Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I love those rare occasions when a good idea crosses my mind during a conversation—an original thought that’s something more than just reprocessing information or experience already familiar to everyone in the exchange. My prideful instinct gives myself credit, but then I realize a more significant thing has likely happened. I’ve been a conduit for the Spirit of Christ or a co-creator with God.

And now I ask myself, “Do non-Christians get great ideas and if so where do they come from?” I expect God would get quite bored working exclusively with Christians.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I really like Oregon’s vote by mail. Yesterday afternoon I voted in my living room. For some things I didn’t need to study the two-volume voter’s pamphlet. But other things (such as some of the measures) took time and effort. My ballot is now in the drop box. A week and two days from now the losers will be wondering what they could have done differently and I hope the winners will not be planning retribution on the other party.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. At Hometown Friends Church the message and open worship always comes after singing. I wonder how it would work to reverse the order and let music take the heat when some part of the service takes extra time.

The message title is “Jesus People . . . Practicing Embracing Others.” My first impulse is to wonder if the pastor was going to make us hug each other, but I realize he’s going to go for something with deeper meaning. He used the biblical passage from Colossians 3:11: “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are . . . [brilliant or simple, rich or poor, ugly or gorgeous, Republican or Democrat, brand name or generic] Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”

No mention was made that the Hometown Friends Church umbrella includes a Hispanic congregation and that most in the room would feel awkward worshiping with them and they would feel out of place with us.

I’m quickly jumping back to the music at the first of the service. When I saw “I Need Jesus” in the worship schedule, I could hear the soloist singing and anticipated that segment of the service. It also made me think of her singing, “Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish, Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel. Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

I’ve seen signings on CSPAN’s BookTV where someone opens the book to the right place and slides it in front of the author’s pen as they try to keep a long line of buyers moving past the author. Our book signing for Christine and Tom Sine last night at Chapters Books and Coffee wasn’t like that. But the authors and three of us from Barclay Press and Chapters sat together enjoying rich interaction that would not have otherwise happened. And whether by providence or by design the hour included other reconnecting as people stopped at the table.

Selling books is how we make a living in the publishing industry, but it is through the sharing of ideas and ideals that we find life.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I won’t be voting for Barry Welsh on November 7, but I would if I lived in the sixth congressional district of Indiana. I discovered yesterday that a friend in Richmond, Indiana, is volunteering his time and energy for this long-shot candidate. “People before profits” is the campaign slogan. Barry Welsh is a Methodist minister who believes it’s time average people get the same representation in Washington that only the wealthy are now enjoying. “I will always remember the American Dream is not just about economics,” pledges Welsh, “it is also about ethics.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Last night I had an affirming moment. I was checking the stats for the Barclay Press Web site. I’m able to see links from external pages. It’s interesting to see who is pointing people toward our site. Here’s what I found when my curiosity drove me to check saintblog-lareunoia:
“i love it when i find another site that causes me to think and consider my faith. the conversation cafe is one such site.”

Lareunoia of Winnipeg, Canada, went on to talk about Craig Morton’s article on missional church, quoted from the article, and linked to it.

“Causes me to think and consider my faith.” I printed it out, read it to my wife, and took it to the office to share.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. My spot at Hometown Friends Church is empty. I’m on a plane between Denver and Portland. Along with two other Barclay Press staffers, I spent 24 hours at our emerging writers retreat for Colorado Quakers. We were high in the Rockies at Quaker Ridge Camp in a lodge that looks across to Pike’s Peak. Then last night in the home of a Denver pastor I enjoyed the slow cooked variety of vegetable beef soup, home make biscuits, fruit salad, dessert bars, relaxed hospitality, and a comfortable bed. We could have planned to sit with the faithful at First Denver Friends this morning, but most of the day would have been gone before we arrived back home. Next Sunday I’ll be in my pew where there is room to move my legs and my knees won’t be hitting the seat in front of me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The subtitle for Danny Meyer’s book—Setting the Table—is The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. Meyer operates ten successful restaurants in New York. He says good service is important but hospitality is what counts. Service is how well the product is delivered, according to Meyer. Hospitality is how the recipient feels. Meyer says it’s something in the air, not what’s on the plate, that sets his restaurants apart.

We’re doing some articles about Christian service on the Barclay Press Web site this month and next. Meyer has given me new questions to ask when I look at Christian service: Does the recipient feel important? Has a personal connection been made that creates an ongoing relationship? Does he/she feel loved?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One of the most pitiful mental exercises I engage in is feeling sorry for myself. It’s counterproductive and self-centered. It ignores logic and rejects objectivity. I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to go there. Perhaps I just found the answer to why I sometimes take that route.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Late Saturday afternoon when Cindy said she had rented Akeelah and the Bee, my first thought was that it was a documentary and I wasn’t in the mood for a documentary. When I figured out I had morphed two movies into one, I started getting more interested. The documentary is titled Spellbound. Using assumptions (instead of taking the time and effort to figure out the truth) tends to constrain rather than liberate.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Last week the topic was sex and this week it’s forgiveness. Three weeks ago it was honesty. Dealing with some tough issues doesn’t seem to have an impact on attendance at Hometown Friends Church. I guess it might not look good to stop coming to church after one of these sermons.

One point made was that forgiveness in not optional for the follower of Christ. I remember reading a book more than twenty years ago by David Augsburger—Caring Enough to Forgive / Caring Enough Not to Forgive. I think Augsburger’s point is that there is a false forgiveness in which forgiveness can be used by both victim and perpetrator as a broom to sweep hurts and unresolved issues under the rug.

The biblical example in the sermon had to do with Joseph forgiving his brothers who had sold him into slavery. I thought of the Oregon “kicker” when mention was made of what Joseph had done for Egypt by interpreting a dream and managing a plan for seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hospitality is now an industry. The dictionary still refers to hospitality as giving guests a cordial and generous reception, but if you search hospitality with Google you will see it is an industry. In the Bible hospitality is the commanded way to treat strangers and it also is listed as a gift.

Last night our family and another family were invited to a potluck and pumpkin carving at the home of some friends. We ate too much, talked about both serious and trivial matters, laughed, and then our hosts spread a tarp on their living room floor and some used a pumpkin as the venue to display their creativity. It was the type of hospitality that isn’t an industry.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Philadelphia Inquirer did an op-ed piece by Donald B. Kraybill about the Amish and forgiveness. “As pragmatic as they are about other things,” says Kraybill, “the Amish do not ask if forgiveness works; they simply seek to practice it as the Jesus way of responding to adversaries, even enemies.” He closed his article by making the point that “the transforming power of forgiveness may be the one redeeming thing that flows from the blood shed in Nickel Mines this week.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I’m thinking about customer service, customer loyalty, and long-term relationships. A guy from the phone company came through our neighborhood last week trying to sign people up for their new fiber optic internet connection. Back when I was on dial-up connection and checked about the availability of DSL, I checked the box for the phone company to let me know when it was available for our house—which is inside the city limits. It never happened and I’ve had cable internet for some time. Broadband service providers and wireless phone companies are two of the examples of enterprises that seem driven by getting new business by hyping their latest/greatest. I think competition and free enterprise are good things, but I’m wondering what’s happening to the principle that it’s much more efficient to keep a customer than to get a new one or to get a customer back after you have lost them. Proselytizing has a bad name in religious circles, but it seems to be the modus operandi in some industries. And we all know who’s paying for all that advertising telling people to switch.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I’ve not seen Jesus Camp, but what I’ve read makes me think it is a caricature. The movie is a documentary of a summer Christian training camp “where kids are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in God’s army and are schooled in how to take back America for Christ (from www.jesuscampthemovie.com). Caricature (a distorted representation to produce a ridiculous effect) is probably not an appropriate descriptor for a documentary. But even truth, when you slice it right, can create or spread a distortion. I don’t know if the purpose of the movie is to warn people about evangelical Christianity’s radical right or if the purpose is ridicule. I don’t know if either is worth making a movie. Perhaps I should go see the movie, but I don’t like to walk out of the theater at the end of a movie feeling like I just wasted a chunk of time and money.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jon Carroll believes in the power of failure. His This I Believe essay on National Public Radio reminded me that “failure is how we learn.” Carroll writes a daily column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He says that each week one column is inferior to the others. In the inferior column he is often trying something new. “I have learned to cherish that column,” says Carroll.

I haven’t learned to cherish my failures, but I like the reminder that they can help me grow.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Today we are going to talk about sex—Jesus People . . . Practice Sexual Integrity. To address sexuality in church is as important as it is uncomfortable. The pastor did a commendable job, but it’s a bigger subject than what can be covered in one Sunday. During the open time after the message a couple of men shared biblical passages, but I was thinking about what I’d like to hear in the follow up sermon. My idea of part 2 is: In the beginning God created sex and it was good (very good). Sin entered the world and not only did it create a divide between the human creation and God, it also created a divide between male and female. God wants to restore wholeness and ultimately he sent his Son—Jesus Christ—as atonement for the sin that entered his perfect world. Redemption through Christ is meant for more than a ticket to heaven. Christians have done a lousy job of figuring out how redemption restores right relationships between men and women so that all the liberty and beauty of sex within marriage can be experienced. And it’s too hard to find models of cross-gender relationships outside of married that are void of unhealthy emotional attachment on one end of the scale or on the other end that aren’t cold and distant in order to keep attraction within proper limits. I’d like Sexual Integrity Part 2 to cover some of the ways good sex is the answer to bad sex. Guilt that comes with bad sex should not be allowed to cast a shadow over the sexuality God gave us and then said, “It is good.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In response to the exposure of Congressman Foley’s inappropriate behavior, some are suggesting an end to the congressional page program. A better idea is putting an end to allowing deviants to serve in Congress.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A list of things I don’t understand would be long and it would include:

I don’t understand why people think their words will become more exciting by adding extra exclamation marks at the end of a sentence.

I don’t understand why chubby girls wear shirts and pants that don’t meet, exposing a ring of bulging skin.

I don’t understand why negative political campaigns work.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I was a high school sophomore once and I’d never want to go back. And being a high school sophomore now would be even worse than going back to the early 60s. Insecurity, uncertainty, stress, fears, confusion—I think these are things my son deals with even though he keeps them masked. Trying to keep teen turmoil hidden has to be another addition to the load.

I sometimes feel like my life has a lot of challenges, but it’s a lot better than being a high school sophomore.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The pastor steps up to the challenge of speaking about “Jesus people . . . practice good work” to a congregation with some who may need embrace work in more active ways and some (perhaps a greater number) who need to hear that God doesn’t want us to be obsessed by work. He pointed out that we work for God. Our motive for work should not be the enhancement of our self image. Becoming workaholics doesn’t make God love us more.

I was glad the ushers didn’t ask us for our Sunday afternoon “to do” lists as we left.