Monthly Archives: September 2013

For all who worked to stop this

This afternoon 217 members of the House of Representatives voted to cut $40 billion over the next 10 years from SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). This will cut some 4 million people from the program, reduce benefits for others, and deny free school lunch to 210,000 children.

The question is not decided.

The Senate, particularly Democrats in the Senate, has expressed deep concerns. The White House has threatened a veto if the bill passes in this form.  The conversation will continue.

For now I grieve that elected officials could make such a decision. I give thanks for my friend and colleague Leslie Woods and all who worked for a different decision.  And I prepare for future opportunities for advocacy and witness.

See you along the Trail.

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Grace Ji-Sun Kim on Consumerism and Overconsumption

Graces BookIn a post that originally appeared in Ecclesio.com and then on her own blog, Grace Ji-Sun Kim shares an excerpt from her book, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit.

Here are some teasers that may inspire you to check out the blog and the the book:

One of the problems the Western world is facing today is how to live a life so that all of humanity can flourish and not just a select few wealthy people.

When one looks at the world today, an inescapable fact is the vastly unequal distribution of assets, wealth, affluence, and life prospects. We live in a world where a relatively small number of people, about one-sixth the world’s total population of approximately seven billion people, have a preponderant share of the planet’s wealth and resources, while a significant majority of the remaining six billion lead lives marked by insecurity, poverty, misery, disease, and death.

Today, as capitalism and consumerism drive the modern version of colonization known as globalism, the gap between the haves and have-nots widens beyond anything ever known in history. This unequal distribution of wealth is taking a toll on the fragile planet and ecosystems that we all belong to. What drives the rich to consume all the resources is understood to drive the economy, so many of the rich people’s practices are not challenged or even questioned.

After reflecting on the perils that the drive to consume pose to people and planet alike, Kim presents an alternative vision:

The real wealth of a nation is its people, and the purpose of development is to create an environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives.  The good life is defined by the use of money to help people have decent, fulfilling lives. The good life is not having “more and more” but “enough” …

Kim addresses the tension within which humans live – a tension between freedom and limits – a tension expressed in Genesis 3. She goes on to explore the human role as a “steward.” She notes that too often humans chose to act, not as the stewards God intends us to be, but as bandits: cue Kurosawa and The Seven Samurai. 

The image of the steward intrigues me. Tolkien plays with the question of stewardship in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 1992 – as the United States marked the 500th anniversary of the invasion by or arrival of (depending on one’s point of view) of the Europeans in what we now know as the Americas – I preached a sermon contrasting the role of conquistador with steward. As Kim notes,  “It is not easy being God’s stewards, living in a garden where so much more is possible than is beneficial.”

Kim notes the warnings we are receiving about the consequences of our current consumer lifestyle of overconsumption. And she wonders if we will heed the signs and examine and change our ways of “being and living.”

There is much to ponder in the post. There are many topics for conversation. I encourage you to check it out!

See you along the Trail.

 

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Stop a New Round of U.S. Nuclear Missile Tests

From the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

In 1983, the U.S. Navy planned to name a nuclear submarine the U.S.S. Corpus Christi. Many protested naming a warship the “Body of Christ.” The compromise was to name the submarine the U.S.S. City of Corpus Christi. Not much of a compromise to my thinking.

This story does not quite fall to that level of inappropriateness. But it is close. There are plans to conduct nuclear tests on or near two important days for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. Act now to call for the cancellation of these tests.

Two dates this month have special significance to those who want to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons: the International Day of Peace (September 21) and the UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament (September 26).

Instead of honoring the significance of these dates and working in good faith to achieve nuclear disarmament, the United States has chosen to schedule two tests of its Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile on September 22 and September 26.

Just hours after the International Day of Peace ends, the U.S. plans to launch a Minuteman III – the missile that delivers U.S. land-based nuclear weapons – from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Then, on the same day that most countries will send their head of state or foreign minister to New York for the UN’s first-ever High-Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament, the U.S. plans to send another Minuteman III missile from California to the Marshall Islands.

These missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads capable of killing thousands of times more people than the chemical weapons used in Syria.

Your actions have helped stop Minuteman III tests before: in 2011 on the International Day of Peace, and in 2012 on the anniversary of the largest-ever nuclear weapon test conducted by the U.S. (Castle Bravo in the Marshall Islands).

We need your support to stop these two tests as well. Send a message to President Obama, telling him to cancel these two provocative nuclear missile tests and to attend the UN High-Level Meeting on September 26.

I called for these tests to be cancelled. You can too!

See you along the Trail.

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Purple livery

IMG_3535 (800x533)

There are some flowers,
but mostly there is that
plume.

Central Park
Manhattan, New York
14 September 2013

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Today, my friend

Today,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Peace,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Rest,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Strength,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Hope,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Courage,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Justice,
my friend,
I pray for you.

This day,
my friend,
I pray for you.

Always,
my friend,
I pray for you.

14 September 2013
Shire on the Hudson

Slightly different versions of this prayer-poem came out today for friends in different difficult situations.

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Awareness

At times, we participate in profound moments unaware. Only in retrospect do we realize the significance of what we are a part.

Other times, we know – at least partly. We may not know all the details and nuances, but we recognize that matters of deep import surround us and we play our tiny part.

IMG_0247 (800x600)This past week, I had the privilege to accompany Dr. Mary Mikhael as she made an amazing witness for peace and justice in Syria. Mary is from the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.  Until 2011, she served as the president of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. After her retirement,the church has named her their interpreter and communicator in this time of tragedy and crisis for the people of Syria.

In that role, she traveled to the United States for the month of September. She spent last week in New York where I had the privilege to accompany her as she told the story of her church and her people, as she witnessed to her faith, as she advocated for peace and justice.

Mary went to Washington, DC on Tuesday. The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness arranged for her to speak at their Second Tuesday Briefing and to meet with aides of five elected officials and a State Department official.

Wednesday saw her in New York with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. We did extensive video work with my friend and colleague David Barnhart and my new friend Scott Lansing. The video links will be shared when they are posted. That afternoon, Mary spoke to a public event attended by church members, UN agency staff members, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations.

On Thursday, Mary met with staff members of two Permanent Missions to the UN – missions that sit on the Security Council. She also met with representatives of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Syrian Crisis Core Group made up of UN agencies working in Syria.

As we rode uptown toward the place where Mary was staying, her relief was obvious. She had witnessed well and she was tired.

Then the phone of my colleague Ryan Smith buzzed. An offer arrived for Mary to meet with a representative of the  Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict on Friday.

“Would you do one more meeting?” Ryan asked.

No hesitation. Mary replied, “How can I say no?”

Ryan and I looked at each other. “You can say no because you are tired and this is one extra meeting and you had other plans.”

“How can I say no?” Mary repeated.

We conceded. “You can’t.”

“But can it be early in the day?” Mary asked.

Ryan confirmed the meeting and on Friday morning, it took place.

Mary and I then went uptown and for a moment said farewell. We will meet again, I am sure.

I give thanks for the time we shared.

And I gave thanks for Dr. Mary Mikhael.

And I gave thanks for her witness, her courage, her grace, and her faith as she told stories of horror and proclaimed hope.

And I give thanks for the small role I played in these profound moments.

See you along the Trail.

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Come tomorrow

I knew Mary Mikhael before, but what we did together today – or more accurately what I witnessed her do – has forged a new level of friendship.

Mary is from the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.  Until 2011, she served as the president of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. After her retirement,the church has named her their interpreter and communicator in this time of tragedy and crisis for the people of Syria.

Today Mary and I went from New York to DC to meet five legislators and a State Department Official. Catherine Gordon in the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness arranged the visits.

I am now standing, well actually I am sitting on a train back to NYC, in awe of Mary’s courage and grace and strength as she told the story of heartbreak and horror and hope six times. A story she has lived. A story she is living. A story that develops as she tells it. She is exhausted and sleeps beside me.

Come tomorrow, she will again tell the story of the people and church of Syria. This time she will tell the story for a video project and in the UN community.

Come tomorrow, she will recall and relieve the tragedy.

Come tomorrow, she will renew the hope.

Come tomorrow, she will again exhaust herself in witness to her faith and on behalf of her people and church and country.

Come tomorrow, I will again stand in awe.

Come tomorrow, I will weep and smile and pray for peace and justice.

Come tomorrow.

See you along the Trail.

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Purple flowers, Hyde Park 1

Purple Flowers Hyde Park 1 15 October 2012 (1024x683)

 

A choir of purple trumpets
greets the night.

Hyde Park, Chicago
15 October 2012

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For the peace of Syria

Today … and everyday …

pray for the peace of Syria

work for the peace of Syria (contact U.S leaders by email and by phone)

fast, if you are able, for the peace of Syria

Today … and everyday …

pray, work, and fast (if you are able) for the

peace of Syria and the

peace of the world.

See you along the Trail

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Heartbeats above drumbeats

Prayer vigil Syria

We gathered at the Tillman Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations – Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Presbyterians, and more. We shared statements from our various denominations. We prayed – for the people of Syria – for our brothers and sisters who have been killed, wounded, and maimed by chemical weapons and by conventional weapons. We prayed for those who seek peace in the face of violence. We prayed for those who resort to violence that they might turn away and seek peace. We prayed for leaders of the United States and Syria and the world – that they might have the courage and wisdom to seek nonviolent, diplomatic solutions.

We prayed that we all might hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

The use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. It violates international standards and international law. International standards. International law. Thus the only appropriate response lies within the international community. It is not the place for any one nation or any coalition of nations to decide guilt and determine the appropriate response.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

A unilateral response by the United States or any nation flaunts international cooperation and violates the Charter of the United Nations. The Charter – to which the United States as a member of the UN agrees to abide – provides that the Security Council is the appropriate body to maintain the peace and security of the member states.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

Unilateral military action by a state undercuts the authority and integrity of the United Nations and the international system of cooperation. Unilateral military action defies diplomacy and cooperation and denies the possibility of a nonviolent, diplomatic, negotiated solution.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

May we – peoples, leaders, nations – turn from violence and seek alternative solutions.
May the efforts of Syrians to make peace and care for one another be blessed.
May diplomatic initiatives and efforts be redoubled.
May all the parties to the violence in Syria be brought together to negotiate.
May an international peace summit be  convened.
May investigations into the use of chemical weapons take place.
May the results of those investigations be honored – charges filed and trials held and verdicts rendered and sentences enforced.
May the international community act to help Syria rid itself of chemical weapons.
May an embargo be created and enforced against all parties who would provide any weapons to any parties to the violence in Syria.
May humanitarian aid be increased – to refugees, internally displaced, wounded, and all the people of Syria in need.
May humanitarian workers be protected and granted the access needed to meet the people.
May steps that I cannot imagine be taken on the path to peace.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

Naive?
Idealistic?
Unlikely to work?

Perhaps. Certainly it will be difficult.

But one thing that the people of the world has seen again and again is that violence feeds violence and war breeds war. Other options have to be tried.

May we hear the heartbeats of life and love above the drumbeats of war.

See you along the Trail.

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