It Is Time

It is time. As I wait for death to come, I remember how I got here. Of course, this was destined from my birth, but the last few days have been the culmination of three years of work. I think back over the last few days between spasms of pain and try to make these last moments meaningful.

I think back on my time with my friends. We had some very good times together. We laughed at each other’s jokes and at the foibles of the people around us. We traveled together, walking many miles and talking about family and politics and, of course, scripture. I had so much to teach and so little time! And when Peter was revealed to be Rock on which so much was to hinge, I knew not to question the choice though I quailed at what would be his fate. I gasp for breath and try to think of the goodness that awaits me when this pain ends.

Another gasp for air and I try to ease the pressure on my chest, which feels like it will soon explode. As I move, the wounds on my back open again and my raw nerves against the wood bring forth a long moan. I would scream, but there is not enough strength or air. I remember my last meal with my friends. I tried to model what I expected of them by washing the dust from their feet, as a servant would do. Peter – loving, impetuous, passionate Peter! – refused to let me near his feet. He simply did not understand the message I had been trying to teach him. “If you refuse to let me do this, you cannot share in my inheritance,” I said, and he jumped to his feet and exclaimed “Then wash all of me!” The whole dinner party erupted in laughter at the idea! A new pain shoots up my arm, but I cannot escape from the torture. Writhing against the rough wood, I reopen my wounds and blood runs free again.

Peter disappointed me, though. First, he fell asleep in the garden as I prayed for the strength for this ordeal. Then he denied me three times, as I said he would. I can see his face at times, when I can bear to open my eyes. The look on his face reveals the anguish in his heart. Dear Peter, how can I tell you? A wave of pain washes through my body, and I see Peter’s face blanch with my pain, then I am beyond thinking of Peter as weariness closes upon me.

If only the pain would stop! But it is relentless, and I cannot tell what part of my body hurts the most. I know this must happen, but even my body can take only so much, and I long for the release I know is coming. I thought the pummeling at the Sanhedrin was painful, but the scourging was so much worse. Words cannot describe the feeling as my skin was flailed open, with raw flesh exposed to the air. My screams meant nothing to the centurions, and they continued to flail my open wounds, driving them ever deeper. Even now, I can feel the whips on me as the centurions laugh. I open my eyes briefly and see my mother at my feet. What is she doing here? She can’t take this, watching me slowly die. Her moans mingle with my own, creating a kind of macabre song that we sing together, the last thing we will share on this earth. My eyes meet hers briefly, and through the dripping blood I gaze at her face, full of love, understanding, and anguish. I must do something for her; I cannot leave her alone. My beloved disciple stands next to her. I find the strength to speak. “Mother, here is your son. Son, take care of your mother.” I see my disciple put his arms around her, and again a wave of pain overcomes me, starting from the nails in my feet and radiating upwards and to my fingertips, obscuring all the world from me, and I fall into blackness.

The pain calls me back to the land of the living, and I moan once more. I want to move my arms! The nails hold me prisoner, and I feel the pressure in my chest growing. Every tendon, every fiber that knits my flesh together screams out for the relief that will never arrive. Knowing that I cannot escape this agony is almost as bad as the agony itself. Actually, I can escape, but then my life would be for naught. The sacrifice must be made. I must travel this dark tunnel.

My knees are probably the least painful part of my body. After the scourging and the betrayal of my own people – my own people! – I was made to carry the wood for my death. My back flayed open, wounds upon my arms and legs, the wood was placed upon my wounds and I was forced to drag it through the streets. Every step was exquisite agony, as the wood rubbed against the raw flesh. I could not scream, as every ounce of strength was needed just to put one foot in front of the other. Through the intensity of my effort, I could barely hear the crowd that surrounded me. Some people, the ones who loved me, were wailing. Others, the Pharisees and their followers, were jeering and spit upon me. I paid them little mind, as every ounce of my energy was focused only on the next step.  My cross, slick with my body fluids, was difficult to hold and slid about on my raw shoulders and bumped against my thorny crown as I tried to complete this, my last journey.  My blood dropped like the sins of man upon the dusty road. The rocks, rough on my feet, were even rougher on my knees each time I fell. It wasn’t long before the rocks cut my knees open. Finally, I was too weak to continue, and a stranger was asked to help me carry my load. This burden was mine to carry, but a stranger was pressed into service so that the sacrifice could be completed. I pray that he has no sleepless nights after viewing my horrific wounds from such close quarters!

Through it all, I could feel my mother in the crowd. I am anguished that she must go through this, but she won’t leave me, I know. She was close by as the nails were driven through my hands and feet, and I know that she felt each hammer blow. She has been with me from my childhood, and I know that she will be with me until the end. I wish it could be different, but the love she holds for me is a reflection of the love I hold for Man, and see what I do? Like a spear through her heart, she felt each nail. She will watch each breath I take, trying to breathe for me when I cannot. Such as now, when I retch but cannot clear my throat. My tongue is dry, my body is dry, the ache broken only by the heart-stopping pain that rips through me. My lungs are bursting, and my heart is not far behind. Gathering strength I call out “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” Though I cannot hear them, I know the scribes are crying in wonder, recalling the psalm that I have started to recite. Maybe this cry will reach one last person, who will recall Scripture and the truth will be revealed to him.

Someone tries to give me a sponge, but my lips and mouth do not work anymore. I do not see the world anymore. My world is only the pain that envelopes me; I cannot see beyond it. I try to focus on the reward to come, but it is difficult. My heart is near its end. It cannot continue to push the blood through the pain, and I do not want it to. It is time.

“Into your hands I commend my spirit!” I put myself in my father’s hands, as the dark clouds gather over my head, and the brilliant light opens before me.

WHAT Were They Thinking?! Urban Legends and Those Who Send Them

I do so hate getting rid of my family and friends, but there are times when this fanciful thought crosses my mind. Like this morning, as my well-meaning but misguided father forwarded yet one more e-mail that he failed to check out.

So, today’s Chicken Little warning pretty much told me not to buy Glade Air Fresheners (plug-in type), or my children, my husband and myself would die horrible, fiery deaths as our house would burst into an orgasm of incendiary madness about us, with little left behind to identify the culprit but two tiny prongs in an electrical outlet.

And, of course, there was the emotional guilt required at the end of the e-mail to encourage me to waste other people’s time as mine had been wasted. These guilt trips just irk me all the more, for the feeling that someone is trying to manipulate my emotions in addition to insulting my intelligence.

Our society requires a certain amount of responsibility when doing certain things: driving cars, raising children, cooking food, etc. I am held responsible if my bookkeeping doesn’t conform to certain requirements: that it be accurate, timely, and auditable, for example. If I yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, I may be held liable for any economic and physical damage that may ensue from such a sophomoric act. Why then, do so many get away with insisting that their cyber friends must be as lazy and as gullible as they are? The anonymity of the internet allows all sorts of things to occur that our normal society would never allow. If I were to stand on a street corner with a sandwich board proclaiming that McDonalds had HIV infested syringes or snakes in the ball pits of their children’s play areas, I am sure that McDonalds would come after me with all the force allowed by law for ruining their good name. I know for a fact that an ad slandering Proctor & Gamble as a satanic organization would result in impending bankruptcy – on my part.

Who sits around and creates these things, these urban legends and internet hoaxes? I can only imagine some frustrated baker who has this killer recipe for chocolate chip cookies and wants to be sure everyone has it in their kitchens. “I know!” she exclaims, “I’ll put my recipe on the internet, and just to make sure that everyone looks at it, I’ll make up a story where I’m an underdog battling big, bad Neiman-Marcus Stores. Everyone hates large corporations, so they’ll be more than willing to spread my recipe everywhere in order to get back and them!” And the housewife plops herself down and creates her fabrication to get her cookie recipe out. Unfortunately, Neiman-Marcus must now spend untold amounts of time and money trying to convince people that this event never happened. Of course, the original chocolate chip recipe has been replaced by many recipes over the years, as people replace the original recipe with their own favorite oatmeal or sugar cookie recipes before sending it on through the wires to the next group of unsuspecting dupes.

Or maybe, it’s just someone who wants attention, but is afraid of getting in trouble. The internet is perfect for just such situations. I could send out an e-mail, claiming to have gotten it from an anonymous source, and waiting to see the trouble it could cause. How many people can I make lose sleep? How much consternation can I cause? For example, there is an urban legend on the internet that drinking bleach can help one overcome a drug test (“cleaning” the urine). This is dangerous as well as malicious.

The people who forward these falsehoods mean well, I am sure. If I thought a friend of mine was facing dire danger, I would want to warn him as well. But because it is so easy, so incredibly simple, to hit the “forward” button on the e-mail screen, they don’t take the time to make sure that the stories are true. It is easier to waste other people’s time and energy than their own, and who will blame them for the costs associated with the lie? If these self-same people were required to stand before a court of law with a hand on the Bible and proclaim these same statements that are sent so blithely through the internet, how many would escape a perjury punishment? And could they be held liable for a friend’s rape or death because the victim took on full faith the information about “how to fight off a rapist” that was sent to them by the afore mentioned “friend”? How many of these e-mails would stop, or at least be checked out?

Yesterday I had to correct an e-mail (for the second or third time, I believe) that declared that inputting your PIN number backwards into your ATM machine would alert the police that you were in trouble. Not the financial kind, like forgetting to get enough cash to take out that hot chickie-poo waiting eagerly in the car, but the kind where someone with a gun was forcing you to withdraw your life savings in $300 increments. I can only imagine myself at the ATM, desperately punching in backwards PIN numbers, hoping the police show up and confident that they will, because I was told by a very good friend who was told by another good friend who was on someone’s e-mail list, who got has it on good authority from a cousin who thought she read somewhere on the internet that this was true. And as I wait for the police, the robber takes my money and shoots me dead. And as I lay dying, I rage at the fact that the police didn’t get there in time. In fact the police won’t arrive until my rigid body is discovered in the cold of the morning, and they wonder why I didn’t run away or fight for my life instead of allowing myself to be taken hostage. It happened because it was on the internet, and of course, that makes it true.

With all the websites available to check out the veracity of these claims, it is inexcusable that the senders don’t avail themselves of this information. As I’ve told several of my friends who insist that I avoid all the dangers of pay phones and fake state troopers, the following items in an e-mail automatically get my antenna up:

1) WARNING WARNING! The sky is falling…or some such nonsense. If it’s a warning, I go check it out before I start changing my lifestyle or habits. I have learned that I do not need to check my toilet for the sneaky and dangerous “butt spider,” thank goodness!

2) “This (insert authority figure here) states this is true!” This could be anything from a government agency, TV show, firefighter, insurance agent, or doctor. Even if the (insert authority figure here) actually exists, their names can easily be borrowed to lend an air of truthfulness to the story.

3) If there are too many details – yeah, the same as number 2. After reading enough of these things, I can pretty much tell when someone’s trying to feed me a load of BS rather than delectable chocolate cake. Actually, it’s almost every one of these. If e-mails could be converted to the fertilizer that they are, my gardens would be incredibly green.

4) “I’ve checked this out on Snopes, and it’s true!” I’ve seen this one a couple of times. Yes, it may be on www.snopes.com, one of the most popular anti-hoax websites. Each time I’ve seen this, the threat may be mentioned, but it’s either (1) old and outdated, (2) not as severe as the e-mail tries to tell me, or (3)some other important item that is left out of the original e-mail.

5) An urgent demand that this message be sent to all of your friends, family members, religious community, old school chums, and all of their relatives, living and dead, as well as their pets. This is usually couched as an emotional guilt trip; for example, “Send this on to everyone you know. It could save their life!” A variation of this is the religious implication attached to usually more friendly e-mails, to wit: “If you love Jesus, you will send this to seventy-seven of your best friends RIGHT NOW!” And then there is the tease: “Send this to twenty-five of your inner circle right now and you will see a cute surprise!” All of these are despicable methods of trying to get you to waste internet bandwidth to make you feel better.

If I’ve offended anyone, I’m not terribly apologetic, because it probably means that you are one of those well-meaning family members or friends who just insist on believing everything that is sent to you. Or maybe you just want to send me all of these meaningless but infuriating e-mails on the off-chance that it MIGHT be true, but you just don’t want to take the time to check it out yourself. Well I’m tired of being everyone’s gatekeeper. You are tired of my sending out “reply all” messages to everyone you send to, pointing out the fact that you have, in some fact, lied to them all. Just do us all a favor, and quit sending these stories out. Then I can get more work done, and so can you, and the urban legends creators can get real, meaningful jobs. This sounds harsh, but then God had to knock Saul off his horse and blind him for three days to get his attention, too. (THAT is not an urban legend, by the way – it comes from the Bible.)

Speaking of work…did you hear about the man who died at his desk and wasn’t discovered for five whole days? Well, there’s a reason for that! Now, back to work!

Why I Can’t Vote Democrat

I’ve been hearing on the radio the things that Mrs. Obama has been saying to the crowds recently. It’s the same things I’ve been hearing from the Democrats for years. To listen to them, one would think our country is on the brink of economic and moral disaster. The rich are always evil, the poor are always oppressed and innocent, and it is the duty of those in power to even things out.

Well, there ARE some evil rich people. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go in agreeing with them. Of course, there are evil poor people, evil middle class people, evil people in general. Or, to be more correct, people who engage in evil behavior. There are also some very good rich people, good poor people, good middle class people. I remember being asked when being vetted for a jury pool if I believed that all cops told the truth. My answer? “There are good cops and there are bad cops, just like any profession.” That observation applies across all races, creeds, genders, and age groups. But for those who don’t think that life has treated them fairly, it is so much easier to find a common outside element on which to push all the failures of life.

I am the seventh child in a large family. My father had to work multiple jobs almost my whole childhood, and we didn’t get to see much of him. My mother, bless her heart, had to handle the daily duties of the large brood. Laundry was washed every day. She sorted and washed, we children helped with hanging the laundry on the line. We tried not to use the dryer, because we were in constant “save money” mode. We always knew money was tight when the beans and cornbread came out. I sometimes had the feeling that we were somewhat begrudged the food we ate, though it wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood why. Huge volumes of foodstuffs disappeared down the many throats, like an overgrown brood of chicks in a nest. We had a huge garden in the backyard, from which we harvested and canned our food. Behind the garden were the livestock: rabbits, ducks, chickens, and pigs. We butchered much of our own meat. Mom sewed clothes and house linens, and repaired our hand-me-down-clothes on her ever-running sewing machine, including winter coats for my sister and me, which we hated wearing because the other kids had store-bought coats. I was in high school before receiving my first store-bought shirt, from the dollar discount rack at K-Mart. I was so excited to get that shirt! While a child, I didn’t realize we were different from others in our community. As I grew older, I began to comprehend that we were different. While others could buy their school lunch, we were always brown bagging bologna sandwiches and baggies of chips or popcorn. While other kids took family vacations, we stayed at home all summer. While other kids went out to eat with their families, I was flabbergasted and excited about being invited to Long John Silver’s with a classmate for eight grade graduation. I’ll never forget David’s mom saying, “It’s just Long Johns!” What she didn’t realize was that it was a place to eat that wasn’t home. Except for one vague memory, I had never “eaten out” before. But for all that, no one ever told me that we were poor. Nobody ever said we were lacking anything. So I never had serious issues with my childhood economic status.

I read voraciously as a child, and looked forward to elementary school. All of my elder siblings chose different courses in school, and not all of them productive, while I focused on my classes and strove to achieve. I was so embarrassed when I brought home my first “C” in ninth grade math! I was the first of the tribe to go to college. All of my elder siblings chose different courses in school, not all of them productive, while I focused on my classes and strove to achieve. I was so embarrassed when I brought home my first “C” in ninth grade. Because of my focus on my education, I was “lucky” enough to be awarded a full ride scholarship to college. (I dislike greatly the use of the word “lucky,” as if I didn’t put in any effort to be eligible!) After entering the university, I always carried 15 or more hours, applied myself diligently, didn’t skip classes, and turned in all of my assignments. I graduated with nice scores and was able to get a job with a large airline, eventually moving on to consulting work, and now work at running the family business with my husband.

I tell you all of this to point out a few things. We were not privileged. There were times in college where my fiancé and I had to live off of his Dad’s credit card. I worked in the summers to earn much-needed money. When I became depressed about my workload in college, my fiancé kept me from quitting and we helped each other stick it out. If I had to, I would have found some kind of part-time job during the semester and not told my scholarship trustee. After marriage, there were times where I literally wondered if I’d be able to buy groceries for our next meal. I had to use unemployment one time, and I didn’t like it. The idea of going “on the dole” just never occurred to me.

Why do I tell you all this? Because, if my parents had listened to the line that today’s Democrat leaders spew, we would have been on welfare. We would have been told over and over that we were not capable of helping ourselves. We would have been bludgeoned with the fact that money was tight and we could not hope for anything better. If I had been told as a young child that I had no hope of ever attaining better, would I have worked as hard? Would I have pushed through in college when times got tough? Would I have become so dependent upon handouts that when I entered the tough times after marriage, I would have settled for the handout lifestyle and given up?

Perhaps I’m an optimist. Where the Obamas of the world see people who need more welfare, I see untapped potential. Where they see unskilled workers without jobs, I see a business opportunity for someone to teach them. Where they see children as a burden to be disposed of, I see the future of our country. Where the screaming about poor education abounds, I see parents and a culture where a free education is not valued. Where they decry the rich for taking the money away from the poor, I see examples from which the poor can learn to improve their lives. I don’t get angry about someone getting ahead – I try to copy them! Don’t lick ‘em, join ‘em!

Where are the programs to teach the poor to handle money? Why isn’t someone organizing them, teaching them to work together to achieve honorable ends until they can stand on their own? Instead of telling people how incapable they are of handling their lives, why are our leaders not lifting them up and giving them dignity? If you beat me often enough, at some point I will finally succumb. This is a depressing example of Pavlovian economic policy: punish attempts at success, and reward submission.

Our society may have problems, but they are not the problems that Mrs. Obama describes in such heart-wrenching detail to the admiring mobs. Our country is not on the brink of demise, not yet anyway. I could never live with myself if I had to always see the dark side of life, never hoping for anything better. Even worse, I could never live with myself if I brought others down by telling them they could never hope for anything better, that they were the playtoys of fate alone. How dismal that outlook is! I wonder – how well do the Democrats sleep?