Saturday, July 14, 2007

I grew up in Alabama - now you know my deep dark secret!

Yes, I was born and raised in Alabama. Trust me I have heard all the Alabama jokes know to man. Strange thing is I never knew there was anything wrong with folks from Alabama until I left. I still have family in Alabama so I go for a visit from time to time and it is like taking a step back in time. People that visit Alabama for the first time should be warned “things in this state may appear to have been caught in a time gap, and they have”. When I tell people I lived without indoor plumbing until I was 10 no one believes me. “Oh, you are not old enough to have grown up using an outhouse”. I have the pictures to prove it – for some strange reason every picture of our house in the country had the “outhouse” in the background. What I am telling you is Alabama is 20 years behind other states – it kind’a like dog years - in Alabama I would be 80. When we moved to Georgia the transition for me was not an easy one. I grew up hearing phrases like –“it’s fix’n to come up a storm” – “it is darken than midnight under a skillet in here” – “they will be here directly” and the list goes on and on. When I asked the teacher for a “poke” to take my stuff home in, it took her off the deep end and I was sent to diction classes. Yes, folks I was in ESL (English as a Second Language) class long before it became popular. Not sure the classes helped that much but I don’t say poke any more but fix’n to, down yonder and do you need me to carry you to the airport are still active words in my speech. My husband’s family is from Wisconsin and he still has to translate for them from time to time. For the most part day to day communication is not a problem for me – might be for others – but I have reached the age that “demands” respect so people don’t correct me anymore.
I enjoyed life in the country, not so much the outhouse but life for the most part was wonderful. I did not have a TV, Game boy or IPod but I do not ever remember telling my parents I was bored. Yes, I was an only child but I never got to fully enjoy that title as we always had someone living with us. If you had a hard luck story my Dad was there to take you in. So the stigma that goes with being an “only” does not really apply. My parents were “older” when I was born thus making me the youngest cousin in the bunch and that did buy me some special treatment. Yes, I remember vividly the special treatment I received the day the boy’s (my cousins) put me out the back door of the school bus about 3 miles from home. Then there was the special treatment I received the day the boys rolled me in poison ivy for telling on them for smoking rabbit tobacco. Yes I was “special”! As I look back the “boys” may not have had a Game Boy to entertain them but they made good use of me. I sustained no lasting physical or mental injuries from their special treatment but I gained a life time full of wonderful memories. You, see I may have been their entertainment but NO ONE else was allowed to even look at me crossed ways. One of the boys was always my shadow. I also got to go with them to the creek for a swim, I was even allowed to go on dates every once in awhile.

Yes, growing up in the country was a great adventure. I never had to attend sex education classes; I saw the wonder of reproduction everyday living on a farm. I never had had to be taught to respect my elders – I learned early on that any adult had the right to smack me if I smarted off. Stealing was not a problem – no one had anything you didn’t. Our closest neighbor lived a mile away but you never had to ask permission to go visit – just be home before dark. I learned that hard work would not kill you and if a neighbor needed your help they did not have to ask. I learned about Our Father from My Father. I learned that LOVE is more important than things.
I wish I could say that I continue to follow the lessons learned so many years ago but most of them have been lost not just for me but for our culture in general. Yes, I know my neighbors some of them by name but I have no idea of their needs. My family can attest to the fact that I have more “STUFF” than I possibly will ever need. I have a Game Boy, an IPod, a laptop, a desktop – the list goes on and on. The one lesson I have never forgotten is “Love” and “kindness” are the most important possessions one can own.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

God has a sense of humor! I know He is laughing at me.

Have you ever had one of those days that it might have been better if you had stayed in bed? Well, I don’t have them very often but today ranks right up there with the worst of them. I don’t mean “worst” like the day my parents died or the day my best friend lost her battle with lung cancer but just one of those days when things just seemed out of sorts. It started with a pain in my knee that made me what to throw up. I have had both knees replaced and for the most part I have no trouble with either one of them. I did something to mess up my oldest new knee a few days ago and the pain just will not go away. Everyone says I have a high tolerance for pain – whatever that means. Yes, I can have dental work done without shots, I have too many tattoos’ to count and when I had my knee replaced I did not have to get my pain meds refilled. So, is that a “high tolerance” for pain? I have no idea! When you are in the hospital after surgery they ask you “where does your pain rank on a scale from 1 to 10 – 10 being the worst.” Maybe I have never had the worst pain, so how do I judge it? I digress – back to my day. I finally got enough BC powers in me to numb the pain – BC powers are pretty much a Southern thing, it is something like an aspirin crushed up in a little pouch that you pour on your tongue and wash down with a swig of Coke or RC cola. I hobble out to the truck – have to drive the truck today because I have to pick up a pressure washer at one property and take it to another one. Make it to pick it up – had to down another BC on the way. I have to admit I am not the brightest crayon in the pack but I should have made sure the guy strapped the dang thing down. In my BC induced haze I headed for my next stop – I am sure you can guess where this is going. I had to slam on the brakes and BAM the power washer came through the back window. I live in Atlanta so at first I thought I had been shot! After taking a quick inventory of my parts I realized I was OK but the truck did not fair quite as well. I did not ever bother to get out of the truck – no need at that point. It has not rained in Atlanta in weeks, maybe months AND you guessed it! I have no back window and it starts pouring the rain. Oh, well – all I can say is God has one heck of a sense of humor. Finally got where I was going to drop the window eating machine. Walked in the office and the manager starts screaming – “You have blood running down your arm”. Dang if I didn’t, guess some of the glass hit the back of my arm, there was certainly no chance I was going to bleed to death. They insisted on cleaning me up and patching up my wounds. The maintenance man put plastic over my window and used Alabama Chrome (duct tape) to affix the plastic to the cab of the truck. It was no ordinary duct tape it was black and yellow – looked like the tape police use at crime scenes. Off I go again – looked a little like Fred Sanford. My VW bug is my mode of transportation choice but today I HAD to drive the truck – now I am driving down 285 in a TRUCK with a garbage bag duct taped to the back window. AND it starts to rain again – I turn on the windshield wipers and the one on the driver’s side FLYS off. OK, God you have my attention. Understand that I do not think God did any of this to me – but I sure was counting on him getting me out of it! I did make it home and the guy will be here in the morning to replace the rear shield or whatever you call it. I have taken off all the bandages and eaten a pint of Rocky Road ice cream. Tomorrow will be better! Well, until I step on the scales and discover that the pint of ice I ate has caused me to gain 5 lbs. during the night. Keep laughing God, I am glad I can be of some entertainment for you - but just remember one day I will be up there with you and pay back is going to be - well you get the picture.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Catholic's worship Mary? Or NOT!

In a couple of words “We don’t”. My husband and I teach RCIA classes and we often have to play “Ten Catholic Questions”. Why do Catholics worship Mary is always at the top of the list. Why the Catholic beliefs about Mary still remain so misunderstood among non-Catholics is a mystery to me. I know that it is a question of educating John Q Public, and let’s admit it Catholics have never been known for their evangelization or the ability to defend their religion. Due to Adult education classes now being conducted in many Catholic Church’s we are getting better! To be a good Catholic there are three things that we are required to believe about Mary – Immaculate Conception, Ever Virgin and her Assumption into heaven. You never have to say a single prayer to Mary and ask for her intercession on your behalf. You do not have to pray the Rosary everyday or ever. You do not have to have a single statue of her in your home or on the dashboard of your car or a Rosary hanging from your car mirror. In fact if you choose not to pray to the Blessed Mother it will just give her more time to listen to me! One of the greatest gifts the Catholic Church gave me after my conversion was Mother Mary. She is my constant companion on the journey, a friend I can go to anytime and know that she will listen and take my concerns and thanksgiving to Jesus her son. I could type forever about my feelings about Mary and how she has helped me during times of personal grief and strife. Bottom line - if your devotion to Mary does not lead you to a closer relationship with Jesus then you are not doing something right. Throughout her live Mary pointed us towards her son and that is her purpose even today. Remember when Jesus performed His first Miracle at the wedding feast at Cana – they ran out of wine and Mary went to Jesus and told Him that they needed more wine – Jesus told her “My time has not come” meaning that it was not time that for Him to reveal himself – then being a good son he did as him Mother ask and Mary told the waiters at the Wedding Feast to “DO AS HE TELLS YOU”. This should be our attitude, too. Mary like Johns the Baptist, points us to Jesus Christ who is alone the Savior and Redeemer. She does intercede for us but her answer is always “DO as HE says”. We simply ask that Mary present our prayers, our needs to God. This does not mean or imply that Mary has any special power apart from the saving power of God. In praising Mary, we are praising and thanking God for the power and love God shows to Mary.

What do Catholics believe about Mary? This is all that we as Catholic’s are required to believe.
1. Immaculate Conception - Catholics believe that Mary was conceived and born free of Original Sin. By reason of her unique role in God's plan of redemption she was united with God from the beginning and was endowed by God with an unsurpassable degree of grace.
2. Ever Virgin – Mary was ever virgin – she was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus. Frankly, I cannot see what the problem is! Many, who deny Mary's perpetual virginity, nevertheless affirm her virginity before and during Jesus' birth. Yet the Virgin Birth of Jesus required an astounding miracle, and Mary's lifelong virginity afterwards required none. To object to the latter doctrine while admitting the former seems to strain out a gnat while swallowing a camel.
3. The Assumption - Catholics believe that at her death, Mary was taken into heaven body and soul. Her body was not placed in the ground to decay.
I will agree that some seem to take their devotion to Mary to a point that might cause those looking in to call it “worship”. That was certainly was never Mary’s intent!