Monday

the landscape of our dreams {common prayer}

We walk in the company of the women who have gone before, mothers of the faith both named and unnamed,
testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.
They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, the poets, lovers, and saints
who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,
who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced,
who kept and cradled wisdom with the ages.

We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood,
who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,
who wed imagination and theology, proclaiming "All shall be well."

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth,
who stood against oppression, righteously declaring "Ain't I a woman!'

We walk in the company of you mothers of the faith,
who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal.

 Amen.

{Excerpted from A Litany to Honor Women in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals}


It's exceedingly difficult to find a good devotional, isn't it?  I read My Utmost for His Highest throughout college, and ever since, I've been on the look-out for something else that is substantial, preferably with directed bible readings.  Yesterday I mentioned my favorite advent reader, Watch for the Light.  It's lenten companion, Bread and Wine is just as good, but I was still hunting for something to read year-round.

This year I finally found a keeper:  Common Prayer, quoted above, written and compiled by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro.  Zondervan sent me a copy during lent, and I fell instantly in love with its daily rhythms.  There is something about liturgy that resonates in that place where deep calls to deep.  Much research, time and love went into this treasure of tradition bridged into the present and a faith-lived-out.

Every month's introduction features a Mark of New Monastacism [reconciliation, creation care, peacemaking, common life, etc].  Each day has a unique morning reading including call and response liturgy, a song, psalm, Old and New Testament readings, a prayer and a benediction.  There is often a short paragraph about that day in history or a saint feast that coincides.  Common Prayer also includes one daily midday prayer and seven evening ones to alternate among each week.

I tend to read just the morning prayer if I'm in the habit.  I read more during lent and will probably throughout advent, too.  Sometimes Jim or the kids read with me, and I hope to share that more.

The back of the book has prayers and liturgies for many occasions in life together.  Finding A Litany to Honor Women yesterday, of which I only quoted part, was a welcome breath of poetic, prophetic fresh air, especially after difficult conversations we'd been having here and elsewhere about women in the church.

The hardcover is beautiful and solid with a ribbon to mark a place.  Daily readings are also posted online, if you want to get a better sense of what it's like and jump into reading today.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.



What readings are encouraging your heart lately?  Do you come from a liturgical background, or like me, have you been drawn to it as an adult?  If you have kids, what do you read with them?  I've heard great things about the Jesus Storybook Bible, and I think we'll get it for Christmas. 

Zondervan provided me with a copy, but my high praise is gratis:)



Sunday

have yourself a mary little christmas {part 5}


Do you remember the part in Catcher in the Rye when Holden goes to see the Rockettes Radio City Christmas show?

Old Jesus would've puked if he could see it.

Aspects of The Holidaze leave me feeling similarly at times.   The Incarnation--the most fantastic Story in which a baby Messiah is born to a teenage virgin and the Holy Spirit--somehow gets lost in a flurry of shopping, obligations and merry-making.

It will unless, of course, we purpose to keep Christ at the center of our celebrating.  We can choose to observe advent and the Spirit-working instead of The Christmas Season as prescribed by Santas and shopping malls.

And Mary said:
   “My soul glorifies the Lord
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
  for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful
 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
   just as he promised our ancestors.” {Luke 1:46-55}

Mary, awaiting the birth of her son and King, reveals that Christmas isn't about stuff...or even family.  It's about worship, mercy and humility.  Jesus' Incarnation inverts worldly power structures:  we place our trust in a Savior born in a stable.  Emmanuel, God-with-us, takes fragile human form and condescends to have his diaper changed.

Perhaps our Christmas observances could stand a dose of humilty, too.  We'll need to create space for quiet reflection if we are to tear down our idols from their thrones.

When we fill our holiday tables and stockings this year, what if we lived out this legacy of filling the hungry with good things, too?  Advent Conspiracy is a movement that seeks to honor Christ by celebrating his birth another Way.  Their two minute video is worth the watch for sure:



Worship fully. Spend less. Give more. Love all.

The alternative gift catalogs highlighted below allow givers to purchase things like shares in a well and supply clean water to a whole village. These are a few bigger ones but many denominational missions organizations offer similar projects that are worth funding, too.

Goats provide nutrition and extra income that can grant access to education.  A bike can mean safe passage to vulnerable girls whose walks to school are not safe.  We can provide care and hope for girls who have been trafficked or fund a business that will enable a whole family to become self-sufficient.    If you have kids, picking presents out of these catalogs together can be a fun and tangible way to help re-orient Christmas toward worship and giving.  We have chickens, and my little ones love the idea of buying chickens and other animals that children across the world can chase, too.




Here's to celebrating a holiday fit for a King born in a stable.  Holy is his name.


This is the final installment of a series about the intersection of 
faith, justice, consumerism and poverty. 


How does your family observe advent and Christmas? How do you keep consumerism from running amok in your home? How do you incorporate service into your celebrations?


Friday

tiny prints christmas cards {giveaway}

**this giveaway is closed. congrats to jess!**

Tiny Prints invited me to check out their holiday cards line and is offering one of you the chance to snag 50 beautiful cards, too.  Aren't they pretty?

 I love the colors on this one and the opportunity to showcase lots of photos.

 Simple. Whimsical. Fun.

These unique cards are ornaments.

Tiny Prints has a number of gorgeous tri-fold cards, but I couldn't snag a proper photo of one.  I'm excited to order my cards, and with 469 options, I imagine I'll have a hard time narrowing it down.  Of course, the hardest part is always finding card-worthy family photos.  We've had problems with that in the past.


If you want to buy your own Tiny Prints cards or gifts, they have a bunch of coupon codes and deals ending tonight (11/26) at 11:59 Pacific, and there is no code needed for their buy one get one 50% off deal on photo books and calendars (through 11/30). If you spend $30 or more, you can snag free shipping with the code freeship30 through 11/30.

All right, friends.  Want to win 50 free Christmas/holiday/new year's cards?  Just share one of your favorite holiday traditions in your comments--and make sure I'm able to get in touch if you win.  Entries close Wednesday 11/30 at 11:59 PM, and random.org will pick a winner from among qualifying comments.

It won't net you extra entries, but you are always more than welcome to subscribe or follow along on facebook, twitter, instagram or pinterest.

I am receiving complimentary Tiny Prints cards but was not otherwise compensated.  Views are mine and this post contains affiliate links in case you just can't wait to win and want to throw a sweet referral credit my way;)  Find more info about sponsorship or disclosure at my partner with me page.  Good luck!



Sunday

scorecards, slut-shaming & shining a Light


Last week, a popular Christian blogger published a scorecard detailing how guys can identify girls in church who "have a past."

So they could prey on them?  Pray for them?  That part wasn't clear.  Multiple disclaimers evolved onto the post's header claiming the goal was to "call-out" male foolishness, but the post itself only detailed a point system to sort out "girls with a past" from other [re: boring] church girls.

It painted with awfully broad brushstrokes:  girls women are either Madonnas or Whores (it's math!) and the 514 comments spelled this out to a truly ugly degree.  Egregious slut-shaming peppers the threads and anyone who found the post untoward is generally dismissed as humorless or jealous.  Within the comments, women are repeatedly told that the post wasn't for or about them at all:  it was about how men see girls women, so stop being so emotional, will ya?

I rarely write reactive posts, but a week later, it's still haunts me.  In his final update, the site owner wrote "if you’ve got a past, I’m sorry if it seemed like this post was picking on it."  That quasi-apology missed the heart of the criticism:  a woman's value is independent of her sexual experience or appearance, and attempts to rank and score women (and pit them against one another) are demeaning and destructive--even if done in jest.

Women take a lot of shit from the media and our culture at large:  is it too much to ask that the Church be a place where women are heard, honored and valued as image-bearers of God?

this is a man's world {on shining a light} originally published 10/13/11

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of, right?

But what makes a woman?  A cursory glace at any newsstand or television reveals our cultural value quite clearly: 

Sexual availability and impossible beauty are two sides of the same losing coin.

They're lies, of course, promising everything and delivering shame, depression and disorder.

We are not our weight, faces or bodies.

We are not defined by our sexuality.

We are not objects in a story told by men.

Scripture tells another Story, in which our value comes from being created in the image of God.

Each of us.  All of us.

{Even if you can't yet believe.}

We are strong and thoughtful.  Kind and wise.  Passionate and funny and sexy in ways that can't be commodified.

We are created in the image of a creative God to reflect his glory and goodness and creativity in ways that are unique.  In ways this world thirsts for.

Our daughters need us to realize our identity as image-bearers of God.  Our sons need it, too.  God knows Hollywood, Congress and the Church are crying out for transformation.

Expose the glossy lies for what they are.  Where Light shines, shadows flee. 


{images: on the issues, dwr}



Friday

Buy Less, Live More | 6 Ways to Make A Difference With Your Dollar {part 4}

This post is fourth in a series about the intersection of  faith, justice, consumerism, and poverty. 


image: ndh

We've been talking about justice, global poverty, and faith, and I promised a practical sort of post. So what do we do? Where do we go from here? Then I dragged my feet and wondered, Who am I to write any of this? Our family is does not live this ethic perfectly, and I won't pretend to have all the answers. We're just learning and making changes as we go, and I invite you along this path as a fellow pilgrim, not an expert.

Figures estimate that the world's wealthiest 20% [that's us] consume 80% of its resources. Americans alone, who number only 5% of the world population consume a staggering quarter.

The truth is that we vote with our dollars, and every purchase is an opportunity to live another Way. We don't have to live off-the-grid: small changes add up, and even baby steps in the right direction make a difference.

Let's stop allowing apathy, greed, or fear of not doing enough keep us from doing anything at all. If we stop tending and propping up our idols they will fall.

We can do this: consume less that we all may live more.


1. Buy Less

That's obvious, but I'm talking about more than just the things which overflow our closets and shelves. What if we also considered the packaging our food came in and the resources used to produce and transport that? Would we buy in bulk? Would we make our own snacks instead of purchasing individually wrapped ones? Would we skip the take-out bag of trash and pack a lunch instead?

Reuse / Re-purpose. Glass jars hold leftovers as well as the plastic ones you buy, and they don't leech harmful chemicals. Old tee shirts and socks clean as well as disposable dusters and commercial bathroom wipes. Lidded snack containers can hold small toys, and the zippered bag the sheets came in gathers art supplies as well as any pencil case.

Repair. This one can be frustrating, since it's often cheaper to buy a whole new blender than to find the part to fix it, but if our family is able to keep something out of a landfill, we start there. Mending coats and shoes are often inexpensive repairs that breathe new life into old things. Part of curbing consumption is taking better care of the things that we already have. 

Do without. Who needs paper towels/napkins/plates? Wrapping paper. This season's newest clothing, decor, and gadgets. Stuff to hold stuff. Knickknacks. Our family is slowly learning to be more conscious of the items we allow into our home.

2. Buy Smart

Good deals often aren't if we look at the big picture. Cheap consumer goods are ultimately disposable, and the cheap labor who make them are treated similarly. While inexpensive toys break and clothes wear out, well-made goods may last many seasons--or generations. In the long run, cheap things that require replacing are more expensive and consume more resources--environmental and human--than those crafted to last.

Cheap reusables aren't doing the planet any favors eitherJunk water bottles or grocery bags aren't better than the disposables they are meant to replace if they aren't made well. Invest in one nice travel mug instead of six crappy ones that are destined for the recycling bin.

{image source}
3. Buy Fair
"Fair Trade products are food or crafts that are produced under standards designed to end and prevent the poverty, sweatshop labor conditions, environmental degradation, etc that are endemic to the free trade “race to the bottom” that puts profits above people and the planet." (Global Exchange)
Fair trade items are not necessarily more expensive. Direct trade relationships minimize the distance between production and retail, ensuring better wages for workers and often keeping prices affordable for buyers. Fair trade shops like Gifts With Humanity and Lotus Jayne demonstrate how affordable, beautiful, and unique fair trade can be.

Most major U.S. chocolate manufacturers--including Nestle, Hersheys, Cadbury, and Mars--rely on child slaveryThe story of coffee is similar. Buying fair trade ensures just wages and no child exploitation. We need to consider the votes we cast with our wallets: is our "need" for cheap chocolate or coffee more important than basic human rights?

{image source}
4. Buy Vintage

It's not just for hipsters and penny pinchers. Buying used is a fantastic way to reduce our consumer and carbon footprint. Scour craigslist and freecycle. Hit up consignment and yard sales. Check antique and thrift stores. Host a stuff swap with friends. One man's trash really is another's treasure, and many vintage items have more mileage in them than the brand-new, poorly made stuff lining shelves at big box stores.

If you're into previously-loved goodies, let people know. There seems to be a cultural taboo against giving used items, so if you're down with vintage, say so. It's silly to feel pressured to buy brand new gifts just because we think we should.

5. Buy Handmade (or DIY!)

There really is something special about a handmade gift. If you aren't crafty, can you bake presents for teachers or neighbors? Craft fairs and websites like Etsy are a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind toys, jewelry, artwork, clothing, home goods, body products, and more.
 
6. Buy Local
For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.  (3/50 Project)
Dollars do far more good in indie shops than in the big box stores that are most apt to put them out of business, so keep it local when you can.

Living Another Way

Healing from affluenza requires intentionality. Cancel the catalogs. Stop making mall runs "just to look."  Opt out of the daily deal emails that alert you to sales on stuff you don't need. If t.v. commercials and magazines feed a lust for stuff, cut 'em out.

It may be cliche, but possessions do have a way of possessing us, don't they? They more stuff we have, the more time we spend cleaning and maintaining it. Choosing to have less may mean having more time to play, serve, and enjoy--and more money to give away generously.  

Learning the grace of enough and living against the consumerist tide may just lead to real abundance, for ourselves and our world.

This post is fourth in a series about the intersection of  faith, justice, consumerism, and poverty. 


How do you "vote with your dollar"?  What changes have you made?  How do you fight your own consumerist tendencies or go about making more ethical purchasing decisions?  I would love to hear your thoughts.


Wednesday

itti bitti, oh so pretty {cloth diaper giveaway}

***this giveaway is closed. congrats to hyacynth!***

i'd ask what is cuter than a cloth-diaper bottomed babe, but, is it just me, or is something a little off about this photo?


i considered not posting or even blacking out the eyes of my little tarzan, but his blue eyes are beautiful even if the zebra print diaper is a tiiiiiny bit creepy.

all right, so itti bitti sent me a bitti tuttu diaper to review, and there's one up for grabs in a giveaway for you!  they have 18 vibrant colors as well as fun limited edition prints.  we have another in green that is cute all the way, so you need not be dissuaded by the baby in the chippendale bikini.

too much? it's all a bit much, let's be honest.

the rise is small.  they are supposed to fit 8-40 lbs and can be folded smaller for a wee babe.  at twenty-four months and 28 lbs, it already feels small on James, especially for overnight.  we had multiple leaks up the front with him lying down in it, but it performs fine if he's awake.  i suppose a cotton prefold tucked inside could keep leaks at bay at night better. 

it comes with three soaker pads to snap and stack the best way for your little one.  the liners are made of bamboo with stay-dry microfiber layer.  if the bitti tutto had a higher rise, i don't think we'd have the leak problems:  it seems like plenty of absorbency. everything about the diaper is super-soft, including the leg gussets, which are specially designed to prevent leaks.  the minky outside is fuzzy as well as waterproof.

it wears more nicely than a pocket diaper.  the one we've had for months isn't showing any sign of wear.  i think if bought early, the bitti tuttu could be a great diaper to use over the course of many months or even years.  as a toddler diaper, it lacks oomph, but the all-in-one nature [no separate cover] is certainly convenient.  i'd call it a good diaper for babysitters or to tuck into the diaper bag.

want to win an itti butto for your cloth-bottomed babe?  just leave a comment saying why you love cloth or would be interested in giving it a go, or why the bitti tuttu would be perfect for your friend/neighbor/daughter/what-have-you. {cloth does not have to be an all-or nothing thing.}    just make sure you i have a way to get in touch if you win.  entries close wednesday 11/23 at 11:59 PM, and random.org will pick a winner from among qualifying comments.

it won't net you extra entries, but you are always more than welcome to subscribe or follow along on facebook, twitter, instagram or pinterest.

likewise, check out all the cute itti bitti diapers online or find them on facebook or twitter, too.

i received an itti bitti diaper but was not otherwise compensated for this review.  find more info about sponsorship or disclosure at my partner with me page.

linking with Your Green Resource & SortaCrunchy, The Greenbacks Gal, A Delightful Home, Live Renewed.




Tuesday

violence in the snowy fields


the teaser accomplishes its objective.  i don't flip away or shut it down.

another ten victims.  trust and youth stolen, preyed on by ones who should have protected.  the papers mischaracterizes it a sex scandal, like tabloid fodder or something other than the rape of children and justice.

hand-drawn flyers, stapled to telephone poles and businesses.  hooded cowardice.  venom recruiting in my backyard.  it's not makebelieve; i know because we've met.  my eyes have seen hate-inked arms share chips and salsa with pretty wives and children.  smiles conceal much darkness.

a local women is dead, her face kicked in by her boyfriend over a dinner disagreement.  something about noodles.  their names are familiar; was she a client?  layers of recognition and shattering make tears spill hot.   the knowing aches, my heart cut quick.  ragged edges catch and wounds stay raw.

will this too be made right?  the broken, spilled and bleeding?  how do we live another Way in the face of unspeakable violence?

i pray sweet dreams over sleeping babes and dream wild of re-creation and a coming Kingdom.  here, Lord, on earth as it is in heaven.

(hear, Lord!)

Yahweh Shalom.








{image source}



gospel of matthew resonate series: commentary for every(wo)man {not just nerds}

a book nerd from way back, i spent many an evening hovered near the bathroom nightlight, racing to finish just one more chapter.  my elementary school librarian still knows my name.

in college, i embarked haphazardly on a history degree but soon accumulated enough religion credits to warrant a double major.  new testament history opened another realm of ways to geek out, and my desk was always piled high with research.

after graduation, i took a job directing a youth ministry.  hanging out with students gave me excuses to watch teen dramas and trick or treat well beyond the age that any self-respecting person should, but my inner school nerd had her day, too, writing curriculum and bible studies.  pouring over commentaries as i crafted weekly lessons was a definite highlight.

when ed offered me the chance to review The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us, by matt woodley, the latest title in ivp's new resonate commentary series, i was eager to check it out.  these days, i'm pretty far removed from academic research, and it's just as well:  this "hybrid commentary" is informed by scholarship but written in an exceptionally readable, engaging manner.  it does not go into the kind of verse-by-verse detail that most would find mind-numbing; instead, woodley identifies big themes, makes it personal and connects the context to the greater story arc of scripture as a whole.

it's good stuff, and commentary is probably the wrong word. it's more of a companion piece to reading scripture, written for regular readers, not the academy.  it's practical like a devotional but more interesting than many, peppered with stories and pop references meant to engage.

in his section on matthew 21, woodley talks about yankee owner george steinbrenner and his ruthless leadership style.  Jesus' power and authority, he says, is nothing like the yankee legend's.  Jesus rides into jerusalem on a donkey to shouts of hosanna, but his riding the beast of burden is a mixed metaphor:  a working class symbol and fulfillment of messianic prophesy at the same time.
Riding on a donkey implies that Jesus, the world's rightful king, is ushering in the peace and rule of God.  But, surprisingly, Matthew omits a few crucial words from the ancient prophesy--"triumphant and victorious is he."  Jesus is the world's leader, Matthew suggests, but watch carefully, because he will take our standard concepts of power and authority, line them up like fish on a table, gut them, repack them with new meaning and bring them back to life.
woodley's narrative is almost breezy in its delivery, but there's no fluff.  he truly makes the scripture passages come to life and gets to the heart of the Story:  what does it really mean to follow Jesus?  what is the significance of his life, death and ministry?  who is Jesus?
Matthew tells us that Jesus is both human and God: a man who hungers and the God who gives food, a man who worships and the God who receives worship, a lowly slave and the God who liberates the oppressed, the hero of the story and the God who writes all of our stories.
i look forward to reading the rest.  even though these days of parenting little ones has left me somewhat non-fiction-challenged, the way this book breathes new life into ancient texts is fresh and stirring.  i would be interested in checking out more of the series.

ivp provided me with a book but i was not otherwise compensated for this review.




Sunday

a theology of enough {part 3}


We can end extreme poverty in our generation, but neither charity nor governmental will change the world.  Transformation must come from some place deeper.

American consumer appetites are unsustainable.  Our avarice perpetuates injustice while exploiting people and the earth.

It's not a secret, is it?  It's more like the elephant in the well-appointed room.  It grows wide like greed, and we pretend to ignore it, sipping nonfat lattes and nervously tapping laptops.

Guilt never moved a mountain, and it won't bridge the global divide either.  If we truly want to imagine another way, we're going to have to change our hearts--and move our feet.

A Theology of Enough

When I was at Relevant, Shaun Groves told the story of God providing manna in the wilderness for his beloved, ungrateful people.  It was a gift, and all the Israelites had to do was collect it from the ground where it appeared:
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. (Exodus 16:16-18)
God provided enough for each day's need.  If they attempted to hoard it, the manna became infested.

If we're honest, our habits have grown a bit maggoty too, haven't they?

The I Wants and I Deserves echo in my mind.  The sound is petulant and shrill, but I can't pretend it isn't my own voice clamoring More.

The thing about lust is that it promises things it cannot deliver.  There never really was joy in the getting.  A small buzz, yes, but the hangover's a bitch.

Somehow, more stuff always feels like less.

*****

Paul writes to encourage the church at Corinth to "excel in the grace of giving."  They've begun walking a generous path and he wants them to engage more deeply:
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)
If we believe that each one bears the image of the Maker, no matter the geography, color or income, we can't keep gathering too much for ourselves.  Our plenty is more than sufficient to supply their need.  Grasping hands must let go if everyone is to have enough. 

You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (Luke 12:20)

Can I trust God to provide like he promised, or will I hoard the excess until it rots in my hands?  Can I remember that abundant life isn't about possessions at all?  Will I be obedient to the call to carry a cross?

We've got some idols to raze, friends.


This is the third installment in a series about the intersection of 
faith, justice, consumerism and poverty. 

 

Tuesday

i am the 1. {part 2}

{Part 1 addressed Occupy Wall Street, corporate interest and the common good.  
Part 2 looks at how the 99 compare to the rest of the world.}


While college education entrenches our family within the middle class, working in camping ministry positions us firmly along the lower rungs of the American economic ladder.

Those degrees are important; we could "climb our way up," although that is hardly a given in this economic climate.  Our relative simple living is a choice, and I don't pretend to know what it's like to be low-wage workers, even if our finances look similar.

One of the biggest distinctions, of course, is that our housing is provided.  Although we have little cash to spare for extras, we never scramble to afford rent or heat.  Our needs are met and many of our wants, too, even when the checking account balance dips and we're counting the hours until direct deposit.

Although our family's earnings are modest according to American standards, globally we are among the richest.  We all are.   
Anyone earning more that $11,456 annually is among the richest 16% in the world.  (Compassion)
One billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty:  less than $1.25 a day. (Bread for the World)
Three billion people--half the earth--live on less than $2.50 a day.  (World Bank)
Eighty percent of the world has less than $10 a day to meet their basic needs.  (World Bank)
925 million people experience hunger on a daily basis.  (World Vision)
In 2007, an estimated 9.2 million children worldwide under the age of five died from largely preventable causes, including malnutrition and lack of access to safe water.  (Unicef)
The American economy is in rough shape, people at home are hurting and voices argue loudly that we should "take care of our own" first.  Why should Americans care about the global poor?

Firstly, of course, we are taking about people:  children and families not faceless statistics.  In a time of such global affluence, it is unconscionable that any should die of hunger.  Extreme poverty is no longer inevitable, and if we are Christians, we know that our salvation will be judged by how we treat "the least of these." 

{image source}
Secondly, we aren't as generous as we'd like to think.  Most Americans grossly overestimate the amount we spend on international aid.  Poverty-focused development assistance accounted for just 0.6 percent of the entire U.S. budget in fiscal year 2010  (Bread for the World).

Thirdly, reducing global poverty isn't merely a humanitarian goal:  it will make the world safer and more stable.  "For every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent"  (Bread for the World.)
The destinies of the "haves" are intrinsically linked to the fates of the "have-nothing-at-alls."  If we didn't know this already, it became all too clear on September 11, 2001.  The perpetrators of 9/11 might have been wealthy Saudis, but it was in the collapsed, poverty-stricken slums of Afghanistan that they found succor and sanctuary.  Africa is not the front line in the war against terror but it soon could be.

"The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty."  Who said that?  Not me.  Not some beatnik peace group.  Secretary of State Colin Powell.  When a military man starts talking like that perhaps we should listen.  In tense, nervous times isn't it cheaper--and smarter--to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them?  (Bono)
If we work toward the Millennium Development Goals and increase international poverty-focused development aid to the 0.7 giving target set by the U.N. and ratified repeatedly by the U.S., extreme poverty could be alleviated within our generation.  (Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty)  That is good news!  Ending extreme poverty is within our reach--if we have the will to see it through.

Our governments have key roles to play, but what about ordinary citizens?  What can one individual or family do make a difference?  Global problems are vast and it is easy to become overwhelmed.

Source: live58.org via Kelley on Pinterest

The truth is that many lives and communities are in better shape today than they were yesterday because progress is being made toward eradicating extreme poverty.  We do have power to enact meaningful, life-giving change:
Engage decision makers and your community to alleviate hunger.
Fund a microloan to encourage economic enterprise and self-sufficiency.
Give gifts this Christmas that make a lasting difference.
Sponsor a child--or 10!  Compassion International, World Vision.
Perhaps one of the biggest ways that we can make a difference is through changing our consumer habits.  I'm no expert, and our family is just beginning to take baby steps, but I'll tackle some of those ideas in in Part 3, a theology of enough.

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

Follow the Compassion bloggers to Ecuador this week and see how child sponsorship makes tangible differences in lives for the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.





{first image source}




This is second in a series about the intersection of 

faith, justice, consumerism and poverty. 

Monday

i am the 99 {part 1}


Among critics, there is a misconception that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are against hard work.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

The protesters don't camp out because they hate the 9-to-5 grind:  they are there to occupy space in our cities, conversations and collective imagination.  Their tent cities exist as physical reminders of injustice and discontent boiling beneath the American landscape--and the desire for change.

Occupy Wall Street protests taxpayer billions spent bailing out banks "too big to fail!" while millions lose their homes.

They occupy to shine a light on shadowy companies paying exorbitant CEO bonuses with one hand and passing pink slips with the other to employees just months away from collecting pensions.

They protest billion dollar companies that pay zero income tax and the broken political system that allows it to happen.

They protest the fact that the land of bootstraps and equal opportunity has a ruling class:  one percent of Americans are millionaires but 46% of congressmen are.

They protest a government that is charged with serving the people but bought, paid for and in the pocket of  corporate interests that aren't trickling down jobs let alone wealth.

Occupy Wall Street is not about hating business.  There is nothing inherently wrong with capitalism or commerce, but places where corruption and exploitation are business-as-usual must be reformed.   What's good for business must not trump the common goodAmerica can do better.

I am the 99, and I stand with Occupy Wall Street.



This is the first installment in a series about the intersection of 

faith, justice, consumerism and poverty. 



Saturday

the smitten word | 11.5.11

 {good reads shared}


 {SortaCrunchy's prelude to her Handmade Gift Guide}
one of the biggest acts of change we can make is choosing to vote with our dollars...Scouring Amazon on December 19th or racing through Target on December 23rd will never result in the kind of purchases that will change our world.  
 {Being Found from mama:monk}
i don't want to give anything away, but this hopeful story had me weeping over my keyboard.  please read, especially if you've ever sponsored a child.
 {Emily at A Deeper Story}
There was a sign on the door. A leaf and a raindrop. A signal to all that this room was not for giving birth to life.  The shock and grief are more than I can bear, and I am undone.  
 {The Thin Line between Trafficking and P0rnography at Her.meneutics}
the sex industry really is trafficking, that the vast majority of people...are there because they were abused as children, that they didn't have any other option or choice.
 {A 53% Surge in Poverty is Reshaping the Suburbs from the New York Times}
The suburbs were always a place of opportunity — a better school, a bigger house, a better job.  Today, that’s not as true as the popular mythology would have us believe.
Tamara Out Loud is compiling a powerful book of stories and essays called What A Woman Is Worth and is calling for contributors.

elizabeth esther, who i had the pleasure of spending time with last week, hosts the saturday evening blog post highlighting monthly favorites and asks readers to share their own writing as well.  i linked mommy wars:  on being a conscientious objector which sparked some fantastic response in the comments.
 
tell me, what are you reading lately that simply must be shared?  happy weekend, friends.



Friday

Breastfeeding, Baby Feeding & Learning to Heed Instincts


Thanks to Plum Organics for sponsoring my post about tips for baby feeding magic. What if you let baby choose what's for dinner? Check out their "Quest for Yum!" video and see what happens. 

Nothing feels quite so bad as having a sick child and being powerless to help her.


When Dylan was eight months old, she developed horrible food hypersensitivities.  Like clockwork, two hours after eating solid foods she would begin vomiting, sometimes for hours.  During the worst incidents, she became lethargic and pale, spit bile, and had to be hospitalized for dehydration.

The doctors and specialists had no idea what was wrong.

It's just a virus, they'd say.  But that seemed extremely unlikely.  After each incident, I'd exclusively breastfeed her for a few days and she'd be fine.  When we'd feed her again, within two hours she was vomiting violently.

This happened for months.

I made lists of trigger foods.  Rice cereal was a common denominator, so we cut it, even though our pediatrician swore it wasn't the culprit.  We saw improvements.  Doctors claimed it couldn't be allergies.  It's probably just a virus.

Why don't doctors ever admit they don't know?

A G.I. specialist sent us home with a prescription for reflux and advice that didn't make sense:  supplement with formula.

Formula has the same amount of calories as breast milk without any of its immunity protections.  I was a young first-time mom but knew enough to trust my instincts:  my milk was exactly what my sick baby needed.  Supplementing would only reduce demand and threaten my milk supply.

We didn't refill the prescription, kept breastfeeding and stopped serving baby foods.

Breastfed babies under age one get all of their nutritional needs met in their mother's milk.  Baby food is fun and introduces a world of learning, but it's not necessary.  Many young babies are not ready for solid foods, and there's no need to rush it.

By the end of ten months, with time and prayer, Dylan's digestive system sorted itself out.  She continued to get most of her calories through breastfeeding, and we offered table food as she showed interested.  She ate asparagus and salmon and whatever we were eating.  Mealtimes became a pleasure, and our little one began gaining weight.

Looking back and having done more reading, I now believe that Dylan suffered from FPIES, Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, a condition that presents the symptoms she exhibited and is delay-triggered by foods including milk, soy, cereal grains (especially rice!), green beans, sweet potatoes, squash, poultry and more.  FPIES affects infants and young children and generally goes away with age.  I wish I'd known about it during that difficult time.

We live and learn.  With James, we didn't rush things.  We never did cereals.  (Babies can't even digest them.)  We breastfed and offered whole foods.  Easy foods I could mash with a fork were ideal:  avocados, bananas and sweet potatoes.  Foods (not baby snacks) that he could feed himself worked well, too--like blueberries or pastured egg yokes.

The book Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods helped me to realize that traditional infant feeding is baby-led, uncomplicated and wholesome--not something to push or stress over.

Knowing that babies get all the nutrients they need from breastfeeding takes much of the drama out of mealtimes and frees them up to be playful, without pressure and fun.

{Edited to add:  I realize that not all women who want to are able to breastfeed that first year, and ending a nursing relationship can be emotional and difficult.  This is simply my story looking back on mothering my sick girl that first year.  Please know that I mean no disrespect toward formula feeding moms.  We are all doing the very best we can, and I really am a conscientious objector to the mommy wars!}
 

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective
To learn more about Plum Organics, visit their Facebook page: Plum Organics.


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