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It is more difficult to fight poverty in a rich country than in a poor one.
Mother Teresa

Live from Haiti: First Impressions of Gros Morne

March 6th, 2009 · by fritzg ·

I’ve been in Haiti for a few days now. Arrived in Port au Prince on Sunday, travelled to Gros Morne on Monday and to Jacmel on Wednesday.

In Gros Morne my main task was to visit with folks whose work we are supporting at Haiti Reborn/The Quixote Center. I was impressed by the work all are doing there. The damage from Hurricances this past fall was great and the town is in need of having the gabion (a wire structure/basket filled with rocks to reinforce a riverbank) extended so they don’t lose another street when the waters come through with the next hurricane or heavy rainfall. (See http://www.haitireborn.org/riverbank)

Homes are being rebuilt, but there just isn’t enough funds at present to help all who need it. (http://www.haitireborn.org/vivion)

A real sign of hope is the reforestation project at the Jean Marie Vincent Education Center. In 2008 over 100,000 trees were planted. This year the demand is for 300,000 trees, and they are on track to meet it! The ten-year-old project is looking great and serves as an example for what all of Haiti needs.

I am humbled by the poverty throughout Haiti, the lack of infrastructure as well as the dedicated souls, Haitians and others, working together to meet the needs before them.


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a silver jubilee

October 1st, 2008 · by fritzg ·

Twenty-five years ago, in October of 1983, the First Baptist Church of Lutz, Florida was stupid enough, or wise enough, to hire a 19-year-old idealist, fresh off the mission field of post-revolution Zimbabwe to be their Minister of Youth. That idealist was me.

25 years. It seems like a lifetime. Between then and now, I have served a few other churches, one denominational body and a couple of ecumenical institutions. I’ve been ordained, whatever that means. I’ve also been a lay leader in a couple different churches during times of crisis and times of growth. I’ve supported pastors and made the same ones mad when I called them to be their better selves. I’ve put a halt to my career so I could dive in deep and shape a few individual lives.

Today, in many ways my job is one of the best I can imagine. I get to organize people of faith and denominations to encourage Congress to take action on Climate Change Legislation. I’m supposed to help save the planet and it’s most vulnerable human inhabitants. I’m helping people with the spiritual practice of changing broken systems and working for justice.

I can’t imagine a better place to be 25-years into my ministerial career. I eat this stuff up. It gives me life. I feel I am finally on the path I imagined all those years ago.

And yet, I am full of doubt. I’m not sure I believe in the same God I believed in 25 years ago. I’m not sure I believe in the same God the community I call home believes in. I’m not sure the church should be as political an animal or demographic as many want it to be. I’m not sure the church should sacrifice being prophetic at the expense of being expedient. I’m not sure we should be the tool of any political party or issue.

But there are things I know. I know we should never be beholden to money. Or power. Or a specific interest. I know we should always favor the one without power or influence, while keeping in mind the needs of all. I know there are times when we should be willing to throw away all of our power in this world because of a single value or concern.

Twenty-five years is a marker. It causes me to look back and wonder, “What if?”

One of the most obnoxious questions I have ever been asked was when I was a part of our foster kids’ therapy sessions. We were playing a therapeutic board game. The card I drew asked, “If you could be any age what would it be?” I was appalled. My answer was, “The age I am right now. For if I wished to be younger, I would merely be repeating what had come before. If I wished to be older, I would miss out on what lied immediately before me. I love my life and I cannot imagine living without the company of those I love.” I could not imagine sacrificing the “now” for either the past or the future.

Twenty-five years later, I am still a humble servant. I’m still full of idealism. But I have the perspective of a few years. Some things just aren’t worth doing or worth sacrificing. Others are worth it all.

God help us. Peace be with you.


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those updates to the right, aka twitters

September 9th, 2008 · by fritzg ·

Those updates in my sidebar, the ones at the top in the “about me” section are my “twitters”, or “tweets”, from twitter.com.

What is twitter.com you ask? And why on God’s green (but warming) Earth would you use it?

I’ll answer this in three ways. Because each represents a different way that I use twitter.

First, I describe twitter as facebook’s status on steroids. It is easier (read faster) to update. You can link the two, so that when you update twitter it automatically updates your status at facebook. You can also choose to send and receive twitter updates via SMS text messages and IM (instant messaging).

Second, twitter is what SMS messaging should be. You can send messages directly to people you want to, just like SMS. You can send them only to the people you allow to “follow” you, or you can send them to the public timeline for all to see.

I love SMS. To me SMS (and twitter’s direct messaging) is a quick and easy way to send personal messages. Interacting with someone in quick, non-inturisive ways can help to creat a sense of intimacy as well as build upon it. I have negotiated (read disciplined) my then teen-age son with SMS. We have reconciled via SMS after a verbal face to face argument. I’ve received a joyous SMS text message from him at school when he gets an unexpected good grade and he wants to brag. I’ve had more than a few face to face meetings set up entirely via twitter. With twitter, all this can be done with the wonderful twitter clients there are out there for PCs, Macs and iphones. (Two of my favs are twitterrific and tweetdeck.) As I said earlier, it also uses SMS, so any cellphone can send and receive “tweets”.

Third, twitter is what as known as micro-blogging. With its 140 character limit per tweet, you can’t say much. But then again, you can. That is room for a quick comment followed by a weblink to an article, blog post or picture. And when done in the context of “live blogging” you can communicate quite a bit. Live blogging is a series of blog posts, or in this case tweets/twitters during a live event every few minutes. People do this during political debates and speeches, sporting events, cult tv shows like Lost or Grey’s Anatomy, etc. It’s a nice way to get a feel for the communal atmosphere surrounding an event. Since I am someone who likes brevity (no comments from those who’ve heard me preach) I’ve found I blog less since I’ve been twittering.

Twitter, SMS, facebook and other web 2.0 apps have been invaluable to me since I’ve taken a job in DC and my wife I have been trying out a two city life. We really use technology to bridge the geographic divide. All help me to stay in contact with my communities in Louisville and make new friends in DC. It’s not a substitute for face to face relationships, but twittering helps people to communicate. And good communication is at the very heart of lasting relationships. In the spirit of this blog, twitter helps me to walk humbly as I am more aware of the world around me.

You can join twitter at https://twitter.com/signup


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italian still life

August 1st, 2008 · by fritzg ·

Tonight I made a simple pasta sauce of butter, lemon and cheese. The book the recipe came from, 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone says this could be an Italian still life. Ahh, I love the classics. I’ll have a photo next time.


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Soft shells and things that go bump

July 22nd, 2008 · by fritzg ·

This little fellow is all gone now. Ate him (or her) on a bed of pasta with garlic and red pepper flakes.

I’m a happy camper today. iTunes now has the X Files for download. I immediately got the episode about Gibsonton, Florida, “Humbug”. I plan to get a few more of the monster-of-the-week episodes as well as all the mythic-arc ones.

Life is good.

photo


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pistachios and friends

July 21st, 2008 · by fritzg ·

pistachios

A couple weeks ago I took some pistachios to work. I rediscovered them after a good friend, Laurie, brought some back from Greece for me. The Grecian pistachios were terrific. Full of flavor. The ones I bought at the local supermarket here in DC were fine. A bit salty, but not great, they just didn’t have that nice flavor the Grecian ones did.

Enter a new colleague, Carl. I shared my pistachios with him last week, his first at the NCC Eco-Justice Program. Over cracking pistachios Carl and I had a few conversations. He has a bit of a bike collection and even owns one that I’m interested in, a Bike Friday. He also was very familiar with Laurie’s new old bike, a Specialized Expedition.

Today, Carl presented me with a present. A bag of habanero flavored pistachios. He heard me last week when I said these just didn’t have enough flavor. So, when he saw the habanero ones, he apparently decided they would be a good addition to the office collection and just might be flavorful enough for me.

We opened them up mid afternoon. The heat hits you a little after you eat them, it has a bit of a cumulative effect. Very nice.

Thanks, Carl. You’re gonna be a fun colleague. And possibly a fun friend. Glad you’ve joined us at the NCC.

I never thought a common thread amongst my friends would be the gift of pistachios (and bike snobbery!). Who knew?


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Risotto for dinner

July 20th, 2008 · by fritzg ·

0720 Risotto

Tonight I used my pressure cooker and made a favorite risotto. Smoked mozzarella and sun-dried tomato. On the side is some swiss chard I made a while back and froze. It heated up nicely. The mozzarella was bought at the Sunday DuPont Circle Farmers Market, as was the swiss chard. This meal took less than thirty minutes from beginning to end and I have a nice amount left over for lunch a couple times this week.

This was a wonderful end to a wonderful weekend with Mary here in DC. We cooked at the V Street house and ate out a couple of times, enjoying a nice date on Saturday night.


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Obama . . . and leaving church

June 1st, 2008 · by fritzg ·

I am saddened by the news that Obama has left his church. To me, this decision tells us more about our culture and how we view “membership” and commitment than it tells us about Obama and his spiritual life.

A couple months ago when Obama gave his speech in Philadelphia on race he talked about the deep connection he has with his church and with the African-American community. He told us how he could not disown them, it would be like disowning his family. I wish he could have stayed in that metaphorical place. But he did not. He chose to enter the political arena in the most highly charged way possible, a run for the presidency. That meant that his life would be held to a different standard, not a higher one, but different. While he may have wanted to stay at his church even though he disagreed with some if not many of the beliefs/practices/events there, he chose to leave. He thought he no longer had the option to stay in the community through this very rough patch, both for their sake and for his own (I assume both politically and theologically). This saddens me.

I myself was challenged a few weeks ago about why I stay at the church I call home. It was in the midst of a time when I was critical of what I saw and experienced in the community. I have chosen to stay up to this point because I do indeed call this community home. I have chosen to stay because of the love and affection I have for people even though I disagree with them. I have chosen to stay even though I don’t believe all the things many in my community believe. I have chosen to stay because I know that both they and I will change, and because I take seriously the covenants we have to be with one another. I have chosen to be with them for the long haul.

I think Obama took similar commitments to church community seriously. I think his decision to leave was made because he has chosen to make a commitment (not necessarily deeper) with a community (this country) that is broader than the one on that corner in Chicago.

It is unfortunate that we do not understand the role of commitment enough to understand how difficult the decision to leave his church home was, and that we allowed our misunderstanding about the commitment to community to place him in the position where he could not commit with us unless he gave up his church home.

Obama’s decision does make me reconsider my own. Maybe I am being too naive or idealistic to believe that I can stay in community with people when, at present, I do not share the totality of their view of the world and worship and life and God. Maybe there really is no room within churches for those who are not true believers. Maybe adherence to the prevailing orthodoxy matters more on Sundays than we would like to think. Maybe this is what it means to lose faith. I hope not.


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Camp, or Jail?

May 22nd, 2008 · by fritzg ·

Dorothy Dog

Twelve hours from now, my beloved basset will be at the kennel while Mary makes a weekend visit to DC. I call the kennel jail. Mary calls it camp. What do you think Dorothy Dog calls it?


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Radiohead: “All I Need”

May 14th, 2008 · by fritzg ·

What a video.


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