Taking a Break

Is it possible to get PTSD from the news? I am beginning to think it might just be so. It  would be hard to argue that the current news climate is anything but stressful and depressing. It seems as though every day we are bombarded with nothing but bad news.

A healthcare bill that threatens to devastate the many who depend on Medicaid.

Syria.

Yet another child left to die in a hot car.

Russia’s tampering with our election process.

One more outrageous “Presidential” tweet.

STOP!

I needed a break today, so I spent an inordinate amount of time watching  cute pet videos.

I went to the sewing room and lost myself in my current quilt project.

I spent some Friday Free-Reading time and finished a book.

Finally, I went in search of some good news stories.  I found several. (Thanks, Google.)  Here are a few.

In Florida, dozens of strangers formed a human chain in the Gulf of Mexico to save people caught in a riptide.

Closer to home, an Idaho couple was reunited with their dog that had been lost in the wilderness for months.

Preschool sweethearts, who had lost touch with one another, have been reunited and married. (He proposed in front of their old preschool.)

Malala Yousafsai has graduated from secondary school and continues to advocate for women’s education.

President Jimmy Carter has been released from the hospital after having been treated for dehydration. He’s 92. He still builds houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Robinson Cano just hit another home run.

Good news is all around us. Sometimes you just have to go in search of it. I’m glad I did. I can’t make the bad news go away, but I feel better.

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Bumper Stickers, T-shirts, and Mean Tweets

It comes as no surprise to me, but Donald Trump has once again gone too far with nasty tweets, this time about the co-hosts of Morning Joe. His comments, which would have earned a third grader a week of detention, went far beneath the dignity of the office of President of the United States. To say I am disturbed and disgusted would be an understatement.

What disturbs me more is that Trump’s staff defended him.

A number of politicians have called him to task for his comments, but Trump will not likely face any consequence of note.

Whatever happened to the return to civility that was promised just two weeks ago after the shooting of people practicing for an upcoming baseball game among Congressmen? It lasted about a day before both sides were once again sniping at each other.

The bigger question is where did all this meanness come from? It’s been around for a long time. (Just ask any woman who survived 8th grade, and she will tell you all about the mean girl culture at her school. I remember it, and I was in the 8th grade way back in the 1960s.)

A few years ago, I was sitting in my car at a stoplight downtown in our very conservative, Republican town. I had just pasted an “Obama-Biden” bumper sticker on my car. Someone behind me honked. I looked in the rear view mirror, expecting to see a negative look or impolite gesture. To my surprise and delight, I saw a good friend giving me the thumbs up sign. We have laughed about that from time to time. It’s hard to live in a community whose politics don’t match your own. You have to laugh about it now and again.

For years, people have worn their politics, religion, and world outlook on their cars and  T-shirts. While some of the slogans they display are cute or inane, they often point to a latent meanness; the printed words often relay things the wearer or driver might not say to your face, but the sentiment is hard to miss.

On an evening walk through my neighborhood one day, I passed a pickup with a tailgate full of hateful, chilling slogans that announced the owner carried weapons and would not hesitate to use them at the slightest provocation. I shivered as I walked by. I cannot bring myself to repeat those slogans here.

Conservatives are not alone in their meanness. Progressives and liberals say their share of things that are none too nice.

Bullying and incivility have always been with us. It seems more prominent in this age of social media and instant news. I wish I knew how to make it go away. I want people to be nice to each other.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to “do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12)  We would do well to remember and act upon His instruction. It would solve a lot of the world’s problems.

Bible pix

Running Away

I ran away from home today. (I do this now and again. I always return.) I am retired, but lately it seems that other people have been scheduling my time for me. This appointment, that social function… It seems to never end. It’s been weeks since I’ve had an entire day with which to do as I please. I was ready to take advantage of the time.

As I got ready to leave the house, I kept finding things that needed to be done. I didn’t want to forget, but I also didn’t want to take the time to write them down, so I started doing each task as I thought of it. I finally told myself, “Gee. If I don’t run away, I’ll never get there.” I shrugged off the guilt trip about the little tasks that I was leaving undone. It was time to leave.

I gathered up my writing tools and headed for my favorite coffee shop. After buying my usual mocha I looked for an empty table. What luck! I scored a seat by the sunny window; a rare find.

My personal rule is that I may and must write until the coffee’s gone. Writing helps me think through things. As I sat in the sun and wrote, I realized the sources of my recent stress: worries about this and that, daily busyness, the current news cycle, Donald Trump. The words flowed from pen to paper. I articulated prayers. The stress began to melt.

I’ve come to think of my running away days as a type of mini-retreat. Going to a neutral quiet spot, away from everyday life, allows me to sort out my thoughts and refresh my mind. (Yes, I know a coffee shop isn’t the quietest place; but there’s a certain anonymity that lets me be quiet within.)

I should run away more often.

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Praying for the World

Donald Trump has the nuclear codes. Kim Jong Un has been launching test missiles. Neither man seems even remotely mentally stable.

I am old enough to remember the shadow of the Cold War. I was very young, so I did not understand; yet vivid memories of that time remain.

When a plane flew by overhead, I ducked.

I played school with the older girl next door. She pulled out a map of the world. The “lesson” was about Russia’s threat to bomb Moscow, Idaho, because Moscow stole the name of their city.

Such is the way children play out what they overhear adults say in hushed conversations, thinking the children won’t hear.

Now that I am old enough to understand, it’s much scarier this time.

I cannot begin to envision the annihilation of a nuclear war. One need only look back a few decades, though, to see the aftermath of only two bombs–the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So I am saying extra prayers these days for the world–for its safety, for its preservation, for the sanity of its leaders, for peace.

Lord, help us.

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Photo: public domain

…about Praying for Enemies

Before becoming a Christian in 1979, I read the Bible. All of it. I wanted to know what I was signing onto when I joined the church. Shortly after that, during the Iran Hostage Crisis, I prayed for the Ayatollah Khomeini to know Jesus. I was quickly and soundly chastised by another church member.

Huh? Isn’t that what I was supposed to do? Having read in the Bible that we are to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), I was fairly certain I was doing the right thing. Jesus himself set the example while on the Cross, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Still, the disapproval of the fellow church member stung me to the core. Was I somehow wrong? Had Jesus mentioned an exception that I had missed in my initial reading of the Scriptures? Today, after years of study and prayer, I remain convinced that I was right to pray for the Ayatollah.

I was reminded of that long-ago incident Sunday when someone in church requested prayers for our enemies; in her next breath she mentioned President Trump. I cannot pretend to have read her mind. Was the implication that Trump is an enemy intentional, or merely coincidence?

It is only fair that I tell you I did not support Trump for election. I do not believe he is doing a good job as President. I believe his behavior is erratic, reckless, and dangerous. I do not like him.

Enemy or not, regardless of political views, the President needs and deserves the prayers of anyone who believes in prayer. Jesus said so.

That brings me to my dilemma.

I know I should pray for Trump, but so far my prayers have been half-hearted. I don’t see him changing his behavior any time soon. I realize I am praying for a miracle. Am I setting myself up for God to say, “No.”? How can I word my prayer so I get the answer I want? Is my faith so small that I cannot pray for a miracle?

But, wait. Jesus didn’t say to pray only if I feel like it. He didn’t say to pray only if I think my prayers will yield the answers I want. He simply said to pray.

Funny, isn’t it, how one prayer leads to another? In order to pray for the President, I need to pray for a softening of my stubborn attitude. I need to pray for obedience and persistence in prayer. I need to pray for God’s patience with me.

Most importantly, I need to pray for a strengthening of faith that allows me to trust God to answer prayers the way He knows they need to be answered. He has a greater plan than you or I can imagine.

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Photo: public domain