The Cost of Things

Filed under:ain't nuthin can be done, bread, children, economics, healthcare, politics, righteous anger — posted by Sonja on February 2, 2009 @ 9:17 am

Like war and high finance and other fancy stuff.

The president and Congress are wrangling about a new spending bill.  It’s called a Stimulus package and it’s rumoured to cost about $850Billion in funds we do not have.

It’s okay though.  We didn’t have $700Billion Congress gave to Wall Street.

We didn’t/don’t have the $1 trillion or more that the war in Iraq is going to cost.

Everyone is busily pointing fingers and shouting about how beleagured their side is and the rightness of their cause.

Here’s an idea.  Let’s total all the figures up.  I was in the advanced math program when I was in high school.  So let’s see how I do with this.

$850,000,000,000 + $700,000,000 = $1,550,000,000,000 (that’s domestic spending)

The war of choice in Iraq $1,500,000,000,000 (that’s an extremely conservative estimate that I used just to make a nice round number).  A more responsible estimate from Joseph Siglitz (see the link above) is $2.4 trillion dollars.  This may change as our withdrawal plans are telescoped under President Obama … oh wait, that would mean we’d spend less money we don’t have at the hands of a Democrat.  But under Republicans, we were committed to spending more.  Despite my enrollment in advanced math, this is complicated.

Nice.  $3,000,000,000 … $3 TRILLION dollars in debt.  Hmmm and only $850,000,000,000 of it from Democrats.  So who are the tax and spend monsters here, exactly?  I just can’t keep it straight anymore.

What do I think would be a really good idea?  Only spend money we actually have.

If we don’t have money to keep troops in Iraq, then I guess they need to come home.

If we don’t have money to give to corporate baboons … I mean bankers … then I guess they’ll have to figure out other ways to fund their multimillion dollar retreats, private jets and end-of-year bonuses.  But I’m damn tired of paying for it.

The only thing I think we should be spending money on right now?

Creating jobs … programs such as the CCC during the 1930’s.  The Civilian Conservation Corps kept millions of men and women off the public dole and off the streets.  It built our interstate highway system and created our national and state park system.  Bring it back … put our people to work in meaningful jobs rebuilding our country.  Bring our industry back home.  I’m sick and tired of buying fabric and clothing manufactured overseas by slave labor and in inhumane working conditions.  I want to know that men & women here have a job OR conversely that the men and women overseas (not children) who manufactured my stuff are not dying to work.  Either way, I am tired of crap at crap prices just to make a few people rich.

Education … real education, not force fed trivia in the name of passing tests.  Let’s teach our children how to enjoy life long learning, not the drudgery of how to pass a test.  There’s nothing intrinsically beneficial to the child or the country in that.  Being able to pass tests is a skill, being able to develop technology is a gift.  We need to put our money and resources  into developing our children’s gifts and talents, their skills will naturally follow along.

Healthcare … our healthcare system is broken by greed.  What kind of system is it where my husband cannot get coverage for 10 $600 sugar shots to provide relief for his chronic debilitating back pain.  It is non-invasive and 90% effective.  He can get coverage for surgery which would be more than ten times more expensive and the chances that it would be effective are less than 50%.  Not even a gambling addict would take those odds.  Worse, a single mother with 6 children under the age of 7 can get covered for fertility treatments that cause her to bear 8 children, but I cannot get covered for birth control … because my “plan” will not cover it.   We have seniors and children literally rotting from lack of preventative health care that would cost pennies, but it will make insurance companies and drug companies millions for them to get really sick.  Drug companies are allowed to push vaccines that are not really necessary through fear and intimidation (have you seen the ads for bacterial meningitis?  ask yourself how many cases there really are a year and do the research).  It’s sickening.

Food … yes, food.  Our agri-industry is killing us.  It is walking hand in glove with the healthcare industry.  Twinkies are inexpensive.  When you’re living on a fixed, substandard income it’s a lot easier to eat mac ‘n cheese and chips than it is to eat fruits & vegetables.  But it’s the fruits & veggies that will keep you well and chronic illness away from your door.  As it turns out, an apple a day really will keep the doctor away.  But only if you wash it really carefully.  Read Michael Pollan.  Then read him again.  Then write to Congress and the President.  If you want your tax dollars spent on something real, get them to stimulate CSA’s and community gardens.

Well … come to think of it.  That looks remarkably like a household budget, doesn’t it?  I think Congress (on both sides of the aisle) needs to get rid of their household help and begin to live like regular folk once again.  Remember that they are first and foremost, civil servants.  They are in office to serve us, rather than the reverse, which currently appears to be the case.

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P.S.  Please do not use comments to tell me how you think I’m all wet behind the ears or stoopid or something because, “of course money has to be spent on defense, and this or that or the other thing.”    I’m using my space here to talk about what I think the top priorities are.   And you’re probably not going to change my mind about those things.  I’ve spent a long time thinking about them and coming to these conclusions.  If you want to disagree with me, that’s fine, but please use the comments to write in a positive manner, in ways that are constructive and will move the conversation forward.  If you can’t or won’t, you’ll prob’ly find your comment deleted without explanation.

Cost of A Life – Part One

Filed under:bread, compensation, economics, history, ice cream, justice, life, poverty, social contract — posted by Sonja on November 21, 2008 @ 7:13 am

When I was in high school it was a huge big deal to gather friends and go to Burlington for the day.  I lived in a tiny town in central Vermont.  There were about 4 stores in the local larger town, so going to Burlington represented shopping, eating and metropolitan nirvana for us backwoods hayseeds.  Once one or two of us reached driving age, and had parents who would release an automobile into our possession, we were free.

I had my first experience of ordering Chinese food on my own and using chop sticks in Burlington.  We’d wander up and down Church Street together.  Church Street has since been blocked to auto traffic and is an open air mall.  Back then, it was an ordinary street filled with adventure for teenagers in from the back country.  Some distance away from Church Street, a new experience opened up in the later years.  Two funny guys from New York City bought an old gas station and turned it into an ice cream store.  Man.  They made the best ice cream anywhere.  And it should have been … it was made with real ingredients.  Whole milk, whole cream.  Real fruit.  Dark chocolate.  Ice cream to die for.

But … ice cream in a gas station?  Who would buy it, the old-timers in the state ridiculed the idea.  And the lines in the summer were around the block.

Pretty soon, the ice cream was being cartoned and sold in small containers throughout the state.  But one could only get it in Vermont.  There were now also a couple of other scoop shops … I forget where the earlier ones were placed.  But I know that I had my first anniversary dinner in one ten years later.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle cone and LightHusband went next door for a slice of pizza.  We sat outside on a swing to eat.

You know the name of the company; it’s become ubiquitous with ice cream now.  Ben & Jerry’s.  Their pints stock freezers nation-wide.  For all I know, you can get them in Canada too.  The company sold out to Hershey or Nestle or some large conglomerate several years back and the ice cream isn’t nearly as good anymore.  What was once innovative is now just silliness and twaddle.  One might say they jumped the shark.

If you asked me what the most innovative thing about Ben & Jerrys was, the answer might surprise you.  For their ice cream was divine.  They were locovores before it became trendy or even had a name, using only small family dairies for their milk, cream and eggs.  No, the most innovative thing about Ben & Jerrys was this … their executive compensation structure.

I remember reading in Inc. Magazine back in the late 1980’s that they had structured the company in such a way so that neither Ben nor Jerry were compensated greater than 7 times the salary of the lowest paid employee of the company.  Think about that.  No matter how much Ben or Jerry made, it could never be greater than 7 times the salary of the lowest paid person in the company.

This has been on my mind recently as I read about the financial crisis on Wall Street and in Detroit.  I read about the “necessity” of golden parachutes in the tens of millions of dollars and executive compensation packages that look like lottery ticket loot.  There are some companies which have made an attempt to restrain executive compensation.  Whole Foods limits compensation of its executives to lowest employees in the ratio of 19:1 according to this Fast Company article written in Feb. 2007.  It’s the reprint of a letter written from CEO, John Mackay to his leadership team in which he raises the compensation ratio from 14:1 to 19:1 and reduces his salary to $1.00.  Apparently, what is left out of all company press is that Mr. Mackay also has an impressive stock option from Whole Foods.  Of course.  Cynics point to this as evidence of malfeasance.  Make of it what you will.  He’s still only taking $1 in salary and donating the rest to charity.  He’s a rarity in the business world.

I have to wonder though.  In yet another grocery store albeit tiny, independent and Mennonite, I saw this on the wall last spring:  “The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.”  I’ve been meditating on that for months now.  Especially in light of our nation’s current financial woes.

The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.

What will our greed cost us?  What amount of our lives will we be exchanging in order to pay for these few at the top?

When we begin to understand that we, or rather our representatives in Congress, have done that for us, then perhaps we will begin to actually change things.

Privatize Gains; Socialize Losses

Filed under:bread, economics, freedom, justice, politics, poverty, power, righteous anger — posted by Sonja on September 20, 2008 @ 7:56 am

I’m so angry right now I almost can’t sleep at night.  It’s a boiling, gutteral fury.  When I try to speak of it, I begin to sputter and use bad language because I don’t have enough words to express the utter depth of my rage.

My In-lawsMy in-laws turned 70 this year.  My mother will turn 70 early next year and my father is 75.  My parents are extremely fortunate because a relative left them unexpectedly very well off about 14 years ago.  However, my in-laws are not in that place.

My father-in-law worked hard all his life.  He still works hard.  He is 70 years old and with a bachelors degree in economics he works in a hardware store.  This year they will not be taking their annual three month winter trip to Florida as they cannot afford it.  Financially.  Unfortunately, their children and children-in-laws are all holding their breath for the toll this will take on their health.  They are good people who depend on the vagaries of the stock market for their fixed income retirement package.  They are good people who were depending on the stability of real estate to sell their home of 35 years when they needed to to supplement their retirement income.  Now they can do neither.

Remember when I said that the first national election I ever voted in, I voted for John Anderson?  Well … I had turned nineteen that May and Ronald Reagan won that election for those of you who remember which race John Anderson ran in.  So, for the entirety of my adult life, I have heard lessons on the economy from the conservative side of the street.  In a nutshell, those lessons may be summed up by saying, “The market will correct itself, the government does not need to regulate it.”  and “We’re not a socialist state, keep the government out of the market.”  Don’t fool yourselves, Bill Clinton was no liberal when it came to economics.  There was a very good reason why he kept Alan Greenspan in charge of the Federal Reserve for almost the entirety of his presidency.  Clinton was a fiscal conservative and only barely a social liberal.

Yet, every time I turn around these same fiscal conservatives … these Republicans who hue and cry about the government staying out of the market … run to the government for a bailout when their greed fails them.  When their pride, hubris, greed and foolishness fail and put all of us in jeopardy … they run to the government teat, just like a welfare mother in the projects.  I am way past disgust.  Just where exactly do they think that government money comes from?  The trees?  No … I have news for these financiers of great and immortal fame … it comes from me and you.  We are now paying for their foolishness.

Those men of millions and billions, who ran their companies into the ground, ran to Uncle Sam for help cleaning up the mess, are now keeping the millions they gained personally and have the unmitigated gall to fight for their 60 and 70 million dollar severance packages.  They are keeping their houses (multiples each), their personal jets, their yachts, their jewelry, their … whatever, whatever, whatever AND all their money AND we get to clean up the mess they made; AND we get to pay the court fees for the battle that they’ll stage to keep their severance packages.

The ugly thing about this is this is privatizing gains and socializing losses. So when things are going well, the managements make out, the shareholders make out, the counterparties are fine. All the private sector people do well. But when something goes wrong, when decisions are made that turn out to be bad decisions, the U.S. taxpayer has to take on the problem.

And there’s something very wrong about that. Because all of those people that made all that money are running off here into the distance with the money, carrying it in their bags. And the United States taxpayer is on the hook. Gretchen Morgenson of the Times on Bill Moyers Journal Sept. 19

So … when does the market correct itself?  I’m just curious.

I think these people need to help pay for the mistakes and help clean up the mess they’ve made … just like I do with my children.  The only thing anyone “needs” is one house and one car.  Strip them of everything else and use that money to begin the bailout … that’s market correction.  Because I want someone, anyone, to help my in-laws out of this mess.  They have lived life well, made responsible, wise, and even generous decisions … so why on earth should they and everyone else who have done likewise be made to clean up this mess?

After all, the only people who didn’t see this coming were those who don’t know their history.  That would be … almost everyone.

A Theory Of Everything

Filed under:book review, books, bread, community, healthcare, history, lost in translation, missional, philosophy, politics — posted by Sonja on August 25, 2008 @ 7:30 am

 … but I might revise it later

So, as you know I’ve been on vacation.  No television (thus no Olympics to squander my braincells).  Lots of porch time for pondering.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve been trying to catch up on my belated Ooze reading (and I have … sort of).  Then my brother came and landed a new book in my lap.  My mom insisted I read it … first … so I could send it on to my other brother and his wife.  Okay.

In Defense of FoodIt’s an easy read.  Well, the reading is easy and engaging.  But it pulls you into some deep deep thinking too.  Dangerous territory.  The book is “In Defense Of Food:  An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  You might recognize him as the author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire.”

As I’ve been reading this book, the Lakeland Revival and Todd Bentley have been unraveling rather publicly.  You can read blogger opinions about it in various places.  I (of course) have been following Kingdom Grace (start with Apostolic Bullshit and then read parts II and III), Brother Maynard, Bill Kinnon and iMonk (among others).  In a post the other day, Bro M asked the question whether or not Christians are more gullible than the rest of the general population.  And something that has been unsettled in my head clicked into place.  This post is a result of that click; perhaps it was an epiphany or maybe it’s just a rant … I’ll let you be the judge.

As I first jumped into the book I found it striking how closely it paralleled the Christian sub-culture.  Quotes such as this jumped out at me:

“The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutrition science, and – ahem – journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding the most elemental question an omnivore confronts.  But humans deciding what to eat without professional guidance—something they have been doing with notable success since comgin down out of the trees—is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, a definite career loser if you’re a nutritionist, and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor or reporter.  (Or, for that matter, an eater.  Who wants to hear, yet again, that you should “eat more fruits and vegetables.”?)  And so like a large gray cloud, a great Conspiracy of Scientific Complexity has gathered around the simplest questions of nutrition—much to the advantage of everyone involved.  Except perhaps the supposed beneficiary of all this nutritional advice:  us, and our health and happiness as eaters.”

Then there’s this:

The first thing to understand about nutritionism is that it is not the same thing as nutrition.  As the “-ism” suggests, it is not a scientific subject, but an ideology.  Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.  This quality makes an ideology particularly hard to see, at least while it’s still exerting its hold on your culture.  A reigning ideology is a little like the weather—all pervasive and so virtually impossible to escape.  Still we can try.  (italics mine for emphasis)

Well, I won’t bore you with the quotes on all of the pages I’ve flagged, just tell you that this book looks like a veritable rainbow when you see the long page edge of it shut.

Michael Pollan does a masterful job telling us that it is highly likely that the source of many of our health ills (from diabetes to depression, heart diseases to hyper-activity) in the modern world is the so-called “Western Diet.”  That diet composed of refined sugar, refined grains and refined fats.  We have so depleted our soil that we are now both overweight and starving ourselves to death.  It’s the Modern paradox.

(Aside … I’m particularly fond of Michael because he outs soy as a modern evil.  I’ve been convinced for years that soy will be our downfall and refuse to consume it in any form if I can help it –I’m also highly allergic to it–but now you know what my tinfoil hat is ;) )

So what, you would be correct in asking, does any of this have to do with Todd Bentley and the unraveling of the Lakeland Revival?  Nothing at all.  And … well … everything.

You see, a long time ago, and not so long ago when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, we humans relied on each other for advice.  We relied on our elders to teach us how to walk in the world, how to behave, what were good things to eat, what weren’t, who the charlatans were and who they weren’t.  We lived in close community with one another.  Sometimes that was painful and ugly.  Sometimes it was beautiful.  But regardless, the advice we got from each other was given by people who knew one another with some level of intimacy and (here’s the important part) the giver of the advice didn’t have a horse in the race.  In other words, the giver of the advice wasn’t going to receive remuneration or paybacks for any kind of change in the behavior of the receiver of the advice.

Things have changed rather dramatically in the last 100 or so years.  Now we pay for advice that used to come from the elders in our communities.  Not only do we pay for it, but in paying for it, we subsidize those who stand to gain the most from our receiving their words of wisdom.  We change, and they get paid twice.  Something is amiss.

Or this example:  meningitis.  A drug company has developed a vaccine for meningitis.  I know this because LightGirl recently went in for a physical.  She was offered a vaccination for meningitis.  We took it.  But I was blind-sided by it.  I’m not so certain it was necessary or right.  The doctor presented it as a good thing, the insurance company covered it.  So … no big deal.  Not really.  But she’s young enough that she’ll need a booster before college and no one really knows the long term effects of this vaccine.  Really.  And what is this vaccinating against?  What are the realistic chances that she’ll contract viral meningitis?  Uh … slim and none … realistically.  When I look at it, the doctor had every reason to “sell” this vaccine to me and the drug company had every reason to “sell” it to him.   I had virtually no opportunity to sit back and peruse the situation from a dispassionate vantage point and the doctor?  He had horse in the race.  I was not getting unbiased information from him.  Now he’s a good doctor, LightGirl is not disadvantaged by having this vaccine that we know of.  My point is … we don’t know enough.  I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.  I only have enough information to make a decision that benefits the person giving me advice.

I can never have enough information to make that informed decision … because I cannot get outside the box of the medical ideology that permeates our culture to find that kind of information.

Here’s where I find my theory of everything in the nexus between this book and Lakeland.  My generation (Gen X believe it or not) and Gen Y and Millenials and maybe even Boomers and really anyone alive today have been raised to be distrustful of their elders.  We’ve all … all of us … Christians, atheists, Hindus, whoever … religion has nothing to do with this … been taught to believe that only professionals can teach us what to do next.  That’s why we look to professionals in every area of our life.  We have professional Christians, professional nutritionists, professional child rearing experts (of every stripe) … you name the issue … we have professionals to tell us what to do.  Often confusing professionals who dole out conflicting advice which changes every few months or years.  So we must keep changing the stuff we purchase … the gadgets, gee-gaws and books … more and more books on every subject under the sun.

The reality is that most of us know … we know … what to do.  We know what’s best and good and right and true.  We know the right way to be and how to be that way.  Or maybe we don’t … but an expert is cannot tell us the best road to choose.  Only someone who knows us can give us advice.  Only someone who is intimate with what is important to us, can ask the right questions.   Sometimes we do know in our heart of hearts that when Sara Lee markets a loaf of bread as “Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White” bread it’s an oxymoronic crock of smelly dung so deep and wide that not even God’s grace can cross it.  We don’t buy it and we shouldn’t buy it … not literally and not metaphorically.

It’s not that we (Christians … or anyone else) are necessarily gullible.  It’s that we’ve been taught to suspend our native intelligence over and over and over again on so many issues.  We’ve been taught by our governments and our religious leaders; our politicians and our teachers to listen to the experts.  Listen to the experts and the professionals … they know what they’re talking about.

But they all have a horse in the race.  No one ever told us that part.  They all … every DAMN ONE OF THEM has something to gain by getting the lot of us to suspend our good judgment and believe their twisted un-truths.

So … are Christians gullible?

Not any more gullible than the Congress of the United States who believed George W. Bush when he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, yet it patently did not … according to every single unbiased study that had been done.   Hell, I knew it didn’t … a stay at home mom in Virginia.

Not any more gullible than the hordes of people who believed Bill Clinton when he said he hadn’t had sex with Monica Lewinsky or hadn’t smoked marijuana because he hadn’t inhaled.

The problem is not that we’re gullible.  The problem is that we’re listening to the wrong “experts.”  For hundreds, even thousands of years we listened to people who knew us and were in relationship with us.  People who know, for example, that I get wigged out when faced with unexpected trouble (like a car breaking down on my way to college is likely to ruin my entire college career).  I have learned over time how to manage those issues better, but my elders who know me, also know to ignore some of my outbursts as, “she’ll get past it.”  Not, “let’s medicate that.”  Or they might ask a few pertinent questions, such as, “How important is this?”   Now we think we need to see an “expert” or a “professional” about the many different issues in our lives … these experts, these professionals have a vested interest in “selling” us something … a way of life, a medicine, a book, something …

So, the next time you get all hyped up about something, remind yourself that you live in a capitalist system.  You do.  Every thing.  Every damn thing costs.  So when you ask for or receive advice from an expert or a professional, ask yourself what does that person stand to gain from their advice … even if it appears to be as wholesome as a revival in a church.

Blessing …

Filed under:blessing, bread, church, community, prayers — posted by Sonja on July 13, 2008 @ 6:48 am

Select up to 20 friends who deserve blessing. Bless 15 more friends, and advanced blessing options will be available.
I found the above directive in Facebook one day.

I can’t decide … part of me thinks this is absolutely hilarious and giggles uncontrollably when I read it.  Another part of me finds this very, very sad because there are people out there who will believe this tripe.  A third part of me gets angry when I read it because there is something pornographic about that.  It’s using something that is supposed to be pure and holy; turning it into an economic transaction of sorts.

What do you think when you read things like this?

Just What It Takes

Filed under:bread, children, expectantly, faith, family, life, love, prayers — posted by Sonja on March 19, 2008 @ 6:47 am

“Daddy,” LightGirl twinkled and spun, “do you have ….

… any money?”

The adults nearby sputtered in laughter. One looked at me and said “Daddy?!” I rolled my eyes … she knows how to twist her father around. But he can handle her. It reminded me of an experiment my mother and I did on my father a few years ago.

Not too many years ago either, LightGirl was alive, but I don’t think LightBoy had yet joined us. The first part that you have to know is that I barely remember a time that my father (the GrandPea) was not hard of hearing. However, he only very recently got hearing aids. This experiment happened before hearing aids. LightMom and I did this in a number of different settings and it was successful everytime. She would call his given name in increasing volume and he did not hear. She would even whistle and do some fairly loud things to get his attention. Nothing, no response. But if I would say, “Daddy” in a regular tone he always heard me right away. “Dad,” sometimes got him too.

That’s what it takes. That’s all it takes for my dad to turn and come out of his reverie. A simple “Daddy.” I haven’t lived at home in over 20 years, but his ear is still tuned for it. I’m a mother now myself, but he is still listening.

It occurred to me when I was retelling this story to my friends that when God, “Abba” or “Pappa,” or “Daddy,” He is tuning in to us in the same frequency. When S/He gave us permission to call Her by a familial title of love that was indeed the moment of adoption.

Do we have what it takes to use it?  It takes courage, familiarity, sass and desire to use a “small” name for God.  To pick Him out of the crowd of all the smaller gods we venerate everyday, lift Her up and worship only Him, by using a familiar title … Daddy.  S/He’s invited us to do this.  And is waiting with a listening ear.  The question now is, will we?

The Lenten Path

Filed under:being jesus, bread, church, faith, lent, prayers — posted by Sonja on March 2, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

God of all seasons, at times, this Lenten path feels as if it will never end. Deep down, we all know that it will, but the winter seems determined to stay past its welcome and signs of spring are but a dream hovering in the distance. Help us to keep putting the hope of Easter before us on the horizon. It will come.

Until then, God, keep us focused and attentive as we remember Jesus and his long trek to Jerusalem. Help us to see his face reflected in the people around us every day. Open our eyes to the needs of a hurting world and guide us as we seek to participate in its healing.

We thank you for worship that brings all of us the encouragement and strength we need to make our way through these final weeks of Lent. Soon we will find ourselves together at the cross. We will need one another more than ever in that harsh, cold place. Bless us as we prepare our hearts and spirits for the days ahead.

Gracious God, thank you for your abiding presence and for the peace you bring to our souls. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall live in your sacred presence forever. Amen.

This was the Sunday Prayer at RevGals this morning.  I started breezing through it.  Then stopped and read more slowly.  Then stopped again.  I read that first sentence over and over and over again.  “… this Lenten path feels as if it will never end.”

Today marks a year of Sundays since we left our CLB.  In my life and faith, winter seems determined to stay past its welcome.  The hope of Easter is beyond the horizon.

It is because of this long, perilous journey to Jerusalem and extended time in the desert that I find myself seeing God in funny places now.  I hear him speaking in different voices than before.  I seek healing that is holistic and may not ever involve me.

Yet with my shaky knees I will stand and in barely whispered voice I will say, “Gracious God, thank you for your abiding presence and for the peace you bring my soul.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I shall live in your sacred presence forever. Amen.”

Food Ennui

Filed under:being jesus, bread, comestibles, community, justice, life, poverty — posted by Sonja on February 5, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

I just came home from the grocery store after having the following internal conversation with myself:

Self 1: I’m at the grocery store at lunch time. You know, the stuff at home isn’t all that appealing. Why don’t you find something here that you’d like better.

Self 2: (after searching several aisles) eh … I can’t find anything.

Self 1: What?! You’re in a GROCERY store for God’s sake. Whaddya mean? You can’t find anything? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Living in the richest country in the world and you don’t want to eat.

Self 2: How about a bagel and tuna … that sounds good.

As I may have mentioned a time or two before on this blog, I hate lunch. It’s an interruption. It takes too much time and energy. When it comes to lunch, I eat to live. So finding something that wouldn’t take any time at all and yet taste good, and be, like, no fat, is kinda hard.

Great Pancake TurtleIt was also hitting me that the Great Pancake Turtle is not going to visit our house this year. I was very certain that s/he would come, our plans were made and everything. We had a party scheduled to celebrate. But now LightGirl is sick and LightBoy is recuperating. So, we’re just going to have a garden variety Mardi Gras meal (red beans & rice) with kings cake for dessert. No party. No turtle.  sigh.

Food ennui … it really is just for rich folks.  No one else has time for it.  If I weren’t so ashamed I’d feel lucky.

Let Them Eat Cake

Filed under:being jesus, bread, church, faith, hope, justice, kenya, peace, politics, poverty, reconciliation, violence, war — posted by Sonja on January 11, 2008 @ 8:25 am

Homeless Kenyan Man

I ended yesterday’s post wondering if it really matters and I quoted “Crumbs From Your Table” – a song by U2. If you click that link there, you can listen along as you read the lyrics below:

From the brightest star
Comes the blackest hole
You had so much to offer
Why did you offer your soul?
I was there for you baby
When you needed my help
Would you deny for others
What you demand for yourself?

Cool down mama, cool off
Cool down mama, cool off

You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

You were pretty as a picture
It was all there to see
Then your face caught up with your psychology
With a mouth full of teeth
You ate all your friends
And you broke every heart thinking every heart mends

You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
Three to a bed
Sister Ann, she said
Dignity passes by

And you speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

So why should any of us care what happens in Kenya, or any of the African nations? Or the Middle East? Or Asia? Or anywhere but our little neighborhood for that matter? What does it matter to us? I can think of a million different answers to those questions. I think they’re different for different people. But I’m interested in answering them from the perspective of a Jesus follower. Why do I care? Why is it important for someone who follows Jesus to care what happens in the lives of people half-way around the world?

There are still numerous answers to that question. There is, of course, the idea of bringing aid to orphans and widows. Then there is the idea that we must succor the least of these brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus for in so doing we are aiding Him. Those are valid and indeed wonderful reasons for caring about people in the name of Jesus.

I think though, there is a larger reason we need to care. Jesus talked about bringing His Kingdom to pass. He talked about it being here all around us and being not yet. He said when it came to be the deaf would hear, the blind would see, prisoners would be free and the lame would leap for joy. He also said it was here … right now. He said that if we have faith that is the size of a mustard seed we could move a mountain into the sea. We could also bring sight to the blind and sound to the deaf and freedom to the captives … that in our presence the lame would leap for joy! Indeed, this is his Good News that we call the Gospel.

We also call it hope. It is hope for a better world, a better place and a better time. It is hope that my children and their children will play together and that the content of their character will count for more than the color of their skin (MLK, Jr.). It is hope that where you live will not determine the time of your death (Bono). Because in the now, those things are true and yet not true. In the not yet of God’s Kingdom towards which we strive, they will not be true at all … and that is the hope which we extend and push forward.

In caring we become ambassadors of hope. In hope there is reconciliation. Where there is not hope, there cannot be peace. When hope has died, neighbors war with neighbors and burn houses to the ground. When the truth of Love has been extinguished, fighting and war breaks out. No one can love their neighbor when hope has left the building.

We see this time and again throughout history. Marie Antoinette was famously misquoted as saying to the French peasants, “Let them eat cake.” It was a royal solution to a bread shortage. The shortage was not of bread, but of wheat. The royals did not feel the pinch or lack, but the poor did. Poor Antoinette had no clue. Her cloistered, pampered life ill-prepared her for the storms that came her way. She loved her country and her people, but could not give them any hope. The Jacobins and other forces at play in the French Revolution tore at the fabric of hope in the lives of the people.

In India the reverse happened. Gandhi was determined that independence from British rule could be gained without resorting to violence. Instead of tearing hope away from the poorest of the poor, he restored it. The more real hope he gave them that they could be honestly independent, the stronger and more united the Indians became. Yes, there was violence, but the Indians were not fighting amongst themselves … until later (but that’s another story).

Kenya (and Uganda, Somalia, Sudan and the list goes on) is important because we Jesus-followers are to be ambassadors of hope. We must restore hope to the little people. It is the poor who are fighting and dying. It is the little people, the poor, who are hurting and crying. The rich all around the world continue to eat cake; while the poor have no bread. If we are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom in the here and for the not yet, we must bring hope. We must restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, freedom to the captives and cause the lame to leap for joy. It is hope, and that hope alone which will restore peace to the country and allow her people to live in harmony with one another; neighbor helping neighbor to overcome the odds.

Restoring Hope:

Christian Mission Aid

OneWorld.net – Kenya … learn more about Kenya overall, follow links and become an expert!

Avaaz.org – send an e-mail that encourages your foreign minister (US Secretary of State) to put pressure on all parties in the conflict to continue mediation.

Global Partners – invest in Kenya’s future: women and children

WorkNets-Help Kenyans – direct connections with Kenyans on the ground during the crisis. I can’t vouch for any of these people or this site, but it looked interesting. Apparently Kenyans can trade phone credits for food?

Amani Ya Juu – a womens cooperative dedicated to peace and hope in Nairobi (here’s where you can donate to help the women in the current crisis)

Restoring Relationship:

The Walrus Blog (ht Achievable Ends)
Mentalacrobatics (ht Waving or Drowning)
KenyaUnlimited Blogs Aggregator

Another Wrinkle or Maybe Two

Filed under:being jesus, bread, economics, kenya, life, politics, poverty — posted by Sonja on January 9, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

Yesterday, just as I thought I was getting my head around the mess of spaghetti that is politics in Kenya, I read this:

Kenya Leader Names New Ministers:

“Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has named new ministers, just before Ghana’s leader arrived as part of mediation efforts following disputed elections.”

The wrinkle is that he filled all the important posts. He named Kalonzo Musyoka to the vice presidency (who got 9% of the vote). None of the posts were filled with members of the opposition party (Odinga’s party). This was done as a mediator was/is enroute to Kenya.

In the west we speak of this as a defrauded election and we go about our business. I’m not so certain though. More and more it is taking on the colors of a coup d’etat. A coup d’etat is much more serious than an illegal election.

A leader who has himself declared the winner in the face of an overwhelming parlimentary tidal change and then sets about establishing his ministry as mediation is enroute is not a leader who will be submitting to outside authority in any meaningful circumstances. Let’s just say that in our outloud voices and be done with it.

My guess (if I were to guess … okay, I will) is that he will in short order either do away with parliament altogether or gut its powers rather abruptly. This will happen in the next 12 to 15 months. I will be happily surprised if it does not. You can send me a cake. Remember this … and hopefully I will be the recipient of some cakes.

Herein though is the root (or roots) the deeper problem in Africa and, indeed, all of the developing world. The west went in with a somewhat (okay very little) altruistic nature and attempted to bring democracy to these places. We are now past the point where having a debate about whether or not this was the right thing to do is fruitful. It was probably not right, but it happened and now we must bear out the consequences of those thousands of large and small decisions. The problem is that in order for what we consider classic freedom and democracy to flourish in a state there must be an undergirding web of philosophy, education, economics, demographics and many other issues woven together to support that freedom and democracy. The soil must be nourished in order for those flowers to grow.

By that I mean this … our version of classic freedom (a very Western, Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman notion by the way) cannot be supported in an economic system where there are only two classes of people; the very poor and the very rich. Our notions of freedom and democracy (and capitalism) requires a fertile middle class to support it. Most developing nations have three classes: the rich, the poor and a military class. What tiny middle class there is, is struggling to survive, thrive and grow is not part of the picture at all. Education is also a requirement for democracy. This is why Thomas Jefferson, though an inveterate snob, was such an ardent supporter of public education in our country. He knew that classic democracy (even a republic) could not survive without an educated electorate.

So, I struggle with the lack of conversation that I’m hearing in the blogosphere on this subject. Life goes on here in the west. Poor people of color are struggling and dying against one another now, just as they have been struggling and dying against AIDS, parasites, drought, disease, etc. for decades and we have done nothing. Perhaps it would be disingenuous to begin to care now. Perhaps it is we do not know what to say, so we say nothing at all and pour our energies into discussions about books, and quitting time and ministries and the things we know and the things we don’t know, rendering unto Ceasar, etc. I’m torn between Bill’s disappointment, Maynard’s ennui and Mike’s sense of justice. I’ve given to Amani ya Juu and felt good for one day. Then felt horrible guilt that I have so much to feed my family. No, not guilt. I am overwhelmed with all I have and all I am not grateful for. After all, when I need food, I safely go to the grocery store. I am not limited to 4 tomatoes, 4 carrots, 4 bananas, 2 cabbages, and the few other things for a week as the list on Bill’s page suggests that the women in Nairobi are at this time. And then it all comes back to this:

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die

Crumbs From Your Table – by U2


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