Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The new version of Windows is out and Bill Gates was the guest on the Daily Show last night. (Actually it was the 8:00 replay from the previous night.) I’m wondering which is the more amazing: The scope of influence that Bill Gates and Microsoft has on our society or the way Bill Gates seems to avoid the corrupting potential of great wealth.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Yesterday my daughter Abbie stopped at my office on her way from the Coffee Cottage to the George Fox campus. We talked briefly about Quaker Community House. This is one of the living/learning options that happens in years when there is enough interest. Applications for next year’s living/learning communities are due in less than two weeks. I gave Abbie a copy of Gregg Koskela’s Top Ten Reasons I’m a Quaker and his Top Ten Ways Quakers Make Me Crazy. I think a student’s response to these lists would make a pretty good litmus test for being part of Quaker Community House.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I was pleased to learn recently that statistics indicate that the number of new cases of cancer per year has peaked. But even if the number could be cut in half, it would still be way too many. In the last few days I’ve learned of two new cases. Hospice is on the scene in one case.

Reaching a statistical peak in new cases indicates progress, but it’s not victory in the battle against cancer.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. At Hometown Friends Church we are doing a “Do what Jesus did . . .” series. The focus today is on the fact that Jesus was not very particular about his choice of friends and associates.

It’s making me think about my recent arrogance. When I found myself in a circle of “rabble,” my first instinct was to think that I was better than those around me. I’m glad I quickly recognized by wrong thinking.

The other thing I’m thinking about is “going through Samaria.” Going through Samaria is the title of a John Perkins message taken from chapter four of the biblical book of John. Jews and Samaritans kept their distance from each other, but Jesus crossed the line. Doing what Jesus did involves going through Samaria.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

“Guess who I just had lunch with?” It was my daughter, Abbie, on the phone insistent that I guess. This was yesterday just a little after 1:00 and of course I had no idea.

It turns out one of her fellow students had set up a meeting with the chair of the George Fox University presidential search committee. As I understood her, the primary item on the agenda was to voice their concern that the next president of George Fox University be well qualified to nurture the Quaker convictions of the school. It sounded like a small group with as many faculty members as students, but I was pleased to hear the conversation took place and that Abbie was at the table.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It’s a good thing to have face time with the people who stand in the front of our son’s high school classes. On parent-teacher conference night the main hallway is lined with teachers sitting in student desks with their backs to the wall. We get a printout of classes, teachers, and current grades for our student.

I try to not feel rushed by the fact that other parents are probably waiting behind us as we talk to a teacher about both the person and the performance. These people care about our son and that really feels good.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The dad is in Iraq and the mom has hung pictures over the fist-sized holes in the wall created by their teenage son. These are friends of a friend who live in another town. I don’t know these people, but I know their house is not the only one with anger inflicted dings. In two different settings yesterday I heard about teens punching a hole in the wall. I know what it feel like to be mad, but I have no interest in learning what it feels like to put my fist through plasterboard.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The espresso shop is such an interesting place. The crowd this morning includes a big group of high school girls. One at a time they get out of a parent’s car (or minivan) as they are dropped off at the curb. Wednesday is late start day for school so they have an extra hour. The table has an adult leader, so it must be a committee. A group of young men that meet every Wednesday morning has finished and left.

A couple of men from the university, a financial planner in his white shirt, a woman from the business across the street, a state park employee, and more—it’s a motley crew but I expect we all have more in common than what we will ever have reason to discover.

Monday, January 22, 2007

It was a little bit before 7:00 this morning that I saw one of the short school buses. There were kids in it already. I figure a short bus picking up kids before 7:00 means special education. Later in the day a short bus might be kindergarten, but not this early. I really don’t know anything about riding the short bus, but I’m glad for the reminder that it goes by just a few blocks from home. The driver, students, teachers, and families live in a world that at the very least deserves my notice.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The pastor’s personal blog has clued me in to the topic for this morning—fasting. I know Gregg won’t treat it as a program or a gimmick, but I tend to think fasting can easily slide into that swamp. He’s using the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness as the biblical text. I’m wondering to what degree Jesus had to deal with a God vs. self battle. Could a voice from heaven that everyone could hear saying “this is my beloved son in whom I’m well pleased” start Jesus on an ego trip? Could the 40 days in the wilderness been about whether or not Jesus was going to let his self get between God and the mission he was on? Fasting has a lot to do with saying (in a way that uses actions instead of words) that God is more important than me.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

If the snow that came earlier this week had come on the weekend, maybe today I’d have a snowball fight with Ethan and/or roll up a big pile of snow on the shady side of the house so that it would last after the rest of the snow was melted. But the snow is pretty much a thing of the past and I’ll do my little “would’a, could’a, should’a” thing and then move on with life as usual.

Friday, January 19, 2007

This will be a better day than yesterday.

If the office phone goes dead, I’ll go to the utility closet to see if the power switch got tripped instead of contacting our phone guy and waiting until he can come troubleshoot the problem.

Today I don’t have to appear in municipal court and have the judge speculate that my friendship with the defendant might have influenced my testimony.

The primary office printer won’t display a fatal fault message. It’s been turned off for the last time.

I’m thinking of a couple of other things that irked (to put it mildly) me yesterday, but I don’t want to talk about ’em. I’m looking forward to a better day.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed Michael Oren author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy. The book’s topic (and subtitle) is America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present. When Jon Stewart asked if messed up relationships between the United States and the Middle East have a seed somewhere, Oren said that Americans somehow see the Middle East as being similar to us and we don’t recognize the region as a different culture. Somehow we think that with just a little tweaking they will be the same as us. Oren sited the observation of George McClellan who visited the Middle East in 1872 and wrote some articles. He wrote that as long as American insist on viewing this area as another America, as an extension of America, and don’t recognize this as a unique culture, a unique civilization, America will be fated to misunderstand this area.

Unfortunately time has proven McClellan to be quite insightful.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I’m hungry for a different kind of politics and I believe Barack Obama can help deliver change. In his online video statement regarding his decision to form a Presidential Exploratory Committee, he mentions that the smallness of our politics is a greater concern to him than the magnitude of our current problems. On the news tonight the question of his foreign relations experience was raised. In my opinion most Americans would find it easier on day one to trust Barack Obama on matters of foreign affairs than they can trust the current President after six years in office.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Sitting two rows ahead is a woman who just a few days ago was widowed for the second time. It’s possible that this is not the worst tragedy represented in the room. There might be pain here that cuts deeper and has less hope than a husband suddenly going to heaven.

There are times when the afflicted need to be comforted and sometimes the comfortable need to be afflicted. Number 631 in the hymn book doesn’t seem to do a lot to afflict the comfortable. It’s a feel-good song for all who like the familiarity of the old hymns with those phrases like “unto him against that day” and “nor if I walk the vale with him.”

The pastor made a point in his message that Jesus asked questions and intellectual/spiritual curiosity is a good thing. I need to look up that quote about their being more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I like people who are like me. I also like people who are enough better than me that I can look up to them. But every now and then I stumble into a little glimpse of a “there but for the grace of God” world. It’s all around me but my rose-colored glasses and my blinders do a really good job of shielding me from broken lives—the ones Jesus would gravitate toward. Money is a great ally in avoiding the physical, social, and emotional pain around me. I can live in a neighborhood where people seem to be less messed up than in other parts of town. We hang together in the middle class, but sometimes it’s impossible to ignore that nearby is a world of pain.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

If I were in my sixties, perhaps it would be a good idea to not draw needless attention to aging. People don’t need my self-deprecating “old man” remarks in order to figure out which side of the slippery slope I’m on. And if there is any chance such comments can become self-fulfilling prophesies, I’d rather not go there.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

If I were in my sixties it would be wise to spend less time looking at the television and more time reading. This would be true at any age. For me it is easier to watch television than to read and this is a pretty good indication of which one is better for my mind.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Hometown Friends Church has a healthy focus on following Jesus and being like Jesus. I’m thinking trying to be like Jesus is probably easier than trying to be good. Trying to be good tends to become a self-centered human effort while it seems to me that an effort to be like Jesus is best categorized as a spiritual exercise.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

If I were in my sixties it would be wise to decrease my inventory of needless stuff I will never use. I grew up in an eastern Oregon farm community where old stuff was recycled into creative new uses. It sat around (sometimes for a very long time) before it was needed to repair something or to be modified for a new purpose. A saver mentality is not an asset for what I do and where I live.

But building that bicycle-powered paddle boat with my son and a friend of his using stuff from the shed was fun and fulfilling.

Friday, January 05, 2007

If I were in my sixties it would be wise to build a fence around my cynicism. I don’t want to become an old cynic—rigid and resistant to change. I’m thinking it’s important to keep a balance between cynicism and initiation of change (the less engagement with change, the more cynicism becomes dangerous). Maybe if I stay open to and involved with change I can keep most of my cynicism.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

If I were in my sixties it would be a good idea to nurture and encourage people 20, 30, 40 years younger. I’d like to do for others what my elders did for me. Perhaps I should add compounded daily interest to my repayment of this debt.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

If I were in my sixties it would be wise to follow my doctor’s advice about 30-40 minutes of daily exercise. Thoughts of becoming a physically or mentally impaired old man are a downer. I accuse my teenage son of not yet having a good grasp of the dynamics of cause and effect. But I’m guilty of the same with my attempts to ignore the price tag that goes with my appetite for food and sedentary lifestyle.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

If I were in my sixties it would be wise to give some attention to what it means to be a grandpa in deed rather than just in title. Learning to be a dad has a very different learning curve from learning to be a grandpa. Learning to be a dad (whether good, bad, or mediocre) is pretty much a requirement that comes with the biological entry into parenthood. But learning to be a grandpa is different. The balance point between opportunity and responsibility falls at a different place. I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

Monday, January 01, 2007

It was years ago that I met Rufus Jones—a Baptist Rufus Jones (not Rufus M. Jones the Quaker). This was the Rufus Jones who was general director of the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society and a leader in the reawakening of evangelical social conscience. In a 1972 communication to Lewis Smedes, Jones said, “I personally think that during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy both liberals and conservatives went to an unbiblical extreme. Both were right in what they affirmed and wrong in what they denied…each was guilty of proclaiming a partial gospel.” This is background I want to recapture on my way to the thing that brought Rufus Jones to mind.

If I Were in My Thirties—the title of a book by Rufus Jones—is what reminded me of him. It’s a book that the elder statesman wrote for young leaders. I’m thinking about If I Were in My Sixties? That’s what’s relevant to me.

For the next seven days I’m going to focus on some “if I were in my sixties” recommendation to myself.