Good News

So, picture this. A particularly devout religious group with a fairly strict sexual ethic that pushes a fairly particular moral viewpoint currying favor as a loud and sizable but minority political group. They shun outsiders and those who do not share the same ethical or moral framework and actively work to punish those with differing views. Viewpoints are polarized, everyone is at each other’s throats — it looks like civil war is about to break out.

Am I summarizing politics across the US, with the recent fights over book bans, transgenderism, and abortion? You would be forgiven for thinking so, but I am actually thinking of life when Jesus walked on the scene. But, as they say, history may or may not repeat, but it definitely rhymes. And I can’t help but think that our present moment rhymes a lot with what life looked like when Jesus walked onto the scene.

I was reading some threads on a couple of local sub-reddits absolutely denouncing religion in general, and Christian churches in particular. And I kind of nod my head along. I think the criticism leveled can sometimes be quite spot on.

I identify as someone who follows Jesus and I look at a lot of churches and Christians and just think, how did we get so far off track?

Over and over again Jesus conflicted with people who, I think, were very well meaning and wanted to show their love, devotion and piety towards God but they did it by hurting the people that God loves. Which, turns out, at least according to Jesus, is not a good way to show your love, devotion and piety towards God.

When Jesus’ cousin John was beginning to wonder if Jesus really was everything he thought — John sent messengers to Jesus to ask. And Jesus’ response I think is telling: Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me. (Luke 7:21-22)

When Jesus is directly asked whether or not he is the One, his answer is: look at all the good I am doing for marginalized people.

Not look at how many sinners are turning from their sins.

Nor look at how many adulterers have been beaten.

Nor look at how many lost people we told to go to hell. (literally)

Not even: I am the one prophesied of old, the one predicted to come.

But: we are taking care of and helping the least. The people the world is forgetting and trampling down upon are receiving a new life. Jesus hangs his hat entirely on how well he takes care of people.

And with that in mind, the early church spread like wildfire. The church had a very particular (and peculiar for the day and age) ethic for most things, especially sexually — but what it never lost sight of was the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, lepers healing and more. Roman Emperor Julian famously denounced Jesus’ followers in the 300s as “impious Galileans” who take care of not only their own poor but Rome’s as well:

These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes… Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. See their love-feasts and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them and causes a contempt for our gods.

So if history rhymes, and if the greatest error the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and all the other religious groups of the day committed was to focus too much inwardly on their own piety, and outwardly on the sins of the people around them: what does that say about us today?

Is it possible, just possible, that we who follow Jesus are just a little too focused on the sins of our communities? Should we listen to Paul who asks, rhetorically, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (1 Corinthians 5:12) Answer, none.

Should we listen to God who sent his people into exile in Babylon and then commanded them to seek the prosperity of Babylon? (Jeremiah 29:7)

What would it look like to let our good deeds shine before others? (Luke 5:16)

Listen. Dragging people out in front of Jesus for their sins and asking him to condemn them didn’t work the first time, and it’s not going to work today. Let us instead of blasting people for their shortcomings instead build people up, especially the poor and marginalized, and never give up in working towards the peace and prosperity of where God has planted us.

Maybe we will have a few less complaints about us on reddit.

And maybe God will do something really big like transform all of human history.

Again.

That would be good news, wouldn’t it?

Back on the bike

Rode my road bike for the first time this year yesterday, and again this afternoon. Gosh I love bikes so much. And am I out of shape after a winter of reduced activity!

As spring comes, here’s your reminder to get outside. You’ll be glad you did.

A few updates from March

Okay, in slightly less life-or-death news, March was a busy month for us.

  • Got a new washing machine. In February our dryer broke which prompted me to buy a new one, and this month we decided to go ahead and get the matching washer.

    We always had to run our clothes through the dryer a couple of times to get them fully dry, and the new washer has solved that problem. Apparently it uses less water in general, but it also gets more water out of the clothes before going to the dryer. This is a nice upgrade as it means less wear and tear on our clothes, and less use of the dryer electrically.
  • Also we redid our bathroom floors. We found some marvelous hex marble tiles. It turned out great! We embarked on this project because the previous owners had used some stick and peel vinyl and it’s starting to come up in both the bathroom and the kitchen. We felt the bathroom was the priority fix because of all the moisture, we wanted to prevent any rotting of the subfloor or structure.
  • While we were at it, figured might as well get a new toilet. So I got the Swiss Madison Classe after reading so many reviews online of people who love Swiss Madison toilets. The dual flush system should save a bit of water, though I doubt we will ever notice much of a difference on our water bill, it’s nice to conserve wherever we can. Lowe’s has it for like $300.
  • In non-house projects, Noah had his spring break and he and I stayed a long weekend up in Leadville and went skiing. So much fun!
  • Completed my state/federal taxes and got the refunds back. Our refunds are substantial every year and I know people say that you’re just giving the government an interest-free loan. But I feel like our tax situation has been so fluid I have never wanted to take the risk and end up owing.
  • Took the whole family to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It was the first time for our 14 year old, and he loved it. It gave me a great opportunity to take lots of pictures. I love photography and need to get out more and shoot more often.

A Few Thoughts on Violence in America

I hate that at this point, just reading the title of this post, I’ve already lost ~40% of you because of presumptions one way or another about what I’m going to write. I don’t like that we as a society have just decided to be angry with each other and that we can’t find ways that we can reduce violence and increase the well being of people. This post will not be well written or well organized, it’s just my raw thoughts from the past several months of reading and absorbing what people are saying and my thoughts on each.

I reject that we are unable to find common ground. I reject that we can’t do anything. I reject this idea that we are as a society stuck and powerless to do anything about the very real prevalent gun violence in this country.

“Shall not be infringed.” This was trending on Twitter earlier and I watched an old Penn and Teller video where Penn is going off about this phrase in the 2nd Amendment. People were going off about this because the idea is that nothing should infringe our right to get a gun.

Knowing that I’m not a constitutional lawyer, I have often looked at the earlier phrase “a well regulated militia being necessary to a free state” and thought the “well-regulated” part strongly hinted at the need for regulations. AKA laws. AKA limitations. Is not being able to own a tank an infringement to bearing arms? Should private citizens get to own nuclear weapons? F-16s? Missiles? Canons? Machine guns? Turrets? Where do we draw the line? Nowhere?

“Three fifths of all other persons.” Honestly, even if legal scholars decide that “shall not be infringed” means that we can’t restrict people from owning certain weapons such as nuclear weapons, tanks, missiles and automatic weapons—none of which were envisioned by the founders when this amendment was written—we can change the constitution. The constitution is not a divine document, and I’m tired of treating it like it is. It counted each black person as 3/5ths a person. We decided to change that.

Twenty Five Amendments. In fact, we’ve changed it twenty five times. There’s a built in mechanism to change the constitution when we decide that it no longer is suiting us. We’ve done things like prohibit alcohol, then oopsie daisy, maybe that was a bad idea. We’ve changed how the Vice President is elected. We changed how Senators are elected. Etc. We should change the constitution to work for us.

Is this working for us? More than one mass shooting a day so far. I watched an interview from a state law maker who said he’s not going to do anything about this, and when asked about his own kids he said he homeschools them to avoid violence. This has been a common attitude in my family. Why can’t we work to make the outside world safe? Why accept that you just gotta stay home, in your cocoon, and that’s the only safety you will ever get?

Air travel continues to get safer. MIT did a study and the statistics are fascinating to me. Worldwide, the risk of death in airplane accidents has been declining by a factor of 2 every decade. Every decade! Millions of people travel and despite the natural fears of flying, it’s one of the safest things you can ever do, even with the residual fears from 9/11, and mechanical problems, and crazy problems.

Air travel got safer through incremental improvement. I think the NTSB is a gift to the world. The National Transportation Safety Board is that rare government bureaucracy that I think about when I pay my taxes and I am head over heels excited to pay my tax bill for. They take a look at every airplane incident and investigate what went wrong, without blame or prosecution, and then make recommendations for how to make things safer. Whether it’s a weird failure from a mechanical component that needs a new inspection process, or new recommendations for how pilots communicate in stressful situations, they are just always looking at what went wrong to try to figure out ways to make it work better.

And it’s working. Turns out that if you put aside ego and ask how to really fix things, you get better ideas. And when you implement those ideas, you can learn from it, and improve those ideas further, and make things better and better.

We’re doing the opposite with violence in America. We just all have our opinions on what will make things better, shout at each other, and then nothing changes, nothing gets better, and we just shout louder and louder.

It’s worth shouting about. No one should be burying their children, especially not because of some crazy person with a weapon. Why can’t we put aside all our other differences and agree on this one thing: people are needlessly dying.

So, what should we do as a society in response? I sincerely don’t have the answer, but I think as a society we should take a less egotistical approach and a more NTSB approach. I think we should be incremental, and we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

400 million guns for 330 million people. These are big numbers. This isn’t, even in the best case, going to be solved overnight. We shouldn’t expect that any change we make will lead to zero mass shootings, the problem is too big for that. But can we improve the situation? Can we find ways for there to be only one mass shooting per day? Or one every couple of days? Or for the number to go down?

Not just guns, but not just mental health, either. I get a little frustrated when I read that people want to deflect from guns and say that we have a mental health crisis. Let me generalize only law-makers: why is it that the law-makers who are most likely to defend gun rights and decry mental health challenges are almost to a T the ones who also vote against all mental health support?

I think we need to have a conversation on what we can do as a society to help improve mental health outcomes. There’s a whole host of things we can do, a few that come to my mind immediately:

  • incentivizing people to become psychiatrists, therapists, and psychologists.
  • funding mental health programs across the country.
  • funding outreach services
  • funding R&D into better medication
  • funding medication so the people who need it most have access to it
  • making health care affordable so all people have access
  • making life more affordable so fewer people need crippling levels of debt

And probably a hundred more if I spent more than 30 seconds writing down only the things that first came to mind.

“But it’s not the role of the government to …” Says who? The Constitution? Well the government is “We, the People” — so the government does whatever we collectively decide to do. So if, we the people decide we’re finally fed up with a 1700s government in the 2000s, we can change it.

The Bible? Au contraire. Read Leviticus and all about how God uses the people collectively to care for the poor and destitute, especially (but not exclusively) through the jubilee. Then go read the minor prophets (you’re familiar with those, right? Since you’re such a Bible scholar?) and how God is fundamentally pissed off over and over again at the people for their collective sins for not taking care of the least. And over and over again, God connects how they treat the poorest and worst off in their society with how God judges their society.

I don’t think 21st century America would fair very well under that scrutiny. And I worry about my own complicity in my society’s sins.

We have collectively sinned against our children, against ourselves, and against God by not taking this seriously. Like when God told Jeremiah to stop praying because their words and their fasts were many but their lack of concern about the things God cares about angered him. (Jeremiah 14:10-12)

I think God cares about children suffering and dying, about poor people being trampled upon, and sick people being cared for. I think that because God says it over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

I don’t know what God is calling you to do specifically to help correct our collective sins. I felt called to foster care. I feel called to lead young men closer to Jesus. I feel called to be a voice calling for action amidst inaction. I feel called to repent of my own sins and failings.

But I think he’s going to call you to something. Be brave. Do it.

Free Tax USA

I just discovered Free Tax USA. I filed with them this weekend.

I have used TurboTax for a while but never really liked it, and hate all the interstitials of marketing screens and animations you have to click through. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was getting an email after inputting all of my information saying that I better hurry because their prices are going up soon.

Like, who does that? Plus Intuit is just a shady company.

So when I discovered I could file federal taxes for free and it’s only $15 to file for state taxes, sign me up. I also feel like it took me a lot less time to input my information because I didn’t have to click through three screens for every single document. And they reminded me that I added insulation to my house and I can get credit for that.

Weary

Thanks to reddit, I recently discovered that a local small business left a threatening voice-mail to a customer that left a negative review. The voice-mail said something to the effect that the customer had ten minutes left before he would contact the customer’s job and try to get them fired.

I was just reading a post from a Twitter employee who all of a sudden couldn’t login to his work computer and after a week of no one being able to tell him if he’s even still employed tweeted at Elon Musk and Elon asked him for his work history and then mocked him when he posted it.

On a daily basis I feel like I encounter more and more people just treating each other quite terribly. I am certainly no bright and shining example, either, and I have had to numerous times apologize and look deep into my own soul to understand how I can treat a fellow human being poorly.

But I really don’t get the people that seem to revel in being mean. I don’t think either social media or the pandemic created this phenomenon, but I do think both have accelerated it. People enjoy being mean. The cruelty is the point.

I don’t understand it. The trend has me worried about our human society. If we can’t be decent to each other, there is no society. And frankly I am just weary and sick of it. This is no way to live.

The Child I Didn’t Adopt

Nine-year old Stephen grips his report card in sweaty hands. We’re headed to an adoption event, where we will meet families who want to adopt an older child; families who do not automatically rule out a boy like Stephen with all of his long “history.” And he wants to impress them, these strangers. He wants to win them over, and so he brings his good report card along as tangible proof that he is a child worth loving.

A child should never have to prove they are worth loving.

Twelve-year old Stephen tells me that I’m his best friend. I’m his social worker, and he should have a real best friend, but I don’t say this to him. We’re at a taping for Wednesday’s Child, the news spot featuring children who are up for adoption. Stephen is engaging on camera. Maybe somebody will pick him this time. Maybe he is offering just enough evidence, at twelve, that he’s a boy worth loving. And he is lovable, truly.

THE CHILD I DIDN’T ADOPT by Liz.

I read this post years ago and saved it away in my files. Every now and again I come across it and I get all of the same feels all over again. I choked up and just started bawling as I read this again.

Some days I wonder why I chose this path of foster care. And then a gut punch like this comes my way.

I wish someone would do something. And then I remember. I am someone.

Universal Control

Universal Control is an awesome newish feature of MacOs/iPadOs. I’ve had a personal computer on my desk next to my work computer and have been frustrated because it’s been SUPER intermittent.

After doing some searching in the Console app (all the system log messages), it looked like it was very sensitive to Bluetooth interference. So even though everything on my desk is only a foot away or so, I decided to do some re-arranging and now my computers are within inches of each other.

Time will tell long term, but so far that’s done the most immediate good. They show up immediately and the link works fine which is WAY better then it has been in months.