Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Reflection - Happy News

This week I decided to combine the Sunday Reflection and Happy News Blogs together.

The Following story is inspirational and lets us know what can happen if we just have 'faith the size of a mustard seed'. Wouldn't you agree?

A hole in the roof will be no more


Ten years ago, he first noticed it. A yellow ceiling stain. A water leak. Year after year it grew worse. Bigger. Darker. Sometimes during Sunday services he would glance up and wonder how much longer the old roof had.

Then one morning, in the spring of 2006, he came in after Bible study and saw plaster dust all over the pews, and a big chunk of what had once been the top of his church now, shall we say, more in touch with the Earth?

"We cleaned up the plaster, but it kept getting worse," the Rev. Henry Covington says. "Finally, one of our members climbed up to scrape the drywall, and the more he scraped, the more it came falling out."

There was no stopping the rot. It grew bigger than a man. Bigger than a horse. It became known as "the hole in the roof," a symbol of decay in the once-grand Trumbull Avenue Presbyterian Church, which more than a century ago had been the largest Presbyterian congregation in the Midwest.

These days, the building sits among the crumbling, largely abandoned blocks off Trumbull and Brainard. Covington's congregation, the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries, which took over the building, never had the funds to repair the infamous hole. Its members are mostly poor. Several nights a week, the church becomes a shelter for homeless people, who sleep on a gym floor. During the winter, it gets bone-chilling cold. But what can they do? Any attempt to heat the sanctuary goes up and out through the roof hole.

But that is about to change.

A time to celebrate

I wrote about this church in my book, "Have a Little Faith." I wrote about how the heat was turned off last winter because of unpaid bills, and how the congregation -- including many of the homeless clients -- was forced to build a giant plastic tent inside the sanctuary, just to have someplace dry and semi-warm to pray. I wrote about how deep an act of faith that was.

And a funny thing happened.

Despite the worst economic crisis in 75 years, despite every reason to say, "Sorry, can't help you, I have to take care of myself," people were moved.

Some were moved to come serve food to the homeless. Some were moved to send a dollar. Or $5. Dr. Phil was moved to do a show and donate money. A church in California was moved to offer to pay for the building supplies.

A foundation I started called A Hole in the Roof began receiving funds from around the state, then the country, then the world. A campaign was launched on Twitter called "Shingle Bells."

And thanks to that generosity -- from school kids, grandmothers, people of all faiths -- on Monday morning, at 9, a roofing crew will arrive, and will be greeted by some of the most relieved and enthusiastic church members you'll ever see.

And the hole will begin to disappear.

A time to get to work

"If you're willing to stand on faith, even when things seem like they're not going to happen," Covington says, gratefully, "sometimes those things happen. And Monday is the day that comes true."

The homeless churchgoers will sleep there Sunday night -- in anticipation of the construction -- and Monday morning, they will welcome the trucks and help unload the wood, shingles and nails of goodwill toward men.

In this way, the crumbling church of a small congregation becomes newly attached to hundreds around the globe. And in a few weeks, when the job is done, a plaque with the name of every person who made even the smallest contribution will be placed in the ceiling where the rain once poured in.

That's a cool way to plug a hole.

"It's like we were lost in the wilderness, and someone came and rescued us," Covington says. Maybe so. For the first time in years, Christmas at his church will be dry and safe and warm.

But someone gave me a small stone to put in the roof -- it reads "Miracles Happen" -- and while I believe that's true, so is this: All we really have to do is look out for one another, help fix each other's holes, and the miraculous can be an everyday thing.

Detroit Free Press

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5,292 U.S. Military killed so far in Iraq and Afghanistan

Casualties in Iraq

The Human Cost of Occupation

American Military Deaths in Iraq

Since Iraq war began (3/19/03): 4365

Total U.S.Wounded: Official 31,536 Estimated Over 100000

Latest Fatality Nov 22, 2009

Daily DoD Casualty Release

320,000 Vets Have Brain Injuries

War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked

How Many Servicemembers Were Wounded? Estimated over 100,000

Estimated 18 Vet Suicides Per Day

Iraqi Casualties – 1,339,771

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq 325

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan 927

Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan 601

Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq 1,395

Journalists - Iraq 335

Academics Killed - Iraq 431

Sources: DoD, MNF, and

All data was compiled from

As we prepare to spend time with family and friends this Thanksgiving season please take time to reflect on these numbers and at least contact the President, your political representatives, write a letter to the local newspaper to protest the wars - don't just sit there - do something! PLEASE!

Thank you - peacesojourner

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy News - Follow-up on the 'Extreme Makeover'

This photo shows some of the thousands of volunteers who rebuilt the home of the Powell family. They are shouting 'move that bus' upon the arrival of Delores Powell and her four children who returned home last week. They had been whisked away to Disney for one week after the TV show "Extreme Makeover: Family Edition" arrived at their house. They might have thought having their new house and neighborhood refurbished, and the excitement of a TV show was enough of a shock.

But, they had no idea what else was coming. The day after the family returned to have the first look at their new house, they were presented with a paid four-year scholarship to local Canisius College for each of the four children , and the keys to a blazing red, 2010 Ford Fusion.

The family's refrigerator and pantry were also stocked with food provided by the local Tops Market, and the freezer packed with frozen foods supplied by Rich Products, which announced it was donating a year's worth of products.

"I cannot tell you how my heart is feeling right now. I realize that a human heart is stronger than we ever believe," Powell said, with her children grouped around her outside the home's entrance.

"This joy that has flooded my heart since the 7th of November is unexplainable. I can never, never, explain what I am feeling inside, but you can just imagine. All of what has happened has made me to be very humble."

Powell said her older children want to attend college, but with limited financial means she has worried about how to make that happen, especially with her oldest, Joel, graduating next June.

"I will make sure that all my children do not take for granted this opportunity that has been given to them. I am going to stay on top of them as I always do," Powell said.

"I just want to thank Canisius College for giving them the opportunity that I couldn't afford to give them. God bless you."

Powell expressed her gratitude one day after Buffalo's eight-day odyssey with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" came to its dramatic conclusion Saturday with several thousand people packing into the little block on the Lower West Side of Buffalo, to welcome the awestruck mother to her new home.

This episode of "Extreme Makeover" is expected to air sometime early next year, maybe as soon as January, according to one source familiar with the filming.

The actions of the Extreme Makeover program appears to have had a 'domino' effect in the community. Builder David Homes, Western New York AmeriCorps and PUSH Buffalo, a nonprofit community housing organization, pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the rest of the neighborhood this week, unleashing 4,500 volunteers on 50 other properties.

They painted, installed roofs, sided homes, planted trees, put up fencing, rebuilt porches and landscaped lawns.

More importantly, though, they restored hope to a neighborhood in desperate need of it.

"It's not just a property transformation," Garrett said. "It's hope, which this neighborhood hasn't had in a very long time." The mayor has announced that there will be several similar actions in the communities of Buffalo in the upcoming year.

So it seems that the good fortune of the Powell family will be passed along to many others in the community. That is indeed some happy news!

(photos & information taken from the Buffalo News)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy News-International Day of Kindness

Just one week ago I wrote a post about the horrible things that were taking place in this country and the world. I spent the next few days trying to re-group and concentrate on some of the good things that are happening around me.

I decided that I am going to write a weekly blog to emphasize the positive and I will call it Happy News.

I had already planned to write about an event that is happening in Buffalo this week when I received a message from Bloggers United (a group that I have joined) reminding me to write a blog for November 13 which is ‘Kindness Day’. So my friends, these two themes certainly blend together in the following story.

Here is my first ‘Happy News’ Blog which also coincides with 'Kindness Day'.

Last Saturday the TV Program ‘Extreme Makeover’ visited Buffalo. They were here to announce that a deserving Buffalo family had been chosen for the makeover. The family was surprised and then whisked away to spend a week at Disney while ‘Extreme Makeover’ started their work.

I have mentioned before on this blog that this city is known, as the ‘City of Good Neighbors’ and, that I have had nothing but positive experiences from this community since moving here. It coincidently happens that the house chosen is just a few streets over from me in my part of town.

The Makeover crew put out a call that volunteers would be needed. When Buffalo learned about the project more than four thousand, five hundred volunteers showed up. Yes, 4,500! They have been working side by side with the TV crew twenty-four hours a day for a week now. None of the volunteers is receiving any financial reward for this effort but they are receiving a blessing from the good fellowship and camaraderie among themselves.

Along with this effort the call went out for a blood drive and hundreds of people showed up to donate blood. Also, another call went out for a food drive for the local Mission and Food Bank. I cannot tell you how many trucks were filled with food donations because I don’t know the exact number but they are in walking distance from my house and I can tell you it is quite a few.

Tomorrow the family will return from Disney – their lives changed forever. In a few days Buffalo will return to normal and every day routine will take over our lives again, but today the people of Buffalo have a smile on their faces. Truly in response to the multiple acts of ‘Kindness’ by thousands of local residents.

Earlier today the Executive Producer for ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition had some incredible things to say about the Queen City. Brady Connell says he's always had a "neutral" opinion of Buffalo. He also stated that of the 166 episodes that they have done he has never seen such a volunteer effort like this one - it's one of the best cities he's ever visited.

Welcome to Buffalo Mr. Connell – now you know about one of the best-kept secrets in the country -Buffalo is truly the ‘City of Good Neighbors’

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans For Peace - Call To Action

I received the following from Veterans For Peace. I urge you to read it and plan your personal 'call to action' in response.


call to actionEndorsed by: Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, National Assembly, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, United for Peace and Justice, andWorld Can't Wait.

Any day will likely come the sickening news that President Obama has decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan .

Here in the U.S. and no doubt around the world people will react in pain, anger and sorrow, knowing what tragedy and suffering will follow.

  • It will mean at a very minimum that the U.S. will occupy Afghanistan for several more years, sending home dead and wounded soldiers while killing and wounding many times more Afghani people. The suffering in Afghanistan today will grow by orders of magnitude and the U.S. will be that much less secure in direct proportion.
  • As tragic as it was to see Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" crash and burn on the rocks of the Vietnam war, the stakes are much higher now. The U.S. economy today still teeters at the abyss. Escalating the Afghanistan war will not just be the ruin of desperately needed domestic programs but may very possibly destroy the entire economy.

For those reasons and many more we call upon our members and every U.S. citizen with a love of humanity in their heart to pledge to at least the following actions:

1) Within the next few days, ideally prior to any decision from President Obama, conduct any of a wide range of local activities -- from calling Members of Congress to nonviolent civil resistance and everything in between -- demonstrating our opposition to and disgust with any decision to widen the war in Aghanistan. To show unity of purpose, we suggest local "March of the Dead" to Federal Buildings, local Congressional offices and government buildings of any sort.

2) On the day immediately following an announcement to escalate the war in Afghanistan, respond again in a variety of ways. To show unity of purpose, we suggest

a) making an appointment that day with at least one group that you're not already a member of -- a church, union, civic group, etc. -- to go and speak with them about the war

b) return to the streets and again conduct any of a wide range of local activities -- from calling Members of Congress to nonviolent civil resistance and everything in between -- and be prepared to comment to the news media about the escalation of the war.

President Barack Obama at Arlington

US President Barack Obama walks through section 60, the burial sites of the war dead from Iraq and Afghanistan, after participating in Veterans Day events at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Obama huddled with his war cabinet Wednesday to mull whether to send more troops to fight in Afghanistan having whittled his options down to four. (AFP/Tim Sloan)

AP – President Barack Obama walks past grave markers during an unannounced visit to Section 60 at Arlington …


What is he thinking? What is going through his mind?

He has an enormous responsibility on his shoulders .

I pray that he will make some changes soon to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Reflection - The State of the World

Yesterday evening I heard all of the following news stories within a three-hour time span.


- Woman, 31, loses leg in accident, when hit by a driver under the influence of drugs.

- Drunk driver sentenced in hit and run accident that left two women college students

in wheelchairs for life.

- Four teens killed in Sunday Night crash – 18-year-old driver driving at 90 miles per hour.


- Man arrested in Cleveland arrested for multiple murders – the police have found 11 corpses in his home.

- Shooting in downtown Orlando office building- former employee kills 1 injures others.

- 12 people killed and 31 wounded in Fort Hood shooting. Army officer has been detained.


- 5 more U.S. troops killed this week in Iraq and Afghanistan. Making the total 5,275 U.S military dead and more than 1 million Iraqis killed in this war.

- U. S. military drones aimed at villages in Afghanistan killing many members of one family gathered together for a funeral.

Then, while driving in the car, I heard the host of a right wing radio station talking about the Fort Hood killings. She was running rampant with linking the Army base killings to the entire Muslim community.

Friends - I felt like shouting,

“Stop the world – I want to get off for a few minutes!”

Today I am doing something that I am in the practice of doing when I am feeling overwhelmed and things seem out of control.

I stop and remain silent. I am spending this day in prayer, meditation and silence in order to re-energize myself for the work that I have to do tomorrow. I worked for a while in the Peace Garden and planted crocus and Allium lily bulbs, knowing that they will grow silently in the frozen ground when covered by snow and then burst forth in the Spring sunshine. Nature's promise of hope in the universe. In a few minutes I will take a walk along the waters edge of Lake Erie and gather even more energy from observing the forces of Nature.

And tomorrow I will be ready for my new adventures.


A voice of reason:

I would like to share with you a statement that was issued by the local Network of Religious Communities in Buffalo.

A senseless act of violence countered by building a world of peace with justice

Release Date: November 6, 2009

The members of the Network of Religious Communities are shocked by the senseless act of violence and fatal shootings at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas. We offer our condolence and prayers for the victims and their families. Let this be a time to remember and care for all who serve in harms way and especially their families who bear a special burden. Let us call to account any who would use this tragedy to exploit and spread religious hatred. Let us redouble our commitment to foster religious understanding and cooperation, building a world of peace with justice.


And all who are in agreement say Amen.


I pray that we will all be able to absorb a sense of peace in our hearts and minds.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Memory of Dorothy - Cameroon, Africa

Chimpanzees appear to console one another as Dorothy is carried to her final resting place in a wheelbarrow

United in what appears to be deep and profound grief, a phalanx of more than a dozen chimpanzees stood in silence watching from behind the wire of their enclosure as the body of one of their own was wheeled past.

This extraordinary scene took place recently at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, West Africa.

When a chimp called Dorothy, who was in her late 40s, died of heart failure, her fellow apes seemed to be stricken by sorrow.

As they wrapped their arms around each other in a gesture of solidarity, Dorothy's female keeper gently settled her into the wheelbarrow

Locals from the village serve as 'care-givers' to the chimps - something hugely needed by the animals who are all orphans as their mothers were killed for the illegal bush meat trade.

Hunters captured them as young babies, often still clinging to their mother's bodies, to sell as pets.

Until recently, describing scenes like this in terms of human emotions such as 'grief' would have been dismissed by scientists as naive anthropomorphising. (treating a nonhuman thing as human)

But a growing body of evidence suggests that 'higher' emotions - such as grieving for a loved one after death, and even a deep understanding of what death is - may not just be the preserve of our species.

Chimpanzees - as you can see in the November issue of National Geographic magazine, on sale now - and the closely related Bonobos maintain hugely complex social networks, largely held together by sex and grooming.

They have often been observed apparently grieving for lost family and tribe members by entering a period of quiet mourning after a death, showing subdued emotions and behavior.

From National Geographic - November 2009


If you look closely you can see that Dorothy's loved ones have their arms around each other in an expression of comfort. Who could doubt that animals have no feelings or emotions.
Our beautiful, late departed, German Shepherd - Coltrane, had obvious feelings ranging from happiness, sadness, excitement and at times jealousy if he felt than another was getting more attention than him.
Anthropomorphising is not being naive but understanding that all of nature's creatures have value and should be treated with compassion.
Thanks to National Geographic for this beautiful example of this.