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.

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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.

We Share the Same Sun and Rain (October 18, 2015)

I live in a town with a huge drug problem. In my naiveté, I knew there was a lumber company called Green Diamond. I thought “Emerald Triangle” referred to another lumber business; I had no idea it referred to what is probably the area’s largest cash crop, marijuana.

I was incensed when I had to sign a drug contract with my physician to have my daily pain medication renewed, agreeing, among other things, to random drug testing and not filling my prescription at multiple pharmacies, but apparently drug contracts are standard procedures up here. In my town DUI can mean under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and both are dangerous and often fatal. Robberies and thefts are on the rise, usually to pay for drugs.

We have a panhandling problem on a par, I’d say, with San Francisco. You see it at the entrance to the large shopping mall, at the strip malls, and at Costco. Some claim to be broken-down drivers needing gas, some say they need money for medicine, or pet food, some say, “Why lie, I need it for drugs,” or booze. Some claim to be disabled vets, although I understand it’s now illegal to claim that status unless you truly are a veteran. And we do have some very active veterans’ groups here that take care of their own.

We are also a town with a homeless problem. We’re not the only community with a homeless population. Even Bishop, the small town where I used to live, had homeless people. But this is the first place I’ve lived that is so vocal about its homeless – and where so little is actually done about it.

We have a wonderful woman, Betty Kwan Chinn, who finally brought her drop-in center to fruition last year. It provides free day services and case management. We have a Rescue Mission that provides separate men’s and women’s emergency shelters (the women’s shelter accepts children as well). They also provide extreme weather shelter, but nothing permanent. The St. Vincent DePaul Society has a dining hall and some “safety net” services. Most people are left to live on the streets; for the past few years they have been living in a marsh area behind the shopping mall in what is called “The Devil’s Playground.”

Now the effort is on to clean up the Playground, in the guise of cleaning up the marsh out of environmental concerns. An ordinance concerning how many possessions a homeless person can have has been enacted, as well as a ban on camping in the Playground. Unfortunately, although the City owns land set aside for homeless housing, it has done nothing about setting up homeless housing there, nor has it opened it up for campsites. The campers were given 24 hours to remove their property and store it within a 60-gallon garbage can that the City would safeguard. Any items too bulky to fit in the garbage can, with the exception of tents, would be removed without notice. The City Manager has stated several times that it is not the city’s responsibility to solve homelessness.

I think the biggest problem we have is heart disease. Drugs and homelessness and even panhandling are all difficult problems. But hearing “they’re all drug addicts” or “thieves” or “dirty” or “they all want to live that way” each time we try to discuss the homeless situation, or try to offer solutions, hurts me. I’ve never lived in a place that had so many “Bathrooms for customers only” signs in the doors, nor have I seen so many shopping centers without garbage cans. And then I wonder where people are supposed to go to the bathroom, or throw away their garbage, if there are no facilities?

The last Point-In-Time Survey I could find of the homeless in my town was conducted in 2011. It found that 45% had a physical disability (43% permanent), 50% had mental health issues (24% serious), 22% were homeless due to domestic violence, 20% served in the military, 25% were once in foster care, 36% completed high school or a GED, and 26% completed some college or trade school. So a good number have been abused, need medical assistance, and are educated. Twenty-five percent have been homeless three years or longer. Contrary to popular belief, most want to get off the streets. It’s not easy. Just getting into an apartment here costs about $2,000.

In my town we have an unfortunate habit of grouping the panhandlers and the addicted and the homeless together into one supergroup, and throwing a large cloak of shame over all of them. Most people, if they want to feel charitable, will concede that “some people” might want to help themselves and climb out of their situation, but “most of them don’t, so why should we bother.” As a person of faith, I can’t help but see the spark of God in every person and know that it’s my responsibility to respond to that spark, just as Christ responded to the thieves on the cross. One thief may have scorned him, but Jesus did not rebuke or condemn him. And the other thief Jesus welcomed into Paradise. It is never too late. We never know what is the word or gesture that will make the difference in that life. We have to try.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:44-46

Prayer requests:

We celebrate the news from our UMAMD Seminary Relations and Higher Education Committee that a DVD about people with disabilities who feel a call to ordained ministry and seminaries who are making strides to welcome them and make reasonable accommodation is in the planning stages, as well as a fresh online and paper brochure about UMAMD that can be distributed at General Conference and countless national and global events to encourage people with disabilities to answer the call to become deacons and elders in the church. The group is also going to investigate the current state of the certification process for persons who would like to take the course to be certified in disability ministry. Praise God!

Holy Spirit, We thank you for inspiring and equipping our Seminary Relations and Higher Education Committee to leap out in faith to draw more people into ministry. The excitement is palpable. Our hearts and our spirits are dancing. Embolden each of us to join in this outreach in our own areas, in our own ways, to create a vibrant body of ministers for your kingdom. Amen.

Are We Listening? (October 11, 2015)

I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about people who need hearing aids but refuse to use them – even the AARP waded into the foray with an article entitled “Invisible Hearing Aids’ Misguided Message,”* the implication being that hearing aids, and hearing problems, are so shameful that one must hide them.

I am dealing with this very problem in my own family. I have a beloved family member with noticeable hearing loss. Three years ago we convinced him to have his hearing tested and yes, indeed, he needed hearing aids. We convinced him to get the hearing aids; he we found some very good (and very expensive) ones that blended into his hair color, fit behind his ears, and were relatively unnoticeable. His medical insurance picked up perhaps a third of the cost.

Unfortunately, he refuses to wear his hearing aids. Although they are nearly invisible, he is afraid someone will see them, and think that he is “old,” or that he has a disability. I am worried that he will not hear, or mis-hear, something important at his job and a bad mistake will be made. How does one deal with theses fears, rational or irrational, and convince someone that their job or their reputation is not at stake if they wear hearing aids?

Grey and/or balding hair certainly belies one’s notions of youth, so what is the stigma of a hearing aid? (And people certainly notice if we dye our hair!) A cane or walker surely indicates one can’t walk as freely as they did once upon a time. Isn’t asking someone to repeat themselves over and over again an indication there is a problem? Audiologist Mark Ross writes that “rejecting a hearing aid is no way to recapture one’s youth. As a matter of fact, well-fitted hearing aids, because of the way they will improve communication efficiency, can help one function in an apparently more youthful manner.”

Is the stigma of wearing a hearing aid so severe that people will risk their jobs, their friendships, perhaps their lives in misheard and not-heard conversations rather than placing that little receiver in their ear? I am baffled. But then I remember that at first I was hesitant to use a wheelchair. I thought I could get by with a walker, even though I was causing more pain and injury to my body, and probably making more people uncomfortable as they witnessed my struggle. We all have our hills to climb.

. . . let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill. . . Proverbs 1:5

Dear Creator God, We live in a marvelous time, with wonderful devices made to help us when our bodies fail us. Wheelchairs that can operate with sip-puff technology, lens implants that can restore vision, hearing aids, amazing prosthetics, cochlear implants, home braille printers, computers that can operate with eye blinks – we are blessed to live in an era when creative minds are expanding our world. Help us to accept the changes that our bodies are experiencing, and to reach out for solutions that will help us remain faithful, lively members of your family. Amen.

*http://blog.aarp.org/2015/10/07/invisible-hearing-aids-misguided-message/

The Wrong Scapegoat (October 4, 2015)

My husband and I were so excited when Pope Francis visited the United States, and so inspired by his outreach. But we were secretly frightened that there would be an ugly incident of good old American gun violence while he was here. We both held our breath until he was safely on his way to his next port of call.

“I want to talk about pretending. . . In the face of the killings in Oregon yesterday, I honestly don’t know what to do or say, other than that our hearts are broken for those struck by this senseless tragedy. . . I can’t pretend that it didn’t happen. I also can’t pretend to know what to do to prevent what happened yesterday all the times it has happened before. But I think pretending is part of the problem. These things happen over and over again, and we are naturally horrified and shocked when we hear about them. But then we change nothing, and we pretend that it won’t happen again. I (don’t) know what the solution is, but I do know that one of the definitions of insanity is doing nothing and then pretending that nothing will change.” – Stephen Colbert

Pretending is part of the problem. A bigger part of the problem is blaming it on mental illness. That’s another game of pretending. And it’s another form of stigmatizing anyone who has a mental disorder, and discouraging anyone who might think of seeking treatment from getting it. Shame on anyone who uses mental illness as the reason for mass shootings!

I did some research on mental illness and violence, and found an eminently readable report in the November 19, 2014 issue of The New Yorker, “Is There a Link Between Gun Violence and Mental Health?” I have included a link so that you may read it for yourselves. Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University, has spent thirty years researching “the perceived intersection of violence and mental illness.” http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/almost-link-mental-health-gun-violence

“When Swanson first analyzed the ostensible connection between violence and mental illness, looking at more than ten thousand individuals (both mentally ill and healthy) during the course of one year, he found that serious mental illness alone was a risk factor for violence—from minor incidents, like shoving, to armed assault—in only four per cent of cases. . . When Swanson broke the samples down by demographics, he found that the occurrence of violence was more closely associated with whether someone was male, poor, and abusing either alcohol or drugs—and that those three factors alone could predict violent behavior with or without any sign of mental illness. If someone fit all three of those categories, the likelihood of them committing a violent act was high, even if they weren’t also mentally ill. If someone fit none, then mental illness was highly unlikely to be predictive of violence.”

In 1963 President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, providing for deinstitutionalization and the establishment of community-based mental health centers. “Unfortunately, only half of the proposed centers were ever built, none were fully funded, and the act didn’t provide money to operate them long-term. Some states saw an opportunity to close expensive state hospitals without spending some of the money on community-based care. Deinstitutionalization accelerated after the adoption of Medicaid in 1965. During the Reagan administration, the remaining funding for the act was converted into a mental-health block grant for states. Since the CMHA was enacted, 90 percent of beds have been cut at state hospitals.”*

Our treatment, or lack of treatment, for our brothers and sisters with mental illness is shameful. Our silence when others make jokes or blame them for society’s ills is disgraceful. Our stigmatizing of them as the cause of gun violence is unpardonable. We need to treat each other with love and respect – that means everyone. And we need to stand up for each other, and to make sure that each of us gets the care we need.

“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-16

Forgive us, Dear Lord, when we close our eyes to the problems around us, or choose to lay the blame at the feet of others. We know that no problem is too big for you. Help us to seek answers, and to make them happen, for every one of your children is precious and beloved. Amen.

*SMITH, MICHELLE R. (October 20, 2013). “50 years later, Kennedy’s vision for mental health not realized”. The Associated Press.

God Has This (September 13, 2015)

My dear friends, it has been a challenging few weeks, but I am so happy to return to you with new eyes and new hope.  I thank you for your prayers during my daughter’s family’s ordeal.  The incident was sadder than we first knew.  Mr. Henry was shot by his cousin as he answered a domestic violence call.

Because the man was his cousin, he didn’t wear his vest, as he thought he could talk the man down.  His cousin didn’t shoot the woman, he had only a knife at this time, but he stabbed three women, killing one of them.  The gun used to shoot Mr. Henry was his own, taken from him during a scuffle.  The gas station was set afire by the gunman as he left it.

My daughter is a teacher in Opelousas, a larger town near Sunset.  She teaches in the same school her sons attend.  The Principal was kind enough to call in a crisis counselor the following day, who met with Joy and my grandsons, Bradley and David, and with other children from the area who knew and loved Mr. Henry.    I have to share with you what has sustained me, and sustained my family, during this dark time.  When Tony was finally allowed to return home, he was weeping.  He came in and said, “Mr. Henry is dead.  I’ll never see him again.”

“Yes, you will, Daddy,” replied six-year-old David.

“No, son, you don’t understand.  Mr. Henry is dead.  I’ll never see him again.”

“Yes, you will, Daddy.  You’ll see him in Heaven.”

God bless the faith of a little child, who sees things so clearly, and takes such comfort in the truth.  He patted his daddy’s arm and hugged him, and Tony did feel better.

Since that awful day, whenever David sees any of his family upset, or when anything bad happens, he walks up to that person, gives them a hug, or pats their arm or shoulder, and says, “God has this.”

That has been my new mantra.  “God has this.”

It got Brad and me through a dark time last week when we unexpectedly lost Kirby, our surviving service dog.  We knew he had Cushing’s Disease, a malfunction of his adrenal gland, which we treated with daily medication and a special diet.  But we were shocked when he suddenly became ill one night, and didn’t wake us up for breakfast the following morning.  Brad rushed him to the vet early and came back for me.  He had a mass the size of a softball on his liver; how does something that large exist in a 22-pound dog and not be seen or felt?  It was cancer, and his prognosis was grim.  We did the kind thing and let him go, and we have had a hole in our hearts and a hole in our home ever since.  But God has Kirby, and he is better off.  Our hearts will mend.  We are searching the rescue sites and humane societies for the next possible companion, as we have been since Jake died, and perhaps our veterinarian in Bishop was right when she said we are the hospice for terminal rescue animals.

God has this.  And he has us.  Thank be to God!

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.  Psalm 28:7

Dear Lord, We thank you that even when things look their bleakest, you are there to hold us and comfort us.  There is nothing we face that we must face alone.  There is no burden we must bear on our own.  No matter what we hold, you hold us.  Help us to remember, and to let go.  Amen.

Beatitudes for Special People (August 23, 2015)

While I am recovering from eye surgery, I thought I would share this reading, which I found while cleaning out files in my office.  It comes from the Lincoln Training Center, based in South El Monte, California, whose stated mission is “to foster independence and improved quality of life for individuals with disadvantages or developmental disabilities through maximum effort of the organization’s staff, membership and volunteers.”  Their website is at http://www.lincolntc.org

BEATITUDES FOR SPECIAL PEOPLE

BLESSED ARE YOU who take time to listen to difficult speech, for you help us to know that, if we persevere, we can be understood.

BLESSED ARE YOU who walk with us in public places, and ignore the stares of strangers, for in your friendship we feel good to be ourselves.

BLESSED ARE YOU who never bid us to “hurry up” and, more blessed, you who do not snatch our tasks from our hands to do them for us, for often we need time rather than help.

BLESSED ARE YOU who stand beside us as we enter new and untried ventures, for our unsureness will be outweighed by the time when we surprise ourselves and you.

BLESSED ARE YOU ask for our help and realize our giftedness, for our greatest need is to be needed.

BLESSED ARE YOU who help us with the graciousness of Christ, for often we need the help we cannot ask for.

BLESSED ARE YOU when, by all things, you assure us that what makes us individuals is not our particular disability or difficulty but our beautiful God-given personhood which no handicapping condition can confine.

REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD, for your understanding and love have opened doors for us to enjoy life to its full, and you have helped us believe in ourselves as valued and gifted people.

Authorship and source unknown

BlessingsPastor Diane

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.

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.