Saturday, July 28, 2012

Watching the Olympics

Like a lot of people, we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics yesterday.  This is the first Olympics in eight years that I haven't been traveling, so it was nice to watch.  I'm not sure it was my favorite opening ceremony, but it had a beauty.  I loved hearing all the hymns sung and the children's stories.  Those were prettily done.  And Rowan Atkinson!  You can't help but laugh!

I watched interested, aware of the request by the families of the Israeli athletes killed 40 years ago in the Olympic village for a moment of silence, a memorial of sort.  I was aware that it had been denied explaining it was "inappropriate" to have a memorial on a night like this.

Then we watched the ceremony.  There was a beautiful scene where Emile Sande sang "Abide with Me" and they showed photos floating across the stadium.  (How they did that, I don't know.) They were photos of loved ones that members of the audience had lost in the last years.

Excuse me?

Now, it seems on the news this morning that if you were in the US, you didn't see that part as the US network chose to cut it and show a interview of Michael Phelps.  There is a lot of chatter on the web from people in Britian offended that their memorial - unspoken perhaps, but clear that some of it was at least dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attack of 7/7 - was left out of American broadcasting.  Poor taste, and I am ashamed of them.  Not only was it beautiful and worth seeing, it is insensitive, as the British understand, to cut out a memorial to people brutally murdered.  I hope America apologizes.  It needs to.  As an American, I am sorry we did this.

Let me get this perfectly clear.  I am glad they had a memorial to those killed on 7/7 and to other loved ones members of the audience lost.  Grief and loss are common to all man and has a place even on our happiest days.  Joy and grief walk hand in hand in our lives.  I'm glad they included that section.

But my mind went to the families of the Israeli athletes, to the Israeli team, to those who were told NO.  Your grief does not have a place here.  Where else?  Is this not where they were killed - at the Olymics?  Is this not who they were - part of the Olympic family?

I wonder if the answer would have been different if it had been a team from Chili whose place crashed leaving the Olympic Village?  If it had been a Latvian team who a crazy man gunned down?  All it should have come down to was that a whole team of athletes from a country were murdered by a group of men simply because of who they were.  And they deserved their memorial for that massacre.  It would have been fitting.  They have waited long enough.

It hurts when that memorial is cut out.

I hope that their day will come, and we will remember before we forget.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

As We Walk....

My daughter and I walked through the stores today looking for things she needed.  For a few minutes we followed a mom with two boys maybe ages 6 and 8.  They were fussing and she was explaining again and again that if they were good they might get a surprise, but they had to be good the whole time if they were to get a surprise and that they had to be good, if they were bad they wouldn't get a surprise and..... you get the picture.

We walked silently behind them for a few more minutes and then they turned away from us and we continued on.  I looked down at my daughter and said, "Sweetie, when you have kids, just keep it simple.  Just expect good behavior as normal, and don't bribe your kids to be good.  Then when they are good or do something specially nice, reward them, but sometimes give them surprises just because you love them.  But just expect good behavior as the norm, and life will be a lot easier."

We walked farther on, and in the middle of the shopping center was a double wide bench with no back - sort of like a bed, but just a bench.  On it were three toddlers, gently wrestling and quietly laughing with each other.  We stopped to look because they were so cute.  Just then, the mom came by and scolded the toddlers for playing there.  "Hey, stop that, all of you!  Behave!"  They stopped laughing and got down.

We walked on.  As we walked out of earshot, I looked down at my daughter again.  "Sweetie, when you have kids, remember to let them be kids when you can.  There was nothing wrong with where those kids chose to play.  A different place in the store and it may have been a problem, but they chose the place well, and they were playing quietly enough to be respectful to those around them.  Let your kids play when you can."

She may not be old enough to get her facts of life straight, but when an object lesson on parenting is right in front of us, we are going to use it.  I don't know that I was the best parent of little kids.  I'd like a do-over on several things, but we don't get those.  What I can do is train my children now as we walk in the way.

My Daughter's Chatter

It always used to interest me what my daughter would come up with, or even my daughter and my youngest son, when they were just chattering.  Funny imaginations, and funny thoughts.

Today, I took her shopping with me.  We bought some baby clothes for a friend who is due soon.  She was "imagining"....

"Imagine if all the people in the world died, but all the animals lived, and just one baby lived, and imagine that she had already kissed a boy before all the people died, so she had a baby when she grew up, and......"

I just smiled.  I guess we still need to do some teaching on that topic with the younger ones!  In the meantime, be careful about your babies kissing other babies.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moral Purity - A Question of Rules or ........?

Recently, at a training time, someone led a session on the subject of integrity and moral purity.  We broke into groups and were to discuss a passage and also discuss how we maintain moral purity in our own lives.  Ok.  So they began, and one older lady started off with the typical, "my husband and I decided that we would have these rules......"  You could probably list the rules if you thought about it.  No man ever alone with her at any time - never in a car, never open the door even to a delivery man, no talking to a man in an office except in the hallways, no in-depth conversations with men without her husband there even in a public setting.  Of course, her husband had rules, too.... similar to hers.  Another woman wisely nodded and agreed that if you kept these rules, you would be morally pure and never even need to think about it past that.


I sat there and watched.  A little frustrated.  Two emotions going through my mind - frustration and guilt.  Frustration because it was all external rules.  True, those rules had value and weight to them.  But they still all focused on the external.  What about the heart?  What is going on inside your heart?  Are you even aware of your heart?

Then guilt.  Because I break many of those rules.

Ok, there are locations where those rules are critical.  But even in those places, once or twice I broke them.

Once "over there", I was in a car with a man alone.  I was taking a removed body part to a special pathology lab, and it was in an unfamiliar location, so a friend came along to show me the way.

  (Honestly, developing a romance while transporting body parts just wasn't on my radar.)  

Still, generally, in some locations, we were sticklers about the rules.  It was culturally important and because interacting with other cultures, it is harder to read non-verbals and know where you stand, it becomes even more important.

But we are not "over there" now.  We are here.  But as I listened to her, I worried.

  Am I that wrong?

Another older lady chimed in with how good her rules were.  She told a story about a time when she was alone with another missionary, and he grabbed her and forced a kiss.  Honestly, that is awful, and he should have been confronted by people in authority and stopped!  But does that make what she did wrong?  I don't know that I would even want to say that.  That was an assault, and it was his fault, and his alone.  She can, perhaps, protect herself by never being alone with a man anywhere again.... but, sadly, there are men everywhere, and there will always be the few who will assault women.  Being assaulted is not your fault. It did not happen because she was alone with him.  It happened because he was an abuser.

But I break rules.  I often drive people places.  I am the errand/go-fer person in our office, and it makes sense to send me on airport runs and other things.  My husband can easily nod off on drives - part of his health problems, and I am a better driver.  I've been left alone in my house with different friends when they stay with us.  I've been staying with different other people and been alone for a few hours with another man.  I have checked with my husband about this.  "Look, this happened, or this could mean that could happen.  Are you ok with me being in that situation?"  He smiles.  He trusts me.

This woman continued on with the rules that we shouldn't have any significant relationships with men that are not our fathers, husbands, or sons.

Hmm.  I like a lot of different men.  I'm friends with quite a few.  Some are older than my parents, some are my age; some are closer to my son's age.  As I think back over my life, I smile when I think of the men I have been close to who have influenced my life.  Men who cared about me, and still do.

I don't know if I would be who I am without those friendships.

I volunteered a few years before I was married with a group who prepared and shipped things overseas. Most were older, and I was primarily their muscles.  I lifted the boxes for the ladies and moved things.  There was another man - ok, he was older than my dad, but younger than the women.  He worked with me moving boxes around.  We became good friends.  We talked a lot.  He told me stories of his life, and stories of his wife's life during WWII.  I learned a lot from him.  Lessons about patience, choosing to be grateful, of tender love of others, of serving with joy, of choosing joy after being dealt a life of severe pain.  He listened to me - to my doubts, to my fears, to my small joys and small worries of being a college student, of the news of my wedding, and plans to move to another country.  He helped me hide my car during my wedding so my unique family of engineers wouldn't "rig it up" like they had other cousins.  He teased me about my honeymoon.  We had a close relationship.  Sometimes, he would drive me home from the volunteer center since he lived three blocks from my house.  I only met his wife three times, the last being when they both came to my wedding.  Was our relationship wrong?  No!  But it was close, and we were alone occasionally together. I count his friendship still as a stabilizing, good influence in my life at that time.

I struggled with what this woman said.  I was not at peace all that afternoon and evening.  So instead of settling down to my homework, I played two hard games of ping-pong.... with two men from our team.  (I am an incorrigible sinner.)  That evening, my husband and I talked.  We talked about relationships - ones I have with other men and ones he has with other women.  We set them out to be discussed and questioned in a safe environment.  I asked him what he sees as a man, and does he have any concerns or worries.  I told him what I was aware of as a woman with his relationships.  I told him I was feeling guilty and burdened by this woman's rules which I am breaking.  He just smiled and said he has no doubts about me and most of those rules I "break", I break not only with his express permission, but even at his request.  He's the one who often will say, "Why don't you do that airport run, so you get a chance to talk?"  or say, "Why don't you phone so and so and talk, I'll keep the kids for awhile.  I think you could use a chance just to talk."

What bothered me about this woman's rules is that they were all superficial.  All on the outside.  As if sin is only on the outside.  They might make good guidelines for a youth mission event, but as standards of moral purity, they fell short for me.  Rigid and shallow.  Judgmental in some ways.  As if every relationship with someone of the opposite sex is immoral.  God help us if we have become people who automatically think that just because two coworkers are talking alone outside that there is something wrong.  (It could be something wrong - with the new computer system, and she is just not getting the new layout.)

Now, I fully agree that every relationship with the opposite sex has the  potential to be immoral, and that fact always needs to be held in view.  I am always aware of it, and cautious of it, but not always living in fear of it.  There are a lot of good men out there, and I am proud to be friends with several of them.  I'm thankful, too, as a mother of boys, to have good relationships with different men.  It helps me and it helps my boys see godly men with different personalities and interests that they can model their lives after.

But for me, moral purity has to go deeper than just not being alone with men.  It has to be in my heart, deeper than my actions, even deeper than my thoughts.  It has to start with my needs and my wants and my lacks, and what I chose to do in reaction to those.  It is deeper than whose company I keep because, quite honestly, I can sin in the area of moral purity alone with another girl or in a crowd or all by myself.  It is in where I let my mind go, what I dwell on, what I speak about, and where my heart is.  Sin begins in the heart, and that is where I would rather focus on than a set of rules. 

Also, having lived all around the world, I am aware that the "rules" change so much within culture that trying to navigate rules as a global citizen would be difficult.  I have been both naked as a child in a village on bath day by the river and covered head to toe with only my eyes peeping out out to go shopping - and been totally "decent" in both according to the situation.  Different cultures, different lands, different expectations.  Interestingly, I got more "looks" from men when completely covered than I ever did as a naked child playing by the river.  Proof that sin is in the heart, not in the rules or even the clothes.

So after a good discussion with my husband and two good male friends of mine and two good female friends, I shook off the guilt for not following this lady's rules.  The question then remained for me, "What constitutes good moral purity and how do I address this in my life?"  I still believe that we need to talk about it and think about it, but the answer didn't lie in rules that deprive us of the blessings that God has given us in varied relationships with different people in His family.  The answer may be much harder than a set of rules as I was going to find out.