Monday, September 29, 2008

"My American Prayer"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVi4rUzf-0Q

Watch it. Share it. Sing it.

Mostly, vote it. As if your life depended upon it. Which it just very well may...

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Imagine All God's Children

We have read all the statistics. But can we relate?

We know we have poverty here in the US. We see the people standing on the street corners with their little signs stating they are homeless and will work for food. But do we believe them?

If we have children in school, at the beginning of each new semester we have to fill out a form saying that yes, our children qualify for the “reduced” or free lunch or we say no, we can afford to pay for their meals. But do we realize as we sign no how many little children in our own school districts, maybe sitting in the desk right next to our own, go to bed hungry at night?

We read about the hundreds of thousands of US citizens who do not have insurance. But do we really understand that they don’t have insurance because they must choose between insurance and food? Or housing? Or a car? Do we realize that the person without insurance maybe as close as the very words that we are reading? …such as me?

And what about foreclosures? Great deals if one can get them. But do we stop to think that a little child may have had sweet dreams or nightmares in that bedroom? That familes may have grown up in that home? Or that a couple may have grown old in that home? It is not just a "good deal"...Life happened there. Somebody cried there. Somebody laughed there. Somebody loved there.

Schools in the US are falling far behind when compared to schools in many other countries. Our children have their backpacks checked each day prior to walking through the metal detectors as they head to their classes. The classes are overcrowded with children, each one with a special need whether it is detected or not. Kids are offered drugs on the playground. The teachers are underpaid and overworked. Too often, not only are they disrespected but their physical well beings are threatened. Our schools are war zones. And we worry about whether or not some little white kid in the ‘burbs can pray out loud or whether or not he can wear a t-shirt with offensive language comparing Obama to terrorists.

These are instances of poverty that exist within our daily lives yet we ignore or justify these signs.

Can we pull ourselves out of our self absorbed nature and realize that life as we do not know it is happening all around us? If we cannot imagine a life in poverty as it sits or stands right beside us, how can we wrap our minds around the magnitude of extreme poverty that exists in the world outside of our national boundaries?

30,000 children in this world die every day from preventable and treatable diseases caused by extreme poverty. What is extreme poverty? Poverty that is so insidious that it kills. It is poverty that is preventable and for the most part, here in the US we have done that. It is the poverty that is so insipid that it kills the young and the old because people starve to death or die of malaria or measles or from many of the diseases that the western world has basically stopped from happening through vaccines and clean water. We can stop these deaths from happening in under-developed worlds just as we did in our own neighborhoods.

We seem so fond of lining up statistics so that we can relate to the actual number. Surely it does not take a mile marker or a football field to imagine 30,000 dead children each day, 365.2422 days of the year.

More than 100 million children world-wide don’t even go to school, bad schools or otherwise. Of all those children that do not ever get to attend school, most of them are female. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth does not allow women to be priests; far too many places in under-developed parts of our world don’t allow women to do anything but care for their husband and families.

There are 8 Millennium Development Goals in all. Go to http://www.e4gr.org/ to read them all and to find resources that will help inform.

Let us just think about these three goals – extreme poverty (which will help on all the other goals), primary education for all children, gender equality and empowerment of women. These are the three key goals. If these three are achieved, all the others will fall into a solvable category.

So today, let us try to wrap our minds and our hearts around these three goals. Let us open ourselves up – our eyes, our minds, our hearts – to all those in our own viewable world who live on the streets, whose children go to bed hungry, who work without benefits or in extremely underpaid jobs, to our school systems which under educate our children. Then let us go even further, with God’s help, to imagine our national problems multiplied. We do not even have to multiply it by a very big number.

We must be able to empathize. Sympathy is a Hallmark card. We have to feel the pain; smell the death; hear the cries. Only then will we find the compassion that drives us to DO something.

Today…

PRAY as if our own child’s life depended upon it.

FAST from all excess if not from a meal. With each bite of food, with every sip of water, remember that there are not just a few but a great many who have no choice in what they eat or what they drink.

WITNESS not only to God’ steadfast love but to the idea that we can love our neighbor and show that love.

Tomorrow…

Hold tightly to all these memories. Because it is in the re-memory that we learn. It is in this re-memory that we change.

And it is all about change. We have no choice.


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed meto bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captivesand recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Weep With Shame

At the Lambeth Conference a few weeks ago, the Anglican Communion called for September 25, 2008 to be a day of prayer, fasting and witness in conjunction with the “High-level event on the Millennium Development Goals at UN Headquarters in New York" on that same day. The Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation campaign seeks to involve as many people as possible tomorrow to Pray, Fast and Witness as we join in solidarity with communities of faith to change the world.

The goal is a concerted effort to pray with a primary intent for all who live in extreme poverty (poverty that kills); to fast by skipping at least one meal and to witness online through our blogs, personal pages (i.e. Facebook/My Space); and to act with advocacy groups (i.e. EPPN). I committed a while ago to blog about my thoughts on the MDGs and to respond immediately to all calls for advocacy. In addition to praying throughout the day, I will lead noonday prayer at Christ Church Cathedral using the designated Prayers of the People found at the EGR website. Also, I have continued to deliberate about the idea of fasting.

I thought about skipping breakfast because it is one of my most important meals, in fact, it is probably the only meal that I would actually miss, hunger-wise. Plus I just like all the different types of breakfast foods. I didn’t really want to skip lunch simply because lunch is when a group of us meet upstairs to eat together. More than that though, it is a time of fellowship and camaraderie. To skip the dinner meal is not big thing for me. I am always better off not eating in the evening.

All along, as I thought about this idea of fasting, some little something far back in my mind has bothered. About 2:30 this morning, in that wakeful sleep mode that I so often find myself, I suddenly came to full consciousness. The half awake/half asleep state is an irritating condition but one that I frequently find to be an illuminating time. So it was I was lit up in this early morning. What woke me fully was disgust.

Can I speak to the revulsion that I felt within me? Am I able to write exactly how ashamed I was to realize my high podium of privilege from which I found myself inanely pondering? No…no.

The very idea that I would actually think about WHICH meal I might skip – the idea that I have numerous opportunities from which to choose…the idea that after skipping that one I could open the fridge and eat to my belly’s content…the shallow thought that I would consider skipping only one meal for one day...

Meanwhile, how many people whose stomachs are twisting with hunger pangs do I walk by on my way into the Cathedral each day? How many children in this city alone went to bed last night without a meal? How many children throughout the world died from starvation in just the amount of time it took for me to ponder which meal I might ostentatiously skip?

God have mercy on my unearned privileged ignorance…I weep with shame.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Molly Said!

“So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”(Molly Ivins 1944-2007)

I have been feeling particularly homesick for Texas over the last few weeks. Instead of putting up a bunch of pictures of the most beautiful grandchildren in the world and thereby creating grandparent-envy in all who view them, I just decided to put up a quote from the late, great, much beloved Texas Icon, Molly.

Lord, I would love to hear what she has to say about this current election. I am thinking that she might be telling it like my good sister-friend, Lindy over at http://stillfruity.blogspot.com/2008/09/few-questions-on-race.html.

Yeah, sister…what she said! So watch out you "fraidy cats"! Our laughter is about to "ring forth"!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blank Slates and Agendas

For the past couple of weeks, I have been unable to concentrate on writing. For one, I have been really invested getting Sunday School ready for a new church school year. I have to say, many prayers have been answered. It feels fairly good.

But another problem has been the disjointed uneasiness of all that surrounds us: the hurricanes, the melting Arctic, the extreme poverty in this world and our failure to do “enough”…and now Sarah Palin.

Actually, not Sarah Palin herself; rather, the idea that she has rejuvenated the campaign of an elder who should be sitting in the councils as a respected advisor but whose day has past as the leader. She is smart, witty, pretty and as one Republican spin-doctor said, “she is a blank slate.”
That is one powerfully and profoundly frightening statement.

Does Sarah Palin understand the profundity that lies within it? The idea that other people can write what they want and she will buy into it hook, line and sinker…the idea that she has nothing of her own (save her physical appearance)…that she is a shell waiting to be filled…she is a tool…a vessel and that is all.

If she does not understand that, surely she is not intelligent enough to run this nation. Being “bright” and being intelligent are not the same thing.

If she does understand it, whoa. If she understands that she is being used for her physical appeal and her allure (sexual or whatever) and she is willing to allow this to happen, that is even more profound than the blank slate statement. It says that she is willing to pander her physical looks and charm to get what she wants – power. That makes her dangerous. If this is the case, then we know what she is...we just are not sure of the price we will have to pay. I think it safe to assume that it will be high.

Do we really see Sarah Palin as a behind the scenes type of Vice President willing to go all the places the President does not want to go? Do we see her hobnobbing with the less-thans in the society of world order? Hardly.

She has already shown her hand about what she thinks about “Pro-Choice” but let us not forget that she is herself “pro-choice”. She chose to have her baby, just as hundreds of thousands of women do in this country every year. She is no saint just because she chose to have a baby that is extra-special. Good for her; she is human. She made the choice that she felt was right. But let us not forget that it was, indeed, a choice made by the body that would be carrying the baby.

In her acceptance speech she let all know how she felt about basic civil rights. As one journalist noted, she is no Atticus Finch.

I think that the major reason that I have not been able to write about this is because the people in this nation (those who vote and especially those who do not) scare the heck out of me. We have gone through two campaigns in the past 7 years and here we are in a third…are we going to screw up one more time? Is the press going to continue to be oohed and aahed about how Palin holds a shotgun or are they going to start writing like Mark Bowden (author of the article above)? Are they going to be afraid to call her what she is – a power-hungry human willing to sacrifice her own soul to get what she wants OR one heck of a stupid person – or continue to be panderers of the Republican armada?

If there is a sexist agenda going on in this campaign, it is the one being forced down our throats by the Republican manipulators of spin control. Using Sarah Palin to bolster McCain's sagging numbers not only because she is a “blank slate” but also because of her physical appeal is just damn terrifying. Touting equality for all while writing on the blank slates of women who look good on the cover of a magazine is not true equality. Of course, what would these people know about that? They think that a moose-shooting woman is sexy. What does all of this say about the people that these spinners are trying to reach?

I think that any who might consider voting for John McCain simply because of Sarah Palin ought to sit down for a little while and just ponder what “blank slate” actually means.

Reminds me of way back yonder in another lifetime when I attended a fund raiser for Congressman Jim Wright. Standing next to him, in a small group of people, I asked him a question that pertained to an issue of the day. He put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Honey, don’t you worry yore pretty little head about that. I will take care of it.” I supposed he thought I was a blank slate.

I haven’t voted Republican since.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hesed

Being in right relationship is so important. Reconciliation seems to be a main message of the Episcopal Church at this time. Reconciliation is the idea that the different Via Media groups, Remain Episcopal, and so many have attempted throughout these past almost five years since the first dioceses began cries of “otherness” and separation. Reconciliation is ongoing at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Missouri as it is in so many other parishes and dioceses.

As a nation, we are attempting to reconcile ourselves to the loss of so many during the tragic attack on U.S. soil seven years ago today. Would that we had only attempted reconciliation with those who hate us prior to that attack!

As a nation, we have basically reconciled ourselves into an idea that we need trade with China. All that means is that we want their money and the cheap labor they provide since they are not restricted to obeying simple human rights. Rather than reconciling, perhaps that is more properly named justification for greed.

So, why can’t we reconcile (or justify) opening relations with Cuba? The site is in Spanish but the message is clear. “Ike castiga la Isla.” Ike punishes the island.


Gustav on August 31; Ike on September 8. Gustav with winds up to 200 mph and waves of 50 feet; Ike’s winds were less but its' wave just as devastating especially as everything is still flooded from Gustav. Cuba has been overwhelmed. And we, as individuals, are not allowed to help. The Baptist men are headed that way. I am sure that ERD is there also. But if I had family members there, I could not help them. Not unless they were immediate family - and then I could only send $300. That is not a Cuban restriction. That is a U.S. one.

And Haiti…what about Haiti? The lowest of the low; the least of the less-than. How many actually died? Or are still missing? How many left “homeless”?

In the Episcopal Church, we are still arguing about gays and lesbians and whether or not we as individuals think these people are moral, immoral, depraved or blessed. Can lesbians or gays truly be called by God or get married? Some are so mad about it all that they are just going to quit…they are taking all “their” toys and going to South America. The issue of women as clergy is just as alive today as it has been for the past thirty years. The “judges” in Fort Worth have deemed their limited viewpoints regarding women as so important as to upend the Church to get their own way. Shame, shame…

For those who are so discontent – just know that prayers are following you and you are welcome to return whenever you get over your selfish histrionics.

On the House of Bishops and Deputies listserve they are cussin’ and discussin’ ideas and opinions on “adiaphora” (matters not essential to faith but permissible nonetheless). Arguing things such as these are important, I suppose…on days when there is nothing else that one can do. I guess that minds can be changed and opened…eventually.

Politically, we are blogging about pigs and lipstick and taking an overused aphorism that is so simplistic as to be stupid and turning it into a political talking point. Can we get back to the important stuff, please?

Let us get back to the facts. Let us talk about Justice for All, the assault on the economy, Global Warming; poverty that kills; lack of education; women and children sold into prostitution; lack of sanitary water, food, sewage systems and oh so many God help us problems…let us talk about death. And let us talk about our “neighbors”.

“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)

Why aren’t we, as a nation, reaching out – especially on this day of infamy – to our closest neighbors in both Haiti and Cuba who are in such great immediate need? Why can we not set aside the shallow, narrow political agenda of decades past to help those who are unable to help themselves? What better way to prove our nation is truly “one nation under God” than to reach out on this most painful day to that which has at times been considered an enemy? At what point do we learn to forgive? When exactly do we recall that we are not judges; rather, we are witnesses to the steadfast love of God.

When we become witnesses to that hesed, then we will be reconciled to God.

The rest will then be easy.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Cubafloodaid/?e

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Save the World - One Vote at a Time

Yes, it is that important.

As we watch Ike heading straight for the southern parts of Florida, I can’t help but think so what is the solution? Fay, Gustav, Hanna and now Ike, hurricane after hurricane; devastation after devastation. The world is hurting and people are dying. Droughts on one hand; floods on the other. Earthquakes and tornadoes with an occasional tsunami get whatever is left. So what is the solution?

Meanwhile, a new pathway has opened up in the Arctic for ships to go through. The ice is melting. The ice melts and the ocean rises in Takuu Islands near Papua, New Guinea. This is not a small thing although it is a small area and affects a small number of people. The big thing about it is that the people who live on this atoll have lived here continuously for the past 3000 years.
Not that big of a thing, I suppose, to some people. Who cares about a little bitty island that isn’t even big enough to be called an island? But do we care about Florida? Or anywhere within the Gulf Coast? Not just on these low lying areas but what about the entire Pacific and Atlantic coastlines? How far must we push it until we begin to understand that global warming is a real problem?

Well, we can go and try to help recover whenever something happens. We can go on mission trips to rebuild houses, give money or donate goods. We can pray…and pray…and pray some more and thank God “there but for the grace of God go I” as if “I” is more special than “thee” and far more than deserving of dry, uncracked land with temperate climes.

Or we can do all these things plus actually begin to work towards solving the actual problem. And pray to God that it is not too late.

But we don’t have another four years to screw around. Electing John McCain and especially now with his new running mate, Sarah Palin, is not the way to solve any problems. In fact, it is the way to exacerbate the problems we already have. Not everyone is as enthralled with her as is McCain. It may come as no shock to anyone that I am not one of her fans. Numerous problems I see keep me from thinking she is anything but a disaster waiting to fall on us. One problem in particular is her belief that humans are not the main cause of global warming. Calculated benightedness…that always amazes me. Just because she is female does not make her a good candidate. How stupid do the McCain people think that women are to be lulled into voting for him simply because he grabs up a woman – a young woman at that – for his running mate?

Are there more women in the Republican Party that might make better candidates? Sure, but not young ones like Palin. Kay Bailey Hutchinson is far more qualified – senior Senator from Texas, first woman to represent Texas in the Senate, named one of the “30 most powerful women in America” by Ladies Home Journal…but she turn 65 in July. Not much help there. I am sure there are more. But he needs youth. Vim, vigor and vitality and Sarah Palin has all that.
At the risk of ruffling feathers yet one more time, I see Palin as being detrimental to the well being of the American people. Surely to heaven, the people of the US will rise up and vote loudly, strongly against this team.

Check out Susan Russell’s blog. Lots of good stuff – or rather, bad stuff.

Save the world…vote against McCain/Palin.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Still Wondering

I wrote the other day about Gustav…I passed along Bishop Jenkins' blogspot address because I was having such a difficult time addressing the deep-seated emotions that I was feeling…still am feeling.

Still, I am wondering, why am I so affected by this hurricane? It certainly isn’t New Orleans. I have been to NOLA once in my life and I was only 15 or so at the time. It doesn’t really have anything to do with New Orleans.

What happened in New Orleans was a tragedy but it was a natural disaster that was compounded by human error. Bay St. Louis and Waveland Mississippi were just little blimps on the radar screen of being newsworthy because the human drama going on in New Orleans was so much more stimulating than a few thousand homes being washed out to sea by the mother of all storm surges known on the Gulf Coast. The ghoulish fascination with death and tragedy…

In the end, all things considered and comparatively speaking, Gustav wasn’t that big of a thing…not when one thinks of Katrina, Rita, Andrew or Camille. It was just a hurricane – the kind that people who live on the coast know is eminent at one time or another.

Obviously it was the human element – watching people crammed into an unprepared Superdome or watching as people cried for help from their rooftops…or the knowing of all the ongoing tragedy that was just too grim for even the 10 o’clock news…so easy to say, “there but for the grace of God” as if those of us sitting safe and sound are so much more in God’s good graces…

Or maybe it was the government audacity…the cockiness…the arrogance of well fed and well heeled white men standing there slapping each other on the back at the great job they were doing…all the while buses parked idle n a lot while the water crept up high enough to make them useless…FEMA trailers sitting empty undelivered on lots in Texas while families camped out in small hotel rooms all over the nation…

Yes, criminals were let loose on the innocents of Houston and Austin and other parts of the world as residents of those cities tried to help in one way or another. Yet, the real criminals sat high on the hog in Washington D.C. and did what they always do – legally take from those who have nothing to satisfy their insatiable greed to have more. Who, after all, decides what is a crime and who are the criminals?

The failings of government help were so complete and so tragic that when Rita stuck the coastline of Texas and did almost as much damage (without the failed levees and the flooding), hardly anyone in the world noticed…except of course the ones directly affected by Rita herself. Thankfully, because of Katrina, people (including the Texas government) paid attention and evacuated on command.

I remember Bay St. Louis six months after Katrina washed over it. A black lacy bra hung from a tree…not that long before someone had probably felt sexy in that piece of clothing…yet as it hung from the branches of the tree, where was the one who wore it? Evacuated…or washed away? Did she live right there on the beach road or did it wash back in the wave from however many miles inland the giant wave surged?

I remember the teacup sitting so strangely intact on the steps leading to nowhere. Once upon a time, a porch and a front door were conveniently at the top of the stairs. My dog walked up the steps and stood there looking expectantly, waiting to see what I wanted him to do. The teacup probably belonged to a house nowhere near where it fell out of the wave. And the litter…pieces of wood and brick that used to be houses. Who could even tell where they once lived? The rubble had no respect for roads and driveways.

With all the emptiness inside of me…the sense of uselessness that I felt wash over me as I watched the predicted path of Gustav. I could only imagine how those people across the coast from Texas to Florida must be feeling as they watched and dreaded and planned for the impossible possibility that just such a short time later one more tragedy could be rushing in on them.

So, obviously, I am being called to do something, don’t you think? Otherwise, why would it matter so much? But what? And how?
This set me to giggling... "This detail from the Lambeth Conference group photograph shows just a few of the approximately 600 bishops who participated. Bishop Iker was asked by the conference organizers to stand near the middle, in close proximity to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Just 16 TEC bishops were Lambeth “veterans” this year; for over 120 TEC bishops, this was their first Lambeth Conference. Among those who had attended previously were Bishop Robert Duncan, Bishop Keith Ackerman, and Bishop Iker."
Taken from http://fwepiscopal.org/news/gafconlambeth.html on September 3, 2008.

Not the pic itself, rather, the caption is what I found gigglyfying. This picture has been on the Diocese of FW website since soon after it was taken at Lambeth. The caption, however, is much newer.
The part that tickled my funny bone is italicized by me. :-)