Posted by: ritagone | January 17, 2018

Things Well Done

 

I’m always impressed by things well done, whether it be a performance on television or in the movies, a vocal concert, a sermon, a piece of writing of any length (some of the best pieces of writing are short and sweet).  A work of art, of any kind.

Things well done are often subtle, not blatant or obvious.

Things well done don’t need to brag or call attention to themselves.  In fact, if someone is calling attention to himself or herself,

usually it’s a sign that the thing isn’t enough to stand alone on its own merits.  (It’s why in my mind the Kardashians have never produced a thing well done; they are constantly, it seems to me, calling attention to what they’re doing, as if if they don’t, no one else will notice.)

If you’re looking for things well done, you see them everywhere.  While watching the Christmas Special of “Call the Midwife,” for example, which I referred to in my December 27 blog of late last year, there is a relatively small part of a character named Mabel Tillerson played by long-time British actress Anita Dobson.  We first meet her when Sister Julienne has come to her flat to inform her of her husband’s death in the worst snowstorm in London in decades.  Sister Julienne finds her almost dead because the flat is so cold, and when she is revived, there is this amazing scene in which we discover that Percy Tillerson was the worst kind of husband, abusive, terror-producing, overpowering, and his wife has lived a victim and a prisoner of his abuse for decades.  When told of his death, she is relieved.

 

But what is the “thing well done” in my mind that I noticed immediately is the play of emotions across Anita Dobson’s face as she works out, first of all, that her husband is dead, then, that she no longer has to be under his thumb and rule, and thirdly, that she is glad.  With very little dialogue (a wise move on the part of the writers and producers), these two actresses pack more into this brief scene with their eyes and faces than most can do with pages of words.

Things well done.

But it was quick, and if you were talking or not paying attention when the show was running, you would have missed it.

And, like so much in life, if you’re not watching, if you’re not walking or sitting with your eyes wide open and your ears alert, it would have escaped you.

 

Things well done, as I said, are often subtle, quick, elusive.

But they are so very worth watching and looking and waiting for.

One of my challenges for and to myself in 2018 is to be alert to things well done, to track them, to comment on them, to the people who do them, to someone who perhaps desperately needs to hear about them or see them, to bring them out, to make much of them.  Our world has too little of things well done and too much of things done badly.

Let’s look for things well done, you and I, this year; let’s call them to one another’s attention and let’s use them to make a positive instead of a negative statement in life.

I’m in; are you?

 

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Posted by: ritagone | January 10, 2018

Read this in a recent book: “If there is a problem somewhere, this is what happens.  Three people will try to do something concrete

to settle the issue.  Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing.  One hundred people will commend

or condemn the ten for their lecture.  One thousand people will argue about the problem.  And one person – only one – will involve himself so deeply in the true solution that he is too busy to listen to any of it.”

Thinking about “#Me too!” and “#Time’sup” and their impact at the Golden Globes award program this past Sunday night, I’m trying to relate it to this insightful quote (which of course makes me one of the minority who’s not doing much about solving the problem, just commenting on it, but that’s going to have to do for now).

First, let me say that I am not for sexual harassment.

That’s a pretty easy, simple statement to make.

After all, I’m a woman who grew up and worked in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, when it was presumed that men ruled, when women definitely were the minority, and when you kept your mouth shut, for the most part.  Not that I recall it feeling like a hostile environment; that’s just the way things were, and you lived and worked within those structures and those rules.

But I got married and left the workplace to raise children and wound up finding my meaning elsewhere, in serving at my church teaching and eventually being a board member on a non-profit (thanks to the gender stabilizing beliefs of the founder of the ministry, although bringing me on the board was not without its explosive repercussions).

 

All that to say, I can sympathize with the #MeToo! plight, because I think too many women in too many industries (not just the entertainment industry) have been harassed and harmed and beleaguered in ways that are shameful and even downright criminal.

So yes, let’s wear the pins and badges and say our pieces on national television when and where and if we can, when the platform presents itself.

But can we please put our breasts back inside our dresses while we do so?

I for one am so tired of hearing women talk about the fears and traumas of sexual harassment while I’m worrying about whether or not their breasts are going to stay put behind the fabric or instead make a sudden appearance in public.  While I’m not advocating for turtlenecks, I do think – given the topic on everyone’s lips – something approaching a bit of modesty where both cleavage and breasts are concerned is in order.  It seems to me to be rather hypocritical to be asking men to be aware of their boundaries while breasts are bursting out of theirs.

I may be wrong.

According to the paragraph I quoted at the beginning of this piece, I’m definitely not the one person who’s so involved that she isn’t listening to what is going on all around her.  I’m far too observant of the dress code at, say, The Golden Globes (no pun intended here) to be able to ignore everything and just get on with solving problems.  I guess I’m more of the one in a thousand trying to solve the problem.

 

This is just the beginning of the #MeToo movement, and at the beginning of movements, mistakes and errors in judgment are always made.  It’s allowed. But this is so very correctable, wouldn’t it be smart to correct it now, while it’s relatively easy, than before it becomes a bigger issue?

Am I way off base here, making a mountain out of a molehill? (again, no puns intended) Is this just my puritanical old age showing up to haunt and taunt me?  Are the rest of you saying, “What’s her problem?”

Come on, Oprah, help me out here.  Say something witty and pithy and tell us all what to do.  We’re listening.

Posted by: ritagone | January 3, 2018

A Word About the New Year

This is the first blog of the new year, so I wanted it to be short, sweet, and to the point.

That being the case, I found a great quote to start 2018 with: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson said this a long time ago, but I believe it still applies.  If you believe that each day of this new year is going to be the best day, you will of course be disappointed occasionally.  But if you believe the opposite, that each day is going to be awful, you will not be disappointed, but then, each day will be awful. It’s that self-fulfilling prophecy thing.

So make the decision to be as positive as you can as we head into 2018.

I will too.

And we can do a check-up in every quarter just to see how we’re all doing.

Meanwhile, hope your New Year’s Eve was fun and you heard lots of horns and saw lots of fireworks before you went to sleep.

Posted by: ritagone | December 27, 2017

What an “Experience”!!

It was Dana’s idea.

A family drawing, the nine of us (Michael, me, the five Rouses, and Matt and his daughter Hannah) pulling names out of a bowl: each

person picked a name, and you had to provide an “experience” of their choosing for and with that person.  Something they would like to do, something fun, interesting, challenging, whatever they liked.  It could be a few hours or an entire day.

But it meant you focused your attention and a certain previously defined sum of money on him or her for the allotted time it would take to do whatever he/she wanted to do.

But then the flip side of the coin meant that someone was doing the exact same thing for you: catering to your whim, doing what you wanted to do, crafting an event to meet your desires.

And so it came to pass that – within the family – there was someone you were doing something for, and someone was doing something for you. For lack of a better term, we came to call it the “experience.”  The name stuck.  And out of that pretty basic game plan some great experiences came to be: miniature golfing, simulated sky diving (yes, there is such a place in Southern California, near Universal City, where the air blows you up so that you feel you have jumped out of a plane when you haven’t), Universal City rides, roller skating, and my personal favorite, as noted by the photograph in this blog:

painting a piece of ceramic of your choice while you sit and chat, then go to a lunch that includes the best soft serve ice cream in town.

That’s how I came to spend several hours yesterday with my oldest granddaughter Meg, whose name I had drawn, at Color Me Mine in Thousand Oaks, where we each picked a piece of ceramic for the other and then sat and painted it.  I’m getting (once it’s fired) a mug, and Meg’s getting a small house which has a hole in the front where her fish Draco can (hopefully) go for rest and relaxation. (Some desires are just plain fanciful.)  After we finished our artwork, we went to Freddy’s, a local joint that serves hamburgers, chicken dishes and hot dogs, with the best side of fries ever, and then finished off with soft serve ice cream that is delicious.  We had a great time.  In fact, we decided that we didn’t need an “experience” event to get together – just the two of us – and spend time with one another.  And that’s a pretty fantastic end result!

This Saturday the other half of my “experience” is going to a matinee of “Something Rotten,” playing at the Ahmanson Theater in the Music Center complex in downtown Los Angeles with my son-in-law Ed.  He drew my name.  We’ll eat dinner afterwards at one of the many wonderful restaurants surrounding that theater complex.  I’m trying to maintain a low profile about this, because I don’t want the other family members to be jealous, but I have to say that this is probably the best “experience” event ever!!!  Getting to spend time with my favorite son-in-law is always a treat, seeing a Broadway show even off Broadway is special, so I am so looking forward to Saturday afternoon!

Yes, we are going to do this again next year.  It has been suggested that we not tie it in to Christmas, that we instead do it some other time of the year.  But other than that, it was a roaring success.  Everyone in the family knows how blessed we all are to actually want to spend time with sisters, uncles and parents and grandkids and such.  That’s not always the case, and we are well aware of it.

This Christmas, as usual, the British TV show “Call the Midwife” aired its Christmas special, and Michael and I watched it the next day, having recorded it on Christmas night.  I always have a box of tissues nearby, because it is guaranteed to make me cry, and this year was no exception.  But there was one scene and one bit of dialogue that really got to me this year.  The young vicar who is handsome and kind and who every woman watching has a crush on, I suspect, is talking to one of the older women, and they are discussing how families sadly get torn apart in life, because that’s a theme that runs through this show all the time, and this year was no exception. How does this happen? she asks him, and he answers:

“Ties fray so quickly,

And once they fray, they snap.

People just stop belonging.”

People just stop belonging.

We must fight to prevent that from happening in our relationships, in our families.  Our “experience” events within my own family this year have reaffirmed how much we need to keep belonging and make sure we do what needs to be done to keep that happening with one another.

May 2018 be a year in which you keep belonging to those you love and who love you.  Or may you find those to belong to in 2018 and start new relationships.  In either case, it’s truly all about the people in your life and how you keep from fraying and snapping apart.

Don’t stop belonging.

Happy New Year!!!

Posted by: ritagone | December 20, 2017

Keeping Quiet

Here’s a poem by Pablo Neruda, noted Chilean poet whose work really resonates with me.  I hope as we near the end of 2017 that this poem will resonate with you too, and that you will appreciate it for its message.  I love poetry for this reason: that it speaks simply and beautifully and says what we want to say without a surplus of words.  Enjoy!!!

KEEPING QUIET
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | December 13, 2017

Leading On!

I have just come home from two and a half days in the Denver area, meeting with the Board of Directors of Communitas International, the ministry I have served for over 20 years as a board member and then board chair.  We are a church planting ministry focused in Western Europe but also in North and South America, Eastern Europe and further east there, and we have weathered some pretty incredible changes over the almost 50 years of our existence.  Last month our third president tendered his resignation after being with the organization for a decade in two key positions, and so we gathered with the Senior Leadership Team to discuss, to pray, to dream, to figure out where God is taking us next.  We also got to meet with Dudley to say good-bye and to de-brief with him, to hear his heart and to bless him before he moves on to a ministry in Texas that is a wonderfully close fit for his giftings and personality.  We were able to say good-bye to his wife and two lovely teenaged daughters, closure which is not always possible in these situations, and for that we are immensely grateful.  It was not an easy time: there were lots of tears and emotion and expressions of love and thanks.  A bit of criticism and “what if’s.”  That’s to be expected.  But after all of that, we eight, with the help of a consultant/facilitator who had been a part of the ministry for many, many years in the recent past, were able to talk, to plan, to organize, to laugh, to dream.  “How do we reassure the staff, who are probably worried and concerned in this time of transition, that they are in good hands?”  That was one of the questions we tackled, and I think we answered it well, or at least began to do so.  “What are some of the key measures we need to put into place right now for stability and continuity?” was another key question.

We didn’t get everything answered and settled, by any means, but when we finished our meeting on Tuesday afternoon, I think we felt that we had accomplished quite a bit.  I think we were comfortable with a job well done.  We had set ourselves up for the next “gathering,” a phone conference call for January, and the next gathering after that, another in person meeting in Southern California toward the end of February.  We’re meeting.  We’re talking.  We’re praying.  (That’s probably the most important part to all of this.)  We’re committed to moving forward with a mission we all believe in.

If you look at the photos below, you’ll see on the left the “serious” shot of us as a group, taking a break to take our picture together.  I wish I weren’t in the front.  I’m always in the front because I’m shortest.  Yuck.  But if you’ll notice, we’re smiling.  We’re standing close to one another.  There’s no tension.  No fists.  No weapons are drawn.  That’s a good thing.  The second photograph speaks for itself.  “Let’s do something silly,” someone said.  And we very easily slipped into silly mode.  Someone suggested that I looked like I was biting off Jeff’s ear.  I was not.  But it makes for a funny photograph, doesn’t it?

Pray for us.  In that mix of people are those who love and care for Communitas International right now in a special way.  Pray for wisdom and discernment and strength and insight for us.  And maybe even a donation or two thrown in for good measure.  We love serving a vibrant and intimate and loving God.

I hope you’re serving Him somewhere, somehow today too.

Posted by: ritagone | December 6, 2017

Bye, Bye, Job! (And Thanks!)

Tomorrow I finish

 teaching Job at Connection, the Thursday morning womens’ Bible study at my church.  I started preparing to teach Job long about the first of this year, so it’s been almost a long time — full year — of reading various commentaries (written by Ray Stedman, Tim Keller, Elisabeth Eliott, Charles Swindoll and a few others), taking copious notes, putting together rough drafts of twelve lessons, re-doing some of those lessons, then re-doing them again, putting music along with the lessons, asking my daughter to sing songs that fit in well with particular themes of the various lessons, moving things around some more. Editing, shortening, editing some more. It’s been the equivalent of a part-time job!!

It’s what you do when you’re preparing to teach for about three months.  (The only Thursday I didn’t teach was Thanksgiving.)  You try to stay as far ahead as you can, knowing that every week, when you finish one lesson, you leap into immediate preparation for next week’s lesson.

 

During the time this group of ladies has been studying Job, two of our community have passed away, so we’ve been to two memorial services together, sharing the sadness that that kind of event brings.  We’ve shared laughter too, and lots of wonderful moments.  That’s what Bible studies like this are meant to do, and that’s what has happened.  It wasn’t just about being in God’s Word, although there was lots of that.  It was about sharing life together, personal stories and jokes and sweet moments of openness and vulnerability that can only happen when you are together week in and week out, along with the sad times of loss.

 

But first and foremost, I have to say that I myself am not the same person today that I was when I started immersing in the book of Job.  It has literally changed my life, in the way I think about God, who He is and how He moves in and through the world around me.  I will never be the same as long as I live.  The verse – the phrase – that keeps running through my head is 42:5: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”  It’s as if previously God had been shared with me, talked about to me, but now, He is in front of me, my eyes can see Him, He is a part of me in ways He never was before.

They say teachers often learn more than their students because they live with the material so much longer and get to go so much deeper, and I really believe that.  Job and I are now old friends.  Mrs. Job is known to me.  We are not strangers.  We never will be.  But more importantly, the God who is talked about in the book of Job – who is no stranger to Job or his wife – is much more known to me now too.

If this is what comes of teaching the Bible, then may I spend the rest of my days preparing lessons out of Scripture, whether there is someone at the other end of those lessons or not!

So good-bye, Job, and thank you for the life-changing lessons you have bestowed on me and hopefully a few others along the way.  What you went through – your sufferings and your time of hardship – were certainly not experienced in vain.

And if Elihu happens to be around, I have one question to ask you about him: is he still talking?

Posted by: ritagone | November 29, 2017

J.B. Phillips Has Something To Say To Us

Here’s a great little section in J.B. Phillips’ “The Newborn Christian,” a book which I continue to read every morning and continue to find a huge blessing in my life.  Hope you will too.

 

The Love Commandments

 

 

To love God with the whole of our personalities and powers is, according to the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 22:38, the “first and great commandment.” Yet among the thousands of people outside the ranks of the Church there would be very few who could be found to agree with him.  “Be a decent chap and don’t worry your head too much about God” – this is the working philosophy of a good many people.

Those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians are committed to accept Christ’s authority, though not unthinkingly; and when we come to look behind what appear at first to be arbitrary commands, we find that invariably He had good reasons for the principles He laid down.  So it is here…

Unless we believe in God and love Him, the qualities we value, the things we call “good” or “bad,” are purely a matter of personal opinion.  Your “good” may be my “bad” and vice versa…But Christians have an influence on national thought and conscience out of all proportion to their numerical strength; and even today a very large part of our tradition of behavior is nothing less than the fruit of Christian ideals having percolated almost imperceptibly into our habits of thinking…

It is comparatively easy for us to love those “neighbors” who are nice and friendly towards us.  It is easy to love the attractive and charming personalities of our friends.  But Christ made it quite clear that loving our “neighbor” did not stop at loving our particular circle, but loving all those with whom life brought us into contact.

You will remember His semi-humorous comment on those who thought that to love their particular friends was enough – “Do not even the publicans the same?” We might paraphrase that – “Aren’t even the tax-collectors nice to their pals?” No, if there is ever to be a happy and peaceful world we have all of us got to learn to understand and to love the difficult, the exasperating, and the unlovable – and that is a superhuman task.

I use the word “superhuman” deliberately, for by ourselves, without the inspiration that comes from loving God, it is plainly impossible for us to love, in the sense that Christ uses the word, our fellow men.

A clergyman probably realizes this far more acutely than the average layman.  There are many departments of life where obviously you possess more knowledge and experience than I do; but in this matter of living in love and charity with all kinds of people the parson has to know a good deal.  Forgive my plain speaking, but is it not true that if you find someone who is “difficult” or conceited or annoying, it is quite the easiest thing in the world for you simply to withdraw yourself and make friends with just those with whom you get on?  But such a course is not open to me.  I have to learn to understand and work with all kinds of different temperaments and outlooks, and in consequence I get a unique opportunity of seeing just how difficult is Christ’s second commandment – to love other people as we love ourselves.

Frankly, I see no prospect of our even wanting to obey the second commandment seriously until we have begun to obey the first.  We don’t really see other men and women as our brothers and sisters simply by talking airily about the brotherhood of man.  We only see them as such when we begin to get a vision of God the Father.  It is so fatally easy to talk highfalutin hot air about all the world being “one big family,” and yet fail to “get on” with the members of our own families, or with those who live next door, or in the apartment above us.  In sober fact, men do not really love their fellows, except their own particular friends, until they have seriously begun to love God.  It is only then that we learn to drop the destructive attitude of hatred and contempt and criticism, and begin to adopt the constructive attitude of Christian love.  So, then, the second reason for the command to love God being “the first and great commandment”’ is that we don’t really keep the second until we have obeyed the first.

 

 

This was written 40 years ago.  Wouldn’t you say it’s as pertinent and applicable now as it was then…maybe more so?

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 22, 2017

Grandparents Day, 2017

This is a guest blog by my husband Michael, who is the funniest person I know.  I can prove it: he made his living for 30 years being funny, writing sitcoms and producing them and being very successful at this.  So enjoy his contribution to this week’s Rita’s Ramblings; I know I did!!!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this.  I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends and that you appreciate and are thankful for all that God has blessed you with.

 

Our grandchildren (6th and 8Th grades) attend a private middle school near us. We were informed that today would be “Grandparents Day”. An opportunity to hear the middle school band and choir sing patriotic songs, visit our grandkids classes and see cute little pieces of pottery.

This will be fun.

In the English class (where the 8th graders are reading CALL OF THE WILD) the discussion was around the beating of the Husky “Buck” and the death of the other dogs and people on the sled.

Then sentences were outlined. I had no idea what the teacher was talking about when he started to explain how the object of a preposition takes an oblique case. I still felt bad for Buck.

Then it was on to our 6th grader’s art class where she was making what looked very much like a Fabergé egg.

Their other classes included algebra and computer studies where both students were designing computer programs for use with renderings based on “motion captured live action.” Whatever that is.

Then I dropped into the 8th grade science/engineering class where our grandson was working with a 3D printer making the housing for the small unit that will be sent to NASA for their next test flight to Mars. Something about the unit testing the gamma radiation in solar storms.

Clearly, I could not succeed at middle school in this place, even if I could get admitted.  I felt so profoundly stupid and was the most depressed I can ever remember being. It is bad enough that my phone is smarter than me, now I have a 12 and a 14 year old that make me feel inferior.

If you get invited to “Grandparents Day” at a middle school, watch out.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | November 15, 2017

A Wedding, Many Memories

 

This past week we went to the beautiful wedding of the daughter of friends.  We have such a long history with these friends, although, strangely, we don’t have much relationship with the daughter who got married or her sister. She was that much younger than our kids that our paths didn’t cross often when our two were growing up or when she and her sister were doing so. But there was still lots of inter-connectedness, which I find fascinating.  For example, the sister of the bride now works with my son-in-law.  The groom’s father took out my husband’s appendix a few year’s ago.  Many of the guests used to attend the same small local church, so it was like old-home week, greeting and catching up with one another.

In the top five Strengths of StrengthFinders I have Connectedness, so I love to see the web of history and family and job and church and whatever that connects people together.  So going to a wedding like this is a field day for me, a constant joy of recognition of someone you haven’t seen for years, perhaps, and talking about what he or she has been doing, what they’ve been up to, travels, kids being born, grandkids, accomplishments, sorrows, all of life covered in a few short minutes before you move on to the next revelation of connectedness (usually dragging Husband behind me).  I love it all; he, not so much.

This was a particularly beautiful setting at a local country club on a day that would rival a setting in heaven: trees full and lush and seemingly misplaced from a New England landscape, an outdoor terrace, the perfect temperature (it is Southern California in mid-November, after all), and a ceremony so beautiful in its writing and vision that I wish it could be published for others to copy.

After this gorgeous, perfect, flawless ceremony, people were free to mill around and visit with one another before dinner was served, the perfect opportunity to say hello to old friends, people we hadn’t seen in many years, catch up and fill in the blanks.  Again, I love this kind of time, those connections, those moments that make you realize just how much people mean to you, even people you haven’t seen or talked to for a long time.

 

Then we were asked to go inside for the incredible dinner and program for the evening.

We sat at Table #15 with four other couples, but it was especially fun to be at the same table with one of the couples because of a long and meaningful history with them.  He knows our kids from their youth and poured into them for many years, and it paid off.  She and her family are part of the rich heritage of our church, and I see her wonderful mother every week at my womens’ Bible study.  Another of the couples shares a Broadway musical love with me in particular, and so it’s always fun to spend an evening talking about which plays we’ve seen or want to see.  The food was great, the fellowship was even better, and it was a constant stream of saying hello and greeting people, hugs, laughter: the kind of evening that happens only rarely, unfortunately. A magical evening that I won’t forget soon.

What you share with people around you is so important, the history, the connections, the love.  This was brought home to me so strongly Saturday at this wedding.  It made me want to remember every person in my life, and what I share with them.

 

As I get older and older, I’m more and more aware of these connections, and I cherish them more and more.  They are, after all, the web of life, what makes substance of every day, what gives history and meaning to what has passed.  And better than television are the memories that we can call up when we re-live the experiences we had on a Saturday afternoon at a gorgeous wedding!!!

You’ve had experiences like this too.

Make sure you remember them and treasure them too.

 

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