Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

God made poor

Jesus is God made poor. His coming was prophesied to bring social revolution, and his kingdom would turn things upside down: The mighty would be brought low, the rich sent away empty, the poor exalted, the hungry satisfied (Luke 1:52-53). Jesus identified himself with the weak, the outcast, the downtrodden. His kingdom undermines all economic systems that reward the rich and punish the poor.

The early Christians shared their goods with one another and with the poor. The Jubilee redistribution was fulfilled among them, no longer just at periodic intervals, but as a way of life. The apostles taught that one could not profess love for God while ignoring the needs of hungry neighbors.

Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion


Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Old Sow

As part of the masters program I am participating in we are in the middle of intensive classes right now. One of them is a spiritual direction class taught by my friend Lorna. She is leading us through some Ignatian prayer exercises and we began the class by recalling a memory that happened while we were preparing for this module.

Because I live local to the university I got to play this past weekend instead of having to worry about packing and traveling like so many of my fellow students. On Saturday my family and friends joined a tour of the Passamaquoddy Bay to see the whales, seals and local sites. It was a joy to introduce our kids to the 60' fin whale just feet from our boat and see the joy on their faces as they connected with such beauty.

My favorite part of the trip was after that though when our boat found The Old Sow whirlpool. The thing about the Old Sow is that you have to be at the right place at the right time, and we were. It was a moon tide, and we were there at high tide and it was like being a potato in a big boiling pot of stew. Our boat sat atop the swirling, churning water, surrounded by the chaos. The convergence of the bays meeting the ocean while the tide changes churns up the water unlike any other place in the world. It felt somehow prepared by God. I knew it was special. I didn't know why, but it's promise stayed with me and I knew that it's richness would pull forward and unpack itself in a profound and powerful way.

This was the memory I recalled in Lorna's class. I don't know why I chose it, or rather why it chose me, but I spoke of it there and have been chewing on it since.

For those of you who know me personally you may know that I struggle with food addiction and body image. You also know that I love a good metaphor like little else in the world. I figured these things were somehow tied together but I couldn't really noodle them out. I have thought about it during any moment of free time I have found these past couple of days.

The first thing I began to think about was the name "The Old Sow". As a large woman I am very sensitive to animal names used in conjunction with fat people - cow, pig, whale. Sow is a word deep with cruelty in my language memories and I tried to think of all of the reasons that it might have been used to name this geographical phenomenon.

We used to live next to a pig farm for a season and I am very familiar with the vivid sight, smell, violence and noise an "old sow" brings to mind. Very little of it was positive. I began to sit with the emotion that word brought to my mind. My body has been feeling so old to me lately. I look at my hands and feet and see the skin's elasticity is retreating and I am left in my weight loss with more wrinkles and less beauty. I catch my image in the mirror when changing and understand it's not just my hands and feet that are showing their age. I begin to connect with these words on a cellular level. Old Sow. I breathe. I know. I feel my age and my body around me.

Much of the scars my body bears come from birthing my beautiful children. Nursing them to life and growth. Kind of like that old sow. She has been faithful to her vocation. She has given herself well to her place in life. She has fulfilled the call on her life well. Birth. Nutrients. Protection.

And then I remembered the wildlife we saw at the whirlpool. This place was one of the richest places on earth for the whales, birds, seals and porpoises we saw surrounding us. That Old Sow was feeding everyone. Life was continuing to churn and grow because of that Old Sow. This fertile place was continually a place of life, a place of bounty.

I remember back to a word that was spoken to me before we moved here. I called a friend who had been dear to me and was mentoring me in our last church with excitement to tell her of our decision to move here. She said "Oh Heidi, you don't want to move to New Brunswick. New Brunswick is barren."

That word hung around my neck for months. You see I had 9 years of infertility, an infertile woman understands barren. I have lived through barren years and greatly feared more. I remember finally mustering the courage to talk about this one day and it was then that I decided then to give that word back.

New Brunswick has been the richest, most fertile place we have ever lived. I am constantly amazed at the depth of soul, the beauty that surrounds us and the abundance of riches we have received since we have lived here. The Old Sow reminded me again of THIS place. This place where my feet walk, where I am placing down roots. It is life giving. Is sustaining. Is nurturing and mothering to me.

The Old Sow speaks of the feminine to me. The mothering and grandmothering that I have so longed for in my life. The place where so many things converge, join and journey on, just like that place in the water.

This place, this person, this body, this soul - rich, fertile, life giving, bountiful, abundant, feminine, maturing, deep, changing and faithful.

This is the place I will feed and feed others.

A place at the table

Charity is commendable; everyone should be charitable. But justice aims to create a social order in which if individuals choose not to be charitable, people will not go hungry, unschooled or sick without care. Charity depends on the vicissitudes of whim and personal wealth; justice depends on commitment instead of circumstance. Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table; faith-based justice offers a place at the table.

Source: Bill Moyers, Foreword, Faith Works, Jim Wallis


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blogging against poverty

I used to think that poverty was all about money. Just a lack of generosity, will or opportunity, both given and taken. I used to think that people could make simple choices that could raise them up out of poverty if they just really wanted it enough. I was incredibly naive.

I have come to learn that poverty isn't just about income. Poverty isn't about finances. Poverty isn't about jobs.

Poverty is pervasive. It depletes and erodes and siphons away at all it touches. Poverty is subtle and sly. It is a glutton that munches around the edges of life, eating at the structure and stability humanity relies on. Poverty is no respecter of persons.

I didn't know that when we moved to New Brunswick we would be on the very edges of the Appalachian chain of mountains that stretch down the eastern seaboard. There is a pervasive poverty that is attached to these mountains. They hold great beauty and richness, both in people and in culture, but there is also a profound brokenness that infiltrates and cultures a deep scarcity that has affected generations. It is a poverty that wounds and magnifies itself forward into the lives of it's descendants. It is a poverty that has little to do with money.

This is why trickle down economics never works. It is why programs about programs cannot seem to make a dent. It is why Jesus said "the poor you will always have with you" - because he knew that poverty of soul was far greater than the poverty of the pocketbook.

I am astounded with the depth of need I see around me. Stupefied even. Frozen with the vastness of it all. How can we make a difference? What can we do? What can be done to break this pervasive, generational cycle of poverty so that there will one day be hope for those that follow?

My husband Keith regularly reminds me that far too often when I am overwhelmed and discouraged by the pittance I am able to offer, "Sometimes we can only see the lack and we don't know what could be happening if we weren't here standing in the gap, offering our small contribution." That is a perspective I struggle to achieve. I forget that by "doing small things with great love" the world is changed.

So today, just for today, I will do small things, with as much love as I am able to muster. It needs to be enough. It will be enough.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Campaign to BAN Torture

One of the best things to come from the debate the other night was the fact that BOTH candidates actually took a stand against torture.

I participated in a campaign to bring this issue before both McCain & Obama previous to the debates and it worked:

“--we’ve got to--make sure that we--don’t ever torture a prisoner ever again.”

“--the torture issue--is something that undermines our long-term security--”

This surprised and thrilled me as this has been an issue close to my heart. We must all learn to have a consistent ethic of life.

(Image from Ban Torture)

Here is the Declaration of Principles:

The “Golden Rule”
We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One National Standard
We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The Rule of Law
We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to Protect
We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world. The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and Balances
Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and Accountability
All US personnel—whether soldiers or intelligence staff—deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

Please, add your voice to this campaign to encourage our future president to ban torture:

Campaign to Ban Torture: Sign the Declaration of Principles