Saturday, August 25, 2012
Bob took what he wanted, and I gave him permission to leave anything he didn't want. I didn't figure he'd leave the Model T (or whatever it was), but I do enjoy poking through old junk, and figured I might find something fun. With the amount of stuff he had to deal with, it seemed kindest to not insist on an Absolutely Empty Barn.
The "stuff beyond categorization" fraction has contributed to the lengthy time it has taken to really claim the Brown Barn as our own and incorporate it into the full life of the farm. Periodically we'd sort through some more, but then the pile of "boards that might be useful someday" kept getting out of control. Interesting/non-categorizable items get shifted from one corner to another, becoming slightly more dilapidated with each move.
One such item was the bowling pins. Ten of them, regulation size, heavy, yellowed, with the plastic coating cracking off in big flakes. Their box disintegrated, and they spilled on the gravel floor. They were always in the way, but too amusing to simply dump in the trash can. Yet I couldn't think of anything to do with them.
Finally, I had a brainstorm the other day. They are exactly the right size to sit nice and stable in the hollow tops of the vinyl fence posts of the Brown House's picket fence. I've been landscaping the front yard off and on this season, and putting in place a number of quirky ornamental items I've collected over the years, and the bowling pins would fit perfectly into the evolving theme.
So, up went the bowling pins the other day, and the Brown Barn is one step cleaner.
This evening--a Saturday--we finished up the night's work on the barn (building a lumber rack for the "might be useful someday" category) and dragged ourselves up to the Brown House for a celebratory slice of pie. B. stepped into the house a bit ahead of me.
As I started to close the door behind me, I heard a rough shout. Without stopping to think, I wheeled around and popped my head back out the door.
"Hey, BABY!" someone slurred the words nearby, hidden to my eyes freshly blinded by the kitchen light.
Not necessarily the recommended response to a drunken stranger on a dark and lonely street, but the one that came to me in the moment (simultaneous with gratefully remembering that B. was now sitting at the kitchen table) was a curious and friendly "What?" Not sure where this was going, and it might not be good. But I stepped out onto the porch anyhow, trying to at least see where the voice was coming from.
"Hey, I really like those bowling pins." Definitely slurred, stumbling over the words.
"Me, too" I replied, simply. I could make out the man now, 30 feet away on the street, silhouetted against the streetlight puddle on the otherwise dark street. Neither voice, nor silhouette, nor manner gave me any clue that I might know him.
He paused in his walking and weaved a little. "I really like 'em. Make me smile. I used to love to bowl. It just made me so happy when I saw them up there, reminded me of when I bowled..."
I smiled and said, "That's exactly why I put them there, to make someone smile."
"Well, they made me smile." He clumsily resumed his slow wavering pace. "God bless you, Sister."
And off he went into the night, anonymous.
"God bless you, Sister." A very long way from his initial salutation of "Hey, BABY!" A remarkable transformation, in fact. Why?
I have learned through the years, through many disquieting circumstances, that often a simple and fearless attitude of friendliness somehow wards off unwanted interest from drunken men. Focusing their attention to something other than me, that they enjoy or relate to somehow, in a positive way, can defuse a potentially threatening situation. And likely my attitude of open neighborliness would have guaranteed an amicable end to the conversation, no matter what.
But the vast distance between the greeting and his final benediction hints at more. I think this was another in a long series of spiritual "gift" experiences that I've received from wearing the prayer covering.
There is something about the covering that seems to affect most powerfully those of a rougher nature when they are in that discomforting condition of vulnerability and threat. They know better, but the bottle has deadened their caring to do better, and loosened their inhibitions. But somehow, simply seeing me in the covering, and being treated respectfully as a neighbor, they come to their senses just a little, just enough to recognize that they DO know better, and to choose to act on that knowledge, no matter how poorly they started the exchange.
I have given him the gift of bowling pin memories, a reason to smile and remember smiles. And he has given me the gift of humbly knowing that a little, insignificant thing I did, just as a whimsy, brought joy to someone who might not have much of it. Not just a little joy, either. Enough joy for him to earnestly shout out "Hey BABY" to a stranger in the dark, to share that joy right back at me.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Monday, February 21, 2011
(The following is the text of an email I recently sent to the Kansas State judicial committee urging them to reject proposed HB 2260, which protects the right to actively discriminate against [anyone you want to] in hiring, housing, etc., if the discrimination is based on a religious belief. Ridiculous? Yes. But then, we ARE the state that outlawed evolution. I stay here because leaving would just tip the balance towards more unreasonableness.
Some of my friends, and even family, may not have heard me speak "Christian" like this before...don't worry, I still speak "world" most of the time...but sometimes it's nice to be bi-lingual. When in Rome....
I am happy to report that the bill was tabled today by a wide margin without any debate. Doubtless it or a successor will rear its ugly head again. But in light of other recent political activity across the nation, it's a little bit of a bright spot: good sense prevailed today in this vote.
I am posting this far and wide because perhaps some of the ideas may be helpful to my readers who may find themselves in dialogue with intolerant "Christians" over some or another aspect of legal rights: LGBT rights, women's reproductive rights, immigrant rights, etc.
These thoughts are much, much broader than just LGBT issues. In fact, for those of you who are not particularly pro-LGBT legal rights or pro-LGBT church inclusion, I urge you to reconsider, and perhaps to move towards a position just slightly to the supportive side of neutrality--a detached solidarity with any who struggle to avoid officially sanctioned marginalization/discrimination. If an arm of our government is successful in codifying the right to discriminate against one group, who knows what other groups might be targeted in the future?)
I am a modern conservative Anabaptist Christian. I spend hours a week studying the scriptures through the Light of the Holy Spirit, both independently and in the company of other Christians--radical, conservative, liberal, progressive, and fundamental members of a number of different denominations. I also value the time I spend discussing things of the spirit with atheists, pagans, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Jews, and others.
For those of us who accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the New Testament abolishes "The Law" of the Old Testament by fulfilling the OT prophecies. The old commandments of Moses are replaced by Jesus' new commandments: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself".
In the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul exhort Christians to humble obedience...to submit to the laws of the State and its rulers. The New Testament does NOT tell Christians to seek to establish a State religion, nor to write State laws to support "Christian" beliefs and practices. It does not even tell Christians to campaign for the right to freely practice their religion! True Christians, now as in Jesus' time, live "in the world but not of the world." We deal with the world on the world's terms, even if it requires compromise and even if it results in suffering, knowing that our only real home and freedom will be in the company of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, after we have left this broken and sinful world. True Christians EXPECT and ACCEPT that "the world" will not support, encourage, or agree with our beliefs. Being human, we must necessarily stumble and fail in this effort at times...but we must never believe that our freedom and home is anywhere but Heaven.
As a part of a nation founded on the bedrock of religious freedom for ALL citizens, of any religious faith or of none, the State of Kansas has a constitutional duty to establish equitable and just laws to protect and support the well-being of its citizens--ALL of them--and to foster an orderly system of business, services, education, infrastructure, etc. without either favoring or discriminating against any particular group of citizens. The separation of church and state demands that such laws NOT be based on any religious considerations. Religion--any religion--is simply not supposed to be a consideration in the laws, enforcement or administration of our government.
After considering these simple truths about the purpose of Christianity and of our American system of government, I trust you will see that you have no choice but to reject HB 2260. It is as destructive to the faithful practice of true Christianity as it is to our constitutional rights as American citizens.
While your decision to dismiss HB 2260 must be entirely blind to the considerations of any particular faith, you will doubtless need to convey your decision to your constituents in terms that make sense to them. For those who are promoting this bill because they erroneously believe it supports Christian faith, you might remind them of the following Biblical truths:
If your "Christian" constituents supporting HB 2260 are not practicing these Biblical principles in their lives...if they have many possessions, are unloving towards particular individuals or groups of people; avoid socializing with the poor, different, and marginalized people; and are unwilling to obey State laws that they feel don't support their faith; then I think you can plainly see that these people are at best confused in their practice of the Christian faith. Probably it is not in the best interest of the broadly diverse citizenry of Kansas to establish laws demanded by those who are confused or misleading as to their true beliefs and purposes.
I personally wish the best for all Kansans (and everyone else), regardless of their race, nationality, gender, creed, religion, handicap, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, or other individual characteristic. I am content that the Bill of Rights gives me the right to believe as I choose, and that Christ gives me the strength and humility to obey the laws of the world whether they suit me or not. I have utmost compassion for those who call themselves "Christian" yet give in to the evil of hatred, and I hope that it is not through personal tragedy that they discover their errors and repent. We all have fallen short and sinned in the sight of God. Thankfully, He is merciful.
Your obedient citizen,
Monday, February 7, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Feb. 2005, one Sat. night very much like tonight (near-blizzard), I had been in Winnipeg for 1 1/2 weeks, I was suffering severe sensory overload and physical exhaustion, and my housing situation had turned into an emotional nightmare. I had a meltdown and fled to my one acquaintance's house for refuge.
I struck out on foot in her direction along the bus route, with no schedule, and at each stop I would check to see that the bus wasn't coming and then walk/run/slide desperately to the next stop in 2 blocks. Winnipeg blocks can be LONG. This was a main route, and didn't stop except at posted stops. I was terrified that the bus would come when I was between stops, but it was too cold to stand still, and I might reach my destination walking before the bus went by.
Well, the bus came when I was right between stops. I swear it was a guardian angel and not a real driver. He somehow understood from my resigned walk (trying not to slip on an especially icy sidewalk) that I wanted the bus even though I was far from the stop and wasn't waving and screaming--or even looking--at him. And he stopped right there.
I climbed on, tears welling up not just with stress and cold, but mainly relief and gratitude for God's looking out for me. And then realized that I had not one bit of money nor bus ticket with me. Before I could even turn to deboard, he said, "Don't worry about it" and told me to sit down. Off we went.
When I told him my destination, down a side street in the desolate, deserted downtown, he double-triple checked that I really knew where I was going and had a safe destination near there, because it was a notorious part of the city. He checked again as I deboarded.
I never REALLY believed in guardian angels till that night. But I believe now! It was a turning point in my faith. God can even stop a speeding bus on an express route!
I have had other profound bus-related experiences since then, and other amazing drivers. But this is the one that defines me as a professional transit driver in my own right. The worse the weather...the more likely that the smallest ordinary courtesy will change someone's life for the better.
Today, in one of the worst snowstorms in memory here, I picked up frozen passengers as much as 35 minutes after the scheduled time. "Don't worry about the paperwork" I said as they boarded. "Just hurry on, sit down, and warm up... we'll figure out how to get you home...you can pay or show your pass when you get off." Gratefully, they collapsed into seats and sat like silent snowmen for awhile. Slowly they would thaw, and then they would start searching their pockets. Not one single customer left without paying. It felt like they were stuffing the farebox with gratitude, not just dollar bills.
Did I ever mention I love my job? God, thank you for letting me be a bus driver! And thank you for driving the bus with me on days like this!