Truth and Morality

I like to peruse the Nextdoor app, well, daily. It’s fun to see what’s happening in the hood…sometimes its just entertaining. Other times its downright chilling to see how people respond to events in our community.

People are posting pictures of folks they don’t know who aren’t following the law of social distancing. They’re sharing some pretty extreme hostilities towards those who are stockpiling toilet paper. We don’t even know who’s stockpiling it, but someone is because there’s no toilet paper!

By the way, you can use this handy toilet paper calculator to assess how long your stash is going to last you. The advanced feature is pretty awesome. If its going to last you til September, well, you might be the one people don’t like very much right now.

But its really struck me how morality is at an all time high. There is a right and a wrong way to act during this crisis according to many, some of them actual scientists and doctors. The right way has to do with protecting others, looking out for others, and not thinking just about yourself.

And, its based on truth. This itty, bitty, tiny, little organism we can’t even see with our naked eye is passing between us, killing people, and bringing the entire world to its knees. The closer we stand and the more we interact, the worse it will get.

Facts. Math. They support this reality.

We cannot escape the truth though we act sometimes like it doesn’t apply to us. Acting like it doesn’t apply doesn’t make it not true. The reality of “the curve” will show us how well we are aligning with truth as a whole community.

Right now, it don’t look so good. And why should it? Morality and truth have been situational for so long that when we are backed up into this kind of wall, its so confusing! At the grocery store or neighborhood park, its not ok anymore that “you do you.” It means someone you may not even know will pay the price. The noblest act of love in the era of Covid-19 is to deny yourself for others.

And truth has never been so valued as it seems to be at press conferences right now. What people say and what they have said and done matters deeply. Did elected officials trade on inside information? There is a very significant and important judgement to be made that depends on what is true in that situation.

Do we want to elect such people to make decisions for our society. Most people, I think, would say no. So truth matters. We want people to follow a code that is fair and considers others, not just ourselves. We must judge these matters fairly in an age when not being judged is pretty popular.

Right now, there is a ban on elective surgeries where I am. The central basis is to look out for the life of others by conserving beds, medical supplies, and limiting risks for exposure. This week, my mother’s doctor had to defend, document in detail, and be prepared to explain the surgery my mom needed in ways he didn’t have to before. Waiting on her surgery would certainly mean an urgent risk to her life in the coming weeks when beds, supplies, and exposure will be much worse.

We hear of cancer patients facing different and limited decisions for treatment based on these factors. What a month ago would have been the best plan is now not because of risks of exposure. What a tough position to be in. Yet, there are law cases advocating for surgeries for non-life threatening, but very deeply difficult issues, like unwanted pregnancy.

Our society has to face these very moral questions now. Does one person get to use up medical resources to deal with a non-life threatening (but very physically and emotionally difficult) issue while another person with a life threatening issue cannot receive surgery?

When the main code for most behavior as it relates to our interconnected society is to preserve the lives of many we do not even know, our culture is inconsistent. We still want what we want and we still don’t really want to look out for others in key ways.

So, what are we to do with all our inconsistency? What do we do when we are backed up against a wall of morality and truth? When the issues don’t seem like life and death, its easier to squirm away.

My hope in all this upheaval and chaos is that we, as a world, will acknowledge that we all have an innate sense to some degree of morality and truth and it is a good thing. But it also leads us down a path we must follow to the end.

Where does this moral code and truth come from? Why do we have it? Why does everyone seem to agree worldwide that lives matter enough to shut down everything to save 1-2% of our population?

If you’re an atheist, it doesn’t make sense. You should welcome the culling of our weaker population. It is more consistent with an atheistic position it seems to me. No need to socially distance. Of course, I would think that the atheist must hope they are not considered in the 1-2%.

If you’re agnostic, the universal morality and desire for truth must mean something. If you can’t abide the atheistic mindset, its no longer the time to sit on the fence. If life matters, then its time to really decide who God really is. If God’s a God that values life and has fashioned us with a similar innate mind…to value life as well…wouldn’t life be better lived aligned with Him?

If so, who is God? The search must begin and be carried out in earnest.

To the Christian, this really exposes us. Do we care about lives as much as we say we do? As much as God does? Do we love like God loves? Do we know His love enough to trust Him with our futures economically, in matters of life and death, to talk about how much He loves people and doesn’t want anyone to die without knowing Him and His forgiveness of our incredible selfishness?

With the world at its knees, its time to talk. Or if we don’t really know His love for us, to dig deeper and get to know the trinitarian God of the Bible more deeply. My experience is that drawing closer to the God of the Bible has driven me towards His love and towards loving others.

Many will say God does not love the world. That He does not even exist or things wouldn’t be like this. That He is judging the world and He’s being really unfair and harsh.

Love like God’s love is not to be trifled with, true. It is pure and rejecting His gift does leave people in the cold. But it is fair and it should compel us to urgently invite everyone in to sit at His table.

But what is true about God—whether He exists, whether He has the right to say what is true and what is not, what is right and what is not—it matters whether we live by it or not.

Ultimately, at the end of life, there is no squirming away. If its true that God is the source of truth and morality, we will be at His mercy.

If its not true, what does it matter how we live our lives right now? There’s really not many people that would say that out loud right now. They’d be relegated to the depths of social hell for the rest of their lives for acting in their own interests.

So, Covid-19 puts us up against the wall. It’s time for us to decide about God, who He is and what it means for our life and the lives of those around us.

Spoiler alert, it’s not so bad, in fact, its so, so good to be at peace with God.

Remembering

I’m amazed at how quickly I forget things. Important things. Things people have just told me seconds before. Like names. Hometowns. Family events.

While I wish my brain worked better and I imprinted important things into my mind the moment they happen so I’d never forget them, but I still forget. Like a fog some things get obscured over time by other events that choke out the memory. Other times I feel like that device in Men in Black is out there and someone zapped my memory!

One time, I forgot to pick up my friends child at day care. I didn’t know it until the next day when she called and confronted me about why I had left her there. It was really lame to have to say I had just forgotten. It wasn’t enough.

Or what about the time I forgot I put my husbands keys in my purse after church. I drove an hour and a half away on a short trip before he called me and asked me if I had all the keys to the other car. Yes, yes I did and I drove three extra hours so that he didn’t have to rent a car for the week.

Lately I see where this forgetfulness is present in my relationship with God too. I forget the times when He rescued me or how bad things were going when He rescued me. I forget what I was like in the past. Pain fades in my memory but so does joy.

It’s just weird.

And it reminds me how finite my body is including my mind. Did you know that neurologists believe we use only a fraction of our brain? When my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the doctor lamented the location of the tumor. If it was in the front part of his brain we could take it out no problem because we don’t use that much of it!

In a complete and perfect world without death, my brain cells would operate at 100% capacity and I would use 100% of my brain. I theorize that I would remember everything. It is an attractive thought, but actually…

People with awesome memories may actually have a harder time in life. Take this Time article for example. Maybe a bit of forgetfulness is actually grace? There are definitely things I would rather not remember or feel with the same intensity as when the events happened…like grief.

It’s a double edged sword, this forgetfulness, it cuts both ways. For good and for bad. For the good, I can thank God that He allows certain feelings and memories to fade so I can live and thrive in the present.

For the bad, I can forget how dependable He is, how available in time of need, how much I need Him and His wisdom and direction. I can forget that I’m not God so, so fast.

When I began writing I wanted to highlight all the negatives of forgetting, yet I’m struck by the grace that is there too. The grace that we have a finite life and finite abilities.

To live in this world forever with all that is not right with a perfect and ever-present memory would probably be too much to take.

Humility: Lesson #1

Most days I pass through a 4 way stop near my house. I’m on my way to drop off a kid or pick up a kid or go to work or the store or…anywhere.

It gets busy around rush hours and becomes more of a 4 way pause instead of a 4 way stop. People honk sometimes. I could be included in the word “people”.

I usually tap the horn when someone has not appropriately observed the law. They should know, right? I’m preventing an accident. They are in a hurry, they should slow down and pay attention.

Well, a couple days ago I pulled up behind a car at the 4 way pause. A million things were floating through my mind that first full week of school and crunch time in ministry.

As I pulled through the stop, I noticed a car start to pull out even though I was in the intersection. How dare he! I thought.

I didn’t tap the horn but I gave a look. You know, the get-in-your-place look. I may not be a police officer but I wish I was at times like these.

The driver did that Texas thing where you keep your hand on the steering wheel but wave your fingers around in a way that says what’s up with you lady?

As I completed my turn I realized I was still pretty close to the car that had been in front of me.

Huh.

Why was I so close to them?

It slowly dawned on me that I had tailgated the driver in front of me through the stop! A cascade of thoughts poured out of me…

I was wrong

I deserved a ticket

I did what I hated other people doing

My behavior warranted a honk and a dirty look

I am a hypocrite!

And I was totally unaware of it.

I also wondered how many times I condemn others for something and fail to see clearly my own behavior that’s worthy of condemnation. I can name a number of times that I encountered this in my life. This incident reminds me that there must be so many more that I still do not see.

I will always need grace and mercy for ways I mess up that I have not figured out.

So will you. So will others.

That other driver I thought so arrogant now seems so merciful. He didn’t blast his horn at me and I deserved it! How many times have I taken the opportunity to come down on something I felt justified in condemning instead of letting it roll on past? Instead of showing mercy…

I really want to thank him for showing mercy! So, if you’re reading this and were driving a nice grey suburban when a lady in a grey minivan gave you a dirty look while breaking the law…thank you for showing mercy.

To me, pride seems like one of those really stubborn, kind of hopeless character flaws. I’m usually very blind to it so how can I possibly grow in humility?

And then humility! The minute you say you’re growing in humility it reveals you’re not! Catch-22.

Here’s my hope straight from Proverbs 29:

A person’s pride will humble him,

But a humble spirit will gain honor.

So, through my pride, I’ll get humbled. Fun! But, I don’t need to dread this beat down. Even more encouraging is that my pride is not a hopeless condition. The joyful paradox, though, is that by the time any honor comes I won’t even care about it anymore!

Humility is content without the honor it engenders. It has its own internal reward.

And I’d love to know what that’s all about!

Anemic Prayer

I searched the house a few times. I’m the family sleuth, tracing steps, investigating, interrogating and usually successful at finding lost things. When two thorough searches of our apartment failed to unearth our nice camera, I started purposely ignoring the sick feeling in my stomach.

I think they call it denial?

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Finding a picture capturing themes of loss and grace is hard. So, here instead, is a photo taken with the lost camera last year.

For the next couple months, I occasionally thought back to all the hotels and houses we passed through in the last 3 months of our transient life. Five or six places to came to mind. The weariness of moving set in and mustering up the energy to call just never happened. I didn’t want to do anything about it. I expected to unearth it anytime I looked in a closet.

I never did. I let the case go cold but it bugged me to know it was out there somewhere.

Last week, I put my foot down. One last look. A kindergarten program will do that to moms. I prayed one of those passing plea types of prayers as I charged to the closet with purpose.

Please, Lord! If it’s here show me!

I found the strap first and pulled, disbelieving. Out tumbled the camera bag, Hidden in the closet behind my husband’s shirts for the last 2 months.
I sent an all caps text to my husband and parents. I FOUND THE CAMERA!

What gets me is that God honors that type of prayer. I’m amazed because He answered it and it felt like such an anemic prayer.

I get so wrapped up in all the correct, God-honoring ways to pray that I lose the fact that prayer is falling on God. It’s a dependent action to ask for something I can’t achieve myself.

Dependence isn’t my natural posture. I’m not naturally inclined to feel comfortable in a relationship that is pretty much one way-God giving to me.

Just in that revelation I see how much I want the God and me contract to have a place for me to earn some favors.

Grace? No place for that!

It’s refreshing to serve a God that gives grace and honors the desperate prayer.

Entering the Rest

20140121-101129.jpgThese days I spend my days with family enjoying the warmth and sunshine of Thailand.

Mornings I read and journal on a balcony to the sounds of rustling palm trees.  Afterwards, we all suit up and head to the pool to swim and play.  The hotel room offers cool shade for the afternoon rest.  We walk on the beach at sunset catching hermit crabs and finding shells.  We sink our toes in the sand underneath our dinner table by the beach.  Idyllic, right?

But my heart grows restless in the midst of all this wonder.  Instead of an increasing relaxation I find an uneasiness rise up.  It’s hard to enjoy and enter the rest.

The world says we are entitled to this time.  Our Human Resources handbook says we accrued the weeks.  Our bosses approved our timing.  We saved to afford our accomodations.  Beyond that is the self-justification.  We never take all our allotted vacation time.

But my heart knows something deeper.  It knows I don’t deserve it and I didn’t earn it and I can’t pay it back.  It is a gift, a grace, a display of God’s generosity that I can never repay.  And I want to pay.  I really want to pay!  I feel that in repaying it I can more fully enjoy it.  But there is no way to repay it…no way.  I’m caught.

So God leaves me with a choice to accept the gift with thankfulness or do what I do now…struggle to find a way to pay and in doing so, rebel.  Because in wanting to deserve, to earn, to pay I strive to be equal with God Himself!  And I startle at the realization.  I want to be equal to God, always have and, this side of heaven, always will to some extent.

So I miss out on the rest…or I was missing out.

In the coming days I hope to enter the rest He provides.  Enter it boldly.  Not the vacation rest but the real rest my heart seeks…the rest from thinking I can earn, deserve, repay, prove.  To receive the gift of His Son who paid all on my behalf.  I need no longer strive.

I need only accept the gift with a smile, that gift that is so priceless I cease from all rebellious endeavors to repay it.  I bind myself to the Gift-giver heart and soul.  Even that is a gift for my wayward, wandering, rebellious soul.

To be anchored by His undeserved favor, the true rest for my weary soul.

Death by Paper Cut

One of the most difficult things about life anywhere, and life lived across cultures for sure, is that often it’s no one big thing that slays me…at least not yet.  It’s all the small things that add up and threaten to take me down.  Taken alone, each cut seems relatively minor and superficial, like a paper cut, but they sting.  Each and every cut stings and there’s no time to put on a Band-Aid before the next cut comes.

Talking about what hurts seems silly sometimes.  It’s just a paper cut, why am I so upset about a paper cut?  I minimize and compare.  I don’t suffer like that other person who really stood up for their faith in a stressful situation of direct confrontation.  No one really hurt me, right?  I’m still alive, aren’t I?  I discount the cut and fail to treat it.

Again and again the cuts come.   Forgetting my passport.  The person who cut me off again just this morning.  The man who makes me re-park my car so that the nose faces out warning me that I am breaking the law if I don’t.  He doesn’t understand that at least 5 people on the road endangered my very life and parking my car in a “cultured” way is the least important thing to worry about now.  The lady at the store who will not even try my credit card even though I know it works.  I did not bring cash.  Smog.

Here in Asia it’s called “eating bitterness” these paper cuts.  It’s an old saying about life and just taking it.  It results in kick the dog syndrome, though.  People just lose it for no clear or sufficient reason.  But I know why they lose it because I lose it too.

Unseen cuts cover us all and then someone pours salt on the wound.  The salt without the wound is nothing but with the cuts…it brings sudden pain and I react.  Kick the dog syndrome spreads like a contagion.  A woman picks up a brick on the street to throw at a man.  I’ve seen that.  A family fights in the apartment above us and furniture shakes and screams keep me awake.  I’ve heard that.

I wish for a formula to combat the paper cut plague but it doesn’t exist.  I know more now to look at the cut and say it hurts…to cry even if it seems silly to cry over a paper cut.  I know that real life seems more death by paper cut than death by some brave act of martyrdom though those stories also move me to tears.  DSC_0064

Death by paper cut is not as futile as it seems when I count the Lord’s view of suffering.  He calls me to die to myself as He died for me…even in the smallest things.  He calls me to persevere and endure and even do it joyfully because He gives me resources I just cannot muster myself.

As I contemplate more on this concept and acknowledge the cuts, I do find more joy because I find grace and mercy.  I still kick dogs some days…not real dogs but proverbial dogs.  I do a lot of apologizing.  It is coming easier to apologize because I get a lot of practice.

But His grace and mercy, this is the salve that allows my soul to lay down and rest.