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What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

There have been a lot of scoundrels in the news lately. I’ve seen a lot of people say this: “It’s a sickness.” But that’s not true.

People who use power to demean are not addicts. They live in fear and hate themselves. The world is very big, so they put on the trappings of power so they don’t appear so small.

While it is certainly a pathology, it’s not a condition that can’t be controlled.

When a young (at the time) actor inappropriately touched a VJ on MTV as a way of saying “hello,” what he was really doing was trying to gain leverage. He seemed to be unsure of himself and felt a pressure to be larger-than-life, so he did something to discombobulate her.

Emma Thompson described the scandal surrounding a predatory Hollywood producer as a manifestation of “extreme masculinity,” but I would suggest that the opposite is true.

I think such men don’t feel strong and powerful at all. They more likely feel utterly bereft. On paper, they’ve got everything that should lead to fulfillment, confidence, and peace. But somehow, they still feel as insignificant as they did before they achieved “success.”

I don’t know if there’s a “rehab” for this kind of situation. Some would say the answer is church. Getting right with God. That would be true, of course, but it wouldn’t be genuine for such an individual to find faith if it’s forced.

Going forward, maybe it’ll be easier for victims and bystanders to speak at the moment of impact. To say, This isn’t right. Cut it out. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy, but if we all stood up together, it could make a world of difference.

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In the news lately, many have been asserting their right to free speech, such as football players “taking a knee” at games as the national anthem plays as a form of protest.

Last month, a Google employee wrote a message on an internal message board that leaked to the media. Women, in general, he asserted, are more neurotic than men. Maybe the women at work sensed he was taking notes and assessing them in internal memos. That would put anyone on edge!

At the end of the day, it’s a memo on a company board. Otherwise known as one man’s opinion.

In other news, Airbnb canceled the reservations of guests who may have been planning to attend a white nationalist rally.

Even if one’s views are repugnant, there’s something equally offensive about suppressing speech in this way. It’s still profiling. I believe you may be thinking of doing something with which I disagree.

Then there’s the Supreme Court case of the baker refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples for religious reasons. I don’t get it, but would you want someone who hates you and all you stand for alone in a room with your food? What kind of negative energy (not to mention perhaps, shampoo, or something) must have gone into it?

I’d rather know right up front that someone hates the fact that I exist, even if it’s based solely on their own prejudices. They might not like me for what I believe, or what I wear, or some other random reason. It’s better to know how they feel. We don’t have to waste each other’s time. I don’t have to spend my dollars at your establishment.

It’s still a free country. You’ve got the right to be wrong.

And I’ve got the right to keep walking.

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

God was still right where I left him.

You’re home, he said.

Nice to have you back.

Was it all you thought it would be?

And less! I said.

You were right.

He nodded.

Aren’t you going to say, “I told you so?”

He shook his head.

You had to find out for yourself
So you could find yourself.
That’s how you found your way back to me.

Welcome home.

Let’s see. What did I do this weekend?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Well, I built a soapbox for the annoying schmoe in my life, so he can really annoy me in style.

Next, I created a showcase for the pesky things that bother me, so as to really accentuate them.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

By pouring all of our energies into the things we stand against or get irritated by or just can’t even!, without realizing it, we’re tacitly saying: I don’t want this thing in my life, so I’m going to take a selfie with it and put it into a picture frame.

Stuff happens.

Don’t give it life.

Don’t say, this is my problem or my circumstance that can’t be overcome or my Achilles’ Heel.

Don’t put that pronoun on it. It’s not yours. It’s just a thing that happened.

Don’t invest in it in that way, because when you do, you’re crowdfunding the crud.

If gum gets stuck to your shoe, you don’t build it a shrine. You scrape it off.

Here’s what it really is: A moment in time. A thing that was. A speed bump on the road.

Of course, that’s not to diminish the trauma of things that really do set into the psyche and echo, even decades later. But not everything is of that magnitude. Sometimes it’s a matter of not getting out the Dymo Label maker (dating myself there!) and putting a name tag on it.

Letting go of all of that pain clears the way for what doesn’t cause pain. For the good stuff ready to come your way.

So, unplug from that source of “disempower” and get back to your good life. Dear readers, that’s a good place to park your pronoun.

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

The other day, I watched a church service live-stream on Facebook. It occurred to me that I was seeing the exact moment of the lie taking place – yet no one was lying on purpose. The pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ, and many came forward to pray. At the end, he said, “Congratulations! Now you’re born again! All things are made new!”

The lie is in the mood music they’re playing. The warm, welcoming church workers guiding people into their religion. The parishioners nodding as if you’re doing a great thing, this is a big step, your life is about to completely transform!

But that’s the lie of it. That’s the production. The musical number of it.

We expect all vestiges of our former life to just fall away. For all of our insecurities and problems to disappear. Poof! For this encouraging crowd of fellow believers to be there for us always, patting us on the back and giving us a high-five.

Not that anybody’s lying about what faith can do for you. It truly can change your life completely. But that’s the heart-work. That’s work you and God do together, and it happens over time, like a scroll unfurling. No one else can do it for you, and there is no magic prayer to make it happen instantly.

When I took the altar call years ago, in my mind it was more like the “alter call,” as if it would completely change my life instantly. What I came to conclude is that you walk the path with God and maybe alchemizes into of course. Is that you, God? solidifies into a firm foundation of faith.

It’s like that “Just Say No to Drugs” commercial from years ago, that showed an egg frying in a pan, with the voiceover, “this is your brain on drugs.”

In our version, we’ll show the sun rising, flowers blooming, and the earth turning. Massive, mystical, magical happenings – the only common denominator is the One holding it all together.

Good people, This is your soul on God.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

This week, I found myself using this phrase more than once as I read the headlines:

Why are they like that?

For example, reading about “PharmaBro” Martin Shkreli, I found out that his idol is Donald Trump. In pictures, they seem to be doing the same smug smile.

There’s one news article that perplexed me as I wondered why people do what they do – the one about the eighty-year-old woman who delayed a flight for five hours because she threw pennies into the plane’s engine for luck. Headlines characterized her in various ways, “Elderly Passenger,” “Chinese Woman,” “Buddhist Senior.”

She didn’t do this because she’s a senior. It’s not because she’s a woman. Or Asian. Or a Buddhist.

It’s because someone told her that this was “a thing” and she believed it.

Everything we believe is information that came to us through someone in whom we have faith. Parents, teachers, siblings, friends. Pastors, priests, gurus. Nowadays, the internet.

I know people who play their “lucky numbers” in the lottery every day. A man I know hit the “bonus” on the daily lottery number one day and won $500. He was so excited. But. He’s spent five dollars A DAY on those tickets for the last twenty years. He still hasn’t broken even. Actually, if he’d put those five dollars into a jar, he’d have had a nice little nest egg by now.

Actors won’t say the name of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, instead referring to it as “The Scottish Play” because saying its name inside the theater is bad luck. (Just to be on the safe side, I’m not going to write it either! You can Google it. 🙂 Okay, it rhymes with Quack-Breath.)

We do things like this so that good luck will turn our way, or so that, at the very least, bad luck stays away from us.

If I could give advice to the woman who threw pennies into the plane’s engine for luck, it would be this: Keep the change. You’re better off flying on a wing and a prayer!

Recently I read about a pastor who made this amazing pronouncement while speaking of presidential advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump: “It’s just like God to use a young Jewish couple to help Christians.”

I thought, Wow! Speaking on behalf of the Almighty is up there with a Pamplona Bull-Run in terms of risky life choices. I’d be looking over my shoulder for incoming lightning bolts!

The reverend’s familiar tone reminded me of the SNL skit in which Justin Timberlake played Peg, who always ends her hard-luck stories with the catchphrase: “Classic Peg!”

I was shaking my head as I read – the way this man of the cloth spoke about God was similar to the title of the series “That’s So Raven!”

Who could possibly know the mind of the creator of all things so well as to interpret for him? Well, we just FaceTimed the other day. Let me tell you what’s in God’s Facebook feed right now.

Heck to the no, as the late, great Jersey girl, Ms. Whitney Houston, used to say. (Had to spruce up the language a bit there, kind people. Prayer-blog, you know.) Come on now. Nobody speaks for God officially. But I’d like to think that most religions do honor him.

Every so often, I’ll look online to see what churches in my area do in their religious services. One of them insists on full immersion when baptizing new members of their church, and no one is considered a Christian until they get baptized. I looked at the pictures they posted of one such baptism, and I realized that it was just a kid’s pool in somebody’s backyard. Everyone there was dressed in shorts and t-shirts, as if they were at a barbecue!

I thought at least they would have some sort of official water tank in an actual church building, but this is how they do it in that religion.

Of course, your mileage may vary as you ride along the path of faith, but here’s a good rule of thumb: always do the right thing, and let God speak for himself.

Everybody’s trying to be heard. They’re making a point, even if nothing’s being said.

Like the way my cat stalks elegantly into the kitchen, gliding over to his bowl and waiting, back foot out, tail up, as if he’s still in motion. He’s conveying, I’m moving toward this bowl, and as you can see, for some inexplicable reason, it’s not filled to overflowing. It’s only half full. Is there… some…reason for this, hooman?

When I fold laundry, I have to remember that in KitKat’s language, a folded towel reminds him of his early days when he was still getting used to being in a house for the first time. I’d fold an old towel, put it onto the floor, then the couch, then the bed, so he’d realize he could sit anywhere he liked. He was welcome here.

So one time I was folding towels near where KitKat was resting on the bed. I put one down, ready to fold the next one. He immediately got up and came over to the towel, carefully putting one foot on it, looking at me as if to say, Is this okay? Cuz I’m going to sit on this towel you put here for me. Gingerly, the next foot went on, and he looked at me, then the next, until he was sitting in a circle, purring. So nice of you to fold this fresh, clean towel for me! It’s soft and comfy. Even warm! Guess I’ll take an eighteen-hour nap now!

He looked so comfortable there that I just patted his head and went on with the laundry. In his language, he’d heard me say, Sit here, beloved feline friend. It really was a nice gesture. I wish I’d thought of it!

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated when I pray and it seems no answer is forthcoming. But I look around and realize we’ve got a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a peaceful place to call home.

Just like a slow-blink from my KitKat. Seems to me that God sends his love without even saying a word.

On this humble blog, I talk about my health issues, since readers dealing with the same things may relate to my experiences. I’ve got MS,  so I move more slowly than most people. It also takes me longer to process information.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed while writing my post “Facebook Friends in High Places,” that our SueBE had logged in, drafted a post and put it up on the site while I was still finishing my draft! That lady sure gets stuff done.

Now, even after looking at my post for a while, I didn’t catch a glaring error until I was about to hit “publish.” I’d misspelled the name of the wonderful organization I wrote about.

The correct name is this: Skyline Urban Ministry.

What I’d written – twice, yet – was this: Skyland Urban Ministries.

So I got two of the three words wrong. Well, at least I got the word “Urban” right! Heck, I could’ve mis-named it as “Orbit” instead!

Skyland Orbit Ministries. Announcing our revolutionary new Outer Space Outreach! It gets cold on Saturn, even in August. Let’s send up some blankets and space heaters! Mission control? Let’s rocket those missionaries to Mars!

That’s one of the problems with having a condition that affects your mind. It takes longer for things to sink in. It takes longer to write a post. I can’t remember things sometimes, so I write myself lists. Of course, I can’t always remember where I put the list!

That same day, I wanted to find a prayer-poem for a friend, and remembered this one by our Lori. She can write such glorious poetry at the drop of the hat, while I’ll mull over the first line of a prayer I’m writing for days on end.

So even if I can’t accomplish a fraction of what SueBE and Lori can get done, we’re a team, so I’ll trudge along at my pace and ask God to take care of the rest. Mistakes may be made, but we’re all only human. When all is said and done, life really is a team effort.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! It’s going to be the greatest thing that’s ever happened!! Ever!!”

Now, you might think these are the words of some high-pressure salesman peddling Ginsu Knives or a Timeshare in Timbuktu, but it’s actually a man talking about tomorrow’s total solar eclipse. He lives in the “Zone of Totality” and he’s as excited as all get-out.

“I can’t think of anything else I’ve ever experienced that will ever even come close! Ever! Not one thing! It’s life-changing!”

Not as excited: his wife, hovering nearby, just out of camera range.

You can feel she’s doing the math in her head.

Huh.

No event as meaningful?

Our marriage?

The birth of our three children?

As he finished the interview, he looked at his wife briefly and held her gaze. While I couldn’t see her face, I could extrapolate from his what she conveyed silently.

I’ll bet this was his internal dialogue:

Uh-oh. Wonder how I’m getting home. Guess I’ll be surfing the sofa tonight!

The “Zone of Totality” is going to be kind of chilly for that guy! He wasn’t using the good sense the Good Lord gave him.

I’m not sure what people expect to happen, but it really has been over-hyped. One town hired an “Eclipse Event Manager” two years ago!

In fact, I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people to look at the eclipse, because somebody is going to end up with damaged vision.

If you’re in the Zone, please use your good sense and remember this: looking at the eclipse for even a moment without certified eyewear can damage your eyes permanently. Why not just stay home and watch it on NASA’s Livestream?

As for our formerly-hyped up guy from the interview, I wish him good luck in the doghouse. Silver lining is, he’ll probably get a decent view of the eclipse from there!

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