Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Can an old woman dream a dream?

My research project has become my baby.  I am not sure that the baby has been delivered or if it is in the need of a skilled obstetrician with forceps.  Nevertheless, it is my baby.  As a mother, I know that your baby is your baby from the moment it is conceived.  It is yours – you love it, you dream and hope for it…

It’s that way with my research project.  I have agonized over this project.  Like Sarah in Genesis, I have watched surrogates get their degrees and launch.  I have waited - barren.  When my Abraham produced his research project, it was I who for countless days sat at a kitchen table pregnant, entertaining other children, cooking, cleaning, laundry – typing on an IBMSelectric typewriter – delivering page after page of charts and data.  It was I who labored over that research project as if it was my own.  And it has… it was the surrogate that produced jobs, income, and success for our family.  It has borne much fruit – fruit that few realize was the result of my labor as well.

Now I have conceived.  Now I have a research project.  An image of me in a doctoral hood is beginning to focus.  Like the pregnancy test that confirms what you already know, the University has approved my project.  I am ready to collect data. 

Foolishly, I had thought that with all the people I know it would not be difficult to find 75 people to participate.  Even my doula – my adviser said: “With all your contacts around the country, this shouldn’t be a problem.”  I thought she was right.  I so foolishly thought that taking a total of an hour and ten minutes during the course of six weeks was a small request.  Most people I knew participated in a Bible study … so that was not difficult – a survey of 20 minutes?  I’d do that and more for a stranger trying to get a project done.

I feel like a woman about to give birth surrounded by her family and friends but they all turn a blind eye and ear to my pleas for help.

This is painful.  This has brought tears to my eyes and cracks in my heart.  I don’t handle rejection well.  Like Isaac, this is my long dreamed of and waited child – I have waited so long to complete this degree that life withheld from me for so long.

I've regrouped several times trying to find the right marketing tool only to be constantly rebuffed.  If my child is ugly, tell me how to fix it?  Don't just tell me she's ugly... If you don't understand - ask? rather than assume... 

I'm baffled, confused, and frustrated.  

Offer incentives?  What?  Is this a carrot and stick?  Perhaps if I were asking for money in return from a drop of water from the Jordan (or my faucet) I'd get a taker. I could send out prayer clothes.  Or an official WWJDwFB? bumper sticker, key ring, or necklace?  It would be easier to take an offering than ask someone to help a fellow believer with an hour of time.

I said to someone yesterday that it was hard for me to believe that in all of Christendom, there were not 75 people who would help me.  Let me be clear, there have been some absolutely wonderful people who have stepped up to help.  For them, I am so grateful.  Many are not close friends and yet they’ve been willing to offer any help they can…

But I don’t have enough.  It seems to be the pattern and story of my life – just never enough.  Perhaps it was foolish for an old woman to dream dreams – I am reminded of Yom Yahweh:
Joel 2:28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 
But can an old woman dream a dream? Perhaps there is no place for an old woman to dream a dream.  Perhaps the baby in my academic womb will die.  Perhaps as some have suggested, it will never work – It is un-survivable – it is doomed from the start.

I don’t know.  I know I have a dream.  I know I have a baby growing inside of me - I have longed for it and have invested in – it is viable but will it be born?  I can only hope and pray and push and push.  But if no one helps, it will die.  

My research is about Christian community - the lesson may be that Christian community doesn't really exist.  I'm having a very hard time experiencing it now.  My husband said last night, "everyone wants a piece of you and you've given and given - but no one has time for you."  He's not a believer - this speaks volumes to him as well.  

The tears are flowing... again.

If God collects tears in His bottle, isn't the bottle with my name on it full yet?

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8 

Returning to Learning

My name is Andrea York and I want to be a trophy wife. Every Wednesday, I join Joyce and the other Kingdom Bloggers on Wednesday for a weekly commentary of various topics and I write regularly about kingdom living on my own blog, Write Down the Revelation


More than January, September has been the truer ‘fresh start’ for me. Whether or not, you are governed by the school year September promises new things. New school supplies (for my Boy), new clothes (also for my Boy), new classes & programs through the Parks & Recreation board and new ministries at church. I see friends that I haven’t seen during the summer because our kids are busy in 10 different directions. Churches are full once again (or not) after people have returned back from their cabins/cottages and RV trips.

After 10 months of routine, I look forward to summer for less structure but being a fairly structured and organized person, two months is about all I can take without yearning for order and routine in my days. By mid-August, the days are still nice but we already experience a chill in the air in the evening and the days are starting to shorten.

September is back to school and back to routine and I’m looking forward to that. The biggest reason? I like my days when I spend time with the Lord, uninterrupted; or at least not interrupted by anything other than distractions of my own making.

My life feels decadent, like it’s a gift. I joke when I say that I’m a lady of leisure but it’s true. I work but I work so little that when someone asks me if I work, I say no and then I remember twice a month I receive money in exchange for a few hours a week of editing for a marketing company, working from home.

I’ve been in seasons where I was involved in church leadership and ministry but for the past two years (now going on 3), the Lord has kept me hidden to ‘be still and know’. Aside from normal household duties, nothing has been required of me so I spend my weekdays reading and studying the Word and worshipping. Except for Thursday – Thursday is my cleaning day.

My Man looks at the practical side and wonders if all my study and worship will lead to an income. I smile sweetly and tell him that I do not believe for a second that all my intense time with the Lord is simply for my own benefit. In due time, I will be asked to freely give as much as I’ve freely received (such as I am already doing by blogging). And then I remind him that God has always provided so whether I make money is no concern of mine.

So this September, I look forward to returning to learning. As my Boy enters a new grade and he learns new things, I turn to Jesus when he said, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Okay Lord, I’m ready.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leaf Peeping and Maine Baked Potatoes

Fall is my favorite time of the year.  I love Fall.  Here in the south, it comes late.  But it does come…  I look forward to the temperature dropping a bit.  I love the crinkle of crisp leaves under my feet.   If I weren’t so old I’d find a pile of leaves and dive in.

All this week you are in for a special treat - Kingdom Bloggers are visiting and we are talking about Fall. 

In Brooklyn, like everywhere, Fall meant back to school.  We always started a week or so after Labor Day.  It was time to buy new black and white composition notebooks.  I still love to hold a new composition notebook in my hands.  All those crisp lined white pages to fill with new ideas and assignments, it’s exciting!  How handy, the back of the book had a ruler, all sorts of cheats for math, and the multiplication tables.  I need those!  Soon there would be books to cover with paper bags.  Or perhaps I could convince my mother to spend a few sense for a commercial book cover with the name of a college on it, Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton … I suppose they were supposed to motivate us to go to an Ivy League school.  Sometimes the NYPD or the NYFD would give us a book cover reminding us of safety.  Soon we’d be making posters for fire safety.  I never won.
Fall also meant the resumption of Sunday School.  For me that was equally exciting!  My friends had all fled to Long Island for the summer.  Sunday School had stopped.  It wasn’t worth it to teach one or two children who remained in the city for the long hot summer.  Now they were back.  There’d be new quarterlies that would eventually go to Africa to my father’s niece Ruth, a missionary from Norway to Swaziland.
There will be relatively few brisk sunny days here in the south – never enough sweater weather for me.  Oh you can wear a sweater through most of the winter here – but those days are usually gloomy and gray.  It was a bright sunny Fall day in October when my husband and I decided to drive toward NY state and take in some “leaf peeping.”  It was Columbus Day weekend.
We headed west on I-84.  I don’t remember where we turned off but we looked for back roads.  I love back roads – so much more interesting!  As I recall we wandered up through Litchfield County in Connecticut.  This area is beautiful – as is most of the state of Connecticut.  Crowned with color, the Northwest Hills made you want start singing the “Hills are alive.” 
As dusk came, we realized we needed a room for the night.  We had brought a backpack each.  We had planned to find a place and go back the next day.  My husband is hard to get to take little trips – this was a rarity for us.  We started stopping at motels, cheaper motels.  No room in the inn… no room in the inn – we felt like Mary and Joseph wondering where we’d lay our heads.  We talked about just going home.  We weren’t far.  Finally, in Kingston, NY we found a very shady looking hotel that had a room.  We took their last room.
Using long plastic paddle dangling with the key and opened the door.  I’ve seen worse.  We decided to use the bathroom and then go get some food.  I was in the mood for good Pizza… the kind that drips with olive oil and the mozzarella strings from your mouth.  After the last flush we headed for the door.  It was locked.  We jiggled the door.   We tried everything.  We were captive in the room.
Finally, we called the front desk.  Soon the owner, probably named Patel and from Mumbai, came.  He knocked on the door.  Shouting through the door we said – we can’t open it.  Within a few minutes, he jimmied the sliding window open.  I realized how insecure this room really was – scary!
As he put his foot over the windowsill, he said “There.”  I thought “THERE?”  Using a screwdriver and some other tools, he opened the door.  With that, we said, “We’ll take our money back.” He said “you used the room.”  We said all we did was flush.  He was very unhappy.  He argued.  We persisted.  Soon we were driving out with our backpacks and a refund.  Coming in was the next victim. 
We found a Holiday Inn that had an expensive room available.  Had a very late supper and headed back home the next day.  It was a great leaf peeping experience.  Thinking about it makes me homesick for New England.  I want to see the leaves, have fresh maple syrup, and go to the Big E to eat a Maine stuffed baked potato dowsed with cholesterol laden butter and sour cream!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Before, During and After the Fall

White Mountains, NH 
Every year I make a trek to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and another to Cape Cod, MA some time during the fall. As a life-long New Englander, although the season of "colors" brings and end to summer; to the hazy, hot and humid days with temperatures approaching 100, there is something wonderful about the crisp morning air of an October morning.

The week the roaming Kingdom Bloggers are writing about fall. As residents of the northern hemisphere, the warm days of summer are coming to a close; air conditioners switched off, fans packed in the attic, and days beckoning a walk among the hardwoods - yes, fall is nearly upon us.

I have traveled quite extensively over the years. I have racked up 42 US states along with about 40 national and state parks, as well as 13 countries - with more on my radar. For nearly 4 months in 1989 I drove across the US (and a bit in Canada and Mexico). It was one of those listless times in my life. I had an injury at work a few years earlier, ending my career as both a musician and a carpenter. I had spent 2 years just hanging on while I went to art school. In the midst I had a car accident which made it impossible to work at all. Finally, I received an insurance check, my doctor told me that I was lucky to be walking and gave me a clean bill of health.

Cape Cod Light, MA
In July we put everything in storage that we didn't sell at the flea market, and dropped our other car in friends driveway. I loaded up the car top carrier with camping gear and the trunk with film and cameras. In the back seat was my 2-year-old and an ice chest.

All along my route I kept thinking. "if I find somewhere nice, we can just move there." As I shifted my Toyota Carolla into second gear, I felt a rush of adrenaline and headed north for the coast of Maine. I crossed the northern most ranges of the Appalachians, camped at Niagara Falls, and drove though the wine country on the shores of the Great Lakes.

It was still summer as I made my way west to the Badlands; led by the a bajillion Wall Drug signs along the way. The High Plains turned into the Rockies and soon we rounded the corner to Yellowstone National Park where we enjoyed a snow storm in early August.

North to Glacier National Park and Banff, and then west to the Olympic Peninsula via Hell's Canyon. In September I recorded the trek from Victoria, BC to Tijuana, Mexico taking in thousands of miles of Pacific Coast and the city of San Francisco.

Sea Smoke
It was nearly October as I made my way east; the first glimpse of fall as the aspens shown a blazing yellow against the backdrop of red rock in the American Southwest. We cruised through norther Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, only to stop for a pair of cowboy boots in Amarillo.

Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville became a blur as our pace quickened and our homesickness grew... Skyline Drive was a brief respite in the dizzying array of the tens of thousands of Interstate exit signs we had passed under as we rolled along.

Cranberry Harvest
A few days later we were "home", the leaves turning a bold palette of red, orange, and yellow. The crisp dry air contrasted with the heat from the car vent. The sea smoke on the placid waters of Pleasant Bay, the smell of cranberries in the air - yes, this I what I love about fall. What a glorious greeting we had that early morning.

That night I got on my knees and thanked God for a safe trip (all 20,000 miles!), and for being home - for the sunshine, the salt air and the indescribable colors.

In a few short weeks, I will lay in bed having a morning cup of coffee with my wife, and out each one of the three windows in our bedroom, God will create a masterpiece among the maple trees.

Yes, fall is what makes New England home.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Choose your own adventure

When my kids were little they used to read the Chose Your Own Adventure books, also know as Gamebook.  After reading a few pages, they'd have to make a choice.  The choice involved picking which page to go to next.  Once that choice was made, the story was altered. I've often thought life was like that.  Every so often you have to chose something.  Once you make the choice, it changes your life forever.  In life, unlike the book, you can't go back and alter your choice.
I can think of so many pivotal moments of choice, as well as, minor ones.  The minor ones sometimes turned out to be pivotal.  With all the talk of Brooklyn Norwegians and my childhood, it has made me wonder about a lot of the choices.
This morning my husband and I were talking about why I didn't go with my father to Norway when I was in the 9th grade.  I've regretted that decision a million times.  It was primarily their decision, I was only 14.  However, I did have some say.  My mother didn't want to go.  My father wouldn't take me without my mother.  He went alone.  He sailed on the Oslofjord in 1966 for his final voyage home. He spent three months in his homeland.  He even got a free set of new dentures while he was there thanks to the Norwegian Health System.  He missed my 9th grade graduation.  He missed seeing me in my white pique dress my mother had made.  It had lace sleeves and a frilly cuff.  It was beautiful.
I wonder, had I gone to Norway, what memories would I have of relatives?  Would I have learned the language better?  Would I be able to go back to Norway and visit those relatives still living?  And, they'd remember me.
There were other decisions made about me during that time.  Some I perpetuated.  I wanted to be called Jo-Jo for a while and seem tough.  It was all a farce for attention.  Others, in retrospect, are so regrettable and lay at their feet.  Oh, I know they did the best they could and I don't blame them.  But I do wonder... I wonder a lot.
After 9th grade, we would disperse.  Most would go to Fort Hamilton High School, a few of the girls would go to Bay Ridge High School - it was an all girls school at the time - the smart boys got accepted at Boys Tech, the brother school of Bay Ridge.  And a very few of us would go toward Park Slope and go to John Jay High School.  I wanted so badly to go to Fort Hamilton High School.  I missed the district for Fort Hamilton by a block.  All my friends were going there.  I knew lots of people, even good Christian people, who lied about where they lived so their kids could go to a better school.  My cousin lived in the district; it would have been easy.  But my parents would not lie.  They said no, you got to go to Bay Ridge or John Jay.  It didn't fit my tough girl facade to go to all-girl Bay Ridge.  I chose John Jay.
There was another option on the table at that time.  There was New York Christian Academy (NYCA).  Pastor Crandall, always ahead of his time was starting a school.  I was called in to have pictures taken for the Norwegian Newspaper the Nordisk Tidende.  I would be the poster child for attracting Norwegians to send their kids to NYCA.  I was so excited!  But, Pastor Crandall made that decision for me.  They decided to not have high school the first few years of operation.  I tried to get my parents to send me to Hillcrest Academy in Fergus Falls, MN.  It was a Lutheran Brethren school.  It was well known as the place to send Norwegian kids for boarding school.  It was too expensive.
Off to John Jay High School I went.  I had one friend, she lived a block from me.  I still hope to find her on Facebook one day, her name? Debbie Dennis.  We'd meet in front of my house, walk the "long block" to 5th Avenue and ride NY Transit to school.  We'd put our dime in the change collector, show our bus pass and jostle past Sunset Park, Green-Wood Cemetery traversing  51 blocks to 2nd street.  I remember being groped by some fellow male students on those rides too.  We'd walk uphill the two blocks to school.  The school was a fortress.  Monitors were everywhere.  It was dangerous to use the bathrooms.  I held it all day.  I never once used a toilet in that school.  I was too afraid.
So I wonder... would I have stayed in Brooklyn if I had gone to Fort Hamilton?  Would I have married a Norwegian, or an Italian?  Would I still be living in the NYC area? Would I still shop on 5th Avenue or 86th Street? Would I have moved to Staten Island or New Jersey?  I can only guess.
But I didn't.  Like a Gamebook choice, it was chosen that I'd go to John Jay.  From there, the choice was made to leave Brooklyn.  We moved to central Missouri.  You can pick up how that story turned out here.
I guess I believe in providence.  Perhaps all of that was completely out of my parents hands anyway.  It just was.  But I do wonder.  I sometimes even lament.  I would like to see Brooklyn.  I fantasize that I'd like to live there too.  But the reality is, it's not the same.  Even a year after I left, it had changed - and I had changed.  Friends once so memorable forgot me.  For a while they wondered where I'd gone.  Soon a rumor floated that my parents had married me off to an Italian NYC police officer and I lived in Long Island - that one always makes me laugh - NO! I was taken to central Missouri and the first summer there, at 16, I married a country white boy who abused me.  Maybe the Italian cop would have better.
Here I am... many, many, many years later.  My memories of Brooklyn are revived through conversations and the questions arise as well.  There are no do-overs.  Sometimes I wish there were.
Do you ever wish there were do-overs?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Night Irene - No Nightmares Please!

Probably like many of you, you are thinking and praying for the people in the path of Irene.  I have family in her path.  I have friends, new and old, in her path.  I’m praying too. 
I’ve been through a few hurricanes in my life; in relative terms, nothing too serious or intense.  Just lots of wind and rain – I’ve been through worse storms with impending tornadoes – although fortunately, never been in the full path of a tornado either.
I remember Gloria.  She came up the East Coast slamming Connecticut in 1985.  We’d move to CT the year before.  We had our first little house.  The cracker box two bedroom cape I’ve written about here. We boarded windows.  We waited.  A neighbor came over to keep us company.  I never understood why.  My husband was not happy about this intruder.  I took it in my stride.  I remember we played board games.  Another thing my husband doesn’t care for – he’s not a fun and games sort of guy.
The electricity went out – it stayed out for about five days.  By some strange phenomena, the grocery store and the McDonald’s near us were the only ones in the state who had power.  It took a lot longer for other parts of Connecticut to recover.  In 1991, Gloria’s younger brother, Bob came through – he wasn’t as tough as his sister in Connecticut but he was a killer elsewhere.
My first recollection of a hurricane came when I was in the first grade.  I’ve tried to find the name of that storm.  I haven’t.  I’ve considered that maybe my memory is faulty – it’s possible.  But the memory is so strong, I rather doubt that it is… 
It was the year I had Mrs. Harris at PS94 in Brooklyn.  I was fresh out of Kindergarten and school had just resumed.  First grade was a challenge.  It meant learning to read with Dick and Jane and all day in school.   At lunchtime, my mother would walk the two short blocks, and one and a half long blocks to the school to meet pick me up.  My mother took that trek eight times a day.  She walked me to school in the morning, then went home.  She picked me up for lunch and we walked home together.  Then she walked me back to school after lunch.  I think the afternoon meant some shopping at the A&P or the butcher.  Rarely was it pleasure shopping as money was very tight.  Then as the bell rang at 3:00 p.m. she’d be waiting by the door to walk me home.  No wonder she stayed so slim in those days.
I think they had school lunch.  I know they had a kitchen.  I wouldn’t think of eating in school.  They served gross food.  My mother often complained that I didn’t like soup.  She’d say “Other children will eat a bowl of soup and a sandwich, but NO, not YOU.”  I didn’t understand what the big deal was – I was happy with PB&J, tuna salad, egg salad, or just plain bologna. 
I thought Mrs. Harris was mean.  She was not as young and sweet as my pregnant kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pelligrino.  I remember one time Mrs. Harris tapping me on the arm for not paying attention.  I went home and told my mother she hit me.  My mom just shrugged.  At least I hadn’t gone to the principal’s office where the dreaded spanking machine was found.
I wonder now why we were in class during a hurricane.  I remember I was sitting on the opposite side of the room from the windows.  They were large school windows that your teachers often painted and decorated.  In the spring and fall, they were opened allowing fresh air to blow in the room.  As we sat with the wind and rain raging outside, a window broke.  It was just one pane but it scared us all.  Probably Mrs. Harris was scared too.  She made us form a line and took us to the basement.  The whole school was in the basement.  It was lunchtime.  Parents who had cars were coming to pick up their children.  I looked for my mother.  She didn’t come.
Soon trays of food appeared from the kitchen.  I can clearly see the two halves of canned peaches swimming in the syrup accompanied by the two pieces of white buttered bread.  It was all they had enough of in the kitchen.  I think that was the only time I ever ate a school lunch.  I never outgrew up detest for institutional food.
Finally she came.  I cried, “Where were you Mommy?”  She still let me call her Mommy then… another story… She was drenched from head to toe.  She scolded me and said: “I had to walk.  It was dangerous out there.  This is the first time I could come.” 
Soon we were safely home in our little haven at 434-53rd street – the storm had passed.  We were safe.  My prayer as Brooklyn and the rest of the Northeast braces for Irene is that they will sing in safety, Good Night Irene… as she wanders out to sea. And those dreams of Irene?  May they bring memories of family and closeness and not of loss and devastation.
What natural disasters have you been through?  What was the worse?  What was the earliest? 

All she lacked was a broom

                   I'm still thinking about the evils of social dancing.  I had heard on the radio the other day about a teacher in the Philadelphia area who is fighting for her job.  She made the following comments on her blog:
They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.  My students are out of control disengaged, lazy whiners. And quoting from Bye Bye Birdie - Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.
I am sure this teacher would find it interesting that in rural Tennessee they are worried about their kids and adults social dancing.  But don't kid yourselves - drugs are rampant and often Meth is the drug du jour here in these hills. I remember the sheriff in this county, with tears in his eyes, talking to the youth several years ago. He talked about how he was the one who told their Mama's when they were killed in car accidents after driving under the influence. He also talked about the suicide rate in the county - I don't know what it is now, but I know then they'd had 30 suicide calls so far that year. That was over two a month.  This is a small county. Some survived and some left grieving families asking why. 
I am the product of public school education in Brooklyn New York.  I lovingly remember PS 94, 105, Pershing JHS and a year at John Jay - John Jay was not so good but the rest?  They were wonderful!  As the teacher from Philadelphia fights for her job, I thought of Miss O'Rourke.
On Facebook, the new group Brooklyn Norwegians have a virtual kitchen table.  The pot of coffee is hot.  There is talk of kompe, vafler, sus - recipes are shared.  There's also a lot of talk about our schools and churches.  Miss O'Rourke taught at PS 105.  She was my 6th grade teacher.  She would make the stereotypical nun look like  saint.  While she didn't hit us, her tongue lashings left bruises on our psyche. 
The year I had her, she'd come to school usually by bus or subway.  She wore a hounds-tooth cape.  We thought of it as her witches cape.  She always wore a hat outside.  As I think of it now, her outfit did seem a bit like a more stylish nun's habit. She was single, and she was Catholic - she was an Irish - probably should have been a nun... most of all, she was mean.  
I sat at the end of the second row.  Her desk was geographically far from me.  However, I could rarely hide from her.  As I remember the kids in my class, we were mostly well behaved Norwegian or Italian kids.  We came from reasonably good families.  We weren't rich nor were we poor.  We came from working class, HARD working class homes.  Often the children of immigrants, we were well-mannered.  We were also the smart class.  
That's not how Miss O'Rourke saw us.  We were lazy.  We were stupid.  She told us that daily, often several times a day.  Her glare could peel the paint of the wall.  She said she'd never teach the smart class again.  We were lazy and privileged.  One by one, I swear she had a checklist somewhere, she'd make you cry in class.  Boys too!  Sixth grade boys are not prone to tears.  She's berate you until you cried.  Then she'd go in for the kill.
I remember one of the days she made me cry.  I was absent a lot. I'd tell my mother I had a headache, my stomach hurt, anything to stay home.  I hated school that year so much.  My mother, probably too lenient, would write a note.  It was all that was necessary to have the absence excused by school policy.  Since most of us went home for lunch, there was a break in the day.  I'd often stay home in the morning and then go back to school in the afternoon.
One afternoon, I came back clutching my mother's handwritten note.  
Dear Miss O'Rourke,  Please excuse Joyce for her absence this morning, (date), she was not feeling well.                                   Elsie Johannesen.
My mother had gotten some fancy stationary with her name engraved at the top and her name and address on the envelope - she had used that paper to write this note.  I presented the sealed engraved envelop to Miss O'Rourke.
She started.  My mother was stupid for letting me stay home.  Who did my mother think she was with engraved stationary.  She read the note mockingly to the class.  On and on she went about how stupid and lazy I was.  The tears fell.  
Earlier in the year, parents formed a committee - they went to school to complain.  They signed a petition.  She had our names.  We were reminded often what lazy whiners we were and how our parents were stupid...
Some how, I survived 6th grade.  We all did.  I could tell you many stories about Miss O'Rourke - how we had to sing the 4th Stanza of the Star Spangled Banner as well as the 1st - I still remember the words.  How she taught us to diagram sentences-okay, that I don't remember and never did understand why we did it.  How she walked around the assembly and picked out children to be "non-singers."  Your fate was to mouth the words with no voice - lip-synche.
Let's face it, Miss O'Rourke's methods were horrible.  She'd never teach in a school today. Still we learned.  And the truth of the matter is, we were a bit lazy. I think most kids are in middle school.  
I thank God for my teachers from Brooklyn.  I turned out okay.  How about you?  What teacher stands out in your memory?

Thursday, August 25, 2011


As I parked the car, I thought of all the hundreds of times I had pulled into that parking lot.  I got out of the car, took a deep breath and said “Joyce, you can do this!  It’s only a church service.” 

My daughter had texted me earlier in the day saying she wanted to try out a program this church had for girls on Wednesday night.  We spoke of Daisies.  I remember my daughter in her yellow dress.  In those days, they gave you clothe and a pattern and told you to make the dress yourself.  I did.  The yellow with her golden hair made her look like a ray of sunshine.

You know, for your kids, you’ll do just about anything.  Certainly, a visit to a church, a church that had once been so much a part of your life, was a small thing.  For me, it wasn’t that small though.  I had worked at that church for several years.  I had pulled into that parking lot daily.  In addition to the job, I taught adults.  I preached in the pulpit.  I did counseling.  I got paid as a secretary.  I worked as an associate Pastor.  I loved that church and it’s people so very much.

Like many things in life, it soured.  Perhaps a topic for another blog –

As I walked in, a man was standing talking to a woman – they said hello.  There was my daughter and her daughters on the stairs.  I heard squeals of “Nana.”  That always makes me feel better.  The youngest granddaughter was taken up the stairs to find her room.  I started to chat with my granddaughter.  Then I heard “Joyce?!” – I’d been discovered.  I really thought that after 8 years, I could go undetected.  They had a new pastor.  I’d heard there had been a lot of shifting of the congregation as often happens with a new pastor.  I remembered the face, but the name escaped me.  He was an “approved” children and youth worker, so he had a badge.  Ahh, yes, that’s his name. 

He hugged me.  We chatted about the flood that had devastated the church last year.  He updated me on the format of the service.  As we took our seats, the Pastor, with his “pastor radar up” spotted visitors.  He introduced himself.  We chatted a minute.  We took our seats. 

A handful of people sprinkled the sanctuary/gym.  Familiar choruses led by the pastor with his guitar.  It all seemed so strange and yet familiar.  I looked around – a few familiar faces, but most not.  No one else recognized me.  As the music wound down, we were asked to bow our heads.  An altar call?  Now? Yep, there were visitors in the house – they might be heathen… so for our benefit we waited for a hand to be raised while I woman’s tinny voice behind us said: “Jesus.”  Since we were not heathen, he could only prolong the altar call so long.

We opted not to put the visitor card in the offering.  After the altar call I knew I didn’t want the pastor checking on me.  The topic of the night was “social dancing.”  I thought, huh?  This handful of seasoned saints had nothing better to discuss from the scripture than a harangue against social dancing.  My jaw dropped – my daughter wanted to go home and watch “Footloose.” 

Like something out of 1960 at a youth rally, we heard about the evils of social dancing for the next 15 minutes. 

He prayed.  We were dismissed to eat.  After we got our food we dispersed to round tables to discuss the lesson.  On the table was a tent card with discussion questions.  The two scripture references were from Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Timothy 2:22) – we were asked to discuss how dancing contradicted spiritual purity and the dangers of dancing.  The scriptures had to be checked with the KJV for authenticity.  Question 3 was my favorite – Considering the Hokey Pokey, etc., are there “innocent” forms of dancing.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

Finally, we were asked to discuss if dancing was right in church, what about line dancing, what dancing is right before God.  All loaded biased questions. 

I behaved.  It wasn’t easy.  I reminded them that I thought we’d be better served with talking about how to have a pure heart, increase our faith, etc., rather than focus on dancing.  I also said that the Hokey Pokey and the Sunday School chorus Father Abraham had a lot in common.  Some people think Barney is the Antichrist too. 

As we wound down, I was asked if I knew the blood verse?  It was found in Ezekiel 16:6.  It is used for healing confessions over someone who is bleeding.  I was munching on popcorn to keep a straight face.  I was amused.  I realized I was not the same person who came into the doors of that church for the first time 11 years ago.  Thank God for that.

I guess dancing is still a sin.  I think we have bigger problems in 2011 than whether a handful of seasoned saints in a small town in TN are social dancing or not.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If a picture is worth a 1000, how much is a video worth

Kingdom Bloggers are taking our blog on the road and visiting each other's blogs.  Next week, you'll be treated to the bloggers right here on Sounds of Hope.

When I preach or teach, I like to use video to emphasize my message.  It can be really effect!  I love doing it.  I’ve had classes on this stuff in school so I know I’m not alone.  I read a good book on preaching that talked about the use of video.  In fact, this is so popular there is a website for preachers/teachers to go to for appropriate video clips.  If you want to use video, here is a good place to start.  Or of course, there is always YouTube.

Sometimes God speaks to me first and then I find the movie.  Other times, I am watching a movie and the inspiration comes.  

A time when God spoke to me first happened just a few weeks ago.

Head over to Fire & Grace to read more