Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy 25th Birthday, Americans with Disabilities Act!

I was appointed to serve Christ UMC of the Deaf in Baltimore in 1988.  This was two years before the Americans with Disabilities Act became U.S. law.  Prior to the ADA law telecommunication for Deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans was difficult.  One of the most important parts of the law was equal access to communication. 

Deaf people have long had telephone devices that they used to type words into the phone, with the cradle of one of those old fashioned phones laying at the top of the device.  Through the wonders of technology back then two people with TTY’s (“teletype” as they were called) could communicate with English words back and forth using this device.  However not everyone had a TTY or a phone line and Deaf people could not talk to just anyone, like hearing people can.  That is where I got a lot of requests for “favors” from my members. I had a TTY, of course and this is how it went:

“Please call my dentist.  I have to be seen as soon as possible.”  So I would call the dentist and say “Hello, I am calling for Jane Doe and she is Deaf and needs to be seen soon.”  The dentist’s secretary would give me a date and time the next day.  I would call the Deaf person back and they would say “I can’t wait that long.  Please, I must be seen today.”  I would call back and negotiate a better time and it went on and on.  About 25 minutes and four phone calls later the Deaf person had a dental appointment. 

In 1990 when the ADA bill was signed into law a relay system was devised so that a Deaf person wanting to talk to a hearing person who did not have a TTY could call a special number, and a hearing operator with access to two phone lines would type for the Deaf person and speak for the hearing person. A process that used to take 25 minutes now took two minutes. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pressing on in the race to end malaria

“I press on toward the goal," the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, "for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:14) 

Indeed, the Christian life is like a race. The opportunity to do greater and greater works for God is ever before us. And we strive toward the goal of Christian perfection, fueled by our faith in Christ's promise.

The Imagine No Malaria (INM) campaign is pressing on toward a goal as well.  As United Methodists we have pledged to raise $75 million dollars to fund efforts that should effectively wipe out the disease of malaria in our lifetime! The Eastern PA Conference has given much toward this effort in the last 8 years.

In fact, you may recall that the original Nothing But Nets campaign that launched in early 2007 was inspired by the efforts of then-6-year-old Katherine Commale of Hopewell UMC.  Aided by her mother, her church and her community, she initially eventually raised more than $135,000 to purchase and donate insecticide-treated bed nets to protect children and adults in Africa from mosquitoes that spread malaria. Our conference responded by raising more than $250,000. 

United Methodists have not yet achieved our goal, but we are pressing on. So far we have raised $66 million. We are getting close. And it seems only right that we here in the Eastern PA Conference should finish what we started.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Where We Need to Witness

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He replied “it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:6-8

Jesus told the disciples that they were to be witnesses about the good news of salvation. The duty of a witness is to tell what they have experienced and seen.  In a court of law, on TV commercials and in our churches we look to witnesses to tell us their personal story in order to make a decision. We want a faithful witness that we can trust.  
When I am buying a car I always ask my mechanic, who day in and day out works on cars, what he has experienced in the repair shop with various brands of cars.  His experience is the key to his credibility.  Jesus’ disciples were credible witnesses because they had first-hand proof of the resurrection.  Jesus called on his disciples to simply tell what they had seen and heard.

Jesus wants us to do the same.  Christians, you have experienced the power of Jesus’ forgiveness and his Spirit that dwells in you for victorious living. That is what we need to share with people!  So where are we to witness?  Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth!

The disciples happened to be in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ Ascension and prior to the day of Pentecost. This was strategic because soon many visitors from other countries would be coming to Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration of the Jews.  The disciples themselves were from Galilee. Some interpret the use of “Jerusalem” to mean to witness at home first.  Galilee is not mentioned.  Jerusalem is where the most work can be done for evangelism.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Wall

American poet Robert Frost once wrote:


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast...
(“Mending Wall” excerpt)

Recently I visited Germany for the meeting of the Council of Bishops. The words of that poem were ringing in my head, along with the many cathedral bells we heard clamoring on every corner. 


We gathered in the city of Berlin, where we visited many of the historical sites of this diverse city during our break times.  Most notable to me was viewing the remains of the Berlin Wall, built in 1961 and torn down in 1989.  It separated the east (communist) and west (democratic) people of the same country.  The governmental control that was established in the aftermath of World War II gave Russia control of East Berlin and the United States, England and France control of the West.


During the era of the Berlin Wall there was much sadness and separation.  Whole families were unable to be together.  Many attempted to climb over the wall but were felled by fatal gunfire.  Tragically, even children were killed.  Hearing stories of daring escapes and the digging of ingenious tunnel systems were part of the tour of the Berlin Wall that we experienced. 

As the German tour guide led us past the many memorial sites of the wall on that sunny spring day I was struck by two contrasting sensations.  There was the stark horror of this wall’s dark history, but also the pleasant idyllic scene of the grassy lawn where we witnessed children playing and vendors selling souvenirs.  The wall made all the difference.  When there was a wall life was bitter with alienation and death.  When the wall came down life and community sprang forth. But not totally so.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Five Most Hopeful Words in the Bible

I once read that the five most hopeful words in the Bible are this: “And it came to pass.”  What does that mean?  It means that “It came” (whatever it is in life that comes your way) and it “passes” (or goes away).

This winter was full of many snowy and frigid cold days.  The rhododendron plants  in the front of my house were shriveled in the cold.  They looked like brown frozen sticks for weeks on end, and sometimes they were coated with ice and snow.  But it “came to pass!”  This morning in the springtime sun they have perked up and there even are buds of those beautiful pink flowers that will be blooming in a month or two.  Winter has passed, and new life has returned.
During this Holy Week when we journey along with Christ on the road to the cross we already know that death was not the last word.  After Good Friday comes Easter! The sorrow of the cross “came to pass” and death became resurrection.  
You may be experiencing difficulty or problems that seem to drag on like those cold weeks of winter. But look up: “It came to pass.”  Bad times will ultimately pass.  God will see you through!  
Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And Jesus is with you always whatever life may bring.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Maria Solares

During our evening prayers each night my husband and I have been studying the lives of women saints. We use a resource that tells the story of a female saint for every day of the year (Women Saints: 365 Daily Readings, by Madonna Sophia Compton).  This book includes the lives of famous and not so famous women in history who have made a difference in this world. 

Recently we read about Maria Solares, who was born in 1842 in southern California.  Both of her parents were Native Americans from different tribes.  She was raised in a Catholic mission school but always cherished the language and culture of her people. 

Maria assisted an anthropologist, John P. Harrington, in recording much of the language and customs of the Samala Chumash people.   She was able to get training in the field of medicine, and she spent her life working tirelessly for her people, who were pushed off of their land and suffered from great poverty. 

When she died in 1923 she was remembered as “Maria of the Refugees.”   Thanks to the early language work she did with Dr. Harrington and other scholars, the language of the Chumash people is being taught once again to the descendants of this tribe.  Maria’s legacy lives on linguistically and her language of love will endure forever.

I celebrate this un-sung hero during Women’s History Month. What women of history do you celebrate, especially during this month of tribute?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Violence Challenges Our Prophetic Voice

The prophet Habakkuk wrote long ago: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

These words could have been written yesterday.  As we look around there is so much violence:
  •  sexual violence against women as seen in our media and in the lives of professional sports figures;
  • violence on the streets of Wilmington, Del., to the point where people are calling the city “Kill-mington”;
  • violence between Ukrainians and Russian-backed separatists
  • brutal beheadings of Coptic Christians and many other innocent captives at the hands of ISIS;
  • the murder of three young Muslims in North Carolina;
  • violence against people of color and violence against the LGBT community.  
Violence seems to be the operating system in our world for solving our social problems and also obtaining wealth and power. We know violence does not produce the works of God and violence cannot be eliminated  by heaping more bombs on the heads of the perpetrators.

On the contrary, retaliatory violence creates an endless cycle of more and more destruction. Having more guns, more sophisticated weapons, more “stuff” to fight back with does not make us safer.