Sunday, April 29, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. This morning at Hometown Friends Church the Young Friends Singers are sharing a sequence of songs related to creation. I’m a little disconcerted by the fact that I knew some of the parents of these children back when they were this age—meaning I’ve been here for at least a generation. I’ve not made peace with the aging process. As I read in the worship folder the last names of the singers, I’m pleased to see, along with the second generation people, the names I don’t know. It’s a sign of growth and new blood.

It’s the pastor of a local community church speaking today. His church is three years young which is a sharp contract to Hometown Friends (the first church in this community). This pulpit sharing being done by a small group of local pastors gets more point for symbolism from me than for substance. But symbolism is enough. All the churches in Newberg are united in trying to follow Christ. Anything to make that more of a group effort has merit.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Our common route to anywhere now has a meaningless stop sign. There is a significant road construction project that necessitates a big “Road Closed” barricade to the right at this stop sign, which means there is no reason to stop. But the stop sign is there and I expect it will continue to be there throughout the three months of construction. The spirit of the law tells me it is okay to disregard the sign. The letter of the law tells me a police officer would give me a ticket.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I’m thinking about self respect this morning. I’m wondering what parents might experience if a teenage son scores low on the self respect gauge. And if I were an insightful psychologist who understood the teen mind, would I have gotten so mad last night?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bullying, name calling, lies, belligerence, anger—Americans following Congress and the White House are seeing what the school playground monitor sees all the time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

“Maybe later,” would likely have been my response if someone had asked me if I wanted to hear “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” But that’s what I heard this morning when I started the car. I didn’t turn it off, I didn’t change the station, and tonight I spent 99 cents at iTunes. It’s been around for 14 years and the singer is no longer living, but one of the advantages of being a music illiterate is that I have more opportunities for discovery. The singer has the kind of voice you might expect from someone named Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and the ukulele gives some assurance that you aren’t in Oz anymore.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Walls don’t solve problems. The United States military is involved in the construction of a 12-foot wall three miles long between Sunni and Shiite areas in Baghdad. The Iraqi prime minister has now asked for the construction to stop. Walls on the U.S. border with Mexico are thought to have a place in dealing with illegal immigration. And Israel seems to think a wall will help solve their Palestinian problem. Walls may help provide an illusion of greater security, but they do nothing to improve attitudes and relationships.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The subject this morning at Hometown Friends Church is prayer. Even without looking ahead to the sermon title, sometimes the songs make the topic obvious. I’m looking at five people up front in the folk ensemble. One recently experienced an amazing prayer outcome. His wife’s cancer prognosis took an unexplainable turn for the better. It must be getting close to 20 years ago that a lot of “fervent, righteous” prayer was focused on the wife of another member of the ensemble. Her death is on the list of unanswered questions about prayer. Another one of the up front musicians, along with the woman who was then his wife, got a lot of prayer directed at their situation several years ago when the marriage was crumbling and then totally fell apart. So, we are still in the same place as the disciples in Luke chapter eleven: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I was thinking about book selling earlier this morning and Kenneth Eichenberger came to mind. Kenneth was a pastor and a matchmaker. The current connotation of bookseller would denigrate what he did so I opt for the word matchmaker. He knew books and he knew people and he matched them up.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I’ve not been glued to the media coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy, but I’ve seen enough to have formed some opinions. The picture has been shown through a close-up lense instead of a wide angle. The big questions have not gotten enough attention and minutia has been played and replayed. The repeated question of why the school was not locked down sooner strikes me as critical hindsight that ignores the fact that no matter what the university did (short of quickly finding and isolating the gunman), he would have been able to take 30 more lives plus his own. I’d like to look beyond the laws that permitted the gunman to buy his weapons and ammunition. I want to hear a cry to outlaw handguns in the United States. I don’t think it’s right to question whether Virginia Tech somehow failed this one student without addressing the bigger issue of the relationship of government funding for human services and the number of crazies who are a threat to themselves and to public safety.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are Christian rock bands entertainment or ministry? The answer is yes. Last night was my first time inside the Crystal Ballroom and the reason was to hear Relient K. I’m well outside their target audience, but my daughter, Abbie, is the kind of person who bought their latest CD the day it was released. I had a smile on my face as teens in Portland, Oregon, sang along with guys who started in Canton, Ohio. The packed crowd of standing, jumping young people knew the band’s lyrics and they loved every moment. I believe Relient K has a ministry that goes beyond just wholesome entertainment. But if wholesome entertainment was all they provided, even that would be a ministry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I’m ready to relinquish my right to bear arms. When I was growing up, my dad had a single shot 22 and a double barreled shot gun. The first was good for jack rabbits and the second for pheasants. As a teenager I bought my own 22 semi-automatic. Multiple shots without reloading was great fun. And then I got a pump action shot gun. I outgrew long ago any need or desire for either of these. I can understand why hunters adamantly protect their right to bear arms. But civilians have no need for handguns and assault rifles. The argument: “if guns are outlawed, only criminals will have them” doesn’t cut it. The gunman yesterday at Virginia Tech was not a criminal when he bought his gun.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The biblical text this morning is from Romans 6. “Should we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit God’s forgiveness?” The biblical answer is “of course not!” But isn’t there a strong human tendency to subconsciously (or perhaps consciously) live as though God’s forgiveness is our safety net, so we do a few jumps that we wouldn’t dream of doing if there wasn’t a net under us.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I liked the short piece by Luciana Lopez about Relient K in yesterday’s A&E section of The Oregonian. I was pleased with sentences like “The group has built a solid, growing fan base…without distancing themselves from their Christian roots or getting preaching.” and “They sound, in fact, like they’ve got something a little deeper to believe in.”

At our house, Relient K is not just another band. Abbie is a big fan and she assumes she will get to hear them any time they come to Oregon. And, on a more personal level, my life has been blessed by knowing the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of band member Matt Hoopes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My e-mail in box has way too many lines flagged for follow up. Yesterday I ran into one of the people who sent one of those flagged e-mails. I started to tell him that I’m not ignoring his request, but then I realized that’s not true. I back peddled and explained that I was not ignoring him on purpose.

No matter what the reason or excuse is, I don’t like the feeling of not being heard. And I don’t like making other people feel like I don’t care about them or their inquiry.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Last night I was looking at a recent religion bestseller list—top ten hardcover and top ten paperback. Of the 20 titles, 5 were from Harper SanFrancisco. I doubt there is another book publisher that has sold more copies by Quaker authors than Harper SanFrancisco—D. Elton Trueblood, Thomas Kelly, Richard J. Foster, Philip Gulley….

A little envy? Perhaps, but my publishing goals are not about getting a piece of a pie that was put together in someone else’s kitchen and is already baked and sliced. I want to make a new pie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

There were three of us in the office a couple of days ago when one of us mentioned a new Google discovery—the way to search a word or phrase throughout a particular site. It sucked us into a discussion of new technology.

“Did either of you see the article in the Oregonian about Second Life?”

“No, but I read about it in a business magazine a couple of weeks ago.”

Then I tried to describe what little I know about it and admitted I had registered on the site after reading the article.

Most people (including me) have enough challenges with the first life. So why would 5 million people sign up for a second life?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I’m thinking about self discipline. If I were self disciplined, would my desk look the way it does? How much would I weigh if I were self disciplined? Would I have so many e-mails in my inbox that need responses? Could I play the saxophone if I were self-disciplined?

(no; 185; no; maybe but probably never well.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Abbie was sitting on the couch in the living room after Easter dinner—along with an aunt, grandmother, and other family who were in and out. The book she was reading wasn’t a preferred option to interacting with others. She was reading because it had to be done for school. She could have gone upstairs and had fewer distractions, but isolation is not what she wanted. The middle ground is sometimes the best place to be.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The room at Hometown Friends Church is fuller than usual. The three people sitting in front of me aren’t familiar faces. When we do the “stand up and greet those around you,” I don’t ask them anything that might put them on the spot and therefore I probably come off a little aloof. If I didn’t attend church regularly, I don’t think I would show up on a religious holiday. I’d suspect the regular folk would somehow figure I was second class. I’d see smugness even if I had to manufacture it.

During the message I started looking in the pew Bible for the place where Job says, “I know that my redeemer liveth”—powerful words for an Old Testament guy who had fallen on such hard times that even his friends were telling him to give up on God. In this room 37 years ago on Easter Sunday Janet Hagen sang the George Handel version of this biblical passage and it spoke to me in a deep way.

Friday, April 06, 2007

NPR introduced me to singer-song writer Susan Werner who has traveled a long way from being an Iowa Catholic farm girl. A repeating line in Werner’s song “Our Father” is “Deliver us from those who think they’re you.” At one point in the song after a reference to the role of women in the church, she sings: “Remind the Pope he could have been a girl.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

“Ex-President Carter’s new book is both misleading and dangerous.” I disagreed, but the subhead in Christianity Today (April) was enough to get me to read the article. I wondered what gave David Aikman the right to decide Jimmy Carter has an “overwhelmingly anti-Israel bias.” Does calling for justice and healing in the Middle East deserve an anti-Israel label? When I looked up who Aikman is, it started to make sense. He is the author of Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I’m thinking God doesn’t waste his breath when I’m not listening. I started thinking about this last night as I was driving my 16-year-old son to pick up something he needed from a friend’s house that is out in the country. When I agreed to take him, I thought it might be an opportunity for us to talk about each other’s frustrations. The iPod and headphones were not the only indicators that this was not a teachable moment. And creating change would have been higher on my agenda than listening or understanding. So we didn’t talk and I wondered about the times God has wanted to talk to me, but remained silent because he knew I was not in the frame of mind that creates a teachable moment.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. A little earlier this morning when I picked up my coffee from the drive-thru, I overhead the barista asking his coworker if today was some sort of religious holiday.

On Palm Sunday 18 years ago I was a world away from Hometown Friends Church. I was in Jerusalem with a Mercy Corp trip that gave some editors and publishers a close look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Several of us got a ride out to Bethpage and joined the symbolic march into Jerusalem. It wasn’t a spiritual experience. It was a photo op and a “Wow, I’m really here!”

I have a lot of uncertainty about how religious holidays should be celebrated. I’m thankful we won’t have to color and decorate boiled eggs on Saturday—all our children are old enough for that tradition to become a nonessential.