Friday, March 30, 2012

Race Wars

Most of my ancestors have been at war with each other at one time or another. English and Scottish, Scottish and Irish, Irish and English, Native American and Pioneer American, French and French, German and nearly everyone...the list goes on. 

The idea of my ancestors trying to kill each other just because of their nationality pales in comparison beside the modern-day conflicts that stretch from a global scale all the way down to violence from one person to another. The case of Trayvon Martin has recently unleashed a firestorm of opposing views, and several years ago a female army reservist was beaten, punched, and kicked outside a restaurant, by a man yelling racial slurs. Just yesterday morning one of the news headlines was about a high school girl who violently attacked another soccer player from the opposing team, and now faces assault charges.

Though we may never know for sure how much of a factor race played in each of these interracial conflicts, there are enough examples of hate crimes every day that the trend can't be ignored. We can expect that these types of tensions will only get stronger as we get closer and closer to Jesus' coming. Two thousand years ago, Jesus saw that it would happen, and gave a detailed warning. Matthew 24:7 says, talking about the time just before the fall of Jerusalem, as well as the very last days of earth's history, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom..."

In the Greek, that word "nation" is ethnos, from which we get words like ethnic and ethnicity. (Just a quick digression. I am not a Greek or Hebrew professor - I have a secret weapon. A free download of a program called Esword, available at, can turn any lay person, including me, into a scholar. Hover your mouse over the # associated with each word in English, and it will give you the Hebrew or Greek of the original text, the pronunciation, and each possible meaning. Every time you read the Bible, you'll find new treasure you never knew was there!)

So this verse, put another way, says, "Race will rise against race, and realm against realm." 

Back in the days when we lived close enough to prisons to do ministry there, we got to know inmates of many different races and affiliations. In the chapel, or the comparative safety of the visiting room, they would breathe the same air without too much trouble. Out on the yard, it was a different story. They lived one wrong glance away from a prison riot. The inner cities are full of their own stories of violence and tragedy.

All of us find our identity, to some extent, from our surroundings. I'm a wife, a mother, a daughter, a bus driver. We have identities based on political ideologies, careers, and yes, even race. I'm proud to be from a mixed heritage. Jack is proud to be Native American. When I try to remind him that he's part white, too, he pretends like he can't hear me. :) No matter how much or how little we feel that racism personally affects us, a huge part of our identity is tied up in our ethnicity.

If you don't believe me, try a little experiment. Picture yourself a very different color than what you were born with, and see how you feel. It's very unsettling, and maybe even a little uncomfortable. It may be easier for me than for most people, since I have undergone a rather startling color change. Due to my Portuguese heritage, and a darker strain of Germans, I have always had a nice color to my skin. Brown in the summer, and still a light tan in the winter. 

It's different here, where the sun hangs low against the horizon for all the long months of deep, hard winter. Each of the last 3 years I've gotten a little lighter, and after this winter I'm a brilliant, glowing shade of stark white. I've never been a plain old white person before. It's strange to be so pale. Even at the ripe old age of almost 40 (shhh, don't tell anyone), I had a mental picture of myself as a brownish person. It's hard to adjust, and I can hardly wait till the weather is good enough for me to start getting some Vitamin D going, along with some color - any color but red.

As Christians, one of the experiences we must go through as part of our learning process, is to set aside our worldly identities. To no longer let labels like black, white, brown, conservative, liberal, rich, or poor, define us. We are not who the world says we are.

Galations 3:28 says it better than I could. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

United in Jesus, saved by His blood. That's our identity, and our eternal destiny.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Long-lost Son

After church one day, Damon got my cell phone out to call his dad. He dialed the number, and a deep voice answered.

"Hi, Dad!" he chirruped cheerfully. 

There was a bit of a pause. "Who is this?" the deep voice finally asked.

Ha ha ha. Damon laughed. His dad could be such a kidder. "This is Damon - your son!"

The pause stretched as long as 8 seconds on the back of a bull, only a whole lot quieter. At last the deep voice, quavering just a little, said hopefully, "Um, this is Tom Smith."

Damon laughed again, just a little embarrassed. "Oops, sorry. Wrong number!" 

Somewhere, a man named Tom carefully placed his cell phone back in its holder, hands and knees shaking like frozen molasses in an earthquake. Wrong number. It was just a wrong number.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Family Fitness: A New Low

Tina came over to exercise tonight. I was unable to join her. Without embarrassing myself with any details, let me just say that it's not an illness in the traditional sense. Or an injury in the traditional sense. Just rather debilitating. 

Not wanting them to feel the lack of my presence, I sat right there and watched while everyone else worked out, calling out helpful encouragement like, "Feel the burn!" and "Oh, it hurts just to watch that!" and "Keep it up - you can do ten more!"

While I ate pie.

My jaws feel the burn.

Noni Beth

Family Fitness, or Something

February 19

You may remember reading a while ago about the robust physical fitness program we had just started. Something about not being able to walk or even move...and then you have heard nothing since.

The first time around,

March 3

I'm not winning any speed records, here. As I was saying some days ago, the first time around our 90-day Xtreme fitness program, we made it about a week and a half before keeling over. Barely able to walk or even move most days, I had to take a break. Then came Thanksgiving, Christmas break in December, and a whole new year. Shortly into January, I was ready to start back up again, with Tina and Caleb joining me for a kinder, gentler exercise program.

Our new regimen, "P90E-for-Easy", may well stretch into P365E at the rate we're going. There are 12 separate workouts, and by the time we do the first half and the last half on separate days, there are at least 24 variations to keep our muscles good and confused. (If we're really busy, we confuse our muscles even more by letting them rest.)

This time around, my workouts aren't the only thing that's been more moderate. After listening to the instructional video, and the emphasis on eating in sufficient quantities to feed a hard-working body, I disciplined myself to eat more. Combine that with tapering off the Xtreme Xercise, and you don't exactly have a formula for success.

The ability to improvise is important. With as many as 7 people exercising in our tiny little living room at one time, and only enough space, weights, or resistance bands for 2 of them, some creativity was required. The deep lunges you do while walking forward ended up with us all in a circle, taking giant strides forward then dipping in unison, like demented carousel horses broken free from our moorings. No weights? No problem, for the experienced kitchen maven. Pasta sauce will do just as well.

For some reason, Tina is VERY sensitive to the thought of our neighbors seeing her exercising, especially with her Ragu Fitness Aids, so one of Tiggy's favorite hobbies is to slide her way closer and closer to the front window, and try to crack the curtains while nobody's looking. A shrill screech always marks the moment of her success.

Fitness poster girls, oh yeah!
Tina was excited to announce that her most recent trip to the thrift store yielded 3 more sets of weights. Eventually, I suppose we'll get all buff, with all the proper equipment, and be quite boring. Don't worry too much, though. At the rate we're going, we won't be running out of weirdness any time soon.

Fitfully yours,
Noni Beth