Tuesday, October 31, 2006

HOW WE ARE SAVED

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend and foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."

- Reinhold Niebuhr

Sunday, October 29, 2006

THESE DAYS

"I don't know what's become of children these days."

HOW BAD IT IS. These days. I've been hearing how bad "these days" are since I was a small child. I was led to believe that the mid-1960's were the worst days, giving every sign that Jesus Christ's second coming (preceded by the rapture of the church, I was told!) was imminent. Then I kept hearing how much worse things had become in the 1970's. It was said that it was time to flee the godless city to the safe suburbs and pull your children out of public schools. The 1980's and 90's produced the corrupt fruit of the wanton 60's and 70's, and voices from within the community of faith continued to grouse about what had become of the world these days. More and more they talked about what had become of the church these days.

THE GOOD OL' DAYS. Those who complain about how bad it's gotten almost invariably and simultaneously hark back to a better time. There was a time when things were better. When people were truer. When things were simpler. When they were safer. When they were fairer. Whenever it was, it is always in the past. Always inaccessible. Never reproducible. Out of reach. We're too far gone these days, they conclude. But when we examine "those days" we begin to see that they were troubling times, no less than "these days." The 50's, for instance, were golden only if you turned a blind eye to racism, bigotry, the wholesale subjection of women, McCarthyism, Cold War politics, etc.

FEARING THE PRESENT. In reality, those who lament "these days" choose to live in a past that never was because they fear a present that they have chosen to opt out of. They do not want to understand the present. They have become lazy intellectually and irresponsible spiritually. They fear the future. They turn inward. Unwittingly, they distort reality and begin to die spiritually, mentally, and physically. Their acted-out fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

THE GREATEST GENERATION? At the other end of the spectrum are people who are so full of themselves, who have such a misplaced confidence in science and technology that they believe that this is the most important and unprecedented time of all. They believe the importance of these days eclipses and outshines the significance of every other generation. This perspective leads them to think and act as if little in history either matters or applies to the uniqueness of these days. It gives them permission to act as if they will not make the same mistakes. It provides an illusory covering for what appears to be new frontiers, unprecedented circumstances, exceptional situations, bold moves. This pride and arrogance is as deadly as those who have succumbed to fear and live in the past.

DID THE WORLD REALLY CHANGE THAT DAY? A corollary to "these days" is the term "a post-9/11 world." As if what occurred on September 11, 2001 scrambled history and humanity. So, whatever history occurred before 9/11--patterns of relating to one another, outlook on our neighbors, outlook on those of other faiths or ethnic groups, foreign policies, international decision-making, principles of engagement for war, principles for the fair treatment of prisoners, common sense, the interpretation of the Bible--is out the window. These days we are free--no, compelled, charged, challenged--to recreate the world to insulate ourselves from would-be terrorists as the overriding value. These days we justify whatever we want to do with the statement: "it's a post-9/11 world." 9/11 is the trump card, the ace in the hole, for the misuse of power, for the retreat from reality, for the relegation of humans to "devils" and "evil-doers," and for continuing and even extending "man's in humanity to man," as one "pre-9/11" theologian put it.

LOSING SANITY AND CONSCIENCE. I don't buy it. 9/11 is no legitimate dividing line for anything. Reality did not change that day. Sin did not become more evil. Grace did not become more sparse or fragile. Humans did not become monsters. Preemptive war-making was not now justifiable. Torture was not now legitimated. Time was not shortened. History--its lessons, precedents and principles--was not nullified. Common sense was not to be shelved in exchange for a routine hysteria and fear-rooted social behavior. The two principles and values that would have served us well after 9/11--sanity and conscience--have been swept aside in the public and policy arena.

TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION. I am convinced that spiritual and community and political leaders the world over need to reassess their initially reactionary assessments of what really changed on 9/11. These days--however you view them--are days for repentance. These days are for turning again and turning around. These days are no less or more dangerous or opportunity-filled than past days. These days can be approached with the sanity and conscience necessary only as we repent of our fear and arrogance, sin and pride. Unless we do, these days are nothing compared to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the fears, violence and jaded perspective of our neighbors that we will leave as our legacy for the next generation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NEAR SHAKAMAK

One of our riders had flat on the road just outside Shakamak State Park on Monday afternoon. While he repaired the tube, I admired the autumn foliage and this backwater of the lake.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

TRAINING DAYS FOR INDIA

Bob Yardy and Joe James take a break during the first of two 60+ mile training rides we made on Monday and Tuesday in southwestern Indiana. It was 42 degrees and quite windy by the time we ended the ride Monday evening. Quite a cold trek. But it took us past beautiful Shakamak State Park.

Please consider support for our effort to rebuild Umri Christian Hospital in rural central India. We will ride 2000 miles from December 30 to February 8 to raise awareness and funds for UCH. Explore Bicycle India 2007 either on our blog or website. If you can, contribute to make a financial difference.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

PURITY'S TIME IS ALWAYS NOW

NOW AND AGAIN. I recommend For the Time Being by Annie Dillard for thoughtful reading and reflection. Over the past six years or so, since I bought the book shortly after it was published and then bought the audio tapes of it, I have read or listened to portions of it now and again. It's a book to grapple with, full of paradox and mystery. It always leaves me both discomfitted and with a touch of wonder. I was listening to this portion while driving around the city this morning and it struck me with fresh profundity:

"There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time -- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature -- but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age."

"There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less. There is no less holiness at this time -- as you are reading this --than there was the day the Red Sea parted, or that day in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as Ezekiel was a captive by the river Chebar, when the heavens opened and he saw visions of God. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree by your street than there was under the Buddha's bo tree. There is no whit less might in heaven or on earth than there was the day Jesus said "Maid, arise" to the centurion's daughter, or the day Peter walked on water, or the night Mohammed flew to heaven on a horse. In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger. In any instant the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture."

"Purity's time is always now. Purity is no social phenomenon, a cultural thing whose time we have missed, whose generations are dead, so we can only buy Shaker furniture. 'Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai,' says the Talmud. Of eternal fulfillment, Tillich said, 'If it is not seen in the present, it cannot be seen at all.'"

Friday, October 20, 2006

INDY ON AN OCTOBER AFTERNOON


I rode about 36 miles today, cycling from our northwest Marion County home into downtown Indianapolis and back. I stopped several places, Horizon House being one, and chatted with folks. I captured this photo from White River West Drive south of Washington Street.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

FAITH-BASED LIES

EVANGELICALS BETRAYED. Every evangelical should read "Why a Christian in the White House Felt Betrayed," a book exerpt in Time magazine (read online) by David Kuo. Kuo is the former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Kuo's forthcoming book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, tells how he lost faith in the Bush administration from working hopefully inside it. Listen to an extended audio On Point interview with Kuo.

LAUGHING AT EVANGELICALS. Kuo documents broken promises, outright lies, and an attitude of arrogance in regard to evangelicals. Kuo worked hard to "be a good soldier" for the faith-based cause in the White House long after it was apparent that senior Administration staffers were cursing the initiative and laughing about how gullible evangelicals were/are.

LIP SERVICE TO "VALUES". Sadly, Kuo expresses first-hand what I've sensed and tried to articulate from the get-go: George W. Bush and some of his staff may profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but they are, above all, cunning politicians for whom power is lord. They give lip service to evangelical concerns and take "values" for a ride to the ballot box...just like the politicians who have gone before and who will follow them.The following Time excerpt from Kuo's book is telling:
Yes, I told the President, because of new regulations there was technically about $8 billion in existing funding that was now more accessible to faith-based groups. But, I assured him, those organizations had been getting money from those programs for years and it wasn't that big a deal.

"Eight billion in new dollars?" he asked.

"No, sir. Eight billion in existing dollars where groups will find it technically easier to apply for grants. But faith-based groups have been getting that money for years."

"Eight billion," he said. "That's what we'll tell them. Eight billion in new funds for faith-based groups. O.K., let's go."

We headed out of the Oval Office, down a flight of stairs and over to the Old Executive Office Building, where the pastors awaited us. The President walked into the room, traded a few jokes and told the group that because of the faith-based initiative, billions of dollars in new funds were now available to faith-based groups like theirs. The pastors listened respectfully. Before the President left, they prayed for him.

Kuo assesses the situation for Evangelicals:
Now I am finding the courage to speak out about God and politics and their dangerous dance. George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.

HUMILITY, REPENTANCE, REASSESSMENT. None of this is cause for satisfaction from any partisan or politically-engaged corner. It is, instead, cause for humility, repentance and reassessment among evangelicals about their relationship to partisan politics and ideologically-sourced power. If they have national social concerns to bring to the table, they need to do so in a way that brings accountability to all elected officials and candidates for political office.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

AUTUMN ALIVE


I snapped this photo in Eagle Creek Park this evening. More and more leaves are changing from green to gold and red and brown. Most still hang on the trees, but leaves now carpet the trails. It's a glorious scene.
FOUR FRONTS FOR SPIRITUAL VITALITY

DIATRIBE OR EXHORTATION? The following may be a bit out of place on bikehiker, but only mildly so. It's not so much a diatribe (a legitimate genre of expression) as it is an exhortation. I shared this in a recent edition of the weekly e-journal I put together for our community of faith -- "Life Together on West Morris Street." All 149 editions of LT/WEMO can be accessed at http://www.westmorrisfm.org/. Over the next 12 months, I want to frame our community life around these four fronts...and maybe a few more.

WHAT’D YOU EXPECT? Can one expect to be healthy and growing spiritually without basic, weekly personal spiritual disciplines? You know the answer. Spiritual vitality isn’t something we can store up and live off of in lean or overly busy times. Spiritual health is cultivated daily, weekly. Let us shake ourselves loose, if need be, from a “feast-or-famine,” “hot and cold” approach to godliness. Too much is at stake in our lives and the lives of those we love--who count on us--to be sleepwalking through the Kingdom. Take action today on these Four Fronts of Spiritual Growth.

1. FILL YOUR LIFE WITH PRAYER Let your longing for a deeper, more vital Christian experience begin right here. Confess your heart’s desires, tell God your hopes and hurts, bring your world into God’s presence. Hold nothing back. Then, be still and wait before your Creator, Redeemer, Healer, and King. Contemplate God’s provision, receive God’s counsel, respond with active faith to God’s direction. Now, make this your daily practice. You’ll be on the cutting edge of faith.

2. CENTER YOUR LIFE IN THE WORD Think you know it all? Heard it all? Learned it all? Think again. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” “The Word of God is living and active.” If God’s Word is on the shelf or in the passive background, it’s not lighting your way today. Today’s challenges need today’s Word. Dig into the Word again today, by all means. Read solo. Study with a partner. Reflect in a group. Explore in a Sunday School Class or Bible Study. Teach children, youth, and/or adults. Live what you learn. Share what you glean. Let the Word come alive in and through you. Without this, life can easily be carved up by counterfeits, our passion dissipated in trivia, and our focus scattered in myriad ways.

3. INCARNATE CHRIST’S LOVE IN SERVICE Every growing Christian is serving others. Serving may not be easy, convenient, apparently rewarding, recognized, or personally satisfying, but it is the way we experience Christ in others--whether homeless or abused or uneducated or depressed or clueless or arrogant or desperate or penniless. And service is the greatest and simplest way we make Christ known to others and in the world. Apart from service, we atrophy spiritually--not later, but now. How and where can you serve others--directly or indirectly--today or this week?

4. GATHER YOUR LIFE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE “There is no holiness but social holiness,” John Wesley said. Too many Christian people today are scattered and myopic, notes Richard J. Foster. Like fire lives, creates energy, and shines brightly when singular embers are close together, so with believers. “We really do need each other,” writes Reuben Welch. We belong to each other when we belong to Christ. There is in the church “a fellowship which cannot otherwise be known.” So, draw near. Engage. Be where you belong. There’s a place waiting for you at the table. The church won’t be the church without you.

A FURTHER CHALLENGE Consider how these Four Fronts for Spiritual Growth find expression in the faith community. Look at everything the church is about and does through these four fronts. What are your opportunities for prayer, Word-centering, border-crossing service, and gathering? If you are not, then why are you not addressing each of these simultaneous fronts of spiritual warfare and breakthrough? If you want help or resources for engaging in one or all of these essential fronts of spiritual vitality, please contact me. Please do not languish, make excuses or try to rationalize your way into or out of spiritual mediocrity. Seize the day, for heaven’s sake.
NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

You can read and listen to a variety of Robert Frost poems at Robert Frost Out Loud.

Monday, October 16, 2006

SAM WRAPS UP SOCCER SEASONS

Yes, that's two seasons--a club season and a school season. Westside United U-14 played its last two league games on Saturday at Lawrence Park. They defeated Westfield in the morning game and fell to Carmel United in the afternoon. The team ends the season tied for second place in the league.

This was Sam's first season with Westside United and he seemed to gel well with the team. He had a handful of goals and numerous assists. The team won the pre-season Pike Fest tourney and competed quite well in interstate tourneys in Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois.

Sam's Ben Davis 7th & 8th Grade team also concluded with a strong second half of the season. The team finished over .500, winning 6 of its last 7 games. Sam was a team captain and a leading scorer for the Giants. The 8th graders on the team will be part of the pool of players eligible to play Jr. Varsity and Varsity at Ben Davis High School next year. I think some of these players, including Sam, hold promise for making an immediate positive impact with BD.

Great work thoughout these seasons, Sam. It's been a busy sequence of months and weeks. You've worked hard, adjusted to new team situations, and developed in leadership. It seems like your passion for the game is growing. We enjoyed watching and supporting you. Next up: wrestling!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

MOLLY WRAPS UP THE SOCCER SEASON

SECTIONAL FINALISTS. Molly's sophomore soccer season ended in the Sectional Final this evening. Ben Davis dropped a hard-fought (literally) game, 2-1, to 5th-ranked North Central (will anyone who witnessed that game ever forget the blatant clothesline tackle an NC player got away with?).

TWO GOALS. Molly's season highlight happened in the Sectional Semi-Final game against Speedway on Thursday. She scored both goals for the Lady Giants in their 2-1 victory over the Sparkplugs. The lowest point: a red card (based on two yellow cards for rough play) early in the season. While undeserved, it was a painful enough experience to ward off such predicaments in the future.

FROM DEFENDER TO MIDFIELDER. Molly's always been a tough defender. She's taken a lot of pride in defending her goal as a starter throughout her freshman and sophomore seasons. But midway through this season, her coach asked her to play outside midfield. In that position she's had the opportunity to become more of a playmaker and scorer. The position fits her tenacity, speed and stamina.

CONGRATS. Congratulations on a strong season, Molly. We are proud of you. We enjoyed watching you compete and grow as a player and person during these weeks and months. You never backed down. You led your team in tenacity and intensity. Looking forward to what's ahead for you.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

ODE TO AUTUMN

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Friday, October 13, 2006

ON THE BRINK OF AUTUMN

I wrote this poem a few seasons ago. It captures some of my passion for this season. I suppose at the beginning of every new season I exclaim "this is the best season of the year!" And as that season reaches its fullness and begins to wane, I'm ready for the next one to emerge. But autumn has got to be my favorite season, especially when in the Midwest it lingers long, pushing winter's start all the way back into the middle of December.

On the brink of autumn,
A hint of chill in the air,
The sun’s setting sooner,
In a few days we’ll be there

Where green turns to golden
And reapers harvest the yield,
Where dry leaves are falling
And flocking fowl arc the fields.

Then we’ll don our jackets
And brace ourselves for the wind
That rustles through branches
And billows our souls again.

Do not shrink back from fall;
Embrace this gilded season
As a grace that descends;
A gift to all from heaven.

It’s time for returning,
For in-bringing and burning,
For heart walks in deep woods,
For distilling, discerning.

What’s muddled becomes clear
And all chaff is left exposed
As autumn’s sun glows bright
And a harvest moon shines cold.

We may shed pretenses
And travel a lighter way
Our hearts as crisp as leaves
That lift and then sail away.

As we are being turned,
Turn—facing all the changes,
The falling, the cooling,
And the encroaching darkness.

Lean into the season
Lest it overtake your way.
Let your soul be opened;
Relish the gift of today.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

ACTION ACCORDING TO GRACE

Actions are the doors and windows of being. Unless we act we have no way of knowing what we are. And the experience of our existence is impossible without some experience of knowing or some experience of experience. We cannot find the depths of our being by renouncing all activity.”

But when we act according to grace, our actions are not ours alone, they belong to God. If we follow them to their source, we will become at least potentially capable of an experience of God. For His actions in us reveal His being in us. The whole of life is to spiritualize our activities by humility and faith, to silence our nature by charity.”

“‘To go out of ourselves’ is to act at the very summit of our being, not moved by our own nature but moved by God Who is at once infinitely above us and Who yet dwells in the depths of our being… A perfect act of faith should, at the same time, be a perfect act of humility.”

-- Thomas Merton in Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

WHAT THE PLAGUES [CAN] TEACH US

On Sunday, I explored with our congregation the story of the plagues and the Passover in Exodus 6-12. This was the fifth in a series I'm calling "Moses Today." The story of the plagues and Passover seemed easy to teach to Sunday School children (and to grasp as a child); it's much harder to teach and apply with adults. Nonetheless, I offered the following points for consideration and response to the Word:

WHERE GOD BEGINS. The ultimate OUTCOME of human striving is arrogant pride (Pharaoh) and spiritual despair (Moses & the Israelites), but that's where God's power to deliver BEGINS. See Exodus 6:9-12, 28-30, 7:1-6. Here are the challenges for us:
  1. Recognize human striving for what it is and what it brings; and
  2. Be still and wait for God to fulfill His promises and reveal God's power to deliver.

DENIAL DEVASTATES. Pharaoh's pattern of DENIAL in the face of God's power is a spiritual problem that has DEVASTATED individuals and peoples for millennia. See Exodus 7:8-11:10. Ask:

  1. "Do I have a denial problem?"
  2. "Is my denial of God's promise and power having a negative, detrimental, harmful impact on those I love?"
  3. "If so, am I ready to break denial, confess reality, and begin to cooperate with Grace?"

LOVING TO DELIVER. In the plagues, Pharaoh is being exposed to the REALITY of a God who loves and delivers those who enter into COVENANT with God. See Exodus 7:8-12:42. The action of God is not so much about destruction and punishing as it is about God's love and liberation for a people who have entered into covenant with God. While God gave Pharaoh one opportunity after another to let God's people go (to do the right thing), God's love for the people would not be deterred by Pharaoh's pride and refusal.

MARKED BY EXODUS In the plagues and Passover, Israel is being FORMED as a people who will forever be shaped and defined by EXODUS. See Exodus 7:8-12:42. Their power is not in their armies. Not in their wealth. Not in their influence. For people formed by faith it is always "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit." The implications of being a person and a people who live by faith and not by pressuring, controlling, calculating, or the threat of violence are many. Contemplate this.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

PASSING HILLY PASTORAL SCENE

Saturday's route of the Hilly Hundred brought us to the lunch stop atop and beautiful vista. If I counted one abandoned, unused barn I counted a hundred. Are these icons of the American pastoral scene simply decaying into the landscape? They are being replaced--when they ARE replaced--by aluminum and steel buildings. I wonder if, fifty years from now, someone will be wondering if we are really going to let these ramshackle aluminum storehouses collaspse into the landscape?

Monday, October 9, 2006

ENOUGH MUSLIM BASHING ALREADY!

STOKING DISCORD. I'm grieved as I continue to hear Muslim bashing by American Christians and those presumed to be/passed off as Christians who spout their self-righteous vitriol on TV and radio airwaves day by day. They are offended (or pretend to be) that some Muslim people--extremists, they call them--are offended by the casual, careless, insensitive, and intentionally inflammatory (in some cases) references to the Prophet Mohammed. They can't figure out (or pretend they can't) why some followers of Islam areexorcisedized by a little teasing about their faith's founder. They're incredulous (or so they seem) that some Muslims take exception to the characterization by Christian writers of their faith as inherently violent. And, instead of making even a symbolic effort to grasp the implications of making light of Mohammad, these people stoke discord and hatred disguised as smugness of moral superiority and preservation of freedom of speech.

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO THEM? It occurred to me today that those who either bash Muslims or give mild assent to those who bash Muslims or the Islamic faith are not reflecting the instruction of Jesus Christ or Biblical Christianity. Jesus said, in one of his more basic and globally applicable imperatives: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Would we want to have people of Islamic faith caricaturizing Jesus Christ for political advantage or popular humor? And even if they did so, would that make it permissible, wise, or godly to return the insult? Clearly, not. Those who are disciples of Jesus Christ distinguish themselves by their attempt to reflect the spirit, words, and actions of Jesus instead of echoing those who try to pass themselves off as influential Christian leaders and advisors to the President.

YOUR MOSQUE, MY CHURCH. Several years ago (several years before 9/11), I attended a mosque in the Kansas City area for noon prayers as a guest. I was moved both by the apparent fervency of the faith of these Islamists and by the intensity with which their local imam spoke against the United States of America and Christians. I tried to reason with him after the prayers. The imam was courteous to me, but passed his preaching off as harmless. I disagreed, saying that if people took him seriously it could have dire consequences over time. I asked him to find justification for his words in the Koran (there isn't). I also told the imam that that if he attended my church as a guest, he would never hear that kind of diabribe or negative inferences to his faith.

TIME FOR REPENTANCE AND RECONCILIATION. I am afraid, however, that the imam might hear quite negative things about his faith from some church pulpits, classrooms and coffee hours today. Certainly, he can hear such from Christian and American news media. By some tragically-flawed twist of logic, some ministers and laity have decided that the Muslim faith itself is the problem inherent in 9/11. And they have chosen their own set of fear-borne reactions and theological paths in a "post-9/11 world" (I will have something to say about this phrase and concept later!), regardless of Jesus' clear instructions. But the fact that some Christians and so-called Christians have chosen to lash out at the Muslim faith does not make such words and posturing Christian at all. They are wrong and they are, according the the letter and spirit of the Word of God, sinning. It's time for those who are authentically Christian to recognize sewing discord, suspicion, fear, and hatred for what it is, confess it, repent of it, and begin a new way of thinking, speaking, planning, and reconciling--regardless of what those in the Muslim faith say or do.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

HILLY HUNDRED

I was reminded today why the Hilly Hundred draws thousands of riders to southern Indiana each year in October. Under clear skies and temps in the low sixties, we struggle together up steep hills and then literally sail down the roads and across the hilltops. The turning colors of the leaves are matched by the bright bikes, gear, riders' jerseys. I had as much fun today, at age 47, as I had when I started riding the Hilly over twenty years ago. Today's ride took us 50 miles through Owen and Morgan Counties. Climbs included "The Three Sisters," "Cemetery Hill," "Water Tower Hill," and "Neill Hill." Those sisters were really ugly.

Because I will not be available to ride the Sunday portion of the Hilly, I participated in the "Ride to the Ride" on Friday. Each year, about 70 riders gather at Shapiro's Deli in downtown Indy on Friday morning before the Hilly and ride the 67 miles to Ellettsville--host town to the Hilly. Because I had no support vehicle back, I rode with the group to Morgantown, then returned to Indy, about 63 miles in all.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

RIDING HIGH


The Hilly Hundred is this weekend and I'm anticipating the ride. It won't be with a mountain bike, but I'll strap a Cannondale road bike where my Raliegh MTB is perched atop the VW Beetle and head south to Morgan and Owen Counties for the Midwest's most fun group ride. Learn about the Hilly Hundred.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

GRACE

A brief ride in nearby Eagle Creek Park this morning moved me into renewed appreciation for the autumn season. Then, later in the morning, I came across this poem by Wendell Berry titled, simply, "Grace."

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking,
the way is the same. Be still. Be still.
"He moves your bones, and the way is clear."

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

RED SKY IN THE MORNING

This red sky presented itself around 8 am today near Eagle Creek Park. "Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." But, unusually, the day's weather did not turn bad as predicted. We had a great afternoon and evening.

Monday, October 2, 2006

A GANDHIAN WORLD ORDER?

On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh envisioned what the world might be like if India and South Africa took the lead in invoking the witness and principles of Mahatma Gandhi among nations. Singh is visiting South Africa for talks with South African leader Thambo Mbeki. Singh suggested India and South Africa lead the way into such a future.

FREE OF WAR, WANT AND EXPLOITATION. Reuters reports Singh's comments on Sunday: '"The best tribute we can make to Mahatma Gandhi is to remain steadfast in our commitment to build a world order free of war, want and exploitation,' Singh said after touring a house in Durban where Gandhi lived and worked in the early 20th century." Read the full article .

FRUIT AND FALLOUT. Before we dismiss Singh's vision as utopic and unrealistic, let us consider the unsatisfying fruit and fallout the current world order, led by the United States and European powers, is producing.

FREE DEMOCRACIES, GROWING ECONOMIES. Before we dismiss India and South Africa as able to establish an alternative world order, consider their emerging influence as two of the world's largest free democracies and growing economies. Did I mention these are also nuclear powers?

REGIME CHANGE WITHOUT WAR. Before we dismiss these second-tier nations as naive, consider their similar journies from rapacious colonialism, apartheid and human rights abuses as the hands of Western democracies via predominantly non-violent "regime change."

LAMENT OUR ARROGANCE AND PRIDE. Before we laugh, perhaps we should weep in lament over the kind of arrogance, pride, and consequent ignorance that would immediately dismiss India, South Africa, and the witness and work of Mahatma Gandhi as "naive" and "impractical" in the 21st century.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

IT CAN GET WORSE

Here's the structure around which I worked with the setting of Exodus 4-6 during our time with the Word at WEMO this morning. The context includes Moses' initial meetings with Pharaoh and Pharaoh's initial resistances to Moses' call to let the Israelites go free. I'm too tired this evening to flesh it all out again, but I hope to bring this skeleton into perspective and application over the next few days.

1. When you choose a future guided by faith, things can get worse. Exodus 4:29-31, 5:1-9

2. Abusive power does not yield without a fight. Exodus 5:10-18

3. There may be no immediately discernable point in the suffering you bear…only a Presence and a Promise. Exodus 5:19-23, 3:12

4. Inward struggles in the face of difficult outward circumstances can become significant obstacles to spiritual and social breakthrough. Exodus 6:9-12

What to do when your faith takes you from bad to worse:

  • Refocus on the promise.
  • Keep coming back to God.
  • Challenge your fears and doubts every way you can.
  • Be still and know...that God is God.

5. When God promises, the struggle will be worth it all. Exodus 6:1-8