Good Things ARE Happening in 2020!!!
Obviously, there's a lot in 2020 that could be labeled as "dumpster fire." I could name many of the bad events that have taken place, but what would that accomplish? You already know the bad that's happened... I'm willing to bet that most of you regularly battle not to let the negative thoughts ruin your day. Not only do our minds naturally drift towards the negative, but social media and the sensationalism of the news media keep the "doom and gloom" reports front and center. As a result, we forget that many good things have happened this year.
We need to remember "the good" that has and will happen. So, please remember the following phrase as the rest of 2020 approaches:
Perspective is the difference between an obstacle and opportunity.
The New Century Version translates Proverbs 4:23 as, "Be careful what you think,
because your thoughts run your life." In Matthew 5:8, Jesus tells us that we'll be blessed when our thoughts are pure. Later in the New Testament, Paul writes a lot about how our minds need to be focused on God and "the good" around us:
Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected... Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God... So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed.
~Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:1, 5
It's never wrong to grieve or get angry about the bad things happen to us, to others, and around us. But our emotions shouldn't control us. Part of our integrity is assessing reality and responding well to it. Having the right perspective will helps us distinguish between obstacles and opportunities... or you could say the right perspective helps us see how obstacles can be opportunities... and we need that perspective right now. I believe we must keep looking for "the good" as 2020 progresses. Obviously, while God is the priority in our thinking, here are some more good things to keep in mind...
First, and this goes without saying, but...
the Chiefs won the Super Bowl!!!!!!!!
Clearly, the post could end right here and be Pulitzer Prize worthy, but I think we should name a few more 2020 people, events, and happenings...
2nd Person In The World Cured of HIV
As someone who has lost several friends to AIDS and has HIV positive friends, this news was music to my ears. Adam Castillejo was HIV free, "after receiving a bone-marrow transplant for his lymphoma. The donor carried a mutation that impeded the ability of H.I.V. to enter cells, so the transplant essentially replaced Mr. Castillejo’s immune system with one resistant to the virus" (1). We need a cure for AIDS and for HIV as well. In 2018, there were an estimated 37.9 million people with HIV/AIDS. Sadly, around 1.7 million were children. 160,000 new infections were among children (birth through 14 years old). Since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there have been 75 million people infected and an estimated 32 million HIV/AIDS related deaths. The good news is that AIDS related deaths have decreased by over 55% since the 2004 peak of AIDS related deaths (2). Stories like Adam Castillejo's journey give me hope for the future.
BIGGEST Easter Ever!!!
People may not have been gathering in the seats or pews, but they were tuning into hear words of encouragement. This is only my personal opinion, but I believe that we witnessed the largest Easter gathering ever.
Digital resources allowed Easter 2020 to be the most attended Easter weekend in history.
Think about the numbers of people who digitally attended an Easter service on their phone (podcast, church app, etc.), iPad or tablet device, TV (cable or other direct provider), computer (church website), social media outlet, YouTube, radio, etc. The attendance was probably the highest with more unchurched people tuning in than ever before. We need to NOT forget this phenomenal event.
9 Year Old With Cerebral Palsy Finishes Marathon
If you need an encouraging story to get you through the day, here it is! Tobias Weller has cerebral palsy, but he completed a marathon. When the UK quarantine began, "Tobias could walk a maximum of 50 meters (164 feet) a day, but as he grew closer to completing his challenge -- which took him 70 days, according to the PA Media news agency -- he was walking up to 750 meters (half a mile) a day" (3). To date, through his marathon, Tobias has raised over $100,000 for Sheffield Children's Hospital and Paces School (both organizations help people with neurological conditions).
Tobias reminds us that despite limitations, we can still make a difference for others.
I'm not sure what Tobias has in mind for his next challenge, but I hope he continues to make a difference and be the difference. He's a one-of-a-kind kid. We need more like him.
People Are Thinking Deeper about Race, Diversity, and Intrinsic Value
Yes, both individually and as a nation we're far away from coming to grips with racism. Yes, we've taken some steps forward. No, that doesn't mean that there isn't more work to be done. Yes, there will be continual pushback as we make progress... but one thing that has me REALLY excited is seeing the conversations (in-person and online) over race and value. Individuals who have never thought much about injustice and racism are asking questions, learning, and doing some serious reflection. We need a larger percentage of the USA population to begin thinking deeper about people. Yes, it's going to be difficult, but sometimes that's what it's like to follow Jesus.
Jesus never promised us comfort. He promised that He had overcome the world and would always be with us.
Conversations, self-reflection, apologies, initiating discussions are all extremely difficult--which is one reason why more people don't get involved. I'm stoked that more people are engaging these conversations. I hope the number increases.
Air Pollution Has Decreased Globally
You probably knew this, but polluted air made the coronavirus worse (4). However, the lockdowns or quarantines has improved air quality on a global scale. Cities like Madrid, London, New Delhi, Wuhan, and more have seen a vast improvement in their air quality. In the area where I live, "Los Angeles saw its longest stretch of clean air on record, over 18 days from March 7 to 28. PM2.5 concentration levels were down by 31% from the same time last year, and down 51% from the average of the previous four years" (5). Among the reasons why God created humanity, one is for people to serve as His representatives on the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). I hope we can be better stewards of His world.
I don't have the time or space to include all of "the good" in 2020 in my list. However, here are some quick mentions:
Gallup reported that Americans are still devoted to family and marriage.
Mississippi will get a new state flag (without the Confederate Battle Flag emblem).
A 113-year-old woman in Spain survived the coronavirus.
In June, 4.8 million jobs were added in the USA.
Vans releases shoes for autistic kids that help with sensory issues.
This year, 60 million trees will be planted in Madagascar.
Mental health awareness is rising.
Australia is no longer on fire.
Some sex offenders, like Harvey Weinstein, went to prison.
A glove has been invented that translates sign language into spoken words.
Businesses are finding new ways to be successful in this new reality.
More individuals are reading, taking online classes, learning new skills, exercising, etc.
The Murder Hornets haven't murdered anyone...
We got some hilarious memes from Tiger King.
Toilet paper is available again.
Some of My Personal Celebrations...
To conclude, I wanted to mention some of "the good" from the lives of those around me...
My kids survived hybrid-homeschooling and are 8th & 6th graders!
I just found out that Gregg Jennings, one of my best friends and the guy who baptized me is getting married!
Later this year, my friend, Ryan O'Donoghue will marry his fiance, Chelsea!
Earlier this year, my friends, Kellen & Katie got married, as did Dillon & Maggie Smith!
I was relieved to hear that Joe Weece (my youth pastor when I was in high school) is cancer free!
My friend Ron Carter is still faithfully fighting his battle with cancer.
Not too long ago, my friend, Dave Dummitt become the new senior pastor at Willow Creek Church!
My friends Cole & Ruby Kedney moved to work at Shepherd Church!
Dr. Mark Yarbrough was installed as the 6th president of my doctoral alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary.
My good buddy Tyler Swaney has moved to the OC where he'll start a new church campus of Bayside!
Others are moving to new places of employment, but I can't mention many of them.. yet.
7 of my 9 Shepherd Youth D-Group guys graduated from high school!
On May 1, my buddy Michael Hinton graduated from Grand Canyon University with his masters degree! But he wasn't the only one...
Ruby Kedney, Peri Goucher and Kurt Witten graduated from Hope International University.
A good family friend, Brooke Wright, graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Roger Bayramian, who used to be in the college ministry that I led, graduated with his Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. And even though it was December 2019, I still want to mention that Rudy Hagood, Julie Leverton, and Jeffrey Cravens all graduated from Hope International University.
In October 2020, my good friend Rusty George will release his latest book, After Amen: What to Do While You're Waiting on God.
Scott Sauls has already published another needed book, A Gentle Answer: Our 'Secret Weapon' in an Age of Us Against Them.
And it's been long overdue, but Josh Gagnon released his first book, It's Not Over: Leaving Behind Disappointment and Learning to Dream Again.
I know there's so much more good in 2020 than I've listed. Also, unfortunately I know that I've left out some of my friends' accomplishments, so please forgive me. Perhaps you should make your list of good 2020 people, events, and happenings! And when you've finished your list, please consider sharing it publicly. We need to think about God and "the good."
Paul reminds us about our thoughts in Romans 8:5-6, "those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things the Spirit wants them to do... if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace."
Remember, perspective is the difference between an obstacle and opportunity. Let's adopt the right perspective.
Apoorva Mandavilli, “The ‘London Patient,’ Cured of H.I.V., Reveals His Identity,” The New York Times (March 9, 2020). https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/09/health/hiv-aids-london-patient-castillejo.html.
These statistics are taken from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics#:~:text=According%20to%20UNAIDS%20%3A,infected%20with%20HIV%20in%202018 & https://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en/.
Amy Woodyatt, “Boy, 9, With Cerebral Palsy Completes Marathon on His Walker, Half a Mile at a Time,” CNN (June 1, 2020). https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/01/uk/tobias-weller-marathon-intl-scli-gbr/index.html?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email.
Beth Gardiner, “Pollution Made COVID-19 Worse. Now, Lockdowns Are Clearing the Air,” National Geographic (April 8, 2020). https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/pollution-made-the-pandemic-worse-but-lockdowns-clean-the-sky/.
Helen Regan, “Air Pollution Falls By Unprecedented Levels in Major Global Cities During Coronavirus Lockdowns” CNN (April 23, 2020). https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/22/world/air-pollution-reduction-cities-coronavirus-intl-hnk/index.html.