Poker Night, Out

We had weekend guests, so predictably, the schedule included a competitive game of Texas Hold ’em. No money on the line, just bragging rights.'em_Hole_Cards.jpgFrom time to time, I’ll join in the play, but because I’m easily bored, the game often wears me out (long before it’s been brought to a conclusion). On this occasion, my daughter-in-law (DIL) − no fan of poker play − sat down with me before the game commenced and we hatched our own plan for entertainment. We chose dinner and a movie. Continue reading “Poker Night, Out”

Mighty In The Land

Having family members in town to celebrate Mother’s Day certainly makes the day special. Not only did we celebrate our grandson’s university graduation yesterday, we incorporated another grandson’s (Friday) birthday into the festivities. (Ha! We also celebrated a third grandson’s birthday earlier in the week!)creative_mother’s_day_cards_ideas_printable

Some of our out of town guests left yesterday evening after the celebration. Others exited today … after a houseful of children eating, drinking, scattering toys, running about and only crashing for sleep when they were tied (not literally!) to the beds, the house is unusually quiet now. The quiet permitted some reflection on this celebratory day we know as Mother’s Day.

This being the 100th official commemoration of the day, National Geographic has an article about Its Surprisingly Dark History. The story explains how the founder of Mother’s Day reacted with disgust as the day became increasingly commercialized. (The article’s slightly sensational title doesn’t justify the “surprisingly dark” phrase, in my view, but it was an effective attention-getter and lured me in.)

What struck me most was a comment following the article. Someone had posted: “My mother was evil and almost killed me when I was young. So no, I do not honor her on that day ….” Perhaps even more striking was another respondent’s comment: “You seem bitter and selfish ….” Apparently, Mother’s Day potentially brings out the worst in some people.

Moving onto another web article, Forgiving the Sins of My Father, I was reminded that relationships with parents (not just one’s mother as illustrated in the previously-cited Mother’s Day article) are sometimes terribly complicated and prickly. I’m blessed to be unfamiliar via personal experience with such stories.

A third article I read was part of the World Magazine Amy Writing Awards compilation*. A Promise To Beth relates the story of a twelve-year old boy from Mississippi who lost (over a seven-year period) his father (plane crash), his older brother (auto accident) and his mother (cancer), and who is now in the care of his step-father. In terms of this story’s relation to Mother’s Day, the story highlights the mother’s outlook and grit (while she was battling cancer) as an example of unflagging courage.

Another Amy Writing Awards story on the World Magazine website* is titled An Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Journey. This story featured a woman who brought her ailing mother into her home and spent eight years caring and ministering to her mother’s physical well-being as Alzheimer’s stole away the older woman’s memory and awareness. As with the aforementioned writing winner, this article is a testament to a woman’s unconditional love and courage under equally difficult circumstances.

*Links to both of the World Magazine stories may only be available by subscription, but I wholeheartedly recommend the magazine!

So what’s the connective link to these diverse stories? Mothers. Fathers. We’re all broken people. We’ve all suffered personal indignities and grief … sometimes (far too often) by the hands of those who are supposed to love us the most. Certainly, such mis-care is reprehensible. The commenter who characterized her mother as “evil … [who] almost killed me when I was young” may well be justified in her venomous attitude. No child deserves being terrorized.

ASIDE: At the same time, consider the number of children who are killed “young” – before they’ve ever breathed a single breath. Should we be surprised children are treated so inhumanely outside the womb when they’re routinely destroyed within the womb?

The second story (the woman forgiving her father) provides more details than the first. This woman’s story is unique, but a common thread repeats: evil, emotional detachment, anger, an adult child wounded body and soul, and an adult parent so damaged that the essence of “relationship” (the connection of persons by blood or marriage) is laughable, even despicable. Though forgiveness brings the hope of restoration and wholeness, it’s an extensive and painful process per the article.

Both writing award pieces further relate how God brings restoration and wholeness through brokenness. Certainly, the young man from Mississippi would never rejoice in the losses he’s endured. How awful to lose one’s parents and sibling, at any time, but especially in childhood! Despite the boy’s devastation, a loving step-father is there to succor him, to sustain and encourage an arm-in-arm understanding of God’s provision.

That same sense of God’s provision runs through the story of a woman loving and caring for her Alzheimer’s-befuddled mother. The younger woman bestowed on her broken mother the same kind of care her mother had given in nurturing a newborn daughter through stages of development into independence as a woman.

I have a point of personal reference here as I witness my Beloved ministering to his mother while her Alzheimer’s progresses. (When I posted about her last October, she was slightly more coherent than she is today.) Visiting with her proves challenging because it’s a guessing game to determine what she’s trying to communicate. (Sometimes, people simply give up in discouragement.) Nevertheless, my Beloved stays connected with her, making effort to engage her mentally, often using silly jokes and lighthearted teasing. I admire my Beloved’s tenacity.

Whether the problems are physical, psychological or emotional, we all bear the brokenness of humanity. Wounds, those inflicted by others and many self-inflicted, complicate our human interactions. We’ll never find complete wholeness in this realm but forgiveness is a good place to start.

The poem below, by Amy Carmichael, was one of my dad’s favorites. When we suffer unbearable scars, it’s a reminder of marvelous, numinous healing available to all.

Thank Your Mother

Branches of the military have a Code of Conduct. Private businesses often have a similar set of dos and don’ts for their employees. These rules for behavior promote an orderly operation and enable members of the organization to understand (1) what’s expected of them and (2) where the boundaries are. Having specific guidelines for behavior protects both people and organizations against the “Oops, I didn’t know” defense.

Likewise, civil societies have adopted an implicit code of conduct for acceptable and/or unacceptable acts and behavior. Codes may be prescribed via laws and regulations, as well as a shared awareness of right and wrong. For centuries, public disfavor or implied reproof were sufficient to discourage bad behavior. When social condemnation failed, offenders were jailed.Vacant_Prison_Cell_clip_art_hight

Through the years, a commonly accepted rule for good conduct has been protecting women and children. From medieval times, the inclination of a society to look after women and children was considered chivalrous. (See this previous post about my thoughts on chivalry.)

I remember in childhood the first time I viewed the movie Titanic (1953). This movie presented a societal code of conduct:  the captain would not abandon ship, women and children were given life jackets and placed in lifeboats. One male character dressed as a woman and sneaked onto a lifeboat; eventually they noticed his presence and all considered his bad behavior shameful.

Our 2014 topsy-turvy culture has it backwards now. No question, women (gender feminists) have been party to this upset. God forbid any man should open a door for a woman! God forbid a woman expresses her appreciation for the husband who supports her! God forbid she betrays any weakness, any indication she isn’t totally capable of caring for herself in every aspect of her life! (Reminds me of a small child refusing help:  “No, I can do it!”)

Now, we’ve come so far the culture isn’t just topsy-turvy … it has moved into the surreal, with bizarre demonstrations of just how “liberated” we are. Instead of accepting the protection society used to offer, women have voluntarily turned away from it, to the extent that women and children are now the first to be harmed, jettisoned and ravaged. The strong will always survive, but the weaker among us − most often, women and children − are often used up and spat out.

A newsworthy example of this philosophy run amok was reported this week. More than likely, you’re familiar with the story:  a pregnant abortion counselor videotaped her own abortion as it was being performed. In her comments, she says:  I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life …” The truth is, she didn’t make that baby, she didn’t make that life. But she did TAKE that life! She destroyed that life, having it flushed from her uterus with extreme prejudice.

Sure, we can talk viability. This woman was in her first trimester, the fetus was quite small, certainly unable to live on its own at that stage. An infant is also unable to live on its own. Should we destroy them too? There are times when a teenager seems incapable of doing anything on his or her own … i.e. nonviable. If non-viability is the yardstick for who lives and who dies, who takes the measure? Are there stages of non-viability?

Great Grandmother with great grandson
Great Grandmother with great grandson

When a society refuses to protect its most vulnerable, all of us live under threat. When a society refuses to protect its most vulnerable, we have relinquished our humanity. Animals in the jungle don’t have a code of conduct. They prey on the weak, the old, the infirm, the young. When humans refuse to protect the vulnerable among us, we’ve ceded our civility. We have become animals … in an uncivil jungle.

Most people know Sunday is Mother’s Day. I suspect many of us had mothers who instilled within us a specific code of conduct. I know my mother did. (Read about my mother here.) One of the rules she emphasized again and again was our responsibility to care for and protect others, to have compassion for others. She encouraged us, in Christ-like respect, to love others more deeply than we loved ourselves.

I live with the daily reminder that my mother gave me Life. In a sense, this Gift was everything she had. I also live with the confidence that she’d have died in my place, if necessary. There is no other gift so precious as the Gift of Life.

Thanks, Mom. I’m forever grateful.