Saturday, January 30, 2010

Save Me!

It's in the hands of the jury now. Those poor folks must decide whether Marci and Jeffrey Beagley who are charged with criminally negligent homicide for failing to provide medical care for their son Neil. He was 16 when he died, and he had suffered from a urinary tract blockage his whole life. It could have been corrected easily when Neil was a youngster.
Neil didn't want to see a doctor. He said he'd put his faith in God instead.
OK, but what else is the kid going to say when he's been raised all his life to see going to the doctor as a slap in God's face? After all, he'd already seen his little neice die of easily treated conditions.
Always, the parents say, "We didn't think our child was going to die." That's not an explanation. The real question is, supposing they had known their child was going to die, would they have still made the same decision to pray but shun medical help? I hope that would be their answer. Otherwise, their faith is a very sadistic double standard, a complete hypocrisy.
I'm wondering a whole lot of other things about the Followers of Christ down in Oregon City. Such as:
Do they ever go to a dentist?
Suppose a family member was choking on food and couldn't breathe. Would they do the Heimlich maneuver, or would they just pray and let the person choke and die?
Suppose they are at their friends' swimming pool watching their 10-year-old kid jumpoff the side and into the pool. All is fine until the kid hits his head on the concrete ledge as he jumps in. He's unconscious on the bottom of the pool, so someone jumps in to haul the kid out of the water. Do they begin CPR, or do they just pray and let the child die? If the latter, then why haul the kid out of the water in the first place?
Does faith only work in air but not in water?
Suppose the above scenario happened at a public pool and the lifeguard began CPR and handed the kid over to the paramedics when they arrived? Would the parents sue for violation of their faith? But the lifeguard would be fired and charged with a crime if he didn't do his duty. The pool's liability insurance would be dropped.
Could a member of the Followers of Christ render first aid to an accident victim? Could they apply a tourniquet to stop a person from bleeding to death?
Could they get emergency surgery for appendicitis? What if the surgeon was a born-again Christian whose life had once been saved by a Good Samaritan who found him by the side of the road and got professional help while praying for the victim?
What would a reasonable person do?
A reasonable person does not attempt to do the work of a 1.5-inch socket wrench and breaker bar by using a pliers instead. A reasonable person uses the best tools available and doesn't insist that it's a rejection of God or a sign of weak faith by realizing that there is a better tool than the pliers.
But even the reasonable person who chooses the socket wrench wears gloves, uses eye and ear protection. They don't just rely on the tool alone.
I'm glad I'm not on the jury. Neil Beagley's parents can be glad also. I'm glad they aren't my parents. I'm glad I'm not their son. Their grieve and mourn a death because of their beliefs. May our beliefs lead us to life, not the opposite.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Pray for the Followers of Christ. And all their children.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jobs Are Job 1

I watched President Obama last night. I heard all the emphasis on jobs. More power to him!

I listen to all the Republican opposition calling for more tax cuts while simultaneously insisting on spending for wars that we've never asked Americans to pay for. They say they have a better way to bring the jobs back. More power to them if they do!


All the stuff the Republicans say will help was done in the last decade, and all the "growth" we supposedly had was on paper because we kept shipping jobs overseas--our biggest export.

So I'm wondering whether any of our so-called "leaders" really have a clue.

Jobs? Doing what?

A week ago, I broke down and bought a new pair of running shoes. I was resigned to buying a pair of Nikes made in Vietnam. At least they weren't made in China. I figure we owe Vietnam a few things.

But the store no longer had the model I had looked at two weeks prior. So I started searching afresh. Then I about dropped my sox. I found this pair of New Balance shoes that were actually assembled in the USA! The materials were imported, but at least some work was done here. I bought them in a heartbeat, gladly paying 20 extra dollars for that little label that said USA.

Now, mind you, I did try them on--and they were the lightest, most comfortable running shoes I've had on my feet in decades.

Two years ago, I overhauled the engine in my wife's car. The gasket set had parts made in five countries--including the USA. And the label could tell me where each part was made.

So when somebody says we can't label food to tell us where it came from, tell 'em it ain't so hard. If they can do it on Fel-Pro engine gasket sets when there isn't even a legal requirement to do so, why can't we do it on everything?

Oh, and if we want to create jobs, you and I need to buy as much of what we need and use from our nearby neighbors--even when we have a choice that's cheaper. No employer hires workers to make things that can't be sold and for which there is no market. That means it's up to us, the buyers.

So let's be choosy about the country of origin on our purchases, as choosy as we would be about the food we put inside our bodies. We have more power to create jobs than we know. And just maybe, we have the only power to do so. All with the dollars we spend every day for ordinary things.

The jobs we save may be our own. Maybe our neighbor's. Maybe our kid's.


PS. Forget import tariffs. Let's make it a requirement to put this label on everything that comes to us from the most populous nation on earth:


Monday, January 25, 2010

Haiti: Now Is All You Have

No, the bus has nothing to do with Haiti.

However, Haiti has little future without an unbelievable amount of help. If anything might convince us that now is all we have, this 77-minute special sermon from Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church, Seattle should. See or listen to "32 Hours: the church in Haiti":

You can pick right up on the audio, but you'll have to cut and paste a link (in gold letters) to get the video as well.

No lack of things to pray about now, in case you'd run out. Now is all we have.

Blessed unrest,


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Experiencing Community: Luke 4

You could almost get the idea that it was a church, the Irvington Farmers Market (note the absence of the apostrophe, sigh....). "Services" are on Sundays from 11:00-3:00. Church hours, sorta. Long-time Portland residents may even see something familiar in the Irvington artwork. It evokes the style of the marquee of the once-popular Irvington Theater on NE Broadway. Movie houses were once community gathering places where we cheered on the troops and leaders as the black-and-white newsreels brought news of Allied successes against fascists in Europe and Imperial Japan in the Pacific.

Theaters once had ushers. They wore uniforms like bellhops and carried glowing flashlights while directing movie-goers to seats. Kinda like in church. We knew who these high school kids were. And their parents. A bag of popcorn might have been 5 or 10 cents, the movie a quarter. Hard not to have a community around that affordability even considering the low wages of the day.

Lots of churches don't call themselves churches these days. "Community" has been the title of choice on a wide scale. "Church" has carried negative baggage that has sent mission-minded pastors and leaders scrambling for other images, looking to respond to what people lack, to real or perceived needs: community. Many of these communities now have branding slogans ("heart of the King", for example) and logos. Gotta have a logo so people recognize you.

Increasingly, our "community" these days seems to glow at us from little flat screens we carry in the palms of our hands. We can stay "in touch" 24/7--without actually touching.

Some years back, local folks won one of those Guinness Brewing contests. They actually won a pub in Ireland and moved there. They noticed something different about the Irish: community. Groups of Irish could get together and begin to sing songs. And everybody in the room would know the lyrics to all 25 verses. They had never experienced that kind of cultural common property in America. The Irish hadn't downloaded these lyrics from a music ap and turned them into ring tones. They had learned them by singing them multi-generationally with other people.

I wonder what we Americans share today with one another as cultural common property? Maybe it has mostly to do with who is wowing us with 90-second song condensations on American Idol.

How many people know the Star Spangled Banner by heart? The Apostles' Creed? The Lord's Prayer? Their state song? Who their Governor is?

Luke chapter 4 is jam-packed. After a 40-day ordeal in the wilderness following his baptism, Jesus goes to church at the synagogue in hometown Nazareth. An articulate local boy, he is honored by being asked to read from Isaiah 61. Hearers burst with pride at his articulate and proper reading of the text. "Yep, we done good raisin' him," some say. Others wonder, "Hey, he's day-laborer Joe's kid. How'd he suddenly get such an authority act? Maybe gettin' a little too big for his britches here."

Jesus could have simply let it lie and come away with a mostly positive review in the local papers. Instead, he throws out a Molotov cocktail by predicting that he will be judged, misjudged and rejected by people who will not actually see or hear what he brings because it will trouble and unsettle their prejudgments. Community "unity" nearly results in a lynching from which Jesus is able to call their bluff and not be tossed over the bluff.

And God's new things are left lying there in the dirt at the feet of the hometown crowd. You can't always go home and expect to find community. It may be out there somewhere else where God leads. May we recognize and build it wherever we are.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Free Speech

Years ago I wrote to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky because he firmly opposed campaign finance reform. He said that it would limit free speech.

I maintained that we hadn't had political free speech for quite some time, that our politcal campaign "speech" had become the most expensive speech known to humankind.

I thought McConnell's opposition to McCain-Feingold was actually based in the belief that his party still had the ability to out-fundraise the other party. If that situation ever reversed itself, I believed that McConnell would suddenly be on-board for campaign finance reform.

Well, our political campaigns becomre more expensive with every election. Not only are they the most expensive speech in the history of humanity and politics, the quality of that speech seems to be inversely proportional to its cost. Campaign speech these days is not "speech" but advertising. It does not want to inform you, present you with reliable factual information, so that you can make up your own mind.

No. It wants to scare you, seduce you, enrage you, tell you exactly how and what to think. Or all of the above. And it ALL gets tested on focus groups and mind control experts before it ever airs. Airs. How much of our politcal campaign speech is in the form of the printed word? None. It's a multi-media assault. And once you have an opinion, you have no need of information.

Some years back, Greg Palast wrote a book titled The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Gosh, why'd he go and do that? Maybe cuz that's how our so-called democracy works.

Except it's not a democracy. It's a plutocracy. Money talks. Money rules.

And today the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that corporations trump you and me. Since they are "persons", they can spend money like persons and buy as much free speech as they want.

So much for activist judges being only liberals.

I want cheap speech, real speech. It's the only kind that's free. Question is, for how long?

Roller Coaster: Bumps Ahead

I wonder what it would be like if we put speed bumps on the track of a roller coaster? I can wonder, but I wouldn't want to find out.

Years ago, I took our daughter to Disneyland as a surprise reward for a good 7th-grade year in school. All of her friends had already been there years earlier. But we could never see the logic in taking a pre-schooler to a big, expensive amusement park when a visit to the swing set at a local park would be more memorable.

I recall that as my daughter and I stepped into one very busy coaster ride we were delayed. Operators were scrambling around, and I saw red lights flashing and heard alarms on the operator's console. I looked at the fasteners, wheels and bearings of the carriages. I decided I wanted no part of a ride that was having some kind of traffic problem or mechanical malfunction. We got off. I've never regretted doing so.

The year 2009 was a tough one for most folks I know. A friend lost his business that he and his wife had sunk their hearts, prayers and a substantial chunk of money into. My annual income was the lowest in more than 30 years. We took a hit on health insurance and took on higher co-pays and higher deductibles.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs had a banner year:

As a deflection of criticism for their fat bonuses, they diverted $500 million into their charitable giving in the final quarter. Thanks. I guess.

But here's the deal. For years, one-half of our political talking heads has told us that if government just took a little less of people's money they would all run out and start new businesses and create jobs hand-over-fist. So it should stand to reason that if a few smart, educated, money-savvy folks did really well and made gobs of money we should be awash in jobs now with vacancies going begging and urgent pleas to government to bring more workers in from overseas to do the work.

I'd like to see a follow-up report on the Wall Street bonuses. How many new businesses have any of these folks started? When have they gone out to the lines of unemployed and said, "Here, come work in my vineyard until you're ready to retire. And by the way, we offer affordable health insurance for you and your family."

Tuesday, the stock market took a nice upward leap with the expectation that Scott Brown would win the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts (the only state that is not a state but a commonwealth). Rising stocks of health care providers led the rally, apparently in anticipation that nothing was going to stand in the way of their rising earnings, certainly not any proposed health care reform in the country that already pays more per capita than any other industrialized country. So much for making health care more affordable.

Yesterday, Wall Street took an equally-sized tumble, apparently with this realization:

OMG! We're now headed for three years of complete Congressional gridlock!

As if the Congress had been such a productive bunch before.

Almost makes you wish for speed bumps ahead. Even potholes. Anything besides what we have.

They used to manufacture aircraft engine magnetos and instruments in downtown Brooklyn. They used to make wooden and metal toys there. They used to make clothing in New York City. All kinds of stuff. People actually worked there at jobs other than convenience stores with bars on the windows. Yeah, bona fide manufacturing in the heart of the Asphalt Jungle. I wonder how many new businesses the Wall Street boys are starting there today? I wonder if they'd be willing to buy my friend Kevin's motocycle shop, give him a bailout that would keep him in business for a year?

It wouldn't cost them more than a couple of days' bonus. Not pay, bonus.

Or maybe trickle-down economics is really what a prominent Republican once named it: voodoo. Until he was tapped to be the vice-presidential running mate. Does having more money make people more generous? Maybe. Maybe not. Help 'em do the right thing? Maybe, maybe not.

Maybe high taxes/low taxes/no taxes don't have much at all to do with creating or saving jobs. Maybe what government needs to do is establish and maintain the framework for long-term common good. Example: if we'd have set the goal years ago of reducing carbon footprint, oil imports and being the world's sustainable energy leader, our free enterprtise system would have figured out how to get there. We'd have made hybrid cars before Japan. We'd be the leading manufacturer of wind and solar energy products, not Spain, Denmark and China. We'd be the leader in co-generation production of electricity, not Denmark. Woulda created all kinds of jobs without stimulus. We'd have people actually paying taxes instead of receiving unemployment checks.

Woulda been the right thing to do. There is no such thing as the right thing being too expensive. The right thing, after all, is the only thing we can afford, don'tcha think?

Meanwhile, praise the Lord and pass the potholes. Bumps ahead.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First, Do No Harm: Haiti Today, Us Tomorrow

We might do well, very well, to practice the first rule of medicine as we practice our faith in the world:

First, Do No Harm.

For some time now I've chosen to describe myself as a Christ follower rather than a Christian. "Christian" is only used three times in the New Testament and only as a noun, never as an adjective. It's also never modified by any adjectives in the Bible. We weren't left with a laundry list of what's more or less Christian (adjective), such as Christian music, Christian bookstores, Christian fashions or office supplies.

In recent years, "Christian" has become a tarnished word often associated with judgmentalism and divisive agendas. So I've been calling myself a Christ follower. That's what Jesus asked his disciples to do: follow.

Now, however, "Christ follower" may also have to be vacated for fear of association with the Followers of Christ, a group of modern day folks who don't believe in modern medicine and who will anoint, sing and pray with their children as they watch them suffer grievous pain and finally die of conditions easily and quickly treatable. See:

Think about the different approach to the world if you are a Follower of Christ. You could go into Haiti with food and water for hungry, thirsty people; but you wouldn't actually treat infections from gaping wounds using antibiotics, you wouldn't amputate gangrenous limbs in order to save a life. You wouldn't offer blood or plasma transfusions, IV bags, to someone whose life could be saved by them. Medical supplies? Not necessary. Fly or truck in about 5 gallons of anointing oil and you would have enough to make the sign of the cross on about 500,000 foreheads. That would do it.

Latex or nitrile gloves? No need. If God didn't want you to get infected or to spread infection, it wouldn't happen. Prayer wouldn't allow it to happen--unless God wanted it to. And then I guess all your prayers wouldn't be effective anyway. It would be God's will, so just go on.

Search and rescue teams? Heavy equipment to look for survivors under the rubble? Not needed either. You would pray for them and call it good. And if God wanted them to survive, then another earthquake would come and dislodge the chunks of concrete to free them before they died. If not, well. . . it was just their time and God had already decided.

First, do no harm.

Haiti is the poorest nation in this hemisphere. It has been that way for most of its life. Badly overpopulated and badly denuded and deforested because the poor people have nothing for fuel but charcoal they make from every living twig they can get their hands on, Haiti is also one of the most badly eroded landscapes on earth. When the rains come, as they will, the other shoe will drop in this desolate land. Soil and rock now shaken loose by the quake and not held by tree roots, not covered by their canopy of leaves, will again cascade downhill. This time the floods of mud will descend onto people living with even less for shelter and security than they had after the recent terrible hurricanes, all of which were the worst natural disasters Haiti had seen--until now.

Not only has Haiti been inundated with natural disasters. It has also been inundated with mission trips and Christian groups and orphan care and food aid and antibiotics for years and decades. Countless lives have been saved, many only to reproduce and multiply unsustainably to live in shacks and huts without latrines or water. Families there have been selling or just flat giving away their children because they cannot provide for them. Some orphanages have rescued infants tossed by their mothers onto burning piles of garbage. Human life has never been cheaper.

Have we forgotten that the words "Haitian" and "boat people" became a redundancy years ago?

So let's say that the massive efforts of the next five years put the entire population of Haiti in new, earthquake-proof structures. What in the world shall those people do for work, livelihood, income, sustenance? Make more children to be sold or given away into slavery and the sex trade, to become 12-year-old armies-for-hire somewhere? Pirates of the Caribbean doing what they do in Somalia?

Is China ready to industrialize Haiti so that the cheap goods with which they have saturated every store on the planet can be made cheaper and closer to Bentonville, Arkansas? Are we ready to offshore something besides church mission trips?

Haiti is a microcosm of what humanity is doing globally. We should wake up to that and respond accordingly. Their life will be the lives of more and more people as the resilient life support systems of earth lose their resiliency due to human overload and destruction.

Then, will we in the weathly world turn out to be any less blind and bull-headed than the people going on trial in Oregon City?

A former boss once said, "Life involves choices. Choices have consequences."

So does the practice of our faith and our consumption-based way of life. As a civilization that has pegged all its hopes, put all its eggs in the lone basket of nebulous and infinite "economic growth", we might do well to ponder the words:

First, do no harm.

Meanwhile, immediate needs confront us. Children and their parents cry out. Let us be busy with those needs while never ignoring the consequences of every choice. And we rich people have far more choices than the world's poor. We have far more responsibility.

Let us pray . . . Amen.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. deserved his name and his titles, all of them. I'm not sure how much of the old German who was his namesake Dr. King ever read. But Martin the Reformer had a fairly simple test for any piece of doctrine, scramental practice or theology:

Does it make the most of Christ?

Dr. King was nearly killed on September 20, 1958 when a mentally ill woman drove a 7-inch letter opener into his chest as Dr. King signed copies of his first book at a Harlem bookstore. The blade landed between his heart and his left lung, right next to his aorta. The surgeon told Dr. King that if he had sneezed before the blade was extracted, he would have punctured the aorta and bled to death internally. The incision left a cross-shaped scar on his chest, a mark he carried the rest of his life.

He was only 29.

It would be another 10 years before an assassin's bullet would take him down in Memphis. He was only 39. The cross was still on his chest that day.

It is fitting that after all this time we have finally begun to transform Martin Luther King, Jr. Day into a day of service. Here in Portland, there are 70 community service projects underway, staffed with 2000 volunteers. Next year, I hope there are 140 projects with at least 4000 people.

In his brief 39 years, Dr. King made the most of Christ and put his life on the line almost daily.

Thanks be to God!

My flag is at half staff today.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Angel Unaware

When I was in grade shcool, my classmate Karen did a book report on Dale Evans' (Roy Rogers' wife) book Angel Unaware. It was Evans' story of their grief and journey of faith at the birth and death of their "blue baby". Perhaps the baby's umbilical cord was kinked or crushed during the final stages of labor and delivery. The book moved Karen deeply.

Two marvelous young women, Rachel and Molly, recent grads of the University of Portland, were in Haiti with Friends of Orphans. They were housed on the fifth floor of a building that pancaked. Just minutes before the quake, Rachel went to the seventh (top) floor to use a computer. She was injured but pulled from the rubble quickly and survived. Her sister back here in the States said that she must have had "some angels looking out for her".

Molly two floors down did not survive.

What about Molly who had been there longer and had done more of Christ's work? No angels for her? Angels playing favorites, rolling the dice? Angels ordered to back off because Christ said, "No, I want her more than her family and the orphans. I get my way, 'cuz I'm God."

We can make no sense of Haiti. Pat Robertson can't make sense of Haiti either. Pat Robertson can't make sense of Pat Robertson. The only thing I can look at that even begins to speak to the grief and inexplicability of it all is Rob Bell's short film in the NOOMA series. It's called Open. It took 50 volunteer extras with their cars, 6 police officers, 5 firemen, 4 EMT's, 3 cruisers, 2 ambulances, 2 wrecked cars, 1 Jaws of Life and a hospital to create the scenes.

See it if you can. See it several times, and see it with someone(s) you can pray with afterward. You'll need to.

And the other thing I can look at and read is Psalm 44, that "unfinished" Psalm because it ends with the speaker shaking their fist at the sky, screaming at God and falling to their knees weeping. It's unfinished, because we don't get to hear God's reply in words and deeds. The final five verses go like this:

...Because of you we are being killed all day long,
and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, and do not cast us off forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up, come to our help.
Redeem us for the sake of you steadfast love.


The psalmist says it feels like God is asleep, the angels unaware. Yes, it feels that way. And this is acceptable speech for worship of our God who created all things. It's in the Bible, the word of God. It's inspired.

So let the screams be heard and the tears flow. . .


Pastor Roger

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti: Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains should shake in the heart of the sea;
Though its waters foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Psalm, 46:1-3
This "ancient " wall in donwtown Portland is still standing, although the building once anchored to it has long since been gone. It wouldn't take much shaking to bring it down. I cannot believe that any property owner (it forms the border of a downtown pay-to-park lot), or roving code enforcer could come face-to-face with this disaster-in-waiting and not erect barricades.
We think we know better here than the impoverished people of Haiti. But we overlook things just as they do.
Pray for the folks on the isalnd of Hispaniola. Pray that help comes swiftly, that better buildings are built.
Pastor Roger

Monday, January 4, 2010

In the beginning was the Word, John 1:1-18

The picture was taken in an old, run-down part of Hartford, Connecticut around January 10, 1971--39 years ago. Jean and I had our nice little wedding in Kenmore, NY, and had taken a short wedding trip to Toronto and Montreal. Yes, in January! It was all we had time for, all we could afford.
A line from an old Jefferson Airplane song goes, "City streets in the dead of winter, stop your minds with dirty snow." Amen.
That's what comes to mind as I look at this scene from old Hartford. Dirty snow, a building being demolished in the background, trashy looking signs. This was on Asylum Street. Too much of this scenery and you'd need an asylum!
The wedding and trip were over. Now came the nitty-gritty tension and uncertainty of preparing for the realities ahead. We were in this part of town to buy the largest, cheapest trunk we could find. An old luggage store filled the bill. Nearby, a second-hand store had a little Singer Featherweight portable sewing machine, cutest little machine ever built. We would fit that, some melmac tableware, some silverware, some cookware and a few basic wedding gifts and tools into the trunk and then drive it to Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts to be shipped to Turkey. This was my "hold baggage" that required a copy of my orders for shipment.
I was headed for a destination known as TUSLOG Det. 94, Karamursel, Turkey. Somehow, I would find a place for us to live in a very strange land and culture. Somehow, at some point, Jean would join me. Somehow we would begin our life together. Somehow, it would work.
The separation, from January 14 to April 2, 1971, encompassed more days than the total number of days we had seen each other face-to-face in our entire lives. Somehow we had to keep our fledgling love alive in that interval and build from there once we were together again. Somehow. We had no idea how, but somehow. No e-mail, facebook or tweets. Just letters, stamps and APO New York, NY 09324. Somehow. . .
By all reasonable standards, our marriage should have ended in total disaster about 6 months in.
Yesterday we celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary.
I love how the Gospel According to St. John begins. No star, no manger. No shepherds, angels, wise men, Herods or Quirinius, the governor of Syria. No baby, no Mary, no Silent Night greeting cards.
John has the perspective of a century of reflection on the impact of Jesus, the Messiah. For John, the story can't possibly begin with the birth. It is the eternal story so it begins where Genesis does: in the beginning. Creation. All things are involved in this story. It is timeless.
Over and over again, John's gospel works to a theme: Come and see! Come and see the One sent by God and what He has done. In order to see, one needs light. According to Genesis 1:3, the creation of light was the first improvement God made in the dark and watery chaos of creation. "The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world..."
But. . . Messiah was sent to his own who did not receive him. They put him to death. And what does God do? Pack his toys and go home? No, God pours himself out and adopts everyone through faith as his own children. That's what John says. Way too much in these 18 verses to unpack, but here are a few of the timeless truths in the beginning of John's gospel and its timeless beginnings in creation:
1. Messiah is pre-existent, eternal with God.
2. Messiah is the agent of creation.
3. Out of chaos, God makes order.
4. Out of darkness, God brings light.
5. Out of death, God brings eternal and timeless life.
6. Out of junk and impossibilities, God makes possibilities and wondrous things.
7. Out of rejection, God brings adoption and acceptance, literally a new identity as children of God through faith in Messiah, the Word.
By all reasonable standards, Jean and I should not be a couple today, certainly not a couple who considers themselves supremely blessed. But we are. By all reasonable standards, we should not be alive today. We nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning in our first month of life together in Turkey. It was the night we were to leave for Ephesus. We will never forget.
But here we are. Come and see! Thanks be to God!
PS. That run-down area of Hartford? Completely rebuilt and beautiful today. Kinda like a God thing, isn't it?

Friday, January 1, 2010

40 Years

It had been quite a ride, going off to the USAF for basic training on August 15, 1969. I guess that's because I must have signed the delayed enlistment papers around May 15, 1969, just days before my college graduation. I had the option of delaying actual departure for up to 90 days, which I did in order to be able to spend a summer doing a variety of things.
First, I took a trip back to Albany, New York, to visit a friend, Joanne, who was then a graudate student in biochemistry at the State University of New York. She and I had gotten to know each other the previous summer when I was a student in Austria. We had written letters during the ensuring year.
She was from Arlington, MA; I from Arlington, NE. The two Arlingtons could not have been more different. She showed me Boston and New England.
Then I drove back to Illinois to visit my friend Hans, a graduate student in the German Department at the U. of Nebraska. He showed me the Chicago commuter rail lines, German restuarants on Lincoln Avenue.
Then it was time to head west. I visited my cousin, Chuck Stork, who then worked for John Deere in Moline, Illinois. We toured several Deere facilities. Then, home to Arlington.
I worked on the farm that summer. Visited my friend Wayne Pfeiffer, grad student in ag economics, in Lincoln a couple of times. I had a couple of dates, went to a stock car race or two. I worked as a welder at my cousin Verdel's tiny manufacturing plant, did three weeks of inventory at Green Valley Implement in Fremont. Then it finally came time to head off to San Antonio in the heat of August.
I spent an extra month in San Antonio after basic because my background investigation was taking longer than normal due to my extensive travels overseas. Finally the orders for Syracuse, New York, came through. Intensive Russian at the Defense Language Institute's East European Language Program at a little detachment known as Skytop with WWII temporary buildings for classrooms and late 50's vintage brick dormitories for barracks.
From the heat of summer to the frost of winter. Then snow. I took leave while classes were out and flew home for Christmas. Not sure when I had to be back after New Year, but I did spend New Year's Eve in Lincoln with college friends--more grad students who were avoiding the draft. I probably flew on January 1 or 2, no later.
The picture was probably taken in mid-January or February of one of the longest winters of my life. No car. A few buses. Lots of walking in the cold, more snow than I'd seen in years. In the ancient, make-do buildings and in the cold and snow it seemed the perfect place for total immersion in Russian.
40 years ago. Just look at that kid in the picture! Today I only walked two miles and ran two miles instead of the usual four. I have a cold. Great to have a body that's held up this well after all these 40 yrs. 14,610 days. 350,640 hours.
Come to think of it, let it snow! Happy New Year!