Pieces of My Culture

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A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

“I get so frustrated when I talk to people and they say, I don’t have a culture. And it’s mostly white people who say it. And I say, that’s bull, of course you have a culture, where did you grow up? Who’d you talk to? What’d you do? What was your thing? What was your family’s thing? Where’d your family come from?” – – Rhiannon Giddens

I was born in Athens, Georgia, and thus by natural inheritance will always be a Bulldog. Not that I’m an over-the-top fan of any football, but it’s part of my culture. I grew up knowing what red and black were for. My parents met in Athens, where they were both living in the first government housing built in the town. My Dad lost his father when he was four, and Mom’s dad abandoned the family when she was a baby, so they were both raised by mothers who had to work hard all their lives. I never knew my dad’s mom, who died before I was born. But, my Mamaw Bryan was always a sweet, white-haired, lilac dressed Grandma who treated us to Coca-Cola in jeweled colored metal cups and cooked up wonderful fried chicken in her little apartment.

I’m sure being raised without fathers played a part in my mom always being home with us while Dad worked hard to provide. We never lacked for anything, but I have no doubt my parents were on a tight budget. Mom made some of my clothes and we ate a lot of beans, but I never worried about where my next meal was coming from. I learned to save what money I had to purchase what I wanted, like a ten-speed bike and my first stereo.

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We moved to Jacksonville, Florida, via Montgomery and Ft. Lauderdale, when I was six. I grew up there in the same house until I married. The Georgia Bulldog devotion stayed with our family, especially due to the Georgia-Florida game played each year in Jacksonville. My life revolved around school, church, and neighborhood. We saw Mamaw and our Georgia cousins once or twice a year. The extended family loved to visit us, partly because of our proximity to the ocean. We were less than 30 minutes from the beach and that was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. Flip-flops, body surfing, driving on the beach and listening to WAPE radio are all cherished memories that fashioned a part of me.

This was all background, though. It helped shape me, but there is much more to culture. There are also beliefs. When I was ten years old I came face to face with my sinful state and knew I needed a Savior. I went to my mom, who sat me down in the kitchen and gently answered my questions. I was soon after baptized and spent the next seven years or so with a group of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch. Our world was one of church picnics, choir trips, “rolling” each other’s homes with toilet paper and “dinner on the grounds”. I am forever grateful for those gentle times of growing up feeling safe and secure.

Jacksonville was a last-holdout to racial integration. This affected me in numerous ways. My parents would always claim not to be prejudiced, but they yanked me out of public school the year that desegregation was finally enforced. Yes, it was a tumultuous time and I would not have wanted to be bussed across town, but I actually was anyway, for a year, to a private school. By 10th grade I was back in my local high school, and had my first real encounter with a different race. I never told my parents that I actually made friends with some black students. In my house the “N” word was common; even my brothers and I called each other that when we were mad, much to my shame and regret.

Music is a big component of every culture. In elementary school we sang “Found a Peanut” and “Billy Boy” along with learning all the military branch songs; I still remember ““Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, and the Caissons go rolling along.” I grew up on the Beatles, KC and the Sunshine Band, and “The Church in the Wildwood”. My first concerts were the Dooobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. I never learned to play a musical instrument, but from the time I got my first transistor radio music has been a part of my life.

I imagine it might take a whole book, and perhaps a quilt maker, to piece together all that is my culture. It’s southern, middle class, and pretty white. It’s sprinkled with ya’ll and yes ma’am and grits. Casseroles are the preface and postlude of every funeral; July 4th and New Year’s Eve bring reason to shoot off tons of fireworks; “Merry Christmas” still abounds as the go-to December greeting.

In reflecting on the elements that shaped me, I hope that I have passed down all the good parts of my culture, and let go of the parts that needed to be left behind.

 

(originally posted Dec. 2015)

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Adventures in Subbing #3

 

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On the other hand he tried to point out her that she shouldn’t give money to the beggars in the street, as they’d only buy schnapps with it. But she kept doing it.

“They can do what they like with the money,” she said.

When Ove protested she just smiled and took his big hands in hers and kissed them, explaining that when a person gives to another person it’s not just the receiver who’s blessed. It’s the giver. – from A Man Called Ove  

Earlier this year I gave a writing prompt to some fourth graders. They had been focused that day on the character trait of “caring”, so I told them to pretend I’d given them $100. But, the catch was they had to give it to someone in need or a charity. Some of the students shared what they had written, and one young boy reminded me of Ove, and of myself in days past. He told of giving to the homeless, but also went on to say some of them would not use the money for food like they should. I remember grappling with this same issue years ago. I now believe that if I give money, it’s between them and the Lord what they do with it. I am not to be the judge.

A few other responses touched my heart from those students. Like the girl who said she would give it to her mother so they could move out of her grandma’s house and get their own home.

The past few years I have learned to give anonymously. Though I long to see the joy on a child’s face on Christmas, I am happy knowing I made it possible for someone. And when I don’t know someone well enough to seek them out for a hug in times of grief or crisis, I can ask God to bless the little I can give, and to send comfort along with it.

(edited/reposted)

 

The Cadence of Scripture

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“How many of us, the South’s writers-to-be of my generation, were blessed in one way or another, if not blessed alike, in not having gone deprived of the King James Version of the Bible. Its cadence entered into our ears and our memories for good. The evidence, or the ghost of it, lingers in all our books. ‘In the beginning was the Word’. “  ~ Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

 

While her understanding of John 1:1 is flawed, I find it interesting and sad that this cadence is no longer a part of the lives of children in our country. According to the Shelby Baptist Association, Shelby County is the most unchurched county in Alabama. David Olsen, in his book The American Church in Crisis , states that only 16.4 percent  of the population in Shelby County attends church on a regular basis.

Though I grew up in church and became a Christian at an early age, I am ashamed at how sorely lacking I am in having memorized scripture. Or in having memorized much of anything. I have snatches of verses in my heart and in my head, but I can’t tell you the reference for the majority of them. Growing up in public schools for the most part, I didn’t memorize scripture until seventh grade when, at a Christian school, we were required to recite chapters. Fortunately we were given numerous chances, reciting in chunks, until we got through the entire passage. Sadly, I was always one of the last to complete the requirement. Years later, after listening to the Guess Who’s song, Hang On To Your Life, numerous times throughout my teens,  I read Psalms 22:13-15  as an adult and made the connection between the words spoken in the song and the verse in the Bible:

 

They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

This is all just food for thought – I don’t really have a conclusion.

 

 

On Being Colorblind

I originally wrote this a year ago on my other blog, which I am phasing out. Nothing much has changed; well, things may be worse than they were a year ago when it comes to race issues.

From discussions at church, to social media, to radio, to conversations with my husband, the topic of race and racism has permeated the dialogue.  One word that I’ve heard that I just can’t quite wrap my head around is “colorblind”. I think I know what people mean when they say they are colorblind, but it doesn’t ring true to me. I believe they are truly wanting to be colorblind in their hearts, but the bottom line is we ARE different hues.

Being colorblind robs us of the wonderful differences God intended. I have two brothers and a cousin who are colorblind and I know a little about what they have missed over the years. My younger brother, who unknowingly wore purple pants as a teen when he thought they were blue, and my older brother who asked for a lot of color-matching fashion advice, have never seen how colorful they really are.

“The solution is not to pretend there is no skin color (that is dishonoring)” – George Robertson

The closest thing I’ve seen to colorblindness of the heart is watching some of my students over the years. Maybe it’s because they have somehow remained untainted by the bias and preconceptions of previous generations.

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What I think needs to happen is to remove the pride and prejudice of color and keep the beauty. Easier said than done, I know. But, we need to be careful not to fool ourselves into believing there is no difference in people of different skin colors. In many cases there is a cultural difference.  Jesus recognized this in his conversation with the Samaritan woman. He knew she was of a different ethnicity, and yet He pursued her and quickly turned the conversation to the condition of her soul.

This is where our hearts need to go. The bottom line is that racism is a sin problem.  It’s a heart problem.

Wait Silently

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To look for community instead of cocktail-party relationships is part of choosing sides in the vast, strange battle. To say, “I’m sorry”; to be silent; to say “I love you,” “I care.” It is these little things that are going to make the difference. For God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, the weak to overthrow the strong.

– The Irrational Season (1977) by Madeleine L’Engle

 

I’ve written about this before, I’m sure; I am writing to myself again. I long for community, real and true. I think I’m settling for cocktail-party relationships via social media. I see the words “I love you”, “I care” “praying” all over facebook, but what does it really mean? Is it so others can see you are so concerned? To do so in person is another kettle of fish all together.

 

It is not easy to say I’m sorry, especially I’m sorry without a but after it. However, it’s often too easy to say I love you  – love ya – as an alternate to see ya later. Said too easily and it looses its meaning. Saying I care may be harder; harder still to show you care in a tangible may.

 

But the hardest may be to be silent. Silent when you want to scream or cry or yell or explain or accuse or complain.

 

My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. – Psalm 62:5

 

Help me, LORD, to be silent. To show love and care.  To pray.

Scripture floating around

“I felt that so much Scripture floating around might tend to harden some hearts, that Scripture should be treated with reverence and not pasted to any flat surface you could find- at least, that was what I said when Brethren asked why I didn’t carry a ‘The Peace of God Passeth All Understanding’ bookbag to school. “

                                                   – Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor

 

I see scripture  misplaced/misused all over, but most noticeably on T-shirts, like this one…

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or this one…

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Then there are the comments and catch phrases.

As Matt Redmond pointed out on twitter,  the phrase “a God Thing” is just so wrong.

A few more:

  • Do your Best, and God will do the Rest!
  • How will you spend eternity, Smoking or non smoking?   (this one is just so sad)
  •  WARNING! Exposure to the Son may prevent burning. (ditto)

 

A better idea would be to follow Psalm 119:11 –

 

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

 

 

 

 

Kinder Than You Feel

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Today began after a rough night. We finally were approved as foster parents and had our first respite care experience this weekend.  Though we had indicated we wanted 5-12 year olds, this was a four-year old little girl, and I felt my age on numerous occasions over the course of the days she was with us. Last night, a knock at the door woke me at 12am., and I spent the rest of the night being assailed by arms and legs and an occasional head. Not to mention the snoring, and yes a four year old with allergies can snore.

I took a peek at Instagram as I was waiting for my coffee and saw these words from another foster mom:

Always be kinder than you feel.

When I got in my car to head to work, I heard about the shooting in Las Vegas. Then later I heard about Tom Petty. After I got home I saw this charge from  fellow Tweeter Joe Pug: “If you’re a songwriter, the best way to honor Tom Petty’s beautiful life and work is to write a song tonight. Start to finish.” Well, I can’t write the music but I did attempt the words. Thinking about foster care, Las Vegas, and Tom Petty, here are my lyrics waiting for a tune.

 

Kinder Than You Feel

 

Woke up this pre-dawn morning glory

Tired from life, I heard the story

Tired from living

Tired from giving

Always be kinder than you feel

 

Woke up to gray sky before the sun

Tired from living but not undone

Time for forgiving

Time for thanksgiving

Always be kinder than you feel

 

Early morning, it doesn’t make sense

What’s past still feels like present sense

Working my way through

Working past that blue

Always be kinder than you feel

 

Chorus:

Always be kinder than you feel

Kindness is what it takes to heal

Kindness is that one true ideal

You can’t borrow, you can’t steal