Thursday, October 30, 2008

A bit of earth

    In the movie The Secret Garden there is a scene involving the niece and the uncle that is symbolic to me of American history.  The Secret Garden movie is one of my daughter's and I all time favorite movies to watch together.  The movie takes place in an overwhelming estate I think in the Scottish highlands.  Sweeping views of meadows and hedges, rocks and sky and against all that is this enourmous and oppressive and forboding mansion.  You have the son who is constantly ill, weak, puny, overprotected and spoiled.  A strict  and oppressive head housekeeper/nurse.  There's the father and the niece these comprise the main characters.  The niece is probably no more than 12 years old as portrayed.

     The scene I want to talk about is where the niece discovers the long abandoned secret garden that was built for the son's deceased mother.  The garden is long uncared fore and seemingly sealed off.  Its door hidden in ivy.  Upon discovering this secret place full of possibilities the girl goes off to ask her uncle for permission to play in it.  So the symbolic scene has this hardy and forward little girl braving the presence of her depressed uncle.  She goes into his study.  He has these two enourmous Bull Mastiffs that move like tigers and they go on alert and growl as the girl enters the room.  Her uncle has his head listlessly leaning on his hand in this depression that never leaves him in most of the movie.  A massive fireplace with a fire but the room still cold and forboding.  She approaches her uncle with permission and timidly says "Uncle can I have a bit of earth?" or something to that effect.  After explaining her discovery he laughs and gives her permission.
     All of you who are reading this who are of the European culture and homeland  are a part of this discovery of a secret garden called America.  You living in Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, England, France, nordic countries and others all could have ancestors who got to a point in their lives where they heard of a secret garden full of possibilities and you asked permission to take leave and "have a bit of earth".  The rest of you who didn't have the guts to come to America or otherwise had no reason to leave stayed behind.  This is oversimplifying history by quite a bit but my main point is you all have reason to be proud of what your ancestors have accomplished.  You cannot denegrate their choice, you cannot prance around claiming superiority in life, culture and politics.  We in the US are you and you over there back east are us!

      Some of you left Europe for noble reasons and some for far less than noble reasons but yet here you are centuries later your ancesters deceased!  We took our bit of earth and made something and you too did with what you have.  When you criticize us and our life over here you are criticizing yourselves too.  It could've just as well been you on those boats 100, 200, 300 years ago.  Be proud of us and what we've done with our bit of earth and don't endlessly distance yourselves, alienate yourselves or mindlessly critique us unless you want to remind us these many years later of why we left Europe in the first place.  I'm no different than my ancestors and if I thought my life would be better in my ancestor's native Germany then I'd pack my life and leave it all behind.  If it were that simple.  But I could as easily end up in Quebec or Germany for that matter due to the mixed backgrounds.

     Can we all just content ourselves with where we are and take care of our bit of earth and tend it to renew and bloom?  Our government is flawed because it is run by human beings but so is yours.  At least ours had a goal of simple freedom in more ways than when we originally left Europe.  I don't want a presidential candidate or anyone tell us we need to be more like Europe.  Nobody has ever said "Our nation needs to be more like Africa."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brad Paisley and Josh Turner Marriage Tune-up

    Coincidental or maybe not to the Marriage Tune Up weekend I downloaded some mp3 files that caused me to think about what is wrong with folks struggling marriages and what is right with thriving ones. Now you may not care for Country music or maybe you do but there are some substantive but simple songs out there being published. That was an understatement. Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood sing together on Oh Love:
'You're the simplest truth and you're the biggest mystery.'
'Deep as the life from God's own breath. Endless even after death.'
The lyrics go on and are worth listening to. Thought provoking, appreciating the timeless qualities of love.

     Some songs tell stories about us that are worth listening to. Paisley again telling a story in Waitin' on a Woman. Reminds us of what and why and how we fell in love. Uses humor and testimony from an older man to place things in perspective. Taking the long view the old story teller says he has read statistics that man is always the first to go and no wonder. It takes the woman time to get ready. Old love persists to death with the old story teller speculating that he'll just get to the other side and find a bench, if they have one, to sit on and wait. When was the last time we showed patience to our mates? is a question a struggling man needs to ask himself.

     Mr. Paisley then sings another song, on a different album, in harmony this time with Dolly Parton called When I Get Where I'm Going. The listener is transported into what can be assumed as husband and wife characters; hearts in synchrony anticipating the mysteries of Heaven by reflecting on the hardships of life. Shedding the weight of sins and struggles carried during the years of life. The two dream of seeing the face of God and stroking the mane of "The Lion of Judah" and to love and have no fear and to hear the Hallelujah. The song has more substantive healing power than most of the hymns we sing in church.

     Now Josh Turner is another Country artist that also turns out substantive songs. In Everything is Fine the listener is shown an example of someone who is appreciating the simple basics of life. How God has blessed him in ways that would seem silly to most. A character that prays to God and instead of asking for something makes a point to thank Him for his life. Husbands really need to turn of the TV or the PC and take a walk and just ponder what God has done for him lately. It tends to shed away all those disappointments the world brings on and maybe even the disappointments a wife might bring on. Christ got alone with his heavenly father and away from the world for refreshment. Men need to do this too...and not be intoxicated at the same time with anything liquid or otherwise.

     King Solomon said there is a time for every season. A time for holding and a time to refrain from holding. Another song, called The Longer the Waiting by Josh Turner, talks about anticipation of a reunion. In that process the fact of knowing a separation had to occur but in reunion there will be treasures and rare things. The man promises that he will give up his second love to be united with his first love forever. In this case his second love is his work and service to country but any thinking person can get a lesson from this song. It is a metaphor that demands patience from the woman and promise keeping from the man for sweet reward.

     Either I'm over simplyfying the problems people have in relationships or I find help in the strangest places. Not saying that all troubled marriages are the failing of the man but from my experience a lot can be said for just keeping your antennae up for help for your heart. Here I downloaded some mp3 songs just because I liked the first 15 seconds of the songs but in listening more deeply just to 7 songs strengthened my life and my marriage. Another piece of advice I would give to struggling couples is to attend, by yourself, the marriage ceremony of someone you don't know. Times when I've been on duty when a marriage ceremony was performed here I'd sit by myself out of sight in a balcony area occasionally and watch and listen and remember. Respect the aged and talk to them. That's free. Encouragement can come from the darndest places and not cost any more than 7 dollars.

May God bless your Marriage!