Monday, May 31, 2010

WHITE RIVER STATE PARK


Unlike any other state park I know of, White River State Park borders downtown Indianapolis and is one of the great green urban spaces in America.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD

The song written for our 1981 wedding by Mildred "Mickie" Cope

Mildred "Mickie" Cope was for a generation the principal pianist at Westside Church of the Nazarene in Indianapolis.  She wrote published hymns such as "Holy Spirit, Be My Guide."  She penned this song for us and we sang it together in our wedding on May 30, 1981...29 years ago today.  Mickie died two years go.

From this day forward we two shall be as one
From this day forward with our new life begun
We'll trust our Father to guide us through each day
To give us wisdom and help us on our way

Our love shall deepen as we walk hand in hand
Through joy or sorrow and we shall understand
That in His goodness He will supply our needs
He'll walk before us as He gently leads

From this day forward our hopes and dreams we'll share
From this forward we'll work, we'll plan, we'll share
And to each other our true love we will give
And keep on loving so long as we shall live


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I COULD GIVE ALL TO TIME

I post this Robert Frost poem on my 51st birthday with gratitude for the time I've been given


The poetry of Robert Frost continues to fascinate me.  This poem seems perhaps pertinent to one who is turning another year older (me!).  Interesting perspective on time.  A contrast between "kairos" and "chronos."  Thankful for "what I myself have held."

To Time it never seems that he is brave
To set himself against the peaks of snow
To lay them level with the running wave,
Nor is he overjoyed when they lie low,
But only grave, contemplative and grave.

What now is inland shall be ocean isle,
Then eddies playing round a sunken reef
Like the curl at the corner of a smile;
And I could share Time's lack of joy or grief
At such a planetary change of style.

I could give all to Time except--except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The things forbidden that while the Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There,
And what I would not part with I have kept.



In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GATED KINGDOM?

What relationship do gated communities have with Christians and the church in mission to the world?

LOGIC OF FEAR.  Every day, I pass by “Bay Landing,” a gated residential community.  Its presence in Indianapolis both puzzles me and disturbs me.  Actually, it irks me.  What arrogance is at work to make such a place sellable in our county?  What presuppositions and logic have taken hold of citizens that they feel such an enclave necessary and justifiable?  It is the logic of fear and the presupposition of entitlement.

CHRISTIANS BEHIND GATES?  The other day, I saw that one of the cars waiting for the gates of “Bay Landing” to open had a Christian bumper sticker.  Imagine that: a Christian living in a gated community!  Justify that with the Scriptures or Spirit of Christ!  I wonder: have these souls exchanged the only gates within which they will ever be secure for mere iron gates?

GATED LIVING.  Of course, physical gates are not the only kind of "gated living" that commonly occurs in American society.  Sheer geographic distance from "social problems" is as effective a gate as anything an ironsmith could craft. Everything that isolates and insulates from the common life of the community is a gate.  The church itself can not only be complicit in gated living, but in some cases may well exist as one of the very gates that insulate and distance its participants from complex challenges, uncomfortable social situations, and polarizing political deliberation.

HABITS THAT REVEAL THE HEART.  Robert N. Bellah, acclaimed sociologist noted for Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, describes circle-the-wagons behavior of affluent Americans (and American Christians, in particular) in light of the prophetic vision of the Kingdom of God.  Bellah, himself a Christian, throws down a challenge for the church--both as a community and as individuals making decisions and enacting behaviors that reflect which spirit and community they really belong to:

MODERN GNOSTICS.  "The attempted secession of our affluent classes into gated and guarded residential communities supposedly safe from the crumbling society around them is one expression of the Gnostic mentality.  In such a situation it is not easy to be the church, not easy for Christians of any vocation, and I suspect especially not easy for ministers."

ALTERNATIVE TO GATED COMMUNITIES.  "While we certainly cannot claim to have all the answers to enormous social and individual problems that confront us in America and the world, if it is true that the Kingdom of God is already among us, we can, through the renewal of our own religious communities, offer to the world what it desperately needs."

THE RETREATING CHURCH.  In other words, Christians living in gated residential communities are what can happen when the church fails to be and convey a healing, welcoming, inclusive community.  I wonder: has the church become only tepid "safe ground" to which fear-filled, suspicion-riddled, and prejudice-poisoned citizens venture from their cloistered circles for a few hours a week?  If so, this expression of the church is completely contrary to the Biblical church and Biblical faith.

SANCTIFIERS OF STATUS QUO.  In the name of preserving Biblical principles, I wonder if many "Bible believing" churches have inadvertently become bastions of fearful retreat and sanctifiers of material status quo.  Have they focused on their self-defined Fundamentals instead of the Kingdom of God?  Have they pandered to the fears of their upwardly-mobile faithful instead of challenging all to incarnate the life of Christ in the world?  In such churches, nothing ever need be spoken of these fears for them yet to be a prevailing force that draws people together.  In the name of Christian fellowship, fear and prejudice can hold sway.

AN INCARNATIONAL RESPONSE.  By contrast, a prophetic community calls people to cross borders courageously and exemplify within its fellowship the embrace and transformative power of Christ for all.  It believes that transformation of society begins with an embrace of diverse persons whose only common bond may be the grace of Jesus Christ.  It seeks to understand the diversity, complexity, and challenges of its participants at personal and communal levels in light of larger social issues and the Biblical call to the beloved community.  It posits an incarnational response--one that dares to embody the love of Jesus over against responses dominated by fear, suspicion and locked gates.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

PENTECOST

A poem I penned for Christian Pentecost


How shall we celebrate
this occasion called Pentecost,
when the Holy Spirit poured out
upon the church?

Shall we decorate it
with props and pageants
and trinkets and trivia?

Shall we pine for the past,
longing to have experienced
its original wonders?

Shall we yearn for tomorrow,
praying to reproduce
its manifestations?

Shall we sing ourselves into
a frenzy and call our delirium
Spirit baptism?

Shall we preach Holy Spirit
doctrine until we think
more orthodoxly?

How shall we celebrate
this day on which the Spirit
of truth descended?

Let us celebrate
with open hearts,
with God-hungry and yielded lives,
with expectation of the unexpected
and surprising grace
which challenges our choices
and turns our world
upside down.


Graphic is "Pentecost: Fire and Breath" by Jan Richardson from "The Painted Prayerbook"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

COMMUNITY AS MISSION

Recognizing and encouraging community has become central to my sense of being

I crafted a personal mission statement at the end of a 3-day personal retreat at a convent in Independence, Missouri in October 1993.  I stated the following regarding my interest in and commitment to community:

"I value my relationships with persons in community in all kinds of settings. I seek to encourage genuine community, confident that it is a key to the transformation of relationships and institutions."

Initially, this attraction to community and sense of community grew out of my reading and fledgling experiences of it.  I was initially drawn to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's and Henri Nouwen's descriptions of community in faith community contexts.  Then, I was drawn to Parker Palmer and M. Scott Peck's descriptions of community in wider, so-called "secular" and public arenas.  I was also privileged to be part of a community-building workshop led by M. Scott Peck.  Later, I was drawn to a community-based way of problem solving in the heart of the city.

Sixteen years after stating my mission regarding community, this continues to be at the core of my sense of being and mission.  In fact, it seems that as I have made room for community in my soul's day-by-day development, community has become mission.  Not so much something that I consciously seek to convert people to or can create, orchestrate or manage, but something I recognize, move toward, celebrate and thrive in.

Just this morning, I enjoyed a rich conversation at an urban watering hole with people whom I never would have talked to--because of fear, suspicion, religious-based narrow-mindedness, ideology, and pride--in my early twenties.  Now, I count a diverse and growing cross-section of interesting people as my friends.  I continue to be enriched and challenged by community connections I never imagined.

I am amazed at--and grateful for--the diversity of people and relationships in different settings.  I value these and believe my life is fuller and more challenged by them.

I am convinced this is result of grace, a means of grace, and an intention of grace.

My initial fears that I would be "polluted by the world" by having contact with people outside the walls of the church were unfounded.  Instead, my sense of relationship with God and with my neighbors has deepened and broadened.  I have not felt compelled to jettison my moral and ethical standards or compromise my personal convictions.  On the contrary, many of the people I have been privileged to encounter have raised and broadened my understanding of social ethics, responsibilities and possibilities.  Without realizing it, these relationships and the diversity of perspectives has served to sharpen my understanding, focus and power of my Christian faith and caused me to rely on faith more than ever.

I want to contemplate this realization more fully, but for now I simply offer thanks to God and to all for the privilege of experiencing the richness of community in a variety of ways and settings.  Community, to me, is essential to becoming and being fully alive, fully human, fully God-like, fully present and fully future-focused.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to po They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

HEAVEN'S BOTTOM RUNG

A 2006 "Sabbaths" poem of Wendell Berry from his collection "Leavings"

If there are a "chosen few"
then I am not one of them,
if an "elect" well then
I have not been elected.
I am one who is knocking
at the door. I am one whose foot
is on the bottom rung.
But I know that Heaven's
bottom rung is Heaven
though the ladder is standing
on the earth where I work
by day and at night sleep
with my head upon a stone.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A PICTURE OF GRADUATION


Everybody in the Hay family but Sam (he had to work) the evening before Jared's graduation at Olivet Nazarene University on May 8, 2010.  BTW, Alex (on the right) is Abby's (third from left) husband. He grew his hair long to donate to "Locks of Love." The next weekend, Abby cut his hair, leaving two 10-inch ponytails to send to someone in need.

Monday, May 17, 2010

APPROACHING PENTECOST

Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday: How will you approach it?

Imagine the sense of things among Jesus' beleaguered followers in the week leading up to the annual celebration of Pentecost in Jerusalem all those years ago   (suggested reading: Acts 1-2)...

 

Out of sheer obedience and
with more than a little
anxiety they gather
in an upper room,
their journey at a
crossroads.

The Teacher gone, would
his future be up to
the likes of them--
deserters, deniers, clamorers for
privileged places?

Guilt and anxiety pervade their
sacred assembly;
they can hardly believe it
comes down to them,
down to this.

Perhaps for not being able to bear
looking squarely at each other,
they bow in prayer.
Only then do they begin
to see.

Whatever it holds,
whatever it promises,
Pentecost can only be approached
on our knees.
The future, the vision,
the power, the passion
cannot otherwise
be known.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A MASTER OF SCIENCE


Abby (left) graduated Master of Science in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas on Saturday, May 15 in Overland Park, Kansas.  Yea!  I figure that with 2/3 of Americans struggling with overeating and 2/3 of the world malnourished, she's got her work cut out for her.  Don't think she won't try to change the world!  Pictured with Abby is our 19-year old daughter Molly, who just completed her freshman year at Indiana University in Bloomington.  Onward, forward...

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

RESISTING OR EMBRACING CHANGE

Recently, I found some solace and guidance in this little piece by W. H. Auden


"We would rather be ruined than changed,
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”

I recognize the constancy and importance of change.  At the same time, I usually resist it--initially, at least.  I am not one to change easily.  But even more than changing work or situation, I resist being changed.  One is an outward challenge; the other is an inward work.  Outward change is too-often opted for over change that is inward, particularly when inward change is what is most needed.  But sometimes change of situation and inward change go together, as if calling to one another.  But as much as I dread change, as Auden puts it, I am willing to "climb the cross of the moment" and dare to let my "illusions die."

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ROUTINE AND REPENTANCE

How often should we repent? As often as it takes to come 'round right

Repentance should be routine,
though never a routine
or repetitious.

I realize I have been wrong
at least several times a day.
It's pretty humbling, but
recognition can break
deadly denial.

If I am to be a whole person
then repentance will be
an honest response
to error and pride when
it is duly revealed.

When I repent I am free
of the guilt that badgered me,
the pride that gripped me,
the fear that stifled me,
the error that nagged me,
the conflict that crossed me.

I have been wrong
while being quite correct.
Bearing matters,
approach matters,
attitude matters.

Repentance is turning around.
If it takes going back,
then I must go back.
If it takes changing course,
then I must go another way.

Repentance is critical for
reconciliation and relationship,
even if I am the only one
in a circle of companions
who sees it and does it.

After repentance
I see more clearly
what God thought
possible in and among us
in the first place.

"To turn, turn,
will be our delight,
'til by turning, turning,
we come 'round right."

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

A GRACIOUS WOMAN

Jackie Logue made me slow down and listen to her perspective of the city, faith and life

I just returned from the funeral of a gracious woman who lived her entire earthly life in the heart of West Indianapolis. Jacqueline Logue was a cancer survivor of over 25 years and seemed to me to have 9 lives.  The strong chemotherapy she underwent a quarter-century ago took care of post-surgical cancer, but also affected many other organs.  As I was her pastor for six years, Jackie was in and out of the hospital more than anyone I've served over the years.  Finally, at age 81, her pain and extended suffering ended and she is at rest.

Pastoral visits to Jackie were an ordeal.  Typically, I prefer brief visits with parishioners.  But Jackie seemed to require, if not demand, long visits.  I am fast-paced; Jackie was slow-paced and deliberate.  When I visited Jackie, I deferred to her pace.  She would ask every possible question in a labored manner.  She wanted to know details about what was going on with the church.  She rehearsed stories from the congregation's past.  Her questions and comments reflected perspective from a life of loving service in a congregation she no longer was able to be present to weekly.  She inquired about my family.  She told me all about her family. She wanted to talk a little theology. She shared her opinions with me.  And always, waiting at the end of every visit would be the ritual writing of the tithe check, which I would bear to the church treasurer.

One of the things Jackie always talked about how the neighborhood she'd grown up in and still lived in had changed.  She lived just a few blocks from the church.  When she was a girl,  West Indianapolis was the edge of the city.  Now, 70-some years later, it's urban core--with all the changes and challenges that go with it.  While many of the neighbors she grew up with and attended church with had moved to the suburbs 30 years ago, she and her family had stayed put.  It helped me to gain perspective from one who lived in and loved and stuck with an urban neighborhood and church--for good or for ill--over a lifetime.

When I began serving as pastor of the church in 2003, the first funeral I conducted was for her husband, Chuck.  After she sold winter property they shared in Florida, she wanted part of the proceeds of the sale to be used to restore the carillon bells that once rang across the West Indianapolis neighborhood from the church's bell tower.  Today, the bells peal Christian songs for ten minutes every hour on the hour for many in the community to hear.

I'm glad I got to know Jackie and have had a bit part in her life, even if in the last earthly chapter of it.  I am blessed to share the role of a pastor in the lives of numerous saints.  It is one of the highest privileges in an ordained clergy's life.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Monday, May 10, 2010

HE'S A COLLEGE GRAD...WORTHY OF HIRING


Jared Emmanuel Hay, our 22-year-old son, graduated Bachelor of Arts with a double major in History and Political Science from Olivet Nazarene University on Saturday, May 8, 2010.  Jared played varsity soccer and also coached a community high school soccer team during his four years at ONU.  He's exploring career and graduate education options, with a nod toward journalism, history and/or politics.  "I'd be grateful for any connections," he says.

Yeah, that's Becky and me standing with Jared.  We're proud as can be.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

DISPEL DISAPPOINTMENT

Reacting to disappointment gives it undue power over us, but responding to it proactively exercises grace.

DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS.  I have disappointed.  And I am sure I have at some time been described as "a disappointment."  On the other hand, I have been disappointed.  And I have at times critically and unfairly described others and institutions as a disappointment.  Disappointment runs in all kinds of directions.

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS?  When expectations and capacities run high, we tend to think and talk in these terms.  Even in regard to God.  Read Philip Yancey's insightful book Disappointment With God.  Sometimes disappointment is rooted in unrealistic expectations of ourselves, others, institutions, and/or God.  Sometimes it is rooted in bad information and false assumptions.  Comparisons are also breeding ground for disappointment.  When capacities are recognizably well above average and things don't come together "as expected," disappointment and disillusionment can assert an immobilizing grip.

LIVING AGAINST DISAPPOINTMENT.  But disappointment need not define who we are or what we do.  It does no good--and may do unnecessary harm--to simply react to disappointment with blaming, shifting focus, or escaping.  When we simply react to disappointment, we give it power undue over us.  Our outlook and actions tend to reflect that we are living against it.  And it defines us.

INSTEAD, RESPOND TO IT.  On the other hand, it's useful to pay careful attention to disappointment.  But, instead of reacting to it, respond to it.  We can monitor, critique, and respond to it without it defining us.  Where is this disappointment coming from?  Is it realistic?  Are expectations realistic?  Do they match capacities?  How am I processing disappointment?  Is there anything I can learn and grow from it?  What adjustments or changes might it be pointing toward?  What breakthroughs?

PROACTIVITY.  There's a significant difference between reacting and responding to disappointment--and myriad other challenges in life.  The difference is proactivity--what M. Scott Peck described as a pause amid crisis for questions, reflection and decision.  I would add: contemplative prayer.

EMERGENT GRACE.  Disappointment, though it is present, need not define who we are or what we do.  In choosing to respond to it, I also find other resources that orient me in a very different direction in the face of it.  Grace, understanding, dis-illusionment, gratitude, forgiveness, hope: these possibilities and realities emerge as responses to situations that otherwise could only be seen through a lens of disappointment.

WHERE I CHOOSE TO LIVE.  I'm not ready to say that disappointment can be converted into gratitude, but, at least, I am saying that amid disappointment, if I choose not to react to it but gently and firmly respond to it, there is an emergent grace that can give birth to gratitude, forgiveness, and hope.  That's where I choose to go and where I hope to live.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Friday, May 7, 2010

JARED GRADUATING AGAIN

Our 22-year old son, Jared Emmanuel, is set to receive his diploma from ONU

We're on our way to Bourbonnais, Illinois, where on Saturday our 22-year old son Jared is set to walk across the platform to receive his Bachelor of Science Degree with a double major in History and Political Science from Olivet Nazarene University.  We're celebrating this milestone in his life. May be it be a marker long remembered and a symbol of an academic, social and personal journey in the transition from adolescence to early adulthood.  We are proud of him.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THE ONE IN THE ARENA

Since college days, this has been one of my favorite quotations

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt in
"Citizenship in a Republic," a speech in Paris, April 23, 1910; quoted by John F. Kennedy

So, cheers to all who attempt, who dare to make a difference, who strive passionately for what's good and right and fair, who go for excellence and fullness and beauty, who discover and emulate transcendent principles.

You in?

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS


You're looking at just a few of my favorite things. My bike, Jimmy John's sandwich shop, and downtown Indianapolis. Last evening, I rode my Orbea Orca--my light-as-a-feather eBay Christmas bargain--the 12.5 miles from our house in Pike Township into downtown Indy. Though the Border's bookstore at Meridian & Washington closed just before I arrived around 7:15 pm, Jimmy John's was still open! Best subs on the planet, as far as I am concerned. Downtown Indianapolis just glows and is full of life most any evening. I want to live there, eventually.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

COMPASSION BEYOND NEWS CYCLES

Who cares--and why and how--after the news crews move on?

Standing in the heart of Port-au-Prince with some of the children whose world had been turned upside down on January 12, I felt overwhelmed.  I wondered: How can they cope in the face of such large-scale devastation?  Will they recover?  Where do they go from here?

Now, it’s been four months since the quake.  International news crews are gone. The world’s attention has migrated to the latest crisis while Haitian children still sleep outside under tarps and in tents.  But my post-quake experience goads me.  I wonder: How is it that folks move on so easily, half-hoping tough problems get solved somehow by somebody else? What kind of societies and religions put desperate, out-of-sight people out of mind?

But the Biblical faith I was taught—and that has captured me—is different.  So is the authentic Church.  We don’t move on because we tire of a story.  We don’t casually conform to the world’s patterns.  We know problems aren’t solved quickly or easily or by throwing money at them.  And we’re convinced there’s something greater at stake than relief and rebuilding.

Here are three enduring principles that have become so apparent and critical to me in the wake of the Haitian disaster:

1. No child can be discounted, cast aside or left behind.  Disregarded people create a drag the world can no longer ignore or pay for.  This applies not only to Haiti and children but to all discarded people the world over.  Our futures are linked together.  We ignore desperate lives at own peril.

2. If the world is going to be changed, it will be through a Gospel-based investment in children.  Sponsoring kids in Haiti a generation ago has returned a cadre of emerging Christian leaders, like ICCM Field Coordinator Mondale Perkins Oscar.  The Gospel borne holistically to children not only instills sound life principles but brings living hope and power for transformation across lifetimes and communities.

3. When we respond with grace to “the least of these,” we align our lives with the future God intends.  With Haiti, we all have an opportunity to get in sync with what God is doing to bring beauty for ashes, strength from tears.  We get to co-labor with God in anticipation of a world in which all love their neighbors as themselves.

I’m proud to be part of International Child Care Ministries at this particular time.  I am witnessing compassion that transcends news cycles.  I’m listening to sponsors express God-like concern for the children they invest in.  I’m observing people continuing to sign up to go help Haiti heal.  And I’m confident that by God’s grace we will together see a new Haiti—a Haiti buoyed by vibrant faith—rise from the rubble to the glory of God. 


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.