Monday, April 23, 2012

The Ladies Man

King Solomon – rich guy with a lot of wives.
This past week in The Story, we read about King Solomon! What a guy. He brought peace to his country, built God a beautiful temple, amassed a fortune, and, because he was so wise, created a body of literature any writer would envy. It’s quite a story, Solomon’s, but as I was reading all this I hit on this little nugget of information: “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines...” Nice.

The sheer logistics of this is baffling to me. Well, it would be except that he was a king, and lived in a palace – the “Palace of the Cedars of Lebanon,” to be exact – a huge and splendidly well-appointed abode. The Bible reports that he also built a palace for Pharoah’s daughter, who he had married. So... did he just build HER a palace and let all the other wives live together? Or did he build them each a palace? Seven hundred palaces? And what about the concubines?

As a king who had amassed a great deal of wealth, he could certainly support 1000 women, I guess, but... the Bible also says he loved them all. Now, that’s a tall order. It’s apparent to me that women were his downfall. I mean, God tells Israel over and over not to get involved with foreign women, but Solomon... well, he just couldn’t help himself, could he? It pretty much ruined the end of his life. Oh well... much like the Tim Meadows character the Ladies Man, Solomon loved the ladies. 

He loved them so much, in fact that he was given to writing erotic poetry about them. The Song of Solomon is just about the loveliest, sexiest bit of verse ever scrawled on a parchment. It says things like, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine,” and “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. / I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste,” and “Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.”
Like this guy, Solomon
was a ladies man.

These can only be the words of a man of experience, am I right? But... who exactly is he writing about? One particular wife? All of his wives? Womanhood in general? Or was his problem that he loved the pursuit, the sexiness of new love? Or... since the book can also be read metaphorically as God’s love and pursuit of Israel - or each individual heart - maybe Solomon was just writing about God in a language with which he was intimately familiar.

And while we’re talking about [ahem] sex... If you’re one of a thousand women the husband has at his disposal, even if he made love every single night and kept to a regular rotation, you might get to be with your husband roughly once every three years. Now, this could be good or bad... depending on the lady’s preference. It doesn’t really sound like a good deal to me.

How one of those old Sunday School
books depicted Sol and his ladies.
And what did the wives and concubines do all day? Was there a lot of boredom? Camaraderie? Jealousy? Deep friendship? Animosity? Makeovers? All of the above? Did the women feel privileged to be wives of the king? Grateful to be provided for without having to work their fingers to the bone? Resentful for being just one of many? All of the above?

I really don’t have any answers... It’s all just stuff I’m thinking about. And for the record, I do know that it was a different time, a different culture... Also for the record, I will say that I don't profess to be any better than Solomon on that account. I don't have a thousand spouses (spice?) but I have, in the past, yielded to the temptations of the opposite sex. I'm actually married because I couldn't resist my husband, right?

Maybe with Solomon, though, it was also a matter of getting a big king head. I mean, back in 1 Samuel 8, when Israel is begging for a king, he warns them about what a king would do:  "He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves." 

And that's exactly what Solomon did. Took everything... because he could. I'm a little conflicted on this point, because the Bible says that GOD blessed him with wealth, but... maybe it was the WAY he did it? You see, later, in 1 Kings, after Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam becomes king. Jeroboam, a rebel, approaches him to beg him to ease up on the people: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” See, much of verbiage in the Bible about Solomon raves about how great Solomon was, the wealth he acquired and the building projects he pushed through... referring only briefly to slave labour and other ways it might have affected the people under his care. 

Likewise, they don’t mention what it was like to be one of the women at Solomon’s disposal. And I’m thinking “disposal” might just be the right word to use... If a guy needs 1000 wives, just how much does he value each one? I guess that’s why Solomon also wrote Ecclesiastes, which asserts that “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.”

These are definitely the words of a guy who has everything. Well, everything under the sun anyway. And if that’s meaningless, I'm thinking we’d better look above the sun for meaning.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Love Supreme

I had a particular thrill this weekend when I saw my own name in the credits of a movie. And it was really referring to me... not to some other Julie Moore. It was a rush, I tell you. I felt happy to be part of making the film, Blue Like Jazz. I wrote about it earlier, here, but that was before it came out. So now I need to complete the circle by sharing my reaction with you, having seen the movie.

First of all, I’ll tell you about how I was hanging out with Grace and Bill on Friday afternoon when the phone rang and... to my surprise, it was THE DIRECTOR OF THE MOVIE STEVE TAYLOR! It seems they were calling everyone who gave any money at all. I mean, I didn’t give much, so if they called me, well... they must have been calling everyone! And let me tell you, that guy is NICE...! I had no idea that he was a pioneer of contemporary Christian music, but Grace filled me in on that. Anyway, it super-psyched me for the movie, which I had planned to see on Sunday. I was quite fortunate that it was even showing in my area. Being an indy film, it didn’t have the theatre presence of a major studio release. 

You can't see it that well, but
there's my name in the credits!
Anyway, Grace and I went together while Tom took Bill to see The Three Stooges. Of course, Tom had to point out that The Three Stooges movie got better reviews than what he called “your movie.” But you know what? I reeeeally don’t care. As I said before, all I care is that it tells the truth. And it does. Besides, how many movies is HE in the credits of? And when has a movie’s director called him on the phone?! (Although I will say that he was an extra in Bull Durham back in the day!)

Anyway, so Grace and I go in, and (hooray!) get to sit with a couple of people from church who were there... They wondered aloud why no one at church was talking about it... Well, as the movie started, about a hundred reasons they might not have pushed it paraded across the screen... Now I’ll be the first to say that Christians can be a touchy bunch. I remember a while back a mom I was chatting with at church being disgusted that The Lion King contained the word, “butt,” which she spelled out when she was telling me about it. So how do you think some of us are going to react when we see a giant condom on the steeple of a church, or people being declared pope and taking confessions? Or Christians blatantly mocked at every turn.

Well, I’ll tell you how I took it... even though I’m not exactly your best gauge of what’s offensive... I laughed a little bit and I tried to analyze it a lot. The story follows Don, a Southern Baptist from Texas who, after discovering that his mother is having an affair with the church’s youth pastor, flees his upbringing for the wildly liberal Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Now, it’s loosely based on actual events from the life of author Donald Miller, so ... it’s not like they pulled the story from thin air. Don worked on the script, so you know it’s not going to veer far from the author’s intent. 

And I saw many things I know to be true. I know that I, too, am often ashamed of some of the crazy things Christians do... including myself. I am sorry that I have given Jesus a bad name more than once... when I have not loved as I should, most particularly. I have been through times when I ignored Jesus altogether in favour of a freer lifestyle – not realizing where real freedom actually comes from. There have been times when I have denied Him to make myself look cooler. And I don’t even have the excuse of being just a young kid. This happens even now! I mean, I don’t say, “I don’t know the man!” like Peter did, but I do sort of refrain from saying somethings because I want people to think I am cool. Which I am not, of course. Everybody knows that! And at my age, should I really be worried about being perceived as cool?

But Blue Like Jazz is about a kid. It’s a coming-of age-story – common enough for the movies. In the early part of the movie, I get the feeling that Don is just sort of going through the emotions...  Having been raised in a strict Evangelical church, he just goes with it. The culture of the church is his culture. After experiencing his grand disillusionment, he is ripe to be swept up into the wild culture of his new college. He doesn’t just hide his background and beliefs; he denies them altogether. He wants to blend in. He wants to be wild. Now the college with its rabid activism, whimsical social whirl and relativistic world view, are his culture. Like the folks in Judges, he does what is right in his own eyes... like a child who acts out without realizing that others are affected by it. So Don’s first step in “coming of age” is to develop self-awareness... which he does after a particularly juvenile prank on a local church.

Moving along, Blue Like Jazz flows easily into a coming-of-faith story. Don must now develop God awareness. Not that he wasn’t aware of God before. More like... At this point, God may have seemed like the source of his disillusionment, and also irrelevant to his new scene. After making friends with a Christian girl at Reed, he vacillates... between his new found freedom, and, I think, pleasing her. 

One scene I thought was very sweet was when he is in the Christian girl’s dorm room, and finds the album, A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. It’s a record he has heard a gazillion times... His father is a big fan, loving it as a sublime work of art... And Don is sort of looking at it, and in the background is an icon photo of Jesus. Now, maybe it’s a little too obvious, but I loved it. But in this moment, the phrase “love supreme” takes on a whole new, divine meaning.

Many times I find myself swimming in my own shallow little pool, skimming the surface of life, taking in things, without realizing what they are all about. It can be welcome revelation to realise that there is more going on, that a supreme love is available to me on an ongoing basis. It is all around me, directed straight at me and speaking my language.  Of course, it can also be a little frightening. Van Morrison’s Caravan says, “Switch on your electric light / Then we can get down to what is really wrong.” Yep. Sometimes God awareness brings sin awareness. When Peter first knew what he was dealing with, he said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” It’s no co-incidence that Don’s journey back to God begins with a long confession. Fortunately, Jesus’s response to Peter and to us is, “Don’t be afraid!” I’m guessing it’s because of that “love supreme,” doncha know... 

Anyway, I guess since this is a movie review, you’ll be wanting to know if I recommend it. And, yes, I do. I also recommend that you cast aside any expectations or preconceived notions you may have of it. It's not a preachy movie from the mold of Courageous, not is it a wild romp of a crazy college kids movie like Animal House (I'm showing my age, aren't I?!) No, it's subtler and harder to nail down than that. So just take it in. Let it wash over you... as if you were lying on your bed in the dark listening to a John Coltrane album. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

What A Friend We Have In Jesus...

Profile pic for Jesus Benyosef
There’s a guy on Facebook that has made a page for “Jesus Benyosef.” And I say “guy,” but I don’t really know who it is - it could be a gal... or a group of people of either gender... Of course “Benyosef” means “son of Joseph.” The profile reveals the following abut JB: Owner-Operator at Joseph & Son Construction Co. / Went to Nazareth High School / Lives in Nazareth, Israel. So... of course I had to send him a friend request. I mean, we’re already friends, right?

He has Facebook friends like Andrew and Simon Barjonas, John and James MacZebedee, and Philip Bethsaid and Mary, Martha and Lazarus Bethan. And the all through Holy Week they posted about their trip to Jerusalem, and how Jesus got really mad about the huge clearance sale they were having in the Temple... (Boy, was Caiaphas Benannas spitting mad!) And on Saturday, he posted the following: “[Jesus Benyosef] is having a pretty crappy weekend so far.” But... not to worry: on Sunday, he posted this: “[Jesus Benyosef] is feeling better today.” I’ll bet he was!

Simon Barjonas
Other times Jesus B. does stuff like engage in metaphysical discussions with Nicodemus Ben Isaac, check in at different spots in Israel and give thoughts on being baptized by his cousin (and Facebook friend) John TheBaptist Benzachar. 

Lately, Jesus has invited everyone to go on a journey with him, engendering a discussion thread with 60 comments. Turns out EVERYBODY wants to go! Including me. He, of course, is providing loaves and fishes for all for the journey. He also envisions gathering round the campfire at night singing, with camaraderie to spare.

Philip Bethsaid
Now, I know it’s not really Jesus, and I don’t know if it’s sacrilegious... but I find it completely charming. It sort of fleshes the whole thing out for me. Seeing these guys as actual (virtual) guys, commenting on events as they “happen,” bantering with each other (someone complaining about how bad Lazarus smells, for example)... 

It just feels so... immediate. I mean, I know the disciples were real guys, but it’s been so long since they walked the earth in their skin... the Bible is a reeeeeaally old book... When I read it, though, the concepts resonate with me. Of course they also mystify me. But even knowing the truth of it all, it seems so... conceptual. These guys, whoever they are, are sort of... bringing it home for me – someone who sits staring at a computer screen a lot of the time. 

Party at Mary and Martha Bethsaid's!
I guess it’s pretty funny to say that someone just posting things on Facebook is making it real for me... I think a big part of it is that they have put profile photos up that look like actual dudes that you might know. Jesus is especially handsome! The disciples are all handsome Semitic-looking guys, as they might have been. I mean, we know they were Semitic... we don’t know how good-looking they were! Mary Bethan posted a photo of guys sitting around her living room drinking beer and eating chips... one of their famous parties (Luke 10)?

Just like the people who made Godspell, the Cotton Patch Gospel and Jesus Christ Superstar, whoever is doing this is speaking the language of the day. Of course, these other pieces seem dated now, as I'm guessing this may also someday.  But right now, for people who are stuck behind a desk, staring at a computer, communicating with friends via the internet, this is a sweet taste of the good news. 

Godspell... groovy!
As we know, the internet – social networking, in particular – has done astounding things... even fomenting revolution in some places. It has always been amazing to me that the Christian movement was able to expand as it did without modern means of communication. I’m guessing horseback was the fastest any message could get from one place to another. Or maybe by sea? But it was GOOD news... and it spread from one man, to a few close friends, to crowds who may just have wanted to be fed and healed... or maybe they wanted a revolution. Then after Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection, the message proceeded to move throughout “Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1)

Jesus Christ... Superstar!
Of course the disciples didn’t get that Kingdom had been restored at first. No, what they saw was their God hanging limply on a cross with his blood and water pouring out of His side. Of course when He refused to stay in the tomb, they must have thought, “NOW we’re cooking with rice!” It was during this time that one of the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Of course, He did... but not as anyone expected... and part of it is still to come!

Is this little piece of ongoing internet performance art going to revolutionize anything? Like many things – Christian movies, books, music... it may be just “preaching to the choir,” as they say. And, as a card-carrying member of said “choir,” I find it a spicy whiff of Jesus and his friends, the life they must have lived, and what He continues to call us to. And as far as the rest – well you’ve heard that saying, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways”? Again and again, I have found this to be true. What I mean is, you never know who might stumble across it. And while it may not revolutionize the world, it may start an uprising in someone’s heart. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quenching My Inner Kenny

You're welcome...
Now that we’re back from Williamsburg (or as I sometimes call it in my mind, “Billsburg,”) we’re catching up on the shows we Tivo’d... like Mad Men, the Soup, Saturday Night Live and... okay, I’ll admit it – Eastbound and Down

Now, if you aren’t familiar with this lump of coal/gem of a show, it follows the zany exploits of Kenny Powers, aging minor league baseball player from Shelby, North Carolina. Currently playing with the fictional Myrtle Beach Mermen, Kenny is struggling to deal with new fatherhood and to reclaim his status as “team leader,” despite the rise of a despicable nemesis named Ivan – who has a haircut that is even WORSE than Kenny’s own curly mullet.

Now I’m not going to lie to you, this show is offensive. The language, the scatological and sexual references, the despicability of just about every character... I have a high tolerance, but I have to say, I am often offended while watching. Not shocked, exactly, although I suspect that's what the writers intend. No, I'm more... grossed out. But Tom laughs and snorts through the whole thing. I’m assuming it’s what they call “a guy thing.”

This baby will make you laugh.
I’m not saying I don’t find it funny... I do laugh a lot. The writing manages to be at the disgusting end of puerile and clever at the same time. Creator/star Danny McBride, who is, by the way, a native of NC, is a twisted sort of genius. He has stolen many a scene from more prominent actors.

Yes, there are plenty of belly laughs to be had – I always laugh at the baby. Although Kenny is quite possibly the most ill-equipped father figure in the history of mankind, he ends up hauling around his son, Toby, for a couple of episodes. He decorates Toby’s room with black light posters (one with a marijuana leaf) and weird statuary, mixes Quik into his milk and carries him in a zipped backpack... It’s appalling, but it’s reeeeally funny too.

Kenny’s behaviour is similarly appalling in every situation. He is arrogant, belligerent, offensive, supremely selfish, oblivious and, honestly, not very smart. And in between the laughing, I am also shaking my head and... judging him. I mean, I can’t even reprint any dialogue because it’s just tooooooooo nasty... But last night, I realised a hard thing. 

Kenny Powers.
You see, Kenny and me... we’re the same. I’m not saying I would stuff my child into a backpack, speak in a constant stream of intensely offensive and insulting profanity, and assert with utter confidence that I am the greatest baseball player (or any other thing) that ever lived. No... but if I spoke my honest mind all the time – let loose every crummy thought I have... then you’d know that I, too, am arrogant, belligerent, offensive, supremely selfish, oblivious and not very smart. Well, actually, I’m sort of part Kenny and part Steve, his sniveling, insecure doofus of a friend... These characters are nothing but ID, my friend. 

You’ve probably heard that expression, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Well, in this case, it’s not just an expression... because it’s truly by the sheer grace of God that I have any other kind of way of being... and I am so very grateful for the grace He gives to us while we are still Kennys... I mean, sinners... (But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5) If I read that chapter correctly, the gist of the lines following this verse is that if He died for us while we were sinners, how much more is He going to help us now that we belong to Him? Which is nice... because if I’m going to quench my inner Kenny, I need all the help I can get.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thank you... Thank you very much.

The place mats that made Bill glad
Stores like Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma are fun to browse in, but at our income level, browsing is mostly what’s going on in there for us. Sometimes, though, they put stuff on sale, and we can’t resist. Like last winter when Williams-Sonoma put a Cuisinart ice cream maker with two freezer bowls on sale for $50... And sometimes they put the seasonal stuff on deep discount, and that’s always fun, 'cos our house is all about holidays. We love’em, I tell ya.

So the other day, when we saw these Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit laminated cork-backed place mats on sale for $5 each, they pretty much jumped into my hands. So we brought them home and replaced, yes, the Christmas mats that were still somehow gracing our table. (Bill’s mat was so sticky and gross no matter how many times I cleaned it that I had to throw it away!) And that night when Bill was setting the table, he spotted them – brilliant, observant child that he is. He let out a little gasp, and ran up and hugged me, saying over and over: “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Of course my heart melted... Other times, when he’s having a great time – like last night when we let him stay up late to watch a movie with Rowan Atkinson who is famous for playing Mr. Bean – he’ll exclaim, “I love you, Mom!” (or “I love you, Dad!” – depending on who he’s with.) I have to say I’m glad when he does stuff like this because it shows that he’s not rocking that “sense of entitlement” I’ve heard about. No thanks to us, I might add – as parents go, we’re terribly indulgent. But I find it hard to not shower him with ... everything! Although I like to make sure he gets more affection and hugs than STUFF...

The movie that made Bill glad
So the other night, I woke up around 4:30 a.m... Grace tells me that this is normal as we get older. Nice. So after I had peed, I’m lying in bed and I suddenly felt huuuugely convicted: The way Bill acted when he saw those mats, the way he yells out, “I love you!” at random happy times... that’s how I should be behaving all the time with God. And, really, I hardly ever just thank God for things. Ooooppsss... Now, fortunately I have an oh-so-soft, but decidedly firm cushion of grace around me... but if God gets even a drop of the warm fuzzies I feel when Bill says thanks, then I should be doing it much more often. Every night, though my cooking is marginal at best, Tom says thank you after our dinner... whether I’ve made something from scratch or just thrown a couple of hotdogs on the George Foreman... And it’s always so nice to those two little words, “Thank you!”

So, I was lying in bed there feeling totally bummed at my failure to give them to God, the One who really, really warrants it. Even on a day like Thanksgiving, which is, of course, designed specifically for this purpose, I’m often more concerned with other things like watching the parade, fixing the meal, dealing with relatives... And at church, while we’re supposed to be singing and praising God, I’m thinking about the excellent arrangements, the harmonies I’m trying out, whether I’m embarrassing my husband by dancing a little jig, or what I’m doing the rest of the day...

I’ve been reading this crazy book by Neal Stephenson called Anathem, in which the intellectuals are cloistered like monks. They focus on intellectual concerns only, without considering questions of theology. When events cause the main character to leave the cloister and he meets an outside person who believes in God, he has the following thoughts: 

Every day should be for
giving thanks!
“If you sincerely believed in God, how could you form one thought, speak one sentence, without mentioning Him? Instead of which [religious people] would go on for hours without bringing God into the the conversation at all. Maybe his God was remote from our doings. Or – more likely – maybe the presence of God was so obvious to him that he felt no more need to speak of it than I did to point out, all the time, that I was breathing air.”

It would be great to think that that’s how it is with me – that I’m so into God, and so grateful, that I’m breathing it – but truthfully, I’m just distracted most of the time. And, most likely, ungrateful and feeling entitled. It’s not pretty, but... that’s what I’m working with here. Maybe the Bible urges us so often to be thankful because the writers know we have to be told – it doesn't come naturally to us.

So what did I do when I realized this wretched thought? Well, the only thing I COULD do at the moment... I lay there praying, “I’m sorry! Thank you!” over and over. Just like Paul says in Romans: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God Himself is the answer to our wretched ungratefulness! Mostly I think that ANY time my thoughts are drawn to God, it must be a gift from God Himself. So... I’m grateful that He pushed into my possibly peri-menopausal nocturnal musings and made me thankful, however brief that shot of light was. How to make it last? I don’t know... make a habit of counting my blessings? I guess that’s a good place to start... 

In the meantime, after you listen to this song by Sam and Dave, I’m going to guess that you’ll be feeling at least a little bit grateful.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Two Bettys

Hey, Jack White – I'll see YOU
at the Orange Peel!
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20)

May is a big month for us this year: Bill’s 8th birthday, a “date” trip to Asheville to see Jack White at the Orange Peel (hahahaha... jealous?!), my niece’s high school graduation... My niece Gabriel and her parents live in Maryville TN - about a 6-hour drive from here, and ever since they sent us the date, we’ve been going back and forth about whether to go, what it would entail, and how to also accomplish seeing Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie on opening night, which happens to fall the Friday night before.

Johnny Depp as
Barnabas Collins
We had planned to all go as a family, giving my mom a ride, and stopping over in Asheville on Friday night where she would stay with Bill and Tom and I would enjoy the creeptacular exploits of Barnabas and various other Collinses... but when we learned that the ceremony would be at 10am on Saturday – with a late afternoon party to follow, that plan was sort of squashed. So now we’re thinking about maybe just me and my mom going. My husband, who has a low patience threshold, thinks it will drive me crazy, while I think it could be fascinating. Work, yes, but also fascinating. I think it could be like a zany road movie, only instead of wild guys or rebellious women, it would be us – imagine Nancy Reagan and... I don’t know... Roseanne Barr, maybe, on a road trip. Or to make the analogy more au courant... Sleek Betty Draper and ... this season's Betty Draper. 

and Roseanne Barr.
We're Nancy Reagan...
I know that it may be a frustrating trip... It takes my mom longer to decide what to order in a restaurant than it takes me to cook, eat and clean up dinner... which is weird, because all she ever orders is a house salad. And it takes her longer to get ready to go somewhere than it takes me to ... do almost anything. And rest assured, I am not commenting on the slowness of an elderly woman – she has been like this as long as I can remember. But you know what? I love to read, and I plan to have Neal Stephenson’s Anathem with me. Planning for frustration is very helpful, although one can’t possibly anticipate every possible frustrating situation... 

Or maybe Betty
Draper from
 last season...
and Betty Draper from
this season.
It might be fun to concoct my own private games to make the trip bearable - like I could  make a drinking game where I take a swig from a convenient hip flask every time she gives me advice about what to wear or what not to eat... or I could make a point of ordering the most greasy disgusting thing on the menu every time we eat and giggle to myself as she watches in horror while I inhale it and wipe my hands on my shirt... 

And I won’t deny that my elegant mom may also be planning ways to deal with my frustrating qualities. Maybe she’s going to take a swig every time I eat something gross or wear something embarrassing or mention God. Or maybe she hates my impatience and how I’m always, in her view, rushing around. This would not surprise me at all. Not that she’s the kind of person who would turn her frustration into a mocking game... I just mean that I am aware that I, also, may prove as difficult a travel companion to her as she may be to me. Maybe more so.  

And as fun as the mocking games might be, I think a much more entertaining way would be to throw myself into the trip, enjoying it for it is. While we are stuck in the car for all those monotonous hours on I-40, I would love to hear stories about her early years. Her mother – my grandmother Martin – was born in 1897, and would often surprise us by coming out with ideas that were shockingly Victorian. In her college photos she looks like a Gibson Girl. I’d love to hear more about growing up with THAT elegant lady. I’d love to know more about my dad, and more about their courtship and marriage. Now that I’m married, I would actually have something to compare it to. And what about world events? What does my mom remember of the Depression or World War II? What was her take on the sixties? What was going through her brain when she first saw hippies? 
Studs Terkel collected
first hand accounts. Maybe I
can get some from my mom.

I think that stuff would all be extremely interesting. After all, I love reading first-hand accounts of other times – like those gathered by Studs Terkel. Of course, it may be that taking care of five children distracted her from current events just the slightest bit. But that would be interesting too - to hear how she managed to raise five children. I mean, raising one child is wearing ME out!

If any of this is coming off as disrespectful to my the woman who gave me birth, I really don’t mean it to be. She’s an awesome lady who has accomplished a great deal... powering through hard circumstances, achieving great feats of life and living. I’m just saying...  it’s probably not going to be easy for an impatient, impetuous, sloppy, young(ish) woman to travel with a deliberate, dainty, hesitant older woman. But if anyone can do it, we can. We both have the delightful pleasure of being middle children, after all. In fact, I’ve occasionally wondered if any discord between us is not due to our differences, but to our similarity! If this is the case, I’m thinking I should be able to empathize and show grace more easily... or would I just get more frustrated when I see qualities I would change in myself? 

Check out commandment number V!
Just thinking about this is giving me kind of a headache, because it makes me think about my future with my child. Right now, he adores us... he says I’m beautiful and the best mom in the world. Sure, sometimes he’s frustrated... like I won’t come look at something RIGHT NOW... or buy him a $300 LEGO set... he’s even already embarrassed when I sing in public. But on the whole, he think’s I’m soooo great. I’m dreading, though, the day when I am a constant source of humiliation to him, too strict, hopelessly unhip, and just plain stupid. How much will I frustrate him? Especially since I am already old! I mean, when he’s 20, I’ll be... oh, it’s just too much to think about...! 

In the Bible, in several places it has to tell young people to respect and take care of the old people - heck it’s one of the big 10, right? Things going well for us in the land depend on honoring our parents. I’m thinking that if it were easy and obvious, the Biblical writers wouldn’t have to go on about it. I mean, if you had a crummy childhood due to some failing of your parents, it’s especially hard to honor them; and if your childhood was quite nice and your parents showed you the love... well, you still may be irritated now and then with them. It’s an odd relationship, after all. They have fed you, cared for you and wiped your bottom, so you have that history, but now you’re an adult and they are required to relate to you in a whole new way. That's got to be hard... Of course it’s easy for me to speculate about it because I have only seen one side. I wonder how it will be to be the parent of the adult child? Maybe I’ll ask my mom on the trip...