Shall We Be Polite or Shall We Fight?

If you have siblings, no doubt you have been told by your parents or grandparents to play nice and get along. My grandmother, whom we called Nana, used to say to my older brothers: “Now boys, it is too nice of a day to argue!”

Too often, no matter how gently I tiptoe on social media, I end up offending someone. Maybe it is because I grow weary of that politeness bit and I give vent, and that causes all the you-know-what to hit the fan. Sometimes even when I am polite, I bring up some subject which others understand very differently – and then I get long epistles written to me by my friends.

Many of my friends never talk publically about matters political at all. They post pictures of their pets and let it go at that. I have to say that sometimes I envy that discipline, especially since I am past the age when my blood pressure really loves a good fight. In fact, at this moment in my life, I am exceeding happy. A beautiful glow surrounds me. A new life has been brought into our extended family, and that leaves me anticipating holding the new little one.

But then the haunting terror of the letter that came this last week comes back to me. Yes, it would be easier to just hunker down with the family and not worry about anything else – but my belief in God will not let me be silent about this. I just cannot. If that offends you, I am sorry, but I cannot be silent.

I am talking about Genocide. The slaughter of Armenians was the first genocide of the 20th century.  I have a friend from high school who is Armenian by descent.  Her grandparents fled from Turkey.  The story of that genocide was passed down in her family.  I mention that here – in my tale that touches on a friendship born during the first world war: In time of trial: On Hobbits and Narnians

Then in the WWII, Adolf Hitler committed the shocking second genocide of the 20th century.  Primarily aimed at eliminating the world’s population of Jews – Hitler also was happy to kill large numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Polish people, Catholics, Protestants, Blacks, Gypsies, Homosexuals, the Handicapped and the Mentally Ill.

Thankfully, America’s General Eisenhower insisted that there be lots of photographic evidence to document the horrific extent of the slaughter. He was wise enough to know that people would never believe the level of slaughter until they saw with their own eyes the evidence. They would have to see the bodies of survivors that were shrunken to skeletons, the mass graves, the awful videos that detailed the slaughter.

But genocide continues on. It has never stopped. Just recently I have received a letter about the current genocide of Christians.  It is being perpetrated by ISIS.  Some of you might not believe it. The letter was sent to me by the American Center for Law & Justice in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the European Centre for Law & Justice in Strasbourg, France, and the Slavic Centre for Law & Justice in Moscow, Russia.

What do we have to know about or hear about before we will stand up and be counted and say we will not allow this to happen without a fight?

It has been going on for years – crucifixions, torture, beheadings, burning people alive – rape and then torture and murder of women. But what I heard this week was worse than all of that. How can it be worse than the public rape of eight women who are then beheaded? These items were in the letter. They made me recoil in disgust. What kind of savage commits this kind of atrocity?

  • The letter told that 250 Syrian children under the age of five were put in a dough mixer and crushed to death.    
  • ISIS captured a Christian couple’s daughters, then delivered their body parts in a plastic bag, along with a video of the girls being raped and tortured.

We can play nice and hope that the ISIS fighters will play nice with us. Personally, I don’t trust that to happen. I lock my door at night. I am thankful that President Trump wants to secure our country so we can see who is ringing the doorbell before we open the door to let them in. In France ISIS slit the throat of an 85-year-old Catholic priest during mass.

Vice President Pence said:

I believe that ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide against people of the Christian faith, and it is time for the world to call it by name.

Don’t walk out on this. I am asking you to take a stand. Stand with persecuted Christians against Genocide. This is persecution. Because of religion. It has happened before. When will we have the courage to stand up and say – not on our watch?

I have read comments on Facebook describing the kinds of people that support the policies of President Trump. Fine. I don’t care what they call me. Some things are more important than labels. It doesn’t matter one iota what people call you, what they think of you, or what labels they assign to you. What is important, is that you pay attention and stand up and be counted. What matters is that if you can do something to stop or slow the slaughter of innocents, you do it.

I would ask you to quit sitting on the sidelines. You can start this easy way: copy and paste this link to your FB page:

ACLJ: Stop the Genocide of Christians

You can donate money here that assists the ACLJ to help those who are being persecuted:

Contribute now to help defend persecuted Christians

You can take a stand against genocide. As for me and my house – we have an obligation to fight the slaughter of innocents. We have a duty to protect even the littlest of God’s creatures.  I am asking you to stand with me.  Please. Don’t. Walk. Out. Call Genocide by its name. Fight the good fight and give money and aid to those who are working to protect Christians from genocide.

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Thanking God For Their Lives

The year is 2017, and this is Memorial Day weekend.  For some, this may mean a Monday off work, a barbecue with friends,  a get-away weekend, and perhaps maybe even flag flying.  For many, this day blends right in with veterans day and is just another day to thank everyone who served in our military.

The history of this day has changed.  Originally called Decoration Day, it was started after the American Civil War as a way to honor Northern soldiers who died in that conflict.  Later it was renamed Memorial Day and was used as a day to honor all of those who fell in the service of our Nation in any war.  The date for Memorial day was always May 30th, until a bill was passed in 1968 making three day weekends which moved the date to the last Monday in May beginning in 1971.  Don’t get me started . . .

Saying thank you is generally always a thing to be encouraged.  But the thanks due on Memorial day has a particular focus.  This is not just a general day to thank vets.   That is always important, but that is not what this day is about.  Memorial day focuses remembrance on the men and women who answered the call to serve their country in wartime and who died in that service.

Military duty carries with it grave and terrible risks.  There are many ways to honor and give thanks to our country’s war dead.  General George S. Patton said:

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

General Patton is right.  We should pause and thank God for their lives.  They answered the call of their nation, and we need to give thanks for their lives, their courage, and their dedicated wartime service.  I would, however, broaden General Patton’s quote to include women.  Women have always been involved in American wars, and by WWI there were 33,000 serving in the military as nurses and support staff.  400 of those lost their lives in the line of duty.  You can look up that information here:  http://www.history.org/History/teaching/enewsletter/volume7/images/nov/women_military_timeline.pdf

If you have lost someone near to you, grief is something you are all too familiar with.  If you are yourself a veteran, memories of your fallen friends can haunt you and bring tears.  If you are a child of a veteran and perhaps a soft touch like me, you may find yourself sympathetic to this one line from a poem by Thomas William Parsons, entitled  For One Who Fell in Battle.   

On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation!

There are a whole variety of actions you can take to honor the fallen.  You may think up more, but here are some suggestions of mine:

  • If you can play the bugle, you can get in touch with veterans groups and see if they need a bugler to play taps at a cemetery’s Memorial Day Service.
  • If you are a bugler, you can also audition and volunteer to play taps at a veteran’s funeral.  You can find out about what is entailed in doing this by contacting Bugles Across America here: Volunteer – Audition at Bugles Across America  They are always recruiting new buglers to play at military funerals.  You don’t need to be a military veteran to do this.
  • You can also donate to Bugles Across America.  They accept Cash, horns, and uniforms.  You can donate here:  Bugles Across America
  • You can also donate to provide support to the widow/widower and surviving children of fallen service members.  This may take a little effort on your part.  Many worthy organizations provide such support, but you should do due diligence to make sure that they use donor money appropriately.  You can go to Guidestar and type in:  families of fallen veterans, and you will get a list of a variety of non-profits that provide support.  They rate the efficiency and targeted focus of various organizations, and you can see which organizations will best suit your criteria for giving.
  •  You can place flags on graves:  you might contact a cemetery or veterans group and see if they could use some help in placing flags on the graves of those who have fallen.

Finally, one last thing.  As I read this out loud to my husband, who is a Vietnam veteran,  I was reminded painfully of one more thing as I watched his tears flow.  Don’t forget to comfort those who lived, who were able to come home from war.  This weekend may be very hard for them as they remember their brothers and sisters who were not so fortunate.


 

 

 

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My Father’s Daughter

My father died near the end of May in 1994, an anniversary that will soon be here.  Time passes, and I have gotten used to living in a world without him.  But hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of him, wish I could ask him something, or have the fun of continuing a conversation or friendly argument from years ago.

Dad had a unique relationship with each of his four children. He was proud of us all, loved us all, and butted heads with us all. My three older brothers would no doubt tell of their Dad in a different way – but I was the baby of the family – and this is my take on our remarkable father.

Our home is littered with things his hands touched, gifts he made, furniture and oddments he owned and a few of his books.  How may I convey an impression?  He was all of these things: A lawyer by profession, a woodworker for fun (aided by a client who bartered with a table saw and a wood lathe), a feeder of birds, a planter of trees, and a grower of roses.  He was a war protester who became an American patriot when serving in the army during WWII.  He was an exuberant collector of books, Christmas ornaments, and antique tools.  Beyond all of that, he was a man who loved history, studied theology and while courting our mother, argued with her over the church’s claim that the God of the Bible, as described in the ecumenical creeds, is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   He was swayed by her arguments, pursued more rigorous study and left his college agnosticism behind.

He gave me lessons on driving a car,  using the lathe, choosing the right hardware for a job, and much about weird ancestors.  He demonstrated an exuberance of excess in decorating for Christmas and gleefully rearranged the candlesticks spelling Noel, to read Leon.  I mention his crazy Christmas excesses here:  The Countdown is On.   He prepared a tool box for me when I went off to college and bought me a crystal wine decanter for my first apartment.  He loved to argue a political, cultural or theological position and was known to write lengthy inscriptions in books given in response to a request when he thought the author or subject merited parental guidance, critique or comment.  He encouraged and expected a spirited debate when we disagreed.

He was a gentleman to the core and on my twenty-second birthday decided that my language needed parental guidance. His gift to me that year has made me laugh throughout all the decades since and is displayed proudly in our home office. It was comprised of a letter typed on office letterhead and a book. I provide copies of both for you to see — if you click on the letter you will see it in print easier to read!

 

 

 

One of the best lessons I learned from him was that his children were not the center of his life or the center of our family.  He loved each of his children, but his relationship with our mother always came first.   When he came home from work, he always greeted me in a friendly fashion as he walked right by me in search of the love of his life.   I have written about them often before, and you may read one such story about them here:  Love and an Acre of Land.  They were well matched intellectually and had delightful fun together.  I could not have been blessed with better parents.  When I reflect on the many blessings in life — my remarkable father is way up on that list.

 

 

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The Boat

This morning I realized that it had been nearly three weeks since I wrote a blog post.  The days have flown by with little time to create anything at all.  But a couple of days ago everything changed.  All of my assumptions about the necessary trajectory of work have flown out the window.  Everything I have planned since the fall has exploded.

On April 5th, I wrote a blog post called The Stench that detailed our situation since I decided to leave my job and take a chance on bringing in substantial income through freelance writing.  I was working on it regularly, following up with prospective clients, working through on-line tutorials on the subject of locating and closing deals with businesses able to provide excellent pay.  But not only were these pursuits not providing income, but they were also not making me happy.  And When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.

But then, quite out of the blue, I took another kind of class.  Not about working for clients, but about securing funding for a game-changing project.

This is the kind of thing that makes:

  • loving fathers look at you over the tops of their glasses exclaiming “you want to WHAT???”
  • caring friends stop in their tracks and shriek “are you NUTS????”

But it is the kind of thing that made my dear husband say: “Go for it!”

There is too much to be done before showing my hand more completely.  But I have told a bit of this to some people whose judgment I trust who seem to think that I am not rabidly mad or systemically unhinged.  Even those crumbs are cherished by yours truly.

My husband reminds me that despite the pinch of our shoes or the length of our debit-sheets we still have our heads above the water and we haven’t been abandoned yet.  In fact, despite all odds, we continue to see prayers answered, due dates met,  gas in the car and food on the table.

That being said I am stepping out of the boat and not looking at the turbulent water below my feet, but raising my eyes to focus on the one who has carried us this far.  I don’t know how this will all turn out, but I am willing to take a chance because successful completion of this project fulfills a promise I made many years ago.  A cherished dream that I had long sidelined to the pile of maybe someday projects.

Nothing in life is guaranteed.  Life itself isn’t guaranteed.  Sometimes you need to take great risks to accomplish amazing things that just might make a difference.  I believe that this is one of those things.

 

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Swing Set and Engine Hoist

I doubt that my male friends who work on cars would naturally think of a swingset as a possible engine hoist – but then ours was not an ordinary swing set. Anchored on one end by a substantial Pear Tree growing around the crossbar it wasn’t going anywhere.

It was in the summer of 1965 that it was first commandeered by my eldest brother to pull the motor and transmission from a ‘54 Olds and install them in his ‘36 Plymouth Coupe. Then in the summer of ‘68, he commandeered it again, this time to pull the same motor out of the same Plymouth, because by then he had decided to rebuild the ‘36. Unfortunately, he commandeered it one last time, to pull the motor out of a ‘56 Chevy in late ‘66, but that vehicle got towed during the night as he had parked it on the street without valid plates. To recover the car would have cost more money than it was worth – so he let it go. Sad that.

Families are all different. I have some friends who are the oldest in their families – and their growing up was entirely different from mine. They grew up liking different music, watching different movies, caring about different things. I’m the youngest in my family with three older brothers, and my two oldest brothers worked to make sure that I grew up appreciating rock & roll, and always gave me grief whenever I succumbed to bubblegum music.

All three of my brothers – despite wars or rumors of wars – are amazingly talented, each with varied educational backgrounds, job histories, musical tastes, and interests. Despite our differences, all three have come to my rescue on multiple occasions. My eldest brother moved out of the house when I was six, my second brother moved out when I was eight, and my youngest brother left home for college when I was in junior high. My youngest brother had the dubious honor of living a few blocks from the various places I used to live while away at college – and so he and his wife got to deal with my first-time-away-from-home years. Bless them all – they weathered their dealings with me – and I can still count on each of them.

It may be kind of weird given our ages, but my eldest brother and I have always been particularly close. Even when I was a kid he never seemed to mind me hanging around, he always kept in touch with me when I was away from home via snail mail or phone calls, and he always took me places. He took me to a few movies, and one or two rock concerts – I remember going to hear Chicago in the fall of 1972; and he had invited me to hear the Guess Who – but I backed out of that one when I got asked to my high school junior prom. He also took me for long rides all around northern Ohio on the back of his Norton motorcycle that he had made into a chopper.

He moved my possessions for me twice – once out of a college dorm, and decades later he rented a trailer, and we drove my inherited things from Ohio to South Carolina.  He drove from Ohio to northern Alabama to look for a rust free ’69 Chevelle for me — I wanted that to be my first car, and he had pledged to rebuild one for me.   He cheered me by sending me pictures of the progress (like this 455 Buick V8 engine he put in it).  It would have been the best car anywhere!  But I never even got to drive it. I had to sell it because I needed the money when I was about to be married. (Here is a picture of it with the new owner and a new paint job.)He had been a tool and die maker who spent much of his career working for GM. Before working for GM though, he took a break from tool and die making and went back to college at the same time that I was in college in another town. We ended up graduating the same year, and our wider family celebrated our graduations at a nifty dinner out together.

Every family is unique, some are dysfunctional, or at odds with one another, some are amazing and caring, loving and forgiving. I am so grateful for my family. My brothers and I are now the oldest generation in our family. We had terrific parents who were best friends with each other and very much in love. They loved each of us and tried their best to instill some values in us, raised us in church, taught us some history including family history, and they did their best to encourage us to care about things that matter.

All of us have weathered some hard times and dark days. But we are all still hanging on, we are all still colorful in unique ways, the four of us are all musical, which is a little weird, and we are all still proud of our roots and our family. Can’t ask for too much more than that.

So to D, E, and J – I say thank you – I’m honored to be your kid sister. To D – thanks for commandeering my swing set and for showing up at all the right times.

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They Certainly Needed That!

There is a story my Momma used to tell me from time to time when I was growing up. I was born a year too late to meet my grandfathers – so my Mom told me a lot of stories about them. My Dad’s father was a lawyer; my Mom’s father was a Lutheran pastor.

Her Dad used to greet his parishioners at the back of the church as they were leaving after the service. One day one of his female parishioners came out of the church, shook his hands and exclaimed:

Excellent Sermon, Pastor!

Then, after a slight pause, she continued:

They certainly needed that!

I never heard a description of the woman, but I’m sure you can imagine how she might have liked to embroider her story of those other people in the pews. Isn’t this one of the reasons people sometimes give for not wanting to go to church???  The good Christian b*tches?

Personally, I have no such issue. I’m not spending time examining the sins of others because I’ve got my hands full with my own sin stuff. It turns up in my life even when I’m trying to be a straight up kind of woman who tries to do the right thing. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t obsess about sin, spend hours thinking about it, or worry myself sick about it. That being said, my Momma didn’t raise a fool, and I know it when I step in it. Sometimes it’s clear that it is getting kinda deep around here.

So, when I tell a Pastor that their sermon is good – one thing I can promise that I’m not thinking is “they certainly needed that.” More likely I’m thinking “ooh, that pinched a little too close to home for comfort.”

My day to day catalog looks a bit like this: I have a temper, a short fuse, too much pride and truth be told I can be judgmental, jealous, impatient, a whiner, and any number of other weaknesses du jour. So in the course of a typical day, I find that I’m fairly good at stirring up a lot of bad stuff on my own – often when I least expect it. But looking back over my life there are bigger things: more than a few bad choices, dark chapters and people whom I have wronged. I can say I’m sorry – but I can’t repair the damage. I can’t fix those things.

I have some friends in Virginia who have a farm with a lot of sheep. This spring they kept posting absolutely dear pictures and videos on their Facebook page of tiny new lambs.

The lamb picture that I’m posting at the bottom here is much different. Not cute, not sweet, but bound for slaughter. I know that I need this particular lamb very much. Maybe you do too. You’re in luck and thank God – so am I. He did this for us.

The Latin on the picture are the words of the liturgy of the church from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1:29.  Translated they are:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

A blessed Good Friday to you and yours.

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The Stench

It is Tuesday afternoon, I’ve had a bad headache all day, and it seems a good time to begin an article that came into my thoughts yesterday. It was then that I read an interesting blog post called The Stench by a very popular blogger who calls her blog: Beauty Beyond Bones. I do not know the author, but she writes:

This blog chronicles my journey from severe anorexia to recovery, and every twist and turn along the way.

In her blog post entitled The Stench, she is writing about a dead body. A particular dead body, one that has been several days rotting in the tomb. She then weaves into that tale a very interesting piece about the stench in her own life. I would encourage you to read her post here: https://beautybeyondbones.com/2017/04/03/the-stench/

She makes her living as a writer, and if you like what you read, you could make a financial donation to her. You can do that here: https://beautybeyondbones.com/support-bbb-on-patreon/

Upon reflection of her blog post, I decided to ponder the stench in my own life. Since January 5, 2009, my husband and I have had quite a few adventures. That was the day I lost my grant writing job which I had held for many years. Since then I have worked with my husband in our own business, moved across the country, spent a couple of semesters as an adjunct instructor of English Composition and then endured a two-year stint in an ill-fitting technical support call center here in Tucson, Arizona. It was that job which I quit voluntarily to pursue writing.

I have a variety of freelance prospects and have been contacted to work on a few projects. But poverty encircles our home. My husband’s former boss last had need of him in January of 2015. Thankfully I have had some paying musician jobs for our church.  But now in the nth year of under-or-unemployment our debt is growing, our reserves are shrinking, and my fear is daunting. I have written about debt many times. I am sure that some of my readers will wonder at the idiocy of quitting a paying job. One of my dear cousins counseled me not to quit my day job before securing a writing job. For some reason, I came to believe that my mental health was taking a beating and that my ill-fitting job required radical surgery to fix. There was no time nor energy left to try to start a new writing job around the edges of my day job. In my defense, I didn’t quit my job unilaterally. I left my job after many conversations with my husband who was willing to sink or swim with me.

On the 20th of last month, I called our financial wizard and asked him to close out a small brokerage account we had, which has kept us afloat at various times in the past. I needed some of the money to pay our attorney to form an LLC for my new writing business. We planned to use some of the money to build up our savings again, and, this week, frankly, to buy groceries. That, my friends, is the stench. The check was supposed to come by the 30th. It is now the fourth day of April, and it has still not come. We have received an apology, but as yet, the check has not arrived.

Stepping out of the boat, in faith, on rough and tumultuous water is scary. When we look down, we sink. I asked my husband for reassurance today that we would stay afloat through these particular stormy seas and stench-filled patch. He answered with assurance as he always does. We are in good hands. We need to keep on keeping on. We need to have faith that our prayers will be answered this time as well. It was Lazarus that was rotting in the tomb. But raising him from the dead was not too big of a job for his Lord. The debt that is rotting in our house seems to grow in exponential ways, but it is not beyond the powers of our Lord and our God.

I don’t know when our check will come. I don’t know when potential clients will decide to sign on the dotted line allowing me to do their work, complete their websites and promotional material in exchange for payment. I don’t know how soon I can get the LLC signed, get my business website designed, secure more work and begin to turn things around for the two of us. The stench has me worried.

But stench – from debt, anorexia, even death – whatever the stench in any of our lives – it is not insurmountable. It is, after all, only a smell. A bad smell – but something that can be made right. Somehow, I know not how, but somehow this particular debt-burdened stink will be put right. Somehow we will float again. Our God is not going to stop. It is only worrying that hinders us. Fear causes us to look down into the swirling waves. Scripture calls that fear sin. We need to stop, turn around, and look at Our Lord. Even now. Even with the stench of debt. We are in good hands. Now and always.

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