Disinfectants, Debates, and Deplorables – Part 1 of 2

You may want to view the video prelude to this post which explains some new developments in the disinfectant debacle.

In Facebook discussions this week regarding President Trump’s April 23rd White House briefing and his comment/question* on injection of disinfectants as a possible way to deal with COVID-19, I found myself thinking time and again about a bit of wisdom from my high school debate teacher. She taught that a good debater can argue both sides of an issue.

* Which was it? A comment or a question? That’s actually one of the things that was up for debate. There is a vast difference between saying we should inject disinfectants into the human body to fight COVID-19 and asking someone if that’s something that could be studied. President Trump asked the question.

Why is that? Well, if you want to win people over to your viewpoint, you need to understand their arguments, anticipate their questions and rebuttals, and speak to those things. You do not win a debate by merely saying, “Here’s what I believe. I’m right and you’re an idiot if you don’t agree with me.” And you don’t even win by simply proclaiming the talking points that resonate with you. You have to understand what’s in the hearts and minds of those you’re communicating with to know which of your arguments might be most effective with them.

If ever we needed to be competent at debate it is now when most of our discussions regarding politics, health, and safety are online, in written form. In this medium, we don’t have the benefit of “reading” someone’s demeanor or having them read ours (for example, to know when we’re being sarcastic or saying something in a more questioning manner). There is also the strange phenomenon where we feel more liberty to be meanspirited when we are not having to deal with someone face to face. Add to that the general level of stress in our society right now and you have a situation that is ripe for misunderstanding, anger and intolerance.

Most people who have been involved in formal debate and been assigned to argue for a position that is actually opposite of their own would attest to the fact that there are benefits to the process. Even if you do not change your overall opinion on the matter from that type of debate preparation, you do come to realize the other side has some valid arguments that need to be considered.

At a time when we could all use some stress relief, while also addressing some truly important matters we are facing, I hope this series of blog posts will foster more productive and less angry conversations.

In Part 2 of “Disinfectants, Debates, and Deplorables,” I will share more specifics about the Facebook conversation that sparked me to write this post. I will provide examples of smart moves by some involved in the debate that helped me to change my mind on some things, as well as tactics from both sides which were detrimental to their cause.

From “Saddest Easter Ever” to “Can’t Get Enough of this Hope-Filled Song”

I woke up this morning thinking, This is the saddest Easter I’ve ever experienced. On top of not being able to see my kids and grandkids or gather with church family for worship, I guess I was still reeling a bit from the fact that within a very short timespan yesterday I learned two people I know died from COVID-19. One was a former pastor and one was a classmate from high school.

Adding to my gloom was 1) this is my first Easter without my dad who passed away in January and 2) my mom has been in the hospital since March 27th and we have not been allowed to visit her.

Thankfully, someone shared a song on Facebook that helped me turn the corner in my thinking.

Side Note: Please share your good thoughts and the things that are keeping you encouraged on social media. Yes, we need to be educated on what’s going on in this crazy world. And there are many things out there right now that make you go, “Hmmm …” But mixed in with all your political angst and conspiracy conjectures, please sprinkle in some positive. We all need it.

The song was “Easter Song” and it helped me go from my initial thought this morning – this is the saddest Easter ever – to feeling encouraged and joyful. I listened to three different versions of it and could not decide which one I loved most. So, I’m going to share all three here. I’d love to hear in the comments which is your favorite rendition and why.

Version #1 is performed by Second Chapter of Acts. Makes sense to start with this one as Annie Herring from the group wrote the song. This group has been a favorite of mine for many years. The group members are siblings and family harmony is hard to beat.

Version #2 is the brother from 2nd Chapter of Acts, Matthew Ward, doing it solo and many years later. I absolutely love this man’s voice!

Version #3 is a live version by Keith Green. The impact of Keith’s music and life was foundational to me and many others I’m sure. He died in a plane crash in 1982 before the age of 30 but the passion he put into his music and ministry has given him a lasting legacy. Listening to him and his message during this live version brought me to tears, but also made me rejoice to know he did not live or die in vain. I’m comforted to know he gained the full realization that Christ is indeed our living hope. I look forward to the day I will rejoice in heaven with him and so many others who have gone before.

I hope you enjoyed the music and that it helped you focus on the true hope of Easter as it did me. Again, I’d love to know which version you prefer and why. God bless!

One Hour to Live and a Good Friday Thought

At a church service several weeks ago, before we could no longer meet together due to COVID-19, we were challenged to think about what we would do if we only had a certain amount of time to live.

Side note: Don’t worry, this was not some morbid scare tactic taking advantage of our coronavirus worries. It was actually just before the virus was really on anyone’s radar to be worried about, at least no more of a concern than any other bug during flu season.

At one point in the sermon, we were instructed to open envelopes which had been provided to each of us as we had entered the sanctuary that morning. Inside each envelope was a card announcing the hypothetical amount of time each of us had remaining on this earth.

My card said, “1 Hour.” I wondered immediately what the minister would do if I jumped up and screamed “I’ve got to go see my grand babies!” as I ran out the door. I refrained.

After that initial thought, one thing that came to mind was that I would want to write one more blog post. That might seem like a strange thing to consider, but I was thinking in terms of legacy and I would not want the last blog post I wrote to be memorialized as my last publicly proclaimed thoughts about God and life.

That post was written over two years ago when I was in a real funk. And honestly, the fact that I have not written here since is indicative of the fact that I’m still not quite out of it. But as I was considering what I would say if I did write “one last blog post” (and only had one hour to live – so obviously wouldn’t want to spend the whole time writing), I thought, all I really need is one quick sentence to speak resolution to that last post. All I really need to say in response to the thought that I was “Hoping God Proves Me Wrong” is …

GOD DOESN’T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING MORE TO ME!

God proved everything He needed to prove on the very day we memorialize today as Good Friday – the day Jesus gave His own life so that I might have eternal life.

It’s interesting that even after all that deep pondering, it still has taken me weeks to muster up the mental energy to get back to writing. I’m thankful to my friend Aric Marshall who shared his music video on Facebook. Listening to his beautiful saxophone rendition of “Were You There” brought me to the place I needed to be – the place where I’m focused on my Savior and what He has done for me.

I’m going to try to embed the video below and hope it works. If not, I’ll try to fix it later. But for now, I’m going to skip my normal tendency to edit and re-edit and just get this thought out there. Because, you know, this might be my last hour to live and I have other things to do. I mean, “I’ve got to go see my grand babies!!!” (through video chat, of course).

Hoping God Proves Me Wrong

So far, my annual writing retreat has been a reflection retreat. I’ve been in quite the writing slump for quite some time. It’s even been hard for me to journal (that alone is usually a sign I’m not in a good place). The past six years have been filled with losses for me. I have been grieving the loss of my sister. My father suffered a stroke which has taken much of him away from me. And in between those two life altering events I have also had several dreams shattered. Things I had invested my time and my heart in were snatched away, one after the other.

As someone who has held Ephesians 3:20-21 as a life theme, this has been hard to process. That verse says, “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” I’ve always followed that with, “And I can imagine BIG things!”

Well, I always followed with that . . . until now. More recently, I actually told someone I am now afraid to dream big or follow my passions because it just leads to disappointment. 

Thankfully, the friends I do this writing retreat with are what one of them calls “safe haven friends.” On the first night of this retreat, when we usually list our goals for the week, I shared my struggles and confessed that I had no specific writing goals – or at least none that I’m motivated to work on. They listened, asked probing questions (the good kind that showed they cared and wanted to understand), and they agreed to be in prayer for me.

Last night, one friend asked if I had heard of Mandisa’s new album Out of the Dark. She explained that the songs were written after Mandisa had dealt with the loss of a friend to cancer – a friend for whom she had been praying and believed God would heal.

I was intrigued, so I listened to a few podcasts where Mandisa talks about it. When Mandisa said, “That was just not the way I thought the story was going to end” I knew I had to buy the album. The song “Prove Me Wrong” resonated so strongly with me, but I’m still processing the how, and why, and where it leads. I can’t imagine I won’t do a follow-up post (because I do still believe God will ultimately prove me wrong), but for now I’m just going to share a portion of the lyrics and the video.

 

Would it be wrong if I asked you for proof?
I wish that I could just believe, without questioning
I’m just being honest with you
And they say your ways are better
But I still don’t understand
And you can’t hold me together
And this can’t be your perfect plan
Prove me wrong
Prove me wrong
All this pain
This sorrow in my heart
I can’t find my way out of the dark
Prove me wrong

 

A Hospital Maze, a Labyrinth and a Path for My Father

I woke up thinking, Who in the world would be knocking on my door at 3:00 am? I was alone, so I didn’t want to answer, but the knocking was persistent. If it’s a family emergency, they surely would have tried to call first, I reasoned as I grabbed my phone. Alarmed to see a multitude of messages and texts from my brothers and my mom, I hurried to the door without even checking what the messages said. I let my brothers Steve and Shawn in. They said they were heading down to Tennessee because our dad had another stroke. I was relieved to know it was not worse news.

When we got to the hospital and Mom led us through the hallways to Dad’s room, she kept saying how confusing the hospital layout was. I figured her brain was just as tired and frazzled as her appearance. But as the hours wore on and we attempted to navigate our way to various rooms and facilities, all three of us “kids” laughed in agreement with her – this place was like a maze.

At one point, we went outside for some fresh air and discovered the hospital had a labyrinth prayer and meditation garden.

angel

The labyrinth at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital (Jackson, TN)

Unlike a maze with its dead ends and turn-arounds, a labyrinth is one single path that leads you to the center and then back out. The goal of a labyrinth walk is as follows:

  1. Use the walk on the way into the center to clear your thoughts and release your burdens.
  2. Once you get to the center, you’re in a better frame of mind to pray and/or receive what you need from God.
  3. After spending time in the center, you walk the path out, reviewing and meditating on what you have received.

I returned to the labyrinth that night. I knew it would be hard to lay aside the concerns I had for my dad, but I took a deep breath and began my walk. One way to clear your mind for the process is to repeat a word or phrase as you walk; I had none for the moment. But just a few steps in, I found myself humming the words to an old Kathy Troccoli song: My life is in your hands, my heart is in your keeping. I had my mantra.

I started repeating that first line to the beat of my steps. Soon, I was adding and adjusting words.

My life is in your hands, my life is in your hands, my life is in your hands,

yes, my life is in your hands

My father’s life is in your hands, yes, My father’s life is in your hands,

yes, my father’s life is in your hands

Yes, my father’s life is in the hands of my Father, yes

My father’s life is in the hands of my loving Father,

Yes, my loving father’s life is in the hands of my loving Father

By the time I reached the center, my only prayer was one of thankfulness.

There will be many more prayers to come as we learn the extent of the damage this stroke has caused and watch my dad work through its effects. But the one prayer that serves as a banner over all the rest has been answered. In fact, it was answered long ago, when my loving father placed his life in the hands of our loving Father.

To see more posts about my labyrinth walks, click here.

3 Reasons You Should Listen to the Fence-Sitters

The Lonely Fence-Sitter

So, here I sit … by nature the speak-up type … on the fence. How did that happen?

I have said for many years that I value the voices of the radicals because they challenge our assumptions and can help bring our thinking into balance. Radicals or extremists usually come to the forefront as reactionaries when the pendulum on an issue has swung too far in one direction. Yes, they may overstate their case, or swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, but without their voices we might never question how imbalanced things actually are (because that lack of balance has become the new status-quo).

Similarly, I have always had trouble respecting “fence-sitters.” At best, I’ve viewed them as apathetic. At worst, I’ve judged them as uncaring or cowardly. More recently, however, I have come to think it might actually be wise to seek out the fence-sitters and hear what they have to say when faced with a situation where extremists on both sides are screaming loudly. Here’s why:

  1. At the very least, if you are one of the radicals making noise, talking with the fence-sitters will help you see how your message is being received by those you are trying to persuade to join your cause. I mean, let’s face it, in battles of epic proportions the people on opposing sides aren’t typically trying to come together. They’re each trying to get their way, win the battle, shoot the other’s argument down. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but seriously, if you’re not convincing a fence-sitter with your rhetoric, you’re certainly not going to convince the opposition.
  2. Talking with a fence-sitter might help you understand the valid points the opposition is making. Again, if you’re one of the radicals, you probably have trouble actually hearing the other side’s case because your senses are so inflamed against them.
  3. Don’t believe you could actually be that calloused against the other side? Appalled at the idea that you might be biased, or worse yet, not completely informed on the matter? Yeah, that’s another reason to speak with a fence-sitter. It’s a good opportunity for a heart check and, quite likely, fact-checking.

I suppose at this point, it might be good to mention the specific issues/incidents which have led me to think the fence-sitters might not be as uncaring as I once imagined. One is the racial tension in my own community (see prior posts here) and the other is a horrible situation in a local church which has spilled over into a Bible college I care about (see one article here, and one here … for the rest of the story, it won’t be hard to follow the rabbit trail to find details).

These circumstances have taught me the following about fence-sitting:

  • It is difficult to have your voice heard when you refuse to join one camp.
  • It is hard to convince people you care about them when you won’t agree with them completely.
  • If you want to hear the opinions and insights of the fence-sitter, you’ll probably have to seek them out because they shy away from speaking publicly as they don’t want to be labeled with either side. And, possibly, because they’ve seen how horribly each side has treated those who oppose them.
  • Just because someone does not grab the bullhorn, does not mean they don’t have some definite opinions.
  • When a fence-sitter is someone close to the situation, and they haven’t made complete enemies of either side, they probably have information you need to hear.
  • Fence-sitters often find themselves there because they care deeply about the people involved in the battle. If you want to gain an ally, spark up a conversation with them.

Please tell me something good a Christian has done for you.

Tonight I am tired. I am tired of Christians bashing fellow Christians. I understand we have differences. And I believe we need to have difficult discussions sometimes in order to hold each other accountable. I believe in the process of “iron sharpening iron.” And I believe in exposing any sin that manifests itself amongst us (for we all sin).

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (ESV)

What I am tired of, though, is how it seems like many Christians cannot approach their disagreements without making each other the enemy. I am tired of the fact that this makes me feel cynical. I am very tired of seeing these things play out in a way that makes younger Christians I’m trying to mentor become cynical. And I’m tired of the poor taste this leaves in the mouths of non-Christians – not just towards Christians, but towards our Christ.

Much more could be said on this matter. Perhaps I should write a Bible study in the future. But for tonight, I’m just too tired.

As I was driving home from work tonight, feeling cynical and discouraged, I had to correct my self-talk. I had to remind myself that there are MANY good Christian people out there who are doing loving things for people.

In an environment filled with people pointing out others’ wrongs, can we take a minute to point out some of the good we see fellow Christians doing? PLEASE, post your positive examples here for all to see as I’m sure there are others like me who need to be reminded.

More Good than Bad Happened in Ferguson August 9, 2015 (part 2)

As promised in my last post, here’s another example of good that happened in Ferguson on the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown.

Good in Ferguson

Peaceful demonstration of opposing viewpoints in Ferguson – August 9, 2015

It’s hard to see in the picture, so I circled it. But there was a group of protestors waving an upside down American flag. This solitary woman decided to do a little flag waving of her own – right side up. There are several reasons I think this is a great symbol of the good that occurred in Ferguson on the 9th:

  1. I think this woman was brave to voice an opposing viewpoint against the backdrop of a much larger and angrier group.
  2. This is what America is supposed to be about – the rights of individuals to express their views on either side of an issue.
  3. There was no violence by either party in the protest, but their points were clearly made.

As I post this, it is 11:57 pm and things are heating up again on West Florissant Avenue. Frozen water bottles have been thrown at police. Arrests have been made. And one portion of the crowd was maced by a police officer. I’m certain there is still good happening even in the midst of that chaos. As alderman Antonio French (who, by the way, is another person I believe is doing a lot of good) reported:

Continue to pray for those working for change while still promoting peace. Pray with me that things do not escalate tonight.

 

 

An Article to Share for Bereaved Parents Awareness Month

In the January Bible Study for the Encourager’s Devotional Series, I shared several articles on how to (and NOT to) help people who are suffering with depression, grief or other life altering issues. With July being Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, I’m linking below to another great article on what you should (and should NEVER) say to a grieving parent.

I know when my sister lost her son, she found this to be true:
“People are sometimes tempted to list their own periods of grief — the death of their grandmother or a beloved family pet — as a way to sympathize, but those are not equivalent losses …”

And when I lost my sister, I finally came to see the truth of this statement (though I cannot fathom how much more true it was for her): “To try to explain to people that this is the kind of loss that transforms you into a different person, that you will never be the same person you were before this happened, is almost impossible.”

http://www.today.com/parents/child-loss-what-you-should-should-not-say-parents-t30596