Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Pinch of Sarcasm

Wit?
Sick Humor?
Irony?
Contempt?
Facetiousness?

Merriam knows, he says quite a bit about sarcasm:

Funtion: noun (why did I have the sense it's a verb?)

Etymology: (and here I thought THAT was the science of bugs?) French or Late Latin; French sarcasme, from Late Latin sarcasmos, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer

1 a) sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
2 a) a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual

I've come to look at the word and it's usage much differently than I did at one time (the times when I used it to my advantage, to be exact). I now see it as a linguistic form intended to accomplish a number of things, most of which aren't nice, and most of which are veiled - ie, Oh ... I was only kidding.

Sarcasm does not build bridges, but tears them down... It does not mend fences, but opens even wider breaches... It does not enhance another's worth, but undermines it... It does not honor or affirm either the sarcastic one, or their victim ...

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

There are some (proponents of sarcasm) that would say it's nothing more than harmless wit. Au contrare! Merriam says that "wit" is reasoning power, or astuteness of perception or judgment; or an imaginatively perceptive and articulate individual especially skilled in banter or persiflage (persiflage?). There can be a satircal component to wit, which is where it crosses from good-natured insightfulness to the sneering of sarcasm.

Quite literally, sarcasm is tethered tightly to the heart and the motives therein. We all know when we mean to make a point and/or land a blow in some sarcastic fashion. It's as much about looks as it is about words. Sarcasm is never accidental!

Why do we use sarcasm, anyway? A few possible answers, but hardly an exhaustive list:

... It's a means of passive aggression. We say something sharp or cutting as if to be funny, when in reality we're hiding our resentment or contempt.

... It's a way of saying something unkind or down-right mean about something or someone that we can laugh off as a joke if confronted.

... It's a distancing measure we use that let's people know they're not free or safe to say what they think or feel about what I just said (unless, of course, they want a dose of my sarcasm to get on them too).

... It's a form of verbal abuse, as though the hearer(s) deserve it.

... It's a flawed attempt to be cute or funny.

Before I'm tempted to use a sarcastic tone or phrase, I hope and pray I will not soon forget that it creates a sarChasm.

Now that's a noun, for sure!
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If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. James 1:26

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Imagine

There are just some stories that ought not be embellished. This is one of them. It touched me when I first heard it. It touches me deeper still with each new telling. This is what grace looks like.
..

There are some games in which cheering for the other side feels better than winning.

By Rick Reilly - ESPN The Magazine

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us ?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.

Hope.

In the Making

Trouble
Memories
Dinner
Good Health
Friendship
Career
Vacation
Epitaph

These are just a few of the things that are known to be in the making. I use the term often, but today it struck a chord someplace deep in the recesses of my soul - the sort of chord that reverberates.

I ask myself: what am I doing right now, or what may I be doing today that is SOMETHING in the making? Moreover (now there's a word you don't hear often) ... will the making be to my liking? Better still, will the making be to my Maker's liking?

Counting. Considering. Weighing. Assessing. The stuff of intentional living, of making. And, whether it's done on the fly, or in some determined fashion, you can be sure the effects are not constrained by the same chronology that bookends our lives.
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"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.
Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost
to see if he has enough money to complete it?"
Luke 14:28
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So, in a week, or five years from now - or maybe ten ... will today's making fall among memories glorious & sweet, or among those I'd rather forget or ignore?
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I would say the choice is mine to make.
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Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Remodeling


Please bear with me ... I'm totally undecided about the "look" I'm going for with my Spring blog. I may test a few designs and styles, and hopefully my new "do" will be complete this week.

Those of you given to furniture re-arranging will totally understand! The rest of you will just have to pray for me (and them).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Infinite Living on the Finite Side

From more than once source I've heard this statement: Show me your checkbook and your Daytimer, and I'll show you what's most important in your life.
,
When I'm listening, that statement typically has me calculating rough estimates of my current heart-stores to determine what, exactly, DO I spend my time and money doing or having?

.I am never quite finished with the inventorying process that the Scriptures don't interrupt to remind me how valuable is the effort. Afterall, inventories tell you much about the stock you have on hand; fading or depleted inventory; stock theft; replenishment specifics; profits; losses.
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The length of our days is seventy years —
or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:10
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"Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.
Psalm 39:4-5

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Some might groan, or whine, while claiming this subject is downright morbid. Methinks it would be an altogether flawed reaction.
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I'm 60 ... about to turn 61. That means I've got another 20 - 25 years by most standards, and perhaps another 30 -35 if extremely youthful DNA favors longevity. Or, on the flip side ... it could mean but another day... just ONE more, or a mere 10 years.
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My calculations tell me the number of my days are somewhere between one and 10,208 (if I live to be 90). I prefer the 10,208, but even that number isn't much.
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And why does it matter, anyway ... this number of days?
..
Well, those interrupting Scriptures link it all to wisdom. And by my inventory calculations, I don't yet have enough ... even for today.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Nocturnal Side

Well, well, well ... NOW I know what all those nocturnal folk experience at 11:00 PM, and 1:30 or 3:00 AM. Given the drama (or lack thereof) of recent days, I've had more than one occasion to meander the halls in search of an alternative to sleep.

I guess it should be no surprise that one doesn't sleep much at night when they've slept all day. I'm OK with that. I just wish there had been more to do at night while my bio-rhythms adjusted to my new normal. And I simply must report: there's some utterly weird stuff on television in the wee hours!

The highlights of my nocturnal experience?


  • Eating leftover KFC mashed potatoes & gravy at 1:00 AM Saturday (hubby's dinner contribution from earlier in the evening).
    .
  • Coaching 12 year old granddaughter Rylie through the Chocolate Chip cookie making process yesterday. (I'm still wishing & waiting for food to begin tasting like something besides wallpaper paste, but Grandpa's glad she likes to bake, and I'm darn proud!)
    .
  • Watching Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" on PBS at 2:00 AM this morning.

When all is said and done, I'm relieved glad to announce that I am not a night person.

.Give me my old 4:00 AM dayrise (the sun refuses to greet me that early) and 9:00 PM light's out - - any day, any time!

.P.S. My heartfelt thanks to all of you that have wished me well, prayed, and otherwise made my recent days full of good memories (and ready healing). These, and not the misery, will outlast time. I am blessed!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Pause

I've not gone missing.
.
I will return.
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It's a long story, but suffice it to say the New Year's abscess, then a root canal, then a resurrgence of infection, trips to the doc, antibiotics, miserable headache, and unending nausea have all conspired to put me on hold. So too any blogging.
.T
It's hard being sassy when one doesn't feel very sassy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dear Mr. President

What an auspicious inaugural event was yesterday's changing of the guard. Like many Americans, I did not vote for you. In fact, I had many misgivings. I still do. Yet you are now my President, and I your civil trust. That makes us a team of at least two with the responsibility of being part of the solution in this land, or part of the problem.

I was stirred and deeply touched by the poignancy and tone of all things inaugural. From the motorcades to the masses gathered on the Capital Mall, to the cheering crowds across our great land, I felt a swelling sense of pride. I wept when you were sworn into office. The significance of that oath-taking was not lost on me, and quietly I prayed God's protection over you and your beautiful family; over your Administration; over our country in whole.

Today you step fully into your role as Commander and Chief of my United States. I knew you'd want to hear from me.

Mr. President, I believe you love this country with your entire being. Thus I ask you to muster bravery and resolve as you think, and then think again about what made us great from our early days on eastern shores. We need change, that's true. Yet firmly placed, worthy foundations ought not change at all for fear of toppling all that's built upon them. I fear we already sway in the winds that would threaten to do so.

I offer my promise to discharge my every civic duty while I remain in this life. That promise includes respectfully supporting my government leaders when and where such support is called for. It also includes a promise to respectfully dissent when those same leaders seek to fray the fabric of morality or constitutional process on my homeland. Whether my voice joins a mighty chorus or is an insignificant solo, I promise to use it.

In the words of one of our finest African American prodigies, George Washington Carver, we are told how best to navigate our way through the unknown. We listen to him now as he responds to questions about his success with peanut farming before the United States Ways and Means Committee in 1921:

"Dr. Carver, how did you learn all of these things?"
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Carver answered: "From and old book."
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"What book?" asked the Senator.
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Carver replied, "The Bible"
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The Senator inquired, "Does the Bible tell about peanuts?"
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"No, Sir" Dr. Carver replied. "But it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and He did."
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May that same God show you what to do with and for the people, Mr. President. His advice and His ways will keep you in good stead, and this country as well.
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Congratulations, and God bless you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hops, Crawls & Leaps

What do you mean you want to buy this property?
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That's how it all began.
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In 1999 we made our home in Puyallup, Washington. Our lovely abode overlooked the entire valley, and from nearly every window we could see the grandeur of Mount Rainier. It was a home that hosted family dinners, grandbaby overnights, and hours of gardening delights. .
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Not far from home was my alter-life in the corporate world. For years I had worked my way up and around various posts in a company that boasted its male dominance. Yet, over the course of ten years, they made room for me - eventually moving over far enough to grace me with the role of Vice President - one of three in the company, and the first woman.
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Hubby was not working at the time. He had just left one company and had begun in earnest to search out a new career path. He was enjoying some time off in-between. We weren't concerned. Afterall, we'd been saving for awhile, and I was still working.
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Occasionally we would make our way to Arizona to visit my sister and her husband. They were delightful visits, and we were always made to feel right at home in their midst. We loved Arizona's sonoran desert ambiance and it's clear, blue skies - as though some incredible anomaly as compared to the grey-clouded, marine-influenced skies of Western Washington.
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A favorite pass time on such treks was visiting model homes. So it was that day in 1999 when we wound our way through the back-roads of Goodyear, Arizona. We weren't looking to buy a home, much less move. Our ritual that day was nothing more than a look-see, just like the many other look-sees we'd enjoyed on prior visits. That look-see changed the course of our lives forever.
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In one fell swoop, hubby fell headlong in love with a piece of dirt. He walked it's perimeter. He stood long to look at its view over the Mesquite & Acacia tree-lined golf course with the Estrella Mountains as a backdrop. He'd even pulled the car onto the property as a hoist for getting a better idea of how the view might look at a higher elevation. He thought we ought to ask the price.
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What?! Why would it matter? Dumb questions.
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It took a mere 30 minutes between the phone call and being seated before the property manager. It took yet another 30 minutes for hubby to sign on the dotted line. He bought the beloved dirt, and all I could think of was: What is he thinking?
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As we walked to our car, I simply had to point out: You realize we don't live here, don't you? You understand neither of us has a job here?
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He just grinned.
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I hate it when he does that!
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It seems we were now the proud owners of a piece of dirt in Arizona. As we flew home a few days later, it occurred to both of us that we would soon be leaving Washington State and making our home in a new land. Why on earth? We weren't sure.
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Our return flight landed on a Sunday afternoon. That same evening my husband got a propitious call from an employer he'd interviewed with some weeks past. They made him an offer, and that offer included the freedom to live anywhere he wanted on the western half of the U.S.
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It had the look and feel of a green light. He took it.
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We put our beautiful home on the market without a moment's hesitation or angst. It sold in six weeks.
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Next I walked into the President's office at my company and said: I have some good news and some bad news. He was all ears, asking for the bad news first: I'm leaving the company. The good news? I'll give you nine months transition time. We both wept. Over the years we had forged a great friendship, as well as deep respect for each other's contributions.
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The rest is history.
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There were months of planning and preparation that included selecting a builder and a house plan. There was an interim move into an apartment after the house sold. There were long good-byes, and equally long cautions from friends and family about how we'd regret the move. Most thought we'd be sorry to leave the area, the children and grandchildren, my own great job, our lovely home and equally lovely yard. Some wondered how we could exchange the lush green of the Pacific Northwest for parched brown sand.
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Looking back ten years now, we have yet to have a moment's regret. We've certainly missed our children and grandchildren at times, and when that sense grows strong, we jump on a plane and go see them (wondering why it always rains when we're there). They often come here. But regret? None.
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Also looking back, I am flabbergasted at how we navigated all the change so smoothly. I know beyond a shadow of doubt it was a God thing ... as if ordained and made smooth by Providence Himself.
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I love it when He does that!
..
I also learned a bit about faith. Some things require a mere hop; others a slow crawl. Still others require a lunge ... like this one. It made leaping and faith synonymous, and fun. When the two are combined, leaping + faith, how can there be regrets? Besides, when I let go of one thing (loss), my hand is free to grasp the new thing (gain).
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God is good. All the time.
...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feasting - Flanagan Style

Ever had a recipe everyone raves about? Here are two you won't want to lose!

BLACK BEANS & RICE

1/3 cup brown rice
1 cup vegetable or ckicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup diced sweet onion
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (optional)
2 cooked skinless boneless chicken breast halves, shredded or chopped

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
ground cayenne pepper to taste
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers, drained
1/3 cup shredded carrots


2 cups shredded Mexican cheese

DIRECTIONS
Mix the rice and vegetable broth in a pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 45 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a large casserole dish.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the onion until tender. Mix in the zucchini, chicken, and mushrooms. Season with cumin, salt, and ground cayenne pepper. Cook and stir until zucchini is lightly browned and chicken is heated through.

In large bowl, mix the cooked rice, onion, zucchini, chicken, mushrooms, beans, chiles, carrots, and 1/2 the Swiss cheese. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover casserole loosely with foil, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Uncover, and continue baking 10 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.
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Here's the deal: You can serve this as a complete, one-dish meal. It's got every food group!

Or, you can warm up a flour tortilla and put several scoops of the beans/rice in it. Then get creative by adding any one or more of the following: chopped cilanto, salsa, quacamole or sour cream. Voila! You have a super fabulous custom made burrito.

Guess what we're having for dinner tonight?

Now, what's a good meal without a sweet finish? Here's a healthy, absolutely scrumptious (isn't that an oxymoron; healthy + scrumptious?) cookie you'll be making again-and-again.


WHOLE WHEAT OATMEAL RAISEN COOKIES
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3 eggs, beaten
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS
Put 1 cup raisens and 1/2 cut water in a small pan; bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 3 - 5 minutes. Set aside to cool
Combine eggs and vanilla in a small bowl; mix together and let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together. Sift together the whole wheat flour, cinnamon & nutmeg, baking soda and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture. Then stir in the raisins (with water), eggs & vanilla, rolled oats, and nuts.
You can use a mixer to blend all the ingredients, but I prefer squishing it all with my hands until it has a doughy consistency.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an unprepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
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Hide cookies from your husband!
.

Bon Appetit !

Saturday, January 17, 2009

With a Will of Their Own

Whenever I am overcome with awe or gratitude, it's typically associated with something that has happened; or is happening - - like the birth of a grandchild, or an act of providence that is anything but coincidental, or a sunrise.
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From time-to-time that same wave of awe sweeps over me recogniton of a blessing, or several such. And what shows up on that list sometimes defies logic, or even complete understanding. It might include a dream prayer becoming reality, or a nearly missed accident, or the recognition of how rich is my life.
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So, as my eyes protested awakening this morning, I was aware of a scene playing out on just beneath my eyelids. As if seated in some cosmic theater, I saw a human hand featured ... first to clutch a vacuum; then to coif a child's unruly locks; next to scratch an itch; followed by a gentle patting of a bereaved friend's shoulder. ,
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There were many such depictions, each with a hand featured prominantly.
..
In most scenes I could see how useful is the human hand ... my own hands. That aforementioned sense of gratitude began to fill my soul even as I opened my eyelids. I found myself thinking of all the ways my now aged, arthritic appendages factor into my daily life. I thought about how awful it would be to do without them. Could I even do that at all?
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In the next sweep, those same hands (though I'd like to think not my own) were reviling, poking, hitting, grabbing. What had moments before been the workhorses of love had become the harbingers of hurt. Could it be that hands have a selfish bent all their own?
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I've heard it said that our emotions are either our masters or our servants. It's seems the same is true of the hand. What begins in the headwaters of the heart flows to the fingertips, which means everything in between in affected as well. Hands are powerfully expressive. They connote what the heart will desires. While they ought to be servants, they sometimes insist upon being master. They demonstrate us.
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I am baffled at how my mind works at times. Where do these things come from anyway?
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Don't answer that. I already know. Today I'm to give thanks for the amazing gift of grip. And when I look at my hands, I speak to them as if to a child: today you shall be servants.
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Amen.
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Let your hand be with me, and keep me
from harm so that I will be free from pain.
1 Chronicles 4:9
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I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
Isaiah 42:6

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Closer Than a Brother

Long, long ago in a land inhabited predominantly by women, four men stepped into the scene. They would change not only the scene, but my own life forever.

When the first two arrived, I was but a wee lass of six. John and Jim wooed and wed my two oldest sisters, Dolores and Barbara - making them my very first brothers. I, too, was swept up in the wooing process - charmed and enchanted by the family's male infusion.

They were also a welcome relief to my dad (I can only imagine). He now had fishing buddies with whiskered faces to dabble alongside him in the delights of male bonding along some high mountain brook! No doubt they shared a cigar or two - something we women-folk wouldn't enjoy (though it's quite likely I would have!).

Mother adored them. Nothing like a few hungry men to affirm all things culinary! She cooked & baked like no other, and they were her biggest fans, often dragging along their own friends to roost at her table.

Some years later Hal showed up and married my sister Carol. Like the other two, he found a firm place in my life and heart. The summer before I entered high school, while he was stationed in the military far from my Washington home, I lived with he and my sister for several weeks. It was an adolescent adventure for sure, but nothing compared to the bond that grew out of mutual affection.


So, while I continued to grow up beneath the watchful gaze of my family, six new gazing eyes had been added. They treated me warmly, protectively. In return, I swooned and stared and followed along closely, relishing not only their tenderness, but their teases and torments as well. There were many!

By the time I turned 16, my father had been diagnosed with an aggressive, virulent form of Leukemia that would shortly take his life. About this same time my husband showed up - the sweetheart of my high school years.

As one man bid farewell, these four other men took at least one giant step forward. In fact, it was Jim who actually stood in for my dad on my wedding day a few years later. From brother to surrogate!

Not many years hence, when at long last I purchased my very own horse, it was John who opened his heart & corral to my Flicka. I never did master the Annie Oakley thing, but the consumate cowboy sure did. She was far more his than mine, and I still reflect in awe at his horse-whispering, sister-whispering ways.

The years have claimed a bit of their vigor, and perhaps a waist or hair line. The two oldest are navigating through their late 70s now, followed closely by the other two in their 60s. We are none of us young anymore, though the lot has remained youthful.

I could weave so many more threads into the fabric of our intertwined lives - me and these brothers - but it would do little to explain the depths of my feeling for them. Those feelings don't often live at the surface of my life. Today they do.

Today I'm thanking God for the men I proudly claim as brothers.

(Pictured: Jim, John, Hal, Terry)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Parentheticals

Do you like the title?

I just had to use that word, parenthetical. It's another word for digress, described by Merriam this way:

1 a: an amplifying or explanatory word,
phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage
from which it is usually set off
by punctuation
b: a remark or passage that departs
from the theme of a discourse
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If you've visited here much you surely know at least two things about me:

1. I'm a fan of Merriam
2. I'm all about parentheticals

I don't actually live my life between the ( and the ), but certainly I squeeze a bit of extra living there. A story just isn't complete until I've added a smidge of that something extra - - like a dollop of whipped cream, or some fine dark chocolate.

In fact, I believe parentheticals are Biblical (stop grinning). They are interwoven throughout God's word, using grammar in lieu of symbols. They look and sound like this:

... and it came to pass
... in the meantime (don't you sometimes feel you're living in one of those meantimes?)
... in the course of time

Now I'm left to wonder: Am I a parentheticalist?
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Could it be, like Indiana Jones or Inspector Jacques Clouseau I've excavated a rare finding? Are parentheticals nouns? Adjectives? Adverbs? Dangling participles?
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One thing's certain: parentheticals mock the concept of less is more. In fact, they emphasize just the opposite: less is just not enough.
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Their theme is ever and always: you just have to know this one more thing. More is more.
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The parentheticalist is never (and I do mean never) at a loss for more words. Besides, parentheticalism has a much more sophisticated connotation than does disgression.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slow Fades

Who among us hasn't been assaulted by a tune, the kind that lingers throughout a day's thoughts? It's no problem unless it's an unwelcome/unwanted one, like It Ain't Easy Being Green, or The Purple People Eater. I've even had Happy Birthday get stuck.

Melodies and/or lyrics often grip me, sometimes so powerfully that I just have to stop whatever I'm doing and listen, or sing, or dance. Some summon tears; others grins. Some require my feet to tap out the rythym; others ask me to close my eyes.

The group Casting Crowns recently released a song -
A Slow Fade - that didn't interest me much initially. I actually had to develop a taste for it. The words didn't really make sense either ... at first. Then I realized it was a song about men, for men.
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Sort of.
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That said, I must tell you I am haunted by the truth and poignancy the song drives home for each and every one of us.
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Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow
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It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
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It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade
Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray
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It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away.

People never crumble in a day
The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking
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It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
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People never crumble in a day ..

Daddies never crumble in a day..

Families never crumble in a day..

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see..

I don't know too many (myself included) that have fallen apart in a day, or even a month. Often the shredding or the tearing process occurs over a period of many days or years, many steps. It doesn't necessarily entail infidelity, but could easily pertain to any number of detours that bring harm to us, or to those we love.
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People, and daddies (and mommies), and families just don't crumble in a day. The process is typically a slow fade. How well I know.
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To hear the song, click on the song name above or here: A Slow Fade

Out of TOWNers

It's a dangerous thing to put too much stock by one's own press. No matter the fanfare (positive or negative), there's that odd human inclination to believe it's true (positive or negative).

It's a double-sided hazard. On the one hand, it can make you feel horrible if you take to heart what someone says or does that causes self-doubt. I'd never survive in politics or Hollywood!

Worse, there's that equally silly inclination to take a bow (even while hanging tightly to the bulging head about to imbalance the bow-er). Again, I'd never survive in politics or Hollywood!

I, for one, have always loved an audience. Remember, I'm the youngest of four girls ... and sassy to boot. It's a delicate balance. Need I say more?

Thus I tip-toe to share with you how incredulous am I that two new faraway guests arrived to visit overnight. One came from Korea, the other from Argentina.

I gleaned this information by way of the ClustRMap tally (another gadget) on my homepage. It doesn't tell me who visited, only where they came from, and how many. It tickles me to see the various nations represented: Canada, Australia, Finland, Poland, Germany ... and others, not to mention the growing concentration in the Carolinas and Florida.

It also makes me laugh. Laugh?

Yes, laugh!

You see, there's no way I could afford to travel to all these wonderful places via traditional routes. But here, in cyberspace, my virtual treks allow me to meander here-and-there without even having to run by the ATM, drag a suitcase, or hassle my way through airport security. Better still, I have met and made some of the finest friends ever!

So, if you're dropping in from another zone, or even nearby, by all means say "hi".

Welcome.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Like so many, I have scratched my head over the doings and discrepancies of what is commonly called the seeker sensitive church. Names are bandied about, and teachings/teachers are held up to public scrutiny.

Whether or not someone, or some particular church ought to be scandalized, I do not know. I certainly have my own questions and concerns with some of the stuff put out there in the name of God. The seeker sensitive church is the least among them.

One thing that gives me pause is the scurrilous way in which the term itself is viewed and/or spoken - as if any church making provision for the truth-seeker is somehow engaged in compromise.

I'm not so sure.

Don't misunderstand me, please. I am not advocating a watering down of the Word of God to make it palatable; nor am I endorsing an all-inclusive stance that equalizes The Way and means of salvation. I'm not a fan of ecumenism.

I'm thinking the sensitive Seeker is really the Lord Himself:

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:27-30

It would seem to me there's a hider if there's to be a seeker. And I'm thinking if anyone's doing the hiding, it probably truly isn't Him.

Olly olly oxen free!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Where He Wants to Be


As I visit a number of my blogging buddies this newly unfolding 2009, I am mindful of how many of them (us) long to lay claim to worthy hearts ... a place where He'll want to be.

Be blessed, my sisters. We walk this road together!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Myths, Urban Legends, Tall Tales & Blarney

It cracks me up when someone captures my attention by stealth in order to share a particularly thought-provoking tidbit of supposed truth. Sometimes these moments surface over a coffee cup; sometimes they arrive in the form of an email. Most I can't remember were my life to depend on it; others still crack me up. They might be miniscule in nature - one-liners. Or they may be epochs - sweeping, dramatic in tone. What's common among them is how "true" they are. Apparently.

Then came Snopes.

At my core I am a dreamer and an idealist. I love happy endings. In fact, I love happy beginnings. I relish a good story. However, just below the surface of my idealism is a realistic streak that acts as a caution to what might otherwise be known as folly. It could well be discernnent, but mostly it's street smarts. You see, I live with the world's biggest tease, and one must test just about everything he says to know whether they've been loaded in the boat, or not. I've rowed THAT boat one too many times!

I'm not exactly gullible, nor would anyone dub me a skeptic, or a cynic. I guess it boils down to my being a realistic idealist. Not all stories have a happy beginning or ending. That doesn't dampen my desire for it to be otherwise.

So, before I go swallowing & digesting that next incredible tale heard 'round the water cooler, I first seek to authenticate it. Never has a bit of forensic work payed off more handsomely! It's spared me a lot of grief and embarrassment, or hedged me in from plain old Tom Foolery - - the meaning of which is:
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The general public was allowed into mental
hospitals or asylums in the Middle Ages in
order to be amused by the actions of the
residents there. Interestingly, one such
asylum was called Bedlam, a corruption
of Bethlehem, its real name. The
audience's favorite "performers" were
often nicknamed Tom Fool, and that
popular nickname came to be applied
to the antics of the asylum residents,
and then its meaning was softened to
mean `silly behavior' in general.
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Who knew?

It's taken me a long time to just let some thing be ... I mean, I have no need to disclaim the fact that reindeer fly, or that John the Baptist showed up at Starbucks wearing mohair, or people are waking up with their kidney's mysteriously missing ...
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I don't know about you, but I keep a ready supply of vaccines against, and antedotes for the absurb. Funny how some people believe just about anything they've been told or heard (some of the best worst are attached to religion or the supernatural). That doesn't mean I don't still crack up when I recall one, or hear an altogether new whopper!
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Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
1Thessalonians 5:21-22
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Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve
what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2
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Resources and antedotes to Tom Foolery:
Word origins: http://www.takeourword.com/index.html
Urban Legends: http://urbanlegends.about.com/
Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/
The Bible: http://www.biblegateway.com/




Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Morning's Gratitude

I just can't begin this wonderful new day without first acknowledging how grateful am I for those of you that drop by. Many of you come-and-go without much notice, while others of you leave precious comments or send me gracious emails. I am so blessed!

There was a day when I thought blogging would be little more than an project. It is so-o-o-o much more! Many are the days that I find one or more of you in my thoughts and prayers.

Thank you for your friendship and wisdom, and for being such lovely cyber-neighbors.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

About Those Little "But"s (Part Two)

As promised, I am now about to tackle Part Two which is actually a prequel. You see, when I began cogitating on the but subject, it came about when I had already been cogitating on something totally different ... yet that something different was somehow connected (those darn dots again!).

I know you know what I mean. It goes something like this: I was thinking about such-and-such, when all of a sudden it occurred to me that such-and-such was related, and then a light bulb went off! Isn't that often the route or nuance of creativity? Or discernment?

So, Part One came before Part Two. It has it roots in the soil of 2 Kings in the Bible. It was there that I was struck anew by the hubris of we mortals and our affinity for buts. Merriam says that people with this particular condition have exaggerated pride or self-confidence. And lest anyone think me critical or mean-spirited as I progress, let me confess a certain propensity for hubris harboring. Been there; done that!

I move on ... Here's where it gets tricky.

All throughout the scriptures there are threads that stubbornly weave their way throughout time. Some of them are beautiful, worthy. Others ... not so much, especially when I reach back in antiquity and find a particularly mean one that shows up in the fabric of present life. There are lots of them, but few as fickle as the but thread. It's density is troublesome; it's color opague, shadowy.

Mind you, I'm speaking of the sort of but that excuses, negates, mocks. It's the word or rational
formed on our tongue long before we even speak it; the one that is ready to deny even the truth, or someone speaking it - in favor of our long-held view. It's the gate barred shut from any further consideration of a subject, or that favors some long held prejudice. It's the stickiest of the buts.

Why do we cling so tenaciously to some things, even in light of the truth of God's own word?

This is where we head back to 2 Kings, Chapter 17 to be exact.


"All this took place (big trouble) because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God ... They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations ... the Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right ... From watchtower to fortified city they built high places ... They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles ... At every high place they burned incense ... They did wicked things ... They worshiped idols ... The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers ... But they would not listen ... they did not trust in the LORD their God. They rejected His decrees ... covenant ... and warnings. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.

Even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. "

Enter the hubris-bearing but. Some of us (remember, I've included myself in the us), even when presented with powerful evidence, will cling ever so tenaciosly to beliefs, practices - even doctrines - that are diametrically opposed to the word of God. They are paradyms that would explain why the scriptures don't really mean what they mean, offering some lessor mortal explanation in their stead. I've done it myself, and it sounds alot like this:

"I know what the Bible says, but I believe - or my friend says, or my church teaches _____ (fill in the blank)".

It's the opposite of truth-seeking. Instead, the but is willing to cling to a pet belief or the status quo, even if the pet is dangerous and the status quo is wrong, or a lie. No problem if the buts are innocuous. Huge problem if the but-grip is clinging vice-like to that which God Himself would pull from our hands!

I suppose, in the end, my but lesson is really a reminder to myself to seek God and His truth above all others, no matter the cost to me. It's a reminder to get and stay clear about what is true. Know what I mean; say what I mean; mean what I say.

If but comes to call, at the very least I need to stop and listen before I speak the next sentence, for that next sentence has much to say about Who and what I believe.

BUT ... as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.

BUT ... though He slay me I shall trust Him.

So closes my prequel ... though probably there's a deeper, older prequel than that which I've described. Guess I better do some more cogitating. One never knows what dots will show up to be connected ... hopefully without a but insertion.


Friday, January 2, 2009

About Those Little "But"s (Part One)

Some years ago, while manning a professional post in the business realm, I was often granted opportunities to attend seminars, take courses, or receive coaching that was invaluable - then, as now. Much of what I learned stuck; some things more than others. It conspired in me a fondness for the English language, for communications, for marketing, and for the use of word pictures. You might say I got hooked on the artfulness of it all.
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One particular intellectual transplant stuck sure and fast. It has to do with the use of the little word but. In a nutshell, it's a not-so-little conjunction that means "except for", or "on the contrary". It's power is far from small or ignoble, for it can dash lofty thought as quickly as it dashes certainties. Let me explain.
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My tutor dejour dotted our lesson with the many whens, whys and hows of the word's usage, emphasizing: "When you use the word but to connect one thought to another, you might as well completely negate the first thing said in favor of what follows the but."
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Got that? In other words, you speak of something as though it is your thought, belief or behavior; and then you erase it altogether by adding what you REALLY believe following the but. It's sort of a word picture that connotes a type of double-mindedness.
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Now I realize there are exceptions to the linquistic rule I just shared, but the truth of what my savvy mentor had to say is rather profound. I can hardly speak the word that I don't begin thinking about what I've JUST said.
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For instance, "I really like Mary, but ------ (fill in the blanks with what you really feel)". Or, "I've been really good at sticking to a healthful eating plan, but ----- (fill in the blanks with the compromises you're attempting to justifiy)". Or, "I am faithful to serve my spouse as God would instruct, but ------ (fill in the blank with the reasons you don't have to).
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There's a reverse to all that as well ... it may sound something like, "I do not like my next door neighbor one whit, but I make every effort to be kind". Or "I'm so afraid, but I trust God."
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Either way, one might ask: "Which is it?"
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I don't dare venture too far into a kindred butism (new word) that relates to what happens when you listen raptly (or not-so-raptly) to someone else, ready to pick up where they left off with a "yes, but". It may be received graciously depending on what follows next, but it CAN pack a whallop that would negate what the person just said. It could also negate the person. (Some teens have this one down to a science!)
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It's a nasty little nuiscance, but. I'll just bet it's gonna stick with you too now - for awhile anyway.
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Needless to say, by virture of the fact that this is Part One, a Part Two is in the making. I'll bet you can't (doubt) guess what word is going to feature prominantly, but you're smart enough that you've probably already figured it out (true belief).
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I'd like to say more, but it'll have to be in Part Two.