Day Two: In someone else’s shoes

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Empathy requires that we step outside ourselves. Empathy requires a level of selflessness that may be a hard reach for some. Once again, Jesus would be our example, who gave up His right to be God in order to be a human being. Jesus was in our shoes the whole time because He shed His God-shoes when He was born in Bethlehem (Philippians 2:5-8).

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Empathy: Day One

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Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I intend to spend this week learning about and writing about empathy. It is my goal to not only understand it by Friday, but to have it. That’s a tall order for a narcissist like me.

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We may need to break some glass.

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I have always been fascinated by the famous Edward Hopper 1940s painting I used in yesterday’s Catch of a stark corner cafe in the middle of the city in the pre-dawn hours with three guests seated at the counter and a server working the night shift. There is nothing on the walls, hardly anything on the counter, the street is empty and the feeling is one of isolation. The people are there, but they are expressionless, hardly communicating. It’s an existential painting and reminds me of the play, “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre. There is no door in the picture except for what appears to be a small door to the kitchen. The people seem encased in glass — trapped, but trying to make the best of it. The painting came out in 1942 in the middle of WWII and is fitting considering a pessimistic view of the world at that time.

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Finding Jesus down at Johnny’s

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Now if Jesus were here I think we’d find Him today

Down at Johnny’s Cafe.

This line worked well as the punchline of the song, but it’s a little misleading. It implies that Jesus isn’t here today. Well, true, Jesus isn’t here physically — just as the song represents — but there are many other ways in which He is here.

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When the truth is hard to come by

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And the stories they tell, you can’t tell

If they’re true or they’re fable.

                        from “Johnny’s Cafe” by John Fischer

In an era of fake news, truth is becoming more and more of a rare commodity. Politicians are especially susceptible to fable-telling. We expect them to be manipulating facts to where the results are always in their favor. November elections are coming up. Here in California, there are numerous ads on billboards and on television that urge a yes or a no vote on various propositions. Each side sounds convincing, but, of course, neither is telling you the whole truth, and it becomes almost impossible to sort it out. They will mix up any number of truths, half-truths and untruths until they get what they want and then put it out there as truth. Even the voter’s guide can’t be fully trusted. Politicians twist the truth and the news media calls it “spin.” And now we are awaiting an investigation into the former conduct of a Supreme Court nominee that most likely will not get beyond the “he said/she said” gridlock. Our current culture is experiencing a crisis in truth the likes of which I haven’t seen in my lifetime.

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Don’t look now, but your hope is showing.

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Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

This verse is important as much for what it doesn’t say as for what it does say. It bases the communication of our message on an answer we will give to a question asked, but it doesn’t say how that question will arise. It certainly won’t come out of a vacuum. No one is going to walk up to us cold and ask us why we have hope. It assumes something. It assumes a conversation and that conversation assumes a relationship. So Peter is assuming here that we are in dialogue with the world at some level, and the obvious place for this would be the people that surround us in our neighborhood, in our workplace, or in perhaps the casual conversation we might strike up with anybody, anywhere, like at Johnny’s Cafe.

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The 162nd game

Who would have thought that after 162 major league baseball games with 30 teams there would be four teams with identical records who would have to play one more game to determine who is a division winner and who is a wild card team? It’s never happened before, but it happened this year; so today is game 163 for four teams: the Brewers and the Cubs, and the Dodgers and the Rockies. My Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, like the other 19 teams who are on their way home today, only played their allotted 162 games. Which is plenty.

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The frequently overlooked significance of birthdays

 

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First of all, a great big THANK YOU to all of you who have flooded Marti with well wishes and birthday greetings. If she hasn’t gotten to yours yet, it’s simply because she is overwhelmed. She told me it was a special day yesterday and you all played an important role in making it so. Thank you!

The balloons pictured here played a big role as well. She loves balloons, and we do a bouquet of balloons for every birthday in the family, mostly so Marti can enjoy them. But these are all for her.

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