To bare arms … or not?

To Bare Or Not To BareMark my words, Congress will soon be forced to deal with an important issue that arose in the last session. Should women be allowed to wear sleeveless dresses in the Speaker’s Lobby? This dress code rule has been around for some time but only recently came to light, fueled by the hype that is a part of everything that comes out of Washington, D.C. Because what one wears is now a part of the whole freedom of speech thing.

In my opinion, Congress should stick to its guns (to mix constitutional amendments) and keep the dress code.

Surely, someone has said, “How you dress is how you want to be perceived.”  Congress has long had the code of “professional business attire”, hoping to convey the image to their constituents that they are serious about the debates they have and the decisions they ultimately make. If they don’t care what we think and believe their comfort is the primary concern they can wear Cargo shorts and flip flops.

I’m just saying that if Congress allows sleeveless dresses, then it won’t be long before someone will interpret that to mean tank tops. Which brings cleavage and bra straps. And when that happens … because we can’t discriminate … men will be allowed to sag their pants and show their underwear, too.

All I can think of to say to that is eeeew!

Blessed to Be a Blessing

arkansas

What a wonderful weekend!

After recent maladies (see last week’s post) kept me home, this Saturday I was finally able to drive over the (Arkansas) river and through the (Saline County) woods to spend some time at Couchwood, home of my BFF, Pat.

Pat is a poet, novelist, and accomplished musician.  Her first career was as high school music teacher, but she also served as choir director, pianist, and/or organist in her local church before retiring a few years ago. She was lured out of retirement in December to assist in worship services at a small church in Grant County. Which leads me to tell of the blessings I received this past weekend.

Sunday morning we drove through the beautiful countryside below Saline County to Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Tull, Arkansas (Pop. 486. The town not the church.). A white steeple appeared as we rounded the last curve on Highway 35. Just past the cemetery and up a short rise sits the white building that houses a congregation established in 1885. A poster on a side door gives the dates and hours the food pantry is open.

The inside of the sanctuary looks much like the typical country church with the sign (available at Cokesbury Books) announcing the number on roll (35), the attendance and offering the previous Sunday.

I am recognized instantly as a visitor, of course, and introduced from the pulpit as “Pat’s friend, Dot.” As the service begins, the pastor shares the whereabouts of the few members who are absent. Now that’s a close knit congregation. If you’re not there they know why. The membership in many small rural churches tends to be senior citizens, but the group gathered this day is made up of mostly Baby Boomers or younger.

The hymns, chosen by the pastor, have something for everyone. Opening is “Morning Has Broken”, made popular during the “Jesus Movement” of the Sixties. The Hymn of Preparation: “The Old Rugged Cross”, an old old favorite, and closing with “Hymn of Promise” a newer song by Natalie Sleeth.

After prayers and offering, Pat began the introduction to “The Old Rugged Cross” with gusto. I had never heard her play that style, reminiscent of Old Time Methodists at camp meeting under a brush arbor in August. It was wonderful. I’m sure she used all 88 piano keys. That accompaniment had everything but a glissando. And did we sing along!

Joining our voices together left us lifted and prepared for the message from Mathew 5:1-12. Not a brag-list of how blessed we are, but an assurance we are indeed blessed and in turn are called to be a blessing to others.

As the young acolyte left, symbolically carrying Christ’s light into the world, my feeling was that this group of people certainly fulfills that command, as they go about being the Church in their scattered jobs and their presence in that community. I felt blessed to have worshiped with them.

Chatting with folks after the service, I learned that the pastor’s son lives in my Dream Hometown and that another congregant originally came from Carlisle, AR, just a bit to the east of us. He knew my dentist, Dr. Burleson, who has written two books about his childhood in Carlisle. I might have found more “small world” stories, but it was 10:30, the Sunday School hour and time for me to start my trek home.

Blessed indeed.

Visit my BFF Pat Laster’s website

James Burleson’s books: The Redneck Chronicles found  here

Say what you will

Wrigley Field

Call me a bandwagoner or whatever you like but I enjoyed watching the World Series. I’ve liked baseball all my life, playing games of work-up in the school yard, following the local farms clubs in various small towns in the Fifties, watching my kids in Little League and beyond, and, in the Eighties, reveling in the chance to drive to Dallas once a month to see the Texas Rangers. But, recent years have brought fewer opportunities to witness a live game, and I find TV coverage less than satisfactory.

Though the farm teams I cheered for back in the day belonged to the American League, I have always had a sentimental spot in my heart for the Chicago Cubs. Because . . . really . . . 1908? . . . I mean, bless their hearts! I have a fondness for the Cleveland Indians too for a similar reason.  Bless their hearts, too.  Also, Bob Hope owned a piece of the Indians and I had a fondness for Bob Hope.

My husband was a big Cubs fan. He had the hat and shirt and watched them play every chance he got, though he never had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to see a game.

For all the above reasons, I felt I should be allowed to root for the Cubbies in the 2016 World Series games. Or at the very least it’s my constitutional right.

So, I watched every game … on television in my living room. And I discovered once again why this manner of experiencing a game is less than satisfactory to me.

I want to comment on the plays. I need to make a suggestion to the umpire now and then. It’s just not the same when you’re alone.

I often mute the play-by-play announcer. I can see what’s going on, and if I miss it no problem, it will be instant-replayed several times. And now there is new technology that allows someone to second-guess the umpire? What is the world coming to?

By game 7, the trivia guy was on my last nerve. He sat in the booth with Google or something, pointing out to us how many ways this series was history-making.

“This is the first time a retiring catcher has hit a two-run homer in the 8th inning of the 7th game in World Series play in November with rain in the forecast.”

PLEASE!

All in all it was fun to watch history being made in the World of Sports. And I just have to say it:

How about them Cubs?

Blessing the Backpacks

Blessing of the Backpacks

Tomorrow is the first day of school. This morning was the blessing of the backpacks. This is not a United Methodist ritual, but has become a loved tradition at Beebe First UMC over the past several years.

The steps in the chancel area were covered with backpacks, lunch kits, teachers’ bags, briefcases, and even keys belonging to those in the congregation involved in education.

Our pastor prayed individually for each child, that s/he would be safe, would not be afraid, be ready to learn, and maybe be a friend to someone who needs one.

Why would he pray that we should return to school unafraid?

Active Shooter Training is a part of most school-staff inservices this year. In the classroom, children are taught what to do if they hear gunfire in the hall or the “lock down” words come over the intercom.

Larger schools may have scanners where visitors swipe their driver’s license to gain admittance. Registered offenders may not enter.

How do we feel safe and unafraid? Well, that’s what the drills are for. When the fire bell rang, children knew to walk in a straight line to the designated place on the playground. That was the practice in the Forties (and still today perhaps).

During the Cold War years, when the A-Bomb alarm went off, children hid under their desks. Until someone figured out the desk was not really much protection against an Atomic Bomb.

Many southern states have tornado drills, safe rooms, definite plans for protection against storms.

All these drills urge us to think about “what would we do if . . .?” so we’re more able to make the best choice in an emergency.

School starts tomorrow.

Pray for the kids, teachers, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, nurses, and parapros, and anyone else I may have accidentally left out. Pray they will be patient, loving, and brave in the face of their tremendous responsibility and challenge to mold young lives.

Offended or Offensive

Baby

Is it possible to write that one true sentence that doesn’t offend someone? It would seem not. We have all had that foot-in-mouth experience when we innocently say something … maybe not even an original thought, but something we’ve heard or read … only to find we have stepped on a toe, albeit unintentionally.

And what about when it’s our turn to be offended? We too can work ourselves into a rant over the smallest slight or thoughtless slip of the tongue.

We really shouldn’t do this. Many years ago, a wise man wrote, “When a fool is annoyed, he quickly lets it be known. Smart people will ignore an insult.”

Does that offend you? Don’t get mad at me! King Solomon said this in the Book of Proverbs (12:16). He wrote lots of other things we would do well to heed. “A friend loves at all times.” “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

Oh, yes, he also said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do and he will show you the right way.” *

Sounds like a Plan.

 

*Good News Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6

 

The Methodist Way

circuit_rider

Today was our pastor’s last Sunday at Beebe First United Methodist Church. Next week we will have a different spiritual leader and our “old” preacher will have a “new” church home.  That’s the Methodist way.

You can tell how long I’ve been a member, since I often refer to us as “Methodists” when we’ve been United Methodists since 1968. But I digress.

It’s called the itinerancy, continued from the earliest years in the United States when most denominations used Circuit Riders to bring the Gospel to their scattered flocks. In the United Methodist Church today, each summer elders are assigned (or re-assigned) to a church or charge. Every pastor has a church (sometimes more than one) and every church has a pastor (sometimes more than one). No Methodist preacher has to go out looking for a job.

This is a good deal for the minister and the congregation. The Bishop and his cabinet make the assignments. The pastor goes where he’s sent. There are sacrifices, after all, when one answers the call to full-time Christian service.

Brother Russell has served in Beebe six years. This is a long tenure, the average stay being three or four years. Both his children graduated from BHS. Couples he married brought their babies to be baptized. His first confirmation class of Beebe youth will enter college in the fall.

During the children’s story today, our pastor stopped, took a deep breath and paused. We have learned to recognized this as emotion, God touching his heart with the poignancy of the moment. As he continued, from the choir, I could see the child sitting next to him move her hand across his back as far as she could reach.

Softly she rubbed the palm of her hand across his shoulder blade to the middle of his back and to his shoulder again. I could imagine she had learned this comforting movement from a parent who had soothed her in that manner. It was such a compassionate act of love. I was touched.

She’ll always remember Brother Russell, even after she falls in love with Brother Matt.

Our children see their pastor as more than just the one who preaches and baptizes and serves communion. For them, he’s even more than just the good sport willing to wear a crazy costume for VBS. They see him, also, as vulnerable as the rest of us, as one whose heart also hurts when it’s time to say good-bye.

The comfort that one little girl could offer her pastor in this bittersweet moment is all the proof we need — if we should need it all — that no one is too young or too old to be a part of God’s Kingdom.

This is not just the Methodist way. It’s God’s way.

There’s a reason they call it Break-fast

stethoscope2

I had my wellness check-up this week.

It was 9:10 when I appeared at the clinic, fasting, for my semi-annual cholesterol check. That was the earliest appointment available, and it was much later in the day than I normally go without eating. In my purse I had stashed a breakfast bar, planning to relieve my hunger as soon as the lab had drawn blood.

After a short wait, the nurse (younger than my youngest grandchild) beckoned me and asked if I had ever had a Medicare Wellness Check-up. I said I didn’t think so. She said, brightly, “Good! We can do this now.” I mentioned that I was supposed to visit the lab, and she said yes, right after the check-up.

I settled in the chair and she asked if I knew what day of the week it was. I blinked. Are all the questions going to be this hard? 

At my job I work with several calendars. Currently, I have been helping put together a summer catalog of professional development opportunities … dealing with dates in June, July, and August. With some follow up dates during the 2016-17 school year. Also, I’ve been proof-reading a report that deals with activities in FY 2015-16. On my best days, I might have to ponder to decide what day it is.

Fortunately, I came up with the right answer and we proceeded. The rest of the exam went along well. I can see it is a good tool, designed to target seniors who might be depressed, suffering from serious memory problems, or needing help with day to day living.

The nurse asked if I exercise, if I wear a seat belt, if I have fallen in the past year. (I admitted to tripping over the dog.) She watched me walk across the room. I drew a picture of a clock and picked the triangle out of the array of shapes.

I said yes to a pneumonia shot and bone density test and no thanks to the shingles vaccine and colonoscopy. After she weighed me and checked my vitals, she closed her laptop and said, “Okay. The doctor will see you shortly.”

What? I’m still fasting over here! I said, “I thought I was going to the LAB!

“Yes,” she said, “right after you see the doctor. He’ll be here soon.”

I looked at my watch. 10:30! It had been more than 12 hours since food entered my mouth. I wondered if I had lost any weight from the long enforced starvation. I felt I could commiserate with Ghandi. I looked at my watch again. 10:32. She said the doctor would be in soon.

And he was. We chatted a few minutes about how well I am and how his allergies are giving him fits. I finally visited the lab.

I pulled out of the parking lot and drove 1/2 mile to Hardee’s where I ordered one of everything.  Maybe not the best food, even for one who is extremely healthy, but by then, I was one hungry senior citizen.

Happy Mothers’ Day to the Newbies

mothers day

Special greetings to all those who are being honored on Mother’s Day for the first time this year.

In the past I have written tributes to my mother, and I have told of my own parenting experiences. But this year I want to recognize some Moms on their first Mother’s Day.

My granddaughter, Amy, is one of those lucky women. There are others in our extended family as two of my siblings became great grands this year. So Happy Mother’s Day to Beth and Sarah.

I now have three great grandchildren. But my ‘big’ sister has fourteen! She always was an over-achiever.

My grandsons are Noah, Caleb, and Quade. All good Biblical names. (Okay, he’s Quade Benjamin.) All my grandchildren have names from the Bible, too: Aaron, Andrew, Matthew, Elizabeth, Stephen, Amy Susanna, and Jonathan.  And what seems to be a tradition in our family is that your first name is yours and your second name is to honor a friend or family member.

But I digress! And who wouldn’t when talking about their beautiful progeny?

Young Moms: This is your day! We pray the first of many. Your gifts over the next years will range from macaroni art to a new refrigerator. When that household appliance shows up, just hold this thought: It isn’t about the gift. It’s about the love and appreciation and honor behind it.

The best gift a mom receives is when “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also and praises her.”  Proverbs 31:28

Happy Leap Day

Leap Day

 

Tomorrow is February 29, a day that comes around only every four years. I say, this is a special day, right? That should be reason to celebrate.

My friends Rhonda and Gary were married on February 29. I can’t remember if this is their 8th or 9th celebration. They say they chose Leap Day because it would be an easy date for Gary to remember. However, I’m thinking, since at one time there was a tradition that it was permissible during Leap Year for the woman to propose . . . maybe . . . no . . . a woman asking a guy to marry her is pretty much permissible at any time now, so never mind. In Greece it’s considered unlucky to marry on Leap Day. But it seems to be working out well for Gary and Rhonda.

I don’t know anyone who was born on February 29, but it happens. In fiction, Gilbert and Sullivan, in their comic opera Pirates of Penzance, used the novelty of a leapling (Leap Year baby) as a plot twist. Frederic, our hero, was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday. However, since he was born on February 29 that date wouldn’t arrive until he was 84 years old.

(BTW, there is a delightful movie of Pirates, made in 1983 with Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt [who knew she could sing opera?], and a very young Kevin Kline.)

A memorable Leap Year occurrence: On February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American actor to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for her role in Gone With The Wind.

But back to celebrations. Perhaps I should throw a party. Serve food I can bear to eat only once every four years (if that often). Sushi, eel, anchovies, escargot, turnip greens, oysters, kale.  Some of that stuff I have never eaten. Can you guess the rest of the story?

In Anthony, Texas, population 5,000, there is a quadrennial birthday party for Leap Year Babies. It began in 1988, rather a whim of a council woman who felt the need to have her birth date recognized when it came around. The idea grew and grew and now there are 300 members of the Anthony Birthday Club of Leaplings, some living as far away as Europe. As many as can come every four years to celebrate with a town parade and festival.

So there’s our celebration! Of course, Anthony, is 950 miles from Arkansas. It sits in the shadow of El Paso, at the tip of Texas that juts out into New Mexico. Maybe not this year, but think about 2020. Who here doesn’t love a parade and town festival?

 

A Bit About Staying Fit

Getting Fit

When I think about it, I’m a bit concerned that I don’t get enough exercise. I sit at my job several hours a day, if I don’t remind myself to walk the hall from time to time.

Then, after work, I often find myself sitting … while reading, writing, watching TV and/or knitting. I have no regular exercise routine other than vacuuming occasionally and getting dressed every morning.

What I’m noticing is that just as I reach this age when I need to keep moving, more and more things are becoming automatic.

Even a shopping trip provides very little exertion. I seldom have to push open a door. If I choose to, I can ride around in a motorized shopping cart. It’s no longer necessary for me to walk through the parking lot looking for my car. All I have to do is push the panic button on my key ring.

By the way, I will never have to stop driving, now that there is a car that can make good decisions for me while I’m thinking about whether I should turn or stop.  Now that’s a good thing.

If guilt had cardio-vascular benefits I would buy one of those wrist thingies to remind me that I have been completely motionless for the past hour.

Possibly one of the strangest “we’ll do it for you” items on the market today is a brand of antiperspirant that activates only when you activate. It lies dormant until you begin to move and then adjusts to how strenuous your activity is. (I’m not making this up.)

Actually, this is great. I might try this. No need to waste deodorant while I’m just sitting there. I can just sit there and stink.

But I have security in knowing that if I do decide to move around, my new roll-on has my back — and arm pits.