Thursday, December 21, 2006

True Advent

My wife Karen was dismayed, almost distraught, when she discovered that all of the shelters and homeless-service providers were going to close all day on Christmas Eve, which happened to fall on a Sunday this year.

The shelters, of course, were giving their employees a well-deserved day off. But this meant that many homeless clients (who go to these shelters for food on Sundays) would have to go hungry for much of the day. This was not right, especially on Christmas Eve.
The homeless also need to know that someone cares about them on this special day, said Karen.

"There are many reasons a person may become homeless, and most are occasions of brokenness..." Karen said in Observations of a Wounded Healer, an article she wrote for the January-March 2007 issue of Radical Grace (published by the Center for Action and Contemplation).

So Karen called on a group of friends and some colleagues who serve the homeless to try to put together a couple of opportunities to distribute sandwiches. But the effort snowballed into more than just a sandwich-distribution opportunity. Many people from all walks of life stepped up to help.
Not only were sandwiches passed out at 7:30 a.m. There were burritos at 11:00 a.m., and a buffet at local small church from noon to 5:00 p.m., all bridging to a regularly scheduled meal at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve at another meal site.

One cannot help but draw parallels to the account of the multiplication of the fish and loaves in all four of the Gospels (
Luke 9:12-17, Mark 8:1-10, John 6:1-15, Matthew 15:32-39).

On that note, I would like to share this Advent prayer, which Liz Mosbo VerHage posted on her blog, Living Theology. Liz was recently one of The ONE Campaign organizers for Bread for the World. The prayer was written for First Convenant Church, Seattle, WA, on December 5, 2006.

An Advent Prayer
In this Advent Season, as we practice waiting for the birth of our Savior, may we remember:
- to wait for
God to do the leading, equipping, and calling of each of us to a lifestyle shaped by hospitality, compassion, mercy, and justice;
- to practice
hospitality among our own church family, and within our weariness or awkwardness to reach out to the other;
- to show
compassion to each other, and within broken and hurting families to be especially gracious and help carry each other’s burdens during the holiday season;
- to show works of
mercy to our urban community, through our presence and our prayers, through a softening of our hearts and active ministries;
- to pray for
justice in the world, remembering and grieving along with those suffering from violence, hunger, illness, poverty, racism, and despair around the globe;
- to respond to God’s
promises in gratitude, reflection, and action, so that when we are called, when we are gifted, we join in praising God’s work and walking along the way with God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gifts Unwrapped

In her book Simple Living: The Path to Joy and Freedom, Sister Jose Hobday, a Franciscan, describes a Native American tradition of exchanging gifts unwrapped.

"Instead of allowing paper or a tied-up box to come between the giver and the receiver, a gift is handed over without secrecy," says Sister Jose, who is quoted by Jennifer Swanson of
the Simple Living Network, This "flesh-to-flesh connection" provides an enhanced sense of unity."

Snow fell in Albuquerque on Dec. 19 and continued on Dec. 20. It came unwrapped.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11
(Photo: Carlos Navarro)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Seek Quiet Spaces

As we enter the second week of Advent, I would like to share this wonderful gift...

An Advent prayer by Henri Nouwen

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, Come Lord Jesus!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Albuquerque Party for Muhammad Yunus

If you have been involved in the fight against poverty and hunger, you are probably very familiar with the name Mohammad Yunus. He is considered a pioneer in the now-expanding microcredit movement, which provide small loans with very low interest rates to entrepreneurs (especially women) too poor to qualify for credits from commercial banks.

"As a young economics professor at Chittagong University in Bangladesh in 1976, Muhammad Yunus lent $27 out of his own pocket to a group of poor craftsmen in the nearby town of Jobra," said Businessweek magazine. "To boost the impact of that small sum, Yunus volunteered to serve as guarantor on a larger loan from a traditional bank, kindling the idea for a village-based enterprise called the Grameen Project. It never occurred to the professor that his gesture would inspire a whole category of lending and propel him to the top of a powerful financial institution.

Today, Yunus runs Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, a leading advocate for the world's poor that has lent more than $5.1 billion to 5.3 million people.

Yunus' efforts have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world, which now uses his model to develop microcredit programs. On Dec. 10,
Nobel Prize committee will honor Yunus and the Grameen Bank with its Nobel Peace Prize.

Every year since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. The Nobel Prize is an international award administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize. Each prize consists of a medal, personal diploma, and a cash award.

Albuquerque Recognition
Yunus' efforts will also be celebrated in Albuquerque. On Sunday, Dec. 10, our friends from RESULTS (one of our local partners in The ONE Campaign) will commemorate Yunus' Nobel Peace Prize with a party at
Two Fools Tavern, 3211 Central (NE) in Nob Hill, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Snacks will be provided, and atendees may purchase drinks. Everyone is invited to join in the celebration.

RESULTS has been a leading advocate of expansion of microcredits at the global level.

Yunus believes that there is no reason for poverty to exist in our world. "
The one message that we are trying to promote all the time, that poverty in the world is an artificial creation. It doesn't belong to human civilization, and we can change that, we can make people come out of poverty and have the real state of affairs," Yunus told the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. "So the only thing we have to do is to redesign our institutions and policies, and there will be no people who will be suffering from poverty. So I would hope that this award will make this message heard many times, and in a kind of forceful way, so that people start believing that we can create a poverty-free world. That's what I would like to do."

Yunus follows another citizen of South Asia in gaining recognition from the Nobel Peace Prize committee for anti-poverty work. In 1998,
Professor Amartya Sen, an expert on world poverty, won the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics. Sen has written that fighting poverty should be a national and global priority, particularly in the current era of globalization.

(Note: Above photo comes from Nobel Peace Prize Website)