Monday, September 29, 2008


hey everyone

i know my posts have been a bit formal lately . . . a bit impersonal, especially considering what this blog once meant and once said about a year ago.

things have been moving so fast in life, and so dramatically . . . many ups and downs and turns. it is sort of overwhelming at times. for a while it was exciting, now is sort of disheartening. i am not sure where it will take me.

so, sorry for the impersonal posts, and such. though i long ago committed to intentionally communicating the hard thoughts and feelings to friends and out in the blogosphere, it has become obvious that some struggles are not appropriate for such a venue.

today i feel lost, and stuck, and somewhat directionless. even in this post.

anyway, just wanted to say i am still here. still wrestling/dancing/fighting/laughing with God and trying to find out our way together in this world.

i am antsy

is that even a real word?

to all of those who have helped on this journey . . . thank you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Romans 14

This really struck me this week, along with other passages of ecumenical acceptance and celebration. I struggle with knowing what to say here about this, because this struggle is planted so deep in my heart.
Though our theologies may differ, though the way we look, act, and speak may differ, we can be unified in Christ, and we can live in ways which celebrate our theological differences and respect the dignity of all.

Welcome all the Lord's followers, even those whose faith is weak. Don't criticize them for having beliefs that are different from yours. 2Some think it is all right to eat anything, while those whose faith is weak will eat only vegetables. 3But you should not criticize others for eating or for not eating. After all, God welcomes everyone. 4What right do you have to criticize someone else's servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right.
5Some of the Lord's followers think one day is more important than another. Others think all days are the same. But each of you should make up your own mind. 6Any followers who count one day more important than another day do it to honor their Lord. And any followers who eat meat give thanks to God, just like the ones who don't eat meat.

7Whether we live or die, it must be for God, rather than for ourselves. 8Whether we live or die, it must be for the Lord. Alive or dead, we still belong to the Lord. 9This is because Christ died and rose to life, so that he would be the Lord of the dead and of the living. 10Why do you criticize other followers of the Lord? Why do you look down on them? The day is coming when God will judge all of us. 11In the Scriptures God says,

"I swear by my very life

that everyone will kneel down

and praise my name!"

12And so, each of us must give an account to God for what we do.

13We must stop judging others. We must also make up our minds not to upset anyone's faith. 14The Lord Jesus has made it clear to me that God considers all foods fit to eat. But if you think some foods are unfit to eat, then for you they are not fit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blessing the Thorn in the Flesh

Blessing the Thorn in the Flesh

Bless you Wise and Holy One
For your Word made
Thorn in the flesh
For answering No when I prayed
To have my thorn removed

Bless you
For the thorn of alienation that
Drives me deep into inner desert
To face my need to please –
The desert where you recreate me
Deeper than popularity
Wider than the majority
Truer than hypocrisy

Bless you
For the thorn of hardship that
Helps me get the point –
That my thorn can serve
As another’s therapy
That the best healer
Is a wounded healer
That the hardship I cannot change
And that threatens to embitter me
Can change me – for the better

Bless you Wise and Hoy One
For this epiphany –
That praying away Good Friday
Prays away Easter too

Bless you,
For answering No when I pray
To have a thorn removed
Bless you Wise and Holy One
For your Word made
Thorn in the Flesh

-Norm S.D. Esdon

Monday, September 08, 2008

Some excerpts from the 2006 Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus . . .

Grameen Bank and I are deeply honoured to receive this most prestigious of awards. . . .

All borrowers of Grameen Bank are celebrating this day as the greatest day of their lives. They are gathering around the nearest television set in their villages all over Bangladesh , along with other villagers, to watch the proceedings of this ceremony.

This years' prize gives highest honour and dignity to the hundreds of millions of women all around the world who struggle every day to make a living and bring hope for a better life for their children. This is a historic moment for them.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.

World's income distribution gives a very telling story. Ninety four percent of the world income goes to 40 percent of the population while sixty percent of people live on only 6 per cent of world income. Half of the world population lives on two dollars a day. . . .

Peace should be understood in a human way − in a broad social, political and economic way. Peace is threatened by unjust economic, social and political order, absence of democracy, environmental degradation and absence of human rights.
Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.
The creation of opportunities for the majority of people − the poor − is at the heart of the work that we have dedicated ourselves to during the past 30 years.

I became involved in the poverty issue not as a policymaker or a researcher. I became involved because poverty was all around me, and I could not turn away from it. In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom, in the backdrop of a terrible famine in Bangladesh. Suddenly, I felt the emptiness of those theories in the face of crushing hunger and poverty. I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me, even if it was just one human being, to get through another day with a little more ease. That brought me face to face with poor people's struggle to find the tiniest amounts of money to support their efforts to eke out a living. I was shocked to discover a woman in the village, borrowing less than a dollar from the money-lender, on the condition that he would have the exclusive right to buy all she produces at the price he decides. This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor.

I decided to make a list of the victims of this money-lending "business" in the village next door to our campus.

When my list was done, it had the names of 42 victims who borrowed a total amount of US $27. I offered US $27 from my own pocket to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders. The excitement that was created among the people by this small action got me further involved in it. If I could make so many people so happy with such a tiny amount of money, why not do more of it?

That is what I have been trying to do ever since. The first thing I did was to try to persuade the bank located in the campus to lend money to the poor. But that did not work. The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy. After all my efforts, over several months, failed I offered to become a guarantor for the loans to the poor. I was stunned by the result. The poor paid back their loans, on time, every time! But still I kept confronting difficulties in expanding the program through the existing banks. That was when I decided to create a separate bank for the poor, and in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank or Village bank.
Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly 7.0 million poor people, 97 per cent of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank gives collateral-free income generating, housing, student and micro-enterprise loans to the poor families and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products for its members. Since it introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family.

In a cumulative way the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6.0 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit. Financially, it is self-reliant and has not taken donor money since 1995. Deposits and own resources of Grameen Bank today amount to 143 per cent of all outstanding loans. According to Grameen Bank's internal survey, 58 per cent of our borrowers have crossed the poverty line. . . .

This idea, which began in Jobra, a small village in Bangladesh, has spread around the world and there are now Grameen type programs in almost every country.

It is 30 years now since we began. We keep looking at the children of our borrowers to see what has been the impact of our work on their lives. The women who are our borrowers always gave topmost priority to the children. One of the Sixteen Decisions developed and followed by them was to send children to school. Grameen Bank encouraged them, and before long all the children were going to school. Many of these children made it to the top of their class. We wanted to celebrate that, so we introduced scholarships for talented students. Grameen Bank now gives 30,000 scholarships every year.

Many of the children went on to higher education to become doctors, engineers, college teachers and other professionals. We introduced student loans to make it easy for Grameen students to complete higher education. Now some of them have PhD's. There are 13,000 students on student loans. Over 7,000 students are now added to this number annually.

We are creating a completely new generation that will be well equipped to take their families way out of the reach of poverty. We want to make a break in the historical continuation of poverty. . . .

Three years ago we started an exclusive programme focusing on the beggars. None of Grameen Bank's rules apply to them. Loans are interest-free; they can pay whatever amount they wish, whenever they wish. We gave them the idea to carry small merchandise such as snacks, toys or household items, when they went from house to house for begging. The idea worked. There are now 85,000 beggars in the program. About 5,000 of them have already stopped begging completely. Typical loan to a beggar is $12.

We encourage and support every conceivable intervention to help the poor fight out of poverty. We always advocate microcredit in addition to all other interventions, arguing that microcredit makes those interventions work better.. . .

We get what we want, or what we don't refuse. We accept the fact that we will always have poor people around us, and that poverty is part of human destiny. This is precisely why we continue to have poor people around us. If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world. . . .

I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social system that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.

Poverty is created because we built our theoretical framework on assumptions which under-estimates human capacity, by designing concepts, which are too narrow (such as concept of business, credit- worthiness, entrepreneurship, employment) or developing institutions, which remain half-done (such as financial institutions, where poor are left out). Poverty is caused by the failure at the conceptual level, rather than any lack of capability on the part of people.

I firmly believe that we can create a poverty-free world if we collectively believe in it. In a poverty-free world, the only place you would be able to see poverty is in the poverty museums. When school children take a tour of the poverty museums, they would be horrified to see the misery and indignity that some human beings had to go through. They would blame their forefathers for tolerating this inhuman condition, which existed for so long, for so many people.

A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution.

Grameen has given me an unshakeable faith in the creativity of human beings. This has led me to believe that human beings are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty.

To me poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a flower-pot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted, only the soil-base that is too inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seeds. Simply, society never gave them the base to grow on. All it needs to get the poor people out of poverty for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.
Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity. . . .

Thank you very much.

- from

Thursday, September 04, 2008