Thursday, December 27, 2012

Transformation


People always talk about the beautiful transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly. It is phenomenal, it is natural, and it is a sight to behold. When the caterpillar emerges and takes flight it is a beautiful thing and most times the focus of our long loved proverbial sayings. What people often skip is the process of transformation. No matter how natural it is, to completely change and transform from the inside out, to sprout wings from a substance unseen; it cannot be done entirely without great courage and yes, pain. 

It is not easy to leave your comfort zone and shift the inner makings of who you thought you were to become; while at the same time realizing that your cocoon is shrinking and forcing you to transform into what you were meant to convert into all along. There is a moment of suspension between two worlds, a fine delicate crosshair in life. In the end change of some sort is inevitable, perhaps it is allowing ourselves to let change take place without fighting it. Perhaps some butterflies emerge unscathed, complete and whole. Yet there are those who struggle and emerge with scarred and tattered wings. Those blemishes and scars carry with them the outward confession of their love of two worlds…to gain one you must leave the other behind.

And so it goes, we make these plans for the course of our life as this caterpillar and sometimes out of nowhere, life gives us a cocoon. We discover our plans are not what were intended at all and we are merged into change.  I guess in the end we can always take comfort that even if we are one of those tattered butterflies, our Creator has a plan for us. He saw growth in us in ways that we did not think were possible while we were crawling around on the ground…so he chose to expand our horizon and give us wings. 

In the midst of transformation it can be very scary and painful.  It can be difficult to refrain from striking out and hurting others, as we fight to understand the path before us.  Mankind seems to have this innate desire to know where they are going, what they are doing and who they are becoming.  Personally for me, during certain transformations of my life, the conversions were resisted immensely and I did not leave unscathed.  Yet God was working in my life, in ways that I could not see from inside this cocoon.  Outwardly I was still hurting and mourning and angry with the world around me consumed in my own bitterness because life had not given me the natural opportunities I felt I deserved.  Though there was not a pivotal moment that changed my life around, somewhere in the darkness I found peace, and I allowed it to consume me.  This process took almost a decade, but I could feel the walls around me shifting and cracking.  The light and warmth of the sun began to peek in and I felt the urge to expand.  

How can a caterpillar do that?  In some ways I still felt I was bound, but I had this urge to magnify beyond the capacity of what I still perceived as self, and in that moment I realized I had grown wings.  The walls around me broke and I emerged clumsily but hopefully.  With my new found wings, I fluttered and as I ascended, I began to appreciate this old world through these new eyes.  Though at times I can still see and feel the scars of my transformation, the exchange of knowledge, understanding and love that I gained is a gift I thank my Creator for every day.

It is in my own inner conversion that I still hold hope for others.  From my own experience, I know that the action of a person does not always imply that there are no changes taking place.  We do not have the ability to see what God is doing in their inner most beings.  Change takes time.  Through the midst of our struggles and pain, the truth of life’s beauty can be fogged and that pain often is transposed unintentionally unto others.  We are to love these wounded souls anyway, offering compassion and encouragement even in the face of adversity; we strive to build them up and help them on their path.  This is spiritual love.  It holds no condemnation, or anger.  It accepts even the ugliest of creation understanding that not everyone was born with beautiful wings; some people are still a work in progress, still changing, still evolving, still growing and on the verge of developing into something more beautiful than words can ever express or convey,even if they emerge a little tattered. Who are we to deny them wings?

April M. RedWing

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Brief Christian Reflection on Images of God & Christmas



Like most preachers in Christian churches, I have been thinking about the Christmas story—a lot. I have been intrigued by the difference between Matthew’s version of the story and Luke’s. In Matthew’s version, the angel comes to Joseph and announces that Mary is with child. Joseph, “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame” (Mt. 19), resolves to divorce her quietly. The angel sees through the mock concern and tells him, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife” (Mt. 1:20). Reading between the lines, it seems like Joseph’s deepest concern is not for Mary’s welfare but for his reputation. There are some parts of the Matthew story that I like, but this section is over the top misogygenistic. It takes an act of God to tell Joseph to grow up and get over himself. One thinks here that perhaps the Republicans in the House of Representatives need such a visitation after they appointed all white men to chair all of the committees in the House. 

Luke, on the other hand, tells a different story. The angel comes directly to Mary and speaks to her. In a patriarchal society this is a radical break with the status quo. Then, instead of being embarrassed, Mary delights in the news. At first, understandably perplexed, she asks “How can this be?” but then she accepts the good news and declares herself to be “a handmaid of the Lord” (Lk.1:37).

In addition to reading these two stories, I also reread an article by Dorothy Sollee, a German theologian, entitled, “God and Her Friends.” In the article Sollee asks why should we want to worship a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and independent—a God who does not need friends?

 What Mary “gets” and what Joseph seems to be unable to “get” is that we all need friends—even God. Going further, it is not that Mary wants to be Joseph, or become like Joseph. But rather, Luke seems to envision that a day will come when Joseph (who embodies patriarchy and misogyny) is no more. The basic image in Luke’s telling of the story is that God acts with the intention of empowering all people to lead fruitful and productive and healthy lives.

Skeptics would say that this vision of the future is utopian. It can never happen. Others might say that it would take a miracle to bring such a society into being. But isn’t that just the point of the story. It will take a miracle. And in order for the miracle to occur, we need to be the midwives. 

David Hansen

Monday, December 17, 2012

Does It Matter to You Which Side They Are On?




During the week of war between Israel and Gaza, the week of the Torah portion “Toldot” (Gen. 25:19-28:9), a prayerful meditation waiting to be woven into Shabbos peace.

Holy One of Being, Source of Peace,
Whose waters of life sustain, Whose voice is heard equally by Hagar and Yishma’el and by Yitzchak at the well of the Living One Who Sees Me, the well that is to the south, along the way to Gaza and among the cities upon which rockets fall. Cast out from the fold, it is the place where Yishma’el dwelled and his descendants, “from Chavilah to Shur, that is before the Land of Egypt…, before the face of all his brothers did he settle.” It is the place to which Yitzchak went for comfort following his ordeal, fleeing his father’s zeal, yet seeking reconciliation among them all, bringing Hagar back with him to be his father’s wife, a child’s plea for family to be as one.

You, Whose gentle pillar of cloud was to guide by day on a new path, along a way unknown; we fall back so easily into the ways of the past, lost in a maze of violence, paths that lead only to a dead end, help us to break out from the endless cycle of death and destruction to find the way of hope and possibility, of life that endures. Give us the courage to acknowledge in the face of our own pain that the way of response that has always been has not brought the change for which we pray. Reaching out to our people in the Land, help us to embrace the other as well, all Your children, all our family; how long You’ve waited, yearning for their return to each other.

At the start of the Torah portion that offered its teaching in the week of fearsome violence, from the very beginning there is a portent of violence from even in the womb, Parashat Toldot/Generations, the ones from whom we’ve come and become, ancestors to descendants; and the children struggled violently with each other within her womb/vayitrotzatzu habanim b’kirbah. And our mother Rivkah went to inquire of You, asking why? And so we too ask You why? Is this the way it is meant to be from the beginning? Tell me, please, is there sadness in Your answer, a spur to us to make it right, two nations are in your womb and two states; they will be separated from one another/yiparedu u’l’om mi’l’om

Of the world as it is, in Yitzchak You show us another way. He persevered in turning the hearts of those who stole his wells, three wells that were blocked up from the days of his father and three that were new, active and determined in a way we need to know, he saw reality for what it was and sought to overcome by shifting the emphasis and disarming their hearts of hate. He named the first well Essek/Contention and the second he named Sitnah/Enmity. And then they left him alone and he called the third well R’chovot/Spaciousness, and there was room in the Land for all. And when Avimelech came to him, who had hated him from before, he made a feast for them, and they ate and drank…, and they departed from him in peace/va’yelchu mey’ito b’shalom. Of a seventh well that Yitzchak dug, he named it Shiva/Seven, therefore the name of the city is B’er Sheva until this day/ad hayom ha’zeh.

Until this day the rockets fall and the planes thunder over the very same places, children of the same womb still struggle violently with each other. And of Your children who really are children, does it matter to You at all which side they are on? Of lifeless forms in their parents’ arms beneath the thundering planes, of children with seconds to run when rockets scream and sirens wail, sustain them all from the wells of life, that no more children die help us to find another way.

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Friday, December 7, 2012

Terrorists in Our Midst



A west river rancher friend called this morning. Sometimes he calls early, usually between 6 and 7 AM, my time. Fortunately this morning, it was later, as I was savoring my sleep. I still recall the Easter morning he called about 6 AM, just to let me know the meadowlarks were back. 

He's usually full of information about the world around him. He notices birds and bush, cattle and grasses, wind and weeds, weather and water. And almost every time he calls, there's something disturbing him he needs to unload on someone, namely me.

This morning he was upset about the devastation along the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy. He still has that Catholic ethic inbred in him, where he cares about what happens to other people, even though they may live thousands of miles away. He can still feel another's pain. As an example, this morning he also told me about having a neighbor over for a little whiskey and conversation the other evening. He tries to spend time with him at least once a week since the guy's wife died last year after a long struggle with cancer and the guy has Parkinson's. 

But the issue that caught my attention the most was his comment about his prairie land. It's parched and cracked. He tried to recall how long ago it was they got a few tenths of an inch of rain. And then he quickly went on to say only one of their water holes had water in it and they had to pasture cattle out several miles away where a creek was still running and there was grass to eat. 

Guess what? Extreme weather is not just happening in Bangladesh or Pakistan or Haiti anymore. It's obviously happening right here now in the U.S.of A. 

North America had the warmest summer ever and July broke all records. We experienced enormous forest fires. For the first time in recorded history all the Arctic sea ice disappeared and the warmest temperatures ever measured on a Greenland glacier went into the record book. Most are aware of the extended draught in Texas but how many of us are concerned about the expected extension of our own draught in South Dakota? 

As Governor Cuomo of New York State said after Hurricane Sandy, “I said kiddingly the other day, ‘We have a 100-year flood every two years now.’ These situations never happened or if they happened, they were never going to happen again. … I think at this point it’s undeniable that we have a higher frequency of these extreme weather situations, and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

God isn't at work in the extreme weather events we see around us. Human beings are! And there are some weather terrorists in our midst that need to be identified and brought to justice. We have watched these terrorists as they have deluged the atmosphere with carbon. We have watched while they helped acidify the oceans and pollute our rivers and streams. We have watched as they removed mountain tops and left toxic residue for local residents. We have watched as they take private land from unwilling property owners for their pipelines and profit. We have watched as they paid climate change deniers and purchased anti-environment politicians. We have watched as they've knowingly changed the earth's climate, with no intention of stopping. We have watched as they purchased our democracy (Chevron just gave $2.5. million to a GOP Super Pac, the largest single corporate donation to a political campaign in history). Is it any wonder climate change wasn't on the debate agendas?

The arrogance of these terrorists is as extreme as the weather. They are willing to risk making the planet unlivable rather than back off their exploitation of fossil fuels, like the Canadian tar sands and the Bakken boom. They say, we will adapt. Tell that to those on the Jersey shore or the relatives of the dead. We need to make these terrorists focus their money and energy on renewables, instead of the engines of destruction. 

I agree with Bill McKibben of 350.org (his article in Rolling Stone on the math of global warming is a "must" read). Let's stop naming the hurricanes after people and name them after the perpetrators of extreme weather. How about Hurricane Chevron, or Hurricane Exxon. And how about stopping investing in these sowers of terror! (I intend to check on the investments of my church!) Who are these people who are consciously willing to make money off the destruction of the planet? They need to get a life!!

Climate change did not "cause" Hurricane Sandy. But global warming certainly helped. The ocean along the East coast is five degrees warmer than it was in 1970 and the water in New York Harbor is a foot higher. That makes a difference! And if folks in the teeth of this storm found it frightening, God help us all as we continue like lemmings down the path of fossil fuels, fueling the planet for far worse weather to come. The path we continue on doesn't hold much hope for our grandchildren. It will be hard for them to adapt, especially hard for the billions alive now of modest means. And if the 1% think their money will save them, they should think again. As Dr. King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

P.S.: Exxon and Shell just announced they made $16 billion in the last quarter alone. The cost of Sandy is estimated at $50 billion today. Maybe the fossil fuel carbon producers will help New York City rebuild infrastructure. More likely, they will continue avoiding their fair share of taxes and avoid contributing to the common good.

P.P.S.: And yes, Governor Romney, I too would like to stop the oceans from rising. You see, my grandchildren live on the coast!


Carl Kline

Sunday, December 2, 2012

At the Intersection of Their Lives



Riveted and repelled, I listened for as long as I could to a program on NPR’s Fresh Air, eventually turning the radio off and driving on in silence because I couldn’t bear the images evoked by what I heard. The person at the center of the story had tried for a long time to turn the images off, but that is a lot easier when they come through a radio and not from deep within one’s own psyche. It was a story about a former U.S. Marine suffering with PTSD who had been in Iraq in the early years of the war. He was part of a unit that fired on three cars heading toward an intersection and failing to stop when ordered. It turned out that all of those in the cars were members of one terrified Iraqi family trying to find their way home, all civilians. Three of the men in the cars were killed and a young woman was wounded. The NPR story was about one of the Marines in that unit and a New York Times reporter with whose help the Marine was able to contact and eventually establish a relationship with surviving family members who had been in the cars on that fateful day.

As I drove, trying to get the horrifying images out of my mind, I did not expect to make a Torah connection, but later, I did. The true bravery of that Marine, manifest through deeds for which no medals are given, and the profound humanity of the survivors he reached out to, are all about Torat Chayyim/the Torah of Life. The story about this Marine and this family opened up a place in Torah where I had never lingered before. It is a place where the stream of nonviolence that flows beneath the surface of Torah, of which I often speak and seek, bubbles up, challenging, begging us to think and act in a different way from the surface way of text and life. All too often we assume the surface way to be the only way, violence engendering hate, and then more violence, and more hate. At times the bubbling up of that stream of nonviolence seems so crystal clear and loud, like the gurgling flow of a springtime brook, that I can’t understand how we miss it, in text and in life. Beyond the reflexive way of violence and hate that so prevails, the more effective way of response to violence and hurt is to bravely reach out and to graciously receive, acknowledging the humanity of the other. Affirming the web of human connection is at first the more difficult way, until in prevailing it redirects the endless cycles of violence that separate us from each other. Either cycle will in the end perpetuate itself, whether of war or peace, violence or nonviolence, a new path emerging from within our selves when we can no longer ignore the voice and the face of the other, or the relationship to which we are called.

The NPR story was in the week of the Torah portion Lech L’cha (Gen. 12:1-17:27). Grammatically, the two words can simply offer a strong imperative, “go forth!” It is the beginning of the Jewish journey, as Avram and Sarai are told to go forth. Leaving all they had known and travelling on faith to a land they do not know, it is also an archetypal journey experienced by every human being, each one setting out toward their own becoming. The two words, lech l’cha, literally mean, “Go to yourself.” Our lives are to be journeys of discovery. In the uniqueness of each one’s journey, we are each truly meant to find a new way. At the intersection of worlds, the inner world and the outer world, the path of our lives is formed, the way of our going in the outer world influenced and shaped by inner experience. As paths merge, a new human way is formed. The challenge is to hear and heed the lessons of inner response, our own and those of ancient ancestors, not to brush them off as unrealistic, only a dream or vision. They often represent the ultimate reality toward which we strive; the stream beneath the surface, waters of life waiting to rise. 

In the outer world of Abraham’s life as it unfolds on the journey through the portion Lech L’cha, he engages in a strange battle with four kings to rescue his nephew Lot and emerges victorious. In the aftermath of battle, returned safely home, it would seem to be a time more settled, even of peace. But it is not. Immediately after the battle with the kings, the Torah turns to the inner life of Abraham: After these things, the word of God came to Avram in a vision, saying, “al tirah, Avram/fear not, Avram….” What is Abraham afraid of? Nothing is said of fear in the text? Looking beneath the surface of text and psyche, the rabbis look to the preceding verses, to the battle from which Avram has returned for the source of his fear.

In a profound midrash (Bereishit Rabbah, 44:4), Rabbi Levi suggests two sources of Avram’s fear, first asking the same question that we ask, “of what is our father Avraham making himself afraid?” Rabbi Levi then gives voice to Abraham’s question, a burning inner question that Abraham can’t turn off, just as millennia later it wouldn’t help the one returned from battle to turn off the radio. Abraham asks: Of all those troops that I killed, what if there was among them one righteous person, one who was in awe of heaven/tzadik echad virey shamayim echad? The word for troops in Aramaic, ochlosin, is very similar, unmistakably so, to the modern Hebrew word for population, ochlosiyah. There is a very fine line, all too easily blurred, between the soldiers and the general population. Abraham struggles with the thought of the innocent who may have died at his hand, at the forbidden intersections of life and death where humanity seeks itself. In Abraham’s question is a foreshadowing of the challenge he will soon pose to God regarding the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, will You even destroy the righteous with the wicked/ha’af tispeh tzadik im rasha? If Abraham is going to hold God to account, he first needs to hold himself to account. Blurring the line further between the one and the many, soldiers and populace, Rashi changes the words of the midrash and Abraham’s pained question becomes, what of all the souls that I have killed/kol otan n’fashot she’haragti?

Introducing his second question in the same way, Rabbi Levi again asks, “of what is our father Abraham making himself afraid?” This time we realize from his question that Abraham can’t possibly find peace because the war will never end: Of those kings that I killed, will their sons gather troops and come and make war with me/ba’im v’osim imi milchamah? Speaking to the futility in the endless cycle of war, the great Israeli Torah commentator, Nechama Leibowitz, writes of the realization that comes with Abraham’s fear: “Victory is not the end of war. It contains within itself the germs of the next war.”

Haunted by images of war that cannot be turned off, we can only redirect them. The legacy of endless war is a human legacy that belongs to all of us. All of humanity suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Healing and transformation begins when we hear God’s call to seek a new path and go forth, lech l’cha. We shall come to that land of peace as yet unknown when fear gives rise to the gnawing questions of Abraham, and to the courageous way of response at the intersection of their lives by one Marine and an Iraqi family. 

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Little Drops of Water, Tiny Grains of Sand



 Earlier this week I was moved to tears by a letter from Rabbi Arik Ascherman.  He is the executive director of Rabbis For Human Rights in Israel.  His letter described his organization’s solidarity visits to Bir Hadaj – a Bedouin village where Israeli police had fired tear gas into the elementary school – and then to Kibbutz Revavim which has been targeted by Palestinian arsonists and cattle thieves causing great economic loss.

Arik and his colleagues have been working for years to bring about nonviolent, peacemaking conversations between Israelis and Palestinians.  He has been the target of criticism, physical abuse and occasional arrest for his efforts in behalf of nonviolent understanding and peaceful solutions between Israelis and Palestinians.

As I read his letter in the light of the escalating intensity between Israel and Gaza this week, my heart ached with the question “How much can one man do?”
On the same morning, I finished reading  “CLOUD ATLAS”  by David Mitchell.
The book ends with one of the main character’s reflections in his journal:

In an individual, selfishness uglifies the human soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
Is this the doom written in our nature?
If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth and claw, if we believe divers races and creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable and the riches of the earth and the oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass.  It is the hardest of worlds to make real.  Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by the single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.
A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson will inherit, this strikes me as a life worth living.  Upon my return to San Francisco, I shall pledge myself to the abolitionist cause….I hear my father-in-law’s response:

 “Oho, fine, Whiggish sentiments, Adam.  But don’t tell me about justice!  Ride to Tennessee on an ass and convince the rednecks they are merely white-washed negroes and their negroes are black-washed whites!  Sail to the Old World, tell ‘em their imperial slaves’ rights are as inalienable as the Queen of Belgium’s!  Oh, you’ll grow hoarse, poor and gray in caucuses!  You’ll be spat upon, shot at, lynched, pacified with medals, spurned by backwoodsmen! Crucified!  Na├»ve, dreaming Adam.  He who would do battle with the many headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain and his family must pay it along with him! And only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!”

Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?

Across the days since I began writing this, the tensions in Israel and Gaza have escalated.  Time and again, my heart turns with gratitude to Arik and all the people like him who work to create a world they want for the next generation to inherit not a world they fear the next generation will inherit. Arik and his friends have no time to ask “what can one person do?”  They just go out and do it.  The little poem I learned as a child keeps echoing quiet notes of hope:

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand
  Make the mighty ocean 
And the pleasant land.

As we celebrate the American day of Thanksgiving, my soul gives thanks for all who embrace their drop-like work in behalf of a better world.

Vicky Hanjian

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holding the Heart


Is it possible to love others when one is unloving to one’s self? Is it possible to truly have compassion if one does not allow for self-compassion? Can we truly seek to change the world making it more loving, just, and nonviolent if many people do not take the time to question the relationship we have within ourselves or with ourselves? 

Each day I encounter more and more people who truly desire to be more loving toward others and who truly believe that helping is the basis of their faith and yet, the working out of these actions are done in aggression and through methods of power and control. There appears to be a gap, a large gap that is leading me to believe that without holding one’s self gently one is not able to hold others or the world gently.

But this leads to another societal problem, at least for some in the Christian faith. Taking the time to understand the inner heart. We in America are always doing, always consuming, always working toward achieving, or attaining. Its what we are told we must do in order to be the great America! We consume and in many ways, our desire to “help” is one more method of consumption. Its how we measure who we are, by what we accomplish. Even the faith tradition of which I am apart measures and promotes its success by how much we do: Are we missional enough, are we giving enough, do we have enough programs and offerings to attract the younger generation? And yet I wonder are those the right questions or are they just one more way to distract us from digging deep within and discovering the violence that lives within our hearts? If doing more and doing better is the answer, why is so much such a mess? Why are so many lives with so much so empty? Why are so many people still so uncompassionate? 

While I do not want to entirely stop “doing.” I no longer want to do without knowing who I am. I want to go deep within and discover the hidden recesses of my heart learning to hold myself gently, learning from my heart what is there, seeing myself with eyes of compassion and maybe if I do this, the manner in which I move among my world will gradually change.

I suppose what I am trying to say is until I learn to hold my own heart gently, I may struggle with how I hold the heart of another. 

Kristi McLaughlin

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

With No Big Yellow School Buses to Take Us



It was an amazing moment, as I sat there on a Friday afternoon with a group of kindergarten students on the floor of their classroom. I was the school rabbi at a Jewish day school and would visit different classes and grades to help prepare for Shabbos. On that afternoon, the big yellow school buses had already arrived out front and their roofs were just visible above the bottom edge of the windows if you looked up from where we sat on the floor. The kids knew the buses were there and the excitement that comes with week’s end was palpable. Gathered in a circle, we were singing an old favorite of kids’ Shabbat songs, “Bim Bam.” I was happily singing the familiar words of refrain along with the kids, “Shabbat shalom, hey! Shabbat shalom, hey! Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat shalom, hey!” I thought I was singing with the kids, certainly assuming that I knew the words, but suddenly something sounded different in their voices so I stopped singing in order to listen. For the refrain, the kids were singing, “We’re going home, hey! We’re going home, hey! We’re going, going, going home, hey!” The teacher was mortified, but with a big smile I motioned to her not to worry, to let them keep singing. Though the kids had no idea, at least consciously, of the profound meaning in the words they were singing, I was absolutely giddy with what I was hearing. The kids were expressing the essence of Shabbos, going home, coming back to the place where all is renewed, the place to which we return depleted and from which we go out into the world refreshed, the place of our deepest, oldest memories that we carry with us, the best of which helps us shape the future to be as it was in the beginning.

It is a beautiful moment in the Jewish year when we come home to the Torah portion of B’reishit, the first Torah portion in a new year’s cycle of reading, the portion of Genesis. B’reishit/In the beginning of…, its literal meaning an invitation to question, to ask, “in the beginning of what…?” “In the beginning of…,” and all life flows from there, the beginning of all that will ever be, an invitation to enter into the house of learning, of seeking, to enter the world and to be within and of it. We are invited to enter, to wonder and to ask, to imagine, to be filled with the wonder of children at home, safe to grow and become. The first letter of the Torah is the Hebrew letter bet of B’reishit. The letters that form the word that spells the letter bet are the same letters in the same order as in the word for house, bayit. We journey through the year, through the Torah, and now we’re going home, it’s almost Shabbos.

The Shabbat of B’reishit, we return to the beginning of Torah and time and read from the portion of B’reishit, Genesis, language that evokes wonder and awe, as though watching a world in its birthing, the petals of a flower unfolding. I am always amazed to have arrived here, on the cresting wave of festivals and celebration, holiness in time overflowing, actually at the beginning, reading of creation. Before even crossing the threshold and entering the bayit, the house, the letter beyt that tells of returning home, I feel a touch of sadness. It will be such a short visit. The Sabbath of B’reishit is only one Shabbos, and then we go on and take up the journey again. I am soothed, though, set at ease by a rabbinic teaching. The rabbis come to refer to every Shabbat as Shabbat B’reishit! It is a beautiful thought, startling at first, but then we realize it makes complete sense. Every week we come home to Shabbos. Every Shabbos awakens within us a memory of the beginning, of when the world came to be. That is what we acknowledge when we raise the Kiddush cup to bless the wine every Friday evening at the start of Shabbos, raising our voices in a song of praise for all of creation.

Every Shabbos is a reflection of that very first Shabbos, Shabbat B’reishit, through which God stepped back into the Sabbath and saw the beauty of all that had come to be. That is the paradigm for us, a model for our own stepping back as the Holy One did, a time to see the beauty of all that is and might yet be. Joining us each week to that very first Shabbos are the opening lines of Kiddush, the blessing over wine, that are drawn from the verses that immediately follow the unfolding narrative of creation, the heavens and the earth were completed and all of their “array” (Fox translation). We are joined to the beginning, but also to the future. The rabbis make a remarkable play on the Hebrew word vay’chulu/and they were completed. With a very simple grammatical shift, we have vay’chalu/and they completed. The “they” is us! Rather than a passive reference to all that had been created, the verse now comes to boldly include us as God’s partners in creation. These verses are part of the Sabbath evening prayers as well as of the blessing over wine, and of their saying we find in the Talmud, Rav Hamnuna said, “everyone who prays on Shabbos evening and says vay’chulu is considered by Torah as though having become a partner with the Blessed Holy One in the work of creation, as it says, ‘vay’chulu.’ Do not read vay’chulu/and they were completed, rather vay’chalu/and they completed.”


The saying of these holy words affirms our role as God’s partners and reminds us that every Shabbos is Shabbat B’reishit, the Sabbath of Creation. To fulfill the sacred responsibility of that partnership, the saying of words is not enough. It requires deeds. And it requires dedication to live in accord with such a noble calling. As every week’s Sabbath is Shabbat B’reishit, we return home to the vision of wholeness that was at the beginning. Our task is to fulfill that vision, to bring the day that is all Shabbos, Yom She’kulo Shabbos, when Shabbat shalom, compete Sabbath peace, will fill the whole world. Engaging in strife and violence, people lost the way home so soon after leaving the house that was in the beginning, in B’reishit. As God’s partners in creation, it is for us to remember the way home and create the world as it was meant to be. With no big yellow school buses waiting to take us, it depends on all of us. Inspired by the wisdom of children, changing words, changing the world, we can joyfully sing out together, “We’re going home, hey!” 

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Secret of Nonviolence


It always amazes me how peacemaking operations are the best kept secret on the planet. Who knows about the work of Peace Brigades International, doing nonviolent accompaniment work around the globe since 1981? How many people are aware of the work of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, building an army of unarmed volunteers able to be dispatched to trouble spots anywhere, serving these days in Sudan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and South Caucasus? Or how often do you read in the news about Christian Peacemakers, or Witness for Peace? And it seems like the only time United Nations Peacemakers are in the news is when one of them gets killed driving a red cross truck or transporting food to starving refugees.

One of the reasons we continue to go down the path of war and violence is because people don't know about, nor trust, that there's an alternative. The history and contemporary examples of nonviolent social change are there. But like so much of history that doesn't fit with the cultural paradigms of the day, that history is ignored or deliberately trashed, never to see the light of day.

Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall have put together a book called "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict." There are so many nonviolent campaigns in the twentieth century one can gain insight and wisdom from, it's hard to choose the most significant. But surely Gandhi's independence struggle in India ranks among the most astute in theory and the most successful in application. But who recognizes and applies today the successes of nonviolent struggles in India, in South Africa against apartheid, in Chile under the dictator Pinochet, in Poland with the Solidarity movement, in our own South during  the civil rights era, in Denmark resisting the Nazis, in the Philippines deposing Marcos, or in Serbia, democratically getting rid of the "Butcher of the Balkans?" Who mentions these successful experiments in social change in recent history?

The first Peace Brigades International project began in the early 80's in response to a request from the Mutual Support Group for Families of the Disappeared (GAM) in Guatemala. This was a period of intense government terror and repression in Guatemala, with husbands and sons disappearing and mothers of the disappeared suffering assassination and death threats, especially as they worked publicly for human rights. GAM requested help from PBI, and the first peace brigades team was quickly formed and went to Guatemala. There they began to accompany the human rights workers in GAM and their families wherever they went. Since the internationals made themselves known as such, it gave the Guatemalans some additional space in which to do their work for human rights and their missing loved ones. 

There was some political risk for the Guatemalan government in killing a foreigner, more so than killing Guatemalans, who were being killed with impunity. At the same time, PBI formed an emergency  response network of concerned internationals, so on a moments notice hundreds of telegrams could be sent to appropriate offices in  the Guatemalan government and military. Some messages might be from Senators or Congresspersons, Parliamentarians or other government officials.

After the accompaniment began, no GAM leader was killed and GAM credited their survival to the accompaniment they  received from international volunteers. Over the next 15 years PBI accompanied hundreds of individual Guatemalans and organizations, sending over a thousand volunteers and developing support groups in fifteen countries. After the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords, an evaluation in 1989 determined the project could be concluded. By that time, PBI projects had begun to develop in several other countries.

Since its beginnings, PBI has been active, at the invitation of in-country nonviolent organizations, in El Salvador, Haiti, North America, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Colombia, the Balkans, Nepal, and Mexico. With thirty years in the field, with an intense preparation and training program and thousands of returned volunteers from many different countries and cultures, PBI has a wealth of insight and wisdom in the dynamics of nonviolent intervention in conflict situations. The same is true of all their sister organizations.

One has to ask why this experience of nonviolent change is so secret? Why isn't the knowledge gained by this kind of field experience, gained at great risk in situations of war and terror, not included in the process of governmental decision making? Why are these organizations doing the work of peace making, so hidden from public view? Why is violence and war constantly made attractive to youth, when it takes far more courage and strength of character to face the violence in conflict unarmed, with only your training in nonviolence and your wits to protect you?

Gandhi claimed he would rather be violent than cowardly. For him the nonviolent warrior had to be fearless, always ready to sacrifice one's life in the cause of a lasting peace. For him the most courageous challenge was turning the enemy into a friend, something he was able to successfully accomplish with the British empire. He understood an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth made the whole world blind and toothless. It was the innate capacity of human beings to rise above the level of the beast that distinguished them from the law of the jungle.

We see the capacity human beings have for making friends, for loving those who are different, for respecting the beliefs of others, for engaging in constructive dialogue; we see this capacity everyday. Violent conflict and killing is an aberration from the normal kinds of human interaction. Why does our better nature, the foundation of a civilized society, get so little attention, and violence is made to seem the name of the game?

Carl Kline

Friday, November 2, 2012

Terrorists in Our Midst



A west river South Dakota rancher friend called this morning. Sometimes he calls early, usually between 6 and 7 AM, my time. Fortunately this morning, it was later, as I was savoring my sleep. I still recall the Easter morning he called about 6 AM, just to let me know the meadowlarks were back. 

He's usually full of information about the world around him. He notices birds and bush, cattle and grasses, wind and weeds, weather and water. And almost every time he calls, there's something disturbing him he needs to unload on someone, namely me.

This morning he was upset about the devastation along the East Coast of the U.S. from Hurricane Sandy. He still has that Catholic ethic inbred in him, where he cares about what happens to other people, even though they may live thousands of miles away. He can still feel another's pain. As an example, this morning he also told me about having a neighbor over for a little whiskey and conversation the other evening. He tries to spend time with him at least once a week since the guy's wife died last year after a long struggle with cancer and the guy has Parkinson's. 

But the issue that caught my attention the most was his comment about his prairie land. It's parched and cracked. He tried to recall how long ago it was they got a few tenths of an inch of rain. And then he quickly went on to say only one of their water holes had water in it and they had to pasture cattle out several miles away where a creek was still running and there was grass to eat. 

Guess what? Extreme weather is not just happening in Bangladesh or Pakistan or Haiti. It's obviously happening right here now in the U.S.of A. 

North America had the warmest summer ever and July broke all records. We experienced enormous forest fires. For the first time in recorded history all the Arctic sea ice disappeared and the warmest temperatures ever measured on a Greenland glacier went into the record book. Most are aware of the extended draught in Texas but how many are concerned about the expected extension of our own draught in South Dakota? 

As Governor Cuomo of New York State said after Hurricane Sandy, “I said kiddingly the other day, ‘We have a 100-year flood every two years now.’ These situations never happened or if they happened, they were never going to happen again. … I think at this point it’s undeniable that we have a higher frequency of these extreme weather situations, and
we’re going to have to deal with it.”

God isn't at work in the extreme weather events we see around us. Human beings are! And there are some weather terrorists in our midst that need to be identified and brought to justice. We have watched these terrorists as they have deluged the atmosphere with carbon. We have watched while they helped acidify the oceans and pollute our rivers and streams. We have watched as they removed mountain tops and left toxic residue for local residents. We have watched as they take private land from unwilling property owners for their pipelines and profit. We have watched as they paid climate change deniers and purchased anti-environment politicians. We have watched as they've knowingly changed the earth's climate, with no intention of stopping. We have watched as they purchased our democracy (Chevron just gave $2.5. million to a GOP Super Pac, the largest single corporate donation to a political campaign in history). Is it any wonder climate change wasn't on the electoral debate agendas?

The arrogance of these terrorists is as extreme as the weather. They are willing to risk making the planet unlivable rather than back off their exploitation of fossil fuels, like the Canadian tar sands and the Bakken boom. They say, "we will adapt." Tell that to those on the New Jersey shore or the relatives of the dead. We need to make these terrorists focus their money and energy on renewables, instead of the engines of destruction. 

I agree with Bill McKibben of 350.org (his article in Rolling Stone on the math of global warming is a "must" read). Let's stop naming the hurricanes after people and name them after the perpetrators of extreme weather. How about Hurricane Chevron, or Hurricane Exxon. And how about stopping investing in these sowers of terror! Who are these people who are consciously willing to make money off the destruction of the planet? They need to get a life!!

Climate change did not "cause" Hurricane Sandy. But global warming certainly helped. The ocean along the East coast of the U.S. is five degrees warmer than it was in 1970 and the water in New York Harbor is a foot higher. That makes a difference! And if folks in the teeth of this storm found it frightening, God help us all as we continue like lemmings down the path of fossil fuels, fueling the planet for far worse weather to come. The path we continue on doesn't hold much hope for our grandchildren. It will be hard for them to adapt, especially hard for the billions alive now of modest means. And if the 1% think their money will save them, they should think again. As Dr. King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Carl Kline

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Knotty Problems




In a recent fit of domesticity, I decided to take up knitting again after many ill- fated attempts and unfinished projects.  I wasn’t far into the process when I managed to get the yarn amazingly snarled as I tried to turn a neatly wrapped skein into a useable ball for knitting.  The skein was the kind where the yarn pulls out from the center.  As I pulled and pulled to make my knitting ball, I kept getting complex knots and snarls.  (The knitters out there will recognize that I am ever an inept beginner!!)

I was bemoaning a particularly nasty snarl to a friend - - begrudging the time it was taking me to straighten it out so I could begin knitting.  Ever helpful, she laughed and said, “you have what I would call a Gordian Knot!”   I confess I had to look it up to see exactly what she was referring to: 1) Gordian Knot – a knot supposed to have been tied by Gordius, a legendary king of Phrygia, and declared by an oracle to be capable of being undone only by the man who should rule Asia.  Alexander the Great cut the knot in two with a sword. 2) Any difficulty that can only be solved by drastic measures.

As I was about to get the scissors to cut out the knot so I could proceed with getting the yarn wound into a ball, my friend said “What you need is a “fid”.

OK.  So two new bits of learning in one afternoon.  “And exactly what is a fid?”

It turns out that a fid is a nautical tool - a large tapering pin used for opening up the strands of a rope when splicing it.  The tapered end can also be used to loosen a knot in a rope in order to help untangle it.  A few days later, while sorting some inherited odds and ends from a long deceased great aunt (who tried patiently to teach me to knit when I was a child) I found a knitting equivalent of a fid - - a small ivory implement, tapered at one end, that I could slip easily and effortlessly into the most intractable snarl and begin to loosen it.  

Alexander did the expedient.  He slashed the knot and won the prize of empire. He cut the Gordian knot.  In my mind’s eye I see all the loose, severed ends of connection in the strands that formed that knot.  The integrity of the knot itself was destroyed and the remaining strands were made useless.

I was not willing to sacrifice that much yarn in the service of a speedy fix.  The fid seemed a more fitting solution.  As I pondered the images of knots and fids, the “fid” suddenly became a reasonable metaphor for nonviolent problem solving.  I wondered about our ability to become human “fids” – who can enter intractable issues from the perspective of inserting calm wisdom and compassionate understanding into heated and snarled interactions in the service of nonviolent resolution.  

It takes longer and requires more patience to be a fid than it does to attack a snarled knot with scissors or sword, but in the end, when the fid has been the instrument of the unsnarling, we might end up with a really useful and whole rope or skein of yarn rather than a lot of useless frayed ends that serve no lasting purpose at the end of the day.

As I have observed and listened to the heated political discourse leading up to the presidential elections, I keep looking at the issues and the candidates and I keep watching and hoping for the “fid”.

Vicky Hanjian


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making a Living and Making a Killing



It's difficult these days for lots of people to make a living. It's worse today than it was for us baby boomers. My generation was told to expect a future filled with leisure time. With all the advances in technology and the growth of the economy, we were led to believe people would work less than forty hours a week. Many of us would share jobs. Husband and wife would share parenting. We anticipated machines doing mundane things people used to do. We envisioned ourselves enjoying three day week-ends, every week-end; at the beach, in the mountains, practicing leisure. Go back to those issues of Newsweek and Time in the fifties and sixties and read again what we were promised.

It hasn't happened! Now both husband and wife work full time jobs. If there are children, their lives are a constant series of programmed events to prepare them to be productive and competitive in the future. Parents spend any free time in the car, delivering their charges to this sporting event and that club meeting. Family dinner time has disappeared to the fast food industry. And if one is successful in gathering everyone together at one time,  in one place, to do something together as a family, someone usually disengages or wants to disengage into a virtual world. Would-be citizens find little time to think, let  alone be current with the significant social and political challenges of the day. It's as if some invisible hand has structured an economic and political framework to keep us so busy we will remain ignorant and apathetic. This is what I call the American Dream, turned nightmare.

In response to this nightmare, many turn from making a living to attempting making a killing. The growth in state run lotteries continues unabated. Iowa has recently initiated an effort to steal state casino revenue from out of South Dakota. There were those who wanted to build a casino right across the state line to compete. Others prefer to play the stock market. Still others wait for big oil or big boxes or big developers or big government to purchase their property so they can retire in comfort to a world of leisure. Physical labor has been replaced by the gym, except for the few, usually the immigrant or undocumented.

Why are the gambling ventures so successful? Because everyone would like to make a killing, especially those who find it more and more difficult to make a meaningful living. Who wouldn't like to join the "Rich and the Famous," with their millions of dollars in mansions and private jets? Who wouldn't like to be part of that one percent of the population who own as much wealth in this country as the lower ninety percent? Those folks are making a killing! They don't have to make a living!

The problem with making a killing is it does just that. Someone suffers the consequences. Oil barons get rich while the poor in Ecuador get an environmental disaster. Or consider the fishermen laid low in the Gulf, with diminished opportunity and new found illness, the result of a bloated bottom line at BP. Banks get rich on packaged mortgages and thousands lose  their homes. Or how about the people losing self respect, marriages and savings accounts to the "gaming" industry?

That's not to say that one can't be wealthy and be making a living. Making a living is expansive. It's not just working so your family can have the basics. Making a living recognizes the finite nature of the universe and of oneself. It's about moving beyond the walls of home and increasing the living-ness of one's community and beyond. Making a living is about life, not killing. It's about building the bonds that unite people in common endeavors rather than separate them into warring classes.

In the U.S., I worry we are on the verge of class warfare. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown exponentially. The statistics have become extreme. There are serious racial and ethnic dimensions to the crisis. The gap between family incomes of whites and African Americans has almost doubled. The focus among decision makers continues to be on growth and further accumulation for the "haves," rather than on sustainability for the "have nots." We live in a culture where our attention is focused on the wealthiest while ignoring the poorest, a costly choice for all of us in the long run. 

As a people, if we are to avoid the consequences of making a killing, we will need to return to the collective value of making a living. It's a choice we are already faced with daily, in so many ways. The heritage of humanity, that promises a future for our children and grandchildren, is not the survival of the fittest but the cooperation of the commons.

Carl Kline


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Have the Adults Left the Room?



The Reverend Anton Jacobs, a good friend, recently wrote an article which he titled, “Tis the Season to be Outspoken.” In the article he wonders if perhaps we in the U.S. are not suffering from what he calls “cultural pollution.” He asks, “Have we so filled the air and our minds with lethal doses of vitriol that we have lost the capacity to think critically?” To paraphrase a prominent politician who has contributed his share to the verbal smog, “Have the adults left the room?” We seem to have reduced everything to a sports metaphor and made it all a game of winning and losing. Success is measured by ratings, opinion polls and money.

In this hectic U.S. political season words become missiles flying fast and furious with little regard for their accuracy and even less concern for so-called collateral damage. One vituperative barrage simply invites another as people compete for airtime, media attention and money. The exchange escalates as political candidates and their surrogates search for new and more compelling ways to sharpen their attacks and raise record amounts of money. The money does not “buy” votes. There is no quid pro quo. When politicians claim that their votes are not for sale, I believe them. They are voting their conscience. But that does not mean that money does not buy access and influence. It does. Politicians know what their major donors think about issues and they are sensitive to donor concerns when it comes to writing legislation. When it is time to cast their vote the politician votes his or her conscience, which has been formed and informed by what other people who know the issues and who are well- known say about it.

While I was thinking about the power of money in politics I found myself reflecting on a question that Chris Hayes posed on his Sunday morning television program, “Up with Chris Hayes.” On October 14, 2012, Hayes asked, “If money is speech when does free speech become coercive speech, and how can we tell the difference between them?” That is an important question, which he elaborated on with a series of follow up questions. Suppose the boss tells the people who work for him which candidate he favors in the upcoming election and he encourages them to vote the same way? Is that free speech? Suppose he tells them that their future employment hangs on the outcome of the election? Has he crossed the line? Suppose he tells them that they must put their personal feelings aside and take the day off, without pay, and pose in a campaign commercial for the candidate he is supporting? The workers are told that attendance is mandatory and it will be taken. Is this free speech?

All of these hypothetical situations actually happened and Hayes documented each of them. The last scenario referenced a Mitt Romney commercial that featured blue collar union members who were obligated to pose for the picture with the candidate. Romney did not object. In fact he is smiling in the commercial. Which leads me back to the beginning, “Have we lost our ability to think critically?” Have the adults left the room?

When the cultural is so polluted by money and its coercive power what are we to do? My suggestion is that it is time to open the windows and doors and invite the adults back into the room. The Church Fathers (sorry, but the major writers whose work has come to us from this period were men) knew how to think critically and speak prophetically. From the second to the fourth centuries they wrestled with the problem of private wealth and its coercive power in the public square. They did not object to private wealth or condemn it. But they did insist that those who had such wealth bore a special responsibility; they had a moral and civic obligation to respect the human dignity and value the equal worth of others. More than privilege, wealth meant public responsibility and public accountability. These great scholars developed what one contemporary writer calls “a theistic ethic of ownership.” Ambrose, who became Bishop of Milan around 370 C.E., exemplified this ethic when he wrote, “Just as idolatry endeavors to deprive the one God of his glory, so also avarice extends itself into the things of God, so that, were it possible, it would lay claim to his creatures as exclusively its own—the creatures that he has made common to all.” (Charles Avila, Ownership: Early Christian Teaching, Orbis Books, 1983, 78). 

With the passage of time the theistic ethic of ownership proclaimed by Bishop Ambrose and other spiritual guides of the Patristic Period was either forgotten or it became what Avila calls “an uncrucifiable generality.” In today’s culture of winners and losers it is one of the church’s best kept secrets; but it need not remain so.

David Hansen


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflctions on a Visit of Father Roy Bourgeois'



We all need people who give us inspiration. We need people that we regard as spiritual pioneers or exemplary figures and to whom we can look now and again for signs of hope. For me Father Roy Bourgeois is one of these people. 

Over the years I have admired him for his strong stand against the School of the Americas (SOA), which is also known as the School of the Assassins and which the U.S. government euphemistically renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Operations. For the past twenty-two years Fr. Roy has witnessed against this school’s betrayal of our nation’s ideals and core values. Thousands of people join him every November and stand at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, where the SOA is housed. They engage in study, sing songs, share prayers, walk in a funeral procession carrying coffins representing those who have been murdered, and some get arrested. They publically call out the names of the children, women and men in Latin America who have been slain by graduates of this school, and as each name is spoken the people answer “presente.” And they demand that the school be closed.

On November 16-18, 2012, the School of Americas Watch (SOAW) and its friends will be there again singing, praying and carrying crosses and coffins as they recite the names of people who have been killed by SOA graduates.

When I learned that the Wichita Peace and Justice Center was sponsoring Fr. Roy’s visit to our community I started anticipating this chance to meet him. He was here for three days in September to talk with college students, peace activists and the editorial board of our local newspaper. He attended a reception held at a Mennonite Church and he gave a talk at the Unitarian Universalist Church, which is where I heard him. His story is well known, but it is worth retelling and updating. 

Father Roy became involved in issues surrounding U.S. policy in El Salvador in 1980 after four U.S. churchwomen were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers, at least two of whom were SOA graduates. Two of the women were his friends. Ten years later he founded the School of the Americas Watch. What we know about the SOA is largely due to Fr. Roy, the work of SOAW, SOAW teams in Latin America, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Every year the school trains 1,200 soldiers, high ranking military officers and political leaders from Latin American countries. Students are schooled in counter-insurgency, interrogation, extradition, torture, extra-judicial killing, murder and repression. SOA graduates are responsible for thousands of deaths in their own countries. They conduct their acts of terror and murder in our name. We the people spend $30 million annually to support this school. We pay all of the expenses of students who attend it.  School officials deny culpability for the deeds of school alumni and contend that “No school should be held accountable for the actions of its graduates.” 

Enlightened Latin American leaders are not so facile with the facts. They are distancing themselves from the SOA. Since 2006, the following six nations have withdrawn from SOA and no longer send military or police personnel to it: Uruguay, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and, most recently, Venezuela. It is reasonable to think that each government made this decision in spite of pressure from the U.S. government urging them to continue to support the school. 

In the U.S. Congress a bill to abolish SOA was introduced in the House Armed Services Committee in 2005. It had 135 co-sponsors. Two years later, in 2007, Representative James McGovern (MA) introduced another bill to defund the school. That bill failed by six votes. In September of this year Fr. Roy and a SOAW delegation met with a top White House official to discuss the future of SOA. One can hope that the discussion will strengthen the drive to close the school.

A delegation from our community will be going to Fort Benning this November 16-18. Because of commitments that I have made it is unlikely that I will be able to make the trip this year. If I do not go, I will work with others in the community to sponsor a local event to coincide with the SOAW witness in Georgia. I would like to encourage you to do the same.

David Hansen