Friday, November 30, 2007

Megan's Favorite Things Show

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas presents in the last couple weeks. I love giving presents. I love wrapping them, I love picking them out, and I love seeing how people will react to the presents. I really like giving presents that people get excited about. It is always disappointing when I give someone a gift and its just another gift. These are high standards, I know.

The bottom line is finding gifts that are meaningful. What makes gifts meaningful? What's meaningful for one person is not exciting to another person. I love making gifts for people, but not everyone wants a collage of pictures of our favorite memories. Not everyone appreciates the wonder of hand-made socks (its like wearing love on your feet).

One of the scriptures for this Sunday is Isaiah 2:1-5, which says that Jesus will "judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, either shall they learn war any more."

That Isaiah passage talks about turning from war and working together to provide for each other. Biblical Peace (Shalom) is a state where people are living in community and providing for each other, where no one is grasping for more than they need, and where no one has to fight for what they need.

So if we insist on giving gifts at Christmas (and I do love Christmas presents), the question becomes: Can we give gifts in a way that points to the gift God gave us in Jesus? I think so. We can give gifts that show love and affection (not just shopping ability), and we can buy gifts that are ethically produced. If is difficult to find gifts that are made in environmentally and socially ethical ways, but every little bit makes a difference. I've been doing some research over the past few months, so I have a few suggestions:

Do a book exchange. Have you read a book that you absolutely loved? Give a copy (or even better - your copy) to a friend or family member.

Make presents! Do you knit? Or scrapbook? Build stuff? Families can make Christmas cards together with whatever paper and magazines you have lying around.

Do something as a family or with a group of friends instead of giving presents. Go on a trip to DC or get tickets to a Broadway show. Memories (hopefully) last longer than most things, and if you have a bad memory you can take pictures.

Patagonia is a clothing company that I really like. They are pricey but they have good sales, and 1% of their profits go to environmental conservation. Some of their products are made of recycled fibers, organic cotton, and other environmentally friendly materials (ask me about my recycled shirts).

No Sweat is a company that makes sneakers and t-shirts that are guaranteed to be union made. They also use some organic cotton, comes from Bethlehem and is grown by both Palestinians and Israelis. They also sell vegan shoes and belts.

American Apparel is another company that promises fair labor. They also use some organic cotton. Warning: their pictures are kind of racy but nowhere near as bad as Abercrombie & Fitch.

Equal Exchange sells fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate. We sell a lot of this at our church!

Ten Thousand Villages distributes fairly made goods that benefit people in developing companies. There is a store off Main Street in Newark that sells some of this stuff.

Donate an animal to a family in need through Heifer International. Buy a bucket of chicken and feed your family for an hour. Buy a flock of chickens for a family and gift them a source of protein and income for years.

Sponsor a child through Compassion International or Food for the Hungry. About $30 a month can make a huge difference in a child's life. (Sponsoring a child has had an amazing impact on my life).

Do a gift exchange. If you have a lot of people in your family or group of friends, draw names instead of getting gifts for everyone. You can also have a gift swap/steal with a theme - this year I'm doing an eco-friendly gift swap with some friends. We hope to have fun and get ideas for ways to be more conscious about our habits.

Happy Giving!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Home Stretch

Thanksgiving is the best and worst thing that can happen to Fall Semester. By the time I got to Thanksgiving break, I was in desperate need of a vacation. I had the whole week off, which was amazing. After the Bazaar (which went really well), I went down the Baltimore and hung out with Ashlee and Marti. We went out to dinner, had AMAZING ice cream sandwiches, and then watched The Holiday. I spent the night at Marti's and the next morning we met Ashlee, Rich, Jen, and Bryna for brunch and then hiking at Gunpowder Falls State Park. Brunch and hiking on a Sunday!

Then (after hiking 5 miles) I drove down to the Outer Banks to meet my family. I hadn't realized exactly how exhausted I've been, but the first day I was there, I went to bed around 10 and watched tv until I fell asleep around midnight. I slept until 10 every morning, which was blissful. I spent the days reading and knitting and hanging out with family. I went on a bike ride around Hatteras village one day. On Friday we went shopping because Black Friday is also the last day of the tourist season so everything is on sale. I bought a pair of amazing heels, and pair of Tevas.

I got home Saturday and was back to work on Sunday. Now I'm back at school. The problem with Thanksgiving is that even thought it generally comes when I'm about to hit my breaking point, and then lose my motivation when I get back for the last three weeks of school. But, after tomorrow I will have one week of classes and then finals. I have two papers and two finals left. Then... 6 weeks of no school and working 30 hours a week.

All said and done, I'm thankful for rest and the beach and friends and family... and Christmas season and the hope that December and January will be great.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Pastor Amy just wrote a blog on eating locally produced food.... something I am hoping to do more of. There are some good suggestions.

Here is another link for an organization called Free Rice, which involves three things I love: rice, vocabulary and providing food for people in poverty! Take a vocab quiz and for every right answer, the organization donates 10 grains of rice.

I am planning a list of suggestions for socially-conscious Christmas shopping... as soon as I have time to put it together.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Meet me in St. Louis!

I'm in St. Louis at the National Youth Worker Convention! I'm going to make this short because there are people waiting for the computers (how like Camp). Anyway, this event is always awesome, and always exactly what I need. The year I came before was right at the beginning of my youth worker career, and the theme was about being brave enough in God to take risks. This year it is "Storyline" and they are talking all about how our story intersects with our story. This has been a really great time of discernment and rejuvenation for me, and its been fun hanging out with a couple other youth workers.

Today Jenn and I went to the Gateway Arch, which was awesome! Belay and Jenn's traveling gnome went with us and we took oh so many pictures. We are also both afraid of heights so that was awesome. Anyway, there will be pictures posted soon...

I love traveling!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Hallows (Christian and Wizard)

Happy All Saints Day! I taught a lesson in my high school youth group on resurrection and All Saints Day this weekend. Some interesting facts that many people don't know:

1) In Judeo-Christian belief, the soul and body are not separable. When we die, our souls chill with our bodies (its like the best nap you could imagine) until Jesus comes back and Resurrects us all together.

2) Even though this is what we technically believe, we still have beliefs about dead Saints being present with us (the idea of immortal souls being separate from the body comes from Greek philosophy).

My Church History teacher told us that Halloween traditions come from pagan festivals recognizing the start of the dark half of the year, when they believed that the world of the dead overlapped with the living. Night was a scary time during the ancient world, when they didn't have much artificial light. In the midst of this, the Church starts celebrating All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, as if to say "Bring it! We don't need to protect ourselves from evil spirits! We have the witness and the protection of the Christians who have passed on."

So this is a little problematic. We believe that the souls can't be separate from the bodies, but that the souls are present with us when we celebrate communion, etc. (Remember my World Communion Sunday note?) I mused over this with my youth group, and here is my theory. When the Resurrection happens, we are raised and enter God's presence. So even though my Grama is dead, in the future resurrection reality, she theoretically knows everything I've done to this point, and will do from here on. Even if she isn't hovering over my right now, in the future reality she knows.

I think about it like this: The Bible tells us that we are connected with believers all over the world, through the Holy Spirit. So if God is in all time and space, then from God's perspective our future resurrected selves are in God, and if God is with us, then they are with us through God. As I told my youth group, this is just me making crap up. Seeing as the great theologians of the church haven't figured this out, I doubt I have it down.

The bottom line is that we can take comfort in the fact that we will be resurrected body and soul someday and united with God, and our loved ones (living and dead) are still connected to us and present in our lives. All Saints Day is about remembering, honoring, and being inspired by those who have been witnesses in our lives

****This is where the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows references start****

So of course I'm going to relate this to HP. When Harry is walking to his death, the Resurrection Stone brings back his loved ones who have died in the fight against Voldemort. These are the Saints of the Harry Potter world. This is what All Saints Day is about, the early church was still full of real danger and trial, and the witness of the Saints gave people the courage to face even death for the their faith. Oh J.K. Rowling, you amaze me. If anyone wants to get me the best birthday present ever, arrange for me to have tea with J.K. Rowling. :-)

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