Posted by: ritagone | January 16, 2019

Robbed…Almost

 

On a cheerier note than last week (note sarcasm), the house next door to us was robbed this past Sunday night.  I know this because at about 8:30 in the evening, a police officer knocked on the door to inform us of this and wanting to know if we had seen or heard anything unusual.  I was watching television in our bedroom, cuddled up with the two dogs, so, no, I heard or saw nothing.

But I can tell you that I heard and saw plenty in my mind all through that night: visions of robbers coming in while we were out, taking computers, TV’s, paintings, the dogs (sometimes that’s not a bad fantasy), that violation that happens when someone uninvited comes into your home and takes what doesn’t belong to them.  I thought how vulnerable my computer is; I put it to sleep every night, don’t bother to actually turn it off.  All my Excel files are there with passwords and account numbers on the spreadsheets, the computer itself can be turned on with a touch to the space bar, and everything is easy access.  (I’m saying this because by the time you read this, that will all have changed.  Safeguards are being put in place.  Two robberies in this neighborhood in the last year have assured us that it’s time for action.)

It’s amazing how vulnerable you feel and how fast when a burglary occurs even close by.  Therefore I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have that violation occur in your own home.  I’m looking outside into our backyard more often, checking the Ring application with a camera on our front porch frequently, more aware of noises and sounds that previously I would have ignored.

I don’t like this.

I don’t like the vulnerability, the focus away from other things in my life that are more important and more worthwhile.

But I’m trying to accept this as one of many life lessons to be learned: I’m not in control, things happen, keep on truckin’.  And hey, it hasn’t happened to me, so stop acting as if it has.

Sometimes we worry about things that haven’t happened to us.  Sometimes we worry about things that have.  That’s why we’re told in the New Testament: “Do not be anxious (or worry) about anything, but in every situation, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)  It does say don’t worry about anything, which I assume must include things that have happened to us and things that might, and it does say that in every situation we’re to tell God about it and let Him walk through it with us.

So I’m trying to do that and waiting for the promised peace of God to settle on me.

And I think – although a security system is not a bad idea and one we’re looking into – that’s a better answer than anything manmade.

 

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Posted by: ritagone | January 9, 2019

Call Me Grumpy

I admit to being grumpy.  In fact, I think I’m getting more grumpy as I get older.  Things tick me off, more than they used to.  I often think I should have been a film-TV critic, someone who gets paid to be critical and grumpy; that would be perfectly in line with my current continual grumpiness.

I’ll give you a good example: “Madam Secretary.”  I used to enjoy this CBS show starring Tia Leoni and Tim Daly, two actors I have always appreciated, a show that was created by Barbara Hall, a lady who has similar spiritual values to mine, I believe.  Michael and I have followed this series since its inception four years ago, and we have admired the high moral ground it has always followed.

Until recently, it has been entertaining.

I say “until recently” because as I was watching the most current episode, I realized – and got grumpier and grumpier while watching it – that it was no longer entertainment but had become propaganda, as so many television programs (and movies) have done recently, since the election of 2016, when everyone, it seems, feels the necessity to let everyone else know that they have the moral high ground even when the Oval Office does not.

“Madam Secretary” does everything but stop short and have its actors deliver lines directly into the camera to prove the points they are trying to make, points that are always noble and altruistic and ones that only an idiot (of course) would disagree with.

So I wasn’t entertained.  Not at all.  I just was grumpy.

Same thing with watching the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.  Why can’t everyone just be entertaining and forget that they are not the bringers of truth and justice to the television viewing audience, who obviously, they feel, wouldn’t know truth and justice unless they were handed to them by celebrities who “get it” deeply and purely?  Except you and I know that this is not always the case; in fact, it’s almost never the case, so I get grumpier and grumpier as I watch the awards ceremonies turn into propaganda programs instead of the entertaining shows they are meant to be.  Everyone gets so sanctimonious as they deliver “sermons” that they each think will make them look superior to everyone else because they, yes, they have the moral high ground that everyone else seems lacking.  You see, I’m getting irritated and grumpy already, just writing this.

Yes, I know, just stop watching TV and seeing movies that take these positions.  I get it.

But hey, if they have a right to spout their platitudes, don’t I have a right to watch and be grumpy?

What I also object to, as long as I’m on a soapbox, is that there’s a lot of hypocrisy floating around when people rant and rave about how immoral and bad everyone else is, then praise characters – either real or make believe – that are extremely flawed.  I’m all for artistic integrity and creative license; I don’t expect every movie to be honey-sweet and about characters that are pure and flawless.  That would be boring and unwatchable, the worst of Hallmark made-for-TV movies.  I’d be the first to turn that kind of endeavor off.  But what I object to – what makes me grumpy – is idolizing the subjects of those films that are artistically well done.  For example, if you read legitimate biographies about Freddie Mercury, the distraught, disturbed leader of the rock group Queen and the subject of the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” you will discover that he was not a nice man.  He was often mean spirited and treated people less than kindly most of the time.  So why do we bow to him as if he were a god and worship at a shrine that he doesn’t deserve?  He may have been a talented musician, but let’s stop there.  We can watch a well-made movie about Adolf Hitler without idolizing the man about whom the movie is made.

This  is yet another example of what makes me grumpy.

And so, you can see, much is making me grumpy lately.  And that’s my problem, no one else’s.  I can’t lay it off on the entertainment business or anything or anyone else.  It’s on me, mine to change, mine to cope with, mine to repent of.

And so I have another early New Year’s resolution kind of question for you, and this one may be a little strange, but it’s applicable to what I’ve been sharing here: what makes you grumpy?  And what grumpiness do you need to repent of?  I would say to ask those around you, but that may be risky business.  Do it at your own peril.  But at least let’s be honest with ourselves and evaluate our grumpiness at the beginning of 2019 and see what we can do to change to make ourselves more likeable to ourselves and others around us, no matter what’s going on.  It’s not about the Oval Office or current laws or who’s doing what where.

It’s really pretty basic: How far away from being like Jesus am I?  Because I don’t think Jesus was ever too grumpy, was He?

 

Posted by: ritagone | January 2, 2019

It’s 2019!!

It’s 2019.

I know you know that.

2018 was weird.  I know you know that too.

What do you want to do differently this year?  How do you want to make this a better year than the one before?

It’s a time for resolutions, for vows, for promises, for changing the behaviors we don’t like about ourselves.

Me, I just want to lose that last elusive, nasty 10 pounds that keeps making my jeans not fit right, first off.  Not the most important thing on my “to do” list, but it always seems to be hovering in plain sight on my mind.  Often while I’m eating another piece of the See’s Candy that were gifted to us for Christmas.

I want to read more.  I want to remember better what I do read.

I want to stay “in the moment.”  That seems like such a cliched phrase, but it’s true: often I find myself thinking about tonight or tomorrow or next week and missing what’s happening right now that could or should be significant and enjoyable.

I want to appreciate the people around me and let them know that I appreciate them.  Life’s too short to not tell them.

I’d be happy and content with those four resolutions.

How about you?

Posted by: ritagone | December 5, 2018

Impressions of the Holy Land — Part 2

 

 

Again, what is my take-away from my trip to Israel?

Now that I’ve been home for almost two weeks, what lingers in my mind’s eye, what truths are in my heart permanently after our trip to the Holy Land?  Last week I shared what surprises the visit had for me: the crowds, the commercialism, the complications of the history and the current political and social situation.

Today I’d like to finish my thoughts about the trip to Israel with what I think I’ll keep forever in my heart:

First, if you’re a believer in and follower of Jesus, you can’t help but be touched and moved by being there, by seeing with your eyes and touching with your fingers and reaching out with your own soul the land where He walked and lived and taught and eventually died and rose again.  He never left this country, so what you are seeing are the boundaries of His human existence.  And it is now so vivid for me to read, for example, the gospel accounts of His walks from one town to another as He taught and lived life with His disciples and those who walked along with Him.  Those weren’t easy walks.  The roads were rough and sometimes dangerous.  The distances He and His disciples traveled were longer than I had thought they were, walking and talking and sharing whatever food they had along the way.  Now that I have seen the terrain and the countryside, I can appreciate more than ever what His days and weeks looked like while He ministered to the people around Him.  Those are images that are invaluable in terms of my own Bible study and teaching and, probably more importantly, in my own journey with Jesus.

Secondly, I have come to understand what a complicated situation exists in the Holy Land between the Palestinians and the Israelis and other groups who are involved.  As is almost always the case, there are two or three or sometimes even four sides to the story.  No one is completely innocent or completely guilty.  Everyone feels they have right on their side, God on their side.  These issues are so layered and intense that it’s no wonder to me that governments and bodies like the United Nations have been unable to define a workable peace.

Then, the phrase that keeps repeating itself over and over in my mind is this: Israel is not for the faint of heart, both spiritually and physically.  I’ve been to countries in my travels over the years that have required a degree of physical agility (Greece comes to mind), but none compare to the physical skill and stamina required when you’re hiking and sight-seeing in the Holy Land.  Added to that is the amount of mental material you are trying to absorb, and you can almost feel your brain exploding.  This is perhaps why I maintain that I’m still processing the trip and all that we saw and learned even though it’s been a few weeks since we were there.  I sincerely believe it will be many more weeks if not months before I truly understand what I have experienced.  Maybe I never will get it all soaked in and absorbed.  That’s okay too.  It’s a trip to be savored and remembered and re-lived over and over again.

Lastly, let me encourage those of you who have never been to Israel to consider going, especially if you are a follower of Jesus.  A trip there will broaden your spiritual insights and your relationship with God in a way that travel to other places will not.  It’s well worth the effort and the expense (and the long flight).  Put it on your bucket list and try to go while you’re spry and as healthy as possible.  You will not regret it.

And some time if you’re with me in person, ask to see my photos, on my iPhone.  They’re actually quite nice, I think, and I’ll even do a running monologue to go along with them!

I’m going to take a bit of a break from Rita’s Ramblings for the rest of this year to read and relax and study for what I’m teaching at our womens’ Bible study at church, Connection, which will reunite on January 17.

So let me take a minute to wish everyone reading this a very, very happy and blessed Christmas, wherever you are around the world, and a New Year filled with God’s blessings and the peace that passes all understanding.  I’d offer the “next year in Jerusalem” prayer, but I don’t think I’ll be going back to the Holy Land that soon!

With love and greetings of peace and shalom to all of you, Rita

 

(The photo is of the Wailing Wall, now referred to as the Western Wall, the men separated from the women by a partition.)

Posted by: ritagone | November 28, 2018

Impressions of the Holy Land — Part 1

 

 

What was I expecting?

A mystical, ultra-spiritual environment where people read their Bibles all day long, prayed incessantly, and lived a combination Old/New Testament existence because of where they were living geographically?  (I also expected everyone in London to be reading something of Shakespeare’s when I went to the U.K. for the first time a year after graduating college.  And boy, I was sorely disappointed!)  No, people were not reading Bibles or Torah scrolls, nor praying – not even making attempts at praying except at the Wailing (now called the Western) Wall.  Instead, Israel seems to me like a very secular, tourist-centered nation focused more on that trade than on the religious aspect of its existence, despite being the place where the three major religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – find their roots.

A place struggling with so many issues that it is hard to feel it able to relax and breathe comfortably.  A country where past history is intricate and amazing, and the current political and social situation is more complicated than anything I’ve ever experienced or read about.  Our tour guide Brian said, “You will be more confused at the end of this tour than you are at the beginning.”  He was right.  I read the six or so books on his reading list to prepare for this trip, books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about the history of the nation of Israel, about how God has worked and moved among the Jewish people, among the Palestinian people.  And still I don’t understand a modicum of what I’ve read or seen.  My mind is still in a muddle. 

A landscape that is at once beautiful and striking and then filled with trash.  The city of Bethlehem, for example, seems to have no pride in keeping trash off the sidewalks and curbs.  It is everywhere.  But then you drive out into the country and the views and sights are panoramic and breathtaking.  Desert and palm trees, reminding you that you are indeed in the Middle East, where it’s hot and arid.  And then a mountain that makes you feel like you’re near the Andes.  Contrast.  So much contrast.

I’ll share some more next week.  I’m still processing what I saw and heard and touched and experienced.  It’s not a place that you can define clearly and sharply in a day or in a week, with precision and finality.

Posted by: ritagone | November 21, 2018

Thankful

On Wednesday morning, November 7, a friend’s husband died.  He had been ill off and on for several years, so it was not unexpected, yet for her and their family, it is a personal tragedy.  That’s all I will say about it, because I haven’t asked her permission to say more, nor is it my story to tell.  (I was writing this from Israel, so permission was difficult to obtain.)

On Wednesday night, November 7, a shooter, a disturbed young man, a veteran, killed a number of young people at a local Thousand Oaks establishment where several hundred young adults were gathered to be together to dance and to have fun.  This was a shock to a community deemed one of the nation’s safest cities.  And a tragedy to many families who suffered the loss of a loved one or a friend.  When we awoke to this news Thursday morning, it changed our lives forever.  We were reeling with emotion and feeling all kinds of things in the wake of this event.

While on a 13-hour flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday, November 8, blissfully ignorant of what was going on in the Thousand Oaks area where we live, flames were destroying lives once again, not to mention homes.  High winds and dry brush – always a deadly combination – were threatening homes from one end of the Conejo Valley to the other.  As we got texts from family and friends after landing and turning off “airplane mode,” Michael and I were faced with decisions: should we turn around and go home? Because our home was in the line of fire, our house/dog sitter had evacuated with them to a farther away location, and we were constantly being updated as to the danger our house and our neighborhood were in.  It’s extremely frustrating, I learned, to be so far away and feel so helpless when the place where you live and the home you love are in danger, not to mention the people you hold most dear.

As I write this from Israel a few days later, the fire danger is much lower, but winds are predicted to start up again, and that could mean the danger level rises once more.  So this story is not over; it may be by the time this is posted, or it may not.  Surely those who are devastated by the tragedies mentioned know in their lives that it’s not over in a day or two but will take months and perhaps years – if ever – to at least regain some semblance of normalcy once again.

So there’s personal tragedy, losing a spouse after a long and arduous illness.  Terrible, terrible grief.  And an adjustment to a “new normal” of widowhood and being alone in life.

Then there’s the tragedy of a shooter walking into a club where people are having a fun evening and taking everything away from them in a flash, a few minutes of noise and chaos and fear.  Lives forever changed or impacted by one person’s inability to get help, to cope with whatever demons drove him to this act of insanity.

And then there’s the act of nature, fires that move without emotion or reason and burn whatever is in their path, turned away or stopped only by water and the will of determined fire fighters who are trained to put their lives on the line for the lives and property protection of others.

My community, my friends, my life are touched and changed forever.  When I get home from this trip to Israel, where my Saviour spoke to His followers about loving beyond anything anyone had ever heard of or seen before, I pray that I may do what He asks me to do with a willing and obedient heart.  And I hope to share with all of you reading this some of the amazing truths and insights I’m learning here.

I’m posting this now, this morning, November 21, having come home to blackened hills, the smell of smoke in the air, and ash in the master bathtub where we forgot to close a window.  A tree branch which must have blown down in the high winds and which now sits in our backyard, on our fake grass, so its only crime is being unsightly.  No real permanent damage, nothing that can’t be washed or cleaned up or remedied.  Not so the lives lost in the fires up north, the homes lost both north and around here, the hard work yet to be done to bring life back to a semblance of normalcy.

I’ll tell you more about Israel next week.

For now, I’m just glad I’m home, I’m glad that I have a home, and if you’re reading this, I pray that your Thanksgiving tomorrow is filled with an awareness of just how thankful we should be this year.

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 7, 2018

And We’re Off!!!!

This is my last post in Rita’s Ramblings for a week, as tomorrow Michael and I leave on an adventure – our first trip to the Holy Land!  It’s called Not Your Grandmother’s Holy Land Tour – an intriguing title to begin with, which should give you some idea as to the nature of the adventure.  Our friend Brian Newman leads it along with Elias, a friend of his, and we’re looking forward to about a week of walking, hiking, climbing, talking, mostly listening, and mainly being where the Saviour lived and moved and existed for his 33 years in a human body. And then some.  Places to see that we have only read about in Scripture, places that will I’m sure come alive in a unique and different way than they ever have before.  Those who have traveled to Israel before us have all verified that it is indeed a life-changing trip, something to be savored and enjoyed every minute of every day.

I’m planning on posting photographs along the way, if I can remember to take my phone (iPhone 10S with great camera capabilities, so I can only take excellent photos) out of my backpack and use it.

I’m also planning on absorbing every second of this trip, because it will most likely be a one-and-only for us.

So wish us well, pray for us if you think about it, and I’ll be back, God willing, writing a deliciously interesting Rita’s Ramblings on November 21, one day before Thanksgiving, with much to be thankful for.

Posted by: ritagone | October 31, 2018

Casting Stones

 

 

I don’t mind a public figure ranting and raving against the powers that be, those powers that be usually being politicians or anyone else.  Well, I do mind a bit, but that’s not my point here, so for the sake of argument, let’s say I don’t mind as much as the point I’m going to make in a minute.

The other day I streamed a British awards program which honored a handful of artists — actors and producers and directors –among them comedian/actor Jim Carrey.  Jim Carrey was the last honoree to speak toward the end of the show.  He got up and received his award and then proceeded to deliver a speech that was politically charged and hostile and nasty.

Again, not unusual.  And in this climate we live in, well received among his artist audience.

But what made me think was this: what if every person who ranted and raved against the government and the social ills of our day stopped and instead looked inward and made a commitment to make themselves better, to turn a flashlight on their own problems and disasters rather than hurling stones and rocks outwardly?  A bit of Jesus’ throwing the first stone by he who is without sin?

It’s so easy to yell and scream and accuse everyone else of bad behavior.  I’m sure Jim Carrey felt really proud of his assault on the world around him, like a hero, having spoken his piece.  But I wonder if Jim Carrey’s own interior life and behavior could stand up to scrutiny by someone else and what that would feel like for him?

Get your own house in order, I guess I’m saying.  It’s easy to look elsewhere.  It’s much more difficult to make the commitment to clean up our own space.

And that’s what Jesus asked us – commanded us, really – to do: the hard work of self-fixing, self-examination, before we look around us to condemn and castigate others.

Right now we have a President who makes it so easy to look away from ourselves critically and instead hurl insults and criticisms at him. Whether he deserves them or not is not the issue; what’s at issue in my mind is how much time and attention we need to spend on ourselves before we go looking for others to whip.

Right now, again, to go against the grain and stop criticizing others, no matter who they are, and concentrate on what we need to fix in ourselves is the much more difficult path.

Jesus never said it would be easy.  And He was certainly right.

 

You know already how much I like Seth Godin’s writings.  Here’s another of his blogs that I share with you today:

 

 

We are not the enemy (if we try)

Fewer than 1% of our population works hard to divide us. To pit people against one another for their selfish aims.

These are the pundits, divisive politicians, media companies and short-term trolls who have decided that schisms and fights are a good way to achieve their aims.

But if everyone is demonizing the other, then everyone is the enemy to someone.

We end up spending our time fighting each other instead of fighting for the things that really matter. We end up focusing on the current thing while something more important shrinks away in the background.

It’s possible to be fierce, fierce in your dedication to change, to what’s right, to making things better–without finding the source of your power in the destruction of others.

We ought to be fighting inequality, corruption and inefficiency. Working to stamp out ignorance and missed opportunities while creating access and possibility. Keeping our promises and making things better.

Every system is improved when it’s in sync, and the narcissism of small differences is a seduction that keeps us from focusing on creating real value by doing important work.

Realizing that things can get better (they can always get better) opens the door for productive conversations, conversations that aren’t based on prior decisions about what team someone is on, and instead, on putting our shoulder to the work, taking responsibility and actually making things better.

We can fight injustice without becoming pawns in a boxing promoter’s game.

Posted by: ritagone | October 17, 2018

How to Remember a Name

We were in Dublin, Ireland, having lunch in a cute little restaurant on a side street.  I even remember the name of the restaurant, first, because it was a catchy one – Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill – and secondly, because I kept a business card, which, as an aside, is not a bad thing to do as your memory gets a little more “flexible” with age.

The restaurant had “celebrity” 8”x10” black and white photographs hung all over the walls, reminding me of the old Brown Derby in Hollywood, but of course many of the people in those photographs I didn’t know, because they were Irish actors and actresses.  But nearby our booth was the photo of an actress who I did recognize…except that I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name.

You know the situation: you look at someone’s face (usually this happens with a live person) and you know them, but their name is somewhere out there in the ether.  If a gun were put to your head, as the saying goes, at that moment, their name would still escape you.

So I did the smartest thing I could think of to do: I asked our waiter, a young lad who was brimming with enthusiasm and energy.  He didn’t know, of course, but he said he had a friend who might, and he would contact him.  So he took a picture with his phone, and off he went, presumably to turn in our food order and find out who the mystery lady was.  The funny thing is that by then, the couple seated next to us, a woman in her 50’s and her mum, had gotten involved, staring at the photograph too and trying to help…all to no avail still.  Amongst the four of us, the name still proved elusive.

You’ve probably had this happen too, haven’t you?  That name you can’t place, the word that escapes your mind.  It’s frustrating and a bit frightening all at the same time.  My husband cannot for the life of him keep actor Gene Hackman’s name filed in his brain.  Hard as he tries, Gene comes and goes at whim, so that Michael is constantly asking me, “What’s that actor’s name that I can’t think of?” and I know the answer is, “Gene Hackman.”  It’s always going to be “Gene Hackman.”  It’s a thing between us.

So there we were, in Dublin, Ireland, in a restaurant, with the same thing happening, but to me!! What was her name? It would have helped if I could think of something I had seen her in, but I couldn’t find that file in my brain either, although I remembered seeing her in a few things, both film and TV.

The young waiter came back after texting his friend.  No luck there.  Apparently his friend wasn’t as brilliant at naming people as the young waiter thought he was!

And then someone – I think it must have been the restaurant manager himself – was brought into the fray.  (It was a slow time of day as far as business in the restaurant was concerned, thank goodness.) “Oh, that’s Claire Forlani!” he said, as quickly and easily as if it had been a photo of his sister and she had just been dining in the place.

And the windows of my mind flew open and I knew immediately that YES!!!! It was Claire Forlani of “Meet Joe Black” movie fame (with Brad Pitt) and “CSI:New York” TV fame and many other film and TV projects, and I thought, “How could I not have known her?” and many such thoughts.

And my day got much better, after many sighs of relief.

And to this day, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Claire Forlani.

So the lesson here is: if you want to remember someone’s name, you must have this kind of “forgetting and then remembering” encounter around them, because then there’s a better chance that they will become embedded in your brain forever.

Is that scientific?

I don’t know.  Probably not.  But it sure has worked for me and Claire!!!

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