Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Assistant to the Assistant

I have been working as the Assistant to the Assistant coach on my daughter's swim team for the Special Olympics. None of our swimmers will go to the World Championships coming up in July, but we plan to go and cheer on those who are competing. This past weekend we had two meets, back to back, the first time our team has done this since my daughter has been part of the team. We usually have a meet every couple of weeks, so there is time to recover and practice and get ready.
Having two meets in two days caused me some anxiety, how would the athletes do? Many have low muscle tone, so would they have the endurance to compete two days in a row? Would our new athletes be overwhelmed by the chaos, the hurry up and wait pattern of a swim meet? Would our coaches endure through the process of staging all 34 athletes on our team in the races with approximately 300 other athletes who would be competing? Would the parents have the endurance to not only get their athletes to the meet and back but help set up tents, serve food, monitor races, and make sure everyone was having a good time?
For me, as an assistant to the assistant, I had to round up the athletes who were next to race, march them over to the staging area, make sure they went into the pool area when they were called and then hopefully have time to watch them race before getting the next group.
As now I look back, I find the emotions of watching the athletes I have been working with, and my daughter who is an old pro now, come pouring out of my eyes. To see how those swimmers, who could hardly swim 10 meters, now compete in a real meet for the first time, to see how far they have come, and triumph by completing their events, and racking up the medals, was simply amazing to me.
Some cannot really do a freestyle stroke, they do a sort of hybrid of a doggy paddle and free style, but who can make it 15 meters, is inspirational, to see their joy and see them presented with medals, ah, it makes all the hard work more than worth it. We simply lived up to the teams motto of featuring their abilities, not their disabilities. And the parents who experienced this thrill for the first time, well they too were a delight to watch, they work so hard to care for , to nurture and support their children, and all their efforts in this moment were rewarded as well.
I am grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who make these events possible, it is no small task to put on a meet, it does take a village. But, the reward outweighs the sacrifices of time and energy.
As far as the worries I had, well after two long days from 7:30-4:40 of being the rounder upper, I can say I was far from worn out, I was pumped up with pride and joy.  And so were the parents and their athletes, we ended with smiles on our faces and hearts.
Special Olympians are everywhere, I hope you will add attending an event like a swim meet or track an field meet, or bowling, or golf or any other sports that may be taking place in your community to your bucket list. I am confident it will change your hearts and the way you look at others. You might even get out that bathing suit and start swimming a few laps...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Does our writing matter?

Writing, typewriters, journals, computers, does the writing we do count, does it matter, does it make a difference? I believe we, each of us have the gift of contributing to the world, and if we withhold our contribution, what ever that may be, means the world is that much less creative, joy full, wonderful, focused. To withhold our writing for those of us who write is depriving ourselves and others from discovering the gift we have to share, our piece in the solutions for the worlds ills.
However, even then,  I hesitate, I procrastinate, I keep my words and thoughts and emotions to myself. It is a shame, and even if not one single person reads what I write, I miss the opportunity to create, to explore, to contribute.
The world is full of critics, and forces that stifle our creativity, that oppresses our spirit, and we can become world weary, scars on our souls can make us careful, too careful, and we fail to risk, taking shelter in our wounds. But if we open to the creator, the creation, the power of the universe that wants  to bring beauty and joy and love, then we discover a power greater than ourselves and we can find that power in times of injury and sorrow, as well as in times of great joy.
So, perhaps it is time to let go of the wounds and allow the healing and the writing to begin..

Monday, December 29, 2014

End of the year message

Sermon for 12-28-14      To Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church               Text: Isaiah 61:10-11
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God;

2014 is about to end. For me, this year held so many important events, and experiences. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, sporting accomplishments, school achievements, the rain, and the coolness of winter. We have worked to gather to provide hope for the hungry, by supporting Empty Bowls (fundraiser that benefits the hungry) and the Baily Center at the Tujunga UMC.(a place where those who need food and a shower can go during the week)  We have worked on peace through educating ourselves about the concerns of others that perhaps we had not understood before, issues like prison life, hunger, education of those who are considered uneducable, HIV/AIDS.
We worshipped and held meetings; we shared food and fellowship, love and concern, prayers and greetings.
We cried when we felt the pain of living in such an imperfect world, and the sorrow for those who have lost loved ones. We witnessed new families being born through marriage and expanded through birth and adoption. We laughed until we lost our breath, and listened to a stream of stories. We spent money, earned money, received money, gave away money, and tried to be good stewards of money. We sang songs both familiar and new adding to our repertoire, we tripped and fell, we scraped our knees or scratched our arms, we listened to the news and it broke our hearts more times than we thought possible, violence and ignorance running rampant in our world. We said goodbye to those we knew by their art, those who made us cry or laugh, or feel comfort or who moved us to action.
We faced moments when we did not want the moment to end and moments when we thought this was the end.  We shook when the earth moved, burned under the intense sun, sneezed during windy days, and bundled up when it turned cooler.
We gave thanks for the blessings, and yearned for finding the words to express our deepest desires for connection to God, to one another so we could find peace.
We discovered once again the world is scary and magnificent, enormous yet small, strange yet familiar. We discover just when we thought we had it all together, it all fell apart, and yet we started again, and again, and again.
We learned not to trust advertising to give us the truth about the world, nor movies or fiction. But we learned the truth in just a little more depth than the year before even if we cannot put it into words.
We learned that our experience of the world is not the same as others even our neighbors, but somehow we all stop for red lights, and go on green, even when chaos threatens our safety. We have learned once again there is always another way to look at a situation, and how hard it is not to give an opinion before all the facts are presented, how we want things just to stay neat and tidy even though the reality is very chaotic. How do we not fall off of the earth?
As we move into a new year, we will make promises, and break them, resolutions and become unresolved, set goals we will meet and accomplish, we can rejoice and be glad because God prepares us, and gifts us with all that we need to move into the future. That is not to say life will do all it can to steal away the garments of salvation and robes of righteousness from God, but do these thieves foil God? Will God’s gifts be taken from us never to return? Yes life does often give us more than what we can handle, but God gives more, so we can find purpose and honor in the days ahead. God will always be with us and For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

So in those times ahead when we experience a flood of anxiety and worry and fear about whether or not God has been defeated, that our best efforts go unrecognized, that our gift seems to small to impact lives, take heart, God will always spring up again, no matter how many times God’s work gets torn down, plowed under, destroyed, cemented over and abandoned. God is always at work and so we are those who move into the future with hope, and with the assurance that God is at work in the world, in us and you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

As Howard Thurman said it in his poem The Work of Christmas,

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Our work, our lives have been born anew, it is time to make music, seek peace and rebuild the nations! Amen.