Tag Archives: relationships

Asians & Cameras, Whites & Trump, Klingons & War

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Last night, my husband and I watched NFL football players take a stand or a knee against police brutality and racial injustice during the National Anthem, we listened to a panel of West Michigan Trump and non-Trump voters have a discussion with Oprah on 60 Minutes, and we watched the first episode of the new Star Trek: Discovery. One statement, made by First Officer Burnham of the USS Shenzhou, really struck me. She said, “… it would be unwise to confuse race with culture.”

Although stereotypes are generalizations and not true in every instance, stereotypes exist because there is some truth to them. Not all Asians are paparazzis, but there was a time before cell phones when it was not uncommon to see Japanese people sporting cameras. My husband once lamented, while he was scraping doggie do from his shoe during a hike, that I take pictures of everything! I chuckled and said, “Well, I am Asian!”

Both negative and positive stereotypes or cultural characteristics exist. Cultures are not only restricted to nationalities. They can be regional, geographical and social. Police officers are not all white nor are they all brutal. The majority of police officers of various nationalities are compassionate peacekeepers and first responders. If your race or culture is carrying a certain negative label, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and seek every opportunity to do the opposite and dispel the label, like some police officers are doing to connect with their communities and live in peace?

In most instances, the divisions we are experiencing in our country and in the world are not so much about race or even culture. Most of it stems from fear and a lack of understanding. Babies aren’t born prejudice and suspicious; they learn it. Whether it’s conservatives and liberals, blacks and cops, Christians and Muslims, or Mexicans and Trump, although our cultures and environments have shaped us into who we are, we are really all of one race—the human race—and we need to stop warring with each other. If we want to survive and experience satisfaction, it would be in our best interest to pursue peace by seeking to understand each other. As one of the West Michigan panel members expressed, we need to learn the art of discussion and compromise again, else I’ll take a stand, and you’ll take a stand, and neither of us will obtain what we want or need.

Instead of becoming defensive or offensive when ideas and cultures clash, maybe we should do what some Trump rally members did when a Black Lives Matter group showed up. Invite your ‘opponents’ to the stage to speak, too, start a dialog, gain some insight, and come to an understanding. I could even take a picture of you working together!


When and How to Help a Woman

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“It shouldn’t be about societal rules, but about love,” my daughter remarked during a recent discussion. She had just spent a week overseas and was talking about how the young men treated her as compared to how some American guys have treated her and other girls especially within church and homeschool circles. In social groups that put a lot of emphasis on living according to rules, many boys and men seem to insist on taking on a task or helping a girl because it’s what they were taught about being a man or a gentleman. It’s not so much about loving or caring about the person as it is about “doing what’s right” and feeling like a man.

There’s a quote or meme going around that says, “A real woman can do it all by herself, but a real man won’t let her.”

What?! Seriously?

I was recently talking with a couple of friends who are having trouble in their marriages. Although younger than I, one man had an older generation mentality of men being in control and making all the decisions. He had been taught that having wide shoulders and handling everything was the way to love his wife. I admire him for wanting to take care of her, but I tried to help him realize that although we women do want someone who will take care of us, we also want a life partner and to be valued as a partner. There was more, but that’s for a different blog post.

After yesterday’s practical fire class on ventilation and skills training, I thought more about what my daughter had said. Because I am small at only 5’1” tall, I have quite a few limitations when it comes to being a firefighter, but there are things I must try to do as part of the class, and some of those things I have to do by myself. During those times, I am grateful for my classmates’ and instructors’ encouragement and cheering me on. I am also grateful for their help when we work together as a crew, as well as when they ask if I’ve “got it” before they rush in to help.

A real woman can do it by herself, and a real man will let her if she wants to.

So when do you help a woman?

When she asks.

When she’s in danger.

When she’s tired or not feeling well.

When she doesn’t ask, but you know her well enough to know she needs and wants help.

How should you help a woman?

That depends. That, too, is for another blog post, but the bottom line is to do it out of a heart that loves and cares, and know her well enough to know how she wants to be helped.

(Shout out to my friend and firefighter brother, Nick, who helped me with setting up and shooting the photo. I was going to try to do it alone, but I’m so glad I asked for help, because trying to execute a self-portrait using the camera’s timer was really unrealistic, and although I probably could’ve gotten the 24’ ladder off of Engine 2, it would have been really difficult and potentially dangerous. Thank you, Nick!)

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Wisdom Wednesday: When It’s Never Enough

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“Lo, hearkening than sacrifice is better; to give attention than fat of rams.” —1 Samuel 15:22b YLT


Blinded to See

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Ok, I know this isn’t a new concept, but a recent firefighter training exercise during one of my Fire 1&2 classes helped me realize how much I didn’t know about something I thought I knew.  I already knew, as I’m sure most of you know, that when one of our senses is taken away or limited, we rely on other senses to compensate, but what I didn’t realize was how much I rely on my sight and that I didn’t know my equipment as well as I thought I did.  Relying on or focusing on one thing more than others can cause us to miss things in so many areas of our lives, from knowing our equipment, having good leadership skills, to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

So what was the training exercise?  In a nutshell, we had to simulate replacing our air cylinder under no visibility conditions by being blindfolded with all our gear on.  Although performing that task while being blindfolded can be challenging, what made it even more challenging was having to do it wearing thick fire gloves.  Not only was our sight removed, but our sense of touch was also hindered.

As I thought about the various ways the lesson could be applied, I was reminded of a TV show I’d seen a few times years ago called Dating in the Dark.  It was a reality show in which three men and three women entered a pitch black room, sat at a table, and tried to get to know each other quickly.  After the brief group meeting, each contestant could invite another contestant to have a one-on-one date, again in a completely dark room.  What was interesting was how each person reacted when they were finally allowed to see the one they’d chosen.  Some were ecstatic to find they had chosen an extremely attractive person, while others sometimes looked like they wanted to vomit when their date’s physical form was unveiled, even if they loved that person’s personality and other characteristics such as voice, laugh, or touch.  I know physical attraction can be a huge factor in having an intimate relationship, but it was sad to watch people being rejected because of the superficial focus.  That actually goes both ways; seeing only a person’s attractiveness can cause us to miss both great and ugly character qualities, or it can cause a person to feel like mere ‘arm candy’.

Just as knowing our equipment is important, good leaders know those they lead.  When leaders focus primarily on only one or two things, they miss the big picture, and their leadership and team suffer.  Good leaders are like good incident commanders, knowing the strengths and limitations of their crew, positioning themselves at a good vantage point to get a good overall view, having good communication skills, and being able to multi-task and delegate to get the job done efficiently.  Good leaders are able to lead, because they can see who and where they are leading.  Bad leaders think they see and know everything, but they are like the blind leading the blind.  Jesus called the religious leaders of His time “blind guides”, because they focused so much on trying to be right with God by following certain rules or having certain beliefs, and trying to be respected and praised by striving to be seen and praised for their good deeds and knowledge, that they missed the most important things… humility, mercy and love.

I don’t claim to see and know everything.  I know I have blind spots, too, but I’m learning and trying to see and understand things more clearly and am grateful for lessons and training exercises that help reveal my weaknesses.


Wisdom Wednesday: Put Your Heart Into Caring

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It has been a while since I have posted a Wisdom Wednesday, but now that my EMT classes are over, and because I have a good friend who encourages and motivates me, I decided to post one today.  Thank you, Randell!

Have you ever been caught by surprise and left wondering, “How did that just happen?!”

While looking over proverbs that I had noted months ago, Proverbs 27:23 jumped out at me— “Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds.” That’s only part of the entire proverb, but it stood out to me for a few personal reasons, and I realized how multi-faceted it is. It’s not just about flocks and herds, being a farmer, or finances; it’s about stewardship, leadership, and relationships. Good shepherds know their sheep, good leaders know their people, and good relationships are kept intact when we know and love each other in the way we each need to feel loved. If we neglect to “know the face of our flocks” or “put our heart into caring”, as the literal Hebrew implies, we may find ourselves caught by surprise when something or someone slips away.

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” —George Lorimer

“For willful waste makes woeful want, and I may live to say, ‘Oh! How I wish I had the bread that once I threw away!’” —Unknown

“When you’re dying of thirst it’s too late to think about digging a well.” —Japanese Proverb

“He who would enjoy the fruit must not spoil the blossoms.” —Gaelic proverb

“When men say [“Oh, I’ve loaded my shotgun”], ‘cause I know when men say that, they’re trying to pretend they have taken their position of leadership. You don’t need to load your shotgun, you need to love your daughter. You need to know your daughter. You need to pray with your daughter. You need to invest in your daughter, ‘cause the main thing is not to blow his head off, but to keep her heart.” —Mark Driscoll, pastor in Honor Your Father and Mother

“Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation.” —Proverbs 27:23, 24 NLT

“Effective leaders are engaged in the lives of the people they are leading and are constantly seeking to understand how they can create an environment in which people succeed.” —Nathan Mellor, president of Strata Leadership, LLC

“He who wants to travel far takes care of his beast.” —French proverb

 
 

If you liked this, you might also like… Wisdom Wednesday: Neglect Destroys

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Is Your Window Broken?

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Ever heard of ‘The Broken Window Theory’? I hadn’t until a few months ago when our deputy chief referred to it during one of our fire department meetings. Although ‘The Broken Window Theory’ is based on the premise that disorder leads to crime, within the framework of the theory is a principle that can be found in the book of Proverbs.

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man. —Proverbs 24:30-34 KJV

Whether it’s a broken window, things left undone or out of place, or disintegrating relationships, it conveys a sense of complacency and apathy, and can become a new ‘normal’ if left neglected or disregarded. Those directly or indirectly involved are basically saying, “I don’t care enough,” or “It’s not my problem or responsibility,” or “We don’t feel led to get involved”. Neglect leads to disorder, disorder leads to chaos, and chaos leads to tragedy.

We are all a part of something, even if only a part of humanity. We all have a responsibility. If we want peace instead of chaos, happiness instead of sadness, beauty instead of ugliness, success instead of failure, and growth instead of decay, then the little things matter, and it’s up to us to take ownership and fix the broken windows.

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Wisdom Wednesday: Neglect Destroys

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Lift ‘Em Up!

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with special thanks to Chris Ward, Jeremie Dufresne, and my other brothers.

Wanna build a stronger, better team or crew? The subject came up when Bill, one of my firefighter brothers and I were talking about my experiences at a recent structure fire. He is very knowledgeable and has years of experience, but since I am a ‘probie’ with comparatively little knowledge or experience, and being the smallest member of the fire department, in some ways I am the weakest member. I expressed gratitude for the on-scene training I received from both my own department brothers, as well as from other departments who were also on-scene. Although Bill would not agree that I am the weakest member, he stated a key concept in building a stronger crew— lift up and strengthen the weakest member, and the whole team becomes better and stronger.

That reminds me of an illustration I used in a blog post a couple of years ago using a wooden bucket with broken and worn slats. The bucket can hold only as much water as the shortest slat, so if we work to fix and raise it up first, the bucket will hold more water. If we fix and build up a taller slat first, the bucket will still hold only as much water as the shortest one.

If lifting up and strengthening the weakest member makes the whole stronger, then it stands to reason that kicking the weakest member when she’s down would only serve to weaken the whole, right? Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” I am grateful for those who have lifted me up instead of kicking me down when I’ve messed up.

My friend, Scott, says something that is similar to a quote by Nate McConnell:

“The whole is the sum of its parts, so be a good part.”

Let’s show our strength by giving a hand and strengthening those who are weaker.

 

If you liked this, you might also like…

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Resolution Bucket: A New Strategy and Wisdom Wednesday: Teamwork


Be Prepared When Life Gets Slippery

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“They’re easier to take off than to put on,” our fire chief stated after some of us ‘probies’ learned how to install tire chains on the fire apparatus. We were expecting a snowstorm, but until the storm has passed, we never know what kind of weather or how much snow we’ll actually get here in Vermont. It’s not good to run tire chains on dry pavement, but being prepared is better than being caught with our chains down, especially since speed is important when responding to emergencies. I couldn’t help but think his statement provided a life lesson.

It is easier to avoid a slippery slope if we prepare ahead of time. It is easier to gain some traction by ‘putting on’ wisdom and knowing what to do if we have obtained the knowledge and wisdom needed for different situations. For example, it is easier to say, “No,” or avoid a temptation if we ‘put our chains on’ before facing that temptation, whether it’s a piece of triple chocolate raspberry torte, sex, drugs, or saying something in the heat of the moment that we’ll later regret. It’s best to ‘walk away’ at the outset of a potential problem rather than end up trying to extricate ourselves from the problem after we’ve succumbed. Remember B’rer Rabbit and the Tar Baby? Either don’t stop by the bakery for coffee, or make a firm decision ahead of time not to buy a pastry, too! Don’t even look at them!  Once you step foot in the bakery or go through the drive-thru, you’re already on the slope. Got traction?

I didn’t say it was easy.

It isn’t always easy to say, “No,” to strong desires, but making a decision about what to do, if we ever find ourselves in a certain type of situation, makes following through with that decision a bit easier if we make it ahead of time. If we choose not to think about it or prepare, we could find ourselves slipping and sliding, and not only crash ourselves, but hurt others as well. Good thing there are no maple cream doughnuts in the house.

If you liked this, you might also like… the Wisdom Wednesday series.


How Do I Decide? Well, Who or What Do You Want to Be?

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A few nights ago my daughter and I watched a movie, and something one of the characters said caught my attention. I think it can apply to more than just the obvious situation, don’t you? The main character’s best friend said:

“Don’t choose the better guy, choose the guy that’s gonna make you the better girl.” —Trish in This Means War

So who do you want to be? What do you want to be? Are your current life choices keeping you from being the person you really are deep down inside? Are current relationships with people and organizations helping you grow or keeping you stunted?

“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” —C.S. Lewis, author

I’m not talking about being a snob.  I’m talking about the people you include in your inner ring, your most intimate of friends from whom you seek advice and with whom there is mutual benefit and not just a one-sided relationship.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” —Proverbs 27:17

I’m also not talking about micromanaging our lives, and I know sometimes making the best choice isn’t always easy. After all, we’re human, and we make mistakes… sometimes, big ones. We cannot allow fear to keep us from making decisions either, because as Harvey Cox, an American theologian once said, “Not to decide is to decide.”

Don’t allow apathy to make the decision for you. Choose between what will keep you where you are or what will help you reach your goals.

Don’t just sit there. God cannot steer a car that isn’t moving.

“Are circumstances driving you, or are you controlling your circumstances?” —K. Scott Bonovich, author

It’s okay to say no.

Don’t kill yourself trying to fit into someone else’s mold. Do you want to be like them, or do you want to be you and who you believe God created you to be?

I recently made the decision to become a firefighter, and I am pursuing an education to become an EMT. I have been surprised by those who have been supportive from the beginning and those who are still not supportive to this day. One of my family members remarked that it seemed like the fire department had chosen me instead of my choosing the fire department. I assured her that it was my choice, and I worked hard studying the apparatus and equipment so that I could earn my shield and begin riding to assist and gain practical experience. Like anyone who has ever experienced great success, sometimes I had to decide between playing and working. I am grateful for those who also chose to work by taking the time to teach me. We played afterward.

“What are you prepared to do?” —Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables

How badly do you want it? What will it take to get it? Who do you want to be? It starts with a vision and then one decision after another.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates, a character in Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Happy New Year!!

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Wisdom Wednesday: Breaking & Making Habits

Photo credit:  David Gunter

Photo credit: David Gunter


Divine Intervention and a Lesson in Logic

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A recent conversation with a friend concerning my blog post about anonymously receiving a large bouquet of balloons reminded me of a joke I had once heard from a preacher. The friend asked if I really believed the gift of balloons was the result of divine intervention as I had expressed in the post.

“Yes,” I confidently replied, then told him the joke.

There was a Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist. Whenever the atheist overheard the lady pray, he would mutter to himself that there is no God, and sometimes he would argue with her.

One day she ran out of groceries, and the atheist overheard her praying. “I’ll fix her,” he thought to himself, and he went out and bought bags of groceries, set them on her front porch, rang the doorbell and hid to see what she would do.

When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she shouted, “God did it! God did it! God did it! Thank you, Jesus!”

He jumped out and shouted, “God didn’t do it! I did! I bought those groceries and put them on your porch! See? There is no God!”

The lady started laughing and dancing and praising the Lord.

“Didn’t you hear me?” the atheist asked. “I bought those groceries!”

“I heard you,” she said. “I knew the Lord was gonna provide, but I didn’t know He was gonna make you pay for ‘em!”

Something recently said by a different preacher made me think of another joke. Well, not so much a joke as a cute analogy. The preacher had quoted the first part of James 4:8, which says, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” Unfortunately, he made a logical fallacy by stating that the contraposition must then be true— that if we draw away from God, then He will draw away from us.   So here’s the analogy:

A young man asked a girl out on a date. She accepted, and when he picked her up in his pickup truck, she sat as close to him as she could. They eventually got married, and they continued sitting close together. As the years went by, a space developed between them until one day, the wife lamented that they didn’t seem to be as close as they once were. The husband replied, “Well, honey, I ain’t the one who moved.”

The story reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son, who asked for his inheritance ahead of time, moved to the city, squandered it, and sought to return home as a servant and no longer as a son. All the time he was away, the father prayed and waited for his son’s return, and when he finally did, the father threw a huge party.

The father didn’t move.

It also reminds me of Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

If God draws away from us when we draw away from Him, He never would have pursued us nor sought to reveal Himself to us so that we could have a relationship with Him. Divine intervention? Yes!!

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Love Sometimes Comes in Waves

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Randomly Selected? Somehow, I Don’t Think So

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Have you ever had an anonymous, random act of kindness done to you? Yesterday as I was getting some work done in and around the house, I was feeling a bit like Cinderella, and I started talking to our heavenly Father about how I was feeling. You know those times when you feel like God is far away, but in your head you know He’s always close by, because Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us? That’s how I was feeling.

To my surprise a car pulled up, and a lady came out and asked, “René?”

“Yes, I’m René,” I responded as I looked on with curiosity.

She opened the back door of her car and pulled out a HUGE bouquet of balloons. “Are those for me?” I inquired with bewilderment.

“Yes, they are.”

I was so touched, tears welled up in my eyes, and I had to keep myself from crying.

“Is there a card?”

“Yes, on one of the top balloons.”

The card read, “Rene, You have been randomly selected for a happy Saturday Bouquet! Please pay it forward.  — [name of local balloon shop]”

“Wow! Who could I pay it forward to?” I wondered, “And is this something [the local balloon shop] actually does, or did someone I know send it anonymously?”

I thought of a friend, who has been homebound and in pain, and after taking pictures and posting what happened on Facebook, I loaded the balloons into my car and took them over to her. She was so surprised and happy, not only to receive the huge bouquet of colorful balloons but also to have some company, so I was doubly blessed!

Thank you, Father, for putting it on someone’s heart to send the balloons to me and brighten my day when I was feeling a bit lonely. Thank you, too, Anonymous, not only for such a wonderful gift, but also for prompting me to pay it forward, so that someone else could be blessed as well. What a great idea!

 

 

If you liked this, you might also like… God Danced?

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