Thursday, August 28, 2008

A New Beginning

Kids at Zoo
Originally uploaded by paynehollow

Whatever you think of his policies, that was a fine, fine speech.

Congratulations, Senator Obama, on this historic nomination.

And, thank you, Senator McCain, for the classy commercial.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Food Security and a Reasoned Worldview

Sunburst Sunset
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I am currently reading, The Essential Agrarian Reader, edited by Norman Wirzba and including essays from all the usual cast: Wendell Berry, Gene Logsdon, David Orr, Wes Jackson and Barbara Kingsolver, as well as many from folk with whom I’m not familiar – Susan Witt, Vandana Shiva, Brian Donohue and others.

I’ve seen Wirzba’s (who contributes some essays, in addition to editing) name around a few places and he looks like someone I’ll be reading more of. He’s another Kentuckian doing our state proud, it looks like.

Here are some excerpts from Wirzba’s introduction, and it’s right on:

It would seem, especially given the abundance and relative cheapness of food, that we do not have a food problem. The appearance, however, is deceiving… [We] are beginning to see that the complete costs associated with current food abundance are extremely high and that current pricing hides these costs from consumers.

Food, for the most part, is now an industrial product. As such its character and quality, as well as the conditions under which it is produced, are determined by the demands of industrial and market efficiency. While this might make good economic sense, the effect of treating food as an industrial rather than as a natural and cultural product has been the abuse of land, animals and human communities…

Rural communities have suffered greatly as a result of this transformed food system. With the demise of local seed companies, local purchasers, and processors and distributors, money that would have circulated several times within a community (and thus benefited many businesses and families) go elsewhere. With this cash exodus, small towns and cities that were once the heart of American cultural life find it impossible to maintain basic services in education, health care, construction and general social welfare. There is no place to go but the big city.

Rural communities also bear the brunt of noxious corporate farming practices. While taxpayers absorb the costs of tax incentives and price subsidies to induce big producers to set up shop in their states or counties, local communities must deal with disgusting odors, contaminated ground and surface water, accumulated toxic waste, and stressed infrastructure mechanisms like roadways and waterways. The costs are rarely picked up by the producers responsible for them.

As consumers we should be asking whether or not the free exchange of products, the stewardship of public goods like soil and water, or more fundamental yet, informed public discussion about food issues can result from a context where integrated corporate monopolies set pricing and production. Consumers are mostly ignorant about how food is produced and provided, so they are in no position to understand, let alone confront, agricultural abuses like the depletion or contamination of public water supplies or the heavy use of antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy operations. Doctors are increasingly aware that public health costs will increase dramatically as we confront super pests and viruses that evolve in confined farm factories. The costs of cleaning up water contaminated by agricultural runoff will also need to be picked up by consumers…

Given this partial list of problems, we now need to ask if a food system can be secure if it depends on making its farmers, communities, consumers, and land base insecure. Our highly centralized food system, besides being undemocratic, hugely wasteful, and destructive, is also vulnerable to external threats of terrorism, volatile global markets, and pests...

How would an agrarian worldview address this situation of insecurity?

Great stuff. Ideas and topics that we desperately need to be considering, talking about, debating, addressing. Now.

I found the book at our local library. Check it out. And keep an eye on Norman Wirzba (his other books include,
The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age, and The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Peace begins with a smile..."

Sarah and Donna
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
It's Mother Teresa's birthday next week (August 27, 1910). In honor of that, I offer some of her words of wisdom...

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."

"There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls - 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers."

"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed."

"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Best Music Ever?

Roger Dan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Recently, McCain and Obama offered their top ten songs. Interesting lists (McCain lists ABBA. TWICE!) but pretty shy on Ol' Timey music. My favorite joke so far has been the wag who wondered that McCain didn't have more music from his youth (you know, like Gregorian Chants)...

Hey, I happen to like Gregorian chants, myself.

The lists:

1. Ready or Not, Fugees
2. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
3. I'm On Fire Bruce, Spingsteen
4. Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones
5. Sinnerman, Nina Simone
6. Touch the Sky, Kanye West
7. You'd Be So Easy to Love, Frank Sinatra
8. Think, Aretha Franklin
9. City of Blinding Lights, U2
10. Yes We Can,

1. Dancing Queen, ABBA
2. Blue Bayou, Roy Orbison
3. Take a Chance On Me, ABBA
4. If We Make It Through December, Merle Haggard
5. As Time Goes, Dooley Wilson
6. Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
7. What A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
8. I've Got You Under My Skin, Frank Sinatra
9. Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond
10. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, The Platters

You know, "Take a Chance on Me," might make a good campaign theme song for McCain...

Anyway, that led to Geoffrey offering his own list of top ten albums and he invited others to opine similarly. And so, here are my Top Ten Albums of all times (or at least how I'm thinking today). In no particular order...

1. Birds Fly South, Zoe Speaks

(Zoe Speaks WAS a duo from here in Kentucky. The duo - Mitch Barrett and Carla Gover - have since gone their separate ways and each are making wonderful music alone and in various other configurations. Still, their Zoe Speaks albums were all fantastic and worthy of checking out.)

2. A liturgy, a legacy and a ragamuffin band, Rich Mullins

(Giving a nod to my Contemporary Christian Music days - still, I think Mullins' album holds up in any context. Unfortunately, Mr. Mullins left this world much too soon. His was one of the greatest concerts I've ever attended.)

3. Tanglewood Tree, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer

(Great album. Period. Poetry in motion.

Dave Carter has, sadly, passed away all too young and too soon. The good news is that Tracy Grammer is still plugging away.)

4. Wrecking Ball, Emmy Lou Harris

(Emmy Lou. Nuff said)

5. World in Motion, Jackson Browne

(A bit dated, but great political soul-searching and rabble rousing)

6. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman

(I don't think her subsequent albums were as great as her first one here, but this one is simply great.)

7. Legend, Bob Marley

(A best-of album, and a great collection)

8. O Brother Where Art Thou, soundtrack

(If soundtracks can be included - and in my list, they can be - this would be one to consider. Not a bad song on here. Plus it resurrected a genre and became a phenomenon, which is not true for most music I like. Also inspired, the related "Down from the Mountain Tour" album and in a similar vein... no wait...)

9. Cold Mountain, soundtrack

(I was going to throw this in with the previous item, but decided it needed its own entry - a great soundtrack)

10. Old Crow Medicine Show, OCMS

(These guys are just fantastic, bringing an energy and joy to bluegrass music that makes it feel contemporary - and they have a new album coming out soon!)

Do you have a top albums list? Or just a list of favorite songs?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blessed are the Peacemakers?

a drawing
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Well, that might be a stretch. But let me offer some cautious praise for President Bush (whodathunk you'd ever read that here?)...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday he is dispatching U.S. military personnel to Georgia in a "vigorous and ongoing" mission to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the fighting between Russian and Georgian troops.

Shortly after Bush spoke, the White House announced that a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jet carrying medical supplies arrived in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

Another C-17 is to arrive in Tbilisi on Thursday carrying more supplies, including 104,000 doses of antibiotics requested by the Georgian Ministry of Health, a State Department spokesman said. The value of both shipments is $1.28 million, he said.

Bush said more U.S. military aid missions were planned by the Navy and Air Force.

He warned Russia not to interfere with any relief efforts.

"We expect Russia to honor its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance. We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit," Bush said at the White House.

I remain prayerful that this would just be a humanitarian mission and not a way of striving to provoke Russia into a larger conflict. I also offer thanks for France's negotiation of the ceasefire yesterday. May cooler heads prevail.

With prayers for peace and justice...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Bible and Economics...

Cool Shadow
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A continuing effort on my part to list what the Bible has to say about economic issues - on wealth and poverty. When I'm done, I'd like to have one source of a fairly large compendium of what the Bible has to say on matters of wealth and poverty.

There is a sidebar below on the left (Titled, "The Bible and Economics") where you can see the other entries.

I have not seen an official count, but clearly, the Bible talks about money, wealth and poverty more than practically any other topic. Today, we're looking at the last chapter of 1 Timothy...

All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.

Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness…

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Embracing Mindful Living

Peregrine Flying
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Cindy G preached a great sermon last Sunday while Pastor Cindy was on vacation. The week before, Michelle L gave another fantastic sermon on “Listening, as Prayer.” Both sermons are excerpted on Jeff Street’s blog and I offer a bit of Cindy G’s sermon here. She was preaching on the Acts story of the miraculous release of Peter from prison.

A few weekends ago on the evening of a full moon, we were up at Patoka Lake and went night-sky stargazing. The bright lunar landscape commanded most of our attention, but as we turned to go back inside, we noticed a small point of light that hung beyond the tall firs, and decided to explore further with a small telescope.

What to our naked eyes first appeared to be an ordinary star was the massive planet Jupiter, with a band of swirling gases around her and four moons in orbit. Sometimes, when I’m watching clouds during the middle of the day, I think in awe about the whole other worlds and galaxies that are happening beyond my vision, spinning without us noticing…

I wonder if much of the time I’m missing out on so much of God’s activity in the world and in my life because I am just not attuned to seeing it…

We live in a culture that trains us well for mindless living. For example, we don’t have to think about where our food or clothes or other products come from. If I want, I can open the fridge, take out a can of soda, and drink it without ever thinking about the laborers in Ghana who mined the aluminum ore for the can, or the sea merchants who shipped the ore to the US factories, or the farmers in Central America who grew the corn to make the syrup to sweeten my soda, or the Appalachian Mountains that were demolished to extract the coal that gives me the electricity to run my refrigerator that keeps my soda cold. In fact, the culture that we live in counts on the fact that we won’t be mindful of our consumption and of all the people that are affected by our mindless consumption.

American culture creates masters at thoughtless living.

Mindlessness is the stance of the Empire. Don’t pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t stop and think, don’t question authority, don’t wonder why the social order is the way it is.

Don’t contemplate how things could be different!

Fill all the silences, stay busy, work longer hours, BUY MORE STUFF!
We become so accustomed to life as we know it that we have a hard time envisioning a world apart from the Empire.

When even Peter, one of the most zealous of the disciples, requires an angel to poke him awake and when even THEN he still doesn’t get what miraculous movement God is doing right in plain view, how much more do WE have to work to stay awake and live in a posture of openness?

It was difficult for Peter to be attentive to what God was doing because he was chained down by the Roman Empire. Peter had seen miracles, performed miracles himself, and again and again been witness to God’s power of deliverance. Yet the Powers that held him captive had the power to shadow his hope and belief in God’s miraculous work in the world…

If mindlessness is the way of the Empire, Mindfulness is the way of Shalom, of the Realm of God. The powers of the world would rather we stay asleep. How can we be awake to God’s presence?

…If we take the time to pay better attention, and if we block out some of the noise of the Empire, I think we are more likely to be surprised by God every day. Perhaps we’d be stunned in disbelief at the many moments we are invited to co-create with God. Perhaps we’d reel in incredulity at the many ways we are invited to embrace freedom from this world, from earthly restraints, from the evil powers of the Empire that seeks to imprison us. And we would instead become attuned to the Spirit, we’d expect miracles, we’d believe in the possibility of God’s deliverance.

Perhaps if we lived in mindfulness, we’d fin d more occasions for holy amazement, shock at God’s movement…

[Kathleen Norris quotes a modern Benedictine who says] “the classic sign of our acceptance of God’s mystery is welcoming and making room for” the stranger, the other, the surprising, the unlooked for, and the unwanted. It means learning to read the world better, that we may better know our place in it.

May we all be granted these gifts:
The hospitality of the desert Benedictines,
The mindfulness of the Buddhist monk,
The attentive eye of a nature writer,
And the imperfect belief of the disciples of the emerging church.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

In The News...

Red Blackberry
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
(DWT) Louisville, KY

Blackberry picking season has come and gone. She was beautiful while she visited with us and remains forever glorious in our memories.

News where Obama is correct:

(AP) Lansing, MI

"Breaking our oil addiction is one of the greatest challenges our generation will ever face. It will take nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy," he said. "This transformation will be costly, and given the fiscal disaster we will inherit from the last administration, it will likely require us to defer some other priorities."

News where Obama is (at least partially) wrong:

(AP) Lansing, MI

...Obama also reiterated his statement Friday that he could support limited new offshore drilling if it were needed to enact a compromise energy policy to foster fuel-efficient autos and alternative energy sources...

"Like all compromises, this one has its drawbacks. It includes a limited amount of new offshore drilling, and while I still don't believe that's a particularly meaningful short-term or long-term solution, I am willing to consider it if it's necessary to actually pass a comprehensive plan," Obama said. "I am not interested in making the perfect the enemy of the good particularly since there is so much good in this compromise that would actually reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

It is sad that the so-called "liberal" media is not reporting more strongly the fallacy in the McCain plan to "solve" our energy problems by doing more of the same - drilling for oil offshore. As has been noted by the Dept of Energy, drilling for oil will at best produce some oil in a decade or so, resulting in a savings of a few pennies a gallon. It is NO solution. We must reduce our consumption.

And that need not be a doom and gloom message, by the way. I like the way Obama is framing it: This is OUR race to the moon. Our Victory Garden. Our chance to come together as a nation for a positive change.

It is a shame that Obama feels a need to kowtow and compromise with the Republicans and Oiligarchy on this point, but at least he is saying some of the right things.


President Bush committed an impeachable offense by ordering the CIA to to manufacture a false pretense for the Iraq war in the form of a backdated, handwritten document linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, an explosive new book claims.

Impeach him already. What does it take to get people outraged? What does it take to get our Democrat majority to act?

(And I understand the arguments against impeachment at this point. Regardless, this man and his team need to be held accountable)


More news from Obama in response to the lame McCain tire pressure "joke..."

“It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant,” Obama told a packed gym. “They think it’s funny that they're making fun of something that is actually true. They need to do their homework.”

“Instead of running ads about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, they should go talk to some energy experts and actually make a difference,” Obama added.


A perfect response to a ridiculous set of ads.