Friday, January 22, 2010

With what shall we come before the Lord?....with rivers of pennies

The library smelled of hot chocolate, marshmellows, and homemade brownines....crystal snowflakes hung from the ceiling and the monitors flashed a deep blue with snowfalling and a snowman doffing his hat in its center. Some children sat at the tables decorated with frosty blue and silver arrangements enjoying their treats, while the other half sat at the computers designing virtual snowflakes with visions of snowdays, snowballs, and snowmen with carrot noses dancing in their heads.

Names were called as the children lined up to choose their prizes from the old steamer trunk. Three moms helped serve, clean, and work with the students as they reaped the rewards of reading independently and reaching their reading goals! On days like this, I don't wonder why I am a librarian in an elementary library carved out of two old classrooms filled with disintegrating books in need of replacement.

The day began with over 60 children lining up bearing coins from their piggy banks to put in the big jar marked "Help Haiti." A first grader, Sophie, had to have help as she proffered the heavy small bucket filled with her pennies, nichols, and dimes. These children were bringing their 'widow's mites,' their personal fortunes because they shared the grand human characteristic of caring for others.

As I walked out of the building this afternoon, Jasmine, a beautiful chocolate colored little girl with flashing brown eyes, rushed up and threw her arms around me, "Did you see me at the party?" she asked. "Yes," I said. "I was so proud of you."
"I got three points!" she announced. "I'm gonna get 5 points next time." Then she danced away toward the drinking fountain.

The answer to my post last week about Micah 6:6, which grew from a growing dispair about our failure to think and respond, as a country, with depth to reality suddenly became a 'thing with feathers' as Emily Dickinson said.

Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words, And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.

And so children brought me hope and answered the question, "with what shall I come before the Lord?" The prophet asks, "shall I come with burnt offerings.....Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands rivers of oil?"

"No," said my children as they came.......with rivers of pennies, and offerings of purity of spirit. So how shall we respond? Micah answers that too, We must do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Thoughts for the new year....prophets or profits....

Each day last week I used State-of-the-Union Addresses from history as the interesting fact of the day. Some of these speeches remind me of the Old Testament prophets. January 6, 1941, was FRD when he gave his famous speech about the four freedoms. He spoke about what everyone (not just Americans) should have.

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world
founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech
and expression -- everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every
person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.
The third is
freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic
understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for
its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear
-- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments
to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a
position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere
in the world."

These visions of a better world are something that every world citizen might welcome--with the exception of religious freedom. What amazes me is that some among us reject these lofty goals as evil, saying that FDR put us on fast track for socialism. The word itself seems to have a life of its own, but focusing on words can be idolatrous. Whether the word is flag, America, Christian, conservative or liberal -- we can all be seduced to idolize the words --- without thinking much about the true meaning.

We need to look beyond the symbols for meaning.....and here are some sobering facts to ponder when we put our nation on a pedestal.

  • We will spend an estimated $802 million to develop drugs to help men have sex, and give women eyelashes to attract the men on those drugs. We spend $11.7 million yearly on sculpting sagging flesh and smoothing wrinkles in medical procedures.

  • Agri-companies genetically alter our food producing infertile seeds that are dependent on the same company's herbicide to survive -- insuring profits for the company that created both the seeds and herbicide.

  • We support huge agricultural firms that raise and genetically alter animals to produce mass quantities of tasteless meat for our tables. Turkeys for Thanksgiving that are so fat they cannot stand or walk on their own, pigs held in buildings where they never see the world that they were meant to experience. This is done worshipping at the alter of greatest profit.

  • We live in a country where the extraordinarily wealthy have convinced ordinary wage earners that there should be no inheritance tax --- a tax which, by-the-way, applied to only 1% of the population. All this as our country moves toward the greatest discrepancy between wealth and middle class since 1928 and the Great Depression.

  • We live in a nation where the top 1% of American households received 21.8 percent of all wealth.(2005) Coming close to matching the figure of 1928, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent. ( .

  • We have spent (as of Dec. 2009) $1.05 trillion on the war in Iraq alone. If you follow the link there is an interesting means of comparing the expenditure on war to what it could go for.

So in the truest sense of the Old Testament Prophets....let me suggest that we re-read Micah 3:5..."Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry "peace" when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who have nothing to put in their mouths." But wait --- there is on....come to the part about beating swords into plowshares....and learning war no more....and finally ....what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.."

I pray that we will be deeply thoughtful and be that kind of people....