Mistaken Identity

Jake

Have you seen this story in the U.S. news recently?  It’s been on CNN, MSNBC and in local Charlotte papers.  It’s the type of report you may glance at and think, “That’s terrible!” or “Oh well, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to stay safe.”  But this time it’s different for me. That boy on the right is my nephew, Jake.

Jake is my sister’s child.  My sister, who is Caucasian like me, married a man who is of East Indian descent.  His parents immigrated to the United States before he was born.  My sister and her husband have three children, all half-Caucasian, half-Indian.  None of this has ever been important in my family.

Jake just turned eighteen in April.  In high school, he worked hard in classes that didn’t always hold great meaning for him.  He’s an easy-going kid and at times, shy.  His passion is for his music.  He is a talented drummer in an up and coming band.  It may surprise you to hear that Jake is conservative, he is a Christian, and he is a Republican.  He has also shown enthusiasm for one other thing:  Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

As a new eighteen year old, Jake is excited to be allowed to vote this year.  He has been a staunch supporter for Donald Trump.  He has worn “Trump for President” shirts to school and debated with others as to why Trump is the right candidate to become president.  Jake even defended Trump when peers called him racist.  It has been Jake’s opinion that Trump would like to better the United States immigration system. You probably can’t find a stronger Trump supporter than this boy.

So the news that Trump was holding a rally in Jake’s own hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina was very exciting. This young, sometimes unmotivated, boy took the initiative to obtain his ticket and arrive early enough at the convention center to wait at the front of the line in the hot summer sun.  He was very pleased to get a front row seat.  He could not wait to see his hero, Donald Trump.

Before theJake2 rally began, however, security approached Jake.  We know who you are, they told him. They said he was an agitator who had protested at previous Trump rallies. Remember, this was Jake’s first ever political rally.  The security officer, escorted Jake out of the convention center, along with the woman in the picture, whom neither Jake nor anyone else in our family knows.  Jake’s attempts to identify himself, or to ask whom they thought he was, were ignored.  He was told that he would never be admitted to another Trump rally.

Ironically, Jake missed a speech by Trump in which Trump expressed that he wanted America to be great for Hispanics, African-Americans and all people.

In the long run, I wonder what Jake will have learned from this incident.  I hope it will somehow make him stronger, more world-wise,  yet not hurt him or cause him to become jaded. In this event, he’s seen that heroes can be flawed.  He may have learned that ideologies can look different up close than from far away.  He also observed first hand that what someone says about you doesn’t become true just because they’ve voiced it.

I know Jake has felt a variety of emotions over the past few days since this has happened to him.  He is confused, insulted and disillusioned.  If nothing else, he would like an apology from the Trump organization for the way that he was treated.

I hope my nephew will continue to be passionate and enthusiastic about issues he considers important in the future.  I  know this ordeal has shown me that my usually quiet nephew is quite articulate and poised in a time of trouble.  I am very proud of him.

 

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Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my son.  My youngest child turns thirteen today.  Thirteen years of roughhousing, competition, guns and gadgets.  Thirteen years of bright brown eyes and tawny, tan-armed hugs.  This boy has captivated my heart over the past thirteen years.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I had no plan that included him.  He was a surprise, born more than six years after I was done having children.  I feared I would be too old.  I feared I would lose the freedom I had gained after leaving the preschool years behind. I had no idea how to raise a boy; I’d only had girls.  I did not choose to have this child.  He was chosen for me.

And I thank God for this blessing that I never sought.  My son has filled my heart and brought me joy I didn’t plan on either.  As my other children have grown and are leaving home, my son has filled the house with childhood.  He has protected and taken care of his mother, like the little man that he is.  He has needed me and wanted to be here. We have played and loved and laughed.

I already have an idea of what adolescence will bring.  I pray that I have the stamina to endure it one more time. I know this sweet boy-child will pull away from his mama, as he learns to become an independent man.  I know that in the blink of an eye he too will be planning his departure from my home.  These are things he must do, and I will love him by letting him go when the time comes.

But God, who knows what I need better than I do, has once again provided.  My daughter announced just the other day that she is expecting her second child.  It seems I am well stocked with children to fill my home.  Thank goodness for this cycle of life and my promotion to grandmother.

So today will be about a thirteenth birthday, with boys jumping around, eating junk food, video games, cake and a sleepover.  I will enjoy the days that remain for my son to be my little boy, while they become few and far between. Then I will watch, in awe, the man that he grows to be.  Happy thirteenth to my young man.

That Time of Year

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 

Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

Which by and by black night doth take away, 

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire

Consum’d with that which it was nourished by.

   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

                                             ~William Shakespeare

Today I am being both melancholy and melodramatic. This favorite sonnet of mine sums up my emotions perfectly.  What is wrong, you may ask?  Who has left? What has died?

Summer has officially ended.

I reported back to my job as a resource teacher today. Don’t get me wrong; I consider it a privilege to have the career that I do, to be able to help struggling students find success. And for every school year that drains me of my energy, my time and often my sanity, there is a summer that follows which allows me just enough time to refresh and reboot before doing it again. Being in the teaching profession has let me enjoy the magic of summer, like a child, every year of my life since I was five.

Summer has been a time to reconnect with my family, to be creative and to just be me. I have read novels, napped and  been lazy.  I have vacationed and played with my children.  I have completed projects to better and maintain my home.  Frankly, I’ve been a bit self-centered and pampered myself.  I have definitely, as Shakespeare said, “loved that well which [I ]must leave ere long!”

With the start of the school year, time will be short.  The whole family will be on the run. Most, if not all, of my creativity will be channeled into my students. My family and I will come second to the demands of both my job and my children’s education. But while I mourn the end of a magical, wanton summer, I am ready to once again accomplish another successful school year. And before I know it, the sweet birds of summer will sing again.

Kicking Against the Goads

Recently my pastor gave the congregation a challenge. He wanted each person to write down the story of how they came to know Christ. He included a three-point outline in the bulletin intended to help:

1) My Life Before Christ

2) How I Met Christ

3)  My Life After Christ

The problem with such a task for me is that my life doesn’t fit into the three-point outline. I didn’t lead a life of debauchery, interrupted by a salvation moment and followed by a radically changed life.  For years this bothered me.  My story is about a much more mundane person who has been slowly shaped by the Master Creator over the years and who is still a work in progress.

My parents tell me that I accepted Christ’s salvation at the age of three.  I don’t remember the event.  For years, as a child, this caused me worry.  Was I really saved if I couldn’t remember making the decision?  Should I pray the prayer again?  But then, which prayer was the “real” one?  I was looking for the neat, three-point story even then.

When I was in my mid teens I went to camp and made a decision I was sure of.  I would be a Christ follower. That took care of points 1 and 2, but the “Life After,” point 3, was still not the radical transformation I was looking for. For one thing, I hadn’t accrued much in the way of big, obvious sins beforehand, to compare with.  Also, I was still an adolescent, still self-centered and concerned with what I wanted to do.  I didn’t instantly become flawless. I worried that I hadn’t “done” salvation as well as others and wondered what else I needed to do.

It took some more years until the basic truths of Christianity filtered down into my heart. I learned that I was a sinner no matter how small or inconspicuous I thought my imperfections were. I learned that I could not “do more” to redeem myself, but that Christ had truly done it all already when He died and rose again.  He covered me with his righteousness because my own imperfections don’t really go away.  I am always flawed and I always need Him.

I didn’t know it as a younger woman, but I, with all my self-doubt, was in good company. It was that of the apostle Paul, who has an impressive three-point story: 1-Persecuted Christians, 2-Blinded temporarily by a light from heaven while Jesus spoke to him saying, “Why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads”(Acts 26:14)  3-Lived the rest of his live preaching Christ’s gospel, exemplifying what a Christ follower’s life should look like.

Even so Paul writes in Romans 7 of his struggle during part 3 to consistently follow Christ. Even though his radical change is obvious in the hindsight of his Bible story, it was not always evident to him.  He lamented of his Christian walk:  “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (Romans 7:19).  It is, in a way, comforting that someone like Saint Paul would voice the same struggles I feel and need the same saving grace and reassurance that I do.

So I have learned to accept that there is truly no consistency or perfection within me.  My salvation is 100% a gift from the only Perfect Being.  Though I see growth in me, there will never be a faultless point 3 in my story.  My “After” story will most likely continue to be a series of ups and downs,  events where Christ teaches and shapes me, as well as times when I futilely put myself first and resist.

I take heart though in the confusing statement that Jesus made to Paul as the light from heaven blinded him.  “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  A foot note in my Ryrie Study Bible says that this is a Greek proverb about useless resistance.  A goad was a tool used to prod oxen with to keep them going in a straight line while plowing. I can picture the oxen, at times veering off in a direction of their own and being set straight with a tap of the goads.

I too have been prodded back on track over and over again.  My life, which has felt so haphazard and unplanned at times, has in reality been guided each step of the way.  I hope this will be more obvious someday by hindsight.  I’ve had difficulty going against the goads, like the oxen and St. Paul.  I thank Christ that he cares about this one mundane life and has seen fit to call me and guide me.  And I thank Him that it has been useless for me to resist.