What You Think Matters

This quote from Sarah Young (Jesus Calling; Jesus Lives, et. al.) is why political anger is wrong. Not because our viewpoints are wrong (they are simply different), but because they harden our hearts and hurt our relationship with God. If a party tells us to demonize people who think differently, then it’s time to step away from political investments. We need to walk in the light.

“To live at peace with everyone, you need to control not only what you say and do but also what you think. It’s common to assume that your thoughts about others don’t matter much, as long as you keep them to yourself. However, I am fully aware of all your thoughts. When you indulge in negative thinking about someone, your relationship with that person is damaged. Those hurtful thoughts also affect your relationship with Me, and they may have a depressive effect on you. The remedy lies in turning to Me and seeking My forgiveness. Then, ask My Spirit to control your mind and help you think My thoughts. This is the way of Life and Peace.” ~Jesus Lives by Sarah Young, p. 146

 

Push Me, Pull Me

As a mom whose kids are in the home stretch of high school, I can tell you the emotions flutter just below the surface, threatening to gush out in a torrent of waterworks or maybe a scream.

Vollmer Farms, 2009

I’m watching the pumpkin patch visits and apple picking on Facebook. The tooth-gapped smiles and childish joy of my friends’ younger kids stab at my heart. I was there once. I would help my kids put on tiny shoes and bright colored t-shirts, too, and then we’d drive out to the country to pet farm animals or run through a corn maze, too. We’d eat spice cake and pick out our pumpkins, too. We were there, too.

Found his pumpkin!

And it was only a minute ago.

Everyone told me it would go fast, but I didn’t think it would happen to me.

Second Day of School 2018 (because mom couldn’t get a first day pic)

Today, they went off to school and my son had to bend down so I could hug him goodbye (yes, I get that daily love and I treasure it!). Busy with their own musings, one grumpy, the other overly excited for spirit day, they dressed on their own, they filled backpacks on their own, and they walked off to the bus stop on their own. I am there, but I’m a cursory player. I’m not the ring master…anymore.

Goat!

Even as I write this, I’m sitting here crying. I see that little tow-headed boy reaching out to feed a goat. I see that carefree little girl jumping on the inflatable, and I wonder if I sucked up enough of that when we were there, when we could play.

Jumping for joy!

These days, my little girl who would scream and jump with exuberance over the simplest things, asks me pertinent questions about politics or sex. My little boy who replaced his “b’s” with “v’s” and insisted it was “lightsaver,” gives me a nod in response to a query, or, if I’m really lucky, a grunt.

And there is joy still.

Lake Tillery, Summer 2018
Poker Night, 2017

We watch old movies and laugh over the ancient technology. They “get” adult humor, and even though it’s sometimes uncomfortable, it provides a commonality. We play poker and blackjack, and we take weekend trips in our camping trailer when they’re not off with their various activities. We spend time together, but it’s in fits and spurts, not every day involvement.

“Excited Teenagers” bowling, 2018

And, they get on my nerves. I want to pull my hair out. They get moody, and I get angry. But maybe that’s God’s way of making sure they leave the nest. We’re to leave our parent’s home and create our own. We’re to cleave to our spouse, not to our parents.

Animazement 2018, Anime Convention, Doc Brown and Marty McFly

 

In this age, it’s a process. You go off to college or the military, you join the workforce, you get your own digs, and you find a wife or husband, and through the growing pains and delights, you create your own life. A life away from your first home.

Now at the tail end of the daily direction of their lives, I feel the loss. The loss of crayons and board books, of plays and recitals, of dry cereal and cartoons; and I hope they remember enough of their growing up years to know that we cared and nurtured…and loved.

Loving the outdoors!

I want them to go away, because I want them to live the life that God has planned for them, to impact others, to make a difference in the world, and to have adventures.

And, I want them to stay, because I’m selfish.

My silly babies!

I miss the little girl and the little boy who used to break stuff and write on the walls and hug my legs and beg for ice cream. I miss them, but I’m also excited to see what they’ll do with this amazing life God has planned for them.

Pumpkin patch pictures: Vollmer Farm, Bunn, NC on 10/10/2009

Tying It Up Neatly with a Bow

Reading through short, sweet, to-the-point Christian books always makes me a little wary. To me, life can’t be explained in simple examples of scriptural wins created during conference breakout sessions or transcontinental flights. Stories in three or four paragraphs with sunshine-y endings don’t correlate the messy life I see around me. Or, in the starts and stops of a life God-changed.

 Real growth can and does happen with Christ, but for most of us it’s baby steps. We don’t get the illuminating light and angels’ music moment from the movies. We simply get nudged to the next phase.

Now, I get it. An author has only so many words to tell a story, and real-life tales accentuate the message. Blending people and altering facts to conceal identities is a noble gesture. Condensing the story helps the pace of the entire piece. It’s all good.

 But, that huge leap is allegory not necessarily a practical template for most of us. Growth can be slow and messy. We can backpedal. There are hills and valleys and twists and turns. When we look back over the course of our journey, we see progress, but we rarely see a sole experience that solves the deeper issues of our souls.

Now, that one illumination can prompt our movement, like a pebble starting an avalanche.  Real growth then happens over time through many instances and choices.

The stories are necessary, good fodder and explain the larger message. But, we need to remember that though they can and do happen, they are rare. It’s in our moment-by-moment choices and through our development over time that leads to a life changed by Christ.

I’m okay, you’re okay. Right?

See to it that no one falls short of the GRACE of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  ~Hebrews 12:15

I learned recently that if you make the okay sign, you are a racist. It no longer means okay, it’s a symbol of white pride.

What the what?!?

I have been making the okay sign my ENTIRE life to mean “okay.” And, now it means something bad?

The idiocy of our society has gotten completely out of hand. One can’t just switch the meaning of something from something innocuous to horrific and then blast those of us who were not informed of your switch.

Buddhism still uses a swastika for their god Vishnu.  The thumbs up sign, which means “I’m good,” or “it’s good,” means “up yours” in some Middle eastern countries. The index finger curling up to call someone over means death in Singapore and Japan. And, etc…

We have to be a little more sane. We have to come back down to earth. We need to reach out and build bridges. We need to stop accusing people of being horrible when we don’t know them, and we don’t know their hearts.

We need to start seeking love and not finding hate everywhere.

We’re ALL human.  This is why we need God, because we DESPERATELY need grace.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this GRACE in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. ~Romans 5:1-2 

 

 

Hope Inside Me

I was on bedrest, lying on the couch. I had kissed hubby off to work, and my baby was kicking inside of me as I turned on the TV, which happened upon the WB. The screen showed a plane hitting the twin towers, and I thought, “What a stupid movie, that can’t happen in real life.” So, I switched stations. The same footage appeared on another channel, and another, and another…

We were on the West Coast. While we’d slept, the world had changed as we knew it, and we were waking up to the nightmare. Hope living inside me, in the form of a new life, while horror struck the nation.

We connected, because there was nothing else we could do, and we needed to hear our loved ones’ voices.  As thousands that day would never hear again.

Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers, World Trade Center at Sunset, New York City, New Jersey, New York

Phone calls to my sister, a few towns over. Updates from my husband in Silicon Valley. Word of my brother-in-law in San Francisco’s Union Square. Everyone told to go home. My dad in Iowa and mom in Arizona. Friends close by, and those scattered across the nation. We just needed to hear the voices. We needed to feel close.

Flights were landing with people stranded everywhere, and unimaginable death and pain in NYC, PA, and DC. Shock waves rippled through the states.

On the West Coast, we thought we were next. Who’s going to get it–Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco…? We didn’t know. It was the unknown that kept us on edge. The military scrambled fighter jets.

And, later, silence. No more traffic on the roads, no more planes in the air. It was eerily quiet.

That evening, the comforting words of our President, sitting in the Oval Office, speaking to the nation brought us calm and a reminder of our own resilience as a nation. We were raw, we were spent, and we were in disbelief. We grieved, but somehow, we knew we’d prevail.  We knew we were made of tougher stuff.

And, today? We’re softer. And, we’re angrier. And we’re divided into a thousand factions, like pieces of glass from a vase slipped onto a tile floor. No more vase. No more unity.

I think of those flag-lined streets and I grieve for a time when having pride in American principles was a good thing. I grieve for a people who hugged others more tightly that day; who spoke to their neighbors more willingly; who didn’t take your prayers as a slam against their atheism and let you pray.

I yearn for a people who didn’t barricade themselves inside social media prisons and feed on trumped up anger and resentment toward others. I ache for people who didn’t decimate the honor of strangers in 40-characters-or-less under the guise of activism and righteousness. I long for a people who fact-checked and didn’t propagate lies or half-truths for their own benefit. I miss a people who didn’t easily jump on board with hit-pieces designed to inflict pain and suffering on others.

And, while I see the fury boiling over today, and I see the gasoline people pour on it, I pray for people to stop. To lay down their keyboards of destruction. To seek out peace not war. To build bridges, to find common ground, and harvest love and forgiveness.

And, I think of those flags, waving proudly in the front of houses down my street in San Jose, California, and I wonder what happened to us as a nation? How did we go from the phoenix rising from the ashes of the World Trade Center and communing with our neighbors, to calling our neighbors horrific names using abhorrent language?

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And, I think, people must hate themselves in the way they treat others.

But, I hold out hope. There is always hope.

Seven days after 9/11, my hope was born. She came pink and screaming into the world. And, maybe that’s how we’ll find our way back to each other: through the babies’ cries and hope for their future.

And, while my baby turns 17 years old this year, I still have hope inside me.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Dr. Hood’s Rejection Letter

In 1959, Marion Gerald Hood was denied admittance to Emory University School of Medicine due to his race. He is African American.

Jim Crow Laws, enacted by white Democrats in the South during the Reconstructionist period in the late 19th century, mandated legal separation of races. These laws remained in effect until the mid-1960s. They were the basis for Dr. Hood’s (yes, doctor!!) rejection from Emory.

Dr. Hood went on to attend Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He was a practicing OBGYN and now is semi-retired working part-time at a clinic that treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Dr. Hood

His rejection letter is making the rounds on the Internet on this, the 59th anniversary, and it caused me to think. Lots of stuff causes me to think, but this got me thinking deeper.

“It’s a shame it took 60 years, but it’s moving in the right direction there are still barriers,” says Dr. Hood. “I don’t hold them personally responsible for what happened to me. They were just following the rule of the good ol’ South in those days.”

If you want to see Dr. Hood’s talk about why he got into medicine, click here: Georgia Man Reflects on Medical School Racial Denial on 59th Anniversary

I’m so, so grateful that race doesn’t matter to me, or most people, these days—despite what the news media and the loud voices on social media want us to believe. Are there racial and socio-economic barriers? Yes. Are things dire and bleak? I see progress.

I’m happy to receive the expertise of my healthcare providers regardless of what they look like. I’m much more interested in the makeup of their brains than the makeup of their skin tone. Only one of those body parts will save my life.

I got a jones to look up some facts and numbers about minorities and medical schools.

The first African American doctor graduated from a US medical school in 1847, also the year the American Medical Association formed. Two years later, in 1849, the first female graduated from a US medical school. Sadly, it wasn’t until 15 years later, in 1864, the first African American woman graduated. Her name was Rebecca Lee Crumpler.

Dr. Crumpler

Interestingly, today, African Americans still make up a smaller percentage of admissions into medical schools. White admissions have dropped in the last 35 years, but the only significant minority gain has been by Asians. Latinos have fared only a little better, but African Americans and Native Americans/Alaska Natives have not seen a significant increase in admissions.

I was always taught NEVER to bring a problem WITHOUT a solution.

These statistics say to me that we need more STEM/STEAM programs most in our African American, Native American and Latino communities.

We need to build up these students to believe they can achieve and excel in the sciences. We need people to volunteer in these schools, after school programs, and camps to tutor and mentor these kids.

Forget the broad-sweeping, bureaucratic, red-tape choking government “program,” where most of the money will go to administration and not to implementation. No, we can’t just sit at home and binge watch Netflix and demand “our government” do something. Change is never affected in Washington.

Real change always starts with one person. A person who steps up and says, “I will.” A person who doesn’t sit at their computer and complain. A person who goes out and does.

Let’s BE that person!

Volunteer today.

NFL Protests: Year 3

I think what they don’t realize is that we, the audience/fans, are paying the bill. It’s our dollars driving this sport.

They may take their million-dollar paychecks from individual teams, but where does that money come from? We, the fans. We pay to watch and enjoy a game, we don’t pay to watch people protest, even if we agree with them. It’s about respecting the fans who pay the bills. We keep the lights on and the checks coming in.

I’m very happy they’re taking it seriously on their own time, in their lives outside of the arena, in their social media reach, et. al. That’s wonderful, and that’s what makes this country so great!

However, I liken it to going out to eat. Say I’m in a restaurant paying for a steak, and I want to enjoy a steak with my friends, not be forced to listen to a lecture from the chef before my steak is served. I’m out enjoying a night with my peeps, and we’re having fun. The chef’s political and social commentary is irrelevant to my dinner.

I’m there to eat, not be a captive audience.

There is a time and place for lectures from the chef, but it’s not at my table preceding my meal for which I’m paying.

I’m not going to eat at a restaurant where the chef insists on my attention to his viewpoint along with, and not solely, his culinary skills.

Home Ownership Follows Economic Growth; It Doesn’t Cause It

“A rising tide (in the economy) lifts all boats.” — John F. Kennedy

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist US Congressional candidate, recently proclaimed, “Our economy needs to work for us. And we need to measure ourselves not just by GDP, but how many people have homes in the United States.”

Rhetoric like this caused the housing crisis of ‘08. Home ownership in and of itself is not a path to financial success, but rather a measure of it.

Home ownership is a result of a healthy economy.

The goal should be to ensure the pathway, not provide the outcome. The outcome should be a result of the journey. If more people own homes, then that’s good, but the process to get there cannot be averted. Just having more people in homes doesn’t qualify as success. It can spell disaster, as we found out when all those people who were given ridiculously easy loans for homes—that they could not afford—suddenly found themselves in foreclosure.

According to Justin Pritchard, on thebalance.com, in his article, The Mortgage Crisis Explained: “Borrowers were able to borrow more than ever before, and individuals with low credit scores increasingly qualified as subprime borrowers. Lenders approved ‘no documentation’ and ‘low documentation’ loans, which did not require verification of a borrower’s income and assets (or verification standards were relaxed).”

Much of these high-risk loans ended up in default and banks foreclosed on homes. People went back to their rentals in bleaker financial condition than before. The false propping up inflicted real damage. Families suffered. And, for what? So, the dream of home ownership could be realized.

Only it wasn’t.

The best way to ensure a strong economy is to lower taxes and get people working. More people in the workforce means more money for households and therefore more money in the economy. Families can buy houses, send their kids to camp, take vacations. To pin hopes on the government to solve all problems gums up the works and stalls economic growth. Average people don’t get wealthy through government programs, they accumulate wealth with good jobs and lower taxes.

“Either immediately or ultimately every dollar of government spending must be raised through a dollar of taxation. Once we look at the matter. In this way, the supposed miracles of government spending will appear in another light.” — Henry Hazlitt

Going back to the basics of high employment and low taxation leads us to better economic health. Propping up people leads to their ruin.  Home ownership is great and noble, but it’s better for people to get there on their own rather than have government do it for them. 

The Age of Outrage: What It’s Doing to Our Health

Stressors

The media was created to sell. Clicks and viewership are worth big money. The more outrageous the headline and the more outrageous the story, the more likely a media outlet attracts an audience. Every headline, news story, blog post, social media platform, YouTube offering, one-sided documentary, media show, or likewise fare is geared for one thing and one thing only: to make money. (This blog is the exception, as you can see, by lack of promotion and ads.)

Normal people doing well, bipartisanship in Washington, and kitten videos don’t bring in ad bucks. Instead, when we grab our morning coffee and device, we’re greeted with SHOCKING and HORRIFIC stories crafted to pique our interest, engage our emotions—especially anger—and intensify our desire us for more. More and more so we can feel intoxicating effect of outrage! More and more so we can prove WE ARE right. More and more so we can prove THEY ARE wrong.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” Eric Pooley (New York Magazine, 1989).

We’ve gone beyond “if it bleeds, it leads,” these days. Not simply content with covering grisly murders or polarizing trials, news outlets have become saturated with warring opinion and viewpoints concentrating on fringe ideas, outlandish theories and knowingly inaccurate interpretations.

Media have specifically designed their fare to create OUTRAGE.

Which, unfortunately, spills over to real life. Neighbor attacking neighbor, people acting insulted and defiantly demanding their way, always, and incivility abounding in every encounter. Demanding, defiant and detrimental: we live in a dangerous age where people yell at the cashier without shame, spit in others’ faces, resort to blows…and worse.

Daily encounters are land mines due to the unpredictable behavior of people who live in a media-induced constant state of outrage. And, I blame the misconception of what is true reality by the media whose only objective is to get more bank.

How our bodies react.

We all learned that when we encounter a stressful or threatening situation, our bodies enter “fight or flight” mode.  Like the zebra chased by the lion, all systems in the zebra’s are minimized except for those relating to running away. Similarly, our bodies react, prepping to stay for the fisticuffs or turn and hightail like Usain Bolt.

When we encounter stress, hormones are released that help us manage the situation. Epinephrine (Adrenaline), Norepinephrine, and Cortisol are those hormones, and each have their own function.

Epinephrine works to stimulate heart rate and large muscles, increase energy by converting glycogen to glucose and thereby raising blood sugar, dilate the pupils, heighten awareness, and shut down peripheral blood flow so more blood can be pumped to the muscles. In medical treatment, Epinephrine is used to combat such conditions heart attacks, severe low blood pressure and allergic reactions.

Norepinephrine works alongside Epinephrine and creates arousal. Norepinephrine works mainly on constricting blood flow to the outer extremities which increases blood pressure. In medicine, Norepinephrine is used to treat low blood pressure from septic shock, ADHD and depression.

Cortisol is the long-term hormone that takes minutes, not seconds to enter the system. It’s also known as the “Stress Hormone.” It helps to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure, and regulate body functions that aren’t crucial during stress, like libido and digestion.

But when we are constantly under stress, as in continually feeding on outrage, the body continuously releases cortisol. Chronic elevated levels can lead to serious health issues.

Long term effects of too much Cortisol:

  • Heart Disease
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive Problems
  • Headaches
  • High Blood Sugar
  • Sleep Problems
  • Weight Gain
  • Memory and Concentration Impairment

The media is wired, like our body’s response to stress, to stimulate the stress response. They want us jolted, jarred and jumbled. We get that stimulating high from outrage from headlines and stories highlighting the latest political antic, racial slur, sexist remark, or anything they know will raise our blood pressure and release those hormones. And, when we get that high, we want more. We crave more until we’re drowning in a reality that doesn’t exist, and, frankly, never did.

We must remember that investigative journalism is dead. Journalists approach a story, a documentary, a panel discussion or town hall event with the end in mind. They want to highlight scenarios that fit their agenda and purpose. The end is already in sight, they just want to prove it. Instead of gathering facts to see where the facts lead, they gather evidence that proves their position. Which means, we never see the evidence that disproves.

We must remember that life isn’t a salacious headline. Life isn’t a political fight. Life isn’t black or white, and right or wrong. It’s shades of gray, and prisms of different viewpoints.

How we can regain health.

So, what happens when we identify that it’s really them (the media) and not us?

We need to DISENGAGE. For our health!

We need to pull back from our devices and news stories. We need to stay away from social media and documentaries. We need to turn off news shows. In general, we need to unplug.

What can we do instead? You probably can think of a hundred different things to do.

Here’s some ideas to start your list…Take a walk. Learn to love silence. Rearrange the living room or arrange a vase of flowers. Take a drive. Learn a new skill. Build something. Meet a friend for coffee. Host a dinner party with games (games direct discussion away from current events). Garden. Paint. Sew. Visit the art museum. Go on a date. Visit the fair or an amusement park. Watch the sunset. Etc.

Go. Do it. Now. For your health.

“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 3:18 (MSG)

Ghosting is Real, and That’s Not the Only Problem

Ghosting, or not showing up for interviews or the first day of work, is a modern workforce problem. I hear it all the time from my friends who still own businesses with employees: “no shows” for interviews and even newly hired employees is irking employers.

With the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years–currently at 3.8%–candidates are receiving multiple offers and being selective with their choices. They’ll accept two or three, and then decide at the last minute which one to take. They assume their absence is a clear indication that they no longer want the job.

They would be wrong.

One friend said, “It’s just rude. I have a business to run and they don’t show up for their first day of work. I don’t know what to do, I’ve planned for them to be there. I need to fill this position.”

The other side of the coin is that when the unemployment rate was up, HR departments or individual employers would often use “no contact” as a way to inform candidates they wouldn’t be continuing in the hiring process. Rude, yes, but acceptable. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and employees are in the cat bird seat, they hold the power.

I believe a healthy amount of respect is needed from both parties, employer and employee. Perhaps we don’t have to resort to linen paper correspondence formality, but we do have communicate with each other.

As a business owner, I would always let a candidate know they weren’t getting a second interview, or weren’t selected for the job. It’s not a fun phone call to make, but it’s an important one. Communication is vital. As is, decorum. If an employee spends their workday wearing earbuds, are they engaged in their job, or just passing time?

I wrote this a year before I sold my sign and graphic business:

“Listen, Millennials, I hire you. I like working with you. I love your enthusiasm and energy, and your fresh perspective! However, when you don’t show up for work for days without contacting me, your employer, I’m sorry, I have to fire you. And when you bring a space heater to work without my permission, I see that as a fire hazard for my building filled with tens of thousands of dollars of my equipment. (No, I’m not Scrooge, I do run the heat, it’s just that if you choose to wear sandals in November…hmmm.). And when you tell me that I have to tell another employee to stop eating a certain way, I see that as a sign of immaturity on your part. Look, you are valuable in the workforce, but please, be mindful of your employer and other coworkers. You have much to offer, but you need to adopt some healthy respect and you’ll do great!”

I love the vitality that young people bring to an organization, but they need to understand they need to keep learning. It never stops, through education and observation, a successful person is constantly improving, learning and growing.

“The key to success is dedication to life-long learning.” ~ Stephen Covey