Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Friday, March 30, 2012

A glimpse at PoMo Poverty

Here's a glimpse of the first part of PoMo Poverty:  Finding Abundance in the 21st Century.

PoMo Poverty

Finding Abundance in the 21st Century

Tom Spence


©2011 by Tom Spence.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

The contents of this book are unrestricted and may be put to use immediately and repeatedly!

PoMo Poverty

Poverty or Paradox
What can we do?
Towards Abundance
And Back to Paradox
The Abundance of Inclusion

God told them, I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 (The Message)

Poverty or Paradox

In early 1981, I was hiking into the Philippine jungle with my platoon behind me. I was the third platoon back on the company march along a very narrow trail in which it was difficult for two Marines to walk abreast of each other. We were in the boonies for sure.

After a couple hours of walking, the trail opened up.

To our left was a fair sized house made out of C-Ration cardboard. What ingenuity! What genius. What poverty. A family was living in a house made out of discarded cardboard.

Don’t get me wrong, C-Rat cardboard is the best in the world for waterproofing. It has a fair insulation value. It is sturdy.

How do I know this?

In many a cold and wet moment, a piece of C-Rat cardboard was just the insulation from the cold or wet ground that I needed to get a couple hours of sleep.

These people had built an entire house out of the stuff, to include what seemed to be a garage, at least there was a garage door sized opening that faced the trail which brought us past this unique site. But there was no car in the garage, not even a Jeepney or a bicycle.

Instead, there was a beautiful pool table around which were gathered some young men who seemed to be enjoying themselves and nearly oblivious to our passing.

What a contrast. What a dichotomy. What a paradox. We were witness to luxury within poverty.

Or was this poverty?

The shelter was adequate.

The people were happy.

The jungle was full of food.

It obviously took some sort of income to purchase the table and transport it to this site.

Was this poverty?

What is poverty?

This is 2011, so instead of thumbing through my Webster’s, I found a most comprehensive definition at It follows.

pov·er·ty  [pov-er-tee]


1. the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. Synonyms: privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. Antonyms: riches, wealth, plenty.

2. deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil. Synonyms: thinness, poorness, insufficiency.

3. scantiness; insufficiency: Their efforts to stamp out disease were hampered by a poverty of medical supplies. Synonyms: meagerness, inadequacy, sparseness, shortage, paucity, dearth. Antonyms: abundance, surfeit, sufficiency, bounty, glut.

The United States Census Bureau, using a plethora of information and formulae, has defined 48 thresholds of poverty. The income range for poverty in America is roughly between eleven thousand dollars for an individual to forty-two thousand dollars for a very large family.

Wikipedia contributed the following to the definition.

Poverty is the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution refers to being unable to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live in absolute poverty today. Relative poverty refers to lacking a usual or socially acceptable level of resources or income as compared with others within a society or country.

And even in 2011, we cannot exclude Mr. Webster entirely in defining poverty.

1 a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property

2: scarcity, dearth

3 a: debility due to malnutrition b: lack of fertility

A somewhat synthesized definition proved by the search engine Google is:


noun /ˈpävərtē/ 

1. The state of being extremely poor

- thousands of families are living in abject poverty

2. The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount

- the poverty of her imagination

3. The renunciation of the right to individual ownership of property as part of a religious vow

So did this Philippine family live in poverty?

By income standards to which I have grown accustomed, yes. They were outright poor.

By possessing the means to meet their needs, no. These people had an abundance.

This was a paradox of poverty. There was abundance without wealth as we define wealth these days. There appeared to be happiness and contentment in this snapshot view.

There was no further explanation or exploration of this circumstance. When you are a Marine on the move, you make your observations quickly. Assessments may come over time.

We don’t see homeless people in the part of the United States where I live. Somehow, some way, they find shelter.

We don’t see C-Rat houses here either.

Perhaps homelessness is big in the big cities, but most of the population of this nation does not live in the big cities. They live near cities so as to have access to what metropolitan areas have to offer, but for the most part, they live semi-rural areas. Even many who once lived in the suburbs have sought something a little more rural.

Homelessness is not an issue in most of America, but surely poverty is.

We live in what many consider a post modern world. So what does post modern poverty look like?

That will be the first part of this essay.

The second will be to answer the question, “What can we do about it?”

Want more?  Follow this link to PoMo Poverty:  Finding Abundance in the 21st Century in hard copy or buy it in the Kindle Store.  Amazon Prime members may read this book for free.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Christian's Prayer for America

My prayer is for a strong America.

One that is both safe and free.

My prayer is for a land where God

Is truly first in all we see.

My prayer is that the bitter acrimony

And the vitriolic overtones

Depart from every heart among us

And let the fruit of the Spirit be known.

But hate and divisiveness are the order of the day

And they have left no stone unturned

And hope of a revived nation

May not come before Christ’s return.

Oh how I would love to see the judgment

Of all the nations, but most of all

To hear the words “Well done” and “faithful”

When these United States of America are called.

Though I long to see our nation

Strong, and healthy, and on top once again.

It seems that we are headed elsewhere,

Thriving on hate and loving sin.

But God did not promise to preserve this nation,

Though that request I make anew each day.

He has commanded that we love and serve him

And follow Jesus along his way.

Sadly those two paths may be parting

The one of country and the one of God.

‘Tis a sad choice we leave our children

When God and country separately trod.

But to the Christians of this nation

Our call is clarion, crystal, clear.

To be God’s light amidst the darkness

In a land that once we held so dear.

But truly we are far from lucid

To think to be American is to be godly and just

When our words and actions question the motto

That we claim for our own:  “In God we trust.”

But as for me and for my household

We take light over darkness, and choose it again this very day.

And do pray in earnest that our nation will witness

The call to life that says Jesus the only way.

We knew this was coming yet tried to ignore it

For this very land some have shed their own blood.

But when faced with a choice so distinct and so real,

We are loyal to our homeland, to the Kingdom of God.

 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,  if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 2 Chronicles 7:13-14