Thursday, April 30, 2009

ENCHANTING?


Did anyone see the President's press conference last night? A lot of people felt that American journalism sank to new depths of absurdity with one reporter's question about what President Obama felt was the most "enchanting" thing in his first 100 days in the White House (as well as troubling and humbling). Although I agree with these folks that it was a silly, softball question, I confess that I was very interested to hear his answer. In fact, it was the most interesting thing in the whole press conference, which didn't have me singing "Some Enchanted Evening."

Regarding the "enchanting" part of the question, he said it was American troops, as he has now spent a little time with them, and their competence and fierce loyalty to our country (although he said "enchanting" wasn't exactly the word he would use).

All this got me wondering what has been the most enchanting thing in my life over the past 100 days, and in yours. Frankly, I can't think of anything I'd define that way for myself. But while I'm thinking about it, what about you, gentle readers? I'd love to know what has enchanted YOU these past 100 days. Send your comments.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

IN CELEBRATION OF OLD FRIENDS


How comforting and comfortable is an old friend! Last night I had dinner with one of my two roommates of seven-plus years from my first stint in the Washington, DC, area. That was longer ago than I care to note, but I’ll give you a hint: Ronald Reagan was President then. We’ve managed to stay in touch across continents and years, and now are delighted to be in the same locale once again.

Her name is Elaine, but we’ve always called her Lainey, or sometimes “Elainercise” for her avid commitment to exercise (something that I decidedly lacked). We couldn’t have been more different. I was raised in the Deep South; Lainey was a New England Yankee. Lainey was a tomboy; I was a girly girl, at least in comparison. We had more than enough differences to aggravate each other, but usually managed to get along famously.

She was a quirky one, that Lainey. Being a creature of unvarying habit and routine, her 9:00 p.m. bedtime was strictly observed, no matter what was going on. If dinner guests lingered, she shot out of her seat at 9:00 with the cheerful announcement, “OK, I’m going to bed now. Good-night everybody!” Our revenge was to leave the dishes for her to clean up in the morning. Dinner out always meant a burger or a chicken sandwich for Lainey, and she never ate green beans because she thought they looked like green worms. She went for a walk every single day, usually along the same route beside the Potomac River.

Lainey was either in high gear or off, no middle ground. She woke up wide awake without benefit of coffee. She was in perpetual motion, talked a mile a minute, and rarely self-censored anything, which caused her a few problems on occasion. But she never meant to offend, and was guileless. A serious bibliophile, she loved to wander through used book stores looking for deals on lovely old books.

Lainey adored children’s literature, as she had a delightful, childlike view of the world with a creative and vivid imagination to match. (Why else would she see green beans as worms?) I think she was very much like Beatrix Potter in that way. To me, this is her most endearing, and enduring, quality. She was also a very loyal friend, quick to forgive, and never held a grudge. And, she was fun.

All this discussion about Lainey I have stated in the past tense. The best part of her, however, is that she hasn’t changed. Our lives have been so divergent, and on some things we differ where we once agreed, but she is in essence the same person with the same endearing quirks and qualities whom I lived with all those years ago. It is rich and comforting to have such a friend, especially in times of personal and national upheaval, a constant when everything else is shaking. As I start life over in the DC area with new friends and situations, it’s great to connect with a friend whom I know so well, and who knows me so well. It is comfortable as well as comforting, like putting on your favorite slippers at the end of a long day on your feet, or savoring your favorite soothing music after enduring the cacophony of the city all day. So, three cheers for old friends!

I have to tell you, though, that although the chicken sandwich is still a favorite menu item for Lainey, she has branched out into Thai cuisine.

Friday, April 24, 2009

AH, SPRING!


Poets and essayists have extolled the virtues of spring from time immemorial, and there's really nothing new I can say about it. Still, I feel compelled to mark its arrival in some way and express my gratitude that spring always follows winter. It's one of the few things in life we can really depend on. No matter how deep, dark, and cold the winter, we can always count on the arrival of spring with its warmth, color, new life, and the revival it brings to our souls.

I happen to believe that this is more than a just natural phenomenon, but was
designed to be a sign of hope to every human being, like the rainbow. Although seasons of darkness, trouble and death come to all of us, as surely as spring follows winter new life, growth and times of joy will follow. Like trees, as we pass each cycle of the seasons (each of which has its own beauty and purpose), we grow stronger, taller, bear more fruit, and provide more shade for others with each round. Life is never static, in the natural or spiritual worlds. For this I am also thankful.


So, to commemorate spring this year, I've posted a few snapshots I took of the pure, simple glories of spring around Northern Virginia yesterday. Enjoy! And rejoice in spring!



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GOD'S BEST REVENGE WHEN I DON'T LIKE SOMEONE

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
-- Philippians 2:3

It’s exceedingly rare that I come across a person that I simply don’t like. When I have, however, I’ve tended to REALLY dislike that person to the degree that it’s difficult for me to see his or her good qualities in the glare (in my mind) of the flaws that annoy me. Just being honest here. Don’t go harrumphing; you have your own shortcomings. God never lets me get away with it, though. In fact, He has a particularly devious, yet failsafe, method of correcting me in these cases.

When I have disliked someone, God has deliberately used that person to serve me in some way or otherwise be an instrument of special blessing in my life. You might think that He would use me to serve that person, and eventually He does, but initially it’s always the other way around. It’s far more humbling that way. You know what I mean if you’ve ever had someone you can’t stand go out of their way to do you a particularly kind, generous, thoughtful or unselfish favor. It’s like having someone wash your feet.

When God sets up such a situation, all the haughty disdain melts away into repentance for my attitude and I am freed to see that person objectively, in her entirety and not just her flaws, to embrace and not reject her. God uses this method to show me the darkness of my own heart and His forbearance toward me. Then I am inspired to serve and forbear with the one I once disdained with a new heart of God’s overarching love, even if I never quite learn to like him.

I’ve learned a few things through this correctional program, and simply from living and working with folks. None of this is rocket science, but it’s worth pointing out. One is that I’m just as annoying to some people as others are to me, so there’s no need to get self-righteous about someone else’s shortcomings. God not only puts up with me, but loves and encourages me, after all, and I should imitate Him in extending the favor. Another is that some of the people with the most extreme flaws also possess equally extreme qualities, and that I rob myself of enjoying and benefiting from the best in them if I refuse to accept the whole package. Finally, I’ve learned that grace begets grace, and the more I extend it to others, the more they extend it to me.

God knows, we could use more grace and forbearance toward each other in this polarized, accusing world in which we live. May our words and the attitude of our hearts toward one another be seasoned with that grace, even when we must confront our differences.

NOTE: So many wonderful people have been the vehicle of incredible good toward me the past few years that I’m in danger of making a lot of folks wonder if I’m talking about them in this post. You know who you are, and I’m not talking about you!

Places to See