Thursday, March 31, 2005

How many people measure their actions, make their choices, and boundary their lives around this single question: "What will other people think of me?"

Its corrollary is: "What will it look like?"

DAYLIGHT DONUTS IN BRECKENRIDGE. Not fancy. Not upscale. Not chic. Just good breakfasts. And friendly locals. And lots of bad--but mildly amusing--wall art. The "Daylight Special," for $2.99, is a plate-size pancake, topped with two eggs cooked to your liking and two sausage links or bacon strips. The coffee is bearable. Daylight Donuts is one of my favorite places in the universe to eat or do coffee.

"There is much around us that is awful. We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world. Today’s authorities play to our fear, destroy our hope, and seal off our joy. The women at the tomb challenge us to love and believe. Certainly they grieved; their hope flagged at Jesus' death. But they never lost faith."
-- Joyce Hollyday, quoted in today's Daily Dig


O God,

I have a desire to be connected to you,
not in merely official or superficial ways.

And as long as I have been praying,
attempting to converse with you
and living in relationship to you,
I have felt or sensed that connection.
I have never felt denied or ignored,
or perceived my efforts were illusory.

That I am conscious of you,
and that consciousness is both
comforting and agitating,
deepening and transcending,
knowing and mysterious,
is, to me, reason enough to
continue to pray and live
in light of your grace.

That I recognize and am graced by this connection
does not mean I grasp or understand it,
or that I begin to comprehend you.

But because you are there,
and because I sense you are with me,
I approach life as a sacred journey
on which I am being graciously led,
in which I have much to learn,
and perhaps much to share.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

SPRING IS IN THE AIR! Snow piles up on the deck of Dave & Lillie's place at The Corral in Breckenridge. And to think some people actually went to the beaches!
WELL, WE PRAYED FOR SPRING SNOW... Temperatures plummeted and it snowed heavy all day today in Breckenridge. Heavy snow in the town would translate into white-out conditions on the mountain, so, oddly enough, we stayed off the slopes. We pray for spring snow and get it...then run for cover. Well, there's snowfall and then there's stinging, bone-chilling, blinding, blowing snowfall. I'll catch the mountain tomorrow.

CREATING CREATIVE ENVIRONMENTS. Instead of sailing the slopes we strolled the town's shops and chilled out at The Corral. I watched "The Incredibles" for the first time; then took in a lot of the supplementary material, including "The Making of the Incredibles." I'm fascinated by the creative environment at Pixar and Brian Bird. I want to return to this discussion a bit later, i.e., a leader sets up a creative environment that brings out the best in those who share in a project or movement. I discovered this in the reboot at Horizon House. I have yet to set this in motion at WEMO. But I am now inspired to do so.

THE FAMILY THAT SKIS (AND BOARDS!) TOGETHER... Here's the whole gang atop Peak 9 at Breckenridge, Colorado. We put Abby (center) on a plane back to the university this morning. No broken bones, pulled ligaments, strained muscles, or far!

O You who indwells in our poor and shabby human life, lifting it now and then above the dominance of animal passion and greed, allowing it to shine with the borrowed lights of love and joy and peace, and making it a mirror of the beauties of a world unseen, grant that my part in the world’s life today may not be to obscure the splendor of Your presence but rather to make it more plainly visible to the eyes of my fellow men.

Let me stand today—
for whatever is pure and true and just and good;
for the advancement of science and education and true learning;
for the redemption of daily business from the blight of self-seeking;
for the rights of the weak and the oppressed;
for industrial cooperation and mutual help;
for the conservation of the rich traditions of the past;
for the recognition of new workings of Your Spirit in the minds of men of my own time;
for the hope of yet more glorious days to come.

Today, O Lord—
let me put right before interest;
let me put others before self;
let me put the things of the spirit before the things of the body;
let me put the attainment of noble ends above the enjoyment of present pleasures;
let me put principle above reputation;
let me put You before all else.

O You, the reflection of whose transcendent glory did once appear unbroken in the face of Jesus Christ, give me today a heart like His—
a brave heart,
a true heart,
a tender heart,
a heart with great room in it,
a heart fixed on You;
for His name’s sake.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

GOOD MORNING, BRECKENRIDGE. We wake up each morning with a view like this. This morning at 7 am the clouds began to cover the mountains. Snow fell steadily from 8 am to 1 pm on the slopes. We snowboarded and skiied through near white-out conditions. But little snow made it down to the town. More snow is predicted tomorrow. Bring it on!

O God,
What shall I become as I grow older?
Less of what I have been?
More of the same?
Will I be more irritable,
or less sensitive to all that now irritates me?
Will I continue to forgive,
or be less inclined to let go offenses and harsh words?
As I grow older do I continue to change,
or regress back into patterns that make me
predictable, rutted, and self-consumed?
O living Word,
Continue to change me.
Let Jesus Christ continue to be formed in me,
so that whatever you intended me to be
I shall yet become.
Help me grow up in you.

“Until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13, The Message by Eugene Peterson)

This is a new component to bikehiker blog: a daily prayer. Most will be my original prayers, but I often pray the Psalms and sometimes find that the heart-felt outpourings of others reflect my own.

TOP OF THE RUN. Monday morning finds us at the top of a Breckenridge slope. Sam waits while Jared and Molly set out on their snowboards. Stay tuned for more Rocky Mountain views on bikehiker.

Monday, March 28, 2005

GRACE NOTES POSTED. This week's edition of Grace Notes is posted. This week's contents include:
  • Resurrection Day prayer
  • Moral Theology of the Devil: Thomas Merton
  • Moving Beyond Profound Cynicism

Grace Notes is my weekly e-journal of gleaned quotes, poems, prayers, and original reflections. They are fragments from the margins of my life, which is graced so fully by many helps and encounters along the way.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A PRAYER FOR US ALL. I’ve been sharing the following poem by Wil Winget for a number of years each Easter. I am grateful my seminary New Testament professor Morris Weigelt shared it with me. Morris was Wil Winget’s brother-in-law. Wil taught at Spring Arbor College before he succumbed to a painfully terrible death by cancer several years ago. In Winget’s words I find the spirit of Easter and a prayer for myself, those I love, and the world.

O Mighty, Holy Breath of God
On this glorious Day of Resurrection
Blow open all the shutters of our minds
bursting the barriers of
prejudice and pride
insensitivity and sloth
ignorance and fear
stretching wide our vision of
what you are doing
where you are working
in our fascinating
exasperating world.

Blow wide the doors of our hearts
impelling us outward to
the lonely and loveless
the angry and hopeless
the empty and faithless
as ready instruments
of your Grace.

Blow up our lungs to keep us shouting
Yes to Faith in the face of fear
Yes to Hope in defiance of despair
Yes to Love in spite of apathy
Yes to Life in the teeth of death

Through Christ, the Living One,
Our Lord.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

WHAT TO DO WITH HOLY SATURDAY? It seems to me that earnest Christians are not sure what to do with Holy Saturday. There are clear Scriptural precedents for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. We take the Biblical cues and early church practices and find ways to rehearse the story of Jesus' Passion and Resurrection dramatically. But when it comes to Holy Saturday, we're at a loss.

ULTIMATE IN-BETWEEN TIME. Holy Saturday is the ultimate in-between time, the most barren of all days and times. It is between "It is finished" and "He is risen!" What does one do when Jesus lies lifeless in a sealed sepulcher? It seems to me that if we are to be faithful to a "rehearsal" tradition, that is, trying to re-enter, re-live, re-trace, re-member the original story with some semblance of intentionality (so as, somehow, to re-connect with its meaning and experience it afresh), then we ask what the disciples and followers of Jesus might have been doing or feeling or experiencing on this day?

HOLDING VIGIL. For starters, they must been: Scattered. Shattered. Forlorn. Dazed and confused. Guilty. Grieving. Not the context appropriate for Easter Egg hunts, which many congregations naively engage in on this dark day. It seems most appropriate for believers to hold vigil, if anything. Or prepare solemnly for tomorrow (though we are at a disadvantage: we know and anticipate the Resurrection; the first disciples were clueless, thinking the end of Jesus-- and his promise of a new kingdom--had come). Perhaps the point is that there is nothing one can or should DO on this day. Nothing, but hold vigil in one's heart for the crucified Jesus.

Friday, March 25, 2005

GOOD FRIDAY. "The Daily Dig" posted the following poem, "Good Friday" by Christina Rossetti today. It is taken from a collection called Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon--
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

GO WVU! Most don't know I hail from West Virginia (my life from 6 months to age 17 was lived in the Mountain State), so you may not understand my relative euphoria at West Virginia University making it to the Elite Eight...and defeating former and famously fired Indiana University coach Bob Knight to get there. West Virigina hasn't been this far in the NCAA tourney since Jerry West took them to the championship game in 1959 (the year I was born). Up next? Louisville, from the state in which I was born. Go Mountaineers!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

PRAYER LABYRINTH. I walked our community of faith's prayer labyrinth with our fifth and sixth graders last evening. The labyrinth is set up in the lower level of our church facility and includes 14 interactive stations. Walked in candlight with the soundtrack from "The Passion" in the background, it makes for a fairly moving experience. The prayer labyrinth is open today (Maundy Thursday) and Good Friday, 4:30 - 8:00 pm @ West Morris Street Free Methodist Church, 2302 W. Morris St., Indianapolis.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

JIM WALLIS: HOPE VS. CYNICISM. "The choice before us as Christians is not the choice between belief and secularism, the choice is between hope and cynicism. And hope is not optimism, hope is not idealism, hope is not a feeling. Hope is a decision based on what we know about the outcome of history. Hope is based on the resurrection. Hope is based in the confidence of the triumph of God's purposes in the world. King said that the long arm of history bends toward justice. He wasn't saying, 'I'm kind of a hope guy.' He was saying, 'I know who's going to win. I know how history is going to come out.'"

THE WAY OF GOD'S FUTURE. "Nelson Mandela didn't know that he'd get out of prison, didn't know he'd be the first president of the country, but he knew that eventually South Africa would be free. For Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that was a religious conviction. He isn't an idealist or utopian person. I was there in Cape Town in his cathedral when the place was surrounded by soldiers and police who outnumbered the worshipers three to one. They came into the sanctuary. He was preaching. They stood along the walls while he was preaching with tape recorders and pads, writing down what he was saying. They had already put him in jail. They were saying to him in effect, 'Go ahead, be bold, be prophetic, and we'll put you right back in jail.' He looked at them and pointed his finger and said, 'You are very powerful, but you are not gods. And I serve a God who cannot be mocked. You have already lost, so I invite you today to come and join the winning side!'"

JOIN THE WINNING SIDE. "The place erupted. People were on their feet dancing. The police didn't know what to do with dancing worshipers. I was at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, and I said, 'Bishop, do you remember what you said that morning?' He smiled. I said, 'Today, they've joined the winning side.'" -- From an interview with Jim Wallis by the folks at "Homiletics" online.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

BACKDROP TO A GENERATION OF CYNICS. As my generation watched the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, and absorbed the national traumas of civil rights, Vietnam, and Watergate, looming behind and over it all has been the silent, omnipresent threat of nuclear holocaust. Is it any surprise that we are the most cynical generation in history?
AMERICA'S NO. 1 SPIRITUAL CONDITION? I am guessing that cynicism may well be the number one spiritual condition in America today. Any thoughts? How do you define or describe cynicism? Any examples?

IMPACT OF SOCIO-POLITICAL TRAUMAS. My take: cynicism has mushroomed in my generation, perhaps to unprecedented levels. One of my earliest childhood memories (I was four years old) is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the extended national mourning that ensued. Those of us who moved from childhood to adolescence in the 1960's and 70's absorbed the social-emotional impacts of the Vietnam debacle, student killings at Kent State University, the struggle for civil rights, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and, to cap it all off, the Watergate scandal and the resignation of the disgraced Richard M. Nixon. And looming silently as a backdrop to this drama, was--is still--the omnipresent specter of a nuclear mushroom cloud.

FROM IDEALISTS TO CYNICS. So, a generation of idealists called to "ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country," became the drop-out generation, the drugged-out generation, the self-absorbed generation, the self-promoting generation, the ever "seeking" generation. We have pushed the divorce rate to record levels. We have clogged the courts with frivilous cases. We blame everyone and take little responsibility. We use communities and people and then discard or disregard them. It appears that our collective generational response to the socio-political traumas of the 1960's is a robust and cancerous cynicism.

WERE IT NOT FOR THE RESURRECTION. Were it not for the Resurrection, cynicism might be an acceptable response to our situation. Were it not for the Empty Tomb, cynicism could be fairly justified as a coping mechanism. Were it not for the Third Day, cynicism makes some semblance of sense in the face of these personal and social realities. But Easter--simply, profoundly--changes everything.

Monday, March 21, 2005

GRACE NOTES POSTED. This week's edition of Grace Notes is posted at This week's contents include:
  • Liberation Day
  • Shame & the Cross
  • Friday's Child by W. H. Auden
  • Palm Sunday & Nonviolence

Sunday, March 20, 2005

BEN DAVIS "PREMIERS" CONCLUDE SEASON. Jared's string of marathon show choir competition Saturdays ended early Sunday morning as the Premiers finished 2nd at the North Central choral festival. Jared, we are proud of you. We enjoyed the music you and your friends offered. Great job!

Friday, March 18, 2005


"The early Christians did not say in dismay: 'Look what the world has come to,' but in delight, 'Look what has come to the world.' They saw not merely the ruin, but the Resource for the reconstruction of that ruin. They saw not merely that sin did abound, but that grace did much more abound. On that assurance the pivot of history swung from blank despair, loss of moral nerve, and fatalism, to faith and confidence that at last sin had met its match." – E. Stanley Jones

Thursday, March 17, 2005

CHOIR CONTEST TIME. The 8th grade Gold Choir of Fulton Jr. High School sang its contest congs for family and friends Tuesday evening. The students compete in state competition on Saturday. Good luck, Molly! (she's the first girl on the right in the front row...if you have a magnifying glass)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

FIVE WARNING SIGNS OF VIOLENT RELIGION. Charles Kimball describes five warning signs that point to the misuse of religion for violence in When Religion Becomes Evil. Kimball encourages recognition of these warning signs and challenges religious persons to maintain faithfulness to vital sources within their religion that yield positive change power.

1. Absolute truth claims. Sign: abuse of sacred texts.

2. Blind obedience. Signs: limiting intellectual & individual freedom, abdicate personal responsibility.

3. Establishing the “ideal” time.

4. The end justifies the means

5. Declaring holy war

CHILLY START. I drove Sam to the Northwest side of Indianapolis for his first outdoor soccer practice of the spring season. Temperatures sank along with the sun in the western sky. I couldn't convince him that he needed a heavy sweatshirt, but he did take me up on my offer of a wool cap and gloves. He joined a group of 12-year olds who will play for the Pike Soccer Club's elite "Indy Burn" program. It is a new team for him, though he has played with three of the players on a previous Arsenal Soccer Club team.

TIME AND REWARDS. I met and chatted with parents in the parking lot of Northwestway Park until cold drove me into the Beetle. How many years have we been taking one or another of our children to soccer practices? In all, it's been a pleasant experience. We've watched our kids develop individual confidence, learn team play, emerge as leaders, and demonstrate fortitude in the face of tough circumstances. Most coaches have been reasonable and most parents have been friendly...even if a few odd ones have been mercilessly lampooned by our kids.

BIKE, BUT NO RIDE. I brought my Cannondale to ride during Sam's practice. That's something I typically do while he works on soccer. It just seems fair and right for me to use the hour to put in a little exercise myself. But today's cold--along with the paperwork I had to complete and getting to know these parents--seemed enough to disperse my original intentions.

HUNDREDS OF SUNSETS. Did I mention sunsets? I am watching one right now. Evening soccer practices afford the natural pleasure of watching the sun turn bright orange and sink into the western horizon, often reflecting a thousand hues onto any clouds that happen to be nearby. I have experienced the joy of hundreds of sunsets while waiting for soccer practices to conclude. Look up! What do you see of God's grace amid your routine of work and care?
you demand,
you lose."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

DINNER WITH DONALD DAYTON. So I sit down at the dinner table at the Free Methodist Historical Society conference to talk to Nazarene Archivist Stan Ingersol, and there's this rather crude looking fellow (sorry, Don, that's just my first impression!) sitting across the table with a name tag on that says "Don Dayton."

Not imagining this was the real McCoy and trying to be cute, I say, "So, you're the guy whose articles and books I've been reading and drawing hope for holiness social ethics from all these years!"

"Guilty as charged," the rumpled old codger fires back.

I look at Stan and ask, "Is this really Donald W. Dayton?"

He laughs. "Yes. This is truly an ecumenical table at which you are seated."

I am floored. And humbled. And honored. Right here in the lower level of the church I pastor is one of the most outstanding holiness thinkers and writers alive. And I am seated next to perhaps the most knowlegable holiness historian--Stan Ingersol.

So, for the next hour I get to share table conversation with Stan Ingersol, Donald Dayton, and Free Methodist Dwight Gregory. We talk, among other things, about my recent notions regarding our holiness forebears and stock market trading. Dayton points me to several early holiness sources. We talk until we are all late for the evening plenary session.

If nothing else of note comes out of this symposium, I've been graced in this encounter.

Monday, March 14, 2005

AMERICAN BOBBY JULICH WINS PARIS-NICE. He's older, wiser and champion of the 7-stage Paris-Nice 2005 race. Julich used his climbing prowess to overtake fellow CSC team member Jens Voigt in stage 5 and preserved his lead thru Sunday's finish in Nice. Julich has placed on the podium in the Tour de France in the past (3rd in 1998). He can't be counted out as an American hopeful this year.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

THIS WEEK'S ISSUE IS POSTED. Read this week's issue at
AN INDIANA-LESS NCAA MEN'S TOURNEY. The 65 men's teams that will play in the Big Dance were announced this evening. It looks like it could be an inspiring tourney. At least part of March Madness will pass thru Indy. This Thursday and Saturday the first and second rounds of one bracket will play at the RCA Dome. In a few weeks, the NCAA Women's Final Four will play there. But there is no joy in Mudville...mighty Indiana basketball has struck out.

FIRST TIME SINCE 1972. For the first time since 1972, the NCAA men's tourney will not include an Indiana college team. Not Indiana University, which won 10 Big Ten games. Not Purdue, in Coach Gene Keady's last year. Not Notre Dame, though it has defeated some of the top teams that made the tourney. Not Butler. Not IUPUI. Not Indiana State. Not Valparaiso. Not Evansville. This is quite a convergence of bad luck, or poor play. Whichever, this is hard to imagine in a state where basketball is king.

Friday, March 11, 2005

SUFFERING DEPENDS ON WHAT WE LOVE. Thomas Merton made a poignant observation about the object of our suffering: "The effect of suffering upon us depends on what we love."

IF WE LOVE ONLY OURSELVES. "If we love only ourselves, suffering is merely hateful. It has to be avoided at all costs. It brings out all the evil that is in us, so that the one who loves only himself will commit any sin and inflict any evil on others merely in order to avoid suffering himself. Worse, if a person loves himself and learns that suffering is unavoidable, he may even come to take a perverse pleasure in suffering itself, showing that he loves and hates himself at the same time. In any case, if we love ourselves, suffering inexorably brings out selfishness, and then, after making known what we are, drives us to make ourselves even worse than we are."

IF WE LOVE OTHERS. "If we love others and suffer for them, even without a supernatural love for other people in God, suffering can give us a certain nobility and goodness. It brings out something fine in our natures, and gives glory to God who made us greater than suffering. But in the end a natural unselfishness cannot prevent suffering from destroying us along with all we love."

IF WE LOVE GOD. "If we love God and love others in him, we will be glad to let suffering destroy anything in us that God is pleased to let it destroy, because we know that all it destroys is unimportant. We will prefer to let the accidental trash of life be consumed by suffering in order that his glory may come out clean in everything we do."

WHAT MATTERS. "If we love God, suffering does not matter. Christ in us, his love, his Passion in us: that is what we care about. Pain does not cease to be pain, but we can be glad of it because it enables Christ to suffer in us and give glory to his Father by being greater, in our hearts, than suffering would ever be."

(Thomas Merton, "To Know the Cross, from No Man Is an Island)

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

INVESTING WITH A CONSCIENCE. I've had some interesting e-mail dialogue with some folks regarding my little fledglng diatribe on Christians engaging in the stock market. The fruit of one discussion comes in the form of a checklist for "Investing with a Conscience" from one of my theological teachers, Dr. Wesley D. Tracy. If you invest, consider Tracy's standards:

"I have some conscience-guidelines for investing. They do not assure me of avoiding complicity in our sinful systems, but they do help:

1. I do not invest in Mutual Funds. Fund managers are free to put your money anywhere they want. Funds usually have hundreds of investments--surely some of them in tobacco, weapons, etc.

2. I do not invest in companies that I know do business in certain areas. For example, I have never invested in General Electric--very profitable company--because a couple of their branches make weapons of war. I avoided the open-ended funds of Scudder because my research showed that they owned a chain of Finance Companies--and in every state in the union they make the poor pay double ( the better your credit the lower the interest, etc.). Again, I started to buy Volvo shares--but my research showed that they owned a tobacco company. A year later they sold their tobacco interests and I bought the stock--sold for a 20% gain later. A food company I was researching turned out to also produce the number two best seller among American whiskeys. Okay, they would do that without my dollars.

3. In precious metals (only gold and silver for me) I was careful to avoid Krugerrands (apartheid So. Africa). I bought the Canadian Maple Leaf instead. When I said this in print I was told by ten readers that I would be persona non grata in So. Africa and that I had put my church there to risk!

4. I do invest in six or seven public utilities--water, gas, electricity. As you know these companies cannot just jack up prices and profits at will. They are regulated by state boards and allowed to make 9-13% profit (depending on the state). About half the profits are paid to shareholders in dividends and half are plowed back into the company. If a utility wants to raise rates it has to prove its case to the regulators showing what it costs to produce the product and show compliance with profit guidelines.

5. I have never invested in REITs(real estate investment trusts)--I just didn't think they were safe investments. But what you said in your letter about rental investments in Indy makes me glad that I never seriously considered them.

DON'T CHECK YOUR CONSCIENCE AT THE DOOR. "No Christian should check his conscience at the door when investing. But there are several worse investments than the stock market in general."

ADAM CLARK'S ADVICE. "I like Adam Clarke's advice in the 18th century. He called for the name of any lender who charged more than 5% interest to be posted in the public square. He also participated a campaign that secured the signatures of 100,000 Christians on a petition in which they vowed to stop using sugar and rum until American slavery in the Caribbean was abolished. He also campaigned for child labor laws....but there I go, back to that Wesleyan heritage of ours."

Thanks for your gracious response, Dr. Tracy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

WHILE WE DRIVE, THEY RIDE IN THE SNOW. Cycling competitors in the 8-day Paris-Nice race rode through snow in France earlier today. Heavy snow shortened the stage. I doubt there were any complaints; surely not from Lance Armstrong. This is an AFP photo. Daily summaries, results, and photos of each stage of the Paris-Nice event can be found at

VICTORIES FOR THE WHOLE. "A genuine public life begins with the premise that victories for the whole are greater than victories for any of its parts... The foundation of public life is the tenacious faith that we are in this thing together and can find ways for everyone to win." - Parker Palmer

BEHOLDEN TO THE WORLD. "We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women.... When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a Frenchman. The towel is provided by a Turk. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs, we are beholden to more than half the world." ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Monday, March 7, 2005


URBAN HOUSING "INVESTMENT." I work with homeless and near-homeless neighbors who live in and out of--and are devastated by--investor-owned substandard rental housing. I am sure most of those who invest in urban real estate opportunities have no bad intentions and little awareness or understanding of the human life implications of their investments. They are simply looking at the money. Making money, having a margin and return on investment, is as far as it goes with them.

TWICE REMOVED. Most such real estate investors are twice removed from their investment. I've discovered that many have never seen the properties they hold. They do not look at real estate investment as human habitation or care to know the impacts of their kind of investing on community, cycles of poverty, crime, etc. No, they are just making a modest killing, that's all.

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WATERFALL. So, compassionate and recovery ministries work primarily at the bottom of the waterfall, the cycle continues, and an unjust process is perpetuated. No one takes responsibility. I suppose we just blame it on those in poverty?

STOCK MARKET SIMILARITIES? Seeing this occur on a local scale in a housing market, and seeing its impacts on urban neighbors and urban community, I am wondering if the same or similar scenario occurs on a global scale via stock market trading? To what extent do investors know or care to know the impacts of their investments? To what extent are they made aware of environmental and social impacts by the corporation or funds group they are investing in? Are questions of social ethics raised and, if so, to what extent are the answers pursued and disclosed? Or are the vast majority of investors just looking at the bottom line? Is money-making amoral? Is the market amoral? Should no such questions be asked? Just take the money and be grateful to God for the savvy God has given one for the ability to make it?

COMPLICITY AND QUESTIONS. It seems to me that the market is a moral entity and that every investor--even those blindly far removed--is complicit in the socially and environmentally devastating impacts of the choices and actions of the corporation. Every investment is a "Yes" vote for prevailing practices. The theological and ethical questions this raises for me are many.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

GRACE NOTES POSTED. I've posted this week's edition of "Grace Notes - Weekly Fragments from the Margins of a Graced Life." Click here to read the following selections:
  • Dark With Power - A Wendell Berry Poem
  • Wall Street: Friend or Foe? - Do we exam the downside? Do we care?
  • Holiness & The Stock Market - Historic protest; contemporary complicity
  • The Lord Our Market - a parody of the 10 Commandments by Norman Solomon
  • Hope’s Daughters - a few hope quotes
  • Steps in Redemptive Love – Martin Luther King, Jr.

ARMSTRONG AT PARIS-NICE. He's way back in the pack--140th, 27 seconds behind leader Jens Voigt--after the 4k Prologue of the 8-day Paris-Nice race. This is the Texan's first major European cycling competition of the 2005 season. Is it simply a typical slow start for the Tour de France champ? Or a sign of things to come?

Saturday, March 5, 2005

WALL STREET: Is it an idol central to the spirit of the age, demanding our worship and continual sacrifices? How many of our decisions about values, meaning, and priorities are done with a stock market mindset? If Wall Street is a necessary part of our economy, how do we begin to reel its power in, curb its abuses, and change the impacts of bottom-line decisons that crush lives in America and around the world? Dare we envision the principality and power of a Wall Street that yields to and glorifies God?
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE STOCK MARKET. I ran across a 2000 column by Norman Solomon on AlterNet that parodied the worship of the stock market by then up-and-coming dot-com-ers. While the dot-com bubble burst, Solomon's "Ten Commandments" are eerily persistent in the hearts and minds of many. Here are a few of his "Ten Commandments" for stock market traders:
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your Market in vain. It has little use for those who squander opportunity. It will not hold guiltless those who fail to appreciate Its transformative powers.
  • Remember the stock exchange and keep it holy. You may pause and reflect on the meaning of your labor, but for the long days and during after-hours trading -- with the help of cable TV networks and online brokerage firms as well as some of the hottest investment websites around -- the Lord your Market blesses every breath you take and hallows it, especially when earnings soar.
  • Honor your father and mother, for they made possible a balanced portfolio, taking into account the strengths of blue chips and Nasdaq, with careful attention to the most auspicious high-tech initial public offerings.
  • You shall not fail to make a killing, within the constraints of mortal fallibility, which must be reduced to aggregate the momentum of digital technologies and the markets. In the Canaan of the Web, you shall revere those who develop software to let there be cyberlight, making new fiduciary horizons dawn and rendering mere human form secondary.

Solomon add the following comment:

"The virtual commandments need not be belabored or even mentioned; they are mainly internalized by the faithful. Every month, hundreds of hours on national television and many large vats of ink go to prayerful meditations on how to better understand and analyze the Lord our Market, seeking to assess Its will to be done. Sanctified by an inexhaustible fountain of media reports and discussions, the Lord our Market reaches new and transcendent levels, nearing the iridescent light to shine on the human condition."

"As for others who fail utterly in the glorious quest for rich holiness of the techno-age, you shall not be distracted by their misfortune nor attempt significant aid. For I, the Lord your Market, am a zealous god, smiting each generation with inequities that favor the best and lay low those who cannot glorify the Lord their Market. This need not bother the followers who embrace me and with steadfast devotion keep my commandments."

Friday, March 4, 2005

HOLINESS FOLK & THE STOCK MARKET. Once upon a time--at the turn of the 20th century--there was a clear protest among Wesleyan/holiness folk regarding the stock market. Their reasons for non-participation and vocal protest were simple and clear:
  • The stock market was seen as a form of gambling, which spawned heavy spiritual and social liabilities;
  • Stock market trading capitalized industrial monopolies that routinely manipulated, degraded, and abused common laborers;
  • Stock market trading created a false sense of wealth and made the accumulation of money the bottom-line value in society;
  • Stock market trading heavily favored the rich at the expense of the poor;
  • Frequently, stock market-capitalized industrialists accumulated vast amounts of wealth without while insisting on paying unfair or unlivable wages to workers.
  • Stock market-supported financial dealing was transacted with high interest (usury) and often led to crippling debts.
  • All of these practices were in open violation of clear instruction of the Bible and did not lead to the Godly life the Bible describes and which grace makes possible.

THAT WAS THEN. Things have become much more complex since then. While reforms have occurred for laborers and industrial monopolies have been broken up, Wall Street practices and promotions continue to spawn social inequities and unchristian ethical quandaries--now on a global scale. And now, more than ever before, the retirement funds and financial investments of most American Christians are tied up in stock market funds and trading. We are complicit in the impacts of the stock market at home and abroad. It's a very complex situation.

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM. The general response of Wesleyan/holiness leaders has been to take this "plank" in our historic series of social/ethical "protests" off the table. We have essentially conceded this battle and retreated to the less complex arena of personal sin and salvation. Instead of standing ground and attending to the complexity for the sake of shaping a sophisticated but responsible Christian alternative or transformative witness, we have thrown up our hands and become ever more complicit in Wall Street values. We have become like the world. We have succumbed to this idol that is central to the spirit of the age. And, sadly, most Wesleyan/holiness rank and file don't even (a) realize it, or (b) care to change.

God help us.

Thursday, March 3, 2005


"Hope has two lovely daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see they do not remain that way." -- attributed to Augustine of Hippo

MR. FOSSETT DOES IT AGAIN. Last year he successfully solo circumnavigated the globe nonstop in a hot-air balloon. Today, Steve Fossett completed the first nonstop single-engine, solo flight around the world. He touched down in Salina, Kansas after 67 hours and 23,000 miles. What frontiers are next up for this Chicagoan who dreams great dreams and reaches for the skies?

CHOOSING TO CUT ANGER LOOSE. "I knew I had to choose between clinging to my anger and being sure of death, or cutting my heavy load of angry judgments and trusting that I would not vanish into nothingness. Very deep in me I knew that there would be arms to catch me. I knew that beyond my anger there was love. I heard it clearly: 'God's saving justice is never served by human anger' (James 1:20, NJB). A feeling of great safety engulfed me. It was as if someone put a hand on my forehead and said, 'Don't be afraid.'" -- Henri J. M. Nouwen in an article titled "Anger's Burden" in Weavings, Volume IX, Number 2, March/April 1994

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

MY 76th LETTER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH. I have sent and posted my 76th letter to the President. Click here to read it. For the index/link to all of "My Letters to the President of the United States," a project I started the day W took the oath of office in 2001, click here. My project is rated as a "Best of Geocities" site.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

SAM IS TWELVE TODAY. Our youngest of four children, Samuel David, turns twelve years old today. And, apparently, he intends to become a percussionist. Do these things come with earplugs? Pray for the rest of us in the Hay household.