Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There comes a shaking...

I'm sitting on my couch, minding my own business, watching the pilot episode of Samantha Who? when there comes the sound of a freight train and the swaying of the house. We had ourselves a quake - a 5.6 quake. (Please note that the quality is "excellent.") Not the big one, but the moderate one. It would probably vote for John McCain. Apparently, there have been a number of aftershocks but I've only felt maybe one. Of course, I called my parents, which is comforting for me, but less so for them.

In addition to the ground, there has been some shaking of the public relations sort at the Khaki Khonglomerate (KK). This weekend there was a report in a UK newspaper claiming that some Kids Khakis were being made by, well, kids in India. Mad scramble to release statements, president and SVP of Social Responsibility on GMA, etc. Turns out, we have 2,000 factories worldwide, 10% of which are in India. The KK does extensive monitoring of all overseas operations and child labor is an absolute deal-breaker. Obviously, this situation was leaped upon and the facts came to light. One of our factories there subcontracted out to another factory, which is against our policy, and they didn't tell us. Our team went in, found out what was going on, and are evaluating next steps. The main factory that caused this employs 4,000 people and for it to be immediately shut down has a huge economic impact on the area, so the situation is being evaluated responsibly. The product made will not be sold. So feel free to use those Friends & Family cards, folks. No children were used to make the clothing you put on your children.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Two quotes diverged in a wood...

From Christianity Today, the following quotes:

"The righteous have dominion, but only through imprecatory prayer against the ungodly."

- Wiley S. Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, California, urging Christians to pray against Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"The emphasis I tried to leave was love … that they need to have love for the people who were opposed to them."

- Billy Graham, on his relationship with 11 presidents.

The most shocking thing about that first quote? A Southern Baptist used the word "imprecatory." Unfortunately, old Wiley isn't up on his Baptist history. Separation of church and state is kind of a big deal for Baptists. Southern Baptists should never speak in public. Ever. Richard Land should speak for all of them - not because I agree with him, but because he is intelligent, well-spoken and thoughtful.

Billy Graham's quote is one of the main reasons he will be remembered for generations and Wiley will not, except maybe as a crazy person. Calling down curses on the "ungodly," and defining "ungodly" as anyone who disagrees with you is probably not the most effective evangelism tool out there. As Billy Graham's time on this earth draws to a close, we can all look to the example of his life as not perfect, but obedient. He used a method that was honest for him to communicate God's love to the world.

So, to all the Wileys of the world - sit down, shut up, and love your neighbor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Isn't it Ironic?

Heidi Fleiss is a vegetarian. I'm just saying...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

In the Valley of Elah

Paul Haggis is the man behind the film who has now come in front of the film and is making some of the most poignant films of our time. The writer/director of Crash and the writer of Million Dollar Baby has now brought us In the Valley of Elah, the story of a man investigating the murder of his son who has recently returned from a tour in Iraq.

Tommy Lee Jones plays retired Sargent Deerfield, a Vietnam Vet who had worked CID for 30 years and now hauls gravel. He is awakened by a phone call from the base telling him that his son, who has just returned, is AWOL and has 48 hours to return to the base. Suspecting foul play, Jones heads out to Fort Rudd in New Mexico to check it out. Deerfield is a study in creases. His clothes are perfect. His bed is perfect. His shoes are perfectly shined and placed next to his bed at night. His life is a carefully crafted rhythm of habits intended to create the illusion that all is right with the world. He is stoic, forthright and abrupt. Life is a puzzle to be solved, and he always has the answer.

Deerfield arrives in New Mexico to a less than warm reception from the MP and the local police detective, played by Charlize Theron trying very hard not to be pretty. When unknown remains are found near a local road and jurisdiction is volleyed between local police and the MP, things get tricky as Deerfield's instincts kick in and he makes enemies on all sides. The remains are discovered to be those of Michael Deerfield and as the story unfolds, Deerfield begins to unravel.

Few actors can rival Morgan Freeman in the area of gravitas, but Jones gives him a run for his money in this role. He should teach a class in how to have your eyes well up without a single tear falling - ever. The downward spiral is subtle for most, but cataclysmic for a man whose life is so calculated. First, he is caught by Theron in the laundromat and is forced to wear an un-ironed, not-quite-dry shirt. Then he takes a sip of beer. Then a cigarette. Then a shot of JD. He begins to sleep later and later. The hotel bed once carefully made, now comes undone underneath the tossing and turning of his inner turmoil and it is of no interest to him.

This story is about fighting fear and defeating giants. The title of the film is a biblical reference to the valley where Goliath would come out and challenge the army of Israel to come and fight him and where he was ultimately defeated by David. What Haggis has done is take his typical style of weaving together many intersecting stories and created levels of symbol in one story. Jones' character descends from a place of solid, protective presence to one of unhinged chaos - a clear picture of the place of the United States in the world. But who is David and who is Goliath? In this story, we are all both.

As this film is set against the current war in Iraq, we can't help but see the obvious picture of the US as Goliath, but this film shows us both the internal and external Goliaths that loom equally large. Externally, Jones was up against the local police, the military police and his wife as he searched for what happened to his son. Internally, he was faced with his own fear, memories of his own war experience, and the knowledge that he could pinpoint the moment when his son needed him most and he wasn't there for him.

My major takeaway from this film is that things cannot continue as they are. A particularly heartbreaking moment in the film is when Jones is cleaning out his son's barracks and a young, still-pimpled recruit moves in to the space and Jones looks at him with abject pity for what he's about to experience. We are in a war that has no foreseeable end, is costing us billions of dollars but is costing us more in what damage is being done to those who are returning. We are creating a generation of men and women who have witnessed unspeakable tragedies and have no way to cope except by diminishing their own humanity and that of those around them. Ironic for an ardently pro-life administration. This has got to stop. We have a power-hungry, war-mongering administration and an impotent, non-binding-resolution-drafting Congress and people are dying in droves, and not just physically. When will it end?

Happiness is...

  • Sleeping late on Saturday morning
  • Coffee, coffee, coffee
  • Watching an absolutely riveting performance by George Clooney in the brilliant Michael Clayton (honorary Oscars go to the dark circles under Clooney's eyes and Tilda Swinton's Spanx)
  • A walk in Golden Gate Park on a warm, sunny October afternoon
  • Stumbling upon a showcase of local artists and being inspired
  • Coming up with a freaking GENIUS idea for the Advent Art Group
  • Walking into a neighborhood bar and watching the Cowboys beat the Vikings
  • Making a big dish of chicken enchiladas for dinner with a friend and having leftovers for the rest of the week
  • Near-full sign-up sheets for the kids in Africa
  • Having a deep conversation with a friend after seeing the amazing, stunningly well-done In the Valley of Elah (review to be posted)
  • Having great friends, co-ministers and family with me along the journey
  • My Monday morning ritual of waking up early, putting on the coffee and curling up to watch Brothers & Sisters on the interwebs

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Introversion and Independence

I am an introvert. Not a shrinking violet, but an introvert. I recharge by being alone. This morning, as I was walking in GG Park (alone) I was thinking about the difference between being an introvert and being independent. I think that most of my life I have erroneously believed that the combination of my introversion and my fairly strong independent streak makes me a self-contained unit. This is not the case. I am both an introvert and independent but that doesn't mean I am without dependence. I need the people of my community. I need to take breaks from them, to be sure, but I need them.

Bruce posted yesterday about what he's learned from his friends, and I want to say - Seriously? Get out of my brain! I was totally thinking something similar just this week. I have amazing people in my life and I'm so thankful for all we can be for each other and all we can learn from each other. I am, however, going to stop short of posting a cheesy song. Gratitude does not equal schmaltz.

This week I had the incredibly pleasant experience of having a flat tire on 280 while on my home from Trader Joe's. My friend Kenny helped me. A lot. Without my friend Gina, I would never go to the gym. My connection to the worship team folks motivates me to keep up my own spiritual practices. My fabulous co-workers motivate me to stay on top of my work load. Yesterday, my dad talked me through adding power steering fluid to my car.

As I get older and learn more I am increasingly comfortable relaxing into the space community provides. It's not the easiest thing for me, but I'm glad that those with whom I am in community are patient with my weirdness and community impairment.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Perhaps I'm not as cool as I think I am

Do you ever listen to/watch something that gets such amazing buzz and walk away saying, "Meh." The infotainment "journalists" have repeatedly told me that I am to like St. Vincent's debut album Marry Me. It's ok. I don't love it. In fact, every time a song from that album comes up on my Pandora, I think, "Sweet Jeebus, that's annoying - who is that?" And then I go check, and it's St. Vincent and I let it play because I've been told to love it, and I just don't. There are one or two songs, but overall, a bit whiny. Sorry, Entertainment Weekly. It's not you, it's me...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ian Tobias is one year old.

How the time flies. Today my nephew turns 1. He's the spitting image of his maternal grandfather, Gary, which is odd, b/c Chloe looks just like our side of the family, so the two of them bear little resemblance to one another. He chose not to crawl in the traditional way - clearly a visionary - and he motors about rather rapidly on his hands and feet, diapered bum up in the air. He's just begun to figure out the word thing and the other day said, "Hey, dad!" quite clearly for the first time. He also pulls himself up to the TV and chants, "did it! did it!" when Dora sings the "We Did It" song at the end of each adventure. Chloe loves him and resents him, which is normal. He worships her and most of the time if he's upset, she's the only one that can make him happy. She calls him "my little Ian To." I've called him Ito since he was in the womb and when I talk to him on the phone, my mom says he recognizes my voice.

I didn't fully bond with Chloe until she was nearly two. I went home for Thanksgiving and she and I were playing and occasionally I would give her a squeeze and say, "Auntie Tiffy loves Chloe!" We went to the park and she fell down and scraped her hand and she raised it up to me and said, "Auntie Tiffy kiss it!" At that point I was ready to buy her a car. When we got back to the house, she was having lunch in her high chair and she was eating and chatting and out of the blue said, "Auntie Tiffy loves Chloe." I was pretty much done. It was one of the only times it's been hard for me to come back from a trip home.

I don't know how it's all going to shake down with the boy. I've only seen him a few times in his one year of life and I have two more coming up. His personality is already very different from hers and he and I will learn to relate to each other on a very different level. I'm really excited to get to know him as he grows and speaks and becomes the person he was created to be. Happy birthday, little man!

UPDATE: Here's my favorite picture from his party. He's so not into the hat.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Note from the Global Aids Alliance

Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, will fast on Debt & AIDS Day, Wednesday, October 10 and he is asking you to join with him!

Many countries are paying $100 million a day in debt repayments. When debt cancellation happens funds that were normally used to pay back debt can instead be redirected to what really matters: free healthcare, education without user fees, retention of health care workers, and many other social services that the people of the Global South need.

Your member of Congress needs to hear from you! Global AIDS Alliance, Jubilee USA Network, and the Student Global AIDS Campaign have come together on October 10 for Debt & AIDS Day during the Cancel Debt Fast.

The Cancel Debt Fast is a 40-day rolling fast with more than 10,000 participants nationwide. Fasters are contacting their member of Congress and urging them to support the Jubilee Act HR 2634, which cancels the debts of 67 impoverished countries -without harmful economic conditionalities - in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The link between debt, health care and AIDS is a strong one.
In order for 67 impoverished countries to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 debt needs to be cancelled. One of those goals is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. With money freed from debt relief countries can redirect their spending toward:
canceling clinic fees and charges for much-need medications
expanding health facilities to rural areas
hiring more health care providers and
providing more direct care for women and children.

Removing economic conditions from debt cancellation, such as those requiring impoverished countries to privatize much-needed resources or freeze all hiring and salaries for health care workers, would further enable these countries to channel resources toward poverty alleviation.

The Jubilee Act, HR2634, will improve lending behavior and expand debt cancellation, a proven means of fighting poverty, to all the impoverished countries that need it to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

This legislation calls for more transparent and responsible behavior by creditors as well as expended debt cancellation for all 67 countries that need it to meet the MDGs, without imposing harmful economic conditions. Only 40 countries are eligible under current debt relief schemes, and of those 40, only 20 have actually had their debts cancelled.

The Jubilee USA Network and its partner organizations are currently working to bring this bill to a hearing the House Financial Services Committee and to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

Burundi was able to eliminate school fees in 2005, allowing an additional 300,000 children to gain access to education. In Zambia, 4,500 new teachershave been hired and fees for rural health care have been abolished since 2006.

All of us in the social justice community know that when children are educated they have a better chance of protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS, especially girls. Education gives them tools they need to work against oppressive power dynamics in their everyday lives.

October 10, 2007 is the day of action; here is a short list of ideas on how to act!

1. Contact your Senator by phone, fax, or letter urging them to support the Jubilee Act. Scroll down for a call script.
2. Visit your Senator and discuss Global AIDS and Debt.
3. Send a letter to the editor of local papers about Debt & AIDS.
4. Fill out paper plates for Jubilee USA's paper plate campaign. Hundreds of paper plates are filling Jubilee's national office in Washington DC. Join the cause and click here for instructions!
5. Sign up to fast for a day or more from food, sweets, shopping, or any other luxury that you enjoy that our brothers and sisters in the global south are denied at www.jubileeusa.org.

Calling Democrats:
I am calling today to urge Senator________ to help support and co-sponsor a senate version of the Jubilee Act HR. 2634, which will be introduced into the Senate very soon. This bill is important for people living with HIV/AIDS because when debt is canceled money becomes free to invest in resources in health care, education and other important social services and as a constituent this is important to me. Without debt cancellation 67 countries will not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) one of which is to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Calling Republicans:(We need a Republican sponsor in the Senate - top priorities are: Senators Norman Coleman (R-MN), John Sununu (R-NH), and Richard Lugar (R-IN)
I am calling today to urge Senator ______ to help introduce a senate version of the Jubilee Act HR. 2634. This bill is important for people living with HIV/AIDS because when debt is canceled money becomes free to invest in resources such as health care, education and other important social services and as a constituent this is important to me. Without debt cancellation 67 countries will not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) one of which is to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Thank you for all that you do,

Mary Peterson
Grassroots Coordinator
Global AIDS Alliance

Monday, October 08, 2007

People of Peace

I've been doing some research for our Advent series on becoming people of peace, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Last week was crazy scattered and I felt I had moved away from my center. It wasn't good. Fortunately, I was motivated by an assignment to do some biblical research on this topic and it's definitely helped me to return to a sense of calm.

I went to seminary with a bunch of missionary types and the concept of "person of peace" is huge in that community. The idea comes from Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 70 and gives them instructions on travel etiquette. "Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you." (emphasis mine) Voila - the person of peace. I looked up some commentaries and notes on the verses and basically, a person of peace in the text not only means peaceable, quiet person, but one also of good report for their uprightness and benevolence. Another says it's a person who favors the doctrine of peace and embraces it. My favorite says that it is "one who is inwardly prepared to embrace your message of peace." Those all sound like not only a person I'd like to know, but also a person I'd like to become.

As I've researched the use of this idea, I've come across a lot of writing for missionaries instructing them to look for a person of peace. The idea has turned from a peaceful, hospitable person with a good reputation in the community, to someone who has wealth and power is to be used for their connections as an in to an otherwise hostile climate. To me, it's another example of the evangelical tendency to use people as a means to an end, the end being boosting their numbers. Why not be a person of peace first, and if you find them, enjoy them for who they are, rather than see what they can do for you and your parent company? I'm sure that's happening - I'm using broad strokes here. My experience is with one particular denomination that is not interested in actually helping people but rather is focusing on what they have historically called the "10-40 Window" because they actually think they can make the rapture happen faster. They're basically eating spicy foods to make the world go into labor.

When I'm trying to focus on an inner peacefulness, I always return to a quote from Thomas Kelly, a Quaker pastor and theologian from the first part of the last century. The final paragraph of his A Testament of Devotion reads thusly:

"Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well."

Peace to this house.

Happy Columbus Day

Today is the day we celebrate white guys who can't ask for directions. Apparently, Macy's celebrates by having a huge sale advertised by 3 models wearing read t-shirts with - you guessed it - Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria on the back. Seriously. I had a conversation with some work folks last week about what some folks are trying to do to make this holiday a bit more politically correct. On the one hand, I see their point. Columbus represents an oppressive colonialism that brought about some horrific ethnic cleansing on this continent. (Side note: a friend who works in disaster relief tells me that the most catastrophic act of bio-terrorism ever perpetuated was the colonists rubbing the small pox virus on blankets and then distributing them to the Native Americans). My co-workers, however, have a different take. While acknowledging the atrocities, the bottom line is that you can't change history. These were men, too, so they also had to point out that no matter what you think of Columbus, he was pretty badass to take off on 3 boats to the edge of what was thought to be a flat earth.

One of the proposed alternatives to Columbus Day is "Discoverers Day." That just seems kind of milquetoasty. I don't see anything wrong with having a Discoverers Day, but I would rather see that as a celebration of the courage and creativity of the human spirit rather than an attempt to cover of a piece of history of which we may be a little ashamed. Another alternative is to add on an "Indigenous People's Day" which I like better. I think it allows us to acknowledge Columbus' accomplishment as well as recognize where it went sideways and to see it as a cautionary tale. We have to remember that while for us this day marks a beginning, for the people who were here first, this day marks the end of a peaceful, long-term existence, and the beginning of pain, sorrow, and loss. Whatever you think of Columbus - badass or colonial oppressor - he's the reason we're here today, not getting mail and enjoying the freedom to bash his discovery of this continent.

New unattainable Hollywood crush alert

It seems that I have gotten behind in my actor-ogling. Sure, I'm still true to the old standards - Ben Affleck, John Cusack, Taye Diggs, etc., but there's someone I've overlooked - Timothy Olyphant. In addition to having a fairly cool name, he's damn sexy - who knew? Well, I guess on some level I did, but he's one of those chameleon-like actors whom I don't always recognize until the credits roll. He's known to Deawood devotees, but he's done a good job of branching out and working against type. This weekend, I watched Catch and Release for the first time, and I have to say - wowza. It's a chick movie, to be sure, but a fairly thoughtful one, and I really enjoyed it. Timothy outdid himself with the hotness and Kevin Smith was hilarious comic relief. Put this one in your Netflix, kids. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sibling Rivalry

Normally, the babies play very well together. Chloe is quite protective of Ian and when Todd has given him a little swat for discipline, Chloe will fly across the room, pleading, "Don't smack my little Ian To!" She's quite a drama queen. Apparently, the shine of the baby sibling may be wearing thin, at least it was yesterday. My mom was watching them and she kept saying how she didn't want to have a baby brother because he "makes dumb baby noises and messes up my stuff."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Family Vehicle Woes

It seems that our family should divest ourselves of all automotive transportation and walk everywhere. Or get one of those Segway scooter things. My dad is developing way too close a relationship with Bob the Insurance Guy. First, last Thursday, Todd totaled my dad's truck. He's ok - banged up a bit, but ok. The airbags saved him. Chloe gave him her Mr. Strong gel pack, and that did wonders for him.

Then, last night my dad was visiting me on a road trip back home from Vancouver, BC and last night ON MY STREET someone broke the passenger-side window of his brand new Chrysler Crossfire. Awesome. So, I spent all morning helping him try to find a dealer between here and Bakersfield that could repair it. Guess what? There isn't one. So, he is winging his way through the Central Valley in this heat with no side window to a hotel in Bakersfield with hopes that he can get it fixed tomorrow. Oy vey.