Category Archives: Thinking

WWJD Powwow Style

Author’s Note: This piece is definitely meant to be a lighter piece. I do caution that it could be perceived as irreverent. If you’re prone to sensitivity to irreverence, you’d best wait until my next post. 😉

If Jesus were a modern American, would He go to a powwow? And what would He do there?

Most Christians wouldn’t come. But I don’t think He’s like most Christians. He actually changed His path to go through Samaria, a place the religious leaders of the day hated, to talk with the woman at the well, a person hated for unwise choices in life.

The Christians who did come would probably hand out tracts or try to evangelize. But I’m not sure that would be Him either. He used stories to teach. Very rarely in a crowd did He open a scroll or tell a sinner directly that he (or she) was going to hell.

So what would Jesus do at a powwow?

He turned water into wine at a wedding party. He scooped up children, hugged them, and blessed them, probably with laughter.

He’d buy fry bread. He’d smoke with the elders. He’d buy some beads and baubles to encourage art and work and to give to the children later in the day. And He’d dance with joy and laughter.

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The Elder’s Eloquence

The elder stands to speak.
My heart stops and melts.
The simplicity of his eloquence
Stirs unseemly envy in my soul.
The phrases roll from his tongue
Without stutter or stammer.
How I wish I could do that!

Instead I sit alone
Late into the night
Pouring my soul onto a page
In black and blue blood–
Half wishing no one sees my insecurity,
Half knowing I’ll share it
To give voice to those
Who neither speak nor write.

Personal Update, End of Summer 2016

Time is flying. My youngest is back to school while my twins are pounding the pavement looking for gainful employment. My husband has learned he needs both hips replaced, with the first surgery just in time for the holidays.

Feel like you need a breath? I did, and I do. I’m finding my writing comes in cycles. I go days with nothing, and then in one day I can write several pieces.

I’m trying to be a little disciplined and give you as my audience small bits at regulated intervals. Yet, I don’t want to schedule so far out that doomsday happens, and I’m posting to no one for a month.

My husband, dreadfully concerned for my health and sanity and thereby the sanity of all I live with, sent me away for a weekend to an all nations powwow. Not his choice, mine. Mostly out of curiosity and my need for a slower pace.

The pieces that are scheduled for the next three weeks are written as a result of that event. Mind you, I’m not native, so don’t look at these pieces as the be all and end all of native lore. They’re just my thoughts and feelings as I attended and browsed bazaar stalls and smelled wonderful smells that still have my eyes watery and sticky (yeah, allergies aren’t good).

Also know that there is only respect and no offense intended.

A Tarnished Star

Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be innocent and without anything wrong in you. You will be God’s children without fault. But you are living with crooked and mean people all around you. Among them you shine like stars in the dark world.  — Saul of Tarsus, Letter to the saints at Philippi (ICB)

Like a gold ring and a fine gold ornament, so is constructive criticism to the ear of one who listens. — Proverbs (NOG)

I’m struggling with something, and I’m struggling to verbalize it. I think the two verses powerfully express my struggle.

By nature, I’m detail oriented, almost to a fault. And in my detail orientation, I tend to be drawn to things that are broken and need to be fixed. I feel the wrongness almost like a bad chord vibrating disharmoniously throughout my entire being. And the wrongness and related discomfort continue until the thing is fixed.

When I was first discovering this about myself, I was accused so often of complaining and grumbling. I had “a negative spirit” and “never saw the good in anything.” And that made me angry. Wallowing in feeling lousy, I never saw anything good in this gift or skill until I had a manager tell me, “If you can’t give me at least one solution for the problem, don’t waste my time identifying the problem.”

Wow. So, if I could get creative enough to suggest a fix however elementary or dumb, at least I could identify and express the problem. It took a while, but as I parented and solved the problems of parenting, I gained the ability to step back and look at how to solve problems in other arenas.

But even as I was gaining in this skill, I kept being accused of being too critical. And sometimes, I needed to explore or express a problem which I didn’t have the experience to solve. It was a hard place. However, once I looked at the definitions of criticism, I realized the problem.

I went to dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster online. Both sources listed several definitions, including (in my own words) “the act of judging the merits or good and bad qualities of anything” and the “act of expressing severe disapproval or finding the faults in someone or something.” But each source had a different order of precedence for which meaning is used more often for the word.

It has to do with perception and understanding of language. In our “highly tolerant” culture, we forget that things break. It is okay to identify things as broken and needing to be fixed. The problem comes when we perceive others as broken.

People do break. People do hurt. People who are broken and hurt break and hurt others. And while you want to “fix” the broken breakers, you have to be careful that you’re not adding to the broken hurt in the breaker’s heart. And while we will never be completely fixed on this side of eternity, there are measures we all can take to improve.

However, if brokenness comes from medical issues, it might be best to not try to fix the person’s problem. It might be best to let the person’s medical team deal with the issues.

The same goes for brokenness from trauma. It takes a team of specialists to fix that.

But when it comes to people who just don’t know any better, that might be somewhere where you could get involved.

But you have to assess whether the person is ready for the message. A message at the wrong time will be resisted.

And you have to assess whether you have the authority and credibility to make the educational attempt. If the person does not respect who you are and where you’ve been, you might as well try to train a deaf dog to honor whistle commands; you’ll be just as successful.

Also, you have to assess whether it is true brokenness or whether it’s just a difference. Sometimes, we get so set in our way being the only possible way that we cannot see that other ways might exist.

Constructive criticism is a good and right thing. Jesus strongly urged it in Matthew 5:23-24. But you have to have the right motive. You have to set things right with a right motive because fixing for ease or comfort or appearances’ sake just won’t work.

One last thought: what do you do when you can’t make it right?

I think you have to look at what 12-step recovery programs urge in steps 8 and 9.

  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

All that is required is an attitude and a willingness to make amends. Yes, you’re offended and you feel the need to fix. But maybe, it’s better to forgive them in your heart and let things go. That doesn’t mean you have to become best buddies forever; it just means that you could work with them on a team without jeopardizing the goals of that team.

The other caveat is that you cannot cause harm to yourself, the one you want to fix, or the people around you. It’s not just physical harm. Poor timing or poor message construction could cause emotional damage, and the emotional damage could result in spiritual damage. Damage is the exact opposite of what a fixer is seeking.

Just my not-so-humble (and confused and confusing) two cents’ worth…

The Outcry, A Feminazi Monologue

Author’s Note: This is mostly targeted to genetic females. It will contain some coarse, crude imagery and language. Be warned. And don’t expect logic and coherence. Thanks to my younger, smarter sibling for some of the phrases and imagery.

I’ve had it. I am sick and tired of the way some of us treat each other.

The bitch-on-bitch violence has to stop!

I’m not talking about actual physical punching and slapping. I’m talking about all the homicide and assassination by words.

Let’s not keep perpetuating the lie told to us by the patriarchy. Words can and do hurt, and women hide the scars behind personas, makeup and clothes, pounds of fat, and solitude-seeking.

Some examples (or variations thereof) I’ve seen or heard include:

  • What is wrong with her? She’s far too old for that style. Doesn’t she know she shouldn’t be wearing that at her age?
  • Why isn’t she at work more? We all have kids and church. Can’t she stay just a few more minutes?
  • Why would she marry that… well, I guess I’ll call him a man? But he’s the ugliest excuse for a man I’ve ever seen. She must not love herself much.
  • Why can’t she help at the PTA? We’ve all got jobs too. We could use her skills.
  • I think she should spend more time with her kids. They don’t behave very well. She must not have her priorities right.
  • She should be more forgiving of her ex. It’s been a long time. What would it hurt to pick up the phone once in awhile?
  • She’s not very interested in men. She keeps to herself. Wonder what she’s hiding. Is she a dyke?

It has to stop. We have to stop hurting each other, even when we’re doing it behind our backs. In perpetuating these kinds of comments, we make it easier for abusers to hide, rape victims to be ignored, employers to perpetuate employment inequality, and suicidal people to snuff out their lives forever.

If you don’t like the way someone acts or talks, just walk away. If someone pulls you into a conversation that sounds like one of those comments, try flipping it and suggesting mercy. Some fun responses for each of the above include:

  • Actually, that’s a very chic new style. She must be so interesting and courageous to try something new.
  • A few more minutes aren’t really a big deal to you, but maybe that’s her quiet time to change perspective and switch roles.
  • Actually, I hear he’s fabulous with a quirky sense of humor. By the way she looks, he’s probably been a very positive influence in her life.
  • Maybe PTA’s just not her thing. If that’s the case, I’d rather she not participate than bring a lackluster support attitude.
  • Maybe her kids have issues you can’t see or haven’t heard about. She might be doing exactly what the kids need.
  • What is so special about a phone that everyone thinks you have to answer it just because it rings? A scientist named Pavlov did that once with dogs, and the results weren’t that great for the dogs–all drool and no food.
  • I adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell policy regarding sexuality. Besides, alone doesn’t mean broken per se and is not a good indicator of sexual preference.

In essence, if we as genetic women expect to be taken seriously and treated with respect, we need to start treating each other seriously with respect.

It’s a big playground. The tug of war between the genders has been going on for centuries. If we want to even have a chance at a draw, we need all the players on our side we can get who are as functional as possible physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. If we can’t be kind, if we fail to treat each other well, if we fail to work together, if we fail to defend each other, we might as well just drop the rope now and go home.

“For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you.” [Matt the Palestinian IRS Agent]

Kittie’s Littered Musings, #4

I promise, Sunday night will be the end of the DeadLife Nightmare for now. I have too much research to make any more of it believable, even in a make-believe place. For now, I’ll just post a few jumbled thoughts on other things until I do my next batch of poetry.

Truth

As a Christian, I believe very strongly in truth. I believe in simple, unvarnished truth. Yet, I have a question about truth and integrity and reality.

Suppose the truth of any scenario could be likened to a 12-faceted diamond. I can review any of the 12 sides I wish, and I see all twelve sides.

Now, let’s say I work with Larry, Moe, and Curly. If I choose to show sides 1, 10, 11, 12 to Larry; sides 2, 7, 8, 9 to Moe; and 3, 4, 5, 6 to Curly; am I being dishonest for not showing all three people the whole truth?

Or is my integrity dependent on motive?

Let’s say none of the three people have the wherewithal–intellectual, spiritual, or emotional–to handle the whole truth, am I wrong to only give them what they can handle?

Does that change if I know that any of the three are inclined to violence? What if by showing Larry 3 or 4 or 5, I incite him to violence? Am I wrong for withholding that information to protect others?

Law

I was quite dismayed when a Congressional leader said we had to pass a bill to see what was in it. I recognize it was thousands of pages of legalese, but that is what we elected you to do.

As a result, I propose (as the writer I am) that henceforth all lawmaking bodies be immediately constrained to the following rules:

  • No law shall be written to more than five pages.
  • All legal text shall be at least 14-point font with double-spacing.
  • The text for all laws shall be written to a sixth-grade reading level in the official formal language of the legislating body.

What do the rest of you think?

Han Characters

I have been blessed to be studying Mandarin for about a year now as part of my job. I took the official online lessons from a business named for an archaeological artifact. But it was missing some key things, including music and Han character development.

Now that the course is finished, I am going back and using Youtube to find contemporary songs with English, Han, and pinyin. I also found a foreign broadcasting company’s game that will teach me to draw about 50 characters.

Some lessons I’ve learned:

  • The Chinese are truly smarter than most Westerners. By the time we’re congratulating ourselves for knowing 26 characters, they have learned 1400+ depending on the school they attend.
  • I lack the fine motor coordination to do Han characters justice. The space for drawing them is divided differently, and you have to produce the strokes in the character in a certain order and direction. I am afraid I am just creating some sick Rorschach images.
  • Do not listen to Chinese songs if you’re depressed. They are all about lost love, lost jobs, missing people. I think I’ve found only one happy one, and most sources call it the worst earworm ever created in K-pop.
  • All hearts have a God-shaped hole that only God can fill. Character after character has some form of a cross in it; it has kept me centered and re-centered on Christ throughout my day. It’s almost like the need for Christ was foreshadowed in the development of the language.

Death of a Blogger (AKA Disturbed and Distressed)

I was in the middle of an office day this week, working on my second cup of coffee for the morning, when the news feed popped up a short little story about a blogger killed in Bangladesh. It put a pall on the rest of my day, and I did more research.

The blogger’s name was Niloy Chakrabarti. Since I don’t have much time to read any of the WordPress bloggers I follow (sorry, gang), I’m certainly not following his blog. Evidently, he’s an atheist, and the fourth to lose his life in Bangladesh in about six months. Other reports claim that six more bloggers (some poets, some bloggers, and a journalist) are being targeted, and the police are doing little to nothing to help.

I am filled with dark feelings.

First, as a writer, I deal with words and ideas. The thought that someone else who deals in words and ideas, even if they’re not ones I share, was silenced with the ultimate silencing of death fills me with a feeling of dread at the thought that the tables could turn and someday I and others could be targeted here in our relatively safer corner of the world. I’m also filled with a bit of guilt that sometimes I throw out ideas and words without any thought for the price that was paid to win and maintain that freedom for me and without any concern for those who don’t have that freedom but chose to push the boundaries at great and costly risk.

Second, while I don’t agree with his rejection of a supreme deity, I don’t agree with the idea that you kill someone who doesn’t believe in your supreme deity. As a Christian, that would put me at direct odds with the heart of my Abba who doesn’t want anyone to lose the opportunity to choose His Son; if I killed you because you don’t believe, I’ve cut off every chance you have to change your heart. I fail to understand a religion of any kind that chooses to kill those who don’t accept your supreme deity; that certainly isn’t a religion of peace.

Finally, as a mother, I’ve dreaded even trying to discuss this story. I blog, and I don’t want to have to deal with the heavy questions of what ifs and whys that I know will come. I don’t want to try to explain why people kill over words and ideas and whether I could face the same cost. And my youngest is somewhere on this deity abandoned network of wires and electrons semi-following in my footsteps with some fan fiction (if you showed me where it was, I might drive readers to it… except it is Frozen related); I don’t want her own fear or anxiety to take away the voice of my princess, and I don’t want to be afraid that someday she could write something so profound and edgy that someone could try to silence her voice.

Where do we as a community of poets and photographers and writers and thinkers go from here?

Don’t cut and run. Don’t give up. Keep writing and sharing and thus show solidarity even if we don’t face mortal danger. If we somehow have the opportunity to protect or to succor, by all means, use it wisely.

Writing and thinking and sharing are the signs of health and life. Choose life, and choose it to the full!