Thursday, January 31, 2008

Maybe if I was knowledgeable about economics I would understand the economic stimulus package. I don’t see how increasing sales of flat screen televisions will improve the economic health of the country. I wonder if anything is being done to reverse the widening gap between the rich and poor.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What’s the same and what’s changed? Gregg Koskela’s blog reflection on high school raised the question and it started me thinking. High school for me is 400 miles and 44 years from where I am today.

I live in less of a cross-section of society today than when I walked the halls of Ontario High School. I knew the kids who went off campus to smoke during the lunch hour, the jocks, the scholars, and even the cheerleaders. I had connections with the full range of the socio-economic spectrum. But 44 years is plenty of time to allow a natural drift toward the comfort zone of hanging out with people who are pretty much like me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Sometimes people think our faith and practice here at Hometown Friends Church means we don’t buy into symbols. Quakers long ago rebelled against symbols replacing the reality represented by the symbol. This Quaker believes symbols are not a bad thing. They play a vital supporting role in my life and faith. We are talking about communion today and now we are sitting quietly in “open worship.” I’m imagining having with me the big bottle of grape juice that’s in the refrigerator at home, a stack of little paper cups, and a package of crackers. I’m imagining taking these up to the church altar, pouring several cups and lining them up on the altar, picking up a cracker and saying: “This cracker represents the body of Christ that was broken for me and for you.” I’m imagining eating the cracker, picking up a cup, and saying, “This Newman’s Own grape juice represents the blood of Christ that he gave as he gave his life for me and for you.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I was thinking earlier today about God not being very defensive. He gets blamed for a lot of things, but it doesn’t seem to me that he even makes a very strong statement of, “Hey, that wasn’t me.” It takes a lot of self-confidence to not become defensive when falsely accused.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When I look at my shortcomings (a.k.a. failures), my ugly twin likes to tell me “you are doing the best you can.” It sounds like a feeble excuse to create an exemption from improvement or accountability. Perhaps an always changing “best I can do” can be the rabbit that keeps this dog running. But I’ll need to quit listening to my ugly twin.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Relationships between Blacks and Latinos have sometimes been strained. People with brown skin have the same shortcomings and vulnerabilities as those of us with white skin—that includes the seven deadly sins. Pride, envy, and greed play a role in strained relationships whether it involves race or not. I’m thinking about this because of the question of how well a Black man will capture the Latino vote in this presidential campaign season. When Barak Obama used “Yes, we can” as his mantra in the New Hampshire concession speech, he was really saying “Si, se puede.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. Today at Hometown Friends Church the “Are we really going to talk about…?” series is focused on environmentalism. Some Christians find “creation care” to be a preferred terminology. This does a couple of things—it gets away from an ism and it implies stewardship or partnership with the Creator.

Three days ago a first-of-its-kind collaboration was announced in Washington, DC., at the National Press Club. Evangelical and scientific leaders issued an “Urgent Call to Action” that urges “fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies required to address these worsening problems before it is too late. Business as usual cannot continue yet one more day.” The group pledged to “work together toward a responsible care for Creation and call with one voice” to the religious, scientific, business, political and educational arenas to join them in this historic initiative.

“Great scientists are people of imagination. So are people of great faith. We dare to imagine a world in which science and religion work together to reverse the degradation of Creation. We will not allow it to be progressively destroyed by human folly,” added Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Ten months ago the big guns of the evangelical family values movement (family values means anti-abortion and anti-gay rights) were calling for Cizik’s resignation because they questioned whether he articulated the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues. Obviously these people have no problem with taking spiritual issues into the social and political arena. So what was the problem? Could they have been concerned that the evangelical agenda can’t stretch far enough to include God’s instructions to Adam and Eve?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sometimes in order to have an extra punch, words need a voice, a context, a stage on which to perform. I watched the movie Freedomland this evening. When Samuel L. Jackson says God’s grace is sorta like retroactive, the words have more staying power coming from the tough black cop than if I had heard the same thing at church.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. It was announced last week that the topic today would be hell. Before leaving the house to come here I was thinking about the question: “Why is there a hell?” I noted three words on a scrap of paper—justice, punishment, and consequences.

While God loves justice and calls us to be committed to justice, I see places in scripture where God lets mercy (or grace) trump justice. Punishment doesn’t seem to be the answer I’m looking for since it looks to me like God’s light shines a lot brighter on redemption than it does on retribution. When evil and separation from God was introduced (whether in the heavenly order or here on earth), it seems that cause and effect also came into the picture. God created a complicated universe that includes consequences for choices and behaviors—in this life and carrying into the next.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

After being up for about an hour this morning, I began wishing I was back in bed. My lack of drive got me thinking about the word “stimulating.” Will the caffeine in a 16 oz. Americano do the trick? What else might turn around my Saturday morning lethargy?

I like conversations and ideas that stimulate my mind. I enjoy movies that stimulate my emotions. I love anything that stimulates the notion that I might become a better person than what I am.

Friday, January 11, 2008

“Books: The New Tupperware?” roused my curiosity enough to click the link on the Publishers Weekly site. Yesterday morning about 30 women in the 35-45 age bracket got together at Mandy Brooks home in Rye, NY, from 10:00 until noon. They came to meet Kelly Corrigan, hear her share, and buy her book—The Middle Place.

Corrigan’s book just came out a few days ago and is already generating some buzz. The book is described as alternating stories of Corrigan’s youth and her recent battle with cancer. The author, 40, and her father, 77, are both cancer survivors.

Selling books and drinking coffee in Mandy’s living room seems an appropriate relational setting for a book that begins, “The thing you need to know about me is that I am George Corrigan’s daughter.”

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hope and despair brought up the image of the teeter-totter in the schoolyard of Scotts Mills grade school. That’s where I got my first two years of education.

Hope and despair often seem to be on the same plane and with a simple push of the legs either one can send the other from up to down.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

“Dance like no one is watching.”—It’s a line from Maya Angelou that Marilee Anglin included in her daily journal on the Barclay Press web site.

What would it take for an inhibited person like me to dance like no one is watching? Occasionally I find myself wanting to step outside of my “dance” inhibitions, but my reserve protects me from making a fool of myself. Or maybe it obstructs me from exuberant expression of wonder and joy.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

If you’re a good orator, it’s logical to make the point that words are important. If you are in a political race against a good orator, you point out the importance of experience and action.

Words and action are looking to me like they come in the same sequence as the chicken and the egg.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” (from the Cheers theme song)

My intention was to get an Americano, not to escape my worries. But when I went into the bookstore/coffee shop yesterday afternoon, I started seeing faces I knew. First it was a couple from California returning their daughter to college. As I visited and more people came in the list of names grew.

Cheers is not the ideal because if everybody knows my name there is no opportunity to meet new people and expand the circle. And I think it’s more important that I know their name than them knowing mine.

Picking up a quick caffeine fix turned into something with an extra buzz.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It never ends well when a task comes up and I say to myself, “This doesn’t have to be done right now. I have other things that are more urgent.” Pushed to the side of a road without a merge lane, it seems to have no way to get back into the flow of tasks that are next in line.

Yesterday I was wondering what it would be like to never let the sun go down on unfinished tasks. And now I’m trying to remember the word for people who have become disconnected from reality.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I had a great dream last night. I was in Jackson, Mississippi, discussing a writing/publishing project with John Perkins. It’s been more than 26 years since I lived in Mississippi and worked for John Perkins at Voice of Calvary Ministries. The great thing about the dream was the Perkins energy. The details of the dream had faded by the time I woke up this morning, but the sense of vigor and purpose was still clear.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I was just looking at the National Public Radio web site. Books, religion, and race are specific categories I check. I hadn’t been to NPR for several days. Rick McKinley’s name caught my eye because he is pastor at Imago Dei in Portland. Rick and his wife, Jeannie, were interviewed about the Advent Conspiracy. This is an effort by individuals and churches to celebrate Christmas with more worship and less spending. McKinley says the church isn’t telling its own story. The most intense, profound theological moment in history is reduced to an hour on Sunday according to McKinley. They encourage things like “relational” gifts—gifts that enhance relationship rather than just follow the impulses of the culture. He explains it is not an anti-consumerism campaign, but a pro Jesus effort.