About Laurel O'Connor Akin

Who am I? A woman in the second half of life who never wants to stop learning and growing. In December 2012 I graduated from Troy University with a degree in journalism and photojournalism. I am committed to using the gifts God has given me to serve God and others.

General Conference GCSRW Legislation Update #5- General Conference Adopts Legislation to Amend ¶ 4, Article IV to Include Gender, Age, and Ability

Advocating for the full participation of women in the UMC

by Jenn Meadows, Director of Communications

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s (GCSRW) petition #60163, Inclusiveness of Gender & Age, was adopted by the General Conference by a majority vote of 68%. A 2/3 majority vote was needed in order for this petition to be adopted due to its amending the Constitution found in The Book of Discipline. The legislation adds ‘gender’, ‘age’, and ‘ability’ to the list of categories constitutionally protected for inclusion in the Church. To be fully adopted, this petition will now go before all Annual Conferences to be considered and voted upon in 2017.

Petition #60163 was amended in the General Administration Committee to add ‘ability’ along with GCSRW’s legislation of ‘gender’ and ‘age’. Adding these words to 4, Article IV of The Book of Discipline means a person could not be treated unfairly or denied opportunities due to age…

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An Advent Journey

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Reflections: Scarritt Bennett, Nashville November, 2012

In 2012 I talked to a friend who suggested I keep, as a spiritual discipline, a Lenten journal using my camera to capture images that spoke to me of God’s presence. Her suggestion gave me a whole new way of connecting with God, combining my love of photography with my desire to spend more structured time in spiritual formation. Later that year my husband and I attended a workshop on photography as a spiritual practice led by photographer Susan Hay at Scarritt Bennett in Nashville, which led me to (eventually) start my blog.

This year for Advent, “Alive Now” magazine, a publication of Upper Room Ministries, invites us to participate in an Advent practice and pray with our cameras. Here is the way it’s explained on their website:

“Are you a visual psalmist? Do you pray with your camera in your hand? If so, please join us this Advent season for Alive Now’s Advent Photo a Day spiritual practice. Come to this page each day to find the word for the day. Then stop, watch, wait, see … for God’s presence in the word for the day. Tag your photo on social media (Facebook or Twitter) with #(today’s word), #AliveNowMag, #AdventPhoto.”

If you are interested in participating, check out “Alive Now” for the word of the day–begin Sunday, November 29!

You can learn more about Advent here.

Peace, joy and blessings during this season!

 

 

 

Thank you, John Pavlovitz, for your post for Freeing Christians From Americhristianity

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The Louvre in February 2003 by Laurel O’Connor Akin

This is my first time to re-blog another person’s post, but John Pavlovitz says so well what I’ve been feeling that I’m doing it today. The hate and fear-filled language coming from some politicians and some Christians during the past week is, in my opinion, contrary to the example Jesus’ life provides for his followers and also helps the terrorists achieve their goals. I took the photo above the only time I’ve visited Paris, but I would love to travel there again.

john pavlovitz

CF1_0460-X2Dear World,

I’m a Christian who feels something needs to be said about my faith tradition.

Despite the ways we who practice it might declare otherwise (especially in weeks like this), it is intended to beautiful and joy-filling and life-giving. It is made of compassion and mercy and forgiveness and sacrificial love—or at least it is supposed to be.

It is supposed to be the most brilliant of lights in the dark places we often spend our days.

It is supposed to drive us to the places of deepest despair and greatest need, and fully burdened to make our home there until the low are raised up and the hurting healed and the captives freed.

It is also supposed to make us fearless.

The most-repeated words from the mouth of God/Jesus throughout both the Old and New Testaments to the faithful, is to not fear. At the very center of our religion…

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“Good” Grief and Gratitude

After my grandson Connor’s death in May, Reverend Mark Puckett, pastor of the church  my sons and their families attend, kindly and thoughtfully included me as a recipient of a series of books, “Journeying through Grief,”  by Kenneth C. Haugk and published by Stephen Ministries. How grateful I am that he did!

This morning I read a chapter in book three that I believe will change forever how I interact with others who grieve. The chapter addressed the fact that people often avoid mentioning the deceased loved one’s name for fear of making us cry, and the pain it causes when no one does, as if the person we are grieving never existed. I’ve been guilty of this  because of an incident that happened soon after my mother’s death. It must have been only a few weeks after, since she died in the middle of August and we had just started our school year (the 6th grade for me) when, as I ate lunch, one of the teachers came up and told me how sorry she had been to learn of my mother’s death. Of course, tears filled my eyes and my chin quivered. I saw the two kids across the lunchroom table whispering when one asked the other why I cried. All these years I’ve shied away from bringing up the names of those recently deceased for fear of causing more pain, but now I realize that my experience as a 10-year-old doesn’t necessarily apply in every situation.

I’m proud of Connor’s parents, my son Jack and daughter-in-law Kristen, and the way they celebrate Connor’s life and honor his memory as #TeamConnorJ, along with Elizabeth, Connor’s little sister. They participate in running events and fun runs, most recently in Florence for United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Alabama’s “Life Without Limits Race”. They don’t let their grief overshadow the love and joy Connor brought to their lives, and I learn from and am inspired by their example. Thank you, Kristen for sharing your photos!

Despite an injury, Jack crosses the finish line for #TeamConnorJ

Despite an injury, Jack crosses the finish line for #TeamConnorJ Photo by Kristen Jacobs

Elizabeth, member of #TeamConnorJ !

Elizabeth, member of #TeamConnorJ!Photo by Kristen Jacobs

 

Kristen and Elizabeth post-Fun Run for #TeamConnorJ

Kristen and Elizabeth post-Fun Run for #TeamConnorJ Photo by Kristen Jacobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For All the Saints: Living Life without Fear of Death Part Two

Connor brought much joy to all who knew him.

Connor brought much joy to all who knew him.

On September 21 I wrote about “Living Life Without Fear of Death”  
and received several comments on Facebook from friends who said that it seemed I had ended my thoughts abruptly, and I agree (in fact, I went back and added “to be continued …” to my post). One reason is that sweet-faced boy you see in the photo above, my grandson Connor. Because no matter how much I believe in eternal life and don’t fear my own death, losing a loved one–well, that’s another story.

In the earlier post I shared about the death of my father. When I was five my mother remarried, and my stepfather, a widower, became the only father I remember. Along with a new daddy, my brother and I acquired three new sisters (all grown up and married) and three new brothers (one almost grown; a year later we all welcomed our youngest brother and sister, twins. A little over four years later, just after she turned 41 and shortly before I turned 11, my mother died from leukemia. I remember our pastor saying at her funeral that, although she didn’t want to leave her six young children, she was curious about what she would find on the other side and not afraid. But losing a loved one–well, that’s another story.

Today is All Saints’ Sunday, when, in the United Methodist Church, we recognize and honor all in our church who have died since last All Saints’ Sunday. As the names were read this morning, my heart ached for my son and daughter-in-law and Connor’s little sister; for all the family and friends that loved him; for myself. Because of his cerebral palsy, Connor couldn’t speak or walk, but he could love and laugh and share his sweet smile. When he left this life on May 3, I believe he entered into a new life, with freedom to run and play and sing and dance, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place in my heart that will never be filled. I choose to live life without fear of my own death, but losing a loved one–well, that’s another story.

October–A Season for Change

Changing colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina

Changing colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina


In my mind, October means change, beginning with the most basic change–my birthday on October 5. On that day 12 years ago I remarried–a change from over six years of being single, to sharing life and love with my husband, Bob, which led to immediate changes–resigning from my 20-year career and moving to a new city. These changes play a large part in several gradual, on-going changes–moving forward in my spiritual journey, growing in confidence, and pursuing my dreams.

The self-confidence I have to pursue my dreams is nurtured by the support, encouragement, and unconditional love Bob gives me. From the beginning of our relationship he has done everything he can to let me know how capable, intelligent, talented and attractive I am in his eyes. I’m not saying that he gives meaningless praise or compliments–I can always count on him to offer honest, constructive criticism! However, he has never discouraged me from undertaking a new project.

And so it is that at the end of October, 2015 I am preparing to pursue another goal–to complete my second novel for National Novel Writing Month! Participating and winning in 2008 helped me decide to fulfill my long-time dream of returning to the classroom and complete my undergraduate degree. Now I wonder what this second effort might lead to!

Wish me luck!

 

 

Sharing the Journey

In the assignment for day 8 of blogging 101, Michelle W. told us at least 2 things that I can vouch for: when you leave a substantive comment, you make the original post that much richer, drawing others into the discussion; & because engaging in conversation is inspiring, you never know where (or who) your next post idea will come from.

On Sept. 17 I shared a few thoughts in a post I called “Making Connections.” The comments made on that post, plus those on Facebook and in private messages, nudged me to give more thought to the purpose of “Shining Through: Seeing God in the Everyday.” Originally I planned to make it primarily a photography blog, to share what I’d learned about photography as a spiritual practice, with the hope that maybe others would find inspiration and look at the world around them more thoughtfully–or, as one of my favorite songs puts it, with “Spirit Eyes.” That goal remains, with the added one of sharing my spiritual journey and encouraging others. I assume that potential readers of my blog would either be at some point on their own spiritual journey or seeking. Why else would they even be interested in it?

As a Christian I am often saddened by the examples of “Christian” attitudes that make the news–judgmental, condemning, sometimes even hateful. I want my blog to be a place where others can find encouragement, inspiration, compassion and hope. I believe we all need those things, especially in these times of such deep division and acrimony in politics, culture, and religion–even among members of the same faith tradition or local congregation.

Instead of one of my own photos, today I’m sharing this quote from Madeleine L’Engle. I believe her words could apply to any situation, not just religious.

L'Engle QuoteI welcome your comments!

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Living Life without Fear of Death Part One

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Finite Creatures.”

Today’s Blogging 101 assignment is to use a writing prompt as a starting point for a blog post. I chose this one from a few months ago, which asked “At what age did you realize you were not immortal? How did you react to that discovery?”

In reference to my physical body, I don’t believe I ever thought of it as immortal. My father died when when I was a toddler, just a few weeks after my younger brother’s birth, so death seemed as real as life–something that happens to everyone. I have a picture I drew in kindergarten of my family, and included with the stick figures labeled “Mommy” “Van” and “Laurie” is “Daddy,” the father I didn’t remember as a physical presence in my life. According to my aunt, when my mother saw the picture, she gently reminded me that I didn’t have a daddy, but I said, “Yes I do, my daddy is in heaven.” We visited his grave occasionally, and I grew up with a love of old cemeteries. They don’t seem morbid or scary to me, I suppose because I associate them with memories of my mother and the conversations we had about my father. She didn’t spend those visits crying, but instead shared stories so we would have some connection to him. To be continued….

I took this photo a few years ago in a cemetery in Fairhope, Alabama, just a few weeks after Mardi Gras. I call it “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. Mark Twain

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. ~Mark Twain

Making Connections

Reading Big Erik’s post yesterday prompted me to share my thoughts about the need human beings have to connect with others and be understood. Often, happily, that occurs with people in our families, faith community, social circles or work environment. Right now I am in that blessed place in my own life, but it hasn’t always been that way.

In thinking back over some periods in my life, especially the long-ago miserable teenage years, I can understand how some people get caught up in self-destructive relationships and situations. For me, even more important than growing closer to others has been growing closer to God and trusting God’s unconditional love. My spiritual journey brings me nearer to both God and others as I seek glimpses of the Divine in all Creation.IMG_2453

Putting Faith into Action

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John Wesley lived his faith, not only by teaching and preaching, but he also worked tirelessly to serve the poor, which often put him at odds with the “established order” of the Church of England. By establishing health clinics, orphanages, schools and other programs to help people transform their lives, he let the love of God shine through his example. I took the photo above at the Epworth rectory where he grew up. The garden’s plants are ones he recommended in a book he wrote for healing, “Primitive Physic, Or, An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases.”