Weird Times Call For A Dose of Reality

March 16, 2020

These are weird, even surreal, times. One place of normal gatherings after another closed by order of the government. Schools, churches, restaurants, bars. People panic-buying toilet paper, bottled water.

I saw one family at the grocery yesterday afternoon evidently stocking up for the “cocooning” (as we used to say) who had a grocery cart filled to overflowing with snack “foods”. I can see them in a week, 20 lbs. heavier each with clogged arteries and unable to walk up a flight of stairs…

We need to remember advice from the most ancient of sources—that we realize what we can control and do that. The rest is outside our power to affect. Be aware, but don’t worry about it. That is lost energy better applied elsewhere. So we do what we can and survive a day at a time. Most of us will, of course.

Remember the most common commandment in the Bible? “Fear not!” Take that thought into our being. And do something for someone today. Like maybe thanking a healthcare professional.

When Panic Takes Over

March 13, 2020

Covid-19 appears to be a respiratory illness, yet even here in the rural Midwest there is a massive purchasing of toilet paper. I guess when all around you are messages of fear and uncertainty, you grasp for something safe.

I was thinking that the skills that get you somewhere are seldom the skills that serve you well when you arrive.

If your speaking skill is stirring the emotions of your true believers, then when you arrive as a leader and panic of the led requires a reasoned, calming speech you are ill prepared.

Same thing works in business. The skills that got you to CEO or other leadership position are not the skills you need to survive at that level. Only those who continually learn and adapt survive. Nature teaches us that every day.

I never wrote as much as a paragraph in school until I was 16 and a senior. The teacher did not teach us how; he just said Write. I have written something every day for the past 22 years. I guess I had a lot of stuff building up for those 16 years that’s taking a long time to get out…

Back to the current situation.

  • Wash your hand thoroughly and often
  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Eat good food, lots of berries and veggies, but not too much
  • Get some exercise daily
  • Yoga, mediation, classical music—whatever is calming
  • Consider supplements such as Emergen-C to boost immune system
  • Yes, I heard you mom, I’ll wash my hands

Yesterday afternoon the emails notifying cancellations of events began pouring in. My last chance at mentoring at a soccer referee academy in Ohio was cancelled. Games we were assigning referees were cancelled. State championship basketball games were cancelled. Think of that…teams worked hard all season to be able to play for the big prize, and poof, gone.

I hope the movers still show up on the 23rd. It’s only two of us…

Happy Wife, Happy Life

March 12, 2020

Happy wife, happy life. —American myth

Well, it’s a common saying, anyway. In my case, there is a very happy wife.

She has desired a move to a different type of house for the last 12 years after she saw one that a friend bought. Back then the market was terrible.

Since then, instead of kids in Illinois and Florida, they are all in Illinois. And the market has turned to a seller’s market.

So, she said she’d call a friend of mine who is a realtor to see what the going price for our house would be. Turns out quite higher than I’d thought.

One day later the house was listed. Four days later, an offer. Two days later, a second offer. And we had no place to go. After a few moist eyes, I mentioned that if we were ever going to move close to the grandkids (at least the very few years they will still be around), now was the time.

Two weeks later, I get a call after teaching a soccer referee class. “Drive up here to the Chicago area and sign the papers.” By the end of this month, less than two months after that first glimmer of hope and a lot of work on my part, we’ll be Illinois residents. After coming home for a part-time job after university work in Louisiana, we stayed here for 49 years. Guess it was time.

There is no cool little coffee house selling direct trade coffee near by, but there is a coffee place with WiFi. As I tell people, that’s all I need for my “day job”. And flights will be direct from O’Hare rather than connections from Dayton.

I’ve given up all my soccer referee responsibilities except for assigning (couldn’t find a replacement, plus I’ve already done that from Germany, China, and Japan, so why not Illinois?). That also means there is an unemployed referee in the northwest suburbs. Any readers here looking for a Regional Emeritus and former college referee? 😉

And I have a very happy wife.

The Problem Is So Big

March 11, 2020

That we can’t fix it.

Dorothy Day, a Christian social activist of the early 20th Century when problems looked at least as grim as today, said, “The sense of futility is one of the greatest evils of the day.…People say, “What can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.”

That is the discipline. One step at a time. One day at a time. Actually, one hour at a time. Choosing in this minute just what I’ll do for one other person. Even Presidents of the United States soon discover that there are limits to even their power.

I recently talked with two guys in the locker room who run marathons. Each has qualified for Boston in their careers. I run to keep up with soccer players. I can’t fathom three hours of plodding along.

“What do you think about?” I asked. “You can’t think,” they replied. It is just a focus on putting the next foot in front. That’s the trick. One step at a time and then there you are at 26 miles.

The media has your emotions and fears amped up? Wash your hands frequently. Keep your immune system healthy with proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Just one step at a time. That’s what you can do.

Unless, of course, you happen to read this blog and you’re a microbiologist who knows how to design vaccines. Then, by all means, your step-at-a-time is to put the building blocks of a vaccine together. For the rest of us, though, we help immensely just by staying sane and taking proper precautions.

Same with political and religious/political viruses. They spread perniciously, too. Same thing…

Pruning Your Heart As Focusing

March 9, 2020

Jesus used a metaphor of a vine and branches to describe living in the life force of God while bearing fruit in our lives.

Bearing healthy fruit in a grape vine requires judicious pruning to focus the life force coming in through the soil through the vine to the branches to the fruit.

A little later, Paul talked about circumcising the heart—a picture of cutting as a sacrifice and symbol of focusing the heart on God.

It’s always amazing to discover the weekend reading merging together to reveal a truth for spiritual formation.

When we focus our hearts on the source of life—God—then we live the “with-God” life as Richard Foster and Dallas Willard would describe it. We can channel our renewed energies into bearing fruit by doing love to our neighbor so—both those near and those far away.

Pruning is a never-ending process for the vine. Similarly for us. We have daily distractions—heck, minute-by-minute distractions—that interfere with the flow of the spirit. Prune away non-essential distractions and focus on what is good and meaningful. And then you have no need for laws and rules. Doing the right thing just comes naturally.

Favoring One Group Over Another Leads to Judgement

March 6, 2020

“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” (Letter of James chapter 2)

James, brother of Jesus, writing to the new congregations of people striving to figure out what it means to follow Jesus, looks into the soul of those groups and finds a problem. Favoritism. Divisiveness. One group of people is “in” and another is “out”.

Even to this day, we have churches who hold that women are to be segregated out into “women’s roles” and not leadership. Even to this day, we have congregations that cling to racial homogeneity rather than inclusiveness. We have congregations that segregate out homosexual people holding them in a second-class status (attend in order to be “saved” but never leadership).

How many other ways to we differentiate and divide people? Is this what Jesus taught by word and example?

James says later that those who judge people so will themselves face harsh judgement.

I was shown a better way by God. It’s called accepting the common humanity of all people, recognizing and rejoicing in differences, and open to all to partake of the fruit of the spirit and find their unique service in the spirit.

Like Jesus said about Mary (Martha’s sister), choose the better way. Live in the kingdom of God.

Maintaining Temperance in Attitude

March 5, 2020

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

Rudyard Kipling

Journalists constantly look for the Big Story. Employers of journalists look for stories that raise emotions, which raise readership, which raises the value of advertising, which adds profits.

This is not a US-only phenomenon. Everywhere I observe it’s the same stirring of emotions.

The opening lines of Kipling’s poem If gives us a hint. By the way, the conclusion of all the “if’s” in the poem is “then you’ll be a man” (allowing for 19th Century perspectives).

Temperance is one of the classic Stoic virtues is also a virtue practiced by Jesus. He experienced the swirling emotions of power and insurrection, stared them down, and kept to the mission of ushering in the kingdom of God build upon love and justice.

So should we, as we stare down constant attempts to stir our emotions to no good for ourselves. Maintain our practice of kingdom principles—love God with all of our being and love our neighbor as Jesus loved.

Coronavirus—Concern But Don’t Panic

March 4, 2020

I opened today’s emails and had received notice from Hannover, Germany that the world’s largest manufacturing trade show has been postponed from April to July. The largest mobile technology show—Mobile World Congress—in Barcelona, Spain cancelled last month. Many companies are cancelling or postponing conferences and face-to-face meetings.

Then there is disruption of the world’s supply chain for manufacturing. Businesses will be starved for parts before long. This causes the emotional trading in the stock and bond markets to drive prices down.

Yes, we have yet another spreading virus—Coronavirus which causes a disease called COVID-19. We’re not sure what its effects are, so we panic.

I go to sources that have built trust with me for many years and seek advice. I’m passing this along, not as a doctor (which I am not), but as an informed layperson.

You can try buying a mask, but most likely it will not help you. In Japan, where the wearing of masks started, it is the sick people who wear them to prevent spreading colds and flu and the like.

Best is washing your hands—often. And avoid touching your face in between times.

Then, you can avoid people who are sick. Remember that, so far, flu is killing many more people than COVID-19.

If you are sick—PLEASE STAY HOME. And if you have kids, don’t send them to school.

Maintain your own good health and immune system. Fresh garlic shows good results. Keep your vitamin D3 up. Some mushrooms help the immune system (but consult with a medical person for your own unique situation since some can interfere with medicines or other conditions)—trying perhaps Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake, oyster mushrooms.

Maintain a level head. Don’t stress—which lowers your resistance. The stock market is down. It’ll recover in the long term.

Consider reducing travel for the next month or so. (Says the guy who recently returned from Germany.)

Maintaining your body and mind are a part of overall spiritual discipline. Here’s to your good health.

Beware Smoldering Resentment

March 3, 2020

I confess, I have an addiction—to British murder mysteries on TV. I am grateful for Amazon Prime and BritBox 😉

A well written murder mystery probes into some of the darkness of emotions. In an old episode of Midsomer Murders, the writers probed the shouldering (guess I should use British spelling) resentment that two women had for their mothers. Both of the mothers had a deviant sexual side that affected the daughters for different reasons—but with the same effect, namely murder.

As we meditate and work on our own self-awareness, these smoldering emotions perhaps lying below consciousness but very real nonetheless can erupt much like a volcano with smoldering lava deep inside. These forces that can, with a subtle shift of rock and pressure, spew out destruction.

Often people outside us can detect deep-seated resentment in us. There is a stare of intensity, quickness to anger, inability to relate to others.

Check on your own state. Quench the smoldering embers within. Work on gratitude, forgiveness (for yourself as well as others), accepting grace.

When Our Heart Expands

March 2, 2020

Still thinking about our heart (see Friday’s post), I recently read this from Thich Nhat Hahn, “When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We cannot accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”

As we become more self-aware, we realize that when we cannot tolerate even the smallest act or word from others then we are also most unhappy within ourselves.

We can expand this work of compassion from those physically close to us to encompass all those who are different from us. We can enjoy differences rather than be fearful of them.

What a better way to live.