Tuesday
Sep022014

Value

From Scott Hoezee

My son started college last week and a couple days prior, he and I were out and about running last-minute errands to get him ready for the move to the dorm.  In between stops, the news on NPR came on the car radio, including a report from that day's funeral for Michael Brown.   An excerpt of Rev. Al Sharpton's message was played and at one point we heard Sharpton say something to the effect that it says something about our society when local police forces can get decked out by the government with military grade equipment even as local public schools cannot get the funds they need to deliver top-flight education to every child.

That comment prompted my otherwise fairly quiet son to say out loud, "Game, set, and match."

Sharpton's comment reminds me of the bumper sticker many of us have seen (but that I first saw on my niece's car years ago): "Won't It Be a Great Day When Schools Have All They Need and the Military Has to Hold Bake Sales to Buy Tanks."  

There are lots of ways--scores of ways for all I know--by which to evaluate any given society's values and priorities but the old adage "follow the money" works as well here as in many other areas of life.

Monday
Sep012014

What the Ice Bucket Challenge Means for Fundraising

From Jeff Munroe

As the calendar turns to September and the ice bucket challenge seems like so last month, I’m left reflecting on this unparalleled fundraising phenomenon.

What does it mean when every imaginable stripe of celebrity – from George W. Bush to Charlie Sheen – and millions of average folks pour freezing water over their heads and write checks? What does it tell us about ourselves and our culture?

To begin with, in case it wasn’t official yet, social media has changed the world. The ice bucket challenge had to have social media (and the cell phone technology that powers it) to exist. This couldn’t have happened a few years ago.

Social media is bottom up, not top down. It flattens (some like to say “democratizes”) communication. It’s important to remember that the ALS Association did not engineer this – the idea wasn’t original to ALS and the genesis of the whole thing was some people in the Northeast wanting to help a friend. All the charities now trying to figure out how to create the next viral fundraising challenge are wasting their time. You can’t orchestrate this stuff – the minute it looks orchestrated you’ve lost your audience. Social media is grass roots, and guys like me have the same platform as anyone else. Part of the appeal of the ice bucket challenge is that I can do the same thing as someone famous and post my version of doing it on the same platform as the famous person. I liked Benedict Cummerbatch’s video and Patrick Stewart’s video, but I also liked the self-identified redneck who rigged a tarp full of ice water and shot holes in it to douse himself. In the social media world, fame isn’t an either/or thing. All of us our famous, some just not as famous yet as we know we’re bound to be.

Sunday
Aug312014

Giving thanks for those who Labor in Love

The summer has come to an end, as has my short writing stint for The Twelve. Thank you for letting me share ideas, pray and at times, challenge. I agreed to do it because I saw it as a new summer spiritual discipline that would take me out of the comfort zone of my own congregation. I would ask: who is the audience, what do they need to hear, what do I feel like saying? Then I would pray and hope that something might end up on the page. On this Labor Day weekend, I decided to I give thanks for all those that Labor in Love for the Church.

I was given this poem by a congregant, and I cannot give credit where credit is due, because anonymous was written in the corner. This poem has helped me on those thankless days to recall the words from Anne Lamott, “gratitude dovetails into behavior”.

I hope you will find it helpful and receive a word of thanks from me for all that you do and all that you are…THANK YOU!

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there to be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
they will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

Give thanks for God’s love endures forever.

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.

Saturday
Aug302014

The End of Summer

From James Bratt

My grandpa would always read Psalm 90 for family devotions on New Year’s Eve. I witnessed this once, and my mom said it was that way all the time. Good Christian Reformed elder, he left ritual—“mere ritual,” it always was—to Catholics and others, some of whom were doubtless good Christians nonetheless. By rebound effect, perhaps, or by his unwitting New Year’s Eve example, I’m a sucker for rituals of most every sort. Well, not the patriotic ones that have been fatally tinctured with militarism. But for the rest, I’m there. Especially when the seasons turn. We need so badly to have a rope outside the echo chamber of our minds to bear us over the hard endings, the severings in time that show the past to be irretrievably back there now, seemingly dearer because lost.

Psalm 90 does that for our standard dividing of the years, the last day of December. The collect for the first Sunday in Advent does it too, at the hinge of the church year, falling as it does besides near the earliest sunset of the year. The dark not only comes quick then, but deeper, with harvest home’s Thanksgiving behind us. “Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen.” Yeah, that just about nails it.

But what about this weekend’s turning, Labor Day, the psychological if not the meteorological end of summer? For, lo, we are delivered into the School Year, and there will be no break until Thanksgiving. You can already hear the hammer of the galley master beating time mercilessly for the accomplishment of the SLOs that are now mandated to appear atop every syllabus, assessable per the itemization thereof on the course evaluation, and woe be unto me and thee if the students haven’t picked them up. The SLOs, that is. The course content? A new angle on the world? The shock of recognition in a poem a thousand years old, or in the swirl of a galaxy far away? Meh.

Friday
Aug292014

The Genius of Jimmy

From Jason Lief

I happened to turn on the Emmys the other night just in time to catch Jimmy Kimmel presenting an award. Only he didn't just present... he broke into a comedy bit at the expense of Matthew McConaughey. If you're interested here's the clip:

Whenever anyone asks me how I'm doing lately I usually respond the same way: miserable. At first they don't know what to say... and then I smile, which lets them relax. They get it—stupid question. I'm lugging around a ten pound swollen leg with a blood clot stuck in it somewhere... how do you think I'm doing? Comedy has a way of cutting through the pretense... comedians get to say stuff that none of the rest of us dare say, because they're joking after all. My ten year old son seems to be mastering the comedian way. If we tell him to do something he doesn't want to do, or doesn't like, he give us a smart, sassy, answer. But before we can get angry he lets out s smile with a twinkle in his eye. 'Wait... is he joking?" I ask myself. BY then it's too late. He's off. My wife blames my side of the family.