Merry Christmas, and watch out for the New Year

Merry Christmas, friends!

I had so hoped that today I could give you a full download of book 1 in one chapter-separated audio file, and a lot of Book 2 chapters as an audio book.

However, at Thanksgiving we were visited by the stomach flu bug, which a week later was followed by COVID. Both my husband and I were felled at the same time, nearly within the same hour. There were COVID outbreaks at both of our jobs, before and after we became ill, and at our son’s part-time job (he brought us home the stomach flu first).

For 10 days we were knocked down, hard.

Blessedly, our college-age son was well enough to get drive-thru dinners for his siblings, and our teenage daughter who had no symptoms could go through self-checkout lines and get us supplies of Gatorade and soup (shout-out to Progresso and Campbells Chunky soups for being so easy and making us feel like we were swallowing down bowls of vitamins).

We’ve also been enormously blessed to have understanding bosses who cared more for our well-being than the fact that we were missing over a week of work.

But most of all, I’m grateful for specific blessings of health. One Saturday, five days sick, I crashed, hard. My tachycardia heart couldn’t calibrate itself, and I felt a fatigue I’ve never experienced before. I worried that this might be “it.” But I also knew it wasn’t “it”. I know there is more that I need to do in this life. And since 99.7% of people recover (with few ever needing hospitalization), why should I not think I could?

I asked my husband to pray for me, specifically requesting that I begin to get over this. He did, promising that I “would begin to reclaim my life, day by day.” The next day, I was well enough to get down to the couch. The next day, I was stronger still.

By the next Saturday, one week later, I felt so healthy that I scrubbed all of the bathrooms, rearranged my closet (my “recording studio”), tossed out three bags of purged junk, and made dinner AND dessert. Two days after that, I walked my regular three-mile circuit, pulled by a puppy I’m babysitting, with no problems.

Prayer works.

In fact, it’s really the only thing that does.

I still have bronchitis which visits me yearly, but even that is waning, so hopefully soon I’ll have enough voice and fewer coughing fits that I can get back to recording Book 2 very soon.

I feel reborn in a strange way. Everything about my body feels different somehow, similar to as after having a baby. The body has to “find” itself again and reclaim what it used to be. I’ve heard others recovering from COVID mention the same thing. (And not all of it is bad–I see advantages to not having a sense of smell: my house has never smelled cleaner! Anyone have stinky diapers they need changed? I can do that, no problem.)

But already I know I won’t go back to what I was. Nor do I want to. I feel God pushing me on to different planes. I did a lot of thinking when I was feverish and exhausted (not much else you can do except watch reruns of “The Crown”).

Much was taught to me during those two weeks, and I’m looking into ideas and meditations that I haven’t before, finding great strength and insight I haven’t expected. (And I also have all these lovely natural immunities; bodies are strong and resilient.)

Nothing’s the same, anywhere.

Friends, if you haven’t felt that the world is different yet, you have to, or you’ll be surprised in very unpleasant ways.

Two years ago, this COVID threat began to rise in Wuhan, China. But that wasn’t all. More came with it, much that we couldn’t yet see, but it’s been impressed upon me for the past two years that the world is changing, and will continue to change. I believe much of that will be revealed in the next year.

There’s no going back to “normal.”

Why would the “Administrators” give back power once they’ve taken so much hold of it? Not without a battle, not without some kind of catastrophic collapse of power. That will be coming, I feel it in my gut and in my mind.

I haven’t seen one country in the world relinquish any of the additional control it’s illegally seized since this all began. Trust me–none ever will peacefully.

When I wrote Book 6 Flight of the Wounded Falcon where Young Pere travels to Edge and finds a strange, unpredictable place, it nearly broke my heart to do that to Edge, a village I’d grown to love.

But a strange impression came over me as I drafted those pages: Our world would also, in a few years, become as strange and unpredictable. It would become unrecognizable. And it has. Frankly, I didn’t think it’d happen for many more years—I wanted to be older and wiser when everything started to go weirdly downhill. But it’s happening now.

Nothing in the next few years will be anything that we’re used to. All we can do is hold on and listen to the promptings of the Spirit, which may tell you to do something different than it tells me, because we are all on different paths.

Most of all, we need to have compassion for each other, love for those whose paths are different, and choose to cling to each other, and not let the sharp divisiveness that is trying to pit city against city, family against family, parent against child. It’s been prophesied, but it doesn’t have to happen to you or me.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Revelator and others saw our day. And honestly, they saw terrible, strange things. But we can get through these years if we choose to love despite everything, choose to support instead of tear down, and choose to hear Him, who I promise is coming, sooner than we realize.

It’s time to build Zion, beginning in our own hearts.

All my love and hope for you this coming year. We’ll need all that we can get.

Worst tactic in the battle: canceling and silencing your enemies

Strategically, it’s a bad idea to silence the “emotional” and “illogical” rather than to let it rant. I personally want—no, need—to know what everything thinks, no matter what extreme side they’re on. (I sit in “the middle” so everyone is “extreme” to me.)

“Cancelling” those who you disagree with on Twitter, Facebook, etc. is a dangerous tactic; you’ve lost your insights on what the “opposition” is plotting next.

As a high school teacher, I can assure you that ejecting an angry student from class doesn’t always humble their behavior. Exclusion doesn’t always make them want to reform to become part of “the group.” Exclusion instead often makes them stronger in their oppositional behavior. They become even more “rebellious” to prove their point.

Ignoring those who think differently than you is akin to those in a war refusing intel about movements of their enemy. “Oh, they’re about to invade by crossing our river? Ooh, I don’t like that! That’s not what I want to hear!”

Ignorance leads to irrational decisions. Knowing the next moves of the opposition is crucial to winning your battle and then the war.

Unless you’re afraid their strategy is better than yours.

Unless you’re afraid your battle isn’t based on a wholly solid, noble premise.
Even then, if the enemy is calling out your weaknesses, wouldn’t you want to know that? To turn them into strengths?

Unless the “emotional and illogical” are telling you a truth you don’t know how to counter, a truth that demonstrates the fallibility of your position.

And you’re desperate to create an alternative “truth” that gives you what you want, despite the heavy casualties that will undoubtedly follow.

“Silencing” and “canceling” only suggest that you’re afraid your opponents are right.

However . . .

Zion allows for all ideas of thought. Zion doesn’t force, or coerce, or censor. Zion allows for debate and discourse and even disagreement—civil disagreement. And still people can be of “one mind and one heart” without agreeing on every detail. (I look at my own family; I still love and work with them, even though some may be Star Wars geeks and others are devoted to The Lord of the Rings.)

It’s time to stop silencing other and start Building Zion. #buildzion

Instead of condemning, let’s try compassion

“You know why they ‘canceled’ Dr. Seuss? He cheated on his wife when she was dying of cancer!”

That outburst in the middle of my lecture made me pause in my explanation of why we won’t “cancel” authors in my high school literature class, but instead try to learn from their times and issues.

We’re next going to read Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” and I was making a case that people who cry “Sexist!” about Shakespeare don’t understand his time period or his circumstances. In many ways, Shakespeare was progressive in his approach and treatment of women at his time (which could have been a reflection of a strong female queen in England).

I was explaining that nearly all of literature is a reflection of the history around it, so if we understand the history, we consequently understand—and further appreciate—the literature.

But first we had to get past Dr. Seuss, and this is what I plan to present to tomorrow’s class, now that I’ve had time to do a little research.

First, his publisher hasn’t ‘canceled’ all of Dr. Seuss, just six books which some perceive have negative racial undertones. Again, understanding the history of the time when the books were written (one as early as the 1930s) would clarify what was happening in the illustrations. What a marvelous learning opportunity we could have here, instead of an “erasing of history” which I fear is occurring. And when we erase, we forget, then commit the same mistakes all over again.

Second, Theodore Geisel wasn’t ‘canceled’ because of his behavior in the late 1960s. Frankly, no one cares about that (and an entire argument could be made about if they should or shouldn’t).

So what about his affair, which, after the death of his wife, turned into his second marriage?
I don’t know—I’m not privy to those details, and it’s no one’s business, either.

But for argument’s sake, let’s consider: was he remorseful about his behavior?
Back in the 1960s, we didn’t have support groups for grieving men, cancer victims, etc. People were often just left on their own to figure out how to cope, which meant, they didn’t very well. I personally know of a few situations where men found comfort in the arms of another woman when their wives were suffering. (And those “other women” weren’t entirely innocent themselves, so let’s not solely blame men here.) As a society, we’ve learned how to help those who are grieving and suffering, and in the past 50 years a whole system of supports has been put in place to help, and rightly so. People who are grieving have many more options now.

But what about Seuss? Did he regret his behavior, then or later? Did he go through some kind of repentance process? I don’t know, nor do I need to know.

Because I choose to “Think the Best Story.”

Some years ago author Orson Scott Card wrote an essay suggesting that every time we feel to judge harshly and condemn someone, that we “Think the Best Story” about them instead.

For example, the person who cut you off on the freeway really isn’t the inconsiderate, arrogant jerk you assume they are.
Maybe they just received terrible news—they’ve lost a job, or someone has been in a serious accident and they’re rushing to the hospital, or they’ve been told their cancer has returned and is incurable.
Maybe instead of a being a horrible person they’re merely distracted by disaster, and accidentally cut you off.

(I once cut off someone because I had a child projectile vomiting in the seat behind me as I drove, and it’s pretty hard to concentrate in a situation like that. I sure would have appreciated some compassion right about then.)

“Thinking the Best Story” acknowledges that we don’t have the whole situation, and instead of condemning, we instead try compassion. I think in 99.9% of potentially “offensive” situations, if we understood the point of view of the perpetrator, we’d rush to help them, not cancel them.

I think of the example of Robert Downey, Jr. and his support of Johnny Depp. When others have canceled Depp because of reports of spouse abuse (which reports are dubious, depending upon the source), Downey has come to his aid. Why? Because years ago, “Iron Man” was in and out of prisons and rehab with a drug addiction for about five years. But he wasn’t canceled then, he was helped. And one of those who helped him revive his career was Johnny Depp. Now, Downey is returning the favor, helping a friend who has been knocked down because he’s filled with compassion, not condemnation.

None of us should be seen or remembered for only our worst moments. To reduce Dr. Seuss to only as “that guy who cheated on his dying wife and drew a few ‘bad’ pictures” is unfair and inaccurate, ignoring the decades of good and even great things he did, wiping them all out for one year of stupidity.
We’ve all had stupid moments that we pray others will forgive us for.
If you haven’t had moments of stupidity, you will. Oh, you will. (I’ve had quite a few that I’ve tried to forget.)

What if we remembered Saul in the New Testament only as “that guy who persecuted and put to death the followers of Jesus Christ”? That would ‘cancel’ all the greatness he accomplished when he turned his life completely around and became Christianity’s greatest advocate of the first century. The reverse was so total that even his name was changed to Paul, and he was ultimately tried and put to death for his valiancy. To focus narrowly on his earlier mistakes is to misjudge him completely.

Paul was a little bit more than just that “guy who persecuted Christians for a while.”

This “think the best story” attitude can be applied to just about everyone who is facing cancelation. Some historical and current public figures did commit mistakes. That’s called “being human.” Should they be defined by those mistakes, especially when looking at a full life in total of marvelous and excellent successes which quite often benefitted the entire country? Of course not.

Should your life be judged so narrowly? Of course not.

But to accuse Abraham Lincoln for not doing enough to help the Native Americans–after he freed the slaves and lost his life because of it–is disingenuous. And to cancel Mark Twain, again, for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, again, because of the use of the N word, ignores that historically the N word didn’t have the connotations it has now, and worse, negates the fact the Slave Jim and Huck are the only respectable characters in the entire book.

Perhaps it’s because Jim and Huck are purposely rebelling against the constraints of their society–and prove themselves to be the most humane and honest people in the South–is precisely why the book under the “cancel” curse once more. After all, it’s the rebels who push against the pressure of culture who are actually right.

There are others who are being canceled because some purposely misread and misjudge their opinions or beliefs. Some people fear any ideas which contradict their own, and feel the only recourse is to destroy that which challenges.

I wrote some years ago about misjudging and taking offense, and still my favorite quote from Aristotle is, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I worry that we, as a society as a whole, do not believe that anymore.

Still, I’ve noticed something about myself when I choose compassion over condemnation: I’m a happier person. I feel more empathy, more concern, more love for others—even those I don’t agree with—when I assume “the BEST story” about them.

I choose to still like Dr. Seuss’s books, I still watch Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. movies, and I still “think the best stories” about people because doing so makes me a better person. I still choose to have faith in everyone else, too.

The world cancels you; Zion forgives you

Zion allows for mistakes, for changes of hearts, for new understanding.
Zion promotes growth.

The world, however, doesn’t tolerate your past, or your “old” heart, or your immature understanding.
The world promotes “cancel culture.”

Zion believes in forgiveness and second chances, and third chances, and fiftieth chances.
The world wants to banish you. One strike and you’re out. Erased even, if possible.

The problem with this harsh judgment is that not even the world can live up to its unrealistic judgments. So it changes the standards, again and again, to meet their behaviors, but not to accommodate those who suddenly find themselves judged by yet a new standard which didn’t exist a decade ago, or even a week ago.

I don’t think they’ve recently consulted Matthew 7:2.

For with what ajudgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what bmeasure ye mete, it shall be cmeasured to you again.

Zion’s standard never changes: a people living with one heart, one mind, sharing all they have, caring for each other, and–most importantly–forgiving each other when they fail.

That’s Christ’s way. He suffered for all of us to give us second chances. And third chances. And even a thousand chances. As long as we keep trying, He keeps forgiving us.

Christ will never cancel us.

Let’s build Zion so He can live among us and teach us how to be more like Him. #BuildZion

Leave the world and find your purpose; Ask Him

“Leaving the world” means setting aside all of that which distracts us from focusing on God. For some that sounds dreary and dull (what, just reading scriptures and singing hymns?). They believe the world is exciting and vibrant.

But consider that maybe we have that reversed.

Focusing on the world is exhausting. The world is hounding you with so many unnecessary expectations and demands.

You may find yourself:

  • fixated with fashion or physical appearance;
  • preoccupied with the look of a house and yard;
  • needing to be seen as “successful,” especially on social media, in your business and personal life;
  • driven to possess the next best thing either in technology, or vehicles, or housing, or vacations;
  • consumed with a desire to be popular and recognized as part of the “right” group.

That’s exhausting. And it’s dreary and dull, trying to keep up with the world’s changing trends.

Keeping the world “happy” is as tedious as reasoning with a toddler having a tantrum. What they want changes frequently, and they’re never satisfied for long.

Now think about what your life would be like without that pressure to impress the world.

Really think about it: no demands, no expectations, no guilt or shame for not being “good enough yet,” and no fretting about what someone will think—

Doesn’t that make you feel like it’s the first day of summer vacation when you’re in high school? Remember that feeling? No more assignments, no more demands, no more busy work to earn a label of “success” or “failure.” (I realize that as a high school teacher I’m condemning myself here a little, but teachers probably rejoice at the end of the school year more than students do.)

Instead, you feel that release, that sudden joy and lightness of realizing you get to do what you feel you should.  Explore, work, play, sleep—you can just enjoy the world.

That’s what God wants for us. Focusing on Him is summer vacation, while being obsessed with the world is the third week of a gray, cold February with no holidays in sight.

Ask Him what “summer vacation” and focusing on Him looks like for you. It will be different for everyone. For me, this month, it’s focusing on my family, writing new books, studying ideas I’ve always wanted to, and preparing for the future. Next month may be different. And I eagerly look forward to it.

Building Zion is all about finding your purpose and leaving the world behind. You won’t miss the world, and what’s more, the world will not miss you. (Because it doesn’t care about you and it never has.)