Thursday, November 30, 2006

I’m thinking about the difference between having control and having influence. My parental role is what started this thought. Would I rather have control or influence with my teenage son? Both would be nice, but I’d choose influence if I could only have one.

I’m thinking God opted for influence even when he has the power to control.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

People from the church provided a lunch for the extended family yesterday after the memorial service for Aunt Ruthanna. It was quite a while after lunch before the group thinned down to two tables. I wanted to be at both. The average age at the other table was younger than me—the reverse was the case where I was sitting. It was nothing as profound as Robert Frost’s road not taken, but I was sorry I could not sit at both.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The extended family unit that was my grandparents, their three children, and us cousins has changed. Some of us are now grandparents ourselves and not even weddings bring us all together. The memorial service for Ruthanna Hampton (the oldest of the three McCracken children) might be the last event to bring us to the same place at the same time. She has been the matriarch for the extended family for more than a quarter century. It was not a position of title or power and her humility would have rejected the use of the word, but she was our family lighthouse.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The wind is blowing outside and it’s going to bring rain. But right now enough sun is coming through the stained glass at Hometown Friends Church that the usher in the balcony is pulling the shades. This helps the pictures on the screen. Missionaries from Rwanda are talking about sharing the fullness of Christ. The couple speaking have four children. She is bright, articulate, and very active in improving life for the people they serve. It’s not all about saving souls in Rwanda. AIDS and poverty are bad enough that their work includes saving lives. Teaching people to grow maringa trees is one of the ways they are sharing the fullness of Christ in Rwanda. And it helps us in the United States to think more creatively and hopefully about dealing with the global problem of poverty and hunger.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Aunt Ruthanna is my dad’s older sister—only by a couple of years. They were both born in Cuba where their mother was a Quaker missionary. Their dad, Joe McCracken, was a highly respected individual and when he died in 1973 I remember sitting in Harlow Ankeny’s office at Barclay Press. “Are there people today like Joe McCracken?” Harlow asked. I think it was a rhetorical question and a reflection of his admiration for my grandfather, but after a short pause I answered: “Perhaps my Aunt Ruthanna. I think she’s cut from the same cloth.”

The phone call tonight could have come any time during the past week. Her life here on this earth has ended, but her influence lives.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My sister-in-law hosts the family Thanksgiving dinner each year. She would love to open our family event to the “stranger” who doesn’t have a place. Her husband’s Tlingit heritage adds a little color to our Thanksgiving event, but he is one of us so he’s unable to take us back to the spirit and dynamics of the first Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The pews at Hometown Friends Church are empty this morning. This is the day for the annual Thanksgiving service in the university auditorium—one combined service instead of the usual three.

But I’m in San Antonio, Texas, at the 7th Friends Ministers Conference. This event brings together pastors from around the country representing two organizational groupings of Friends.

Early in the service a Kenyan named Moses teaches us a praise song in his language complete with hand and feet movements that would make us look like charismatics if we were actually willing and able to get into it. There are three other black faces here—two more Kenyans and the soloists who gives a concert tonight. There is no sermon this morning. We got that last night. This morning we worship together through music, prayer, scripture, and unprogrammed verbal sharing. At the end of the service the leader announces that the scriptural benediction will be given by four stalwart leaders. They have cordless mics where they are in the room. I listen without looking and match each voice with a life and ministry. I feel blessed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. A lot of the people (including me) in the pews at Hometown Friends Church have warts—pride, envy, anger, and more. The focus on confession this morning naturally makes us look at the particular sin that has the strongest lock on us. The main point is the danger of hidden (unconfessed) sin. When we try to look better than we are, we give legitimacy to descriptors like façade, pretense, phony, counterfeit, fake, fraud, imposter—none of which I would want on my tombstone.

Friday, November 10, 2006

My wife and I watched Larry King interview some of Ed Bradley’s colleagues last night. Leukemia took Bradley’s life yesterday and ended a notable career. All were professional colleagues with high admiration and a strong sense of connection to Bradley. But only one said he knew Ed both inside and outside the office. Bradley had kept his battle with leukemia a private matter, but Steve Kroft knew. I’m thinking Ed Bradley understood there is no particular limit on the number of friends you can have, but the really close friendships are a much smaller circle.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yesterday I was blaming myself for something that really isn’t my fault. In my mind I knew I shouldn’t blame myself, but emotion won out over logic. When reason and emotion come into conflict, I want reason to come out on top.

Yesterday I forgot to take my antidepressant, but this morning I remembered.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nobody likes to get conned. Somebody manipulated post 9-11 emotions and yesterday his party paid a political price. And everyone continues to pay the financial and moral price of war.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election day has me thinking about winners and losers. Efforts to encourage noncompetitive games for children hasn’t done much to change human nature. I’m not very concerned about the evils of competition. The thing that is most important is how you play the game—athletic, political, economic. Tomorrow morning, whether winners or losers, the true statesmen will put their egos aside and measure their words and actions according to what serves the best interest of the public.

Monday, November 06, 2006

In 1931 $400 was a lot of money, but Quakers in southwest Idaho came up with it and bought land for a camp on Payette Lakes near McCall. Vision and sacrifice were two of the ingredients that have made Quaker Hill Camp. The people who got it all started back in the early 1930s knew it was an important thing to do, but I’m sure they didn’t know how important it would become. They didn’t see all the breadth and depth of what would happen during the next 75 years.

I find it sobering to think that the same is true today.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tonight I’ll be in Boise, Idaho, at the Quaker Hill Camp 75th Anniversary Celebration Banquet. It’s nearly been 40 years since I lived in the Treasure Valley, so Quaker Hill was still in the first half of its present total history when I was a camper there. For my daughter, Abbie, one summer on staff created a bond with the camp and its people that made this trip very important.

I have Idaho Quaker connections, but I’m guessing I might only know about 10% of the people at the banquet. But I certainly won’t feel out of place.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I think it is rare for a young person with a high GPA to aspire to fight a war in the Middle East. John Kerry’s recent slip of the tongue got me thinking about the draft. I wonder what impact it would have on the war in Iraq if we still had the military draft. I expect the resistance to this war would be stronger and would have developed sooner.