About the Author

Jill Maisch - as a writer, speaker, missionary, and educator - has a tendency to wander upstream... against the more comfortable current of social and spiritual complacency.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Serving at Stepping Stones Shelter

My church, Covenant UMC, has prayerfully decided to provide one meal each month for the residents of Stepping Stones Shelter – a transitional shelter for families with children. We prepared and served the first of these monthly meals two weeks ago. What an amazing experience! 

Over twenty people helped with that first meal by going to the grocery store or baking food. Five of us then traveled to the shelter to prepare the food and set the table. Before we began to unpack groceries, we offered a prayer in the kitchen of Stepping Stones Shelter – praying for the residents and other volunteers, thanking God for the opportunity to serve, and asking God to bless the meal and those who would be fed by it.

Dinner is served!
That evening we learned what matters most to the residents is the fact that we care about them and want to do what we can to support them. Lured by the smell of tacos, several residents stopped by the kitchen as we were cooking to thank us for coming. One woman explained that often groups sign up to take meals yet fail to show up. It meant a lot to her that we had carried through on our promise to prepare a hot meal.

I think my favorite part of the evening was getting to know “cute, little grocery cart girl”. She walked into the kitchen at one point with a toy grocery cart filled with plastic vegetables. She chatted with each of us about the vegetables – what they were and which ones she liked or disliked. She especially enjoyed handing us the plastic vegetables and then watching us pretend to chop them up and add them to the taco fixings.
CUMC members who helped prepare and serve!

It was also wonderful getting to spend time with the other four people from my church who helped to prepare the meal. We got to know each other a lot better as we worked and laughed together.

I’m really looking forward to serving at Stepping Stones Shelter in the months ahead. We have already learned it’s not just about the food. The loving, caring relationships we’re building with each other are what truly feed us all. 

Stepping Stones Shelter:
Here's a video with information about Stepping Stones Shelter. 

How You Can Help:
Covenant UMC is sponsoring a Help-the-Homeless walk to benefit the shelter. Please consider signing up to "virtually walk" with us on October 26! If you're reading this after Oct. 26, you can still sign up to make a donation.
  1. To register and make a donation:
  2. Go to www.hthwalks.org
  3. Click on Washington D.C.
  4. Under Register to Join a Community Walk, click on Search for a Community Walk by event name and enter Covenant UMC Walk then click Search
  5. Click Join next to “Covenant UMC Walk” and the follow directions to make a donation that directly supports Stepping Stones Shelter. Thank you!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

“This wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t take God out of our schools!”

I cringed when I heard this after the murders at Columbine High School.

I bristled when I heard this after the slaughter at Virginia Tech.

And now I’m angered whenever I hear this in the aftermath of the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

God IS in our schools!

God is everywhere and God has always been in our schools! I see God every day at my school. In fact, just this past Friday I experienced God’s presence in the student who stopped in the hallway to help another student pick up colored pencils that had been spilled... and in the kind words of welcome for the student who just moved here from Nigeria. I hear God in the laughter and words of encouragement pouring out from every classroom. God IS in our schools!

Prayer is ALSO in our schools!

I pray every day at school. I pray for patience when dealing with a difficult student, I pray for wisdom and creativity as I plan how to present a science topic in an engaging way to thirteen-year olds, and I pray for students who are struggling with grades or acceptance or difficulties at home. I’ve also heard from my students that they pray at school. They pray before tests. They pray for their friends. After my father passed away several years ago I had students tell me they had been praying for me! Prayer IS in our schools!

It’s true that, because of our nation’s commitment to separation of church and state, students in public school are not required to recite or listen to prayers that reflect only the beliefs of one particular religion. Let’s not forget that the United States is a nation that enjoys the richness of many religions. Separation of church and state does NOT mean, however, that God and prayer are not in our schools!

I hope we never forget that God is everywhere and that we commit to praying FOR our schools and IN our schools! Amen?!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Missions is Risky Business

Being active in missions is a lot like that book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"... you never know what could happen. Here's what I mean:

·      If you serve a homeless man a meal, he’s going to ask why you did it.
·      If you explain that your love of God makes it so that you can’t help but love others, he’s going to ask what’s so loveable about him.
·      If you sit down and begin a conversation to get to know him better, he’s going to think you’re his friend.
·      If he considers you his friend, he might want to go to your church.
·      If he goes to your church, he might bring his cup of coffee into the sanctuary.
·      If he brings a cup of coffee into the sanctuary, everyone will think they can bring coffee to worship.
·      If everyone thinks they can bring coffee to worship, it’s going to feel more relaxed.
·      If it feels more relaxed, then people might actually get to know each other better.
·      If people get to know each other better, they might realize each other’s hopes and struggles.
·      If we get to know each other’s hopes and struggles, we might actually become a community.
·      If we become a community, others might want to join the community.
·      If others want to join the community, we might outgrow our building.
·      If we outgrow our building, we might need to move Church outside the walls.
·      If we move Church outside the walls, we might meet more homeless people.
·      If we meet more homeless people, we might serve more meals…

And we know where THAT could lead! 
It could lead to actually BEING the Church.
Wouldn’t that be great?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Prayer for the first day of school...

As I prepare for the first day of school, I pray for…
·      * the child who was teased last year. God, show me the right lab group to put her in so she can make some good friends.
·    *   the child who thinks he isn’t a good student. God, let’s remind him learning is a process… that I won’t give up on him… and let’s celebrate everything he’s really, really good at.
·     *  the child who can’t sit still. God, help me appreciate and guide her energy.
·      * the child who is embarrassed because his parents couldn’t afford back to school shopping. God, give me insight so that I can discretely supply what he needs.
·    *   the child who forgets her locker combination for the eight time… in one day. God, grant me a sense of humor and patience.
·      * the angry child who builds a defensive wall to keep from being hurt. God, give me a gentle voice and a smile that says he is loved, welcomed and safe in my classroom.

God, I do believe you have a reason for putting each of your beloved children into my science class. Open my eyes and my heart to recognize the gifts and needs of each of your precious children. Remind me each day that the most important thing is first to teach students… and then to teach science.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

What do I do?

By now we’ve all heard, ad nauseam, of Chick-fil-A’s owner expressing his personal opposition to marriage rights for all people. Do I disagree with his stance? Definitely. Do I wish his company didn’t give money to groups that also oppose equal marriage rights? Absolutely. That’s my right. However, it’s also the right of Chick-fil-A founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy to voice his personal opinion on issues and at least he’s open and honest about how the company’s profits are being spent.

So… what do I do?

There are those who say I should boycott Chick-fil-A… but I never ate there anyway. There are those who say it’s just a chicken sandwich and boycotting would only hurt the hard-working employees.

So… what do I do?

I think the real question I need to ask myself before I start to rail against one particular company is – how committed am I to practicing what I believe is ethical consumerism? For instance, last night I treated Bill to a delicious dinner at Carrabbas. Do I know the political and social stance of OSI Restaurants that owns Carrabbas? No. Did I take the time to look up the company’s investment or donation information before diving into my mezzaluna? No. We ate. I paid. We left.

So… what do I do?

If I want to aim for that place where justice meets consumerism I need to research and pray about how and where I do spend my money. 

I think workers’ rights and fair pay is important, so I can choose to shop at fair trade shops. Tenfold Fair Trade in Harper’s Ferry, WV (http://tenfoldfairtrade.com), and Bead for Life out of Boulder, CO (http://www.beadforlife.org), are two of my favorite. Providing a safe, inclusive workplace is very important to me, so I can consult resources such as the HRC Buyers Guide (http://www.hrc.org/apps/buyersguide/index.php#.UCfZQWOe46) prior to shopping. Protecting our environment is a priority for me, so I can find out how “green” a company is before choosing to support them with my purchase.

Being mindful of workers’ rights, fair wages, safe and inclusive workplaces, and care for the environment will definitely add more time to shopping. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Investing the extra time needed to research and pray before making purchases will cut down on impulse buying and will provide the space to consider whether the desired product or service is a “want” or a “need”.

Practicing just consumerism and not just being a consumer… this is what I’ll do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Don't Lose the Magic!

You remember the drill. As a child you would ask, "May I have a glass of chocolate milk?" only to have an adult respond, “What’s the magic word?” We were constantly reminded of the importance of saying please. “PLEASE may I have a glass of chocolate milk?” The other magic word was thank you. It was expected that if we received the glass of chocolate milk we would say thanks.

As adults have we lost the magic? As adults do we now feel that we are somehow entitled to receiving products and services from others?

Based on my observations during a recent vacation, it might appear so. Countless times I overheard adults at restaurants or shops curtly stating, “I want _______.” or “Give me _______.” Although I’m sure it embarrasses my family, I can’t help but add my two cents by mumbling under my breath, “Please?!”

Is it really so hard to say please?

I have seen adults receive something from another person and not say a word… often not even make eye contact with the person from whom they received it. By contrast, I’ve observed how servers and clerks brighten up whenever an appreciative person says, “Thank you so much!”... smiles, and looks them in the eye to show the words come from a sincere sense of gratitude.

Is it really so hard to say thank you?

We need to remember that those who work hard at providing goods we need or services we require deserve - at the very least -  our please and thank you.  Let’s not get so wrapped up in a false sense of entitlement that we lose the magic, please. Thank you!

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Olympic Hero

During the Olympics I especially relish learning about the athletes’ personal journeys. Stories of strength, determination and sacrifice. Accounts of obstacles that were overcome. Tales of perseverance when up against seemingly insurmountable odds. This is what makes an Olympic hero!

Today I want to celebrate another hero of Olympic proportions – my cousin, Mark Fischer.

For the past several years Mark has lived with cancer.

I recall how he faced his initial diagnosis with strength and determination. He thought of the cancer as an irritating inconvenience… something that just needed to be dealt with so he could move on.

In fact, just a year ago – last August – Mark sent out an email sharing the good news that he was in remission. Rather than sit back, he knew it was necessary to persevere… to continue traditional and non-traditional treatments. As he said in that email, he was “committed to doing everything possible to keep those bad little cells at bay.”

In spite of his best efforts, the cancer returned last November. Through it all he maintained a positive outlook and an uncanny sense of humor. 

It has been a hard-fought battle and two days ago, accompanied by his family, my much-loved cousin passed away.

I heard someone say the cancer won, but I don’t agree. I believe Mark was the victor! Mark showed the strength, determination, and perseverance of an Olympic hero and he definitely earned a gold medal for living life to its fullest!