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SOLI Update
2005 Newsletter Archives

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2005

Dec.26 - Christmas every day. "Underlying the holiday rush and the frenzy of socializing and commercializing, the arrival of Peace, Light and Word defines the reality that makes Christmas special. We remember again our existential condition: We are a people in darkness, surrounded by violence, without hope."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter.

Dec. 19 - Fight the real 'War on Christmas'" The real War on Christmas is not whether "Merry Christmas" gets edged out of the crass commercial marketplace, those houses of material worship where people spend way too much money on stuff they really don't need. The real War on Christmas is the growing reality in the culture that the shopping and the decorations and the over-consumption is actually the major part of the celebration of Christmas."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Dec. 12 - Put on the pounds where they count most. "It's a shame that a growing number of people are hungry even in the richest and most powerful country the world has ever known. The question is why? The reasons are complex, but many advocates point to the skyrocketing cost of housing, the jump in fuel prices and the general flatlining of wages for average working families even as net income for the wealthiest continues to rise."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update.

Dec. 5 - Real gifts: Gifts that fill a need. Salvation Army is just one of thousands of extremely worthy Christian charities who have miniscule overhead and who wring every single penny of value from the dollars they receive. Their work serves the poorest of the poor in our society, helping them to heat their homes, clothe their children, feed their families, train for jobs and free themselves from the bondage of booze or drugs." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update.

Nov. 28 - This Thanksgiving, practice giving thanks. Visit just about any other country on the planet and one truth will surely jump out at you: Americans have SO MUCH to be thankful for. So how do we observe a day to give thanks for all we have? Incredibly, it's by sitting down at a big dinner and having even more than usual." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Nov. 21 - Happy birthday! A website turns 3.
Three years ago this month the Stewardship of Life Institute began its website as a way to inspire, challenge and equip Christians to see stewardship beyond financial support of the church; to embrace stewardship key discipline in our walk of faith, a way of seeing the world. What you think of the website and what we can do to make it better? Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Nov. 14 - A divine mission and a necessity for survival. Addressing the classic theological question of human purpose, Douglas John Hall suggests that today's times demands a sharp, precise answer: "The chief end of a human being is to be God's faithful steward in a profoundly threatened creation." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Nov. 7 - Two principles for faithful stewarding. "Exactly what does it mean to be the steward of what God has given us personally and collectively? And just what is required? Theological debates on stewardship pivot on just these questions, and two key principles can guide us: accountability and responsibility. Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Oct. 31 - Can your church afford to ignore energy costs? "How much did your congregation pay for heating last winter? Now add 50 percent and you'll get a rough idea of how much it will likely cost this year, according to energy experts. Where will the extra money come from? What programs or ministries might you trim to pay for heat?"  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Oct. 24 - Stewardship of public resources.  "Mainstream church leaders around the country are urging Congress to find other ways to pay for the Gulf Coast rebuilding besides cutting Food Stamps, health care and other important safety net programs that help working families, retirees and disabled citizens get by."   Click herefor this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Oct. 17 -Stewardship of your life - now more than ever.  "I'm no fan of the 'end-times' craze, which seems more hype and fear-mongering than Gospel and trust-in-God, but I have to admit the disasters sure have been piling up like cars in a rush-hour collision. Are we living in the end times? Maybe. But that's never the big question for a Christian. The big question we each must ask is, "If Christ came tomorrow, would I be ready?"   Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Oct. 10 - What would Jesus do about poverty.
Whatever your understanding of why people are poor, the fact is that millions of desperate, impoverished people live in our backyard. The more important question for people of faith is what should be our response to people in need? What does our God command us? This is where Love for the Poor can help."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Oct. 3 - Count your everyday blessings . The coffee has just finished brewing, and the aroma stirs me from my computer desk. Slinking back to work with a hot cup of coffee and a crisp new apple I realize how good I have it simply to be safe, well-fed, dry, and at home in my modest house -- one half of a cramped 80-year-old duplex with peeling paint."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Sept. 19 - The root of real contentment. Culture shock was waiting for me when I got off the plane in Atlanta after nine days in El Salvador. Not just the glitzy airport that doubled as posh shopping mall, and not just the ubiquitous advertisements for the high-income traveling public, but mostly the general demeanor of the people at home: Nobody seemed happy."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Sept. 5 - Poor, dumb critters. "As a species, we persist in lifestyles that are making us stressed, fat and sick. We continue to smoke and drink. We glorify empty sex lives that are anti-family, anti-marriage and spread dangerous diseases. We use violence as the primary way to resolve conflict. Through overconsumption, we continue to waste resources and energy."   Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter, including all the new resources.

Aug. 29 - Not guilt. Not shame. Gratitude!  "Are you rich? When you ponder that question, you probably do what I do -- think of friends and family who are better off and say, 'Who, me? I'm not rich!' But when you look from the other end of the telescope, at those who have less, a different picture emerges.  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update.

Aug. 22 - Fresh, tasty and good for you," Fresh vegetables and fruit have lots of nutrients, low fat and not too many calories. That's a welcome change for our culture, where collectively we have an awful diet that makes us heavy and unhealthy. Americans are officially the fattest people on the planet, with 65 percent of our adults overweight, and 30 percent so overweight they are obese. Experts point to lots of reasons, but the basic one is this: We eat too much.  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Aug. 15 - Searching for the real IT. "Spiritual emptiness. It's the human race's number one problem. But in the United States spiritual emptiness takes on an ironic expression because as a nation we are wealthy enough and educated enough to have multiple options for almost everything - and we often choose the one that will give us spiritual emptiness."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Aug. 8 - Stewardship of the Gospel. "If the Gospel is the food that provides spiritual nourishment, then churches are like restaurants where people come for refreshment. Those of us in Mainline churches can ask ourselves why our patrons are leaving even though Americans are dying of spiritual starvation and finding all sorts of ways to satisfy their hunger."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Aug. 1 - Not a hand-out, a hand-up. "Grove Church bought a run-down three-bedroom house for $50,000, spent $15,000 on renovations, and now rents it for $650 a month to 33-year-old Samara Parker, a schoolteacher who is raising two kids by herself.  Here’s the genius of the plan: After two years, the church will rebate Parker’s total rent of $15,600 to go towards a down-payment on a home of her own. Then Grove Church will rent the house to somebody else who will build up money for a down-payment."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

July 25 - Real estate boom opens possibilities. "Many land-rich but cash-strapped churches across the nation are finding opportunities for mission and revival in the current real estate bonanza. It makes stewardship sense for some churches to sell some or part or all of their property and use the money for mission." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

July 18 - Bombings teach us to value our time and our lives. "Death comes to us all. Nobody gets out alive. But the unexpectedness and wanton destruction of the London bombings reminded us that no one knows the time or hour when our lives will end.  I purposefully borrow language from Jesus's response to questions of when he will come again Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

July 11 -
G8 Summiteers tackle stewardship. Really!
"As the world's most powerful leaders gather, poverty eradication in Africa and global warming emerged as the two hot topics, both of which are essentially stewardship issues with tremendous religious implications. Especially for Christians.
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter, which includes links to all the new resources. Click here to Subscribe.

July 4 - No hot water: A first-world dilemma. "Pity me! The hot water heater in my house bit the dust last week. ... I need your pity because I probably won't get much from the 1.1 billion people in the world who lack safe, clean, plentiful drinking water, according to the United Nations. Or from the families of the 3 million people who die each year from preventable water-related illnesses, according to the World Bank." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's SOLI/Update.

June 27 - Six months later, awash in relief. "When she heard about the Tsunami that pounded nations of the Indian Ocean on the day after Christmas, Mary Zimmerman wondered what she could do to help.  But rather than sit and wring her hands, Zimmerman got busy baking pies and selling them for $6 each at her church." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

June 20 -  Don't forget the Dads! Congregations should be doing everything they can to get Dads and other men deeply into the life of faith. Not only because women statistically outnumber the men in the pews, but more importantly because fathers who are active in church are much more likely to raise children to be churchgoers. Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

June 13 -  A teaching moment for your church. The good news: Never in recent times has there been so much opportunity for American churches to educate, equip and lead their members to put into action Jesus's directives of Matthew 25: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the prisoner. The bad news: Homelessness and hunger are rising quickly. Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

June 6 -  Is your church contributor friendly? A smaller percentage of church donations comes via the collection plate. More people do their banking electronically and loathe writing checks. Others would rather give their via credit card. Still other donors would be happy to give in-kind donations, stock, real estate or bequests, but they don’t think of it or don't know how. Does your church give them guidance?" Click here for this archive column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from a 2004 SOLI/Update,

May 30 - Come, holy rain. "Pastors and congregational leaders who notice that giving and attendance have declined can take comfort knowing their congregation is merely in a dry place, awaiting the reviving presence of the Holy Spirit. And they can begin to expect the Holy Spirit to work among them, to show them new possibilities and insights." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

May 23 - Push pro-family economic policies. "While housing prices are cruising along with percentage hikes in the healthy double digits, salaries are nearly stagnant. When the two realities collide, families in the rental market face bleak prospects. Many are stretched way too thin, driven to substandard housing, forced to move out of the area or simply put on the streets." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

May 16 - Sow the seeds of 'Holy Health'. "Pastors from a number of denominations work on the farm one day a month. They practice organic, sustainable farming and learn that producing top-quality produce and protein takes time, patience and hard work.  Applied to the stewardship of their churches, pastors learn to focus on producing healthy congregations. It’s part of a philosophy called “Holy Health.'" Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

May 9 - Healthier Mom, healthier family, healthier world. "If we’re generally doing OK as families, lots of other big problems take care of themselves. This is because stable, healthy families are much more likely to raise kids who do well in school, go to church, resist drugs, choose friends wisely, stay out of trouble with the law, get decent jobs, make responsible decisions about sex and go on to be good parents themselves." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

May 2 - Every day is Earth Day. "The fact that we make such a big deal of the environment only once a year shows what the real problem is: We are self-absorbed and fail to think of the natural environment as a part of us.  We can get away with it because most of us live most of our lives in totally unnatural environments, and that is because of our affluence." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week’s SOLI/Update

April 25 - Save electricity, save money, save the planet. "First Unitarian Universalist Church in Austin, Texas, saved $3,226 in electricity and used 290,000 fewer gallons of water last year by installing energy-efficient lighting and water-saving devices in its building. Saving energy will likely become more important as the cost of fossil fuel soars, but much more is at stake than energy bills." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

April 18 - Proclaim, celebrate God's creation. "Many of us living in such insular environments. It’s easy to forget that the Earth and all its wonder and complexity are the handiwork of our creator God who appointed us as the stewards. That’s why now, at the beginning of the third millennium, we especially need the church to remind us of these truths. This year, please consider doing something for Earth Day Sunday at your church on April 24, or for Rogation Sunday on May 1."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

April 11 -  Simple ideas, strong witness. "For Palm Sunday worship, churches across the nation bought palm fronds to use as a tangible witness to our Savior’s life, death and resurrection 2000 years ago.  But rather than calling the local florist, Zion Lutheran Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, bought frond crosses made by Tanzanian villagers and imported by African Palms USA, a Maryland nonprofit started by an Episcopal priest. It’s a way to help poor families and fund humanitarian projects – another powerful witness of our faith.  " Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

April 4 -  Remembering a martyr for justice. "Stewardship involves not only how well we use our money for God's purposes, but how we use all of our life energies and resources for God's purposes. In this, Archbishop Oscar Romero was a model steward who can inspire all of us." Click here for this column.

March 28 -  Life is sacred - for all the 'least among us'. “Why should our concern not stop with a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years? If everyone is a sacred creation of God, shouldn’t Christians insist that every human being be entitled to the necessities for a full life?” Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

March 21 - 'Among the gravest of sins'. “Martin Luther wrote: ‘If you send a person away naked when you could clothe him, you have let him freeze to death. If you see anyone suffer hunger and do not feed him, you have let him starve.’  ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson recalled Luther’s words as he joined leaders of four other denominations – Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, and the United Church of Christ –to denounce the 2006 federal budget proposal and urge their members to voice opposition.” Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

March 14 -  Minimum wage, maximum shame. This week the mostly pro-Jesus, pro-life, pro-work and pro-family Senate passed up an opportunity to do something to improve the lives of working families. It turned down efforts to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour, where it has languished for over eight years. And leaders of the House of Representatives say there will be no vote on the minimum wage this year." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard. 

March 7 - Youth learn grown-up lessons about hunger. "The 30-Hour Famine has really taken off as a way to teach youth about hunger and our Christian obligation to help. In this way it’s a lot like the annual “Souper Bowl of Caring,” which in just a few years has also captured the hearts and imaginations of youth nationwide. But the question is, with so much awareness to be gained, why aren’t the grown-ups of the churches getting involved, too?." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard.

Feb. 28 - Counting our blessings in 'zombieland'. "Without awareness, its hard to be grateful, and without gratitude it's hard for us to develop other important stewardship attitudes, such as thrift, generosity or justice. Without awareness, we are just zombies living in a complete world of zombies." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from a 2004 SOLI/Update.

Feb. 21 - The best valentine. "In John 13:34, Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment: 'Love one another.' This week, stores displayed the usual gaudy assortment of silk red roses, huge heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, racks of red cards, heart-embroidered boxer shorts and slinky lingerie – all in celebration of love. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind."

Feb. 14 - Crucified by the flesh’s passions. "In defiance of St. Paul’s moral advice, our Christian nation has collectively gone beyond merely ignoring widespread slavery to fleshly passions and desires, and has actually turned fulfillment of desire into a good and an entitlement. All around us, advertisements scream the message: If you want it, you have a right to it."

Feb. 7 - Crucified by the flesh’s passions. "In defiance of St. Paul’s moral advice, our Christian nation has collectively gone beyond merely ignoring widespread slavery to fleshly passions and desires, and has actually turned fulfillment of desire into a good and an entitlement. All around us, advertisements scream the message: If you want it, you have a right to it."

Jan. 31 - The power of a great idea. "Last year, 12,761 congregations of many denominations participated in Souper Bowl of Caring, raising a total of $4,260,531 for charity. It’s doing a whole lot of good. And to think, Souper Bowl grew organically, as a grassroots effort. All from a great idea by a creative seminary intern at an ordinary Mainline church."

Jan. 23 - Poverty is a moral issue. "The British press took note when 600 women pastors from across the United Kingdom marched to Tony Blair’s official residence to urge the prime minister to support the Make Poverty History campaign. But the march was just one way that followers of Christ have pushed Make Poverty History into the British media and raised poverty and economics as top moral issues for Christians. It’s the kind of effort and focus that American Christians can learn from."

Jan. 17 - King's witness of leadership - Not only the Bible tells us that God raises up leaders from ordinary people in obscure places, but also history. … In 1955, to protest Rosa Parks’ arrest, the blacks of Montgomery organized a boycott of public transportation. They formed the Montgomery Improvement Association and named as its leader a young pastor, just 26, a newcomer to Montgomery who was serving his first call, at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Jan. 10 - Stewardship 101: How the other 9/10ths live. "Living in America – where it seems everybody has a car, everybody has a telephone, everybody has a TV, and where the fastest-growing health crisis is an epidemic of Type II Diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses – it’s easy to think the rest of the world lives like we do. In fact, as the Indian Ocean tsunami points out, most do not."

Jan. 3 - Tsunami uniting the world for good. Just as personal illness or tragedy can cause someone to rethink what’s really important in life, the disaster seems to be refocusing the nations of the world to put aside their petty differences and pitch in. We can all pray that this spirit will continue as the relief effort stretches over this new century.”