Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Women's rights 'round the world

This isn't "Women's History Month." Today isn't "International Day of the Woman." It's just a normal, inconsequential Tuesday in November. But today I want to write about women.

Recently I purchased two posters (and a second set for a fellow women's rights fighter). One describes in one long run-on sentence many of the reasons for a woman to be in the women's liberation movement--we're underpaid, if we want to get married we're out to trap a man, etc. The other lists heroes, all women, like Sojourner Truth and Indira Ghandi. I have to admit I don't recognize all the names, and one of my goals for the new year is to learn them.

I've had arguments with people who are convinced that we've achieved gender equality in this country. I assured them--and I assure you--we have not. Women have more rights and are treated more equal with men now than 50 years ago, but we still have much to fight for. Still, today I'm grateful for all the rights and privileges we do have. I can live alone. I'm attending school for my master's degree, and didn't have to get permission from a male relative to do so. When the time comes, I can start a family without a partner if I so choose. I can vote. I can earn my own money and do what I please with it.

These are things I mostly take for granted. My boss, the Rev. Debra Haffner, wrote a fantastic blog today about her experience at a women's rights' conference in Instabul, Turkey. These are women who, in my heart, I will add to my heroes poster. Read her blog here. And then give thanks for the women in your life (including yourself if you are one!), thanks for the freedom we enjoy in the U.S....and then find a way to help women around the world get the rights they deserve. Deb mentions a couple ways in her post; I'm sure you can find others.

They are all our sisters, whether they live in Iraq, the Sudan, Australia, or next door, and whether they practice Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, or nothing at all.

Blessings to you on this regular old Tuesday...and blessings to my sisters around the world. Peace be with you.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Rainy Monday in the Real World

It's Cyber Monday. For those who don't know what this is, it's not some futuristic holiday celebrating all things www. We are, I'm sure, all familiar with the tradition of insane shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving (although some stores actually started as early as 9pm ON Thanksgiving this year). Well, then we moved to the whole-weekend sales.

Now, apparently, American marketers have gone even further by making the Monday following Thanksgiving "Cyber Monday," in which all the sales are online. And why wouldn't they be? Everyone is back at work! Sure, what better way to help the economy than by stealing corporate America's productivity away? Hm, something's wrong with that picture...

I apologize if I sound a bit bitter this morning, but I am simply so tired of the buy, buy, buy mentality that is so pervasive in this country. Somehow the "I want" or "Wouldn't it be nice if I had" idea has shifted into "I have to have it," "I need it," and "I can't live without it." This is perhaps why so many Americans are living so much in debt, under the thumb of credit card companies. The need to buy new "stuff" all the time is everywhere. Generations before us used to use things until they absolutely just couldn't be used anymore. My parents had the same giant microwave (that my mother won in a raffle, I believe) for about 20 years. One of the knobs fell off at some point, but it still worked just fine. They got rid of it when my sister gave them a new one for their anniversary--because she thought they needed a new one, that actually had buttons, not dials. They were perfectly happy to use their old one until it broke. I still wonder how much more life that microwave had in it.

Then again, things today just aren't made to last that long. We live in a disposable world, and have the trash to prove it. Although we are a minority of the world's population, we produce a majority of the world's trash (I couldn't find the exact stats, so if anyone has them handy, send them along).

Ok, I'll leave you with that for now. I really need to get some homework done. It's going to be a busy week.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Quick thoughts

Due to a busy day and ensuing turkey coma Thursday, and spending my day researching yesterday, I've not had time to sit down and list what I was grateful for as I wanted to. However, in this very short note before I put my nose to the grindstone and write the paper that's due by midnight tonight, I wanted to share one person I'm grateful for: James Cone. Dr. Cone is a professor here at my seminary, and he was featured recently on "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS.

I happened to catch it last night, and I went to bed afterwards ready to take on the world, full of hope and conviction. He's an amazing man, and I miss getting to hear him preach...er, lecture...every week.

Here's the link to the video and transcript. Enjoy. And thanks, Prof. Cone, for inspiring me to find my own theological voice, and for continuing to have hope for our world. I'm so grateful.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Questions

I have been challenged by a fellow member of the Facebook group "Christian Bloggers Network" to blog on the following questions: What makes a great pastor/priest/minister? What makes a great church?

As a woman who is now formally in the process towards ordination, it occurs to me that I better know my answers to these two questions before I ever am called "Reverend" and hold the awesome responsibility of leading a parish. So here goes...

What makes a great pastor/priest/minister:

  • Love of God and love of people
  • Sense of humor
  • Daily personal prayer life/devotional time/spiritual centering
  • Commitment to serving God and the world
  • Ability to admit/share/display the fact that s/he is just as human, searching, doubting, and spiritual as each member of the congregation
  • Knowledge that s/he should be humble as an equal child of God to the parishioners, but also be able to claim the responsibility/power bestowed upon her/him at ordination
  • Good boundary setting
  • Listening skills--to people, and to the Spirit
  • Courage to try new things and step out of her/his--and the congregation's--comfort zone, and the wisdom to know when it's just not working/ not the right time/ people aren't ready
  • Enthusiasm
  • Dedication to constantly be expanding knowledge, skills, and experience

What makes a great church:

  • Love of God and each other
  • Compassion
  • Diversity of culture, socio-economic status, background, age, and point of view
  • Acceptance that diversity will sometimes cause difficulties, and knowledge that it's worth it anyway
  • Commitment to serving God, each other, and the world
  • Listening to each other
  • Enough money to keep the roof repaired, fund good programming, and give to others, but not so much that the church forgets Jesus' message
  • Welcoming of newcomers without forgetting to acknowledge those who've been there "forever"
  • Good cooks (wink, wink)
  • Lots of prayer
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ability to be led...and to lead
  • Dedication to constantly expanding knowledge, skills, and experiences

I encourage all of my readers who are in a church community to think about these questions yourselves. You may be surprised by your answers. Oh, and if you think I forgot something, please let me know!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Make Something Day

Many of you may have heard of a movement going on a few years now called "Buy Nothing Day." It's an anti-consumerism movement, slated for the day after Thanksgiving, a day Americans are especially told to buy, buy, buy!

Well, now another group has taken it a step further. They're a Christian group called the Ecclesia Collective (no relation to the homeless church movement) who figure that buying nothing that one day is great, but giving gifts is still very Christ-centered. So they've created Make Something Day. They encourage people to stay home the day after Thanksgiving and make your gifts instead.

Now, by now my faithful readers will know that I love making things--crocheting, quilting, pretty much anything I can do with my hands. This Christmas, while I'm not technically broke, I am trying to save up my money to pay off credit cards and save for a car and place to live once I graduate in May, so I'm planning on curbing my spending. I also will be in NYC and will have no desire to fight the masses of tourists at stores (I will have fought them the day before, at the parade).

So that means I will happily embrace Make Something Day. I tend to give lots of presents to people, not out of a need to buy things, but because I love giving gifts (it's one of my main love languages--don't know what I'm talking about? Learn about it here.) So though I am also short on time, I will attempt to make some of my gifts this year...oh, and maybe in the process finish up the gifts I started making last year. Hmm...there may be a lot of potholders under the tree this Christmas!

Got a great idea for a gift to make? Post a comment and share it with the rest of us!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fixing what's broke

This month, Congress has made two decisions regarding education, and both concern fixing ways of doing things that just aren't working

The first was an increase in funding for abstinence-only sex education. Despite the fact that multiple studies (including this one, just released) state that that this form of sexuality education does not work to prevent teen sexual activity/disease/pregnancy, and despite the fact that the Democrats said they'd fix it, instead they approved a $28 million increase in funding for it. This policy is broken--we need to fix it and give kids honest, accurate, and comprehensive sex ed.

The second decision was to delay the decision on reauthorizing 2001's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This law had good intentions and disastrous results. Again, there are plenty of studies which say basing achievement solely on standardized test scores doesn't work. It's turned our nations' schools into test prep centers. Kids do drills in math instead of art class or recess. Now certainly there is much in our public schools that needs improvement. Kids do need to know the basics of math and reading. They also need time to just run around and be social, and to explore art and music. They can't do any of those things as well if they're in classes of 30+, fed junk food, and their teachers are shelling out their own small paychecks to buy supplies like construction paper. NCLB doesn't fix any of those things, and perhaps the delay in reauthorization shows that Congress is paying attention to the widespread disappointment and disagreement with this law.

They way we teach our children--and what we teach them--affects them for so much longer than the 12-or-so years they're in school. Our government needs to stop ignoring the facts and fix what's broken. We need to make our voices heard on these issues. It does make a difference.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Ahh...remember these?

So on Friday, I ventured out into the cold rain to go to the branch location of the American Folk Art Museum to see an exhibition on quilts. This was required research for my senior project. Boy, let me tell you hard hard it is to force me to go see quilts (wink, wink)!

Anyway, it was a small exhibit, so to soothe myself for having to so quickly return to the streets (it's Christmas tourist season already here, and the branch is at Lincoln Center, added to the general crankiness of everyone in the rain just made it miserable), I stopped at the gift shop, where I purchased a Nantucket basket pin cushion, a quilt emory board, and a potholder loom. On the box, it says not to be suprised if just about everyone you know says they remember making potholders when they were children. Well, that's what I thought, and the lady beside me said almost the exact words on the box. Of course, she thought I was buying it for some lucky child to experience...but really it was for me!

So here's my potholder:

It's purple and gold, my alma mater's colors. It had great colors in it, and they were sweatshirt weight. The loops I used to use were neon and like nylons. Then again, it was the 80s. I'm thinking of ordering some of their wool loops and making more. It's a NH company, and the wool is spun there too. So good to be helping out the local companies, even better in the state where I grew up!

The best part about it was doing something with my hands. Being in grad school, I do a lot of work with my head. I just love when I get to engage my tactile nature!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Some happy and some sad

My day yesterday was quite a mix of emotions. First, we found out that a beloved alum of Union, Tim Fauvell, died of a heart attack Wednesday night, while in the company of two of his chaplain students (both of whom are friends of mine). They tried desperately to save him, but were unsuccessful. Tim had a great career on Broadway before going to seminary, and he absolutely loved his job as a pediatric chaplain. He was described yesterday as a shooting star, the one who enters a room and you think the lights came on, and as a chubby angel. In recognition of his love for the stage, and his love for God, we sang this song yesterday in chapel, in a special service remembering him:

Day by day. Day by day.
Oh dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

He will be missed.

And, on a more happy note, later that night I was unanimously approved to be received in care by my church, the first big step towards ordination. I'm sure Tim, who I met just a few times, was celebrating with me.

Blessed be.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Actually Pretty Easy Being Green

I'm not sure if I should be worried or celebrating. Right now, going "green"--changing practices and products to be more environmentally friendly--is all the rage. NBC Universal is running a week of green-themed programming that started Sunday, as part of their "Green is Universal" campaign. There was recently a fashion show in which all the models wore environmentally friendly clothes--made from bamboo, recycled materials, organic cotton.

In a way, all this is fabulous, because (1), it makes transforming my everyday, non-famous, low-income grad-student life green much easier and cheaper, and (2), it makes those of us that are eco-friendly already cool, not crunchy.

Therein lies the problem, however. What is cool one week can be totally out the next. If going green is just trendy, just a fad, (and with the sheer amount of coverage it's getting in every area of our lives, it's easy to believe it is), it'll go out of style like slouch socks and synthesized music. People will go back to what's easier, more convenient. Environmentally-friendly products and services will be harder to find and therefore more expensive, so even more people will stop using them.

Hopefully, though, it will catch on and become so mainstream that people get dirty looks if they use plastic bags at the grocery store. Or buy regular incandescent light bulbs (seriously, if you haven't changed to compact flourescent yet, walk away from your computer and do it--or hey, order them online!). I'm not saying we should be mean to each other, but it's the (sad) fact that the perceived thoughts of the society around us do influence the way we act.

I think perhaps the way to make this last is to make it a movement, not a trend. Like civil rights and women's lib, we need to take a stand and fight for what's right. The government certainly won't change its policies based on what's trendy. Patterns show they rarely make changes even for the truth (like the fact that abstinence-only sex education doesn't work, and the fact that most Americans want low-income kids to receive health care through S-CHIP. But I digress).

So I would urge you--and I'll do the same--to take a moment today to do something for the environment that makes you part of the movement to take better care of the Earth and its inhabitants, rather than just making you part of the trend. Here are some suggestions:

  • Write an e-mail to your representatives urging them to make environmentally-conscious decisions

  • Donate money to a worthy cause that helps farmers grow organically, or cleans up the oceans

  • Go to http://www.therainforestsite.com/ and (for free!) save a little bit of the rainforest

  • If you invest, look into putting "green stocks" in your portfolio

  • Make eco-changes with a child, and talk about why you're doing it

  • Investigate ways to make changes at your workplace--here in NYC, I know of at least one law firm that has gone completely paper free. Perhaps your company doesn't need to be so drastic, but at least try make sure they're recycling and not using styrofoam cups!

  • For you churchy folk, think about your coffee hour: styrofoam cups? Disposable everything? Financially it's tight, I know, but what message are you sending about being stewards of God's creation?

Have more suggestions? Share them! Have good/bad greening experiences? By all means, send them on, Eco-Warriors! With any luck, my future great-grandkids will wonder why we had to fight at all.

Hm, on second thought, that'd be nice for civil rights and women's lib, too.

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