Glad Rags

May 3, 2011

Women are talking behind my back at my work place. They mock my clothing (and probably my weight). I wear business skirt suits, starched shirts, and silk ties. “Dress for success” it was called when I started practicing law. Apparently, I am now passe, dated, frumpy, and hopelessly old fashioned. I am pleasantly surprised at my response. I don’t care. In my adolescence, I cared desperately what the other girls thought of me, if they noticed me, and most of all, what they said behind my back. I lived in Greenville, NC, and there were lots of girls my age. There were the impossibly beautiful and well groomed girls, the poor girls who were invisible, and then the rest of us in the middle. I cared terribly. I wore Weejuns, and schemed to get as many Villager outfits as possible. I felt desolate if the in-crowd arrived at the junior high school all wearing their burgandy Villager sweaters.  I never knew in advance what to wear, so I could never win that game.  The acceptance game drove some girls into depression, and others into over-achievement. One girl determined to make the cheerleading team to “get in”.   She practiced all year, and made the high school cheerleading squad. Yet, she never quite fit.  Popularity was her god.   All else was sacrificed at its altar.  Aching for acceptance, I worshipped from afar, feeling hopeless and ashamed that I cared so much.  The deep need was burgeoning, the need for love and acceptance.  But for a few good friends, I would not have survived the pain.  Me the grownup learned to hide the need, but never satisfied it.  I lived in pain, but dressed well.  Only when I met Him, was my soul satisfied.  Now, I don’t worry about what everyone is wearing.

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Suicide

March 1, 2011

My heart hurts. A business acquaintance has committed suicide.  None of the published reports say so, but I felt the darkness before the inevitable undercurrent of gossip reached me.  I knew her professionally. I liked her. One couldn’t help but like her. She was intelligent, gifted, eager for love, lonely, and afraid.  We smiled and spoke last week.  In the gloomy aftermath of reading her obituary, I want so much to save her.  I yearn to believe, as some may, that we can, in the midst of this survivor pain and guilt, pray her out of the consequences of this desperate choice. I pray her sins be remitted.  The Bible says I can do this.  But the Bible does not promise she (or any of us) will escape the eternal consequences of  our actions based on someone else’s faith and relationship with God.  The Lord has provided a way for us to enter eternity in safety and blessing, but it is a narrow path.  Jesus, already God, became man to pay the penalty for sin (my sin, her sin, our sins) .  Jesus came to earth, lived without sin, and died in my place, paying the penalty for my sin.  The Great Exchange.  I have confidence in this transaction.  The evidence of the truth of this reality is overwhelming to me.  My eternity will be wonderful, because of what Jesus did for me.  I have a personal relationship with the Lord, and for this I am profoundly grateful.  He is the Good Shepherd who came out into the darkness and rescued me.  I want Him to do this for her, but third-party faith has its limits.  At the end of her earthly life, as throughout her life, Jesus is the only hope.  There is no second chance, no reincarnation, no alternate way.  Death is exit-only, with no returns or refunds.  She has entered eternity by its one-way gate.  I can only pray as I consider what she has found there.

High Hopes

January 21, 2011

As a lobbyist, I give civics lessons.  I introduce clients to the state legislature.  I speak truth, but not the whole truth. Don’t want to discourage them.  First, I describe the political process as it should be, as we desire it to be. I avoid reports of petty disputes over offices and other indicia of power.  Starting with a tenth grade civics overview of the three branches of government, I focus on the legislature.  Further, I embellish the lesson with descriptions of  Senators and Representatives, their life stories, their interests, their foibles.  Only then, do I detail the actual process, with all its potential for disappointment for the hopeful citizen.  When the NC General Assembly convenes on 1/26/11, Republicans will preside, holding majorities in both chambers.  North Carolinians have not witnessed a Republican-ruled Senate in more than 100 years. In Raleigh, newly elected legislators arrive with small boxes and high hopes.  Retiring and defeated legislators linger.  Bigger the offices, the longer they take to move out.  Many packing boxes.  Apparently, lots of shredding to do.  There are messages, typed in huge font, taped on desks and wall hangings: “DO NOT MOVE”.  Not sure what this means, except they own or think they own the items, and want the control as long as possible.  The new steely eyed victors don’t see the pictures.  Don’t care about offices, except the temporary inconvenience of no desks, no phones, no email addresses.  The young staffers are like race horses, being edged into the starting block, twitching with excitement.  The bell will sound, and the gates will open.  There will be a thunder of hooves, and clouds of dust.  But my folks won’t feel the adrenalin, won’t hear the noise.  My clients’ hopes are the true, honest constant in this biennial process.  They hope for lower taxes if possible, but certainly more for their money.  They hope for less burdensome government.  Working longer for less, they sense our grim economic outlook.  They don’t look to Raleigh for salvation.  But, they hope the 2011 legislature is alive with brave souls.  They hope for wise decisions, restraint, and righteousness in government.  North Carolinians may not use these words exactly, but they have high hopes indeed.

Ladies, I give you permission to abandon ship

January 11, 2011

This is definitely a chick flick, or more accurately, a chick’s blog entry.  I know few men who will be interested enough to find the exit below.  I joined a small professional organization several years ago.  I reconnected with a couple of great women.  I remained involved because a friend asked me to help her change the org.  I attended, listened, acquainted, and observed.  I hate committee meetings, but spent hours on a conference call listening to others conduct a board meeting.  After serious and heartfelt debate, they voted wrong on the most important issues.  Presumably, I am to change the culture of the organization by outliving the earth mothers in charge. My dues support a political agenda foreign and repulsive to me.  Why am I doing this?  I am prone to want to “belong”, hence Facebook, LinkedIn, and this promise of being “somebody” in a second tier organization.  Soon, I chafed at the situation, but felt obligated.  Before, I lost any inner debate by drowning in a sea of guilt.  I would have submitted wordlessly.  Going, I would arrive late to every meeting, and resent every task.   Now, I will say no.  Yes,  I feel guilty because I told a nice lady I would support her work.  But I still get to say no, and mean it.  Do you find yourself feeing obligated, oppressed, actually miserable in your busy-ness?  Do you complain about it, feel trapped, but resolutely refuse to leave?  Ladies, I give you permission to abandon ship.   Declare your independence, and don’t pay the dues for 2011.  I reject the guilt, the busy-ness, and the oppressive weight of it all.  Where is the exit?  I am out of here.  Discard the invoice.  Don’t go to the oppressor’s first meeting.  Delete its future activities from your calendar.  Stay home.  Quieten.  Give peace time to wing its way into your heart.  Now, this is liberation.

Warm and fuzzy

October 18, 2010

I like warm and fuzzy.  I want a puppy, a wriggling little baby with fur who will “love” me .  I yearn for its delighted response to me, all that leaping  and wagging when I appear.  No frowns.  No judgment of my daily failures.  The wonderful energy of physical life, but no challenge to the eternal substance within me.  A puppy yawns in the face of my rudeness or impatience.  As long as it feels safe and its stomach is full, it sleeps through my nights of fear, unforgiveness, and despair.  It seems easier to be kind to animals than people.  Young, sick, lost, or abandoned animals are easy to “love”.  Human beings are the challenge.  People require real love, the sacrificial kind.  The love that gives and suffers, and gives again.  People ache, complain, and lash out when they do not receive this costly love.  Human beings cannot survive with only full stomachs and physical safety.  We yearn to be loved, but we must be commanded to love others as we love ourselves.  People probe, point, and rub me like sandpaper.  Most do not love me, or so it feels.  As a Christian, I am commanded to thank God for these abrasions, and forgive, bless, and love deeply.   The animals did not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as our parents did.  We are inescapably responsible.  Unlike the winsome animals, human beings will be weighed, measured and judged.  We will live forever in redemption or the terrible lack thereof.  So, I will not seek a puppy for the comfort of animal affection.  Adopting an animal is not the kind of “good” I need to do today.  I will probe, point, and judge myself, finding little good within me except God’s presence.   I will choose to forgive again.  I will live, sometimes dancing, sometimes trudging.  But with God’s grace, I choose to love the creatures who are most like God.

Weather Angels and Global Warming

March 30, 2010

In the movie Patton, the General (George C. Scott) commands his chaplain to write a “weather prayer”. The chaplain composes, the General prays in blizzard conditions, and the Allied troops wake to a miraculously clear blue sky. I wonder if there are weather angels, beaming down from the whirlwinds around the throne of God?  In my Presbyterian youth, I was taught creation is like a giant windup clock.  God wound up creation, put it on a shelf, and left it there.   Now, I gratefully acknowledge He intervenes in the affairs of men, because He reached down and saved me.  The Bible reveals an interested, observant, and pro-active Creator who is not satisfied to leave us alone as the clock winds down. Perhaps the Lord has commanded angels to change weather patterns to “confound the wise”.  I am personally wearied by accusations from experts blaming me for drought, heat, and rising oceans.  There is something about their bitter vehemence that reminds me more of hell than heaven.  Are we the center of all activity and meaning?  Actually, no.  Everything is not caused by the hand of man. We are sensient participants in a greater plan. What if the baffling winter of 2009-2010, with record breaking snows storms and no record heat waves, has a purpose and a message delivered from above the weather?  I prefer the inscrutables of the Lord to the funding ploys and political outrage of certain climatologists. Perhaps, in His mercy, our Creator has stirred the first heaven to remind us our calculations do not equal Truth.  Are we destructive to each other and the earth? Yes.  Is creation groaning under a weight of sin, deterioration, and death? Yes.  But let us not view the universe like petulants two-year olds, assuming everything is always in our hands or should be.  There is One who controls the weather, and Who holds our future in His loving, nail scarred hands.  I am grateful to Him, come rain or shine.

Trampling Bear Grass

February 24, 2010

Bear grass (Yucca filamentosa) is a tough, prickly perennial occurring in the dry, open woodlands of North Carolina.  Its thorns draw blood, so it is ignored and flourishes with scant attention.  The community of Bear Grass, NC lies in the broad farm lands of southern Martin County, with Bear Grass School as its heart and literal center.  Generations of children have blossomed in the fertile soil of home/church/school.   Today’s mayor and other community leaders are yesterday’s students in the brick building.  Music lessons, band practice and extracurricular bustle enliven the heart of Bear Grass.   The oldest church sits next to the School, and the lawns are mowed so that one cannot see where sacred ground ends and Bear Grass School begins.   This modest institution has produced accountants, teachers, farmers, and at least one pharmaceutical millionaire.  This cheerful “high performance” school needs no security force.   The Martin County School Board plans to close the school at the end of the academic year,  trampling Bear Grass school and the community.  Forcing these good students into low performing large schools in the north and west reaches of Martin County would dilute the low performance scores of the failing giants.   The local superintendent has gleefully bloodied  his feet, as it were, in his campaign to close the school and silence the heart of the community.  Bear Grass has applied to convert to a charter school.   Ordered by a superior court judge to refrain from hindering this charter school application, the superintendent’s bloody foot prints nonetheless marched to Raleigh.  Despite North Carolina’s limit  of 100 charter schools for the entire state, there is even now, a charter available for Bear Grass.  This conversion to a charter school would keep Bear Grass School open and the community alive.  In the NC Dept. of Education Boardroom, leaders spend their monthly meetings congratulating each other on meaningless “accomplishments” while thousands of students are pushed through failing schools.  With bloody foot prints everywhere, Bear Grass School supporters received only a two sentence rebuff at the January Board meeting.  In February, one Bear Grass spokesman was allowed to beg once more.  Still, no motion to use the available charter and save Bear Grass school.  When a school flourishes because of high performing families and traditional values, it shames the humanistic serpent coiled within the heart of our educational system.  Therefore, Bear Grass must be trampled.  It is an ugly sight.

Screaming bloody murder

February 19, 2010

I work with men who love hunting dogs. In the course of waging the latest battle in our war against animal rights extremists, I came upon a video.  Amateur Youtube, with the camera held by a woman who was screaming through a fence at a dog. The long, lean hound had cornered a coyote at the edge of some woods.  The coyote was big, handsome, and panting.  The woman was screaming at the dog to come to her, leave the coyote alone, and “stop it”.  The hound was smelling the coyote and thinking about how to bite it. The coyote was catching its breath and thinking about how to get out of the corner. Neither listened to the woman. The coyote snarled, and the dog snapped. The woman started screaming bloody murder, and apparently running in a circle, as the camera spun around, recording the same spinning patch of grass.  It would be easy to smirk at these antics, because she was screaming, “Dial 911”.  I am not sure if she wanted an ambulance for the coyote, or a police officer to stop the assault.  Nonetheless, the agony in her voice was real. She was screaming in the pain of seeing animals fight, bleed, and die.   She posted her video, and no doubt wants to ban something.  But all her screaming and shouting and working will not erase that particular pain, because it is a symptom of a vast, dark brokenness.  Aware or not, she yearns for Eden, before the fall.   When she recognizes the source of her pain, she will pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Isaiah described the coming of Messiah as a time when the lion will lie down with the lamb, and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. When the Kingdom does fully come, it will be wonderful to see hounds and foxes and coyotes lolling in the grass in peace.  Until then, I pray the Peaceable Kingdom invades our souls, so other human beings become more precious to us than the dear animals that can neither know nor care about the condition of our hearts.

Lawyers Jokes

September 29, 2009

I have practiced law for 30 years, and thought I had heard all the jokes until I googled “lawyer jokes”.  Visiting a law school classmate caused me to reflect upon this familiar resentment.  Lawyers are too familiar to joke about our foibles or the painful failures of our legal system.  That is not what we think about in repose.  Admittedly, my friend and I are no longer sharp young lawyers, eager to draw blood.  We have billed hundreds of thousands of hours, and have suffered the rough edges to be worn down.  We are at peace with ourselves, even if others are not.  Lawyer jokes demand an audience.  Mumbled requests for advice come alone.  I forgive the squirming comic and maybe help.  North Carolina’s law license says Attorney and Counsellor at Law.   We value the opportunity to deliver wise counsel.  It is satisfying to help one who needs the stock in trade I have to offer.  Lawyers know stuff.  We have learned a lot, mostly from other people’s mistakes.  Is this the source of resentment?  Years ago, a client turned ugly in the parking lot, when he saw my shiny Lincoln.  So that is what I am paying for!  No, leveling my voice.  You are paying a divorce lawyer because you want to leave your wife.  I am happily married, and bought a new car.  He left well represented, but resentful.  Today, I had lobbying chores waiting, but instead drafted a separation agreement for the son of friends.  Scared, poor, and devastated, the boy recently finished paying for his wife’s college degree & nursing license.  Now she wants his beat up old truck out of her driveway.  Yes, there is a hotter pickup idling around the block, waiting to take his place.   He needed advice based on more than sentiment.  We prayed, and my husband spoke words of hope and comfort.  Then I wrote an agreement to defeat snares set by his erstwhile wife and hyper involved mother-in-law.  His eyes widened as I explained his property rights, financial liabilities, and why he needed the paperwork signed before he moved out.   He departed with tears in his eyes, but legally armed.  Joke, if you care to, but I have had a good day.

“Give us a king to judge us”

September 23, 2009

Why has Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny been on the NYT Best Seller list for 25 weeks or more?  The battle for the soul of America is being fought in our neighborhoods, offices, schools, and churches.  Conservatives want to conserve/continue values embodied in the US Constitution, with preeminent importance of the individual’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.   Liberals, called “Statists” by Levine, believe the State, and not the people, should rule a nation.  The State rules for the collective good, and the little man must obey, paying his money (taxes), modifying his behavior (forget cars that can actually withstand collisions), and surrendering the more irritating aspects of his freedoms to speak, publish, petition government, bear arms, etc.   When Government grabs immense power by consolidating the means of production (such as GM), I feel the heat of the battle of liberty versus tyranny.   The growth of Government is Goliath in its immensity.  Israel once lived free before the Lord, with no king, no tyrant, no oppressive government.  When they demanded a king, God gave them a tall, handsome man from an obscure tribe.  Although warned by the prophet they were trading freedom for future tyranny, they chose “a king to judge us like all the nations.”  (I Samuel 8:5)  Israel plunged itself into misery, tyranny, and military defeat because the people surrendered their collective will.  Human beings yearn to surrender, deeply and fully, to Something greater than themselves.  As a Christian, I have met the King.  Though I pray for all in civil authority, I can yield to no prince or president.  My longing for a King is satisfied in Christ.  I require little from my political leaders, and will insist on far less in the next elections.  I must be free to think, build, worship, and be happy.  As for Saul, that first king of Israel, he disappointed.  He was weak, jealous, raging, and in the end, cowardly.   His life ended in defeat in battle and suicide to avoid humiliation at the hands of his enemies.