News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  13 October 2016  •  No. 92

Processional.Am I Wrong,” Damien Escobar. (Thanks Gwenyth.)

Above: Pink-necked Green Pigeon, photo by Rik Seet.

Invocation. “Happy are those who walk in the Way of Beauty, harnessed in the Bridle of Mercy and according to the Weal of Justice. In this Law I delight! May it rule soul and soil and society alike.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “In this Law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119

This is amazing. Listen to Alex, age 6, read his letter to President Obama asking him to bring a Syrian refugee child to live with Alex and his family. (1:38 video)

Call to worship.Wana Baraka” by The Festival Singers of Florida. This popular Kenyan religious song expresses a message similar to that of Psalm 128 : “They have blessings (and, in subsequent verses, “peace”, “joy”, and “well-being”), those who pray.”

This year’s “Children’s Sabbath” observance, 21-23 October, is the 25th anniversary of this Children’s Defense Fund projects. CDF offers free worship and other planning ideas—for Christian, Jewish, and interfaith audiences.

Some numbers on the global status of children and youth:

        •The world today is home to 1.1 billion girls under the age 18. More than half of them live in Asia and a quarter live in Africa.

        •62 million adolescent girls around the world are not in school. Societies with educated girls have lower rates of infant mortality, higher GDPs, and contribute to the financial success of their families.

      •A child dies every 10 seconds due to a combination of undernourishment, impure water and easily preventable diseases.

      •More than 100 million children under the age of five are undernourished.

      •It’s estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.

      •In the US, 20% of children live in poverty.

        •In the US one child or teen dies from a gun every 3 hours and 28 minutes. Gun violence saturates our children’s lives and remains the second leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1-19.

        • In World War I, nine soldiers died for every civilian life lost. In today’s wars, it is estimated that 10 civilians die for every combatant, the majority of them children.

Listen to Michelle Obama describe “Let Girls Learn,” a joint initiative with the Peace Corps to develop community-based solutions to strengthen girls’ education. Watch Obama’s brief (1:12) video statement about the project. Go here for more photos and action suggestions.

Hymn of praise.The dance of the thousand hands of Guan Yin(aka “Saman”) is one of the most popular dances in Indonesia, whose origin is from the Gayo ethnic group in the Ache province on Sumatra. (Thanks Janet.)

A Jewish child asks: “When you’re asleep, you can wake up. When you’re awake—can you wake up even more?” —Rabbi Arthur Waskow

¶ “America’s caregivers find themselves in the middle of a kindness crisis, new research suggests: 70% of parents, and 86% of teachers, often worry that the world is ‘an unkind place for my child.’” Among the findings of a new study:

        •58% of teachers say most children today are disrespectful;

        •67% of parents say most children are disrespectful;

        •52% of teachers say being kind “is not a priority” to most people;

        •58% of parents felt manners are more important than empathy.Greg Toppo, USA Today

Greatest poem ever on children. “We pray for children / who put chocolate fingers everywhere, / who like to be tickled, / who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants, / who sneak Popsicles before supper, / who can never find their shoes. / And we pray for those / who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire, / who’ve never squeaked across the floor in new sneakers, / who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead, / who never go to the circus, / who live in an X-rated world.” —Ina J. Hughes, “A Prayer for Children.”

Confession. “Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day / It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away / Feel like my soul has turned into steel / I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal. . . . Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear / It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.” —Bob Dylan, “Not Dark Yet

Left: “Spirit of Audrey” sculpture by John Kennedy at the United Nations.

Although she is known around the world as the beautiful actress who starred in such memorable films as "Roman Holiday" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's," what Audrey Hepburn was most proud of was how she helped millions of children as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, dedicating the last years of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest nations, bringing them much-needed food, medicine, and clothing, just as she received when she was a child.
        She would go before Congress to testify: "Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicization of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanization of politics." See this profile.

Hymn of lamentation.Death hath deprived me of my dearest friend,” Thomas Weelkes, a eulogy on the death of Thomas Morley in 1602, performed by Vox Luminis.

¶ “If a child lives with criticism, she learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, she learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, she learns to be shy. If a child lives with shame, she learns to feel guilty.” —Dorothy Law Nolte, “Children Learn What They Live

¶ “What a society does to its children, its children will do to society,” a Roman sage once said. —Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB

These are not “family values.” “One other force opposing paid [maternity] leave is the business community. In 2007, one U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said his organization would wage 'all-out war' against paid-leave laws.” —Danielle Kurtzleben, “Lots of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not the US?”, NPR

Among the 38 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States is the only nation that does not guarantee paid maternity leave.

Words of assurance.Avinu Malkeinu” (“Our Father, Our King”), Barbara Streisand. The song is a Jewish song of supplication, sung from Rosh Hashanah until, 10 days later, Yom Kippur.

¶ “While the Republicans are passing a resolution celebrating Christmas, the president was vetoing health care for children. There’s a little bit of irony here.” —US Rep. Jim McDermott, explaining why in 2007 he voted against a congressional resolution recognizing the importance of Christmas, quoted in National Catholic Reporter

Short take. “The catcher in the rye” is what 17-year-old Holden Caufield tells his little sister he wants to be, rejecting her suggestions of lawyer and scientist. Holden, the narrator and main character in Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, wants to preserve innocence.
        He tells his sister that he imagines thousands of small children playing in a field of rye. At the end of the field is a cliff and if the children in the play wander too close and fall, he would be there to protect them.

¶ “‘Why do you stand?’ they were asked, and / ‘Why do you walk?’. . . Because the cause is / the heart’s beat, and the children born, and / the risen bread.” —Dan Berrigan, in his poem “Some”

¶ “Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.” —Albert Einstein

Hymn of intercession. “And you, of tender years can't know the fears that your elders grew by, / And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.” —Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Teach Your Children

Teach your children well. “For they are living messages to a lineage you will not see; to a future beyond your horizon. Devote yourself to the generations to come, so that each newborn ear will attend the decree of deliverance.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Teach Your Children Well,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 78

What to do with violence in Scripture? “Happy shall they be who take your [the Babylonians’] little ones and dash them against the rock!” —Psalm 137:9

¶ “Your children are not your children. / They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. / They come through you but not from you,  / And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. / You may give them your love but not your thoughts.” —Kahlil Gibran. Listen to this rendition by Dorna Djenab.

When only the blues will do. Justin Johnson on a 3-string shovel guitar. (Thanks Dan.)

Preach it. “The greatest threat to children in modern liberal societies is not that they will believe in something too deeply, but that they will believe in nothing very deeply at all.” —William Galston, Liberal Purposes

¶ “Before the recession [of 2007-08], 12 out of every 100 American children got food stamps. After the recession, 20 out of every 100 American children got food stamps. That's nearly a 70% increase, from 9.5 million kids in 2007 to 16 million kids in 2014, at the same time that U.S. wealth was growing by over $30 trillion.”  —Paul Buchheit, “Four Numbers That Show the Beating Down of Middle America

News to counter the heartache. Though the vast majority of US citizens aren’t aware of it: The rate of uninsured people is at an all-time low, as are the rates of teen pregnancy and crime. Sarah Kliff, Vox

Call to the table. “The next time someone asks you why there are so many refugees in Europe, show them this. Drone footage of the fallout of the battle of Homs.” Waking Times (1:29 video. Thanks Ray.)

The state of our disunion. “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected.” —Kathy Miller, chair of the Trump Campaign in Mahoning County, Ohio, in an interview with The Guardian

For the beauty of the earth. Full moon rising over Mt. Victoria Lookout, Willington, New Zealand. (Thanks Paul. 3:45 video, accompanied by Dan Phillipson’s “Tenderness” instrumental)

Altar call. “I was born to ignorance, yes, and lesser poverties / I was born to privilege that I did not see / Lack of pigment in my skin, won a free and easy in / I didn't know it, but my way was paved.” —John Gorka, “Ignorance and Privilege” (Thanks Peter.)

Benediction.Shalom Aleichem” (“Peace Be Upon You”), Yeshiva Darchei Torah Choir.

¶ “No child ever learned curiosity by filling out curiosity work sheets.—Paul Tough, Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why

Recessional. Erev Shel Shoshanim” (“Evening of Lilies [or Roses”]) by Yuval Ron Ensemble. This song, a love song well known throughout the Middle East, is dedicated to the children of Jerusalem, the vision of peace between Jews and Arabs, and peace around the world.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Two entered in the house of prayer / One anguished, one in pride / Claimed one: Sufficient is my cause / I hath no need beside. / The other, heart undone, no claim / Could make on vain accord / My breast doth beat, with me entreat / with graciousness, O Lord.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s poem, “Till earth receive her rest,” inspired by Luke 18:9-14. These lines may also be used as alternate lyrics to the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Just for fun.Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Teach Your Children Well,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 78

• “Blessed intention,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 19

• “Set our hearts on fire,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 65

• “In this Law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119

• “Till earth receive her rest,” inspired by Luke 18:9-14. These lines may also be used as alternate lyrics to the hymn “Amazing Grace.”


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