Sunday, September 30, 2007

BEN DAVIS GIRLS WIN COUNTY TOURNEY

We watched a bit of local history in the making last evening.

The Lady Giants have come close before. As parents, we've been in the stands for the semi-final and final game several times, only to see our gals (including Abby and Molly) lose heartbreakers to the Brebeufs and North Centrals of the world.

Not this time. Not this year. Not on this night. Congratulations goes to a group angry, inspired girls who, even with two key starters out with injury, prevailed over 14th-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit to win the 2007 Marion County Tournament. This is the kind of victory money just can't buy...and bragging rights as the Best of Indianapolis for 12 months.

Here's how Indianapolis Star sports writer Michael Pointer reports it:


The Ben Davis girls team once included the player generally considered the best in the history of Indiana prep soccer.

But even when the Giants had Lauren Cheney -- now a standout at UCLA -- they never accomplished what they did Saturday night.

The Giants got two late first-half goals, then held off 14th-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit for a 3-1 victory in the Marion County championship game at North Central, giving Ben Davis its first county soccer title.

"We're a young team and we're pretty excited,'' senior defender Kate Richmond said. "At times, we're out of control. But when we put it all together, we're pretty good.''

For the Ben Davis girls (11-6), it was a day to remember. Only North Central (nine times) and Brebeuf (three) had won the tournament in the past 12 years.

Ben Davis coach Rob Irwin said the Giants were annoyed by media reports suggesting the bottom half of the tournament draw -- which included Ben Davis -- was weak. All three ranked teams in the field were in the top half, and suggestions started cropping up again that the tournament should be seeded instead of relying on a blind draw.

"We wanted it,'' Irwin said. "We had some motivation.''

Brebeuf's Bekah MacGregor drilled a shot off the crossbar just three minutes into the game, but then Ben Davis settled down.


Following a corner kick, the Giants' Cassandra Epley chased down a loose ball in the box and knocked it into the far left corner for a 1-0 lead with 5:34 left.

Ben Davis extended the lead with 23 seconds left in the half, when Bibiana Para lofted a high shot from just outside the penalty area that was out of the reach of Brebeuf goalkeeper Jackie Thompson.

Brebeuf (11-5) pushed the tempo in the second half and made things interesting when Emily Bowden scored with 5:54 remaining.

But Ben Davis' Adreinne Poe-Hinton dribbled down the left side and scored from about 10 yards out with just under one minute left, avoiding any drama.

Ben Davis advanced to the final with a 1-0 victory over Warren Central earlier Saturday. Brebeuf Jesuit beat No. 17 Lawrence North 3-2 in the semifinals.



The Lady Giants regular season concludes Monday evening as they play the state's #1-ranked team, Carmel. The Indiana High School Athletic Association State Soccer Tourney begins on the following Monday. Molly, who's nursing an ugly sprained ankle suffered in Wednesday night's Marion County tournament game (in which she scored the first goal), is hoping to be ready for Ben Davis' drive to a Sectional Championship.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Call for Restoration

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE OLIVET NAZARENE UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES

URGENCY AND TRUTH-TELLING. It's a bit unusual for me to post my correspondence on indybikehiker, but I feel like the situation at my college alma mater is urgent. It's the kind of travesty that thrives in secrecy and innuendo and suspicion, the kind that can only be resolved when the truth is brought out into the open and widely known. You can read previous posts regarding Random Designer to get more of the context. Here is the text of a letter I have mailed to the Olivet Nazarene University Board of Trustees:


Dear Trustees:

I am writing to request that ONU President John Bowling be directed by the Board of Trustees to immediately and fully restore Department of Biological Sciences Chair Richard Colling, Ph.D., to teach General Biology and to rescind the Presidential ban on Colling’s book Random Designer.

Please consider reasons for this urgent request:

1. Richard Colling, a distinguished scientist and member of the Church of the Nazarene, has said, done or published nothing in his teaching or writing that is at odds with either the letter or spirit of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. Dr. Colling is a son of the denomination and his belief and faith in orthodox Christianity is beyond doubt.

2. Dr. Colling, an alumnus and 23-year member of the faculty of Olivet Nazarene University, has demonstrated in his teaching and publishing the best principles and practices of biology and has integrated his personal Christian faith and Christian principles into his teaching and publishing in a way that brings integrity to both as well as honor to ONU. I consider it a privilege for one of my children to have been taught and influenced by Dr. Colling.

3. Colling’s teaching and writing provides a much-needed way forward amid the polarizing and untenable perspectives promoted by Fundamentalist voices in the important and ongoing discussion of the origins of life and humanity.

4. Colling's perspective and work is perhaps the best opportunity evangelicals have yet had to winningly address atheistic perspectives. The best science and scientists can--and do--easily dismiss theories of a literal six-days creation, so-called “creation science,” and “intelligent design.” These theories are dismissed not because of atheistic bias, but because they are just untenable in the most basic tests of good science. Colling’s “random designer” perspective honors both the reality and work of God as Creator and respects the undeniable truth that is observable in natural selection and adaptation.

5. Colling’s teaching and publishing represent an important bridge-building effort for scientists and Christians. Instead of questioning or undermining the reality of God or what is revealed of God and salvation through the Bible, Colling’s work makes proclaiming God’s work of redemption more relevant and winning. In contrast to Fundamentalism, Random Designer overcomes one of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian faith for anyone who respects science. Instead of denying an evolutionary process as something un-Godlike or unbiblical, Colling draws the processes of selection and adaptation into God’s loving intention and design for life and humanity. Using the best scientific truth available, Colling posits a Creator whose out-of-chaos creative action is greater, broader, and deeper than even the most imaginative and Spirit-inspired scribe, prophet or evangelist could describe in their best scenario-casting.

6. Instead of barring Colling from teaching and banning his book, by heralding his break-through work, ONU could lead other Christian universities in equipping their students, faculty, and alumni with information and perspective that not only stands up in test tube and with reason, but also co-opts the divisive, “us vs them” perspectives and methods of Fundamentalists.

7. Colling’s labor in this particular arena is an honest and careful pursuit of truth. Colling believes what the Scriptures proclaim, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” ONU students under his tutelage respect this not just as a spiritual principle but as a scientific one. Colling teaches students not to see spiritual truth and scientific truth as at odds, but as complementary, with science being the test tube that has, does, and shall in time verify and honor the living Word.

8. Colling should be restored to teaching and his book ban rescinded for the sake of the academic integrity as well as the theological and ecclesiastic integrity of ONU. The long-term impact of the actions taken by President Bowling may irreversibly diminish the school’s academic standing and the caliber of future faculty who apply and students who enroll. More importantly, if the barring/banning are permitted to stand, the theological distinctiveness and ecclesiastic identification of ONU is dramatically skewed if not lost amid the current wave of Fundamentalist influences. Perhaps this is not a point some Trustees care much about, but it is a matter of considerable concern among theologians, church historians, and those who study and teach Biblical literature in the Wesleyan-holiness stream. This barring/banning is perhaps the clearest evidence to date of what Nazarene church historian Paul Bassett, Ph.D., describes as “the Fundamentalist leavening of the holiness movement.” Once again, it appears that Wesleyan-holiness leaders are not only capitulating to Fundamentalist pressure, but doing so because they really don’t know, value, or are prepared to bear witness to their distinctive heritage and what it offers the world.

9. I can see that if a Trustee or members of the Church of the Nazarene accept the principles and practices of Fundamentalism, pressure would have been brought to bear upon Dr. Colling or upon President Bowling to discipline Dr. Colling. But if a Trustee or a member of the Church of the Nazarene embraces the principles and beliefs of Fundamentalism, they have gone beyond the parameters of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene and the very spirit and intention of the Wesleyan-holiness way. It seems to me that, given the benign and bridge-building nature of Random Designer and the truth-speaking of Dr. Colling, only those who embrace and act in the spirit of Fundamentalism, in contrast to the heritage of Wesleyan-holiness faith, would seek to silence him.

Please consider my request and my stated reasons for making it. I appeal to you to rise above fear and reaction and political expediency. The outcome of this situation certainly has a future trajectory in decisions and influence for many people.

Sincerely,

John Hay, Jr., D.Min.

Friday, September 28, 2007

WALKING WITH GRIEF

BEING WITH ONE ANOTHER. Yesterday, I drove 150 miles to South Bend, Indiana to be with a member of our community of faith at the funeral of her 89-year old mother. On Tuesday, I conducted a funeral in Speedway, Indiana for an 89-year old woman who had been cared for by a member of our community for many years. Being with people in grief and speaking to folks who are grieving the loss of a loved one is a sacred privilege. May I never take it lightly or for granted.

GRIEF IN LIFE. But grief is not just what is felt at the end of life. Grief is a part of living. We have many occasions for grieving and we have the opportunity and challenge of grieving well. Recognizing the stages of grief helps us as we grapple with losses, break-ups, changes, transitions, aging, despressing times, and sending children forth, to name but a few. I found the following piece, "Walking With Grief," in Celtic Daily Prayer. It helped me and I offer it to anyone who grieves.


Do not hurry
as you walk with grief;
it does not help the journey.

Walk slowly,
pausing often.
Do not hurry
as you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed
by memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive;
and let Christ speak for you
unspoken words.
Unfinished conversation
will be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one
who walks with grief.
If it is you,
be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive;
walk slowly,
pausing often.

Take time, be gentle
as you walk with grief.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

BURMA BURNING

Who would have thought
we'd see
Buddhist monks beaten
for democracy?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WAITING OUT A THUNDERSTORM

Last evening, clouds gathered over the north side of Indianapolis, heavy and dark. And just about the time a soccer match of the Marion County Tournament I had anticipated was to begin, the skies opened up and thunder rolled. The game was delayed for several hours. As I waited out the thunderstorm in my VW Beetle (I had to, I had responsibilities at the match), I eventually let go of anxiety over this mild interruption and "cooperated with the weather."



Driving rain comes in waves,
splattering windshield and roof
as an evening thunderstorm moves
eastward across the city.

Parking the car, I close my eyes
and tune in to its rhythms
now piano, now crescendo,
but ever a steady percussion.

My anxious wish for it to end
dissipates like drops rolling down
angled glass coated with Rain-X;
the delayed soccer match can wait.

Even distantly rolling thunder
conspires to relax my senses;
I cooperate with the weather
instead of cursing its timing.

This storm will eventually pass,
perhaps not in time to salvage
the match I so anticipated;
It can be readily rescheduled.


Post script: With rain falling intermittently, the match eventually got underway. It wasn't a winning night for the Pike High School Red Devils. They lost to the state's #1 team, Lawrence Central, with a lopsided 4-0 outcome. LC is playing heads above every team in the region right now. As good as Pike is, watching LC is poetry and grace.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ONSET OF AUTUMN

SEASON’S GLEANINGS. I love autumn. In celebration of it, I've have been looking for writings and poetry about the season. With school beginning in the first weeks of August, it seems like summer ends much sooner than at the autumnal equinox on September 23rd. After six weeks of our childrens’ school-related activities, late September feels like we are deep into the season instead of at its beginning. But here we are—at the onset of autumn. That’s what I tried to describe in the following poem. But, after all is said and written, descriptions of autumn pale in comparison to the lived experience.

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 its gift this fall day.

Monday, September 24, 2007

HAY GANG SOCCER SEASON UPDATE

TIGERS HANGING TOUGH. I had the opportunity to watch Abby (in photo) play soccer for Olivet Nazarene University again on Saturday. It's Abby's senior year, so I'm trying to take in every possible game. She's playing outside midfielder quite a bit since coming back from a mild knee injury at the beginning of the season. The Tigers are having a .750 season. They've dominated a number of teams and dropped close games to Chicago-area rivals. Abby's scored a handful of goals, contributes strong play and leads as a second-year captain. Abby turns 22 on Wednesday -- unbelievable!

COACH JARED HAY. I also got to watch Jared coach a high school team on Saturday. He's Head Coach for Grace Baptist Academy in Kankakee, Illinois. The boys won 3-0 in the game I attended in Grant Park. The boys are coming along well under Jared's tutelage. This is his first experience as a coach. It may not be a winning season, but both the boys and Jared are learning and growing thru the experience.

MOLLY & BEN DAVIS LADY GIANTS. This evening, Molly and the Ben Davis Lady Giants won their first-round game of the Marion County tournament, defeating Franklin Central, 3-1. Though they dominated play, the Giants were down 0-1 nearly two-thirds of the game before finally scoring and moving ahead. I 'bout had a heart attack. The team moves on to play Perry Meridian on Wednesday. We're hoping to cheer them on in the semi-finals and finals on Saturday.

SAM AT PIKE. Sam's JV Pike High School team has one game left in its season. I've watched Sam, a freshman, play the best soccer of his life during these past two months. He's developing into a solid defender and a creative play maker. The JV team is 9-2 with their final test coming up on Thursday. Good luck!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

WWJDWD: "WHAT WOULD JESUS DO WITH DARWIN?"
A follow-up to last week's post "Random Designer in the Hands of Reactionary People"

ONU BIOLOGY CHAIR BARRED, BOOK BANNED. Over the past few weeks, I have been paying attention to and reflecting some personal perspective on the treatment of Olivet Nazarene University Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences Rick Colling. Over the summer, ONU President John Bowling barred Colling from teaching the General Biology course and banned his book Random Designer (a thoughtful reflection on theistic evolution) from being assigned reading at ONU after the Chair of the ONU Board of Trustees, representing Fundamentalist perspective, influence, and antics, applied sufficient pressure.

FUNDAMENTALIST POWER. The smoldering story taking place at my alma mater was fanned into flame when a Newsweek column titled "Can God Love Darwin, Too?" made the story part of a larger national discussion. The public has been introduced to one more example of the power of Fundamentalism to trump good science in the name of God and the preservation of true faith. But the issue at ONU may be less about creation vs evolution and more about the power of a Fundamentalist to assert his will.

BRIDGE BUILDER. Having read Random Designer and finding it to be not only harmless theologically, but Colling's personal journey to be winning for both thoughtful but Fundamentalist-cornered Christians and God-doubting scientists, I heartily recommend the book. Squarely stating that God is the sole source of all creation with an intention for human intelligence and transcendent purpose, Colling demonstrates numerous ways in which natural selection and adaptation complement God's creative fiat.

IN COLLING'S OWN WORDS. Since the Newsweek article, Rick has been assailed with questions and his situation the topic of talk radio, bloggers and online and e-mail discussion groups. Rick has posted a personal response that is well worth reading. I find it insightful and important for anyone interested in this particular challenge and the broader issue of the increasing influence of Fundamentalism in evangelical and holiness faith traditions.

Here's the link to Rick Colling's response:
http://www.randomdesigner.com/ONU_Recent_Newsweek_Article.pdf

You can listen to Colling in a 2004 NPR interview at this link.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

WHAT IS FUNDAMENTALISM?

DETOUR FROM REASON? I know most reasonable people and forward-thinking Christians could care less about this topic and see the time I am making on bikehiker for this discussion may be rolling their eyes...but for the few of us who take faith seriously and have been beaten up by Fundamentalists and legalism in the past, this discussion is not so much a detour as a beckon toward a way through--and out--of Fundamentalism's oppressive spell.

AM I A FUNDAMENTALIST? The following information comes from the Religious Movements project at the University of Virginia. I share it here because a few responders have had a reaction to the term "Fundamentalist" as I have used it in reference to the ONU debacle. Apparently, folks don't like being labeled Fundamentalist. I know many folks within the Wesleyan-holiness tradition bristle at the association of their beliefs and practice with Fundamentalism. I know I don't consider myself to be a Fundamentalist--for reasons I will enumerate in a later post. Evangelicals and progressives may not like being associated with or as Fundamentalists, but if it walks like a duck and acts like a duck...

AGGRESSIVELY INTOLERANT OF OTHER PERSPECTIVES. I have asserted on the blog that holding a literal six-days view of creation to the exclusion of other theistic and biblical understandings and what is reasonably verifiable through the best scientific observations, and to act aggressively intolerant of other perspectives reflects the thought and behavior of a Fundamentalist. One reason for this is a Fundamentalist's view of the Bible as verbally inspired and, as such, completely inerrant. Those of us who understand Biblical inspiration from a plenary perspective and who embrace the Bible as authoritative and inerrant in all things necessary for salvation aren't threatened by truth seeking and scientific discovery that at first glance may appear to be odds with a Fundamentalist-limited view of all things Christian.

MORE THAN THE FIVE FUNDAMENTALS. So, maybe a little clarification is in order. What is Fundamentalism? Fundamentalism in the Christian context is not just holding certain litmus-test beliefs in an exclusive way, Fundamentalism is multi-dimensional--a broader system of belief and action in the world. It would be a mistake to think of Fundamentalism as monolithic or contained within certain Protestant denominations. The work of Martin Marty and Scott Appleby in The Fundamentalism Project yields the following insights:

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences funded a multiyear project that brought scholars from around the world together to study Fundamentalism. Ultimately they produced 5 volumes containing almost 8,000 pages of material.
Admitting some difficulty with the term, the project opts to use it anyway for a variety of reasons. Essentially, they argue that it is commonly accepted, here to stay, and the best term anyone can come up with for this phenomena. The last chapter of volume 1, Fundamentalisms Observed, discusses the "family resemblances" found in the various chapters. These family resemblances include:

1. religious idealism as basis for personal and communal identity;
2. fundamentalists understand truth to be revealed and unified;
3. it is intentionally scandalous, (similar to Lawrence's point about language -- outsiders cannot understand it);
4. fundamentalists envision themselves as part of a cosmic struggle;
5. they seize on historical moments and reinterpret them in light of this cosmic
struggle;
6. they demonize their opposition and are reactionary;
7. fundamentalists are selective in what parts of their tradition and heritage they
stress;
8. they are led by males;
9. they envy modernist cultural hegemony
10. and try to overturn the distribution of power.

The Fundamentalism Project enumerates several more of these "family resemblances" but most are represented in this abbreviated list. The last several chapters of the final volume, Fundamentalisms Comprehended, attempts to delineate several properties of Fundamentalism with the research of the previous 7,500 pages in mind. Appleby, Emmanuel Sivan, and Gabriel Almond list 5 ideological characteristics and 4 organizational characteristics of fundamentalism.

The Five ideological characteristics are:
1. fundamentalists are concerned "first" with the erosion of religion and its proper role in society;
2. fundamentalism is selective of their tradition and what part of modernity they accept or choose to react against;
3. they embrace some form of Manicheanism (dualism);
4. fundamentalists stress absolutism and inerrancy in their sources of revelation; and
5. they opt for some form of Millennialism or Messianism.

The organizational characteristics include:
1. an elect or chosen membership;
2. sharp group boundaries;
3. charismatic authoritarian leaders; and
4. mandated behavioral requirements.

Friday, September 21, 2007

WHY AM I HERE?

Charles Wesley would sing of us working--whatever it is we do in whomever's employ--as unto the Lord. His going-to-work songs put sacred context to coal mining and chimney sweeping. Mother Teresa would speak of each of us being Jesus' hands and feet. She would hold the open hand and point to the Gospel in five words on five fingers: "you did it to me." Mahatma Gandhi clearly saw, proclaimed, and lived the connection between good work and relationship to God and all things. Daily work and common toil is sanctified, also, in this piece from Hebridean Altars, quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community. Let it season and dignify whatever labor that is before us this day.

Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm,
I say to Thee, 'Lord, why am I here?
What is there here to stir my gifts to growth?
What great thing can I do for others -
I who am captive to this dreary toil?'

And seven times a day Thou answerest,
'I cannot do without thee.
Once did My Son live thy life,
and by His faithfulness did show My mind,
My kindness, and My truth to men.
But now He is come to My side,
and thou must take His place.'

Photo: Artistic Farming by Trude'

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A GOOD WORK

COMPASSION IN SOUTHEASTERN OHIO. It's been my privilege for the past few days to be a staff retreat facilitator and guest at Good Works, Inc. in southeastern Ohio. Located in Athens, Good Works, Inc. is, in their words, "a community of hope for those struggling with poverty in rural Appalachia. We provide biblical hospitality through The Timothy House (our shelter for the rural homeless), The Hannah House (our long term residential care-community; pictured here), job experience programs, creative volunteer service opportunities and community development ministries in the context of Christian Community."

WHAT WE DO EMERGES FROM WHO WE ARE. Good Works, Inc. was founded by Keith Wasserman, who, as a student at Ohio University, opened his basement to homeless neighbors. That was nearly 30 years ago. I met with 16 of more than 20 staff members who work with hurting, hoping folks in this area in a variety of empowering ways. Keith's motto, "what we do emerges from who we are," is reflected in his life and the nature and practices of this ministry. Well worthy of support in prayer and contributions. Also, a great place to learn and serve outside the city. A great internship possibility and they are currently looking for interns! Explore their website: http://www.good-works.net/.

Monday, September 17, 2007

STOP PROVIDING SERVICES

LISTEN UP: OFFER HOSPITALITY! Today, I happened onto a website that provides online audio of a workshop I conducted at the national Christian Community Development Association conference in 2005. Here's the link to the 75-minute workshop titled "Stop Providing Services: Recover the Practice of Hospitality." I ramble and stammer my way along in a presentation and issue I feel passion about.

JOURNEY TOWARD TRANSFORMATION. The workshop conveys my transition from rescue- and entitlement-based services to hospitality-focused compassion and offers principles and practices for this emerging transformational paradigm. This is the "guts" of my urban ministry journey to this point. It includes influences of John McKnight, Parker Palmer, Henri Nouwen, and Christine Pohl. Too bad the site doesn't include the slides I was showing as part of the learning experience, but thanks to Urban Ministry (http://www.urbanministry.org/) for putting the audio online.

CONTINUUM OF COMPASSION. In the workshop, I share my "Continuum of Compassion" model, which is the foundation of my Doctor of Ministry dissertation and novel, The Other Side of Compassion (being shopped for a publisher; interested?). It demonstrates the likeness, differences, etc. between three approaches to compassionate care: rescuing, providing services, and offering hospitality. It's in the "stages of faith" rubric. I'd be happy to send an electronic copy of "Continuum of Compassion" model to anyone who's interested - contact me at bikehiker@yahoo.com.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just You

JUST YOU

This is a blessing from Celtic Daily Prayer, a resource from the Northumbria Community I picked up at the Renovare conference I participated in Friday evening and Saturday in Indianapolis. This event, featuring Richard Foster, Juanita Rasmus of St. Paul's UMC of Houston (I've got to see this church in which a third of the 9,000 participants are homeless or formerly homeless neighbors!), and Chris Webb was partly sponsored by the Indianapolis Center for Congregations (thanks, Brent Bill & company). I find in the Renovare initiative much that resonates with my own journey and hopes for the future of the church.

In light of the Random Designer posting and comments, this blessing is well within its purview.

You are not an accident.
Even at the moment of your conception,
out of many possibilities
only certain cells combined,
survived, grew to be you.
You are unique.
You were created for a purpose.
God loves you.

PSALM 8

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

New International Version

Saturday, September 15, 2007

RANDOM DESIGNER IN THE HANDS OF REACTIONARY PEOPLE

My Alma Mater, Olivet Nazarene University, is in the news after President John Bowling barred Deparment of Biological Sciences Chair Rick Colling from teaching an introductory biology class and banned his three-year old book, Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator (a thoughtful reflection on theistic evolution) from being assigned by any ONU teacher.

The issue is partly described in a current Newsweek column by Sharon Begley titled "Can God Love Darwin, Too?" Begley frames the issue well, it seems, but she doesn't get it completely right. She paints the picture of President Bowling making his barring/banning decisions in order to protect or take pressure off of Colling. But the issue, from Rick Colling's perspective in a recent blog posting on "Higgaion," is not that Bowling's decision was made to take the heat off of Colling, but to take the pressure off of Bowling and his efforts to raise money in a major funds campaign for the university.

I write about this, first, because I have two children who are students at Olivet Nazarene University. Second, because I am an alumnus of ONU. Third, because I am an evangelical Christian minister in the holiness tradition which is once again being threatened and co-opted by Fundamentalist agendas and conservative political power plays. Fourth, because I know at least one of the ONU Trustees who has made this an issue and he is not a person I consider to have integrity.

I have read Random Designer and find in it nothing for alarm or reaction. On the contrary, Colling is in solid company with scientists who are also Christian but who are unwilling for the sake of scientific and Christian integrity to let the Bible be turned into a proof-text for "scientific creationism," on the one hand, and unwilling to leave God's creative intention and design out of observable processes of natural selection or adaptation, on the other. In Random Designer, Colling is trying to offer a gracious bridge for thoughtful people of Biblical faith who also value scientific integrity and do not believe the two are exclusive.

But then come reactionary people. These Fundamentalists (in a wide variety of denominatonal and nondenominational clothing) are sure they know more, know better, and see in any deviation from their narrow, defensive perspective within what they thought were "their universities" a threat to the very core of Christian testimony. These people are out to defend God from any deviants within Christianity by condeming the deviants and their deviations. They cull out "evolutionist sympathizers." They are sure there is no such thing as natural selection. They are sure organisms never adapt in progressive or complementary ways. They are sure God is not big enough to create or imaginatively design in such a grand way. They are sure that the human species is less than 10,000 years old. They are sure all data to the contrary is distorted and not credible. They are sure that if you think--or teach--otherwise, the church--and perhaps your very soul--is in eternal peril.

And they are, simply, wrong--wrong with the facts and wrong with their intentions and wrong with their re-actions. And now they have the president of a Christian liberal arts university squirming under their thumb, caving to their religious prejudice, and moving the university under his momentary guidance further in the direction of Fundamentalism.

I suppose if Bowling is looking for money from the pockets of Fundamentalist-leaning donors, he'll save his funding campaign. But if he's looking for resources and support from those of us who think of faith and science more comprehensively, his decision to censure Colling and ban his book helps us make decisions about our relationship with ONU, too.

No doubt, Colling's job is on the line. Perhaps Bowling's job is on the line. Unfortunately, Olivet's future is in the balance, too. But there are larger issues than jobs and reputations. There are matters of truth and principle and integrity.

As this is a developing story, I may write more later.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

FOR SELF-ABSORBED PEOPLE: A PRAYER

JOGGING THE MIND AND HEART. I'd run across this before, but Rick Shelton passed this along via e-mail today. He labeled it "the best prayer I've read in a long time." I'll reassign a title: "A prayer for self-absorbed people." Not sure that's the right wording, for it is not calling us to pray for self-absorbed people. Certainly, these need--I need--prayer! But this is a prayer a self-absorbed person can pray and the very utterance can trigger a remembrance of forgotten or unheeded realities about many people we encounter and misjudge, label, and dismiss every day.

Heavenly Father,

Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in
traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day
and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry
and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man
who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college
student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of
not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the
same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to
addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares .

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through
the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this
moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last
week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together .

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us,
the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with
those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to
us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive,
show patience, empathy and love.

Amen

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

WHAT BREAKS MY HEART?

The loss of 3,000 American lives
on September 11, 2001
breaks my heart.

Let the bell toll.

But does the loss of 71,000-78,000
civilian lives in Iraq

since America's military invaded that nation
four years ago
also break my heart?

Toll the bell again...

again...

again...

again...
LOOK OUT... THEN, GO OUT

This poem by Wendell Berry challenges me on a day like today--the sixth anniversary of 9/11. "Look Out" is from Berry's most recent collection of poems, Given (Shoemaker, Hoard, Washington, D.C., 2005). This is what Wendell Berry sees outside his Port Royal, Kentucky farmhouse:

Come to the window, look out, and see
the valley turning green in remembrance
of all springs past and to come, the woods
perfecting with immortal patience
the leaves that are the work of all of time,
the sycamore whose white limbs shed
the history of a man's life with their old bark,
the river quivering under the morning's breath
like the touched skin of a horse, and you will see
also the shadow cast upon it by fire, the war
that lights its way by burning the earth.

Come to your windows, people of the world,
look out at whatever you see wherever you are,
and you will see dancing upon it that shadow.
You will see that your place, wherever it is,
your house, your garden, your shop, your forest, your farm,
bears the shadow of its destruction by war
which is the economy of greed which is plunder
which is the economy of wrath which is fire.
The Lords of War sell the earth to buy fire,
they sell the water and air of life to buy fire.
They are little men grown great by willingness
to drive whatever exists into its perfect absence.
Their intention to destroy any place is solidly founded
upon their willingness to destroy every place.

Every household of the world is at their mercy,
the households of the farmer and the otter and the owl
are at their mercy. They have no mercy.
Having hate, they can have no mercy.
Their greed is the hatred of mercy.
Their pockets jingle with the small change of the poor.
Their power is the willingness to destroy
everything for knowledge which is money
which is power which is victory
which is ashes sown by the wind.

Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.

WHAT DO I SEE? When I look out my window, do I see far enough--deeply enough, broadly enough--to perceive this? And if or when I perceive such, am I caring or daring enough to leave my window and go out and say "no" to the Lords of War--to Money and Fire--and "yes" to life? Or do I just stand and stare, or turn away and hope someone else will take care of it?

Monday, September 10, 2007

NONETHELESS, LOVING OUR ENEMIES

"In a time such as this, when we have been seriously and most cruelly hurt by those who hate us, and when we must consider ourselves to be gravely threatened by those same people, it is hard to speak of the ways of peace and to remember that Christ enjoined us to love our enemies, but this is no less necessary for being difficult."

-- Wendell Berry, 2001

Sunday, September 9, 2007

REVISITED: A LETTER TO MY CHILDREN 3 DAYS AFTER 9/11

SIX YEARS AGO AND TODAY. Six years ago, on September 14, I wrote this letter to our four children (with Becky in this autumn 2001 photo taken in Brown County State Park). I came across it this afternoon. I see in it the seeds of my developing thoughts, feelings, words and actions over the past six years regarding the Islamic terrorism and the numerous destructive reactions the American government has made. While this letter is clearly a dissent against overwhelming political power, it is also an honest declaration of confidence and hope in faith-based alternatives to violent retaliation as a way forward in our world. Here's the letter:

Friday, September 14, 2001

Abby, Jared, Molly, and Sam:

I want to tell you my feelings and responses to the World Trade Center tragedy, the terrorism that caused it, and our nation’s responses. So much has happened so quickly, things too big for rational minds and hearts to handle alone and in so short a time.

This is the most grave and awesome thing that has occurred in my lifetime. Nothing compares to it. It stretches my senses and challenges what I believe about humanity, evil, good, God, hope, our nation, and the world. It tests my faith and causes me to search my heart. Someday you will better understand what I am trying to express.

In one sense, the scenes and replays on TV are distant. They seem like an unreal video game. Our family was not harmed, our community was not attacked; we know no one whose life was taken in New York City or Washington, D.C. The events occurred in other parts of our country and it appears that we are safe.

In another sense, this tragedy comes very close to home. It makes many Americans feel vulnerable to terrorism here in our own land. Because of it, a lot of safety and security measures will begin. And, because of it, the United States may likely take military action intended to try to prevent it from happening again.

I have felt fragile since the tragedy, many times this week at the point of tears. I tell myself it is over, that it is distant, and that we need to get on with our normal lives. But I have this lump in my throat and pain in my heart. I hurt for those people who lost loved ones and friends. It is so sad and so senseless.

I am also feeling anger about the tragedy. I feel anger at the terrorists and people who provide a place for them to plan and train for their destructive schemes. Anger is a natural and powerful emotion at such terrible acts that snuff out life—whether one or many. Anger, however, need not be vented as aggression or rage or destruction.

It may sound strange, but at the same time I am also feeling love for the terrorists. For all their meanness and despicable actions, I believe they are still loved by God. My faith leads me to this feeling. These must be desperately hurting and angry people to have done something like this. Perhaps it is their own outrage at their own losses, or the loss of people whom they love, that has driven and twisted them.

I do not know why they did this, or why they hate as it appears they do. But I believe that God loves them as God loves each of us. And I know that the Scriptures speak of a Spirit of love that overcomes hate and makes possible a love for one’s enemies. Romans 12:17-21 challenges me: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Do not take revenge…but leave room for God’s wrath. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

You have seen and heard President Bush and our national leaders call for war against terrorism and vow to retaliate against these terrorists and the governments that harbor them. I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, to act to prevent further acts of terrorism on our soil seems reasonable. So does seeking out and bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice. On the other hand, to lash out broadly in vengeance with the destruction of lives is contrary to my sense of the Scriptures and of Christianity. And I have reminded myself this week that I am a Christian first and an American second.

I do not believe war is justified simply because leaders call for it or because such a crime has been committed. There are other strong but peaceful ways to see justice prevail. “Seek peace and pursue it” is the prevailing guidance of the Scriptures. Perhaps there are rare situations in which peaceful methods cannot bring resolution to international conflicts. But most often peaceful measures—including sincerely seeking to understand our enemies’ pain and changing our own agitating behaviors—are not given a fair chance.

I am also feeling somewhat afraid in the wake of the tragedies in New York City and Washington, D.C. Fear, too, is a natural response to such attacks. But I am taking my fear to God in prayer. I am reminding myself of the constant call of the Word of God: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you.” I have found comfort and hope in Psalm 46 this week. Also in hymns like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” In your times of fear, I hope you will find these helpful to you, too.

I just wanted you to know my feelings and responses to this tragedy. It is sometimes hard to talk about these things and our feelings about them, but it is important to me to try to convey my feelings and thoughts to you. I do so because I love you very much. I hope for the very best for you and for your futures.

Love,

Dad

Friday, September 7, 2007

A FRIEND, INDEED

“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -- Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

WE HAVE WHAT BELONGS TO OTHERS

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

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

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

Monday, September 3, 2007

LABOR DAY

END OF MY IMPOSED INACTIVITY. I'm grateful for Labor Day, especially this year. It not only signals the end of summer, but it signals for me the end of limited physical activity. I haven't been officially released by the neuro-surgical or orthopedic people, but I'm feeling strong and relatively pain-free. I'm down to a few Tylenol a day, if that. I've tried to cooperate with the imposition of physical limits for these months, but it seems natural to want to reengage and be active. I think that's part of the healing process.

SUMMER'S-END GIFT. Labor Day is like a gift at the end of summer. It's either a catch-up day or one last hurrah. I caught up on a few back-logged chores, ran errands, and rode my bike through Eagle Creek Park. Becky worked in the yard and read (in the photo, reading on our back porch). After dark, we gathered with Molly and Sam around the fire pit for a few minutes together. Tomorrow, things get back to normal. I'm thankful for this one day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

THORN-IN-THE-FLESH FAITH

UNDER HIS SKIN. Whatever got under Paul's skin, albeit unwelcome and defining, it served him well. His "thorn in the flesh" kept him from becoming, as he puts it in 2 Corinthians 12, "conceited." He'd seen great visions, done great things, had mind-boggling experiences--the kind of stuff that would alter anyone's ego. Counter-balancing his spiritual insights and capacity for prophetic boldness is a tormenting thorn in the flesh. It's either unrelenting or cyclically returning to buffet him.

WHEN YOU CAN'T PRAY IT AWAY. Paul can't pray it away. Persistent, prevailing prayer--"three times I prayed for it to be taken away"--doesn't bring relief. "God, what are you trying to do to me?" he might well have pleaded. "What are you trying to prove by this suffering?" The response he receives from the Lord, ready or not, is profound: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Oh, that. Not the response Paul was looking for, but what he needed nonetheless.

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS? This is likely the greatest insight Paul ever received. It was at least more useful in this life for him--and for us--than whatever it was that he saw and heard in the third heaven--whatever that is. Grace sufficient amid thorn-in-the-flesh torment: that's the promise. Weakness--so un-American, so dependency-oriented: that's the context of being buoyed by God's strength and making it our own. In light of this insight, Paul decided, instead of hiding his weaknesses, to glory in them. "When I am weak," he concluded, "then I am strong." What kind of spiritual formation is this?

Here's some insight my fresh contemplation of this ancient scripture yielded:

1. Don’t seek or glorify suffering. Suffering in and of itself is not “meritorious,” nor is there spiritual value in bearing self-inflicted wounds, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or social. Suffering will come soon enough, don't go running after it.

2. When relief or deliverance of an unwelcome affliction doesn’t readily come through earnest prayer, explore the ways God’s grace is being provided through it all. Resist those "if you had enough faith" TV preachers. Tune out Job's friends. Instead of seeking the "why me?" answers, focus on the daily sustaining strength that is, against all odds, freely given.

3. Instead of always playing to your natural as well as spiritual strengths and hiding your weaknesses, create a space in your heart in which acknowledged weaknesses can build greater dependence on God and necessity of trust in God. I'll always put my best foot forward and look for the positive aspects of life, but I no longer deny my downsides, my baggage, my weaknesses. Neither do I trumpet them. But, acknowledging my weaknesses before God, I open a place for grace to address and heal.

4. Actively and creatively look for ways to serve God in the midst of “thorn-in-the-flesh” suffering as one way to grow in faith and glorify God. I'm thinking of Mother Teresa's 50-year experience of divine absence, all the while serving in light of the vision she received, the call she accepted, and the people she knew Jesus loved. If a thorn in our flesh immobilizes us, it accomplishes its underhanded purpose. If we choose to serve faithfully through it, however diminished or fragile we may be, a breakthrough beyond our ability to see or understand is made possible.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

SOCCER SEASONS IN FULL SWING

MIC CONFERENCE COMPETITION. Of our four kids involved in soccer this fall, I've thus far only taken photos of Molly. I just happened to remember to pull my camera out of the Beetle for Saturday's games versus Terra Haute North and Terra Haute South. Ben Davis girls won both games rather handily. "It was boring," Molly moaned after the game. Most other Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (MIC) games aren't easy, however, with the likes of Carmel, Center Grove, North Central, Lawrence North and Warren Central on the schedule. The Lady Giants have dropped close games to Center Grove and Lawrence North. They have opportunities for winning some tough conference games coming up in the next two weeks and in the Marion County Tournament.



MOLLY AT MIDFIELD. Molly's doing a great job as an outside midfielder for the Lady Giants. To her usual strength as a combative defender, she's showing strong ability to move the ball up field and set up scoring opportunities. This is her third year to start for Ben Davis High School. The soul of the team is made up of group of well-trained juniors and they are coming into their own. If the defensive positions can be strengthened throughout the season, they might make a good run in the IHSAA State Tourney or look to be strong contender next year.

ON THE GO, HERE AND THERE. I'll hope to get some pictures of Sam and Abby this week and then one of Jared coaching at Grace Baptist in Kankakee, Illinois in a few weeks. The local high school games have us on the run four nights a week--Molly on Mondays and Wednesdays, Sam on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Friday afternoon, I drove the Bug to Fort Wayne to watch Olivet Nazarene University play Indiana Institute of Technology; Abby did not play because of injury, but has been cleared to play for the Lady Tigers at Grace College and Spring Arbor University this week.

PARENTS IN THE STANDS. There is no sporting event so great or important as the one your own child happens to be engaged in. Hang ESPN and whatever professional sports happen to be "must see." When Abby, Jared, Molly or Sam are in the line-up, that's where I'll try to be. Becky and I, one or the other, or both, try to attend every sporting event--and choir concert and academic event, etc.--possible. It is a privilege to support each of our children in this as well as in other ways. I don't exactly know what it's like to be on the field with your parent in the stands rooting for you, but it just seems like the right thing to do.

MAKE A WAY. We're grateful to have flexible enough schedules and the capacities to support our children in their in-school and after-school pursuits. I know that this is not possible or optional for many parents. I challenge every employer to make it possible for your employees to support their children in their in-school and after-school academic and athletic pursuits. I can make a case for a better bottom line not only for your organization, but for the community and world. The cost of missed opportunities for encouraging and supporting is too high.