Friday, June 30, 2006

TOUR EVE CATASTROPHE

Three of the leading contenders for winning the Tour de France have been suspended by their respective teams on the eve of its start for alleged contacts with a Spanish physican who has confessed to running sophisticated stealth doping programs for at least 58 professional cyclists. Gone is former winner Jan Ullrich, last year's runner-up Ivan Basso, Francisco Mancebo, and Joseba Beloki. The scandal is described as a catastrophe for professional cycling. Are these riders really guilty or guilty by accusation/association? Read my comments on my blog -- The Tour de France for the Rest of Us.
MEMORIAL GATHERING FOR A 25-YEAR OLD HOMELESS WOMAN

I facilitated a memorial service today at Horizon House for a homeless woman who committed suicide via a drug overdose on her 25th birthday. About thirty homeless neighbors and staff gathered in the community room to pray, reflect on Scripture, and talk about Jessica. As I do whenever asked to serve in such gatherings, I opened the floor to anyone who wished to offer a tribute or thanksgiving for Jessica's life. Eight or nine folks shared poignant comments. All of us were moved by what was shared. We concluded by singing "Amazing Grace," standing and holding hands as we prayed the Lord's Prayer followed by a benediction. These gatherings at the death of a homeless neighbor are important in a number of ways, not the least of which is the opportunity for closure they bring for folks functioning in a cycle that seems not to recognize the depths of small and great losses. I credit Rick Posson for helping me see the importance of memorial services for fallen homeless neighbors.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

CYCLING'S A BIT NUTS RIGHT NOW

See my Tour de France-eve post titled "Cycling's a Bit Nuts Right Now" at http://tdf05.blogspot.com.

EVERYBODY'S ON EDGE. Right now, it's worse than I describe in my commentary. The starting line-up of the Tour de France has never been so unsure this close to its start. Top contenders have been named in a Spanish newspaper as being part of a major investigation for doping. The list includes Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, either of whom could win the Tour. One cycling journal calls the current atmosphere "schizophrenic." The nearly hourly news breaks can be followed at www.cyclingnews.com.

LET THE RIDING BEGIN. But, make no mistake, the Tour de France will begin on Saturday, July 1...with or without top contenders, with or without those alleged of using banned chemicals and procedures. Those of us who love to follow the Tour will be relieved, along with the riders themselves, just to see the thing get underway.
ON BILLIONS DONATED FOR ENDING DEADLY DISEASES

THE GATES AND BUFFET. Not only have Microsoft's Bill and Linda Gates committed themselves to wiping out twenty leading diseases that impact multiple millions of people around the globe, they've been joined in their effort by the billions of dollars committed by Wall Street tycoon Warren Buffet (not, Jimmy Buffet, kids!). The combined influence and money of Gates and Buffet toward toward wiping out disease on a global scale is unprecedented.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING. I've listened to numerous reactions to Buffet's announcement and analysis of the renewed focus on the Gates' commitment. Responses range from critical and cynical to readiness to canonize the Gates/Buffet duo. Some dismiss the effort as idealistic and utopic. Others call into question the legitimacy of how these extremely rich people have made their billions. Everybody seems to have an opinion. Here's my take:

THE UPSIDE-DOWN KINGDOM. The investment and influence directed toward wiping out the leading death-bearing diseases in the world is an expression of the upside-down Kingdom. My own government has refused to commit itself (and my tax dollars) to wiping out disease or poverty even within our own borders, much less beyond. The government that claims to represent me chooses, instead, to throw billions upon billions of tax dollars into instigating and fighting an uncalled for and unwinnable war and acting like an empire in the name of democracy and free market economics.

CHOOSING BETTER BATTLES. The Gates and Buffet have wisely chosen better battles. Apparently, if disease is to be seriously addressed, it will be done so by a few people who determine to make the difference that is not popular, typical, mainstream, conventional, military industry-pandering, or easy. It is not being attempted by those who make a living/profit/killing by treating/relieving symptoms of people on the presumption that they will perpetually not be completely whole/well.

ATTEMPTING WHAT OTHERS HAVE NOT. There are a lot of other things the Gates and Buffet could have done with their treasure. They have chosen to do what is apparently not seen to be important or prudent in the eyes of other power brokers. And they have done this because of foresight, because of what they have seen and connected. They have looked beyond immediate results to long-term outcomes and impacts. They have found beyond the bottom line a deeper soil in which we all thrive or die. They have seen the devastating impact preventable and curable diseases have on individuals, families, tribes, people groups, nations, regions, and global life. They have made the connections between disease and the cultural, social, spiritual, economic, and quality-of-life challenges faced by most of the world. And they have chosen to act.

BLESSING. I say God bless them. Without sanctifying them or absolving them of one untoward business dealing, may God bless this effort. And God bless all who follow their lead or act in concert with them toward attempting what no one else has. May we live to see the day when those who currently cannot afford simple prescription drugs and who are denied access to basic health services are first in line to receive inoculations for diseases that have defined and limited their lives for generations.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

DID WE GET FOOLED AGAIN?

I hadn't listened closely to the lyrics of The Who's pop rock anthem "We Don't Get Fooled Again" until recently. Seems to me, in light of Iraq, to beg a present question: "Haven't we let ourselves get fooled again?"

You decide. Here are the lyrics:

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Don't get fooled again
No, no!
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A CAPACITY FOR CONNECTEDNESS

NOBLE VOCATION. Our son Jared says that he wants to be a teacher and will begin university this fall in pursuit of that noble vocation. His choice reminded me of the influence good and bad teachers have had on me. Do you recall your best teacher? Your worst? Each teacher seemed to have different strengths or capacities, different liabilities or vulnernabilities. Some of my best teachers are those whom I have never personally met, but have encountered creativity and insight and connectedness through their writings.

CRITIQUE OF TEACHING. I've been impressed with teachers who are able to positively critique and challenge the status quo in education and press for a renewal of the heart of teaching. Parker Palmer is one such teacher. I first encountered his insights on teaching and learning in To Know As We Are Known. Whether I am a preacher, a teacher, a coach, a parent, or a partner (or all of these), paying close attention to what Parker Palmer has to convey in a more recent book, The Courage to Teach (Jossey-Bass, 1998), may yield important possibilities for a recovery of teaching and education. Here's a favorite quote from Palmer's book:

WEAVING CONNECTIONS. "Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections amond themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves...The connections made by good teachers are not held in their methods but in their hearts--meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self."

THE HEART A LOOM. "As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, their heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart--and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be."

OUTCOME: THE FABRIC OF COMMUNITY. "The courage to teach is the courage to keep one's heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven in the fabric of commmunity that learning, and living, require."

Monday, June 26, 2006

TOUR de FRANCE COUNTDOWN

Question: When does the 2006 Tour de France begin?

Answer #1: Not soon enough!

Answer #2: What?!

Answer #3: Saturday, July 1st...just a few days from now.

UNADULTERATED ENTHUSIASM. Excuse me if I get a bit weird over the next few weeks. July is the one month out of the year that I express unadulterated enthusiasm, caring less about who scoffs, rolls their eyes, criticizes, dismisses, or makes fun of me. I go in for the Tour de France like some folks go in for the World Cup or NASCAR or the World Series. This 2,000+ mile race from July 1 to July 23 grabs my heart and I follow it ever so closely.

POST-ARMSTRONG FREE-FOR-ALL. Even without the phenomenal American cancer survivor Lance Armstrong riding the TdF, I am anticipating the thrill of this year's spectacular race, one stage (day) at a time. Every Tour develops different dynamics and race leadership can change dramatically. Without one dominant rider now, there are about ten world-class cyclists--including three Americans--who can take the lead or stand atop the podium in France. It could be a free-for-all.

FOR THE REST OF US. To spare disinterested bikehiker blog readers too much Tour de France commentary and insider cycling verbiage, I've developed a special Tour de France blog that I call "The Tour de France for the Rest of Us." Feel free to check there daily for easy-to-understand Tour information and updates, links and comments, reviews and projections.

FAVORITES AMONG MANY CONTENDERS. There are many riders who could win this year's Tour de France. A contender is one who has a record of recent wins or high placements, a strong team, and a balance of abilities in time trialing, mountain climbing, and aggressiveness. My favorite to win? Ivan Basso. This Italian finished second to Armstrong in last year's Tour. He was the only rider to consistently stay with Armstrong last year. He has proven himself strong in spring racing, winning the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) going away. He is supported by a solid team. Basso is a mountain climbing specialist, but he is just above average in individual time trials.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES. Other possible winners:
  • Jan Ullrich, the only previous Tour winner in this year's race. Ullrich is reported to be in great shape and highly motivated. He recently won the Tour of Switzerland. He is an individual time trial monster.
  • Alexandre Vinokourov, the ever-aggressive Khazak (should his team be permitted to begin the race; it has been implicated in a doping scandal).
  • Floyd Landis, the former Armstrong teammate and American waiting in the wings.
  • Levi Leipheimer, the Montanan who will make his move in the mountains.
  • Cadel Evans, the Aussies' great hope.
  • And, as a long shot, big George Hincapie, the ever-faithful and always capable Armstrong lieutenant.
FROM THE MARGINS OF A MEETING

I wrote the following notes to myself in the margins of a writing tablet during a discussion meeting. I'm apt to talk more than I feel I should when the topic is one that piques my interest or about which I have strong opinions. These notes were written as visual reminders to me to be careful and perhaps to heighten the value of the exchange. Not sure that I fully disciplined myself by these reminders, but I think they helped me that day. Maybe they'll help me--or you--on another occasion.

Listen.

Question.

Probe.

Seek to understand.

Clarify.

Acknowledge.

Wait.

Reflect.

Look for perspective.

Synthesize.

Hold in tension.

Appreciate paradox.

Keep open.

Be teachable.

Make room for growth.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

WHAT'S A VACATION FOR?

Folks approach vacations variously. I suppose our family has taken all kinds. There's a highly-scheduled, event-filled, multiple-destinations vacation. There's a resort vacation. There's a wilderness getaway vacation. And there's the mooch off your relatives in Florida vacation. That's the one we were just on. Thanks, mom and dad, for making room for the six of us--plus Jared's friend--for a week. We relaxed, beached, and enjoyed the time away. We also made it "back home again in Indiana" safely after an overnight drive.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A PRAYER FOR THOSE WHO TRY TO LEAD IN WORSHIP

AUDACIOUS STAND. I wrote this a few years ago; it reflects my current perspective and prayer. "As I observe the team of folks who are attempting to lead our congregation in worship today, I pray for all who, all over the world in thousands of traditions and in myriad manner, try to lead others in the worship of God today. I have often been in this position--and likely will be again--so my prayer is also for myself. Presumptiveness is the first sin of worship, one which evangelicals repeat most often. The second sin is carelessness."

"Even as they stand before congregations,
their own people--
stand audaciously as ones who
prompt their sisters and brothers--
to cant,
to sing,
to recite,
to urge,
to direct,
to pray,
O God, honor their best intentions.

Granted, their efforts may be
pitiful and misguided,
even misguiding, though
launched with all vigor
and careful planning.

But look into the heart,
search for desire to know You,
to commune with You,
to glorify You--
and to lead others to do the same.

In spite of all that may
unwittingly miss the mark,
work through them in these moments
to draw us all--
all who all over the world today
look to You,
who openly confess our need of You--
draw us close to You,
to one another,
and to the world
in love.

Amen"

Friday, June 23, 2006


ENCOUNTERING AN INTERNATIONAL CYCLIST

I rode my bike up beside an older cyclist who was stopped at a Daytona Beach stoplight heading south on U.S. Highway 1. He was studying a map. He looked like a seasoned rider and, with the panniers on his rear-wheel carrier, perhaps out for a day trip.

“Do you know where you are going?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “Miami.”

“Miami!” I exclaimed, incredulous. Miami was about 300 miles down the highway, at least a three-day ride.I queried further.

“So, from where have you ridden?”

“Washington, D.C.,” the man replied. I was picking up some European accent.“Where do you live?” I plied, as the light changed and we rode forward together.

“France!”

For the next fifteen miles I engaged in a pedaling conversation with a most interesting character. Robert was sixty-six and originally from Holland. He had cycled cross-country quite extensively in Europe and Asia. This was his first ride in America. He had started in D.C. ten days before. Robert would be meeting up with his brother who lives in Miami in a few days and then flying back to France before the start of the Tour de France.

Robert had interesting observations about the Americans he had thus far encountered on his trek. I hope my encounter with him left him with a better impression than others had. At least I was not astonishingly overweight as most other Americans appeared to him to be.

Hoping to get pointers for my upcoming ride in India (Bicycle India 2007), I asked him questions about his cross-country travels, looking for areas of special care, foresight, etc. He seemed to have traveled without much incident. He recommended larger tires, as I had just had put on the black Cannondale I was riding. He said he had not had a puncture on such tires in over two years and several thousand miles. He did not tune up his bike. He had had no breakdowns of equipment in years, he said. Basic maintenance only is necessary, Robert insisted.

Perhaps I will be able to do in ten or fifteen years what Robert is doing--riding solo across various countries. He recommended Vietnam and China as two very nice places to bicycle cross-country. He also commented how much he liked riding in southern Italy.I broke the fellowship of the ride in New Smyrna Beach, bidding Robert farewell. I hope he reaches Miami safely. He invited me to contact him if I ever want to ride in Europe or see the Tour de France. I may just take him up on the offer!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A PRAYER IN TIMES OF WAR DISTRESS

This prayer was posted on Peace Signs by Susan Mark Landis on June 20:

Creator of all that is good,

We mourn the deaths of the two service men captured in Iraq, as we mourn the pain and deaths of all your children who suffer the agony of war. Hold their families and friends close in their horror and despair. Comfort them.

Redeemer of our souls,

We recognize that each of us, and all of our families and friends, are caught in cycles of violence. Help us to learn your way of the cross. Your willing death taught us that the only way to stop the spiral of revenge is with undeserved love. Only your love for us can give us the strength to love others who have hurt and continue to hurt us.

Spirit of wisdom and truth,

Gather us together into a community of your love. Teach us your bold ways of justice and peace, so that we can bring healing and hope to this world reeking of sin and agony.

Amen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BEACH BIKING

The rest of us can get a sunburn at the beach, but I protect my Raleigh with the only beach umbrella available. Forget the sun, it's the sand the will rot the heart out of a mountain bike. I've been riding my mountain bike on this beautiful sand-packed beach. New Smyrna Beach is just south of Daytona, where the Daytona 500 became popular for being raced partly on the hard surface of the sand...until the speedway was built in the late 1950's. I am riding my road Cannondale along the Florida highways and roads. The weather's hot...just like it will be in India as we ride 2,000 miles in January 2007.

Monday, June 19, 2006

OUT-OF-THE-BOX LIVING

NO MORE TYPICAL. "Out of the box" is a relative cliche, I know. What does it refer to? It depends on where you're coming from. Believe it or not, some folks refer to me as "out of the box" even though I consider myself pretty traditional and conservative in most ways. I would hope that Christian mission moves me--sans labels, stereotypes, predictability, etc.--“outside the box” and into transformational living. And, of course, once we step outside of one box we're likely in the process of building or being formed by a new box. So, the image is only somewhat useful.

MOVING THEIR CHEESE. Still, I think it's safe to say that Paul and Barnabas were moving "outside the box" in Acts 13 and 14 as they are sent forth from their faith community in Antioch on the first "missionary journey." Letting the story lead, here are observations I drew from Acts 13-14 on Sunday:

1. Getting out of the box is usually not a matter of PREFERENCE--we are LED there. Acts 13:1-3. Paul and Barnabas aren’t just looking for adventure or something new or wanting to explore an emerging method. They are appointed, anointed and sent forth. Getting “outside the box” may be interesting on your own, but when it’s God-led it’s all about redemption and mission fulfillment.

2. Getting out of the box is usually not primarily for OUR benefit--but for OTHERS. Acts 13:4-5. When we’re “outside the box” in mission, it’s not about us. The point of reference is beyond us, beyond the present, beyond what we can see here and now. It’s about what God is doing to redeem others through us. It's not for us, it's through us. We lose our way when we get this wrong.

3. Out-of-the-box living stays ROOTED in foundational FAITH. Acts 13:16-41. Being out of the box is more about methodology and placement in mission. Wherever we are, the Word and the message is the same--the redeeming grace of God expressed in and made accessible through Jesus Christ. The means and the message, somehow, must connect.

4. Out-of-the-box living takes our faith to new LEVELS and unimaginable CHALLENGES. Acts 13:44-52. For Paul and Barnabas that means dealing with a sorcerer, taking the Good News to the streets and Gentiles (outside the synagogue and Jewish community), persecution, and far-flung travels. Get ready for a journey of faith when God points you outward.

5. Out-of-the-box living usually brings us FULL CIRCLE. Acts 14:21-28. It may seem very odd or crazy at the beginning, it may feel like you’re out on a limb, but if God goes before you and if you follow God’s leading, God will surely bring you home.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

LOOKING FORWARD

It is in the forward look
that we are saved,
that life’s fullness overtakes us.
We are made to be dreamers,
strivers, imaginers, hopers.

It is in the vision of the ideal
that we live:
a kingdom that shall come,
a community to be formed,
a promise to be fulfilled.

The horizon shapes present realities:
It is against the future that we may strive
or welcome its promise today.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

IT'S SUMMER; HIT THE TRAILS

Summer affords me the opportunity to take Sam on some of the mountain biking trails I enjoy. The other day we rode the trails at Washington Township Park in Avon. The park has a well-developed matrix of easy and advanced trails. We wore ourselves out in a little over 90 minutes. Honestly, there are two trails there--Gambler's Run and Huff's Ridge--that I have yet to complete without pushing my bike at least for a few feet. I wrecked on one jump today and have a few gashes and scrapes left over. But what a great setting--a canopy of trees and leaves covering undergrowth and a network of dry and muddy trails that dip, climb, drop, and call for constant attention.
HOW TO SOLVE HOMELESSNESS

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” -- Deuteronomy 10:19

I pulled the following selected quotes from an article by Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. He makes a point that I will echo: homelessness is caused--and will be solved by--the attitude of the heart and the actions of people who live out the most basic personal and community commitments of Biblical faith. That is, we are to reflect the holiness and compassion of God in our common social practice. If we don't get this foundationally right, homelessness--and immigratition, poverty, hunger, etc.-- will always be an unsolvable "problem" for societies which "programs" will never adequately address. Read and respond:

CARING = KNOWING. “Caring for the poor and needy is equivalent to knowing Yahweh. That is who Yahweh is and how Yahweh is known. Yahweh is indeed a mode of social practice and a way of social relation.”

LIBERATION & COVENANT, GIFTS & LAND. “The housing crisis among the orphans will not be solved by turning things over to a holy God in heaven, nor by heroic action on our part, but by increasing investment in the social practice wherein Yahweh is present, a social practice that in every generation and every circumstance involves liberation and covenant, gifts and land. This social practice wherein Yahweh is known and visible characteristically and inevitably clashes with the status quo and evokes big-time displacement of present power, money, and housing arrangements.”

REFLECTING GOD. “This imperative asks Israel to do for others what has been done for it. You were displaced and were given a place. Now you give a place to the displaced. Second, and more powerfully, you do what God does. God loves the stranger—you love the stranger. God gives food and clothing—you give food and clothing. You be the social practice whereby God is made visible, available, and effective in the world. You be engaged in God’s own work, as you yourself have experienced God’s work, creating a safe place of dignity and wholeness for those without rights, claims, or leverage.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

THREE WHO WILL RIDE 2,000 MILES IN INDIA

Here are three of us who plan to ride 2,000 miles through India in January 2007 in order to raise awareness and funds to rebuild Umri Christian Hospital. Joe James (right) is from Canada; Joe is a Bishop of the Free Methodist Church with responsible leadership in India. Bob Yardy (middle) is from Illinois; Bob was born at Umri and is our team leader. I am on the left in this photo taken at a recent planning meeting for Bicycle India 2007. We will be joined by two Indian cyclists and a support vehicle.

FOLLOW OUR RIDE. Please check our Bicycle India 2007 blog frequently to learn about progress in planning and updates. Then, track our journey daily from December 26, 2006 through February 10, 2007 while we are en route. We hope to post photos, video clips, audio clips, and journal entries as we make our way from the southern tip of India up to New Delhi--traveling over 2,000 miles on bikes.

REBUILDING A HOSPITAL. Our effort has one focus: to raise awareness and funds to rebuild Umri Christian Hospital, an aging hospital that serves the rural poor residents of central India. The facility is over 60 years old and needs desperately to be replaced. We need about $400,000 to rebuild it. We're open to every possible source of interest and financial resource. We are working and praying for resources for this hospital and the people it compassionately, healingly serves. If you can help in any way, please let me know.

Monday, June 12, 2006

AMERICAN ATHLETES IN EUROPE: MIXED RESULTS

It depends on which sport you're watching. If you watched Team USA in its match against the Czech Republic in their first game of the first round of World Cup competition earlier today, you might conclude that we are out of our league. Ouch! What an inauspicious start for the emerging Americans. It should be noted, however, that the Czechs are currently ranked second in the world. Perhaps they'll have a better shot at wins against Italy and Ghana over the next 10 days. My son, who knows a lot more about World Cup stuff than me, says that USA's group is considered the toughest first-round group in the World Cup.

If, on the other hand, you were paying attention to professional cycling, you would have noted that an American, Levi Leipheimer, won the Dauphine Libere in France on Sunday. The Dauphine is one of the major single-week warm-up races to the Tour de France. Leipheimer, a Montanan who leads the German Gerolsteiner team, has placed respectably in the Tour de France in the past. He will be a contender in the first post-Armstrong era of next month's classic. Leipheimer wasn't the only American to ride well in the Dauphine, so July in France could be more interesting for Americans than July in Germany (where the World Cup finals will be played). Follow the lead-up to the Tour de France at www.cyclingnews.com.
EXPATRIATE

I walked among their number as an expatriate,
A son once beloved but since rejected,
Or as one rejecting distant political decisions
Meted out in dispassionate pompousness.

Sitting in on their sacred assemblies,
I felt my love for them once again,
And appreciation for spiritual formation
That pointed me beyond their strictures.

Briefly, I came as near to them as I dared,
As one approaches an unpredictable dog;
Once bitten by a particular species
One steels oneself against the pathology.

Surreally close and yet so very distant,
I stood a hair’s breadth outside their circles,
Enjoying conversation with trusted friends,
Enduring puzzled glances of suspecting elders.

I affirmed my calling and my freedom,
Not as a pawn of a denomination,
But as one called to invest in a community,
Welcoming all expatriates to a new home.
HOPE IN THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS

A few years ago, after listening to me describe my conception that Horizon House (a homeless day center in Indianapolis I was charged with rebuilding; learn about it at www.horizonhouse.cc) be known as a place of “peace, hospitality, and hope,” one of our newer staff members shared with me the following quote. It is by Vaclav Havel, the poet-statesman who led the “quiet revolution” that overturned communism in Czechoslovakia and gave birth to the democratic Czech Republic (which, today, handed team USA a sound 3-0 defeat in the opening round of World Cup play):
“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.”

RUNNING COUNTER. To speak of hope in the context of homelessness is to dare to envision something which runs counter to the life experience and immediate trajectory of a neighbor who is currently experiencing homelessness. This vision may well also run counter to the perceptions of most citizens about homeless persons they encounter. It counters a social and economic system that continues to perpetuate homelessness. Hope envisions “home” as a life essential and pours passion and resources into the realization of it for all neighbors--beginning with the neighbor at the door.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

DO WE COLOR OUR RESPONSE TO CRIME?

It's been a little over a week since seven family members were murdered in a home on the Near Eastside, apparently victims of a robbery. The media reported they were killed execution style, though I am not exactly sure what that means. It doesn't seem to square to me that people being robbed would be killed execution style, particularly when three of them were children. I just assume something else is at play in this tragic episode, something we will later learn.

But the thing that is interesting me about the incident, the news event that surrounded it, and the community response that followed it, is that the victims were a Latino family living in an urban neighborhood. I am wondering what Central Indiana neighbors who are not Latino are thinking about the murders of a Latino family in an inner-city area? Does that fact that the victims were Latino color responses and the conclusions that are drawn? Does the fact that the episode took place in a poor, older neighborhood of the city factor into the way suburban neighbors or folks living at the far reaches of the region react to or think about the event?

Does the current vitriol some Hoosers are spewing against undocumented immigrants play into personal interpretations of and responses to the most heinous murder in Central Indiana in nearly a generation? Would people care or react more strongly if the family were white, or black, or middle class, or living in Carmel or Greenwood? And what if the perpetrator were Latino? Or white?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I just think about them. I hope were aren't letting race and/or class factor into our care about what happens in terms of crime and safety in Central Indiana. From a study I helped conduct a few years ago regarding the perceptions and realities of crime in Central Indiana, I do know that race, class, and geography within the region are factors in the manner in which crimes are reported in the media.

My heart goes out to all the family members of these neighbors who were slain. I want for them the fairest and best possible responses in follow-up from the community's resources.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

INDIANA'S GROWING ADDICTION TO--AND RELIANCE ON--GAMING

The photo and story in this morning's Indianapolis Star regarding over 2,000 people lining up for jobs at yet another casino in Indiana--this time in Orange County--is disheartening to me. My heart goes out to these folks who want and need employment. My heart also goes out to all whose lives have been destroyed by gambling and the milieu of gaming. The moral and social challenges far outweigh the economic opportunities, it seems to me.

ONSLAUGHT OF GAMING. Have you noticed the steadily escalating influence of the gaming industry in Indiana over the past ten years? I have. First the lottery. We were told "it's good because it funds education." "Fun is good," the Indiana Lottery folks told us, cackling. Then floating casinos were approved by state legislators. It helped keep Indiana dollars in Indiana, we were told. Then legislators approved trackside gambling at a growing number of horse-racing tracks. I sat in committee meetings while Senator Larry Borst lauded the glories of horse-race betting. Then came a proposal to fund the new Colts stadium with slot machines in downtown Indy. It was dead on arrival. Now an economically troubled county far from any navigable river is pinning hopes for its wealth and happiness on a casino. What next?

NOT JUST A GAME. "Gaming" is the neutered word that seems to take any inference of "wrong" or hint of "bad" out of gambling. Regardless of the spin, gambling is not just a game. "Gaming" is not morally neutral, as far as I am concerned. It's addictive and poverty-preying downsides are significant and destructive. The baggage it brings with it is morally decadent and socially damaging. Gambling fosters poor judgment, unhealthy thinking, unscrupulous behavior, and an addiction that most deny actually exists. Further, reliance on "gaming" as a means of economic stability and funding for essential educational and social services is incredibly irresponsible.

WHAT WE HAVE TO LOSE. Indiana can do better than to slide further into gambling's clutches. We can do better than count on casinos for money to fund public schools. Maybe it's time to take a second look at what we've gotten ourselves into. Who's studying the downside of Indiana "gaming?" Let the press do its responsible work. Quit buying the spin. Let's find out what's happening to the lives of Hoosiers who are caught in gambling addiction. Let's find out what's happening "on the side" at Indiana casinos. Let's learn about the hidden costs behind the lauded benefits.
TOUR DE FRANCE APPROACHING

It seems impossible that we are less than a month away from the 2006 edition of the Tour de France. Without the usual speculation as to whether or not Lance Armstrong will win another consecutive tour, lead-up to the grandest of the "triple crown" of Grand Tours of professional cycling (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta e Espana) has been out of the sports headlines. But make no mistake: the month of July in France promises to be full of intensity and passion, tragedy and triumph, poetry and profanity, guts and glory.

A NEW CHAMPION. Whatever happens, a new champion will stand atop the podium on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Will it be another American? Possibly. A rider for Armstrong's Discovery Channel team? Maybe. The often-denied runner-up Jan Ullrich? Could be. A well-deserving rider who has bested the best in the world over 2,000 miles in 21 days? Definitely!

FOLLOW AS I BLOG IT. As usual, I plan to follow the Tour de France closely live online and on TV (OLN will carry the latter portion of each stage live). I will post recaps, summaries, and comments on my blog "The Tour de France for the Rest of Us." This is the Tour de France in plain English, not a bunch of cycle-ese and techno-jargon. I hope you'll check in. Until then, what are you waiting for...get on your bike and ride!

Friday, June 9, 2006

WHEN IT'S TIME TO GET BEYOND OURSELVES

I've been exploring what happened to move the earliest Christians from being exclusively a Jewish group to a movement that included and embraced Gentile believers. The story of the initial transition indicates it wasn't natural or easy. Apparently, God had to help folks get beyond themselves with the Good News. Acts 10 and 11 tells the story of the beginning of this broadening process. Peter had to let go of some of his religious peccadilloes before he was free to speak to anticipating Gentiles in Antioch. By way of interpretation and application, here's my take:

We know it's time to get beyond ourselves....

...When our habits, preferences, traditions and self-interest dull us to God's present, forward-looking work in the world.

...When we find ourselves resisting God's challenge to our "narrowness," "stuck-ness," or "me-ness."

...When God sends people our way who need and want to know about the faith we have been given.

...When God demonstrates overwhelming grace in lives and groups we had written off, suspected, or excluded.

...When to stay where we are in our faith--or to not share our faith--will hide God's light and nullify our witness.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

MY RESPONSE TO MR. ADAIR'S RESPONSE

This is particularly for those who read my "Letter to the Editor" in the Indianapolis Star on June 5 (see previous post "Haditha") and the response the Star printed by a Mr. Robert O. Adair on June 7. I sent this to the Star, though it has not yet chosen to print it:

WAR NO LONGER WORKING FOR US. The point Mr. Adair chooses to ignore in my Letter to the Editor (June 5) is that modern war, initiated preemptively or engaged reactively by civilized governments, claims to be morally justifiable, able to be waged humanely, and concluded with dignifying victory. I have no doctoral degree in history as Mr. Adair has, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see that waging war as America has in Vietnam and Iraq is no longer working for us in these and other national security and international relations objectives.

IMMEDIATE & LONG-TERM FALLOUT. With war as the preferred means of resolving conflict, not only do our leaders fail miserably in outcomes they promise, their chosen methods of influencing outcomes turn at least some morally sound young people into those who can commit atrocities like My Lai and Haditha, cast our citizenry into a mode of suspicion and shadow, and send America’s international goodwill capital into deep deficit. Anyone can see that if we continue to rely on this form of conflict resolution as our nation’s primary expression of power and influence, our moral influence and power for engendering democracy will not last long.

INESTIMABLE COSTS, UNACHIEVED GOALS. Mr. Adair asserts that the Iraq war has been won and that it was efficient in term of the loss of lives. Daily reports coming from Iraq seem to indicate otherwise on both accounts. Who is adequately counting the loss of Iraqi military and civilian lives (see www.iraqbodycount.org)? And how do we begin to tabulate the cost of a new generation of international terrorists our manner of waging war has seeded, the disenfranchisement of multiple millions in Muslim communities, the escalating levels of violence against America’s international workers and travelers, not to mention the monetary crisis this new era of war-making is brewing as our generation’s legacy to the next?

REAPING RESULTS OF POOR CHOICES. I am not an idealist or a liberal (though labels don't intimidate me). I simply see that our leaders chose to wage war on their own very narrow terms when other effective options were available. And when they chose to wage war thus, they set a course that includes, invariably, the negative outcomes we see at Haditha and the absence of the positive outcomes so boldly promised.

REAL-WORLD ALTERNATIVES TO WAR. I know of no “nice” war. I know, however, of valid alternatives to war as a means of international conflict resolution and national security that have been successfully employed on this planet in our lifetimes. I choose to try to bear witness to these demonstrable alternatives to war instead of silently justifying war’s atrocities or giving verbal support to war as “just the way it’s always been” and therefore always has to be.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

A WESTSIDE UNITED FAMILY

It looks like, for the moment, all three of our kids who are active in club soccer are playing for Westside United based in Avon, Indiana. After two nights of tryouts, Sam received an invitation to play for the Westside United U-14 team coached by Dustin Ottesen, the club's Director of Coaching. This is the club's best primiere team in the age bracket. Congratulations, Sam. Molly plays on Westside United's U-15 squad and Jared plays for the club's U-18 team, also coached by Ottesen and playing in the semi-final game for the State Cup tomorrow evening. After traveling to the four corners of the region for several years with kids on different clubs, the 6-mile trek out to Dan Jones Road in Avon (although on the heavily traveled, often jammed Highway 36/Rockville Road) will seem like a cake walk.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

TO BELIEVE IN BEGINNINGS

Ted Loder pours his soul into a collection of prayers titled Guerrillas of Grace (Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, 1984). The following prayer is a courageous one for what it confesses and dares to hope. I make it my prayer today and hope it resonates with others.

God of history and of my heart,
so much has happened to me during these whirlwind days:
I’ve known death and birth;
I’ve been brave and scared;
I’ve hurt, I’ve helped;
I’ve been honest, I’ve lied;
I’ve destroyed, I’ve created;
I’ve been with people, I’ve been lonely;
I’ve decided, I’ve waffled;
I’ve laughed and I’ve cried.
You know my frail heart and my frayed history --
and now another day begins.

O God, help me to believe in beginnings
and in my beginning again,
no matter how often I’ve failed before.

Help me to make beginnings:
to begin going out of my weary mind
into fresh dreams,
daring to make my own bold tracks
in the land of now;
to begin forgiving
that I may experience mercy;
to begin questioning the unquestionable
that I may know truth;
to begin disciplining
that I may create beauty;
to begin sacrificing
that I may accomplish justice;
to begin risking
that I may make peace;
to begin loving
that I may realize joy.

Help me to be a beginning for others,
to be a singer to the songless,
a storyteller to the aimless,
a befriender of the friendless;
to become a beginning of hope for the despairing,
of assurance for the doubting,
of reconciliation for the divided;
to become a beginning of freedom for the oppressed,
of comfort for the sorrowing,
of friendship for the forgotten;
to become a beginning of beauty for the forlorn,
of sweetness for the soured,
of gentleness for the angry,
of wholeness for the broken,
of peace for the frightened and violent of the earth.

Help me to believe in beginnings,
to make a beginning,
to be a beginning.
so that I may not just grow old,
but grow new
each day of this wild, amazing life
you call me to live
with the passion of Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 5, 2006

STRINGFELLOW ON PENTECOST

NOT PRIVATE BUT PUBLIC. "...As a matter of history and theology, the biblical happening most pertinent to the baptism of the Spirit is, manifestly, Pentecost. The scene is not private but quite public; it is not individualistic but notorious, not idiosyncratic but scandalous; and onlookers are said to behold Pentecost as provocative and controversial; it appears to have been an offense to the ruling authorities."

TRANSCENDING DISTINCTIONS. "Central in the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit among the disciples, both commonly and severally, is a transcendence of worldly distinction (as race, age, sex, class, occupation, nationality, language, tongue) that anticipates the eschatological consummation of the whole of fallen creation in the Kingdom of God."

RESTORING ORIGINAL PERSONHOOD. "Simultaneously, in Pentecost, each person receives the renewal of human gifts and capabilities, the restoration, as it were, of one's original personhood, a reconciliation with and within self in utterly intimate detail happening within the environment of each person's reconciliation with the rest of humanity and the whole of created life throughout time."

PERSONAL AND COSMIC. "These same aspects of Pentecost--the most intensely personal and the cosmic and ultimate--become, ever after, the marks of authentic and credible conversion of the baptism of the Spirit. When a person nowadays can be said to be baptized of the Holy Spirit, it means that the person is, verily, incorporated into the experience of Pentecost."

Quotes are from A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow edited by Bill Wylie Kellerman, Eerdmans, 1994

Sunday, June 4, 2006

STATE RUNNER-UP AFTER PK SHOOT-OUT

Carmel United's U-13 boys P-3 team coached by John Reynolds won their semi-final State Challenge Cup game against Avon, 6-1, on Saturday in Evansville. That set up their championship game on Sunday against a Fishers team that had beaten them soundly twice in the regular season. At the end of regulation time, Carmel and Fishers had played to a 2-2 tie. It remained knotted up after two overtime sessions. The game was still tied after a round of 5 penalty kicks for each team. Fishers finally won on next set of penalty kicks. It's a tough way to lose, but no one comes away a loser in such a game.

We are proud of you, Sam. Congratulations for games well-played and a competitive wrap-up for the season. You proved your mettle, poise, and leadership. Best wishes as you look forward to tryouts for a fall team this week. (Sam is in the first row, first on the right)

Saturday, June 3, 2006

A PRAYER OF JOHN HEUSS

Almighty God, King of kings, who has called us into a kingdom not of this world; send forth, we pray, your Spirit unto the dark habitations of guilt and woe. Reach the heart of every oppression, and make arrogancy dumb before you. Still the noise of our strife and the tumult of the people. Put to shame the false idols of every heart. Carry faith to the doubting, hope to the fearful, strength to the weak, comfort to all who mourn. Commit your word, O Lord, to faithful witnesses, that your kingdom may speedily come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. (from A Diary of Prayer compiled by Elizabeth Goudge, Coward-McCann, 1966)

Friday, June 2, 2006

HADITHA

War overreaches routinely. Overkill is one of the self-revealing--if thinly veiled and desperately denied--principles of war. The loss and cost for "regime change" in Iraq is inestimable in every dimension. But sometimes war's routine overreaches in the name of "good" are manifest in strikingly soul-piercing atrocities. Vietnam gave us My Lai. Iraq has already given us Abu Ghraib. Iraq now gives us a second atrocity--Haditha. The civilian massacre by American Marines in this Iraqi village may eclipse Abu Ghraib as the most telling evidence that this war has unleashed uncontrollable emotions and irrational violence that are consistent with all war and that make waging war unjustifiable and unsustainable for the resolution of conflict by civilized humanity in the 21st century. We can--and must--find a better way.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

GOOD LUCK AT STATE, MOLLY, SAM & JARED

MOLLY IN THE 4 x 800. On Friday, Molly will compete for Ben Davis High School in the 4 x 800 relay at the IHSAA State Track & Field Championship meet in Bloomington, Indiana. A freshman, Molly ran the second fastest leg of a Sectional record-setting finish. Competition will be tough at State, so dig in, give it all you've got, and enjoy the experience, Molly.

SAM IN THE CHALLENGE CUP. Sam travels to Evansville for the semi-finals and (hopefully) finals of the Indiana State Challenge Cup for soccer. He scored the first two goals in a win against Westfield this evening as a primer. His U-13 Carmel United team hopes to defeat Avon in their Saturday game to move to the championship game on Sunday. Best wishes, Sam. Keep your head cool, your heart full, and your feet fast.

JARED PLAYING FOR TOP HONORS. On Thursday of next week Jared plays in the semi-final round of the Indiana State Cup for soccer. His U-18 Westside United team will play Carmel United at Kuntz Stadium on 16th Street on June 8 at 6 pm. If his team wins, they'll play for the state championship. What an opportunity, Jared. Best wishes!