Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Debating Tips for the Holdays

This post is inspired by the Atlantic Article called "If You Must Talk Politics at Thanksgiving, Here's How: 10 Unsatisfying Rules For Disagreeing With Friends and Families Over the Holidays."

Their suggestions are good advice for any time of year,  although I'd recommend avoiding any and all serious discussion during a holiday if you possibly can. It's a time to be welcoming our nearest and dearest, not driving them away.

Still... I am aware that some of us have friends, neighbors, community members, or relations who just cannot be discouraged from venting at our political affiliation, religion, or other differences. Then you have but few (angelic) choices: refuse to discuss it, defend yourself respectfully, leave or ask them to leave (if it is your house.)
photo from Wititudes

If you find yourself tempted into the fray, then may these tips be of some help to you. This is how I try to approach such discussions (though I'll admit I don't always handle it perfectly either.)

The basic strategy here boils down to respecting the person even when you don't agree with them at all. This may mean ignoring what can seem like a personal attack on your status in the group and your personal worth. Even if a personal attack is exactly what is intended, it never helps to point this aspect out.  It's not about who is right or wrong, but surviving until dessert is served. You need a fire extinguisher, not gasoline.

My tips:  It is helpful if you make an effort to acknowledge all valid points from the other side, and accept in advance that the most you are ever going to do is sow some seeds of doubt in the 100% rightness of their position. Never even hope you can change the other person's mind entirely, as that way endless debates and acrimony loom. The other side assumes that nothing will do but their total submission to your incredible wisdom, and that just ain't gonna happen, Hoss.

Stick with demanding a little respect for your differences - and let the rest go. Say what you think is the most important parts of why you believe/live as you do, back it up with what facts you have, and (ideally) look for the earliest moment to end the debate in a way that is respectful to both sides...without retreat...without hard feelings. Grit your teeth if you must, but realize this is the best gift of peace and love you can offer to everyone at the gathering. It is the wise thing to do.

Family fights are memorable but NOT great for cozy holiday memories, which is why debates like this should be avoided whenever possible, and ended quickly when they arise, as long as this doesn't steamroll others' self-worth.

Opinions are like noses, everybody has one and they all drop *ahem* less than delightful offerings from time to time. Yeah...eeeeewwww
 (and a tissue box)

A Gentle Plan for Dietary Improvement During the Holdays

A lot of us are gearing up for the holidays, and dreading the usual resolution to improve our diet afterward that invariably follows.

I have a different idea. Don't skip your goodies, especially don't skip the turkey, but do try substituting healthier varieties of the goods you adore as you make your holiday meal plans. That way you will be already working toward your healthier body when the New Year begins.

I was inspired to discuss this when I saw this article for changing your diet to an all healthy alternative one week at a time. My family would have found this a lot less workable than the plan we created for ourselves. So then I figured, I'd share what we actually did. Maybe it would help somebody else. Now I am realizing our plan is actually doable during the holidays too, because all I asking of you in step one is to choose between varieties of the same foods you were going to buy anyway.

IMO their plan makes huge changes that are hard to master in a week. Huge dietary changes work better if you cut the worst stuff first, and let everyone agree that it is a livable change before you move on. Also note that it often takes two-three weeks to stabilize any permanent change in diet (or any other habit.) Don't push to the next step until you have adapted to the current one. We initially worked more from this list than theirs http://www.booksforbetterliving.com/jillian-michaels-tips-slim-for-life/

Please note the items on it to specifically avoid when you can. Even processed foods/frozen dinners vary in quality. When these are your only option, pick the ones with the fewest bad ingredients. Even that much change can help quite a bit!

MY suggested list of other changes comes from various warnings from health-concious friends and groups (mostly other Moms and herbal/food therapy fans.)

We've also absorbed the ideas of Gary Taubes, and so far we've combined the lessons about old/modern grains, excessively sugary foods, and chemical toxicity with his findings about stabilizing our endocrine systems to lose weight safely, easily, and naturally. The resulting resolutions has resulted in these steps. Swelling in the liver area is way down. Digestion is much improved. We rarely have heartburn now. Seems to be working for us!

Step 1: Cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and diet sugars but allow as much natural sugar as you want the first week, then cut back on adding sugary snacks as the cravings ease up in the following weeks.

You must allow the sugar cravings to drop naturally before you can get serious about permanently cutting back sugars in your diet (while still enjoying your food.) If you want improvement to last, start by replacing everything in your cabinet to non-HFCS alternatives. Watch out for breading products, cold medicines/cough drops, juices, sodas, and convenience foods with HFCS or fake sugars in them. Especially get rid of condiments, - like ketchup, pancake syrups, sweet relishes, jellies - that have HFCS as the main sweetener. There are sugar alternatives for every one of these. You just have to look carefully. Sometimes it's another brand name, sometimes its the generic that turns out to be safer. The best regular pickle relishes in our area right now are from the dollar store!  What we found was, that once we re-adjusted to the cane sugar, agave nectar, or honey versions, we felt like what we had regularly ingested before was way too much sugar. The explanation we received was that our bodies can 'see' natural sugars better. HFCS and diet sugars confuse the body and leave you hungry. So when you eat/drink only natural sweeteners you end up cutting down on them. Then you can start working in less sugary options as your finances and cravings allow - more unsweetened fruits/juices, more peppery relishes, real maple syrup (you use syrup less once your leptin levels improve) etc.

End goal is to cut down on total sugar usage and therefore improve how your body uses and recognizes the calories you eat, which reduces hunger, which reduces overeating. Take daily steps to get there. Excessive fructose in your diet is believed to strain your liver, which messes up that whole process. Its about 45 minutes in, but this explains. (Fructose is at 57 minutes,  (this explains why concentrated High Fructose Corn Syrup is a bigger problem, even before you get into how it is made) -  but you need to see the comparison for glucose and ethanol.) Fresh-pressed juices and whole fruits don't do this to us. I think there is probably something extra that helps there to help digestion besides the fiber, but I can't prove that one. All I know is that I can eat several oranges, apples, or other fruits and I don't see internal swelling like I do with even a tablespoon of a HFCS filled ketchup. BBQ sauce, relish or pancake syrup. Not kidding.

Step 2: Warnings about 'grain brain' and 'leaky gut' have encouraged a lot of people to cut out grain products entirely, or at least use only 'gluten free' options. We acted on the warning in "Wheat Belly" about triticum aestivum and found that just cutting down on 'modern' breads/wheat products gave us a large benefit.  Just shift from 'regular wheat' to less modified grains. Eat more barley, oats, kamut, quinoa, spelt, millet, organic potatoes, and/or rice in place of 'regular' noodles, biscuits, or crackers made from the usual triticum aestivum. Durham/semolina noodles are better than noodles that just say 'wheat' but better still are noodles made from beans, rice flour, or at least an older wheat variety than the usual. Use King Arthur Flour or Bob's Red Mill products(or equivalent) for baking, making pie crusts etc If you must buy sliced sandwich bread, try getting those that at least blend in other grains (like oats or millet). Nature's Own is definitely one of the better commercial brands right now because it avoids HFCS and several other bad ingredients, but I don't know if the wheat itself is better. If it becomes necessary because of your particular health requirements to shift to gluten free or away from grains altogether, this will be a gentler transitory step.

Your gut will start feeling so much better once you've made this shift!

Step 3. Commit to eating more local/organic fresh fruit and veg every week. Seriously plan it in - and keep bananas around. They may be a little starchy but they make excellent snacks compared with what you ate before. Those fancy baby spinach salads are surprisingly filling, our favorite baby spinach salad so far also has organic sliced apples, nuts, raisins (or organic grapes)... Plan to make a taco salad rather than using flour or corn tortillas. Bake sweet potatoes at least once a week. You can find reasonable ways to serve fresh veg in ways your family will eat it.

Step 4.. everything else... Steadily working in most of the usual recommendations when you can will do good things for you. Eat/drink organic meats, organic dairy, more nuts, fewer foods with nitrates, fewer fried foods, and fewer processed foods/mixes. Avoid hydrogenated oils when you can. Avoid MSG and Sodium Benzoate. Avoid fake sugars, GMO's, and 'lite' foods.

Also try to walk a little more whenever you get the chance. It doesn't make you lose weight, but its good for the functioning of your digestive system. Take extra laps around the grocery store or mall. Whatever works for you. You'll enjoy those cookies and pies much more after a little exercise anyway. ;)

Don't give up on eating healthy when you must eat out. Many restaurant chains do have their menu ingredients online. Choose carefully from the relatively safe choices when eating out. Watch out for their salad dressings and other condiments!

VERY Important Note:: Please don't develop an 'all or nothing' mentality. If you just have to eat hotdogs or bacon tonight, then eat them, but don't give up on the idea that your overall diet is going to stay healthier now.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Real Humility and the Pharisee

Inspired by JMT's video blog

Lk 18:9-14

The tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—
greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Some proud people believe that 'humbling' themselves before God is good enough, but are like this Pharisee.  This scene shows the Pharisee bragging on all the works he has done to express his devotion.  Jesus’ statement that the lowly sinner was more justified would have been a shock to at least some of his listeners. How could God like a blatant sinner more than a highly respected religious official? This was pretty close to saying that a convicted conman who was sincerely penitent meant more to God than leader of a super-sized church or cathedral who was prideful to poor sinners – even when he faithfully fulfilled his usual duties and was genial in his dealings with his preferred circle of society.  Even today, such a plain assessment from Heaven would shock people. In general, I would expect them to resist this Word as being the real deal, even if God freshly sent a prophet to them to say exactly that.

After all, not everything the Pharisee did here is wrong. He was reminding God of all the ways he acknowledged the most High and God’s laws.  He made a public confession of his faith and his testimony.  This kind of statement may have played well with the local priesthood, but the government of Israel as a satellite state of Rome was far more pagan/secular. He knew his stance would have limited his upwards progression within the Roman Empire. The Pharisee has sacrificed all higher ambitions to stand for God. That’s praiseworthy.

 So what was messed up?

# 1 Well the testimony itself sounds a bit egotistical doesn’t it?  The Pharisee sounds like he is demanding God recognize how special his service to heaven has been (or else?) Even then, Godlessness was so prevalent in Israel (thanks to the occupying Romans) that the Jews often figured God ought to especially appreciate that they still live in a way that ‘officially’ honored His name.  Many had been persecuted to varying degrees for remaining Jews. That Pharisee could have aimed for a state career if he hadn’t valued serving God more, so choosing to honor the Faith of the Fathers in such a detailed exacting way ought to be worth extra credit. God should be impressed!

Go ahead and laugh, but people still feel that way. 

Today Christianity is mocked and marginalized in many places, and rather than realize that this means that whole world really is leaning towards hellish attitudes, people think they are doing God a favor for even considering worshipping Him when His stock has slipped so much in society, TV shows, movies, and the news media. He doesn’t seem as great to a population propagandized against him since their earliest school years.  Some of that dismissive attitude bleeds over into church living. Even though most believers had a sense of their own sinfulness and extreme unworthiness once, probably when they seriously converted and accepted Jesus as their savior, this sense is easily lost.

Every now and then, it hits me hard that the whole Earth is incredibly messed up, hate-filled, ignorant, selfish, and just plain sinful by God’s standards. THAT is when I freshly appreciate how amazing, how strong, how HUGE a deal is God’s Love and Grace. I figure these moments of clarity are a gift of the Holy Spirit, because it doesn’t take long for that awareness of the filth to fade away. I reacclimatize to my current world, and then society doesn’t seem to be so bad. Time goes by and I start to feel pretty good about my ethics and progress compared with others. That’s when God’s judgments and requirements seem a little extreme.  Seriously, everyone is prone to this. As long as we look around us more than we look at God, we will overvalue ourselves and undervalue God’s patience with our flaws and our horrendous situation. We forget how miserable we were. We forget that we needed saved from the very world that says God’s opinion doesn’t matter, and the Hell that the world is headed toward. We even forget how much He loves us.

     That Pharisee wasn’t an idiot. He was just couldn’t imagine how lowly he really was compared with God. The Pharisee didn’t see how loving and gracious God had been in creating the Abrahamic covenant he depended on. God had set terms to show man his own tendency towards lawlessness; God was making a pathway that allowed Him to be officially pleased with a fundamentally flawed lowly creation like him. God didn’t need his tithes or herbs. The Pharisee was more open with that his ‘God had better appreciate my sacrifice or I can find a god I like better’ attitude because he was on the earlier covenant, which didn’t include the inward warning of the Holy Spirit about the inappropriate pride his attitude expressed. The Comforter had not yet come to Earth to abide in the hearts of God’s people. The Holy Spirit makes us aware sometimes of how silly we are, how hard-hearted and prideful we prefer to be, and He does it because He loves us. It’s the abiding comfort, love, and peace that make the remonstrations bearable.  It’s shocking that any Christians could make this mistake, but we do; we just aren’t as blatant about it, because we feel that internal correction.

# 2 -- Today we can see the pride in the Pharisee’s assertions but many still don’t get the whole picture. The Pharisee was trying for higher heavenly status the same way he networked and maneuvered into Earthly status.

In the time this was written, toadying was highly acceptable behavior. It still is, but people are often slightly more discreet with their flattery these days. To gain an influential person’s ear, it helped if presented yourself as a valuable person to the VIP, so working in a certain amount of bragging in between your bouts of flattery and other seductive behaviors is generally a successful tactic.  You want them to see you not only as a loyal supporter, but a valuable one, as close to the leader’s status as you can manage. As part of your claims of fealty you would work in mentions of the many resources you’ve put at their disposal, or otherwise put to work for them. At the very least, you would still sell yourself as an extreme ‘fan’ and remind them of how you supported them publicly. [Celebrities feel entitled to everyone’s adulation, devotion, and affection, so the bit that stands out is your own ‘higher’ status and gifts – which they won’t even recognize as your contribution if you didn’t point it out directly.]  Look again at what the Pharisee is saying. He’s exactly in this format, selling himself as a valuable ‘fan,’ blithely unaware that God already knows all about him. Nor does the Pharisee take in that God doesn’t require a human PR department. God doesn’t really want us to ‘flatter’ Him.** We can’t anyway, because flattery implies that the praise we give is excessive, but no praise is too little for the Almighty, Holy, and True.  If we think we are flattering God, then we are actively failing to recognize how awesome He really is! God will always be the greatest being – beyond our imagining – whether we worship Him or not. God’s main interest in telling us about Himself is so we can development a proper relationship with Our Father, God, the one who made everything we have and who is also the being who has already condescended to meet with us and care for our neediness individually.  Not many worldly celebrities, even really minor ones like a regional boss or a homecoming queen, truly care about their fans. Worldly leaders often see followers as exploitable, expendable resources, and feel little or no loyalty towards those they use and discard. This is probably why God stresses that HIS leaders should consider themselves as shepherds who protect and guide their sheep. God has strong angry words for those leaders who call themselves Christians but view their ‘flocks’ in that heartless carnal way. 

If you - as a influential societal leader/celebrity - figure that you can set your followers to attack a poorer person because you don’t like what he said to you, you are not humble. You are a user and not a shepherd.  If what you didn’t like to hear was a word from God given through a poorer, weaker person (and God LOVES to send brave impecunious believers with a Word) and you tried to ‘get back’ at him or her for it instead of going to God prayerfully to discern what if anything you needed to fix, then you’ve chosen a path that has more in common with the heathen Haman than with Jesus. This you’d-better-kowtow-to-me-or- else attitude was what initiated the crisis in Esther. Mordecai would not worship Haman,  and told Haman what God thought of such practices, so Haman griped to his fans/followers, friends, and family until they came up with a plan to kill Mordecai – and all the Jews with him.

**People still try to manipulate God to gain favor the same way they would an easily flattered foolish fellow human too. Seems crazy to me to try that on with Omniscience, who sees all hearts, but I have seen folks who give it a go!

#3  So far I have talked only about how the Pharisee approached God in pride, holding way too high an opinion of what he was offering God and much too high an opinion of himself generally, but now I think we should talk about the pride the Pharisee displayed toward the other fellow worshiping God in that service.  

The Pharisee’s egotism was obvious, but he was talking mostly to himself/God about how messed up the other guy was, and even thanked God for allowing the Pharisee a higher social status. People still do this, just not out loud.

Here is a simple fact, although the Pharisee acknowledged that God was greater than himself, he still felt he held a much higher slot in the spiritual hierarchy. If he was a dog, you’d say he was an alpha dog, submitting to the Master, but not to other dogs. He is secure in his belief that he holds a much higher place in life. He submits to strength greater than his own, never to dogs weaker than himself. Those who fall to any weakness are beneath him.

That’s very carnal behavior, the inner ape-man bellowing and beating his abs.

The crazy bit is that many believers feel they have been humble enough to satisfy Heaven as long as they acknowledge God – and social equals/superiors- with any kind of deference.  In truth, this isn’t humility at all! That’s just a practical acknowledgement of personal relationships and power bases that can hurt you if you act ugly to them. ANYBODY will do that. Dogs, zebras, and peach-faced lovebirds will do that. The only reason most people don’t defer to God now is because they don’t think He exists!

No, humility means recognizing AS EQUALS OR SUPERIORS people who do not have your advantages in life. Humility is recognizing God in every one of us, to the lowest beggars on the street. It means being willing to love others as God loved your otherwise worthless hide.

The rich and Pharisees ‘believers’ in Jesus’ day had lost any idea of remembering God’s calls to humility in the Old Testament. Some still shared food or clothing with the poor, but very few felt any obligation to spend any time with them.

This is why the Pharisee disrespected the other believer, the repentant taxpayer. The Pharisee saw a worthless lowlife and sneered at the man’s tears before Heaven. He didn’t realize God loved that sinner as much as God loved him. He didn’t see that God was willing to remake both broken lives into something much more beautiful, but this required willingness to change and willingness to take the relationship with God seriously. The Pharisee sure didn’t realize that the taxman was making the right choice and he was not.

Those raised high in Christian hierarchies or in church ministries often feel pretty blessed. Their Moms and Dads often have great standing with God and man. All recognize they have a huge advantage in knowing about Jesus from an early age. All that is actually fine, great even, but they are at risk of developing the idea that their family legacy includes being pretty awesome from birth - compared with the ‘outsiders’ and the ‘little people’ – especially those they see as lower caste sinners.  We have got to watch out for that attitude, as it can lead to the Pharisee’s failing. God can greatly use anyone who truly seeks His Face. Those who have grown up comfortable, in grace, are often not as strong in faith or wisdom as those who have been in the spiritual wars and found Jesus’ support is as faithful as He promised it would be.

Any trial another brother or sister in faith faces could be or could have been our fate. We should see Jesus in their midst. We should identify with and help those we can, as good neighbors, not as Lady Bountiful condescending to drop a few goodies to the starving serfs from our safe proud perch on the high balcony. Fake humility mouths some platitudes, congratulates itself on how much better its own life is, and keeps emotional distance from the losers shoved into its awareness. Real humility looks our fellow humans in the eyes and sees mirror of our own flawed humanity. Real humility loves others as much or more than it loves itself.

God prefers real humility.

We had better be glad of this, because it is in God’s incredible humility that we find His miraculous love, acceptance, interest and concern for us.  God’s not asking us to do anything He isn’t doing Himself for us, every single day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Humble Pie in an Amish Paradise

Amish Paradise is one of my favorite Weird Al tunes. That may seem odd since some feel this song makes fun of Christians in general & the Amish in particular, but I don't think it's all that bad. Every time I see or hear it, I just remember how much I liked the Amish people I've met. Besides, those who can't take a gentle ribbing generally have ego issues, and we called to be humble Christ-like lovers of mankind. Occasionally that means eating a little humble pie with good grace.

Aside from using the word "fool" - devout believers like the Amish avoid insulting others like that - it's kinda true. I've never been Amish, but I have lived in some very basic rural situations, and some of those weren't but a few miles down the road from real Mennonites. I loved those guys! This is how I relate (at least to some of it.) Back to the land living is indeed plain, simple, peaceful, beautiful, but those not raised with that kind of quiet life often get freaky without all the usual noises and distractions. Yes, the lady is plain, but not ugly. She's just not what 'modern' people are used to seeing. This is the whole point of the song - even when its an Amish Paradise - when all is well, the weather is nice, the animals are healthy, the crops are abundant, and the Amish are actually having a great time, most city folks look at their lifestyle and go "Blech!"

Weird Al points out some of the stupidity the Amish put up with, and how they are likely to be tempted to respond. (You could even consider that part a warning to the English. Quit pushing them. They are human. They do have feelings.) As for those who make fun of the practical, old-fashioned clothes they wear? The Amish have long ago learned that is rarely worthwhile to respond to shallow, silly mockers, but you may as well know that you look just as ridiculous to them.
wink smiley photo: wink wink.gif

My favorite bit is this ~

"Think you're really righteous? Think you're pure in heart? Well, I know I'm a million times as humble as thou art! I'm the pious guy the little Amlettes wanna be like - On my knees day and night scorin' points for the afterlife"


Cracks me up every time because I have seen that one! I've met so many sincere believers who started off making some radical life changes in order to walk before God as perfectly as possible. Initially they knew that what they were doing was not required for salvation or even a close walk with God, (though the dedication and devotion that inspired that choice was beautiful IMO) but then they got to the point where they figured that only those who live just like they do are the 'real' Christians or maybe they recognize that other believers will probably go to heaven but are sure that they are 'scoring far more points for the afterlife' because only their sect is all that serious about following Jesus. IMHO, Weird AL has caught that particular head-trip perfectly. His lines show how pride can trip up even the kindest, most determinedly humble folks. It's not just the Amish, guys! We ALL have to watch out for that trap. Real humble pie shouldn't gas you up like that!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Susan & Other Popular Names


People still think of Susan as being too 'normal' a name to consider. Surely there are tons of Susans, so we'll name our child something modern and relatively unique..like..uh Jennifer, Lisa, Ashley, Jessica, or Emily!

The irony, as I have explained to people before, is that everyone continues to believe Susan is a popular name - and for decades it has been becoming relatively rare. Name your child Susan and she may well be the only Susan in any of her classes. This chart shows the last time it was a leading name for girls in any large-ish state in the US - 1960! (A couple of small states held out to '62) I blame those lazy lyricists of the early rock & roll era myself. Too bad Sue/Suzy rhymed with so many words. I can't blame parents of that era for not risking it. At least by the time I was born in the late 60's most of those songs had faded from public memory. Maybe the songs also reminded parents that the name had been popular in their parent's youth too?

So, Susan may have been referenced very often in public culture, but it hasn’t been used as an actual name for most girls for some decades. At least they were right about it being an old-timey wimey name. It’s so old it’s cool!

The name of Susan has survived for thousands of years. Susa/Susan was the name of an ancient city on a trading route where some lovely flowers grew. Those flowers were domesticated, and the seeds were exported many hundreds of miles by lengthy caravans wending their spice-laden way across the ancient world. Girls were named for those flowers and the name stuck around for millennia - because of those flowers.

So if Susans were named for a flower that was named for a place – what did the name really mean? This is not known. One guess was something about a town of inhumanly-skilled masons, and Susa was their leader. One source says that Susa was the name of the earliest civilization in Persia (Iran,) and it’s capital was actually near a wetland where a particularly lovely lily grew. The flower, in this version, named the capital and the civilization (later known as the Elemites or Elamites, who were destroyed by Babylonians in Old Testament times.)

Another legend, which I love, held that original city of Susan was far older even than this. This Susan was a special trading center at the end of a lovely fertile valley that backed up to stone cliffs. The town's leaders especially valued learning, humility, and generosity. That legend says that initially the town had no outer walls and banned anyone holding too many goods in the town, believing that if they were generous with those who met to trade in their streets, and didn't allow an accumulation of goods to tempt a distant army, they would remain at peace. Eventually, however, powerful and wealthy merchants insisted on creating tower strongholds to make their trading more efficient. The town then had to build walls and maintain a military presence. Happily for them, the valley passes were defensible and the city survived many attacks, until the slow desertification processes that changed the Middle East eroded the ability of locals to survive there. The trade routes moved and the trading center relocated to Elam/Persia.

The current translation of Susan as "lily of the valley" or "lily of the fields" came from differing historians’ guesses as to what the ‘Susan’ flowers were. If the original city of Susan was based in the green valley of a mountain rage, the original ‘Susan’ flower could just as easily been some kind of edelweiss as any kind of lily. Some, I read, were grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I read a book that said old records complained that the Susa/Susan flowers preferred elevations to plains, and were delicate and tricky to grow in a flowerbed, but also that an irritated gardener could throw his remaining seeds at a cliff face or stonewall and find it had taken root there without him. That doesn’t sound like a wetland lily to me. lol

Note: the last major city named Susan/Susun/Susa on record, where Esther & Daniel lived, was most definitely a rebuild in another location. The original Susa (whether in a valley or by a wetland) was lost to the deserts. The one in the Bible – the oldest one for which we have clear records - may have been the 3rd city with this name. (The third may or may not have been rebuilt in the same area as the second.) This Susa was later renamed Seleucia. That city stuck around long enough to be destroyed by Muslim forces in 638AD. It was later rebuilt, but destroyed again by Mongols in 1218 AD

Notice that thousands of years of references still don’t offer any alternate meanings for Susan. If it was the name of a lily, then everyone’s been close to right all this time, but if not? I've noted some ancient languages in the fabled region of old Susa used sound clumps similar to Susan/Shushan to reference strongholds or fortified king's vaults. That would make sense for the name of a really early fortified trade town.

Wouldn't it be ironic if one of the ultimate 'girly-girl' names actually meant something like "castle?" How about if it was originally the name of a powerful king? Both are possible, and would have been a real comfort to that “Boy Named Sue.” ;)

IMHO Some variant of Katy/Katie and Ann/Anne/Anna/Annabelle/Annabeth should have been on these charts too. I have never been anywhere that didn't have bunches of both Annes and Katies. I suspect that its the variant spellings that kept them off the chart. Katherine/Catherine/Katerine are recognizable as the same name to a person, but not a computer. When you add in all the Katys/Katies from Kathleen/Cathleen and those just given the short version, you get a lot of Katy/Katies! Since the Susan modern variants are also fairly rare (Suzy, Suzanne, Suzette), I don’t think this affected the Susan name as much.

btw - those names go way back into pre-history too. According to a book I found in the 80's, Anne is the oldest girl's name found in cuneiform records that is still in use. They believe "Anne" implied a delicate, especially feminine child. Now it's translated as "favor, grace." At least there's an association of ideas there.

Ancient names are bow-tie cool! - but probably not as cool as this duck...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Psychological Assault

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Character Under Pressure

I both agree and disagree with this statement. Character is your integrity (internal values and how well you live them.)

When people are stressed they tend to show more of the internal workings (probably from being spread thin and frayed around the edges.) This is why we think that pressure brings out character.

Our true character is developed in good and bad times with every choice we make. Who you are when most everyone/everything goes your way, and what behaviors you consider acceptable when you think no one is looking, and how long you will stand for doing the right thing when all appears hopeless - reveal a lot about your values.

I believe (personal, financial, relationship) stress pressures us like a mold forms a tool, solidifying the good or bad choices we make into a more resilient form. All choices tend toward building or eroding our character, but the decisions we make under pressure imprint our ideas about who we are very deeply.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Minions of Habit

Another post FB is not sharing with anyone but me. Oddly, I got it from a friend's Timeline so it has gone through already at least once before.

As for the thoughts IN the piccy, it is so very true that we tend to do what we have done before. (Some sociologists/psychologists call that 'self-herding' behavior.) So, we would benefit from being more aware of what choices we are making, and which way we are trending.

Comes to mind that if a person indicates they were 'fooled' into supporting bullying once, but then you find them pushing agenda(s) on behalf of others - with one or more wanna-be 'queens' they seem to be appeasing in the background - you have identified a definite trend that equates to some quite serious flaws in character. Sure, there are some serious differences getting shared on FB about current events. Its understandable that people share their point of view, and reasonable for those who disagree - to say they disagree. However - going on to another's page and commenting at length solely for the purpose of discouraging others from expressing themselves is not cool at all. It stands out like a neon sign when this is the only comment(s) they have made to the person in weeks, months, years ...no likes, no friendliness and then ze jumpingz onze like ze tonz of brickz. (Ya vol!)  Seriously, trying to force everyone you know to share your political views is a form of bullying. Minions are only funny in cartoons (like Girl Genius)...and in Despicable Me movies

I do admit to liking Despicable Me minions... and bananas ...and DM minions with bananas

and both Despicable Me movies.  (So glad the second movie was as fun as the first :)

So - ahem - yes, back to RL (Real Life) where minioning is BAD (tm) and respecting the sincerely held opinions of others is GOOD (tm)

...and now I want a banana

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Repeaters for the Devil's Radio

"Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see." old proverb

Malicious gossips wouldn't manage much harm if many others weren't complicit by being:

1) So Gullible (accepting accusations without evidence.)

In many places and times, a lot of innocent people have been killed because bad gossip swayed neighbors into believing someone was a witch/wizard with an 'evil eye' that's causing all the problems or 'must be the one who did it' when the only 'evidence' was a preponderance of wagging tongues . This is actually why trials were instituted in every civilized society (and mob 'justice' outlawed.) If there is no evidence that can bring the accused to trial, then the most common reason will be because the accused is actually innocent, no matter what 'everybody' has been persuaded to believe

The 'logic' doesn't have to be any better than this...

It says sad things about the state of our society that people have gone back to believing rumors as a primary source of news. Given the propaganda issues with some mainstream sources, and the way local news sometimes just seems to get ignored by the official newscasters, I understand why word of mouth is proliferating. Just make sure your local 'news' actually has credible eyewitnesses and evidence. For those who believe in God, I STRONGLY recommend praying for discernment as to what is the real truth - especially before you act on a rumor in any way! It could be a FrameUp

2) So Judgmental - so ready to internalize a bad word and turn on others, especially friends, family, neighbors...

Any accusation making the rounds effectively acts as a social demotion in most groups. It doesn't need to be all that credible for former friends to shun you. The real message (if your enemy has spread Malicious Slander far enough and didn't get enough flack back for it) is that the herd/flock is turning on you, which means your enemy has more social support and it's safest to dump you.* Since this is a kind of treachery, people feel best about themselves if they 'officially' believe the Demonising Lies. (Cognitive Dissonance) This is why even when you can prove it's a lie, you may have a hard time getting a fair hearing to Clear Your Name. If they accept the truth, then they have to choose between openly turning on you because it's socially expedient or championing your now unpopular position, becoming controversial, and risk being tarred with the same BS brush used on you. The most common compromise position is for a 'weak friend' to continue friendly communications, but only if you agree to keep their support a secret. Eventually most of these either make up their mind to truly remain a friend or stop talking to you, lest the others find out...

In this situation, the best you can be is a Hero With Bad Publicity

* [If you are ever fully ostracized, this enemy's next goal will likely work toward using the group's Moral Myopia to create a Torches and Pitchforks scenario (the virtual version often uses hackers.)]

3) So Ready to Become Repeaters for the Devil's Radio -

Those who are willing to 'back up' a lying jerk are the worst. In some cases they initially back such stories as just juicy gossip, figuring others are solely responsible for discerning whether there is anything to it. They usually tell themselves that since they didn't start it, they are just passing on what's going to go around anyway, but every repetition makes it seem more real to other listeners. This is what pushes incredible assertions past 'the tipping point' into a contagious social agreement - this is what makes even ridiculous hoaxes seem so believable. Not surprising that socially adept bad-mouthing persons/cliques push rumors enough times, in enough places (or just often enough from the same person), their rubbish tend to be accepted as truth. There's no Snopes to prove or disprove their accusations about private people.

The repeaters may even reason that you must deserve it, since Ole Crocodile Tears is a 'nice person.' Well, NO, O.C.T. is NOT a nice person if he/she is trying to get you to say ugly things you don't personally know are true. I don't care if Ole Crocodile Tears says they are 'warning' you about them. That's just a clever ruse to make their little drama sound less selfish/evil and make you feel like they care about you while messing with your head. SEE: Wounded Gazelle Gambit. All you Really Know is that O.C.T is upset with them/thinks they are bad/dislikes them. The result is always that they want you to do their dirty work. *rolls eyes*

God regards the repeaters as slanderers too

Being an easy tool of a slanderer doesn't say good things about you.

Be careful about who you let bend your ear.

Remember: "A clean conscience makes a soft pillow."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gatekeeper Society

Some communities figure that having a 'gatekeeper' mentality will ensure that only the best will be within their group. They believe this will maximize the enjoyment of those encouraged to remain, and foster community growth of the best kind. It may be well meant but it just doesn't seem to work! Such societies regularly fail everywhere: be they online, planned developments, elitist communes...whatever!

Using an elitist principle seems to bring out the worst in human nature, and proves stifling even to 'valued members' - since all they do must pass muster with (be seen as valuable by) the ruling elite. The tendency for the rank and file is to become hierarchical and competitive, which is never a welcoming environment for newcomers. Older members tend to flaunt their seniority anyway, add in a filter that declares regular human attributes unacceptable and you create a recipe for a dwindling group, a number of whom will be acting out in unpleasant ways.

I've seen the noble intention of inviting the noble/creative/intelligent into a protective environment derail into judging members as ugly internal politicking heated up. Skilled manipulators will tend to defame as 'unworthy' -members who don't support their goals of control and/or could prove to be competition. You would think that a person's personality, ethics, or skills would be evident, but people are easily swayed (primed) to agree, especially when they are trying to get along too hard. I think the problem is that so many 'good' attributes are subjective, and may even be defined by political/racist/ageist/religious leanings or even what appeals to someone's mouthy power clique as opposed to being based upon a mutually agreed upon set of parameters.

In time, even the 'gatekeepers' may be derided to suit someone else's bid for power. Any snarkiness or inner ring games already available will be used. The battle for power can be an ugly one, even in an alleged meritocracy. Only when courteous behavior is the rule do you have a reasonable basis for banning such games. If any excuse exists to permit rude behavior, it will be used. In fact, the excuses may be planned well in advance of the attack.

This is why I say the judgy opposite approach can create many bad feelings, fracture community spirit, and limit creativity, because people may fear to show anything they aren't sure will be appreciated.

Having a welcoming spirit, gentle ways, and a loving - enforced- code of conduct works far better. Trolls can be evicted fairly and everyone else learns to play together nicely. Then a sharing atmosphere encourages not only the obviously smart, extroverted, creative types, but also the hidden talents shyly scribbling in the corners. Besides, even the most creative types appreciate a well-mannered audience. IMO Kindly, courteous freedom is the only path that works.

[Another post that FB is not allowing through, so I am repeating it here. Photo from https://www.facebook.com/Gr8tful4Hisgrace]

Monday, September 02, 2013

Response to "Listening to Young Atheists, Lessons for a Stronger Christianity"

Another post not going through FB - at least not yet. My family checked and only I can see it 2 hours later, even when I set it to public.

later: Okay... so *I* can see the embedded FB post when I am signed in to my blog but when my family checked it, they only saw the title... Oddly, I don't have to be signed into my FB account, just my blog to see it. [I can also see the original FB post on my own timeline.]

Enough about the technical hiccups ~

Here's what I said about this article


It's an interesting article. I could see where a lot of these kids were coming from.

When I had serious questions, I found answers in Bible study, some books, and in prayer, but rarely did I get much help or support from people I met in mainstream church services. People often don't even really visit with one another in those buildings, and relationships are often shallow - for years, unless you look up each other on your own time. Serious questions are often considered awkward (at best.) Seriously, I value real Fellowship, but it's not always so easy to find. I knew it once, and I found Jesus to be real, so I don't judge Christianity by the failing churches I've seen.

[I wish more churches really did 'fellowship' when they got together, talking in practical terms how they interpret scripture and honor Christ, encouraging each other and praising God, rather than the 'floor show and go' that usually dominates the proceedings.]

I also don't judge those who weren't as blessed as I have been in that regard, and figure agnosticism, atheism, paganism or other beliefs systems must be the answer. I just hope they find Jesus too. The Blessed Hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a LOT better than any alternative! My life wouldn't have been worth living without God's active support. I want the nice people I've met to share this advantage that's made all the difference for me.

I do agree that it's important to be real, and down-to-Earth about how believing Jesus changes your life. The search for authenticity in Christianity was what birthed the 'Jesus Movement' that I knew growing up. I don't agree that you have to proselytize continually to be real. If you are seriously applying Christ's teachings to your life, it becomes obvious enough. Believers should be willing to discuss why they believe and how it affects their life choices, and brave enough to face possible flack for not bending farther (to get along), but insisting on talking about Our Faith with those who are not expressing an interest in listening tends to backfire. Living the Gospel is (in my opinion) often more important and effective than constantly preaching it. I expect the Holy Spirit to give me the words when He wants me to speak on Kingdom matters. Isn't that part of what was promised to us?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Confident Expression


I /naturally/ speak 'with authority.'

From the time I was a toddler, so I am told, I knew my own mind and valued my opinions enough to just say what I thought. Given that my self-esteem was going to get a lot of shocks from my bad situation(s), I thank God He made me so confident of my own identity and self-worth. I truly believe it was His Provision for what I would be up against. Because of His Grace to me, I became a voice for Him. Though sometimes victimized, I am and always was, far more than just a victim. By His Grace, I pray I always will be.

Sometimes being myself isn't appreciated. lol

Most people on joining a group naturally do a kind of 'initiate's dance.' They quite reasonably recognize they are 'low man on the totem pole' and actively defer and mimic the local authority.

I can't do that. I understand how it works but the behavior is unnatural to me. Seriously, it comes off unpleasantly artificial when I've tried. Some even thought I was mocking the usual process!

So, I just aim for being respectful, dealing with others on equal terms. People see my confidence and know I could be a natural leader, which makes some current leaders nervous, but I never come in with the idea of taking over. [I don't want that much of a headache. True authority comes with a lot of responsibility, and I don't shoulder that load lightly.] Unless I like the current leadership, I may not even stick around. If I *do* decide to join in, then I believe in you, and I will support you. Don't worry so much!

I was continually criticized in one group online for seriously holding opinions. How dare I know my own mind! How non-hive of me! Hey, those convictions/ideals/beliefs/interests weren't approved by our clique! You better be willing to justify them effectively or we'll snark/ridicule you off the thread!

The implicit idea was that if I defended what I'd researched, speculated, liked, or believed, I'd then be granted respect for my variations. Too often the other side reneged on that deal. Now I don't feel obliged to defend facts I've quoted or philosophical/religious ideals. I did the work. I considered the question open and all questioners equal. I came to a conclusions based on evidence and experience. You can too. If you really want to know more from me, better approach me with respect, or I'll tune you out. You're just not going to get anywhere with me by  offering snarky/contemptuous 'challenges.'  I've dealt with too many closed minds to waste my time trying to ping pearls of truth off pigheaded skulls. I'll respect you IF you respect me!

Unsurprisingly, a lot of other people in that group who were trying to fit in sounded like... the alternative. It was total submission, and suppressed free communication. It was an indication of how little respect was shown to independent thought that people felt like it was safest to express their beliefs/opinions/interests in uncertain tones, so that if an empowered 'other' challenged them, they could surrender the mental ground immediately and avoid being thought 'controversial.' [Controversy is ssooo subjective, referring to real trolling sometimes - but also used as shorthand for societal nonconformity.) Those who didn't surrender right away sometimes adopted a 'begging' tone, asking the other to mercifully consider their position. It rarely worked.

This is how people become sheeple.

Not me.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Donation Has Been Made In Your Name…

(A Modern Indulgence)

Thanks-Giving Square chapel interior in Dallas, Texas. Personal picture taken May 9, 2004 by User:RadicalBender


Making donations in lieu of remembrances at weddings, funerals, christenings, birthdays, and even Christmas has been catching on. When it’s a prearranged convention within the social circle or family, especially in a really wealthy family/set that can get anything they want for themselves anytime, this can be a reasonable, even a good thing to do, but I’ve been seeing references online to other situations.

A young, relatively poor bride griped online that some of her better off relations donated in the one or both of the couple’s names rather than help them setting up their new household, and expected to be treated very well for it at the reception. She found this infuriating, but didn’t know how to say so graciously.

Similar non-voluntary donations occur almost daily. A mother got a card saying a donation was made in her name in lieu of a bouquet of flowers (or any other remembrance.) No home-cooked meals. No visits. No handmade gifts. Just that card. She tried to sound happier about it online than she obviously felt. I wonder how long she cried…

Someone ‘randomly’ donated to a Christian mission in a relative’s name. Notice came from the ministry itself, trying to thank the only benefactor they had on record. Because there was no notice, no card that said someone was doing this, the poor lady was very concerned that her bank account had been attacked in some way. Thankfully, this seemed not to be the case, but it was thoughtless indeed not to have sent some communication explaining the donation in her name. It made the ministry look like scam artists to her family, until it was finally remembered that this was a ministry that she had supported in better years. That alone can have serious repercussions for a ministry!

Perhaps the person was thinking of this verse:  
 When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing -  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:3-4 NIV)

 I would say to them that while it’s good to give anonymously, it’s not good to impersonate someone else in the process. If the 'giver' doesn't even know what’s going on, they have reason to be concerned! Some causes say a lot to others about the values the giver supports. Unfortunately, many missions/foundations don't look too hard at the purported identity of the giver (as long as the check clears.) The potential for abuse is obvious. In this case, the choice was fine, but the method was not. If this was to make up for something some soul did or should have done, it backfired, since the 'secret giver' sinned against her again by worrying her unnecessarily. It still didn't mend past matters between her, the 'generous' Impersonator, and God. Remember:

"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  Matthew 5:23-24 ESV

 Or maybe somebody just thought it would be funny...

I have actually seen people say that they think it is clever to fulfill a social obligation by donating in someone’s name, especially when they don’t really like the person.  I could see that if you are being  manipulated by societal expectations (rather than by personal/familial connections) into giving to a much wealthier person that this could satisfy requirements, especially if the usual gift would definitely be encouraging them in sin. Often, however, its just a way to maintain appearances while indulging your spiteful side. There's nothing really loving about making a display of charity to strangers in lieu of caring for your friends and family.

People pretty much know they aren't being loving when they 'use' donations this way. A grouchy relation threatened on the ‘net (where I happened to read it) that they were going to give some little kids’ Christmas money to a charity because this person was angry with the parents. Again - he was indulging his anger, saving face with his family/social set, but certainly not trying to love his relatives with this decision. Its one thing to be too broke. Its another to be lashing out while pretending you aren't.

Other people have threatened to donate resources seriously needed by blood kin, stating plainly that they felt this would be more ‘blessed.’ (Usually this is accompanied by a lot of judgmental garbage.) Certainly it’s been easier to get a tax reduction or public praise for such an action, but the Bible plainly speaks to this particular type of 'donation.'

3 Jesus replied, And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’a and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.b 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God, 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.c ” Matthew 15: 3-9 NIV
This scene was also reported in Mark 7: 9-13
9And he continued, You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observec your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’d and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.e 11But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” 
Mark 7: 9-13 NIV  [my thanks to biblehub.com]
I believe Jesus Christ was saying here that claiming that you gave "to God" does not remove your obligations to anyone in your family, your kids as well as your parents. I don't believe that the Bible supports 'donating to God' or 'the good of mankind' as an acceptable substitute for any who have real claims on us.

  But if any provideth not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.1 Timothy 5: 8 Webster
Who are your 'own?' Your household, certainly, but this could also apply to fellow believers you know or have known. You are (allegedly) one in Christ Jesus. You can say you are donating to other believers generally when you pick a foreign mission field, but if this is in lieu of helping someone God pointed out to you in your extended clan, church, bible study, or community anywhere, you are in grave danger of crossing His revealed will. We cannot reach ALL our brothers and sisters on Earth, but we should certainly consider encouraging those God has made neighbors to us.
 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Matthew 12:48-50

Some people even donate as a sort of penance to some other person, figuring to clear the sin debt before God this way. Now this can be a reasonable choice if the person/people they wronged are no longer available, as a tangible act demonstrating penance/contrition. However, if the injured brothers/sisters ARE available, and this is INSTEAD of apologizing or otherwise trying to mend the breach, God’s not necessarily going to be good with that. 

I see this particular use of ‘donating in your name as a modern indulgence, since what the person wants is their generosity with some mission or good cause somewhere else to count more than their sinful, hateful behavior in person. They are trying to buy sanctity, at their victims' expense. More technically, they are trying to buy an indulgence as it was understood by the less educated parishioners in the late medieval period.  Basically, they will give to their favorite cause, say their favorite prayers/praise (maybe,) do their favorite kind of ‘good works’ and all this will ensure that their sins towards others will be forgiven, forgotten, not even admitted to publicly, and no apologies necessary. Then they think, "I’ve done my bit, don’t bother me."

If this is where you are, and you think I am being unreasonable, may I ask you to reread Luke 10: 30-37. Imagine that YOU are the guy on the side of the road, bloodied and wounded. Would it make it all better if those who ignored your pain dropped a few extra coins in the poor box in your name? How about the robbers who hurt you? Can they just donate some good stuff to a cause they like and send you a postcard?


You mean that's not the same thing as being a good neighbor to you?

Do tell.

Officially, using indulgences to ignore sins was never okay. Even indulgences back in those 'dark' days were supposed to be available only after the sinner had repented, confessed, and done some kind of penance. Indulgences could not officially be granted where there was no contrition, except when bought for those already dead (according to some.) This wasn't Biblical either, and was not a correct interpretation of what an indulgence was supposed to do. Eventually the Catholic Church made the appearance of this practice stop too, because then you had sinners cheerfully planning to pay for their mistresses, swindled relations, and brutal beatings of the serfs by arranging for indulgences to be bought as soon as they'd croaked. This kind of thing was what set off Luther's Ninety-Five Theses.

 "the Theses rejected the validity of indulgences (remissions of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven). They also view with great cynicism the practice of indulgences being sold, and thus the penance for sin representing a financial transaction rather than genuine contrition. Luther's Theses argued that the sale of indulgences was a gross violation of the original intention of confession and penance, and that Christians were being falsely told that they could find absolution through the purchase of indulgences."  Wikipedia "The Ninety-Five Theses."

I find it amazing that the whole Reformation was largely kicked off by the issue of people trying to spend money to save themselves - rather than really repent and treat their kin and neighbors well - and here we are, centuries later, with a slightly sublimated version that seems to be more popular daily. We are supposed to be providing for those we recognize as our own as best we can - first in our blood families, then in our faith families/friends, the poor nearby ('among us,') then to all rest of mankind. 
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 ESV

  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Mathew 23:23 ESV