One Fine Discussion along Bob Dylan’s Evolution Row
Pruning Thats and Hads and Finding the Value of True Friends

Tweeting the Meeting—Week of March 1, 2021. I Reconnect with an Old Friend.

Weekend Meeting

I am Zooming to Georgia for the meeting today. A friend’s son is giving his first public talk. Last time I saw him the boy was 10 and his parents were leaning on him to keep up with his homework and saxophone lessons.

There are a number of people I know here, &haven’t seen in a long time—from many places. Zoom makes that possible. Most friends say they look forward to Kingdom Halls reopening, but I have heard some say they don’t care if they ever see a Hall again—Zoom enables that streamlining

“Friends are like buttons on a elevator,” the kid says. “Some will bring you up and some will bring you down.” #WeekendMeeting

It is no surprise that the kid has iPad rather than print Bible—most young people do, and even adults. But it is especially apt for him. His dad is a high-tech honcho for a Fortune500 company. When we flew down to visit, he tracked us every inch of the way via an app.

No surprise, too, that the young man has a pure blue background, probably virtual. First I have seen other than on jw.org. Usually, as with newsmakers, there is a home background. ...1/2

One bro would take down his distracting baseball pics, but you could still see the hooks. Apparently he’d put them up again after the meeting....2/2

Look, this talk is very very good. He is from a family of high-achievers. And yet it lacks nothing in warmth and affability. Is it too stereotypical to say that the family is Asian?

Congregation is on the ball. Everyone has a blue background. Maybe the KH is opened for the purpose. And field service to commence in a breakout room 5 minutes after mtg. I’ve never seen it. Usually, chatter continues until someone pulls the plug and dedicates the rest to service.

I am atypically not prepared at all for the Watchtower study. Things happened last night. Nothing severe, just unanticipated. I have to skim ahead during the meeting, & I prefer not to do it that way.

Ah. It is refreshing that this together congregation is, like the rest of us mortals, experiencing minor Zoom problems. #watchtowerstudy It is almost like, “Rise, for I too am a man.”

Yikes. There are six pages here. It will not be a slam-dunk to get in a comment here. Maybe just as well, given my lack of prep. I would not be surprise if a HUGE number were visitors come to see my friend’s son’s first talk—he is very supportive of his family.

This is the Watchtower study that focuses upon the new year text, this year “Your strength will be in keeping calm and showing trust.” (Isa 30:15) It is in keeping with the overall there of coping with anxiety. One pic has someone holding the verse, as though a note reminder

Since I type my life away, I am not as given to anxiety as I might be at other times—writing is a coping mechanism in itself.

Yeah. I tried. I raised my hand but there are too many here to choose from. There is also very good participation

What I would have said is appreciation for how Acts 5 simplifies it. They felt they “must” preach, not could they or would they. Even in times of upheaval to normal routine, (like now) it can be possible to find a way and means, even devising one.

This is one together congregation. I tell you, there is no one here that is likely to have a cat walking behind them.

I raised my hand then lowered it. Someone had just said much the same. With so many people here, you don’t want to blow time with parroting something already said.

In this study on anxiety, Jesus’ pithy “Stop being anxious” is not quoted. I like the verse for introducing the notion it is open to attitudinal influence , but there have been anxious ones discouraged at any suggestion it is a switch that one can readily be flipped off.

Ah. There is a footnote that says anxiety may be a medical condition. As to stopping it, if you can’t do it you can’t do it. Don’t worry about it. Of course, those precise words were not used.

As the words to closing song are displayed, the speaker’s box and only his is displayed as thumbnail, as though presiding. I didn’t even know that was possible. I am told 8 pages of instruction come with Zoom meetings, largely to thwart trolls, but also for general appearance. ...1/2

Most congregation struggle with too many and some botch them all. This one didn’t miss a trick, I think, and may have added a few....2/2

Oh my goodness! The breakout rooms are named for scriptural themes! I have never seen anything other than #1, #2, #3, etc

Whoa! The 21-year old speaker (his first talk) is deluged with praise, and for the first time looks a little uncomfortable. It WAS a near perfect talk, & few give public talks at 21.    1/2

I’ll write to tell him not to let it go to his head—no doubt unnecessary as he is from a terrific family and seems well-grounded, but it can’t hurt and will be good pretext for getting reacquainted.   2/2

When you give a talk and people mob you to gush on how you have knocked it out of the park, it is a very awkward moment. There are only so many times you can say, “It’s not me, it’s Jehovah.” I learned to just say “Thank you,” and change the topic to them.

Of course, I never had this problem. What they would say to me is, “When I hear you speak, Brother Harley, I marvel at the wisdom of God’s organization in cutting public talks from 45 minutes to 30.”

When I first met my friend, he was himself about 21. A Vietnamese refugee, he loaded trucks for UPS and I believe it was they who were putting him through college. I recall him telling me that, having just left the bank, he was held up, I think it was at gunpoint. He would not relinquish his rent money! “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he told the robber. “I don’t care about money. You can have all of it except what is for rent. I need that.” Way to get himself killed! However, he did emerge the victor of his “negotiations!” The thief did not get the rent money. He was insistent on that point.

After graduation, before departing for his new IT job with the firm he had loaded trucks for, he married the last single pioneer sister from a family of ten. At the wedding reception, I could tell his refugee sponsors were not entirely thrilled about it. They were gracious, of course, and you had to drag it out of them—they didn’t go around muttering. I know how this works with career-minded college people when you marry into a family with no college. I know this because my own grandmother had grilled my prospective wife as to whether she was “good enough” for me. She is more than good enough, thank you very much. And my friend’s wife is more that good enough for him. If he is like me, he has turned the question around to say, “Am I good enough for her?”My grandmother was certainly not a bad woman, nor was she stuck up. She just wanted the best for her grandson, and I as firstborn was her favorite. (A wise choice, as the second-born is the brother with whom I play bi-weekly games of Scrabble, and he always cheats.)

I studied with this grandmother (actually a step-grandmother, no blood relation, though you would never know it) after my graduation from college—I had learned the Bible during my junior-senior summer break, and I almost didn’t return to school. My mom was so distraught at this, not speaking to me out of tears—and believe me, my mother not speaking was as unlikely as Trump not speaking with tears or without—that I knuckled under and returned for the final year. It was a little silly, after all, to go three years and not to completion. The brother studying with me offered to set me up in the other city, and for whatever reason I said no. I was studying the Bible with the aid of.a book, and if there was one thing a college student knew how to do, it was read a book. Besides, I liked him well-enough, but maybe the person he sent would be a nut. Like the born-again nut that had approached myself and two buddies on our camping trip that had us stopping from here to Washington DC and back.

He came out of nowhere into our campsite. “I just wanted to know if you boys knew the Lord,” he said. He rambled on for the longest time and I don’t remember all he said but I do remember we all thought he was a kook but we also respected him (and God) for mustering up the courage. He ran himself out of words after awhile and we spent the rest of the week composing songs of mockery—one friend had a guitar and all of us could sing. I mean, it was God, and we all respected that, but he wasn’t saying anything that appealed to the head. His emotion alone didn’t do it for us.

I did study on my own back in college, but only for a short while, for I was soon immersed in college life. In time, out of discouragement at where college was leading (or not leading) and at how I had been convinced I had found something of spiritual substance, I looked up the address of a Kingdom Hall and walked in. Therein begins another story and I’ve probably told it somewhere, but if not maybe I will.

The grandmother I studied with—she may have been my first Bible study—would have me over for dinner every week, or maybe it was every two weeks. Again, I was her favorite. After homemade cooking, we would study out of the truth book. She went to the Baptist church, and I learned later that my dad thought her a religious fanatic, but then, anyone bringing up the Bible was a religious fanatic to him. I think the Second World War was a big turnoff to him. Oh, and it didn’t help when the priest said he could not marry my Protestant mom unless she converted. Forget that!” he said, and they never saw him again.

Nobody else ever thought Nana a fanatic. She wasn’t a Bible-thumper. I can’t recall her ever preaching to anyone. She just went to church. Anyway, we went through several chapters of the Truth Book, and she was a very good student, but she also became troubled. “I see what this is saying,” she would tell me, “and I see how the scriptures support it, but it is just so different, she said.” I will never forget how troubled she was to think I had rejected the Trinity. But it turned out that by trinity, she just thought that their were three parties, and Witnesses must be denying that. When I explained about co-equal, co-powerful, co-eternal, co-this, and co-that, she said that she had never believed that—she just thought there were three close parties, so there was really no conflict!

Between school and courting, I don’t think my Vietnamese friend had too much to do with the fledgling Vietnamese group that was forming. That was largely Erna, a pioneer who had rented homes to some of them, had offered them studies, and two had accepted. This will be interesting she said, for she didn’t know a word of Vietnamese. But Erna was staggeringly resourceful. Her dad, whose home building business she had probably helped launch from one-house-at-a-time to lucrative, put her through law school and she emerged a commuter lawyer for Bethel. Some ne’er-do-wells online were carrying on once about how Witness women must have a horrible time always kowtowing to men. “I don’t know,” one of them said, “I knew Erna at Bethel and she wouldn’t put up with that crap for a moment.” So he does know Erna, I smiled. As congregation secretary, I had drafted her letter of recommendation to Bethel.

Though there were high and mighty Vietnamese, as there are those sorts everywhere, the ones we came in contact with arrived as boat people, They were remarkable. They would arrive with nothing, on welfare and food assistance. Within two years they were homeowners growing their own food, and bartering at the market. Venders of chickens had to come to grips with some of them being purchased for sacrifice. Another was rushed to the hospital when the mushrooms her family picked in the local schoolyard turned out to be poisonous toadstools—I guess that problem didn’t present back home. Each family member would work a job, sometimes more than one, almost always for minimum wage, but the income added up. I spoke with Anh once about demons. Did they know much about them where he had come from. Oh yes, he said matter-of-factly. They were always to be found in the woods, were apt to cause trouble, and sometimes his peasant neighbors would go hunting them down, which was not easy work and was fraught with danger because they could be nasty. Many years later I thought of that woman doctor from the Caribbean who had championed the anti-malarial drug that Trump advocated. Media felt obliged to discredit her, so they made mockery at similar statements she had made regarding demonism—it is not an “educated” Western concept even if it is an unremarkable fact of life for many lowly people today.

Oh, there is plenty more to the story, and I must get to it someday. Possibly, I already have and it is buried in posts somewhere. I really do need a massive overhaul in my filing system, but will probably never get around to it. After I die, in the unlikely event anyone tries to unravel this stuff, they will say, “Huh! The old buzzard must have said this 15 times if he said it once!”

And here is from the mid-week meeting. I usually do these first, but reconnecting with my old friend took precedence this time:

A new ‘translate’ button has appeared and it was explained it was for members of our foreign language group. Someone asked if it would work for.Charlie’s Brooklyn accent. #midweekmeeting

That zealous sister who suffered the heart attack is back. Someone asked her if the territory of Upstate Hospital is now completely covered.

“Way to fit a 5 1/2 minute video into a 5 minute part, the presiding elder said to the one conducting it? Was the “Organizational Accomplishments video really longer than the time allotted for it?

The local needs speaker built his talk, geared toward the young, around Isa 41: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. ..For I...am grasping your right hand...saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.’

The new Zoom settings enable personalized hands. Some black friends have brown hands, some white have tan hands. Were I Irish, would I choose a green hand, or if Native American, red? I have the default yellow, which apparently is not reserved for Asian.

Spurred on by Covid, there are many museum tours offered virtually from afar. The “disgusting idols,” even “false gods” that “competed” with Jehovah and triggered not-so-hot conduct are on display, and the guides are always more than ready to explain them. #Ezekielstudy

A new Zoom function was employed for the first time, allowing participants to come and go and switch breakout rooms at any time. But I didn’t like it. I feared it might be a revisit of school gym days where everyone was chosen for dodge ball before me.

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