Concept of Christian Charity

I have been thinking about “charity” lately. No, not the “I gave at the office type,” but the charity we Christians claim to believe in. The kind that is typified by the pure love of Christ or loving our neighbors as ourselves etc.

I think I was about seven or eight when I first understood the concept that we should not judge others, categorize them or make assumptions about them based on our own prejudices. I was taught that we should give others the same respect and love that we would like. And I remember thinking, that’s a pretty simple. I can do that. I can check it off and move on.  

However, I soon learned that It’s the simple concepts that are the most difficult. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought I had that one conquered, only to have something happen and admit that once again, I was making unfounded assumptions about other people. And, although I love other people, how much do I love them and how much is enough?

If I had lived in Biblical times (assuming I would have been male), I would probably have found the teachings of the Pharisees very attractive. There is something reassuring about having a list of actions that can be crossed off. Something definite to measure your righteousness. Donate X amount of money to the widow next door, volunteer 10 days a month at the homeless shelter, and donate at least 35 cans of food to the next Boy Scout food drive–then you can cross “charity” off your list. I could go for that.

As it is, I’m still working on it, and assume I will be until the very end. Such a simple concept.

Rising from the Ashes

Over twenty years ago, I was the Yankee manager of a public library in Texas and my assistant librarian was a native Texan who was “Southern” to the core. He had earned a BS in history and had an excellent grasp of world history, and particularly American history. There were times when my historical ignorance was an embarrassment. It was because of his comments during that time, that I spent time researching and learning about The Crusades. After that, I had less to say about our problems with the Muslims.

Getting back to my topic, we had a large Civil War collection in the library and as I watched the checkouts in that section I was surprised. Whenever a new book came out, I bought it and it immediately began checking out. One day, as my assistant and I were talking, I commented on how much interest there seemed to be in the Civil War.

“We don’t have that much interest in the libraries up north,” I said. “The collections are smaller.”

“If you win a war,” he said, “You move on and don’t think about it. But if you lose a war, you continue to think about it and try to figure out why that happened.”

I could see the wisdom in what he said, and it helped explain the Civil War interest in the South. Now that I am living in Atlanta, it becomes even more evident. The symbol Atlanta has adopted for its own is a phoenix rising from the ashes. And after what Sherman did to Atlanta, that seems most appropriate.

Sometimes we in the North, forget that there was a great difference in the perception of the Civil War. The northerners lost sons and fathers, but the war was “over there.” Most of our factories and homes were spared. The war was not on our doorsteps. Our towns were not leveled. The Civil War was basically fought in the South and it became very personal to those who were there.

But Georgia, and particularly Atlanta has done a great job of rising from those ashes. Atlanta is one of the prime industrial cities in the United States and home of many of the Fortune 500 Companies. It is the home of Rubbermaid, CNN, At&T, Sun Trust Banks, Wachovia, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, UPS, Coca Cola, Chick-Fil-A etc., etc, etc. It also figures large in the bio-medical sector, and is of course, a prime transportation center.

No, I have not been hired by an Atlanta public relations firm! I’m just impressed by Atlanta’s growth.

I will always think of the Civil War as America’s saddest war. There are no happy wars of course but in the Civil War we were fighting ourselves and so many good Americans died on both sides. I am glad that southern hospitality allows for Yankees like me to enjoy their beautiful trees, friendly people and wonderful food.

 

Should you understand or should you work at it?

So, here’s a question. Is a poem better if you understand what it is about the first time you read it or is it better if you have to read it several times to ferret out some of its multiple meanings? I have my answer to that question but yours might be different.

Several years ago I attended a lecture by Ted Kooser, who was at that time the Poet Laureate of the United States. Of course, he brought poems to share, and I immediately liked his poems because although the metaphors were stunning and the language was musical, I could easily understand what he was saying. I like the poems by Billy Collins for the same reason.

Ted Kooser said that at the beginning of the 20th Century some poets thought that the Victorian poets were too restricted by form and content and decided to start writing a new kind of poetry which was part of the modernism movement. Ezra Pound was the leader of this movement and T.S. Eliot and others were influenced by it. Many of the modernistic poets thought that if the poem could be easily understood, it didn’t have the substance or sophistication of a poem that has multiple levels of meaning and had to be studied.

I applaud the modernistic movement’s focus on breaking the inflexible forms of poetry that had so restricted poets, but I don’t agree with the idea that if the subject of the poem is easily understood, it is an inferior poem. But that is my idea and others will disagree with me.

I remember Ted Kooser telling us that he wanted “the person on the street” to understand his poems so he often had his secretary read them and noted the ones she didn’t “get.” He went back and worked on those.

However, I recently read an article about a current poem who said that he didn’t want to write the kind of poems people understood in their first reading. And someday he might be Poet Laureate. Who knows?

Now, I know that all my readers do not “get” all of my poems, but I think most of them do and that is how I try to write. If you understand what I’m saying the first time you read one of my poems–then I’m accomplishing my goal. I guess I’m not a fan of hard work? 🙂

I “really like” psychological thrillers with female protagonists!

Years ago I was informed that we love people, not things. So I guess I have to say I “really like” psychological thrillers–especially with female leads. I don’t write psychological thrillers, but I will miss sleep reading to the end of one. And at this point in my life, that’s saying something.

I recently finished reading Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and really enjoyed it. However, it is unusual reading material for someone who is on a mission for their church because there isn’t one character in the whole book who is ” worthy of emulation.” Still, for pure entertainment, it can’t be beat.

Because I was interested in reviews of the book, I read an article by Claire Fullon who writes for the Huffington Post. She compared Girl on the Train to Gone Girl. Well, yes I can see some definite similarities and I enjoyed both of them. She said they each possessed a “thrilling plot with thoughtful critique of cultural norms–particularly those that place damaging weight on women.” Hum. I hadn’t thought about the implicit critique of cultural norms, but it is definitely there.

Now my problem is, how do I summarize the plot line to a very conventional husband and convince him it was worth my time to read it? Some things are simply not possible. 🙂

Speaking of “conventional” I am attaching a conventional mother’s poem titled “You Would Come” which was written years ago for my oldest child, Scott, who is no longer a child. 🙂

Absolutely Amazing — Maybe

It  seems to me that our American culture is “over the top” in our speech. Maybe my perception comes from my writing background, where we are told to consider every word and try not to repeat the same words in our descriptions or dialogue. It might be that, but it probably stems from my matter-of-fact personality. Wherever it comes from, I am really tired of amazing and fantastic things and people. Apparently “good, nice” and “adequate” have been outranked.

According to the dictionary, if we are amazed, we are greatly surprised or astonished. It would appear that we haven’t done much living and don’t have many life experiences if we are so impressed and astonished by everything and everyone. If everything amazes us, where do we go from there? When we see something truly surprising, what do we say since we are already “amazed” by such a wide variety of things?

I am tired of “life changing” experiences and fantastic results. I could argue that most experiences are life changing in some way or another. That’s not a revolutionary idea, and fantastic results? Really? Does anyone have “good” results? Apparently not.

And at the other end of the emotional spectrum–how many things can “devastate” us? A death, a divorce, or a terminal medical diagnosis can be devastating, sure, but do we have such a limited vocabulary that we are “devastated” by common things that happen every day?

That’s all I have to say. And those of you who know me, realize I am basically a pretty optimistic person so you must be absolutely amazed by my rant. Well, maybe not.

 

 

 

Presentism — How it Affects our Attitudes

What happens when  the dictionary and your spellchecker disagree? The dictionary wins, of course. Last week I learned a new word that my spellchecker has never seen. It is “presentism.”

Do you know  what it means? I had never heard it until I read a address by Michael Otterson. Here is the dictionary definition: “Uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.”

It is easy for us to look at how people treated animals one hundred years ago, or how they neglected to incorporate basic cleanliness practices or how intolerant they were of the Irish, the African American, the Jews, the Mormons (whoever) and judge them harshly by present day attitudes rather than considering the values and concepts of the times in which they lived.

I’m not here to excuse behavior that, at least by my standard, is unconscionable, but we are all influenced by the values of the society and times in which we live. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes this is a bad thing, but the influences are there, nevertheless, and affect our attitudes and our thinking.

My mother loved books by Gene Stratton Porter, a naturalist from Indiana, who set her fictional stories in the outdoors, in the man versus nature type of story. I grew up with Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost. Years after I was grown, my mother stumbled onto another book by Porter and immediately read it. She was appalled at the racism that was rampant in the novel.

Gene Stratton Porter was born in 1863 and viewed the world very differently than my mother did in 1985, Still, I’m not sure my mother ever quite forgave her. 🙂

I wonder if I am guilty of presentism in some of my judgments? Since I consider myself an average person living in 2015, I suppose I am. But presentism is something to consider when we look into the past.

 

New Book by Joyce Carol Oates

Some authors seem to write the same story again and again. Some have characters where their names are changed but the personalities are the same as the last book. Then there is Joyce Carol Oates. Every book I read of hers seems different.

I just finished reading Jack of Spades and really enjoyed it, but unlike many of her other psychological books, it is quite dark. I’m sure not everyone would like it, but I thought it was an interesting and refreshing read.

If I learned nothing else in twenty years of being a public librarian, I learned that there are as many different tastes in books as there are people. There were some books I loved so much I wanted to leap over the desk and shake a patron when they expressed no enthusiasm for them. And then there were patrons who were very excited about books I couldn’t stand. But that kind of diversity was what kept library work interesting.

I managed a library in Midvale, Utah, which was a conservative community when it came to graphic sex or violence. We didn’t censor the books in the library, and would remove one only after a formal request had been made, and the book went through a thorough review. Actually, very few books were ever removed but we were quick to suggest alternative books which the patrons might find more appropriate.

One day my assistant librarian (a young man) was approached by an agitated middle-aged woman waving a paperback book. She asked if he had read it. He said he hadn’t and she launched into a summary of the plot, and then concluded, “I would say it was almost pornographic.”

He took a breath to suggest other alternatives for her to read, but she finished with, “Do you have any more of them?” He let out his breath. He hadn’t seen that one coming.

I recently read The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison and enjoyed it, in spite of a few typos. So I recommended it to my sister. True to form, she hated it. As my mother  used to say, “There’s no accounting for tastes.

I’ve added a family story, Wyoming Winter, to my list of published short stories (click on the right side of the screen). Hope you enjoy it, but then again, “There’s no . . .

Peachtree, Georgia–The Golf Cart City

I am now living in Peachtree City, Georgia. There is nothing unique about the humidity, since we had that in the Houston area. We had big trees in Tennessee and Kentucky, and even in Oregon, where I grew up. The people are friendly and the food is great, but we had that in Texas too. What is very unique about Peachtree City, Georgia is their golf cart paths.

No, there is not an unusual amount of golf courses. There are, of course, a few around but many, many people own golf carts who do not golf. Peachtree City was built in a very marshy area covered by beautiful tall trees.

Fayetteville, Georgia is to the east and it is the older, more established community but there were no houses in the Peachtree area.  A developer bought the huge tract of land in the 1960s and devised a way to drain the area. That left him with acres and acres of prime real estate.

So he designed a community where golf cart paths run through the trees from one small community of beautiful big homes to another small community of beautiful homes. The paths also provide access to the retail areas. When the carts have to cross a major road, there are golf cart (and foot traffic) bridges over the roads. In some places there are “impossible to see” tunnels under the roads. When we arrived we saw the bridges over the roads but didn’t know about the tunnels under them, until we were walking on one of the cart paths and stumbled into a tunnel that was totally hidden from the road. What a beautiful walking area. Many people walk their dogs down the paths.

Sometimes the paths run along the side of slower roads and you have to wait and let the carts cross. There are 25 mile per hour speed limits posted for the carts, and as I understand it, you can drive one at age fourteen. Imagine my surprise when I saw small parking spaces in front of the Kroger store for golf carts. Most stores have parking space to accommodate them.

Everyone drives them–grandparents, children, families etc. I saw one family come to church in their cart. And they have plastic sides that they can let down if it turns a little cold. Some people even have little cart garages on the back of their property, if it is near the cart paths. We have been mesmerized by them winding their way through the trees on a regular basis. What a beautiful drive home!

Yes, the homeowners do have automobile access to their houses, but I think many people never take their car out of the garage unless they are traveling out of the area. On the downside though, the streets in Peachtree City don’t have sidewalks and there isn’t much shoulder on the road for bikers.

The people who live here tell me all the high school kids drive golf carts to school and there is a big parade when school gets out and they head for home. Golf cart paths could only work as major transportation in areas that don’t get too cold or too wet. I can’t imagine driving a golf cart to school on a cold January day in Utah. Brrrr!

The church mission president is talking about putting some of the missionaries on bikes, but I don’t think that would work well in Peachtree City. I suggested that the church buy some golf carts, but I suppose there isn’t a box for “golf carts” on the order form 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Act now — a great deal coming on August 5th

From August 5th through August 12th my Death is Always a Resident will be on sale for only $.99 and it really is a good summer read. I promise. 🙂

I recently had a short poem published online in Uppagus. I think it was in the June edition, and it was titled “Spindrift.” Maybe you can still access it if you would like to read it.

I am busy enough here, that I’m fighting to find the time to write, but as I get more established, I will manage it. I am committed.

 

Beautiful Atlanta

Well, I just have to say it. Atlanta, Georgia is a beautiful city–well actually a series of little cities. Anyway, it is beautiful with all its huge pine trees, towering deciduous trees, flowering crepe myrtle, thick grass and blooming flowers. I guess a girl raised in the forests of Oregon would have to appreciate beautiful trees anywhere. 🙂

We (my husband and I) arrived just over a week ago and have been busy settling into an apartment and learning how to run a mission office. We are here for eighteen months on a mission for our church. Our internet service was finally installed today. Just in time to save me. I was having withdrawal pains. I love my internet.!

My husband and I were invited to a local woman’s house last Monday where a group of older single women (most were widowed) and a couple of older men meet once a week for a potluck dinner and scripture study. We introduced ourselves to the six women at our table and told them we were from Utah. Then I asked one of them where she was from. She told me she had been born and raised in California. The woman to her left had been born in Idaho and spent most of her life there. I finally said. “Wait a minute. How many of you are Georgians?”

Everyone burst into laughter. No one at our table was a native of Georgia. One woman was from Puerto Rico, one from Florida, one from  Colorado, and another from Massachusetts, They did reassure me that there was a one native Georgian at the other table–the one with the lovely accent. Sigh! We are part of a large cadre of transplants here.

If you have to live somewhere, why not pick a beautiful place.