Sometimes It's Good To Have Less

Every morning, I listen to NPR while getting ready for my day. It's my way of keeping tabs on what's going on in the world. Once I get to work, I am pretty much tunnel-visioned, so this is how I know when there is a hurricane somewhere or earthquake or, say for instance, an economic crisis.

When I was in the corportate world, working for the CEO of a publically held company, I dealt regularly with shareholders and the folks whose job it was to drive the stock prices up. But now that I work for a non-profit organization, the only time we talk much about the economy is when we're thinking about how likely it is that we'll get major gifts this year. A strong economy means more donations. In a weak economy, charitable donations are the first to go.

The other morning, I was listening to NPR reporting on the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and what that would mean for many people globally. I realized that, when most of your wealth lies in stocks and bonds, this kind of thing can really make you sweat. Or, if you bank at a place like Washington Mutual (like I do), and that bank goes under, you stand to lose a lot - that is, if you have a lot more than $100,000 in the bank.

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The Money Pit: Gospel Revisited

The Headlines are pouring in from around the world:  500 point market 'adustment' evaporates billionsMajor banking institutions melting down.  Government bails out major insurance companyGlobal Economy.  Foreclosure crisis.  Consumer Debt.  Energy Consumption declines with economic downturn... etc. etc. 

"Yes, yes, all very interesting, author, but you're here to talk about spiritual things,  So please, a little Bible study?" Since you asked... here we go:

 James 5:1 tells us that we who are rich will have our own share of miseries so that, rather than rejoicing in our riches, perhaps we should acknowledge that they've come, perhaps, at the cost of unjust treatment for those who live elsewhere, far away, working for wages that fail to provide adequately.  

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In Praise of Civility

When Walter Mondale and President Reagan were about to begin their first debate, Mondale began with a statement: "Tonight, I will say some strong things about the President's views and policies. I would like it to be understood that I mean no disrespect, either to the man or to his office. I enjoy President Reagan's company, and I know him to be a decent and kind man."

At this, President Reagan replied, "I like you too Fritz, let's go to it!"

The audience laughed and the debate began in earnest. Mondale did not hold back. He hit the president's policies hard. But he had already announced his boundaries: he was not going to cross the line into dishonor for his opponent.

Walter Mondale didn't win my vote that night but he did win my respect. He had modeled how a person can be passionate for his cause and still remain a gentleman. His words reflected what our national leaders thought, once upon a time: that it was as essential for a statesman to promote national unity as it was to advance his political persuasion.

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Tags | Politics

What Is Liberalism?

What is a liberal?

Some of the popular definitions for the word "liberal" include "showing or characterized by broad-mindedness;" "generous and broad sympathies," tolerant," "having political or social views favoring reform and progress," " tolerant of change;" "not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition;" "a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of personal civil liberties."

"Liberalism," is thus a philosophy that seeks to advance "social progress," usually defined as continual movement towards increased personal freedom and broader protection for the individual from the threat of poverty, prejudice, illness and ignorance. Liberalism is thus an orientation toward the future rather than the past.

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Cultural Revolution

On May 16, 1966, Chairman Mao set into motion a movement of youth and peasants who would work untiringly for nearly a decade to rid China of all "foreign," "elitist," and "bureaucratic" elements.  He called for the masses to unleash their frustration against the educated classes.
We call Mao's movement "the cultural revolution."
In that decade of ideological madness, the Chinese people learned to think and speak in clichés. Sentences often began with "as the Chairman says, …"
In the movie, The Red Violin, a woman who loves music has to hide her records and instrument from the young punks who roam the streets in search of people like her, people who care about culture. She has to sit in silence while sarcastic "no-nothings" publicly ridicule an old music teacher because the man had taught Bach and Beethoven instead of popular Chinese music. It was a time to hide one's love of learning, culture and refinement. For the moment, the mob was in control.
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I would like you to meet two of our friends, Jonathan and Marielle. They're the newest couple to Erdenet, though they both came here a few years ago when they came as a part of YWAM. Like so many of the couples out here they're international; Jonathan is from Oregon and Murielle is from France. They are somehow both fluent in English and French and are now becoming trilingual with Mongolian.

Their work in Mongolia is really unique, and that's why I wanted to share it with you. The Mongolian educational system, to put it lightly, needs a lot of work. One of the biggest problems is that the government says that children must buy all of their books for school. If they cannot afford the books, they cannot go to school. This obviously does nothing to help the over 36% of the population living at or below the poverty line. For many families, especially those living on the outskirts of cities and in the smallest towns, the $20 per year they spend on books is a question that can come down to a decision between buying books or food (especially with the global increase in gas, wheat, and rice prices).

Jonathan and Murielle run their own non-profit called EduRelief that raises money to buy, print, and distribute books for students in the poorest areas of the country and to start libraries in the impoverished schools.

You can read all about EduRelief and what they do here. If you like what they do, send them a nice email or ask how you can help.

Jonathan was featured in a commercial for a school recently. For those of you who've never heard Mongolian, here's your introduction. (It still blows my mind that Kim can speak it.)

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The Election Today: Five Quick Takes

Avoid the temptation to read each poll and make Big Conclusions about each. The race is slowly unfolding.

Status Recap:

This election was Obama’s to lose, but he is presently losing it. “Losing it” is becoming personal as well as general. In fact, Obama now is the candidate who must be looking forward to the debates.

He needs to change the direction of the campaign. That is a major switch from the summer.

We will not know much more until the debates, but:

1. Sarah Palin jumped the low bar set for her in her first major interview last night. She was not great, she fumbled at least one answer, but in a high pressure interview she showed that she can handle major media (whoopee!) and has a good grasp on the issues of the day. It will only get easier from here.
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What I Learned Watching the RNC

1. Rudy and Sarah think that community organizing is lame. Let's all mock those who take a paycut to help the less fortunate. Philanthropy is stupid.
2. Anyone who is not a Republican does not put country first.
3. John McCain delivered his speech in front of a green screen, because he knows the Colbert Report will replay it all week with various user-submitted backgrounds. That makes me like him even more. I'm a sucker for a sense of humor, and McCain and Colbert have a funny bit going on. I'm sure it would never be admitted, but I think McCain is a Colbert fan, too.
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Do You Really Love Your Neighbor?

Here are some wild ideas: making a difference in the community; listening to what your neighbor has to say; doing what God really asks us to do. MIKA community development corporation seriously address these questions and issues. Do you?

Watch as Crissy Brooks inspires, encourages and teaches us that the opportunity to serve and minister is literally right outside your door.


Newest update from Give A Damn? team

September is here, and we are nowhere near where we imagined we would be at this time.  We had this vision that we would obtain a producer that wanted to fund the entire project (which is still a real possibility) and that we would be in Africa in just a few days, but life never turns out as you plan. Not to say that all is bad or that we are failing.  Quite the opposite, good things are happening all the time. Just recently Paul Rusesabagina notified us that he wanted to be involved with our project, so we will be interviewing him when he visits St. Louis in November.  Mr. Rusesabagina is the man the movie Hotel Rwanda is based on, and he is an internationally known speaker.  We feel so privileged to be securing these interviews that were once just a dream.  Also, we have been offered a contract by a literary agent who is working on a book deal for us.  News like this comes in nearly every week these days.

However, we are realizing that our eyes need to be set on our trip to Africa. The interviews we are securing are powerful. Our interviews with Invisible Children, SOLD, Falling Whistles, and Richard Carrier taught us so much, and we still hope to have interviews with many other key leaders in the fight against poverty.  All these interviews will play an important role in either the feature length documentary or the educational DVD we will put out after the film.

However, what sets Give A Damn? apart is the idea that we are going to live in extreme poverty ourselves. Today's youth are amused by the lighthearted entertainment routinely found on YouTube and the display of real people enduring extreme circumstances seen in reality shows such as Jackass, so that is what we are going to give them. Our film is going to be funny and random, and we are surely going to be in extreme circumstances as we travel across Africa surviving on only one dollar a day. Doing all this in the hopes that we can tell a compelling story that will reach young people where they are at, hopefully leading them to make fighting poverty a priority in their lives, helping turn apathy into action. To do that, we are now honing in on raising the funds we will need to get to Africa and make this key part of the film.

For this reason, we are postponing our trip to D.C. and the South. We had great interviews scheduled with G-I Net, the World Bank, and several other organizations, but we will do those after we shoot the key part of the film, the Africa  $1 a day portion. We don't have the money to spend on these trips right now, so we will be staying here in St. Louis to focus on fundraising specifically for Africa. We are able to focus on Africa because from the money we have raised so far, over $9000, we were able to buy enough equipment to pull this project off, pay our office rent, and are other expenses thus far. We just recently bought our HD camera and most of our essential audio equipment (picture included.) So that is more good news...things are moving along.

On Oct. 14th, David Peterka and I are scheduled to speak at a conference on economic justice here in St. Louis at Manchester United Methodist Church in Manchester (flyer attached) and hopefully we will be able to raise money there. In the presentation, we are attempting to answer the questions: Will the next generation make a difference in the injustice in this world and what works in trying to turn young people's apathy into action. As you can guess, Give A Damn? will be one of the main things we push in this presentation. Other speaking engagements have also opened up around town, and we hope to use these presentations as a catalyst for fundraising and spreading the movement. If you feel lead to do a fundraiser or host a speaking engagement for Give A Damn? in your community, please contact us.  That would be infinitely encouraging for us and we would love to work with you on this.

For the next two weeks, David and I will be focusing on this presentation by reading, watching films, and praying in the hopes that we will be inspired. This means that you might not hear much from us the next couple of weeks, but we believe we will come back even stronger, rested, and inspired. This will be the first week I have taken off from Give A Damn? in 2008, so I am looking forward to it. Rob is also taking a break for the next week, so expect a little bit of silence from our end. Still feel free to send email, we will still be checking it every couple of days or so.

Also, we just want to quickly say thanks to everyone for your support. I want to specifically thank all those who have given so much of their time for little or no money. I want to thank John Choura, Julie VanMater and Kevin Bracket for their graphic and web design work over this past year. I want to thank Kyle Montgomery, Doug Parris, the Heykoop's, the Peterka's, Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, Pete Weitzel, Conversantlife, Rock for Justice, all our amazing friends here in St. Louis, and all those who gave us an interview, those  who housed us, and those who assisted during our California tour. Also, thank you to everyone who has either donated cash or stuff for us to sell on ebay.  Your gifts have gone a long way.
"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."- Margaret Mead  

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