Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws, Democracy, and Corporations

I’m subscribed to AllOut, and have been receiving at least one email a week from them recently about Russia’s anti-gay laws.  Here is the latest:

Dear Stephanie,

Coca-Cola’s running scared! 125,000 of us have asked them to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws, and they’re feeling the pressure. They say they need more time to decide and will answer next week.

Coca-Cola will only speak out against the laws if they judge there’s a major threat to their worldwide reputation. Andwe’ve hatched a plan to show them that’s exactly what’s happening.

On Monday, we could surround their US HQ with trucks pulling billboards that say: “Coca-Cola, speak out now.” Imagine the reaction of the executives heading out for lunch when the trucks roar past!

If we all come together to raise $8,000 in the next 24 hours, we can hire 3 huge advertising trucks to circle Coca-Cola HQ on Monday. Can you chip in right now?
https://www.allout.org/coca-cola-now

Olympics sponsors like Coca-Cola are investing billions in the Olympics and the Russian economy. That gives them huge power to influence the decisions made by Russian politicians.

If Coca-Cola calls for an end to the anti-gay laws, and other sponsors like McDonalds and Samsung follow, it will cause a huge headache for President Putin. It could lead to an end of the anti-gay laws for good.

Coca-Cola has financial power over Russia – and as consumers, we have financial power over Coca-Cola. And by chipping in a few dollars, euros or pounds each, we could buy $8,000 dollars worth of billboard trucks – enough to turn the heads of Coca-Cola executives and show them staying silent could cost them money and ruin their Olympic glow. Click here to donate:
https://www.allout.org/coca-cola-now

If we hit our goal, any extra funds donated will help power our campaign to end the anti-gay crackdown in Russia all the way to the Olympics in about 100 days time.

All Out members have gotten huge companies to do the right thing before – so we stand a real chance of moving Coca-Cola. In 24 hours, we got Apple to get rid of a dangerous “gay cure” mobile app from their store. And together, we pressured MTV Brazil to end its partnership with a violently anti-gay, anti-trans website.

Let’s stand now with millions of lesbian, gay, bi and trans Russians who are under attack from their own government. We need to move super-fast if we’re going get the mobile billboards circling Coca-Cola HQ on Monday so please donate now:
https://www.allout.org/coca-cola-now

Thanks for going All Out,

Andre, Guillaume, Hayley, Jeremy, Leandro, Marie, Sara, Tile, Wesley and the rest of the All Out team.

So first things first:  as a Christian, I believe God loves everyone and shows His grace to everyone.  I think it is absolutely wrong that we treat anyone anywhere as a fourth-class citizen for any reason because God calls His people to love Him and love others.  It’s that simple.  Treating others with hatred and violence goes against the Gospel.

In my mind, Russia’s anti-gay laws, and the violence that has been spawned against the LGBTQ community there because of those laws, are an absolute human rights violation.  Under the Fundamental Principals of Olympism (Olympic Charter, pp. 11-12), Russia should be disqualified from holding the 2014 Winter Games:

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

7. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

Unfortunately, the IOC is being silent on the matter, which leaves us to decide if we will or will not support the Olympic Games in 2014.

But back to the AllOut email posted above.  AllOut is advocating another way around the IOC’s reticence to call human rights violations human rights violations.  The Olympics is expensive to hold, and relies on corporate sponsorships:

The Olympic Games are one of the most effective international marketing platforms in the world, reaching billions of people in over 200 countries and territories throughout the world.

Support from the business community is crucial to the staging of the Games and the operations of every organisation within the Olympic Movement.

Revenue generated by commercial partnerships accounts for more than 40% of Olympic revenues and partners provide vital technical services and product support to the whole of the Olympic Family.

By AllOut’s reasoning, if we here in America and in other parts of the world make a big enough stink to Coca-Cola and other corporate sponsors, those sponsors might take notice and withdraw their financial backing for the games.  Without this financial backing, Russia is either forced to give up their rights as the host country or change their anti-gay laws to reclaim corporate sponsorship.

On the one hand, I am completely for Russia being forced to give up her rights as Olympic host because of human rights violations.  The IOC shouldn’t have chosen Sochi at all, based on Russia’s track record for human rights violations.  (In hindsight, I don’t think Beijing should have been chosen as host for 2008, and I would not support the United States as Olympic host in the future for the same reasons) On the other hand, I am completely against Russian government being held hostage by corporations, especially United States corporations.

You know why?

Because I am against the United States going in to a sovereign nation and telling them what to do militarily; against those corporations holding  the government of a foreign sovereign nation hostage; and against those same corporations holding our own government hostage.

Corporations aren’t people.  Corporations don’t have a vote in government.  So why are corporations able to send money to politicians and lobby Congress on behalf of their special interests?  They may not be able to vote, but they control the people you and I vote for with their funding.  The people that are paid to represent you, the individual; me, the individual; and everyone else, as individuals, are getting money from corporations to  represent the issues those corporations want.

Should Coca-Cola and other companies speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws?  Personally, I think so, but Coca-Cola is a business.  It’s mission is to earn money, and if it decides that its best interest is to stay neutral in matters of morality, then so be it.  If I don’t like it, I can choose to not buy anything Coca-Cola makes (and I don’t).  What can do as a small-business owner is choose to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws, the violence those laws create, and any other issues that make me angry.  I can support like-minded businesses when purchasing my supplies and ingredients, and speak out against businesses that don’t support the same things I do and not buy materials from them.

But business needs to stay out of  government, especially American businesses in foreign governments.  I’m sorry, AllOut.  I can’t support this latest campaign.  Yes, I want corporations to speak out against what’s happening in Russia.  Yes, I’d like them to pull corporate sponsorship from the Olympic games.  But I want President Putin and Russia’s government to do the right thing because treating humans with love, care, and respect is the right thing to do, not because America is a big bully and corporations can hold governments hostage through the power of money.

 


World Water Day 2013

Immaculee Mujawamaliya, 31, collects water from a crocodile-infested river with a girl from the Kajeruba village, Rwanda. (Al Jazeera)

If you have a twitter feed or spend a lot of time on facebook, you’ve probably seen several mentions that today is World Water Day.

If you live in a developed nation, you probably don’t think about your water much.  It’s clean and sanitary, ready to drink, cook with, or bathe in right at the very moment you need it.  Plants get watered, pets get drinks, our children swim in pools.  The only time we really give much thought to water is when our community is under a boil order, the water supply is decreased due to a severe drought, or we are in flood conditions that make our clean water unclean.

It’s really nice to live in a developed nation and be able to turn on a faucet, run water into a glass, and have a drink of water anytime I want.

But around the world, people in undeveloped or developing nations don’t have that luxury.  Many people living in those places don’t have indoor plumbing.  Which means no running water in the kitchen for a drink when they want or need it.  No indoor toilet with water to carry waste away to a water treatment facility.  No running water to wash their hands after … well, anything.  These are people who are poor, so they don’t have the money to build wells, and all the water they need must be transported by hand from a water source to their homes.  Often, the water source, whether it’s a river, pond, or lake, is miles from their home, so people have to walk to the water source, put water into a container, then carry water back home.

Tea pickers collect water from the nearby “chora”, or lake in the Kewachora tea garden, Sylhet, Bangladesh. The women use the dirty water to cook, clean and drink. (Al Jazeera)

 

At the start of the dry season, villagers from Ourare Alaye Tem in northern Mali are forced to make a four-day trek into neighbouring Burkina Faso in search of water. (Al Jazeera)

 

Can you imagine the necessity of making a four-day walk to another country just to get water for your family?  I can’t.  And it astounds me that in 2013, we have the technology to provide fresh, clean water to people all over the world,  yet according to the UN:

Water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).

Water scarcity is among the main problems to be faced by many societies and the World in the XXIst century. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and, although there is no global water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water.

Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for six billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

 

 

Lack of water contributes to gender inequality:

Fetching water is part of the gender inequality

  • In rural Benin, girls ages 6-14 spend an average of one hour a day collecting water compared with 25 minutes for their brothers.
  • In Malawi, there are large variations in the amount of time allocated for water collection based on seasonal factors, but women consistently spend four to five times longer than men on this task.
  • In Tanzania, a survey found school attendance to be 12 per cent higher for girls in homes located 15 minutes or less from a water source than in homes one hour or more away. Attendance rates for boys appeared to be far less affected by distance from water sources.
  • In 12% of households children carry the main responsibility for collecting water, with girls under 15 years of age being twice as likely to carry this responsibility as boys under the age of 15 years.
  • Research in sub-Saharan Africa suggests that women and girls in low-income countries spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water—the equivalent of a year’s worth of labour by the entire Work force in France.
  • In Africa, 90% of the work of gathering water and wood, for the household and for food preparation, is done by women. Providing access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads, and free up time for other economic activities. For their daughters, this time can be used to attend school.

Sanitation is one of the major challenges faced in overcoming gender inequalities

  • Inadequate access to safe, hygienic and private sanitation facilities is a source of shame, physical discomfort and insecurity for millions of women across the world. Cultural norms frequently make it unacceptable for women to be seen defecating—forcing many women to leave home before dawn or after nightfall to maintain privacy.
  • When women have to wait until dark to defecate and urinate in the open they tend to drink less during the day, resulting in all kinds of health problems such as urinary tract infections.
  • One problem that has been observed is that the latrine designs, especially for primary and secondary schools, are mainly prepared by male masons. The tendency therefore has been to construct latrines which are not sensitive to the special needs of girls. This has resulted in girls staying away from schools when they are menstruating, even when their schools have latrines. In the case of small boys too, the urinals are often too high. Moreover, it is important that separate sanitary latrines are constructed for boys, in order to prevent boys from taking over the latrines that are meant for the girls.

Sources:

  • Human Development Report 2006. Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2006.

  • Progress on sanitation and drinking water: 2010 update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), 2010.

  • Mainstreaming Gender in Water Management. Resource Guide. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Gender and Water Alliance (GWA), 2006.

And sexual violence:

A girl protests about the dangers of walking long distances to find water in Jeldu Woreda, Ethiopia. This week over 300,000 people globally are taking part in “the world walks for water and sanitation” campaign, calling on governments to keep to their international commitments. (Al Jazeera)

 

When people, especially women and girls, have to use their time each day walking to a water source and transporting water home, this work allows them less time to spend on other things, like being in school and studying/learning, taking care of a garden or livestock, working at a job, or taking care of a family.  All of these effects contribute to higher rates of poverty, all because people don’t have easy access to water.

It takes money – not much, but more than people in developing nations can afford – to build wells or water sanitation plants.  And it doesn’t take much money to do these things.  So if the lack of access to clean water in other places bothers you, why not contribute to a charity that funds projects to access water in these nations.  Below, you’ll find a list of charities that help fund and build water projects:

Millions of people worldwide die each year from waterborne illness. In many third-world countries, women walk barefoot on harsh terrain for hours each day to collect water for their families. Contaminated, disease-ridden water, that will most likely lead to illness or death, is collected in gas cans weighing at least 40 pounds, which are then strapped to their backs as they bear the weight of the water back home. Because these women spend so much time collecting water for their families, they miss out on the opportunity to attend school or care for the young children in their families. The cycle of poverty continues.

Fortunately, there are many water charities who are working toward a goal of clean water for everyone on Earth by the year 2015. Most of the following organizations have already begun to make a huge impact on the women and children of rural villages in poor countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Several others are also working to improve water sources in the United States. These water charities raise money by collecting individual and group donations, most or all of which go toward helping those in need gain access to clean water.

Is there a water charity that we forgot to include? Email Selwa@filtersfast.com to let us know.

A Drop in the Bucket seeks out innovative technological solutions to water and sanitation problems. Started by a group of ordinary people in Los Angeles, this non-profit organization works to provide water wells and sanitation systems to schools in Africa. A Drop in the Bucket is a water charity that encourages people to get involved by making donations and by spreading awareness.

Agua Para La Vida is a small organization dedicated to providing clean water solutions to the people of rural Nicaragua. Their goals include: improved sanitation through the building of latrines by local families; health education through school programs, adult programs and personal house visits; watershed conservation through reforestation and a technical work-study school that provides training in all aspects of drinking water projects to Nicaraguan students. The local focus ensures long-lasting success. Donations are accepted online or by mail, and 100 percent goes toward helping a Nicaraguan family build a clean water system.

Blood: Water Mission was founded by the Grammy award-winning band, Jars of Clay. The water charity works to promote sustainable solutions to both the HIV/Aids crisis and the water crisis in Africa. Through community empowerment, Blood: Water Mission has succeeded in creating and maintaining several HIV/Aids clinics along with thousands of water projects, including drilled wells, rain catchments and Biosand filtration. Fundraising campaigns include walks for water and sacrificial commitments to drink only water for two weeks or forty days, donating the money that would normally be spent on other beverages to Blood: Water Mission’s efforts. The organization also advocates creating your own campaign to raise funds.

Blue Legacy‘s main initiative, “Expedition: Blue Planet” takes a team of film, photography and media experts on a journey across five continents to areas where threatened water sources are of particular concern: India’s Ganges River, the drought-stricken Palestinian West Bank, and the U.S. Mississippi and Anacosta Rivers. This team uses videos, blogs and photos to chronicle the water issues specific to each area in a larger effort to depict the interconnectivity of water issues on a global scale. Blue Legacy focuses on the impact of water on the lives of the people in each location, using media as an educational tool to build awareness by helping others experience this impact for themselves.

The Blue Planet Run Foundation funds water projects through a collaborative effort known as the Peer Water Exchange (PWX). This network partnership of donors, implementers and observers is an online community that includes 59 agencies and non-governmental organizations like WaterAid, Water for People and charity: water all working together to ensure the ongoing success of water projects in 22 countries. Projects are reviewed and monitored online by various members of the network on a continual basis. There are many ways for people to participate: make a donation online; start a fundraising event; shop at the e-store or dedicate your next athletic event to the safe water cause.

CannedWater4Kids supports clean water initiatives worldwide – including well digging projects, water filtration and clean water education – using clean water packaged in aluminum cans as its symbol and billboard for spreading awareness. All of the funds are raised through personal donations and sponsors. Anyone may donate online or by mail, or by drinking CannedWater4Kids glacial spring water, packaged in recyclable aluminum cans.

charity: water began with a birthday party. In September 2008, founder, Scott Harrison, asked his friends to give $20 for his 31st birthday, instead of gifts. 100% of the money raised went to the funding of six wells in Uganda. Since then, charity: water has grown into a large campaign to raise money for various water projects in Africa, India, Honduras and Haiti. Through a separate website, mycharity: water, the organization provides a way for people to create a page and ask their friends to contribute funds. Once projects are completed, participants can see proof of contributions through videos, photos and GPS coordinates on Google Maps accessible through the organization’s website. Patrons can also build awareness by purchasing products such as reusable water bottles, bracelets, t-shirts, and e-cards through the online store. 100% of all proceeds also go toward charity: water projects.

Clean Water for Haiti is a faith-based missions and humanitarian aid organization. Registered in Canada and the U.S., it is entirely volunteer-run, providing clean water to Haitian families through the production, transport and installation of Biosand filters in areas of need. Clean Water for Haiti hosts technician training classes several times a year for other organizations who would like to start their own Biosand filter projects. Anyone can help by making donations or by becoming a volunteer in Haiti, Canada or the U.S.

Clean Water Fund is based in Washington D.C. and serves in more than 20 states. Its mission is to create strong leadership to aid communities in campaigning for cleaner water and healthier environmental conditions. This non-profit organization takes a democratic approach to issues like clean water sources, global warming and the chemical contamination of our environment. Donations are accepted online or by mail and go toward research, education and action programs dedicated to providing clean water, improving public health nationwide, and protecting the ecosystem.

Generosity Water is a handful of people dedicated to the cause of funding clean water projects in parts of Africa, Asia and South America on a small-scale. Based in Los Angeles, this water charity partners with local organizations in these areas to build wells, funding each project with donations that can be obtained through fundraisers or made directly through the website. Once a well is built, Generosity Water distributes de-worming pills to beneficiaries in the community, allowing them a fresh, healthy start. Donors then receive a report documenting the success of the project through real-life stories and pictures.

Just a Drop is a UK-based, independent, non-campaigning, hands-on water charity committed to water projects in 29 different countries. Founded on the principle that just a little bit can make a huge difference, the organization receives support from travel and tourism companies, as well as other businesses, and provides an opportunity for both companies and individuals to make donations online through their Just Giving page. Supporters may also become a “friend” of Just a Drop and commit to regular monthly giving.

Lifewater International is a holistic, charitable Christian ministry that focuses not just on physical need – water – but also on the spiritual and emotional needs of poor people around the world. Like many other water charities, Lifewater helps communities in third-world countries gain access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, along with the skills necessary to maintain these solutions through future generations. There are many ways to get involved by donating money, raising awareness, sponsoring a fundraiser, volunteering or simply committing to pray.

Living Water International is a faith-based non-profit organization whose mission is to demonstrate the love of God by providing both clean water and “the living water of Jesus” to the poor people of the world. Serving people of all faiths, Living Water takes a three-pronged approach, training, equipping and consulting with communities to meet their needs and foster long-term solutions. The organization hires local people and uses local equipment to create jobs and empower communities to help those around them also achieve sustainable results. The website offers several ways to get involved by volunteering locally or internationally, making donations, or spreading the word through the Living Water International Facebook cause.

Project Wet was founded in 1984 and now works in all 50 states and in over 50 countries to reach children, parents, educators and communities with water education. To do so, this nonprofit organization publishes water resource materials in several languages – including Hungarian and Kiswahili. Project Wet also achieves its mission through training workshops on various water topics and community water events. All resources focus on education that leads to meaningful local, sustainable action. In addition, they have partnered with organizations like USAID and UN Habitat in international projects centered on water, sanitation and hygiene education.

PumpAid was founded by three teachers living and working in Zimbabwe, who saw the need for clean water and sanitation as many of their friends became ill and died from unsafe drinking water. Working in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Liberia, with hopes of expanding out to other parts of Africa, the PumpAid team raises funds to build Elephant Pumps and Elephant Toilets, two innovative, simple but effective technologies that can be maintained by poor, rural communities without additional assistance. Building projects are funded through online donations and fundraisers, and all construction projects are performed by the members of each community, using local, easily obtainable materials. Singer, Corinne Bailey Rae, has been a Goodwill Ambassador for PumpAid since 2007.

The OK Clean Water Project began in 2003 when Sister Cathy Molloy in the Kumbo area of Cameroon, invited a group in Ottowa, Canada to respond to the water needs of 11 families in her village. The people in Ottowa raised $3,000 in response, and this Ottowa-Kumba partnership became The OK Clean Water Project. Today, these two groups work together to provide clean water to villages in Kumba and the nearby, outlying areas of Cameroon. Anyone can help by donating funds, becoming a volunteer or simply spreading the word through online social media.

The Run for Water is an annual fundraising event that takes place in Canada. All the money raised goes to Hope International Development Agency, an organization that funds clean water projects in poor regions of Africa, along with other charitable efforts. People may participate in the event directly by running or raising funds, or indirectly by making donations online.

The Ryan’s Well Foundation came about because of one six-year-old boy’s simple solution to the problem of the world water crisis. After hearing from his first grade teacher that people in different parts of the world were dying because of dirty water, Ryan did extra chores around his house and started speaking in public in efforts to raise money for a well in Uganda. The well was built by the time Ryan turned seven, and since then, his efforts have grown to create the Ryan’s Well Foundation, a Canadian-registered water charity, which has succeeded in creating over 500 sustainable safe water, sanitation and hygiene projects in 16 different countries. The foundation provides several ways for people of all ages to get involved by making donations, starting fundraisers, or becoming a Ryan’s Well Ambassador and using one’s individual talents to contribute to the cause.

The Waterkeeper Alliance is a network of sustainable organizations across the U.S. Each organization is the voice for its community, made up of people who defend their local watershed by tracking down polluters, speaking out in courtrooms, classrooms and town meetings for every person’s right to clean fishable, swimmable, drinkable water. The Alliance keeps local Waterkeepers connected and provides them with legal support and the educational resources they will need to defend their local waterways. The website provides an opportunity for anyone to get involved by making a donation or becoming a Waterkeeper. Visit the Save our Gulf website to make a donation toward the Alliance’s effort to save the Gulf Coast from the recent BP oil disaster.

The Water Life Foundation is a self-supported, non-profit water charity dedicated to the provision of clean water sources for disadvantaged peoples. Through cooperative community and commercial ventures and various partnerships, WaterLife has funded smaller scale projects in Cameroon, Haiti, Peru and the Dominican Republic, focusing on long-term sustainability through education, sanitation and the creation of clean, safe, affordable water sources.

The Water Project is a Christian, non-profit organization that raises funds to provide access to clean water in Kenya, Sudan, Sierra Leone, India and Zambia, through the building of wells, weirs and rain catchment systems. One-hundred percent of all donations as well as all profits from the online store go toward the building of these water projects. Donors can participate in one-time or monthly offerings or sponsor an entire well. The Water Project tracks every donation to a specific project, and once completed, donors can see the results online through stories, pictures and GPS coordinates.

Water 1st International helps fund sustainable water initiatives in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Honduras and India, supporting local partner organizations for projects that include hygiene promotion, water sanitation through the building of toilets, and the increased involvement of women to promote gender equality and the creation of a stronger community. Beneficiaries in Bangladesh and India pay for 40 to 100 percent of the capital costs of their projects through a loan program, which ensures the maintenance of efforts well beyond their starting point. Donations are received through the organization’s website. In addition, anyone may participate in fundraising efforts through the Water 1st Razoo page, by asking friends and family members to donate money.

WaterAid is an international, non-governmental organization that partners with local organizations in 26 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Region to implement safe water, sanitation and hygiene education in both urban and rural areas. Using simple, low-cost sustainable materials, WaterAid enables families and communities to maintain the systems themselves, ensuring long-term success. The organization’s international website allows access to several local websites, which provide opportunities for both adults and children around the world to learn more and to get involved in various fundraising campaigns.

WaterCan / EauVive is a Canadian water charity that funds projects to create sustainable clean water sources, sanitation and hygiene education practices in four East African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. This water charity forms partnerships with indigenous organizations and encourages the local participation of community members, equipping them with the knowledge and tools necessary to ensure long-term maintenance once projects are complete. There are multiple fundraising efforts through this organization, including a Walk for Water and several Canadian university chapters that work to promote this cause.

Water Charity is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the implementation of practical projects, small and large, short and long-term, to serve those in need of safe water, sanitation and health education. A recent Water Charity initiative, Appropriate Projects, is designed to do small-scale water projects all over the world for those who have immediate need. Each one is run by a Peace Corps volunteer, lasts a month, and costs no more than $500.

Water for Life is based at University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii. The organization has been involved in short-term water projects in Kiribati, Indonesia and Brazil, and is currently implementing sustainable water initiatives in Kosovo and Rwanda. Beyond simply providing clean water to various parts of the world, Water for Life also seeks to educate and train communities to create and sustain their own local water resources. The University offers various training opportunities and seminars for those who would like to participate in the organization’s efforts. Donations are also accepted through the website.

Water for People currently works to develop long-lasting, innovative, safe water solutions in 11 countries around the world. Water for People’s most innovative solution runs through its partnership with PlayPumps International and the Case Foundation. This partnership provides for the distribution of PlayPump merry-go rounds to villages around the world. As children spin on the PlayPump, water is pumped from underground into a water tank with a tap from which clean water may be drawn. The organization offers people the opportunity to get involved by spreading the word through online media, shopping the online store, or by making donations.

Water Is Life has developed a drinking straw that filters disease-causing microorganisms and particles from water in a three-stage process. Each straw provides access to clean drinking water to one person for up to a year. This organization saves lives immediately by distributing the straws to villages in third-world countries. After distribution, Water Is Life continues to research and implement a long-term clean water solution in each village while providing hygiene and sanitation assistance to village clinics.

Waterlines is a publicly-funded, all-volunteer, non-profit organization based in New Mexico that has provided funding and expertise for small-scale water projects for over 200 communities in 12 countries. Projects are sponsored by churches and other organizations in the United States, and Waterlines works one-on-one with the individual communities to build a safe water supply system that is afterward continually monitored to ensure success. The communities receiving the aid commit their own labor to build and maintain the system. Project costs range from $1,000 to $25,000.

Water Missions International began as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998. George and Molly Greene, operators of an engineering company at the time, created a mini-water treatment system that uses both chemical disinfection and filtration to provide victims with clean, safe drinking water. After witnessing the success of the mission in Honduras, they sold their engineering company and founded Water Missions International. To date, the organization has provided assistance to communities in eight different countries. Each mission involves not only the spread of clean water treatment systems, but also the spread of the “living water” message of Christianity.

Water to Thrive is a faith-based non-profit organization founded by Triumphant Love Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas after a Bible study of only 40 people learned of the world water crisis and raised enough money to build 12 freshwater wells in Ethiopia. This water charity implements three types of water project solutions – hand-dug wells, spring protection, and bore holes – to people in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. Churches, schools, clubs, organizations and individuals may get involved by making donations or by sponsoring an entire project.

Water.org was founded by Matt Damon and Gary White. Believing that the indigenous people within each community know best how to solve their own problems, water.org partners with other, local organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America before carrying out any water project. The partnership organizations are carefully screened and selected, and once approved, Water.org provides funding and assistance in the form of hygiene and sanitation education in addition to the building of safe community water wells and systems. Through the Water Credit Initiative, a small loan program, communities are able to partially fund their own project, thus claiming ownership and increasing the likelihood of long-term success. For water.org, “digging is the easy part.” What happens before and after the system is in place is most important.

Wine to Water was founded by Doc Henley, a North Carolina bartender and nightclub musician who wanted to find a creative way to provide clean water to those in need. Based on Jesus’ first miracle, this water charity uses money raised from wine-related events and tastings for water projects in Sudan, Uganda, India, Cambodia and Peru. Anyone may get involved by hosting a Wine to Water benefit or by making donations directly online or by mail.

Thirst Relief International is a public water charity working to provide access to safe water in seven countries in South America, Africa and India. The organization primarily uses household Biosand filtration, supplemented with shallow well digging and well hand pump repair to improve water quality. Individuals may donate online or by mail.

Let’s make a difference in the lives of people in other parts of the world.  Clean water is a right, not a privilege.  It is a necessity, not a luxury.  If we really believe that God loves us all, then we need to act accordingly and share our resources with those who also need those resources.


You Don’t Have to be a Pagan to be an Environmental Steward

Most of the blogs I read center on religion.  I have always been fascinated by religion and myths.  I was reading Greek and Roman mythology seriously by the time I was seven or eight, but had no idea that there was mythology beyond that.  In junior high, I was introduced to Celtic and Norse mythology, and in high school, I had friends who were (are) Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Bahai, agnostic, and atheist.  We read the myths of these religions in our lit classes, and I had conversations with my agnostic and atheist friends about their lack of beliefs.

Religion still fascinates me, but now I also want to find out how others make their beliefs practical.  I don’t know if that’s a function of becoming an adult, having a higher education, just being a pessimist, or something else.  But I really enjoy reading about what other people believe and how they put those beliefs into practice.

And so the blogs I read are about what others believe and how they put their beliefs into practice.  One of the blogs I read regularly is Drew Jacob’s Rogue Priest.  Drew is a Celtic polytheist following what he calls The Hero’s Path.  (I would explain it, but out of respect for Drew, it’s probably better if you read his blog and allow him to tell you his story; I’m just bound to get it all wrong, and it’s an amazing story that shouldn’t be told wrong.)  In a post a few weeks ago, he writes about how he gave up a belief in the soul.  The blog post links to an article he wrote for another site that tells the complete story.

The comments on this post are what spurred what I write to you now.  As I said, Drew no longer believes in this thing call the soul.  One of his regular readers, who is also a polytheist but has differing beliefs, believes that everything on the planet is ensouled; not just people, but animals, plants, and if I understand what she said correctly, soil, rocks, and other inanimate objects too. (I would ask you to please not make fun of her beliefs, and I will make sure that any comments that do are removed).  Here is the part of her comments that jumped out at me:

The particular dangerous belief hidden in insistence that only brains create consciousness is one Christianity and materialism already embrace, that of a de-souled world, which leaves deserts and polluted wastelands in its wake. People who believe in ensouled nature usually take better care of the environment, because they believe in sustainability and regeneration, not exploitation. Truth? At this point, I think environmental degradation is an issue so desperate I don’t even care if it’s provably true or not, I want people to embrace any belief necessary to save our collective life support systems, because they are so horribly damaged and fragile. So yes, I actually do believe in nature spirits and reincarnation, but I want other people to believe in them too because I don’t see much else that will get people off their butts to protect the wilds which give our planet its lungs and recycling capabilities.

While I believe in the soul and that every human (at least) has one, I don’t believe in a completely ensouled world.  The idea of an ensouled world  is an old one that many modern Pagans/polytheists hold true, and it is the reason why many Pagans/polytheists are better at taking care of the environment than those of us who don’t believe in a wholly ensouled creation.  Think about it: if  you believe that every tree, blade of grass, bit of soil, and drop of water has a soul, you’ll be more likely to take good care of those parts of creation.  Those things aren’t just resources for you to use, they are living things with spirits that can feel pain or joy, and their worth is inherent — they are valuable in and of themselves, and because they were created by Deity. But if you believe that only humans (or humans and animals, at the most) have souls, you are more likely to see trees, soil, and water as resources to be used for our pleasure and gain, with no worth other than what we assign to them.  Even if you believe that God created all, you might think that He created all for our pleasure, purpose, and gain.

And this is why so many Christians think that taking care of the earth and being a good environmental steward makes a person a Pagan.  Because obviously, if you are taking care of the earth, you must believe that it’s because everything on earth has a soul and consciousness, which means that you don’t really believe in the Christian God, and therefor, you must be Pagan.  And good Christians stay away from anything Pagan.

Right?

Fortunately, the number of Christians who believe in taking care of creation is growing.  You don’t have to be a Pagan or a polytheist or an atheist to be an environmentalist, and being an environmentalist does not make someone a Pagan, polytheist, or atheist.  We believe in taking care of the earth because God created it.  While we realize that everything on earth is a resource, we dislike the word “resource” because it makes everything it touches a tool for our use with no worth beyond what we give it.  We recognize that we can’t live without the soil, air, water, and all the many things that are produced therein, but we also know that God created all things.  And because God created those things, they all have worth beyond what we humans could ever assign to them.  They are valuable because God created them, and they have value simply because they exist.  So while we must use those things to grow food, make clothes and houses, and all the other things we need to live, we also understand that using those things God created makes us responsible for taking care of those things God created.

Unlike this commenter, I do not think that every single part of God’s creation has a soul; but like this commenter, I believe that environmental degradation is a desperate issue and that our life support systems are damaged and fragile.  We go the way of the earth, and if we damage or kill it, we do the same to ourselves.  In our desire to use and consume our “resources,” we are slowly killing life on earth — including ours.

If you believe that God created the earth, it is time (if you haven’t already) to start taking care of the earth.  Do you believe this world is a gift?  Put that into practice.  Begin taking care of like it’s the best gift you’ve ever been given.  Take better care of it than you would your grandmother’s bone china or your great Uncle’s hunting rifle:  handle it with gentleness, keep it clean, treat it with respect.  If you wouldn’t feed something to your child, don’t dump it in the soil, water, or air.

God created the earth, and he left it in our hands to be good stewards.  If we believe that God loves us and created us, then it is time for us to be the environmental stewards He has told us to be.


I want to dye my hair purple. Or not.

A phrase I never thought I would use a year ago — “On my twitter feed” — is one I have used twice today already.  So let’s go for a third time.😀

On Twitter, I follow several pastors and creation care advocates.  On my Twitter feed today, I caught two blog posts that prompted some thought.  I haven’t talked about the environment much here lately, so I’ll share my thoughts regarding Ron Sider’s blog post.  The paragraph that especially caught my eye:

The church of Jesus Christ will do what God wants it to do for the environment and the poor if member by member, congregation by congregation, we look up into the face of the risen Lord and submit ourselves totally and unconditionally in worship and obedience. Let’s look into his face in surrender as we face very decision- about money, sex, business, marriage, politics, divorce, peacemaking. Can we keep doing some of the things we are now doing if we look constantly and intently into his face and ask him, “My Lord, are you pleased with how I am living, or does it make you weep?” Let’s dare daily to look into his face and invite him to make us more and more like himself, transforming us from one degree of glory to another.

“Are you pleased with how I am living, or does it make you weep?”

Guilt is a powerful tool.  It will either weigh us down, or it will show us the way to repentance and transformation.   Jesus wants us to repent and be transformed, and this is what Sider is saying: when we ask Jesus if the way we live makes Him weep, we should ask not so we are burdened by guilt, but transformed by God’s love and grace.

I have been struggling recently with being a good financial steward and being a good environmental steward.  If you buy any ecofriendly products —  organic food, biodegradable cleaners, products made from reclaimed or recycled materials — you know that these products usually cost more than their non-ecofriendly counterparts.  The cost of some of these items makes it difficult to buy all the ecofriendly products I think I should be using.  For example, I would love to buy organic apples and bananas all the time, but they cost about 30 cents a pound more than ordinary apples and bananas, which aren’t cheap in their own right.  So do I continue to buy ordinary fruit and save a little bit of money, or do I buy organic fruit and know that my choice is supporting cleaner air, water, and soil, healthier workers, and probably fair trade?

Being a good financial steward does not mean that you spend less on everything.  Using your money the way God intends is to spend money on the things you really, truly need, and not on the things you don’t.  It means paying a little extra for an item knowing that the person who made that item is getting paid a living wage and/or not using toxic chemicals to make the item.  It’s not turning luxuries into needs, but realizing that God wants every single person He created to have some luxuries instead of a small percentage of people hoarding them all.

I have wanted to dye my hair purple for a few months now.  I have hesitated for one reason or another, and decided right after Christmas that I was going to go for it at my next hair appointment!  On the one hand, I hate to make my stylist use the chemicals because they aren’t good for her, me, the other people who will have to work to remove them from the water and soil, and the environment.  On the other hand, come ON, it’s purple hair!  YAY!  But then I started thinking about how much it would cost to have it done.  Don’t misunderstand me — I will happily pay Ashley that money to color my hair because she is fantastic at what she does and deserves every bit.  I’m happy to support her with my business.  But I also have bills to pay, and if I spend a chunk of money on something I don’t need, I’m not being a very good steward of my money.

Asking Jesus if He is pleased with how I live or if it makes Him weep has led to transformation after transformation in my life.  But I’m not where He wants me to be yet.  If I was, this whole financial vs. environmental thing wouldn’t be an issue for me.  I would understand that buying the least expensive product isn’t necessarily the best choice, and that creation care doesn’t have to be quite as expensive as the world would like for me to believe.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  Instead, if I see something in me that I would like to change, I start doing it that day, if possible.  Over the past few months, I have tried to be a better financial steward of my money, and if I had a resolution for this year, it would be to continue on that path.  But to do it while taking the best care of the environment that I can.


Pro-life, or just pro-fetus?

I’ve wanted to flesh out the definition of “pro-life” for quite a while now, and haven’t done it because I get frustrated so easily.  I’m not going to do it completely in this one post either; I just want to comment about a conversation I’ve been involved in on Facebook today.

A FB friend posted this status update earlier in the day:

My thoughts on the Hobby Lobby thing:

(1) Amazing that a company whose customers are primarily women would choose to side against women.

(2) Hobby Lobby’s not being required to provide contraceptives to their employees; they’re required to provide insurance which includes contraceptive coverage.

(3) Forcing their beliefs on their employees doesn’t do a very good job of representing either Christianity or freedom.

(4) Morning after pills do not abort. Morning after pills block implantation.

(5) People still have their freedom of religion. Why, you ask? Because HL is not a religious institution. It’s merely a crafting company that happens to be owned by a religious dude who employs a group of people who hold a variety of beliefs.

(6) Do Christians really want this kind of action to win? Do they want to run the risk of having to abide by their employers religious belief system? Some religions don’t believe in blood transfusions, others don’t believe in mental health doctors and medicine, and some don’t believe that addiction should be treated medically. Some religions even believe that going to the doctor equals not trusting God.

(7) Finally, I am sick of conservatives complaining about their money funding abortions and/or contraceptives and how that goes against their beliefs. They don’t stop to think that my money goes to support the death penalty and war which are things I don’t believe in because of my religion.

I can only assume that this update was based on this article, or one similar to it in my friend’s area:

After losing a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court, craft stores chain Hobby Lobby said it would defy a federal healthcare mandate requiring employers to provide their workers with insurance that covers emergency contraceptives.

The Oklahoma City-based chain, owned by a conservative Christian family, had applied to the high court to block a part of the federal healthcare law ordering companies to offer insurance that covers contraceptive drugs, including the so-called morning-after pill.

After the court refused to block the mandate, a lawyer for Hobby Lobby said the Green family, which also has holdings in Mardel Inc., a seller of religious books, would nonetheless refuse to provide health coverage for contraception it considers to be abortion-inducing.

Hobby Lobby and Mardel could be fined as much as $1.3 million a day starting Tuesday.

“They’re not going to comply with the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby. “They’re not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.”

His comments were issued in a statement.

In the lawsuit, the Green family said certain types of contraception, such as the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, violated family members’ religious beliefs against abortion.

The morning-after pill has spurred heated debate, especially among politicians, on whether using it constitutes abortion. The National Institutes of Health says on its website that the pills most likely work by preventing pregnancy “in the same way as regular birth control pills.”

shan.li@latimes.com

Personally, I value life. I am as pro-life as someone can get. Which is why I think it is wrong that businesses try to opt out of covering certain things on insurance plans. If Republicans believe that not covering contraception makes them look more pro-life, they are absolutely wrong. People are still going to have sex, and some women will get pregnant from that because they don’t have appropriate contraception. So by not allowing these women to have their contraceptives covered, the rate of unintended pregnancies increases.

It’s really easy to be pro-fetus: we have to protect our most innocent citizens.  They are innocent, and cute, and sometimes you even get to see a fetus sucking his thumb on an ultrasound.  But arguing for the right of a fetus to be born does not make one pro-life.  It makes one pro-fetus.

And this is the point that many “pro-life” arguments fail.  If you are against abortion, great.  But if you are also against insurance coverage for babies once they are born, or making it easier for a low-income family to feed their children, or helping to raise a family out of poverty, or mental health benefits for people who are at-risk of committing crimes, or in favor of the death penalty for people who commit murder, then you are not pro-life.  You are pro-fetus.  Please quit calling yourself pro-life, because those of use who are cradle-to-grave pro-lifers resent being mixed up with you.


Love within the framework of obedience

If you love me, keep my commands. (John 14:15)

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. (John 14:21)

 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. (John 14:24)

I’m not a very good leader; leadership makes me uncomfortable, because I always feel like I’m doing it wrong.  Leading people is a huge responsibility, one that I don’t take lightly, and do not take on all that often.

I’m a natural follower though; I think rules can be good for us, and I will follow good rules.  I follow people, too.  I am not a blind follower, however, and won’t follow just anyone.  I follow rules that are good, not those that are evil, or stupid.  Not do I follow just any person–one must earn my trust before I will follow him or her, and I weigh a person’s actions against his or her words to see if I am morally and /or ethically able to follow a person’s teaching or leading.

I suppose I’m telling you all this so that you’ll understand, in some part, why I started this post with the verses in John 14 where Jesus tells His disciples that if they love Him, they will obey Him.  I’m not very good with love, but I can do obedience pretty well.

I have a strong suspicion that what we think love is in our American, secular culture and what love really is is a problem that has been played out since the concept of love was first introduced to humans.  Most people think of love as a strong feeling of affection or care for another person; sometimes there is lust thrown in there for good measure (If the person we think we love is physically attractive), and most of the time love is passionate.  But what happens when the people who love us stop loving us?  What happens when they don’t have those strong, mad, passionate feelings for us anymore?

Or is that really what love is?

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Paul says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  I know I’ve quoted this before, but this is really important and needs to be said again and again and again until we really, truly understand what love is.  And I think it’s important to understand that this is how we are to love everyone, not just those people who love us in return. 

How we feel about people changes.  Just ask any person about his or her life partner–one who has been in a romantic relationship for a long time can tell you that she may feel great affection for her partner in the morning and by lunch feel absolute wrath towards the other person due to her partner’s actions or words.  She might feel romantic towards her partner the next day, but the day after that feel nothing but a deep, abiding friendship for that person.  Feelings change.

But Paul doesn’t describe love as a feeling.  Love is about doing or being.  Love is a verb, it’s something we do by being patient, kind, selfless, humble, etc. 

Jesus defined love within the framework of obedience; if we truly love God, if we truly love Jesus, we will obey Him.

How many times do those of us who profess to follow Christ get the feelings mixed up with the actions?  How many times have we confused passionate feelings for the Savior with obeying His commands?  How many times have tears rolled down our cheeks as we sing worship songs to Him on Sunday, but on Wednesday when we pass the homeless beggar on the street, we feel nothing and turn away, even though Jesus told us to take care of the poor?

I’m a big believer in obedience.  I’m not perfect at it though.  I break rules all the time; I always have and probably always will, yet when I was growing up, I was the good little girl, the one who did as she was told by adults of all stripes.  Most of the time, I’m still a good little girl.  While a small part of me would love to break a bunch of rules and just have fun doing it, the rest of me knows that following rules is good for me.  Obedience keeps my life from spinning out of control and molds me into the person I believe God wants me to be. 

There are many days when I wonder if I love Jesus.  Most days, that feeling of love isn’t there.  In almost twenty-three years of following Christ, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have felt affection or anything resembling a feeling of love for God.  In that same amount of time, I have heard the commandment to love God and love one another and have had a hard time with it because I know that my feelings for other people are often wholly apathetic, if not bordering on complete disdain.  But if I love people by being patient and kind and selfless and humble  towards them, do I need to feel something for them as I obey God, or will those feelings of affection spring up by practicing love and obedience?

Going back to those verses I opened with: if we love Jesus, we will obey His commands.  Jesus commands us to love God and love our neighbors.  I take Jesus’ commands very seriously… mostly.  Sometimes.  On days when the world hasn’t completely pissed me off.

I’m going to begin reading Red Letter Revolution today.  Authors Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne ask, “What if Jesus really meant what He said?”  I hope to share more of my thoughts on love, obedience, and practicing what Jesus preached as I read through it.


“When we are not using our time to get money, we are using our time to spend money.  Compared to Europeans, Americans spend three to four time as many hours per year shopping.  Shopping has become a primary use of leisure time.  With our few remaining free hours we scurry about in monstrous malls* where we spend our money on goods and services we secretly hope will bring us peace, nourishment, or relief.”   -Wayne Muller, Sabbath, p. 99

*or online

When was the last time that spending money brought you peace, nourishment, or relief?  I used to be a shopper; if I let my instincts rule me, I still am a shopper.  There is a certain high that one gets from spending money on fun things.

But after a few years of accumulating things that don’t count and debt, shoppers remorse sets in.  I’ve asked myself many times, “What the hell was I thinking when I bought this?”, especially when I decluttered my house last summer.  All that stuff I bought that didn’t get used like I thought it would.  I could have spent my money on better things.  Or if I’d not accumulated so much debt, I could now be working only part time, or not at all if I wanted, doing more volunteering or spending more time with my family.

We may think that time equals money, because that’s what the world tells us.  But time is so much more precious than money.  Let’s not waste it on things that don’t matter.

Continue reading

Too much in my head

Do you ever have so many things inside your head that you let all those thoughts swirl around and around until you think you couldn’t possibly think about them anymore?  And then think that you should write those thoughts down, but they have swirled together so much that they’ve gotten all tangled up, and a thought about one subject can lead you straight into another?

I have so many things I want to post about right now, and I don’t know where to start.  I know the beginning is a good place, but I rather like posting from the middle, you know?


You think *I’m* liberal? Check out what Jesus said…

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,

Liberal, fanatical, criminal… (Supertramp, The Logical Song)

My personality dictates that I’m a by-the-book person.  I have been this way all my life.  When one follows the rules, one doesn’t get into trouble.  When one follows the rules, one makes people in authority happy.  Since I don’t like conflict, and I prefer to keep peace between myself and the people I associate with, I follow the rules.

With this in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you that when I was younger, I was pretty conservative.  When I made the decision to follow Christ at the age of 16, my faith cemented my conservative beliefs.  When I was able to vote for the first time, I voted Republican, and I was proud of it.  Most of my friends were conservative, my boyfriend (now husband) was a staunch Republican, and I had been raised in a fairly right of center home.  God was on our side!  Not the side of those pesky liberals!

I stayed conservative until I was about twenty-nine.  And then I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree.

I’ll back up a bit now.  I had been concerned about the plight of the poor in our country for a while, and felt a strong call to work with the homeless “when I grew up.” (I’ll let you know when that grown up thing happens, ha)  I was interested in learning what I could do to help the poor.

I took a class on geopolitics my senior year of college, and some of the articles we read were about how what we do affects the poor in this country and all over the world.  One of the articles was about the use of land to raise livestock versus the use of land to raise vegetables and grains, and how studies have shown that more protein is available for food from land used to raise vegetables and grains than is available from land use to raise livestock for food.  After mulling that over for a while, and deciding that I wanted to support farm practices that are better for feeding those who are hungry, I became a vegetarian (technically a pescetarian, since I still eat fish, but I’m mostly vegetarian).  As I’ve explained before, becoming a vegetarian caused me to become more aware of the environmental concerns  surrounding eating meat, which led me to a greater awareness of environmental concerns in general.  This led me to becoming a practicing environmentalist, then into a MA program to learn about how what we do to the environment affects people all over the world and how Christians should become better stewards of the environment to show their love not only for God, but for the rest of His creation.  Learning about stewardship in one area led me to learning about stewardship in other areas.  But what this all comes down to is a single purpose: God loves the poor, and He wants us to love them as much as He does.

So many conservative Christians believe, and rightly so, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9) and reject a works-based salvation.  Which is good and fine.  But they forget that right belief and right practice go hand-in-hand, because “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).  When it comes to salvation, what we believe about Jesus is important; however, our belief about Jesus is on the other side of the same coin that says that if we truly believe what we say we believe, we will put those beliefs to work in the world.  James, in his lead up to the last verse of the chapter, says it this way:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God.  You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?   For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

I bring this up now because a friend I’ve known since I was ten posted something on Facebook a few days ago about the Occupy movement.  This friend said that the pastor’s sermon at Church Sunday mentioned that while the Occupy movement is mainly concerned with the top 1% of the United States, from a global perspective, everyone in the United States is in the top 1%.  Which is true.  Even the homeless people in the United States are better off than the well-to-do in some very poor countries, because the homeless here can often find heated or air conditioned shelter and a meal at a moment’s notice.  They have clean water and can probably find a way to make money for the necessities pretty easily.

That’s not the way of the rest of the world.  In reality, all United States’ citizens are spoiled.

That statement on Facebook led to a lively discussion about liberals, Socialist/Marxist thought, the American poor vs. the poor of the Global South, and what Jesus really thinks we should be doing.    So as not to offend my friend or any of my friend’s friends, I stayed out of it.

Because I’m not that conservative anymore.

Truth be told, I’m what people would call a liberal, but I really strain against that label.  When handing out political labels, opponents tend to use those terms – liberal and conservative – as slurs:  “those damn (insert opposing political affiliation here), they’re so stupid!  Always basing their politics on their feelings, and never thinking about what they really believe and the ramifications those beliefs have on the world!”  There also seems to be a strong feeling that liberals don’t follow the rules.

Am I wrong, or have I gotten the sentiment right?

I really, really don’t want people to think that I haven’t thought about my beliefs.  I really don’t want people to think I’m stupid or thoughtless.  And sometimes I think I horrify people I’ve been friends with since childhood because I used to be so conservative, and now I’m a vegetarian environmentalist with Socialist leanings — who likes to quote Scripture to back it all up.  When it comes down to it, I still like to follow the rules, but now I have a much broader perspective on what the rules are.

So, you think I’m liberal, folks?  Here’s what Jesus said and did:

When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.  And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.  And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,  saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” (Matthew 8:1-7)

Jesus healed people.  The Gospels are full of stories of people coming to Jesus for healing.  Sometimes they asked, sometimes they didn’t, but they all got healed – free of charge.

 

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  (Matthew 8:20)

Jesus was homeless.  You know all those people that live on the streets, in shelters, or on friends’ couches?  Yeah, Jesus was one of them.  He was a vagrant, a tramp, or a hobo.  But the point is, He did not have a home.


Freely you have received, freely give.  Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts,  nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. (Matthew 10:8-10)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.  (Matthew 16:24-27)

Jesus told those who followed Him to leave their stuff behind and deny themselves.


Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is:‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is oneAnd you shalllove the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45)

But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

The Greatest Commandment is to love God; the second, which Jesus said was like the first, is to love our neighbor.  Jesus also said to love our enemies, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them.

 

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Jesus told us to be humble, for in our humility, we are justified before God.

 

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.  Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.  And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”  So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.  But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;  for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”(Luke 19:1-10)

Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”(Mark 2:15-17)

The Pharisees, the ones who wanted to look righteous in the eyes of everyone, looked down on Jesus, questioning his character because He spent his time with tax collectors and sinners.

And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.  When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late.  Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”
But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:34-37)

 

Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

 

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:16-24)

Jesus told the disciples to feed the people who had come to hear Him speak.  He told us to invite the poor, the lame, the maimed, and the blind to dinner and not expect anything in return.  And He told a rich man that to achieve perfection, he should sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor.

 

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29)

“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)

And then Jesus told us to follow His commands, even going so far as to ask why we would call him Lord (from the Latin Dominus, which means “Master”) if we’re not going to do the things He tells us to do.

This guy is our example, people.  We’re told to follow a homeless man who didn’t give a rat’s ass about our possessions.  He told us to love the people that hate us, serve the poor, be humble, hang out with sinners, and — as if those things aren’t a kick to our pride and self-righteousness — obey him if we really want to call Him our Master.

He didn’t tell us that it’s OK to buy a lot of stuff, judge people for what they look like or who they hang out with, or ignore the poor.  Yet I see a lot of conservatives doing just that.

To be fair, the liberals aren’t doing so well either.

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)  His commands weren’t conservative or liberal; Jesus was a radical, and His commandments are radical.  They go against the very core of who we are as fallen people.  Yet, to truly follow Jesus, we have to live out these radical commands.

So to my friends, whom I love very much: I know I seem like one of those bleeding-heart liberals, but I’m just trying to follow my Master and obey His rules.  I fail a lot, but I just keep trying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Decluttering: after it’s all done

I promised an update to this about three months ago, but I was so determined to get the house decluttered that I didn’t feel like stopping to update.  I finally have some pictures uploaded to show you what all got done, and even some taken in September, after it had been done for several weeks, to show you what it looked like then.

Unfortunately, I kept forgetting to take before pictures.  Or maybe I was just ashamed to do so.  Either way, I didn’t take a lot of before pictures.  If you go back to my first decluttering post and see what the entrance to the house looked like, that pretty much sums up the whole house:  too much crap + too little storage space = BIG MESS.

One of the things I love about this tiny house of ours is the walk in pantry.  Frankly, I don’t know how people who don’t have a walk in pantry do anything in their kitchens.  Unfortunately, it’s just shelves, which, if you are naturally a neat person, isn’t a problem.  When you have problems with organization, shelves alone lead to a disorganized mess and difficulty finding sage when it’s hiding behind all the other spice bottles.

What I ended up doing first, even before I really started decluttering the main part, was to get some fabric cube drawers to organize some of the loose bags and boxes.  I have a cube for each of these categories now: beans; rice and pasta; boxed mixes; and jello.  They are all different colors, so I know by the color and place which one I’m getting out (Jeff hasn’t quite learned the system yet though).  If it seems weird that I’m putting boxes of food in a cloth cubby, I understand.  And there isn’t a lot in the jello cubby.  However, if you’ve ever stacked boxes of jello and pudding, then you know that they get moved around or knocked down rather easily.  If they’re in a box, they can be messy on the inside, but my shelves look nice on the outside.  For the mixes, the cubby became a central place for all the mixes to go, instead of being scattered hither and yon around my lovely walk in pantry.

Once I got down to the major decluttering – and make no mistake, I procrastinated on it until the middle of August – it took me almost all day.  I got rid of small appliances (waffle maker, you seemed like a good idea at the time), coolers, and a bunch of old spices that I bought at the store years ago (that dried basil smells like cardboard.  I don’t think it will give anything a delicious basil flavor anymore.).  Old baking items got tossed, and those items I use got combined with other containers of the same thing (see, that’s what happens when you have a disorganized pantry – duplicate purchases!).  Then I took everything off the shelves and put baking supplies and dried beans that were in reusable containers into ziplock bags, bowls, or other plastic containers so I could wash the old ones.  Once everything was off the shelves, the shelves got washed, sanitized, and I added a layer of contact paper to brighten the place up.  Then everything went back onto the shelves and got organized.

Once the pantry was done, I was so relieved that I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

Kitchen cabinets got done too.  I ended up giving away or recycling a lot of items, both glass and plastic.  I was fortunate to have done the cabinets on a weekend where my parents were here, so mom helped me sort items, clean the cabinets out, then put down contact paper on the shelves.

One of the very last areas I worked on was our bedroom closet.  I use the term closet loosely, because we have two closets in the house – one in each bedroom – and neither of them is more than my arm’s length in depth.  Our son’s at least has a shelf; our closet doesn’t even have that.  It was a barely functional mess.  Here it is after getting decluttered and cleaned:

This corner of the living room was the last area I did.  Here’s an actual “before” picture of it:

All that stuff on the floor?  It’s Jeff’s.  I finally just had to put it all on the dining room table and tell him to please deal with it or it was all getting tossed, shredded, recycled, or given away.  Once that was out of the way, I went through the books and organized them.  It looks much better now.

 

The whole idea behind decluttering the house came from this idea: “You know, if I had less crap around here, I wouldn’t have to do as much cleaning and picking up as I feel like I’m doing.”  And what I’ve found is that now that most everything in my house has an actual place to go, it usually gets put back in its place.  So six to eight weeks after doing all of this decluttering, here are some of the after pictures.  Yes, some of the areas are a little messy again, but they are also very easily cleaned up.

Back of kitchen, about six weeks after being decluttered

 

Kitchen cabinet, about six weeks after decluttering

 

Top of kitchen cabinet, about six weeks after decluttering

 

Bathroom, about 6 weeks after decluttering

 

And finally:

Living room, about eight weeks after decluttering

 

Some of those areas are a little messy, but the mess is easily picked up now.  The pantry and kitchen cabinets have stayed picked up because there is so much less that needs to go into them.  I have to say that I’m especially proud of my husband, who has stuck to the organization in the pantry, which has stayed decluttered and clean, even now that it’s been two months since I worked on it.

***                                                                      ***

Back on June 10 I explained a little bit about how I started this whole project and how not to get overwhelmed doing it.  Here’s how to do it with more details.

First, I think you just really have to want to get rid of the stuff that’s cluttering up your environment.  If the thought of going home from work to a messy, cluttered house doesn’t send you into anxiety mode, you might not be ready for it.  That’s fine.  I think it took me years to get to the point where I was really ready to see the mess and call it an actual mess, instead of just ignoring it.

When you know you’re ready, grab a notebook and number each line.  I went all the way to 90 in my notebook, which took about three pages.  As I said in my earlier post, I only got to number 33 before I was done with my areas.

Now, pick any spot in your house and put that area down as number 1.  No, not the whole living room.  That’s too big and will be overwhelming.  To do this right (or at least my version of right), you need to pick small areas.  Divide the living room up by the areas that are cluttered.  For example, my list for the living room looked like this:

  1. entrance
  2. china cabinet
  3. entertainment center
  4. get rid of entertainment center (donate to Habitat for Humanity)

My original idea was to work on one area a day until the whole house was done.  That stuck for about the first four days, but I discovered that some of the areas took longer than I thought they would or that some of the areas were way too interconnected to just work on one at a time.  What ended up happening after that was that I usually worked on two to five areas each Saturday.  I occasionally worked on something during the week after work, but only very occasionally.

Once you’ve got your numbered list, start working on it!  If it helps, set a goal to have it done in a certain amount of time.  I chose to finish by the end of summer and was able to accomplish that.  If your house is larger, you’ll probably need more than three months to get it done, and that’s OK.  The important thing is work on a little bit at a time.  If you think a project is too big for you to complete in one day, then break that area down into smaller areas.  For example, when I listed the pantry area, I did it like this:

  1. left side of pantry
  2. right side of pantry
  3. middle of pantry

Since I didn’t know exactly how long each part would take, I wanted to be able to cross one whole project off my list.  But dividing it up, I was able to do that.  Added bonus:  I finished the whole pantry up in one day and was able to cross three items off the list.

Another very important idea to keep in mind:  the point of decluttering is not to put as much stuff in the landfill as you can.  You won’t be able to avoid trashing some items, but your goal should be to give away (or sell) as much as you can, and recycle what you can’t.  Tax documents from 1997?  Shred, then recycle (don’t laugh.  I had tax documents going back that far).  Bank statements?  Shred, then recycle.  Yes, this is a good opportunity/excuse to buy or borrow a shredder, but you will use it almost every day, especially on days when the postal carrier brings two new credit card applications.  Kids old art projects?  Recycle (if possible).  If you absolutely need the reminder of what your 29-year-old made for her first grade art project, take a picture of it, then recycle the project.  If you have enough of these pictures, add them to a photo album or scrapbook, which takes up much less space than three boxes of art projects you aren’t even looking at anymore.  Most anything can be recycled now, so use good stewardship principals as you get rid of your clutter.


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