Thursday, July 31, 2008

Incurable Optimism

Tuesday I parked my car in the supermarket parking lot and noticed the car in the next space. It had clearly seen better days. It was dinged, dented, rusted, and old; one of its fenders didn't match the rest of the car. This car was in such bad shape that the owner didn't even feel the need to roll up its windows and lock it. Nevertheless, optimism reigned in the heart of its driver. Swinging proudly from the rearview mirror was an air freshener--New Car scent!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spiritual Gifts, Spiritual Disciplines

Yesterday our beloved minister announced that he had taken a bit of grief over his statement last week that he feels some Christians give too much weight to the issue of spiritual gifts and not enough to the fruits of the Spirit. As a participant (victim?) of a couple of spiritual gifts inventories and the professor of students who take these same checklists, I see our preacher's point. Some students are dismayed to think that they might not be spiritually gifted. Others quickly become puffed up and attempt to use their gift (forcibly, if necessary). They are much like a toddler in one of those battery-powered cars--he thinks he's driving, but he's not.

I've had people tell me that I should pay attention to them on certain matters because these topics fall under the purview of their spiritual gift. Sometimes I pay attention, but often, I don't. Why? Because spiritual gifts are only as good as the spiritual maturity of the person with the gift. Spiritual gifts, like any other gift, can indeed be misused. If the "gifted" Christian is relying on his perception of his "gift" and not studying what God says, more often than not, the gift will be misused. Without knowledge of what God thinks about good and evil, the "Discerner" might substitute his own judgment, informed by popular culture rather than scripture. Yes, one might have the gift of evangelism, but without a good grounding in the word, the "Evangelist" is just about as reliable as the used car salesman down the block.

So how do we know whose spiritual gift to trust? Look at the person's fruits! Is he joyful, good, loving, kind, peaceful, gentle, patient, faithful, and above all, self-controlled? If not, do not trust his gifts. The person who is truly controlled by God cannot help but show his maturity by his actions.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back to the (almost) normal

The dear husband and I have returned from our short foray to the Land of the Thousand Putt-Putts. We managed to spend an entire 3-day vacation in Branson avoiding musical shows. We thought of going to see Noah, but the TV clip I saw dissuaded me; I just don't think Noah would do a hoe-down while taking a break from ark-building. And if he did, he probably wouldn't have thought it would be worth nearly $50 a person to see it! Somehow, Noah: the Musical just doesn't seem to treat the destruction of the world with the sorrow it deserves, even if people seem to rave about the show.

We fulfilled one of the items on my bucket list--we rode the Ducks. The ride was every bit as hokey as you'd expect, but I picked up some interesting tidbits of local history I hadn't learned in my many, many visits to southwestern Missouri, and I don't think I'd ever been on Table Rock Lake. We made good use of our camera. Shopping on Branson Landing was fun, too, and a deceptive way to get exercise and sunshine.

But mostly, we relaxed. Hubby read, and I knitted--all without being interrupted a single time by the telephone. I can remember wishing that my parents would do something--anything!--on vacation besides sit and read their stash of magazines, but now there is nothing quite as appealing as quiet reading time. We sat on the deck of our bed and breakfast, looked out at Lake Taneycomo below us, and listened to the birds and the distant bells at the College of the Ozarks. We brewed coffee in our room and snacked on whatever we wanted (Honey Nut Cheerios mix and pretzels). We took our time coming home, taking nearly all day to make a 4 1/2-hour trip.

So now, we begin the slippery slope to Christmas. School starts in 4 weeks, and there won't be a moment's peace until finals. I love the (organized) chaos of school, but I really needed this past week.

So here's to quiet--just not too much of it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where's the ACME Catalog?

I miss Bugs Bunny. My brother and I spent many a childhood Saturday morning watching such classic shows as The Three Stooges (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), Yogi Bear (where looking for an unattended picnic was a way of life), Mighty Mouse (Here he comes to save the day!), and my personal favorite, Bugs Bunny. I now realize we were learning some dangerous lessons:
  • Idiocy should be rewarded with a bop on the head.
  • Picnic food is good, and meant to be enjoyed occasionally--even if it is fried or loaded with mayonnaise.
  • Villains should be quickly dispatched, preferably with an uppercut.
  • Anvils and explosives are useful for temporarily dispatching one's enemies.

When our sons were small, Looney Tunes remained a part of our Saturday mornings. I let the kids think watching cartoons was their idea. Now I know I was teaching them the wrong values.

This past Saturday morning, I was working in my Stamp Dungeon and turned on my 5-inch TV for some background noise and maybe a couple of nostalgic laughs. I quickly realized that children's TV has changed a lot in the 10 years or so since I last tuned in. After skipping the infomercial on CBS (no sales resistance), I found what passes for preteen entertainment on another channel.

The first program featured live actors in a variation of Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney's "Let's have a show!" movies. The stars were producing a weekly cable show featuring crafts kids could make. The obvious theme of the show was saving money--but not for the traditional reasons: college fund, new bicycle, iPod, etc. Kids are now supposed to save money to send to the Cause of the Week, in this case victims of a tornado. Saving money for oneself was laughingly ridiculed.

The next program was animated, and I eagerly waited to see the villain's nefarious plans backfire. I must be hopelessly out-of-date. There was no clear villain, just a disagreement between characters which was solved with a negotiation session. Boring, boring, boring. This program taught that conflict is bad, compromise is good, and Negotiation Makes Everyone a Winner. At the end of my hour of kiddy TV, I felt like I'd been to church and heard only the sermon on the sin of Greed. Preachy, preachy, preachy.

After reflection, I came to a conclusion about these politically correct propaganda pieces: they are misleading, and therefore, wrong. First, it is not wrong to save money for your own purposes. It's not wrong to give your savings away, either, but you should not be compelled to "share." To be fair, the little girl in the show was following her heart in giving away her money, but the message of the show was clearly in favor of always giving away your surplus.

Secondly, there are some situations where compromise is just not possible because the issues are too important and involve moral principles. Negotiation is dandy for times when you don't agree on how to spend Friday night or which restaurant to patronize. But on issues like abortion vs. carrying the child, only one result can be chosen. And if some miscreant tries to do me harm, I'm not negotiating. Instead, I'm reaching for the nearest anvil (probably my purse) and bopping him on the head (or softer tissue more within the reach of my height-challenged arms), rather than trying to convince him of a win/win position: instead of killing me, he could get what he wants by doing me grievous bodily harm.

We do our children no favors by constantly indoctrinating them with this drivel. Baby Boomers grew up with cartoon violence, and most of us don't order explosives from ACME catalogs. We learned to share when we are faced with a compelling need, and we do, on occasion, negotiate and compromise. All the same, I think I'll stock up on Looney Tunes DVDs for my grandkids.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Random Observations

  • I saw a dead armadillo on the road near my house this morning. I didn’t think they were supposed to come this far north because our winters are too cold for them to survive. Two possibilities: global warming is to blame (but this year is colder than last) or armadillos don’t read maps very well.

  • If you want to raise your blood pressure, watch The Baby Borrowers. This show attempts to convince teenagers wanting “real life” to start sooner rather than later that waiting might not be a good idea. The show gives pairs of teens real babies and real jobs for a couple of days. After a few days, the babies are given back to their parents and are replaced by toddlers, then teens, then elderly parents.

    Weirdly, the girls are the ones who are gung-ho to start families, but the boys do a better job of holding their “families” together. A couple of the girls really needed to be taken aside—before their 5th birthday--and told they were not princesses. But alas, their mommies never disillusioned them, and real life doesn’t allow a great deal of time for pedestal-sitting. These bratty babes really made me want to reach out and touch them—with my pink hairbrush! This show is a Scared Straight for prosti-tots and makes me remember just how difficult it was to take care of small children.

  • I’m fighting my inner Momzilla with wedding plans. A trip through Michael’s wedding supply aisle plants all sorts of ideas in the mind of a future MOBs (Mother of Bride). Exactly when did goodie bags for wedding guests become a necessity? Do adults really think that just because others receive presents, everyone needs a gift or we’ll damage precious psyches? And are regular M&Ms OK for the favors, or must we order special ones custom imprinted with the initials of the newly-nupted couple? Please, save me from trying to stencil “Amy & B.J.: in love forever” on the aisle cloth!