Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life a long time coming

Miss Abigail Dillashaw Spencer was born this morning, September 30, 2008, at 4:55 am in Asheville, NC. Abigail is the long-awaited daughter of Shannon and Heather Dillashaw Spencer -- literally, as it took many hours of labor to coax her out of her temporary home.

Asheville is too far away from Burlingame, and yet very very close.

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servants. From now on all generations will call us blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for us—holy is his name."

God be with this little family. Grant Shannon quick healing of body, mind and spirit. Give Heather some rest. And may You give little Abigail unfailing knowledge of Your love, and the love that already surrounds and holds her in this earthly life.

(And, if You don't mind my asking, may we get to see them soon!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Waiting too

A few days ago Heather posted an entry on her blog entitled Waiting. Her wife is 9 mos. pregnant, so waiting is a big part of her life.

Today I am at Mercy Center on retreat, waiting on the Lord. 6:30 am meditation was fruitless--I could not get my brain to settle down, couldn't draw back to either emptiness (in which Christ would have room to move) or focus (in which I would at least be directed toward Him). The last months have been wonderful and hard on my practice, so I am doing my part in the assurance that God will do God's.

Now another distraction: Heather's wife has been admitted to the hospital in real labor. Great joy! and a new phase of waiting. If God has God's hands full on the other side of the country, I can wait. I'm in no hurry, but that new little life for whom we have all been waiting, may be.

God of all things, creator and sustainer of all that is: grant Shannon easy labor, health to the new babe, and joyous expectant waiting to my dear friend. And if you have the time, give me some peacefilled waiting too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A nudge and a whack

In my Renovare group today, we were offered a choice of practices to do this week. Since we're in the "contemplative tradition" section, they were all familiar to me. Things like "take 5-10 mins. daily to pray", "write a letter to God and read it every day", "sit in silence 5-10 mins. each day). Stuff like that.

I sat there thinking, "whoo boy, I Already Have these as my so-called disciplines, and am not very disciplined about them At All. Now what?" Then I re-read them, more as something to do than as a prompt to choose. In the re-reading I noticed three sentences, one in each of the first three practices. They all had something to do with attitude and approach, to wit:
"...The idea is simply to set aside your busy activities (or not start them) and turn your attention to God." (prayer)
"...Simply enjoy God's presence, God's loving arms wrapped around you. (meditation)
"...instead of reading what you select simply to understand it, read it "with God", knowing that God is there in the room with you." (devotions)

Nudge. Nudge. Whack.

So God wants me to simply spend time with her/him, rather than to Achieve the Requisite 10 minutes, or to Clear My Mind Completely, or to Really Take In What the Writer Had To Say. Imagine that: it's not a competition; it's not an order of magnitude. It's spending time with God. Simply. Gently.

A whole new spiritual practice, discovered in a morning whack with friends.

$619 v $700

Marcy Kaptur is one of my human heroes.

I feel like I missed a memo. Yesterday the House passed a $619 billion war spending bill without a quiver, whisper, or reporter in sight. The same day, our President declared the economy a wreckage, doomed without $700 billion of my money (and your money).

What would happen if the House introduced a bill (or Bill) for $700 billion for hungry, poor, or struggling Americans? But if they tacked on a couple of rounds of ammo for our boys in Baghdad, would it be more likely to pass?

We are criminals, every one of us, for allowing this to happen: for voting for tax reductions instead of charity and care; for preferring insurance agencies over doctors, nurses, and clerks; for loving oil more than air; for allowing neocon (which is just old-style con, as in grifter con) and the free market to be our mantra instead of love your neighbor.

Raise my taxes, redirect my war support, and give it to the poor and hungry and sick and the damaged vets. Please.

As the thief said while on the cross: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


"Adult butterflies emerge from the chrysalis with shriveled wings and squat, puffy bodies. They will hang beneath the chrysalis remains and pump fluid into the wings to inflate them. Newly emerged butterflies secrete an unpleasant smelling liquid, called “meconium,” that contains the waste materials from the chrysalis stage. After a couple of hours the butterfly’s wings will be fully formed and dried, and it will be able to fly off..."

I feel as though I am finally emerging from the last nine months. (How appropriate.) My wings are shriveled, and do we have to mention the squat puffy body (I've gained 10 lbs since Beautiful Baby came home.)? There is no question that the temptation to hang beneath the remains is strong, and even if you can't smell my meconium, it's definitely there. But it's gonna take more than a couple hours for my wings to form and dry.

I love our child. But in the last 9 months I stopped reading, blogging, studying, meditating, working out. I traded the quick hit of Facebook for the more time-consuming (and satisfying) blog-reading I had been doing. (What has Tall Skinny Kiwi been doing, anyway? Anyone?) Basically I stopped being Me, and didn't become any more devoted to God in the process. Not okay. Really not okay.

But today there are some cracks in the chrysalis. I won't be the Me I'm used to, but now there is some hope of flight.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On not raising taxes

It is not the stated purpose of this blog to provide political commentary unconstrained by the wisdom of scripture and Spirit. I usually resist the temptation to rant or review or rave about a particular news item or event, but today I feel succumbing coming. So if you prefer to enjoy my blog without the lingering bitter taste of elephant that has passed its expiration date, read no further. Do please return -- this won't become a habit.

How long has it been that the Republican battle cry has been "No new taxes"? How long have we drunk in the trickle-down theory even though those in the "down" aren't even yet damp? When did we begin to believe that the Founding Fathers meant deregulation when they wrote "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (and yet, having eloquently stated the basis for civil and civic rights, Somehow couldn't manage to express the heady concept of deregulation, leaving it to Congress to help them out)?

I know when humans confessed our desire for an earthly king, full of power and full of other... things.

I know when the Supreme Court decided that a fiscal entity (the corporation) was entitled to the same rights as flesh-and-blood-living-breathing-endowed-by-their-Creator-with-certain-inalienable-rights-entities (people). (That would be 1886 in, of all cases, Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. The SC didn't actually decide to afford "legal persons" more power than "natural persons", though it is quite clear that case law has managed to do just that. For unabashedly biased accounts, click here or here.)

But do tell me, dear friends, why we of at least some small brain decided to go along with it, and to elect and re-elect the shills to put such destructive nonsense into play?

I refer here to the federal bailouts of certain large fiscal entities. Need we be reminded that that is, in fact, our taxes funding poorly managed, deregulated, tax-sheltered, legal persons? Which means that the defaulting corporations are major recipients of yours and my tax money, while at the same time, loud cheers of joyful support go up to the heavens when the current Republican candidate for President (don't get me started on the Democratic one) repeats the sounding joy "no new taxes", and promises to lower maximum corporate tax from 35% to 25%. That is before the deductions, my friends, that lowered the 2000 effective tax rate for all corporations to 27% . The GAO reported last month that over 60% of US-owned legal persons paid no federal income taxes; of those "most of the large USCCs that reported no tax liability in 2005 also reported that they had no current-year income".

Really? No income? Well, then, let's Do decrease their tax rate, because clearly it's become a burden.

Still, we have a strong economy, based on the unimprovable (and unprovable) economic theories of the Right. To wit:
  • the poverty and hunger rates are rising;
  • health costs put families into bankruptcy (Hey! Incorporate and apply for a bailout!)
  • the war(s) (remember Afghanistan? Anyone?) cost me and you $284,722 per minute That's roughly $809 billion thus far (interestingly, the war in Southeast Asia (aka "Vietnam") cost $670 billion in today's dollars);
  • or, put another way: $5000 per Iraqi in 2007 alone. (What could Iraqis have done if we'd simply handed each of them $5000? What could our hungry people do if we handed them $5000? Oh, but right, we don't believe in government handouts. Darn!);
  • the high school dropout rate in CA is about 25%, while the incarceration rate stands at 3.2% nationally and 4.7% in CA. Reported unemployment here is 7.3%. Today; check in tomorrow;
  • the Governor of California, himself the lucky benefactor of a recall initiative, is currently facing recall for suggesting a temporary 1% sales tax hike, and
  • Ford stated this month that it "cannot afford" to sell its 65 mpg car in the US. That's with $100m net income Q1 2008. That's net, folks. Wonder what it will have been come tax time...
Look, I know it's more complicated than this. But --
  • until we begin to believe and act and vote as if we are jointly responsible for each other,
  • until we decide that people are people and corporations aren't,
  • until the financial health of the country is based on how the "least of these" is doing rather than on the "productivity" levels of major corporations (we Do understand that productivity goes Up when fewer people are needed to do the same amount of work, which benefits the legal person but not the natural one, don't we?)
  • until we decide that one of the ways the federal government exercises its constitutional responsibility to "preserve and protect" its people is to promote and provide for the welfare of the natural persons under its care,
it's gonna look like this. Is God weeping yet? Are we?

End of direct and sarcastic political commentary. We now return you to your regularly scheduled pabulum.