Tuesday, November 29, 2005

PASSION AND PREJUDICE

“Human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet. And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger he must be laid – and they will be the first to fall on their knees before him. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simple poverty, self-abandoned to God.” Evelyn Underhill in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

Sunday, November 27, 2005

WHERE'S THIS JESUS?

My niece shared the following quote from Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America. Ehrenreich, a Ph.D. researcher and writer, went in cognito as an unskilled laborer for nearly a year, trying to live on wages she received as a maid, a table waiter, and a Wal-Mart shelf stocker (conclusion: she couldn't long survive). Ehrenrich is also an athiest, but one who has at least read the Sermon on the Mount and knows enough about what Jesus really said and intended to pass fair judgment on the contemporary church. I accept the following comment as an indictment on the church (and a not-so-gentle nudge for us to change our ways!), not as carping criticism.
"It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth."
WICKED

Molly's wish to see the musical "Wicked" (prequel to the Wizard of Oz) on Broadway was fulfilled Wednesday evening. She had center aisle seats close to the stage from which to take in the music and drama. Afterward, a backstage tour led by actor/musician Anthony Galde included meeting lead actor/musicians Ben Vereen (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz) and Shoshana Bean (Elphaba, the "wicked" witch). Highly acclaimed, "Wicked" has been playing to a sold-out Gershwin Theatre since opening over two years ago. Now with two touring companies, the musical's influence is spreading at a rate comparable to "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables." Its songs were a major feature in high school "show choir" competitions last spring. Wonder what it's about?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

ARE WE READY FOR ADVENT?

Quick answer to a badly posed question: No. Advent is the preparation process, not the accomplished reality. Advent is the period of time we have in order to try to be ready for Christmas.

HOPE MINGLED WITH DREAD. I think Charles Moore captures my own sense of the situation as we turn toward Advent (it begins tomorrow):

"Though Advent (literally 'arrival') has been observed for centuries as a time to contemplate Christ's birth, most people today acknowledge it only with a blank look. For the vast majority of us, December flies by in a flurry of activities, and what is called 'the holiday season' turns out to be the most stressful time of the year."

"It is also a time of contrasting emotions. We are eager, yet frazzled; sentimental, yet indifferent. One minute we glow at the thought of getting together with our family and friends; the next we feel utterly lonely. Our hope is mingled with dread, our anticipation with despair. We sense the deeper meanings of the season but grasp at them in vain; and in the end, all the bustle leaves us frustrated and drained."

TOWARD THE MANGER. I hope Charles Moore's conclusion isn't the last word for our Advent experience. As one who is assigned to lead a faith community into and through Advent, I know the challenge of drawing folks' hearts toward the manger amid cultural-commercial Christmas. I will try to help our community use the spiritual senses of (1) an awareness of time and (2) a Spirit-listening heart to prepare for the authentic Christmas that awaits beyond the cultural-commercial one.
AT GROUND ZERO

We hadn't intended to go there and when we got there it didn't feel like a war zone. But our decision to ride the subway into the financial district of lower Manhattan brought us to the site of the World Trade Center yesterday afternoon. Silence surrounds the place and one feels awe looking across the chasm. It is a sacred space. Simple recollection of that day and its aftermath fills in the pieces and overwhelms one's senses. God bless the men and women who labored and lost and gave themselves completely in this place.

SINCE THEN. Realization of our national leaderships' over-reactions, choice of direction, and squandering of momentary international empathy and resolve also overwhelms. Over the tragic loss of 3,000 lives in a single terrorist attack, more than 500,000 people have since been killed in retaliatory and so-called "pre-emptive" U.S. military and secret intelligence-led torture operations. Of course our leaders try to justify this as necessary to maintain our freedoms and make the world a safer place. But the equation doesn't work--not from any sane logical angle.

A HOPE AND A PRAYER. I will put it as graciously as I can: We have not been led well through this time of national and international crisis. I hope for dramatically different national and international guidance in the years ahead. Let us change our course. Let us repent genuinely of our complicity and violence. Let us step back from the brink. Let wisdom begin to prevail.

Friday, November 25, 2005

REDUCTIONISM...NEW YORK STYLE

If one comes with cash, New York City is a marvelous place. The more cash you have, the more marvelous it will be. Of all places I've ever been, this place has cultivated its seductive allure to the highest degree. But I wonder about the workers I see spewing out of the subways, fanning out across the streets and dissipating into nameless high-rise office buildings. Does this city open its heart to them? Or is this one big, pathetic, one-in-a-million crap shoot in which every hopeful young person is spending his or her life in the hopes of making it big--or of being recognized, rewarded, made significant--by the Big Apple? For every lottery winner, how many lose and fall further at the expense of the few?

AT THE END OF THE DAY. Does the Big Apple shine for those who labor in it? Or does the extreme power, privilege, and price tag of this city juxtapose to their meager pay and comparative marginality, making them cynical, hardened, resigned? Are they resigned to exist in a city and a system of wealth that needs and uses them while reducing them to 21st-century indentured servants? At the end of the day, at the end of a lifetime, what has this city given them for their contributions? For all the talk of freedom in this city, control--of money, of power, of creativity, of image--is the overwhelming, if unspoken, reality of this city.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

THANKSGIVING IN MANHATTAN

Hope this was a blessed day for you, wherever you are. Us? We're in Manhattan. First time. We watched Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from the fourth floor of an office building on Broadway (just above the balloon characters; you could almost reach out and touch them)...had turkey and all the trimmings at "Dallas BBQ" near Central Park (as a good a turkey dinner as I've ever had; and I don't think there were any authentic Texans around)... and went to the top of the Empire State Building this evening (quelling Sam's fears that terrorists would crash an airplane into it). In all, it's been the most unusual Thanksgiving the Hay family will likely ever have.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

TALK ABOUT GRATITUDE...

Our 14-year old daughter, Molly (pictured here with her older sister, Abby), is an 18-month cancer survivor. A tumor of a very rare and aggressive cancer was removed from the base of her skull in May 2004. A second surgery removed surrounding tissue. No more cancer was found and no radiation or chemotherapy has been required. She has had periodic scans and check-ups; the latest (on Tuesday) was clear. Talk about gratitude...

NEVER MISSED A BEAT. Molly has never missed a beat. She played soccer competitively within a day of the surgeries. This fall, she started every varsity game as a freshman for her high school; she played a vital role in the team's run to the state semi-finals. Talk about gratitude...

MAKING A WISH. Molly's oncologist at St. Vincent Children's Hospital recommended her to the Indiana Children's Wish Fund, which grants wishes for children who have had life-threatening illnesses. Molly's wish: to travel with her family to New York City over Thanksgiving to see the Broadway musical "Wicked," attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and tour the sites of the Big Apple. So, the Hay family will be the guests of Indiana Children's Wish Fund in NYC for a few days in what will likely be the most unusual Thanksgiving we could ever imagine. Talk about gratitude...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A THIRD GRADER'S THANKSGIVING POEM

Tyler is a third grade student in a public school class somewhere in America. His teacher posted poems that students wrote for Thanksgiving. All are commendable, but I particularly like Tyler's:

Turkey on the table
and my Mom, Dad and I
playing football
Talking about stuff and musical tunes
Juicy turkey on the table
and all that good food
I will have it every year
THANKSGIVING'S HIDDEN COSTS

Amid my daily rosey-colored reminiscences of Thanksgivings past and selected poems and quotes from some of my favorite writers, I dare not pull the wool over my eyes regarding the hidden costs of an American Thanksgiving. A poignant article for AlterNet by Christopher D. Cooke, titled "The Hidden Costs of Thanksgiving," is not intended to douse the good-hearted spirit of gratitude. Its intent is to prevent a too narrow-minded view of what makes an American Thanksgiving dinner--and our routine overconsumption--possible. More than that, Cook would have us challenge ourselves to participate more responsibly in advocating for positive, equitable, and sensible personal and systemic changes as we become more aware of these global costs. Here are a few excerpts:
  • "In today's American supermarket, there are no seasons, no limits. The world's harvests and manufactured meals are at your fingertips. The supermarket appears to symbolize the best of democratic capitalism, offering consumer choice and a largess born of amazing productivity. But how does all this food actually get here? Is it really as cheap and convenient as it seems?"

  • "Our most basic necessity has become a force behind a staggering array of social, economic and environmental epidemics – pesticide-laminated harvests, labor abuse, treacherous science, and, at the reins, a few increasingly monopolistic corporations controlling nearly every aspect of human sustenance. The way we make, market and eat food today creates rampant illness, hunger, poverty, community disintegration and ecological decay – and even threatens our future food supply."

  • "The very way we eat affects the future of food. Our buying and dining choices today affect our food options tomorrow. It's not simply a matter of big-farm-versus-small-farm, or pesticides against organics, natural versus genetically engineered. The food we eat is the product of a whole system that is in the process of destroying itself – poisoning our air and water, turning topsoil into useless dust, and putting farmers out to pasture. If we are to have a truly healthy cornucopia that sustains society, the entire system of making, distributing and marketing food must be sustainable."

  • "There are paths to a better way: muscular antitrust measures to break up corporate control over food; subsidy reform that shifts payments (currently $15-20 billion a year) from large-scale agribusiness to ecologically sustainable diversified farms; aggressive regulation (and enforcement) of the meat industry's shoddy food safety practices and mistreatment of its workers; a serious reduction in the 500,000 tons of toxic pesticides dumped on our food each year; and major public investment in community food security projects that link together small local producers and consumers to supply healthy, affordable, sustainably produced food (the USDA ladled out just $4.6 million for such efforts last year)."

Monday, November 21, 2005

NOUWEN ON GRATITUDE

Thanksgiving is four days away. I continue to share quotes, poems, and reflections on gratitude as we move toward this national day of grace. This quote by Henri Nouwen puts thanksgiving in the context of the difficulties we experience:

“We easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget...True spiritual gratitude embraces all of our past, the good as well as the bad events, the joyful as well as the sorrowful moments...everything that took place brought us to this place..."

"That does not mean all that happened in the past was good, but it does mean that even the bad didn’t happen outside the loving presence of God...they have brought us to a deeper recognition of God’s mercy, a stronger conviction of God’s guidance, and a more radical commitment to a life in God’s service."

"Once all of our past is remembered in gratitude, we are free to be sent into the world to proclaim good news to others...all our failures and betrayals can be transformed into gratitude and enable us to become messengers of hope.”

Sunday, November 20, 2005

WHERE THE SPIRITUAL LIFE BEGINS

With the Thanksgiving holiday just five days away, I'm sharing poem, quotes, and reflections on thanksgiving and gratitude. In an interview for Christian Century (March 22, 2003), Garrison Keillor said:

“Gratitude is where spiritual life begins. Thank you, Lord, for this amazing and bountiful life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the wherewithal not to fix a half-pound cheeseburger right now and to eat a stalk of celery instead. Thank you that I haven’t had alcohol in lo! these many months and thank you that it isn’t a big struggle to do without, as I feared it might be. Thank you for the odd delight of being 60, part of which is the sheer relief of not being 50. I could go on and on. One should enumerate one’s blessings and set them before the Lord. Begin every day with this exercise.”

Saturday, November 19, 2005

HOSPITALITY VS PROVIDING SERVICES

I shared a workshop at the Christian Community Development Association's Annual Conference at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis this afternoon. I compared and contrasted three approaches to redemptive social action: (1) rescue, (2) providing services, and (3) hospitality. My experience with these--and growth through each of them--track with my own development in ministry/community action. I'll put a hospitality paradigm up against the other approaches for better outcomes and more faithful Christian witness every time.

AN ALTERNATIVE. Here's a quote from Christine Pohl's book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition: “Hospitality is an alternative way to respond to people with multiple needs in a specialized world. Hospitality demonstrates that important healing takes place within community. Reclaiming hospitality is an attempt to bring back the relational dimension to social services, and to highlight concerns for empowerment and partnership with those who need assistance… The relationships fostered within the practice of hospitality implicitly challenge bureaucratic rules that reinforce separation, isolation, and anonymity. Hospitality suggests ways to break down the barriers between provider and client that are essentially counter to the entire ‘service’ orientation. Hospitality offers a model for developing more reciprocal relationships.”
WE LIVE BY MERCY

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I am sharing poems, readings, and personal reflections of gratitude each day. I usually find good fodder for my mind and nourishment for my soul whenever I read Wendell Berry. It happened again last evening as I read in A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997. Two verses of a poem titled "Amish Economy" spoke to me of Thanksgiving:

We live by mercy if we live.
To that we have no fit reply
But working well and giving thanks,
Loving God, loving one another,
To keep Creation's neighborhood.

And my friend David Kline told me,
"It falls strangely on Amish ears,
This talk of how you find yourself.
We Amish, after all, don't try
To find ourselves. We try to lose
Ourselves"--and thus are lost within
The found world of sunlight and rain
Where fields are green and then are ripe,
And the people eat together by
The charity of God, who is kind
Even to those who give no thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

FOR WHAT IS THANKSGIVING DAY?

We're one week away from Thanksgiving, one of the holidays I most relish. I want to share a few poems, readings, and reflections on Thanksgiving over the next week. I penned this poem at Thanksgiving 1999.

This holiday is for all that we
Take for granted,
Assume as a given,
Absent-mindedly overlook,
Claim as our God-given right.

This holiday is for all those we
Unnecessarily criticize,
Agitate with our demands,
Impatiently rush,
Regularly impose upon.

This holiday is for all that we
Bypass in our drivenness,
Go out of our way to avoid,
Carelessly forget,
Thoughtlessly leave out.

This holiday is for all things we
Receive as gracious gifts,
Share as common ground,
Express as transcendent grace,
Return in praise to God.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

GRACE NOTES. I have posted this week's Grace Notes, my weekly e-journal of gleanings from reading, personal reflections, and poems. Readings for the week include:
  • A Heart-felt Thanksgiving (a prayer of Ted Loder)
  • A Way of Seeing
  • Distressing Disguise (lyrics by Michael Card)
Here's an excerpt of my reflection titled "A Way of Seeing":

"If I do not frequently challenge vain expectations and seductive perceptions, they become self-reinforcing until vision is permanently clouded. Sadly, much of the social and global landscape is viewed through cataracted eyes; it is seen as a near-sighted opaque in which realities are obscured and hope is diminished. But coming close can cure near-sightedness. What is distant is illusory, unreal; when we come close to one another we see and touch realities—and can begin to respond in truth and love. Perhaps the most important discipline in our society today is to foster a way of seeing people through the eyes of Jesus." Read more

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

LISTENING

Foregoing advice
Withholding “how to’s”
Alternative to scolding
I’ll listen to you.

Instead of a lecture
Not judging outright
Suspending legalities
I’ll hear your plight.

Expect no reprisals
Let go of your fears
No harm will come
Just know I am here.

I offer you grace
And a deepening desire
To know your heart
And to be inspired.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

END OF SEASON AWARDS

Jared received the "Top Team Player Award" from the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association and recognition as Ben Davis' "Defensive Player of the Year" at the school's soccer awards event this evening. Pictured here with BD Head Coach Jim Copsey, Jared has signed a letter of intent to play collegiate soccer at Olivet Nazarene University. He scrimmaged with ONU on Friday...and he looked awesome. Coach Copsey noted to all at the awards dinner that Jared had been slighted in the press when he was not picked for all-district or all-area teams (he received honorable mention for these). Copsey pointed out that Jared's one-on-one defense shut down the top scorers in the area and state. Congratulations, Jared!

MOLLY, TOO. Molly received her first varsity letter for soccer at the same awards dinner. A freshman, Molly started every game for the Lady Giants in a season that saw the team win their sectional and regional championships and advance to semi-state. Like Jared, Molly is a tenacious defender. She is part of class of freshmen who contributed significantly to BD's success; four freshmen started and seven played in most BD games. They have a lot to look forward to in coming years. Congratulations, Molly!

Saturday, November 12, 2005


INDIANA AUTUMN. Jared brought this pinoak sapling home from McClelland Elementary School on Arbor Day. It was twenty inches tall when he was in third grade. It is approaching twenty feet as he is a senior in high school. My sense it that, of all trees in our yard, this one will endure the longest.
JUST A WORD FOR OUR PRESIDENT

Dear Mr. President,

Regarding your assertion that the open misgivings most Americans have about your war in Iraq are hurting our troops and making enemies question our will: will and wisdom are two very different things. Personally, I question your wisdom in the use of Americans' will. I think you have misused Americans' will, placing American troops and American integrity in a compromising situation. You have chosen and are holding to a very narrowly-defined course of action in Iraq. It is time and past time to gather wisdom beyond your own ingrown circle of advisors. It would be wisdom to consider alternative outcomes and means, and to chart a different course. May God give you grace to do so.

Friday, November 11, 2005


HARD FROST. Finally, it has come. We woke to a hard frost this Central Indiana morning. Leaves on the ground in our backyard were crystal-covered. Early temps were below 30 degrees. The sun over a clear sky will quickly warm up this Veterans' Day. By the first of the week, the majority of trees will have shed their glory. This disrobing is part of the annual transition from fall to winter, the charged changing of the season in the heartland.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

DAILY PRAYER

LINK RESOURCE. I have added the prayers of the Daily Office online at Northumbria Community to the right side bar (below Bikehiker Jumps). You can link to the daily prayers--morning, midday, and evening--for each day of the month. You can also use the Complines for the last prayer of the day, if you so choose. I may add other prayer resources as I discover ones that are helpful to me.

WHO NEEDS THIS? I frequently challenge the folks in our community of faith to make prayer a priority. Prayer is included in each of our communty's gatherings, whether in worship, fellowship, Christian education, or recreation. The Apostle Paul admonished: "Be joyful always, Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances." But focused prayer as a daily discipline evades most of us. Or, we evade it. Or, our prayers turn repetitive and shallow, barely sincere. The Daily Offices are simply a way to let the Scriptures lead us into prayer and keep us focued in continuous prayer. The Offices are a helpful beginning point for a deeper life of prayer. So, away with our excuses. Let us begin again...

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

THREE ENGAGEMENTS FOR THE JOURNEY

INWARD, OUTWARD. Elizabeth O’Connor writes of three engagements on the journey inward in her book Journey Inward; Journey Outward. The following excerpts touch on each of these engagements, first articulated by Gordon Cosby, Pastor of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. The three engagements are with (1) self, (2) God, and (3) others. Whether or not we make, keep, and live with these engagements will determine the extent to which we effectively “journey outward.” Outward effectiveness depends on inward integrity.

TOWARD SELF KNOWLEDGE. “We have come increasingly to see the need of consciously moving toward self-knowledge. We need the collaboration of our own experience in a community to understand that self-examination is essential if we are to have a life together and to be in any meaningful way the Church in the world. We have to be people engaged with ourselves if we are going to find out where we are and where it is we want to go.”

LIGHT AND DARKNESS. O’Connor explores various ways we engage with ourselves -- through vigilant awareness, in asking ourselves questions, attention to our dreams, and to our inner fragmentation. Of this latter condition she notes: “Recognition of the division in ourselves begins when we shift the attention we have been giving to the mote in our brother’s eye and fasten it on the beam in our own. In an age, however, when so many suffer because they feel no sense of self-worth, it is equally important to become aware of the light in us -- that part of us which is based on truth. Light and dark -- they are both there, and each has many children, the children of darkness and the children of light. ‘My name is Legion’ is the plight of us all.”

ENGAGEMENT WITH GOD. “We need the engagement with self to find out that we have our houses resting on sand, but there is no possibility of getting them over on rock without an engagement with God,” writes O’Connor. “If we are really to know our own life, we will have to emerge now and then from study of self and meditate on the ‘greatness and majesty’ of God. ‘As I see it,’ said St. Teresa of Avila, ‘we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God.’”

RECOLLECTION FOR PRESSED PEOPLE. “For most of us the days are not filled with events that we label ‘important.’ But the content and quality of our lives is determined by how we respond to the ordinary, and this depends on whether or not we have taken the time to nourish an inner life. The more pressed we are for time the more essential it is to make recollection a part of our day.”

FOR WHAT ARE WE ASKING? “There is a profound sense in which our whole life is prayer, whether we strive for it or not, so that much of what we wail and complain about is an answer to requests we are not conscious of making. If we take with any seriousness the idea that our whole life is prayer, surely we will want solitude to meditate on what our posture, and attitudes and acts, are really petitioning.”

DIFFICULT, REWARDING. The journey inward also needs the depth companionship of heart-seeking fellow sojourners. O’Connor writes: “Engagement with others in depth is always difficult within the church, which is probably why so few try it and why there is so little genuine Christian community in the world.” And yet, when tried, “it is the most rewarding and the most essential to those on an inward journey. As we grow in depth relationship with those whose values and experiences are different from ours, the horizons of our little worlds are pushed back -- our ‘Umwelts’ are enlarged. Life comes to have a variety and a richness that was not there before.”

FROM MISERABLE TO MYSTERY. Gordon Cosby describes the kind of commitment required in this engagement: “This is never a tentative commitment that I can withdraw from. It is a commitment to a group of miserable, faltering sinners who make with me a covenant to live in depth until we see in each other the mystery of Christ himself and until in these relationships we come to know ourselves as belonging to the Body of Chirst.”

FREE TO ACT AND SPEAK. “In this strange community where commitment is not tentative we become free to act and to speak. We can take risks that we could not take in other situations, which include the risks of getting in touch with our own unfelt feelings. We can afford to express negative reactions and move toward meeting, if we know our words do not cut us off. We can choose to express anger and therefore keep the sun from setting on it. We can take the risk of telling a brother what stands between us, if we know there will be another time when we are together, and that it does not depend on what does or does not happen in this moment.”

CONFRONTED WITH OURSELVES. “To the extent that a community has a continuing life together we are going to be challenged at the point of our illusions about the kind of people we are. The task is always to change ourselves - - to deal with that in us which prevents our going forth to meet the other. It is when we are locked in a permanent kind of relationship, however, that the conflicts arise which confront us with ourselves. Peace is not the object of Christian fellowship, though we have thought it was and have maintained ‘good’ relationships at the terrible expense of not being real with each other. When this happens, we forego being a people on a pilgrimage together.”

HANG IN THERE. “The Church is wherever two or three gather in His Name. But this does not mean the choosing of a few kindred friends with whom to pray. We gather in that Name when with other faltering, estranged persons we agree to live a life in depth, which means learning something about forgiveness and what it means to be forgiven. It means staying locked in a concrete, given web of relationships until we come to know ourselves as belonging to one another and belonging to the Body of Christ.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

RECONCILERS

To “reconcile” means “to bring together,” "to resolve, settle," "to restore to friendship or harmony." The Apostle Paul described the Christian mission primarily in terms of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2). Here are 5 ways to be a reconciler:

BREAK BARRIERS: fear, suspicion, doubt, bigotry, ignorance--these are to be challenged and broken with the love of Jesus lived thru us.

BRIDGE GAPS: insulation, seclusion, division, suspicion, resentment--these are to be spanned by the positive presence of Christian witness.

CROSS BORDERS: put yourself in the situations where you can grow in grace--cross cultures by intention again and again, be enriched by those whom you consider poor, love the city though you may prefer the country, learn as you teach, receive as you serve, .

WELCOME STRANGERS: make room for those whom the dominant culture and society discards, looks down on, suspects, or dismisses. “Let every guest be received as Christ.” “Strangers expected” is the watchword.

STAND IN THE GAP: many situations and people resist reconciliation for a long time. You may be called to literally live in the tension between conflicts, estranged people. But that is what Jesus does on the Cross. As His ambassador, dare to stand in the gap with the grace, love, and power God gives.

Monday, November 7, 2005

THE ROAD WE TAKE

MARTIN LUTHER. The folks at Bruderhof picked the follow quote by Martin Luther found in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship for today's "Daily Dig." It's quite a challenge to receive, contemplate, and incorporate into one's life. But what are the other valid options? There is no better way.

PLUNGE IN. "Discipleship is not limited to what you can understand – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own understanding, and I will help you to comprehend."

GOING OUT NOT KNOWING. "Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. In this way Abraham went forth from his father, not knowing where he was going. That is the way of the cross. You cannot find it in yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man."

IN THIS SENSE. "Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. It is to this path that I call you, and in this sense that you must be my disciple."

Saturday, November 5, 2005

PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL HOSPITALITY

I am preparing a workshop for the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) annual convention in a few weeks here in Indianapolis. I title the presentation: "Stop Providing Services; Offer Hospitality." It is geared toward challenging those who would engage in transformative and socially redemptive outreach to consider moving beyond "rescue" and "service provider" models. A few principles undergirding my preparation and presentation:

  1. 1. Hospitality is subversive of the status quo and is a sign of the upside-down Kingdom.
  2. Hospitality expresses the grace of a heart-centered faith.
  3. Hospitality gives human shape and presence to the truth we proclaim.
  4. Hospitality, by making room, makes real the hope of the Kingdom.
  5. Hospitality, by refusing to refuse those otherwise refused, simultaneously stands against domination and risks consequences.
  6. Hospitality opens up the possibility of a person finding recovery or a group transforming themselves-- and making a needed contribution to the whole.
  7. Hospitality opens up the possibility of the host being changed—transformed—and to receive a needed gift.

I'm thinking about fleshing out these principles on bikehiker blog over the next few weeks. Let me know if you're interested in any particular one, or in hospitality as a radical expression of the Gospel in general.

Friday, November 4, 2005
















AIRPORT...OR PRISON? My typical before- or after-work bike ride is to circle the perimeter of the Indianapolis International Airport. After September 11, 2001, another fence was erected around the public, civilian facility. Only this one is ten feet high and topped with razor ribbon. It is clear that no terrorists have attempted to sabotage aircraft or board airlines from anywhere but the terminal, so I ponder the real use or message of this prison-type fencing. What commercial purposes does it serve? What public safety purposes does it serve? What logic was at work to warrant this action? What if you carried that same logic out in all equally impactful possibilities for harm? What else would we fence with razor ribbon? Does knowing this fencing is in place instill a sense of safety in the citizenry? Or does it incite a higher degree of fear and centralized control? What would it take to reverse the order that put this fencing in place?

Thursday, November 3, 2005

UNLEAVENED BREAD CAFE

BEYOND APPEARANCES. Honestly, the outside and inside of Unleavened Bread Cafe is nothing to write home about (except that I am, sort of). It is very "homey." But the atmosphere of warmth and welcome makes this little corner cafe at 30th and Central Avenue a place I keep coming back to weekly. Elise Womack and her friends have kept Unleavened Bread open for over 8 years now. Breakfast and lunch are served, but the diverse activity in the place is more ministry than business. The cafe is also a free WiFi hotspot and computer training classes are offered weekly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

WEDNESDAY ROGUES GALLERY

After meeting at a 6:15 am for a men's prayer breakfast at our church each Wednesday, I drive through the city to 30th & Central Avenue to the Unleavened Bread Cafe each Wednesday morning for a roundtable/Bible study. I've been privileged to meet with the group at 7:30 am for several years now. We've studied books of the Bible and we've discussed books together (Making Room and God's Politics, among them). We're currently talking our way through the prophet Hosea. Sometimes we get a bit unruly in our give and take, but we hang in there with each other. Pictured here are five of the eight or nine folks who gather 'round the table each week. It's an open table...you're welcome to come for a week...or stay for a decade. Just check pretense at the door.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

YOUTH AT WORK

GOOD LUCK, JARED. My 17-year old son Jared found a job today. He will be employed by a nationally-franchised retail company that sells and exchanges electronic video games. A new store is opening in a bustling suburban strip mall and he will be on the ground floor of the shop's beginnings there. I think Jared brings a lot of positive capabilities to this workplace; may this employer realize it and tap into it. Congratulations, Jared.

WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT. Jared has demonstrated a strong work ethic and leadership in varsity soccer and choirs for years. Does the discipline and hard work on the ballfield or other venues translate into solid or peak performance in the workplace? I believe it can. Some of this depends on the competence and leadership of the manager and assistant managers. Some of it depends on the workplace milieu or environment. Some of it depends on the perspective, attitude, and outlook of the employee. I hope the combination in this case is a good mix for a successful employment and productive work environment.

JUGGLING PRIORITIES. Youth employment can be a pressure cooker, really. It was for me...and I have observed it to be so for others. It is part-time, low-wage, unskilled work wedged into school work, extra-curricular activities, dating relationships, and family commitments. Managers must be skilled at helping young people stay focused and offer their best during their "on duty" time and simultaneously respect the demands and challenges of the young person's "off duty" time. For many youth, their first few employers dramatically shape views of work and the workplace--for good for ill--that last a lifetime.

MANAGERS, THINK LONG-TERM. Most of us survive our first few workplace experiences. What was it like for you? Most of us learn, lick our wounds, and move on. For many, youth work experiences help us learn what we do NOT want to do with the rest of our lives. How different this is than an apprenticeship model! Good employers, it seems to me, would do well to treat every employee as a potential manager or leader of their organization. Don't just teach how to do something; share your passion for what you do. This approach at the beginning makes a difference in the longevity and quality of work.