Monday, January 31, 2005

THE WRONG ATTORNEY GENERAL. Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's nomination for Attorney General, takes us back to the dark policies and tactics of the Inquisitions -- torture them until they confess to something. Does this man really represent the best in American justice? Or have we stooped to handing out high offices as rewards to Administration staff members who bent over backwards to stoke the President's will to act, however unwisely, against terrorism?

"Mr. Gonzales himself sent President Bush a letter telling him that the war on terror made the Geneva Conventions' strict limitations on the questioning of enemy prisoners 'obsolete.' These actions created the legal climate that made possible the horrific mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners being held in Abu Ghraib prison."
- The New York Times, January 26, 2005

NEAR EASTSIDE VIRTUAL TOUR. Take a photo tour of the matrix of neighborhoods I have served and whose community life and challenges fascinate me. This area of Indianapolis is generally known as the urban area served by the Near East Side Community Organization (NESCO), John H. Boner Community Center, People's Health Center, Eastside Community Investments (now defunct), and the Near Eastside Community Federal Credit Union. Thanks to Horizon House for continuing to host my "virtual tour."
GRACE NOTES POSTED. I have posted this week's edition of Grace Notes: Weekly Fragments from the Margins of a Graced Life. This week's contents include:

  • One Step Backward Taken - a 1947 poem of Robert Frost.
  • Elie Wiesel's Enduring Voice - excerpts from Wiesel's comments at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
  • What We Accept at the Beginning Matters - a reflection on the importance of examining underpinnings of popular policy and common assumptions.
  • A Letter to the Editor - published in Sunday's edition of the Indianapolis Star.
  • Grace Greater Than Our Sin - lyrics to a song we sing in our community of faith.

I publish Grace Notes weekly; let me know if you'd like to receive a blind copy in your e-mail inbox once a week. I do not share e-mail addresses...ever.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

MARK THIS DAY. The ends will never justify the means, and the means America chose and its intervention in Iraq will never be justified. Even an apparent courageous outpouring of hope for a democratic Iraq does not sweep away the misleading justifications and erroneous pretexts for toppling Saddam Hussein. Still, I was relieved and heartened by news of the turnout at the polls in the Iraqi elections. Perhaps an important corner has been turned. If so, it has come at an extremely high price for Iraqis, for Americans, and for the safety of the world.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

ONE STEP BACKWARD TAKEN. You've surely read (or memorized) "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. Have you heard of his 1947 poem, "One Step Backward Taken." Consider it in context of national and global precipices over which we perilously peer.

Not only sands and gravels
Were once more on their travels,
But gulping muddy gallons
Great boulders off their balance
Bumped heads together dully
And started down the gully.
Whole capes caked off in slices.
I felt my standpoint shaken
In the universal crisis.
But with one step backward taken
I saved myself from going.
A world torn loose went by me.
Then the rain stopped and the blowing,
And the sun came out to dry me.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem, 1969, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Examine everything.
Question authority.
Do not discount your misgivings.
Do not just accept what is said.
Do not merely go along.
Exegete perspectives.
Trace down every assertion.
Look behind every notion.
Uncover what is intended but unspoken.
Speak what you discover.
Repent if it is called for.
Expose untruth if it be so.
Cry out now, or many may
weep for your silence.


Friday, January 28, 2005



WHAT WE ACCEPT AT THE BEGINNING MATTERS

IT'S WHERE YOU BEGIN, WHAT YOU ACCEPT. You see, it's where you begin, what you accept as a valid beginning point that matters most. But we rarely look there. We hardly ever question back to there. We simply do not take the time to discover the tennuous underpinnings of what we accept as normative, as truth, as good policy, as life-sustaining value, as world-saving action.

WHAT GERMANS ACCEPTED. My sense is that most of the proud German people living in the beginning days of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (a conservative, moral-values based political party) did not examine the roots of their angst or challenge the underpinnings of the solutions to their national woes that the Nazi party proposed.

UNTRUTH BECAME NORMATIVE. They went along. They accepted. They allowed. They gave the benefit of the doubt. And what they allowed and accepted became normative for their children. It had the ring of truth and strength in numbers. They thought themselves to be on a heroic journey of national restoration and attempted to bring a liberating fascism to weaker countries stalled in economic and moral malaise.

SIXTY YEARS LATER. Sixty years later, the heads of state of most world-leading nations (absent George W. Bush) gather at Auschwitz to commemorate the day the Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp that sent more than 1,100,000 Jews, gypsies, gays, and other stereotyped prisoners to gas chambers and crematoriums that ran day and night. The leaders solemnly vow "never again" and at the same time do not examine the norms they accept or the perilous underpinnings or trajectories of the actions they take.

CRY OUT NOW. Examine everything. Question authority. Trace down every assertion. Look behind every notion. Exegete perspectives. Do not just go along. Do not just accept what is said. Speak what you discover. Repent if it is called for. Expose untruth if it be so. Cry out now, or many may weep for your silence.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

ANSWER ME THIS. I listened to President Bush's press conference yesterday. And I listened to the confirmation hearings for Condoleeza Rice. I come away with one linger question. Answer me this (Texas-style colloquialism intended):
"Why can't President Bush or any of his staff bring themselves to admit to an iota of error, mistake, shading, misjudging, misleading, lying, or undue reliance on questionable information relating to their emphatic and impassioned charges (a) that Iraq was harboring terrorists, (b) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or (c) that Iraq was in any way connected to the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001?"

PATHOLOGICAL AVOIDANCE. Mr. Bush simply will not answer any such question directly or indirectly. Bush staff ignore the queries of one member of the press corps after another. They sidestep the direct interrogations of one Congressional leader after another. They change the subject. They subvert the conversation. They stonewall. It has reached a point of pathological avoidance.

HOUSE OF CARDS. Why? Why can't they answer the question directly or indirectly? I can only conclude that to admit to any such error they must think their house-of-cards rationales for the war and credibility for continuing it will come crashing in. It will, eventually, with or without their direct response to simple, probing questions. But they should consider how the American public and history will look upon their tactics.

CLINTONESQUE. The pathological avoidance of the Bush administration to the question of justification for the Iraq War is worse than President Clinton's pathological dodging of simple questions about philandering with an intern. Clinton's lies took no lives. This Administration's stonewall stance has thus far cost over 1,300 American and untold thousands of Iraqi lives and left us reeling with an unprecedented deficit.

Please, ladies and gentlemen, just answer the questions.


HOLOCAUST MUSEUM. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of the pilgrimages individuals and families of all nations should make. Whatever else one sees in Washington, D.C., this is the primary and orienting experience. After this experience you will be more grateful for the Capitol and more troubled by the influence peddling that pervades it. You will see the White House and know that a revered President who resided there long delayed an intervening response after learning of the plight of the Jews in Europe, even preventing many from immigrating to the United States. You will be deeply grateful for freedom and come away with a heightened sensitivity to abuses of authority even in the name of democracy and freedom. You will grieve and repent of your own small bigotries and speak up more quickly in defense of any oppressed person or group in the future. Learn more at www.ushmm.org.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


ONE DAY OF SHOES AT AUSCHWITZ. Alan Jacobs' photography of Auschwitz and Buchenwald is powerful. This photo represents about 25,000 pairs of shoes from one day of exterminations of Jews at the death camp. See more of Jacob's photography at http://remember.org/jacobs/
"THERE MUST NEVER BE A TIME WHEN WE FAIL TO PROTEST." This is the concluding paragraph of Elie Wiesel's Nobel Peace Prize lecture, December 11, 1986:

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. The Talmud tells us that by saving a single human being, man can save the world. We may be powerless to open all the jails and free all prisoners, but by declaring our solidarity with one prisoner, we indict all jailers. None of us is in a position to eliminate war, but it is our obligation to denounce it and expose it in all its hideousness. War leaves no victors, only victims.

...Mankind needs to remember more than ever. Mankind needs peace more than ever, for our entire planet, threatened by nuclear war, is in danger of total destruction. A destruction only man can provoke, only man can prevent. Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures, it is our gift to each other."


Click here to read Wiesel's full speech, "Hope, Despair, and Memory."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


ELIE WIESEL ON THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ. The 76-year old Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke at the United Nations observance. I first read Wiesel's penetrating stories of the genocide of Jews at the hands of the Germans while I was a student at Olivet Nazarene University in a literature course titled "Jewish Writers."

A few quotes of Wiesel at the UN event (reported by AP):

"I am not afraid it will be forgotten. I was fearing that at first, but now I don't, because I know that this is the most documented tragedy in history ... I have always believed that whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness himself: children of the survivors, their friends, readers, students."

"On the other hand, I am afraid of the trivialization of this memory, especially when one does films. I do not like the word 'docudrama' that is so much in fashion."

"If someone told me in 1945 that I would (be) waging battle against anti-Semitism in 2005, I would not have believed it. The danger therefore is still there."

"Indifference for me is the evil. The opposite of love is not hate but indifference, the opposite of education is not ignorance but indifference, the opposite of beauty is not ugliness but indifference, the opposite of life is not death but indifference to life and to death."


$80 BILLION MORE FOR WAR. That's what President Bush is now asking of the American people. He will pressure Congress to approve the additional spending to bankroll his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember, folks, these are your tax dollars at work. It's not Congress's money. It's not the President's money. It's your money that's used to make war. Let's see, what would $80 billion do for education? What would $80 billion do for health care? What would $80 billion do to lift millions of families out of poverty? Instead, we will plow it into a military and war effort run amok with no end in sight.

When will we say "enough?"

Monday, January 24, 2005

FOUR YEARS FROM NOW, this community should not be able to blame problems on or claim victories from George W. Bush or Mitch Daniels. Let us not give any principality that much credit or control. Four years from now, this community will either more exemplify shalom or retrench into the self-fulfilling prophecies inherent in self-interest. Either way, the responsibility will be predominantly on local neighbors.

Read more in "All Politics Is Local" in this week's edition of Grace Notes.

BEN DAVIS PREMIERS. Here's the 2005 edition of the BDHS show choir Premiers as they debuted their spring show at the school's "Dessert Cabaret" fundraiser last night. Jared's on the back row, third from the left. Good luck, Jared and Premiers!
GRACE NOTES POSTED. I just posted this week's edition of my "weekly fragments from the margins of a graced life," or Grace Notes. In this week's issue:
  • On NOT Mending Fences - a reflection on Robert Frost's poem
  • "All Politics Is Local" - after the election season, it's up to us neighbors
  • A Better Image of a Pastor - I reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s less used photos, the ones where the minister is being manhandled by law enforcement authorities
  • Family Graces - a brief update on the Hay household

Care to receive Grace Notes via e-mail each week? Just let me know.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

WE STAND FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE. I have signed the "We Stand For Peace and Justice" statement. You're welcome to take a look at it and consider signing on.
SNOW FALLS. We didn't get what we were hoping for--the massive amounts of snow that fell just north of Indianapolis--but we're grateful for the snowfall we continue to receive today. Nothing immobilizing; just great snow. Simple pleasures.

Friday, January 21, 2005

"ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL." Having been sucked into and emerged from the quadrennial vortex that is the national Presidential and state Gubernatorial election season, take some time survey the real landscape of living. Look around at your own community context. For all the earth-shattering rhetoric and paradigm-shifting promises that are the stuff of politics and partisan ideologies, we must affirm an eclipsing reality: "All politics is local."

WHETHER OR NOT. Whoever is in the White House, community is affected dramatically more by local neighbors--whether or not we care for one another, whether or not we stand up for those who are mistreated, whether or not we address broken institutions and life-crushing local policies, whether or not we see ourselves as our neighbors' keepers, whether or not we act primarily in our own best interest or in the interest of the common good in our community.

OUR RESPONSIBILITY, OUR OPPORTUNITY. Four years from now, this community will not be able to blame problems on or claim victories from George W. Bush. I will not give him or his Administration that much credit or control. Four years from now, this community will either more exemplify shalom or retrench into the self-fulfilling prophecies of the trickle-down economics of the neo-capitalism that Robert Bellah describes. Either way, the responsibility will be predominantly on local neighbors. Are you ready to become the neighbor who acts to heal the community?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

MY 74th LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT. I have written and posted my 74th letter to President George W. Bush. I started this project on January 20, 2001, the day of Mr. Bush's first Inauguration. My intent was to write him a letter a week, but I faded from that intensity for a number of reasons. I still write to him and post all the letters, but less frequently. It seemed appropriate to write to Mr. Bush on the day of his second Inauguration.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


"SOMETHING THERE IS THAT DOESN'T LOVE A WALL" Perhaps Robert Frost pondered the superficiality of a stone wall such as this one (see post below). This photo is by Preston Manning at www.wildlandphotography.com. This wall is in Viriginia; Frost's would have been north of Boston.
MENDING FENCES. I ran across Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Fences," earlier this evening. Frost challenges the old addage "Good fences make good neighbors." In the poem he tells of he and his neighbor mending the stone fence between their properties each spring. He ponders why they bother, for neither pen animals. His neighbor, however, is insistent on the practice, quoting the dictum. But Frost suspects there is perhaps a divine or natural power that brings down parts of the stone wall each year. I especially like the following lines:

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast..."

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down..."

Frost reflects on his neighbor's quoted phrase and stolid actions:
"...I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees..."
What--or Who--is it that wants the superficial walls between us down?
LIVING BETWEEN ADVENTS. William Stringfellow (1929-1985) articulates the challenge of living authentically as Christian between the Advents. Read this into the previous post, "The Grace of Dissent":

"In the First Advent, Christ the Lord comes into the World; in the next Advent, Christ the Lord comes as Judge of the world and of all the world's thrones and pretenders, sovereignties and dominions, principalities and authorities, presidencies and regimes, in vindication of his lordship and the reign of the Word of God in history. This is the truth, which the world hates, which biblical people (repentant people) bear and by which they live as the church in the world in the time between the two Advents." -- from Advent as a Penitential Season


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

THE GRACE OF DISSENT

Knowing both my penchant for seeing the possibility of grace in unlikely situations and my consistent criticism of the posturing, choices, and directions the George W. Bush regime, a friend challenged me to try to write something graceful about the U.S. President.

SAY SOMETHING NICE. One would think this would be easy to do: just say something nice about the man. Like: he professes Christianity. Like: he is a sober, recovering alcoholic. Like: he is a faithful husband. Like: he loves America. I can say these things. These are commendable for a President. Few Presidents could honestly claim this combination of commitments or characteristics.

LIKE MILLIONS OF US. As laudable as these four claims are, they can be said of perhaps millions of people (millions more if you consider those who have not had the experience of addiction to alcohol). These characteristics do not qualify George W. Bush or any other person to be President of the United States of America. Nor have they apparently assisted him and his regime in leading the American people wisely, or even honestly.

GOD'S HAND ON HIM? During the recent election campaign, the Rev. Pat Robertson said of Bush that though he had made mistakes and was not necessarily right on a variety of issues, God's hand was obviously upon him. There you have it. The right reverend hath spoken: the savvy use and bullying abuse of political power cloaked in well-orchestrated images of civil religion equate to God's blessing. Not!

OPEN LETTERS TO THE PRESIDENT. I am a citizen who has paid close attention to this Presidency from day one. I have taken the time to reflect on his manner and choices and have written over seventy letters to George W. Bush over the past four years. I have commended him and scolded him. I have agreed and disagreed with him. I have offered alternative perspectives along with my prayers. My thoughts and feelings in these letters are open for all the world to read.

OFFERING DISSENT. Some may read into my letters and perspective nothing more than carping criticism. But in my heart and mind I am sincerely trying to offer this President the grace of dissent. Dissent means "to withold assent" or "to differ in opinion." Dissent is not unpatriotic. Dissent is not simply being contrary. Dissent is not a minor key or discordant voice. Dissent is not negativism. The fact that dissent is begrudgingly endured by the majority of people does not reduce its value and importance in the past or to the future for all.

AN ALTERNATIVE VISION. Dissent, as I speak of it as a grace, is rooted in an alternative vision of the common good. Dissent, in my case, is anchored in an understanding of the Biblical image and principles of the Kingdom of God articulated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his church. This is the vision and allegiance that claims my heart and life. This alternative vision of the common good is starkly distinct from the claims, posturing, values base, and policies of the Bush Administration.

A PARTICULAR REASON FOR DISSENT. It is particularly because of the Bush Administration's appropriation of Christian terms, images, and posturing for the sake of selling to the American public a thoroughly secular, wealth-serving, class-dividing, violence-reinforcing ideology that I have raised my voice in dissent. Christianity is not merely civil religion. Christianity is not a tool to be used by power brokers to passify or satiate a hopeful citizenry. It is not wool to pull over the eyes. It is not bapitsmal water to justify the spirit of mammon and violence.

CONTRADICTIONS. It is not of Christ to incite moral alarm at gay marriage and at the same time continue to intentionally mislead the world regarding the connections between the terrorist attack on 9/11/01 and Iraq. It is not of Christian faith to name the Prince of Peace as one's chief counsel and lead primarily by intimidation, the violence of unprovoked war, and at the bidding of donating patrons. To me, the contradictions between this regime's claims to act Christianly and the real claims of authentic Christianity are numerous and glaring, as comprehensive as specific.

THIS GRACE I OFFER. So, this grace I offer this President and his regime: dissent. I simply cannot and will not give assent to this President's claims and directions. I dissent as a citizen. I dissent as a Christian. I offer this President and his Administration and alternative vision and perspective. And I live in hope that it, not the present means or ends, will ultimately prevail for the sake of the world which God gave his Son to redeem and transform.

Monday, January 17, 2005


A BETTER IMAGE OF A PASTOR. Most images of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. depict the pastor/civil rights leader behind a pulpit or before a great throng of adoring people. But I prefer the pictures of this Christian minister being manhandled by government authorities serving vested white interests.

POWER IN THE STREETS. King's primary witness and power come not from the pulpit and podium, but from his stand in the streets with unnamed people with whom he identified and for whom he gave his life. This photo, accessed at The Seattle Times MLK pages (a good online resource!), was taken in 1958 in Montgomery, Alabama. He was arrested for "loitering"; the charge was later changed to "failure to obey an officer."

PASTOR ARRESTED? When was the last time you read of a Christian minister being arrested for any issue of peace and justice? Plenty have been arrested for fraud or other immoral behavior. Help me recall those who have so irked the powers that be regarding peace and justice that the principality we call "government" has had the audacitcy to lay hands on them?

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. The dream of a nation of races reconciled, diversity embraced, and poverty rolled back gets mixed reviews. Based on his outspoken perspective on the Vietnam War, I doubt many would want to hear what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have to say about the Iraq War today. This is an AP photo.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

READING BACKWARD IN TIME. Blog technology is such that what's at the top of the page is only the latest, perhaps the last, thread in an extended reflection or conversation. Ordinarily, I would add the latest addition to a string of reflections at the bottom of the page. The latest presumes you have read and are up to speed on the line of thought. I just don't presume that. Maybe that's the residual of a journalist in me. Presume nothing. Reframe often.
Apparently not (see previous post). You've gotta hand it to the Patriots. They are one tough unit. Good luck to them against Pittsburg next week.

Look for New England and Atlanta in the Super Bowl, with New England winning.
CAN THE COLTS BEAT NEW ENGLAND? Here's the burning question of the hour. Indianapolis came up just short last year in the same playoff setting. Now they're back in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It's cold. It's snowing. It's game time. Let's see if Payton Manning, who has not beaten New England in Foxboro in six attempts, can lead our hometown team to victory--be it ever so close--against the Patriots.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


SAM TAKES A SHOT. Sam's Westlake Wildcats 6th-grade basketball team took Garden City into overtime on Thursday afternoon, finally winning the away game 63-58. Sam is super-scrappy on defense and opportunistic on offense.
GRACE NOTES. I just posted this week's edition of Grace Notes. In this week's edition:

  • Carol of the Epiphany - words to a Scottish hymn by John Bell
  • Lost in Heaven - a 1936 poem of Robert Frost
  • Hospitality Again? - I revisit applications of hospitality past and present
  • Reducing Risk and Strangeness - Christine Pohl's advice in offering hospitality to strangers

BE INTENTIONAL IN WELCOMING STRANGERS. Christine Pohl lays down the following challenge to all:
Without intentionally building some minimal connections, it is unlikely that we will welcome the most vulnerable people into our homes or churches, even if we accept responsibility to offer hospitality to strangers and recognize its significance to them. We need to find or create contemporary equivalents of the city gate, community rituals, and small group meetings in which we can build preliminary relations with strangers.” (from Making Room, Eerdmans, 1999)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

THE BIG IDEA. A few days ago I read in the newspaper of local entrepreneur Scott Jones' big idea--a household entertainment and media control system. I'm sure it's made him millions.

My big idea? It's an old one, a yet-to-be-achieved one, one I cannot pull off by myself or with the millions Scott Jones might invest. My life's big idea is of a reconciled community.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

IT'S OFFICIAL: NO WMDs. Now that the election season safely over. After UN and US inspectors unqualifiedly declared it months ago. After strong assertions to the contrary were made by our President to both Congress and the citizens. After presuring the UN into a justification for attack on Iraq based primarily on the assumption of WMDs. Long after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, having made the Bush Administration's case to the UN Security Council, repented of his assertions--along with any connections between Saddam Hussein and 9/11/01. After billions of dollars of taxpayers money have been wasted on ammunitions and over 1,000 American lives and countless thousands of Iraqi lives have been lost in the US-led attack based on the assertion of WMDs. Now the Bush Administration makes it official: "Oops! We were wrong. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

The release of this information came without any apology or regrets. The President still thinks he did--and continues to do--the right thing regarding Iraq.

How do you react or respond to this information?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

THINKING OF GOD IN LIGHT OF THE TSUNAMI. I've read and heard a lot of really offensive, well-intended but untenable comments about God's purposes related to the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Most of what I've read reflects really bad, unbiblical theology. I really hope people don't think such things about the God they claim to worship.

One astute reflection I recommend: "A Grief Observed." You can read it at http://www.tothesource.org/12_30_2004/12_30_2004.htm. The writer reflects on C.S. Lewis thoughts on pain--both his early dispassionate observations in his book The Problem of Pain and his later personal anguished turmoil in A Grief Observed, a book about the suffering and death of his wife, Joy, and his own suffering in the midst of her pain.

The writer concludes with these words:

"Perhaps our problem with pain is the same as our problem with love or with the birth of a child or with spiritual transcendence -- we do not master them by putting words to them. They are beyond words. These experiences are always more than we could have managed, imagined or described. We do not begin to understand them and we kid ourselves when we think we do."

"Try as we can, and it is good to do so, at the end we can not fully understand the problem of pain or the death of an innocent. We do not have God’s eyes."

"How can we worship a God who allows Melina’s family to suffer such terrible anguish? How can we worship a God who allows so many innocent lives to aimlessly perish? Because He is God."

"Perhaps this is why Golgotha remains such a profound mystery, one beyond description. Perhaps it is why it remains so relevant even to a modern world."

Monday, January 10, 2005


SAME LANCE, NEW DISCOVERY. Tim Maloney of www.cyclingnews.com took this photo earlier today as Lance Armstrong introduced his new team in Washington, D.C. Gone is the red, white, and blue. The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (formerly sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service), donning light blue and white jerseys, will field a highly competitive group of riders in most major international road races.

DEFEND THE TOUR DE FRANCE? Will Lance defend his title as the 6-time champ of the Tour de France? He's not saying. Don't count him out. But there are other mountains to conquer. He's yet to win either of the other two crown jewels of cycling: the Gyro de Italia or Vuelta Espana. Why not test his mountain prowess in Italy and Spain?
GRACE NOTES POSTED. Earlier today, I posted this week's edition of Grace Notes. You can access it at www.geocities.com/bikehiker. This week's contents:
  • Benedicere - a New Year's blessing by Ken Sehested (from Sojomail)
  • Reflections on the Tsunami - 6 observations I've made
  • Kingdom Etiquette - 4 "rules" of hospitality for upside-down Kingdom living

WRITING ON THE RUN. Grace Notes are made up of little more than weekly fragments, notes made in the margins of what I process during the course of a week. Grace Notes are, for me, some thoughts and ideas I would like to develop more fully--sometime, someday. For now, I write on the run, I reflect as I go. I scribble insipient considerations down and hope to get back to them. If Grace Notes feels incomplete or embryonic to read, that's because it is.


“The tsunami’s aftermath is the most serious issue now facing humankind, and must concern us all.” - Johann Christof Arnold

A NEW GOVERNOR IN INDIANA. Mitch Daniels, a former Lilly executive and Director of the Office of Management of the Budget in the Bush Administration, is being sworn in as Indiana's Governor today. After 16 years of Democratic leadership under Evan Bayh and Frank O'Bannon, Daniels is a Republican.

Let us pray wisdom for him and for all who are elected and appointed to govern fairly and seek the shalom of this state.

Saturday, January 8, 2005


JARED WITH BECKY. This photo is circa 2003, but it's a good likeness of both Jared and Becky. Happy 17th, Jared!
JARED'S BIRTHDAY. Many people mark January 8th as Elvis' birthday (his 70th, to be exact). But in the Hay household we celebrate January 8th as the day Jared Emmanuel was born seventeen years ago. We are proud of you, Jared. Happy birthday!
CYCLE TRAINING. I had my first training session with the CycleOps this evening. With Christmas-gift money I purchased a used CycleOps trainer through e-Bay. The back wheel of my Cannondale road bike is set into the sleek trainer. An adjustable magneto provides resistance to simulate a road ride. At A-1 Cyclery, I got a Carmichael Training Systems DVD for criterium training. The video coached me through an hour-long spin that left me huffing, puffing, sweating, and sore. Perfect!
ROBERT FROST: POET OF SNOW. I've not yet found a poet who so enjoys the snow as Robert Frost (hey, it's even in his name). My mom recently gave me an old copy of The Poetry of Robert Frost and I've been plundering it for snow poems. Here's one from a 1914 collection called "North of Boston":

GOOD HOURS

I had for my winter evening walk--
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o'clock of a winter eve.

FRANCIS WITH SNOW IN HIS FACE. I couldn't resist snapping a shot of this statue of the saint as I passed St. Francis Hospital South in Indianapolis earlier today. We had about 3 inches of snow overnight, transforming the Indy area into a winter wonderland.
KINGDOM ETIQUETTE. I am working with Luke 14:1-24 in preparation for my opportunity to reflect on and apply the Bible in the Morning Worship service at West Morris Street Free Methodist Church tomorrow. The account of Jesus dining at the house of a Pharisee opens up principles of hospitality that reflect a far different etiquette than we commonly practice. Even sitting down to dinner reflects what we believe to be true about the present and future in which Jesus' rule is the new norm.

FOUR RULES. Based on Luke 14:1-24, here are four "Kingdom etiguette" rules I will assert:

1. Jesus breaks the rules when they co-opt or prevent grace from reaching the people who need it most. Luke 14:1-6

2. In the upside-down Kingdom, we enter by humbling ourselves. Luke 14:7-11

3. Inside out hospitality invites outsiders in. Luke 14:12-14

4. How we RSVP to God’s banquet invitation indicates the condition of our heart. Luke 14:12-24

Friday, January 7, 2005

HOW DO WE SEE OTHERS? “All of us in the church need ‘grace-healed eyes’ to see the potential in others for the same grace that God has lavishly bestowed on us. 'To love a person,’ said Dostoyevsky, ‘means to see him as God intended him to be.'” – Philip Yancy in What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Zondervan, 1997)

Thursday, January 6, 2005


VISIT OF THE MAGI. This painting by Beato Angelico depicts the visit of the Magi at Bethlehem in a European Medieval times setting. This is the Epiphany.
EPIPHANY GRACE. Epiphany celebrates that God’s light draws unlikely people to grace by circuitous means. Perhaps now, more often than not, people may see light and respond to grace from odd places and by unorthodox means. While grace comes through orthodox means, grace is just as likely to shine light in unlikely places, on unlikely people, and bring them by unlikely paths to the foot of the Cross. Epiphany celebrates such “appearings,” such small and great invasions and in-breakings of grace as part and parcel of the Kingdom.

THE CHILD IS KING. Epiphany also celebrates the fact that the Child visited is, in fact, born King of kings. The prospect that Jesus has been born “king of the Jews” sends Herod’s regime into "search and seizure" mode. The announcement that a new King is on the scene is simultaneously welcoming and threatening.

BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS. For those living off the spoils of the present reign, who have invested in and count on the continuance of present power arrangements, the news of a new king is unsettling, threatening, undermining. But for those who long for justice, for mercy, for inclusion, for place, for peace, for dignity, for a tomorrow, for equitable economy, for fairness, for a second chance, or for just a chance, the news of a new King is Good News, indeed.

HAVE YOU MADE THE JOURNEY? The journey to adoration of the Christ child is nearly complete. Nearly. It is as nearly complete as our own adoration. Have you made the journey in your heart? Place yourself among the unlikely figures who hear the Good News or who have been drawn by some light. You are no less out of place than anyone else. I am no more worthy of being there than the next person.

LET US BE AMAZED. But have we been drawn? If so, then let us do the only thing one can do in the presence of divinity, in the presence of unparalleled royalty—let us be silent, let us be grateful, let us bow down in worship and adoration, let us prepare ourselves to be forever changed, let us be still and know that God is God. Let us be amazed at grace. And let us turn it inside out in a lifetime of bearing grace to all who are drawn to His light.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005


FRIENDSWOOD. Camby, Indiana is not much more than a wide spot in the road at the southwest edge of Marion County. This Friends meeting house is just into Hendricks County. It is a peaceful corner of the community.
God did not send the tsunami. The tsunami was not an expression of God's wrath.

A GODLY PRESIDENT WOULD KNOW NOT TO CALCULATE COMPASSION'S IMPACT. First, President Bush waited four days to make any personal statement or lead the nation in expressing sympathy regarding the tsunami catastrophe. Now, he and his representatives try to calculate how much ground they can make up for their verbal bashing and international offenses to Muslims worldwide by "using" compassion in this crisis as leverage.

Bush claims to be a godly President. A godly President would know that Biblical faith and Biblical compassion does not calculate impacts, rewards, or look at benefits of compassion. Clearly, Bush is not acting in compassion, but in political calculation.

For this reason, it is better for American citizens who are Christian to direct their compassion to private relief organizations and not through the U. S. government.
COMPASSION WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS. American governmental leaders can't help thinking of twisting things to see how it can help their political cause. Bush Adminsitration officials have openly pondered that America's compassion in the face of the tsunami catastrophe will hopefully win them political points and goodwill they have lost in the War on Iraq and other debacles regarding the Muslim world.

They just don't get it.

Compassion is borne out of feeling for and responding to the human predicament without strings attached. I believe this is what the vast majority of American citizens intend and want to express at this moment and in this crisis.

Anything more or less is not compassion.

To the U.S. Government: Quit calculating. Just do what is right.


GOD DID NOT SEND THE TSUNAMI. Apparently some of my evangelical bretheren are asserting that the tsuanami that killed over 150,000 people in south Asia is an act of God's wrath. They are wrong. These are the same people who can't wait for a literal Armagedoon and have encouraged the President they champion to make policy based on it.

God did not send the tsunami. The tsunami is not an expression of God's wrath.

These prophets for profit know nothing of interpreting the times. They are quacks.

Those ministers who assert that the tsunami was directed by God in wrath should not be listened to. They should be discredited and blacklisted. Of such as these, Ezekiel wrote, "God's name is profaned among the nations because of them."

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

NAVY ID CARD AT AGE 17. Yesterday, a church fellow in his seventies showed me his Navy ID card. The picture on the military ID card was of a mere boy. He says he had just turned 17 when he went to the Pacific region for combat in World War II. My oldest son will turn 17 in a few days. The average age of the troops on the firing line in Iraq is 19.5.

What do you see as significant differences between (a) World War II, (b) the Vietnam conflict, and (c) America's war on Iraq?

Follow-up question: Do you think the rationales for beginning and continuing the war in Iraq were/are substantial enough to place America's youth in harm's way?

Monday, January 3, 2005

TEN LORDS A LEAPING. This is the tenth day of Christmas. And here's the gift for the person who has everything: the Ten Commandments. Here's the applicable portion of Exodus 20:1-17 in the New International Version:

And God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

6. You shall not murder.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

8. You shall not steal.

9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Sunday, January 2, 2005


MOLLY'S BIRTHDAY. Molly, shown here with Abby, is 14 today. The tough, hard-working soccer player is also a 4.0 student. Happy birthday, Hopper!

Saturday, January 1, 2005

MY 73rd LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT. I just sent and posted my 73rd letter to President George W. Bush. You can read it here. The topic of this letter: compassion has thus far truly been conservative in response to the tsunami catastrophe. Let us see the same passion for responding to this disaster as Mr. Bush had for going to war against terrorists following 9/11.
GRACE NOTES POSTED. I just posted Grace Notes for the Week of January 2, 2005. This week's contents include:
  • Epiphany - The Party's For You
  • The Wise Men by G. K. Chesterton
  • Ten Pretty Good Web Pages
  • The Last To Arrive?

You can receive Grace Notes once a week in your e-mail inbox. Let me know with a "subscribe" note at johnhayjr@sbcglobal.net.

Do we really
want to be new
and to see a
world made
new?

Begin with
grace.


WELCOME TO 2005. Happy New Year! The turn of the year offers an opportunity for grace-based newness. Apart from grace, the past will be repeated. Apart from grace, tomorrow will be more of today's same ol', same ol'. Apart from grace, our efforts to improve ourselves, do better, be different, to change amount to little in the long run. Discipline and hard work may go a long way to acquire us some external securities, but do little to produce the only security one can really count on. Whatever is new, whatever is reconciled, whatever is restored, whatever changes from the inside out, is borne by grace. Do we really want to be made new and to see a world made new? Begin with grace.