My prayer this morning

God thank you for these days of trial and adversity. Thank you for working through them to empty me of my pride,
to challenge my love of comfort,
to destroy the stubborn illusion of control over my life and the world,
to teach me to rely on you,
to see your hand at work in unexpected ways,
to give me eyes to see needy people who are usually invisible,
to remind me of mortality and eternity,
and to show me even more of my savior’s love. Jesus was born into a world groaning under the curse of sin. That “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” – – Galatians 3:13

A Question about "Overreaction" to the Coronavirus


The experts are telling us that massive numbers (25 million in California alone according to governor Newsome) will be infected and a huge percentage (a million and a half according to NIH director) will become critically ill. They are saying that this part is unstoppable. The current measures are not designed to keep you from getting the virus or getting critically ill, but to keep you from getting infected right now so that we don’t run out of ventilators. That is what flattening the curve is all about. Sorry if you didn’t understand that. It is only this level of fear that would make us willing to go along with the actions we are taking that are unprecedented in global human history.

None of us want to under-react. But over reacting is not benign, just wait and see.

Some are saying we won’t be able to tell if we are overreacting. Not true, we just look at what happens in the coming months. Compare what happens with what the experts said will certainly come to pass. We should NOT look at the death rate if it ends up being low, but at the dimensions of the epidemic that the experts say is unstoppable, the elements we can only delay.

A Few Observations About The Immigration Conversation

How does the US stack up against other countries when it comes to welcoming immigrants? The answer might surprise you.

“The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants in 2017. The population of immigrants is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented among U.S. immigrants.” (Source Pew, see below) The total number From the center for immigration studies is 46.5 million.

About 77% of all immigrants living in the US have been welcomed here legally.

“Since 1965, when U.S. immigration laws replaced a national quota system, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled.”

Here are some of my thoughts:

I think this reality is important for the conversation about immigration, if we can even use the word conversation. it seems to be dominated by those on both fringes that are shouting the loudest. It is important because The US has been more inviting to immigrants than any other country on earth, and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the facts. And it is also important because too often this conversation is used as a political tool with little consideration for real people. I am really thankful that our country has been so inviting to so many people all over the world.

I think these numbers also mean it is reasonable (and necessary) to talk about ways that immigration affects infrastructure, economy, the legal system, etc. It does little good to immigrants (new or old) to live in a broken system.

Think of this, more folks have immigrated to the US in recent decades than the entire population of the state of California. These new people depend on the presence of adequate roads, schools, available housing (California is already estimated to be 3 million homes short by 2025), hospitals, etc. I don’t have all the answers, I actually have far more questions than answers. But I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t address these kinds of issues in the discussion about immigration. I also have a number of great friends who are not here legally, many brought here as children and they are great, productive, law abiding citizens, exactly the kind of people we want to build our society upon. I want there to be a better pathway for them to stay here legally. But I also know that some criminals try to leverage the system and that is frustrating for all. I don’t want people to be needlessly turned away who are seeking to immigrate, but I also don’t want immigrants exploited by people who will take advantage of them. All of this makes me feel that folks who offer simplistic solutions are out of touch.

Further, the US isn’t the savior of the world. Some voices in the conversation act like the US is the only hope for immigrants and refugees. Not so. I love my country but it is only one of many great places to live in the world.
Please no mean-spiritedness in the discussion.

Source: Key findings about U.S. immigrants | Pew Research Center

How To Be A Super Guest

This is a guest post from my wife, or “April’s pathetic rant on the other side of hospitality.”

It’s not pathetic, but we just joke around like that:

wreath from etsy

Did you know that hospitality is a two-way street? We are often encouraged to open our homes and hearts to others and rightly so. We recently had a large group of friends over and I’d love to share what they did that made me want to be hospitable every day to people like these:

 

How to be a Super Guest? It’s EASY!

Verbalize your gratitude to your host. Be specific and sincere, but not syrupy.

Offer to help (prep, serving, cleaning up). You’ll often be refused but it’s worth a shot!

BE INTERESTED and INTERESTING. Your hosts want to engage you, not entertain you.

ASK your hosts about what you see around you. Our homes are our inner sanctuaries and you can tell a lot about your hosts by their homes. Look around and take interest in what you see: Their cool photo collection, cooking skills, their obvious Ikea addiction, antique rocker, half-done remodel, their kids, HAM radio, track trophies, goldfish, Deer heads, gourmet coffee station, Raiders Shrine, Congressional Medal of Honor, WHATEVER. Ask your host about them (Our mammoth metal tuna fish tends to be a conversation starter)…

Be COMPLIMENTARY not CRITICAL: Yes, this is for all you stereotypical Mothers-In-Law! Ignore the laundry pile, they already know about it. (better yet, joke about it being smaller than yours) and focus on the houseplants or the new nursery, or the pretty sunlight in their apartment.

Bring your kids, but keep an eye on them, and allow them to explore in limited ways. This is a great time for kids to learn how to be guests too. (I seriously love kids, but our place is a House Of Horrors for them; leaning mirrors everywhere). They can learn that closed doors stay closed. That when they break something they can say ‘sorry’ and move on (this is inevitable so hosts, don’t be so attached to your stuff!). And can I just mention here that there’s nothing so sweet as little kids all saying goodbye with sweet words or waves or hugs? THE BEST.

Return the Favor: Let people into your world too 🙂

 

*************

Check out the cool wreath on Etsy.

 

 

 

Personality Profiles

I think that personality profiles like the Myers – Briggs inventory can be very helpful.

They have helped me to understand myself and others better and grow in thoughtfulness.

But they can also be abused.

Please don’t use your personality label as permission to see yourself as a victim, to complain that no one understands you, as an excuse for moral failures, to make this the unattainable standard for what it means to love you, or to blame the world for not treating you as your particular label requires.

In Praise of Leisure & The Unexpected Temptations of Superabundance

What is the real purpose for making money? How is it that our abundance of money has left us less able to answer that question? How is it that we have misplaced any sense of leisure (which is really just doing culture for its own sake rather than for profit)?

This is a thought provoking article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that seeks to answer these questions.

The authors provide some food for thought, but wrongly place the blame for human greed at the feet of capitalism. I have no desire to defend the evils of our current economy, which seems more like a kind of Frankenstein- with parts of different bodies stitched together in their decay-than anything pure. But I do find it short sighted to miss the fact that all  human history, and every economic system is full of greed and discontent. What human history is NOT full of is abundance. And in part it is capitalism that has helped us arrive at this situation where we are no longer fighting to survive with bare necessities. But it is a two edged sword and we are not doing a very good job at surviving the temptations of superabundance.

“Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all. Then, Keynes wrote, “for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years—that is, by 2030….

“He asked something hardly discussed today: What is wealth for? How much money do we need to lead a good life? This might seem an impossible question. But it is not a trivial one. Making money cannot be an end in itself—at least for anyone not suffering from acute mental disorder. To say that my purpose in life is to make more and more money is like saying that my aim in eating is to get fatter and fatter. And what is true of individuals is also true of societies. Making money cannot be the permanent business of humanity, for the simple reason that there is nothing to do with money except spend it. And we cannot just go on spending. There will come a point when we will be satiated or disgusted or both. Or will we?”

Here is another meaty phrase:

“If the ultimate end of industry is idleness, if we labor and create merely so that our descendants can snuggle down to an eternity of daytime television, then all progress is, as Orwell put it, “a frantic struggle towards an objective which [we] hope and pray will never be reached.” We are in the paradoxical situation of goading ourselves to ever new feats of enterprise, not because we think them worthwhile, but because any activity, however pointless, is better than none. We must believe in the possibility of genuine leisure—otherwise our state is desperate indeed.”

 

Source: In Praise of Leisure – The Chronicle of Higher Education

When and Why We Overlook Unethical Behavior

The folks at the Harvard Business Review point out the natural ways that employees punish unethical behavior-often through social means like walking away from an unethical person or leaving the room when someone enters. Basically this means that when we know someone is a cheater, it is so distasteful that we don’t even want to be around them. But there is an exception, and it is revealing.

When we are willing to tolerate or overlook really bad behavior there is always a reason. Often it is because we are benefitting in some way. It may be financial, social, career advancement, etc.  But the reason is revealing.  If there is real evil in your circumstances and you are unwilling to take a stand against it, you can learn something important about character. The reason you won’t take a stand may reveal what you value most.

Here is something from the article:

“Unethical high-performing employees, however, appear to receive a free pass for their unethical behaviors. These people may be unethical, but they get the job done, and enhance the organization’s short-term profitability along the way.

“This is the case even in organizations that on the whole are considered highly ethical. In our third study, we took into account the organization’s ethical environment and still found the same pattern of results. Irrespective of the extent to which the organization prioritizes ethics, unethical high-performing employees still had better working relationships with their peers and were less socially rejected than their unethical low-performing counterparts. There’s something about being a high performer that appears to mask concerns related to immorality.”

Source: We Don’t Shun Unethical Coworkers If They’re High Performers

The Value of Community and Solitude are Interdependent

lonely

I am studying for a sermon series on community and fellowship for our church and was struck by an odd realization.

The loss of a sense of community also signals the loss of meaningful solitude. The reason is that without meaningful relationships, solitude is no longer a nourishing respite. It is similar to the way sleep becomes different for a person that isn’t able to get out of bed. It still happens, but the way it is experienced is different from the person that is exhausted from a hard day of physical work. Without meaningful community we may fall into a state of constant loneliness, and in such a state periods of solitude may do little more than magnify the feelings of isolation.

Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas

mafia

I found an article on mother’s day in the rabbit hole of internet cross-linking. It has a fascinating story of how an undercover FBI agent realized that the mafia basically closed up shop on mother’s day. Reminds me of the line that Ben Wade says from 3:10 to Yuma, “even bad men love their mama’s.” He says this right before killing a man for calling his mom a whore.

I guess it goes like this, “I plan on snuffing you out, but it’s mother’s day…”

“Taking break from homicides

Burke’s [a mafia leader] gesture was no surprise to his fellow hoodlums: Mother’s Day was the most important Sunday on the organized crime calendar, when homicide took a holiday and racketeering gave way to reminiscing — often over a plate of Mom’s pasta and gravy. 

“These guys, they do have a love for their mothers,” said Joe Pistone, the FBI undercover agent who spent six Mother’s Days inside the Bonanno family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco. “They thought nothing of killing. But the respect for their mothers? It was amazing.” 

So amazing, Pistone recalled, that Bonanno member Benjamin “Lefty Guns” Ruggiero once told him that the Mafia — like a suburban Jersey mall shuttered by blue laws — closed for business when Mother’s Day arrived each May.”

Stranger than fiction….

 

Find the article here

The Power of Conscience

Kronk

We all have an inner voice with a moral bent. It talks to us and we talk back, usually in our heads but sometimes out loud. The Bible calls this conscience. Here is an example of this conversation from a bizarre story that is stranger than fiction. It is from a Forbes article documenting how the uber rich do not escape the hardships of life.

“One of the strangest and disturbing tragedies involves a billionaire heir, Robert Durst who was arrested in 2015, after implicating himself in the suspected murders of three people in HBO’s documentary “The Jinx.” Durst, who is a member of the New York real estate family worth $4.4 billion, had long been suspected to have killed his first wife Kathleen, who went missing in 1982. After leaving an on-camera interview for the documentary, his lapel microphone was still on, and Durst said to himself: “What the hell did I do? Killed ’em all, of course.” And humiliated a family that once had the world in their palm.”

Romans 2:14-15 “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001. Print.

Source: Aubrey McClendon’s Sad Death And 8 Other Tragic Stories Involving The Super Rich – Forbes