Am I too comfortable?

Am I too comfortable?

These are my own reflections and may not reflect the opinion of the SIA Board of Directors:

Sometimes praying for peace can seem like the easy way out. Picturing myself in the flow of life, as a Being of light, I feel the peace within me. But those prayers, I am increasingly realizing, are coming from a place of comfort, from a comfortable life.

Around New Year’s I was faced with a slightly unsettling question from Kayla McClurg in her inward/outward email reflection, “Will this be the year we move from ‘wishing for a nicer world’ to making intentional contributions and distributions of light?”

Is now the time to go from wishing and even praying towards making some concrete steps and intentional contributions to justice in the world?

That might be uncomfortable. It might shake me out of my peaceful prayer.

Philanthropy and charity can get pretty comfortable in its work to address the immediate needs of food, clothing, clean water. In that rush, it may never get to confronting the systems that are creating the poverty and inequality.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, writes about giving to charities during the holiday season, “I worry that through these acts of kindness, I absolve myself of asking deeper questions about injustice and inequality. We Americans are a remarkably bighearted people, but I believe the purpose of our philanthropy must not only be generosity, but justice.”

Justice might be uncomfortable. It might mean that I have to give up something. It might mean that I have to do more than just pray for peace and give money.

Source: OutFront Minnesota

Walker continues, “Philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.” We must ask: Why is it still so hard for people in rural Africa to access loans? Why is it still so dangerous for our local coordinator to visit the slum in Nairobi? How do we get more youth educated and then employed in stable jobs? And we will likely find that those answers take more than easy money.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was way more radical than the collective memory suggests. In a passionate lecture to the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in 1966, King calls on those gathered to wake up to action. “One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.

There are the beginnings of a revolution now. A revolution of people demanding justice for black lives, demanding rights for women, demanding for their voices to be heard. Will this be our year to wake up and do more than throw money in the bucket, hoping for change, wishing for a nicer world?

*Pictured above: Working with local leaders in Malawi for economic justice through their savings and loans cooperative is part of SIA’s role in the revolution. Here I am pictured with the leadership of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in July 2014.

Inspire Your Heart With Art!

Inspire Your Heart With Art!

This Sunday, January 31st, is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day! It’s a day to appreciate the beauty and creativity around us all the time. Looking at a beautiful painting and listening to music often fill my heart to overflowing. And from that point of joyful saturation I find it more easy to believe in a better future, miraculous healing, and harmony among all people.

Pictures of Home

Flowers lovingly placed in the windowsill of a newly constructed home in Eldoret, Kenya.

Flowers lovingly placed in the windowsill of a newly constructed home in Eldoret, Kenya.

Song of Gratitude

I heard Tusubira Eve sing this song at her church in Uganda and later asked her if I could record her singing, “Thank you, My Lord. Thank you, for what you’ve done.” At the church service Eve led a group of children, singing loudly and dancing together, which mesmerized me.

 

Painting on Location

I love staring at landscape paintings and allowing my heart to imagine myself into the scene. Looking at this painting of Lake Malawi (now hanging on my wall) I can almost feel the cool morning air and the calm water, listening for the distance voices of the fisherman in their wood boats.

A painting of Lake Malawi. Purchased at Nkhotakota, July 2011.

A painting of Lake Malawi. Purchased in Nkhotakota, Malawi, July 2011.

Song of Joy

I am transfixed as I listened to these powerful voices and the joyful words, “The storm is passing over, Hallelujah!”

My heart is fluttering with inspiration and joy as I share this post with you!

(Pictured at the top: Natural Beauty Alert: Sunset over Manyamula Village, July 2014.)

Christmas Inspiration from Del: Beloved Child of God

Christmas Inspiration from Del: Beloved Child of God

Merry Christmas to all SIA friends, partners, and supporters all around the world! May this be a time of rediscovering hope and joy, and recommitting to peace and justice. I share this writing from Del Anderson to remind you of that power that is within each of you.

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“The Kingdom of God is within you.” This is the Good News Jesus Christ brought us. This is what we must affirm and claim for ourselves ~ over and over again. Otherwise, Jesus came in vain for us.

Jesus is the great overcomer, All-Power, the King of Kings. There is no other power that can withstand Jesus’s Light and Love. He says, “Love your enemies.” We cannot do this in our own strength, but if we ask Jesus’s help and release the condition and persons to Him, He will be glorified, and peace and fulfillment will come into our lives.

January stands in front of the house he build with profits from his family's grocery shop, started with a SIA grant. (Manyamula Village, Malawi)

January stands in front of the house he build with profits from his family’s grocery shop, started with a SIA grant. (Manyamula Village, Malawi)

Remember, “He came, that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” He, Jesus Christ, is within you! Listen, listen to Him, ask His help and obey Him and you will see victory begin to come into your life in peace and abundance. “Only believe and you shall see the glory of God” manifested in your life.

As you read, study, ponder and apply the teachings of Jesus in your daily life, God will bless you beyond your fondest dreams.

In His love, Del

Pictured above: Ruth and her mother Catherine. Catherine used the SIA grant money to buy a pig in 2006. Now she has over 10 pigs. (Kasozi Village, Uganda)

For more inspiration from Del, click here.

Sharing Acts of Kindness

Sharing Acts of Kindness

This Friday is World Kindness Day, a day of coordinated acts of kindness, of gifts from the heart that we can offer each other and that have the power to transform the world.

Last month at my church we were invited to be thoughtful of ways that we could offer simple moments of grace to a stranger. Some people bought a meal for someone or paid for someone’s coffee order. My simple act was pressing the “open” button on the subway turnstile so that someone with a bike could easily exit. This small gesture cost me nothing and yet offered a moment of ease and an opportunity to move more gracefully though life.

Generosity is Global

I like that this is World Kindness Day. It’s not rich people giving to poor people day. It’s an everywhere, everyone acting kindly towards another, or towards themselves. I was moved last week by this story video about Generosity and the Gift Economy. What stood out to me was Nipun Mehta’s awareness that generosity is the answer to the universal problem of inequality. And generosity is present in communities all around the world. (You can watch the full 20-minute here.)

Mbwenu with milk from his cow for us to take home and enjoy. We encountered generocity wherever we went! (Manyamula, Malawi; July 2015)

Mbwenu with milk from his cow for us to take home and enjoy. We encountered generocity wherever we went! (Manyamula, Malawi; July 2015)

Sharing the Gift

Mehta told a story of meeting a poor woman in Japan who experienced a real low point four years before. Her health, relationship, and finances were all presenting challenges. In the video he relays her healing process when she was ready to make a change: “then I remembered that when you feel like you don’t have anything is when you start to really deteriorate your spirit and so she said, what do I have? What are the gifts that I can offer the world; when it seems like I have nothing; when the conditioned mind is saying I am bankrupt? She decided that every day she’d make a rice ball and give it to one stranger. She did it every single day for 4 years.”

Then things began to turn around for her. She experiences a lot of happiness now, she owns a successful restaurant. And she credits the practice of giving the one rice ball as the source of her strength.

That joy in giving is something I know as a donor, and it is something that our Small Business Fund groups know as they Share the Gift with someone else in their community. Their acts of kindness might perfectly reflect this woman’s practice of sharing a rice ball, though in Malawi it might be sharing a donut or tomato.

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SIA Small Busienss Fund leaders in Malawi practiced Sharing the Gift by teaching other women how to bake and market donuts and breads.

Go Out and Experiment!

On this World Kindness Day I encourage you to Share the Gift and to give because you have been given to. Mehta concluded his statement in the video with this advice: “Go out and have some part of your life which is no strings attached and just notice how that makes you feel, and just notice the ripple effect of what happens there.

“We tend to think that if you give freely, that I’ll be taken advantage of, that it’s not going to work out. But you might surprise yourself. And what comes out between the two of you – which was previously transactional and now just is trust-based – that possibility is going to be a whole new paradigm.”

Bonus Track!
“Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant

Can I get some encouragement?

Can I get some encouragement?

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25.

It is a special call to provoke one another to love and to do good. And considering how to encourage people is part of Spirit in Action’s legacy. There are some places – camps, retreats, church groups, support groups, etc. – where the barriers we build up in everyday life can be broken down, and we can reach out to each other. We allow ourselves to encourage and be encouraged, recognizing the light that is in each of us.

Del Anderson, the founder of Spirit in Action, was very skilled at encouraging people. He had a way of speaking or writing words of encouragement that took away doubt so that you absolutely believed what he was saying. Reading one of his letters in college could relieve my feelings of inadequacy and fill me with a greater sense of worth and purpose. I sensed that he honestly believed the truth of his words as he told me and others, “within you is the power,” and, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Del wrote many inspirational essays, which are freely available on our website. One of my favorites, which I still send out regularly, is Co-Creators with the Divine. In it, he writes:

“It is our joy, privilege and responsibility to transform God’s dream for us into a working, living reality. You are greater than you know. You are of more value to God than you believe possible.”

tanya and family and chicken; Uganda

Giving some encouragement to a SIA Small Business Fund family in Uganda and receiving a gift of gratitude (in the form of a chicken!)

Encouragement, when given honestly and humbly, can have a tremendous, lasting effect. That’s why I often highlight “encouragement” as the third leg of SIA’s programmatic stool. In addition to the Small Business Fund, and our Community Grants, we also are called to listen to and encourage one another.

And the encouragement doesn’t go unnoticed. “I am happy that you are perfectly playing your role of motivating and inspiring me every time we exchange emails,” responded one partner from Kenya. And from Zambia, “Thank you so much for mail. I really appreciate for endless support to WCI.” I receive so many emails with words like these. And I also received emails and notes from SIA supporters who encourage me.

So let us hear and answer this call to encourage each other and provoke each other to love and do good works for our neighbors and the earth.

I’ll leave you with my latest favorite words of encouragement:

“I have need to be on fire. I have icebergs to melt.” — William Lloyd Garrison

Lord, give us the audacity to live as though we believe our hands and feet are instruments of prayer. Amen. — Common Prayer (via Sojourners)

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