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.