Wednesday, September 22, 2004

lesson in a banana

Odd things drift to the surface of my memory. I’m sitting here eating a banana, cutting out a brown spot, and remembering something from when my children were small.

We lived in a quiet neighborhood, and I guess most people thought my children were extremely sheltered. I make no apology for it, and can’t tell that it hurt them in the long-run. Worldliness and wickedness is something you can get caught up on fairly quickly. My three girls played with neighbor children of every description – older, younger, black, white, rich, poor, boys, girls. And since they usually traveled as a threesome, it seemed safe ... and empowering.

There came a time, however, when I became aware of three little boys who seemed to have an agenda to find (i.e. make) trouble. Without wanting to cause alarm, I told my girls in a straight-forward, matter-of-fact, non-forbidding way, “Those boys don’t seem very nice. Maybe it would be best if you did not play with them.” My girls were very young, perhaps 2, 4 and 5 years old. Certainly too young to explain the exact details of my concern. I prayed that a simple word of caution would alert them to the need to be aware, and to plant the concept that they could choose to avoid playing with whomever, if they so desired.

One of the girls looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes and inquired, “Do you mean they do bad things like eat the bad spots on bananas?” Ah, innocence. I think it was all I could do to stifle my laughter at the thought of how truly innocent those children were. And simultaneously almost wept at the contrast of how wicked humanity can be. How can a mother bear to be the one to teach unpleasant things to the children she has worked so hard to raise, and protect and instruct?

Now, as I eat my banana, I think about the daily choices I make – who I spend time with, the jokes I laugh at, the television and movies I watch, the music I listen to, the web-sites I visit. I cut the brown spot from my banana, but do I seek to cut the bad influences out of my life? Do the choices I make please a tender, loving Father who does not desire to deprive me of good things, who wants me to be blessed in everything I do?

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of the wicked, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 1:1

Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good report – anything excellent and worthy of praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:8

Saturday, September 11, 2004

the pressure is on

I was up till after midnight packing for vacation. Now it's less than an hour till time to go.

Going with my husband on a "sentimental journey" with his parents - to the city were they got married 65 years ago. Vacation with in-laws. Probably something that brings fear and dread to some, but I've done this before. There is no fear. It will be good. However, there is one small bit of angst. Mostly about my packing skills. Can I get everything in one small over-head compartment sized bag, like the other 3 people in this group? Well, I did it, but decided to repack and use one of those hang-up bag thingys.

See y'all soon.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

either you see it or you don't

Do you blog?

Duh. Is this the 21st century? Seems like everyone blogs, but no one wants to admit it. Or admit they enjoy reading weblogs.

I participate in a message board / chat room, where I posed this question a few days ago. The responses were relatively negative and derogatory. Like blogging was the worst crime a person could commit. Ironic, given the subject of about 90% of the threads posted on that message board.

A few of the responses to my posted question (Do you blog?):

“Nobody cares what you had for breakfast.”
“Some idiot blogged about cheating on his girlfriend …”
“I have little interest in posting my life online and I'm sure there'd be less interest in anyone wanting to read it. I do however have a few hi-lites each year that might be kinda interesting.”
“I don’t blog. Weblogging is pretentious. right along with taking pictures. TRY TO REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED. GEEZ!”
“Hell no. I don't want to read drivel by some dolt about what he did last night. Nor do I want to be a dolt writing drivel.”
“Online journals are stupid.”
“Journals are supposed to be personal. There was someone on a social site that I use that had an online journal. She posted about people she hated and all the drama that came about. It does no use to put that so anyone can read it.”
“Whatever happened to paper and pen?”
(this from a person who was reading an online message board and responded via the internet – and I’m wondering when was the last time HE wrote a letter, or a newspaper editorial, or a novel, or a journal with pen and paper)

To the guy that responded with “try to remember what happened”. Think what the world would be like without cameras. Film. Digital. TV. Movies. Videos. Are some of them bad? Yes. Does that mean we should ban them? Uh, that was a rhetorical question – the answer is obvious.

Admittedly, many people use a weblog to throw up on the world. Or to whine about how irritated they are by someone they don’t have the nerve to confront. Or to confess deep dark activities or hatred. Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy.

SO, the consensus was, no one wants to know what YOU are thinking. OK, so don’t read it. But don’t say it has no value.

Almost any activity is viewed as pointless to someone who is uninterested in it. Scrapbooking for instance. I’m too busy living my life to spend countless hours taking pictures of every detail, and then spend more countless hours arranging and clipping, and pasting, to sit on a shelf getting dusty and brittle with age, and ultimately be tossed in the trash by my children or grandchildren. Another example? Sports. Hey, if you want to play games, go, play. But why should I have to pay to watch? Sports support a whole segment of society – from the “athletes” themselves, to the sportscasters and even the gambling industry. People who would probably be on welfare, but for sports. Seriously, wouldn’t they be doing something else if they could? Yet whole channels on the television are devoted to game-playing.

Blogging is one of those great misunderstood concepts. And if you need to explain to someone WHY you journal online – well … it can’t be explained. It’s like describing a color. Either you see it or you don’t.

Blog on, fellow bloggers.


Ady's Ashes

Ady. Gladys. Widow of my father-in-law’s older brother.

Ady died back in February of this year. We finally buried her this past weekend – Saturday before Labor Day.

Ady wanted to be buried in the family “plot”, beside her husband, and sister and brother-in-law, and mother-in-law (and a whole lot more) at East Shady Grove in a rural Arkansas community. Who would not want to be buried in a place called “Shady Grove”? Down a winding country road, past the old home place to an old country cemetery, with great oak trees and chiseled standing marble headstones that mark the final resting spot of those we once knew and now remember when we make the occasional trip to that spot.

There seems to be a new tradition in our family. The last three family deaths were quiet passings of an elderly generation. All three requested to be cremated and have their ashes buried at East Shady Grove. Someone jokingly suggested we have a big picnic and family reunion to celebrate. Death is one of those topics that always inspires humor to lighten the mood. When the plan was first presented, we all laughed at the concept. But as we pondered those whimsical words, we became attracted to the idea. We would have a grand family reunion, bury the ashes, and then observe an old southern tradition - dinner on the ground (or as one friend calls it “gravy in the grass”). We would have a picnic and celebrate the blessing of family, and remember and honor the one who passed, and reconnect with those who have moved and traveled far and wide.

What had seemed almost irreverent was ultimately embraced by everyone in the family. After the first passing (about 2 years ago), the cremation was done, and we set a date for the family reunion. In the meantime, another died. There would be two “ash buryin’s”. The day came. Summer – Fourth of July. Arkansas is hot on the Fourth of July. Even under a great oak tree at East Shady Grove Cemetery. Family gathered from far and near. We caravanned to the cemetery, and had time to visit with everyone, to renew acquaintances. Then the patriarch of the family, my father-in-law, stood and cleared his throat. “We have gathered today to pay our respects …”

Respect. It is a word that seems almost foreign to this generation. But something that this family knows about. I know so many people who do not respect the members of their family. They make no attempt to connect with their family. I am thankful this family knows about respect. Respect for the elderly. Respect for the family. Respect for someone else’s personal needs when they conflict with your own. Respect for God. Respect for our government.

Do we always agree? No. Respect is more than agreeing. Respect is acceptance even in the face of differences. It is a mind-set that teaches tolerance and humility, and carries an eternal blessing. It follows the old idiom “we disagree agreeably”. We find a common ground, and focus on the positive – not the negative. And we are not afraid to admit when we are wrong. We are forgiven. And we forgive.

"Pursue peace with all men ... see to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up to cause trouble"
Hebrews 12:14

Friday, September 03, 2004

Cherish It!

One day back in the spring, my middle daughter was home from college for Spring Break. As we were out shopping one evening, we ran into one of her high school friends who has finished college. She is working two jobs and preparing for her approaching wedding.

She asked my daughter about college and inquired why she was home mid-week. "Spring Break". The friend just smiled sweetly and said, "Cherish it."

It seems that we are always waiting for something, without being able to “cherish” what we have while we have it. The child wants to be old enough to start school, and then to become a teenager. The teenager wants to be out of high school and on their own. The young adult wants to be an independently wealthy investor who has the freedom to explore the world. The young married couple anxiously awaits the arrival of children, and worries when children do not come on schedule. Middle-age people work to earn a living and worry about providing for the children’s clothes and education. Perhaps they think about retirement, and how wonderful it will be to not be responsible to a boss anymore.

If accident or disease is postponed until a person actually reaches retirement, what do we then wait for? Goals are wonderful things; goals are what keep us motivated. But when do we stop and smell the roses? When do we take time to be content with what we have and where we are, and who we are?

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. [Cherish it.]
Philippians 4:11