Friday, July 17, 2015

Listening -- Diane Mettam

I come from a long line of busy women.  I have been brainwashed from an early age to believe that if I am not constantly moving, then I am lazy.  I have always volunteered for every project that caught my fancy, not because I felt I had to, but because I loved it.  So you can imagine how it feels to be set aside.

I am in my ninth year of Medical Leave.  At first we all anticipated I would be off for six to eighteen months. But it didnt work out that way.  Complications arose, courses of medication took longer than anticipated, and side effects led to organ damage.  Ive long since concluded that I probably wont return to parish ministry before retirement age.  And that is difficult. 

So is fatigue, and pain.  Now I dont mean this to be a whiny or why me column, and I dont think Im trying to justify why Im not as busy as I still think I should be.  I guess Im trying to explain how hard it is not to be able to do as much as I want to do.  But Im figuring out theres a place for this. 

Because I am forced to be less active, I have learned to be a better listener.  When people ask if I have a minute, I can honestly answer I have an hour.  Because I have had to rest my eyes, I have knit two charity sweaters - I dont have to look closely at what Im doing when Im knitting, and I find the action soothing.  And, I can pray for the eventual recipient of the sweater.  An added bonus is that the woman who gave me the pattern was a beloved member of the church here in Eureka who recently returned home to God, and I think of her as I knit, and I smile. 

I have had time to enjoy the wildlife feeder in my back yard, and to watch the juvenile squirrels as they leap back and forth across the feeder trays and squabble with each other.  Theres a rat living under our deck, and as we try to find a humane way to convince him (or her) to move elsewhere, its fascinating to see how it can slip into an impossibly small drainage hole in our deck. 

A bird eats at a bird feeder -- it's in Michigan

Although we are in a drought, we still have the morning fog which sustains our redwoods and most of our native plants, and it is so peaceful to sit and admire them.  I am grateful for this time to appreciate Gods handiwork.  I confess that if I were on a normal schedule, I would be too busy to notice these things, and far too busy to take up my knitting needles. 

I keep the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
    my body also rests secure.  Psalm 16:8-10

Prayer concerns:
           A new ministry launch in Cross, NC a woman who has a disability herself, and three children with disabilities, has been invited by her pastor to start a disability ministry.
           All the Mission U disability courses that will be taught this coming weekend and for the rest of the summer for the leaders and participants, for open hearts and transformational learning.
           A new Respite program for adults with dementia that is trying to get off the ground and bring in more participants at a UM church in Fayetteville, Georgia
           Final preparations and safe travel to Dallas for the upcoming annual meetings for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries Committee (July 23-26) and the DisAbility Ministries Committee (July 30 August 2) 

Dear Lord, What amazing ministries are springing up around the country!  We are so grateful that hearts and minds are opening to your love, and all your children are finding places in your kingdom.  Help us to learn to discern your calls to busyness and to rest, to learn to see and appreciate all the beauty that surrounds us, and to find joy in whatever the work is that you place before us.  Amen.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Fitting In -- Diane Mettam

First, I want to thank Tim Vermande for faithfully sending out a weekly reader, so to speak, of insights from around the web (to receive this e-mail, join the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities group at Yahoo, or follow the Disability Ministries Committee page on Facebook) .  Each installment opens my eyes and my mind, and often my heart, to someone or something new.  But recently I was saddened to read a post by a young man named Matt, Ten Reasons People With Disabilities Shouldnt Go To Church. 

It brought me back to a place I had been a few years earlier, where I couldnt seem to find a place to fit in.  It seemed I wasnt wanted in the choir, or in the pulpit, or even in the sanctuary.  Even my service dog raised complaints because his tags made noise.  But I am in a new place now, in a church that worries about how to meet the needs of each person who enters the doors, and to make sure the doors are accessible to everyone. 

It reminded me of my friend Bridget, who quit going to her church when the priest refused to make the restroom accessible.  Bridget is a paraplegic and doesnt have much choice in restrooms.  Her priests vehement, and very public, stance on accommodation made her feel unwanted and abandoned. 

I thought of my friends Sean and Dan, who for a time were driven 40 miles to my parish in Independence, where they knew they would be welcomed and comfortable.  But the realities of getting up and getting ready for a 9:30 church service 40 miles away were tremendous, and impossible to maintain on a regular basis.  It was a shame they had to travel so far for a church home.

Some of the reasons Matt states for staying away from church are meant to be humorous, but some are not.  People with disabilities may be a minority within the church, and may carry baggage.  We may look different, or make other people feel uncomfortable.  We are probably in the minority.  But are these reasons to stay away from all that church can give us? 

I looked at photos from the early days of the ADA movement this week.  There were people, mostly in wheelchairs, chaining themselves to doors and crawling and scooting themselves up the Capitol building steps, protesting in front of non-accessible buses.  Why isnt church worth that kind of effort?  What can we do to make it so?

I was glad when they said to me,Let us go to the house of the Lord!  Psalm 122:1

photo showing a series of ramps leading into the sanctuary of North UMC in Indianapolis, a 1931 Gothic-style building

Dear Lord, I am so grateful for you, and your presence in my life.  I am so grateful for the church family that I have here, that calls me and prays for me, and smiles at me and squeezes my hand and my shoulder, conveying your loving touch.  Help us to spread that loving touch beyond our church doors, so that others know they are not alone, and long to become part of our community, rejoicing when we go to your house. 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. . .
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.  Psalm 84:1,2,4