November 19, 2009 Volume CXXVI Issue 10

Holiday highlights gender roles

Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is a time where we and our loved ones gather around a table covered with turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing and the like and express our gratitude for many different things. Whether it is our freedoms as Americans, our physical and mental health or God, we all have something to be thankful for. This holiday is celebrated in remembrance of the great relationship the newly arrived Pilgrims shared with the Native Americans (before they unfortunately died from smallpox) when the Pilgrims peacefully came over and asked If they could all share this land together.

This wonderful and historically accurate account should remind us all of the relationships we have with each other and encourage us to strengthen those relationships over the next few months. Another great relationship which should be nurtured especially during the upcoming holiday season is the one between a woman and her kitchen. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. At that time, God also had a design for women to spend their time in the kitchen. Eve was made from one of Adam’s ribs; therefore she probably expressed her gratitude toward Adam by making him some ribs.

Likewise, women today should always serve their superior male counterpart by preparing sumptuous meals for him. After all, women aren’t good for much else. They aren’t smart or capable enough to be trusted out in the workforce with us men. Allowing such things would be an abomination to the human race as a whole and throw all of nature off balance. The sun would stop shining; birds would cease their song; polar ice caps would melt causing drastic flooding in Canada, Greenland and Russia. But then again, none of those countries really matter anyway.

I do have to give women credit for some things, however. They do the small things which don’t really matter like cleaning the house, and they are much better than us men at having babies. But I’m sure if it were biologically possible, I would have a baby better than any woman could. I could also cook a turkey better, but it isn’t my job. So, this Thanksgiving, give thanks for the food your woman prepares. That turkey took lots of time and effort to prepare. Give thanks for how juicy it is! Then, if and only if the food is perfectly delicious, you may allow your woman to eat—after you’ve eaten all you can, of course.

Finally, if you are satisfied with the meal and the way it has been prepared, you may allow your woman to sleep inside away from the cold. After all, that doghouse can get pretty crowded with all the strays and whatnot. Just make sure your woman takes a flea and tick bath beforehand.

A Comical Moment with Joel Darland

Thi-din-kyut: The Thanksgiving of Myanmar

Staff Writer

It is amazing how two cultures from opposite sides of the world can possess traditions that share similar values. Thanksgiving as I understand is essentially the time when family, relatives, friends and loved ones reunite and show their gratitude to God for the blessings such as successful harvest and good health that have been bestowed upon them. Interestingly, thousands of miles away, in a totally different culture and religion, there is a tradition encompassing similar traits.

The power of Thanksgiving that draws family and friends together reminds me of a festival in Myanmar. On the seventh month (Thi-din-kyut) of the Burmese calendar, a celebration that binds family, friends and relatives takes place in a most heartwarming tradition. It is the time of the year when the tedious workloads of plowing and planting in the rice paddies are done; when the farmers, who make up the highest percentage of Burmese population, have a short break before harvest; and when the heavy rains, which, though being the essential resources of wealth in an agricultural country, mark the unpleasant weather, die down and the sky become clear again. It is time for celebration.

Moreover, this month also has a religious significance. On the full moon day of Thi-din-kyut, Buddha taught his most important doctrine, a-bi-dama, to mankind, so it is the time to praise and worship the wisdom of Buddha by lighting up the cities and villages. At night, buildings and streets sparkle with the light radiated from candles, lanterns and in some places electric bulbs. Children wonder around the streets pushing small carts adorned with candlelight. Family members and friends gather to go on a sightseeing tour around the neighborhood at night to marvel at the lights of the stars in the clear sky and the lights of man-made stars twinkling everywhere on the streets. The contrast is breathtaking.

After long rainy days, it is an exhilarating experience to look up and feel the vast sky that has just freed itself of black and cheerless clouds. The night life of the world underneath is also alive again after five months of silence and exhaustion. Everything looks bright and carefree. But I have to say, an exciting part of this festival is not those beautiful and peaceful images. In fact, it is rather chaotic. For once a year, the people of Burma have unofficial permission to use mild explosives. Ever seen a Chinese New Year celebration with all those fireworks, explosions, smokes and bangs? Imagine that in a slightly smaller scale and you get how children and young adults celebrate their own version of Thi-din-kyut. This exuberant and raucous version has deviated from the original religious values and meanings but it is still what enlivens this otherwise quiet occasion.

Another part of the tradition is more delightful. Burmese people have a custom of paying special respect to the elders. Even if one is only a day older, one still deserves to be paid respect, as the custom goes. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to go to our aunties, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, our parents’ friends with offerings like food and clothing and pay obeisance to those who were older than us. Our humbleness was rewarded with a substantial amount of pocket money. Kids are happy; adults are happy; everyone is smiling. Everyone forgets their worries, if only for a short while. Those who are not on speaking terms with each other become close friends again. All grudges and hatred are forgotten. After all, it is the time to show love.

Of course there are many differences between Thanksgiving and Thi-din-kyut. I don’t deny that. They are traditions of two very different people. But two striking resemblances make them look similar. For one, both recount and show appreciation for good fortune. More importantly, both reignite the sparks of love, care and family spirit in the people. These resemblances are saying that family and religious values transcend geographical and cultural boundaries.

Exit stage right: Conversations about the drama of finishing strong and dying well

Contributing Writer

Lynn Anderson (no, not the country star) spoke at my graduation in 1993. He has been a minister probably as many years as I have walked upon this earth. Darrel Gilbertson and Lynn wrote a book titled, “Exit Stage Right.” The description of the book is as follows: written as a script in a drama, two men, in the senior season of their lives, wrestle with mortality. Their intent is to finish their lives strong and die well, and help others do the same. Written as a dialog, we get to “eavesdrop” on this conversation as each talks about their lives, their faith and faith crisis, and how they face their own mortality.

Lynn is currently fighting for his life as he battles cancer. If I am correct he was diagnosed not too long after the book was ready for publishing. Several years ago Lynn wrote the following and I would like to share his words with you. It is the contrast between Psalm 23 and the Un-Psalm. “If you were to convince me that there was no Father in heaven and Jesus never went to the cross for me, I think I would lose my mind. I might even lose my life. And I am sure I would lose my soul. I would be a sheep without a shepherd and my 23rd Psalm would sound something like this: Instead of: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, it would read: I am a sheep without a shepherd. I do not know who to follow. I am utterly in want. Instead of: He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still water, it would read: I am empty. Nothing satisfies. Nothing refreshes me. I find no real fulfillment, no lasting security. No real rest. Instead of: He restores my soul, it would read: I feel like a lost soul— totally, irretrievably depleted. Instead of: Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your are with me, it would read: I don’t believe anyone walks with me in the darkest valley, and contemplation of my own mortality holds me all my lifetime in bondage under the fear of death-for in that final hour I will be profoundly alone!

Instead of: Your rod and your staff they comfort me, it would read: I feel misguided and I find no authentic comfort in anything. None. Instead of: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, it would read: I feel unwelcome in my world, always hungry for something and totally overwhelmed by a thousand threatening forces. Instead of: You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over, it would read: My blistered head aches, with no oil of relief. My cup is dry all the way to the bottom. Bone dry. Instead of: Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, it would read: I have given up hoping for any real quality to my life. In fact, genuine goodness and mercy have eluded me all of my days and I don’t really expect things to change. Instead of: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever, it would read: Oh how I ache to belong somewhere. But I don’t really feel at home anywhere. And I think I will feel lonely and homeless forever.” Lynn has finished his fourth treatment. I pray he has many more years if for no other reason, for our sake. However, if he does not, this one thing I know. He will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.


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