Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, July 31, 2009

What Is Awakening the Dreamer?

To bring forth an
environmentally sustainable,
spiritually fulfilling,
socially just human presence
on this planet.

Check it:




Coming September 26, 2009 to the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee. Please join us and invite your friends. Here is information.

Awakening the Dreamer at First Pres!

Check out the news at FPC Elizabethton. You can read our newsletters in pdf. Snad just posted the August newsletter.
  • Inside you will find information about our drumming workshop and performance by Bolokada!
And...
  • Our Peacemaking Committee invites you to an exciting conference in September. It is called Awakening the Dreamer. Here is the info on that:

AWAKENING THE DREAMER, CHANGING THE DREAM SYMPOSIUM

Date: Saturday, September 26th, 9:30 – 4:00
Cost: $10.00 (no one will be turned away for lack of funds)
Food: Light refreshments provided. Bring a lunch, or reserve a catered lunch when you register.
Register through the church office or online

There’s a Movement emerging on Planet Earth, new ways of living which will take us beyond the crises of our age into a world that works for all. Our work is helping to build the movement of awake, committed, engaged people, an invitation we extend to everyone. Who we can be, and what we can do at this point in history has never been so significant, or so much fun.

The Old Dream is dying. Its demise becomes inevitable as we discover the devastation we’ve caused to our own planet home, as we count the rising cost of our inhumanity to each other and as we see how our current way of living fails to deliver lasting happiness. All of these are the inevitable conclusions of an old dream rooted in acquisition, consumption and putting personal gain above communal good.

The New Dream is emerging! It's community, collaboration; it's life-enhancing and earth-honoring; it's together and for our grand-children, rather than Supersize me Now! So we’re seeing the largest social movement of all time, millions of people and organizations working for environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment, three facets of a new dream for humanity and planet Earth.

Your Role
The New Dream is not a distant future possibility; it’s a practical option for right here, right now! The New Dream is alive, and spreads, whenever any of us take a stand for sustainability, peace and justice in any part of our lives. Our role involves daily action, ever greater understanding and deeper awareness. It’s an option in any purchase we make and our daily lifestyle choices; its available in every conversation and how we choose to see the world every day. It’s about what each of us can do individually and it’s about what we can do together.

The need and the opportunity for each of us and all of us to act is now!

Read more about it and other cool things happening at First Pres. in our August newsletter and on our website.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pic of the Day


Thanks to Southern Beale who has a good post to go with it.

A Right, Not a Privilege: Speaking Out in Bristol

Joseph Fitsanakis of Democracy Now! Tri-Cities has posted about our press conference in Bristol yesterday that coincided with the visit of President Obama to Bristol, Virginia.

As always, Dr. Fitsanakis provides insightful commentary. He is teaches political science and contributes to IntelNews. Check the story:


NEARLY 50 TRI-CITIES RESIDENTS from all walks of life gathered yesterday on Wagner Street in Bristol, VA, a couple of blocks down from the Kroger store visited by Barack Obama, to voice their support for radical reform of America’s crumbling healthcare system.

Numerous SEIU members were there, as well as several DNTC members and supporters, APEC volunteers, members of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, as well as DRC volunteers from Johnson City.



Photographs showing the SEIU rally made The Associated Press, including this nice photo showing a sign held by a DNTC member attending the event.



Unfortunately, the coverage by The Bristol Herald Courier, reached its usual depths of anti-union and pro-conservative bias.

The articles in today’s paper focus mostly on the handful of anti-Obama protesters who were in the area, drawn from the usual mix of neo-confederate “don’t-tread-on-me” groupings and ultra-right identity movement fundamentalists. The paper, which supported John McCain in the 2009 presidential election, gave token coverage to the SEIU rally.

Since you can’t depend on our region’s press to find out about the details of the event, you can click here to see photographs from the rally. For another report of the rally see John Shuck's blog, here.


DNTC wants to thank the tireless SEIU organizers who put the rally together, as well as everyone who turned out to support healthcare reform.


It is about time for America to join the rest of the industrialized world in recognizing that HEALTHCARE IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE!



Yes! Thank you Joseph!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama in Bristol

Update, 11:08

Good coverage by Tricities.com including text of speech and audio interview from local reporters with Obama.

Update, 10:00 p.m.

Video of wacky protesters with crazy information.

Roanoake.com has most coverage it seems.

Update, 9:05 p.m.

Here are more goodies from Obama's trip to Bristol:

A run down of his speech and Q&A is here.

Here are some pics of demonstrations at Roanoake.com

Pics 1-4 are the zany Madhatters.

Pics 5-7 is of the rally I attended. Notice the cool sign on #7 by DemocracyNow Tricities

"Healthcare is a Right, Not a Privilege" www.dntc.org

Pics 8-15 are Obama at Kroger.


-----

I returned a little bit ago from a press conference in Bristol Virginia, just a few blocks down from where President Obama is speaking at a Kroger store. The press conference was for the
Service Employees International Union. They are part of the Change That Works campaign. They are advocating among many things, health care reform.

It was good to get out in the streets. It will be interesting to watch the news coverage tonight.

What Has the General Assembly Ever Done for Us?

Some of my Presbyterian colleagues are goofier than the Madhatters. The latest is this guy's big celebration about his presbytery putting the General Assembly "on notice" a year after the event. On notice for what? Who knows for sure. But it is a tea party! And its about freedom! And teh Gay! And Jesus! And the Bible! It is decisive action by these faithful watchmen and shepherds. Amen. Amen and Amen again.

Alan has a fine take on the Beaver-Butler buffoonery.

Our man in Pennsylvania infiltrated the Confessing Presbyterians Double Secret Meeting and filmed the proceedings:




Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Would God Back Universal Health Care?

Here are some good thoughts by Oliver Thomas on USA Today:

Oliver Thomas is a minister, lawyer and author of 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).

He is also the Executive Director of the Niswonger Foundation of Greeneville, TN.

Religious texts give us a good idea. The common theme: Don’t turn your back on the needy.

By Oliver Thomas

Mixing church and state might be inexcusable, but the influence of religion on our political views is inevitable. Accordingly, the First Amendment does not prohibit laws that reflect our religious values as long as those laws have a secular purpose and effect. So it is curious that, until recently, little has been written about the moral dimension of the health care debate. The focus has largely been on how to pay for insuring 46 million uninsured people in America and whether to provide a so-called public option. At last, religious leaders are stepping forward to explain what our Scriptures and religious traditions have to teach us about the most important domestic policy issue to come before the Congress in recent years.

The answer, it turns out, is a lot. Not directly, of course. Our Scriptures were written long before talk of deductibles, pre-existing conditions and single payers. But indirectly, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim texts have much to say about the quality, availability and affordability of health care. …

Such "care" extends to health care. The legendary Jewish scholar and physician Maimonides listed health care first on his list of services that a city should offer its residents. …

Christians find similar teachings in the New Testament. One of Jesus' most famous parables is about health care. A Samaritan traveler happens upon a seriously wounded man lying by the side of the road. The Samaritan attends to the man, dresses his wounds and pays a substantial sum for his care and recovery. Jesus ends the story by telling his hearers to "go and do likewise." …

For Muslims, the Holy Quran contains multiple admonitions to attend to the needy. …

Nevertheless, Cigna insurance executive turned whistle-blower Wendell Potter testified recently that the insurance industry fearing competition is engaged in a campaign to scare Americans away from any sort of public plan.

In truth, says Potter, America's nearly half-century-old Medicare program has proved itself an efficient choice. Administrative costs of Medicare? Less than 5%. Of the private plans? Closer to 20%, according to Potter.

Jesus admonished his disciples to be as innocent as doves, but he also warned them to be "as wise as serpents." Let's hope Congress can be the same. Read More

Madhatters to Protest Obama

Could be fun in Bristol tomorrow. The goofy madhatters plan a protest. This is the email they sent out about it.
Announcing a new Meetup for North East Tennessee Tea Party!
What: Protest Obama Coming to Bristol, VA

When: July 29, 2009 2:00 PM

Where:
Kroger
31 Midway St.
Bristol, VA 24201

Protest Against Marxist Obama,

All right it’s on!

We need every member to be present at this protest. Bring your family and friends and everyone you know to show your dismay of Obama’s agenda to destroy our Country and our Freedom’s.

I cannot stress how important this is for every member to attend this Protest and be prepared to be here for a few hours since we don't know when they will sneak Obama in.

This protest will get some major media exposure from all angels so please show up.

All of the other Liberty groups in our area of TN & VA will also be protesting as well.

Thank you,

Organizers James and Billy

Yep. Yessir. Git R Dun.

Gay Scientists Isolate "Christian Gene"

Response to Huckabee Report

This is from a friend, Christina, in response to Monday's Huckabee Report:
Dear Mr. Huckabee,

After hearing your radio show this morning on the amount of money doctors should make, I thought you might be interested in hearing about my job.

I care for people. I comfort them when they are sick, scared or hurt. I hug them when they are crying and laugh with them if they are happy. I feed them or help them feed themselves if they are unable to do so. I clean them, wash them and style their hair just the way they like it. I dress them and keep them warm. I do their makeup, their nails, shave them and apply cologne or perfume. I take them to the bathroom if they cannot do it themselves, and I do the required cleaning afterwards. I empty their garbage, make their beds, fluff their pillows, give them a drink of water or soda or coffee or whatever they want. Am I a mom? No…

I monitor their skin for injuries. I take their blood pressure, temperature and pulse and report any abnormalities. I hold their hand as they are dying.

And, after they have passed; with the tenderness of a mother washing a newborn infant, I clean up a saddened families loved one and prepare them for their next journey. And I cry because they are gone, because they were family to me too.

I am not a Registered Nurse, not a Licensed Nurse. Practitioner. I am a C.N.A. a Certified Nursing Assistant. I make $7.50 an hour. Less than the average McDonalds employee, but I promise you my job is more important to the sick, elderly, infirm, and dying than flipping a burger.

Have you, Mr. Huckabee ever had your Mother or Father in a nursing home? Or thought about being in one yourself someday? If you have I hope someday you will be in mine. Because even though I make wages that put me under the poverty level, even though I cannot afford my OWN quality health care, I will care for YOU Mr. Huckabee like I would my own family. (Even though I don’t agree with your politics in any way.)

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing about this sometime soon on the Huckabee Report.

Christina.
Americans believe it is a value and a right and good for society to provide at government expense K-12 education.

Americans believe it is a value and a right and good for society to provide at government expense roads, sewage, water mains, stop signs, police, and fire protection.

Americans (politicians and corporations notwithstanding) believe it is a value and a right and good for society to provide at government expense health care.

Education, roads, police, fire, and health care are not just for the rich.

Health care is not a luxury. It is a vital part of our social infrastructure.

It is time for our political leaders to put what we value into action.

Join us tomorrow.

Montana Senator Screws America

Max Baucus has been one of Montana's senators for as long as I can remember. The great Senator Mike Mansfield preceded him. Made one proud to be a Montanan. Baucus is no Mansfield.

As a Democrat, one would think Baucus would advocate for the people as opposed to corporations. Not true. His little band of six that he has been directing has removed the public health insurance option from the table.

After weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits two key Democratic priorities but incorporates provisions to slow the explosive rise in medical costs, officials said.

These officials said participants were on track to exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite President Barack Obama's support for such a plan....





Crooks and Liars posted this interesting table about Baucus.

From Howie Klein:






No one serving in the Senate today has taken as much money from the Medical-Industrial Complex as Baucus ($2,865,881) other than notorious corporate whore Arlen Specter ($4,066,433) and two former presidential candidates, John Kerry ($8,163,141) and John McCain ($8,672,260). Baucus even tops Medical Industry shill Mitch McConnell ($2,755,468). And when it comes to the Financial Sector-- the banksters, Big Insurance and Big Real Estate-- Baucus was also on the payroll in a major way. His $4,675,393 in donations put him in the Top 10...
Southern Beale writes:
The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce is cheering this deal. Which is a sure sign that it’s going to suck for consumers.

Here’s the best part:
They have met for hours in recent weeks in Baucus' office, joined by aides and outside advisers such as actuaries summoned to explain arcane details of insurance.

Of course they have. They have to learn all about insurance, the ins and outs and ups and downs of it. Because that’s what this has always been about: insurance reform.

Not healthcare reform, but insurance reform.

Epic Fail.

Mad as hell? Come bang some pots and pans with us Wednesday in Bristol.


Monday, July 27, 2009

President Obama in Bristol

President Obama is going to hang around my mountain for a while on Wednesday. He is speaking to Kroger employees in Bristol, Virginia. It is a private party.

But...


Democracy Now! Tri-Cities is urging anyone who wants healthcare reform to be there! Here is the skinny:

FOR THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has initiated its Change that Works project in every state of the union, to fight for real health care reform. This coming Wednesday, July 29, SEIU Change that Works activists in our region will be holding a press conference to stress the importance of health care reform based on inclusiveness and universal coverage. This event has been scheduled to coincide with the visit in Bristol by President Barack Obama on the same day. The President will be speaking at around 4:00 p.m. at a closed-door forum at the Kroger store located at 31 Midway Street in Bristol, VA. Tickets have been reserved for Kroger employees and only those with tickets will be admitted to the event.

The SEIU press conference will take place at 1:30 p.m, at 20 Wagner Street, Bristol, VA (click here for map). They have requested that as many people as possible be present at that event, which will include not only local, but also national media as well. This is an urgent call for everyone who can make it to be at 20 Wagner Street in Bristol, VA, at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29, to help make the case for radical health care reform now!

For more information about this event, call Adam Brien at 270-703-3141. Please help spread the word.
The word is spread.

For All You Do...


Blame Snad. (Go ahead, blame her for everything you can think of).

Via

Politicians and Sex: Redux

Remember Paul Stanley? Not the vocalist from KISS but the Tennessee State Senator. I wrote about him several times in regards to legislation he had introduced to ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting children.

He is in the news again.

Stanley recently sponsored a bill designed to prevent gay couples from adopting children. And when a Planned Parenthood official recently sought his support for family planning services for Memphis teens, Stanley told her, according to the official, that he "didn't believe young people should have sex before marriage anyway, that his faith and church are important to him, and he wants to promote abstinence."

So far, so far Republican. But you can see where this is going...

In a sworn affidavit, a Tennessee state investigator has said that Stanley admitted to having a "sexual relationship" with a 22-year-old female intern working in his office, and to taking nude pictures of her in "provocative poses" in his apartment.

He loves Jesus though so it's all good.

via

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Faux Covenants

I see that Jim Berkley, formerly of the IRD, now of the LayMAN, has written his letter to the Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee. Presbyweb posted it. Here is a snippet:
We do not love others by setting up faux “covenants” so that they may feel confident and encouraged to continue in sexual sin. We do not love others by failing to warn them about the consequences of their actions, but instead just let them continue in sin to their own destruction.
That is what he thinks of your relationships, my gay and lesbian friends, faux covenants. Allies, that is what he thinks of your friends' and family members' relationships, faux covenants.

This post is not a critique of his letter. I don't even care if you read it. It is the same destructive, harmful nonsense that we can expect from the right wing. He has a right to express it.


The question is this and I put it as bluntly as I can: will he speak for you?


The answer is "yes" unless you speak.


The right wing is churning out the letters and posting them on right wing websites. My post here will probably stir up more anti-lgbt letters. I hope it does more than that.


The committee obviously is not going to be so shallow as simply to take a vote count of pro-lgbt vs. anti-lgbt letters. However, volume does matter (that is why on-line newspapers are always posting those annoying polls).


What matters more is that
  • if you are reading this and
  • if you disagree that same-gender relationships are faux covenants
your voice needs to be heard as much as these others.

You don't need to be a member of the clergy to write a letter.

Maybe you are in a "faux" covenant yourself. Tell the committee it ain't
faux.

Maybe you have a friend or family member that the right wing thinks is mo faux. Tell them it isn't so.


Tell your story. Tell the committee and thus the Presbyterian Church that same-gender relationships are the real thing and a far cry from faux covenants.


Perhaps you are not really sure where you stand, but you do think that clergy and congregations need the freedom of conscience to provide pastoral care to all of their members and that blessing these relationships is an important part of that care.


This committee needs to hear the voice of reason and compassion. You are that voice.


Here are the
guidelines.

Responses can be sent
electronically or mailed to Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee, Office of the General Assembly, Room 4621, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396.

We have until August 16th.


Created from Water: A Sermon

Here is today's sermon on the theme of water. I shared some things learned on my study leave. It is also Qur'an Sunday (we have been reading the Qur'an cover to cover in 2009). I chose a reading from Surah 25 that states that God created humankind from water.

Created from Water
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee
July 26th, 2009
John 4:7-14

Water may not be something we think about on a day to day basis. We turn on the faucet. We flush the toilet. We wash our clothes in a machine as well as our dishes. We turn on the shower. Water appears. That wasn’t the case, of course, for those who lived when the Gospel of John was written. Nor is it the case for many in the world today.

Our story from John’s gospel features a woman among many women who went daily to draw water from a common well. Fresh water was not taken for granted. Gathering water took time and labor. Water was not plentiful or easy to access. We know the value of water amidst its scarcity.

This is a poem from Wendell Berry entitled, “Water.”
I was born in a drought year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
Veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemy’s soul.
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.
--Wendell Berry, “Water”
It is not surprising that in the Bible and in the Qur’an water is both a metaphor for the spiritual life and a material reality. The Bible begins with water. Water is so important that God controls it:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.
In this ancient cosmology, the sky or the dome kept the waters above it and the waters on the flat earth. When it rained, they thought that the portals were being opened in the dome to allow the water to fall.

In the Qur’an, God also separates the waters. In this case it is the salt water from the fresh water. In our reading from Surah 25:
…It is He Who merged the two seas,
This one fresh and sweet water,
That one salty and bitter.
Between them He erected a barrier, an impassable boundary.
It is She Who, from water, created humankind,
Conferring on them kinship, of blood and marriage.
Your Lord is Ever-Powerful.
In the Qur’an human beings are created from water. Human beings are created from dust and clay in the Bible and from water in the Qur’an.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus offers “living water.”
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus cries out to the crowds:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”
Lest there be any doubt, from our ancient texts, water is sacred. Water is the symbol for life. Wetness is spiritual. The opposite is dryness, lifelessness, deadness. This dryness is the abode of the unclean spirits. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus said that when an unclean spirit leaves a human being:
“it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting-place, but it finds none.”
That is a memorable image for spiritual death: an unclean spirit wandering through the waterless regions.

All four gospels bring Jesus on the scene with the water of baptism. His ministry begins with a ritual cleansing and the promise from the sky, “This is my son my beloved.”

There is a reason why water has spiritual significance, why it is used as a metaphor for joyful, conscious, celebratory, refreshing, life. The reason is that water has material significance. We can get along without shopping malls. We will survive without cars, computers, and churches. Human beings can live without oil, gas and coal. But we cannot live without water.

• Available fresh water is less than ½ of 1 percent of all the water on Earth.

• Seventy percent of our water use is for agriculture. The vast majority of that water is used to raise livestock (meat) and to produce biofuels.

• Eighty percent of the global population relies on ground-water supplies that are dangerously depleted, if not exhausted, as they are mined beyond natural replenishment. (Kostigen, p. 170)

• On top of that, our streams and rivers are increasingly polluted with toxins. We have created “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico from all the agricultural chemicals that have flowed down streams to the Mississippi and then into the gulf. P. 68 (50 Ways to Help Save the Earth, Rebecca Barnes'-Davies)

• The largest landfill in the world (90 percent of which is plastic) is in the Pacific Ocean. This garbage patch is between California and Hawaii and is twice the size of Texas. P. 68 (50 Ways)

Lack of access to fresh, clean, water could be the biggest threat to humanity in the coming years. It already is a threat for much of the world. One of every six people on Earth, that is one billion people, lack access to safe drinking water.

Journalist Thomas Kostigen has traveled to many places in the world including Mumbai, India, Linfen City China, and Borneo in Southeast Asia and has written about the environmental situation in these places. His latest book is You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet. He writes about water:
Most residents of the developing world get by on a little more than five gallons of water per day; the average global citizen uses about thirteen gallons per day; all the while, water use in Western Europe and the United States ranges between 50 and 170 gallons per person per day. Think we can get by on using a little less and putting a little more into the hands of people who need it? P. 169
When we hear or read this information there is a tendency to become numb to it. We may feel both a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. We feel helpless in that we don’t think we as individuals can do anything to change forces seemingly beyond our control. We feel hopeless in that the problems are so vast we wonder how can we possibly solve them.

We don’t need to be immobilized by either.

I spent the last two weeks at two conferences. The first was Presbyterians for Restoring Creation and the second was Creation Spirituality Communities with Matthew Fox. From both of these conferences I took away this truth.

Everyone is now an environmentalist.


Being green isn’t just for hippies and tree huggers. The creativity, concern, and compassion for Earth and all of its creatures are becoming part of our consciousness.

People are not only becoming aware of the issues but are thinking creatively about how to address them. We are recognizing that we are interconnected. We are realizing that everything we consume affects people around the globe and vice versa. Our little steps, using a little less water and eating less meat, have huge impacts.

We are far from helpless. We are after all human beings. We are the consciousness of the Universe. It took 14 billion years for us to get here. We aren’t going to throw that away. We have done some pretty incredible things and made amazing discoveries. As we awaken from our slumber, we will discover that the creativity of the universe is within us. We are survivors. It is in our genes. Each of us is here because our ancestors learned to adapt. Helpless? Hardly.

Nor should we be hopeless. Matthew Fox reminded us to remember our ancestors. We appeared on the scene about 100,000 years ago in Africa, our home. We nearly went extinct, but we didn’t. Just as human beings began to emigrate from Africa to Central Asia and to Europe we ran into the ice age. Talk about climate change.

There were no manuals available to deal with it. No books for our ancestors with titles such as Securing Your Financial Portfolio During the Coming Ice Age Crisis. There were no internet sites offering 101 Ways to Hunt and Kill a Woolly Mammoth. They had to figure it out for themselves. Somehow they did. They learned to adapt.

Here we are again. We are certainly facing crises we have never faced before. But with our tools--our awareness, creativity, and inherited wisdom--we will manage. Our descendants could enjoy hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of years of life.

But we need to step up and not zone out.

One way to be conscious is to celebrate the sacredness of water. Water is spiritual. Let us drink of the spring that gushes up to eternal life. When we drink, when we eat our green things, when we bathe, when we wade in the water, we are engaging in a sacred and holy act.

Let us celebrate the wetness of it. Let us each honor with our mind, spirit, and body the pure, clean, dripping, life-giving goodness of H20. The Qur’an reminds us that we are created from water. It is life, our sacred treasure.

As we eat, as we drink, let us honor and be grateful for this gift.

Let us imagine a world in which there is enough fresh, clean water for all.

Because as we imagine we make it so.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Too Many Damn Flowers

Snad sent me this one to check out. The Talking Heads, Nothing But Flowers.



Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
Waterfalls
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it's nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
you got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
we got it, we got it

There was a shopping mall
Now it's all covered with flowers
you've got it, you've got it

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
you've got it, you've got it

Years ago
I was an angry young man
I'd pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it's only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it's nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we'd start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
you got it, you got it

I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens
you got it, you got it

And as things fell apart
Nobody paid much attention
you got it, you got it

I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
you got it, you got it

We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries
you got it, you got it

This was a discount store,
Now it's turned into a cornfield
you got it, you got it

Don't leave me stranded here
I can't get used to this lifestyle

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dick

This is good:

Radically Different Lifestyles Are Coming

I plan to watch the 20/20 show on oil tonight. I wonder if they will talk about the elephant in the room, Peak Oil. Chris Nelder at Forbes puts it bluntly in The End of Fossil Fuel:

You will never see cheap gasoline again. You will probably never see cheap energy again. Oil, natural gas and coal are set to peak and go into decline within the next decade, and no technology can change that.

Peaking is a simple concept. We generally exploit natural resources in a bell-shaped curve, with the rate of extraction increasing over time until we reach a peak and then gradually slowing down until we stop using them.

Peak oil is not about "running out of oil"; it's about reaching the peak rate of oil production. It's not the size of the tank that matters, but the size of the tap.

The peak is usually reached when resources become too difficult to extract, or too expensive, or they are replaced by something cheaper, better or more plentiful. Unfortunately, we have no substitutes for oil that are cheaper or better.

According to the best available data, we are now at the peak rate of oil production. After over a century of continual growth, global conventional crude oil production topped out in 2005 at just over 74 million barrels per day (mbpd) and has remained at that level ever since.

It is time for us to face the facts and to demand that our president level with the American people.
Americans, who constitute 4% of the world population but consume 25% of its energy, will have radically different lifestyles. Production of everything will have to be re-localized. Instead of our food traveling an average 1,500 miles before it reaches us, it will have to come from nearby and use organic methods instead of requiring 10 calories of fossil fuel inputs for every calorie of food we eat.
So should I be
a) depressed
b) partying on while Rome burns
c) in denial
d) realistic, hopeful, and creative?

Answer: D

Nelder writes:

The coming energy shortage is the most serious crisis the world has ever faced, but it could have a very positive outcome. In theory, the Earth's wind, solar, geothermal and marine resources could each provide more than the total energy the world consumes every day, if we had the ability to harvest them.

Oil Addiction on ABC Tonight

Charlie Gibson's ABC News special report, Over A Barrel: The Truth About Oil, airs tonight, Friday, July 24, as a special edition of "20/20." The program airs at 10:00 pm Eastern Time.

You can also read more about the report and view clips online by clicking here. Here are a few interesting tidbits from the article:

Imported oil accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. supply, and much of that comes from half a world away.

"Most of the world's remaining reserves of oil are in the hands of just five countries," said Vijay Vaitheeswaran, a professor in residence at New York University and correspondent for the Economist magazine. "Saudi Arabia, which has a quarter of the world's oil reserves, or its four immediate neighbors: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE."

Where is this heading?
"When a country like the United States depends on oil to really run its engine or the industry, we are at the mercy of the suppliers of oil," Chu said. "We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year importing oil and, so, we are heading toward a train wreck."
What are the hidden costs of our oil addiction?

And the United States is spending billions more on military engagements in the Middle East. The war in Iraq alone, by conservative estimates, has already cost close to $700 billion.

Gen. Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, called oil resource protection one of the key factors driving U.S. foreign policy.

"There is no one who would have any doubt about whether protecting energy sources and access to those sources is one of America's vital interests," Clark said, adding, however, that the Iraq war should not be reduced to U.S. interest in oil?

"No, it wasn't all about oil," Clark said, "but oil was a component of this. ... Indirectly, oil was at the foundation of a lot of this, not just in 2003 but in 1990, '91 ... It's been the thrust of U.S. policy, and before that, it was the thrust of British policy to safeguard access to that region."

Vaitheeswaran, in his assessment of the true costs of oil dependence, said, "We're paying for the geopolitical complications of oil, but we pay it through the Pentagon budget and we pay it through the lives of our soldiers lost overseas.

"These are costs we bear. ... We use more gasoline than we should, because there is an artificial price. ... We don't pay an honest price for the energy we use in America."

What about "drill baby, drill?"

T. Boone Pickens made billions off the oil industry in his 50-year career. But the lifelong Republican now says, no matter what his party says, that Americans can't rely on what they have, regardless of how much technology may improve.

"I have been asked this question, what would I expect to get if we drilled, and I said that 2 million barrels a day," Pickens said. "I would be pleasantly surprised if we could do that off those areas, 2 million barrels. Remember, we are importing 13 million barrels a day."

As for the notion that "Drill, Baby, Drill" could break U.S. dependence on foreign oil, "you haven't got a prayer," Pickens said. " ... I thought, who in the hell is telling them that that makes sense? Because it doesn't make sense."

It is good to see mainstream media finally addressing the topic. Check it out tonight on ABC.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Las Vegas Churches Accept Gambling Chips

This is interesting:



This may come as a surprise to those of you not living in Las Vegas, but there are more Catholic churches than casinos.





Not surprisingly, some worshipers at Sunday services will give casino chips rather than cash when the basket is passed.

Since they get chips from many different casinos, the churches have devised a method to collect the offerings.

The churches send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan monastery for sorting and then the chips are taken to the casinos of origin and cashed in.


This is done by the chip monks.



Did I get ya?

via Bailey's Buddy

Bolokada at First Pres!

I am looking forward to this. Our little club of beatniks is welcoming West African Drummer, Bolokada, to Elizabethton, August 22nd. Click the poster to enlarge and read the description below:


A DRUMMING CELEBRATION--Come hear and take a class with world known djembe drummer, Bolokada Conde, from Guinea West Africa at First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, TN (543-7757) on Saturday, August 22, 2009.

The drumming class is 4-5:30 p.m. and the exciting, dynamic performance with Bolokada and the Tonali Drum Group of Asheville, NC is 7-8:30. Fee for class and evening performance is $30. For the performance alone, $10.

He is an awesome performer from Guinea and visits this country during the summer (this year he is here from 8-13 to 8-23) to share in the development of drumming and raise a few funds to help build a school for his village. He is sponsored through Skinnybeats Drums in Asheville, NC. Check out Skinny Beats.




Spread the word! Hope to see you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Running Amok with Rev. Jim

Rev. Jim "Yosemite Sam" Yearsley has misunderstood his assignment. He was clearly instructed by the LayMAN to write a letter to the Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee and then dutifully report to them what he had written. Instead Rev. Jim sent the LayMAN a letter about me.
If there is a more appropriate appellation than “Shuck and Jive” for the heresy spewed by Mr. Shuck, I cannot imagine what it would be. For those unfamiliar with the term, “to shuck and jive” refers to intentionally misleading words and actions.



Another way to state it might be “pure bulloney!”





This guy’s blog is – as much as anything else – a great indicator of how much this denomination has lost its way. In any presbytery even pretending to hold traditional reformed theology or even faithful orthodox Christian belief as its standard, he would have already been brought up on charges.

I’m guessing that relative truth, syncretism and humanist secularism is far more the norm in Holston. Either that or the few conservatives there are so thoroughly cowed and fearful for their pensions that he is allowed to run amok.
Rev. Jim Yearsley
Tampa, Fla.
I am flattered. Do you suppose he wants to gay marry me? Sadly, I don't think I am his only love. He already tried to run amok (to no avail) with Rev. Janet Edwards.
"To ignore Rev. Edwards' gross misconduct and heretical behavior would be to turn a blind eye to the cancer that inflicts our denomination."
Ho hum. He needs a new pick up line.

Here is an excellent letter by Rev. Ray Bagnuolo. This is the conclusion but check the whole letter and do write your own!

Endorsing some tethered solution of civil unions and a blessing is lukewarm, at best, and insulting at worst, elevating the “heterosexual status,” once again; feeding the homophobic and violent fringe of society with another diminished status for those we call sisters and brothers in Christ. I don’t believe we can have it both ways. We cannot be sisters and brothers in Christ, with some “just a little less sisters and brothers in Christ.”

Lastly, as an openly gay man ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament, I can assure you that we who are your LGBT sisters and brothers are not issues. We are not the “ordination issue” or the “marriage issue.” We are living, breathing, loving, baptized members of this church and our community. Our lives continue to be directly affected by the decisions of this church.

It is my opinion that your recommendation should not be based on whether the church can accept it. Your recommendation should be based on what faith demands it to be. Let the acceptance and wrangling that follows be what it may, but let your voice be one for all those marginalized who need to hear and know that they have not been forgotten and are loved in the PC(USA) as equals.
Responses can be sent electronically or mailed to Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee, Office of the General Assembly, Room 4621, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396.

Body and Soul

Found this on the Creation Spirituality Communities website. And you thought we were another boring church group.

Test the Waters!

Update: And childcare is provided!!

If you are in the Tri-Cities area of Northeast Tennessee and looking for a progressive and inclusive place to worship, check out our place. If you would like to know more about us, come visit us this Saturday, July 25th, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and test the waters!


We will give you a tour of our building, take you for a stroll on our labyrinth, provide a free lunch and give you a chance to meet some fine folks.
Email me if interested!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Creation Spirituality Time

All right friends,

Enough pestering of my right wing friends for a while. I am off to the Creation Spirituality Conference in Asheville. Hot and Holy Cosmic Mass tonight. Hanging out with one of my favorite heretics, Matthew Fox for the weekend at Jubilee! in Asheville.


Why Bishop Wright is Wrong

It is the same story. It is the same rhetoric. It is the sin of privilege.

It is Bishop N.T. Wright:

They [The Episcopal Church] were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”.
Translation: You uppity (women, blacks, divorced persons, gays, ____________) are not possibly as righteous as I in the eyes of the Lord. You have only a half-assed baptism while I am a complete ass.

Every church has its right-wing. In order to secure their privilege they accuse those they actively oppress of disturbing the peace.

"You are causing schism. You are causing unrest. How dare you claim equality with us? You are threatening the unity and we will break the relationship if you get justice."

Who is causing "schism" again? Who is breaking away? Who is leaving and trying to take the silver with them?

Only a sick church gives in to those threats. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is still pretty sick I am afraid. Although, there are signs of health on the horizon.

The Episcopal Church is showing itself healthy these days. They are making decisions with dignity and integrity and for the sake of the Gospel.

They are seeing the Bishop Wrights for what they are: beloved of God but wrong.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rednecks, Guns and Alcohol

"We are bunch of rednecks down here in Nashville. Alcohol, rednecks, and firearms really don't mix that well inside bars."
--bar owner, Steve Smith

This was on Colbert in March when the legislation to bring concealed weapons into establishments serving alcohol was introduced.

It would be a bit more amusing if the law wasn't passed and now in effect.


See You in Nashville?

I hope to see some of you in Nashville, September 4-6 for The National Welcoming and Affirming Presbyterian Conference: God's Whole Family. Here is the story!

The National Welcoming & Affirming Presbyterian Conference September 4 - 6, 2009
Labor Day Weekend
Second Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee

"God's Whole Family" is hosted by Second Presbyterian Church, Nashville and produced by More Light Presbyterians for pro-LGBT Presbyterians, families, friends and allies.


Easy online registration now with housing options.



Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly, PCUSA, will join us as a keynote speaker and preacher.


Bruce is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a multi-cultural Presbyterian congregation in San Francisco, CA

Bruce's blog:


Rev. Debra Peevey, MLP's Campaign Outreach Coordinator for Amendment 08-B, will be with us to share heartwarming stories of faith, courage and transformation plus lessons learned from the campaign.

Debra is a minister in the Disciples of Christ tradition and lives with her spouse, Candy in Surprise, AZ.


We will gather in community and deepen our faith through affirming worship and by celebrating the gifts of God's creation, love and grace for us and all the world.

Think Road Trip!

Get a group from your church, youth group, campus or seminary community, or presbytery to be in “ Music City ” for the LGBT-affirming faith and spiritual experience of the year!


Group registration discount 5 for the price of 4, discounted registration for high school, college and seminary students, and early registration discounts for all.

Questions?
Email
Local phone contact: Trice Gibbons 615.292.1555


Register online today!


Please forward the good news and this invitation to others within your family, circle of friends, church, youth group, campus or seminary community!


This is the big National Event right here in Tennessee!

Squirt Out Protest


Shuck and Jive award to Numan's Bar and Grill in Johnson City and to the Johnson City Press for the front page coverage of this fun, educational, and soaking wet protest to the new gun law.

From the article:

The same day that legislation allowing carry permit holders to bring firearms into restaurants that serve alcohol went into effect, Numan’s staged its own protest of the law by inviting its employees and customers to take part in a mass water gun fight.

“It turned out it was incredibly successful,” Numan said amid streams of water passing by. “Everybody just had a ball.”

The filled water pistols were given to customers as they came through the door, and Darlene “Potshot” Ponzio quickly armed herself. While she said she was having a blast with the water guns, she had other thoughts on the idea of real guns in bars.

“I think it’s fun. I think it’s great,” she said of the protest, “and I think it’s stupid they would let guns come into a bar in the first place. That was a stupid law they put in. That’s ridiculous.”

Numan said Ponzio’s feelings on the legislation seem to be the consensus among his customers.

“I got a good, wide range of people who come by and everybody is telling me I’m doing the right thing by protesting this,” he said.

Aside from the water gun fight protest, Numan is also leaving up a petition in his bar.

“I know that all my customers are going to be signing this, and I’m trying to get a thousand signatures this week,” he said.

This is a great protest. Good use of symbolism. Front page coverage. Opportunity to do something (sign a petition), educational, and fun. There is nothing like lightheartedness to spoof the mood of paranoia in our country being placed upon us by the gun lobby.

Thumbs up, Dan Numan!


Why Marriage Matters

Here are a couple of fine letters to the Committee on Civil Union and Christian Marriage. One is from Earl Apel and is posted on the Layman's website. It is the second one that the editors titled, How We Interpret, Follow the Bible is Important. Here is a piece of it:
My own church, Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, has been quite vocal on this subject in the past. In fact one of our pastors, Steven Van Kuiken, was defrocked by the Presbytery of Cincinnati for taking such a bold stand in saying that services of same-sex couples were the same as marriage. There was division in our church as to strategy and bottom line our relationship to the PC(USA) whether to go or stay. After Mr. Van Kuiken’s dismissal, our church did issue a new policy that I think is inclusive to all persons wanting to have their partnerships blessed and affirmed in the PC(USA).

I happen to be gay and haven’t been at a point in my life where I needed to have a relationship formally affirmed in the church. But I certainly understand the needs of so many others that wish to do so.

But here is the bottom line. The Christian Church by nature is filled with various relationships. We are in a sense family to each other just as Christ and his followers were. It is important for a healthy family that relationships are honored and respected.
Another good one is posted on Witherspoon's site. This is from a psychologist, Dr. Matthew D. Johnson (scroll down to 7/13/2009). An excerpt:
It is clear from the research literature that the act of a couple gathering together their friends and family and making a promise to stay committed in front of the people most important to them and in front of God is profound. This leads to greater commitment (feeling compelled to stay in the relationship) and dedication (feeling compelled to actively work on improving the relationship) to their partner. These effects are much stronger when a couple weds than when they simply live together. A wedding that lacks an endorsement from the church may well weaken the benefits of marriage for the couple.

Strong marriages also benefit the children. A large amount of research conducted in the last two decades suggests that, on average, the presence of two parents is associated with better outcomes for children.

Unwed parents who cohabitate are more similar to married parents than to single parents on variables related to child outcomes, but children in families with married parents have the best health, behavioral and academic outcomes.

Strengthening families regardless of the gender of the parents should be an important goal of the church, and one way to do this is to allow all couples who seek to enhance their relationship through marriage to do so with the support of the church.
Don't forget to send yours!
Responses can be sent electronically (civilunion.marriage@pcusa.org) or mailed to Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee, Office of the General Assembly, Room 4621, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396.