Sunday, March 30, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The mention a moment ago of the pawn shop as an analogy for what Jesus has done for us has me thinking of an old story. It’s the story of a boy who builds a toy sailboat. I don’t remember just how it gets away from him, but he loses the boat and then some time later sees it in a shop window. After he purchases it from the shopkeeper and is carrying it home, he looks at the sailboat in his hands and says, "Little boat, you are twice mine. You are mine because I made you, and mine because I bought you."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King are all nearby, but I just finished eating the single with ham that you only get on the other side of town—which is not far in Newberg. There is a difference in quality and taste, but the bigger difference is that the local owner gives his time and money back to the community. Tom is one of this town’s assets.

Friday, March 28, 2008

One of my sisters started teaching in Adrian, Oregon, after she graduated from George Fox College (now University). She is still there. The other sister also graduated from George Fox and she went to work at the Salem, Oregon, Public Library. That was 42 years ago. Today she concludes that lengthy term of service and enters retirement.

Words like stable, steady, committed, constant, relentless, dedicated, devoted, and loyal have a lot of virtue. My sisters know the merits of change and variety but have exercised moderation.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Last night at home I heard, “I’m sorry,” again. The words came from a teenage son with an appetite that pulls him off the page of our expectations and into the margins. I’m not sure how I feel about the number of times he’s sorry. I’m not sure what it means. But at some level he cares and is willing to communicate even after I’ve gotten in his face.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The combination of Easter and school spring break creates a little different mix of people in the pews. I’m n0ticing the predictable in the schedule for the service—the call and response of “Christ is risen!” followed by “He is risen indeed!” and the singing of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” I’m not sure if today should be a whoop and holler celebration of the resurrection or if it should be a deep, mind-bending look at a profound, water-shed moment in religious history.

And now we are singing and I’m looking at the couple in front of me and to my left. “From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man [or disease], Can ever pluck me from his hand, ’Til he returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

This is not the same kind of celebration as the game-winning shot in the final seconds.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On a quick round trip to Salem yesterday I noticed the drain water running along the edges of farm land. It took me back to springtime on the eastern edge of the state where rain is scarce enough that any water in canals and ditches comes from a reservoir. I started wondering why I have a feel-good memory of the water coming into the irrigation system in the spring. Words that might hold a key are movement and life source. The road my sisters and I walked from the bus stop to our home went along one of the arteries off the main canal. Only a generation earlier, hard-working dreamers were turning land only fit for jack rabbits into family farms. Maybe change is another descriptor for why the water coming in is still something I remember.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Religion and race and politics—now that’s a volatile mixture. But Barak Obama carries it without letting it explode.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. This is Palm Sunday so today we are doing some hosannas in our congregational reading. This religious season reminds me that even Jesus rode the roller coaster.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lord, please console the disconsolate. Bring light into darkness. Do that miracle where confidence wins out over fear. Give courage for the one walking a path not of her choosing, with an unknown destination, and filled with peril. Amen.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I watched “Meet the Press” yesterday. It was all about the Democratic presidential primary. One of the things discussed was whether Obama or Clinton would serve as Vice-president for the other. Other people find it easier to see that than I do.

Democrats don’t want to have to decide between the two. Individual voters are torn, but a mystical group-think dynamic also has a subtle pull. It’s a little like the dynamic of the public pendulum swing that seems to prefer executive and legislative not being controlled by the same party.

One of the questions being asked is whether Barak Obama needs to get tougher. Can he win without going negative? My feeling is that neither Clinton nor Obama should be saying anything that might make a good ad for McCain in the fall.

McCain isn’t going to give a candid answer about who he wants to run against, but I think everyone knows who would solve his problem of activating the conservative base of the Republican party.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The pastor is talking about change and suggesting a six-week fast this summer—a time to focus on Christ without the usual committee meetings and preparation for Sunday school classes. I’m thinking there must be a significant difference between a fast and a vacation, but I better keep listening instead of trying to figure that out right now. I wonder how celebration and prayer events during this time will be planned and conducted. It would probably be easy to get volunteers for that committee. It would be like an excused absence from the fast.

During the open worship time earlier I had good reason to be thinking about the impact of cancer (and then other afflictions—poverty, racism, crime, mental disability, alzheimer's). I was wondering how Jesus feels about what the church is doing regarding these issues. Sometimes religion seems so ethereal. I think I understand why some people think religion is a feel-good drug.

I wonder if I would get bonus points if I started my fast early and skipped the church business meeting tonight.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

My favorite table at the espresso shop puts my back to the wall. The sidewalk outside is at my left. So Harold was only three feet away as he walked past. He’s probably about half way between my dad and me in age. Over the years our extended families have created an informal mutual admiration federation. It put a smile on my face when he stopped, turned, and came in to chat a while.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

If the phone rings at 3:00 a.m. at my house, it is probably someone who has had so much to drink they can’t read or dial a phone number. The potential for a 3:00 a.m. phone call at the White House has me thinking about other calls (delivered by telephone or in other ways):
The result from the PET scan.
Notice that a spouse’s tour of duty has been extended.
Word that the tumor is back.
An aging parent with a catastrophic health incident.
The company is making cutbacks and you are being laid off.
And when the phone rings when a teenage son or daughter is out late with friends, you hope it’s nothing more than wanting a ride home.

International issues are important and so are the issues that touch our friends on a more personal level.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. At Hometown Friends even a hot dog vendor can deliver the message. He’s a seminary-trained hot dog vendor who can find God’s call in custodial work, currier service, or concessions. What I’m hearing is that what we do outside the church is more important than what we do inside. But I’m not hearing the cynicism and criticism regarding the organized church that is expected from the young and restless.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A big long nail—the kind used with rain gutters—went through the bottom and out the side of our tire. When I went to the tire shop this morning I was counting on an interesting magazines on the table in the waiting area. A guy I know was reading a book as he waited, so I put an end to that by sitting near him and starting a conversation.

After his car was ready I noticed a man who came in and looked familiar. I’m not good at recognizing faces or remembering names. So I embarrass myself if I take some initiative and miss an opportunity if I don’t. If it was who I thought it might be, he is a forester and his last name is Smith. Without being able to come up with a first name that matched, I introduced myself watching for any sign that he recognized my name or face. It paid off. We kept visiting even after the serviceman brought my keys. My life is a little richer for having taken a chance.