Assumptions Matter

Call the Midwife

Assumptions or beliefs form the foundation of what we think, and therefore what we do. Assumptions based on something firm, real, and lasting bring ultimate peace. Assume God is real, that He means exactly what He says, and amazing things happen.

Enter stage right, epic assumptions on a current TV show! Yes, PBS’s “Call the Midwife” sort of sneaks up on you and won’t let you go. One might wonder, how did a “savvy” viewing public get so caught off-guard? Maybe it’s the more or less off-putting name. Many still refuse to give it a chance. Even I skepticised with assumptions. A reality show about birthing babies, on PBS? 

But my assumptions were dead wrong. The program is neither a reality show nor about birthing babies. It’s a story about hope – written in the poignant journal of a young nurse, Jenny Lee. In her ink, transformed now on screen, we stare unwittingly close up, face to grimy face, in the poorest section of post-war London in the 1950s.

The central figures, a handful of Anglican nuns find daily strength in worship, prayers and contemplative songs. They live in the neighborhood in a combination convent and clinic. With one resident doctor, they dedicate their lives completely to the people they serve, souls they find precious simply because they live.

The nuns also house a small group of young nurse midwives in every stage (or non-stage) of spiritual interest. The nuns model for the younger women a love of humanity that defies understanding. How? Sacrifice, no judgement. The result? Heavy, exhausting days made lighter and shorter by that very love. These women assume their work not only important, but of cosmic proportion.

Now to be clear, in most episodes, babies do emerge from the wombs of their indigent mothers at the skillful urging of these “helpers.” The arrival of the midwife always brings hope, just as the arrival of the baby does. It’s as if each one rasps out in his first cry, “You can make it through another day. It will be tough, but I am here.” The assumption? Each new life is priceless.

Season Three continued the transient human drama with a love story of Jenny Lee. One episode impacted me on so many levels that I felt compelled to write about the irony of the story’s assumptions. Especially the irony of today’s society, how our assumptions changed with affluence and an entitlement mindset.

The episode begins with Jenny enjoying the attentions of a young man, Alec, who cherishes and respects her, including her dedication to midwifery. When he invites her to a weekend event out of town, she accepts, assuming he would reserve two rooms in their lodging.

To be sure, though, she pops in unannounced at his place of business. Not finding him there, she strikes up a conversation with his work associate who, in the twinkling of an eye, alters her assumption. He jokes about Alec “looking so forward” to their weekend away. Plants a seed of doubt about his intentions. When Alec walks into the room, sparks fly. She walks out.

Alec: You are making assumptions! (about my assumptions.)

Jenny: No, you are. (making assumptions about what I think is good and acceptable.)

Even though Jenny’s spiritual “jury” remained out, certain assumptions, rock solid under her feet, spoke to her of love. Such things as mutual respect, commitment, cherishing the “other” over self. From where did these assumptions come? In time maybe she would give credit where credit is due.

As for the outcome of the episode, you’ll just have to see it. But do yourself a favor and start at the beginning of Season One. Bask in the tender beauty these women build out of the rubble of poverty and heartbreak.

What do you think?

What assumptions (beliefs based on faith) have generally changed in our society over the past decades?

What about those of us who claim Christ’s name? Have we inwardly, secretly assumed He doesn’t notice us doing things our own way?

As for assumptions about sex, do you agree it used to be assumed more special? Back then, “normal” meant that Sex and Love form a “team” in marriage, though difficult and costly at times. It seems we’ve tossed the formidable “team” aside.

And who cares? For the shallow pleasure we condone today makes no assumptions at all.

Autumn Marriage- Natural vs. Purposeful

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Sitting at the kitchen table with my husband and a rotisserie chicken sandwich,  I shared my latest attempt at poetry. Not bad, he said. Over-the-moon I didn’t expect by any means – poetry is another language, after all… But then he surprised me by adding some sage comments. If I could just record this… But wanting to quote him is nothing new – he’s insightful, verbal, and wise. Dozens of conversations with him roll around in my head, and many surround this topic of aging. I really should start to record.

So, here’s the jist of what he said today.

We “over-55ers,” at some point go into a transition. The sex drive which used to draw us together was a natural thing. (“Doin’ a What Comes Naturally…” popped into my head… I squelched the urge to burst into song.)

But the natural fades. And if we decide to wait for the old drive to come back, thinking this must be a quirky stage we’re going through, we will likely be waiting a long time. Disappointed.

So the natural must become purposeful.

Then he mentioned those expensive little pills men use. Couples who say they don’t work have to remember: They supply blood where needed only upon arousal. So a man’s brain, having been jump-started on purpose, makes the pills work.

All this goes to show that “natural” is gone. Forever. But only in the area of sex! It seems that what comes naturally now is a myriad of routines. Hubby observed that our ruts grow deeper with age. So once out of the habit of making love more or less regularly, getting back into it must be purposeful – even disciplined.

Does this mean if we don’t quit making love, the desire won’t quit either? The answer would seem to be yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Love requires bending from routines or making different ones. It means getting out and having fun. (We just put four, yes, 4 days of all-day free fun on our calendar!) Yet bending is the very thing age, time, and difficulties attempt to take away. Emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and physically!

We have to resist the temptation to relax into autumn marriage like a pair of old, comfortable boots. We have to get out there and dance in them, risking uncomfortable blisters!

Or find a country lane to bike or stroll.

Do something purposeful.

Isn’t this the challenge of love in autumn?

Okay, I did add that last part about the boots. But the rest he did say. Yet if it weren’t for the twinkle in his eye, I might have thought he just liked the chicken sandwich.

Here’s the poem. It can be from you to him or him to you. Let me know in the comments what you think.

If You Love Me, Make Love to Me

 

Committed and faithful, that’s us, Babe.

You love me, I clearly see.

Yet something has faded between us.

If you love me, make love to me.

 

The passion we shared all those years ago…

Is it lost in mundane daily debris?

Why on opposite sides of the bed now?

If you love me, make love to me.

 

Distance no longer means safety.

Lovers hurt and disagree.

Do you still choose to choose US?

If you love me, make love to me.

 

What? Embrace the work of staying connected?

Of talking and talking ‘til almost three?

But look at the compensation, Babe!

If you love me, make love to me.

 

Would you meet me in the middle?

You know, we’re worth it, you and me.

Your warm touch is my treasure, Babe.

If you love me, make love to me.

by Joan Reid

Change Mad to Sad in a Fight

Normally I would greet my husband’s entrance into my tiny office with a smile. But the day I happened to be engaged in a lively phone gab, how dare he walk in and give me the “timeout” sign followed by a flat-handed cutting motion under his chin? I wasn’t ready to either get off the phone or take a break just yet. As my wide eyes and cocked head returned his glare, two people clearly saw each other cross the line of respect.

Turns out, after getting off the phone, his interruption was indeed trivial – no blood, no flood, no roof caving in – and therefore disrespectful to me. He, on the other hand, felt sidelined like a second-rate citizen, not worthy of common respect. The chill in the air told me we weren’t done here. Not at all. Something else, something much bigger was trying to enter the arena.

Power struggle.

Again. Daily irritations, emotional distance, set up an unsteadiness inside. In the past, my fear that he’d shut down usually caused an irrational panic in me, and a greater disconnect. After the initial storm, we wouldn’t feel close, just in a truce-like lull. And inside I would die again, becoming a little more numb.

In many Autumn marriages, this rut is slowly dug through years of unresolved conflict. No wonder so many emotionally check out. We may fight less; but we engage less, too. You can’t fight if you don’t disagree out in the open. Anger throws up dust. Nothing seems clear anymore. A stale blah sets in, like the air a few hours after cooking fish. No spark of sweetness. Little joy. Accumulated resentment and relational pain pile up, and the deep friendship this time of life offers us just evades.

This time, though, on “that’” morning, something different happened. After he “gave me a piece of his mind,” I pondered what I’d been learning in the book, Wounded Heart, by Dr. Dan B. Allender. As I read about “good girl” self-protective distancing, my way of relating to conflict began to come unraveled. Keeping pain away no longer seemed the godly thing; it began to look downright unloving and very energy-sapping. I thought about how angry, fearful tears never got me where I wanted to go.

Neither did demanding a hearing.

Neither did insisting it all didn’t matter.

Instead of sinking farther from intimacy, this time I determined to keep the door open.

After work he asked me out for supper. A tense calm ruled the ride to Red Lobster. Once seated and having ordered the food, the topic came out. I told him that I felt disrespected too. I also said that disagreeing about who disrespected who can be okay. This statement had never come out before. We both seemed bent on getting the other over to our point of view. He rejected the idea of “amicable disagreement” on this issue.

And here, I made a decision. I would be sad. Sad for all the times this happened to us over the years. Sad for the way I had incrementally blocked him from my heart. Sad he had done the same. However, a kind of softness came with it.

It became my challenge to refuse to give in to those other choices – anger or numbness.  I let my point sit. In this uncluttered moment in our restaurant booth, I added, disagreeing with each other civilly makes us adults.

Sadness stayed. We missed the Spurs game we both wanted to watch. I took a walk and talked to a friend, asking her to pray. I rested in the conviction that I must not push for premature resolution or let anger build another fence. Not this time.

My decision to simply be sad changed everything. With fear held back, it couldn’t join forces with anger and get the stronghold this time. Secondly, I boiled the fight down to what we both struggled with – not feeling loved by the other.

Sadness must keep the door open. Grief just might usher in healing.

By late afternoon the next day, a strange thing happened inside me. I felt a slight new attraction to him. Why did he look handsome to me? Nothing had changed.

Next day at breakfast I smiled. He smiled back.

All because I refused to be dead.

 

How I Became a U.S. Citizen and Reagan Became President

Reagan

My family moved from Canada in 1957 just before I entered the third grade. On that first morning of school when my teacher randomly asked me to lead in the Pledge of Allegiance,  I had no idea what she meant. But I obediently walked to the front. When the children placed their hands on their hearts, I followed. Then, without another option, I simply opened my mouth. At that instant the class recited the pledge!

Now, at 31, a college graduate, a teacher, the wife of an American, and the mother of two American babies, I typed a letter to my then senator, Jesse Helms. How else could I vote for Ronald Reagan?

Here is my letter, written in the winter of 1980.

Dear Honorable Senator Helms,

Thank you for your service to our great state of North Carolina. I request your office to expedite the process of my naturalization to become a citizen of the United States. Would you please consider my request before the Novermber election?  It is with great excitement I hope to help elect Ronald Reagan as president.

In May my reply came from the circuit court. What could have taken years actually began to unfold. I was to report on the morning of July 4th, 1980, to be examined and sworn in with a large group of aliens. Oh, boy, oh boy. I hired a babysitter and hoped my hubby could get there by the time of the ceremony, 2:00 pm.

Dressed in a blue print cotton sundress with white sandals and hose (We wore hose year round when we dressed up…), I climbed the steps of the stately granite courthouse. Names echoed along the hallway as I waited for mine to be called. Finally, a bespeckled man ushered me into a an office. Could I name the three branches of the American government? Who was our first president? Did I understand that I would be asked in front of many witnesses to renounce the country of my birth? Did I know that my answer in the affirmative would grant my citizenship today?

I swallowed hard and took a breath. Relatives lived in Canada. It’s where I visited every summer. But American public school and college provided my education. America had given me my husband. America collected my FICA withholdings in promise to return them back in the form of Social Security checks some day.This should be a no-brainer.

But Renounce is a big word. Did I understand what that meant?

Well, it meant that I could vote for Ronald Reagan, the man we needed in Washington. I smiled and said, “I do.”

In the next hour the courtroom filled. It hummed with a low cacophony of many languages, as over a hundred onlookers stood shoulder to shoulder in the back. Where was that husband of mine? From the middle of the room, I began to worry. What if something went wrong with the babies? What if he couldn’t find parking? The air conditioner struggled to keep up with the need. We all sweated the rainbow of odors from around the world. Would my sundress get me through?  Yet, I felt blessed. This happened to be July 4th- a holiday within a holiday. And the ceremony began.

The judge’s speech, a bit long for the heat, charged us to be involved citizens. Then I gathered the nerve to turn around. There he stood, sleeves rolled up, crammed into the crowd. I guessed he’d jogged from blocks away. But he had made it.

Then, as the clerk read our names, each person stood. Such variety of color and style. Older Asian men, young European women, Middle Eastern students, Indian grandmothers, eager, all eyes glistened. Then as we stood in unison, the clerk instructed us to raise our right hand. Affirmations prompting I wills and I dos made a kind of choir. Our song proclaimed to the world that the United States of America now held first place as the country we call home.

Hubby and I drove home in separate cars, the babies had had a great 4th, and with my help, Ronald Reagan did become president that year.

So here’s my charge to you on this 4th of July, 2014.

1. Don’t take your citizenship for granted. Vote.

2. Remember that citizenship in Heaven means we renounce the world. Yes, that’s something to think about.

3. Love your colorful neighbors all the time. Be color grateful as much as color blind.

 

Purity Culture, Kissing, and a Look in the Rear-view Mirror

GoforthFamily1992

Our Family in 1992

     When any event brings our family together, you won’t hear munching around the table. As each one vies to get a word in edgewise, the discussion is always lively. But one topic quiets me — the parenting of our first teens.

My rear view mirror reflects the phenomenon known now as the Christian purity culture. It marched into our lives just as our older kids hit puberty. Banners waved “The Answer.” “No Dating.” “No Kissing.” The new standard fascinated us. We joined the revolution.

Thankfully, our kids know what motivated us – a safer path for them. During the sexual  revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, my husband and I dated dozens of people –and kissed most of them. So what that we attended church regularly? We carried scars. And we desperately hoped that our kiddos could avoid the pain and peer pressure of our past.

As pendulums do, we swung toward legalism. Surely, we thought, raising our teens in a kissless culture will hold temptation at bay. Of course we knew that only a personal relationship with Christ could navigate them through the minefield of romance and sex. Yet the lure of “do’s and don’ts” seemed irresistible

And for the first time in modern history, purity culture brides walked to the altar kiss-less. To be fair, many couples gladly chose to save their first kiss for the wedding. But what makes me blush now is that we believed the kissless formula would provide a better chance of a strong marriage. We knew it wasn’t that simple, but yet…

Gradually, when our last two entered the teens, we walked out of the fog. Although our first two married in the thick of it, our new insight showed that purity movement rules were often founded on Fear (that kids would stumble as we did) and Pride (in our enlightened methods). As a sad result, many parents struggled to fully release their children to adulthood- to God’s design for an independent, new home.

Today, our guinea pigs, children of the “revolution,” give us a lot of grace. No words can express our joy in watching them graciously parent our grandchildren, some already teens. Gingerly navigating the internet, texting, and social media, they boast no easy answers. No formulas. No piece of cake. Just lots of communication and love. Looking into my rear view mirror isn’t really so bad. I am proud of them, in spite of our bumbling and stumbling.

I wonder if your grown kids talk much about their dating rules. I’d love to hear your reflections from the rear-view mirror.

Don’t Mess Up My Picture!

jessicas painting     What quirky traits have you inherited from your mother? And what about your girl from you? I bet you can think of quite a few. As for me, take school art.

In my elementary grades we had an easel or two at the back of the classroom. When we finished our work, fresh white paper and nice mixed paints awaited. Maybe if I had worked faster or smarter, getting back there more often, I would have had a different experience…

But each and every time, without exception, I drew the same thing. A big tree on the side, a house in the middle, and a swing set beside the house. It never occurred to me to put a car beside the house, or children playing on the swing set. That level of drawing, totally out of my reach.

I remember more than once, standing in front of blank paper in the 3rd grade, having this conversation with myself.

Me: You dummy, why can’t you paint something different this time? You’ve been waiting for this chance all day. Be brave, be creative!

Me: But I can’t be brave or creative. If I draw something other than my tree, swing set, and house, it will look horrible. I’ll hate myself for making a mess of the paper. No, I have to do what comes out of my brush.

Now, fast forward twenty-five years to my daughter’s kindergarten class. The teacher sent home special paper and issued a challenge for all the students to enter a painting into the state fair. The rules, however, required all the paintings to begin with crayon drawings, then washed with broad stripes of watercolor in varying hues over the top.

So on a Saturday morning Wee One and I assembled our supplies on the kitchen floor, so she’d have plenty of room. Then I informed my budding artist she could draw anything she wished with the crayons. Without hesitation, you guessed it– a tree. Then a house. Finally, the swing set.  My smock-clad five-year-old’s brain worked just like mine!

But when the rules added a twist, the twist quickly became a tornado. The conversation went something like this:

Wee one: Mother, Mom! Not paint on top! Maybe stripes on the top and bottom. That might be nice.

Me: But that doesn’t finish the piece, Dearest.

Wee one: No! I will mess up my paper!

Me: But we have started a project, and the paint won’t mess up your art at all. It will make your crayon picture look different and lovely.

Wee One: (sobbing) But… but, I know I will mess up my paper!

 

Looking back at that moment, I think of how many times since then I’ve gotten stuck thinking I know what lovely looks like.

“This was to be our special weekend to do the river together. Now a major back ache, really?”

And we read an awesome book together– and we learned important stuff…

“I’m settled and happy here! Don’t make me make this huge move!”

And the move turned out to be so wise- especially for the children.

“No, Father! You know I just finished menopause; things look much better now. Do I have to go through breast cancer?”

And cancer unearthed, for healing, important realities in a stuck heart…

On and on it goes. Loveliness so often doesn’t fit our picture of it. God has to wash over our routines, schedules, and goals. Kicking and screaming, I follow his rules. For I am not really my own. I am His.

My Wee One won second place in her division. Her stripes of color must have impressed some judge. For there it hangs now on her wall. As a mother of five, soon to be seven, she lives with a constant reminder that His version of loveliness trumps ours- if we let it.

 

Pave Paradise Put Up a Parking Lot

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Til it’s gone

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

“Ba.. ba, ba, ba….” After hearing this song the other night, we nodded in agreement…a truly great song. Then my musician hubby added, “The lyrics.. not so great, though. They whine about all the nature we’ve covered up with stuff.”

“Huh…? Yeah, but isn’t it a metaphor? I’m sure the song is about relationships. I mean– don’t we humans tend to take for granted what is really special, and toss it when it gets a bit boring? You know, pave paradise?

His turn now,  “Huh……huh….” When his eyes rolled slightly (a bit of proverbial egg dripping off my face) I realized– I didn’t know the lyrics.

So I googled them. Apparently Joni Mitchell wrote this song about a huge pink hotel they put up in Hawaii. And trees they put into a museum there.

Ha! Imagine….enjoying a song so many years, and all along thinking a deep meaning hid in the words…

But, hey, that’s what my hubby got in me- an armchair psychologist.

And what did I get in him? A song lyric encyclopedia. A former professional musician for 8 years–who played it all.

It’s nice that some husband/wife conversations smack of dating and early married days. You know, the days you are finding out what the other thinks about this artist or that movie or that historic figure. Material for these conversations is endless.

Can’t you just see a couple in their nineties, sitting across from each other in the diner, “arguing” about a character they remember from “Gone With the Wind?”

May it never end.

 

Laughter– Good Medicine

Laughing at oneself is not always easy– especially when we’re in the company of others. Yet we’ve all heard it, the happiest people in the world are the ones who don’t take themselves too seriously.

This kind of laughter is actually a great discipline. So many times I haven’t laughed– like the time when disembarking from a jet, with a huge audience, I stumbled on the tarmack stairs and broke off one of my high heels. I would much rather have cried, but somehow managed to mummify my face into a straight-ahead stare as I limped into the terminal.

My sister, one of my heroes, doesn’t take herself too seriously. Several years ago, she flew from Canada and met me in another state for our niece’s wedding. That morning she had carefully slathered a fake tan lotion onto her feet and legs- so she would look all summery and fresh for this joyous event. But several hours later, just before the rehearsal dinner, she looked down to see a splotchy mess of red and brown and white. What did she do? She threw her head back and belly-laughed! Grabbing her camera and holding her legs out she said, “Look! It looks like I have some dread disease! Isn’t that hilarious? Gotta get this picture!”

I loved her for that. She could have missed out on a special night simply by succumbing to a different attitude. The memory of her splotchy legs serves as a reminder for me, that laughter is good medicine.

Today I share one of my most undignified moments, er, day, week….when the source of the medicine is still a bit of a mystery. Well, you’ll see what I mean.

I had never been to Arizona before, so my husband and I jumped at the opportunity to attend a homeschooling leadership conference in Tucson.  Given some free time close to the end, a few couples gathered to visit the famous Saguaro Desert, the only place in the world where those iconic cacti with arms grow.

It was late in the afternoon, that magical hour when the radiance of thousands of cacti blanketing the red landscape was its most breathtaking. When we parked I eagerly started to plan our photo shoot. Such amazing color! Where should we stand? I picked my way gingerly to a bed of blue and yellow blooms. Then, so the camera could capture the delicate hues close to the ground, I carefully crouched on my haunches. All set! Mmmm, hmm…

Next, I hollered.

“Come on, everybody! Here’s a great sho..t…”  Oh, predictable, foolish, and awkward moment! I fell backwards, plop down in the cacti patch. Wh-a-a-t was I thinking? This time my yelp got their attention.

As the group hurried over to help me, they found a human cactus. Several different varieties had deposited hundreds of spines into my arms and legs, but especially into my derriere. Ouch! (What HAD I been thinking?)

One of the girls, noticing my skirt sort of pinned by the spines, squealed, “Look! The spines disappear under your skirt when you move!”

One of the men shook his head and grimaced, “That must really hurt.”

As the group queried and groaned, a different reaction overtook me. Not pain, but pure unadulterated hilarity. Could it have been brought on by my husband’s quick and “serious” assessment of the situation? “Honey,” he said, “we have to take your skirt off. There’s no other way to get the biggest spines out.” Seriously? Well, fortunately for me, my undies were uh, conservative. And fortunately for all of us, someone had a blanket in the van.

There I stood, half-naked behind a patchwork quilt held up by my girlfriends, in the craziest, non-life-threatening event in my history to date. And as my husband plucked and winced, what did I do?

I laughed.

But I take no credit for this. I really couldn’t help it.

Never in my life have I laughed so hard.

Even while swallowing the occasional unintentional giggle, they all imagined me in excruciating pain! Was my laughter from shock? Half covered in spines of every size, it seemed crazy that I would react this way. And maybe I was in shock. But I don’t think so. Mentally zooming out, taking in the situation from a bird’s eye view, laughter seemed the only reasonable response.

So, peering over the blanket I yelled to the guys over yonder, “Will somebody please get this picture?” But they just stood there, frozen in shock.

Consequently, we have no record of the event. None. Though this “plucking” is cemented in the brain of each member of the group, there is absolutely no proof.

One of the men in our party, a P.A., incredulous that we didn’t drive straight to an E.R., noted that the larger spines contained tiny barbs at their tips; so when pulled out, each one brought with it a tiny piece of flesh. Could those barbs have released some powerful anesthetic into my system? For after helping me into the van, during our drive home, one of the girls said, “You must be hurting back there. How can you even sit?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” I said. “It doesn’t hurt. But please change the subject! I’ll…. just….start…. la-a-augh…ing!”

Back at the hotel our room was perfectly equipped for “surgery.” Coincidence? You decide. How many hotel bathroom counters are long enough to lie face down under powerful lights? My hubby “surgeon” guesses he tweezed out another hundred spines.

Then, surprising even myself, I hopped off the counter, got all dressed up, and we attended the final banquet of the weekend, just a little bit late. Appearing completely normal, throughout the meal I would inwardly giggle, If these people only knew…

Now returning to the issue of proof, a follow-up backside photo would have sufficed. However, in order for it to be recorded in history as me, my face would have had to appear in the picture, and I didn’t relish that idea. But it is surely understandable that for several weeks my derriere looked similar to blackened hamburger, eventually turning each hue of that glorious desert.

Finally, to make a long story longer than you can imagine, after the initial plucking on the desert, then “round two” on the hotel bathroom counter, we continued to locate and remove the tiniest spines at home—every week or so—month after month. These minuscule discoveries provided regular comic relief from whatever life had served up that day.

Actually, the last tiny spine finally worked its way to the surface, revealing its tiny tip, one entire year later.

Now, that’s pretty good medicine!

Have you ever laughed at yourself when you might have cried? I’d love to hear about it.

That Microphone “Thingy”

Dear Readers,

    Thank you, thank you! for reading my blog. It is so much fun sharing. I love telling a story. But it also can be terrifying. We all want to put our best foot forward rather than shove it into our mouths. Unraveling the mysteries of the world is pleasant and almost doable sitting in a booth with a good friend while sipping a senior coffee at Macky D’s. Pure delight.

    But blogging, well, writing the blog is one thing….

    Then. There’s. Technology. My kids are great teachers, but their patience does have limits. Between learning my new smartphone (so much smarter than I am, it takes my breath) and my computer, I am still in kindergarten. Why can’t loading photos be like loading my car trunk? Navigating the cyberworld just drives me round the bend. And passwords are a constant thorn in my side. Now? Now you tell me to use the same one over and over again.

     I resist the steep learning curve, and I am jealous of all the Gen Xers and Millenials (yes, and some of you Autumn folk, too…) who move about freely in the cabin of this speed of light changing technological jet.

    My kids say, “Push buttons! Learn by trying!”  I know this is the only way, but I have to get over worrying that my computer will stop doing what little I need it to do if I go around clicking stuff!

    But can I gain an education by whining? If only it could be done by eating a half gallon of mocha java ice cream — one spoonful at a time…. you know, like that proverbial elephant? No. For me it is more like the elephant. Hard. Hairy. Overwhelming.

    Kind of like the vulnerability of blogging. Actually the word is “Daunting,” as I wrote in the boat story. I long to grow in grace, but life is always throwing a new curve ball. Issues that should be resolved by this autumn season are not. How often I have groaned, “When will I figure this out?”

    I did discover recently, though, that little microphone icon “thingy” on my phone. It can be used for actually asking, out loud, almost anything. Such a handy thing. Even while driving I can ask for directions!  I can touch it and just – talk. It will give me facts, dial numbers for me, text, do my emails….amazing! How about cook supper? Maybe soon….

    But all triteness aside, I have hard questions. How great to believe, to know there is a reliable Source for answers. (James 1) The next time we flippantly use the “microphone thingy” for facts, figures, and graphs, we could let it be a reminder of what we usually do: Instead of “working out” a relationship with the Author of the universe, we muddle through practically all our issues with our own “understanding.”

    Just as discovering what technology can do for me is a learned skill, I must learn the skill of practice, practice, practice (Romans 6) Leaning on the ultimate Source is a mindset, not an ideal out of my reach.

    Crazy, isn’t it? The tools to find answers are as close as my very breath, much less voice– or that voice thingy on my phone. He Himself is there.

But we have to ask.

    How do we turn our biggest failures into our most effective soap box? What kind of an old person do I want to be? Why are relationships so difficult? And why do they make us crazy? How do we get past our barriers to intimacy in our marriages? How can I learn to fight the right (best) battles with my spouse? Why do I give myself so much trouble? What does it look like to trust God with my adult kids?

    I am extremely blessed to have you walk some of this walk with me…..and your comments are wonderful and helpful!

Wondering About “To The Wonder”

    It’s not often than an art film makes a clear point, other than to make you wonder about things. Though a couple of brief sex scenes make me hesitant to recommend it, this film does contain a clearer message than its dream-like smoky tone would seem to indicate. Even with grand, epic music and breathtaking cinematography, will Hollywood reviewers dare to give a thumbs up?

     Let’s look at the “wonder” this film might be showcasing. The “wonder” of feminine beauty fairly floating among grassy fields and the cobblestones streets of  modern Europe? Check. Terrestrial splendor, shimmering sea, radiant sky? Check. What about the “wonder” of youthful romance? Interestingly, missing. And that is rare in the offerings of Hollywood these days.

    Two young women (one played by Rachael McAdams) and a middle-aged priest (Javier Bardem) narrate this human drama in mostly short, sometimes cryptic sentences of drawn-out, pitiable grief. Even with sprinklings of joy and hope, the story moves slowly, agonizingly.

     Scriptures used in the priest’s homilies present to us a clear standard for a fulfilling human relationship. A standard which requires, and without which it cannot survive– commitment. And here, played out before us, is the glaring truth: commitment is the one thing the male lead (Ben Affleck) somehow cannot, will not give.

    The young women, in love with him at separate times, are seen as giving their all, in the deepest sense of the word,  in a yearning for not only intimacy, but the security and confidence that only comes with the “C” word.  And their complete rapture in finding their perfect lover is portrayed through scene after scene of playful abandon mixed with a kind of sensuality that would be possible only through emotional nakedness. Yet this film is skimpy with overt sexuality.  We see a picture of its utter futility in the relationships here, another rarity in Hollywood offerings.

    The priest never meets either couple, though they attend his parish. We see him as a secondary character. A hard-working, kind man who, devoid of deep human connection himself, seeks to see the face of Jesus in his poverty- stricken Oklahoma congregation. We see him grapple with the temptation to give up hope.  Is the “wonder” in our gladness that he doesn’t? That in his commitment to daily sacrificial service, his honest doubt will someday give way to a harvest of fruit?

    So the moments of ecstasy in the “love” relationships are juxtaposed to the abject needs fulfilled by the humble priest. And the emptiness of the former is a fascinating contrast to the pain of the doubter.

    True to art film form, the Affleck character rarely speaks. Silence is the refusal to make a solid commitment to either love. Do men relate to this problem? Do women relate to these two women more than they would like to admit? The film tacitly wonders that if in putting the cart of vulnerability before the horse of commitment, are women’s lives doomed to one failed attempt at intimacy after another?

    And all of us are thus left “wondering,” is the “C” word quietly slipping away?