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Am I Really the Hero I Wish I Could Be?

8 Oct

Flugtag 88 taught me a lot about heroes–what they are and what they are not. Flugtag 88 was the last Ramstein Air Base air show in Germany ever. The airshow at the American base had begun in the 1950’s but ended forever in tragedy that day in 1988 when two Italian planes collided over the crowd, burning scores of people to death below them.

I was not at the airshow that day but I was a couple of hours away, living in Stuttgart.

How well I remember the initial enthusiasm about a photo that was published of a man running from the flames, then suddenly turning around to go scoop up an injured infant from the ground, bearing her to safety. That shot almost became the iconic image of Flugtag 88.

Until . . . it was revealed that the man was the child’s father. He did not sacrificially run to rescue a random stranger. He went back to get his daughter whom he had forgotten . . .

I have thought long and hard about heroes since then. Would I ever be one? Would I never be one? Is there any way to tell who will become a hero before disaster actually strikes? I posit that no, we can’t say in advance who would or would not be a hero.

Actually, I think statements made in advance of anticipated heroism are much like six year old boys trash talking about their athletic prowess. It is easy to be a legend in one’s own mind.

Thus it was that a couple of weeks ago I entered a conversation of people bragging about how they would protect victims of crime if given half a chance to do so. They were especially convinced that they might do well if they went into a crisis armed . . .

I did not realize initially that they were referring to the radical Muslim who cut off a coworker’s head in the U.S., then went after a second coworker, nearly decapitating her, too. They were stating that they knew they would stand up to this man and his violence if they were there on the scene.

I meekly stated that the only people I am relatively sure I would protect are my family.

That statement produced an outpouring of scorn that was unbelievable. Someone asked me why my family’s lives are more important than anyone else’s, never realizing that I meant it as an example of how God has given me responsibility for my own family, just as others are responsible for theirs. It does not mean that the families of others are worth less, just that if you have to choose in a crisis . . . (well, that is one reason God set us in families–to protect each other).

Americans are so quick to rush to judgment these days that they rarely even read someone’s position accurately, let alone think it through. I certainly saw that in this conversation. I was actually thinking of the shooting in the Denver theater and how if I had been there with our special needs son, I would have probably dropped him to the floor and crawled with him to the exit, getting him outside and staying with him.

And the people “conversing” with me said, “For shame–you would only protect your own family, no one else?” without realizing that, as the mother of a son with special needs, I have learned that taking care of him can be a fulltime endeavour. If I left him to protect someone else, he would likely follow me right back into peril.

But the folks who are intent on heaping shame on others don’t stop to think like that. Their heroism, which exists only in their head usually, trumps my admission that I have spent my son’s lifetime protecting him.

What is interesting is that these folks are always bragging about how they would shoot a deranged armed man to stop him from killing more people. They are so protective of strangers, they brag. Until . . .

What if I had asked them why they are not on their way to Liberia right now to protect people from the ebola virus? The need for caregivers is certainly great.

But no, they only want to shoot bad guys, not protect innocent babies from getting a virus. Which proves to me that they are not so much about protecting people as about reacting against bullies. And I have very little patience for people whose own motives are so unclear to them that they can’t see the logic of a challenge to do good to *all people, not just the victims of particular crimes.

If you are a hero, you have to be a hero in all circumstances, not just the ones you handpick for yourself!

P.S. I left the conversation when the word “shame” was hurled and said why I did so. I don’t let people pile on–especially when they are making theoretical statements about how much more moral their actions would be than mine.

We have never, so far, gotten into a crisis to compare which of us would respond well. And hopefully we never will . . .

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Avoiding the Appearance of Evil . . .

24 Sep

What is avoiding the appearance of evil (a Biblical phrase) and what is it not?

Those of us who have heard this phrase and have used it to calibrate our lives might be surprised to find that it does *not mean avoiding that which *appears to be evil (because whose judgment do we use for that?) but rather it means to avoid every place where evil *appears.

If we are in a place where an orgy is breaking out, we need to get out of there.

If we are in a place where a pornographic movie is being shown, we need to leave.

If we are in a room thick with marijuana smoke, we should make a quick exit.

If we don’t use the correct definition of “appearance of evil” we can end up calibrating our entire lives by the perceptions of the person in the room who has the dirtiest mind.

Think about it. Just say you are walking into church one morning and there is a troubled but vocal person there.

What might she see as you cross the room? Whom did you not greet? Could she portray that as you ignoring those people?

Whom did you greet? If any of those people were men who are not your husband, what might this observer see? Did your eyes seem to linger a bit too long on one of them as you exchanged a joke? Did your eyes brighten a lot as you shared with one of them about the Lord’s goodness? From across the room, could this person have seen the possibility of an illicit romance?

See where I am going with this? There will *always be at least one person everywhere we go who is famous for “reading into” the actions (or omissions) of others. If we let this person’s mind determine for us what evil is and is not, we will spend our lives in fear of being falsely accused, doing nothing most days in order to avoid the possibility of something we do being wrongly construed.

And, in the end, our avoidance is futile anyway, because a person determined to find fault in us and to start rumors about us will *always meet her goal, even if she has to makes something up out of whole cloth.

We need to avoid actual sins and places where a whole lot of sinning is occurring.

Avoiding the accusations of a rumormonger is probably impossible. Don’t spend too much of your life and effort worrying about it.

No, You Can’t . . .

17 Aug

Psalm 101:5, 6: “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.
Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

While I am not a king, like David who penned the above, and therefore I don’t have anyone “serving me,” I can resonate with this passage.

Anonymous denunciations and private slander are wicked. Any Bible believers need to be convinced of that?

Exactly one week ago yesterday I sat in my son’s academic advisor’s office at his special needs college and talked to the two of them about what they term “self advocacy.” Joey will be given more and more opportunities to self advocate this year.

While the college, like everyone everywhere else, does not tolerate bullying, the people there also realize that bullies operate in the darkness, in anonymity, and in one-on-one situations where it is just your word against theirs. Therefore, we all need to learn self advocacy skills. How to say “You need to stop that now.”

I have learned a host of life lessons from this special needs college. They have been faithfully working with the special needs population for almost 60 years. They have quite a few things to teach all of us about interpersonal relationships. We are all the same, at heart, whether special needs exist or not.

Thus it was that over the last 48 hours I told a cyberbully to stop it . . . and got the expected response that bullies usually make. More threats.

This man pastors in another state and had intruded on the affairs of our local independent church by writing a private note to another member telling him to “mark and avoid Mary” due to an accusation that I “teach men and usurp authority over them.”

False accusation and, even if it were true, it would be up to the pastor of our local church and the dean of our local church’s seminary to sort that out. Not a pastor three states away who has never laid eyes on me.

Talk about presumptuous!

Hopefully we can let this die down now. A bunch of threats were made but none that we think he can make stick.

It was telling that he was livid with my friend for telling me the contents of the private note. There is a simple rule for that: If you tell me something private about yourself, I will keep your confidence. If you make a private accusation against another, I don’t owe you confidence.

Private, written accusations used to be called poison pen letters. They have been a bane of our existence in Baptist churches (and probably in all other churches, too) for at least 100 years.

If you get a poison pen letter, expose it. Tell someone. Preferably your pastor.

Don’t let bullies operate in secrecy and impunity.

Shame, Part I

29 Apr

Shame can happen over one of two things, shame for who we are or shame for what we have done.

When we say that shame is a bad thing, we have to differentiate between those two causes.

Shame is indeed bad , and debilitating, when it is over who we are.  It can also often be used as a method of control by others when we are subject to shame over our identity, over “who I am.”

Shame over “what I have done”, however, can be very appropriate and very restorative.  Acknowledging something rotten we have done–owning it–can be a step on the pathway to getting right with God.

I aim to never, ever cause a person shame for who she is.  But the older I get, the less likely I am to hold back about rotten deeds. This is especially true if I can be fairly sure that there will not be reprisals for calling someone out, although that should not be my primary concern either.

Today, for example, while my husband and I were out walking, we had to cross a major road at the time of the day that buses were picking up high school kids.  Three buses were stopped up the road from us, all headed away from us, all with their pick up lights on. Happy to see that I could cross the road without oncoming traffic, I hurried toward it.

But, no!  Someone had to bypass the law and come at me, past three stopped schoolbuses.  I had to wait for him to get by or I would have been hit myself.  Jerk!

I believe I actually had my index finger in the air, pointing at those three stopped buses.  I know the man could see my mouth moving, even though he could not hear me through his rolled up window.  I didn’t stop yelling at him until he had passed by.  Not name-calling.  Not condemning who he is.  But condemning what he had done. To save a minute, he had run the risk of hitting a student getting on a bus.  Or me!

That is appropriate shaming and that would have been appropriate shame, had he felt it.  Maybe he did.  Maybe the next time he wants to drive past a stopped schoolbus, he will remember the 55-year-old lady pointing at him in his selfishness.  That would be good.

After all, I have been told I have gotten very good at delivering “the look.”

May I always deliver it for what someone has done; never for what he is.

Link

Using World Vision as a Litmus Test for Spirituality!

26 Mar

Using World Vision as a Litmus Test for Spirituality!

Exactly!  If you break fellowship with me over the fact that I support other worthy organizations instead of World Vision, how do you justify calling yourself progressive?  No one insists on everyone giving to just one charity to prove their Christian faith.  We’re all different and there are many places, people, and organizations that need our support.

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One Example of People Flooding the Twittersphere with Inaccurate Comments

27 Feb

One Example of People Flooding the Twittersphere with Inaccurate Comments

Like a giant game of Telephone from our childhood, things sometimes go around the Internet so far and for so long that their meaning is totally twisted.

I called out a liberal this morning for commenting on piece from a “newsmagazine” like the Onion (made-up satirical stories) that “that story could have been true, given the outrageous attitudes of some conservatives right now.” Nobody wants to be a caricature, and I told him so.

Let’s not play into that, folks. If you don’t have time to read a piece with attention, fine. Just don’t comment on it or forward it. If you do, you might be making a false conclusion and bearing false witness with your forward. Ya know?

Link

Worst Example of Journalism I have seen since High School!

16 Feb

Worst Example of Journalism I have seen since High School!

This article is an example of purple prose. It is an example of a tempest in a teapot. And, for those who dislike such phrases from bygone eras, it is also an example of rampant racism (or some other type of “respect of persons” as forbidden by the Bible).

Let’s list the reasons why:
1) The “crisis” seems to have started right before Jason Cosby, the Virginia Beach Director of Public Works, was sent to Afghanistan on a mandatory military deployment. I would suspect someone at the city didn’t want to hold his job until he came back (as required by the law called USERRA). So they started a trumped up process to fire him . . .
2) The “infractions” are so vague and minor (if this news article can be believed) that they would probably apply to hundreds of other employees of Virginia Beach. There is no evidence that any other employee has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb like this. It is as though Mr. Cosby were suddenly looked at under a microscope to pick apart any mistakes made during his twenty years with the city. I regard that as racism (or at least as undue scrutiny of just one person) until I see evidence that everyone else has been subjected to the same level of inquiry. Who else was followed around at Virginia Beach rec centers to see whether they actually worked out when they swiped in, for example?
3) The article does not specify, in most cases, what was done when these infractions came to light. They could have been innocent mistakes that were later made right. For example, I once grabbed my business American Express card to pay for some Christmas presents I bought while on travel. I was shopping with a friend and not paying attention. That card was the one on top in my wallet. Since I had to pay the card off anyway, after my return, it was a “no harm, no foul” situation which I brought to the attention of my supervisor. I believe many people accidentally use official credit cards to pay for things at some point in a twenty year career. It is what they do when they find that out that matters!
4) Mr. Cosby is not currently profiting from receiving city pay (only benefits like medical, which the military also offers in most cases). The first year, the city paid him the differential between his city salary and his lower Army salary, as required by law. This is, again, a common factor for all people who work a full-time job while maintaining a reserve career in the military. If people don’t like the way that works, they need to lobby to change the system, not persecute one person who is doing it as though he were doing something wrong. In this case there not only is no fire, there is no smoke!
5) The article smears a decorated veteran with a 20-year city career that was, until now, regarded as exemplary. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech, two of them advanced degrees. His case is making its way through the city system, with lawyers on both sides working it. Why put this case in the paper to be tried in the court of (ignorant) public opinion by many people who don’t understand the USERRA law and how it is used to get quality military personnel to serve in places like Afghanistan?
6) At best, releasing the requested freedom of information files in the paper today is meant to sell papers. At worst, it is meant to produce an online lynching of someone who is, due to the ongoing process, not allowed to talk to the press and defend himself. Ya know?

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