Sunday, July 30, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Over in Memorial Park, barely 2 blocks away, the town is celebrating Old Fashioned Days. The Rotary club is serving pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. The rest of the park is filled with a music stage, booths serving food and beverage, and booths for information and commerce. I thought I was absorbing and applying the message about listening to God, but then during the quite time I caught myself checking out whether I could hear music from the park coming through the open windows. That wasn’t the listening described in the sermon.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

In the Friends Church (Quaker) we have this conviction that corporate decision making is a matter of finding the mind of Christ. Obedience to Christ, knowing Christ, listening to the Holy Spirit leads to greater unity than voting. Voting is a lot faster, but it creates winners and losers. The “Quaker way” is a bit idealistic and a lot of time can be spent. Over the past year a task force has spent hours on the issue of whether Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church should have an affiliation with Friends World Committee for Consultation. Local churches discussed the issue. No single item was given more time in the business sessions this week. As the scheduled hour for the last lunch was being pushed back, a voice approval was given to a minute that approved the affiliation. And then the question of what recourse for those who don’t approve and do not feel released to stand aside. They were given the opportunity to record their names in the minutes as not approving the action. The “Quaker way” doesn’t always work the way we think it should, but it gave opportunity for speaking and listening with love and respect for all.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I’m thinking about unity and diversity. People within my church denomination don’t all have the same view on some of the ways we live out our faith. We each see the world through our unique mindset and our individual spiritual experience. In our grouping of Friends (Quakers) we join with other Christians on the common ground of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as lord and savior. It was more than 1,500 years ago that Augustine said, "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love." This works great as long as I’m the one who gets to decide what is essential and what in non-essential.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yesterday afternoon I had one of those short periods of mental distress regarding my capacity to be a good parent. I have a reasonable supply of patience, but it’s certainly not endless. My youngest of six children will turn 16 in about a month and a half. I thought about the coach who says, “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time.” I could become a great parent, but after 38 years I’ve run out of time.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Repentance, confession, admission of guilt—these are difficult exercises for people fascinated with the notion of a sinless life. The hurt we cause other people doesn’t have to be intentional in order to reach the threshold for asking forgiveness. Unintended pain hurts no less and the offences we don’t mean to commit still need to be resolved.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sometimes I think what happens between the meetings has more significance than what happens in the meetings. Conversations in the halls or lobby and at meals can move past “Good to see you.” “How are you doing?” to where the deeper issues of life come out as experience, insight, and concern are shared. As Quakers from Washington, Idaho, and Oregon meet here in Newberg, I stumble into opportunities to connect eye to eye with some fine people. I don’t think it is heresy to suggest that relationships discovered, nurtured, matured are as important as the actions that go into the minutes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Yesterday was not a normal Sunday at Hometown Friends Church. For one thing, it was undoubtedly the hottest Sunday we will see this summer. But the other thing is that once a year (toward the end of July) Friends from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon gather at nearby Quaker U. This significantly swells the attendance that Sunday.

Sunday morning wasn’t the only time the faithful gathered yesterday. On campus there was a missions rally in the afternoon and then in the evening the keynote message by the superintendent of this regional group of Friends. My combined summary of the morning and evening message is simply, “Go forward in tune with Christ and in harmony with each other.”

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I heard on the news that less than a third of Americans believe Israel has overreacted. There are 10 times as many Lebanese deaths as Israeli deaths; no international airports in Israel have been destroyed; and I’m among that less than a third who wonder what has happened to the general understanding in the international community of proportional response. And I’m also frustrated with Christians who maintain such a blind loyalty to Israel that they disregard the New Testament command to love our enemies and then also disregard the Old Testament eye for an eye restraint on retribution.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It’s pretty hard to be safe. Last night my wife learned that even a simple thing like stepping down from a chair can be dangerous. She just lost her balance slightly as she stepped down from organizing the top shelf in a kitchen cupboard and then the extended dishwasher door took away her chance to recover and the top of her body was going one direction and her feet were in the same place. She knew the back of her head was on its way toward a kitchen cabinet. It didn’t take her any time to determine she didn’t want to hear the sound of a head hitting a cabinet. Her arm broke her fall and in the process also broke her right wrist.

The Oregon International Air Show at the Hillsboro Airport is billed as “a fun, save family event,” but on Sunday afternoon the owner and pilot of a private jet lost his life and a woman lost her home and everything in it. There was nothing predictable about what happened.

I was reminded again tonight on the news of the critical safety concerns of people in northern Israel and Lebanon—people running for shelters and people trying to get out of the country. The Middle East has always seemed like not a very safe place to live and it is getting worse. Kitchen chairs are quite safe compared to living in the land of retribution.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Here at Hometown Friends Church this is the last Sunday on the biblical book of Micah. It has been a bunch of years since the Old Testament prophet delivered his messages to Israel and we still can’t get it right. We take our eye of the ball and wander away from maintaining a close relationship with God. We don’t really understand God so we stir up a man-made mixture to paint over the mystery and the unknowns. We like a God with endless patience.

Micah didn’t have a “feel good” message and I doubt he could have gotten an the guest appearance list at the Crystal Cathedral.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My mistakes bother me, but I’m more upset by other people’s mistakes than my own. I know the explanation for my blunders, but I don’t what excuse others will manufacture for their shortcomings.

I took Ethan and a friend of his through the Burger King drive thru this afternoon and when we got home his triple stacker was not in the bag. I was as unhappy as he was because I was the one driving back to get the burger. My bad impression of the current state of customer service made me wonder how the news of the mistake would be received. I generally try to be a gracious person, but I was thinking: They better not give me any attitude. But at the same time the woman behind the counter was putting into a bag the triple stacker that was there waiting, she was opening the refrigerator and asking if it had been three people in the car. She pulled out three of their cheese cake slices. As I thanked her, she said, “No. Thank you. I’m sorry you had to come back.”

Friday, July 14, 2006

Getting even really has a poor success rate. Forgiveness is much more effective tool for righting a wrong. Forgiveness defuses a bad situation, while getting even escalates the conflict. Between sibling in the back seat of a car and between Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East, retribution creates no solutions.

Forgiveness has a high price tag, but it should never be considered unaffordable.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I was talking on the phone last night with one of my sisters. Our dad is turning 90 late next month and we are planning a birthday party. My dad seems to prefer not to be the center of attention and since it is his party, we want him to be comfortable. It has me wondering how much the quiet types eschew attention or if they enjoy praise just as much as any of us. I wonder if their reserve and humility just makes them feel awkward, but down inside where we can’t see they soak up compliments like a sponge. I’m thinking we better take a chance on letting a little light shine into those inner places even if it bloats the social comfort zone.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I wonder about all those people in the military who are expected to drop the bomb, fire the rocket, and pull the trigger. I wonder how they feel when their Commander in Chief says that it is wrong to destroy life in order to save life. It must make them feel smaller than an embryo.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When I looked out our upstairs windows this morning, I started thinking about the farmer with his grass cut and lying in windrows. This might be his last crop off this field. The plans are all drawn up for streets and new homes. He rents the land and has always known it is inescapably in the path of development.

The grass was cut last week at night when it was least likely to drop the seeds that are now waiting for the right time to be separated from the stalks by a combine. The weatherman is saying we could get showers today and tomorrow. So the farmer is carefully doing his own reading of the sky. Is the potential damage of a couple of showers better than a slightly premature harvest of the grass seed?

I cherish my experience growing up on a farm, but looking out my upstairs window is close enough to the vulnerabilities of farming for me.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The message is from the sixth chapter of Micah and most specifically verse eight—act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. The church suffers when the three aren’t treated as a package.

Summer brings out-of-town friends and family to Hometown Friends Church. Today I saw people from Oklahoma, Arizona, and California. I expect there were others.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is being called a Christian video game. I have problems with that on at least two levels.

Having a praying hands button that gives the player more power to kill the enemy and some text boxes with verses isn’t enough to qualify for a Christian label. My second problem is that the word Christian should be used sparingly as an adjective (i.e. values can be Christian, people can be Christian, but I don’t know how a video games, a store, a CD, etc. is Christian. Products and organizations can certainly have a Christian mission, but that mission isn’t created or accomplished by slapping down an adjective.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I remember my dad commenting that he was glad Nyle was part of our farming community. “If it weren’t for Nyle, the neighbors would probably be talking about me.” This was his way of showing humility by implying he wasn’t much better than Nyle.

It’s the people with the most obvious flaws that help draw attention away from my warts. I look like I’m doing a fabulous job of maintaining our home and yard when compared to the house three blocks away with the two broken down motor homes and now a dumpster out at the curb. I might look industrious compared to the guy who carries a paperback between restaurants up and down highway 99.

But trying to feel better about myself by making comparisons is a loser’s game that only makes me smaller.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I heard a couple of days ago that one of the dynamics in the inadequate funding for education in Oregon is that when possible (at least in our district), aids are hired toward the end of the school year to help low achievers pass the grade. I was unimpressed. I wonder if it’s a little like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

I was thinking about this a little bit before noting on the front page of the paper that Kenneth Lay died. I didn’t take the time to read the whole story, but it indicated that his family may be saved from “financial ruin.”

Not enough money is available to give our children a good education and the family of Ken Lay gets to keep the ill-gotten gains he would have lost if he lived? I don’t get it. How does his death change his financial responsibility?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Some fireworks have interesting names. “America Fights Back” was the name of the grand finale last night at our neighborhood block party. Fourth of July fireworks turn men into boys. The women, some men, and a few children sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk and watched: a man who gave his nephew the thrill of setting off the kind of rocket that is not available at the fireworks stand, another man who found it easier to light the fireworks while holding them in his hand and then set them down on the street once the fuse was going, and yet another exercised slightly more caution than the night before when a rocket tipped over after it was lit and hit the neighbor’s front window.

As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I counted 11 households in our neighborhood who came to the barbeque and fireworks. But what was most surprising to me was that we had spent nearly five hours with our neighbors.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

George Mueller comes to mind as I continue pondering the issue of trusting God. I find his example appealing, but I don’t really know how to connect with it or apply it. My very limited knowledge of Mueller (1805 – 1898) is that he was a pastor in Bristol, England, who operated an orphanage totally by faith. Instead of letting people know what his needs were, he confidently prayed to God. It is said that the hundreds of orphans never missed a meal, but at times food arrived at the last minute.

If the cupboards got half empty, I’d figure it was time to collect a special offering or sent a fund-appeal letter.

Monday, July 03, 2006

There was a strong “trust God” element in the sermon yesterday. It was all true and believable, but it didn’t pinpoint where we should be on the spectrum that begins on one side with total self-reliance and on the other ends stops at “trust God and do nothing.” So how do I know when obedience to God calls me to take some bold initiatives and when I’m supposed to step back from trying to be God’s hands and feet? I have a hard time with the passive connotations that “trust God” can stimulate. After all, trust is a verb.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. But we are not in our pews. We’re under blue sky out on the lawn, one service at 10:30. It’s a test of how well we handle a change from the routine—one service instead of three, outside instead of inside, and obviously a different time.

Most of us do a good job of building levees that keep the flow of life within a routine. But we can miss an awful lot when we try to control the stream.

Most of the lawn in front of the church is taken up with folding chairs, lawn chairs, blankets, and a canopy for sound equipment. In two days we celebrate Independence Day so the list of songs includes “God Bless America” and then we sing these words by Lloyd Stone:

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh, hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.
(verse 2 of "A Song of Peace")