And Coming in 2016....

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden," to be published by Cranberry Quill... an allegory for children of all ages, beautifully illustrated.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Babbling 'Bout the Year Ahead

For twenty-four years, I've written columns appearing mostly in the Fort Pierce Tribune, as well as the Forum, the Independent (aka the WeeklyStuart News, Vero Beach Press Journal, Burlington Times-News, Main Street Focus, and (once) the Raleigh Observer. This wonderful slice of life began with New Year's thoughts appearing January 6, 1989 in the Tribune.

It happened this way: I noticed that a friend of ours had a guest column in the paper. I'm not sure if I asked her about it, or if I just sent something in, but Howard Sharp, the editorial page editor at the time, accepted it, asked me to come in for a photo and gave me the heads-up about submitting invoices. They actually had a freelance budget back then. Would that they did now!

At any rate, Bob Enns, the managing editor (I think they still called the top guy "editor-in-chief" then) stepped down soon after and Lee Barnes took the reins. I went in to introduce myself to "Mr. Barnes." "Call me Lee," he said in a South Carolina drawl he describes as John-Kerry-with-a-head-cold.

I noticed that on his wall hung a diploma frame. I know this is what it was because the store's slick paper insert was still inside it bearing those very words in fancy font: diploma frame. Apparently he was too busy reporting and managing newsrooms and being editors hither and yon in Florida and North Carolina to actually graduate from college. Go figure. But you can tell a lot about his character, humility, and humor from that one simple frame on the wall. We hit it off immediately.

So of course, I tried to take advantage right away, asking if I could write for the paper on a regular basis. Welllll, nooooo, but he did like my writing. "We'll be glad to print whatever you send in." So I sent something in every week.

Eventually I got an official request to be the Wednesday columnist in the local section, and it was, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I made some folks mad, and got fired twice (by subsequent editors) but it was great while it lasted. There was one paper that actually closed down shop with an issue I'd written for, but I'm told that it wasn't my fault! Currently, I toss out the occasional guest column and Larry Reisman, editorial page editor for all three of Scripps' Treasure Coast papers is generous enough to run them. No more freelance budget, but hey, it's still a nice feeling to know that people in my community are reading what I've written.

Sometimes I get an email, or  comments attached to the online version of the column. Sometimes they're complimentary, sometimes snarky, both of which mean someone went beyond a thought and did something about it. To a writer, either pro or con taken to that level is a plus.

That's a lot of talking about me, something about which Lee educated me under his editorial guidance. Too many "I's" and I'd get a phone call telling me to either change it or to let me know why he wasn't running my column that week! But I re-read that 1989 inaugural opinion column the other day, and before I get to my 2012 thoughts about the new year, I thought I'd ramble on a little bit for context.

Rambling done (the downside to blogging is that no one edits me first!) what do I hope for in 2013? I'm not superstitious about the number 13, so none of that. And when you think about it, we passed the much-bandied-about Doomsday predicted by the Mayans on December 21, so why worry about 13?

Because our son Adam died in 2000, the turning of the numbers usually has me reflecting on that one point: it will be 13 years, now, since his death. Honestly, for many, many years, that is what every January 1 brought to mind. This year, however, there is a sense of change. Dynamics, family systems, possible local moves, new relationships for loved ones...that's a lot of change! What do I hope for, primarily, between the last day of 2012 and the last day of 2013? Resolutions are temporary, for the most part, but here are some random thoughts that apply to my own life, and may spark some thoughts about yours:

I need to manage my time better so I can get more exercise, and get other things better in order. I've recently re-discovered how many squats and calf lifts I can do while conditioning my hair in the shower. I've wasted precious time just standing there, and hope to remember more often. I could jog in place while watching television, too. My schedule hasn't been conducive lately to running at the track or going to the gym, which means I have to either change my schedule or come up with more creative ways to stay fit. Because I'm 55. And I want to be 95 one day, still fit.

Households operate best when there are some routines its members can count on. This morning, 9-year-old Adam suggested we have meals at the same time, like at school. I think that's a grand idea. It will take some cooperation and some discipline, and possibly, some fussing to get people out of the kitchen because I'MFIXINGDINNERJUSTWAIT. I can remember going through a menu-phase, in which I planned out an entire month's meals at one shot, and bought everything I'd need in one trip. It was great! Why did I stop? Who knows. But maybe this year, I'll become more organized about such things.

Housework's another area I could be more organized. When we were at Discipleship Training School at the Youth With A Mission base in Lindale, Texas, my work duty EVERY DAY was to clean our two rooms and the bathroom we shared with a couple from Norway. Things never required much cleaning because I tended to them daily. I took time daily. Things aren't slovenly around here, but I can see room for improvement. (I learned a long time ago that the way to my husband's heart is not through his stomach, as the saying goes, but it is freshly vacuumed. Knowing that, I think it's the least I can do to maintain a neat home for a man who has worked so hard all his life.)

I need to drink more water. You'd think such a thing would go without saying, but most of us walk around dehydrated, with fresh, clean water available 24/7 for the vast majority of Americans. Water is such a necessary component to our physical, even mental and emotional, well-being that I'm surprised there's not more of a push by the government to educate the public on this. We know to recycle and stop smoking and do breast self-exams and not drive while intoxicated, but I'm guessing there's a mess of people who don't drink enough water every day and don't even know they should. AND I KNOW I SHOULD AND DON'T! Dumb. Dumber than dumb. I just don't remember to do it.

I have to keep fighting codependency. Getting myself wrapped up in other peoples' behaviors and emotions is my default setting. For years, after reading "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie, and going to a family counselor, I've been working on this, and making healthy strides toward a better frame of mind. What I'd thought was being a servant, being kind, being submissive, etc. etc ad nauseum turned out to be counterproductive in some cases, even harmful. I need to let people be who they are, even if it means they make mistakes or behave badly. It's not up to me to change them, or even educate them, even if that has been an appropriate role in the past for various reasons.

For instance, I have parented my children. They're not my responsibility any longer, because they're adults. That's easy when they don't live with me, but with one resident daughter, it's been a struggle. Have. To. Let. Go. When she has been ill or otherwise unable to parent HER children, I've stepped in. Too much, perhaps. Have to find that delicate balance as the co-head of the household in such a way that I don't usurp my daughter's authority but rather, support it. At the same time, we feel there are things we should require of all who live under our roof. I walk a fine line, and don't do it anywhere near perfection, but I'm working on it. Looooong way to go, as anyone in the house could attest. I don't expect to be perfect by December 31, 2013, but I'll be very disappointed if I can't show some progress.

I need to be more disciplined in my writing. I worked best when I had an editor who expected me to turn in a column on time, with the correct word count and minimal editing needed. Committing to this blog, and especially my other one (A Poem A Day) builds in some accountability, but I haven't written much for paying markets, for no other reason than sheer laziness. There's really no excuse for that. Writers write.

Those who know me and my background best may, at this point, be thinking "When is she going to talk about her spiritual life?" Well...I'm not. As a Christian, it goes without saying that spiritual growth is an ongoing process. None of us has "arrived." None of us, from the newest believer to the celebrity preacher to the theologian with more letters at the end of his or her name than one would think possible...none...NONE...should think prayer is no longer needed, or study, or worship. The day a Christian (or, I would think, a person whose faith lies elsewhere) thinks he or she knows all there is to know about God and God's word and God's will and God's ways is a day of deception and delusion. Eternity is how long it will take to fully know God. And since it goes without saying, well, I'm not saying much.

I want to laugh more this year. Kiss more. Be silly more. Sing more loudly and dance more often. I want to make other people laugh, and cry, because I've written something that touched their hearts. I want to look in the mirror at the end of 2013 and think, "You did okay." Maybe I'll be able to do that honestly, maybe not. But one thing I know for sure, I love being alive. I love love, love's power and grace and fierceness. I'm looking forward to seeing my love affect others, and being affected by theirs. I'm excited about seeing lives change this year in a myriad of positive ways.

It's gonna be a wild ride!



(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012






Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's My Birthday and I'll Write if I Want To, Write if I Want To, Write if I Want To

Somewhere in the vicinity of four in the afternoon, 55 years ago tomorrow (December 19, 1957 if you must know) I was born. I don't remember this. I don't remember feeling compelled to leave my warm dark home and venture out, squeezing through an opening in the cave wall, being pushed out (literally) kicking and screaming.

I don't remember any of it. There are months, years even, that I've lost. I was held, cooed and sung to, rocked, played with, fed, bathed. For years I received royal treatment, and I can't recall a single detail, which hardly seems fair. How many of us EVER get the royal treatment again?

My earliest memory is probably two, maybe three, a hazy impression of sitting on a high stool listening to my mother and an elderly woman. Mama knows exactly who and what that describes, but I do not.

When I was two, my mother was pregnant a third time, and was confined to bed. I don't remember that either. I played alone a lot while she desperately tried to keep the baby safe and secure within her womb, but I don't remember it. I know that as much as I love people, there are times I must be alone. I get "peopled out" and maybe this is something genetically mapped early on. I don't know. I just don't know.

When my baby brother died, I don't know if I cried or not. I grew up hearing the story, seeing the photograph of funeral flowers, seeing the photo of his still, perfectly formed shape, but I had no personal connection.

Out of 55 years, I remember close to 50 fairly well. I wonder why we're made that way? Why don't we recall every significant occurrence that has done its part to shape who and what we are? Or more accurately, who and what we are becoming. At 55, I am more finished than I was, say, at 17, but not as complete as the woman as I intend to be at 80. I know some things I want to see happen between now and then, and I don't have a clue how it will all pan out, but I'm determined to enjoy the journey.

What have I learned in 55 years? I learned how to cry early on. Turn over, crawl - pretty impressive feats, given my tender age. I learned to walk, talk, use the potty, obey my parents, play with paper dolls. I learned how to do math and use the English language. Learned to read, color inside (and outside, if I felt like it) the lines. Learned how to cook simple dishes (I haven't progressed very far from that). Learned to play a few musical instruments, the names of the states, how to braid hair, and (because I am a Southern woman and Raised Right) how to clean and sew.

I learned that people almost always do exactly what they want to do, regardless of what they say about it. That God exists and will do exactly what HE wants, regardless of how I feel about it. That love can be fierce, loss is physically painful, joy is as necessary to existence as oxygen or food. I learned that I feel loved when I am touched and when I am talked to, which makes me a cheap date, perhaps, but an appreciative one.

I learned from observing my parents and sister, relatives, friends, from reading books and listening to people. I learned a lot from sitting around a breakfast table while a bunch of cranky men talked to one another. I learned how to adapt to almost anything, and then I learned (only fairly recently) that I don't have to adapt to a damn thing unless I choose to.

I kiss well, I'm told. I could tell you other things I'm pretty good at (most of them), but I'm not genius at anything. It is one of the banes of my existence, because I always wanted to be the Best at Something, and I'm not. I could also tell you  the areas of great struggle and weakness that serve as the meat of most of my personal prayers. If you find fault with me, believe me when I say, it's no surprise. I'm already well aware of whatever fault you see, so you might as well save your breath.

In other words,  I know myself pretty well despite that annoying initial fog as a toddler. For the most part, I'm pleased with the skin I'm in (although I'd like to reduce the amount by several pounds). I'm not the girl I was, or the woman I will become, but for now, with the help of God and love and mercy and tenderness, I'm okay. Really. And thanks for asking.

On second thought, I am the Best at Something. Being me. Warts and all.


(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Apologetics


Depending on whom you ask, Christianity is either an impotent, dead religion or a frightening one. Jesus is either an anemic, namby pamby Sunday school hero with an insipid smile (“There, there, it will be alright one day.”) or an outraged avenger ready to turn to ashes everyone who sins.

The far right hasn’t done Christianity any favors in the United States. Christians have been lumped in, unmercifully, with the gay-hating, women-controlling, gun-toting racists, and I have to speak up and say: enough. Christians have enough baggage without all of that! We’re a mess, collectively, but we came by it honestly. Don’t blame us for hate or prejudice or bad fashion sense! Christians don’t hold the monopoly!

What is a Christian, bottom line? Aside from Westernization. Aside from politicization. Aside from denominationalizing. Take Christianity to its simplest terms, and what do you have? I submit to you, that you have nothing to fear at all. Nothing to hate. Nothing to despise or legislate against. Nothing to be intimidated by. Take away a Nativity scene on city property, and you only underscore the fact that it DOES mean something.

Christians started being called Christians in the 1st century. Christians, as in “little Christs.” People who followed Jesus of Nazareth, a.k.a.  the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. He was, he said, God born of the flesh. He performed miracles. He taught tolerance, forgiveness, love, service, outreach. Scary, eh? Only to those who want to be intolerant, hateful, selfish, and exclusive.

Jesus taught that belief wasn’t enough. He asked people to follow. It wasn’t enough to think he had good ideas, not enough to acknowledge that he knew what he was talking about. Not enough to say he was a prophet or a good teacher. Put it in practice. Give the words your hands and feet and mouth. Anyone can say they believe, but will they follow? Historically, only a small percentage do. And they do it horribly. I say this from experience.

The problem with religion, any religion, is that the name and the practice can be far removed, but constantly united in perception. You’re a Buddhist, and I know what Buddha taught. If you say you’re a Buddhist, I may decide you’re a bad one, if you don’t adhere perfectly to Buddha’s teachings…or I may make the leap so many make and decide that Buddhism’s bad because YOU are.

That old saying, that bumper sticker of a saying, is actually true:  Christians aren’t perfect, they’re just forgiven. Forgiveness is the crux of the matter. Christians believe that Jesus Christ, perfect man and God-made-flesh, died in place of all others, past, present, future. God bled for our collective sins, thus perfectly paying the penalty. We believe that, and rejoice that when we sin (which we do, all of us, with alarming regularity and varying degree) we have an advocate with the Father, the Creator form of God, the punisher. When we sin, Jesus steps up and says, “Wait…I already paid the penalty for that, remember?” and our lives are spared, eternally-speaking.

It’s not a license to sin, but when we do, we believe that there is forgiveness available. And because we have this wonderful news that we can be reconciled to God, that we don’t have to feel guilty and miserable in our wrong-doing any longer, we like to talk about it.

Which would be great, if that’s all we talked about. Unfortunately, over the years, Christians have become more comfortable butting into everyone’s business. It’s not enough to try and manage my own sexual temptations – I need to address yours! It’s not good enough to simply try and follow the teachings of Jesus; I need to tell you what is wrong with your life instead!

And so, there is a misconception, which is the fault of Christians, in my opinion. It’s unavoidable, given that every Christian is a sinful, wretched excuse for humanity living in a world of other non-Christian sinful, wretched excuses for humanity. People need the true message of Christ, the reconciliation available by simple belief and commitment. But the message has deteriorated into something different.

Biblically, Christians will be increasingly despised, until people will actually think they are doing God’s will to kill Christians (John 16:2), substantially more serious that prohibiting prayer at school or nativity scenes at Christmas. Hopefully we’re a few centuries away from that, but if we think, even for one moment, that it can’t happen? That it won’t happen? The only way to put off such a mindset would be a return to the basic teachings of the Gospel. Forget the Tea Party. Forget Pat Robertson. Forget misogynist racists who wouldn’t recognize an act of grace and mercy if it sat on their faces.

Jesus. He was either who he said he was, or he was a scam artist. There’s no middle ground. If you don’t believe, but seek real Truth, have the backbone to dig deeper. If he’s God, follow him. If he isn’t, find someone else who shares the same decency and holiness he preached. Stop the hatred and intolerance. For God’s sake. And your own.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012
Permission to reprint with acknowledgment of source.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Value

I was at a large Orlando mall over the weekend, the kind that has top end stores catering to the wealthy, or at least to those who behave as though they are. People like me can often find affordable bargains when there's a good sale in such stores, or discover small items that stay in the single or double digit price range. But then there are the $500 shoes, the $250 purses.

I know, I know. I am underscoring my middle-classedness by regarding these as outrageously expensive. At the top of the food chain, there are folks who might turn up their noses at such prices as proof of lower quality. For them, it's the Christian Louboutins for $6k or nothing.

As if.

Maybe at some point it is relative... you make $100,000 a year, and buy more expensive gifts but still at about the same percentage as someone who makes $30,000. I don't know. All I know is that this year, Christmas will be on a diet.

Which brings me back to the question of pricey items. Are shoes that cost more than I will make substitute teaching this year that much more comfortable? I think not. Comfort is probably a low priority when you slip on a pair of  high-dollar stilettos. It's all about the designer... but if your friends don't recognize Louboutins as Louboutins, the magic is lost.

A friend of mine recently attended an event in North Dakota, where the Bakkan oil fields have turned hand-to-mouth farmers into overnight upper class elite. $65,000 a month for oil rights. My friend said he happened to talk to the local Chevy dealer and commented that he bet the guy was selling a lot of new trucks. "Mostly Corvettes," the man replied. "We're the national top seller."

A few years ago, buying a new truck would be a big deal to folks who now have to have, have to drive, sportscars. Hmmm.

There was a vendor selling pocket knives. Diamond-studded pocket knives. Thousands of dollars for something that not only no one needs, but can hardly be used for the purpose for which it was manufactured. Pocket knives cut things, whittle, open things, peel apples, for heaven's sake. Would you risk popping off a diamond to cut a good stick for marshmallow roast? Who even wants one? People who have so much money all of a sudden that they feel they have to spend it. Novelty items. It's just money. Well, how about saving it? Or giving some away? Helping someone out?

Obviously, if you've made a lot of money, it's yours to do with as you please. Not my place to judge or question, but I do wonder if getting rich quick tends to tinker with one's sense of value. Value is, in a nutshell, what someone's willing to pay for something. It may be worth a million dollars to one person, not a thin dime to another. Value is subjective. You might spend $3000 for a pair of shoes or for a fancy pocket knife. I'd rather find something more in the $20 range ... or better yet, someone's cast-off $20 shoes at Goodwill for $3.99. Or at a yard sale for a buck.

I heard a teacher speak of human life one time, saying that God values us so much that the death of Jesus in our collective place was the only fitting ransom. A person will give his or her life to save a loved one, perhaps... not so quickly for a stranger, unless we're talking true heroism. To save the life of a scoundrel? A murderer? Our enemy? The world's better off without them! But we are all scoundrels to one degree or another, and yet highly valued by our Creator. He wasted Jesus's life on us, and yet it wasn't a waste at all, not in his eyes. He values us that much.

What we value, we sacrifice for. Countries that value education pay teachers better than those that do not. That just makes sense. People who value freedom appreciate those who fight for it, or they enlist themselves.

Which fits today, because this is Veteran's Day. I have brothers-in-law who are veterans, my father and father-in-law, a daughter, loved ones, friends and neighbors, all veterans. I am so thankful that they are recipients of honor on Veteran's Day and not Memorial Day. So thankful they survived their time as Marines or in the Army, Navy, Air Force, so thankful for their choice to serve our country. I value their commitment and I value them. Our nation values the military, and should, for without it we wouldn't have a nation to begin with.

I've gone all over the place, Christmas shopping and whining about overpriced trinkets and Jesus and veterans, but so what? That's the point of a blog called "For What it's Worth"... to some, these rambling words aren't worth much and to others, they are. All a matter of perspective. A matter of what you happen to value, but I'd leave you with this thought:  Who loves you so much that no distance is too far to travel to be with you, that any time away from you is too long? Who would die for you, but even more than that, who would live for you?

In other words, who values you? To whom are you a precious treasure? And who is a precious treasure to you? Have you told them lately? That's so much more important than finding the right gift for them at the mall, at any price.


(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mulling an Important Decision

An abysmally late blog, but then again, I've kept up the poem-a-day-thing (www.ellenpoems.blogspot.com) so let's cut me some slack! It's also been a hellacious month in many ways, but no need to get into all that.

November 6 approacheth, and any opinionated person worth his or her weight in goose down is weighing in. We've got Republicans stuck in offensive mode, apparently unable to speak without saying something ridiculous like "legitimate rape" or "God intended the rape" or "retards." The Vice President got criticized for sarcasm and the President let the word "bullshit" escape during a Rolling Stones interview. Little ole Fort Pierce is now on the political map as the home of Scott van Duzer, he of the presidential bear hug, with unbelievably vile criticism for being an outgoing, friendly guy.

We've seen horrible ads, sleazy ads, immature ads, downright inaccurate ads. According to who you read or listen to, every Democrat is a liberal idiot who wants to hamstring businesses in order to feed lazy poor people who should be out there working instead of making more babies for the express purpose of extorting additional state money. Every Republican is a lobotomized misogynist (even the females!) who wants to obliterate freedom of thought and require women to have at least two babies before they think about a career.

Wrong on all counts.

Which is why I'm now a registered Independent who is trying to weigh all the promises, debates, opinions, commentators, wisdom, factcheckers, and gut feelings to come up with a reason to vote for whoever-I-vote-for in a few weeks, unless I opt for early voting and get it over with sooner.

Everyone has pet issues. For some, it's Social Security and Medicare. For others, it's the military.

Years ago, my husband and I took temperament tests, which has nothing to do with the election, but bear with me. The basic temperaments are Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic. It's more complex than this, but the nutshell version is:
     Sanguine - outgoing, friendly, sociable, pleasure-seeking
     Choleric - energetic, edgy, motivated, ambitious, leader-like
     Melancholic - introverted, thoughtful
     Phlegmatic - quiet, easy-going

My scores were fairly even among the first three temperaments, almost non-existent with the fourth. I can be quiet, and I can be easy-going, but phlegmatic is not my natural bent. My husband, on the other hand, scored almost totally phlegmatic, with very low scores for the other three temperaments. Opposites, in other words. (And who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?)

Why this story applies to the election: my issues are broad. I'm not primarily concerned about just one or two, but the ones I consider "key" I feel very strongly about.

Life. I think life is important, that God breathes life into us for a purpose. As a woman I don't want anyone telling me whether or not I have the right to become pregnant. As a mother and grandmother, I don't want anyone counseling my granddaughter (or yours) about having an abortion without a parent or guardian present. I don't want fellow women getting partial advice or incorrect advice or submitting to a procedure under less-than-sterile conditions. I think abortion should be regulated, if it is to continue, so that a surgical procedure isn't allowed to be performed by people without proper training under unregulated conditions. If the health and life of the fetus is legally ignored, that's one thing. Giving the abortion industry free rein in the name of "choice" isn't giving enough importance to the lives of women in crisis. And I've mellowed somewhat, over the years. I understand that women can be in difficult situations in which they truly believe abortion is the only answer. I get that. I don't agree, necessarily, but I'm guilty of my own particular sins and have no fingers left to point at them in blame. Plus, the majority of the country apparently wants legalized abortion....so if it's going to be legal, it should be safe, with parental consent, and with full disclosure of possible consequences to the mother just like with any other surgical procedure. Abortion shouldn't be glossed over - there's no invasiveness to an ultrasound, no violation of civil rights to give complete information before a woman decides. And absolutely, if a minor is pregnant, she's not equipped to make such a monumental, potentially life-changing decision on her own.

Both presidential candidates are playing the moderate game as election day draws near, but Mitt Romney seems to be more consistently anti-abortion, while Barak Obama seems to be more consistently pro-abortion. Note that I avoided the usual labels of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" by design. Too often pro-lifers forget about the life of the mothers, and too often pro-choicers are only interested in the choice they themselves would make in the same circumstances. There needs to be a willingness to meet somewhere in the middle, and both candidates hold out a glimmer of hope here.

Call me a religious nut case, but I believe the Bible as far as Israel's eternal destiny. I believe that God did choose the Jewish people for a purpose, that Israel is a vital, integral part to the future of mankind. Do I understand it all? Do I think Israel is always right? Of course not. But in God's government, and seen throughout man's history, a nation's relationship with the nation of Israel is important. It still is. From an entirely secular standpoint, Israel deserves our support because of its strategic position, geographically, in the Middle East; for its democracy; for its history - we must remember the Holocaust and make sure it doesn't happen again. From a Christian standpoint, our "religion" (it isn't a religion at all, actually, but a relationship) is grafted onto the root of Judaism, and we are, therefore, or should be, forever in allegiance from that perspective.

In the final presidential debate, Obama spoke out in support of Israel, but it may be, for voters, too little too late. His alleged snubbing of Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu recently, coupled with a record of Muslim-leaning rhetoric is disturbing. On the other hand, Romney's Mormon beliefs are so far from the majority of the American peoples' that concern is justified in that camp as well.

Romney's military stance seems stronger to me than Obama's. He has run businesses and a state.

Obama has a more even temperament, and seems more approachable.

Both men, I believe, are sincere in their desire to lead the United States into economic recovery, military strength, physical health, and educational excellence. The fact that President Obama was sincere about all these things four years ago, and hasn't delivered on much, is a big concern. The fact that Mitt Romney waffles and hasn't laid out a finite plan is a big concern as well.

I guess I've got to think about it some more, but time is limited. I've been told, by people who have no faith (or think they don't - but that's the subject of another essay) that they envy my faith and wish they shared my confidence in divinity, in absolutes. I hear people speak and see posts on Facebook that imply many of the people I know are just as certain of either Obama or Romney. I envy their certainty. I just don't share it.





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Headline: Woman Takes On the New York Times, Has No Effect Whatsoever


For what it's worth...the name of my blog...means just that. This blog and a dollar will get you an ice cream cone at McDonald's (if their machine isn't down). But it's my opinion, and it's worth it to me to think and stew and vent and organize my thoughts, regardless:


In his September 17 op-ed piece for the New York Times, columnist David Brooks points the finger at Republican nominee Mitt Romney for being out of touch with the true conditions of the nation. Forty-seven percent of the country, he quotes Romney as saying, are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
He goes on with this comment:

Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency. But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills. People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.
Therein lies the problem. Romney thinks that forty-seven percent of the country believed they are entitled. Brooks thinks that entitlements are a necessity. I disagree with both.
I would estimate closer to 100% of Americans feel entitled in some form or another. Other people have things; so should we. Other people get the best medical care available; so should we. Why shouldn’t I have my own home – I can’t afford it, but that’s not really fair! I pay taxes! I demand my road get fixed today, or the cops come whenever I snap my fingers (whether or not my taxes pay them well or not).
I don’t like Romney. I may not vote for him. I don’t trust him, and there has been an epidemic of really stupid comments by Republicans going viral. (I don’t trust President Obama either, however.) But Romney is correct, I believe, that people who receive benefits have, by way of human nature (not by way of being Americans or on welfare or for any other reason), a tendency toward dependency, or at least codependency.
Let’s say that someone shows up at the door every morning and hands you $100. Not as a payment for anything you’ve done, it’s just what he wants to do. At first you’re surprised, excited, grateful. After awhile, however, you start expecting it. You did nothing to earn it, but hey, if the guy wants to pay you $100 every morning, who are you to complain? You notice that everyone else on the street is getting the same benefit. Good for them!
Then one day the guy doesn’t come. WTF? You haven’t earned it, but now you feel entitled, especially when you see him at the next-door neighbor’s. If the guy suddenly starts going only to certain houses…or no houses…he’d better stop showing his face anywhere near the neighborhood!
You became, quite gradually and through no real fault of your own, dependent. You started spending the next day’s Ben Franklin before it actually arrived. Your expectations drove your plans. No, can’t afford it today, but tomorrow, I’ll get paid and…
You overspend. You don’t save. You don’t question why you’re getting it or how long it will last. You depend on the kindness of a stranger, and you are trapped. He now controls your emotions and behavior.  The only way you’ll stop depending on him, in truth, is if he stops coming around. Eventually you realize you’ll need to adjust your lifestyle, your way of thinking.
It’s a poor, limited analogy. But as a family counselor has mentioned to me, he’s never seen such an entitled generation as he sees in today’s young adult population. They were raised—the ones he has observed, anyway –by those middle class parents Brooks celebrates. They just wanted to give their kids as much as they could, give them more than they had growing up. And it has come back to bite them, big time.
There are millions of grandparents raising grandchildren, for example, and the initial response by most people, myself included, is Thank God for the grandparents! Where would those poor kids be without them? Unfortunately, the cycle, once set in motion, replicates itself. Unless steps are taken to prevent it, children are raised thinking this is the norm, becoming irresponsible parents one day themselves, because that is what parents do.
As a nation, I fear that we have become those children, coddled and protected, benefitted en masse when times were good, and now demanding the same benefits during tough times. Those who lived through the Great Depression learned much more from their suffering, I hate to say, than we who have had so very much.
I have seen firsthand, in our own family, what “helping” someone financially can do, and it isn’t pretty. Rather than see a loved one “do without” we have jumped in, only to have the help backfire to a devastating degree. I have tried to “help” someone with visible, valid needs only to realize—hopefully not too late!—that I had actually prevented that person from truly growing up, stepping up to the plate, learning the important lessons of life.
It’s natural for parents and grandparents and governments to want their “dependents” (and there’s a reason we call them that!) to be happy, well-fed, nicely clothed. But the writers of the Declaration of Independence were on to something: We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created, that they are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life,  liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Pursuit implies work. Diligence. Self-motivation. Unfortunately, many Americans seem to think that happiness is owed them. That government, by supplying their everyday needs, will press a button or wave a magic wand at some point and happiness will knock on their door. It just doesn’t happen that way. Romney doesn’t get it, but neither does Brooks.
For what it's worth.

(C) Ellen Gillette, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rambling about Tough Times

A friend of mine is going through a tough time, but says that it is a good thing. Painful, but good. I could elaborate and compare this whatever-it-is phase with necessary surgery, but I won't. Surgery implies that something is wrong with the body and surgery is needed to correct it. Sometimes we go through tough times when there doesn't seem to be any "need" for it. It just happens.

Many, many years ago I ran into the back of a car. I had kids with me, but I was going so slowly that there was no damage to the other vehicle, and only slight damage to my own. Still, it was unsettling.

Later in the day, I was on the phone with our minister. I told him about the fender-bender and his first response was so typical of many people of faith: "What is the Lord trying to teach you?"

I probably mumbled something spiritual-sounding or fortuitously heard a child in the background requiring my assistance. What I WISH that I had said was: "I think he was trying to teach me to keep my eyes on the freakin' road." Or words to that effect.

Maybe you didn't get bombarded with this, in your early formative years, spiritually speaking. For whatever reason, it seems like there always needed to be "a reason," or "a lesson." Tough times were either because (A) God was teaching you something, (B) Satan was attacking you, or (C) you blew it and needed punishment. Or (D) "We  live in a fallen world, and there will be bad things happening."

Conversely, any alleged miracle/healing/blessing was proof of (A) God's smiling down from heaven in benevolent grace just because he wanted to, (B) Satan being defeated in your life, or (C) your spiritual maturity. Or (D) "I've read the back of the Book and we win!"

The problem with this line of thinking, this tidy cause-and-effect box we try to put God, ourselves, and Everything That Happens into...well, there are lots of problems with it.

There are lesson to be learned at all times. When bad things happen, when good things happen. The lesson isn't in the thing, but in our response to the thing. The sun comes out, the birdies start to chirp, and one of us sings along, while another is complaining about the heat and waiting for an eyeful of bird shit.

Something bad happens, and we can either expect things to improve at some point, or use it as confirmation that our lives suck. Something good happens, and we can either rejoice, or put on our Eeyore mask and talk about how temporary it is.

These are not principles just for Christians, obviously. Positive people may or may not attribute their overall cheerful natures to a divine source of any kind. Being positive works for the Muslim or Hindu or tree-hugger, just like tithing does. There are plenty of odious characters who reap financial benefits by giving generously to those in need, who may or may not even know that they are obeying a biblical mandate. God is bigger than that. His blessings are for "anyone who will" as the scripture says.

My friend said that this current phase is difficult to understand or explain. I can relate. On the one hand, there are negative things in my life pressing in on all sides. Why are they happening? "Woe is me" (or more grammatically correct, "Woe is I"!). What can I glean from them? How should I respond? Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?

On the other hand, another area of my life is so overwhelmingly positive that just thinking about the grace and joy makes the other parts tolerable. And again, hard to understand or explain. I didn't do anything to "deserve" the happy parts of my life. But some of the same questions apply: How will I respond? How can I protect and nurture this, so that I don't take its blessings for granted? When we treat sacred things as common, we miss so much.

I'm rambling, I know. All of life is, in a sense, sacred. We aren't alive because of anything we did or didn't do, but because the Giver of Life breathed it into us and has chosen, for his purposes and plans, not to withdraw it just yet. So every moment has some of that divine spark, whether it is "painful for the moment" as Paul wrote concerning discipline, or a "cup (that) overflows" as the psalmist wrote of life's blessing.

When all that we're experiencing is low, dark, difficult, it is hard to remember that joy exists. I know this well. And when all that we're experiencing is the top of the mountain, yippee!, success, happiness, we can forget that those valleys are very real. The person next to you may be in the valley - don't try to sing songs to cheer him up, but acknowledge his pain and remind him that it will pass, in time. The person next to you may be on the mountain - don't try to bring him down to the "real world" just because you're having a bad day.

To sum it up - I really do have that "make things tidy" mentality, I'm afraid - let yourself be. Let others be. Circumstances will be all over the place, up, down, sideways, highs, lows. Underneath all of the circumstances is a place of peace. A depth of ocean unrippled by the surface winds.


(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012  Permission to use with acknowledgement of source.








Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

Lost in Space - remember that one?
"Danger, Will Robinson!"
Significant loss changes a person, I've been told. You spend the rest of your life finding out who you are now. Career, divorce, a death...these things have a lasting effect. Ignoring that fact not only doesn't help, it actually hurts.

Last night, who I was, or who I appeared to be, was not "sparkling," as my sister would say. First there was the blow-up with my teenage granddaughter, followed (after a bit) by my apology for getting angry. I assured her that what I had needed to say wouldn't have changed, or what I did, but I should have said and done those things without the anger. Anger = loss. That's just the way it is. If you get angry with a child, the opportunity for teaching and effective discipline is sucked into his or her vortex of snarkiness. You can hardly blame kids for being disrespectful when you give them the upper hand like that.

Just after that, I went to log on to my laptop and it politely informed me that my either my username or password was incorrect. Couldn't be my name, because I know who I am. I tried my password over and over. The computer thoughtfully provided a hint. Still, I was wrongwrongwrong. But it felt right. I knew it was right! I'd logged on a dozen times that day without a hitch. What had changed?

Obviously it was the computer. I ran a lengthy diagnostic - backup a sec. First I had to locate the book to tell me HOW to run a lengthy diagnostic. The grandson needed to get to bed - the granddaughter had already gone to sleep at the astonishingly early hour of 8pm (which explained HER snarkiness...the poor thing was exhausted!) - so I enlisted the husband's help (the daughter was taking a test at the college). Grandson tucked in, I used the desktop to find tech support, prepared for an online chat or phone call, saw a suggestion for bypassing a password, looked into that.

After hours...HOURS...during which I also deleted an enormous amount of junk the grandkids had downloaded onto the desktop, I thought to try another time. Months ago, I had dropped the numbers in my old password. Last night, my brain reverted to that time frame, insistent that the numbers belonged, when in fact, they did not. Without the numbers, I was in like Flynn.

Long ago Hollywood bad boy
Errol Flynn, accused (but acquitted)
of naughtiness with underage girls.
Wikipedia interruption:
"In like Flynn" is a slang phrase meaning "having completed a goal or gained access as desired". In addition to its general use, the phrase is sometimes used to describe success in sexual seduction, and its folk etymology often asserts the phrase has sexual origins.

Who knew? 


So this morning, the husband asks if I was able to fix my computer. "Yes," I said. "All I had to do was type in the right password." He knows me pretty well after 35 years, replying, "You need a day off." And he is correct.


That's what my brain does. Like a supercomputer that slows down while working on a difficult calculation, my brain can only deal with so much stress before it calls for a time out. Usually, it functions adequately. Stress overload, and I start forgetting appointments or losing track of passwords. It is my gray matters' alert system. Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! 


The first time I noticed this in a dramatic way was twelve years ago this week, and in the weeks to follow, for several months. Our son Adam died August 22, 2000. Grief took so much energy that my brain slowed down considerably. I noticed it at work. I noticed it at home. A sentence was difficult to put together at times. Already on a low dose of anti-depressant for Life, my doctor gently suggested I might need more now. He doubled the dose, and I saw a big improvement.

Even then, I heard comments to the effect that as soon as possible, I should get off "drugs." As if taking meds was a sign that I lacked faith, that I wasn't availing myself of God's everpresent supernatural help. Really? No one suggested that stop wearing contact lenses because God was enough. The chemistry of my brain was askew, and taking medication helped things work better. Since when is that a lack of faith?

I also bought a punching bag, taking out some of my pent-up anger - at God, at Ford (the faulty manufacturer of the Explorer, which went out of control, ultimately resulting in my son's death), at a few ridiculously insensitive people I had to face regularly - by pummeling 
it instead of exploding.

I turned to other things for comfort, too. 

About a year after Adam's death, 11 years ago, our OPO representative (the Organ Procurement Organization - Adam was an organ donor) called to check on me. I laughed at some comment and he said, "I'm glad to hear you're doing so well." I laughed again. "Let's keep this in perspective, Dave: I'm on Zoloft, I have a punching bag, and I drink." He laughed, then, too, saying he was going to remember that one, and tell the others he worked with. Maybe they still talk about the donor mom who didn't exactly go off the deep end, but definitely wasn't just wading.

I'm not on meds now, haven't been for years. The punching bag is no longer needed...oh, yeah, I still get angry, but I lean now toward other anger management tools: yard work, yoga, writing, exercise. I still drink, but it is because I want to, choose to, not because I have to. I actually like the taste of a nice glass of wine in the evening, or the combination of diet Code Red and hot buttered popcorn (still have to have comfort food some time!).

But then, this week, this anniversary week for the worst week of my life, hits and my brain goes to mush again. Twelve years into this process of getting to know who-I-am-now, and some things haven't changed all that much. I can take a lot, but only so much. Anything extra, anything at all, and my brain makes me stop and take inventory. Deep breaths, a little meditation (the Psalms are great for this), a glass of Cabernet, maybe a word game against my son on the phone...perspective is regained. The heart slows. Oxygen flows.

All may not be right with the world, but when I allow myself time to reboot, give myself permission to fall back and regroup, arrange a day off to look forward to...it's not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. There are even quite a few sparkles...and the blacker the sky, the brighter the stars appear.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Abigail Rocks the House


I've always been fascinated by the wives of King David in the Bible, and not because I married a man named David. Even before that, as a teenager, it seemed to me that sermons at church frequently focused on the shepherd boy-turned-ruler of a country. If you do a search, you'll find my take on Michal, David's first wife. (I think she gets a bum rap most of the time.)

After David fled for his life - his father-in-law, current King Saul was out for blood - Saul gave Michal to another man. David and his merry men had adventures, tried to stay safe. David wrote psalms along the way. And then he met Abigail.

You know those scenes in cartoons (or now, with special effects, just about any kind of movie) where eyeballs pop out when a beautiful woman or other object of desire shows up? Ah-OO-ga. Maybe that happened with David when Abigail said hi. Whoever wrote down the story didn't elaborate.

Abigail is actually the subject of an ongoing, pseudo-scholarly debate. And by pseudo-scholarly debate, I mean "some people need to get a life and stop arguing about things that don't matter." Does it really affect us one way or the other if Abigail was a manipulative, rebellious bitch or if she was a the greatest thing since sliced bread? And I don't even prefer sliced bread. I like those round tins of Hawaiian bread heated up and broken off in chunks.

But I digress. (I wrote this entire blog once already, and managed to delete it by mistake. I am still bitter.)

Seriously, if you google "Abigail David" you'll get an eyeful. Even more of an eyeful if you add "Bill Gothard" to the mix. Bill is the head of Institute in Basic Life Principles, aka a cult, aka the greatest thing since sliced bread, depending on whose opinion you read. He's always been very big on authority and God's government, and he holds conferences (live or video), has beautifully illustrated materials, and generally....and remember, please, I'm going back decades to when I attended one of these things...makes a lot of sense. Most of the time. Bear in mind that I was never part of the organization, never homeschooled through them, didn't get entrenched. I just went to a seminar and took notes, ordered a few books.

FYI, if you follow the Duggars (of "19 and Still Counting" fame) on reality TV, they use Gothard's curriculum to homeschool. I would say something snarky about your needing to get a life along with the pseudo-scholars, but I would be digressing yet again.

Even way back then when I went to his seminar, however, the whole Abigail thing was disturbing.

Other ministers may say this about her: The story of Abigail in the Bible ... is a story of one of the most faithful and honorable women mentioned in God’s Word – definitely a woman of integrity! (Mike Riley, preachersfiles.com) but Bill Gothard paints her as a rebellious, manipulative woman who took initiative apart from her husband's wishes, and ultimately paid the price.

Not sure what he was smoking at the time, or what version of the Bible he was reading, but Abigail saved lives, garnering high praise from the guy who was anointed as a boy by the prophet Samuel to be king. So there. Yes, she was clearly codependent, but this is a story of victory over codependency.

In a nutshell: David and the guys come onto the land of Abigail's husband Nabal and send word through servants, requesting food and drink. It's shearing season, they promise to be good little boys and help protect the flock while they camp, and in that time and in that culture, the hospitality they sought was a no-brainer. It's possible Nabal had even heard of David - if a little boy kills a giant, it would probably get around, yes?

Nabal flatly refuses, clearly avoiding the DBAA rule (Don't Be An Asshole). David goes ballistic. Heads will roll. Literally. Somebody gets word to Abigail who, as the codependent of her drunken asshole of a husband, is the go-too girl around the house. She Who Gets Things Done. And she does.

Soon, Abigail is bowing down to David, begging for mercy for her husband:
“Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.  Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.  And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you."
The "fool" comment was probably what got Bill Gothard's knickers in a twist. Submissive wives do not call their husbands fools, even if they are. Certainly not to others. Abigail gives them all the food and booze she's brought, David praises her, no doubt taking note of her beauty and magnificent fawns (what his son Solomon will eventually refer to breasts as, in The Song of Songs). End of story.

Until the next day, when Abigail confesses to now-sober hubby that David has agreed not to cut off Nabal's genitals and stuff them in his mouth or set their home on fire or slit everyone "from his guzzle to his zatch," as James Thurber would say.

"Oh, honey, how can I ever thank you?" said Nabal. Well, not quite. Codependents don't usually receive gratitude, even when they solve the latest in a series of problems. What actually happened was that Nabal got really mad. Really, really mad. So mad, in fact, that he dropped dead on the spot.

That's what we call karma. Reciprocity. Sowing and reaping. Whatever your preferred lingo. He got what was coming to him, but everyone else was spared.

David was headed out of Dodge when he got the word. Maybe he was tied up with Important Business, maybe he wasn't always the prince of a guy we usually think him to be, but he sent word back to Abigail, not exactly asking for her to marry him. More like assuming she would want to be. Just widowed, with land and property and miserable years leading up to this moment, and she jumped at the chance.

Elsewhere in this blog, I think I've mentioned the fact that Rapunzel (I read this in a book by Sue Monk Kidd) had the power to escape all along. She could've cut her hair, made a rope, and climbed down from her prison of a tower, instead of waiting for someone to rescue her. A case could be made that Abigail had been like that, waiting for Prince Charming to ride up, but remember, Abigail didn't know Nabal would drop dead. She'd probably prayed he would, been praying he would for years, but she did what she did expecting to stay with Nabal until she died. And David didn't ride up to the tower, either.

Abigail found a way out, and took it. I hope she was happier. We can read that David took other wives: Ahinoam, Bathsheba. several others. He even brought Michal back, successfully ruining her life after finding actual love with another man. Plus the concubines. Abigail's life A.D. (after David) probably wasn't great, but it was a decision she made for herself.

Codependents may go an entire lifetime without ever  choosing freedom or personal health. 

Abigail rocks.



(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012. Permission to use with acknowledgement of source.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twisted

The year I was born (1957), Time  magazine ran an article in which Mickey Cohen, an infamous member of the Jewish-American mafia, met with evangelist Billy Graham. Cohen was quoted as saying, "I am very high on the Christian way of life. Billy came up, and before we had food he said—What do you call it. that thing they say before food? Grace? Yeah, grace. Then we talked a lot about Christianity and stuff." 


Cohen had a co-worker, a wiretapper by trade, who became a Christian through Graham's ministry. This, understandably, intrigued Cohen. Although the wiretapper, Jim Vaus, walked away from the mafia, Cohen's personal interest did not include such a radical change of lifestyle. When questioned, his response was that there are  "Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians; why not a Christian gangster?"


In an award-winning 2011 article about Cohen in the Benicia Herald, writer Robert Michaels says that a friend of his coined a word for this particular brand of Christianity. "He calls it 'Twistianity.' Twistians are people who claim Christ as Savior, but do not want to submit their lives under His Lordship. They twist or pervert the Gospel so they can remain in their sin."


Michaels won an Award of Outstanding Merit ($1000) from the Amy Foundation, which benefits writers who communicate biblical truth to secular audiences. Over the years, I have submitted entries myself. When I read Michaels' article today, I looked....as people with my particular bent to introspection are wont to do...to myself.


I sin every day, in word and deed and thought. Long an advocate of the Christianese sound byte "Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all" I had to stop. Take inventory. Look directly into the mirror.


What am I, really, accomplishing for the Kingdom of God? You can't rest on your laurels. You can't make it on the coattails of others, or even your own former ministry. Who am I TODAY? 


"Am I a Twistian?" I whispered in my heart of hearts. 


"You are my daughter," came that sweet inner voice that I presumptuously attribute to the Holy Spirit.


I know what it is to have a daughter. I am blessed to have two. Occasionally, over the last 30-plus years, I have had reasons to be angry with them. I have been disappointed by their choices or behavior. And...let's be real here...they have both had occasion to be angry at and disappointed by me! But just as my parents taught me, I taught them: there is nothing you can say or do that will mean I no longer love you.


Did Cohen love Jesus? I have no idea. He may have liked the idea of Christianity, the way some people fall in love with the idea of love and romance. The packaging is good, but commitment is never a priority. As long as it's easy, as long as nothing much is expected, then fine. Cohen may never have crossed the line, may never have accepted Jesus as Messiah. That's not for me to judge. Not my call.


But as for me, yes. I acknowledge that the historical Jesus (no thinking person really questions his existence) is Messiah, the Son of God sent from eternity-past-present-future (I don't have much of a handle on the whole eternity gig) to reconcile sinful humankind back to a love relationship with its Creator, whom we know, simply and imperfectly, as "God."


Death was a necessary part of the process. Instead of everyone who sins bloodying the earth with sacrifices (and yeah, I'm not solid on what the whole blood thing was all about either), God gave himself, his own Son, his essence, to die as a man...so holy and perfect that that one sacrifice took away the penalty for every sin. Potentially - faith is involved. It's done, but you have to believe it. Real belief, faith, isn't just about a warm fuzzy feeling, after all, but about action, decision, acceptance.


Jesus died for all sin. For me. Jesus is, therefore, my Lord. My soul's King. My heart's destination.


And yet. 


And yet, this daughter is so weak, so disappointing, I know, to my heavenly Father. He gives me the grace and ability, the spiritual tools, to grow into his likeness, and I am still so very far from achieving that. So many ways, every single damn day of the year, that I fall short of the perfection he embodies. He is holy; I am just the opposite. He is the personification of love itself, and I fail to love, not really, not even the most lovable around me. And let's not even talk about loving my enemies, or the unlovely. 


It's not just the things I'm not sure about, either. I sin blatantly! I don't fall into sin....as my friend Doug Easterday says, I jump into it like a kid into a pile of newly raked autumn leaves shouting "Wheeeeeeeeee!" at the top of my lungs.


And yet.


 I am still a daughter, still loved. Not because of who I am, but because my Daddy is so grand. Twistian? Not hardly. I'm not even worthy to be called that. But daughter? Yeah, I'll take that. Any day of the week.


Permission to use with acknowledgement of source. (C) Ellen Gillette, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Rainbow Revelation

Pollyanna hit the big screen with Hayley Mills in 1960--I was almost three at the time, so it's likely that I didn't see the movie until it came on television. But by the time I saw it, and saw her using prisms to make little rainbows on the walls, I knew what she was doing. Grandma Polly had a beautiful lamp in her living room with cut glass dangly things, just like in the movie, and my sister and cousins and I loved making rainbows too.


If you're like me, you still get excited by rainbows in nature. They're little surprises, aren't they, like spotting a mother duck and ducklings waddling across a busy street? We know they exist, they aren't exotic or rare, but we don't expect to see them every day, either. When we round a curve and are treated by a gloriously vivid rainbow, it takes our breath away.


Every couple of weeks, I try to plan a day off from the stress and responsibility of Real Life. I call  these little trips my visits to the parallel universe. The phone is turned off, or set to vibrate, but the family is cautioned not to call unless blood is involved. A lot of blood. I take my laptop, current read, perhaps a bathing suit in case I find a beach, get in the car, and drive. Sometimes I head north, sometimes south. Most often, it seems, the car goes west.


Route 60 W in central Florida doesn't have a lot going for it--unless you're hungry for peace and quiet and simple. Once you get past Yeehaw Junction, you'll see cows. Scrub oaks. Palmettos. Signs for this and that here and there, but mostly a lot of sweet, serene nothing. As the ridge of the state rises and you climb to Lake Wales, there are all kinds of things to see and do, but until you get there, well, you can just sit back and listen to music or sing or pray or practice upcoming speeches...that's what I do, anyway.


Coming home at the end of a restful day, this being Florida, I often run into rain. Or a rainbow. Or both. Even though I know that a rainbow is nothing more, technically speaking, than an example of refracted light, it always feels like a sign. An omen of good things. A promise.


Rainbows have been written about and discussed for thousands and thousands of years, everyone from Aristotle to Newton . In Genesis 9, only a few chapters after everything started, God places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his promise not to destroy the earth by water again. Noah and the ark, two-by-two...hopefully, you went to enough Sunday school to get the gist without going through the whole thing again. 


The science of rainbows is pretty basic. White light is bent, or refracted, by a glass prism and our eyes see individual colors. With a rainbow, sunlight disperses through moisture in the air and we get the same effect on a spectacular level.


Scripturally, there are many references to God's light. He spoke earthly light into existence (Genesis 1:3), he is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1), his words are a light to our path (Psalm 119:105), Jesus was called his followers the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). 


Despite all the light that's there, however, it dawned on me this week that I tend to think of spiritual matters in black and white terms....or did in years past. I've noticed as I've gotten older --does everything change when you hit 50?-- that I've made my peace with some of those shades of grey along the spectrum (not as in the wildly successful erotica Fifty Shades of Grey...haven't read that yet!). Still, though, those extremes loom large. Good v. evil. Righteousness, holiness, perfection. Sin, depravity, gloom and doom. Heaven. Hell. Us. Them.


It suddenly occurred to me, however, seeing a rainbow on Route 60 while basking in the afterglow of a wonderful day off, that light  is anything but shades of grey. It is glorious, beautiful red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet --and those are just the main colors as Newton listed them. Every band melts into the next. Rainbows are like peacocks--there's no scientific need for that much color and beauty, but God's an artist and that's what he does.


So I am determining to think differently. I think I've limited God in my mind and life, holding him (and others, and myself) to blacks and whites...maybe a few greys...when he's been trying to talk to me about red, or blue, or violet. I've been so busy looking for perfect white light...which, apparently, is unapproachable anyway....or focusing on the black holes around me that suck in every smattering of light and life....that I've missed out on some of the yellow and green vibrance.


Refracted for us to see, for our simple little brains to perceive, is God's light. On faces. In embraces. A mother duck waddling across the street with her ducklings. Making someone laugh. Traveling to a parallel universe for a little R & R. Hearing a magnificent piece of music. Reading a perfectly crafted sentence. 


Having one of those "oh!" moments of revelation.


I've been enjoying rainbows since I was a little girl, and learning about God for 54 years, and I'm just getting this now? It's not about the black and white....it's about the rainbow.




(c) 2012. Permission to use with acknowledgement of source.