Covid Thoughts: Time with Sprout

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, today I want to note a few things about spending time with my daughter.

Sometimes I catch her dreamin’ and wonder where that little mind meanders. – Little Miss Magic

I remember hearing on a podcast, though I’m not entirely sure which one, but I think it was one of the Financial Independence ones, that roughly half of the hours you will ever spend with your child will happen by age eight (give or take a few years, I don’t remember the exact age). Which sounds wild at first, but it kind of makes sense. Teenagers don’t want to spend time with their parents, then they leave the house, and you have good, quality time after that, but really only a few hours every few months, or less. Of course, infants are just always there, but it isn’t really the best time. Anyway, I tried to find the article or whatever it was they were referencing, but to no avail. Then I found a few articles about naming children and really went down a rabbit hole when I should have been writing this post.

I ramble to bring up this point: I’ve been thinking about that ‘fact/stat’ often, recently. It dawned on me a few weeks ago (maybe Week 3 of Covid Quarantine), that this is probably the most time I will ever spend with Sprout, certainly it is the most time I’ve spent with her so far in her short, little life. As I mentioned in my ‘finding rhythm‘ post, she and I spend about an hour and a half every morning together, just the two of us. We usually walk, somewhere between three and five miles, all over our neighborhood and the trails in the wetlands and parks that it connects to. The trails take us by a creek to a little river, and many of the sidewalks on the larger streets boarder HOA property that has trees we climb.

She has learned how to identify deer (I had her draw some, and it was surprisingly accurate), raccoon, rabbit, and dog tracks; we followed some frog eggs through a few stages of development until the puddle dried up and they all died (that was a little disappointing, I think seeing frogs come out would have blown her mind); she can name about four or five birds (we’ve even been tracking a mama bird, named Gwenivere, build a nest and hopefully we’ll see eggs soon; she is either a mourning dove or a northern mocking bird, I’m leaning towards to latter due to the thrasher tail) and maybe 10 types of shrubs and trees. We’ve also ‘learned’ to use binoculars and maps. The seasons have changed from winter to spring to summer during this as well, so we’ve gone through bare trees on the trails, to everything blooming, to all the leaves being full and green. I think that has been a fun thing for her to track and see.

We’ve seen a surprising number of deer, I think our highest in one day was 11, and for some reason she seems to want to keep a running tally to tell my dad. We’ve seen a few snakes and fish. The other day, she decided to search for snails. She told me she was betting at finding them because she was paying attention. I told her it was because she was closer to the ground. Which, while hilarious, she didn’t understand. I’ve also tried teaching her the different types of animals, such as birds versus mammal (eggs vs. milk, because half my life revolves around trying to find groceries). You forget what things kids don’t know, like when I told her humans were mammals, she asked me what humans were. We’ve also baked a few different kinds of bread and started a garden.

I feel compelled to teach her things, but as a book I recently reviewed points out, play is far more important at this age. I also feel the pressure to make this a fun time, because she is not in school and doesn’t really have anyone else to play with and, as I mentioned above, this will be the most time I ever spend with her. Other times I wonder if she will even remember this time. There are days that I am excited because I don’t know what to do, and other times when I just really don’t want to have the same walk, to see the same things, to play the same games for the fourth day in a row.

Sprout is pretty wild. She is loud and friendly and full of personality. She has been called the ‘mascot’ of our church and I think she knows more people there than I (certainly more know her). Even in school, the other classrooms knew who she was. Most of this is her personality, she (as is apparently common in little girls) talks incessantly. Well, there are some times she isn’t talking, but if she isn’t, it is because she is singing (we were recently down at my parents and during lunch she was eating her sandwich while humming the whole time, my parent were laughing, but I didn’t even think to notice anymore). It is also physical, she is fairly tall for her age, but she also has giant, wavy, blonde hair. It has been mid back since she was about 2.5/3ish, so when you see her from behind, she is 25-33% hair. The combination of this leads to a funny visual as we walk down the sidewalk and so many of the other neighbors out walk, especially, women just look and laugh (even more so if they hear the stories she tells).

So, I don’t really have anything profound or interesting to say about either children or parenthood (both great, though), but in true journal format, I will just list a number of incidents or things she has said that I want recorded for my own enjoyment, and maybe you will like them as well.

First, her little ticks and ways of talking (maybe these are common, but I don’t care):

  • When it rains a good deal, the creek and river run pretty high, which she has concerns will ‘oversplode’.
  • When we wander off into the woods, the says we are going to go ‘splore’ and puts her hand to her head, as if shielding her eyes from the sun, and pans her face, as if spanning the horizon.
  • She merges the words hopefully and actually, and uses them as emphasis or transition words (the way people incorrectly use ‘literally’) and says, ‘hopecually’.
  • Excurses – I will fix these pronunciations, but I do enjoy them now. When she was maybe 3/4 she couldn’t say yellow, it was something like ‘le-to’, but it was cute and we let it go, maybe longer than we should, but corrected it when other kids were confused. 
  • We have been working on her excitability and that things all kids do where their little brains get rolling and their mouths can’t keep up. She’ll get wound up, put her hands up and say, ‘Hold on, let me collect my thoughts’ take a deep breath and then, ‘what I would like to say to you is…’
  • Similarly, a few times when she has started to get an idea, she’ll say, ‘I think I have a thought’
  • Like most children (I assume), she doesn’t quite understand how contractions work. So, she doesn’t know that ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ are similar. It ends up something like this, I will say I don’t want to do something, and she will say, ‘why do you don’t want to do it?’
  • The ‘happy and you know it’ song. For one, she says, ‘if you very want to show it’, but what’s more, she seems to have made up her own verse. At least I’ve never heard it before. I whistle too much, and we do this song as we walk often, so she came up with, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, give a whistle’, then waits for me to make noise, because can’t whistle.

Next, funny stories or other things she has told me:

Most people with small children know they take a very long, long time to tell any story. I like to joke that she can tell me the plot of a 12 minute PJ Masks show in an hour. One of my favorite ones she has told me was about a ‘dream’ she had (she conflates dreams with thoughts/wishes/fantasies/something like daydreaming). It involved a motorcycle that she designed in which she road around with her eponymous doll.

Her motorcycle was pink in the front, blue in the back and had her and her ‘doll’s name’ on either side. Also, the motorcycle had a seat for the doll. It also had doors, and four wheels, and a seat behind them. I explained that she just invented a car, she told me it didn’t have roof; I told her about convertibles. The motorcycle also had a radio that played her favorite songs, which were – Frozen Songs (she also told me there should be an Elsa doll that sings all the songs from both movies; if this doesn’t exist, it is a pretty good idea), ‘Mommy songs’, ‘Fire’ songs, Piano songs, and finally ‘pizza songs’ (these are Irish pub songs, long story). Maybe I’ll make a play list with all these. She started her description of this ‘motorcycle’ right as we left, and had not finished it’s description or features by the time we arrived back home over an hour and half later.

One of our neighbors cut down a nice tree in his front yard, a day later not only did another crew come out to cut another neighbor’s tree, but, as we walked, we saw the same crew cut maybe five other houses’s front yard tree down. She told me they were the bad guys from the The Lorax (book), she couldn’t remember the ‘onceler’. Except they were worse, because the didn’t even make Thneeds.

It has been raining a lot and we walk through the flood plain, so she has been learning about stormwater management and that some of the water becomes what we drink. So, she told us that when she grows up she wants to be a wastewater treatment engineer, make jelly, and be a mom.

I caught her dramatically counting with her hand (think the way refs do during boxing) as we were walking. I figured out later she was practicing holding her breath and was counting.

On one walk she was point a fake baby toy remote at trees, then waving her hand up and pointing somewhere else with the remote. She was pretending to relocate the trees to places she thought would be better.

She also had another similar ‘dream’ about her and her best friend from school, that took a good 30 minutes to tell me. The both had little powerwheels type ‘trucks’ that are the John Deere front load tractors that Lowes sells.  I’m certain she did not actually dream this, but I have no idea how she remembered those things, she saw them probably six or nine months ago.

Which kind of leads to some of the sadder parts. She often talks about her friends. Yesterday she listed off all the people from school she missed and how she wanted to go to their house to play or have them here for a sleepover. She tells me that the sickness makes her sad and that she wants to go back to school. At least a few times a week she asks me when the sickness is going to be gone. I really have no answers for her, I just tell her, ‘hopefully soon, but it’ll probably be a while.’ Schools have been canceled for the rest of the academic year. She is supposed to start Kindergarten in August. I am hopeful she will, but skeptical of what it may look like. Unlikely to be the fun milestone it usually is. So, that is about it. It certainly is an unprecedented time. When I’m stressed, I do try to look on the bright side and think about all the time I have to spend with her right now, all our exploring and experiences, all the conversations, all these moments I have with her, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ll end with some of her chalk artwork.

 

                 

Covid Thoughts: Sundays and At Home Worship

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, which was excluded what Sundays and at home worship looked like, so I’ll do that today.

Before the quarantine, we typically left for church around 9:15 and returned home around noon, ate lunch, then had community group at 1:00, which usually lasted to 3-3:30 depending on how things went. We do a rotation of group, then just the girls, then group, then guys, with the fifth Sunday either being off or a party.

We were one Sunday into Meaning of Marriage, so when our church made the decision to go online for service on March 15, it worked out well, because it was going to be the girls meeting. So, we switched to a video call for the girls, figuring we’d do guys the next week, and then maybe we’d be meeting again in person. That obviously hasn’t happened, as I write this on April 25, tomorrow will be the seventh straight week of not meeting in person. Our new rhythm is rotating girl/guys video call, as I didn’t think we’d be able to really have a discussion as a group over video. This also means the ‘meetings’ have been shorter, usually only about an hour.

So now our days look something like this: sleep as late as the Nuggets will allow us (usually 6:30-7:00), have breakfast and hang out as a family: 9ish Nuggets go down for a nap (though tomorrow we’ll try to push them a little so they will sleep through service), Mrs. MMT and Sprout clean the house while I read or do some other chore; Service is at 10:00 more on that below; 11:00 Nuggets are usually up and service is over, go for a Bottle Walk (in which we’ve run into our pastor a few times, because he wishes he could live in this neighborhood) and then eat lunch before the call at 1:00; Glorious Quiet Time from 2:00 to 3:30, then another Bottle Walk, then just hang out before dinner, family devotional and bedtime.

We have much more time with our immediate family, but no time with our community group or church family (except those that live in this neighborhood).

At home worship has been…interesting. The first Sunday (March 15) did not go as planned. Our church decided to do a Zoom Webinar where the lead pastor would make announcements from his home, our adjunct preacher would give a short message from his home, the Chair of the Elder Board would give the (previously scheduled) update from his home, and then Mrs. MMT was tapped to sing a few songs and play the piano. As we had announcements and the service was only going to be an hour, she was going to sing two songs between announcements and the sermon, and then one at the end while people took communion at home.

We spent almost two hours the day before doing a run through, testing lighting and testing a microphone to see what would pick up the best, and how people could hear both her and the piano well. Then Sunday came. She starts the first song, and about a minute into it, Zoom drops us. We wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had my phone also running as a participant. Our pastor comes back on to say we’ve been dropped and gets ready to move us to the sermon, but then we are back on. Obviously, just some glitch, so she starts the song again. Then, about a minute into it, Zoom drops us again. Both of our phones are blowing up with texts. Hers was from her friends with words of encouragement such as ‘so sorry, I know how hard you prepped’ or ‘sounded beautiful while it lasted.’ I just had texts from jackasses with things like ‘get it together’ or people who apparently thought we didn’t have internet. Guys versus girls, right?

Anyway, we were on the phone with our lead pastor while the sermon was going on and decided that we’d try again, but with no video, in case it was bandwidth. So, she was still able to sing during communion, and it worked out pretty well. A few people took video and sent it to us. The next week, they decided to stream from our church building, but it was all at once, and the bandwidth couldn’t hold and many people either had a lag or the video dropped. Finally, the follow week (March 29), they split it into to streams at different times and there were no issues.

We’ve not had Sprout in service yet, so our at home worship was the first time she has been with us to sing songs or listen to the sermon. She sings as much as she can, and actually knows some of the hymns. Even if she doesn’t know the song, she tries to sing along because she enjoys it and considers herself a good singer. I find it difficult to sing, one because her cuteness make me laugh, but also Mrs. MMT is a trained singer and can sing out like normal, but be able to lower her volume. I cannot do that, so it is either me singing loudly, over the two of them, or me trying to turn the volume down, but that devolves to something like quite talking (somewhat) in tune. She also likes to sing the harmony, but unfortunately, I often don’t know the melody.

Sprout can’t quite make it through the sermon, despite it being shorted to the 15-20 minute range. So, we’ve given in and allow to her play on a tablet during the sermon, before the last few songs. I actually wish the sermons would be longer, if not back to the full length, but I understand trying to keep the whole service to an hour, plus I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to preach to an empty room (or one with four or five people). We don’t even make it through a whole service before we have to get the Nuggets, so I’d miss it either way. We take communion before a final song and the benediction. I know the in home communion is controversial (or even not allowed in some denominations), but our church does it every Sunday, so I appreciate attempting to keep that rhythm. (It feels a little weird opening a bottle of wine before 10:00 A.M., but if the pastor says so…) That is not to say that it is the same. It isn’t, and I miss going to place to worship with other people. I’ve already about worship during separation, while lacking, it is our only option.

Our church has also posted some kids worship videos. It is really geared for just over Sprout’s age, so it doesn’t work very well for us, but I have heard great things from people who have kids that age, that know the songs and movements with most of them. We’ll try them anyway, especially on rainy days when we can’t walk after service. This usually ends up with us watching other songs, typically Wolves at the gate.

              

That is Sprout dancing to one of the songs, in the other picture, we can just barely make out her Ukelele, while she plays along with the song, and, yes, those are maracas she brought so that the Nuggets can also join in the fun.

Sadly, Easter was spent at home. We did have a successful Zoom call with Mrs. MMT’s sister and family, her parents, and grandma. We had a fairly diasterious video call with our community group, which includes 14 adults and seven kids (all under five, with four less than a year old). Then a nice video chat with my parents before watching that opera guy sing from a church in Italy and having a huge Easter lunch.

So, that is about it. Sundays feel empty, compared to how we used to spend them. Worship is falling into place, but also lacking and a reminder of our call to be together, but we continue on and remember the anticipation our coming reunion with our brothers and sisters, and our future hope of worship with all Christians together with Christ, forever.

 

Covid Thoughts: Trying to Find Rhythm

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

So, here we go. I figured I kick off with our attempt to settle into a routine, and what that looks like now(ish).

Most decisions about what work would be like were made around (somewhat ominously) Friday, March 13. Most schools in the area, including out district, were closed for two to three weeks, which would then lead into Spring Break (the first full week in April). The city in which I work has generally poor leadership, especially compared to our peer cities; most of which had announced their decisions to close until either April 4th or 12th. We knew that Mrs. MMT would be working from home, but I went to work each day the following week not knowing every day whether we would be closed that morning, later that day, the next, or not at all. So, we knew Week 1 (March 16) would be a daiseter for Mrs. MMT, who is the Director of Communications for her organization. She would need to lead crisis communication while trying to manager a five year old and two 10 month olds. Including, potentially, as it was still unclear, having me work late (9-10 PM) on Tuesday for a public meeting. We were the last city to postpone such meetings.

As expected, it did not go well for her, so that I ended up taking time off and not working any full days in the office the rest of the week. We did finally close City Hall (for one week) on March 20th. This meant Week 2 (March 23), we’d all be at home. Work for me was fairly light. I had a few emails and phone calls, but I think most clients and others expected we’d all just sit tight for a week or two, so I had the feeling that most people were just holding off. Mrs. MMT’s work continued at a pretty frenzied pace. Most other people I know were generally working from home as best they could, but many people saw it as just some time off, expecting this to be a very short situation.

We would sleep in, generally waking up around 6:30, which is more or less when all the kids started to wake. I would check email and follow-up with anyone as needed around 7 (my usual time to start work anyway). The Nuggets nap from 9-10:30 and 1:30(at least the first two week, now it is 2:00) to 3:30. We also have Sprout do some quiet time in her room during this second nap. During the first nap, I would take Sprout at for a walk in the trails and parks around our neighborhood (there is a floodplain with a creek that leads to a small river that provides us with roughly four miles of trails). I dawned on me about two weeks in, that the hour and a half I spent one on one with her every morning was the most time I’ll ever spend with her, more on that later.

Week 2 somewhat fell into place, with a loose structure, but Week 3 (March 3) was terrible for me. I have often have trouble sleeping, with occasional bouts of insomnia, and it hit me this week, probably due to the lack of structure in the day and the growing fear of the pandemic and how it might affect us. It became nearly impossible not to lay awake a night thinking about these things. It would manifest in one of two ways, either be unable to sleep until 1-2 A.M., or go to sleep but wake up around 3-4, and be unable to go back to sleep. I write more about that later as well.

Week 4 (April 6), we went back to setting an alarm and getting up every morning at 6. I actually got up every morning and went for a run (it was probably in the mid 60s). Unfortunately, our motivation waned the following week  (Week 5, April 13), and we went back to sleep after the alarm. It also decided to drop down to the 40s, so I had not motivation (which was always lacking anway) to run. However, during these two weeks, we kept the general times of me working at 7, 12, quiet time(ish) and 5. As work remained somewhat slow, and I was struggling mentally, I got the idea that I would use quite time to challenge myself with something (maybe more on that later, but includes a few days of studying Biblical Greek). My work load picked up this week, as my office provided me with a laptop that has the applications and software systems I need to do more of my job.

I write this on Friday the 24th of April, the end of Week 6 (April 20). I should hear in the next few hours whether my office will be open on Monday. I anticipate ‘no’, however our Governor has taken the most aggressive ‘re-open’ (whatever that means) stance, including the idiotic and dangerous plan of dine-in restaurants and movie theaters. All this despite the fact that he closed schools for the rest of the year. However, in a surprise move, the Mayor for the city for which I work, was interviewed on CNN and stated disagreement with this opening plan. I do expect to be back in the office in the next few weeks.

Our Saturdays have generally been the same as before, with the exceptions of hanging out with people or going anywhere (expect one park trail, before they closed). Sundays are completely blown up as we are isolated from church and our community group, (more on that later). Other complications and events during this time include doing Good Friday and Easter remotely, and without family; and one of the Nuggets (Hawk) getting an ear infection (his fifth in three months), and despite being prescribed an antibiotic that cost nearly $90, he had another one within five days. So, he has to go to the pediatrician, twice, during a pandemic. We would also see a specialist (ENT) with both Nuggets (where we found Cheeks had some hearing loss) and they both ended up having tubes places, more on that later. We also experienced our first Tornado Warning, and had to get everyone up and downstairs at 1:30 A.M. the morning after Easter. These things do not help with sleep.

This (as always) turned out much longer and more narrative than I expected, so here is our routine for posterity.

6-8:00 A.M. – I wake up, bike/run (or occasionally attempt bodyweight exercises), get dressed, grab coffee and start work. Mrs. MMT has coffee and occasionally a few minutes of quite to herself before checking email on her phone before kids. Sprout and Nuggets usually up around 6:30/45.

8-9:00 – Make sure everyone is fed and dressed. I attempt a few emails (and as of Week 6 some plan reviews) in the kitchen.

9-10:30 – Nuggets take their morning nap, Mrs. MMT works hard (until 10:00, which she has a Zoom staff meeting), Sprout and I head out into the woods.

10:30-11:00 – Sprout and I return and wake up the Nuggets, Mrs. MMT finishes her Zoom, occasionally has a follow up phone call or other work to do, then we head out for a walk.

11-12:00 – Generally the time frame of our walk, typically 45 minutes or more, if we can. The Nuggets have their bottles and Sprout walks/rides a scooter/bike. This is the easier, more enjoyable (also cooler) walk and we shoot for two to three miles. Return, disembark the Nuggets.

12-2:00 – Nuggets and Sprout play and we get everyone fed. I email and cover plan reviews as needed. Mrs. MMT occasionally has to get some work done. We switch off between who is in the kitchen with the kids and who is in the office doing work.

2-3:30 – The Blessed Quiet Time. The Nuggets nap and Sprout goes to her room, where recently she has actually been napping the whole time (she hasn’t napped at home in three years), we are not sure if this is physical tiredness or boredom, though they do take naps in Pre-K. This is the most productive time of work for us.

3:30-4:00 – Similar to the 10:30 timeframe, wrap up work (we usually get off at 4:00 anyway, back in real life), and prep for Bottle Walk Number 2.

4-5:00 – Shorter walk, maybe a mile or mile and a half. Hotter, more crying.

5-6:00 – Kids play, we hopefully finish up the last of the emails, I make dinner.

6-8:00 – Dinner, Nuggets go up 6:30/45 for bath and stories before bed, games (checkers, Shoots/Ladder, Sleeping Queens) with Sprout until she goes up at 7:30ish for stories before bed.

8 – Finally finish up and emails, calls, plan reviews needed that day. Try to get some reading in, and then either watch an hour show or maybe two half hour show (Mrs. MMT’s mom shared their Netflix with us at the start of quarantine). Eventually sleep before starting all over again the next day.

Saturday is essentially the same, except much less (sometimes no) work related activities. Sunday will be a post on a whole post itself.

So, that is it. Routine’s are important, even more so right now, not only for your productivity, but especially for your mental health. Maybe ours will help, or least be somewhat amusing. I’ll have more of my Covid thoughts over the next few weeks. Thanks for playing along.

 

Good Friday 2020

It is Good Friday today, just as a reminder to anyone out there, like me, who is struggling to keep up with which day it is. It doesn’t feel like Good Friday, mostly because nothing feels the way it should right now. Hopefully, your church is finding a way to record or broadcast something. If not, feel free to check out mine – Roswell Church (a bonus is, you’ll get to hear Mrs. MMT sing). More specifically, nothing feels right because of the quarantine (I guess it is officially shelter in place), and the pain that comes from that is the separation; separation from friends, family, activities, some of us are even missing work. I’ve been thinking a good bit about separation as it relates to Good Friday, and wanted to offer a few thoughts. It is a sad, lonely, frustrating, and hard time, but with apologies to John Piper – don’t waste your separation.

Remember that the Son was separated from the Father. For all of eternity, before the creation of time, and before the universe as we know it existed, there was the Triune communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was the perfect existence of God, lacking nothing. However, the Son would empty Himself (not of his Divinity, but of His willingness to exercise authority) and take the form of a man, the man Jesus. At the end of His ministry, He was crucified, which is what we remember on Good Friday. While on the cross, He took our sin on to Himself, and in the eyes of the Father replaced our sin with His righteousness. However, the Father could not look upon the Son with this sin, and the Son experienced separation from the Trinity and the wrath of God. Separation from God is the definition of Hell. So the Son, who had spent an infinite amount of time with the Father, gave that up to bear our sins, to take our punishment, to experience Hell, so that we would not. Think about that separation today.

Remember that we are now no longer separated from the presence God. There was even more that happened on the cross. We are told that the veil in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. In the temple, which already had requirements to enter, that was a veil that separated an area called the Holy of Holies, that only the High Priest could enter, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement to office a sacrifice. But now, the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, was made. The veil (our separation from the presence) was taken away. We no longer need a High Priest, but through Christ, our Great High Priest, we can go directly to the Father. This is why we now have the opportunity to pray every day to God and ask forgiveness for our sins. We no longer need some intermediary, but can go directly to God. Think about the removal of that separation today.

Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Thematically, you aren’t supposed to talk about the happy ending on Good Friday, that is supposed to wait until Easter (spoiler alert: Christ conquered death, rose again, that one day we shall do likewise), but I’m only pretend writer, so it is alright. But in remembering our current situation, our state of separation from society, it is important to remember that in some way it doesn’t matter. It is awful, but it is temporary. Thinking eternally,  we will be reunited with friends and family, and be in the perfect presence of God. For now, even as we wait, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Think about that today, and be reassured by these words from Romans 8:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are all feeling this right now

A little old, but it has been making the rounds. Pretty accurate for what I’ve been experiencing recently. Prior to a month ago, I don’t think I had done a video conference. I’ve done some video chats with some family members, but never multiple people or groups at once. I saw this a few weeks ago, but didn’t quite get all of it. Now, having done multiple conferences over the past week weeks, this only gets more funny.

 

Excruses 9/21/2018

A few thoughts from this article about the Pledge of Allegiance:
Manual of Patriotism sounds like something from the propaganda arm of the bad guys in a dystopian novel.
The guy who pushed for the pledge, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist and Baptist minister; something you probably wouldn’t hear of much today. Also, with the NFL starting we are back to talk about kneeling during the Anthem and disrespecting the flag, it’s good to remember that if you weren’t doing the Bellamy Salute, you were also disrespecting the flag. In case you are curious, here is that salute:

Also your reminder that ‘under God’ was not added until 1954.
Of course the Pledge was challenged at some point –

In 1926 the American Civil Liberties Union aided a case in Denver of a Jehovite child who was suspended from school for refusing to salute the flag on the grounds that doing so would be “idol worship.”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reiterated that “under God” was not a religious claim, just ceremonial deism.

Just ceremonial, we even acknowledge that it is pointless (that quote broke a little funny and I can’t fix it, obviously O’Connor was speaking much later about the 1926 case). I do find it an interesting question, should we as Christians pledge our allegiance to an inanimate object, and one that is entirely unrelated to Christ?  I’ve written about flags before, will probably have to again, but you can check it out if you want to know more.

It is always interesting to see articles like these. I read a good bit about personal finance and even subscribe to a few Financial Independence podcast, but I don’t really see it catching on or becoming mainstream.

But then there are articles like this. Sure, debt for a phone, everyone will be retire soon.

Why not go into debt for a phone, especially when half the calls will be spam by next year anyway?

Back to money, before I wrap up, why are people like this even married? The Biblical concept of marriage is that you become one flesh, things are now ours, not mine. If I didn’t have this view, I just don’t think I’d get married. How do you justify keeping property and retirement in separate accounts but say you want to live your life together?

I think I’m going to do a whole post about this next week, but a survey recently showed that religious Trump voters tend to be moderate compared to the hard rightness of non-religious Trump voters. Among the findings, religious tend to be more accepting of all religious and racial minorities, support more immigration and trade, and see ‘whiteness’ as less important. At least for the first and last ones, I hope that is because we see each other and ourselves as made in God’s image and belonging to Christ. More on that later.

As a city planner, this is something I’ve been aware of for some time – the problem with roundabouts is you. There is some interesting history there as to why some people might be scared, but I think it has more to do with fear of change. I remember when the first one was built in the city in which I work, about 10 years ago, we were told people would die and their blood was on our hands. Of course, accidents went down and average traffic speeds increased.

 

 

Trump and the Supreme Court

Two years ago, during the lead-up to the election, I wrote two articles, one just some general thoughts on the election, and then a follow-up about why we shouldn’t be single issue voters. The follow up was necessary, as I was attacked but fellow Evangelicals for not supporting Trump. Mostly, I was accused of supporting abortion (I don’t). That is also a refrain I heard often during the election, ‘well, he’s a terrible person, but…something, something, Supreme Court.’ Of course, but Supreme Court, they meant abortion. I laid out all my reasons not to think this way in that post, so please check it out. I welcome any feedback or thoughts. I received a few after posting that, including a bizarre interaction with a former Sunday School teacher and mentor, before cut of all contact with us (after accusing us of being Godless).

So, I bring this up now as the confirmation hearings continue for Brett Kavanaugh (unrelated fun fact, his name means follower of Kevin). This is Trump’s second appointee; and he will be appointed, despite the Kabuki Theater of the hearings, he already has the votes and this just a time for politicians to grand stand. I guess it’s all worth it now, right? We’ll overturn Roe?

Maybe. Maybe not –

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she would not vote for a nominee who threatens Roe. She said that in a meeting with Kavanaugh, he referred to Roe as “settled law.”

Feinstein specifically asked Kavanaugh about that Wednesday.

“Senator, I said that it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles ‘stare decisis,’ ” referring to the legal principle of not overturning precedents. “And one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.”

One of two things are going on here. First, he is an unprincipled liar who want stand up for what he believes and when he gets on the court, he will vote to overturn Roe, once challenged. I have to assume this is alright with most Evangelicals, as 81% voted for Trump. Second, he actually believes what he is saying. I actually lean towards the latter, and still believe, as I did two years ago, that Roe will be not be overturned. It’s also important to remember, Roe did no legalize abortion – it made it illegal for state to ban abortion. Were it overturned, the issue would be relegated to the states, many of which will keep it legal.

Of course, you could be cynical and say that Trump doesn’t care at all about Roe, but rather likes Kavanaugh due to his devotion to presidential power. However, if we turn over Roe, would it be worth it? It is a serious question, considering the damage supporting him has done to what little reputation we may have had. The hyprocsy with our reaction to him paying off a porn actress and a playboy model for affairs he had with them, as compared to the reaction many of his supporters had during the Clinton issues in the 90’s. That is one reason why this quote from the now famous Op-Ed stuck out to me –

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Again, all this would be fine, I suppose, if he wasn’t considered the ‘Christian candidate’ or if Evangelicals hadn’t voted for him in record numbers. It is fine to vote for Trump, nothing wrong with it at all. If you are rich, or think Mexicans or Muslims are the greatest threat to the country, or you are a nationalist, then Trump was a great choice (the best, believe me). However, none of the makes him the ‘Christian’ choice and I think that distinct will bother me to no end, for as long as I live. I don’t believe that is the main reason for our support for him. I think the main reason is fear.

I’m not the only one either. Michael Horton recently wrote the same thing. Read anything from John Fea ( or check out my review of his book).  In a strange irony, we as conservatives are looking for power in the government now more than ever, we look there for a sense of right, or protection, to expand and enforce our will/influence. So, here we are, about to have another Justice. Maybe I’m wrong, and Roe will be challenged next year and overturned. What if is isn’t? What will we say then?

 

Stuff From the Week

Articles
NFL to make players stand for the anthem. The owners know their fans are mostly conservative, holding libertarian and small government values, with focus on individual rights, so they are making people stand up during a song about the government. It is almost as if the fans are actually more upset about something else.

Speaking of something else going on, White Evangelicals lead the way!…in rejecting refugees. We were the least likely group survey to support taking in more refugees. For the group that says we take most seriously Biblical Literatlism, we don’t appear to be very good at the whole caring for the widow/orphan/poor/foreigner thing or loving our neighbor. Seemingly unrelated to the article as a whole, they point our towards the end that when asked in 2011 about personal indescritions by the president, we, more than anyone else, said it mattered, but in 2016, we said it mattered the least. The author is clearly pointing it out to kick whatever little shred of moral authority we have left right in the balls. It is pretty embarrassing, and yet another reason we continue to lose the upcoming generation.

Speaking of lost generations, according to the federal reserve, about 40% of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency. On the whole, we remain terrible with money.

Quickly – of course Amazon is recording out conversations, apparently if the president blocks you on twitter it is a violation of your first amendment rights, hopefully the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre will win their case against this nut job, and finally, apparently even the American Military has studied the ‘strategic implications of American Millennialism.’

Podcast
I was going to recommend this Intelligence Squared Debate podcast about denculearization of North Korea, but now the summit has been called off. I didn’t really have a strong stance one way or the other, and after listening to the debate, I’m not sure that has changed. However, there is a lot of good information if you are interested in current foreign affairs. The problem is, our new cycle and events in the world happen too fast. I listened to this, then heard this genius say we should use the ‘Libya Model’ and assumed Kim would call it off. If you don’t know, Moammar Gadhafi was Libya’s leader before he was sodomized by a bayonet and dragged into the street and killed. I’m not foreign policy expert, but that seems like something Kim wouldn’t like to participate in.

Mortification of Spin was an episode up about church polity (governing/administrative structure of the church). It isn’t so much about types of church polity as it is about having an Elder board. Overall, it is an interesting topic to me, and one I’ve gone back and forth on over the years.

In the News 11/17/17

Antarctica was once covered in forest, so that’s pretty cool.

Another ‘responsible gun owner’ accidentally shoots himself and wife, at church, will explaining how he would protect himself and others should someone attack the church. It is ironic, but it isn’t funny, almost like guns aren’t toys and this wanna-be hero complex might be dangerous. Hopefully, he and his wife will cover quickly.

FCC again trying to ban net neutrality. As a reminder, this means that companies like AT&T and Comcast could slow your internet down if you use things like Google or Netflix.

House passes a tax bill that along with ballooning the deficit that they supposedly care about will also repeal state and local tax deductions and limit the mortgage interest deductions.

As the article points out, “Repeals many other deductions: These include those for medical expenses, tax preparation fees, alimony payments, student loan interest and moving expenses.”

Not mentioned in the article, and just in time for National Adoption Month, the bill would also repeal tax credits that help offset adoption cost. Natalie has a good run down of why adoption is so expensive.

Hannity calls for a boycott of the sponsors that pulled their adds from his show after he should support for Roy Moore, who apparently likes underage girls.

Related, this article. The Evangelical response to Moore is going to be a huge point in our political history, I think. Then again, we screwed it up with Trump, so who knows? It has been well documented what Evangelicals thought about Bill Clinton in the 90’s and why he wasn’t fit for office. As the article points out, we’ve already given up ground on morality so that we could claim it was alright for ‘our guy’

 Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped to 61 percent from 44 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll. During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from to 72 percent from 30 percent, the survey found.

Think about that, the number of people that basically said, ‘never mind, morality doesn’t matter’ went up almost 150%. Trump is the only reason. If we take the correct stance with Moore, maybe we can regain whatever little credibly is left of Christians to have in society.

Quickly, on Moore, he has done nothing illegal, it appears. I want to make that clear to start with, because there are people accusing him of being a molester or pedophile, and that is incorrect. The age of consent in most states, including Alabama, is 16, so the girls that he did interact with were of age. It just make him creepy and weird as man in his early 30’s dating high school girls. As a man in his early 30’s, this is really unimaginable, when I see high schoolers or even college students at church, I can’t believe how young they look. We just hired a guy in his early 20’s at work and another 30 year old and I swear we didn’t look that young. So, that is a bit repugnant and anyone violating the half plus seven rule is creepy to me.

Now, if he did have sexual contact with the 14 year old, then he is, in fact, either a child molester or statutory rapist, depending on how the law is in Alabama. Either way, if convicted (hypothetically, as the statue of limitations has run out), he would be a registered sex offender. Since he cannot be tried, you have to seriously ask yourself, do you believe that his plan was to hold this girls hand for a few years until she was old enough? To me, the answer is clearly no. So, is a potential sex offender who we want representing ‘evangelical morality’? Again, we have Trump, so what is the difference?

Two more thoughts, then I’ll wrap it up. I appreciate that a few people are at least willing to admit, that it is all still just about abortion. I disagree we should be single issue voters, especially when it means supporting a possible sex offender. I’d appreciate if some more people were even more honest and just say they only care about low taxes, drop the whole morality charade completely. That would at least be consistent.

My other, and final, thought is really more of a fisk of this quote by a Moore supporter (and Bill Clinton detractor) from the article:
“All of us have sinned and need a savior,” Floyd said.
Sadly, pastors discussing sin in public now only seem to happen when they are dismissing a sin.
“Of course, moral character is still important.
Obliviously moral character doesn’t matter, we have Trump (81% of Evangelical voters) and you are literally being interviewed about your support for someone who attempted statutory rape. 
But with Bill Clinton or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, we’re talking about something completely different.
In what way? 
You have to look at the totality of the man.
Exactly, he has a long history of dating teenage girls as a man in his 30’s. He attempted to date a girl that, had he been successful, would make him a sex offender. This is why people are saying he is unfit for office, the totality of the man. Speaking of which, he is also a man who said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office. 
That’s why I support Judge Moore.
Why again? I missed any actual reason.
I’ve prayed with him.
Oh, sure, that’s a legit reason.
I know his heart.”
No, no you don’t. No one knows anyone’s heart. You don’t even know your own. Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Texas Church Shooting

As always, we wonder if there was any way to prevent this.

Once again, we have a mass shooting in this country. Unsurprisingly, Trump calls this a mental health issue.  Of course, earlier this year, he signed a bill into law that rolled back Obama-era regulations that made it harder for people with mental health issues to purchase guns. If we needed extreme vetting after the NYC attack, does this mean we will have extreme focus on mental health care in this country now? Some sort of ‘extreme’ funding for social services.

I don’t really know what to say. I saw on the news this morning that there was a memorial in Atl yesterday for the Las Vegas shooting. So, we didn’t even have time between the largest mass shooting in modern history and the memorial before another mass shooting. I’m not a very emotional guy, but I feel like crying watching the news stories. Mostly because nothing will happen. Some think that if we can’t talk about gun control now, we never will; but I’m not convinced. I think the ultimate nail in the coffin was 20 first graders being murdered, along with seven others (and the shooter). Just think about that over and over again. There were 20 first graders shot one morning. As a country we did absolutely nothing. If anything, by some accounts, gun control was weakened since then.

It was only 10 years ago that we thought we’d hit an unsurpassable number of 33 at Virginia Tech. We easily passed that just a year ago in Orlando, then set a new record just last month in Vegas. So, two of the five deadliest in modern history have happened over the past 35 days. I was in high school when Columbine happened, and that was a big deal then. I’m sure people thought the same thing, that if we couldn’t talk about it now…. Of course now, Columbine doesn’t even rank in the top 10 deadliest shootings anymore. If you sort that table by year, you’ll see that 12 double digit body count mass shootings have occurred since then.

I have no hope that anything will change. The NRA has an inexplicable amount of power over congress. If you wanted to be very generous and say that some of the congress members who blame mental health aren’t lying through there teeth, still nothing will change, because none of them are proposing to fund mental health counseling in this country or even adequate social services. As always, Christians remain silent and useless. We don’t want to step on anyone’s ‘rights’ regardless of the body count. I guess every couple of months they’ll be a mass shooting with 20 plus dead and we all sit around with our thumbs up our asses and wonder how we could prevent this.