Fragile: Handle With Care

A few weeks ago, I was changing a light bulb in a lamp in my spare bedroom. When I screwed in the bulb, the bulb flashed and burnt. At the same time, power went out in the spare bedroom and adjoining office space. A breaker needed to be reset. After I flipped the breaker, I noted that the modem in the office was blinking orange. After a few minutes and a hard reset the internet came back online.

However, my home computer was not responding. It was frozen, even after multiple restarts. The power surge had jolted my computer badly. The next morning, I once again restarted the computer, and it came on, albeit very slowly. Since then, the computer works, but it’s altered a bit. It’s often slow to start up, and sometimes the peripheral equipment like the mouse and keyboard aren’t functioning without another hard restart.

I checked online about ordering a new computer. I can get $400 credit toward a new computer if I mail the old one to Apple. The company sent me this box to package up the old computer. I haven’t completely made up my mind yet if I will buy a new one. The old one works, albeit with a few quirks that weren’t there before. It’s still serviceable, and I have a perfectly servicable laptop as a back up.

I was staring at the box a few days ago thinking if I was going to use the box to ship my computer. The words, Fragile: Handle With Care, caught my attention. That’s how I feel lately. What with all the political rhetoric flying around on social media, I feel like I want the words, Fragile: Handle with Care, slapped across my forehead.

I want my opinions respected as I respect the opinions of others. I am tired of labels that are flung carelessly and ceaselessly at both ends of the political spectrum. Aren’t we better than what we are doing now?

Libtard!

Right wing fanatic!

Fascist!

Socialist commie!

Just a few days ago, I received a direct message on Facebook from an old friend, whom I haven’t communicated with in well over twenty years. He lives in another country. The reason for his communication? His only message was to scold me for my political views which are in opposition to his own.

I happen to believe that President Trump should not be reelected. I support Joe Biden. To my old friend, this was anathema. I received a virtual lecture on the folly of my views. Is that what mattered to him most?

I have known this man for nearly 40 years. He’s a minister, a church planter, and a missionary. We’ve been friends and fellow workers in the Gospel for over 30 years. Yet, he hasn’t found time to comment on anything to me in nearly two decades except to berate me for my political views.

It would be nice if we returned to a modicum of respect for the political, cultural and religious opinions of other Americans. The erosion of respect for other viewpoints has reached a flashpoint where extremism and even violence is encouraged. Our president has consistently refused to promise to accept the results of the presidential election if he should lose.

Christians are among the most intolerant in my opinion. We should remember the message from Paul to the Ephesians: And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.* Those words leave little room for some of the perjoratives I’ve seen online from other Christians in regard to others who disagree with their viewpoint.

So, please, even if it only starts with just a few of us, let’s treat one another with respect. Let’s pretend each one of us has the words, Fragile: Handle with Care, slapped across our respective foreheads. And be tenderhearted, like Paul reminds us in his letter.

*Ephesians 4:32

Five Things on Friday

It’s Friday once again. I don’t know how I managed to do it, but I’ve skipped a few Fridays since posting. Here are a few things happening in my world this week. Even more exciting, I have an idea for a blog post that will be more than just snippets from my daily life. Stay tuned!

Gargoyle House

This house is for sale in Abita Springs. Aside from the gargoyles, it seems fairly innocuous. Don’t be fooled. There’s the bottle tree on the right corner of the house for starters. Also not pictured is a gigantic wooden sculpture on the right side of angels surrounding a cross. I would love to see inside the house for any further eccentricities.

Waiting long?

I don’t know what you think, but I think that pile of bones on the bench doesn’t help the local pizza joint’s reputation for slow service. Look at that guy, will you? He’s been waiting awhile for his delivery.

Joy of Christmas

I got paid $300 for my story on Christmas at the local jail by Guideposts Magazine. And three free copies arrived in the mail this week. I’m on my way to earning BIG bucks.

Jack-o’-lantern

My front porch has been sporting a stacked set of jack-o’-lanterns. I remember as a child carving real pumpkins for Halloween. I don’t think very many people do that anymore, but I can carry on with my lighted ceramic pumpkins to keep the tradition somewhat alive.

Big Hair

Yes, in the 80s I had big hair. And big glasses, too. Perms were in fashion, and I kept my locks curled and high on my head. I am not sure what looks more outgrown in this picture, the fern behind me or the mane on top my head. Fortunately, I now manage my hair in a neater fashion these days.

Five Things on Friday

Once again, it’s Friday. Since I am not putting in the effort today to write a longer post on one subject, I am offering up five short items. I hope you enjoy Five Things on Friday.

  1. Every morning I start the day with a cup of coffee. I drink one cup in my big Snoopy cup. I read a bit, pray a bit, then hit the Tammany Trace for a 45 minute bike ride. This morning, I couldn’t shake off the lethargy, even after the ride, so I decided I needed the big guns. Lucy. I filled her up with a second serving of Dark Roast Community Coffee brewed in my French press. Community Coffee by the way is the only brand of coffee suited for Cajuns. Now I can face the day, thanks to caffeine with attitude.
  2. Speaking of coffee, the small village of Abita Springs now has a coffee shop. At least it’s sort of a coffee shop. It’s a take out service from a retro trailer. I like the vibe. The only problem is that it rolls away in the afternoon. In the morning, I prefer my coffee home brewed. An afternoon cup to take from here and enjoy in the adjacent park would be nice. C’est la vie. Maybe the hours will expand as my fellow Abitians learn to enjoy the afternoon cup as much as the morning java.
  3. This morning I set up my new wireless ear buds. I don’t know why I didn’t buy this before. It’s so nice and freeing to listen to podcasts or music via these fancy ear thingies. I look forward to afternoon walks in our cooler air in October with the buds connected to my Apple watch. In the past, I have listened to podcasts when driving. My faves are Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! and Stuff You Missed in History Class. I need new material to enjoy while walking. Do you have a favorite podcast or playlist that you want to recommend?
  4. Since we are still in a limbo of sorts in regard to covid restrictions (Louisiana is now in Phase 3, whatever that means), I am limited in social events that are available. Most live music is a no-no, and festivals and fairs, so popular in Louisiana in the fall, largely have been cancelled. Therefore, I must entertain myself at home more than normal. I purchased this big baby from Amazon. It’s a toaster/convection oven/air fryer. Last night, I used the convection setting for sweet potato fries for the first use of the oven. Delish!
  5. Since we are in a bit of a limbo with social events restricted, I have been enjoying spending my evenings reading. The Abita Springs library is open for drive up service, so I have checked out a few things. Lately I have enjoyed Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea , and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I also borrowed a huge book, an encyclopedia of cooking from my mom’s library. This tome was published in 1947. I have enjoyed reading the old recipes and suggested menus. My favorite section thus far has been the chapter, Brains and Sweetbreads. There are two recipes for scrambled cow’s brains. Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

Five Things on Friday

It’s Friday. And it’s frighteningly hot today. September has brought snow to Colorado and fires to California but here in the deep South, summer heat continues unabated. No change since May. It’s just hot everyday. It’s too hot to concentrate on long posts, so i am going to write short snippets, five in number, for your reading pleasure. I took a drive around town, and I snapped a few pictures of things around Abita Springs, Louisiana, that I thought may interest you.

1. One of my favorite town landmarks is the gorilla that sits in front of a dentist’s office. For some unexplained reason, he wears a shirt advertising the local chiropractor, although he clearly is standing in front of the dentists’s office. Maybe tangling with a gorilla is more likely to cause back problems rather than dental work? I don’t know.

2. Many towns and neighborhoods sport tiny libraries. The idea is for patrons to enjoy books with the rule of take one, leave one. This box stands outside of the Abita Springs hotel. It’s a bit more decorative than most tiny libraries, I think.

3. On the outskirts of town there’s a highway heading toward the Mississippi state line. Along the way, there are several large estates, some of which come with signage. I have never seen the house called Beauregard, as the wooded driveway completely obscures the house. It might be fancy, or not. Who knows?

4. Next door to Beauregard, as you head back into town, there is Neau Regard. Again, one cannot see anything but a sign and a wooded drive leading to a home. Is the home worth no regard? I don’t know. Is the signage indicative that the estate is for a relative of Beauregard? Probably Neau Regard is the home of the black sheep of the family. There’ s no regard for such people, usually.

5. I know that I live amongst authentic and intelligent folk. What else could be the explanation for this excellently decorated home in Abita Springs. This home makes me happy every time I pass by.

That’s Friday five. Enjoy your weekend.

A Body of Faithful People

During the early days of Covid-19 when we were sheltering in place, I yearned for human connection. Rather than in-person visits, I had to be content with Facebook live stream or Zoom meetings with friends. I live alone so there wasn’t someone to share the space with me during the first days of the pandemic.

One thing I changed while sheltering in place was I decided to not return to the megachurch I was attending before Covid. I am back at my small, ragamuffin, frayed a bit on the edges church where I had been attending for several years prior to my megachurch experience. It just feels right. A smaller place has been good for me. On a good day, before Covid-19, the church averaged about 80 to 100 folks. Due to the whole pandemic thing, with state restrictions on sizes of gatherings and required face masks, we are lucky to have 20 or 30 souls on a given Sunday.

One good thing about a small church is that I can look into the eyes of my pastor when he speaks. At the megachurch, it was easier to stare at the big screens on each side of the stage. Conversely, the pastor can see me from his perch at the front of the building. Am I fading out? Am I reading stuff on my smartphone rather than listening intently. (Yeah, not a good habit, but occasionally I do this.)

Another good thing about a small church is that I know the names of the people in the room. All of them, or close to all of them, anyway. And they know my name. Like the old refrain from the TV show, Cheers, it’s good to be where everyone knows your name. If I miss a Sunday, somebody is bound to run into me during the week. That somebody is likely to ask why I wasn’t there. I don’t mind. I don’t feel like they are being nosy or judgmental. They just care about me.

That brings me to the meaning of the word, church. It derives from the Greek word, ekklesia, which means an assembly of called out ones. It can be also described as a body of faithful people. That’s what each one of us needs, a body of faithful people. A friend pointed out to me the meaning of ekklesia as a body of faithful people this weekend.

Your body of faithful people may or may not be a group that you see on Sunday in a church building. It may be a group of devoted friends and family that make up your particular “tribe.” They might be Catholic (big C), as in Roman Catholic or catholic (little c) meaning the church universal. Maybe your tribe doesn’t have a particular creed that you share in common. You may just be committed to each other, not necessarily to faith in God.

I often read that loneliness is one of the most common problems in our nation today. I think that finding an ekklesia, a body of faithful people, is something that can alleviate that sense of being alone. Loneliness is not just a problem for single people. For married or single people, or divorced or in a committed relationship, loneliness can be a scourge.

Personally, I believe that being part of a church is good for me. The God element is important to me as part of my community. I want to always stay in fellowship with other Christians. However way you do it, find your ekklesia, your group of faithful people.

On the Edge of the Storm

As I write, Hurricane Laura is wreaking devastation across southwestern Louisiana. The category 4 storm made landfall last night with winds higher than any storm in Louisiana in 164 years. I am far removed from the storm, living in southeast Louisiana, very near the Mississippi state line. Our weather has been limited to a rain shower or two, as we have seen just the extreme outer bands of the storm come through our area.

I am familiar with storms and hurricanes, living most of my life in southeast Louisiana. In particular, my life has been forever influenced by Hurricane Katrina. I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, during that storm 15 years ago. I will always live my life, as do countless others, as before Katrina/after Katrina. It was a seminal event.

Now, Hurricane Laura will punctuate the lives of residents of Cameron, Lake Charles, and other towns near the border of Louisiana and Texas. A storm of this size and intensity will forever change the topography and the shape of the communities. I recall a friend who had a large beachside vacation home in coastal Mississippi. The entire building disappeared after Katrina, leaving only posts standing tall and alone along the coastline.

Hurricane Laura will change and take lives. I recall after Katrina speaking to a man who was left homeless after the storm. He had stayed in the city for the storm. He had tried to leave his home to join a neighbor across the street after the storm had done its worst, or so he thought. As he tried to walk in knee-deep water, he reached the end of his driveway to discover the water had risen to waist deep and higher, so he clung to his mailbox, hoping to not be dragged away in the waters. Luckily, a neighbor saw him, and eventually, he was reached by someone in a boat who rescued him. His house was completely ruined by the high waters.

I hope that residents of western Louisiana remembered to take pictures or videos of their homes and neighborhoods before they evacuated. For many residents, their homes, place of businesses and other landmarks will be gone or radically altered by Hurricane Laura. I hope they find community and hope in the goodwill of their neighbors, family and volunteers as they return. I know I was encouraged by the outpouring of support from people in my neighborhood, my church, and from volunteers across the nation who helped us after Hurricane Katrina had decimated the city and the surrounding communities.

Friday Shorts

Back when blogs were popular, back when I lived in Honduras, back when I published lots of posts, I used to have a regular Friday post called Friday Fragments which were short items about various topics. I linked to a now extinct blog by a friend who hosted a link for other bloggers to publish their Friday Fragments. Today’s items are just short items I felt like writing about.

Do you want to buy a church? There’s one for sale in Abita Springs. I don’t know the whole story, but I read that the pastor AND the congregation of 80 or so persons have moved, so this building is for sale. Sounds a bit cult-like to me, doesn’t it? The entire congregation is moving. Who does that? This church was originally located in eastern Canada, and the pastor had it shipped in pieces down to Louisiana, then reconstructed on the outskirts of Abita Springs. Anyway, the church and the adjacent day-care center are up for grabs if anyone wants it. I like the idea of making it into a restaurant, as happens every now and then with old churches.

Weather is strange at times isn’t it? Well, the weather around here is REALLY strange this time. Early next week there most likely will be 2 named storms in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time. That would be a first. Of course, it’s 2020, so what’s so strange about two hurricanes blasting away at the same time? What area is right in between the cones? Well, none other than New Orleans, Louisiana.

Have you heard of Noom? I’m using this weight loss program to lose weight. It’s a psychology based approach to losing weight. All of the stuff is on the app. I like it. The food diary is easy to use and automatically subtracts calories from your daily allowance. There are behavioral lessons of about 10 minutes each day. Each week there’s a personal coach who interacts with me via the app to guide me. Thus far, I’ve lost 15 lbs. since starting to use the app 60 days ago. Go Noom! Go me!

Did I mention that I have been married before? I found my wedding picture while scanning old photographs from my mother’s collection. I don’t remember marrying my older sister, but the evidence shows it to be true. I don’t remember who was the officiant, perhaps my other sister? My sister remarried as an adult, to a man. I haven’t remarried.

Well, that’s enough short items for today. Enjoy your weekend. Next post may be about the convergence of two hurricanes along the Louisiana coast. I hope not, but who knows. Now I’m on my way to Walmart to stock up on hurricane provisions. At the very least, it’s going to be wet next week.

Winebibber or Teetotaler?

I came across this photo while scanning family pictures for my mother. She’s planning to move to a smaller place in a retirement center. I agreed to scan or store some of her photo boxes and albums in order to help minimize her belongings.

I recall the circumstances surrounding this photograph. I was maybe 11 years old. My sisters and I were confined to the kitchen while my parents were entertaining in the dining room. We each were allowed a glass of wine. Unbeknownst to me, my sisters were adding more wine to my one allowed glass every time I put the glass down to attend to a pile of mounting dishes. I got a bit tipsy, or as the saying goes now, I was lit. I never finished the glass as I recall as my sisters finally let me in on the gag before I got fully intoxicated.

I have never been a winebibber, or one who drinks to excess. Not in my childhood, nor teen years, nor adult years. Nor have I gone long periods with being a teetotaler. I did abstain during a brief time of fervent fundamentalism, but that was just a phase. I think a major reason that I avoided the extremes is because of the healthy attitude toward drink that was displayed by my parents. They didn’t drink to excess. Mostly, a drink or two was enjoyed at social occasions. It wasn’t a daily habit.

That’s my attitude towards alcohol today. I rarely drink, partaking maybe once or twice a month. I have had the same four pack of single-serve wines in the refrigerator for a couple of months. The same goes for the Abita Springs Strawberry Ale sitting next to the carton of milk. I haven’t felt the need to assuage any feelings of stress during the pandemic with copious or even moderate levels of alcohol. It’s just not part of my psyche, I guess.

I can look back with a grateful heart that I had parents who were rational in their attitude towards drink. We were permitted to drink at celebrations as youngsters. No one overindulged. It was often just a celebratory drink now and then in our house.

The time pictured in the above image is one of the few times in my life when I have been guilty of overindulgence. Of course, it wasn’t my fault. I was being challenged to finish off a glass of wine that I didn’t know was, essentially, bottomless. Only when the gag reached a point where it could have been excessive was the gag revealed. I hope to stay the course the rest of my life as neither a winebibber or a teetotaler.

They Will Know We Are Christians

This weekend I attended church via Facebook Live. Our church will start in person services next week. One of the songs played was a folk song created in the 1960s by Father Peter Sholtes. The song is called, “They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love.”

While humming this tune this morning, I reflected on that song and what it means. What does the word, Christian, conjure up in people’s minds today, especially in the United States? Does it mean I am a Republican? Or does it mean I am pro-life? Does it mean that I oppose gay marriage?

None of these sentiments express love. They are cultural issues, not necessarily spiritual ones. I am a Christian because I love God and I love others. That’s it. No other requirements.

The ideal to love is all I need. I can mess up because love covers a multitude of sins. I fall short so often of what I think a Christ follower should be. But to be labeled as a Christian by Jesus I have to love, not fret about my shortcomings.

I can love Democrats and Republicans, because love isn’t about political parties. I can love someone who supports abortion because, again, it’s about love, not the hot-button topic of the day.

I can love gays.

Jesus didn’t ask me to choose sides. He doesn’t require that I support Donald Trump. Or support Joe Biden. It’s not about that.

It’s about love.

Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Shake Off That Snake

This morning I woke up very early. It was nearly dawn, right before six. The sky was grey. And then, while drinking my second cup of coffee, it became apparent that the sun was breaking through. For the first time in days, we had a clear morning. We’ve had daily, nearly constant rain for five days as the outer bands from Hurricane Hanna plagued us.

I knew what I needed to do. I needed to jump on my bike and get in an early morning ride. It would be the first morning in days I could get outside for exercise.

I didn’t want to do it. I was sorely tempted to fritter another hour reading the news online. Or, maybe even catch a few more winks. Then I watched a short video clip online from Christine Caine, an evangelist.

She had a plastic snake on her wrist. She threw it off behind her, just as the Apostle Paul did in the book of Acts. He was shipwrecked on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean when a viper attached himself to Paul’s arm. The Bible says that Paul shook off the snake, and he didn’t suffer any ill effects from the poisonous viper.

Paul then went on to the governor’s house, prayed for the governor’s sick father, who was then healed. While on the island of Malta, Paul healed many who were sick. There was revival in Malta. All because Paul shook off that snake.

So I got up and threw off the snake of lethargy. I threw off cynicism. The pounds aren’t melting off as fast as I want but it’s not time to throw in the towel. Not quite yet.

I biked about 40 minutes for 6 miles. Not a record. Not the best I’ve done. But it was enough to get my body moving and sweating. Because I live in Louisiana, and it was nearly 100% humidity this morning, I was soaking with sweat when I stepped off the bike. It was worth it.

I have a long way to go to get back to a normal weight again. But I’m not giving up, yet. I will throw off a snake or two if I have to, but I will keep reaching for the goal.

By the way, I hate snakes. I don’t know if I would have done the same as Paul. I probably would have jumped around, screaming, and shaking a bit too. I probably would have listened to the natives in the book of Acts who thought the snake bite was divine punishment. I am not St. Paul who did many miracles in Jesus’ name. But I can get out of bed and cycle off a few pounds.