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

Getting a Radically Healthy Lifestyle – Bit by Bit

Salad, it’s what’s for dinner

A couple of weeks ago over lunch, a friend and I got to talking about our respective health. As a reader here, you know that I pay attention to my health and lifestyle. This guy does too. We’re both relatively lean and fit middle-aged men, and we both eat a “healthy diet.” So I was a little surprised to find out that his cholesterol has been “too high” for years and perhaps he was similarly surprised when I revealed that some of my fasting blood sugars have been “too high” off and on. How could that be when we’re doing everything right?

Well… Good question. All is not controllable of course. Metabolic disorders can and do occur, even in folks who are doing “everything right,” for genetic or other reasons. “Just bad luck I guess” summed up the next few minutes’ conversation as we consoled ourselves. But then we came around – “Honestly, are we doing everything right? Are there actions that could improve our health (and bring those lab results back into the ideal range)? What else can we do?”

We came up with the typical list of incremental solutions – lose a couple of pounds, exercise a bit more, reduce snack foods/desserts/simple carbs/etc. – before getting radical. Sure those are all good, but how about eating vegan? No meat, no dairy – that’s radical! Would it help? Almost certainly. Will we do it? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to make such a radical change.

Yet we both have been improving our habits over the years. We both already live lifestyles that represent radical departures from those of average Americans. I do eat a lot less meat and more vegetables than I used to. How did that happen? For me at least, a little at a time. Bit by bit. Learning, growing, adjusting. It’s been a slow process.

Our conversation brought to mind the book Eat to Live by Dr Joel Furman, which I have read several times. If you only want to read one book on healthy eating – this should be the one. It’s radical, too radical for most of us.  Frankly it’s been too radical for me, but eating the way he recommends does cure people. I’ve seen it. Reading it again last week reminded me that I have farther to go. There is more that I can do. There is more I will do. I probably won’t do it all at once, but I’m going to keep at it.

How about you? Not ready to make the big changes that you know are indicated? Fine. Take a small step. Then keep stepping.

Let me know how I can help,

Pete

A Lot of Maintenance? “That’s life, man!”

Last summer I bought a new car – new as in “new to me” anyway. Actually it’s 50 years old being as it’s a 1967 Triumph TR4A, now named “Trevor.” (Yes, Trevor the Triumph. I’m prone to alliteration.) Trevor is a cool car, but he’s certainly very different from modern cars. Automobiles were all mechanical back then. Remember hand-cranked windows, manual transmissions, carburetors and distributors? That’s Trevor. There’s more computing power in your digital watch than in this car.

Not having ever been a car guy before, I’ve got a lot to learn. But to me, that’s half the fun of ownership. I like learning new things, tinkering, and do-it-yourself projects around the home. Figuring out how Trevor’s various parts and systems work and fixing or upgrading them myself is part of the appeal. So far it’s been enjoyable.

Hmm…where do I start?

Of course I know my limits. For now, and perhaps even for the long term, I’m tackling the more minor aspects of antique car repair and maintenance, the “1-wrench” or “2-wrench” jobs, and leaving the more difficult stuff to the professionals. (Thank you to the expert team at Maitland Tire Company!)

The other half of the fun is driving. Trevor’s not fast by modern standards, but he’s fun and we’ve had some great convertible weather here in Florida lately. Almost every time out I’ll get a few honks and waves or thumbs up from other drivers, and pretty often people stop for conversation. They’ll ask about Trevor and talk about the sports car they had, or wished they had. I enjoy that too.

A few weeks ago on Saturday morning, I was stopped at a light when a well-worn, older model Chevy Suburban pulled up alongside. The driver, a 40ish-year-old man who looked like he might know his way around an engine, rolled down the passenger side window and leaned over for a conversation.

“Hey man, nice car,” he said. “What year is it?”
“1967,” I replied.
“That’s great, man. Man, my dad would love to have a car like that.”
“It’s fun, but it is a lot of maintenance.”
He laughed and said, “That’s life, man!” just as the light turned green. We waved goodbye and drove on.

That last thought has stuck with me. He’s right; there certainly is a lot of maintenance to life. Apart from automobiles, we all can probably think of a long list of “to do’s” – mow the lawn, fix the sprinklers, update computer operating system, change the A/C filter, etc. It never stops.

I don’t know about you, but often I resent the need for maintenance, perhaps because it seems to interfere with my autonomy. I don’t want any more “have to do” tasks on my to do list. Fixing things or maintenance often feels forced to me.   I think, Yes, stuff need to get done, but no one tells me what to do! Perhaps I’m a little lazy. I’ll do it when I get around to it. Of course, I need to get around to it now.

That hasn’t happened with Trevor yet. Yes, I’ve had a bit of frustration here and there. I’ve started some smaller projects only to have things be harder than I appreciated, but I’ve reminded myself, This is half the fun. You bought this car to learn new things and have new experiences. You like this stuff. And that’s all true, I do. Attitude makes all the difference.

What’s your attitude toward the “maintenance” required of you? Beyond your possessions, how about your health? Most of our health and wellbeing is simply the result of our regularly scheduled maintenance, or lack thereof. Some tasks are daily – eating, sleeping, exercising, and praying. Others are more infrequent – the annual doctor visit, lab tests, mammograms, colonoscopies. It’s easy to procrastinate or avoid doing even what we know is good for us.

With proper maintenance, and some professional help, I’m sure Trevor has a lot of life in him. The same can be said for most people. Unfortunately too few folks follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. I think I’m doing pretty well, but aging is challenging both physically and emotionally, and I’m still learning about how to best care for myself. How about you?

Take care,

Pete

Worried? Stressed? “I’m Not in Charge” and Other Comforting Thoughts

I’m worried.

The country’s in trouble and the federal government’s a hot mess. America can’t seem to solve its most pressing problems. State government is no better. Gerrymandering keeps the wrong people in the statehouse making wrong decisions. And don’t even get me started on the county commission, the school board, healthcare leaders, and my church elders. Nobody is doing anything right! I’ve got to do something! It’s all so stressful trying to fix everything!

And then I remember – Actually, I’m not in charge of any of that. Other people have been given that authority, not me. My role is to vote (in the case of politics), to perform my job, and, as appropriate, to make my views known to the various leaders involved. Hopefully they will be interested, but even if not I have done my duty within the proper framework of my role.

Like seemingly everyone else in America, I’ve got some strongly held opinions on the most important issues of the day. People ought to listen! I need to make them listen! They’ve got to hear me! And when they do, they’ll come around – I know it!

But wait – Honestly, I could be wrong about some things. Maybe I’m even directionally correct, but just how practical are all of my ideas? Things may be more complicated than I understand. They often are.  Perhaps the leaders know additional details of which I am unaware, and no one’s asking me anyway. If people aren’t asking, it’s hard to answer. No one likes a busybody, and pressing the matter is irritating.

I get all that, but… THIS IS CRITICAL! I must speak up, take charge, demonstrate, fight back! There’s too much at stake, and the whole situation is going downhill fast. I can see the train wreck coming! This is going to be a disaster!

Hmm… Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t predict the future with certainty. Things often have a way of working themselves out. No guarantee of course, but it’s possible that everything is going to be just fine.

_______________________________________

Do you ever have conversations with yourself like that? (Please don’t let me be the only crazy Type A person here.) If so, try remembering these four things:
1 – I’m not in charge.
2 – I could be wrong.
3 – No one’s asking me.
4 – I can’t predict the future.

More importantly, also remember – there is one who is in charge of all things, who is never wrong, and who does know the future. He makes it okay for us to accept our powerlessness and admit our fallibility. You needn’t earn status with him.   He gives freely and promises us a good future.  Ask him for comfort. You’ll get it.

Take care,

Pete

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Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

– Jesus (John 14:1-3 NIV)

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)

 

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)

Blogging for Peace and Harmony

I’m concerned about America. You probably are too. Trump’s President, and the country’s in a fighting mood. It seems half of us are happy while the other half are outraged, and the tenor of our national conversation (if you can call it that) is going from bad to worse. We’ve entered a “cycle of anger and outrage” similar to the “cycle of violence” described in the Middle East.  There has even been some violence.  Not much by world standards, but it’s definitely worrying.

It’s also wearying. I’m tired of being anxious or outraged or both, and I’ve been thinking about what I can do to break free of the nastiness. Disconnecting is one option, but that’s not my personality. More importantly, I don’t think God wants me to just punch out. First of all, the situation isn’t that extreme. Second, God chose to give me life here and now and he knows what he’s about.

In general, God expects us to be helpful to our fellow man. How am I capable of helping? What can I do to defuse stress and create a healing? I’m not very important. No one from Washington is going to call me to ask my advice on anything – not even on healthcare, about which I know a lot. How much less can I calm the popular culture?

One thing I can do is write. Another is reason. I enjoy thinking through situations and issues, coming to conclusions and expressing them on paper. God has gifted me here, and perhaps my thoughts can help people. Helpful thoughts don’t always have to be big ideas. Small insights together with a little encouragement can make big differences. They have in my life.

So I’ve decided to start blogging again. No schedule, no particular agenda except to honor God with my talents and try to be helpful. Ideally I’d like to foster peace and harmony. Not for the world, but rather for you and me. How can we be at peace despite the craziness that surrounds us? It is possible.

Are you also stressed over events? Consider asking yourself the question, “How can I help?” When the answer comes, get started.

It works. I’m only 400 words into the revived blog and I feel better already!

Thanks for reading,

Pete