22 August 2012

Total Eclipse at the Start

I've spent a good deal of my life thinking that morning people were just a little daft. Why would anyone enjoy getting up early? Certainly sleep was more desirable than any sunrise or quiet moment in a still home. Now I would have to concede that with a little maturity and gray hair comes a different perspective. Mornings are where it all happens.

We've had some unusual autumn-like weather here in the Blue Grass and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons. One prominent enjoyment; cool, crisp air. Fall is when I open every door and window, even if doing so invites gale force winds to blow through my home. My dog hides under her sheepskin and the cat anchors herself inside the carpeted tunnel of her cat condo while I walk around barefoot and clothed for the beach.

Last night temperatures dropped into the 50s. Ahh, bliss! I woke to the sound of baby birds singing and cool tranquility to greet me. It makes me happy. Instead of stumbling out to the kitchen and impatiently waiting for the first cup of caffeine to issue from the Keurig,, I excite my dog with, "Wanna go outside?" She starts spinning circles and can barely contain herself while I put her collar on and open the door. It's even more glorious than I had hoped. It rained last night. We are greeted with a heavy mist and the sunrise making the grass glisten like faceted glass. She runs out to inspect the perimeter of the property. I watch the sun peeking through the trees turning on the colors of red, orange, blue, periwinkle and gray in the sky as it does. This is perfection.

I make a quick dash to the kitchen for that cup of coffee and return to watch the familiar transitions of light on my favorite oak trees across the meadow from my home. They are my favorite part of living on my property. I hope no one buys the lot across the street and builds on it. I don't know how I would manage knowing they were there but I was unable see them. For me it would be like being separated from loved ones I could never see again. Shaking that thought from my head I take it all in. The dahlias and perennial sunflowers growing tall by the mailbox, the chrysanthemums growing below them promising to burst open with fall colors a month too soon and the mist on the meadows. The dahlias and sunflowers stand out like Masai warriors hovering over the mums. Somewhere I hear a humming bird.

Days like this begin with promise. They infuse me with hope and remind me to take time to put all the things I wrestle with aside for a moment. Doubts about my faith and doctrine pale in comparison to the splendor of God's creation. Worry about the kids and family legacy subside as I am reminded that God holds the sun in its place in the universe and knows when a sparrow falls, several of which are at the bird feeder chiding me for allowing it go empty. It occurs to me that birdsong should be a reminder of His sovereignty. The cares and concerns I have are still there but for a brief moment I am where I should be and they are totally eclipsed by the magnitude of God. If only I would take time to let every day begin with an eclipse like this one.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8 ESV)

20 August 2012

San Francisco and Genuine Hippies

This morning I learned that Scott McKenzie died. I had no idea who Scott McKenzie was until the news played a sound bite from the song, "San Francisco." Suddenly I was in mourning for someone I cared so little about I never knew his name but I knew the song. That song was the anthem of my childhood. I grew up listening to it. I grew up believing that being a part of the "Generation of Love" meant I could change the world.

San Francisco was that time period's Mecca for all things weird. Every self-gratifying desire was pronounced good. Self-restraint and conventional morals were an "Establishment idea to keep you down, man." I longed for the freedom they promised but I was too young to run away and join them. I had brief moments of freedom in San Francisco. I remember being on a field trip in Golden Gate park and a group of us making a chain of flowers out of the chamomile growing there. We placed it around the neck of a horse being ridden by a officer. I thought we were being extremely symbolic and profound. I was wearing a floppy leather hat and a poncho. It was my best attempt at being a hippie. Japanese tourists took our pictures and gave us each a Japanese coin. I thought it was evidence that freedom to be and do what you want really was going to change the world. By the time I was a few years older I began to see freedom like that wasn't all it portended.

My father had a truck driving business in "The City" and took my older sister, Linda, her boyfriend, Tom, and me to see the "Haight" better known as Haight-Ashbury District in its hey-dey. We drove from the East Bay across the Bay Bridge and into The City riding in the bed of his 1964 Chevy four wheel drive. We saw lots of San Francisco sights and then cruised the Haight. It was everything television news showed us. Lots of people dressed in outlandish attire all hanging out and/or hanging all over one another. I thought it was cool. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be one with them. That's when something happened that I will never forget.

My sister's boyfriend, Tom, was a clean cut All-American young man. He was respectful to my father and step-mom. He was respectful and protective of my sister. He was kind and inclusive toward me, the little sister. He was so happy to be with us. My sister had that uncomfortable look you see on the faces of people who are being adored by someone they want to break up with and never see again. She longed for freedom too and the first chain she intended to break was connected to Tom's heart. I could tell it was coming and I didn't want to hear it. I liked the guy and wanted to give him the freedom to react with tears no one would see if my sister dumped him. They sat leaning on the cab of the truck and so took my place leaning on the tailgate. The wind battered me and kept me from hearing anything. Occasionally I would steal a glace at Tom to see if he was OK. I could tell he hadn't been dumped yet. He didn't appear to get that he was going to be. When we started our scenic hippie tour I could also tell he didn't get what was going on in the Haight. We were at a stoplight with what seemed like hundreds of hippies buzzing around when suddenly one of them put his German Shepherd in the bed of our truck.

My father saw an opportunity; a genuine hippie hitchhiking, a hippie with his dog no less, and told him he would give him a lift and to get into the back of the truck. None of us in there were aware the invitation had been issued. The hitchhiker was overjoyed to have a ride and put his dog into the back of the truck while issuing salutations to us. Tom jumped up, scooped the dog up and placed him right back into the confused man's hands. It seemed Tom's worst fears were real and he was prepared to stop the hippie invasion at any cost. Words were exchanged using two disparate vocabularies; hippie and protective conservative nice guy. Then my father added his voice.

"Tom! It's OK! I told him we'd give him a ride!" With that Tom had an incredulous look on his face and this conversation followed, the conversation with my dad that I will never forget:

"Dominic??!! You're going to let a strange man get in the back of your truck? With two young girls back here?! Your two young girls??!!"

He was truly astonished. My father assured him it would be OK. Tom respectfully disagreed with my father and then helped the man put his dog back into the truck. Tom gave him a hand into the bed of the truck as well. Once the man and his dog were in, Tom grabbed my hand and quietly escorted me to where he and my sister were sitting. He put an arm around both of us. He never said a word but we in the bed of the truck knew the man and his dog could occupy the space by the tailgate and that was it. That is the one and only time in my childhood I felt truly protected by a man.

I have no idea where Tom is now. I never saw him again and the only time he was mentioned was in association with that day and comments of what a nice guy he was and too bad Linda had dumped him. I hope he grew up to be an adult version of the young man I saw that day. I hope he's happy. I hope he found someone who appreciated the type of man I imagine he became. I owe him a debt of gratitude because from that day forward I had reservations about my beloved "Generation of Love" and all its ideals. I was young but had an internal war going on with my own worldview, one that would last for years.

It's easy to look back and see God's providence. It's uncomfortable to listen to the lyrics of "San Francisco" now. I still sing along with the song but get stopped if I really listen to the lyrics. Decades of experience and settling into the only thing that makes sense to me, a biblical worldview, make that time in my life seem unreal and shameful. From this vantage point I see the fruit of the Generation of Love. The Generation of Free Love and "finding yourself" begat the Generation of Entitlement. It reminds me of "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes." It's a familiar theme throughout history and it always begets something more sinister than good. Always.

The fear of the LORD prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short.
The hope of the righteous brings joy,
but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the blameless,
but destruction to evildoers.
The righteous will never be removed,
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
(Proverbs 10:27-30 ESV)

18 August 2012

MIB and Politics.

In the innumerable list of things I do not understand, one that stands out currently is the preoccupation with the amount of money made in private sector and taxes paid on that money by persons running for political office. If the IRS is happy with the contributions the candidate is making and the FBI and CIA are not coordinating efforts to take them down to face criminal charges, why are the citizens of these United States so concerned? Isn't making/having money part of the American Dream? Isn't that why so many people play the lottery? Visit casinos? Don't we all rejoice and even brag a bit when our CPA reduces our tax liabilities legally? Frankly, I find it puzzling and inconsistent that so many are piling on the bandwagon and chanting for Mitt Romney to make public his tax returns. Why should he? Why is it an issue?

It's an issue because one of the other candidates, namely the democratic machinery that wants to re-elect President Obama, wants us to believe it is an issue. Rather than coming up with substantive reasons for being re-elected based on Mr Obama's merit, the machine is using the most effective tool they have. Social psychology. Let's whip the people into a mindless frenzy by playing on their emotions and psychological weaknesses. Lest you think me unfair, let me go on record now as saying it is a tactic employed by all desperate groups. President Obama didn't build it, he and his team are only employing it. They are playing our collective weakness to their advantage. Sadly, the unthinking throng with their emotions stirred will go right along with it until someone can expose their error in such a way it will make it more shameful to go along with the floe instead of reasoning things through. It's Men in Black politics, ladies and gentlemen.
"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." Agent Kay

What are we to do with the state of our citizenry? Pray for them. Educate them. Implore them to think rationally and stand by their convictions. I don't for a moment think that if everyone thought things through we would all come to the same conclusion on the best candidate for a political office. I only wish that folks could recognize manipulation and slight of hand maneuvers when they occur. I wish they would consider context and motives. Be brave enough to say "I am voting for this candidate because I agree with their position." Be courageous enough to say, "I don't care that you want me to dislike the other candidate because they are ugly and their mother dresses them funny" or "they aren't like me so I can't even consider their political positions."

Please, don't be taken in by the media hype and the political machines that are trying to herd you in and drive you. They are counting on your not stopping to think. They are counting on you joining the herd of others who are content to have their emotions stirred. And most of all, if you're a Christian, remember God is sovereign in all things. If the worst man or woman imaginable is elected to office it is because God placed them there.

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.

Daniel 2:20-22

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.

10 August 2012

Fish Bone

Someone else is living my life.
They aren't aware
but my thoughts burn through their good fortune
like the acid of bitterness burns through my soul
coveting the blessings of others
mine are undeliverable
address unknown

but thanks for helping me hold my tongue
job well done!
I'd be happy to!
those sentiments stuck in my craw like a fish bone.

Too tired to keep my eyes open or appearances up.
I am not enjoying this. Just so you know.
I think it sucks.

But I am still smiling like I've I got good sense
...or good manners anyway.

09 August 2012

Lessons From Thibodeaux

My dog, The Bodacious Miss Maria Consuelo Thibodeaux Jones, is equal parts abject fear and Polyanna optimism. She's sitting at my feet right now hoping to eat the crumbs from my table. I am devouring some chicken while I sit and type. Admittedly, she stands a good chance of walking away with a full belly as typing and chicken eating are not the best combination of things with which to hone your multi-tasking skills. She has been sitting quietly as I read my normal blogs and news feeds. She doesn't mind at all when I yell that the computer. Even when I pound my desk yell things like, "Aw, come on! Nobody is that stupid!" she pretends not to notice. However, don't take a load of clothes out of the dryer or hold some mail in your hand and expect her to get within 10 feet of you.

Before you ask, no she was never beaten with clean clothes and I have never tortured her with mail. She's just goofy. She has her idiosyncratic behaviors and for the most part they amuse me. She has this goofy walking cadence she falls into when she's trying to be invisible and walk away from me and whatever it is I am carrying that terrifies her. She looks like a wind-up doll whose gears have slipped. She moves both legs on one side at the same time. It causes her to waddle a bit but mostly it makes her look like she's drunk and trying to pass a field sobriety test without looking at the officer administering it. I am fairly certain she thinks if she just minces by like that in that weird pacing gait and doesn't look me in the eye, I can't see her.

She was cracking me up today while I watched her mince by and I found myself wondering what was misfiring in her brain. Chet the Wonder Dog never had a moment's concern about his welfare with me. At 16 if I turned on the treadmill, he'd try to climb on with me because where I was, he wanted to be also. Thibodeaux may enjoy my company while she's hoping for chicken, but she's just as likely to settle into a bed in another room of the house as to sit at my feet. If I turn the treadmill on while she's in the room, she won't be there for long. Such different personalities.

It was difficult while Chet was alive to manage those differences. Chet loved to play fetch. For Thib a thrown ball is an invitation to play keep away. Chet took great pleasure in playing tug of war and growling the entire time he tugged and pulled. Thibby thinks the game is too serious if she hears a growl and while she will shake the rope in her mouth, if I try to tug it she releases it immediately. I miss Chet desperately and I am trying my best to find all the ways to connect with Thibby that I can. Then it dawned on me. I had trouble managing two vastly different personality types and look how many God has to contend with!

Seriously. I know He is intimately familiar with all of our personalities because He is our creator. But really, think about it. What would you do if you had millions and millions of personality types to shape, train and mold if you were not the Almighty Sovereign God? If you had to depend on your created beings to choose you, how would you control the ensuing chaos?

Psalm 115:3 But our God is in His heaven and He does what He pleases.

08 August 2012

A Temanite, a Shuhite and a Naamathite Walked into a Crisis

I am re-calibrating my life. I have taken a long look at some of my presuppositions and expectations, sorted through them and have discarded a few while carefully embracing others. One of the the assumptions I have corrected is my need for and willingness to be connected to people. My conclusion? Having people around is inevitable and sometimes enjoyable but I don't need it. I used to think I was fairly social. I used to think that friendships and relationships were a necessity for my sanity. I couldn't have been more wrong. People make me crazy.

Recently I have been going through "it" and "it" has been kicking my tookus. The culmination of life events and health problems have rendered me unable to cope. I am the one people come to for advice and encouragement. When I confessed to not being OK I became the pariah. People scattered from me like cockroaches run from the light. I experimented with vulnerability and experienced a failure of biblical proportions. The only thing I lacked was a wife to tell me to curse God and die.

Please don't mistake my post for bitterness or trying to step on someone's guilt glands. I learned some valuable things. First of all it was reinforced for me that no man keeps my space warm for me. I owe no human being rent for the air I breathe. God alone is my benefactor. He is my only need.

The second valuable lesson for me was how to prioritize my time. You see, my friends didn't know what to do for me and/or didn't have time or energy with which to do it. Just like me, they were treading water as fast as they can. Or they knew I would get over myself soon enough and waited for the inevitable and are expecting life to continue as normal. Something's changed though. Just like I didn't shrivel up and die without your kind words and attentiveness you will similarly survive without mine and will more than likely be better off if I hang on to my two cents worth of advice. In exchange for not being there each time you call me and at whatever time you call, I will taking care of my own health and well being and getting some sleep and waiting for God to sort things out. You can still expect the same amount of prayer from me though. That's something that will not change.

Please don't mistake my comments for callous disregard of those in need. I am saying that my not being OK and not being supported by anyone during the process has taught me that I am not lacking for anything. I had this impression from being left by my mother that I lacked some basic nurturing and was a deficit. I don't lack a thing. We're all broken, self-centered and self-absorbed. More of that isn't the answer to what ails me and certainly a contest on who is more scarred isn't helpful.

Here lies the answer to my needs and here is my prayer:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

04 August 2012

Adam Smith's Apology to Rachel

In what has to be one of the most self-serving apologies I have heard in a long time, Adam Smith, apologizes to Rachel, the Chick-Fil-A employee he badgered and berated. You have to be living under a rock to not to know what I am talking about and I envy you that. This whole kerfuffle over Dan Cathy answering a question that was put to him has done nothing if not expose the ignorance of the general American populace and reinforce the veracity of the doctrine of Total Depravity. Here you can find a video of Mr. Smith's behavior and a statement about him losing his job. And then you can watch his apology video. Ready? Here goes.

I have no doubt that given the amount of negative attention Mr. Smith has received, it has become clear to him that he was wrong. In fact, I think he was so struck by Rachel's grace and composure that he felt compelled to try and make her feel better, hence the "nice guy" comment. I also think he realized his efforts at championing the homosexual population was going horribly wrong and he felt compelled to say he wasn't gay so his actions wouldn't be a mark on them. However, the pattern emerging seems to indicate Mr. Smith isn't good at communicating. Even his attempts at apology and contrition are self-serving. He used Rachel yet again to make his point to the world. The saddest part is I am not sure he knows it or that most folks will recognize it. I think it's a teachable moment for folks though, hence the post.

First of all, he wants to explain his behavior and let the world know he's tried to apologize already and in person. If his objective was to apologize to Rachel why would he need to let us know he went to Chick-Fil-A and Rachel quite understandably preferred not to speak to him? Because he wants to build his case about being a nice guy. That's why. Such an admission did nothing to restore Rachel, in fact it may give some muddled thinkers a cause to wonder if she is really as nice as she seems. After all he tried to make things right and she refused. You'd have to be pretty muddled in your thinking to go there, but none the less I am sure some have.

Next let's talk about his explaining his former employers told him not to upload an apology video. Why do we need to know that bit of information if this video is an apology to Rachel? Once again, it serves his purpose of trying to convince us he's a nice guy. That's why.

Next he takes the opportunity in his apology to Rachel to reiterate the reasons he believes her employer is an evil corporation that must be stopped. What has that to do with a sincere apology to Rachel? Nothing. It served Mr. Smith, not Rachel.

Here's the thing I would like Mr. Smith and others to understand. Not everyone supporting Chick-Fil-A is evil. Not everyone opposing same sex marriage is hateful. Disagreement is not the same as hate. Is it possible to combine the two? Yes. Mr Smith proved that in the way he treated Rachel and considered her collateral damage. To be fair folks claiming to be Christians have behaved hatefully to homosexuals. The folks in journalism like to report on extremes and have aided in creating an Us vs Them mentality wherein all Christians behave like the Westboro folks and all homosexuals behave in a manner true to their most outrageous stereotypes. Inaccurate though it is, read any paper or watch the news and you will see it gets perpetuated daily. Why? Because that's what sells, not truth or moderation. It's difficult to find folks who care about truth these days, isn't it?

Mr. Smith's apology, where do I begin? I know that folks can get caught up in their emotions and then do pretty stupid things. I have first had experience with it. I want to challenge you to consider what an apology really is. It's a statement acknowledging behavior you regret committing. It is not something that needs an introduction and a list of reasons why you committed the regrettable act. A true apology video would resemble this: "Rachel, I treated you so unkindly and you were so gracious and kind while I did. I am very sorry for my behavior. It was inexcusable. Please, forgive me. I regret that this is the only method I have to apologize and I hope you see this."

A video in that ilk would have been more believable. Regardless, at some point agendas have to come to halt and plain old civility needs to kick in. I am praying sooner than later for that event.

Mr. Smith, I don't really have much hope that you will ever read this but in the off chance you do, I want you to know that I am sure your life is difficult right now and that I am committing to pray for you and your family. I am asking that God will protect you and yours from people who make threats and are bent on being hateful to you or have some warped sense of reciprocity. I am also asking Him to soften your heart a bit so you can come to see the difference between a difference of opinion and hate.

Rachel, I am committed to praying for you too. For you I am asking God to maintain and nurture that sweet and gentle nature you displayed. The world has enough opinionated people what it needs more of are genuinely kind people who know how to act in public. I want you to know that your winsomeness has inspired me to behave less curmudgeonly and that my dear, is saying something.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (ESV)

01 August 2012

Ludicrous Speed

In my daily quest to sift through the dirt that passes for journalism these days, I stumbled upon this video, in which Charles Krauthammer argues that Mitt Romney did not flub his comments while on his overseas trip. Of course team Obama disagrees and wants to give us stop action and play by play commentary on what they consider gaffes of near biblical proportion. OK, perhaps I am exaggerating a tiny bit, but isn't that what we all do when we want to make a point? (If you're unfamiliar with the situation you can read about it here.) To be fair, team Romney is going to do the same while critiquing President Obama. It is a tit for tat, "Oh yeah? Take that!" world we live in.

I am a fairly pensive woman. Recently I have been ruminating about how flawed we are at communicating. Look at what happened in Eden. Satan asked a simple question, Eve embellished her answer and the Fall resulted. I have noticed and how easily people, including yours truly, exaggerate and embellish without pausing to think of the consequences. I am not talking about spinning a good yarn or using exaggeration in humor. I am talking the more subtle ways we exaggerate. We use words with frightening carelessness in the most mundane situations. When the pressure is on we're likely to say anything to get out from under it. No wonder the bible warns us where there are many words sin is not absent (Proverbs 10:19). Working to find the truth is difficult. Working to report the truth even harder because despite our best efforts most of us are shoddy communicators. Partially to blame is the speed with which we can communicate.

Have you read something written a hundred years ago? Did you need a dictionary? Did you think you'd caught the gist of things until you looked up the word? Are you able to pinpoint the difference between being sardonic and sarcastic or do those nuances escape you? Have you ever considered how easily the wrong word can be used but it sounds right to your ears?

Words evoke emotion. Words define position. Words provide comfort and hope. Words crush spirits. Words come flying out of our mouths and keyboards like we're firing automatic weaponry in an action film. Few of us are precision marksmen. Oh we hit something now and again but a blunderbuss scatters a pattern of projectiles to ensure contact of some kind.

I thoroughly enjoy the Internet, social media, my smart phone, my satellite radio and television channels. I very much appreciate the wordsmiths out there choosing their tools carefully and using them with precision. I am elated when I find a journalist with integrity and the ability to elucidate without pontificating. I haven't been elated in a very long time. Journalists provide more opinion than facts. Journalism should be more than editorializing. When I want editorials I know where to find them.

Years ago when I was a volunteer firefighter I attended some training wherein the instructor warned us that the calls we would find the most difficult and where we were most likely to make catastrophic mistakes, were the calls that would occur closest to the station. We need time to process information and take inventory of what we know. Those few minutes on the tailboard (yes it was so long ago firefighters stood on the tailboard with nothing but a hose strap for safety) would allow us to clear our minds and think about the task at hand. During the six or so years I was involved with the fire department I found the trainer was spot on in his assessment.

We are bombarded with important information every day. It comes at us so fast and furiously it is difficult to process. The competition to be the first to report a story is fierce. Perhaps I should consider being merciful in my thoughts toward journalists. Communication speed has surpassed their ability to synthesize information and present it. When you factor in our cultural penchant for being entertained instead of educated, well there's a disaster of biblical proportions in the making.

That leads me to my last bit of rambling. As I considered all this I couldn't help but consider the time and place our Savior came, died and rose again. It was the right place and the right time for news to spread throughout the world. It would have been much easier to get the world's attention now. Instead, our Lord came when communication had higher standards than the rapidity with which a story could be spread.

We have made the jump to ludicrous speed, ladies and gentlemen. Don't bother to fasten your seat belts, only God can save us.