encouragement

10 Ways the World is Getting Better

I write this from my island in Alaska---because I need it this week. The daily headlines travel all the way here. I need to shut out cynicism. I need hope and truth. And perhaps you do as well? Here we go then! 10 Ways the World is Getting Better (for real!)

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1.  The Miss America Pageant ended its swimsuit parade! (Sis-boom-bah with a pom-pom [but not a skimpy skirt!])  Good riddance to strutting near-naked before a panel of judges scoring their curves, weight and shape like a cow at an auction. Because naturally if you're a woman, no one can judge your real beauty---and of course we mean inside beauty---and intelligence too!---unless you're in stilettos and bikini. Chalk another “about-time” notch on the #MeToo movement.

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2. It’s our time to shine! As the public square gets increasingly impulsive and insulting, believers are given an exciting glorious hour to enact Paul’s important admonitions: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,” and “speak the truth in love.”  Seize the day, grace-filled people!

 

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3. Podcasts! A whole new world has opened to all of us hungry masses, eager to learn more about-----everything!  Those empty hours commuting, cleaning bathrooms, or mending fishing nets can now be filled with artful aural blends of music, voice, fascinating ideas and people. What’s not to love?  Here’s a list of Time Magazines “Best Podcasts of 2018, So far” http://time.com/5275708/best-podcasts-of-2018-so-far/

And here’s the “Big List of Christian Podcasts.”

 

4. Churches and Christian organizations are doing something! They are rising up to boldly (and gracefully) speak on behalf of the most vulnerable of our neighbors: immigrants, children of immigrants, unborn babies, refugees, abused women. I’m so encouraged that our faith is increasingly engendering action in the world. We are praying with our lips, and now with our hands and bodies also.

 

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5. Your favorite superheroes will never die! "The Justice League: Civil War" reminded me that thanks to Hollywoods’ endless reboots and our own human need for heroes and resurrections, we’re all assured a constant supply of good vs. evil melees and bashes. Even when my hero (Black Panther) dies a tortuous death, I know he’ll soon rise to inspire me again. This makes me happy.

 

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6. #MeToo, #TimesUp and #ChurchToo have put criminals in jail and male predators on notice!!  Yes, we must guard against over-reaching, and all are "innocent until proven guilty," but women who routinely experience harassment and abuse at work and in the church are finally being heard. And believed. (After how many centuries?) I’m still cheering and thankful. (Because I am a MeToo too.)

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7. Social media! (I know, but hear me for a minute.)  We have an unprecedented chance to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” We get to pray for Molly who is sick, we get to laugh with Davy and Elise who are getting married, we get to thank God for Karen healing from being hit by a bus, we get to console Ben on the death of his mother. (And bonus! We get the goat-in-a-bonnet pics and the banana dump-cake recipe we’ll make for dessert. ) I’m more connected and empathetic because of it.

 

8. Racist tweets can cancel a popular show! I believe that more and more of us are awakening to the lies and pervasiveness of racism and are actively working to uproot and expose it, in ourselves first, and in our churches and larger world.  Racism is anti-Christian, and (finally) we're getting it. 

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9. No more “normal.”!!  (Okay, this one's hard, but let me try.) Ageism, sexism, racism and a bunch of other –isms narrowed “normal” and “beautiful” to a tiny swath of acceptable people. Human diversity is every-day real and should be recognized and represented. We’re getting there. Kanye West recently revealed his bi-polar diagnosis. Lady Gaga talks about her fibromyalgia. Glen Campbell was open about his Alzheimer’s. Models now include curvy women and women in their 70’s and 80’s.  All of us in our incredible variety of shapes, sizes, ages, colors and abilities are made in the beautiful image of God. We’re doing so much better at honoring that. 

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10. People are loving each other more than ever. They are. Just look around. Families are going on picnics. Churches are feeding refugees and teaching them English. Mothers are riding bikes with their kids. Fathers are backpacking with their teenagers. Teachers are playing baseball with their students. Daughters and sons are caring for their elderly parents. Kids are secretly making presents for Father’s Day. Pastors are serving communion bread and wine to men and women in hospital beds. Strangers dig gardens together and become friends. 

This is happening all over.  

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Turn off the news. Walk outside. Watch a shooting star. Breathe in the beautiful lavender night on the mountains.

The whole earth is full of the goodness of God--and we can be too.  Rejoice!  

 

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Friends (people smarter than me), Would you add to my list? I'd love to hear your thoughts on ways the world is getting better!

When There's Nothing New Under the Sun












I got on a bush plane yesterday afternoon with my husband and two school officials and flew over Kodiak Island, through fog and thick swaths of clouds, over snowed mountains, a pod of orcas, the whirlpools of Whale Pass . … to a village, a very small village of maybe 50 people surrounded by wilderness and ocean. You cannot get here by road, only by bush plane or boat. It was graduation day. 

Here are the graduates. 





          This morning I get up with a backache that leaves me hobbling around the house while I get ready for a trip to Anchorage for oral surgery tomorrow. After that I make my yearly migration to fish camp, to Harvester Island, when the fog and clouds abate. 

           I am soon to sign a contract for my next book and am writing an article on gender identity, and tomorrow is the last day of school in Kodiak, when I'll go and eat hamburgers and play games with the kids, and I'm gathering all the boxes of things I need for the summer at fish camp, and it all feels ordinary, routine, as though I have done each thing more than a thousand times, though some of these I have done only once. Just once. Others more. 







            Do you know this too, how some nights and weeks our sleep is stolen,  how the mind goes numb sometimes, how the eyes stop seeing, how the body aches when we rise, how nothing can surprise us anymore, how we are surrounded by goodness and we cannot feel it . . . ?? Do you know this condition? Do you know this sickness?







  

               It is not the disease called Life, or the condition of Aging. Though I have seen many elderly with the lights gone out and the joy fled far, I have seen it also in the young and middle-aged. And I see it sometimes in the mirror. I saw it this morning. I can even quote a Scripture verse to normalize it: "There is nothing new under the sun."







          




             But I will not let this death have me. Dylan Thomas pleads with us in his famous villanelle, "Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light." He is writing about his father in his last days, but this can be us as well. 

                 I am raging right now, sitting here on a double-cushioned stool to ease my back. I am raging right now writing this, and I raged this morning when I opened my Bible and drank in those words, and I rage every time I pick up my camera. We must find ways to find God in our days, for He is the Maker of every one, the Spinner of every hour, the one who ticks the second hand of the clock, delivering Life to us every  moment, even when we do not see or hear it. 

      And how will we wake up so we don't miss it? We are not left alone, unarmed. Through all these weapons for Life, I find Him again this very day:

  



























And here, in my prayer journal,





In my daily bread, 






    Your eyes? How are they this week? If you have been blind like me, don't stay there. We are not helpless. We can choose to get new eyes. There are so many ways,































          And if we cannot find God in our own lives even then, if we are that exhausted, that ill (and sometimes we are), then look for Him in others' lives, in other places. Here is where I looked today:

This interview with a Christian Iraqi girl, asking for forgiveness of ISIS.






            
        In Ann Voskamp's call to help our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, and the 1 - 9 year old girls sold as slaves to the highest bidder. 






In Christianity Today, the story of Jeanne Bishop, who helps her clients make amends for their crimes, who is now helping her sister's murderer make amends for his. 




And if you still are half-lidded, watch the wonder (and tender-heartedness) of children:



             
And taste the best medicine I know:  laughter. Even if you already are well.






    Nothing else has changed today----except me. My eyes are open. I am beginning to see again . …  And I pray you as well, dear friends . ...













Kodiak Snowfall, SKYFALL+ the "Hobby of Resurrection"









Beauty!  A lovely snowfall this week. Snow-attack would be closer, though, since a 40+ mph wind was behind it.  The sea smashed and raged below my house, the cliff-facing windows were smothered in white.  I was happy. I’ve been off-island, strangely missing the dark and temper of this season.  My son, in California, is wistful for blizzards and violent skies. I understand. Once you live under such drama, even the sunny places our bodies crave bore us after awhile. 
















While “Outside,” I got to see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall.  I’m not a huge 007 fan, for so many reasons, but I have watched most of the recent ones, and even a few of the older ones, which I immediately regretted. I seldom finished them.  







The Bond franchise with its string of oily tuxedo-ed martini-ed protagonists, wanton beddings and shootings; its portraits of women-as-bikini-clad know-and-do-nothings, fully deserved to die out. 














But, the franchise rises again, decidedly smarter and better. This one may be the best of the bunch. One of my favorite moments in the movie is this brief exchange:




(Bond: “Everyone needs a hobby."

Smarmy Enemy: "What’s yours?

Bond: "Resurrection")


And so it is. Bond is shot from atop a moving train, falls hundreds of feet from the sky into a waterfall.  He survives, but we’ve no idea how. We know surviving three falls---a bullet, a skyfall and a waterfall is impossible, which is why he utters the word “resurrection.”  He once was dead, and he lives again.  He is weakened, wounded, his body not what it once was. He still bears the scar of a bullet in his shoulder. But he has lives to save, and one particular evil life to end. As long as his heart beats, he cannot keep from his mission.







              I just found out this week that snow is alive. That its nucleus is often a living microbe around which the snowflake is formed. When researchers took snow samples from 19 locations around the world, they discovered that as much as 85% of the nucleus of snow in the warmer temperatures is living bacteria. 





The snowflake, each one, though frozen into immobility, yet is alive.     





                                 

              My life is full of resurrections. This week alone,  I was gone, and now I am home. I am sick now, almost immobilized, but I will soon be well.  My husband and I are married 35 years now---the cycles of dying and reviving beyond counting.  The snow falls and we hibernate in the dark, knowing  the long lit days will return.  I glimpse my own selfish heart, and die with a thousand lashings---and I remember forgiveness and get up again. A friend cannot smile or walk, and a visit makes her laugh.  


 How do we rise up? The snowflake is intricately structured around a living speck, invisible to the eye. And us. We too are built around a life invisible to the eye, but more fully alive than anything we can see.  Because of that life, and because of that first rising-from-death, resurrection becomes our habit.  Even in the most inhospitable places, places where we stumble and fall---blizzards, sickness, selfishness, pain---life remains. 


It is God’s hobby to bring life out of death, and if we ask for it, he can do the same for us. His hobby will become the pattern of our lives.   











May I pray for you this week, that you would rise up with new life? I would be honored to lift your name to the God of Hope and Life.