The cursed car

Have you ever wondered why bad things just seem to happen to some? Normally we think of that in relationship to people–but we had a car that I think must have had a curse placed on it somewhere in its life!

It was a dark green Plymouth…don’t remember what year (and besides, I’m one of those people who can’t look at a car and tell you make or year to save my life!). It was a nice little car we had bought from my mother. Nothing fancy…just a good basic car.


The first inkling of a problem was when my husband started to back it out of the driveway….and ran into someone, taking out a tail-light.

Then one of our foster sons had taken it to visit some friends. He was a little late coming back and so was going a little faster than he should. He hit a slick spot in the road…slid…and ended up parking it on top of a fire hydrant! He wasn’t hurt, but the car was…off to the garage to replace the radiator.

At the time we were selling Miracle Maid cookware. While we were at a party, someone backed out of their driveway across the street, broadsiding the car.

Another time my husband was driving it…minding his own business on the road…and a driver sideswiped him. Again…no personal injuries.

Several other small accidents happened. No personal injuries, but the car was beginning to look the worse for wear.

The final straw (for us) was when we were helping a friend who was doing some printing. I had parked the car well off the road–partially on the sidewalk–in front of his house. Suddenly we heard a loud “Crash!” Looking out the window, I saw that a car had rounded the corner too quickly and took out my parked car. No injuries–but the young man was not happy with me calling the police, since he either had no license or was driving on an expired or suspended license (I can’t remember for sure which).

We’d only had the car about a year–but enough is enough! It still ran well, even though it was looking pretty pathetic. We had heard of someone who needed an inexpensive car to get around, and so we sold it to that family. Within a few weeks we heard that while it had been parked on a hill, the family’s children had gotten inside to play, and somehow released the brake so that the car rolled backward down the hill–totaling it. Fortunately, no injuries.

Believe it or not, the engine still ran well…but that’s about the only part of the car that did. I’ve never had a car before or since that seemed to be as cursed as that one.

“You have circled this mountain long enough.”

The Israelites left Egypt under the direction of Moses…but all did not go well. They apparently thought it would be an easy journey, and when it got hard, they started muttering. They didn’t trust Moses or Aaron, their leaders…they didn’t trust God. They wanted to go back to what they knew, even though that would have returned them to slavery. Because of this, all of the adult generation had to die off for the Israelites to become the people they were called to be.

And, eventually, as they kept wandering–and apparently circling a specific mountain–God finally said to them “You have circled this mountain long enough. Go northward!” (Deuteronomy 2:3) In other words, quit spinning your wheels and move forward.

I’ve been thinking about that verse the last several days. We sometimes like to think we’re a lot different from them–but we’re really not.

We like the status quo. Even if we don’t like everything that happens with the status quo, we know what to expect. We know where our position is in it. And if we’re called upon to change, we complain. We want to go back to some mythical “perfect” time.

Change isn’t easy. It means loss in some way. Loss of comfort…loss of assurance…and it requires a willingness to trust God.

And change in a denomination is going to mean loss. People may disagree with a particular scriptural interpretation and refuse to move forward. In many denominations, this has happened in dealing with slavery…women’s roles…and now with homosexuality. We’re using the same arguments today to try to preserve the status quo that we did when we dealt with slavery and women’s roles as ministers. We came to new understandings–recognition that God called us to be inclusive, not exclusive…a call to look at scriptures through the lens of love.

 It’s not an easy time. And whatever decision is made is undoubtedly going to bring loss of membership. That’s an issue my faith tradition is struggling with. But I think God is calling us to move forward to truly living out our belief in the worth of all people and the giftedness of all…to not put manmade limits on each other but to see each other through God’s eyes.

We may not be physically wandering in the wilderness…but we’ve been circling the wagons, trying to hold on to another mythical perfect time when we knew exactly what God expected. But I hear a voice calling…saying “You have circled this mountain long enough. Go northward!” Let’s go…and trust God.

Music is inborn…

I think there must be something in our DNA that requires music. For some of us, it’s classical music…for others it may be a different combination of notes. But it’s within us.

The first time I became aware of that was when our son was about 3 years old. I was listening to some PDQ Bach. I don’t even remember which one of the pieces it was. If you’ve never heard Peter Schickele present PDQ Bach’s music, here’s a brief example:

As the record played, I noticed my son giggling and chortling…and finally roaring with laughter. I asked him what was so funny and, with an expression that told me I was dense, he replied “The music!”  He’d never heard it before…

Then a few days ago, another friend told me about a YouTube video of a 3-year old conducting Beethoven:

The absolute joy in his face as he conducts is delightful! As is his giggling exuberance at the end.

As I think about my son’s reaction so many years ago–and watched this delightful child, I have hope…hope that even in a time when funding for the arts keeps getting cut, there is something inside us that won’t let it die. We have to have it in our lives.

“Make me an instrument of Your peace.”

As I was sitting in the Daily Prayer for Peace service today, I got to thinking about this statement…Here’s my musings on it.

“Make me an instrument of your peace.” That sounds (and reads) like such a simple statement. But living it out…there’s the rub.

How do we be instruments of God’s peace–when confronting injustices leads to intense disagreement and confrontation?

Does being an instrument of that peace mean always trying to keep things calm? to smooth things over?

I don’t think so, although that’s something I’ve struggled with–and still do.

God’s peace isn’t limited to merely absence of war or conflict, although that’s an important part of it. God’s peace–shalom–encompasses wholeness, reconciliation, justice…and that requires confronting injustice, beliefs and actions that bring division and brokenness.

But the confrontation doesn’t need to be violent–at least on my part. Think of the civil rights protestors. They confronted injustice nonviolently in order to work towards peace.

So have we misunderstood–or misinterpreted the beatitude that says “Blessed are the peacemakers”? By focusing only on peace as the absence of war, have we robbed that beatitude of its power?

Help us understand…that we may truly become instruments of Your peace.

To wish a child had not been born…

I was appalled by a story I just heard. I have some friends  who are a lesbian couple. They have a precious little girl who is one of the happiest babies I have ever seen–and who seems to know no strangers.

They have been very active in their congregation, and while there have been some issues, they have not felt pushed away…until now. Before a recent church business meeting, the individual who was to be the new pastor came up to them and told them that most members of the congregation didn’t like them…and that they wished the little girl had never come into existence!

I can understand that some individuals have strong beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. I don’t. I believe that the biblical verses used to support that stance have been horribly misinterpreted.

But aside from that, how can someone–who believes in the love of God–look at a child who loves and trusts those around her, and tell the parents  that it would have been better if that child had never come into existence? The child is an innocent–to my way of thinking, the best sign of God’s hope for the human race.

We have so much yet to understand about each other. But I hope we can always see in a child’s face the hope for a better future.

Seeing the trees in the forest

We spend a lot of time talking about the need to see the “big picture.” It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about–the big picture is what’s important and how we need to make our decisions.

That’s true…but it’s also false. We cannot make wise decisions about the big picture until and unless we put faces with the impact of our decisions. We must see the trees in the forest.

I’ve thought about this recently for several reasons. What happens when we cut medical funding for transplants? That sounds like it might be an effective way of helping to balance out-of-control budgets, since survival rates are iffy…at least in the big picture. But what about the small picture? What does it mean? Recently it has meant death–for specific individuals who had been approved for transplants, but whose potentially life-saving surgeries were cut to save money.

We’ve cut funding for mental health services, leaving many individuals and their families without access to treatments that could help them manage their illnesses…and then we proclaim surprise and shock when they cause harm to themselves or others.

Yes, we need to get our spending (both personal and national) under control. But in order to do that well, we must see both the big picture and the small ones. We must see both the forest and the trees.

Watching our words

There’s a children’s song I remember. It goes through the significant body parts, starting out with “Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear…” and going through eyes, hands, feet. That first verse and another verse that goes “Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say” have really stuck with me since the weekend’s shooting tragedy in Arizona.

We’ve had mixed messages about the power of words in our country for many, many years. Advertisers spend millions of dollars on words and pictures to influence what we buy…and yet when questions have been raised about the influence of violence and sex in movies, the almost knee-jerk response is that those things can’t possibly influence us. Huh? We can’t have it both ways!

For people who are emotionally and psychologically balanced, perhaps there is less influence on their thoughts and actions from what they read and see. But for those who are emotionally or psychologically fragile, those words…those visuals…may be what drives them over the edge.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so my thoughts could be dismissed as having no validity. But it seems to me that as our political discourse has gotten more vitriolic, so has our society. I know that there are undoubtedly other factors involved as well, but how many times does someone who’s fragile need to hear statements–or see images–like we heard and saw in this last campaign before they decide that they need to act on them?

When we talk about “taking someone out” or “having someone in the crosshairs,” we could charitably say that we’re talking metaphorically–and perhaps the individual is. But at some point, hearing that over and over is going to be the thing that will push a fragile someone over the edge into violence.

And then suddenly everyone begins to backtrack. No, of course they weren’t advocating violence…violence isn’t the solution…where did anyone get that idea?

Maybe…just maybe…we wouldn’t have more victims like

  • Gabby Clifford–someone liked on both sides of the aisle, who was able to work with people from both parties
  • Judge John Roll, a respected judge
  • Christine Green, an active 9-year-old who wanted to grow up to help people–a child who was born on 9/11/01 and who died in yet another tragedy
  • Jared Lee Loughner, the young man who pulled the trigger

if we paid more attention to that childhood song and were careful with what we say.