boyradd

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I am invisible…to myself

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This past week I was able to unplug, unwind, and just enjoy some time alone. Throughout the week, while I spent the majority of my time alone in my hotel room, I did venture out occasionally. While out there, I realized that there is a very big difference between myself, and the culture that I have grown up in, and other cultures that are present right here in my own backyard.

Our behaviors are driven by the cultures and norms that we grew up with. When we enter areas or get into groups that have norms that we don’t understand, we tend to interpret those words and actions through the lens of our own culture. The problem with that is that it can lead to misinterpretation of the culture and damaged relationships.

I would like to share an example of this from a business perspective, but understand that this can be seen across countless other “cultural” norms other than business.

In American business, we tend to expect people to say what they mean and take their word at face value. Unfortunately, that cultural norm doesn’t translate across all cultures. If an American manager assumes an Asian counterpart will understand words the same way, that American manager could be in for a rude awakening.

The American manager looked at his Asian counterpart and asked if he understood on how to move forward with a project. The Asian coworker said he understood and agreed with the American coworker on how to move forward. A few months later, however, the American manager realized that his Asian counterpart didn’t agree at all and the project had never moved forward.

In many Asian cultures, harmony is highly valued. It is rude and inappropriate to disagree with people face to face and even more so in the presence of others, such as in a meeting. So typically, an Asian person may nod and say “yes” but it simple acknowledgement that they understood what you said, not necessarily agreement with what you propose.

Many times, the only way to deduce whether someone Asian agrees or disagrees with you is by watching their nonverbal cues. Do they have a pained look on their face as they nod? Don’t expect them to agree with you.

A key takeaway from this is that the American manager should have scheduled a one-on-one meeting with his Asian counterpart and been more aware of his body language. This would have helped him understand that cultural differences between him and his counterpart.

That was only an example taken from a business perspective.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

But this past week has been very eye-opening to me. Mostly from a perspective of Caucasian versus African-American.

I’ve never subscribed to the political norms of the day. As a Christian, I am supposed to be right-wing, conservative, Republican. I am supposed to be wearing something preppy (I know, a throwback to the 80s) and focused on building my bank account instead of healing the world.

But that isn’t me. I am NOT a Republican (I am also NOT a Democrat). I am not totally conservative. I hold to some traditional conservative values (I am pro-life, for example). But I also hold some traditionally liberal values (I think we should take care of the immigrants in our country, for example).

I base my Christianity from the Bible, not from commentaries or political pundits.  I do not ascribe to political Christianity. We don’t live in a post-Christian culture. We have never lived in a Christian culture. Yes, many of our laws are based from the Bible, but we were never a Christian nation. At best, we are a pre-Christian nation.

But, what I realized this week is that even though I don’t ascribe to many of those cultural norms, they are ingrained in my psyche and my actions.

For so long, I held to the fact that I didn’t need to wear a mask. I thought of it politically. Why did I have to do something that various people (both Democrat & Republican) don’t have to do? On the Democratic side, why does Rep. Lewis get a huge funeral attended by hundreds while it is illegal for the average person to get a funeral for their mom or dad. As for the Republicans, why do I have to have my rights trampled on so I can’t meet at church while I can fill up a Walmart or Home Depot with tons of people who barely know how to wear a mask?

I still don’t fear this virus. I have no reason to. I have a God who is bigger than this virus. But what I need to realize is that my culture, the one I ascribe to, is not being targeted. It is not in jeopardy. I can still worship. I can still praise God publicly. I can still have friends over to my house to talk about the Bible openly. And we can, technically, still have church, even if you are in a state like California where they have banned inside services and small groups in houses (they can still meet outside, whether at their houses or at their churches).

Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

But this week….

I went away to rejuvenate. After doing ministry through this pandemic the past 4-5 months, I realized that I was a little burned out. The sheep have become more in need during this time and we are trying to reach a community for the Gospel that is not just dying spiritually, but now could very well be sick and dying physically!

I went about 3 hours away to southwest VA. In this area there were a lot of people vacationing. There were Caucasian, Asian, and African-American from what I saw.

All of the stores in the area are required to have a sign on their doors that say “MASKS REQUIRED.”

But that didn’t stop people from not following it.

And it wasn’t a cross-section of each population that was not wearing it. It was a single culture that wasn’t wearing masks…mine.

The Asian and African-American people were wearing the masks. Almost 100% of people of those ethnicities were in masks. But the Caucasians were not wearing masks well or at all!

My wife and I met with a salesperson while down there who spits while he talks. He was not masked as he tried to sell us on something. He had spit coming out of his mouth and landing on the table in front of him.

Then, I asked a few people why they weren’t wearing masks in the places they worked and they said, for example:

“I can’t breathe in them” (that was the most common answer…lame excuse! I have asthma and can breathe perfectly through the mask)

 

“I am not wearing a mask, it violates my rights.”

 

“Masks don’t save lives. The studies are all lying to us.”

 

Then, on Thursday, I went to a convenience store. Inside were 3 Caucasian people working and probably about 10-12 Caucasians buying stuff. Absolutely none of them (except me) had a mask on! Also in there were 7-8 African-Americans. They were all masked up.

So I asked them why they were wearing masks. Here are a couple of their responses:

“It is my duty to protect others.”

 

“The virus affects the black population more than the white population.”

 

“Masks work to keep us all safe.”

 

We can learn from so many people from all cultures and ethnicities. But ultimately, what does the Bible say about this?

My wife and I were interviewed om Saturday for a YouTube video that a couple of missionaries we support in Peru were putting together. During the interview, Mimi brought up a verse that I have always enjoyed to share with others, but never put a lot of thought into it.

Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Now re-read those answers from the people above and see if they fit within Philippians 2:3 context.

So I need to realize that my own culture…even the one I like to say I don’t ascribe to…is invisible to me and I need to start taking Philippians 2:3 as more than just good words of advice to share with others and let it be something that leads my actions and words.

Gaslight – a rant

Gaslighting is when a person or organization makes their victim question reality in order to gain a power stance over them. It is a common tactic of dictators, abusers, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is typically done over a longer period of time, so the victim doesn’t realize they are being gaslighted.

In this current societal era that we are in, gaslight is all the rage!

The phrase was actually created in a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton titled “Gaslight” in which a husband carefully, gradually, and diabolically manipulates his wife into thinking that she has lost her mind. The play was then made into a film and starred Ingrid Bergman.

But the corporate version of gaslighting remains the same. Carefully, gradually and diabolically manipulating people to be brainwashed into whatever you want them to believe.

In psychological terms, it almost always happens the same way. It starts with the victim questioning the small things, such as whether they heard a detail incorrectly. Then it moves to bigger things such as whether what they heard or saw really happened. Over time, it breaks down the confidence of the person until they have lost all touch with reality.

And I believe, America, that we are being gaslit (gaslighted?) today.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic, the COVID (said just like a typical old person).

Everyone should be confused by the mixed messages of public health experts right now. That isn’t gaslighting. That is simply the public health experts going through something they have never gone through before and learning along the way.

But when we see from our own government, who is the one who is filtering the information we receive, a constant stream of gaslighting, then we know that we are in perilous times. It starts with everyone’s favorite target, the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Actually, it doesn’t start there. It starts with all the lobbyists on both sides of the political spectrum. You see, just like all of us, Trump is a pawn. He would never agree that he is simply a pawn, but he is. He needs to listen, not to his advisors, but to the millions of people in the country who are his supporters if he plans to get his way in office.

The public health experts have been telling us what would happen if we didn’t follow their suggestions of social distancing, wearing masks, and shutting everything down completely for a short time.

But unfortunately, the lobbyists won out. The people with the true money won out.

It started great. Let’s shut everything down for a time.

BUT….

Home Depot, you can stay open because people are going to need something to do while they are stuck at home. Oh, and grocery stores, you can stay open because no one can go out and get 2 weeks-worth of rations, you need to stay open in case some family just can’t live without their filet mignon for the next couple weeks. Restaurants, you can stay open too, but you can only do outside seating and curbside pickup.

SIDE STORY: When all this hit, I ran to one of our grocery stores and started to purchase some food with my dad. I kid you not, as we walked by the seafood counter, there was a woman purchasing 6 live lobsters from the tank and she wanted to pick each one out individually so that she got the best ones.

Anyway, once the lobbyists heard that some stores would remain open, then everyone lobbied to stay open.

Let me give you an example. I live in Maryland. Governor Hogan, who I think started by trying to do the right thing, ended up allowing himself to be gaslit.

Let’s start with March 5. He puts out a press release about the first 3 positive cases of COVID in Maryland. He said not to panic but to stay informed with him at his press conference that night.

That same night, he declared a state of emergency. Basically that is a gaslight phrase in and of itself which says (according to Governor Hogan’s own site): “A state of emergency is a good indicator that residents should remain alert and follow officials’ orders and news stations in order to be informed of the situation.”

The state of emergency allowed the governor to begin the discussions with all the organizations throughout the state about getting plans in place for a larger issue.

On March 6, he gave updates as to the 3 patients and tell everyone that COVID testing will be free as insurers waive the costs of it.

On March 8, he announced 2 more cases.

By the 9th of March, he created a COVID Response Team of medical experts around the state. It was during this time that each person who contracted the virus was news in and of itself.

On March 10, he met with his first lobbyist group, the group who lobby for the long-term care facilities. They came up with an entire list of things to keep the older residents safe. He also met with the lobbyist group for colleges and universities. They came up with a 2-week plan to close campuses during spring break timeframe.

By March 11, he had met with several other concerned groups, mostly state government, to come up with plans for them. The MVA was going to appointments only, the prisons were not allowing visits, the veteran’s affairs were not allowing people in.

Then March 12th happened. This is where Hogan decided to take action. He started by activating the National Guard. He then banned groups of 250 or more as well as closing all senior centers around the state. He closed all schools in the state until March 27th. He also rolled out a lot more restrictions on people coming in from international travel and cruises and locked down the medical system even more.

These are good things. They are a process of learning for someone who has never been through this before. I applauded Hogan for the steps he was taking and the speed at which he did it. (For those of you who want to use this as a soundbite in the future, please don’t, this is not going to end in a flattering way for Hogan).

This where the plan starts to buckle.

On March 14th, he decided to expand the childcare programs in Maryland so that they would stay open. He was starting to hear from the lobbyists that their group of people still had to go to work and needed to have childcare in order for them to continue.

While I don’t envy the decision he had to make, it was a mistake. And it was the first of many that he would make along the way.

On March 15th he closed down casinos. On March 16th he closed down theatres, fitness centers, spas, bars and restaurants. BUT, in order to allow them to keep income flowing, he allowed restaurants to have carry-out, drive-thu, and delivery services. That’s a little crazy. There were absolutely no directives to restaurants and bars about employees, only how to keep them open.

Also, on March 16th, he prohibited groups larger than 50 people. It is at this point that the religious community got involved. But not all religious communities were vocal about it. Keep in mind that ALL retail was still open at this time except fitness, theatres, spas, and indoor only restaurants.

March 17th he must have been getting calls because he put out what he calls “interpretive guidance.” Now food courts inside of malls are still ok to keep open, so are food trucks. Barber shops and hairstylists are ok to keep open, but not spas.

Wow.

On March 18 we had our first COVID death in the state. On the 19th, Hogan “tightened” things down more. This is where he starts listening to the lobbyists more than fearing the virus.

On the 19th, he prohibited gatherings of larger than 10 people. He again closed all restaurants, unless they are able to do carry-out, drive-thru, or delivery (just to be clear, he didn’t do anything different to them). He closed malls. He didn’t close any other retail establishments, but he closed malls. And he closed down any amusement-type business. He also required all state colleges and universities to finish the spring semester online at this time.

This is where the true mistake was made. He, on the 19th, allowed delivery and carry-out of alcohol. How, on any earth, is that essential?!?!  He has immediately turned from someone I had respect for to someone who is now starting to gaslight for the purpose of keeping the lobbyists happy.

Also on the 19th, more interpretive guidance came out that said that convenience stores can remain open, as well as grocery stores.

March 23rd is the next mistake in a line of many. He closed all non-essential businesses. But he tried to keep all parties happy by telling everyone that this is “not a shelter-in-place” order.

But let’s look at those non-essential businesses:

  • All the former businesses he already closed
    • But restaurants and bars can still delivery food/alcohol and have carry-out and drive-thru
    • And retail establishments that have their own door to the outside can continue operations.
  • He added golf courses and social clubs now to the list.
  • He listed a website of cisa.gov and when you get in there, it is one of the biggest, most confusing, websites I have ever tried to navigate to find information easily. Here is what the interpretive guidance on the Hogan website says can remain open:
    • Manufacturing
    • Lodging
    • Laundry services
    • Construction
    • The media can remain open (that is interesting)
    • Defense contractors
    • Law/Rescue services
    • Energy services
    • All financial services
    • Grocery stores
    • Convenience stores
    • Farmer’s Markets (???)
    • Alcoholic distributors
    • Farms
    • Pet supply stores
    • Vets
    • Lawyers
    • All healthcare
    • IT services
    • All forms of transportation (although he said in the same order that Marylanders were not to leave the state)
    • Wastewater
    • Staffing services
    • Door to door salespeople (he discouraged it, but didn’t discontinue it)

That is a long list. But that isn’t it. I guess he got a lot of calls from people wondering if their business was on the list. So there is more interpretive guidance that came out on the same day on who could remain open.

  • Car dealerships
  • Bike shops
  • Moving companies (but I thought we couldn’t move anywhere out of state and were suggested to stay indoors)
  • Tool rental companies
  • Party rental companies
  • All retail except indoor malls

But wait…there’s more! On the 24th he came out with more interpretive guidance on what can remain open:

  • Greenhouses
  • Trash pickup
  • Residential cleaning services

And now we get to even MORE ridiculousness. If you deem your organization as essential, you should give all your employees a letter that says why they are essential in case it is challenged. Oh, and slipped into this latest order is that clergy is deemed non-essential. But we are allowed to have a skeleton crew that can keep the day to day operations of the facility going.

Isn’t that most churches? Most are just 1 or 2 people trying to get everything done.

But I guess the churches were starting to chomp at the bit a little. So on April 1, Governor Hogan put out directives to churches:

  • You are allowed to have a drive-in religious service
  • You may have indoor services if:
    • They are under 10 people
    • There is no physical interaction
    • Everyone 6 feet apart and wearing masks
    • A 4 hour gap in between services (and, yet, Home Depot or Safeway can allow in unlimited people all day long with no gap in between, interesting)

Effective April 18, everyone must wear face masks and socially distance themselves. The face mask MUST cover both mouth and nose. Under age of 2 doesn’t have to wear one. Between 2-9 the parent is supposed to do everything they can to get their child to wear one. Age 9 and above is required.

By April 20th, we now close down all barber shops and hairstylists.

By May 13th, the guidance came out that the following could reopen:

  • Pet shelters
  • Art galleries
  • Bookstores
  • Car washes
  • Florists
  • Pawn shops
  • Tobacco and vape stores

By May 13th we enter phase 1, which allowed all those businesses above to reopen.

Why do I write all of this?

It is to show that even Governor Hogan, a highly respected state official, can become the victim of gaslighting. He was led astray by his advisers and lobbyists. When all it would have taken was closing the state down completely for a matter of time, now we have a long, drawn-out problem that is resurging again.

Remember I mentioned Trump above? Well, he has his own gaslighting moments, but so do all the other organizations that are trying to gain all the power.

So when you are listening to all the pundits and the voices and the media, ask yourself these few simple questions to determine if they are gaslighting you:

  • Are they trivializing how you feel about the situation?
  • Are they saying that your thoughts are not valid?
  • Are they saying things that they later deny they said?
  • Basically, are they in it for the power or are they in it to effectively take care of the people they serve? This is a good question to ask whether it is politics, relationships, church, work, or whatever.

So there you have it. We are being gaslighted (gaslit?). So now it is time to do something about it. Educate yourself so you know the signs.

 

 

 

Judgment, Trial, or Consequence?

Yesterday when I wrote about my thoughts, I said that I was thinking this COVID thing was judgment from God rather than a trial we are going through.

When I wrote it, I was actually surprised how easily those words came from my hands. Today, after prayer and thought, I am not so sure.  Do I still believe it could be judgment from God? Yep. Am I convinced of it? Not so much.

Here is why.

I decided to take a vacation. The clamors of the world were so loud over the past 5 months that I needed to disappear and get some alone time with God. I left Friday for vacation, heading into the mountainous areas of southwest VA. Mimi joined me for a couple of days and we tooled around the area looking at antiques and flowers and things, but she left Sunday afternoon and I stayed behind to get some alone time with God.

Yesterday, when I woke up, I started thinking on judgments in the Bible and what they looked like. I let my emotions lead my typing as I posted yesterday.

But then I spent much of the day reading, studying the Bible, and reviewing those judgments in there as well as other times people called things judgment that were not.

And now I am not so sure.

Looking at specific times in the Bible that could be used as a barometer for this being judgment, I started in the New Testament.

Acts 12:23 – Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

I know, not necessarily the use of a disease, but a judgment nonetheless and, bonus, it has worms eating a guy! But God does use death as a judgment. This one, was more personal than corporate.

Then you have this…

John 5:14 – Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Jesus is clearly telling someone to not sin anymore so that nothing else happens to him. But then I got to praying about this. Is this judgment or consequence? This guy was paralyzed 38 years prior. Who knows if it was from his sin or if he simply tripped and became paralyzed. We need more to the story to determine if it is truly judgment that Jesus is talking about here or if it consequence.

What about this one…

1 Corinthians 11:30 – That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

This one is clearly a judgment. Jesus is doing communion with His disciples and He tells them that if you take communion without discerning the body is eating and drinking judgment on themselves. Then He goes on to tell them that this is why many have died or are weak or sick.

Clearly a judgment here.

And this is a judgment specifically for people who are followers of Christ!

How about in the Old Testament?

Well, we have Job. His friends told him that he was being judged by God. God called Job’s friends wicked and stupid for saying that, though.

You would think that if this was judgment, there would be no confusion about whether it is or isn’t. God is not a God of confusion but of clarity.

One more verse to make a point is in Luke 13….

Luke 13:4-5 – Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

A tower fell in Jerusalem and the people wanted to know if it was judgment on them. Jesus specifically tells them it was not.

So now I am left wondering. Is this judgment? Is it a trial? Is it a consequence? I tend to lean more (today) on the consequence than anything. We are acting foolishly here in America, and especially in our churches, and we are not heeding the sound advice of the experts in their fields and doing what we please. There has to be a consequence that follows that course of action.

Ultimately, though, it is God who is in control. And, one day, this will all be wiped away as we enter rest with Him.

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