Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WHEN CATASTROPHE STRIKES

"Only when we take human existence upon ourselves in its starkest and most humiliating misery—a misery in which nothing has meaning—can we win through to the only possible way to live. Only when we taste the lot of all, when we become involved deeply in world suffering, one in heart with the need of humanity, can we win through to our true vocation. Only when the conscience becomes active, only when love is born out of suffering, only when hardship leads to liberating action, is victory near." -- Eberhard Arnold, founder of The Bruderhof, from a 1919 lecture

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

KATRINA CATASTROPHE. I hear folks saying, "Thank God it wasn't as bad as it might have been." Still, as reports of building demise and flooding come in, the impact of this storm on the people of Louisianna and Mississippi is nothing short of catastrophic. It calls for our prayers and actions of solidarity and assistance. Donations to the American Red Cross are a way to begin to express care and bring tangible help.
POVERTY & HEALTH INSURANCE. Latest poverty stats: approximately 37,000,000 Americans are living in poverty, according to the most recent Census data; this is up 1,000,000 from 2004. 46,000,000 are living without health insurance. Are we okay with this? If not, what are we doing about it?
ANTI-CHRISTIAN COMMENTS BY ROBERTSON

SINCE WHEN? This is my "official" response on bikehiker blog; I want there to be no doubt about my thoughts on this. While Pat Robertson has apologized for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his internationally broadcast "700 Club" TV show last week (at least if you call excusing his comments as "ad lib" an apology), let us be clear: this kind of talk is completely unchristian. Since when does any Christian find the audacity to call for anyone to be killed in the face of a core Commandment that says "you shall not kill?" It is anti-Christian.

WHY THE HESITATION? Robertson's comments, and his apparent surprise at the public outcry and official condemnation (even by his very close friends in the Bush Administration), demonstrate how far away from authentic Biblical faith Robertson and his ilk really are. And the reticence of evangelical leaders to immediately condemn Robertson's comments is very disturbing. Do they think there is plausibility in this? Do they, for a moment, hesitate to judge and reprimand Robertson? Who are they serving? To whom are they listening? Only Jim Wallis of Sojourners (from the information I've seen and read) immediately and completely condemned the action.

REPENT, NOT APOLOGIZE. And while it may suffice for a Christian to apologize to a shocked and offended international public for glibly suggesting that American operatives "take out" a leader of a nation, in Biblical community it is clear that apology is not what is called for. When we in the church recognize something as a transgression of a known law of God, we call for repentance. Whether or not Pat Robinson "owes" any apology to the world, to Hugo Chavez, to President Bush, or to the church may be a matter for debate; but it is clear from the Bible that if his heart is to be right with God, repentance is the opportunity. If only public policy or human impressions were at stake, apology may suffice; but the desire to kill--or to have someone killed--is a deeply moral matter and one which places one's soul in jeopardy. The only way out, according to the Bible, is via repentance.

Monday, August 29, 2005

AUGUST SOCCER UPDATE. With one game remaining in August, our Ben Davis boys and girls soccer teams are off to a solid start. The girls defeated Center Grove (always the rudest fans of the season) this evening, 1-0, to move to 3-1 on the young season. The Lady Giants are currently ranked 12th in the state. Molly has started as a defensive back each game. The boys (pictured here; Jared is front row, 3rd from the left; the one with his socks pulled down; click on the photo for a larger view) are 1-1, having defeated Plainfield 2-0 and lost to the state's #2 ranked team, North Central, 2-0. Jared, the sweeper, and the Giants travel to Lawrence North Tuesday night. The boys' team recieved honorable mention in the state's rankings. Let's hope both teams move up as the season progresses. Go Giants!
WAITING OUT KATRINA. I find myself not very focused on the immediate tasks at hand today; my mind and heart keep turning toward the spectre of hurricane Katrina and the people of Louisianna and Mississippi that are in her way and wake. I search the TV and Internet for news and photos. I pray. Who did not heed the warnings? Who could not get out? Will those in danger be rescued? How will these people and communities recover?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

PEACEMAKING & THE CHURCH

HAUERWAS’ REFLECTION. I excerpt this from a piece called “Peacemaking” in a collection of essays by Stanley Hauerwas titled Christian Existence Today (Brazos Press, 2001). Hauerwas is considered by many the most important American theologian today.

WITHIN OUR HOUSE. “Peacemaking among Christians…is not simply one activity among others but rather is the very form of the church insofar as the church is the form of the one who ‘is our peace.’ Peacemaking is the form of our relations in the church as we seek to be in unity with one another. Such unity is not that built on shallow optimism that we can get along if we respect one another’s differences. Rather, it is a unity that profoundly acknowledges our differences because we have learned that those differences are not accidental to our being a truthful people--even when they require us to confront one another as those who have wronged us.”

CONFRONT SHAM PEACE. “Regarding those outside the church, first, I think we must say that it is the task of the church to confront and challenge the false peace of the world which is too often built more on power than truth. To challenge the world’s sense of peace may well be dangerous, because often when sham peace is exposed it threatens to become violent. The church, however, cannot be less truthful with the world than it is expected to be with itself. If we are less truthful we have not peace to offer to the world.”

THE HABIT OF PEACE. "Second, Christians are prohibited from ever despairing of the peace possible in the world. We know that as God’s creatures we are not naturally violent nor are our institutions unavoidably violent. As God’s people we have been created for peace. Rather, what we must do is to help the world find the habits of peace whose absence so often makes violence seem like the only alternative. Peacemaking as a virtue is an act of imagination built on long habits of the resolution of differences.”

LACK OF IMAGINATION. “The great problem in the world is that our imagination has been stilled, since it has not made a practice of confronting wrongs so that violence might be avoided. In truth, we must say that the church has too often failed the world by its failure to witness in our own life the kind of conflict necessary to be a community of peace. Without an example of peacemaking community, the world has no alternative but to use violence as a means to settle disputes.”

CONFRONT WITH RECONCILIATION. “Peacemaking is not a passive response to violence; rather, it is an active way to resist injustice by confronting the wrongdoer with the offer of reconciliation. Such reconciliation is not cheap, however, since no reconciliation is possible unless the wrong is confronted and acknowledged.”

Saturday, August 27, 2005

KATRINA'S GAINING MOMENTUM. Don't look now, but Katrina is now a Cat 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. Now moving northwest over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, she could be a Cat 4 when she makes landfall on the Gulf coast sometime Monday evening. Where? Could be from the Florida panhandle to Louisianna. Katrina is the 11th named tropical storm in this young hurricane season.

RECYCLED NAME. Looking for satellite images of this storm, I discovered that "Katrina" is a recycled name: there was a Hurricane Katrina in 1999. Was it a mistake to name this 2005 storm "Katrina," or are names routinely recycled? How will folks at NOAA's National Hurricane Center record and distinguish the differences between 1999 and 2oo5? It looks as if Katrina 1999 was a Mexican affair; Katrina 2005 is--and will continue to be--a distinctly American encounter.

Friday, August 26, 2005

ON THE EVE OF VUELTA A ESPANA 2005

THIRD OF THE "GRAND TOURS." It won't command a fraction of the attention Americans paid to the Tour de France in July, but the third of pro cycling's annual "Grand Tours," la Vuelta a Espana--Tour of Spain--begins tomorrow. Attention Spanish language students and teachers: consider the teaching and learning possibilities of tracking a three-week tour of Spain online!

FROM SUMMER TO FALL. We Americans have turned to other interests and are looking toward fall. But this 21-stage race, spanning August 27 to September 18, has all the makings of a dramatic international competition. There are American contenders and a powerful Discovery Channel team that may be sorting out a post-Armstrong team leader. Why not let this spectacle draw you day by day through the transition from summer to autumn?

THE MAKINGS OF A DRAMATIC EVENT. Like the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) and Tour de France, "the Vuelta" is a three-week combination of time trials, mountain climbs, and sprint events that occur along a 3,368.5 kilometer "loop" of Spain. First ridden in 1935 (see the photo above), the Vuelta is usually won by a native Spanish son and the crowds are quite partisan. But no rider or team concedes anything to the host country. The Vuelta is wide open. You can get daily updates, photos, and race analysis at www.cyclingnews.com or www.velonews.com or www.lavuelta.com (the official site).

AMERICANS IN SPAIN. Two Americans I will be watching closely in the Vuelta are Tom Danielson and Floyd Landis. Landis leads the Phonak team, having earned his stripes in recent years as a support rider for Armstrong. Tom Danielson, on the Discovery Channel squad, will be riding in his first Grand Tour. Danielson won the Tour of Georgia (ahead of Armstrong) in the spring.
USA CYCLING CALLS FRENCH TESTS "PREPOSTEROUS." The governing body for United States professional cycling, USA Cycling, is denouncing the assertions by French newspaper L'Equipe that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing EPO in his 1999 Tour de France win. "Preposterous is a strong word, but it is warranted in this case," said Gerard Bisceglia, chief executive officer of USA Cycling. Read the AP story by Jim Vertuno.

COMPLETELY WITHOUT CREDIBILITY. Quoting from Vertuno's article: "'Lance Armstrong is one of the most tested athletes in the history of sport and he has come up clean every single time,' Bisceglia said. 'This kind of years-ago testing of a single sample with new technology is completely without credibility. What's worse is that Lance cannot defend himself because there is no mechanism for final resolution,' he added. Although Armstrong has not said if he'll pursue legal action, Bisceglia said USA Cycling will support him in whatever way he chooses to 'denounce these accusations.'"
ON NEW ALLEGATIONS OF LANCE ARMSTRONG DOPING

REVEALING WHAT'S HIDDEN. I've been following this story that broke on Wednesday very closely, reading multiple media outlets and monitoring Lance Armstrong's own responses. Amid my initial shock at the "news" and disgust for the manner in which L'Equipe has pursued him, I've been thinking of what the Bible says: "There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed." L'Equipe calls Armstrong a liar; Armstrong labels L'Equipe cheap tabloid journalism. Someday we may know something nearer the truth. I'll have a lot more to say about this developing story than I will now post, but here's the way I see it right now...

LONG-TERM PURSUIT OF ARMSTRONG. Since 1999, the French sports daily tabloid L'Equipe has reported and/or fomented every possible story from every non-credible source in its long-standing accusation that the unlikely American has used banned performance enhancing drugs to aid his wins in the Tour de France. Up to now, none of L'Equipe's negative innuendos or unfounded accusations have stuck on Armstrong. The day after Armstrong won the 2005 Tour de France, L'Equipe effectively said "good riddance." But it appears their resentment of an American champion in Paris hasn't died down. Working with a French lab to test 1999 urine samples for EPO, this latest shot is L'Equipe's swan song...or sucker punch.

BAD SCIENCE, QUESTIONABLE ETHICS? From what I am reading, both from Armstrong's rebuttals and from the main World Anti-Doping Authority's lab director, it appears that all kinds of confidential and ethical protocols have been breached, the possibility of tainted samples is relatively high, and the science used on the testing is in question. Even at that, the fact that only 6 of 17 urine samples Armstrong gave Tour officials in 1999 have apparently tested positive for a substance that takes 3-4 weeks to disappear from one's blood calls the testing science into question.

RESPONDING TO A WITCH HUNT. This is a witch hunt and a smear job, at best. Still, Armstrong, amid his strident denials of ever having used performance enhancing drugs and seven years of negative drug tests, is on the hot seat. If he wants to leave his reputation in the hands of those who desire to discredit him, he can do just as he is doing--counterattack the attackers and try to win a public opinion battle. If he does that, a question of credibility will likely always hang over his head for many people. He will be the American who won an unprecedented 7 consecutive Tours de France. But there will be an asterisk attached to his name (like that of Major League Baseball players who, despite denials, appear to have used steroids) unless he pursues the accusations legally and with utmost professionalism.

ONE MORE MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB. Armstrong may be in an unwinable quandary. Bad science may be justified in court. If samples were tainted, a detective may never prove it or trace down the culprits. Those who have breached ethical standards may never be discredited or reprimanded. At the end of a long court battle Armstrong may have spent much to gain little. But the fact that he is willing to climb this one last mountain, to go through this post-race time trial--that will count in the hearts and minds of many of us who have admired, supported, and cheered madly as he has competed and won on the open roads.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

WHY DID THE CHRISTIAN CROSS THE ROAD? Brian McLaren has an article in the current issue of Sojourners that I recommend to all who are trying to reconcile or attend gracefully to the current religious/political left-right debacle that is playing itself out on a national and global scale. McLaren, the author of A Generous Orthodoxy (among other outstanding books), challenges us with some very probing and clarifying challenges. McLaren suggests seven ways we must change our communication if we are to be truly bridge people. Here are his seven points; read the story for the context:

1. We must stop answering questions that are framed badly.

2. We must start raising new questions and issues that need to be raised.

3. We must answer questions with questions.

4. We must go cleverly deeper.

5. We must agree with people whenever we can.

6. We must speak through action, not just words.

7. We must tell stories

DON'T ARGUE, ACT. Point #6: "We must speak through action, not just words. When Jesus sought to confront people for their hypocrisy and misplaced priorities, he didn’t argue; instead, he healed a man on the Sabbath. This created a stir that made his point more than any number of well-reasoned arguments could have. So, what we do for those suffering in Darfur may speak more eloquently than anything we say about domestic issues; how we treat our critics privately may speak more loudly to them than what we say in public."

This is one of the most helpful and insightful articles in Sojourners recently.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

ARMSTRONG & BUSH RIDE TOGETHER. This picture of serenity--a U.S. President and the 7-time Tour de France champion riding together through the wildflowers--occurred over the weekend near Crawford, Texas. Of course, Lance is in his Discovery Channel blue and white uniform. But W is wearing the same white shirt I've seen him wear in every photo of him in his mountain bike riding gear that I've seen over the past few weeks. Is this his preference? An image he's trying to project? His color? Or is it the only MTB shirt he has? Somebody buy the guy another mountain bike shirt! Assuming Lance is on a Trek, can anybody identify the President's brand of bike? Of course the big question is: did Lance dare pass the Prez?

Monday, August 22, 2005

CHRISTIAN = PEACEMAKER

"Peacemaking can no longer be regarded as peripheral to being a Christian. It is not something like joining the parish choir. Nobody can be a Christian without being a peacemaker. The issue is not that we have the occasional obligation to give some of our attention to war prevention, or even that we should be willing to give some of our free time to activities in the service of peace. What we are called to is a life of peacemaking in which all that we do, say, think, or dream is part of our concern to bring peace to this world."

"Just as Jesus’ command to love one another cannot be seen as a part time obligation, but requires our total dedication, so too Jesus call to peacemaking is unconditional, unlimited, and uncompromising. None of us is excused ! It isn’t something limited to specialists who are competent in military matters, or to radicals who have dedicated themselves to passing out fliers, demonstrating and civil disobedience. No specialist or radical can diminish the undeniable vocation of each Christian to be a peacemaker. Peacemaking is a full time vocation that includes each member of God’s people."

-- Henri Nouwen, from The Road to Peace, edited by John Dear
OF WIDE AND NARROW ROADS

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." – Matthew 7:13-14, NIV

HELL OR HEAVEN? As a youngster, I heard these verses preached as an ultimatum apparently intended to frighten me into walking the narrow way. Hell, it was said, was beyond the wide gate; heaven was on the other side of the narrow gate. Whatever the narrow road represented, that was the way I should go; whatever the wide road meant, it was worth avoiding at whatever the cost. Much of my childhood through adolescent spiritual formation hinged on such stark challenges.

WHAT ABOUT LIFE--HERE AND NOW? But what is the wide road and gate? And what is the narrow road and gate? We assume we know even without looking twice at either the context or historic interpretations. How did Jesus and the Gospel writers intend their original hearers/readers to receive, interpret and respond to these powerful word images? After a week of reading and reflecting on this statement, I offer my present responses into the mix of proffered applications.

1. The paths we choose to travel in life result in predictable outcomes—and they define our lives even as we journey. As we go, we become. I can’t “cheat” my way through life and expect to have the same outcomes as a person who didn’t take short-cuts, avoid difficulties, or resist the rigors of a discipline. The “law of the farm” holds. There are no big surprises at the end of the road, just a fullness or fruition of the manner in which we have traveled. And, we all choose, even if we choose to let others choose our paths and define our manner of living for us.

2. We are confronted with challenges to change our journey’s manner and direction almost daily. The wide or narrow road is not just a one-time choice. Daily we choose, daily we walk, daily we are offered opportunity to make course corrections—or change courses entirely. Negatively, one can yield to inertia, laziness, temptation, mammon, etc. Positively, grace offers us the opportunity to repent, break self-defeating patterns, transcend barriers, contribute to the whole, etc.

3. In contrast to following obvious and easier ways, Jesus invites us to seek and find the living way. The authentic human life Jesus embodied, opened up as a possibility through his own suffering-death-resurrection, and points to isn’t hidden, but it must be sought for. So he implores: “ask,” “seek,” “knock.” “You will find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Do we not see or seek because we are focused on, invested in, and consumed with what is most obvious?

4. Walking with us, Jesus promises joy in the journey and direction for every crossroad we face. In another context Jesus says: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). No doubt, we must rigorously count the cost and weigh our foreseeable options. But this challenge comes from one who also dares to claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” His challenge to “enter through the narrow gate” is weighted with promise and hope that, to me, makes all other viable options seem, by comparison, trivial.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

MONUMENT CIRCLE. This is the center of Indianapolis. A monument to lives lost in the Civil War stands in the center of a circular drive that was planned by the city's architect (a student of Pierre l'Enfant, who designed Washington, D.C.). Indianapolis was designed to be the state's Capitol from its beginning. The site was chosen for its centrality in the state; also for its access to the White River, which, it was then thought, could be made navigable to the Ohio River. While the White River is not navigable for any commercial transportation, the city has enjoyed steady growth. Indy is considered to be either the northern-most southern city, or the southern-most northern city. Which do you think it is?

Saturday, August 20, 2005



INTRODUCING...MOLLY! Molly, wearing number 10, is introduced as a starter for the first time in her first varsity soccer game for Ben Davis High School. To her immediate right (#8) is U.S. national team member Lauren Chaney and nationally-recognized Annie Yi (#7). Molly is one of two freshman to start (Brianna Syverson, #11, to her immediate left, is the other). The Lady Giants are ranked in the top five teams in Indiana as the season gets underway. On this night (August 15) they trounced Plainfield, 7-1.

Friday, August 19, 2005

10 WAYS TO REVITALIZE YOUR PRAYER LIFE

PITHY LIST. I worked with Jesus' teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) recently and pulled together from various people regarded as prayer mastters this pithy list of steps one might take to revitalize one's prayer life. These may only be good for a jump-start, but if that's what's needed, read on.

1. Walk when you pray. You can “be still” and move at the same time. You will be amazed at the things you encounter for intercession during a prayer walk.

2. Pray with your eyes open. There is nothing more holy about closing your eyes when you pray. Some pray-ers in the Bible prayed with their eyes open.

3. Start by confessing—by name—every action, attitude, or outlook that just might be construed as sin…and repent---turn away from—each. This is the first and most important expression of prayer.

4. As best you can, put yourself in the shoes of the ones for whom you pray. Compassion for another changes the way you pray for them.

5. Visualize Jesus addressing and healing those for whom you pray. Using your imagination can help you understand prayer as something more than words.

6. Pray at the same time and place everyday for six straight days. Establish the best habit of your life.

7. Listen as much as you talk or petition. Prayer is not one-way. Listen intently.

8. Pray outside. Many prayers of the Bible are out in the open. Get out of the box.

9. Pray with a Psalm each day. The Psalms are prayers. Let them help you.

10. “Flash” prayers at 10 people each day. I call this “stealth praying.” You’ll find yourself looking for someone to pray for. Who knows, you might even speak to them?!

Thursday, August 18, 2005












IMAGE OF THE IRAQ WAR PROTEST. Finally, an image has resonated with many Americans who have all sorts of misgivings about the U.S. Goverment's war against Iraq but nothing by which to focus their angst. But the image of a mother whose son was killed in Iraq camping out beside the road that leads to President Bush's ranch (where he is vacationing for the month) and asking for the President to talk to her (while he continues to resist doing so)--this resonates with many. Cindy Sheehan's persistent and intentionally visible protest is a catalyst. It has encouraged many to begin to lend their voices to hers in a plea for an end to America's costly military occupation of Iraq. Vigils have been spawned across the nation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

JARED AND MOLLY AFTER SOCCER PRACTICE. These two have been practicing soccer with their respective teams for at least two hours every weekday for the past month, even though school started just a week ago. Jared is a senior captain on the Ben Davis boys varsity soccer team. Molly is a freshman on the BD girls varsity soccer team. Molly started as one of two freshmen in the girls first game Monday night; BD walked over Plainfield (my alma mater), 7-1. Molly also got her first yellow card! We're looking forward to watching you guys compete over the next several months.
THE CUSHIONED--BUT RESTLESS--LIFE

The good folks at the Bruderhof left the following quote by Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster in my e-mail inbox this morning:
"Our technological civilization has cushioned life on all sides, yet more than ever before, people helplessly succumb to the blows of life. This is very simply because a merely technological culture cannot give any help in the face of life’s eternal tragedy; here only an inward foundation can help. Externalized as they are, too many people today have no ideas, no strength, nothing that might enable them to master their restlessness and dividedness. They do not know what to make of trials, obstacles, or suffering--how to make something constructive of them--and perceive them only as things that oppress and irritate them and interfere with life. -- F. W. Foerster in "Hauptaufgaben der Erziehung"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

PELOTON ONE. Sal Ruibal of USA Today, who recently rode mountain bikes with President George W. Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch, says the first rule in "Peloton One" is don't ever pass the President. Read Sal's story. He reports that since giving up running because of bad knees, the 59-year old has become a serious, fast, and competitive cyclist. I think I just found the one thing I have in common and actually agree with in this President. Next MTB partner for the Prez: Lance Armstrong. Armstrong reports that he has been invited to ride at the ranch on Saturday. Armstrong is friends with both Bush and John Kerry. Photo credit: USA Today
ON DOUBTING. Do battle with your doubts, lest they overwhelm and define you. Don't fear doubt, but don't stop with it. Do not shun your doubts, but neither allow them to take root in your psyche as a cancerous cynicism. I've heard it said that "in order to believe greatly it is necessarly to doubt greatly." I believe this is true. But intellectually robust and pure-hearted doubting is very different than half-minded, self-serving doubt. For the pure in heart, where intellect hesitates, faith can make the forward leap. At the end of doubt is belief...in something. Unless we press through to belief--and engage the doubt-to-belief breakthrough process again and again throughout our lives--our souls will shrivel. Amid your doubts, believe.

Monday, August 15, 2005













SO LONG, IRENE. The ninth tropical storm of the young 2005 hurricane season finally veered northeast after swirling to within a few hundred miles of the Atlantic coast of the United States. Irene will pose no threat for landfall and, headed into the much colder waters of the north Atlantic, she is likely to spin herself out over the next few days. The National Hurricane Center notes that this is the earliest in the summer in recorded history to have had nine tropical storms form in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions. What's with that? Photo credit: NOAA

Sunday, August 14, 2005

HELP THOU MY UNBELIEF
"Help Thou mine unbelief. O God, give me greater patience in my hope, and make me more constant in my love. In loving let me believe and in believing let me love; and in loving and believing let me hope for a more perfect love and a more unwavering faith, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen." from A Diary of Private Prayer by Jon Baillie

Saturday, August 13, 2005

SOLITUDE & SPIRITUALITY

I am not sure who stated it, but I agree with it: “Spirituality is what one does with one’s solitude.”

Apart from the crowd, peers, assembly, spotlight
Apart from family, siblings, spouse
Apart from church and program
When action is ceased
When one is alone
What are we?
Who am I?

To whom do I listen?
To what do I give my attention?
What occupies my consciousness?
Where do I turn?

Out of aloneness
Out of solitude
Emerges the shaping of the soul
Which either breathes energy and shalom,
Community formation and kinship,
Or barriers of fear, doubt, and suspicion.

O, to be nurtured in the stillness of solitude
By love divine itself
Here, shape my soul
And fill it
With creative redemption.

Friday, August 12, 2005

















MY NEIGHBOR'S SURPRISE LILIES. My next-door neighbor, Gary, stands next to a robust cluster of surprise lilies. In the background is the cluster of surprise lilies that I photographed last week. Since then, two other groups of these leafless wonders have sprung up in other places in our yard. I wish for every household a set of neighbors like Gary and Joyce.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

BACK TO SCHOOL

TOO SOON. Today, three of our children headed back to school. It's just August 10th! Too soon, legislators and educators! Today is the opening day of the Indiana State Fair and my kids are headed back to school. That's commentary enough.

JARED. Jared begins his senior year of high school. He will once again be captain of his soccer team. I wish you the best in the classroom and on the field this fall, Jared! I so enjoy watching you play the game. And I hope you enjoy being a senior. Just don't neglect your studies amid a fun-filled year. We are pumped about your future.

MOLLY. Molly is a freshman and is in the first class in the township's brand new Ninth Grade Center. Molly's also playing varsity soccer with the high school. I hope this is a great year for you, Hopper. Don't put yourself under pressure. The best things will come to you if you wait and persevere.

SAM. Sam starts 7th grade at "Chapel Hill 7th & 8th Grade Center," a fancy name for the old Ben Davis Jr. High. And he's playing on the school football team. This is a big step up for you, Sam. Make the most of your abilities, with your classes and in study, and also on the field. Put first things first and you'll never have any regrets.

BECKY. Becky's back at school, too, as school nurse at the Ninth Grade Center. New digs, new clinic, new students, new demands. You will be grace to them, Bec. I am proud of you for this investment of yourself that you are making.

ABBY. Abby heads back to college next week for two weeks of soccer camp and two-a-days before classes begin the last week of August. Best wishes to you for your sophomore year. Keep up your confidence and pursue your dreams. Seize the day!

Tuesday, August 9, 2005












DISCOVERY IS HOME. I set my alarm to wake up at 3:45 am today in order to observe the landing of Discovery. I could have slept in. The shuttle was waved off landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida due to bad weather; it landed at around 7:10 am (Central Time) at Edwards Air Force Base in California, instead. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief across the nation when the space-repaired craft made a flawless and uneventful return. This has been perhaps the most scrutinized flight in twenty years. I enjoyed viewing the bird's-eye view and listening in to the shuttle-Mission Control conversations via Yahoo!'s link with NASA TV. Will confidence be restored in NASA? Will the problems with the foam on the fuel tanks be addressed? Will shuttle flights continue? My sense is, with due diligence and utmost care, yes.

Monday, August 8, 2005

FAITH OF THE FATHERS

HONEST SEARCHING. A few years ago, a friend sent me a poem worked out at a critical moment in his journey of faith. This evening, rummaging through files in search of something else, I ran across Ev's piece. It struck me for its honesty and insight. He called it "Faith of the Fathers." Thanks for sharing this insight for our journeys, Ev:

He put God in a box
and built a box around it,
layer upon layer of wood and nails.
I asked to see the God in the box.
"You can see him. Just look!"
I looked and looked,
but I couldn't see in the box,
through the box.
"I can't see," I cried.
"Open the box!"
"Oh, no. We can't do that.
It's scarifying
and terrifying.
No one can see God and live."
This is living?
Unable to see
with an unusable God
in an ineffable box?

He went away.
I thought again of the box,
layer upon layer.
I peeled them back.
The nails pierced my hands,
the wood splintered my fingers,
the seeking wounded my heart.
At last I found the tiny box
where he cocooned God.
I tore it open, gasping for air,
only to find God wasn't in there;
but God was everywhere else
except the box.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

DO BODIES COUNT?

SCRIBBLED NOTE. Today I found a handwritten note in my Beetle that I made while driving and listening to NPR a few weeks ago. The note is scribbled, simply, "24,865" and "37% by U.S. forces."

BEHIND THE NUMBERS. Recalling the story as I can, an organization called Iraq Body Count has been tracking the number of civilian deaths since the start of the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Using a variety of mainstream news sources, the organization has tallied what they consider a conservative number of 24,865 Iraqi civilians (and counting...) who have been killed by various groups--from the U.S. military to Iraqi insurgents--over the past two years. 37% of these have been identified as killed by U.S. bombs and troops, mostly during the first three weeks of the war. The group indicates that 9% of civilian Iraqi deaths have been at the hands of insurgents.

DOING BODY COUNTS. Apparently the organization got motivated when they heard U.S. General Tommy Franks say, "We don't do body counts." I found their website. For more information, go to http://www.iraqbodycount.net/. If not these folks, who should be doing body counts? Why aren't others counting? Why does it matter?

Saturday, August 6, 2005












LANCE ARMSTRONG RETRO. For those interested in a concise but well-written review of the life and career of Lance Armstrong, follow this link provided by Cyclingnews.com. Here's how the story begins:

"I HAVE NO REGRETS." "The fourth oldest Tour de France winner at 33 years and 10 months, Armstrong said in his final Tour de France press conference, 'It's nice to finish your career on a high note. As a sportsman, I wanted to go out on top. I have absolutely no regrets. I've had an unbelievable career. I've been blessed to ride 14 years as a professional...I've been blessed with financial rewards that I never thought would be possible. There's no reason to continue. I don't need more. It's time for a new face...(I have) no regrets.'"
THE SOUND OF SILENCE

"Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self."

"It is a harrowing journey, a death to self--the false self--and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want."

-- M. Basil Pennington quoted in The Daily Dig

EXTRAORDINARY AMERICAN DAYS

I haven't yet worked this poem into a better form, but it's on my mind and in my heart, so here goes an early expression...

These are extraordinary American days,
the living of which takes more gall
than courage.

We ride a high-tech tide
surfing the world’s resources
with nary a notice of
disconcerted natives staring
aghast.

A formidable force we are--
voracious, discerning consumers
trained to shop the best bargains
while global predators do our bidding,
prowling new markets to exploit
and secure against a backdrop
of military might.

“Let there be free markets” we cry,
and take every liberty we can
to lock-in our advantage by hook
or by crook.

And with a straight face we pass
our days debating fantasy football
and restaurant preferences.

A few wade out into the tide,
straining against the undertow;
they call for restraint to rampant globalism,
suggest corporate culpability,
and posit fairer alternatives.

The thrill of the ride
and the sound of the breakers
drown out those desperadoes.
Are they too timid to brave these swells?
Too backward to catch our vision?
Afraid—perhaps resentful—
of our freedoms?

Friday, August 5, 2005














SURPRISE LILIES - DAY 7. One week from breaking the surface to nearly full flower, our surprise lilies grace the places where they happen to bloom.













SURPRISE LILIES - CLOSE-UP. Here's a close-up of the lilies in bloom. Not bad for not expecting anything amid "dog days."
COURAGE AND GALL

GALL, AMNESIA, & NARROW-MINDEDNESS. These are extraordinary times, the living of which takes both courage and gall. Gall, I am convinced, is the most common and necessary personal and social attribute for living successfully in American society these days. Combined with a good dose of amnesia regarding history and narrow-mindedness regarding moral responsibility, I can't imagine a person or interest group surviving well or long without gall.

COURAGE & CONSUMERISM. On the other hand, I wonder if courage has atrophied from a necessary mainstream American attribute. Who needs courage when you can consume? No, courage is only necessary for those desperadoes who seem to stand on the margins and cry "foul!" and who would repeatedly rain on our parade--if we let them get close enough! (cf distant "free speech zones"). Just try standing your ground against the tide of this consumer economy. Now that takes courage!

Thursday, August 4, 2005














SURPRISE LILIES - DAY 6. The stalks continue to grow taller--well over two feet tall. The main bud casing has peeled away, revealing five flowers per stalk. One flower has opened, a light pink bell. It looks as if this time tomorrow all flowers will be open and this act of midsummer grace will have come to fullness. Click on this or any picture on the blog to see it enlarged

BEYOND CRITICIZING. “The one who tries to hurt another ends in hurting only himself... When we live on the exhilaration of the wine of criticism of others, the effect sooner or later wears off, and when we are faced with the demand for something constructive out of our own hearts, then we show our bankruptcy. We have become bankrupt in showing others bankrupt... Turn your moral judgments toward yourself. Set up a standard in your own life that shall of itself be a light in the light of which men shall see and judge themselves.” — E. Stanley Jones













REPAIR IN SPACE. Earlier in the week, Astronaut Stephen Robinson made the first repair in space to the tender belly of the shuttle Discovery. With hacksaw and cutters ready in hand, Robinson was attached to the end of the shuttle's robotic arm, moved under the shuttle, and carefully positioned in front of thousands of ceramic tiles that shield the shuttle from extreme heat during reentry. In the end, Robinson was able to simply pluck out filler material that had been protruding from between several tiles. Camera and survey systems, along with repair protocols, have been used for the first time in this mission; it is the most scrutinized shuttle mission ever.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005















SURPRISE LILIES - DAY 5. The four stalks are now over 2 feet tall. The pink bud of one is beginning to open outward. Becky said these unique plants are also called "Naked Ladies" because they have no leafy covering when they flower. Their leaves flourished earlier in the spring and then died away. I prefer the name "Resurrection Lilies" to "Naked Ladies." But I guess both suggest a story...
SURPRISE LILY - BUDDING. Five days after this plant poked its head through the dry, hard soil with nary a leaf in sight, it has climbed to over two feet in height and started to reveal its pink flower. The plant seems to flourish despite 90-degree heat and intense sunlight day after day. Friends tell us they have surprise lilies that are four generations old in their near westside yard.
MAY GOD BREAK MY HEART

“True evangelism, based on the example of Jesus, does not suggest the ‘missionary zeal’ of self-righteous proselytizers. It implies, on the contrary, the kind of all-embracing universality evident in Mother Teresa's prayer: ‘May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.’ Not just fellow nuns, Catholics, Calcuttans, Indians. The whole world. It gives me pause to realize that, were such a prayer said by me and answered by God, I would afterward possess a heart so open that even hate-driven zealots would fall inside.” – David James Duncan, quoted in The Daily Dig. Thanks for bringing this to the table today, David Metzger!
CONGRATULATIONS, MOLLY! Even before you start your first day as a Freshman, you made the Ben Davis High School varisty girls' soccer team! Way to go! We are proud of you. We knew you could do it! You will contribute so much to the success of the team this year...and in seasons to come.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

ARMSTRONG ON LETTERMAN. David Letterman presented Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong a bicycle handlebar basket during The Late Show interview last night. A few years ago, Dave presented Lance with a saddle-shaped bead seat pad (like the ones used by NY taxi cab drivers). With the addition of the basket, Lance joked that he might be equipped to come back for an eighth attempt at the Tour. The video clip of the exchange is accessible at http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/ .

SURPRISE LILIES - DAY 4. If I hadn't been watching, these bud stalks growing out of Becky's front-yard flower bed would have surprised me this morning as I retrieved the Indianapolis Star from the tube. The tallest stalk is now nearly 20 inches high and the pink flowers within the bud shell are visible. How long will it be before the cluster breaks out? Not long.

Note in the background: it seems that 9 out of 10 driveways in Indiana has a basketball goal (except certain faux-bourgeois neighborhoods where covenants prohibit them as unsightly). In our case, intense games of basketball prevent delicate flowers--like these surprise lilies--from surviving on that end of the house. English ivy and hearty hostas, however, seems to enjoy being buffeted by a stray basketball every now and then.

Another background note: the blue Mustang indicates that Abby is home from college for just a few more weeks.

Monday, August 1, 2005


SURPRISE LILIES - DAY 3. This morning's early light revealed that all four surprise lilies are now climbing. The tallest is up to 13 inches. Still, the ground is bone dry and we've had no rain in nearly a week. What tips these bulbs off to rise? What propels them to such sudden and explosive growth? And why do I marvel at them?