Saturday, March 31, 2007

Evidently I’ve unconsciously tricked myself into believing I have more important things to think about than the position of the needle on my gas gauge. Last evening as I was turning the car off I noted it was time to get gas. So this morning I headed for the nearest gas station before getting my Americano. I didn’t make it. My carelessness wasted some time, but I did get a little much-needed exercise.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The wedge is being driven deeper and the space between whether or not we should be in Iraq is getting wider. The Commander in Chief gives adamant lip service to supporting the troops, but turns them into pawns in his political chess match. First he needlessly sent men and women into war and tried to deceive them regarding the merits of their sacrifice. He has repeatedly extended stays and now (against the corporate wisdom of Congress) refuses to give the troops any light at the end of the tunnel. And while the blame game heats up in Washington, DC, men and women continue to die in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My daughter, Trina, would be 37 today. Trina’s first 13 years now seem so long ago. I saw her go from baby to precious child and then right before she became a teen a brain tumor was found. Successful surgery allowed her ten years that included normal and active teen years and natural development into an independent young adult. The tumor returned and took her life more than 14 years ago. Fourteen years is a long time, but I still don’t know what to think or how to act.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I’m sitting in an espresso shop that used to be a pharmacy. The pharmacy is where the 7-11 used to be and across the highway the farm supply store is where Safeway used to be. Walgreen sits on the other corner where Artic Circle and the Nazarene Church used to be. I remember when the bank across the street in front of me was built, but I don’t remember what was there before the bank. The building that was doctors’ offices until recently is behind me and out of my line of vision. Contractors are renovating it, but I haven’t heard who the new tenant will be.

“Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?” Of course not. Why would we want that?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. It would not be difficult to turn the Scripture this morning into a horror movie. It’s from the book of Ezekiel. God is showing Ezekiel a valley full of dry bones. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones saying that God will attach tendons and cover the bones with skin and then breath live into what had been very dry bones. Ezekiel sees all this happen in his vision as dry bones become a vast army.

The message for Israel (and the message for us in the pews at Hometown Friends Church) is that God can bring life even when hope has dried up to the point where all that is left is very dry bones. Hope can be risky, but maybe it’s better to have hoped and lost than to never have hoped at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Elizabeth and John Edwards have me thinking about “treatable, but not curable.” Not curable has a dissonant sound and it reminds me of our powerlessness. It reminds me of the day the neurosurgeon told me my twelve-year-old daughter had a brain tumor that was operable, but that ultimately it would take her life.

We want our loved ones cured. We want more than a band-aid called treatment. I’m thankful for treatments, but I’m not satisfied with options that are less than a cure.

Friday, March 23, 2007

"I quit preaching the gospel, and began living it." This is the comment of Robert Crum on NPR’s StoryCorps. It was 40 years as a Methodist minister that he was comparing to operating a shelter for troubled youth, battered women, and people struggling to make their way in the world. The responsibilities of a pastor tend to concentrate on proclamation and leave little time for application. The same is true for a publisher and Robert Crum leaves me feeling challenged rather than affirmed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I just overheard a public conversation that shifted my thinking. An opinion I had formed that was based on uninformed and limited observation is likely off target.

So, will I now refrain from developing a view of people and situations when I have scanty information? I expect not. But maybe from time to time I'll remember an incorrect assessment I've made and slow my march toward judgment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A bookstore is making movies that will feature a book they sell (but do not publish) and the movie will be used by other bookstores. Words like progressive, creative, innovative, and unusual come to mind. And the big question in my mind is: Where’s the money trail?

The first screening for this Powell’s Books initiative will be the middle of June at BookExpo America in New York. More than 50 bookstores across the country are scheduled to show a 23-minute video that focuses on Ian McEwan’s new novel On Chesil Beach. The price of admission will be a copy of the book or a gift card of the same value—which will not even begin to pay the costs for creating the film. The films are intended to be as entertaining as possible and will include author interview; footage from his or her home town and the setting in the book; comments from critiques, peers, and fans; and more.

One of the things that intrigues me about this is the fact that it’s a bookstore, rather than a publisher, who is doing this. And it’s not a chain that will be using it just in their stores across the country. It seems to me that Powell’s is taking a new initiative (and the accompanying risks) that serves the industry more than it serves themselves.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Yesterday morning I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. My friend does not hold any career or civic position that elevates him above the masses. He’s a responsible husband and father. His interaction with others is characterized by thoughtfulness. He takes his family to church on Sunday (or Saturday night since his church has that option). There is nothing flashy about him and there is nothing about him that anybody would call irritating. He’s an ordinary guy.

I started thinking about how I define ordinary. The attention and commitment Larry gives his family is well above the national average. His social demeanor is that of a true gentleman. These are a couple of the ways he is not ordinary.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. But I’m not in a pew at Hometown Friends Church. Instead I’m sitting at a round table in Pacific Woods Lodge at Twin Rocks Friends Camp. I’m with a group of writers exploring their craft and garnering different to say and willing to give energy and vulnerability to sharing it. I am blessed by the opportunity to interact with these people.

Monday, March 12, 2007

“If he [Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals] cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE.” Wait a minute, James Dobson. Have you considered God’s views regarding the care of his creation? Wouldn’t that be more important than “the views of American evangelicals”?

The letter addressed to the chairman of the board of NAE starts by admitting the signers are not members of the organization. The letter makes it clear that the “family values” signers don’t want evangelicals to shift the emphasis away from great moral issues of our time such as the sanctity of life—which means unborn children and doesn’t apply as much to soldiers and civilians in Iraq.

How ironic for signer like Don Wildmon, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, and more to complain that media coverage of Cizik’s views has been characterized as representing evangelicals.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The question this morning is “What does suffering do to you?” The answer in a simplified clique is that it can make us bitter or better. The apostle Paul in a letter to Christians in Rome sells the theory that suffering builds character. I certainly don’t disagree about suffering building character. It’s at the core of the reality that immigrants have an ongoing historical record of success. But I’m not going to tell the parents who are caring for a disabled child how much they should rejoice. I wonder how many in the room know anything about the suffering involved in systemic poverty or what it’s like to be in and out of mental health facilities.

Another issue with suffering is confusion about its source. Suffering is not part of God’s program. The separation between humankind and God that took place back in the Garden of Eden opened the door for plenty of suffering. God doesn’t need to instigate it even when he wants to get our attention or teach us something.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I’m thinking about the chicken and egg relationship between doing and being. Michael Chapman has been writing an article for the Barclay Press Conversation Café that will lead off a focus on “developing peripheral vision.” It has to do with seeing the people who are different from us—the ones we would rather not have to deal with. During the recent weeks when Michael has been thinking about and writing the article, he has picked up a hitch hiker, responded to a panhandler, seen how a handicapped child is treated as if she were invisible, and I don’t know the story yet on some incident yesterday. So is this some kind of weird mystical thing where things start to happen when a person starts thinking and writing about a topic? Does mental process naturally increase awareness and action? Does seeing and doing change who we are and how we perceive things?

The chicken comes before the egg and the egg comes before the chicken.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The sun is shining and it feels like spring. At the office yesterday we ate some Dairy Queen ice cream and last evening my neighbor mowed his lawn. The rain will be back soon and then after that the sun will be back again.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Yesterday Sierra Neiman closed two weeks of online daily journal with “feeling blessed, content, and full.” And that was despite also feeling exhausted. I have lots of reasons to feel blessed, but contentment is illusive. A major aspect of contentment for me is to learn to live at peace with myself. Should’a, would’a, could’a plays a little too often.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

It was night before last when I drove into the driveway that I was greeted with a TV cable on our lawn. The cable, marked periodically with that yellow plastic caution ribbon, runs from the front of our yard all the way to the neighbor’s house that adjoins on the back side and faces a different street. It irritated me and the branch broken off the Japanese maple added to my negative feelings toward Comcast.

Yesterday I phoned Comcast to ask if they can run cables across people’s yards without any authorization and to ask what was going to happen next. I’m wondering if their next step is to bury that cable and break my underground sprinkles as they go. My phone call didn’t give me any answers.

My other question is whether I’m becoming a cranky old man. But I don’t want Comcast to answer that one.