a special friendship

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On Saturday morning, I drove to the Bronx for the Metro New York District Church of the Nazarene Children’s Bible Quiz. I knew that quizzers, their parents and children’s ministries volunteers from 5 different churches would attend.  I had spent the last few weeks coordinating the details – trophies, treat bags, score sheets, questions and award ribbons. I was looking forward to a great quiz and a bonus would be seeing my friend Diane. When I arrived I went looking for Diane, and found her in the church kitchen getting food items ready for the light breakfast the church was so graciously supplying for the attendees. After a big hug Diane introduced me to a young woman as “This is Miss Ann, my sister by another mother”.  That really made me chuckle. When we refer to each other we say Sister Diane or Sister Ann. Part of that is a cultural thing but part of it is a real sisterhood.  I have known Diane for many years.  Her children used to be quizzers.  She is a children’s ministries volunteer in her local church. She doesn’t put up with any nonsense, she has rules and she loves those kids. She is a shorter, darker version of me.

About a year ago, Diane asked me if I remembered the first time we met.  To be honest, I didn’t remember but Diane did.  She told a story that I had a vague memory of.  Years ago at a District Quiz, I had more quizzers than treat bags. You should know that the treat bags aren’t award show quality “goody bags”.  It is a snack size Ziploc bag with a some kind of kid trinket and a few pieces of candy.  I had apologized for not having enough treat bags and asked if anyone would volunteer to forgo getting a treat bag and I promised to mail them a treat.  Diane’s son volunteered and I got his address and mailed him a note and a few candy bars.  And I guess that made an impression because a friendship was born.

Diane called me one day to ask if I was going to M7? (M# is a conference the Church of the Nazarene holds every four years between General Assemblies) “Yes, I am. Are you going?” Diane responded “Yes, there is something I want to tell you before you go to M7” And Diane proceeded to tell me that she had been invited to share the story of God’s grace in her life and it had been filmed and would be shown at M7. And she wanted me to know that the film would reveal that she is HIV+. I don’t remember what I said. I was sad for my friend. I felt humbled that she wanted me to know before I saw the film. In the brief film, Diane sings and tells her story and gives glory to God for all He has done in her life. After the film was shown at M7, I found Diane and gave her a big hug. She said “so…” I said “well, I learned one thing. You sing more beautifully that I thought you could.”

In early 2008 when I was diagnosed with cancer, I called Diane and told her because I knew she would pray and I needed her prayers and strength.  I see Diane a few times a year at District events. When we talk those phone calls would have been precipitated because of some children’s ministries event. Our conversation will always end with us “catching up on family”.  She will say “how are the girls or should I say ladies?” and I will tell her. And then I will ask “how is your son and daughter”.  And she will fill me in on their lives.  Her son has been serving in the military in Afghanistan and will be home in June.  Yes, we are sisters by different mothers but we have the same Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for that.

Respect in the Real World – #4 -Bin Laden

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May 1, 2011 was a Sunday.  I had attended church and then headed into Manhattan with a friend.  The reason for the trek into the city was to lead a private tour at the WTC site for my friend, her sister and  her sister’s friends. We visited the Tribute Center and then I lead a walking tour explaining the history of the original World Trade Center, a timeline of the September 11 attacks, information about the rescue, recovery and rebuilding.  I also told my personal story.  We finished our tour in WFC #3 aka the American Express building at their beautiful memorial to their 11 employees that were killed on September 11. After the tour, we drove to my friend’s sister’s house for pizza and the discussion about September 11 continued with people sharing their memories and me answering more questions.

It was getting late so I drove my friend home and as I headed home I turned the car radio on.  At first I didn’t understand what the news report was about but I could sense from the tone of the newscasters voice that “something had happened”.  And then I realized what was being reported and I felt nothing. I even remember thinking “I think I should be happy” but I felt nothing.  I got home and my friend called and asked if I had heard.  Yes, I heard.  She commented “that she couldn’t believe we had been at the site the day Bin Laden was killed”.  Each of my daughters called me and we discussed our individual reactions.  My younger daughter commented that “the timing was interesting with the tenth anniversary only months away.”  And my older daughter mentioned “daddy died in the line of duty”. I did see President Obama announce the killing of Bin laden and then I went to bed.

I was volunteering at the Tribute Center on Monday so Monday morning I headed into the city. I hadn’t seen any television reports. I hadn’t seen the images of people reacting and “celebrating”.  I was very surprised by the added police presence and all the media.  There were even mounted police. It was a zoo.  I will say that the Tribute Center is always wonderful about trying to keep the media in line.  I was asked if I would like to attend the mayor’s press conference on the “site”.  “Sure why not” I haven’t had that experience before. I am not good at recognizing famous/noteworthy people but I did recognize Katy Couric. Oh my bizarre life.

Anyway after a few days I realized that I needed to share some thoughts about Bin Laden’s death and I did on Facebook.

random thoughts on Bin Laden’s death

by Ann Clark Van Hine on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 9:20am ·

I have had an interesting week.  I have been processing/pondering the death of Bin Laden.  I have realized the I am actually indifferent.  And in realizing that I remembered that I once heard that the opposite of love is not hate – it is indifference.  I don’t think his death makes us any safer.  The opposite is probably true. I haven’t been waiting for 10 years for his death.  I hope that the people who have been waiting for his death now have peace.  Emily called me on Sunday evening she said that she has always thought that Bruce died in the line of duty.  I would have to agree.  To me Bruce gave his life, Bin Laden did not take Bruce’s life.  I haven’t watched much TV news (I don’t usually – I listen to the radio or read on the Internet) so I haven’t seen a lot of the celebrations.  I see September 11 through two lenses – the FDNY widow lens and the follower of Jesus Christ lens.  I don’t think I can see it just  through the American lens because those other two lens are so strong that I can’t separate them from who I am.

The one thing that was very disturbing and annoying to me was  ” that Bin Laden was buried within 24 hours because of Islamic tradition”  Really I would think if you murdered close to 3,000 people (or even 1 person) your religious beliefs become irrelevant.  There were Jews and Muslims killed on Sept 11 who were not afforded their religious traditions.  I understand part of that was to appease the Islamic community but really…

I have great respect for our military and my heart breaks for the families of those that have been killed during this struggle with terrorism.

As I said to a reporter “On May 28 my daughter is getting married and whether Bin Laden is dead or alive, her dad is not here to walk her down the aisle.” – that is the reality.  This week is another chapter in that nonexistent booklet “a personal lose in the midst of a national tragedy”  As always God is faithful 🙂

Now almost a year later I still struggle with observing Islamic tradition and not because it was Islamic tradition but because I think Bin Laden forfeited his right for us to respect his beliefs. People have explained to me that “we” were taking the higher ground and I wish that I could believe that is why “we” observed his religious beliefs. I just wish “we” would take the higher ground when it comes to respecting each other.

Kid moments

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Today is my niece’s fifth birthday. My sister posted a great photo of her on Facebook.  My sister also commented that one of my niece’s gifts was a cape and she is afraid that my niece thinks super hero powers are included. This reminded me of a couple of funny kid moments. The first being a little boy from church who many times wore his underwear on the outside of his long johns and wore a cape.  Great, quirky kid – he grew up to serve his country and become a real hero as a member of our military.

My sister’s superhero powers  comment also reminded me of a student of mine.  There is a song I used many times while teaching dance – Monday is a Marching Day.  The song names the days of the week and each day has a different movement attached.  It is a fun way to teach skipping and galloping and  the different ways we can move.  In your typical pre kindergarten and kindergarten class as the year goes on the children master hopping, marching and even skipping.  Well, one day towards the end of the year we are doing Monday is a Marching Day – did  I mention this a favorite song among this age group.  Anyway in the song Friday is a flying day. As the children are “going around the mat” and a little voice says “Miss Ann, why aren’t I flying?”  I get a puzzled look on my face and say “Gravity” and when the song is over give a brief explanation of gravity.  Later I thought about this exchange and really to a child why shouldn’t I fly.  At the beginning of the year, I couldn’t skip and now I can so shouldn’t flying be the same.

Happy Birthday Lady Bug – may you defy gravity 🙂

Just look at me

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“Just look at me” or “Just watch me” are two phrases I have said many times while teaching little girls ballet.  That was my career path for 35 years – I taught little girls ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and even a little gymnastics. It was great fun and very rewarding but there were times that it could be frustrating. One of things that I taught my dancers to do was how to turn without getting dizzy. Little kids don’t mind getting dizzy but if you want to be able to perform a combination or routine you can’t be dizzy after your turns. The technique is called “spotting” or “snapping your head”.  The technique involves focusing your eyes on one spot and then turning your head quickly so all your eyes see is that one focal point. It takes concentration and practice.

The annual recital is the main event of the year.  It is the icing on the cake. It is one performance that involves the months of training and weeks of rehearsal to learn a “dance”.  As I used to tell my high schoolers or “big kids” as they are known, the littlest ballerinas or babies can just walk on stage in their pink tutus and the audience loves them.  You however as “the big kids” have to really know what you are doing. The hardest group to get to understand this is the early elementary age – the 6 & 7 years old.

A few years ago I had a class of beginner ballet students that really knew their dance. They were a great fun group of kids. There are classes that you think “oh, my. I am so glad their costume is cute and the music is good because they have no clue.” That wasn’t this group. They knew what they were doing. Well, they knew what they were doing until dress rehearsal and then they fell apart. They couldn’t get it to together at all.  I mean at all.  They were so distracted that I finally had to close the curtain and let them do the dance with no one watching.  I kept pointing to my chest and saying “Just look at me. If you just look at me, you will be fine”  It was so frustrating.  The next day while I was driving to the recital I thought about the whole bizarre incident and why it was so hard for them to do the easiest thing of looking at me.  The Lord reminded me that He tells me that all the time “just look at me”.

Today my very personal God reminded me again. My devotional reading from Jesus Calling states: “MAKE ME YOUR LOCAL FOCAL POINT as you move through this day. Just as a spinning ballerina must keep returning her eyes to a given point to maintain her balance, so you must keep returning your focus to Me.  Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused.  Look at Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.”

Just what I needed to hear today and in a way that spoke to me. I am grateful for the reminder.

The Hunger Games

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 I saw The Hunger Games film this afternoon. I found it to be more disturbing that the books.  I have read the series – The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay the trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It was actually written as young adult literature.  Both of  my daughters, my sister and a friend had recommended the trilogy. So I finally read the first book on the plane flying back to New York from Seattle.  Perfect book for an airplane. I read the other two books when I got home. I liked them and would suggest them but personally I think Hunger Games is a cautionary tale of the future.
 Amazon’s description of The Hunger Games states:  “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.”
  I have often thought that the next step after “Survivor” was the lions in the arena but I think the next step is The Hunger Games.  The books were disturbing and thought-provoking.  But today when I saw the film and the depiction of those “supervising” the Hunger Games, I was struck by “wow!! this isn’t hundreds of years in the future. With the right set of circumstances this could be the day after tomorrow” It was too close for comfort.
  In the third book, Mockingjay, there is a statement that has given me pause:  “It’s a saying from thousands of years ago, written in a language called Latin about a place called Rome,” he explains. “Panem et Cicenses translates into ‘Bread and Circuses.’… The writer was saying that in return for full bellies and entertainment, his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their rights.”
 May I suggest that if we don’t want the Hunger Games on the fall TV schedule in the not so distant future, let’s be responsible citizens. And I don’t mean a TV series, I mean a real event.
I would love to discuss this book with an intergenerational group.  I think there would be amazing conversation.  Anyone want to join me?

not an ordinary week

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On Friday April 13, I had to call to see if I had jury duty. The recorded message stated that I had to report to the Orange County Courthouse in Goshen on Monday morning at 10am. Great I should know by Monday afternoon if I am picked for a jury and then I can plan the rest of my week. I had basically left my week open. I figured I may need to “tweak” the timing of errands with my mom or Wacky Wednesdays with the kids at church but no problem. Piece of cake.

The phone rang and I looked at the clock radio – 1:00 am. The voice on the phone asked for Ray and I said you have the wrong number. I got back in bed and my cell phone rang. I stumbled down the hall to answer it and the caller id said Northern Los Angeles,CA – weird but I answered. “This is dispatcher # whatever with Life Alert. May I speak to A.V.H” “Speaking” ” We have had a Life ALert activation from M.C. and have dispatched paramedics to her location” I call my mother and the police answer. My mom has fallen and they were transporting her to the hospital. I get dressed, wash my face, brush my teeth, shove the jury summons in my purse and drive the almost 30 miles to my childhood home. A phone call from my mom’s neighbor informs me she is at the emergency room with her. I thank her for being there and say I will be there in a few moments. I walk into the ER at around 2am.

My mom doesn’t know how she fell. Okay that is troublesome. “Mommy, why were you downstairs in the middle of the night.” She doesn’t know. Not good. After x-rays and a CAT scan, it is determined that she has broken her arm. The ER doctor wants her to be admitted for observation since she has a bump on her head and is confused. I am relieved that it is not worse. I am watching the clock because I have jury duty. I am not a big fan of hospitals. I never feel comfortable. I am always sure that I haven’t asked the right questions, or been concerned enough or seemed capable enough. It is like I am in a foreign country and I don’t know the language or the customs. I feel the same way about the court system so knowing I have jury duty is not helping. I leave the hospital around 5:30am so I can go home, take a shower, call my sister, and figure how am I going to get out of jury duty.

I don’t want to be a “no-show”. I realize I have a civic duty and I am mindful that they could issue a bench warrant for not showing up. Plus my sister is a judge and she is running for a new position and it would look bad in the newspaper if I am a “no-show”. This is how my brain works probably from watching too many courtroom dramas and a vivid imagination. Long story short – I am excused from jury duty because of my family emergency. They will postpone my service. My sister is impressed that I went. She comments “that most people would have been no shows” I share my bench warrant fear – not likely she says. I mention about not wanting to do anything that would look bad in the newspaper she thanks me and chuckles.

I learned a few of things during my “not an ordinary week”:

  • God is always in control. A friend emails me that she thought she saw me driving over the mountain around 6am as she was driving to work. She figured that wasn’t good so she prayed for me, my mom and my dad (he is in a nursing home).
  • The sweetest sound in the hospital are the chimes signaling a baby has been born.
  • Telling someone your name and offering to open their water bottle one day may lead to the privilege of praying for them the next day.
  • Saying thank you to the people who are caring for your loved one makes you grateful and them smile.
  • A china tea-cup,a beanie baby, a wash cloth and towel can make someone feel safe and cared for.
  • Just being there is the most important thing.

My mom spent 4 days in the hospital. She is now at a sub acute rehab facility. The problem is she walks with a walker and now has one useable arm. Next week will probably not be an ordinary week either and that’s okay because this week I heard the chimes of new life, I was humbled to pray with an elderly woman and I was reminded of God’s faithfulness.

K.I.D.S. club

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“So the next generation would know, and all the generations to come -Know the truth and tell the stories so their children can trust in God.” I have the privilege and awesome responsibility of teaching K.I.D.S. Club on Wednesday evenings at Warwick Valley Church of the Nazarene. K=kids, I=investigating, D=discovering, S = Scripture, Club = fun & friends.  K.I.D.S. Club is also known as Bible Quizzing. I have included a brief explanation of Bible Quizzing but I really want to share is some “kid answers”. First the explanation, the Bible Quizzing program for the Church of the Nazarene is a 6 year curriculum for first through sixth graders. Year 1 is Genesis, year 2 is Exodus, year 3 is Joshua, Judges &Ruth, year 4 is I & II Samuel,  year 5 is Matthew, year 6 is Acts. The program is Bible study and then quizzing – multiple choice questions with quiz boxes.  The children are competing against a level (bronze, silver, gold) not against each other. Every child receives a ribbon and treat bag. At WVCN we meet once a week for our Bible study and then 3 times in the year we meet with other churches to quiz.”Hiding God’s word in your heart” is the emphasis.  Since last September we have been studying the book of Matthew.

This past week I decided it was important to review the events of Holy Week since it is Holy Week. Our review didn’t make it through Holy Week. I read the scripture in Matthew 21 about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  We discussed the donkey and what is a colt and how kings ride into cities. Then I asked “why do you think the people laid the branches on the ground for the donkey to walk on?” Eager hands go up, waving back and forth. I picked a child to answer and he says “because it was Palm Sunday”.  I make eye contact with my friend and fellow teacher and we smile. Another one of those great kid answers that you need to take and steer in the right direction towards the correct answer.  I spend a lot of time on Wednesday nights steering answers towards the correct answer. I spend a lot of time answering questions that have a very loose connection to the subject manner.

Sometimes I don’t think we cover a 1/4 of the lesson but it isn’t really about a specific lesson. It is about life lessons.  It is teaching my “students” that God loves them unconditionally – there is nothing they can do to make Him love them more or less. This was week it was naming each one of them individually and saying Jesus died for you. It is teaching that not everything can be explained and that God is big enough for their questions. Teaching that God can be trusted, that He is good and teaching that if you could understand everything about God He won’t be God. It is teaching them that they will have to decide who they will follow as their example of the way to live.

Recently when we were “studying” the events in Matthew 14 (John’s beheading), I said “what can you tell me about John?”. Many eager hands  and smiling faces – “he was Jesus’ cousin”, “he wore camel-hair clothes” “he ate weird stuff” and “he was a Baptist”.  Good answer but he wasn’t a Baptist, he was the Baptist.  That kid answer makes me laugh and what I wanted to say but didn’t was ” Right, John was a Baptist and Jesus is a Nazarene” 🙂

Dr Wes Stafford in his book Too Small to Ignore- Why Children are the Next Big Thing tells the following story. “Late one evening D.L. Moody, the premier American evangelist of the 1800s, arrived home from speaking at a meeting.  Emma, his wife, was already asleep.  As her exhausted husband climbed into bed, she rolled over and murmured, “So how did it go tonight?”  “Pretty well,” he replied. “Two and a half converts.” His wife lay silently for a moment pondering this response, then finally smiled. “That’s sweet,” she replied. “How old was the child?” “No, no, no,” Moody answered. “It was two children and one adult! The children have their whole lives in front of them. The adult’s life is already half-gone.”