My grandmother, Beatrice Alexander Simmons, was born April 29, 1908 or “ought eight” as she would say. Though I was blessed to know both of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers, Grandma Bea was the one I spent the most time with since she moved to CA in ’49 and remained there until her death in 2000. I grew up with her and returned to live with her several times after my wanderings to other parts of the country.
The Bible admonishes us many times to stop worrying about the little details of life. My favorite is the blunt statement made by Jesus in Luke 12:25-26: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Good point. If I can’t control one aspect of my life, why worry about any of it?
Ah…therein lies the dilemma.
I am by nature a planner, preparer, and preventer. I keep a mental list of things I want to do in the coming weeks and months and years. Of course I have to be flexible and adapt it to events as they actually transpire, but I still know that I want to complete the book I’m currently researching, improve my garden, improve my health, retire, travel, photograph nature, learn to paint, etc. I keep a little money in savings and some food in the pantry and never let my gas tank fall below a quarter of a tank. I take my vitamins, get regular checkups and try to eat wisely. We all know I’m a little lacking in the exercise department, but I make an effort to walk a bit. So my life is basically structured and secure and somewhat predictable…except when it is NOT.
We have all experienced the unexpected in our lives because let’s face it …most of life’s events are not really within our control, no matter how much we may think to the contrary. We react and respond and adapt and adjust to the weather, to how we feel, to events, and to the people we encounter. How many times a day do you think “Well that was strange.” or “I didn’t think she would say that!” or “Look at that!” or “Why is that hurting now?” or “People are so stupid!” I had to throw in that last one because of something a mom did at Walmart yesterday.
I don’t think Jesus was saying that we shouldn’t have a plan or try to organize our lives in some way. But there is a fine line between planning, hoping, and even praying for something to happen and being worried, fearful, and apprehensive about it. Planning and hoping tend to be energizing and give us the motivation to do something, while worry and fear can be so paralyzing that we do nothing at all for fear of doing the wrong thing.
Also, the Bible tells us over and over again that man may make plans, but they can never oppose the plans the Lord has made for us. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” Proverbs 21:30. And we can’t hide our plans from the Lord or ask his blessings on plans that contradict His teachings. We sometimes think we are “getting by”, but God eventually shows us the error of our ways. Good or bad, if our plans aren’t in line with those of God, I believe we either change them or we suffer the consequences. Sometimes those consequences are discipline and even punishment, but sometimes the consequences are just missing out on wonderful opportunities for growth and change and joy. There are a dozen elements of my life that have changed in just the past ten years that were not part of my plans, yet I can’t imagine being happy now without them.
I guess my point this morning is that we all need to feel somewhat in control of our lives, while accepting that complete control is not ours to claim. We need to plan ahead so we can feel safe and secure and happy, but we also need to be willing to take life one day at a time and see what the Lord has in store for us.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Yesterday’s rant about texting made me think about why we have laws at all. As someone pointed out, no matter what issue the law addresses, someone is going to break it. Studies show that the majority of people who obey the laws of the land do so because of ethical and moral beliefs, not necessarily because of their support of the law or their fear of the consequences of disobedience. Adults are just bigger versions of the children in my classroom. Those who believe in following rules and respect authority and generally behave because it feels good will do so even when no one is watching. Those who don’t follow the rules will misbehave the moment my eyes look away.
If all of that is true, there must be some basic principle that determines what needs to be controlled by laws. Here is a recap of what I found:
1. The Harm Principle
These laws are written to protect people from being harmed by others. Laws against violent crime and property crime fall into this category. Without these basic laws, our society would turn into the ultimate “survivor” scenario- the rule of the strong and violent over the weak and nonviolent.
2. The Parental Principle
In addition to laws intended to discourage people from harming each other, some laws are written to protect us from ourselves. These laws include those banning use and possession of certain drugs and other actions that are dangerous to our health and safety.
3. The Morality Principle
Some laws are based not strictly on safety issues, but also on promoting the personal morality of the law's authors. These laws are usually, but not always, grounded in religious belief. Historically, most of these laws have something to do with sex or prejudice.
4. The Donation Principle
All governments have laws granting goods or services to some segment of its population. These laws are often used to control behavior, and can give some people, groups, or organizations unfair advantages over others. Laws promoting specific religious beliefs, for example, are gifts that governments extend to religious groups in hopes of gaining their support.
5. The Statist Principle
These laws are intended to protect the government from harm or to increase its power. They include laws against treason and espionage and laws restricting actions against the government such as flag burning or desecration of other government symbols.
Behave out there today!
Seriously???? Oklahoma has once again failed to pass a ban on texting while driving?? Why???
I can’t even count the number of times I have looked in my rear view mirror and seen someone approaching closer and closer to my truck while looking down at their phone.
I can’t even count the number of times the vehicle ahead of me has swerved over the yellow line because the driver was texting while driving.
I CAN count the number of times I have had to slam on my brakes to avoid being hit by someone who ran a stop sign while texting!!!
I CAN count the times I have watched a driver text, drive, and eat or smoke- all at the same time!
How many things can you attempt to do with two hands and one brain?
I don’t care if you think you are the best “multi-tasker” in the world- please don’t risk my life to prove it!
Don’t wait for it to be against the law…put down that phone and just drive!
I went to a meeting of the Caddo Education Foundation last night and was once again appalled by the poor attendance. I know people are busy, but I also know that we tend to make time for the activities that are important to us. Apparently there aren’t many people left in our little community who value the education of our children! Oh, that sounds harsh and judgmental. I didn’t even attend the last meeting because I got the date confused and marked it on the calendar incorrectly. However, I’ve been to enough of the meetings in the past to know that poor attendance has always been a problem and that having enough warm bodies for a quorum is rare. I’ve been to enough of the other civic meetings in Caddo to know there is a general “let someone else do it” attitude that is pervasive and destructive.
My kindergarten students are great at promising me they will behave and prove to me that they know our school rules. They brag at breakfast about what a great day they are going to have and how much work they are going to do. Some talk about the stickers they will earn for the day. But when they start talking in class later and bothering their classmates and running in the hall and fail to do their daily work, I have to remind them that talk is cheap. When I ask them if they know what they should have done, their answer is always affirmative and my reply is always “your behavior shows me otherwise”.
My response to adults who tell me that education and community improvements are important to them is pretty much the same as my response to my students. Don’t tell me, show me.
Years ago I went to a “town hall” meeting that was called in Caddo to discuss community problems and solutions. Officials from the state and from other communities offered ideas about soliciting tourists, making improvements in community government, beatification and other topics of interest. The room was packed, practically standing room only, for the first meeting and the two subsequent ones. A group of concerned citizens allied to work on specific issues. Within a year that group had split into two groups over “vision differences”. Two years later only one group remained and had dwindled in numbers to about ten people. They managed to continue working for several years and make some major differences in the community, but it was a struggle with so few members actively taking part.
I know people are busy with work and home and church and family, in whatever order you care to prioritize. But we also have to remember that the very foundation of where we work and worship is our community, and our children and their children will reap the consequences of what we do here, now, today, not later “when we find the time”. Community work, club work, committees, and civic duties often seem like one more burden and personality conflicts abound in groups. We don’t want to voluntarily take on more stress! But there is also strength in numbers, creativity in group thinking, and pride in a job well done, especially one that benefits others.
Recent events have shown that people have time and money to give others. Tragedies prompt us to take stock and make sacrifices. We see our blessings for what they are and we suddenly want to share them with those who are less fortunate. Yet, I have to ask why it is necessary for us to experience a disaster before we are awakened from our lethargy. There are opportunities in every community to make a difference every day in the life of someone in need. There are opportunities to build up our communities instead of complaining about their shortcomings. There are opportunities to join with others to make the future better for everyone!
Our hearts and minds have been mesmerized by the events in Boston this week. Big disasters garner big reactions from the public. The suddenness and the scale of the tragedy have at times felt overwhelming. The press has given us more than enough images and details of the horrendous actions of the two evil men accused of planning this monstrous act. One is dead and can’t tell his story. But we celebrate the capture of the other one and pray that he will provide information that will answer the burning question of “Why?” While we wait there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people involved in dealing with the aftermath of those brief moments of violence. There has been an outpouring of prayers and both emotional and financial support for the victims and their families. Lives have been changed forever and now the difficult task of moving ahead begins.
We point to events such as this as evidence that evil exists in the world. But we don’t need images of massive carnage to prove our case. We need only look inside the home of a young Chicago couple. Last week they beat their one-year-old son to death with a belt. One held his mouth shut so his screams would not alert his grandmother in a nearby apartment and the other hit him repeatedly with the belt until he was unconscious. Then they left him on the floor to die. They later concocted the story that he had been abducted, forced their four-year-old to memorize the lie, and disposed of his body in the river. That is evil and insanity and tragedy. Yet few people know anything about the death of this young child, nor will they ever hear about it.
My point this morning is that evil has always existed. It exists today in our own neighborhoods. We must be careful not to wait for the next big event before we take action against it. We must not overlook the people all around us who are suffering silently or dying quietly.
And we must not be fearful of living our lives with love and faith and hope…even when evil temporarily seems overwhelming.
Do not fret because of evil men
Or be envious of the wicked,
For the evil man has no future hope,
And the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.
I spent a lot of time in the gardens of my great-grandmother, and my grandparents. I often wondered why they seemed so happy to be outside. After all they were working! I just didn’t get it. All that hoeing and watering and weeding and harvesting…with a smile on their face.
Now I completely understand.
There is nothing better than knowing I have time to be outside in the garden this weekend…except perhaps to know that in a few weeks I can spend a part of every day there!