Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Putting a band-aid on a mortal wound?

Last night a small group of us watched a great little movie at High St. about how Cuba handled their own peak oil crisis. The movie was very informative and hopeful, weaving together a tight narrative about how the people and government of Cuba worked together to solve the very serious problems created in the early 90's by the collapse of their economy and massive shortages of oil and petro-chemicals. Following the movie we had a good time of discussion and sharing. I think that we were all generally encouraged by the movie even though it made us shutter to think of how utterly dependent our current society is upon oil and the way in which all of its derivatives have shaped our culture, our identity as human beings, and our views of life and meaning. Anyhow, I was reading a passage in Jeremiah this morning that really hit me in the light of our time together last night. It struck me because it still seems like so much of what we see, hear, and live about Jesus has so little to say about the toughest issues that we face in our world. Things are changing to be sure, and a lot of people are awakening to the deep resevoirs of meaning, inspiration and actionable insight that our faith can bring to the most pressing questions of our time (war/militarism, poverty/inequality, religious violence/fanaticism, environmental stewardship, responsible government and fiscal policy, the intractable conflict between limited resources and unlimited market appetites, to name a few). May God continue to carry forward this change through us and in is the passage:

"Jeremiah, say to the people, 'This is what the Lord says: When people fall down, don't they get up again? When they start start down the wrong road and discover their mistake, don't they turn back? Then why do these people keep going along their self-destructive path, refusing to turn back, even though I have warned them? I listen to their conversations, and what do I hear? Is anyone sorry for sin? Does anyone say, 'What a terrible thing I have done'? No! All are running down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse rushing into battle! The stork knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year. But not my people! They do not know what the Lord requires of them.

How can you say, 'We are wise because we have the law of the Lord,' when your teachers have twisted it so badly? These wise teachers will be shamed by exile for their sin, for they have rejected the word of the Lord. Are they so wise after all? I will give their wives and their farms to others. From the least to the greatest, they trick others to get what does not belong to them. Yes, even my prophets and priests are like that. They offer superficial treatments for my people's mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when all is war. Are they ashamed when they do these disgusting things? No, not at all-they don't even blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be humbled when they are punished, says the Lord. I will take away their rich harvests of figs and grapes. Their fruit trees will all die. All good things I prepared for them will soon be gone. I, the Lord, have spoken (Jeremiah 8:1-13)!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The call to be shameless?

I got to go to the I.O.U.S.A. live premiere in Omaha last week with my close friend and One Horizon co-worker Jon Carnes. It was a really fascinating and challenging experience for me. I think that the movie turned out really well and the critical reviews have generally been quite positive. It is neat to think that we played an important part in helping to get that project going. The filmmakers really stuck it out through some tough times and ultimately did an excellent job of breaking down a very difficult topic into an understandable format. They all deserve a lot of credit. I want to thank them for their efforts. Also, I want to thank the folks from our community who made the effort to make it to the viewing here in Lexington and for the positive feedback that they had about the movie. It was a honor for me to be able to represent One Horizon (and our community) at this event; but the best part about it was being able to come home to this community with an ever deepening appreciation for the quality of the life that we share and the sincere effort that we're making to grapple with the tough questions of our time. To be sure, we've got a long way to go yet, and hopefully we always will; but I am thankful to God that we're bearing some good fruit and beginning to find some neat ways to share that with others.

Overall, the last week has reminded me of how poor my own faith is and how my faulty faith weakens my own vision of the Kingdom of God and my expectation for its coming. I often lose hope and succumb to discouragement. I let go far too easily of what I (say I) believe and have experienced to be true about Jesus. I look out at the world and I see that we're not only drowning in debt.....we're drowning in a roiling ocean of manifold human shit. I want to give up. I've been reflecting on this and opened the scriptures today to search for the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. I felt like I really needed to read this story. Anyhow, I happened to open my bible right to the very page where Luke records this story...a coincidence, undoubtedly. Well, I read this story...and the one right before it....sobering....and very hopeful...indicative of who we are on our best days...agitators:

"One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. 'There was a judge in a certain city' he said, 'who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. 'I fear neither God nor man,' he said to himself, 'but this woman is driving me crazy. I'm going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!'

Then the Lord said, 'Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don't you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith (Luke 18:1-8)."

Monday, August 25, 2008

yet another botanical metaphor

while reading a smithsonian magazine, i came across a bit of nature trivia that really struck me. this piece reported an odd function of the easter lily, of all things, revealing that:

"cornell university researchers have found that the bulb develops one set of roots for taking nourishment from the soil and another set for...digging. if the bulb is planted too shallowly, those roots contract, pulling the bulb farther into the ground until it hits optimum depth. the researchers say two things about this 'contractile root' business: one, it is stimulated by light, and two, they'll be darned if they can say exactly how it works."

i couldn't help but draw on the similarities and familiarity of the activity of the plant and the body of christ. as we've engaged in missional ways over the last ten years, we've found that there is a continual exchange of both drawing nourishment from the work of God's spirit and the comfort of one another, and, with an almost irresistable apostolic urge of movement, digging, reaching, and planting ourselves in the world around us. the easter lily bulb gives us a signpost within creation of both harmony and design of this unfied, diversified economy at work.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

a prayer from Michael Leunig

Dear God,

We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace;

let us find such a place within ourselves.

We give thanks for places of refuge and beauty;

let us find such a place within ourselves.

We give thanks for places of nature’s truth and freedom,

of joy, inspiration and renewal,

places where all creatures may find acceptance and belonging.

Let us search for these places;

in the world, in ourselves and in others.

Let us restore them.

Let us strengthen and protect them and let us create them.

May we mend this outer world according to the truth of our inner life

and may our souls be shaped and nourished by nature’s eternal wisdom.


Clean Energy Rally

this from Dave (The Mountaintop Removal Road Show,

There will be a rally for Clean Energy this Tuesday at 6:00 PM in Triangle Park, downtown Lexington. Bring signs and banners supporting clean and renewable energy like wind and solar - this event is sponsored by

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

created cards

this message is from our friend, kate.  she is an australian missionary in India and ATS grad.

Hey friends,

These are the cards I make with the slum women!  Feel free to pass this on far and wide!!

More news really soon,


follow this link to the Created site


Monday, August 11, 2008

from little things, big things grow

here comes the sun

great turn out to the lexington community garden tour last weekend.  here's a pic of jodie and ryan watching sherry tell the story of the London Ferrell community garden.  Will is holding asher in the background (left).


it is always a great blessing to share the work of communality peeps with the wider community - an outworking of our commitment to living the words of God recorded by the welfare of the city! (Jer. 29)



Thursday, August 07, 2008

darfur and the enough project

Greg is in DC today at press conference to launch the book he and Bill Mefford wrote together.
well done, guys.

here's the scoop:
(link to enough proect website -


WHAT: A press roundtable and conference call to discuss the Christian Companion, a faith-based study guide and authorized companion to the best-selling Not on Our Watch by actor Don Cheadle and the ENOUGH Project’s John Prendergast.

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. EDT
Thursday, August 7, 2008

WHERE: United Methodist Building
Conference room # 1
First Floor
100 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

WHO: Christian Companion co-authors Greg Leffel, President, One Horizon Foundation, and Bill Mefford, Director of Civil and Human Rights for the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and Cory Smith, Advocacy Director of the ENOUGH Project, and John Prendergast, co-author of Not on Our Watch and co-Chair of the ENOUGH Project.

TO PARTICIPATE: RSVP Paula Newbaker or Rena Karefa-Johnson by 9a.m. Thursday, August 7.

TELECONFERENCE PARTICIPATION: 1-866-303-3675; Code 202-488-5632

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington, D.C. based ENOUGH Project is proud to announce the release of the Not on Our Watch Christian Companion: Biblical Reflections on the Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond.

John Prendergast, co-author of Not on Our Watch and co-Chair of the ENOUGH Project, said of the Christian Companion, "As we wrote Not on Our Watch, Don Cheadle and I were amazed at the level of commitment by Americans all over this country to the anti-genocide cause. But we need to reach so many more people with the good news that there are solutions and it is our responsibility to respond. This theological companion will provide an amazing vehicle to engage Christians through their faith in ways that we've never before seen on a human rights issue."

According to Greg Leffel, co-author, “Along with the ENOUGH Project team, my co-author and I are part of a bridge building process, from which the Christian Companion has emerged. We are certainly proud to issue this call to action and put a Christian exclamation point on the promise, “Never Again!”

Join the authors to discuss the release of this new book which links individual Christians and churches to the wider Darfur movement and provides guidance for mobilizing their support.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Another interesting link on "Suburbistan....."

This is taken from the Daily Reckoning...another interesting overview......

Kunstler on the suburbs....

This is a transcript of a talk that James Howard Kunstler gave at the Agora Financial Wealth Symposium in Vancouver, B.C. My friend Richard was in attendance at the talk and sent me this transcript. Lots of grammar and other errors in an obviously rough transcript....but otherwise a very interesting and though provoking precis on Suburbistan......

The Fiasco of Suburbia, Its Implications, and Its Destiny By James Howard Kunstler
America's epical fiscal crisis that we are now seeing has everything to do with our living arrangement and the choices we have made about that in the last 60 years…
These choices were primarily a response to the circumstances of the time, mainly cheap land in a large continent and a lot of cheap energy. These choices were also a reaction against the great industrial cities of the 19th century. These enormous industrial worker slums had never been seen before…and it really scared people and it was full of all kinds of problems. You get the noise and the filth of the industry and the pollution and the health problems. You start to get these enormous sanitary problems and epidemics from bad water and bad living conditions with no light and no fresh air and terrible social behavior.
And then something comes along. In the 1890s…we decided that we were becoming a great nation, a great industrial power with great cities, but we had cities that were unworthy of our greatness. So a consensus formede that we had to do something about it. The architects, the municipal officials, the money people, the plutocrats all decided it was a very important project and the first great expression of it…was a period of robust and emphatic Greco Roman revival architecture because the idea there was.

There were a couple of ideas there: First, our society was coming out of the tradition of democracy from Greece and the tradition of being a republic from Rome and the other idea was classical architecture was one of the best ordering system for designing buildings…And so you saw this wonderful expression of exuberant new city planning. The great Civic center of San Francisco, the great Civic Center of Cleaveland, the Civic Center of NY public library, the list of great buildings and great civic center is very long, all produced in this period…Another one of the responses to the horrible industrial city was this idea that we have a heritage of settling the beautiful natural landscape…
And so for the people that are really well off, a new option comes on the menu and that is, you can live in the country villa and go into the city during the day to be a city person in business and then go back to the wonderful country villa at night. And remember at this time, when the first railroad suburb was forming, there was no Wal-mart, there were no highways. These people were really living in a country villa. Imagine how wonderfully appealing it was and imagine how everyone else in society began to aspire to this idea as a great goal in life. And it starts to be delivered as a commercial enterprise.
One of the first prototypes is Riverside, near Chicago - the great suburban project by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of central park. They come to Chicago just before the Chicago fire breaks out and they plan this town…It must have been a wonderful thing, it was a 9 mile trip to Chicago.
The next incarnation comes along after about 1893 when you get the electric street car and you start to get the great street car suburb of America and they're very well known. The Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Myer Park, Charlotte, North Caroline, Hyde Park in Cincinnati. The list of these wonderful places is very long. They were some of the best neighborhoods built in America because they were grand and magnificent and they were green and wonderful. They were very close in and they used public transportation very well. In fact, some of you may realize they were places that have retained the most value in the last 100 years.
Something else comes along now. Henry Ford invents the Model A in 1907, but its got a little problem with it. It's handmade. You can only turn out so many of it. And it's relatively expensive at this point, more than $1000. But in 1913 he devices the Ford assembly line and then you can pump these things out in massive numbers and the price starts to come down, down, down – from $500 to $300. By the end of the First World War, the Model T cost about $280 and just about everyone that wants one can get one.
Something is happening in the mean time. This wonderful program of the "City Beautiful" that started in the 1890 has been going in full force throughout the 1910s. And all these great civic centers have been built, and the libraries and the city halls and the court houses. But the First World War is a real turning point because when that is over, we abandon the "City Beautiful moment" just like that. And we start to retrofit the American Industrial city for the car and in the process of doing that we make it worst than ever. Not only does it have all the industrial crap all through it and the huge slums are bigger than they were in 1890 cause we've let millions more worker into the country, now we're putting this overlay of noisy cars.
Now admittedly, there were a lot of horses there before, but there are still enormous problems and the expense of the signaling and paving the streets because the cobblestone aren't very friendly. So immense amounts of money go into the retrofit of the American city. And now another thing starts to happen, you start to see the massive development of the rural agricultural hinterland and the first real dedicated automobile suburb like Radburn in New Jersey starts to get built. These are the prototype to what is to follow.
However, only a certain amount of this stuff gets done before the economy implodes and after 1929 the industry that is hurt the most is the construction industry and very few of the motors suburb get built during the Great Depression. And it's a 10-year hiatus in which the city gets older and then you get another catastrophe, World War II. So the hiatus is prolonged for another five years.
Then the war is over and wonderful, interesting, strange new things happen in America…We take this great knowledge of war time production and expertise of producing massive amount of stuff to win the war – and all the confidence that went with it – and we turn that into the project of creating housing and housing subdivisions and that becomes the great competition now for city life.
And all of the advertising and public relations muscle of our culture is put to the task of proclaiming the wonderfulness of the American suburb. By the mid 50's you can take your choice, you can live in a lifeless, slummy apartment with a view of the air shaft, like Ralph Kramden, or you can move to the suburbs and live with Beaver Cleaver. And the choice becomes obvious. The interstate highway comes along in 1955, a lot of people said we built it because we had this idea that we had to evacuate the city from the nuclear holocaust and all that stuff. Forget it, that's not why we did it. We did it because we needed an economy of suburban land development and it was a wonderful opportunity to do it.
We were at our most confident in that period, we just won this tremendous war against manifest evil so we used our resources to build this great suburban project starting with the highways and, by and by, over the decade all the subdivisions were built and all the other stuff followed. For a while people would live in the suburb and go in the city during the daytime and do their job and maybe their wife would come into the city and do their shopping. I'm not making this up, my mom did this for a little awhile. But after a while they purged the cities of the shopping stuff and that went to the suburbs and some of the office stuff went to the suburbs until the suburbs began to elaborate as a self-organizing system into a kind of hypertrophic growth of their own. Kind of like a giant network of tumors around America.
And something else happened at the same time, the American mind starts to get cartoonified. We start to loose a lot of our sensibilities and our aesthetic and also our reasoning abilities and we become a cartoon nation with a collective cartoon imagination. One of the unintended consequences of this whole package is that for all of our blabber about the American Dream and suburbia, it ends up to be an unrewarding place to live in a lot of ways….
As suburbia morphed and mutated, it was not country living for everybody, but a cartoon of country living in a cartoon of a country house in a cartoon of a country and that's one of the great unexpressed agonies of the failure of suburbia and one of the reason why its ridiculed by some of the people that live there, because at some level, subconsciously we understand this.
You know, the common complaint is that the trouble with the suburbs is that they are all the same. When you ask a room full of people in a design studio what's wrong with the suburbs, they'll say, "Oh, they're all the same." But you know, there are a lot of places around the world that are all the same. The hill towns of Tuscany are hard to tell apart from 500 yards away. Have you been there? You don't come back from Tuscany with a headache saying, "Oh, they were all the same, made me feel bad." The boulevards of Paris are hard to tell apart at first. But, you doesn't ruin your vacation to go there.
The problem with the American suburban habitat is not that its all the same, its that it's the same miserable quality…

The American suburb was the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world….Why? Because it has no future, because we're not going to be able to run it….We don't have the resource base to run it.

A lot of the delusions that are now rampant in the country all focus on the alternative energy scene. I want to be very clear about this, I am in favor of alternative energy. I think we're going to do everything we possibly can. But the key to understanding alternative energy is this: First of all, we are going to be disappointed by what it can do for us, and second, it is not going to change the fact that we have to make other arrangements for all the important activities of daily life…..

We're having an incoherent conversation about that about in our society right now because of the psychology of previous investment. We've invested so much of our wealth and even our identity in the [existing American] way of life that we can't imagine letting go of it…But the "project of suburbia" is over as a period in our history and the home builders are going down and they will not be coming back. We're in the process now of losing somewhere between $1.5 and $3 trillion worth of capital. That capital is going to be lost. It went into a black hole and things don't come out of black holes. We're not going to have money to lend to people, least of all for mortgages. In fact, the whole idea of mortgage in America may be similar to what happened back in France after the Mississippi bubble. They didn't even use the word "bank" for 150 years, it was such a toxic word.

And apropos of what Kevin Kerr said earlier in the day, we are facing a huge problem with food. All of the systems of our daily life are going to have to be reformed, whether we like it or not….really. We're gonna have to grow more of our food closer to home. The age of the 3000-mile Cesar salad is over! We don't know how much food close to home we are going to have to grow, but at least more than we do now…. probably a lot more…This is going to change completely our idea of how we value our rural, so-called undeveloped, land. Right now, we're still in the frame of mind where undeveloped means undeveloped for suburban crap. But that's going to be over. From now on it's going to be land that has needs to be used for agriculture…

But let me step back for a moment, just to give you an idea of the differences between suburban development and urbanism. In suburbia, everything is rigorously and relentlessly segregated from everything else. You're not allowed to live near the shopping; the school cannot be anywhere near the business. Everything is separated and everybody has to get in the car and go out to the "collector boulevard" then go into the pod, whether it's the education pod, the business pod, the housing pod and we can't do that anymore. We can't afford it, especially from 38 miles outside of Dallas and Minneapolis. By contrast, traditional urbanism networks of interconnected streets mix use with people living close to the schools, the shopping and the business and it will become self-evident that very soon that that is superior way to live…

We don't know what the city of the future is going to be like, but I believe our large cities are going to contract substantially, even while they "densify" at their centers…And one of the things we're going to learn again, as the automobile begins to diminish its presence in our life is how wonderful the composition of the urban block can be, because the center of it is not gonna be for parking…We are going to re-learn the design and assembly of human habitat and that too will be a self-organizing process, as we're compelled to respond to the circumstances of the global energy emergency…

We need a self-image that informs us, that we're confident, and that we are competent and that we are capable people. And that's why one of the first things we have to do is rebuild the railroad systems in America, 'cause its the one thing we can do right away that will have the greatest impact on our oil use. It will put thousands and thousands of people to work in all layers and skills. The infrastructure for running it is lying out there rusting in the rain and it's the one project that we can do right away that will allow us to demonstrate the we can actually do something. We can do a collective project as a nation, as a society, as a people that can actually accomplish something important at this time.

You know… the kids in the college lectures are always asking me if I can give them hope. And the one thing that the college students don't understand is that they have to become the generators of the hope. They have to generate it themselves within themselves by demonstrating that they are capable people who understand the signals reality is sending to them about the kind of world they are going to be living in the next 20 – 30 years…

We gotta build a different world here in North America now and we don't have any time to waste. We don't have time to be crybabies about it. We don't have time to point fingers. We have too many things to do right away. We gotta reform the way we produce our food; we gotta change the way we do commerce and trade; we gotta change the way we get from point "A" to point "B," and we have to inhabit the landscape differently and, as far as this group is concerned, we gotta find a way to do finance that's not based on getting something for nothing, 'cause that is what has gotten us into this situation we're in now.

Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to talk to you this morning