Friday, September 28, 2012

WHERE NEVER IS HEARD A DISCOURAGING WORD

Sometimes I talk to myself. I might say, "Now when you see so-and-so be sure not to mention her recent weight gain. You know it's a sensitive subject." But then I find myself saying something like, "Hi Margie! Good to see you around. Well, I don't mean aROUND. I mean here. Back at church." Then I wonder why she misses the next few Sundays. Maybe that's why they have me playing piano rather than be a greeter.

I can relate to Uncle Buck in the first minute of this scene:

Doug came home once warning me about a funeral, "The family is upset because the father's body doesn't look good even though the funeral home tried. They still decided to have an open casket."

I went to the viewing and told myself, "Whatever you say, don't mention how their father looks." I spoke to each family member in the line:

"I'm so sorry to hear of your loss."
"We've been praying for you."
"Let us know if we can do anything."
"He'll be missed."

I tried not to sound repetitive but by the time I reached his son, a good friend from church, I heard my voice say the one thing I'd told myself NOT to say:
"He looks good."

Immediately Jack said, "No, he doesn't!" He looked at me as
if I was either crazy or blind.

Panicked I ran the spiel of dittos trying to cover my faus pax, "I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, we've been praying, let us know if we can do anything, he'll be missed. . ."
Just shut up, Kathy! Just slither away!

I've even done it without saying a word. I just laughed inappropriately.

A new couple came to church and she played violin beautifully with our praise band. The next week after service she introduced me to her husband. We smiled, shook hands and I innocently asked, "And where do you work, Tom?"

He stammered, "I-I-I-I'm a sp-sp-speech therapist at East C-C-Carolina University."

I thought he was joking so I laughed hysterically. He merely smiled, the same smile as moments before our meeting. He's not joking.

Now it's even harder to retract a laugh than spoken words. The ring just lingers in the air, even as your smile shrinks!

A friend recently reminded me, "I've never regretted anything I didn't say."

I'm learning. I'm learning.

I truly am an encourager. . .usually!

Friday, September 21, 2012

DID HE SAY THE FALLS?

Family stories. Every clan has them and the retelling just snowballs the fun.

The Tippetts spent summer vacation week together and usually went to my Uncle Bill's beach house at Emerald Isle, NC. One year, however, before that became the tradition, we went to the mountains. Tommy Birch was a college professor but also a builder and property developer. He built his own retirement home, Birches' Perch, in the NC mountains near Fontana Dam. He developed a beautiful valley with rentals. So we rented one of the large houses in his Tobacco Branch Village (good ol' Tarheel name for the hilly haven.)

Knowing there was white water rafting nearby, we borrowed a 5-man raft. My brothers, Bert and Ricky, Doug and I were the only brave souls to climb aboard. Our conquest was the Nantahala River! Back then the sport was not so common and our knowledge was limited. Few places were open to the public. Today this same river is cluttered with water sport businesses.

My sisters-in-law, Dianne and Gwen, volunteered, "We'll drive you and the raft up river to put in where the dam water releases. Then we'll follow along on the road, watching til you reach the end." Wise women. Wiser than the four inexperienced fools in the raft.

"How hard can it be?" one of us chirped, climbing in, oars in hand. We sat down, pushed off and began to float downstream.

"This is a cinch!" another novice bragged, as we waved to our lady spotters now heading to the safety of their car.

It was beautiful drifting slowing on the clear, cold water. The trees on both banks waved and cheered us on. We laughed that sibling laugh that only DNA harmonizes into musical joy!

"Ahhhhh!"

"Ahhhhh!"

"OUCH!"

I don't recall whose ahhhh morped into the first of many ouches but soon our quartet of giggles and ahhhs became loud, excruciating cries of pain. Our bottoms were firmly planted in the bottom of the raft. In shallow water we felt every pointed rock targeting our derrieres.

Bert, the smart one, first rose to his knees. . .smaller targets. Should help. So we all assumed the praying position, oars still flailing pointlessly.

"Owwww! That's worse. My knees have no fat cushions!" I exclaimed. I'm the expert on the obvious. Soon we all got the point with our knobby knees.  Literally!

Doug, the creative one, whipped off his white crew socks, tied one around each knee. Voila! Soon we all donned instant, innovative knee pads. Things were better and we felt quite proud of our ingenuity. OK, so it was Doug's ingenuity.

Until another 5-man raft overtook us. They perched proudly with their posteriors on their pontoons, feet firmly planted in the bottom of the raft. They passed us, looking down on us literally and figuratively.

Simultaneously we noticed. FEET firmly planted on the BOTTOM! Not bottoms on the bottom.

"Oh. You're supposed to sit on the sides," we whimpered. We rose in tandem from the pain pit to the pontoons.

"Ahhhhhh!"

"Ahhhhhh!"

"Ahhhhhh!"

"Ahhhhhh!"

Life was good again.

Learning curves, often painful, are worth it. Sometimes the white water moved swiftly. We bounced along, navigating boulders. Doug was the rudder man in back and Ricky was in front calling out what was ahead. I tried to look relevant from the side, mirroring whatever Bert did with his oar. We got pretty good! We bobbed along, avoided the big rocks. The white water became calm at times so we rowed merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily (there were four of us) gently down the stream.

Now and then we'd hear from the high bank near the road, "Yoooo hoooooo! How's it going?" Concerned wives relaxed at each interception, seeing how well we were learning.

Admittedly, the boys and I became a bit cocky, kinda like Barney Fife. Our confidence exceeded our competence, however, when two smart-aleck kayakers passed us, yakking to each other, "OK. Just ahead are the falls!"

They disappeared. We quit rowing but kept forging ahead into rapidly flowing white water.

"The falls? The falls? Did he say the FALLS?"

That's when we discovered reverse raft rowing. We discovered. . .there IS no such thing!

We pictured Niagara Falls just around the bend.

The bend. Might be better we NOT see where we're about to die.

We braced ourselves, best you can in a seatless, beltless rubber tub cascading toward the Grim Reaper.

It was over in mere seconds. They seemed like hours! The falls turned out to be a rather gentle 3 foot drop.

Wives smiled and cheered us to the finish line. Our shrill cries went from terror to the thrill of victory in one breath. We smiled back, trying to appear brave.

Other years followed. Smoother sailing evolved. But we never had more fun than that first run! Never had more fear either! I think fun and fear are first cousins.

Here's our youth group on the terrorizing falls years later.


Below Doug and I once again navigate the now familiar river with our nephew, Brian Tippett (Bert's son.)  Christian Powell and Judy Bell Worthington from the youth group paddle on their right side. 
 

Kimberly, our first born, maneuvers front right fearlessly,
unlike her parents on their first run!

I like to think of our generation as pioneers who braved the new world for our offspring to enjoy. I like to THINK that. Family stories can take Barney Fifes and carve them into Christopher Columbi! (Well,it should have a plural form!)

Sometimes we grow older precisely because we grow wiser!

Riding safely from my recliner,
Kathy


Friday, September 14, 2012

I WAS WRONG

"I was wrong."


Why are those three words so hard to say?  It's so easy, especially as parents rearing children, to point out their wrong.  Likewise, seeing fault in your spouse or blaming your boss or a friend is easy.

I admit this is a personal struggle for me too.  Why?  As I examined it in my own life, it came down to several things.


  • PRIDE
Pride prevents me from admitting I was wrong.  Of course we all want to be and do right.  But, hey!  We're all human.  We WILL be wrong and do wrong.  As I learn to accept and admit it, my weakness opens the door to humility. We have nothing to prove to a God Who loves unconditionally.  Oh, that we could love that way.  Only through Him! 


  • CONTROL
The desire to be in control thwarts those words, "I was wrong."  That power struggle goes all the way back to Eden and weaves through all humanity.  It's especially part of the DNA of us Type A personalities!   Yet when life or events get out of control, we're more likely to admit our own flaws and turn to God to find help or meaningful purpose.  Tough circumstances may force those words from our lips.


  • SELFISHNESS
Sometimes it simply stems from wanting our own way.  I remember this all the way back to my childhood.  As toddlers, our first words are, "No!  Mine!  I want. . ."  Unchecked, this attitude carries over in the adult world.  It can even plunge families into debt or divorce.


~     ~     ~



When I look at that list, one word sums it up--childishness.  It's hard to even admit that to you here.  I'd far rather believe I'm mature.  But God calls on me to be childlike, rather than childish.  What's the difference?

Childlike means:


  • HUMBLE
Children submit to authority, sometimes even willingly!  They may not understand the whys but know and trust the love or wisdom behind a parent, teacher or cop.


  • TEACHABLE
Children realize they have much to learn.  They don't claim to be the final authority.  Their minds are open and receptive like little sponges.  "As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee."  Maybe David was a man after God's own heart because he continued to learn, even as a king.


  •  GIVING
This goes beyond knowledge and into action.  Yes, children can be selfish but they can also be very generous and sensitive to others.  At those sharing times, being right or in control disappears from their radar.  They simply give.


"Lord, I'm so thankful for Your patience with me.  You never give up on me.  Your fresh mercies rescue me daily.  Help me to extend that same grace to others.  As You reveal my own weaknesses, I cry out for Your strength.  The Christian life is so hard because it's so daily.  So I begin today with you saying I was wrong.  I admit my own failures, selfishness and release control to You.  But I'll probably have to do it again another day soon.  Thank You for being faithful, even when I'm not.

In Jesus' name,
Amen"

Chuck Swindoll says, "Knowledge alone puffs up but when there is action that follows, humility comes."

Sometimes that action is simply saying three words:


I was wrong.


Friday, September 7, 2012

COPS ARE FUNNY TOO!

If you know me, you realize I have a somewhat warped sense of humor. Warped meaning not normal. I know what you're thinking. Shut up!

Certainly in life we perceive certain people and professions to be either serious or funny. Judges are serious. Entertainers are funny. Grandpas are funny. Scientists are serious. Generalizations? For sure. But in my own hasty generalization I would have deemed policemen to be serious.

Then I became friends with one. He played violin in our church praise band. Sometimes while on duty, this Florence officer would drop by the house with his partner in their squad car to pick up a piece of music. He also had a beautiful solo voice and might bring me accompaniment music.  

"Jeff, I appreciate you coming by but I gotta confess something to you."

"Yeah. What is it, Kathy?"

"I wonder what my neighbors think when they see you here on my front porch talking to me every now and then. Police cars are rare in our driveways here."

He laughed and hugged me. "Now they'll know it's a friendly call. Next time I come though, let's give 'em something to talk about. You throw me a fake punch, I'll fall backwards off your porch. Then come down, plant your foot on my chest and point me back to my car. I'll run away. I'll guarantee you'll never have a problem with a neighbor!"


We never acted on that but it was fun to think about.

Recently I read some comments allegedly made by South Carolina troopers while on duty. Since no names were included, I can't verify these quotes. But knowing Jeff makes me believe them! At any rate, they're entertaining.

"You know, stop lights don't come any redder than the one you just went through."

"Relax. The handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch after you wear them awhile."

"If you take your hands off the car, I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."

"If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."

"Can you run faster than 1,200 feet per second? Because that'll be the speed of the bullet chasing you."

"You don't know how fast you were going? I guess that means I can write anything I want to on the ticket, huh?"

"Yes sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh, did I mention that I'm the shift supervisor?"

"Warning? You want a warning? OK. I'm warning you, if I see you do that again I'm giving you another ticket!"

"The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?"

"Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen. Fair is a place where you go ride on rides, eat cotton candy and corn dogs and step in monkey poop."

"Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."

"In God we trust. All others we run through NCIC." (National Crime Information Center)

"Just how big were those two beers you said you had?"

"No sir, we don't have quotas anymore. We used to but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we can."

"I'm glad to hear the Chief (of Police) is a friend of yours. So you know someone who can post your bail."

"You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't. Sign here."

So thanks, Jeff, my funny cop friend, for breaking down my own personal stereotype!  Cops are real people too.  And some are quite humorous, maybe even a bit warped.

Upright citizen (at the moment),
Kathy