Posts in Category: Inspirational

The Whole World – Introducing Pastor Sarah

A little over a year ago, my partner and I stumbled upon a wedding that was about to begin on the shore of Lake Michigan at Little Sable Point Lighthouse. The wedding coordinator was making sure everything and everyone was in place. The pre-wedding music was fun, and many of the wedding guests and beachgoers ran joyfully through the sand. The atmosphere was magical! With a wink and nod to one another, my partner and I chose to stay for the service.

It was one of the best weddings I have ever attended. I was moved to the point of tears several times during the ceremony. The officiant was a middle-aged woman dressed in a white robe. She was as radiant as the bride, and it was clear that the joining of the young man and woman as husband and wife brought her great joy.

As the pastor began to speak, she pointed to the Lighthouse and reminded us of Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the Light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your Light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

She then told the couple that each of them is a Light and that their union would create a brighter Light, and with the support of family, even more brilliant. And, lastly, with the help of the church, they would become no less than a beacon of Light. Pastor Sarah followed up by singing This Little Light of Mine.

At that moment, I knew that the pastor was an extraordinary person and that I needed to find out where she served. My search led me to Trinity Lutheran Church in New Era. The unexpected joy of a spontaneous trip to the beach, and the decision to crash a wedding have changed my life significantly. It ended a 15-year hiatus from church, healed a tremendous amount of church hurt, and led to a great friendship with the woman I now know as Pastor Sarah.

Pastor Sarah was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1961, during immense social upheaval. Her father, a Lutheran Pastor, was active in the Civil Rights Movement. Her family commonly discussed issues related to race, equality, and human rights around the dinner table. Sarah began attending marches, peaceful protests, and rallies with her father by the time she was five years old.

In the spring of 1967, Pastor Sarah, at the age of 6, had an experience that she feels solidified her commitment to work toward equality and to end racism. She was leaving school, and the safety guard shouted in agitation, “They are coming, they are coming.” She asked: “Who is coming.” The boy replied: “The niggers are coming, the niggers.” Sarah knew this was not a word that should be used and sensed that there was big trouble to come.

Trouble did come. The decision to bus black students to achieve racial balance within communities was met with resistance and anger. Unrest continued, and by mid-summer, the issues of civil rights had become so heated that riots occurred. And, at school that fall, young Sarah watched as black students were beaten and bullied. Sarah was outspoken and fought hard to make a stand against the abuse and discrimination of her classmates. For this, she was often ostracized by her peers and had few friends. Eventually, many of Sarah’s classmates did support her efforts, but it took several years.

Sarah’s interest in ending racism continued. In high school, she sought out classes taught by the one and only black teacher. She learned much from him and her black classmates. As time passed, it became clear that one day she would go to the seminary and then serve as a pastor with a focus on social justice.

Pastor Sarah continued to immerse herself in black culture after high school. She moved to Oakland, California, where she lived in a black community for several years. It was during her time in Oakland that Pastor Sarah states that she gained a very brief glimpse at what it feels like to be a minority or “the other.” She admits that there is still no way for a white woman to know what it is to be black in America.

Pastor Sarah received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, where she studied English, Political Science, and Religion. While there, she sought out black mentors and advisors to help her understand issues of race more deeply. Additionally, Pastor Sarah received her Master of Theology Degree from Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Upon receiving her Master’s degree, Pastor Sarah fully believed she would work in an urban community. That expectation was not met. As it turns out, Reverend Sarah Samuelson served in small farm communities in West Michigan until finding her permanent home at Trinity Lutheran Church of New Era. Regardless of city or country, Pastor Sarah remains a passionate voice for equality. Her sermons are filled with compassion, understanding, and encouragement to put aside personal bias, judgment, and prejudice, and to love one another as Jesus demonstrated.

I asked Pastor Sarah about her role as a pastor, racism, and healing. Here is a bit of what she said.

Role As A Pastor
Pastor Sarah feels she is to love her parishioners right where they are, no matter what they believe. Then, to gently guide them to live more Christlike.

On Racism
Loss is the fear that fuels racism. Power can be lost. But the loss of special status, and our history, and the way we define ourselves may be more significant. Pastor Sarah shares two stories to clarify her thoughts. First, as a child, her mother often told her that they were proud Swedes and special to be a Swede. In second grade, the teacher asked that each student stand and share their nationality with the others. Sarah could barely wait for her turn and shook with anticipation. She knew that upon sharing, the others would see that she was incredibly special due to her heritage. When it was her turn, she shouted, “I am a Swede.” No one reacted. Sarah was confused. Did they not know she was special? Or, could her mother have lied to her? At that moment, she lost her story, her history, her special status.

Second, Pastor Sarah points to the cemetery next to the church. The cemetery is a part of the story and identity of Trinity Lutheran. Twenty-two families started this church. Those buried in the cemetery are often mentioned as the saints on the hill from which we came. It is a unique and marvelous story. But it is not the end of the story. The congregation has grown beyond the original 22 families, and everyone is welcome to attend. The story is the beginning, but it is not the end.
Today she knows that we all long to feel special, but that God loves us all the same.

On Healing
Where are we going, Pastor Sarah asks? We are going to the same place where we will all be together. We can look backward or forward. Looking forward, we need to get over our issues of race. How? By imitating the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

Pastor Sarah, you are a Light. I have heard you quote not only the Bible but also bits of poetry here and there. I will end this post with wise words from Leonard Cohen. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the Light gets in.” Thank you for lovingly helping us find and heal our cracks.

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A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Please Note: The purpose of the A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display at City Center Arts in Muskegon beginning September 1, 2020. Please check the website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Introducing Chauncey – Pomp & Circumstance

Chauncey has a dream. It is the first day of his final year in high school. He is filled with anticipation and can bearly wait to begin the last chapter of his high school career. But when he arrives, the halls are empty. There is no one there. His footsteps echo loudly and long, and his breath is magnified. He begins to panic. Where are all the people? He peers into a multitude of classrooms attempting to understand the absence of his classmates and teachers. But nothing makes sense. And, then, he wakes.

Chauncey and I met for the first time shortly before the Covid-19 Pandemic. When I asked him if he would consider being a part of A Time To Heal, he quickly accepted. A few days later, on one of the hottest days of summer, we connected at his high school for a candid conversation. Chauncey shared his thoughts and feelings about his sudden departure from school, living in quarantine, and the cancellation of so many events that mark the rite of passage of a graduating senior.

Chauncey is a smart kid, enjoys a challenge, and can figure out most things quickly and independently. Therefore, City High Middle School was the perfect fit for him. The school participates in the IB or International Baccalaureate program. Students must complete all high school classes by the end of tenth grade. The remaining years are dedicated to long term collaborative projects, a secondary language, and coursework related to the theory of knowledge. The program sets a very high standard of excellence and encourages students to believe that the sky is the limit. In addition to his demanding coursework, Chauncey was active in theatre and a member of the Ottawa Hills Swim and Dive Team.

Chauncey is an extrovert in every sense of the word. He is outgoing, likable, and energized by being around others. To be quarantined or “trapped” with his family was not good for him. He was initially angry and responded with self-destructive behavior such as playing online games for hours and hours or just doing nothing. As time passed, his anger subsided, along with the rest of his emotions. Chauncy shut down and was unable to find the motivation to complete the simplest tasks. He even missed critical deadlines related to his college enrollment.

After a few months, Chauncey realized that something needed to change. A friend suggested that he might feel better if he began working out daily. Luckily, it worked! The daily routine gave him something to look forward to, a sense of purpose, and a routine. He began to engage more with others playing online games, youth group zoom meetings, and talking with members of his swing dance group. Just days before we met, he and a few members of the dance group met at a park to visit and dance. The experience lifted his heart and brought him great joy. It was his first outing in over four months. Chauncey and his friends, buoyed by the experience, made plans to meet again. Unfortunately, the number of Covid-19 cases began to escalate, and the group decided to cancel their next get-together.

Chauncey was robbed. The pandemic stole from him his final months with teachers, friends, and classmates. Class trips, senior skip day, prom, his graduation ceremony, parties, and other events appeared on his calendar but never happened. Though Chauncey received his degrees, there was no Pomp and Circumstance. No celebration.

Chauncey’s biggest disappointment, however, was that he was not able to write the exams that would have given him a shot at earning his International Baccalaureate Degree. The certification is accepted by many colleges and can launch a first-year college student to Sophomore status. Chauncey had looked forward to the sense of accomplishment he would have felt, degree or not, by completing the intensive exam process. After sharing this with me, Chauncey shrugged his shoulders, looked away, and stayed in a far distant place for a moment. When he snapped out of it, he attempted to make light the situation. Giving me a big Chauncey grin, he said: “It’s a really ugly piece of paper like card stock, and it has a funny looking sticker on the bottom. Who needs that? I still graduated from City High Middle, and it is a tough school. I can be proud of that.”

Chauncey is very excited about attending Grand Rapids Community College this fall. However, he is not looking forward to sitting through courses that are near identical to the advanced classes he took in high school. As mentioned above, Chauncey was denied the ability to complete the exams that would have earned him an IB degree. No exams mean no test scores. And, without test scores or the IB degree, college credits can not be given.

After he receives his associate’s degree from GRCC, Chauncey hopes to transfer to Western Michigan University to study theatre. Chauncey admits that the theatre is not the typical career choice for students graduating from a school with a robust academic track. However, music and theatre are his greatest passion. Chauncey envisions himself one day performing on Broadway. 

Chauncey’s backup plan? He will become a lawyer. The transition seems logical. Both require communication skills, the ability to be quick on your feet, and a bit of acting.

Chauncey, no matter what you do or become, you will do it in your style, with ambition, intelligence, and humor. It was an honor and privilege to hear and share your story. Congratulations Chauncey! Your high school graduation is just the beginning. “Oh, the places you will go!”

Pomp & Circumstance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CASX-05ihfg

Footnote:
“Oh, the places you will go!” Dr. Seuss.


A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community as it relates to the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Are you interested in participating? Message me.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display during September. Please check their website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

A Time To Heal

A Time To Heal is a project that utilizes photography and words that share the journey of vastly different people. The views of the people that have participated may or may not be the same as mine or yours. Still, A Time To Heal intends to encourage constructive conversations related to difficult topics, such as the Covid-19 Pandemic, Racism, the LGBTQIA community, and more.

I am a child of the ’60s. I watched my parent’s reactions as the world as they knew it unraveled. My mother wept uncontrollably when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was only three, but the image of her sitting on the steps leading to our upstairs, face in her hands, and body shaking, is still vivid today. The civil rights movement was disturbing to my parents. Not because they were opposed, but because they did not understand why folks had to fight so hard to have the same rights as others. To them, people were people.

My father cursed at the television nightly. The topics varied but were most often related to draft dodgers, Vietnam War Protesters, Rock & Roll, Hippies, and the feminist movement. Later in life, my father admitted that he was wrong about Vietnam, draft dodgers, and parts of the feminist movement.

We learned as a nation that all things were possible when the first man walked upon the moon, yet feared a nuclear war with the Soviet Union to the point of encouraging citizens to build their bomb shelters in their homes. At school, children practiced duck and cover drills and given dog tags. The student name, address, and the letter P, C, or J. Religious affiliation, Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish was listed to ensure the proper burial of victims of a nuclear strike.

So what does the social revolution in the 1960s have to do with an artistic endeavor and exhibit in 2020? Absolutely everything. Peace, love, and unity filled the airwaves in the late 1960s. Pop songs such as All You Need Is Love, What The World Needs Now (is Love Sweet Love), and Get Together touched my heart. The lyrics, combined with my deep faith in God, led me to believe that love can heal all wounds. 

The United States is once again at a point of extreme unrest. We are more divided today than ever, and a social revolution has begun. When people feel unheard, marginalized, oppressed, or unsafe for long, revolution is inevitable. A Time To Heal will introduce viewers and readers to people they might never meet in their community. I hope that by getting to know one another, we can begin healing conversations that will peacefully close the chasm that divides us, and that one day we can honestly say, We The People, and genuinely mean it.

A Time to Heal, the exhibit, will be held at City Center Arts in Muskegon in late August and through September. I will post blogs chronicling the lives of participants and post the links on Facebook.


 

Interested in participating? Message me.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Grace & Gratitude

Yesterday I was mad. Not just a little heated up, but over the top angry. And, the fact that I could not put my anger in its right place made me furious. Didn’t my anger know I had important things to do! 2020 is the year of Gratitude, and I have articles to write, plans to make, people to meet, photos to capture, and stories to gather. And didn’t my anger know that I am a woman of peace and love? My mission, no matter how lofty it seems, is to make this world a better place by uniting people with different ideas and belief systems.

The irony is that I was upset with an organization that has different ideas and belief system than my own.  Yes, please, let me have that anger with a large helping of humility. That stopped me dead in my tracks. I glanced in the mirror and did not like what I saw. I want to say that I took the high road, let go of my anger, and continued my journey to spread peace and love to all the nations. But I felt I justified in my rage. I was right, and they were wrong. I recounted all the years of feeling discounted, rejected, and judged by this group. No, despite the image in the mirror, I held onto my anger. After all, I earned the right to feel this way.

I spent my entire day wondering how I, an angry woman, could move forward with The Gratitude Project. How could I launch a project to encourage the building of bridges between communities when, in this circumstance, I was refusing to place the first plank or hammer the first nail?  Late in the evening, I found the answer. In an attempt to do something positive, I began to look at photographs that I had taken in the fall. Perhaps I could edit  a few images. The first picture I saw brought tears to my eyes and I felt a knowing in my heart. I was humbled for the second time of the day.

The photo was of a Maple Tree. I have always thought if love were a tree, it would be a Maple. They are big, tall, strong, and have branches that extend slightly upturned like arms to hold children just right when they climb upon them. The light honey-brown wood is stunning and often used in home construction. If that is not enough, they even feed us with their sugary sap. 

The Maple tree reminded me that we are all one. As I studied the image, I noticed first, the trunk, then branches, smaller branches, and finally the leaves. Each had a unique shape, color, and texture. The tree was magnificently complex and beautiful. My mind shifted and I began to think of the trunk of the tree as God, the branches as nations of people, breaking off into smaller and smaller groups, and finally, the leaves as individuals. Again, I thought, we are all one.

How is it then that my anger could possibly be justified? By withholding my love, forgiveness, and compassion from any group, I, in turn, withhold it from myself. I have been building and maintaining this wall of anger for over thirty years. Sadly, I only recently realized that it is not impacting the group that caused me pain. Instead, it has hurt the people I love the most and me. For that, I am truly sorry. 

So, to answer the question, how will I, an angry woman, go forward with The Gratitude Project? I will deconstruct the wall. It will take time. It will take practice. And, it will take an abundance of Grace and Gratitude.

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Authors Note: Would you or your organization (e.g., community group, retreat) like to participate in The Gratitude Project?  Please feel free to contact me at Gail@Lakehousecc.com.

Song of the Post: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) By BYU Noteworthy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Mtpk4jeVA

Instagram – The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo – https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/

The Gratitude Project – https://lakehousecc.com/

Instagram – Lakehouse Photo & Living At The Lakehouse – https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/

Photography: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

2019© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Kicking Stones

I am kicking stones.

I am kicking stones from the bridge into the shallow sandy creek below.

I lean upon the rusty old iron rail, and I am kicking stones!

I watch them as they fall and wait for the splash, the sploosh, the plip, the plop, the rapid stutter of multiple small stones kicked all at once. I wonder what will become of the dusty old rocks now washed clean by the flowing water. Will they stay lodged in the bedrock, or continue their journey toward the river or perhaps, even the sea? Over the years, have I kicked enough stones into this creek to have forever changed its path? Or does it take just one?

What about the creek of my life? Have I kicked enough stones into its current to change the course of a life? Have my words, thoughts and actions had an impact on others? Have they been kind, compassionate, and caring, or have they been biting, ugly and cruel? Have I been reckless with the hearts of others, or have I tended them like a sacred garden? Have I helped or have I hurt? I suppose a bit of both.

And where have I resided in the creek of life? High and dry on the creek bank only to bear witness, or fully immersed in the raging waters of the spring. Did I seek the comfort of the slow-moving shallow water, or did I venture deeper into the rapids only to cling to boulders for safety? Was I ever courageous enough to wade in without hesitation, let go, and let the current lead me to my destiny?

I wonder, what is the sum of my life? Have I created a splash, a sploosh, a plip, a plop, a stutter or a ka-thump? Will I, in the end, arrive at my final destination washed clean of this life as a finely polished stone, or weather-beaten and broken? I cannot know the answer. What I do know is that the tally has not yet been totaled. Though there is little I can do to make amends for the misdeeds of my past, I can go forth today, tomorrow, and all of my tomorrows with love, kindness, and compassion. I will throw caution to the wind, and step boldly into the creek, let go, and allow my destiny to unfold.

Song of the Post: Stones In The Road By Mary Chapin Carpenter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ekTCh5JiA0

If you enjoyed this post, please consider viewing my photography at https://www.lakehousephoto.com/

© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Originally Published Kicking Stones 08/24/2013

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