The Eureka Effect

I love eureka moments.

The aha moment.

The big, duh.

The New York Times recently reported the eureka-moment findings of Judith Moskowitz, a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University. Her research uncovered eight skills that can build positive emotions, improve our quality of life, and maybe even add years to our lives.

At the University of California, Moskowitz studied people in crisis and observed their ability to feel calm and happy, even in the midst of dire circumstances.

She and her colleagues found that people with AIDS, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses lived longer when they remained positive. They tended to stay connected with friends, followed their doctor’s orders, and embraced a healthier lifestyle.

The eight skills are:

■ Recognize a positive event each day.

■ Savor the event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.

■ Start a daily gratitude journal.

■ List a personal strength and note how you used it.

■ Set an attainable goal and note your progress.

■ Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.

■ Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.

■ Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

The data showed that when patients practiced the eight skills, their immune levels were stronger and they were less likely to suffer depression.

Moskowitz was inspired by her findings, and I was too. I’ve been teaching these principles for years. Now there’s empirical evidence to give them cachet.

You can’t argue with science.

Eureka moments are always a good thing, especially when the evidence has been there all along.

Moskowitz’s findings remind me of another eureka moment. A post-Easter eureka moment. One I visited again recently in the book of Luke.

Jesus was walking along the road to Emmaus and came upon two of his followers. Seeing they were still visibly shaken by the crucifixion, he asked them what they were upset about.

Not recognizing him, one of them answered, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

Then they began telling Jesus about the prophet from Nazareth who was powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. He was sentenced to death, crucified, and buried. Now his body was missing from the tomb, and they were deeply troubled.

Jesus responded by offering them comfort through a eureka moment. He used their own scriptures, centuries old, to highlight truth that had been there all along.

Jesus spoke to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:24-27)

I often wonder what makes Jesus recognizable to some and unrecognizable to others, especially when it comes to his own followers.

Grief? Fear? Anger? Prejudice? Disillusionment? Confusion?

It makes me wonder how many other things are just waiting to be discovered.

Keeping our eyes open takes effort. But it’s definitely the stuff eureka moments are made of.

 

 

 

 

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When Atheists Smile

Thomas Nagel is a renowned professor of philosophy at New York University.

Thomas Nagel

Born in Yugoslavia to a Jewish family, he began publishing philosophy at the ripe old age of twenty-two. Fifty years later, he’s written extensively on how the human mind has been shaped by modern science.

In his book, Mind and Cosmos, Nagel, an atheist, states, “I lack the sensus divinitatis (sense of divity) that enables—indeed compels—so many people to see in the world the expression of divine purpose as naturally as they see in a smiling face the expression of human feeling.”

Nagel was responding to a statement made by French theologian John Calvin five-hundred years ago.

Calvin wrote that “there exists in the human mind and indeed by natural instinct, some sensus divinitatis, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead…. …this is not a doctrine which is first learned at school, but one as to which every man is, from the womb, his own master; one which nature herself allows no individual to forget.”

Calvin, who obviously shared the Apostle Paul’s tendency toward run-on sentences, was echoing the insights found in the book of Romans. It states that every one of us is born with some awareness of God through creation and conscience.

Nagel is an interesting guy. He distinguishes himself from some of his more radical atheist contemporaries. Though he resists a “religious” framework, Nagel says the idea that complex life originated purely by accident flies in the face of common sense. “Where does rationality fit in?” he wonders.

Nagel says a teleological argument is far more logical than a purely materialistic one. Something of purpose must account for the complexities of life, particularly conscious life. Though Nagel stops short of offering ideas as to what that “something” might be.

Careful, Thomas. This sounds dangerously close to sensus divinitatis to me.

I’m always fascinated by discussions on the relationship between science and faith. Or, more specifically, faith in God, as all scientists have faith in something.

John Lennox

Recently, I heard an interview with Oxford Professor John Lennox, a personal hero of mine and a fellow author at Kregel. He said that while people have always lived in varying degrees of enlightenment, this militant new atheism we hear about is a contemporary concept. It’s a complete preoccupation with self-aggrandizement.

When Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity, he didn’t say, “How brilliant am I!” Instead he said, “What a brilliant God I’m discovering.”

There’s never been a contest between science and faith, Lennox says. “God no more competes with science as an explanation for the universe than Henry Ford competes with the law of internal combustion as an explanation for the motor car. You don’t choose between Henry Ford and the automobile any more than you choose between God and science.”

C S Lewis said men became scientists because they believed in the law of science and a law giver. There is rationality and mathematic intelligibility behind the universe that compels men and women of science forward, says Lennox, a professor of mathematics himself.

But hubris in science (which is fancy-talk for excessive pride) is always a dangerous commodity, Lennox points out. Humility reminds us that scientific advance has never been about competing with God. It’s about revealing the glory of God.

Maybe that’s the smile on God’s face.

 

Listen to the Lennox interview.

 Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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“Stealing Lettuce”

Back in college, I was living in a sorority house and paying for meals I never ate.

Literally. I was never home.

One day, pressed for cash, I had a thought. Since I was already paying hundreds of dollars for food I wasn’t eating, maybe I could help myself to a head of lettuce and a box of Saltines and take them with me.

So, before heading to class, one morning, I went down to the kitchen with my backpack in tow. I grabbed a head of lettuce from the fridge and crackers from the shelf.

And wouldn’t you know it. The moment I shoved the food into my backpack, a sister walked in.

We said hello, and I walked out of the kitchen. I wasn’t sure if she had seen me take the food, but I felt ridiculously guilty.

But was I guilty? The meal plan wasn’t really a take-out service.

Guilt is an interesting beast. We should feel guilty when we break rules. In fact, guilt is a useful tool, evidence that we’re not too far gone. It’s when we do the bad stuff and feel nothing we should worry.

The Greek word for conscience is translated suneidesis, which means moral awareness. But I’ve often wondered about those of us whose suneidesis-ness is too tender? Or what about the other extreme, those of us whose suneidesis is on the blink?

Either extreme can be dangerous.

There has been a lot of talk about lying, lately, and if it’s ever excusable to stretch the truth. If you want to get technical, according to the Old Testament, it is. But, before we go nuts, we need to temper that with the 9th Commandment.

In the book of Joshua, we read about a woman named Rahab. She hid two spies whose lives were in danger, and then she lied about it. Later, not only was she not condemned for lying, but Rahab, a prostitute, no less, was actually commended in the book of Hebrews for her faith. She had looked to a higher truth, namely obeying God rather than man.

As we watch the latest Supreme Court nominee being questioned, (often compared to the political equivalent of a complete rectal examine…streamed live) most of us would like to think our judges could hold to our constitution and execute balance. Most of us, anyway.

Do we really need another story like the one about the 5-year-old girl from North Carolina who was suspended from school for playing with a stick that looked like a gun? Or the 6-year-old boy from Colorado who was accused of sexual harassment for kissing a girl?

Balance is the definition of wisdom, like the story of King Solomon, parodied to perfection by Newman on Seinfeld.

I used to find comfort in dogmatism. It felt safe being wrapped in one of those trendy swaddle-blankets that make babies look like tortillas.

Then, as I processed a little more life, I began feeling strangled, like I now imagine those poor babies feel. Let them stretch!

Security is one thing, but a straitjacket is quite another. And so it is with guilt.

I’ve discovered that avoiding extremes may come down to asking ourselves two simple questions:

  1. Do I justify behaviors others find objectionable? Or…
  2. Was I born with a “Tell me I’m good” sign pinned to my back?

A “yes” answer to either question should give us pause, because the guilt we were designed to process was never meant to paralyze us. It was meant to keep our creative selves on track, which is the full message of Christ.

Guilt. Grace. Forgiveness. Balance. Even for a lettuce thief like me.

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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Making Sense of Life

There are lots of things in life that just don’t make sense.

Like, whose cruel joke was it to put an “S” in lisp? Why is there brail on the keys of my drive-thru cash station? Why did I wait all day for school to end just so I could go home and play school?

I don’t lose a lot of sleep over these kinds of mysteries, but, sometimes, the bigger stuff can get to me. Like the concept of forgiveness.

It’s one thing to forgive an infringement that was unintentional. But if it was deliberate, forget about it. It feels so good to hang onto our anger, even if it sucks the life out of us.

I guess like everything else, it’s all about perspective. It’s about seeing things the way they are rather than how they feel. It’s about asking what was behind the pain that was inflicted.

My uncle told a story about the time he sliced his hand open during one of his building projects. As he spoke, he lifted his hands for emphasis, and I thought of how they looked exactly like I remember my grandpa’s, worn but gentle.

He was told he’d need stitches by the local doctor who was also an old friend and getting on in years. He cleaned the wound, stitched it up, and sent my uncle on his way.

On his return visit, the doctor made small talk while he removed my uncle’s sutures. The gash had been deeper than he thought, the doctor said, but nothing like the guy who’d been in the other day.

As the doctor described the “other” incident, my uncle realized he was talking about him.

I’m not sure how much longer after that the doc finally hung up his stethoscope. But I do know he left my uncle with a healthy scar and a great story to tell, one that illustrates how perception and reality can be confused. Though one hardly needs early dementia for that. Wounded emotions can easily do the trick.

Anne Lamott

In Anne Lamott’s book, ironically entitled Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, she talks about pain and perspective. She writes honestly about life’s difficulties, including depression, alcoholism, and coming to terms with God.

Anger might seem appropriate, and sometimes it is, at least for a season. But bitterness that’s left to itself can fester like an open wound and destroy even the healthiest parts of our lives.

Lamott points to C S Lewis who in Mere Christianity reminds us of how liberating Christ’s forgiveness is. It’s the example he left for us to follow, though we may need to start with smaller steps. As C S Lewis puts it, “If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.”

In a world like ours, filled with frailties and failures, bitterness can feel like the better option. But if we want to move past the pain, forgiveness is the better reality. Sometimes it’s the only thing that does make sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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If Terrorists Were Blond

I wonder.

Alexander Ludwig of “Vikings”

If the guys who flew the planes into the Twin Towers were Scandinavian, would I feel differently about travel bans?

Would I be offended if the TSA took a second look at my passport because I have blonde hair and blue eyes?

If a few radical European Christians were beheading infidels, would the ACLU still bring charges of religious discrimination against the ban?

Let’s face it, President Trump had no idea things would go this far when he threw his hat into the ring.

Then, he woke up in the White House, one morning, and started reading documents the rest of us don’t get to see. Basically, he freaked out when he saw the list of credible threats made against the United States and announced, “Not on my watch.”

The threats may not have been new to our country, but they were definitely new to our president. This is new territory for all of us.

Last Saturday, the Dutch government ruffled all sorts of feathers when they denied Turkey’s foreign minister his request to hold a public rally in the Netherlands.

The Turkish President vented to a crowd in Istanbul by accusing the Dutch leaders of being nervous and cowardly. “They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists,” he said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Dutch Prime Minister said he understood the Turkish leader’s anger but called his remarks “crazy” and “way out of line.”

The next day, in response to the incident, I heard a woman interviewed on NPR call the Dutch Prime Minister a “white supremacist.” Where have we heard that before?

It isn’t easy being a leader in a democracy, especially these days. And it’s even harder being an immigrant. How do you keep a people safe without harming other’s rights?

Name-calling isn’t working out so well. Nor is pointing out the obvious problems, like some Michael Moore documentary.

Yeah, we all see the problems, but where are the solutions?

Several European countries who looked down their noses at the United States, (What’s new?) decided to take the high road and open their borders to refugees. And while that may have been the right thing to do, it hasn’t come without serious consequences.

Germany allowed migrant workers and asylum seekers to pour over their borders. This provided some relief, but it came with a new set of problems for both the Germans and the foreigners.

For one thing, security issues have become a major concern. This was highlighted by the Christmas Market attack in Berlin last December that left 12 dead and 56 injured.

And refugees feel the strain too. Most of them are heartbroken, homesick, and longing for peace. Young men are of particular concern as they feel displaced and frustrated.

The fact is, we may not agree with every move our leaders make. But it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand their struggle to balance sympathy with security.

A little grace might help and a mantra based on the idiom we learned as kids: Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. This enlightened quote is thought to have originated with the Native Americans. But in 1895, a poem called Judge Softly by Mary T. Lathrap actually replaced shoes with moccasins, which is how I learned it.

I’m not sure if that version offends Native Americans, mainly because I’m not a Native American. Nor am I an African American, a Hispanic, or a Muslim.

I’m also not a Scandinavian refugee trying to navigate tight borders as I flee persecution.

But I do know that when we embrace empathy from all angles, as the proverb suggests, we become a little less of the problem and more of the solution. Regardless of our hair color.

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel

 

 

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Not Your Mama’s Church

Recently, my mom and I attended the 90th anniversary of the church we grew up in. She wasn’t the oldest person asked to stand, but she was the oldest person to attend the church, dating back to 1939.

The building has changed and expanded. The organ has been replaced by a rock band.

Looking around, I felt a little like I do when I drive past my old high school which is now encased in new concrete. I hardly recognize it, but I know it’s in there somewhere.

The church has definitely had its share of painful metamorphoses. As the old saying goes, church would be perfect if it weren’t for the people.

Still, as the room filled to overflowing, representing more cultures and languages than I’d ever seen as a kid, I knew it was alive. Changed as it had, it was standing on really healthy ground.

Driving home the next day, I thought about how quickly life changes, for the good or the bad of it. Interestingly, NPR was interviewing podcasters Toby Morrell of Bad Christian and Mike McHargue of The Liturgists. Their podcasts highlight how the church, like any living organism, continues to change.

Both men were brought up in the church and came to a place in life where they felt the need to explore the middle space between skepticism and faith. Consequently, they created podcasts that attract millions of people who’ve fallen through the cracks and find “church too dogmatic and atheism too dismissive.”

A study released in 2015 by the Pew Research Center shows that millennials have been leaving Catholic and mainline Protestant churches in droves since at least 2007. But it also revealed that most of them, along with absentee Boomers, have not lost their belief in God.

Matt Carter, Toby Morrell, and Joey Svendsen at Bad Christian Podcast.

McHargue will tell you he enjoyed his upbringing. But as he grew and started facing the challenges of life-specifically his parent’s divorce after 30 years of marriage-he started looking to the Bible for answers in the way he’d been taught to read it. His faith fell apart.

Morrell grew up in a church so conservative that it split from other Southern Baptist churches because they were considered too liberal. He said Christianity never fully represented him, and he always felt like an outsider. That was until he read about the heroes of the Bible who did some really bad things. The Sunday school teachers had obviously kept those details under wraps.

The two podcasts are wildly successful, but they’re not without their detractors. Morrell’s language is raw and brutally honest as he speaks about sex. McHargue talks candidly about LGBTQ issues, science, and evolution.

However, they welcome the criticism they receive and say that one of their own critiques of the church is that you “can’t” critique it. Respecting people’s minds and encouraging their questions is what leads to vitality.

Indeed.

There are 7 billion people on the planet, and God isn’t threatened by them growing at their own pace. But these are tough topics, particularly for church leaders who are entrusted with insight and want to get it right.

And while McHargue and Morrell see a place for podcasts in this age of technology, they don’t minimize the importance of connection. Like the early days of the church, they remain committed to organizing gatherings where groups of people can trade notes, find community, and maybe even discover a church that will love them as they are. They’re definitely out there.

In fact, the guys aren’t looking to tear churches down but simply make them aware of their need to speak to everyone. McHargue sees the future as including both the institutional church as well as what he refers to as the church in exile.

“Wherever people gather together around a table, God can be present,” McHargue says. That’s where you find healthy ground.

Listen to the NPR interview here. 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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Maybe Our Worst is Our Best

This is the time of year I start looking forward to spring and the thick scent of lilacs. They hold a mystical power over grown kids like me and make us 10 again.

Every spring we played outside wrapped in their fragrance…not that it mattered. The only thing we cared about were the streetlights reminding us to go home a little later each day.

Sometimes lilacs bring me back to the sixth grade. It’s the evening of my big brother’s pre-prom party. My dad’s newly renovated basement was perfect, and on the night of the dance, it smelled of fresh cedar and candles.

I was allowed to hang around just long enough to see the couples arrive looking like royalty. The girls in their long dresses and each boy in a tux. The basement came alive with noise and music.

After the party, my parents went to work on the dishes stacked on the counter and in the sink. I can still see my dad standing in the kitchen with a dishtowel in one hand and a plate in the other.

He looked up and noticed a black cloud spreading quickly across the ceiling. His eyes traced its source to the basement door that opened to billows of black smoke. He slammed it shut and yelled for us to get out.

As I shoved our collie out the side door, I heard my mom calling for the fire department and momentarily forgetting our address. I circled around to the front porch and yelled to my sister through the screen door. She was upstairs drying her hair and wouldn’t have paid any attention to me if she hadn’t heard the commotion coming from the kitchen.

My dog and I stood for a moment in the darkness on our freshly mowed lawn. The quiet fragrance gave no indication of the chaos inside. Then, the silence broke, and the faint sound of sirens came from every direction. Within minutes our street was lined with emergency vehicles and crowds of people who appeared from nowhere.

On their way to the prom, my brother and his friends had decided to stop at the 7-11. Another friend pulled up beside them, looked over at my brother and said, “Your house is on fire.”

Eventually, the fire was put out, and we were told it was caused by a low burning candle placed on a bookcase in the basement. The candle had been blown out but not before kindling the dry wood above it. Once ignited, the secret flames quickly climbed up the heating duct that led to my sister’s bed.

It was a scary event, and the damage to our house was extensive, particularly to my dad’s beautiful new basement. It was gone.

But like any kid, the seriousness of the situation was lost on me. All I knew was that we were forced to live in a hotel for months, and I finally got the swimming pool I’d always wanted. An indoor one, at that.

My sixth-grade popularity rating soared.

I learned some valuable lessons about the paradoxes of life, too, on that warm spring evening. I saw friends and strangers alike gather around us and offer their homes and their beds.

It’s the kind of thing we hear about every night on the news, if we’re listening. Our worst situations provide our best opportunities to shine.

A lesson the lilacs won’t let me forget.

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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Compulsive Thoughts

Do you control your thoughts or do your thoughts control you?

Actually, the brain is pretty fascinating. The same creative power that can enable us to run a company, raise a family, or invent the next big thing, can also steer us off a cliff.

The brain is a control center telling our bodies what to do. It’s also an organ and can get sick like any other body part.

Neuroscientists talk about chemical synapses and neurotransmitters amongst themselves. But for the rest of us, they divide our minds into two parts.

The conscious mind is where we think and make our decisions. The unconscious mind is where we don’t need to think. We forget we have a digestive tract until it reminds us it’s there.

It sounds simple, but the mind is really a mystery. Why do we wrestle with our thoughts? Philosophers, theologians, and psychologists all contribute important insights to that question.

Sharon Begley is a science journalist for the Wall Street Journal. In her new book, Can’t. Just. Stop., Begley looks at compulsive behavior and makes a distinction between an addiction and a compulsion.

An addiction is a behavior that typically begins with a “joyous” outcome. It’s something we want to repeat. A compulsion, on the other hand, has its roots in anxiety. It’s a behavior we repeat in order to drain our anxious feelings.

Recently, while speaking at a women’s conference on the empowerment of self-control, I shared my own experiences with compulsive behavior. Thirteen years of panic attacks taught me more about anxiety disorders than I ever wanted to learn

For years, I lived with a pulmonary system that was fueling adrenalin and anxiety into my system. I thought my anxious tendencies were a personal weakness and something I was bringing on myself.

Then, one day, while walking through a K-Mart in South Carolina, I found a little paperback by Dr. Claire Weekes. In the 1960’s, Dr. Weekes was a game-changer in the field of anxiety disorders. Her insights into brain function helped me hang on for 13 years until I was finally diagnosed and treated with heart medication.

I love to share her story about a pediatric nurse who was struggling with some disturbing thoughts. The more she tried to “not” think about them, the more compulsive they became.

She was carrying a baby past a window, one night, when she suddenly thought, What if I threw this baby out the window? She was so horrified by the thought, it began to torment her.

Dr. Weekes reassured the woman about the harmlessness of random thoughts. People have them all the time and rarely pay any attention. The nurse, however, had been working late hours and was vulnerable through fatigue and fear. So, the troubling thought stuck.

The doctor instructed the woman to simply let the thought come and go without giving it any more attention than it deserved. In time, through rest and diversion, it would lose its punch. And it did.

Overcoming a compulsion begins by recognizing its source. Only then can we begin to harness our brain power and tap into the self-control we need, especially when we’re drawn to the cliff.

 

 

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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The Secret to Happiness

Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to talk about relationships. And not just about the obvious stuff, like sending flowers, cooking gourmet, or stringing the perfect words together.

In 1938, the Grant Study, the longest study of human development, began following the lives of Harvard University men. In the 1970’s, it merged with a similar study that had begun in the 1940s but focused on less privileged young men from inner city Boston tenements.

Researchers periodically assessed the physical and emotional well-being of the study’s participants. This helped them determine the impact of social status and upbringing on personal happiness.

Robert Waldinger at TED

Robert Waldinger, a Harvard psychiatrist, took over the study in 2003 and shared his findings in a TED Talk he gave in 2015. So far, it’s gotten 13 million views.

Waldinger’s takeaway was clear: Those who maintain strong relationships, and not just romantic ones, are healthier and happier, regardless of their background or income. Relationships tend to buffer us from the “slings and arrows” of growing old.

On the other hand, brain function and overall health tends to deteriorate faster in those who isolate themselves, particularly by mid-life.

The results of the 75-year-old study indicate that a good life is more than wealth, fame, and career success. Turns out money really can’t buy happiness, though who among us wouldn’t like to try?

Waldinger’s findings include a caveat as well, one that speaks loudly to this generation. Casual relationships, such as those sustained only through social media, don’t provide the same outcome.

As I read Waldinger’s report, I realized that for some people, relationships are easier said than done. This is especially true for those who are relationally challenged, such as the extreme introvert or even the broken hearted whose pain prefers solitude.

Several years ago, I proved this theory when I found myself in the thick of depression. Reaching out to other people and fighting the complete preoccupation with self isn’t easy when you’re sad. But I knew I’d need to force myself to take the first step if I wanted to recover.

So, one day, I peeled myself off the couch and clicked onto our church website to see the list of service opportunities. Trust me, nothing sounded worse.

Still in my sweats, I remember the day I crept in the back door of the church and began stocking the shelves of the food pantry. It was easy. I didn’t have to think or speak to anyone.

Dry goods on the left. Perishables on the right.

As I drove home that day, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I could probably do it again next week. So I did. And little by little the tiny steps I took became a giant leap forward.

Without even trying, I had joined a group and made new friends. And the thing I learned about getting connected by volunteering or joining a club is that most people want to make a friend. I also learned that when it comes to relationships and our happiness, one step can change everything.

We weren’t meant to live alone, so get out there. Take that first step and get connected. According to the research, it’s worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

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A Political Weigh-In

As the political wrangling continues, it becomes more difficult to resist the urge to comment about online posts. Particularly posts from those whose dietary habits are extreme. Whether they gorge themselves on liberal propaganda or conservative, they regurgitate the same unpleasant aftertaste.

Most of us can see merit in both sides of any partisan argument and find it difficult to squeeze our size 10 sensibilities into size 2 ideologies. Not without political muffin-tops, anyway.

The divisions between the parties are mind-boggling. I’ll read posts and then check out the facts and think, “Wow, did they even listen to the interview they’re referencing?”

For years, I’ve heard conservative people criticize the media for being biased and liberal. Frankly, I’ve often found the arguments weak, but this election has been enlightening.

I’ve watched World News Tonight on ABC for years. Both Diane Sawyer and David Muir have had me reaching for a hanky with their Person of the Week. But as the presidential campaign began to heat up, I found it fascinating to watch the highly-evolved, open-minded Muir try to stay neutral. It wasn’t easy, even for this seasoned journalist.

No one would argue Trump has been clumsy and even caustic in his delivery. He’s avoided political correctness to a fault. But anyone paying attention would realize this is exactly what got him elected.

I forced myself to sit through Trump’s inaugural address. When he finished, FOX News pointed out his desire to “unite our country and create solutions” to problems we all see. MSNBC pointed out how “divisive and negative” Trump sounded.

Did they hear the same speech?

Unfortunately, this kind of polarized rhetoric is routine. Obama wanted to reform healthcare, so he was accused of being against the middle class. Trump doesn’t feel people who oppose abortion should have to pay for it, so he is accused of being against women and their reproductive health.

Really?

And it’s not just the media. Some of our political leaders need to be called out for stirring up even more trouble and division than there already is.

There were plenty of people unhappy when President Obama was elected. Disappointment happens every four years. But I didn’t see any of them staying home from school because the election results gave them a tummy ache.

I had hoped the election of our first African American president would lead to more racial harmony, which is not to say that uniting the country to one party is doable or desirable. As I’ve said before, the sound of two parties disagreeing should be music to our ears. It’s the wheels of democracy in motion.

But how can we walk the fine line between democracy and discrimination?

Should the owner of a restaurant be forced to make it a smoke-free zone when cigar chewers are the clientele he’s looking to attract? Should a conservative owner of a bakery be forced to make a gay couple’s wedding cake?

Why is this so difficult? Couldn’t non-smokers dine somewhere else? Couldn’t the gay couple find another bakery?

Time will tell, as it always does, whether or not this new administration can succeed. But in the meantime, what I really think we need is the ability to listen more and speak less, as the New Testament points out, at least until all the facts are in. We could use a healthy dose of grace to respect each other’s differences too, whether they’re PC or not.

And let’s face it, we’d all benefit from an intense weight-loss program. Something designed to help squeeze our full-figured opinions into an attractive one-size-fits-all label called, American.

 

 

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