Liquid Gold

Over $80 billion is spent on coffee each year
A $50 billion increase since 1990
Meanwhile Ethiopia’s 15 million coffee farmers
Are poorer than ever

We have the audacity to call it liquid gold
Black roasted beans in flimsy paper cups
What would we actually pay for gold?
How dare we call it something we’re not willing to pay for
Pathetically we tiptoe through grocery aisles purchasing what we deem worthy of our precious dollar while
African farmers huddle in fragile shacks with 15 hungry family members
And beg God to give them a good price for their beans
If they were only paid 10 fold what they’re paid now, they could send their children to school
They still wouldn’t have electricity or running water but
Their children would be educated in classrooms that can’t even afford blackboards

Creamy dark coffee
Downed in minutes
Unappreciated for the hands that picked it
Hands which banished the bad beans and salvaged the good
Worn hands of mothers with 10 children who can’t
Afford to feed them for the
Low price they’re paid
Tired hands of mothers who sit on hard benches eight hours a day
Sifting through beans to earn half a dollar
Bleeding hands of wives whose husbands have broken backs from
Hours spent in coffee fields where the sun splits open their skin and
The world rips open their pocketbooks
Exposing them for everything they’ve got on World Vision commercials then
Sending aid in an envelope while purchasing commercialised coffee
For far less than its worth

Starbucks pats itself on the back for being in business since 1971 and caring for its
Pasty white consumers
Meanwhile its coffee suppliers weigh their children on handmade scales to see if they qualify for food, in a land bloated with famine

I’m sick with grief and wonder
Will we ever trade, not aid?
Will we ever love more than we live?
Will we ever think before we consume?

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daring to be colourful

today my hope
lies in this:

a bright yellow leaf

on a white-frosted bridge.
everywhere i look i see
autumn,
defying winter’s approach
by daring to be
colourful.

Rat Race Rhyme

As much as I want to I can’t keep my legs from running The rat race that isn’t my life
I want to stop, to jump off, to dare to Hurt myself in the process of getting
Free but I’m afraid and so I Succumb to the endless wheel which Is eating up my soul
Spinning me out of control and making Me hate the life which Isn’t really mine

I’m a tax paying product of society who doesn’t know my left foot from my right
I’m Mother Nature’s worst nightmare with my pads of paper and invoices and receipts
I’m a woman whose only Secret is on her armpits
I’m a Christian without a conscience going to church for the sake of being good
Taking turns at recycling my scheduled days which will soon, all too soon, begin again

Once Sunday is over

Change… sounds tempting. But I’m too chicken-sh** to jump. So instead, I step back into the rat race that isn’t my life and begin to run… With Nowhere as my endless destination.

5 reasons to stay in church

i want to thank Aiden Enns who wrote this column… Aiden is the brainchild behind Geez magazine, one of my fave periodicals, and an out-of-the-box view of ‘religianity’. for a long time i’ve struggled with church, and how, like communism, it fails to live up to its true potential. lately though i’ve been thinking, perhaps it’s not what i can GET from church but what i can GIVE… is the need to have my emotions saturated and my standards met simply a repercussion of a selfish society? i think so. the more we give, the more we receive.

here are aiden’s thoughts:

This column is for all those people who feel trapped in church. I recognize that worship services, which are one of the foundations of our Christian life together, simply don’t work for everyone.

I hear complaints about fluffy songs, outdated hymns, exclusive language, narrow theology, judgmental messages, too much fashion consciousness, sheer boredom or simply being indoors on a free morning.

Some people leave, but others stay in spite of their gripes, usually for family reasons. One young man I chatted with a couple weeks ago felt stuck going to church because he wanted to give his children an experience similar to his own, even though he has drifted theologically from the group.

Instead of yielding to bitterness, why not find positive reasons to stay, even though you don’t approve of everything? Here are some strategies.

Anabaptist principles. As Anabaptists, we have a radical theology. We believe that everyone in the gathered community can bring a word of God to the group. We believe in a spiritual unity that allows for a diverse expression of gifts. One of the gifts I like to bring to the church is doubt. I often doubt we’re heading in the right direction. In Anabaptist fashion, I agree to speak, listen and discern together. The voice of dissent may be prophetic or dopey; it takes a group to know.

Take an interfaith approach. If you can’t abide by some of the core Christian affirmations, then you may wish to consider an interfaith approach. I know this is unorthodox, but look for the God that is present everywhere, in all people and, dare I say, in all faiths, including Christianity and your local church. [Note that the church teaches that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world, referencing Acts 4:12: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name . . . by which we must be saved.” Ed.] Look for glimpses of wonder, love, grace and compassion, you’ll find them.

How we express our beliefs. God talk takes many expressions. In my case, I no longer use conservative evangelical language to describe God. But it’s only the labels that have changed, God hasn’t. This means I can “worship” with more traditional believers. But I don’t use the word “worship” to describe the activity, I prefer to see it as a time when we “participate in the divine.” The difference in language helps me, and may help you.

Social circles. It’s important to have friends with similar social ethics, especially if they are outside of the mainstream (like pursuing downward economic mobility, for example). In my view, the communal rapport trumps most theological gripes. Furthermore, commitment to a group, especially if you are bugged by some things about people in the group, can be a witness to the power of unconditional love.

Sabbath. Like most people, I work and think too much. Sunday morning can be a fast from a constant concern for productivity. If I let go of my need for agreement on everything that happens in church, I can sit and rest in the sermon, I can sing and be moved by the chorus of voices, regardless of the song. The sanctuary really is a refuge from the hecklers and hucksters in workaday consumer society. It is non-productive space. For me, it can be a deliberate time set aside to meet God in the present moment, but only if I can let go of the need to have everything my way.

Aiden Enns is publisher of Geez magazine and can be reached at aiden[at]geezmagazine.org. He is a member of Hope Mennonite Church in Winnipeg and sits on the board of Canadian Mennonite magazine, where this article first appeared.

a child’s laugh

(Trent with our godson, Isaiah)

there’s something about a child’s laugh which makes everything right with the world.

this past weekend we spent four autumn days in Ottawa and Quebec, relishing time with our nephew and his parents. Isaiah loves to ride on shoulders. when we were sauntering through trees which looked like sun-kissed oranges on toothpicks in Gatineau Park he rode on Trenton’s shoulders. I couldn’t stop smiling, for, when Trent would pause in mid-step then drop way way down near the ground providing a big ‘swoop’ for the little one-year-old, his childish chortle made the leaves fall and the birds sing.

i have to admit, it takes all of my imagination to get me up in the mornings. ever since, to borrow a phrase from The Shack, ‘the great sadness’ descended with our miscarriage, it’s been very hard to hope. but Isaiah makes it easy to believe. when he laughs, it opens up the floodgates of heaven and everything seems possible. for a moment.

simple joys

today, little things like mixing together orange juice, putting Downy-scented towels in the dryer and taking the recycling box outside to the curb in my fuzzy housecoat brought me immense pleasure. is this what trauma does? makes you appreciate the simple joys of every-day habits?

miscarriage

papoose was only a cluster of cells when he/she died.

how could we have been so in love with a cluster of cells?

nevertheless, we were. and today when we found out i’d miscarried, after trying for a year and a half to get pregnant… well, we were (are) shell-shocked. our barricades comprised of bible verses and hymns has been ambushed, leaving us in the wilderness, clinging to whatever remainders of faith we can find.

we suspected the miscarriage for a week. there were signs which we ignored. trent and i admitted today, we’ve already gone through the other stages of grief (denial, anger…). today, as we sat and listened to the doctor, we finally were able to accept the truth.

walking to the car, trent reminded me we are blessed. our baby would not have been well if he/she was born. there was a genetic problem, and i couldn’t have done anything about it. yet there’s something about conceiving a child that makes you maternal from the get-go: makes you believe you can care for your baby, even as they’re growing inside of you. makes you blame yourself when they die, even if it’s not your fault.

the only person to make me laugh today was mum. we stopped by the house on our way home to share our news. mum came bumbling down the stairs, concern etched all over her flushed face. she held me in her arms and then pulled away hurriedly, asking, “it wasn’t because i hugged you too hard yesterday, was it?”

i couldn’t help but laugh, then cry again as she tripped upstairs to hunt for kleenex for me. it’s not easy for her to get up and down those stairs. but there’s something powerful about a mother’s love…

i know some of you may not have known we were pregnant. many of you did. in either case, please pray for us as we flounder around for awhile then get back on our feet, finding the courage to once again try and have a family.

in the meantime, today we went to the beach and built a rock-memorial for papoose. it helped, in some strange way. then we sat and stared at the ocean, letting the waves wash over our weary souls.

my friend sacha

i met sacha on an airplane 10 years ago. there we sat, strangers side by side, belting out christmas carols while passengers rolled their eyes and stared out the window.

yesterday we once again sat, side by side, watching a movie called ‘ps. i love you.’

one of the reasons i love sacha is for her inquisitive mind. a mind which relentlessly pursues truth on an hourly basis. a mind which itches from society’s boxed-in standards and life’s consistent contradictions. a mind which longs to break free from religion and into the reality of relationship.

as we watched the grief-stricken movie sacha and i were quick to disdain the pat-answer ending where another man steps in to ease the widow’s broken heart.

“shouldn’t the process of passing through grief be fulfilling enough?” sacha asked, eyes sparking.

i noticed the way her forehead furled up like a wrinkled leaf. “why did they have to hollywoodize this? i’m sure she doesn’t need another person to fill the gap her husband left. she needs the fulfillment of letting go and simply being.”

i agreed, full-heartedly, feeling high on sacha’s enlightened thinking. then we turned back to the screen and noticed the widow’s trembling sobs, the way she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even find herself anymore because her husband was no longer on earth. and it struck me: i have no idea what it is like to lose someone close to me. death is so final. that person is never, ever coming back. how could i dare assume she would never need anyone else?

and that’s when sacha and i turned to each other and said: “everything is cliche until we’ve gone through it ourselves.”

perhaps that’s why pain is necessary. perhaps it authenticates everything that’s beautiful: hope, faith, love.

this is sacha playing in leaves in korea, where she and i taught english