October 16, 2011
Friends at Home and Far Away,
This morning in worship Carolyn Bellanti, Lee Ann Cook (read by me), George Etzweiler, Pat Hazelton and Sophie Penney shared stories of people in their lives who had taught them about being generous. I have Lee Ann’s manuscripts and have attached them for you to read. The others spoke from notes/I did not get their manuscript so I’m sorry that I don’t have those to share with you.
In each of the bulletins today was a bookmark illustrating the Saints Alive! Living Generously! Theme on one side and some reflection questions on the other. I invite you as I did the congregation today, to spend some time this week reflecting on the following questions:
- Who taught you about being generous?
- What have you taught others?
- When have you received a generous gift from another?
- Where have you seen God’s abundance in your home, congregation, and community?
I hope your reflections this week are helpful. Tomorrow morning I’m headed to Camp Friedenswald, a Mennonite Camp in Cassopolis, MI.
I’ll be joining 22 other Mennonite and Brethren pastors of welcoming congregations for a retreat. This will be a time of learning, sharing, and supporting one another in this time when denominations are taking positions against inclusion of the LGBT community as well as punitive actions against some churches and their pastors.
I’m looking forward to this retreat, sharing UBBC’s experience, and hearing from others. I’ll get back to State College late Thursday evening. In the meantime I invite you to hold all of us attending the retreat in prayer.
I wrote down my mothers name on my red maple leaf because at that particular moment I was feeling so grateful to her and to my stepfather for helping us to get settled into our home when we returned from London this August. They had worked tirelessly tearing out water damaged paneling, power-washing away layers of dirt and moss, and even putting our dishes into our cabinets for us.
Coming home to this house felt like a dream. My step-father had fixed every broken outlet, installed dimmer switches and night lights, and hired men to replace our garage doors and fix our chimney. He organized some neighbor kids and with their help emptied one of our storage units. They prepared a special meal for us, including all of our favorites that we had not eaten in over a year. It felt wonderful, and a little uncomfortable.
What had I done to deserve this? NOTHING. I had an amazing year living in London. I had completed satisfying work with families & schools in communities that I fell in love with. I took my family on vacations to Paris, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. I was indebted to my mom and other family and friends for looking after our things while we were away, for helping us through the complications of being abroad.
To complicate matters further, my Mom was ill. So ill that she ended up in the emergency room two days after we returned. How had she managed to do so much for us through her symptoms?
Fact is she is one of those pull yourself up by your boot straps, nose to the grindstone kind of folks. As a single mom she worked 40 plus hours a week as a home visiting nurse, then came home and parented three girls, while dealing with a complicated divorce.
Later she loved me through some tough times and bad choices, and even when I thought for sure she would want to be done with me…she wasn’t. She was there with love and firm limits.
She was there to celebrate with me too, never a birthday or Christmas missed, at every graduation, cheering me on, with pride in her face.
These days we spend lots of time together, most recently canning 46 quarts of the homemade spaghetti sauce which she likes to give as gifts. My sisters and I discuss weather she should keep working through her chemo therapy. We worry that it’s too much stress and she going to exhaust herself again. But she loves teaching the young student LPN’s. And she loves taking care of people. Whether it’s a lonely neighbor, a sick sister-in-law, or a grumpy grandchild, she just keeps going, and sometimes it seems like the more she keeps going the more she has to give.
I get it. Engaging in meaningful work, giving of one’s talents, paid or not, is one of the great privileges of life. I learned this from my mom and as I am about to embark on a new job, I am so grateful for the opportunity that it will give me to live generously; Through making a contribution with my mind, body, and time, to the families and children of Pennsylvania; Through being able to support the growth and well being of my family; And finally through being able to give more money to my church and to the charities that I love.
Lee Ann Cook
“Living in London”
After living for over one year in London with very little stuff, in a flat with no car, we returned to the USA and were thrust back into a life full of things… a camper van, books, toys, computers, furniture, comfortable beds, cleaning supplies, a dishwasher, bicycles.
Also our life was now so Full of people we were connected to, my mom and other family nearby, teachers, church friends, school friends.
And State College, a town with good streets, clean water, clean air, sidewalks, hospitals, schools. Beautifully landscaped strip malls.
It was too much to take in. Like the feeling you get after eating too much thanksgiving dinner I could feel myself needing to pull back from the table. I had too much.
It wasn’t just that I had lived without some stuff for a year… I had also experienced first hand the reality of how some of the other people in this world live. How could I go on feasting…. knowing that in Kazakhstan the schools, streets, and sidewalks, are crumbling. Young adults are committing suicide at an alarming rate. One basic plastic children’s toy (like the 20 I took to Goodwill last week) cost $100.
Most of the people I’ve met in the few places I’ve worked in this world just want to get up, eat, work, love one another, and play a little. We are lucky enough to get to do this in State College, PA.
And so despite uncertain job security, even though Tom and I struggle to find our way through to purchasing the home my parents so lovingly prepared for us… I have no choice but to give…give of my time, give of my attention, give of my money, my car, my stuff, my love. It’s the only way I can stay at this table and feel right about joining in this bountiful feast!