Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I didn’t take the time to read the feature article about stress in this morning’s paper. I felt the clock ticking on a busy day and I was feeling some pressure from the things that need to be done yesterday. January has gone so fast and it seems I’m loosing ground. I glanced at the questions in a little quiz that gives some indication of stress level. I noticed journaling in the list of things that can help counteract stress. Then it was time to move on with the demands of the day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saturday I was going through some magazines and noted an ad for a book titled Thrift published by Templeton Foundation Press. The price was $34.95. It’s a 9x11 inches, 360 pages, and evidently has a lot of black and white photos. A book of this size with photos can justify a $34.95 price tag, but I feel some incongruence. A $34.95 book that “showcases a beautiful and historic collection of thrift artifacts and memorabilia from around the world”—there’s something about it that would make me uncomfortable to have it on my coffee table. The magazine where I saw the ad was a few months old and when I checked Amazon I was pleased to see the book in paperback at half the price. But I didn’t order it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The welcome has been extended, the scripture has been read, and now the four guys leading the music this morning are on the platform with drums, guitars, and a bass. I’m aware of how some feel about this kind of music and I’m letting this distract me. I’m wondering how the old hymn with the “Thy” and “Thine” language came into the mix. Did it involve capitulation? Or do young people tolerate (and appreciate) a variety of music more than old people do? My guess is both are true, but that the second is more the case than the first.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I was probably among those who thought Barack Obama’s inaugural address would have some oratorical highlight with an obvious potential of becoming historical. I expect Obama knew this crowd already had enough emotional adrenalin flowing. January 20 was his day to begin governing and to call a country to address the challenges of change. This was a time for a resolute presentation of critical issues. There will be other days when he will use oratory to target emotions as well as the mind.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Is the optimism that accompanies the inauguration of Barack Obama justified? Absolutely. Not because the new president has the power and wisdom to solve all the problems facing our country and world, but because hope is contagious and despair is crippling.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When the election of the first Black U.S. President has been referred to as the fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream, I’ve cringed. Does this historic (and highly significant) event mean we have done something substantive to address the disparity between the rich and the poor? Does justice roll down like water? Did prejudice become a thing of the past on November 4? Was greed abolished? Have we abandoned the attitudes and tools of violence? Can the current racial divide that is so evident in socio-economic statistics be ignored when talking about Martin Luther King’s dream?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. I’m sitting just one row up from the back of the sanctuary and one of the pillars that support the balcony is in a direct line between me and the pulpit. A moment ago I was visually aligning the pillar with vertical lines in the structure of the wall at the back of the platform. It all looks square and solid. I had another attention lapse earlier when I was trying to get the spot in my variable lenses where I could see clearly the small print of the credits at the bottom of the screen.

But I didn’t miss the heartfelt prayer for our country and our new President. And I didn’t miss the reminder that among us and all around us are hurting people who are suffering in a medical crisis, crippled by a moral failure, or wounded emotionally to the point of feeling that love and hope are out of reach.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered—but I’m not one of them. When I went to bed last night, I thought I would take my feeble back to church this morning. I changed my mind and now I’m in the family room watching Meet the Press instead of filling a space on a pew. David Gregory’s second panel of guests includes Alvin Poussaint, Bill Cosby, Maxine Waters, and Adrian Fenty. The inauguration of the first African-American president in a week and 2 days seems to be the reason for this set of guests, but the discussion is about social issues instead of being about a political event. If Cosby’s remarks were a Sunday morning sermon, the three points complete with alliteration might be: change, choices, and challenge.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I’ve been having trouble with my back this week. It started Monday and midweek I phoned for a doctor’s appointment. There was an opening for Friday morning that I took, but I was thinking: Surely I’ll be better by then. I wasn’t.

This week I’ve thought about my dad when it hurts to get up from sitting on a chair, when putting on my socks and shoes is painful, and when I use the "buttocks first" approach for getting in the car. My temporary discomfort isn’t significant enough that I can claim to empathize with my dad’s mobility issues, but it does remind me to sympathize.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

It’s Sunday morning and the faithful have gathered. The presentation on “Why give regularly?” has me thinking about ratios. I’m thinking that if it weren’t for overhead, one out of every eleven people in the church could be released to do ministry. To me this thought is as interesting as it is unrealistic.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The story about Gaza in The Oregonian is several pages in from the front and didn’t include any numbers of deaths in Gaza or in Israel. During Israel’s eight days of military attacks on the Gaza Strip, the number of Palestinians killed now exceeds 450. The last I heard, the number of Israelis killed was 4.

I remember an episode in the television series The West Wing in which President Bartlett was confronted with the principle of proportional response. A plane with the President’s personal physician and other American citizens had been shot down killing all on board. An angry Bartlett interrupts as the Joint Chiefs of Staff outline response options. “What is the virtue of a proportional response? Why is it good?” The President goes back and forth with his chief of staff, and an admiral about the nature of a proportional response and then the admiral says there is nothing virtuous but it’s all there is. An enraged Bartlett says there is another option—a disproportional response. “Let the word ring worth from this time and this place, gentlemen, you kill an American, any American, we don’t come back with a proportional response, we come back,” his hand hits the table and rattles the glasses, “with total disaster.”

Bartlett subdued his passion for revenge before he issued his order. Israel hasn’t.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Brain tumors are really bad news. Medical science has made significant advances in how to treat them. But treatment is not cure. Andrew had surgery and treatment during his junior year of high school. In September he started his senior year.

My observation is that when a brain tumor comes back, it’s vicious and intense. For Andrew it did come back and Tuesday night it took his life.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)