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.

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.
Wow! 
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.

Amen

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! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Open to Change


Today – for the first time in too long – I actually opened my Bible.

Don’t get me wrong. I do study Scripture. I begin each day in meditation by reading and reflecting on the day’s Scripture and devotional in The Upper Room. The online version of The Upper Room, though, has a convenient link to Scripture. So I don’t need to use my Bible.

During Sunday worship, the Scripture passages are now on the screen in nice, large font. So I don’t need to use my Bible.

Today I started going through a pile of unfinished books with the intent of picking out a few to take with us on vacation. And there was my Bible.

I sat with my Bible on my lap trying to decide what to read and noticed there were two bookmarks. I opened to the page where I had randomly stuck one of the bookmarks.

First, I looked at the bookmark. It was one I had received as a gift from The Hopi Foundation when our mission team was there last summer. The bookmark describes Sumi'nangwa - one of the Hopi traditional values and visions. It reads:

A Hopi…
Is one who fulfills the
meaning of Sumi’nangwa
and will come together to do
activities for the benefit of
all, out of a compelling
desire and commitment
to contribute or return
something of value or
benefit to the society.

Qöyahongniwa
Songoopavi 1995

Next, I looked at the bookmarked page.  The bookmark was at Acts 4:32 which, in this Bible, is titled “Sharing Possessions”. This Scripture passage describes how members of the early church lived together. I read, “…they shared all that they had with each other” (Acts 4:32) and “no one went in need of anything…” (Acts 4:34)

Wow. Evidently, early Christians practiced Sumi’nangwa.

How unlike our possession-passionate society of today were the early followers of Christ.  Whereas we seem to live in a “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” society, the early Christians knew what they had wasn’t really theirs. They knew everything they had was from God. As sisters and brothers in Christ they shared what they had so that all had enough. I have observed a similar model of community whenever I’m in Hopi.

The people I have met in the Hopi villages share freely and openly with each other. They share their sacred blue corn meal. They share hand-made gifts, fruits and vegetables during the ceremonies. They share in the raising of their children. They even share with those of us who are not Hopi. There is a strong cultural and spiritual desire to make sure everyone has enough. My Hopi sisters and brothers have modeled for me what it is to truly love and care for each other.

So here I sit – convicted by both a bookmark and a Bible passage. I am asking myself many questions. Do I freely share God’s blessings with others? When do I cling to what I perceive as mine? In what ways does God want me to downsize so that I and others have enough? And... what is enough?

I hope to continue struggling with these questions. They’re good questions. It's a good struggle. And, like all good struggles, I know it’s the uncomfortable beginning of change… of transformation.

I can’t wait to see where the other bookmark has been placed...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Delete?


This morning I decided to update some information on my contacts list.  While going through the list, I noticed I still have email addresses for my dad and two friends who have all passed away.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do.  

The rational response might have been to simply delete the three email addresses, but instead I decided to send each person a short note.  

So... through tears and my last three tissues I wrote to each person.  

I first wrote to dad.  I started by giving him an update on each member of the family.  I told him we're all doing OK and that he's a GREAT grandpa now!  I also said he'd be so proud of how well mom is doing.  Finally, I let him know how very blessed I was to have him for my dad and how much I miss him... every day.  

In my friends' emails, I listed some treasured memories of our times together.  I also told them that I continue to pray - for them as well as for their families and friends who miss them.  Clicking “send” after each email was wonderfully healing for me.  

Funny... I still can’t bring myself to deleting these email addresses.  

Not just yet.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Five Lies Christians Tell... (Lie #2)


Lie #2: 
If you just attend Sunday worship you’re being a good Christian.  
There are those who believe they’re being a good Christian simply because they obediently and regularly attend Sunday worship.  And too often we use Sunday worship attendance as the only metric for determining who is an “active member” of the church.  Since when has pew-sitting been considered active?  Wouldn’t it be great if we considered as active those members who strive to serve others by following Jesus Christ outside the building?  
Don’t get me wrong.  Regular attendance at worship is important.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a solitary Christian.  We need Christian community.  As the children’s song goes, Church is not a building – it’s the people.  Church is a global community of those who love God and serve others after the example of Jesus Christ.  Yes, we need to come together as community to praise and worship God and to study God’s Word.  But being an “active member” shouldn’t end there. 
First of all, why do we worship?  As Christians we gather for worship because we desire to offer praise and thanksgiving to a loving God who created us, sustains us, sacrificed for us, and offers us everlasting life.  Our response to worship should be that we want to obey God.  We should long to do what God would have us do… which, according to Scripture, is to love and serve others.
If worship is a communal time of Scripture, praise, and prayer that equips us to be sent into this hurting, broken world, then our goal as Christians shouldn’t just be to get our name on the perfect attendance list.  Our goal as Christians should be to do what we can, where we are, with what we have to actively share God’s love. 
So… after Sunday worship tomorrow, let's all get out there and BE the Church. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Five Lies Christians Tell... (Lie #1)


Lie #1: 
If you say the “magic words” all your problems will disappear.
Being a Christian does not mean all the pain and heartache of this life will go away.  To tell people otherwise is worse than misleading… it’s a lie.
This is the issue I have with proselytizing.  In proselytizing, some Christians will do whatever it takes to get people to say, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior” – the magic words – so at the end of the day they can pat themselves on the back for how many lives they saved and then go home.  As I see it, there are two basic flaws in proselytizing.
First of all, we don’t save anyone – only God can save.  I’ve even heard of “mission trips” where hungry people are fed or ill people receive medical attention only after they say the magic words.  Shame on us.  Jesus Christ fed thousands and healed the lame, blind and sick with no ulterior motive other than to show God’s love for them.  Likewise, our actions – not just our words – should share the hope that we have in God’s love, forgiveness and grace. 
Secondly, where is the follow up if we simply leave and go home?  This morning an alcoholic may pour out her heart to God then sincerely seek Christ’s healing presence by tearfully declaring Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior… but later today she’s still going to crave that next drink.   How can we abandon her after she cries out to God for help?  It is very likely that we are Christ’s healing presence she so desperately seeks.  She needs the love and support of a Christian community that is willing to surround her and walk with her as she stumbles her way along the uneven road of sobriety.  
No… being a Christian does not mean all the pain and heartache of this life will go away.  But being a Christian DOES mean we believe that the God who cared enough to create us continues to be active in our lives – even in the painful, heartbreaking times.  Instead of simply trying to get everyone else to say the magic words, let’s start living lives that model for the world what it means to BE a Christian… what it means to have Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  That's living the Gospel!

Friday, June 29, 2012

I Haven't Written Anything


Last week I attended St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference.  It was an amazing week of learning and sharing.  I arrived home last Saturday with creative juices flowing and a laptop loaded with ideas.  I was looking forward to beginning work on several devotionals and a non-fiction project!

But… I haven’t written anything this week. 

This week I’ve been spending some extra time with my 7-week old grandson, Bryan.

I haven’t written anything, but…
I have felt the gentle warmth of Bryan’s breath on my neck.
I have experienced my heart melting whenever he flashes me his crooked smile.
I have noticed the phenomenon of how a baby feels heavier after he settles into a deep sleep.
I have been blessed by the flutter of his eyelashes on my cheek.
I have smelled his sweet, milky burps.
I have been tickled by his first attempts at laughing.
I have traced the intricate patterns on the palms his perfect little hands.
I have watched him dream while he is sleeping.
I have concluded that the best scent in the world is a baby’s hair after his bath.

I haven’t written anything this week, but Bryan has.
All week long this tiny author has been writing love on my heart.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Am I Mini Prejudice??


You might already know that I drive an adorable, little Mini Cooper… a red convertible with a black ragtop.  Bill also has a Mini.  His is grey-blue with a white hard top.  As Mini drivers, we have joined a really fun group of people.  We Mini Cooper drivers wave at each other whenever we pass on the road.  It’s really kind of neat.

This morning traffic was worse than usual.  As I approached a subdivision I noticed a Mini Cooper waiting to pull out onto the road.  Naturally, I slowed, signaled and allowed the royal blue Mini with the black hard top to slip in front of me.   The driver smiled into his rearview mirror and waved a grateful thank you.  I waved back and smiled.

Then I got to thinking…

Would I have let someone else pull out in front of me if they weren’t driving a Mini Cooper?

Honestly, I don’t think so.  And that’s what’s bothering me tonight. 

It bothers me because I consider myself very open to differences among people.  I teach at a very diverse school and I feel that I treat all my students equally – having firm, consistent expectations and encouraging them all to put forth their best effort.  I also enjoy living in the D.C. metropolitan area where I am privileged to work with and have friends who are different from me… their politics, their religion, their gender, or their ethnicity.  Getting to know those who aren’t just like me offers me the opportunity to grow.

So this brings me back to why I let the Mini Cooper pull out in front of me when I probably wouldn’t have done so if it were a different car.  I don’t have the answer yet.  I need to think on that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Right to Care...


Most people who know me (including those who tolerate my progressive bent and love me anyway...) know I am passionate about equal rights for all people.  To that end I keep a Human Rights Campaign "equal sign" magnet on the back of my car.  It represents my conviction that equal rights for all people includes our LGBT sisters and brothers.

Because of the HRC magnet on my car, I have been called a faggot, a lesbian, a bitch, and queer… and I’ve been flicked off on more than one occasion.  I guess for some it’s beyond comprehension that a straight woman – who is a wife, mother, stepmother, and grandmother – could possibly care about equal rights for those who are not straight.

This past Sunday, I left a restaurant and found a note tucked under the windshield wiper of my car.  Before removing and reading the note, and assuming the worst, I walked around my car looking for signs of vandalism.  At the very least I expected to find that my HRC magnet had been taken. 

Nothing.  No dents.  No evidence of “keying”.  The magnet was in place.  I walked back to the front of the car and took a picture of the note with my cell phone.  I was still sure it was a hate note and I thought I should take a picture in case the police needed it for evidence.  After removing the note I saw that it had been written on the back of a RiteAid receipt.  It read:

Unknown car driver –
I’d just like to say, I have no idea who you are, but I love your bumper stickers.  The human rights campaign was the only reason I got to take my date to prom.  You’re wonderful. (heart)
P.S. Pretty brave for Carroll County ;-)

I couldn’t believe what I had just read, so I read it again… and then I cried.

I was expecting words of prejudice and hate… but these were beautiful, sincere words of thanks. 

Nearby a car slowed to a stop.  A young woman got out and walked toward me - smiling.  She asked, “Is that your car?”  I nodded and asked, “Is this your note?”  She nodded.  I was too choked up to talk – we just hugged.  She thanked me for caring and I thanked her for the affirmation that it’s right to care. 

I’m still smiling.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

For I was a stranger...



Has Jesus joined us in worship lately?  Did we recognize him? 

Was he the well-dressed woman who knew all the hymns by heart… or was he the unkempt woman from the shelter who smelled strongly of cigarettes and stale beer? 

Was he the immaculately groomed man sitting in the front row… or was he the man in grease-stained work clothes who arrived a little late because he just got off work?

Has Jesus joined us in worship lately?  Did we recognize him?  Did we welcome him? 

Did we?

I really got to thinking after reading a Facebook post this afternoon written by my dear friend, Pastor Shandi Mawokomatanda. 
He humbly wrote: 
"For I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)... Jesus walked into our sanctuary this morning, and unlike any other time before in my life I had to do more than just talk about God's love, I had to live it... "Lord, help my unbelief.  Amen."
I remember a time not too long ago when two men from the local homeless shelter finally accepted our invitation to join us in worship.  I overheard a long-time church member ask - in a loud stage whisper, "What are they doing here?"  Evidently it was OK for some of us to go to the homeless shelter to serve... but inviting "them" to worship with "us" at "our" church was crossing the line.  Their comments broke my heart... and I'm pretty sure I heard Jesus weep that day.  
When did Jesus join you in worship?  What's your story?