Thursday, March 30, 2006

Misheard Ramblings, Yellow Jell-O, and all

I think I ought to start, just for laughs, a misheard ramblings blog to which I might add new entries every now and then. We got our first one today. Katie has the flu and I was offering Jell-O. She didn't like the mental picture of the mess that could make (I usually make red, and that scene is the reason I bought our first carpet cleaner, if you understand). So I was pondering yellow, and yellow Jell-O reminded me about a song, "I'm just mad about Saffron..." Definitely a stupid song, but it came to mind and I was be-bopping to it a little in the kitchen. Tim, a room away, said "I'm just a bladder box Akron?"
Shows how important it is to make sure that the hearer understands the speaker. How many times am I misunderstood so badly in a day and it's not brought to my attention? Another pointer is how useful it would have been not to go into too much anatomy detail with a boy until it's absolutely necessary. (Sigh.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Smell of Death

Leila has started blogging, and it seemed to be in all the buzz tonight at One28. One of her blogs, "Smelly Christians," was about the aroma of life that Christians exude. Andy, her husband, had seen my comment on one of her blog entries and commented to me about it. "Stink on!" he said with his wry smile. We continued to talk about the fragrance of life (and one of the favorite comments among One28-ers is "Stink!") I said to him how it's definitely a stink of death to those who are perishing...which reminds me of the picture that comes to mind with that verse.
I think of a lily. My mother-in-law used to buy us an Easter lily every Easter, and my allergic response would go through the roof. The smell of it was very sweet, especially when the flower was new; I'm not sure which was more overwhelming, the allergy or the perfume. I often put them outside so I wouldn't have to deal with them. But when that flower got old, that over-sweetness turned rank, and who could stand that? It did have an obnoxious death to it.
Our fragrance of life should be sweet. Maybe so sweet that it's hard to tolerate? I don't know about that. But I know that the same fragrance that other Christians would appreciate are the same things that bring hostilities from unbelievers or drive them away. It reminds them of their mortality, of how they know they don't belong to God and they are perplexed as to whether they want to know Him, and they are convicted of their sinfulness. Probably anyone who remembers becoming a Christian also remembers that feeling from beforehand, when Christians were around. It's like being near an old, dying lily.
Later tonight, Barbara, one of the students, was talking with me about it, about the smell of other Christians--and we were discussing how when we're in a crowd of Christians, it's like being in a rose garden--in the middle, after a while, you can't even smell the perfume because it's all around you. But if you're in China among all unbelievers, in all your loneliness for fellowship you might be able to "smell" a Christian a mile off, like you would a solitary rose.
I never thought of myself as a word-picture's kind of fun when it comes along.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Overprotective to a Fault?

Today I was out on the deck at the back of our house and saw 3 neighbor boys, in about 4th and 5th grades, playing air-soft gun games in the park behind us. What bothered me was that there were a couple of boys about 14 years old also, playing them also, who I believe just came in through the park and joined them. It's the second time I saw them there and I don't ever see them in our neighborhood.
The thing that really got my attention was that they were all urging one of the younger boys to leave our neighbors' back yard and go out into the park to play their games, and he didn't want to go. They wouldn't let him remain, but started ridiculing him.
I believe I have something of a reputation for being a bit over-protective of my kids. My belief is that if I err on the side of over-protective, I'll make less mistakes than if I don't protect them enough, and then my kids might not be the subject of a news story. It's hard to know exactly how much is the right amount--unless you know enough about the kids in the neighborhood where they play. On our street, most of the kids' parents see them for dinner time and that's about it. Some of the kids I think I know a little better than their parents do, just because they don't have to conform to parental standards until the parents are there to watch, and I see them in their less guarded moments. It can be sobering.

Anyway, protective me got moving and went three doors up to notify the father of the boy who didn't want to go into the park. He was also concerned and went and brought his son home, who I believe was relieved. The strange thing was that even though these neighbor boys are constantly together, the father didn't even know where the other family lived, 4 doors away from him. His son has actually gone camping with the other family, and both families have lived here at least 3 years.
As it was getting dark, and the remaining 2 neighbor boys were still out there with the older boys, I thought maybe my next-door neighbors didn't know what was going on in the back. I went over just to make sure that they were aware of the situation. The mother is usually polite, but today, though she didn't say anything specifically hostile, I could tell that she was insulted that I could imply that they weren't keeping a close enough eye on their kids. She said that her husband was in the back (he wasn't; he was up the street); and that one of the boys was the other neighbor's brother--he wasn't--we didn't recognize him; the boy wouldn't have been so hesitant to go into the park; his brother wouldn't have been so unkind as these boys were; and the father wouldn't have so gladly dragged his son home.
I don't know. I think I'll stay my over-protective self, at least with my own kids. I have to figure out the boundaries a little better with one set of neighbors though. Maybe I live in the past, a time gone by, when people wanted to know where their kids were and with whom; maybe I'm just dense and my kids need more freedom to associate with the world unhindered, as it seems so many do. The way I see things, though, I don't think I'm ready to buy that yet.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Are You One of a Kind, Too?

Yesterday I posted about Hamburger Helper and how I prefer to cook...but I don't mean to tread on toes! I realize everyone has their different way about them, some better ways than others and none of us has a monopoly on the good ones (and, praise God, nor the bad ones!). I do have a knack probably for saying things that do step on toes--so sorry if they're yours! It's okay if you like serving H.H. every night of the week. I don't care!
It got me to thinking about all the ways that God made us unique, and how living where we do and in the time we occupy multiplies the ways we can express our uniqueness. One of my favorite sayings is "Yep, you're unique, just like the rest of us." It's one thing we do all have in common! There are many things about myself that I'm sure are in the one-or-two percentile of people; not all of them would be considered very favorable and being so rare, none would be considered normal. These are some ways I'm definitely on the fringe: I don't wear makeup, as most women do; I homeschool (and I don't mean cyberschool); I don't have pierced ears (well, I did pierce them at 18, but they were allergic to the earrings so I let them heal over instead); I don't like shrimp very well, and I hate crab and asparagus; I don't really care if I ever go to Hawaii, though I guess I'd take the opportunity if it were cast my way. I know there are probably lots more but I can't think of them and I'd probably bore or disgust you if I haven't already.
It shows the great creative power of God, that even from two parents He always makes their children quite unique, no matter how many they have. Even twins will have different fingerprints, if that is all. Usually they have different quirks and spots, too.
My oldest sister Vicki is blonde, thin and nervous; Donald is fit, rugged, crude, witty and boisterous; Allyson is environmental and analytical; Mark made his way through years of college to be a professor, likes to fidget, has asthma, and is balding; then my little brother Greg is crude and likes cigars. In these ways they all differ from me, I think. I haven't tried a cigar since I was three, and I don't think my tastes have changed.
Wouldn't it be interesting to know the ways that we differ, and the ways people we know differ; what makes them most unique? We could have trivia games about the people at church if we were armed with such knowledge--or maybe too much of a gossip fest...I guess the risk could hinder its implementation. It does make getting to know people interesting, especially if you have a high tolerance for quirks.
A gift for appreciating our better quirks would make loving one another easier. There's some saying somewhere about how easy a time I'd have loving people on another shore; the difficulty's the guy next door. Yeah. Can I love my neighbor in spite of the 50 or so air-soft pellets that land in our driveway and clog our drain, and in spite of the dogs that mess our yard, and in spite of his driving 30 mph into our cul-de-sac to get to the end of it, and...yeah. I guess I'd better be able to. Some of those quirks might be better than some of mine.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Joy and Hamburger Helper

Today Pastor Sean spoke about Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, and the joy one can find in work, when one lives to please God, versus the futility that unbelievers find in their work. He pointed out that it has nothing to do with the type of work, or whether it is difficult or frustrating, or whether one is able to even finish it. Last week covered some of the same topic, during which, by way of example, cooking with home-grown, home-butchered, home-combined ingredients on a wood fired stove in Bible times was more work than today when a cook takes a box with a bag of noodles, a bag of seasonings, and a bag of sauce mix and cooks it on their super-duper electric stove--and yet both can be joyful or joyless depending upon a person's point of view.
This hit a nerve. Pastor Sean was talking to me again; I didn't know he knew my story about Hamburger Helper and the frustration I find in it. You would think that if anything I would be delighted by its convenience, but I am not. I like to cook from scratch (though I don't home-grow yet; I will grow some fruit and vegetables this summer if God is willing, but I doubt that I will ever grow animals for food and/or butcher them), and I don't really relish the idea of sitting down to Hamburger Helper. It's helpful, I'll admit, to have it when I'm unexpectedly kept out for the day and have to make dinner in 20 minutes.
Here's the typical scenario that I find: I might make 40 different dinners in pretty regular succession from scratch at our house, and I enjoy doing that. The process of thinking up a meal that can be made from ingredients we have on hand, finding a recipe for it and adapting it to our tastes and ingredients or to make it healthier; then browning the meat, peeling and chopping the vegetables, making the sauce, cooking the noodles or rice, and bringing everything to be done at the same time and before people are hungry enough to eat my arm...I enjoy the challenge of it. So I make the 40 dinners and don't generally hear any comment from my dear husband in appreciation. I'm sure he appreciates it and means to cast no slur on the meal; however, it doesn't occur to him to say so. But the night I make Hamburger Helper, that stuffer of stomachs necessitated by a stressed schedule, well that night, I invariably get a comment. My husband loves that stuff! I think it brings him back to his childhood when his mother made it. She was a working mom, and back then Hamburger Helper mixes were a novelty dream for the working woman, as for some they are still.
Yes, I think I get joy in the process of the usual making dinner. I'm glad that my husband's comments aren't what I live for, though I like to please him and feed all the family nutritiously. I often thought it would make sense to give up and make Hamburger Helper every night, but I can't picture it happening. Now I think I might understand why God built joy into the other form of cooking. Though I know not everyone looks at it that way, I like to think He sees the value in the variety and the process as well.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What would you do?

Recently I did a blog on the subject of the Bible verse Matthew 25:40, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." I found some good examples of challenging ways to apply that verse tonight.
Tonight on Prime Time, they did some experiments with human behavior. First they had actors portray 4 boys bullying another in a park to check out the reactions of passers-by. Then they had the actors dress in gang-type clothing and try it out again. First of all, they found that very few people would intervene; they also found that those who did tended to be women. They also found something that surprised them, that when someone intervened when the kids were in gang clothes, they gathered a lot more support from others than when the kids were dressed like any others.
Again they tried an experiment, of two couples having separate fights in separate places, also to check the reactions of passers-by; the husband actors were verbally abusing their wives. One couple was black, one was white. Those few who intervened in defense of the wives reacted differently for the black couple than for the white. In talking to the black man, they'd tell him just to take it somewhere else--even a black woman told him that; the white people didn't receive that response. In talking to the white man, they got in between the man and the woman, whereas with the black couple they didn't. After a lot of filming and finding rather unsatisfactory results, finally with the black couple a white woman did come and stand by the black woman and spoke directly to the man, taking off her sunglasses and telling him she wasn't leaving until he did, and finally escorting the woman away from him. Sometimes people used cell phones to call 911, which I thought was a safe-yet-helpful way to go.
The third experiment was with actors driving taxi cabs, starting out each passenger's ride with a number of racist comments and seeing how much the passengers would agree and how much they would speak up in disagreement against the cab driver. In all their two days, there was very little vocal opposition and no one asked to be let out of the cab. In fact, in one of the most ironic scenarios, a woman who'd spoken out in agreement with the driver turned out to be on the "diversity" committee in her workplace.
The show was called, "What Would You Do?" And the question is valid. How much will we venture to speak for what is right? Can we apply Matthew 25:40 to those situations? I think it's a good idea to rehearse the idea of speaking out--of coming to the defense of the helpless--of not falling into sin and hatred because someone else would lead us there, of not showing love to those for whom Jesus came to earth and died.
Another related reminder I had earlier today was while taking a CPR class from Tim Frye during what would normally be our usual WOW (Women of the Word) Bible study time. We noted the possibility of giving mouth-to-mouth to a stranger, maybe to a person exhibiting some possibility of infectious much would we do if they needed our help, our taking a risk to save their lives? Will we passively let them go to hell, without doing all we can to give them the chance to respond to the gospel? What things can we do that would increase our likelihood of responding well on their behalf? I have a keyring-attached little gadget for putting over the mouth of such a person, and I asked whether they're realistic to use. I was glad to hear him say they are, though they're somewhat cumbersome. However, if it makes me less likely to hesitate, it's worth pulling out to use. For that matter, Tim said that transmission of HIV isn't often traced to CPR. That's good to know too.
I think if I saw someone needing CPR and didn't do what I could in that situation, I'd be haunted by that Bible verse; I'd be haunted by what I would wish I'd done, and the idea regarding CPR that someone I might have saved from death might have gone to hell. I think the question, "What would you do?" is a good one for everyone to ask themselves, before such a challenging situation presents itself.

A Good Name...

Tonight I was reading a blog that had to do with naming a baby and which had 118 comments--I guess naming a baby is something that is sure to get a lot of input from everywhere! It brings me back to when we were naming Tim. (Katie reminds me, "I came up with it." Bravo!) We pondered the possibility of Peter and Roger, but with the name "Abbott" we wouldn't have the desired effect. (Try them out for a laugh!)
Naming Katie, my husband Gary and I (now she can't claim credit; except she, laughing, says, "It was telepathic!") pondered various names and he didn't like any that I suggested--until I mentioned Katie. "Yeah!" he responded, enthusiastically--which made me wonder what mark some Katie had made in his life to bring such a response. :O) Still don't know, but I like it well enough.
A name is such an important lifelong handle to hang on a person. It can be a trial or a blessing, an implication of character. If it is hard to spell or pronounce it can be an annoyance. I thought "Katherine" or "Katie" would be straightforward and no one would ever need to ask how to spell it. I was wrong! There are many variations and people tend to Cadee-ize it to some extent or another. Whatever.
One of the commenters on that blog said one of their rules was to keep the name a secret until the baby was born. I think that's a good idea; then you don't provoke 118 advisors before the baby's even born.
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,Favor is better than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Reflection on Modification

I have discovered a new tool in behavior modification. Well, it's actually an old tool and I've known of its existence many years now--it's a Bible verse--but I've never meditated on it in my life so much until lately. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." Reading that verse always causes me to reflect and evaluate a bit over life just past, in terms of how I've treated others, but I think pulling it out and meditating on it is of great benefit.
It in fact reminds me of a story I remember reading a long time ago (I don't remember any colorful details, anything but the main gist) about a teacher who had students bring pictures or drawings of people they didn't like, and they could throw darts at them. The teacher set up the pictures and they made their attacks with gusto. Then the teacher peeled back the pictures and behind each picture, chock full of holes, was an artist's rendition of Jesus' face--likewise mangled.
This verse illustrates that it's not a question of what we would do, how we would behave, if Jesus were physically in the room or because He is always there spiritually, but that what we do to, for, or about anyone, we are doing to, for and about Him--whether positive or negative. As this verse would indicate, we as Christians represent Christ as we respond to those around us, and Christians around us represent Christ to us in how they receive, or are impacted by, our response.
Well, it's amazing how this one verse, applied to any particular interpersonal relationship, convicts of sin, encourages proper attitude, and requires excellence. I wish I could always remember to apply it to my every thought and word to or about any person that I have met. How it would improve my attitude many times over! And I could be happier to think Jesus would not be bearing the sorrow over my sin, or over any pain I caused another. When we persecute or sin against others, we cause Him pain--when He introduced Himself to Saul in Acts 26:14, referring to Saul's attacks on Christians, Jesus said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" The persecution was a personal attack on Him, because it belonged to His own body of believers.
If there's any verse that brings vivid color to loving your neighbor as you love yourself (the second greatest commandment, Matthew 22:39), for me, and I should recite it every morning, noon and night, it is "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." The Christian should be a bright, visible, appealing applicator of this verse in every relationship.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Traumatic Night in a Convent

When I was three, I had one very bad experience that I never came to understand until I was grown. We had a friend who was a nun, Sister Francella. (My dad had met her in a German class.) One night my sisters and I spent the night at her convent. I didn't know why we were there, and no one explained it to me. All I remember is being in this bedroom alone with my sisters, and crying my head off. I think I thought we were being left for adoption. I had the worst headache I remember ever having, and they gave me some of that pink chewable aspirin to solve that. But no one told me why we were there.
I know the experience from the outside, of having a three-year-old scream her head off and not being able to solve it. But I also remember that from the inside! Finally when I was grown, I asked my Mom why we'd been there. She immediately remembered it and said we were moving, and it made it easier to have us spend the night there. Of course, that makes sense. One thing would have solved the whole problem--they could have just told me they'd come back the next morning and get me.
It bears on my present-day life, because I have done a lot of helping in the church nursery. (I just made the conscious connection about this today.) I don't mind the matter of little kids who are used to being there, or who need to get used to being there, screaming their heads off, because it has a considerable purpose. Parents need to go to church. For that reason a nursery is a good thing and screaming may be a necessary thing to endure.
A few times I watched babies, however, whose parents were going to a fundraising dinner. The babies weren't regulars in the nursery, and didn't know why they were there; they didn't know us; and I was of the opinion (I'm told by a friend that I'm opinionated, so I guess there you go) they were better off at least in the comfort of their own homes with a babysitter rather than in this unfamiliar environment. They were traumatized, they made it clear--and it was no easy thing dealing with so many screaming, unhappy and confused little ones at the same time.
So the next time I was asked to babysit for this annual fundraiser, I declined, even at the urging of the very nice lady who asked me; I felt strongly that it would be wrong, knowing I would be instrumental in subjecting those babies to that again. I thought about it later and examined in my mind whether I was unreasonable. In my own mind I wasn't. But it made me feel better today to connect the nursery situation with that overnighter in the convent so many years ago--and I'm truly convinced they were connected.
It is clear in the Bible that the traumas we experience (and to me at 3 that was a trauma, trivial as it may seem) bring us to better consider the sufferings of others. We are put through those things to better understand another's plight, to empathize, and to comfort those in trouble or sorrow. Maybe others wouldn't connect those two situations but it seems very logical to me. (Not that I'm one of those people who gets into memories and traumas and analyzing these things much in a "psychological" sort of way, but I do think my experience at 3 affected my response at 45.) 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort."
Actually I have a funny footnote about that nun. She came over one time for Thanksgiving. I don't know in what context I mentioned it at the time, but our family had always called the turkey's tail the "Pope's nose." I'd never thought twice about what that signified, it was just a name. But I used the term and Sister Francella let out a hearty laugh--much to my confusion and my mother's relief.