Holy MOLY!

Do a Hopeful Thing

A recent post on Facebook from a high school friend decried all the bad news happening around the world. She wondered what folks were doing in the face of so much seemingly hopeless tragedies such as ISIS, Ebola, the death of college co-eds, etc. As I thought about her question, I was reminded of a quote by a priest and peace activist, Daniel Berrigan. When asked how he was able to remain a person of hope in the midst of so much violence and war, he answered simply, “I stay hopeful by doing hopeful things.”

Emotions take energy. Always feeling overwhelmed and even paralyzed by bad news both near and far can be draining, exhausting, and ultimately even numbing. Choosing to channel that energy into hopefulness by doing hopeful things can be energizing and life-giving. Recently I’ve been very fortunate to have many opportunities to practice hopeful things. I cannot stop wars raging around the world but I’ve been able to befriend students from Afghanistan and other countries whose lives have been turned upside down by violent upheaval. Friendships with people who have known such suffering up close and personal helps ground me as I learn from them courage and resilience. I cannot stop multi-national corporations from taking over small businesses all over the world. But I can listen to the success stories of small communities who have banded together. In places like Nicaragua, communities have created their own cooperatives and fair trade factories as they work together to improve the lives of their village. A woman from such an organization, Julia Vallejos, shared her story at LC this week. Go to this link to read more about her organization.

I cannot wave a magic wand and improve the conditions of people living in Haiti, one of the poorest countries of the world. However, I can contribute to the efforts of those who live each day on that island as they work tirelessly to better themselves through education, agriculture, and other positive development. One way to share in this hopeful venture is through the 14th annual Hike with Haiti as we walk along the Black Water Creek Trail. We reflect on the miles walked by our Haitian brothers and sisters every day as they traverse great distances to get water at the spring, to buy charcoal at the market, and hopefully to go to school for the fortunate few who have access to education.

In my visits to Haiti over the years, I never cease to be amazed by the creative energy of the people from Matenwa whose community learning center we support.

This past summer I participated in a local summer camp where children learned everything from basic science, to playing guitar, to weaving purses from recycled gum wrappers, to building stools, to growing vegetables. Lacking certain basic skills myself, I simply offered to play games with the campers using cards, dice, puzzles, and balls that didn’t require a shared spoken language. We spoke laughter instead.

Those interested in “doing a hopeful thing” for and with Haiti are invited to walk with us on Sunday afternoon. (Meet at Chapel 12:30 p.m. Van shuttle to bike trail. Return by 4 p.m.) Hikers are asked to contribute $10 to support the community learning center as well as “House of Love” an orphanage founded by Ancito Etienne, an LC sophomore from Haiti. If you can’t join us on Sunday, you can still be a person of hope by sending a contribution through campus mail to the Chaplain’s Office. Checks can be made out to LC with “Haiti” in the memo line. If you prefer online donations please go to this link.

Yours in Hope,
Anne

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Prayer for a Rainy Day

Holy One,
On this grey day I celebrate the nurture of the rain.
I grow tired of dampness and mud puddles.
I am chilled to the bone.
I am weary of wet shoes.
I am tired of plastic slickers.
My umbrella is almost too soaked to protect me.

I celebrate that the earth and your people need water.
I need to drink and wash.
The food I eat depends on the rain.
I confess that I would change my environment today.
I am so tired of wet that I doubt the holiness of nature and balance.
I confess that grey weather greys my spirit.
I crave the joy of never-ending sunshine even though I know it is not sustainable.
I confess that I want the rain to stop even though there are those who know drought.

Help me to remember today, right now, that rain is a blessing.
Warm my heart.
Cheer my soul.
There are so many blessings that come in disguise,
so many blessings that I fail to recognize,
so many blessings in my life that others with less yearn for.

Holy God of rain and sun, of cold and warmth, of grey days and brightness,
I am here amidst the puddles waiting to understand, open to looking beyond my own immediate needs, willing to serve. Rain Your blessings upon me.
Blessed Be and Amen.

Posted in Stephanie

Aging Well

This fall break I will be visiting my 85-year-old mother in Wyoming as she continues to recover from a broken leg. Her injury was sustained as she rode her beloved moped around the neighborhood. Last Friday night I had the privilege of attending a dinner honoring a 92-year-old parishioner from my husband’s church for his lifetime achievement in the glass industry. The thin glass we all take for granted on cell phones, lap tops and flat screen TVs was this man’s invention. Earlier in the week we had dinner at Westminster Canterbury where our hosts, all in their late 80s and early 90s, regaled us with tales of their life adventures. One visited Central America in the volatile 60s, another traveled all over the world as an agronomist setting up projects for the World Bank, and another keeps up with the latest political and religious happenings, locally and around the globe.

As someone who spends most of her waking hours working with young adults, I found this past week to be enlightening and inspiring. The wise elders that surrounded me had so much still to offer. While their physical bodies may be beginning to diminish, their spirits were lively and energizing. I was reminded of the theory of Episcopal priest and theologian, Matthew Fox:

Fox wants to retire the word retirement (there is a hint of tiredness in the term itself) and substitute refirement.” For him that means tapping into the fire in the belly, the passion that spurs creativity and compassion, the zeal that makes every day an adventure.*

This fall break many students will be returning home to visit family members, including grandparents and other older relatives. I hope that time will be made in busy schedules to literally sit at the feet of these wise ones. To listen well to their stories, to recognize the richness of their life experiences, and to thank them for their many contributions to family and community life. And as I visit with my mom, I will pray for patience, recognizing that aging also carries with it special challenges that I can’t begin to understand, but that I can at least attempt to appreciate. For should I live a long life myself, I will one day be an elder surrounded by the young. May I live my life now in such a way that when re-tirement becomes an option, I will choose instead to be re-fired up about those issues I hold dear and those relationships I treasure.

*From SpiritualityandPractice.com

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and when I think about the lives on this campus that have been touched by breast cancer, the numbers are hard to bear. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer; even more have a scare with a lump or a follow up mammogram. Think of how many children and families, how many friends are touched. Take a moment to consider the women in your life who have died, who have battled, and those who have survived.

Get educated. Help those who are in treatment. Love those who are surviving.

Here are some prayers that I have on hand that I wanted to share.

Freedom from Suffering

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.
The Buddha

Blessing When Receiving Chemotherapy

Blessed are You,
Compassionate One,
For giving me
these droplets of
(name of chemotherapy drug),
Like refreshing dew
and healing rain,
may they save my life.

Diann L. Neu

For Cancer Sufferers

O God, mighty giver of life
You are able to sustain what you have created:
we ask you to heal the ills of those who suffer from the threat of cancer.
we ask you to restore the physical body
and also to cleanse the minds of the ill of worry, fear and despair,
that both health of body and joy of soul may unite
to undergird and uplift those who suffer,
and so place them within the range of your healing power;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Please get your mammograms and encourage the women in your life to get their mammograms. AMEN

Blessings, Stephanie

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The Path to True Happiness

My oldest son, Bob, has been in Thailand for almost a year, teaching English to a classroom of middle school girls. Having never lived abroad before, he was ready to embrace the culture and take advantage of all the beauty and richness the country has to offer. What I, as his mother, didn’t realize was that this journey would take him to new spiritual realms and explorations.

I jokingly asked him the first month of his tenure had he been to Mass yet? Knowing Catholicism was not exactly rampant in Thailand, he laughed and said, “Oh yeah, Mom. I go every Sunday.” I knew this was not the case but I wondered if he would miss his Christian connection to the parish or others.

Over the course of the year Bob shared some of his experiences visiting Buddhist temples and learning to meditate. As an anthropology major, Bob has always been fascinated with learning about man and his culture. This seemed to be a natural extension of this passion. What I didn’t realize was that Bob was stretching himself by asking questions about God, his relationship with God, the world, and where he fits in. I became interested in knowing more about Thailand and Buddhism.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew and still know very little about Buddhism but I have tried to read about it while Bob has been there. Catholicism has always been my faith life. As a Christian, I struggle with the notion that Buddhism isn’t a religion per se, but more of a philosophy, a way of life and that there is no God. What about God? What about Jesus? To whom do we worship? For whom may I be Christ in helping? How could Bob find this new philosophy appealing?

In reading about Buddhism, I found that while Christianity is not at all like Buddhism, I could find elements that I respect and do incorporate into my life as a Christian. One website summed up Buddhism as “leading a moral life, being mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom and understanding.” In my summation, Buddhism can lead individuals to a way of life that leads to true happiness. Being Buddhist depends more on understanding than faith. Buddhism teaches that solutions to our problems are within us, not outside. The Buddha asked his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves by following their Noble Truths. ln this way, each person decides for him or herself and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. Buddhists are also very concerned with sharing compassion with others and learning from others to better understand themselves.

I can certainly respect and live with that! Who would not want a life of true happiness based on living a moral life, seeking wisdom, understanding others and being compassionate? Bob has certainly reiterated how kind and hospitable the Thai people have been to him. Perhaps this Christian writer can learn a few things from her son and from those tenets of truth that he has come to embrace.

Posted in Kaky

A Mother’s Musings on Marriage

Musings On MarriageThis past Saturday I experienced one of the most profound events of my life – the first of my three children’s marriage. Zachary, our second son, wed Molly, the love of his life. As a chaplain I probably officiate at almost a dozen weddings a year, but none have come close to the celebration of one of my own. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the sense of joy that permeated each moment of the weekend. While not every member of Zach and Molly’s extended families could attend, those that did traveled at great sacrifice of time and resources and did so willingly and wholeheartedly. Friends from as far away as Seattle made the trek in support of the newlyweds, and memories were shared even as new friendships were formed as everyone gathered together.

When the time for the mother and son dance arrived during the reception, I found myself even more emotional and sentimental than I had imagined. As the words to “Forever Young” serenaded our movements, I thanked Zach for the man he had become and the new daughter he had brought into our lives. In welcoming Molly into our family, we were gifted with a new community of her loved ones as well. Love shared is multiplied a hundred times over at a wedding.

Read more ›

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In an Emergency? Attention Faculty, Staff and Students

The test for the emergency warning system just went off again…must be 9:55 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month. It used to go off at 10 a.m., but faculty requested that it be moved to the transition time between classes instead of right at the beginning of class. Led by Campus Safety and Security and the Crisis Management Team, Lynchburg College’s response is impressive for both day-to-day emergencies and the occasional crisis.

If you ask folks of a certain age, “Who you gonna call?” they will reply, “Ghostbusters!” On-campus emergency personnel, LCEMS, Safety and Security, the Dean of Students Office, Spiritual Life and all of the other folks that work together in emergencies can only make calls if we have the number. Stuff happens to members of the community while they are on campus. People have medical emergencies, they fall, and they trip. When accidents happen, it is often someone in Spiritual Life who reaches for the phone to make a call to family or a close friend. This is my plea: Please update your emergency contact information in the CDS.

I have two “in the field” experiences that are not scientific, but seem to ring true. First if you do not have emergency contact information in the system, the more likely you are to need it. (Maybe the converse rings true – you can cut your risk by simply updating your data?) Second, the longer you are at LC, the more likely it is that your information needs to be updated. You may no longer have a landline at home, you may have changed your cell number, or you may have different friends. We may also need to contact you if someone else has an emergency, so please update your own information as well.

In any given week we may a have few people hospitalized, a member or two of our community loses a loved one, and ankles get sprained. This community is so good at caring for each other, praying for each other and providing support. It really humbles me – the prayers, the meals, the cards that are shared between faculty, staff, and students. Please take a moment to hold campus community members that you know are struggling in your prayers, take a moment to remember those whose lives were changed September 11th, and take a moment to celebrate those in this community who offer you care and support….

…NOW, please go to MyLC to check that your cell phone is in the data base and that your emergency contact is up-to-date. And while you are there, check that your E2Campus emergency notification contact is up to date as well!

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

First World Problems

One of my favorite youtube clips is entitled:
“When Kids In Third World Countries Read First World Problems”

During this short video you see children as well as men and women in Haiti describe actual complaints from First World people. In the background you see typical settings in the developing world….small cinderblock houses, washing clothes by the rocks on a river bank, dirty and dusty roadsides, with pigs and chickens in the background. You get the picture. And these are some of the complaints that are shared:

  • I hate when my phone charger won’t reach my bed.
  • I hate when my leather seats aren’t heated.
  • I hate it when I go to the bathroom and I forget my phone.
  • When I leave my clothes in the washer so long they start to smell
  • When my house is so big I need two wireless routers
  • When I can’t walk and text at the same time.
  • When I leave my charger downstairs.
  • I hate it when my neighbors block their wi-fi.
  • I hate when I tell them “no pickles” and they still give me pickles.”

This short video is actually produced by an organization that works to bring clean water to places like Haiti and India. Its intended effect is to help us hear ourselves in a new way, to understand our own struggles from a different perspective, to make us stop short and re-think not only our complaints but perhaps our lives and our lifestyles.

In a campus setting our complaints might include laments such as:

  • I hate it when my professor piles on the reading.
  • I hate it when my sorority hosts an event the same time as my soccer game.
  • I hate it when they take away Roly Poly and replace it with Dominos.
  • I hate it when the new student center isn’t open yet and there is construction mess everywhere.

When I start to whine myself I do well to be reminded that according to a new study from Harvard and the Asian Development Bank, only 6.7 percent of the world’s population are college degree-holders. We are all part of a very privileged community that enjoys not only food, water, and shelter but also the luxury of an education that helps us develop our potential, opens doors and opportunities, and provides us with knowledge and skills to help address some of the world’s real problems.

So the next time each of us find ourselves complaining, may we pause and consider our situation from a more global context and put our challenges into perspective. It really could be so much worse.

Peace, Anne

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Spiritual Life Fair Wrap-Up

Tuesday late afternoon I hope you had an opportunity to join the Spiritual Life staff on the Dell. There were a variety of activities—coloring mandalas, walking a labyrinth, making prayer beads, meeting a new friend in the ball pit, meditating, seeking safe space, and blowing the shofar. I hope you got one of our first ever Spiritual Life T-Shirts and that you can follow the motto, “Prays Well With Others.”

UntitledMaybe you were able to help build the prayer wall, an interactive center that allows you to take a prayer or leave one. You can respond to joys and concerns in your life or on our campus. You can offer a new insight or respond to the faith questions that are posted. Its new home is in the Chapel narthex (right inside the main doors).Untitled2

The staff of the Spiritual Life Center is made up of chaplains, a Hillel director, the Catholic Campus Minister, our Baptist Campus Pastor, organization staff, and faculty/staff advisors. There are about 15 of us. Our goal is that each and every student has some spiritual growth during his or her time at Lynchburg College. No one will assign you a specific path—it is up to you to seek which path or paths to follow.

So, if you made a connection with something at the fair that interests you, fantastic. If you have a system of meaning, a religious tradition or faith practice, please pursue it, but if you want to know more about what Spiritual Life has to offer, please find us (lynchburg.edu/spiritual-life or at the corner of College and Brevard). If you need help connecting with a local place of worship, we can help you get a ride. If you want to worship on campus, check out the Quaker meeting, InFaith Protestant Worship or Catholic Mass on Sundays. Join one of the many Bible studies or 14 fellowship groups.style2Untitled3

Blessings, Stephanie

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Victimhood or Responsibility?

This past week I had the privilege of participating in the 5th Annual John G. Eccles Leadership Summit. Almost 200 student leaders came together from a variety of clubs and organizations to learn about topics such as public speaking, planning events, social media, and diversity. One of our keynote speakers was Dr. John Walker from our Educational Leadership program. Dr. Walker described two kinds of leadership languages – one of Victimhood and one of Responsibility. I have been challenged by his presentation ever since as I examine my own way of being in the world.

How often when something goes wrong, when the best laid plans are thwarted, when things don’t pan out as planned for, or results are disappointing at best, do I look outside myself for the cause of the problem and play the victim card? How much easier is it for me to blame someone else rather than to look inside and ask myself how I might have contributed to the issue at hand? I’ve heard it said that whenever you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back to you. The Christian scriptures offer similar wisdom as Jesus challenges us to recognize the log in our own eye rather than focusing on the speck in the eye of our brother or sister.

As we begin a new school year I’m hoping to embrace the responsible approach to the challenges that await me. If I feel myself frustrated or overwhelmed, disappointed or critical, I’m going to take a deep breath and ask myself two questions:

  • What have I possibly done myself to contribute to the problem at hand?
  • What can I do now to improve the situation for the better?

I recognize that there are real and legitimate times when all of us have truly been victimized and treated unfairly. In these situations I do believe we have both a right and a responsibility to name injustice and oppression and to seek a just solution. However, victimhood can also be a knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate situation that keeps us from learning valuable lessons and moving forward.

Hopefully all of us who were fortunate to enough to hear Dr. Walker and the many other positive presentations at the Leadership Summit last week will be role models of responsibility rather than victims and blamers. May we welcome this new academic year with a spirit of positive engagement and an attitude of gratitude. Let’s Do This!!

Peace, Anne

 

Posted in Anne