Sunday, April 30, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Of course singing is one of the first things we do at Hometown Friends Church. The title of one of the songs is “God Will Take Care of You.” I believe in most of what the song expresses, but I find “Nothing you ask will be denied,” to be a bit simplistic. I’m trying for a moment to think honestly about prayer rather than just finding fault with the hymn writer.

The pastor is talking about Peter today. It’s the passage where Jesus repeatedly asks Peter, “Do you love me?” I’m reminded again about my general perception of Peter. I have Peter tagged as the ADHD disciple. The primary characteristics for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. I’m neither a biblical scholar nor a clinical psychologist, but Peter and ADHD look like a match to me. I want to believe God can take people with ADHD where they are and use them in powerful ways. Peter makes me think this can and does happen.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Today is one of those days I feel fortunate to be a Quaker publisher. There are a lot of reason I feel this way, but the thing that brought it to mind is the Barclay Press online book discussions. With May just two days away we are about to move from Stephen Sizer moderating discussion of his book (Christian Zionism) to a discussion of Never Mind the Joneses with author Tim Stafford. I’m thankful for gracious authors who are willing to help Barclay Press address important topics through moderating the discussion of their book.

Friday, April 28, 2006

This afternoon my daughter, Abbie, finished her last final exam of her first year at George Fox University. She had wanted to go to George Fox and never seriously considered going to any other college.

I’m pleased with the way she has made it her school. Her time on campus since late August can be characterized by new friends, comfortable communication with professors, and feeling at ease in the social, academic, and physical space. Tomorrow morning she will be moving home; and at the same time she will be moving away from home.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I saw the 60 Minutes piece Sunday night on Howard Shultz and Starbucks. I was impressed with the statement that they spend more on health care than on coffee. The other thing I’m thinking about this morning is the relational dynamic of the coffee business. This goes back to the pre-espresso days. It wasn’t just for the coffee that the good-old-boys bellied up to the counter for a cup of joe before going to work. They were (and are) there to visit with their friends and the waitress was much more than just someone who didn’t let them see the bottom of their cup. She was the presiding officer of this social club.

In the world Howard Shultz has helped create, the taste of the espresso is important but relationships are also very important. I like to go where the barista knows me and where I have a chance of running into people I know. It’s my equivalent of what I image an old English pub to be.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Here at Hometown Friends Church we are getting toward the end of a series on the book of John. The pastor asked for the name of a person from the book of John that stood out. There were a lot of responses from the congregation. The man who said Lazarus set my mind in motion. After the service I asked him how many years it has been since his health crisis. He wasn’t thinking about that when he mentioned Lazarus, but I think he understood why it stimulated my mind to recall that situation. Although what happened nine years ago was not as dramatic or as immediate as Christ calling, “Lazarus, come forth,” I believe J.J.’s comeback from death’s door was one of Christ’s miracles.
It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Here at Hometown Friends Church we are getting toward the end of a series on the book of John. The pastor asked for the name of a person from the book of John that stood out. There were a lot of responses from the congregation. The man who said Lazarus set my mind in motion. After the service I asked him how many years it has been since his health crisis. He wasn’t thinking about that when he mentioned Lazarus, but I think he understood why it stimulated my mind to recall that situation. Although what happened nine years ago was not as dramatic or as immediate as Christ calling, “Lazarus, come forth,” I believe J.J.’s comeback from death’s door was one of Christ’s miracles.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Maintaining is not very gratifying. Right now I’m thinking of our yard, but it also applies other places. Ethan mowed the grass and I planted some geraniums, pulled weeds, edged the driveway, and I’m sure there was more because I worked longer and harder than what that list looks like. The yard debris container is nearly full, but our yard still looks average. When I put a lot of work into something, I want the effort to achieve something more than the status quo. Maintaining is certainly better than deterioration, and perhaps sometimes I just need to accept that.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Growing up can be such a difficult process. It can be quite taxing on an adolescent and his parents. I use the male pronoun to reflect where I am this week. You only go through adolescence once and there are a ton of opportunities to screw it up. Even a parent who has watched five other children go through this stage doesn’t know the right and wrong response to each new challenge. But I’d rather be the parent of a 15-year-old than to be a 15-year-old.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I love it when two previously disconnected segments of my world make a new connection. I met Dan Nolta in 1967 in Newberg, Oregon. It was a dozen years later in Jackson, Mississippi, that I met Tom Adams. Tom came to mind when I was thinking who might write a review of Dan’s new book.

This morning when I read Tom’s review of Compassion—the Painful Privilege, I felt he knew Dan’s heart, mind, and soul even though they have never met. Dan lives in Tacoma, Washington, and Tom lives in Southern California, but words on a page have the power to bring people together.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The response said to me that my friend was amused and maybe wasn’t buying it. He and I had met for breakfast yesterday. Immigration reform came up in the conversation. My comment was, “This land is their land.” I was referring to Hispanics in general. My point was that Hispanics are a growing, contributing segment of our country. Hispanics need to be viewed as more than just a “hired hand.” Legal Hispanic immigrants have as much right to sing “This land is your land, this land is my land,” as I do. And “amnesty” is not an appropriate word for giving illegals a pathway toward earning citizenship.

Monday, April 17, 2006

It was nearly three weeks ago that I received a very thoughtful card in the mail and yesterday after church I had a chance to thank the young woman who sent it. She was a peer of my daughter, Trina, and was kindly letting me know she has not forgotten Trina and her attributes. Receiving the card and reading it was a wonderful experience. The fact that it came on Trina’s birthday was an extra bonus.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. There’s a more festive spirit in the room than most Sundays. In a couple of hours everyone will be sitting down to an above-average meal. In most cases, the number of people around the table will also be more than the norm. I expect the local grocery stores restocked the Jello shelf more often than usual the last couple of days and they sold a lot more eggs than what will be eaten.

But this day is about something more than food and family. The Easter hymns are somewhat exhilarating, but their impact is dulled by the fact that familiarity breeds lethargy. There is more to this event we are celebrating than I’m able to assimilate. But it seems the lead up to Easter involved Christ abandoning basic self interest and adopting God’s agenda. Not an easy act to follow.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It’s raining and the next-door neighbor has a U-haul truck backed up in her driveway. It was a sad day when the realtor “for sale” sign appeared in her front yard. She’s at a place in her life where she wants to downsize the amount of yard and house to maintain.

It’s probably less than a mile to where she’s moving, but that’s a different realm and a lesser relationship than next-door neighbor.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I have a daughter who has a week of classes and then finals before finishing her freshman year of college. Her concern yesterday morning when she phoned was a paper that was due but not finished. She was disappointed in herself and uncertain about how to deal with the situation. I didn’t mention to her that past due and unfinished “papers” aren’t just a student thing. I’ve got the unanswered emails, manuscripts that need to be read, projects to complete, and more. I hope Abbie will develop better skills for managing tasks and time than I have.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Paul Rusesabagina was interviewed on The News Hours last evening. The manager of Hotel Milles Collines during the time of tribal genocide in Rwanda 12 years ago has written his autobiography—An Ordinary Man. The man who saved the lives of more than 1,200 people during the 100 days of terrible violence is an advocate for international intervention in Darfur. He sees parallels between what happened in Rwanda and what is now happening in Darfur. He sees the international community taking a similar fateful, disengaged stance.

Paul Rusesabagina believes in the power of words and he believes ordinary people can help their neighbors. I expect his definition of neighbor is similar to the description Christ gave.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

White people are so arrogant. We act as if we are superior. We tend to do what we can to put other races at a disadvantage and then we blame them for the conditions we create. We have done this with Native Americans, Afro-Americans, and Latinos.

I question how honest it is to say, “I’m not racist.” I prefer to use phrases like, “I don’t mean to be racist,” “I continue to work on my racial attitudes,” or “I want to view all races the way God sees them, but I have to confess that cultural stereotypes sometimes sneak in and contaminate my perspective.”

In the Bible the prophet Isaiah called himself a man of unclean lips “and I live among a people of unclean lips.” I think of this as I remind myself of both my individual and my corporate responsibility regarding race.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I report for jury duty in about an hour. Orientation is first and then I might (or might not) be called to serve on a jury today. One of the things I’ll be thinking about on my drive to the courthouse is the relationship between justice and redemption—and the differences between the two. The nature of God includes both, but it seems to me he gives redemption priority over justice.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. This hour tends to get high marks in term of spiritual value. But of the 168 hours in each week, there are some other times that are highly significant in the life of the church. One of those comes Wednesday night when a group of teen moms gather for a meal, a presentation, and an opportunity to be themselves. I have no idea how a person acts like a mom and acts like a teen, but some women from my church are offering Christ-like support for these young women. Two of the women who provide leadership to this ministry just spoke and then received a prayer of commissioning from the pastor.

If Jesus were to visit Hometown Friends Church, I expect he would be more likely to drop in on the teen moms group than to fill a pew Sunday morning.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The 500 block of First Street is a lousy place to raise a family. The air is tainted with the exhaust from cars and trucks in three lanes of traffic. First Street is also 99W—one of the major pathways between Portland and the Oregon Coast. Like in any downtown area, the buildings are continuous and for several blocks there are few places where the earth can breath.

Friday morning when I was waiting for my haircut appointment I saw a bird out on the sidewalk collecting material to build a nursery. I watched as she flew across the street and disappeared behind a facing board that marks the beginning of the second story. This is where she is going to raise her family.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yesterday on television I saw George Bush fielding a comment during a North Carolina public Q&A. This was not a scripted event with only faithful supporters admitted. The man in the audience who attracted the media coverage admitted he didn’t have a question—only a comment. “I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration,” the man said. “And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself.” The man had the appearance of a sincerely concerned citizen—not the look or tone of a “demonstrator.” The President told the crowd to let the man talk when they started to boo. The President didn’t belittle his critic and responded to the wiretap part of the comment with his rational for their necessity and legality.

To me the President’s smile sometimes looks like a smirk, but I was pleased he was willing to have what seemed to be a dignified exchange with his critic.

AP report on MSNBC site

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I love seeing people I know get credit for who they are and what they do. Mark and Lisa McMinn take writing very seriously and have written quite a bit of good stuff. Not just any book gets reviewed in Publishers Weekly and a much smaller number get a red star. So when I saw Lisa’s next book (The Contented Soul) behind the red star I was delighted.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I’ve not paid much attention to the youth protests in France regarding a new law that will make it easier to hire and fire young workers under the age of 26. A question about whether this is an issue that has broader (beyond the borders of France) implication got my attention.

I’m wondering what young workers in the United States would do if a law was proposed that would discriminate against them. Or what would happen if they realized the growing national debt might have a very negative effect on them. Our young adults won’t be protesting in the street in numbers like in France as long as the impact is uncertain, abstract, and off in the future.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Is a person who unwaveringly follows the teachings of Jesus a conservative or a radical? Radical is an interesting term. “Living as an ordinary radical” is the subtitle for Shane Claiborne’s book. I don’t normally use ordinary and radical together.

Endorsements from John Perkins, Tom Sine, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, Brian McLaren, and Jim Wallis are enough to make me put Shane Claiborne speaking at George Fox University chapel on my calendar. Yesterday morning I sat with my daughter and with a friend who, in his own way, is an ordinary radical. Shane Claiborne convinced me that it’s possible to be both ordinary and radical.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I’m always interested in what Philip Yancey’s next book will be. Yesterday I learned it will be PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference? It will be coming out in the fall—Publisher’s Weekly says September; Zondervan says October.

Based on what I believe to be true about Philip Yancey, this book will give an honest look at the disappointments that come when prayer doesn’t work the way we want it to. I expect Yancey will approach prayer as a thoughtful seeker, not as a salesperson. Yancey will welcome doubters and nonbelievers and contemplate their questions and concerns. In response to the news item late last week about the scientific study of heart bypass patience and the influence of prayer, I can imagine Philip Yancey saying, “Yes, but…”

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. It looks like the change to daylight savings time has reduced the numbers in this service. With three services at Hometown Friends Church, people who usually come to this 9:45 service have the 11:15 option if they want to get a little more sleep.

The scripture today is John 15 where Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Jesus says that God is the gardener and that he cuts off branches that don’t bear fruit and that he prunes branches that produce fruit so they will produce more fruit.

I did some pruning yesterday on a couple of Japanese maples. There are places I want to discourage growth and other places where I want to encourage it. As I cut off some young growth, I knew the tree would appropriate energy that would have gone there to other places I want to see flourish.

I don’t have a picture of how God is pruning me. I don’t see the clippers, the trimmings being carried to the yard debris container, or the places where it’s obvious that something has been cut. I hope it’s happening in ways I’m not recognizing.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The top right tease line on my newspaper yesterday referring to the story on A16 got my attention: “Prayer doesn’t heal others.” The item about a scientific study of the effect of prayer on heart bypass surgery patients was a one day story. The only thing that could make it more than a one day story would be if Christians over react.