Friday, March 31, 2006

Eddie Herrera came to mind last night when I was listening to the news. All the talk about immigration reform, border security, and worker permits for illegals made me think of my former classmate. Eastern Oregon agriculture was dependent on migrant farm workers who lived in what we then called labor camps during the summer. Eddie’s family lived and worked in the community year around. They were one of the very few Mexican American families in our area who were not migrants.

We have a long history of economic dependence and exploitation of people who have come legally and illegally to our country. Illegal immigration looks to me like a problem we have created. I think we run the risk of looking silly when we try to blame the victims.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wednesday was our 20th anniversary and we went to the coast for a couple of days. After we got settled into our room Tuesday evening, we went to Mo’s at Tolovana Park for dinner. While we were waiting for our food, I glanced up at the people leaving and noticed it was a family we know. We visited and then enjoyed our clam chowder and fish and chips. As we were leaving, a young family from Newberg was headed for their table and we had a minute to exchange greetings.

It’s spring break and it’s the Oregon coast, so seeing people we knew isn’t that big a deal, but it is fun.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My daughter, Trina, would be 36 today. The type of brain tumor she had doesn’t let people live that long. It leaves a hole in the family and I step very carefully (perhaps fearfully) when I walk near it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My wife and I saw The Boys of Baraka Sunday afternoon. They said 76% of black male students don’t graduate from high school in Baltimore. The film focuses on four of the twenty “at risk” seventh and eighth graders who went in the fall of 2002 from the streets of inner-city Baltimore to an experimental boarding school in Kenya. The “one step forward, one step back” dynamic is not whitewashed. It’s both a documentary and a story, but certainly not a feel-good story.

The movie didn’t make this point directly, but indirectly it told me it would be much better to fight poverty and crime in the classroom instead of adding more police to the payroll and building more jail space.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. I considered whether God’s instruction about a day of rest included not having to get up and go to church this morning. Since Hometown Friends Church does a podcast of the service, I could have heard it at a more convenient time this week. But I would not have recognized the voice reading the scripture because I didn’t recognize the face or the name listed in the worship folder. I would not have known who was singing in the worship ensemble or noted that 4 of the 11 singers attended the Emerging Writers retreat last weekend. I wouldn’t have had the chance to go sit with the friend whose spouse has recently been in a hospital bed, then a nursing home bed, and now at home. I would not have seen the physical response to the service or sensed that mystical dynamic that comes by being with a group of people who are trying to listen to Christ. I wouldn’t have heard a Friendsview resident’s compliment of my daughter.

Podcast might be the next best thing to being there, but there are significant ways it falls short.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I’m thinking this morning about the Saturday people I don’t seem to connect with anymore. My Saturdays just don’t seem to have a place for Tom and Ray, Garrison Keillor, and the Dolan sisters. Thinking about this took me to the Web sites and I find that in June I’ll have a chance to experience radio as I’ve never seen it before with the release of the movie—A Prairie Home Companion. At Car Talk I find a “listen to the show” button so that listening the Tom and Ray doesn’t have to be a Saturday morning thing. I’m afraid the Satellite Sisters are confined to a “good memory” status. The format for their first season was their high point and now they aren’t even on the air in the Portland market. Maybe listening to the radio is just an old fashioned thing to do unless it’s with headphones or in the car.

Friday, March 24, 2006

“Hey dad, I found something older than you.” This morning my son's tone of voice and facial expression told me he was pleased with his creativity to find this way to tease me. “Nap’s is 61,” he explained. The grocery store on the west side of town that seems like it’s been there forever only opened a year before I was born. I like the days that include a sense of comradery.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A coworker and I have a rule that “fine” is not an acceptable response to the morning “How are you?” question. We make ourselves come up with more creative/descriptive words.

Today I feel exuberant. It’s news of the release of the remaining three Christian Peacemaker Team hostages that makes me feel this way. The statement from the co-directors of Christian Peacemaker Teams includes the appropriate reminder that “our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom [Fox] is not alive to join in the celebration.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I think it would be great fun to sit down and talk with Helen Thomas. The 82-year-old White House correspondent began working in the news business before I was born. Intelligence and hard work made her a respected figure in a man’s world. As a reporter she asked tough questions but censured her own opinions. After she became a columnist in 2000, she once said, “Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?’”

I hope the fact that I like Helen Thomas is a positive reflection on my character, but I don’t really know for sure.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My wife and I are trying to make sure our son understands the importance of integrity. We want him to understand that it’s easier to maintain trust than to regain it after it has been lost.

I’ve lost trust in how this administration describes conditions in Iraq. My cynicism really doesn’t need that much stimulation. I wonder to what degree the insurgency reflects a universal disdain for having their country occupied by infidels. I wonder how the last three years will look five years from now. My guess is that a bad situation will look worse as time allows truth to crawl out from behind the barriers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning I was with 50 people who have enough interest in the craft of writing to spend a weekend together sharing, learning, and exploring. This was the fourth time Barclay Press has done one of these retreats. I didn’t have a “if we build it, they will come” vision when we first considered the emerging writers project, but it’s happened. People who have no previous connection with each other, in a short time feel connected because of their interest in writing. It’s a rich experience to see people encouraged and feeling better equipped to put words on paper for the benefit of others (and themselves).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. I’m not at Hometown Friends Church this morning. As attenders at the 9:45 service find their usual places for worship, I’m two hours away at Twin Rocks Friends Camp. I’m at a Barclay Press writers retreat and in a few minutes we will be starting our time of worship. We’ll be doing a lectio divina together. We won’t be doing any singing this morning which works just fine for me. I probably wouldn’t say this to my musician friends, but I don’t buy the assumption that a worship service should include music. I’m not against music, I’m just not good at it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Nobody likes a phony. So why does anyone opt for fakery? Maybe insecurity—those feelings of inadequacy when we want so badly to achieve but feel we are falling short of the mark. Maybe the need to be loved drives us away from authenticity because we think people will like us better if we try to be what we think they want us to be. Maybe the journey from who we are to who we want to be makes us “fake it ’til we make it.”

Later this morning the Barclay Press Conversation Café team will be tracking progress on securing articles that address authenticity. As Barclay Press publisher I’ll be trying to act like I know what I’m doing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I met Bart first thing this morning here at the house. He’s going to paint the exterior when the weather permits. Today he power washed it in preparation. Bart was recommended by a friend. It’s really nice to not have to resort to the yellow pages.

So, I drove to the office later than usual and saw the cross-walk lady where I turn onto Springbrook Road. It had been a long time since we traded friendly waves. Her cheerful face must be a regular encouragement to children crossing the street on their way to school.

At noon I had lunch with my cousin from eastern Oregon. Chuck, his parents, and his little sister moved to Ontario, Oregon, 47 years ago. Chuck was still in high school, but he thought he wanted to farm. Time has confirmed he was right. They had a place less than a mile from our family farm. For 47 years he’s been growing crops, improving the soil, irrigating, feeding cows, milking cows, maintaining equipment, and all the other things you do on a farm. He’s quit milking cows and has started to slow down, but he’s still a farmer.

Our mother’s are sisters. My mother’s battle with breast cancer ended just a couple of weeks after her sister and family moved into our farm community. His mother passed away less than a year ago. When you’re cousins, a farmer in eastern Oregon and a publisher in western Oregon can have a lot in common.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I like the moral dilemmas on the television series The West Wing. The writers seem interested in making the viewer think.

Senator Vinick is the Republican candidate for President. He was leading in the poles until Sunday night. The fallout (political instead of nuclear) from a near disaster at a California nuclear power plant turned the presidential race into a dead heat. Vinick’s support for the facility was on the record.

The Republican National Committee has to turn things around and Vinick is no George Bush. He’s more of a John McCain. Something has to be done to rally the conservative base of the party. What kind of compromise and sacrifice is appropriate in order to achieve the goal of getting elected? Vinick’s campaign coordinator decides she must fall on the sword and I don’t know if this is a heroic sacrifice or a compromise of conviction.

Monday, March 13, 2006

“At their worst, politicians—like the rest of us—can be petty, venal and self-centered. But I believe politics, at its best, can help to make ours a world where the powerful are truly more just and the poor are more secure.” This is the way Mark Shields closes “The People Have Spoken”—a “This I Believe” essay on the NPR Web site.

I enjoy getting together with Mark on Friday evenings. We don’t do it every week and, of course, he is in Washington, DC, (and other places) and I’m on the family room couch. But the News Hour on PBS brings us together in this one-way connection. He does the talking and I do the listening.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. At Hometown Friends Church we are looking at John 12 which includes the words of Christ, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Horticulture is the illustration, not the point.

I can’t explain the unrelated things that come to mind during this weekly hour in the pew. The sudden realization of the reason behind a phone call at Barclay Press last week was one of those things this morning. My assumption now is that the call had a connection with the Board of Trustees meeting this weekend here at Quaker College. The phone request was for a fax of an article written long ago by a Friends pastor and former college board member. The topic of the article was alcoholism. It’s no secret that a controversial item on the board agenda has to do with whether rules and signed statements should be used to create the moral high ground of employees maintaining total abstinence from alcohol.

As I said, this didn’t come from John 12 but blew through my mind from somewhere else.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It was after 10:00 last night when our daughter, Abbie, phoned from her college dorm room. She asked me if I knew any of the names of the four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams who have been held hostage. Tom Fox was the only name I could remember. Abbie had just seen on her internet news home page the story about an American hostage being found dead and she read me the first part of the news report. We talked some more and I told her I preferred getting this news from her than in some other way. The thing I didn’t think to say at the time was that Tom Fox’s death had more honor, purpose, significance than most of the American deaths in Iraq since we invaded that country.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Each year Publishers Weekly selects a short list of standouts from among small independent presses. There are 11 on the list in the March 6 issue. The most interesting thing to me in the 4-page article (Making a Name) was the blurb at the beginning: “While large publishers work to build authors whose names are recognized by consumers, small presses have found that a key to their success is to create a name for themselves that is trusted by retailers, authors, and agents.”

Trust is something that has to be earned and it’s a good way to build any business. Instead of small presses learning from the large publishers, it looks like the “bigs” would do well to learn from the little guys.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I’m sitting at in the front of Chapters Books and Coffee watching the traffic back up. The barista just said she feels like going out and telling people to not even try it. “Just come in and have some coffee.”

We got snow last night and everyone headed toward the Portland metro area has to go up Rex Hill just outside of town. All it takes is one person who doesn’t know how to drive in snow and it creates a mess for everyone. I expect it will all be gone by noon, but in the meantime kids are playing in the snow (or getting extra sleep) during the 2 hour delay on the start of school and the towing companies and collision repair shops are getting more business.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

When the phone rings in the office before 8:00 a.m., it’s usually someone from two or three time zones east of here. The 7:15 call this morning was no exception. It was Bill Ehlig from Houston, Texas. He’s coauthor of What Every Church Member Should Know about Poverty and six months ago I didn’t know him or the book. He moderated the discussion of his book during November in the Barclay Press online Conversation Café.

Bill doesn’t have as many physical and mental barriers between himself and poverty as I do. So things happen to him that don’t happen to me (i.e., running into a 16-year-old he had previously counseled who is now panhandling in the grocery store parking lot). Poverty has many faces and Bill sees them closer and more personal than I do.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Last Saturday I was at Twin Rocks Friends Camp on the Oregon coast to pick up my daughter. One of the people I saw during my brief time there was the young woman who is the chair of the camp board. I feel fortunate to know people younger than myself who are doing such good work. There was a period of time several years ago when I clearly saw an older generation of leadership, but felt uncertain about who would replace them.

Before 1993 the President of the United States had always been older than me. Bill Clinton is 10 months younger. My doctor is much younger than I am. The same is true of my pastor. It's exciting to see a constantly growing number of people younger than myself who are capable, insightful, and committed.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful are gathered. Over on one side of the platform the hand bells are set up. The other half of the music for the morning is the folk ensemble. The scripture for today is John 11:1-53 (the raising of Lazarus from the dead). At the end of the folk ensemble doing a song titled “Lazarus Come Forth,” I whisper to Cindy, “That had a little bit of a Prairie Home Companion sound to it.” “It made me think of the Gaithers,” she replies. I quickly suppress a sudden wave of nausea.

Part of the description for the time of open worship following the sermon is, “give God your full attention to see what he wants to say to you.” My full attention? I guess that would mean that I don’t get to wonder if my daughter slept through her alarm and is still in bed in her dorm room.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

By comparison to what I was as a high school freshman, my son is very socially adept. He makes friends easily—both male and female. We don’t always know as much about his friends as we would like. Last night he went to a movie with a girl we don’t know. But her last name made it obvious I know her grandparents, and knew her great grandparents. It was comforting to have a point of reference.

I also reminded myself that none of us get our character from our surname.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I don’t do Lent, but I think it might be a good idea. I wonder what it would be like to not be judgmental of other people for 40 days. It would be easier to just give up ice cream.

Another idea would be to pick one of the seven deadly sins and try to purge my life from its evil influence. Pride, envy, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, sloth—I’d want to start with the easiest, but I don’t know which one that would be. My “holiness” upbringing had some notion of a “sinless” life. I haven’t found it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I have better indicators that my children love me than the watch on my wrist, but it’s a nice symbolic reminder. The watch was a birthday gift from my three adult children 10 years ago. It’s a good watch and a good feeling.