Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wisdom from a 5 year-old

I was holding my five year-old daughter as we sang in church a few weeks ago. I often wonder what she is thinking as she listens to the music. On this particular Sunday I didn't have to wonder. She leaned over to whisper in my ear, "Do you know what I like about birthdays?"

"What do you like about birthdays?", I replied.

In true five year-old fashion she smiled and said, "You get bigger and you get to eat cake!"

With that she happily laid her head on my shoulder. I thought the conversation was over until she perked up and asked, "Do you know what I don't like about birthdays?"

I bit, and said, "No, tell me what you what you don't like about birthdays."

She thought for a moment and said, "Your favorite shoes don't fit good anymore."

Let me be the first to acknowledge my parental bias (If you think I'm bad you should talk to her grandparents), but God reminded me of a profound truth through the words of my daughter.

As we grow, things change. Yes, it's exciting to move forward, to celebrate, to grow. But it also means that we say goodbye to some things that were very comfortable to us in the past. I have seen that in many aspects recently. Our church is moving forward. Yes, we're making mistakes as we do it, but the general direction seems to be where God is leading. And as things change and we grow, the old systems of how things were done are suddenly uncomfortable. I'm not saying that they were wrong and we've moved beyond them to more enlightened ways, I'm saying that as churches grow, old patterns are replaced with new ones. And many of the old patterns have fit well and been very comfortable. But growth calls us to move on. To find new "shoes" that fit and that enable us to do all that God has called us to do. I think this may have something to do with what Jesus said about "wineskins".

You know what I like about growth? It means we're alive.

You know what I don't like about growth? Sometimes it can be painful.

That's wisdom, gleaned from my five year old. Out of the mouths of babes.

An email from Steve Bell

Here is a mass email I got from Steve Bell. He has alot of good things to say, especially as he writes on Jesus' concern for the poor. I've posted it here because it gives a great overview to a big subject as well as linking to some very good resources. Enjoy...

Steve Bell - in support of the Make Poverty History Campaign.

Hello all – this email is a bit lengthy I know, but it concerns a matter of utmost concern to us all. I would be grateful if you would take a moment for a careful read.

Just before heading off with my wife Nanci to Guatemala in March, a friend of mine gave me a stack of Time Magazines to read on the plane. Perhaps because of our destination I was immediately drawn to the cover of the March 14/ 05 edition, titled How to End Poverty, which featured an article by Jeffrey Sachs on the issue of extreme poverty in the world.

Quick Facts:

● There are presently 1.8 billion people living in extreme poverty. These are people living on less than one dollar a day. Extreme poverty is described as “poverty that kills.”

● About 30,000 children die every 24 hours from preventable causes and disease. This means that every three seconds, a child dies. (As an exercise, snap you fingers every three seconds for a couple of minutes and let the reality of what that means sink in.)

The article tells of the grinding poverty in areas like Africa’s Sub Saharan Malawi; families ravaged by the “perfect storm of human deprivation, one that brings together climactic disaster, impoverishment, the AIDS pandemic and the long-standing burdens of malaria, schistosomiasis and other diseases.” These stories are hardly new to anyone who watches television or reads the news. But the article does not tarry long on these familiar, depressing descriptions before moving on to a visionary discussion of the complexity of poverty, exposing as false the popular myths of poverty’s root causes (laziness, corruption, misrule, etc.) as well as the prevailing myth of Western generosity.

Jeffrey Sachs is an American economist who has traveled the world, from Bolivia to Malawi, and seen poverty at its worst. He has been an economic adviser to many foreign governments. From his academic base as director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, he is a close associate of Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, and key figure in the UN Millennium Project to combat global poverty.

U2 fans would be interested to know that Jeffrey Sachs is the man Bono chose to teach him the nuances of global economic dynamics implicated by the Aids pandemic and the world’s poor.

Consider a statement that has kept me awake into the wee hours of many a morning since: “We are the first generation with the plan, the technology and the money to end world poverty. What we don’t have is the will.”

Since reading the article I sought out the wisdom of Stuart Clark who is the Senior Policy Advisor at the Canadian Food Grains Bank. Stuart patiently explained to me that although individuals in the west are quite generous when faced with these issues, direct money and food aid is only temporarily helpful. In fact, sometimes it is more harmful than good. What is necessary is a concerted, intelligent and thoughtful effort by the world’s richest nations to eradicate poverty by promoting:

● Fair Trade (as opposed to Free Trade)

● The total elimination of insurmountable third world debt (many developing countries have debt with annual interest payments that exceed the country’s total health and education budget combined.)

● More and better aid from the world’s richest countries (the kind of money needed here is roughly a yearly increase of 50 billion per year. By way of contrast, the world’s governments invested 900 billion in arms in 2003.)

What Stuart was helping me to understand, is that it doesn’t help to finger wag and brow beat individuals into giving more to charities - although individual giving is an extremely important thing. Temporary relief remains temporary if the blocks to development are not systematically removed. What we need is for the citizens of the wealthy countries to insist their governments carry through on the promises made at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit where 191 countries met and agreed to practically address and eradicate extreme poverty by adhering to and implementing the 8 Development Goals set out by the summit. (For a list and brief description of these goals visit

Anyway, the reason I am writing here and now is that one of the commitments made was that the richest nations of the world would contribute annually 0.7% of their Gross National Income to finance the development goals. So far, Canada has yet to meet half of that target. Actually, Canada currently gives only 0.3% of Gross National Income to foreign aid. That is only 1/3 of a penny for every dollar earned. The US has done no better. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have all exceeded their commitments.

Recently in Ottawa, finance minister Goodale met with Jeffrey Sachs and in conversation admitted that although Canada can certainly afford to honour its 0.7% GNI commitment, there simply isn’t the political will to do so.

That’s where we come in. This is where our vote matters. This is where the world begins to hear that preventable poverty is not only a moral outrage but a primary Christian concern as well.

Recently reading through the gospels I find it rather compelling that the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary signals the leveling of power and economic disparity: “How he scatters the proud and the haughty ones! He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” Later, when John the Baptist is heralding the coming reign of God and his hearers are moved to respond, John uses re-distributivist language to define proper preparation: “If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Then, shortly after his desert trial, at the onset of his ministry, our Lord says of himself “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor…”

In his most famous sermon Christ insists his followers display a rather unlikely largess toward enemies and even the ungrateful. In the end, his teaching is clear, those who are friends of Christ are known as such by their disregard for their own security, “don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing,” and for practical acts of kindness and compassion, “when you do it to the least of these, you do it unto me.”

Recently I was encouraged to learn that Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life), Billy Graham and John Stott have publicly endorsed the Make Poverty History campaign - as have the likes of Jim Wallis (Sojourners magazine) and Brian McLaren (A New Kind of Christian). In an email Rick Warren recently sent to 800,000 folks on his list, he wrote, “I deeply believe that if we as evangelicals remain silent and do not speak up in defense of the poor, we lose our credibility and our right to witness about God’s love for the world: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17, NIV) He continues, “We are blessed to be a blessing to others, and certainly America, as the most blessed nation on our planet, has the greatest obligation to help those who are stuck in poverty around the world.”

This July 6-8 at the 2005 G8 Summit, hosted by the British government in Gleneagles, Tony Blair has promised to make the Millennium Development goals a primary topic. Before then, governments need to hear from their citizens that these are concerns we expect them to address. There are many ways to do this, here are four:

● The most important thing to do right now is to log on to the Make Poverty History and Micah Challenge websites listed below and register your name in support of the world’s poor. Governments take notice of people movements.

● Start reading. The resources listed below are full of nuanced information to help us understand the complexity of poverty as well as the achievable solutions to an unacceptable situation.

● Develop awareness among your friends and social groups, churches and e-community. Feel free to quote this letter, in part, or in its entirety. Encourage individuals to visit these sights to register their names. Governments do respond to these things.

● Order white arm bands from http://www.makepovertyhistory/ site and give them to friends to wear for the next several months.

Here are some helpful websites - make sure you sign on to any petition offered:

Action (Canadian) (US)

The Canadian site offers prewritten emails and letters to government MPs and the Prime Minister. It will even find your MP and his or her email address for you when you type in your postal code. Be sure to watch the 30 second movie they’ve produced AND order white armbands to wear and give to your friends. (Canadian) (US)

These sites are the Canadian and American sites which represent the coalition of Evangelical Christians who endorse the Millennium Development Goals and the Make Poverty History campaign. Please find and sign the petition.


This is the best site I’ve found for a quick educational overview of the Make Poverty History Campaign. Click on the link for the campaign and follow the side bar issues. You can also find a quick two person skit that can easily be performed at your Church on a Sunday morning as part of an awareness campaign.

This is home for the Bread For The World Institute, a Faith based group seeking justice for the hungry by engaging in research and education on policies related to hunger and development. Click on “who we are” on the sidebar, then click on “Receive our free 12 page booklet: What You Can Do to End Hunger.” This would be a great resource to pass on to friends and pastors.

This is Jeffrey Sachs’ site. It is full of good information. I also encourage you to purchase and read his recent book, The End of Poverty. It is a lengthy read, but well written, terribly interesting and aimed at folks like me who don’t have a lot of background in global studies.

This is the UN’s site dedicated to the Millennium Development Goals. At the site, click on “The Goals” at the top bar and read what follows. At the bottom you can select the goals individually for more detail.

Thanks for taking time to read this through. Besides your own personal giving to good charities, a few moments of your time to sign on to the various petitions at the above sites will send a powerful message to our governments about how we expect our nations to be compassionate world citizens. Please resist cynicism. We simply need to speak out on behalf of those whose voice is not being heard.


Steve Bell

Ps: I would appreciate public response to this email. You can go to my website at , click on “conversation” and make comments, suggestions, and report creative ways you may have for spreading information about this campaign.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Anybody want a peanut?

This for all you Princess Bride lovers...

Inigo Montoya: That Vizzini, he can *fuss*.
Fezzik: Fuss, fuss... I think he like to scream at *us*.
Inigo Montoya: Probably he means no *harm*.
Fezzik: He's really very short on *charm*.
Inigo Montoya: You have a great gift for rhyme.
Fezzik: Yes, yes, some of the time.Vizzini: Enough of that!
Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead!
Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it!
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?

Does your desk reflect your soul?

I have a theory - the state of my desk often reflects the state of my soul. If that's true, then my soul is currently in quite a mess. That doesn't mean I'm living in disobedience, it just means that I need to restore some balance, to recenter myself around Jesus. The mess stems from too much to do in too little time, coupled with some very emotionally draining challenges. Goal #1 this week is a little re-calibration. What do you think of my theory? How do you gauge the state of your soul?

Our Graduates...

Rob and Heather, our adopted (sort of) children just graduated from High School.

Just had to say congrats to two of the neatest kids around!!

Sorry for the long silence...

I've been away from the blog for over three weeks. Sorry for to two of you who consistently read this. There has been much going on in my pastor world, and many of my thoughts have been of a confidential nature. That has kept me from sharing my musings with cyberspace, as well as sucked away a lot of my creative energy. But now I am back. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Facts every Christian should know...

From emergesque

You really should take a look at this.

Anne Lamott writes...

"You KNOW that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people that you do. "

Back in the Saddle again...

Well, I'm back from vacation, even though most of my time was spent at home. It was nice to be out of the office for a few weeks. I threw myself, with the help of some other friends, into landscaping my backyard. It's gone through quite a transformation. (I'll post some pictures here in the coming weeks.) And as usual, I found there to be something very therapeutic about working with my hands and getting a little dirty. It was nice to see some tangible evidence of my efforts when the day was done. Tangible evidence is not always there in "pastoral" work. So I'm returning from my six day a week, manual labor vacation to my "one day a week" pastor job. I'm physically tired, but mentally refreshed. Maybe this blog will show some evidence of that fact over the next little while. Thanks for being patient while I was away!