Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It is all about responsible speech!

I've had it! I'm tired of the half-truths, the lies and the people who promulgate them! I flat out refuse to discuss last night's speeches with you until you've heard them or read them. I'll even give you a heads up -- the text of Gov. Jindal's speech is here and the text of President Obama's speech is here.
If you think you can convince me that the economic stimulus bill includes $5 million, $50 million or $5 billion for ACORN, Rep. Bachmann, think again. If you think repeatedly hearing that the bill includes money for a mag lev train from Las Vegas to Disneyland or $140,000 for volcano monitoring, will make me believe it, Gov. Jindal, try someone else or, better yet, read the bill at Because the bill is searchable, you don't even have to read the whole bill, just search for your favorite half-truth before you pass along mis-information. The world is full of mis-information, intentionally stated, mis-stated and mis-understood. Each and every one of us has a moral and civic responsibility to assure that we do not contribute!
I went through an election season when people readily passed along mis-information they picked up from a blog or a website or a conversation or a political speech. The problem was not exclusively Republican or Democrat. It was a problem of what the courts throw out as hearsay and there is no excuse for it in today's information heavy environment. Yes, there is an overload of information sources, but you can tell which ones are legitimate and which are not. If you want to know what the President is proposing, check with the President at his website called Want to know the Republican response, look at their website.
Everyone is now on notice! I will not tolerate your intentional misstatements, Gov. Jindal or Rep Michele Bachman or Bill O'Reilly or whoever. You could check your facts as easily as I did and I suspect you even have a staff to do it for you. When you make incorrect statements, you lose your credibility.
My new stock line is, "You are doing yourself a disservice here. I read the economic stimulus bill, the Presiden't speech, the response, (pick one). I'll be happy to discuss it with you when you have read it also."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Abundance and Scarcity

I've been doing a lot of thinking about abundance and scarcity. I attended a superlative institute at Temple Emanuel today that brought me back to these terms. The general topic of the institute was the chosen people and looked at Hebrew, New Testament and Qua'ran texts about God's chosen people. At the panel discussion and Q & A over lunch, there was much discussion of who does the choosing -- does God choose us or do we choose God -- and what does chosen mean -- are we special or are we chosen for a task. As may be unavoidable at an interfaith gathering like this, there was some undercurrent of Israeli-Palestinian relations (or lack thereof). While I was listening and, I hope, absorbing all the discussion, I was also thinking that these are all questions of abundance and scarcity.
While the terms are commonly used in a financial sense -- these days we hear more about scarcity -- they can as easily be applied in a more theological sense. If we see God as total abundance -- unlimited, unbounded abundance -- we will not worry about who is chosen, who will get, who God loves most. We will be freed to give abundantly of the gifts our abundant God gives to us. If we view things from a scarcity perspective, we worry about who will get the limited resources available. We take it upon ourselves to ration God's resources -- to determine who is "in" and who is "out," who is saved and who is not saved, who is chosen and who is not chosen. We offer ways to restrict the community of the chosen through Biblical interpretation, through what we term sins and through what sins ban us from an afterlife.
Is that not at the root of the Israel-Palestine discussion? How about ordination of women and homosexuals? Is that not the root of the marriage is between one man and one woman movement? Is that not at the root of how fundamentally or literally we interpret the Scriptures?
When we forget that God has no limits, when we forget God is pure abundance, we get ourselves in trouble. Imagine with me a world where we live in abundance, not in scarcity...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cheese and Liqueur Pairing

I stopped by my favorite cheese store, Fromage to Yours, yesterday and Jackie tells me she has a great event planned for March 11 with Leopold Bros. Distillery. I love to cook with Leopold Bros. products -- blackberry whiskey makes a great marinade for bison. We gave a neighbor a bottle of their Cherry Liqueur for Christmas and we've discovered it makes a superlative topping for ice cream.
So Jackie and the Leopold brothers (yes, they really are brothers and they graduated from Littleton's Columbine High School) are going to pair cheeses with Leopold Bros. offerings. The price for the event is pretty sweet -- $10.00, with half of that going to Food Bank of the Rockies. How can you beat great liquor, interesting cheeses and a fundraiser? And all at about half what most of us spend in a single trip to Jackie's store! Call her at 720-220-3210 or visit her web site

Being the Best We Can Be

I've been hung up on the idea of transformative events lately. It may have been that article in Christian Century. That article, you might remember, led me to think about the crucifixion as transformative rather than redemptive. Our Beyond EfM group was talking about mystical experiences and I was struck by how easy we all found it to judge each other's mystical experiences and find them wanting. It occurs to me that one might think of a mystical experience as an opportunity for transformation. It doesn't have to me something earth shattering like the crucifixion or an out of body experience, but I think a mystical experience must transform us, change us, in some way.
So, for a couple of days now, I've been thinking about transformative events in other aspects of life, events that have the potential to change us as individuals and as a country. Maybe I've more been hoping for a transformative event...
This "me generation" thing has gotten totally out of control. I see it in traffic, in the subtle jostling for position in the grocery store check-out lines, in the way we interrupt each other mid-sentence. In our adult ed series on civil discourse, we've been practicing a technique of triad discussion that forces us to truly listen to the speaker, not in preparation for rebuttal, but to restate their thoughts and build on them. It is not a comfortable exercise. It can be a transforming exercise.
I think there are countless times each day that can be transforming events, little things that catch us up short and ask us to reconsider a closely held opinion. I see it in myself, my fellow volunteers, and the clients at the food bank. As we see more and more clients coming in who look more and more like us, we confront how close each of us might be to financial chaos. The clients just feel like their world is collapsing. It is not a time for them to be transformed, it is a time for them to survive. For the rest of us, and for our clients at some future time, it is something that causes us to stop, give thanks that we do not need a food basket this week and be a little transformed. For just that brief moment and, maybe, a little longer we are changed from "me first" to "we are all in this life together."
Grand gestures, earth-shattering revelations, crucifixions -- they grab us and force us into the transformation, but the little transformative events are cumulative. The first little one may slip past us, and the second, and the third, but, eventually (if we are really lucky or perceptive or something), we are transformed. We become part of "on earth as it is in heaven." We begin to live into the crucifixion as a transformative event.
As I have said before, I had high hopes that Barack Obama's election as President of the U.S. might be a transformative event. And I think it was for a lot of people. But I am crushed when I see that it was not transformative for everyone. I am filled with an anger, a righteous indignation, I think, when I hear people misrepresent the stimulus bill. I so want everyone to have become better people, closer to what I believe God wants us to be -- advocates for the weakest among us. I want us all to read the legislation before we accept someone's interpretation of it. I want us to feel the weight of someone else's cloak of pain. I want us all to be -- transformed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nobody is Perfect, but the Republicans Aren't Even Trying

There's an old adage "insanity is repeating something that didn't work in the past and expecting a different result."
I still do not think the stimulus bill the President signed here today is everything it should be. It is probably a case of too little spread too thin. I was even willing to cut Republicans some slack for their "Did Not Participate" tactic, but that is over now. As I examine the plans they submitted and the changes they demanded for the cooperation they did not give, I find they are still a party of old answers that did not work before and cannot work now.
The Grand Old Party is just that, old and tired. While the President was signing the bill he compromised too much on in a spirit of bi-partisanship, the Republicans were on the steps of the Capitol in Denver, protesting that the stimulus bill was a pork-laden over-spending bill that will lead our children and our children's children to the poor house and their ideas were rejected out of sheer partisanship.
Yes, the tab is a big one and paying for it depends on it's success as a stimulus (which I am convinced the GOP will do everything it can to prevent), but it holds new approaches to problems caused by the Grand Old Party of same-old, same-old.
I've heard some TV pundits suggesting that the Republicans are in a winning position because they can say they knew it wouldn't work if it fails. I think they are in a losing position. If it succeeds, they were not part of the bill and cannot claim any of the credit. If it fails, it will be because they did not come to the negotiations in a spirit of cooperation, but one of "our way or no way." Their failure to understand that they are not the party in power, that their party is largely to blame for the current mess and their failure to come up with innovative and useful help in fixing the problems just proves how truly out of touch they are. The American people want a solution to the hydra of trouble this country is in and they are far more tolerant of genuine efforts that miss the mark that of obstructionist efforts to stifle honest attempts.
While Congressional Republicans and our own Colorado Republicans are protesting that the stimulus will not work, they are undermining one of the things that is most important -- American confidence that the bill will help our situation. There are those who will hear only the Republican downbeat message. they will forget the extra money in their monthly checks, they will continue to act as if we are going down the tubes and, if they are successful enough in pulling others into the pity party, they may even be the cause of our country's downfall. Far better to give the bill a legitimate chance, stop the nay saying and work with the President to improve the situation. They should not demand that their answers are non-negotiably the only answers and, when their old tried and failed ideas are disregarded, scream that the bad old Democrats were partisan. Wake up and smell the coffee, GOP, for the times, they are a changin'! (how was that for mixing metaphors?)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blood Sacrifice

I've been reading an interesting article in Christian Century magazine about blood vengeance, blood sacrifice, etc. and the Christian faith. There's a long history of requiring that blood be shed for faith. Sacrifice a lamb and spread the blood on the doorpost to indicate the house belongs to God's chosen. Temple sacrifice. Sacrifice to appease angry gods. Baal. The Old Testament, particularly, is filled with examples of sacrifices.
The big example of blood sacrifice in the New Testament is Jesus' crucifixion. The questions raised in this article surround the motivation for the crucifixion. Does God require blood atonement for our sins? Must we suffer for our sins? By inference, do we suffer because we are sinners?
I prefer to think of the crucifixion as transformative rather than redemptive. I think of the Old Testament as primarily a story of God's faithfulness to God's unfaithful people. God constantly renews his covenant, his side of the bargain, even as the people return to sin whenever the going gets slightly rough. God is faithful, God's people are not. The crucifixion is yet another example of God's faithfulness, the ends to which God will go. Jesus dies, not so much to redeem us as to transform us to be the people God has always seen us to be -- people who live on earth as they would in heaven, to forgive others as we wish to be forgiven, to treat others as we would treat God.
Crucifixion is not blood sacrifice, but the ultimate renewal of the covenant, the ultimate transforming event.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Catholics Re-institute Indulgences

The former Lutheran in me cringed reading in the NY Times today that the Catholic church is returning to the old concept of indulgences. I thought they did away with that in 1587 after Martin Luther started such an uproar, partially about this very subject. Actually, they did not give up indulgences, they just quit selling them and made people work for them instead. I actually remember my best friend going to confession a lot because her particular priest gave 5 years off of Purgatory (something I never really understood) just for going to confession every week.
Well, it seems that Catholics are staying away from confession in droves and the Catholic church is not happy about that. The official word is that a new emphasis on indulgences really has little to do with Purgatory and everything to do with bringing people to a deeper faith. I'm all for a deeper faith and devote a significant portion of my time to activities that I believe enhance my relationship with God, but...
Maybe I still don't get this whole concept. It sounds formulaic to me -- if you say enough prayers, Hail Mary's and such, you will be closer to God and, by inference, farther from Purgatory. How many prayers is enough? Does it vary by priest or Pope? If you say enough Hail Mary's, can you practice birth control? Given some of the other recent pronouncements from Rome, there may be a set number of prayers to absolve Hitler of the Holocaust. Oh, yeah, that's right, there might not have been a Holocaust. Wasn't that also a recent headline from Rome? Or at least it was okay for a priest to say there was no Holocaust.
Seems to me Pope Benedict XVI or XV (there was that pesky period of French and Roman popes) is determined to return the faith to the 1930s, before Vatican II. Come to think of it, America is beginning to feel like then 1930s also. May be the Pope is on to something.....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A teaser for the BloggerAid Cookbook

I'm forbidden to post the recipe, but I can post a picture of my Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna. Proceeds from the Blogger Aid cookbook (trust me, I'll let you know the minute I find out it is at Amazon) will go to world hunger programs.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Stimulus: What will it stimulate?

I wish the boys and girls in Washington would remember who elected them, not who funded their campaigns, but who turned out for the caucuses, the primaries, and the election. It feels like everyone, regardless of party, has been firmly entrenched in their partisanship. While I like our President, I want him to be above the partisan shenanigans. I think he has tried very hard to do so, but his speech to the Democrats earlier this week was not just talking to the choir. The media were there and, consequently, the entire nation was there. I wanted him to talk about why each of the things in the stimulus bill was essential. I wanted him to do what I know he can do -- pull Democrats and Republicans together to do what needs to be done for the benefit of all citizens.
I wanted the Democrats to curb their enthusiasm for pet projects. I wanted the Republicans to temper their preference for cutting taxes at the expense of the poor and working class. Ever the optimist, I wanted everyone to do what was best for the country.
I volunteer in a local food bank, doing new client intake. Our new clients have more than doubled over a year ago and these new clients are folks who have never been poor before, who had good jobs and donated to charities. They are embarrassed to be asking for food. They apologize for needing help. One by one, they tell their stories and those stories add up to a very sad account of our times. These are the bedrock of our country, the people who paint our houses, repair our cars, cook our meals, clean our houses, cashier at our grocery store. There are hints that they will soon include people who teach our children and others who provide additional services. These are people who were comfortably retired on money they carefully socked away.
Were the Congresspeople thinking about the average folks who have become the new poor? Or were they thinking about what would advance them in politics -- collecting favors for another day, totaling up the happy donors' dollars?
There has been a lot of talk lately about exorbitant executive salaries to CEO's rapidly running through the taxpayer's dollars, about flashy vacations on taxpayer dimes and nickels. The people I know are sick about the corruption that has become the everyday headlines in our newspapers and the stories on our nightly news. Did the people we elected to go to Washington realize that their actions on the stimulus bill were only a tiny step from those of the oblivious CEOs?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday Brunch

I love brunch -- a delightful combination of breakfast and lunch that speaks of leisure and good food. On weekdays, one must break the fast quickly to get to work or on to the chores of the day. Weekends are times to sleep in, sometimes so late that breakfast mixes with lunch. Nowhere in that idyllic picture is there room for the stuff yourself, all-you-can-eat buffet that some now consider the hallmark of brunch.
Okay, once in a while, it is amusing to go to one of the big hotel brunches with their embarrassment of riches. But, aside from the made to order omelets, brunch buffets suffer from huge quantities of food made to stand in chafing dishes or on steam tables. The quality suffers to the abundance. I am reminded of the buffet only establishment called The Royal Fork, which my in-laws renamed "Royal Gourge."
My favorite brunch places do food on a smaller scale with intriguing flavor twists that may not be appropriate for more mass appeal. Chatting with Joel Diner during my brunch at Pesce Fresco, I learned that most of his phone calls about brunch are questions about the price of the brunch buffet, something he does not offer. The calls about the buffet were so common, Joel has taken to calling his brunch "breakfast."
Perhaps it is the reformed English teacher in me, but I find it very sad that the buffets of plenty that large scale eating establishments, often hotels, call brunch have ruined the more gentle use of the term to describe a tradition of combining two meals into one leisurely and delightful concept and term, br from breakfast and unch from lunch, brunch.

Polenta Surprise

My Sunday mornings can be more chaotic than any weekday morning, with a rush off to church, leading adult education or singing in the choir or whatever churchly duty may be asked of me. Brunch after church gives me a calm I relish. So after a messy week of early mornings for medical procedures and airport runs, I decided to treat myself to a nice relaxing brunch at Pesce Fresco. The owners (should people named Diner be in the restaurant business?) are friends. Joel attends the same church I attend and we met when our church sponsored some Sudanese refugees. Even if I didn't have that connection with Joel, Pesce Fresco would still be one of my favorite brunch places. As I told a friend, it is no more expensive than any other breakfast place, but the flavor combinations are unique and the atmosphere is more intimate.
I had a Tuscan frittata with a few modifications in deference to my restricted diet. I liked the contrast of the faint brine on the artichoke with the sweet of the Hollandaise. I passed on the potatoes, those ubiquitous chunks that everyone does pretty much the same way, for the polenta. I prefer not to eat meat and I particularly do not like sausage, but I tried the polenta against my better judgement. The sausage overpowered the delicate polenta and frustrated me because I could not taste the polenta or savor its texture because the sausage dulled my senses. It even overwhelmed the lovely frittata it accompanied. The sausage was something of a bull in a china cabinet. I rather regretted my choice of polenta over potatoes. The unfortunate sausage did not ruin my brunch experience, but it did not enhance it at all!
I brought about half of my brunch home. I separated the polenta from the frittata, hoping at least the frittata would be a nice breakfast this morning. Overnight, a wonderful thing happened in my refrigerator. The sausage mellowed. All the things I loved about the frittata, even the Hollandaise, held up and reheated well and the sausage was just a light touch, a whiff, an interesting texture. Now I'll just have them box up the polenta for a tasty treat the next day and I can savor the lovely and complex flavors of my frittata when they are fresh and at their height.