Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Intercultural Experience at Camp

Jordan went to camp recently and came back declaring he had a great time. He was in the water club, shot the first bullseye in archery, made a beard in the mancave and stayed in a yurt. So he learned skills, gained confidence and got to interact in positive ways with people who are different from him.

Jordan attended an American Baptist camp. Earlier in July, I posted the article "Real Diversity" in which I explained that the American Baptist denomination, like the U.S. of the near future, has no majority ethnic group. We want to set a positive example of how to work out this level of diversity well.

Jordan's camp was reflective of the larger denomination. Five ethnic groups were represented by the ten campers and two counselors in the group. The female counselor was from another country and was the only one to represent that group, all the other groups were represented by more than one person. The group was diverse in other ways, too. There were both urban and suburban kids. At least one child had significant disabilities. The campers had different interests, also, which is why there were three different clubs and a wide variety of activities.  There was one similarity -- the campers were all from Christian families and both counselors were Christians. Worship was a part of the camp routine.

The diversity wasn't planned by the camp. People signed up for a convenient session and were assigned on a first come/first serve basis. I am excited that this was a natural representation rather than an engineered grouping.

Jordan didn't come home talking about intercultural experiences and differences. He talked about friends and activities. That's the way it is supposed to be. 

Camp offers many positive benefits, which is why I send my son and encourage others to send their children.  Interacting with a diverse group 24/7 is one of those benefits.

What opportunities have your kids had to interact with people who were different from them?

God camp for teens -- the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park offers worship, Christian education and fun in an intense -- and diverse -- Christian community. This years two week session starts next Sunday, August 4th, but there is still time to register.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Song for Sunday: On Eagle's Wings

My mother's birthday is coming up this week. She would have been 73. Both of my parents died far too young. When my father died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) back in 1995, the church soloist sang this song at his funeral. My mother decided to have the last line of the chorus engraved on his/their tombstone. So, in memory of my parents, today's Song for Sunday:

On Eagle's Wing

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
Who abide in His shadow for life,
Say to the Lord, "My Refuge,
My Rock in Whom I trust."

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
And famine will bring you no fear;
Under His Wings your refuge,
His faithfulness your shield.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

You need not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Though thousands fall about you,
Near you it shall not come.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

to His angels He's given a command,
To guard you in all of your ways,
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

Do you have a song that you use to remember someone?

Monday, July 22, 2013

(Belated) Song for Sunday: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I had no inspiration for my "Song for Sunday" until late in the evening, so I am posting it today. Sorry for my tardiness.

Last night, my family and I had a lovely dinner with friends. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. At one point we were sitting around the fire pit, making s'mores. The smoke seemed to follow me as I moved around the circle to get out of it's way. We were all laughing about it and someone commented that "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was a favorite song of his. It became this week's "Song for Sunday."

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
"Something here inside
Cannot be denied"

They said someday you'll find
All who love are blind
When your heart's on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

So I chaffed and I gaily laughed
To think they would doubt my love
Yet today, my love has flown away
I am without my love

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
"When a lovely flame dies,
Smoke gets in your eyes."

Smoke gets in your eyes
 Smoke gets in your eyes
 Smoke gets in your eyes
                     ~Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach
Where do you get your blogging inspiration?

Teens -enjoy S'mores night -- along with two weeks of intense Christian community filled with opportunities to explore questions about God and faith on the beach in Maine-- at the Christian Youth Conference  at Ocean Park. This year's dates are August 4-17th and there's still time to register!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Drunk Driving

In 2010, 31% of all automobile fatalities were due to drunk driving. Tom Serewicz and his best friend were two to be included in that statistic. They weren't drinking, the other driver was.

Tom was 24 years old. He loved life and he was a man of faith who loved God and enjoyed studying the Bible. He built strong friendships in the camp and would chat with fellow campers who were feeling down. He was known for raids and plans for larger than life raids (raids are late night pranks) and even brought night vision goggles to the conference one year. Making others laugh was a great joy of his and he enjoyed clowning around. Tom was kindhearted and has been described as a good soul. His friends feel the world is a little darker and a little colder because he is gone from earth. Tom left behind his wife of nearly five years and their two very young boys. Things weren't always easy for Tom, but he was growing into his responsibilities and was a very loving husband and truly devoted father, just starting a new business to support his family.
It is in his memory that I post this blog. It is my hope that no more young women will be left widows, no more small children will be left fatherless, no more mothers and fathers will get that horrifying phone call, no more siblings will have cause to cry because of such an avoidable situation.

Tom is gone because someone made a bad choice -- the choice to drink and drive. Help stop these tragedies.

Here are a few thoughts on how:

-- Remember that your judgment will be impaired if you drink, and you are unlikely to notice. Appoint the designated driver before the party or night out. Give them your keys at the beginning of the festivities.

-- Talk to your teens. Be ready and willing to pick them up, without lectures, if they or their driver have been drinking or doing drugs. Later, you can explain your views on teen drinking but make sure that they know you are proud of them for choosing not to drive drunk and that it was the right thing to call you.

-- And teens/ young adults, make the call when you need to. Better upset parents than you dead. Taxis work, too.

-- Don't forget that if the people you are babysitting for come home inebriated, you can make alternate arrangements to get home. In fact, please do. Your parents won't mind you calling them. Trust me.

-- Be willing to take the keys. If you are the designated driver or witness someone trying to drive drunk, stop them. Sure, they might be mad. But, if they remember anything, they'll probably thank you when they are more clearheaded. And if they don't want to be your friend after that, are you sure they are someone you want to hang out with anyway? At any rate, everyone else on the road will be very pleased.

--Organize an awareness event in town, write a letter to the editor, spread the word that drunk driving is bad.

 I am sure you can think of other things. Whatever you do, thanks for keeping the roads safer.

RIP Tom Serewicz.

I knew Tom through the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park., where he was a camper and I was a staff. He is missed by those who knew him there and elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting Organized -- Kitchen!

Well, I need to organize my kitchen a bit better, but I lacked both motivation and inspiration, to my mind essential ingredients in getting this sort of work accomplished.

Inspiration came from a blogging buddy's post. I highly recommend this article if you have organizing to do.  I began to take baby steps and the motivation is coming along.

So far, I cleaned out a few drawers and started using one of them as a new home for oven mits and hot pads which used to clutter a section of the counter.

I moved the blender to a more convenient spot.

I cleaned the top of the bookcase and then the underside of the shelf above it and hung up some herbs to dry.

I also started to use more canisters. I had three full ones -- holding whole wheat flour, white flour and sugar -- and five empty ones. I have now filled two canisters with tea bags. One of those canisters is actually labeled "Tea;" the other says "Coffee." Well, we don't drink coffee at my house, but I figure this canister won't mind being "re-purposed." Another canister I filled with rice and I plan to use one for lentils. The fifth, a tiny one, will remain empty for the moment.

I have a lot more to do, especially rearranging pots and pans. Things are going in fits and starts, but I feel like I have accomplished something. Onward and upward!

How about you? How are your projects coming along? Do you have any organizing tips to share?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Things Done...

My boy's at camp.

I must say I am a big fan of camp. It gives kids a chance to try a bit of independence along with new activities. They get to make friends. If you choose a Christian camp, like we did, they get to grow in Faith.

Summer camp is a tradition for many families, but enrollment has been declining. A tough economy has taken it's toll. I have to say though, that their are cheaper options. The article I linked to their mentions a camp that offers a two-week session for $1,160. CYC, the high school program that I've volunteered for, charges $775 for two full weeks and has a generous financial aid program. Because of a grant, we can even offer free camp for students who live in Boston, MA or attend Boston - based Baptist Churches.(We aren't specifically Baptist; the grant providers set the terms.)

Camp can be seen as an investment. It's preparation for college living, for adult independence. It aids in character development and helps children to develop close relationships outside their families. Through my camp experiences, I met friends in junior high with whom I am still friends today -- we pray for each other and for our children who are now campers at the same camp.

If there are younger siblings in the home, sending older kids to camp can give you time to focus on little ones and if all the adults at home have to work, camp can provide much needed childcare.

You will want to find a camp that fits your family -- your interests, values, etc. You will need to check into supervision and safety policies. But I strongly encourage you, if you have children or teens at home, to consider camp.

As for me... I am getting things done this week. I have some painting to finish up in two bedrooms, including my son's. I am a ministry student and will be preaching next Sunday so I can focus on that. I'll be organizing, exercising and taking a break from chauffeuring. This is also a benefit of summer camp. Moms do need breaks. Not from parenthood specifically but from day to day responsibility. From nagging and driving and overseeing homework and chores.

Not that I don't miss my son. I do. Big time. But I know this is good for both of us.

And I am getting things done.

How about you? Do you/did you send your kids to camp? Did you go yourself?

If your convinced about camp and want your high school aged son or daughter to try CYC this August. click here. Two weeks of worship, learning, fun and friends a 1/4 mile from the beach? What's not to love?!



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Song for Sunday: Come Holy Spirit, Dove Divine

The second Sunday of June is "Judson Sunday" for Baptists in Burma. The congregations there plan celebrations in memory of Adoniram and Ann Judson whom they see as their spiritual parents. This year mark the 200th Anniversary of the Judsons arrival in Rangoon so the festivities will be exuberant this year. The major observance, however, is being held in December, because July is the rainy season. In December, Baptists from around the world will gather for four days of worship, remembrance and fellowship.
Amidst his other accomplishments (his translation of the Bible in Burmese is still in use), Adoniram wrote this hymn which is included in Baptist hymnals to this day.
Come, Holy Spirit, Dove divine,
On these baptismal waters shine,
And teach our hearts, in highest strain,
To praise the Lamb for sinners slain.
We love Your name, we love Your laws,
And joyfully embrace Your cause;
We love Your cross, the shame, the pain,
O Lamb of God, for sinners slain.
We sink beneath the water’s face,
And thank You for Your saving grace;
We die to sin and seek a grave
With You, beneath the yielding wave.
And as we rise with You to live,
O let the Holy Spirit give
The sealing unction from above,
The joy of life, the fire of love.

Click here to hear the music to this hymn, which was composed by H. Percy Smith and is used for other hymns as well. 

For a quick overview of the lives of  Adoniram and Ann Hasseltine Judson, try this article and this one.  The books Bless God and Take Courage by Rosalie Hall Hunt and To The Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson are recommended for further study. 

Or if you are a teen come to CYC and learn their story there. Our men's and women's camps are named after these amazing pioneers of the faith. This years dates are August 4-17, it meets in Maine and there is still time to register!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two Hundred Years Ago Today

It was July 13, 1813 that Adoniram and Ann Judson first set eyes on Rangoon.

Already, they had experienced much adjustment and loss. Ann's best friend Harriet Newell, just 19, had died in childbirth. Ann's baby had been stillborn. They had not been allowed to stay in India. Following their consciences, they had switched denominations and now were unsure of their support.

Ann was so weak she couldn't stand. Adoniram was weary and depressed.

These were the eyes through which they first saw the pagodas of Burma. It was the dreary monsoon season. The streets looked drab and dirty to Adoniram's eyes and that's what he conveyed to Ann.

Ann had to be carried from the ship. They went to the home of Felix Carey and found that he was away. Servants made them as comfortable as they could. With rest and prayer, their spirits rebounded and they began to see the beauty and possibility around them.

These pioneer missionaries went on to accomplish much and to suffer much for the kingdom of Christ. They never gave up, never turned back.

If you would like to learn more about the Judsons, I recommend Rosalie Hall Hunt's book, Bless God and Take Courage. It is highly readable, even for younger folks and contains much information about the Judson's lives and legacy.

Who do you see as role models of the Faith?

I first  learned about the Judsons at the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park. If you have teens, they would enjoy this leadership development conference that provides an experience of Christian community on the beautiful southern coast of Maine. This year's dates are August 4-17th and their is still time to register.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Multicultural Experience --Sort of

How did you hear about the Conference? Do you go to this church?

I heard that question a lot today. I was a guest speaker at a conference and was, for much of the time, the only white person present.

I had a great time. I was speaking to (and re-enacting for) a national youth and young adult group. They have a direct connection to the woman I re-enact and their host church had invited me. They are first and second generation Americans. This group was using English, unlike their parents down the hall.  They also dressed like typical American teens and twenty-somethings and their t-shirts proclaimed American interests. This makes sense. They grew up here. They fit in at their schools and colleges. In some ways this was not an intercultural experience because we all share American culture.

 On the other hand, these young folks enjoy their annual weekend conference when they gather as Christians of their specific ethnicity, so much so that they are resisting attempts to make it biennial.

From the moment I walked in this morning, I was welcomed, even by people who didn't know why I was there. I was greeted, directed to the food line, spoken too by everyone. People were curious about my presence, though. I kinda stood out.

Finally, my contact was located, I was given information and shown to my room. Everyone smiled, everyone was friendly. The youths included me in their worship and games.

I couldn't quite get over a sense of being "other", though. Probably because I was.

I mean, yes, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, yes we all live in the same country,  speak the same language and know the same songs. Still, they were gathered because of ethnicity and I was different. Which is part of what intercultural worship, ministry, and cooperation is about. Being different together.

When I was done speaking I stayed for worship and then excused myself when we got to a long break.

I had enjoyed myself and was grateful for the chance to be part of the celebration.

When have you been involved in an event for another culture?


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eco-Friendly? Take a Close Look!

I was at a shop the other day and a display of gardening supplies caught my eye.

Amidst the pesticides there was a bottle labeled, along with it's brand name, "Earth Options." It was a pale green color and was decorated with pictures of  flowers, while the others of the same brand were black or red and sported an aggressive stream of liquid and a dead bug. It proudly declared that it's active ingredient was derived from chrysanthemum flowers and that it was suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Enough to intrigue an organic gardener, which appears to be its intended audience.

Look close though. In the small print, the label informs you that the product is potentially hazardous to humans and can be absorbed through the skin. It is toxic to aquatic life and so must not get into runoff. It may, according to the label, enter run off "for weeks." It is toxic to bees and special precautions must be taken not to spray it when they are around.

This doesn't sound very environmentally healthy.

Of course, nowhere on the label does it say that's "organic," "eco-friendly," or even "safe for children and pets." But I am pretty sure it was meant to look that way.

So keep a close watch on your products!

What deceptive labels have you seen?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Today's my wedding anniversary. I have been married 19 years.

Going with one of the main themes of blog the last few weeks, I will mention that I am in an intercultural marriage. I am an American of European extraction. My husband is English. We met at church while I was teaching at an international school in London.

Most people wouldn't really think of us as being a multicultural family, I suppose. I remember attending a lecture in London on teaching third culture kids. The speaker told us that families usually figured that England would be an easy transition from the U.S., but it never was. Parents and kids still need to get used to a new school system, a new medical system, a new bed, and, yes, a new language.

Seriously, if you compliment an English woman on her "pants" she'll take offense. "Pants" in England are men's underwear. Then there are zebra crossings, smart clothes, flats. A "store" is a closet; you go to a shop. Tea isn't just for drinking, it's also the evening meal.

Oh, and if a six year old asks you for a rubber it's fine. They just want to erase a mistake.  Etc, etc, etc.

English and Americans think about money differently. English people will wait longer in line without getting impatient. Different sports (how does cricket go again?) different ways to look at holidays (is Valentine's Day for kids or isn't it?). The differences go on and on.

So, I will say I am in an intercultural marriage. And I love it.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Song for Sunday: Blest Be the Tie that Binds

We sang this hymn at the church I was visiting this morning. It's a song commonly used by Baptists at communion services and my son has known the first verse by heart since he was little.

This morning we formed a circle, holding hands, in the center aisle of the church and sang the first verse in unison. We lifted our hands during the second half of the verse. Joining hands reminds us that we are family, united in Christ. Lifting our hands reminds us that the tie is formed by God.

  1. Blest be the tie that binds
    Our hearts in Christian love;
    The fellowship of kindred minds
    Is like to that above.
  2. Before our Father’s throne,
    We pour our ardent prayers;
    Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
    Our comforts, and our cares.
  3. We share our mutual woes,
    Our mutual burdens bear;
    And often for each other flows
    The sympathizing tear.
  4. When we asunder part,
    It gives us inward pain;
    But we shall still be joined in heart,
    And hope to meet again.
                  ~John Fawcett, 1782
                   Public Domain

What songs remind you of unity? What musical traditions do you participate in?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Craft Time: Giant Chess Board

I found myself needing a giant chess board.

I am the parent advisor/teacher for my son's chess club and we like to do dress up and have a live action game now and then. Last year we used painter's tape and a permanent black marker on a white plastic table cloth. It was a one time use solution and the squares were too small (1 foot).

Then my son started helping a family friend plan a Harry Potter party, based on the Sorcerer's Stone. They needed a giant chess board for one of the scenes.

I volunteered to make one. I wanted a reusable board that would stand up to child use and provide enough room for live action players to stand comfortably. I started by searching for used sheets via my friends, freecycle, etc. It didn't work out.

I ended up at the fabric store with a small budget. I discovered some heavy "eco felt" (made from recycled stuff) marked way down from it's usual price. Bingo!

 It was 72 inches wide and I bought 4 yards of black and 4 of white. My son and I cut out 64 eighteen inch squares (32 white, 32 black).

The next part was the most daunting part for me. Honestly, sewing 60 straight seams sounded tedious. Afriend volunteerd to help. (Thanks, L!!) Things are friendlier and quicker with two, and in one evening, fueled by chocolate mint fudge, we sewed 16 strips of four squares each, alternating black and white. We used 5/8 inch seams, but any seam size will do as long as it is consistent.

A few days later, I pressed the seams open so they wouldn't be bulky.

Then, I sewed four sets of four strips together with right sides together, being careful of the checkerboard pattern.  I ended up with four pieces of 16 squares each. Again, I used  5/8 inch seams.
 I had considered various options for connecting the four pieces. I thought of Velcro (too likely to gather dirt), zippers (expensive and time consuming at 6 ft each) and sewing. In the end, I borrowed a solution from a blogging buddy: Duct tape: (Check out: DIY Cheap and Chic Outdoor Area Rug). This solution allows for maintaining the board in four pieces which are easier to store than one whole and the pieces can be washed at home, rather than in the commercial size washers at the Laundromat.

To use this solution:

Put right sides of two pieces together, being careful to preserve the checkerboard pattern. Pin the seams together:
 For each square, stretch duct tape from seam to seam on one side.
 Lift and press the tape down on the other side, forming a seam. Remove pins.
Repeat this with the other two pieces, taking care that this new side matches the checkerboard on the other side.
Then, pin and duct tape the two sides together, being careful to remove the pins. You then have a ready to use chessboard:

We look forward to using our chessboard many times. I hope this is helpful if you ever need something similar.

What crafts have you made lately?

First six photos by J. Parry. Final Photo by J. Brown.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Real Diversity

As I mentioned in my last "Song for Sunday" post I spent the end of last week at the Massachusetts Baptist Multicultural Ministries' Intercultural Conference and Multicultural Festival.

I also mentioned in that post we had been reminded there that real diversity is hard. The U.S. is on the way to having no majority ethnic in the fairly near future. The American Baptist Churches USA is already at that point.. We count people of multiple races, cultures and ethnicities in our churches, ministries and missions program. We hope to set an example for the future U.S. and be a beacon of how to manage diversity well.

But it's not easy.

So at this conference, we worshipped and ate together. We enjoyed music and dance from each others'  cultures. We witnessed a beautiful multi-church believer's baptism service, with six candidates making a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. And we talked.

We talked about how to get along, how to share ministry, how to overcome barriers.

Language of course is one barrier. Within the US, English will eventually be the "lingua franca" that will allow us to communicate with each other to a point, but new immigrants and refugees will often need their native languages at first. Also, many people new to English will wish to, and should,  worship in their "heart languages."

Still their is much we can do together, especially outside the doors of the church. We don't need to have the same first language to serve together.

Another barrier is -- well, cultural differences. Sure they are rich and we want to celebrate them, but they can also lead to misunderstandings. Fear of making a misstep, being misunderstood or causing insult unintentionally will sometimes -- often-- keep us from interacting with another culture. At my table at the "Conversation CafĂ©" we discussed the need to be willing to take risks and engage with a new group. We also talked about the receiving group needing to be willing to offer grace -- something Christians should be good at.

One speaker talked about what she considers to be the main ingredient for successful multicultural ministry -- maturity. We all need to be willing to step back, especially when we feel we have been hurt. We need to ask ourselves, was that meant to be hurtful or does that action or phrase mean something else in their culture? Are they trying to be difficult or do they just have a different way of doing things, a different view of time or a different method of conversing?

Here's the thing: we aren't trying to make everyone the same. We don't want  a melting pot, we want a tapestry with various cultures maintaining their unique identities even while we are being woven into a whole. So we need to interact with each other on that basis.

And we can. I know we can. Besides, it'll be good practice for Heaven where:

".... I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb[Jesus]. " 
                                                                                                    ~Revelation to John 7:9

God's kingdom will be and already is multicultural.

What has been your experience worshiping, serving and interacting with other cultures?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Facebook

My son now has a Facebook account. We allowed it primarily so that he can have access to his photography group without going through my account and so that he can keep in touch with geographically distant relatives.

We are, however, limiting who he can friend. It's a very short list. Family and a few friends from church and CYC. That's it. Also, he does not have his password yet. He can only log on with a parent. He also has to be friends with his parents.

This isn't just -- or even primarily -- a concern over "safety" and "appropriateness." Those are factors. Jordan needs to learn how to deal with dangerous situations in all contexts, including online. It's also important for him to recognize when something isn't appropriate for him to see --whether it's just for now or ever -- and look away.

There's another aspect of social media that needs to be addressed and is probably the most important. My son needs to learn how to present himself online. Whether he is updating his own status, commenting on someone else's or sharing a link, he needs to think about how others will perceive it and if he's sending the message he intends. Is he coming across politely and respectfully? Is he being unintentionally hurtful? Could his phrasing be clearer?

Some of this will be learned by trial and error. That's part of the reason for starting with a small friends list. These are people who will "love him anyway" if he missteps. I will also be giving him some guidance in these early days so that he understands the why of certain things and doesn't go too far out of line.

That's not to say I'll be constantly looking over his shoulder. Unless he asks for my help with wording, private chats and messages will be for him and the recipient. Only if he gets a message from someone he doesn't know or one that makes him feel uncomfortable is he required to disclose it. It's the more public stuff I want to help him navigate.

I also want to ensure that he doesn't become either overwhelmed or "obsessed" with online stuff. I see that as a parent's role.

Gradually, we will release full responsibility for my son's online behavior and connections to him. Our hope is that this time of training will prepare him to make wise decisions.

What has been your experience with young teens online?


Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park (CYC) is a quality two week leadership development program for high school teens. Meeting for two weeks in August on the beautiful southern coast of Maine, it offers a blend of worship, Christian education and recreation. Check it out!