Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Lenten Devotions: "Joy Cubed"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

March 27, 2014

Psalm_book"These days of winter have come to bury you
No sign of spring and no promise to carry you
No flowers blooming in your window sill
And the beat of your heart is too still...
And the beat of your heart is too still... Oh sing

Joy, joy,joy in the morning
Joy, joy in the afternoon
Joy, joy,joy for the child is born
This night the promise is given to you."

—Lyrics from "Sing Joy," by Peter Mater

My friend Irene's funeral was yesterday. About 18 of us gathered around her three adult children to celebrate her life. Irene was born in Bavaria, and was 5 years old when Hitler came to power. Her childhood was much different than those of most people I know. She liked to recite her Confirmation passage for me "auf Deutsch."

"Befiehl dem HERRN deine Wege und hoffe auf ihn; er wird's wohl machen."

"Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act."

(Psalm 37:5)

Her life wasn't an easy life, but she had deep joy in her soul and heart. Whenever I would visit her, we would talk about art, music, theology, and wood carvings. One of Bethany's Caring Visitors, Helen, calculated that she had visited Irene approximately 90 times. Caring Visitors at our church bring the sacrament to members who are homebound. Helen brought Irene joy, and I know Irene brought joy to Helen, as well.

The Psalm book at the top of the page is one that I purchased one day when Peter Mayer and I were browsing around guitar shops, bookstores, and coffee shops.

The book is open to Psalm 33, which I like to think of as some of the inspiration for Peter's song "Sing Joy."

"Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright. Praise the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth."

Two Million Desperate for Congress to Reinstate Unemployment Insurance

'Unemployment Office' photo (c) 2011, Bytemarks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Right now, it's OK to sound like a broken record--we have to keep telling Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance (EUC) until they do it. At the beginning of the week, we sent out an action alert asking you to contact your senators again. The Senate is expected vote on EUC, for the third time, any day now.

More than 2 million long-term unemployed people are holding out hope that the bill will pass this time. For those who have been out of work for more than six months, the future looks bleak. Many have been telling their stories on Twitter, using the hashtag #RenewUI--Brian, a 36-year-old with a business degree is now homeless after losing his unemployment benefits. Others talk to reporters. Ricardo Gomez, a 51-year-old father of four, told CNN Money that after losing his job as a facilities specialist last year, he is desperate for any work. If Congress had not failed to reinstate EUC earlier in the year, Gomez could be receiving benefits that would help support his family as he looks for work. Instead, he is expecting an eviction notice.

Long-term unemployment, especially for older Americans, is a persistent problem--leaving people without aid only exacerbates it. In a recent video piece, CNN Money profiles Harry Thomson, who has two college degrees and 21 years of experience, but has been unable to find work in more than a year.  The mental stress only adds to financial worries for job seekers like Thomson as they struggle to stay positive. And last week, Brookings Institution released a paper outlining a trend toward increasing irrelevancy for the long-term unemployed in the labor market. Their skills deteriorate the longer they are not working, the research finds.

The last time Congress looked to reinstate EUC, it failed to pass because of a single vote. This time the bill must pass the Senate and we have to send a strong message to the House, which will take it up next, that our nation cannot continue to leave the long-term unemployed out in the cold. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your senators right now! Urge them to vote to extend unemployment insurance.

We must continue to repeat the message to Congress to reinstate EUC– more than 2 million people are waiting in desperation.

*

Behind every statistic is a story – and telling them can move hearts and minds to action.  If you have a story of how the ongoing budget battles have affected you, we invite you to share with us through our Faces and Facts site.

Lenten Devotions: "I Know It In My Heart
"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

William_Blake_Lent_Lenten_Devotions
"Elohim Creating Adam," William Blake, 1792. (Wikimedia Commons)

March 26, 2014

“Only You can break down the walls that hide me away
Only You can turn the night into day
Only You can stop the darkness from over taking me
Created the land the sky and sea
I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You.”

Lyrics from "Only You," by Jim Mayer and Peter Mayer

I’ve often thought that this song could be re-mastered into a big hit on the country charts. It just has a narrative feel to it that I think country-and-western fans would appreciate.

However, when I make comments like that to my dear friend Peter Mayer, he smiles sweetly, looks at me with his sparkling eyes, and doesn’t say a word. But he sends a message that goes something like this: “Ron, keep your day job!”

I was recently at the Tate Britain during the month of February. My wife, Sue Ann, and I were in London to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 50th birthday. I was able to reconnect with colleagues and friends at St. Martin-in-the Fields. We were able to go to plays, worship services, and museums.

I had it on my “list” to spend some real quality time at the Tate Britain. I met a friend there for lunch. We had a grand conversation. Upstairs in one of the galleries, I saw the painting at the top of the page. Good old William Blake. He was able to see things in such a cosmic way, which, in turn, he was able to communicate through his art.

I don’t have the ability to adequately describe how this painting touched my soul.

All I know is when I hear Peter sing “I know it in my heart to be true
, the answer to me is only You,” that I feel right and good.

Today: Congressional Hearing on 1,000 Days


Children at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, receive their 4 a.m. milk feeding on Monday, April 30, 2102. This Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, in the western part of the country, is run by RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Corporation), a Nepali NGO. The Dhangadhi facility serves up to 10 malnourished children at a time for up to 60 days; mothers stay with their child. All services are free. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Beth Ann Saracco

Thanks to a growing body of research, and the advocacy efforts of Bread for the World members and others throughout the world, Congress is beginning to recognize the importance of global maternal and child nutrition. Our legislators are paying particular attention to nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday.

Last year, funding for global nutrition efforts were increased to $115 million, up from the previous year’s funding level of $95 million. That’s nearly a 22 percent increase in funding. Congress is starting to get it. And for good reason— every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

And today, in the House of Representatives, the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations is holding a hearing, “The First One Thousand Days: Development Aid Programs to Bolster Health and Nutrition.” The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-4),  and ranking member, Karen Bass (D-CA-37), are holding this hearing to learn more about the health and nutritional needs of women and children during the 1,000-day period. The hearing will also address the role of faith-based organizations in partnering with governments and other non-governmental organizations to promote the 1,000 Days movement, and adequate maternal and child nutrition.

Be sure to tune into the hearing at 3 p.m. ET,  on Tuesday, March25,  to hear testimony from witnesses who have seen firsthand the importance of maternal and child health and nutrition during the first 1,000 Days. Tweet at Rep. Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith) and Ranking Member Bass (@RepKarenBass), and thank them for their interest in this important issue and for holding this hearing. 

To learn more about the growing 1,000 Days movement, and to become part of the momentum, download Bread for the World's 1,000 Days toolkit. You can also visit Bread for the World’s 1,000 Days Movement page and “like” the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement Facebook page to receive the latest updates. 

Beth Ann Saracco is an international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Happy 100th Birthday, Norman Borlaug

Borlaug_field"Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world," —Norman Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)

Dr. Norman Borlaug—scientist, father of the Green Revolution, and Nobel Peace Prize receipient— would've been 100 years old today.

Borlaug's work transformed modern agriculture and fed billions of people in the process. His development of high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat and other crops doubled the world's food production, prevented famine across the globe, and showed the world that ending hunger is within our reach. 

In honor of Borlaug's great achievements , there will be celebrations of his life around the world today, including the unveiling of a Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The state of Iowa, Borlaug's birthplace, commissioned a 7-ft. bronze statue in his likeness to be displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Borlaug had special ties to Bread for the World, and served as an early board member of the organization. "No single person has contributed more to relieving world hunger than our friend, the late Norman Borlaug,"said Bread for the World President David Beckmann, in 2009. "Norman was truly the man who fed the world, saving up to a billion people from hunger and starvation."

The World Food Prize, which Borlaug founded, is collecting pledges from people around the world, who have vowed to continue Borlaug's work, in ways both big and small. Some have said they will  reduce their personal food waste, others have said they will work with small-scale farmers.

"Nothing could pay greater homage to the life's work of Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution than to eradicate hunger around the world,"said Beckmann, who received the World Food Prize in 2010.

While the number of hungry people has dropped significantly over the past two decades, 842 million people continue to struggle with hunger every day. So, advocacy on any scale, whether calling your member of Congress and asking him or her to protect domestic nutrition programs, or sending handwritten letters in support of U.S. food aid reform, is an important, worthy tribute to Borlaug's legacy.

Photo: Norman Borlaug in 1964, scoring wheat plants for rust resistance in wheat breeding plots near Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, northern Mexico. (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/CIMMYT)

Lenten Devotions: "Only You"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

566px-Carlo_Crivelli_Annunciation_with_St_Emidius_1486_London
"The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius," Carlo Crivelli, 1486. (Wikimedia Commons)
 
March 24, 2014
 
"Only You can stand beside me through all my thoughts and deeds
You raised the mighty Redwood from the seed
Only You formed the mountains that stretch to the sky
Cover them with moonlight tonight
I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You"
 
—Lyrics from "Only You," by Peter Mayer
 
An angel and a saint walk down the street—I know, I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke. But, this is no joke, it's an amazing painting in the National Gallery in London. "The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius,"painted by Carlo Crivelli in the 15th century, is a very intense, elegant portrayal of the heavenly birth announcement that came to Mary.
 
My friend, the Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury and author of The Art of Worship-Paintings, Prayers, and Reading for Meditation, describes the scene: "The people go about their business amidst the beautiful architecture of the town as the golden beam of the Spirit of God alights on Mary through a providentially placed hole in the wall of her grand house. The peacock symbolizes immortality because its flesh was thought not to decay, and the 'eyes' on its tail represent an 'all-seeing church.'"
 
Check it out on the National Gallery's website. It happens to be one of my favorite paintings of all time. Just in case you haven't done the math, there are only nine months until Christmas!
This past year, on the days after Christmas, my wife and I, along with our adult kids, went snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. As sugarplums danced in my head (along with Christmas carols), the words of Peter's song came to mind:
 
"Only You formed the mountains that stretch to the sky
Cover them with moonlight tonight
I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You."
 
Both Peter's song and the painting by Crivelli are creedal statements. They express what the artist believes about God, about the world, and about themselves.
 
I encourage you to spend a little time today reflecting on what you believe.
 
I'm going to join in the chorus with Peter:
 
"I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You."

Act Now: Senate Voting This Week on Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment

By Eric Mitchell

The Senate is about to attempt again to extend unemployment insurance, and this time it may have the votes to pass it! But it will be close.

As early as tomorrow, the Senate may vote on a new bipartisan deal that would reinstate aid for the 2 million people who have been cut off from long-term unemployment assistance.

Please call (800-826-3688) or email your senators right now! Urge them to vote to extend unemployment insurance.

Last time, the Senate was one vote short. But now we have a chance to pass a bill and send a strong message to the House.

Over 2 million unemployed workers have been cut off from aid since emergency unemployment assistance expired on December 28. If Congress doesn't extend emergency unemployment insurance, then 5 million people will see their assistance end in 2014. For so many people spending hours each day searching for a job, this aid ensures that they and their families don't go hungry during a hard spell of unemployment.

Please take just two minutes to call or email your members of Congress. Tell them to vote for extending emergency unemployment insurance.

Your calls, emails, and prayers can make the difference.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

April's Bread for the Preacher: "Resurrection and Restoration"

Praying, prayer, Lent, lenten prayersDid you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.

After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

By Rev. Nancy Neal

The end of Lent and Holy Week usher in the spring season of rebirth in nature around us. Many of us have trudged through harsh winter weather, but now we see glimpses of new buds on trees and the tips of leaves poking through the cold ground. In light of Christ’s resurrection, the budding flowers of spring remind us of a similar budding within us to be agents of transformation and restoration in a suffering world.

Fasting with Jesus in Lent, celebrating his triumphant entrance on Palm Sunday, remembering his intimate last supper on Maundy Thursday, and mourning his passion and death on Good Friday, we look for signs of new life. We keep a spirit of hope in the promise of resurrection, pondering what it means in Easter to, as Wendell Berry says, "practice resurrection." Reflecting upon Lent, one question before us may be For what purpose has this new ground been tilled?

As we find renewed life in the Risen Christ this Easter, may we discover a renewed commitment to be restorers in our world, especially to end the scourge of hunger.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

Lenten Devotions: "Follow Me"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

 *

King_romero_bMarch 24, 2013

“Follow me to the place where dreams come true
Follow me and we can see this through

Follow me until the end
 on this you can depend

Follow me and I will follow you.”

—Lyrics from "Follow Me," by Roger Guth, Peter Mayer, and Jim Mayer

On this day in 1980 Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated.

I’ve posted a picture from Westminster Abbey of some modern martyrs: Martin Luther King, Jr., Romero, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These three followed Jesus with such intensity and passion that it cost them their lives. They were and are witnesses to the transforming love of God.

About 20 years ago, I was serving as an associate pastor in Wichita, Kansas. I was able to learn about Bread for the World from some wonderful Methodist and Mennonite clergy and lay people. I had a pretty good understanding of Methodism, but I didn’t know too much about the Mennonites. I quickly learned that Lutherans had not always been very kind to their Anabaptist brothers and sisters. I purchased a book, A Third Way, by Paul M. Lederach. One day when I was reading it, these words from Menno Simons caught my eye and my heart:

“Just as natural bread has to be kneaded of many kernels of grain broken in the mill, together with water and then baked by the heat of the fire, in the same way the church of Christ is made up of many believers, broken in their hearts by the mill of God’s word, baptized with water by the Holy Spirit, and brought together in one body by pure and unadulterated love at the Lord’s table.”

As Wesley once wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” 

Yesterday afternoon, we had an event at church where the young families could bake pretzels with me. Prior to making and baking the pretzels we gathered together in a big circle and shared in the Lord’s Supper. It was just as Menno Simons wrote: “[B]rought together in one body by pure and unadulterated love at the Lord’s table.”

Pretzels are a symbol of the Trinity. They are fun to bake. Great to eat. And even more wonderful to share with family, friends, neighbors and even strangers.

I’m humbled and honored this day to be surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

Lenten Devotions: "Living H20"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'Water Flow 1' photo (c) 2009, Luke Addison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
March 23, 2014

"Stirrin' up the water

Stirrin' up my soul
A Light comes to the darkness
Come and make me whole
Oh Stir it up, stir it up, Oh Lord"
 
Lyrics from "Stirrin' Up The Water,"  by Peter Mayer
 
John 4:5-42 is the Gospel lesson for the day.
 
I believe that these words (all 772 of them) provide a refreshing oasis in the Bible. (The Gettysburg Address only had 272 words). Here we have Jesus talking with this Samaritan woman, who, by all standards, is an outcast. She has been married not once, not twice, but five times. She is currently cohabitating with a man who is not her husband.
 
We heard on Ash Wednesday that "you are dust and to dust you shall return." Now today, this unnamed, finite, fractured being is being told by the Son of God that there is something infinite and whole that can change her life. And that message of life and salvation is for us as well.
 
I happened to be listening to A Prairie Home Companion on March 9, when Garrison Keillor was telling the story about Delores, the waitress at the Chatterbox Café. She had unloaded a bunch of coffee beans, I think 600 pounds of them, and she laid down in the back to take a little nap. The priest came in after an Ash Wednesday service looking for something to eat. He found Delores in the back room asleep, so he took out his ashes and made the sign of the cross on the waitress as she slept. She awoke not too long after that and after some time realized that she had the mark of the cross on her forehead. She thought about it and realized that commercials don't tell you and politicians don't tell you that "you are dust and to dust you shall return." It is only the church that dares tell the truth -- that we are all made of the same stuff and to that same stuff we shall return. Garrison Keillor went on to say that it is when we think about what a mess we've made of things, that we realize all those sins we think other people have, we realize we are capable of committing them as well.
 
The Samaritan woman was a marked woman. Most likely she was at the well at the hottest time of the day so she wouldn't have to endure the gossip or stares of the townspeople. Jesus happens by one dusty, dry day and engages her in conversation. As you heard and read, she is rather spunky. She basically tells Jesus that he doesn't even have a bucket, which is like being up a creek without a canoe or even a paddle.
 
But, Jesus cuts through all the stuff -- the brokenness, the gender issues, the racism -- and connects with her deep in her soul. He sees her as she is, just as she is, a daughter of God.
And she sees, maybe for the first time in a long time, that her life can be more than what it appears to be.
 
Father Richard Rohr writes in Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
"Jesus did not teach that one size fits all, but instead that his God adjusts to the vagaries and failures of the moment. This ability to adjust human disorder and failure is named God's providence or compassion. Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God's own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us. Just the Biblical notion of absolute forgiveness, once experienced, should be enough to make us trust and seek and love God."
 
The words of Isaiah 25 come to mind:
 
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
 
Yesterday was World Water Day. (Check out www.water.org) for more information.
 
When you have a vision of how Living Water changes one's life, there can be a flood of love, hope, grace, and action.
 
"Stirrin' up the water
Stirrin' up my soul
A Light comes to the darkness
Come and make me whole
Oh Stir it up, stir it up, Oh Lord"
 
Amen

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