Monday, April 25, 2016

Meme-ic Monday: Serving and Leading

Just a reaction today:  I believe this.

It reminds me of Christ's teaching:  “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9: 36b

Let us first be servants. It is what we are called to do. 

God bless your day. 


On Mondays, I will be posting and responding to memes, one each week. They will be ones that grab my attention, perhaps either resonate with me or annoy me. If you see a meme you would like me to react to, let me know.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Song for Sunday: A Penguin Drinking Tea

Today we have a silly children's song, the kind that helps get the wigglies out of small, active kids.

So how did it become a Song for Sunday? It played a prominent part in our tour of the Lower Ninth Ward. We had been to Gavez' Goodies and seen the barber shop, grocery store, future laundromat, and future internet cafe. We'd been to the memorial with it's poles, model house, and engraved stone. Then we went down to the area where the Make It Right Foundation, Brad Pitt's organization, had built homes. Awesome homes with eco-friendly systems and the ability to float if the waters rise.

It was there that we met Jo'an, a boy of about 8 who showed us how well he could ride his bike and how fast he could run. He just happened to be out when we walked by and decided to be friendly. So down by the levee, in front of the spot where the barge went through, we decided to entertain him for a few minutes. One of our group lead us in this song, with Jo'an joining in. It was fun.

Here's how it goes:

Leader:  Penguins Attention! (all stand to attention)
Leader: Penguins Begin! Right arm (all move right arm out and back, slapping thigh lightly)

All: Did you ever see a penguin drinking tea?
Take a look at me, a penguin you will see.

Leader:  Penguins Attention! (all stand to attention)
Leader: Penguins Begin! Right arm, left arm (all move both arm out and back, slapping thigh lightly)

All: Did you ever see a penguin drinking tea?
Take a look at me, a penguin you will see.

Repeat, adding right foot, left foot, turn around and nod your head.

We didn't get video of our group singing this, but here's a link to a video of the Girl Choir of South Florida doing it.


 What children's action songs do you like?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Words

When you visit a place, you learn new words. It's not really what you expect when you visit a section of your own country, where the speak the same language as you. But it's true none the less.

Here are a few words I have learned, or learned a new meaning for, this week.

hurrication -- evacuating for a hurricane, usually just for a few days. (hurricane + vacation)

neutral grounds -- these are what we call "islands" or "medians" in my area; raised places in the center of a road

krewe -- a group, or more formally a Social Aid and Pleasure Society, which organizes carnival parades and events in New Orleans. Many are also 501(c)(3) organizations that perform charitable acts. One such is taking parades to nursing homes and children's hospitals.

culinary medicine -- a new concept in medicine developed by a professor at Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans who is a medical doctor and chef. The idea is to teach healthy nutrition as preventative medicine. At Tulane, medical students are required to do a rotation on this which includes cooking and hands-on learning in nutrition.  Tulane is packaging this curriculum for other medical schools, who are sometimes sending students there for the course. We learned about "culinary medicine" when we visited Liberty's Kitchen a teaching program for homeless youth which gives them self-esteem, life skills, culinary arts training, jobs in the food industry and opportunities to study for work they want to do.

We are actually learning a lot on this trip -- my husband and son have been gaining tons of construction skills. We've tried new things (like poboys and real jambalaya) and stepped outside our comfort zones. (See my rat story.)

We also feel like we have been productive in a a wide variety of ways. While my men have repaired a house, I've served at a food pantry, done an intake at a transitional housing facility, sorted beads for reuse, and done office work at a school. Nothing large or exciting, but hopefully helpful.

What new stuff have you learned recently? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beads, Beads, Beads

New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras is known for beads (among other things.)

Today was a day when two things that are important to me came to the forefront of our work here: the environment and opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities.

The Mardi Gras Recycling Company is one of several projects run by the Arc of Greater New Orleans. Tens of thousands of pounds of the beads thrown from parade floats during Carnival Season are put into collection bins and sent to the Arc. There, workers who have intellectual disabilities sort, band, and bag them. Then they sell them back to the krewes (groups) that run parades. Today, a number of us helped them for a few hours. 

This isn't really recycling, it's reusing. That's even better for the environment, as recycling takes significant energy and can put things into the environment that might be better left out. It's worth noting that even with this project and a similar one in the city, most of the beads still end up in landfills. Since the beads are plastic, they'll stay there forever. Quite sad, really. 

Another thing to note is that the workers at the Arc get at least minimum wage, not the piece or percentage rates of sheltered workshops. They also receive training so they can get better jobs later. 

We also toured the French Quarter today and learned a new word. More on that tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, we learned that while the unsavory or risque aspects of Carnival & Mardi Gras get tons of press, much of it is very family friendly. 

What programs do  you know of that do well helping the environment or people with disabilities or both? What causes are important to you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Today's Impressions (Our Mission Trip)

It's "Transformation Tuesday" for the website of the youth conference I volunteer for. Thanks to a terrific fellow worker, the new site looks great. Check it out: CYCOP.ORG.

Here in New Orleans, I am seeing signs of a different type of transformation. We toured the Lower Ninth Ward and saw many new homes, including several built by the Make It Right Foundation. They'll float if the waters rise again! Learn more here:

We visited the memorial, right next to the bridge that the residents could have left but were stopped from crossing the bridge. They went home and climbed on their roofs to wait. In the 1, 000 died in the lower ninth ward.

So much is going on here. It's wonderful and yet sad. So much was lost, so many people died.

One place we visited was Burrell's. Mr. Burrell has opened a barbershop and grocery store. He has plans to open a laundromat and an internet cafe. These are the only such services in his neighborhood. He told us that if he is the only one doing it, he'll build up the area on his own. We were overwhelmed by his story,

What examples of transformation have you seen lately?

CYC is an amazing experience of Christian community and discipleship training for high school youth. This year's theme is "Maximum Impact: Life Transformed by Christ." We meet two weeks in August on the southern coast of Maine. If you're 14-18 years old, join us!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Meme-ic Monday: Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans is recovering slowly from Hurricane Katrina. As of last year, the 10 year anniversary, only 34% of residents had returned to their homes in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area hardest hit when the levees broke. 

But that's pretty well known.

My family and I are in New Orleans for the first time, working with a mission team from our American Baptist region. Some members of our team have been coming for years. 

A team member, who started coming shortly after the storm, worked at school today. She said it was wonderful to see schools and children, because in the immediate aftermath there had been so few,

Two small groups worked at construction sites, helping to rebuild homes that were damaged in the storm. One homeowner is still in Texas. The other is living in part of her house, although a member of that team said it "wouldn't be livable by our standards."

Me? I encountered rats. Assigned to a food pantry, I thought I would be sorting, boxing and distributing food, and I did for part of the time. However, we arrived before the food and we were asked to clear out a room, sending some stuff to a thrift store and throwing out garbage. Rat droppings were everywhere. I found a dead rat. Other team members saw more rat bodies and a live one. They moved a huge box of popcorn kernels, the rats' main food source we think, out. 

While the room was swept, I moved over to organizing food boxes and dividing large bags of rice into small ziploc bags. 

But what really stands out about the day was the appreciation. I and another team member were introduced to the food pantry customers as people who had come down to help after Katrina. There was a wave of thanks on the people's faces. 

And then there was lunch. We had brown bag sandwiches, but Miss Brenda figured we would want New Orleans food and cooked fried chicken and jambalaya just for us. Delicious. (Alright we were a tad nervous, because of the rats. but we got over it. That stuff was cooked in boiling oil ,, and, boy, did it smell good!!)

So today's meme reminds us of the slow progress rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward. Behind it there are stories, so many stories. You should visit. These people need to tell those stories. And they are very grateful for the chance to tell them to new ears. And appreciative of whatever work you can do. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Song for Sunday: Blueberry Hill

My family and I are spending a week volunteering in New Orleans, helping to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. Yesterday, we traveled here. My husband, an orchestral violinist, noted that our airline layovers read like a checklist of the best symphony orchestras in the country: Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago.

When we stopped at the Cleveland Airport yesterday, we were reminded that the city is where Rock & Roll got started. We even bought cute little guitar pick necklaces to support Cleveland Relay for Life. 

But New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. 

This spirited music grew out of the black cultures of this city, and is the named after the Creole word for African dance. It combines forms from blues, rock and other types of music. It started in the 1920s and united young people of different races and cultures in an artistic community. 

One of the many musicians to hail from New Orleans is Fats Domino. He stayed home during Hurricane Katrina and lost many possessions. His famous white piano was destroyed and its remains are now displayed in the Louisiana State Museum. 

Here's Mr. Domino singing "Blueberry Hill" by Larry Stock and Al Lewis with music by Vincent Rose. It's today's Song for Sunday.

What songs do you associate with places you've traveled?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Meme-ic Monday: When Syrian Refugees Move In

Refugees are big on the political scene and sometimes it's hard to remember that they are not "statistics" or "issues" but mothers, fathers, grandparents, teenagers, infants... people.

Many countries have blocked Syrian refugees or limited the number that can enter the country. They have done this for a number of reasons, but big among them is safety. There is a fear that DAESH members or other terrorists will slip in among them.

This meme captures attention by responding to people's fear... what should you do if Syrian refugees move into the neighborhood? There are those who would expect there then to be advice on how to protect yourself. But this means goes the other way. It calls us to reach out.

Subtly, with a picture of the Statue of Liberty, it reminds us that America has been a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees, whether they are fleeing hunger or hostile political regimes.

It also references a Biblical Parable: "The Good Samaritan," found in Luke 10. The statement is correct that we have the choice to be like the Samaritan or "some other guy." In Jesus's story, there were two other guys, both Jewish religious leaders, who walked on by. The Samaritan was the hero.

He also was unsure of the outcome when he intervened. The man who had been robbed may have been using the 1st century equivalent of ketchup to fake injuries. He may have harmed the one who tried to help. But the Samaritan helped anyway.

Back to those people who want to shut out refugees as a safety measure: that seems to be backfiring on them. DAESH (ISIS) is now taking advantage of the desperate situation of the tefugees and their sense of helplessness. They are recruiting in the refugee camps, promising great rewards. A man who can't feed is family is vulnerable to such advances. So policies that keep people out are leading to a more unsafe situation.

So let's be "Samaritans." For safety... and because we should.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Song for Sunday: Three Little Birds (Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright

I spent the weekend at my job for the School of Ministry. One of the students, Linda, offered a neat devotional on Bob Marley's song "Three Little Birds."

THe song reminded her of the passage in Matthew 6 that says:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The two go very well together and the devotion was a much needed reminder.

Thanks, Linda.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Song for Sunday: Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling

I was at a school building yesterday for a competition my son was in. (Proud mom alert: He took the red rosette -- second in the state for his category of 4H visual presentations. Excuse me while I burst a button or two.)


Trend Enterprises "Excuse Limit 0" Posters, Large

At the school their were several signs like this one, reminding students not to make excuses about missed homework, shoddy work, inappropriate behavior etc.

                                                                                Today's Song for Sunday, a hymn from church this morning, reminded me of those signs and of the fact that Christian have no excuses for not working toward the kingdom of God.         

"Let none hear you idly saying,
'There is nothing I can do,'
While the multitudes are dying
And the master calls for you."

What songs have caught your attention lately?