Saturday, September 30, 2006

Moments of "rightness"

Every now and then I experience these moments where I sense that things really *are* right with the world, and unfolding in a positive direction--even though much of what we see and experience seems to suggest otherwise. I am fully aware that what I perceive as "God's clues", while they are meaningful to me personally, can easily be explained as ordinary coincidences. But I am thankful when the Universe provides them.

At different points in my faith journey, when I was feeling tenative about my move away from the Catholic church of my youth--more importantly the church of my grandmother, a tiny little something that would happen that would reassure me. Typically, it involved hearing one of Grandma's favorite hymns at the church I was attending. I know those are small, easily dismissed coincidences, but they have something important to say to me at a given moment, and for that I have been grateful.

Today, as my daughter practiced with the church youth choir, I waited, as usual, downstairs in the church library. Having exhausted, for the moment, their selection of books, I turned to the stand where various church newsletters and Episcopal periodicals were displayed. There, I spotted the most recent copy of Episcopal Life.

In it was an in-depth article about Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori (as well as an interesting piece about her husband) entitled A Confident Reconciler. Of course, in the past couple days I've written about both Thich Nhat Hanh and Desmond Tutu and their shared recognition that we are all part of a human family. Reading the Jefferts Schori article, I was struck yet again with the feeling that the Spirit truly was in the room when she was being elected. (Her election, came as a surprise to many, as she was not considered a frontrunner.) But the more I learn about her, the more I feel that she really is the right person at the right time. I really encourage everyone to read the piece, or at least part of it, just to get the sense of her style of leadership. It's a style I think we need more of at this point in history.

And then, as I was thinking this, I heard the girls upstairs starting to sing a hymn that I hadn't heard for some time. It wasn't one of the modern Dan Schutte style hymns that had been my favorites, but it's one that I came to appreciate because it was one of Grandma's favorites...

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

I know this isn't the stuff of miracles to most people, but for me that moment combined a sense of hope for the future and connectedness to the past--and reassurance that my beloved spiritual role model is still with me today.

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Saturday Comics

And my favorite for today: Details, Details

Note from Renee--I had to edit the image so it wouldn't blow the margins. While I'm here, jc's latest fits nicely into a comics thread...

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Lun Lun's cub---its a girl!

I totally didn't know that we didn't know this yet...

ATLANTA – Sept. 25, 2006 - On Sept. 6 at 4:51 p.m., an extremely rare giant panda cub was born at Zoo Atlanta. Born to 9-year-old giant panda Lun Lun, the cub received its first veterinary exam today. During the exam, veterinary staff were able to confirm that the cub is a female, weighs approximately 1.4 lbs and is a little over one foot long. The exam on the 19-day-old cub indicated the cub is healthy and average size.

Videos here, and panda updates here.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Thich Nhat Hanh's Letter to President Bush

I just discovered a Buddhist blog called Windmoor Village Zendo, and one of the recent posts there is the text of a letter Thich Nhat Hanh recently sent to George Bush...

Dear Mr. President 8.8.06

Last night, I saw my brother (who died two weeks ago in the U.S.A.) coming back to me in a dream. He was with all his children. He told me, “let’s go home together.” After a millisecond of hesitation, I told him joyfully, “Ok, let’s go.”

Waking up from that dream at 5 am this morning, I thought of the situation in the Middle East; and for the first time, I was able to cry. I cried for a long time, and I felt much better after about one hour. Then I went to the kitchen and made some tea. While making tea, I realized that what my brother had said is true: our home is large enough for all of us. Let us go home as brothers and sisters.

Mr. President, I think that if you could allow yourself to cry like I did this morning, you will also feel much better. It is our brothers that we kill over there. They are our brothers, God tells us so, and we also know it. They may not see us as brothers because of their anger, their misunderstanding, and their discrimination. But with some awakening, we can see things in a different way, and this will allow us to respond differently to the situation. I trust God in you; I trust Buddha nature in you.

Thank you for reading.

In gratitude and with brotherhood,
Thich Nhat Hanh
Plum Village
The stunning thing is that I just finished listening to a recent sermon by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in which he spoke the same truth.

We are all family, Tutu said. He repeated the word many times, all, all, all all! It really is that simple. No, it's *not* easy. And people hoping for an "ultimate answer" that would be less work or more in line with our lower natures keep trying to find one. Not going to happen. We already have our answer--we just need to get to work on applying it.

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Vermont - Political Pioneers

Vermont is well know for its unique and progressive politics. We were the first state to outlaw slavery. The first to provide for a public education system. The first to give non-property owners the right to vote. The first to elect an African American to it's legislature. The first to pass Civil Unions.

And we do crazy things like vote for a Presidential candidate who is technically no longer running, and elect Independant representatives to our Federal Governement. So it should come as no suprise that we have the strongest third party in the country.

The Progressive Party was started in 1981 when Bernie Sanders' campaign for Mayor of Burlington (an election he won by 10 votes!), inspired his supporters to form a third party that they felt represented their progressive values. Although Bernie has never been a member, he is widely considered the "father" of the Progressive Party...Kind of like if supporters of a certain Presidential Candidate had formed a 3rd party...

Since 1981, the Progressive Party has held the Burlington Mayor's seat, a majority of the Burlington City Council, and various positions on City/Town Select Boards and School Boards. There are 6 Progressive State House Representatives in our legislature.

The Progressive Party pulls the entire political spectrum in Vermont to the left, brings issues that might not otherwise be discussed into the spotlight, and just generally makes politics in Vermont more intersting. We're happy to have them, as we continue to lead the nation in progressive politics.

The following endorsement was released this morning.

Democracy For Vermont is proud to announce it’s endorsement of David Zuckerman and Christopher Pearson for State House. Both are Progressives running for re-election in Chittenden 3-4, a 2 seat district.

Rep. Zuckerman has served as a State Representative for the past ten years . He has fought hard for equal rights, a livable wage, strong environmental standards, sound agricultural policy, affordable housing, reproductive rights, medical marijuana, death with dignity, fair taxation, and instant run-off voting (IRV). Contributions may be sent to Zuckerman for House, 14 Germain St., Burlington, VT 05401.

Rep. Pearson was appointed to the Legislature in April 2006 to fill the vacancy left after Rep. Bob Kiss took over as mayor of Burlington. He is committed to giving people a stronger voice in the political process, a universal single-payer health care system, election reform, campaign finance reform and tax reform. Contributions may be sent to 39 Greene Street, Burlington, VT, 05401.

Both gentlemen have voluntarily agreed to abide by contribution limits of $200 per individual. For more information about Rep. Zuckerman and Rep. Pearson please visit

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

And the ninja cats shall show us the way

It's been a long day. In addition to teaching the three classes, I ended up being personally invconvenienced by George Bush. I knew he was doing a big ticket fundraiser for Deb Pryce. (You can donate to her Democratic opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, through our Act Blue page.) But I had no idear that I was going to be blocked from exiting the freeway onto the road I needed to take to my class. But as I came up to my exit, I was met with police cars and road flares.

I'd forgotten about Bush being in town, so I just figured that there was construction or something. I slowed down to see if all of the exit was blocked, or if, as is sometimes the case, they were narrowing it to one lane or something. Or, if the exit was completely blocked, I should think there would be a "detour" sign or something. I tried to ask. Mr. Police Officer immediately went into authoritarian, gruff mode and told me I needed to move on. Yes but--where? How do I get back to *this street* which is where I need to go. He said a couple more unhelpful thing in his Mr. Angry Bossy Police Officer voice while I just tried to ask, "How do I get *there*, to that street, where I need to get to *work*?" It was at this point that he yelled at me, "The president's in town! We have to keep that street clear."

This is pretty much emblematic of Bush and what he stands for, isn't it? Benefitting the select few while screwing things up for the teeming masses.

Coming home to read about the Democrats voting for torture, as well as the latest from the religious right, well, no thanks. Don't feel like dealing with it. I've had enough of politics at this moment. I'm full up.

I don't have anything deep, or inspirational, or calming, or hopeful to offer at the moment. So I thought I'd go with bizarre...

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Ich bin ein Vermonter

So, our "great progressive" Ohio Congressman Sherrod Brown made a calculated decision to vote for torture. Maybe the juvenile "Far Out Brown" attack site got to him and he felt the need to prove he wasn't "soft on terror". Who knows.

On the other hand, we have Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont...

Today we are belatedly addressing the single most consequential provision of this much-discussed bill, a provision that can be found buried on page 81 of the proposed bill. This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence, without any recourse to justice whatsoever. That is un-American, and it is contrary to American interests.

Read the full text of his remarks here.

P.S. Kip Hawley is an idiot.
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Two Visions for Ohio

This evening I attended an event that was co-sponsored by the ACLU of Ohio and Equality Ohio. I missed the first part of it due to some of the worst traffic I've ever experienced in this area, but fortunately arrived in time to hear both Adam Leddy and Lynne Bowman speak. Lynne is the Executive Director of Equality Ohio and appears at the end of this video that the group released today: Two Visions for Ohio.

Adam spoke first, and talked about the key players in Ohio's theocracy movement, Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, Rod Parsley of the Center for Moral Clarity and Reformation Ohio, and Russell Johnson of the Ohio Restoration Project. He also described his own visit to Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church. It gave me a sense of how captivating Parsley's performance is to the people in attendance, and how he is able to hold such sway over so many people. Pretty frightening, actually. He also mentioned that Rod Parsley one of a group of ministers that is pushing the White House to take military action against Iran. Apparently that will help make Jesus come back sooner. (Shudder.)

Adam blogs at happyagenda, which tracks "how religious extremists are influencing Ohio public policy".

One of the things Lynne mentioned that was quite striking was that Equality Ohio has analyzed the voting trends on Issue 1, the so-called "same sex marriage ban". They compared precincts where people voted against Issue 1 by at least 60/40 to those that passed it by at least 60/40. She said that, if we were 50/50 going into election day, Issue 1 would have passed by 13%, because their side had higher turnout. She emphasized the important of door to door canvassing and talking to our neighbors plays in "changing hearts and minds".

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"This is what the bloggers are so shrill about"

On September 24, on Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington wrote:

I'm glad the Chris Wallace interview is flying all over the internet, but I really hope that one person who will watch it over and over again is Bill Clinton. And that on the fifth or sixth viewing it might occur to him that the more cover he gives Bush and his cronies, the more they're able to increase and entrench their power. Power they use to destroy everything that Clinton purports to stand for.

Taking the "high-road" has a nice sound to it, but Clinton shouldn't fool himself -- and insult the rest of us -- by thinking that the time he's spent traveling that elevated path has made the world a better place. Or made the gang at Fox News hate him any less than they did the day he left office.
Click here for the rest. And then see the follow-up by Dave Johnson, Authoritarianism and Theocracy -- Bloggers Are Sounding A Warning.

There is a fundamental point here. I, and many others, think that the Democratic leadership has profoundly misjudged the nature and intentions of the conservative movement. John Dean, in his book Conservatives Without Conscience, warns that we are witnessing the rise of an authoritarian government, and Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, warns that the current Republican leadership is intent on bringing about a theocracy. This is not politics-as-usual. THIS is what the bloggers are so shrill about.

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Open thread (now with baby bunnies!)

Not sure I've ever done back-to-back open threads before, but it was a busy day. And I just logged into my e-mail to find this link that Corinne sent to me. Those is some cute baby bunnies, don'tcha think?

Good night, everyone. Sweet (soft, snuggly) dreams. ;)

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Open Thread

I know most people have signed off for the night, but I thought I should put up the new thread now, as I probably won't have time in the morning. Or at any point during the day, for that matter. :)

The image above is from a page called Cat Town.

I bet Daughter in Ohio's cat Stevie appreciates that we only dress him up in Photoshop.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Keith Olbermann on Bush's cowardice

Unfortunately I missed seeing this, but it's bound to show up on YouTube or something. Here I will post the end of Keith Olbermann's remarks, but you can read the whole transcript here.

Update: Crooks and Liars has the video.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it’s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton, but by the same people who got you elected President.

Thus, instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it, we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently read the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus, instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since—a statement that might range anywhere from zero, to 100 percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush, you got the name of the supposedly targeted Tower in Los Angeles wrong.

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Urgent church/state separation action item

I just received the following action alert from the local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Please share this with others. I am *so* freaking sick and tired of these people and their unrelenting efforts to do sneaky stuff like this when they think no one is looking.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to debate legislation which would undermine a critical enforcement mechanism that has safeguarded rights and liberties of Americans for more than a century. The Public Expression of Religion Act (H.R. 2679) would gut the longstanding availability of plaintiffs in Establishment Clause cases – and only those cases – to gain their attorneys fees and costs when they prevail in court.

You can read the rest here, and then take action.

Also, for anyone who didn't see this earlier, click here for the transcript of Rob Boston's recent talk in Columbus on the issue of church/state separation.

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Play The Bernie Arcade Game!

OK, so on a scale of 1-10 of productively working to take our country back, this rates about a negative 5. But hey, we all deserve a break once in a while, and you can win Bernie sweatshirts and t-shirts!

Insider tip: Back Bernie's plane up so you have more reaction time, and continuously hold down the space bar!

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Jesse Jackson on "wolf in sheep's clothing" politics

More from the Rainbow PUSH September Summit. Note that Rev. Jackson does not mention anyone by name here. What you see below is just the image that came to *my* mind...

Beware when Herod says stop by his house, and says "I'm really glad to see you wise men--have some tea." And "I'm looking for the same guy you're looking for, and when you find him, let me know, so that I can worship him too." You must be discernful enough to know that his words are good, but his motives are impure.

Wise men heard the words of the politician. Wise men went back another way.

Today we are facing some "wolf in sheep's clothing" politics. It's all wrapped in faith. Somebody comes to our church and quotes a Bible verse or two, we say, "Oh, he knows something!" Yeah--he knows that you are not aware of being deceived. And that's why Jesus said, "Beware of those who say 'Lord, Lord' and walk past the poor." They're saying the right thing, but they're not *doing* the right thing. (Applause)

Theres a struggle--there are two big political ideas. The two big ideas are "states rights" and "more perfect union". States' rights, including the right to secede. The right to cut their own deals with foreign countries, as in Britain and France. The right to have their own laws by state.

Then there's the other idea of a "more perfect union"--the *United* States. And so Lincoln is on the More Perfect Union team--for that he got killed. Jefferson Davis is on the States' Rights team...

On the States' Rights team is slavery. On the States' Rights team is "right to work" laws--anti-labor. On the States' Rights team is the right to segregate by race, by state. On the States' Rights team are a body of ideas that undermine civil rights, and workers' rights and women's rights. And you should not really be on the Jefferson Davis team trying to get Lincoln votes. You shouldn't be on the States' Rights team trying to get More Perfect Union votes.

In other words, beware of "wolf in sheep's clothing" politics. People who state the right thing, but whose ideas are anti-civil rights protection.

Why I asked you here today is to form an infrastructure. You may have all the right ambitions to get across the Ohio River where it's wide, and you have undercurrents. But you need more than the desire--you need a boat. An infrastructure. Because the waters are too cold and the currents are too swift.

On the need to start creating connections...
Our concerns are the same, but, because we don't know each other, people can operate between the gap on us and undermine us. I see some good people voting for leaders of the Bush team. You cannot be for voter protection and be on the Bush team, because that's not what they stand for. While we fight for increased registration, they fight for increased suppression. Because they win with low turnout, we win with high turnout. Now, you have a right to be on the Bush team, but don't be in our huddle! (Applause and cheers.)

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Culture shock open thread

Even though I've been talking about it in the comments, there are bound to be people who are surprised that the blog looks different. I really do hope this helps the people who have had difficulty getting this blog to load. There may still be a few things missing from the sidebar, but most of what was here before should still be here. Most of what's missing are ads and other potentially money-making features that may have been problematic as far as page load time.

Anway, as I mentioned in the previous thread, I've got a class tonight, so I need to take a little break from blog work. Hopefully there are no major problems with this format--I did have a number of people check it out last night, and it seems to at least be a little less buggy than the old template.

Oh, and we now have the "e-mail this post" icon back.

And, tell you what, to help you relax, here's some soothing imagery from a free desktop wallpaper site.

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I'm Rich

A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"

"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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."

Luke 18:18-25
What makes you rich? Many people associate the accumulation of capital as constituting richness, but by what standard would you consider yourself to be rich? Some find riches in the love of their family. Some find riches in their accomplishments. Some find riches in the applause of others, but many, many people find riches in cold, hard cash. Whatever the source of one's riches, be it a mountain of money or an abundance of affable acqaintances, one who considers themselves to be rich will almost certainly reject the Kingdom of God.

A rich man is significantly different from a man with riches. A rich man will often respond to the good news of Jesus Christ in the same manner as David Chappelle's caricture of Rick James: "I'm rich!" A rich man will often view his current state as sufficient - he's rich. A rich man will often reject anything said by anyone else that does not validate his current way of life - he's rich, and if you don't get that then that's your problem and not his.

Not so, the man with riches.

The man with riches does not identify himself with his riches - his money is a means to and end, his acquaintences are appreciated by they in no way define him. The man with riches differentiates between who he is and what he has, and such a man can indeed accept Jesus Christ. Peter owned a fishing business and led a comfortable life, yet he accepted and followed Jesus. Cornelius was wealthy enough to have several servants in his household yet he accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Having riches does not automatically mean that the possessor will reject Jesus Christ, however one who identifies themselves with their riches will virtually always reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's a matter of priorities.

Rich men put their riches before everything else. The rich man who works all day and all night to get that promotion, neglecting his family and friends. The rich man who passes by the homeless without giving them anything but his contempt. The rich man who refuses to submit to any authority other than his own, such a man will most certainly reject the Kingdom of God - even while pretending to be a subject of the King.

It has been said that many people are willing to accept Jesus, but only on an advisory basis. Jesus isn't your personal Dr. Phil or Magic 8-Ball - He is the creator of the universe, the one whose "Let there be" sparked the biggest bang in history - and He wants each of us to have abundant life in Him, to find our richness in Him. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." Jesus said, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life." Jesus said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Will you seek after Jesus, or are you already rich?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to be rich in Him,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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