Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wishing you a very merry green Christmas!

Dear Friends,

In addition to wishing you a "green Christmas" (see below), we'd like to share with you some of the highlights of our year. As those of you who read my blog know, our most recent joint project has been "greening our home." Our hope has been to set an example and encourage others to go green and advocate for green policies. A week ago Jill and I had a "green Christmas" party which over 50 people attended.  Steve Scauzillo, a journalist for the Pasadena Star News who is deeply committed to environmentalism, heard about our green initiative and decided to feature us in his weekly column. He interviewed us and wrote a lovely article about the faith basis of our project which you can read about by clicking here: Steve Scauzillo's article

Here is a holiday poem I wrote, commissioned by Jill, and our Christmas newsletter for 2014. Enjoy!

We wish you a very merry Christmas,
And a holiday that’s full of cheer.
This note is to let you know
That you are so very dear.
We’re dreaming of a green Christmas.
That is the kind we’d like to see:
Where the skies are clear
Throughout the year
And the  world is pollution-free.
In faith park come and rest.
See  how our garden’s blessed--
With bird and bee and butterfly
Descending from on high!
Come check out books for free
In our little library.
Drink water from our fountain.
Gaze up and see the mountains.
Come chat with us a while.
Your stories make us smile.
As we cruise down the street
In our electric hybrid car,
We’re a little like the ones
Who followed yonder star
Foretelling peace on earth….
We’re grateful for the birth
Of the child who saved us all,
Creatures great and small.
May your year be full of peace
And joys that never cease. 

Anthony: “Blessed are the peacemakers!” That phrase rang true for me when Jill and I began the year by attending a wonderful gathering of peace activists committed to ending war. This gathering at the Ben Lomond Quaker Center was organized by David Hartsough, one of the foremost Quaker peace activists of our time,  who is convinced (as I am) that we need to do our utmost to end the threat of war, just as people of faith once worked to make slavery illegal.

 This summer I became the clerk (coordinator) of the Pacific Yearly Meeting Peace Committee and published a new book called Transformative Quakers about Bill Lovett, Bob Vogel and Josephine Duveneck. (You can order the book via Amazon. See  Transformative Quakers) I was gratified by the enthusiastic reception this book received, and am grateful that Jill nudged and encouraged me to write a bio of Bill Lovett, who served three years in prison as a war resister in WWII and helped start Self-Help Enterprises to build affordable homes for farm workers.  I continue to work with Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and with Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). In November I attended Quaker Lobby Day along with 400 others in Washington, DC. This year we lobbied Congress to support diplomacy with Iran.

The family high point of the year was spending Easter with Jill and my Greek family on Andros, the Greek island where my father was born. What a joy it was to journey through Italy to Greece, my spiritual heart land, with Jill! It was also a joy to celebrate Thanksgiving with Jill’s family—her  delightful Mom and sister and many kids and grand kids. I feel blessed that I am part of such a loving family, and I thank God that I can dedicate my life to working for justice and peace with Jill as my partner!

Jill: As a catalyst, my greatest joy is connecting people with each other and with God. I stand amazed at how God weaves together every detail and expands this ministry in our home, our neighborhood, our city, as well as nationally and internationally. Despite my struggle with health issues, it blows my mind how God multiplies these efforts.  We serve an awesome God!
Home: This year God enabled us to lower our carbon footprint by 80%!! With the help of rebates, we’ve installed solar panels and replaced our turf with decomposed granite and mulch. We’ve also installed a gray water system to recycle water to our fruit trees—could this be one solution to California’s drought?  A article about the greening of our home was published in the local newspaper explaining how we seek to be good stewards of God’s creation.
Neighborhood: We’ve had neighborhood watch meetings, Bible studies, and lots of fun encounters through our new “Little Free Library.”  The police assigned to our area say the level of engagement in our “hood” doesn’t exist in others.
City: Because we live in a largely African American corner of Pasadena, we are keenly aware of the racial attitudes that affect police behavior. In the aftermath of Ferguson, I have reached out to the mother of a 19-year-old unarmed African American youth, shot seven times by Pasadena police two years ago. I am working with the churches to bring healing and more police accountability.
Also, after much prayer, a team is emerging with the local school district to consider a unique model of affordable homeownership for district employees on their surplus land—universities like Westmont and Harvard do this.
I continue with a city-sponsored Faith Committee to End Homelessness, as well as our Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group that among other things, has helped our city win an award for the best Housing Element planning document in the state of CA. We are  now negotiating with city leaders how to best assure this plan to house all citizens—including the homeless—is implemented.
State: In October I had the joy of going to Sacramento for a gathering  of 75 experts t convened by the Western Center on Law and Poverty to discern affordable housing policy priorities for 2015.

National: In September Anthony and I attended  Christian Community Development Conference (CCDA) in North Carolina. It was a joy to bond with a small group of folks from across the US on weekly conference calls (since February) to plan a Housing Symposium (looking at best practices) and an Action Tank (looking at policies to prevent housing displacement caused by increased housing cost) for the 3,000+ CCDA conference attendees. I  thank God for an emerging partnership between CCCA and Right to the City to curb housing displacement!
In June 2015, if enough students sign up, I will be teaching a two-week Master’s level course on Housing Justice in Denver, CO. Pray. Interested? We also get to attend my nephew’s wedding while there.
International: With considerable experience in book publishing, Anthony suggested we publish a Spanish translation of one chapter in my book: “Ownership, Land and Jubilee Justice.”  We plan to share this bilingual booklet at an international gathering of Latin American Quaker pastors and leaders in March, held in Mexico City.  God has  raised up a “read team” of Latinos enthusiastic about this project. Patricia, a local school teacher, Grecia from Guatemala and Josh, her boyfriend have been especially helpful. Not knowing how to begin this project, I hired someone who seems to have used google translate (translating just the words without fully understanding the concepts). As we comb through and correct the translation, we’ve  had many belly laughs over crazy syntax and words choices!

To nurture my soul this year I began a women’s group with key leaders and pastors in our city. They are a joy! Anthony and I also nurtured our souls in a little cottage on the Oregon coast while attending my friend Janet and Wayne’s incredibly meaningful Christ-centered wedding. While there I met a Portland, Oregon, pastor whose church members arrive on bicycles. We met with his staff who were reading and discussing my book!!

At Thanksgiving our family celebrates by performing “lip syncs.” Anthony and I wore lion T-shirts as we sang and danced Elton John’s “Circle of Life”…. So totally fun!!!


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