Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cheerleading -- Diane Mettam

I am blessed. I have a wonderful friend.  I havent seen her in years, but we keep in touch through the wonder of technology, and occasional snail mail, and she makes it a point to let me know when she hears of me doing ministry - often when its something I dont think of as ministry.  Those little kudos mean so much to me - the encouragement, not the praise.  Its the shot in the arm I need when I wonder if what Im doing really makes a difference.

I think back to the story of Abraham. when he was 99 years old and God told him I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations  (Genesis 17:5).  I dont write about Abrahams doubt, I write about the fact he wouldnt live to see it come true.  We often do or say things that are exceedingly helpful, but we dont see the fruits of those words or actions.  But we need to say and do them. 

I have a divorce in my background.  Brad and I will celebrate 39 years of marriage in October, but I was married once before.  My ex-husband and I are very good friends, and he is part of our family.  But we werent good spouses.  I shared that fact with a woman in the church in Bishop many years ago, just an idle conversation.  Several years later, when her husband left her, she told me how much it helped her that I had told her about my divorce.  I had absolutely no idea those were the words that would help someone.  I like to think its the sermons I learned to craft so carefully, the thoughts I share with you each week, the prayers Ive shared in hospital rooms and sanctuaries, but it was a story about my shortcomings. 

Everyone needs encouragement.  Everyone needs a cheerleader.  I tutor children in a combined first and second grade classroom who need help with reading and math skills.  One of my pupils is a child who clearly doesnt receive much attention at home.  When I complimented her on something, I said But of course youve heard that before.  In all honesty she replied, No, I havent.  The compliment was over something so small I cant remember it, but the fact shed never heard it before was a shocker.  This is a child who needs affirmation to take that scared, anxious look off her face.  I pray that as she grows older she will become confident and successful, and remember that her teacher and tutor believed in her.  I have only another month or so to do the best I can. 

There are so many lonely people, so many people shut away, isolated, fearful, perhaps unable to communicate.  This is the season of rebirth and rejoicing in the risen Christ.  This is the time He walked on the earth, showing himself to his disciples and preparing them for the great commission.  Let us prepare ourselves to do the same.

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing  1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Dear Father/Mother God,  Help us remember we are all your children, and we all need encouragement.  Help us to be that person to someone who is feeling lost or overwhelmed, knowing that we might never see the fruits of our actions and words.  Thank you for the brave people who step out in our behalf each day, advocating for those of us who need their stamina and determination.  We are blessed.  Amen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Service dogs -- Diane Mettam

Like many ministers, I have a difficult time with self-care. I would rather be taking care of someone else than thinking about myself, and thats not a good thing.  And so I have Kirby, my service dog.  Kirby tells me if I need medication, if Im overly tired and need to lie down or go home, or if I need to get out of the sun.  He alerts on my arm or gives me a special bark.  We worked with a special trainer and my previous dog, Jake, helped him learn his job.  And nearly every time I am out, someone asks me where they can get a vest like Kirbys for their dog.

This is a problem.  Kirby has been trained for his job.  We take extra care to make sure he is healthy, because he is a working dog.  Of course he receives all his vaccinations, and flea, tick and heart worm medication.  He also receives medication for Cushings Disease, a malfunction of the adrenal gland, and is on a special diet.  And we are constantly reinforcing his training.  Hes not just a pet.

Our city and county have a medallion regulation for service dogs.  They are supposed to be registered either with the City of Eureka or Humboldt County, and this requires that they are licensed, that a physician certifies their medical service, and that the owner specifies what service they perform.  The medallion is free of charge once the requirements have been met.

Im glad for the medallion because it gives business owners the right to ask people to remove animals without medallions from stores and restaurants.  People in Humboldt County love their animals, and they want to bring them everywhere.  Its not unusual to see a chihuahua in a dress in a shopping cart (I hate to think of the sanitary aspects).  Weve been threatened by a pit bull with a studded collar, whose owner stated he was a service dog.  When we asked what the dogs service was, he stated protection.  Fortunately, the store manager made him leave. 

Too many people think a dog that makes them happy is a service animal, and that I should tell them where to get a vest so they can bring them shopping.  Ive tried explaining to them what makes a service animal, and been called some pretty awful names.  But now I just ask, Oh, does your dog have a medallion?  If they answer No, or dont know what Im talking about, I just tell them Im sorry I cant help them. 

I talk to many business owners about the dog problem, and find that most of them dont know about the medallions.  I only found out when I went to license my dogs when we moved here.  So now I make it my mission to let business owners know.  Most of them feel helpless because they believe they have to allow every dog in if the owner claims its a service dog.  When I tell them they can ask to see the dogs medallion and refuse admittance if the dog doesnt have one, they are relieved.  They are tired of dogs that urinate, defecate, menace other customers, and destroy property.   

Are bogus service animals a problem where you live?  I fear were coming to a place where national regulations might be enacted.  If so, I hope they will be common-sense, like the ones here in Humboldt County.

who teaches us more than the animals of the earth  Job 35:11

Dear Lord,  Thank you for the gift of animals who love us and care for us.  Help us to treat them with care and respect, and never ask more of them than they are capable of doing.  Great us wisdom and patience as we interact with our animals and with each other.  Amen.

Photo of Atlas, Eric Pridmore's service dog, a golden retriever.
Atlas -- Eric Pridmore's service dog. Atlas is also the Professor of Dogmatics at the UM Association of Ministers with Disabilities.

Friday, April 17, 2015

When? -- Sharon McCart

When, God, When?

My heart is broken. Again. Once again I have heard the pain of a person with autism. Pain caused by the Church. A person who wants and needs a church home but cannot find one.
A person who just wishes someone would walk alongside and try to understand.
A person who has a deep desire to serve others and yet finds only the expectation of being served.
No understanding that everyone brings a needed gift to the Church, the Body of Christ.
No willingness to receive that gift but instead only concern and fear that this new person will be just another drain on time, energy, resources.
No acceptance or willingness to include.
Just another door shut in a face.

Just another closed heart, connected to a closed mind.
“Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”
Can you imagine? Jesus is knocking on a door and the response is “Sorry. Not interested.” The door stays closed.
Can you imagine? That what is being delivered is a part of Christ’s Body and the answer is “Sorry. Not interested.” The door stays closed.
The Body stays incomplete. And the world stays the same because the Church is not able (disabled!) to serve, to resurrect, to save, to transform?
Because the door stays closed to someone with great gifts. Because all the Church sees is the negative. A negative which may not even be real.
Fear turns us toward the negative.
Christ came to shine light on the positive, and yet we still don’t understand.
The Church needs everyone. Everyone, EVERYONE! When will we learn to open the door and let EVERYONE in?
When will my heart be healed, never to be broken again?
When will the Body of Christ be complete?
When will we be ready for the transformation of the world to begin?
My prayers arise even as my tears fall.
---Sharon McCart, 2015