Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Psalm 139

Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jordan's Success

Today I am going to brag about my son.

He entered the 4-H County Fair. He put in 16 exhibits.

First, they were judged against a standard. He earned 14 blue ("Excellent") ribbons and 2 red ("very good") ribbons.

Then the blue ribbon exhibits were judged against other blue ribbon exhibits for placement. Jordan earned four first place ribbons and a second place ribbon.

Two of his first place ribbons were for cookies -- cutout cookies judged for taste and appearance and decorated cookies judged on appearance only. He was very careful about the decorations and did a really good job with them. He had to bake those cookies all on his own. I just provided a bit of monitoring for safety purposes, but he didn't even really need that.

He got one of his red ribbons for a duct tape creation, a tooth brush holder. He plans to make a wallet for that category next year. I hope our local hardware store has lots of sales on the stuff this year. (Or it would make a good Christmas present...)

His remaining 12 exhibits were in photography. This was interesting. He had earned only red ribbons in the State Competition this year, after two years of taking not only first place but the Big E Award as well. He was rather disappointed in himself and barely glanced at the judging sheets, refusing to look at them with me.

His photo mentor said, "Well, success is a poor teacher." So, up at CYC, I handed over the judging sheets to the photo mentor and he and Jordan went over them. They talked about how to improve the photos and his mentor even disagreed with the judges about one photo.

Jordan took that advice to heart. He made changes to one photo (via cropping) and entered it in County. It moved up from red to blue. Of the other 11, he earned two first places and a second. So all those reds at State, which Jordan saw as failure, became a great learning experience.

I am really proud of Jordan. I am also very thankful to his photo mentor, a professional photographer, who volunteers his time to teach Jordan in an area I can't.

Actually, Jordan has several people in his life like that. I have come to the conclusion that part of parenting, especially in the homeschooling world, is to expose your child to people who will love them and teach them. I am grateful that I have so many opportunities -- most via CYC -- to do that.

Anyway, good job Jordan!

And have a great day everyone.

By the way, if you are looking for a great professional photographer in New England, check out Jordan's photo mentor: http://www.MGNorris.com/

CYC, the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, provides a quality spiritual and leadership development program for high school teens.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Encounter with Racial Profiling

At CYC I expected to come face to face with a lot of things. New people, new challenges, opinions and beliefs that differ from my own. All that happened and I am better for it. One thing I never expected to come face to face with was racism. But I did.

It wasn’t from within the community. We are pretty diverse and we all seem to get along well. At least I haven’t witnessed anything untoward. I suppose we’d have to poll the wider community to find out if there’s anything amiss that might be subtle enough to be below my radar screen.

Anyway, this is what happened. I drove students – two girls and two boys, who both happened to be black—to one of our annual field trips. We got pulled over. As soon as they saw the blue lights the boys, who come from different states, looked at each other. Their hats and sunglasses came off and they sat up straight.

When the police officer approached, he said I’d been speeding and requested my license and registration – and also identification from the kids. The girls didn’t have any – one said she didn’t have a license and the officer asked “Suspended?” “No, I just don’t have it yet.” The officer then left them alone, not even asking their names. One of the boys handed over a school ID. The other said he didn’t have his license on him and the officer had him write down his information – and then questioned his address. I told the officer my license was in the trunk. He didn’t have me get it. He just asked my name. Then, he went back to his car.

We chatted while we waited. Some of the kids were nervous. “Why did he want our IDs?” “I don’t like policemen. They are mean.” I tried to calm them. “This one’s not mean. He’s nice enough, He’s just doing his job.” I didn’t get it yet – though I was finding it odd that he wanted everyone else’s information. The only explanation I came up with was he didn’t want me driving for some reason and I was trying to figure out what to do in that case. (At least one of the boys had a license but campers aren’t allowed to drive. CYC isn’t insured for it and it’s against policy. Another car was waiting for us, though, and they had an extra adult.) But that wasn’t in the officer’s plans.

In the end, the officer didn’t even issue me a ticket. He warned me to keep to the speed limit, gave me directions to our destination and sent us on our way.

I apologized to the kids, but they said it was OK they’d at least get a story out of it. We talked some more. One of the boys had been pulled over for no reason before – he and his brother and a CYC alum who was also black. I must admit it took me a minute. “Well, he couldn’t get anything on you, right?” “No, I hold myself in check. But why should we get pulled over for nothing?” We talked about the IDs the officer requested. I still wasn’t quite understanding the boys’ point of view, -- I was rather slow on the uptake-- but suddenly, I got it. “You’re right. You know, he never even looked at my license and I was driving.”

One of the boys said, “You said he was just doing his job. I said to myself, ‘yea, Melinda he’s doing his job badly’.” That camper was right and I am glad he respectfully challenged me on my thinking.

We arrived and I spoke to other CYC staff. A couple thought it might not be racism since they asked the girls for identification, too, but mostly I heard, “Are you serious? You need to file a complaint.” “Are they OK?” “It’s sad that in this day and age that can be true – and that they are used to it.” “You know why that happened, don’t you? Yeah, you know why.”

I have sent emails to the police department complaint line and to the chief of police. I have not yet heard back from them but I learned that it is not uncommon in Maine for an officer to request IDs from adult passengers in a car. I may have no grounds for an official complaint because of that, combined with the fact that I was not issued a ticket, but at least I will call attention to what happened. Maybe the officer thought the teens were older than they were. Maybe. But I think not. I think this was a case of racial profiling and I am saddened by my encounter with it. And a bit wiser about what a segment of the population goes through. I'd heard about racial profiling before and believed it happened, but I never expected to witness it. Maybe God has a purpose in making me aware of this in such a sharp and definite way. We’ll see.

At any rate, I am praying for change. Change so that good kids like these (one of them was presented with CYC’s highest award the very next day) won’t have to worry about being pulled over for no reason. Change so they don’t have to be concerned if they see a police officer. Change so that we are all treated as we should be.

What have been your experiences in this area? What can we do to bring about change?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you all are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Face to Face at CYC

So I spent two weeks at CYC again this year. Living, learning, growing with 45 teenagers who chose to come to us and the 43 staff who gathered to serve and guide them. Yes, we had an almost 1:1 ratio – counting spouses it was 1:1 plus 1. Part of the reason for that is that we were ready for more students and didn’t want to ask anyone to stay away. Also, thirteen of those staff were “in-training” and one was a support person for another staff member. But we do like a high staff to camper ratio. It helps us give the kids a really good experience and any support they need.

CYC was wonderful this year, as usual. Together, we faced challenges – our chaplain’s serious health concerns that kept him away at the last minute, our low numbers, constant rain for days. We enjoyed each other, cared for each other and grew closer to Jesus.

I had a great time, but God seemed to work with me differently this time around.

Usually I arrive in Ocean Park with a text for my graduation speech. Nothing came to me this year. Before I could get to that, I had to lead the Communion campfire. I usually have an idea for that early, too, but nothing. Finally, as the wood was being prepared, it popped into my head that I should talk about my first face to face encounter with one of my faculty members. I mentioned this to the counselor who was setting up the fire and he said, “Sounds like divine inspiration to me.” So off I went to the faculty member who thought it was fine and prayed with me. I told that story, even starting a song, an activity that is outside my comfort zone. I got good feedback on that. For most of that fire, the students share their own stories and that portion also went well.

I suppose at that point I should have relaxed about Graduation and figured that God would give me what I needed when I needed it. But I still didn’t have any clue what I was talking about. No text. Usually, I am working on the speech last minute but have an outline long before. Finally, I remembered a story about a young alum and myself that had been bouncing around in my head. I told a faculty member – a pastor-- that was all I had and she said, “That’s fine, start there. It’ll work because it’s about staying in touch.” And she was right. The rest of the speech, and even a text, came to me just in time. I doubt it was a perfect speech and it was certainly short, but it was good enough.

As I said, living, learning and growing with the campers and staff. I have been doing it for 33 years and I’m not tired of it yet.

Do you have a story to tell about a community you are part of?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Packing for Conference

So today I begin packing for CYC.

That's the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park. I head up Saturday and spend two weeks at a gorgeous beach with my favorite people.

It's not all play. We are there to give teens a terrific experience of God and to challenge them in a hundred ways. We'll be talking about Science and the Bible, The Holy Spirit, bullying and car maintenance. And about a hundred other things in between.

I just asked on Facebook what I should NOT forget to bring. First answer: Bug spray!!

Too true. I will need that.

But there are a few things I'd like the campers to pack along with their Bibles, banquet clothes and sunscreen.

An open heart -- so that they are ready for people they will meet and the ways they will encounter God.

A ready mind -- so that they will grapple with what they hear and learn and think about it well

A willing spirit -- so that they will step out of their comfort zones and try new things.

What would you find most important to take to camp?

It's not too late! If you are a teen interested in the exciting two week adventure that is CYC, click here or just go to www.cycop.org. It all starts August 7!

CYC 2014 begins August 3! Still a great place!