This could be your town.

Imagine with me a small town in the middle of America.

A cursory glance through this small town’s phone book reveals over 25 churches: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopalian, nondenominational, big churches, small churches, this town’s got it covered. Imagine, too, that this town is home to a small, Christian liberal arts college. In fact, it would be safe to imagine that thousands of self-professing Christians call this town home. They probably don’t agree on a lot of things, but imagine–just for a moment–that they agree on one thing: they believe Jesus when he said that loving your neighbor as yourself is one of the greatest commandments, second only to loving the Lord your God with your whole heart.

If you can, imagine that this town has a quaint Main Street, complete with coffee shops, boutiques, antique stores, maybe even a high-end children’s clothing store. It’s such a lovely little town, this imaginary place, that someone could live here for years and have no idea of its seedy underbelly. Of the debilitating poverty that keeps bellies empty, food far from the tables where it is needed, and children home from school. Of the crippling effects of job loss, home foreclosures, and health insurance expenses. Someone might think that homelessness doesn’t happen here because it doesn’t manifest itself in folks standing on the corner holding cardboard signs. But imagine with me that it does happen here, that it tends to look more like people sharing homes, couch-surfing, multi-generational living, and yes, some people sleeping outside, in the park, under the underpasses, hidden from Main Street. Yes, it does happen here, in myriad forms. A lot.

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Humble Pie, Being Thankful, and Basements of Our Lives

On the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, Texas 
Schmexas didn't exist, but that morning I sent 
this e-mail to my friends and family:

If I had a  blog, I would have posted this today.

____________________________

I have a story to tell you. A few weeks ago (yes, a few weeks), I was annoyed to see the Salvation Army bell-ringers had already arrived at our local grocery store. Annoyed? Yes, annoyed. You see, I’m very intentional about Advent, about preparation for Christmas, about not skipping past the waiting and expectation to the joys of the manger scene. So here was a bell-ringer, wishing people “Merry Christmas,” and it wasn’t even Advent. Heck, it wasn’t even Thanksgiving. As I went by, I smiled at the bell-ringer anyway and said in a jovial voice, “It’s not even Advent yet!” (Honest, I was being friendly, friendlier than the folks who go by and pretend not to see or hear the glad tidings of joy being wished to them.) The bell-ringer looked at me, surprised I’d said something. She said, “What?” So I repeated my comment: “It’s not even Advent yet.”

Her response? “Well, people still need to eat.”

Now that’s an extra large serving of humble pie.

____________________________

I’ve been thinking about these words today: To those who have been given much, much will be required.

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Link with Love

Recently I was reading a friend’s blog and saw what looked like a guitar pick that said “Link with Love” in the sidebar of the site. It’s probably not a guitar pick (you be the judge), but that’s what it looked like to me.

LINKwithlove

I  must have been wasting time that day because from her blog I ended up on another blog that also had the same guitar pick logo in the sidebar, this time in a different color.

What was that thing? I wondered.

So of course I clicked on it.

I discovered LINKwithlove, a really neat nonprofit.

You should go check out their website on your own, but since I know most of you won’t, here’s the gist of their cause in their own words:

LINKwithlove is the idea that we, the internet, can teach and learn respect when dealing with intellectual property* online. It is our dream that art, music, photography, words, design, ideas, etc – be shared in a way that is ethical, respectful, educated and kind.

As I’ve made clear before, I’m a big respecter of copyrights, so I was thrilled to know that this organization exists. They’re facilitating community in a way I hadn’t ever really envisioned, in a world quick to swipe information from the internet and not credit sources. What’s more, they’re doing it in an aesthetically beautiful manner. As a writer and artist and heck, fellow human being, I resonate with the project.

And so I promptly added their badge to my own side bar.

Because I do “link with love”–and I hope you do, too.

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PS LINKwithlove also has neato free downloadable calendars for your computer’s “wallpaper.”

Speaking Another Language: Greek Words & Community (part 1)

I knew I was to have a meeting at church today from 3 until 5 pm and, as a result, was not whelmed at the prospect of changing into grubby clothes, slathering on sunscreen and bug spray, and heading out to our church’s community garden at 6. I knew we had fruit trees to plant, tomatoes to pick, pepper to water, and weeds to pull, but well, I just didn’t want to. So I decided I wouldn’t.

Then, in church this morning when we heard from Matthew 16 (vv. 21-28, actually), something stood out to me. This: Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ And wouldn’t you know it, our pastor mentioned in passing–it wasn’t even the main point–that it isn’t easy to “deny ourselves,” not if we take it seriously. Because denying ourselves doesn’t mean giving up things that are easy, giving things up that are abundant, giving out of the excess.

It’s about giving out of what is important, crucial, life-giving. Ah geez.

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Please vote today!

Remember when I wrote that post called “Asparagus & a Free Toyota to a Good Home“? Well, today is the day you can participate in helping to provide a free handicap-accessible van to one of our local nonprofits.

Will you help?

Please vote for Quest Farm TODAY in the 100 CARS FOR GOOD giveaway at Toyota’s Facebook page! (Click here to proceed; you must log in to Facebook to vote.)

My husband, J, is on the board at Quest, and it’s an important local nonprofit organization we support.  Their mission is to “provide a loving home/workplace for adults with developmental disabilities where they may reach their full potential spiritually, physically, mentally, and vocationally.”

It is very important that you vote today, and please consider spreading the word today to your Facebook friends, e-mail contacts, and others you know, especially those of you who live outside the area.

Thanks!

Asparagus & A Free Toyota to a Good Home

Today I was talking on the phone with my brother–who lives in a different, colder part of the country than I do–and out of the blue, he said, “We haven’t had asparagus yet this year because it’s still from Mexico.” He was referring, of course, to the fact that grocery store goodies, even when they’re on sale, are often not grown anywhere nearby. Blueberries from Chile. Lemons from Costa Rica. Asparagus from Mexico. We all know this. Some of us take that into account when buying them. Some of us don’t. That’s a topic for another day. My brother and I are apparently agreed on this point, though we don’t talk about it very much.

Anyway, I bring up my brother’s asparagus reference because I did not grow up eating asparagus. And because it was one of the few veggies I didn’t like, I don’t know why he mentioned it today. But guess what? I was able to respond to him with exciting news.

(Wait for it.)

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