Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There Came a Woman of Samaria

Former President Jimmy Carter has declared in an article called “Losing My Religion for Equality” that a group of men called The Elders have determined that women are misused and abused due to tradition and religious viewpoints:

"The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

In order not to confuse religion with faith, let’s clarify that neither Jimmy Carter nor any other person is being asked to disavow his or her faith in God in whichever name one knows Him. Religion is, after all, man’s view of God. Faith is a gift from God that allows us to believe in that which is not seen.

The subject of woman’s image in the eyes of man has taken many convoluted turns throughout the centuries. Only literature, and now other forms of entertainment, can give us an accurate measure of how women are or have been perceived. Literature, especially the Bible, has been instrumental in forging the foundation of men’s opinions about woman’s place in life. One work that had such a strong influence was Dante’s Inferno. Even the Church itself could not have prevented such lively and ingenious images from becoming part of man’s concept of woman and of her place in causing so much sorrow. But not many people read Dante today, so why are the concepts so prevalent?

Ian Fleming wrote some spy thriller books back in the 50s which became movies in the early 60s. About the only name more familiar than James Bond is John Wayne. John Wayne was sure to treat a woman with respect, but the James Bond woman played only an ancillary part to preen the male ego and purpose. Death for a James Bond woman provides realistic, if merely collateral, damage. The same is true in a later movie called The Bourne Supremacy. About the only movie that shows respect between a woman and a man in modern times is the new Walt Disney movie UP.

Most people today who have the luxury of belief, faith, and any concept of a higher power have heard of the Christ. The story of His life and the repetition of the things He said have been the basis for many of the traditions that men have created concerning their place in the world and its order. Two important stories from His life are quite often ignored. During the lifetime of Jesus Christ, the people of Samaria were considered less than illegal aliens and squatters upon the land of Jacob. No Jewish man would even speak to a Samaritan, much less a woman of Samaria. But Christ did. He first revealed Himself to the Gentiles through a woman. He flat out told her that he was the Christ for whom they watched. Oh, the men of the village came to see Him because of her report, but they were quick to tell her that they believed because of HIM, not because of her part in the revelation. They missed the point. HE had shown her respect.

Finally, the woman who loved Jesus was the first to see Him after He arose from the tomb. And it was the women who went by themselves to wrap in spices the body they expected to find in the tomb. No man went with them to help in any way. The women served Him to the bitter end. And it was their voices which brought the good news of His resurrection.

Oh, no one has to believe in one man’s version of the creation or the names of a creator if that belief can be avoided, but we are all the result of an ongoing process of becoming something other than individuals or egos. We share this planet and its destiny. The final result for all lives can be much more than ideas, beliefs, and determinations if we treat each other with dignity and respect.

Monday, July 20, 2009

They Grow Up

By this Thursday, at least two things will have happened. Our youngest grandchild will have her fifth birthday, and our daughter will return for her two boys. It seems so strange that the baby girl has grown up so quickly. Hardly any time at all has gone by since we sat down at Thanksgiving dinner with our son and his family and waited for the blessing to be asked. And then they told us that they were going to be parents to another child. They both seemed a bit shocked by the entire situation--though surely by then they knew the process.

But now the little girl is going to start "real" school this fall. And our oldest grandson will be in seventh grade. Wasn't he just a little boy not too long ago?

Today I asked the boys to be careful with their granddad and watch after him while they went target shooting. He doles out the .22 shells one at a time so he can be sure who is doing what, but I want them to be sure they are listening to him. My own dad KNEW we would listen to him by the time he let us use a gun. But our boys are a bit like the dogs on the new movie UP--squirrel!! Their attention can be totally off a subject in a heartbeat.

We took these boys to see the Walt Disney movie UP and laughed until our sides hurt. Both boys would wait a few minutes between shouts of 'squirrel' before they would start laughing again, but otherwise, they thoroughly enjoyed the ideas behind the movie. I could have cried in a few places, but perhaps it is just as well that the boys kept me laughing. We are all adventurers at heart. But adventures are so much more worthwhile when they are shared. These two boys will share the adventure of growing up together--even if it is ever so fast.

Each child should have a sibling or at least a cousin with whom to share childhood. Oh, we can compare sizes, eye color, hair thickness, and all that other silly stuff, but what really matters is sharing a time in life that only comes once. None of our children or grandchildren will ever be perfect, but they can learn to appreciate family ties. Sharing a grandparent or two helps, but they also need to have experiences together that they can recall when they are grown.

Now I know what some siblings would think: Oh, never again! My brother was a character and a good brother. But that did not keep him from throwing rocks at the hen house while I was in it and scaring the liver out of me. But I remember he also tried to teach me to swim and to drive. I never have been much good at either, but that wasn't his fault. We can all recall some of the things that a sibling did that wasn't the best for us at the time. But we can usually also recall some of the things that made for good times or better understanding.

Whatever life brings to our grandchildren, I hope that they can look back someday and recall that they were loved and appreciated for who they are/were. And perhaps when they get together with cousins, they can share again some of those memories of growing up.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


It has been awhile since last this space was used, but time flies quickly for grandparents who are confused. Summertime is for children and grandparents, not for blogs.


Somewhere in the hall of fame for strange critters, the grandparent must have a place. He or she feels responsible for the little darlins while enjoying the realization that the situation is generally temporary. The hall of fame has several categories of grandparents; so for the edification of those who have yet to experience one of life’s final ironies, the following enumeration of their characteristics is offered.

The all-permissive grandparent may be either male or female, but the entire idea behind being permissive is to allow the grandchild/ren to go home and tell the parents that ANYTHING is permissible at Granddad’s or Grandmother’s house. Candy, late hours, bouncing on the bed in the back bedroom, coffee in the morning with the grandparents, just about anything not allowed at home is allowed by these grandparents. We won’t go into the reasoning behind this kind of grandparenting because some mothers and fathers feel that an insidious—if not vicious—delight is expressed when their children are allowed non-standard child fare or activities.

The “we will buy it for you” grandparents may be about the most dangerous type in existence. Children who inherit this type of grandparent will have considerable difficulty in learning to value doing things the hard way or earning their own treasures. Parents who must deal with the grandparents must find a way to manage their frustrations and their children at the same time. Only if the grandparents can be persuaded to invest in long-term values like education or real properties will the goodness of their intentions have worth to the grandchildren or parents.

The most blessed children are those who have grandparents who will share their stories of growing up and a history of their own family. Children don’t see themselves as their parents do, so a grandparent’s memories can shed insight upon both the child and the grandchild when traditions are involved. The story about the daughter asking her mom why she always cut the roast edges off before putting it all in the pan illustrates one of the funnier traditions. The mother couldn’t tell her daughter why she cut the roast up in that way except that she always had seen HER mother do it that way. The mother called the great grandmother and asked her why she cut the roast up before putting it in the pot. The answer was simple: HER pot was not big enough for the full roast to spread out.

Our parents knew us as children. Their memories bear repeating for all concerned. We had grandchildren before we ever heard of the term ADHD, but now we understand why our parents thought their children were scatter-brained and never still. And believe it or not, we were well-behaved, good children. But the world we lived in had very little resemblance to that of today. We rode real bikes with one speed—whatever our legs would pump up. We rode all over town without our mom worrying about us. The neighbors all knew us and had us run errands for them. Our toys included hop toads, horny toads, grass lizards, and June bugs. We played in the rain, got muddy, got dirty, got hot, and got cold with the seasons. And all the time we had parents and grandparents who loved us and cheered us on. We were so blessed to have both.

If a child has even one grandparent, a certain amount of history will come out about the child’s parent. But the best part about having any kind of grandparent is seeing the continuity of life in a family, from one generation to the next, with love.