Thursday, September 16, 2010

How do we give?

As a "gift officer," I realize that I am supposed to be a pro on how to be a faithful giver, how to be a good steward of the monetary gift one receives, but in reality, I have no freaking clue.

I just got off the phone with an angry gentleman. Angry about who knows what, but angry enough to say things that put me down and caused me then to return the anger. But amid his rude comments, he said something along the lines of "I know it says somewhere in the Bible that you're supposed to give I figure if I give 10% I'm all set, right?" I flippantly said yes, but I'm not sure I did anyone a favor by answering that way.

Money is so sticky. Money is something that we all work to accumulate. It is something that we think about probably more than most things in life, and something that causes us more stress than other aspects of life. Yet we still don't feel like we can talk about it.

Let me put it into perspective. A young woman finds out she is pregnant. She goes around telling everyone once she can and it begins to dominate conversations just as her belly begins to dominate her clothes. Once the baby is born, that little bundle of joy continues to control most conversations, basically until the day he moves out (or the mother dies, to be more realistic).

But money is something that is always there, always looming, always peering over our shoulders. I'm in no way trying to say that money should hold an equally important spot in conversation as a baby, but I do think we allow money to permeate our thoughts in an unhealthy way because we don't talk about it.

Look at the financial crisis. I blame much of the problem on lack of communication. Looking at my own debt from student loans and friend's debts, I also think this was lack of hard conversations.

As a fearful flier, I have read book upon book about ways to conquer my fear. Many of them suggest that "naming" the fear is the only real way to release its power over you. I wonder if the same can be said to our fear of money...

So yea, I ask people for money. And it is awkward. But I think it shouldn't be. This gentleman on the phone today offered me a very valuable opportunity to challenge his beliefs that his 10% would get him to heaven. I do not think that ensures a person a "spot" in heaven, and I think it is unhealthy when a person thinks they have earned anything in relationship to grace. Money is something completely humanly constructed, therefore it can never have anything to do with our relationship with God. It is also so deeply connected with humanity that it is almost constantly sinful, so we should get rid of it. Not spending it on junk that breaks in a few years, but spending it on things that can in some way touch the kin-dom of God. Donations to charities and those in need are a few options, but there are many.

And if you don't give what? I'm pretty sure you'd still be a lousy sinner even if you gave 99.9% of your money away (yes, people, I think everyone, including Mother Theresa was a lousy sinner, and I thank God for that). But we still must try. And if we ever achieve that goal, like this man did, we set higher ones.

Talking about money is only uncomfortable because it reminds us of our addiction to it. And that's embarassing...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Meaning of Life

During my lunch hour yesterday, I rushed home to get my car cleaned. I was stressed because I had a time constraint and stressed because there were many other things I needed to get done in that hour long respite from work. I had to stop by my apartment to grab something and hustled up the stairs. I saw an Amazon package sitting on my porch and I was totally perplexed. I didn't think I was expecting anything from Amazon, but here was this package. Something felt weird about it. Then I looked at the sender.

The sender was none other than the family of Eric Obermann, whom I mentioned in the previous post. I caught my breath as I realized that whatever was in this package was going to render me emotionally heavy for the rest of the day. Then I knew exactly what it was.

I opened the box with the usual excitement one gets from opening a package that contains an item you already know and expect, and there was the book. The book was titled "The Meaning of Life" which is a collection of essays by many different people regarding what is truly meaningful and what makes a life worth living. This was the book I read with Eric. This was the book I left behind half on accident/half on purpose. This was the book I loved but had made peace with losing about a year ago.

Along with the book was a card from Eric's mother. It was a truly beautiful card written during a time of immense grief (I don't know how she did that), and at the end she said that life is made up of those moments where you show tiny acts of love.

Tiny acts of love.

Such wisdom from such a woman who has lived such a life. By sending me the book, the newspaper from the day Eric died when he was on the cover, and the copy of the memorial service, she showed me love beyond all words. In her time of grief, she continues to love. She continues to show her tiny acts of love which truly do make up a full and meaningful life.

So I went on with the rest of my day, but Eric and his family were not far from my thoughts. They have been near me almost every minute over the past few weeks, and their love for each other and for humanity truly inspires me.

What a blessing...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Good Life?

So, once again, it's been a while since I've posted. If any of you are still reading this, I thank you and wonder about you at the same time. I'm hoping that I'll feel inspired some time soon...

Right now, things are good in my life. Really good. A little too good.

I wake up in the morning and find myself smiling, but then gripped with fear because I am just CONVINCED something bad is going to happen. But then it doesn't. But I know it will. Someday.

Why is it that we (or maybe just me) can never be content with our reality...let along HAPPY with our existence? I find myself floating around the world assuming the worst, and for some reason, I find myself in the best. And I don't think I deserve it.

But what does that mean?

I have a huge problem with people who say that bad things happen to a person because they deserve it, but when it comes to good things, why can't I acknowledge that sometimes, good things happen to people even if they don't deserve it? Karma, yes it answers many questions for many people, does not seem to hold ground when it comes to the good things that happen in life.

Or really, the bad.

About a week ago, a young man named Eric Obermann died. He was 28. He died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). He had early signs of the disease at age 18. I had the opportunity to visit with Eric during my internship in Alabama last year. As I drove up the mountain to meet with Eric, I prepared myself for the fact that this man would very likely put my faith in a loving God to the test. As I sat with him, sometimes reading to him, but most of the time sitting in quiet, more than anything, I prayed that there was a God who could hear both Eric and my prayers.

Eric changed my life. I was supposed to go up that mountain to provide some type of counsel to this man, but he counseled me. Through no words, he showed me that a life of fear is one that is selfish, one that is faithless, and one that is useless. Eric's strength and courage in the face of such a terrible disease showed me that my lack of faith and lack of courage was laughable.

Neither of us deserve what we have, or what we got.

So what do we do with that? How can we live in a world where bad things happen to good people and vice versa? Well, I'm not sure I know the answer. All I know is that I thank God for the fact that I cannot see the future. For if I could, how could I trust in anything? Anything besides pain and misery?

For now, I live in hope. I don't know the future. I just hope that there is a God that holds everything close. That listens. That watches and waits. I hope because I cannot know. I hope because the future is unknown.

For more information about Eric, read his testimony here:

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Fresh Start

So, it's been about a month or so since my last blog post. I feel like this is how I have been starting all of my most recent blogs, and that's...kind of lame. I think the voice of my blog being so politically focused is causing me to feel stifled, so, I'm going to do some expansion work on here.

There have been a few things that have happened in my life recently that offer many opportunities for a new "voice." I graduated, so therefore have more time for reading, cooking, baking, excercise, etc. I also just got there's all of that madness.

So, I'm going to start blogging about different things. Things that are enjoyable and exciting. Things that hopefully make me want to start blogging more.

As a start, I'd like to refer all of you readers (all 10 of you) to a blog I have started reading religiously by my friend Maris Callahan. This blog has opened my eyes to the fact that I CAN COOK! She makes everything seem so doable. Last night, I made this and this and this. I'm happy to report that all 3 were a success.

I'm also currently apartment hunting, so I'd like to solicit any advice on what is the MOST IMPORTANT THING TO LOOK FOR when searching for an apartment. I've basically been apartment hunting for price as of late, this time, I'd like to expand that search to include the basica necessities for a comfortable existence.

Also, suggestions for wedding planning...TOTALLY welcome. I'm feeling...well...OVERWHELMED!

Alright, until next time...

Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Beginning...or ending?

So, I'm going to graduate from seminary this Sunday. I will accept a diploma for a masters of divinity. I think it's a nice little accomplishment and for some reason, it feels a lot more like an accomplishment than any other graduation I've participated in.

When I graduated from high school, although I struggled at times with coursework that I found pointless and boring, it was always expected that graduating from high school was one step along the journey.

When I graduated from college, I had already put in my paperwork to enter seminary and once again, I knew it was an accomplishment, but it was another step along my arduous journey of education.

But here I am about to accept hopefully the final degree in my life (I'm serious, I don't want any more degrees. Ever.). It's a strange feeling of completeness, culmination, and confusion.

At a senior dinner last night, I was faced with that annoying question that every graduate gets "so what's next?" but this time it was different. I had no real answer. I have no real answer. My educational trajectory is over and I feel like a fish out of water. Most of my classmates in seminary know that they are going to become pastors in the next few months, but I am not. I'm not even entirely sure what or where I want to be. I am the kind of person that is planned and scheduled down to the last second of my day, so this aimlessness is generally way outside of my comfort zone (this is an understatement. Last time I felt like this I was balled up on the floor crying for two days straight. My college friends will remember this.).

But I'm strangely at peace. I'm strangely comforted by the fact that I have endless opportunities in front of me. I'm also comforted by the fact that for the first time in my life I feel like I'm following what I know I should be doing, not what others tell me I should be doing. Not to get all "God-y" but I also feel like I'm allowing myself to listen to exactly where God is calling me. As I watch the faces of those who ask "What's next?" turn a little concerned and filled with pity when I answer "I don't know" with a smile, I can't help but laugh inside. These wonderfully caring people seek to offer answers and suggestions, but I'm looking for answers elsewhere. I'm listening to what feels right and what gives me joy, and unfortunately, very few people can answer that for me.

So, I'm at a crossroads. I'm concerned about all the things that other graduates are concerned with: employment, housing, relationship decisions, money, student loans, location, etc. But I'm also on the path that I know I'm supposed to be on. We'll see what happens next.

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Oil and Water

Another oil spill, eh? This one potentially worse than the Exxon Valdez? Off the coast of, sigh, Louisiana?

Well, there's not much one can say about this, besides the fact that it is a tragedy. We can't really blame the oil companies because, well, we are the consumers of said oil. We are the reason that those tankers even exist.

Recently I've been struggling with this idea of whether or not there are real "accidents." I generally move away from the idea of a vengeful God who causes death and destruction, but there are very few instances where I see the only cause to be an "accident." This tragedy is the fault of humanity's obsession with oil, and this is most definitely sin.

Before I get too preachy and doom and gloomy, sometimes realizing you are partially to blame for a huge problem can be liberating. Once you realize you have participated in it, it helps you feel like you have some power to overcome or right the situation. Take poverty, for example. Once a person moves beyond the blaming mentality ("They're just lazy and good for nothing, why can't they just get a job?"), they hopefully can realize that the fact that they have a home, a car, fancy clothes, family vacations, etc. etc. is partially to blame for why poverty exists. And once you realize that, the wonderful trait of compassion hopefully sets in and your life begins to reflect your realization. Maybe instead of buying that designer handbag you decide to donate your time and money to a charitable organization. Or maybe instead of buying that delicious coffee that you aren't exactly where it comes from, you look into the producers of the beans to make sure they treat their farmers appropriately.

And maybe now you'll think twice about your personal use of oil and realize that you (and me, and everyone else in wealthy countries) has a nasty addiction to oil. Maybe instead of buying that item that is covered in plastic wrap, you'll opt for the one that doesn't utilize plastic (plastic is made from petrochemicals, i.e. comes from petroleum). Or if that doesn'twork for your life, check out http:// for some more ideas on how to decrease oil consumption.

Without ownership and responsibility, we rob ourselves of feeling like we have any control or influence on the world around us, when in reality, we have more than any of us are aware of. We are the only ones who can change an outcome for the better or allow it to continue on for the worse. This oil spill reminds us again that our actions impact every aspect of this earth, even to the depths of the sea. We must treat that responsibility with fear and awe, for that power is not one to be taken lightly.

Monday, April 26, 2010

There's no WE in Environmentalism?!?!?!?!

So, I've been a little absent from the blog-o-sphere lately, and that is due to many reasons, primarily I've felt like I've had little to say and that no one really cares to read me (tears). I started a new job, I'm about 2 weeks shy of graduation, and I feel like it's about time to get back up on my soapbox for a few paragraphs.

I'm in a class called the "Future of Creation" and I've really enjoyed it. I've loved seeing the intersection between environmental science and theology. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, who knows anymore?), my new job at a day center for at-risk homeless women began mid-semester. While I was reading the beautiful and eloquent sonnets of environmental theologians, I could not help but think of my drive through the polluted and environmentally raped (and I use that word intentionally, because that is what has been done to the land) Northwestern Indiana territory. As I hear environmental scientists inform me about my carbon footprint and how the world must change in order to step back from complete environmental destruction, I can't help but think of a woman in the shelter who I saw throw a bag of chips on the ground as she walked away. My initial reaction to this act was disgust at how a person could do this to their home, but now as I really think about, I wonder, how could you consider a God and government forsaken land to be your home? And if no one cares about your land and your health and your safety, who really cares about you? And if no one cares about you, how can you care about anything else?

Our environmental crisis is deep and dark and scary and most likely unavoidable. But our current social reality is just as deep and dark and scary, but quite possibly avoidable. How can we pick one crisis as superior to the other? My critique of the current environmental movement is that it forgets about the immediate needs of those who are suffering now. It forgets that many people already feel the impact of global climate change. It forgets that many people don't have time to think about their carbon footprint because they can't put shoes on those feet, or their diabetes renders their feet useless.

Global climate change is a big deal, I'm not denying that. It may be the "biggest deal" around, but let's not forget about those people who have been told that their needs aren't that big, that there are other needs that trump their needs. The poor are always with us, as Jesus himself said, but that is not an excuse to ignore those needs (as that quote has so often been misused), it's more of a condemnation on our current economic inequalities and the outcomes we currently see. Our environment is hurt, and so are our people. They are not mututally exclusive.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Review of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" By Barbara Kingsolver

In case anyone is interested, I had to write a review of a book surrounding the topic of global climate change. My life has been a little stressful lately, so I chose a more light-hearted and enjoyable read, but I thought I'd include this review on here because it might spark some interest in one or two of you who are still reading. The book was wonderful and I'd love to hear if any of you have read it. Sorry it's so long (there was a word count requirement :) )

If anyone ever wondered if they were cut out for local farm living, this book by Barbara Kingsolver showed the audience that it was a) a lot more difficult than it seems, and b) the benefits of a life lived so locally are innumerable and unsurpassable. Although the tone and purpose of the book was a little confusing at the beginning, as I completed the book, it felt as if this book was something that Kingsolver wrote for herself and those who love her. At times it felt like a journal, other times political platform, other times recipe book, and other times a fictional novel. This book, although seemingly written out of Kingsolver’s self-motivated pleasure, draws in an audience of interested and hungry readers who wonder how they too can tap into the human and healthy lifestyle of local living, if only for a moment.

Barbara Kingsolver is a beloved author of the most recent decades and is a true American gem of an author. Born and raised on a farm in rural Kentucky, she learned the importance of land and nature through her complete immersion in the dirt around her. She attended college at DePauw University in Indiana and majored in Biology. After graduation, she traversed the fields in Europe only to return to the University of Arizona where she received a masters degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Kingsolver, always an avid writer, began writing full-time upon graduation in many forms from journalism to poetry to novels and was first noticed by HarperCollins Publishers with her first novel The Bean Trees. She wrote numerous other works, but her most popular and notable work was titled The Poisonwood Bible which was a fictional account of a Christian missionary family from the United States who travelled to Africa in hopes of conversion in all sense of the word. The impetus for the writing and publishing of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was the joint decision of Kingsolver’s family to move to the Appalachian region and learn to live with the land, rather than live off of it.

This book was broken down into the major moments of a year that is spent working on the land. From the perspective of someone like myself, I would have immediately assumed that there would have been four chapters coinciding with the seasons (but really, I could have been convinced that there are fewer remarkable moments on a farm than that since all I could imagine was “Little House on the Prairie”). In reality however, this book had 20 chapters and each one really did have something remarkable to focus on.

The first chapter, titled “Called Home” recounts Kingsolver’s decision, along with her family, to move their entire life to some place foreign yet intimately familiar. Kingsolver’s husband had owned a farm in the Appalachian region and the family had always enjoyed vacationing there, but it felt like it was time to make their vacationing simplicity a reality. The reality of the U.S. food industry had been weighing on their hearts, minds, and bellies, and they finally decided that their arid existence in Arizona was not sustainable. Kingsolver wanted her family to become educated in the production of food, complete from conception to death.

The next three chapters, titled respectively: “Waiting for Asparagus: Late March,” “Springing Forward,” and “Stalking Vegetannual,” described the jumping off point of this project, the beginning. Kingsolver painfully describes the family’s meeting to create a grocery list that lived up to the local living promise they had made. Imagining a young child and a teenager giving up refined sugar and processed food without much of a struggle, led me to believe that this book was more fiction than autobiographical. Kingsolver then goes on to inform the reader of the importance of heirloom seeds and their place in the farming industry. Throughout these chapters, the reader is interrupted with episodic moments of scientific information and shocking current statistics and trends, but also a little gem from her daughter which also included a recipe for great Spinach Lasagna.

The next three chapters “Molly Mooching: April,” “The Birds and the Bees,” and “Gratitude: May,” shift gears a little. The month of April was one where the Appalachian community came together to gather mushrooms. Kingsolver highlights the genius of communal living and small farms rather than large farms when thinking of sustainability, but then illustrates the joy her daughter had upon receiving her first baby chicks. Another moment that was beautifully narrated was the struggle Kingsolver had in finding ingredients to use for throwing a large birthday party while maintaining the local living pledge. These moments, which were so precious to read about, must have been even more beautiful to witness first-hand, yet they are so simple. As simple as digging in the dirt, looking at a child, and preparing food for a party. But they were completed with such thoughtfulness.

The following four chapters were completely focused on the month of June, titled: “Growing Trust: Mid-June,” “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Late June,” “Eating Neighborly: Late June,” and “ Slow Food Nations: Late June.” These chapters focus on the struggles of farming, especially the struggles of small farms. Some of these struggles are par for the course - like long hours, sore muscles, cooking responsibilities, patience, etc. Other struggles are seemingly imposed by the U.S. economy’s reliance on immediacy - small farms trying to stay afloat alongside cheaper goods produced more quickly and less expensively by larger farms. But one joy that the large farms cannot take away is that of the communal living that small farm communities have, and this lifestyle cannot be replicated.

The remaining chapters follow a similar model that illustrates the real difficulties of farm living, both natural and unnatural, but also included moments of sadness at the current state of our world tempered with moments of grace found in a young child’s recipe. In the final chapter titled “Time Begins,” Kingsolver summarizes the year or local living while describing a turkey who had naturally given birth.

It’s hard to explain how irrationally proud I felt of this success. Their success, a mother’s and, in his clumsy way, a father’s too, but most of all these creatures who had pecked themselves heroically into the bright wide world to give this life a go (352).

The main objective of this book was, as was mentioned before, to show the world what local living and farm life looked like. Most of the readers will never live on a farm or grow their own tomatoes, but after reading this book, they may take a second to think about which tomato they choose at the grocery store, or contemplate who grew that tomato and what their life is like.

Kingsolver created a work of art that was simple and statistically complex at the same time. Her list of resources found in the back of the book reminded the reader of how much information they had just witnessed, but in a non-abrasive way. Not only did her reference section include a plethora of further reading, it also made it completely possible for the reader to take the next step and find a CSA or contact a local governmental agency regarding food. By including these references, Kingsolver revealed what her true intention for this book was: encouraging those who read this book to become more educated and to take the next step towards a sustainable life when considering food production.

I loved this book. I thought that the scattered episodes and interruptions of statistical information and recipes kept me guessing while at the same time not allowing me to get too disheartened or too wishy washy either. I loved and have always loved Kingsolver’s voice in her writing, but this autobiographical journey made me feel intimately connected with her family and her passions. I would have liked to have seen more examples of the struggles of this year because then I would have been able to identify with these characters more effectively. Maybe her family did not struggle any more than was illustrated, but for me, I know I would have had moments of weakness upon driving past a Dairy Queen, and I would have liked to have seen this human side of these characters I grew to love.

This book would be a great way to introduce a group of people to the environmental crisis that is looming and currently underway. It informs, educates, but also empowers the reader into action. Many books about such subject matter leave the reader feeling hopeless, and this was just the opposite. A book study or Sunday school class could really benefit from this especially if paired with some theological discussion about the relationship between humanity and the earth, possibly looking at the current Western interpretation of Genesis and the relationship of humans to earth in the creation story.

This book was a true testimony of how one person, one family, can make a difference when it comes to environmental degradation. I would recommend this book to those I wish to educate about climate change, but more specifically, I would recommend this book to those whom I love and respect.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hate in Haiti

The world is waiting to see how much devastation has occured in Haiti.

Yet, where has the world been for the past few years? As the country tumbles further and further into abject poverty.

All of a sudden this crisis is sexy. All of a sudden we pay attention. We update our facebook statuses saying "Pray for Haiti" or brag about what we are doing to help.

Where has this attention been in the past?

It's like Christmas, when the homeless shelters are flooded with turkeys and hams to give out to the clientele. Not only can these people not cook these donations, but they need help during April, and February, and August.

My thoughts and prayers are with Haiti. My thoughts and prayers are also with Pat Robertson and anyone who agrees with the sentiments of hatred that he has shared with the world. This world is terribly broken. And how tragic that he spoke hate in such a time as this.

By all means, give aid and seek ways to help these people, but as the news reports dwindle (and they already have), remember these people, and all those who struggle in poverty stricken countries such as Haiti.

Monday, January 11, 2010

J-Term: A month with the movies

So during the terribly cold and depressing month of January (besides the 15, of COURSE), I am taking a course at Catholic Theological Union titled "Imaging the Reign of God" which focuses on social justice and theology through the medium of film. Now, I obviously am taking the class because I love movies and thought it would be nice to spend my classtime in a warm classroom watching movies, but really, this class is awesome. First of all, I'm hanging out with Catholics, who despite some pretty crucial issues, I love to death. There are 2 or 3 Franciscan monks who are in the class with me and that in and of itself is a learning experience, especially because one made a joke about the Pope looking like Marilyn Monroe standing on the windy crate that about made me fall out of my chair. Looks can be deceiving.

One thing I've learned so far about film is that I know so little about what I am watching. I go to a movie, grab my soda and sno-caps, and tune out for the next 2 hours. And how selfish! Film is (well, at least it SHOULD be) an artform that engages the audience in a conversation. It's not just mere entertainment. Even the really cheesy films can enter into a dialogue with the audience, and I'm excited to continue this conversation.

What I'm most taken with currently is the power of camera angles and how much meaning can be found in just one shot due to the angle of the camera. These people in the film industry are geniuses. Seriously.

My professor recommended that we all go see Avatar because it is an excellent social justice film.


From all of the advertisements I've seen, that movie looks ridiculous, BUT, to keep in line with this new dialogue, I'm going to go see it in the next couple of days. Have any of you seen that movie? Any feedback? Is it really "anti-American"? Keep checking back for my response to the film. Could be funny.

One last thing, if any of you want to see a film that really pushes the issue of social justice and "The Reign of God", I would recommend watching the Dark Knight. Let me know what you think.
Copyright 2009 Windy-Wisdom