Powerlessness Corrupts [Economic Justice is Good]

An inverted and unique argument for economic justice.

"... it is also true that powerlessness tends to corrupt. The more one is abused, the more one can develop a tendency to abuse in turn. The voice of compassion within Jewish tradition acted as a counter-force to this tendency, but in and of itself, it could not always be sufficient to county the psychological power of endless external abuse."

Michael Lerner
Jewish Liberation Theology and Emancipatory Politics, Religion and Economic Justice,  ed. Michael Zweigh (1993)

Interpretation: When continually taken advantage of a person or people develop a learned response in kind.


Mitchell James White [Remembering is Good]

Now that the semester, finals and the work trip to my brothers in Indiana is over I can return to posting somewhat regularly.
This last Monday marked the fourth year since our son Mitchell passed away at birth.
I woke up that day feeling lousy but not knowing why.
I had slept very badly the night before and at first I attributed my feelings to that.
But as the coffee had even less effect than usual I settled in for a tough day.
Then Jaime reminded me what the date was.
I know that May 10 is my sons birthday but the rush of an ending semester, exams, my paternal grandmothers death and a trip to Indiana to help my brother and sister get there new home in working order caused me to loss track of the date.
I was just moving from one day to the next.
At that moment of remembrance it all made sense.
Finally my brain caught up with my emotions.
I never got to experience my sons life outside of his mother's womb, but I had so much hope and joy that his death left an enduring emotional mark upon me.
I felt what day it was, without knowing it.
In a culture that places knowledge on such a high pedestal, this week I was reminded that our emotions can be smarter sometimes.
I remember my son, I remember my hope, and I remember the joy of his life and the pain of our loss.
I remember all of the family, friends and strangers who offered their hope and encouragement during that time.
Remembrance is good.
It has a way of resettling us and refocusing us.
May your times of remembrance be good and may the chaos of your temporary circumstance not make you forget to remember.


Act Justly [Social Justice Rightly Pursued is Good]

I cannibalized the following from Michael Halcomb's blog.
I have known Michael since undergrad but only recently have begun to follow his thoughts.
If you like the following you also can follow his thoughts at Pisteuomen.
For those who desire to "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly" this is excellent incite into how it can be accomplished through pursuing justice in our society.

pisteuomen : πιστευομεν - the weblog of t. michael w. halcomb

One of my favorite deep Christian thinkers of the last century has to be Thomas Merton. Merton's insights regarding the nature of faith, the person of Jesus and life in this world are simply life-altering and astounding; Merton was brilliant. But Merton did not think in a vacuum and he had many mentors and persons who influenced him, one of whom was Christian social advocate Ebehard Arnold. Below is a statement by Arnold, mentioned by Merton several years ago that I believe, places the whole matter of "Christian social justice" in its proper context...

"There are political organizations that stand, as we do, for international peace, the abolition of private property, and full community of goods. Yet we cannot simply side with these organizations and fight their battles in their way. We do feel drawn, with them, to all people who suffer need and distress, to those who lack food and shelter and whose very mental development is stunted through exploitation. With them, we stand side by side with the 'have-nots,' with the underprivileged, and with the degraded and oppressed. And yet we avoid the kind of class struggle that employs violent means to avenge lives taken through exploitation. We reject the defensive war of the suppressed just as much as the defensive wars of nations. We must live in community because we take our stand in the spiritual fight on the side of all those who fight for freedom, unity, peace, and social justice."


Realize [Realization is Good]

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i31/scpeach 731991.jpg
I spent a better part of an hour writing and rewriting a blog about this picture yesterday.
Today I woke up and realized that I didn't need to say what I thought I needed to say.
May-be the photo worked out its message in me after all...
Found at photobucket.com under user drunksteady.


CRED [Respect is Good]

The UK based CRED Jewellery first came into my view last spring (2009) in Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw's book Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. [Thought provoking material.]
CRED's vision and stance on the ethical treatment of every worker involved in the process of creating jewelry is inspiring and almost entirely anti-capitalistic.
Capitalism demands the cheapest most efficient way of generating a product.
Respecting human dignity and worth creates higher costs and inefficiencies.
But by respecting there is no thought that, "The gold, silver, platinum and diamonds I use to accessorize came at the cost of another persons dignity, worth and blood."
I would, after law school of course, like to use CRED and other fair trade dealers whenever I buy jewelry for my wife and daughter.
There is something important in knowing that what they are wearing was not bought at the cost of someone else's worth.
Below is an excerpt from their website.

CRED Jewellery is the original Fair Trade jeweller. We do not make 
this claim lightly, but as pioneers we have pursued the dream of Fair 
Trade jewellery and brought it to reality. We were the first European 
retailer to sell independently certified Fair Trade gold, and the first high 
street boutique to exclusively sell ethical jewellery. In 2003 we 
produced the world's first truly ethical wedding rings: wedding bands 
made from gold from a traceable source that was certified as 
environmentally and socially responsible. They remain our bestsellers.

When I started CRED Jewellery in 1996 my desire was to create a 
jewellery company that had the principles of Fair Trade at its very heart, 
as well as satisfying my personal desire for beauty and wonder. These 
two simple ideas are intrinsically bound together, because beauty at its 
most intense is a reflection of the wonder in nature. Jewellery is the 
finest symbol of this when it is sourced with social and environmental 
integrity, capturing, creating and conveying this genius.
“It has been an amazing journey that has taken me to some of the 
remotest regions of our world, met some of the most extraordinary 
people and witnessed some of the best and the worst practices in 
mining. Human and indigenous rights, environmental justice and 
human creativity are at the heart of our Fair Trade company.
Greg Valerio, Founder and Fair Trade Campaigner
At CRED we believe in making beautiful jewellery that has ethical 
integrity. We have travelled the world to understand the complexity of 
our trade – to discern the full environmental and social costs of mining, 
and how these might be mitigated. We have sought out like-minded 
campaigners and with them pioneered the independent auditing 
arrangements that make Fair Trade stones and metals possible. It is 
an ongoing campaign of continual improvement: we will not be satisfied 
until 100% Fair Trade jewellery becomes an industry standard.


Tim Coons: Enter the Worship Circle [Music is Good]


Awesome news! I’ll be doing an album with Enter the Worship Circle- an independent record company that produces amazing worship music. 
I’ll be the fourth artist they’ve had in the series called “Chair and Microphone”. It’ll be an intimate, solo-performance worship album of original music written from the Psalms. The release of “Chair and Microphone Volume 4” is tentatively set for June.
I was first introduced to Tim's music last spring, via KJ Tencza.
I instantly fell in love with his music and bought his album The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes.
I listened to it countless times on my commute to school over the last year.
Just one week ago I was had the privilege of meeting and working with Tim as we constructed the service for Debbie's funeral (see the post A Truly Good Obituary).
Over the two days I was able to spend with him I found good conversation, shared interests and man who was keenly interested in his friends.
I am excited about Tim's signing with Enter the Worship Circle and look forward to the release this summer.
Also Tim is looking for opportunities to do House Concerts around the country and if it can be worked out I would love to bring him to Lancaster and/or Millersburg sometime this summer or fall. 
Visit Tim's website, become a fan on Facebook, and buy his music, because Tim's music is good!

Embrace [Poetry is Good]

Ashes falling on my page
I blow them gently away.
Frosted breathe mingles with smoke and moonlight
Forming swirls in the light.
Where one ends and the other begins
No one can know.

Heat rising from wood set alight
Dancing with the cold bright night.
A dance of passion and of life.
Where one begins and the other ends
No one can know.

Two beings locked in unyielding embrace
Creator and creature grappling for peace.
A tender intimate crashing of souls.
Where one ends and the other begins
No one can know.


Banksy: There is Always Hope [Art is Good]

This is by far my most favorite Banksy.

For more about Banksy check out the ridiculously well sourced article on wikipedia. Seriously it is ridiculous how many citations the article has.

Why We Should Dance [Dancing is Good]

Dance as a Metaphor 
For months and months prior to my wife's 26th birthday, she would constantly comment about how much she would like to learn how to dance and how beautiful and intimate dancing must be. At first, I reacted as most men probably would, with a sense of abject horror of trying to coordinate my feet with the rest of my body in such a way that I was not making a fool of myself in front of other people. So initially, I would only grunt my assent or try to ignore the comments entirely, but she persisted. To compound my frustration and her resolve, the movie “Shall We Dance?” came out during that fall. I knew from the moment that I consented to go to the movie that the dancing issue was now a foregone conclusion.
            When her birthday rolled around, I was pondering what I would give Jaime. Inexorably, my mind was drawn to all of her comments from the prior six months. Since I love nothing more than being able to surprise her, I gave Jaime the gift of dance lessons. The gift itself was not that expensive, but she and I both knew that it was costing me something great to give it: my pride. As the time drew near, my wounded pride was given some salve through the recruitment of several friends whose wives were as eager to learn how to dance as their husbands were not. At least now I was not alone in my suffering.
            Disclaimer: I have come to realize, through hindsight, that whenever this particular group of friends gathers together that inevitably some great lesson is about to be learned. Whether we are gathered for a meal, a hike or even (as I came to find out) dance lessons, we are always drawn to some deeper truth, mostly through what seems to be just everyday conversation. Two of those friends recently have passed away, but the memories I have of time spent with them remain deep inside me heart. At that time, I was not looking to learn anything except how to make my body move to a rhythm, but what lay in store was something that would touch my very understanding of self (in the broader philosophical term and in a very practical way).
            I will bypass the story of the actual dancing lessons; suffice to say that we all learned a dose of humility spiced with a smattering of swing, waltz, foxtrot, and meringue. The main point of this story comes from a conversation one of the other couples had with our dance instructor. As we watched what the instructor hoped would be motivational videos of other beginning dancers doing routines, she made the comment that this particular dancer on the tape was not that fantastic of a dancer, but that all of the ladies wanted to dance with him. Curious as to why, the other couple asked our instructor. She responded very simply, “Because he knows how to show them off.”
            Up until that time, I didn’t have a good understanding of my role in the dance, but when I heard that, it all became very clear. The man’s job in the dance is twofold: First, he sets the tempo and leads to the next step. This I understood and was trying desperately to accomplish. But the second part, and arguably the most important one, is that he is to act as a solid frame on which he is to display his partner. To put it as simply as our instructor did, my job when dancing with my wife is to show her off.
            This point should have been obvious, but it was not. It wasn’t clear, because I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I hadn’t thought about my responsibility to my partner. Ultimately, dancing is not about the guy, thank goodness; it is about displaying the beauty of the woman. Many people throughout history have discussed, praised and fought over the beauty that is inherently a woman’s. But that was the first time I had ever considered that my job as a husband was to provide a solid frame upon which to display my wife’s beauty.
            As I learned that lesson, another still-deeper truth was coming to bear on my life. Apart from what we know about God from our religious training, when dealing with God on a spiritual level, I found that there is much more to knowing God. One of the fundamental truths that I learned is that God is good, and that He creates good things. Therefore, I was created good. I am not going to delve into the depths of what happens after that creation, because religious teacher have already pounded it into many heads that we live in a fallen, sinful world, and that we ourselves are fallen and sinful. With this point I cannot argue, insofar as we are talking about fallen man. That point, though, does not negate the previous statement; just because something was created good does not mean that it will remain that way.
            As we live our lives, we can draw many parallels to dancing; poets and songwriters have been doing this for years. But the direction I want to take is slightly different: God came to save mankind; this is common knowledge among those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, but what did He come to save us to? This is what I propose to you: That God came to save us so that He could dance with us. He fulfills the parameters of a perfect partner. He always knows the tempo that each song should have. He always knows what the next step should be. Most importantly, He provides a solid frame on which to display the goodness restored in that which He created.
            Religion has taught us many things about God that are not necessarily true, or at least that are overemphasized, such as telling us that God is displeased with us, or that we are scum compared to Him – all in an attempt to curb our selfishness and pride. But there is a difference between humility and self-abasement. Self-abasement steals the very goodness away from what was created and restored to that which was good. But humility simply accepts the truth that a good God can’t create something that is not good. So it is not too far of a logical leap to an understanding that one of God’s greatest desires is to display us.
            The problem that arises, and where our pride really needs to be addressed, is when we try to take over the lead. When dancing, if you have two people who are trying to lead, you end up with a disoriented bundle of arms and legs going in different directions. Dancing is only meant to have one leader, much as a relationship or life lived with God. All God is saying is, “Let Me lead, I know the steps, I will get you through this song,” and the more we trust that He knows what He is doing, the better we look, no matter what song is playing.
Some of the most graceful and confident people I have ever known are those who simply trust that their partner knows what He is doing. They have made their hardest job not trying to know what steps are next, or trying to figure out the tempo of what is happening, but rather they are simply stepping where they are supposed to at that moment. That is why we should learn how to dance.


Resurrection: Rob Bell [Hope is Good]

Bell and the Mars Hill community have been instrumental in the formation of my theology over the past half decade. It is with great excitement that I share this video with you.


A Truly Good Obituary [Remembering is Good]

This obituary was written for a very good friend of mine by Mitza Richard. Mitza crafted a beautiful testimony for Debbie that redefines what obituaries should be. The funeral director was torqued off by its lack of lineage but in a culture where that is of small regard the following is far more fitting and relevant. We who knew her know this was the fitting, moving and best way that she could have been memorialized.

Debra Lee Tencza, born July 24, 1954 as Debra Lee Mitroff, always said she would change the world. She loved reading the biographies of the great men of history such as Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt - men whose lives left a mark on generations to come. While Debbie's passing on Sunday, March 28, will probably not be inscribed in the history books or broadcast on the major news networks, she did change the world. It is a better place because she was here.
For evidence of this, just take a look a Debbie's garden. She loved making things grow and would spend hours outside weeding and pruning, transforming her backyard from brown earth to a green oasis filled with the scent of roses an d sounds and colors of songbirds. Her piece of the world may have been small, but she made it a place of beauty and relaxation.
Or, you could talk to any one of the hundreds of school children who have attended St. Bernadette's Elementary School in the past 15 years. I'm sure they would tell you that the school's wonderful playground, which Debbie was instrumental in building, had more of an impact on their everyday life at school than any history lesson.
Better yet, simply talk to those Debbie loved the most, her family and friends. They will tell you she never hesitated to pour out the love of Christ to those around her. She gave her heart and her time to those who were sick and hurting. Whether it was bringing a bowl of soup or just offering a listening ear, she was always there, even when she herself was ill.
Above all, Debbie loved her family: her wonderful husband, Dr. Chris Tencza; her three children and their spouses, Dr. Christian and Dr. Kara Tencza, Rev. KJ and Yendra Tencza, Clare and Jamie Severns; her five grandchildren; and her parents, Edward and Martha Mitroff; and brother, Kenneth Mitroff. They were her joy. Her love changed their worlds, and will continue to impact their lives for years to come.
Debbie Tencza's life is a reminder that while history remembers the great men who have had an impact on many, we remember the people who have had a great impact on us. Each one of us leaves this world different than we found it. We influence the lives of those around us and leave a mark on the earth.
Debbie's life changed the world of many in this community. She will be greatly missed, but we rejoice that she has gone ahead to join Christ in a place of infinite joy. Please join us in celebrating her influence on our lives.
Bio: Mitza Richard is a graduate of Gordon and is scheduled to be married to David Grady this August. Mitiza's writing skills continue to surprise and inspire those around her. She has an invitation to be a regular contributor to this blog.


Little Gray Hatchbacks [Trust is Good]

Making Sense

You told me to leave
And so I will go
But all the wheres and whys and hows
I do not know
For all I see, I will die out there alone
As I stand in the dark
With just enough faith
Not to run home

You’re not making sense
But I’m beginning to understand
That You’re making me
Who I always should have been

As the dawn breaks
Over the horizon
You and I walk
Hand in hand
This still doesn’t make sense
But I am beginning to understand

            I have a September birthday, which means that I could have been either the youngest in my class or the oldest. As it happened, I was the third from the youngest in my high school class, meaning most importantly that I was already into my junior year before I received that much-coveted of teenage possessions, a driver’s license. My friends had been driving for some time before me. In fact, I had for the last part of my sophomore year bummed rides off one of my best friends so that I would no longer have to ride the bus, a.k.a. the Twinkie, as we called it. (In a rural farming community, with racial diversity being at a minimum, the name Twinkie came from the fact that it was a big yellow tube with white stuff inside.)
            I remember many driving lessons from various people as I came closer and closer to that pinnacle of my teenage years. One of the experiences I remember best was my first driving lesson with a manual transmission. As a child, I remember sitting in the passenger’s seat “helping” shift while my grandfather (who henceforth will be referred to as Pop-pop) drove, but this time I was sitting in the driver’s seat and it was finally my turn.
            Driving is a daunting task in and of itself. Add to it the complication of trying to clutch and shift gears at the same time. Let’s just say that I learned how to stall a car in just about any situation.
            Pop-pop, thankfully, was exceptionally patient with me. He picked a wide open parking lot in which there were no other vehicles, again thankfully, and took me step by step through the process of driving his little gray Chevette. It was a tedious process, full of a lot of stops and starts, but as the afternoon progressed into evening, I was developing some proficiency at the task and was even able to start the car moving up an incline without rolling backwards too much.
            Pop-pop all the time would give me simple directions. We made countless laps around that parking lot. Starting, stopping, shifting up, shifting down, learning to let the engine do the work of slowing the car down, etc. Before calling it a night, Pop-pop lined me up with one of the telephone poles in the middle of the parking lot and said, “Go straight ahead.” He then promptly began examining something out the passenger-side window. Thinking nothing of it, I began my approach, and as had been my habit all night, I waited for him to tell me my next set of directions.
The telephone pole approached. All the while, Pop-pop examined what I was beginning to think was an imaginary object, not saying a word. Not sure what to do, I started to get anxious. Surely he did not mean for me to hit the pole. Surely he would tell me to turn at the last second.
Keep this in mind: I don’t think that I have disobeyed my grandfather on more than a handful of occasions in my lifetime. While he is not a cruel or harsh man, he has always commanded my respect and has always proved to be trustworthy in what he has told me. So with this mindset of rigid obedience and unwavering trust, I continued toward the pole.
He did not tell me to turn. So at the last minute, I slowed to a rather jerky stop and managed to stall out the Chevette right in front of the pole. A little stunned, I looked at him, and after finishing his rather lengthy examination of what I was sure was an imaginary object, he said, “Good job.”
Good job? I didn’t even know what I had done. I had just decided at the last second not to hit the pole because I didn’t want to damage the car. Then he followed up with what at the time seemed very obvious: “You didn’t hit the pole. I just wanted to see what you would do.” I wasn’t mad; a little confused, but not mad. It was all quickly stored away as a memory, because there were much more important things to focus on, such as a double bacon cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake from the diner on the corner. Grandpas can be really cool like that.
It was not until very recently that I discovered the lesson in that memory. Pop-pop, in his ornery Arkansas way, taught me something that has proven to be much more valuable than knowing how to drive a stick shift. He taught me to trust. Not just him, because I knew that he would never do anything to hurt me, and that he would never intentionally do anything that would put me in harm’s way unless he believed that it would make me better in the end. Instead, he taught me to trust myself. I made the right decision: I didn’t hit the pole.
There was nothing wrong with his directions. Everything he told me was right. He just chose to let me make the important decision. He trusted that I would make the right decision. Even though he took a risk that I might freeze and hit the pole, he was willing to risk it for the chance to prove how much he believed in me and how I could make the right decision.
Lately I have been in a situation in which all I know is the direction I am heading. I haven’t received any instructions to turn or stop. Sometimes I start to get a little anxious that I might be headed for something dangerous, or that I will make a bad decision when it comes to crunch time. I have reason to fear this, because I do make bad decisions, but I believe that I am being set up for another chance to prove that I can make a good and right decision. Maybe more importantly, the lesson is that I am believed in and trusted to make important decisions.
Let’s face it: Life isn’t all a training ground. Eventually, we have to take up the adventure and put our training to work. It is during those times that we discover what we are made of, whether or not we can make the clutch decisions. Even though we haven’t all had a practice run at a telephone pole in a little gray hatchback, we can all believe that we are believed in and trusted to make good decisions. Sure, we’ll screw it up sometimes; we might even freeze up or panic. But that doesn’t mean that we weren’t believed in any less. All it means is that we know what to do next time. The only question that remains is, will we do it?
The second thing I learned from that memory was this: Don’t change course without direction. We are pointed in a certain direction on purpose. If I had decided to change course prematurely, I wouldn’t have this memory. If I would have taken things into my own hands, being proud of myself for being smarter than my Pop-pop and avoiding the danger, I would have missed the point of it all entirely. If I can trust myself to make a good decision when it comes to an obstacle or pitfall, then I just need to continue on the course I have been put on until I receive new directions. It is all a matter of trust: Do I believe that the One giving me the directions can be trusted, and does His trust in me move me to believe in myself enough to trust that I will make the right decision?