Archive for November, 2012

Five-Minute Book Review: Everyday Justice

Book:  Everyday Justice

Author:  Julie Clawson

Date Published:  2009

What’s in it:  The book presents an informed, practical case for ethical consumerism.  After an introduction which encourages you not to panic and inspires you to take concrete action, Clawson organizes her book into seven chapters, each of which discusses an area of spending:  coffee, chocolate, cars, food, clothes, waste, and debt.  I’m going to be honest:  I mainly read the sections on coffee, chocolate, and clothes, because that’s where I am in my journey (and I’m just starting to think about clothes).

Why I recommend it:  If you are even marginally interested in ethical spending, this book provides a great, non-overwhelming introduction to the issues.  The book’s format lets you skip to whatever area interests you, and the chapters are fairly short (around 20 pages each).  In those pages, Clawson delivers lots of information through a casual, readable style.  I particularly love the depth at which she looks at Scripture.  My favorite part, however, is that each chapter ends with resources for further study.  It is through this book that I found the three others I am currently reading.

Any drawbacks?  This book functions well as an introduction to the issues, but I (and most certainly the author herself) would recommend further study.  After all, twenty pages per chapter is not much when you include, as Clawson does, personal stories, little anecdotes, global history, Scripture analysis, and action steps.  Still, this book is a great place to start informing yourself about slavery issues and ethical consumerism.

Favorite quotes:

“All too often I find that conversations that involve changing our lifestyles result in us feeling overwhelmed at the sheer immensity of the problem.  There is too much hurt out there, too much that needs to change, and too much to tackle all at once.  From just becoming aware of the needs in the world, to realizing that our lifestyle choices make a difference, to understanding how our faith informs how we approach justice issues, we can feel shaken to the core.

Encountering new ideas and allowing those ideas to change who we are is a huge step for most of us.  Too often we live compartmentalized lives that don’t allow for the different spheres of our existence to interact.  Church is separate from shopping.  Our morning latte doesn’t connect with our volunteer work…Our waste disposal habits are removed from our politics.  They each exist separately and apart in our hectic lives.

But encountering justice issues changes all that.  Our lives are no longer just a series of unrelated tasks and errands with the occasional leisure activity thrown in when there’s time.  Our lives are part of a bigger picture.  Our local, everyday choices reverberate around the world.  And at the center, pushing and informing all of those choices, is our faith.”  (From the “Warning” at the beginning of the book)

“I don’t doubt that nearly all of us morally oppose forcing children into slavery.  We may feel tricked into unknowingly participating in oppression just because we like to eat chocolate, but the problems continue because most people…are unaware that they exist at all.  We are, in a sense, victims of a system that causes us to be victimizers.  No parent would request the kidnapping, beating, and starving of other children so that they could serve chocolate cupcakes at their child’s birthday party, but nonetheless, this is essentially what happens.” (From p. 57)

I found my copy of this book at my local library.  It’s currently available at half.com for less than $5.  In fact, if you are interested in reading it, but can’t afford it, send me your address, and I will order one for you!

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Kingdom Voices: Christopher Friedrich Blumhardt

My wonderful Advent devotional begins each year on November 24.  This is my third year reading through it, and it’s funny to see how the ideas from the devotions have seeped into my brain.  I guess that’s why these words from Blumhardt resonated with me so deeply this year.  Part of it is that I am neck deep in reading about the phenomenon of global slavery today.  Reading so much about the darkness of the world and desiring to do something to change it adds weight to the following words.  I highlighted my favorite parts:

“As long as God’s kingdom has to be fought for, it is more important to be dressed for work–ready for action--to make an effort to do something in keeping with God’s plan, often against the whole weight of the world.    A practical way exists, and we must be ready for this with our whole being.

‘But,’ someone may ask, ‘What sort of thing, exactly, are we to do?  What will truly serve God and his coming reign?‘  This is a serious question; no human being can answer it.  We have to learn to live in what is coming from God every day and to carry a light from this awareness into the darkness

Anyone whose attention is fixed on the coming reign of God and who wants to see a change brought about in God’s house will become more and more aware that there exists a universal wrongness that is pulled over us like a choking, suffocating blanket.He will know that the thing to do is to take hold of God’s hand so that there is some effect on this night, so that at least a few areas are made receptive to God’s truth and justice and are made ready to receive God himself.  But to do this work we have to have a light.  With this light we can then illuminate every corner where we have some work to do…

Let us keep staunch our eagerness to do whatever comes to us of the truth.  Then there will be knocks on our door, over and over, and God’s coming will not be hidden.  For devoted hearts the light will keep dawning from him who is merciful and compassionate.

The work for God goes on quite simply in this way; one does not always have to wait for something out of the ordinary.  The all-important thing is to keep your eyes on what comes from God and to make way for it to come into being here on the earth.  If you always try to be heavenly and spiritually minded, you won’t understand the everyday work God has for you to do.  But if you embrace what is to come from God, if you live for Christ’s coming in practical life, you will learn that divine things can be experienced here and now…”*

I don’t think I could read about the darkness in the world if I didn’t have hope in God.  Because of my faith in Him, I have hope that there is something for me to do on this earth, something that can bring light and make a difference to others.  And I know that to do that, I have to always look to Him and follow His guidance.  The problems are too big for me to solve, so clearly, solving them is not my job.  My job is to obey the nudges of the Holy Spirit and to spread love and light to the places the Spirit shows me.   I think I can manage that.

*quote taken from:

Blumhardt, Christopher Friedrich.  “Action in Waiting.”  Watch for the Light:  Readings for Advent and Christmas.  Farmington, PA:  Plough Publishing House, 2001.

Getting Educated

After a year of trying to take small steps to be a more ethical, Kingdom-minded consumer, I have that fire in my bones again, and I’m taking steps to further educate myself on a few issues.  Here are the books I’ve either checked out from the library or have ordered on half.com.

There is a 100% chance you will be hearing about these issues here in the future.

Consider yourself warned:).

Thankful

I don’t know what it is this year, but I am looking forward to Thanksgiving so much.  In anticipation, I checked out tons of books about Thanksgiving from the library, and the kids and I have spent the last couple of bedtimes reading all about this wonderful holiday.  I have also enjoyed seeing people list what they are thankful for on Facebook.  I have thought about doing that myself, but I quickly discovered that I am too verbose for Facebook’s status updates.  Also, I can’t narrow it down to one thing a day.  Seriously, I started thinking about all the things that I’ve been thankful for in November so far, and I came up with the following list.  All of these pictures and all of these thoughts occurred within the last three days:

1.  I am thankful for how well my children get along.  A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if my children are close.  Now, of course, they do squabble with each other, but the answer to her question is, yes, they are close.  Sometimes even weirdly so.

For example, here they are wearing matching outfits.  This was ALL their idea.  I tried to dissuade them from it, but they would not be moved.

And here they are sharing my jacket in Kroger, because, according to them, it was “FREEZING.”

2.  I’m thankful for wonderful parents, who always love, support, and encourage me:

It means so much to me when my mom tells me I’m a good mom.  I guess it’s because she is the best mom I know, and so her I value her opinion on the matter.

3.  I’m thankful for all the good movies that are out.  I love watching movies, and yet, so often, there are not any movies worth seeing.  Right now, my list of “must see’s” is quite long:  Argo, Lincoln, Skyfall, Flight, Wreck-it Ralph, The Hobbit.  WOW.  That has got to be a record!  I’m not sure when and if I will get to see them all, but I am thankful to have that fun to look forward to.

4.  And I’m thankful for a husband who, for some odd reason, seems absolutely smitten with me:

5.  I am giddily thankful for the fact that the NASHVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY HAS A MOBILE APP!  And yes, that proclamation is worthy of all caps.  Seriously, for months–months, people!–I have been bemoaning the fact that our otherwise wonderful and exemplary library system has no mobile app.  As I look up books, put in requests, and renew books almost daily–if not multiple times a day–I have longed for a way to do these things easily on my phone.  I have searched the app store for such an app, just knowing that it had to exist.  Not finding it, I have complained to several of my friends about the library’s tragic oversight in this area.  But this morning, I made an amazing discovery, via the Nashville library website:  they do have an app.  In fact, they have probably had it for awhile, and I just didn’t notice.  And if possible, it is even more wonderful than my mental daydreams of it.  I kid you not, when I found out this wonderful information, I squealed, did a little happy dance, and ran and told Greg.  This is a game changer, guys.  Game. changer.

6.  I’m thankful for Nashville’s autumns.  After spending most my life in the deep(er) South, the phenomenon of leaves that change color and fall off the trees continues to blow my mind daily.

7.  I’m thankful I get to watch my children learn.

8.  I am thankful for our wood-burning fireplace in our kitchen.  And I am thankful for woods behind our house.  And I am thankful for a husband who cuts wood and starts a fire, without fail, at the request of any family member.

9.  Speaking of my husband, I am so thankful for what a wonderful man he is.  I was just thinking the other day of all the things he does around the house, big and little, and I came up with this list:  makes and tends fires in the fireplace and outside fire pit; fixes anything that is broken, and if he can’t, arranges for a professional to come; takes care of our budget and finances; does all outside yardwork; washes the cars; handles the thermostat (seriously, until I thought of this list and asked him, I did not know where the thermostat was); takes out the trash and brings it in (no small feat with our massive hill of a driveway); handles any and all computer malfunctions; figures out how any given item in our house works and then explains it to the rest of us (the latest example is our telescope); helps out with science experiments for homeschool (mine is more of a “humanities-leaning” mind); makes sure all the doors are locked at night; introduces me to new music, and keeps me updated on general current events (basically, I live happily under a rock, and Greg is my connection to the larger world); and I’m sure there’s more.

10.  I’m thankful that November 1 marked one amazing year in Nashville.

This little note was waiting in Greg’s car the other day.  It was from two of his teens.  He absolutely loves his job, and it makes me happy to see him so happy.  He gets to see his teens everyday at the after school program, and he tutors them daily, goes to their school and sports events, and takes them on all sorts of fun trips.  Several of them have referred to them a second (or a first) father to them, and it is clear that he plays that role in many of their lives.  My favorite comment came when he was taking two teens, a brother and a sister, home one night, they passed a Greek Orthodox church, and the sister inquired about the meaning of “Greek Orthodox.”  It was a simple question, but when Greg explained, the boy asked in outright amazement, “How do you know so much??  Wow…it should be illegal for one person to know that much stuff.”  I remember feeling the exact same way about my own dad, and I smile every time I think about that comment.

I also smile when he relates so-and-so’s progress on her 6, 7, and 8 times tables, knowing that Greg has promised her Tacquis if she memorizes all of them.  Or when he tells me about how he is mentoring an incarcerated young man as part of a local Christian program to rehabilitate prisoners.  I am so incredibly thankful that my husband is doing work that both fulfills him personally and helps to spread God’s kingdom.  I’m so thankful to be able to support that work as his wife.

11.  I’m thankful that we get an extra hour of sleep tonight!

So do you see what I’m saying about the Facebook thing?

What are you thankful for?

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