October 7, 2021

Our Grief And Fear

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” CS Lewis from a Grief Observed

One definition or understanding of grief is: “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

The end of something brings an unknown. Venturing into the unknown can bring fear. Fear can paralyze us in our grief, and keep us from something new that could help us out of our grief.

A recent spate of CS Lewis quotes on the internet made me think of this, and also the incredible amount of change and unknowns we have seen the last few years. It started long before Covid with political and social upheaval.

Operating from fear can bring out our worst evils. Living bravely, in spite of unknowns, can bring out our best. It is a choice we make time and again, throughout our lives. How will you choose?

September 28, 2021

On Despair And Hopelessness

Sometimes the only comfort one can find when hopeless is understanding that you are the not only one who has felt that way. Yet, even that faint bit of connectedness usually offers little reprieve.

Our community was rocked the last few days by the suicide of young man, just 15 and the son of missionaries. Many tears, much confusion and sadness, but thankfully, an outpouring of support for his family.

It’s a topic I speak on almost every week somewhere around our big country. Even with this frequency of addressing the topic, every life given up to this horror is poignant to me.

What would I have you consider? How do I address this? These won’t be easy words.

Suicide is the result of what I call lonely logic. Alone in your head, it seems like the only solution to your despair.

The greater the pain, the greater we feel isolated and alone. The harder it is to ask for help.

How well do you really know your family and friends? Do you stop to sit still and listen to them? Do you really take the time to know their dreams and struggles, their triumphs and sorrows, their disappointments and joys?

Who really knows you? Anyone?

Suicide is a disease of disconnectedness and its evil father, despair.

Don’t sit there. Be proactive. Relationships are suicide prevention. I’m not going to give you a Bible verse because I know what God wants you to do. He wants you to love each other. In a real relationship. Deeply.

September 26, 2021

Predators And Everyday Saints

I’ve met some remarkable people the last month traveling for Maine to Seattle and everywhere in between. They are people that will probably never make the news, but they are truly the best of us.

- His childhood one of abandonment, his mother an addict, he is a survivor and responder.

- Given away from his mother in the 8th grade, he was on his own at 16 and is now a Fire Chief with a family rich in love and achievement.

- In spite of incredible physical and mental hardships to overcome by him and his wife, they adopted 3 children needing a home and built a family of love and service.

Then today, I read an article about Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal and a billionaire. The type of businessman both revered and reviled for many for his often contrarian conservative ways. At the end of the article it describes him in the following way:

Today, he lives in Vienna, Austria, with his long-time partner, Matt Danzeisen, whom he married in 2017, and now co-parents a baby daughter. Though he’s avoided the limelight in recent years, he is still feared by many. As anti-monopoly activist Matt Stoller told Chafkin: He’s “a nihilist, a really smart nihilist. He’s entirely about power — it’s the law of the jungle: ‘I’m a predator and the predators win.’ ”

Pondering this all, I was brought back to the basics by The Ancient Faith Bible. It is an edition of the CSB filled with narrative from Church fathers of the 1st to 4th centuries. A sucker for new bibles, I stumbled upon it in a bookstore on a break and couldn’t put it down. A volume of insightful commentary from long dead Bishops and monks commenting on the word of God.

And that brought me back to the place I always end up. It is all vanity, save Family, Faith, and Community.

September 21, 2021

Many Rivers To Cross

The great Jimmy Cliff wrote:

Many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover

They are the lyrics of a beautiful and winsome song, the ode of a life traveler beaten down, but still moving forward.

It seems lately, I’ve been crossing a lot of rivers, from Seattle to Maine and now I’m somewhere in the middle in Wisconsin. Often weary, I keep traveling and I’ve experienced some magical things that keep me moving forward.

In Kitsap County, outside of Seattle I heard some amazing stories. Actually, some miraculous stories. A miraculous grocery store bailout and a well timed reading of –

Mark 11:23 “Truly[a] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.

There is a richness of life you can only find in listening to others and allowing them to reveal themselves. On a computer screen or phone, life can become one-dimensional, just an assortment of pixels. In person, in the presence of another, you are reminded of why the answer to life is living, is loving, is experiencing this world around us.

You have many rivers to cross. When we open our eyes and ears to other people with no other filter than our hearts, we find wonder.

September 15, 2021

So We Blew Up An Aid Worker

For those who don’t trust America, this is a good reason why. We bomb aid workers so our leaders can act tough.

From the NY Times:

“President Joe Biden murdered an innocent family when the US military conducted a "righteous strike" on Aug. 29 against a vehicle that American officials thought was an ISIS bomb that posed an imminent threat to thousands of people at the Kabul airport.”

“In a late Friday afternoon report, the New York Times reveals that "Military officials said they did not know the identity of the car’s driver when the drone fired, but deemed him suspicious because of how they interpreted his activities that day, saying that he possibly visited an ISIS safe house and, at one point, loaded what they thought could be explosives into the car."

“Times reporting has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence, including extensive interviews with family members, co-workers and witnesses, suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.”

“While the U.S. military said the drone strike might have killed three civilians, Times reporting shows that it killed 10, including seven children, in a dense residential block.”

“Mr. Ahmadi, 43, had worked since 2006 as an electrical engineer for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based aid and lobbying group. The morning of the strike, Mr. Ahmadi’s boss called from the office at around 8:45 a.m., and asked him to pick up his laptop.”

Why did we do this? To strike back at ISIS-K who killed our young Marines, a Navy Corpsman, and a soldier at the KABUL airport. But we did it blindly, and we lied about it. And this is why our actions must matter, and be more than statements. We must stand for what we believe.

September 10, 2021

Toyota, Supply Chains, And You

New cars, especially popular new cars can be hard to find, and a long wait if you order. This has resulted in skyrocketing used car prices. But one manufacturer has been almost immune to the computer chip shortage that has plagued auto-manufacturers, Toyota. At a time where American manufacturers have experienced incredibly decreased production, GM at 60%, Ford at 50%, Toyota has led the world by staying at over 90% production.

How did they do this? They predicted the supply problem if chip production was ever disrupted, and they stock-piled computer chips. Pretty simple, huh?

As the article I was reading in Fortune magazine about this said,

“Unlike many of its rivals, Toyota essentially stockpiles chips. That’s a deviation from JIT, which dictates that supplies reach the production line only when they are needed. (Stockpiles occupy valuable space on the factory floor, as well as on the company’s books.) In practice, Toyota’s suppliers do the actual stockpiling. Like all automakers, the company relies on a multitude of components that contain semiconductors, such as smart displays or audio systems. Toyota requires suppliers of those components to maintain up to a six months’ buffer supply of chips dedicated to Toyota orders—just in case.”

Now why I do bring this up? Because we can learn in these uncertain times from Toyota. Identify what you need to “stockpile” and do so.

And it might not just be goods. How about stockpiling time with your family and friends? How about building relationships with people you’d need in a time of need. How about building your “spiritual” home for future threats to your faith?

When you are caught short-handed, it is too late to stockpile. We also tend to make bad decisions during times of crisis. We make short-sighted corrections that lead to worse problems. Just look at our responses to Covid.

Preparation is a common biblical theme:

Proverbs 20:4

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

Proverbs 24:27

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

Luke 21:36

But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

You are what you love. This is why we can have a culture where people have many things they “love”, but their souls are being destroyed. We can be both “happy” and depressed. Searching for life, but filled with death.

I was reminded of this fact reading an article about video game addiction that mentioned a 2016 book by James K. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. It is about shaping a Christian life, and realizing, you are what you love, and often, we might not love what we think. Or I would say, what you desire and falsely love. And even if it is something that would destroy you, this desire shapes our hearts and who we are.

In the article I came across by Carmel Richardson for The American Spectator, for many of our young and not so young, it is video games. Especially young boys and men.

From the article:

“Gaming addictions are real and damaging, even beyond the well-documented: shorter attention spans, academic struggles, and a handful of basement-dwelling Call of Duty players who went off the rails. If those weren’t enough, gamers are also highly prone to depression, and increasingly, studies show strong correlations between gaming and suicide rates.”

“The demographic most hurt is young men. Statistically, gamers are teen boys, in the phase of life when they seek excitement most and are tempered by maturity least. Video games, which promise endless excitement, can be incredibly addictive to boys of this age. One 2020 poll, done by Michigan Medicine, shows teen boys are far more likely than girls to spend three or more hours gaming in a given day, and boys are twice as susceptible to gaming addictions in general than are girls. To say boys are the only ones to blame would be inaccurate, but certainly the problem affects them more than their female counterparts.”

The author’s main question, why do we allow video games to proliferate the young so unencumbered? Her implication and my answer, we all have our own “video games” and to limit the youth would mean to shine a light on our own “loves”.

When we are blind to what we truly love, we tend to see things the way we want to see them. In a culture where we can get so easily distracted from reality in a search to create our own reality, is it any wonder that we are so divided over data and facts that we cannot agree upon, because we see what we want to see?

This isn’t a rumor. It’s just taken a while for it to become public. As of today, there are six planes filled with American Citizens and Afghan interpreters at the Mazar Sharif Airport being held hostage. It is finally being reported by mainstream news sources such as CBS.

From a news report:

A satellite image that was released on Sunday reportedly shows six airplanes that the Taliban is not allowing to fly out of Afghanistan. The planes are supposed to be carrying American citizens and Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S. Military.

The satellite image follows a report from CBS News and remarks from a top U.S. lawmaker on Sunday that both said that the circumstances have effectively turned into a hostage situation.

“Multiple planes that are ready to take American citizens and green card holders out of the country are being denied permission to leave by the Taliban,” CBS News reported, according to congressional and NGO sources. An email viewed by the network said that the flights were cleared to land in Qatar “if and when” the Taliban agreed to let them leave.

A senior congressional source told the network that “the Taliban is basically holding them hostage to get more out of the Americans.”

What has happened to America 2021 that this isn’t leading every news program? What has happened that our government so cavalierly has left these people on the tarmac? It’s enough to drive one crazy.

In our upside-down world, we just visited the community of St. Tikhons Monastery and Seminary in the rural community of South Canaan, PA, nested in the hills of the Pocono Mountains. To many people, the scene of family and kids all centered around church might seem crazy. But it isn’t. It’s probably one of the sanest things I’ve seen in years.

Counterculture and radical is a big family centered on faith and each other. Nothing crazy about it, just living as human beings were created to live, focused on the things that matter in life.

September 2, 2021

“Our Generous Host Nation”

As the last American forces left Afghanistan and the Taliban took over the airfield in triumph, our commanding General, General Mackenzie thanked “our generous host nation” and expressed regret at leaving only about 250 Americans behind.  The generals leave us as they led us, as liars. The politicians even worse.

General McKenzie is basing his “very few hundreds” comment on those who have gone through official channels to specifically declare they want to leave and who have demonstrated they are American citizens. But many, many more were either unable to go through official channels as they evaded the Taliban or could not sufficiently prove they were American citizens. If they couldn’t fax a passport to the Embassy, they weren’t counted, according to sources at the State Department.

While General Mackenzie was desecrating the stars he wears with his lies and our last plane was leaving the Kabul airport and stranded Americans to the Taliban, this happened the same weekend in Chicago:

"Forty people were shot, four of them fatally,...."

Where is the critical examination of the policies State and Local government have executed for decades, and how it might have a part in this. After all, Chicago is run by one political party. If an honest news organization wanted to, it would be pretty easy to analyze a little cause and effect. But we are continually let down by a politically, and ideologically led media.

And as the generals, politicians and reporters lie, and people die.

In our information age, obfuscation can easily be achieved with an abundance of big language and impenetrable data. Want to hide your intentions or lack of a real plan, make it sound as complicated as possible. When someone can’t explain the general goals, principles, and concepts of something clearly, I get suspicious. This goes for plumbers, doctors, lawyers, you name it. Sometimes expertise hides incompetency or worse.

Here are some highlights of a segment Tucker Carlson did with war correspondent Laura Logan where she talks on this very issue:

“There are many things the United States could do right now to change what has happened and what is happening in Afghanistan, and they’re not doing it.”

“We don’t care about Afghanistan. We believe that Pakistan is the most important country in that region and they always will be.”

“What they want you believe is that Afghanistan is complicated. Because if you complicate it, it’s a tactic in information warfare called ‘ambiguity increasing.'”

“This comes down to the fact that the United States wants this outcome. Whoever’s in power right now, whoever’s really pulling the strings –- and I don’t know that –- they could do anything they want to change this, and they’re not.”

It is important to remember this in our own lives. When we lose focus, life gets more complicated, harder to understand, and it is much easier to lie to ourselves about what we need to do to change things. Focus allows us to avoid becoming charlatans of ambiguity ourselves.

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