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First Day of School: Legacy of 2020

The History Teacher

Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call the matador’s hat?”

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
on Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,

while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.

–Billy Collins
Two-term Poet Laureate (2001-2003)

What will the history teachers teach the children in the future about the now? Who will make the difference about this 2020 First Day of School? How will this first day of school be remembered by our children? Who will be the heroes?
Will it be the parents?

Facebook , Instagram, and even Twitter have many postings about the hope and the fear of this dreaded day of sending our children where we can’t protect them. Will they gather their children and pray as a family for safety?

Will they say there was great excitement about new clothes and that perfect book bag smelling of pens, pencils and paper? Will fear be packed inside? Or will courage, caution, and hope be the tools that the children use to get them through this day?

Will the children of the future point to the old fashioned, one-dimension pictures of smiling children, frozen and posted on Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter; unlike the holograms of their own first day of school?  Will their reference point be the 2020 legacy that is combined with the object of God’s grace?

Will they know the frozen photos were taken by parents who are smiling and happy, glowing with pride while praying for the safety of their children.  Will they know the parents are disguising their own fear as they remind the children to wear their masks correctly and to please use the hand sanitizer in the bag.  “Please God, let them remember.”

Will the teachers change their teaching methods into games that make social distancing a fun thing and handwashing a part of music class?

Will the teachers hide their own fear as they look into the eyes of the children under their care on this first day of school and do what teachers do—inspire the future?

Will the children of the future believe this rambling mystery of a virus long defeated was designed to make them nod off?

Let that be our hope.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

KJV Philippians 4:6-7

 

Thanksgiving is all about the serving.

In the early 1990s,  I  served as the Director of Human Resources for the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), located in downtown Atlanta. What a great career move huh? Indeed it was! I was soon to learn a great deal about so many things during my tenure there, and it was to be a lot more than upward mobility.

First lesson: the state of Georgia was the largest employer in the state, with many, many levels of bureaucracy and complexities dependent on the mission of the respective agency.

Second lesson: the cornerstone for all the agencies operated under the basic tenet of serving the people. But the lifeblood of those agencies were the people.

Sound like a civics lesson? Please bear with me.

I worked side by side, long hours, low pay, but good benefits with some of the best people I have ever had the honor to know. Day by day, my respect  for these dedicated and caring government employees deepened. They are the “hidden heroes” behind that bureaucracy, held up by that cornerstone tenet, that makes our country work.

One such person, Debbie Landers, is dear to me, as well as to so many others whose lives she continues to touch.  Her health is not as good as it once was, but her heart and spirit are stronger than ever as she continues to serve at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta for over thirty years.  During this time,  her daughter and granddaughter have joined her.

She often shares her gratitude for the large and the small things in her life. I have her permission to share the following which she posted a few  years ago on Facebook.

**********

Debbie LandersDebbie’s Way of Serving

“Today I am so thankful that folks will go the extra mile to brighten the lives of strangers. Last night, at the shelter I personally observed so many acts of kindness between the volunteers and the guys. A group of volunteers came to share a meal with our guests and their companionship with them was heart-felt.

These volunteers came from a little church in Carrollton, Ga and they brought with them a feast. There was an abundance of food and the guys definitely got their stomach full. Over and over I kept hearing, “thank you for coming”, “thank you for dinner” and “thank you for all that you did to make this night special.”

Later, I was talking with one of the guys who told me that one year ago, he had lost his wife to cancer and at that point he just gave up on life in general. He totally lost everything he owned and became homeless.

As we were discussing Thanksgiving plans, he told me that a young man on a motorcycle had stopped him and his friend, and asked what they were doing on Thanksgiving Day. He then invited them both to his home for dinner. I wonder how many of us would have taken this step and invited a stranger into our home.

It turned out that the guy on the motorcycle works at one of the major trauma centers in Atlanta and a group from there were beginning a ministry to not only provide food, but an opportunity to move upward from their current situation.

Believe me when I tell you that there was love in the shelter last night.

So, my friends, as I think about the things I am most thankful for on this day, it is being able to see first-hand as folks offering a hand up, not a hand out, to some folks down on their luck and the rewards it brings.”

**********

Her words and her service touched my heart then and it still serves to remind me that in this confusing and chaotic world we live in today, it doesn’t take much to make it better…just a little help to our friends.

Debbie is a living legacy that I am blessed to call friend.  I am grateful to have her in my life in this season of giving Thanks.

Let’s all get busy serving!

 

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to act.”

Proverbs: 3:27

 

A Kernel of Radical Anger

 

I can get so mad when people don’t take care of those who can’t take care of themselves (like animals).   I don’t like to be mad.  It makes me feel bad, therefore, making me madder at what made me mad in the first place!

Recently a woman was standing in a line at the DMV in Missouri and fired her gun into the air because the line was too slow.  I don’t know if she calmed down after being thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and taken to jail.  My point is that this example, in its most basic form, is radical anger.

When a kernel of radical anger is planted, it grows from what it’s fed.  Today, political issues (groan) feeds this type of anger whether from public sources or in hidden back ‘rooms’.   Social media and different slants provided by different news agencies are often the triggers.

The good news from this is that our freedom allows us to choose our party of choice:  Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, Green and my favorite, Humane (animal rights).  There are more than 100 additional parties to choose from.  How good is that?

Sadly, the kernel of radical anger is growing in so many different directions that chaos is feeding radical anger. Humans have lost our ability to be both different and united. When did we stop thinking and deliberating on issues?  Recognition of differences, even if it’s not “your thing”, in and  of themselves should unite us; sadly, they do not.

So, do we risk an extreme reaction like the woman in the DMV line; or do we can choose a different method?

Why?

To find common ground for common causes, while respecting individual rights.

What?

By not feeding our kernel of anger and use:

      Truth over Lie.

     Kindness over rudeness

    Accepting your way is not my way – love diffuses hate.

Evidence of Success? 

Feed the kernels of honesty, respect and love as we remember what our country, and many other countries,  were founded on, which is (for purposes of today’s blog, my reference to county is America):

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

John Dickinson, Founding Father in his pre-revolutionary song, “The Liberty Song” wrote, “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all!  By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”

We the people created this county. Let’s not demolish it.

America must maintain the identity of what God blessed America with.  We welcome all in our big ole’ melting pot, sharing, working, learning, and trusting our personal savior.  Every individual brings something to the mix, not to dominate, but by doing the right thing in the right way. 

conflict-405744__340

 Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

It’s just that simple.

A Book Review: Finding Mercy, by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley

Finding Mercy Cover

You close your eyes and fall promptly to sleep, confident in whom you are, what your beliefs are, and what your future holds. You awake some eight hours later, your mind totally blank, with strangers taking care of you, in a land you know nothing about. You have lost all that you knew and all that you had hoped to be. You have amnesia.

Would you be able, without the filters of childhood and lessons taught; without the heartache of transgressions committed against and by you, without the confidence that comprised the sum total of you, be you?

Out of instinct, would you follow the same path of your birth? Or, would you begin anew, finally allowed to let the true you become your way of being? It’s the age old question of does DNA or environments determine who we are. Which would determine what you could be without knowledge of either of these?

Such is the story of Finding Mercy, written by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley. It is the story of a young woman, born and reared in the south by a beloved father who is a plantation owner and master of slaves. He serves proudly in the confederate army, as does his daughter.

They both fight to defend their rights to maintain a life style that is the only one they know and understand. Yet, when this understanding is erased, Mercy becomes her own true self, following the end of the turbulent civil war and the subsequent reconstruction of the United States.

Mercy finds herself in a “no man’s land”. She believes she is loyal to the North’s cause, only to discover that she had actually fought and even killed to preserve the South’s side. Her life in danger, she flees hoping to find her true place and who she is. In the doing, she discovers many things about herself that she regrets, which ultimately provides her the choice to bridge the pain of her mistakes by helping those she has hurt. Forgiveness is really what Finding Mercy is about.

Finding Mercy is a thought provoking story. It causes you to think about what you would do if you woke up and had the opportunity to become the person you would want to be if all filters were removed. Beautifully written, it takes you back to a turbulent time of hatred and mistrust as Mercy finds her true self.

Official Family Christian Blogger

Life is for Learning

Just when I think I’m too old to learn new things, I learn I’m wrong.

This week, finally reaching that momentous event that sometimes occurs in life, I had cataract surgery. The world had been a dim, sometimes scary, place to be. My surgery was quick and painless, with little recovery time. Imagine my delight when I discovered a bright, fresh, and more colorful world!

I vaguely remembered that beauty, or the anticipation of all the unexpected wonders yet-to-be. Without realizing it, life grew a bit dimmer, along with my eyesight.  I didn’t take the time to appreciate the nuances of life. I was no longer delighted by the various shades of green in the tree line. I couldn’t remember when I stopped seeing, or appreciating, the life I had been given.

Pastor Mic once told me that God could have given us a world of black and white. We wouldn’t have known any other view, so why did He? “God didn’t need to give us color,” Pastor Mic said. “He did because He wanted us to find joy in the world which He had given us.”

A forty-five minute surgery changed my way of seeing. Learning changed my way of being. The way of being is all about living life; and isn’t life all about learning to live it?

In the past few years I learned that my career had a shelf life, and when I reached it, I retired and learned to live life in reverse. Not a “do-over”, I liked my life, but rather to do those things I always intended to “get around to”.

I’m learning to paint. Nelle, one of my dearest friends, will turn ninety in a few days. I had gone to Picasso’s Corner to paint, considering it a lark since I had never painted. Ever. They guarantee that you will walk out with a completed painting within 2-3 hours.

My first painting
My first painting

Nelle, whose paintings take my breath away, took one look at my painting and invited me to the painting sessions she attends each Tuesday morning. Being so busy with doing laundry, cleaning out the junk drawers and other such stimulating activities, I declined. Needless to say, Nelle has learned to get done what needs to be done in the most effective way over her first ninety years. Each Tuesday morning, precisely at 10:00 a.m. I’m standing on my driveway, waiting for her to pick me up for our painting sessions.

I’m also learning to write with clearer eyes.  My friend Liz coaches me to be better.  She introduced me to Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg and other authors who inspire me to write what I am meant to write.

As I sit at my battered old desk, piled high with papers, notebooks, reference books, fiction novels, pencils, – just the way I like it, the mess fades as I get lost in the words as they flow through my fingers to the computer screen.

I imagine. I type. I print. I get my pencil and edit. I don’t see the pictures I lovingly covered my office walls with. The colorful one from The Georgia Artist Series, the pen and ink of the Georgia state capitol and a caricature of me, both drawn by my good friend, Huey Theus, who died this year.

I don’t see the picture taken with Governor Zell Miller as he signed a bill into law that I had worked hard to get passed. I don’t see the diplomas of my BS or my MS degrees. I don’t see the bookcase with the publications containing my published works.

But, I do see the small window to the left of my computer screen. It is always open so that I can see the hanging basket,the red geraniums flowing over the sides. The Japanese maple tree, its fragile green leaves tinged red where the sun kisses it ever so gently, stands next to the soothing fountain, listening to its bubbling secrets.

I lose myself even from these things. But the one thing I always see are the two hummingbirds as they come each day to visit. They are so beautiful, their dark green bodies floating in their gentle activity, never stopping while getting nourishment and rewarding me with their whispers, reminding me to be still for that moment.

When they buzz away, my eyes are drawn to the scroll work of the metal cross that hangs by the window, just right of where the birds greet me with their gentle, relentless lesson.

I go still. I smile and say with great joy, “Thank you God for the learning.”

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
Proverbs 1:5 ESV

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