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Archive for June, 2011

Why is it that we as women are afraid to ask for what we want? Why can’t we state plainly and clearly what we want in this life? Why aren’t we allowed to make demands on how we want to be treated? Oh no, instead we have to dance around the subjects and use pretty words and flowery symbolism to SUGGEST what we want. This is especially frustrating when we are dealing with men because, as we well know, they do not do well with hints and innuendos. They want things spelled out clearly, with no room for error or misinterpretation.

Example: You are due to go out to eat with a group of guys. You are afraid that they are going to take you to Hooters or a titty bar. You politely mention a couple of really nice sports bars and/or barbecue joints that you’ve read about. Rather than flat out stating “No, I won’t go to Hooters and I do NOT believe that you go there only for the wings,” you hedge around the issue and stress over whether you’ll have to eat while watching some poor half-naked woman prance around. It would save you quite a few points on the blood pressure cuff if you could just say how you feel.

Another example: You’re ‘seeing’ a guy and he wants to take a break, gives you the “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel that cavemen perfected and has been in use ever since. Rather than coming right out and saying “you’re so full of shit, tell me what is REALLY going on,” you nod and smile and agree that maybe just being friends for now will work. And then you eat a gallon of ice cream and wonder (obsessively) what you did wrong.

Yet another example: You really want this cute guy in the bar to notice you. You’ve done all the standard girl motions like flipping your hair, sticking your boobs out, laughing adorably, and batting your eyelashes – and he’s still not getting it. Instead of just saying “hey, I saw you across the bar and thought I’d like to get to know you better,” you stay with your girlfriends, pray desperately that he’ll notice you, and leave at the end of the night frustrated because you think you can’t find a decent man anywhere.

Do you see where I’m going with this, ladies? In all of those cases, the men probably have NO IDEA what we are really thinking. They are not psychic and cannot read our minds. And, yes, in most cases you would think that it would be fairly self-evident – but we cannot assume! So we need to get better about vocalizing what we want and what we demand. And this lesson will need to extend beyond our interactions with men – in our careers, our home lives, and our friendships, we have to get better at saying what we want! It’s time to start telling the world what we want, girls!

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This is the third (and as of right now, the final) installment in the inspirational story of the lives of the Covells, a missionary couple who died for their faith in 1944. Not only did I learn more about their history and their faith, but also their service and compassion. All of these are admirable and amazing qualities for the Covells as human beings – but what amazes me most is their HOPE!

Their camp was named Hopevale, an ironic and yet prophetic title if I’ve ever heard one. When they were forced to abandon their church in Japan in 1939, they retreated to America only briefly – they returned to their work, their faith, and their mission with full HOPE that they were making a positive difference in the world. This action would eventually cost them their lives – but they never lost faith in the Lord. Standing in the shadow of a horrid, painful, and unimaginable death, the Covells uttered only the words “we are ready.” Not only to die on that mountaintop but also ready to ascend above the trials of human life and join the Heavenly Father.

I think an important lesson can be learned from that simple statement: “I am ready.” What am I, another year older and wiser, ready to do?  “I am ready” to forgive those who have hurt me and betrayed me. “I am ready” to move beyond the hurts and start looking for the good in life again. “I am ready” to follow Christ’s path and live a life that will make my Father proud. “I am ready” to be a kinder, more loving person. “I am ready” to let go of anger and bitterness. “I am ready” to find happiness again.

Reverend Henry W. Munger, in describing the Covells, writes that they “challenge us to match their sacrifices with ours, to carry on the work they were doing, to take up the torch they threw down, and to hold it high.” I am ready, my friends, and I have hope, faith, and trust that it is all onward and upward for me now!

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What does it mean to truly give “service for others”? This simple phrase is the motto of the volunteer fire department that I am proud to serve with – and has been for over 200 years. But what does it mean, really? What can we do, as human beings, to provide “service for others”? Generations of people have come before us, locally and globally, teaching us how to give to others and I think we all need to take a moment to reflect.

In part 1, I wrote about the Covells, missionaries who lost their lives in the service of Christian beliefs in 1944, and today I want to talk about the concept of ‘service’ and what it means to serve others. In Japan during the Covells ministry, Charma organized a girls’ club called Aikokwia whose mission was “love and service.” The group did small charity projects like sewing and filling rice bags, each of which would feed a family of 3 for one day, and distributing the bags to the needy in their neighborhoods. They also made dolls and bean bags and delivered them to the children in the local charity hospitals and ‘mother’s homes’ (similar to modern-day homeless shelters).  The members of this club were professional women, secretaries mostly, and the funds for their service projects came out of their own pockets.

The Covells truly loved their adopted homeland of Japan. Charma, in a letter dated 1943, referred to it as her “second country.” In that letter, she discusses how difficult it was to watch Japan invade other countries in the South Pacific; yet she never lost her love of the people of Japan. Word of the massacre at Hopevale reached the Covells’ oldest daughter Peggy while she was attending Keuka College. Even knowing what the Japanese army had done to her parents, Peggy went into social work with Japanese families in a relocation center in Colorado, helping Japanese families who had been displaced from their homes and placed in the interment camps during the war. Because of her fluency in the language and her familiarity with the Japanese culture and customs, Peggy aided thousands of Japanese-Americans as they wrestled with their own battle scars from the war. When asked how she could aid the Japanese people after the murder of her parents, Peggy is reported to have told the story of her parents and saying that her parents had spent the last 30 minutes of life praying for their captors. “At first,” she is supposed to have said, “I was bitter when I heard what had happened but my hatred has been washed away by a Spirit-directed love for all men, even my enemies.” This remarkable young woman took the worst possible experience and turned it into a motivation to serve humanity, to help others!

Her brother, David, also went into a life of service, working as an interpreter for the Marine Corps with Japanese prisoners of war. He spent his later years working for IBM, uniquely qualified to host and communicate with his Japanese colleagues. He could appreciate and understand their customs, he could speak their language, and he did not hold a grudge against the Japanese people for having taken his parents from him. I was blessed to have had the chance to meet Mr. Covell when he was present for the memorial service for his parents at my home church and I sat there in church, looking at the now-elderly son of these 2 amazing human beings and wondered “what can I do to make the world a better place?” What contributions am I making in the service of mankind?

It is terribly selfish of me to be so caught up in my own problems and not see the more pressing issues around me. There are millions of people around me that are living devastated and crumbling lives – children and young people battling diseases and recovering from trauma; tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes destroying homes, lives, and property; families living in terrifying poverty; military service men and women living constantly in the cross-hairs of terrorists and zealots; people struggling with mental illness, alone and without any support systems.

As Pastor Dave says, the worship is over, let the service begin. I hope that I can accomplish at least a small service to mankind during the span of my life. As it says in Matthew Chapter 25, I would like to hear, on my Judgement Day, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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This past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure to be present in my home church for a very special and inspiring worship service, one dedicated to the lives of American Baptist missionaries James & Charma Covell. These two people not only spent their lives spreading the word of God and ultimately died for their faith, they also lived a life of service that inspires me.

In 1920, James and Charma Moore Covell began teaching English and scripture at the Nanto Gakiun University in Japan. As the second World War was dawning on the horizon and Japan became more and more militaristic, the Covells became increasingly uneasy. Their Christian values, after all, taught them peace and love and not hate and war. As early as 1932, Charma expressed her increasing concern:

One thing I can’t but speak of is the fundamentally disconcerting fact of the attitude of Japan’s military in the face of world opinion. Perhaps you can imagine how it feels for one who is bent first of all on creating peace in the sense of cooperation as opposed to competing, to exist in this welter of nationalism – at any rate I can assure you that it is the sort of thing that scares the heart.”

The Reverend and Mrs. Covell refused to participate in the university’s increasing militarism – and as a result were removed from their posts and forced to return to America in 1939. This was, as you can imagine, a terribly upsetting moment in their lives – they had been in Japan for nearly 20 years and had developed a tremendous love and respect for their neighbors and their adopted country. They were fluent in not only the language but also the customs and traditions of Japanese culture. Not willing to give up their mission, after a brief sojourn in America, the Covells attempted to return to teaching in Japan – but were refused entry into the country. They had to settle for teaching in the Philippines, taking posts at the Central Philippine College along with 16 other missionaries. Their 3 children were sent to Manila and then eventually back to America for their educations – an action that would ultimately save the childrens’ lives.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the missionaries on their island in the Philippines met and decided to carry on with their missions as long as possible. The university was closed and many fled to inland towns. Seven of the missionaries (and five of their children) were captured and sent to an internment camp in Manila. The remaining eleven missionaries, including James and Charma, fled to a mountain hideout, which they named Hopevale. In that remote and desolate location, the missionaries gathered with American miners and their families and Filipino friends in a ravine setting they called “The Chapel in the Glen” for worship, hymns, and prayer.

In July 1942, the residents at Hopevale received word from their imprisoned colleagues in Manila that the invading Japanese army had vowed to kill all foreigners they found. The Hopevale missionaries, still unwilling to abandon God’s work, decided to stay in their makeshift home and to stay together to face whatever may come. 

On December 19, 1943, Japanese soldiers invaded Hopevale during their weekly worship service. Many of the mining families had fled just hours before. All told, only the 11 missionaries, 1 missionary’s child, 3 miners and 2 of the miners’ children remained in the camp. All scattered and the men stood a fair chance of survival but, with the capture of the women and children, the men surrendered and all were imprisoned overnight. Knowing the Japanese army’s plan for foreigners, who were assumed to be spies, James and Charma pleaded for the lives of the camp’s residents. The Covells, because of their years in Japan, spoke the language fluently and knew the culture of their captors. Captain Tai Watanabe, the commander of the Japanese forces, was so visibly moved by the Covells words that he radioed headquarters hoping (we presume) for lenience. Sadly, the next day he received a response that the Covells’ insistence that they had nothing to do with the war was to no avail: the anti-foreigner mandate must stand. The American residents of Hopevale would be put to death.

Knowing that their deaths were certain, the missionaries asked for their final hours to pray together. What could they possibly have been saying to God? Was it anger? Pleading for their lives? Sorrow for time lost? Thoughts of their loved ones back in America? We will never know what those last terrifying moments must have held for those brave souls. All that is certain (having been witnessed by several Filipino residents of Hopevale) is that one by one, each adult was taken to the very mountain top and beheaded. The children were stabbed there in camp. And all of the bodies were stacked into one of their huts and burned.

An interesting side note to this story is that another missionary and a local visitor would later visit the site “as soon as it was safe to do so” and interred the bodies in a proper Christian ceremony. While performing this service, the men noticed that Mrs. Covell’s body had apparently been afforded a special honor, having been wrapped and placed carefully. Was this perhaps a sign of respect from the foot soldiers responsible for disposing of the bodies, a tribute to Mrs. Covell’s obvious knowledge of their homeland?

Part of the Covell legacy is an educational scholarship in their names given away every year in the town of LeRoy. Selection for the award is based on “academic interests, service to the community, and commitment to Jesus Christ.” I am honored to have been chosen all those years ago – how much I wish that I, as a recipient of a scholarship in the honor of these amazing people, had known more about their lives and their service to humanity! How much of a lesson I missed when, at the self-absorbed age of 18, I had not realized what an honor it was to be presented with this award!

The First Baptist Church of LeRoy is my home church – as it was the home church of James Covell. Having grown up in my own home town, this man went on to do an amazing thing. The story of the Covells not only appeals to my inner history nerd, it brings forth questions of faith and commitment. The Covells were willing to die for their faith – how many of us can claim that? And, unlike the terrorists of 9/11, the missionaries of Hopevale died for their belief in peace, nonviolence, and hope. These amazing people lived their lives in service to mankind and paid the ultimate price for that service. How glad I am that I finally got to know the rest of this truly inspiring story!

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In 1949, Cole Porter’s smash hit musical Kiss Me Kate won the first Tony award ever given for Best Musical. This “show within a show” features a cast of actors and actresses preparing for a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. It features plenty of bickering, romantic sizzle, and a little harmless gender-bashing – just my kind of entertainment!

This song occurs in Act 1, when “Kate” has been used and mistreated by a number of suitors who, in the usual fashion of selfish piggish men, only look to her for their own physical needs. She is frustrated and insulted by their refusals to see her as a human being – and she didn’t have a terribly high opinion of the male species to begin with. “Kate” is a shrew, ill-tempered to many and particularly contemptuous of men:

I hate men.
I can’t abide ’em even now and then.
Than ever marry one of them, I’d rest a virgin rather,
For husbands are a boring lot and only give you bother.
Of course, I’m awfully glad that Mother had to marry Father,
But I hate men.

Of all the types I’ve ever met within our democracy,
I hate most the athlete with his manner bold and brassy,
He may have hair upon his chest but, sister, so has Lassie.
Oh, I hate men!
I hate men.

 
Their worth upon this earth I dinna ken.
Avoid the trav’ling salesman though a tempting
Tom he may be,
From China he will bring you jade and perfume from Araby,
But don’t forget ’tis he who’ll have the fun and thee the baby,
Oh I hate men.


If thou shouldst wed a businessman, be wary, oh, be wary.
He’ll tell you he’s detained in town on business necessary,
His bus’ness is the bus’ness which he gives his secretary,
Oh I hate men!

I have to say that while I do not actually agree with most of these sentiments, the song is catchy and the underlying frustration is one that I’m sure many women have felt. It has been a long time since I was on the ‘market’ as a single person; sadly, not much has changed. I am learning a lot of valuable lessons by dating and seeing what single men are really after – and not a whole lot is good. I would be much better suited to this lifestyle if I was more of the promiscuous, easily-sexed/heart-never-broken type of girl – but I’m not. Call me traditional but I’d like a little romance – and for the man to actually stick with you AFTER he has slept with you.

At any rate, this song popped up on my iPod (as one of the embarassing show tune selections) and it amused me. It fit at this moment in my life so I thought I’d share with all of the girls out there who might be suffering with me…

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My mother, bless her heart, has never been a real big fan of mine. I don’t think she particularly dislikes me, I just don’t think she particularly “gets” me. She doesn’t understand the choices I’ve made in my life (moving far away, taking jobs outside of my degrees, joining the fire department, etc.) but she does make it clear to me that she loves me. She loves my brother MORE but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

But, when I was home this past weekend, my mom made a very curious (and touching) statement to me. She told me that she firmly believed I would NOT (as I fear) end up the crazy cat lady, alone and unloved. My mom actually told me that I have “so much love to give” that it was impossible that someone wouldn’t someday realize that and marry me quick.

This got me to thinking – and I hate to admit it but my mom is RIGHT! I do have SO much to offer someone! Why can’t the people around me see this? Why was it so easy for my life partner to walk away from me?

I am a good spouse:  I like being married and having someone to share my life with. I like to do housework and yardwork. I listen and try to offer support to my loved one. I cook and I bake. Ok, so I’m not so keen on cleaning but a little mess and dust isn’t fatal, right? I do laundry and I can iron when pressed (haha, bad pun). I know I’m not the ideal of beauty (just a few too many curves in the wrong places) and I don’t spend enough time trying to be feminine. But I am smart and able to carry on intelligent conversations. I love baseball, beer, and good jokes. And I love deeply, unconditionally, and totally.

But, more importantly, I am also a good human being: I am a loving, giving person. I do not judge others’ based on their looks or their flaws. I do not begrudge people their past mistakes or actions (or in some cases, their *4* past actions) – as Matthew 7:1 says, “judge not lest ye be judged.” I try to look for the good in others and have often suffered hurts and pains because I believed (and continue to believe) that the good is there. I believe in the Pollyanna view on life, that there are things all around us to be glad in. I am kind to animals, children, and senior citizens. I am intelligent and good. Ok, I admit I did leave ‘sweet’ and ‘innocent’ behind a LONG time ago, but I don’t think I have ever intentionally hurt someone else. I love my friends, my family, and my Lord –  and I give them everything I have.

So I’m going to hope desperately that my mom was right. I pray that someday, someone will realize all of the love that I have to give!  And, if that someone is out there reading this, remember that my love is unconditional and free, no strings attached. No judgements, no past baggage, and no negativity. Just simple kindness, love, support, and friendship.

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