Monday, June 30, 2008

newsletter article about repsponse to mission trip

Dear Friends

Our mission trip is over and if you were in church on Sunday you know that it was challenging and life changing for all of us. The poverty immersion aspect to the trip enabled us to walk in another’s shoes and experience in a small way the frustrations and the pain of living in poverty in America.

Our team recognized that the causes of poverty are complicated and systemic. We learned that 37 million people in America live in poverty and that many of them are the working poor. They are people who are working for minimum wage which is not enough to live on.

The youth ended their trip by formulating an action plan. Our hope is that we can engage the whole congregation in working together for the poor. Here are some of the tasks ahead:
1. Research poverty in Ohio
2. Learn about who our representatives are and write them to advocate raising minimum wage.
3. Show the Video “Thirty Days” on living on minimum wage in Columbus to the church.
4. Plan and lead worship in October and focus on the needs of children who live in poverty.
5. Commit one Wednesday every month of youth group to a commitment to some activity or program devoted to poverty in America.
6. Do a “Scavenger Hunt” in Columbus to learn about what social services are offering in our city to help people.
This is a beginning for us and I would imagine that it will lead to more projects for us as a church.

What I know is that God’s vision for this world that he created is abundance for all God’s people. May we be open to his leading all of us in working together.

See you in worship,


mission trip

I just returned from a mission trip to Louisville Kentucky. We were part of a poverty immersion trip through UrbanSpirit. What that means is that we lived for 5 days in a way similar to poor people in America.

On Monday we went to the food pantry and picked up a box of food which was ours for the week.
We did work in the building and in the community for which we received money at the end of the day. With that money we were able to purchase meals, showers, beds, coffee, etc. The days began early with our meeting with Deb, the director at 8 AM. After "energizer activities" and worship she gave the heads of the households (groupings of 4 or 5 people) the assignments for the day. At 7 every evening we met Deb to reflect on the day and for some educational activities and worship. The day ended at about 10:30 and lights were out at 11:30. We slept every night but Friday night on a concrete floor.

There is much I could write about this. It was a hard week - physically as we did not eat much. I lost 5 pounds and Daryl from our group lost 14! We did hard physical labor in 90 + degree heat. We walked everywhere we went except for one day when we took the bus and stopped at the wrong place and ended up walking 3 more miles! The director, when disappointed in what we did was often harsh with the kids and the adults.

We experienced economic scarcity, people in authority who were unreasonable, and a complete lack of control The educational component was really good and helped all of us - to understand that was the experience that poor people in America have routinely. We also learned about the working poor and the reality that minimum wage is not enough to live on. We watched an episode of "30 Days" by Morgan Spurlock about trying to live on minimum wage in Columbus.

The result was changed minds and maybe changed lives. I watched the young people respond to this with so much maturity it just amazed me. In our "family" of 5, we literally never heard complaints through all of this. By the end of the week, it was very clear that they "got it."

So I am still tired and woke up this morning dreaming about sleeping on a concrete floor, but I feel and great sense of satisfaction about it. And hope and pray that the young people will continue to implement the plans that they have made for the future.

(I also composed a letter for the director to make suggestions to make this program more humance for young people who are at a vulnerable time in their lives and need a less harsh leadership)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

At the Beach

I am sitting in the living room of our cottage and in 20 minutes I will be at the beach with the grandkids, the kids, and even Chuck!

Gillian and Ashley are here right now and they are reading a magazine together. Geoff is getting ready to go on a bike ride.

It is good to be here. Before I left I wrote a list of things I look forward to at the beach and I have already done most of them. We have a disparate group as we often do. Audrey has invited her friend Caroline and her old college roommate Emily and her husband Remy and their child Nico. Gillian has brought her friend Ashley and Dawn and Jason are here with us for the 3rd year.

The conversations are often rich - hearing Emily and Remy talk about New Orleans as former residents, hearing Caroline's perspectives as a Phd. candidate in Psychology, the political discussions as we share differing viewpoints on the news. I love hearing my brother Geoff as he takes an interest in all the young people and their lives in the workplace. With his age and experience he has some wisdom for them.

The little kids bring chaos wherever they are. They came into our cottage this morning at 9 and immediately starting playing golf in the living room as Poppy made breakfast for them. We have a lagoon behind us lots of turtles which are a source of interest. The best part is watching them at the beach as they get more confident around the water. The first day Jackson was afraid to go near the water and yesterday he was in the ocean. Reagan and Alyse have been in the ocean on boogie boards!

What I like the most about a vacation like this is the fact that there is no pressure to do anything but what you want to do and no expectations. And there is an opportunity to be with others and always a time for solitude if you want it. I love starting the day on the deck and I love having at least some time to be sitting at the beach or walking beside the water.

The big question - the vacation question is always this: what do I want to do today?

I start the day with morning pages - a time to reflect on the day before and look ahead to the coming day. At the same time I look at my "regular life" and wonder how I can better balance the work and rest and play that I need to balance. It is an ongoing journey to wholeness.

All I know is that I am grateful to be here and to be with my family and friends.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Meeting Barack Obama

Well, today has been an interesting day!
I started the day at church at 8:00 AM and met Jason here and waited for Wowway to come and put internet access into the building. We waited for over an hour - (wonderful conversation where I got to catch up on what is happening with him!) and finally they came. Three trucks and they hung out in the parking lot and finally we got the word. They could not do it. We are an island with dial up internet. Both the YMCA and Oakleaf Retirement Community are able to have wireless - but we can't.

So, the media did not come here today. A disappointment.

It was okay because i knew I was going to get to meet the candidate. And so at the appointed time I walked over to Oakleaf where he had arrived 2 hours before for my handshake. I brought the book "The Audacity of HOpe" that Dawn brought over. I was turned away at the door by the secret service guy. I explained I was the minister next door, but no dice. So I went back to church and wrote an email titled "disappointment."

Five minutes later I got a phone call from Oakleaf saying "Come on Over" and when I did I was greeted like somebody important!

I talked to the same secret security guy for a while and then Ethan came out and told me that I was to wait about 20 minutes and then go back into the kitchen area to meet the Senator. I talked to some of the residents I knew. One of them said, "I don't know why they brought him here - most of us don't like him." And she also said, "I am afraid of Muslims." And I said - "He is a Christian" and she kind of said - "Well, he is now....." Whatever that means!!!

As I was waiting there was an 80 year old man playing "5 foot 2 eyes of blue" and other songs of the day. One couple was dancing in the corner. John and Annie Glenn were there and people were having their pictures taken with them. I was kind of nutty.

Finally they called me back. And then I waited with a bunch of men and one woman in suits. They were really friendly and accomodating to me. Treated me like I was somebody important.
I talked a bit to Ethan and remarked on the fact that everyone was pretty young who was working for Obama in the room. I asked if he thought John McCain's team was as young. And he said no. He told me that Obama's chief speechwriter is 27 and most of the advance team is in their 20's and 30's. But what struck me was how friendly they were and how well organized.

Then Barak Obama came through the door. He walked right up to me - looking straight at me.
I shook his hand and told him that I represented a lot of clergy who support him and are praying for him. He said, "That's good. I need prayer" or something like that. He signed the book for Dawn and then shook my hand again. He then went over to his people and learned of the death of Tim Russert. As he left, he touched my shoulder and said I should pray for his family.

THEN there was Michelle. I didn't know she was there. And she is beautiful in person! I shook her hand and told her that I was praying for her and that she was an inspiration to me. It was so cool.

I didn't care about the picture - just the contact. And again, if what I see of this campaign reflects him, it means that he is disciplined, organized, and very connected to people.

It was memorable!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I am Excited!

I have two things that I am excited about
1. Barak Obama is coming to Ohio - to Columbus to ........Karl Road! He is doing a talk on Social Security at the retirement community that is next door to the church tomorrow at noon.
His advance people - Samantha, Brendon and Ethan came to us and asked to use our fellowship hall after the event for the media to file their stories.
We are community minded so - of course. And then they asked if we had internet access (Wowway) and no we have dial up. Would it be okay if they brought in wireless and paid for it and we would have a month of it free. Yes!
So... at 8 am tomorrow I am meeting Brendon at the church with the Wowway person and Jason from our church to install that. And at 2:30 tomorrow I am going over to Oakleaf to shake Barak Obama's hand. They said he would also sign a book - so tonight I have to go buy one of his books. It's the least I can do. I am very, very excited.
And then the questions - what to wear and what to say.....I will let you know about that tomorrow!!!!!
I cannot overstate how excited I am about all of this - like a little kid. As a big follower of the political scene I am so curious just to see the secret service, the media, and of course the candidate himself. It should be really interestind. Would I be as excited if it were McCain or Hillary and the answer is YES - absolutely. They are all remarkable people and it is cool to get to see them in the flesh.

I remember in college shaking Eugene McCarthy's hand, and seeing George McGovern in person and worshiping at church with William Scranton. In Bowling Green we stood for hours to see Bill Clinton come by on his train campaign. I also remember going to downtown West Chester Pennsylvania when Richard Nixon ran for president. I must have been 11 years old!

So, Barak may be a president or maybe not....but there is something special about seeing the people who are running for office in the flesh.

2. I am excited about vacation which starts for us on Saturday. We have made our menu and have started filling boxes with games and food and bedding. It is going to be great. Kacey and Gillian have written in their blogs what they are looking forward to so I guess I will too:

a. Hanging out with my brother Geoff - and talking politics and the meaning of life, etc, etc

b. watching Jackson, Alyse and Reagan at the beach.

c. going out to lunch with my husband - I like the Sunset Grille

d. taking a walk on the beach - whatever time of day.

e. drinking pinot grigio and BL with Lime !!

f. Games of course - we have brought blokus, rummikub, quiddler and cards.

g. reading on the porch (hope we have a porch!!)

h. not thinking about church!

i. morning pages and prayers on the deck with a cup of coffee (hope we have a deck!)

j. conversations with everyone - especially just sitting on the beach and hanging out

k. riding the waves on a boogie board - it literally takes 40 years off of me mentally. I am a teenager in my mind!

l. watching everyone interact, having fun, making memories and just enjoying the blessing of being in that place that holds so many memories.

It is amazing to me that I can remember sitting on the beach and watching my grandmother staring at the ocean with her hands on her hips. And at the time I thought, "I wonder what she is thinking" She was in her 80's then.

Now as a grandmother who goes to the beach, one thing I have learned is that you grow into a greater appreciation of beauty as you get older. And just to be there, to stop and look at the wonder of the ocean takes your breath away.

I am excited!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Grandparent's Camp

I just got home from Grandparent's Camp at Camp Christian. It was really nice to take part in it.
No - I am not taking my grandkids yet - I am sort of the assistant director. We just started offering this last year at Camp Christian for a first camp experience for kids who are past kindergaret and 1st grade. Last year we had 7 kids. This year we had 12. That is good growth.
And next year we will have Alyse and Reagan.

One of the things I have realized about myself is that I get great joy in watching people have fun. That is why I have always liked to work with youth and watch them come out of their shells and just enjoy each other. This was so great. The little kids immediately entered into everything. Mary Wood is the director and she is gifted with kids and we just had a wonderful time.

And then I also got to watch grandparents have real quality time with the grandchild. Our rule is one grandparent and one grandchild. We started at 7:oo pm last night and they will end at 6 PM tonight. It is only 23 hours - but it is a long time for a one on one experience with your grandchild. They ate together, did crafts together, prayed together, fished together and swam together. That is a lot of time together without those pesky parents and siblings in the way! We did an evaluation form and the grandparents loved our schedule and I think appreciated that we included quiet time this afternoon.

One of the sweetest things was that Mary asked the kids who wanted to say grace. They all put their hands up. So she picked a little boy who then when faced with the microphone went silent. We waited and then you could see his grandma whispering words in his ear as he repeated them.
It was so cute.

It was also fun to see my contemporaries who are now grandparents. Bob Thornton was there and he is a pastor (retiring this summer !) with three sons who I remember from when my 3 daughters were at camp as teenagers. Now he is there with one of his son's daughters. In October I hope to bring my daughters' daughters. Life just keeps on going!

What a blessing it is to be able to put together a program and then participate in it with my own grandkids!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Morning Pages

I went to a retreat April 12th with Julia Cameron who wrote (among other things) "The Artist's Way." The retreat was about finding our "true north" and it was really about creativity.

One of the strongest recommendations by Julia was that we do our morning pages. And I bought a journal at the retreat. Today I finished that Journal. And I have kept to the morning pages most every morning. For the most part I start the day in my prayer room and write at least 2 - but often 3 or 4 pages. And I have felt that this has been extremely helpful to me. The writing has been a way in which I have been able to get "it" out. And "it" is that stuff that I usually keep inside - whether it is resentments and anxiety or observations of grace and blessing.

As I look back on the last 6 weeks I have to say that it has had a fair amount of stress - especially with my sister Ellen's cancer coming on the scene. That is in addition to the concerns that are always just below the surface about the church - a sermon to write, church attendance and pastoral needs, and church funding. The morning pages have been literally a "godsend" this is what I have always needed and especially this is what I needed for the past few weeks.

I led an Elder's retreat last Saturday in Cincinnati and they gave me a $25 gift card from Barnes and Noble - so today I will buy the next journal. I told them about the morning pages and encountered the same reaction that I often find. I often encounter defensiveness and almost judgment from people. They are too busy to spend time in that way.

I know this does not work for everyone. But it has been a gift to me.