Of Poppies, Service, and Dad

Cynthia L. Eppley 11/10/2020

Poppies

Does anyone sell poppies anymore? I remember them as a child and teenager in my small town. I don’t think the deep implications were clear to me at that point.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate them more.

I found this explanation recently:

“Wear the poppy on the right side; the red represent the blood of all those who gave their lives, the black represents the mourning of those who didn’t have their loved ones return home, and the green leaf represents the grass and crops growing and future prosperity after the war destroyed so much.

The leaf should be positioned at 11 o’clock to represent the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time that World War 1 formally ended.”

Why the Poppy? 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row That marks our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields, John McCrae 1915

American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program: Connecting the visual image of the poppy with the sacrifice of service made by our veterans has been an important goal of the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program since its inception in 1921. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, millions of red crepe paper poppies—all handmade by veterans as part of their therapeutic rehabilitation—are distributed across the country in exchange for donations that go directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans in our communities. https://www.alaforveterans.org/Poppy/

Where are the Poppies?

I haven’t seen a poppy in years. I may not be positioned in the appropriate groups or clubs. But it is telling that as I reflect on Veterans Day I first think of poppies and of Service.

Faith of our Fathers

Both of our fathers fought in WW2. It wasn’t something they talked about readily, but we knew it had impacted them deeply.

We felt it as much in how they carried themselves; how they sung the national anthem with respect. How we went to Memorial Day parades and watched Veterans march by. Memorial Day 2020

How they hung the American flag with great ceremony.

Pass it On

And so we appreciate all our fathers did, and the legacy they passed on to us. We saw it as they  shared the simple beauty of raising the flag on a sunny morning. But the significance in that ritual was in the sharing with a small boy.

Teaching through example was important.

Even Now

I learned so much from my Dad. But respect for my Country was right at the top of the list. 

I know when I see a flag  at night it should be lit up. I know the ceremony of raising and lowering the flag. I can’t hear the plaintive melancholy notes of “Taps” without thinking of my Dad.

I know how a flag should be folded—solemnly and with great reverence.

And so his legacy has been passed on.

My brother continues to lift the flag every morning at their home overlooking the Delaware River that we all loved so well.

It is our prayer that it is passed on to younger generations as well.

Thanks Veterans for your service to our country. Thanks to those who have gone before us.

And thanks, Dad.

Christmas Creep

Cynthia L. Eppley Nov 4, 2020

Christmas Creep

I suppose I should have expected it. When you walk into Costco or Lowes and see the Christmas trees in August? Really?

Usually I am aghast and dismayed. But this year? Not so much.

They call it the “Christmas Creep.” The relentless marketing of Christmas closer to other Fall holidays.

Christmas Past

I grew up in a small town in South Jersey. Christmas was magical, at least in my memory. It included going to get our tree from a small stand on Grant Street. When we were little there was the anticipation of putting up the tree and decorating it.
Very few people use tinsel now, but to us, it was like a shower of icicles. In my enthusiasm, I’d stand on the stairs and fling it into the air, wishing it to land like new fallen snow. I’m sure my parents spent many hours separating it and placing it neatly after I went to bed.

Later it became a tradition to trim the tree together with family and friends. We anticipated it and looked forward to it after Thanksgiving.

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks draped in Holiday style, in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas…..”

The town was decorated with draped tinsel above Broadway, and at the center was either a bell (frosted of course) or a star. Driving down the main street was an event as the decorations were strung, but not lit until Thanksgiving night.

Let the Holidays begin!

Christmas Present

This year is so different. First the trees were out, and then came Christmas presents in the stores. And so it seemed that Christmas is getting pushed ahead of even Halloween.

I have a few friends who have started listening to Christmas music. In mid October.

Another friend just put up her Christmas tree. (Disclaimer: if you have an artificial tree like we do? This is so easy!)

But what is interesting to me is: Why do we push it? Why is it necessary to rush ahead?

“I don’t want to hear a single person complain that is being celebrated too early. This year has been a dumpster fire, let us be merry.”

The few friends who have gone ahead into Christmas have been admonished by others: “Its too early!”

And here is her golden response that resonates with us all:

“Especially on these cold rainy and windy days…. I needed it….. We have been all smiles since we put it up! “Because…. it’s 2020 and all the rules are out the window. Happiness ranks over anything else….. and these girls are happy!!!

A Hug for a Tree

A Realistic Christmas

So much has been taken away in 2020. How do we count the ways?

Peanuts films have been pulled:
“Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Many shops have been closed.

Holiday gatherings are limited so as to limit the spread of Covid. Fear is still present.

Jobs have been lost and income slashed. How do we afford gifts this year?

But the most significant loss has been the loss of life: friends and family that have been taken this year, either from Covid or other illness. It is a different kind of Christmas this year.

A Real Christmas

“We Need a Little Christmas” was first performed in the 1966 production of Mame. But the backstory is that Mame has lost her fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and she used this song to cheer up her family.

“Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

For we need a little Christmas Right this very minute
We need a little Christmas now!

Perhaps this is not so different in our present time.

A Deeper, Real Christmas

2020 has been hard.

“This is the winter of our discontent.”

Even Joe Biden forecast:
“United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America.”

Free from Fear

“Come Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Perhaps we need to look to the True Light as we head towards Christmas.

John 1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Our peace comes from a Deeper place than the external trappings of gifts and trees and tinsel.

O Come, O Come Immanuel!

So let’s decorate!

Let’s celebrate!

Jesus IS the light of the world.
As we sing our Christmas Carols, let us find our rest in Him.
With many unknowns before us, let us find in Him our Hope, our Strength and Consolation. As we bask in the glow of a Christmas tree, let’s find our deepest desires filled with Joy.

And as we snuggle down with our blanket and hot cocoa, gazing at the wonder of our trees?

We will know that He has overcome the darkness and He is the Joy of our longing hearts.

Politics and Wednesday Nov 4

Cynthia L. Eppley 11/2/2020

Politics

Unless you are living under a rock, you would know there is an election tomorrow. It has been called the biggest election of our times, with long lasting effects.

Perhaps it ranks right up there with COVID in how it has affected our lives, and the implications of it all.

The reactions to it all are varied, and swing from one spectrum to another.

Reactions

There are families that have separated from each other.

There is the “Different Holiday” where families have “disinvited” themselves from the table.

There are families that have come to fisticuffs. Some families have decided a “No Politics Zone” at home.

There is fear and anxiety, while we keep an eye on the Stock Market.

How do we keep an even keel in the midst of this storm?

And how do we know how to anticipate the aftermath, no matter what our political persuasion?

I could write a blog on how this all plays out, but others have addressed it succinctly. And so I share those thoughts here:

Resources:

This blog is a succinct summary of Scripture that addresses the election happening tomorrow:

God reigns

 From Barbara Lee Harper’s blog:

“God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).                             

Our church has read through large chunks of the Old Testament over the last year. No matter who was in charge of what earthly kingdom, God was always at work, sometimes overtly, sometimes “behind the scenes.”                                                       

“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).

Unity

From my friend Dr. Gary Shogren, San Jose, Costa Rica

On Nov. 1: All Saint’s Day. 

The day of the year when we remember that: it doesn’t matter your race, gender, nationality, status as outsider or insider, free or imprisoned, economic level, or – esp in 2020 – political affiliation. All saints means what it means, all saints, period.

May the unity of November 1 wash away the disunity of November 3.

Gracious Father, We pray for thy holy universal Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.

Choose

And more from Dr. Shogren:

An invitation to my Christian friends in the US:

Choose, right now, today, how you will act if your candidate LOSES on Tuesday.

Choose, right now, today, how you will act if your candidate WINS on Tuesday.

Not “good loser”/”good winner,” but holy loser/holy winner.

No matter the election results, Paul has already told us that a man or woman of God will REJECT idolatry (including the idolizing of a politician), hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, dissensions, factions and envy.

The man or woman of God will EMBRACE – no, better, invoke the Spirit to manifest – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (all from Gal 5). No buts, no, “but 2020 is different!!”, no exceptions.

Wednesday morning is not the time to decide how you will comport yourself! And that decision to love is exponentially more important than the candidate you vote for.

God’s Authority

While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who has not surrendered His authority. A.W. Tozer

Close to Home

In our own family, we have had major discussions around politics. The outcome has not always been pleasant. There have been times of distance and silence.

But eventually, through dedication and commitment, the foundation of love was realized and confirmed.

By working at it, love broke through.

And for those who are still in this struggle with family or friends?

We pray for reconciliation.

Love and Faithfulness

Psalm 85:10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

At the end of the day? Love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace prevail.

Let this be our goal on Wed., Nov 4. 

Let this be our goal as mail in ballots are counted.

And let this be our goal throughout this political season, and in life.

A COVID Halloween

Cynthia L. Eppley 11/01/2020

A COVID Halloween

Certainly you remember the excitement on that day of days: October 31. You may have had a party in school, and even a parade through the parking lot. But that was all secondary.
The big event came at home.

Dinner couldn’t get over fast enough, as you raced to down the last noodle or vegetable.
There was candy to collect! Houses to visit! And the mystery of walking through darkened streets.

You had considered for days, even weeks your costume. Would it be the store bought one? As we got older, the handmade version was more creative, whimsical, and fun. And parents everywhere would search high and low for the correct props to make the costume “just right.”

Please, please don’t change your mind right before Halloween!

A Different Halloween

This year was no different: or was it?
Some schools are not in session. Some are virtual.
I called our Borough to find out what was the “Official” stance on “Trick or Treat.” Was it happening? How do we keep a distance?

But wait: certainly we can still do Halloween?
Somehow?
And so that was when great minds came together to develop a plan.
Most of the people on our street were setting out a table with goodies galore.
The idea was this—the children could come collect their stash, while we stood safely behind the glass screen door.

Being Neighborly

A few neighbors set up a fire pit on the driveway, complete with blankets and drinks— Drinks ranging from hot cocoa to a cold brew.

Another neighbor decorated her front stoop and wrote in chalk on the sidewalk: Welcome! Candy! And she drew footprints to remember “6 ft. apart.”

Still another neighbor set up a white screen and showed scary images. And then there was the fog machine: enough spookiness for any child.

Special Delivery

But the best solution was across the street.
Remembering that they should keep their distance, they developed a delivery system that ran a long plastic tube out the front of the house. But here is where the genius came in: It emptied onto a green slide. Candy would slide through the tube, dump onto the slide, and careen downhill, bumping along the way.

A Candy Delivery System 2020

Kids waited at the bottom to see their special delivery drop into their hands.

Dusk

As we set out our candy and decorated our table, I eagerly anticipated the first group. I could hear them before I saw them:


“Candy! We gotta get the candy!”
Looking up the street, we could see kids streaming up driveways. Then they’d turn and race to the next house, eager to get their buckets filled.

Recognition

Spending time with these little ones has always been a highlight of Halloween. And this year was no different.
Standing behind the table, 6 feet away, I’d mention their costume:
“Wow! You must be a Superhero!”

Now, I’m out of touch with the most recent trends, so this was my generic praise. I had no idea who they represented, and since they were wearing masks, their muffled explanation didn’t help me. But I could mention their strong muscles. For the boys, that would get a good reaction.

Or:
“What a beautiful Princess you are!”
Again, no idea which princess this could be. But their smile and twirl was enough to let me know I’d come close enough.

Things change, and Things Stay the Same

Isn’t it funny that in these times, things have changed so much.

And yet things have stayed the same.
Kids still love candy, and want to be encouraged, recognized and praised.
Parents wanted to have their kids out to experience the thrill of being out in a costume at night, marauding through the neighborhood.

Adults called out to one another. A congenial, warm atmosphere prevailed.

Yes, there were political signs on the lawn.
Yes, there are differences.
And yes, there will be an election in 2 days.

Bottom line

But the bottom line?
Really, we all want the same for our kids.
We all want health, and food and warmth and a good education. How we arrive at all of those things may differ.

But for one magical night, we suspended differences to allow our kids to just be kids. Racing from one home to another, on a brisk October night, their hopes were realized. And for this year? Amidst all the negative things about 2020?
Perhaps this very thing is a positive highlight of 2020.

A Dog’s Life

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

08/17/2020

A Dog’s Life

We never really expected to get a dog. We’d had cats before. And even the cats belonged to our son: more of a “stopover” until they could be returned to him.
There are major differences between cats and dogs. Both are cuddly and fun. But they are different:

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods” Christopher Hitchens (Author, The Portable Atheist )

And we didn’t time it for Quarantine. It just happened that she was ready to be picked up in February.
So when we got our Cavapoo Ella? We were surprised by how quickly we fell in love with her winsome ways.

Puppy Love

You know how cute they are as puppies. They are roly-poly and soft with little squeaks. The first few days are for bonding: laying with Ella on our chest.
It is enough to melt your heart.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” – Charles Shultz (cartoonist, Peanuts)

But they also pee and poo on the rugs and floors. They want constant attention. They chase after your feet. They steal your shoes and nibble down the laces to little nubs.
They steal your heart.

What Ella Teaches Us

Perhaps you all know these dynamics. But these are new to us. It is like having a child—and now that she is 8m., like a teenager.

Talking Back

Honestly, if she doesn’t like what we are saying or doing? She literally “talks back” to us. She yips and barks, leaning her head forward for special emphasis. Perhaps she thinks if she barks loud enough and long enough she will get her way. She comes close enough to feel her hot doggy breath on our leg or knee.

Such attitude! Adolescence at its finest.

Water

Some dogs like to swim.
Ella is not one of those dogs.
We take her down to Ambler Boro Park creek and she gets her paws wet, or muddy to be more exact. This requires cleaning in the water before we leave, or a quick wash when we get home. She loves the creek. But not in the water so much.

But drinking? She loves to drink from the creek. She has a fine dish of water at home. But she prefers drinking from the creek.

Or the hose. She barks at the hose while I water the plants; she runs back and forth frantically. When I stop, I allow a trickle of water to drip. This is the drink she wants. Somehow it is preferable to her food dish.
And then she belches.

Appetite

Dogs will eat almost anything. Out veterinarian tells us Cavapoos think their name is “Drop it.” She picks up sticks, pinecones, and acorns along our walk. It is a constant battle to pry it out of her mouth. And if she is in the house? She runs with the item: most often Kleenex or napkins. Frequently she takes refuge under the dining room table where we can’t reach her. Or she darts out and we have to corner her in the living room.

Which brings me to the point: anything that you are eating is better than what she has in her dish. This brings in the aforementioned dynamic of barking. Or jumping. Insisting on her own way. On the other hand, it is a good clean up for the crumbs on the floor.

Walking

Having Ella requires time outside to potty, and walking. This has been an experience. In our many walks she has discovered birds, bunnies, cats and squirrels, oh my! And once she has seen them? She remembers exactly where they reside. So any walk requires a quick check in to see if they are there.

When she sees them she assumes her “attention” stance. Followed by a flurry of barking and pulling. Often she buries her head and shoulders in shrubs or flowers, and all we see is her frantic wagging tail as she tries to sniff out her prey.

Social Protocols

It is important to let the doggos sniff appropriately. A sniff to the rump is most often the preferred choice. And most dogs comply willingly. We have learned early which dogs are not so eager to fall into social etiquette. A short growl might simply imply a bad day.
Hackles raised mean we should stay away.

But if a “match” is made? Happy yipping ensues. Tails wag enthusiastically. Circling around each other, often their leashes intertwined.

BFF’s

Ella has her favorites. She stands on the sofa and looks for Toby and Luna, her BFFs. She knows them by name and knows where they live.
It is quite like joining a dog fraternity.

Neighbors and Friends

Lest you think that this blog is all about our love for our dog? Let me get to the main point. By far, what having a dog has taught us is the neighborhood. We’ve lived here for 27 years. We know many of our neighbors. But now we know people from blocks away. Never before have we known their dogs. We have met a plethora of new people.

She loves all people. Children up the street see her and begin chanting: “Baby Ella! Baby Ella!” And now those little children are dear to us.

I have not mentioned politics in this blog at all—but here is one I cannot resist:

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Harry Truman (former president of the United States)

Neighborliness

And so we’ve met so many wonderful people, with wonderful dog stories. What is the best leash? What harness works for front pulling?
Where do you go for grooming?
The required walking has gotten us out of the house, and out of ourselves.

A Balm

During this quarantine time, this has been a balm to our souls.
A balm is a fragrant ointment used to heal or soothe. Something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect.
While keeping “Social Distance” (A dog leash is 6 ft. long) we are able to interact with our doggy neighbors. Not seeing friends and family has been hard.

But now, new neighbors and new friends have been made.

And it makes me think, to refer to a common theme of rescue organizations: “Who rescued who?”

Cancel Culture 4

Cynthia L. Eppley

08/12/2020

Cancel Culture 4

This is my 4th and final installment on Cancel Culture. Check out Cancel Culture, Cancel Culture 2, Cancel Culture 3.)

When we were little our mothers may have told us: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
But now we have moved on from childish things.
While we cannot be naive, there must be other ways to deal with life.

A Better Way
Col 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

How Can we Stand?

Rather than promoting hatred and vitriol, can we stand in horseshoes?
Can we be includers?

“If you are standing with other women in a circle and there is a woman standing alone in your circle’s vicinity–the thing to do is notice her, smile at her, move over a bit and say, “Hi, come join us!” Even if she decides to to join your circle–even if she looks at you like you’re crazy–inviting her is still the thing to do. Widen you’re circles. All the time. Also: Horseshoes are better than circles. Leave space. Always leave space. Horseshoes of friends > Circles of friends. Glennon Doyle

This was posted on Facebook over a year ago, and yet it rings even more true today. (Maternal Mental Health Research Collaborative—MMHRC)

Micro Scale: The Personal Level

Reflecting back from Cancel Culture 3 ( Cancel Culture 3) if our tendency is to sin, then we would be wise to seek Scripture in how we interact with others. We must examine ourselves.

James 1:19
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Proverbs 18:13
To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:15
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Proverbs 18:17
In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

Entire books have been written on communication. In our vitriolic culture, Scripture speaks into out hearts.

Outrage Culture

John Piper recently posted an article that was timely:
John Piper, 08/03/2020
Brokenhearted Boldness: A Christian Alternative to Outrage Culture
Without a broken heart, our boldness can become brash, harsh, severe, cruel, angry, impatient, and obnoxious—all in the name of Christian courage. https;//www.desiringgod.org/articles/brokenhearted-boldness?

“Today, the need I see for Christian boldness is a little different. It’s not so much that evangelicals are grasping for so-called “Christian America.” Rather, it’s our being drawn into the callout culture, the outrage culture, the cancel culture, the coddled culture. However you name it, it is very angry. And behind the relative safety of social media, it is very bold.
This boldness is seldom beautiful. But some Christian culture warriors are drawn into it and shaped by it, with the result that their boldness is distorted toward the brash, angry, contentious, coarse, snide, and obnoxious. What is needed is not less boldness. No. The world is not suffering from too much boldness in the cause of truth. Rather, what’s missing is the beauty of brokenhearted boldness.

But we know something of our own sinfulness and how quickly we can strike back in the name of boldness. Our prayer is that God would spare us from the distortion of the courage he made to be beautiful, by creating something even more beautiful: brokenhearted boldness.”

Macro Scale: Brokenhearted Boldness

Psalm 51:7
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

James 1:22
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Can we be broken by this life but pour out our life for others? This would be Jesus’ mission.

And in the midst of Cancel Culture, anger, violence, riots and hurt—what can we do in a practical sense?

Youth Life Foundation of Richmond http://ylfr.org

My friend, Heather Goodlett, saw this need in inner city Richmond. And she answered the call.

“The Youth Life Foundation of Richmond operates Learning Centers to develop leaders by making long-term investments in children from at-risk communities. By supporting students academically, developing their character from a young age, raising expectations, and investing in their lives through committed mentoring relationships, these youth will rise above their circumstances to become tomorrow’s leaders.

“Heather began teaching at Glen Lea Elementary School in the fall of 2000 where she was a Title One-Reading teacher and yearned for real change in the futures of her students. In 2000, Mrs. Goodlett became aware of the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation (DGYLF) and Learning Centers in Washington, D.C. She soon began the process of fact-finding, researching, and relationship building, and in late 2001 attended a National Training Institute for DGYLF to begin launching an affiliate program in Richmond.

“The Youth Life Foundation of Richmond was founded in August 2002 and in 2003 became an affiliate of the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation (DGYLF), a proven education and leadership development program started by former Washington Redskin football player Darrell Green. The first Youth Life Foundation of Richmond Learning Center began operating in the Delmont Plaza Apartments, a government-subsidized community in eastern Henrico County, in July 2003.

Heather Goodlett, the founder, was a Title One Reading teacher at Glen Lea Elementary School. She desired to develop a program that could make a long-term commitment to help the children and their families, and ultimately rebuild their community. With the help of the owners of Delmont Plaza Apartments and numerous private donors, this vision became a reality.
In 2008, YLFR opened our second center in the Highland Park community partnering with the Northside Outreach Center. In March 2013, we started a Middle and High School program in Northminster Church called LC Remix. The following year, YLFR started a third after-school elementary program at this church now called Atlee Church Northside Campus in September of 2014. In September 2017, YLFR expanded once again – this time to the Southside of Richmond. Southwood Learning Center for elementary students opened in Redemption Hill Church’s building, The 400.
We currently serve about 50 families and 90 children – and our growth continues.”

Micro and Macro Together

On a micro scale, and on a macro scale: Where can our lives reflect Jesus and where can we be His hands and His feet?
Where can we make a practical difference in someone’s life? In Richmond? In Washington? In Philadelphia? In our neighborhood?


In our violent world right now? This may be the perfect answer.

Cancel Culture 3

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

08/11/20

After writing Cancel Culture 1 and 2, I have been thinking more on this subject. It seems that violent speech and action are ever more increasing. (See Cancel Culture, Cancel Culture 2)
What are we to do?

In Cancel culture 1 I spoke of the dynamics of “canceling someone”:
Shaming, Stonewalling, Snubbing.
It is to our shame that we know these too well. Remember the book “All I Really need to know I learned in Kindergarten?”
Doesn’t it seem that this behavior was learned early in life?
Are we no better as adults than we were in Kindergarten?
I read books to our 7 year old granddaughter about how to deal with bullies and rumors.
The American Girl “Smart Girl” series has helped greatly:

A Smart Girl’s Guide: Friendship Troubles (Revised): Dealing with fights, being left out & the whole popularity thing (American Girl: a Smart Girl’s Guide)

A Smart Girl’s Guide: Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies & Bossiness and Finding a Better Way
https://www.amazon.com/Stand-Yourself-Your-Friends-Bossiness/dp/1609587383/ref=pd_sim_14_8?

I began this series when she was 5. It saddens me greatly that this is the world that she—that WE—live in.

A Deeper Problem

And yet: isn’t that deep seated niggling in the back of our mind clear evidence that we have a bigger problem than Kindergarten? or Adolescent Misbehavior?

Scripture is clear and will forever be so:
Romans 3:22-24.
For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

We can all be reduced, it seems, to children behaving badly. We can all be reduced to defending ourselves at the expense of hurting others.

POGO

A very old cartoon character spoke to this eloquently and succinctly: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Scripture is clear from Genesis through Revelation. Left to our own devices, we turn towards the worst—to sin. We are in desperate need of a Savior.

Hope

Romans 5:6
6 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Jerry Bridges:

Your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace; your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.

One of my favorite quotes was used by my brother, H. Keith Lippincott, and was on his desk:

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or deescalated, And a person humanized or dehumanized.
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.
If we treat people as they out to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming. Goethe

More on this in Cancel Culture 4.

Of Baseball, Whiffle Ball and Family

July 25, 2020

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Whiffle Ball during COVID

There is a Whiffle Ball Tournament going on around the corner. This might not be notable on any other hot day of the summer, but this summer is different. This is a COVID summer. And sports are off limits.

Not to be deterred, a group of young men got together and formed the CWA: The Cimino Whiffle Ball Association. This is nothing new for these guys. They went to high school together in Atco and Blackwood, NJ. The brothers and cousins began playing whiffle ball when they were 6-7 yrs. old. Then they added corn hole, and eventually, they played football in high school. Friends were added into the mix. They connect together on Snapchat on Sunday evenings.

Family Affair

This began as a family affair. The Cimino sisters lived in Atco—Jacqueline, Karen, and Gabrielle. Close knit as a family, they played sports together and did the things that bind us together. One member of the family, Joe Tripoli moved to Ambler several years ago. There happened to be an empty lot next to his house.
Now, that lot could have been sold. But Joe knew a good thing when he saw it: a field in the making.

Field of Dreams

I remember it being full of weeds and tall grass years ago. But over the past few years, it was mowed. Then a stone driveway was laid. This past Spring I noticed tall yellow poles to mark foul balls. Then came a backboard. And a scoreboard. And “Sponsors” logos were added: Mountain Dew. Flood lights were placed. Umbrellas were added, as well as seating for the teams.

A “Field of Dreams” was in the making.

A Tournament

Just yesterday Joe added chalk lines to mark off the official measurements for a whiffle ball field. If you are going to play the game, play it right. They have teams of 3 people. Each game is 3 innings, and there is a 5 game series. Today, the 1st cede team played the 3rd. And the teams?

The Boss brothers, Hot brothers, and Cool brothers. They have their own team shirts, numbers, and even a Commissioner.


The sidelines are a grouping of Moms, sisters, littles, and the grandfather of all of them: Gabriel. Can you imagine the pride Grandpa feels as he watches these young men take the field?

These young college students are varied:
Joe Jr. is 21 and attends Penn State Main Campus. On my “interview” with him he explained that he is studying science. Many science courses later, he has landed on a passion: Physics. He explained that as he pitches, he understands the velocity, the wind movement, and the curve. It has a direct application to life. And a good solid hit? Physics come together for a home run.


Orlando, Matt, Jake, Biagio (Italian for Benjamin), Dalton, Luke, and Brando round out the teams.

Warm Welcome

It is 90 here today, with high humidity. The game goes on. I was warmly welcomed by Jackie, Joe’s wife. I asked her about the field and mentioned the large azaleas that seemed to be blocking 1st base. “I love the field! And I love that the kids play here! But those azaleas? They are my heirloom azaleas. They have to stay!”

First hotdogs were on the grill. Then hamburgers were being handed out. Next came Gatorade and water, and finally refreshing ice pops.

The Details

The details count. I was getting ready to walk over when I heard strains of singing. The Star Spangled Banner was being sung by Bianca. She did a beautiful job.
As I came upon the field, I was welcomed warmly by Biagio. He manned the announcement table, just behind home plate. They had heard that I was coming, and were excited to meet me. But as most things that are fun, this began to spin out of control. He asked if he could announce my arrival:


“Hello fans, and welcome to Cynthia, from the Ambler Gazette.”
That got a lot of attention, but it is not true.
I had told Joe that I wanted to write a blog about this event
Not to be discouraged, the next announcement came: “Welcome to Cynthia, who is here from Fox News.”

“Welcome to Cynthia, here to cover the tournament.”
And as a plane flew over, “Thank you for Cynthia for arranging a fly over.” And as I walked towards my home, “Thank you for Cynthia a great woman.”

Play by Play from the Press Booth

What is a game without a great play by play? Each batter had their own walk up music.

Biagio outdid himself:

“The tension continues to build between these brothers….” “Ouch—that pitch hit on the left “cheek”….that’s gonna leave a mark.”

“That ball is in the azalea bush!” (And an aside: Is that 1 or 2 bases?)
“That ball is gone! A grand slam! And it’s over the Green Monster!” (The backfield wall)

“Orlando here has won for best shoes in the league….over 120. These are camouflage pattern. Orlando, can you speak to the chances of your winning?”

Orlando, wisely responded: “No comment until we hoist the trophy.”

And finally bantering back and forth with Joe Sr.:
“One whiffle ball in the hand is worth two in the bush…..What does that even mean???”

I am not a fan of baseball, but even I recognized Matt imitating a combination of Harry Kalas and Merrill Reese.

Baseball, hot dogs, Apple pie and Chevrolet

The most famous use of “baseball, hot dogs and apple pie” was as a jingle in a 1974 Chevrolet commercial. It’s definitely a catchy tune! A commercial made well before these kids entered the world.
But today, during COVID, baseball never started.

And so in this season, perhaps the Cimino Whiffleball Tournament takes on new meaning. The things that tie us together are not really baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and cars.
It is the stuff of family.
The stuff of friendship.

The Field of Dreams and Kids

This entire field is somewhat surreal. Located in Ambler, it is used by the neighborhood kids. Then a tournament happens.
I asked Joe why he did it?

Why did he build a field?

Was it for the love of the game?
His simple, poignant answer: “No, it is for the love of my kids.” There you have it.

Playoffs

Tomorrow at 12 noon is the playoff. If you should happen by Joe and Jackie’s home on Belmont Ave in Ambler, they will warmly welcome you.
They will give you a water or gatorade.
The guys will cheer on each other and give a High Five. The fans will cheer as the guys run the bases. COVID has no hold on this.

Cancel Culture 2

Cynthia L. Eppley

My most recent blog addressed the current “Cancel Culture.” I think we’d all agree that our culture is being warped and twisted by the current events around us.
But if we look more closely, we will find that “there really is nothing new under the sun.” There have been World Wars, Spanish flu, Depressions, and so much more.

Is our current culture—and the reactions we see—that much different?

Cancel the Person

A recent article from Abdu Murray, The Gospel Coalition addresses this well:

“It was once the case that differing opinions—including ones that challenge culturally approved mores—were debated with facts and sound argumentation. Now when a person does or says something that runs afoul of current cultural preferences, we cancel that person. We shut her down with names, epithets, and ad hominem attacks. If she’s a musician, we call for boycotts of her music. If she’s an athlete, we delight in burning her jersey and posting the bonfire on social media. We now hoist the socially guilty onto a pike for all to see as they writhe, justly deserving what they get for having offended the collective. Be warned: we won’t engage your ideas; we will engage you and shame you out of existence. You will be canceled.” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/canceled-understanding-eastern-honor-shame/

Labels

If I can label you, I can dehumanize you. I put you into a small box with my understanding of what that particular label stands for—and usually I’m wrong.
But in our feeble attempt to understand others, we marginalize them. We reduce them and isolate them. We trivialize them and their ideas and cut off discussion. Alienation ensues and is followed by discrimination. This is the work of judgement.

And this is a slippery slope.

Mothers

One of my favorite teaching tools is Youtube. And a Similac commercial in particular shows many Moms (AND, ahem, Dads) taking care of their young children at the park. They look down their nose at the other groups, assuming, KNOWING that their way is best. From how the baby is fed, to how they sleep, and how they are diapered? There is a group for that. And the groups feel content and secure as they judge the others….until disaster strikes.

Our own Devices

Left to our own devices, this slippery slope and labeling would be a sad world indeed. The only true hope lies in Jesus Christ.

Borrowing from Murray’s article: “In cancel culture, a single mistake is perpetually unforgivable because it’s not simply a guilty act. Rather, the mistake defines the individual’s identity, turning them into a shameful person—someone who can be “canceled.” How Eastern! Juliet November summed up what used to be the differences between Western and Eastern cultures: In a Western framework, I would feel guilty because I have “done something bad”; in an Eastern honor-shame framework, I would be guilty because “I am bad” in society’s eyes. Becoming someone bad means that redemption doesn’t come by fixing the mistake. An apology isn’t enough.”

The Root of the Problem

Our problem goes far deeper than judging others. Do we realize in our judgements and in our labels, we also condemn ourselves?

Matthew 7:3
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

James 2:1,9-10,12-13
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,
13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 1:19
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Mercy Triumphs over Judgement

And there we have it. Because we have been redeemed and bought by the blood of the Lamb, we ourselves have been shown mercy.
And mercy triumphs over judgement.

Choose well

What does this look like?

Deuteronomy 30:19
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

We have choices every day. What would it be like to choose life for ourselves, and for others? To bless rather than to curse?

Again, from Murray: “Where others would respond to our shame with indignation, Jesus responds with love, forgiveness, and grace. Many are searching for a recovered or even redeemed identity. The culture will not give it to them. But Jesus can.”

Kumbayah

Are we looking for a Kumbayah moment here, where we hold hands and sway around a fire pit? No. The Cross was far too costly.

Grace & Dialogue

But what if we dialogued with others, honoring them above ourselves? What if we searched them out to ask their opinions and why they felt that way?
Grace has been described as giving others what they don’t deserve.

What if we came from our separate corners in the ring, together, and took off our gloves? Would families and workplaces be transformed?

Better Angels

Abraham Lincoln gave his 1st Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861. The nation was torn at that time, but he appealed to us:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Can we appeal to the better angels of our nature in times now? Can we show grace and mercy to those around us, and to those who think differently than ourselves?

May God let it be so.

Cancel Culture

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

These are strange times in which we live. 2020 will be remembered for many things: COVID, protests and discourse, and “Cancel Culture.” Every year seems to add new terminology to our lexicon. This new term has been around for awhile, but with new meanings and applications.

Understand, reader. I am not offering debate and dialogue. Instead, I am offering what I observe as I watch the culture.

Cancel Culture

So what is this?
Here is one definition: “Cancel Culture is the phenomenon by which people or entities are publicly boycotted or divested from because of callous words, actions or ideas they have promoted, or have been associated with.”

This involves harassment and shame:
Online shaming is a form of public shaming in which targets are publicly humiliated on the internet, via social media platforms (e.g. Twitter or Facebook), or more localized media (e.g. email groups) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_shaming#Cancelation

Callout Culture

“Callout culture” describes a form of boycott in which an individual (usually a celebrity) who has acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner is boycotted.
This happened to JK Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter series, when she made controversial statements.

We find it in our culture: celebrities, authors, politicians, TV shows, boycotts on companies. Statues and monuments. And even us.
Harper’s magazine has published a letter July 7 in defense of free speech signed by more than 150 public intellectuals, which has already fallen victim to the kind of virtual mob-rule that it decries. Ironically, a number of signatories have asked that their names be removed after either being attacked for having signed or learning the names of other, presumably intolerable, signatories.” https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/canceled-by-the-cancel-culture

Fear

What we are seeing now is a culture of fear. Dissenters have the power to ostracize you. Perhaps we can accept this dynamic. But now, they have the power to have you fired.

Mob Rule

In one very sad case, a 16 yr old was sharing memories of her father, a policeman, who was ambushed and killed in a domestic violence call. It was one way for her to give voice to her grief. But the daughter of slain McAllen Police Officer Ismael Chavez was attacked on social media by anti-police critics for posting a heartfelt tribute to her murdered father.

A friend of mine on Facebook posts her political beliefs. She is regularly slandered and called horrible names. “Shut up, you’re so brain washed!” “Did you take your pills today, dear?”
These are, of course, the only ones I can print here.

And just today, another friend has changed her name on FB because she accidentally responded to someone using the wrong gender. (Chris can be female or male, correct?) It was an honest mistake, and she apologized. But the backlash she received on social media was not worth it.

Really?

Is this what we have come to? Is this the best we can be?
Truly, this behavior is not new.
Throughout time we’ve used many methods to diminish others: Here is a beginning laundry list of “people behaving badly.”

Bullying

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. It includes physical, verbal, relational and cyber-bullying. And it is not limited to school age children. We see it everywhere around us.

Shunning

Shunning is the act of deliberately avoiding association with, and habitually keeping away from an individual or group. Think of the Amish.

Snubbing

Snubbing is to rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully.

Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a persistent refusal to communicate or to express emotions. It is common during conflicts, when people may stonewall in an attempt to avoid uncomfortable conversations or out of fear that engaging in an emotional discussion will result in a fight.You might know it by another name: ‘the silent treatment’ maybe, or ‘freezing’ someone out’. It can involve one person saying ‘I’m fine’ even though something is clearly wrong, or simply refusing to speak at all. As a counselor, I’ve described it as “a sanitized form of murder.”

Shaming

Shaming is to publicly humiliate or shame for being or doing something specific.
In Pandemic times? Shaming has become rampant. From having a party in our backyard, to going to the Jersey shore:
“We get this image of half a country having a party that most of us are not doing,” Tangney said. “It’s natural to become angry and also be afraid and to want to shame people, because we believe if we shame them, they’ll stop doing this bad thing. But unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/06/us/pandemic-shaming-wellness-trnd/index.html

Time after Time….. As I write these things, it takes me back to Junior High. Those were hard days. Fear reigned and the pack mentality was always present.
Where do I belong in this pack?
Am I accepted for who I am?

If I make a statement that is not in the general consensus, will I be shunned or humiliated? I remember well giving a public address in my English class–perhaps 1965. I presented my case. I don’t remember how the class responded. I DO remember that the teacher began to berate me, my viewpoints, and position. She even berated my clothes, stating that it was in keeping with my position. Clearly, my stance was not the status-quo.

Or maybe NOT so far back. In my working life, if I entered the room, there might be a certain “frosty” reception. People might not look up from their desk. No “Good morning.” In reading body language and lack of interaction, I knew I was in trouble. It was only a matter of time, or putting my ear to the ground to the rumor mill, to find out the issue.

And in the church? I would hope we would not fall into these categories. There have been times I’ve seen dissenters or those with differing opinions marginalized or even intellectually dismissed. This should not be happening.

Nothing New under the Sun

Not much has changed, has it?
2020:
The difference is that today we have the Cancel Culture on hyperdrive.
With Internet, Social Media, Instagram, Twitter, Tic-Tok, chat rooms, and numerous other venues, we have the power to bless or to curse. And our response goes ‘round the world with a simple click.

Labels and their Power

Take your pick.
We so easily throw them out there:
Racist, Bigot, Hater, Liberal, Conservative, Alt-Left, Far Right, Republican, Democrat, Fascists, Marxists, Communist.

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names can never hurt me.” Not true.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
In my next blog I’ll address these issues more specifically.

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