Friday, August 31, 2007

I’ve never read The Republic by Plato. My daughter, Abbie, exposed me last night to Plato’s cave analogy. What I took away was that much of what we see and experience is really only shadows from a greater truth. I was on the couch in the living room and in front of me was the wooden chest that serves as our coffee table. What I saw was wood, but I realized this is a shadow of the relationships and emotions between my grandfather and the Cubans he worked with. I know nothing about the Cuban who made this tool chest before my grandfather moved back to the United States, but I think something more than time and labor went into those dove tail joints.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My favorite story of personal involvement in lying is from my high school chemistry class. I tried to cover the fact that I came to class unprepared with a “harmless” lie and then I had the chance to fess up or dig a hole for myself. I chose the latter. Senator Larry Craig from Idaho has taken that same route.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today Cindy has an appointment with her oncologist—Dr. Takahashi. It’s now been five years since she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The numbers say that five years of being cancer free is a good thing. Statistics reflect history rather than determine outcomes, but today I'm feeling very grateful for cancer research, good doctors, my wife's attitude and determination, and God’s grace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

“John Doe cheats on his wife.” [Name changed to protect the accused.] It was a tacky, hand-made sign nailed to a utility pole near a stop sign on a well-traveled street. When I saw it this morning I was reminded that moral values run deep. Despite all the ways sex is degraded in sitcoms, advertising, online porn, and loose reigns on lust; marital unfaithfulness is commonly recognized as inappropriate and unacceptable.

Fidelity is a great word and an excellent characteristic.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Classes start today at George Fox University and a week from tomorrow the Newberg public schools start. Labor Day tends to be a reminder of incomplete tasks and unmet goals. I think a person has to have a very special emotional makeup (or a lack of emotional makeup) in order not to be a little moody during this transition. I always have unreasonably high expectations for the summer. I think I’ll do some unique, fun things and get some special projects done. Life in the summer is supposed to be something more than just maintaining. The approach of Labor Day isn’t welcomed when you aren’t able to look back and see growth and significant accomplishment.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. “I will change your name,” God is saying through the words we are singing. “You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely, or afraid.” This morning four speakers are sharing briefly about recovery from hurts, habits, and hang ups. I’m thinking there are plenty of us both inside and outside of the church who could use a new name. The new names that the songwriter suggests are confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one, faithfulness, friends of God, and one who seeks God’s face.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It was 40 years ago that I moved from the eastern edge of Oregon to Newberg. That’s when I started working for Barclay Press. It was at least a lifetime ago; maybe several. There was that young couple starting a family—a son and three daughters with diaper training, learning to walk, learning to ride bikes. That life included time at Shriner’s Hospital and time at places like Champoeg Park. Living and working in Jackson, Mississippi, for two and a half years was like its own little lifetime with new experiences, new friendships, and lots of learning. And then a year after returning to Oregon I began entering another world—divorce and single parenting. My current lifetime began a little more than 21 years ago when I married Cindy.

Even though all those life segments have strong connections with each other, I don’t feel very connected with the me who moved to Newberg 40 years ago. My interest in what was is strong enough to note a milestone, but the present and future is what attracts my energy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I caught enough of Christiane Amanpour and God’s Warriors on CNN last night to see Greg Boyd, Richard Cizik, and Ron Luce. If I could have lunch today with two of the three, I’d pick Boyd and Cizik.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. When we came in and sat down I noticed Paul Bock was sitting on the front row, so I looked at the printed schedule of the service and confirmed that he was giving the message today. And now Paul is up front with no podium and nothing in his hands. This is not about the Sermon on the Mount, it is the Sermon on the Mount. The words of Jesus as presented in three chapters of the book of Matthew spoken with clarity and coming from the mind and heart instead of coming from sheets of paper.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

“It’s like a handshake we do.” This is the comment of a girl in McMinnville about junior high boys swatting girls on the buttocks. On Monday two thirteen-year-old boys go on trial for sexual harassment. Attempts to label this kind of contact as harmless horseplay only accents the extent of the problem. Young teen males should not think it is acceptable to have uninvited physical contact with girls that has any potential sexual overtones. Young teen girls should recognize this kind of interaction is demeaning. Sexuality is a beautiful and powerful force and should never be cheapened.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

To a large degree people drive what they are. When I see a luxury car I know what to expect when it’s close enough to see the driver. They are the well-dressed beautiful people. Minivans probably have more variety than other types of vehicles—lots of young mothers but also gray heads who like the capacity and not having to go low in order to get in. I expect to see a workin’ guy behind the wheel of a pickup. Each type of vehicle has its stereotypical owner—hybrids, SUVs, sports cars, convertibles, mid-size cars that have seen quite a few years and miles. I expect people who sell cars develop a sense of matching a person walking onto the lot with a car even before the conversation begins.

It’s probably not a good idea to judge people by their car, but I’m glad to be a used Honda Accord who is married to a Honda CRV.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. A group of people here at Hometown Friends Church have been trying to discern how worship can best happen on Sunday morning. As different worship styles are mentioned and our diversity is recognized, I once again recall an address given by Milo Ross at a church retreat more than 30 years ago. It was at a time when church growth experts were preying on our partiality toward people who are like us. Homogeneous units were the way to grow a church. But Milo pointed out that the Bible calls for something much more exciting, and more demanding. Christ is the great uniter who brings together the genders, races, socio-economic status, and ages into one church. Milo made the point that the church is the one place in our society where these barriers can and must be broken down. May it be so.

Friday, August 10, 2007

In terms of rest and relaxation, this week has been the best vacation Cindy and I have had for a long time. When I mentioned this to a friend this morning, he suggested we should copy and paste that. He’s right. We haven’t really learned how to make time and space to step out from under the cloud of obligations. It remains to be seen if an old dog can learn this trick.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This morning [written Monday 08/06] I went through the Publishers Weekly fall religion listings—about a dozen pages of selected religion titles coming out this fall. They are in alpha order by publisher and nobody gets more than three titles listed. I circle the ones that I want to learn more about. “Bogus” is what I wrote in the margin beside “Believing God for Work…asserts that the reason for high African-American unemployment is a lack of spirituality.” The author of Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up refutes the 12 arguments most often put forward to prove God exists. “It’s not about the math,” was my non-verbal response.

The Barclay Press discussion this month is featuring Dan Kimball and They Like Jesus but Not the Church. I was three titles that are echoes of the same theme—Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church (Sept. release) and I’m Fine with God…It’s Christians I Can’t Stand (Jan. 2008).

One of the books I’d already heard about is UnChristian—created from interviews with 16- to 29-year old non-Christians that share how they view their Christian friends and neighbors.

Other listings I circled include:

Starving Jesus: Off the Pew, into the World seeks to free readers from their complacency and spiritual anorexia.

Paul Louis Metzger calls on evangelicals to eliminate divisions caused by captivity to consumerism in Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in the Consumer Church.

The authors of Lies Young Women Believe, and the Truth that Sets Them Free interviewed 1,000 young women to find the top 25 lies they have fallen for.

Is religion now marketed and advertised like any other product or service? The author of Selling God: How Christianity Went from in Your Heart to in Your Face thinks so.

People in mainline churches doing outside-the-box ministries is the focus of Rising from the Ashes. This made me curious about what these ministries are and how far outside the box they are.

My political appetite responded to titles like A Stupid, Unjust, and Criminal War; When Did Jesus Become Republican?; and Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite.

Sara Nelson’s column in this issue of Publishers Weekly talks about a book that is already a hit in France and will be published in the United States in November—How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. It sounds like something I should read, but I’ll probably settle for adding it to the “books I have heard of” category.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. But the “not quite as faithful” such as Cindy, Ethan, and me are walking up the beach at Twin Rocks. We were pushing check out time real close when we left the motel. Sitting on anything that resembles a pew is not on the schedule, but walking on the beach fits the agenda for today.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Today Abbie left her teen years behind. Her growth in confidence is a more significant accomplishment than the addition of one more year to her age.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Johnny Cash had his reasons for wearing black and if he were still living I think he might see the irony of structurally deficient bridges while we choose to dump a ton of money into military initiatives in the Middle East.

Cash said in his “Man in Black” song that he knew “there’s things that never will be right,and things need changin' everywhere you go, but 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right, you'll never see me wear a suit of white.”

At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, it doesn’t look to me like we’ve given Cash reason to wear white.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Last night I was thinking about whether Cindy and I might take a few days of vacation, where we might go, and what we might do. My lethargy about exploring a new vacation experience might have been because I was in bed trying to go to sleep, but it made me ask myself if my universe is expanding or shrinking? Am I growing or dieing? Do I gravitate to the familiar and comfortable or do I seek the new and the challenging? I know what I want the answer to be, but I have some self examination to do which might lead me toward some attitude (and behavior) modification.