Back to the Future

“The expression, ‘back to the future,’ refers to the time when one has to stop (over) thinking about the things they could, or could not, have done in the past so that what happened wouldn’t have happened. Do not dwell on the past! The past has been written with ink… the future in pencil! Worries about what cannot be changed is unnecessary; focus on what you can control and try not to make the same mistakes again.” (Quote source here.)

Unfortunately… Enter “cancel culture”… the crowd that will never let you forget your mistakes (past or present) or opinions they don’t agree with even if you do want to move on with your life. And if they cancel you, any future you are trying to “write in pencil,” they can erase.

Who knows what the world will look like in the future with the prominent rise of  the cancel culturecrowd in the summer of 2020 (although they’ve been around long before then). It’s certainly the opposite of the Summer of Lovewhich was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967.

In an article published on February 16, 2021, in the Washington Times titled, Top 10 Recent Examples of Cancel Culture,” by Kelly Sadler, Commentary Editor and a columnist for the Washington Times, she writes:

“Mr. Bean” actor Rowan Atkinson compared cancel culture to a “medieval mob looking for someone to burn.” 

Indeed.

No one is immune to woke politics. It doesn’t matter how long ago a person made their irredeemably “offensive” comments, or how passionate their apologies are—the social media mob takes no prisoners. 

We’re in a sad place as a society when somebody’s firing and/or cancellation is celebrated more than their life’s work. And yet, here we are.

Below is a list of the top 10 cancellations, all that have occurred within the last year. Many on this list are notable names, people who will find other work and/or have the position and power to stand up to the woke crowd.

It’s the names not represented who are the true victims—like those who have had their college acceptances rejected because of a social media post they made in high school–who were canceled before they ever could get started. They are not famous, and their names are not known. 

Not surprisingly, cancel culture cuts one way. If you say something too conservative and mildly offensive, the woke hall monitors on social media will find you. And if you’re famous, all the better, as Hollywood and corporate America seems to have embraced this new form of blacklisting…. (Quote source here, see article at this link for the list of the top 10 cancellations.)

In an article published on August 6, 2020, titled, How cancel culture became one of the buzziest and most controversial ideas on the internet,” by Rachel E. Greenspan, a reporter on the Digital Culture desk at Insider.com, she writes:

In a congressional antitrust hearing on July 29, 2020, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio had a specific question for Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“Mr. Cook,” Jordan said, “is the ‘cancel culture’ mob dangerous?”

“Cancel culture,” which President Donald Trump last month called “the very definition of totalitarianism,” describes the phenomenon of frequent public pile-ons criticizing a person, business, movement, or idea.

The phrase—a surprisingly recent creation—has become ubiquitous in pop culture and reached the highest halls of power, used to describe “cancellations” large and small.

On one end of the spectrum are people like Bill CosbyHarvey Weinstein, and R. Kelly who were canceled by the public before their sex-crimes trials. On the other end are everyday people like David Shor, who faced criticism on Twitter after he tweeted a study from an academic journal questioning the political consequences of violent and peaceful protests. Shor, who tweeted the link during the George Floyd protests, was fired, though the company has said it wasn’t over the tweet.

Despite the seemingly positive intentions of many cancellations—to “demand greater accountability from public figures,” as Merriam-Webster’s evaluation of the phrase notes—people tend to call out cancel culture itself as a negative movement, suggesting that the consequences of cancellation are too harsh in minor instances or represent rushed judgment in complicated situations….

…Former President Barack Obama criticized the trend in an interview about youth activism at an Obama Foundation summit in October, though he didn’t use the phrase. “That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change,” he said. “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.” (Quote source and complete article at this link.)

In an article published on September 30, 2020, titled, The good, the bad, and the dirty: Analyzing cancel culture and it’s effects,” by Sara Tidwell and Jack Falinski at StateNews.com, they write:

From the Salem Witch Trials to the Red Scare, public figures and everyday people have been on the lookout for people who stood against their morals and values.

These acts of public shaming have always been present. Now, this new-age form of public shaming takes on a new name: cancel culture.

Cancel culture is the act of withdrawing support for public figures or companies after they’ve done or said something objectionable or offensive.

Popularly performed online amongst Generation Z and Millennials, the hidden truth behind cancel culture is that it’s always been around.

Even though the term itself was created not so long ago, public shaming has been found sprinkled throughout world history and entertainment in more cases than one.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, for example, framed one of the most famous novels ever around culture. InThe Scarlet Letter,” Hester Prynn, the main character of the story, was literally paraded around town with a scarlet “A” signed on her breast for having committed adultery.

Cancel culture has always been present in history and entertainment; it just hasn’t always been called cancel culture. 

So how did it get its name?

Twitter can take some of the credit, according to Merriam-Webster.

When the #MeToo movement first started, survivors demanded justice by ousting their perpetrators by sharing their names into the public sphere. It’s now used to justify more than just sexual assault. The list includes addressing those who’ve been racially, homophobically or just generally insensitive to the greater society.

To be cancelled means being shunned from the same society that deems you to be insensitive. During the time of leprosy, lepers were cast out into secluded areas with other lepers to prevent the spread of the contagious and deadly disease. Similarly, those who’ve been cancelled today are socially cast out into their own stigmatized bubble of guilt and shame. 

Cancel culture ruins careers. It ruins people’s images. And, for those who’ve already been cancelled, it’s something they’re finding very hard to climb out of. But didn’t they get themselves there? Weren’t they cancelled for reason?

Some people you may know who have been canceled

There’s always a problem with putting an ordinary person, even a hero, up on a pedestal. Once you’re on top, should something happen that society doesn’t abide by, it’s a long fall to the ground.

And karma knows everything. It doesn’t care who you are.

“The King of YouTube,” also known as Shane Dawson, was canceled when videos of him making racist, pedophilia and bestiality-type jokes and again when people came back to his videos before he belittled other online creators like James Charles for money resurfaced. However, his cancellation never stuck because his fans would keep returning to his series.

Award-winning author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowlingwas canceled for tweeting that she supported Maya Forstater, a researcher with a history of making transphobic comments and spreading harmful rhetoric about the “T” community in LGBTQ.

Television host and comedian, Ellen DeGeneres, was canceled for being mean–allegations range from bad fan encounters, firing someone for looking her in the eye and playing favorites with where she extended a helping hand, down to executive producers of her show being racist and committing sexual misconduct.

While the list extends for miles, those are just three of the biggest canceled names in modern media. The severity of the reason people are cancelled varies among the crowd.

2020 has shone light on a lot of dark, overlooked areas and helped the world see where our deepest faults lie.

Students weigh in

International relations junior Jen Nardone said she first heard about cancel culture last year when James Charles was in the process of getting canceled. 

“It was kind of just scary to see his followers drop so fast based on somebody’s story which could have absolutely been falsified,” she said.

But when she heard about Shane Dawson, a celebrity she admired, getting canceled, she said it felt different than just seeing any other celebrity get canceled. 

“As a fan, it was a whole different thing because you watch someone you love get so much hate,” she said. “(Being) canceled is so aggressive.” 

Nardone said she thinks it’s tough to support someone who is being canceled because it leaves you, the fan, in limbo of whether to support that person. 

“When you support somebody and then you’re just told you’re not allowed to support them anymore it’s like you’re kind of in a box, and you have to just listen to what everybody wants to do,” she said.It’s hard.” 

Cancel culture, according to Nardone, can go too far and do more damage than repair. She said once you’re canceled, it becomes really hard to make a genuine apology, and even if you do people still might not believe you.

“We should just acknowledge that people make mistakes,” she said. “I think cancel culture is just really toxic, but people also need to be held accountable.” 

For Teron Kinnard, an MSU junior studying anthropology, he said accountability is exactly what makes cancel culture beneficial. 

“I don’t necessarily think it’s a negative thing, unless people get canceled who don’t need it,” he said. “I think it’s a way of holding people accountable to some degree when people usually get away with things.”

Kinnard said he thinks because the entertainment industry socially elevates celebrities to statuses that can create conceited egos, cancel culture is a good way to bring them back down to earth. 

“I feel like a lot of times with big celebrity names, they can get away with some things that most people can’t get away with,” he said. “Cancel culture and social media, those things are really up to the public to decide whether or not they still have their platform.” 

While there is always some risk in making accusations, Kinnard said cancel culture turns us, the public, into the judge. We, therefore, must investigate on our end to make informed decisions. 

“That’s always a danger when someone is falsely accused, but I think when it comes down to it, you just have to do your own research,” he said. (Quote source here.)

And in one last article published on September 13, 2020, in Forbes.com titled, Cancel Culture is Only Getting Worse,” by Evan Gerstmann, professor and senior contributor on Forbes, he writes:

There is no single accepted definition of cancel culture, but at its worst, it is about unaccountable groups successfully applying pressure to punish someone for perceived wrong opinions. The victim ends up losing their job or is significantly harmed in some way well beyond the discomfort of merely being disagreed with. Someone like J.K. Rowling isn’t really a victim of cancel culture—she’s too rich to be punished in any meaningful way and she doesn’t have the kind of job that one can be fired from.

Powerful voices on the institutional left claim that there is no such thing as cancel culture. For example, the New York Times columnist Charles Blow, tweets: “Once more THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CANCEL CULTURE. There is free speech. You can say and do as pls, and others can choose never to deal this [sic] you, your company or your products EVER again. The rich and powerful are just upset that the masses can now organize their dissent.”

This argument confuses dissent with punishment. The victims of cancel culture are generally not powerful people. They are often vulnerable people who suffer devastating harm. A previous post discussed an African American school security guard who was fired for using the N-word in the course of telling a student not to direct that word at him. (Thankfully, he was eventually re-hired after a national furor erupted.) The same post discussed a teacher who was fired for inadvertently failing to address a student by his self-identified gender pronoun. The security guard and the teacher each have four children to support and lost their health insurance as well as their income when they were fired. They are hardly examples of the rich and powerful.

But at least one can say the security guard actually used the n-word and the teacher actually did have a religious objection to recognizing transgender identities. But as people, especially in educational settings, have grown more intimidated, it has been harder for the cancel culture warriors to find such people. So instead of finding someone who actually used the n-word, they expand the definition of cancel-worthy language. A professor at the University of Southern California was placed on leave for using a Chinese word that some people think sounds like the n-word even though it is simply the Chinese word for “that.” The professor is a member of USC US-China Institute, and was teaching a communications course and was using the word to illustrate how different languages use different words to fill in pauses. 

The situation has deteriorated to the point that one no longer needs to say anything to be targeted by cancel culture. At Skidmore College in New York State, a professor is being boycotted for merely attending a pro-police “Back the Blue” rally. He didn’t participate in any way, he didn’t speak or shout slogans, or carry a sign. He says he just wanted to hear what the demonstrators had to say. But an email circulated at the college saying, “Tonight, I and other Skidmore students witnessed Profs. David Peterson and Andrea Peterson at an anti-Black Lives Matter protest. We demand the immediate dismissal of both Skidmore staff members for engaging in hateful conduct that threatens Black Skidmore students.” (It turned out that Andrea Peterson doesn’t work at the college.)

The professor found a notice on his classroom door saying “STOP. By entering this class you are crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson. This is not a safe environment for marginalized students . . . By continuing to take this course you are enabling bigoted behavior on this campus.” 

According to Professor Peterson, as a result of the boycott, he has no remaining students in one class and only a very small number of students in his other two classes. He also says the university is investigating him for possible bias.

This extravagant expansion of cancel-worthy behavior is not limited to academia and it is not limited to anything a person has said or done anytime this century. A top executive at Boeing recently lost his job because of an article he wrote in 1987, opposing allowing women to serve as fighter pilots. The executive apologized for the article, writing: “My article was a 29-year-old Cold War navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time. The dialogue that followed its publication 33 years ago quickly opened my eyes, indelibly changed my mind, and shaped the principles of fairness, inclusion, respect and diversity that have guided my professional life since.” That was not enough to save his job.

In no way is contemporary cancel culture about free speech or debate. Nor is it any longer primarily about social justice. The power to get someone fired must be a thrilling feeling. It also strengthens group bonds and can raise one’s social standing in certain groups. It is not hard to understand why many people would be willing to look further and further afield to find targets: an innocently uttered Chinese word for “that,” mere attendance at a rally to hear a point of view, or a 33-year-old article that the author has renounced and apologized for.

What is harder to understand is why the truly powerful, those with the power to suspend and investigate professors and to fire people, are allowing this? Perhaps they fear becoming targets themselves. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that cancel culture exists and is getting worse. (Quote source here.)

The articles above have been a rather sobering read. But not even the cancel culture crowd knows what the future holds. I’ve never understood a mindset that is capable of destroying the lives of others for the sheer sport of doing it, although there is no doubt that an agenda is attached at some level. However, in the end, we all die sooner or later. I’ll end it with the opening phrases of a soliloquy from  Shakepeare’s play, “Hamlet” (source here):

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished…

To die, to sleep . . .

To sleep, perchance to Dream . . .

Aye, there’s the rub . . . .

YouTube Video: “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis and the News:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Hills and Valleys

A couple of weeks ago I read a devotion at Crosswalk.com that was originally published on September 22, 2017, titled, 3 New Ways to Think about Psalm 23,” by Sarah Garrett, educator and founder of the Transformed4More Ministries, that she runs with her identical twin sister. I bookmarked that devotion as I wanted to go back and study it later as Psalm 23 is not only a universally loved and recognized psalm in the Bible, but one of my favorites that I use when I’m praying. Here is what she wrote:

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .”

Sound familiar?

Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable chapters in the entire Bible. We learn it in Sunday school, see it in funeral programs, and notice it on church décor. Even those who do not attend church have likely heard this psalm before.

When verses and chapters become familiar, we tend to not pay close attention to them. When we see it in our Bibles, it can be tempting to think, Oh, I know what this says already. Why read it again?

Here’s why—because the Bible is a living document. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

The Bible never changes, but it always changes something in us when we read it. The Word of God always has something new to teach us, even if it’s from a familiar passage.

Recently, I was reading through Psalms and scanned over chapter 23. I almost skipped it, but decided to read it again. As I did, the familiarity faded, and I felt as though I was reading it with new eyes. Has that ever happened to you? As I read, three questions came to mind. They challenged me. I’m passing them along in the hopes they will challenge you, too.

Question 1: Am I allowing God to lead me?

God is always in control of what is happening, but we also have free will. That means we can choose to let God lead our lives. When we don’t, it’s the same as choosing to be led by our selfish desires. The opening of Psalm 23 beautifully shows what we can gain from surrendering and allowing God to lead our lives.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (vv. 1–3).

As I read this again, I realized that if God is our Shepherd, that means we give Him control of our life. When we do, look at what there is to gain!

  • God will meet our needs.
  • He will give us peace.
  • He will restore us.
  • He will lead us down a path of righteousness and not destruction.

If your world seems chaotic or unfulfilling, ask yourself, “Am I allowing God to lead me?”

Question 2: Am I camping in the valley?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (v. 4).

I heard a pastor say that this verse clearly states that the “valleys” of life are to be walked through, but some people tend to put up a tent and camp there. Convicting, huh?

Sometimes we get bogged down in our circumstances and just decide that’s the way it will always be. We figuratively pitch our tent in the valley. This tends to rob us of the joy that can come from our relationship with God.

During the valleys of life, you must remember the last two lines of this verse, that God is with you and will comfort you as you walk. Don’t choose to camp out and wallow in your misery. Put one foot in front of another while asking the Lord to provide a way out.

If you are going through a season of sin, discouragement, or despair in your life right now, ask yourself, “Am I walking or camping?”

Question 3: Have I lost sight of God’s faithfulness?

Let’s keep thinking about valleys for a moment. Sometimes in the valleys of life, we take on a “woe is me” attitude and completely ignore all of the blessings that God has given us.

Let’s circle back to Psalm 23.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (vv. 5–6).

This means that if you could put your blessings in a cup, they would run over the top. Goodness and mercy will be following you everywhere, and you will spend eternity with God. That’s the ultimate blessing!

Ask yourself, “Have I lost sight of God’s faithfulness?” If you feel like you have, even if you are not going through a hard time, stop and make an actual list of all the ways that God has been faithful to you. You can start in the comment section below. Even on your worst day, you will see God’s blessings overflowing in your life if you look for them.

As an added bonus, you will feel your spirit lift as you write. You literally cannot dwell on bad thoughts and the blessings of God at the same time. Seriously. Try it! (Quote source here.)

One thing I’ve discovered about life is that it, at various times, is not anything like I thought it might be as it has unfolded, and this became very clear to me in the past dozen years. I needed to take some time to think about Question #2 above as during these past dozen years I felt like I had taken up residence “in the valley,” and I had no idea how to move beyond it as it almost seemed like I was trapped there by unseen forces beyond my control that were not willing to yield no matter how hard I tried to open the doors, whether I was trying to find another job for many years after I lost my last job a dozen years ago, or trying to find affordable housing to rent on a very low income for years, too, that never materialized.

As the author states in part of the answer to Question #2 above:

Sometimes we get bogged down in our circumstances and just decide that’s the way it will always be. We figuratively pitch our tent in the valley. This tends to rob us of the joy that can come from our relationship with God.

During the valleys of life, you must remember the last two lines of this verse, that God is with you and will comfort you as you walk. Don’t choose to camp out and wallow in your misery. Put one foot in front of another while asking the Lord to provide a way out.  (Quote source here.)

While there is no doubt that at times over these past dozen years I’ve gotten “bogged down” in my circumstances, in no way did I ever want to “pitch my tent in the valley” and stay there. And I am absolutely not the “wallowing” type. Also, I found myself getting frustrated when so much of what I read from “Christian” sources always seemed to put the onus back on us (me, in this case) to change as if I had any kind of control over the circumstances I found myself in (I could control my attitude, but not the circumstances). Every day over these past dozen years I’ve “put one foot in front of another while asking the Lord to provide a way out,” as stated above. And he has walked with me through each and every day, but it is nothing like what I thought it might turn out to be like when this situation first started a dozen years ago that turned my life upside down from life as I knew it before that happened.

During this time, and specifically the last six plus years when I was forced to live in hotel rooms as the only housing option I could find, I was practically begging God at various times to get me out from under hotel room living (for one thing, it’s expensive and it’s a very transient way to live especially with other guests coming and going all the time). During those six years I had applied for a low income senior apartment at a variety of senior apartment complexes in two different states where I lived, and I was put on waiting lists that I never heard back from time and again. I didn’t know anyone who had come close to having the same issues I had when it came to trying to find a low income senior apartment. In fact, I had a friend who got right into an apartment in a very large low income senior apartment complex the first time she went there looking for an apartment, and I had inquired about renting an apartment there three separate times over a several-year period, and I was told all three times that I would have to wait at least a year or longer for an apartment to become available. However, they never called me back, nor did they return my calls when I called to inquire where I stood on their waiting list.

As I mentioned above, I am not a “wallower”; I’m a “doer.” But I felt like no matter what I tried to do, I kept running up against walls that were a mile high, a mile wide, and a mile deep. I spent six years starting from the first day after I lost that job a dozen years ago looking for another job that never materialized; and that job search overlapped into the first year of the six-year hotel living saga that started in 2014 at the same time I was forced to take Social Security at the age of 62 just to have any income again. I was not wallowing in self-pity; but I was very angry and very, very frustrated, although I never let it show.

I can vouch for all the “doers” out there who are not inclined to “wallow” during the valley times they find themselves in as they go through life. It is frustrating when nothing you try to do ever works out (and I have been covering all of it in prayer for years now, too). But in the midst of all of my frustration and anger, I believe with every fabric of my being that God is sovereign; that God is still in control; and that my faith is still very much intact.

Six months ago my six-year hotel room living saga finally ended. I published a blog post regarding it on my second blog titled, A New Beginning,” so I won’t repeat that information in this post. While the “valley” of hotel room living has ended, there are still other “valleys” as well as hills on the landscape that have to do with the changing forces going on in our society today, and those affect all of us at some point and in some way (the Covid-19 pandemic that started over a year ago is just one example).

In a devotion published on September 19, 2020, on InTouch Ministries titled, The Believer’s Valley Experiences” by Dr. Charles Stanley, Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist Church and founder of InTouch Ministries, he writes:

Have you ever had heartache so deep or hardship so difficult that it’s almost impossible to stand? Like a giant wave crashing on the shore, some trials threaten to overwhelm us.

We all experience valleys in life. They might be of our own making—for instance, when we choose to disobey God and our fellowship with Him grows cold. Or perhaps other people cause our suffering, in situations such as job termination, marital infidelity, or betrayal by a friend. And sometimes our heavenly Father Himself leads us into the valley. Although He could steer us around suffering, He chooses not to because He has a specific purpose in mind.

Psalm 23 uses four words to describe these valley experiences: shadow, death, fear, and evil. These terms evoke images of oppressive circumstances, grievous affliction, and deep discomfort, and there is no way to hurry through them. That’s because both the depth and length of the trial are determined by the Lord.

Thankfully, God promises to be with us and to use every valley—even those of our own making—for our benefit (Rom. 8:28). It is our job to walk steadily, attuned to His presence and trusting in His promises. (Quote source here.)

The title of this blog post, Hills and Valleys,” actually comes from a song I heard this past week on YouTube (see YouTube video below). I’ve spent most of this blog post focusing on the valleys, so I will end it with a focus on the hills from Psalm 121:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out…

And your coming in . . .

From this time forth . . .

And even forevermore . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2021

On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, we will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Since I’ve never looked up the history on this holiday, I thought I would now since there is Irish blood in my family line (our last name is an Irish surname), and to see what it is all about besides the wearing of green and drinking of green beer (although I’ve never acquired a taste for beer).

The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides the following information on St. Patrick’s Day:

Although the holiday [St. Patrick’s Day] originally started as a Christian feast day celebrating the life of St. Patrick and the spreading of Christianity to Ireland, today, it is a day of revelry and a celebration of all things Irish. Don’t forget to wear green!

St. Patrick’s Day is officially observed on March 17 each year, though celebrations may not be limited to this date. The significance of March 17 is that it’s said to be the date of St. Patrick’s death in the late 5th century (circa A.D. 493).

Who was St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He is credited with successfully spreading Christianity throughout Ireland—hence the Christian celebration of his life and name.

Was there really a St. Patrick?

Definitely. However, there are many legends about him that mix with the truth. Did he play a large role in spreading Christianity to Ireland? Yes, absolutely. Did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland? Probably not, since snakes weren’t native to Ireland to begin with!

In any case, St. Patrick’s impact was significant enough to warrant our modern-day celebrations. Here’s a bit about St. Patrick himself.

A young St. Patrick finds God

The man who would eventually become St. Patrick was born in Britain (part of the Roman Empire at the time) as Maewyn Succat in the late 4th century. His family was Christian, but it’s said that Maewyn himself was an atheist throughout his childhood.

That would change at age 16 (around A.D. 400), when Maewyn was kidnapped from his home on the west coast of Britain by Irish pirates, who proceeded to carry him off to Ireland and force him to work as a shepherd herding sheep. After six years, he escaped his captors, walking nearly 200 miles through the Irish landscape and convincing a ship to carry him with them back to Britain. This harrowing experience certainly had an effect on Maewyn, who was convinced it was the Lord who protected him and delivered him safely home.

St. Patrick Spreads the Gospel

Upon returning home, Maewyn received his call (in a dream) to preach the Gospel—in Ireland, of all places! He spent the next 15 or so years in a monastery in Britain, preparing for his missionary work. When he became a priest, his name was changed to Patricius, and he returned to the land of his captors to begin his teachings.

Although some Christians already lived in Ireland at the time, the country was largely pagan, so spreading a foreign religion was not an easy task. Patricius traveled from village to village to share the teachings of the Lord, and was successful enough to eventually found many churches there.

Why is the shamrock associated with St. Patrick’s Day?

We wear a shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day because, legend says, St. Patrick used its three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity in his teachings. (The Trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as three divine persons who are one divine being [God].) The truth of the St. Patrick legend, however, is in question, as there is no direct record that the saint actually used the shamrock as a teaching tool.

Note: The symbol of St. Patrick is a three-leaf shamrock, not a four-leaf clover. However, long before the shamrock became associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the four-leaf clover was regarded by ancient Celts as a charm against evil spirits. In the early 1900s, O. H. Benson, an Iowa school superintendent, came up with the idea of using a clover as the emblem for a newly founded agricultural club for children in his area. In 1911, the four-leaf clover was chosen as the emblem for the national club program, later named 4-H. (Quote source here.)

With this background on St. Patrick’s Day, one might wonder how it became associated with partying and drinking green beer. Well, the answer is found in this article published on March 2, 2020, titled, How Did St. Patrick’s Day Become a Drinking Holiday?” by Bobbi Dempsey, freelance writer, editor and content specialist. She writes:

The holiday somehow transitioned from a religious feast to a day where we drink green beer.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with drinking and having a good time. But the occasion wasn’t always associated with overindulgence. Those who think St. Patrick’s Day is just about wearing green and enjoying parties and parades might be surprised to learn about the holiday’s origins. Find out 21 things you never knew about St. Patrick’s Day.

History of St. Patrick

St. Patrick is one of the most well-known saints because his special day has become such a cause for celebration, but most people don’t actually know a lot about him. One shocking tidbit: even though he’s so strongly associated with Irish culture and symbolism, he wasn’t actually born in Ireland. In fact, he was born in Roman Britain in the late fourth or early fifth century. (Britain was part of the Roman Empire back then!) As a boy, he was taken to Ireland as a slave.

Because it was so long ago, some of the details of his life are a bit fuzzy and the story varies depending on the source. But according to many versions, he eventually escaped but would return to Ireland years later and become a priest, and then a bishop.

He was largely credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland and helping to convert many of the country’s residents to the religion.

A man of many myths

For some reason, St. Patrick became a magnet for mythology and creative tales over the years. He was credited with everything from driving the snakes out of Ireland to starting an Easter bonfire that could never be extinguished and still burns somewhere in Ireland to this day. Of course, along the way he also somehow became linked to shamrocks, the color green, and a host of other symbols and traditions we now associate with St. Patrick’s Day.

By today’s standards, he doesn’t even meet the criteria of sainthood, since he was never actually canonized by a pope. (That process didn’t even start until a few centuries after his death.) So some sticklers for details will claim that he’s not an “official” saint. While they may technically be right, he’s still the patron saint of Ireland and beloved by his adopted country. These St. Patrick’s Day “facts” are actually false.

How St. Patrick’s Day started

The first observation of St. Patrick’s Day is said to have occurred in the 9th or 10th century. It is observed on March 17 because that was believed to be the date of St. Patrick’s death. It was initially celebrated with reverence and a sort of solemn quiet, and seen more as a religious holiday. Eventually, it became a day that was celebrated with a feast. A few centuries ago, the shift toward more of a fun-filled celebration began to happen. St. Patrick’s Day fell towards the middle of Lent, but Catholics were given a one-day reprieve from the usual fasting and discipline of the season and were allowed to indulge in a wide range of food and drink, including alcohol.

The parties and parades begin

The tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the revelry of parties and parades is widely believed to have developed in full force not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish immigrants were eager to honor their culture and celebrate their national pride. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States was held in Boston in 1737, and New York City started a parade of its own 25 years later. See how the world celebrates St. Patrick’s Day today.

Essentially, drinking on St. Patrick’s Day was the result of two combining forces: the day of reprieve from Lenten fasting and the indulgence of partying and celebration. Today, it has become a part of secular culture and a popular tradition, one often celebrated with green beer or Irish whiskey. Find out which is correct: St. Patty’s Day vs. St. Paddy’s Day. (Quote source here.)

I hope this brief history of St. Patrick’s Day has been informative. Here are three Irish blessings to go with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day posted at this link:

However you decide to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I’d like to end this post with all of the verses from the Irish blessing titled, May the Road Rise to Meet You,” posted at this link:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you…

And may true . . .

Be the hearts . . .

That love you . . . .

YouTube Video: “May the Road Rise to Meet You” by Celtic Thunder:

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Photos #3, #4, #5 credit here

The “L” Word

After one full year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time to tackle the “L” word…as in loneliness. If ever anything has hit our society and the world that has caused so much loneliness and isolation, it is Covid-19; however, in actuality, it just added to the already existing universal epidemic of loneliness that has existed long before the pandemic arrived.

In an article published on May 19, 2020, on Time.com titled, COVID-19 Is Making America’s Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse,” by Jamie Ducharme, TIME staff writer covering health, she opens her article with the following:

Driving around her Kearney, Missouri neighborhood is both respite and torture for Kathie Hodgson. She likes seeing other people out and about; it reminds her what life was like before COVID-19. But Hodgson, a 41-year-old teacher who lives alone after a recent divorce, says seeing happy families playing in their yards or walking their dogs can also send her plunging deep into a spiral of loneliness.

“You know, as much as I have valued my independence in the past year, it’s finally hitting me that I would like to curl up on the couch with somebody at night,” Hodgson says.

The irony, Hodgson says, is she was thrilled to live alone before the coronavirus pandemic hit, enjoying her “me time” and the newfound ability to date and see friends whenever she wanted—not long ago, she lived with her kids (who recently grew up and moved out) and a partner (who she recently divorced). But now that she’s confined to her apartment almost 24 hours a day, she is feeling the emptiness of her home acutely.

“Some days I smile and feel okay,” Hodgson says. “And other days I curl up in a ball and wonder if this goes on too much longer, will I be able to take it mentally? Can I last sanely living alone for months—a year?”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public-health experts were concerned about an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. The coronavirus has exacerbated that problem, with most face-to-face socializing for people still under lockdown orders indefinitely limited to members of their own households. For the 35.7 million Americans who live alone, that means no meaningful social contact at all, potentially for months on end.

Experts are rightly concerned about the mental health ramifications of this widespread isolation, especially since there’s no agreed-upon tipping point at which acute loneliness transitions into a chronic problem with long-term consequences. A group of doctors from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School warned in an April 22 commentary published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that physical distancing and stress caused by the pandemic, combined with rising firearm sales, could worsen the suicide crisis the U.S. has already been weathering for more than a decade.

On the other hand, some mental health advocates are optimistic that COVID-19 will finally give loneliness the mainstream recognition it deserves—possibly paving the way for a more socially connected future.

For such a common experience, loneliness is surprisingly slippery to define clinically. Loneliness is not included in the DSM-5, the official diagnostic manual for mental health disorders, but it goes hand-in-hand with many conditions that are. It’s often lumped together with social isolation, but the two concepts are different. Social isolation is an objective indicator of how much contact somebody has with other people, whereas loneliness is “the subjective feeling of isolation,” says Dr. Carla Perissinotto, a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco who studies loneliness. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely, nor does being around people mean you’re not, Perissonotto says. Loneliness is a feeling only the person experiencing it can truly identify. (Quote source and the rest of the article is located at this link.)

As noted in the article above, Social isolation is an objective indicator of how much contact somebody has with other people, whereas loneliness is the subjective feeling of isolation…. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely, nor does being around people mean you’re not…. Loneliness is a feeling only the person experiencing it can truly identify.” This distinction is important.

To show just how pervasive loneliness is in America, here are some pre-pandemic statics from a survey conducted in 2019 taken from the above article from CIGNA surveys on loneliness in America (source here):

Share of Americans who reported being lonely in 2019 (pre-pandemic):

Generation:
Gen Z (18-22): 79%
Millennials (23-38): 71%
Gen X (38-51): 65%
Boomers (52-71): 50%
Silent/Greatest (72+): 38%

Income:
Under $25k: 77%
$25,000 to $49,999: 64%
$50,000 to $74,999: 59%
$75,000 to $99,999: 55%
$100k or more: 53%

Living Status:
Living alone: 69%
Living w/one other: 51%
Living with 2+ others: 65%

Gender:
Female: 58%
Male: 63%

Now that I am single and sixty, I spend more time alone than I used to when I was married. However, I spend less time being lonely. I was always lonely in my marriage, not as a mother but as a wife.  I was almost never alone but was always lonely.

Here are 10 subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the two and a few suggestions on how to turn loneliness around.

1. You can be happy while you are alone. The same can’t be said for being lonely.

2. Sitting in a football stadium full of people, you can be lonely. It is not a question of numbers, but of emotions. If you are watching the football game at home by yourself, well you get it, you are just alone.

3. Some things are preferable when you are alone like reading. You might prefer to read when alone. It is great to nap while you are alone. On the other hand, if you are feeling lonely, a Saturday date-night movie by yourself might not be the best time to venture out.  

4. Sometimes being lonely might make you try something new to get over the loneliness. You might join a group or class that will allow you to learn a new skill or improve on an old hobby. The sheer making the arrangements can go a long way in helping with loneliness. And, you will meet new people and maybe form some new friendships. It feels great to take control in improving your situation, and the worst thing that can happen is that you still feel lonely. What have you got to lose? You can still be alone anytime.

5. Laughter is great for loneliness and also for when you are alone. It is hard to feel lonely when you are laughing, try it. And, it is wonderful to be alone when you want to laugh out loud.

6. On special occasions, to avoid loneliness, nothing replaces planning. If you know you are going to be lonely for Christmas, plan ahead. Do everything you can to make it better before it comes up. Let’s face it, nothing makes up for not being with loved ones, or not having loved ones around on family holidays but you can work on it. Last year I planned a movie with a friend for Christmas morning because neither of us had any plans until later in the day and it kept me from feeling so blue on the first Christmas morning in my life when I wouldn’t be with my children. I was alone when I woke up but had plans that kept me from being lonely.

7. If you want to watch a big game but it feels so lonely to do it by yourself at home, go to a nearby restaurant or bar and watch for a while. Much of the fun is just being around other people to cheer on your team. It might take care of your loneliness. But, if you want to watch alone, no shame in that either.

8.  Speaking of bars and restaurants, if you want to have a drink when you are alone, well that’s up to you. If you want to have a drink when you are lonely…don’t do it. It is nothing but a slippery slope that will just make you feel worse.

9. I hate to put this in, but cleaning makes me feel less lonely. I think because I start thinking about how great my place will look when someone comes to see it. How much all of this organization will make me happy when I finish. And, of course, I must do it while I am alone.

10. Being lonely makes me tired, in a sad sort of way. Draggy. I find that exercise helps, as much as I hate to admit it. If I exercise and I am tired, I deserve to be.  Being alone does not make me tired.

Of course, much of this is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s rooted in my experiences over my 60 years. I have to trick myself a lot in order not to feel lonely. I hope I won’t always have to do that. I don’t treat loneliness lightly, though. If you feel lonely, but you feel that it will pass or diminish over time, then that seems like a healthy attitude to me. However, if you are living under a dark cloud that never seems to go away, that probably needs help from the outside, whatever that looks like to you. (Quote source here.)

This brings us to a topic associated with being alone but not lonely, and that is solitude. In an article published in Psychology Today titled, What is Solitude?” by Hara Estroff Marano, Editor at Large of Psychology Today, she writes:

Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.

As the world spins faster and faster—or maybe it just seems that way when an email can travel around the world in fractions of a second—we mortals need a variety of ways to cope with the resulting pressures. We need to maintain some semblance of balance and some sense that we are steering the ship of our life.

Otherwise we feel overloaded, overreact to minor annoyances and feel like we can never catch up. As far as I’m concerned, one of the best ways is by seeking, and enjoying, solitude.

That said, there is an important distinction to be established right off the bat. There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.

From the outside, solitude and loneliness look a lot alike. Both are characterized by solitariness. But all resemblance ends at the surface.

Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely—perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.

Solitude is a time that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Deep reading requires solitude, so does experiencing the beauty of nature. Thinking and creativity usually do too.

Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves. In other words, it replenishes us.

Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness.

Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others.

We all need periods of solitude, although temperamentally we probably differ in the amount of solitude we need. Some solitude is essential; It gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy, what allows us to have a self worthy of sharing. Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective. It renews us for the challenges of life. It allows us to get (back) into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands from without.

Solitude restores body and mind. Loneliness depletes them. (Quote source here.)

And here is one last article that reminds us that loneliness is a universal human emotion. This article is titled, Jesus Was Lonely, Too,” published on Beliefnet.com, and it is a excerpt from the book, A Touch of His Presence, by Dr. Charles Stanley,  Founder of InTouch Ministries and Pastor Emeritus (51 years) at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Loneliness is one of the most crushing human emotions. The feelings of abandonment and isolation create an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair. People in the throes of a heightened state of loneliness often fall prey to temptations or behaviors that are extremely atypical. It is a dangerous place to be. Jesus knows what it is like to be lonely. As the perfect Son of God, he certainly was unlike all the other children in Nazareth. And we all know that when a person is different from the crowd, they usually spend time by themselves. Shortly after he began his public ministry, many of the disciples left him when his teachings became too difficult to grasp. At the time of his greatest sorrow, the handful that remained scattered, leaving him utterly alone.

As our sympathetic High Priest who “had to be made like his brothers in every way” (Hebrews 2:17) and who “shared in [our] humanity” (Hebrews 2:14), Jesus is intimately acquainted with the devastating effect of loneliness. He is also able to come to our aid with help and hope that can lift us out of the deepest pit.

Jesus hears our heart cry. The faintest whisper of a heart that feels alone and abandoned comes before the heart of a loving Father who will go to any lengths to comfort his children. In fact, he has already gone to the extreme in offering himself on the cross and since he did not spare his only son, he will freely give us the help we need (Romans 8:32). When Hagar and her son were dying in the desert after being cast out by Sarah, God heard her feeble voice and nurtured them. When Elijah sat alone after his power encounter with the prophets of Baal, he sat down and collapsed, wondering if he was the only one left in Israel who still called on God. The Lord encouraged him with the news of many others, though he knew none of them.

Throughout the Scriptures when men and women of faith faced great challenges, God reminded them of his powerful presence, saying to them, “I am with you.” They were afraid, anxious, doubtful, and bewildered, but the awareness of God’s presence became their strength to deal with formidable odds. Lonely leaders were instilled with courage, lonely prophets with boldness, lonely apostles with hope.

Remember, God is with us. The God who is able. The God who is kind. The God who is gentle. The God who knows all our needs. The God who is faithful. The God who works all things together for good. The God who loves us with an everlasting love.

God has already turned to you through the indwelling presence of his Spirit. His face shines upon you. Turn to him and find the solace and help you need. It may come through a Scripture promise. It may come through a prayer. It may come through his still voice when you are quiet on your bed. But it will come, because he has come into your life forever.

“Jesus, you do know what loneliness is like. You understand when I come to you with my feelings and do not condemn me. Thank you for allowing me to express my inner pain to you. You are always there for me and you will never cast me out. I run into your arms.” (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words found in Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)–The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you….

Do not be afraid . . .

[And] do not be . . . 

Discouraged . . . .

YouTube Video: “Never Alone” by Teri Kelly:

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