Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pratt's Rules

There was recently an award show on MTV at which actor Chris Pratt received a Generation Award. I'm not even sure what that is, but he was impressed by it, and took advantage of the opportunity to address the audience with a short list of rules for living. I have seen fit to omit a couple of them because one was about giving medication to a pet and the other about having to use someone else's bathroom and avoiding embarrassment. This was his attempt to keep things light. The rest of the list, however, is fairly solid stuff. 
No. 1: Breathe. If you don’t, you will suffocate.
No. 2: You have a soul. Be careful with it.
No. 3: Don’t be a turd. If you are strong, be a protector. If you are smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons, so do not wield them against the weak. That makes you a bully. Be bigger than than. 
No. 6: God is real. God loves you, God wants the best for you. Believe that.
No. 8: Learn to pray. It’s easy, and it is so good for your soul.
No. 9. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are---you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift, and like the freedom that we enjoy in this country that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that. Don’t take that for granted.
I'm glad he took this opportunity to address the age group who listens or watches MTV and show them what a star and father can say and believe. And put into practice. No profanity addressed to the President or anyone else, just some good advice for them to follow!

Shades of Justin

Yesterday at Bible study, the pastor's son, Judah, who is a brilliant three years old, sat in. Like a boy his age he struggles with using his indoor voice, or mastering the art of whispering. He peeked out the blinds and saw the preschool students out playing on the equipment in the yard. He asked his mama why his friends were at school but he wasn't. Wow, tough question! How did mama answer him? I don't know, but sure would like to have heard the response.

When Justin was this age, he would plan his birthday celebration months in advance. He'd choose the theme and all that stuff. Timmy did the same thing when he was turning 5, saying he wanted to have a pajama party for his theme. I wasn't invited because I wore a night gown rather than pjs!  Anyway, Justin talked at length about his birthday party coming up 8 months away. Every year! 

Yesterday, Judah told us all what type of cakes he wanted for his next three birthdays. One year it was a purple shark cake. I could see the cake decorators in the room pondering that, having a few years to get such a cake perfected. How funny this is for a kid to think so far down the road, just like Justin did. I see so much of him and his behaviors in Judah, and it's fun to watch. Judah has a command of the language but his maturity does not always match his seemed age. Sometimes he acts just like a three year old, and other times he sounds just like Justin. How fun!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

My humdrum life

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of sitting through the Town Council meeting, getting to see my newly elected friend, Roland, hard at work.  Unfortunately I was in WI on the night he was sworn in, as I would have loved to be there for that big event. I've been hearing about all his big ideas for our town for months now and am excited with and for him to see things start rolling. However, at the meeting, several topics were brought up about which I had no knowledge or information, and I was quite curious.

Roland had asked me to consider serving on some boards or committees for him and I respectfully declined the opportunity. One reason for my decision is that I have enough stuff to do already between various organizations in which I'm involved. And, due to the Sunshine Law in FL, anytime he and I would be together, our conversation would be limited to food and the weather. That would never suit the two of us and he appreciated my answer. 

So, on a lazy and overcast day like this one we had today, I decided to read the Minutes of the previous meeting to see what the dust up was about that night. Not only could I read the Minutes, I could also listen to the actual proceedings. Cool beans!  I got to hear Roland being sworn in, as Maureen held the family Bible for him. I'd have wept, that's for sure! And then I was able to hear the assignment of various Chairmanships to the Council members as well as the appointment/selection of Mayor and Vice-Mayor.  Okay, that's where things got interesting. The sole female on the dais commented later in the meeting that she felt unduly overlooked for the role of Vice-Mayor due to her gender. Wow! How can you prove or deny such a charge? This vote sort of caught our newly elected official off guard, being the new guy, and he voted with the majority. He had no axe to grind with any of them and walked into a hornet's nest.

During the time when the public can address the Council, several spoke regarding this charge, some insisting offenders step down from their role, and so on. That was a bit over the top and made for much drama in the meeting. This was too bad since the new guy was all prepared to pursue his goals, etc. At least he was able to present all that at last night's meeting, and was teased for violating their anti-filibuster rules! That guy can talk! 

I did have to chuckle at myself for sitting for hours at my desk and listening to such proceedings, just to get myself up to speed. Talk about a humdrum life! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Using their wings

Recently I was talking about driving with a friend from church. She was delighted and scared out of her tree to have her 16 year old son become a licensed driver. Her concerns were not necessarily about his skill and common sense, but that of others out on the roads. I believe this is true for all of us!

The conversation brought back memories of when Justin was old enough to drive. When he was of age, I let him take a turn behind the wheel and pull the car into the garage. Prior to that day he'd been gung ho about learning to drive. Once he had his instruction on how to navigate into the garage from the driveway---avoid the water heater, refrigerator, and central vacuum cleaner and so on---he pulled the car into place. And that was it! He was done, no more interest in learning to drive. 

For the rest of his high school years I didn't mind being his driver, or taking my turn with the car pool, picking up kids or dropping them off. But, when it came time for him to go to UNF, a full 30 minutes away, that trip got old quickly. One day I actually drove out there to find that he'd gotten a ride home with a friend. He 'thought' I heard him making the arrangements but I had not. His father was going to give him a car when he got his license which was good. 

I tried to teach Justin to drive, taking him on quiet roads and practicing in the cemetery and parking lots. One day, driving down a road which is technically only one and a half lanes wide, I had to urge him to hang a bit to the left to avoid mailboxes and trees. I was informed that the manual said to stay to the right. I asked him if the manual said anything about hitting trees or mailboxes...

When we changed drivers to meet friends for lunch, he was quite upset with me, after I said something about how well the outing went. He said I was critical and a few other things. Wow! That was the first and only time I took the Lord's name in vain, and told him I was so upset with him, since I thought he did well, that I was going to take him home instead to lunch!  When I related this story to my friend, Carol, I was still quite upset about the incident with the Lord's name and the anger.  She said something so wise to me: "Kim, you cannot teach him to drive..." Nope, and neither could anyone else either. Friends and church family were rebuffed, no no no to their offers.  

At last, I hired a driver's ed school to teach him how to drive, hoping they'd coddle him like I did. Nope, they took him out on the freeway right from leaving home. He did well, passed his test using our friend's smaller car and became a licensed driver. No more did he need me to take him everywhere nor did he need to accompany me wherever I was going. Justin had wings, a brand new car, and places to go!  I had so wanted him to have wings, and now I was upset because he was using them. Parents do that---give them wings and then get upset when they fly away. I'm so glad he is now often my personal driver, dropping me off at the door when distance is an issue, running to the store for needed items, and getting himself to work and back.  I'm so glad his wings bring him right here every night to this lovely nest we share! 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sharing my books

When I was enroute to WI last November, sitting on the plane in Atlanta, I got an email message from one of our newer members, Kathy. She wrote brieftly: "On the way to OPMC. Baby Lucas was found blue and unresponsive. No more information. Prayers please." Wow! Lucas was her infant grandson, born in August just after our pastor's son was born. Quickly I typed out a prayer chain prayer and sent it off before it was time for our flight to leave. After I'd hit SEND, I looked and another email had arrived from Kathy saying "Lucas is with Jesus." I gasped, and quickly wrote to those same folks that Lucas had passed away. And I wept, apologizing to the man next to me. I explained what happened and he was most sympathetic. He got it. 

Lucas' parents are not members of our church but his brother is in our preschool. Kathy came to our church through her grands being in our preschool. She started out by attending chapel with the kids twice a month and liking what she heard. A life-long Baptist, she took classes and converted to Lutheranism. She even wore a white gown for her confirmation day, something she brought from home. That was the only time I'd seen that done in our church body. It was so special to her to join us. 

I have never heard the official cause of death, am guessing that it was SIDS. Because the young family had no other church affiliation, our pastor did a funeral service for Lucas at the funeral home. Several of our members attended which was helpful for Kathy and for Pastor. 

The next day I called Pastor to see how he was doing and he said he was okay, but that one was a tough one, on the list of hardest things to do in the ministry. Early in his time here with us I gave him one of Timmy's funeral service folders to use as a reference, and I hoped he never needed it. Since this situation was quite different than Timmy's, he really didn't need to do much more than what was in the hymnal. I told him how I wished to have been there for Kathy and he assured me that she will need our help long after the service. Yes, I surely do know that!

A couple days ago I was going through some of my books on the shelf near my desk and chose several to pass along to Kathy. I am sad to report that many went without being read though I am so grateful for the sentiment with which they were given to us/me. Some have messages written inside the covers which made me feel funny about giving away, but did so anyway. Some of the books about loss and grieving were from our church publishing house and others were from secular sources. I boxed them up and took them along to church to share with Kathy and her family. She said she was glad to have them and her family was making their way through some of them, together. 

Now there are empty spaces on my shelves and Kathy's family is benefited by the comforts in the books. Maybe a year ago, if someone suggested I get rid of those books, I'd have been aghast at the idea. They were special to me! Even if I hadn't read them, they were a gift to me/us to help us through our loss. The blessing of having a church family around to offer needed comfort makes a huge difference in dealing with our loss. I've managed without opening even one book for these many years, and now they are being devoured by someone else's family who needs the comfort. That makes me glad and allows me to offer my support even in that small way. 

A few times since Lucas died, their family has joined Kathy in church, even her husband! It would be wonderful to have them become more regular and even to become members some day. I know that would bring Kathy much joy and added comfort after this loss to their family. In the meanwhile, they can read my books and perhaps find some comfort in the Word and words. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

How sad is this?

I recently spent some time with a lady who has a dark storm cloud over her head. When a person talks with her, they automatically are put on defense. Here is a portion of our conversation:

Me: Hey, I was alongside of you on Wells Road today.
She: You were? When? 
Me: We were both waiting for the train but I was further back from you then. Later I was alongside but didn't get your attention.
She: I just hate those people who go 35 miles an hour in a 45 zone!
Me: I wasn't in that big of a hurry, hope I wasn't holding anyone up
She: You know how it is on that road
Me: I stopped at Chick-Fil-A to get a free bowl of soup. Justin gave me a card to use for it
She: I can't eat this late at night, I'd have indigestion
(A little one let loose with a shriek as his family tried to quiet him)
She: That kid needs a pop in the mouth!
Me: Yes, that will certainly quiet him...
She: Well, did your parents let you do that? 
Me: I don't remember, that was a long time ago (trying to lighten the mood) 
She: You know who else I haven't seen in a while? Mary.
Me: I saw her at a funeral here a couple months back
She: I know she's working as a food demonstrator in a store
Me: I'll have to reach out to her and encourage her to come. I'm friends with her on Facebook and she checks in on my postings now and again.
She: I am NOT involved with any social media AT ALL
Me: Well, I am so I can reach out to Mary to see how she's doing and encourage her.
She: Well, (dangling conversation)

Don't we all know someone who is like this, someone who struggles to see even a little bit of brightness in life? In conversation, jumping from subject to subject to find a cause for which to be alarmed, usually from the news. Militant attitude about most everything instead of weighing and measuring things; rather than calmly discussing pros and cons...and so on. Wow, it really leaves a bad feeling after spending time in that realm of upset. Not good for a person's spirit, to hear it, or to have to live in that fashion. There is nothing I can do to change this lady, as long as I've known her, it's been this way. I wonder if she'd come to our Monday Bible study...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Deep Bible study

Earlier this year we began a study on Mondays called "Christians In Conflict". This is a timely subject as there is rarely a shortage of conflict in our little congregation. This class will hopefully get some of us on the road to being more helpful in healing the rifts and schisms, personal disagreements humans seem to attract. The study is based on a book "A Heart at Peace" which is a greatly appealing subject. 

Over the holidays I was looking at the website of another church and saw that this subject was being covered in a ladies Bible study, a joint study with another congregation. I brought it to my pastor's attention and he made the executive decision (giving us three choices but putting his thumb on the scale for this subject) to use this study. I was thinking my heart was pretty much at peace---it was until we got into this class! Whew, it is powerful and makes a person really think deeply about our interactions with folks.

We are not progressing quickly, which is good, because there is much to discuss, real life scenarios about which to ask questions (abusive spouses, etc.). We got through Part One of the study, talking about the 4 Stages of Conflict, and ending with the reminder to not allow the sun to go down on our conflict, from Ephesians. Oh, so easily said, more difficultly done! 

The next chapter brought to the forefront the topic of envy and how pervasive it is in our society, the root of many of our conflicts. This seems to be exacerbated by the use of social media communications. Everything becomes a contest, or against something to measure ourselves.  It's so interesting to observe and most difficult to not participate in the game of measuring oneself against another. 

Pastor said if he could he would make this study mandatory for the congregation. Might even introduce this in his pre-martial and post-martial counseling. It might require some editing to allow it to flow more quickly. In the meanwhile, we dig deeply into what makes ourselves tick, and what ticks others off!