Prairie View

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Such a Time as This

I make no claims of association with Esther, the Biblical character whose uncle suggested that perhaps she had come into the Persian kingdom "for such a time as this" in order to use her influence to save the Jewish people from annihilation.*  I do, however, marvel at how the Covid-19 epidemic has suddenly forced a number of my long-time passions into the spotlight.  These ideas seem made for such a time as this.

Homeschooling comes to mind first.  On a national scale, homeschooling has been forced on nearly all individual students and families.  If you've known me for a long time, you know how close to my heart homeschooling is.

Home food production is another passion of mine.  Seed companies are being overwhelmed with orders.  Coming during the spring planting season as it has, Covid-19 social distancing and gardening fit together like a green-thumbed hand into a gardening glove. 

Good health habits, especially healthful dietary choices, and non-pharmaceutical "treatments" for disease are coming to the fore as well.  I doubt that I'm the only person wondering whether certain kinds of nutritional intake make a difference in severity of symptoms for those who become infected with viruses.  What about old-fashioned medicinal herbs, spices, and foods?  Or readily-available and relatively inexpensive food supplements?  Can taking these make a difference?  In a time when standard medical protocols have so little to offer as a cure for Covid-19, alternatives seem to clamor for attention.  Maybe some of these options will prove to provide us with something of value long after the main Covid-19 threat is past. 

I love to cook for my family.  With eating out severely curtailed, home cooking is seeing a resurgence.  Does anyone doubt that home cooking is a skill worth cultivating? Or that home cooking has the potential of being more healthful than eating fast food or excessively processed food? Since most restaurants offer only carry-out, eating food around a family table becomes more likely, even if the food is fast food. 

Having my family at home with me is the best!  With the cancellation of many away-from-home activities, family togetherness happens by default.  As referred to above, eating around a table is more likely than simply eating fast food in the car while in transition from one activity to the next.  This can be a very good thing.  Ideally, social skills and character development  happen first and most thoroughly in this context.  If together time reveals fractures in family relationships or a need for character development, they can be addressed where such things are most ideally addressed--at home.

Being present in nature is a delight to me.  Suddenly "everyone" has more time for this than before, and it's one of the few recreational activities that combines well with social distancing.  Being outdoors also combines easily with exercise and sunshine--two "free" ways to promote health.  "Grounding" and inhaling plant polyphenols  are less well-known benefits of being outdoors, but walking outdoors with bare feet and breathing deeply around plants both seem to be very good for us. 

I love not needing to rush through my morning meditation on Scripture.  Having no place to go helps with this.  I've finished the first read-through of the New Testament for this year and am ready to embark on the second reading, this time in a different translation, with different  study Bible notes.  A three-month plan can be accessed here.   Maybe others will find in an enforced stay-at-home time more opportunities to read Scripture. 

Certainly Covid-19 has introduced a great deal of uncertainty into our lives, and we may yet taste much of grief and loss because of it.  Just as we resolve to turn our face to the Lord when we experience hard things, let's keep our hands open also for the good things that the Lord might offer us during this time.  This can happen with or without previous passion for these things.


This short meditation expands on the phrase from the book of Esther. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Fragments, Freedom, and Fallout--Part 12

Ain't no Such Animal

Please let me know if you know the origin of the expression in the above title.  Somewhere behind a paywall on a site from Oxford, I think there might be an explanation.  I didn't pay the money so I don't have their explanation.  Elsewhere I found one reference to someone who said it upon first seeing a giraffe.  That sounds plausible to me.

Generally, the phrase is used as another way of saying "such a thing does not exist."  It's used to convey disbelief--with or without accompanying emotion.  Usually it's a comment on matters that have nothing to do with animals.  Certainly it is not typically used to label people pejoratively--as though people are less than human.

This sentiment has been directed toward me, never in these exact words, of course.  In essence though, people have responded to how I see myself and how I describe myself and said "ain't no such animal." In this post, I hope to strip away the husk of others' polite and grammatically correct words to examine the sentiment of disbelief as I've encountered it.

Since this is a post in a long series, you might have guessed by now that the identity of mine that seems to be in dispute is a political one.  The first time it happened was in a personal conversation where I was told bluntly what my proper political label was.  To reinforce the point, the person speaking told me that I was opposite from him.  His declaration was wrapped in further instructions and warnings for me.

I'm still surprised that I had the presence of  mind to say, "May I tell you how I see myself?"  I told him that I didn't see myself as fitting into either of the labels he had used and I didn't even like the labels at all because I dislike how they lump good and bad things together.  I said that I did enjoy considering political positions to see how they compared with truths that I understood from Scripture.

He didn't say "there ain't no such animal," but I don't think he knew what to make of me.  I didn't know what to make of his response either, but I've never seen such a reddening of the face, squirming, and working of the mouth as I saw then.

When Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings were underway, a woman came forward who accused him of youthful improprieties that, if true, constituted criminal offenses.  After my sister sent me a copy of a blog post written by the aged and saintly uncle of one of my sisters-in-law, I thought it was good enough to share with others, so I did so on Facebook.

Essentially the uncle had said that Kavanaugh should have simply said one of two things, either of which he could presumably have said honestly:  1. I don't remember for sure what happened. 2.  My behavior was wrong and I'm sorry.  I agreed with Uncle Harvey, especially since there was little dispute that Kavanaugh was drunk when the alleged crime was committed.  What Kavanaugh did instead was attack the woman who accused him.  The minions in the conservative political camp rallied fiercely to Kavanaugh's defense.

On Facebook, some who commented on my original post railed against me for showing my true liberal political colors by posting a link to the blog. The Facebook thread became a mini version of the fierce rally that had occurred on a national scale among conservatives.  Some of those who commented castigated me for protesting that I hadn't posted it as an act of loyalty to a particular political persuasion.  In effect, they were saying that for me to say such a thing without a political agenda is not possible.  "Ain't no such animal." 

The reality was that I believed that Kavanaugh likely had changed from his irresponsible youth and would be able to serve faithfully as a SCOTUS judge.  Even so, I thought his way of handling the accusations was not at all reassuring. My sense was that the fastest way to win over his detractors would be to adopt a stance of humility and contrition. It was the right thing to do under any circumstance, even if the stakes were high, or perhaps especially if the stakes were high.

It happened again recently in a private Facebook message where I heard that this place I've carved out for myself is not a legitimate stance.  In other words, there is not such thing as being interested in political matters and commenting on them but rejecting political labels.  I believe the person who said this believes that I am not being honest about who I really am--definitely a liberal.  He would have liked for me to list the liberal positions I do not agree with.   I have no enthusiasm for such an endeavor.  The issues I care about are not legitimate or illegitimate based on their partisan associations.  They are based on truths that help form the foundation for a life of faith.  I consider the partisan labels a distraction from understanding their true nature.  Furthermore, no one has any right to demand my assistance in their effort to stuff me into a political box.

I don't always know what to make of being told that such a person as I am does not exist.  I sometimes have an impulse to say "I'm here.  All _______ (too many) pounds of me.  I dare you to argue that I'm not here."

Maybe the problem is that too few people have ever known someone like my mother.  She loved to read the newspaper and follow what was happening in national and world affairs.  She often mentioned  these things during the prayers she prayed in morning family devotions.  Yet she would usually  have had no idea what political party any of her observations were aligned with.  She probably would have had a hard time identifying the party of any office holder.  This was the case even though she had older brothers who were strongly Republican during her childhood. (Remember the buggy horse they named Dewey?)

Something that happened during the past week made me think of my mother.  I listened several times to the Coronavirus press conferences by Governor Cuomo of New York, and I was very favorably impressed with his forthrightness, his grasp of the situation in his state, the clarity and sobriety of his expression, and his apparent care for the citizens of New York.  I was just about to share a link on Facebook after listening to the first press conference I followed when something struck me.  I wonder if this guy might be a Democrat.  If he is, and I post this, some people will think "there she goes again, showing her true liberal colors."  

Almost right away I remembered reading somewhere else the same day that most urban areas tend to skew "Democrat" and then I was pretty sure that Cuomo was indeed a Democrat.  Having proved to myself that I really was not hearing the governor's presentation through a political filter (because I really was that ignorant as I listened) I decided to post it anyway.

Such ignorance is hard for some people to grasp.  If I don't mind admitting such ignorance, I'd like to think that others could find it in their hearts to forgive me for it--or at least to believe me when I say how it is for me.

Such an "animal" as I am does indeed exist.  Call me a rare breed if you must, but don't call me extinct.  And remember that most rare breeds were ubiquitous at one time.   I identify with many previous Anabaptist generations of my "breed."  As Mark Twain once said, "The report of my [their] death was an exaggeration."

The "standard issue" partisanship that is ubiquitous now would have been incomprehensible to many who lived only one generation ago.  That I may be just as incomprehensible to many in our  current hyper-partisan culture doesn't mean that there ain't no such animal as me. I hope we can all deal with that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom--Part 11


Although I never agonized over the matter of voting while I was growing up, I've come to realize that perhaps no other topic is more polarizing than this one.  I wish I knew what to say that might promote understanding and peace between those who vote as a matter of conscience and those who don't vote, as a matter of conscience.  I have friends and family members who vote.  I'm sure that some of their votes cancel each other out.  Most of the people in my faith community, however, don't vote, in keeping with what has, to my knowledge, been historic Anabaptist practice.


Whaaatt???? This was an accidental post, which I just now discovered (3/21/20).  It was the beginning of a writing a post on this topic, but I aborted the effort when I realized that I really needed more time to think through what I wanted to say.  It's doubtful that it would have survived the editing process in this form.  I'm leaving it here as a "place-holder" in this series.

I've been actively seeking input from our church leaders and engaging in conversations with people who have a variety of perspectives.  And, of course, I've been reading and listening and doing a whole lot of staying home and working with my hands and thinking.  I've been praying too, for insight on this topic.  I often smile to myself and thank the Lord for applicable tidbits that I come across in my Bible reading.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom--Part 10


How does the Corona Virus (also known as Covid 19) have anything to do with Christians and government or politics?  Below, I will post some Facebook comments that help establish this link.  Before that, I'll offer my perspective, as uncertain as it is.

I have limited confidence that this will simply blow over quickly with little effect on people in the US.  Although I am 67 years old and in good health as far as I know, I am not cavalier about contracting Covid 19.  That's not the same as saying I will stay at home till summer, cowering in fear of inadvertently being exposed to this kind of flu. I do have confidence that many workers in the health care field are competent but am unsure whether they will have the tools they need to do what is best.  Disabling of the Predict government program in 2018 and failing to renew funding for other Centers for Disease Control pandemic projects in cooperation with other countries--China among them--seems now like an uncommonly unwise government move.  Predict was a pandemic preparedness program created under the Bush administration.

Trump has put Vice President Pence in charge of addressing the Corona Virus, claiming that he did an outstanding job in addressing an HIV crisis in Indiana earlier.  Suffice it to say that this is not a unanimous opinion.  One source cited his actions as an example of disastrous mismanagement.  I think Pence is basically a decent man and I expect him to do as good a job as he can, but I seriously doubt that he is the best qualified person to lead this effort.

Hiromi is taking the precaution of laying in a supply of N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), which he has heard might reduce the severity of all kinds of flu.  In some of the materials he's been listening to online, I caught the name of Bupleurum as one of the protective substances that some people take.  This caught my ear because it's a kind of cutflower filler that I have had zero success in starting from seed, and I'm frustrated by that.  I will happily take the NAC as soon as Hiromi brings it home from Walmart (100 pills for around $13.00), since it's not very expensive and I don't think it could hurt me.  If Bupleurum shows up anywhere near me in a form I can easily take, I might take that too, and I'm certainly not ready to give up on growing it.  I also picked up somewhere that a lack of sufficient protein in the diet can interfere with the body's ability to counter a viral invader such as the Corona virus (this suggests that people who are especially susceptible to serious illness from Corona may be so partly because of this dietary insufficiency).  For this reason I won't look longingly at a vegetarian diet anytime soon.

This morning the Fed (Federal Reserve [U.S. central bank]) lowered interest rates by 1/2 % in an effort to stabilize financial markets.  In the past week or so, the stock market has taken some worrying dives, seemingly in direct response to fears about the Corona Virus.  Supply chains have been interrupted because of quarantines and other containment measures in China, and the ripples are being felt wherever Chinese products are shipped.  2008 was the last time the interest rate was cut this sharply--after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.  We all know something of what happened after this--a very long hard slog toward recovery with many casualties along the way.  The current situation is different in some respects from how it was in 2008.  Some of those differences are cause for increased concern this time around.  Goods and travel are far more of an issue this time.  Lack of confidence in financial markets (present now also) wasn't as directly linked to these things in 2008.

My sense is that President Trump is very concerned about Corona Virus' effect on the economy.  I wish I were confident that this concern is entirely altruistic.  The political fallout of an economic downturn on Trump's watch would almost certainly worry Trump, but I don't expect to hear anything but reassurance from him that we're all fine and we'll all be fine and no one should worry--because we have the best people and the best methods and we're on top of this and it'll all be over in a month and everything is under control.  Talk like this does not reassure me.

By contrast, the following comments seem to me to be truthful and wise, and I hope they will provide some balance between the "not to worry" and the "sky is falling" perspectives.  Most of all, I hope we remember that our trust is safely placed in God, and not in anyone or anything in place of God.  For each of us, clarity on the best course of action will come from God as is needed for our situation.  Right now, for me, there is peace and rest in this confidence.


All of the following comments were written by different people in a thread on an original post by my Facebook friend who is currently living in SE Asia.  She believes that hysteria over Corona Virus (also known as Covid 19) is misplaced. 

Comment #1  In the US, there is a crisis of "credibility and competence" in the current administration. At my age (65) more and more of my friends have chronic age related health conditions, so it's not ok to me that this virus is mostly only deadly for older people or those with concurrent underlying medical conditions. In the entire US only about 450 people have been tested for this highly contagious virus because we were unprepared and test kits still aren't widely available. So, a person who goes to an ER, doctor's office, or walk in clinic with non-life threatening flu like symptoms, is likely to infect the health care workers, and other patients without being screened for Corona virus. The latest community transmitted case in Oregon is a person who worked at an elementary school which is now closed. Maybe kids who get it will have only cold symptoms, but their grandparents are at much higher risk for serious consequences. So, don't freak out, but expect your government to provide science based epidemiologic[al] information.

Comment #2 (Response to comment #1) _________ you totally nailed it .
I’m 58 and with cancer so yes it scares me .
Actually Jeffrey asked me today when the last pandemic happened . I told him it was 2009 when the H1N1 struck . His reaction was ‘Oh- I don’t remember anyone talking a
bout it much ‘
True! I was 48 , my kids were teens and I trusted my government to tell me what to do. That year we traveled every other month to different countries. This time it is so different . Both my son and I have lower immunity and we feel we can’t trust a word of what this president utters .

Comment #3   I think the distrust level regarding the government is the biggest problem we are facing here in the USA. If we trusted them to be honest with us, and we trusted them to do everything in their power to react appropriately, I don't think this would be that big of a deal.

The fact that they have politicized this and they are actively gaslighting and spreading propaganda makes it so hard to know what to do.


This article, which I read after writing the above, is outstanding.  I hope you take time to read it.  It addresses something I told Hiromi yesterday:  The Corona Virus is one thing that Trump can't blame on people who don't like him.  This article suggests that I underestimated what Trump can do, but the fact remains that this is a new kind of challenge for him.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Fragments, Fallout, and Freedom--Part 9


One of the people who sent me a private message via Facebook (FB) in the past few weeks asked a question in the form of a statement that went something like this (going from memory here): I don’t understand why you trust opinion columns for facts and then seem surprised when other people point this out.  First, I’m not sure that I followed the line of thinking exactly, so I will be making some assumptions in my response here.  Specifically, I don’t recall feeling or expressing surprise at any point in any of the referred-to online discussions.  I don’t believe the private message involved any malicious intent though, and it deserved a decent response.  I hope to see if I can  unpack it more thoroughly in a blog post than I could manage in a private FB message. You should know also that I did respond privately and said, among other things, that I would like to revisit this later, perhaps in a blog post.

I think one question disguised in the statement was probably this one: Why don’t you stick to primary sources?  The superiority of that information source had been alluded to in a comment by someone else on a FB thread earlier.  I believe that person commenting was laying claim to this justification for a forcefully-expressed opinion that countered mine.  Additionally, the comment implied that what I had posted was not to be trusted because it did not contain references to primary sources.  Furthermore I was being a shill for leftists by falling for the ideas in the article.  My FB thread accuser was disappointed in me for this.  I believe my credibility and that of the article writer were both being assailed in these comments on the FB thread.

What I had posted was a link to an article in which a white person used a recent-personal-experience narrative to highlight the assertion that she can never fully understand the perspective of a person whose race is different from her own, despite her best efforts to understand.  That central idea makes a great deal of sense to me. I don’t think I can do that either, although I also do try to understand.  My marriage to an Asian man would hardly have survived for more than 38 years if both of us had not made constant efforts to understand each others’ perspective.  If we had always done this perfectly, we would probably have had smoother sailing at some points during our marriage.  All that to say why it makes sense to me that we can never fully understand another’s perspective, although we try.  This seems so self-evident to me that personal claims to the contrary seem lacking in self-awareness, at best.

“Primary source” was defined this way in a Google search: “In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source (also called an original source) is an artifact, document, diary, manuscript, autobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study.”

A key takeaway from this definition is that “primary source” is firmly nestled within the context of a study of history.  It represents an attempt to get at the truth of something that happened some time ago (when the reader was not present) without having to deal with the potential cloudiness of second-hand reporting. In other words, primary sources are assumed to be more accurate than secondary accounts–because of the likelihood that things such as human error, bias, or selective reporting have interfered with accuracy in secondary sources.

Within the past few weeks, on a bunny trail while working on a project together, a Methodist friend shared with me her desire to hear all sides of political matters so that she can make the best possible decision when it comes time to vote.  In the brief conversation that followed, she lamented the fact that it’s almost impossible to get information from primary sources. I also learned in this conversation that my Christian friend and I shared an alma mater, with the same major.  Because of this I knew instantly that she has undoubtedly learned many of the same things I learned in school about how to do research.  She knows the value of primary sources, but also understands the real-world difficulties of accessing them and interpreting them accurately.

Certainly, we both know that “primary sources” is the gold standard for credible historical research.  We know also though that use of primary sources does not guarantee perfection in research.  Skewing primary source material to “prove” an inaccuracy is entirely possible, as are less devious errors–simple misinterpretations, for example. Nevertheless, in the media world, reporters for every news outlet chase on-the-scene reporting–the current-events equivalent of historical primary sources.  These reports provide the raw material for opinion columns and other kinds of commentary–secondary sources, in other words.

My friend and I both know that knowledge must often be gained from secondary sources and that these sources are commonly recognized as credible in the academic world if they are deemed to be reliably accurate.  As I understand it, usually the reliability of these secondary sources is evaluated by using a number of different data points, possibly even including some subjective ones.  These factors may include academic credentials, work history, positions held, contributions to publications, publication of original works, recognition by other professionals, and accomplishments of various kinds, etc.  Journalists, for example, working for old and well-tested media outlets (that adhere to widely agreed-upon professional standards for journalism) come close to having my automatic respect in the “work history” department.  People with academic credentials also convey “value” to me.

As a Christian, I especially value the perspective of another Christian who also can check many of the above credibility boxes to my satisfaction.  By providing additional context and bringing his or her own wisdom to bear on the issue at hand, such a person can help me interpret facts.  Ideally, this person also lives with personal integrity, although this is not always knowable from a distance.   In my estimation, some columnists fall into this reliable-interpreter category, and I am grateful for them.  I see them as providing a needed service because none of us can be present in every place and time when history is being made, but these columnists often come closer to that ideal than we can.  I make no apology for citing such sources as being credible, even if their writing falls into the opinion category rather than the “primary source” category.

Back to the FB article on racism.  I believe that the “primary source” issue had limited relevance in that thread because it was a current event rather than a historical event.  Because it was written as a personal experience, it could hardly be correctly called a secondary source, so “primary source” might have even been a defensible label, if the historical/current aspects had not “disqualified” it.  In any case, I believe it to have been a valid reference point for understanding something about racism.  It was a limited perspective, of course, because it was one person’s experience, but it rang true for me partly because of how it resonated with my own experiences.  It was not the last word, but it was a good word, and I believe casting aspersion on it was ill-advised.

I started writing today under the title “Trust.”  Eventually I realized that this post was taking a different turn than I expected, and “Credibility” seemed to suit the content better.  Even that, though, turns out to be a fairly slippery concept, not easily reduced to sound-bite certainties.  I may try again later on the “trust” topic, and may need to do some later mopping up on the credibility one.

None of what I’ve written here on credibility stands a chance of being convincing to anyone who does not have some level of trust in me.  While I certainly have no right to demand such trust, I do hold it dear.  Thank you to all who have offered me this gift.


Early in my blogging life someone who knew a lot more than I did about subscribing to and following blogs told me that every time I edited a blog post after it was initially published, it generated a new notification to followers/subscribers.  If that is indeed the case, I apologize to those of you who have no doubt been annoyed by my making multiple small changes to already-published posts.  I simply can’t always get it right the first time.  Neither can I delay publication entirely till all my perfectionisitc tendencies have been appeased.  At some point, I “go for broke” and hit the “publish” button.  If rescue is needed, it will need to happen later, probably in the light of day.