Objects…of our Respect

Recently, the radio station whose morning show I always listen to ran an internet contest:  pick the bikini you want their “Rock Girl” to wear at a local boat show.  Hearing that made me realize we still are an incredibly sexist society.  No radio station has a contest to pick which banana hammock their “Rock Dude” wears to a boat show (let’s hope it stays that way.)  Despite all the advances women have made over the last fifty years toward equal footing with men, our society still treats them largely as objects.  No further proof is necessary than this coming Sunday.  I’m sure GoDaddy.com will have at least one or two ads running during the Super Bowl, and you’d have to be living under a rock to think they’re really selling domain registration.  Not that men can’t be treated as objects too.  It’s just carried out more blatantly against the fairer sex.

Since I became the father of a daughter, I find myself much more conscious of how I look at women.  When I was in high school, I had a crush on a girl a grade up from me.  She was one of those early-bloomers who were so well endowed that they need not consider a guy who’s age didn’t have a “2” in the tens column.  I tried wooing her with flowers, notes, all kinds of stuff.  It never dawned on me to actually talk to her, to get to know her as a person.  What would have happened if I’d taken advantage of the time she actually gave me a ride home from school to really talk to her, start a friendship, get to know her, treat her like, you know, a real person?  Who knows, but I’m sure she’d have thought a lot more of me than she did with the approach I was taking.  I’d made her into an object to be won, not a person to relate to.  Would I want some guy thinking that way about my daughter?  Hardly.  I would hope she’d react the same way my high school crush did:  a polite but clear stiff-arm.

Today’s media makes it harder than ever not to treat people as objects.  But every woman or man is a child of God, a person with hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes.  They’re also all somebody’s son or daughter.   Those of you who are parents, next time you catch yourself paying too much attention to a person’s physical endowments, stop and ask yourself if you were that person’s parent, would you want someone thinking about your daughter or son that way?  Those of you who aren’t parents, realize that when we fathers of daughters joke about sitting on the porch with a shotgun, it’s only half joking.  Respect the person as a person and it’s a lot harder to view them as just an object.  Even if it’s Danica Patrick during the Super Bowl, telling you where you can register your website.

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Happy Birthday Mom

Yesterday, January 24th, was my mom’s birthday.  “Was” in the sense that both the day, and she, have passed.   Mom would have been 67 had Parkinson’s or some complication from it not finally relieved her of the suffering that marked the last several years of her life.  In many ways, the Mom that I had known for my entire life had passed on long before the breathing tube was removed on October 29, 2011.  I thank God that before He chose to call her home, I got to spend one more afternoon sitting talking with her by her bedside, and in that moment, she truly was Mom – lucid, upbeat, and as always, understanding.  Rather than dwell on her downfall, though, I want to use this space to remember her for the remarkable woman she was.

Mom loved many things.  She loved God first and foremost.  When I was a teenager, she had gone back to school to get a Bachelor’s degree in religious studies, and she was working on a Masters degree until Parkinson’s made it too difficult for her to continue.  She wanted to know God as deeply as she possibly could, learning Hebrew and Greek so she could read His Word in the original languages.  She dedicated her only son to the Lord, she told me once.  While she was carrying me she was so spooked by the movie Rosemary’s Baby that right then and there she dedicated unborn Rob to God and His service.  I have no doubt that’s why God’s kept His hand on my life, even during all the various times I’ve strayed from His path.  She also showed her love for God in her generosity to the church, sometimes, my dad later told me, even at the expense of monthly rent.  She knew God would provide.

Mom loved animals, too.   I never knew when I was ten how close to suicide she was after our Samoyed dog, Sam, died unexpectedly while we were away on a trip.  Several sick kittens of stray cats found their way into our home over the years, with Mom doing the bulk of the work to nurture them to long, secure, healthy lives.  The first cat, Goldie, was the friendliest cat I’ve ever met and will always have a special place in my heart.  His shy little cousin, Patches, will always live in family lore as the cat that eluded my college buddy Andy in his never ending quest to touch her, just once.  Occasionally her love for animals put her at odds with her rather lazy son.   While living at home after college, someone had abandoned a white rabbit in our apartment complex.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the idea, Mom insisted we take it in, scolding me along the way for not being more sensitive.  Of course, I was the little boy who had once asked her why she was crying after she finished reading me The Velveteen Rabbit: after all, the boy got another bunny.  (I get it now, Mom.)

Finally, most important to me, she loved her family.  Things were rarely easy for Dad and her, but no matter what, they stuck together.  She tried the best she could to keep me in step with other kids when it came to the petty, material things  they had that I thought I was lacking, even taking a job to try and earn more money.  Among other things, she taught me how to drive a stick shift car (I’m sure that was two years off of her life right there,) bought me a plane ticket home from Mexico when I told her how rough the train ride there had been, surprised me with toys, video games, clothes, and other little treats, just becuase, and most importantly, prayed for me every day.  At the time that seemed like the least of what she did, but now I realize just how many times God kept me from serious trouble or harm thanks to her diligence.

So Happy Birthday Mom.  I love you, and I miss you.  As you party with Jesus in His Kingdom, enjoying your favorite chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, among the myriad of gifts that eternal life has to offer, I hope you find one more: the knowledge of how much your life here meant to your son.

I look forward to the day when we meet again and I can see that despite how amazing you were on Earth, that’s only a shadow of the soul you’ve become in Heaven.

I’ll Be Happy When…

One of the hardest things in the world for me is to live in the moment.  I’m always looking ahead.  When my daughter was a baby, I couldn’t wait until she got to be three or four and could talk and use the bathroom on her own (ok, bad example, every parent who’s ever lived looks forward to that!)  Now she’s six, and doing all that and more, and yet I look forward to when she’s eight or nine.  Standing waiting for the school bus with her, we throw the Nerf football around.  She flings it underhanded and often innacurately.  How I long for when she’ll throw it like I can.

Looking to the future is human nature.  We’re always interested in what comes next.  But how often we miss out on the greatness of the moment we’re in right now.  Truly living for the moment, and in the moment, is one of the most difficult things in the entire Christian experience.  The very nature of our faith is based on the expectation of a future event:  the return of our Savior and the coming of His Kingdom.  We are commanded to wait and watch vigilantly for His coming.

As great as that day will be, the fact is, God gives us some pretty great moments right here, right now.  When I catch myself longing for my daughter to be older, I try to remind myself that not only will the day come when she can chuck that Aaron Rodgers spiral, another day will come.  A day when playing catch with Dad isn’t cool anymore.  A day when, instead of the school bus picking her up, it will be her friends, or (God forbid!) a boyfriend.  Actually she’ll probably be the one doing the picking up, since she’s the oldest kid in her kindergarten.  Looking too far ahead, we miss those moments.

Sometimes, ironically, the moments we want to pass the quickest at the time are the ones we later on wish had lasted just a bit longer.  As a kid, we once moved to a place where I ended up having few friends, and was a bit of an outsider.  I prayed and prayed that we’d move back to the town and state we’d lived in before moving to that place.  Miraculously, God answered that prayer and my dad got transferred back to a town near to where we’d moved from.  We settled in and life was better, but then that summer, I got an unexpected surprise.  The class I’d left behind sent me a yearbook, signed by everyone.  Some of the kids wrote how much they missed me, and how school wasn’t the same without me.  It was eye opening to my teenaged mind that circumstances which seemed so unbearable at the time, were not at all what they seemed.  After that, I almost found myself wanting to move back there.

God’s Kingdom will come.  I’ll be happy when it does.  But in the meantime, you and I need to catch ourselves when we say “I’ll be happy when…” and realize that when, more often than not, should be right now.

Holy Sh**!

I have a swearing problem.  I love Jesus.  I want to be as much like Him as I can.  But far too often my language is more Billy the Kid than Billy Graham.  Sometimes I drop s-bombs, or even f-bombs, in casual conversation.  Why?  Beats me.  It just comes out.  Maybe subconsciously I’m trying to sound more cool, sort of like the joke about the two little boys who decide one morning they’re going to start swearing.

One decides he’s going to say “damn” and the other one will say “ass.” (Geez, now I’m swearing in my blog!)  The boys come down for breakfast and when Mom asks what they want, the first one boldly declares, “Gimme some damn Cheerios.”  Mom immediately slaps him across the face, then directs a fiery gaze at the other boy.  “And what do you want?” she asks.  Shuddering meekly, the second brother meekly bluts out, “I don’t know, but you can bet your ass it ain’t Cheerios.”  There’s something about profanity that dupes us into thinking it adds power to our message.  Maybe it’s because, like the boys in the joke, swearing makes us feel grown up.  Now we’re using big-boy words.

Much of my swearing is directed at inanimate objects.  Fram has yet to make an oil filter that I haven’t tried to loosen from my vehicle’s underbody with the strongest verbal lubrication I can dispense.  Household projects were made for swearing, it would seem.  Pipe won’t fit, try calling it an f***ing son of a b**ch.  Nail bending the wrong way?  That no-good piece of sh**.  Does this really work?  Do hardware and auto parts really have the fear of God beaten into them just by strong language?  Obviously not.  But somehow, swearing relieves tension, and directs focus.  When a project seems to be at it’s most dire, launching a barrage of profanity seems like the only option left.  And once you cut loose, suddenly you find yourself calmed, able to re-focus and evaluate what it really will take to get the job done.

By now I’m sure you’re like, “What the h*ll is your point.?”  Simply this: as a Christian, what does God really think of all the language that we utter.  The Bible states that it isn’t what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him.  Several passages speak to the importance of taming the tongue. But is God condemning all of us potty mouths?  Isn’t gossip and hurtful talk directed at our fellow man much worse than a few obscenities directed at a leaky faucet?

Does righteous indignation still preclude use of the strongest language available to express that indignation?  I’d love to hear what Jesus exact words were to the money changers in the temple.  If there were ever an occasion for Aramaic profanity, that was it.  Or when his dad was in the workshop and his hammer met his thumb, did our Lord grimace if a Hebrew f-bomb was Joseph’s response?  I hope when I get to heaven I can get the definitive answer.

I know God wants his children to conduct themselves with dignity and honor, and in today’s society that means watching your language.  So I will continue to pray for the Lord to help me tame my tongue.  But when that next oil filter sticks a little too much, will I treat it to the same verbal onslaught as all the others that came before it?  You bet your ass.