Friday, June 16, 2017

Prayed Upon!

Today, I was forcibly prayed upon in the coffee corner of Trader Joe's! And yes, I mean the "ay" type. But now, reflecting back, I clearly see there was a heavy dose of the “ey” type as well!

I am a praying person. I do it regularly. I do it with people I know. I do it with people I do not know. And I have done it in the rain. And I have done it on a train. And I have done it here and there and I have done it everywhere. However...

I was just standing there, grinding my own beans (to pregrind or not pregrind is another passionate debate for another post), when she came out of nowhere, sidled up beside me and extended her hand saying, “I want to pray for you.” Telling. Not asking. Her wants. Not mine.

To which I politely responded, “No thank you. Not right now.”

Then I continued bagging my beans, assuming those six words were well enough. Clear, yet cordial, while expressing my personal boundaries for my physical person at that particular point.


She put her hands on me ANYWAY and went right on ahead in hushed tones with her personal plan of playing prophet. This was no longer prayer. It stopped being about a higher power the minute her personal agenda took precedence over anything of mine that was personal.

Pray for me on your own time. Fine. Rebuke me. Fine. Stand there in front of me and cry unto the Lord as loud as you want. It's your right.  (To a certain extent, it is Trader Joe's after all. Private property.) But don't put your hands on me once I've said no and call it prayer!

Jesus did not force his physical hands upon those who declined. There is no passage in scripture calling on people to go forth as the savior’s select S.W.A.T. team, pouncing on people with a power that evidently extends no further than their personal palms. It does not help the Christian cause to crusade through the coffee aisle cornering people for Christ.

The assumption, that you, a perfect stranger, are the only one with a direct line to the Lord about someone’s personal life and what they need does damage. It is demeaning. And humiliating. And belittling. Who exactly is being exalted here? That is not the spirit moving. That is something else. The ego perhaps? Or maybe it’s just too much caffeine? In which case, this isn’t the aisle for you.

You stopped seeing me long before you closed your eyes and opened your mouth with words that weren’t, “Lord, thank you for this woman's patience. Please give her the wisdom and strength to handle me in the appropriate manner here shortly”…as they likely should have been. Because that’s what I was praying. And at least we could have been on the same page.

Because this was not okay. To do to your fellow Christians. To do to non-Christians. To do to anyone.

And so I will be praying for you…that someone doesn’t “lay hands” on you in kind one of these times. Especially after you’ve declined.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @TheLauraBecker

Sunday, March 26, 2017

For Sam and Corrie on Their Wedding Day

There are in our lives those plans. The ones knit for ourselves with furrowed brow. Willfully wound from wishes and worries and wonder.

Pondered and pearled and looped to perfection. However, completely impractical for the people we have become when finally put into practice. Delicate dreams, so easily snagged and shredded by the slightest snare.

And so we snatch at the fray, fumbling and forcing our fantasies back into their original form no matter how ill-fitting we may now find them. Because they are ours. Of our own design. The way it “should” be.

So for a time, we pinch and preen and pursue yet more alterations, rather than pursuing the alternative. A joy that fits.

A grand design of which we are a part. In which our longings become a part of something larger and our imperfections and failings become beautiful when matched with another’s under the craftsmanship of a master.

An over/under configuration that allows us to not only be lifted up, but to support the other, bound together in a beauty we could have never devised ourselves.

And when we do surrender the “shoulds” that appear to fit so well on everyone else and embrace the beauty of our just “being” what and who and with whom we belong.

We find comfort. In a love and a life laced together in a pattern all its own. Complemented with creativity and care and consideration. Artfully and authentically, custom crafted to carry one another in a joy that fits.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Killing Kansas...The Long Goodbye

In Kindergarten, my family moved to Kansas.

There were higher paying jobs, better schools and more opportunities, for all of us.

Shortly after, my aunt and her family moved there too. And I have such wonderful memories of growing up with her kids in El Dorado, pronounced in the southern Kansas style..."L Door-Ray-Dough."

But times changed and so did politics, policies and prosperity. And it became evident they weren't ever changing back.

We moved. So did friends. And now finally, the last of our family.

My cousin and her kids are headed out. It no longer makes sense to stay. Her husband went ahead of them to take an out of state job.

It's no secret that Kansas is collapsing. And it breaks not only my heart, but in the long run the heartland itself.

Kansans are made of tough stuff. They are the descendants of the Dust Bowl determined. Of sod house settlers and Great Plains peoples. They come from ranch-hands and riggers and wranglers and reapers.

But now they are definitely reaping exactly what they've sown. All for the sake of a political experiment perpetrated by people curious "just to see what would happen if..." Seeds that have choked out not only the weeds, but everything else as well. Leaving the entire harvest something that no one can stomach.

Kansas is bleeding again. But this time internally. With an ulcer from everything she's swallowed. And now being force fed since she's become unresponsive. And the prognosis isn't good.

She's tough, but sometimes she's downright stubborn. Let's hope she's still got a little fight left.

Follow me on Instagram and twitter@TheLauraBecker

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Birds and The Bees...And Nuclear Annihilation

We were having it. The talk. The one she had been avoiding. Somehow hoping it would never have to happen. That this day would never come.

“I don’t want you to be afraid, but I don’t want you not to know either.” She sighed long and looked seriously into my eyes. “Nuclear war would be a very sad, very horrific thing.”

And then, my fifth grade fingers went cold.

A few days before Thanksgiving, 1983, I walked all of the way home with a ticking time bomb in my school bag.

It was a note about a movie.

I knew it was there. And I was pretty sure I knew what this movie had to be about because the last time I brought home a note about a movie…there had been a talk. A big one before my mother signed off and sent the permission slip back to school.

The previous year in the fourth grade, after a girl at one of the elementary schools in town had gotten her period on the playground and freaked out thinking she was dying, it had been decided that it would be wise to start showing the “hygiene” film at an earlier age. And so a note had been sent.

My mom had always been pretty good at providing little bits of information about babies and bodies and bathing regularly all along so it wouldn’t be just one big surprise. According to her, sex, although a deadly mortal sin, was just a part of who we were.

And I had also seen my three younger siblings come along and had a lot of questions. So I knew a fair amount of stuff already. But, she wanted to run the topic through the family filter one more time before signing off and sending me for a glimpse of my future girlhood.

The movie we watched gave the basics, but was pretty sterile. And from the information I had received at home, I knew there was more to it than that.

So now that there was a new note, I knew there would be a new talk. And pretty sure a new movie with the rest of the story.

The odd thing though, my younger brother had gotten one too…and he wasn’t even in fourth grade yet…or a girl.

And this note was in an envelope, so I knew it had to be a doozy. Unreadable and all sealed away. I couldn’t even prepare myself for what I figured was about to take place with one of my parents.

And on top of that, as I found out on my walk home…EVERY KID IN THE ENTIRE SCHOOL HAD GOTTEN ONE. The PTO phone tree had even been activated and parents had called other parents to tell them that a note was on the way.

Now growing up in Southern Kansas at the dawning of the age of AIDS, sex talks were constant. They were everywhere. At home, at school, with friends and on television. I was only in the fifth grade and even I knew who C. Everett Koop was. And believe it or not, this prevalence of information did not make me run out and have sex. It just scared me. A lot.

But not as much as the conversation I was about to have.

You see, it turned out, the Russians might just kill me before sex even got a chance to! And ABC was about to prove it by destroying my entire home state on national television that coming Sunday night. Kansas was going to cook for all to see in a nuclear holocaust on their console TVs.

This note was to warn parents that the movie THE DAY AFTER was not family fare, especially for elementary aged children living in Kansas, the state that was about to be annihilated in living color.

And so, rather than just read the note and forbid me. We had a talk.

An honest one.

About worries and war and wants of something better. Not to fill me with fear. But because even my mother, who was far from a hippy, had hopes for my future and wanted me to know and understand that this was a serious thing, with serious consequences.

And when Sunday night came, I wanted to watch that movie so bad. But I understood why I wasn’t allowed to. Not because of a note. But because nuclear war was something I just wasn’t ready for. I'm still not. 

The idea of it was bad enough. Still is.

Follow me on Instagram and twitter! @TheLauraBecker 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Grab 'Em By The Tassels!

It was supposed to be a learning experience. And it was.

The summer of 1988, I joined a detasseling crew. Fieldwork in a cornfield. For $4 an hour. 65¢ more than minimum! And I was going to earn it! I had been warned up front that it was hard work. But my parents thought it would be a good experience. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little hard work.

I was 15 and I was going to have a hard time even finding a job, let alone anything that paid over minimum. They had already hired everyone over 16 who wanted to work and were now considering those who were at least 14 and could qualify for a work permit. My friend’s parents were on board too and so she and I were all set.

That summer was overly dry. As a result all of the corn was only about hip high. So it had to be walked on foot and done by hand. We had to bend down and pull the tassels of each and every plant in rows the length of the different fields they bussed us to, before they had the chance to cross-pollinate. Up and back. Up and back. As fast as our arms would move.

That first day, at 5 AM, we climbed on the bus. Ready to work. There were 40 on our crew.

Upon entering the bus, we were told if the work was too hard to handle and we needed to quit, we could go sit on the bus and wait for the ride back to town. They didn’t tell that to the other 35 in the crew, just the 5 girls.

“They’ll never make it.” A hiss slithered up from the back in our direction.

And in that moment it became crystal clear that there would be no quitting. It wasn’t the same option for us it was for the rest. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a little hard work.

It was grueling, hot, back-aching work. But we hit it hard. And did it all. Everything we were asked. We never missed a day.

And we encountered snakes and rats. Not only in the corn, but on the crew too.

We were taunted by our coworkers.
Told we were weak and slow, although we did the same amount of work in the same time…so wouldn’t that make them weak and slow too?
Grabbed and groped “as jokes” because that’s just what all guys do. No it’s not.
Had our food stolen. Our drinks poured out.
Laughed at. Spit on. Told a bunch of vulgar crap.
“What? Are you gonna cry? Just quit already!” NO! You quit! I have as much right to this job as you do!

And they did.

Every day, the crew got smaller. And smaller. Until by the end, there were 8 of us who stuck it out. The whole season. 2 guys and 6 girls. We gained a girl the 2nd week.

We did it. We stuck together and stuck it out. And we got our full pay. And…a bonus. That the 8 of us never saw coming. For all of the crap we put up with and pushed through that the owner found out about after firing a foreman and a couple crew members.

But when it came down to it…we were privileged. Not rich. Privileged.

Privileged because unlike others out there, our livelihoods didn’t depend on that job. Our sticking it out was a choice we had. And we made. Because we weren’t going to let them win.

But sometimes they do win. Anyway. And it sucks.

Privileged because I had the choice to not come back the next summer. To not take the foreman job I was offered. To take some time and look for something else to do with everything I had learned.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a little hard work. But there is something wrong. Very wrong with treating people as less than. Harassing them. Threatening them. Exploiting them. Or just looking the other way.

And if you don't agree, then maybe it's time you tried some "working class" work. It might be a learning experience.

Follow me on twitter and Instagram @TheLauraBecker