Live Below the Line, the fairly lacklustre reflection.

So, the Live Below the Line challenge. I promised a reflection and some wise thoughts on social justice or the like.

I don’t think I have anything of great import to reflect on though. Of course, the fact that I was surrounded by food but couldn’t actually eat it can be compared to the fact that the planet actually has enough food to feed everyone but our inequitable systems means that too many people starve (too many=anyone).

It was a good way to raise money, I admit. I’m generally uncomfortable in asking people for money at any time, but there was something in the fact that I was doing it fairly tough for a week that made me feel a little more…worthy? The fact is I felt more comfortable in asking people to sponsor me and raised over $800 which I was thrilled with. So thank you, all. There was certainly a lot of feedback that my friends 1) felt guilty that they wouldn’t be able do the same thing so they donated or 2) felt really, really sorry for me and though that a donation might be what I needed to pep me up.

Guilt and Pity. Highly undervalued human motivations.

As for the ‘experience’ itself, well, I was a bit hungry and really bored. It wasn’t really comparable to actually living in poverty. So much so that it doesn’t merit discussion.

I personally found it emotionally hard more than anything- I’m used to eating to cover up all sorts of feelings so it was probably more unpleasant for the other people around me who had to deal with me andd my feeeelings. (No worries though, I’m back on the chocolate now.)

With so many charities competing for a given amount of Australia’s hard earned cash, it makes sense to come up with new ideas, ‘gimmicks’ if you like, and the Live Below the Line challenge is a great idea. Next year though, I think I’ll just donate $800 myself and pray for those who are doing it ;)

Asylum seekers are not a problem: they’re people

Eva:

The fact that this is happening right now brings a whole new dimension to the lessons that I’m teaching on the Holocaust this week.

Originally posted on Musing on...:

dystopia

With thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in the Straits of Malacca, crammed into boats without food and water, rejected by country after country and towed back out to sea, the desperation of vast numbers of people scrambling to reach safer shores could not be starker. They may be fleeing terror. They may be fleeing destitution. And we must strive to understand the circumstances of such flights in their entirety before we dare to point an accusatory finger.

The blame game will only succeed for so long. A hugely successful propaganda technique is to isolate the ‘fall guy’ and blame to the hilt. When it comes to asylum seekers, we are told to blame the people smugglers. While I dare say such traffickers are not my kind of folk, because I prefer to spend time with people with scruples, they are, like many agents and go betweens, providing an essential…

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No Room For Hatred

Eva:

Powerful stuff.

Originally posted on Living a Life That Matters:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.50.05 AM

If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that there is no room for hatred. As a Holocaust survivor, I learned this long ago. It is what allowed me to move on from the darkest days in my life, through the death, the pain, the loss. To me, hatred is the root of evil. I live my life free from this feeling, despite what I endured.

A few months ago, I was fortunate to talk to someone I never thought I would – Rainer Höss. On paper, we are polar opposites. Rainer, well, his grandfather was one of the men who kept me imprisoned in Auschwitz, one of the four camps I survived before being liberated from Dachau.  Who killed. Who showed no mercy. No compassion. He killed thousands of people, including my family.

But, not Rainer. This man is like me, although from a…

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It was a good idea at the time.

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Behold, my food for the week. This week. It’s nearly over and I’m thrilled to have raised almost $800 dollars but I can freely say that I have not done this challenge with any degree of stoicism or grace.
There has been complaining.
There has been resentment.
There have been very few lessons learned at this stage because I’m hungry and irritated and cold (nothing to do with the challenge, it’s just freezing here).
On the up side I do not have any caffeine withdrawal to worry about. That’s because I swapped coffee and milk for the oats in the picture shortly after I realised that milk powder doesn’t transfer into black coffee as seamlessly as I’d hoped. So I gave up food before 12.30pm in order to keep my coffee and MY GOD I STAND BY MY DECISION.
I shall reflect and ruminate at a later stage, when I’m not feeling so bloody deprived and resentful, OK?
(Reflect on the fact that I’m a spoilt brat, very probably).

Live Below the Line Poverty Challenge.

I’ve been skimming over an advertisement on Facebook for the last few weeks (we all skim over those, right?) but this morning I finally gave in and clicked on it. (It was about poverty and justice and that kind of thing so, to be fair, it is the sort of thing that I’m interested in.) I’m so glad that I took notice! It was about the Living Below the Line challenge, which looks fabulous and worthwhile and really, really demanding.

Basically I have to live on $2 a day for five days. My first though was ‘no (fairtrade) coffee for a week’ which probably shows that I have absolutely no idea what I’m in for.

You can read more about the challenge or even sign up yourself. I’d love to share tips and ideas with someone!

I’ll blog about it over the five days. I’ll share what I’m eating and how I’m dealing with it and how it might fit within my faith given that Christianity should be synonymous with social justice.

I know of course that the experience isn’t actually going to be anything like actually living in poverty. My warm house and comfortable life will massively make up for any hunger pangs that I experience along the way. But I think that the challenge is a good idea and am not going to get into the overly- critical mind set that I sometimes (!) can get enmeshed in.

If you would like to make a donation to the cause then click here and search my name (Eva Leppard). Yes, I am wearing a bunny hat in my photo. It’s complex…

What if we listened to stories?

Every two weeks I spend time with a Japanese hating anti-Semite.

On purpose.

We drink coffee (she puts milk in hers only because the doctor says it’s good for her bones although I tell her that her bones have done OK for 94 years, and the damage is already done), we read the paper and she gives my boys too much chocolate.

I know which topics not to get her started on. What’s the point? She’s an old lady living in a run down house who won’t be with us for much longer. My opinions aren’t going to change her. I don’t define her by our differences but by what we have in common. I know her stories, I know what she wishes that she was and what she was never able to be.

But there aren’t that many occasions during the week when I choose to spend time with someone with views that are so different to my own. I find it difficult to love people who don’t agree with me on the ‘big issues’. OK you’re not going to see me yelling at them or waving placards or being abusive but I can do some hard core seething and my righteous indignation (even if totally invisible to anyone not inside my brain) can be absolutely withering.

Even if I’m not actively arguing with people though, creating a mental ‘us’ and ‘them’ can still be very damaging both on a soul and real-world level. As I yell at my children when they’re bickering or unforgiving or just generally not agreeing with each other, ‘THIS IS HOW WARS START, YOU KNOW THAT?!’.

We see the people that we love with different eyes. We may be sad at their opinions or their views but we either understand why they hold them (in my Nan’s case, a very poor upbringing, little education, the loss of loved ones and the stress of all the men in her life away fighting in WW2) or we realise that there is more to them than the things that we don’t agree on.

We know their stories.

Is that the solution to all the name calling and hatred and just general awfulness that gets us down even on the brightest and shiniest of days? If we could just listen to the stories of those who we disagree with then how different would the world be. This is what has happened to me in my life. This is how I have suffered. These were my dreams.

I don’t even think that this is a way to get people ‘on our side’. I don’t think that knowing someone better should segue into a clever way to evangelise for our cause. I just think that it’s harder to hate or make blanket statements about someone when we really know where they’re coming from. When we know that they were bullied as children or that they had an abortion and regret it or that they got trapped into a minimum wage job and just couldn’t find a way out.

We can’t change other people. We just can’t. The best we can do is try to understand them, and love them where they’re at. And pray that other people can do the same for us.

Uncertainty vs Doubt and issues with ‘He’.

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I used to love this sort of thing. Love it. Boom, slam dunk, take that stupid Christians kind of loved it. Debate over.

But now I look at it and just shake my head and the sheer straw-man-ing. I believe in evolution. I don’t believe that a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that people die young because God needs another angel.

I don’t believe in the God that is represented there at all. And I’m fairly sure that I’m not alone in that.

But this is the way that many people understand Christianity and I really can’t blame them. We do tend to understand the world in simplistic and unsophisticated sound bites because it’s easier, right? Why bother trying to understand something more deeply when you’ve already nailed it. That’s not meant to sound snarky at all even though it might sound like it. If you think that you understand something fully and you’re not particularly interested in it anyway, then why on earth would you seek further clarification?

Recently Stephen Fry (isn’t he fantastic? I was heart broken last month when he announced his marriage. He may be gay but I’ve long held out hope that he and I would end up together. Dreams shattered. I’ll content myself with memorising the script of Peter’s Friends instead) was asked what he would say to God and his resulting feelings about the problem of suffering apparently annihilated God, according to some corners of the internet. As if these problems have never been thought of and agonised over and dissected by people for hundreds of years. I’m not criticising him at all but the problem of evil= no God because we can’t conceptualise the answer is problematic for me.

I liked this article by John Dickson. This sentence sums up (for me, although I don’t think it was its aim) why arguing about these things is ultimately unproductive

“…if you find yourself stuck with the intellectual conviction that there must be a Powerful Mind, you will puzzle through both the beauty and the pain, unable to accept Dawkins’s universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication”

And vice-versa. You will find evidence to suit your world view.  I don’t do apologetics and have no interest in arguing the case for God, as such. When someone says that God is as real as Star Wars (which happened last week) then I go ‘OK, that’s fine, your choice’.

As I see it, ‘God’ isn’t a being, or a thing and most definitely isn’t a ‘he’. The personification that we all fall back on doesn’t help us understand the complexity. This book helped me enormously in understanding this, because a life time of stereotypical thoughts (as in the above meme) can be hugely hard to break away from, even if you’re consciously trying to do so.

I think that the use of the word ‘he’ when referring to god and the father imagery associated with it has done more harm than good, with many people finding this triggering rather than comforting and reassuring. I know that the writers of the Bible needed to make connections that we can relate to and it’s certainly easier to personify instead of trying to wrap our minds around what God may actually be, but I wonder how many people have been put off the whole thing because of their inability to conceptualise a ‘Father in heaven’ who is unconditional, all loving, non judgmental and who we aren’t constantly feeling disapproval from.

Meanwhile, I had an unproductive week last week dipping into some Hebrew to try and find out whether ‘father’ was what the Bible is actually referring to with all the God talk. Didn’t get far but I’m really good at pronouncing ‘ruach Elohim’ now so that’s a win.

I suppose that, given God’s concentration with helping the powerless, the needy and the at risk, it makes sense to have a ‘man’ in charge because patriarchy and all that but still. It’s not necessarily an intuitive bond for everyone.

So, no solutions here tonight! I’m learning that ‘doubt’ and ‘uncertainty’ can operate in very different spheres. I don’t doubt to any large degree that God exists now days; I suppose that you could say that I’m fairly firm in my faith. But within that there is still a huge amount of uncertainty and questioning and eyebrow furrowed puzzling.

And I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. It’s just the way things are.

 

 

Kindness and Caring in Business

Eva:

A lovely Sunday morning post from Lee over at Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

Originally posted on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life:

Business and industry has gotten a reputation in some quarters as being a heartless, soulless behemoth whose only interest is in racking up money and profits for the people at the top.

But even if that reputation may be partially deserved, there’s much more to commerce than that.

Yasir Moore being helped at Target Yasir Moore being helped at Target

Business and industry is also where many millions of ordinary people serve their communities day in and day out, stitching together with their mind, their hands, and yes, their hearts, the fabric of human society.

It would be impossible to list the billions of daily transactions and services we engage in for one another in the course of our daily work. The cashier ringing up your groceries, the mechanic fixing your car, the waiter or waitress bringing you your morning eggs and coffee at the diner, the pharmacist putting together your prescription . . . these…

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Tweaking the Examen

Last year was a really crap year.

I can’t say that it was the worst year of my life, but it was very, very ordinary. Kind of what I imagine a marathon to be like except with fewer people holding out cups of water along the way and clapping for you when you finish.

I didn’t feel that I was carrying out my roles with any degree of skill, grace or accomplishment. The competing responsibilities of mother, teacher and housewife were constantly banging up against each other, without enough hours in the day to do any of them properly. As for daughter, granddaughter, volunteer, friend and person with any hobbies, they totally fell by the way side.

I took a month off work at one stage, trying to get some balance, and things became lovely. I did all the extra parenting that I’d been neglecting; helping at school, baking bread, leaving little flowers on the pillows of freshly made beds and making sit-down dinners with discussion topics.

But after the month was up, it was back to work and more mismanaged jerry-built, cobbled together semi-coping.

When you look at advice about balancing competing responsibilities, you will get suggestions such as delegating, outsourcing or letting things go if they don’t matter.

None of that was going to work for me. I couldn’t see any ‘extras’ that needed pruning. The things that needed doing this year were going to be the same as the things that needed doing last year. Same places, same people, same number of hours in the day.

But something needed to change, obviously.

So knowing that I didn’t want another year where I was just getting by, and knowing that there was nothing that I could abandon or pass on to someone else, I wondered if there was something that I could add that might help me calibrate everything just enough to get some joy and contentment back in my life.

I’ve mentioned before that prayer has never really been an intuitive thing for me (unless saying ‘Oh for GOD’S SAKE!! counts. If so, then I’ve been nailing it for years). In the past, after stressing, yelling, over-thinking, crying and staring off into space, I may go, ‘Oh well I guess I could have a pray then’. A kind of fall back contingency plan for the times when everything else has failed. A last ditch effort to salvage something when, to be honest, the horses have usually bolted.

But I knew that I needed to have some structure and plan to my prayer otherwise I’d ramble on for five minutes, start a to-do list in my head and give it up after 3 days as a failed project.

But what about if my to-do list became part of my prayer?

Enter the Morning Examen. A way that I can talk to God, plan my day, reflect on how best to go about things and envisage ways to deal with issues that may come up along the way.

I don’t follow the model in the link exactly but my guess is that you’re not supposed to. I’ve been getting up a little earlier for the past few weeks (5 am instead of 5.20 am) and I think that I’ve tweaked it perfectly for now.

Gratitude
This tends to essentially be along the same lines all the time- thanking God for pursuing me so relentlessly and faithfully over the last few years despite some pretty obstinate and bad tempered opposition on my part. I think I’ll always be thankful for this.

Feelings
How am I feeling about the day ahead? Do I have some worries or nervousness that I need to let go? If I go into the day with baggage then it’s hard to really approach it with joy and anticipation. I’ll sit with these feelings until they disperse, realising their transient nature.

Planning
Here’s where I walk through what I’ll be doing today. What situations will be meeting me that I’ve dealt with less than ideally in the past? Where will I need to show extra grace or receive it myself? Where will I be challenged today or where can I help meet someone else’s needs?

Colloquy
What one sentence do I want to say to God now as I embrace the new day? What do I want, feel and anticipate?

So, that’s it and so far, so good. The year is still young but there seems to be less fixed-grin white knuckled winging it than previously so I’m chalking it up as a success at this stage.

Speaking of prayer, I’m also praying the Lord’s Prayer till Easter. It’s put together by some amazing Bible teachers so I’d encourage you to have a look.

Song Crosses Boundaries.

I’ve been wanting to share this clip for ages but I couldn’t manage to embed it here until now (because I’m essentially a Luddite with a wifi connection). I find it really hard to watch and quite confronting but it’s absolutely worth it.
God’s Love: Naomi Feil, a Jewish woman, sings Christian hymns for Gladys, who has Alzheimer’s and was unable to speak

The site that it’s taken from is http://www.memorybridge.org/index.php