|Issue 09-01 April 2009|
Although I have no idea when we will have another newsletter come out, I began writing this in December 2008, finishing it in January 2009. Donna and I had returned from vacation on Monday during the week of Thanksgiving. On Friday morning, the shopping day now referred to as Black Friday, there was a new reason for that title. In the news was a story of a Walmart employee in New York who got trampled to death by surging shoppers when the store opened its doors. Now mind you, this was not a crowd of two thousand people, whose families were starving, rushing to see who would get one of five hundred loaves of bread in some third world country. This was Americans, stampeding to get the best deals on cheap stuff. Things that, in truth, they did not likely even need. I was appalled.
As if that were not bad enough, several other employees were injured trying to get to, and help, the worker who was killed. And then, the shoppers apparently gave police and staff a hard time when Walmart tried to close the store.
Like just any other piece of news, this story stuck around for a couple of days, then disappeared. Many of the questions centered around whether Walmart had provided adequate security. But nobody seemed interested in asking the more basic and obvious question for me. Why would there be a need for any security, in a "civilized society" where 80% of the population claims to be Christian, for people to simply go shopping. The answer is not something newscasters are particularly keen on talking about. When greed and lust for things, and unbridled competitiveness bring down Wall Street, we can all feel self-righteous pointing fingers. But, when it is us, everyday ordinary citizens, mobbing someone to death at a Walmart, we prefer to look the other way until the story disappears quickly within the news cycle. Why? Why are we not outraged and appalled with how far we have sunk as a culture? Yes, us! – middle class Americans – not just big shots or big business. We should be ashamed. Ashamed that such a thing could occur. And, just as ashamed, that it was no more than simply another piece of news to be acknowledged, then ignored. You want to know why things are such a mess in the economy right now? This story is why. We have become so morally bankrupt (but not the usual suspects) in the everyday basics, that a person can lose their life at an entrance of a Walmart. Not to a robber, or a terrorist, or because the store was in a war zone, but to a crowd of "sales" shoppers. I shake my head in disgust every time I think about it. Which brings me to the economy part of this perspective.
I have been saying for years that a "compete and compare" economy, based on convincing people to continually buy more stuff, the majority of which are things they do not really need, must eventually come crashing down under its own weight. To me it seemed inevitable. Such a way of life is destructive on so many fronts, it would be hard to know where to begin listing them. It is bad economics. It is morally wrong. And, for those of us who call ourselves Christian, it is spiritually wrong. Wealth, as we define it, is a complete illusion. It is an artificial score keeping system we have created to measure ourselves against each other in our "compete and compare" society. Our whole economic system and measure of wealth is a fairy tale, a man-made sham which has nothing to do with the ways, or dictates, of God. It makes no sense at all, with even the slightest broadening of your viewpoint of life. And, it can change in a moment on the whims of emotion, primarily fear. I still remember a news item about Argentina years ago when the inflation rate had become outrageously high. People were putting their money into stockpiling toilet paper, and other daily necessities. That was their new wealth.
The good news (beyond that of Jesus Christ) is if we have created something, it is a system we can alter. But fundamental change is a slow process. One thing we Americans have never been very good at is connecting the dots. Nevertheless, it is time we start. Yesterday’s choices created today’s consequences. Today’s choices will create tomorrow’s consequences. This is true for every one of us individually, and for us as a culture. The worst thing that could happen right now is for the government to dump enough money onto the problem to get us back to the false security game we have been playing for decades. Until the day arrives when it is an embarrassment and disgrace to have an outrageous amount of anything, while others in the world have virtually nothing, things cannot change. When we finally figure out our work really is to house the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked (sound familiar Christians?), etc. — that is when we begin to see the true light. When it is no longer an argument over Spotted Owls and jobs, because our jobs have become saving Spotted Owls, and the rest of creation we have been arrogantly abusing — that is when we begin to see more light. When we stop trying to fill the emptiness of our souls with more and cheaper stuff — that is when we will be ready for ultimate light. Fundamental change — you cannot fix what truly ails us with a surface washing or money dump.
The non-Christian 20% of you can listen or not, but your
choices will create your consequences too. For the other 80% of you, I guarantee
there is nowhere in the many Scriptural "good things to do" lists where you
will find trampling someone to death trying to get cheap stuff. No place
in Scripture does it say to borrow extensively to leverage your money, or
use [the equivalent of] credit cards, even if you can pay the bill off at
the end of the month. In fact, there are many passages denouncing, or
warning against greed, materialism, and using credit (borrowing). If
you do not have the money — do not buy it. Start discerning the difference
between that which you need and that which you simply want. And, more
importantly, come to understand and recognize whether you really want something,
or Madison Avenue sold you on the idea you want it, or it is just the latest
distraction you are running toward to avoid dealing with the truths of your
life. As Jesus was so fond of saying, "let him who has ears hear."
But you do not have to listen to just me. The writing is all over the
wall. You can see it for yourself. You can hear it. Perhaps, you
are even feeling it personally. Whether our economy is up, or whether
our economy is down, real wealth, that which God put here to sustain us and
the rest of creation, has not changed. How we use, distribute, and care
for that real wealth will determine what awaits us down the road. Someone
once said, "we become willing to change when the pain of staying the same
becomes greater than the pain of change." Are you there yet? I
hope to God we all are.
|william’s perspective next time: The Real American Dream|
HUNGER KILLS EVERY 6 SECONDS
"No one ever chooses to starve. Yet while you read this, severe hunger will destroy the lives of three fellow human beings . . . We don’t know their names. We only know that their deaths were wasteful, unnecessary, and in most cases preventable . . . It is not because we can’t produce enough food around the world. It’s just the distribution is not equal."
– Action Against Hunger
Graduation - CBTC - Peace Pilgrim
I once wrote a poem that referred to this life as Earth School, which is preparing us for the rest of real life, eternal life. Much like graduating from elementary, to junior high, to high school, and from college to the work world here, Earth School has its times of transition, individually, and for us as a species. Unfortunately, many people remain stuck in the Kindergarten ways of this world. But, you can graduate — even if it is just into the first grade of spiritual growth. We all start somewhere. One of the best materials I have ever run across to help in that process is Steps Toward Inner Peace by Peace Pilgrim. It is a free booklet available at CBTC (or will be sent free, upon request, if you do not live close enough to visit). CBTC also provides free Bibles, In His Steps books, and Peace Pilgrim books to anyone who stops by requesting one.
Many people are out there offering spiritual truth or programs for a fee (or maybe just a "suggested donation"). But, they do not have what they are offering to you. For, if they truly possessed spiritual truth, they would not be selling it. They would be freely sharing it.
Take time to pick up, or request, a copy of Peace Pilgrim’s booklet, Steps Toward Inner Peace. It might just amaze you – and it really is free.
You will notice that several items have had by-lines, indicating who wrote the article. The T&SC corporation includes other individuals, and independent ministries, like mine, and Bob Buckley’s FBI Reading Club. IAM perspectives, content, and activities, remain controlled and expressed by the person(s) whose ministry it is.
(We will endeavor to identify articles from or about individuals or affiliates, because of this distinction.)
In those first ten years, when all of this was just me, as a sole proprietor, a number of people suggested the non-profit route "because people would be more likely to support something if they could deduct it from their taxes." I have found it interesting, though personally not unexpected, that just the opposite has taken place. I had far broader support as an individual than what the corporation enjoys. I suspect this could have something to do with the difference between someone who takes a stand for, and starts living, what they say they believe, and just one more non-profit organization (of thousands) asking for money. But, here is the rub. While I have contributed a great amount of time and effort on the paperwork and systems needed to establish, develop, and operate, the corporation these 5 years, my individual ministry still exists.
I still help seekers, one on one, when requested, navigate the spiritual waters of life. Though the foundation of life, this is new territory for many.
As a touch of william, I still share my photography and poetry freely with those struggling on their journey. I still let other non-profits, community organizations, and events use my photography at no cost. I still allow even commercial entities to use my photography on a "free will offering" basis, because only they know their financial situation and what they can reasonably afford.
As Cherokee Bill’s Teaching & Trade Center, I still take the time to give the half-hour introduction to Cherokee History to anyone who indicates an interest. I think the Cherokee story has important lessons for all of us, as we meet today’s challenges, and decide what kind of people we will be.
At CBTC and as a touch of william, I still give away as many products as are sold because this is still first about teaching and sharing.
The wsharing website has over 180 pages on it, with amazing amounts of information and guidance, completely free of advertising or those annoying pop-ups found on other sites.
I still talk to people at every opportunity about the real presence of the Holy Spirit, and turning to God for answers to the everyday issues in their (and your) lives. I still greet and depart with "God’s peace" rather than "hi, how are ya" because it is a genuine hope I can wish for each of you.
The list could go on, but you get the point. The cut-throat competitive ways of our culture can rightly boast of many accomplishments. But it cannot carry us to the next stage. You can see the downside results in the news daily (mid-March as I write this). Though it is idealized in many "reality" TV shows, in real life there are no sole survivors for the big picture. We either make it together, or we perish together.
So, you might be wondering, why was this article titled "Designated Contributions?" Well, each of the budgets I have some influence over, functions on relatively small amounts of cash. I try to practice what I preach. But, even if you can pare things down to the very basics, in our society, some cash flow is needed to function from a fixed location. Virtually everything I do is done for free. That means I must depend on those who are blessed to receive payment for the endeavors they are involved in, to share.
I decided fifteen years ago, somebody needed to be living what they say they believe. It might as well be me. Peace Pilgrim did it. Gandhi did it. Jesus set the stage. While still a minority, there are more of us than you might think. I will continue to walk this path, rich or poor, better or worse, for the rest of my life. The only real question is how many lives shall I touch along the way. My ministry commitments remain just as they were fifteen years ago when I took that first step. But, in all honesty, today, if my camera broke, I would be hard pressed to find any uncommitted or personal funds to replace it. That is the cash reality. Yet, my life is good; better than most. God is in the driver’s seat.
Some of you have abundant resources. Some do not. Only you know. Some of you may be interested in tax deductions. Some may not be impressed with another non-profit, but might want to support the individual work I do, or Bob does, or the fall MLHE program Kenn, Sarah, Lauren, and Randd are regularly involved in. It is all about sharing — ideas, talents, resources.
The T&SC is structured financially to allow designated offerings as well. If it is your desire to support an IAM or special program within the T&SC, you simply include a note with your donation. (Checks still need to be made payable to the T&SC for your gift to be tax deductible.)
Sometimes I am amazed when I think about having been at this for fifteen years (no pay – most things done for free). In the beginning I figured I would give it a year. After that, maybe four more years, until my State Farm income (contractual buy-out) would end. Pretty much every year since then I have wondered if it was time to give up having a place people could come to? I was surprised when the partial closing option arose. I honestly did not believe the Center would make it through this winter. We have been running as much as three weeks behind on our utilities, insurance, and phone bill. Yet, for now, they are still getting paid.
Maybe I should give up — giving up. I said to my mother-in-law the other day, I do not know many people who would go to work every day for fifteen years for no pay, if they did not believe their work was important, and the will of God. So here we are, both individually and corporately. Shall I (and we) continue? Yes. I will. I am still here individually, but now a part of something more — how about you?