Posts filed under ‘Advice For Life’

Don’t Be a Dumb Bee

 

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I’m about to date myself. Just clacking that phrase onto the empty page is weird. Sounds like I’m getting ready to take myself out to dinner and a movie. And truth be told, a lot of my expressions probably reveal my age anyway. I mean, who says and truth be told these days?

But back to the subject, which is Romper Room. This classic children’s television program first hit the airwaves in 1953 and was aimed at teaching preschoolers to be good little citizens—all part of a lost culture not to be found in mainstream children’s programming today. It must have been effective, because certain elements of the program remain engraved in my memory.

There was the changing roster of former teachers—Miss Nancy, Miss Francis, Miss Bonnie—who, surrounded by a gaggle of in-studio tots, peered through a Magic Mirror to “see” and name specific children in the viewing audience. Other daily staples included The Pledge of Allegiance, stories imbued with moral messages, games, exercises, background music from Mr. Music, and milk and cookie time, always preceded by a short table prayer. (Sigh.)

Hovering over these activities was Mr. Do-Bee, a freakishly oversized striped insect who delivered messages with such scintillating lyrics as:

Do be a sidewalk player, Don’t be a street player; Do be a car sitter, Don’t be a car               stander; Do be a plate cleaner, Don’t be a food fussy; Do be a play safe, Don’t be a match toucher.               

Simple but sensible. I know I took this stuff pretty seriously at age four.

Jump ahead to 2019, when a little simple but sensible would be refreshing. I’ll cite two recent examples.

January 12, Layton, Utah. A 17-year-old pulls her beanie cap over her eyes in blind obedience (forgive the pun) to the internet-promoted Bird Box challenge based on the apocalyptic Sandra Bullock thriller about a mysterious force that must not be looked upon at risk of death.

Well, talk about risking death. The girl crashed her pickup truck into another vehicle. Who’d of thunk? Obviously not this teen. Nor the dozens of others who joined the same craze after 22-year-old YouTube celebrity Jake Paul walked across a busy Los Angeles street while blindfolded, because, hey, what could go wrong?

But it’s not only generation z-types modeling insane behavior.

March 10, 2019. A 30-something woman climbs over a safety fence at Arizona’s Wildlife World to take a selfie with the zoo’s resident jaguar. She survived, but this stunt cost her claw gashes to one arm, an ambulance trip to the hospital, and some public disdain.

“When people do not respect the barriers, there’s always a chance there might be a problem,” said a zoo spokesperson. Uh, duh?

Society has always produced daredevils, of course. In the computer age, our ability to interconnect can quickly become either an international stupidity virus or a global object lesson: Don’t be a Dumb Bee. Let’s all hope for less of the former and more of the latter.

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April 13, 2019 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

Hope Endures

       Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Corrie Ten Boom

The anguish of watching a loved one stumble into the snare of addiction can test even a parent’s love. I encountered such a mom recently and was amazed at her fortitude as she described leading her daughter out of that entanglement by letting her face the consequences of incarceration.

Inspired, I wrote to a young acquaintance serving a three-year sentence for drug crimes to assure him that there is hope in all circumstances.

Dear Robert,
I think often of how far away you are from your parents and how difficult it must be when they aren’t able to visit. My heart aches for each of you, but I am reminded that God can weave purpose through 
every tribulation.

A few years ago, a dear friend called me in tears. Her husband had been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder. I was stunned. How could this happen to such fine Christian people? My friend’s disabled husband went on to spend a year in jail awaiting the court date because they couldn’t afford both bail and a lawyer.

During his trial it all became clear: In order to access grant money and gain professional recognition, an overzealous prosecutor had re-opened a cold case that had been declared an accident twenty-five-years earlier.

The case crumbled when the “eye witness” broke down. He’d made up his testimony, he said, because he was terrified by the prosecutor’s relentless badgering. Meanwhile, my friends endured twelve months of crushing worry that the truth might never come to light. Yet through it all this couple remained steadfast in prayer, holding onto the belief that God resurrects good from bad.

Your situation is difficult. But I believe that, through it, God can mold you into the person He meant for you to be. It takes courage to endure, but with the Lord’s help, the impossible becomes possible.

Before God led me home to faith in my late-thirties, I sinned in ways that still bring me pain. But He uses my past mistakes to guide me today. There is great comfort in that side of salvation. I can’t explain it, but I can celebrate it. And when difficulties arise, I’ve learned that I can bear all things when I open myself to His offer of strength.

Please know that your church family supports your efforts to make things right in your life. We look forward to the day when we will welcome you back with open arms. Until then, we hold you in our hearts and prayers and entrust you to the Lord’s open arms for comfort when things get tough.

My friend who was falsely accused of murder witnessed to many during his year of imprisonment, planting the seeds for restoration through faith. That’s God making lemonade out of lemons, and He can sweeten your bitter cup as well.

Yours in Christ

 

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February 20, 2018 at 6:05 pm 2 comments

I Know It’s Fiction, But Puh-leeze!

8-18-17 fiction books blog pic

It disturbs me that so many contemporary fiction writers—who apparently don’t actually know any Christians, personally—consistently reach into their drawer of hackneyed stereotypes in order to round out their character lists. (This happens with screenplays, too, of course. But today I’m talking about a failure of imagination in the literary arts.)

What they invariably end up with is the standard, tiresome, pursed-lipped hypocrite who “tsks” and lectures her way through the dialogue and is universally despised by the other reasonable, open-minded types who populate the novel’s pages. This is especially apparent when two other ubiquitous characters, the token gay guy and the unmarried young mother, are introduced, only to be shamed by the Christian fusspot and affectionately accepted by those of nobler disposition.

Sure, there are plenty of obnoxious individuals out there—some of them claiming to be believers, some not. But a lot of the people I hang around with nowadays are Christians, and not one of them fits the unflattering typecasting I encounter in my bedtime reading adventures.

The fact is that we all do bad stuff. Some of us have accepted that fact and some of us haven’t; some of us feel remorse and a desire to overcome our baser inclinations, some have no grasp of those concepts. The Christians I know struggle mightily to reconcile their fondness for—and fear of offending—the particular, unrepentant sinner with their grave concern for his or her spiritual welfare.

This concern is an expression of love, not a judgment. After all, mere mortals didn’t write the rule book. The code for moral living comes from a much higher source. And it certainly wasn’t invented by the annoying, small-minded, holier-than-thou, pleasure-thwarting goody-goodies I come across far too often in the realm of cozy mysteries and mainstream story-telling.

This pigeon-holing trend makes me sad. Yet, like Christo-phobic Saul/Paul who was brought into the Light by a God who sought to turn his evil deeds to good, I was once among the stereotypers. I scoffed at anyone, especially people of faith, who dared to define shalts and shalt-nots in black-and-white terms. Ironically, I also condemned them.

Then I fell in love with an earnest Christian man. Met his delightful, fun-loving family. Saw true faith put into action as selflessness and generosity. Developed friendships with devout people who lived by conviction but were nothing like the disapproving Pharisees I had let myself be convinced they would be. These were kind, forgiving souls who accepted me right where I was—on the cusp of unbelief—and gave me plenty of elbow room to find my way home.

That’s my reality-based experience with Christians. Now, I urge the disseminators of the musty old cliché described above to step into the real world to research their next projects. Could be a revelation!

Meanwhile, back to gritting my teeth through the last few chapters of Murder at the Book Group. Is that Karma I feel nibbling at my derriere?

August 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm 2 comments

Thundershirts for All!

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Pulled up from the archives, a revised version of a post from a few years back, with my best wishes for a happy Independence Day.

Some days, it doesn’t pay to tune in to the evening news. Between rogue doctors shooting up hospitals, raging wildfires in Central California, escalating murder statistics in Chicago, and urban gang violence closer to home, the fear and trembling can be tough to shake off.

Turn to the internet and you learn that common-sense efforts to protect our citizenry from preventable terrorism threats are being fought at every level of the judiciary system. So now I’m afire with indignation. That’s hard to shake off, too.

Yes, sometimes the world seems like an upside down and backward place, where staying sane and tranquil plays out as Mission Impossible. The ads between news segments—or yahoo headlines—offer plenty of pharmaceutical solutions for the disquiet caused by too much exposure to the raw facts of modern life. But I don’t fly that way.

Enter the pet care industry. I’m serious. Semi, anyhow.

A few years ago at about this time, I was complaining about the dreadful effects of booming fireworks on my eight-pound chihuahua-papillon pup. (Quaking like partially-set Jello in a 6.3 earth tremor and panting with anxiety—highly contagious responses, I might add—the clock had blinked 3:00 a.m. before I finally convinced her that the evil noise gods had retired for the night.)

That’s why my ears pricked up when, shortly afterward, I saw a promotion for the ThunderShirt®–a swaddling garment designed to calm and comfort your furry companion through storms and other loud events. Since I’m not big on drugs for my pets either, I made a point to look into the merits of this product.

Bottom line: My vet’s office offered it for a lower price than online outlets or pet warehouse chains, and the goofy looking little spandex kimono proved to be quite effective. We survived both the following year’s July 4th celebrations and seasonal thunderstorms with very little trauma for Muñeca or her owner, and sailed into the next day better rested and much less angry at the pyrotechnics industry.

Lessened anger is a good thing. It clears some emotional space for the angst that goes along with those nightly news reports.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could come up a human equivalent of the Thundershirt®? Maybe a stretchy, velcroed version of that ultimate in fad Christmas gifts, the Snuggie®? Please contact me if you are interested in a little joint-entrepreneurial effort in this area. I have plenty of ideas, but I’m a bit challenged in the action department.

 

July 5, 2017 at 12:38 am 1 comment

Hero Dads

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Ah, Father’s Day. A large dose of joy for those with children who venerate Dad with sincere tributes and meaningful gifts, and maybe even a kid-catered outdoor barbecue.

A little sliver of sadness for those of us whose fathers have long been absent from our third-Sunday-in-June celebrations; we who must settle for reminiscences and family photographs to satisfy sentimental yearnings.

A goodly slab of a heartache for those of us who have lost beloved fathers or husbands in recent months or years.

I don’t have any children, but my Sweetie had three. And from Day One of our courtship, he impressed me with his loving and forgiving fatherly ways. On June 20, 2010, I told him this in a one page letter.

Dearest Hank,

The approach of Father’s day inspires me to tell you that you are my hero. How so, you ask? Let me count the ways:

-Back in high school, when I learned that you had diabetes—a rare and exotic condition in 1965—I saw you handle that challenge with dignity and grace. Even then, I admired and respected you. Even then, while I was still a doofy adolescent and you seemed light years ahead of me in wisdom and maturity, you were a hero to me.

– Your gentle ways, your decency and kindness, these also shone through back then. I carried that image of you with me through the years following graduation.

Then we re-met in ’86, and I slowly came to understand your immutable values; to witness first-hand the way you lived your faith with integrity and consistency. And I knew even before I knew that I loved you madly that you were a hero to me.

-After we married, and I came to know the full story of your adult experiences, I marveled at your thoughtful approach to difficult situations and your sincere efforts to always put the best interests of your children first.

The patience you showed to those children through their most challenging years left me in awe. And oh, how that solidified the certainty that you were a hero to me.

-Over our years together—through failures and successes and medical challenges, through grief and joy and all points in between—I could always depend on you to help me put the rudders of reason and rational analysis to this ship built of raw emotion on which I navigate my way through life. For this I will always be grateful, and for this you are a hero to me.

This is only a partial list. I wanted to be brief . . . for a change; to leave the focus on the Man of the Hour: one of the most honorable fathers I have ever had the privilege to know—my Love, my Hank, my Hero.

Forever yours,

Hanes
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Note to readers: If your father—or your husband—is your hero, please do tell him that today. Some things just shouldn’t be postponed. Besides, it will make a lovely dessert to go with those char-grilled hot dogs and burgers.
Blessings on your Father’s Day festivities.

 

 

June 18, 2017 at 8:42 am Leave a comment

An Ode to J.R. Revisited

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            An indulgence, if you’ll permit, to honor what would have been my dear husband’s 69th birthday: This condensed version of a 2012 post commemorating our 25th wedding anniversary—which I noted at the time was “a stark reminder of how quickly time scoots by, and how precious is each month, week, day, and hour, to be wrung limp with an appreciative squeeze.”  

An Ode to J.R.

            Fear not. There will be no declarations of devotion to a certain Texas-based, primetime soap opera character here. The focus of my devotion is the husband with whom I recently celebrated a 25th wedding anniversary–an occasion that smacked me right in the kisser with the awareness of just how much I have to give thanks for, and to cherish. I will, of course, elaborate.

            First of all, I am blessed with a life-mate who ignores, guy-like, the fact that I haven’t dusted in weeks, but listens intently as I ramble on about the specific kind of tank-top I’ve been searching for and then shows up a few weeks later, having hunted down six perfect matches.     

            A guy who waits patiently as I make multiple stops shopping for an allergy-elimination diet, then later sacrifices his lunch hour driving to the one health food store that carries Rice Dream dairy-free frozen dessert, to replenish my supply. Who seems not to be fully tuned in while I describe in tiresome detail what I am looking for in a watch, and then surprises me with the ideal model at the next appropriate special occasion, i.e., Happy Friday! 

            The man—and this will never cease to impress me—will patiently troll Kohl’s clothing racks looking for items he thinks I might like, while I’m locked in a dressing room, slogging through the tedious process of Trying On Clothes. And, while I am an animal lover, my husband is an animal liker. Yet he welcomed the feisty felines I brought into our marriage, supported me through related bereavements, and once back-tracked several blocks in the family vehicle because I saw a confused-looking kitty wandering around a commercial area and felt compelled to try to rescue it.

            His capacity for indulgence extends to rushing me to Wal-Mart to buy a cage and seed for the injured bird that had bounced off our front window and landed in the flower bed, only to discover on our return home that the stunned critter had recovered and flown away. U-turn back to Wal-Mart to return the emergency items. No drama, no recriminations, just a tolerant tending to the needs of the situation. My needs.

            While my sweetie and I are very much aligned in all the important areas, on some smaller issues, there is an occasional Venus/Mars split. I am pretty fanatical about conserving things, while my honey takes a more reasonable approach. Still, when he is finished with a shaker of body powder, a bottle of liquid soap, a tube of toothpaste, or a jar of mustard, he will open another, but leave the carcass behind for me to shake, scrape, dig, squeeze, or swoosh the very last drop from, knowing that it satisfies something within me to use the last drib and drab of anything.

            Then there was that phase I went through where I was reassessing how much toilet tissue I was reeling off the roll, and would sometimes lay the excess squares back on the dispenser for later use. Lesser men might have seen this as material for ridicule. My J.R. saw it as material for bathroom art, creating a Cottonelle sculpture gallery of the remnants that ranged from paper dolls to elaborate, three-dimensional palm trees..

            Ah, the everyday stuff. My guy always walks on the traffic side when we take a stroll, insistently offers his jacket even when I’ve foolishly rejected his pre-walk suggestion that I might want to wear one myself, and unquestioningly restaurant hops until I find a menu that suits my mood.

            After two-and-a-half decades, you’d think we’d know all there is to know about one another, but  just a few weeks ago I learned the reason he always insists on going with me to run errands. “Because I would never forgive myself if I was here and available to take you but didn’t, and something happened to you when you were out.”  Talk about a silver anniversary present to remember.

            Indeed, my multi-faceted husband continues to present new sides of his quiet self. Like the side that spends energy helping a reclusive neighbor with household challenges or time, polishing his Spanish to better communicate with our new friends down the block.

            And who knew he would become a fan of Bollywood cinema at this stage in life, and through that budding interest discover some true gems of touching, values-based entertainment that we can enjoy watching together—our own unique in-house date nights, no makeup required.

            What is no surprise is that he allows himself to be used by God in so many ways, as when the Lord led me-of-lapsed-faith to this decent, forgiving believer, and changed my life forever—and for eternity.

            Simply put, generosity is his heart. Cars, computers, an unexpected check; re-gifting all of his birthday cash to help out a struggling co-worker. This man of modest means has, without a second thought, carried on his parents’ legacy of giving to others whose need is greater, and we are both the richer for his servant’s spirit.

            I have a friend who is fond of saying of her husband, “He lets me be me.”  I am similarly blessed, but alas, all these years later I am still learning to be the wife God meant for me to be. Meanwhile, I recently came across the following crossword puzzle clue: Name which translates to “gift.”  Answer: Isador.

            My J.R. He is not perfect, of course; that would be intolerable for both of us. But he is my Isador, and that is definitely something to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 5, 2017 at 7:59 pm 1 comment

Staying Afloat in a Leaky Boat

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If you know anyone who has lost a loved one in the past six months, or even the past year, please do this: Write them a note. Let them know you are thinking of them and praying for their peace of mind. Or call, even if you have to leave a message. Or email or text, anything to gently reach out as the weeks slide by. You see, when the hubbub surrounding a major loss subsides, the void looms even larger and sometimes feels unfillable.

As I passed the one-month marker for my own personal crisis, a feeling of desolation crept back in, crowding out any sense of peace. It was as if the grieving process had started all over again. With prayer and regular physical activity, the patient ear of my treasured sister-in-law, and the promise of a visit from a childhood friend, the indescribable yearning—knowable only to those who have shared it—slowly made way for eruptive moments of hopefulness.

The next few days brought answers to my unspoken pleas—follow-up calls from thoughtful friends and relatives, a few late cards. Just the right doses of attention and sympathy at just the right moments of aching need. One well-timed note from my sometimes errant third grade pan pal back in Minnesota, so poignant in its simplicity, brought immediate relief to my anguish-numbed soul:

            January 11, 2017

            Dear Mrs. K,   

            I am sorry I have not written to you. I hope you still want to be my pen pal.                                                  I am sorry about your husband. But you and me both know he is happy in heaven. You will see him again in heaven. I wish I could be with you but I know how you feel.

            One more thing, merry Christmas and happy new year.

            Love Naomi

            (Flip side of note paper: be happy the Lord is with you [smiley face])

So the answer to the question, should I check in again a few weeks or months later? is a resounding yes! Email, text, snail mail note, phone call. Any form of contact. These can be the mourner’s lifeline to a world that now seems surreal and frightening. If you’re thinking of them, let them know. And if you live close by, set a firm date to meet for coffee.

You never know. God may just be using you to help another through the quicksand of a particularly rough day, to be His angel on earth. And it could make the difference between your friend feeling lost or feeling loved.

 

 

 

January 25, 2017 at 7:14 pm 4 comments

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

Have a taste and see what you think. If you like what we are serving up, please tell your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to stop by for a visit, too.

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© Sue Anne W. Kirkham and www.yourrecipesforlife.com 2009-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Anne W. Kirkham and www.yourrecipesforlife.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.