Mean What You Say – But by all Means, Say What You Mean

Good evening! How is everyone?

I love language. It has the power to inspire, educate or entertain us, but it also can be confusing or amusing, depending on how we read it or hear it. As speakers or writers, most of us choose subjects that are meaningful to us and we are very sincere in expressing that we mean what we say. However, because of the possibility and even probability that someone will misinterpret or misunderstand what we’ve written or said, we need to be careful to actually say what we mean. To illustrate, for the past year or so, I’ve noticed a large percentage of speakers walk into a meeting or onto a pulpit or platform and begin by saying, as I did –

Good evening! How is everyone? That question always fascinates me. I wonder if anyone was asked ahead of time to query, prepare and present a summary of how EVERYONE is? And, of course, the question of whether  the report will cover the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional and financial status of everyone or only one or two aspects of EVERYONE’S status? Or perhaps there might be an appointed psychic who can ‘see’ the group’s aura and give a concise report. A typical presentation has a limited time period so I’m also curious how much time has been allowed so EVERYONE will feel validated and that I don’t come across as totally self-centered and uncaring. [pause to reflect] At this point, it might be simpler if I just begin with you and let each person, in turn, tell us how he or she is – at least that way we will have a first-hand account of the individual’s status rather than some second or third-hand impersonal report.

No, as I think it over, that won’t work. In a group, even of this size, there are too many personality types. The extroverts in the room will be only too happy to have the spotlight on them and we clearly don’t have time for them to expound on all the details while the introverts will be so overwhelmed they not only won’t be able utter a word, they wouldn’t even hear about how you’re doing because their minds are going crazy trying to figure out a way to avoid having to be both seen and heard.

I know, some of you are thinking, “Good grief, it’s just a casual greeting. No one expects a response to it.” I agree, but if you say what you mean, why would you open with this empty question?

Thinking through all these possibilities reminds me of another of those things leaders say in group gatherings. How many times have you been in a meeting where the leader begins by saying, “Let’s all go around the room and introduce ourselves’? Have you ever thought about what chaos that would be? Each person getting up and walking about the room saying, “Hi, my name is Donna; what’s yours?” Except that everyone is up walking around and there’s no one waiting for your introduction; unless, of course, we do this sequentially. You (other side) get up and walk all around the room telling who you are and when you return to your seat, then it’s your turn. But then, again, I now only have 4½ minutes left for this talk, so by the time EVERYONE has gone AROUND THE ROOM, my time will be over. Clearly, that won’t work either.

I know by this time you’re thinking, “This woman’s a nut,” but I believe we all have those areas of brain playground that have us skipping off into territory the speaker or writer never intended. Again, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in church and the music minister said, “Let’s all turn in our hymnbooks …” Once again, my mind is on fertile soil and I’m busy visualizing myself inside the pages of the hymnbook turning – and, of course, I can’t just stop with turning. Cartoonlike, I’m dancing and skipping and leaning over the page to peek at what’s underneath.

Or what about the woman talking about the singer she heard at a preshow for another performer. She said this singer was so into her performance she was swaying from side to side of the stage. Oh, my! The visual is just too entertaining. I don’t know whether to see a stage that is a 24-inch square or a woman whose girth measures 30 feet across.

Then there was the Florida vacation hotel described as being ‘directly on the Atlantic Ocean.’ And no, it wasn’t an ocean liner. I wonder if their mattresses serve as floatation devices.

Just last week a funeral home was presenting about pre-arranging funerals so loved ones wouldn’t have to take care of those details in those first hours of their bereavement. One of the funeral planners identified himself as a prearranged funeral specialist. Even in so serious a subject as funeral planning, I’m chuckling while wondering what parts of him were prearranged – just hair and clothing or are we talking about arms and legs or maybe his head spins and you never know where it will stop.

I’m not sure if there’s any hope to keep me out of my brain playground while you’re speaking, but I would encourage you to give it a try by not just meaning what you say, but also by saying what you mean.

Enid’s Legend of Dollie Douthitt (Tombstone Tuesday)

While my daughter and I were visiting the cemetery in Enid, Oklahoma, to find family gravesites, we spoke with the manager and asked her if there were any unusual or famous gravesites there. She mentioned the Douthitt plot, which contains the tallest headstone in the cemetery.  The manager briefly told us the story of Dollie Douthitt and her husband, James, whom she killed when she found him in a compromised situation.The headstone is a large pedestal with a large angel on top of it and, as can be seen in the photo below, it towers over the other headstones.

IMG_3018I checked online for corroboration of the story told by the cemetery manager – it differed in some respects but is still quite a story.  Dollie shot and killed her husband, James, in 1904 athough he apparently lived long enough to write a will granting her a child’s portion of his estate providing she never remarried and to ask that Dollie not be prosecuted for his death.

Although Mrs. Douthitt was required to  remain a widow to keep her child’s portion, she wasn’t required to live alone. The writing in the online article, credited to Dennis Porter, is funny so allow me to quote from it: She found “an Enid man, suffering from an immoral itch. His conduct displeased her. She carefully sharpened a straight razor and as he lay sleeping, she slashed him in the area of her discontent. He awoke screaming with pain, stared at his gory groin, and rushed from the house. His caponized course crossed Boggy Bottom, over to Maine Street where he groaned a greeting to a paperboy making his early morning rounds. The red route ended at the University Hospital” where doctors and nurses managed to keep him from bleeding to death.

In 1931, when Mrs. Douthitt was acting as her own attorney in answering several collection suits, she addressed the court in anger, pulled out a pistol and began firing at, with some degree of accuracy, several attorneys as well as the judge. The judge managed to grab her from behind and she dropped the pistol as he was choking her. She was committed to an institution for the insane until she was finally released by the Governor on an ‘exile’ parole. She lived in California until her death in 1955 when she was able to be returned to Enid to lie buried next to her husband and beneath the finest monument there.

Once again, the article is humorous in its close: “If the angel has a cynical smile it is because Dolly set the limits of permissive behavior in Enid… you can kill your husband, castrate your boyfriend, but if you shoot a lawyer you must leave forever.”

Although the short pillar on the left just contains the birth/death dates for Dollie, the pillar on the right, in addition to the birth/death dates for James also bears an inscription:  “God’s ways are mysterious. I am not afraid to die but want all those I have wronged to forgive me.”

IMG_3014

As to Mr,. Douthitt’s stated hope, who knows whether Mrs. Douthitt chose to be buried next to him due to forgiveness, or merely to continue getting even forever.

Tombstone Tuesday – Showmen’s Rest

The Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo, Oklahoma has a section called Showmen’s Rest where a number of circus performers and professionals are buried. The area is set off by several pillars that state “Showmen’s Rest” with an elephant atop each of them.

Showmen's Rest

Showmen's Rest

Many of the tombstones depict some phrase that would indicate their love and enjoyment of the life they lived as a part of the circus world. One sentiment I particularly liked was this one:

May all your days be circus days.

May all your days be circus days.

How wonderful to live a life bringing joy, laughter and happiness everywhere you went – so much so that you would wish for everyone that all their days could be lived as fully and joyfully as this sentiment expresses.

Resting in Him

As the pastor read Paul’s prayer for the people in Ephesians 1:15-17 out of the NIV, I followed along in the New English translation. I typically carry a different translation from what I expect the pastor to use because the small differences in word choices cause me to think and question  in a manner that draws me into God’s word in a deeper way. In the NIV, Ephesians 1:15-17 reads like this:

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

As is often the case, I found interesting differences warranting further study. One of the differences I noted was that the NIV indicated the ‘purpose’ or end result of Paul’s prayer was ‘so that’ the Ephesians might grow in knowledge of God. In fact, much of the pastor’s sermon focused on this purpose aspect of Paul’s prayer. Since the New English translation’s word choices didn’t seem to suggest an element of purpose at all, I knew my follow-up study would be immediate (or at least right after I finished Sunday lunch).

Years ago, I recognized the importance of the little and often unnoticed words in language when I discerned the deep difference between two Greek words, ἵνα (so that) and ὅτι (that). Generally speaking, ἵνα has to do with direction forward in purpose or time; in other words, something happens in order that something else will happen as a result. ὅτι, on the other hand, has to do with direction backward in terms of cause; in this case, something has, is or will happen because of something that has already occurred.

Because of the purpose aspect of the NIV translation of verse 17, I would have expected to see the word ἵνα, but didn’t. Instead, the original language for this passage uses the word, ἐν, which is a word that has to do with position or place and is most frequently translated as ‘in.’ The Greek dictionary defines the word as a place or position of rest; a midpoint between two Greek words, eiς indicating the point reached or entered, and ἐk, denoting the point whence motion or action originated. In other words, Paul is praying they might be at rest in their knowledge of and position in God.

To illustrate the possible impact of the difference between gaining a better knowledge of God and resting in the knowledge of who God is, my daughter and I received copies of about 50 letters my grandfather had written from 1894 until his death in 1915. In reading them, I discovered he did not have any peace or rest concerning his relationship with God.  He wrote his brother of his “hopes of being a Christian that is my only object in the future.” He seemed to long to be a Christian but, in his language choices, it appeared to always be distant from him. I think it is the longing of a soul to be united with its maker/creator that is the reason for Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. In other words, Paul wants them to know God in such a way that they rest in Him and are not merely in the process of either moving out of or moving into some ill-defined or merely hoped-for relationship with God.

Paul’s statement to the Ephesians is that he gives thanks for them in prayer so that (ἵνα) God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in (not ἵνα) the knowledge of Him. Our position in God is not based on hope or faith or even in evidences from a life well lived (generally referred to as good works), but this position in God is based on knowledge of everything about who He is: maker, creator, sustainer, savior, redeemer and judge.

The end result of a life lived as an answer to Paul’s prayer for us would be that we could, with assurance, joy and rest, sing the song taken from 2 Timothy 1:12:

I know whom I have believed

And am persuaded

That He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that Day.

COG 77th Edition Disasters – 1932 Lighting Creek

COG disaster My mother had no possessions (that I knew of ) that belonged to her mother or father; both parents had died before she was seven and she and all the younger siblings were transported from Oilton, Oklahoma to Galax, Virginia to live with relatives. When my daughter and I started looking into genealogy and asking questions about family possessions that might be existent, we were told that most of what existed had been in the possession of my aunt, Bernita Lineberry Curtess, who was already a young married woman with an infant when her mother died. Unfortunately, Bernita was killed in a car wreck in 1967, so we couldn’t ask her where they were.

I called my cousin, Bobbie Louise Curtess Saunders, to ask about them and she said most of what her mother had was destroyed in a flood a long time ago. Bernita and her husband, Edson, their two children and my mother and possibly her three brothers Johnnie, Joe and George, (Bernita went to Virginia in 1929 to bring her siblings back to Oklahoma – Leonard remained in Galax)  moved from Wewoka, Oklahoma sometime after 1929 and lived in a home near SW 23 and Robinson.

Lightning Creek in South Oklahoma City had a long history of flooding in the early years of  Oklahoma City. There was a major flood in October 1923 but Bernita was apparently living in Wewoka at that time. The next major flood took place June 4, 1932 and it was apparently much more devastating than the earlier flood. Although I can’t be sure this is the flood that ruined my grandmother’s possessions, it’s a pretty good guess since Bernita wasn’t in Oklahoma City until after 1929 and by sometime in the mid-1930s she had moved a little further south to SW 36th and Harvey.

N Canadian overflowsbanks

The above photo is from the front page of the June 5, 1932 Daily Oklahoman and shows some of the water all over the south and west parts of Oklahoma City. Although the Oklahoman archive’s copy of this day’s paper has a piece torn out of the top of the paper and the headline cannot be completely read, what is visible of the caption above the headline on page 1 says, “Relief for 3,200 Homeless …  as Property Damage is Estimated at $1,500,000. The larger type-faced headline says, “SEVEN MISSING IN FLOOD ARE SOUGHT” and continues with the column headline with, ‘FIVE KNOWN DEAD; 656 HOMES WITHIN AREA ARE WRECKED.”The article lead adds to the toll by telling that 21 were in the hospital and nine others had been treated at hospitals and released.

As the article continues onto page 2, the impact of that flood becomes more clear: “Oklahoma City’s 3,000 homeless flood refugees will be established in army tents Saturday to prevent an epidemic through crowding hundreds of them into downtown buildings . . .” The article continues, “In the Lightning Creek area, where the property damage was estimated at $250,000 by Capitol Hill civic officials, 31 medium priced homes were completely destroyed. A survey showed more than 125 additional homes had been badly damaged by water. . . Heavy rains preceding the overflow started here shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and by 2 a.m. Friday Lightning Creek was a raging torrent and the Canadian was at flood stage. ”

Map of the area affected by the flood.

Map of the area affected by the flood.

The map above shows the proximity of SW 23 and Robinson to both the Canadian and Lighting Creek.

When you read of the deaths and injuries requiring hospitalization and homes completely destroyed or seriously damaged by flood waters, the fact that possessions of my grandmother were ruined by the water is of little consequence. Yes, we would love to have access to them – photographs, letters, postcards, the family Bible; those are all treasures. But really, for my mother and her brothers and sister whose father, then mother, infant step-brother and oldest brother had all died and who had been shipped off to live separately in whatever home was able to keep them, they obviously knew deep within their souls that what is important is never possessions, but is the relationships you have with people you love for as long as you have them with you.

The key take away principle is:  Cherish who you have, not what you have!

Listen to Your Inner Grandmother

“Listen to your inner grandmother. She’s got a little more wisdom than your inner child.” Loretta LaRoche, in Life is Not a Stress Rehearsal.

I often read things that impress me or move me or encourage me  (for a moment), but way too often I move on to the next thing and that moment is lost. I read this some months back and started to blog about it, stopped right after the first sentence, but saved it as a draft. The good news about that is, it stayed on my blog posting page to keep reminding me of its wisdom. Today seems a good day to reflect on it again.

I never had the benefit of grandparents: my maternal grandfather died in 1915 (my mother was 19 months old); my maternal grandmother died in 1922 (my mother was not quite 8); my paternal grandmother died in 1938 (my dad was an adult but it was still before I was born); my paternal grandfather died in 1941 (although I had been born, I was too young to know him).

I suppose most people who don’t get to experience grandparents at least have the benefit of the trickle down effect of whatever training their parents received in their childhood but, though both my parents were decent, loving people,  daddy left home by the time he was 16 because he apparently didn’t like or respect his father very much. He apparently loved his mother a great deal (according to his sister, it was reciprocal), but he felt a strong need to get away from the negative aspects of his home. He never spoke of his parents and rarely spoke of his siblings either.If there were aspects of wisdom passed down from his parents/grandparents, I was unaware of what they might be. I imagine most people would have assumed daddy lived out of his inner child, and they may well have been right.

Although mother provided an incredibly supportive environment for my early years, she seemed to sometimes operate at the emotional threshold of time of her mother’s death (approximately 8 years old) – in other words, she sometimes lived out of her inner child rather than her inner grandmother because she never had one of those either (maternal grandmother left and apparently died in the late 1800s; maternal grandfather died in 1912; paternal grandmother died in 1896 and paternal grandfather died in 1916 – six years before she moved to Virginia where he was from). Most of the trickle-down effect I received came from the movies my mother loved so much – love was idealized, people burst into song frequently and danced on the streets, cleaned house in high heels, makeup and, sometimes, with white gloves on, and generally things worked out nicely by the end of 90 minutes.

So, the question blares at me: How do I develop an inner grandmother on my own? I certainly don’t have all the answers but I can suggest seeking out (and listening to) wise people, reading a lot, reflecting on and setting goals from the wisest things I cull from each day’s experiences (that includes chance comments, news reports, movies, books, sermons, relationships with friends and acquaintances or teachers, preachers, writers, etc.)

I would suppose I’m fortunate because most of those come pretty naturally to me. A man I dated many years ago (about 25) said to me, “You were born wise.” I laughed because no one had ever said such a thing to me before and because I know I live a lot out of my inner child – and that’s not all bad (the inner child allows us to enjoy the moment and look forward to the future in the face of ‘real’ life). Additionally, I know none of us are actually born wise – we have to work at assimilating and applying each day’s wisdom until we do amass a little bit of that inner grandmother to guide us.

Bottom line is: cultivate, develop and listen to your inner grandmother, but by all means, take time to enjoy your inner child as well.