Saturday, February 11, 2006

An Essay from My Daughter- "My Modern-Day Ben Franklin"

My modern-day Benjamin Franklin is my grandfather. Like Ben Franklin, my grandfather has worked throughout his life to help other people.
For most of his life Grandpa worked as a manager for institutions owned by the Lutheran Church. He supervised many people and always tried to make their lives better. He helped employees with their problems quietly and patiently.
After he retired, he began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Not only does he regularly help with carpentry he also helps families with their financial planning so that they can pay for their share of their home. One woman he helped was a single mother with two children. She didn’t know how to create a budget or manage her bills. With my grandpa’s help, she and her family were able to have a house for the first time. My grandpa also serves as the treasurer for his county’s Habitat for Humanity organization. He keeps track of the accounts and helps the group make smart financial decisions.
My grandpa is very active in his church. Three years ago he helped them remodel the church building. He designed the plans for a larger kitchen, a bigger worship space, a new dining room and handicapped accessible bathrooms. He worked five or six days a week for many months doing carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. A local builder estimated that Grandpa had saved the church at least $10,000 by serving as their building contractor for free.
Like Benjamin Franklin, my grandpa has traveled around the world. He has been to 46 of the United States and more than twenty countries around the world including China, Russia and Israel. One of the reasons he loves to travel is that it has helped him to appreciate the many things all people have in common.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Take your Evangelism Hat out of the closet!

This artwork is entitled "Leper Cured" by Ian Pollock. The text for this Sunday is from Mark- the teller of the "Messianic Secret". After healing a leper, Jesus says, "Don't tell." But the guy can't help it. He tells EVERYONE. Pretty soon, Jesus has to hide out in the boonies because he's getting overwhelmed by the crowds. Why aren't we all more like the man who couldn't keep the good news to himself? A number of years ago I wrote a sermon for a friend of mine. (There were other people in church too. But the sermon was for her.) She had recommended what she deemed to be the "Best Eyeliner in the World." She was so excited about this product. Everyone should have one! She couldn't contain her enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I was playing it cool and keeping my evangelism hat in the closet. I knew she was struggling with some things. I was pretty sure that church would do her a world of good, but I was being shy. After a little soul searching, I got my hat out of the closet and wrote her sermon. I told her that she needed to get serious about finding a church home. She listened. And for a while, she had a home in a congregation that was dear to her. Things have changed though and now I find that the hat needs to come back off the shelf. Maybe she'll read this. But I think Jesus would want me to make a phone call.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Woman in the Pink Shoes

This summer I was driving around Philly and saw a Muslim woman crossing the street to her car. She was dressed in black, head to toe, in her hajib- except for her accessories. She had on Barbie Doll pink shoes. She had a matching bag and a pair of styling sunglasses. She has stayed in my imagination now for a good six months. All too often I wish I was as brave as that woman. I wish I was willing to wear something a little different. Something that couldn't help but get me noticed. My wardrobe looks so suburban mommy, midwestern, comfortable. The pink shoes had spiked heels. They were not made for comfort. They were meant to make a statement. I wanted to pull my car over and ask this woman what made her so interesting. And that's the thing of it all. The pink shoes made me assume that this woman was interesting, funny, clever, smart. What do my black suede Birkenstocks say about me. That I like to be comfortable? I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover or a woman by her footwear. I just can't help but be curious about the woman in the pink shoes. Maybe I'll wear my red leather Birkenstocks tomorrow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Watch out for those box cutters!

I cut my thumb today at work. Basically I did it with a fancy box cutter. After watching it continue to bleed despite a butterfly bandage and a certain amount of gauze- I headed for the emergency room. (Worker's Comp will get to pick up the cost for three stitches and a tetanus shot.) I have to admit, I've wondered how much damage one could do with a box cutter. Not that I am looking to do any damage, but they have always seemed less than scary looking. But having now made a good sized slash in my thumb with what is known in the bookstore trade as a "label scraper" I have much more respect for what a box cutter can do.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Is it time to get a tattoo?

About three years ago, my best friend and I challenged my daughter. If she would get her ears pierced, my friend would get her cartilege pierced and I would get a tattoo. My daughter refused. What were we crazy!?! And now, at age 12 and three quarters, my girl has gotten her ears pierced. So now she's wondering about my tattoo. Does the deal still hold?

Storycorps, NPR and Olvera Street

When I lived in Chicago (a mere 8 months ago) my favorite radio station was WGN. I loved the quasi-liberal banter and the frequent, but not too frequent news and traffic reports. Having moved to Philadelphia, I have found no replacement, so I have returned to NPR, my favorite station when I lived in the Ozarks. This year, NPR has been engaged in a wonderful activity they call "Storycorps." People from across the country are doing brief interviews with friends and family members- one on ones- that shine like little gems in an otherwise bleak radio landscape. I encourage you to tune in to your local station or check out NPR's website to listen to a few of these pieces. (Please excuse the run on nature of this post as I am having trouble with my "carriage return" for some reason.) Tonight I went on NPR's site to see if I could track down a "Storycorps" piece I heard on Friday. One quote stuck with me in particular. The woman was remembering her mother's last months and said that as she left one day, her mother said, "It's been nice knowing you." Not a flip comment but a heartfelt, genuine reflection on how good it had been to know her daughter. It came to mind again tonight as I read RevBirdSong's post on her own mother. (See Unfortunately, I could not find the story I was looking for, but instead found a piece on Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Oh, Olvera Street! As a child, this was the place they took you for a fifth grade field trip. Our family also went several times and it is like no other place I know. It's just one street, several blocks. The oldest street in Los Angeles. But what amazed me the most, is that when I returned there after 30 years- it smelled the same! A wonderful smell of leather goods and really good Mexican food. My sister and I could hardly wait to find an open restaurant! The food was so good we refused to swap tastes and I think we scraped the plates clean! There are days I long to go back there just to have one more taste. It was that good. Or maybe it is the memories that make it taste that good.