Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Integrating the disintegrated

The challenge of Christian education is to integrate what sin has disintegrated.

In Creation, man was given an integrated, holistic view of himself in relation to God, to others and to the rest of creation. In the Fall, when man sinned, that world-and-life view was disintegrated and now we must work hard to have the right view of ourselves in relation to God, to others and to the rest of creation. It is only possible for those who are in Christ in Redemption, but it will not be perfected in us until Glory. So how do we integrate through education what sin has disintegrated?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I am the youngest of five kids in my family. Now when I say kids, please bear in mind that we are all in our forties at this point. The progression is girl, boy, girl, girl, boy. I live in close proximity to the eldest, although the third sister is only a couple of hours away. My brother lives in Wisconsin and my other sister is in North Carolina.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seeds of Hope

"Planting a Harvest One Seed at a Time" is the motto of the Seeds of Hope Food Pantry that operates from the basement of the Beacon of Hope Church of God in Bangor, Maine. Every Thursday from 10am to 1pm, the pantry is open to patrons that qualify for assistance, but the day begins much earlier than that for the hardy staff of the pantry.

Many days the first workers arrive at 6:00 a.m. to begin transforming the Sunday school and Youth room into the food pantry. The little basement includes a corner kitchen, a tiny nursery, a bathroom (not available to the public and sometimes too full of boxes and racks for even the staff to use), and a half dozen portable wooden dividers used to provide artificial separation that many small churches experience as they make the most of limited space.

There is one door for coming and going. Only work staff are allowed in and out before 10am. The director of the pantry, Mr. Isaac Mann, comes and goes with the truck, collecting from donors and delivering to the pantry as the rest of the staff sets up the tables and positions the dividers. Each of the regular staff members is assigned to a station. He or she must set up his or her own station, displaying the goods available that day.

Three of the dividers are used to show which way patrons should go when they first enter the pantry. The old upright piano shares a similar function, blocking one corner of the room to give order to the entryway. Every patron turns left at the end of the piano and signs in at the registration table; returning patrons are assigned which weeks they can come for assistance and must show their pantry-issued cards when signing in.

From that point, they go from one station to the next in an awkward loop through the basement, selecting what they want from each section (within the posted limits). Some experienced patrons bring reusable shopping bags while others use the plastic bags donated to the pantry and sorted to make sure there are no holes in them.

Patrons make just one loop through the setup, so they must remember to look at the tables on each side of them to acquire all the goods offered. The first station on the left as they leave the registration table is dry goods. Oftentimes, there are quart-sized ziploc bags of dog food, followed by an assortment of toys, calculators, markers, bath & body products and more. On the opposite tables they find clothes or snack foods.

As they turn the corner to the right (about twelve feet down the line from the registration table), they come to the breads and pastries. Breads include white and wheat, oat nut, rye, bagels, english muffins, brown 'n' serve rolls, hamburger and hotdog buns, and more. Some days there is a limit of two from that table, while on other days patrons can have four or more. The pastries table has cookies, round cakes, sheet cakes, bite-sized treats, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and more.

Ten feet further and it's time to turn the corner again. The inner tables, the ones to the patrons' right, continues with snack foods, typically. In the warm months, ice cream is often available. The rest of the year, it's wafers, digestive biscuits, juice boxes, and the like.

The outer ring of tables has the meat, literally. At that last corner is a container of drinks--soda and bottled water, mostly. Then there are a series of coolers from which the patrons can choose "heat & eat" foods such as rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, cheese & broccoli, and so on, all packaged to give equal servings to each patron.

After the coolers are the vegetables and fruit, including squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, onions, bagged spinach, lettuce, green beans, broccoli and salads. Then there are sandwiches or small containers of chicken salad, fruit, and the choice of meat- and cheese-ends. Finally, bags of potatoes top off the offerings of the day. When the patrons reach the potatoes they are at the door again, ready to be on their way.

The pantry staff members stand at each station, giving friendly directions and smiles to the patrons. Some staffers walk through the line with patrons, carrying their bags and then helping them to their cars.

A local pizzeria donates lunch to the staff every Thursday, and the fellowship time is refreshing after the labors of the day. Then it's time to clean up, put the basement back in order for youth group and church.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lord, have mercy!

My heart has been saddened recently by the abandonment of the Lord by people I know. Some I have known for more than twenty years. A number of Bible passages come to mind at times like this.

Galatians 6:1: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." Lord, have mercy!

Galatians 6:7-10: "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Lord, have mercy!

II Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." Lord, have mercy!

There is so much more in Scripture to be explored on this, but the refrain of my heart, the pleading of my soul, is the same: Lord, have mercy!

Back to Vicki

Vicki was kind enough to post a reply to my blog message about her devotional book, but because I did not log onto my blog from late October until today (except once, very, very briefly), I did not see her message to me until tonight!

My wife picked up Vicki Caruana's devotional book from the desk today and asked where I got it. I told her I'd picked it up a couple of years ago.

"Is it any good?" she asked. In response, I flipped through the pages to some of the readings I did with the teachers shortly before I got done at the school. She liked what she heard. The selections spoke volumes to our staff and to me of where our foundation must be in our vocation.

Vicki, thanks again!

The Axe Fell, The End Has Come, It's All Over

The school board kept me around to start the school year, and while my contract did not expire until December 31, my usefulness was done long before that (can anyone say "lame duck"?). As of the week of Thanksgiving I was half-time, and on December 3 I was out the door.

I have been available to the interim administrator for technical issues that she has encountered, and my younger son is still enrolled in preschool for the rest of the year, but that is where my involvement ends.

While it has been a painful parting, I am thankful that I serve a God that knows the future, holds the future in his hands, and holds me in his hands, too, so I am trusting him to guide my steps. There was a generous gift from the families of the school the day I left, and I am deeply grateful to them for that. We are well supported by family, friends, and our church family. God is taking care of us.