Let them play!

via Daily Prompt: Caper   

My grandson strikes a goofy pose in the middle of Time Square. I see this picture several times during the day as I move about in my kitchen. It’s sitting at the front of my refrigerator, and I smile every time I see it as if I’m noticing it for the first time. There are other photos of my grandson on the fridge, but this one captures my heart more than the others.

Perhaps it does because my grandson has this silly grin and a mischievous glint in his eye. Moreover, he has managed to contort his body in a funny position, and it seems that he has enjoyed it immensely. Elijah’s intention was to entertain his spectators, and he has achieved his goal with me. I’m drawn to the energy and exuberance in that photo. Children ought to be that way: carefree, energetic, happy, playful, and a little mischievous.

Something pulls far down in the pit of my stomach every time I hear of another child being kidnapped, raped, or killed. I can’t bear seeing a hungry child on TV or even worse, for unscrupulous adults to parade the faces of disadvantaged kids for soliciting money and cheap publicity. Call me old fashioned, but there is nothing more refreshing than little girls dressed in pretty frocks and hats and boys in suits, especially on Easter Sunday.  Jeans, shorts, skirts, T-shirts and other forms of clothing are fine too.

However, my pet peeve is when parents try to dress their children as miniature adults. Why should little girls wear sexually revealing clothes and be subjected to the negative attention of some who are morally bankrupt? Although there is no correlation between dress and the sexual exploitation of young children, we cannot ignore the fact that clothing affects the perception of the beholder. For example, the worst criminal will appear before a judge in his best attire to create a good impression. Therefore, parents must take into consideration what story their child is unintentionally telling when they dress him or her each day.

Parents have an obligation to take care of their children. They cannot choose which responsibilities they will or will not assume regarding their offspring. Attending a parent teacher conference at least once during the school year is no less important than taking one’s child to Disney World. Sometimes telling your child no also shows that you care. Children need parents to guide and set boundaries for them as they continue to nurture their sense of inquiry.

God had a reason for delaying the full development of the frontal lobe in humans until the earlier part of our adults. Decision making, planning, problem-solving and emotional control are functions that occur in this area of the brain. Considering that children need to explore and learn about their environment, risk taking would be stymied with a full blown frontal lobe. Gradual development correlates with physical maturation.

Since the frontal lobe gives our children more “room to mess up,” they are more inclined to take risks, and less inhibited in expressing their emotions. Immediate gratification matters more to them than what the future holds. That is why they caper, frolic, and play. They feel invincible, so they do things that make you cringe. Let them cavort and laugh and grab life with both hands, but don’t leave them to their own devices. They need you to be their scaffold. Teach them to love God, respect themselves, treat their neighbors kindly, and protect the earth.

Childhood is what shapes our adulthood. Let’s help our children to enjoy this wonderful stage of their lives. Therefore, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

 

 

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Tender is relative

via Daily Prompt: Tender

 

When it comes to food, the word “tender” has a different meaning in the South than in the North. Degrees of tenderness to which foods are cooked also vary between Blacks and Whites. Many Southern Blacks take great pleasure in simmering their green leafy vegetables until they are soft and to the point that they melt in your mouth. Their white counterparts also sometimes cook their vegetables until they lose their crispness, but with more bite than their African-American neighbors.

Collard, turnip, and mustard greens simmering gently in a crockpot on a rainy day gives the most comforting feeling to a Southerner. Some like it plush with ham hocks; smoked turkey necks or tails; or just the plain greens seasoned with onions and other spices. One of my church sisters in Atlanta divulged to me that collards are no good without a little vinegar. She does not believe in adding sugar to her greens although some cooks swear by it.

After the greens have reached their level of the desired doneness, they may be served with several starchy dishes. For most Southerners, corn bread is the best complement to this dish. Macaroni and cheese casserole is the ubiquitous side that pops up on just about every southern table on nearly all occasions whether it’s a baby shower or a Thanksgiving dinner – and it also goes well with greens. And by the way, there is nothing al dente about the noodles, rather variations of tenderness since that quality is more inviting to the southern palate.

Talking about taste, every restaurateur knows if he wants to add the finishing touches to his greens, he must place a tasty bottle of hot sauce on the table if he wants to have African-American customers coming back for more.  Another thing that outsiders need to know is that whites and blacks in the south are not divided about food. They both appreciate and like their regional dishes.

 

Eggs as you like them

A delicious piece of prime steak is a meat eater’s delight: add the right wine, and you’ll place him in gastronomic heaven. I’m no vegetarian, but too much meat gives me little pleasure. That’s why I feel overly lethargic after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I tend to get bloated from overeating ham and turkey, and my body screams for green vegetables.

I dare not resist because there is a hefty price to pay. The weight of extra calories is cumbersome and not a sight for sore eyes. Moreover, I believe that too much protein wreaks havoc on my digestive system and causes “tectonic plates to shift in my stomach” creating weird sounds and emissions from my body that I do not welcome. Some will say broccoli and cabbage have the same effect. However, I believe that they do less damage than meat because they don’t have the excess bulk that meat has. Well, the difference is based on the discomfort of the eater!

My father is the reason for my meat aversion. During my childhood, Papa planted all kinds of vegetables around our home and made them a staple in almost every meal. He used meat sparingly, mostly to flavor a dish or as a filler. Therefore, I acquired a taste especially for legumes (which were his favorite vegetable). I enjoyed fish and occasionally ate our home-raised chicken. However, I avoided red meat. Like my father, I am squeamish about poultry. I have no stomach for fried chicken skin regardless of how crispy it may be.

I also think twice about ordering eggs at a restaurant although I like a good omelet filled with spinach and cheese. I confess too that I enjoy scrambled eggs with grits and a sliver of bacon on the side. Now my bacon has to be crisp and slightly burned. I wouldn’t request dry scrambled eggs or a hard omelet. However, you can guess I don’t like my eggs runny. That brings me to the point of sunny side up eggs.

Somebody said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think that the adage applies more to sunny side up eggs. I presume that “sunny” refers to the brightness or lack of it in the yolk of the cooked egg. Sunny side up eggs are eggs fried on one side until the white is barely set and the yolk remains liquid in the middle. To the sunny side up fan, a runny yolk may appear more inviting and shinier than a more viscous yolk, but to my dad and I, a charred yolk is the sunniest treat in a fried egg. There is also a slight variation of this dish: the difference is that the egg is lightly fried on both sides with the yellow still runny. The latter is called easy over eggs. Because the egg is fried quickly on both sides, the yolk may vary in runniness and even luster.

Whether you are talking about omelets, scrambled, poached, boiled, easy over or sunny side up eggs; diet plays a role in what the beholder sees. According to Dr. Anne Marie Hellmenstine, the color of egg yolks can vary from pale yellow to bright orange depending on the diet of chickens and other poultry. She notes that although color variation occurs naturally in eggs, farmers can control yolk pigmentation by regulating the number of carotenoids they feed to chickens. Carotenoids are natural pigments that are found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupes. Natural pigment additives like marigold in poultry feed enhance yolk color because artificial sources are generally prohibited. However, Dr. Hellmenstine notes that certain commercial pigment enhancers, namely Lucantin (R) red and Lucantin (R) yellow are allowed on the market to affect the coloration of egg yolk.  The color is not an indication of nutritional value although some people swear that the brighter the yolk, the better the egg.

Although they may be eaten raw or cooked, research show people run a greater risk of contracting diseases from eating raw eggs than from eating cooked ones. Dustin Bogle (2015) in his article entitled “What Happens When Protein is Cooked?” states that “Some foods, such as eggs, that are consumed raw or undercooked carry the risk of getting food-borne illnesses.”

He also stresses that the body receives more of the protein in a cooked egg than in an uncooked one:

A study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” found that consuming cooked eggs as opposed to raw eggs provided the highest rate of protein absorption and is the safest method of consumption. The study concluded that the body absorbs protein from a cooked egg at a rate of 91 percent, while raw egg protein is absorbed at a rate of 50 percent over a 24-hour period.

The culinary benefits of eggs, however, outweigh the risks of getting foodborne diseases from them, if they are safely handled and prepared.

References

Hellmenstine, Anne Marie. 2017 “How to Change Egg Yolk Color: Is it possible to change the color of an egg yolk?” http://www.thoughtco.com (accessed June 28, 2017)

Bogle, Dustin. 2015 “What Happens When Egg Protein Is Cooked?” http://www.livestrong.com (accessed June 28, 2017)

 

Easy Sunny-Side-Up Eggs

 

 

A Thought for today

Just as the color of an egg yolk has no bearing on its nutritional value; our appearance, race, social status, and other outward indicators do not demonstrate our right relationship with God. He looks at the heart and not at the outward appearance:

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, KJV).

It’s a profession!

via Daily Prompt: Paragon

 

A paragon is a person or thing that represents the standard of excellence for a particular quality or behavior. People with shared values agree that the qualities are beneficial to the group and will support those possessing them in various ways. One of the most visible is inclusion into a community: people who have similar values and aspirations will tend to interact with each other frequently, ultimately alienating others, even if not done intentionally.

Everyone is groomed to some extent to fit into the society in which one is born. The more one is prepared, the more one is guaranteed for success, and the more seamless is one’s transition from birth to adulthood. Nature has endowed some with qualities, gifts, and talents that surpass their peers; and others have been lucky to receive the nurture to make them fit. And then there are those who have to fight to find and keep a place, while others teeter on the periphery of society. The latter are just faces, and no one pays attention to their existence, but a few from this group are considered as “necessary evils.”

The necessary evils live in the shadows, but society knows their names. They have survival skills, and they are aware of the community norms, but they don’t follow them. Modern day drug lords, corrupt lawyers; ruthless politicians; loan sharks; prostitutes and others who are apparently no paragons of virtue fall into this category. Prostitution, by its very nature, is a stigmatized profession because it defies what is supposed to be an act of love, honor, and commitment between two adults.  It is considered “the world’s oldest profession” because it has been existence for an inordinately long time in virtually all cultures of the world. Moreover, men and women have earned a living from it. Many people may be shocked to learn that male prostitution was practiced in the Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman antiquity because women have dominated this institution for centuries.

Even more surprising, prostitution originated as a ritualistic sexual activity that was performed within the context of religious worship to appease the many fertility gods found in ancient cultures. Exchange of money for sexual intercourse between two people occurred over time. Prostitution was a common practice in Ancient Greece and Rome, and it is known that some patrons paid handsomely for the sexual services they received.

Today, outright prostitution is somewhat reviled and prohibited to some extent in Western society. How much of the law enforced against it depends on how law enforcement officials view its existence: whether it’s a crime or harmless vice. Furthermore, some of the well-heeled paragons of society are covertly involved in this trade. They cover their tracks well while exploiting young girls and “renting” them out to men seeking sexual pleasures. People know that prostitution occurs in various ways in society, but it is not something someone discusses in polite society. Although Christianity is still the dominant religion in many of these societies and prohibits sexual sins, needless to say, their citizens do not abstain from engaging in them because secularism is on the rise.

Talking about Christianity, if one examines the Bible, there are references to the subject of prostitution. There is the story of Tamar who posed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law in sleeping with her.  He impregnated her, and she gave birth to a son who became part of the lineage of Christ. However, the most well-known of the two women is Rahab, the harlot. She was the woman who allowed two Israelites to escape from her countrymen by first hiding them on her roof and later letting them down from a wall with a scarlet rope. Because of her heroism and faith in the Hebrew God, she saved her family and the Jewish nation from annihilation. She married a Jewish man, and God blessed her (and also Tamar) to be one of Christ’s maternal ancestors.

Rahab led a life of immorality before her conversion to Judaism. She was a necessary evil in her society because she catered to the many travelers who stopped over at her brothel in Jericho. Not only did she bring revenue, but she could learn secrets from wayfarers that she could pass on to the authority and protect them from potential danger. Although her vocation was not socially acceptable, she was tolerated. The Book of Joshua records that the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab to turn over the Israelite spies to his messengers:

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land (Joshua 2:2-3, KJV).

Had the children of Israel not succeeded with their plans to destroy Jericho, Rahab would have been tried for treason. She was a prostitute, a liar, and a traitor: qualities that were the antitheses of virtue. However, through the work of grace, she was mentioned with the Hebrew matriarch, Sarah, as a paragon of faith(Hebrews 11:31). Shernett Ford states in The Scarlet Thread: Tainted Women that:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. William Shakespeare

via Daily Prompt: Volume

Image result for remember thy creator in thy youth

Youth makes us invincible.  The young are edgy and restless because of the great energy that their bodies produce. It seems like they are in a mad dash to get all they can in that space between birth and death. Young men take risks and old men practice restraint because they carry memories or bear the scars of past actions. What we do in that time is what defines us: whether we are trapped by fate or by our own volition.

It is during the early part of their lives that men marry, fight wars, conquer lands, start businesses, make discoveries and create inventions. Optimism and ambition drive them: one conquest is the fuel for another. Satisfaction wanes as quickly as it appears. They have not acquired the burden of knowledge that comes from experience and they leap into situations where angels fear to tread. However, a man’s life does not stop because he gets older. Rather, he narrows his field of activity for reason of strength or lack of it; the weight of responsibility; and wisdom acquired through experience.

To err is human and we cannot escape missteps and failures.The frequency and the magnitude of our errors; and how we handle them contribute to the tales of our lives. How we treat our talents, time, the earth, ourselves, and others also increase the volume of our story. To what extent our lives are determined by the nature-nurture argument is yet to be answered. However, we are certain that the choices we make daily impact our lives greatly. Choices have consequences, whether those choices are good or bad. Shakespeare notes that “The evil that men do lives after them; but the good they do is oft interred with their bones.”

Although there is some truth to this belief, I think both and good actions have lasting effects even after a man dies. Children will continue to live out the virtues and vices that have been taught to them even after several generations, and others reap the benefits of both the spiritual and physical legacies of their predecessors. We are the ones who write the story of our lives and not others. Although we write it, we will never be able to read its final chapter because we all have an expiration date.  God alone will be able to truly judge the volume of our lives. Therefore, like Solomon, I adjure all men to know that”

Image result for the whole duty of man is to fear god photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreadlocks and all that…

 

  • Image result for pictures of bob marley

via Daily Prompt: Natty

When you are over fifty, you can’t keep up with all the new words that have wound their way into the English Language. Forget about the various dialects of this language that straddle the globe from the Tower of London to the Melbourne Cricket Ground of The Down Under, and it can even be daunting trying to understand all the slang words of the younger generation in your local community that become outdated as fast as they appear. To add to the pot, there’s urban slang and rural talk; technological buzzwords; and then, there’s class and racial overtones and undertones mixed in with this linguistic potpourri. It’s confusedly beautiful to speak this ever-evolving language that re-invents itself and yet remains the same.

Now consider me. I am of Jamaican descent, so I move seamlessly between English and what we call patois each day. And did I mention that I also teach Spanish? For those who don’t know, Jamaica was once a British colony, so English is our national language. We also speak patois which is a mixture of English, African, and even a smattering of Spanish words. You are considering what’s the point of mentioning all of this. The answer is that my brain is a heady swirl, infused with the scents of various cultures that impact my linguistic repertoire.

Can you imagine when I saw the word “natty.” It seemed like a word from a foreign language vocabulary list. Where did I hear that word before? Yes, it has something to do with clothing…fashionable, dapper, debonair. However, that was not what my brain wanted to hear. I don’t how, but I stumbled upon another meaning that I was not aware of: I found out it was a slang abbreviation for the term “natural” and for a cheap light beer. It was an eye opener for me that there was a beer by that name because I avoid drinking like it’s a plague.

Despite my new knowledge, I was sure I was missing something. It finally dawned on me a day later when my brain defaulted to images of the sounds of reggae music, island smells, and dreadlocks wafting in the tropical breeze. How did I forget the pulsating rhythm of Bob Marley and Rastafarians chanting his music like they were under a spell? “Natty Dread!” I said in a Eureka fashion, “How could I have forgotten this?”

My euphoria was only short-lived because my analytic side took over and started to examine natty in the Jamaican context. To truly appreciate the term, we must have a background knowledge of Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism is a movement that originated in the slums of Jamaica during the 1930s to empower black men and as a form of protest against the residual effects of British colonialism like class disparity, poverty, and racism. During the 1970s it gained popularity through one of its most famous adherents, Bob Marley

It is also considered a religion to some because it has borrowed some teachings from the Bible, especially from the Old Testament and Revelation. Many Rastafarians believe in the Judeo-Christian God whom they call JAH. However, many older Rastafarians consider Emperor Haile Selassie as a messianic figure and Africa as the Promised Land. They have also developed a variation of Jamaican patois and are strict vegetarians. They smoke marijuana for ritualistic and medicinal purposes. Their long, matted hair and bright headwear of red, yellow, and green are visible marks of their religion. However, other people may wear a similar hairstyle and are not associated with this way of life.

Adherents of Rastafarianism emphasize natural living, ethnic pride, and purity. Therefore, men allow their beards and hair to grow without combing or cutting.  The hair becomes kinky and coils into long locks. Sometimes wax is added to the locks to make them stronger. Because the locks grow so profusely, some of these men appear more formidable than they are and may create fear in others, hence the coinage of dreadlocks.

When natty is combined with dreadlocks/ or dread (as it generally is), it is used to describe its condition. Therefore, it may be the accentuation of the word knotty since the sound of “o” is sometimes pronounced like a short  “a” in Jamaican patois. It is interesting to note that a natty dread is a person who wears dreadlocks, but is not a practicing Rastafarian. Natty may also be the diminutive of “natural” because it refers to hair that has not been processed with chemicals. Rastafarians despise anything that is artificial, fake or impure and associate it with Babylon. Babylon in the Bible represents a place of moral decay.

Rastafarianism, although it employs biblical language and some of its tenets, it is not part of the Christian religion. It is more a way of life that appeals primarily to people of African ancestry in various regions of the world who feel disenfranchised. Many people have adopted the dress and speech of Rastafarians and sometimes have committed acts that have caused the police to be suspicious of the members of this group.

 

 Lesson to be Learned 

One lesson we can learn as Christians after reading the information above is to understand that appearance can be deceiving. We often take things at face value and get carried away by wrong doctrines because we do not check the word of God to see if it is right. In the same way that dreadlocks does not make one a Rastafarian, someone quoting Bible verses is not necessarily a follower of Christ.

In the midst of life…

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Distant

There is nothing more elusive than death, yet it is very close. My mother’s most over-used expression was the same every time she was told that someone had died, “In the midst of life we are in death.” Before the words could come out of her mouth, I could hear myself saying them in my head. I wanted to ask her if she had nothing else to say, but I dared not open my mouth because my prized white teeth would have suffered the worst blow that any mortal could have inflicted on a child. Moreover, she said it with such “other-worldly” solemnity that I feared that by uttering a word I would be the next person to whom those words would relate.

Anyone within earshot of mama’s declaration would become quiet although she never requested a moment of silence.  The response was born out of an understanding of a dimension of life that my young mind did not comprehend. It was like the hushed respect of a congregation before a pastor prays. It happened so quickly regarding time, but the moment seemed interminable to me. There was nothing orchestrated about the silence so I could never plan for my response regardless of how uncomfortable I felt. The truth is my mother never prepared her reaction to death or dying so although her verbal response was always the same, it was still spontaneous and sincere. The news of the death was unexpected because everyone was concerned with living.

During my childhood and greater part of my early adulthood, the people who died in my extended family were few. Sometimes, I felt like death only occurred in other families and not mine. When I turned 27, my maternal grandmother died and then as I approached my middle thirties two of my older relatives died. During my forties, one of younger cousins died of cancer. His death was the most unexpected because he was tough, fit, and vibrant. My mother was on to something – he was fully in the midst of life when death grabbed him. My maternal grandmother would have reflected on his death and quoted the words of Henry W. Longfellow, “The young may die, but the old must die!” and she would have added her own, “One thing in life is life is sure, and that is death so it does not discriminate.”

As a child, I thought my mother was always going to be with me. As I grew older, I accepted the fact that my parents were not immortal. However, I expected them to live to a ripe old age, and in the distant future, I would have to deal with their dying. God had other plans, and my mom died as soon as she celebrated her 71st birthday. It’s still hard to believe that she is no longer alive and I cannot communicate with her. I can still hear her words and I understand them better now that she is gone.

Death is not a distant concept because it occurs every minute. Every living person is going to face it whether he thinks about it or not. We also do not have the opportunity to return to this life to tell our friends and families about it. All that we will know about it is what we already know about life. The best preparation for it is to live our lives fully: loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our soul, all our strength, all our mind; and our neighbors as ourselves.