Monday, June 28, 2010

1 Kings and St. Francis

The book of 1 Kings begins in the oddest way.

King David, a frail old man, can't get warm. So they round up a beautiful young virgin, Abishag, to sleep with him. As in, "to lie in his bosom". She became his servant. Clothes couldn't get the king warm. But she could.

"...but the king did not know her sexually..." Bible says so. OK.

But this was the same king who could not control himself when he was a Peeping David watching Bathsheba bathe herself. David arranged for the nearly assured death in battle of her husband, Uriah.

So David could have the cover of sham legality to get his body all over Bathsheba's. Kinda like prime time TV these days. Or the story of the latest political figure, sports figure, male role model or member of the priesthood to be exposed.

1 Kings covers a lot of ground. Consider chapter 16, vv. 25-30:

Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked in the way of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and in the sins that he caused Israel to commit, provoking the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. . . Omri slept with his ancestors, and was buried in Samaria; his son Ahab succeeded him. . . Ahab son of Omri began to reign over Israel; Ahab son of Ormi reigned over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.

And so it goes in 1 Kings. Again and again.

Francis of Assisi left family wealth and power. He renounced what others lust for, plot and kill to attain and rationalize. He found peace and the presence of God in the humble things of earth and the creatures God made.

As Wendell Berry later understood and proclaimed by his life, resurrection is more than to be believed in. It is to be practiced.

Practice resurrection today. There's probably something right inside you or at your fingertips. Such as, your next breath.

The earth is full of idols. Israel, it seems, could not break their addiction to them. We make more every day. Worship what is real, living and eternal. Practice resurrection.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gulf of Messico

The green ends where the concrete barrier begins.

Where the concrete barrier ends is where "we" begin.

"We", as in what we humans with our intelligence have been able to cook up out of the ingredients we scour from what God made: the universe and all that is in it.

Specifically, our lonely blue planet so wonderfully colored and filled with life.

At least, it was. Once. This is not "once upon a time". This is not fairytale fiction. Much of it still existed in the first decades of my life.

When I was in grade school, there were about 3.5 billion people on earth. Now there are nearly twice that many. Earth's population can literally double in under three decades.

That's not doubling from one million to two million either. We're talking doubling way more people alive at once than have ever lived before in all the history we have the ability to know about--all combind.

Where will the lines intersect on the graph? What lines? The lines of the number being born and the number dying.

'Til now, the number being born has always stayed far ahead of the number dying. But an intersection may not be far off. It could come, not as a gentle change but as a steep collapse. I don't know, but I'm studying the things we are doing and where they might go.

Somebody couldn't afford to put their discards in their "proper" place: a landfill. (Tell me again how that is proper????) So they put them in an improper place for all to see. So somebody else could clean it up.

This stuff has since been moved. But it hasn't gone away, all this stuff you see in the picture. Maybe a few bits of metal have been recycled. But most of the rest of it will lurk somewhere else on earth.

Waiting for doomsday or....

What's going on in the Gulf of Mexico isn't unique or off the charts. It's a little capsule of what we humans in general have done with the gift we have been given.

And we still have the boldness to talk about stewardship of creation.

OK, when exactly? When?

That's not a question waiting a president, a Geneva convention or a Congress to rise from the dead. It's a question for each of us to raise and answer every day.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vietistan. Afghaninam.

Marjah was supposed to be the breaking point, the defining turn where we would break the back of the Taliban, move the Afghan government and their forces into place.

Then move on.

Clear. Hold. Build.

I can still hear Condoleeza Rice saying those words about Iraq. Today I heard Iraqis complaining that before the U.S. invaded they might be without electricity 3 hours out of every 12. Now they are lucky to get 3 hours of electricity for every 12 hours.

It was 125 degrees in Baghdad today. Picture that with no juice, no fan, no refrigerator. You might be ready to blow something up too.

After all these millions.... Sorry, all these billions of dollars and lives lost! Now the country is sweltering in another summer of poverty with the government at a stalemate. Sometimes imported democracy ends in a deadlock and gridlock. Just like our homegrown stuff.

We were supposed to have Marjah, Afghanistan all done and up and running by now. Didn't work so well. Then, we'd do the same in Kandahar, take the home turf from the Taliban and be home by Christmas. Well.... no.... Maybe July Fourth, 2011.

Too bad about Kandahar. It's 10 times the size of Marjah. Our allies will be pulling their troops out soon. How does this end? How does this end well?

War. Peace. And God.

Our former pastor, Gary Simpson, wrote it a couple of years ago as things were gearing up. Many high profile American clerics backed our wars as just wars, if not downright holy wars. Gary was a little more circumspect.

I like Gary a lot. Our daughters used to play together. Gary, Sharon, Jean and I were in a small group for a while. Struggled through issues of feminism and faith together. He's a tennis nut. A real guy with a humble heart and a head on his shoulders.

I wonder if anybody has taken the long look at counterinsurgency? May be a little different deal from the war they had in mind when they blessed our Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. Forgive me, Afghanistan came first.

Tell me how Afghanistan ends that isn't worse than how Vietnam ended.

Does anyone but the families of soldiers care?

Is anybody still out there?

Is anybody up there?

Father, forgive us. For we know not what we do.



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It Is Possible

It is possible that our country could be detroyed by war. In fact, I might be able to make a strong case that it already has been.

Read this story and decide if you can write a good ending:

(your words here)

Just take it as a writing assignment first. Then, after you get it written, ask yourself, "How is that going to come about?" Only one rule to this assignment. We don't get to quit without providing an answer.

I began the introduction to my reading at this year's Memorial Day ceremony at the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Living Memorial with these words:

We are here because we remember and because citizenship in this country requires that we own the cost, the conduct and the consequences of war as long as we shall live.

I wonder if anyone else beside me believes this. Any volunteers?

Pray for peace. Then, go out and work for it.

Oh, by the way. The picture collage above? Part of a 4 x 5-foot piece made from 20,000 images taken by Linfield College nursing students on a 2008 trip to Vietnam. I wonder if there will ever be a time when that can be done in Afghanistan?



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Farewell, Smith-Corona!

I dropped it off yesterday at Blue Moon Camera and Machine up in the St. Johns area of North Portland. I left with two $5 bills in my pocket.

I have a special place in my heart for the St. Johns area. It was once the location of Honda of St. Johns: auto dealer on the south side of the street, motorcycle dealer directly opposite on the north side.

Now only the motocycle dealership is left. The auto dealership was acquired by Larry Miller of Idaho and moved to Hillsboro. Along with it went the best Honda auto parts inventory in the country.

In three decades of buying my parts from the store for my '71 600 sedan, my '75 Civic, the '83 Accord, the '82 Accord and Hilary's first car, a '93 Accord, I can truly say that the number of times they had to order what I wanted could be counted on my 10 fingers. I probably spent over $10k there on parts. Not that our stuff needed that much repair. But when your favorite vehicle gets totaled twice by someone else, well.... you end up buying a few parts.

Plus, they gave me a 20% discount. I miss that. Yes, I do.

A few blocks farther west is Blue Moon. They specialize in used film cameras, lenses, darkroom equipment and chemicals. They also stock a few old typrewriters that have been overhauled. Most sell for about $175.

The Smith-Corona 88E above was my typewriter for 47 years. I got it in the spring of my sophomore year in high school since I was taking typing that year. My favorite machine in the typing lab was a slightly newer Smith-Corona office model. Much was familiar to me about the 88E in the pictures.

Back then, you could order rebuilt office typewrites from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. This one was rebuilt in Chicago by Chicago Typewriter Exchange. It had a new platen and rollers, new keytops, fresh paint. It looked, smelled and worked like a charm.

It typed my high school papers, my college papers, car maintenance records and was my trusty tool for laying out crankshaft and camshaft regrinding data and in-house company service bulletins in my first aviation jobs in Texas and here in Oregon. Pirated copies of some of those data sheets and bulletins are still in use in aircraft engine overhaul shops all over the western half of the country.

The 88E moved with us from Fremont, Nebraska to Irving, Texas; then to Gresham, Oregon. Finally to Portland where we are now. It really doesn't need an overhaul, just a little touch-up paint. Nevertheless, only a few select souls actually want one of these machines. Only a few select souls want to master and execute the very long and non-power assisted keystrokes.

Then there was the sound of the typewriter. The sound of the keys and the thump of the carriage as I hit the space bar will echo in my mind for the rest of my life.

So many moving parts, all made here in the USA by people who raised their families doing so. Thanks for all the work you did for me, model 88E. I'm glad I saved the manual that you came with as well as the test sheet typed by the person who tested you back at Chicago Typewriter exchange.

Thanks for the past 47 years. Nothing to plug in. No hard drive crash. No software or hardware updates required. No system incompatibility. Put paper in and go.

Find a good home for the 88E, Blue Moon Camera and Machine. I was probably this typewriter's second owner. I hope you find a third.

They certainly don't make 'em like they used to.

Oh... On the way home I stopped at Honda of St. John's. I bought two oil filters for my '73 CB500 motorcycle. They each cost $11.25.

That's one and one-eighth typewriters. Each.

They certaintly don't make 'em like they used to.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fault. Double Fault

In tennis, if you serve the ball over the net and it goes out, it's called a "fault". Then you get a second chance, a second serve to try to get the ball in play.

If that second serve also goes out, the umpire will again call "Fault!". Then he or she will announce the consequences: double fault. Your opponent wins the point.

God made this stuff in the first picture.

We make the stuff in the second picture. A lot of it is floating in the Pacific and every other body of water on this earth. A whole lot more of it is clogging landfills and streams.

We live next door to the athletic field of a middle school. Girls' softball teams practice and have games and tournaments here each spring and summer. It's always fun to see the kids and their parents doing something active--especially as they brave seemingly interminable rain.

But they leave behind mountains of trash. Some boys tipped over the trash barrel and flaked out when I asked them to pick it up. So I rescued what could easily be recycled: the can and bottles. Plastic. I won't show you the other stuff the players leave behind.

Now, it baffles me why so much of what people today drink must come as a manufactured product in a single-use container. These girls couldn't possibly be working up a sweat in their games. No way on this green earth they need Gatorade or other sports drinks to, for the most part, stand there and wait for the hit or the runner. Why couldn't they drink plain water from home in a re-usable container? How did our species survive for millennia?????

But these young ball players only mimic what the see around them writ large in consumer, throw-away society. They can't get their exercise in neighborhood ball games before and after school. Neighborhoods and kids aren't like that anymore. Gallons of fuel are consumed driving them to and from their practices and games. Gallons more fuel in the beverages and fast food they consume while doing so.

Almost never do they take their recyclable containers home with them. Probably 'cause the trash containers at home are as overflowing as the one at the ball diamond that no one seems to think they have a responsbility to empty--leave alone to not fill in the first place!

So who's at fault for the oil "spill" in the Gulf of Mexico? BP? Halliburton? The owners of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that blew up? Yes, they all are.

But so are all of us. It's our fault in the first place. If we consumed less, we wouldn't need to drill for oil in 5k feet of water. If we didn't throw away so much stuff and so many opportunities to do right by God's creation, we wouldn't be killing it to death as we are.

Everybody's sickened by the video from the underwater cameras and what the damage is on shore. For once, we can see the disastrous stuff as it escapes into the sea.

Just think what it might do if we could see greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere the way we can see crude oil spewing out of the broken pipe. We look at the video from the underwater camera and ask, "Why wasn't everyone involved more cautious? Why didn't they plan for what might go wrong?"


Ask the same questions about what we are doing 24/7/365 to earth's atmosphere, the soil and all the ecosystems on this planet. Would it make a difference if we could actually see what we are doing?

How do we see while simultaneously refusing to do so?

Fault. Double fault.