Wednesday, August 30, 2006

KNOWLEDGE THAT BEGINS IN LOVE

EDUCATION FOR CURIOSIY AND CONTROL? Parker Palmer challenges the core of mainstream educational process and institutional goals in his 1983 book To Know As We Are Known (reissued in paperback in 1993 by Harper San Francisco). He points out that education applied exclusively for curiosity or control are leading us down a self-destructive path. “If curiosity and control (which is power tending toward corruption) are the primary motives for our knowing we will generate a knowledge that eventually carries us not toward life but death.” He cites nuclear physicists’ laments in the documentary "The Day After Trinity" and others.

KNOWLEDGE ARISING FROM COMPASSION. Palmer believes that a knowledge that originates in compassion, or love, needs to be explored and integrated into our teaching and learning processes at every level. This knowledge base is not a soft, sentimental virtue, not a fuzzy feeling of romance, but “tough love, the connective tissue of reality.” Unlike curiosity and control that distance us from each other and the world, “a knowledge that springs from love will implicate us in the web of life, it will wrap the knower and the known in compassion, in a bond of awesome responsibility as well as transforming joy, it will call us to involvement, mutuality, accountability.”

RECONCILING THE WORLD TO ITSELF. Palmer writes: “The goal of a knowledge arising from love is the reunification and reconstruction of broken selves and worlds. A knowledge born of compassion aims not at exploiting and manipulating creation but at reconciling the world to itself. The mind motivated by compassion reaches out to know as the heart reaches out to love. Here, the act of knowing IS an act of love… In such knowing we know and are known as members of one community, and our knowing becomes a way of reweaving that community’s bonds.”

PRAYER AS A GATEWAY TO SUCH KNOWLEDGE. In developing this capacity, or beginning to go to the core of this way of knowing, of seeing, of interacting, Palmer challenges us to pray. That’s right, prayer is an essential component in transforming our knowledge base from fragmenting and divisive applications of knowledge. Palmer writes “The mind immersed in prayer no longer thinks in order to divide and conquer, to manipulate and control. Now, thinking becomes an act of love, a way of acknowledging our common bonds and assuming our rightful role in the created community.”

BEYOND FACTS INTO TRUTH. He continues: “As long as we stay locked in a closed logic, allowing self and world to circle each other in an endless quest for power, we have little choice but to dominate or be dominated. But when we know self and world from the vital center touched in prayer, and when our prayer allows us to be known, then we are free from the cycle of dominance, free to love the world, each other, and ourselves. And education in transcendence prepares us to see beyond appearances into the hidden realities of life, beyond facts into truth, beyond self interest into compassion, beyond our flagging energies and nagging despairs into the love required to renew the community of creation.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

HOME FRONT LIVING

In an earlier post, I wrote of the particular challenge of being who we are--persons of faith who are following Jesus Christ--at home. I developed the following pithy list and called it "10 Ways to Reflect Jesus at Home," drawing from Ephesians 4:17-5:21, and shared it with our congregation. Try these on for size:

1. CONFIRM WHAT YOU'VE PUT OFF/PUT ON. Recall the reality of your new life in Christ: You've "put off the old self; put on the new self--created to be like God." Bring this reality into your home life. According to Ephesians 4:17-24, this is the first and continuing top priority if authentic Christianity at home--or anywhere else--is going to be expressed.

2. FREE TO BE TRUTHFUL. Speak truthfully--put off falsehood. Read Ephesians 4:25. Because we no longer need to deal in cover up, truth-shading, or weighing words and actions between various "lords" and often competing masters, we are free to tell the truth to our loved ones. Truth here translates into truth in the public arena.

3. DEAL DECISIVELY WITH YOUR ANGER. Ephesians 4:46-27 is pretty clear: Anger IS an issue. Anger is an ISSUE. Anger is an issue for EVERYONE. The possibility that grace brings to us is not to deny that Christians become angry (as I was taught early on), but to not let the sun go down on our anger...and so not to allow it to go to seed and spring up as seething resentment and long-term hatred that shapes our world view, poisons our relationships and destroys our souls. If we find ourselves doing mental gymnastics to avoid acknowledging that we're angry when we are, anger isn't our most immediate or biggest problem.

4. WORK AS A WAY OF SHARING. Ephesians 4:28 warns against idleness and inert mooching, but not in a demeaning "get a job!" tone. Why work? "So that you may have something to share with those in need." John Wesley's dictum was: Work all you can; save all you can; so you may give all you can. Think of this in terms of time, too. Sharing in household chores and cooperative goals translates into time for service in the community or those in need.

5. CULTIVATE CARING COMMUNICATION. How we talk to one another matters a great deal. Words, tone, attitude, outlook, body language--these all convey value. Read Ephesians 4:29-31, 5:4, 19-20. While demeaning communication may be par for the course at school, work, or in the public arena, we are called upon to let our words be shaped by our new identity. The shape of our conversation and the words we use may well be one of the leading points of light in our witness these days.

6. FORGIVE, FORGIVE, AND FORGIVE AGAIN. Ephesians 4:32 calls us to compassion and forgiveness as a pattern in our basic relationships. Remember: each of us have been forgiven much; we can forgive, too! Consciously, pointedly, authentically choosing to forgive relatively small grievances and offenses in the household and family relationships establishes a pattern that makes forgiveness more possible and realistic in the larger community.

7. GUARD YOUR SEXUAL BEHAVIOR. Read Ephesians 5:3. In Christ, sexuality is not shunned, it is redeemed. In Christ, we are invited to put off self-destructive behaviors and relationships in preference for a wholesomeness and faithfulness that has authentic love as its creative context. Moreover, we are empowered to guard our sexual behavior so that it does not interfere with relationship or witness.

8. GUARD AGAINST GREED AND THE MAMMON SPIRIT. Some folks who would never engage in illicit sexual behavior, continuously lust after money and have so defined their value in possessions and securities that their admonitions to their family members about honesty and sexual purity fall on deaf ears. This, along with racism, is at the core of American Christianity's integrity issues. Read Ephesians 5:5-17.

9. WATCH WHAT YOU TURN TO FOR SATISFACTION. Don’t go in for cheap, destructive highs; let God keep on filling your heart. Read Ephesians 5:18. How much energy is spent indulging in addictive agents and chasing after disappointing illusions? I am convinced that we are given and have access to natural highs, satisfaction and joy in life that do not depend on alcohol-assisted or drug-induced states of consciousness.

10. LEARN TO YIELD. Yielding right of way and merging caringly has become a major spiritual and relational issue in America. If our behavior in traffic is any indication, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ is a real challenge. Read Ephesians 5:21. If I focus and insist only on my rights, I may disregard and devalue you and others. But if we focus on each other's good (and the common good!), we will yield to each other. There is synergy!

Monday, August 28, 2006

PIKE FEST CHAMPS

Sam's Westside United team got the Autumn off to a great start over the weekend. Playing in the top flight, the westsiders blanked teams from Cincinnati, Brownsburg and Fort Wayne in order to earn a berth in the championship game.

They faced off against a Westfield team loaded with guest players and, quite frankly, two outstanding and tall players. But a stacked team and two players with exceptional talent went down to defeat at the hands--er, feet-- of this spirited and well-coached Westside United group of 13-year old boys.

Sam scored one goal over the weekend and received a major "charlie horse" on this thigh while trying to score a goal in the championship game. Congrats, Sam. Heal well. And good luck in Dayton, Ohio, this weekend!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

CITY BIKEHIKER

Biking in the city and throughout the urban area is becoming more prevalent and more managable each year. Indianapolis and Central Indiana are making progress in the development of signage, maps, lanes, and trails. Lagging far behind other major cities, Indianapolis is playing catch-up...but it IS working to catch up. As I become aware of resources for helping folks navigate Indy better on a bike, I will post the links in the right side bar of bikehiker.

One great resource for finding out about greenways, paths, and trails development in Indianapolis and Central Indiana is the Greenways Foundation. You'll find maps, project updates, and links to other efforts at http://www.indygreenways.org/.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

WHAT WE ARE AT HOME

Godly living at home and with family in the mundane, routine, and daily is the first and final front in the invitation to cultivate Christlikeness. Here is where weariness and tedium and all-too-familiar pressures expose us as we are in our most unguarded dimension of life.

This is most often thought of as our fall-back position, our place of retreat, where we are at our most basic--even raw--condition of being and relationship. Here, where there are no clients to impress or sales to be made or standards of achievement to be measured or production quota to be met, we talk and interact and assess and surmise and reflect and re-gather our wits with those most nearest and dearest to us. What we are at home is what we--for better or worse--are.

Yet even at home--and perhaps particularly at home--the simple fabric of life produces the grist for conflict, challenge, values-expression, clarification, and decision. Here is where Christ abiding in one's heart and his Reign in one's life is ever brought to consciousness and into the mix of relationships, words, actions, and responses.

Friday, August 25, 2006

EAGLE CREEK RESERVOIR IN AUGUST




Eagle Creek Reservoir, one of the gems of Indianapolis, glistens on an August evening. A clean lake reserved for sailboats and low-powered fishing vessels, Eagle Creek invites kayaking, canoing, and is the home of national rowing competitions. It is adjacent to Eagle Creek Park--another of Indy's treasures. You can dine at Rick's Boatyard Cafe on the eastern shore of Eagle Creek between 38th and 42nd Streets.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

TO KEEP ON FORGIVING

“To forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’” - C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

BIKERS FOR CHARITY KILLED

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the two police officers killed yesterday when a truck plowed into their clearly-identified entourage--a 'round the state bicycle ride to support families of fallen officers. The incident certainly calls attention to one of the risk factors for all of us who ride our bikes responsibly on roadways at home or abroad. I compute this into my preparations for riding 2,000 miles on the roadways of India in January and February 2007. In spite of best efforts to be visible, ride at far right side of road lanes (or on the shoulder), and observe safety precautions, there is a risk that drivers will not be paying full attention..with tragic results. Photo: Indianapolis Star

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

MARK COTTMAN--CYCLING'S ARTIST

Recently, I happened onto the artwork of Mark Cottman. Cycling isn't his only subject, but he connects incredibly well with the spirit and inside sense of cycling. Cottman's art has been featured on magazine covers like The New Yorker. If you like cycling and appreciate art, you'll like how he expresses what he sees in it. This image is titled "The Road Less Traveled." Has a stained-glass reverence about it, don't you think? You can view his website and browse an online gallery at http://www.cottmangallery.com/.

Monday, August 21, 2006

LADY GIANTS BEAT LAWRENCE CENTRAL

It wasn't pretty. It was wasn't nice. It was something just short of a war. But it was, in the end, a 3-1 win for Ben Davis' Lady Giants over Lawrence Central under the lights tonight at Lawrence Park. That gives the westsiders a 2-1 start for the season. Up next: Lawrence North on Wednesday. Molly survived the battle unscathed. Her smile in this after-game photo masks her more dire on-field ferocity.
WHEN I SAY "I AM A CHRISTIAN"

Recently, Molly found and printed off the following poem to share with some of her friends. She shared it with me and I shared it with our congregation. The poem is by Carol Wimmer. Whatever finer points of theology it might lack, the poem makes up for with a tender and winning spirit.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I am saved"
I 'm whispering "I was lost!"
That is why I chose this way."

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need someone to be my guide.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
and pray for strength to carry on.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
and cannot ever pay the debt.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
my flaws are too visible
but God believes I'm worth it.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
which is why I seek His name.

When I say..."I am a Christian"
I do not wish to judge.
I have no authority.
I only know I'm loved.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

WEEK-END WRAP-UP

It's been a busy last third of the week.

JARED TO OLIVET NAZ. Becky accompanied Jared to Olivet Nazarene University on Friday, like I accompanied Abby to the university for the beginning of her freshman year two years ago. I pray God's best for Jared during this new chapter of his life. There is so much I yearn to share and offer him; but now is apparently not the time. Now is the time of sending and trusting and praying.

MOLLY & THE GIANTS. Molly and the Ben Davis Lady Giants trounced Plainfield 6-0 on Monday but dropped a heartbreaker to Brownsburg in the last five minutes of the game after leading 2-1 up to that point. The last goal, making it 3-2 for Brownsburg, was clearly a missed offsides call--even the Brownsburg coach said so after the game. Molly played defense like a trooper; she's becoming quite good at clearing the ball forward with precision.

SAM JUGGLING TWO TEAMS. Sam is launched into 8th grade. He's attempting to play soccer both for the Westside United Soccer Club and for the Ben Davis 7th & 8th grade team. We'll see how things go. The first interesting test for Westside United comes Wednesday, when the team has a friendly against Carmel United's top team (this is Sam's old club); Sam is certainly motivated for this one. WSU U-14's play locally in the Pike Fest tourney next weekend.

MOVING A BIT NORTHWARD. We have our house on the market (interested? check out 814 Aberdeen with F. C. Tucker @ www.talktotucker.com) and we're scheduled to close on a 25-year old house just south of Eagle Creek Park early in September. Hard to believe we've lived here 12 years. It's been a great house, a good neighborhood, good school experiences, and convenient for mobility around the metro area. We're grateful for all we've experienced here. We're tidying up the place (amazing the to-do list that accumulates!) and it's been shown by realtors four times in the first week with some folks making a second visit. We're also boxing up and getting ready for the move just a few miles north on I-465 in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

CHRISTLIKE IN RELATIONSHIPS

I recently shared the following principles from Romans 12 regarding ways we can allow our relationships to shape us in Christ’s likeness:

1. Approach all relationships with a developing understanding of yourself as a graced and growing disciple of Jesus Christ. Romans 12:1-2. Don’t check your identity in Christ at the door of a new or continuing relationship, opportunity, or situation.

2. Know that your ability to contribute to, sustain, and grow a relationship will come from your faith in Jesus more than from anything else. Romans 12:3-8. You might have tons of personality and pizzazz, but it is faith in Jesus that brings purpose, strength, and joy in your relationships.

3. Christlikeness distinguishes itself in different relationships through humility, sincerity, devotion, compassion, and harmony. Romans 12:9-16. Surprise your friends: Don’t be typical; instead, be who Jesus is and do what Jesus would do.

4. Christlikeness commits to express love for enemies and to repay evil with good, leaving outcomes up to a just and merciful God. Romans 12: 17-21. We know the rotten outcomes of hating enemies and of apathy for disgruntled and misguided people. Let’s explore the investment of courageous love--for their benefit and ours.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"WHAT IS SCIENCE?"

"What is science?" Sam asks. He's completing homework and he's been assigned to ask three different people what they think is meant by the word "science."

"Interesting question. Let me think," I say, pausing from my yard work.

"Keep it real, dad," he impatiently insists.

"Okay, okay," I reply. I ask him to help me understand the context and nature of the question, buying time to formulate a succinct description.

Finally, I'm ready. "Got your pen ready?" I ask.

He pulls out his notebook and holds up his pen. "Fire away."

"Science," I say, "is the effort to empirically cast and quantify reality."

Sam's busy writing. "How do you spell 'empirically?'"

I know he has little notion or interest in what I've just stated and he's too ready to get the assignment completed and get on with riding his bike to question me further. But I'll be interested to hear if my response raises an eyebrow with his eighth-grade teacher.

Does it raise your eyebrow? What do you hear in my description of science? And what, to you, is "science?"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

WHERE FISH FLY

During recent bike rides, I've been listening to the audio disc version of When Fish Fly, the personal story and philosophy of John Yokoyama and the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. This is the behind-the-scenes story of what CNN has called "the most fun place to work" in the world. Pike Place is more than guys throwing fish and having a great time with customers; it's a winning approach to life, work, and mission.

CATCHING THE SPIRIT. I knew nothing about Pike Place when someone loaned me the top-selling motivational/training video Fish! I just knew that those 17 minutes captured my imagination as the director of a homeless day center; the video captured the imagination of our staff and volunteers, too. We weren't sure what all we were seeing or what we were supposed to do with it, but it challenged us to examine how we looked at and served our customers--homeless neighbors--in a new light. Already, we were transitioning from an entitlement and service provider mentality to a strengths-based and hospitality-centered approach to social service. The Pike Place guys challenged to take it to another level.

WHEN WORK IS PLAYFUL. The principles the Pike Place folks practice are simply stated: Play, Be There, Make Their Day, Choose Your Attitude. You can explore these four practices a bit further at this link. As the guys at Pike Place work at handling and selling fresh--albeit stinking, slimy, icy--fish, they are playing. In this setting, work is playful. Fish or seafood chosen for purchase are thrown back to the packagers to chants and songs. Customers are joked with and engaged with banter. Fellow workers play off each other’s antics. And the whole thing becomes contagious. It’s not just play. These guys are committed to bring their whole focus into their time at work (“be there”), try to make each customer’s day, and choose an attitude of friendly service over complaining, etc.

PRACTICING WHAT THEY PREACH. I snapped this photo of Pike Place when I was in Seattle a couple of years ago. It was the end of the day and the guys were trying to close up and clean up. Still, they had a moment for a few photos and friendly conversation. They live what they talk about...even when tired. You can look in on the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market via their live web cam and learn all about this really unique business at www.pikeplacefish.com. You might even buy some fish!

Monday, August 14, 2006

MEANING WELL...FEEBLY

"Not only Christians but all Americans subscribe to the notion that 'all people are created equal.' But how many feel the monstrosity of inequality? I'm thinking not only of racial inequality, but also of today's excess of wealth and poverty, the absence of affordable housing that 'Mr.Conservative,' Senator Robert Taft, in the 1940s considered a moral imperative. (The stated goal of the 1948 Taft Housing Legislation was a decent home for every American family."

"Few of us today are troubled by the way our economy flourishes not by providing necessities but by providing luxuries, and by the national goal of ending welfare as we know it, when a more just goal would be seeking to end poverty as we know it. We Christians mean well, feebly. We may be repelled by materialism, but we are caught up in it. We are troubled by widespread poverty, but we overly esteem wealth. In short, ours generally is a superficial religious identity, and a superficial religious identity is just that. Superficial."

-- William Sloane Coffin in Credo

Sunday, August 13, 2006

OUR NEW "BIKE INDIA" WEBSITE

I'm grateful to Dan Laughlin of Laughlin Design for creating our new "Bike India" website. Go there: www.bikeindia.org. It shares information about our planning and preparation for our 2,000 mile bike ride through India in January & early February 2007 to raise awareness and funds for Umri Christian Hospital. I will continue to maintain our "bicycleindia2007" blog for now, but eventually will put everything into www.bikeindia.org, including daily (or as daily as possible) updates during our ride from Nagercoil to New Delhi.

www.bikeindia.org

Saturday, August 12, 2006

RACE 2 REPLACE

I was privileged to spend a few hours at the Discovery Channel Cycling Team's "Race 2 Replace" event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. I did not race, though I now wish I had. I watched a few of the age-group races (10 laps, 25 miles) then participated in the "Lap Led by Lance" with several thousand cycling advocates. The day-long event was both a fundraiser for cancer research and a genuine effort to find new or emerging cycling talent. The rider with the best time will join the Discovery Channel Cycling Team as a guest participant in the upcoming US Cycling Championships.

RIDING WHERE RACERS FLY. I enjoyed the laps around IMS. Here's where Indy cars sail at up to 250 miles an hour on the straightways. My top track speed was a wind-assisted 28 mph. I enjoyed talking with riders from Bremen, Indiana, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania (the guy lives five miles from Floyd Landis' childhood home). As always, I was ready to brag on Indianapolis as a great place to reside, raise a family, worship, serve, and explore.

WITH GRATITUDE. While riding around the speedway in this setting, realizing it was for cancer research, I felt a sense of gratitude that our 15-year old daughter Molly is now over two years cancer free. It was a scary month in June 2004 when what was initially presumed to be a cyst on the back of her neck turned out to be a tumor of myoepithelial carcenoma--a very rare and particularly nasty-behaving cancer. The surgeon who removed it intact operated a second time to take out surrounding tissue. All testing since then has been negative for cancer, no chemotherapy or radiation has been necessary, and Molly's pediatric oncologist has indicated that she is in the clear.

GREETING LANCE ARMSTRONG. Coolest thing that happened for me today: I was standing at the right place at the right time and was privileged to greet Lance Armstrong one-on-one as he was making his way to a photo op. We shook hands and I thanked him for his work for cancer research. Impression: Lance is smaller than one imagines--maybe 5'7" and 145 lbs. Lance carries himself as a very intense and intentful person.

DOUBLE THE FUN. Race 2 Replace was a fun event. I didn't stay for the rock concert that was to begin after the laps around the track. I imagine if Armstrong and Discovery Channel decided to try it again, the crowds will be even greater. A suggestion: piggy-back the event with one of the practice or time trial weekends of the Indy 500. Maybe the second time trial weekend would work best. Both events and organizations would benefit. Synergize!

Friday, August 11, 2006

WHAT MORE MIGHT BE THWARTED?

The work of the British intelligence and police to track and thwart a potentially deadly attack on transatlantic airliners is commendable. This is the kind of preventive work the multiple billions of American tax dollars being poured into Homeland Security efforts is supposed to accomplish on a routine basis. I presume that American efforts are continuously disrupting terrorism and making a daily difference. I hope American intelligence efforts will come to match the kind of preventive work British law enforcement achieved.

OUR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES. For all this, I am still quite interested in American and international leadership focusing more on addressing and draining the sources of radical Islamic hatred against the United States and the West. If, after September 11, 2001, American decision-makers would have begun to try to fully understand Islam and work cooperatively for international policy development regarding radical Islam--all the while engaging in an unprecedented international police action to disrupt and thwart terrorist activities--I am convinced we would not be continuing to simultaneously foment and counter terrorism born of radical Islamic grief.

ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE. Instead, American leadership chose to ignore radical Islamic and Middle Eastern socio-political realities and engaged in all-out war as the primary post-9/11 strategy. The execution of massive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--and consequent personnel misbehaviors fueled by the Administration’s tacit approval of brutish interrogation techniques and denial of Geneva Conventions for detainees suspected of terrorism--have further enflamed hatred toward America and the West. We have, either intentionally or unwittingly, added fuel to the radical Islamic fire.

HAS WAR WORKED FOR US? American leadership chose to invoke the right of waging “preemptive” wars on nations suspected of terrorist activities--and shortly acted on its newly declared right to such attacks. American military quickly overran Afghanistan, uprooting the Taliban and disrupting Al Qaeda activities. But four years later, objectives in Afghanistan are still tenuous. The primary American justifications for its preemptive war on Iraq have proven false--Saddam Hussein neither harbored terrorists nor weapons of mass destruction. There were no connections between Hussein and Iraq and 9/11. Hussein, truly a bloody tyrant, is out of power and on trial for crimes against his own people. But post-Hussein Iraq is sinking into civil war and chaos, largely due to American miscalculations, misunderstandings, and miscarriage of post-“war” operations and policies. The “insurgency” is largely a sectarian Islamic reaction fueled and empowered by Western ignorance and arrogance in the face of essential faith tenants pushed to the extreme.

THE WAY OUT. The way out of our international dilemma of growing radical Islam’s commitment to violence against America and the West is not more violence against radical Islam. The way out of our global peril is to take one huge step back from the brink which American policy has largely taken the world. Instead of using the foiling of this latest terrorist plot by Islamic extremists to justify and bless all actions that the Administration has thus far taken regarding terrorism, Al Quaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq, we should use this event to begin a long and dramatic change in policy. Unless and until radical Islamic concerns are fully heard, fully understood, and reasonably addressed--and this is no small or easy challenge--we will be holding our breath against unimaginable terrorist disaster every day for generations to come.
HAMMER OF FREEDOM, CHISEL OF JUSTICE

"Now that we 've become the most powerful nation in the world, we haven't the same positive in influence we once had when, as a people, we were weakest. The American way of life is not the automatic choice of other people, as frequently it has been fashioned not to the enrichment but to the detriment of theirs. And at home the hammer of freedom is so frequently divorced from the chisel of justice that the common good, often as not, is identified with the good of those in power." -- William Sloane Coffin in Credo

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A TESTAMENT OF DEVOTION

Our small group is beginning to work its way through A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly. It's considered a modern spiritual classic by Richard Foster and others. We know of no study guide, so Karen, our group study leader, is developing one as we go.

NO EASY READ. A Testament of Devotion is heavier fare than our group is used to, so we find ourselves re-reading passages several times to "get it." Also, the book calls for a corresponding response in living practices that do not make it possible to read it casually or like a textbook. This Quaker is not just an engaging writer, he is inviting the reader into a lifestyle from which one will not emerge unchanged.

Here's an excerpt from early in the book that I find poignant:

PRACTICE COMES FIRST. "The Inner Light, the Inward Christ, is no mere doctrine, belonging peculiarly to a small religious fellowship, to be accepted or rejected as a mere belief. It is the living Center of Reference for all Christian souls and Christian groups--yes, and of non-Christian groups as well--who seriously mean to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. He is the center and source of action, not the end-point of thought. He is the locus of commitment, not a problem for debate. Practice comes first in religion, not theory or dogma."

WORLD AND LIGHT, BACK AND FORTH. "And Christian practice is not exhausted in outward deeds. These are the fruits, not the roots. A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into the inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and its fitfulness and recreates it (after the pattern seen on the Mount)."

A CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE. Imagine that: we are called to bring the world into the Light of God's presence and rejudge it. What all does that mean? And we bring and bear the Light in the tumultuous world and recreate it. What all does that mean? This is the fullness of the contemplative life: Living fully in the world, but not of it. Neither retreating from the world nor succumbing to it. Being transformed and transformational. Incarnating--amid our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world--the presence of Jesus Christ. Who is adequate for such a challenge? "My grace is sufficient for you."

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

WHAT BECAME OF OUR FAMILY?

AND THEY'RE OFF! Our summer ends prematurely. On the day the Indiana State Fair opens, Molly and Sam return to the public school classroom, Abby leaves for a week in Michigan before heading to Illinois for her varsity soccer team camp, and Jared is serving in New Orleans with his university soccer team. Just like, that, they're off!

TOGETHER BRIEFLY. We've had a good time with everyone in the house--more or less--for most of June and July. We squeezed in a week of vacation together. But we think more in terms of brief periods or moments of being all together as a complete family now. All six of us under one roof or in one place at the same time is becoming a novelty. That is as it should be, I suppose.

BE FLUID IN YOUR PERCEPTIONS. And how do we imagine our family? At what stage? In what moment in time? This photo is five years old. It seems to capture a bit of one golden moment among others. Just as easily a photo from last week--had we taken one--would be golden, too, at least in my mind and heart. I want to be as fluid as I can in my regard for our family and each child--not locking in presumptively to "the best time" or "the way it used to be" or "wish it was." A test of passage now is letting go of the past and accepting what is to come and is also out of our control.

A SEASON OF TRUST. In terms of family, we seem to be on the verge of a season of trust in what we are in Christ, in what we have offered, and of support for the best pursuits and aspirations of our children. O God, be pleased to equip us for this part of the journey.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

FROM SELF-PITY TO SERVICE

INSTRUMENT OF THY PEACE. While looking for another book at the Interim Central Library in downtown Indianapolis the other day, I came across a volume by Alan Paton, most noted as author of Cry, the Beloved Country. I've since been reading Instrument of Thy Peace (Seabury Press, 1968), which is a series of reflections on St. Francis of Assisi's well known prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pard'ning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life!

SELF-PITY COMES TO AN END. Paton writes of St. Francis' prayer: "When I pray his prayer, or even remember it, my melancholy is dispelled, my self-pity comes to an end, my faith is restored, because of this majestic conception of what the work of a disciple should be....Life is no longer nasty, mean, brutish, and short, but becomes the time that one needs to make it less nasty and mean, not only for others, but indeed also for oneself."

THROW OFF HELPLESSNESS. He goes on: "This is the only way in which a Christian can encounter hatred, injury, despair and sadness, and that is by throwing off one's helplessness and allowing onself to be made the bearer of love, the pardoner, the bringer of hope, the comforter of those who grieve."

OPEN MY EYES AND EARS. At the end of each reflection/chapter, Paton pens a prayer. Here's a particularly poignant one:

"O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the need of others,
open my ears that I may hear their cries,
open my heart so that they need not be without succour,
let me be not afraid to defend the weak
because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor
because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to
do some work of peace for You.
Amen."

Monday, August 7, 2006

FOR HEAVEN AND THE FUTURE'S SAKE

Last night, I came across the following, concluding lines in Robert Frost's poem "Two Tramps in the Mud." The setting is the poet toiling vigorously at splitting wood, only to be interrupted by two unemployed laborers who happen by and who want to cut the wood for him for money. The poet knows he is "supposed" to yield the axe to the laborers, he being trained for poetry and they being accustomed to such labor. He thinks it is quite appropriate, nonetheless, for the poet also to wield an axe as an expression of uniting vocation to avocation, "where love and need are one" and the deed is done "for heaven and the future's sake." Here is Frost:

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sake.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

DID HE DOPE? WE MAY NEVER KNOW

As an avid fan of the Tour de France and a supporter of the American project to place highly competitive cyclists in this European-dominated sport, I am really struggling with the whole Landis scenario.

SEARCH FOR EXPLANATIONS. I guess I've been vacillating between denial and exasperation for two weeks, all the while really hoping a plausible explanation can be found for Landis' high--and apparently at least partially externally introduced--levels of testosterone found in his blood sample taken at the end of Stage 17.

TWO REASONS WHY I THINK HE DIDN'T DOPE. Here's one reason why I don't think Landis doped: It would have been plain crazy for him to have doped and then ridden hard to win Stage 17--his comeback stage--knowing that every stage winner and Yellow Jersey wearer would tested. Would he--or anybody else--actually think they could get away with that? No way. No stealth drug or doping protocol is that good. Another reason: someone who intentionally doped would have had a thought-out justification and prepared plausible response to charges of doping. Landis was as taken aback and befuddled as anyone else.

WHAT ABOUT HIS OTHER BLOOD SAMPLES? Has Landis' blood samples from his days in the Yellow Jersey been tested and revealed to be high for testosterone, too? If they aren't out of bounds, then why was that blood sample different? Or, if they are all high, what is the basis of that consistent high? There are still more questions than answers for conclusive and condemning actions.

IT WILL BE A WHILE. I am not hopeful about the UCI testing on his B sample that will be in the news on Saturday. It is likely to be the same as his A sample. It will take an independent endocrinology test, to be conducted a bit later, to prove beyond reasonable doubt the actual, discernible sources of his elevated testosterone that day.

WHEN THE ACCUSERS AREN'T STRAIGHT. Remember: It took nearly a year for Lance Armstrong to be cleared after last year's annual round of accusations. And that inquiry found WADA's laboratory process to have been not only inaccurate and tainted, but biased and unethical.

NO EASY ANSWERS. So, there are no easy answers...even after the apparent answers are given. Behind the conclusions are questions. Such is the terrain of professional--and some amateur--sports these days. I guess the days of not second-guessing a championship performance may be gone...or at least in serious jeopardy.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

TUBING THE LAKE

I fulfilled a promise to my now-graduated son, Jared, yesterday. It was overdue, but I took he and three of his senior friends out for a "boys only" day of tubing and skiing at the lake. We had Lake Monroe, near Bloomington, almost completely to ourselves on a blue-sky, windless weekday. We used two tubes and the guys played "king of the hill," battling each other to stay on the tube at 25 or 30 miles an hour. By the middle of the afternoon they were worn out and it was too hot (upper 90's) to continue. I will make up the time lost from work by working my typical "day off," but this was a day we will remember and enjoy for years to come.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

WHEN SOMETHING HOLY HAPPENS

SEEING THROUGH TO SOMETHNG DEEPER. "A sacrament is when something holy happens. It is transparent time, time which you can see through to something deep inside time…In other words, at such milestone moments as seeing a baby baptized or being baptized yourself, confessing your sins, getting married, dying, you are apt to catch a glimpse of the almost unbearable preciousness and mystery of life."

LIFE AS SACRAMENTAL. "Needless to say, church isn't the only place where the holy happens. Sacramental moments can occur at any moment, any place, and to anybody. Watching something get born. Making love. A high-school graduation. Somebody coming to see you when you're sick. A meal with people you love. Looking into a stranger's eyes and finding out he's not a stranger. If we weren't blind as bats, we might see that life itself is sacramental.” -- Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking