Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Times, They Are a-Changin'

Shameka John
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Pay attention...

NEW YORK ( -- As anyone who's been to the gas station or supermarket lately knows, the prices of fuel and food are on the rise.

And you haven't seen anything yet, some experts say.

Gasoline now costs an average of $3.15 a gallon, seven cents shy of the record set last May, according to AAA. But with crude oil prices closing at an all-time high of $100.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday, it's only a matter of time before drivers see it hit another record at the pump.

Within a few weeks, gas could cost $3.50 a gallon and, by spring, the price could hit $4 in some locations, said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst at the consultancy Cameron Hanover.

The high cost of gas is helping fuel a surge in food prices. Higher transportation expenses, along with growing demand for agricultural exports from the United States and increasing need for corn-based ethanol for gas supplies, has sent commodity costs soaring.

Last week, the federal government reported that the Consumer Price Index rose a greater-than-expected 0.4% in January and 4.3% over the past 12 months, mainly because of higher food and energy costs. Food and beverages jumped 4.8% for the year and transportation soared 9.4%.

We must see the great distinction between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement. We are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.... What America must be told today is that she must be born again. The whole structure of American life must be changed.

~Martin Luther King

If we don't change our direction, we'll wind up where we are headed.

~old Chinese saying

Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

~Herman Melville

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Journey

Mountain Stream
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A piece I wrote for our church's Lenten season focus on Journeys...

I moved into my church’s Youth Group with great anticipation. We had a busy, vibrant youth group with a great crowd of young adults/college-aged kids above us.

I couldn’t wait to get started in Sunday School and all the other neat stuff that youth did – especially the famed Youth Retreats to Christian camps like Ridgecrest and Cedar Ridge, as well as regular local retreats.

I even looked forward to being part of the Sunday School classes for the youth group. My first SS teacher, though, was not one of the hip college kids we all admired so much. It was Dalton Mullins – whose father’s name was Moon Mullins.

Dalton was a quiet 30-something hick sort of guy. Whereas the 20-somethings all wore their hair long, Dalton had more of an army crew cut. He wore a sheaved knife on his hip. He was a hunter and fisherman. He was a loner and sort of a misfit.

Much more square than the young adults we looked up to.

And when he taught SS, it was very different than my grade school teachers. His class was loose and unstructured and we often talked about real-life stuff instead of Bible stuff. On top of that, Dalton was divorced and, in the Southern Baptist church I grew up in, that was a BIG red flag. Looking back, I am rather surprised they even let him teach SS.

Still, Dalton was a likable kind of guy. So, when he organized a camping trip to Red River Gorge, I signed up. I couldn’t wait for the Bible studies, prayer times and devotionals, as well as the great fun. I was a Bible nerd, that way.

I had been camping in my early years, but not like this. This was primitive camping.

Dalton had us bring backpacks and sleeping bags, but no tents. We carried our food in and our garbage out. We hiked up and down some serious hills and cliffs at the Gorge, stopped for lunch, hiked some more and then stopped for the evening and found a good place to lay our sleeping bags. We hiked up and down these mountains for about ten miles that first day. We had very little food and we ate it ALL. Not a bit of scraps were left over.

At the end of the first day’s travels, we were beat and starving. And sleeping out on rocks and leaves with only our sleeping bags to protect us.

And it started raining.

Fortunately, Dalton was smart enough to have us make camp that first night beneath a rock overhang to protect us from the rain. Then we woke up the next day, still tired, ate a tiny breakfast and began again.

That day, we found a grapevine that we swung on for a while (and it was on a steep hill, so when we got out to the end of the swing, we were like 100’ off the ground!); we saw green valleys and mountains spread out as far as the eye could see – uninterrupted by roads or telephone poles or any signs of humanity; we saw white-tailed deer through the trees in the morning, red-tailed hawks soaring overhead, raccoon tracks in the mud next to pure streams.

We walked beneath incredible rock arches and stopped to rest in the cool of their ancient shadows. We helped one another get up the hills, waited when we needed to for people to catch up, and stopped and greedily ate our lunch, then dinner.

We had a great time.

Still, I wondered where the spiritual content was for this Church Youth Outing. When would we do Bible Study? Have devotionals? Prayer time?

Was Dalton, son of Moon Mullins, the right guy to lead us on this trip?

That second night, in the middle of the night, Dalton woke me and a couple of others up.

“Wanna see something?”

So we got up to see what he wanted. He told us to leave our flashlights behind, that there was enough moonlight on this night to see.

And there was. Even through all the trees, we could see the bright light of a white moon, shining larger than seemed possible, even though we couldn’t see it through the trees very well.

We walked carefully down the path following Dalton. We could hear night creatures moving about in the woods. “Are there any bears out here?” we’d ask.

“Shhh.” Dalton told us. After a short hike, he stopped and we could see him looking around on either side of the path. We looked around, too. All around, there were tiny eyes glowing faintly green in the dark, staring at us. There must have been dozens of them – hundreds!

Dalton smiled and said, “Don’t worry. It’s foxfire – a plant that glows in the dark.”

He turned and walked a bit further, telling us to be very careful. And then suddenly, the forest fell away and we were on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the shadowy mist-shrouded valley. Stars were overhead, more stars than I’d ever seen in my life.

And lighting it all up was this alien moon – large, white, impossibly close. Beautiful.

We never did have any Bible studies or devotionals.

But then, we didn’t really need to.

So, this morning, I remember the misfit and social outcast Dalton, Son of Moon, who showed me the moon and the stars and a glorious portion of this creation; who took me on a journey beyond my expectations and taught me that there are more ways than one to learn about Mystery and Grace.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Bible and Economics

Tearing Down the Walls
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
It’s time for another installment of The Bible and Economics (or, as some might prefer I say, The Bible and Wealth- and Poverty-Related Passages). This post is the short little blockbuster book of James, which seems to be half about controlling your tongue and half about lambasting the wealthy. But judge for yourself…

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it…

The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in his high standing, and the rich one in his lowliness, for he will pass away "like the flower of the field."
For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes. So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

~James 1: 3-11, 21, 27

My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here, please," while you say to the poor one, "Stand there," or "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you dishonored the poor person. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?

However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?…

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?
~James 2:1-9, 15-16

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?

You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God…

…Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit"--you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, "If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that."

~James 4: 1-4, 13-15

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

~James 5:1-6

Lots to talk about there, or just to ponder in our greedy little hearts. How about it? Who is James (Jesus’ brother) talking about? What got under his skin?

You can see my earlier posts in this series over beneath my blog roll on the Left.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Saints Wendell and Cindy

Saints Wendell and Cindy
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
My wife and I celebrated Valentines Day yesterday by going to the I Love Mountains Day celebration/protest at our state capitol (Frankfort). It was a very good day with a very good turnout for a very good cause that will unfortunately, probably be ignored by our representatives.

Wendell Berry was there and spoke prophetically, of course, of change. Of making change, whether or not our representatives wanted to disagree with their corporate overseers.

Great stuff.

We attended the protest with our pastor, Cindy, Susan and Maria - all from church - along with 1,000 of our closest friends from the region (and the Clack Mountain String Band and Kentucky's own Randy Wilson provided the soundtrack - gotta give a shout out to them!)

BUT, the highlight of the day was that Cindy, got a chance to talk with Berry beforehand.

Cindy (whose husband, Robert, has some family connections to Berry) introduced herself to Berry and reminded him who she was and our dear St Wendell said to one of his colleagues there, "Oh, this is that radical pastor of that church that's like Jesus: They'll love just about anyone."

How great is that??!!

Cindy'll have to put that on her business cards (if she had business cards ) and the church'll have to put that as a header on our blog.

Short of a pat on the back by Jesus himself, for what higher praise could we ask?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yes, We Can

Gull In Flight 1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Someone out there was asking WHAT Obama's supporters see in him (positing that most Obama supporters don't even know his positions on issues).

Speaking for myself, in this current race, I support Obama because:

1. The US needs an antidote to Bush. He has divided our nation, isolated us from the rest of the world and damaged our Constitution and our security. I understand that some don't agree, but that is what a HUGE number of Americans believe the facts to be. And we long for an Anti-Bush. Perhaps Obama's strongest selling point is that he IS the anti-Bush.

2. Obama's not Clinton. For many of us, we think the Clintons are part of the Problem. The Clinton years were very much part of a troubled system that encourages corruption and a two party system that is dominated by policies that are pro-corporation and anti-everyone else.

Even though Clinton would EASILY be better than Bush (and she would definitely be a great improvement - practically anyone would be), she is still a terribly divisive, individual beholden to the Democratic machine and a corporate agenda and many of us quite frankly don't trust her.

3. But besides NOT being Bush or Clinton, Obama's right on many issues. For instance:

a. We DO need to end this war in Iraq as humanely as possible. It is a matter of national security. It is a matter of trying to begin to salvage our economy. We are hemorrhaging our economy in pools of blood in Iraq.

b. We desperately need to affirm that the US DOES NOT SUPPORT TORTURE. Period. (This would be a point in both McCain's and Clinton's positions, too, but I think Obama most strongly voices this position.)

c. We have got to address our energy problems. Oil supply is on its way down and Oil demand is on its way up. It is WAY past time to begin to address this soon-to-be crisis. I'd like to hear Obama come out stronger on this, but he's at least looking in the right direction.

Obama is by no means a perfect candidate, but then no one is. I can promise without a doubt that he will not solve our problems. I'm not even hoping that he will.

I'm just hoping he will begin to slow down the problems we're already causing/participating in. That he WON'T appoint gas industry people to solve our energy problems, coal industry flaks to oversee the coal industry, that he will begin to at least consider living within our means and living responsibly, not foisting environmental and global crises off on our children and their children.

For starters, this is why I'm supporting Obama at this time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

We Love our Mountains

Love Mountains Poster
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Over at the Jeff Street blog, one of our church's beloved children - Amos - says it all as he tells everyone what he would do with the signs he made to stop those guys who'd chop off our mountain tops. Amos had made some signs that said, simply, "Stop. Stop. Stop."

I will - I will get some nails to the hammer and then I would just get my signs and go up to the mountain and and - and then hammer, hammer the nails on to the trees so - so when those guys go to chop off the mountain - mountain top, they'll go, "what? what?" and they'll go away.

The Appalachian region has lost 7% (more than 470 mountains destroyed!) of our mountaintops to coal mining (which has been used up as rapidly as it's been acquired, so it's not like it's even solving our energy problems or anything!).

A more informative video can be found here or you can go to or

This must stop.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Car - Time Saver???

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Owning a car cost (on average) $7,823 per a year in 2007 according to AAA. That's figuring in gas, repairs, insurance, car costs, etc.

[ source]

This is up from $6,890/year on average (according to this article back in 2004. Wow. Costs are rising quickly.

Here's a website that calculates your personal expenses - telling you how much you're paying a month for the privilege of owning a car and how much you'd be saving if you didn't have a car:

(This site includes the little factoid that, if I did NOT own a car and invested that savings instead - beginning at the age of 25 - that I could have saved $1 million + by retirement age. Or I could easily pay for my children to go to college.)

According to that last website, my wife and I are spending a little under $7,000/year for our car.

Let me go ahead and say $7,000 for the purpose of my following illustration.

Now, if we work 250 days (5 day workweek x 50 weeks) a year, that means we're paying $28/work day for owning a car (7000/250). That means, if you make $9/hour, you have to work 3 hours every day to pay for that car. if you make $14/hour, you're working 1 1/2 hours to pay for it.

I bring this up because I want to make the case for walking/biking/busing places instead of driving. Some people look at me and say, "You're spending 1 1/2 walking to work and back home! That's great if you can work it out, but how do you have the time to do so??!!"

The answer is, because I'm not working 1 1/2-2 hours to pay for a car. In fact, by the time you figure that if I drove, I'd be spending 1/2 hour to get to and from work, then I'm coming out with at least 1/2 hour MORE free time than the person in my situation who drives. More still, if that person also later drives to a gym (where they pay MORE money) to exercise.

Want a million dollars? Want to pay for your kids' college? Want to SAVE time?

Sell that car. Or, at least consider it. It's not the time saver you might think it is. And for folk working at minimum wage (where paying for a car might take closer to HALF your workday!!), give it a serious consideration.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Coldhearted on the Right

Frozen Mayor
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Whilst hating to appear to promote someone's presidential campaign when I'm so opposed to his winning, I have a few notes to make on the opposition to John McCain by so many "conservatives."

McCain's record:

*opposed to abortion, voted to repeal Roe v. Wade
*opposed to gay marriage BUT thinks it should be handled at the state level (he voted against a constitutional ban on gay marriage)
[Conservatives are very strong on State Rights]
*voted YES on ban on flag burning
*Wants more death penalties, stricter penalties
*Strong supporter of the War on Drugs
[this is contrary to the more Libertarian of conservatives, but more in line with "popular" conservatism]
*Thinks teaching Creationism should be a call for local schools to make (although he personally believes in evolution)
*Wants more school choice, thinks Charters, homeschooling, & vouchers are key to success
*Thinks Economic & environmental interests not mutually exclusive
*Voted Pro-NAFTA, pro-GATT, pro-MFN, pro-Fast Track
*Mostly opposed to bans on guns, Voted against Brady Bill & assault weapon ban
*Supported Reagan tax cuts because matched by spending cuts
[fiscally conservative and responsible]
*Opposed to a timeline for withdrawal in Iraq
*Has otherwise supported the war in Iraq

THIS is a liberal?

I'm wondering how far Right does a fella have to be to not be considered a traitor by the Limbaughs and Savages of the world?

Not that I mind "conservatives" kicking the poop out of poor McCain - I don't want to see him be president. My point is only that this fella is mostly Right in his voting record and positions and that it seems like the "conservatives" out there are looking for some sort of Rightwing Purity litmus test that is going to write them out of the history books.

Ironically, it's sort of Darwinism in action...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Meal Group 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago, about a year after we started attending at Jeff St, some of the friends there began having regular meals together. The group changed in terms of who participated and who didn't, but there have always been at least four or five families taking part at a time. This photo today shows many of the folk who've taken part at one time or another.

We've met, 4-8 households at a time, for meals 1-3 times a week(ish) and, instead of preparing a meal for just YOUR family, you prepare enough for these others to take part, as well. Which meant that once or twice a month, you'd have a BIG meal to prepare for, but at least four times or so a month, you wouldn't have to prepare any meal.

It was a way of building community, of encouraging simplicity, of eating well and with much laughter and joy. We've had our children grow from infants to college, we've been a support group for one another, we've been there in good times and bad, we've played music, sang and danced together, we've played party games, written songs and poetry, taken field trips, helped one another move and, in general, been family for each other.

This sort of Community is a precious, life-giving thing. We must cherish it where we find it, and make it where it is lacking.

And speaking of community, one of my beloved church brothers, Kevin, has been added to my blogroll, over to the left. His blog is Connecting the Dots, and he's begun an interesting endeavor there: Posting photos and a bit of info about various autographs he has in his library. Be sure to check it out.

And speaking of things literary, also be sure to check out the Letters and Surveys blog (also in my blogroll), where Ms Brd (may I call you that?) has just announced the 2007 and 2008 winners of her own quite prestigious Ellstrom Award for Literature.

How 'bout it? Whose autographs do you have and how'd you acquire them? Who'd you nominate for a literature award, if you were to create one? And how do you celebrate, create and/or find community?