Saturday, June 30, 2007

Does charity work?

I was surfing around on the internet the other day when I came across this story on the MSNBC site about a food bank's donations that were found rotting in the California desert. The story goes that these items were sent to a pig farm because the food items were unusable for human consumption (industry donations of pallets full of items that were out of date, for example). What doesn't really make sense are the items like toothpaste, teeth whiteners, bottled water, etc that are sitting there as well. Apparently the pig farmer left the land, but the food bank didn't know that when they dropped off the shipment. It's just been sitting there in the hot sun, rotting and stinking. I'm really glad that there's no such thing as smell-o-vision yet.

The part of the story that really gets me thinking though, is the statement made that almost 20% of donations received at this particular food bank (and I'm guessing this would be fairly equal at similar organizations in other parts of the country) are not usable. Companies donate food when it goes beyond the date it can be sold in the grocery store - some of it still usable and some of it not. They sort it out and if it's not usable, they were passing it on to the hog farms (which makes me kind of glad I don't live near a pig farm or eat pork products anymore). Referring to a piece by Christine Ahn, the article then talks about practices of donations and whether it's really about solving a hunger problem or solving a corporate problem. Ahn proposes that the system is really about corporate tax breaks - they can donate things that would otherwise lose them money and claim a tax deduction for it. Hmmmm.

I admit that I'm almost automatically skeptical of the big corporations and institutions in general, but this seem too obvious. What is someone who is hungry going to do with teeth whiteners? I guess if they have a nice white smile when they starve to death, perhaps they have a better shot at getting their picture in the paper or on tv to raise awareness of the problem?! Come on! And according to the article, about 1/4 of the donations received are things like snack foods, cookies, soda, and coffee - not things that are nutritionally valuable. Granted, someone who is hungry may not care if they're eating cookies or vegetables, as long as they get something in their bellies, but how long can someone survive on bread and soda? Are we really helping them or just prolonging their deaths? Is this charity or torture? or both?

I claim to be a follower of Jesus, who taught that we're supposed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, etc. but how often do we actually DO those things? How many of us feel that when we clean out our pantry shelves and donate it to the local food bank, that we're doing our part? Are we really? Does this system really do what we think it does - what we want it to? Or is it another way for big companies to help their bottom lines?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 5, Gifts and talents

Sally writes :
Our Circuit (Methodist) is having a "Gifts and talents day" tomorrow- we have a minister visiting from another circuit who has modified the Myers Briggs personality test and added a few things of his own to run a day where we get to look at ourselves in the light of giftings and of the whole church. The idea is to encourage everyone with the news that there is room for you in the ministry of the church- and perhaps to discover where that ministry might be.....

It should be an interesting day, and one where I hope people will leave feeling encouraged and challenged...

So with gifts and talents in mind here is todays Friday 5:

1. Personality tests; love them or hate them? I LOVE them. I have taken countless tests at various points in my life and it's to the point now that I get gifts of things like a book titled "101 self tests" - at least I think I know my strengths and weaknesses fairly well.

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture? a mixture, leaning more to the practical and intellectual side of things. I wish I was more creative...

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had your yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be? Well, that kind of depends on how you define fame. I've always enjoyed being a big fish in a little pond, but never really had state-wide or national "fame" unless you count singing the national anthem with my choir before a nationally televised baseball game (Philadelphia Phillies). I don't think I want to be famous, even if for only 15 minutes.

4. If you were given a 2 year sabatical ( oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us... My partner, Trouble, and I have always talked about opening up an interfaith retreat center, somewhere in the mountains (not necessarily the Rockies though - somewhere a little more friendly to be in the outdoors year round, like say the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma/Arkansas). It would be a place for a variety of people to nurture themselves, their relationship with nature/God/the Universe and to foster their creativity. -sigh- Someday...

5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you. I wish I could draw/paint. I attempted quite a bit when I was in elementary school, and loved to do it but was never satisfied with the results. The teachers and people painting on public television make it look SO easy! I gave up eventually, and now just want to take a photography class...

Bonus question: Back to the church- what does every member ministry mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/ implement? I truly believe that every member has something to offer to the world, and to the faith community. For some people, it may be providing money, but for others money isn't possible but time and presence are. It's the epitomy of God's kin-dom that each of us contribute, in Christian terms, to the Body of Christ. 1 Cor 12 talks about the body being made up of many parts, each with their own purpose and all working together. Even if one seems weak, it is indispensable; if one suffers, all suffer together; if one rejoices, all rejoice together. The problem with trying to encourage it and implement it in our society is that it flies in the face of the individualism and competition that are continually taught and fostered. Can we really have it both ways??

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Just wanted to share the news that I got the AmeriCorps job working for Habitat for Humanity here in Kansas City. YAY! It was the job that I really wanted - it's a great organization, the interview had gone well without out too many "weird alerts" and it's only about a mile from my house which means saving on gas money. I don't start until August, so I get one last summer break and am looking for suggestions on things to do for cheap to fill in my time. Let me know if you have any ideas! :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Job update

Some people have been wondering how the job search going, so this is a brief update. I did 2 personal interviews last week and one over the phone with a regional office. Of the three interviews, the phone interview led to a now scheduled personal interview to be held next Tuesday. The job that I really want has told me they're likely going to hire me but don't know which position they'll put me in (there were two options and I'd love either one). I know they were interviewing other people and the supervisor is on vacation this week, so it will be next week when I hear back from them. The other job offered me the spot less than 24 hours after my interview. There are some really great things about this positionand some red flags about it - I told them I still have another interview but thanked them for the offer and that I'd think about it. It wasn't what they wanted to hear and I don't want to burn any bridges. If the other job doesn't happen, I would take it gladly.

I'm trying not to get cocky about it, but think it's interesting that it looks like the jobs where I interview are offering me positions. Granted, these are AmeriCorps positions (which means there are always more jobs to do than people to fill them, and the pay is a minimal living stipend) but it's nice to be wanted! It also reinforces my feeling that I do really well with people in person - it's just getting to the point where they'll talk to me in person. I have been trying to interview with a job in Minneapolis for months, but everything up to this point has only been done via email and they aren't showing any signs of wanting to talk with me. I don't want to move away from KC right now anyway, but it would be nice to hear something! Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment and I'm reveling in feeling wanted. :) What's new with you??

Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City

...or town, or suburb, or hamlet, or burg, or unincorporated zone, or rural area of your choice---pretty much anywhere but the southern hemisphere, it's summer. (Australians and others, consider this an invitation to take a break from winter for a while.)
(as posted at RevGalBlogPals by reverendmother)

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)
I love just about anything cooked on a charcoal grill - chicken, burgers, fish, veggies (squash, eggplant, corn on the cob) and this time of year Trouble and I try to break it out a couple of times a week... We just have to remember to not leave it sitting out in the rain... And then for beverages you can't beat strawberry lemonade or a fruit slush from Sonic.

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
Well, the one from which the title of this post comes is a classic summer song, and just about anything by the Beach Boys. Then there are all the songs that bring back summer memories, like Indigo Girls' "Hammer and a Nail" or "Ghost" and others that I can't name, but I know them when I hear them.

3. A childhood summer memory
Our family used to go camping every weekend, sometimes even going for a couple of weeks to the Jersey shore where my brother and I would hang out during the week (sometimes with friends along) while my parents commuted the extra hour each night. There was plenty of swimming, dancing, campfires, volleyball, and just hanging out...

4. An adult summer memory
Not sure if I'm actually an adult yet... but assuming that at 31 I should be, perhaps it's going to the lake with Kyra and Dalonna back in Oklahoma. It was my first time going out on a boat and tubing. We had a blast but I was sore for the next three days!!

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities) This questions doesn't say anything about the liklihood of my actually getting to have this day, so I'm going to say that I want to take Trouble to the Jersey shore - swimming in the ocean (perhaps a boogie board), pizza and funnel cakes from the boardwalk, walking along the piers, perhaps going on some rides and then getting some salt water taffy before heading home.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.) My church is always casual dress (although most people aren't wearing shorts in the winter), and our two services keep their same dynamics for the most part, although attendance in general is more sporadic for vacations and such... The only thing we really do different is the choir doesn't rehearse on Wed nights - only on Sunday morning before they sing in service, and there are many services where they won't sing at all.
In the United Methodist Church, summer is the time when pastors move churches (not all of them every year) so there is often change and getting to know each other that happens this time of year. This Sunday is our pastor's last week and then next week we get to officially meet our new one - exciting and scary all at the same time!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What kind of pie are you?

You Are Mud Pie

You're the perfect combo of flavor and depth
Those who like you give into their impulses

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Five: Books, Books, Books

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????
I love all kinds of fiction, but especially detective novels, intrigue (a la DaVinci Code and Robin Cook novels), humor and fantasy (i.e. Harry Potter).

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?
It depends on my mood, the book itself, and what setting I'm in. I read the DaVinci Code while I was visiting a friend - she was at work all day and I was just hanging out in her apartment, so I finished it that afternoon! Harry Potter books take longer, and now that I've read all of them at least once, I tend to go slower, savoring and soaking in the details.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?
There are several that I go back to over and over again - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a personal favorite that helps me feel powerful as a women, connected spiritually and reminds me that there are always more complexities and sides to a story than we are aware of. I also go back to Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh on a regular basis. It's got short essays on a variety of topics for meditations, but different than your typical Christian bible passage devotional.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?
It's too hard to just pick one!! I just graduated from seminary so my shelves are packed with non-fiction books that have all influenced me to some extent. To choose a few that have been particularly powerful: Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh has been a favorite since my undergrad days and I need to go reread it again; The Abuse of Power by James Poling takes a theological and sociological look at violence, particularly sexual and domestic violence perpetrated by males. What made this book so powerful for me was the way he explicitly brings in the theology piece AND that he works with male offenders and does an excellent portrayal of their point of view which is something I had never seen or heard before. And no theology student can get out of seminary without having some kind of major theological work influencing them and for me I think it was reading John Wesley's sermons. I didn't grow up Methodist, and joined the UM church because of logistics and the people at one particular congregation; now that I've learned about the development and theology of the denomination, there are just a lot of great things about it that really make sense and feel right to me. God knew what she was doing when she led me this direction!!

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)
When I'm at home, I like to sit in my arm chair, next to the living room window, with the lamp over my left shoulder when it gets dark. It's comfy and big enough for me to sit with my legs under me or stretchd out on the ottoman in front, or hang them over the arms on the sides. I also really enjoy reading outdoors, where I can soak in the sunshine (need that Vitamin D) and feel the breeze on my skin.

So, what are your answers??

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tagged again...

From Hipchickmamma: Be careful you never know who might be next! The game is to post 8 random facts and then tag 8 other bloggers--leaving them a comment to let them know.
Here goes:

1. I was never in the same school for two years in a row until I was in 7th grade.

2. I've lived in 13 different cities in 7 different states throughout my life, and for several months lived on the Caribbean island of Aruba. While we lived there, the island was part of the Netherlands and the Dutch Queen visited. We stood along the parade route to see her - my only brush with royalty.

3. I have no known food allergies but there are many foods that I don't like to eat; the strangest and most pervasive of these is vinegar (unless it's balsamic).

4. I've been in my current relationship for 10 years (ceremony almost 8 years ago) - which is longer than I ever thought I'd ever be able to stand being around one person. :)

5. I started college as a vocal music major, and changed degree programs in the middle of my junior year to become a religion major. (I don't recommend waiting that long to change programs.) Ironically, I started singing in jr high school and made it somewhat of a career in the church while I was in high school. I was a cantor for Sunday mass and regularly sang for weddings. Sometimes I miss that aspect of it...

6. I have family members that live in Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Colorado, Germany, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Whew! No wonder I don't see most of them very often...

7. I am the second person in my extended family to receive a Masters degree. First was my cousin Tina.

8. I spent one summer living in Chinatown, San Francisco. It was one of the most unique, educational and wonderful experiences of my life. I lived in a women's residence that existed in the upper 4 floors of the building, and worked at the school/resource center in the bottom 2 floors of the building. My job was to teach summer school to Asian immigrant children 1st-6th grade (music to the 1-4th grades and computers to the older kids who were too cool for music classes).

9. I have a small tatoo on my left ankle of a cross with a treble clef superimposed over it. It represents two of the most important things to my spiritual life and I got it when I came to Kansas City 10 years ago.

10. I am hopelessly addicted to musical theater soundtracks and 80's music. I know that this is sometimes an embarassment to people around me, but come karaoke time (which I enjoy immensely once I get past the initial insecurity) it is very handy!

Whew! Now that that's done, I tag Rachel, Big Unit, Tina, Mary, Donna, Andy, Mark, and Kelly. You can either post it on your blog (which is handy for those that you tag, and we'd like it if you linked to it in a comment) or just put it in comments here. :)

One down...

On Tuesday afternoon I had my first interview. It was actually for two positions that I applied for thru AmeriCorps, both with the Kansas City office of Habitat for Humanity. I got to meet with the two people who are looking for assistants and the Executive Director and I think it went really well. There were several questions that kind of threw me off guard (about my personal life, previous AmeriCorps experience and thoughts on the separation of church and state) but I think I handled it all pretty well and I felt really good about it. Now I just have to wait to hear back from them....

Today I have another interview for a different AmeriCorps position at a local community college that is trying to start up a service learning program. It sounds like it could be very interesting as well and since I've already done one of these, I'm not feeling quite as keyed up as I was on Tuesday. Still, it probably would have helped if I had remembered to bring the specific directions on where I'm supposed to go to meet the supervisor. :) I know how to get to campus and the right building to go to, but after that I'm going to have to wing it. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The search continues...

I've been out of seminary for a little over 3 weeks and the job search continues... I don't know if it's the non-profit world, just the job market in Kansas City or if my resume is just that bad but I have gotten virtually nothing in response to the 10 or so resumes that I've put out around the area. I don't even get a "thank you for applying, we'll get back to you" or basic acknowledgment that my application was received. Am I doing something wrong??

This whole process has been interesting for a couple of reasons. (1) This is the first time I've ever actually done it - all of my previous jobs have simply required filling out an application (I never made up a resume until this year) and then either taking some kind of test (typing, data entry, etc.) and talking with the manager/supervisor. I'm a good test taker and do fairly well with people, so I've always gotten the jobs I was interested in before. (2) This is the first time I've been without a job when I really wanted to have one. It's really making me look at myself and my life in new ways, some of them not so good. I remember times when my parents were looking for jobs and how hard it was on them personally (hello, self esteem, where are you?!?) as well as financially for the whole family. I'm lucky that right now I'm still getting to work some hours in the seminary library while the new students get trained, but that comes to an end Jun 29th. I have a sugar mamma (love ya, babe!) but we're already starting to dip into our savings and the money I just got for graduation to pay our regular bills and I don't deal well with "not contributing to the benefit of the household." I know, keeping house is work and someone needs to do it but let's be real. I'm not raising any children and even if I were, "housewife" isn't a valued job position you can put on your resume.

The exciting this is that I do have a couple of appointments to talk with people this week - including KC Habitat for Humanity, which would be a phenomenal group to work for. The downside is that all of these positions for which I'm know interviewing are actually volunteer jobs through AmeriCorps. They pay a living stipend (which is more than I've been making working part time in the seminary library), most offer some type of health insurance, and my student loans will go into forbearance so that I won't have to worry about tacking on another monthly payment for a little while. The positions I'm looking at are all right here in the KC area and seem to be year long positions so that when I get done, I'll have a year of real experience and connections to people in the KC non-profit world that will hopefully both help me to get "a real job" afterwards.

It's not that I don't think these AmeriCorps jobs are "real" but the program was put together to encourage people to serve their communities and make it financially possible for them to do so. I was talking with a woman earlier today who recently retired and thought it was something she'd enjoy doing herself. But part of me feels like I'm just buying time, delaying the inevitable, using my fall back plan when I haven't really tried as hard as I could elsewhere. Is this just a cop out? An easy option? I'll have to see how the interviews go later this week and do some more soul searching about what all of this means....

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reflections on Annual Conference

It's been a couple of days home now, so I feel like it's safe for me to talk about it. I didn't want to write from my gut level emotional reactions to annual conference, as there were a great many of those and I needed time to process...

My first observation is that Annual Conference is basically like a really long Administrative Council meeting - but with a lot more people. Ad Council is the governing body of a congregation (at least in the United Methodist Church) and this is the governing body of the conference (which in this case is the state of MO). Annual Conference, as the name suggests, happens once a year, so all of the business, all of the committee reports, all of the petitions, etc. have to get done there and then - which makes for long days.

Actually, this year there was a special session called in March so some of the business of conference reorganization had been dealt with already - but much of it is an ongoing process that seems to mainly be under the control of a small group of people known as "pathways." I wasn't involved in the conference last year so i don't know who these people are and where they came from or why they were formed, but that's who has been making a lot of big decisions. We're restructuring the whole conference, making two new offices and supposedly streamlining operations so that congregations can better focus on "making disciples for Jesus Christ." Don't get me started on this whole new mission statement thing - that's a whole different blog entry.

There were only 3 petitions for vote this year, which was very surprising to me. In other conferences there would never be less than 20 to consider. This is especially surprising given that this is the last session before General Conference (which is the once every 4 years meeting that determines the Book of Discipline, or operating rules, for the entire denomination) so anything that we wanted to bring to GC 2008 had to be voted on this annual conference. The debate over the three petitions was quite intense - all three of them dealt with matters of LGBT persons, so of course there was controversy and high emotion - and for me it felt personal. I'll have to write another entry about the petitions themselves and the debate (there were some pretty intelligent comments made - and others that weren't so much) around them, but in general I think where the conference voted says a lot. The first petition dealt with the Global AIDS fund that General Conference 2004 established. We were supposed to have raised $1 per church member to put into that fund in the quadrennium and up to this point the MO Conference hasn't so they tried to establish the first Sunday in December as a day for a special offering but the wording was changed so that it was a recommended action (so as not to overburden the beginning of Advent or something) and I highly doubt many churches will choose to participate but at least it's encouraged. The 2nd petition was split into two parts and that was very confusing for many people to deal with. It dealt with Judicial Council decision #1032 (see previous blog posts, including my first ever) and stated (1) affirmation of the Council of Bishops letter and (2) a petition to General Conference 2008 to add language that persons are not exempt from membership in the UMC based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There was a lot of discussion, but we passed the language to take to General Conference which is GREAT NEWS!! I was very proud to see that come about. The bishops' letter however, appeared to be too much for many folks to understand and it was postponed indefinitely. More on that another time. The third petition was regarding marriage - affirming the definition already in the Social Principles that says marriage is "one man and one woman" and encouraging state laws and General Conference policies that affirm that stance. This was by far the most confusing part of the whole session. After much debate around parliamentary procedure, attempts to split the questions and arguments about what the presenting committee had done and what it meant, the question was called before the petition itself was ever debated. It passed, which makes me a little sad, but it was expected.

I left Sunday evening, when there was still more business in a Monday morning session, but all in all I got a good taste for the Missouri Annual Conference and it's workings. I got to put a lot of faces and names together, hear and see more about how things work, and learn things to do for next year. I will definitely be brushing up on parliamentary procedure and am hoping to get involved with a conference team at some point (social justice team most likely). I was a voting member this year as a young adult at-large district representative. Next year I should be commissioned as a Deaconess which makes me an at-large voting member of the conference. More in another entry later...