Friday, February 29, 2008

Watch for flying machetes....

Yep, watch out for flying machete jokes in Mississippi. I heard a few references last night, and this morning the headlines caught my eye.

It would seem that a local judge built an addition to his house.

So the tax assessor had to come look at the addition.

Well the tax assessor went to the door and rang the doorbell, nobody answered..... So he went around to the back of the house to look at the addition. While inspecting he was surprised to find a knife at his throat, and not just any knife, but a machete.

And who should be holding the machete???? Yep the judge.

Well in the assault case, it came out that the judge thought his life was in danger, and so he was protecting himself and his property (yep I can see that, I wouldn't mind protecting my property from the tax assessor too)

In the civil suit, the tax assessor felt his life was in danger (and it probably was)

The judge in the assault case threw out the case. He decided that since the judge thought his life was in danger, he was within his rights to use the machete.

Kinda sounds like the judges are sticking together right?

Well a year or so ago, the legislature enacted a bill that said that a person had the right to use deadly force if they felt that either themselves, their family, their home, or their car were in danger.

So last year the joke was about the guy who might get shot for running a stop sign. "Oh, but he was approaching my car at a high rate of speed, officer, I feared for the safety of my car and so I had to shoot him"

Now its all about the machete's. Last night I was asked on two occasions if someone needed to bring machete's to the soccer game.... just in case we feel that our kids are in danger on the field I guess.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Amazing Ideas attract Petractors

Sorry for not posting for a while, I am in the process of changing vocations once again and seem to have my thought process focused on that.

However last night I did go to church.

At our church, we have a computer hooked to a video screen. The person running the video screen always goes through the slides before the service so that he can familiarize himself with the screens and does not get surprised.

Now I was sitting there watching him go through the screens, which my daughter and I like to as we get to see which songs we are going to be singing and what the sermon will be about.

Well up pops the screen saying something like, "Amazing ideas attract petractors" and off he went through the rest of the screens.

Now the person running the computer is a very smart man, and I was having a terrible crisis in that I had no idea what a petractor was. So I approached him and asked. (he does not make up the slides by the way)

He was not familiar with the word either, we brought up the slide again and worked it out. He said that "petra" is greek for rocks or earth, so it must have something to do with rocks. I sat down and with my daughter worked over the word in my head and finally came up with a word that meant acting like a rock.

Well we sang some songs, and got to the sermon which was about building the wall around the temple. Part of the sermon was about how some people were not doing their fair share, some were working hard, and some weren't working at all. All the while I am sitting there thinking 'petractor' a person acting like a rock, not doing any work, acting like a rock, OK, maybe this can work.

Then finally the slide pops up

The minister says, "Whenever someone has a great idea, like building a wall around the temple, petractors are attracted"


"Whenever someone gets a great idea, there are those who want to shoot it down, the petractors"


Petractors have nothing to do with rocks, it is a misspelling of the word "protractor" which is being misused instead of "detractors" which would have been the proper word and spelling.

At this I decided I needed to write about it in my blog.

My first inclination was to write about the education system in America. My daughter had announced that they were going to have spelling tests in 6th grade now, but the tests are stupid (according to her) because they are 1st grade words. Like: Their, they're, neighbor, weigh..... you catch my drift, they are words that should have been learned in 1st grade, but by 6th grade it seems nobody knows which witch is which.

I will admit that the Mountain Man is fairly lazy with his spelling too. My computer automatically tells me if a word is misspelled, no matter where I write it.

So when I see something on the computer, especially for a presentation, I assume that the spell checker caught it, and that it really is a word....

But that is not what I need to write about, because that was not the intent of the sermon. After the service, my friend the computer operator and I talked about the word. "Do you think it was intentional?" "Wouldn't it have been great if it was?"

We decided it probably wasn't.

The sermon was about "High Definition Living". Being so in tune, so focused, that you accomplish the goal without regard to the 'detractors'.

If it was intentional, it was great. Here I was totally in a fog, paying almost no attention to the task at hand, worrying about a word that was only a detractor for the task at hand. It would have been great. Lesson learned.

But I don't believe that was actually the lesson......

I think the lesson was far beyond the intent.

I am thinking, maybe, just maybe, we aren't supposed to know the end.

Maybe the fault was not in the person misspelling the wrong word, but rather the person reading ahead in the book.

I have learned over the years that a book, a really good book, needs to be read in the order it was written. Skipping chapters, skipping ahead, reading the end.... ruins it.

Life might be the same way.

Maybe the lesson was to not look ahead at what was going to happen, that I would have enjoyed the songs, enjoyed the lesson, a lot more if I did not know the ending. Worse yet I got the wrong ending. By taking a moment in time, and looking at it before it happened, I got the wrong conclusion, thereby ruining the story.

I remember back in the late 80's the "Prophecies of Nostradamus" were all the rage. He predicted Hitler's rise to power and may other things. I remember those people saying that it was theorized that he has predicted that WWIII would start around 1990, and shortly after NYC would be attacked. I remember this because around 1990 the world went to war to rid Kuwait of Sadam Hussein. Later NYC was attacked, and the world went back to war to rid itself of Sadam Hussein.

I remember he also predicted a major calamity that would devastate the earth. Followed by a very long period of peace.

I don't remember when that was supposed to happen.... and I am thinking I am not supposed to know.

What Nostradamus did not predict was that in 1994 I would meet the love of my life, and my son, and a year later my daughter. Nobody told me that we were going to live on a street a block away from an ice cream store or that after we dropped off my son at school, my daughter and I would go get a freshly made bagel and a cup of coffee.

Or that we would live in a house in Mississippi with a pond in the backyard and multiple rose gardens spread throughout the yard.

Nostradamus totally left out the part about living in Alabama, and swimming in the pool, not to mention being a substitute teacher, or reading parent and working with all those kids.

I don't remember him ever saying anything about the school plays, the band concerts, the Christmas at the Chinese buffet....

I don't think I am supposed to know the future. Sometime in the future something WILL happen. So many things will happen that if we focus on one thing, all the other things get lost. This may be the root of High Definition Living. Maybe its NOT about focusing on one thing, but letting all things happen as they were meant to happen and being a part of all things. A HDTV screen is not about one pixel. Its about all of them, and to focus on one thing means losing the picture. Focusing on the picture means losing the story, focusing on the story means losing the life.

So I guess I need to stop going through the previews of the Wednesday service.....

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Was a madda, yow hands not workin?

I have lived and visited many different places in the United States. As I think back, though, I realize that I surrounded myself in each of those places with a limited group of people. There were our neighbors, the people that I worked with, the people my wife worked with and sometimes a small group of friends.

So I guess maybe I did not get to know how diverse each place was....

Here in Mississippi however.....

People from the north smile when they here a 'southerner' speak. There is that nice little drawl with the occasional ya'll. I remember coming to Mississippi the very first time, house hunting. We were staying in a hotel, and I was searching the channels on the TV for the local news. I was anxious to hear 'southern'. I was most dismayed to find that most of the news anchors speak 'northern'. I did finally find an old guy on the PBS channel talking about Mississippi state parks, with that deep southern drawl. I watched him for an hour wondering if I was ever going to sound like that.

We found our house. Nice little neighborhood, a subdivision.... which is the first time I had lived in a subdivision. Our neighbors were a mix, from Illinois, Mississippi, Texas. Most all of us spoke 'northern' but every one of us would ad ya'll in whenever we could, just to sound a little less out of place.

By the time we moved to Alabama, we could not discern a southern accent anymore. There were other accents however. My wife worked with a guy from Louisiana, big difference in the way they speak.

Then we came back to Mississippi and moved, once again into a small gated subdivision full of 'diverse' people. There's the Filipinos up the street, the Chinese couple who hesitantly speak English, but claim to have come from Texas. The couple from India, the family from Minnesota,
and a few odd mixed others. And we continued to live our lives in our 'diverse' community.

Then I went to work....

Not only did I go to work, but I went to work driving a school bus. School bus drivers are typically old. There are about 150 drivers working at our company a dozen are white, there are probably 5 or 6 my age or younger, and the rest are old black men and women who really don't care if you understand what they are saying or not.

I have heard of the Mississippi Delta (I remember the song Delta Dawn from my youth), I even visited the Delta (reminded me of eastern Montana, around Sidney, mostly flat, and very agricultural). I knew a few people from the Delta, mostly white business people that cared greatly if you can understand them or not. But I had not met the soul of the state.

It is the birthplace of many genres of American music, it is rich in agricultural history, it is written about, sung about, and told about. But the people of the Delta are not a proud group. They are humble and reclusive.

My friend John who showed me around some parts of the Delta last year, explained how it is in the Delta. It reminded me of small town Montana. Not the Livingston or Bozeman type small town, but Clyde Park, Ringling, and many other very small towns. The people know each other in a very intimate way. They are in each others business, because it affects each of them so much. Its a hard group to join, and once in, it does not matter where you go, you are part of the family.

So it is with these people I work with now. There are a few who I know, and there are more who are allowing me in, that don't quiet down when I walk up to their group. There are a lot of differences that I need to overcome. Age, most of these guys are old enough to be my parents. Race, I have always considered myself an innocent when it comes to race and the more I live in the south, the more I realize this is true, luckily my innocence shines through and people of all races down here try to teach me how I should act (and I pretend to learn).

The biggest however is Language. It isn't that there is a more noticeable southern drawl, maybe there is and I just don't notice it. There is a 'mumbling' characteristic which I know affects me more and more as I live here... (I attribute it to the heat/humidity; it frys the brain)
But primarily its just the words and the phrases they use.

So last week I was filling up the bus, long story short, I had to fill up a second bus so it was my second time in 2 days being at the station. Another driver approached me:

R: Hay, yow feel evera day?

Me: No, different bus, remember mine broke.

R: Oh, ya, ya, ya.... Thisun ...mumble....mumble....mumble....

Me: What?

R: Ya empty?

Me: Don't know

R: Mumble mumble mumble

Me: What?

R: Yow hand broke?

Me: (looking at my hands) I don't think so

R: Then why ya feelin

Me: Cuz I don know how much I got

R: Why? Dun yow hand work?

Me: What?

R: Yow hand, yow Fuel Hand

At which time I understand.... Fuel Hand is the fuel gauge, and no I didn't trust the fuel gauge which turned out to be fairly accurate after all. Probably the only bus that the fuel hand works on though....

So now, after nearly 9 years in this place I am just starting to break out of the 'diverse' subdivision and learn more about the soul of Mississippi. Who knows maybe I'll even learn how to Mash a Button!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

They'll know we are Christians by our Love......

It was a song we used to sing at Bible camp so many years ago, they'll know we are Christians by our love. It had a catchy beat, it was fun to sing.

These days, it seems they know we are Christians because we tell them so. I really dislike the reality TV shows that have the "Christian" family, or team. They make a big deal about how they are one with the Lord. They pray every episode, before taking out their prey. They are usually the most ruthless, devious, underhanded group in the show. I remember one show, I think it was the Amazing race. Couple of "Christians" just putting it to everyone before getting kicked out of the game. Then the next round, here is this team from the hills somewhere, West Virginia or maybe Tennessee, never say a word about being Christians, but are always helping the other teams, and when someone does something bad to them, they feel real bad about it, and help them again the next show.....

"Christians" give a bad name to Christ?

This all comes about from a basketball game I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend last weekend. My daughter's team, from her Christian school, played a tournament in town near here. Unfortunately the game did not go according the coach's wishes. He ended up yelling at the referees, having a technical called on him, having a police officer sit next to him.... and then adding insult to.... I guess insult, the crowd started yelling at the referees too. The refs, then stopped the game, warned the crowd and it wasn't until some time passed that the girls got to finish their game. Yep we can sure tell the Christians by their Love!

Unfortunately I find that those who wear the name, that need to prophesies, that feel the need to gather themselves among their own kind.... rarely are who they say they are. It is the person who shows who they are with their words and their acts; it is the person who always has the kind word, that always helps instead of hinders; these are the people who show who they are by their love.

I may have told this story once before, its one of my favorite. Long before moving to Mississippi, I made my first appearance in the south going to see my future mother-in-law in the hospital. My fiancee (who is now my wife) warned me as we found a parking place near the hospital. "I have to warn you, this is the south, people are very friendly here and you will likely know the life story of the person standing next to you in the elevator by the time you reach the 10th floor.

My wife is uncanny in that way sometimes. I believe we had to go the 11th floor, and sure enough by the time we hit the 10th, I knew the lady who got on with us like an old friend. I knew her, her children, her parents, and even knew a little bit about other people she had ridden the elevator with earlier that day.....

I tell that story, because here in the south, the phrase, "So which church do you go to" works its way into the first 5 minutes of EVERY meeting. Meet the new soccer coach, find out what church he goes to. I think even McDonalds might be keeping a database on Customer's church preference on it's POS machines.

Religion in the south is not to be taken lightly. Or at least nobody down here takes it lightly. You belong to a church, if it is not Baptist, you will be invited to be a Baptist on a daily basis.

I have never met a Jehovah's Witness in Mississippi. I don't think there's any of them left, they knock on the door of some house and from there on out every moment of their lives they will be hounded by over zealous Christians trying to turn them into Baptists, or invited to eat with Methodists, or chased by snake toting 7th day Adventists.... They just don't stand a chance down here.

There are a lot of Christians in Mississippi, and there is a lot of Love. There are a lot who claim the title though.

Luckily you can tell the difference,

"We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that all Unity may one day be restored,
And they'll know we are Christians by our Love, by our Love,
Yes they'll know we are Christians by our Love.