Generosity? It’s complicated.

The other night I couldn’t sleep.

This is rare for me as I am a good sleeper.  I go to bed directly after I kiss my children good night.  I want to read.  I drift off many nights before ten o’clock.  But Saturday night I kept waking up feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Additionally I felt anxious about something that I could not name.  This happens to me sometimes.  My asthma acts up from years of smoking.  It was never the less keeping me awake.

As noxious thoughts began to swell and demand attention, circling like buzzards above me, I finally threw back the covers in frustration.  I got up.

I don’t do the middle of the night very well.

Sleepers generally don’t I think as we are not used to how different it is being awake in the middle of the night.  I was aware of all the fears I managed to push away which tend to take over during the nocturnal hours.

Gone is rationality.  Gone is perspective and patience.

And so, I found myself awake, breathing with difficulty at three in the morning and I finally decided to get up.

Creeping down the stairs and into the kitchen, I was going to use my inhaler and then write.  I find writing is the best way for me to sort out what is bothering me.

There were people in my living room!

I was shocked, though it is not as if it was totally unlikely.  Molly is often coming in from work or being out and it is usually in the hours long past midnight.  But she was sitting there idly chatting with our two guests at three in the morning.  They looked at me like I was crazy (for being up) and I looked at them the same way.  I quickly high tailed it out of there!  As I scuttled back to bed, pissed off and feeling as if I had done something wrong, I recalled the two young people who had slept in our basement off and on for the last week or so.

When we returned from Seattle, we found out that friends of Molly were “homeless” and living in their car.  They had stayed a few nights in our basement while we were away, but had cleared out when we returned.  So I invited them back again.

For months, years, I have tried to resolve where to step in to the tragedy of the homeless here in Madison.

I want to do something.  I want to be intelligent and compassionate about it.  We all do the various things like offer a ride or or give money to the person with a sign outside the mall. Bring a bag of food when our church asks.   But those are band aids (and some would say giving money to transients is wrong.  In Madison it is considered breaking the law).

But I want to help real people advance in their life situation.

And so, it was easy to take these two people in and allow them to sleep on our futon in the basement and eat a few meals. When I pursued their situation further, it turns out they are “intentionally without a home, off the grid, dependent on no-one.” Okay, I think.  Why not? We had no idea what their short and long-term plans were.  One more night quickly turned into a week, more…

We have so much.

As the week progressed, it became less convenient to have them in the basement where Tom’s studio is and where we have and do our laundry.  Dare I say inconvenient?  And we soon learned that our guests slept until two in the afternoon and stayed up all night, as I discovered when I wanted to use my computer in the middle of the night.

One day, as Tom and I cleaned toilets, washed dishes and laundry, they woke up late and laid about on the back porch. What had begun as an easy kindness had quickly become something else.  Something you hate to think, much less say out loud to one another in whispered annoyance.

I caught myself thinking “they’re just freeloaders.”  To be sure, by the end of the week, if they had not made their intentions clear to us we were going to ask, to clarify how long they would need our help.

I woke this morning to a note.  They are moving on — going to live with his parents for a while in Cleveland, work and pay off debt.  And though they were polite, and picked up after themselves, and were extremely appreciative, I was kind of relieved to see them go.

Generosity is quickly complicated when it involves real people.

And all too quickly I saw how small my heart is.  I felt willing to be generous as long as it didn’t infringe too much on my comforts and needs, my daily schedule or priorities.  I have to keep asking what’s next for us?  I let them stay with us because I wanted to “do something” for the homelessness.  They were just two people, fairly affluent with a car, cell phones, a laptop and other luxuries but they have no home.   I was surprised to learn that only 18% of the homeless are chronically homeless.  Perhaps more people on the street are like them?  I don’t know.

Generosity — yes it’s complicated.

Understanding homelessness requires a grasp of several social issues: poverty, affordable housing, disabilities, and others.

Having these kids living in our basement brought up all sorts of complicated feelings and thoughts.  Why aren’t they working?  And yet how can I not share the warmth and shelter that we are blessed with?

In a letter to our mayor Paul Soglin’s assistant, Brenda Konkel recently wrote:

Over the years a great many who live homeless in Madison have found daily shelter in either the basement of the State Capitol, or the Public Library on W. MIfflin St. As it currently stands soon neither will be available. Word from the State is that there are no plans to reopen the basement of the State Capitol to the public, and the downtown Public Library at its current location on Mifflin will close in October for approximately two years. The library’s temporary location will offer very limit seating and space.

The consequence of these two factors is to cast out many of our neighbors to the dangers and sufferings of winter.

This will be a grave time in Madison especially downtown if the people of our city do not take note.    What is being done?  What needs to be done?

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, “Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise.”

It’s a heavy thing all this knowledge–the question is what do we do with our knowledge and our power?  Do we have open generous hearts.  Are we willing to have our lives disrupted and changed by others who are less fortunate than we?

Selah. Yes, stop and listen.  No answers today, just hard questions.


PS I did not take a photo of our guests.  This photograph was taken downtown Madison of a homeless woman.

I Dare you.

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...
Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

Why not love if you have the option between that and hate?  Why does hate come so easily?  Why judge? Or condemn?  Why is it that Christians so often are known for how they judge others?

Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers.

But we don’t bring peace.  We rejoice in someone’s suffering.  Bin Laden is dead!

We wish for more for us which means less for them, who ever they are.

We can only think of our own needs.  We groan about the price of gas and our grocery bill, when others have to take public transport and go to bed hungry.  Often living with fear and financial insecurity.  Have no home.  Have nothing.

Why can’t we love more tenderly?  I dare you.  I dare you to love today.  Be a peacemaker. Hold your tongue.

The world is waiting for us to love, in Jesus’ name.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.  In fact, violence merely increases hate….Returning violence for violence multiples violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Just love.

Why not?

I dare you.

I think I’ve got March Madness!

I think I’ve got March madness, and it isn’t about basketball.

It’s been such a strange week already.  I feel exhausted and I can’t identify exactly why.  It cannot simply be the time loss or the season changing.  It’s March and so for Wisconsin that means lots of sunshine.  Lots of slush.  There is an anticipation in the air but there is still snow on the ground.   I went for a walk earlier today in shorts and snow boots!

The highs and lows of late are stunning and I do not mean the weather.  It’s international woman’s week and I was going to write about that.  Perhaps I still will.  I’ve stopped and started several posts.  Taken lots of photographs.  Thought, prayed and dreamed about the future.

Here are few things I’ve been thinking about — being an artist & a Christian, politics in Madison, Rob Bell and what that has to do with the future of women in ministry in the evangelical church, my baby turning ten, and getting a job.  And lent.

Artist Showcase @ Blackhawk

Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed participating in a showcase of artists at our church. We, along with more than fifty other artists,  expressed how we love and are loved in the context of the community of Blackhawk Church and beyond into our Madison community.  It was so rich with the many expressions of God at work in people’s lives in song, spoken word and visual art including a dance!  It was a very powerful time for me.  I’m glad artists have a platform in the body of Christ for their gifts to be used.   I think many times artists do not know exactly what our place in the church is or might be.

by Kortney Kaiser

Politics in Madison

The whole political shenanigans in Wisconsin is exhausting.  So many folk are pitted against one another, the national media is saying strange and untruthful things.  The demonstrations have been peaceful while the rhetoric is grinding and vitriolic.  It’s troubling.  Hard to know how to be loving in the midst of what feels like grave injustice and oppression of the poor.  I have a lot of images here.

I want to lead a book group at my church for people interested reading and talking about women’s roles in ministry, but I was turned down.

I understand.  How can you read books about women in ministry without it becoming theological?  And well, as I don’t speak for my church and this isn’t something they want to get into “right now.”  So therefore, I can’t do the group.   I was choosing the wrong format for what I wanted to do anyway which though Tom says is “nurture a small revolution” that is not completely true.  Yes and no.  But yes, kind of.

So Iwill keep praying about how to move the titanic of conservative belief along.

I’ve started to think there’s little hope for women to preach, teach and lead within evangelical church denominations.

This last week it was as I learned about the controversy with Rob Bell. If you don’t know about him, and I didn’t until a few months ago, he’s what the New York Times calls “one of the country’s most influential evangelical pastors” and he comes highly recommended by a few people in my church.  He pastors Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., with 10,000 members.  If he sounds like a Christian celebrity, it’s because he is.  I watched him online.  He is a hipster with groovy dark glasses and a lanky look.  They say hundreds of thousands follow him online.

Anyway. Bell’s new book, Love Wins, looks at the doctrines of salvation, heaven and hell.  He may have said something about Gandhi and hell inferring that a loving God wouldn’t send Gandhi to hell, or something.  Prominent Christians that you would know by name have denounced him with the double criticism of universalist and unbiblical. Here’s the crazy part — no one had read the book.  It came out on Monday.   And yet conservative authorities like John Piper, wrote, “Farewell Rob Bell.” on Twitter.

As one blogger said:

“These knee-jerk reactions, at least to my mind, are unhelpful and reveal just how narrow many people’s understanding of Christianity really is. It is amazing to me that people will hold so tenaciously to their own particular Christian tradition of understanding that when they encounter ideas that fall outside it they are viewed as non-Christian or threatening. The truth is that Christian “tradition” is a much wider river than many people are willing to acknowledge they are swimming in.”  (Emphasis mine.)

There are so many variety of Christians.  I know, the word of God says what it does.  But we all read it within a context, coming from different cultures and well, he goes on.

Are you a mystic?  Try reading John’s gospel, the book of Ephesians, Julian of Norwich,  Meister Eckhart or Bernard of Clairvaux’s commentary on the Song of Solomon.  Are you concerned with social justice?  Try Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Luke’s gospel, John Chrysostom, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Theresa.  Do you have a penchant for ritual and structure? Look at the book of Hebrews, the Didache, the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, and large portions of the Orthodox and Catholic traditions.  Are you philosophically minded?  So were Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas, and Alvin Plantinga (to name a few).  Do you have existentialist leanings?  Try Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky and maybe even Augustine.  Do you struggle with the concept of hell?  So did the early Christian writers Origen and Evagrius (among others up to the present).  Are you a pacifist?  So was Menno Simons…and Jesus.  All of these writers and thinkers considered themselves Christians. All of them were “biblical” insofar as they read the Bible and used it as the foundation for their theology, philosophy and lives. All of them came to different conclusions on many issues.”

Okay Jesus and Paul didn’t read the Bible, but the greater point I’ve thought is, if a Christian celebrity and pastor, clear leader of a new generation of believers, can’t express his thoughts on a controversial topic without being branded unbiblical, what hope is there for women?

For Christian feminist thinkers.  For theologins who are outside the mainstream? Who is speaking, teaching, studying, influencing, changing minds about women in such a way that mainstream evangelicalism responds?  Just wondering.

If you wonder what I’m talking about?  See this from John Piper on women.  It’s stunning in its subtlety about the role of women in the church.

I applied for a job today.

And after ten years out of the workplace that’s revolutionary on many levels no matter if I get it or not.   It is with a Christian organization so I was asked to share my faith journey and this is what I wrote.

“My parents were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and later with InterVarsity.  As Christ followers they raised me with Christian values and as much as I understood it, I committed my life to Christ in high school and was baptized.   In my twenties and thirties I was doing and serving – willingly and happily – but it was not until my forties that I faced that I had not received God’s grace fully nor allowed it to transform me.

This may be because my home life was extremely dysfunctional with a rigid, angry, controlling father.  A series of things converged including hard work in therapy, my father dying, leaving full-time ministry and the recovery work of alcohol addiction.  Over a period of ten years God pried open my heart and began to teach me about his incredible life altering grace.  It was through these experiences, as difficult and mortifying as they were, that I have come to recognize that I had to face my disappointment with my parents — and forgive.  Gratefully, I can say that all of this, including the addiction to alcohol drove me to my knees, to the cross.  At one time, I was puffed up with my own importance but through this learned and gained a real understanding Christ’s broken body.

I believe we must trust while serving, not knowing the future.  Trust that we have a contribution to make.  Today I am grateful and full of hope that I am becoming a person useful to God again.  I am humbled by how my story and my experiences sometimes minister to others, as I am willing to be open.

Today, my faith is grounded in the grace of God.  I do have daily disciplines of study, prayer, and constant seeking, but I rest in the knowledge of Jesus and what he did for me — Yes giving his life so that I may also live.  I am no longer a slave to doing, but rather serve out of joy and passion for telling others what Christ has done for me.

Moving into the Lenten season it is good to remember what’s truly important.  What was it again?  Kidding.  Read the prayer I sent out a few days ago.  That’ll prioritize your heart, and mine.

Other things in March.  My baby turned ten. 

A few misc. images from March.

Be well,


“Your words were found and I ate them,
And your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”

Jeremiah 15:16

Kathleen Falsani in the Huff Post on Rob Bell.

Not to Speak is to Speak

Image by just.Luc via Flickr

I got to thinking that I may annoy others because I send so many article suggestions over FB. So, here is my effort to be more discerning and to discipline myself about what I share.  I’m going to try summarizing five or six (in this case eleven) in a blog post, from time to time.  

Not to Speak is to Speak although a little convoluted comes from the quote by Bonhoeffer below.  And I connect with it because that thing in me that is often “outraged” is what compels me to share with others so that they will be outraged too.

Of course, some of this is about justice.  Other articles are about spirituality and growth as a human being, yet others simply interesting. Hoping there is something for everyone.  Enjoy!

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us innocent.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
— Bonhoeffer

I cannot promise that these updates will be on any one topic today it ranges a lot.

Here We Go Now!

How racism in the media keeps African American children in foster care, especially boys.

From the Maynard Institute whose goal is to improve Cultural Diversity within American Journalism the article: Does the Media Help Keep African American Boys in Foster Care? African American children who enter foster care after the age of 5 are much less likely to be adopted than their White peers and the situation is more grim for African American males. Experts on the foster care system say the media play a role in painting negative stereotypes of African American boys that make the job of placing them in adoptive homes more difficult.  Chet Hewitt is President of Sierra Healthcare Foundation. He served 6 years as the director of Alameda County Social Services Agency, one year overseeing the Child Welfare Department and was a foster parent for 12 years.  Hewitt believes the way young African American males are depicted in movies, how they’re described in literature and how a Black youngster involved in a violent incident is described in the news media all affect the public’s perception of Black youths.

Sometimes I get tired of reading only the voices of men. Don’t you?

The blog Lady Journos! features anything in journalism written by a woman. You can share the links, hire these writers, and help close the byline gender gap.  Why?  Why not?

Look at incredible statistics about the percentages of women to men in your most popular magazines and journals.

Take a look at these statistics from VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. As VIDA says on their website as you scroll slowly down notice the red.  You will see numbers from The Atlantic,  Boston Review, Granta, Harpers, London Review of Books, New Republic, New Yorker, NY Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, and many more…  “The truth is, these numbers don’t lie. But that is just the beginning of this story. What, then, are they really telling us? We know women write. We know women read. It’s time to begin asking why the 2010 numbers don’t reflect those facts with any equity.”

Researchers at say in an article titled Does the Glass Ceiling Exist? “Our own research shows that equal pay for men and women won’t be in place until 2067.” Sigh.

Exploring the notion of being the outsider through the prism of this illness.

In 1995 Sarah Manguso was diagnosed with the rare autoimmune disease which poisons the blood. In this fascinating article titled My Body in the Aliens issue of GRANTA, she explores the notion of being the outsider through the prism of this illness. It’s quite incredible.

One way to respond to the immigration conversation.

Immigration reform, destabilized children, Christians seeking asylum from atrocities… are we not accountable to God for the impact of use of terms that mask the reality that we are talking about human beings made in God’s image; the discounting of the importance of their lives; of American laws and systems on these men and women and children.  “God has chosen the people who are scorned and without importance in this world, that is to say, those who aren’t anything…”  If you’re conflicted or confused about how to respond to the immigration conversation the website is insightful and this article God’s Chosen helped me think.  “… I’ve observed a de-humanization in many of the comments that I hear that is reminiscent of much of the rhetoric around the issue of abortion: the use of terms that mask the reality that we are talking about human beings made in God’s image; the discounting of the importance of their lives; the attitude that we are not accountable before the God of the prophets for the impact of American laws and systems on these men and women and children.”

I cannot believe the earthquake in Christ Church, but these pictures from THE DAILY BEAST brought it home.

I highlight this important article Bailouts, Federal Debt, and the End of Responsibility asks “Is it possible that the moral values of the bailout economy have left us less able to confront our problems with debt?”  Um. yeah!

And why the international press is covering the protests across the ‘Arab World’ but ignoring the rest of Africa?

Just thinking!  And that’s all for now.

The schizophrenic in me went to the library

The schizophrenic in me went to the library and found a few books I want to read.  So, I’m thinking of taking time off from the internet for a while (I’m going to try) so that I can read.

I am already reading CJ Cherryh Foreigner series.  I am on book four of ten. I read that at night.

The Depression Cure — The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardo, PhD.

Because I do intend to go off my medication this year.  It’s a matter of how not when.

Cool Careers without College for People Who Love Video Games by Nicholas Croce.

For my son, Jake, who has some learning challenges.  I don’t know if it is more to inspire myself or my son, but I just need a little hope as it relates to Jacob.

Speaking Treason Fluently — Anti-Racist Reflections from an Angry White Male by Tim Wise.

Saw this book mentioned on a blog I was reading.  And the author is highly recomended.

Empowering Your Sober Self by Martin Nicolaus.

Sobriety is a daily decision as well as relearning certain patterns.

No Enemy to Conquer — Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World by Michael Henderson with foreward by the Dalai Lama.

I am writing an article about forgiveness.

The Mother Factor — How your Mother’s Emotional Impacts Your Life by Stephen B. Poulter, PhD.

Ongoing journey of understanding my mom’s power.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.

It’s Black History month.  It seems warranted to start reading black authors.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by Clayborn E. Carson.

Ditto.  Plus he’s a general hero to half of humankind.

The Unheard Truth — Poverty and Human Rights by Irene Khan, Secretary General Amnesty International.

The situation in Haiti has gotten me thinking about human rights in general and especially how it relates to poverty.

Strong Kids.  Healthy Kids. — The Revolutionary Program to Increase Your Kid’s Fitness by Fredrick Hahn.

It’s an ongoing interest to develop healthy habits in my kids while they are young.

A Good Neighbor — Benedict’s Guide to Community by Robert Benson.

Lifelong need for connection.

Haiti: History of a Shaken Country | Laurent Dubois | Big Think

It is always good to know a nation’s history — From Haiti Historian and Professor at Duke University.

From the 18th-century slave revolution to 2010’s horrific earthquake, Haiti has experienced endless volatility. How is its historical legacy worsening the current crisis?

Watch the seven minute interview via Haiti: History of a Shaken Country | Laurent Dubois | Big Think.

Haiti – a learning curve indeed.

I’m running a fever and have body aches.  I’m fairly grumpy at this point because I just don’t do sick.  When I was working full-time my modus operandi was pop some pills and get on with it.  But that’s changed over the years.  Being at-home I can’t ignore how I feel, there is not enough to distract me.  So, I feel my pain.  And especially since I’m trying to listen to my body (after this experience).

Anyway, one of the things I do when I am healthy or sick, is read – blogs, articles, anything and everything.  I got to thinking how much amazing stuff I find online and I could let others know about it.

ON HAITI, hopefully soon NGOs are going to get food to the folk in Haiti.

First, one blog I read, from an NGO worker who is not in Haiti said this today:

In the next day or two, non-governmental organizations expect to begin mass food distributions to earthquake survivors in Haiti. They’re planning to do this in conjunction with military support- specifically, the US Marines and the United Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

It’s taken more than two weeks to organize. I’ve explained some of these reasons elsewhere. In short, the logistics of trying to organize food distributions to hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously is an immense undertaking. As well as importing and moving that amount of food (food is heavy stuff), there’s the matter of locating and organizing distribution sites, coordinating dozens of agencies, working through broken infrastructure, communicating the details to the residents of Port-au-Prince, and trying to define the relationship between the military and aid agencies.

I thought his explanation for why things are so damned complicated in Haiti and what the NGOs and the government are doing, are not doing and why was brilliant.  So many in the media are asking questions and criticizing.  This person explained.  It may not be what we want to hear but I feel it was forthright and honest.  And since he’s not on the ground there he doesn’t need to feel defensive.

Secondly, I have found MFAN, Modernizing Modern Assistance Network.

MFAN is a reform coalition composed of international development and foreign policy practitioners, policy advocates and experts, concerned citizens and private sector organizations.  MFAN’s goal is to help build a safer, more prosperous world by strengthening the United States’ ability to alleviate extreme poverty, create opportunities for growth, and secure human dignity in developing countries.

Fantastic!  I’m  totally with them and when they provided a list of articles I realized that many of them I had already read in the last week.  These give you a sense of the discussions going on in and around Haiti about the aid that is and isn’t getting there, how things are organized (or not) and folks criticisms and affirmations.

From MFAN’s website:

Since almost the moment that a devastating earthquake struck Haiti nearly three weeks ago, high-level world leaders, development experts (including MFAN Principals), and others have published pieces with opinions on what went wrong with development in Haiti and what we can do to make things right.

One common feature of the commentary, with the exception of a few pieces (Atwood and Birdsall come to mind), is the fact that they call for a new development approach in Haiti without mentioning that a transformative debate is happening at all levels of government about how to make overall U.S. development and foreign assistance efforts more effective and accountable.  In spite of this omission, the pieces touch on important themes of foreign assistance reform that MFAN has been aggressively advocating for more than a year, and which are now being discussed as part of the White House’s Presidential Study Directive on Development Policy, the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and Congress’ anticipated efforts to revise the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

I hope you will read some of them.  I hope they are as interesting and informative to you as I found them.  I hope you will start talking about the reform that has already been in the works.  Here’s the list of articles again.

Sorry for a less than passionate post.  I am — very much so  — deeply interested.

Just under the weather.

Stay healthy yourself!

Rwanda. Haiti. A photographer’s work.

Of the many things that one could do with their photography, this would be my dream. Telling stories that need telling. This photographer is incredibly talented, and tells his stories so well. I discovered him checking who the photographers were on the doctors without borders website report from Haiti. (I think.)

Jonothan Torgovnik is in Haiti right now. Be well, sir, be well. Tell the story that needs to be told.

Intended Consequences by Jonathan Torgovnik

An estimated 20,000 children were born from rapes committed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Intended Consequences chronicles the lives of these women. Their narratives are embodied in portrait photographs, interviews and oral reflections about the daily challenges they face today. See the project at

. I found the photographer’s reflections to be incredibly powerful.

Am I welcome at a Juneteenth celebration?

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even as I write that title, “AM I WELCOME…” I’m thinking this is not about you, Melody! And it is most decidedly not, except in the fact that we white people are a part of the problem.  We’re afraid to talk about race, racism, ethnicity, and even good things like Juneteenth. If we don’t talk about it, we won’t take part and if we don’t take part thus perpetuates the ignorance and fear.

So here I go, knowing ultimately it’s not about me, but I don’t want to be afraid of acknowledging and raising awareness for white people.  I want to say, hey people this is a good thing!

I believe it is worth noting that Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has signed a bill that makes Juneteenth Day a legal holiday in Wisconsin.  (It’s too bad the NPR headlines are leading with the end of puppy mills in Wisconsin, not this. But I always see the ‘cup half empty.’)

I have to be honest, I’ve been afraid or uncertain if I was welcome at Juneteenth celebrations.  OK, to be brutally honest, I have been unwilling to put myself in a context of (potential) discomfort.  Yeah, that is what I know is true deep down.

Ten years ago, when we were church shopping,  we attended Fountain of Life, a black Pentecostal church committed to multi-ethnicity, about two or three times.  (I even know the pastor, Alex Gee, but he wasn’t there while we were.)  But in the end it was too hard to be different.  I know, ew.  That was hard to admit.,  It sounds awful.  I have to imagine being in that scenario all the time, every day, is terribly difficult. (Mostly white churches, organizations, schools.)  I can only imagine what it is like to be a minority all the time — I was exhausted after a service there. I mean I like to move, and raise my hands (I do that frequently in worship) , but I was so self-conscious of my stiff-white-person-moves!   So, not for only those reasons but including them I walked away.  I guess because I could.

Perhaps I jumped into the deep end, with church, and Juneteenth will be a chance to dip my toe in.

If you don’t know on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers sailed into Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the Civil War.  The order given to free the quarter-million slaves residing in the state.

“It’s likely that none of them had any idea that they had actually been freed more than two years before. It was truly a day of mass emancipation. It has become known as Juneteenth.”  Read more history here.

Celebrate the end of slavery as a holiday?  Regrettably, most white Americans will read that headline and think, uh, what’s the big deal?

The recognition also is a chance to foster dialogue in the community, said J. Vincent Lowery, assistant professor in humanistic studies and history at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Lowery’s work focuses on memory and race relations.

“I think that it really represents an opportunity for the state of Wisconsin … to have open conversations about the history of race relations in America,” Lowery said, “not just as they relate to emancipation, but the much larger freedom struggle.”

I look forward to it!  Can I attend the Juneteenth celebration and not feel like a fifth wheel?  Did I just say that?   Our state is recognizing that we should all celebrate the end of a disgraceful part of our history.

Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.

As Dr. Lowry said it is important to remember.  I think it’s also good to feel the discomfort of being a minority, to stick your toe in the water!  And grab a hand of someone you don’t know  and to begin to talk.

Or perhaps it would be best to listen***…

Have you attended a Juneteenth celebration and if so what was your experience, as a white person or person of color?

***If I’ve done or said something in this post that is offensive culturally or otherwise would tell me (  While I want to talk about race and feel the risk is worth it, I would never choose to offend.  Never.  I want to learn.

I am ready to disavow being any part of organized religion.

There are some days I am ready to disavow being any part of organized religion.  While I wasn’t paying attention some right-wing Christians are being scary [again.] It’s a benign sounding message, “Pray For Obama: Psalm 109:8″ which is being sold on T-shirts and other merchandise on websites like CafePress and Zazzle.

During the presidential election, I recall listening to an All Things Considered interview where people from the African-American community were expressing their fear of Barack Obama being killed. I was sitting in the parking lot of my local grocery store remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. JFK and Bobby Kennedy and others who had been murdered for their more liberal stance and I felt and understood the fear being described.

The UK telegraph reports that since Obama took office the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent  for Obama compared to George W.  Bush . . . Most of the threats, however, are kept under wraps because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only increase the number of copycat attempts.

But it is not evangelical Christians like the media is saying, but the Religious Right that is branding Barack Obama as foreign, brown, Muslim, or “not a real American.”

The message on the material is Pray for Obama: Psalms 109:8, innocuous right?  Wrong.  I do not think we can dismiss this as distasteful humor.  It is in no way funny.   Especially since the next verse reads, “May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow.”  The passage goes on in terrible ways.   This Prayer for Obama does more than want him to leave office at the end of one term, it entreats God to destroy our president.

CafePress, says they will listen to public discourse.  If it is being construed as threatening to the President, they will revisit the decision.  If you think these stickers are threatening, and not funny, you can let CafePress know that here.  Since the issue has raised such publicity Zazzle has since removed the merchandise.

Deborah Lauter, director of civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League says for the message to be considered hate speech, it “would advocate actual violence or cite scripture that was more clear in its message.”

Earlier this week, former President Jimmy Carter was interviewed by Brian Williams on NBC.  Here’s what he said (emphasis mine):

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American. I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shared the South’s attitude toward minority groups, at that time particularly African-Americans. That racism, inclination, still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”

And Rachel Maddow interviewed Frank Schaffer this week, to explain whether or not the citation of this Biblical text “means something less threatening to people hearing this in a Biblical context.”

No. Actually, it means something more threatening. I think that the situation that I find genuinely frightening right now is that you have a ramping up of Biblical language, language from the anti-abortion movement for instance, death panels and this sort of thing, and what it’s coalescing into is branding Obama as Hitler, as they have already called him.

His final and emphatic plea was this:

Obama supporters had better start speaking up in support of him and not sniping at him all of the time because he’s not moving towards change as fast as we’d like in every area. This is serious stuff. The chips are down, he has real enemies–some of them are violent–and as far as I’m concerned it’s time to support our president, stand with him and not only wish him the best, but pray for his safety in the face of these religious maniacs….There are not many steps left on this insane pattern.

It’s un-American. It’s unpatriotic. And it goes to show that the religious right, the Republican far right have coalesced into a group who truly want American revolution. If it turns out to be blood in the streets and death, so be it. It’s not funny stuff anymore. They cannot be dismissed as just crazies on the fringe. It only takes one.

I urge you to take this seriously.  I urge decent, loving Christians to speak up about the need for supporting our president and for civility in our churches.  This is no laughing matter.

All day, my mind kept returning to St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I believe this is how a Christian is to behave : the exact opposite of what we are seeing my these conservative Right Winger.

St. Francis’ prayer is a brave request for strength to give of ourselves to meet the needs of others.  This is a situation that requires peace, consolation, and hope.

The Sky is Falling (part 2)

—> I posted this last year, October, and interestingly it is still relevant. The Sky is Falling (Part 1) is here. <—

Did you know around the world

some 26,500 children

die DAILY?  This is equivalent to:

  • 1 child every 3 seconds.

  • Almost 10 million children dying every year.

  • An Iraq-scale death toll every 15–36 days.

  • 18 children dying every minute.

  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every week

(Statistics from:

It is a difficult battle to face down the fears of today.

What am I afraid of ?  For starters, I am afraid for the state of the world’s economy.  I mean, financial security (something that I thought was a given and that I have absolutely taken for granted) is all but disappearing.  Yes, I am afraid.   It feels like our country is being run into the ground.

Ironically though, really what I’m afraid for is the state of my America — my middle class, or upper middle-class life is feeling shaky.

Did you know America’s poverty rate was almost 13% of our total population last year? That was the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau says.

Last year, there were 37 million people living in poverty in the UNITED STATES.

That’s more than one in ten citizens living below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening.

I am a “have” — and yet I’m scared?  It makes me wonder what kind of fear and stress others live with daily.

Perhaps as a result of all of the reality shows on television which do nothing to project “reality” but something surreal and unbelievable.  My children are often asking “Are we rich?”  Ah, a good question and difficult to answer.  But if I compare myself, our life, to most of the world we are rich.  As my son says:  we’re definitely thousannaires. (I’m fairly sure he’s coined this phrase.)

And although I am afraid; Even as my mind runs to ‘what ifs’ it is good to remember to reflect on these facts.  Though winter is coming:

  • I have heat and a roof over my head.
  • I can feed my children three meals a day, more if I want.
  • We have two cars,
  • and clothes,
  • and clean water,
  • and health care,
  • school,
  • and our health,
  • currently, we can pay our bills.

I am blessed.

There are many places in our community where others are in need and you and I can help.  Donate clothing or money, or time or food to homeless shelter or a local food pantry.  These are just a few ideas.

Remember to be grateful and not focus on fear.  I want to give out of my abundance, because no matter how much I lost in the stock market recently, or may in the future, or how much the prices of gas and food are skyrocketing, I have much, much more than so many in our community and around the world.

Updates from an Oct 2008 post.

And a few articles to read regarding the US Economy.

1) An interesting article with a little hope about the economy, written by John Maudlin, investment specialist and author of many best selling books.

2)  On another note, I just read this interesting article about a woman, Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ,who was warning against this current financial crisis ten years ago, titled: The Woman Who Could Have Prevented This Financial Mess Was Silenced by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers.

Our great lakes hold 20% of the fresh surface water on earth!

The title alone should stop you in your tracks if you care about our gorgeous lakes here in the mid west and upper peninsula or just the planet and our future water resources. Read on!  If you don’t care, even more so, you should read on.  Bottom line, we have to care.

According to Peter Annin, former Newsweek journalist and author of The Great Lakes Water Wars, this is the issue for the next hundred years and beyond.

The residents in the great lakes region need to manage its own precious resource, the lakes, and this is what Annin has been advocating for in Congress and through the excellent journalism in his book, over the last half-dozen years.   “The Great Lakes are a globally significant recourse, holding 20% of the all the fresh surface water on earth.”

Did you hear that? It bears repeating! The great lakes hold 20% of the all the fresh surface water on earth.

Annin  again: “It is good to use the waters in a sustainable way without all the ecological drawbacks that are common in so many parts of North America and the world.”

In my opinion,  and I’ve said this before, water is a key issue for us today. If you’re interested in the book, it can be found in your local bookstores.  (Buy local!)

Here’s the book’s You Tube  commercial  and an interesting ‘interview.’  I learned a lot.  It got me riled up.  Hence this little rant.

You and I need to know more so that we can speak into the issues, but it is difficult for your average person to figure out how to speak out. There are still places in the Great Lakes Water Compact that bear revisiting and there are deadlines, listed below, that are significant.

As always in a contract of this nature, there is concern that standards could be better defined because “reasonable use” bound against “economic benefits” will always put a price on our water.  How much water is a small withdrawal from the lakes, and can be safely diverted without regulation  is still unclear.  But that we have this agreement is significant  and worth celebrating and we should at the very least follow the conversation, the debate and understand how important it is to our future.

According to, a new collaboration of bloggers aggregating their sites into a nation-wide news reporting system.

After a burst of activity in 2006 and 2007, when state legislatures considered whether to adopt the Great Lakes Compact, progress on implementation has been slow. While some big decisions have been made—for example, almost all states have chosen thresholds for regulation of water withdrawals—the details are lacking. Stakeholders must press for protective actions in the next few years, or the Compact will fail to fulfill its promise.The requirements and their deadlines are:

· By December 8, 2009, a list of baseline volumes for withdrawals, consumptive uses and diversions must be submitted to the Compact Council. These volumes will be used to grandfather in existing users, and thus must be carefully scrutinized.· By December 8, 2010, water conservation and efficiency goals and objectives must be developed; a water conservation and efficiency program must be implemented; and water conservation measures must be promoted. Strong programs and measures are needed to ensure water will be used thoughtfully, and to ensure there will be enough for the future.

· By December 8, 2013, withdrawals and diversions must be registered and a water management program to regulate new or increased withdrawals and consumptive uses must be developed. The registration program is necessary to know how water is being used in the region. A comprehensive water management program will protect ecosystems from the impact of new or increased withdrawals.

The public needs to take part in this conversation and have the water managed to their benefit not commercial benefit.

Read up.  Get informed.  Water is our future.

I would urge you to do some investigating yourself!

Pete is a neighborhood acquaintance. He also manages the Gull Rock Light Keepers, a non-profit organization founded to save the Gull Rock Lighthouse, which Tom and I support.  The lighthouses of the great lakes are a beautiful, practical and most tangible cause which deserve our resources and attention.