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The latest in the Christian Science Monitor series “People Making A Difference”, http://www.csmonitor.com/makingadifference/ , focuses on Pastor Richard Berry.

The greatest change in a society often comes from the actions of its citzens, more than it’s government.  It’s individuals, like Pastor Berry, doing what they can to help their less fortunate neighbors, that creates the compassionate community we all want our society to become.

Before I go on to the article about Pastor Berry I’ll ask my question:

Name a person, more than one if you care to, about a family member, friend or neighbor who, like Pastor Berry, is someone making a difference.

I work part-time at a shelter for the homeless.  The guy who manages the shelter, John, was climbing the corporate ladder of success when realized he was not getting the personal satisfaction he needed from his job.  Encouraged by his wife, Camille, they moved to a smaller house, sold their BMW, and began working at the shelter he now runs.  As he says, it was one of the best decisions they ever made.

From the Christian Science Monitor article, by Cynthia Anderson, about Pastor Barry, of the Trinity Evangelical Free Church, in Skowhegan, Maine.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1123/p07s01-lign.html

It’s easy to miss the Trinity Evangelical Free Church, set back as it is on a side road in this mill town in central Maine. Nothing would seem to distinguish it from a thousand churches like it across the state.

The same might be said of Trinity’s pastor, Richard Berry, a woodsman-turned-preacher who umpires softball in his spare time. When Berry scraped together money to attend college after his brother-in-law was killed by a drunken driver, he imagined neither fame nor notoriety in his future. Now he has both.

Since September 2008, Trinity has been operating as a homeless shelter – the only one, it turns out, in a county tied for second place as the poorest in the state. Twenty-three men live at the church in former Sunday school classrooms next to the sanctuary where services are held. The criteria for entrance? “You’re homeless, and you’re hungry,” Pastor Berry says.

The place has a homey, if utilitarian, look. On a recent Sunday the men watched TV, cooked dinner, or lounged outside in easy chairs on a makeshift patio. One split wood for an outdoor furnace that provides heat and hot water. At 7 p.m. everyone crowded into a basement room for bible study, led by an associate pastor.

“This is crazy stuff,” says Berry of what has ensued since he decided in July 2008 to let one homeless man temporarily spend nights at the church on a sofa. “There are days I can’t catch my breath. I never envisioned any of it.”

By “any of it,” Berry’s referring to the fact that last year, when he asked his congregation for permission to operate the church as a shelter, about half of its members quit. “They didn’t want to be associated with ‘people like that,’ ” Berry says with a shrug. “They decided they wanted out.”

Trouble also arrived in the form of town officials and the state fire marshal, who threatened to shut down the shelter for code violations. Berry pushed for a compromise that allows Trinity to remain open as long as he agreed to construct a new shelter, the groundbreaking for which began last summer with a donated backhoe, bulldozer, and building materials.

Ned Goff, a Skowhegan business owner, loaned heavy equipment for the excavation of the site, next to the existing building. “I knew there were a lot of people in the area in need,” Mr. Goff says. “Pastor Berry was doing something about it, and I felt that we could help.”

Still, money is tight. The shelter operates on effectively a zero budget, dependent on a grocery chain for free vegetables, meat, and canned goods, and on a local bakery for bread. The bunks where the men sleep are salvaged, and other furnishings are minimal.

But Berry has no intention of giving up. Beneath his laid-back demeanor, and a warmth that makes him as likely to extend a hug as to proffer a prayer, is a stubborn core. Also compassion, as both his mother and wife will attest. If Berry is surprised by what has transpired at Trinity, his wife, Selma, is not. “Richard has a huge heart,” she says. “That’s what drew me to him in the first place.”

More than 100 men have lived at the church in the past 16 months. The 23 there now, Berry says, are “a motley crew” – some recently released from prison and some facing down addiction or mental illness. They seem to be a thankful crew, too. One after another they express gratitude for having found Trinity.

“I don’t know where I’d be without Pastor Berry and this church,” says Mike Boutin, who became homeless in November 2008 after the house where he was living burned. Mr. Boutin was already unemployed and drinking heavily. Mostly on a whim, he says, he went one night with a friend to Trinity. It wasn’t long before Boutin signed a contract that allowed him to live there. He had to agree to stringent policies, secular and religious: no drugs or alcohol on the premises; a 9 p.m. curfew; attendance at daily 7 a.m. prayers and 7 p.m. bible study, and four weekly church services.

Boutin adjusted. “It’s not about rules and regulations,” he says. “There’s a family atmosphere here. We eat together, we pray together, we sleep together.”

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With the traditional Thanksgiving Holiday coming up here in America I’ll ask a traditional question. 

What events happened to you in 2009 that you are thankful for?

This will be my last post for the week.  I hope everyone has a healthy and happy holiday.

1) Blog buddies Papa and Mama paid me a visit in October.  We had a great lunch, and walk along Long Island Sound.

2) One of the former regulars at the shelter I work at, 4 hours a week, got a job, an apartment, and has straighten his life out.

3) I have lunch twice a month with retired friends.  It is nice to have one group of friends where I am the youngster. 🙂  Three are cancer survivors, and we have all had health issues at one time of the other.  We are thankful ever time we all make it to lunch healthy.

4) I began a Bible Study series on my blog.  All the great dialogue has helped me understand better the gudiance that has shaped society for 2,000 years.

5) I had an unexpected plumbing bill.  I was able to find a job, in this terrible recession, and payoff my bill.

I am thinkful I have had no major crisis in 2009 and will be thrilled if 2010 goes as well.

This Wednesday I noticed a record number of “hits” on my blog, over 500.  It was because people had used a google image search to view a post I put up last August, , about one of the more popular blogs in blogdom, Cakewrecks .  I revisited that site and found some more interesting, and bizarre, pictures of cakes, which I have posted below.

What is your favorite cake?  If you aren’t that fond of cake, what is your favortie pie.  If you don’t like either cake or pie you must have some outer space alien DNA in your taste buds.  🙂

In my heading I have put up a Cakewrecks gallery.  Which is your favorite cake picture in the Gallery?

Some recent cakes on the Cakewreck site:

Simon Peter the Apostle is one of the most important figures in the New Testament.  As it says in Mathew 16:18 Jesus refers to Peter as the rock he will build his church on.  Peter’s faith in Jesus however did not become strong until after Jesus was crucified, and the resurrected Jesus appeared before him.

Do you agree that in order to develop a strong trust in the source of your faith, it must first help you get past a crisis. 

In Mathew 14:25-31, when Jesus walks on the lake, Peter asks “Lord, if it’s you command me to come to you on the water.  Jesus tells him to come.  Peter gets out of the boat, but fear overcomes him and he sinks into the water.

In Mathew 16:21-23 Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer many things, must die, and on the third day he will be resurrected.  Peter takes Jesus aside, saying, “Never Lord! This shall not happen to you.”  Jesus response is “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me.”

After Jesus is arrested Peter denies him three times:

Mathew 26:69-75

69Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

 70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

 71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

 72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

 73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”

 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

   Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

However, after seeing the resurrected Jesus, Peter affirms his love to Jesus three times:

John 21:15-17

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
       “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
       Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

    16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
       He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
       Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

    17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
       Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
       Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

My perception of the lesson Peter’s life has to the CF is that being human you will have moments of doubt.  You will not pass every test of faith you face.  Do not let these moments of doubt turn you from your God.  Persevere and your faith can become stronger.

Jill Bolte is a neuroanatomist, who specializes in the postmortem investigation of the human brain.

On December 10, 1996, she woke up to discover that she was experiencing a rare form of stroke, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Three weeks late she underwent major brain surgery to remove a golf ball-sized clot that was placing pressure on the language centers in the left hemisphere of her brain.

In the talk below, at the February 2008 TED Conference, Jill discusses her memory of the stroke.  Her amazing recovery can be a inspiration to us all.

Which authors, scholars, leaders, outside your family or someone you personally knew, have inspired you the most?

Jill Bolt Taylor’s bio on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jill_Bolte_Taylor

Her web site:

http://drjilltaylor.com

My favorite science lecturer is Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is an American astrophysicist, and the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

His Bio on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_degrasse_tyson

I was listening to an interview of his where he comments on how little we actually know about the Universe, and how it works.

We have defined many different types of matter, atoms, protons, quarks,etc.  This makes up about 5% of all the matter in the Universe, as far as we can tell.  Which means we are clueless about the other 95%.  Scientist call this unknown matter “Dark Matter” so it can seem like they have some grasp of what it is, which of course they don’t.

If you could get the answer to any three questions, about anything, what would your questions be?

On this YouTube video he gives this amusing lecture as a counter point to the idea of the Intelligent Design of the Universe.

Stupid Design

Last week we talked about a man who committed grievous sin, Judas, was remorseful, but not repentant.  This week we will look at another man who also committed great sin, David, but in this case he did repent.

As always this is my interpretation of what I have read.  I look forward to the thoughts of my CF friends, or anyone else, who has studied the Bible more than I have.

I think we can see the difference between how these two men dealt with their sin in the 4th verses of  Psalm 51, King James Version,  where David says:

4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

David came to understand that repentance can only come by turning to God.  That he needed the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to transform his life away from sin, and to God’s guidance.

In verse 10 he says:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

It is the goal of the CF to listen to the right spirit (Holy Spirit) within them, and let it guide them in their walk in life.

Psalm 51 – King James Version  (When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.)

 1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

 2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

 3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

 4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

 5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

 6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

 8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

 9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

 10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

 11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

 12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

 13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

 14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

 15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

 16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

 18Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

 19Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

american-flag

Thank You Soldiers – Sung by the Tussing Elementary 3rd grade class

Where Have All The Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger

vietnam-memorial

I read two recent articles on the same theme, women in sports.  In one, which has been all over the news, a female soccer player, acted just like many of her male counter parts, tried to injure another player.  In the other, which I have not seen in the headlines, the person who holds the longest ski jump at the facility being used for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, won’t be completing, because there is no women’s ski jumping event.

Is there any athletic event that women should not be allowed to compete in?

In my opinion no, including boxing.  Certainly every Olympic event should have both a man’s and women’s completion.

Is there any reason you would expect women athletics to act any way differently when competing than men?

I can’t think of any.

From the article in the Christian Science Monitor, by Christa Case Byrant, about Lindsey Van – who set the record on the 90-meter jump when the Olympic venue opened in Vancouver, British Columbia, last year and is the reigning women’s world champion.

CSKI_P1

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1109/p17s03-ussc.html

Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Boston – Unless a Canadian court decides otherwise, the ski jumper with the longest flight on record at Vancouver’s Olympic facility will not attend the winter Games in February.

She is not allowed to compete.

Olympic ski jumping is a men’s-only domain. Since the first winter Games in 1924, men have been swooping down snowy ramps at 55 m.p.h. and springing into flight – human rockets hurtling chin-first, hands thrown behind, and skis angled forward. With nothing but speed and their skis to aid them, they fly the length of a football field or farther – a feat of technical genius disguised in balletic grace.

But women can do it, too – the best often flying as far as men.

With women now included in such formerly all-male Olympic events as boxing, wrestling, bobsleigh, and luge, the last Olympic door closed to women is ski jumping.

But American ski jumper Lindsey Van – who set the record on the 90-meter jump when the Olympic venue opened in Vancouver, British Columbia, last year and is the reigning world champion – hasn’t given up on prying that door open. It’s a logical step for the 24-year-old, who, since age 7, has been soaring over Earth’s mundane limits on what is possible.

She and more than a dozen other women jumpers from Slovenia to Norway hope to legally force the addition of women’s jumping before the Games open Feb. 12. Their lawsuit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) contends that not allowing women to jump for gold is a form of discrimination under Canadian laws that prohibit gender discrimination in government activities.

A Canadian judge, last summer, agreed: It is discrimination.

But her ruling concluded that while VANOC is subject to those antidiscrimination laws, it can’t control the events – that’s the domain of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC voted in 2006 against including women’s ski jumping in 2010 because it deemed there weren’t enough high-level women to create competition worthy of the Olympics. Because the IOC isn’t bound by Canadian law, the judge ruled, Canada is powerless to change the program.

So the jumpers’ appeal asks Canada to refuse to hold the men’s event unless both genders can compete.

When the appeal is heard Nov. 12 and 13, it will highlight not just women’s battle to wipe out the last vestige of an old-boys-club Olympic culture, but also competing demands on the Olympic ideal:

•Allowing athletes to pursue success on the most visible world stage.

•Broadening the appeal of the Games among Gen-Xers interested in more extreme sports while keeping costs manageable.

•Satisfying TV, a key sponsor.

“IT’S A TEXTBOOK CASE OF DISCRIMINATION,” says Anita DeFrantz, chair of the IOC’s Women and Sports Commission. “This group of athletes is being told that they’re not good enough, that there aren’t enough women in the top level…. That’s never been an issue before.”

The IOC defends its position as preservation of the Olympic standard, saying the top women jumpers don’t deserve the same gold that is awarded to figure skaters and alpine skiers who have risen to the top of far larger fields.

But the IOC’s recent record of admitting both women’s events (see chart) and disciplines with weak fields – such as bobsleigh and ski cross – suggests the issue is not as clear-cut as either side asserts.

A couple of food related articles I read recently.

1) Gleaning is a new word to me.  It’s a tradition that goes back to biblical times.

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleaning

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system. For example, ancient Jewish communities required that farmers not reap all the way to the edges of a field so as to leave some for the poor and for strangers.(Lev. 19:9–10., Lev. 23:22, Deut. 14:28-29, Peah).

While I must admit I have a spare bedroom full of stuff I will likely never use again, like old exercise equipment, I will give something away, old computer equipment, books, clothes,etc, before I will throw it away.  I can’t remember the last thing I did throw way.

What was the last item you gave away to charity?

A young women in Vermont, Corinne Almquist is reviving this tradtion to help feeding hungry familes in the area.

MALMQUIST_P1

From a Christian Science Monitor article:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1102/p07s01-lign.html

Cornwall, VT. – Clusters of plump, wine-red Empire apples hang from sagging boughs, yearning to be picked. A small group of volunteers is obliging, quickly filling a truck bed with wooden boxes of fruit.

They’re led by a smiling, energetic young woman, her red hair pulled back and practical rubber boots on her feet, ready for tromping in an orchard on a day that threatens rain.

Later that afternoon Corinne Almquist will deliver some 20 bushels of apples, about 1,000 lbs., to a food shelf for free distribution to hungry local residents. Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vt., where Ms. Almquist and her helpers have been gleaning, can’t sell the apples: Most have cosmetic blemishes caused by being pelted in a late summer hailstorm. Though grocery chains won’t buy them, they’re still tasty and nutritious.

2) The best desert receipe I have seen recently.  Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake.

articleLarge

What is your favorite desert? –

From the NYT

Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake

11 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 to 4 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat; add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. When mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top.

2. With a handheld or standing mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not overmix. Carefully spread batter over pears, using a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 to 50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.

4. Run a knife around edge of pan; put a plate on top of cake and carefully flip it so plate is on bottom and pan is on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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