Saturday, August 25, 2007

Joy and Delight: RAIN in Nashville at last!

I almost cried when -- while we were watching another episode of Firefly last night -- there was suddenly a lightning storm and then finally ... yes, finally! It rained! I ran to the window to watch.

WOO!

I could smell the rain, the green, the wet dirt and the wet concrete. (I missed those smells.)

In the long run, it rained just a wee bit, really. So by no means are we out of the woods yet. But I was SO happy and grateful it rained, I was dancing while thanking God.

Let's not get lazy now! Let's keep praying.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Affordable Housing in Nashville: Is It Becoming A Pipe Dream?

This is a greater kvetch, but I only have time to put up a (relatively) brief comment for starters.

It is always horrible when someone loses their home. To see the homeless on the street or families in shelters is heartbreaking. No one should be without a home. (and on a tangent I love what Habitat For Humanity is doing ... but again, that's a tangent.)

I do not enjoy the hysteria surrounding the housing market fallout and foreclosures that's been in the news lately. We're not even talking about the "poor" losing their homes anymore. (And this doesn't even address the people suffering and losing their homes with this flooding in the Midwest and fires to the West!)

We are now talking about the average middle class who are unable to make their hou$e payments because quite simply, the property and mortgage is priced beyond their means. And unscrupulous people who are being unsupervised are okaying mortgages in formats and interest rates that ought never be offered, let alone approved.

Losing a home (or apt.) used to be what happened to "bums" back in the day when I was a kid; alcoholics who drank themselves into irresponsibility. Or what happened to families who lost their means of support either through loss of a spouse or through loss of a job.

Now I know most people LOVE to have their own little niche. And everyone should have a home, whether it's a house, or apartment.

But geez louise, lately looking around Nashville, the ratio of "Luxury Apartments" to plain affordable apartments is becoming slowly but surely disproportionate. I'm not trying to be resentful. I'm also not saying it's bad to have the choice of a "luxury apartment" if someone could actually afford it, mind you. But DANG. Not all of us are music celebrities, Music City or not. Not all of us are middle management. Not all of us want to be or can be two-income families. Not all of us want those ugly [expletive deleted] expensive granite countertops in the kitchen of an apartment they just want to rent for a while. Why are these apartment building owners pricing regular working people out of rentals?

How are regular salaried families supposed to save the "20%" they're supposed to be able to have as a down payment on a house? Does anyone realize putting 20% Down on an average 2 bedroom, 240k house or apt is $48,000? That is more than a year's salary for most average workers! (COUGH!) We also can't use the "no money down" scenario as a practical reality, because when you do your homework, that adds additional insurance and makes the monthly payment way bigger, and makes the payout life of the loan longer.

I can't be the only one freaking out over these figures.

House, HECK. Just affording a decent apartment that's actually near the grocery store or public transportation and not out in the sticks is fast becoming a pipe dream.

This is so not good for families, this stretching them beyond reason.

Living off credit, falling deeper into debt, putting your family at risk ... my GOSH, losing a home is SO traumatizing! (Doesn't anyone watch Oprah or Doctor Phil when they have these people on? This is SAD. Look, I've lost my job and my apartment twice, I know what I'm talking about.)

Why are we forcing this situation? We all want safe neighborhoods and good buildings. Do the profit margins really have to be so wide? Is it really worth losing good people and putting up with the constant turning over of tenants?

Somebody needs to do the math. Where are the teachers and cops and hospital workers and retail clerks and librarians and bus drivers and waitresses and church workers and artists(!) and administrative assistants -- all our normal average neighbors who do normal, average jobs and enjoy them -- where are they supposed to live when the rents/mortgages are simply too high in proportion to their income?

Where did modest, safe homes in good neighborhoods go? They are just out of the average modest income family's price range.

I've kvetched enough for today.

TV Junkie: Firefly on DVD

I've mentioned before how we are both Joss Whedon fans. We love the Angel and Buffy TV series and we really liked Serenity movie, which was based on the Firefly series.

We had tried watching Firefly on TV but it was difficult. It has a dreamy, spacey, roomy-storytelling pace quality (which we do enjoy) and seems (upon viewing now) that it really would have worked better on a cable TV channel (like maybe Sci-Fi?) than on the network TV faster pace/more commercials channel it was on. We knew we were going to wait for the DVD after all was said and done. We saw the movie without seeing most of the TV show and just LOVED it, so we couldn't wait.

So we waited. It was on sale at Target (YAY!) so for Chris' birthday, he got the Firefly series.

It is just terrific -- I really love this cast! We watched episode 1 last night, and I didn't know until yesterday that the episodes were run on TV out of order; so that probably contributed to its being a bit confusing back when it first aired. I will know better once we catch up (I think episode 3 was run as episode 1).

Will probably gush more -- but gotta run and work now!

TV Junkie: NewsRadio Season Five

One word for ya: YAY!

With Season Five the set is now complete. (Now if only they would complete CHEERS ... !)

Anyway ... LOVE this show. More to post later.

Norman Rockwell's The Four Freedoms

Many years ago, a dear friend (twice!) drove a small group of us over to the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. (There is also one in Vermont.) It was a fantastic trip. (I bought a felt hat shaped like The Cat In The Hat's hat ... I think I still have it somewhere ...? Good times. Good times...)

Even if the man's painting style may not be to everyone's taste, there is no doubt Rockwell was talented and was a man well-placed in his time period. The man could DRAW. Me, I love Norman Rockwell. He's one of my favorite artists.

In the midst of my fretting over the drought, reading online news and replies on whether or not it's a good idea to pray for rain (clearly "praying for rain" is not for everyone, but I do expect Christians to understand the urgency to pray) then further fretting about national political situations and then the ugly housing/mortgage fallout, a series of Norman Rockwell's came to mind. One called The Four Freedoms. Rockwell painted them based on a speech to congress made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6 1941, during World War Two. The Four Freedoms that Roosevelt knew we were fighting for were:

"...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."
Wow. I loved seeing the paintings, and reading the speech "behind them" was impactful.

You know, I still do regret that we never did study much of U.S. History in school. I am no politics geek, by any means, but thanks to Nashville and its super community, I'm becoming more civics-minded in my old(er) age (LOL). Tennessee's reputation as the "Volunteer State" is amazing to me; this is good. This is proactive.

But do imagine my GREAT surprise when I googled the speech for this post, and found the last four paragraphs:

"That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions--without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

This is worth meditating over, and scrutinizing.

It is applicable to today, and it may NOT mean the easy answer some people may think it does. It is, however a call for Justice.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This Is A Drought. A What? A Drought. A What? A Nashville Drought.

Oh a Drought!

So if Nashville has more churches per capita than any city in the country, then we best get on our knees and PRAY.

This drought sucks. Literally.

Rainfall has been stuck in the midwest; creating terrible woes to our families there with flooding.

There have been more than 12 days of 100+ temperatures IN AUGUST and we are at less than 1/4 the typical summer rainfall totals. A great deal of the state of Tennessee is now in official Extreme Drought Alert, with about 1/3 in EXCEPTIONAL Drought Alert. (Holy moley, I didn't even know there was that level.)

Focusing in on our state, it's making me sad to see the plants browning, and the animals panting, let alone people passing out and some dying. FROM THE HEAT! (Just watch the news.)

Our crops have suffered. Our farmers are in financial trouble. Livestock in Macon County now have to drink treated waste water (and you really think that isn't going to trickle down the food chain? O.M.GOODNESS.)

Time to stop being lukewarm.

The nation is pretty obviously in travail. Look at it. Don't freak out. LOOK.

Let's get busy, then.

So we're Christians, huh? So we believe in the Living God, Creator of All Things, huh? Then let's pray. Put your belief to work.

WORK IT.


Maybe we are in a Job situation. A "Hey, I'm not a bad guy, why are we having all this trouble?" type of situation.

A "Yeah, but wake UP!" type of situation.

What, pretending this isn't happening will make it go away? Nope.

Affliction passes. Make no mistake. We are in affliction.

But affliction passes.

Do not let apparent hopelessness in the terrible things happening around us "turn your heart to evil".  (Read the entire quote from the Book of Job chapter 36). See past it. See how it unites us. See how it helps us understand people we may have previously ignored. This is a VERY. SMALL. PLANET.

A true disciple of Christ needs to get past the fear and not have a problem examining his mind and soul to see if there are stumbling blocks in his relationship with God. You want to make sure there are no stumbling blocks ever (And hey, the effort counts. So just make it. We all stumble. It's okay. Get up again. For a saint is just a sinner who fell down, and got up.)

Seriously, let's pray for eachother. We really need it.

Nashville, please, let's pray for rain.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Joy and Delight: You Are Part of this Beautiful Quilt of Reality ...

You are ...

not a rock.

Not an island.

Not alone (even if it may seem so right now.)

You are very loved.

God knows you (even if you may feel kindof ignored lately.)

Your love reaches out. And makes an impact.

You have an impact even if you think not. (We don't live vacuum-packed.)

You have an effect. (Make it positive. It's less strain.)

We are all part of the puzzle. And we all fit (even if it's hard or weird sometimes to find out just where.)

The world is a beautiful place and worth taking care of.

People are beautiful and worth taking care of.

You are beautiful and worth taking care of.

Look into your own eyes and know this.

Look into their eyes and know this.

People are worth the effort (even when they are sometimes just the biggest pains in the rear.)

Yes. Some people you need to stay away from their craziness to be safe. Be wise. But love nonetheless.

Forgiveness helps you to grow.

"Forgive and Continue" (I don't remember where that quote comes from ...)

Love heals. Even with the smallest of gestures.

Love is powerful.

Love wins.

Let Love's Grace cover you. And see it in others.

Hope is Good Food.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Searching, Meaning, Discipleship ... Commitment

Life is a journey.

What an amazing journey.

It's very "in" now to find your Life Purpose, to put out Good Vibes to get back Good Vibes; and to reach out and grab "the secret" of how life works ... and this is good. We all need to know why we are here. What makes us really alive. What we are here to do.

I am hoping this turns out to be more than just a fad; we are talking people figuring out their Life Purpose, after all, not just what shoes look great this season.

This figuring out stuff takes work. Don't be afraid.

Finding out what makes your soul peaceful takes work. Being alive takes commitment. Being positive takes commitment. Being hopeful takes commitment. Don't be afraid.

Tangentally, and personally, I find that people find it scary to be Christian after a certain point. As if it means they would have to run off into the hills and be a monk or something. On the other hand there comes a point where "Christian" is more than just a label. That means commitment. It means discipleship. It's not just to Doing Good Things to the great Vague Existence of Life. It means commitment. To the Creator God!

I think it also means a commitment of a kind we have flat out learned to misunderstand through ignorance, miscommunication and misinformation. Some Christians have set bad examples for what Christianity really means. (I know I've done it. I apologize. I want to do better now.)

Christianity and its expression in the very different denominations there are is really interesting to me because -- and not to be facetious -- it's like being good at a specific sport or something. Like if you look at it in a teamwork concept, then pull out and you see the teams play in a League situation. Please know I also speak specifically of Christianity since I know it first hand, and have much less experience with committed religious people of other faiths, I'll just be straight up with you.

I've said this before -- and not that I'm an AA member -- but I'm finding for me becoming a more effective Christian is a lot like being an AA member ... in the sense that sometimes all you really have is the strength to focus in and take it one day at a time. If we take the small steps, if won't all seem so burdensome a task at all.

[Further tangent: In theory it shouldn't be scary to be a Christian. There are good and compassionate examples of good Christians. If we strip all the religious trappings away for a moment and focus only on what Jesus Christ Himself taught, being a disciple of Christ isn't complicated or boring or mean. It's actually very simple and very freeing.

It's people who really complicate things.

Being committed to God isn't just for the "superhumanly holy". It's not only for those who are called to be "saints" in the way we have been taught to recognize them. I didn't know, for example that all God's people are referred to as "saints" in the Bible.*

(*Psalms #116, verses 15 - 16; Romans chapter 8 verse 27; Ephesians chapter 1 verse 18 and chapter 6 verse 18; Revelation chapter 5 verse 8 and chapter 19 verse 8) .]

But I am getting ahead of myself, really.

One step at a time ...

I just want to show someone kindness today.

I just want to send a happy email that makes someone smile today.

I want someone to know they are being thought of, and being prayed for today.

Word: Today from Luke

My big pile of books-to-read includes a lot of non-fiction. This week I read a short biography of Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) published under the "Heroes of the Faith" series. The bio was written by Rachael Phillips.

Reading this book was so to-the-core moving; learning what this amazing man went through, first as a slave then as a runaway slave speaking openly against slavery, then as a free man speaking openly against slavery (when slavery was still in effect in many states). I was close to tears several times. It also led me on several tangental trains of thought. I hope to visit these thoughts further in a few posts ... but on a quick tangent, I wish we had read more on the Civil War era back in school; I think reading our own 19th and 20th century history would go a long way in helping Americans understand each other and where we live ...

In chapter five I read how one of the slaves masters Frederick Douglass worked for would regularly beat Frederick's slightly older, teenaged sister, Eliza. The cruelty of that man's actions hurt all the deeper because the man would quote Scripture at her to justify himself.

He quoted the Book of Luke, chapter 12, verse 47, which reads: "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows." Considering Frederick was learning to read (on the sneak) by reading the Bible, this was especially rotten use.

I was unfamiliar with that verse, so I looked it up. It falls under a section (I am reading the New International Version) with the heading "Watchfulness". I read the section which includes the verse immediately following it:

"47 That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

When I was done reading, the verses scared me.

This man, this adult, male slave master beating his underaged, female servant was quoting a red letter verse as he hit her. "Red letters" are the literal red letters printed in some Bibles to help locate and identify the direct teachings of Jesus Christ. So this man was quoting what Jesus had said.

The cruelty of its being twisted to this man's purpose became even more foul. This man was supposedly a Christian -- and in good standing! -- at his church.

But here is the scary part: in this section Jesus had been speaking to and teaching his disciples; telling them to be watchful. The section begins with "35 Be dressed ready for service, and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return ..."

Jesus wasn't referring to literal worldly "slave masters and slaves" like this slave master thought.

In verse 47-48 Jesus was referring to His own disciples. To Christians.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Joy and Delight: Dem Crazy Bugs

Okay, I am just going to have to buy myself some kind of book that has pictures of bugs and what they are so I'll know just what I'm looking at.

Golly, we have got a lot of bugs out here in TN! Back in NYC I could count the amount of bugs I ever saw practically on one hand: roaches, June bugs, Lady bugs, Cicadas (which I have to admit I never actually SAW but only heard. And it wasn't until I moved here that I learned THOSE were what I was hearing.). Oh, butterflies. (Do those count as "bugs" per se?) Flies. Bees.

I am amused by bugs who, when you start to observe them closely, actually realize they are being observed, and then start to hop around to get a better look at you. That just cracks me up.