Signing Out

Well… long time, few posts.

I enjoy writing but it’s clear that I’ve run out of steam for this blog.  I still feel strongly about the topic – following Jesus and getting well – but just don’t feel so charged up to write about it anymore.  I’m older, wiser, and a lot more peaceful inside. I’ve said enough.  On top of that, I’m very excited to be returning to medical practice soon, where I can help people face-to-face, and that’s been a major focus of my attention.  Thank you for reading!  Be well!  And, as always, let me know if I can help.

Peace,

Pete

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Jesus  (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

Not Strong, Not Powerful, Not a Victim

I haven’t written in a while, just haven’t felt the urge. Things have been in flux for me lately, and having worked through the changes, I’m increasingly feeling an inner peace and calm. It’s a nice sensation. God gets the credit of course, so I think it’s going to last. But it is very different than the norm.

America is a nation of strivers with an achievement- and self-oriented culture. We are each supposed to “be strong” and to accomplish great things. By harnessing our inner power we can overcome every obstacle to fulfill our dreams. Be tough, be determined, be a winner! I used to think like that too.

Paradoxically, at the same time, our culture also encourages us to see ourselves as victims. If you’re not where you want to be it’s because of oppression, individual or systemic. You’re plenty strong no doubt, but others are keeping you down. Demand justice, get what’s rightfully yours, be a winner! I’ve never had reason to fell much this way myself, but it is a powerful story.

Combining these views produces the “powerful victims” who are so prominent in our media, politics, academics and culture today. They appear to feel very good about themselves and their causes and they certainly have plenty of energy and enthusiasm. It may or may not last, but I don’t think it leads to any ultimate satisfaction.

The truth is that none of us are very strong or powerful in the sense that we can overcome anything. In the real world numerous forces are much stronger than any individual, and firm constraints to our performance and achievement do exist. For example, I am not going to run a marathon in under 3 hours. Most wannabe YouTubers will never go viral, become stars and make millions. Desire plus hard work does not always equal success.

Victim-wise, it’s a mixed bag. Some people clearly are victims or oppressed in the traditional sense of those terms, but as for most people concerning most ordinary matters, I’m not seeing it. Life isn’t fair. Structural and individual barriers to achieving our goals are common for all of us. Defining yourself as a victim of injustice and requiring others to change is not always appropriate.

Even when those true victims prevail in their quest for justice, reparations, or revenge; inner peace does not often seem to be a result. “Victim” status seems to leave long lasting emotional suffering. I’d rather not be one, even if I get victimized.

Most importantly, none of this is scriptural. There is a God and none of us are him. The world is a fallen place where truth and justice are rare, and none of it is going to get fixed by mere human effort. That’s the bad news, but the bad news is outweighed by the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Through Jesus, I have been reconciled to God. The world will be set right. Not today, but someday. Present sufferings (or joys) count for little in the big picture, and God’s people are to walk by faith and not by sight.

Trying to live the gospel, I’m getting better at admitting my weakness and trusting in God to manage what I cannot. After all I control little, while he controls everything. I want to be “strong in the Lord” not in myself. I don’t need to be strong: I need to be faithful. No doubt I’ll be subject to adversity, perhaps even injustice, but Jesus has overcome the world. I have faith in him, and he is giving me peace.  I wish you the same.

Pete

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I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

– Jesus (John 14:27 NLT)

Hurricanes & Freezes – Things Will Go Wrong

The weather is beautiful today.  Partly cloudy, low 70s, light breeze.  Ahh, winter in Florida is great!

And it is great – except for the usual few cold days in December or January, it’s a wonderful time of year down here.  Unfortunately for some of my more tropical plants, a few unusually cold days (or even one very cold day) can spell disaster. Disaster happened this year with temperatures dropping to about 25°F overnight. You can see the results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t the worst of it.  The bananas and heliconias were killed outright and I’ve already cut them down.  I’m still hoping these guys will live.

It’s frustrating, especially so since many of these same plants made it through hurricane Irma only five months ago with only minor damage.  Oh well.  Nothing to do now but wait and see what happens in the next month.  That’s what happens when you cultivate tropical plants on the north side of Orlando.  I guess I could stop growing tender tropicals, but most years they do fine and I really enjoy them.  And even hardy plants may be killed by storms, fire or disease.  Complete avoidance of garden “disasters” would mean no garden.

Life and health are like that too.  You can do everything “right” and stuff happens regardless.  Even if your life’s climate is good, the chance for hurricanes and freezes is 100%.  Do the best you can.  Trust God.  Plant the tropicals.  Enjoy your life.

Pete

Thoughts on Helping 6 – The Need for Love (Antique Wisdom)

As we know, it can be exceedingly hard to help people, especially those with emotional and spiritual problems who seemingly obviously could use it. I think these ideas of “Antique Wisdom” from Henry Kingman stand the test of time.

It is only as life goes on and our experience of men widens, that we come to understand how difficult a thing it is, and how costly of effort and sacrifice, to recover a soul that has gone wrong. Multitudes of people never do discover how difficult a thing it is, for the simple reason that they have never tried. They satisfy themselves with all sorts of theories as to how base elements in human nature may be transformed into noble ones, without cost to any one of personal love or painful sacrifice. It is to be done my medical or surgical treatment, or by better education, or shorter work hours, or improved tenements, or suppression of the saloon, or a new economic system, or by one or another of multifarious humanitarian readjustments, which are to accomplish easily and naturally and on a wide scale the moral uplift of the people.

If we have ever seriously tried to reach even a single life, weakened in will and poisoned in spirit by vicious indulgence, embittered and defiant towards all that stands for law and moral restraint, we have had some insight into the almost insurmountable difficulty of brining spiritual renewal to one who refuses it, or recreating the heart of one whose pleasures are rooted in evil affection. Men are always rediscovering the fact…that nothing but love can do this work, and, even then, only at its own personal cost and sacrifice. Money cannot purchase it. Neither the most perfect organization not the most highly paid officials can be depended on to secure it. It goes without saying that there are many forms of social amelioration that are efficient aids, and that we are bound for every reason to support them to the best of our capacity. But in the last analysis the deep needs of the individual soul, the needs which blind and bewilder and ultimately destroy, are only to be relieved by love. And however we may carp at individualism, the last stage of social progress, like its first, will still be dealing with the problem of individual need and individual redemption.

Perhaps most men who have reached middle age have tried their hand once or twice at “reclaiming” some one who only half desired to be reclaimed. We were willing to give a certain amount of time and money and patience in the effort, so long as it did not interfere with our business or the orderly routine of life. But the chances are that we did not succeed, because our patience did not hold out. Possibly we felt that we were being deceived or that the man was not rightly keeping his promises, or that his will was too weak; but in any case our compassion was not strong enough to stand the strain, and we gave up the attempt as unfortunately hopeless. We had no much love to go upon, and we were pathetically unable to pay the price demanded, of an unbounded sympathy and forgiving patience.

– Henry Kingman, The Faith of a Middle-Aged Man

Trying to help someone else? Prepare by increasing your reserves of sympathy, compassion, patience and love. Easy to say, hard to do. But with God all things are possible.

Pete

Starting Small – Welcome to the New Year

The new tree

I planted a small podocarpus recently. The front yard needed another shade tree and winter is the best time to plant in Florida. There used to be a larger tree there, a southern magnolia planted two years ago this coming March. Unfortunately it was done in by the one-two combination of hurricane Matthew last year followed by Irma this year. So, time to try again.

This time I went small, real small. I found a 1-gallon, two-stemmed, 20” tall Podocarpus macrophyllus “shrub” for $5.00. After getting it in the ground and eliminating the smaller stem, I’ve rechristened it a “tree.” Or maybe I should say “a tree to be.” Although typically pruned as shrubs here, P. macrophyllus does grow into a large tree if given time. That’s my plan; give it time and attention.

I’ll have to wait for the shade of course, but it was a whole lot easier to plant this little tree than a 25- or even 15-gallon version. Also a smaller plant will establish more quickly (meaning less watering for me) and will be at less risk of root disruption when hurricane season stars again next summer. All of the small stuff I planted along with the magnolia made it through the storms just fine. Hopefully this little guy will too.

As we see from the magnolia, not all plants work out as intended, but if you walk around my yard there are many large and medium sized trees that used to be tiny. Time and persistence can work wonders for your landscape.

Same with health and wellbeing. Many times our 25-gallon resolutions don’t lead to deep-rooted habits fast enough to avoid toppling when the storms of life hit; while smaller initiatives, implemented slowly and progressively, have a better chance of long-term survival come what may.

Welcome to the New Year! I hope you grow many good roots in 2018!

Let me know if I can help.

Sincerely,

Pete

Holiday Stress – Do You Have a Program?

The holidays are here! Consequently, many of us are spending more time among our extended family, which is often a mixed blessing. It’s always nice to see the relations but, depending on how well everyone gets along, any prolonged visit can be quite stressful. Add to that the general holiday stress many experience, the feeling like we should be a family that all get along, and of course the era of Trump, and it’s a recipe for nerves to fray. None of us are immune to that.

A friend of mine (who is in recovery from addiction) was talking with me about her recent holiday family experiences, including some trying times. When I asked her how she kept her composure she replied, “I try to remember that they don’t have a program” and “I keep focused on working mine.” Hmm… Good answer!

Her comments got me thinking about the importance of having a program (or method) for becoming emotionally well. One doesn’t usually become healthy and well by random or disconnected actions, even potentially beneficial ones. On the other hand, a well-designed system of action almost always works if one sticks with it. “It works if you work it” is a true an often-heard recovery program slogan.

My program is that of Christian discipleship or “following Jesus,” which is so much more than just going to church. It’s a program for living all of life, designed and led by God in his three persons, and it too “works if you work it.” If you follow Jesus, he will make you well.

Take care,

Pete

Being a Good Son – The Purpose of Discipleship

What’s the purpose of discipleship? What is following Jesus all about? Is it about rules for living – do this, don’t do that? How about tasks and accomplishments – achieving good works for God? Or could it be about self-improvement or getting better – becoming a person of high character? No, discipleship involves these things but it’s not about them. So what is it about?

Consider this passage from the Gospel of John:

He [Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.  They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.   John 1:10-13 NLT [emphasis mine]

When we believe in Jesus we become children of God. Although God creates all people, we are by nature estranged from him. We’re not born as part of his family, but through trusting Jesus we can be reconciled to God; he becomes our loving heavenly father as we become his newly adopted children.

That sounds pretty good on its face. It should – God is all powerful – God is love – God provides and protects – God is merciful – God is the very definition of good! And if God is for us who can be against us?! This is going to be great! Well yes, that’s true. It is going to be great, but how exactly are we to be good children of God? How should we behave in this new parental relationship?

From our earthly relationships we have some idea of what it is to be a “good son” or “good daughter” to our parents. Most of us would like to have our children be “good children” and to be good children ourselves, but it does take effort.

In this life I haven’t always been the best son, but I’m learning. Unfortunately both of my parents have now passed away. Dad developed a rapidly progressive brain tumor and passed away almost five years ago. His last serious words to me were, “Take care of your mother” (he said it three times) and I promised I would. Mom, widowed and after a year of upheaval and grief, developed incurable gallbladder cancer herself just as she was becoming emotionally well again. She died about a year after the diagnosis.

That was a pretty intense few years for the entire Weiss family, and as the eldest sibling I had a large role in helping my parents through it. A very large investment of time and emotional energy was required.* (And some investment of money too.) I regarded it as my duty to help Mom and Dad, but it was also my pleasure and an honor to do so. I did my best to be a good son to them and did it happily. Honoring and serving them was costly in many ways but very worthwhile.

That’s how I’m thinking about discipleship; it’s not a task list, it’s about being a good son to God. How can I learn from him and become wise? Which of my actions honor him and which do not? How can I spend more time with him? How do I trust him more? Following Jesus is costly but there is nothing more worthwhile.

God loves all of us, and he’s looking for children not slaves. Why not trust Jesus, get a new heavenly Dad, and work on being a good kid?

Let me know if I can help.

Pete

*Let me here acknowledge my wonderful wife, Sharon, who also bore a large burden supporting my parents and me during this time of trial.

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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

– Jesus, Matthew 13:44-46

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