Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Divine Nomenclature by Sharon Lurie

-->© 2015 David's Harp and Pen

Mood:  Spooky

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the names, attributes, or backgrounds of any real persons, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, because in real life, being happy to find out your husband murdered his first wife in cold blood would NEVER happen, right?

My maternal grandmother was a Norwegian powerhouse we grandchildren called Munna.  Since I was the youngest and lived the closest to her, I spent the most time with her.  Just as Ragnar Lothbrok was the scourge of France and England, Munna was the scourge of Passaic County, New Jersey, and grammar slackers everywhere.

Munna, for fun, would correct the grammar and spelling on any junk mail she received and return it to the sender in hopes they would amend their slacking ways.  She lived in a senior citizen building where each resident had a numbered, assigned parking spot.  Even though these were clearly marked throughout the parking lot, visitors to the building would often park in the residents’ parking spots.  Whenever someone parked in Munna’s parking spot, she would block the offender’s car in with her car and go to her apartment.  Usually in short order, the building security guard would knock on Munna’s apartment door, accompanied by the driver of the car in Munna’s parking spot.  Munna would then read the culprit the Riot Act.  Let me tell you, you have never been guilt-mongered until you’ve been Munna guilt-mongered.  She once chewed out a pastor who parked in her parking spot in such bloody fashion as to make “300” look like a paper cut.

Probably my favorite memories of Munna were when she took me to the local libraries for the free movie programs.  Everyone else in attendance was at least 60 years older than me, so I became everyone’s surrogate grandchild.  It was at these gatherings of retired sexa-, septua-, and octogenarians that I developed both an irrational - yet at the same time completely healthy - fear of polyester clothing and sensible shoes.  It was also at these gatherings that I first saw what would become my favorite movie of all time.

Rebecca, which came out in 1940, was based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.  Now, because of the Hays Code, Alfred Hitchcock had to modify the script in one key area, but mostly he was able to stay true to the source material.

The novel is about a young woman who marries an older, wealthy aristocrat after only knowing him for two weeks.  (Dear Readers, please don’t marry someone you barely know, lest you want to be the headlining act of either a Hitchcock film or an episode of “Forensic Files,” and for all the wrong reasons, too.)  After their whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo and a few more weeks of honeymooning, Max de Winter takes his new young bride to his British estate, Manderley.  This is usually where the fairy tale ends, but du Maurier’s magnum opus then weaves a terrifying tale representative of all great Gothic novels.  Mrs. de Winter Number Two soon learns about Rebecca, Maxim’s late first wife, who died under mysterious circumstances and whose presence overshadows everyone and everything at the manor.  The reader goes from page to page experiencing increasing suspicion.  Was Rebecca murdered?  Was she really still alive?  Was she a ghost or evil spirit out to haunt the living and torment the woman she believed was trying to take her place?

Maxim’s new wife spends a good part of the story feeling conspicuously insecure about her predecessor - that she can’t measure up, that Maxim wishes Rebecca were still alive - and working herself up into an emotional frenzy about Rebecca, whom she sees as her nemesis and main competitor for Maxim’s affections.


After Rebecca’s body is discovered, Maxim confesses to his new bride that he hated Rebecca because of her cruelty and infidelity and, upon her telling him she was pregnant with her cousin’s child, Maxim shot and killed her.  Our female protagonist doesn’t bat an eyelash that the man she married just admitted to committing uxoricide.  She is just positively giddy that he really didn’t love his first wife, and that on top of marrying him when she knew bupkis about him.  Dear Female Readers, please be smarter than our female protagonist.

Daphne du Maurier, remarkable raconteuse that she was, used some ingenious literary techniques to help add the air of mystery.  For one, she named the novel after Rebecca, not the second wife.  Next, to show how much Rebecca’s memory drove the main characters, du Maurier never names the new wife.

Names are funny things.  In American society we usually choose names by what sounds nice to us.  In Bible times, names had great significance.  Names meant something.  Sometimes a person’s name reflected the hope the parent had for the child’s future.  Other times, as in the case of Benoni and Jabez, they are a monument to the parent’s wounds or disappointments.

All of us have a name we are trying to either live up to or live down.  Thankfully, for the children of God, He doesn’t leave us to the names we were or weren’t given.

Jacob had a rough start.  The second-born son in a Middle Eastern culture, he was persona non grata.  He was called “supplanter” at birth, and that name set the tone for the beginning of his life.

The start of Jacob’s story shows that he lived up to his name.  He cheated his brother.  He lied to his father.  He cheated his uncle.  His name was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy - until He wrestled with God.

I had read the story of Jacob’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord many times, but it wasn’t until I read it in The Amplified Bible that it really hit home.

Genesis 32:24-28 says, “And Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until daybreak.  And when [the Man] saw that He did not prevail against [Jacob], He touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him.  Then He said, ‘Let Me go, for day is breaking.’ But [Jacob] said, ‘I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing upon me.’  [The Man] asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, ‘Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!’  And He said, ‘Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed.’”

To Jacob, his name wasn’t just what he went by to his family and friends.  It was his identity of which he was painfully aware every day of his life, and an encounter with God changed all that.  However, it wasn’t just Jacob’s name that got changed that day.  When God changes our names, He changes His own name.  From that point forward, God was no longer “the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac.”  He became “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  More importantly, He became “the God of Israel.”  When I gave my life to God during a blistering summer in 1987, He changed my name to “child of God,” and He changed His Name to “the God of Sharon.”

What is the name you want have or the one you want to shed?  Maybe you are like the second Mrs. de Winter, and the name you’re looking for is Beloved.  Cherished.  Valuable.  Maybe you are like Jacob and are trying to eschew some negative eponym like Stupid.  Worthless.  Troublemaker.  Unwanted.  Disappointment.

God is still in the name-changing business, and He does it in a way that could make even the Master of Suspense envious.

Hebrews 11:16 (The Amplified Bible)-“But the truth is that they were yearning for and aspiring to a better and more desirable country, that is, a heavenly [one]. For that reason God is not ashamed to be called their God [even to be surnamed their God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], for He has prepared a city for them.”

The End



Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Rise of the Crocodile by Sharon Lurie

© 2015 David's Harp and Pen

Mood:  Wild

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, except the part about the babysitting.  Please don’t tell my old boss I wrote this.  He’s seven now, owns four more conglomerates, and if he gets wind of this, I’ll never work in this town again.  

A few years ago, I had to babysit my then boss.  My boss at the time was four.  (Through clever wranglings, some of which I don’t understand from a legal standpoint, his parents gave him controlling stake in the company.  I was in my late 30s, struggling to get by, and living in someone’s basement, whereas a toddler was the Chief Executive Officer of a successful business.  And to answer your next question, yes.  Life is cruel.)

For those that don’t know, and for reasons unclear to me, boys between the ages of 3-8 love to pull animal tails.  It doesn’t matter the animal or its size.  It’s almost as though little boys have some sort of biological drive or scientific need to do so, and according to them, being told not to pull animal tails is not only oppressive but downright totalitarian.  Little Boss Man kept pulling his German Shepherd’s tail, and I knew if I didn’t intervene, the German Shepherd was going to take matters into his own hands…er, paws.

I made a call to the Chairwoman of the Board, also known as Mom, as to proper punishment.  She told me to give Little Boss Man a time out in the corner with his hands raised.  Little Boss Man immediately began crying, saying the German Shepherd’s tail was asking for it, and that if I didn’t shorten his punishment, he would die and his arms would fall off.  He also told me what a horrible human being I was.  Since this wasn’t my first babysitting (or boss-with-a-Napolean-complex) rodeo, I suspected his tears were crocodilian in nature.  So, I decided to put it to the test.  In what I thought was a necessary violation of the normal employee-employer boundaries, I tickled him.  Little Boss Man laughed profusely.  When I stopped, I asked, “Now what is this?  I thought you were dying and your arms were going to fall off!”

Without skipping a beat, Little Boss Man went back to sobbing about the cruel and unusual nature of his punishment.  So, I tickled him again, which resulted in additional uproarious fits of laughter.  As the reader can imagine, when the time out was finished, Little Boss Man did not, indeed, die, and he retained full use of his extremities, ensuring that he could and would live to pull many a dog tail another day.  I, however, did not leave the experience unscathed.  Though I am not a parent, I witnessed something every parent does at some point or another:  I saw Little Boss Man learn how to lie.  More specifically, he had learned how to manipulate, and it made me profoundly sad.

I remember hearing a lecture about ten years ago by a psychologist about how children learn how to lie.  (Much of what he said is referenced in this article.)  He said it starts as young as six months.  The example he used is of a child being hungry.  The child may coo or whimper a little bit to get his mother’s attention, but if he’s ignored for whatever reason, he will escalate the situation by screaming louder and louder, as though in bodily distress, in order to get his needs met.  For most of us, if we encounter a pattern of being ignored or overlooked when asking for our basic needs, we either get in the habit of trying to meet them in inappropriate ways, or try to just go without.  Some of us vacillate between both.

Crocodiles are said to cry tears of ostensible remorse as they devour their victims.  The dictionary defines crocodile tears in part as “an insincere show of sorrow.”  The crocodile shows his deception in many ways.  For Little Boss Man, it was pretending to be near death to avoid a well-deserved punishment.  Sometimes the crocodile screams fire in order to simply get attention.  However, sometimes the crocodile puts on a brave face to give the illusion he’s in more control than he actually is.  Last summer, I realized I’ve worn the crocodile face in many regards.

It’s not an easy thing to admit one has a problem.  For me, the realization came from reading the second chapter of "Boundaries in Dating," entitled “Require and Embody Truth.”  I remember when the lines from the book hit me over the head like a velvet brick:  “Finally, if you don't want to be in a relationship with a liar, be an honest person yourself.”

I had found myself in a pattern of relationships with dishonest people.  Part of it was I had a terrible time addressing problems that I saw or being direct about things I needed.  A good part of that was learned behavior on my part.  I guess you could say I come from a culture of crocodiles that either pretend they’re stronger than they are or who only know how to get what they need through manipulation and theatrics.  Because of that, I developed a pattern of communication that was great for appearances but bad for long-term relationships.

Sometimes, we don’t remember how a bad habit started, but we had an “event” that cemented it.  For me, it was a guy. Someone I really admired, respected, and trusted.  I tried to be honest with him about some emotional support I needed.  In his defense, I think he was channeling the crocodile, too, but he lashed out at me, to my surprise, and let me know in no uncertain terms that not only was I wrong for asking for help, I was wrong for even needing it.  I couldn’t get his words out of my head, and it began a long period of me pretending I didn’t need anything, even if going without put me in danger.

Around the time I began reading “Boundaries in Dating,” many of my single friends began either dating or getting married in disastrous fashion.  I won’t go into the gory details, but they were all making romantic choices so destructive and unwise that even Larry King, Donald Trump, and the late Elizabeth Taylor went on record to say, “Folks, you’re rushing into danger here.  Maybe you should work on your issues, not jump from relationship to relationship, or at least date the person longer than a week before getting engaged, don’t you think?”

As the reader can imagine, almost all of these ill-conceived romantic ventures ended badly.  I found myself not only sad seeing my friends suffer, but terribly disillusioned.  Some of them were older than I am and had been single longer than I have.  I kept wondering how these people who were so sensible otherwise could ignore such glaring red flags and be so foolish.  I also wondered if it were possible for me to be deceived like that.

I pondered and prayed about the situation, and finally the answer came to me:  my friends all fell into that trap because they were lying about their wound.  Some came from terribly dysfunctional homes with no support to speak of, while others had been alone a long time and were ashamed of their loneliness.  I remember one friend of mine who had said to me repeatedly, “I feel like I can’t talk about it with anyone.  If you’re still single at a certain age, people tell you it’s your fault because you’re either doing something wrong or you just want a relationship too much.”

Watching my friends get hurt made me realize I was in danger.  If I didn’t learn how to be honest about my emotional needs, I was going to be the next one to fall for a charlatan.  I realized, though, that part of getting needs met in healthy ways was learning to seek out healthy relationships.

There’s a person I’ve done a lot of writing with over the years whom I’ll call Mister Storyteller.  He was the one who first encouraged me to write scripts, and he and his lovely wife, Mrs. Script Editor, have been very kind to me over the years, like spiritual parents.  I have solid history with them, and they have stood by me when others couldn’t or wouldn’t.  I thought if I was going to do the hard work of being honest about my emotional needs, they would be a good place to start.

Mister Storyteller and I were working on a literary project together.  He asked me how I felt about the writing process.  I told him that I needed to get positive feedback.  I said I’d worked for many people who only told me what I did wrong, and never mentioned things I did well, and I really needed the encouragement.  While Mister Storyteller was always one who had offered positive comments about my writing, after we had that talk, I noticed every time he emailed me with notes on a current draft, he included positives about my work with each update.

A few weeks later, I took a chance and asked Mister Storyteller and Mrs. Script Editor if we could have a chat.  I was scared to death to admit to someone else that I’ve failed in my relationships in the past and needed help navigating those waters.  However, when I told them, they were so understanding.  They told me I was part of the family, they loved me, and would help me in any way they could.

I wanted to go further with learning to own my needs, address problems, and communicate honestly.  I joined a group of Christian women who meet once a week.  We laugh and cry together, and we allow one another to speak the truth and process our emotions without shame.  This has been a slow and difficult process for me, but a rewarding one, because as I’ve learned to be truthful both about what I need and problems I see, I’ve seen my relationships become all the more fruitful and rich.

Killing the crocodile is not any easy task, nor is it a one-time deal.  There is always the temptation to pretend we’re okay, to hide when we’ve screwed up for fear of rejection, or to seek attention and validation in unhealthy ways.  I don’t know that the crocodile ever dies completely.  I think we can get to the point where we just stop feeding him.  The sooner we get there, the better, and if you don’t believe me, just ask the toddler CEO.  *grin*

The End