffering of those around me? I was largely wrapped up in my own personal issues, news fixation, and work deadlines. Boy, I sure could have done better. The reality is, we have another opportunity to do better.

To be clear, covid is not the kind of ‘gift’ any of us would want. But life is change, and for the Christian, change is a time for growth if we hold tight to God. Every time something ends, sometimes painfully, the opportunity for a new beginning is there if we grab ahold of the grace to seize it. Leonard Cohen said it best like this:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”:

Right now, there are cracks in our lives and world. This is precisely when the light can get in – if we don’t use the pieces to build walls instead.

Re-emerging

As we re-emerge, we’re going to find our relationships, priorities, opportunities, country, and world are changed or will be changing. Our old world is in fragments – what we build now is up to us but we need to be active about it.

All of our relationships are going to go through change and require re-connecting. Even ones we had during lockdown are going to change as we move back out again and spend more time at work/school/etc. It is the right time to pray about how you want your relationships to be from now on – because we’re going to be actively changing and choosing the time and energy we spend on them. The grace to know how to approach each relationship is there if we genuinely lift the relationship up to God for grace and guidance. It’s also the right time to talk about your relationships with your loved ones and decide together.

For the most part, all our social activities have come to a complete stop. It’s a great time to reflect on your priorities going forward, because you have nothing in the way of them now. Our calendars are literally blank. Have you spent time with God and talked about your life post-covid? Should I be packing every night and weekend with social activities like before – or is it time to leave room for family, responding to the needs of others, and God’s will? Volunteering and spending my life for others? Learning new skills? I myself would like to be more active in my parish. I’ve already volunteered for a few simple jobs and plan to keep them a priority. While things are still limited, it’s the perfect time to spend time in front of the blessed sacrament and listen to the spirit.

It’s also a great time to start conversations anew. This might be the right time to try and re-connect with distant, estranged, or just neglected loved ones, relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, parents, children, siblings, or even a community such as your church. This must be done wIth love, compassion, a willingness to hear and respect, but most of all FORGIVENESS. Divisions and divisiveness can end – if we don’t let our base natures and emotions rule us. Forgiveness is about releasing pain, hurt, and the place those people/things/events still hold in and over you – even if the other side is not. Maybe it’s time to saying “I’m sorry” – some of the most powerful words in our language. It doesn’t mean things will be back to normal – but it does mean you find freedom – and maybe even more than that. Jesus waits in the sacrament of confession to be that ocean of forgiveness in which we throw these hurts. This requires a lot of grace, but with prayer, healing may be just a word away.

As the old adage goes: not choosing is still a choice. Don’t let inertia/habit rob you of the opportunity to set new direction.

The goal of a troll

The goal of a troll

Best comment of the week award goes to MetroMillano:

Lol – you all got totally trolled by MrStupidComment647. You’ll notice they posted their dumb comment 2 months ago and now there is a thread 50+ comments long of you’all are still p*ssing in your cornflakes about it. They never once responded.

Don’t you realize yet? Their goal isn’t to win an argument on the internet, the goal is to make you waste YOUR life on their internet.

The worst thing as Christians in life isn’t to try and fail, to sin or make countless mistakes in striving to live as we should. If nothing else, God is still glorified by his mercy and forgiveness when we ask for it. No, it’s to have wasted our whole life and not really made any progress towards perfection. If evil can’t make us fall directly into evil, it will certainly try to stop us from making progress and wasting the infinite opportunities of each day.

The Pirates of Somalia 2017

The Pirates of Somalia 2017

LOS PIRATAS DE SOMALIA (THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA, 2017)".

This movie was MUCH better than I expected. It was extremely real and held a depth that the truth does more than standard formulaic Hollywood story telling. I highly recommend it as some solid telling of a real person’s story.

Warning: spoilers below.

The Pirates of Somalia tells the true story of Jay Bahadur, a young Canadian trying to make a name for himself while living at home and working as a questioner for supermarket product placing. In a chance meeting with his journalist idol, Seymour Tolbin, Tolbin inspires him with some wisdom. He says that the reason journalism is a pile of garbage today is because real journalism can’t be taught – it’s innate. Tolbin says his famous war reporting (that gave him shrapnel in his back) wasn’t by using his head, but following his instincts on the story. Tolbin tells Jay that if he wants to be a big journalist, you gotta go somewhere crazy. Somewhere western reporters would consider it too dangerous to go – and write about it.

In pondering this later, Jay thinks back to a paper he wrote about Somaliland. It’s a place no western journalist would go after the brutal civil war of the 1990’s (made even more infamous by the Black Hawk Down incident). Jay then sees a news report on the famous hijacking of Richard Phillips’ ship by Somali pirates. Taking a completely blind leap, he contacts their diplomatic office via email, is accepted to come, and flies there with almost no money.

The majority of the movie is a very realistic and humble telling of Jay’s adventures. He meets the pirates – but even more so in the telling of his struggles and relationships with the people of Somalia. Along the way, Jay learns some great life lessons – lessons I think are universal:

  • Boyah is a lower Somali pirate that sees himself as the Robin Hood of his people. He says he is only defending his country’s waters and just extracting the taxes due his people from illegal fishing. Jay starts shooting cans that are ‘the size of a man’s heart’ with Boyah. The pirate tells him to shoot the cans not as if at an enemy, but as if it’s his lover’s heart. When Jay finally hits one, he says the heart was that of his ex-girlfriend. Boyah is disappointed and says that it was a waste of bullets – because there was “no joy in your victory, only revenge.” While certainly not a Christian ethic of ‘turn the other cheek’ and forgiveness – he has a lot more insight than many. Even when we’re fighting for something, are we fighting for good – or just revenge? Is the aim of our activates to spread evil/vengeance/revenge – or to follow one’s heart to joy. I think it’s a something here about how one can still maintain their focus on true joy/vision/path while even in the thick of the worst evils.
  • At the end, Jay is brought in as an expert to speak with various western generals who ask him what he thinks is needed to stop the pirate hijackings. Jay remarks on Somali’s amazing bloodless election in 2002 in which the minority clan won the election – yet the transition of power happened without a single shot fired. He told of the fact Somalians used to settle disputes and wars using poetry – not guns. Jay sums up that, “A fledgling democracy doesn’t make headlines like pirates do. You guys wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me if I just wrote a book on a fledgling democracy. All I’m asking is that you guys start to look at Somalia in a different way, not so much as them vs us, but rather look at Somalia as us, when we were young.” This spoke to me in several ways. First is how shallow our journalism is – and that we, nor our style of sensationalistic journalism, really cares about the everyday struggles that actually matter to the lives of most people. It reminded me never to discount anyone. Game designers have a saying, “Every winner was once a beginner”. Every great person was once broken or needed help. It’s reminds me of the way of Christ – that is to enter into the often broken realities of every person with love, respect, and dignity. And to walk that path of redemption with them. That real conversion happens when we forgive and walk with our enemy.
  • If you have a natural gift, follow the innate leads it directs you towards. I found some of the lessons Jay got were the same as mine. Jay started following his dream of being a journalist. I found that I had a gift and natural drive towards computers and programming. I followed that gift throughout elementary school through college – despite the fact my pursuit of it lead me down strange paths. I taught myself to program when I was in elementary school. I bought my own computer when others were buying their first cars. I spent my money on programming books and devoured everything I could find at local libraries. Later, I entered programming contests and won more often than I imagined – even winning a trip to Japan to work with big corporations. Following instincts that weren’t the established path turned out to have opened countless career doors, experiences, and relationships I would never have had. Something I think Jay would agree with. I sure may not be easy at times, but following your instincts can be life-changing.
Listening to Black voices

Listening to Black voices

Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first black woman to graduate from the Harvard Medical School, was a profound and prophetic woman. She is famous for addressing congress, her own medical profession, and culture at large. In one visit to congress, she laid out her feelings quite clearly:

I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.

Who were these expendable human lives? The unborn – and as time has shown – especially African American unborn. When Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court in 1973, Dr. Jefferson was outraged. She saw the decision not only as a direct assault upon the unborn, but also upon the ethics of her profession. She later told the U.S. Congress that the decision “gave my profession an almost unlimited license to kill.”

Her words have proved prophetic – especially for African Americans. The CDC reports that 619,591 abortions occured in 2018 (most recent data) and has a breakdown that has stayed fairly consistent year over year:

WhiteBlackHispanicOther
Abortions135,328117,62670,19526,975
Abortion rate (per 1000 women of same ethnic group)110335158213
Latest CDC data

This means that Black women are 3 times more likely to have their children aborted than whites, double that of hispanic women, and around 30% higher than all other minorities. Not only that, but these numbers mean that abortion deaths for African Americans far exceeds those via cancer, violent crime, heart disease, AIDS, police, and accidents. This is an astounding number – and is so bad in some areas of the US (such more black children are aborted than born alive. This data isn’t disputed nor are they anomalies, they’ve been consistently true for decades now.

This is also true even after you control for income and compare with all other ethnic minorities that experience discrimination – but still have much lower abortion rates. A fact that even the press struggles to find answers for, and some groups try to hide by saying the overall percentage of black abortions is less than white women (completely ignoring the fact that the black population in the US is more than 3 times smaller).

So, if you are interested in saving black lives – then the biggest silencer of their voices is abortion. This should make us want to ask some hard questions about policy, players, and the groups, that appear to be targeting unborn black lives – more than any other minority.

Catholic teaching on end of life matters

Catholic teaching on end of life matters

I recently have been updating my estate planning – something that I firmly believe everyone should do at some point. Not only does this make things easier on your loved ones, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to get educated about very serious end-of-life matters.

Estate planning involves setting up documents, trusts, and systems that make your wishes clear. This is done as simply, or complex, as needed. Creating a will, appointing decisionmakers for medical and/or financial matters, evaluating your insurance coverage, setting up legal entities (trusts) to take care of your assets, and even purchasing and planning your own funeral arrangements are all matters you should address. This removes the terrible burden of your loved ones having to make those decisions and sort out the insurance and legal issues while also dealing with your possible death. It’s really a gift to your living relatives and can be a powerful tool to avoid family fights and animosity that can come up when dealing with end of life and estate issues.

Even more importantly than dealing with physical possessions is establishing a medical directive and decision maker. For that, you need to know what you want yourself. Many people, however, are often overwhelmed by these choices – and they bring up a tremendous amount of ethical questions that many people have never thought about.

Ethical questions

What are some of these situations that you should think about when writing a medical directive? Here are just some:

  • Euthanasia/Assisted suicide
  • Nutrition and hydration at end of life
  • Palliative care
  • Vegetative state
  • Resuscitation orders
  • Use of painkillers to point of sedation

This is often a moment in which many people find themselves relying on simplistic forms that many states provide. Unfortunately, as almost all lawyers will tell you, these medical directive forms are terrible. They are often written so bad they do not even do the things they claim. Long legal battles have been fought over the terrible wording in these directives.

Catholic educational resources:

So where is one to turn? Many parishes have regular legal session and legal help for parishioners to set up estate plans and directives. You could certainly contact your pastor who can likely get you materials and connected to an ethical estate planner.

Finding authentic Catholic teaching can also be hard, but one document can give you a great start: Samaritanus Bonus (The Good Samaritan) It deals with the difficult topics listed above from a pastoral, historical, and scriptural perspective.

Give it a read along with recently updated instruction on Catholic burial and cremation.

1950 teen tells her parents they are wack

1950 teen tells her parents they are wack

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Listen to this 1950’s era teen throws shade are her parents. I think she has some good points that parents and kids today probably feel.

And for teens/parents out there, least you think it is so much worse today, listen to the wisdom of the ages. But then again, all of these civilizations did collapse – so there’s that…

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”― Socrates (5th century BC)

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” – Plato (4th century BC)

“We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self control” Inscription in Egyptian tomb from 4000BC

Reflection: “I would have done better” and other lies we tell ourselves

Reflection: “I would have done better” and other lies we tell ourselves

As part of my new year’s activities, I decided to reflect a bit on last year’s personal lessons. Maybe they’ll help others.

2020 will go down in the history books. It was astounding how quickly our modern world was rendered helpless and then teetered into civil unrest multiple times. We saw shortages of sanitizers, toilet paper and food, saw the crippling of whole economic sectors (dining, travel, live performances, etc), a new shift to working remotely, the end of most air travel, and governments that have struggled to develop and implement policy. Civil unrest in various places reached dangerous levels. In Oregon, we had over 100 straight nights of riots and record severe forest fires.

The human costs are also tremendous. People across the world have been quarantined in their homes and dealt with the stresses of isolation, remote work, job losses, home schooling, and the stress of constant contact locked in with family members. We have spent holidays alone, seen the end of social gatherings, parties, sporting events, concerts, church services, and other social outlets. Many of us have experienced the death of a loved one on top of all this. Substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic abuse have all gone up by dangerous levels. The full human impact will likely only be known years from now.

Self-care to the rescue – partly

From the beginning, experts recommended a lot of great self-care ideas that were extremely helpful: maintaining regular work and sleep schedules, daily exercise, eating well, creating separate work/home spaces, regular social connections, practicing self-kindness, focusing on daily goals, and maintaining covid-safe behaviors. Having separate work/home spaces was particularly helpful for me.

As a person without a spouse, children, or family nearby – isolation turned out to be the most difficult part. I could tell my mental health was suffering after a few months – the monotony of working in my house every day with minimal in-person interaction and few weekend opportunities to decompress began to wear on me. As I experimented with self-care methods, I quickly discovered things that worked and didn’t. Some lessons I learned:

  • “Drive” to work each day: I quickly found that staying in my house every hour of every day was driving me batty. I started getting ready for work each morning at the same time, quickly checked emails/important updates, grab my morning tea, then went out in the car and ‘drove’ to work. I usually drove a set route with morning mass then returned home. I would go directly to my work space at home and go to work. It really helped me separate home/work time mentally.
  • Weekend plans: Hope is fostered and monotony is broken up by plans you look forward too. I would try and make plans to hike a trail or do something each weekend to look forward too. I did a lot of hikes of Hamilton mountain, trips to sit and read on isolated sections of the Oregon beach, and visit the significant other’s ranch in 2020.
  • Limit social media and news: How much time during the day are you spending mental energy on some interaction, share, post, or discussion you had on social media? You only have so much time and emotional energy to spend in a day. What are you spending your energy on?
    Studies have continually demonstrated that social media is largely not healthy for you. News sources have also increasingly become far more interested in clicks than the truth, promoting extremism, and are regularly incorrect and manipulated by both domestic and foreign interests.
    To that end, I pretty much got off of my social media accounts and limited myself to 5 minutes on news sites, one login a week on others, and no commenting or up/down voting. I helped myself by setting up browser rules to block me from places like Facebook, most Reddit forums, and most domestic news sources that fail the sniff test. I continually culled the websites I visited until only high quality, constructive, educational content remained.

These are solid practical lessons, but we are spiritual beings as well. What did I learn there?

Faith seeking understanding

As I struggled through the effects of the pandemic and lockdown, I found myself turning more and more to prayer to ground me. I was definitely coping, but it sure didn’t feel great. My soul ached, so I turned more and more to prayer – and morning streamed mass became the cornerstone of my day. It was a year-long journey of learning:

  1. “I would have done better”
    One characteristic of our current society is to look at history and brag about how much better or differently we would have done things. This is not new, people did this even in Jesus time:

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.” – Matthew 23:29-31

    During a series of masses, the daily readings were about the Israelites in the desert (Exodus). This year, however, those stories really rang much closer to home. We look back at the stories of the early Israelites in the Old Testament and condemn them for their rebellions in the desert, their straying from God time and again. “Surely we would have done better!” we tell ourselves.

    In praying about the hardships of the lockdown, my own pride and selfishness was called on the carpet. I struggled to deal with the shortages of foods, toilet paper, and the inability to go out or enjoy previous activates. Yet, these were really problems of mere convenience, not life and death or hunger as many are facing. The Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years – eating the same manna and water they trusted to come each morning. When they were near death without water, springs were open for them in rocks. They were constantly homeless, wandering in a harsh desert, eating the same food every day, for years and years – completely dependent on God who often threw them curve balls. I struggled after 2 months. Others were suffering far more than me.
    Sisters and monks that live in community give up all their possessions and live together – working towards the good of all under a vow of obedience. Some orders never leave their monasteries for the rest of their lives – living with whomever joins. Eating, wearing, and enjoying only what is provided. Living together every day, as one monk I know put it, until your rough edges get rubbed off. Just like the Israelites in the desert. Much like many families are experiencing now locked in together today.
    All of this made me consider the lessons of Exodus and the Christian journey through life. We are simply travelers in this world. Our hope and trust must lie in God to provide all we need. Yet, what is provided is rarely what we expect, would choose, or even on time – but it is what we truly need. We often long for the flesh pots of our own desires, choose our own ways, and rarely see living on manna and wandering a desert as preferable.
    So, if you want to really know how you’d have done in religious life or as an Israelite – ask yourself how well you did with lockdown. I for one realized a LOT of my shortcomings and how much more about love I need to learn.
  2. Thankfulness: Perfect love casts out all fear
    As the pandemic went on, national news grew steadily worse and local unrest/forest fires just kept going week after week. I increasingly noticed interactions (both in person and online) becoming more and more negative – to the point I often felt worse after talking with many people than before. Hope was being replaced by anger and fear – and growing isolation.
    In recognizing my own growing negativity, a centuries old method came to mind – turn to the opposite virtue of the vice. Here, John tells us what is the opposite of fear.

    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

    How do you find love in the middle of so much negativity? There is only one perfect love – and that is God’s love for us. So, despite the world falling apart all around, how do I focus on that love? How can I take stock of the love shown me?
    Going to mass was a great way for me to hear those stories of Jesus’ love for me. Reading another. Prayer and thankfulness are excellent personal ways to do exactly this. They allow a profound personal connecting and recognition of love in your life and remind me of my mission to become love for others.
    I would often pause the stream of morning mass at the prayers of the faithful. I started thanking God for every good thing that I could think of – since that is the part of the mass in which our gifts are brought forward in thanksgiving. I realized how much I had to be thankful for. I was healthy. I had a place to live, friends, a job, and the list went on. I started to feel rather selfish knowing others were suffering far more than me, and here I was complaining instead of helping. It turned me from focus on my issues to wanting to help those that were suffering far more than me.
    This, in turn, led me to acts of charity and grace for others. Instead of railing about all that was wrong, I made donations to charities I knew were helping. I went through my house and spent time sorting things for donation. I contacted friends doing good things to support them.
    In interactions, I changed the tone of conversations by asking friends to share one thing we were thankful for that day.
    Finally, I stopped exposing myself to endlessly negative streams of news and social media. It wasn’t about ignoring the world – but curating out the consistently negative sources.
  3. Truth: Let your ‘yes’ mean yes, and ‘no’ mean no.
    This was the hardest and most embarrassing lesson for me. In all the social and political unrest – it was easy to get wrapped up in arguments and sides forming on the news, social media, and with friends. Sadly, I admit I got myself wrapped up in it – and nothing good came from it. Instead of being a conduit of sharing Christ through me, I got wrapped in the same war of words, insults, divisive memes, put-downs, dehumanization of others, insults, and spreading of half-truths that was becoming rampant from all quarters.
    I started to recognize something was wrong by noticing how much emotional energy and raw time each day I was spending on having arguments in my head, with others, and ensuring I was posting and arguing with the other sides. As hard as this is to admit, I finally realized the depths when I started playing one side against itself on one social media interaction – and recognizing others were doing the exact same things. When I prayed during my reflection on the day – it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt Jesus powerfully speak directly to me via the reading:

    “Let your ‘yes’ mean yes, and your ‘no’ mean no. Anything more than this is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

    As Christians, we profess to believe that our hope is in Truth – the one truth that is Christ. We put our whole hope in knowing that if we love as Jesus taught us – we ultimately will be victors over this world. Do I truly believe that I should respond with love, even when others do not, that this is the way? Even when it seems more clever to ‘play politics’?
    Jesus came to this world and transformed it by offering love, forgiveness, and speaking the truth always. In every instance and with every person. He lost his life because of it – dying like a common criminal – but that truth has endured for over 2000 years in spite of every effort to destroy it.
    If I truly believe this, then I must put all my trust in following the way of Christ. To love my enemies. Pray for those that persecute me. To ignore the rhetoric and spend my time seeking out the lost, the orphan, the widow, the imprisoned, the downtrodden, the forgotten and love them. To love as Christ loved me, and above all, to always speak the truth. Anything else is based in evil.
  4. We are citizens of heaven
    Here in the US and Portland, civil unrest and forces are attacking our Democracy via the use of violence and intimidation. Extremist who have abandoned Democratic ideals are coming out of the woodwork to attack elected officials, public buildings, and core democratic principles.
    As a good priest friend reminded me, in this life, we are all sitting in an airport. We all have a ticket with a date and time when we will depart for our final destination in eternity. While we work ever for the best world we can create – our ultimate hope is not here but on that which is to come. Jesus has given us the criteria for our final exam, it is only for us to carry it out. How well did I love today – especially my enemies and the needy?

Final thoughts

This has been a brutal year. I encourage everyone to spend time reflecting on what this last year has brought you through. For believers, there are countless lessons that can be learned from this time of difficulty and new ways to connect our suffering with Jesus for healing and to find comfort in our grief. Times of trial can be times of great growth – if we let them and invite Christ into the wounds.

Never has there been a greater need for compassion, forgiveness, and love. Spend some time each day in silence and listen to how God is trying to knock at the door of your heart.

$2.4 Trillion went where?

$2.4 Trillion went where?

This website has been created to report on where pandemic stimulus money is going, and allow anyone to file waste complaints they might witness.

Anyone else find it interesting it cost $82 BILLION dollars just to oversee the spending of $2.4 trillion? That’s almost 6 times what is going in assistance to schools.

Cool Runnings: Self worth

Cool Runnings: Self worth

Irv (John Candy) is a disgraced Olympian that was caught cheating. Asked by  Darice why he did it, Irv gives a beautiful answer:

Irv: “I HAD to win. You see Darice, I’d made winning my whole life. And when you make winning your whole life – you have to keep on winning – no matter what. Do you understand that?”

Darice: “No, I don’t understand that coach. You had two gold medals, you had it all!”

Irv: “ Darice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”