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Archive for September, 2012

Communities of Change: Possibilities or Disempowerment?

I am taking a course on community engagement and had to think through the complexities of ‘community’ – I could write a whole book on this topic, so narrowing it down was quite a challenge. We had to bring in one of the readings (which you will see, I chose an article by Block) so that is why there is just one really academic source. But it’s a good one I think for the purposes of my argument. My professor gave me permission to post my assignments after they are submitted given that all the things I am writing about are actually timely in their relevancy. There have been some edits to maintain anonymity, but this essay was probably the one I’ve written with the most passion.

Introduction

‘Community’ is a term that is a part of my daily vocabulary as I am member of multiple communities including an ‘intentional Christian community’ defines my comings and goings in more ways than any other community with which I identify. Communities can be powerful places of belonging, identity and mutual support. Community can be a vehicle for challenge and change – and indeed, through community, I have witnessed powerful change in myself and other people. Yet, too often, ‘community’ is defined in idealistic terms and crises dash its beautiful hopes when we are faced with the harsher realities of life. In this reflection, I will discuss a recent experience that highlights one of the limits of community. ‘Community’, however defined, is limited by the powers and structures in which it is situated and is often trying to change.

The Courage to Stand

I met Kim Rivera at a children’s play center while taking care of my friends’ children. My neighbourhood is an interesting community as people gather together for support even when they do not know each other. It is highly populated with people considered to be on the ‘margins of society’ and there are many programs targeted towards this ‘needy’ population. Yet, when one neighbour is in trouble, this community is quick to gather in solidarity and support.

Kim is an American conscientious war objector from the Iraq War. She was recruited with an offer of education in exchange for service – an option that her socioeconomic status could not have provided. She thought protecting her country after the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks and the threat of weapons of mass destruction was a noble vocation.

In 2007, she was deployed to Iraq and discovered the harsh realities of this war. She became increasingly distraught over how innocent civilians – mothers and children – were being treated. Moreover, she felt that she had gone to Iraq under false premises. During her two week respite, she decided that she could not in good conscience fight this war. She and her family fled to Canada, knowing that if she stayed in the United States, she would face punishment for going away-without-leave. Once in Canada, she began to speak out against the war, continued to seek the appropriate means to legally stay in Canada and volunteered her time to serve her neighbourhood. Regardless of people’s stance on war, Kim’s courage is worth noting: Kim stood up against the world’s most powerful military and said that what she was being asked to do is wrong.

A Crisis Emerged

On August 30, 2012, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney ordered a deportation notice that would take effect just a few weeks later (September 20) (War Resisters Support Compaign, 2012). The community’s response was incredible to watch unfold. Neighbours gathered to show their support for Kim and her family. War Resisters Canada disseminated information across the country and beyond, urging people to contact Kenney to have the decision revoked. Nonviolent protests were held across the country. Within five days, almost 20,000 Canadians signed a petition online that was taken to the House of Parliament.

I witnessed people of all religious, ethnic and political backgrounds form a community to have the Canadian Government allow Kim and her family (as well as other war resisters) stay. Mothers huddled together regardless of background because their hearts ached at the thought of a mother of four children (ages 18 months to 11 years) being separated because she stood by her conscience. Politicians from all parties got involved in the campaign. Influential people and organizations joined, expanding the borders to a global campaign and community. Amnesty International issued a statement claiming that a failure to allow conscientious war resisters from the Iraq war remain violates Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which both Canada and the United States ascribe (Amnesty International Canada, 2012). Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu urged Canada to let Kim Rivera stay as the Iraq war is an “illegal war” that was based on false assumptions (Tutu, 2012).

Powerlessness of Community

With this situation fresh in mind, I found Block’s description on community to be despairingly idealistic, simplistic and practically irrelevant to the plights of many communities that seek change. Block writes, “The context that restores community is one of possibility, generosity and gifts, rather than one of problem solving, fear and retribution” (Block, pg. 29). ‘Community’ is often formed in tumultuous times that draw people close together for solidarity and a common goal. Block’s argument requires that people are on a similar (if not the same) page on what is “required to end unnecessary suffering and create an alternative future” (Block, pg. 30). The Canadian government could not reach solidarity in the case of Rivera: Harper admitted that the Iraq War was “absolutely a mistake” (War Resisters Canada, 2009), Parliament voted twice against the deportation of war resisters (War Resisters Canada, 2009a), and despite public outcry, Kenney stood by the deportation notice. If our policy makers and law enforcers cannot reach solidarity, is there any hope for a nation as diverse as Canada? Dictatorship is perhaps the only way to create solidarity with a population that is so diverse in thought, opinion and beliefs. Instead, we need to empower communities to stand and fight for what they believe in.

The reality of communities is that they only possess the power to create change that has been given to them. In Canada, we allow petitions and lobbying our politicians as a means of voicing public opinion. But in the face of those who make decisions, this empowerment holds little power. According to War Resisters, 82% of Canadians opposed the Iraq war. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party applauded Rivera’s return to the United States (War Resisters, 2012). The accountability that Block advocates is impossible when those in power impose their ideals on communities that are challenging and trying to change those very ideals.

In addition, Block oversimplifies the root cause by reframing the problem as “the breakdown of community” (Block, pgs. 33-34).  In this example, community strengthened and multiplied in support of Rivera. Rivera appealed the deportation, asking that she be allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds while she sought other legal means to stay permanently in Canada. The judge ruled that she would likely not face imprisonment, despite the examples of other war resisters who have spoken out against the war, been deported and subsequently detained (War Resisters Support Campaign, 2012). The United States authorities were waiting for Rivera at the border and welcomed her back by escorting her to military prison (War Resisters Support Campaign, 2012). This is not the breakdown of community, but powerful forces silencing the public.

The political fallout of such disempowerment is huge. Powerful structures and people prevent communities from being “communities of possibilities” as Block calls them (Block, pg. 29). A community’s possibility is limited by the lack of power given to them. The more disturbing fallout, however, has to do with the message that we are sending others. The Canadian government handed Rivera over to be punished for objecting to war. The comments in the newspapers spell out the huge array of responses to this action. In a country that values individual thought, expression and beliefs along with its cultural, religious and political diversity, solidarity on moral, political and legal issues simply is not realistic. The insistent deportation of a woman courageous enough to say she will not hurt another human being – innocent women and children in Iraq – gives the message to communities that they have a voice as long as the authorities agree with them. In such a society where unpopular or conflicting voices are silenced, communities lack the power that Block claims will “create an alternative future” (Block, pg. 31). Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, states that “this isn’t about politics; this is an issue of human rights. This is all about the right to freedom of conscience” (War Resisters, 2012).

 

Conclusion

While thousands of Canadians protested across the country on the day before Kim was to be deported, a smaller community gathered around Kim and her children in a playground. Kim’s eldest son (age 11) knew that his mom was probably going to jail because, in his words, she “didn’t want to kill anyone” (War Resisters Emergency Meeting). And Kim’s community – my community – wept, knowing that there was nothing we could do. This is a sad silencing and disempowerment of a community that fought for change, justice and peace. Perhaps Block was partially right – if we detach ourselves from the problem, we may see that what problems communities are facing are actually symptoms of something much deeper. However, they are not problems of the breakdown of community. Rather, they are problems with how power is distributed in society.

This was not part of my essay – but, I feel that as a follower of Christ, there is hope amidst the broken and messed up word that we live in and Martyn Joseph’s words speak to this:

The trees are great with summer, but the sunrise seems much colder/ We’re teaching brutal lullabies and nurturing child soldiers/ With ammunition from our factories, we’re sending them our best. A metal sash of bullets to where across their chests/

Yet still this will not be/ though all around is rage/ The story’s getting darker with each turning of the page/ Yet still this will not last/ this kingdom of the fool. We’ll be humbled and made low/ when the brokenhearted rule

We legislate much for us/ decree for you much less/ we mouth platitudes on justice/ while expousing lawlessness/ A doctrine of self interest/ is our testament and style/ We fire missiles at the heavens and put the moon on trial.

And narrow is the access/ to our strong rooms and our vaults/ As we toast our toxic riches/ and we reinforce the bolts/ And we’ll film you with your wasting bones/ with your dignity and pride/ as we carry with us our expanded brokenness inside.

There’s a journey that’s now calling/ towards the ocean’s heart/ it’s an offering of mercy/ where we play the self-less part/ We’ll leave our treasures by the roadside/ and our trinkets in the dirt/ Giving back life and ruby riches to the broken and the hurt

(Martyn Joseph, Still this will not last)

 

Works Cited

Amnesty International Canada (2012). USA: Woman detained for conscientious objection. http://www.amnesty.ca/iwriteforjustice/take_action.php?actionid=919&type=Internal (Last accessed: September 26, 2012)

Block, P. (2009). Shifting the Context for Community. In: Community: The Structure of Belonging. (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers) pgs. 29-36

Tutu, Archbishop Desmond. Don’t deport war resister Kimberly Rivera. The Globe and Mail, September 17, 2012 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/dont-deport-war-resister-kimberly-rivera/article4544856/ (last accessed: September 26, 2012)

War Resisters Support Campaign (http://www.resisters.ca)

War Resisters Support Campaign (2009a). Immigration Committee Votes Again in Favour of Letting U.S. Iraq War Resisters Stay in Canada. Activist Magazine http://activistmagazine.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=979 (Last Accessed: September 26, 2012)

War Resisters Support Campaign (2009b). Reason #1 to Let War Resisters Stay – Stephen Harper admits the Iraq War was “absolutely an error”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYTTbmCL4RQ&feature=player_embedded (Last accessed: September 26, 2012)

War Resisters Canada (2012). Leading Canadian advocates speak out in support of U.S. Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0q8MmMPUXw&feature=player_embedded#! (last accessed: September 26, 2012)

Enough

There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I have spent the past 4 days pretty much solidly in my neuroscience textbook trying to understand and memorize the incredible amount of terms and concepts that make our brains what they are. I’m not really a crammer – but this was my back up course (Sadly, I didn’t get into stats) and I didn’t think the test was until next week. It was today and thankfully it went well. I have a paper to finish and then, I thought I’d have some time to breathe.

Ha! Checked my email and was reminded that i have a term test on Monday. How did it get to be October already??!!!

I was talking to one of my best friend’s tonight and she said that as a student you always feel like you are behind.

I haven’t finished unpacking yet. I called into work sick yesterday so I have to make that up later this week. My email inbox is full. My to do list is multiplying by the second.

One friend once said I tend to pack into a day what 3 people do – and that was before I started full time school and part time work.

And still – I find – there are not enough hours in the day.

When will enough be enough?

There is always more I can study, one more paper to add to the research, another person to help.

I’ve always admired my friend Laura – she is super woman. She does more in a day than what I have ever managed to do – and she does it well. She’s definitely my inspiration that school and work and community and service and rest and play and baking (She is the best baker I know!) can happen.

But how?

If I cut out sleep, I’m too tired. If I cut out prayer, I’m too drained. If I cut out people, I’m too depressed. If I cut out study, my grades suffer. If I cut out work, I can’t afford to go to school.

There aren’t enough hours in the day.

Maybe that doesn’t matter.

Maybe I need to trust that in this moment, God is here. And that is enough.

Small mercies

Science textbooks are expensive. My employer has been paying me weekly to help with these costs (Altogether, my coursebooks have cost between $600-700! – that’s a whole month’s rent for me!). Now I’m not complaining about the cost – it is what it is and I am privileged in being able to go to school at this time in my life. But it’s been stressful and I have been buying my textbooks in stages.

I was on the waitlist for a statistics course and it was the course I was nervous about so I bought the (used) textbook and worked ahead. Unfortunately, there is a policy that full refunds are only given within 7 days of purchase. Today is the last day to add or drop a course and I didn’t get into stats. So I went to sell my textbook, hoping to at least get enough back to be able to buy the textbook for the course that I am taking. It’s been 9 days since the purchase and I realized I would be lucky if they gave me half.

Half plus what I have in my bank is doable. But groceries and transportation wouldn’t be. But there is a test on Tuesday. So I planned to go to the library and just pour everything into reading the textbook until my next pay cheque. Only, my professor didn’t put the book on reserve at the libraries and all the copies have been signed out. Not that that would help me anyways as I need the latest edition, and in the world of psychology, editions matter because huge shifts have been happening in recent years. I mean Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis will remain the same. But scientists are discovering how plastic the brain is when for so long it was thought it was unchangeable at a certain point. Also, as more and more research is done on the human genome, scientists are discovering the interplay between genes and environment.

So I decided to pray and went to the bookstore not knowing how I would buy groceries.

I spoke to one of the workers. And he offered a simple switch which meant that rather than forking out $150 for a textbook I only had to pay $15. This goes against their written policy, but they allowed an exception.

These small mercies remind me that God is here and God is in this venture with school.

Becoming Vegan

 

I recently made a pretty big decision to become vegan. I start officially tomorrow. In preparing people for this change, I’ve had quite a mixture of reactions ranging from cheer leading, suggestions, questions to outright disagreement. Since I can’t explain all the thought that has gone into this or offer my spin on things in just a couple of sentences for a facebook post, I’ve decided to devote an entire blogpost to share the journey of coming to this decision and the enthusiasm in which I am embracing this change.

But first, a disclaimer. Or rather two. First, I am not a health professional and so drastic changes to diet should be discussed with someone equipped to look at your specific needs and advise. Food and health are so intertwined and whether you are vegan or not, you need to be careful that your body is getting what it needs. Second, I think that choices around food are very personal. The purpose of this post is not to convince you to become vegan, to adopt a whole foods diet, to abandon meat or to make you feel guilty for not doing so! Rather, it is my explanation for why *I* am undertaking this journey at this time in my life and some responses to the common questions that I have been asked.

This journey began 4 or 5 years as I was painting my apartment. I listened to “Fast Food Nation” on tape and learned so much about the food industry that made me start to look at what I put into my body and where that food comes from. I tried going vegetarian and reducing processed foods and did a half-assed job of it and made countless excuses for my indulgences.

Then last year, I moved into a community house with two vegetarians. Many many interesting discussions. Over the past year, I have been researching on and off and discussing the problems of our food system.

And then, my doctor gave me recent test results which indicate that my body cannot process fat and sugars in the normal way. She ended my appointment with asking if I could cut these out? I nodded with little intention of abiding.

But then I started to think more about it and think about what I am putting into my body. I started to think about what would happen if I continued eating in the way I do (even though I eat a pretty healthy generally speaking) and about how changing my diet would not only prevent further damage but, according to one of my doctor, might reverse it.

Sold.

In addition, other reasons have been brewing in my head:

1) Health (generally)

I once heard a story of someone who left a McDonalds french fry out to see how long it would take to form mold on it. After months, he through it out – it looked the same as from day one. I used to buy the cheapest breads. And then one day I learned how to make bread from scratch and was shocked at how quickly it turned to mold and noticed that the crusts from the cheap bread that was bought a few weeks before were still not moldy. Animals are pumped with antibiotic and all sorts of chemicals in order to mass produce. The food industry is still an industry – if there is a way to make food cheaper and have people buy more, they will do it. The food industry follows the current nutritional fads of the day and target their products to people stuck in the fads. Meanwhile, healthier options exist beyond what the food packaging slogans say!

I saw a report today on rats that were fed Genetically modified corn and have all developed cancer. When food is tampered with so that it lasts longer and costs the food industry less, there is still a cost – only we, the consumers, pay for it with our bodies. Of course, there are stories of people who smoked a pack a day, ate whatever they wanted and lived to be a hundred. There are also stories of people who went vegan and became so ill they had to compromise their ideals for health. But there is consistent research supporting whole food diets and the costs of eating animal products and processed foods. Researchers are increasingly finding links between diet and obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular heart disease, cancer, diabetes. Some even go so far as to say that these conditions can be reversed. I am not convinced yet on this point though.

Obesity causes problems of its own. A silly example but one I often think of is this: my cat Shalom is HUGE and has been frequently nicknamed the “raccoon”. He could stand to lose a few pounds. As a housebound cat with a unrestricted amount of food in his bowl, he gained weight. And I noticed him snoring every night. The cuteness of his snoring aside, once he began to lose weight, the snoring disappeared, or at least decreased. Extra weight has an impact on our whole system. With the extra weight I’ve gained and having been out of a regular routine of exercising, I’m tired after any exertion.

There is increasing research on food and mental health. Yes that piece of chocolate cake feels pretty good in the moment. And I get a boost of energy thanks to a sugar rush. But after that passes, I often feel sluggish and not as emotionally good.

Clearly the old adage is true: we are what we eat.

2) Ethical issues in regards to animal treatment

So I’ve never really been an animal rights activist even though I’ve hung out with a bunch. But lately finding out how animals are treated in order to provide me with the products that are in the supermarkets literally makes me feel sick to my stomach. Each time I pour milk into my cup of tea, I think of the cows who are kept pregnant and in an incredibly small area. I have not been able to eat meat in a few weeks. One way of dealing with these ethical issues is to turn to organic, free range and whatever the rest of the jargon is. I don’t know about where you live, but organic milk for a 4litre bag costs ~$11 (while a non-organic bag costs about $5. For a student budget, this simply is not practical. The other option is to intentionally cut out animal products completely. If health wasn’t my primary motivation, I’m not sure this reason would be sufficient for me to make a rather big lifestyle shift. But – this is the option that I think is best for me at this time.

3) Food sustainability

This is something I’ve only done minimal research on and is something I am beginning to think about. Meat and animal products are expensive – animals cost money to feed, they are expensive to process, and I’ve seen stats indicating that huge amounts of plant food that are required to create a small amount of animal products and how there might be better and more efficient ways. If you want to know more about the issues around food sustainability I’m probably not the best person (yet!) to ask but stay tuned – I am doing research.

One thing I do know is that we are a culture that is moving farther and farther away from a connection to the earth. It is so easy to go to the local grocery store and pick up whatever we want to eat and not think about where it came from, what it is made from, what the impacts are on people, animals and the environment. Research has shown that people who eat in front of tv eat more in a meal than those who eat and converse with others over a meal. Why? we become so distracted and do not allow food to settle to signal our brains that they are full. Our disconnection from the earth is simply not sustainable for any of us.

So… some popular reactions to my new endeavour and my thinking…these aren’t direct quotes, but summaries of the various responses I’ve received to becoming vegan.

But what about all those nutrients that you get in animal products? Like calcium, B12, and iron?

So this was my biggest concern. So I’ll address this one in the most detail.

Calcium – An important fact that I didn’t know prior to my research is that vitamin D is required in order to absorb calcium from dietary foods. This means half an hour in the sun daily or vitamin D supplements. In addition, excessive protein can reduce the amount of calcium absorption. So just drinking milk doesn’t mean you are getting the calcium you need. Also, there are plenty of plant based sources that provide more than adequate amounts of calcium – here’s a few to get you started. Good sources (amount of calcium) include: 1 cup of kale (200mg), bok choy (350mg), chickpeas (95mg), quinoa (80mg). Compare this with 1 cup of milk (300mg) and calcium deficiency shouldn’t be a problem for me.

Iron – it’s commonly known that meat sources of iron are most readily available for absorption. The Dieticians of Canada suggest that vegetarians (and also vegans) need double the amount of iron in order to compensate for this. Plant sources include lentils, beans and some vegetables (such as spinach) and fruits. This nutrient will probably be the greatest challenge. Interestingly though, my bloodwork shows perfect iron levels when I am off meat, and iron deficiency when meat was a part of my daily diet.

B12 – I was reading about this one today. Did you know that B12 is bi-product of a certain bacteria in animals? Furthermore, we are instructed to wash our meat in order to get rid of the bacteria (and the majority, if not all, of B12). A staple for non-meat eaters is nutritional yeast which adds a delicious cheese-y taste and is the perfect source of B12. Also, many foods now come fortified with B12 due to the difficulty for vegans and non-vegans to get.

Just a word on nutrient deficiency generally – you can eat meat and still be deficient in essential nutrients. White bread, white rice, and white pasta are not very nutrient dense grains while quinoa, rye, buckwheat (to name a few) are. Given the typical North American diet, nutrient deficiency is quite possible for vegans and non-vegans alike. Some people go vegan on a whim or following a fad and think that you just don’t eat meat and animal products. But true veganism is way more than that and requires concious decisions about what you are eating. Variety, variety, variety. An apple a day only keeps the doctor away if you are getting other fruits, vegetables and grains that hold the variety of nutrients that your body needs.

What about protein – you need meat to get your protein!

Quinoa is a complete protein – meaning that you get all the benefits and can absorb them properly without the addition of other foods in the same way that you can eat meat and satisfy protein needs. If you haven’t tried quinoa, you are missing out…. it is incredibly versatile, has a naturally nutty flavour, is easier to cook than rice and is a very nutrient dense “ancient grain”. Lentils, beans, tofu and other legumes combined with grains (whole grains are best) are more than sufficient.

In North America, we eat WAY more protein than any of us need. Actually, we eat bigger portion sizes than Canada’s food guide suggests – this applies across the board – I learned in my nutrition course that a 12 inch sub is actually six servings of bread – SIX!!!! And think of how easy it is to down whole sub in one sitting.

But isn’t vegan food tasteless?

Yes, plain tofu is pretty darn tasteless. If a vegan diet was limited to just tofu then I doubt anyone would stick to it. I personally don’t mind the (mild) taste of tofu. But the key with tofu is in how you cook it – tofu takes on the flavour of what ever you cook it in. Also, texture matters. If you don’t like tofu, I dare you to try one of my recipes – you might be convinced.

Here’s a quote from one of my vegan books (Venturesome Vegan Cooking – bold flavors for plant-based meals):  “Too many people think vegetarian food is dull, that it is rice and broccoli day after day […] The world of food is vast and populated by so many flavours that boredom is inexcusable”

Not convinced? here are some tantalizing recipes that make my mouth water:

  • mango-ginger tofu (i’ve tried this – AMAZING and no it doesn’t lack in flavour at all. Is quite spicy actually!)
  • Potato-Edamame Samosas with Coconut-Mint Chutney
  • Maple mustard glazed potatoes
  • Green Thai curry
  • Pumpkin Seed-crusted tofu with baked pumpkin and cranberry relish
  • citrus cilantro rice
  • vegetarian haggis (just kidding on the ‘tantalizing’ aspect of this dish, but there’s a recipe in one of my books!)

But what about dessert??? You won’t be able to enjoy anything good anymore!

One of the things that I am most excited about this change (besides a healthier me) is being able to enjoy plant foods more and rely on processed sugar desserts less. Last night I ate a mango – I am completely enamoured with this fruit. I don’t think I’ve ever tried it growing up. Every time I bite into it, I am amazed at how something can be so sweet and amazing and yet healthy!

And for those days when I am craving something sweet, I have a compilation of about 50 amazing looking desserts in my two vegan cookbooks alone. There are fancy egg substitutes that one can buy for baking. But did you know that one banana per egg will make your muffins moist and fluffy and be healthier with the added bonus of an all natural banana flavour? There are other easy ways to substitute eggs that don’t flavour the foods all that much.

But it will cost a lot of time and money, won’t it?

Time is not all that relevant to me as cooking is my passion, my creative outlet, my stress reliever and something that is reliably a joy. If my housemates agreed to do the dishes every day, I would have no problem being the chef of this household! Mind you, that would mean they’d all have to switch to being vegan. But nothing excites me more than to create a recipe and to be rewarded with its awesome taste – or better yet – to watch others enjoy the fruits of my labour. (And even if time was relevant, most of the meatless dishes, including vegan ones, have taken me considerably less time)

If you invest in fake meat, veganaise, soy yoghurt, and anything marketed to wannabe vegans, yes a vegan diet will cost you money. But so will buying chips, ice cream and cake.

And truth be told, there is a reason why we can get fruits and vegetables at such a low price – buying organic and fairtrade is ideal, but realistically will probably break the banks of most people I know. The best advice I heard in my despair over the food industry is to “Do what you can and then some. And then pray” My limited student budget is not sufficient to end child labour and undeniably rotten working conditions and underwaged workers. Sometimes it is barely enough to buy food generally. I live and breathe into a system full of corruption. The laptop I am typing on, the ikea furniture in my bedroom, the clothes I wear would cost a heck of a lot more if I paid the labourers their worth. This is not a pitch for apathy – we need to be challenged. We need to address the injustices of our world and to challenge the systems that enforce corruption. We need to move beyond our comfort zone and to bear some of the cost of our lifestyles. But money is a huge barrier and definitely, the more you engage in fairly traded purchases, the greater your grocery bill. But this applies to vegans and nonvegans alike. I think after you’ve done what you can and then some, prayer is the next step. Also, I think we can honour the people who work and toil for our food through gratitude.

You can make being vegan as expensive or as simple as you like. But this is the same for animal based diets. As long as you aren’t buying specialty items, a vegan diet can be way less expensive.

Take for example the following meal:

 

This is a Lebanese dish that I tried to recreate from what my employer shared with me the other day. It is tasty, high in protein, fibre and other good stuff and is incredibly filling. So far I think we’ve gotten 8 servings out of it…. and there are still a few servings left. Cost of the entire meal? ~$3. Yep, you read that right – 10 or so helpings of nutrient dense and delicious food all for approximately three dollars.

If you can come up with a nonvegan meal that is as nutrient dense and feeds as many people for $3 or less, I will eat my hat (provided it’s not made from animal products).

So there you have it – this is why I am making the switch to become a vegan. I invite you to come along for the journey. I’m pretty stoked about about being more aware about what I eat and coming up with creative ways to never get bored with the plants that God has blessed us with.

Jesus Wept

It’s 12:30 am and I am still in tears and in shock over the news regarding my friend Kim Rivera. I keep hoping that when I check facebook there will be a glimmer of hope and at each check my hopes are further dashed. I’ve written our Minister of Immigration (again) and submitted a letter to the editor for a big newspaper in my city.

I am searching for answers to something that is just unanswerable. I am looking for reason to understand an irrational decision. I am lost in a wealth of emotions that range from rage to sadness that cannot even find the right words. I am trying to make sense of something that does not make sense.

And so I look to God and question him: how can this be? Surely if God was here, this would not be the way it is?

The story of Lazarus dying came into my head in response to this questioning.

John 11:32 “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:33, 35: “When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Jesus wept.”

I picture Christ weeping in this moment – being deeply moved and troubled. No simple answers, no platitudes, no legal sanctions. Just tears.

And so, as I and thousands of others weep tonight, may we take comfort in knowing that Christ weeps with us.

A sad day to call myself a Canadian

I have always bragged about my country. It is  beautiful, it cares for the needy and vulnerable, it enables me to be educated. We have rights of freedom of speech, belief, and laws that serve to protect (although this latter is sometimes more of an ideal than reality).

Today I hang my head in shock, disbelief, anger, profound sadness and a definite shame to calling myself a Canadian.

Harper stated that the Iraq War was “absolutely a mistake”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged Canada to let Kim Rivera stay in our country.

Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration, stood by his deportation notice.

And now, a courageous, peaceful woman who took a stand – and, unlike all those who have pushed for war – refused to stoop to the terrorists’ level. And, despite all the things that Canada stands for, we have forced her to go back to the US and face lengthy jail time and to be separate from her children – one of whom is only 18mths old. All because she stood up for what she felt was right. All because she couldn’t kill and mistreat civilians the way she was asked by the US military to.

How can we sing “God keep our land, glorious and free?” and “the True North strong and free” when we send away those who stand and risk everything for peace? When we take one of the most courageous women that I have ever known and basically affirm her punishment for being strong enough to stand up to the corruption of the world’s most powerful military? When we squash those who believe in justice strong enough to take action in a way that really matters?

Kim Rivera – you are my hero and my inspiration.

And I am so sorry that this has turned out this way.

In the morning

I am in my next temporary place for a couple of days before I move into my new place. It is super quiet here and I have a few minutes to just rest and reflect. I haven’t quoted a Steve Bell song in a long time. But I found myself gravitating to his music as yesterday I was feeling quite discouraged. Not discouraged about anything in particular. Just kinda bummed out. Today I slept in though and have a renewed look on life.

My to do list is growing by the moment so I hesitate to add yet another thing. But I am reminded once again how important it is to meet in the quiet with my Lord and Saviour. Simply going about my day in all its craziness is simply not going to be sustainable. I’m listening to a song right now by Bell – “In the morning Lord we look to you for the strength just to make it through – have mercy. In the evening Lord we look back and say “It was in your strength that we made our way”. You are everything we need – feed us Lord!”

When I know how important it is to take time to be with God and forget everything else, to hear his words through the Scriptures and to talk with Him – why do I always forget this?

My old housemate and dear friend at Camino house recently wrote a blog that I have been thinking a lot about: http://acommonhumanity.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/spiritual-disciplines/ Spiritual disciplines are important. And discipline is the right word. If we want to be physically fit, we exercise regularly. If we want to be a good piano player, we practice regularly. I think Spiritual disciplines are very similar – as soon as we let them go, our spiritual lives start to deteriorate. I will add a caveat – I am very thankful that God is not dependent on my feeble faith and inconsistent faithfulness in order to work or even to grasp my attention. Yet I do think we need to be intentional about setting aside time in the day that is sacred and to protect this special time with everything within us.

At Camino house last year, we had a rhythm of prayer that shaped our days. I am not a morning person. At all. But those days when I got up for 7:30am prayer and ended my day with prayer were filled with a richness that was so beautiful. And I found that those were the days when praying through my day became more natural. I miss that. My friend and I tried to adopt some rhythm but that rhythm was shaped by our varied schedules. I think that I need to shape my schedule by the rhythm of prayer and not the other way around.

So I am going to commit to you, my readers, to delve into Scripture and prayer daily – even when the amount of readings for my courses seems insurmountable. I will fail as I am sure there will be days when I am too tired, sleep in, simply forget or just procrastinate. But I commit that when I fall, I will get back up again. I commit to working to make this a discipline – not in a way to become a life that is bound by rules – but as something that I know is life giving.

And maybe, I will begin to echo these words: “In the morning Lord we look to you for the strength just to make it through – have mercy. In the evening Lord we look back and say “It was in your strength that we made our way”. You are everything we need – feed us Lord!”