Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Remembering Michael

Two years... so many days, so many minutes since Michael died.  How did this time pass - so very quickly and yet....?

Despite the time...or even in the midst of this time...Michael is still very much a part of me.  While he is not here physically in the same way, I feel his presence, hear his voice and see the ongoing spirit that infuses my life.

From a practical viewpoint, I still have so much of his stuff throughout the house - from motorcycles to cameras, from tools to various other items - so many hobbies and interests that he was always trying out and exploring, wanting to learn everything about it so that he could do it right

Doing things “right” (aka as the “Michael way”) was very much a part of how he approached life.  Sometimes, it could be frustrating as he didn’t often appreciate the “Jennifer way” which is a bit looser.  I hear his voice still when I do things, particularly if it was something that he tried to teach me.  Mostly, it was helpful (not that I always admitted that to him).  I know how to use a power saw, understand a bit more about car maintenance as well as some home maintenance 

This sense of looking at things in a particular way found its creative expression, especially in his photography. He saw beauty in things that most of us would miss. His eye would be drawn into the intricacies of a flower, a piece of wood, or an insect. He would look below the surface to find the wonder of God’s creation in ways particular to his vision   


This kind of particular vision found its expression in his views of justice amidst the chaos of the world. While much of his health would consume many of his days, Michael saw his experience as a calling to work for justice for others who struggled in their own lives. He did not let his health limit his concern or his voice for all who were in need.

In fact, his voice seemed to increase in intensity as his health got worse.  He desired the world to be restored to what God intended for all people. While he was unable to formally serve as a pastor in a church, Michael lived his faith as he spoke out against injustice and with concern with those whose voices weren’t heard.   This intensity pissed many people off - even among some who agreed with him - numerous people “unfriended” him on social media (some temporarily, even family).  His sense of rightness wasn’t subtle or always tactful, but you did know where he stood

Part of what amazed and comforted me after his death was the number of people that were impacted by his presence in their life. There were even some friends that he hadn’t even spent much if any time in person that spoke of his influence in their lives

Michael supported and challenged me,  pushing me to look beyond my own worldview and seeing life in different ways.  He loved me when I wasn’t particularly lovable some days.  He taught me and encouraged me to try new things.  And he made me laugh when I got too serious.

While Michael could be pretty intense, there ways also a very silly side to him, when a kind of juvenile humor would surface. His smile was huge and could elicit a smile in return. Even in childhood pictures, you can see that mischievous twinkle in his eye, making you wonder what  he was thinking.  There was a joy to him that liked to play.  And while one of my favorite pictures of him was one that I had to take numerous times to get it just right - he was still able to make it seem spontaneous 

While I wish that Michael had never died. Yet, only if it would be that he was healed fully. I wouldn’t want him to have to suffer again, especially as he did in the year before he died. I knew when we got married that our time would be limited. And as “Mr worse-case-scenario”, he continually “prepared” me for the inevitable. 

As much as I grieve his death,  I am also very thankful for the blessing of having him in my life, 10 years & 10 days as husband and wife. 

My life moves on in a different way, still discovering what God had in mind for me. Michael’s presence in my life continues, just in a different way - with his voice echoing in my thoughts, his vision shaping how I see the world around me, and his life as a reminder that life is precious and each breath counts!

Monday, June 24, 2019

En Camino, day 2 - Guatemala

It was a very full day!
Following breakfast, we went to see various parts of the Misión’s missions, beginning with the school right behind the church.  It is modeled after Montessori.  Entering the courtyard, young children were chasing each other around, playing, etc.  The director of the school - through our translator- told us the history as well as the philosophy of teaching. The school was one of the first parts of the Misión, noting the importance of education - not just learning information, but also life skills like cooking, traditional artisan work and the like
From there, we piled into the back of a truck to head up the hill to the Women's center where they learn various skills as well as giving of their time to the center in various projects.  They create beautiful textile crafts, weaving patterns based on their backgrounds and cultural connections
Back in the truck, we went to the medical center where we learned about its history and all the different care that they provide.  In addition to some medical physicians that visit, they have their own staff as well as health promoters that visit other villages in the area.  They train locals to provide care in their own communities. Last year, they provided care to 26,000 people
The last visit of the morning was to the coffee warehouse.  They work with local growers to give them a fair price for their crops.  They prepare and roast the beans for their own a Misión brand called Juan Ana cafe (named after Father Gregorio’s parents)
After lunch, we went to visit Andreas, a local man who shared his experiences with the injustices that he faced as a Mayan that was treated as less than human by the owners of the fincas (farms) that they worked on.   Through Father Gregorios efforts in conjunction with local people and funds raised in the states, they were able to buy the land of the fincas and build community based farms that provided sustainable livings for all - even as they endured 30 years of Civil war.   Andreas is an amazing man with a great love of God, appreciation for a Father Gregorios vision and work, and commitment to the well being of the San Lucas community.

A bit of local color was visiting the veneration of San Simón which is a local deity/“saint” that mixes various religious aspects of Mayan & Guatemalalan culture (google it for the full flavor of it)

We had a bit of down time before dinner as well as this evening.  It feels as if I’ve already been here a week after one day as we had such a full day

Note: these are initial recollections that I will fill in more later

Sunday, June 23, 2019

En Camino - day 1 (Guatemala)

After arriving on Saturday night in Guatemala City, I was told that a driver would pick me up at my hotel at 7am to take me and another group to San Lucas. Needless to say that I was not ready when he arrived at 6:15am - but then that was the only low of the day
It was a beautiful day with little traffic as we made our way through the valleys and mountains to San Lucas. It is a beautiful country, very lush and green and the mountains are unlike ones that I have experienced elsewhere.
Once I got my stuff dropped off at the hotel and connected with the rest of the group, we took a boat ride across lake Atitlan first to San Juan, then took a Tuk-tuk ( sp.?) to San Pedro for a bite to eat(need to get pix to show what they are).  Back in San Juan, did a bit of shopping before getting back on the boat for San Antonio (no, not Texas) where we visited a ceramics shop as well as a textile coop to learn how they made both.
They showed us how they not want not spun the cotton, but dyed it using plants, wood and even dried bugs that all creat such vibrant colors. Then they wove them into cloth for close thing, table runners and so much more
Back in San Lucas, we gathered at the mission for supper then i got a brief orientation with helpful info such as the following:
1) don’t drink the tap water
2) don’t flush the toilet paper as the system can’t handle it
3) don’t pet any of the dogs that wander the streets as they can either be very protective of their owners or if they are more feral, need to be careful of rabies
4) be back at the hotel by 9pm

I definitely got in plenty of steps today (over 15k!) and that included time in the van and on the boat

The people are so gracious and patient with this gringo with so very little Spanish speaking ability. I am looking forward to meeting many more over the next week and learning more about the various aspects that the Misión participates in
This just barely scratches the surface of today’s experiences, but wanted to give you a brief glimpse (pix to follow on Facebook and Instagram)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Share the wealth

A number of years ago, I kept driving by this one Fire station that had the following on their community sign:
 Share the Wealth
Give Blood

I thought it was a great way to think about giving blood. 

It is something that we have that is purely a gift - we can't create it ourselves or mass produce it. 

It is literally giving from the heart. 

It is sharing a part of ourselves with another person that we will never know. 

It is making a difference - a life or death difference in some cases

As scripture says "we have this treasure in clay jars"...in our flesh, blood gives us life and is a treasure, wealth that we can give to others.

Isn't this at the heart - literally and figuratively - at what it means to live our lives as God's people - to share that which we have received.

We are blessed by this life entrusted to us by God and we are called to be faithful stewards of all that has been given to us.

One song that we sing often in worship is "We are an Offering" where we proclaim that "Lord, use our voices; Lord, use our hands; Lord, use our lives, they are yours: we are an offering.  All that we have, all that we are, all that we hope to be, we give to you..."

And so, we are invited today to share the wealth as we give blood for the lives of others

P.S. My metaphor falls apart when I came to realize that the phrase "share the wealth" was about bingo and not the blood drive - still makes for a good illustration though.