All mind, no heart

If you don’t oppose abortion, you can’t join the Republican Party.

If you don’t support the LGBTQ community, you can’t join the Democratic Party.

That, right there, is why this nation is so divided these days.

Both political parties have become one-issue parties. They may say otherwise (or they may not), but that’s the bottom line.

No one asks about the root causes of either issue, because no one wants to dig deep for truth in our shallow, social media-centered society.

Root causes

Why do women want an abortion in the first place? All we hear about is rape victims, but I’m guessing the issue is far more widespread – and complicated – than that.

Why are LGBTQ people not attracted to people of the opposite gender? They’ll say, publicly anyway, they were born that way. I’m not buying that. What, gay or lesbian, in your past caused you to reject intimacy from a person of the opposite sex?

In my unprofessional opinion, both issues have the same root cause: the breakdown of the nuclear family.

We are looking for love and acceptance in places that don’t give us, deep down, what we truly need.

We live life through our minds, and not through our hearts. Or vice versa.

We either bury our hearts deep inside our psyche (this is what I do), or we expose our hearts in unhealthy ways on social media.

Some issues are not meant for public consumption. We need to deal with them at home or in a counselor’s office.

Democrats and Republicans have seized on different parts of our sex-saturated society and turned abortion and same-sex relationships into political issues. Where can we compromise on either issue, that is, find common ground?

By pursuing the root causes.

By digging deeper than our culture permits these days.

Meaningless, but pretty

So far, this is a shallow post, and that’s my point. It’s easy to sit in my La-Z-Boy and point fingers at people who hold different views than I do.

Before we bought our house two years ago, I noticed there’s a star prominently placed on the front. I did a little research on that to make sure it wasn’t making a statement on an issue I couldn’t support. It’s not. It’s harmless.

barnstar4

According to Wikipedia, a barnstar (or barn star, primitive star, or Pennsylvania star) is a painted object or image, often in the shape of a five-pointed star … used to decorate a barn in some parts of the United States, and many rural homes in Canada. … They are especially common in Pennsylvania and frequently seen in German-American farming communities. … Barnstars remain a popular form of decoration, and modern houses are sometimes decorated with simple, metal, five-pointed stars which the makers describe as “barn-star.”

I’m glad the star didn’t have a subliminal meaning. It’s just pretty.

We are pressed to construct our lives that way, too. Meaningless, but pretty.

Don’t offend anyone. Don’t get involved.

If you want to show your courage, join a political party. Just not a church. That’s off-limits, because churches are narrow-minded and judgmental. Except the ones that aren’t.

Actually, both political parties are more narrow-minded than any church is. Did you know that? No, because your mind is already made up.

Exactly.

Both parties want one-issue voters. That’s as narrow as you can get.

News flash: There’s more to life than sex.

But maybe not. As a friend is describing in short social media posts, pornography is pervasive, especially in the United States. It’s also a silent sin. We can, and do, hide it very well.

Sex and intimacy should go together. But often they don’t. That, in my opinion, is why pornography is so prevalent. We’re looking for intimacy in the wrong places.

And we aren’t finding it.

In response, we hurt ourselves and others. In many ways. Deeply.

We retreat or lash out

To protect ourselves, we stay shallow. We bury our hearts. We don’t risk emotional pain.

Either that, or we go too far the other way – put our emotional pain out there for all to see.

It’s numbing.

I’d rather hide. The #metoo movement just confirms for me that women are unapproachable, that they don’t want a deep relationship with a man. Women have been burned too many times, so they push us away.

As men, we either retreat or lash out. Neither response is healthy, but those are our options.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but maybe not by much.

How do we reconcile? How do we overcome our differences, as men and women, introverts and extroverts, Democrats, Republicans and independents?

I listen to a lot of contemporary Christian music, and while the tunes are catchy, most of it is pop psychology and not true faith. It’s shallow.

Dear Abby and Ask Amy are shallow.

Social media is shallow. Does our president even know this? Why does he get so bent out of shape by what he sees there?

Where do we find true meaning in life? Is there a way to pursue root causes, to seek our purpose, without consequences that hurt other people?

I know the answer to that question, but that doesn’t mean I’ve found it yet.

The answer is the living God. Not your God or my God, or what passes for God in our culture (or any other culture). Truth is truth, whether anyone believes it or not.

The living God has our best interests in mind. And in heart.

God sees the big picture, which we do not. Many of us refuse to accept this. We want the big picture too. But we can’t have it. If we could, then we would be gods controlling the universe. But we aren’t, and we can’t.

We don’t want to admit this, so we stay shallow. We won’t seek truth because we don’t think we’ll like what we’ll find there.

Truth hurts. My heart has been bleeding for a long time now. I keep my deep thoughts private, so I won’t give you details. God promises healing, but am I willing to open myself up to that?

It’s not a simple question. It’s a very deep question, actually.

Maybe someday, I’ll have an answer.

Some of you have found the answer, and are living it. Most of us have not.

This is the struggle our world gives us.

One day …

Crazy start, wonderful ending

I started work early last Thursday, thanks to an extra assignment. As a driver for adults with developmental disabilities, on this particular day I was to pick up a wheelchair-bound person at his temporary residence in a nursing home and transport him to a nearby hospital for early morning surgery.

Another staff person was to meet me at the day program center where I work in Elyria, Ohio. She would lead me to the nursing home, and to the hospital.

It was cold outside. I started my van at 6 a.m. to warm it up.

Blizzard strikes

Almost immediately, it started snowing. Hard. I had to run the windshield wipers so I could see.

This was the first week of April, after Easter. So much for an early spring.

Ten minutes later my co-worker arrived. She drove her personal vehicle and I followed in my wheelchair-accessible van.

We got on eastbound Interstate 90. Traffic was heavy – and going 25 mph. The highway was slick. Several vehicles, mostly pickups, had buried themselves down the embankment on the side of the highway. This winter storm came quickly, without warning.

I trudged along at 25-30 mph, two hands on the wheel, wipers activated for the blowing snow.  The news station I listen to in the morning reported numerous wrecks throughout the area. Traffic stopped completely on one interstate, and slowed to a crawl on several others – including the one I was on.

I kept my eyes forward, on my co-worker’s vehicle up ahead. She had told me which exit to take, so we caravanned off the highway and eventually reached the nursing home just over the Bay Village line.

She went inside and retrieved our patient. I loaded him into my van.

We got back on I-90. Traffic was moving a little faster now, thankfully, but snow continued to fall. We got off a few exits later and before long arrived at Fairview Hospital on Cleveland’s west side.

His surgery was scheduled for 7 a.m. We arrived about 7:10 a.m. It’s the best we could do.

Here comes the sun

Normally I start my shift at the day program and head east. Since this was Thursday, my first stop was in Columbia Station. Then, I pick up an individual in Strongsville.

Since I knew the day before about this extra run to the hospital, I told the Columbia Station individual’s mom that I’d be late this day. Good thing. I’m usually at their house about 7:15 a.m.

Instead, I changed my morning route a little. Starting from Fairview as the sun was supposed to come up, I jumped on southbound Interstate 71. Northbound I-71 heading into Cleveland was stopped for several miles, due to a couple of those weather-related wrecks I heard about on the radio. Southbound, we moved fairly well – not at highway speeds because it was still snowing, but at least we were moving.

I got off at the appropriate exit and arrived at my Strongsville destination on time. I took a deep breath and gave a prayer of thanks.

From there, I drove west to Columbia Station, arriving at about 8 a.m. They were very understanding, and appreciated my heads-up that I’d be late.

Oh, yes. Since I was south of Cleveland by now, the sun was shining and the roads were clear. The snow didn’t reach this area at all. With this storm, only the northern regions by Lake Erie were affected.

Were they ever.

I finished my route uneventfully and arrived at the day program center relatively on time, grateful for a safe drive.

A special outing

That day, we had an outing scheduled in Brunswick, about a 40-minite drive away. Since Brunswick is south of Strongsville, the weather was fine in that direction.

I took two individuals – one in a wheelchair, one ambulatory – to Scene 75, which offers arcade-style games that our individuals could enjoy. We had planned to take more individuals but our bus was in the shop, so we didn’t have the transportation for a big group.

The three of us arrived at 11 a.m. when Scene 75 opened. We ate lunch first, like we often do at our outings, then spent the rest of our time enjoying the games. Both individuals had a good time, playing games each enjoyed. Money was put on a game card for each of them, and when the cards were used up, we cashed in the tickets they won for a few prizes, then drove back to the center.

Because our bus was unavailable, I had to make an extra run to take several of our folks to their home before making my regular afternoon run.

I ended the day about 5 p.m., which is typical for me. A busy 11-hour day (I don’t often stay all day; four days a week I get several hours off midday so I don’t go over 40 hours), with a crazy first hour on the highways.

Of those 11 hours, I spent a total of less than one at the day program center. All of it was on the road or at Scene 75.

Some days are like that.

The reward

The next day, the snow was long gone and all was back to normal. When I returned to the day program in the afternoon, something happened that makes this job worth doing. The ambulatory individual I took to Scene 75 put down the tablet he enjoys when at the day program, walked over to where I was standing, gave me a big smile, then gave me a side hug.

I’d never seen him do that before, with me or any other staff person. He is non-verbal, but I felt he was thanking me for a good time the day before.

After the hug, he returned to his seat and picked up his tablet, continuing on with his day.

My heart was full. The fact that only three of us went on that outing meant that I could give almost undivided attention to both individuals. I think they appreciated that.

That’s what our day program is all about. Connecting with the community. Connecting with each other. Sometimes it’s hard. Plans don’t always go smoothly.

But when they do, even on a day that gets off to a crazy start, it makes this job special.

Got to go. I’ll get lunch here at home, then head back to the center shortly thereafter for my afternoon run.

We’ll see what today holds.

The reason to live

President Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un recently traded barbs about who had the largest “nuclear button.”

Soon after, an emergency missile alert accidentally went out to everyone in Hawaii, sparking panic as thousands of people, assuming they had only minutes to live, scrambled to seek shelter and say their final goodbyes to loved ones.

Mudslides in southern California killed at least 20 people.

And there was a fatal school shooting in Kentucky.

Lots of fear. Life at times flashes before us, unexpectedly.

Which leads me to this question: Are we ready to die?

What if one such emergency visited your neighborhood?

No guarantees …

We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. None of us is.

We know this.

We eat nutritious foods, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle to try to prolong a happy, healthy time on Earth. Often it works.

I’ve been blessed with a healthy body, which I don’t take for granted. I enjoy ice cream or a chocolate chip cookie as much as anyone, but I don’t overindulge in them. I try to get some exercise once or twice a week.

All things in moderation.

It’s worth the effort. I rarely call in sick to work. I don’t sit on the sidelines because my body won’t let me do what I enjoy doing. I know many of you can’t say this. Each of us does our best with what we’ve been given.

… except death

But even in the best of situations, it won’t last forever. Our bodies eventually will wear out. It’s inevitable.

I am ready to die today. I’m not hoping to die or expecting to die; I’m not fatalistic about it.

But I’m ready.

It might not happen for another 40 years. That’s great, too. I’ll serve God on this Earth for as long as I’m here.

We all think about what might happen in the next life. We’re wired that way. We know we’re mortal. Some of us try to suppress those thoughts, but we all have them.

Especially as death nears, so I’ve heard.

Preparing for forever

Why wait until then to address the issue? There are things we can do now to prepare for forever.

I will be with Jesus Christ in heaven when I die. This I know. Whether it’s today or 40 years from now, it will happen.

The God of the Bible is not the same as the gods of any other religion or belief system. We do not have our own truth. Sorry, Oprah. There’s a bigger picture here, one that men and women must adhere to. (Men who abuse women will not be excused in the next life, that is certain. Even if justice isn’t served on Earth, it will be in heaven.)

The God of the Bible is the only god who cares about our welfare – on Earth as well as in the next life. That’s why we should look at this issue now, before we reach our deathbed.

 

God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

 

We don’t have to follow a list of rules before God will accept us. He takes us just as we are. Christians aren’t perfect people – far from it. We don’t have our act together, necessarily.

What makes us different?

We are forgiven. That’s all.

 

If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

 

That’s it. There’s no magic formula or ritual that must be followed.

Living forever

Of course, living that out isn’t easy. That’s why we attend church every week, and why we should participate in Sunday school or a small group for support and encouragement. It’s why we should read the Bible often – every day, if possible – to learn what’s in there.

Even Bible scholars, which I am not, have plenty of things to learn about God.

Does that turn you off?

It should excite you.

God is bigger than we can possibly imagine. At the same time, He is smaller than the tiniest detail of our lives.

He cares. To the point of death. His death. Our deaths.

His life. And our lives.

Am I weak or ignorant if I say that there are things I know about God, but there’s plenty I don’t know?

“Salvation” is knowable. That’s one thing we can be certain about.

Why does God save some and not others? That we will never know on this Earth.

All of us are sinners. No one deserves “salvation.” No one earns it.

Why God saves some, why He shows mercy, proves that He loves us and wants the best for us.

Including you.

Instead of asking why bad things happen to good people, we should ask:

Why do good things happen to bad people?

All of us, every single one of us, is “bad.” You can find fault with me rather easily, and a few of you do. I could find fault with you as well if I wanted to look at you that way.

How do we break that cycle?

Only by following God’s example.

He sees the good in each of us, and wants to draw that out. He offers “salvation” as a gift.

But it’s not a gift until we accept it.

I can offer you a Christmas present, but if you return it to the store, you’ve rejected it. So, it’s not a gift.

God doesn’t do that. He offers us “salvation” even though we don’t deserve it.

Then, we spend the rest of our lives getting to know Him better.

It’s worth the effort.