Please Save Your Praise 

Greta Thunberg is the leading youth voice on climate change in the world. A native of Sweden, Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize award for organizing Fridays for Future youth climate protests. She recently traveled thirteen days and eight hours on a zero-emissions racing yacht boat from England to the United States. Thunberg is willing to cut through all the red tape and spoke boldly to Congress last week. 

Greta Thunberg is the face of climate change protests in our world today. And guess what? She is only sixteen years old! Who says that children and youth can’t change the world?  

Last Friday an estimated four million young people around across 150 countries took part in protests demanding that governments take action on climate change. One of the largest protests was in New York City on the eve of the UN’s climate action summit. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres convened the summit in order to “put climate action into higher gear.”

I am fascinated by Greta Thunberg’s unwavering will, passion, and determination to make a difference around climate change. Last Tuesday Thunberg met with Senate Democrats, who said to her, We need your leadership. Young people are the army.” Whereupon Thunberg replied, “Please save your praise. We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it. We don’t want to be invited to these kinds of meetings because, honestly, they don’t lead to anything.” 

Thunberg is extremely effective in turning adult compliments into challenges. And she is not afraid to confront us by our inaction on one of the most important issues facing our world. 

When Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) stressed that the youth would soon be able to run for office themselves and bring about change, Greta responded quickly, “We don’t want to become politicians, we don’t want to run for office. We want you to unite behind the science. I’m sorry, I know you’re probably trying very hard, and this is not personally to any one of you but generally to everyone. I know you’re trying, but it’s just not hard enough.” 

In a divided Congress, bold action on climate change may not come easily. Yet, Greta Thunberg has reminded us once again that, at times, our partisan political climate prevents us from effecting deep change in our states, country, and world.   

NASA’s Global Climate Change website presents compelling evidence of the warming of our planet. According to The Intergovernmental Climate Change Panel, The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th  century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia. Evidence of global climate change includes global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreats, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, extreme events, and ocean acidification.    

In case you did not hear it, I am including part of Greta Thunberg’s speech to the US Senate last Thursday. May God speak to us through the courage of this remarkable young woman.    

My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 16 years old and I’m from Sweden. I am grateful for being with you here in the USA, a nation that, to many people, is the country of dreams. I also have a dream: that governments, political parties, and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences – as you would in an emergency – and take the measures required to safeguard the conditions for a dignified life for everybody on earth. 

Because then, we millions of school striking youth, could go back to school. I have a dream that the people in power, as well as the media, start treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is so that I could go home to my sister and my dogs. Because I miss them. In fact, I have many dreams. But this is the year 2019. This is not the time and place for dreams. This is the time to wake up. This is the moment in history when we need to be wide awake. And yes, we need dreams, we cannot live without dreams. But there’s a time and place for everything. And dreams cannot stand in the way of telling it like it is. 

And yet, wherever I go I seem to be surrounded by fairytales. Business leaders, elected officials all across the political spectrum spending their time making up and telling bedtime stories that soothe us, that make us go back to sleep. These are feel-good stories about how we are going to fix everything. How wonderful everything is going to be when we have solved everything. But the problem we are facing is not that we lack the ability to dream, or to imagine a better world. The problem now is that we need to wake up. It’s time to face the reality, the facts, the science. 

And the science doesn’t mainly speak of great opportunities to create the society we always wanted. It tells of unspoken human sufferings, which will get worse and worse the longer we delay action – unless we start to act now. And yes, of course, a sustainable transformed world will include lots of new benefits.  

But you have to understand. This is not primarily an opportunity to create new green jobs, new businesses or green economic growth. This is above all an emergency, and not just any emergency. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. And we need to treat it accordingly so that people can understand and grasp the urgency. Because you cannot solve a crisis without treating it as one. Stop telling people that everything will be fine when in fact, as it looks now, it won’t be very fine. This is not something you can package and sell or like on social media. 

Stop pretending that you, your business idea, your political party or plan will solve everything. We must realize that we don’t have all the solutions yet. Far from it. Unless those solutions mean that we simply stop doing certain things. 

Changing one disastrous energy source for a slightly less disastrous one is not progress. Exporting our emissions overseas is not reducing our emission. Creative accounting will not help us. In fact, it’s the very heart of the problem 

 The USA is the biggest carbon polluter in history. It is also the world’s number one producer of oil. And yet, you are also the only nation in the world that has signaled your strong intention to leave the Paris Agreement. Because ‘It was a bad deal for the USA 

 Everybody says that making sacrifices for the survival of the biosphere – and to secure the living conditions for future and present generations – is an impossible thing to do. Americans have indeed made great sacrifices to overcome terrible odds before. 

Think of the brave soldiers that rushed ashore in that first wave on Omaha Beach on D Day. Think of Martin Luther King and the 600 other civil rights leaders who risked everything to march from Selma to Montgomery. Think of President John F. Kennedy announcing in 1962 that America would choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard… 

Perhaps it is impossible. But looking at those numbers – looking at the current best available science signed by every nation – then I think that is precisely what we are up against. 

But you must not spend all of your time dreaming or see this as some political fight to win. 

And you must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option. 

Please, save your praise. 
















Growing in Grace with our United Methodist Colleges

  • Did you know that there are 117 United Methodist-related colleges and universities in the United States?
  • Did you know that there are thirteen United Methodist-related seminaries in the United States as well as other non-United Methodist approved seminaries?
  • Did you know that there are more than one thousand United Methodist-related colleges and universities around the world?

Education and the development of leaders played a critical role from the very beginning of the Methodist movement in 18th century England. John Wesley believed education to be a priority for all ages and wrote manuals and tracts for children. He also emphasized the importance of Christian education and spiritual development in the home. The growth of the Sunday school movement in America was largely due to circuit riding Methodist preachers, and by 1844, Methodism was the largest denomination in the United States.

John Wesley also stressed lifelong learning, faith development, and mutual accountability through class meetings, bands, and societies. “It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people.” (John Wesley)

Last week, our cabinet spent the afternoon with the presidents of the four United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Iowa: Jonathan Brand from Cornell College; Christine Plunkett from Iowa Wesleyan University; John Reynders from Morningside College; and Jay Simmons from Simpson College. Our purpose was to get to know each other better; dialogue around the challenges of higher education today; discuss the ramifications of the 2019 General Conference decisions around human sexuality for both the church and academy; and brainstorm ways in which we can be mutually supportive of each other.

All four colleges are proud of their United Methodist roots and connections. At the same time, many students, faculty, donors, and administrators of our colleges were discouraged by the outcome of the 2019 General Conference because each college has statements around inclusivity a diversity is a core value. The colleges are now waiting to see what happens at the 2020 General Conference before responding.

  • Cornell College values diversity and strives to create a welcoming community in which all individuals are respected and included. We support respectful and meaningful inquiry across actual or perceived differences.”
  • Morningside College believes in and promotes non-discrimination. It is our policy and practice to promote equal opportunities without regard to age, sex, religion, creed, race, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, or national origin.”
  • Simpson College is committed to a diverse and inclusive, culturally enriched campus community with many different identities, nationalities, sexual orientations, ethnicities, races, physical and mental abilities, and beliefs. We embrace the fact that diversity improves and enhances the quality of our academic experiences and campus life.”
  • “Energized and guided by historic memory, Iowa Wesleyan University respects individuality within the context of a community with a common moral purpose, a community that welcomes persons of diverse backgrounds and worldviews. In so recognizing both immediate and global dimensions of civic membership, individual aspirations are tied to the aspirations of all, echoing John Wesley’s declaration ‘The world is my parish.’”

Current challenges faced by our United Methodist colleges in Iowa:

  • Demographic changes – There are fewer 18-year-olds in Iowa than there were 25 years ago, which means there is a smaller pool of potential students.
  • Lack of ethnic representation – Diversity is a high priority and is increasing. There is also a growing Hispanic and Asian population in Iowa. At the same time, ethnic students have not historically attended small liberal arts colleges.
  • Enrollment – Like many, if not most, small liberal arts colleges, our UM-related colleges in Iowa struggle to maintain enrollment goals. Every student matters, and even with generous financial aid, the cost of attending a liberal arts college is more than the large flagship universities.
  • Finances – Tuition alone cannot support our colleges. They depend on the generosity of donors to offer the highest caliber of education.

Strengths of our UM colleges:

  • Liberal arts colleges enroll more first-generation students than large universities. A first-generation student is the first one in their family to ever attend college. A smaller campus ensures that students receive more direct and personal assistance.
  • Small colleges are also the drivers of social mobility. Social mobility refers to when individuals go up or down the social ladder. In the context of higher education, social mobility is usually about children becoming better off than their parents.
  • There are many students who cannot succeed at big universities and thrive in a smaller setting where there is more individual attention. I know that I would never have survived in a big university. I would have been totally lost! The smaller learning environment that I had as an undergraduate student at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio enabled me to better adjust to college.

Our United Methodist institutions of higher learning are monitored by the University Senate, which is an elected body of peer professionals who both support and evaluate our UM colleges and universities. They also ensure that every one of our institutions maintains appropriate academic accreditation.

I’d like to share one unique aspect of each of our four colleges and urge you to peruse the websites of our colleges to get a bigger picture of the excellent education that is provided.

Iowa Wesleyan University was founded in 1842 and is one of the oldest four-year higher education institutions west of the Mississippi River. One of IWU’s graduates is Dr. Peggy Whitson ‘81, a NASA astronaut who has twice served as station commander for the International Space Station and holds several NASA records.

Over the past three years, Morningside graduates have had a job and graduate school placement rate of 99%. Since 1894, the college has been helping students become flexible, confident thinkers in an increasingly fast-paced world. Morningside College was also recently named among the national finalists for The American Prize in Opera Performance (College/University Division) for its production of “Dido and Aeneas.” Morningside is the only private liberal arts college to receive this designation for the 2018-19 season.

Cornell College was the first college west of the Mississippi to grant women the same rights and privileges as men, and, in 1858, to award a degree to a woman. In 1978, Cornell faculty adopted the One Course at A Time curriculum, transforming the way teaching and learning happen at Cornell. Cornell’s innovative education was recognized with the 1996 publication of Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives and continues to be recognized with each new edition.

One of Simpson College’s most famous students is George Washington Carver, who was an American agricultural scientist and inventor. Carver was a professor at Tuskegee Institute and pioneered the promotion of alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. After Carver was refused admission to a college because he was black, he enrolled in Simpson College in 1890, where he studied art and piano for a year. Every spring, classes are cancelled at Simpson so that students can participate in service projects around the community.

“I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creation intentions.” –John Wesley

Thank be to God for the thousands of college students who are making a difference and changing the world through social justice, service, spiritual values, civic engagement, and responsible action. And thank you, Presidents Plunkett, Reynders, Brand, and Simmons, for your leadership in our United Methodist institutions of higher learning and for helping us all to grow in grace.

A Little Kindness

September 9, 2019

When was the last time you experienced the kindness of another person? When was the last time you stretched yourself to extend grace to another person? What if each one of us repeated this scripture from Ephesians 4:42 every day, “Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ,” and then applied it to ourselves?

Admittedly, we live in polarizing times, when continual battles between “us” and “them,” whether in national, international, or religious circles, do not foster grace-filled relationships and hope for the future. Whether it is political candidates bashing each other or mean-spirited accusations from all sides around immigration, climate change, tariffs, gun safety, or health care, we too often wear the blinders of our own preferences, refusing to engage in genuine dialogue and enlarge our borders to care for the least, the last, and the lost.

 At the same time, I have witnessed incredible acts of generosity over the past few months, which has given me great hope. Have you heard about Chef José Andrés? Andrés founded a small non-profit organization called World Central Kitchen (WCK) in 2010 in response to the immense damage that afflicted Haiti after the earthquake. He was also on the scene after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. Believing that food can be an agent of change, World Central Kitchen says, “We have expanded globally and have developed into a group of chefs creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty.”

Over the past week, Chef Andrés and his volunteers were in Nassau, Bahamas, before the storm hit and began planning relief efforts. Known as the “chef who delivers hope” by delivering meals after disasters, Andrés can use almost any space that has electricity and water to prepare and serve meals, including churches, restaurants, and food trucks. Andrés was prepared with 7,500 meals as a start.

This past weekend, an estimated 76,000 people in the Bahamas were in need of humanitarian relief, including shelter and food. World Chef Kitchen prepared 20,000 more meals that were delivered by ship to people on various islands whose homes were destroyed and who were not even sure if other family members were alive. The mission of WCK is to “use the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies.” Thank you for your kindness, Chef José Andrés!

In the midst of so much negative news, there are countless examples of people, even strangers, who care for one another and inspire us to practice kindness. On August 3, a deranged gunman drove nine hours from Dallas to El Paso and started shooting indiscriminately, killing 22 people and injuring 24 others.

One of the persons killed was Margie Reckard, a 63-year-old woman. Her companion of 22 years, Antonio Basco, was afraid no one would come to his beloved’s funeral. Not only did Perches Funeral Home offer free funeral services for the victims, but in Margie’s case, the funeral director posted an open invitation on Facebook for people to attend.

The service was moved to a larger venue, and thousands of people responded, including Jordan Ballard, who bought a plane ticket to Texas from Los Angeles to attend the funeral of a person she had never met. Vocalists and a mariachi band volunteered to be part of the service, and when Basco arrived, people shouted blessings to him in both English and Spanish. Hundreds stood in a long line to say goodbye to a person they had never met. Thank you for your kindness in ensuring that Margie Reckard was honored and that Antonio Basco was cared for in his time of devastating grief.

Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are everywhere, in towns and churches and even in our own backyard, if only we will risk becoming a vessel of God’s grace rather than judgment. In the August 19 USA Today, there was a story about an Ohio 7th grader named Diesel Pippert. This year Diesel decided to donate all of his livestock proceeds from the large annual sale at the Huron County (Ohio) Fair to St. Jude Research Hospital. Diesel, who raised $15,000 from the sale of his pig, gave it all away. 

Cynthia Gardner of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, which is the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Judes, said “A young man lives amongst us who should be an example to all of us. Diesel, you are a hero!” She went on, “Diesel’s kindness demonstrates that age does not limit kids from fundraising and making a difference in the lives of other children battling cancer at St. Jude.”

Diesel’s mother said her son had heard that a teen in a nearby county donated $11,000 to St. Jude from a hog auction and wanted to raise more! Diesel told fairgoers about his plan, the bidding started at $500, and soon the $15,000 was reached. She also said that her heart was filled with joy because of her son’s generosity. Thank you for your kindness, Diesel Pippert!

The stories of grace, compassion, and paying it forward go on and on. At the U.S. women’s Tennis Open a few weeks ago, World #1 Naomi Osaka defeated up-and-coming 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round. At a time when outbursts and obscenities are becoming more common on the tennis court, Osaka consoled and encouraged Gauff, and both women provided an example of good sportsmanship. Thank you for your kindness, Naomi and Coco!

From August 21-23, McDonald’s engaged in acts of kindness by handing out 500 McCafé It Forward cards throughout the U.S. The cards entitled customers to one free small cup of McCafé Premium Roast Coffee or Iced Coffee. Then they were encouraged to pass the card along to someone else to enjoy a free cup of coffee.

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of its McCafé brand, cards were distributed in order to encourage acts of kindness in local communities, McDonald’s officials say that they often see people in their restaurants start a ripple effect by paying it forward, buying a cup of coffee or a meal for someone else. Thank you for your kindness, McDonald’s!

Perhaps the most poignant story of kindness was shared two weeks ago by Steve Harman in his weekly CBS segment called On the RoadQuinn Waters is a three-year-old boy from Weymouth, MA who has been confined to home for months after a stem cell transplant for brain cancer compromised his immunity.

Because Quinn cannot go outside, the world is coming to Quinn in the form of friends, neighbors, and strangers who stop by Quinn’s window to make him smile and laugh. Whether it is stupid tricks, a dog parade, or a team of Irish step dancers, the positive energy and kindness of many people are helping Quinn’s recovery. “You can never repay it,” Quinn’s father said, “but you can pay it forward.” Thank you for the kindness of all those who are saving Quinn’s life!

“With your help, we have shown that there is no place too far or disaster too great for our chefs to be there with a hot plate of food when it’s needed most. I hope you’ll dream with us as we envision a world where there is always a warm meal, an encouraging word, and a helping hand in hard times. Thank you for taking this journey with us. Join me in fulfilling the inspiring words of John Steinbeck: “Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people may eat, we will be there.” 

(The mission statement of Chef Andrés and World Central Kitchen)

“Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other,
in the same way God forgave you in Christ.”

How will you show kindness this week?