the easy way of anger

[Concluding our annual Guest Writer Series is none other than PH, aka Guest Writer #12 (of 12). I have not known PH long, but I have quickly gotten to know him well. He is deep. He is thoughtful. He makes people think and makes them laugh… typically at the exact same time … ]

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Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

I’m no stranger to being surprised at my own age and stage in life. Seems like just yesterday I was in college, feeling good, engaged, looking sexy as ever and was on top of the world. And by on top of the world I mean I was graduating then going on to grad school with zero US dollars and no job… but on top of the discovered world nonetheless. I had hopes and dreams and I was taking my first steps to accomplish them with excitement and confidence! I was about to start living my dream! Now I’m in sales in an industry I never thought I would be in. I’m older, still in shape (round being that shape), have a mortgage, home-improvement projects and regular maintenance, three kids, regular back pain, headaches, sinus problems, work stress, utility bills, and since my kids refuse to stop growing I’m constantly buying clothes for little humans that like to ruin them on the first day. By day two my son’s new shoes look like a homeless man has been wearing them for 35 years.

It’s not uncommon to get to a midpoint in life and look back wondering where the time went. On top of that, you’re not where you thought you’d be at this point. Perhaps you’re in a job you don’t like or on a career path heading somewhere you don’t want! Maybe you’re in a relationship that has been less than satisfying. That dream of a six-figure paycheck has come true… but you have to include the figures after the decimal point. Maybe your health has taken a turn that you didn’t anticipate and you’re now getting used to your “new normal.”  Family, bills, mortgage, kids, life, can all be overwhelming. I love and appreciate my life, but it certainly doesn’t look like I thought it would at this point.

It’s easy to get angry and stay angry. It’s easy to settle for mediocrity. It really takes little effort. It’s the easiest thing to do and yet it’s the hardest thing to live with. To filter our experiences, learn from them, stay positive, and grow as a better person is difficult. It is, however, a better path. It’s healthy. It’s happy. It’s fulfilling and rewarding. The alternative is just misery.

We’ve all met miserable people or been miserable. To constantly feel angry and bitter at life is miserable. Miserable people attract other miserable people. You’ve heard it before, “Misery loves company.” It can be exhausting to be around miserable people and it’s exhausting to be the miserable person. It’s miserable reading the word “miserable” that many times in this miserable paragraph! Seems like there’s no relief. No peace. No end to the grief in sight.

So young…and only one chin!! (2001)

One thing I have learned is that the fight is worth it. To put the effort in to renew your mind is never regrettable. I have never heard of a person saying, “I was miserable and frustrated and I changed my outlook and focus on life, getting myself to a better place, and now I wish I hadn’t. I’m happy and fulfilled, and it wasn’t worth the effort.” No one would say that.

The hardest part is taking the first step. Choosing to no longer have the chip on your shoulder. To choose to not look over the fence at what someone else has and become envious. To choose to leave the bitterness and anger behind and look forward. To stop playing the comparison game.  To choose to forgive. To choose to let go. To choose to begin being the person you’ve always wanted to be.

You know what’s funny? Many times this doesn’t require a major life change. I won’t be angry anymore if I get that new job. I won’t be angry anymore if I find a new spouse. I won’t be angry anymore if I can get my finances in better shape and live in a nicer home. I won’t be angry anymore if justice is served to those who have wronged me!

When we believe that simply changing our situation or surroundings will make us happier, then we have unfortunately chosen to believe a lie. It’s amazing how many times I’ve said to myself, “Once I get that new TV in the basement, then I won’t have to look at the old broken one and I’ll feel more satisfied and content.” Guess what? I was watching my 60-inch HDTV last night and I still wanted new rear speakers for the theater system. “Die Hard” never looked better, but there were still things I wanted. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my experience. Such is life. If you think that your anger and frustration will go away or that you will find contentment by simply changing your situation, then you’ll be on a lifelong journey in search of something that you’ll never attain.

The hard thing about choosing to move forward from anger and bitterness is that it starts in the mirror. It requires you to change, not your situation. It requires you to choose to move on without a guarantee that things will change. Peace, happiness, and contentment all come from inside, not outside. Joy can be found in the worst of situations because the source of joy is found within.  It’s a choice and a mindset.

Being angry is easy but it’s in no way worth it. Find the joy within. Seek it from something greater than your situation. Then you’ll see your situation completely differently.  Perhaps your life isn’t so bad. Perhaps you’re right where you need to be. Perhaps this is precisely the part of the journey you’re supposed to be on right now. This part won’t last forever. Make the most of it. Learn, grow, and enjoy it. Maybe this is the launching point for the next big thing that you’ve been dreaming of. 

Perhaps you have everything you want… you were just focusing on all the wrong things.

Enjoy the Journey…
PH


questions, 4 year olds & fastballs

[Nearing the conclusion of our annual Guest Writer Series, allow me to introduce LJ, aka Guest Writer #11 (of 12). LJ has been a sweet friend for so many years… being silly… being serious… but also, always being authentic … ]

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Did you know that the average 4-year old could ask at least 300 questions a day? The first time I heard this stat I could hardly believe it!   remember thinking to myself: “Hmmm… whoever did that study apparently did not have a 4-year old named Aden in their test group.” Because if they did, they, too, would be keenly aware that my three very over-achieving man children could put that number to shame… rather quickly and easily.

During their early years, with their gears constantly turning, you could always see when the firestorm of questions was going to hit. At first the questions were rather easy to answer, and I felt pretty good that maybe this parenting thing wasn’t a hard as everyone said it was. There were questions like: 

“Can I have a drink?”  

“Are we having peanut butter and jelly for lunch today?” 

“Can you read me this book?”    

Or… maybe it was just that whole concrete thinking phase that children go through.  Either way, the mastery of answering those questions of the early years did wonders for my ego and confidence.

As they got a little older, the number of questions did not become fewer; it was just the depth of the questions asked that changed. The questions have gotten trickier to answer.  

“Mom, what does it mean when the weather man says the clouds have rotation?”

“Mom, did you know that a snowflake is a frozen fractal?” 

“What happens when you die?”

“Why is Thomas Jefferson only considered the 3rd president when he was actually the 3rd and the 4th president?”  

I’ve come to realize rather quickly that this whole child-asks-a-question/mom-answers-that-question thing is a bit over my head, and I may need to call in the reserves.  Thank the Good Lord for dads and that amazing one-liner: “I think you better go ask your father.”

Now as I stand on the doorstep of the teenage years, you can well imagine just how grossly ill-prepared I feel to field the questions that are yet to come. It also makes perfect sense in my mind that it would be my almost 13 year old who should be preparing me for these life questions — right? He does his share of asking. However, from time-to-time, it is my 8-year old who will throw me the zinger.  

“Mom, what does it mean — that saying on your cup — ‘Life’s too short to take FASTBALLS down the middle?’ ”

I am silent as my old-soled man-child sits waiting for my response the whole time repeating his question over in his mind. I am not silent because I do not know what to say. I am silent because I am trying to decide the best way to communicate the heart of the message in the best possible way for his 8-year old heart and mind can grasp. 

After much thought, this is what this baseball loving, boy mom has come to…

We are given one shot in this life we are blessed with. There are no dress rehearsals, but sometimes, we are given second chances. In all the hugeness of this world around us, it would very easy to let the “hugeness” swallow us whole. We could so very easily stand there at the home plate of life watching the pitches whiz right on by. 

I don’t want to let that happen!! I want my life to be a statement of going down swinging, making the most of every second, of every minute, of every day.

Batter UP!!!

Respectfully…

LJ

myth busters

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet DG, Guest Writer #10 (of 12). DG is a conscientious, articulate father and professional who I’ve known to be a good listener and communicator. He is respectful and always makes me think … ]

Ever since my younger days, I observed our neighbors having to prove to their youngest daughter, who was 5 years-old, that there was nothing under the bed or in the closet spaces that resembled a boogeyman before bed. As we all have heard, you can’t prove a negative. However, in this child’s mind, Mom and Dad had just emphatically proven there were no boogeymen in the house. At least not for that night. Because the next night the hunt would restart. I could understand why a child’s mind would need to be reassured continuously, but it seems our modern adult minds are doing just such a game. 

It seems there is a never-ending quest to seek out and exaggerate all things we consider negative. These things are either real or imagined. It seems facts really do not matter for us. Recently my wife and I picked up her sisters from the airport. My wife’s license plate on her car is a specialized Nevada plate that identifies her as an Organ Donor. One of her sisters noticed it and insisted that she needed to replace the plate. Her premise was that by having an organ donor plate in an accident, someone would accelerate her demise so they could harvest her organs. My question to her was, “Do you mean to tell me that all 50 DMVs across the US and all emergency room staff and ambulance drivers met to put this all together?” Her response was, “Well, that’s what I heard.” She further said that since my wife is black, it was even more dangerous for her. I knew then it would be an interesting weekend with this particular sister-in-law. I love all my wife’s family as I do my own, but sometimes even they try my patience. 

The conversation later that evening at my home moved to what was for dinner. I had bought some tilapia, thawed it out, and was then going to grill them. Just then Boogeyman #2 for the day raised its head when my daughter who is a chef said, “You know tilapia is bad for you, right?” So now I’m both curious and furious. She started to tell me how harmful tilapia is, being farmed and the toxic things that are done to it. Meanwhile, the day before she ate some Gulf Shrimp –  caught from the Gulf of Mexico, the site of several oil spills in the past few years. She continued, saying it all comes from China (implying that it must be bad). I went and retrieved the package from the smelly garbage and looked on the package of the fish; it was, in fact, from Indonesia. So the “it all comes from China” myth was busted. I also looked at their website, which it made me feel better.  After reading through the site, no boogeyman was there for me to see. We all enjoyed the grilled tilapia, and none of us were glowing afterward except with the glow from a satisfying meal.  

The social media sites while informative are the some of the worst myth purveyors. They attempt to find boogeymen where none exist. Back in 2012 when the world was supposed to end on December 12th because it did not appear on the ancient Mayan calendar, I had the greatest time teasing my many colleagues who believed this latest horse pokey. Somehow having ancient Mayans as guides for our future seemed more logical than believing established science. There was even a movie “2012” that grossed approximately $770 million. So nearly a billion dollars was spent by consumers to reinforce their fears. To be clear, my psychological training is zero. But I am intelligent enough to know that this is the same mentality that makes us go through haunted houses and roller coasters. The only difference is our modern day adult often gets lost in the myth of these boogeymen and gets so caught up that they can’t wake up from the bad dream they are having. 

The continuous myth I want to finally uncover is Global Warning/Climate Change. I wrote about this in last year’s Guest Writer Series, sharing some facts and opinions with which not everyone agreed with me. The conversation has now reached a crescendo with some of the new politicians and entertainers. According to them, we have about 12 years until the next doomsday unless we make some drastic changes now. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Al Gore told us we had 10 years until Climate Change doomsday. The timeline continues to move so that it fits any timeline such advocates seek. Again, I believe we should do everything to keep our Earth clean and conserve energy and resources. We have been given stewardship of this 3rd rock from the Sun; this is truly Mother Earth. But some of these measures such as zero carbon emissions, no fossil or nuclear energy are not only ridiculous but almost impossible to achieve. The impracticality of having 7 billion people redo the way they live is a myth because we will always be chasing and hunting for something that is not there.  

Respectfully…

DG

One more thing…

Recently, after the death of the infamous criminal, Michael Epstein, his suicide evoked a lot of myths. Many Clinton supporters were implying if not outright saying that Trump and his people had something to do with Epstein’s death. Many Trump supporters were saying that surely the Clintons had something to do with it. Are we in a place where everything has a conspiratorial aspect to it? Can some things be just what they are at face value? 

We are better than this. Epstein was obviously an evil person. Could this not just be his final act of evil? I recently posted this on Facebook and some couldn’t help themselves, still continuing with the myths. So it has become clear to me that myths are here to stay. We just have to learn to take more deep breaths… WOOSAH…

my thoughts on climate change skepticism

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Up next is JM, Guest Writer #9 (of 12). JM is one of my favorite people. A thoughtful college senior, I can’t wait to see what he does next! … ]

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 (To keep this blog concise, human-induced climate change is referred to simply as climate change. I recognize there is a difference but didn’t want to berate you with my wordiness.) 

When you think of teachers, you probably assume that their greatest fears stem from misbehaving children and low test scores.  However, as a future biology teacher, my greatest fear is being accused of brainwashing people’s children.  I currently go to a conservative Christian college, so I’m already used to the question: how do you feel about public schools forcing you to teach [insert any controversial scientific theory]?  My answer?  I usually just shrug and tell them I have no issue with it because I teach facts, not opinions.  

It saddens me to see the skepticism that religion and politics have created towards science.  Somehow, the rise of individualism in our culture has made us complacent with small snippets of a personalized reality over one based in reason, community, and faith.  As soon as we hear a statistic we don’t like, it is immediately cast aside as biased, politicized, or inaccurate.  

While I could point out how scientific facts are dodged in a variety of topics today, I’d like to focus specifically on the one I believe is most criticized and abused: climate change.  Growing up, this was the topic I was told to shut down at all costs.  No matter how much my teachers crammed it down my throat, it was my job to trust in the system, live carefree, and trust the Earth to straighten itself out on its own.  I was told to see climate change as hog-wash for a variety of reasons, but I’d like to specifically call out seven that I feel are most predominate today.

1. Human-induced climate change is a theory and lacks proof.  

Yes, climate change is based in theory, but it is what I like to call a “Capital-T” theory.  That meaning, it is backed by a significant amount of evidence and is supported by the majority of the scientific community.  I’ve often heard that climate recordings haven’t been documented long enough to be reliable.  However, it would be impossible to live at all if every missing puzzle piece was required of a topic before putting our trust in it.   The positive correlation between industrialization, population growth, and unstable climate is clear as day, and correlation is the foundation of possibly every decision we make as human beings.  I get being hesitant, but to put off believing in statistics purely because of a factor we can’t fix without time travel isn’t rational. 

2. If we are supposed to care about climate change, God would have told us in the Bible, Torah, etc.  

I know not everyone here is religious, but I’ve heard this enough times that it must be included.  I would hope that most people can see the problem with this statement without me commenting.  After all, even though religious doctrine doesn’t talk directly about contemporary topics, that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied. Unfortunately, the need for application allows certain people to apply doctrine inaccurately. I was once told believing in climate change was prideful because humans don’t have control over the Earth; God does. If anyone has this thought, please re-read Genesis 1 and 2. I don’t mean to be cold, but as a Christian, I know the Bible is very clear in humanity’s role to protect the Earth.  How we treat the Earth matters. And yes, God is okay with your pastor using a Sunday to talk about God’s call to steward the Earth instead of heaven for a change.  

3. Even if climate change is real, there’s nothing we can do to fix it now.  

As much as we love to empower individuals as a culture, it’s strange how quick we are to shut ourselves down when faced with a challenge. I’ll be straight up. No one person is not going to fix the damage we’ve done to the Earth. But one person can make huge changes in their home and community, so it’s wrong to think your actions don’t matter. My advice is to focus on the small impacts you can make and inspire others to do the same. With time and persuasion, perhaps we truly can work together to build our small actions into a movement.  

4. Why should I care about climate change if it’s not the biggest problem?

The ‘biggest problem’ in the world today is a hotly contested category that most of my age group tends to fill with climate change. This tends to be where I stray from the pack. While I recognize that climate change is a serious concern for my generation and all those following, I fail to see how it takes precedent over the violence and devastation shaking the world presently.  All that said, waiting for climate change to become more problematic before acting, especially when it’s one of the most preventable issues we’re currently faced with, is something we can no longer allow to occur.

5. Believing in climate change is a liberal stance, and I can’t fight it without looking crazy. 

I’ve been given my own share of eye rolls when discussing environmental activism, so I get it. I can’t say much to deny the reality of judgment. People don’t take kindly to tree-huggers. That’s just reality. But I can say that being proactive towards climate change should not be a political issue. Politics gets involved when it comes to alternative energy, job creation, budgeting and taxes. Cutting down on your pollution is what is going to make the difference at the end of the day, and it doesn’t make you any more/less of a Democrat or Republican; it just makes you a better human being.  

6. I don’t have the money necessary to fight climate change.  

The idea that living ecologically is more expensive than a wasteful lifestyle is a misrepresentation. Global warming boils down to energy usage. The less you use, the more you help. So don’t use your iPhone 24/7, take shorter showers, don’t leave lights on when you’re not using them. BOOM. You just saved the earth AND your monthly bill. Yes, it costs money to recycle or buy organic, but beyond that, it’s not hard to choose items with less packaging, bring your own bags to the grocery store, or shop locally before searching the web.

7. Do you realize how difficult it is to live an eco-friendly lifestyle?  

Yes. A million times yes. Throughout this post, I’ve probably hid behind the façade that I’m an amazing person with no environmental baggage. The truth is, outside of having a catalytic converter on my car, I’m not doing much for the Earth. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had my success streaks, but being an activist for the Earth is the same as working towards a six pack (which I also don’t have). You don’t master a routine overnight. But just because a skill is difficult or takes time to develop, doesn’t mean we should put it off. Living for the Earth is an amazing opportunity and something I truly believe deserves more attention.  

Sincerely,

JM

P.S. For more posts like this one, consider visiting www.justinnoahblog.wordpress.com

should I let it stay or let it go?

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Up next is AT, Guest Writer #8 (of 12). AT is always transparent… always makes me think… and often makes me sing along to the latest tune… ]

Letting go means different things to different people. To Buddhists it means the practice of non-attachment. To Christians it could mean turning the other cheek or offering forgiveness and mercy. To a minimalist it is the practice of refining and removing of all that does not serve us well. We can let go of stuff and we can let go of baggage. We can let go of anger, resentment, a grudge, a dead relationship, a dead end job, guilt, anxiety, control, or whatever is weighing us down. Over the course of the last decade I have begun to expand the list of things, attitudes, behaviors, and feelings that do not serve me well.

What I have found is that the more closely I identify with an object, a person, a place, a group, or an idea, the harder it is for me to detach and let go. What is required is a ruthless examination of the attachments I have and a relentless questioning of does this serve me well, does it serve me now, does it serve me best, or does it no longer serve me at all. Like a person who physically hoards things, we can also build philosophical walls which close us in and others out. We need to be just as ruthless in questioning those walls as well. Sometimes walls offer us security and protection and sometimes those walls do nothing more than divide and separate us from others. 

Google will return a huge number of essays explaining the hows and whys of letting go. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on why letting go might help to practice humility and kindness.

“Always be humble and kind,” wisely sings country singer, Tim McGraw. What does letting go have to do with humility? It’s hard to be humble when your ego is in the driver’s seat. Charlotte, the lovable spider in Charlotte’s Web explains to Wilber the pig that humble means not proud. In order to be that you have to tame your ego. You have to temper your emotions. You have to consider the needs and feelings of others. You can’t be self absorbed, angry and insensitive to others and be very successful at being humble. Wanting the best for others helps. Forcing your way of thinking on others, trying to manipulate others’ behavior, insisting that you are right and everyone else is wrong, being a know-it-all, never listening to other points of view, feeling the need to vanquish others in an argument or a comment thread on social media doesn’t fall under the heading of humility(and makes you unpopular at parties.) I had to let go of the need to be right, the need to prove others wrong, the need to win the argument, the need to point out others’ faulty logic, the need to respond to every bait, the need to control others and make them see my way of doing things is the correct way, the need to prevent my children’s mistakes by insisting that my wisdom is superior to theirs. It’s certainly an exhausting “to do” list. By changing it to my “not to do” list, my life became easier to manage, not harder. And those closest to me, both physically and virtually, benefited from it as well. Humility has nothing to do with being a doormat. It has to do with letting others be themselves right or wrong. The flip side of not having to be right is not having to worry about what others think of me. Egotists need to win at everything. Nothing is more threatening to the ego than losing and being wrong is not an option. When ego is sent packing, I am free to be me and you are free to be you.

Once you become humble, kindness just flows out of that. You begin to help when asked rather than offer the correct way to do it. You start noticing what is right rather than being consumed by what is wrong. People begin to be vulnerable with you because they are no longer fearful of being shot down. Relationships improve because you are listening and seeking win-win solutions. When you are focused on supporting positive outcomes for others rather than seeking to dominate and destroy, compromises stop being seen as weaknesses and start becoming part of a joint solution to community problems. Cooperation begins to replace competition. Peacemaking is easier once accusatory anger is replaced with kindness and compassion.

Every day I hear people bemoaning the divisiveness in our country and blaming other people. May I humbly suggest that we do some soul searching and question whether we are contributing to that divide by identifying so strongly with either group think or me think that we feel the need to be right and make those who think differently the enemy? Humility and kindness could be one way to begin to heal what ails us. I would apologize for not being perfectly humble and kind yet, but I let go of trying to be perfect, too. All I know for sure is that I feel a lot lighter since I decided to let go more.

Respectfully…

AT

pride check

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Introducing Danny, Guest Writer #7 (of 12). Danny is a recent college graduate and no doubt a naturally born leader. I can see why…]

Pride check. 

I heard this phrase often when my friends noticed that my sarcastic humor often involved my pride pretty heavily. With sayings like:

“There is no way _____ could have spoken better than me.” 

“How on earth did he get asked to be a speaker at this conference?!”

“He is just soft.” 

 “Did you hear how well I preached last night?”

“I bet you I could preach in front of 20,000.”

… or any other phrase that was a sarcastic way to elevate me or belittle others…

Now I know that when sayings like this are said, most of the time it would be out of good fun and sarcasm. For me, on the other hand, it showed the tendency of my heart. It wasn’t like every other week that these comments would be made; it was more like every other time I opened my mouth. One of my closest friends said “check your pride, dude,” and I brushed her off, but then my friends would start saying, “pride check” every time I made one of these comments. At first I would argue that I was kidding, but after what seemed to be like the 900th time, I began to honestly assess my sarcasm. 

Now I am not saying that all sarcasm leads to defects in your inner most being, nor do I think sarcasm is bad; again, I personally really enjoy sarcasm. I think it can be a great source of humor, but for me — for me — it led to re-evaluating my heart behind it. 

Why were a lot of my comments revolving around me either praising myself or belittling others?  This led me to attempt to identify where all of this pride was coming from. I say “attempt” because at first it did not go as planned. 

“It’s not pride, it’s just a fact,” my pride would tell me. “You’re not wrong; they’re wrong for thinking that your intentions are bad.”

My pride put up a lot of resistance to this inner assessment. I actually had to go around pride to get to the real cause. I had to go to the outcome of my pride to discern the real issue. 

Anger was a result of my pride. I would stick my chest out and get loud and prove to you why I was right!! That’s when I asked myself one of the biggest questions I have had to face in my life… 

“Why am I so angry?”

My first reaction was to respond with “because I am right, and they’re wrong,” but I couldn’t let pride answer for me anymore, and as I let the question marinate a little longer, it hit me. I wasn’t getting angry because I knew I was right; I was getting angry in fear that I wasn’t.

I let the idea of being wrong eat at me long enough to build a wall of pride. This wall of pride was built with stubbornness, ignorance, a façade of self-confidence, the belittlement of others, insecurity, and left me with no respect of other people’s opinions and a terrible leader. 

I still remember the moment when I realized that I had a problem with pride in my heart. Even after all the “pride checks” I got from my friends, I started to change the way I talked — not because I thought it was a real issue but because I knew it wasn’t the best attribute for a leader in ministry. Then one night it hit me, I would either be a humble servant to God and build His kingdom, or I would be a servant to my pride and build mine. 

About 6 months after the “pride check” became a common saying for me to hear, I was leading a ministry with my best friend at college. By this time, I thought that I had beaten pride… I thought since God was blessing this ministry that I was no longer full of pride. Then one night my best friend gave the sermon, a week after I gave what I thought was one of the better messages I had ever given, yet no one responded to a prompt at the end of my message. 

I wasn’t even thinking of my pride. I was encouraging my best friend that he did a pretty good job. Then as I am sitting in the back of the room, and he closes with the question of taking your faith more seriously and asking if any in the audience wanted to make some significant, life-giving changes; multiple people immediately said “yes”!!  You would think that I would be elated with joy… 

Nope. I felt nothing but jealousy. I also convinced myself that it had nothing to do with his message — but everything to do with mine. 

I was so caught up in my pride that I couldn’t celebrate my best friend giving a life-transforming message. 

Looking back now on the time I was able to steward that ministry in college, I am filled with great memories of crazy cool blessings, but I can also see that my pride led to people getting hurt. My pride led me to speaking almost every week; my pride led me to hurting what could have been great leaders, because I wanted the spotlight. My pride took me from praising God to praising myself. 

Pride will convince you that it’s all about you. Pride will rob you from celebrating in someone else’s victory. Pride will lead you to hurting others. 

From someone who has had to make more apologies than I care to admit, I would recommend assessing whether or not your pride needs checked.

Respectfully…

Danny

the right to (not) vaccinate

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Zack, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). A proud parent, trusted friend, and one always willing to dialogue… even about the uncomfortable…]

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On May 3, 2019, Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson introduced HR 2527 “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019” to the 116th Congress. If passed, this bill would eliminate all non-medical exemptions (philosophical or religious) for immunizations and require all children who attend public schools to receive every vaccination approved by the CDC. Any state that fails to comply would have federal education funding withheld from their budgets. 

Serving as the Congresswoman’s deputy chief of staff and senior health policy advisor until 2015, when Wilson began attempts to legislate vaccine mandates, was a woman named Keenan Austin. Her previous job, prior to her role as a policy spearhead for the Florida legislator, was as a senior pharmaceutical sales representative for GlaxoSmithKline, who as of 2015, was the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline plead guilty to the largest health care fraud in United States history, that included the “unlawful promotion of certain prescription drugs, its failure to report certain safety data, and its civil liability for alleged false price reporting practices,” resulting in a $3 billion settlement.  International authorities have also discovered that, since 2013, GlaxoSmithKline has spent $4-$5 billion dollars on financial kickbacks, gifts, and prostitutes to provide sexual favors to doctors who would prescribe the company’s drugs to their patients, crimes for which they were fined $489 million in China alone.  As of February 2018, the company had been under further investigations by British and American authorities regarding third party adviser connections with China’s bribery scandals. Forbes has labeled this company, quite astutely, a “leader in pharma fraud.” 

I am not ordinarily a conspiracy theorist, but can you be surprised if I question the motivations of my government officials?

Recently, I saw a picture of a child advertising a shirt that read, “I am vaccinated – because my parents aren’t morons.” Not that I have never been guilty of name-calling, but it might not get you very far in persuading an anti-vaxxer of the reasons to vaccinate. But, despite the news and social media’s claims that the anti-vaccination movement is misled and ignorant , research done by the Institute for Vaccine Safety demonstrates that anti-vaxxers are, in fact, often well-educated and simply more informed on alternative means of medicine (though such means are not universally approved by most American medical associations).    

The United States government classifies vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe,” a term which essentially means that a product cannot be made completely safe for its intended purpose. This is common in the prescription drug market as evidenced by lengthy commercials that advertise for medications that will change one’s life for the better but could have an unlimited number of side effects on one’s body, up to, and including, death. Examining risk vs. utility is standard for government approval of any product and in the case of vaccines, the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Are vaccines going to hurt more people than they help? No. Can they hurt somebody? Yes. As with any medication, everyone’s body reacts differently, and the responses can vary. Vaccines are not 100% safe.

Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund has paid out $121 million per year in awards over the last three decades to American families that have suffered from sickness, injury, and death resulting from vaccines. A meaningful admission that vaccines can produce adverse effects on the human body, this legislation was created specifically to protect vaccine manufacturers from litigation by people who have suffered from these induced injuries. Likewise, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is operated by the CDC and the FDA, was originally developed to determine safety issues with U.S. linked vaccines and receives systematic reports regarding their harmful effects.  Stories about children who suffer life changing effects upon receiving vaccinations at the recommendation of a regulatory authority are not difficult to locate. Additionally, multiple studies, including one conducted by the Institute of Medicine, sanctioned by the United States Department of Health and Human services, and research demonstrated by the Journal of Developing Drugs, have also concluded that many of the ingredients in vaccines, either animal based (chicken, soy, etc) or adjuvants (aluminum, cytokine proteins, etc) undeniably contribute to the development of food allergies in those that receive them. In the United States, food allergies have increased by 50% in the last twenty years — as have the number of recommended vaccines. In 1983, the CDC recommended 23 doses of 7 different vaccines be given to children from age two months to six years. Today, the recommendation is 50 doses of 14 different vaccines.  

Those who do not vaccinate are not stupid. They are cautious about questionable products.  

And so, the foundational question about vaccines in American society is not about their effectiveness. It is this: who has the right to make the final decision of risk vs. utility in one’s life?  And in this case – one’s children.

I will not make the decision to vaccinate based on the advice of my government, who will assume parental responsibilities for my children over my literal dead body. Go read about the parents who lost custody of their child in Florida, in May, because they desired to pursue alternative treatments to chemotherapy for their three-year-old’s leukemia. I will not make the decision based on the opinions of other parents, who feel it is my responsibility to protect their child. If I want the polio vaccine for myself, or my child, because I believe that the utility outweighs the risk, then I will consent to the vaccine. If I believe that the risks of the chickenpox vaccine outweigh the utility, then I will not get the vaccine for myself or my child. My decisions regarding mine or my child’s health is not up to you or government. And simply because I choose not to does not make me ill-informed or uneducated.

All Americans consider their civil rights as precious. Just ask an abortion activist about the importance of personal autonomy over one’s body. The day that we allow the United States government to legally mandate what we put into our bodies, well… I hope I’m gone.

Respectfully…

Zack

weighing in on myself

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Sally, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). Few people have I laughed with more consistently on this planet… granted, joint karaoke with our spouses makes it always especially fun…]

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“I’m not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of widths.” – Steven Wright

I cannot remember a time in my life when weight wasn’t an issue for me. As a child I was not truly overweight, but I was not a skinny Minnie either; and I had been trained that skinny was good. In fact, the skinnier the better.  

Back then it seemed like everyone but me was skinny. Everyone on TV was skinny except Schultz, the lovable, rotund guard who loved forbidden Strudel on Hogan’s Heroes (still one of the best shows on television IMHO.)  Women were seldom overweight, unless their character was the butt of everyone’s jokes. My best friend was short and skinny, and my dad constantly compared my girth to hers (yes, I know, that’s another blog post entirely.) I hit an emotional low point in 5th grade when the grade school nurse weighed us as she did every year. She read my weight aloud to be recorded, and I heard the petite curly-headed girl behind me in line say, “Geez, that’s more than my mom weighs!” Too bad the nurse didn’t provide self-esteem counseling. I was going to need that for decades to come.  

In my never-ending quest to be skinny I started dieting at too-young an age. Dieting became my go-to way of life. Back then, no one talked Keto or Glycemic Index or anything remotely scientific. Dieting was all about starvation, restriction, deprivation and good old-fashioned “will power.” In other words, losing weight required months of choking down Melba Toast, timbers of celery and other tasteless veggies such as Bok Choy (Veggie? Cylindrical Styrofoam? Communist Dictator? No one knows for sure).

As one can imagine, I had a love/hate relationship with The Scale. The Scale and I shared an on-again, off-again friendship, kind of like the fickle affection offered by the popular girl at school. One day you are best friends, and the next day you’re not speaking. On the days when you are  “good,” all is well with the world. However, if you’re “bad,” suddenly you are the subject of ridicule and you find yourself sitting alone in the cafeteria wondering what you could have done to earn the world’s affection. Even though you hate yourself for trying so hard to impress everyone around you, you can’t seem to help it. It’s like Mean Girls, only with pounds and numbers on The Scale.  

By the time I went got married I had weighed in at more than my share of diet clubs. The weigh-in line at The Scale resembles something of a strip club for the pound-averse. Shoes go first. It doesn’t matter that typical shoes rarely weigh more than a pound or two; they are jettisoned in line like lead weights on a sinking ship. After that, dieters shed every last item of clothing allowable by law, as well as jewelry that is normally weighed in grams. All of this is done in hope of making The Scale love you just a teensy bit more. 

In my younger years I could literally be paralyzed by ideas surrounding food and clothing; what did or didn’t fit, what I should or shouldn’t eat. There were days when I would have chopped off my head to lose 10 pounds. I was jealous of people who were ill and had “unexplained” weight loss. That never happened to me. Every ounce I lost could easily be explained; hours of sweaty exercise, a steady diet of rice cakes, and mountains of cottage cheese. (I hate cottage cheese to this day.) Figuring out what to wear caused daily panic. I had every size in my closet from prepubescent to Sleeps 6, yet I had “nothing to wear” because I felt ugly and fat in all of it. 

While I would love to say this ridiculous self-banter is no longer part of my mental dialogue, I would be lying. However, I have come a long way in the struggle against allowing The Scale to dictate whether I seize the day and enjoy my life, or size myself up each day, wasting precious moments by thinking negatively about my body, and ultimately, my life. Yes, one can lead to the other. Ask anyone who’s ever dealt with this issue, or loves someone who has. 

I am happy to say that in my mid 50’s I have come to a beautiful, peaceful relationship with The Scale. Does it always say what I want it to say? Heck no! But I am finally at a place where I refuse to be stopped from seizing the day because of my size that day.  

How did that happen? It was not an overnight transition. In fact, getting healthy about getting healthy has been a long road, but so worth the trip. I had to give up the futility of pleasing everyone. That is much harder than it sounds but oh, what a change it makes. Now the only One I aim to please is the One who wove me together in my mother’s womb. The Bible says I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” and while I knew that verse in my head, it took decades to make its way into my heart for real. I know God wants me to be healthy, but now I desire that not for the approval of others, but to honor God by taking care of myself. That’s the first step. 

Secondly, my attitude was changed while on a couple of mission trips to the poorest parts of Nicaragua. Wow. Besides experiencing the needs of a developing country, I also found it to be a refreshing break from the mental bombardment of American advertising. In the midst of intense poverty, I felt the profound lack of television, magazine and billboard ads aimed at urging us to be prettier, look sexier, and smile whiter. Nicaraguans don’t care about all of that. How could they? They have bigger fish to fry such as securing their next meal or providing clean water for their children. Even in the pouring rain no one in Nicaragua (except wealthy American missionaries) pop an umbrella over their head to keep their $50 blowouts selfie-perfect (embarrassingly guilty!). My perspective was changed forever, and the most important things in life became clearer. 

Now, the need to impress comes more in the acts of kindness I can offer than the ability to make The Scale proud. I am happier to offer a helping hand than worry about whether I had a second helping or not. And I am more delighted with delivering a hot meal to a friend in need than being told I am a hot dish by people I could care less about. I can honestly say that after a lifetime of waisted energy (pun definitely intended), my waistline is not the measurement that seizes me, but rather it is the size of my heart. 

Respectfully…

Sally

[Be joyfully inspired from Sally even more by visiting FunnyGalSal.com or see “Funny Gal Sal” on Facebook!]

the salesman, the girl from the cruise, and the grandma

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet JT, Guest Writer #4 (of 12). I have to say, I’m especially proud of this fast-maturing college kid… even with his not-so-humble, admirable passion during Ohio State’s football season…]

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Ever slammed the door on a door-to-door salesman? He comes yapping about some product that is the best thing since sliced bread, and you can’t wait to escape that conversation. Well, I’ve been one of those salesmen. In fact, I did similar work for 7 months, and it was one of my favorite experiences to date. It certainly wasn’t the constant no’s or getting rejected over and over that I enjoyed, but the lessons I learned. I could probably spend hours talking about how I grew as a person, but I want to focus on one thing today: understanding how to create a relationship with any one person, despite their background, story, and traits.

I always wondered growing up why most people only had 5 or so friends. I mean, adults had been living for much longer than I had and met so many more people. Why was it that they only tended to put their trust and grow close with a few others? It’s pretty naive reasoning, but the complex question still remains. What does a person offer that makes us want to make them more than just an acquaintance, someone that is worth our time when time almost always seems to be lacking. At 20 years old, I certainly do not know the answer. I am young and have plenty to learn. However, I think selling telecommunication products may just have taught me a little about it.

The best salesperson was never the smooth-talking, charismatic man you may think of. Nor was it the person who was aggressive and cunning in conversation, as I often thought. Instead, it was the person who did the least talking. The salesperson who stopped talking and got the customer talking about themselves always seemed to sell the product. This person actually did very little talking about the product they were selling. They simply listened to the customer, replied when necessary, and asked questions to learn who the customer was beyond someone they were selling. In two words, they adapted. The best salesperson adapted to whom they were talking to and made conversation. It did not matter who the customer was.

The problem with this salesperson example is that the salesperson has an agenda. This is not always the case in everyday conversation, as sometimes two people are just trying to get to know each other. Yet, how do we usually do that? I always liked to talk about my own story, how I was special because I was a lefty in baseball and taller than my entire family. I loved talking about myself, as it seems everyone does. All I would look for is someone who matched my interests and background and then make those people my friends whom I spent my time with. It seems most people are no different. There is something called the confirmation bias in psychology, partially defined as the tendency to search for information that confirms one’s existing beliefs. As far as I have found, this is how people usually make friends. Friends are created through mutual interests, stories, and backgrounds. Going back to the best salesperson example, this is not what they would do. The best salesperson talked about the customer’s interests first and foremost. Strip away the agenda, imagine if this were how a majority of people approached conversation. Would we be able to connect with just about anyone, even if they were not similar to us? My experience on a cruise a few years back sure makes me think so.

I look back on our vacation on a cruise as one of the best our family has ever taken. There are simply no obligations on a cruise, nothing you have to do, and you achieve true rest and relaxation. I loved not only spending time with my family, but meeting new people on the boat. My older brother and I ran into a group of teenagers on one of the last days at the pool. Since the cruise was nearing its end, my brother and I did not spend much time with these people, but I got to know one of the girls in the group very well. By the time we got off the boat, I could tell you why The Notebook was this girl’s favorite movie, why she decided to take a gap year before college, and the reasons behind her political opinions. Her thoughts on politics, along with taking a gap year and her favorite movie, were not in any way similar to me. In fact, I would argue this girl is someone very unlike myself. Nonetheless, after the cruise was over, she messaged me saying the following: “I’ve never connected so well with someone. I’m so happy we got the chance to be friends.” This is not something I heard everyday, so why did this girl think this? Most likely because I did not approach talking to her with my background and my interests. I tried to get to know her through intent listening and questions. Now, maybe this only worked because people are nicer on a cruise, since everyone feels the need to meet other people. That is what I thought initially, so I tested my theory again 2 weeks ago.

This summer I am staying with some family friends as I intern in Atlanta, GA. A couple weeks ago they all went to the pool with some friends, and I was fortunate enough to get an invite. I showed up a little later than everyone else and quickly realized I was not with my typical crowd. There were probably around ten kids there, all 10 years old or younger, accompanied by their mothers, which numbered 3, and one grandma, probably around the age of 70. Each mom was talking to the others, while all the kids were in the pool, but the one grandma sat all by herself. I only spent about an hour at the pool, but the entire time I sat talking with this grandma. When I left, she stood up and said, “Jarrett, I can’t wait to see what you do in life. I can tell you are very smart and will do big things. You are just a wonderful kid.” Honestly, I think this statement has no real basis. That entire hour I did not say a word about my life or background. Instead, we spent the entire time talking about the grandma, about how her daughters live in Denver, Atlanta, and Baltimore, about how her eldest grandchild will try out for the Junior Olympics of swimming next year, how she is concerned that her family is becoming smarter than she as she ages, and much more. I truly could go on and on about this grandma, because we really only talked about her and her life. She really appreciated that. No, this grandma was not the same age as me, from the same place as me, or very similar to me in general. That simply does not matter. Taking the other person’s interests and story into account first results in a potential friendship with anyone we meet. That is probably why I still stay in touch with the salesman, the girl from the cruise, and the grandma today.

Respectfully…

JT

a chance to get my vote

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet CAZ, Guest Writer #3 (of 12). CAZ is thoughtful and honest. Never one to shy from tough topics — albeit respectfully — here we go again…]

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I admit it. I am not particularly proud of President Trump.

I’m happy about the Supreme Court. I’m glad the economy is doing reasonably well. And I’m pleased that we have not waived the white flag in the so-called culture wars.

But the guy is a narcissist. Everything he does is the best. Just ask him. Even though he speaks at about a fourth-grade level, he still claims, “I know the best words.” I can’t decide if he is a bald-faced liar or just doesn’t know any better, but he’s pretty loose with facts. The claim that George Washington took over the airports in the Revolutionary War might have been the last straw. How embarrassing.

Given my lack of enthusiasm — and I’m as conservative as anyone I know — the Democrats have every opportunity to recapture the White House in 2020. Except their nomination process is not about choosing the person for whom most Americans would vote. Their process requires getting the most votes from people who vote in the Democratic primaries.

So their presidential debates have devolved into a sort of sophomoric prank — who can offer the most outlandish proposal and keep a straight face? You said that? Well, watch this. Some examples….

Free Healthcare — They differ on how many people’s private insurance they would take away and how to pay for it, if at all, but almost all of the candidates want the government to take over our healthcare system. There are various estimates of how much this would cost, but they hover around $3 trillion a year. That’s trillion with a “t.” Total tax revenue is about $3.3 trillion annually. So get ready for your taxes to double.

Open Borders — All but one of the recent debate participants raised their hand agreeing that it should no longer be a crime to cross the U.S. border. And they all raised their hand that once here, those immigrants should receive free health care. Remember that $3 trillion price tag? Not even close….

Slavery Reparations — I abhor discrimination, which clearly still exists, but at least it is now illegal. This notwithstanding, about half the Democratic field thinks people who never owned slaves ought to pay people who never were slaves as some way of making up for slavery. You think this is going to help race relations? This is nothing short of political bribery, “Vote for me, and I will give you money.” In fact, that would be more honest.

Free College — Why? I suppose to be more inclusive with the vote purchasing. This is one of the less expensive proposals, only about $70 billion a year. Though it neglects the dynamic that people will always look to differentiate themselves, so if college becomes the new high school, graduate school will become the new college.

Student Loan Forgiveness — Another $1.5 trillion. Why? See above.

Green New Deal— We can debate global warming or climate change all you want, and I’m all for taking care of the environment, but every American could give up their planes, trains, and automobiles, and it’s not going to make one hill of beans difference in the earth’s temperature. This one would cost more than everything listed above, and it would contract if not cripple our economy. Do you really want to go back to wood-burning stoves and horse-drawn carriages?

I know that The Intramuralist is all about respectful dialogue, and it truly is in that spirit that I offer the following question. I also know there are lots of readers who have been drawn by the political appeal of these proposals — and that is exactly what they are, political appeals, with little chance of becoming law and even less of being paid for.

But I share my reaction to these proposals to try to help you understand the mindset of the disenfranchised Trump voter: Are these people crazy?

You have a chance to get my vote. But I don’t care one bit about the Mueller Report, no matter how much you yell and scream about it. You’ve got to nominate someone who makes legitimate policy proposals.

Otherwise I’m going to end up voting for Trump again.

Respectfully…

CAZ