Sunday, September 30, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The last stanza of this song we are singing is creating some self examination and I’m coming up short. “Then when it’s time for moving, grant it that I may bring to every day and moment, peace from a silent spring.” I don’t feel I have a silent spring to draw from. I don’t spend enough time listening in silence. I’m not discipline enough to be collected, directed, or in tune. But since the song is saying “teach me,” I can sing it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I loved the sound of the rain this morning at 4:37 when I could roll over and listen to it as I fell back asleep. A little less than an hour later when the alarm went off I still liked the sound, but it had lost some of its charm. It’s time to turn off the lawn sprinklers and start wearing long-sleeved shirts.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Three hot-air balloons are going up. It’s a fairly common sight in Newberg. Imagining myself in one of those baskets, I see the sun coming up on the horizon and the land that it lights up. I look in the opposite direction for the moon, but either it’s behind a cloud or it has just recently slipped below the western horizon. The cold air coming through my nose sharpens my mind and all my senses.

It’s only a fleeting thought for those of us still on the ground.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The reference to information withheld from the American public when the war was going poorly is one of the interesting things in the Ken Burns series “The War” on PBS. In that regard, I doubt that things have changed that much during the past 60 plus years.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The young barista working 15 feet from where I’m sitting is just back from Spokane where he attended his grandmother’s funeral.

It was only a few weeks ago that my friends now living near Philadelphia got the exciting news that their first baby was on his/her way. A miscarriage last weekend opened up an empty spot in their hearts, minds, and plans.

Another friend has known for a couple of days that the matriarch of his family will go to her heavenly at any time now.

Death is never very far away.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why would we rather pick up the phone or send an e-mail instead of spending time talking to God? It was a question in a workshop on communications at an area gathering of Friends churches held in Eugene yesterday. My response was to avoid answering the question by commenting on the practice of praying for someone over the phone and of praying for someone with a written prayer sent as an e-mail. Perhaps the real answer to the question (which I did not attempt to give) has something to do with not yet developing the relationship with God that makes him feel as intimate, as close, as interactive as a voice on the other end of the line.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

“Loosen Up” was the title, but it was the tease line—“When chaos is creative”—that pulled me in to read the article length review in The Christian Century. It was a thought-stimulating presentation of the strengths of decentralized organizations. Much of the article dealt with the relevance to church denominations. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations is the name of the book. In starfish organizations (decentralized) things like knowledge, responsibility, innovation, and motivation are shared throughout the organization. I have trouble picturing “leaderless” as a good thing, but I saw the point of what was said about the starfish and things like trust, tolerance, and even ambiguity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A little spontaneity was the perfect intermission between coming home from work frustrated and then after dinner taking the first step of dealing with that frustration. LeRoy’s name came up in our dinner conversation and Abbie said she remembered a really funny joke she heard him tell several years ago. She didn’t remember the joke—just that it was really funny. It had something to do with two men in a bar discovering they were related—maybe even brothers. Cindy decided we should give LeRoy a call and see if he might be able to retrieve the joke. He’s traveling now, but that just added to the fun randomness of the call. We got a joke about two men in a bar, but I don’t think it was the one Abbie can’t remember. We also got a healthy break from the ordinary and predictable.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The focus last Sunday and today is on a growing community. A regular part of the schedule here at Hometown Friends Church is “open worship.” It’s a time to listen to God and, if prompted, share with the congregation. I’m thinking about how limited our interaction is and wondering what would happen if we all left our pews and moved to the perimeter of the room where we could more easily see each other. I wonder if we would actually move around to deliver face-to-face a word of encouragement or some thoughtful inquiry about another person’s well-being. I wonder if people could walk up to a trusted friend and share a burden that a strong soul could help carry. I wonder to what degree these pews facilitate worship and to what degree they are an inhibiter.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My understanding is that a good soldier always obeys his commander—no matter what. That makes General David Petraeus a good soldier. This man knows exactly what his Commander-in-Chief wants and he delivers. But this is not what the American people want. I don’t understand why people who say they are committed to democracy have such a problem with the suggestion that General Petraeus might be putting the wishes of the President ahead of the desires of the American people. He is doing what a good soldier does and people who question his actions are doing what good citizens do.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

“Is that a real book?” Abbie asked looking across the table at the Publishers Weekly on the top of my pile. Usually the outer cover is sold to an advertiser. This issue HCI was promoting Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul. This seems like a compelling call for someone to do a spoof of the Chicken Soup books.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I’m thinking about whether it is possible for a person to make a god of their mind. In her Barclay Press Conversation Café daily journal on Tuesday, Sierra Neiman said a friend accused her of making a god of her mind when she expressed an interest in going to graduate school. I quickly dismissed the accusation as having no merit. It certainly had no merit in that case, but now I’m wondering if there is any circumstance in which a person could make a god of their mind. The human mind is perhaps the paramount object of God’s creation and the instrument through which truth is found. But it is possible for the mind to corrupt itself to the point of positioning itself as greater than God. But a desire to go to graduate school is honoring to God and in no way usurps God’s position.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tomorrow is Ethan’s 17th birthday. The journey toward adulthood and maturity is arduous. I took that trip, but it was such a long time ago and the roads are different now.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Community is one of the key words here at Hometown Friends Church. This morning the musical style invites comment about the virtue of tolerance. I don’t remember reference to scriptures calling to “bear with one another” when the music is geared to please the older generation.

The pastor, youth minister, and some others from this church recently returned from a mission trip to India. It has an influence on the message about belonging to community. I’m thinking community happens best when people come together with a specific purpose, an important issue, a mission. When community is motivated by personal enjoyment it ends up being anemic.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I love my job. It’s great fun to deliver to readers the insights of writers. It’s never easy and I’m always aware of needed improvements. One of the big challenges is capturing the attention to sell enough books to reach our ministry goals and achieve financial viability. An exciting new book we will release November 1 is It’s a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit by Patrick Oden. Potential endorsers have prepublication copies of the book and last week an endorsement came in the mail from Germany. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann likes the book.

I’m thinking we have a silent (but active) partner in heaven.

Friday, September 07, 2007

My inbox this morning had an e-mail reply that started, “Do you ever try to get your life in order - peaceful, centered, and focused - before you write back to someone so you can really consider their question?”

Yes. But I have so far to go to get there.

What is best?—(a) a shallow, quick response that might seem terse; (b) waiting until I can write the thoughtful response that I want to give; (c) a delayed response that is neither timely nor thorough; or (d) getting my time and commitments in a manageable array.

The best would be (d), but I expect I will continue to bounce around the (a), (b), and (c) range.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I’m wondering why we are so intimidated by people with a high intellect. Maybe part of it is herd mentally that wants as many people as possible to be average or normal. I think people who are physically gifted—the athletes—are generally more admired than the people who are mentally gifted. Lots of the images and descriptors we have for brilliant people are quite unflattering. We feel better about ourselves if we can turn the people with high octane brains into eccentrics with no common sense.

I’m thankful I have friends who score well above me on the IQ scale. If I have friends who score lower than me, I want to give them whatever support I can.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. When the music director introduced “Count Your Blessings” with a reference to recently hearing the Hopeful Gospel Quartet doing this song, I wondered how many people were picturing four men from the 50s with suits, ties, and slicked-back hair. Now we’re watching a video that this morning’s speaker made about the “…one another” theme for today. It shares people from the congregation commenting on how others enhance live and encourage spiritual development. I love the “Lean on Me” background music. “Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, We all have sorrow…no one can fill those of your needs, That you don't let show…Lean on me when you're not strong, And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on, For it won't be long, Till I'm gonna need, Somebody to lean on.” I doubt if Bill Withers was thinking about Sunday morning church when he wrote these words, but they work.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The “kicker” is a wart on Oregon’s economic complexion. Moving the corporate kicker for this year to a rainy day fund is a step in the right direction, but I wonder what could be done with the 1.1 billion going to Oregon households in mid-December. Instead of ballooning Christmas extravagance, perhaps this money is needed in our schools, on our roads, and to restore the disenfranchised.

Am I going to cash my check? Yes. Would I vote to eliminate the kicker? Yes.