Thursday, June 30, 2005


TdD COUNTDOWN: 2 DAYS! Buy me a ticket, put me on a plane to Paris, and let me find my way daily to the roadsides throughout France where the Grand Tour flows momentarily by. See my "Top Ten Reasons to Follow the Tour de France" below.
TO UNITE
"Christ's will was, and is, to unite. Think how he wept over Jerusalem! Think of his prayer, “That they all might be one.” But people did not and do not want this. Christ said. “I am the Way,” and that is what matters. Not what denomination or church group one belongs to, not social work, not reform, etc.—but the Way. Modern life is so complicated and torn, so distracting and disintegrating. Whereas the Way is simple, light and straight, and unifies the whole of life."
--Kathleen Hasenberg
SPEAKING OF LIBERTY

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security."
-- Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


TOP TEN REASONS TO FOLLOW THIS YEAR'S TOUR de FRANCE

10. Cancer survivor Lance Armstrong may win his seventh consecutive Tour de France championship in the last race of his storied professional cycling career.

9. See first-hand proof that not ALL Americans are despised by the French (and vice versa).

8. Get a good look at the range of commercial sponsorships and creative advertising. See how many brands and sponsors you recognize...along with names you know nothing about.

7. Follow the duel between German Jan Ullrich and American Lance Armstrong down to the wire--one last time. Ullrich won the Tour in 1997 and has finished second four times since.

6. See if Americans Levi Leipheimer or Floyd Landis--both former teammates of Armstrong--can pull an upset over Armstrong and Ullrich.

5. Count how many sprint-to-the wire stage finishes are won by Australian Robbie McEwen. Watching these flying sprint finishes after a day of wearying racing is awesome. The Green Jersey is at stake.

4. Watch for "il diablo" on the roadside in every stage. It's a large man dressed up like the devil with a pitch fork; he's at most major European cycling events--and present at every stage of the Tour. Look for other weird characters, too.

3. Track the impact other Americans are making in this predominantly European event. In addition to Leipheimer, Landis, and Armstrong, there's big George Hincapie (riding shotgun with Lance for the seventh time), Bobby Jullich (CSC, 3rd place in 1998), Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), Guido Trenti (Quick Step; apparently an Italian American!), Chris Horner (Suanier-Duval), and David Zabriskie (CSC).

2. Drink in the grandeur of the Pyrenees and Alps--with the bonus of mountaintop finishes lined with thousands of cycling fans cheering every rider on his way to the peak.

1. 189 world-class athletes pushed to the limit for 2,000 miles on 2 wheels over 21 days of high drama through some of the most breathtaking terrain in the world. The Tour de France is a rolling feast in an otherwise uneventful month.

It all starts Saturday, July 2nd. Link to live coverage and learn more via the right sidebar menu.
JOHN BOWLING

ELECTED TO THE HIGHEST PLACE. The President of my college alma mater, Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, was just elected a General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene (the closest thing to a bishop the denomination has; there are six GS's internationally.) on the 21st ballot by General Assembly delegates. I had classes with Bowling when I was a student at Olivet...back in the eighties. Right after he became President--in the nineties--he invited me to speak to students in chapel.

DECLINES IN ORDER TO SERVE IN A SPECIFIC MINISTRY. More significantly, Bowling declined the election. After the election in the RCA Dome here in Indy, Bowling asked for a few moments to pray. After praying, he told the General Assembly delegates that he did not feel God was releasing him from his present assignment in Christian education leadership. He received a standing ovation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


CYCLING & PAIN

"To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain....at cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks."
-- Scott Martin

"What makes a great endurance athlete is the ability to absorb potenial embarrassment, and to suffer without complaint. I was discovering that if it was a matter of gritting my teeth, not caring how it looked, and outlasting everybody else, I won. It didn't seem to matter what sport it was--in a straight-ahead, long-distant race, I could beat anybody. If it was a suffer-fest, I was good at it."
-- Lance Armstrong, My Journey Back to Life
A QUESTION OF EXPOSURE AND AWARENESS

I am wondering why and how it is that we seem to be so limited in our range of exposure to certain aspects of reality, relationships, and visual awarenesses for long periods of time?

Is it that we are so dull that we actually think the little world we daily see and define as our primary boundaries, and in which we mostly live and move, is what is essential?

Or is it that we are prevented from being fully aware of the range of human, living and created existence most of the time? If so, why?

Why is it that it seems I am led to know and work with certain knowledge and awarenesses and not led to know and work with other--albeit equally important and real and critical--knowledge and awarenesses?

I am a citizen of the world, a child of the universe, a being of eternity. But it is likely I will wake up tomorrow and think, feel, and act mostly within the roles, relationships, expectations, biddings, and callings of a husband and father who serves as an American evangelical pastor assigned to an urban parish and who happens to have occasional manias for cycling, surfing, and community renewal.

The universe soars expansively above us. And we fret over our property taxes.

Go figure.

Monday, June 27, 2005


TdF COUNTDOWN: 5 DAYS! Get ready. In addition to reading my column in this week's edition of Grace Notes, titled "On the Verge of the Tour de France," you can read and track the build-up to the race and follow each stage of the Tour live at either www.cyclingnews.com or www.velonews.com. See, also, the official TdF website: www.letour.fr/indexus.html.
SOLIDARITY & SALVATION

THE EARTH AS IT IS. The folks from Bruderhof had this excerpt from Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff waiting in my inbox this morning. This line of thinking and spiritual formation is, to me, critical to engage in. This is a far cry from the theologies of escape and political pandering to American evangelical consumption.

THE DEFINING FACTOR. "Is it possible to live in peace and happiness when you know that two-thirds of human beings are suffering, hungry and poor? To be human we have to have compassion. This solidarity is really the defining factor of our humanity and is gradually being lost in a culture of material values. It’s not only the cry of the poor we must listen to but also the cry of the earth. The earth and human beings are both threatened. We must do something to change the situation..."

TO BELIEVE CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. "There won’t be a Noah’s Ark to save only some of us. To meet people’s fundamental concerns change is needed. The world as it is does not offer the majority of humanity life but rather hell. I believe that change is possible, because I cannot accept a God who could remain indifferent to this world, but only one who cares about the poor and the suffering."

Sunday, June 26, 2005


HEADING OUT FOR A HOT LOOP. I rode the short 15-mile circuit around Indianapolis International Airport this afternoon. I worked on my cadence, trying to keep an average of at least 95 RPMs. I didn't realize it at the time, but the temperature was over 90 degrees. I had a tough time with the last few miles of the ride; it felt like I was in a danger zone for overheating. Pouring bottled water over my head, I survived...with more respect for the competitive cyclists who will ride ten times this distance in sometimes high temperatures. It's not dangerous to ride in the heat, you just have to keep hydrated.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

NAZARENE CONVENTION LEGACY

THEY'RE BACK! Every four years, in what amounts to a denomination-wide homecoming, representatives of the Church of the Nazarene gather for their General Assembly and auxillary conventions (world missions, youth, and Christian education). They've been coming back to Indianapois quite frequently; this is their third visit in sixteen years. It's the largest multi-day convention of any kind that comes to Indy...and we welcome lots of conventioners.

NAZARENE--AND BEYOND. My heritage is in the Church of the Nazarene, but I now serve in the Free Methodist Church--a sister denomination. As a former Nazarene (or is that "post-Nazarene," or "Nazarene expatriate?"), I have childhood, college, seminary, and parish friends who come to town and we enjoy renewing our fellowship during these days. It feels a bit strange, however, to walk through the RCA Dome and Convention Center--wall-to-wall with Nazarenes--as a "non-Nazarene." But Wesleyan and spiritual roots go deeper than organizations and labels. I am aware of many original Nazarenes who have found vibrant communities of faith and communion connections outside the Naz since college days.

LEAVING A LEGACY. This week, the Indianapolis Star reported on the Many Hands, One Heart initiative--a volunteer action project that has become a growing part of the Nazarene General Assembly event since 1988. That year, I was pastor of Shepherd Community and helped, along with Dean Cowles, to organize the first youth volunteer service event--it involved nearly 2,000 youth; this year, over 100 inner-city homes are being repaired and improved by volunteers. The Nazarenes set the standard for religious conventions that come to town. More than leaving their dollars at hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues, they leave behind a legacy of sweat equity and community care.

Friday, June 24, 2005


TdF COUNTDOWN: 8 DAYS! I wonder what goes on in the mind and emotions of one who has been selected by his team to ride the Tour de France in the week leading up to July 2nd?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN. I've really never listened to that song beyond catching that phrase. At least those five words are descriptive. Having arrived back in Indy around 8:00 am on Wednesday, I spent most of Wednesday and all of today through 9:00 pm this evening getting intimately reacquainted with my role and service as pastor. These two days have included writing and publishing my weekly Life Together on West Morris Street e-journal, helping facilitate a Bible study, visiting one who is hospitalized, making visits and phone calls, preparing the pictorial church directory for submission, preparing for and leading the Official Board meeting, and completing worship service and bulletin arrangements for Sunday. For all that, I do not feel drained.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


TdF COUNTDOWN: 10 DAYS! July 2nd hovers on the horizon as a date with destiny for Lance Armstrong and the other 188 entrants in the 2005 Tour de France. July 2nd is the Prologue, a short individual time trial that will likely distinguish a handful of contenders from the mass of supportive riders. After that, it's 21 grueling stages in 23 days with the conclusion in Paris on July 24th.

ONE STORY AND MANY. There will be many sub-plots and dramatic side stories to tell--and I will try to selectively tell them here and in my even-day "Amateurish Tour de France Updates" (let me know if you'd like to receive them via e-mail). But there is only one main story: will Lance Armstrong, the cancer-surviving American who has won the Tour de France an unprecedented 6 consecutive times, ride to victory a seventh time in what he has promised--win or lose--is his last professional cycling race? And it will take over 2,000 miles and three weeks to reveal. Stay tuned...and ride a little while you're at it!

Let the anticipation build; visit the official 2005 Tour de France website.

YERTLE THE TURTLE? As a kid, I loved Dr. Seuss' "Yertle the Turtle" story, but I had never seen turtles stack up until a recent ride along the canal near Butler University. Moments after I snapped this shot, one turtle slipped and all of them fell into the water--just like in Seuss' story.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I SPOKE OF "MILD SURF" TOO SOON. Having declared the New Smyrna Beach surf too mild for surfing at this time of year on Monday, I had to eat my words--ever so gratefully!--today. We arrive at the beach and, apparently, an overnight storm at sea had churned up the water tremendously. The waves were 3-6 feet and coming in with intensity. I wore myself out trying to catch as many as possible with the old Quiet Flight short board. Jared also tried his hand with the surfboard. A thunderstorm drove us off the beach, or we'd have exhausted ourselves completely before our 15-hour drive back to Indy. That's the way it is with surfing, I guess. Even the big waves in Hawaii and other places are dormant much of the time...only to be awakened rather unpredictably.

This time tomorrow...we'll be back in Indy, far from the seaside and anything that resembles a wave. But the heartland has a beauty all its own.

Monday, June 20, 2005


MILD SURF. With a mild westerly weather pattern holding sway, the size of the waves at New Smyrna Beach have been small over the past week. Good for body surfing, but not enough power for boarding. A local surfer says the best and highest waves are to be found in September and October--deep in hurricane season and with storms out at sea churning things up.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

GRACE NOTES FROM VACATION. I have posted this week's edition of Grace Notes. In addition to working with "Vacation Guilt and Sabbath Renewal," I've included some excerpts from Johann Christof Arnold's article on fatherhood. Also, the lyrics to that classic camp song, "Camp Granada."

Saturday, June 18, 2005


MOLLY & ABBY AT NSB "SEASIDE FIESTA." It was drizzling a bit of rain, but that didn't dowse the spirits of several thousand people who ventured out to New Smyrna Beach's street fair Thursday evening. Amid local merchant and public service booths, there were several live music entertainment tents. One, "Acousticon," was pretty good.
MARRIAGE AND THE COMMON GOOD. In the current issue of Sojourners, Jesse Holcomb reflects on the challenge of marriage. Holcomb reflects on marriage perspectives among younger Christian adults. As one who has shared the covenant of marriage for [a mere] 24 years now, I find the article heartening and encouraging. An excerpt:

IN SPITE OF HEADLINES AND THE ODDS. "Marriage has found a home in the headlines, but insight into the soul of matrimony is elusive. The Bush administration is championing a marriage amendment to ban same-sex unions, its answer to gay and lesbian couples fighting for the right to participate in what, until recently, never really seemed like such an exclusive domain. Yet the political battles do not reveal the essence of what is so worth fighting to obtain - or clutch, depending on which side you’re on. Divorce rates in America are sky-high, prenuptial agreements and separate checkbooks are fodder for grumbling media pundits, cohabitation is more culturally acceptable than ever before, and men and women, as a rule, are marrying later. So why are many young people from faith backgrounds - often ambitious and motivated to pursue the common good in their careers - marrying in spite of these trends?"

READ MORE. The full article, "Marriage and the Common Good," at www.sojo.net. Nice work, Jesse.

Friday, June 17, 2005


SUNRISE AT NSB. New Smyrna Beach does not make the "Top Ten Florida Beaches" list. Thankfully! I've always thought of this place as a "best kept secret" that our family happened on to as a grace. It lacks the daily crowds and uproariousness of Daytona Beach but is within an hour of Florida's most sought-after attractions. But what human technology-based attraction could compare with a seaside sunrise like this...day after day?
VACATION GUILT AND SABBATH RENEWAL

VACATION, RETREAT, DOWN TIME. Why is it so hard to take these words seriously, to enact them without guilt, to step aside momentarily from the urgent, critical, and essential? We try to "squeeze in" a vacation amid a summer schedule chocked full of urgent dates. We dare to plan a retreat so long as it does not impinge on the work week. We think of down time, idle time, off-line time as wasted time.

LOST SENSE OF "SABBATH." Could it be that we have simultaneously lost the sense of Sabbath and think too highly of ourselves? Or, maybe the former causes the latter. Perhaps it is in losing the sense of Sabbath that we think too highly of ourselves. Sabbath-less lives are anxious lives, lives based on self-promotion, self-justification, self-preservation. Sabbath-less lives are rest-less lives in which a vacation means a costly withdrawl, lost productivity, and personal risk at many levels. What happens to one's sense of worth if the business manages well without you?

SABBATH-ORIENTED LIVING. A Sabbath orientation requires vacation. Not because you need a break, but because you need God's perspective and grace. Because you think too highly of yourself. Because you're killing yourself apart from it. Keeping Sabbath, we would begin to see and know ourselves not to be the center of the universe. We would acknowledge our Creator. We would embrace the reality of Grace. We would come to know ourselves--and the challenges of our lives--aright. We would find the power and wisdom to live forwardly, creatively, transformatively. And we would rest.

HOLY LEISURE. A cursory read through my e-mail and the news headlines during this vacation brings this challenge to light. I am 1,000 miles from home, yet I am tempted to act as if I never left town. And do people who count on me there resent my brief absence? Is vacation a merely permitted, tolerated thing, or is it commended as a life-giving part of creative living? And even if it is commended, does that commendation occur as a means to a utilitarian end? All of these seem to fall short of the sacredness of authentic Sabbath. What if, instead, we were to speak of and act in the reality of holy leisure?

P.S.: This entry is not for the lazy, slackers, those who are running from hard work, or those who routinely take advantage of either their employer or employees. Yahweh is the One unto whom we work (yes, even waiting tables). If we slack or mistreat, it is unto God (woe unto the manager who will not pay a living wage!). If you do not labor fully in the six days, your Sabbath will be restless. If you mistreat workers in the six days, your Sabbath will mock you. Read Isaiah 58--accept its judgment, embrace its truth, repent...and be renewed.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FLORIDA. Many aspects of NSB seem unchanged since I started coming here with my family when I was five years old. Forty-one years--and three 2004 hurricanes--later both the mainland and seaside community are weathering change well. Even after last year's hurricanes diminished 50% of its wide, white-sand beach, the NSB beach is beautiful and the surf is fun for wave riding. NSB has grown, but still remains a mildly commercialized area, especially compared to Daytona Beach, 15 miles to the north. I took this photo on Canal Steet in the downtown area. It is quaint and up-to-date.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

SIX PEOPLE IN A MINI-VAN FOR 16 HOURS. That's almost enough said. But our family traveled relatively well together from Indy to New Smyrna Beach to begin a week-long vacation. We've been driving straight through the night with the kids for years. We arrive in sunny Florida in the morning and hit the beach before noon. I'll catch up on sleep soon enough.

SURF...OR DIE TRYING. This will be the first year I will try out the used surfboard my mom & dad gave me for Christmas. Since I started coming to this beach as a child, I've wanted to surf. I settled for body surfing. Since then, I've learned to wather and snow ski, wakeboard and snowboard; but I haven't yet ridden a surfboard. Maybe I'll learn in a day or week...or it may take a few years. But I am determined to "hang 10" before I die...or die trying. Surf's up. Later, dudes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


ANOTHER INDY LANDMARK. Do you know where this is in Indianapolis? It's quite old...and also relatively new.

Monday, June 13, 2005

TO BE A FATHER

What does it mean to be a father?
I am in personally unexplored territory;
I am still trying to chart the terrain.
But I am learning and living into it.

It means to fix my child's well-being
prominently in my mind, time, and action.
To endear and win him.
To discover what lies in her;
Discern his possible trajectories.
To challenge her;
To urge him toward his best.
To enthusiastically champion her
And vehemently defend him.

It means to be sensitive to his independence;
To respect her pride,
And, through it all, to not get in her way.
To distinguish between my own needs
And his.
To cultivate confidence.
To find a way to talk with, not at;
To be quick to listen.
To find a way to reduce the heat of conflict
And correct for training amid calm waters.

It means to be aware that my child watches,
Hears, notices, and senses my
Words, moods, and moves.
What I am, what I do, what I value,
Influences, as much as anything, her life.

It means to demonstrate value for the mystery
Into which I have entered.
To try prepare him for a future that is beyond me.
To try to root her in the best of history.
To try to be faithful and authentic in the
Present generation.

To be a father means, at least, these things.
It means, in a word, to love my children.
And, desiring for them far beyond what it is
Within my ability to give, to pray.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


CHAMPS, AT LAST. This Indy Burn '93 (Pike Soccer Club) team won the Coca-Cola Classic soccer tourney in Center Grove, Indiana today. Sam (third from the left) played with three former Arsenal team members (the second thru fourth boys on the left) thru a very discouraging season of losses and ties. But the boys were able to persevere and win this post-season tournament... redemption! Congratulations, Max, Ruman, Elliot, and Sam!
CAN YOU SAY: "GUANTANAMO?" It is becoming clear that there is no longer any need to refer to an American "gulag" on the island of Cuba. What is emerging in the world's consciousness--now reflected widely in international news media as well as in more congressional members of the President's own party--is a new reality: Guantanamo. The word is now synonymous with a freedom- and democracy-preaching nation that acts outside the rule of law in detaining, denying Geneva Conventions, Red Cross human rights guidelines, and abusing enemy combatants during interrogations in its self-proclaimed war on terror.

CALL FOR CHANGE. Even as Guantanamo takes hold as an expression of the dark side of America's slide into empire, it is time for American citizens to call for the camp to be shut down and U.S. detention policies dramatically changed to reflect the rule of law and the will of the people. However, Bush Administration officials continue to deny and deflect challenges to it and the abuses that have occurred there.

Thursday, June 9, 2005


COUNTDOWN TO THE TOUR: 23 DAYS! Just making sure you're paying attention. It starts July 2nd. Great poster, don't you think? Explore the official website of the Tour de France. By the way: Lance Armstrong is riding well in le Dauphine Libere, his last tune-up for the Grand Tour. He's in second place after the prologue and four stages, a mere 21 seconds behind Levi Leipheimer--an American riding for Gerolsteiner (a German team) and former teammate. American Floyd Landis lurks in fourth place. Follow the Dauphine at www.cyclingnews.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

STANLEY HAUERWAS: WAR & SACRIFICE. For now, I can offer only a few bullet points that I scribbled down during Stanley Hauerwas' presentation at the "Preemptive Peacemaking" workshop at Manchester College today. Hauerwas, who teaches ethics at Duke, is considered America's foremost theologian by some (Time magazine, for one):
  • "War is a habit of our imaginations."
  • "War is an institution."
  • "War is a sacrificial system."
  • "War is seductive and powerful in its call to 'virtues.'"
  • "What we sacrifice in war is the sacrifice of our unwillingness to kill."
  • "The Christian alternative to war is worship."
  • "The church is the alternative to war."
  • "When we, as Christians, approve of or go to war, we rob the world of the witness of the alternative."
  • "In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, war has been abolished."
  • "You will have to watch the innocent suffer for your convictions...whether you are committed to Christian nonviolence or to just war."
  • "The problem with most war memorials is that they invite lies." (Hauerwas considers the Vietnam War Memorial an exception to this)

More later...

Monday, June 6, 2005


MANCHESTER COLLEGE. I'm in North Manchester, Indiana for a week-long workshop called "Preemptive Peacemaking." Today we heard from and engaged Dr. Robert Johansen of Notre Dame University regarding international law. Tomorrow we work with Stanley Hauerwas. This evening I took a long bike ride along country roads and viewed a patchwork of well-maintained farms. I endured the smells of cow and pig dung; but is there any more pleasing aroma than that of wild honeysuckle growing by the roadside in June?

Sunday, June 5, 2005

REMAIN

Remain.
At first glance, remaining
feels static,
inert,
backward.
What is there to do but
stay put?

Remain.
Will I be left behind?
Will the world pass me by?
Will I miss the action?

Remain:
Not an easy instruction for
anxious or active persons;
a foreign language to
would-be change agents.

Remain
when I want to run,
when I’m tempted to quit,
when I’m full of doubt,
when I feel utterly alone.

Remain
by the Fire,
in the Word,
with the Presence,
for sacred counsel.

Remain
until wherever we go
the Word remains in us,
moves with us.

Remaining,
we grow as the vine--
nourished from the soil,
reaching to the sun,
moving higher,
growing stronger,
bearing fruit.

For what do we
remain?
On what do we
wait?
And when we go
do we yet
remain?

“Remain in me and I will remain in you.” John 15:4a

Friday, June 3, 2005



HOLY GROUNDS

ALMOST HEAVEN, WEST VIRGINIA. This photo is of the old tabernacle at the West Virginia District Church of the Nazarene Campgrounds near Summersville, West Virginia. On these grounds and in surrounding woods I played as a child and courted girls as an adolescent. I listened and responded to inspirational singing and intense evangelistic preaching. I spent at least two weeks each summer at Summersville Camp from the time I was a toddler until the summer before my senior year in high school. We moved from West Virginia to Indiana in August, 1976. I have not been back since. Still, I think of Summersville Campgrounds as holy ground.

ANOTHER SACRED PLACE. I traveled to Clay City, Indiana Thursday evening for two days of the Annual Conference of the Wabash Conference of the Free Methodist Church. Wabash Park Campground is sacred grounds for most Hoosiers who happen to be Free Methodist. It's really not much to look at, but the sacred memories of kids and youth camping, family camp, and revival services over the years make it a place of value for FMs. The campground, which is being continuously upgraded, will celebrate 75 years at Family Camp in July.

FROM CLAY CIT TO COAL CITY. I took my Cannondale (it rides atop the Beetle), got up early this morning, and rode about twenty miles before breakfast. Clay City is authentically rustic. I pedaled to Coal City, which is on Indiana Highway 59 about 10 miles south of Clay City. Coal City is more rustic than Clay City. No dogs on the road. Very light traffic. It feels like the first real heat of the summer is setting in. It was over 75 degrees by the time I got back to the campground.

WEST VIRGINIA CONNECTION. Our Annual Conference had an interesting twist: our Wabash Conference welcomed 16 congregations and their pastors from West Virginia. Their conference is being temporarily merged with ours until their capacity increases to the required membership for an independent Free Methodist Conference. I enjoyed talking with the West Virginians. They are what I remember (will they help me recover a part of myself?)--open, fun-loving, transparent, friendly, and deeply spiritual. Perhaps this connection will take me back more frequently to West Virginia in coming years.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

REPUBLIC...OR EMPIRE? A sage friend of mine ponders rather openly about the drift of our republic toward empire. He asserts that the move away from a republic toward empire (remember Rome) is being fueled, ironically, by fundamentalistic religious perspectives and voices. Perhaps. My take: maybe the natural drift toward empire is simply NOT being sufficiently challenged, staved off, redirected,or countered by spiritual perspectives and voices that contemplate the deeper aspects of faith, community, and democracy. What think ye?

ANOTHER URBAN LANDSCAPE PUZZLER. Can you guess where this is in the city of Indianapolis?
TOUR DE FRANCE PREVIEW

TOUR de FRANCE 2005: 5 WEEKS AWAY. Mark your calendar for July 2. That's the date for the Prologue of the Tour de France. That's the date for the beginning of the last stand for six-time TdF champion Lance Armstrong. That's the date all professional cycling revolves around. That's the date that has elite corps of cyclists training on Europe's toughest mountain roads. That's the date when the three-week epic will begin. Every race, every obstacle, every grueling training ride up to July 2 will pale in comparison to this Grand Tour.

MOST SURVIVE; ONE WINS. Three weeks of intense competition among 189 of the world's best cyclists will roll through the fields and crawl up the mountains of France. Some two thousand miles later, a winner will emerge and ride into Paris as the champion. He will not likely have dominated his competition; the margin of victory will be a few minutes, or a few seconds. But he will have proven himself the best in the combination of time trials, mountain climbing, and team strategy. He will have survived bloody crashes in the peloton, the exhaustion of 150-mile a day racing, broken equipment, intense heat, extreme cold, and pressure without and within. In a competition like this, most survive; one will win.

READY OR NOT? Lance Armstrong will ride the 8-day Dauphine Libere, June 5-12 as his last major training competition before the Tour de France. His performance in the Dauphine may be some indication of his readiness for the Tour. Lance has had a checkered spring thus far, withdrawing from one race and finishing out of the top ten in seveal others. But Lance usually holds his cards very close, sometimes misleading his competitors before slamming the door on them. A solid finish in the Dauphine Libere for Armstrong should give fair warning to other Tour contenders that the champion will not fall easily.

MATURITY VS. YOUTH. Armstrong is considered an "old man" in the sport. Maturity is important in Grand Tours; few riders in their early twenties have devloped the physical and mental capacities to win the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, or Vuelta Espana. About the time a rider is prime in terms of mental maturity, his age begins to tell on him. Armstrong, even if he is in tip-top shape for a 34-year old, will likely rely on savvy, strategy, team work, and experience to best emerging contenders with fewer years of wear and tear on their bodies. I hope Lance has it in him to win...one more time.

I am planning to follow the Tour closely and, as usual, put together frequent updates during the month of July. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

CALL FOR AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF PRISONER ABUSE AND CONDITIONS AT GUANTANAMO

DENY AND SHIFT THE FOCUS. I am just wondering: What does the President, and now Donald Rumsfeld, hope to gain by not only denying prisoner abuse by Americans at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but by vilifying Amnesty International for comparing the prison camp to a Soviet-era "gulag" and calling for it to be shut down? Interesting tactic: deny the emerging truth and shift the focus of scrutiny to the non-profit organization that has, over decades, consistently and credibly monitored international human rights and identified specific abuses. Interesting, indeed.

A GULAG IS AS A GULAG DOES. Amnesty International's response to the President's comments at yesterday's press conference seem level-headed and resolute. The organization maintains confidence in its findings, explains why Guantanamo can legitimately be compared to a "gulag," calls for the prison camp to be dismantled, and for the U.S. Administration to dramatically change its policies on prisoner and detainee treatment in its "war on terror."

LET'S GET AT THE TRUTH. It seems to me that everyone would be helped--not the least prisoners who are reported as being mistreated--if the President would call for an independent investigation of allegations of abuse and charges of internationally unacceptable conditions at Guantanamo and other U.S. military prisons. The Administration's tough words and insistent denial in the face of mounting domestic and international concern no longer hold water. An independent investigation might also stave off further reduction in the confidence Americans have in the President (his approval rating is at an all-time low). Let's ask an impartial investigator to find out how folks are really being treated in these prisons over which the American flag waves, signaling "liberty and justice for all." If there are abuses or activities which do not reflect the decency of people who hold democratic values, change course and make it right.