Another Random Fact

I really am taking this “random fact” thing seriously.  I am not following any discernible order in writing about the facts and I certainly am not on any schedule to get them done.  I guess they are random indeed.

Pam and I had been married for about a year when we decided that we wanted to try and have a child of our own.  We were parents to Leslie, my daughter from my first marriage, but we still felt like a larger family was something we wanted.

Making that decision began a couple of years of disappointment for us.  We watched while other couples in my class at Duke Divinity School went through pregnancies and we hoped for our own.  But we were not getting pregnant.  At some point in time we decided that we needed to make up our mind about either adopting or seeking fertility treatments.  So, we scheduled a little weekend get-away so that we could really focus and talk about what we thought would be best for us.

We arrived in this little North Carolina town that we had decided to visit around dinner time and found an interesting local pizza place to eat.  It was the first time either of us saw a menu that offered spinach and pineapple as a topping selection and on a whim to see what it was like, we ordered one.  I can still taste that pizza. Yet, like so many other “firsts” in life, the taste has never been recreated.  We’ve had excellent “specialty pizzas”, especially at “Pies and Pints” here in West Virginia, but I don’t think I have ever had as good a slice of pineapple and spinach pizza anywhere.

There was one problem though.  Despite it being so good, Pam developed a terrible case of indigestion and hardly slept that night.  In the morning, she still wasn’t feeling much better but we went on with our visit and took time to have our discussion.

Sometime in the afternoon of that second day, we had pretty much made up our minds to start the process of adoption.  For us, it just seemed like the right thing to do, especially since we both saw ourselves as “adopted” members of Jesus’ family in the church.  We also just could not justify spending the money on fertility treatments that may or may not work.  So we enjoyed the rest of our weekend and went home “at peace” with our decision.

On Monday, instead of feeling better, Pam was so ill she thought that she needed to go see her doctor.  I had to head off to classes at Duke but she was sure she could make it across town to the docs office and then to work.

I was a little surprised and worried when I got back from class that afternoon to find her car in the driveway and began thinking that she must have really gotten sick.  I was even more befuddled when after I walked in the house and over towards where she was sitting on our couch.  She got up, walked over to me and handed me this little plastic stick before I had a chance to set my books down from class.

I knew immediately what she had given me and one look down told me that she was pregnant.

I said, “Is this a joke?”

“Nope,” she said, “the doctor wouldn’t treat me for anything until they did a pregnancy test and you see for yourself that it’s positive!”

Now…it is at this point in the story that I have to simply say that my response came more from surprise, shock and disbelief especially after the weekend decision we had made.  My books hit the floor and my mouth opened more in reflex than anything else.  I won’t tell you exactly what word came out of my mouth but I will say that it was a word with which I was quite familiar.  My grandmother used that used like some people use sighing. These days, well, we jokingly refer to the word as “Nana’s Word” in our house.  The word has a bit of family history, to say the least, and chances are I have done everything I can to pass on the tradition – even without knowing it.

There you have it…Random Fact Number 6!

A Week for Children…Thursday…Bullying

I walked about a mile to school everyday because I couldn’t stand to be on the bus that would take me.  There was a bully on that bus that would hit me, spit on me or just call me names as my friends laughed.  I never learned how to stand up to him…I just walked.

I set out this week to present something each day that would be a reminder for everyone to pray for children – both those in our sphere of influence and those around the world.  I did this because the church I serve is going to hold a special service called “Children’s Sabbath” this Sunday where we honor the gift that children are to us and recommit ourselves to justice issues surrounding children.

Sometime early last week, I laid out a framework of topics to write about for this week.  I knew I wanted to use the two prayers that have been shared and found video presentations of them that I thought were pretty good.  I shared a “children’s sermon” from a recent worship service at First UMC, Princeton, and I did a justice piece on the topic of abortion.

The last piece I set out to do was today’s piece on bullying because there are some great educational opportunities coming up in our community on the issue and I thought that they needed to be shared.  I also asked our youth group to do some anonymous sharing about bullying.  (You’ll see their quotes peppered throughout this piece.)

I can’t really say that I’ve been the bully or even seen someone being bullied,
but I’ve been bullied.
You see, one time…most of the boys in my class called me gay…
Even kids my age and younger are getting bullied… I’m standing up to bullies.

One event, being held this evening at the Chuck Mathena Center is led by Keith Deltano and sponsored by the Mercer County Schools called “Bully-Proof Your Child”.  You can learn more about Mr. Deltano’s program here – but it looks great to me and the presentation is free.

One time I was at the mall and I saw a guy screaming at his girlfriend.
She told him to stop and then he slapped her.

Thanks to Christopher Gudger-Raines for reminding me of the following:
On Sunday, October 14, at 5:30 pm, Greenview UMC will be hosting a presentation by the Mercer County Parents and Students Coalition Against Bullying.  There will be free food and child care will be provided for those under 5.

The third event, being held on October 22nd at 6:00 pm is a “Kindness Kounts Parade” being held on Mercer Street.  This event is being sponsored by “Protect Our Kids 2012” which has set the goal of eliminating bullying in our schools and communities for our youth.  They are looking for people to march in the parade and offering assistance to anyone who may need it for this issue.

Parade Information

Kindness Kounts Parade

I would love to put a group together from our congregation to participate.  Anyone wish to join me?

One time, my bully and I were left unfortunately alone in the school grounds.
She asked if she could punch me and I, being afraid of her, assented.
The bruise stayed on my arm for weeks.
(I got the courage to confront her and she denies everything.
She lorded over me; I agreed to it all.)

However, I don’t think I was prepared for the actual flood of memories that this topic triggered for me.

The very first quote…well, it is mine.  I am not sure when the last time I thought about those days were but I know that they were not fun.  I am not sure to this day how much of being told to “turn the other cheek” in Sunday School and church had to do with what happened and my response but I am sure they had something to do with it.  I just know that those were painful experiences that by the grace of God (and walking) I lived through and grew through.  Some are not so blessed…so I am thankful.  I doubt that my experience was unique either…especially when I read the quotes included in this post.

However, I know that this problem of bullying (like many of the problems in our society) have not gotten any better with time.  It is only through addressing the causes and being willing to engage ourselves in the lives of those affected by this problem that we are able to do anything.  And once again, I think the cross of Jesus calls us to reach out to those who are bullying as well as those who are being bullied.  It is not an either/or situation – it is about people not just a “problem.”  And as someone who knows the One who came to “live in the neighborhood with us” I think I have to be about the people…not just the problem.

So today I hope you will say a prayer.  Maybe for yourself and the healing you may need – but also, say a prayer for the children in our community who are affected by bullying and for those who are working to help eliminate this problem.

And I would also add that if there is anyone reading this who needs to talk about what they are going through now…get in touch with me.  I know where we can find help.

A Week for Children…Wednesday (Another Prayer)

Okay…after yesterday’s LENGTHY and hopefully thought and action provoking post, I thought I would tame it down it a little bit again.

I first heard this prayer, written by Ina Hughes, shortly after one of the many school shootings that have plagued our country.  I have used it as a personal prayer, a blessing prayer for children in congregations and as a worship prayer.

This video does a pretty good job of capturing the spirit of the prayer, although with this particular prayer, I am happy with just the text.

Enjoy!

A Week for Children… Tuesday – Let’s Talk About Abortion

Yesterday I shared with you a fairly non-controversial video that I found on YouTube to start the week off looking forward to a Children’s Sabbath on Sunday. That video was safe. It didn’t take much to put it together and it certainly didn’t share much about me – beyond the fact that I truly do care about what violence is doing to our children today. But once again…that’s pretty safe. No risk involved there.

Today, I want to venture into territory that is at least a little more worthy of conversation if not downright risky and yet still has everything to do with children. At best, I hope I can spark some Christian conversation on a topic that seems to me has been captured by our culture. I really hope that this conversation is what begins here today because I don’t pretend to have all the answers about a very difficult issue…I just think that we are going about our conversations about it in all the wrong ways. So, it is my hope that you will read these words with care because they are shared to start a conversation…not to end any relationships!

So, with that lengthy introduction allow me to say that I am not a “Right-to-Life” person as many people define it. At the same time, I want to equally declare that I am not “Pro-Choice” either.

I cannot recall all the conversations, teachings, and books that led me to the discovery that both of these cultural definitions of abortion are wrong. I just know that it has been a long journey for me and one that is filled with as much personal agonizing as a person can have about the issue of abortion. I know that I was greatly affected by the teaching of Stanley Hauerwas on this issue. The book, The Church and Abortion, along with the “Durham Declaration” included in that book has also shaped me. But I have also been shaped by my own journey, my own story, and the stories that have been shared by many friends – both Christian and what I like to call pre-Christian. Whatever the sources of these beliefs, I know that this is where I am today.

I do not hold to the “right-to-life” position on abortion because I do not believe that we, as Christians can claim that life is somehow linked to some legal sense of “rights.” I think when we begin talking about this issue in that way – a way that starts with “rights” – we are forgetting that we are a people who have placed our very lives in the hands of God. In a very real way, we gave away our lives when we were baptized and to claim that anyone has a “right” to life ignores the fact that this is actually God’s domain. God is the one who gives life. God is the one who takes life. It is not a right that we grant to anyone – even ourselves – it is a gift that we receive and a loss that we mourn.

Now, I am not saying that life is not important. It is VERY important. But it should also be shaped by the way we see the world as Christians. In the very earliest days of Christianity, there were Christian parents who would prefer to see their children martyred rather than let then be brought up outside of the Christian faith. THAT is hard for me to imagine and almost impossible for me to imagine doing – and yet it is part of the history to which I am bound as a Christian. Life, and the way we live that life is so very important that there are some things for which we are willing to die. Yet, life is not a right that we have.

At the same time, I find the whole idea of “Pro-Choice” to be equally distasteful to me as a Christian. The very words assume that we live in a world in which all the people share the same playing field, the same backgrounds and the same possibility for their future. If the video in yesterday’s blog post proved anything, it proved that our world is not full of choices – at least not for everyone.

Unfortunately, in the broken world in which we live, some women have to choose between not having a child they conceived and facing a very violent future for themselves and their child. That violence may come in the form of economic hardship or it may come at the hands of an abuser. Either way the violence is real in the way it affects the life of the woman and the child. This is not a real choice…or at least it is not the same choice that someone has who is in a place in life where they are “safe” economically or physically.

For us to say that abortion can truly be a “choice” for any one person is to claim that the world is treating each and every person the same. I am not sure when that ever happens.

So…I don’t like “Right-to-Life” and I am certainly not “Pro-Choice”…where does that leave me exactly?

I think it leaves me looking at this whole issue as one of “hospitality” rather than legal battles and legislation. I believe that as Christians we will only eliminate abortion when we truly begin living out our calling to welcome everyone as Christ welcomed us. This means embracing every child – from a planned or unplanned pregnancy. This means embracing every woman – those who cannot have children but desperately want them as well as those who have had an abortion and are living with it and those who are mothers in any stage of life. This means embracing every man – those who turn out to be good at fathering children but not so good at parenting, as well as men who are great fathers and those men who are suffering from having aborted a child – and yes, you can trust me that this last group of men exist.

I know that I read somewhere that Mother Teresa once said to a group of Americans, “Do you really want to end your fighting about abortion? Then give me your children. I will take all of them…no matter what.”

I think that once WE get to the place where we are able to say those very same words of welcome to every child, woman and man around us – and live those words of welcome with our actions and even the use of our time, money and other resources – then, we can really talk about ending abortion.

Once again, if you have read this far, I pray that you realize that I am not making light of a very real issue. I am simply trying to help us all see it and talk about it in different terms, especially during the week that we celebrate gift that children are to us. I pray that you will give me the grace I need to find the words to get it right.

Wanna join the conversation?

A Week for Children…Monday

This week, as our congregation prepares for our Children’s Sabbath worship service, I want my thoughts and prayers to be with children everywhere.  I hope that I can share with you some ways that you can do the same.

I have long been haunted by the words and melody that make up this song and have only attempted to sing it with a group one time.  It was quite difficult, possibly because it is just so emotionally draining to sing.  However, I love the message of this song and this video artist does a wonderful job capturing the nightmarish images that flash through my mind when I hear it.

“Can you hear the prayer of the children in your own heart…a prayer for love and forgiveness.”

As long as children like these find themselves living in a world filled with Christians, I will always be not quite home…