Magnolia trees The Danny Sims Blog

Here are my occasional insights, stories, conversations, perspectives, ideas, reflections, theological musings. And whatever else I might post.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Care Enough to Stand Against the “There’s Nothing I Can Do” Deceit

With all the trouble in the world it is tempting to do nothing.

Really, what can I do about Putin invading Ukraine? Not a thing. Does it matter if you and I decided not to watch the Olympics because of China’s continued genocide against the Uyghurs? Not to China.

ISIS atrocities against the Yazidis began in 2014 with the murders of thousands. It continued with kidnapping and sexual violence against women. Many were trapped on Sinjar Mountain with no food, water, shelter, or clothes. The world was rightly horrified. But what could you and I be expected to do?

When Syrian President Bashar al Asaad gassed his own citizens in a suburb of Damascus, we saw pictures of the little children among the dead. We were sickened. Outraged. But what could we possibly do about it?

The women and children who trek across Mexico for weeks, fleeing the gangs and cartels in Central America because staying home means rape for their daughters and kidnapping for their sons... What can we do for them? I’m all for securing the border. But what can I do about that?


There is something we can do. And we don’t have to be experts in geopolitics to do it. I’d like to say it is easy, but it is not. It costs space in our thought world, our emotions, time, energy, and assets.

Care. Care deeply. Give your personal support. Be generous with your emotional energy. This is what empathy looks like. It costs in your brain and soul and heart so much more than your wallet. Sure, you might donate to certain causes. But the far more expensive result of caring is waking up at night and thinking of people imprisoned by fear and hardship.

When you and I develop our own personal plans for justice, we might lose sleep. You’ll find you think of people you never thought of before, never even knew existed. You’ll pray for them. You’ll care about them. And this will shape the way you think about yourself and your family and the way you interact with other humans. This is what being a good human looks and feels like. It’s not cheap.

Standing against the “there’s nothing I can do” deceit means there is one more person standing up for right in the face of so many wrongs. Caring won’t bring back to life any Syrians or restore the innocence of any Yazidis. It won’t solve the border crisis or make even the tiniest of dents in the Russia-China-Iran alliance.

But caring will prompt a change in me. That’s the point.


Monday, February 21, 2022

I Was The Faultfinder

Of all the changes in my life, choices that have unshackled what bound me and given me freedom and joy, this might be number one. I'm not complete, but I'm moving forward, one day at a time.

I once was “the faultfinder” and am so thankful I woke up. Kudos to my wife and kids who were patient with me and helped me.

Today’s entry in “For Today” is so great. A portion is below.

I still have a few faultfinders in my world. Irony is, naming them as such is, in and of itself, finding fault. But take caution because faultfinders can present serious relationship challenges.

If it was raining $20s faultfinders would complain it wasn’t $50s! I was in conversation with a serial critic, someone I've been close to most of my life. He was naming a few of my character flaws. So I described my commitment to change and my growth as a result of work in a 12 Step Program. His reaction? He belittled my recovery experience and named more of my failings, ones I hadn't mentioned.

I didn't argue. I told him he was right, and there were even more. That was it. Sadly we don't talk any longer. I awoke to the reality he is what I once was. Of course for so many years I didn't see it. And I have no idea if he sees it or cares. But now it is so clear to me.

My advice: make your own change. All you can fix is you.


“The faultfinder will find faults even in Paradise.” Henry David Thoreau

Finding fault is a habit, like having to be right, or telling people what to do. As a faultfinder, I can be on the offensive and no one has a chance to criticize me. Finding fault is easy; a child can do it, particularly a tired, cross, frustrated child.

Chronic faultfinding is a flaw in my own makeup, and has nothing to do with people and things outside myself. It is a habit that needs the scrutiny of a personal inventory and a good step-five airing.

For today: Growth in the program allows me to see with new eyes: feeling good about myself makes me less critical of myself and others.

 FOR TODAY, Overeaters Anonymous, Rio Rancho, NM, 1982, February 21 entry, page 56.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

This Is What The World Needs. No Joke.

You probably know someone who quarrels over each issue that comes along. They can be on the left or on the right of any spectrum, that doesn't matter. It's the culture warrior guy who argues with anyone who holds a belief or opinion different from his.

That guy. He knows it all. Or behaves as if he does.

He’s an armchair theologian or Google doctor. A yet to be discovered UN strategist. A self-anointed expert on cancel culture and cryptocurrency guru. He’s loaded up on the second amendment, has a ready oral dissertation on the first amendment. He knows the Bible and, if you have a  minute he will explain how easy it is to understand. If you want to avoid the fires of Hell, you'll agree with him.

He has an answer to each scenario for the 2022 midterms and the 2024 general election. And the supply chain? He knows what to do and he also has the price of gas covered. The border? A simple fix. Immigration? See the border.

Abortion? He has one view. It’s the right one. Race relations? He knows the answer. Same with climate change, conservatism, progressivism, health care, religious freedom, sexual orientation, welfare, and election integrity.

There is one unarguable answer to each issue. The irony is the guy loves to argue.

American author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Cognitive dissonance is also emotional maturity. It’s first-rate intellect but it's also first-rate kindness. It's being a good human.

Fitzgerald’s quote continued. “One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

The cartoon gets to it. Apologies to the creator... the original includes a final line that speaks about not being the south end of a northbound donkey. I removed that line because I like the ending better this way.


Humans of first-rate kindness don’t just allow room for disagreement, they embrace diversity. They see many sides. And they have empathy. They understand they don't know it all. They listen. They read a variety of sources. They reflect. They think. They are "both/and" people in an "either/or" world.

Yes, some questions demand answers. Some issues require a clear position. And at times there is only one suitable position or response for you. But even (especially?) then, look for the tiniest parcel of common ground. If there is none? 

Be first-rate smart. And kind. 

This is what the world needs, no joke. 

And it starts with you. Or not.



Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Peace, Security, Prosperity in the Middle East? Unthinkable!

Note: This post is not about the tragedy facing women and anyone who won't serve the Taliban in Afghanistan, nor the unnecessary egregious mistakes of the Biden pullout debacle, nor the certain death friends of the US military left behind in Kabul and across the nation will face. Perhaps another post on another day.

When distressing over Afghanistan and the US track record in the Middle East, I’d like to point to something hopeful. Something you might have forgotten.

The US backed Abraham Accords are recent agreements between Israel and several Arab states (Morocco, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan). Once unthinkable, Israel and Arabs formally agreed to pursue a vision of peace, security, and prosperity in the Middle East and around the world. That exact wording is lifted right out of the Abraham Accords.

Peace, security, prosperity in the Middle East and the world. Sounds nice, huh?

We hardly noticed the first official anniversary of the Abraham Accords as the Taliban ran over Afghanistan’s government last week. And why would we? The scenes from Kabul are opposite of peaceful, secure, and prosperous. Plus, there’s always politics. The Biden Administration would not want to celebrate any deals, even historic ones, brokered by the Trump Administration. And it would be the other way around, I’m sure.

Afghanistan has never been mistaken for a stable centralized government interested in peace accords. Instead, Afghanistan has been the world’s top breeding ground for terrorism. And get ready for round two of that. They are not alone. Iran isn’t signing anything with Israel. Palestine and Israel have conflicts that not only predate the Abraham Accords, but their conflict goes all the way back to Abraham himself. I’m sure Tehran and Gaza are happy to see the Taliban back and already have double dates with Hezbollah and Hamas.

However, there is a difference this time. Afghanistan is collapsing back into chaos as Morocco, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan have standing agreements with Israel, agreements specifically pledging mutual efforts for security, peace, and prosperity.

When other Arab states seek those exact same things, do they realistically think the Taliban, Iran and Palestine will provide it? Might more Arab nations agree to shake hands with Israel?

Unthinkable, right?

Maybe other Arab governments will see a new signal coming from Kabul: they should not rely on the United States to protect them. The cynic might say they cannot rely on the United States. But let’s be honest. Many American voters have been insisting the US become less of a police force around the world and specifically in Afghanistan.

Who might Arab governments seeking security turn to? Even ten years ago no one would have thought anything close to the Abraham Accords was a possibility. But as that sage geopolitical observer Bob Dylan famously said, the times they are a changing.

I hope we see more Abraham Accord-like deals. They might not even be for moral or ideological reasons. Future accords will have existential and practical motivations. Peace, security, and prosperity come to mind.

Friday, May 14, 2021

See this. Please.

Seeing the world primarily through the lens of politics is a terrible way to go about life.

I’m not naïve. But I’m no ideologue either. Politics is a brutal reality. A blood sport. A vicious rodeo populated by power seekers and influence brokers. Politicians perpetually promise to affect governance for the better. They don’t have a good track record. Yet politics has become more and more central to American culture. Perhaps social media is to blame.

There is good politics and bad politics. No one escapes this reality, no one can live outside its impact. Ask Germans to reflect on 1933 and ponder the importance of politics, if there is good and bad.

The late Charles Krauthammer said, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” How true that is. Yet Krauthammer, one of my favorite political thinkers, insisted the loyal opposition is an essential concept to liberal democracy.

But I’m not really writing here about politics. I’m writing about what happens when politics becomes the lens through which you see personal expression and meaning. When this occurs it’s like the frog in the kettle and you are the last to notice. But the people around you see it. You slowly become less kind, less caring, more thoughtless.

Why? Because you talk and write in terms of binary choices and outcomes. Red or blue. Trump or not. Ally or enemy. Vaccine or freedom. You don’t just pick sides; you demand everyone else pick a side. And if they don’t want to, you’re liable to call them weak or indecisive.

I’ve been accused of taking certain political positions I have not taken. You too? People jump to conclusions and say all kinds of incendiary things. We punish people who hold opinions different from ours. And sometimes insist they have certain opinions, even as they insist they do not.

While there might be many reasons, one stands out: politics is the primary lens through which many people view life and all its relationships and complexities. Faith and family have become subservient to politics. As have virtue and ethics. Along with decency and the common good.

Social media doesn’t help. It complicates. People type horrible things in social media they would never say sitting down for a drink. And there’s some irony there. Politics is the libation that has prompted good and kind people to behave like mean drunks.

I often return to advice Condoleezza Rice gave us when she visited Abilene in 2014. She urged us to read, watch and listen to a variety of news sources. Great advice.

I’ll add this: intentionally listen to voices you disagree with. And be kind. Don’t type everything that comes to your mind while on social media. And for the sake of your relationships, treat other people the way you want to be treated. Life is so much more than the binary choices as seen through the lens of contemporary politics. Look out for the loyal opposition.

How you look at the world doesn’t just define the world. It defines you.



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I went to the border in 2014...

A post from 2014. I was surprised how many people criticized me for going. They identified as politically conservative. And many, it turned out, also identified as Christian.

After delivering some supplies to McAllen, Texas and visiting with some people there, here are some things I learned & some things I think:

I learned…

Most of the people coming across the Texas-Mexico border are from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. They are coming because they are fleeing violence, they are poor and hope they can make a better life in the U.S., they have family here and want to join them, and/or they believe if they can get inside the U.S. they will be able to stay.

Some of the border crossers are criminals, some are innocent children, and some have been victims of rape and other crimes along the way to the U.S.

All these people are crossing the U.S. border illegally.

Some people are helping the border crossers. This help is about their human need, not their legal status. They are giving them water, food, clothes, prayer and a safe place to rest no matter if they are to be deported or continue their trip further into the U.S.

I think… 

The causes of this crisis are complex and the problems (illegal alien, immigration, or refugee status and response) won’t be fixed anytime soon.

It is possible (important) to set aside your frustration (anger?) over the illegal border crossings and look for ways to help meet the basic needs of these human beings. For the Christian, doing this will help place the actions of Jesus above the inaction of government officials or politicians.

The politics of this crisis are toxic. The politicians involved tend to work against one another. Only patient and genuine collaboration will solve these problems. But cooperation is lost among politicians these days. We need leaders not politicians.

People who take Jesus seriously have to answer for His words: “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these, you did (or did not do) for me”.

Helping the border crossers is not going to solve the border crisis. But helping border crossers is not promoting the border crisis. No one is traveling three weeks across the Mexico desert to get a shower, a free change of clothes, water bottles, prayer and a hug.

The complex causes for the crisis and solutions to all the problems are beyond our control. Providing for basic human needs and giving short-term help is simple and easily within our reach.

Fewer lives will be in jeopardy (or lost) making the trip from Central America if our government leaders will work to change the perception that if you cross the U.S. border you’ll be able to stay.

If these people are indeed refugees (I believe many are) the U.S. government simply must make the causes and sustainable solutions to a refugee crisis in our neighborhood a priority in conversation and action. Now.

Some (many? most?) of the people up in arms about the border crossers are descendants of people who took land from native Americans and gained other land in wars for independence. Of course we are not responsible for that. And we can’t go back and change history. But healthy perspective can go a long way in changing the future.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Connecting and Caring

We are having the conversations again. We are having them all too frequently.

After the recent Florida school shooting, where 17 were killed, we are again engaged in emotional discussions, sharing strong opinions. We hear shouting and we read social media posts IN ALL CAPS! Invariably the arguments involve national politics and demand policy changes.

I am writing about something different, something important yet often absent from the conversations. I am talking about something simple, but not easy. It is a personal choice. It does not rely on anyone else, it’s something you alone choose.

I’m talking about connecting and caring. I’m talking about intentionally looking for broken people on the margins and in the shadows of our communities.

That’s it. Connecting. Caring. And by anyone’s measure, this is a highly effective deterrent to people shooting up a school. Last week Reader’s Digest shared this headline: “One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings – and It’s Not About Guns.”

Her brilliant strategy? She takes the time and effort to look out for the lonely in her school.

Connecting and caring get lost in the conversation because they are not political. They do not involve shouting. They are not policies that depend on the ambiguous “they,” as in “they” need to fix this. Caring and connecting depends on one person. The one in the mirror.

Many people are investing their life in connecting and caring for other people. You won’t hear these stories if all you do is shout and argue. Be active in politics and policy making, but not to the exclusion of caring and connecting with people. For the sake of our children, quit overestimating your skills of persuasion on Facebook and spend some time connecting with lonely and broken people!

Retired Abilene High School principal Royce Curtis is a volunteer mentor of teenagers. In a recent interview with Brittany Pelletz on KTAB, one of his protégés said Royce is “the little light” she follows.

Aaron Shaver and Janet Mendenhall, Community Coordinators for a local nonprofit (aptly named Connecting Caring Communities) spend time with families in specific neighborhoods. They have moved into CCC’s targeted areas of Abilene to be good neighbors and promote a safer, caring neighborhood.

Terry Cagle, Executive Director of CCC, says getting to know people and looking out for those on the margins, or in the shadows, is not that hard once you decide that’s what you’re going to do. Terry emphasizes he is not trying to “fix” anyone. Instead he’s investing in mutually supportive friendships. That’s what connecting and caring looks like.

Want to get past loud arguments? Share this good news: Abilene has hundreds of churches, nonprofits, schools, civic groups, and individuals who connect and care daily. It is not true that there is nothing good in this world and no hope for the future. If all you do is argue, you are complicit in promoting that false narrative.

I spoke with an Abilene friend who took her nephew, a teen who seemed destined for trouble, into her home. Because of his aunt’s brilliant strategy of love and connection, he is walking a much better path and will join the Navy.

So, what about the deeply troubled teenager in Florida? There are complex dynamics involved, including access to weapons and mental health. But what if he had a little light, an aunt, a teacher, or a Royce, Aaron, Janet, or Terry looking out for him? I don’t know his story fully. Perhaps he had many lights, but it certainly appears he was in the dark, both desperately lonely and tragically broken.

I searched for “churches’ near the high school in Parkland, Florida. Twenty popped up, all within walking distance. I wonder how many of those churches have youth groups. I wonder how many times the shooter was invited inside? It could be that he was often invited, and he declined. It could be he often attended and still was disconnected. Or it might be no one reached out to him exactly because he was different, on the margins and in the shadows.

All the while we loudly argue over politics and policies. All those things “they” should do.

Don’t mistake arguing and shouting for action. Don’t overlook desperately lonely and tragically broken people. Connecting and caring is simple, but not easy. It’s not politics, it’s not a policy depending on anyone else. Connecting and caring are actions for you and me.