Monday, October 31, 2005

My granddaughter and I see Halloween differently. For her it’s excitement, parties, and dressing up in costumes. For me it’s an evening when the door bell rings and we give candy to strangers or in some cases neighborhood children who I should recognize (but don’t). Our contrasting views of Halloween might find a little common ground if I were taking my granddaughter around to our neighbors or going with her to homes she knows in her community. The 20 plus miles and the difference in age puts our Halloween experience in two different worlds, but maybe I’ll give her a call tomorrow and have her tell me all about it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

This morning I looked around at church to find people with whom I’ve become friends within the past year. I decided to do this yesterday after I picked up coffee. I saw several people I know, but with the exception of the one I’ve known just for a year, the others I’ve known for several years. I had to ask myself, Am I making new friends? So I decided to check it at church.

I’ve got some work to do. I want my pool of friendships to be a reservoir with a flow of fresh water coming in instead of a stagnant pond.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Scooter Libby reminds me of an incident when I was a junior in high school. It was in chemistry class on a lab day. I went to class poorly prepared and the teacher was tired of us wasting lab time. So before we started lab he went around the room asking what each of us was going to do.

When he came to me I said, “Sugar tests.”

“Where are your food samples?”

I had not planned on this follow-up question. I’d figured I could bum food sample from someone else when we went to the lab tables and be home free. I opted to try to bluff my way through and pointed to a brown bag (my lunch) under my desk and said, “In the bag.”

“Let me see it.” Looking inside the bag gave him the opportunity to use his pet expletive, “My cow, man! This is your lunch.”

I was found out. Mr. Stephons further exposed me in the afternoon chemistry class when he announced, “This morning Dan McCracken was going to do sugar tests on his sandwich and a candy bar.”

Scooter Libby might have learned more than chemistry if he had been in Mr. Stephons class.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Greed is one of the sins that gets the “deadly” label. This morning I heard about an instance of greed that I thought was particularly noxious. A Houston area pastor told me on the phone this morning that the grocery stores don’t have any motivation to have sales and that prices have noticeably increased. The area has absorbed victims from Louisiana and families are restocking after Rita. The relationship of price to supply and demand is an accepted commercial dynamic, but in this case in looks like opportunistic greed. I expect the grocery store owners have an excuse, but they have a lot of explaining to do before I’ll be convinced.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On my way home from work, I noticed several people gathered at the city flag pole. All the traffic going through Newberg in either direction passes this point where two-way lanes make a Y to form two one-way streets. I’m guessing they were university students, but that’s only a guess. I saw several “END THE WAR” signs as I went by.

I also noticed a man in a hooded jacket sitting in a canvas chair by the curb. His sign read, “TRY CANADA.”

In our polarized culture, at least the differing points of view were there together where they could have personal dialog. I expect there was some verbal interaction. I hope none of the war protesters were as sarcastic as I am when I talk about (not to) people who disagree with my point of view.

The other thing I thought about is what “TRY CANADA” means. I assume it means that if you disagree with something your government is doing, you should go to another country. Why would someone support a military effort to create a democracy in the Middle East, but not support democracy in the United States?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

We know that pride is bad enough to make the top ten on the sin chart, so the antonym must be in the top ten virtues.

In the evangelical Christian circles where I grew up, it was important to be humble, unassuming, modest, meek, self-effacing, and deferential. These are good characteristics when compared with arrogance, conceit, condescension, and egotism. But I’ve come to think that both ends of the spectrum are unhealthy. Humility has become distorted when it manifests itself as “I’m no good.” or “Everyone else is right and I’m wrong.” Humility that denigrates God's human creation ignores the fact that we are made in the "image of God."

Monday, October 24, 2005

I have a therapist friend in Southern California who is beginning a new venture of providing therapy to the homeless on skid row and to families with HIV/AIDS through the Salvation Army. He says, “I'm sure I'll be seeing Jesus down there. Would you like me to pass on any messages?”

Well, Tom, I expect you will be passing on a lot of messages, but the messages will be your life and words you deliver that come from the Holy Spirit. I find a difference between the places I want to see Jesus and the places he prefers to hang out. I know he shows up from time to time at my suburban middle-class church, but knowing he would rather hang out with losers makes me nervous.

What’s the clinical name for a disconnect between what you know to be true in your mind and the way you live?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Finding new friends and connecting with old ones is a great experience. Yesterday I got the chance to connect with some friends 900 miles away at the writers workshop Barclay Press did in Southern California. I enjoy opportunities to maintain friendships with people I rarely see. I had never met the majority of the people attending. Unfortunatley, fifty new names are more than what I can assimilate in ten hours. But the day included enough interaction that seeds of friendship were planted. I hope to have further contact with several and I believe my life and the ministry of Barclay Press will be enhanced by these ongoing connections.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Some of the people at the emerging writers workshop today at Friends Center, Azusa Pacific University, wondered why three people from Barclay Press in Oregon would travel to Southern California to do a writers workshop. They were observant enough to note a lack of immediate payoff for Barclay Press.

Well, the event was not completely void of self interest. It seems obvious that it’s a good idea for a publisher to display their dependence on writers and to show an active interest in the development and nurture of writers. The workshop was the right thing to do.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I get to spend the day tomorrow with about fifty “emerging writers.” Emerging writers is the name we have given the Barclay Press initiative to encourage and nurture writers. Our web site has an emerging writer’s forum to give people a chance to connect with others by sharing their writing.

Tomorrow will be our third workshop—first Oregon, then Kansas, and now California. We will be at Friends Center, Azusa Pacific University. I expect a group with at least a 50 year variation in age, a wide range of careers, and varied backgrounds. I expect their will be only two things the groups holds in common: (1) a desire to do more communication through writing and (2) a commitment to follow Christ.

Tomorrow will be a good day.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I’ve been in a bad mood.

I tried really hard not to show it and even my wife tells me I was successful. Like a cold, it came on slowly and hung on. I don’t know where it came from and I didn’t have a good reason for it. If I could explain it, then I’d feel more justified. Even as my “moody, sullen” side is shrinking, I’m still a little irritated that it had a place in my emotions the last couple of days. Perhaps the best I can do is to admit it, but not analyze it.

It’s not a good idea to write about personal emotions in a place where others can read, but today I guess I’ll be a little bit transparent instead of smart.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I must be a small town guy.

I had my coffee at the espresso shop this morning instead of taking it to go. It gave me a chance for short visits with three people and to see a couple more. Even just seeing people I know gives me a good feeling. It makes me feel connected and therefore stronger than I am by myself. Community takes many forms, but it certainly means not living in isolation.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A high school student I know called last evening. He attends a Christian school and was doing some additional work beyond the regular assignments. The project he was given included interviewing a Republican and a Democrat asking questions about the party and about political perspectives.

I can imagine the student asking his parents, “How am I going to find a Democrat?”

Even though I wasn’t very articulate as I tried to answer his questions, I enjoyed the opportunity to share why I’m a registered Democrat. The stereotype that evangelical Christians are Republicans has more exceptions than some people think.

Should a follower of Christ actively try to protect the environment—God’s creation?

Should a follower of Christ be as concerned about life after the womb as life in the womb?

Should a follower of Christ be known as a champion for the poor, widows, orphans?

Should a follower of Christ believe in caring for the sick and working toward racial and economic justice?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Can a church full of introvert get outside itself?

My pastor mentioned this morning that the Friends Church’s concern for the inner life has a tendency to attract introverts. My church doesn’t have a record of personality profile tests, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more extroverts in our community of believers. As an introvert, I need the influence of extroverts. I’m guessing that the majority of our biblical heroes were extroverts.

I’d like to think an introvert can be highly effective in relating to others. It takes some intentional effort. When the introvert extends himself/herself to a stranger, it might not be as natural as the extrovert, but I think it is more purposeful.

Perhaps the deciding factor on whether introverts can get outside themselves is whether or not they are self-centered.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Today seemed like a “below average” day. My wife and I both spent a lot of time helping our son with school work. Some of the problem was created by procrastination, so I felt we were suffering for his lack of planning and initiative. But if heredity and environment enter the picture, he’s off the hot seat and I’m back on it.

Even on a “below average” day good things can happen. Both Oregon and Oregon State won their football games. I got the lawn mowed. An article arrived about response to victims of Hurricane Katrina that I was able to post on the Barclay Press web site. We had bento for our evening meal. And best of all I was able to watch Ethan apply himself to his social studies project.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I worked in the office for about an hour and a half at the beginning of the day and about the same amount of time at the end of the day, but I mostly worked at home. I don’t know if I’m more efficient at the office or at home. There are distraction both places.

When I went into the office at 4:00 I heard about three of the people who had been in for different reasons. I’d like to see each of these individuals more often. If I had been there I would have taken 5 or 10 minutes of my time and theirs. A time management calculation might show that somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour of time (total of mine and theirs) was saved by not being at the office. But to me it looks more like opportunities missed than time saved.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I have a lot of respect for school teachers, but I’m glad I’m not one of them.

Last night we went to parent-teacher conferences for our high school freshman. Each teacher must have about 150 students. As class sizes grow and student needs increase, the teacher’s job gets harder. It seems to me that teachers must see a lot of individual needs that they can only respond to in collective ways. It must be frustrating.

But, I suppose the opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives during formative years must be pretty fulfilling—if you’re built for that kind of work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

“As you know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

The American Cancer Society e-mail assumes I know more than what I do. This is the cancer that is most frightening to me. Breast cancer first affected me when I was in the 8th grade and it took my mother’s life. Three years ago when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, emotion and logic took up battle stations in my mind and went at it. She is now a three-year survivor and co-chair of the 2006 Newberg Relay for Life.

One thing I just learned from awareness month is the disparity in use of mammography between women below the poverty line and those above. Stats divided into three age categories indicate that approximately 55% of women in poverty use mammography while 72% above poverty access this critical early diagnosis tool. Both compassion and financial efficiency call for a change in these numbers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

“There is no job more important than parenting.”

This is the statement of Dr. Benjamin Carson in his This I Believe essay on National Public Radio. He credits his mother—a domestic with only a third-grade education—as the source of the life-changing influence he has been able to have on the lives of many. She brought home from work the observation that successful people spent more time reading than watching television. She applied the observation in her home. Carson says, “Although we had no money, between the covers of those books, I could go anywhere, do anything, and be anybody.”

Hopefully I’ll remember Dr. Benjamin Carson and his mother the next time I reach for the remote control.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I wonder if God created an emotional gyrostabilizer within close relationships.

In the ups and downs of life it seems there is a natural balance built into close communities. When one is depressed, another is encouraging. When one is angry, another is calm. When one is insecure, another shares confidence.

But it’s not always this way. If there is a gyrostabilizer, it doesn’t always work. Emotions can be very contagious, so a little out of balance can quickly become way out of balance.

I’m sure God is pleased when instead of responding to anger with anger I find another option.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

“How did you manage to turn out the way you did?”

This was the question my wife asked yesterday at lunch after our friend described the family she grew up in. The answer is that she committed her life to Christ in her freshman year at George Fox College (now University).

Most people in my circle of Christian friends grew up in Christian homes and have no firsthand experience with the contrast between life before Christ and after. From time to time I need to see illustrations of what redemption and transformation mean.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Yesterday I witnessed a beautiful convergence of need, love, and compassion. I was not the giver or the recipient and the story has depth that might not be my place to tell. What I saw was a great example to me and a reminder that generosity and compassion can be practiced on any scale. Even if my ability to give is on a lesser scale, I’m reminder to be sensitive to needs around me and to practice generosity.

Friday, October 07, 2005

It was just last night that I first heard about the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

John Edwards was Jon Stewart’s guest on The Daily Show. Edwards has said for some time now that it is morally wrong for a wealthy country such as the United States to have millions of people working full time and still living in poverty. His leadership role (a two-year, part-time position) at the Center on Poverty involves study of the causes of poverty, development of 21st century ideas for what can be done about poverty, and keeping the issue as a priority in public policy and awareness. Edwards sees a post-Katrina window of opportunity that might stay open or might be transient.

I like the fact that Edwards calls poverty a moral issue. He seems more interested in making a difference than in making excuses.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fighting fire with fire works in certain situation.

I grew up in eastern Oregon near the Idaho border. The main irrigation canal was less than a mile from our farm and on the other side of the canal was sagebrush and dry grass as far as you could see. When lightning or human carelessness started burning up this dry grassland, farmers would load up shovels and wet burlap bags and go help the BLM crews put out the fire. One of the tools for stopping a fire was a controlled burn in front of the fire to create an area with no fuel. The same technique is used with forest fires.

Fighting violence with violence does not work the same way.

Let’s say Donny is the playground bully at school who picks on Khalil every day after school. After it gets so bad that Khalil goes home with a black eye, Khalil’s dad teaches him how to fight. In about a week Khalil is ready to put Donny in his place and does. It's okay to believe Donny isn’t going to pick on Khalil any more, but the fires of insecurity and aggression in Donny have not been put out. The bully is not reformed. To the contrary, all of Donny’s insecurities that made him a bully to begin with have been amplified. He has been publicly humiliated and now the stakes are higher. He will find new ways to torment more kids and become twice the menace he had been.

Fighting violence with violence has human dynamics such as getting even that fire doesn’t have.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Today we have staff lunch. We’ve been doing this the first Wednesday of the month for a year. Most of the Barclay Press staff work part time and some of that work is done outside of the office. We are never all at the same place at the same time.

I like the people I work with. Coworker has a good connotation for me. As I think back to 1962 when I entered the workplace first with a summer job and then an after-school job, I start recalling names accompanied with positive memories and influence: K.C., Helen, Mike, . . . Agnes, Jack, Herb, Ray, Loren, Larry, Gene, Vi, Bill, . . . Harlow, Dick, LeRoy, Gertrude, Betty, Ed, George, Denis, Eva, . . . John, Lem, Jean, Tim, Jim, Debbie, Donna, Duane, Karen, Robert, Nan, Lu, Audrey, Steve, . . . Jack, Stan, Les, Jean, Janelle, Susan, Alice, Sharon, Mike, Jennifer, J.V., Katy . . . Jay, Heather, John, Vincent, . . . Kati, Liz, Paula, Dan C., Ron, Sierra, Bruce. This is only a partial list, but it reminds me to be thankful for the people I’ve worked with and the special place they hold in my life.

My sympathy goes to people for whom coworker means people who have to be endured.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Why do we get so defensive even when we’re wrong? Maybe especially when we're wrong.

Last week talk show host William Bennett (former secretary of education and author of The Book of Virtues) said, "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. . . . That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

I’m just going to talk about the secondary problem with this incident—which in my view becomes the primary problem. His attempt at damage control in the days following focused on his opposition to abortion and that he was not racist. The emphasis was on why his statement was okay. I didn’t hear him say why his statement was wrong.

Thanks, Bill, for reminding me that there is no virtue in making an offensive and inflammatory statement and not saying “I’m sorry.”

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sometimes we have to “do” before we believe and sometimes we have to believe before we “do.” (from Gregg Koskela’s sermon yesterday morning at Newberg Friends Church)

Right before the statement he had presented the dilemma of practicing a level of virtue that may seem unnatural. Should I try to be more like what I want to be even if it looks (and feels) fake? I find rather restricting the line of thinking that says, “I am who I am and I’m not going to pretend I’m anything else.”

I like the person I want to be a lot more than the person I am. In my efforts to make the “real” me a better person, I might have to fake it from time to time.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I’m not a musician, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate music.

A PBS program just reminded me of the power of music--Get Up, Stand Up: The Story of Pop and Protest. The labor movement, civil rights, the Vietnam war, apartheid, and other issues have inspired songs that became a public battle cry. Hindsight is better than foresight, so it’s easier to recognize what was than to see what is and will be. I don’t recognize a contemporarily equivalent to Pete Seeger. I know Bono is doing good things to alleviate hunger in Africa, but war, poverty, and racism are also on the front page.

Where are the songs that pull us together?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I ran into Brad Berry this morning at the Coffee Cottage. I first got acquainted with Brad years ago when we served together on the Newberg Human Resources board. He was a Newberg attorney then. Later my appreciation for Brad grew again when I was on the Yamhill County United Way board that he chaired.

It must have been about a year before Brad was elected District Attorney that I was called to serve on the grand jury. I learned more about vile acts and people’s inability to resolve conflict than I wanted to know. This is what the district attorney’s office deals with day after day. Brad—and others like him—have my respect as they form a levy to abate the tide of crime, conflict, and corruption.

I see Brad’s name in the paper more often than I see his face, but both serve as a reminder to be thankful for what he does.