Friday, July 30, 2010

Expert Blogger Testimony

A new report on global climate change is out from the NOAA (National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration).

Peter Stott, head of monitoring at one of the participants is referenced in the article...

Seven indicators were rising, he said. These were: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the "active-weather" layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth's surface. Four indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

But that's not really what I wanted to note. What I wanted to note is that the article lists several "global warming skeptics" and lists their complaints with the study. Who do they quote in opposition to it?

One scientist ("ex-professor of environmental studies and fellow of the Cato Institute"), two economists (one who "follows climate science as a hobby") and one "Steve Goddard, a blogger..."

Really? THAT's newsworthy? That two economists and a BLOGGER question the science behind "global warming alarmism..." and this is who they cite from "the other side" of the issue??

For the record, none of the "experts" on the other side had anything to say directly about this particular study, they're just decrying "global warming alarmism" in general.

I dig my fellow bloggers as much as the next guy, but since when does being a blogger make you a credible witness or news source?

Prayers on a Bus

estr 134
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A prayer of joy and of lamentation from the middle of the Oak St Bus

The old man boarded the bus and greeted
His two friends

Hello there, hello there!

Hey. Hey. Howya?

How are you doin’?

Just fine. I just had me some lunch.


I had myself some fried up chicken.

Fried up chicken?

Yes sir, some fried up chicken.

All right, some fried up chicken.

Yes, yes. I had me some mashed potatoes…


And some fried UP chicken.

All right.

I had me some greens…


And some fine, fine fried up chicken, oh my I did…

And on and on the prayer rolled between the three friends
like a sweet glazed doughnut.


Lookit there. James Ramsey St.

James R Ramsey St.

University President James R Ramsey St.



University of Louisville President James DAM Ramsey St.


Makes a million dollars a year and gets a street named after him!

James R god. dam. Ramsey St.


And on and on the prayer rolled
Like a rusty wheel


It’s a shame about Leon

It’s a dammed shame.


Never bothered no one.

He never bothered NO one.

He NEVER bothered no one at all. And they went and killed him.

It’s a shame.

Yessir, it is. It’s a dammed shame.

Just doing his job…

Just doin' his dammed job…

Never bothering no one…

Never bother not a dammed person

And they went and killed him dead.



It’s the kids, ya know?

Yes, it is. It’s the kids.

They got no respect.

No sir.

It’s a shame.

It’s a goddammed shame

And on and on the prayer rolled
Round and round
Like the moon passing through a dark night sky.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

Romans 8:26-27, The Message

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sabbath Economics

Barefoot Rick
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I'm going to post an excerpt from the sermon by my dear friend, Rick, who preached the last two weeks at Jeff St on the topic of the Sabbath. (That's Rick in the photo, barefoot and ready to preach!) The Bible passages he refers to are the story of Joseph the dreamer - found in Genesis 47 - and the story of the provision of manna to the people of Israel - found in Exodus 16.

This is just a very brief excerpt from a larger and wonderfully challenging sermon...

...In one of the great ironies of literature, Joseph is praised for resisting the designs of his boss’s wife, while his role as the inadvertent catalyst for the eventual enslavement of his own people is ignored.

Of course, Joseph probably couldn’t have known what his program [gathering together huge amounts of grain, centralized in Egypt - dt] would lead to. But future generations in Israel reflected on their long nightmare in Egypt and filled their literature with warnings about concentrated economic power.

Of course, the Hebrews finally escaped from Egypt. The Exodus from enslavement was the great liberating event of their history. And in the lore that developed about their deliverance, Hebrew storytellers emphasized some intriguing imagery that signified a different way. Manna in the wilderness.

The tale of the manna is much more than a miracle story. It envisions an economic alternative! It’s the symbolic charter for what we call “Sabbath economics.”

*Work in the place where you are.
*Take just enough for your family’s needs.
*Depend on the abundant provision of creation.
*Hoarding and excess result in rottenness.

The dream of Joseph envisions more and more.
The vision of the manna says enough is enough.
The dream of Joseph is take all you can.
The vision of the manna is share what you have.
Accumulate or cooperate.
One dream uproots - and turns into a nightmare for others.
The other dream plants - and prioritizes the needs of others.
The symbol of the manna is the visionary charter of an unseen conspiracy, the seed of change, quietly operating just below the surface.

The manna imagery even takes root in Israel’s national covenant as they develop the Sabbath economics consistent with their faith a God who liberated them from empire.

*Their gleaning laws allowed the poor to gather food off the land. (Deut. 24: 19-22)
*They outlawed interest rates that might lead people into spirals of debt servitude. (Ex. 22: 25)
*They set aside Sabbatical years to protect the land and to free the poor from debt. (Ex. 23: 10-11).
*Even the Sabbath has a humanitarian function (Ex. 23: 12).
*They envisioned periodic years of Jubilee to challenge accumulation of wealth, by redistributing land to level out patterns of concentrated ownership (Lev. 25: 10, 13, 28).

Some Jews even rejected monarchy itself, because it grafted political authority onto economic power. It was too much like Egypt’s system of an all-controlling center, enriched by an impoverished periphery...

So what do these ancient stories mean for us?

Of course, the same competing visions grow in the soil of our history as well. In our society, wealth has been redistributed upward for 30 years, toward greater concentration at the top, and increasing dependence at the bottom. Our nation has the largest gap between rich and poor in its history. The top 1% of Americans now possess 40% of the nation's total wealth.

We’ve been through the worst economic crisis since the Depression — an era also characterized by excess and scandal on Wall Street. Our largest banks are under investigation for complex financial maneuvers that profited from misleading their investors.

We’re now accustomed to terms like hedge funds, derivatives, debt swaps, and mortgage-backed securities — which symbolize the flagrant unchecked greed of an unfettered oligarchy, speculatively gambling with the nation’s wealth for the enrichment of a few, profiting even from the nation’s housing meltdown.

The other side of this coin is millions of homes in foreclosure…

Today, the reintegration of commercial and investment banking has yielded mega-banks so gigantic that their collapse threatens the entire financial system. And most of us are carrying their credit cards — our money, our homes, our welfare all tied up with their power.

We can scarcely imagine an alternative.

Now considered “too big to fail,” the mega-banks appropriate even more of the nation’s wealth unto themselves, gobbling up tax-funded bailouts while awarding themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses. And the recent financial regulation bill may not change as much as we’d hope.

So we’re faced with the age-old choice:

The dream of Joseph or the vision of the manna.
More and more, or enough is enough.
Take all you can, or share what you have.
Accumulate or cooperate.

The danger is more than economic. Justice Louis Brandeis was right when he said: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.”

With millions spent on lobbyists, the mega-banks aren’t just “too big to fail,” but too well-connected to fail.

It’s a dream come true.

The trouble is, while modern-day Josephs dream of profit piled upon profit, we can’t seem to do without a system we now depend on.

For three months, we’ve watched as the BP oil spill has exceeded 100 million gallons, leaving 11 workers dead, unparalleled damage to an ocean ecosystem, fragile wetlands polluted, pelicans and sea turtles coated with petroleum, fish suffocating in underwater plumes of oil.

It’s the terrible price of a crude addiction we cannot shake...

The official history of our era is the story of the powerful — bank bailouts, financial flows, military campaigns, election returns… But do not be deceived. There’s another story.

There’s something going on underground.

It’s the quiet revolution of mustard seeds. The conspiracy of the seemingly insignificant...
It’s the story of countless unnamed midwives to a history flowing forward in a simple basket of reeds.
It’s the story of Shiphrah and Puah, Moses and Amos, St Francis and Dorothy Day, Gandhi and Wilberforce, Sandino and Mandela, Cesar Chavez and Rosa Parks.

What’s happened at Vacation Bible School this week (the kids collecting money and things for the needy) doesn’t seem like much. The gardens we’ve planted in our back yards seem so small. The Tuesday Farmer’s market you’ve worked so hard on is tiny.

But in a concentrated agro-industrial system, these mustard seed realities are nothing less than a new vision germinating in the midst of the old.
Yes, three corporations control the world’s grain trade.
Yes, Monsanto controls three-fifths of the world’s seed production.

But the dream that envisions a local, sustainable food economy can reconnect more and more of us with the source of our food and the rhythms of the earth. This is the odd vision of Sabbath economics, the peculiar practice of the manna alternative.


Thanks, Rick!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time to Eat Crow?

Old Crow
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The AP, reporting on the deceptive video that cost a government employee her job and slandered her good name...

The two-minute, 38-second clip posted Monday by was presented as evidence that the NAACP was hypocritical in its recent resolution condemning what it calls racist elements of the tea party movement. The website's owner, Andrew Breitbart, said the video shows the civil rights group condoning the same kind of racism it says it wants to erase. is the same outfit that gained fame last year after airing video of workers at the community group ACORN counseling actors posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend [which turned out ALSO to be a slander job -dt]...

Reacting to the video on Monday, the USDA asked Sherrod to resign and the NAACP sent out a statement disavowing her comments, which were made at a local NAACP event. Sherrod then took to the media airwaves Tuesday, saying she was unfairly attacked and that the entirety of her remarks, delivered in March in Georgia, were not about racism, but part of a larger story about racial reconciliation and learning from her mistakes.

People who knew Sherrod were quick to defend her, including the wife of the white farmer who she discussed in the speech.

"We probably wouldn't have (our farm) today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction," said Eloise Spooner of Iron City, Ga. "I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you."

Both the NAACP and the USDA pulled back on their criticism after learning details about her speech and viewing the full video, which the NAACP posted on its website Tuesday evening...

When will we stop listening to obviously edited fake "news" published by non-news groups who have an agenda? When will they be held accountable for their slanderous actions? When will decent conservatives start apologizing for the actions of their comrades and denounce such behavior as the garbage that it is?

This makes me sick.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Signals of Oddity: Sabbath

Bouncing Rick
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I mentioned in my previous post that our church has begun our year-long look at our "Signals of Oddity" - those practices we have that make us peculiar. This Sunday, we began with our dear brother Rick leading us at a look at the notion of Sabbath. I wanted to provide an excerpt from that excellent sermon here, but the whole thing can be found at the Jeff St blog...

Terri reminded us last week of Flannery O’Connor’s famous quip, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” I love that oddity is the theme for our sabbatical period.

This year, we're considering our “Signals of Oddity: Worship as a Counter-Cultural Practice.” The idea is to study how worship functions as an alternative to the dominant culture. It says that one of our church’s challenges is to preserve our radical edge, our salty flavor, our oddity, our peculiarity.

Now on one level, a quick glance around the room suggests that peculiarity should not be a challenge for us! We are indeed an odd bunch. And the idea of Sabbath is pretty odd and counter-cultural too.

So what are we doing here? Really. Here we are, this odd collection of people — male and female; black and white; gay and straight; single and coupled; older and younger; homeless and housed; people with psychological and physical challenges; students and professionals, employed and unemployed, believers and seekers…

The welcoming diversity of this church, in itself, is a blessed oddity. One reason we’re here is the people we’ve come to love.

And there’s something pretty special about being with people with whom we can share our joys and concerns, knowing there’s a place where we belong. In this individualistic society, that’s pretty odd too. But to clarify why Sabbath signals a blessed oddity, I want to go back to the beginning – all the way back to Genesis 1 and 2, where Sabbath is first established. Because the Hebrews were saying something that’s remarkably relevant to our time.

So turn to Genesis 1, the first of two creation stories in the opening chapters of Genesis. They come from oral traditions of two different regions of Israel in two different centuries. They even use different names for God (1:1—God/Elohim—and 2:4b—Lord God/YHWH Elohim). They’re different stories. So we can’t read them as science or historical reporting of actual events. That would misunderstand the nature of this literature. These stories present a worldview—symbolically.

The first story uses old Babylonian imagery by starting with a formless watery void, and portrays the whole drama of creation as a triumph of order.

1:2—“The earth was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

The chapter shows God simply speaking Order into existence. It’s one of the most carefully designed literary units in the Bible, with a structure crafted to reinforce its message—that we’re part of this marvelously complex patterned structure, an abundant, harmonious order. It’s amazing how the text’s form serves its function. Notice:

1) There are seven days—each paragraph set apart with repeated refrains in a richly patterned prose. You can see the order on the page.

And each paragraph has three repeated refrains, giving a symmetrical pattern to the whole structure:
*Each paragraph begins with, “And God said.”
*Each repeats: “And God saw that it was good.”
*And each day ends with the refrain, “And there was evening and there was morning, (another) day.”

The intentional sense of Order is impossible to miss.

2) But there’s another layer below the surface, adding a deeper complexity of more profound patterns. The structure includes two 3-day sets —the first set (days 1-3) introduces created contexts, and the second set (days 4-6) introduces the inhabitants of these settings.

For example, 2 and 5 are parallel to each other. The sea creatures and the birds created on the 5th day fill the sea and the heavens created on the 2nd. And the land animals created on the 6th day inhabit the dry land set aside on the 3rd. It’s an amazing symmetry!

3) And it gets more complex. At a deeper level, each paragraph contains structured pairs of opposites—darkness/light, heaven/earth, male/female.

It’s an intricate, multi-layered creation unfolding its richness as each interconnected level reveals deeper structures, carefully designed order — so many patterns in each layer that we can’t help but marvel at the intricate complexity of this literary creation, even as we do when we observe the perfect pattern of a snowflake, the colors of a prism, the interconnectedness of a forest ecosystem.

Textually, the chapter’s refrains, parallels, and pairs speak to us on a level beyond words of something that’s beautiful in its symmetry, and dependable in its complex patterns. The passage itself reflects the order of the natural world. Its form evokes its message: We live in a stable, ordered, abundant world that reflects the goodness of a loving God.

Now, just as we’re marveling at the design of this amazing literary creation, something breaks the pattern! In most Bibles, you can see it on the page. Your eye is drawn to something new and different inserted into this carefully patterned prose—verse 27.

So God created humans in God’s own image,
in the image of God, God created them;
male and female God created them.

The creation of humanity is the appearance of something entirely new, so special that it can only be expressed as poetry in the midst of prose.

Here, the written form contains the message about the Hebrew view of humanity: In this marvelously ordered creation, humans are God’s poetry. YOU ARE GOD’S POETRY!

The God who speaks in beautifully structured prose in the created order, switches to poetry in the creation of humanity.

Look at the faces of the people around you. Each one divine poetry. Creation’s lyric verse.Each one an ode to the divine consciousness, reflecting the mind of a Master Poet. Here, the text says “very good.”

Then, after all the action, all the ordered patterning, the parallel structuring, the now familiar routine, the next paragraph doesn’t follow form.

The seventh day doesn’t have the same refrains as all the other days.

It throws out the pattern. It’s got a different rhythm. No structure. The routine is dropped.

That’s Sabbath. So the passage isn’t about creation, it’s about our lives.

Our need for a break in the routine. We stop. We rest. We ponder the patterns of which we are a part. And we worship...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Signals of Oddity and Whatnot

Mackenzie Shameka
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
My church, Jeff St Baptist, has just begun a year in which we shall consider our "signals of oddity," those signs, practices and behaviors that we have as a church that set us apart (to be a "peculiar people" as the Bible has it).

We had a kickoff for this process - and a Goodbye For Now send off for Pastor Cindy, who has left for Sabbatical - this last Sunday. To begin the year, we looked back and remembered stories of our oddity from our history and shared them with one another.

A grand, rollicking, beautiful, powerful time was had by all and I've posted many of those stories in videos at the Jeff St blog, if you're interested.


Speaking of Oddities, the NAACP has received some heat from some of our friends on the Right this week for having the audacity to challenge the Tea Party to stand against the racist elements that fringe their movement. They quite specifically did not call the Tea Party racist, rather, they challenged them to repudiate racism along with them by taking this "radical" pledge...

* I believe all Americans have equal rights and equal value.
* I cherish the diverse cultures, beliefs, and values of America.
* I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable.
* I repudiate all acts of racism and hate, both in words and action.
* I have faith in the promise of America – a promise built on mutual respect, common civility, and hope for a better tomorrow.
* I commit to building that better America by participating actively and peacefully in the democratic process.

We are one people. We are one nation.


Is that so hard to agree with?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is nothing impossible?

April Flowers
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
If an overpowering hot summer morning -
wilting grass baked dry in the fierce glare of a fiery sun -
can be bested
by even a slight breeze in the shade

Is nothing impossible?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Bible and Economics

Mockingbird Warning
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

I began looking at the "wealth" of material (ha!) found in Psalms on this topic back in September, offering findings from the first ten Psalms. Today, I'm looking between Psalm 39 to Psalm 49 (with the whole of chapter 49 being about wealth, poverty and wisdom).

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you... You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth — each man is but a breath.

Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.

Psalm 39: 6, 7, 11, 12

Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods... Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

~Psalm 40: 4, 16

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.

The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.

The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.

~Psalm 41: 1-3

And here's an odd one that I include because it is mentioning specifically wealth and gold, but I'm not sure exactly of the context. It appears to be praise for the new wife (the Psalm is called "a wedding song") being led to the king's chambers by a bunch of virgins...

Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house.

The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

The Daughter of Tyre will come with a gift, men of wealth will seek your favor.

All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold.

In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you.

They are led in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king.

~Psalm 45: 10-15

For what it's worth. Moving on...

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike:

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding...

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me - those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on forever and not see decay.

For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.

But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.

This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings...

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.

Though while he lived he counted himself blessed — and men praise you when you prosper - he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life .

A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

~Psalm 49: 1-3, 5-13, 16-20