One Small Change: Give a Dollar

Confession: sometimes when I drive past the population sign of my suburb and see that (probably outdated) “30,000,” I think to myself, “Think of all the stuff we could pay off if I could just get every single person in Andover to give me a dollar.” Anyone else? Just me?

Dennis Wadley at Buck4Good.com must have had that thought too — only he harnessed that idea into something very cool. What I like about this idea is the way that it constantly exposes us to the beautiful work being done by a variety of organizations…and allows us to take part. Every day, something new. He asked to share about it here, and I’m happy to have him. 

buck4good

Imagine if a 10,000 of us gave $1 each week to a project that could change the world and then we recruited 10 of our friends to join us and they recruited 10 of their friends to join them…we could raise more than a million dollars a week for $1 each! Buck4Good.com was created for just that purpose.

The global economic slowdown has caused many to feel that they are not able to give to causes that matter, but that is where Buck4Good comes in! We have something that no generation in the history of the world has had…a social network. Every day billions of us are connecting and sharing things that matter to us. Why not harness our social networks to bring about change in the world? Together we can build wells for the millions of people who don’t have access to clean water, we can fund Bible translation projects for those who don’t have the Word of God, we can provide education for AIDS orphans, we can send children to camp, we can help prevent human trafficking and we can make a difference in countless other ways.

Buck4Good provides a place where churches and mission organizations can mobilize their networks for good as well as building their networks through Buck4Good’s own network. Buck4Good has already helped many organizations raise funds, including The JESUS Film, The Seed Company, Young Life, Biola University, Asian Access and Global Water Mission! One small ministry in Kenya was able to raise over $23,000 in just seven days on Buck4Good.com and we are just getting started! Together we can change the world!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to Buck4Good.com
  2. Create a profile
  3. Buy some bucks
  4. Give $1 or more to a cause you care about
  5. In a single note, you can invite your friends to join you on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and via email. The more personal the invitation the better, so you can also send individual notes to friends asking them to help you change the world.

Buck4Good tracks the impact you and your network are making, so when you return to your profile page you can see not only what you have given, but a total of what the people you have recruited and the people that they have recruited have given! You get to see the difference that your network is making!

If you know of a quality faith based non-profit that could benefit from utilizing Buck4Good.com, encourage them to consider posting a project. There is a link at the bottom of the home page that they can use, or they can email me directly at Dennis@Buck4Good.com

For all other non-profits, we have created www.Buck4Change.com

The little things really do matter, even $1 and if we can get millions of us giving a single $1 per week, just think of the great things that we can accomplish.

The Popular Poet

I’ve had the chance to get to know the wise and wonderful John Blase a bit this year because we both blog over at A Deeper Story once a month. He constantly challenges me with his gentle and authentic take on faith, and I am so honored to introduce him here!

popular poet

I began writing poetry about the time I stepped away from the formal role of pastor. It was a season of reinventing myself, of finding a way to be a man of faith in this world minus the cloth.

My experience had been, and continues to be, that most religious writing is too thick and too long: books, essays, sermons, even some poems. This is only my opinion but seeing how it is mine, I am partial to it. So my writing goal was to be popular and concise. I use the word popular not in the sense of selling millions of copies of books, but accessible to people who are convinced they don’t like poetry.

I don’t have an MFA, and I haven’t been to the Iowa workshop or Bread Loaf. I am open to all those and I’d bust a literal gut if I was accepted into Bread Loaf, but they haven’t been a part of my experience so far.

Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you can talk yourself out of writing poetry or any creative endeavor for that matter simply because you don’t have the credentials. You can diminish yourself that way in terms of your faith too. In both cases that’s sheer nonsense.

Here are two concise, hopefully popular poems.

AND TO THINK I THOUGHT

There were those
born into a house of prose:
     Wash those dishes.
     Take out that trash.
     Don’t you sass me. 

But I was
born into a house of poetry:
     Shiloh, when I was young ~
     He maketh me to lie down in green ~
     Baby sister, I was born game ~ 

And to think I thought
we once were poor.
Now I remember different. 

PSALM FAINTLY 

Oh, LORD, today is already too much.
A part of me says good grief, don’t be such a drama king 

while another part of me says there, there, pal,
it’ll all be okay, just do your best, alright? 

Then there is that other part of me, saner than the
rest, holding the negatives of your mercies 

up to the coming light seeing darkly what has been.
The past is my only ground of hope. That you 

were faintly there, as you feel now, will have to be
enough on this day that already feels too much.   

Addie asked if I had anything to add to this wonderful conversation. That’s about it. I am very grateful to her for the opportunity to contribute, as I am grateful to you for reading.

 

john blaseJohn Blase preached for over a decade but then he thought he’d go where the money is, so he started writing poetry. He’s a lucky man with a stunning wife and three kids who look like their mother. They all live in Colorado. His books include Know When To Hold ‘Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood; Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas; and All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (co-written with Brennan Manning). He ponders faithfully at www.thebeautifuldue.wordpress.com.

When Depression Comes Back

For my Sojourn Ladies at Prairie Oak Community Church

I went off the anti-depressants in January. I had my reasons. There was a week in Mexico on the horizon, followed by our Epic Road Trip toward the sun.

Ever since my first diagnosis, I’ve considered my Depression linked, at least in part, to outside forces. Weather. Loneliness. Extreme circumstances. When I went back on the medication last summer, I thought that my anxiety about the coming book release was to blame. But by January, the book angst was settled. It was the depth of Minnesota winter – yes – but it would be tempered by vacations to warmer places. I thought it would be okay.

This is what the descent back into Depression looks like for me. First I get crabby. The I get weepy. I blame hormones and Age 3. I blame Caillou’s annoying voice and annoyingly patient cartoon parents. I blame Minnesota winter, which seems to sprawl each year farther and farther into the months categorically reserved for Spring. Then it gets worse, and I lose all sense of momentum and motivation, and I don’t know who to blame anymore. So I blame myself.

depression comes back

During the first week of April, my husband went out of town on business, and I slogged through the days with concrete in my veins. I hit a wall with the work on Book 2. How could I write about rebuilding my faith when I felt exactly I did five years ago during The Year of My Drinking? When I felt just as lost and just as lonely and just as far away from God?

There is a sense of defeat when you realize that your struggles are not past tense but present. Not something you’ve overcome, but patterns that you’ll have to work to overcome you’re whole life.

That week, I found myself reeling toward the edge again, self-medicating at night with wine until I’d taken down most of the bottle by myself. I’d wake up in a hangover haze with a three-year-old laying on my head and my husband at some hotel in some other state.

No matter how many times I do it, it always feels a little bit like defeat to go back on the anti-depressants. I never want to, and it always feels like a last resort to call the nurse and make that appointment.

And yet. Here’s the gift. Here’s the hope. I did it.

Where before it’s taken me weeks or months or even years to understand what was going on, this time I knew. And it only took me a few days to pick up the phone and get help.

I’m learning to recognize the signs before they spiral into regrets. I’m learning to admit it out loud, even though it feels hard to say it every single time. Depression.

This time, I told the Church Ladies instead of waiting for them to notice it, waiting for them to sense my drowning and resenting them when they didn’t. Instead I said it, and that is a kind of victory. Around our table at morning Bible study that week, they nodded and looked at me with soft eyes, and then one by one, they all told their own stories of Depression and sadness, darkness and light.

This time, I called my husband. I said, It’s not good right now. I said, I made an appointment and I’m going back on the drugs. And this time, he understood right away what that meant. This time, he opted out of the weekend church retreat that he’d planned to go on and came home.

In the sterile, fluorescence of the exam room, I cried while the doctor asked me questions. “Am I going to have to be on these damn pills for the rest of my life?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “Maybe not. It’s different for everyone, but it’s okay if you do.”

It’s okay if you do.

*

I know I’ve been a bit absent from this online space this month. I’ve been letting the poets say it for me. For all of us. Their language and their line breaks have made space for my own feelings of discouragement and defeat. And for grace – that “terrible oil/anointing me beloved.”

Here in the bald, exposed space of my ongoing struggle, I am learning again and again to admit that I need help. I am bent toward self-destruction, and I am waving my hands in surrender.

And this month, I am being saved again. By the pills and the poets. By Church Ladies, who send emails and slip books into my hands in the foyer before service.

I am being saved by the God who does not let me go – not this time or last time or ever…no matter how deep the darkness of my heart.

He is risen, and I am being raised too. No matter how dark it gets, Easter comes again. Every single time.

The Wall Is You: Entering Faith Through Poetry

Two years ago at the Festival of Faith and Writing I mustered up all the bravery I could and walked up to Thom Caraway at the Rock & Sling table. I was trying to be proactive and self-promote, but I felt out of my league with all of the brilliant poets and their beautiful literary magazines. Still, when I told Thom about my blog, he opened his laptop right then and typed in the address. He didn’t roll his eyes at the word “blog” or write me off as un-literary. He was kind, and his kindness buoyed me and helped me to continue to be courageous that weekend.

To this day, Thom Caraway continues to be one of my favorite people. His work at Rock & Sling is fantastic, and I love his commitment to exploring the ways faith and art intersect. You’re going to love this piece and the poem that goes with it. Welcome Thom!

wall

As the editor of Rock & Sling, a literary journal that publishes work that engages faith issues, the relationship between writing and God is often at the front of my thinking. I look for poems that seek not the easy platitudes of Proverbs or Psalms quoted out of context, not that which avoids to central conflicts of faith and doubt (not that the Psalms are easy, of course, but when you take one sentence and put it on a poster or say “God has a plan,” I tend to become uninterested in a hurry). I want to publish work that is taking faith issues on in beautiful and meaningful ways. Work that isn’t certain or doesn’t have all the answers.

But in my own writing, I rarely wrestle with these issues, explicitly at least. I wasn’t a Christian when I started writing, coming to faith only in the last few years. And while it was partially through poetry that I was able to access and understand the beauty of God’s creation, those issues still stayed out of my writing. I find as much spiritual guidance in the work of Wendell Berry, B.H. Fairchild, Marilynne Robinson, and John Hodgen as I do in the Gospels. But I can’t seem to do it myself.

It’s just too big. I still feel like an infant Christian. I didn’t grow up in a church, so I don’t have decades of King James rhythms, hymns or sermons bumping around in my memories. I am not fluent in the language (I came to Addie’s blog the first time legitimately looking for ways to talk evangelical), and I feel at times a bit like an imposter to Christendom (though I often still feel this way about my poetry, as well).

But a year or so ago, my church asked a few of us writers to compose a series of responses to Psalm 23. Even I knew which one that was. That’s got all the big language. Like, all of it. “The valley of the shadow of death…” That’s heady stuff, and I was already intimidated, so of course I said sure.

The assignment was essentially ekphrastic. My poem would be a response to the tone and feel the Psalm inspired in me. I could handle that. While I see many poems that respond directly to various Scriptural passages as Rock & Sling editor, I knew that I should avoid certain pitfalls. My first draft, of course, fell into all of those pits. Through a drawn out process of revision, I started to mold it into a shape I liked. Here is the result: 

Shine, Imperishable City

When I close my eyes, I’ve seen
the shimmering city—light,
gold as the harvest,
heard the distant wash of music.
But the city was walled, black stone,
and I could not enter.

“The wall is you,” he said, “you
are the wall.” I knew that what was in the city
was not for me. I knew that inside,
my enemies ate at my table, knew
that there were no enemies, not even me.

It is no simple thing to enter the world.
First, we depart these angels
of our common love. We give up
the shadow of a thing for the thing,
the shining city, this meal and cup,
this terrible oil, anointing me beloved.

Surely, this is the kingdom.
Surely, I am black stone.
Surely, the city is for you, for me,
and the wall becomes glass
and the kingdom erupts, surely heaven
surely earth, angels and cup, world without end.

(the poem is forthcoming in The Cresset)

The poem draws in several elements that had been working in me. The first is the vision, a recurring dream I’ve had most of my life. A city I always understood as heaven, with yellow light and symphonic music emanating from inside, but the walls were too tall and thick and I could never find a way in. I’d told a friend that story one day, the day I became a believer, actually. And he said what he said. Sometimes the Spirit speaks poetry into your life, and you receive it. I’ve learned to feel blessed rather than lucky.

From there, I try to get close to some of the psalmic language, to ramp up the rhythm and build a crescendo, which includes the contrasting emotions I have about salvation. This is the “terrible oil” line. Salvation and grace are awesomely freeing but also terrifying. If you aren’t terrified by your salvation, I don’t understand you. The scope of it is beyond comprehension. ‘Humbling’ is too small a word. But it’s there, and we’re in it, and I wanted that heavenly city to erupt. That’s how I often feel about God, that He’s erupting into my world, both destructive and saving.

And while I am still looking for ways to engage my faith more explicitly through my poetry, I have faith that the Spirit will lead me there, in His time, when I’m ready. And I’ll take the fleeting glimpses in the meantime.

 

Blue shirt photoThom Caraway teaches at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, where he is the editor of Rock & Sling, a journal of witness. He lives with his wife and kids, several chickens, bunnies, and other animals (but not yet a goat), in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood. Last fall, he was selected as Spokane’s first Poet Laureate.