Friday, September 30, 2011

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

                                         St. Francis of Assisi

This ancient prayer has been in my thoughts lately. Especially the part that says "grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console." I need to meditate on why God has me focusing on those words.

What is your favorite prayer? Do any especially resonate with you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mourning an Icon

"Dear Friends,

"I am sorry to inform you...."

Thus, in traditional form, began the letter that let our community know a member had died. Not just any member, but one who through the years had given his heart and soul to our program and the teens who came to us.

He had been in failing health and had not been an active participant for the last three years, but he got a standing ovation on his one visit in 2010. Which was 50 years to the month after he first joined us. His first year, 1960, he served as our Chaplain.

When our program faced it's biggest crisis in 1975, he and a few others worked their tails off to see that the it survived. Their vision and willingness to change things mean that we we are still here.

Through the years, he taught many things. Leading classes on "Christian Marriage" and sailing. In his last decade of service his class "God's Great Sea and Shore" was popular. He made sure that we knew the Navy hymn and lead  a vesper by the ocean every year. He always encouraged us to learn, to think, to grow. He was also the weatherman and knew his stuff. On that last visit, when he received the standing ovation, it was because he was asked to give the weather report at the last minute -- and just got up and did it.

He was a personal friend of mine, too. He offered prayer and help whenever my family needed it and we often shared times of laughter in the faculty lounge -- which, incidently, had been donated by the church he served and dedicated in his honor.

So today, I share in the sorrow of the community. Remembering, shedding tears, praying for his family.

Rest in peace, John Wilbur. You will be missed.

"They who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in great waters, these know the power of the Lord."

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Quick Treat


I discovered a quick and easy treat.. it takes about 30 seconds for an adult and a small child could handle it easily.

Just put about a tablespoon of semisweet chocolate chips (I like Hershey's) in the bottom of a cup. Add about two tablespoons of Sunbutter (or all natural peanut butter, if you prefer) and stir. There's really no need to measure. Eat with a spoon. 

It's sweet and it supplies protein. A good pick-me-up snack.

I actually first tried the sunbutter and chocolate combination with mini - Hershey bars on a graham cracker. That was good, too, but this is even better.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breaking into a new group....

Jordan and I attended a potluck with people who share a common interest, but whom we had never met. Both of us had a bit of trouble breaking into the group. Jordan stuck close to me at first, except when he was getting food.  The hostess introduced him to a group of kids his age, but they basically ignored him.
I saw a cat hiding behind the stove and pointed him out to Jordan, who then asked another child the cat's name and ended up in a series of one-on-one conversations.

I, on the other hand, remained stuck on my own. The adults all seemed to be in tightly closed groups and I just didn't know how to get involved.

Then Jordan asked me how long it had taken me to read the Harry Potter series. "About 5 years", I said, "because when I started they hadn't all come out."

A teenager just entering the room spoke up. "It was the same for me. I started reading them when book four was just published..."

That led to a long and interesting conversation, that traversed the world of fantasy from J.K. Rowling to Stephen King and Steampunk. It was a great chat and it didn't seem to matter that I was an outsider. This is why I am in youth ministry. (One reason, anyway.)

Eventually, I ended up talking with his parents and exchanging contact information so that Jordan can get together with the teen's younger brother. Perhaps we will become friends with the whole family...

Have you ever found yourself unable to break into a group? What happened in the end?

Monday, September 19, 2011


Recently, I learned that a college friend -- who I hadn't seen in years-- committed suicide after years of struggling with depression.

Then another old friend, again one I had limited contact with recently, disappeared after leaving a suggestive message. People feared that she had taken her life. Thankfully, she was found and is safe.

Suicide is a tough thing to talk about. There is so much stigma around and so much fear. But there are ways to help. I am no expert on this topic, but there are plenty out there. Here are links to two helpul sites.

Don't forget that prayer is a practical responce to any crisis! In the second situation above hundreds were praying.

Simple things like remembering to live by the Golden Rule, providing a listening ear to those who need it, and getting help when necessary may help to prevent suicide. Ultimately, though, people make their own choices. Sometimes, we just can't change their minds.

Dr. G. Lloyd Carr and his wife, Gwen Carr wrote a book called The Fierce Good-bye. I recommend it to anyone who is struggling after a loved one's suicide or just wants to know how to help. I have a copy if you want to borrow it.

I hope you never need this information, but that you will use it if you do.

Do you have any other thoughts on ways to help or where to look for it?

God bless!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Mistaken" for Family

A friend of mine recently confessed that until a few weeks ago she thought that my son belonged to someone else. For three years she'd seen him regularly with another boy and figured they were brothers.

It's been happening a lot lately. Family relationships have been assumed where they don't exist. It can be a very easy mistake to make actually. We make assumptions based on what we see, without complete information.

So, I have been believed to be married to a  CYC colleague I was visiting a church with. A friend took my son and I out for lunch, to a museum and for ice cream and Jordan was repeatedly asked, "Are you having a nice day with your folks?"  Another friend and I took all of our kids out to a local restaurant, without our spouses, and the waitress assumed we were one family.

Well, wait a minute. Maybe we are. Not in a legal/social sense of course. But perhaps those who look at us and see "family" are seeing a real connection. Because this doesn't happen all the time. When I meet clients or other contacts at coffee shops and such, we usually don't get mistaken for being related.

In all the cases above, though, there is a connection through Christ. One of the people above prayed for me recently, referring to me as "my friend and sister" as he addressed God about me and I am pretty sure he meant it. He's helped me out in some pretty difficult circumstances, been there when it counted.  Maybe that showed when we went to church. Maybe a similar closeness showed in the other settings, too.

The Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our love. C.S. Lewis notes that the most important relationship between people in the Bible is that of sibling. Many churches use the terms "Brothers" and "Sisters" to describe members. And when it's real, it's noticeable.

Of course, the strangers in my stories have frequently mistaken me for being married to someone other than my actual husband. I suppose that is because in society's eyes a man and woman out together, especially if they are both corraling the same children, are going to be looked at that way wherever their closeness comes from. Which is a good argument for being careful about our assumptions. Really, though, I haven't particularly minded, but my husband might, I suppose.

Anyway, my point is that in Christ, we are family. And I love that. It's an awesome feeling to know that I have so many siblings out there.

How about you?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Let's Roll!

"Are you guys ready?

Okay. Let's roll!"

                                ~Todd Beamer

Who were the heros of 9/11?

The ones who took action. The ones who did what they had to do. Or what they could do.

The firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers who went in while others were coming out -- and kept working long hours for days on end while mourning their friends.

The school teachers who walked kids to safety.

The chaplains, counselors and volunteers who went to help.

The neighbors who opened their doors.

The passengers on Flight 93 who stood up to their attackers so that, although they died, the plane didn 't reach it's target and no one on the ground was hurt.

Yes, the ones who did something. Whatever they could in their own set of circumstances.

Some we have heard of, some we honor. Others remain in obscurity, forgotten or never known.

We owe them all a debt.

We should follow their example.

They are the heroes.

What can you do? What will you do?

We are at war... and life goes on as usual...

I remember seeing a M*A*S*H* episode in which scenes of the doctors operating on badly injured soldiers were alternated with scenes of people partying and jitterbugging back home. It created a powerful message. We were in the midst of Desert Storm at the time, and I was struck by how apropos the episode was to that day.

It's the same now. We have soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan but how many of us, who don't have loved ones deployed, think of them? Do we remember to pray for them, to connect with them, to support their families? Do we think of strangers who have been widowed or orphaned because of this war?

I am sure some people do. There are probably ministries set up to help these folks and some people participate. But I know I haven't done enough. I know that usually I go about my work and play as though there is no war. Even when I travel, the inconveniences at airports aren't that noticeable. They were much more stringent in London and Germany, especially when I flew El Al. I expect it is the same for most people, especially as the war stretches on.

I am not sure exactly what kind of change I am looking for here. It's hard to put it into specific terms. I do have a few ideas:

*All over the country, there are young parents going it alone while their spouse is deployed. They need a lot of things. Babysitters, someone to cut the grass, company, a break. If there is one in your neighborhood, take them a meal even if it looks like they have everything under control. Single parenting is hard. 

*Visit Veteran's in hospitals. I know the VA hospital near me is fairly dreary. It doesn't really matter if the vets are from the current war or not. But regular visits -- weekly, monthly -- that the patients can look forward to are better than showing up once for a holiday (though that isn't a bad thing either).

*Volunteer for one of those ministries I mentioned above.

*Pray regularly for the safety of our military members and a return to peace. I know many churches will mention the war or the military in weekly prayers or at least on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. I am thinking more of a consistent prayer meeting just for this purpose. I might  start a Facebook group to encourage this kind of prayer. I just thought of this as I was writing.

*Think of something else and do it. (Maybe mention it in a comment below.)

These are just ideas. My thinking is that we should be more mindful, more aware. You never know what will help. On the fourth of July one year, Jordan decided to enter the children's bike parade. He made a tan and painted it in camouflage colors, wore camouflage clothes and painted his face that way, too. He didn't win, stuffed decked out in red, white and blue did. (Well, and they were probably better done, anyway.) But an older veteran approached me and told me he was grateful to see it. "People need to be reminded of what the soldiers are going through over there." I doubt that's what Jordan had in mind. He just thought tans and camouflage were cool. But I was touched by the vet's response. And it's true that we need these reminders, even though there's now way we can fully understand "what they are going through."

So those are my thoughts as we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11. What are yours?

Oh, just one more thing:

To our veterans, military members and their families:


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jordan's Photos of 911 Tribute

Jordan took photos  
of the 9/11 tribute we helped set up.

It says :
Never Forget
Jordan wished he could go up in a crane to get a good shot of this.

A view from the ground.

Trying out black and white.

 Jordan's favorite.

Jordan loves this style of photo.

Click here to see my other 9/11 post:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts on Peace and War

Jordan and I helped plant nearly 3,000 flags at a September 11 Memorial Site. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches tributes and services are being planned across the nation. The memorial we worked at spells out, if looked at from the air, "9-11 Never Forget" And we must not forget.

At the memorial service we will attend, it has been announced that we will sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Hardly surprising. It is one of the most popular songs about peace out there. It's even won awards. I grew up with that song -- singing it in school, at camp, at church-- and I loved it. The pretty tune drew me in and  I also loved the idea of working for peace. I even nearly joined a group dedicated to averting the threat of nuclear war by converting at least five percent more of the population to pacifism. I'd have to say that during that time, "Let there be Peace on Earth" was one of my favorite songs.

But I can't sing it anymore. Not the whole thing, anyway.

My problem is with the last verse:

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
(Sy Miller and Jill Jackson)

In part, I suppose, it's because of the promise. Promises -- "solemn vows" should not be made lightly. We should pay attention to what we are telling others, and God, when we sing. If I have made a vow to live in peace, I have broken it, in small ways, many times. We ought not to break promises.

But it's more that this isn't a promise I necessarily think everyone is called to keep. The last time I was in a group that was singing that song, I sang the beginning. But then I caught site of a former soldier, a young friend who served in Iraq because of 9/11. He wasn't singing. As I remembered the words to that last verse, I fell silent. Partly out of respect for the soldier. If you are in combat you can't be "living each moment in peace eternally". Not if you want to either do your job or survive. Of course, I don't know that that's why he wasn't singing. For all I know, he just didn't know the song. Secondly, because I wasn't sure I wanted to make that vow. While many things can be resolved peacefully, sometimes we are called to take a stand perhaps even to fight. I don't want to cast judgement on those who do sing that song. Peace is, after all a good thing and that song was written in the hope of bringing it about.

But .... I won't be singing it again. Because of the story above and also because of these other things I remember:

*My father was a soldier during Vietnam although he ran a base post office and was never sent overseas. But he was taught the same work of soldiering as everyone else in the army. He might have had to use that training had things been a bit different.

*A college literature professor was lecturing on "The Lord of the Rings." Speaking of the scene in which the Ents (tree shepherds) fight the orcs, he said "Some of you may be pacifists, but if you aren't rooting for the Ents in this scene, something's wrong." He's right.

*Jordan and two of his friends, a brother and sister, encountered a bully at a program this past summer. At first they ignored the bully and stayed out of her path. But one day, she started making fun of the brother after he got accidently knocked down in a game. She also pushed his sister out of the way, grabbed him, and started thumping on his chest in mock CPR. His sister removed the bully's hands from him. Then Jordan got in the bully's face and said, "Don't you push his sister away from him!" They came home and told me about the incident and Jordan said he was afraid he'd been rude. But my reaction was one of pride. Jordan and the sister had stood up to an injustice. Mind you these are homeschooled kids, they've never participated in an anti-bullying curriculum. But they have read countless books and Bible stories about people standing up for the underdog, protecting the innocent, fighting for what is right.

George Orwell says, "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." ~George Orwell (It's often misquoted as "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.") Seems to me that we share some of the culpability when violence is done on our behalf.

I can get on board with the other song that will be sung at the memorial service: Dona Nobis Pacem ... Give us peace. A simple prayer and one that resonates down the ages. We all want peace, we all long for it. We want peace, both physical and spiritual, where we live. When we think of others, we want peace where they live. Some day we will beat our swords into plow shares and not learn war anymore. When God redeems the world he will strip it of violence and all believers will know an eternal peace.

Until then I leave you with this thought. I don't go along with everything John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) says in his writings, but this is a great quote.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Few Quotes About Peace

Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.
Winston Churchill

Avoid popularity if you would have peace.
Abraham Lincoln

Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God - the rest will be given.
Mother Teresa

Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.
Benjamin Franklin

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God (Phillipians 4:6-7)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What I'm Reading

Every now and then I post about what I am reading. Right now, it's the Bible.

OK,so now those of you who know me are thinking, "So what else is new? A church-going volunteer in youth ministry reads the Bible all the time."

Hmm. Yeah, well. I kinda got off track with that for a while. I mean I've been reading sometimes When I needed to prepare for something or if the mood struck me. But not regularly, like I should.

But I am back to it. CYC is having a Bible Through. Over 50 of us have decided to read the scriptures through start to finish. We are doing readings every weekday, except holidays. We'll be using a Facebook group for discussions and to help each other stay on track. We started today and will be done on June 21!

I am excited! This will keep me moving forward and give me more chances to interact with the folks in my favorite community.

What are you reading?