Saturday, December 29, 2007

One Preacher, Eleven Presidents

"Those who believe that religion and politics are not connected do not understand either"--Mahatma Ghandi

Billy Graham became a larger-than-life icon for millions of evangelicals during the last seven decades. He is believed to have physically addressed more people in more places than anyone else in history, preaching the gospel to more than 210 million people, in 185 countries in 417 crusades! But becoming the first global ambassador for Christ is not the only unique role in Graham's life; he has also personally known, befriended, and counseled 11 U.S. Presidents in a row, from Harry S. Truman all the way down to George W. Bush. Think of all the history that has unfolded in the last fifty years: the Korean war, the cold war, the cuban missle crisis, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the women's movement, the student movement, the Iranian hostage crisis, roe v. wade, the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy, the emerging drug culture, counterculture, 9/11, etc. etc. Through it all, Billy Graham has been in the unique position to appeal to each sitting President from a spiritual foundation, offer counsel, prayer, and strict confidentiality. The story is a fascinating and sobering tale.

The Preacher and The Presidents: Billy Graham's White House Crusade, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, journalists for TIME magazine, who conducted multiple interviews over the course of a year with Billy Graham, chronicles the political aspect of Graham's ministry during the past fifty-odd years. Gibbs and Duffy, who remain surprisingly fair and objective, skillfully relate Graham's remarkable tale of spiritual counsel and influence on the world's most powerful leaders. Alas, influence comes at a price. Graham's sincere faith in both God and our nation's leaders led to occasions of political manipulation, over estimating certain presidents' character (hi, Nixon), and blind spots to the corruption that all too often accompanies power. However, Graham's humble demeanor, willingness to admit failure, and relentless pursuit of God's grace for all people set a higher example that far outweighs any shortcomings of his half-century ministry.

Gibbs and Duffy describe Graham as displaying a rare and unique quality:

"Sincerity, like a paint stripper, removing any pretense and pride. He volunteered regrets before we probed for them...He was perfectly transparent about his own failures, but slow to pass judgment on anyone else. 'We are all sinners,' he said, 'in search of grace.'"

In addition to depicting Graham's relationship with our nation's leaders, the book also reveals new dimensions to our Presidents' spiritual side, or lack there of, in some cases. Presidents, like all people, wrestle with matters of faith, and it is intriguing to see how that personal battle intersects with public leadership, policy, and the political machine that seeks to exploit it.

From influencing Eisenhower to push for "under God" to be added to the pledge of allegience to helping sow peace between race relations under John F. Kennedy and Linden B. Johnson, to counseling the Clintons after Bill's very public affair to witnessing to George W. Bush, Billy Graham, like no one else, has faithfully ministered (for better or for worse) to the most powerful men in the world. His story is well worth the read.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Snapshots From Dysfunction Junction!

Thus far, our Christmas/New Years trip to NJ has been delightful! Spending the holidays with our families and friends has been long overdue! We spent Christmas Eve with Will's family and Christmas Day with mine. So, here are some pictures!

Christmas Eve Pictures:

My husband Will and my brother Joshua

Will and his brother Charlie "gaying" it up. :)

My sister Olivia chilling after dinner. :)

My sister Juliet grinning big while playing with a new toy!

My Sister Chloe

Will's brother Charlie and sister-in-law Elizabeth.

Johanna (Charlie and Lizzy's daughter) and my sister Julie.

Pictures From Christmas Day

Will and I having tons of fun at my mom's house!

Myself and my Mommy!

My sisters: Angela, Sarah, and Christina, myself, and my step-father, Michael.

Aunt Laura and Uncle Rich with their children: Ashley, Noelle, and Jordan.

My Sister Sarah being a cute little stinker!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Win The War On Christmas By Losing

"Every time you say 'Happy Holidays,' an angel gets AIDS."– Jon Stewart, on the absurdity of the intense opposition to the phrase Happy Holidays over Merry Christmas.

For the last few years, accusations have been flying around (some legit and others fabricated) about how Christmas is under siege, slowly being banned from the public domain. There are claims of mega-chain store employees forbidden to wish their customers a Merry Christmas, signs displaying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, lyrics to Christmas songs changed, etc. etc. While its completely ridiculous to "ban" people from saying the phrase 'Merry Christmas,' I find the uproar, protests, and boycotts from evangelicals to"enforce" Christmas even more absurd, shallow, and frankly, extremely illogical. Focus on The Family has done several shows about the "attack on Christmas" and how good Christians can "fight" it. The American Family Association is leading boycotts on stores that say happy holidays. Other religious right groups are encouraging boycotts, protests, congressional intervention, and letter writing campaigns.

First off, I don't really believe that Christmas, as we know it, is going anywhere, based solely on the money-making aspect of the holiday. Secondly, the move to the more vague, inclusive 'Happy Holidays' greeting adopted by many stores is not so much of an attempt to ban Christmas, but an attempt acknowledge the other holidays celebrated during the same season...(Chanakuh, Kwanzaa, and New Years).

However, pretend for a moment that there is a diabolical plot among politicians, the ACLU, secularists, the liberal media, and businesses to "do away" with Christmas (there ARE people who despise any public recognition of anything even remotely religious). Pretend businesses would actually be stupid enough to take down the biggest money making holiday of the year and all "traditional" Christmas decorations, songs, and rituals were removed from the public square. If this happened, Christians should be thrilled! That's right, THRILLED.

Aren't these the same groups that we have been accusing of hijacking Christmas FOR DECADES, reducing the birth of Jesus to a materialistic, decadent, consumer-driven, self-indulgent extravaganza about who can buy the most crap, put up the biggest tree, string the brightest lights, and display the tackiest plastic reindeer, Santas, and snowmen on their lawns? Haven't evangelicals resented the fact that Christmas has been secularized, commercialized, and focused on a chimney-invading fat guy in red suit, instead of the celebration of our Lord's birth? Didn't we gaze condescendingly at all those 'heathens' that took their kids to see Santa at the mall, who were obviously deceived by those money-hungry businesses trying to make a quick buck off the birth of our Savior? Christians should be ecstatic to reclaim this beloved holiday, make it ours again, transform it into a season that truly inspires the celebration and honor of our Lord. And how did Jesus say those who love him would truly honor him? They would keep his commands. And what were those commands? Loving God and our neighbor (enemies included) with everything within us. So, does it honor Jesus when Christians force THE WORLD to adhere to God's standards? Or, even worse, OUR STANDARDS in the name of God? Or trying to conform the world to an outward appearance that is more convenient FOR US, instead of demonstrating concern for the heart? Does it honor Jesus when we selfishly demand and economically blackmail secular businesses to recognize our precious holiday and meet our needs? Is our faith so fragile, that we need THE WORLD to validate it by continuing to water-down a Holiday they don't fully understand, nor should be expected to understand?

It's not a biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas, but it is a mandate to honor Jesus by living out his teachings. We could flex our religious muscle and force worldly institutions to half-heartedly recognize Christmas to appease us, make our lives easier and more pleasant, but would our victory for "Christmas" be a loss in honoring Christ? Would our victory be just one more terrible witness to the world, where we exert domination over the world through force, condemnation, and judgment, instead of reaching the world with sacrificial love, service, kindness, and compassion?

Why are we so intent on cleaning up the world's outward image, instead of reaching hearts? Are we like the Pharisees, who care only to clean the outside of the cup, while leaving the inside filthy and empty? What difference does it make if the secular leaders and businesses recognize Christmas in name to appease us, only to remain inwardly unaffected, confused, and resentful? These outcries to "restore" Christmas will only ensure that we Christians can stroll through the mall hearing OUR favorite Christmas music, enjoying OUR favorite man-made traditions, and hear a "Merry Christmas" from a minimum-wage-working cashier after overpaying for stuff we don't really can hear the "well done, my good and faithful servant" now!

Ah...but there is hope! What if we took the teaching of Jesus seriously? What if we saw this "ban of Christmas" as a unique opportunity. What if we overcame evil with good? Turned the other cheek? Loved those who hate us? Blessed those who curse us? Lose our secure, comfortable lives, so we might save it in the end?

Wouldn't it come as a baffling shock if Christians everywhere put down their picket signs, ceased the boycotts, dropped the Christmas lawsuits, and instead, showered politicians, business owners, and ACLU workers that show disdain for Christmas/Christians with thoughtful gifts, invitations to OUR Christmas celebrations, letters of prayers, (not condemning ones), asking nothing in return? What if Christians took all the money they are spending on lawsuits over Christmas and used it to serve the poor, the marginalized, and sick? What if we stopped courting the approval and recognition of the rich and powerful and focused on the least, the lost, and the last of this world? What if Christians recreated our Christmas celebrations and invited the world, instead of demanding the world get it right and include us? How much harder would it be for the world to label us as judgmental, condemning, intolerant, superficial hypocrites, if we actually lead by example, by service, by radical, ridiculous, unconditional love? See, Jesus is no naive optimist, He is a genius! By responding to cruelty with kindness, insult with blessing, neglect with service, rejection with embrace, it proves our opponent wrong. It shows their true colors. It halts their accusations. It could inspire a rethinking of their assumptions. It makes us a people separated unto God. It clears the way for reconciliation, healing, renewal, forgiveness, and transformation. When we take the bait and repay evil with evil, eye for eye, dollar for dollar, insult for insult, when we demand our DUE, we not only lose in the end, but we become our "enemy," for we are guilty of the same offenses, tactics, and attitudes. For what good is it if we only show love to those who love us? Do not even non-christians do this? Aren't we called to a higher standard?

So let's do what Jesus would have us do on the day we've chosen to celebrate his birth: lose our holiday to save it after all. Lose the war on Christmas to truly win it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Skeptic's Crash Course on Global Poverty

"Poor people die not only because of the world's indifference to the poor, but also because of the ineffective efforts of those who do care."--William Easterly

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint, when I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist"--Helder Camara

The Skeptic's Guide To Global Poverty, compiled by Dale Hanson Bourke, is a must read introductory analysis of Global Poverty, articulately summing up all its many facets, taking on the toughest frequently asked questions by everyday people about this crisis--how bad it is, why so many people are poor, who's responsible to help, the misconceptions, how poverty happens, how it grows, what the contributing factors are, and how best to help. This pithy 100 page book provides a vast amount of overwhelming statistics and information on everything from third world poverty to American poverty, AIDS to Malaria/Tuberculousis, hunger to gluttony, debt relief to trade reform, governmental responsibility to private responsibility, capitalism at its best to capitalism at its worst, economic factors to environmental factors, and social factors to political factors.

Dale Hanson Bourke remarks:

Being poor, it turns out, is much more complicated than lack of money. Poverty runs deep into the family and community, robbing individuals and whole societies of life-saving information, health-care, food, and water. Poverty robs individuals not only of security and health, but also dignity. A poor person is often too busy surviving the present to spend much time thinking about the future. Yet, the poor have dreams--especially for their children--much like ours... But just as knowledge is power to the poor, it is also power to those of us who are relatively rich. We can make a difference, but we have to understand more. We need to be smarter about poverty.

This book provides an excellent beginning to the understanding of this dire complex issue, the kind of understanding that breeds focus, direction, and action.

The following are some of the statistics from the book that I found most revealing/shocking:

  • Poverty and hunger claim 25,000 lives EVERY day
  • Nearly HALF of the world's population live on LESS than $2 a day

  • The combined economies of ALL 48 sub-Saharan African countries are about the same as the CITY of Chicago

  • Over 80 percent of Americans believe the government gives 20% of the federal budget to foreign aid, when the US gives LESS than 1 percent and only a small part of that 1 percent goes to alleviate poverty

  • The GDP of the poorest 48 NATIONS is less than the combined wealth of the world's three richest people!

  • 20 percent of the population in the developed world consumes 86 percent of the world's goods. America makes up 6 percent of the world's population and consumes 43 percent of the world's resources!

  • 6 million children under the age of five die every year of malnutrition
There are more than 2,000 verses in scripture that deal with caring for the poor. As imitators of Christ, it is imperative to educate ourselves on global poverty, so we can commit ourselves to the most effective methods to alleviate needless suffering and death among our fellow human beings. I recommend this book because it is a small starting line to the long marathon ahead of us as a people of faith, as the living body of Christ.

"'He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?' declares the LORD."--Jeremiah 22:16

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Faith That Bleeds

"The state of emergency lies within the church--it lies within us. It's our problem. We can't leave Africa's children lying by the side of the road as we pass on by."--Tom Davis

The Red letters: Living A Faith That Bleeds by Tom Davis is great little book that lays the foundation of how to live out the teachings of Jesus in the context of today's culture, in light of our own generation's struggles, tests of faith, circumstances, and moral dilemmas. Davis briefly, but compellingly depicts the current state of affairs within the world and the myriad of practical, yet revolutionary ways the church could respond: focusing primarily on the world's poor and the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Davis begins with an apology on behalf of the church's shamefully slow response to the AIDS pandemic and ends with a hopeful, redemptive blue-print for how the church can rise to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our suffering world. Davis' mixture of harsh statistical facts and retelling of real-life people's heart-wrenching stories breathe life into Jesus' call to care for the least, the lost, and the last of this world, as found in those controversial red-letters. The overwhelming rate of disease, extreme poverty, starvation, malnutrition, and the spread of AIDS both inform and rouse righteous anger over the injustice befallen God's beloved people. Hopefully, it spurs the kind of moral outrage that transcends vocal condemnation and leads to compassionate action.

The Red Letters provides a vast wealth of information on dozens of organizations that everyday people can easily get involved with, support, and work along side. Plus, just by purchasing the book, you feed an orphan for an entire month! The proceeds are donated to compassion international to provide the needs of an orphan. This quick read jump starts our vision for the church to rise above rigid institutionalism, and become transformed into the radical, revolutionary living organism that Jesus calls it to be.

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence only encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."--Elie Wiesel

Monday, December 10, 2007

Which Story Shapes Your Worldview?

The following article, "The Story We Tell Ourselves," written by Brian Mclaren appeared in last month's issue of Sojourners/Call To Renewal Magazine. It struck a chord with me by reminding that the lives we live, the choices we make, the realities we accept, the action we take, or the indifference we cultivate, are all framed by our perspective of the world, the story in which we find ourselves. As Christians, what are our perspectives shaped by? Do we rely on God's story of the kind of kingdom He yearns to be established here on earth? Are our perspectives tainted by the world's stories of political ideologies, nationalism, power, fear, violence, greed, practicality, despair, distrust, etc.?

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
By Brian McLaren

Any society or civilization at any given time lives by a dominant framing story, a story that gives its common life a coherent shape and direction. That story will no doubt evolve and adapt over time, for better or for worse, borrowing from or reacting to the stories of its neighbors. To understand a society, then, and certainly to change it, we must make its covert framing story more overt and realize its power—sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes awful.

For example, if our framing story tells us that we humans are godlike beings with godlike privileges—intelligent and virtuous creatures outside a limited environment of time and space, without potentially fatal flaws—we will have no reason to acknowledge or live within limits, whether moral or ecological. Similarly, if our framing story tells us that the purpose of life is for individuals or nations to accumulate an abundance of possessions and to experience the maximum amount of pleasure during the maximum number of minutes of our short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption.

But if our framing story tells us that we are free and responsible creatures in a creation made by a good, wise, and loving God, and that our Creator wants us to pursue virtue, collaboration, peace, and mutual care for one another and all living creatures, and that our lives can have profound meaning if we align ourselves with God’s wisdom, character, and dreams for us, then our society will take a radically different direction, and our world will become a very different place.

In this light, our growing list of global crises, together with our inability to address them effectively, gives us strong evidence that our world’s dominant framing stories are failing. We might say that they are too weak. They don’t provide strong enough inspiration and motivation to transcend the greed, class conflict, sexual irresponsibility, ethnic hatred, religious bigotry, or nationalistic militarism that threatens us. We could also say that our framing stories are too strong—but strong in a misguided way, in that they actually catalyze and energize those same self-destructive forces. Either way, we can safely conclude that our societal systems, driven by their framing stories, are perfectly designed to yield the results we are now getting. If we attempt to change the results without changing the system, starting with its framing story, we will fail. Consider how our current dominant story is failing us:

The Prosperity Dysfunction. Our story does not guide us to respect environmental limits, but instead inspires our pursuit of as much resource use and waste production (also known as economic growth) as possible, as fast as possible. As a result, we burn through nonrenewable resources without concern for their eventual disappearance, draw down renewable resources faster than they can be replenished, and produce more waste products than our environment can absorb, manifesting a host of negative symptoms, some realized, others largely invisible to us as yet. Rapid and extravagant resource use (with corresponding waste production) is so profitable for some people that they can avoid or remain in denial about most of these negative symptoms for a very long time. In fact, their “success” makes it highly improbable that they will ever be willing to acknowledge the unsustainability of their way of life.

The Equity Dysfunction. Our framing story does not lead us to work for the common good. Instead, it legitimizes the growing gap between rich and poor in a variety of ways. For example, the story may imply that God has blessed and favored the rich and powerful, or that the poor and vulnerable are lazy and irresponsible and therefore are getting what they deserve. All the while the bellies of the poor and vulnerable ache from hunger, and their children die of treatable diseases. Every social grouping—national, religious, ethnic, tribal, political, social, or educational—is drawn into a vortex of rich/poor conflict. Each group becomes a competing us/them faction that seeks advantage for “us,” not a common good for all.

The Security Dysfunction. Our framing story does not lead these competing factions to reconcile peacefully. Instead we find, nested in the larger framing story shared by both rich and poor, a huge bank of patriotic and religious stories that celebrate how “redemptive violence” has helped good people (“us”) to defeat evil people (“them”) throughout history. Thus when push comes to shove, good people and evil people alike trust violence as the way to peace, and our framing story squelches the search for creative, peaceful alternatives. When more and more nations (or religious or ethnic militias) arm themselves with more and more lethal weapons—not to mention when some groups acquire biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons—everyone feels less secure, and every regional conflict contains the seeds of terrifying escalation, resulting in an increasingly anxious global society. Gradually, the world becomes locked in a vicious cycle of tension between an anxious global empire of the rich and an angry global terrorist revolution of the poor.

ALL ATTEMPTS TO resolve these systemic crises—the prosperity crisis of the planet, the equity crisis of poverty, and the security crisis of peacemaking—fail because they fail to address the fourth crisis, the spirituality crisis of purpose. Tragically, the framing stories that program and drive our societal machinery toward suicide are too frequently aided and abetted by our world’s religions and the various stories they tell. Instead of inspiring us with a framing story of hope (true good news), our religions more often camouflage existing destructive narratives in various religious disguises. They preach a far-reaching covert curriculum of fear and violence; they teach a coherent and comprehensive global “orthodoxy” of greed, self-interest, religious/ethnic/ cultural supremacy, and struggle for domination and conquest.

It is at this profound and pivotal level where Jesus confronts our suicidal system. His essential message, which he called the good news of the kingdom of God, confronts this suicidal societal machinery and seeks to transform it from a suicidal system into a sacred global community. It does so by providing a radical alternative to the dominant framing story that currently drives human society.

To the prosperity system, Jesus says we are fellow creatures in one global ecosystem, created and sustained by God. Jesus calls us to seek the common good, not simply the selfish interests of our own ego, family, religion, race, nation, or species.

To the equity system, Jesus’ good news says we are neighbors in one global community, related to each other as fellow citizens in God’s kingdom. He calls us to seek justice for all so that God’s compassionate will is done on earth as in heaven.

To the security system, Jesus’ message says we are siblings in God’s family, called to reconciliation, not competition or domination. He calls us to be active peacemakers who respond to our enemies through love and service, not victors who eliminate them through revenge or preemptive violence.

Jesus communicates this alternative framing story of the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. First, it comes through parables, artistic works of short fiction that seek to abduct the human imagination from the dominant, destructive, and confining framing story currently at work in human society, and to free human beings to imagine and pursue new possibilities. Second, it comes through dramatic enactments called signs and wonders that convey God’s desire to bring peace and health to humanity through healing rather than war. Third, it comes through his ethical teachings, which should be seen not as laws through which one earns hell or heaven, but rather as practices through which people can seek and participate in God’s kingdom.

Perhaps most powerfully of all, Jesus’ liberating message is embodied in his own life and example, in his interactions with people, and most decisively in his crucifixion and resurrection. As he is misunderstood, arrested, falsely accused, tortured, and crucified, he manifests an unflinching attitude of forgiveness, enacting the essential drama of his story: The evil of human beings may break boundary after boundary, but the grace of God is always wider, deeper, bigger, and more powerful than human wickedness. God’s grace will surely triumph over human evil, and the story of the resurrection celebrates the power of faith to triumph over the machinery of societal suicide.

JESUS CHALLENGED people in his day to stop believing the empire’s empty promises and stop fearing its threats through a brilliant strategy. First he lured its dark machinery into the light, so to speak, so it could be seen for what it was, exposed, named, rejected, and defected from. After praying “your will be done” in the garden of Gethsemane, after choosing self-sacrifice over self-protection, he walked like a lamb into the middle of the forest, so the wolves would come out of the shadows and circle around him. Then he stretched out his neck, as it were, inviting them to pounce, and they did. Ironically, though, as he exposed his own neck, he also exposed their vicious wolfishness and in that way he sabotaged them, defeated them, rendering them ugly and incredible. After all, they could no longer claim to be agents of peace and promise after torturing and killing a good and peaceful man so violently and shamefully.

Just as the wolfish powers breathed a sigh of satisfaction at nailing yet another challenger to a cross, Jesus’ quiet but real resurrection validated to his disciples that the liberating king was not defeated, but rather was on the move, quietly, at the margins, where all revolutions begin. His resurrection told them that Caesar’s muscle couldn’t conquer God’s vulnerability, that Caesar’s spears couldn’t conquer God’s forgiving heart, and that Caesar’s whips and nails and crosses couldn’t overcome God’s way of love and reconciliation.

So in the shadow of Caesar’s ruthless kingdom, witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection could never live by Caesar’s framing story again. It had become disgusting to them, despicable, pathetic, exposed. Liberated from Caesar’s false promises and fear, they chose to live in the framing story of a new Lord, in his “in-but-not-of-this-world” kingdom, as citizens in his “kingdom from another place,” with headquarters not in Rome but in the heart of God. They withdrew their trust from the domesticating and domesticated narratives and counternarratives that energized the empire, and they chose instead to believe Jesus’ wild, untamed good-news story about the kingdom of God—as a story of hope that could frame and transform a better future.

Perhaps now, with them, we can begin to envision what it would mean for us to confront the suicide machine of our world in the way of Jesus, to expose it and deconstruct it, to intercept its trajectory and turn it to a better way, to reclaim its potential for ends more in line with their original creation. Perhaps we can see ourselves in a new light too, not armed with an ideology but infused with a new imagination, part of a peaceful insurgency seeking to expel a suicidal occupying regime, gardeners working with God to tend the holy ecosystem so it continues to unfold anew day after new day. We can be agents of a secret revolution of hope, a global movement unleashing coordinated, well-planned acts of unterror and healing, producers in a new economy of love—an economy so radical that old terms like capitalism and communism seem like two sides of a confederate coin left over from a fading and discredited regime. Doing so will require one radical, irreplaceable thing in us: faith—faith that the old narrative of domination is suicidal, and that a new story (good news, an invitation to reconciliation) is available if we will only rethink everything and believe it.

Brian McLaren, board chair of Sojourners/ Call to Renewal, is the author of The Secret Message of Jesus and A Generous Orthodoxy, among other books.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Which Candidate Do You Most Align With?

The link below is to a quiz that surveys where and how strongly you stand on most poltical issues and how that corresponds with the candidates running for President. Very interesting quiz....

Which candidate most aligned with your stances?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Get Up Off Your Knees!

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."--Albert Einstein

This is a low budget, slightly corny three-minute video set to the song "Waiting For The World To Change" by John Mayer, but the message, similar to U2's "Get Up Of Your Knees" call to action, is a relevant and inspiring one! Enjoy!

What Are We Waiting For?

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."--Edmund Burke

"I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."--Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Prince Caspian Coming Soon!

The trailer for Prince Caspian was released today. I can hardly contain myself, I am so excited. I know that the movies will NEVER live up to the books, but seeing my all-time favorite books come to life on the big screen is still a thrilling event. I really did enjoy The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but I was very disappointed that they did not develop Aslan's character more in line with the books. I am very picky about how Aslan is represented because it was C.S. Lewis' fictional portrayal of Jesus through Aslan that lead me to a very real understanding and a major turning point in my faith. Anyway, the trailer looks great and I'm hoping the movie will go more into depth about Aslan.....Enjoy!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Be Part of The Solution

Today is World AIDS Day. AIDS is truly the leprosy of our age. The stigma attached to AIDS has made many victims of this merciless disease stereotyped, outcasted, and belittled, even to the point of being deemed "deserving" of AIDS. The uncontrolled spread of AIDS is devastating much of Africa, Asia, and even parts of America. Here are some statistics from DATA (Debt AIDS, and TRADE for AFRICA) about AIDS and POVERTY in Africa and some practical ways we can help prevent the further spread of AIDS and treat, minister, and bless the ones who have already contracted it. Whatever we do unto the least of these, we do unto Jesus...If we bless, uplift, extend compassion, and sacrifice, we have done so for our brethren and our Lord. If we scoff, rationalize, blame, condemn, or ignore, we forsake our brethren and betray our Lord.

Africa has been hit harder by HIV/AIDS than any other region in the world. Over two-thirds of people living with HIV and over three-quarters of HIV-associated deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, some 1.7 million Africans were newly infected with HIV, bringing the region’s total to 22.5 million.

11.4 million African children have already lost one or both parents to AIDS. The disease is not limited to adults- 2.2 million children in sub- Saharan Africa are living with HIV, accounting for 90% of global HIV pediatric cases. Most of these children are infected by their mothers during childbirth because few HIV-infected pregnant women have access to antiretroviral medication that can drastically reduce mother-to-child transmission. Once born with the disease, only 13% of these children have access to HIV treatment. Beyond the risk to themselves and their families, millions of children are losing their teachers, nurses and friends too. Businesses are losing their workers, governments are losing their civil servants, families are losing their breadwinners. As a result, entire communities are devastated and economies that are already crippled by poverty, debts and unfair trade policies are further compromised.

Africa is the region most in need of life-saving anti-AIDS drugs, accounting for 4.8 million of the 7.1 million people worldwide in need of ARVs.

"Don't Give Up" by Alicia Keys and Bono

The "Lazarus Effect"

Here are some organizations you could consider supporting to combat AIDS and extreme poverty:

The One Campaign: To Make Poverty History. Visit the link below for more information and to sign the One Campaign Petition.

The One Hit Wonder Campaign (an experiment in collecting just $1 from participants to see how everyday people sacrificing next to nothing can change countless lives if we would just band together).

The Red Campaign (businesses have partnered up with the Global Fund, selling an array of (RED) products, the profits from which are donated to the Global Fund. $50 million dollars thus far!

To educate yourself on the AIDS pandemic visit: for up to date statistics and news events.

Hope Vs. Optimism

I am in the middle of gathering books and other materials to continue researching various perspectives on bible interpretation, theological and spiritual matters, and expressions of the christian faith. I came across a book written by R. Kirby Godsey, former President of Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia, entitled, "When We Talk About God, Let's Be Honest." I read few excerpts, and found evidence of a promising read on humanity's relationship to God and each other. The vivid picture he paints of the many facets of hope and how hope translates into definite action deeply resonated with me.

Unlike naive optimism, hope faces the tragedy of all that is not right and fosters within us the courage and energy to work toward making things right. Hope rights the wrongs. Hope does not say, "Don't worry about it; God will take care of everything." Hope becomes the agent of God in making the world right. Hope searches for ways to overcome terrorism. Hope becomes a part of undoing the violence of abuse and abandonment that threatens us. Hope embraces the lonely. Hope carries coats to the elderly in winter. Hope takes the homeless home. Hope feeds the hungry and clothes the naked. Hope forgives the hurt. In very concrete, specific ways, hope is the eternity breaking into the time of our lives. God's presence changes the character of our time on earth. The Christian understanding of last things is not, then, chiefly about judgement day or heaven and hell. The Christian's last word is about hope. To be Christian means being present in time with the power of hope.

I'm looking forward to reading the book in its entirety! Thank God for the printing press, eh?