Tag Archives: bible

‘some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true’

(“That they might have joy” column written by Jacki Wood and first published in the 6/28/18 Nodaway News Leader)

When God established a principle in the Bible, he did so with two or three witnesses.

In 2 Corinthians 13, and similarly in Matthew 18, it says: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

The gospels are a perfect example of this. Matthew, Mark and Luke were all witnesses of Jesus Christ, and together, established the truth of his life, death and resurrection.

The idea of having two or three witnesses is a practical concept in many areas of life. It’s especially useful in a court of law, and I believe, an essential aspect of seeking truth.

In his “What is Truth?” speech, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “Never in the history of the world have we had easier access to more information — some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true. Consequently, never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error.”

This is difficult as we are surrounded daily by claims of fake news, alternative facts and post-truth.

Fake news is not a new tactic. Propaganda has been used for decades all over the world. But the internet has exacerbated it.

In “Fake news: What exactly is it – and how can you spot it?” from the June 13 edition of The Telegraph, James Titcomb and James Carson wrote: “Before the internet, it was much more expensive to distribute information, building up trust took years and there were much simpler definitions of what constituted news and media, making regulation easier.

“But the rise of social media has broken down many of the boundaries that prevented fake news from spreading in democracies. In particular it has allowed anyone to create and disseminate information.

“Facebook and Twitter allow people to exchange information on a much greater scale than ever before, while publishing platforms like WordPress allow anyone to create a dynamic website with ease.

“In short, the barriers to creating fake news have been undone.”

This is why using “two or three witnesses,” or getting information from more than one source, is so important.

One way to do this is expanding what you read and who you follow.

At our staff meeting this week, Kay shared a quote from “How to Think for Yourself When Algorithms Control What You Read” by Marc Zao-Sanders: “Pretty much everything you see online, from search results to your Facebook feed, is generated by algorithms. This invisible code prioritizes information that it thinks you’ll like — which can turn your online experience into an echo chamber of identical opinions. How can you keep algorithms from penning in your worldview? To start with, think about how dangerous it can be to see only things that you already agree with. Be skeptical of the veracity and comprehensiveness of your internet feeds. Make sure you’re reading widely about issues in the world, and deliberately follow people with views that differ from yours.”

Vanessa Otero, who created a media bias chart for a more balanced consumption of news, said: “We are living in a time where we have more information available to each of us than ever before in history. However, we are not all proficient at distinguishing between good information and bad information. This is true for liberal, moderate and conservative people.”

Another aspect is realizing we may only have a portion of the truth.

The ancient parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, as written by American poet John Godfrey Saxe, begins:

    Six men of Indostan

    To learning much inclined,

    Who went to see the Elephant

    (Though all of them were blind),

    That each by observation

    Might satisfy his mind.

The six blind men each grab a different part of the elephant and describe what they think it is like.

“One of the men finds the elephant’s leg and describes it as being round and rough like a tree. Another feels the tusk and describes the elephant as a spear. A third grabs the tail and insists that an elephant is like a rope. A fourth discovers the trunk and insists that the elephant is like a large snake.

“Each is describing truth. And because his truth comes from personal experience, each insists that he knows what he knows (Uchtdorf).”

    And so these men of Indostan

    Disputed loud and long,

    Each in his own opinion

    Exceeding stiff and strong,

    Though each was partly in the right,

    And all were in the wrong!

There’s a lot of anger amidst a lot of partial truth. People are quick to yell “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “fake news!” if they don’t agree with what’s written.

If you’re only watching one cable news channel or reading one national newspaper, you may be seeing only one part of the elephant.

I suggest we pause, take a little break, cool off a bit. Stop making assumptions. Realize others may have some truth, too, or a different perspective like each of the blind men.

Be skeptical. Question things. Everything. Follow people with different views. Verify facts from different sources.

And listen. Really listen to what others are saying. Be humble. And patient. And meek.

Maybe then we can better learn how to correctly discern between what is truth and what is not. And find a little peace in the process.

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“World’s Best Cup of Coffee” – the case against superlatives

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy

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Disclaimer: this is not the best column I’ve ever written. But it’s probably also not the worst.

“You did it! Congratulations! ‘World’s Best Cup of Coffee.’ Great job, everybody.”

This line is from the movie, “Elf,” when Buddy is walking down the street and excitedly enters a diner when he sees a neon sign that says “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.”

It makes me laugh every time I watch it. You know, because, how is that even quantifiable?

Whether a cup of coffee is amazing or terrible depends on one’s personal taste preferences, right?!

Best, worst, most. These are all examples of superlatives, an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise.

And with Valentine’s Day approaching, we’ll be hearing a lot of these expressions, which generally makes me want to vomit.

Not that I don’t love the day of love or people sharing their affection for one another. The issue is the “best ever” phrase. “I have the best wife ever” or “I have the best boyfriend ever.”

We’ve been hearing other superlatives a lot recently, especially from Donald Trump’s campaign and into his presidency.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

“I’m the most militaristic person ever.”

“I get the biggest crowds. I get the biggest standing ovations.”

“I would use the greatest minds. I know the best negotiators.”

But this is nothing new.

In 1900, literary critic and author Arthur Waugh wrote, “we are living in an age where everything is ‘most impressive,’ ‘most heroic,’ and ‘most immortal.’”

“The great arguments against the indiscriminate superlative are its insincerity and vulgarity. No man can use the perpetual superlative sincerely, since he cannot frankly believe that everything he has to describe is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

He continued by saying this may seem trivial, however, “whenever the literature of a country lacks dignity, there is something amiss with the national life and character.”

Superlatives can also be harmful in relationships.

It’s like posting on Facebook that I have the best husband ever on Valentine’s Day and then two days later posting how annoying he is because he leaves his dirty laundry all over the bedroom floor.

How can this be? He’s supposed to be the best husband ever.

“They are really hard to live up to,” relationship mentor Jana Kellam said. “And no one wants to be compared and have to try to live up to these superlatives.”

For example, she said, your partner cooks dinner, which was delicious, and you say, “this is the best meal ever!”

“Your partner may have felt great in that moment, but underlying your compliment is the implication that nothing will ever be able to compare favorably.”

“The next time you’re about to compliment something or someone,” Kellam said, “find a way of doing it that is empowering, engaging and motivating instead.

“‘I love this meal. Thank you so much for doing this for me. It’s beautiful and delicious.’”

In our “superlative-saturated world,” Amy Bailey, writer for MyScoop, said our society is not just addicted to but has overdosed on superlatives.

“When everything is super epic and the best ever, there’s no way to differentiate between really cool and just ok… What happened to just being good?

“In the Bible, we read that when the universe was created, God saw the light that it was good. There’s no epic, there’s no amazing, there’s no best ever – it was simply good.”

Now, I’m not advocating for mediocrity but I’m also very much a realist. Life is hard. I do believe, however, that we have the capacity to change, to learn and grow and become something greater than we ever imagined.

Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, though, how about we simply look for the good and say so sincerely.

I might not go to that diner because of the neon sign advertising “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” (I wouldn’t go there for the coffee anyway, since I don’t drink it).

But I might go there for a “Decent Cup of Hot Cocoa,” to hang out with a friend or my husband or my children, and have a conversation that’s honest, sincere and real. And good.

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Help thou mine unbelief

Blog post:

My husband says it must be what a toothache feels like. You know, when you can’t get in to the dentist yet and you have to wait and the pain totally consumes you. For a day or two. Except this has lasted for 17 years now.

My forearms hurt and sometimes the palms of my hands and even my thumbs and fingers. My triceps hurt and my shoulders. My neck and all the muscles down my spine and my hips. Up and down my legs. Especially the muscles on the outside above my ankles. There are times when I feel like my ribs and spine are crushing me and I can’t breathe.

I sometimes have no strength, not even enough to hold a pen in my hand and write a note. Or stand in the kitchen long enough to cook a simple dinner. And I have tension headaches that can last for days.

And then there’s sometimes this fog. I can’t think straight. I can’t remember things, even little things. Everything is just kind of fuzzy. There are also bouts with depression.

I can’t sleep. I can’t fall asleep because I hurt so much. And I can’t stay asleep once I do. So I’m tired. Exhausted. In pain. And moody.

And consequently, I’m frequently short with my family. And then I pile guilt on top of everything else for being short with them. It’s not their fault. It’s no one’s fault. But that’s hard to remember when you hurt everywhere and you haven’t had an average night of sleep in six days.

So I retreat to my room, close the door and hide in my bed. I miss out on much of life. They go off on these fun adventures. They invite me along, but I know it won’t be fun for anyone if I go. They say it will be okay, but I know the times I’ve gone when I feel like this hasn’t been all that great for them. Or for me.

This is my life. It has been for the last 17 years. Some hours, days, weeks and months are better and some are worse than others. There are times when I feel strong and I feel I can do anything. And there are times when I feel so small and hopeless and alone.

It’s physically exhausting for me to even go out and shoot baskets, one of the things that used to bring me great joy. I try to walk on the treadmill for even half an hour and then I’m done for the rest of the day.

I do push myself, though. I push myself to go into work two days a week. And I’m grateful for laptops and iPads so I can work in bed the rest of the time. I also sometimes push myself to go to my kids’ activities. I’m happy to say I made it to every one of my daughter’s volleyball and basketball games this year. That’s really hard with the drive to games and the bleachers. Oh, the bleachers.

And I try to use laughter as much as possible. I try to find humor in the smallest of things and laugh out loud. Because laughing releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and I need every feel-good anything I can get to combat the pain.

And when I have to be in public, I try my very best to hide it all, to fake it, until I can make it back to my bed where people don’t judge me. I’ve gotten pretty good at that, faking it, I mean. But sometimes it’s all just too much to hide.

It’s been really bad the past few months. I’ve seen some pretty dark days. So I’m trying to rise above that. I struggle to know what that means though. I guess I’m trying to accept the life that’s been given to me. I don’t know if, in 17 years, I’ve actually tried to do that. I always thought it would eventually get better. But it’s hasn’t. I think it’s actually gotten worse lately, as bad as it’s ever been.

This is not the life I thought I’d be living. So what is it I’m supposed to be doing? How can I turn this so-called weakness into a strength? I don’t know yet. But I think I’m ready to try and figure it out.

And then a few hours later, I’m ready to throw in the towel again and give up.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24).

So, here we go… I believe. Help thou mine unbelief…