Sunday, December 31, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Not even the pastor can resist the temptation of a “next year” quip. It’s an appropriate day to consider how to balance looking back and moving forward. I’m sitting in the balcony this morning on the right-hand side. Across from me on the main floor are a couple of pews that site against the back wall. The access isle around the back of the semi-circle pattern of Hometown Friends Church gives these seats plenty of leg room, but it also creates a bit of separation. This is where my friend the retired, silver-haired academic sits each week. He spent his career surrounded by people and his choice of seats makes me a little uncomfortable. I prefer looking forward compared to looking back. My friend has a lot to look back on and I wonder how this affects the forward vs. backward balance. I wonder what kind of challenge I face as the years continue to pile on.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Prior to last night, I don’t remember if I’ve watched a sport event when I’ve known the final outcome. Cindy taped the Oregon State vs. Missouri Sun Bowl. Lots of people work on Friday. Does the Sun Bowl stadium not have lights?

It was childish, but I had a bit of a “I know something you don’t know” attitude with the commentators.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. There is only one morning service today at Hometown Friends Church and the room is packed. Tonight there will be three Christmas Eve candle light services. December 24 is never a day off for church staff.

The advent candle this morning represented our personal light (i.e., “this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”) I wonder if some of us need to pour some powdered creamer on our little light. I learned last night that my grown son and one of his friends collected the little containers of powdered creamer for their combustion value. Some of their inventory created a two-story torch. From the top of a dormitory stair well, a good quantity of the creamer was poured on an open flame down below to create a spectacular sight. Since I didn’t see it (and didn’t even know about it for approximately 20 years) I can only image the home-make pyro show.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I was thinking about empowerment and decided I should check how the dictionary describes the word. I think of the word in connection with the process of enabling someone to accomplish good things—giving a person the tools and freedom to reach their greatest potential. Anyone who has ever heard “power corrupts” might be uneasy about power being such a large part of empowerment. If God has (and uses) power, it must not be a totally evil thing.

My dictionary only says “to give official authority or legal power to.” My image of the word includes the concepts of equip, endow, enable. I’d like to try to empower people without legal papers or an official capacity.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I don’t know why we ask each other, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

It's a logistical question, not a spiritual one. The tree and all its ornaments are in the living room, but it’s not pretty—all those ornaments are still in cardboard boxes instead of on the tree. We have a few more presents to buy and are clueless on what to get. And the upstairs window facing the street still doesn’t have the star that is a traditional part of the Christmas lights for our house. We have a family Christmas gathering at our house in three days and dinner for at least 14 people two days after that.

We are so not ready.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

At the top of the most popular list of CNN’s latest news stories is the Mt. Hood climbers—one whose body was recovered yesterday and two still missing. The death of Kelly James on Mt. Hood has me thinking about risk taking. I’m thinking about other deaths during the last few days. There has been a SID death, someone killed in an alcohol-related accident, several died of malnutrition in Darfur, both civilians and soldiers were killed in war, someone couldn’t handle the turmoil inside for another day and took his/her own life.

I’m not wise enough to know if Kelly James, Brian Hall, and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke were making a mistake when they set out to climb Mt. Hood. But I’m thinking that life without risk is a little bit like potatoes without salt.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. On the basement level, directly below the sanctuary at Hometown Friends Church, a Sunday school class is listening to a young woman who has been working for an NGO in Darfur. I’ve not been oblivious to what is happening in Sudan, but seeing a face and hearing a voice helped bring the facts on the ground a little closer. I learned a lot and even took notes on some statistics. But even as awful as the statistics are, it was stories that had more impact on me.

The minority in Sudan has power over the majority and this minority has gone way past all lines of acceptability. But Sudan is a U.S. ally in the war on terror and Sudan has oil. And the country with the most potential for making a difference for the people of Darfur is not being aggressive enough to stop this atrocity.

What can we do?—learn, write letters, give, talk about Darfur, and pray. One of the places for learning is

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Yesterday I was in a room with someone dealing with changing plans because her car was going to be in the shop longer than scheduled. Travel plans for an appointment were needing to be changed. My key and car for the next 12 hours was the first gift I gave this Christmas—very simple but it felt better than most of the things I will give.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A couple of days ago a friend and her daughter were headed for the exit as I was on my way to the pharmacy counter at the store. I called her by name as we exchanged greetings, but I did nothing to acknowledge the grade school daughter. It was partially because I couldn’t retrieve her name on short notice. The bigger issue is that I need to improve my attentiveness toward the other person (or people). I’d like to sharpen my peripheral consideration so the child, spouse, or friend who is with me or with the person I’m interacting with doesn’t feel they are outside the picture.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Updating the Christmas lists at home and at the office is a reminder of how much changes in a year. I reluctantly remove the names of people who have died. Then there are those who have moved and until now I’ve relied on e-mail for contact. I’m reminded of the title Catherine Meeks gave her autobiography—I Want Somebody to Know My Name. I met Cathy more than 25 years ago in Mississippi and have always liked her book title. It captures a universal human emotion. I hope the Christmas greetings going out from the office and from our family offer some sense of being identified and connected for those who find these letters in their mail box. But a form letter at Christmas is a sorry excuse for scratching the itching need.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The music, decorations, advent candle, scripture, and message all focus on preparation for Christmas. We don’t usually call each other ornery during the worship service at Hometown Friends Church, but today we did. Our musical wondering and wandering included the question of why Jesus would come for poor ornery people like you and me. I’m not going to waste my time (and integrity) trying to deny that the descriptor fits.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I usually go home for lunch. Before I open the refrigerator to remind myself what the options might be, I find the remote and turn on CNN (The Situation Room). Yesterday the TV had only been on a couple of minutes before I was physically applauding Senator Gordon Smith (even though there was no one else in the house to hear). With conviction and courage a loyal Republican was saying what came from his mind and heart instead of parroting his President and I was proud to be an Oregonian.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Intransigent is the word of the day on the counter at Chapters Books and Coffee. The word generally has a negative connotation, but there are issues and times when being intransigent is a virtue. Motive is the factor that creates the danger zone for me.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I’m fortunate to live in the same town as Ken and Joan Austin. The December issue of Oregon Business magazine devoted three pages to them as part of their coverage of the 2006 Oregon Philanthropy Awards. They have been very successful in the creation, manufacture, and sale of dental equipment. But they have also excelled with their selection of generosity over avarice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Waiting came to mind last night. One time it was because our son was supposed to be home and wasn’t. This was not a patient waiting. Another reason for thinking about waiting has to do with the search for James Kim. We now know he should have waited longer. But after several days of waiting for someone to rescue his family, the waiting had to give way to action. I believe it’s what I would have done.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey was first published in 2004 and then reissued this year. The subtitle—The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences—gives a clue of what this book is really about. I’ve stumbled across praise for this book in a couple of places now. The author’s website is one of the places I ended up.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The text today is Psalm 130. I wait for the Lord. I don’t do waiting well. In fact there are some types of waiting I don’t even want to learn. Perhaps some things will come back to me during the week and shine some light on this particular deficiency.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

As I write, my friend Tim Robertson should be going from surgery to recovery. His right kidney is being prepared to transplant to his son Nate. This is happening in Orange, California. Tim is a friend not because we have regular contact, but because we worked together in Jackson, Mississippi, more than 25 years ago. Our paths cross only occasionally, but I place a high value on my connection to the Robertson family.

I’m sure this will be the best Christmas ever for Tim and his family.

Nate’s kidney blog