Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday: A Gift of Grace?

It's Black Friday. That means you can get great deals on things if you're willing to brave the many other people who will also be out shopping today. Cheap movies, toys, Mp3 players, etc. There's something for everyone. It's a great time to buy Christmas or birthday presents for friends and family. But wait. It's not celebrated by everyone.

It's also Buy Nothing Day. This is a movement that was started to invite people to avoid shopping on Black Friday. Why? To protest consumerism. When we were in college, we thought this idea was brilliant. We refused to shop on Black Friday. In fact, we often did things in our dorm in order to avoid being seen outside - and having people mistakenly think we were shopping. Yeah, we were very self-righteous about it. Just the thought of people shopping on this day made us feel morally superiour. And we didn't stop there. We became evangelicals for Buy Nothing Day. We put bumper stickers on our car and told everyone we knew about it. But wait. This is not celebrated by everyone either.

It's Black Friday, afterall. That means you really can get some of the best deals of the year on stuff. And some people need to save all the money they can. They can't afford not to shop on Black Friday. It's a way for folks to afford the gifts they want to give to their friends and family. For some people, Black Friday is a gift of grace in a tough economy. Thankfully, some thoughtful people and articulate articles woke us up to this reality. They reminded us that Buy Nothing Day is a luxury that not everyone can afford.

Eugene Cho had a similar expereince and quoted one of the people who woke him up to the grace of Black Friday. An African American friend of his said to him:
"Buy Nothing Day is basically a thing of and for white folks and comfy middle class and rich folks who have had the privilege of consumption their whole life. And now, they can afford to start things like Buy Nothing Day. True, it speaks to the issue of overconsumption, but how much of it is to appease their guilty consciences? I’m also very skeptical and cynical of Christians who’ve jumped on this bandwagon...Stuff like this sickens me because it has completely no idea about the plight of the poor, low-income folks, and some minorities that are just trying to survive."
Powerful stuff. And yes, stuff like this does dampen our self-righteousness when we see people shopping on Black Friday. While we celebrate the protest of consumerism, we also celebrate any time the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden are given a break in our dog-eat-dog world. These are the exact people Jesus asks us to stand with and stand up for. So perhaps, all the hype and self-righteousness of Buy Nothing Day can be exchanged for the compassion and empathy of the Way of Jesus.

Eugene Cho sums it up well:

"Black Friday shopping means different things for different folks. For many of us, it’s a game, a sport, a blog topic, and an event we mark, but for others it’s a matter of necessity. This is why I have reservations about Buy Nothing Day. Perhaps the majority of us should sincerely adopt Buy Nothing Day and let those who truly need the 'doorbusters' be the first in line — for a change."

Didn't Jesus say something about letting the first be last, and the last be first? Perhaps Black Friday is a time this can actually happen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You

Thanksgiving is a time to commemorate gratitude. There are many things for which to be thankful. One thing we are especially thankful for is the traveling we've been able to do. We've been to Lillehammer, Guatemala City, Holden Village, etc. All of these places have been life-changing and life-expanding. The places we visited and the people we met have opened us to seeing the world from different perspectives and enabled us to live life more conscientiously in the moment. Plus, these trips were fun. Seeing fjords in Norway. Exploring Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Hiking around the Cascade Mountains near Holden. These were good times. And sometimes the simple experience of fun can be life-changing and life-expanding, too.

Traveling to different countries - or different parts of the USA - can give people a new perspective on life. It often changes us in profound ways. Alanis Morissette had such an experience when she went to India. The things she saw and people she met helped her to live life more deeply. And in reply, she wrote a thank you note to India in the form of a song called "Thank you." It's an ode to the transformation that happens during travel.

So, on this Thanksgiving, we'd like to express our gratitude for the powerful experiences that happen when traveling. Thank you, Norway - and Norwegians. Thank you, Guatemala - and Guatemalans. Thank you, Holden - and other villagers.

Thank you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

“Sacred Fruit (Eve's Song)”

We've been fans of Harold Kushner's books for a while. They are spiritual, thoughtful, and inspiring. Recently we found his book "How Good Do We Have To Be?" in a Goodwill store. Since it's one of the few books of his that we hadn't read yet, we paid $.50 for it and read it that evening. It would be a gross understatement to say that we got our money's worth! This book explores the perilous yet hope-filled life of humanity in beautiful ways. One of the many nuggets of wisdom from this book is Kushner's interpretation of the Garden of Eden story. He says the following: "We can read the story of the Garden of Eden as an inspiring, even liberating story, a story of what a wonderful, complicated, painful, and rewarding thing it is to be a human being...the story of the Garden of Eden is a tale, not of Paradise Lost but of Paradise Outgrown, not of Original Sin but of Birth of Conscience." We were so impressed with this simple wisdom that we wrote a song based on it. It's a song that celebrate's Eve's brave choice to grow into her own humanity as she outgrows paradise. Check out the lyrics and video below.

“Sacred Fruit (Eve's Song)”

Yesterday I sat musin
Just what makes us human?
Yet content sat I, in my paradise,
Never asking “Why?”
Later on I was thinking:
Life’s more than instincts and sleeping
So I made a brave move and I reached for that fruit
Entered into the world

Come take a bite with me
Step into humanity
Journey past naiveté
To awareness not known previously
Oh come, come, come
Come on, evolve with me

Like all growth, this was aching
Like innocence had been taken
Lessons there to be learned, like that feelings could burn
Yet still I went deeper
I pondered life’s complex dimensions
Was Creation just my own extension?
Was this feeling of grace showing up on my face?
I won’t hide what I’ve found

Come take a bite with me
Step into humanity
Journey past naiveté
To awareness not known previously
Oh come, come, come
Come on, evolve with me

Now we are finding our way
Answers we seek the explain
Perfection is not yet attained
We sought only personal gains
Seeking revenge, not forgiveness
Creating discourse, and not stillness
A paradise lost; we outgrew it
But this life is paradise if ever I knew it

Traveling outside the garden
I still need forgiveness and pardon
But what felt like a fall liberated us all
And now we are home
Now new gardens I'm planting
In a difficult world I am standing
Self-conscious, aware, things I couldn’t feel there
And I'm leading the way

Come take a bite with me
Step into humanity
Journey past naiveté
To awareness not known previously
Oh come, come, come
Come on, evolve with me