Category Archives: Current Musings
Scupper plugs! Must get scupper plugs, as my bottom is wet! One of the perils, or lessons learned, I suppose, on a first outing in a new kayak. The lighter weight craft proves much easier on my back and shoulders as I carry, load, and unload it. However, the lighter weight results in a lighter load capacity. Thus, when I sat my bottom in the cockpit, the deck went down and water came in through the scupper holes. With my older, larger kayak I never used scupper plugs, and I never got wet. Well, at least I wasn’t heavy enough to sink the craft. I made sure of that before I headed out into the lake.
The wind was up a bit when I first launched so I retreated to paddle along the shoreline as opposed to bucking the wind and risking more water in the craft. I enjoy the shoreline more than the open water anyway. The shoreline offers more to see and discover as I move quietly in the water and peer into the grasses, the bushes and at times the shallower water depths. I sometimes feel like I am playing “cat and mouse” with the water creatures. It is a challenge to see how close I can get to the turtles on the logs before they “plop” off into the water? Or, how long can I float alongside the ducks before they sense my presence and flap away?
I started out this morning thinking I would paddle around the entire perimeter of the lake. However, as I made my way around the lake – almost halfway – I decided, “No, I don’t want to do that.” This change of intention was not due to my limited time on the water this morning, but more from my need to just “be” and not to be “doing.” So I paddled into a small cove, found respite from the wind and sun, and here I sit, maybe somewhat
reclining in the kayak. The silence and solitude is welcome and restful. The occasional bird song breaks the silence. There have been two “plops” behind me, but I have seen no turtles since I stopped paddling. As I came into the cove there was a small turtle on a stump out in the water. I think it might have been a musk (stinkpot) turtle given its size and high dome. But, alas, it “plopped” into the water before I could snap a picture!
Dragonflies are fluttering all around me. In this cove I float on a mirror, flawed only by a wee bump. Wait! That’s a tiny little head. How close can I get? I move in silence and stealth. Ooops! There he goes into the deep – a large round body for such a wee little head. It is my friend — the turtle. Now, to just sit back and “be” on this delightful sunny and warm day. Warm, mmmm! Except my wet bottom! Yes, definitely scupper plugs!!
With the recent Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all of our United States, we must move forward in a reasonable manner balancing two of our most important national principles: 1) religious liberty and 2) citizen’s right to due process and equal rights under the law. As opposed to drawing battle lines let us be respectful of one another even, and especially, as we differ regarding the “moral rightness” of same-sex marriage.
With regard to the religious liberty of those in positions to issue same-sex marriage license, we would not want anyone to be coerced into doing something that they could not do in good conscience. If any governmental officer, such as a county clerk, because of his or her religious belief, cannot in good conscience issue a same-sex marriage license, then let’s just make sure that there is someone within the county clerk’s office who has the authority, and can in good conscience issue the license.
Also, even before the Texas Clergy Protection Act of the 2015 legislative session, clergy have had the option of refusing to officiate a wedding. Honestly, I don’t think any same-sex, or opposite-sex couple for that matter, would want a clergyman, or any other legally authorized officiant, conducting their wedding if the clergyman could not officiate in good conscience and with complete affirmation of their union. Anyone in the wedding business, be it venues, cakes, or flowers, who can’t in good conscience provide the services to a same-sex couple can state that in a kind respectful manner and perhaps even offer referrals to those who can and will provide the services. And in the same fashion the same-sex couple on the receiving end of that message can and should respond with respect and kindness, “Thank you for your time,” and move on.
Perhaps, we have become too caught up in the religious right – as in “I’m right and you are wrong,” and in demanding our religious rights and liberties. It is not too late to begin focusing more on our religious calling – to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.
Given the occurrences of the past few days regarding the City of Tyler pulling its sponsorship of a local author’s, Lou Anne Smoot, scheduled Adult Summer Reading Program presentation and taking down the display of information and resources set up by East Texas PFLAG, a local affiliate of PFLAG National, I’m asking myself, and our Tyler community, what is the REAL concern here and what can we do to make our community better and stronger – a true community with common unity.
It might be said that this is a done deal. a dead issue. Corrective action was taken by the city. I applaud that action. The PFLAG display is back up, and Ms. Smoot’s talk will continue as planned, albeit without the sponsorship or promotion from the City and Tyler Public Library. The reason given for that action being the City’s perception that Ms. Smoot’s talk would be “political.” Purportedly, the fact that the news release announcing the event, written and published by the city/library staff, contained a quote from a current politician gave City Hall the perception that the talk would be “political.” Although some may question City Hall’s “political” perception and their reasoning behind it, we all can, out of respect for the persons, authority, and policies of City Hall, accept the decision for non-sponsorship of the event.
Some concerns regarding the PFLAG display focused on the proximity of the display to the library’s children’s area. The display was and is in the main check out and information area of the library, adjacent to, but not in the children’s area. The display is not of the sort to draw children’s attention – – no colorful pictures, stuffed animals, or dangling ornaments. It contains books, brochures, and pamphlets with words on them. Some of those words are faith communities, gay, family, lesbian, ally, transgender, safe schools, homosexual, bible, and healthcare. In reflecting upon this concern, I would think that if a child were old enough to be inquisitive and ask a question, then this would be a wonderful opportunity for parenting. The parent(s) could answer the child’s questions and offer information and guidance as they, the parent(s). deemed appropriate.
This “library incident” has brought me, and I hope all of us, to a greater concern and questions. How do we perceive, approach, behave toward and relate to other people, especially those we believe to be different from that which we perceive ourselves to be. How do we get to know the “other?” Do we want to know others, to seek to understand, and to strive to live with respect and acceptance of those we perceive as different? If we answer, “Yes” to these latter questions – and I hope we do – I would propose that the best thing for us to begin doing is to share our stories with one another and listen to one another. It is in the sharing of our stories that we as a people and a societal community are able to know and gain some understanding of each other. Hopefully, a knowing and understanding that will better able us to relate to one another in a more positive, accepting, respectful manner regardless of our race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or any other aspect of our being that may be different. It is in sharing our stories that we find our commonalities and the threads that can truly unite us together as humanity and a community.
I applaud Ms. Smoot for her courage and willingness to be vulnerable in sharing her story. I equally applaud those who take the risk to listen and especially those who might perceive Ms. Smoot as different from them and still take the risk to listen. Regardless of the differences we perceive in one another — race, culture, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability or disability, gender identity, economic status, or gender expression — we are all human and have in common the most basic aspects of our humanity — life, family, relationships, the gamete of emotions — from joys and sorrows to love and anger – and ultimately death. Can we not share our stories and listen focusing on these common aspects of our lives that we might all grow and live better together. Can we not celebrate the diversities that enrich our communities and our world?
I conclude with a quote from Christian ethicist, David Gushee,
We will honor creation and human life together, across religions, nations, and cultures, or we will perish together. Treat life as sacred! This is God’s command – to all humanity. The response is up to all of us.
From The Sacredness of Human Life by David P. Gushee,
Maybe we need a story telling hour for adults at the Tyler Public Library.
Yesterday, Tuesday 9/16, as we left Abilene State Park and headed north, we literally took the road less traveled. The marvels of the GPS and GoogleMaps are not lost on us as we use both as needed while on the road. We find the GPS helpful in getting from point A to point B. Once in a given area we resort to GoogleMaps, mostly me, as I tend to be the “navigator,” to actually see the map of the area and the street layout. At any rate, with both devices on and laying out a course for the day, they were “at odds.” We opted for the GPS version and headed out on what seemed the most logical and straight line of direction. I realized that the other route, though longer and more circuitous , followed the better main highway. But, the die was cast, and we went via Highways 89 and 126.
As went the road became a bit narrower and, thankfully, still paved and wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic with absolutely no shoulder. It would have been a thoroughly modern highway in the 1950’s. At times it felt as if we were riding a bucking bronc. Of course, pulling the travel trailer accentuates the bucking motion! Did I mention the curves? Fairly frequently the road made 90 degree curves — first to the left and then back to the right. Between those we stayed alert to the “S” highway markers. This continued for miles. When not watching the road, I was able to enjoy the country side. Lou Anne was driving. She is a “confident” driver, and I have the utmost of confidence in her driving.
Initially the landscape was washed and gullied and covered with scrub brush and miniature (by East Texas standards), gnarled oak trees. Gradually, the land began to flatten and precise rows of cotton and grains whizzed by us. Then we were into another type of farm — a wind farm. Huge wind turbines dotted the land as far as we could see. The winding road brought us “up close and personal” to the giant windmills of technology. Oh, and beneath the gleaming white of the turning windmills, the green of the cotton fields was broken by the black pumpjacks of the oil wells. rhythmically moving down and up — down to bring the black crude up. All and all, it was a conglomerate of motion — straight line, round and round, and up and down!
As I thought about all that I was seeing, I was struck with just how incredible our earth is! Within this small area the land is providing, at the very least, raw products for food and clothing. The wind is generating power for all sorts of purposes, and oil used in products to numerous to mention is being pumped from beneath the earth’s surface. Incredible indeed! Can we not say that we do live in the Garden! Regardless of one’s beliefs, thoughts, or opinions about the various creation theories — and there happens to be at least ten of them — I, for one, am of the opinion that there was, and IS, an intelligent, creative Higher Power behind it all — be it Big Bang, Creationism, Intelligent Design, etc. Again, JUST MY THOUGHTS! PS
I would think after weeks that this story would have run its course in the news cycle, but apparently not, as we continue to see the headlines, photos and videos of thousands of Central American unaccompanied minors crossing our southern borders seeking asylum. It’s about immigration and children – subjects that typically rouse our passions. Plus, immigration and children in the package we are currently experiencing may put our passions in conflict with one another and that makes for more “story.” One may feel equally passionate about issues of immigration – legal or illegal — and caring for the well being, both short and long term, of children regardless of their ethnic or cultural origins. So – what do we do? Or, maybe more to the point – What did we do?
I know this is difficult – being honest about our own culpability always is – but let’s first of all acknowledge and be accountable for our responsibility in the current situation. Since Columbus first stepped foot on the American mainland near today’s Trujillo, Honduras, in August 1502 during his fourth voyage, the native peoples and their lands have been exploited by Anglos/Americans. Read the history from the establishment of the “banana republics” in the 19th century with their sprawling banana plantations to the U.S. led destabilization of Central America which began in 1954 with the overthrow of the elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz whose plans ran contrary to the interests of the United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation owning much of Guatemala’s fertile land, along with railroad infrastructure, and a port. Let’s not forget the U.S involvement, both covertly and overtly in the Central American civil wars, gorilla wars, and military coups of the 1950-1980’s. Are we not surprised that with decades – even centuries — of exploitation, government instability, chaos, and lawlessness all exacerbated by extreme poverty within the population that corruption, gangs, drug use, and violence increased exponentially. And now we have thousands of children seeking to escape the violence and poverty streaming across our southern borders. Yep, no doubt, our national policies and actions through both Democratic and Republican administrations during the last two hundred years have contributed to the current humanitarian crisis on our borders. As a people and a nation we must acknowledge our culpability and complicity in this human tragedy. Can we not take this first step toward a solution? Let’s stop blaming everyone and everything else. Let’s stop maligning children and parents seeking safety, sanctuary, and hope in what we claim to be the greatest nation on earth. Let’s be the greatest nation and seek a solution that is just and compassionate and offers life and hope for all.
NOTE: I realize I have jumped into the fray with this post. As I stated in the previous post, for me the landmarks of our spiritual journey and subsequent growth are those times we take an honest look at ourselves and take responsibility for our actions, hold ourselves accountable for them, and move forward with new vision, hope, and resolve. Perhaps this is one of those landmark occasions when our nation needs to do just that!
I really have been off lately. Not just “off” as in off from work or away. But “off” as in out of sync, feelings of angst, generally disgruntled, and a pervasive sense of agitation. When I experience times like this — and I have before, probably will again, and I would think others have as well –I fall back on an old tool I have used in counseling and times of personal reflection. I call it “ask and answer.” It is simply asking yourself the question and listening for the answer that bubbles up from within. I often shared with counselees that no one knows our answers better than we ourselves. In times of self reflection, inspection, and questioning our best guess is usually our best answer.
So, I asked and listened for my answer! What I heard, felt, sensed –no, I am not experiencing auditory hallucinations – was “Too busy! Too much time doing things for others – people, organizations, agencies – and not enough quiet time working on and doing the things you want/need to do.” Yep, probably right on! Plus, the weather has been a bummer. Spring weather is way overdue here in East Texas. Where is the sun??
Well, “Here Comes The Sun!” Yes, it was sunny a couple of days ago – not warm, but sunny – and I spent most of the day outside doing yardwork. Yardwork is good therapy – at least it is for me. I immerse myself in the work, mundane as it is, and feel relaxed, serene, and peaceful. In experiences such as this I am reminded of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Many years ago as I first read this little book, I was taken aback by the idea that “the most excellent method he had found of going to God was in doing our common business without any view of pleasing man, and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of God.” As I continue on this pilgrimage, I find that practicing the presence of God, in those times that I am going about the ordinary, the mundane, “our common business” are the best times.
Thankfully, I am feeling a bit more in sync and less disgruntled and agitated. As I continue my pilgrimage I will, once again, strive to be more aware of God’s presence in all that I do for others, organizations, agencies, as well as those things I do for myself while keeping a reasonable balance among all this “common business.” And, as Spring is certain to arrive, late though it is, I will be able to say and sing “Here Comes the Sun!”
I did some closet cleaning a couple of days ago. Was that one of my “resolutions?” I don’t know about that, but it certainly needed doing. Closet cleaning is not an event that I, nor I would think anyone, yearn for with great anticipation; however, often once I am in the process I find it to be quite “cleansing.” If I am not careful, I can easily revert back to some “old ways” of holding on to stuff and things and find myself overwhelmed. In relationship to stuff and things I have tried to establish a standard. If I have not worn it or used it in two years, I don’t need it. Why on earth do I still have it?
I begin by pulling out all sorts of stuff and things and creating an absolute mess. Hey, I thought I was cleaning? In the pulling out process I ask several questions about each piece of stuff. First the two-year standard question, then if I don’t need it, could it be useful to someone else? Remember one man’s trash could be another man’s treasure, or, more to the point, another’s shirt on his back. So, there is a pile designated Goodwill or one of the many other benevolent “clothes closets” in our community. There is a pile for trash – it is worn out, does not work, or otherwise totally useless. Then there is the pile for “sentiment” things. You know, the stuff and things that memories are made of – that was so special at that time or place, blah, blah, blah. Can I bear to throw it away? As if throwing it away would erase the memory and its meaning! Really??
So I pulled out, sorted, piled and tossed stuff and things for several hours. The results, not counting my aching back, were more usable space, more order, a sense of accomplishment, and the added bonus of finding some things I had been looking for and some things that I had forgotten I had. Which brings me back to the question if I had forgotten I had them, do I really need them? Probably not!
So, what’s the connection between closet cleaning and our spiritual journey? Well, as I see it, and I don’t always see things clearly, pulling out, sorting through, and determining what to do with our stuff and things can be a grand opportunity to take stock of where we’ve been on our journey, how where we’ve been has impacted us, and where we might be headed currently. Also, stuff and things are often associated with experiences, relationships, and feelings. Did I say emotional baggage? Perhaps, emotional closets would be a more appropriate expression since we are talking about closet cleaning. Do I need to hang on to that old hurt? Is this grudge I continue to carry around helping me now? Yes, that was a wonderful time then, but do I want to spend today and the future dwelling on the past? Yes, I made a mistake at that time. Isn’t it time, now, to stop beating myself up about it? You get the point. Time to clean out all the emotional stuff and things that hinder, hurt, burden, confuse, distort, and distract us from living in the fullness of who we were created to be. Time to clear the chaos and bring in some order. Time to make room for the joy, hope, love, happiness, and, yes, the sorrow, disappointment, and struggle of each new day.
So, how is your closet? Is it time for some closet “cleansing?” Yes, it requires some effort, and the results are well worth the effort – in my opinion.
Reflections on a New Year’s Resolution
I did actually sit down and begin this post on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014, but was distracted and played “Tag, You’re It!” (see previous post) instead. Oh, that I had resisted the distraction! Anyway. . .
In considering the resolution thing for the New Year, I am baffled. Yes, there are some things I would like to do/accomplish in 2014, but do I really want to “resolve” to do them, or as Nike so aptly put it, “Just Do It!” My record with resolution making/keeping is mediocre at best. Hopefully yours is better! Yes, I would like to lose 15-20 lbs. Isn’t that the trendy resolution these days! I want to spend more time writing, and I really need to clean out those closets. And, I always want to spend more time outdoors kayaking and hiking, but given where I live, that usually involves more travel time. Yes, I would like to travel more in 2014! So, there you go!
But, hey! I really just want to be, be present in the moments, behold the Christ within me and those around me – be they lover, friend, family, or a stranger in the midst. Who knows what the New Year will BE – until it actually IS?
I did clean a closet yesterday and found this – a personal journal entry dated:
JANUARY 1, 1995 – Sunday
I am not much for New Year’s Resolutions. It always seemed rather peculiar. Committing to do something just because it was the beginning of a new year. But I suppose we all like the idea of a fresh start, a clean slate. My experience has been that give a week or two and the whole idea has been forgotten. The old familiar pattern of doing things has crept back in. Actually, it never was out. So, no resolutions for me!
Today as I baked cup cakes and danced around the kitchen, I felt a serge of excitement about the approaching new year. Outrageous! That’s it! No resolutions just a desire to experience life to the fullest in the new year. To live outrageously – extravagantly, remarkably, outside the bounds of the expected. Not moderately, mildly, or with mediocrity. But outrageously!
To live, love, and laugh outrageously.
To ascend to the pinnacle of joy.
To plummet to the depths of despair.
To smell the wind;
To feel the flagrant flower.
To see life in every view;
To know truth in every day.
To love sincerely, affectionately, and purely.
To honor self, others, and God in every way.
To work and serve both man and God.
And to do it all outrageously!
TO BE OUTRAGEOUS! FREE! RECKLESS! SPONTANEOUS!
That is my desire for the New Year – 1995.
Wow! That was nineteen years ago!! Looking back, I must say that 1995 was an OUTRAGEOUS year. It was a year of extravagant love and crushing loss. It was a year of intense personal struggle and soul searching. It was the year that shook the foundation of my life, my identity, and marked the beginning of a directional shift in my life and spiritual journey. It was a year that was devastating in the moment, yet invaluable and vital to who I am today. Don’t want to repeat it, but so thankful for it!
On second thought, maybe I will make that resolution for 2014:
A desire to experience life to the fullest in the new year. To live outrageously – extravagantly, remarkably, outside the bounds of the expected. Not moderately, mildly, or with mediocrity. But OUTRAGEOUSLY!
Uuuh, maybe not outrageous in the same way as 1995, but certainly outrageous for life in 2014! I can’t wait!! Just do it!
A Bone-Jarring Experience and the Importance of REALLY Communicating!
Yesterday we took our six-year-old granddaughter out to a nearby parking lot to let her show us how she has mastered her new Razor Scooter. Her description of the scooter, “It goes eight miles an hour, Granny!” My description – a high tech, electric motor version of the old Red Radio Flyer scooter. She has mastered it quite well and made several trips up and down the plains and hills of the parking lot. In the course of our conversation prior to the riding excursion, she explained that she had learned to “just jump off of it.” This was later clarified as a last resort maneuver that she and her mother had agreed upon in the event she felt “it was out of control and destined for a crash.” Considering eight miles an hour is the top speed, “jumping off of it” does seem the safer option to a full on crash.
At a critical point in our outing yesterday, she exclaimed, “Let’s play Tag You’re It, Granny!” My reply, “Sure,” as I take off at a leisurely trot. Shortly, I hear the scooter approaching, and I make a slight veer to the right so as to allow her plenty of room to go between curb and me. In my mind “Tag, You’re It” on a scooter means she will come up even with me and exclaim, “You’re It, Granny!” Not so in the language and understanding of a six year old!
It seemed to occur nanoseconds after my slight veer. I was going down and landed sprawled, face down on the parking lot pavement. Ouch! Really big! I lay there motionless. My wrap around sunglasses were off and on the ground. Luckily, my real glasses remained on my head and in tact! Was anything broken? Could I move? The most obvious sources of pain in the immediate aftermath were the palms of my hands and the sense that every bone in my body had received a resounding “Thud!” No, I was not wearing the protective helmet, knee and elbow pads that she was wearing. Both she and her grandmother, who was also with us on the outing, came to my rescue. She had taken a bit of a tumble off the scooter, but was totally focused on me sprawled on the pavement and obviously hurt. That’s not a sight six-year-olds are accustomed to seeing.
I simply lay there for a few moments assessing my condition and not wanting to move. I gradually moved and turned over to my back and lay there a bit more getting my bearings before getting up. I proclaimed my, “I’m okay,” (actually, I wasn’t – pain and waves of nausea) loaded the scooter back in the car, and headed home to clean up and tend my wounds – gouges (from the pavement gravel) in both palms, bloody, scraped elbows (even though I had on a long sleeve shirt that was not torn!), and later a bulge and pain in my right thigh muscle that has responded fairly well to ice – lots of it!
After wound treatment and while resting on the sofa, I had an interesting and enlightening conversation with the scooter rider. Who, by the way, was quite compassionate and solicitous in attending to my care. At one point, she pulled a random book off the shelf and said, “Here, Granny, you can read this.” After assuring her that I was okay, I asked her what had happened. Her response was that she was trying to get close enough to touch me and say, “Tag, you’re It!” We, then, had the discussion about how to play “Tag, you’re It,” when one is on a scooter and the other is not. We decided the best method would be for the scooter rider to come along side the runner, make eye contact (at which point we “eyeballed” each other with big bulging eyes), and say, “Tag, you’re It!” It never occurred to me to have that conversation before we played!
And that brings me to the point of communication. How often do we think we are communicating, when actually we are not? Communication definitely involves attending and listening, but it also requires that those communicating share common meanings and concepts for the words and ideas used and similar understandings for what is reasonable and logical in the given situation. My granddaughter and I were not communicating effectively prior to the “Tag, you’re It,” game. Or, to be more accurate, I, as the adult, was not communicating to a six-year-old what was reasonable and logical in our “Tag, you’re It” game between scooter rider and runner. She was operating, as to be expected, fully out of her experience and understanding as a six-year-old. Me, the adult, well! Sometimes it takes a bone-jarring experience to make us think and communicate effectively!
Smoot’s memoir is a very telling narrative of her experience coming out as a gay Christian while being committed to remaining in her home church in conservative East Texas. It is a compelling story of agony and heartache, joy and hope. She courageously offers a brutally honest glimpse into the depth of soul agony and heart struggle that a lifelong Christian experiences when wrestling with the reality of her sexual orientation. Ms. Smoot’s offering is a must read in today’s “culture wars.”