Thursday, June 11, 2015

Shadowlands

I don't often use this blog for "hot button" issues.  This post has been burning in my heart for two months, though.  
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Take a good look at my profile picture (but not too closely!), and you will immediately realize that I am white, and come from European lineage.  There's a bit of English, German, Scottish, Irish--and probably several other nationalities--blended into my DNA.  I have honestly never sat down and mused on what that means for me as a person.  It is just "what it is."

Having said that, my interaction with those of other races was quite limited until after I graduated from high school.  (And honestly, I never really thought of any of my schoolmates as being anything other than that, no matter the color of their skin.)  

One of my first memories of encountering an African American child was quite positive.  While visiting a church, the only girl who spoke to me in Sunday school was a sweet girl, who just happened to have darker skin than I did.  She was so kind.  I will never forget that gesture.

As I grew older and became more aware of racial discrimination, I was appalled.  The history of slavery in our country was beyond my comprehension.  Hitler's stance against Jews, anyone with any mental or physical infirmities, and anyone with darker skin, was a hatred I could not fathom.  In my mind, everyone should love everyone, and that was the end of it.

While in college, I met and became friends with students from all over the country and the world.  I truly enjoyed the interaction, as my worldview began to grow and expand.  I attended a church with a wonderful mixture of races.  After our marriage, we spent many years ministering in Detroit and the surrounding area.  Again, our church life was made more full by the variety of skin colors and heritages, all blended together by our love for Christ.

A couple of months ago, I became aware of a racism that, again, is beyond my understanding.  While I recognize that there are many stereotypes, I can only conclude that there is no sound reasoning or logic behind any of them.  People are people, created in the image of God.  Some choose to live as a child of God; others, as a rebellious son or daughter.  Skin color doesn't determine the choice.  

My latest insight came during a presentation on immigration issues.  If I were to sum up my knowledge of the matter prior to that day, I would say it was very, very limited.  The news media has played the issue as an "us against them" saga, with those being born within our borders being on the positive side.  As I listened to the legal aspects, I was still trying to sort it all out:  why should those born in the United States have open arms to those of other nations, and how does that affect each citizen?  While still mulling this over, a young woman was asked to tell her story.  That's when it all changed for me.

She told of growing up in a Central American country, where gang activity is the norm.  Her childhood was also marred by the violence of her father against herself and her mother.  At the young age of 17, she could no longer bear this environment.  She offered to help her mother leave as well, but was refused.  Through a contact in the United States, she made arrangements to make her way north.  Sadly, the person who was paid to transport her did not have her best interest in mind.  After being locked in a house for 2-3 days, she escaped.

She again contacted her U.S. friend, who handled the details of her move here.  She later married this man.  Unfortunately, his temperament was similar to that of her father.  To protect their two young children, she again made an escape.  Thankfully, she made contact with individuals in the Cleveland area who could assist her.  She is making progress, and is so grateful for all the help she  has received.

Now I realize there are immigration laws, and there are legal ways immigrants can become citizens.  However, I also know that the means of procuring that citizenship is very limited.  In the state of Ohio, the only court for immigration and citizenship is in Cleveland.  Most of the immigrant population is in the Columbus area (a drive of over two hours) and Tuscarawas County (a drive of over 1 1/2 hours).  Keeping in mind that most immigrants do not own motorized vehicles, this presents a major obstacle.  When one also realizes that court appointments are usually mailed only days before the scheduled appearance, another large barrier is obvious.  Tack on the added expenses of bus fare, limited knowledge of English, and confusing, ever-changing laws, the hurdles become higher and higher.


Previous to this meeting, I also did not realize that being in the country without documentation is also a civil matter, not a criminal one.  The only time it becomes criminal is when an individual is committing crimes (murder, slave trade, drug transportation, etc.).  Another fact that many do not realize is the current surge of deportation.  And if those being deported have American-born children, the children are placed in the foster care system.  

I don't know all the answers.  I do know that my ancestors came to this country to live in peace, as did the ancestors of most of European descent.  Obviously, the citizens whose families came due to slavery did not come for that reason, but were afforded that right as changes were made following the Civil War, and, more recently, due to the civil rights movement in the 1960's.  It is a glaring truth that the rights of some are still supersceded by the prejudice of others.  It is also a fact that many do not desire anyone new coming to our country.   Again, I don't know all the answers.

I do know that I met the face of immigration, and a victim racial prejudice...and she is beautiful.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Return of the Wayward Writer

The past month has been a busy one for our family.  During this time, our oldest son came home after his first year in college.  Other memorable events:


  • Nine men were ordained as permanent deacons in the Diocese of Cleveland.  This is the first class in five years.  A very exciting milestone in our diocese!
  • Four men were ordained priests as well.  We continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood.
  • My husband's godson received his first Communion.  It seems like just yesterday he was baptized!
  • A young man from our parish received his vestments, as he continues to discern a vocation as a Franciscan Friar Minor.  
  • A young woman from our parish began her time as a postulant with the Children of Mary, a community of nuns near Columbus,  Ohio.  
  • My husband finished his second year of formation as a deacon.
  • Our youngest son is wrapping up his sophomore year of high school.
  • I'm preparing my piano students for our first-ever recital.
Somewhere in there, we managed a trip to Michigan, too!

I will endeavor to be more faithful in posting to my blog AFTER the recital!  Thanks for hanging in there with me through the busy times of life.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When It All Comes Together

Last night and today, our parish hosted a women's retreat.  Our speaker was Father Nathan Cromly, who is a priest in the order of the Community of St. John.  He also heads up Eagle Eye Ministries.

The weekend's theme was "The Better Part," taken from the passage in Luke 10, where Jesus visited the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Without going into great detail, I had passed along the link to the music of my "journey song."  Our retreat coordinator, Mary, quickly decided it should become the theme song of our retreat.

And so, for the first time, I had the privilege of singing it with other women, and hearing their voices join with mine to call on Jesus...to take us, and shape us, as we sat at His feet.

In 2006, I had no idea.

Wow.
Father Nathan

Adoration

Father Nathan and friends  :o)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Update of Sorts

If you have been following my blog over the years, we have an item of unfinished business.

In this post from 2006, I wrote a song called "At Your Feet."  The words were posted, but I did not have the technology to share the music.

So, for better or for worse, here it is...!

video


Mary's Song (At Your Feet)

I walk into Your presence, Lord,
I fall down on my face
As I come before You, Lord,
I marvel at Your love and grace.

Refrain:
At Your feet, I find a place of perfect peace
At Your feet, I find a place of sweet release
At Your feet, I've finally found that I am home
So take me Lord; shape me, Lord
While I sit at Your feet

So many voices calling me
Can cause my heart to stray
But when I listen to Your voice
I know You'll show the better way... (back to Refrain)

Bridge:
I come and lay my heart at Your feet
I pour it out to You
And as I gaze into Your eyes,
You give me all of Your heart, too. (back to Refrain)


© 2006.  Joni Renee Johnson.  All Rights Reserved. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lord, I'm Amazed

For anyone who reads my blog with any regularity (and I hope there are at least a couple of people out there!), you may have noticed my lack of posts.  If you didn't, well, okay.  :o)

Our church organist, who has faithfully played at daily Mass for the past 30 years or so, took a nasty fall a few weeks ago.  In the process, he broke a bone in one of his hips.  Though no surgery was required, complete immobilization has been prescribed for proper healing.  I am his substitute, so have been playing more frequently.  In the process of that, my hands have received quite a thorough work-over.  Typing hasn't been as easy as I'd like.  That's all.

So, to make up for lost time, I have been pondering something over the past 24 hours.  Blowing the dust off the computer, warming up the joints, and away we go....!
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Things that amaze me...


  • Sunrises
    - Over the Kansas plains, over the mountains of Colorado, over the Great Lakes, over the hills of Ohio, over the forests of Michigan, over the Straits of Mackinac, over the skyline of Detroit or Cleveland...it's all good
  • Sunsets
    - Ditto from above
  • Raindrops
  • Rainbows
  • Storm clouds
  • Sunny skies
  • Faces of newborn babies
  • Faces of new parents
  • Faces of small animals
  • Great, blue whales
  • Tiny little jellyfish
  • Elephants and giraffes
  • Baby gerbils
  • Tears of joy
  • The laughter of a child
  • The knowing chuckle of an older adult
  • The first snowflake of winter
  • The last leaf of fall
  • The first budding flower of spring
  • The mirage of water in the midst of highway heatwaves in summer
  • A blowing field of ripened wheat
  • The smell of quickly-growing corn on a muggy summer day
  • The smell of freshly cut hay
  • The smell of a newly plowed field
  • The fragrance of rain-washed skies
  • The longevity of marriages held together by sheer will, love, and the hand of God
  • The stubbornness of a young child
  • The stubbornness of an elderly person
  • Hugs that heal
  • Quiet moments in God's presence
  • Beautiful, ornate cathedrals
  • Simple, small chapels
  • Artwork that comes from the soul of the artist
  • Photographs that capture moments of historical events
  • Photographs that capture simple daily occurrences
  • Poetry that makes the heart sing
  • Songs that eloquently sing of God's majesty
  • Songs that speak from the reality of life
  • Songs that use simple, straightforward lyrics
  • A beautiful symphony
  • A simple melody
  • Honesty
  • The love of my family and friends
  • The love of a stranger
  • The wonder in the face of a child, as they see their first fireworks
  • The wonder in the face of an adult, as they see their millionth fireworks
  • The cross
  • The empty tomb
  • The barren hill from which Jesus ascended
  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • The truths of the Bible
  • The steadfastness of His Church
  • The love and mercy of the God who made it all
At least that's a good start...




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lenten Encouragement

I've had to take a short recess from blogging.  I ran across this quote today, though, and wanted to share it.


Take heart!  His love is greater than tomorrow's worries!



Friday, March 13, 2015

Guest Blog


If you've never read our oldest son's blog--what?!  Surely you jest?  Never read it?  Well, today is your lucky day!  :o)

http://djdaveydave.blogspot.com/2015/03/where-does-evangelizing-begin.html

Saturday, March 07, 2015

20,000 Leagues and More




"Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity
    and passing over transgression
    for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger for ever
    because he delights in steadfast love.
19 
He will again have compassion upon us,
    he will tread our iniquities under foot.
Thou wilt cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea."
Micah 7:18-19



How awesome is the ocean?  I mean, miles and miles of nothing but water.  And under that water, miles and miles of plant, fish, and animal life, most of which have never been observed by human eyes.  Myriads of microscopic organisms floating, swimming, living, reproducing, and dying--totally beyond the reach of scientific observance.  The word "amazing" doesn't even begin to cover it, does it?

Wouldn't you love your faults, failures, and sins to be completely absorbed into all that immensity, never to be found again?  Never to be looked upon by mankind?

That's the beauty of God's forgiveness.  When we confess our sins, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  (I John 1:9)  It is gone, as it were, into the "depths of the sea."

Don't wallow in it.  Let it go, and let God cast it away.  

Spring Break!

Our oldest is home from college for the week, so I may not be posting every day.

Have a happy week!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Every Life Matters

I'm taking a step away from the daily Scripture meditation today.  I want to share something a bit different with my readers.

For the past several weeks, I have been hearing about a documentary called, "The Dropbox."  I first heard about it from Focus on the Family.  The promotional clips showed a Korean pastor caring for infants and children in Seoul, South Korea.  The children they showed were mostly little ones with disabilities:  Down syndrome, birth defects, etc.  I felt a tug at my heart, and wanted to know more.  There is a special place in my heart for Korea, as my dad is a Korean War veteran.  There is another place reserved for those precious children who are abandoned or unwanted due to perceived abnormalities.

Tonight, as we entered the theater, we were unsure if it was even being shown.  There was no sign of it on the marquee.  However, as soon as we were inside the doors, a woman asked if we wanted two tickets?  She had purchased four tickets to see "The Dropbox," but two family members were unable to attend.  Did we want their tickets?  We tried to pay her, but she wouldn't hear of it.  Wow.  I think we were meant to be there!

The theater was fairly full when the presentation began.  It was an unusual viewing, as it was not for entertainment purposes.  Yet here were dozens of people, gathering together to listen and watch...to learn.

The movie was directed by a man named Brian Ivie.  The background of the making of "The Dropbox" can be found at LifeNews.com.  What began as a project for the Sundance Film Festival became a life-changing journey for Mr. Ivie.  Meeting Pastor Lee and his wife was an experience Brian Ivie will never forget.
How can I describe seeing newborn infants dropped at this unassuming man's door?  Children who are unwanted, unplanned, or somehow seen as an inconvenience, left in the care of a loving stranger who will put them up for adoption, or adopt them himself...left in a dropbox.

The culture in South Korea still expects young women to remain chaste, in a sense.  That is, if a teenager becomes pregnant, she is seen as a "loose" woman, chastised by her peers, and often dismissed from school.  Though we often see single, teen moms in the United States, this is not the norm in South Korea.  Children with disabilities are too difficult, too expensive, and often looked upon with shame.  Unplanned pregnancies are seen as a disgrace.
Pastor Lee, however, sees each child as a gift from God.  He and his wife have a birth child with severe physical problems.  Through raising him, God opened their eyes to the gift of each life--whether deemed perfect by society or not.

This is a message so needed by our culture.  Children are not possessions to be kept or thrown away at a whim.  They are each a creation of God.  Each of them has a purpose and a place, if only given the chance.  To take that a step further, each human--no matter how young or old--has a purpose until the day God calls them home.  To shorten that life by any means is to ignore their dignity and humanity.

If you see one movie this year, this is the one.  Be ready to have your eyes opened, your heart challenged, and your life changed.