Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If my life were a movie and I was presented an Oscar for it, what would I say? I’d want to thank my parents and my wife. I’d want to thank God, but that usually sounds trite and shallow.

“I want to thank my director who was able to turn my performance into something meaningful. Without his direction I’d be nothing more than just another bad actor. He was always on the set giving me encouragement and pointers without ever being heavy handed in his direction. His support and understanding made me want to do my best. God, you believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. This Oscar is yours.”

Monday, February 26, 2007

I became a parent in the summer of 1968 and now my youngest child is a sophomore in high school. Experience and wisdom are not synonyms.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. It’s because of habit that a lot of us are here at Hometown Friends Church. But I choose to believe there are good reasons why the habit has developed. If I didn’t get something out of it, I could easily break the habit. The fact that I go to church for what I get from it is obviously selfish. God wishes I came to church for him instead of for me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Wednesday I was talking with a friend on the phone. His son directs a medical unit in Kuwait. Even though the observations and opinions from the son to the father are well filtered, the concern for the mental and emotional health of US troops was obvious. The recent exposure of conditions at Walter Reed provides another reminder of the cost of war. The crippling and lasting mental/emotional scars certainly have to be added to the total cost of our war in Iraq. The price tag is a lot more than dollars and deaths.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

As I ordered Jem 100’s single with ham yesterday, I wondered if the young woman taking my order knew she had a significant black smudge on her forehead. I decided that if this was something that needed attention it was up to her coworkers to point it out. So I continued to do a poor job of ignoring it. It wasn’t until I was sitting waiting for my hamburger that I realized what it was. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and she had been to mass.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. I'm jumping ahead and reading the text for the message. It’s a heavy duty “tear open your heart” repentance passage—Joel 2:12-17. I’m wondering if the pastor is going to hold our feet to the fire.

We’re using the O Waly Waly tune with a traditional hymn that has its own traditional tune. I think the point of a different tune is to shake the singer out of a habit and thus give more attention to the words. Maybe we should just sing everything with O Waly Waly.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I prefer to think of myself as someone who looks forward rather than back. But I’m in the espresso shop and Geraldine Willcuts is at the next table. Her late husband, Jack, was a friend and mentor who died too soon. So I sit here wishing Jack was across the table from me. I would leave that conversation with fresh insight and stronger faith.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Yesterday Gayle Beebe announced to his Spring Arbor University community that he will be leaving the end of June to become president of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. I’m making an obscure connection between this public even and a simple crossing of paths yesterday with my daughter Abbie. I happened to look out the window at the same time she was walking past my office in the direction of Coffee Cottage. When I was headed that way about a half hour later I went to the Cottage expecting to see her. She was having lunch with Marcile Crandall. Marcile has been her mentor in the Quaker Leadership Program. And now I jump back to Gayle. When Gayle came to George Fox College as a freshman his dad told him that the people he would meet, the professors with whom he would study, and the books he would read would fundamentally shape the destiny of his life’s journey. My prayer today is that this will be true in the same kind of positive way for Abbie.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I get a lot of pleasure from connecting writers and readers. Yesterday when I posted Michael Henderson’s article on the Barclay Press Conversation Café, I asked myself how a small Quaker publisher in Oregon gets a top notch article about William Wilberforce from a nonQuaker Brit who plays tennis with biographer John Pollock. Pollock being quoted in the article had reminded me of reading his biography of Billy Graham years and years ago.

It was through one of those wonderful “friend of a friend” linkages that I connected with Michael when he lived in Oregon for a time. I love being in the overlapping ripples of information and inspiration that move smoothly across denominational lines and geographic borders. As Michael said yesterday in his e-mail from across the pond: “I get the impression now with the web that nothing is local.” Or maybe we could say that everything is local.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I planned to spend quit a bit of time on Relay for Life over the weekend. Relay for Life of Newberg has an online presence for the first time this year. Participants can give potential donors the option of making their contribution online. The kick off event is tonight. Three handouts, a couple of posters, and some web site stuff ended up taking more time than I thought they would. But it was a very small part of all the time and energy that goes into raising $102,000 in our community for the fight against cancer.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. We’re reading the biblical text from Luke 14:16-23—a story Jesus told to a group of religious leaders to make a point. It’s about a man putting on a big banquet and inviting guests. The guy kept expanding the invitation list as people turned him down. Since the movers and shakers weren’t showing up, he sent his people out to get the poor, crippled, homeless, prostitutes, gays, and the derelicts. I’m thinking the guy in Jesus’ story must not understand that these people would not be comfortable at a banquet and that he should box up the food and have his people take it to the homeless shelter or an urban rescue mission. He must not be thinking ahead. Once these people know where his banquet hall is they are going to come back again and again. He’ll have to double his custodial staff and his friends will quit coming over if he has these low life folk hanging around.

The speaker this morning makes a great case for graying the line between worship and outreach—“outreach in our worship and worship in our outreach.” One of the ways she lives this out is through her work with pregnant teens. She has personal experience with the call to be uncomfortable.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I’m feeling thankful for people who give their time and energy to make a difference in the lives of teens. I ran into a couple of these people this morning when I was picking up coffee. They are women who pastor young people in a couple of Friends churches in our area. They are two excellent examples of people who are doing work that will last far beyond their term of service and beyond their lifetime. Their influence on the teens they work with will be seen even in the next generation. Meaningful work if you have the stomach for it. It’s not something I could do, but I have a lot of respect for those who make it their ministry.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I listened last night to a short NPR piece (A Racial Convergence, via Religion) about a couple of Lutheran churches in Indiana. One church is predominately white, the other predominately black, and both have been in decline. With only three miles between the churches they now have plans to merge. The story left me thinking about how unlikely it is that I’ll ever hear a story about two successful, growing churches—one black and one white—merging because of their commitment to racial reconciliation.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

There are approximately 150 square inches above the fold on the newspaper and considerably less than 30 minutes of television network news after the commercial breaks are subtracted. How does a story qualify for this limited high profile exposure if it does little more for the public good than titillate the appetite for the bizarre and create water cooler talk?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Working in Washington, DC, to “serve the American people” must be really complicated. Do the majority of the American people want to give more of their money so we can extend indefinitely our futile occupation of Iraq? Are the majority of the American people indifferent to the needs of disaster victims, discrimination victims, disease victims? Are voters pleased with partisanship trumping principles?

I think not.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. I’m tracking with what I’m hearing, but the central focus is alluding me this morning. I’m hearing about dress code and that busyness doesn’t add to our worth. “Do What Jesus Did . . . Focus on Essentials” is the title of the message, but the text has to do with observing the Sabbath. In the Luke 6:1-11 Bible reading, Jesus and his disciples stepped across the line defined by the religious leaders of that time. A little bit ago we were all doing our music thing and asked the question: “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer we sang was “to seek justice and love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” It seemed like a good definition of essentials at the time and I didn’t expect we were headed toward talking about keeping the Sabbath. Jesus healed a man in the synagogue where the religious leaders couldn’t miss it—in your face style.

Maybe I won’t have to listen to the podcast later this week in order to put everything together. I’m guessing the message really had more to do with the healing than Sunday dos and don’ts.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cindy and I saw The Pursuit of Happyness last night. I didn’t find it very entertaining, but it was very worthwhile. I felt uncomfortable as Chris Gardner found himself in uncomfortable circumstances. I expect a lot of people in San Francisco would have taken Chris Gardner in or helped cover his rent if they had known his potential. It’s a sobering thought to think how many people around the world have great potential but need a little help to get to the other side of the summit that divides successful self-sufficiency from dependency and inadequate food, shelter, and education. Chris Gardner is an exception.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The top headline for this morning’s Oregonian was a bit of a wake up call for me. I know the racial mix in our country is shifting and that as an Anglo I need to change some of my assumptions. But it’s an eye opener to see that one out of six students in Oregon is Latino.