Saturday, December 22, 2012

Great Expectations

Each day before Christmas when my grandma was 8 years old, she and her brother would walk to the post office which was about ½ a mile from their house. She would hope and hope that there would be a big package for them to bring home because that would mean that she had gotten the doll.  Each day they would return with various letters and packages, but none were big enough to be a doll.  On Christmas Eve, Grandma was again disappointed because no large package had arrived.  She knew she wasn’t getting her doll.

On that day many years ago, my grandma was convinced that Christmas was ruined because she wasn’t getting the doll. Being a little girl she was still learning about giving and receiving.  I think as each of us have grown up we have had to learn about the joy of giving.
Many of us enter into the season of Christmas expecting great things and we are often disappointed when events don’t live up to our expectations.  We forget that the most precious gift of this season is the memory of Jesus’ birth.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Female Olympian

Can you imagine what everyone said to her?  Was she brave or just crazy?  Don't try! You will look like a fool!  Look at that crazy outfit you'll have to wear!  You aren't a real athlete!

Even with all the negative talk, she put her best effort into winning her sport. In some ways women were as against her taking this risk as the men were.  People knew what an athlete looked like.  They had seen pictures of her fellow countrymen as they had competed for medals.  They didn't have to wear the silly costume.
What was she trying to prove?
Charlotte Cooper was the first woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal.  She probably had a lot in common with the Muslim women who competed in the 2012 Olympics.  She had to wear clothes that restricted her movement and covered her body.  She competed in a time when people thought that she was ruining her body by exercising too much and risking not giving birth to children.

I wonder how many women shook their heads and clucked their tongues at the thought of Ms. Cooper running around hitting a little ball.  AND I wonder how many little girls took notice of what Charlotte Cooper was doing and had hope that one day they too could be Olympians.

Some people have criticized the Muslim women who competed this year in the Olympics.  Some have said they are token women who aren't really able to compete.  But I have to believe that somewhere young girls who never thought they would have a chance to be in the Olympics are thinking, "If these women could do it, so can I."  This response is why these women are role models.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Path of God

I already bought my airline ticket for my January term class in Cambridge.  Very rarely do I buy my ticket so far in advance, but I decided that while I have the money, I should go ahead and make the commitment to go to Episcopal Divinity School (EDS).  School has been a dedication to financial, intellectual, and emotional energies. Do I believe that expending these energies is going to be worth it? Absolutely. In fact I think I've already felt and seen the benefits of studying at EDS. 

Possibly the greatest challenge that I have received from EDS is an appreciation of how people are oppressed by those in power, in particular due to race, gender, and socio-economic level.  I see all around me how I benefit from the power that being white and middle-class brings me.  EDS has pushed me to examine what I am going to do with the privileges that I receive.  I think many entries of this blog show how I am taking stock my life and what God wants me to do with what I am learning.

Since I've started my field education experience, I have been pushed even further to decide what I am going to do with my degree when I earn it.  Am I going to work toward helping those who are struggling with lack of resources or am I going to ignore the reality that I see around me?  I don't know what path my education is going to lead me, but I do know that none of it will be wasted.  This I know with every being of my heart AND I am ready for the challenge.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fear of God

    Dylan was afraid of everything. Refusing to go to church because of his fear of the Holy Ghost was not a surprise. He had no clue who or what this spirit was and wanted nothing to do with it. Because of his fears, his mom had to stay home with him as he was too young to be left by himself. Dylan acted surprised that I was unafraid of this ghost because all he knew of ghosts was that they tried to scare and hurt people.
     Although many of us do not fear the idea of "The Holy Ghost," we do fear God and spirituality.  Some of us are afraid because we don't want our lives to change and most of the time a relationship with God will change us.  What if I don't want to be what God expects of me?  I kind of like drinking or cussing or whatever we think God says I'm not allowed to do. 
   Others may fear going to church because our knowledge of God relates to that of an angry and punishing God.  Maybe Dylan had the right idea when we consider an abusive God.  What I knew of God before MCC Lubbock was that God and many Christians considered me an abomination because of my sexuality.  Who wouldn't be afraid of a god who thought that way about you?
     Of course now I understand that God is my heavenly parent and loves me unconditionally.  God is not out to "catch" me being bad like Santa Claus.  God doesn't want me to be or do good because of fear.  I'm not going to earn my way into God's graces.  God's grace is free to me.
    When I consider how frozen by fear Dylan is, I feel bad for him.  He's allowing fear to keep him away from God's love.  I pray that someday he learns that the Spirit of God is nothing to fear.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Luxury Item

I recently delivered some children's clothes to a grandmother who is trying to raise several of her grandchildren.  In addition to the clothes, I brought her a sack of bathroom supplies.  When Abuela (grandmother in Spanish) saw the packet of toilet paper, she exclaimed, "Oh, thank you so much!  I had to ask my neighbor if I could borrow a roll because I didn't have the money to buy any."

Have you ever considered what you would do if you found yourself on disability AND had to raise your grandchildren? Food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid doesn't pay for luxury items such as toilet paper, tooth paste or shampoo.  In addition to dealing with the fear and worry for her grandchildren and for her children, Abuela also has to think about where she will find the money to provide the "luxuries" of toiletry items. 

When I met Abuela and several other grandparents at a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren, I was introduced to people who lovingly brought their grandchildren into their homes rather than allow them to go into the foster care system.  With the reality of raising grandchildren came the realization that they would not receive financial or emotional assistance from Child Protective Services (CPS) that foster parents get.  Often trying to stretch income to provide for additional bodies is more than the grandparents can handle.  They make decisions based on what is an absolute necessity and what becomes a luxury item.

What kind of country are we living in when toilet paper becomes a luxury item?   How does one of the most prosperous countries in the world allow people to go without basic items of living?  I know that there are many people in the world who believe that public assistance is a failure, and perhaps it is.  But I cannot believe that people who live in the United States should have to do without something as basic as toilet paper.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Loaves and Fishes

The church's community food pantry was almost empty.  Only a few cans and boxes remained.  The monthly trip to the food bank had only provided enough food for a couple of weeks and the money in the offering barely covered that bill.  Even though there was little food, people continued to come asking for help, continued to worry about money, and continued to lose their jobs.  Will everyone who needed help receive it?  Were the needs of the people too big for God?  Would God provide as the economy remains unstable?

John 6:1-15 talks about how the disciples were also faced with the hunger of large numbers of people.  Philip saw the great masses of people and believed that the problem was too big.  Andrew saw the five loaves and two fishes and believed that they didn't have enough to solve the problem.

When we look at John 6, we see that Jesus used this opportunity to demonstrate to his disciples that God would provide.  He didn't try to tell them about God's abilities.  He had everyone sit down and he blessed the food that was there.  After everyone had eaten, Jesus had the remaining bread collected so that all could see how much more was left over.  He authenticated what God had done by physically showing how much more God had given than was needed.
I am reminded of the folktale, "Stone Soup," where as individual ingredients are added to the cooking pot until eventually a community soup is made.  We may not start off with an entire soup, but each of us has a bit of onion or carrot that can be added to create the soup.
The director of the food pantry uses the collected money to buy 3 to 4 times as much food at the food bank.  The volunteers harvest bushels of vegetables from the community garden after planting tiny seeds.  The local supermarkets donate produce and baked goods which are approaching their expiration dates.
A month ago an anonymous donor filled the shelves of MCC Lubbock's  food pantry just as the last bags were being given out.  In another life, I would have called this result "Luck," but experience tells me that God is at work.  Someone took what s/he had and allowed God to multiply it into baskets of loaves and fishes.  Thanks be to God.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Big Sweepstakes

My grandma believed with every fiber of her body that she would win Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstake.  She bought magazines of every topic and cost.  Sometimes she even ordered the same magazine twice.  Grandma filed everything she got from them and kept detailed records. She often told me that people from Publisher's Clearinghouse had called to tell her that if she only bought a few more magazines she would definitely win. And she KNEW that someday she would win the Big Sweepstakes.  They would come and with that huge check, Grandma's worries would be over.

My grandma was a woman of faith. She believed strongly that God was evident in her life. But at some point in the last few years of her life, the worries of keeping her head financially above water became too much. As she supported herself and my uncle's household, Grandma knew she didn't have enough money and hoped that the Big Sweepstakes would give her the money she needed to take care of everyone.

Like my grandma, many of us look to chance or luck in the hope that our fortune will change.  Sometimes fear, financial worries, doubt make us forget that putting our faith in the world isn't going to get us very far.  We get so bogged down in our problems we forget that God is in charge.

The money from the sweepstake was not going to solve Grandma's concerns just as worldly goods aren't going to make us happy.  So many times when a problem comes up, I react with a gut reaction.  I desperately look to find the easy answers.  Finally when I can't find a solution, I remember to turn to God. God always give answers although not necessarily in the ways that I prefer.  Most of the time the answer is not the Big Sweepstakes.