More Compassion, Less Piling On

compassionnoun
sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Sharon was out of town last weekend, and I thought I’d relax and watch a late night movie. Perusing our small DVD collection I ran across MASH, a film I’ve preciously enjoyed, and thought “that’ll do.” Sometimes it’s nice to just go mindless for a while with a movie that I know already. So I hit the play button and settled in for the evening.

Twenty minutes later I was unsettled. The film wasn’t sitting well with me. The lead characters are arrogant and mean, and their meanness bothered me. I’ve seen MASH before, many times, but this time was different. I was uncomfortable trying to enjoy it. It didn’t seem like something that I should enjoy. Eventually I hit eject and went to bed.

Although this seems to mark some sort of internal shift for me, I have been thinking about meanness versus compassion for the last few months. My social media feeds have way too many mean spirited posts and comments about people suffering the consequences of drug addiction, criminal behavior, or just plain bad judgment. Some comments are shocking in their nastiness. Do the posters truly think that the foolish young man deserved to die (probably after torture) at the hands of North Korean officials? God help them.

In healthcare, and in life, we all see a lot of undeserved suffering. Disease and misfortune befall people for no reason other than “bad luck.” Knowing that we too are vulnerable, we can be moved to compassion. But just as often, or maybe more, people create their own mess. Smokers get lung cancer. The texting driver crashes and dies. Shall we be indifferent to their suffering, or even cruel, piling on with hurtful commentary? Apparently a lot of people believe we should.

I don’t think Jesus would agree with that. We are to be compassionate, and we should be able to see that “there, but for the grace of God go I.” That doesn’t mean endorsing bad or foolish behavior. Some things are simply wrong. Nor are we compelled to fix everything (even if we could) for those suffering harsh consequences of their behavior.  But we can be compassionate.

I don’t know if  anyone can summon compassion in every circumstance; some behavior is truly heinous, but ending the piling on in social media seems like a good place to start. God help all of us.

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“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” – Jesus, (Matthew 7:12 NLT)

One Day You’re an Expert

I’ve been experiencing a great deal of change recently, and another big one is right around the corner. In two weeks I’ll be leaving my current employer to become an independent consultant in the healthcare industry. It’s pretty exciting. I guess it could also be scary, but I’m trusting God and I’m ready for this particular change.

Having dinner with a younger colleague last week, and discussing my plans, the more general topic of career progression came up. After I explained my career journey, he had a couple of questions. “So, how does one get to be ‘an expert,’ to arrive in a position where others seek you as a consultant? Any advice to pass along?”

I don’t know that I had too much smart to say. Most of my thoughts on the topic are pretty basic, and my answer was something like this: Do your best at your current job. Keep learning. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Research what others are doing. Go to conferences and meetings. Read. Talk with colleagues. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own knowledge and ability and you’ll realize that you’re an expert. At least that’s what happened to me.

Something similar seems to have happened with my emotional wellbeing. I’ve thought about this kind of career move before, but it seemed too scary, too distant. Now it seems at hand. I’m finding myself to be calm and at peace with this major change. Also as you’d expect, I’m trusting God. It feels good, surprisingly good. It’s surprising enough for me to ask myself, “Wait a minute! Why am I not more worried about this? How and when did I become a calm, peaceful person? When did I get this faith?”

I think the answers are a lot like those involving my career. Do the best you can at following Jesus. Pray. Listen. Talk with others of like mind. Pay attention to your emotions. Have whatever faith you can muster. Read the Bible. Work through your emotions as best you can. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own inner state and you’ll realize that you’re a calm and peaceful person of faith. At least that’s what happened to me.

Praise God.

Peace,

Pete

Things Can Happen Fast – For Better or for Worse

For some reason, perhaps that I don’t share enough, Facebook has been serving up a variety of pictures from one year ago for me to share. (I haven’t shared any.) Each time I see one I think, Was that really a year ago? It seems like just the other day. Wow, a lot’s happened since then. It’s caused me to focus a little more on the passage of time and all of the recent changes I’ve been through. Most are positive.

I discussed this with two of my buddies the other day, and we all had a similar view. Each of us has faced significant and stressful issues in his personal life over the last few years – both within the family and on the job. It’s been a struggle, but each of us has made it through these hard times with a pretty positive outcome. We’ve trusted God and helped each other. (Thank you, guys.)

It’s highly encouraging to look back and see how much progress has happened in many areas of my life. I need to remember this when I face whatever crisis appears next – Things can get better. God has a plan. I’m resolving to live “in the now” more, not fearing horrible future outcomes from current crises, but rather trusting God and doing today’s tasks today. Seems to have worked in the past.

The other reason to live in the now, is that the future is uncertain. Everything may not be better next year. There might not even be a next year. None of us can even count on tomorrow. I was reminded of that a week ago as a colleague at work died suddenly of a cardiac arrest. Aged 47 and having no heart disease, he was literally completely well right up until his heart stopped for no apparent reason. It’s been shocking, sad and sobering for the many who knew him. Fortunately he placed his hope in Jesus, as does his family, and Jesus has overcome death.

The juxtaposition of these recent events, and Easter too, has made me realize how much mental energy I devote to an uncertain future (way too much) and how little I rest in God’s grace (way too little). Time to revisit my priorities. This seems like a good list: Trust God. Live life. Don’t worry. Be happy. Regard each day as a gift. Cherish my family. God, help me do that.

Pete

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I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
– Jesus (John 16:33 NLT)

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On the happy side, here’s a nice two-year development.  The Amaryllis I started from seed have done great!

May 2015

Same plant, April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drama or Peace?

I’m weary of drama. Nationally it seems we’re all on edge, looking for the slightest provocation at which to take offense. Personal opinions on lifestyle and culture are seen as political positions to be argued to the death (or to the Supreme Court whichever comes first), and plenty of folks are just waiting for the opportunity. They’re quick to advance the faults of their opponent’s position, or even of their opponent himself. The country is on hair trigger, and worse, this seems to be our new normal.

Drama doesn’t stop at the DC beltway. State and local politics can be as vicious as the national action. “Office politics” may affect us much more personally. Our reputations and career trajectories may be at stake in workplace intrigue. The entertainment industry thrives on drama, and not just in the product.   And then there’s rumor, innuendo, gossip and the usual relationship drama in among families, friends, and the various social groups to which we belong.

The world produces endless drama. Why so much tension? We like it! People thrive on drama; we seek it out; if things are too calm, we stir the pot!  We claim to want peace, but we lie to ourselves. Conflict gives us a chance to be right, to win, to be superior to our fellow humans. Unfortunately, winning brings no relief. We must manufacture more conflict. Even when we’ve lost the battle, we nurse a grudge in our hearts and minds and the drama continues. “Never surrender” is the way of the world.

I was like that once, but the way of the world is no longer the way for me. God has changed my heart. I want peace, real peace, the peace that comes from God. I’m asking him for it of course, and like a lot of gifts from God, sometimes peace is bestowed immediately, but mostly it’s a process. So I’m trying to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, detaching from worldly matters, avoiding needless conflict, and keeping my focus on the gospel. Sure I backslide a bit sometimes (okay, pretty often), but God’s not done with me yet. The peace is growing.

What will it be for you? Drama or peace? Choose wisely.

Peace be with you,

Pete

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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  – Jesus  (John 14:27 NIV)

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Concerned About Fake News? Me too. Truth Matters

There’s a lot of concern about “fake news” lately, and rightly so. Accurate news is important to us. We want to know what’s happening and why. How do events affect us? In matters as simple as local highway projects and as complex as the national economy, we seek knowledge and understanding to guide our actions. What’s my best route to the office next week? How should I invest my 401k? Truth matters.

Defining fake news broadly as reporting that is either completely fabricated, intentionally distorted, or unconsciously slanted by internal bias; I see a lot of it. And it’s not going away. The lust for power and money drives our economy and politics. (Not always at the personal level, but at the organizational level for sure.) That’s not going to change either. And every one of us has some sort of unconscious bias. So what we call the “the news” has been, still is, and will continue to be “fake news.” Deal with it.

Deal with it by understanding the situation and carefully searching for truth yourself. Examine multiple sources. Try to acknowledge your own “filters” or biases. Open your mind as best you can; it’s not that easy. Truth can be painful. Be prepared to change your mind, but once you’ve decided what’s true, then act accordingly.

Unfortunately, the more personal the truth, the more painful it is. Most people are looking for a lot more certainty about the economy and their investment portfolio than about their philosophy of life and merits of their lifestyle. They seek truth about the former, while being content with their internal fake news feed on the latter. Hey, I’ve been there.

As with actual media headlines, we can have a lot of internal fake news going on inside…
– It’s just too hard there’s no way I can quit __________.
– It’s not my fault. The problem is __________.
– I can’t do that because __________
– I have a right to live how I please. I’m only hurting myself.
– I’m this way because _________, and you need to accept me the way I am.
– It’s true for me, but not for you. There is no absolute truth.

The fake news sounds good, but the road to wellbeing and wholeness starts with searching for the truth. The truth about life. The truth about yourself. The journey is usually slow, so why not begin now?  Of course, beginning the search requires ending the internal fake news feed.

Truth exists. You can find it. Let me know if I can help.

Pete

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Wisdom Calls for a Hearing

Listen as Wisdom calls out!
Hear as understanding raises her voice!

On the hilltop along the road,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.

By the gates at the entrance to the town,
on the road leading in, she cries aloud,

“I call to you, to all of you!
I raise my voice to all people.

You simple people, use good judgment.
You foolish people, show some understanding.

Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you.
Everything I say is right,

for I speak the truth
and detest every kind of deception.

My advice is wholesome.
There is nothing devious or crooked in it.

My words are plain to anyone with understanding,
clear to those with knowledge.

Choose my instruction rather than silver,
and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies.
Nothing you desire can compare with it.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.
I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.

All who fear the LORD will hate evil.
Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance,
corruption and perverse speech.

Common sense and success belong to me.
Insight and strength are mine.

Because of me, kings reign,
and rulers make just decrees.

Rulers lead with my help,
and nobles make righteous judgments.

“I love all who love me.
Those who search will surely find me.

I have riches and honor,
as well as enduring wealth and justice.

My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold,
my wages better than sterling silver!

I walk in righteousness,
in paths of justice.

Those who love me inherit wealth.
I will fill their treasuries.

“The LORD formed me from the beginning,
before he created anything else.

I was appointed in ages past,
at the very first, before the earth began.

I was born before the oceans were created,
before the springs bubbled forth their waters.

Before the mountains were formed,
before the hills, I was born—

before he had made the earth and fields
and the first handfuls of soil.

I was there when he established the heavens,
when he drew the horizon on the oceans.

I was there when he set the clouds above,
when he established springs deep in the earth.

I was there when he set the limits of the seas,
so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.

And when he marked off the earth’s foundations,

I was the architect at his side.
I was his constant delight,
rejoicing always in his presence.

And how happy I was with the world he created;
how I rejoiced with the human family!

“And so, my children, listen to me,
for all who follow my ways are joyful.

Listen to my instruction and be wise.
Don’t ignore it.

Joyful are those who listen to me,
watching for me daily at my gates,
waiting for me outside my home!

For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.

But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8 NLT

Pruning Facebook

I find controlling media exposure is important to my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Honestly, the media companies are not our friends. Their basic business model depends on selling advertising (and increasingly data on our media habits). Our attention drives their revenue streams, and nothing grabs people’s attention like exciting their emotions. Knowing that, we can begin to protect ourselves. At our house, we’ve lived without television service for over 15 years now, and cutting the cable has proved to be a very healthy decision.

But Facebook isn’t TV. Facebook isn’t controlled by media moguls trying to control me. No Facebook is my friends, my buddies, and my relatives. I like these guys and gals; they’re my “peeps.” But just even my peeps sometimes post things I find annoying or painful. Even friends can get into arguments and, as Americans are discovering, social media isn’t a good place to have nuanced discussions of important or highly charged issues.

Also, Facebook can be somewhat addicting. It sucks me in. I find myself checking it frequently, too frequently, during the day. That little red number calls out to me – Pete, I have things here just for you! It’s hard to resist. Yet, I do enjoy being in my Facebook community – seeing Jim enjoying his grandson, chatting with Becky about her new dogs, and keeping up with the relatives in Massachusetts. It’s nice. I want to keep my friends as friends.

So I’m taking some steps to control Facebook before it controls me. As you know, I like to garden and the image of pruning comes to mind. Uncontrolled growth of otherwise lovely shrubs can produce an unsightly tangled mess. Ignoring trees increases the potential for damage from large limbs dropping in the next big thunderstorm. Sensible pruning restores the beauty and eliminate the danger.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. No news/pundits needed

    Unfollowing all news media sites – I don’t need to get the news on Facebook. That’s not why I’m there. Goodbye to the local newspaper and TV channels.

  2. Unfollowing all political sites, pundits – Following politics seemed fun in 2015 when the presidential campaigns were just getting started, but it’s become more and more bitter and divisive. Once again, that’s not why I’m there.
  3. Curating my news feed – The good (and also disturbing) thing about Facebook is that it does learn your habits, and you can train it. Now when one of my friends posts something I find objectionable (mostly politics), I just hide it. With time, I should see less of that stuff from them while keeping the connection.

    a helpful menu 

  4.  Turning off notifications – I’ll go to Facebook when I want to, not because it’s calling out to me with sounds or the little red number. The content is still there. It can wait a bit.
  5. Moving the app off of my home screen – Like turning off the notifications, this helps avoid temptation. Facebook is distracting. I like it but I don’t want it distracting me. Out of sight, out of mind.  Having to swipe to get to the next screen is an easy way to have it at hand but not in constant sight.

I’ve only been at it for four days now, but so far so good. I can notice a difference already, and it feels good to have a plan and take action.

How about you? Do you find Facebook a blessing or a curse? How are you managing your use of Facebook and your emotional and spiritual health? If you’re like me, perhaps some pruning is indicated.

Be well,

Pete

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PS – More on pruning – At church we’re reading through the Gospel of John in some depth and Jesus words on pruning (below) suggest that we also need to be shaped, discarding unhelpful thoughts and activities. As I remain in Jesus longer, I increasingly appreciate his pruning of me.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 – Jesus (John 15:1-8 NIV)