Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

I am inviting you to go deeper, to learn and to practice so that you become someone who has a great capacity for being solid, calm, and without fear, because our society needs people like you who have these qualities, and your children, our children, need people like you, in order to go on, in order to become solid, and calm, and without fear.
Thich Nhat Hanh

In a world of failed supercommittees and family enmeshment, we need people committed to becoming solid, calm and fearless. These kinds of rare breeds are contagious and, as Thich Nhat Hanh, the great contemporary Buddhist monk, ordinary people (like you and me!) become solid, calm and fearless when we embrace a lifestyle of gratitude. In this spirit, EasyYolk offers a list of what we are truly thankful for this year:

1. Koinonia: 2 months ago, we lost my wife's father to pancreatic cancer. Times like these filter out the chaff from our lives and reveal the nourishing people who are consistently there time and time again. Our parents, siblings, friends (near and far) and our house church have all been an immense source of comfort, strength and solidarity. Perhaps no one says it better than the Dutch priest and scholar Henri Nouwen:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

We are deeply grateful for both the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (Pan-Can) and the Hirshberg Foundation for committing money and resources to battling pancreatic cancer.

2. Meals: Gratitude, intimacy and solidarity is best cultivated and celebrated with nutritious food and dark beer. We salute Native Foods in Southern California and Peace Food in New York City for their unique vegan creativity. New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado makes life even more drinkable. I first tasted their Fat Tire back in the Spring of 1994 on a road trip to Boulder, Colorado. NB continues to produce great tastes with a vigilant passion for the earth and people. They are alternatively empowered and employee owned. Try the 1554 and, if you are in Colorado or Kansas, get your mitts on the Abbey...and ship some out to California.

3. Alternative Media: The truth would be so much more elusive without Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Dean Baker and David Sirota. These real journalists provide the kind of accountability that is sorely needed if we are really going to take the rugged steps towards a legitimate democracy.

4. Jeffrey Stout's Blessed Are The Organized: Released on Halloween last year, Stout's masterpiece on the concrete manifestations of organized citizens confronting the powers came at just the right moment of Obama's (so far) failed presidency. A political science professor at Princeton, Stout defines democracy and sets off the alarms for Americans to reclaim what we've never really had:

Democracy, in the sense I am commending, opens up space for minority voices because it is committed both to freedom as nondomination and the avoidance of arbitrary exclusion. Neither of these things can be achieved, according to the tradition of grassroots democracy, unless a lot of ordinary people get organized and actually hold officials accountable. These are things that require action.

Only grassroots democrats, who are committed to keeping elites accountable, can rescue America.

5. Cornel West: Yet another Princeton professor has captured our hearts and minds for quite some time. West, an African-American public intellectual who is adamantly Christian, refuses to sit still, traveling from coast to coast, appearing on radio and TV broadcasts and getting arrested in Washington DC and NYC. He headlined 65 events for Obama in 2008, but has been overtly critical of the President for backsliding on everything from war to immigrant deportations to caving on taxes and deficit-reduction to drone killings. When Obama asked Harry Belafonte, another campaigner-turned-critic of Obama's, for he and West to cut him some slack, Belafonte responded with, "Who says we're not?" (See this and this).

5. The California Dream Act: 6 weeks ago Governor Brown signed legislation to bring more opportunity for undocumented young people who have graduated from a California high school after attending a CA school for at least 3 years, as well as meeting academic standards and show financial need:

Beginning in 2013, illegal immigrants accepted by state universities may receive assistance from Cal-Grants, a public program that last year provided aid to more than 370,000 low-income students.

The new law also makes students who are not legally in the country eligible for institutional grants while attending the University of California and California State University systems. And it permits them to obtain fee waivers in the community college system.

6. Ched Myers & Elaine Enns: These biblical scholars and activists of the Bartimaeus Cooperative are married to each other and continue to publish great resources for progressive Christians committed to living biblically in every area of their lives. Myers, the radical discipleship liberation theologian, & Enns, the Canadian Mennonite restorative justice practitioner, are a much-needed, often overlooked and more compelling alternative to more mainstream and popular Christian forms. Check out their 2 volume Ambassadors of Reconciliation (2009 & 2010). Great scholarship, intentionally readable and extremely practical.

7. Occupy Everything: The Canadian post-Anarchist periodical Adbusters challenged her readers to show up on Wall Street on September 17 with their tents...indefinitely. More than 2 months later, these courageous occupiers are still there, as well as occupying more than a thousand other places all over the planet. This activism has been snidely critiqued as a vision-less and unfocused demonstration, but we shouldn't miss the forest for the trees. Cries of "We are the 99%" echo all over the nation, calling out the obvious: American "democracy" has been hijacked by a ruling class ("establishment") of corporate, government and media elites who are hording resources and power. The widening income inequality gap is but one sign that the Reagan Revolution has been a disaster for the United States of America.

We could go on and on and on. Thanks to Chris McDougall for his continual exploration into the art of distance running. Thanks to Chris Dollar for making running fun for teenage boys. Thanks to Sheldon Good for believing in the vision of EasyYolk and posting some of this stuff to Menno Weekly's blog. Thanks to Sue Airey for continuing her theological journey into and through her 60s. Thanks to Dale Fredrickson for his obsession to communicate Scripture simply and prophetically (and for introducing me to John Howard Yoder back 2002). Thanks to my wife, Lindsay, for her one-of-a-kind compassion, pursuit of transformation, solidarity with the least-of-these and patience with my own struggles with relational prostitution, achievement orientation and love affair with Jayhawk basketball.


  1. And one more thing that I trust many of your readers will join me on our list of thanks...to Tom Airey for faithfully prodding our minds to deepen our faith, compassion and how we treat the world and others. You are loved.


  2. Wow!! I have been missing out on all this easy yolk goodness the past few months! Great reflections, my Love. So much to be thankful for.