Thursday, May 31, 2007

This is the day Abbie drives down to the Oregon coast to begin working on summer staff. College-aged summer staff at Twin Rocks Friends Camp do things like cleaning all the cabins on Saturday after one group of camps leaves and the next group comes in. They work in the dining room doing setup, helping with meal preparation, and washing dishes, pots, and pans. Around the grounds they weed and water flowers, empty garbage cans, and refill toilet paper holders. These and many other tasks are the visible work activities, but the more abstract and more significant thing that happens is Christian leadership development.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Twenty-four hours ago I was eating breakfast at The Mirage with my two sisters, a brother-in-law, and my wife. The Mirage is Adrian’s café. Adrian is one of those little towns that can be found in rural areas where farm families go to school, where they get groceries between times they go to the larger city 10 or 20 miles on down the road. It’s where some go to church on Sunday morning and it’s the place to go for a good breakfast. Five generations of my brother-in-laws family—farmers and teachers—have lived in this community. Adrian is on the Oregon side of the Snake River. You don’t have to look far to see what sort of desert this was before irrigation and a lot of hard work turned the area into productive farm land.

Inside the café I assume our waiter and cook is also the owner of the establishment. I can more easily picture this guy in a machine shop than in a kitchen. My order was for a pancake and two eggs over medium. This is the world where one pancake fills a plate and a stomach.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I have trouble looking natural when my picture is being taken. Last night Cindy was looking at pictures on her computer and reminding me that my smile would look better if I let my teeth show. But I don’t get as much photo flak as one of her brothers. He’s a guy who knows how to smile and laugh, but he doesn’t believe in the cheesy smiles for the camera. He maintains that the serious faces you see in pictures from a couple of generations ago represent the way photos should be taken. As I think of the context when those old pictures were taken it is understandable why people didn’t look like they were at Disneyland—war, poverty, crime, racial conflict, disease.

It makes me wonder what we’re smiling about.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

People who enter public service through the election process generally learn to carefully measure their words. Some politicians gage their words by public opinion and expediency—at times even allowing the ends to justify the means. Other politicians—those who might qualify as statesmen—use truth (without regard to the consequences) as the measure for their words. I believe Jimmy Carter is a man committed to serving God and his global and local neighbors. And I believe he measures his words in a way that reflects that commitment.

Monday, May 21, 2007

On the wall in our dining room we have prints of the Doyle Penrose paintings “None Shall Make them Afraid” and “The Presence in the Midst.” The Native Americans in the picture have weapons—tomahawk and bow with arrow. Who are the people today that would give us an adrenalin rush if they walked through the door at one of our Quaker gatherings? I wonder what would happen at my church if a group of Muslims walked in during a service and began preaching about our sins as if we were infidels. Or what would the ushers do if some meth addicts came to take the offering? Corporately or personally it would be great to surprise an enemy (or potential enemy) by responding with love instead of defensiveness. As I look inside myself, the picture is not nearly as clear as it is on my dining room wall.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. A week ago I was appreciating a scripted prayer and now I’m appreciating a sermon that is abandoning the prepared script. The pastor here at Hometown Friends Church is acknowledging that sometimes as he studies the section of scripture for the Sunday service he becomes distracted by knowing he is going to be speaking and fails to let the words speak to his own life. Earlier in the service a men’s quartet sang a song that included reference to the gathered meeting being a place where we drop our pretense. Aren’t we supposed to act spiritual at church? Can we do that and drop our pretense at the same time? I guess a pastor who admits he doesn’t always get it right is a good example of spiritual journey without a layer of pretense whitewash.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Three, maybe four, blocks down the street from the high school is a red and white sign offering rewards for stolen computers and guns—$5,000 and $2,500. Evidently it’s not against the law to put up a sign like this. But to somehow imply that a person might be able to get that kind of money from stolen items with “no questions asked” seems criminal to me. These are seeds that don’t need to be planted in the minds of the teens that go up and down this street every day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

It sounded like something bad had happened when I heard my daughter, Abbie, talking to someone on the phone last night. “I’ll be right over,” I heard her say. Before she rushed out the door she explained to us that it has just been discovered that her friend’s grandfather has cancer throughout his body.

It was Woody Allen who said that eighty percent of success is showing up and I believe a high percentage of compassion is also just showing up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Some words have lost their original meaning or at least the connotation has shifted dramatically. The words I’m thinking of are evangelical, morality, and Christian fundamentalism. Language certainly evolves, but sometimes words get hijacked. And even though he didn’t do it single handedly, this is part of the Jerry Falwell legacy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

His wife is in cancer treatment. I’ll call him Matt (since that’s his name). He started raising money for the Relay for Life / American Cancer Society before joining a Relay team. He had already raised more money than the average Relay participant when he joined our team. He works for Nike and is seeing if he can get shoes donated for each of our dozen team members. He doesn’t know any of us yet, but he wants to get shoes for the team. That’s not normal—except within the fraternity of cancer fighters.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A few days ago I was part of a conversation that somehow went to past television programs. There was one we remembered by theme song (“What If God Were One of Us”), but not by program title. My sister-in-law was the one who came up with the name—Joan of Arcadia. So what ever happened to the high school girl who God chose to speak to through quirky people. There are a number of options for what happens to people who are that weird. Joan might be in college now and still having random conversations with people she recognizes as the voice of God. Perhaps she is in treatment in a mental health facility. Or maybe she got so tired of being different that she has gone through the hard work of suppressing communication with the divine and now always carries a heavy emotional shield to deflect any attempt God might make to communicate with her.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Earlier in the service Lisa McMinn prayed for mothers. The presentation gave no indication that it was a prepared prayer, but the depth of content and the breadth covered made me think it was not an “in the moment” thing.

And now we just sang “Search Me, O God.” I’m amused as I realize what the words say: “See if there be some wicked way in me”—as if my wickedness is so obscure that it takes the divine eye looking deep in order to find it. It strikes me as playing dumb. My wickedness is easy enough for me to find without God having to go on a search mission.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I guess I was naïve. I expected understanding and willing cooperation. We were meeting for dinner at Cooperstown and Cindy and I got a table for four. I went back outside to meet Ronda and Abbie. The parking lot is too small. Ronda got a spot, but Abbie was never in the right place at the right time in this musical chairs game of parking. I could tell that a lot of people who came after her had gotten spots and after she had circled a bunch of times I decided to go out to where a car was leaving to help hold the spot. Waiting behind the car that would soon be backing out was a big, red pickup with one middle-aged man in it and Abbie’s faded blue Toyota Corona was behind him. His window was rolled down so I walked up and explained that my daughter was behind him and she had circled ten times now and asked if he could let her have the spot that was coming open. He asked if I was kidding and as I said “no” I quickly started to realize it was not amazement about how long she had been waiting for a spot, but perhaps amazement at my gal to ask him to give up the spot. So to check what was happening I said (in what I thought was a kind tone), “Is that a problem?” At the same time as he replied, “Yeah,” he drove his pickup forward. I didn’t know if he was going to turn into the spot that was now open, but he went on past. After Abbie parked I learned the ten fingers she held up the last time she went by me meant the number of cars she counted that came into the lot after her and had gotten parking spots before her.

The man in the pickup surprised me—and made me a little less naïve.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jeffrey Blackburn is pastor of the Greensburg, Kansas, Mennonite Church. He’s also a writer for a couple of Barclay Press publications—Fruit of the Vine (daily devotional) and Adult Friend (Bible study curriculum). Jeffery, his wife, and their daughter were in their basement as the tornado demolished their home and church.

Lord, as Jeffrey ministers to the physical and emotional needs of those in his community, I pray that the Holy Spirit will minister to his needs. Give him a clear mind in the midst of chaos. Give him grace and the ability to be an agent of your grace. Amen.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I love excuses to eat out. Tomorrow is Dine Out for a Cure in Yamhill County. There are several Newberg restaurants participating and my current plan is breakfast at Js Restaurant, Sandwich Express for lunch, and dinner at Cooperstown. Participating businesses are donating 10%. Supporting the American Cancer Society/Relay for Life and eating out—what a great combo!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Last night Cindy and I watched Ted Koppel on Discovery—a three-hour presentation titled Living with Cancer. One of the things I’m recalling this morning is Ted Koppel asking Lance Armstrong (ten years after treatment and apparently cancer free) if cancer was something that is behind him. My quick mental answer before Lance responded was “no.” I wonder if any cancer survivor could ever really say that cancer has been relegated to the past. And I can’t imagine a cancer survivor who could see cancer only in terms of how it has affected them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. As we were getting ready to come here I was wondering if it would be a same ol’, same ol’ morning where we get our weekly religion fix, or if it might be something more. And now as the service concludes the pastor is reminding us that being the church is more than sitting through a one-hour service—it involves walking along side one another. Just a little bit ago people are praying for a woman whose child has a critical medical situation. Before this mother shared with understandable tears and sobs, another woman had played “Jesus Loves the Little Children” on a kazoo and then led the rest of us in singing all three verses from the hymn book. Normal fare for the Holy Spirit is not same ol’, same ol’.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Why I Relay. Participants in Newberg's Relay for Life June 22 and 23 have a single reason for being involved—it’s the fight against cancer. But it’s more specific and personal than that. A partial list of my reasons includes Lucille, Trina, Cindy, Steve, and Nicole.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

For both price and convenience, the mini-mart at Chevron is a good option when a gallon of milk is all we need. Yesterday morning before going to work was one of those times. The Latina woman at the cash register commented that even the price of milk is going up—$2.39. “It’s still cheaper than gas,” I responded.

Taking the jug of milk back to the house my mind took an interesting journey. It was a very simplistic comparison of the steps that precede the milk jug going into my refrigerator and what it takes to get a gallon of gas into my car’s tank. What would I think if I were trying to feed and milk enough dairy cows to make a living. The oilman pumps the crewd out of the ground and it goes to a refinery to make gasoline, and never has to be refrigerated. It doesn’t involve continuous, demanding animal husbandry. It’s shipped, stored, and sold in bulk; no bottling and short shelf life. And the oilman has the volume advantage—I have no idea what the numbers are, but I know cars drink more gas than people drink milk. If I were a dairyman I’d wonder why a gallon of milk sells for less than a gallon of gas.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The simple message on their signs was “CONTROL GROWTH.” I saw them at a couple of major intersections as I was on my way home yesterday after work. The women holding the signs looked like intelligent young mothers who probably live in nice homes and drive late model minivans or SUVs—or perhaps even something a bit more sporty. They would like Newberg residents to vote no on annexing some land into the city.

I wonder if these women with the signs shop at Fred Meyer and enjoy the size of the store and the variety it offers. I’d like to know what they think of Newberg’s new hospital. I’d be interested to know if they’ve eaten at Cooperstown or patronized any other recent additions to the local business community. And I’m thinking about people who raise their families and pay property tax in the tri-county metro area, but spend their career hours in Newberg. These people are medical professionals at the hospital, business owners, employees at the world-class dental manufacturing company, professors at the university, and more. I wonder if it would be a good thing to give these people more options to become resident instead of commuters.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Patrick Oden has written a book that Barclay Press is going to publish. It’s about the Holy Spirit. One of the things reading this manuscript has done for me is to see that we have not given the Holy Spirit equal billing with the Father and the Son. The Spirit is a little scary. There is an out of control connotation with the Spirit. The Spirit seems to be a little more edgy than the Father and the Son and less understood.