Friday, September 30, 2005

GAMBLING WITH LIFE

LOTTERY IN LINE. Whenever I go into a convenient store, I usually wait in line at the counter while some soul selects and buys lottery tickets. And I usually resent having to wait to purchase what I consider necessary--fuel or food--while the person ahead of me wastes money on something unnecessary--and something I consider a cause for personal spiritual and social malignancy. With $10, I purchase fuel that will propel me throughout the community for nearly a week; with his Andrew Hamilton, the person ahead of me walks away--99% of the time--with nothing. The normalization and amoralization of gambling in American life is, to me, a trajectory heading toward some tragic outcomes.

TWO WAYS TO STOP JUDGMENTALISM. But pity or disgust are not the only two emotions I have felt while waiting in line for someone to buy lottery tickets. Sometimes, when I see someone engaging in some obvious misdeed or foolishness and feel righteous indignation welling up within me, I use my imagination to try to put myself in their shoes. Even if I end up baffled by bad behavior, it's a good exersice; at the least it moves my focus away from my momentary judgmentalism on a neighbor. Or, I try to ask myself, "am I, too, gambling with life? If so, how?"

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE. On Wednesday I got a ticket on Interstate 70 for "unsafe lane movement." Trying to get around slow traffic in the two left lanes, I crossed to the far right lane, passed the traffic, and then cut back over into the far left lane in order to make the north-bound I-65/I-70 split in the downtown spaghetti bowl. The state trooper who pulled me over was not happy with me. However, he informed me that he was not ticketing me for driving over 70 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone and that the citation did not mention the fact that I did not use my turn signals. The ironic part of this story: I was, in fact, traveling from a 6:15 am men's prayer breakfast to a 7:30 am roundtable Bible study when I was stopped for "unsafe lane movement."

WHERE'S THE FINGER POINTING? One person buys lottery tickets, scratches them off, and throws money away; I engaged in risky behavior at 70 mph on one of the busiest and most dangerous stretches of highway in the city. Both gambling. Is it merely enough to say "choose your poison?" Hardly. But whenever I find myself pointing the finger elsewhere, it usually points right back at me. And even when it doesn't point my way directly, if I think about it fully, I can readily find evidence of my behavior, needs, or choices contributing indirectly and complicitly with another's misdeeds born of desperation or despair. And that is reason enough for confession and repentance.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

ANGER & MINISTRY

"My point in mentioning this is only to say that people who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you're just quietly going about a life of your own choosing. They make you doubt yourself, which, depending on cases, can be a severe distraction and a waste of time. This is a thing I wish I had understood earlier than I did. Just to reflect on it makes me a little irritated. Irritation is a form of anger, I recognize that."

-- Marilynne Robinson in Gilead (2004, Farrar, Straus, Giroux; winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

THE CROSS AND PUBLIC CONTRADICTIONS

INSTEAD OF RUNNING AWAY. "The cross which many Christians are called to bear involves the contradictions of contemporary life. And these contradictions are especially pronounced in the public realm. Christian faith, the way of the cross, empowers us to live these contradictions creatively instead of retreating from them as we so often do. The way of the cross both leads us into public life and gives us the grace to live there."

LIVE THE CONTRADICTIONS. "The way of the cross challenges us not to remove tension from our lives by avoiding the places where tension is found, or by abandoning the convictions that cause us to feel tension. Instead, the cross point another way, a way of 'living the contradictions,' a way of taking tension into our lives and transforming it from a force of destruction into an energy of creation.” – Parker Palmer (author of The Company of Strangers, The Active Live, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach)
UNSETTLE ME; SETTLE ME

Unsettle me.
Unsettle my settledness
Which breeds complacency.
Unsettle my settledness
Which is the playground of vanity
And spiritual pride.
Agitate my soul
To hear and see again
The pain and promise
Which brought You near.

Settle me.
Settle my unsettledness
Which breeds anxiety.
Settle my unsettledness
Which is the playground of discontent
And spiritual shallowness.
Anchor my soul
To Word and Sacrament
The substance and promise
Which You bring near.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

MARION COUNTY SOCCER TOURNEY

BIG SOCCER WEEK. With the Marion County Soccer Tourney underway, it's a week full of boys and girls high school soccer for us. Ben Davis girls won Monday night (7-0 over Lutheran) and will play Roncalli Wednesday evening. BD boys won tonight (4-0 over Roncalli) and will play Park Tudor Thursday evening. The teams that win the quarter-finals play in the semi-finals Saturday morning. And the teams that win the semi-finals play for the county championship Saturday evening at North Central High School.

THEY'VE GOT A SHOT. Both Ben Davis boys and girls teams have a good shot at making it to the championship game. Having defeated Zionsville last Saturday night (1-0), the boys gained a lot of confidence. If the Giants make it to the final, they could face #1 ranked Pike. The BD girls are now appropriately ranked #3 in the state coaches' poll (Carmel is #1, but they have yet to meet BD). Best wishes, Jared and Molly! No matter how the soccer games go, it's always great to be at these games, watching your own kids and taking in incredible sunsets. No complaints from us.

Monday, September 26, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ABBY

ABBY IS TWENTY. Twenty years ago today in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Becky gave birth to our first child--Abigail Ruthann. Three weeks late, bright eyes, lots of dark hair, and healthy. Janice Hall exclaimed upon seeing her: "She looks so intelligent!" This is my favorite photo of Becky with Abby when she was two years old. We're proud of you, Abby. Hope your day is special. God bless you.
HILLY HUNDRED COMING UP. I'm looking forward to riding this year's Hilly Hundred, the annual two-day ride through some of the most beautiful and challenging hills around Bloomington, Bedford, and Nashville, Indiana. The event is coming up October 14-16; it starts in Ellettsville, Indiana. About 5,000 riders participate in this colorful tour, a Midwest favorite. This photo is the winner of last year's Hilly Hundred photo contest. Learn more or sign up at www.hillyhundred.org.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

RESIST MILITARY LEADERSHIP FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

ONE CAN ONLY HOPE. I hope for a better, civilian-based comprehensive response plan to natural disasters than our President's idea to assert military authority.

STOP-GAP, NOT IN CHARGE. Most people are grateful the military came to the rescue in the aftermath of Katrina. However, leaders should think very carefully before supporting the idea of a war-making machine co-opting local leadership, authorized civilian agencies, competent volunteer corps, and trained civilian emergency personnel in crises.

NO EXCUSE TO INSTALL MILITARY. The response to Katrina was a mess not because the U.S. military was not in charge. Initial Katrina responses were a mess because it was not clear who was in charge and those charged with directing relief being either incompetent or unwilling to act proactively and immediately in the best interest of the victims.

NOT THE BEST ANSWER. It seems to me that America is already over-militarized. Our leaders should be thinking of ways to strategically downsize the military instead of finding further justifications for its insatiable appetites and expansive drain on the American economy, social well-being, and spiritual health. The military is not the best answer to 99.99% of any problem.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. Just imagine Donald Rumsfeld at the helm of a response to a national emergency. Imagine the Defense Department as the vehicle of response to hurricanes, earthquakes or flu outbreaks. Imagine the same minds trained to unhesitatingly kill "bogeys" and view humans as "targets" to be taken out as the personnel processing your displaced loved ones across the country. Military may be called in for support when needed, but its focus and mission is not primarily civilian.

RESIST HIS OVER-REACTION. I hope our leaders and citizens resist the President's call for an increased or leadership roll by the military in natural disaster response. It is simply overkill. And it is typical of this President's pattern of over-reaction and resorting to a military answer to problems. It needs to be resisted. May cooler, wiser heads and hearts prevail.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

AT GANDHI'S FUNERAL

LISTEN TO HIM. If the words and actions of the peacemakers opposed to America's war on Iraq seem out-of-step and unworkable, then let us recall the life, words, and work of Mahatma Gandhi. The will and spirit of this little man influenced his people to muster a nonviolent revolution in India that brought Hindus and Muslims together and brought colonialist Britain to its knees. He never owned a gun.

CHRISTIAN INFLUENCES. Today, I participated in a Deeper Prayer Conference with author and retired Christian missionary to India Dr. Wesley Duewel. Duewel, age 89, served in India during the Gandhi's time and knew of distinctive Christian influences on the leader. Well known is the relationship of Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones to the Mahatma; Jones' biography of Gandhi influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. to seriously consider nonviolent action in the American civil rights struggle.

INTERCEDED FOR GANDHI. As a young man, Duewel says he felt led to pray for Mahatma Gandhi every day, which he faithfully did until the Indian leader was assassinated by a fellow Hindu. Recently, Duewel reread Indian newspapers that reported Gandhi's assassination. Duewel has taken heart that his prayers for the leader and his eternal peace were not in vain, as Gandhi lived and prayed quietly for several hours after bullets were fired into his body.

GANDHI'S FAVORITE HYMN. Duewel recalls that Gandhi's funeral procession was well over a mile long. His Christian compatriots were asked to walk together and sing Gandhi's favorite Christian hymn. Here are some of the words:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e're such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Friday, September 23, 2005

LET US LISTEN

IT IS TIME TO LISTEN. Approximately 100,000 American citizens are anticipated to gather in Washington, D.C., Saturday through Monday for peaceful protest to our goverment's war on Iraq. In the face of a quagmire approaching the depth of Vietnam, at a cost of nearly 2,000 American lives and multiple billions of dollars, and with America's ability to respond to domestic crises at risk, these common citizens are standing up to speak. Let us listen.

LAMENT & POSSIBILITIES. As they offer lament for the losses, for misplaced priorities of a nation; as they offer reasons and possibilities for an end to the war; as they chart a path for peace...they deserve to be heard. Let us listen. Let our government leaders listen.

WE'VE BEEN FORCE-FED WAR FOR THREE YEARS. The Bush Administration has had our undivided attention with war for three years. We have been force-fed violence since 9/11/01. War has been preached as the true American way to righteousness. We have watched as America has been thoroughly militarized and satiated with all things war-like. We have watched lives snuffed out to flag-waving justifications and rationalizations for more. We have listened to lies and unrepented misleadings to the American people and international community. We have given war-supporting leaders the benefit of the doubt in the face of common sense again and again.

WHO IS NOT LISTENING. Our President, in anticipation of war protesters and peace advocates assembling, has publicly declared that he is not going to listen. He declared that he's firm in his conviction that his war must go on. But his perspective is not the only one that matters. His personal sense of what is right does not define what is right, just, fair, or best for our nation or the other nations of the world.

LET US LISTEN TO PEACEMAKERS, FOR A CHANGE. War has had its chance. Now let us listen to those who speak of another way, a way of peace. Let us listen for the strength of peace. Let us listen for a way to end the insanity of war and move toward the nonviolent means that have served this--and all nations--best. Before you pass judgment or dismiss the peacemakers, open your heart, open your ears...and listen.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

TO WHAT ARE WE BEING CALLED?

PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACH Johann Christoph Arnold penned the following words a few days ago. Posted at www.bruderhof.com, it is a hopeful challenge for us all: “To me, the two greatest catastrophes in recent American memory--September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina--are blasts on God’s trumpet, calling us to practice what we preach. In both cases, the devastation was unprecedented. But God could only have allowed them to happen because he wanted to give us another chance to follow him—and not in words, but in deeds.

ARE WE WILLING? “Here is a chance to show that we really do want to belong to him; that we really do love our neighbors as ourselves and are willing to lay down our lives for our friends. Are we ready for the challenge? I hope so.

BACK TO NORMAL? “After 9/11, we said we would never let things go back to normal. In a way, they haven’t. But for most of us, daily life has gone on as usual. That became clear in the wake of Katrina. Our first concern, judging by the headlines, was how the hurricane had affected oil production and other commodities. Only after that did we begin to address the tremendous need of half a million shattered lives.

REDEEM THE TIME “None of us knows when God will call us from this world. But we ought to seriously consider that it could happen at any time. This should increase our sense of urgency, so that we make use of every hour.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

WE HAVE WHAT BELONGS TO OTHERS

BRUEGGEMANN'S INSIGHT. I've been re-reading Finally Comes the Poet by Old Testament scholar and teacher Walter Brueggemann. I came across a paragraph that I'd previously overlooked. It stands out to me today as a heavy and pointed reality to which I am invited to respond in repentance and Kingdom living:

ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF THE GOSPEL. "The great fact of the Western world, and therefore the circumstance of our preaching, is that we gather as restless, greedy children of disproportion, caught in an ideology of acquisitiveness. That is, social goods, social access, and social power are not equally distributed. Some have too little. Some have too much. That some have too much is intimately related to the fact that some have too little."

HOW SHALL WE RESPOND? "While there are economic differentiations in the Christian community, the main body of our Western church constituency consists of adherents to and benefactors of the great Western disproportion. We have too much. We have more than our share. We have what belongs to the others, and now they want it back. This economic reality among us impinges on our capacity to hear and respond when we are addressed by God’s voice of command."
RELIEVED OF KATRINA

Defying nature’s fury
we hunkered down
and waited out the storm

Sighing relief by sunset
we went to bed
and dreamed of clearing skies

Waking to rising water
we climbed the stairs
and hoped for no higher

Fleeing the rising dark tide
we stretched above
and moved to the attic

Cursing the cold wet darkness
we pried the roof
and clambered for our lives

Seeing chaos at daybreak
we grieved for all
and gave thanks we were spared

Anticipating rescue
we searched the skies
and watched for signs of help

Passing time on the rooftop
we huddled close
and talked of rebuilding

Growing thirsty and hungry
we would grumble
and complain of delays

Waiting longer--into days
we grew desperate
and despaired surviving

Looking up, at last they came
we rose as one
and numbly whirled away
SIMON WIESENTHAL

A survivor of five Nazi concentration camps before and during World War II, Simon Wiesenthal vowed to bring as many perpetrators of war crimes against his fellow Jews to justice as possible. Wiesenthal did not rest after the initial war crimes trials and the softening of the West toward former Nazi collaborators as the Cold War set in. He pursued all possible leads and was responsible for bringing to justice many Nazis who tried to hide around the world, including Adolph Eichmann. Wiesenthal, who died peacefully at age 96 yesterday, leaves a legacy of a pursuit of justice and a vigilance against hidden hatred.

Here are a few memorable Wiesenthal quotes:

"Hatred can be nurtured anywhere, idealism can be perverted into sadism anywhere. If hatred and sadism combine with modern technology the inferno could erupt anew anywhere."

"Violence is like a weed - it does not die even in the greatest drought."

"Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

IS THIS THE WAY CHRISTIANS MEET TODAY?

AGAPE MEAL. "The nature of our meal and it's purpose are explained by it's very name. It is called agape, as the Greeks call love in it's purest form. However much it may cost, it is always gain to be extravagant in the name of fellowship..."

FIRST TASTE OF PRAYER. "The participants do not go to the table unless they have first tasted of prayer to God. As much is eaten as is necessary to satisfy the hunger. When satisfying themselves they are aware that even during the night they should worship God. They converse as those who are aware that God is listening..."

STAND TO PRAISE GOD. "After the hands are washed and the lights are lit, all are asked to stand forth to praise God as well as each is able, be it from the Holy Scriptures or from his own heart. In like manner the meal is closed with a prayer."

PARTING IN TRUTH. "After this we part from one another...pursuing the same self control and purity as befits those who have taken in a truth rather than a meal. This is the way the Christians meet."

-- from Apology by Tertullian (AD 155-230), Bishop of Carthage

Monday, September 19, 2005


MONDAY SUNRISE

RED SKY IN THE MORNING. This incredible sky greeted me as I drove through our neighborhood this morning at 6:20 am. It's a rare morning view. I stopped the Beetle to take a snapshot. But you know the meteorological certainty: "Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." This colorful sky yielded to a heavy, gray cloud cover and, within an hour, rain. It may rain all day, but I'll carry the image of today's sunrise with me through the day.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

ROBERTO HERAS WINS 4th VUELTA A ESPANA

THE REIGN IN SPAIN. The enduring little Spaniard won his fourth Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) in front of the home crowds in Madrid today, concluding the 21st stage of the third epic of the pro cycling season. Heras, who rode with US Postal Service team and Lance Armstrong for several years, relies on excellence in the mountain stages and good team tactics to win the Gold Jersey of the Vuelta's General Classification. While he had disappointing performances earlier in the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) and Tour de France, Heras rose to the occasion before his countrymen. Congratulations, Roberto!

SUNSET ON 2005 SEASON. There will be more races in the late season of 2005 for pro cyclists, but the "big ones" conclude with today's sunset in Madrid. Some teams will go back to the drawing board, wondering what happened to their "sure fire" combinations of great riders; others will go to the bank and revel in victories and sound accomplishments. Whatever pro cycling looks like in 2006, it will be something less without the competitive espirt of a Lance Armstrong-driven team in the Tour de France. I hope Discovery Channel works hard to help another American contender emerge, but I'm not expecting overnight miracles. Still, I'll continue to anticipate and enjoy the Tour de France as I have over the past seven years.

BEST-PLACED AMERICANS. Tom Danielson of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team was the best-placed American at the end of the Vuelta; Danielson finished 6th. He was the second best-placed non-Spaniard; second place went to Denis Menchov of Russia. American Christian Vandevelde of Team CSC placed 32nd out of 127 finishers.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

GRATITUDE & GRACE

“The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness. Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace—as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand. Such recognition is itself the work of grace, and acceptance of the gift is implicitly an acknowledgement of the Giver.”
– Brennan Manning in Ruthless Trust

Friday, September 16, 2005

"I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY"

PRESIDENTIAL APOLOGIES AND PROMISES. Last evening in his speech from Louisiana, President Bush did his best to assure the city of New Orleans, Gulf Coast communities, victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the nation that no expense would be spared to help all effected to recover. He also stated that a full investigation into tragic lapses in emergency response at all levels of government will occur. This follows his admission a day earlier that "I take responsibility" for Federal-level lapses. I'm not sure more forthcoming and clear declarations could be made at this point.

IT WILL TAKE TIME...AND ACCOUNTABILITY. This said, Mr. Bush and all who rush to defend he and his Administration must understand that while words soothe, only the fullness of compassionate and reconstructive action directed sensititively and justly over time will satisfy those who have lost so much and all whose confidence in government to effectively respond to such tragedies is thoroughly shaken...and all but gone. No wand of citizen's money (emphasize: citizen's money) can be waved to instantly heal these wounds. No assuring speech with a promise of better behavior can quickly put the wheels back on an Administration caught off guard, unprepared, and slow to respond.

ENDURE THE QUESTIONS. Instead of being irritated at repeated questions about what he called an "unacceptable" response and resistant to calls for full disclosure on the nature of current recovery and future rebuilding efforts, Mr. Bush and his Administration should understand that a posture of "just trust us to do the job" isn't selling very well right now. The lack of a competent initial response and an embarrassing lack of clear communication within Federal agencies and White House warrant close questions and clear answers. Reestablish trust by transparent, sincere, comprehensive action.

FOR THE BALANCE OF HIS TERM. It would be commendable, it seems to me, for Mr. Bush to spend the balance of his term ignoring his handlers, throwing political caution to the wind, and seeking to understand fully and respond comprehensively to what this tragedy has exposed. He will help his party's legislators to be reelected in the mid-term election next year best by hanging whatever he's meant by "conservative" and just become "compassionate." Focus fully on leaving a legacy that has helped our military and civilian disaster responders become excellent at saving lives in the first hours after a national tragedy. Focus fully on leaving a legacy that "gets it" regarding the nature of urban poverty and sets in motion a trajectory of uplift that touches every city and rural area of the nation.

Thursday, September 15, 2005












MOLLY HELPS BD BEAT AVON. Molly (shown here disrupting a drive by Avon's Michelle Sauer) played tenacious defense in the Ben Davis girls' match with the state's #2 ranked team, Avon, on Monday. Ben Davis defeated the Lady Orioles, 5-3. Lauren Chaney, who plays on the U.S. National women's team, scored all 5 goals for BD. But behind Lauren's ability score was a strong defensive effort across the backfield, denying a high-scoring group of Avon seniors throughout the game. On Wednesday, the Lady Giants defeated Warren Central by a score of 2-1. That puts BD's season record at 9-1 and should move them up from #9 in the state poll that comes out next Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SAM IN ACTION. Sam is playing on the 7th-grade football team at Chapel Hill Center in Wayne Township this fall. He's one of the smaller players at this point, but he plays with the biggest heart. Don't tell him he's not able to tackle players twice his size. A free safety, he had several tackles and covered the backfield well in tonight's game with Decatur Intermediate. Good luck for the rest of the season, Sam.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

TO WHOM THE CREDIT BELONGS

I've attributed the following statement to John F. Kennedy, but, apparently, it comes from Theodore Roosevelt. It sounds like what I've read of Teddy more than what I've read of JFK (though, honestly, I really know little more than a good public school instruction has taught me of these two icons of American leadership). This piece is embedded in a rather long speech delivered in Paris in 1910. The speech was titled "Citizenship in a Republic." I rank this quote as a Top Ten in motivational quotes. What's your take on/response to it?
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belong to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, September 12, 2005

THE KATRINA PLEDGE

Sojourners and Call to Renewal leads the way (again) with an initiative to refocus our national leadership on addressing poverty. Hurricane Katrina exposed the hiddenness of poverty. New Orleans is not an exception when it comes to rates and issues of crippling poverty in urban and rural areas. But New Orleans reveals what we need to see and respond to: poverty kills. The following pledge has been crafted to express a concern and commitment to address poverty anew. Once signed, it will be given to President George W. Bush.

Here is the pledge:

The waters of Hurricane Katrina have revealed fault lines of race and class in our nation, washing away our national denial about the large number of Americans who live in poverty and about its disproportionate impact on people of color. We have now seen, and so has the rest of the world, the effects of public policies that sacrifice the common good to private interests and misguided priorities.

In the aftermath of the storm's destruction, a new America must be born in which compassion and conscience reshape our society's priorities at all levels. Together we can transform our country into one where economic security for all is an essential part of our national security.

As a person of faith, I believe that the poverty we have witnessed on the rooftops of New Orleans and the devastated communities of the Gulf Coast is morally unacceptable. Therefore, I join my fellow Americans across the barriers of race, religion, class, and politics in the following commitments:

1. I pledge to be personally involved in helping those whose lives have been affected by this natural disaster - by praying for the victims and their families and by offering my time, talents, and resources to relief and recovery ministries that are meeting their needs.

2. I pledge to work for sweeping change of our nation's priorities. I will press my elected representatives to protect the common good - especially the needs of our poorest families and children - rather than supporting the twin social disasters of tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts that hurt the poor.

Here is the link to sign the pledge to be sent to President Bush.

SENIOR SWEEPER . Jared is a senior captain at the sweeper position for the Ben Davis boys varsity soccer team this year. He's playing with maturity and at the top of his game. It's a joy to watch him. The Giants have a tough schedule this week, beginning with a match with Warren Central this evening (always a rough game), state-ranked Brownsburg on Thursday, and Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South on Saturday. Continue to play with heart, Jared! You will inspire others when you give your best game after game. At the minimum, you will have no regrets and a sense of personal satisfaction that no one can take away.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

FOUR YEARS LATER

INCREDIBLE AND BIZARRE. I still grieve over what happened on September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks, devastation, loss of nearly 3,000 lives, and heroic responses by volunteers still seems incredible. Just as incredible has been the unfathomable manner in which our governmental leaders have ever since reacted to it. These past four years have got to be the most bizarre chapter in U.S. history.

JUSTIFICATIONS AND RATIONALIZATIONS. Instead of thoughtfully considering the range of reasons for the attacks and various plausibly effective responses to it, our President immediately declared war and insisted the attacks occurred because "they are evil" and "hate our freedom." From that point on, we've been on a wild ride. The attacks of September 11, 2001 have been used to:
(1) wage the most nebulous war in world history,
(2) create a national and international environment of secrecy and suspicion,
(3) focus and solidify unprecedented power in the Presidency,
(4) justify the use of a "pre-emptive war" policy (unprecedented and ethically untenable),
(5) justify taking unilateral action in the face of international opposition to American assertions and reactions,
(6) justify war on Afghanistan,
(7) justify war on Iraq,
(8) justify renewal and extension of the Patriot Act,
(9) justify radical increases in defense and homeland security expenditures,
(10) justify an alarmingly high and growing federal budget deficit,
(11) justify radical reduction in local safety-net and self-help initiatives for the poorest of poor Americans,
(12) re-elect a President who has been perceived as winning the "war on terror" (overwhelming evidence to the contrary),
(13) justify the promotion of continued and increased levels violence as the way to end violence and bring about peace, or at least "security."

FALLACIOUS AND MISLEADING. Four years later, the Bush Administration still seems to be using the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 to to justify or rationalize much of its conduct. But terrorism has increased during the past four years; some would say that terrorist recruits have multiplied because of our leaders' chosen responses to terrorism. America and the world is not a safer place four years later. The "evidence" the administration used to connect 9/11 to Iraq and WMDs has proven fallacious and misleading. On it goes...

HONESTY AND INTEGRITY. Does not honesty and integrity (so vocally asserted by the Bush Administration) call for a thorough reevaluation and refocusing of America's response to terrorism? Violence and war has had its "fair" chance. In honor of all who died on 9/11 and in the hope of ending the unnecessary loss of life in the terrorist wars, it is time and past time for change.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

HOW TO VANQUISH AN ENEMY

“The method of getting rid of your enemies by loving them—how unsubstantial it seems alongside the quick, solid way of getting rid of them by force! But the method of force turns out to be a great illusion, for if you conquer the body of a man you do not touch the real man. He is still an enemy and now a worse enemy than ever. You have conquered his body but not his soul. Only love and good will are strong enough to reach down to the inner life and turn one from enmity to good will.”

– E. Stanley Jones in Christ of the Mount

Friday, September 9, 2005

WHAT IF YOU DON'T HAVE A BOAT?

"To be poor in America was to be invisible, but not after this week, not after those images of the bedraggled masses at the Superdome, convention center and airport. No one can claim that the post-Reagan orthodoxy of low taxes and small government, which does wonders for the extremely rich, also inevitably does wonders for the extremely poor. What was that about a rising tide lifting all boats? What if you don't have a boat?"

- Eugene Robinson, columnist, The Washington Post (quoted in today's "Sojomail" special issue by Sojourners)

Thursday, September 8, 2005

ONE STEP BACKWARD TAKEN

Most Americans have surely read (or memorized) "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. Have you heard of his 1947 poem, "One Step Backward Taken?" I recently shared this with students at Indianapolis Peace House. Consider it in the context of the unnecessary national and global precipices to which our leaders have drawn us and over which we perilously peer. Consider it in the context of Hurricane Katrina. Consider it in the context of the principles--or lack thereof--upon which we may be trying to stand. Perhaps it is not only important to take the road less traveled, but to step back from the brink every now and then.

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.
BLOGGING FOR A YEAR

BLOG BIRTHDAY. So, as of this month it's been a full year since I took up blogging in earnest. I wasn't sure I'd where it would go as I started. As it turns out, I've made entries just about every day, taking part of my practice of daily journaling online. Blogging is not so much a discipline as a creative outlet and something I enjoy doing. The medium is readily accessible. Options are growing for working with a creative space that has a window open to the world.

AMID CREATIVITY, DANGER. Clearly, blogging isn't for everyone--either as readers or active bloggers. Few blogs that I've seen are a good fit for personality, capability, giftedness, or perspective. Still, I commend pure-hearted attempts. I regret that some are trying to turn blogging into a pornographic cesspool, a snakeoil carnival, and/or a political hack's hammer. Shame on them!

LOOKING FORWARD. I've chosen to keep bikehiker simple and free (as in, it doesn't cost--or make--me money), though I like some blogs that have become literal portals for high-intensity, high-volume ideas exchange. In the next year of blogging, I hope to make some more online connections with like-minded/hearted folks and to begin to grow my functional understanding and use of the medium.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

VISIONS

In the wake of Katrina, I'm thinking of an eloquent local Cajun poet whom I heard at the SCUPE Congress on Urban Ministry in Chicago a few years ago. Wondering if--and praying and hoping--Carol Prejean Zippert survived the torrent and flooding. She touches the heart of the nature of vision in this poem:

Visions
are clear
even as they change
Visions
hold truth
even as we search
for understanding
Visions
grow in depth
even as we doubt our paths
Visions
persist in us
even as others
strike against our cause
Visions
are born
of our spiritual histories
even as we question our sufferings
Visions
are directed missions
we are gifted to fulfill
Visions
are clear
even as we change

from I Don't Want To Be Rich, Just Able, 1997, Black Belt Press, Montgomery, Alabama

Monday, September 5, 2005

BEETLE & BIKE AT THE PARK. I recently paid a visit to my daughter, Abby, who attends Olivet Nazarene University and plays soccer for the Lady Tigers. Waiting for a game to begin, I drove out to Kankakee River State Park, a place I spent some exploring as a student at Olivet twenty-some years ago. I was impressed with the miles of paved biking/hiking trails through wooded terrain along both sides of the river. Great old oak trees everywhere. As usual, the VW traveled well with the Cannondale on top.
DEALING WITH THE SECOND DISASTER

“UNACCEPTABLE,” INDEED. After a tragically delayed and seriously flawed Federal response to the Gulf Coast catastrophe, the President finally toured the devastation late in the week and called his own appointees’ responses to the disaster “unacceptable.” He pledged more troops and more aid. By then the city of New Orleans had experienced its second disaster.

A MAN-MADE DISASTER. It was a natural disaster that caused the physical devastation of the city last Monday. It was a human disaster that caused the spiritual and civil devastation that followed. The first disaster was not avoidable (though repeated Federal denials of funding requests for long-sought-for levee upgrades must now haunt White House budget decision-makers), the second was surely avoidable.

CRIMINAL NEGLECT? Whatever the cause, to whomever the responsibility falls, it appears that average U.S. citizens are ready to hold public servants accountable for the unnecessary loss of life, days of unnecessary suffering, and the indignities that were experienced by innocent people. It is now clear that our Federal government capacity did not act in the will of the citizenry--which was calling for immediate and unprecedented compassion, rescue, and relief. What our elected government gave us, while people died before our eyes for lack of water and medical assistance, were days of delays. Congressional investigations should determine if the hesitations reach the criminal level.

IN SPITE OF. Make no mistake: heroic rescue efforts have occurred--and will occur--at the hands of dedicated and selfless workers and volunteers. When all is said and done, this will have been an unprecedented rescue and recovery effort--the greatest in U.S. history. It will have occurred, however, in spite of unacceptable Federal delays, FEMA leadership incompetencies, and with hundreds--perhaps thousands--of unnecessary civilian deaths.

OF EMPTY OR FULL GLASSES. This is not a matter of looking at the glass half empty or looking at it half full. It is not a matter of caring for rescue and recovery now and assessing delay responsibility later. It is not a matter of appreciating that the President and his people are pedaling hard now to make up for tragically lost time. We must choose to look at both aspects of this catastrophe and relief effort at the same time, together, and now.

CARE FOR THE DEAD. While efforts to rescue the living abate and the task of recovering the dead comes to the fore, another issue arises: why have dead bodies been unattended for so long? Some bodies have been floating or lying in the streets for six days. Tell me it was not important or possible for someone--just a small task force, perhaps--to care for these bodies. People remember--for generations--how you treat their dying and dead loved ones. I am afraid the second wave of widespread resentment and grief from living victims and relatives of those who died after Monday’s hurricane is just beginning.

HOSPITALITY ON THE LINE. At this point, hospitality is the call of the day. The state of Texas, in particular, has opened its arms wide to refugees (some of whom have indicated they want to stay permanently). Hundreds, if not thousands, of American households have made room for homeless victims of Katrina. We are seeing from our citizenry and communities of faith an outpouring of compassion and desire to help. These actions of hospitality will need support and encouragement as the weeks and months move on.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

VUELTA A ESPANA UPDATE

U.S. HOPEFUL IN 5th PLACE. Pro cyclists have ridden nine stages of the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) and it's a relatively close race thus far. Denis Menchov of Russia has a slight lead over the defending champ--Spaniard Roberto Heras. U.S. hopeful--and one on whom many are pinning hopes for a future Tour de France win--Tom Danielson is currently in fifth place overall. Danielson, who rides for the Discovery Channel team, is the best-placed American in a largely European affair. Follow the Vuelta at www.cyclingnews.com.
CRY OUT

“Let each of us cry out to God
as if we were hanging by a hair,
and a tempest were raging to the very heart of heaven
and we had almost no more time left to cry out.
For in truth,
we are always in danger in the world,
and there is no counsel and no refuge,
save to lift our eyes and hearts
and cry out to God.”

-- Martin Buber (imprinted on the opening page of Cries From the Heart by Johann Christoph Arnold, a free e-book published by the Bruderhof)

Saturday, September 3, 2005

NEW ORLEANS & CRISIS OF FAITH

What crises of faith have been confronted and internalized over the past week in and around New Orleans? Some have surely cursed God--"why have you done this to us?"--and those who failed to act quickly--"where were you in our desperation?" Some have surely blessed God for having survived Katrina with body and soul intact. Others, on the outside looking in, face a faith crisis of another kind: "why didn't we--or those who represent us--do more sooner?" From the torrent, all have experienced incredible pain. All have lost; some have found. There is despair and resignation; there is hope and heroism. There is resentment and regret; there is gratitude and grace. Let there be, in the days to come, healing for all.

Friday, September 2, 2005

BLOG SPAMMERS: GET LOST! Since when do for-profit opportunists brazenly get to abuse blogging--and my blog in particular--to try to market their two-bit products? Yeah, it's a free country and free Internet, but you're breaking basic etiquette and decency rules in your misuse of this medium and genre. Frankly, I'd rather you not post on my blog if you're trying simply to advertize your wares. How'd you like it if I intruded on your blog with my marketing interests? Please, just keep your "comments" to yourself. Scram!

Thursday, September 1, 2005

THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE

WHERE'S MILITARY CAPACITY WHEN--AND WHERE--WE NEED IT MOST? I've been thinking the unthinkable today. As I've observed news reports of heroic rescues and heart-warming relief efforts, I've also attended to news reports of anarchy in the streets of New Orleans, of desperate people waiting on rooftops for help four days after Hurricane Katrina blew through their lives, of people dying under debris. And I've been wondering: where's all that military power that can mobilize instantly at the beck and call of a President? Where's our multi-billion dollar, high-tech military capacity when--and where--we need it most?

"HELP" ON THE WAY. While there are reports of a massive military force on the way--by land and by sea--citizens are dying, thousands are desperate, and local efforts are exhausted. People there report feeling helpless, isolated, and abandoned. They're thirsty, hungry...and angry. Why has it taken so long for our highly capable, multi-billion dollar homeland security capacities to mobilize, respond, and save lives?

NATIONAL DISGRACE? Someone today called FEMA's response thus far a national disgrace. That is probably over the top, but it reflects some of the feelings of people in New Orleans. I'm almost there in my feelings, too. The response from federal capacities sure seems underwhelming and inadequate to me.

TOO MUCH, TOO LATE? Apparently we are in a situation of "too much, too little, too late" for securing the city, maintaining law and order, preventing unnecessary deaths and loss of property. While a massive military effort is reportedly on its way, our own citizens die and are driven to desperate acts.

ON THE GROUND OR OUT OF REACH. I am thinking of all those National Guard helicopters sitting in hangars and on runways across the 50 states. I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of American troops committed to a quagmire in Iraq. I think of thousands of helicopters and amphibious troop carriers sitting in the Iraqi and Kuwait deserts. I think of the expertise that's bogged down there trying to pull off the President's ideological need to save face. I wonder if the federal government that readily gobbles up our war taxes is unable to react and respond valiantly at home because it is bogged down over there?

GOD BLESS; GOD HELP. God bless every public servant who has helped immediately and responded with all their capacity and influence post-haste, for those who are, right now, putting their lives on the line in rescue and relief, and for those who have pressed their superiors--to the point of anger and insubordination--for a quicker and more adequate response. But let us begin to hold accountable those who have acted haltingly, hesitatingly, unresponsively and irresponsibly in the face of this natural and now man-made catastrophe.

RETOOL FOR DOMESTIC CRISIS RESPONSE. I wonder if American military needs to dramatically rethink its mobilization patterns and expectations. They seem to be able only to react slowly with long lead times to mount massive overkill efforts to armed conflicts. What America needs is a security force that is nimble and responsive to what happens today today. My impression is that prior to returning to the strategic build-up-to-strike patterns for Afghanistan and Iraq, our military was retooling itself to be such a nimble and response force that could be effective in domestic crises. Whether or not this was actually the case, it sure seems to be what we need to be headed for in the future.

LEAD, MR. PRESIDENT. I do not know what leadership our President is offering in this crisis. I do not know if he is listening to people tell him they are doing all they can. It is within his purview, it seems to me, to tell these hand-wringing excuse-makers to make immediate rescue and relief happen, whether the brass and ideologues he's surrounded himself with think it can happen or not. Lead, Mr. President. Please, lead.
HOW TO HELP KATRINA VICTIMS

LET US RESPOND. As reports of building demise and flooding continue to come in, the impact of Katrina on the people of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi is nothing short of catastrophic. It calls for our prayers and actions of assistance. Here are some ways we can help:

-- Pray. Intercede before God for all who remain in harm’s way and who are assisting in rescue

-- Donate. Contributions to the American Red Cross and other emergency assistance organizations you have confidence in are a way to begin to express care and bring tangible help. You may find http://www.networkforgood.org/ a helpful way online to select and donate to the relief organization you choose.

-- Collect. Cooperate with local efforts to collect and send bottled water, nonperishable food and other supplies. Monitor the news media for identified needs and local collection locations.

-- Offer hospitality. Homeless individuals and families from the area of the storm need a place of housing and hospitality (vs the gouginig of many unscrupulous hotels), possibly for a few months. Many households have the capacity to make room for these refugees from life's storm.

-- Consider direct action. A handful of folks at West Morris Street Free Methodist Church have contacted me with interest in traveling to the Gulf Coast area to assist as feasible opportunities come into focus.