The Adventure Continues

Our Church Council granted me a sabbatical for three months during the summer of 2010. My intention was to learn Latin American Spanish and to explore Latin American cultures here and abroad. Now that I have had some opportunities to lead mission trips to Yuscaran, Honduras, and to visit Mexico three times, the adventure continues.

Seeking New Horizons

Seeking New Horizons

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Who Is a Refugee?

   In the present humanitarian and political crisis over refugees from Syria and Iraq, the term "refugee" is used to describe different people on the run from their countries.  However, there are at least three different variants on this word, and keeping them straight will help in any discussion of refugees.
   First, a refugee is someone fleeing for their lives from their own country.  You may remember that during the Katrina hurricane, we heard about refugees from New Orleans.  Actually, they were not refugees, but rather "displaced people" because they were still in their own country.  There are now millions of refugees fleeing from the violence in Syria and Iraq, and they are rushing across international borders.
   Second, many of the refugees in this first category, but not all of them, will qualify for refugee status from the United Nations.  From the website for UNHCR we find this:  The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."   Sometimes, people flee from their own countries, but if they do not fit this definition, they do not receive this status from the UN.
   Third, only people who have refugee status according to the UN can be considered to be refugees who come to the United States.  Refugee status in the United States is very difficult to achieve and requires a complex vetting process from the FBI, State Department, and Homeland Security.  People from all of these three categories are worthy of our prayers, but most of us will ever get to meet only people from the third category. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Refugees Are NOT the Threat We Need Fear

   As many of you already know, Doreen and I have had decades of experience working with refugees, including people from Iraq and Syria. People in the US and elsewhere are understandably more concerned with security after the ISIS attacks last week. In our balancing concern for security with our concern for compassion, there are at least two things you need to know, particularly in regards to refugees.
    First, a terrorist from another country who wanted to do harm to the US would most likely enter our country with a tourist or student visa. This is the route that the 9/11 terrorists used. To get one, you just visit a US embassy for a ten minute interview. The visa takes about two weeks and is good for multiple entries for six years. If the terrorist is a national citizen, from, say, France or Belgium, or any other western European nation, the terrorist would not need a visa, but only a passport, much like it takes US citizens to visit Europe.
    Second, if a terrorist wanted to enter the US as a refugee, the daunting task of getting all the clearances would take about two years. Here are two sites that describe the current process, the second site goes into more detail.…/why-it-takes-two-years-for-syrian-…
(The second site:)…/infographic-the-screen…/…
    When our government leaders target refugees as threats to our security, they are missing the point of protecting our safety, and they are attacking some of the most vulnerable people in the world. As followers of Jesus, we can call for compassion and justice without sacrificing any security on this issue. We have already sponsored refugees from Iraq and Syria. I hope we can do it again, and I would welcome them into our home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Can People of Different Faiths Worship Together?

   I was very happy to be able to go to the Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration last Sunday.  I have been a part of the planning process for several months, and since it was at Trinity, I certainly wanted to welcome all of our guests.  Also, it was a rare opportunity to get out, since I am still recovering from the surgery of October 30.  Since I did not have to stand much, or lead in any difficult way, I thought it would be good for me, and it was.
   I also hope it was good for all of the people who gathered, and I believe it was.  Imagine Christians, Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Native Americans, and others all assembling in one room to give thanks in various ways to the God who has created us.  Was this a worship service?  No, we called it a "celebration" or a "gathering."  In the light of the attacks from ISIS in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, and on the Russian plane, it seems more important than ever for people of faith to gather for mutual understanding and friendship.  To say that we all worship the same way would be a very long stretch, so we chose not to raise that question.  Yes, there are major differences among our various faith traditions, but there are also enough common principles that can draw us together, especially in times of crisis.
   One of the best parts of the event was the food; not just because we all need to eat, but because we had the leisure to eat with one another and engage in conversation.  What a wonderfully diverse community we have in our area!  Getting to know one another so that we can share our joys and sorrows is the first step in bringing more peace to our troubled world.
   Even as we are opening our doors and hearts to one another, there are moves in our nation to limit the welcome to Syrian refugees.  This is extremely myopic.  At least one of the terrorists was a French National; shall we ban all French Nationals from visiting our country?  One of the suspects is a Belgian National: are all Belgians now suspect?  The shooters carried guns: try banning the carrying of guns in the USA and see how far that goes.  So why target refugees from Syria?
   I am proud that we could host this Interfaith Gathering at Trinity, and I am proud of how we welcome refugees, including those from Syria.  (Remember the Osman family.)  We worship the Prince of Peace, and in His name we love our neighbors as ourselves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Missing Church on Sunday

     I'm recovering nicely at home now.  I don't get out much, except to walk up and down the street for 20 minutes at a time.  Except for the trip to the hospital for the post-op review, I have only been out to someone else's house for a Spanish discussion on Monday morning.  Someone from the group drove me from home and back, just under two hours for the whole event.  It was nice to be in discussion with friends again.
     The hardest thing to miss so far has been church on Sunday.  I prayed for people during the time of worship, but not being there with everyone just did not feel quite right.  At least I knew I would not have to stand for a long period of time, which is much more tiring than walking, I find.  What struck me the most about the time I spent home on Sunday morning is that the morning went by fast; much faster than it seems when we are in worship together.  There is so much to see and hear at worship.  There are so many people, and so many conversations.  It feels like the most exhilarating part of my entire week.  It is also the time that requires the most energy, which I have now in short supply.  That's why I'm not trying to lead worship again, yet. 
     So once again, I am thankful for Karen Goltz and Tom Barrington, who are filling in for me on Sundays.  The Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering will be at Trinity on Sunday afternoon, and I hope to be there.  I've been a part of the planning for this for a long time, and I will have very little to do, so I think I can make it.  I just will try not to stand for conversations very long.  I just don't want to miss it.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recovery at the Hospital

     The surgery at the hospital went very well.  The team removed three cysts instead of just one, and I came home on Sunday afternoon, as planned.  I spent about 25 hours in the recovery room, which by Sunday morning, was very sparsely populated.  I had a lot of time to think and pray, but I don't know how coherent I was at either of those activities, although God has already taken care of the prayer part in knowing before I do what I am praying.
     The coherence of thought, or lack thereof, has been an interesting experience.  With so little to occupy my mind, I played with the breathing part of the monitor.  I could make the squiggly white line do things by just altering my breathing.  I was able to get the breathing rate up to 47 with short breaths, and down to 6 with long slow breaths.  The latter set off some sort of little alarm, so I decided to stop that fun.
     The most interesting things happening were visits from the staff, from my family, and from Karen Goltz who paid me a pastoral visit.  In all these times, I seemed to me to be rational.  However, Doreen told me I had been uncharacteristically chatty.  One nurse reminded me I had met her in the pre-op room, but I needed prompting to recall our pleasant conversation.  There were times when, of course, I did not remember things, but this time, by concentrating, I was able to discover some things that I remembered knowing before I forgot them.
     This all has seemed interesting to me because I am aware of how amazingly frail and vulnerable I am during this whole procedure.  It's not very difficult for me to surrender control to professionals and to God during all of this, but it is a bit unnerving to be losing a bit of my mind, a tad of my personality, and a lot of my personal space.  When an "event" is putting on a jonny, or simply standing up by myself, then I know how far from "normal" I have strayed.
     Now I would like to draw a profound conclusion from all of this, but I don't have one.  Even if I did, I'm not sure if I am just rambling, or if I have opened up a new door to self-understanding.  So for today, I just leave all this as a group of observations.  One thing I do know, however, is how profoundly thankful I am for all of the people taking care of me during this vulnerable time.  If you are reading this, you are probably among them, and so I say "Thank you!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On to the Hospital!

     Last June I had a double spigelian hernia operation, which is on one's belt line.  The surgery went very well and related problems were fixed.  Two weeks later I developed a severe infection and went back to the emergency room.  In trying to find the cause of the infection, the medical team found an unrelated problem: a suspicious cyst on my right kidney.  My doctor was concerned, but not alarmed.  "If you were old," she said, "we would not bother with it at all, but you are only 66."  Then she added, "On the other hand, if you were young, we would be all over this, but you are already 66." 
     So I'm happy that we found this, and that robotic surgery will be able to remove the cyst.  I have confidence in the surgeon and other personnel at the Lahey Hospital in Burlington.  The surgery is now scheduled for Friday, October 30, and I expect to be sent home on Sunday, November 1.  I have no pain, nor any other symptoms, and I am neither worried nor anxious about the procedures.  I just regret missing so many interested things and people during the recovery process.  I had thought I would be back to normal in just a few days, but the pre-op doctor told me to not go back to work or drive for at least 4 weeks, and that the surgeon will be recommending 6 weeks!  That will cover all of November, and maybe parts of December.  It's like a long vacation without the fun parts of travel and trying new things to do, to eat, and to drink.
     As I have been musing about the upcoming days, I have been thinking that it will actually be something new.  I've never had surgery this invasive, and I've never been laid up this long.  I suspect God will be teaching me something new, but if it is patience I need to learn then I must be in the graduate level of that course, as I've been learning that for decades.  Maybe I will learn some new ways of communicating, like reviving this blog, which was a great friend up until 2013, when I turned to other interests.  So for those that want to read what's on my mind, this will be the place to find it.  For now, I am so thankful for all the people who are filling in for me in my various responsibilities, and for all the people who are praying for me and wishing me well.  "I thank my God every time I remember you."  (Phil 1:4)