Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day Fourteen - True Nature of Man

Okay, so I like red wine. Especially, the smokey oak flavor of a good Cabernet. So, take this for what it is worth. Maybe so, maybe not.

Tonight, I experienced the true nature of man. My oldest sister arrived in Baton Rouge this afternoon. We will travel to Mississippi to see my Dad this weekend.

My children, LOVE their aunt. Their love of their aunt is displayed in competition between them to show her who is good, better and best. So, tonight I experienced a reality that I have never fully defined.

My oldest, played the guitar with my youngest, who played the piano and sang. Then my middle son, sauntered into the living room and began displaying his expertise with the guitar. They each shared their own talents with an intense desire to be enveloped with total admiration. Isn't that what we all seek?

I believe the true nature of man is to be God. We want to be God. We want to be the center of attention. We want to be loved. We want to be the bestest, greatest, prettiest, skinnyest, youngest, strongest, successfullist, sexiest, smartest, spiritualist, famoustist and confidentist people in the universe. Often times, this shows up in the most interesting ways because we don't want to admit that about ourselves. It shows up in intense competition. Whatever our passions may be, usually they are self focused.

So, why are we so afraid to say it like it is? Why are we afraid to be vulnerable? Why am I dancing around this subject without actually selling it straight? I can tell you why. Because when we display our dirty laundry we become targets. I know because it has happened to me. The ability to display your dirty laundry comes with personal inner strength, which comes with extensive self-examination and/or mental institutionalization which maybe I need.

I've said some pretty crazy things in this post. Especially the use of words that won't show up in the dictionary. As you continue to read, you'll find out that I often make up words. They make sense to me, so I hope they will to you too! On that note, I shall retire.

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Day Thirteen - Life and circumstances

This morning met me with more detours. My youngest son suffers from anxiety and a mild tic disorder. He has chosen to manage it without medication and has done well for about four years. I think part of his anxiety last night and this morning is due to lack of sleep. He is going to a college-prep school, plays football, has a girlfriend, is in constant motion, and I think it has all caught up. Anyway, thus the delays in writing and keeping my thoughts in check.
I share with you two email posts I read this morning. Both are very profound and real to me. As I continue to share with you my journey through life, certain things are bound to strike me and so I will go on a little detour myself. The first post is from a local pastor here in Baton Rouge. The second is from my dad, who flew to Seattle last week and returned to Mississippi on Tuesday. Both reveal the true nature and understanding of the most merciful, incredible, powerful, indescribable God.
Everything in my life and yours will be out of order until we address the matter of our love relationship with God. Just typing that sentence caused me to take a long pause before I could begin to type again. Of all of the messages I have been blessed to share with you, this one goes right to the top of my list in terms of importance. Everything in my life rests upon the reality of God pursuing a continuing love relationship with me. And the same holds true for you. I am 53 years old [now 56] and have tried to love, serve, worship and obey God for some time now. Yet, the force of these words is beyond description. Until I address the matter of the love relationship between God and me, EVERYTHING will be out of order! Do you realize that I am now forced to examine ALL of the stuff in my life in the context of my love relationship with God? Whew! That’s some heavy lifting. First of all I must truly wrap my brain around the fact that God loves me. It’s not as simple as it once was to make this statement. I cannot simply say these words when God is acting in my life exactly the way I want. I must process the things going on in the context of God’s love even in the midst of some of the many difficult moments that present themselves. Even the stuff that hurts, angers, frustrates, and challenges me must be seen in the context of God’s unquestioned love for ME. Whew! And then while I am attempting to wrap my feeble brain around this very challenging truth, I must come to grips with His expectation that I would love Him with everything that is me. Loving God with everything that is me goes way beyond the words I say or the prayers I pray. This means that my love relationship with Him is THE priority in my life. It impacts EVERYTHING I think, say and do. EVERYTHING! Excuse me a moment… I had to take another pause before I could begin to type again. God created us so that He could love us and we would love Him back. Since it’s my purpose, I’m going to get busy doing it. I want to encourage you to join me in this journey of love. Let’s start unwrapping the truth of His perfect and eternal love for us. Then, let’s try to give ourselves fully to loving Him back with everything that is us. I am going to give it my best shot. Everything in my life and relationship with Him depends upon it. Are you in? Stay loved.
From my dad:
Report on trip to and from Seattle to undisclosed list of friends and family:

As one who ponders about what he sees, I had some deep thoughts while on the trip. Flying over Houston, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Seattle, WA, and then Chicago, IL. I was impressed with the many, many houses that I saw. I am persuaded that in this world there must be at least a MILLION !! HOUSES. That means that there must be a HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!! Wow!! And even with so many people everywhere, I remembered that God knows every one of them by name. He even knew my name as I was flying in the air and looking down on all those houses. He surely is a great God to look after all the people in the world. I said a special prayer to tell Him "Thank You" for taking care of all those people and especially for all the family members and friends who are so precious to me.
My dad ended his email with: "I love you, you know!!"
I'll write more tonight if time and circumstances allow. To all my friends and family and those I have yet to meet: I love you, you know!!

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day Twelve - Too Late

Too many conflicts with life. Youngest son's anxiety. Hopefully post tomorrow.

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Day Twelve - Early Morning

Growing up in a different country from your country of origin brings many blessings but also causes certain conflicts and confusion. I was born in Kyushu on Ashia Air force Base. We lived in a city called Fukuoka, Kyushu. In our community we were the only Americans. We had other missionary friends who lived near by in other communities and we saw them on a regular basis, however, daily lives encompassed mostly Japanese people. I attended Japanese kindergarten and my best friends were Japanese.I remember some young Japanese men (probably teenagers) walking near our house one day shout, "Yankee go home!!" You will need to place the proper emphasis on the words to get the full effect. It probably sounded more like "Yanke (soft a) go homu!!" As a four/five year old, I recall being completely incensed by this statement. It was such a false accusation! Wearing my then blond hair I shouted back in my loudest and firmest voice, "Watashi wa 'YANKE' ja naidesu. Watashi wa Nihon-jin desu!" Translated, "I'm not a Yankee, I am Japanese!" Besides, I wasn't even from the North. Why did they think I was Yankee? Ha!I guess our presence was a little bit intimidating. Here we were perched on the hill, representing the saviors from America, bringing the good news. Living in what represented a castle to their tiny, dirt floored homes. My memories are vague but, hopefully, relay the message I'm trying to share.We came to the states every five years. My first visit was in 1962 when I was three years old. I thought we traveled by ship but my dad's book states that we flew. This was my first time in an airplane. We arrived in San Francisco and visited my Aunt and her family in Sunnyvale, California. We then proceeded to drive across America with my family of seven and one of my first cousins', making eight. I can only imagine what kind of trip that was.My dad, describes some of the feelings they had after they arrived in the States in his book, Windows in the Wall. He writes,"From Sunnyvale, California to Brookhaven, Mississippi was a long journey for us with six children, but we had the wonderful opportunity of seeing the land that we loved. It was hot and arid, but it was beautiful. The people spoke English and didn't stare at us. We traveled along the roads, through the cities and countryside, and hardly anyone noticed that we had been there. No crowds gathered around our car."This pretty much sums up how life was for a missionary kid. In Japan, we were constantly stared at because we were so different. Even the monkeys at the zoo would gather around and mock us as if we were the ones in the cage. But coming to the states was another adventure. In the early 60's and even up to the mid 70's being a missionary kid was kind of like being a celebrity, both in Japan and in the states. My dad's book also makes reference to us kids being "little missionaries."If you know anything about me or my siblings, we were anything but "little missionaries". I guess our lives pretty much typified the infamous preacher's kid. This isn't something that I'm rather proud about, it's just a fact. Now, I can only really speak for myself, however, my siblings weren't complete saints either.But, I do think that everyone thought that we were supposed to be "missionaries." Well, I don't know who signed me up to join that cause but it certainly wasn't me. So, when I received the call as a Freshman in college at 8:00 in the MORNING on a SATURDAY in the dorm hall and someone else had to wake up to answer it, I was just a little miffed. The lady on the other end of the phone identified herself as someone from one of the thousand Baptist churches surrounding Mississippi College. She was from the Baptist women's group and wanted to know if I could come speak to their group about missions and what it was like to be a missionary. Well, I was very quick to remind her that, "I AM NOT A MISSIONARY." Very incensed by this bold and rather rude reaction she responded, "Well, Janet, where do you go to church?" At the time, I wasn't involved in any church and frankly, didn't know if I would ever be so I said, "I DON'T GOOOO TO CHURCH." You can probably imagine this very refined southern lady's reaction to my response. She said, "Well! What would your parents think about that?!" I replied, "They know!!" And that was how the conversation or rather admonishments, both ways, went.

Time to get my kids to school. I'll continue this line of thought this evening.

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day Eleven - Maybe so, maybe not.

Once upon a time, there was a wise old man who the village trusted. A villager visited the wise old man and said, "My bull died. It is the worse thing that has ever happened to me." The wise old man said, "Maybe so, maybe not". The villager thought the wise old man was crazy. The next day he found a horse lying across the plains, and he tamed it to his advantage. The horse was much more efficient than the bull. He went to the wise old man and said, "You were right! This was surely the best thing that ever happened to me!" The wise old man replied once again, "Maybe so, maybe not". The next day, his son broke his leg riding the horse. Once again, he went to the wise old man, "This is surely the WORST thing that ever happened," exclaimed the villager. The wise old man replied once more, "Maybe so, maybe not". The villager thought he was SURELY insane. The next day, all the sons of the village were forced to join the military except the injured son......... And so goes the story.
I read this story for the first time when we lived in Alabama somewhere around 1998 or 1999. At the time, I thought it was a very interesting story and thought it had a good message. Things aren't always as they appear. It is all a matter of perspective. I didn't know then how the story would apply to my life, but I am now seeing a little better picture of that. Last night I shared a story about a big barbecue on the beach with a bunch of Japanese men. I mentioned that one of my friends was "fortunate" enough to get us a bottle of whiskey. I don't remember how old I was. I could have been twelve or thirteen. I had never had alcohol before in my life. I really didn't know what would happen if I drank it. Needless to say, even a little bit for a first timer would cause problems. And boy, did it. I really got sick along with several other girls in the group.

Jack got really mad. And that really was a little weird, because he didn't usually get mad at us for doing things we weren't supposed to do. He was the "cool" teacher, right? Well, that night he was mad. I couldn't figure it out. One thing I don't think I have mentioned is that every time we went to Miyake, other than the school sponsored trips, Jack was usually the only adult around. It was just Jack and the kids. Don't you think that would be a red flag? It baffles me to this day that so many adults knew the nature of the camp and the adult child ratio but nobody did anything. At least not that I'm aware.
Anyway, years later someone shared with me their thoughts about the situation at the barbecue. I have not verified this and won't ever be able to so please take it for what it's worth. This person said that the plan was for the Japanese men to have an opportunity to be with young American girls. That night I thought I would die I felt so bad from too much whiskey. At the time, it seemed to be the worst thing that could have ever happened to me.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day Ten - Late NIght

It's getting late and I'll have to follow up tomorrow night when I have more time. Goodnight.

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Day Ten - Evening

Today was an interesting day. My husband called me at work, just to see how I was doing. Tentatively, he said, "Your son's okay, just a little slap." Baffled, I thought, "What is he talking about?" Evidently my fourteen year old was called into the disciplinarian's office for inflicting a "purple-nurple" - also known as a "titty-twister" on another child. At first the child laughed - ha, ha. But then my son persisted. Thus, the slap across his face and probably cafeteria duty.

Shortly after, my oldest son (twenty seven) called. "Mom, I need your advise. This lady that was riding in front of me, started slowing down and uhhhhhh, I ran into her. I already called Dad. There wasn't much damage to her car, she just told me to give her $400 and call it even. What should I do?"

So, this is the day and the life of me.....and all of us. Circumstances happen to all of us, whether they are a fault of our own or others. We suffer consequences all the time for others. This is life. How good or bad it is depends upon you.

I was on my way home from, yes you guessed it, another football game, when I passed by a church marquee. Posted on the marquee was a quote from "The Talmud" although in reality it is an undisclosed source. It has been attributed to John F. Kennedy, however, that is not verified. It doesn't matter who said it, it's the message that counts. Posted on the marquee were the following words:

"If not you, who? If not now, when?"

I am reminded of a quote my older brother gave me, when six years ago, I was struggling through this horror trying to figure out if what I was doing was right. He reminded me of British philosopher Edmond Burke's quote:
"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. "

It is with these two reminders that I proceed. God help me.

There are a few stories that I referenced before that need to be shared.
Okay, I already told you about the Old Women Who Lived Under the Street. That's pretty funny. I still think about that when I see reflectors on the street - And you thought I didn't know.

The other memory I have is about driving around at night on the island. The one time I really remember driving around at night was when we went to an INCREDIBLE barbecue on the beach. The first time I ever had escargot was during this
barbecue. Why does a word that is pronounced "ESS CAR GO" have a "T" at the end? Try living in Louisiana!!

Anyway, we went to this really cool barbecue on the beach, Jack and all his groupies. There were many Japanese men on the beach. We ate wonderful food and had a great time. One of my friends was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to acquire a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Well, the rest was history. At least for me. And to this day, I won't touch whiskey, scotch or anything that reminds me of that. But, what I found out later was that since we got drunk, the Japanese men on the beach were not able to do anything to us.  

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Day Ten - Morning

God is my refuge and strength and ever present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

With only a few minutes to write this morning, I was hoping to share with you about the old women under the street. The significance of this story, however; is not about the old women who lived under the street but about my state of mind at the time as an eleven/twelve year old.

Miyake is only several miles around in circumference. It maybe took 45 minutes to drive around the entire island. I may be off a little on that. Often, at night we would go out and drive to do something - only one memory comes to what that was - I will share that later. Anyway, this particular night as we were driving we came around a curve and I noticed that these lights on the road lit up as we were coming around the curve. They were little lights in the center of the road spaced about a yard or two apart. I was facinated by those lights and couldn't figure out how they came on when a car approached. I then asked Jack, "How do those lights on the street come on when a car comes around the corner?" He looked at me confused and said, "What lights?" As we approached another curve (we were on a small island after all) I pointed and stated, "Look, those lights." Jack said, "Oh, THOSE lights. Well, there are little old ladies that live under the street that turn them on when a car is coming." For ever and a day, I believed him. I trusted him and was obviously very gullible. Now, before you are too quick to judge me as stupid, might I remind you to just go back a few years in your own life. You may not have to go that far.

I believe that this story just illustrates my state of mind as an eleven/twelve year old. And to this day, I still wonder how those old ladies get underneath the street!!
© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day Nine

I woke up this morning feeling sick to my stomach. Not sick from a virus but emotionally sick. Much of the same way I felt six years ago when all hell broke loose. My dreams haunted me but more importantly, God reminded me that I wasn't communing with him. Instead of writing anything today I opted to read, go to church, contemplate my feelings and listen to God.

Every now and again I pick up a little book written by David Roper called In Quietness and Confidence. A friend of ours gave it to my husband and it's torn and tattered from being read so much.

Roper speaks about mankind's constant state of dissatisfaction. He writes, "Joy and sorrow are often juxtaposed." We may be relishing in comfort of over-indulgence and then quickly forget our blessings, begin complaining and become bitter about an insignificant discomfort. Our rights are being violated - how dare they be. But Roper continues, "We can sweeten the bitterness if we choose to see each circumstance as God's choice for us and willingly accept it - saying "yes" to him and to his will. He has chosen this difficult place for us, he has permitted this intrusion; it is his will that we are here. "Disappointment is his appointment," someone has said. We too must see it that way."

We seek satisfaction in things other than God. We strive to seek happiness and fulfillment in our own "broken cisterns", rather than in God Almighty who loves us and cares deeply for us, and who in his infinite mercy disciplines us.

As I read more this morning this question kept on nagging me. What is your motive in sharing this story? What are you willing to risk by sharing it? Are you willing to risk losing your family? Are you willing to risk doing something God doesn't want you to do? My answer to both of these questions is emphatically NO. I know what it's like to go against what God desires of me - it's not good. I prayerfully and deliberately ask for God's guidance. So, this is what fearing God feels like.

So, where does that leave me tonight? A little confused, but closer to the truth. I don't know where God will take me on this journey, but I know I can trust him to do what is right for me and for all involved. Proverbs 10:19 says, "When words are many, sin is not absent." T. S. Eliot wrote, "Where can the Word be found? Not here. There is not enough silence." So, I struggle with what to say, how much to say and how to say it.

Through-out the day I had different thoughts and feelings. If "silence is the mother of the wisest thoughts" how does silence protect the innocent. For those who are theologically conservative, I am talking about those who are being abused and are without a voice - not innocent in the general being. Who will speak out for those who have suffered if not those of us who have shared in the suffering? Why is protecting the innocent so hard?

Blogs can be both good and bad, like most things in life. They can be good in that you are some what forced to continue them if you have a reader following. They can be bad in that you really aren't accountable for your words and much like an email, you can post quickly before you have thought about what you've written.

So, where I am tonight? I am waiting to follow God. He will decide where this goes.

Roper concludes this chapter with this.

"James (apostle) says we must be "quick to listen [to what God has to say]" and "slow to speak" (James 1:19). This is not the slowness of ignorance, emptiness, timidity, guilt, or shame. This is the slowness of wisdom born of dwelling quietly with God."

My reponse: My Father is protecting me. Amen.

© Copyright 2009 Janet Calcote Simmons All rights reserved.