Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stats are sexy.

One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum. – Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

Glorious action and noble risks. I want to be about that.

Many of you know I'm really into stats. I like trivia. I've found some interesting facts this week.

Last week the Economist, which I have just this month started reading after a subscription was generously gifted my way, reported on known oil reserves. If the world continues to produce oil at the rate of last year (and no new reserves are found), global supplies will last only 42 more years.

The US ranks 11th on the list of most reserves, with enough supply for 12.4 more years. Interestingly, China, who ranks 13th, only has enough reserves for 11.1 most years.

Looks like we'll all be importing a lot from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela (numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5). Does it seem like this data should light a fire under us to get energy independent- fast?


Next, unemployment rates:
US 9.4% in May
China 9% in May
Spain 18.1% in April
Turkey at 16%
Columbia 12%

Highest on this list (did not include all nations) was South Africa 23.5%
Lowest was Thailand under 2%


Next, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported on Top Ten 2008 military spending:

10. India $30 billion
9. Saudi Arabia $38.2 billion
8. Italy $40 billion
7. Japan $46.3 billion
6. Germany $46.8 billion
5. Russia $58.6 billion
4. United Kingdom $65.3 billion
3. France $65.7 billion
2. China $84.9 billion

and in first place, the United States spent $607 BILLION on the military in 2008.

Wow. The report goes on to note that the US spent seven times as much as #2 China, and that the United States has spent $903 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the conflicts began.

At www.buckner.org, I've learned that
$25/month provides a water purification system for 10 families in Mexico.
$25/month provides food for 10 children in Kenya each year.
$25/month provides medical care for 8 teens in Guatemala/year.
$25/month provides school uniforms for 15 children in Kenya/year.
$25/month provides education for 13 children in Ethiopia/year (textbooks, school fees, tutor, supplies).

I'll refrain from further commentary.

The numbers speak for themselves.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pick and Choose.

I feel very convicted often about my terrible habit of extracting tidbits of Scripture while ignoring whole other chunks.

We Christians do this all the time. We can all quote verses that prove our viewpoint on X hot-button issue, or Y moral stance. But how many of us put our primary focus on the topics Jesus actually spent the most time discussing? How many of us can answer this question with confidence: What single topic did Jesus spent the most time (as reflected in number of verses) discussing? The answer is money. I was shocked when I learned that recently.

Then last night I read this article titled "Are Single Moms the New Widows?"

Then I run across these verses in a newsletter this morning:

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done" says Proverbs 19:17.

"If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness... the Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs" says Isaiah 58:10-11.

Do not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), but continue to excel in the grace of giving (2 Cor 8:7).

Then later this morning I watch the new NOOMA video, "Corner", about how God's instructions through Moses for his people included the command to leave behind some crops as you harvest your field so that the widow and the alien might come behind and eat. The "why" behind this instruction wasn't merely "humanitarianism", but so that Israel would remember that it was once enslaved in Egypt, but was now freed.

How do I implement this idea in my world? Is paying taxes that support common welfare the same as leaving a corner of my field unharvested? Is giving a tithe the same?

If single moms are the new widows, are illegal immigrants the new aliens?

And then, later, the news gets to me - a sorority sister was killed this morning in a car accident. She's 21. Just going to school.

No more questions for today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Dr. Martin Luther King was once asked if he was in too much of a hurry, and whether he should just wait longer, as progress toward equality would take a while.

He responded:

“Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. … Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Latest

Two very useful abbrevs:
OOC - out of control
OTT - over the top
I've been saying for several years that I think there are two kinds of Christianity, along with two kinds of Islam, Judaism, and every other religion and non-religion too: one of social control and one of social transformation; one to hold people down, one to lift them up ; one an opiate to pacify people into compliance, the other a stimulant to empower people to imagine a better world, a better future, a better life; giving them the courage to live in peaceful defiance of violent, corrupt, and greedy powers-that-be.
Sojo blog

What a week it's been. Let's just make mention of one thing. I call it the "adding insult to injury" category of life. Hint:Oh yes, that's a neon retainer case, folks. Were you to pop into my happy little paper-covered office downtown, you might be able to spot a hot pink little retainer case. Don't wear your post-braces retainer for ten straight years? Well, then you get to wear Invisalign in your roaring 20's. Sweet.

In other news, I have no worthy comments to make that have not already been over-made by the Blogosphere/Commentariat. I've been thinking a lot about Iran. All possible opinions are already out there. I've been thinking a lot about Jon & Kate + 8. Boooring, already covered to the max.

Here's what I do know:

1. My spring has consisted of attending bridal showers. My summer will not consist of attending weddings. 10 weddings between this Saturday and October (which is still summer in Texas). I say this not to diminish the sacred and unique individual relationships and commitments that each wedding represents- each, indeed, will be incredibly special. I have recently printed out a wallet-sized picture of every couple in my life. I feel called by God to pray for the marriages around me. I'm going to make a bulletin board of all the couples and pray for them regularly.

2. It is hot. HOT! Yesterday as I got into my car before work my dashboard thermometer read 90 degrees. At 4:59 that dash read 107. My husband's aunt, a civilian contractor in Iraq, emailed me her base's daily forecast: high of 120 degrees. Oh hell.

3. People in my life have recently returned from travels in Israel, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sierra Leone. I read our overseas interns' blog and drool. A dear friend is about to embark on a honeymoon to Turks & Caicos, followed by a month in New York. Another is headed to six weeks in China and Thailand. Another, a year of backpacking. Two more are headed for months of service in Nairobi and Madrid. I am desperate to go. Anywhere! Get me on a plane, stat.

4. I took myself on a treat last Saturday. I was in Frisco for a bridal shower and had a few hours to spare. Ahhhh.... a free afternoon at Ikea. Going at my own pace, not having to pacify my whining husband, able to take photos of new products and design ideas... it was a great treat. For self-discipline purposes, I left my wallet in the car and took only my camera. I'm still working toward Buy-nothing '09. I love Ikea. The efficiency, the clean lines, the organization, the thoughtfulness (Smalland! Cheap, tasty food in-house! Little pencils and measuring tape at every corner!).
In my dreams, this is where I am, right now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Southern Sudan

The Guardian, a British newspaper, recently ran a staggering article about the latest news from Southern Sudan:

A catastrophe in the making:
• There is one doctor per 500,000 people and there are three surgeons in the whole country.
• Female illiteracy is 92%, compared with 62% in Darfur.
• Only 27% of girls are in school and there are 1,000 primary school pupils per teacher.
• Under the peace agreement, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army is to demobilise 180,000 soldiers, starting with women and children.
• About 3% of people have access to sanitation.
• A 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying during pregnancy than of completing school. One in six pregnant women die in childbirth.
• An estimated 96% of Southern Sudan's people favour independence from Khartoum. A referendum on the issue is to be held in 2011.
• Southern Sudan suffers 15 of the world's 16 deadliest diseases.

Friday, June 19, 2009

T-Pain, Taylor Swift, and Planner Day.

How many years will have to pass before I stop defining "the year" as running from August to May? At least one more, apparently.

Yes, friends, its that time again - it's New Planner Day.

Since I started my first planner in 7th grade, there has been a magical day each summer where I go out to search for a shiny new planner to record my year's adventures. I lay out the new planner next to the old one and transfer over all the birthdays, anniversaries, and important info, color-coded, of course.

Main criteria:

1. Lots of space - I like my handwriting.
2. Squares, not columns, for each day.
3. No labeled hours of the day. "Executive planners" have hourly lines from 8-5, leaving zero room for evening activities just a few square centimeters for weekends. No thanks.
4. Labels the year as running from July to July, not January to December.
5. Semi-grownup cover. No more TrapperKeepers for me.

Bonus features:
Inspiring/witty quotes (see below)
Reasonable price (this excludes $60 Franklin Covey scams)
Color red
Built-in bookmark
Last year I saw a delightful Ann Taintor planner - please, for a laugh, go check out her hilarious items at her website. Dilemma - the planner is only January-to-December. Do I wait until January to purchase, or go with a July-to-July one now? However, I did pause a moment when I discovered Ann Taintor's tag line is "Making smart people smile since 1985"....perhaps I will adopt this as my personal motto as well?!
In other news, Taylor Swift and T-Pain made a music video a la "On a Boat" for the CMT awards. It's really funny:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

shout out on Pan Dulce, Guatemala, and Honduras.

A little shout out on the issue of social justice over at Pan Dulce. This blog is written by the president of Buckner Children and Family Services, and a few weeks back I was a guest blogger there discussing what social justice means to me.

In other news, I've been really stalling on writing about my recent adventures to Guatemala and Honduras. In some ways, I can't really tell the story. You can't fully understand the kind of emotions and experiences that occur in orphanages until you go there, which is why it is so important to me that I make "going there" a priority in my life. But, for now, I can tell the story better in photos.

Click here to see my Guatemuffins, and here to see the story of Honduras.

Legally Blonde

Just one more month til I see....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My new favorite song.

Does matter matter?

I just read a fantastic interview between internetmonk.com , one of my favorite bloggers, and Dr. Michael Wittmer, author of Heaven Is A Place On Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters To God. A few great snippets:

IMonk: How would you identify the typical evangelical misunderstanding of the relationship between heaven and earth, God and human beings?

Dr. Wittner: Many evangelicals think too little of God's physical creation. They wrongly suppose that matter doesn't matter or worse, that matter is the matter. This leads them to suppose that their spiritual soul is good and their physical body is bad and that a spiritual heaven is good and this physical earth is bad. So salvation becomes escapism. The goal of life is to slough off this body and troubled planet and go to heaven, where their divine-like souls can twinkle and shine forever...there is not one verse of Scripture which supports this view. Instead, the biblical hope... is the restoration of this creation.

IMonk: An atheist might say something like this: Christianity claims that God is infinite in every way. This necessarily means that human life has no real value, since all value and importance belongs to God. Therefore, at the core of Christianity is a kind of self-hatred, i.e. you must hate yourself and do away with yourself so that God alone can matter forever. Why would anyone want to be part of a religion that zeroes out the significance of everything human?

Dr. Wittner: Some evangelical leaders unwittingly support this idea when they leave the impression that God is selfish. They say that God exists solely for his own glory. He is like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, sucking up all the glory that we are obligated to give him. While they are right to say that the infinite God is the most real and valuable being in the universe, they are wrong to suggest that God is selfish.

Because God is Triune, a community of self-giving lovers, he is unable to be selfish. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sacrificially serve the others within the Godhead, so they create new others-you and me-to love. God did not have to create us, but given who God is-a community of self-giving lovers-it's not shocking that he would do so.

Here's the point: God is committed both to his glory (because God is one essence) and to our flourishing (because God is three persons who necessarily love the other). So God's infinity is not an obstacle to my value, but because the most valuable being created and cares about me, I have real value. God's infinite value does not cancel my finite value, rather it establishes it.

I wonder if an atheist can make a similar claim to human value. It seems that if there is no God and if this life is all there is, then we and whatever we do doesn't ultimately count for much.

I Monk: Someone once said that we ought not try to be more religious than God. Bonhoeffer enigmatically wrote about "religionless Christianity" Are these ideas useful?

Dr. Wittner: The Christian faith is an earthly, material faith. The physical world is both the object of God's creation and the scene of his redemption. There is no salvation without a physical incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. So yes, evangelicals who sing the Platonic line (and they are many) are ironically attempting to be more spiritual than God. This was the Corinthian problem. They thought they were too spiritual to have sex (1 Cor. 7) and believe in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15). Paul told them that they are so spiritual that they are no longer Christian! (1 Cor. 15:12-17).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Koala Relief

99% of the time, I am irritated about annoying, endlessly forwarded emails.

But then you add koalas.

I am putty in a koala's hands.

I got this email, and I am dying of cuteness overload mixed with koala pity:

Australia has had a record heat wave with devastating fires as a result. Koalas if you don't know are not social and don't come out of trees or down to the suburbs very often. But the main thing is that they don' t actually drink water normally at any time. All their food and water source is provided from the eucalyptus leaves that they eat. That's why they sleep about 22 hours of the day because the calories and liquid intake is not enough to keep them awake long enough, but they consume enormous amounts of leaves in that time. So the following photos are even more amazing once that fact is known.
From a Victorian friend: I truly am from a remarkable country! And we have THE cutest animals (AND some of the most deadly - I know!) But I thought you would appreciate how cute this is...! At home in Victoria the temperature has been above 44 degrees (about 111 F) all week and they are forecasting another week of 40+ temperatures. Power is failing, trains have stopped running because tracks are buckling under the heat . It's just scorching, and it seems that the people are not the only ones suffering. Check out these photos of a little Koala which just walked onto a back porch looking for a bit of heat relief. The woman filled up a bucket for it and this is what happened!