Sunday, March 29, 2009

God took him this morning

Blessings on this Lord's Day!

This morning during the offering a young man sat at the baby grand and sang:

When I'm lost, please come and find me
And when I forget, please remind me...

He was singing to the Christ on the cross as though he were at the foot of it.

God took Jack this morning. Things went pretty quickly. Pancreatic cancer can do that. Life does that.

As much as we fool ourselves into thinking we have all kinds of time--years or decades--all we ever really have is just one day. One day to live, one day in which to live.

A veteran of Vietnam has died today. And a piece of my heart with him.

The family lives on, and so do you. Be at peace in Christ. Who could want more than this day?

Happy landings, Jack! You can finally "dump collective" now. You're home on a safe LZ.


Pastor Roger

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Father, save me from this hour.

Good, Saturday, PDX!

Friends of ours were in Washington, DC this past week. They got to see and do many things. Saw President Obama as a wreath was laid and 31 new recipients of the Medal of Honor were named and commemorated at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. Found there the gravesite and marker of a blood relative of mine KIA in 1967. Spent time in prayer at the Wall in honor of people I know and of my friend whose life is ebbing as we speak. Gettysburg...
In my mind, I have certainly journeyed with them and recall many images from my time there over 11 years ago.

It puts me in mind of a verse from tomorrow's gospel lesson from the 12th chapter of John. Jesus asks, "What should I say, 'Father, save me from this hour?'"

Perhaps none of us can understand that question in the way that those who have been sent to war do. To know the risks and the costs... And to go anyway... To know what's at stake... To live with that after returning, if one is blessed to do so... Much to ponder...

I don't believe my friend ever made it to the Wall. I don't believe he was ever quite ready. Or able. And now the choice may have moved beyond his reach.

I remember the ending of the poem "In Guernica" to mourn the death of children in the Spanish Civil War: And God will fill the bullet holes with candy.

Maybe we've all been given a basket of that candy. It may not be big enough to fill all the holes. Or many of them. Just some of them. A few.

So what shall we say, "Father save us from this hour?"


Pastor Roger

Monday, March 23, 2009

As A Moral Person Again...

Happy 2nd day of spring!

It takes forever to warm up here in the spring. That's why spring lasts forever here. But this year is later than previous ones and probably not a bad thing for that reason. It had been warming much too early in previous years. So buds are only slowly coming forth.

But I'm not much in the mood to notice today. The gray, rainy weather fits the mood. My best friend is dying. No details unless he gives me the OK to share them.

But this I can say. Some years ago over a beer in the Atlanta Underground I asked him, "How ya doin' anyway? How ya really doing?"

He looked at me and said, "After you've killed other human beings it can be hard to think of yourself as a moral person again."

But he was beginning to do that, to be able to do that.

Pretty damned impressive victory, if you ask me.

We think people who have been in wars and taken human lives should be unscathed, untouched, unmoved by that. That they should return to life and have everything be just like it was before. That they should somehow grin and say they were doing their patriotic duty. Well, most of them can. And do. 10-20%, or so, yeah, they end up all PTSD'd and stuff.

We never ask about whether they feel like moral people after that. We never ask whether they can stand before their own kids and feel like something other than hypocrites. We never ask how the grieving process is going for them personally. There are the ones who show up for memorial ceremonies and July 4 parades and wear VFW hats and carry flags and wave from behind their sunglasses. Hooray for all who can!

And there are those who can't go near such events. Who can't go near their own grief and pain, or it might pop out of the box where they've been able to keep it. So far.

He was beginning to think of himself as moral. Again.... That means that for a good chunk in there somewhere he didn't. He couldn't.

Have you ever offered to carry that burden for someone? Do you think you could carry it yourself?

I know somebody who has. And now he's dying. He's younger than I am, but he's carried a lot more. I'm sad for him and his family. And for the country who has never wanted to know him. I love him greatly. And I will miss him deeply. And I wish him spared of any more pain.

Pray for this family. The next months will be hard.


Pastor Roger

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Greatest Generation

Happy Spring!

May it be so where you are.

I've often pondered the term "greatest generation" made a household word by Tom Brokaw's books on the Americans who fought in World War II and the ones at home who came together as a nation to bear that sacrifice and keep the effort going. It was an enormous undertaking against enormously evil war, ideology and destruction. We can never repay that effort, but we can certainly re-invest the gifts that the effort gave us all. Or, we can throw it all away...

A few years ago I traveled to Penn Yan, NY to set up a machine, calibrate it and train the folks at Penn Yan Aero Service to operate it. Next year, I went back to re-calibrate and recertify them. They are on their own now and doing well with it. On my visits I had opportunity to stroll around this quaint central New York town named for the Pennsylvania Yankee who founded it. It's hilly farming country around Keuka Lake. Up on the high plateau to the north of town are large settlements of simple Christian farm families, some of whom still travel by horse and buggy. Others have adopted the internal comubstion engine but not rubber tires. I saw very late model John Deere diesel tractors on farms, and most of the tractors had enclosed cabs with heaters, perhaps even air conditoning. But they all had the oddest thing--locally fabricated steel wheels, front and rear. Rubber tires would be "hochmutig", pretentiuous.

In a Penn Yan memorial park there is the obligatory statuary and memorial to war dead, and the rusted WWII Howitzer with scratched, faded oilve drab paint and cracked rubber tires. And then there is the sobering statistic on a plaque. 2,000 residents of Yates County served in the Civil War--at a time when the population was about 20,000. One of every 10. In some households, it was every male member above the age of 14. Over 600,000 died in that war. For what?

My generation, the Vietnam Generation, has often been maligned as being weak, misguided, disloyal, for asking why the war being fought was being fought, for asking where we were going, for refusing to fight in it, and for also fighting and dying in it. Three times as many as died in the war later died by their own hand via suicide as a result of the war. We weren't wrong to question. We failed to question enough.

And the Greatest Generation who were then in charge of the war and our country had no answers and no solutions. Even the rightest people can get it wrong sometimes.

But in my book, the title Greatest Generation will much more aptly be bequeathed to the Amercians who are today under the age of 35, IF...

IF they can look at the fiscal mess we are in globally and find a way through it that doesn't lead to the collapse of civilization and World War III.

IF they can do this while at the same time dealing with global warming, climate change and the collapse of world ecosystems in a drastically overpopulated and exhausted world.

IF they can do all this and avert famines and plagues.

That's a lot to ask. I suggest we start praying for our children and start talking with them about the great things they will need to do by beginning now.

It seems impossible to do some days. It is impossible unless we take the first step: STARTING WHAT WE NEED TO DO.

What do YOU think that is?


Pastor Roger

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sixth Anniversary

Sound assembly!

Fly your flags at half staff on March 19 to honor those whose lives have been lost and forever altered since the invasion of Iraq six years ago.


Pastor Roger

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

OPEN: Rob Bell @ his best

Good Morning! And may it be so where you are.

"And when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing..."

I have no idea how old that children's song is. Last time the line above had a redux was during the Watergate scandal of the Nixon presidency. Names like Haldeman, Ehrlichmann (translation: honorable man, Ha!), Mitchell and Dean. To which I added the line, "Agnew takes kickbacks and Nixon's obscene"--as his Watergate tapes revoltingly demonstrated.

And we thought those were disgusting times! How quaint! How childish! AIG bonuses demonstrate that the new American ethic has come to be "pay for non-performance". But, as my former Texas CEO reminded me several years back when a little investment scandal broke, "There's always a taker." Sure enough. We were only too glad to live a lie if it made us feel richer.

But here's an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. It's the opportunity to repent, to do differently, to do better. It's the opportunity to participate in God's ongoing creation of the world and the kingdom of God. I love how Rob Bell gets there in the short film "Open". It took 50 extras with their cars, six firefighters with their truck and the Jaws of Life, a hospital and police cars to film this work. It's about prayer like nothing you have seen before.

I guarantee that it will move you. As should each day of life in God's ongoing creation of the world.

OPEN. Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 7220 SE 39th Avenue. 7 PM. FREE. Bring friends.


Pastor Roger

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What's God Up 2?

Blessings on the Lord's Day!

We have never hung around the "prosperity Gospel" wing of Christianity. Growing up in rural eastern Nebraska, I learned a very different posture. Don't show off your stuff. Too much. Don't tell your friends at school that your parents just bought a new car. When we drive it to church the first time, don't show it to anyone. Pretend it dropped from the sky and your family had no choice, didn't know. Walk past and pretend not to notice.

Funny, since everybody I knew thought buying a new car was the coolest thing anybody could ever do or aspire to.

But there's a big shake-up going on around the country. Lots of people losing jobs, facing financial trouble, applying for food stamps for the first time. And the crest of the wave probably is months or years off. Read more about the local scale of it at:
(Sorry if the above link only gets you to the newspaper website. Click on the name David Sarasohn, and it will be the second featured story.)

Sooner or later, the prosperity Gospel that seemed to work so well during the housing bubble is bound to prove to be a hoax to a few fervent practitioners of it. Maybe God isn't so much trying to "teach us a lesson", as we often want to think when someone suffers, but to plant the seeds of a different way of life in which no one does well unless all do. And that means having more of what we honestly need, not having ever more of what it's possible to want. There is a difference.

I like the way Rob Bell puts it in his short film OPEN. God wants to involve us in the answer to prayer. As Bell says, "Don't ask God to feed a hungry person if you have plenty of food."

Could God be up to a different kind of prosperity than we had imagined or hoped for?

I hope so.


Pastor Roger

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Consumer to Producer

Happy Saturday!

Daylight is returning, even on somewhat rainy days. In just a week we will have more daylight than darkness. Drumroll!!!

Food. Time. Life. How we think about our lives here and what we are for. Sometimes the most earth shaking changes take place inside our heads when one day we open or close our eyes and something clicks. All at once, we see the world differently and we are able to do things differently. Because we now understand differently.

It was like that for Harriet Fasenfest. One day she awoke and thought about living in her house and yard differently and her life began to shift from consumer to producer. Read about her at:

Harriet now produces food on her property, more than ever. She helps other people produce food on theirs, but it's about more than food. It's a different way of thinking about ourselves, a different way of thinking about what we do with our time. Different thinking about the little patch of land we hold for so brief a time.

I guess the term "American consumer" came into use sometime after WWII when I was a youngster. Industrial production in the US had reached levels never before known on earth. With a war over, we could turn the effort into making more wonderful new stuff to own. Thus we came to think of ourselves in a whole new way: consumers. However, as more and more of the stuff came to be produced elsewhere, we ceased to be producers. Sound familiar?

We can't go on like that forever. So Harriet Fasenfest is pushing into new/old thinking and new/old ways of living on her property and in her community: as a "house holder" not as a housekeeper or homemaker, as a producer rather than a consumer.

In this Sunday's gospel text from John 2, Jesus drives the money changers and the sellers of temple merchandise and sacrificial animals from the temple. The temple was understood to be the place where God lived on earth. Jesus wants it to again be a house of prayer where God produces the benefits of prayer in people, rather than having the temple be a consumer of their resources and meager wealth in the endless round of sacrifices.

Are our temples today producers or consumers? What are we? Is there a way for us to use our freedoms much more productively? Harriet can inspire us. She can open our eyes.

Happy producing!


Pastor Roger

Friday, March 13, 2009

They hate our freedoms...


TGIF. It was an expression before it became a resaurant/bar chain. Ubiquifood. Can you tell the difference between Applebee's, Chili's, Chevy's and Red Robin?

THOF. "They hate our freedoms." That's what former Pres. Bush often said about why the US was attacked by terrorists. Having not just crawled out from under a rock, having lived a few places besides here, and having read a little bit of history, I could never keep a straight face when I heard George W. say that. I think it had more to do with how the West has messed around in the other parts of the world.

You can't explain the clash of a Medieval world view with ours and a bunch of ugly history of Western inteventions on the basis of other people's ideas about women's suffrage or whether people of color are actually human or not. After all, we've been pretty doggone confused about these things ourselves here in Consumerland.

THOF. Ain't the question. Question is, do we? As in, "Do we hate our freedoms?" Do we love them enough to actually exercise them? Since that's what the Afghan and Iraq wars were supposed to be about, are we actually living like free people? When we say that the young (mostly) troops died in the deserts and remote mountains of the Middle East and Central Asia to keep us free, do we really mean that? Do we mean it enough to lift a finger?

When was your right to vote, speak, read, write, associate or worship put into jeopardy by Saddam Hussein? The Taliban? Al Qaeda?

When did you last exercise one of these rights? If you tell me last November I may become ill.

This morning I again contacted all three of my (our) representatives in Congress. It took me 11 minutes to send a two-paragraph original message to all three of them. I started a week ago. I've been doing it every day this week. "Nationalize the banks," I say. "Get going. The longer we wait, the more our economy slows, the more people suffer, the longer we delay a turnaround. The more unprepared and unable we are to meet the challenges of a future, crowded world. Call an emergency summit on the economy. Today."

I've told my reps that if there is no action this week to make things better I will contact them 10 times a day next week, 100 times a day the week after. Don't know if I can do it, but silence is not an option.

No military on earth can keep us free if we refuse to be, if we refuse to act like free people.

11 minutes. That's all it took. Faster typists with faster computers could easily do it in about five. How hard is that?


The question still is, do we?


Pastor Roger

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Take This Cross And ...

Good morning, PDX!

There was that country song back when. "Take this job and shove it. I ain't workin' here no more." That's what people could say back in those now remote 90's when our economy couldn't fill all the jobs out there. Back when, as a Texas CEO once told me, "This economy is amazing. We're producing all we can, and that's not enough so we have to get the rest produced overseas."

Interesting way to look at it. Seems like another world now. It was.

But back to that title. Mark 8:31-38 was the gospel text for last Sunday. In context, Jesus has taken the boys (probably what most of his disciples actually were, not white-haired old men) to Caesarea Philippi and asked, "Who do people say I am? More importantly, who do you say that I am?" Caesarea Philippi was like the Las Vegas strip of the day. Or maybe like the strip clubs on Columbia Boulevard, or practically any boulevard, in Portland. Or maybe like the sex industry hub of Bangkok. Peter blurts the right answer, but it's shallow.

When Jesus goes on to explain that his job here will put him crosswise with the religious leaders of the day, will involve rejection, suffering and death, Peter will have none of it. He thinks he gets it and that Jesus doesn't. Jesus needs to be straightened out. Obviously. Jesus goes on to straighten Peter out, says that the followers will need to take up their crosses and follow. But the cross wasn't a piece of jewelry or a ubiquitous grave marker or roadside memorial with flowers and teddy bears around it.

It was like being waterboarded, drawn and quartered, hung and electrocuted all at once. For hours. And Rome did it to dissidents and misfits. Jerusalem would do it too if they felt threatened.

But hold it! Didn't Jesus say that he would be rejected by the church leaders of his day? Hmmm.

Last Sunday night at Operation Nightwatch worship I asked the folks who they would want to spend a day with if they had their choice. Could be anyone, living or dead. I got the best range of answers I've ever had to that question. In churches people always say Jesus first. At ONW worship, I heard the prophet Amos. Then Leonardo da Vinci. More. Jesus was fourth or fifth on the list.

We always assume that we would recognize the person we idolize or admire and would want to spend time with. Maybe they would be very different from our expectations. Maybe it would be a big disappointment and we'd come away confused or angry rather than enlightened. Because maybe the person we got to know didn't turn out to be the person that we had wanted to know.

Jesus is saying that the church leaders of his day would get it very wrong and would press for the death sentence because of it. And of all people on earth, they should have been the ones to instantly recognize Jesus for whom and what he was. They should have seen God at work, but they didn't. They wouldn't. They couldn't. They'd say, "Take this Messiah and shove it!"

That should give us great pause, especially if we are some kind of Big Shot or even a Little Shot in the church of our day. Do we actually know the Jesus that we preach? Have we even met yet? What would happen if we did?

Are we about doing God's work, or are we about institutional preservation? Can we see what God needs and what people need or only what our budget and building and program need? Is our church trying to face 2009 with a worldview from the 90's?

Perhaps it's time we and the real Jesus met.

If we were asked to turn our church building into a greenhouse and plow up the parking lot to make a community garden in order to feed our neighbors--to actually create a COMMUNITY of neighbors--what would we say?

Would we say, "Here I am, Lord. Let's get started!"

Could we follow Christ without our temple?

Or would we say, "Take this cross and shove it!"


Pastor Roger

P.S. The gospel text for this coming Sunday cuts us no slack.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NAME: Rob Bell NOOMA no. 5

Hello, Ruby Tuesday!

Well, maybe it's only a rhinestone Tuesday. Or a plastic one. But at least it's Tuesday.

That means that tomorrow, 3/11, is Wednesday and time for another stunning Rob Bell short film: NAME. It takes a stack of embossed T-shirts. And a handful of models to take them off before the camera. They're wearing more than one.

So do we. We wear more than one name, more than one label, more than one identity.

So what is our name? Who are we, really? And how much of our pain in life comes from not knowing how to answer that question?

When: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 -- 7:00 PM.
Where: 7220 SE 39th Avenue, Portland, USA.
Film: NAME
Cost: Nado. Just like grace.

NOOMA. Rob Bell's stunning breath of fresh air in Christian thinking. Bring a friend.


Pastor Roger

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Barry Eichengreen

Good evening, PDX!

All week long I've been thinking about the free forum I went to Monday PM at Reed College. Macroeconomist, Dr. Barry Eichengreen of UC-Berkeley, made a presentation titled "The Financial Crisis--How We Got Here and Where We're Headed". I wish many more people could have attended. The little lecture hall in the Psychology Dept. was stuffed to overflowing. Highlights:

1. We are tracking 1929 very closely.
2. It's global, and demand for almost everything is down everywhere, including for our stuff overseas.
3. The longer the job shedding goes on, the more self-perpetuating it becomes. Even if a massive program to help homeowners on the edge takes hold in a major way, it won't stem the tide of new foreclosures and people walking away from their homes due to job losses. Supply will be far ahead of demand for at least a year or more.
4. The stimulus package wasn't big enough. 40% of the US economy is consumer stuff, and the slowdown will suck $3 trillion out of the economy this year. $800 billion in stimulus is peanuts compared to 3 trill.
5. The Obama Administration should end the charade of the "stress test" for banks. It's wasting time. All the major banks are basically insolvent today. The only way forward is to nationalize the banks, chop out the toxic debt parts, and sell the rest off as newly privatized entities. Nothing (good) will happen until we do that, and the longer we wait, the more it will cost. And the longer we delay arresting our fall and starting a turnaround.
6. The earliest we might expect improvement would be two years from now. The longer we piddle, the longer we stretch that out. It could be 10 years--if ever.
7. Construction jobs won't be coming back anytime soon.
8. (In response to my question) we have only about the next 7-8 months to get the right things in place. After that, the 2010 Congressional election campaign begins; and people will be told that we should have gone with all tax cuts and no spending in the stimulus bill; told that's why things are bad, that we need to change course. This line won't necessarily be true, but it will sell well because Americans alive today expect instant results and have not experienced hard times such as the ones we are entering. We will likely make adjustments in 2010 that may be the wrong thing. At least there's the danger.

This will be a "long, hard slog", to quote an infamous former SecDef.

Oh, and there was this. We knew July-August 2007 that we had a major problem on our hands. It took us 18 months to get a coherent response to it. His words. I'm not sure we have a coherent response yet. We're about three months behind in our official recogniton of the severity of what workers and households know by getting up each day: It ain't happenin' here anymore.

The days of having people use their home equities at ATM's are SO over! And far too much of our vaunted "growth" was based on precisely that.

One other thing. Tax cuts won't create jobs. People are socking away everything they can. That motor home/RV maker, Monaco Coach, that I wrote about in the last post? Say we gave the company a nice fat corporate tax cut. Their market is gone. The money people used to buy those luxury homes on wheels is gone. Think Monaco will call people back to make another 150-200 of those big heaps when no one is ordering and they can't sell the inventory they have?

Those living-wage jobs with benefits are gone, and they aren't coming back in the lifetimes of most of the former employees. That won't turn around in 16 months. The future will be different.

But why didn't we start doing something back there around July-August of '07?
Two answers.
1) We were all obsessed with whether the surge in Iraq was working and what that meant for presidential elections.
2) Both parties were obsessed with the jockeying leading up to the New Hampshire primary, the Iowa caucuses, and which state could get the most campaign dollars and news crews tramping through with candidates in tow. The last thing either party wanted, especially the one that was in the White House at the time, was to be honest about bad news with the economy.

It's the economy, stupid. Famous words. So even though our real purchasing power was shrinking, the White House managed to convince itself (and us) that we were actually better off. And we bought it. After all, American Idol was on.

Construction jobs in Bend, Oregon? Not anytime soon.

Love your neighbor as yourself!


Pastor Roger

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rush is Rong!

Evenin', PDX!

Been a big flap lately over Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Dittohead, Sr.

Rusher said of President Obama's (alleged) shift toward liberal policies, "I hope he fails." People took the words out of context and reacted as if Rusher'd said he hoped President Obama fails as president. Pays to get our stories straight.

That said, I don't think there is much chance that President Obama can succeed at a whole lot. Things are pretty messed up, and we aren't near the edge of the woods or the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. A lot going on. Pakistan about to come apart. Iraq may be gearing up for the civil war it hasn't really had yet. N. Korea going nuke again. Iran, too. Israel and Gaza...

A lot going down. 2,000 employees at Monaco Coach in Coburg, OR, got notice of termination on Monday. That's after being furloughed (read: unpaid) since December. Even if things turned around next month, their jobs aren't coming back this decade. Company filed chapter 11 yesterday. Who wants to buy a motor home manufacturer? Who wants to buy a motor home? GM about to declare bankruptcy. Who wants to buy a Tahoe or an Escalade? Same answer to all questions.

Anybody want a Chrysler or a PT Cruiser? 10 homes foreclosing every day in Oregon's answer to LA: Bend. Construction jobs? More on that later...

Back to Rush. Years ago I coined a succinct statement for a proposed bumper sticker:


Now, my assessment of Rush Limbaugh is not formed by the current flap over the f-word (as in fail). No, for a couple of years I had to listen to him daily on Jim the Shipping Clerk's radio. (I inherited the radio when the company closed. I vowed to never again hear the voice of Rush Limbaugh through its speaker. I haven't.)

After all that time I concluded one thing. Rush Limbaugh is interested not in the success of the country but the success of Rush Limbaugh. He will use the Republican Party, or anyone else, to further himself. His goal in his broadcasts is to stir controversy and assign blame, not to solve problems. If he'd had his way, the country would be a one-party state under the dictatorship of Karl Rove.

So I don't listen to Rush. I don't listen to Air America either.

I think we'd all be better off if we listened less and read more. We'd be better off to read a variety of well-researched information from a variety of sources and had more face-to-face conversations. We'd be better off to divert some "Rush hours" to contacting our representatives since they're all instantly accessible by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and more...

We could also mimic Al Franken and run for office, get elected and actually be responsible TO somebody FOR something. Now that takes guts. Or madness.

Meanwhile, RUSH IS RONG! Still. Suppose printing bumper stickers would help the economy?