"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Diversity in AquaWorld

Remember how I wrote awhile back about my aquarium and the rogue guppy that jumped out of the tank thinking he would get the food quicker? Well, he was replaced and a few other types of fishes have been added since then. Little did I know what type of ecosphere I was creating.

In most pet stores that sell fish they will group them in tanks for 'community fish', 'semi-aggressive fish' and 'mean as pitbull fish'. Ideally, you should not mix the occupants in your home aquarium without creating a war to rival anything the middle east is now seeing. Being a person who enjoys diversity in groups of people, I figured that would translate to the fish world, also. Here's what my experiment in fish tank diversity taught me.

One, just because a 'semi-aggressive' shark looks nice and gentle does not mean that after a few weeks he won't begin hiding underneath the rocks and plants in wait for innocent tetras and guppies. Swoosh! One quick dart and Mr. Tetra is missing part of a tail. Another dart later in the day and Mrs. Platy just lost a fin and part of her side. At this point, none were life threatening attacks, but it was rather sad to see this happen, so Mr. Shark went to his own bowl to live alone until he can get along with others.

Then, I noticed that behind the miniature Parthenon in the back of the tank, apparently I had a "Brokeback Aquarium" movie being filmed. These two same-gender guppies were seemingly canoodling a little too much for the appropriateness of my water world environment. I have tried all manner of ways to keep them separated and to interest them in other inhabitants, but they always seem to wind back behind the Parthenon. Oy! What's a guy to do?

The first of the week, Mrs. Platy began to pop out the babies one evening and I noticed with horror that some of the other fish seemed to consider these tiny creatures as food and were poised behind Mama Platy gobbling up her younguns as fast as they could. I rushed to her rescue and after moving her to a separate container, managed to keep the rest of her brood intact.

I have a number of different species of fish in the aquarium, most of them just get along with each other regardless of breed, color or gender. There were a few that caused problems, but they were in the small minority.

How diverse is your neighborhood, your workplace, your city, your shopping and restaurant favorites? Growing up as a teenager in the 1960s, I can remember the efforts to create diversity in school and neighborhoods and the violence that sometimes erupted. However, I can also remember when my high school first experienced a diverse student body that we really didn't seem to notice anything different. These students were our neighbors, played in the band with us, sat with us at lunch, etc. We didn't make an effort to be accepting....it just happened.

Our neighborhoods, schools and churches still seem to have a problem with areas of diversity, but it is not always an ethnic problem. Do you have people of different religions as neighbors who may wear different style clothing that makes them "different". Are there any gays or lesbians in your neighborhood, school or (horrors) in your church? Are there any folks that you pass in the stores or restaurants who obviously may not be as well off financially as you? These are all situations of diversity.

Do we act like the shark in my tank and dart in and out nibbling at them by gossip, innuendos and ignorance until they are living a crippled existence? Do we punish their children for what we perceive as the problems with the parent or parents? Do we refuse to wave or acknowledge them thinking that if we ignore them, then they really cease to exist?

What did Christ teach? Love your neighbor as yourself. In Him there is no Jew or Greek (or Gentile). In the big sheet vision to Peter, we are taught that all creatures, including humans, are acceptable to God and we should follow that example. Now, I'm not suggesting that we go up to all our diverse neighbors and passer-bys, grab them with a big hug, kiss 'em and tell them that we love them. Just do as Christ did. He went about doing good, loving all people regardless of social standing, ethnicity and lifestyle (remember the naked demon possessed man, the woman accused of adultery, the prostitues, etc).

None of us are better or worse in God's eyes than those around us. We are equally loved by Him and He expects, no, He commands us to love each other as He loved us. If you can rationalize around that one, then good luck.

My aquarium is a diverse place; a community of harmony as a general rule, but occasionally some fish disturb the peace. In my god-like role to them, I can just flush the troublemakers. What more can God do to us?

Oh dear, as I sit here tapping away, the guppies are heading back to the Parthenon.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I Don't Know Nothing About Birthin'

I've heard it oft said that writing a book is akin to giving birth. Now, being a male, that analogy has no point of reference to me, but I somehow doubt the total accuracy. I can say, however, this book of mine must be in a breech position and trying to come out with arms and legs extended fully outstretched while still attached to some spring device inside so that the 'baby' only teases me with birth before it pops back inside only to begin again.

Are you getting the picture? Those of you who have been through this process can identify clearly, I'm sure. The end is within sight, the copyrights are all received, the cover design is set, the sections are divided,but the final decision as to what is to be included in the sections is driving me nutso. Would it work better there or here? Should I add a sentence, change a metaphor, use better grammar? Take it out entirely? Will anyone understand anything I'm trying to say? Oh shucks, I might as well just forget the whole thing and get back to blogging on a more regular basis.

Then I take some time away from the project to get my perspective back. Why do I write? Besides the therapeutic value, I write because God tells me to do it. He has given me some type of ability to see a lesson that I need to learn in the oddest situations (remember the one about stuffing Murphy in the mailbox?). As a single Christian guy, he has given me a perspective on life that a married person cannot see or understand. The challenges and pressures of dating, the stress of raising children alone, the wonderful alone time you may have, watching what YOU want to watch on TV and listen to the CDs that YOU want to listen to at full volume.....these are things with which only a single adult can identify. My current hero is a guy in my Bible study class who rides a motorcyle and has a flat plasma screen tv that he wants to install (with cable) in his bathroom! What more could a single guy ask for?

I write because on occasion the words I share hit a chord with someone and may encourage them to keep going another day. I write because I believe that God is in control of my life even on the suckiest days (pardon me, but you know you have those days). I write because my friends and family do such bizarre things that it just has to come out on paper or screen.

Mostly, I write because it is a method by which I can serve God. Music has always been my primary gift and passion. Sitting at the keyboard with our praise band and vocalists can bring a time of personal worship like nothing else. In recent years, I have discovered the passion I have for writing. A passion which only God could give.

So, I say all this above to let you know that I have not disappeared or had some type of faith crisis. They always say that your first child is the most difficult and it is proving to be true in my case. I am loving and learning from this process and I ask for your continued prayers and support over the next couple of weeks as I finish.

My other promise is that I will be more faithful to my blog. There have been so many things that I want to share that I need to get them out. I still need to tell the story about my 12th grade guys at Disciple Now crashing the birthday party of some unknown girl next door and ending up dedicated their karaoke music to me (and the whole south side of Atlanta).

So for now my friends, and for time to come....this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.