New Adventures (August 16, 2015)

While I have been busy planning for my second eye surgery next week (barring a cold I am trying not to catch – please keep me in your prayers), I have suddenly realized that I will not be able to use my glasses after this next operation.  While the right lens allows me to see clearly, the vision through my left lens is not clear, and i have been getting headaches in my left eye as the vision is continuing to adjust following surgery.  My doctor told me it would be four months before my vision resolved into its permanent new state, at which time I would probably need a new prescription.  When the right eye is operated on, I will have blurry vision through both lenses, so the glasses basically will be useless.

I will have a new challenge to live with for a time.  I realized that my confident plans of driving again after the surgery are probably not going to happen very soon.  I am very near-sighted, and I don’t trust the vision in my left-eye enough to drive safely with my current glasses.  I don’t drive very much, or very far – my longest drive is to my doctor in McKinleyville, about 20 miles on the highway.  Usually it’s just to a shop, or Bible study, or to my volunteer job at school.

I still haven’t got back into doing much reading – it’s too much strain on my eyes.  And I haven’t been doing much sewing, or fine needlework.  But I’ve managed to knit two charity sweaters, and a hat for a teenage friend.  I just can’t sit and be idle.  And I find I don’t have to look as I knit simple patterns.  I can feel the yarn on the needles and know if everything is going well or not.

It took several months, but I finally got into the Dial-A-Ride system here in Eureka, so I will be availing myself of that organization for awhile.  I’m not optimistic, based on the application and approval process.  But we’ll keep our fingers crossed.  I live in an area where there aren’t a lot of sidewalks to get to the bus routes I need, to get to the places I want to go, and the streets involved have high speed limits.  It will be a new adventure!

I used to half-joke that my worst nightmare was that I would be 90 years old and nothing would work but my mind.  My husband half-jokes that I’m getting there!  It’s true that my spinal condition has worsened, and I live more days in pain than not, and my hearing has declined, and my vision needs surgical intervention, and my hands have only 20% of their grip, but none of this really matters, because I am a beloved child of God, and as long as the breath of life is in me, I have something to celebrate, and something to give to the world.

I will extol you, my God and King,

    and bless your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless you,

    and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

    his greatness is unsearchable.  Psalm 145

Thank you, Dear God, that you give the same breath of life to each one of us.  We may not have the same gifts and abilities, but we are all blessed with something.  Some of us have wise minds, some of us have caring hearts, some of have strong bodies, but all of us have ways to serve you and each other.  And all of us are valuable in your sight, and to each other.  Help us to remember that, and to treat each other as the wonderful creations that we are.  We are all made in your image, an image far greater than we can imagine or define.  How wondrous!  How wonderful!  Amen.

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Work To Do (August 9, 2015)

This week my friend Kathryn talked about “The Work We Have To Do.”  We humans can look at work as something we have to do, like holding a job, or cleaning the house, or something we get to do, something we enjoy or find meaningful.

All of us need work.  All of us need to feel that our lives have meaning.  And we have work, whether we know it or not.  It may not be paid work.  It may not be recognized by the world as “work.”  But it is work, nonetheless.

Kathryn spoke of her father at the end of his days.  Like some of us, he had been busy all his life.  He had painted the church, built cabinets, volunteered his time and energy in so many ways.  Now his body was betraying him and he asked his pastor, “What can I do?”

“You can give encouraging words,” his pastor replied.  That’s something we can all do.  It takes little time, little energy.  But it takes sincerity, and an open heart.

The story reminded me of a woman I read about, a woman who hugs.  What a great job, I thought.  People stand in line for hours to receive a hug from her.  I tracked her down.  Her name is Mata Amritanandamayi; she is known also as Amma.  In her life, so far, she has hugged and given comfort to more than 20 million people – yes, million.  I first read about her in a news report:  http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/WolfFiles/story?id=92869

Her gift is to give love unconditionally to everyone who asks for it.  She hugs each visitor for a full minute, telling them that they are loved.  As far as I can determine, she doesn’t do it in the name of any religion, but she absolutely radiates the love of God.  She is an encourager on a grand scale.

Our Christian faith has always been one of encouragement.  The Book of Acts talks about the Levite Joseph, renamed Barnabas, “son of encouragement” for his generosity and devotion.  Paul uses the word encourage eighteen times in his letters, urging the communities of faith to be strong during times of trouble.  We can all be encouragers.  “It takes no energy to love,” Amma says. “It is easy.”

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:11

We thank you, O God, that no matter how small and infirm we might feel, there is always work we get to do for you.  We can always be encouragers.  We can always give good words, a smile, a hug.  The spirit which sustains us is always ready to be shared with others.  For this we are grateful.  Amen.

We All Matter (August 2, 2015)

Last week we hosted our annual Vacation Bible School, and it was, as always, joyful.  Each year we choose a theme that allows us to use the same Biblical costuming and set up the same village square area in our fellowship hall.  The children love dressing up and belonging to one of the twelve tribes (although this year we only had three).

In the market square the children can make wooden boxes or other wooden items, dye cloth, string beads, learn to write Hebrew, weave, make bread, and of course, eat healthy (and somewhat authentic) snacks.

I am always the storyteller, and have my own tent where I share personal and Biblical stories that tie in with the themes and verses we are learning.  Many of the children are returning for their second, third, or fourth summer, and it was wonderful when some of them remembered me as they entered my tent.  Of course they remembered my service dog, Kirby.  And they remembered Jake.

Jake was my older service dog, who passed away at the grand old age of 18 last October.  All of the children who were here last year remembered him, and asked about him.  When I told them he had gone to heaven, they told me that they missed him, and they all shared stories about him.  Almost every one told me how Jake sat next to them and cuddled with them.  As an older dog, he wasn’t much of a runner any more, but he was a cuddler. He knew when someone needed love and comfort, and he was right there to give it.

And it occurred to me that we all matter to someone, no matter who or what we are.  No matter how small, how seemingly insignificant, we all have value.  My little old dog who could no longer run and play, was still beloved by young children who needed a friend who would sit quietly with them, and lay his head on their lap.  My 101-year-old friend Yvonetta with the 1000-kilowatt smile said that she felt useless because her mobility was limited and she was weak.  But she was a necessary part of our congregation for the love she showered on each one of us.

I know at times I feel useless, especially when my body is betraying me in particularly nasty ways.  I’m sure that many of us with disabilities feel that way when we are down.  But seeing those children’s faces light up with recognition when they had only spent a few minutes with me for three days a year ago made me realize that I mattered.  We all matter.  We all have a precious part of God to share with others, and it shines through even when we feel too weak to project it.  It isn’t us doing the work, it’s God.  We are just the vessel, and God can use us just the way we are.  God designed us to do the work, just the way we are.  We matter.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.    

   Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.   Psalm 139:13-14

Dear Creator God,  We thank you that you made us each so wonderfully and so wondrously, and that each one of us matters.  Help us to remember that when we feel weak and insignificant.  Please bless the workshops, forums, and roundtables that will be taking place, so that the participants and leaders come away refreshed with new insights and inspirations to make your kingdom on earth ever more welcoming.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.