links: this went thru my mind


Benevolence, charity, generosity, money, poor, poverty & Texas: * Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In [required reading]; * Let Them Eat Cash

* “One-third of Texas’ $48 billion in tax revenue last year came directly or indirectly from the oil and gas industry … but very little of it is spent on social services and programs to assist the poor, although some helps finance public schools and universities. So, despite the boom, Texas has some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and ranks first in the percentage of residents without health insurance.”

* “… he was worried that people might spend the handout on drugs or alcohol. This pessimism (and paternalism) is common and understandable. But evidence from other countries suggests we should be more optimistic.”

Church & complaining: How Complaining Keeps the Church from God’s Mission

“If you want to be a part of a church that makes a difference, if you want your small group to make a difference, refrain from wasting your energy on easy targets. It’s not worth your time. Stop ranting on social media about all kinds of things that are wrong from your point of view. We all have concerns. We all know that life is not as it is supposed to be. Instead focus your energy on what you do have influence. Spend your energy on serving your family today. Invest in a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Pray for your neighbor. You can change the world if you focus on your circle of influence.”

Discipleship: Four Marks of Biblical Discipleship

“The question isn’t merely about the mission; it’s about how disciple-making should be defined. Is disciple-making broad or narrow?”

Efficiency, productivity & work: 5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder

“… it’s easy to fall into a pattern of “always working,” rather than working smart …”

Intercession & public prayer: Using “We” in Public Prayers [essential reading]

“… we need to be very careful about how we use the word ‘we.’ … five groups, for whom the ‘we’ in the congregation/church/service might not apply: (1.) Our troops: what if foreigners are present? (2.) Our country: same. (3.) Our young people (or our older people): what of visitors? or those who have no children? (4.) Our children’s children: same (5.) Our environment, our world: is the world ours? or God’s?”

Marriage: Eight Things We’ve Done Right in Our Marriage

“The most important thing we’ve done right is we’ve never given up on our relationship … no matter how hard things got.”

imagine you, on food stamps (3)


Pop quiz! A single question.

Do you recall the absolute maximum dollars-per-day-per-person figure we learned yesterday as we made our inquiry into the benefits of SNAP (“food stamps”) in Texas? You can answer with either the exact amount or the rounded-up figure. You have ten seconds.

Time’s up! If you said $6.00 (the rounded-up figure), you pass. If you said $5.92 (the exact figure), you pass, and get a gold star. If you didn’t remember, you need to catch up on your reading (part one & part two).

That theoretical maximum figure of $5.92 per person (in our hypothetical, two-person household) works out to $183.52 per month (or about $367 total for both people in the household). Notice I said theoretical.

“What is it in reality?,” you ask.

SNAP-TexasThe average monthly benefits from SNAP (“food stamps”) distributed per participant in Texas last year was significantly less: $125.57 per month to be precise (source). That is, the reality is about only two-thirds of the theoretical! And while things aren’t the best in Texas in this regard, it’s not like things are all that much different in the rest of the continental United States (i.e. – $148.63 per month in New York, is the highest; $115.08 in Minnesota, is the lowest).

Do ponder this: the average amount folks who receive SNAP benefits in Texas have at their disposal each day is $4.05 (as opposed to $4.79 in New York and $3.71 in Minnesota). But, to make things easy to remember, we’ll round things down this time and just call it $4.00 a day.

Not $4.00 for non-essentials, but $4.00 a day for food. That’s $1.33 per meal if, like most people, you eat three times each day. Skip a meal and you can bump your per-meal funds up to $2.00.

In case you missed the cue, this is the point where you stop reading this for a moment and utter an audible “Wow” followed by a bit of a deflated, heartbroken sigh.

That’s $4.00 per day per person for our one week project (or if you chose, like me, one month) this coming January. And so, it’s none too early to start thinking about what exactly you can, and will, have as a part of your diet in this project. You’ve got some thinking and shopping to do for this project.

Of course, for those of us who participate, it’s only a “project” right now, right? For others – nearly 4 million of the 25 million who live in the great state of Texas – roughly one out of every six or seven people in our state – it’s not a “project,” but “everyday living.” (source)

That’s something to think about it, isn’t it? All the more, they’re people to pray for and to help as you can.

make poverty personal (4)


 While renewal may have started with the Bible’s wild ones, it was only actualized when a partnership between the margins (the prophets) and the center (kings and priests) occurred. The center’s willingness to give up privileges and not only listen, but also give all they had, to the alternate visions named by the edges, created real change. Why are the margins so important to the renewal of societies? Put simply, the marginalized are the litmus test of whether the ideals and values of a society are working out. The center may at best see the overall picture and be ready to respond, but the margins live the failures of that picture. If Hebrew history offers anything today in our struggle today against stubborn poverty, perhaps it is that when the center does not listen to the margins, there is a spiraling and tragic decline of both the center-leaders and the nation as a whole. The requirement of solidarity between wild edges and the established center is something faith communities, organizations, and governments today need to hear again and again. It is especially important if we are to end oppression of the margins by the center. Freedom from oppression requires changes by the powerful center, not just the margins.

Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does by Ash Barker (Baker Books, 2009); pp. 84-85

making poverty personal (3)


I have noticed lately that the only places I hear Proverbs quoted is by prosperity preachers or in cute greeting cards. Few others seem to love or even know what to do with this collection of sayings attributed to King Solomon. Yet, what Proverbs has to say about poverty would please neither. …

Are we content to blame the poor for being slack and not being righteous enough, or assert that the rich are only rich because they are diligent? Some Christians are content to live their lives by such notions – but obviously only the ones who are not poor! … let’s look at a few other proverbs that would not make rich Christians feels so smug:

  • “The field of the poor may yield much fruit, but it is swept away through injustice.” (13.23)
  • “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.” (14.31)
  • “It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (16.19)
  • “Better the poor walking in integrity than one perverse of speech who is a fool.” (19.1)
  • “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” (21.13)

I don’t think these proverbs have ever been engraved on complimentary “golden eagles” given away to those who donate to televangelists’ ministries.

Making Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does by Ash Barker (Baker Books, 2009); pp. 72-73