Time to Leave the Cocoon

It has been quite a while since I last updated christinejbaxter.net but it is now time to update this site for the last time. For more than a year now I have been volunteering as the Director of Outreach and Community Development at a Non-Profit Paper Pantry in Troy, NY called Butterfly Wings. This Paper Pantry , Founded by Chief Executive Officer Anastasia Lewitinn in July of 2016 moved into its current location inside Christ Church UMC Troy at 35 State St Troy NY 12180 in July of 2017.  Recently I have taken on the added responsibility of developing and maintaining the website for the organization. This past weekend I launched  the website

www.butterflywingstroy.org 

and I invite you to follow our latest activities there.

 

 

The website is not a personal one like this one has been, but for my own personal reasons, it is time to add a bit more privacy to my own life anyway.  There are times in life to speak and times to be silent, there are times in life to be brave and there are times in life to be safe. I can assure you that there will indeed come a time when I speak again, but for now, my role is behind the scenes.

This site will remain here exactly as it is. Full of the stories that have filled my life over the last eight years. There are a few of you that have actually been with me the entire time. I thank you for your loyalty and love and support. You have all made the world a bit smaller for me and for that I am forever grateful.

God Bless you,

Christine

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The Church is on Fire

Today’s reflection is courtesy of Daniel Skillman of Willowick, OH. His thoughts are his own and I appreciate his permission to share them.

The Church is on fire. Burning to the ground actually. The statistics do not lie, even if they can not be trusted to predict the future with complete accuracy. We have seen them play out in Europe with her massive, beautiful, and now empty cathedrals. We have seen four or more decades of decline here in the States. We know what is coming.

The Church is on fire, and it would appear to have been caused by arson from within. It is not the “godless liberals” who started the blaze, or the agnostic and apathetic masses. It is the guardians of orthodoxy who lit the fire. The conservatives who insisted on border patrol, keeping the immigrant out, and the bloodline pure, conserving their ever shrinking inheritance.

Centuries of theological, psychological, and social incest have produced a generation of half-wits, and nitwits, and other children who are lame, blind, and deaf, but oh so unfortunately far from at least one form of dumb. They blather on about “God” ad nauseam making sense most usually only to themselves, and converting few but the gullible, and the easily manipulated. And converted to what? Dogmatic certainty about unproven and often unprovable statements, and an obscene willful agnosticism about both the real world problems that ail us and their solutions.

“What will fill the pews of our Church again, Pastor?” That is what they ask me.

The first thing I tell them, I think they’ll like. I say, I still think it is a worthwhile endeavour to fill the pews. More than worthwhile…it is important. The Church as conceptualized by the writers of the New Testament, yes, at least in part as an institution, is itself a necessary expression of the Gospel. Without it, Christian witness would go extinct within a generation.

However, the second thing I tell them is something that I’m not sure they want to hear at all. I say…

…If you want to get people into your Church, you must get God out of it…

As long as you view Church as the main event, and as long as you view what goes on there as mere education, and as long as you view God as a mere being, even the greatest being, your Church will continue to burn all the way to the ground, and if you ask me, I wouldn’t offer even one cup of water to put the fire out.

If you want to get people into your Church, you must get God out of it. You have to start to view Church as merely the opening act, simply warming you up for the main event that takes place outside of its walls. What goes on in Church must be about transformation and substantive change that filters out into the world. And God must become that which you only truly encounter in the act of loving those people you meet wherever you are in the world. You must let God out of the building. In fact, you must positively insist that God leaves the building, and enters into the world.

For that to take place, God will need a body…a body called, gathered, and enlightened in the faith that the world is good and people are worth living with, loving on, and even dying for.  God will need eyes, and ears, hands, and feet, a head, and a heart. God will need a body. God will need some body.

You can be that somebody.

You want your Church full.
That is a good thing.
Are you prepared to kick God out to see it happen?
It’s up to you.
But you’d better do it soon because,
the Church is on fire.
And make no mistake,
it will burn all the way to the ground
if we don’t kick God out of it.

 

Shared with author’s permission.

 

My only personal thoughts in addition to agreeing with Mr. Skillman’s assessment of the state of our churches is that we as Christians are responsible for being the body of Christ in this world and my experience tells me that some Christians are so ashamed of the reputation of Christianity in this country that they no longer admit to identifying as a Christian! If we as the body of Christ in this world are doing such a poor job of emulating Christ’s teachings why in the world would anyone want to join us. It is time to act with justice,  to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8

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Come On In I’ve Got You Covered

http://butterflywings.life/

Fridays are usually long days at Butterfly Wings but today was especially long. I had helped almost ten clients in four hours and had just one left to go. My final client of the day didn’t get around very well so I was standing in the door of the church where we are located so that he would not have to wait for me to answer the bell. It was raining like crazy out when a young man wearing a backpack looking like a college student from the university nearby walked up the ramp to me and said “Do you have any diapers in there? I heard you had diapers?”

My heart immediately broke for him. Yes I had diapers I told him. “Come on in out of the rain I’ve got you covered.”  We waited for my other client before going into the basement where our offices are located. He told me that he had been working construction but that a coworker had fed some lies to the boss about him and he wasn’t getting called for many jobs anymore. He and his girlfriend had two kids under the age of two both in diapers. He hadn’t applied for food stamps yet because he had been scraping by on the construction money.

Once we were in the office I explained to him how to apply for food stamps and reassured him, that from what I knew, that with the income he was getting by on, he would likely qualify. When we went into the storeroom to fill a bag for him of the products we supply he was overwhelmed. I was able to give him enough diapers to last him about a week; and cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene items to last about a month. It truly broke my heart that I could not give him enough diapers for a month but we have so many families in need of diapers that we have to ration the amount that we give out.

While I filled his bag I also filled a smaller bag for my client upstairs who was unable to get down the stairs into the basement. The young man joyfully took both bags upstairs and reassured me that he would help my other client get his bag safely to his car. He left with a smile on his face and wishing me multiple God Bless Yous.

So when someone asks me if I get paid to do what I do I say yes, not in cash, but in blessings, because each client today left with a smile on their face, warmth in their heart, and a hug for me. Thanking me not so much for what I had put in their bag or box but for what I had been able to put in their heart. Love, kindness, and dignity go a long way at Butterfly Wings.

 

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Happy Birthday my Brave Knight

Someone asked me recently “Are you over it yet?” As if losing you were something I were ever going to get over.

I will always love you. I will never be over “it”. I will live , I will love, I will move along with life and love, but I will never be over it . Today is your birthday. Today is the fourth birthday I have celebrated your love without you. We celebrated your last birthday in style. we had a party here at the house with our friends you loved watching them celebrate your day. Then we went to Boldt Castle you can’t see the sign above his head but it says KNIGHTS it is a private story between us why he is my Brave Knight but suffice it to say he was the bravest knight in all the land !

 

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Did You Smile Today?

It is nearing bedtime in my house; time for relaxation, reflection on the day, and maybe a few thoughts on this modern phenomenon called “selfies.” I can hear many of you groaning already. I was recently told that because I am connected to many people via the internet and because I post pictures of myself that I am a vain person. You can form your own personal opinion from whatever information you may know about me but I will respond with the reason I take pictures of myself and post them for my friends to see.

I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder more than twenty years ago. I will require treatment for it for the rest of my life. I have been hospitalized for it in the past and there are no guarantees that I will not be hospitalized for it in the future.My depression has been classified as treatment resistant and if you are familiar with depression at all you know that “treatment resistant” doesn’t even scratch the surface of describing the challenges I face. I do not say any of this to elicit your sympathy in any way but as a means of explaining where I am coming from. My depression has been nearly fatal more than once in my life. I pray to God that it never brings me to that dark of a place again.

Having a mental illness requires living a very intentional life. Everything I do requires planning and preparation. I am determined to experience all that this life has to offer me and to do that I must be careful not to allow negativity into my days. For this reason I do not own a television, this requires me to seek out news of local, national, and world events to stay informed. I don’t know the names of many of the celebrities featured on the newsstand magazines and I am not familiar with the latest and greatest mousetrap being advertised on the screen. I read online newspapers, real magazines such as The Atlantic, The Economist, Readers Digest, and Health. I don’t think my way of living is better than anyone else’s but it is what works for me.

Why did I ask if you smiled today? The reason I asked you that is the reason I take selfies and post them on my facebook page; it is because there are many days when that smile I put on my face for the camera is the only time I smile that day. I am a widow who lives alone, there can be many days when I see no one but if my smile on Facebook means that someone else smiles back at me by clicking like on my picture then I smile in return. If you want to call this vanity I won’t attempt to change your opinion, but if my smile has ever made you smile then I have accomplished what I wished to.

Blessings and Goodnight

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Thank You Pussy Hat

Dear Pussy Hat marching women of the world,

THANK YOU!

Pussy Hat

Thank you for taking time to go out and show the world that, peace is possible even when disagreement exists. Thank you for showing the world that diversity in humanity doesn’t have to mean disharmony. Thank you for showing up, being heard, and being counted!

Thank you for doing this, from someone who was; not able to march, sing, carry a sign or have her voice heard. Thank you for myself, for my daughters’ in law, my granddaughter, my nieces, my sisters, my cousins and my 90+ year old Aunts.

Thank you for my; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, Pagan, Unitarian, Questioning, Hindu, Buddhist, Orthodox, Liberal, Conservative, pro choice, right to life, working, non working, working mothers, work at home mothers, differently able, tall, short, round, and thin, young, old, somewhere in the middle of everything friends!

Without you, my Pussy hat wearing, marching, sign bearing friend,  my weekend would not have been punctuated with photos of joy, peace, love and friendship.

Thank you; for being where I could not go, for saying what I could not say,  therefore allowing me to be exactly who I am meant to be.

Thank you!

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With a Little Help From My Friends

These are just a handful of the people that make my life worthwhile. There are so many people not pictured that help me find meaning in life that I couldn’t begin to list all of them. It may be Halloween to some, Reformation Day to others, but as I remember the saints that have gone from my life I put together a little tribute to the living saints that I am blessed enough to have in my life. I love you !

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Ho’oponopono: A Good Goodbye

Ho’oponopono: An ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness can teach us to have a good goodbye.

What is Ho’oponopono? It is four meditations, processes, or steps on the journey, if you will, of life and of death. Why do I say both life and death? Because death is ultimately about our life. The four steps sound very simple but like anything they are not as straightforward as we might hope.
  1. I’m Sorry
  2. I forgive you
  3. I Thank You
  4. I Love You

When do we have to say these words? Whenever life transitions take place. Young people must go through these steps when they mature into self-actualized adults and leave home and wish to have adult relationships with their parents. Parents must say these things to their children to accept them as fully grown adults with the rights and responsibilities to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of whatever decisions they may make. Adults go through these steps whenever they make major transitions in their lives, new jobs, new relationships, new communities to live in; all involve saying goodbye to what was before. Any time a relationship comes to an end, or changes from what it once was to what it will become we need to work through these things.

If parents are going to continue to be parents in the case of a divorce they need to say these things. They may not need to say them aloud to each other (although that wouldn’t hurt) but they need to process them none the less. 1) I’m sorry and 2) I forgive you  are vital if parents are going to continue being parents after a divorce. There simply comes a time when the adults must act like adults and remember that to put the children first and that means taking ownership that in every divorce there are two imperfect people who tried to make something work that did not work so both people need to say they are sorry and both people need to forgive, even if they never verbalize the words the feelings have to happen. The third and fourth phrases are also just as important 3) I thank you for trying to live the happy ending with me and even though it didn’t work I thank you for who you have been in my life. That might seem like a lofty thing to say to someone who has hurt you or betrayed you but at one point in your life you thought you were going to love this person for the rest of your life, right? 4) I love you, yes speaking about loving someone for the rest of their life, in most divorces that I have been familiar with there is some element to the idea that you will forever love this person in some way. Maybe it only goes as far as you don’t wish them to get hit by a bus but something inside you cares about their well being.

Aside from these times of transitions we need to say these things when someone is dying, when we are dying, or when someone we love has died. A person with a terminal diagnosis is grieving the loss of their own life and if time allows for peacemaking the final months, weeks, days of life can be a time of healing. When you are intentional in your life you say these things to the people you love every day of your life and therefore there is no incompleteness. If a life is cut short unexpectedly the loved ones of that person must work through these phrases. Love, gratitude, forgiveness and for anything we may have done that hurt our loved ones can be everyday practices that we incorporate into our lives so that we can live a life free from regret.

When my Mother was diagnosed with Stage four terminal lung cancer that has metastasized to her brain we were in shock but we had options and we had fifteen months to work through the four sentiments. We had a good goodbye. When my husband went from the picture of health in the morning to coding in the emergency room in my arms that night we had no goodbye, but yet I still had to work my way through each of these four sentiments on my own in varying ways. Almost two years after his death I am still working through these things. Grief knows no timeline and follows no calendar it is simply part of your being and you never return to the person you were before your loved one died, you become a different person every time you say goodbye.

I don’t mean to say that these four things are the only things that need to be expressed when facing the loss of a loved one, there indeed may be other things that we may want to say. What I am saying is that these things are necessary components to all goodbyes in life; growing up, graduating and leaving an academic community, breaking up with a companion or lover, changing jobs or retiring, dying or losing a loved one to death. If we make a practice of living our days as if we have no more days to live then we indeed might forgive and seek forgiveness more often, we might live with more gratitude in our hearts, and we might learn to love our neighbors and we might also learn to love ourselves in the process.

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