Friday, March 23, 2018

Lenten luncheon 5: The spirituality of social justice

The last Lenten luncheon of the series was held on Wednesday, March 21st. The Rev. Carla Kline, pastor of Island Presbyterian Church, talked about the power of social justice in our individual lives, our communities, our nation, and our world. She said that her life was profoundly changed by a ten-day trip to El Salvador, in Central America, in 2005.

The Rev. Carla Kline on the right, with her sister.
What is the difference between justice and social justice?
Justice has to do with rectifying wrongs done to individuals; social justice has to do with groups of people and how they are treated or mistreated.

What does the Bible say about social justice?
Chapter 6 of Micah is a courtroom scene, in which God presents his case against the Israelite.

The charge was that the Israelites had seized fields, oppressed people, and committed gruesome acts of murder. He demands to know what he has done to cause the people to behave in such an unjust and atrocious way. Instead of answering directly, the Israelites try to bargain with God and buy him off with burnt offerings, streams of oil, rams, and year-old calves. 

"God asked the Israelites: Why do you ignored my commandments? Do you see the injustices around you? Get a clue, will you?"

Carla talked about Micah in the Bible and about the Micah of our times. Who is the Micah of our times?
Oscar Romero was the fourth bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. "He was the Micah of our time." He focused on injustices, such as poverty, social injustice, assassination, and torture. In 1980s El Salvador, assassination and torture were common place. The land and wealth were controlled by fourteen families. Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out against that.

He was shot while celebrating mass at the Church of the Divine Providence in San Salvador. A gunman got out of a car and, with his rifle resting against his car door, shot the archbishop in the heart, killing him immediately. A "death squad" was blamed for the murder but, according to a declassified CIA report, the murder was committed by a four-man national police squad.

Oscar Romero will be canonized as a saint later this year.

do justice. act with kindness. walk humbly with your God.

How did your experience in El Salvador change you?
"I fell in love with El Salvador. I spent time with a three year old named Lucy and I meshed with an 80-year-old woman named Isabella. I was made to feel welcomed. The social justice practice was deeply spiritual. I learned about liberation theology. I saw coffee fields. I visited the University of El Salvador." There, in 1989, six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter were murdered.

What gets in the way of our seeking social justice?
"We have a fear of labels. We are afraid of being called 'liberal,' 'progressive,' or 'secular.' In our society, we face systemic oppression. Jesus Christ was a social justice reformer, but we  water down the message to religious platitudes."

Describe Jesus, the social justice reformer.
Jesus intentionally helped the alienated, the mistreated, and the domestically abused lives. 

"Instead of saying 'All lives matter,' Jesus said:
Samaritan lives matter.
Children's lives matter.
Gentile lives matter.
Jewish lives matter.
Women's lives matter.
Lepers' lives matter."

we see injustice. it is not enough just to see. we dare to change what is unjust. we glorify God through acts of justice.

And... here in Grand Island: Carla described the work of the Family Justice Center, which supports victims of domestic violence, as "Christlike," and she encouraged people to support the Family Justice Center, which is working on opening a satellite office in Grand Island.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 A through Z challenge theme reveal... stay tuned!

This is now my fourth year of participating in the A through Z blogging challenge. It occurs every April for the month. All participants have to write 26 blog posts, and each one must start with a letter of the alphabet, in consecutive order.

So, if my theme were food, my blog post might look like this: asparagus, barley soup, chocolate is your best friend, dates, eggplant, and so on.

But my theme isn't food. I could include food but it's not the main theme.

My theme is "finding beauty in likely and unlikely places." I go to all sorts of places and there is hidden beauty everywhere. During the month of April, I will explore the hidden beauty in my blog with photographs, stories, and maybe even a few poems. Please come and visit and let me share my adventures with you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lenten luncheon 4: Justice for God's Creation

What does justice for God's creation look like? The Rev. Kris Bjerke-Ullman, pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, gave some ideas at the fourth of five Lenten luncheons, which was held on March 14th.

What does it mean to subdue the earth and to have dominion of what God has entrusted to us?

"We have to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We are caretakers of God's creation. We must support biodiversity. There are lives in the grass." There are lives in ponds and in bodies of water and in the woods. In a pond, we find a variety of species, including mosquitoes, frogs, fish, and birds.

"We have to serve and keep the Earth for the good of all."

Do people always get it?
"It is hard to care for the things that are not ours and to have dominion over every living thing. Do we own it and control and do it our way? We do not have special privileges to destroy and dominate."

What do we do that does not result in a healthy environment? 

“We don’t always allow biodiversity to happen, and we make changes in the environment.”

What kind of changes do we make to the environment?

One of the changes that people have made in the environment is to plant invasive species, such as European buckthorn and purple loosestrife. “European buckthorn looks like a lush sea of green with pretty berries but it is low in protein and high in carbohydrates. It is bad to eat and can kill smaller birds.” It grows rapidly and reduces biodiversity by shading out native shrubs and plants, Pastor Kris said. There is also the risk of soil erosion into nearby bodies of water, she said. Purple loosestrife is “beautiful, invasive, and destructive.” It is an invasive plant species that “suppresses growth of native species and replaces marshland meadow species. It reverses biodiversity.”

What can we do to restore God's creation in our community?

  • Dig up and restore invasive plant species, such as purple loosestrife and European buckthorn.
  • "Stop mowing to the water's edge" if you have property with riparian rights to creeks or the river. The creeks in Grand Island are tributaries of the Niagara River. Anything that ends up in the creeks will eventually find its way to the Niagara River.  "Leave an unmowed buffer zone. Fifty feet is adequate.” Native plant species in the unmowed areas, which could include such plants as spotted Joe Pye weed, New England Aster, and blue flag iris, will capture impurities before they go into a creek.
  • Don't use lawn chemicals, especially if you are still mowing to the water's edge. The lawn chemicals could leach into a creek and, eventually, into the Niagara River.
  • Get educated about your local environment. Look for workshops and training classes that are offered to provide environmental information. Pastor Kris also said that she plans on setting up workshops “to talk about a healthy and diverse environment.” The workshops would be designed for both children and adults.

The last week of the Lenten luncheon series is scheduled for noon on March 21 and will feature the Rev. Carla Kline of Island Presbyterian Church, who will discuss “Justice for Immigrants.”

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lenten luncheon 3: Justice and the opioid epidemic

Yesterday, the third in a series of five on the Lenten luncheons presented by the Grand Island Ministerium. The theme for this year's is justice. The topic for this week was "Justice and the Opioid Crisis." It was presented by Father Earle King of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church.

I will present this in an FAQ (frequently asked questions) format.

In the past few years, deaths from opioid overdose have increased? What sort of statistics are available about the extent of this epidemic?

In Erie County, there were 103 opioid-related deaths in 2012. By 2016, the number increased three-fold to 2016.

In the United States, in 1999, there were 17,000 opioid deaths. By 2012, the number was up to more than 40,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2016, that number increased to more than 64,000.

Could this change?
"There is some guarded hope that the numbers of opioid deaths are dropping."

Wait! What are all of these drugs? Let's start with opium. What is opium and where does it come from?
Opium comes from a poppy plant that grows mainly in Burma, Afghanistan, and Colombia. In fact, 90 percent of all of the opium comes from Afghanistan.

OK. It comes from a plant. Why can't we just grow it in our backyards?
It needs a warm, dry climate to grow. Grand Island doesn't qualify as either. 

What are opiates? What are they used for?
"Opiates are drugs containing or derived from opium. They tend to induce sleep and alleviate pain. The standard for pain relief is morphine. It is fantastic, and, medically, it is good. Codeine is primarily used for cough relief," Father Earle said.

(Aha. Sleep inducing. Hence, when Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow came across the large poppy field on their way to Oz, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion gave in to the urge to lie down amidst the flowers and go to sleep. The Wicked Witch of the West enjoyed that too much... until the Good Witch of the North sent snow, which woke up the sleepy heads.)

What is the difference between an opiate and an opioid?
They are similar but opioids are produced synthetically. The first opioid to be produced was heroin in 1874. It was originally used for pain relief, but there were too many problems with it. Apparently, it was too highly addictive to be used safely. It was banned. Other drugs, all used for pain relief, have been developed by drug companies.
Opioids include oxycodone, oxycontin, hydrocodone, and vicodin. All are highly addictive. 

What are fentanyl and carfentanil?
Fentanyl: another opioid. It doesn't take much to kill you. It is very potent, more so than heroin. Even more potent is carfentanil. It's actually elephant tranquilizer. It is so potent and so dangerous that veterinarians wear haz mat suits when they tranquilize an elephant with carfentanil.

Well, if all of those things are so toxic, why do people take them?
Father Earle said that, in the 1990s, there was a new philosophy about treating pain. "We worried more about treating pain than about addiction." Pain is treated with medications known as analgesics, which can range from acetaminophen to opioids.

Who were some of the people who were prescribed opioids?
People who have chronic back problems, people going through major surgeries, and people who have other conditions that result in very serious pain. If you rate pain on a zero to ten scale, with zero being no pain and ten being the most excruciating pain possible, the people who take opioids would most likely be people who claim that their pain level is either nine or ten. 

What was the result? What percentage of people who were prescribed opioids become addicted?
Anywhere from 22 percent to 29 percent of the people who are prescribed opioids become addicted to it. Father Earle described that statistic as "pretty high."

Let's talk about justice. What does that look like for people of faith?

Father Earle recommended getting informed about the opioid issue. One way that he suggested is by going to a training. If you want to attend a training in Grand Island, the next one, which will be sponsored by the Grand Island Kiwanis, is scheduled to be held some time in May. You're invited to check the Grand Island Kiwanis' Club on Facebook (look for Kiwanis GrandIslandny). Upcoming training sessions include:

  • 6-8 p.m., March 20th at the Hamburg United Methodist Church, 116 Union Street, Hamburg.
  • 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., April 26th, at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (downtown), 1 Lafayette Avenue, Buffalo.
  • 6-8 p.m., May 9th, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo.

OK, let's continue asking questions about ethics.  What about the behavior of drug companies? What about the way that they advertise these highly addictive drugs?
Father Earle talked about one of the drug companies, Purdue Pharma. This is the company that, in the 1990s, invented Oxycontin. They asserted that it was less addictive because it was "time released." 

"They advertised to doctors who were not pain specialists. The more drugs they handed out, the more rewards they made. They made more than $35 billion. They pleaded guilty in federal court of misleading the public and they paid $600 million in fines."

More information about Purdue Pharma and its legal issues can be found: in this Wikipedia article, titled Purdue Pharma.

What demographic group is most likely to become addicted to opioids?
White males between the ages of 20 and 40.

What is the difference between opioid addiction and alcoholism?
It is OK to let alcoholics "hit bottom" before seeking treatment. Opioid addiction is different from alcoholism for two reasons. Father Earle explained that the addict is likely "to take an overdose and die before hitting bottom." 

Another difference is that you know what is in that bottle of alcohol. You don't know what you're getting when you go out on the streets and purchase heroin. There is no standardization in illegal drugs. 

What is available for opioid addicts seeking help?
Father Earle's answer to this was more questions.
Are there enough drug rehabs?
Who should pay for drug rehab? Drug companies? Insurance companies? Government? 
Father Earle mentioned an Amherst lawsuit against drug manufacturers, concerning the expense of rehab on the town.

What should churches do?
More people should be trained to administer Narcan, which blocks the effects of an opioid overdose. If this medication is given to someone who has not taken an overdose, it will have no effect at all. It is a safe drug.

Librarians are being trained to administer Narcan. They keep Narcan in the libraries. People have been known to go into a library to take their drug of choice.

Narcan could be kept in churches, and church members could be trained in its use.

"It's like having a defibrillator in a church," said Father Earle. "It's a way to save a life."

Next week's Lenten luncheon will be presented by Saint Timothy Lutheran Church.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hope and Loss in North Carolina (part two): Ramona's world

On Saturday, March 3rd, I traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina. I was going to the funeral for Ramona Brant, which was scheduled for the following day at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, in Charlotte. Today, I am sharing Ramona's story.

When I was serving a few short sentences in the federal prison camp in Danbury, Connecticut, more than ten years ago, I knew that, down the hill, in the big prison (the federal correctional institution), there were women who were serving life sentences. I couldn't understand how a life sentence without the possibility of parole (and there has been no parole in the federal system since 1987) could be given to someone who had not killed other people. Although I was learning that the war on drugs was truly a war on American families, I could not even imagine that anyone could receive a life sentence for CONSPIRACY to sell drugs.

Ramona Brant's smile (image
courtesy of Ivy Woolf Turk)
Yet, that is exactly what happened to Ramona. She was involved in the illegal drug business, not out of choice, but because she was in an abusive relationship with a man, who turned out to be the kingpin of a large conspiracy that involved the sale of crack cocaine. 

When he first met her, he swept her off her feet. He seemed almost too good to be true. In other words, he showed all of the signs of being an abuser. Usually people who become abuse victims will not recognize those signs. Here is something that I wrote about abusers and their victims after Mary Travers Murphy, executive director of Western New York's Family Justice Center, spoke at the first Lenten luncheon. Her talk was titled "Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence": Domestic abusers are manipulative people who brainwash their victims into believing that they are those romantic folks who conducted a whirlwind courtship. Once it is obvious that they are violent abusers, they brainwash their victims into believing that they are responsible for their own abuse. Oftentimes, Mary said, "they can't pinpoint the moment of the first kick or hit. They are traumatized and their brains have been rewired."

Ramona had two sons with the abusive boyfriend. Her sons were the only good things to come from a bad relationship. 

The boyfriend forced her to accompany him on his drug runs and he made her make phone calls on his behalf. He told her that she and the boys would die if she didn't do what he said. Eventually, he and his cohorts were caught and they began naming names. She was arrested when she was in court, trying to get an order of protection.  I read an article on line that quoted the boyfriend as saying, after he refused a plea deal that would spare her any prison time, something to the effect of "if I can't have her, then no one can." She and her boyfriend and probably others were sentenced to life in federal prison. She was never caught with any drugs at all. She had no prior criminal convictions. In a conspiracy case, each person arrested for that conspiracy is charged with the total amount of drugs connected with that case. They do not have to be caught with drugs or even to have any knowledge of the extent of the conspiracy.

Ramona and friends
at FCI Danbury (image
courtesy of Debra Horton) 
Nkechi Taifi, Esq. of the Open Society Foundation: (Ramona served) 21 years of unjust and unnecessary incarceration. The drug conspiracy laws are injustice. Who will be the voice that will fight that injustice? Use the ballot box. Long live the spirit of Ramona Brant.

Elisa Chinn-Gary of Race Matters for Juvenile Justice: On August 4th, 2016, I entered Ramona's world. We had an immediate spiritual connection. She was a woman of faith, purpose drive, a social justice champion, and a black queen warrior. She spoke about racism and domestic violence. She used her vision and her voice, her platform and her life to speak for people who were not heard. Justice cannot flow where there is racism.

Ramona was a mentor, friend, and
spiritual advisor to many at
FCI Danbury.
I love the law. I am a critical lover of the justice system. We must right the wrongs. The flaws of injustice rain terror on people of color and people living in poverty. Ramona's punishment did not fit her crime. She suffered a grave injustice. It did not break her spirit or shatter her hope. She did not surrender.

Pastor Mitchel Blue of the Uncommon Church in Charlotte, N.C.: What do we do with this gift that Ramona gave us? I can't sit on the sidelines. She left us with a great vision. We cannot do her legacy justice if we stay in complete complacency or say 'that's not my issue.'

In prison, Ramona stayed busy, doing such things as mentoring other women, taking classes, and directing the church choir. She made many friends in prison, who admired her deep faith and her optimistic belief that she would eventually go home. 

Beatrice Codianni (editor, Reentry Central): I spent several years in prison with Ramona. She was known for her deep sense of faith, which helped her get through her time in prison. Talking with her, I could not believe that such a gentle, religious, and caring person could be given such a harsh sentence. In my mind's eye, I see her scurrying to and from choir practice, and I hear her teaching other women to lift up their voices to the Lord in song.

Women who serve time in prison become sisters forever. Here are some of Ramona's sisters.
Denise McCreary said, after learning that Ramona had passed away: I can barely wrap my mind around the fact that God has called my sister Ramona Brant home to gain her wings and to truly be free. While on this earth, she worked to improve and make differences in the lives of our sisters who are still incarcerated and to improve the quality and dignity in the lives of our sisters who are returning home...

Heaven has gained yet another freedom fighter......

Amy Povah: She said, 'If you're passionate about something would you please act on it?' Help Ramona touch more lives.

Andrea James, executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls: We are Ramona's sisters.

Pastor Mitchel Blue: She joined the church two years ago. She compared her life to that of Joseph in the book of Genesis. She was a nurturer in prison. We were touched by the gift that Ramona had. She said, "My faith said that I will not serve this life sentence in prison. I will go home to my children and my family."

Topeka K. Sam has opened a house
in Bronx, N.Y., for women
returning home from
prison sentences.
A campaign was put into place by such organizations as CAN-DO, which advocates for long-term prisoners to receive executive clemency, and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, to grant Ramona Brant clemency. She was featured by Brandon Stanton in his "Humans of New York" series shortly before she was released from prison early in 2016, after being granted executive clemency by President Obama. A video was made of her freedom day. According to Amy Povah, executive director of CAN-DO, "the video went viral. It catapulted her to rock star status." A few months later, she met President Obama at a White House symposium for people who had received clemency.  "She pitched the idea to Obama to have a clemency summit," Amy said. Amy was able to give Ramona the news: "'Guess what? You're going to the White House.' She wanted her sons at the White House."

Friends of Ramona are determined to continue Ramona's vision and to share it with the rest of the country and the world. They are Foxxy and Tray and Tray's son Ty.
Ramona went home to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she was determined to continue to help people in prison and people released from prison. From her personal experiences, she knew what it was like to be the victim  of a broken and racist justice system. While she was in the artificial world of federal prison, the world had changed. She had to adjust to a world in which her young sons had become adults and had made her a grandmother. She had to adjust to new technology. 

She needed housing and she needed a job. She had told her job counselor that she needed to hold out for a job that would offer her the flexible hours that she needed so she could speak out for the Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. The job counselor, Melissa Murmeth, who spoke at the funeral, asked her if that was a realistic goal. "Ramona assured me that it was possible." She managed to obtain a job with the City of Charlotte, helping formerly incarcerated persons obtain employment. Her boss, Antione Ensley, who hired her after seeing her in a television interview, gave her those flexible hours so she could speak.

She finally met a good man and was married last March. With a job, the opportunity to speak, and a good marriage, Ramona was able to pursue her dream. Ramona's dream was to open a house for people to come to after being released from prison. Housing and employment are big obstacles facing formerly incarcerated people. "She was so close to having it. She knew which house she wanted. She always called it her house. She spoke about it as often as possible and she did a lot of public speaking", Melissa Murmeth said.

Ramona died on February 25th, a week shy of her 55th birthday.

Many condolences came, from people in prison, as well as from President Obama. 

Amy Povah: A man serving a life sentence said, 'She sent me a birthday card with her picture.' A woman said, 'She used to harass me to go to choir.'

 At her funeral, it was announced that a house for returning prisoners would be dedicated and would be named Ramona's House.

Melissa Murmeth: Ramona's vision was a huge building welcoming people home from prison with safe and affordable housing and a living wage job. She said, 'Thank you, God, for my building.' 

Pastor Mitchel Blue: On Monday, we had the incredible privilege and honor of incorporating Ramona's House.

Melissa Murmeth: Thank you, God, for Ramona's place.

Despite the injustice that she experienced, Ramona was never anything but a kind and generous person, who loved her community, her family, her friends, and her church.  

Pastor Mitchel Blue: Ramona lived her life selflessly with a consideration of others first in a way that honored God. I have no question on where Ramona is. She has been welcomed into the arms of God.

I love you, Ramona. Fly free.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Hope and loss in North Carolina, part one

On Saturday, March 3rd, I traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina. I was going to the funeral for Ramona Brant, which was scheduled for the following day at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, in Charlotte. 

In part one of this story, I am sharing some of the images of spring that I found in North Carolina. Spring comes a month earlier in North Carolina than it does in western New York. Seeing spring bursting to life at the beginning of March felt like a small miracle. It was beautiful, but bitter sweet. It was new life in the midst of death. It was vibrant color in the presence of sadness. It was glimmer of hope at a time when all hope seemed to have fled.

The colors of the Charlotte area, located in south central North Carolina, in the Piedmont, a plateau region found in the eastern United States, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian mountains. 

The first thing that I noticed were the flowering trees. 
Flowers on a tree. I was surprised to see that. Through the area, I noticed a plethora of trees in bloom.

This flower was caught in the act of opening.

This one is wide open.

So much color in such small plants.

This one plant incorporates elements of purple and yellow, which are complimentary colors.

 Some glimpses of life in Davidson, North Carolina

On a warm day, you could relax on this bench while waiting for your haircut.

Davidson has brick sidewalks and a great plethora of shops and restaurants for people to enjoy.

Relaxing outside on an early spring day

Above parked bicycles, the mural celebrates bicycles and farmers markets.

Remembering Anne Frank.

Another bench for relaxation and people watching.

Welcome to this building.
Tomorrow: Remembering Ramona Brant. Please come back tomorrow to read about this remarkable woman and her great contribution to her community and beyond, despite tremendous adversity.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Could we be a wonderful, mixed-up salad?

The Rev. Sung Ho Lee of Trinity United Methodist Church gave a presentation on Justice among people of different cultures. 

What does justice among people of different cultures look like? Sung Ho Lee started with a definition of culture. He defined culture as a way a group of people think, feel, celebrate, and experience life. Ways people express culture include ceremonies, works of art, and tradition. He said that each culture has an underlying system of values that is unique to that particular culture. All cultures have value. No culture is superior or inferior to another.

Sung Ho Lee said that, when you visit another culture for a short time, you will not see the intangible things that make a culture complete, which include beliefs, values, thought patterns, and myths. He said that an iceberg can be used as a metaphor for culture. What you experience in a short visit to another country are the things that are on the top of the iceberg, above the water line, so to speak. You can perceive the things that you can see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and touch with your hands. “It is not easy to grasp the culture of other people,” he said.

Sung Ho Lee, who was born and lived for 30 years in South Korea before moving to the United States, where he has lived and worked for 35 years, has observed differences in these two cultures. Korea is a “high context culture,” which means that it is group oriented, while the United States is a “low context culture,” which means that it is more individualistic. He talked about cultural clashes that he experienced when he first came to the United States.

“I had trouble raising my voice when I had a question. American had no difficulty with that. They raised their hands, and they sometimes asked stupid questions. I adapted. I raise my hand now and some of my questions are stupid questions.”

Another difference? “In Korea, we don’t have an agenda for a meeting. In the United States, people don’t think that we can have a meeting without an agenda. Neither is wrong nor right. They are just different.”

Different is good. Well, apparently, that hasn’t been a value in the United States. Different was seen as something to be eliminated, which is where the issue of justice among cultures comes in. The concept of the melting pot came in the 1780s. All cultures “melt together.” It’s supposed to make them all live together better because they share an American culture. The downside, however, is that people lose their ancestral cultures. They lose their heritage and their identities.

“They lose who they are.”

There is no justice in the melting pot.

Another way of looking at a country in which people have diverse backgrounds is the concept of a salad bowl. A salad bowl is full of a variety of good things, such as lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese. On top of all that, you add a dressing, which is the finishing touch. The dressing gives everything a special tang. Or, as Sue Kaiser pointed out, after the luncheon, “The dressing is the blessing.”

All of these salad foods, Sung Ho Lee said, are “good stuff. They are different nutrients and colors, all coming together.”

How do we create justice among peoples of different cultures? How do we get away from ethnocentrism and the attitude that different is bad and that other cultures are not important?

Sung Ho Lee said that Jesus met all kinds of people and he accepted the people who were rejected by society, such as lepers and tax collectors. He said that the parable of the good Samaritan is an example of how Jesus accepted peoples of all cultures..

“We can practice justice among different people. That is what Jesus did,” said Sung Ho Lee.

The next Lenten luncheon will be sponsored by Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church and the topic, to be presented by Father Earle King, will be justice and the opiod epidemic.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Snow world

Last evening, when I was at the March meeting of the Grand Island Historical Society, the snowfall started. The wind howled. The weather forecast was for snow. Lots of snow. Our meetings are usually fairly long. We have a speaker, who talks about local history, although not necessarily Grand Island. Then we have a short meeting, which is followed by dessert and coffee or tea. Last night, we were encouraged to have our refreshments during the meeting so we could leave before the Big Storm hit.

The snow fell through the night. I had a glimpse of what was to come on the ride home. The snow was coming sideways at Curt's truck. It was coming fast and it was being carried by a strong wind. 

In the morning, I woke up to a winter wonderland. In March. It was enough snow during the night to result in the closing of schools throughout the region. Truly, the saying was true. March came in like a lion, a roaring lion. Apparently, I missed the most dramatic part of the wild snowfall: the thunder snow. At some point during the night, there was a thunder storm, with lightning and thunder and... snow. Apparently, that is a rare weather phenomenon. Hmmm. I slept through a rare weather phenomenon. OK.

Well, let's hope that March leaves like a gentle lamb.

So... the return of winter. It's back after that lovely day (just three days ago), when I took a walk along the river and shared my photographs here. I took a shorter walk today, and here are some of the images of the wintry early March day.

This is a wetland after rain and snow.

Today, the Niagara River is a metallic color, as opposed to the bright blue that it was on Tuesday afternoon.

This and the following two pictures are views of the Niagara River. There are large chunks of ice floating down the river.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

#WednesdayVerses Dreaming in colors

bright decorations
cover a small oval shape
bursting with color

Insects as artwork
represent brightly colored
days and dream-filled nights

Did the earth catch fire?
The sun leaves a parting gift:
magic before night