September 5, 2012

SANDING STONES by Karyn B. Alexander

 

On a recent trip to Michigan, I had an awesome experience. We traveled all the way to the tip of a peninsula where a lone lighthouse stood. The day was chilly, like most Michigan days, but the sun shone enough to allow us to walk the beach. The beaches of Michigan are full of white sand, rocks, and more rocks. The beach was interesting because the sand stretched so far out from the shore, allowing us to walk a very long time before reaching water.  As we walked, I started to see little piles of rocks. I looked three feet from where I stood, then 10 feet, then 30 feet, and beyond. The rocks were everywhere. I looked again and knew the rock piles were intentional, not a random act of nature. This looked to be something meaningful, deep and important. I automatically look for meaning in everything, but here, I didn’t even have to try. It was laid out right before me.

I had been walking for some time before discovering the mysterious little monuments; the skyline had blue and white clouds formed into puffy swirls that resembled water more than sky. It made me think of the verse in the book of Genesis where God “separated the waters.” I felt as if I understood that verse better after seeing it in reality; water pressed against sky water, all the same.  Once I looked down, though, I was actually astonished to see what I had almost missed. It was so clever and meaningful. People from everywhere, hundreds of them, had placed the stones one on another as if to recreate a Stonehenge-like mystery.

The builders were no longer on the beach, so it certainly was a mystery to those of us just arriving. I looked around. Others had noticed the beautiful monuments, too. I immediately wanted to build my own. I started piling rocks, and then I stopped. I wanted it to be more than just a few simple stacked stones. I needed it to represent who I was and my legacy to the beach and its future visitors.

I carefully made several small piles, knowing what it meant to me, but leaving a question to hang for the next beach walker. I was so excited to leave a message for someone else to ponder or decipher.

Isn’t that truly what we all want?

When asked, the elderly say that the thing they regret the most was not leaving a mark for future generations.

In the book of Genesis, God also told His people to leave a mark. As Moses took them across the Red Sea, they were instructed to send 12 men back into the sea to bring out a stone for each tribe. They were to stack the stones, to leave a mark for the next generation. The mark was to show what God had done for them, which was freeing them from slavery.

My little stone pile was the same. I had taken wet rocks and stacked them in a manner to show what God had done for me. He had freed me, snatching me out of darkness. He had brought me to His knowledge and changed my life forever- pile one.  He allowed me to live and share His nature with my children and family who would, too, forever be changed- pile two.

I was grateful for that day on the beach, a reminder of how important it is to leave a legacy of great value. Standing Stones they call it. Reminders of the great things God has done for us. A surprise, an exciting monument, a mystery for sure!

 

Voice of the Nations column

Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfieldhouse.org

 

 

 

 

 

Voice of the Nations column

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July 30, 2012

HEARTBEAT

Something awesome happened to me very recently.

It began with this remark: “Karyn, I could feel your heart beating so fast!”

What a comment!  How many of us are close enough to someone who could have that said?

How many of us can feel another person’s heartbeat?

If given the chance, who would you choose to  “feel” your heartbeat?

I was at dance class.  I agreed to do a spotlight with my teacher. A spotlight is when the entire studio stops dancing, everyone sits down, and only you, the dancer, are on stage.

Gulp!  For a chicken like me, this is a big deal.

My teacher led me to the floor. All eyes were on us. My heart began to beat quickly. My mind was racing. I was thinking about the potential for dance calamity.

Jeff offered his left hand. I took it. We entered our “frame.”  Arms wide, chest meeting chest, my hips joined to his thigh.

Tango! Off we went, around the floor.

“Huh!”  It’s a loud grunt Jeff makes to punctuate the staccato of the move. Heads tilted back, angled body movements, we made it.  No calamity.  Applause from the crowd; we bowed and gracefully moved from the floor.

Jeff hugged me and said, “Karyn, I could feel your heart beating so fast.”

I got home and thought it so remarkable that we were close enough in movement to feel one another’s heartbeat.
I thought about the Bible scripture in Psalm 37: 4 in which God tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your “heart.” It seemed awesome that, if God offers this great gift, He must know what is beating in our hearts.  I thought it beautiful, just like the dance, that our God would hold me close enough to feel and understand my heart beat.

Take a dance lesson with the Lord. Do a spotlight and allow Him to feel your heartbeat.

Tango!

Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfield House
Winfieldhouse.org
Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations:  Rev.5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”

July 5, 2012

Carriers of Hope: Ohio Justice & Policy Center (by Jennifer Von Gries)

 

What is unique about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati: current Vice President of Recruitment, Lynn Cameron, at this point in his life had once been a juvenile probation officer for eight years. He was working with a few kids on probation and there was boy, 13-years old, who seemed bright, but he had a chip on his shoulder and was in trouble.

Since Cameron, at that time, was a volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and knew about the organization, he told the boy that he could sign him up. This young man didn’t believe that it would work out for him; he came to tears and told Cameron that if they would have met a couple years ago it might have worked. But, to the young man, it was too late now. 

Two years later, this 13-year old boy died from an overdose by mixing the wrong combination of illegal substances. “If we could only work with kids to help prevent this kind of situation from happening. If these kids don’t find a role model who is positive and appropriate, they could find them anywhere, such as with a gang member or someone off the streets, and potentially get them into trouble. I feel like we need these positive volunteers be role models,” says Cameron.  

When you walk into the offices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, the first feeling you experience is that of compassion and at home. In the hallways of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati you can observe pictures of organizations best matches. “These photos help represent who we are as an organization,” says Cameron.

His journey for the last 23-plus years explains why the impact from positive figures has an effect on teenagers. Cameron, immediately out of college, started working for the Juvenile Probation Department where a co-worker mentioned the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to him in 1988.

According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, each time Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs a child with a role model, they start something incredible: a one-to-one relationship built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential. And thanks to the first-ever nationwide impact study of a mentoring organization, they have the facts to prove it.

Corey Strauss, a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph, says, “I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters because a friend had mentioned it to me. I have always been interested in working with young children as a future career. Having been with my little brother made me a better mentor and a better person because I know I am helping him follow the right path. I want to be the role model that he can look up to by graduating from college and staying off the streets. I can give him the advice that he needs.”

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati there are core programs and special programs.  The special programs include the Amachi program, which, in the West African tradition means, “Who knows but what God has brought us through the child.” 

Statistics say that, currently, there are approximately 2.4 million children that have one or more incarcerated parents in the United States. This statistic puts the child in an overwhelming state of mind and with that Big Brothers Big Sisters committed themselves to identify and help the children of incarcerated parents with one-to-one mentoring that will match the child with volunteers from the community. 

Cameron states that 30 to 40 percent of the children involved at Big Brothers Big Sisters are in the Amachi program. In his words, this saying means, “Look at the gift that God has given us through this child.”  Cameron says that the children do not know that they are in the Amachi program. Parents will put their child in this program to give the child a positive role model.

Cameron has been the Vice President of Recruitment for the past five years; however, he has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for well over 10 years now as a case manager who interviews volunteers and matches them up with youths. 

“A very recent year was the toughest with our being short of our goal of matches of about 18 matches out of 500,” he says. In the first half of 2010, on the other hand, 110-plus individuals applied for goal matching in terms of fundraising.

Cameron says eighty percent of mentors have had good experiences. Twenty percent of the mentors will be lost in the first six months because of connection and pair-up issues. “This is something worthwhile. I want the recruiters to know that it is worthwhile, a good experience, and that they will enjoy being a Big Brother or Big Sister. They will build a good relationship and attachment,” he says.

“The reason why some pair-ups don’t click is because parents aren’t communicating. Some may feel like their mentors are upper class; however, our goal is to tell the parents and volunteers to not focus on materialistic things but on being a role model for the child.” 

Parents need to give permission to each activity that the mentor plans for their little brother or sister. That includes taking them to sports games or going to a salon to get nails done. Parents are always involved.

Some children are struggling with grades in school; however, every year a survey is conducted and the results come in stating that about 75 to 80 percent of the children have improved their grades. There are a variety of surveys conducted that focus on several different components of a person’s life including school, personal and relationships with others especially with self-confident and social skills.

Cameron says that children may not talk at first with their mentor, but after about three weeks they will socially improve for an example while speaking look in the eye of the person they are speaking to.

According to their community-based program, most of the relationships formed and the one-to-one outings and activities include going to parks, museums, listening to one another, and engaging into each other’s interests, and going to sports games. 

“A lot of the children really enjoy going to the Reds’ games. Being able to sit in the ball park and enjoy the game is something they always continue to ask to do in the spring. Sometimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters meets with their little ones on the weekends, and sometimes in the evenings. It is what works with the child and the mentor. Each pair is unique,” says Cameron.

Cameron didn’t receive his love and compassion from recruiting. As stated earlier he joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters when a coworker expressed how it would change his life. During Cameron’s journey he became a mentor for four little brothers. Describing his little brother’s experiences brought joy to his face, because he knows deeply that he made a difference in their lives. 

He has pride in the work which he does. Cameron described his first little brother as a boy who struggled with making friends in school and outside of school, just as he’s overcome the death of his father a year and a half before Cameron came into his life. The young man had suffered from physical and emotional disabilities and had a tough time prior to his adoption with his birth family. This little brother was with Cameron for seven years until he was 18.

“He was difficult to open up at first, but the more he and I got to know one another and hang out, he opened up a lot more,” says Cameron. “After I was done being his big brother I was given another individual whose life situation was different.”

Cameron’s second little brother had no father figure, missed school, and his mom was making excuses. “I got in involved with him in the 7th grade and knew that it wasn’t acceptable for him to be missing a lot of school. I wanted to see him get good grades. He improved his attendance the next year and from 9th through 12th grade he didn’t miss a single day.”

“My third brother also did not have a father figure. He was a good kid but had the lack of opportunity and lived in a rough area neighborhood. We went to Reds’ games and to the parks,” he says.

Cameron is currently still working with his fourth little brother. He describes him as a 15-year old boy in the 9th grade who has suffered from a lot loss.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has several fundraising events that go on each year. They have a Golf Outing, Bowl For Kid’s Sake, 5K Run, and Gold Ball Drop. To gather more information about these events and others, such as the annual Golf Outing and Golf Ball Drop, visit the impressive Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati website.  

“To get involved, you don’t need to be an expert with children,” says Cameron.

July 3, 2012

Justice Advocate Stephen JohnsonGrove Speaking @ Partners with Justice (7-5-12)

July 3, 2012

Point Man – by Karyn B. Alexander

I have a friend who was in the military for many years. His position was “point man.” The point man is the tip of the triangle with the company of soldiers spread out behind in a triangular shape. The point man needs to be agile, small, quick, and obedient unto death.

The point man is not the commander, but the leader of troops for a directive operation. He is the first to scope out the enemy, and the first to be picked off if he fails to stay hidden or obey.

My friend was a successful point man. He could obey, lead and stay alive. He remained calm and quick in the face of the unknown.

Staying alive meant hearing the commanding officer, doing exactly as told-no matter what, and then leading the way through either a very tough terrain or challenging situation. The point man is a little like a spy and a warrior all at one time. This position takes immense trust; that is, trust in the commander (C.O.) and trust in the troops. A very precarious situation emerges if either is not in cooperation with one another. The point man can be caught between a bad plan or an unwilling company of soldiers. This could mean certain death for all. On the other hand, what a powerful fighting machine if executed properly; all flowing with the same mission, using their training and skills at the same time.

My friend is now a pastor. He is much like the warrior of old. He is out in front, listening and moving in obedience as he hears the commander speak.

The agility to avoid the enemy is important, as it is in tough fighting territory where the enemy can be disguised or hidden.

I would imagine leading a congregation would be almost more difficult than a company of soldiers, due to many Christians’ self -perception. Most do not see themselves as warriors or part of a larger vision.

They can miss their purpose by not understanding the commander’s mission.

Think about it: if we all listened to the commander and chief, and we were humble enough to follow the point man, what a beautiful army we would make, all flowing with the same vision using our gifts and talents to achieve the ultimate goal—Eternal life for so many.

Onward Christian Soldiers!

Karyn B. Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House.org

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in practical ways to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations, Rev. 5: 11,”With your blood you purchased men from God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

March 15, 2012

Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Mark Curnutte joins RED! editor at college course

Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Mark Curnutte (left) recently joined RED! publisher and editor Jeffrey Hillard in a literature course called “Cincinnati Authors” at the College of Mount St. Joseph, which Jeff has been teaching periodically since 1993.  Mr. Curnutte visited the class to talk about his new book, A Promise in Haiti: A Reporter’s Notes on Families and Daily Lives. The book of journalism involves Mr. Curnutte’s sequence of trips to the island of Haiti over several years, as he immersed himself in several homes of families in the Haitian city of Gonaives.

Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Mark Curnutte

March 15, 2012

Cincinnati-Read Aloud March Campaign

January 17, 2012

Interview – Christine M. Grote, Author of Dancing in Heaven

RED! the breakthrough ‘zine Interview with Christine M. Grote

RED! contributing writer, Elizabeth Bryant, recently interviewed RED! writer and blog/technical consultant, Christine Grote, about the publication of her first book, DANCING IN HEAVEN: A Sister’s Memoir.  It is an evocative exploration of the life and death of Christine’s sister, Annie.  The book delves deeply into the complexities of caregiving and the endless – and endlessly loving – attention the family gave toward assisting a sister and daughter who, profoundly disabled, was never able to speak, nor was she capable of mobility without help.  Christine’s memoir, a truly innovative work in the literature of caregiving and family relationships, most of all captures the joyous spirit of Annie, who constantly in her limitations still communicated great warmth, laughter, and love to anyone around her. Christine Grote, also a contributing writer for RED!, is an original member of RED!’s staff, and for four years has assisted in the publication’s editing, design, promotion and marketing, and technical advancements.

RED! – After reading your book, it is obvious that Annie was a very big part of your families’ lives and that you all loved her dearly. At what point in your life did you really start to think that you would like to write about Annie’s life?  

Christine:  Not until I was an adult and had children of my own.

RED! – How did your family feel about you writing this story of Annie? Were they supportive?

Christine: Some of my family members were supportive and some were not. I think my mother supported me both as a writer and because I was recording a piece of our family’s history. I think she is happy to have and to be able to share Annie’s story.

RED! – I love the way the pictures in your book aid in telling Annie’s story. The front cover and the picture on the back cover really add to the story as well. Can you tell me about how you chose the pictures and cover that you chose?

Christine: I just tried to make the picture relate in some way to what I was writing about. Some of the pictures I moved around a few times. Originally I wanted to use more family group photos, but when two of my siblings were unwilling to sign release forms, I had to remove most of the group shots. My daughter designed the cover. It was her inspiration, and I loved it.

RED! – Do you feel that writing this book has helped you in a sense deal with Annie’s passing?

Christine: I think it has, in the sense that rubbing salt in a wound expedites the healing. It was painful to write, but it forced me to face a lot of things that were difficult.

RED! – Do you think that it has helped your family cope better with her passing? Have they read the book?

Christine: I think it is beginning to help my mother. She has read it three times now: twice in the original version that included all family members and once in the rewrite version. My sister Carol has read it. My father is unable.

RED! – I think this book will be very helpful to others who have or are currently going through similar circumstances in their lives. Is that something you had in mind when writing your book?

Christine: Absolutely. In fact, I sent one of my books to my friend Jim, who is in the book. He read it, and then gave it to a co-worker whose four-month-old child was just diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He told me he thought it would give her inspiration and strength.

RED! – What advice can you give aspiring writers who are thinking of writing a book, particularly a memoir?

Christine: I believe memoirs are very important because they record a piece of history, or what is happening in the here and now. They are also tricky. Memoir stories have to be told in the context the events were lived, which requires including other people. Some people, as I unfortunately learned first hand, do not want to be in a book. My advice would be this: if you are writing about someone else, check with them every step of the way, so you don’t end up with a complete story that you are unable to publish.

RED! – Thank you again, Christine; I hope your family is doing well.

Christine: Thank you.

You can contact Christine at:

Website: http://www.christinemgrote.com
Blog:
http://www.randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com

Dancing in Heaven is available at:

Amazon.com (print and Kindle)
B&N
(print and Nook)
Createspace
(print)
Smashwords
(multiple ebooks)

To read excerpts from Dancing in Heaven and book reviews, please visit the Dancing in Heaven page on Christine’s blog.

October 19, 2011

Street Talk: Neutralizing Violence

October 19, 2011

Take This Cup – by Karyn B. Alexander

The words, “Father take this cup!”

This is the famous line from the Garden of Gethsemane; a man is asking his Father in heaven to take his burden and to spare his life from impending death.

God did not take his cup away.

The man died. He not only died, but he died a horrific death. His body was spit upon, beaten, and then hung on a wooden cross. He was a religious criminal. Guilty, they said, and “crucify him,” they shouted, Why didn’t God take the cup and save the man?

It seems to be one of the most widely asked questions even today. “Why did God allow …this thing in my life? Why doesn’t God intervene? Why doesn’t He take my cup?” I know you have asked this same question. I have, many, many times. And many times, God has not taken my cup, while other times He intervenes.

When something we consider bad or fearful happens, we immediately call out to God the Father to take our cup. We know that a loving God wants the best for us, so surely He cannot mean this impending nightmare to fully descend on us. We hear of accidents, death of the young, sickness that decays, and we always assume it is for someone else. It’s universal to think, “That will never happen to me or my loved ones.” But it does.

If you live long enough, you know that death, illness, accidents, and pain happen. We assume God loves us and can, at any moment, send a fleet of angels, impart divine inspiration, cure illness and raise the dead; He can take the cup.

So, why would He choose not to help solve our problems?

The answer lies in the providence of God. He sees all and knows all, so He only intervenes when it falls in line with His providence, or grand design. Meaning, there is a plan that may not look like our plan. The plan for the man who was accused of blasphemy was brutal in its end, but God had the bigger picture in mind. We all know the bigger picture is stated in the scriptures where it says, “Unless a kernel of wheat die and fall to the ground, it cannot live again.”

So it was for the man on the cross:  He must die to give life.

It is brilliant in concept.

We see it in nature. It is seen in the fields and flowers as they dry and crumble to become seed for new plants. We see human death making way for the next generation. Spiritually speaking, we can plant spiritual seedlings, but they cannot grow unless there is death; death of our sin and own personal will. Jesus of Nazareth was the man on the cross who provided the spiritual seed to die and live again. He claimed to be God in the flesh, and was crucified for saying so. Rising from the dead.  Crazy trick, but only possible if you are “The” real God.