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Confessions of a Realistic Pollyanna

Good news in a mixed up world

Easy to complain

I'm guilty of it. I know many of my friends are guilty of it as well. I complain about the weather. It is either too hot, or too cold, or we have had too much rain, or not enough of it. I complain about all of the manic changes that are happening to our weather right now due to climate change. The extremes seem to be getting more and more extreme.

Yet for all  of my complaining, I do not have the ability to change the weather. Yes possibly if a few hundred million people did their part to cut green house gases for a few decades, maybe the earth might be able to repair itself. But just because I complain about the heat or the rain does not mean that it will be going away anytime soon. The weather is beyond our control.

Some people enjoy complaining. I liken these people to Mamma Bear and Pappa Bear from the fairytale of Goldilocks. Either the soup is too hot or too cold and the bed is too hard or too soft. People who complain often want attention in life. Look at me I am not happy. You need to adjust to my needs. Sometimes people complain in order that things might get better. If I give my critique, then maybe thing will get better. Sometimes people complain just for the sake of complaining.

Other people don't like to complain. They don't want to make a scene. They don't want to upset others. They don't feel confident enough in themselves to express their opinions. Maybe they just find it easier to go along.

I think the best option is in the middle. I think those who complain all of the time risk being dismissed. The listener thinks "Oh that's Mr. Smith, he is never happy," rather than taking the complaint seriously. On the otherhand if one is too compliant, one might have to endure endless frustrations (someone continues to serve you brussel sprouts for instance because you have never complained about them even though you think they are disgusting).  But sometimes we need to use critical thought, express areas of improvement, in order that we can move ahead and make positive strides in the world. Blessings

Lenten thanksgiving
Thursday March 23rd I give thanks for the gift of working together. The choir I sing with persevered with a difficult piece of music.
Friday March 24th I give thanks for a quiet night at home after a busy week.
Saturday March 25th I give thanks for the gift of preparation. We readied our house for a social gathering.
Sunday March 26th I give thanks for the ability to offer hospitality to others.
Monday March 27th I give thanks for the surf and tide at a gorgeous beach on a warm autumn day.
Tuesday March 28th I give thanks for ears to listen as our church council attended a meeting where a presentation was made.
Wednesday March 29th I give thanks for community as members of our church gathered to watch a movie starring one of our congregants.
Thursday March 30th I give thanks for the gift of family. Brian's cousin died today and I remember her warm welcome that she gave me despite our differences in politics.



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Tuesday, March 21, 2017 One size does not fit all.

One of my volunteer positions when I was with the United Church of Canada was to be the Chair of our Conference's Interview Board. That meant I was part of the interview team that helped to discern who had gifts for ministry in the church. It was often very rewarding work.  People shared with us their calls for ministry, their hopes and dreams for the church.  Many times it was very inspiring. Other times it was more difficult. Sometimes we could not recognise ministerial gifts in the candidates and we had to say no.

But what always surprised me in doing that important work was the number of forms that needed to be filled out afterwards. Often times the forms were pages long. Often times you had to sign and annotate several copies of the form- forms were sent to the candidate, their presbytery and to the national office. Often times filling out the forms were not straight forward and were very complex.

Doing the interview work, I could see some value in the forms. They made sure that all the "t's" were crossed and the "i's" were dotted. If the forms were filled out correctly, we could easily tell that the candidate had completed all of their requirements.  I could also see the frustration that such forms caused. Some people often ended up feeling like round pegs in square holes because they just didn't fit the pre-designed criteria. Some people found it near impossible to fit into the way the forms thought it should be.

I think forms really model life and how we deal with others. Sometimes, it is possible to deal with others with a strict criteria. We might think that it is important that everyone should live by one set of rules, but unfortunately, one size never fits all. Some people due to their education, the language that they speak, their economic background, their culture, their religion, their gender, their orientation, and their upbringing make unbending allegiance to rules impossible. We need to be open to bending our rules, just as society bends their rules for us. Blessings.

Lenten blessings:

Friday March 17- On this day where we celebrate all things Irish, I give thanks that on this day everyone is invited to celebrate, whether they are Irish or not.
Saturday March 18- I give thanks for the spirit of discovery. We went to a new part of the city that I did not know all that well and it was delightful.
Sunday March 19th- I give thanks for the spirit of Surprise. I was tired after church and just wanted to go home, but I went to a celebration for a new friend of mine and had a wonderful time.
Monday March 20th- I give thanks for the ability to dream. We made plans on Monday for our anniversary trip later this year.
Tuesday March 21st- I give thanks for the equinox- that time of year when all parts of the world see equal halves of night and day. It shows that we are all equal, no matter who or where we are.
Wednesday March 22nd- for the second day in a row, I give thanks for thunderstorms. They bring relief from the heat, and reveal the power of nature


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017 Go ahead and hug your microwave Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

In the movie Sophie's choice, Meryl Streep as Sophie utters these lines, "The Truth. What is Truth?" I think we are living in such an age. You see in this world of instant communication, it is easy to post anything, whether it is true or not. And the fact of the matter is that no matter how ridiculous some of these statements are, some people believe them. These half truths, or alternative facts, live on, no matter how ridiculous they are.

Take for instance the terrorist attack in Sweden. It did not happen. But for those who are scared for their safety, for those who truly believe they are next, the statement that there have been attacks in Sweden breed fear, xenophobia, and hatred. People fear the other even more. The statement was false but it forwards an agenda that the others are evil and we alone are good.

Take for instance the statement that the former president wire tapped President Trump. It didn't happen. But this statement manages to convince those who did not like the last president that they were right. He could not be trusted. For those who are pushing an agenda of smaller government and libertarianism, this statement that there was wiretapping becomes a truth. Big Brother is there. You are being watched.

We get caught up in the alternative facts that have been espoused in the press. Some of us laugh at them, some of us mock them, some of us lampoon them, some of us believe them. These alternative facts take on new life- whether they are close to truth or not. And they act as a distraction to the real agenda that is happening. 

There has been a cut in funding to the UN. My world will suffer because there will be less emphasis on peace, and well being. UNICEF and World Health Organisation programmes will be slashed because of less funding from the US. Diseases such as SARS, AIDS, and ebola have all been fought by the monies given to the UN. What new diseases will be allowed to flourish with lack of health funding.

There has been a cut to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, our world is getting clogged with pollution. Temperatures are rising. Islands in the Pacific face flooding. More and more people are threatened by industrial pollution. Our world is dying, and needs agencies such as the EPA to protect it.

I know that learning about others helps me to understand the commonalities that we all share. But because of the agenda of fear that exists, people are building literal and figurative walls that divide. Such divisions inevitably lead to war which benefits the arms makers and war mongers. 

Alternative facts are telling us to fear the other, close the doors to anyone not like us, to become less hospitable. Alternative facts though are distractions to what is really happening in our world.  Now go hug your microwave. Blessings


Lenten blessings

Friday March 10, I give thanks for the connections that I feel with others.

Saturday March 11th, I give thanks for the common knowledge that we gather when we share. We watched a film called Masterless for Cinemameet. I had my own opinions about the film, but as I talked with others these opinions were confirmed, stretched, changed.

Sunday March 12th- I gave thanks for the spirit of completion. It was our concert for the Mosman Musical Society. our efforts were well received.

Monday March 13th- I gave thanks for the beauty of nature. I took a walk and observed the autumn plants and briliant colours.

Tuesday March 14th- I gave thanks for the gift of families. Sometimes the way of families is not always smooth. There are disagreements. There are misspoken words. Yet almost always love wins out.

Wednesday March 15th- I gave thanks for the gift of storytellers. I went to the film Moonlight. I was shocked by the violence, loneliness, despair, and redemption found in the character.

Thursday March 16th- I gave thanks for the opportunity to start something new. I am sitting on a new committee of presbytery and it is always interesting to be on something that is at its beginning.s

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 21st Century Visigoths

I know that I am a trusting person. I tend to see the goodness in people first before I see their negative qualities. I generally think that people think about the world like I do. I am not a Trekkie, but to quote Spock, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one (blame the Big Bang Theory for that reference). If everyone thought about the many rather than their own interests then our world would be a better place.

I know that I am a bit of naive person. I tend to think that people in positions of authority act with people's best interests in mind. I tend to think rules are there for a reason. However, I do know that there are some military figures, some political figures, and some law officials who abuse their powers and try to serve themselves. Generally though, until I have seen such authorities abuse their power, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Once they break my trust and demonstrate that they are more concerned about their own well being rather than the well being of others, I add my voice to those who protest.

I also tend to be a person who trusts academics. When they say something is true, I tend to believe them. Yes some academics have biased opinions. Some have their research paid for them by companies who want to be portrayed in the best light- tobacco companies funded studies for years to show that their products were harmless even though overwhelming evidence proved otherwise. But when a huge majority of the academic and scientific world says something is true, I believe them. They have spent thousands of hours studying and researching their topics. They know their field.

But in this country, and around the world, people are disregarding the experts. 97% of the scientists around the world say that climate change is happening. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that Sydney had it's hottest summer on record. One community in country New South Wales had 35C temperatures over 50 days this year. Toronto saw little snow until February this year, and most of the winter has been spent above 0C.  Yet some politicians claim that climate change is not occurring. Oil companies and coal companies of course do not think it is occurring. People who distrust the experts say that this is just a warm spell and we will have cooler years ahead. And yet overall, our world is warming.

Vaccines have been around the western world since 1796. Thanks to them, I do not have to worry about small pox, diptheria, tetanus, or countless other diseases. Millions upon millions of people have been saved. But the anti-vax movement believes that being vaccinated causes autism. The vast majority of scientists disagree with this opinion, saying that there is no basis in fact to the link between autism and vaccinations. But still the anti-vaxxers remained determined. And our world faces the possibilities of new epidemics of formerly dead diseases as the percentage of possible victims grows.

Now I admit that sometimes scientists and academics do get things wrong. Sometimes world views get changed with new evidence. But my point is, we spend a lot educating our best and brightest in universities. There they receive knowledge from the best scholars of the past. There taking that best knowledge of the past, they do research and try to advance the knowledge in that field.

In its day, the Roman empire was the most advanced civilisation that the world had known. They were known for their roads, their architecture, their sanitation systems, poetry, and music. Yet problems arose in their society. There was corruption and abuse of power. The Visigoths arose to fight against these weaknesses, brought down the empire but with that destruction, they destroyed all of the good things in the Roman empire. Europe then took 1000 years to recover. Little was done in that 1000 years to advance knowledge, the arts, science, medicine, etc.

I think the anti-vaxxers, the isolationists, the climate change deniers are like the Visigoths. They have arisen as protest movements against things such as globalisation, world trade, corporate greed, economic gaps, knowledge gaps, change, and uncertainty. There is injustice in the world when less than 100 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3 and a half billion people in the world. There is injustice when heads of corporations and banks earn as much as the average workers yearly salary in a matter of a few hours. There is anger, when jobs are being lost to machines or to overseas workers who will work for fractions of our salaries. And fear of the other is being increasingly used by the media and certain politicians to keep things just like they are. In the midst of these injustices, is it any wonder that we have our own modern Visigoths in our midst.

Yes our world has problems. Yes things need to change. But do we want such change to be done out of ignorance and reaction, or do we want such change to occur with guidance, knowledge, and careful study. I for one think it is best to listen to the experts rather than following the mindless mobs.  Blessings.


Last week for Lent I was going to list my blessings each day. So here goes:

On Friday March 3rd, I gave thanks for the gift of storytellers. I had been to the world day of prayer service and heard stories from the Women of the Philippines. And that afternoon someone shared with me many stories of Australian history.

On Saturday March 4th I gave thanks for the gift of Celebration. It was the Sydney Mardi Gras parade and I watched as hundreds of thousands of people in our city celebrated our diversity.

On Sunday March 5th, I gave thanks for the gift of singing. I am singing right now in a group that will be performing this coming Sunday.

On Monday March 6th I gave thanks for the Draught Discussions group. Each month a few of us gather to laugh, to support, and to encourage one another as we share our stories and our lives.

On Tuesday March 7th, I gave thanks for the opportunity we have to serve others. We had gathered to dream about a new outreach ministry from our church.

On Wednesday March 8th, I gave thanks for the gifts of Women on International Women's Day

On Thursday March 9th, I give thanks for the songs of the birds whose call even drowned out the sound of construction outside of my window.


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