Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yes, I Have Been Busy

My amazingly busy 70th decade continues.  Praise God with me for providing all I need.  All I am allowed to experience continues to fill my heart with praises.  It is not, “do I see my life as half-full or half-empty,” it is totally full and overflowing!  I have started setting an alarm to ring at 9: PM.   I am disciplining myself to stop whatever I am doing. That keeps life from overflowing into my evening prayers and planned 8 hours of sleep.


Keep Making Peace

In April, I traveled to Lansing and attended, Keep Making Peace put on by the Wesley Foundation at Michigan State University.  


It was titled, Mass Incarceration: Locked In, Locked Up, and Locked Out.  Mass Incarceration is one of the focus social justice actions identified by United Methodist Women for 2016-2017.  I hope more of my UMW sisters will join with me next year at Keep Making Peace.


My Learning Delight


I am taking courses in order to become a Certified Lay Speaker.  I took a Wesley Heritage course.  It was fun learning about Wesley and historic Methodism.  I also continue to learn from and through my responsibilities as United Methodist Women’s Social Action Coordinator for W. Michigan.  God is giving many circumstances for my “learning delight.”  I pulled the photo below from the Internet.




Attending Events




I had the opportunity to travel to Lansing in May to attend Older Michiganian Day.  This event was sponsored by Area Agency on Aging.  It gave everyone the opportunity to meet directly with their state elected officials and advocate for the needs of the elderly.  I hope more of my UMW sisters will join with me next year.











I could fill this entire update with news of all the United Methodist Women Events I have had the joy of attending.  

In June, I attended the North Central Jurisdictional Quadrennial Meeting. It was fun and a heart-filling event with UMW from eleven different conferences.  We gathered for a W. Michigan Conference UMW picture.







I also had the joy of reconnecting with part of the team from the UMW Ubuntu Journey I took to Sierra Leone in 2012.  UMW Sisterhood is amazing!








You Are Invited




Living in Travers City it is fun to have visitors.  I welcomed Sally from Jordan.  We made a journey to Sleeping Bear National Lake Shore.  Yes, I can still climb the Sleeping Bear Dune.  You are invited!  Let me know when you will be in this area and I will be a tourist with you. 






West Michigan Annual Conference



I took another trip to Lansing, in June for the West Michigan Annual Conference.  It was fun and heart filling.  I love connected with friends from the past!  I had a chance to tell about my service with World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program Palestine Israel.










I spent the evening after with my son, Ed, and daughter in law, Gale.  The following morning Gale gave me some lessons about horses.  For the first time in my life, I liked a horse.  When I was not looking this horse came up behind me and showed he liked me.  At least that is what Gale said this kind of attention meant.



UMW Mission U and the Green Scarf

Mission U held every year is a special event for learning.  The courses I took this year were Climate Justice A call to Hope and Action and The Bible and Human Sexuality Claiming God’s Good Gifts taught by the author Ellen A Brubaker. 


At the silent auction, I fell in love with a green scarf.  I set a final amount that I would bid at five times my usual limit. I really liked this scarf!  Someone else was also bidding on it countering my every bid.  My limit came and so I ended my quest to own the green paisley print scarf.  I felt a bit sad, but comforted myself with the fact that the money went to a good cause, United Methodist Community House in Grand Rapids, http://umchousegr.org

You can only imagine my surprise and joy later when Rev. Sueann Hagen, the high bidder, presented me with the green scarf!  Needless to say, I have a favorite new scarf.  My heart is “strangely warmed” and tears flow even just telling you about this gift of kindness.  UMW sisterhood is so VERY special!


Action in Traverse City

Through contacts at my UMW unit, at Central UMC in Traverse City, action is being taken to create opportunities to bring justice and healing to the incarcerated and previously incarcerated their families and friends.  We will be holding our first event this month.



Central UMC is also involved with Our Neighbor’s Garden.  All the products go to the local food pantries and community meals.  No green thumb is needed to help in this garden. 



Mission and Social Action

I am not sure where my mission and social action will take me next.  I hope like Queen Ester, I am willing to face death and counter government policies if it means justice for people God loves.














Wesley’s Three Rules:


Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay in Love with God

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

OOPS! What Happened to Spring?

Our April Snow Storm!

It seems like I came back to Michigan too soon.  Yet another snow storm, with more on the way. 

 Below the Robin that visited my front porch.


The North Wind Doth Blow Poem
The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.


















Friday, March 25, 2016

Busyness and Blessings of Home

 .

The Quest Continues

Being home feels good.  Getting last year’s paperwork ready for taxes, the reality hit that I had been gone from my home six months in 2015.  No wonder it feels good to be back.

I did have an unwanted surprise the morning of March 25.  As good as home is, I think I came home a bit early.  I did not want to experience another blizzard.  However, I am not planning to shovel.  Snow in March in Michigan is like snow in Virginia, wait a couple days and it will be gone.  

By the afternoon the sky had cleared.   I saw a robin.  The robin is the State of Michigan bird.  Seeing one is a sure sign of spring.  If you look close, you will see this one.  Happy Spring!






Back to the Gym

In 2012 when I was getting ready to go on my first mission assignment, I was getting my mind in shape on required reading.  I also had to be able to walk three miles.  At the age of 69, walking three miles a day was not part of my regimen.  I worked into the ability to do so, mission volunteering is good for your body.

Because I fell seven times while away on my journeys, my doctor ordered me to join a gym and work out for balance and core strength.
Now that I am home from VA, I am back at Centre Ice (www.centreicefitness.com) with my trainer, Joelle. 






Thanks to prayers and exercises I have not fallen for over a year!  Being in shape for future mission assignments is a great incentive!


Organic Wesley:



This winter reading the book, Organic Wesley a Christian Perspective on Food, Farming, and Faith, by William C Guerrant Jr changed some previous understandings.   This book talks about the current food movement.  The author identifies and suggests a specifically Wesleyan food ethic, relevant to our ongoing cultural conversations about food.  The author indicates Wesley was “convinced that God’s original plan for humanity included healthy bodies and that we need not await the resurrection to start bringing our bodily health in line with God’s plan.  Wesley believed that God intends both “inward and outward healing” and that a properly oriented Christian life should promote both.

Interrupting my eating habits according to Wesleyan food ethics is ongoing. 








Interfaith Peace Service March 20, 2016


The Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City invited the community to an Interfaith Peace Service on March 20.  As humanity, we truly are journeying together.  The program included participation from many different faith traditions.  Below is a copy of a prayer that was part of the service.






Prayer for Peace in the Middle East

Lord of Hope and Compassion, friend of Abraham, who called our father in faith to journey to a new future.  We remember before you the countries of the Middle East, from which Abraham was summoned; ancient land of the Middle East, realm of the two rivers, birthplace of the great cities of civilizations.  May we, who name ourselves children of Abraham, remember all the people of the Middle East who honor him as father.  We bring to mind those who guard and celebrate the Torah; those for whom the Word has walked on earth and lived among us; those for who follow their prophet, who listened for the word in the desert and shaped a community after what they heard.  Lord of reconciliation, God of the painful sacrifice uniting humankind, we long for the day when you will provide for all nations of the earth your blessing of peace.  But now, when strife and war are at hand, help us to see in each other a family likeness, our inheritance from our one father Abraham.  Keep hatred from the threshold of our hearts, and preserve within us a generous spirit which recognizes in both foe and friend a common humanity.  This we ask from the one who has given us the gift of abundant life.


The Episcopal Peace Fellowship

This fellowship invites the community to ongoing meetings and activities.  They often do book studies.  Books studied in the past include, Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, along with the Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook by Lucy Leu; The Nonviolent Life by John Dear; and The Powers That Be by Walter Wink.   While in Traverse City, I hope to be a part of their ongoing studies.


Holy Week


Because my church is in transition, I worshiped with other congregations.
On Good Friday, several congregations meet together in the beautiful sanctuary of Central United Methodist Church.  Through Scripture, meditation, prayer and music our worship was guided as we considered the seven phrases of Jesus from the cross: 









I celebrated Easter with the family of God that meets at Grawn United Methodist Church. 

Their tradition is a Good Friday Cross Walk.  They meet away from their church and walk carrying cross.  A graphic witness to the community that they are people of the cross. 


Upon completion of the walk, they join their hearts in devotions and prayers.  The cross is covered in black symbolic of the realities around the death of Jesus.









Easter Sunday Worship takes on a different hue!  Through music and words, hearts were filled with hope as we worshiped together.  Pastor Colleen’s sermon, Eternal Life, challenged our understandings and actions.  We are post Easter people, living eternal life in Jesus. 


The words of the Sacred Writings of my faith tradition, quote Jesus as saying,
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.John 17:3. 

As post Easter People Let's realize each choice is an eternal choice.










Monday, March 21, 2016

So That

Home Safe

Praise God with me that I am home safely from my assignment in Harrisonburg, VA.
I arrived home in time to celebrate the 100th birthday of a very dear friend, Fran.  











Reflecting on Answers to Prayers

When I was getting ready to go last November, I talked to God about the “individual” part of the Individual Volunteer in Mission.  I was concerned that I would be alone from 4:30PM on Friday to 8:30 AM on Monday.  I was looking at living by myself in a motel room for four months.  A difference from Bethlehem-five in the apartment, Jordan-up to ten in the apartment with six in the same bedroom for a while and Beit Jala, Hope School, staying at the school with 22 other borders. 

God had plans to cover my individual angst! 


Reflections on Refugees

Serving through the Church World Service Office was a wonderful experience.  You can find out more information about the office where I served at the following web site,  www.harrisonburgrefugees.com/.

A video was produced and is on YouTube:   It highlights some of the realities refugees face and tells about refugee resettlement in Harrisonburg.

On Saturdays and Sundays I transported refugees to events.  Their lives filled my weekend times with Joy as we participated in events!

Reflections on Asbury UMC


As you know from prior blogs, the family of God at Asbury UMC in Harrisonburg is precious to me.   They have a beautiful sanctuary.  The Christmas play was delightful.  

They welcomed me and also welcomed members of the JMU International Leadership in Education Program.  Four international teachers are now singing in their choir directed by Rev. Laura Douglass.






Reflections on Harrisonburg, VA

Harrisonburg is a special beautiful place.  Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg is part of the culture there that honors God and promotes peace and justice.  Their article at the following site highlights some of the goodness as the local police embrace the concept of Restorative Justice, http://emu.edu/now/news/2016/03/a-different-approach-restorative-justice-offers-harrisonburg-police-and-the-community-alternative-resolutions/.








Naturally Supernatural

In my faith tradition, we believe that Jesus dwells within.  That makes our lives naturally supernatural.  What a joy it was for me to hear the faith stories of refugees,  from Asbury members and from the international teachers.

God’s final act of taking the “individual” out of my journey was an  experience with with Victor, one of the international teachers.   

Victor is from Mexico where he is not only a teacher, but also the pastor of a small Methodist Church.

Unknown to Victor, the Perry Ohio UMC was reaching out to a Hispanic community in their neighborhood.  Many of their Hispanic neighbors were from the town where Victor’s church, Mision Fuetne Agua Viva, is located.  The Perry Ohio UMC contacted Victor’s wife in Mexico. She let Victor know that Perry UMC in Ohio wanted to do a summer mission trip to help the church in Mexico. 

My planned trip home to MI coincided with Victor’s spring break.  I was able to enjoy Victor’s company during my trip to Michigan.

I transporting Victor to Perry UMC in Ohio so that Victor could be part of the fellowship, worship and preaching at Perry UMC.  














Everyone is looking forward to the mission trip in August.



What Was Seen?  What Is Remembered?  

Leaving an assignment is not easy.  However, I am filled and overflowing with precious memories.  

In 2013 when I was leaving Bethlehem, my first assignment, a poem, The Layers, by Stanley Kunitz came to me by email.  It is not a religious poem, but one that speaks to changes.  Below are some of the lines, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/layers  

When I look behind, as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey, I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon and the slow fires trailing from the abandoned camp-sites, over which scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections, and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?...

Yet I turn, I turn, exulting somewhat, with my will intact to go wherever I need to go, and every stone on the road precious to me.


Purpose in Life-“So That”

I have been pondering the term, "So That."  It caught my attention while reading the story about the raising of Lazarus.
The Death of Lazarus John 11:13-15
13Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him."…

Jesus’ purposes, were the “so that’s,” of events lived among humanity.

I wonder about all the events God has allowed me to experience in the Middle East and in the USA.   I see the needs in USA differently because of my mission journeys.  I ponder my "so that’s." They are mysteries, give meaning and are adventure.

We all are on an exciting quest, living into the "so thats" of our lives.  God's plans, our choices create our adventure!


United Methodist Women



We as United Methodist Women have embraced the quest.   We are reading, studying.  We are very active on many social justice issues. We are growing closer to God and each other.  Check out the social justice action resources on many issues at http://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/





Teach Us to Pray

In my faith tradition, during the Lenten Season, more time is dedicated to prayer and devotion.  Our Bishop, Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, is producing a weekly series on prayer; you can read her thoughts at the following link.  http://news.michiganumc.org/2016/03/5937-2/.


When Jesus taught people to pray, he instructed the disciples to ask that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Churches around the world repeat this request nearly every week.

Our love and actions are the answer to the “on earth as it is in heaven” prayer.  

Millions of refugees and other vulnerable people need that prayer answered. 

UN Pictures form refugee camps continue to show the needs. 



With each choice, let’s ask ourselves this question. 

DOES MY CHOICE FURTHER THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Holidays and Beyond



The New Year - 2016

I started 2016 visiting my baby sister, Molly, on Bainbridge Island, WA.  It is just a short ferry ride to Seattle from Bainbridge Island, WA.

Birthdays so close to Christmas are often lost in the holidays, but mine was wonderful.  I had a safe travel birthday thousands of feet in the air on a “red eye” heading back to Harrisonburg, VA.

Virgina or Michigan Weather

I am thinking I did not get far enough south.  I was snowed in last weekend.  It gave me the chance to “catch up” on my paperwork.  Extra time in my hotel room allowed me to process through 311 emails on Saturday.  The storm caused church cancellation for 1/24/16.

My car became part of a snowdrift.  I have new appreciation for my garage.  My car is to the left of the man shoveling his out.  



Joys of Individual Volunteer in Missions

Previous Mission Ministry Service with United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, www.umcmission.org

I praise God for the many opportunities I have had for service in many locations.  The people of Jordan and the Syrian refugees they welcomed, Palestine and Israel remain in my prayers.  Daily injustices faced with steadfastness! 
On my face book page, I shared a video by Jewish Voice for Peace, "Decoding Israel Palestine: Apartheid."   
My sister who was visiting New Orleans sent me this photo of Weeping Angels.  





My mind went to thoughts of Angels celebrating over Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus.  Now, I am sure angels weeping over the pains of people Jesus loves.   They are experiencing the pain of denial of movement at checkpoints, homes demolished, children in prison, home invaded by military, and further loss to settlers of land homes and belongings.  These are some of the pains of people God loves. 

I honor the commitment of the Palestinian Christians to the Way, the way of peace based on nonviolence and honoring of international law.  I am glad to be a part of God’s answer to their prayers. 

Many of you are part of the United Methodist Kairos Response, (UMKR).  This group of United Methodists continues to work on behalf of a just peace.  They are acting in many ways to answer the call of Palestinian Christians.  They raise awareness so that my church, the United Methodist Church, will divest from companies that hurt people God loves.  Please go to their web site, www.kairosresponse.org for more information.   
I am happy to report that the United Methodist Pension board has divested from some banks that were involved in funding actions of violence.  The complete story is available on the UMKR web site.

Church World Service (CWS) Refugee Resettlement Program

Praise God with me for the opportunity to be involved with the CWS refugee resettlement. 
Three mornings a week, I am involved in cultural orientation.  Everything is new for the refugees; there is so much to learn.  During this orientation, interpreters are available.  The class I will be teaching next involves orientation to banks, ATMs, Post Office, mailing, rental leases, budgeting and money values.  All these topics are covered in one hour! 

Last week a CWS Sarah Alice asked me if I could substitute, show the CWS Power-point and teach the Cultural Orientation lesson on Employment and Job Interviews.  I said yes very quickly!  At one point in my career with the State of Michigan, I had been an employment specialist for the Department of Labor.  I enjoyed the memories this teaching brought back, of the lessons I taught on the same subject back then.  I laughed when I realized that was thirty-three years ago.  “Oh My” even before Sarah Alice was born.

The second hour on the three mornings is English class.   We make an effort to teach the words related to the cultural orientation topic of the day. 
My heart continues to go out to the refugees.  They have been through so much, and now so much to learn and do.  Just getting around on the buses with babies is tough. 

I am glad I can help with transportation for some events.  My child is 49 years old, so struggling to get the child restraint seats in properly and everyone belted in is a new struggle for me. 

What fun the children have when we go to the Children’s Museum.  Mothers and I make efforts to communicate as we watch the toddlers play. 
How fun it was to find some Kurdish words that are the same in English.  The word “horn” is the same.







On the way home from the museum a week ago the mother asked me if I would stop at the grocery store.  At least that is what I thought she said.  It became obvious through our game of charades that I was driving to a store, and neither of knew the location.  I stopped driving and took the GPS out of the trunk.  However, it did not find a store with the name I think she said. 

Fortunately, she is a very smart person.  She said bike and pointed to where I had taken her a few weeks earlier for bike lessons.  I plugged the bike class location into the GPS and we found the grocery store on the way!  I am glad I was able to take her and to help at the grocery store.  Her husband works long hours and she has to be very careful when buying groceries for her family of five. 

Office work activities fill in the rest of my days.  I also do in home English lessons a couple hours week.  Next Sunday afternoon and for six weeks, I will be involved in teaching driving knowledge.  We are preparing individuals to take the written test.  

I managed the Secretary of State Office and gave road tests in Traverse City, MI in 1984.  Who could have imagined that I would be using the same skills to help refugees from Iraq, Kurdistan, Cuba, Somali and Eritrea in 2016..  

Asbury United Methodist Church


Sunday School

I am glad for new friends.  Celia made sure I did not sit alone the first week I attended.

She is very special to me.  We visited families together after church one Sunday.  She has invited some international students and me for lunch after church this Sunday.


The Sunday School class I go to is live streamed.  You can hear the same lesson by going to www.asbury.org click on the Francis Asbury Sunday school class live stream and sermon archives.  Class starts at 9:45 every Sunday.



UMW
United Methodist Women are instant friends.  I enjoyed a tea that the UMW units put on for the all the women of the church.  It was an old fashion tea, gloves and hats optional.  Stylish women, the Supernal Salteries, entertained us and every one enjoyed the event.  I will be making a presentation to one of the Asbury Units, February 8th.


Worship

I am enjoying the worshiping experiences at Asbury United Methodist Church.  I like the dynamics of a large church.  They have two services and music is varied and wonderful, including a bell choir.

New Friends

The church is near James Madison University.  I met some international teachers who are here for a semester for the International Leaders in Education Program.  The following Sunday I provided transportation for two of them.  It started showing as we drove toward church.  Neither Victor, from Mexico, nor Reggie, from Ghana, had ever seen snow.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  We took time in the parking lot to have our pictures taken with a few snowflakes in the air. 




It is interesting to hear about their studies here in VA and their lives in their home countries.  Reggie teaches math at a Methodist school in Ghana.  Victor teaches in Mexico and pastors a United Methodist Church. 


The next weekend there was no church because of the two feet of snow that came Friday and Saturday.  I emailed Reggie and Victor the YouTube, “How to Make a Snowman.”  I got these photos later that evening.  








I think this is a first for all of us, seeing a snowman with a Ghana scarf.



Outreach to Community

One of Asbury’s outreach to the community is a dinner every Wednesday.  I have had the fun of attending and helping.  During the program after the meal on January 13, I had the privilege of hearing a presentation by Rev. Dr. Wayne Lavender. 
Dr. Lavender is running, walking and driving across the country to the General Conference in May, in Portland, OR.  Along the way, he is seeking support from members of the United Methodist Churches (UMC) for a petition to be considered at General Conference.  His petition is to make orphans and vulnerable children the missional priority of the UMC. 
Dr. Lavender feels a focus of UMC on orphans and vulnerable children is a unifying way
forward.  See his current work with orphans and obtain more information at his
website, www.f4o.org.

Rev. Dr.Martin Luther King Jr

The community and members of Asbury UMC accepted the invitation of the NAACP for a memorial event in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr.

Rev. Laura Douglas, the music director at Asbury, led the ecumenical choir. 


I did not know until recently that Rev. Dr. Martin King’s movement had Methodist roots.  I am reading books by E Stanley Jones, a famous Methodist.  His influenced guided and guides Americans and people around the world today. In 1948, Jones had written the book, Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation.  It was his worst selling book.  In 1948 message of civil rights for all people regardless of race was not a welcomed topic.

 The quote below about that book  is from the forward of Jones’ book, Abundant Living, (a republished version available through Cokesbury) the forward's author, Professor Leonard Sweet, stated the following about Jones’ 1948 book.

 "A few years later, a recent graduate of Crozier Theological School and a doctoral candidate at Boston University was looking up some references about Mahatma Gandhi and happened upon E. Stanley Jones's unsung volume.  As he read about Gandhi's commitment to a nonviolent, yet non compliant form of protest, this young pastor and civil rights leader found a basis for forming his own resistance to abuse and oppression.  The book that Jones deemed his greatest failure was pulled from the stacks of a theological library and then had enthusiastically penned in its margins 'THIS IS IT !' by a single student: Martin Luther King Jr.  
You can still see King's marginal notation in the Martin Luther King Library in Atlanta, where the full handwritten side bar reads: 'This is it!  This is the way to achieve freedom for the Negro in America."

Our Methodist moral authority, energy and success are ours because we, with the example of E Stanley Jones and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, we walk the Way of God who is Peace and Justice and Love for all.





Rev. Laura Douglas and I walked in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day Parade.

Members of law enforcement were on hand to help the community.  It was held along a street renamed in 2013, Martin Luther King Jr Way.


As we walked along the way and over the bridge, the scenes from the past came to mind.  Selma movie relived.

There is still a lot more to do to achieve racial justice.  More people need to understand equality and walk Dr. King’s Way of nonviolence.

W. Michigan Conference United Methodist Women (UMW)

With gratitude to God, I continue my duties as UMW Social Action Coordinator with W. MI Conference.  Reading and research on Social Justice Issues has changed my life!

While on this Individual Volunteer in Mission assignment, I stay current with Michigan issues by reading the news.  I also find helpful articles in the Bridge magazine, www.bridgemi.com.  Another favorite resource is articles from www.readthespirit.org.

Prayers and social justice actions continue through the W. MI Conference of the UMW.  Members have identified their areas of expertise and action.  Many of the UMW Units are taking steps to Intercept Traffickers.  Read more about what the UMW is doing www.unitedmethodistwomen.org

Acting on social issues is a gifted privilege from God.  We are United Methodist Women, beloved daughters of God Almighty.  We are experiencing God as we act on behalf of the vulnerable.








“There is an experience of the Eternal breaking into time, which transforms all life into a miracle of faith and action. Unspeakable, profound, and full of glory as an inward experience, it is the root of concern for all creation, the true ground of social endeavor. This inward Life and the outward Concern are truly one whole, and, were it possible, ought to be described simultaneously.” ~Thomas Kelly (d. 1982)


PLEASE PRAY FOR REFUGEES AND THOSE WHO SERVE THEM.