Renewed Every Day (December 20, 2015)

And so it is Christmas.  Emmanuel.  God is still with us.  Amidst the fear and chaos and hatred God is here.  I had to remember back to the time when my daughter and grandsons were trapped in their home during a shooting situation, to the wise words of my six-year-old grandson David, “God has this.”

I am tired and hurting, and my energy level is close to zero.  I wonder what ministry I can do in this situation, but then I remember, “God has this.”

As I got my van back from the repair shop, and completed some long-overdue errands, I received some answers.  I dropped off some small gifts – Christmas pencils and stickers for the children in the classroom where I volunteer.  I had some unexpected gifts waiting for me, with cards telling me the children were blessed to have me in their lives.  I was overwhelmed.  I consider it all joy that I can be with them.  Seeing them improve in reading and arithmetic is my pay, hugs are a sweet bonus.

I dropped off a charity sweater at church and a woman approached me.  We have seen each other at church but didn’t know each other’s names.  We introduced ourselves and chatted for a bit as she waiting for her appointment with the pastor.  She was curious about my wheelchair, and surprised how quickly I got around in it.  She is facing some health issues of her own.  We will be meeting again so we can have a longer talk.

Our weather has turned cold and wet.  We have many people without shelter.  And our city council, in its wisdom, voted to postpone a vote to declare a shelter emergency until January 5th despite a public call for a vote now.  They wanted a certain person to be there for the discussion.  And so many people are spending their nights in the cold and wet instead of in public buildings which could be opened to house them, or in tents or temporary shelter on land which the city has already designated for homeless housing.  One member of our church is very involved in the homeless community, running a feeding program and contending with the powers that be.  She recently ran a campaign for tent and sleeping bag donations.  Our church has always been a welcoming presence and keeps a food pantry.

My husband and I were tired of driving by people and feeling helpless, so we put together a “homeless bag” project which the church adopted.  The sewing group make the bags, and we fill them with useful items, like a flashlight, tissues, bandages, Tylenol, socks, water, granola bars, a bandana, space blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.  There’s also a list of places that can help with meals, (limited) beds for the night, job placement, etc. and a map to locate those places.  It’s not much, but it’s better than handing someone a dollar or ignoring them.  And of course we pray.

It seems this year, more than before, it’s easier to look at other people as less than people.  It’s easier to label them and consider them less than worthy.  But tonight we went to the Live Nativity put on by one of our local churches.  Our son is visiting from out of town (the high desert) and hubby and son weren’t sure it would go on in the pouring rain, but this is Eureka.  We went, and there were the seven scenes, and people handing out CDs with narration to accompany the scenes, and volunteer police cars to direct the traffic.  And to my delight, Isaiah was played by a man in a wheelchair!  Yes!!  no big deal made about it, he just sat there at his table with his parchments, listening and writing.  It gave me great joy to see a disabled figure associated with Christmas that wasn’t an object of pity.  Praise the Lord!

“Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Dear God, Thank you for reminding us that even when we feel useless, there is always something we can do, that others still see your light and life in us.  Help us to remember that as long as we breathe the breath of life, we are yours, and radiate your gift of Jesus’s love and salvation.  We are so blessed.  Amen.

May your holidays be blessed.  I hope to be back to a regular schedule very soon.

This is a list of everything in our homeless bags:  socks, water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, kleenex, lip balm, hand wipes, a comb, granola bars, a small flashlight, a bandana, bandaids, and a space blanket.  We are also enclosing a list of places to go for help, with a map on the back, and a note that this kit is a gift from their friends at our church.

That We May Walk In His Paths (November 29, 2015)

It has been a difficult week in which to write.  So many troubling things are occurring, so much hatred and evil.  Attacks in Paris.  A gunman in Colorado Springs.  Acknowledgement that another innocent young black man was gunned down in Chicago.  Congressmen vowing not to support environmental legislation, but to repeal it.  A presidential candidate mocking a disabled reporter.  The same candidate vowing to require all Muslims to wear an identifying emblem and be registered (shades of Nazi Germany). Politicians vowing to deny entrance to Syrian refugees.  I wonder if it was this way when Jesus was born.

Today there is a shooting in San Bernardino, near where our Annual Conferences are held.  It’s taking place at a center for the developmentally disabled.  Try as I might, I can’t understand why someone would shoot up a center serving the disabled.  Then I wonder if it has to do with the politician mocking the disabled.  Have we really sunk so low that “less than perfect” people are expendable?  A cold shiver runs through me.

Later I hear the intended victims were people attending a training session (or a holiday party) in a room rented out for such purposes, and I wonder if it is “just another random workplace episode.”  Why are these  incidents becoming so commonplace that we can call them “just another”?  What is wrong with us?  In an e-mail I opened today I read that the favorite Black Friday sale item was a handgun.  “The Associated Press reported that on November 27, the FBI processed a record-breaking 185,345 background checks for gun owners, or about one every two seconds. It’s the most firearms sold in a single day since background checks were instituted in 1998.”*

When I hear that the suspects, who were killed in a shootout with police, had Arabic surnames, I wonder if this will be judged a “terrorist” action and there will be reprisals against innocent Muslims.

I read that their weapons were legally purchased, and I wonder, once again, who needs such weapons, that are capable of firing multiple rounds at high speeds?  There is only one use for this type of weapon, and that is to kill people.

And then I read that at the same time violence was erupting in San Bernardino, a gunman in Savannah, GA shot four people early Wednesday, killing a woman and injuring three men.  No suspect has been arrested yet.

I am sorry if I offend anyone with these thoughts, but enough is enough.  There have been 355 mass shootings in 336 days.  In this season of Advent, of anticipation of the birth of the Prince of Peace, it breaks my heart to see that voices of reason are still shouted down when it comes to thoughtful training and licensing of firearms and their users, as well as limits on the types and numbers of firearms owned by any one person.  Each new incident results in more precious lives lost, more lives changed forever due to trauma and disability. How many lives will be enough?

In this season of Advent, let us work for peace, let us pray for peace, let our lives radiate peace, just as the prophet Isaiah foretold:

  Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

    to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

    and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

    and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

    neither shall they learn war any more.  Isaiah 2:3-5

Dear Lord, Our hearts break with each new shooting incident.  Keep us outraged.  Keep us offended.   Don’t let them become commonplace, everyday incidents for us.  Help us find a way to stop the madness, and let us reach out in meaningful ways to the victims.  Help us to be the people and nation we know we can be.  Amen

http://www.refinery29.com/2015/12/98673/america-most-popular-black-friday-sale-item-guns?

Dear Bradley (November 22, 2015)

This is an open letter I sent to my oldest grandson, who told his mother he was very sad that his Mamaw (grandmother) was sick and had to use a wheelchair.

Dear Bradley,

Your mama tells me that you are sad that your grandma is sick.  You don’t understand why God would let her be stuck in a wheelchair.  You think Mamaw must be very unhappy, and that makes you unhappy.

I want to let you know several things.  First, I am not unhappy.  I know that God did not put me in this wheelchair.  And my wheelchair is not some kind of punishment; it is a blessing.  If I did not have my wheelchair, I could not visit you.  My wheelchair allows me to go out into the world and be with other people.  There are still some places I can’t go, but I am grateful for the freedom my wheels give me.

I’m also grateful for the conversations my wheelchair open up, especially with children.  I am glad when they are curious about my chair, and ask how it works.  I don’t even mind if they ask why I use it. It gives me a chance to talk about my conditions.  I show them how my chair works, and tell them how grateful I am that I can still get around in the world, and sometimes I give them rides!  Life is very good.

I have learned that a happy life is not something that is given to us, but something that we make.  We build our own prisons, just as we create our own freedom.  I have met people who have everything in the world they could possibly want, and are still very unhappy because their hearts are empty.  I have met people who have very little, and are very happy because their hearts are full.  And the thing that fills their hearts is God’s love.  When you have that, you have everything.

Because God loves me, and sent His son into the world, I am filled with that Spirit of love.  I am blessed.  While I don’t have the physical abilities I once had, I still have the ability to love, and to share that love with others through teaching and writing and creating objects to help others.  This is my work.  I believe that if we open our hearts and minds to the love that God has placed within us, and find the work that is a natural outgrowth of that love, we can lead the life that God has planned for us.

Some of us may have regular employment in the “real” world, some of us may be volunteers.  Some of us might call on the sick or shut-ins, or send cards and make phone calls.  Some of us are advocates, paid or unpaid, for the disabled or the homeless or the disenfranchised.  Some of us are sales people, or office workers, or teachers, or public servants.  We can all do our work to the best of our ability, in line with God’s purpose for all the world, no matter what shape we’re in.

“I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:12-13

And so, dear Bradley, I hope you will rejoice with me that I am alive, and happy, and I know that God is with me and cares for me.  God is good all the time; all the time God is good.  Amen.

I wish you all, dear friends, a blessed Thanksgiving day.  Please know I count you all among my blessings.  I am grateful for your continuing love, support and understanding.

Peace be with you.