Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food and Climate Change

Good morning, Foodies of the realm!

I'll bet you ate today. I did. We take food for granted, don't we? Maybe we shouldn't. After all, in recorded human history, the plenty we have enjoyed here in America, despite the Dust Bowl days, is nearly a complete anomaly.

Never have so many needed to feed every day from this planet and its life support systems. And never has human activity so heavily altered those very systems with a relentless and ongoing assault.

Consider this: People warned us that our financial system and sudden boom of apparent wealth was built on a house of cards. But we plunged full speed ahead anyway. Sure, some people got mortgages for homes they could not afford. But lenders were only too willing to give them ever bigger ones when alarm bells should have been sounding all over the place.

But here's the real kicker: The Big Shot bankers and creators of "financial instruments" were only too eager to bundle, buy, sell, repackage and overvalue all this trash TO US AND TO EACH OTHER--KNOWING FULL WELL THAT IT WAS TRASH, THAT IT COULD NOT LAST FOREVER, THAT IT WAS BASED ON FICTION AND DENIAL, AND THAT SOMEDAY IT WOULD CRASH. We all had a hand. We were all only too happy to have a fattening IRA or 401K with visions of how well we could retire, the house we could suddenly afford--not by saving or flipping burgers but by flipping dwellings.

But wasn't it one hell of a joyride while it lasted? It's like taking a brand new Corvette, stomping the gas full to the floor and heading straight for the biggest concrete bridge abutment a mile down the road at 185 MPH. One hell of a joyride! While it lasted...

It didn't. The crash was predictable and predicted. But we wouldn't listen. After all, we had a war to fight on credit. We couldn't actually be asked to pay as we went. That might hurt our precious economy!

Yeah, and we needed a wildly growing economy (at least on paper) to even come close to living within the delusionally cooked federal books based on the lie that deficits didn't matter and that nobody would actually have to pay. Ever. We would "grow" our way out of irresponsibility. Yeah, right--when all our stuff is made in China. Yeah, right!

Didn't work. Never has and never will.

Consider these three questions:

1. Are we any better prepared to head off climate change disaster than we had prepared ourselves to head off financial disaster?

2. Are we any better prepared to head off food disasters and famines--even here in our own country--than we were prepared to head off financial disaster?

3. Is question 2 in any way shape or form dependent on question 1?

As you ponder the above, ponder this: .

Didn't we say for the past decade that we could not actually severely limit our anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases and other causes of global warming because it might "hurt our economy"?

What economy can there possibly be without the healthy life support systems of earth? Answer me that, and I'll totally shut up forever.

Otherwise,...let's talk and be about repentance and prayer.

Meanwhile, devour the Spring 2009 issue of yes! Magazine. It's all about food: . You can even get a free trial issue. Free. The economy gets a mention, too. The real one. There's a metric ton of stuff you and I can do. Right now.


Pastor Roger

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rollin' with Rob Bell: Rich

Evenin', PDX!

Ever had a garage sale? Ever give anything away? Ever put anything into storage?

Have more stuff than you can use? Ever thought of yourself as rich? Maybe not. But consider this:

Do you have clean water? a dry place to sleep? heat? electricity? a place to shower? clean clothes? Ever been to a doctor, hospital, or dentist?

Have a car? phone?

Isn't that the definiton of rich? It is to most people in the world.

But hear Rob Bell tell it much, much better:

722o SE 39th Avenue. 7 PM. Wednesday, February 25, 2009.

NOOMA CONTINUES!!! Bring friends!


Pastor Roger

Monday, February 23, 2009

Double Your Garden Space: Mayday! Mayday!

Blue Monday, PDX!

In my head I imagine the formatted interchange between an airline pilot and the nearest air traffic control center, "Wall Street Center" (WSC). The aircraft's registration is NDJIA (per NATO practice: November-Delta-Juliet-India-Alpha). Of course, those letters could also stand for "newest Dow-Jones Industrial Average". Think about it...

NDJIA: Uh, Wall Street Center, November Delta Juliet India Alpha is with you.

WSC: India Alpha, have you radar contact. Confirm heading.

NDJIA: Uh, Wall Street, India Alpha heading south, one-eight-zero degrees, and requesting lower.

WSC: Negative, India Aplha, ascend and maintain ten-thousand, one-zero thousand.

NDJIA: Uh, Wall Street, unable to ascend, sir. Unable to ascend to one-zero and unable to maintain current.

WSC: India Alpha, maintain current altitude. Will divert other traffic. State your current

NDJIA: Uh, Wall Street... Uh, India Alpha is out of eight thousand and passing through seven.

WSC: India Alpha, urgent you maintain seven thousand.

NDJIA: Unable, Wall Street. India Alpha unable to maintain seven. Leaving seven for six.

WSC: India Alpha, state altitude you are able to maintain.

NDJIA: Uh, Wall Street, losing power. All engines out and restart unsuccessful. Mayday! Mayday!

WSC: India Alpha, state altitude you are able to maintain. (silence)

WSC: India Alpha, state altitude you are able to maintain, sir. (repeats several times, no

11:56:32 GMT: radar contact is lost, transcript ends

So, kiddos. My advice for 2009: Don't open your IRA, 401K statements. Save the paper and use it as fire starter material.

Oh, one more thing. Double your garden space. Stores jammed with food may be hard to come by, come August. Stores may be hard to come by. Jobs may be harder to come by.

What are you gonna eat? Far fetched? I don't think so.

Double your garden space at the beginning of the season. Come August it will be far too late. You read it here first.


Pastor Roger

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Artists In Non-Residence

2/20, PDX!

Where have all the artists gone?

For two decades I have pondered this quote by the late Joseph Sittler whose mind and gift of insight I prize above nearly all others:

In the uses of literature, the uses of art, I find our intellectual obligation being unfulfilled. We simply are not cultivated people in our time. Of the old church an ancient historian said, "The church in the first three centuries won the empire because it outlived, it out-thought, and it outdied the pagan world"--including in intellectual and artistic achievement.

But much of the intellectual and aesthetic life within the contemporary congregation is simply contemptible. . . How is it possible that our church social room should be filled with pictures that are mostly "Kitsch", to use that eloquent German word, when centuries of artists have taken religious symbols and given them eloquent expression?

Take a look at the bulletin covers in your church. Are they stock photos as flavorless as unsalted saltines? Or are they even worse, some of those clip art line drawings that trivialize and demean the breadth and depth of parables, miracles and creation to something bordering on a coloring sheet for pre-schoolers?

Take a good look next time you have a bulletin in you hand. What does it really communicate about the magnitude of God? What does it say about you and your church?

Where have all the artists gone?


Pastor Roger

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Record Club of America meets Facebook

2/18, PDX!

Back before the last ice age, back when Jean and I were living in Turkey during my USAF enlistment, we were members of Record Club of America (RCOA) for a time. It was around the peak time of popular music's golden age. All kinds of new work being done. Innovative, creative, but not over-produced and categorized by the big record labels. Not yet. All thanks to the pressures of the Vietnam War era, the cross-fertilization of many creative talents and styles, and the Japanese production of all kinds of high quality stereo system components.

GI's serving overseas could buy stereo gear that ran on 110 or 220-volt AC of either 50 or 60 Hz at very reasonable prices. A bit heavy by today's standards due to transistors instead of the current microchips, but able to produce great sound and audio frequency response.

One way to buy the latest music at more reasonable prices was to join RCOA. Jean and I did for a time. New catalogs came out regularly with special deals. Pick-of-the-month records were automatically mailed according to your tastes: rock, folk, country, soul, blues, Motown, jazz.
I thought I could keep up, have all the latest stuff, that somehow a couple of years down the road I'd have this really neat and complete record collection. How utterly, bloody naive! No way on God's planet to keep up. The free market will always run ahead of insatiable demand with unlimited abundance. We soon dropped RCOA and only grudingly added a new record here and there. We already had more music to enjoy than we had time for. More was available than we had money for.

Yesterday, NPR had a great program discussing Facebook. Most people missed it because they were too busy Facebooking...

Yep. You can now drag every person you've ever known around with you, along with all you ever did, for an eternity that will outlast our galaxy. Forget immortality. Digital photography now enables every millisecond of your life to be eternally pixellated and blasted into cyberspace at the speed of light. I know parents who have, I swear, documented their child's entire life on her blog and probably a Facebook interface. Probably 800,000 words written, 1000 pictures posted. Videos with sound already posted in perpetuity about their child who before the little tyke is even a year old.

But can they keep up?

Can anybody keep up with keeping up with everybody they ever knew and didn't? Obviously they assume so. I know some great 20-something's who are all wired and facebooked like an overbooked Jet Blue flight. They think they can keep up. They don't have children yet. I want to caution, "Don't get too addicted to constant interruptions and over-networking, to being universally availalbe 24/7/356. The downer will kill you and your eventual kids."

Children had already perfected the art of shredding adults' time schedules and routines before this frenetic sound-bite, over-interlinked, warp-drive world we are entering. Don't get too addicted, y'all! Don't get your sense of time and availability too whacked by all this. Otherwise, the withdrawal will be absolute hell to go through. Or else it will tremendously short-change the adult-child time your children absolutely require of you, which no one else can give them, which can never be recovered if passed over because we were too busy texting, cell-phoning, blackberrying, and Facebooking to notice.

Get ready for attention spans measured in nanoseconds, deep reflection on deep matters measured only in the millionths of a millimeter, abandonment of "human relationships" as a concept.

Kathryn Jakobson Ramin, in her wonderful book about the mind titled Carved In Sand, reminds us, or redsicovers for us, that the human brain and our identity as we have known it is not built to take the deluge of information and images endlessly hurled at it every day. We need a certain amount of deep sleep to purge and clean our mental houses, to do repair work in our brains.

In the same way, our lives need to purge and clean house, too. There's too much of the past to not let much of it go.

Hang up and drive. Book off and live. Pay attention to your kids and the earth on which you live. Know the people you know now, and know them deeply. Knowing is not the same as interfacing.

Human civilization never got to be civilization by being cut into ever-shorter strands of spaghetti that were instantly sent to every household and blue tooth in the universe.

As Joni Mitchell sang years ago in that musical golden age, "You sure do miss the silence when it's gone."

Be careful, modern world. You think you can keep up. I ain't so sure.


Pastor Roger

Monday, February 16, 2009

L. N. A. Y.

Hi, PDX!

You shall love your neighbor as yourself (LNAY). Leviticus 19:18.

Funny thing about love, though. Can't do it anonymously. Try it. I defy you.

Other than God's instruction to care for creation, LNAY is the oldest and most continuous instruction in all of Judeo-Christian scripture. Jesus quoted Leviticus. Apostle Paul quoted Jesus and Leviticus. The concept has staying power.

I once used those words I frequently hear: "I minister to the homeless, the low-income, the mentally ill in downtown Portland." Then someone helped me hear and see my words., especially that preposition "to". Implies a one-way street, doesn't it? They need it. I have it. I give it to them. Or I do it to them. Very up/down. So very have/have-not. Ouch!

I learned instead to use the preposition "with". I minister with. . . the (fill in the blank). Better. More equal... Right? Not really. The problem has simply migrated.

Why do we talk about the homeless, the mentally ill, the low-income, the drug-addicted, the poor and needy (saw that in a church bulletin yesterday), the_________________? Fill in the blank?

Labels lump everyone into a single category, the implication often being a category of person unlike me. Putting the in front of the category might only add three letters. It also adds a distance of a thousand miles. I can't love someone so remote from me. Heck, I can't even love my back yard neighbor 30 feet outside my window unless I actually get to know my neighbor.

But when I do, everything changes. Now my neighbor becomes a real human being to me. When I know who my neighbor is; when I know my neighbor's story, my neighbor's identity and my neighbor's name, I know more than my neighbor's category or a convenient label. In fact, I find that labels don't even fit. They only get in the way.

When I know my neighbor and have a relationship with a unique human being, then and only then can I begin to love my neighbor.

But first I must begin to know and love myself. Otherwise, how can I present a whole and unique human being back to my neighbor? We are in this together. Now love can finally grow. Not before.

Without knowing my neighbor I can be compassionate, helpful, even kind. I can also stand in judgment of my neighbor quite conveniently from the perch of not knowing, from behind the fortress of a label. In fact, judgment practically demands some kind of separation.

Jesus wasn't real big on judgment. Neither was Paul a'la Romans 2.

Without knowing, I can judge but I cannot love. You try it. I defy you. I am called to love. So are you. We are not called to like our neighbors; aren't called to dislike 'em either. We are called to love. Loving and liking are vastly different things, not simply two shades of the same color.

Maybe ol' God knew what God was talking about way back when. Maybe God still does.

After 62 years of not getting it very right on this planet, maybe at last my understanding has cracked open. We will never make progress, I am firmly convinced, on anything we see as a problem in society until we stop seeing problems and start seeing people. Name any problem you want: homelessness, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, gangs, sexual abuse, mentall illness, poverty, substance abuse, illiteracy, immigration, terrorism, global warming, hunger--or our newest god, the economy. We get nowhere until we start seeing and knowing people dissolved of their labels.

Only then can we love. Only then can the Spirit of Christ live among us and come to us through each other.

What? Did we think economic growth would somehow fix all problems including other people? Really? Has economic growth ever fixed us? Hasn't economic growth caused a whole hell of a lot of the problems we fixate on now?

When God told us to love our neighbors, God was really telling us to get to know our neighbors, not Princess Di or some starlet or hunk on American Idol. Maybe ol' God knew what God was talking about way back when. Maybe God still does.

LNAY even works with enemies, not just strangers or neighbors we don't know.


Pastor Roger

P.S. Lev. 19:18 is one glove. It has a mate: Lev. 19:33-34. It might be nice to stop using Leviticus as an ammunition dump that fuels holy war. Instead, may we see there the fingerprints of God pointing us to Christ: LNAY.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rob Bell--off and rolling!

Hi, PDX!

A little more winter sneaks in each day, but the buds are bulging. Spring is lurking out there. . . somewhere.

But it's warm and inviting where Rob Bell shares his amazing gifts of insight. We had a great conversation following the first DVD, BREATHE, last Wednesday, 2/11.

LUGGAGE will keep your attention the whole time this coming Wednesday, 2/18. Think about hw much we carry around that we could let go of. And need to. . . And we aren't just talking suitcases here!

7220 SE 39th Avenue (Holy Trinity Church). 7 PM. Coffee. Conversation. The gifts of the Spirit. Gently. . .

Bring a friend.


Pastor Roger

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rob Bell Rollout--NOOMA in Lent

Hi, PDX!

A little rain to remind us of where we live. That's a good thing.

Where we live... Something VERY exciting is coming to where we live. His name is
Rob Bell, and we'll be rolling him out at our first NOOMA in Lent gathering next Wednesday evening, 7 PM at 7220 SE 39th Ave. (just down the road a piece from Woodstock).

NOOMA? Trade mark for a spirited piece of work. Anglicization of "pneuma", Greek for spirit or breath.

Rob Bell talks out in the real world: in/on a subway train, at an auto repair shop, in an airport gate area, outside a stadium, in a restaurant, walking down a wet street lined with cars held up by paramedics and fire fighters at the scene of a two-car accident. Life happens...

Rob Bell talks the way real people do in their private conversations with God and with friends. No fear. No apologies. Nothing but honesty, for once.

Rob Bell won't answer all your questions. Maybe he'll even give you a pile of new ones. But he will lead you on a journey that will bring freshness and hope and wonder to your spiritual path.

All in 10-13 minutes each week. Then there will be 45 minutes for us to exchange thoughts and reflect over coffee. Or tea.

2/11: "Breathe". What does it mean to have life and breath? Is each breath speaking the name of God? Is the breath of God in us? Does life allow us the time to breathe?

Six weeks, starting 2/11. 7 PM. Done by 8 PM. Fun. Free. Bring friends.

LENT. It's not the yucky in your drier vent. It's a journey...

And, yes, we know Lent doesn't start 'til 2/25; but we want to wind up before Spring Break. So we will on 3/18.


Pastor Roger

Monday, February 2, 2009


Happy new month!

Two down, 26 to go. By the end of this month we'll have another hour of daylight. Yeeeessss!

But the 29th of last month wasn't bad. In fact, it was grand. In a cooperative effort with a Christian student group at Reed College, Koine Community helped bring the film Lord, Save Us From Your Followers! to the Vollum Lecture Hall at Reed. 40+ people attended, among them the film maker and star himself, Dan Merchant.

The students kept Dan talking for more than 90 minutes after the showing, and it was a great conversation. They weren't shy about identifying themselves as atheist, agnostic, Mormon, Catholic or Christian. And they were open to hearing anything Dan had to say--because he had shown them several hours' worth of his willingness to hear what they had to say.

One young woman behind me (that's a redundant statement since I was the oldest person in the audience) spoke up and expressed her frustration about being unheard and unrecognized by Christians. So much so that she found it difficult, if not impossible, to have a conversation with them.

I thought to myself, "Oh, could you only know how long I've felt like I've had a gag stuffed in my mouth here in the USA!" Christianity is not monolithic. But so often I feel unable to speak as a Christian because I will immediately be thrown into the box of stereotypes labeled as such.

I feel like I'm walking around with a gigantic bar code on my forehead. And the bar code readers of other people will only read the label, not me. We can't honestly know each other unless we get past the labels.

What labels do you use for other people? What labels do you feel them using for you? Do these labels work? At all? Is it time for us to break the bar code?

Oh, by the way. . . That 90-minute-plus conversation at Reed? If you had been there, you'd want to bottle it and take it home to your church or small group. Yep, that good!


Pastor Roger