Friday, September 04, 2015

Dear A: Your Country is Not Exploding

I have a friend whose family lives overseas. Sometimes, when big things happen in the news, it is hard to put it into perspective.  It's easy to forget that when news happens, normal life is still going on, too.  The subsequent reaction to the Center for Medical Progress's investigative videos is one of those things.  To them, and especially to their teenage daughter, it feels like "my country is exploding."  It is hard to watch from afar.

Dear A:

Over the last couple of months, we are finding out that so many terrible things, far worse than we ever imagined, are being done to little babies in the name of "freedom." It's horrible. It's awful.

But our whole nation is not exploding. In fact, for the first time in a long time, there is hope.

There is a saying "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, and those who do are doomed to know that we are repeating it," except it isn't always tragic to know that we are repeating it. Sometimes, it is a comfort.

I know history.  I know that within the history of mankind, there is a continual cycle of committing atrocities against another people -- a people that can be defined as "other," and then gradually, realizing that the people are not so "other," and then they repent and they stop.

It's not even unusual for cruelty to be proclaimed as a virtue.  Look at "The Irish Question" that the British contended with.  Look at colonialism in many countries.  Look at the Holocaust or the Armenian Genocides.  These are just recent examples.

In our own country, there are many examples too, but the most clear is slavery, and that is often what Pro-Life advocates try to use to highlight the evils of abortion.  For the sake of our own comfort, Americans enslaved many and treated them horribly based on the color of their skin.  Even the slaves who were treated well still had the most basic of human rights denied them.  The laws and the Supreme Courts sided with the slave-owners, even binding the consciences of those who were opposed, making them obligated to turn in slaves striving for freedom even when they had reached so-called "free states."

As time went by, more and more realized how terrible slavery was, especially when contrasted with "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Eventually, the reality becomes too clear.  And when reality is that clear, and evil is seen for what it is, people become willing to work in one way or another for what is right.  It was not a quick process though.  It took a few hundred years.

Planned Parenthood has been killing babies for decades.  We all know that and have been helpless except in our prayers and our outreach to mothers to try prevent each individual abortion.  The selling of body parts, of killing babies being born alive, of making profits off of them -- this has also been going on for thirty years.  But now we know.  We can't unknow.  And so many people who have turned their eyes to abortion before can no longer do so. When hearts and minds change so do laws.  When laws change, court decisions are reversed.

The strength of the U.S. isn't that we are always good.  It's that we have the means as a people to change our minds and change our government.  We do that every election year.

I know it looks like evil has suddenly appeared, but it's hasn't. It's been hidden, but it has been there all the time. We've needed this "explosion" to bring it out in the open. Historically, investigative journalism has been good at doing that (think: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, the works of Nellie Bly, and the journalists who brought about Watergate).

Now we can see it. For the first time in decades, we have a greater hope than we have had in a long time.  The stubborn will continue to refuse to watch the videos, to remain in the dark, and to not even seek the truth.  But others are changing their minds about abortion, and even more are disillusioned with Planned Parenthood. 

This particular outcry may not bring about the end to the practice of abortion, but it is already bringing about fewer abortions.  These videos are making us aware that it was worse than we could've imagined.  And when we are aware (and appalled), there is hope we can change.  Pray.

note:  I also know that if we continue to equate "good" with pleasure and ease instead of virtue, we will go the way of many cultures that no longer exist, so we are back to "doomed to know that history is repeating itself."

Thursday, September 03, 2015


A few days ago, I left my kid at college.  For all intents and purposes, I am done.

I know, I know…I don’t mean that I am finished with him…he’ll always be my baby, and I will always be there for him, and there will be many ways that he will still need me – and his bed is still waiting.

For the last 18 ¾ years, we had a relationship where I was the one responsible for teaching him how to function in this world and how to learn.  He learned how to read on my lap.   I walked him through arithmetic and over humps through algebra.  We learned about Paul Revere’s ride together, learned Latin vocabulary, and recreated the ecosystem of the Nile Delta.
That part is done.  Learning is now the responsibility of others – and most of all, it is his responsibility.

How do I feel about that?  Mostly happy.  Fairly satisfied.  Incredibly grateful to have had that with him.  There have been times—sometimes years—that I have struggled in that role, but I am oh so thankful to have been there with him through all of it...the laughs, the learning, his passionate interests.  

There are places I slacked off – I forgot to teach him to iron his clothes (but in truth, he may have only seen me iron anything once or twice in his lifetime).  And before I dropped him off, I was going to show him how to polish his dress shoes – but hey, I’m sure that’s on YouTube.  As a homeschooler, one of my biggest comforts was the memory that my school teachers never finished the textbooks either…and somehow, I managed.

He’s not without scars, either.  There have been times that I’ve been hurtful – sometimes I was just being stupid.  The family is not without the effects of sin, and I certainly am not.  I feel it permeate my bones.  We hurt each other.  I do hope he knows how so very deeply he is loved.

I’m proud of him.  He’s a good man.  He has a strong faith in Christ, a good mind, and an honest heart.  That’s all by the grace of God.  I am humbled by how incapable I am of having ownership in that.  We did raise him in Christ, we did try to give him a good education, and we did try to teach him right from wrong.  But somehow, he seems so much more than those simple daily efforts.

So I am honored…and happy.  I leave him in the hands of his school and look forward to getting him back for Christmas.  I’ll miss having him around all the time, I’ll miss the way he makes me laugh like no one else can.  I’ll miss his daily spontaneous insights.  But he is ready.  I know he’s ready.  And so I guess that means my work -- this work that has been mine for as long as I have known him --is done. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Blogging and Structured Procrastination

A few years ago, I came across the concept of Structured Procrastination.  The author, John Perry, a Stanford philosophy professor (Emeritus) puts forward that procrastinators actually get A LOT done in the act of avoiding the specific thing that they really do not want to do.  So, the secret to getting that particular something done is to put something else at the top of your list that you want to avoid doing even more (only one of his suggestions).

I finally got around to reading his book this last week (See what I did there? Why yes, I am avoiding stuff.  How could you tell?)

I heartily recommend it.  Dr. Perry is most assuredly a structured procrastinator, he approaches the topic with humor and reframes where he can, which takes some of the bite out of the embarrassment we procrastinators can feel about our mode of relating to the world.  The good doctor is not trying to get psychological, he just describes what is going on in his head with more accuracy than most of us can do, while letting us laugh as well.

The chapter on perfectionism (chapter 2) got me thinking about my blog.  Since I got back from PNG and especially since we have become settled here in the San Diego area, I have wanted to come back to it.  I am RPW, after all, and as many times as I have tried new approaches, I always come back to this one.

But blogging is BIG now.  It has to look right, has to be marketed correctly, has to have sponsors and make money....and then there's the fact that the Lutheran Blogosphere just isn't the nice place that it used to be.  So I keep pinning articles in my Pinterest that I will probably never read and I keep thinking there is a boatload of stuff I have to do before I can actually just sit down and write.

Dr. Perry writes:
 I think perfectionism leads to procrastination.  Many procrastinators do not realize that they are procrastinators for the simple reason that we have never done anything perfectly or even nearly so...

Perfectionism of the sort I am talking about is a matter of fantasy, not reality.  Here's how it works in my case.  Someone wants me to do something-- perhaps a publisher wants me to referee a manuscript that has been submitted, which involves giving an opinion about whether it is worth publishing, and if it is, how it might be improved.  I accept the task, probably because the publisher offers to pay me with a number of free books, which I wrongly suppose that if I owned I would get around to reading.
Perry goes on to describe his fantasy about how well he would do at this, and envisions the process he could take in order to do an exemplary job on this recommendation.  He would do such a fabulous job that the publishing house would be more successful than ever and the author would be propelled to fame and tenure.   So of course, the first thing he would have to do in order to be able to do work on this late into the night is to set up a connection to the library server at home, something which he has, until this time, procrastinated.  Hours later, it is finally set up-- time that could have been spent actually reviewing the actual book.

So after all that investment of time, his daily tasks are now much more urgent and he needs to set the review aside for a little while, which becomes a long while.  Calls start coming asking about when the review is going to come.  So now his success fantasies get replaced by fantasies where his negligence causes the termination of the editor who asked him to write the review and the author being stuck in community college forever because he can't get published.  Once the perfection fantasy is destroyed by the "utter failure fantasy", he buckles down, writes a review that is "perfectly adequate" and sends it in at the 11th hour.

You have to get into the habit of forcing yourself to analyze, at the time you accept a task, the cost and benefits of doing a less-than-perfect job.  You must ask yourself some questions:  How useful would a perfect job be here?  How much more useful would it be than a merely adequate job?  Or even a half-assed job?  And you've got to ask yourself:  What is the probability that I will really do anything like a remotely perfect ob on this?  And:  What difference will it make to me and to others, whether i do or not?

Often, the answer will be that a less-than-perfect job will do just fine, and moreover it's all I am ever going to do anyway.  So I give myself permission to do a less-than-perfect job now, rather than waiting until the task is overdue.  Whic means I may as well do it now.  (or at least start on it tomorrow).
So I decided that it is time to let the blog be good enough to get started.  Over time, I might make it look better or start networking it or move it to a better site.  But for now...this is good enough to get these thoughts out of my head and let you deal with them instead.

Thanks for continuing to follow my blog and going over to read The View From My Mountaintop as well.  I've had several people tell me that they want to see me write again, so here I am...doing this so that I don't have to fill out financial aid paperwork.  But I should go do that now.  Maybe after I check Facebook.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Hard Times

New post at The View from My Mountaintop:

The Hard Times

Monday, February 02, 2015