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Thanksgiving Dinner as Communion


Thanksgiving is on our minds this week here in the USA and many of us look forward to it as a time with family. I have not been one to enjoy any holidays since I grew up and began to work up a sweat and develop painful muscles to celebrate them. I also struggle with how to fit into other people’s kitchens and how to make food that will “pass” other cooks’ high standards! Pies are big at holidays, and I don’t do pies well.

Flanders, Netherlands

Flanders, Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this year will be different.

Last month another of Henri JM Nouwen’s books, ‘Life of the Beloved’ transformed my rough and negative thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Here are the words that spoke to me.

“Isn’t a meal together the most beautiful expression of our desire to be given to each other in our brokenness? The table, the food, the drinks, the words,the stories: Are they not the most intimate ways in which we not only express the desire to give our lives to each other, but also to do this in actuality? I very much like the expression “breaking bread together,” because there the breaking and the giving are so clearly one. When we eat together we are vulnerable to one another. Around the table we can’t wear weapons of any sort. Eating from the same bread and drinking from the same cup call us to live in unity and peace. This becomes very visible when there is a conflict. Then eating and drinking together can become a truly threatening even; then the meal can become the most dreaded moment of the day. We all know about painful silences during dinner. They contrast starkly with the intimacy of eating and drinking together, and the distance between those sitting around the table can be unbearable.

On the other hand, a really peaceful and joyful meal together belongs to the greatest moments of life.”

Originally, I had urged my husband to join the extended family at Thanksgiving imagining that I would just be thankful to be at home enjoying a nice Swanson’s TV Turkey dinner as I relaxed alone with our dogs, avoiding the stress and confusion of what I should be doing each and every moment of that festive day.

But, I had a paradigm change when I realized that we are a family who gets along pretty well and we have an opportunity to break bread together with three generations, modeling love and friendship to our grandchildren. This Thanksgiving won’t be about my feeling minor discomforts, but about sharing love and of course, Thanking God for all His provision!

Remarkably, my worries about what food I’ll offer this Thanksgiving have subsided. Everyone else loves this holiday and they are super cooks, so I get off easy and I’m accepting this gracefully!  I’ve concluded that most of my worries about fitting in were just a lot of insecurity, anyway. I’m too old for that!

Give Me Your Tired Your Poor


Give me your tired, your poor...

Give me your tired, your poor… (Photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer)

Do you know any poor, hungry children?

A friend recently posted a film exposing the hunger problem here in the USA. It surprised me, that I’ve become so isolated from what must be large sections of the United States where hunger is a problem. See the excerpt here:

A Place At The Table

The film makes the point that in America we don’t think a child is severely hungry unless he or she looks like a skin-and-bones sub-Saharan sufferer. But all body types can qualify. In fact, as Raj Patel, the author of “Stuffed & Starved,” says, hunger and obesity, so often founded on cheap carbohydrates, are closely linked. “They are both signs of insufficient foods you need to be healthy.”

Many in our country will counter that the poor are hungry because they don’t know how to manage their lives. One such writer is Paul Roderick Gregory writing from the “front lines” for Forbes Magazine.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2013/06/09/poverty-and-hunger-in-america-a-letter-from-the-front-line/

What are the real statistics? Who cares?

Here’s what I found from a reliable US source: http://www.bread.org/

Hunger and Poverty Facts

Heather Rude-Turner depends on EITC (earned income tax credit) to help support her family

Hunger

  • 14.5 percent of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table. More than 48 million Americans—including 16.2 million children—live in these households.
    Source: Household Food Security in the United States, 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2011. (Table 1A, Table 1B)  
  • More than one in five children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, nearly one in three children is at risk of hunger.
    Source: Household Food Security in the United States, 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2011. (Table 1B, Table 3).

Child Nutrition

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)

Food Spending

  • Low-income households already spend a greater share of their income on food. Food accounts for 16.4 percent of spending for households making less than $10,000 per year compared to the U.S. average of 12.7 percent.
    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2006.

Obesity/Nutrition

  • Participation in federal nutrition programs reduces the risk of girls becoming overweight by increasing access to an adequate, nutritious diet. School-aged girls enrolled in SNAP, school lunch, and school breakfast programs are 68 percent less likely to be overweight than food-insecure girls who do not participate in the programs.
    Source: Lower Risk of Overweight in School-aged Food-Insecure Girls Who Participate in Food Assistance. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vul. 157, No. 8, pp. 780-784, August 2003.

Poverty

More than one in seven people in the United States lives below the poverty line, which is $22,113 for a family of four in 2010. More than one in five children in the United States lives below the poverty line. Source: 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplements from the Current Population Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2011. 

  • Most Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65.
    Source: Urban Institute, Transitioning In and Out of Poverty, 2007. 
  • 65 percent of low-income families have at least one working family member, and 79 percent of single mothers who head households work.
    Source: Income, Earnings, and Poverty data from the 2010 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2011. 
  • In most areas, a family of four needs to earn twice the poverty line to provide children with basic necessities.
    Source: National Center for Children in Poverty, Budgeting for Basic Needs, March 2009.  
  • Nationally, more than 44 percent of children live in low-income working families (families who earn less than twice the poverty line).
    Source: Income, Earnings, and Poverty data from the 2010 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2011.
  • A person working full-time at the minimum wage earns about $14,500 a year. The official poverty line for a family of three—one parent with two children—is $17,568.

Further Reading

Spotlight: Hunger and Poverty among African Americans

Did you know? One in four African-Americans lives below the federal poverty line, compared to about one in eight Americans overall.

As I was growing up, I seldom had fresh produce except what was in season from our garden in the summer. We ate a very basic diet consisting of canned and packaged foods bought once a month at a grocery store seven miles away. Our luxuries were beef, chicken, and tuna fish, never fresh fish. The vegetables we ate were carrots, potatoes and cabbage and green beans all very well cooked English and German style, seasoned only with salt and pepper. Our treats were baked bread, pies and other sweets.

To this day, I fight my craving for carbs and obesity haunts my body as it did my mom’s and many in her family. Thanks in part to our having access to fresh produce in grocery stores (a modern lifestyle) we eat very differently than mom and I did back in the 50’s and 60’s. However, mom read the latest nutritional findings and did the best she could. Health standards have changed a lot since I was a child.

I just wish that people making the decisions in Washington would step out of their imaginary” front lines” and visit the areas where people claim to be hungry. Give these families an afternoon of their time, and listen for their hungry bellies growling. Maybe it is all “manufactured”…but what if it isn’t?

*

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/201371892231367525.html

Currents Of Joy


Dead plant in pots

Dead plant in pots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m changing the title of my blog from Connecting tha Dots to Currents of Joy.  Newer themes may reflect a difference in my points of view after years of struggle to reach a place of peace with where I am in this world.

The title comes from a book by Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Lifesigns“,  which our Little Fork couples group has just finished reading.

Here’s a quote: “Thus, celebration goes beyond ritual, custom and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid “current of joy“.

Last night was the point of change. A friend wrote that a Peace plant that I gave her several years ago had died after she’d been away from home for several weeks.

She felt sad, and I understood, but wrote back to say that the death was indeed sad, but the plant stood for much more which still remained. We could celebrate our friendship which is still alive!

At last, light at the end of the tunnel…God is love and there is no fear in love or change, even in the death of a Peace plant.

Accept Same-Sex Marriage, Or…?


Same-sex marriage counter protest at the anti ...

Same-sex marriage counter protest at the anti gay marriage rally (Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue)

Last week I wrote about a dilemma regarding same-sex relationships. One person wrote me saying that; 1. I was brave to speak out 2. He thinks that a lot of people feel the same way but aren’t expressing it.

I’m glad a lot of people didn’t jump on my “bandwagon”. That’s not why I wrote it.

I suspect these silent people aren’t easy to stereotype.  They aren’t people who demonstrate against or won’t associate with same-sex couples. I believe many of them, like me, may value gay teachers who teach our children well. Perhaps they are like Dan Cathy. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/01/chick-fil-a-ceo-and-gay-activist-are-now-friends/

We are also people of faith who simply believe in the biblical definition of traditional marriage and resist being forced by Federal Law into approving a lifestyle which violates a clear Biblical prohibition. This is not at all like slavery or equality of women which could be justified by implication from Scripture but which was later addressed:

Galatians 3:28

New International Version (NIV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Of course, our country is made up of many people with diverse belief systems and it is not a Christian Theocracy. I don’t believe we should ban same-sex relationships as illegal, but as I listened today to pundits discussing the future of politics, and read yesterday about how politicians will have to “evolve” to affirm “Gay Marriage“, I sensed a chilling trend.

Won’t this mean that people with a desire to serve in politics and to bring about justice but who also hold Biblical convictions (often a morally steadying influence) may no longer be qualified for office because there will be a new litmus test…Endorsement of Same-Sex marriage?

I fault the religious right as much as the left for bringing us to this place in our society. How would Christ respond to couples in same-sex relationships? Certainly not like many Christians who have either avoided them in fear and confusion, demonstrated against them in our schools and organizations, or threatened and killed them. No wonder they are angry and feel the need to defend themselves legally.

I found the following article from the Witherspoon Institute, Public Discourse, describes quite well the pressures felt by people with Biblical convictions.  A quote from the article follows. I will appreciate your comments.

“Either the Supreme Court creates a new fundamental right to same-sex “marriage” or it preserves religious liberty.”

Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the Ban Myth | Public Discourse.

For discussion:

The Hazards of Speaking Up for Palestine


Security Barrier between Israel and West Bank/...

Security Barrier between Israel and West Bank/Palestine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve told my story before, how I grew up unreservedly Christian in the United States and accepted the importance of Israel in our (Christian) lineage and prophecy.

When I met a Nazi prison camp survivor during my college years, I was overcome with emotion. He was sitting across from me at a “dish-to-pass” we held each week at the Messianic congregation I attended in Philadelphia.

These were the years when the JDL (Jewish Defense League) was threatening to attack Messianic congregations in Philadelphia. Each Sunday, as we worshiped in our little storefront building on Chestnut Street, danger was palpable.  Heads would cautiously turn towards the front door each time it opened during the sermon, wondering what to expect.

I counted it a privilege and honor to be a part of my Jewish friends’ suffering for their rights to worship as they wished.

For years, I never questioned my high view of Israel. Meeting a Jewish person was, for me, like meeting a celebrity, because they were “God’s Chosen”.

The first time I realized others in the world didn’t support Israel in the same way that Americans did was in Indonesia. A good friend asked us why America always sided politically with Israel against the Arab world.

I hadn’t realized there were sides.

This was the first step in my education which continued as we traveled across the world and then returned home to host international students who held very different opinions from traditional American views.

This was especially clear as we discussed international issues with our Arab students, especially the one from Palestine.

We selected Ahmed because he listed his home as the “West Bank“, and we wanted to learn about him.

His stories were wildly different from the beatific scenes we associated with Israel. Were they possibly true? We began to read up on this area and ask questions. One book was unforgettable, “Blood Brothers”, by Brother Elias Chacour.   http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Brothers-Dramatic-Palestinian-Christian/dp/0800793218

Blogs were written about life in Israel contrasting it with the very poor conditions behind a wall separating it from the West Bank/Palestine.

I wanted to see for myself, so Jon and I took several trips to visit our Palestinian students, and then met Palestinian Christians who told the same stories about Israeli abuses.

When one is meeting a diverse (Christian, Muslim, educated, working class) group of people and all writers from that area are telling similar stories you cannot afford to dismiss their story lines as fantasy.

So, I resolved to return home as an advocate for the Palestinians to tell their stories. I am not

Bantustans, Palestine 2006

Bantustans, Palestine 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

anti-Israeli, but I will not cover up what they do.

It hasn’t been popular to speak up for Palestinians, but I’ve had it easy.

Others, like Steven Sizer, who has a prominent place in the UK, has his way of life threatened.

Read on:

Stephen Sizer: Craig Murray Responds to anti-Semitism Allegations.

The solution to gun violence is clear ?


Washington, D.C. firefighter

This morning firefighters responded to a fire in Webster, NY.  Two of them were shot dead before they could begin fighting the fire. Two others were wounded. The shooter has not been found. The fire continues.

Still, according to Fareed Zakaria* our country has 5 % of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s guns which we fail to regulate regardless of mass shootings in malls, churches and schools. Young mentally ill boys have killed our nation’s children. Now, someone has attacked our firefighters, a group our nation highly honors.

Most Americans center on three or four reasons for the violence in our country:

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, blames it on the “Little Monsters”, young men who play violent video games and watch too much violence on tv and in movies. He says we need armed officers in every school.

President Obama and most media pundits are speaking out about a need to regulate access to certain types of automatic guns and their ammunition.

Others are calling for better mental health care screening.

I wrote about the serious effect of divorce on our children.

What will break through the bottleneck in congress which will help them pass needed legislation without violating our rights? What is it about a person’s gun that makes this legislation different than seat belt legislation, or helmet legislation for motor cycles, use of cell phones while driving?

*Fareed Zakaria writes his opinions framing them from a world perspective in the following article.  This quote below will give you the gist of his thinking.

“The Japanese are at the cutting edge of the world of video games. Yet their gun homicide rate is close to zero! Why?”

via Fareed Zakaria: The solution to gun violence is clear – The Washington Post.

Points of Light


Each Christmas season we hang a star exactly like the one in the picture outside on our porch. At the end off each point is a tiny hole where the light shines through. It’s at it’s best if there are no other lights visible around it. We usually keep it burning all night long through the Christmas season. It is especially stunning on the darkest nights.

Moravian Star

Moravian Star (Photo credit: Urban Sea Star)

When our students have asked us its significance we’ve explained that it is a “Moravian Star”, a symbol of the Moravians who took Jesus’ Love to all points of the earth. Each point of the star represents the light of His love.

When I began writing this blog three years ago I wasn’t interested in writing an “inspirational” blog filled with verses and positive advice nor anything remotely home oriented. Nor could I write theology very adeptly.

I was mostly interested in Politics, International Affairs, Justice and Faith and telling the truth about life as I saw it. I imagined reaching into several countries where this particular type of blog might be of interest to someone. Little did I guess how many people might share my interests. At this point I have readers from 123 different countries and every state in the USA.

I am most honored to have readers from countries where I have lived and visited: Indonesia, The Philippines, UK, France, Holland, Singapore, Ecuador, Tunisia, Palestine, and Israel. I’m thrilled that people are reading my blog inside Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria and Syria where I may never visit! I like to think this blog is a bit of a Moravian Star for them, shining into their dark nights!

What a responsibility I feel to shine brightly and wisely.

All in all, over thirteen thousand people have taken a peek at the words written here, reminding me of the responsibility I have before God to represent my faith and beliefs with integrity.

Possibly, one reason people read this blog is to find out one American’s perspective on the happenings in the world.  Perhaps they come here expecting one thing and leave with a little different impression. I’d like to think so.  I love to think that my views might make a difference in someone’s life. Who knows?

Since my faith is very important to me, I usually write about current events through the lens of faith. I suspect this appeals to people who also find faith important. I hope my writing reflects how much I love and honor God and Christ.

I wish I were a better writer, but I write simply and frankly. It may come from many years of living overseas and teaching ESL, trying to make myself understood effectively and efficiently. I have little patience with “wordiness” when I can get to the point immediately.

So,  I want to thank everyone who reads my blog, despite its many shortcomings. You warm my heart and fuel my soul! Please, write in and let me know about yourselves. Thanks!

I wish you rich blessings in the New Year, 2013!