Last minute? Not this time!

Tonight my husband and I attend a dinner for graduates of The United States Military Academy (West Point). He has worked on this dinner very hard….too, too, hard. The problem has been that younger graduates (we finally figured out) did not have the training in how to set up a formal dinner. Having done this during our years in the military and also since then we are well versed in how complicated it is.

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For this kind of dinner there are seating charts, table numbers, reservations, meal choices and many other things. The younger grads think that you can just call the day before and change table seating or add extra guests. Obviously they have never dealt with hotels, country clubs etc and don’t understand deadlines.

In spite of all the confusion I’m sure it will all work out but afterward there will be an extensive after-action report and some teaching (from me) about how things are managed. Not many things are done like this any more. The world is more casual and most people have never had to do it. I guess if you work at the White House you get it. They will too after this.

The radical

The church has very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him as a fitting household pet for pale curate and pious old ladies. Dorothy Sayers

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Often our image of Jesus is the sweet man surrounded by a group of children. The image is not wrong. Jesus did do that but we can’t leave it there. Jesus was radical. He flouted the mores of his day and defied the ruling hierarchy. He loved so deeply that he was willing to give his life. He was not afraid to heal lepers and eat with tax collectors. We are called to fight against prejudice and injustice just as he did.

Can we help?

In life, we often want to help someone who doesn’t want help. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes trying to help is the wrong thing to do. But sometimes they genuinely need help and there are many reasons why they might refuse.

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Pride can frequently get in the way of accepting help. Many of us were raised to believe that taking help obligates us to return the favor to the person who helped.  Over the time that I have lived I have become a big proponent of “paying it forward.” We don’t have to be beholding to the specific person but we are called to help someone else in the future. However,we should never feel obligated but take the opportunities when they present themselves..

I know for sure that I can get the bit between my teeth and be determined to finish something myself. I can push away anyone who really wants to lighten the load. I want to “do it myself” like a three year old.

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When people turn us away from helping it is difficult to know when is the right time to push and when we should just back away. I really can’t guess myself. It is an individual determination. I wish I had some crystal ball but I don’t. I do know that there are times that I have had to back away or lose any chance to remain a friend or help later.

Live your beliefs

A number of years ago my husband and I had a house that we rented. Some people moved in and at first it was perfect. They paid rent on time and the house (from the outside) looked good.

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As time went on the husband told us that his wife was sick and they would be late with the rent. This went on with them occasionally paying something on the rent. My husband and I felt sorry for them to be going through such a tough time.

Then it got to where they were paying no rent but continued to tell us their many problems. We were worried but we were too kind to put them out. Two of their grown sons came and went along with other relatives. Now we were more worried. Then one day they came and told us they were moving. This actually was a relief. They left and we went into the house. Things were damaged everywhere. It took much money and lots of work on our part to fix the house up to rent again. We later learned that the sons were selling drugs from the house.

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Now we could haunt ourselves with how stupid we were to let this happen. And you are right…we shouldn’t. But here’s the thing…we consider ourselves to be good people….worthy of being called Christian and that is how we live. We wouldn’t let that happen again but they were the bad people not us.

I know that they left saying how dumb we were but being told of the wife’s illness ( and she really was sick) we lived out our commitment to be compassionate. It gives us a twinge once in a while but we lived what we believe.

Memories and emotions

Where families are involved life can treacherous. Sometimes the most innocent remark can be twisted into a major conflict. I suspect this is because there is history and much emotion involved. Often the negative reaction has nothing to do with what is going on at the moment. It is rooted somewhere in the past where the emotions are stuck.

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I have never forgotten that our emotions are tied to so many things. A piece of music from our past can have us experiencing the emotions we felt at the time. These past connections can emerge at the worst moments and skew our perception of the current experience.

Many of us have been taken straight back to our past feelings by a song, a scent, a person, or a scene. We don’t realize what is happening and our responses are not appropriate to the moment. This is doubly true for those we spent a lot of time with growing up. We are creations of our environment as well as our genes.

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It takes real strength to look inside and connect with the past so that we can disconnect ourselves from it. Most of us don’t want to relive the negative things that formed out emotional responses. It make take talking with a counselor to root out those emotions and at least understand them. Hopefully doing so will allow us to reconnect with those we have turned away from. Maybe not. Some we may not want to but there can be some that can heal connections that will change our hearts.

Looking at acceptance

Acceptance. A mighty word. Merriman Webster says:

1: the quality or state of being accepted or acceptableHis theories have gained widespread acceptance.
2: the act of accepting something or someone : the fact of being accepted : APPROVAL

The two perspectives listed here show two sides of this word. One is the act of us being accepted by someone else. The other is from our perspective. Our acceptance of someone else or something else. Both of these are important.

How many times have we wanted to be accepted by other people. How many times have we wanted to belong to a group, join a club, or some other organization? We worry about ourselves. Will we meet the standards they want? Are we good enough? We may experience a feeling of angst while waiting for an answer. Sometimes we are too concerned with what others think. We don’t think well enough of ourselves. It can cause us to be afraid to try things. We may not think that we are good enough. We can have the sense of being an outcast or that we don’t belong.

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The other thing is having the courage and wisdom to accept the things that happen to us in life. Acceptance can bring us to a place of peace and calm. Knowing that there are some things we cannot change is an important fact of life.

The other side of the coin is our acceptance of others. How many of us have been in a group that rejected other people. My youngest child while in high school was asked to join a prestigious club. She discovered that her best friend was not also asked to join. I was so proud of her when she turned down that invitation. Her concern was for her friend and the judgment of others meant nothing.

admirableIt is so easy for us to reject others without any knowledge about them. We too often take outward appearances and don’t look deep enough. We may find that someone who we deemed unacceptable is actually one of the best people we know. It is so easy to pass by the homeless person on the street. We make assumptions about their life, their intelligence and their perspective. When I worked for the church there was a man who was homeless. After having several conversations with him I discovered that he was quite brilliant and homelessness was not the norm for him. It helped to show me that judgment is not always based on reality.

When we think about the word acceptance we have to look at both sides. We have to remember the times that we were not accepted and also the times that we rejected someone else. Be careful with the choices that you make about other people and understand the mistakes others can make about you.

Burned books

Recently a college near us ran into some controversy. A novelist came to read a selection from her recent book and students protested and burned copies of the book.

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The book is:

The novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, is by Jennine Capó Crucet, ​an English professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who came to the Statesboro, Ga., campus last Wednesday to read “Imagine Me Here, or How I Became a Professor,” an essay included in the novel, according to a statement from Crucet.

Make Your Home Among Strangers was selected among a list of recommended readings for freshmen as part of Georgia Southern’s first-year experience program. It is the story of a first-generation American born to Cuban immigrant parents who is accepted into an elite university and is rejected by her family as well as the white students at the college.

Students were offended  by some of her statements about white privilege and staged the protest. The school responded with statements.

Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing John Lester wrote in an email. Book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values, Lester told USA Today. But the university does uphold students’ rights to assert their freedom of expression, he said.

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I cannot disagree with the students right to protest. However, I was a young child about 5 years old at the end of WWII. I am sure I didn’t remember much then but as I grew older and understood Hitler’s policies I was appalled by the burning of books. The episode at the school triggered memories of burning books and banning books. This, for me, is a reminder of where things are headed when we are told what we can and cannot read.

These students were not around when books were burned to remove freedoms. They don’t have experience of thoughts being limited and controlled. I know that was not their intention but I am always anxious when I hear about books being burned.

 

Awareness

Mental health day is here and I hope that those who do not suffer from these problems will look with kindness, compassion and most of all acceptance on those who suffer. We have to continue to aid awareness and understanding. We will not remain silent but will continue to seek hope for a new future.

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God bless all those who suffer from mental health issues!

Things can go wrong

Today I went to do a mediation. It was the shortest one I have ever done. My suspicion is that this family has been at each other for years. I don’t think that will stop anytime soon.

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Families are so tricky. We usually know who our family members are and whether we like them or not. Some members we accept even though they may not be our cup of tea. Some of the trouble comes about because of money….. a consistent evil. Someone dies and the distribution of money and family things causes bad feeling. Members accuse each other of taking something that doesn’t belong to them or mishandling money to be distributed. No matter how close and loving a group seems they can fall apart over things left.

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I have decided that I will begin deciding who in my family will receive things that I expect could cause issues. I have begun asking my children what are the things that matter to them. Sometimes the answers can surprise you. Some people are more concerned about memories rather than intrinsic value. Having that information is helpful when making decisions.

The sad part is when things aren’t defined sufficiently families can end up with bad feelings and divisions forever. I don’t think my children are that way but you never know for sure.

There are things that have to be done before hand so that things don’t go downhill fast. I hope it is years before is slip off this mortal coil but just in case I am starting to make sure all goes as well as possible.

No labeling

I was reading an old journal of mine today and come across the statement “Labeling is easier than compassion.” I don’t know if this thought is mine or a quote so forgive me if I err.

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It is so easy to label people. It is also easy to make snap judgments about who they are. How many times have I met someone and “assumed” what strata of society they come from or their level of schooling or intelligence. How often I have been wrong.

My son, when a teen, worked at a golf course’s shop. A man came in browsing. He was dressed in somewhat crumpled clothing and sported a battered hat. Fortunately for him my son just took it in stride and sold the man the things he wanted. Later someone told him the mas was Sam Walton…the founder of Walmart. How easy it would have been to think the man didn’t have the money to buy anything.

Labels are “odious” (Madeleine L’Engle). We have not walked in the shoes of the person we are labeling. We don’t know what kind of life they have had. Someone who seems angry man have been abused as a child.

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Having compassion for those we meet is the way to start out. Even if we don’t know what is behind their behavior or mindset. We can’t go wrong in setting our own behavior to believe they deserve our compassion. Maybe we can change lives.