Tuesday, July 31, 2012

FROM GRUMBLING TO REJOICING


The difference 300 Kenyan children can make in an instant

One of the most memorable moments of our 600-mile, 2-week bicycle excursion through Kenya in May was the afternoon we arrived at the International Child Care Ministries (ICCM) school at the top of a steep hill in Kericho.  
 
Celebrating at KerichoUp until our late afternoon arrival in Kericho, our team had ridden the week in sunshine.   On the outskirts of town, however, dark clouds moved in and opened up with heavy rain.  Soaked to the core, we wearily rode through slippery streets.  Led by Kenya's Free Methodist Bishop Nixon Dingili, we descended and climbed the city's hills in the rain on our way to the ICCM school, which was our destination for the evening.
 
The last street we turned onto was a sharp, uphill climb.  It was nearly a waterfall of mud and debris flowing toward us.  Broken and rutted, it was impassable on our bikes (only one of us, Kevin Williams, an expert cyclist, managed to make it up the treacherous hill).  Drenched and tired, slipping, sliding and shivering, we pushed our bikes up the hill to the gate of the academy.  Most of us were grumbling on the inside, if not on the outside.
 
But as we guided our bikes through the academy gates, we were met with a surprise.  Shouts of jubilant welcome from more than 300 ICCM school children who had been waiting for us with anticipation erupted uproariously!  They cheered.  They yelled.   They called out.  They chanted.  They sang.

Completely overwhelmed, we soaked it in, forgetting the pouring rain, the rutted road and our weariness.  We were speechless.  Our grumbling turned to joy.  All we could do was to laugh and cry.  It is an experience I will never forget.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I AM POLITICALLY PROGRESSIVE FOR REASONS OF FAITH & THEOLOGY

Just a clarifying reminder


Just a reminder to friends and those who occasionally happen by, link in, or routinely read what I write: I am politically progressive, what some would call a liberal.  I am also what some refer to as an evangelical Christian.  I am told this is a rare if oxymoronic combination.  I'm okay with that.  My reading of the Bible and the best of my Wesleyan-holiness theological heritage and education compel me to stand with disenfranchised and unjustly-treated people and to anticipate and advocate for social, economic and spiritual possibilities far beyond anything partisan politics is currently articulating.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

TOUR DE FRANCE 2012 REFLECTIONS


Before the Tour rides into Paris, I have a few things to say

Photo by Bettini. I confess, two reasons I love watching the Tour de
France--and getting out on the roads and trails on my own bicycles--
is enjoying and experiencing the sheer beauty and wonder of the land.
It wouldn’t be July and I wouldn’t be John Franklin Hay if I didn’t bother you with some reflections from my annual Tour de France mania.  Actually, I’m quite proud of myself for being more restrained this year.  I haven’t filled friends’ inboxes with unwanted Tour de France email updates. I haven’t updated my “Tour de France for the Rest of Us” blog.  I haven’t even Tweeted or updated on Facebook that much about it.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been tuned in and completely captivated by it, as usual.  Here are a few observations and reflections as the Tour heads into its third and final weekend, concluding in Paris on Sunday.

1. A Brit set to win it.  For the first time in the Tour de France’s 99-year history, a lad from Great Britain is set to win the overall title – the General Classification, Yellow Jersey.  Bradley Wiggins has been close to the top in previous years, though he crashed out last year.  He and his teammate Chris Froome (another Brit) have dominated in every aspect (time trials, team effort, mountain climbing) this year and, barring a disaster in the next two stages, they’ll ride in to Paris as 1-2.

2. Definition of sacrifice.  Chris Froome, Wiggins’ teammate and right-hand man, could easily have won the GC/Yellow Jersey himself—he was that strong in the mountains.  Several times during mountain stages, it seemed like Froome was hanging back just to pull Wiggins up the hills.  Froome, who was born and lived as a child in Nairobi, Kenya, has defined sacrifice in the sport by yielding his own ambitions and clearly superior abilities to serve to advance another’s.  Wiggins owes this one to Froome.  Next year, I won’t be surprised if Froome is the one who is being heralded as the next TdF champ.

3. American in the wings.  Remember the name Tejay Van Garderen. No, he’s not Dutch, he’s a 24-year old American.  And he’s currently in 5th place in the GC and is wearing the White Jersey as the best-placed rider under age 25.  Van Garderen may well move up to 4th place after Saturday’s individual time trial, at which he excels.  Don’t be surprised if you hear of Van Garderen in ways similar to Lance Armstrong in coming years.

4. Lots of crashes.  This year’s edition of the TdF has featured and unusual number of crashes, particularly during the first week.  More than 30 riders have left the race with injuries suffered from crashes in the peloton (the large bunch of cyclists riding in close proximity) at high speeds.  Of 198 cyclists on 12 9-member teams, it’s down to under 153 heading into the last two stages.

5. A new generation of cyclists is emerging.  There’s been a changing of the guard since I started following the TdF after Lance Armtrong’s first win.  This year featured more first-time cyclists in the Tour than I can recall.  As new and promising cyclists emerge, there seems to be a higher commitment to guard against doping. In fact, there have been only two doping incidents in this year’s Tour (a new low, to my recollection).  American cyclists like Van Garderen and Tyler Farrar continue to fuel hopes of a robust presence of USA-born cyclists in this mostly European event.

6. A word about Lance Armstrong.  You’ve likely seen that the US Anti-Doping Agency has filed charges against Armstrong, the Tour de France's only 7-time winner.  These are the same charges that were dropped earlier this year by the Justice Department after a two-year investigation found insufficient evidence to continue.  Armstrong continues to declare his innocence, backed up by more than 500 clean blood and urine tests over his 20-year career.  But this could get ugly.  It’s a he-said, she-said guilty-by-association ordeal and it doesn’t sound like the standards in an American court of law are required or will be used by the USADA in the process.  I hope Armstrong’s name is cleared.  But if he has used medical protocols that are banned in the sport to give him and his teammates an unfair advantage, he should come clean (I’ve always said this).  I don’t think he will.  I doubt the public will ever really know the truth.  To me, it’s just sad that the end of Armstrong’s cycling career and retirement from racing is playing out like this.  One would hope for something better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

CAEDMON'S DREAM


Caedmon's prayer invites us to "cradle a sense of wonder" in every person
This is from the book, Celtic Daily Prayer.  It is a prayer about becoming a voice for those who have no voice, a prayer about committing to solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged--and bearing Good News to all!
Caedmon’s Prayer
I cannot speak,
unless You loose my tongue;
I only stammer,
and I speak uncertainly;
but if You touch my mouth,
my Lord,
then I will sing the story
of Your wonders!
Teach me to hear that story,
through each person,
to cradle a sense of wonder
in their life,
to honour the hard-earned wisdom
of their sufferings,
to waken their joy
that the King of all kings
stoops down
to wash their feet,
and looking up
into their face
says,
‘I know – I understand.’
This world has become
a world of broken dreams
where dreamers are hard to find
and friends are few.
Lord, be the gatherer of our dreams.
You set the countless stars in place,
and found room for each of them to shine.
You listen for us in Your heaven-bright hall.
Open our mouths to tell our tales of wonder.
Teach us again the greatest story ever:
the One who made the worlds
became a little, helpless child,
then grew to be a carpenter
with deep, far-seeing eyes.
In time, the Carpenter began to travel,
in every village challenging the people
to leave behind their selfish ways,
be washed in living water,
and let God be their King.
The ordinary people crowded round Him,
frightened to miss
a word that He was speaking,
bringing their friends, their children,
all the sick and tired,
so everyone could meet Him,
everyone be touched and given life.
Some religious people were embarrassed
- they did not like the company He kept,
and never knew just what He would do next.
He said:
‘How dare you wrap God up
in good behaviour
and tell the poor that they
should be like you?
How can you live at ease
with riches and success,
while those I love go hungry
and are oppressed?
It really is for such a time as this
that I was given breath.’
His words were dangerous,
not safe or tidy.
In secret His opponents said:
‘It surely would be better that
one person die.’
‘I think that would be better,
if he could.’
Expediency would be the very death of Him.
He died because they thought it might be good.
You died that we might be forgiven,
Lord; but that was not the end.
You plundered death,
and made its jail-house shudder
- strode into life
to meet Your startled friends.
I have a dream
that all the world will meet You,
and know you, Jesus,
in Your living power,
that someday soon
all people everywhere will hear Your story,
and hear it in a way they understand.
I cannot speak,
unless You loose my tongue;
I only stammer,
and I speak uncertainly;
but if You touch my mouth,
my Lord,
then I will sing the story
of Your wonders!
So many who have heard
forget to tell the story.
Here am I, my Jesus:
teach me.

Friday, July 13, 2012

LIVE A BIGGER STORY


#10 of 10 ways to reveal your heart of faith when faith feels like little more than a leftover

Compressed for Twitter:

#10 Live a bigger story. Connect your life and action to make a difference for someone else. 

Decompressed for context and comment:

Live a bigger story.  This is an insight of Donald Miller that I think is spot on.  Too often, we find ourselves living a small, uninspired story.  Or, we find that we are really just playing a bit part in someone else’s story.  Either way, for lack of a dream or surpassing challenge, we dutifully plod along, perhaps feeling trapped in someone else’s plot lines or a family’s or organization’s role-plays.

Sometimes, the story we live is small and unfulfilling because we center it around ourselves or our own family.  We attempt to get our esteem or heart needs met by acquiring things, using or pleasing people, and/or trying to win approval or gain attention in myriad trivial ways.  These ultimately fail to satisfy or spin us into a larger orbit; instead, they spiral us into a diminishing, unfulfilling, self-justifying storyline.

Want to live a bigger story?  Look beyond yourself (and never look back).  Creatively connect your capacities with the hurts and hopes of others--evident all around you.  Do something magnanimous--something generous, something compassionate, something extraordinary, something radical--for others.

Deepen and widen the storyline by connecting with other like-hearted dreamers and change agents.  Together, small groups of self-giving, knowledgeable, wise, and action-focused people who do not care who gets the credit make significant changes in lives, communities and the world.  Along the way, you will not only live a bigger story, but discover a vibrant faith you either once had or never knew existed.


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Read all 10 actions (in Twitter's 140-character format) that can reveal your heart of faith when faith feels like little more than a leftover.

Your responses and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DARE TO VENTURE

#9 of 10 ways to reveal your heart of faith when faith feels like little more than a leftover

Compressed for Twitter:

#9 Dare to venture. Break out of provincialisms. One's own place/group isn't the center of the universe.


Decompressed for context and comment:

Faith can seem like a leftover when it is filtered through all-too-familiar localized routines and assumptions.  It is not that local norms, relationships and/or faith communities are less valid or valuable than others; it is that we tend to let familiarity insulate us from a mind-boggling range of grace, relationship, culture and experience that might well enrich us, if not re-center and reframe our sense of reality.

Though we may have become comfortable with it, what we are familiar with isn’t nearly all there is.  Some of the “rules” that hold sway here may not apply or translate in the larger arena of life.  What we perceive as “normal” is worth thoroughly challenging, not out of rebellion or anarchy, but for the sake of opening to the possibility of finding greater understanding.

Break out of provincialisms.  Our own place and group, though cherished, isn’t necessarily the center of the universe.  Dare to grow your frame of reference.  To do so requires some risk, personal courage and a measure of faith—a rudimentary trust that you will find, apart from familiar certainties, higher ground and a fellowship of like-hearted truth-seekers.


Your journey may take you far away.  It may, as likely, lead you to find new meaning, purpose and relatedness right where you are.  Whichever, it is important to venture.  T. S. Eliot puts this best, I think:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

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Read all 10 actions (in Twitter's 140-character format) that can reveal your heart of faith when faith feels like little more than a leftover.

I will continue posting comments on all 10 actions over the next few days.

Your responses and comments are welcome.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

TRAIN WELL


#8 of 10 ways to reveal your heart of faith when faith feels like little more than a leftover.

Compressed for Twitter:

#8 Equip for the unknown. Our toughest challenges and biggest opportunities aren't yet on the radar screen. Train well.

Decompressed for context and comment:

When our four children played soccer competitively (one still does), I became a student of the game.  I noticed a tendency in most athletes to play to the level of their match opponent instead of utilizing skills, principles and intensity that reflect what is best in the game and would prepare them for success at higher levels—whether on the field or in life’s myriad arenas and seasons.

Of course, we have our hands full with our immediate challenges.  But while we’re tackling obstacles or seizing opportunities of the moment, why not try to engage them with an eye and heart for something deeper and beyond?  Today’s barrier, approached carefully and creatively, can become a bridge over which we and others readily advance to meet and overcome tomorrow’s more substantial barriers.

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," said Albert Einstein.  We tend to get by, by hook or crook, and be satisfied that we survive or gain a bit of ground.  Too often, we employ make-do tactics, rely on stale thinking and apply coercive power.  These might have served us in the past, but they sabotage what is needed for our critical challenges ahead.  The Apostle Paul implores: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

What we do with our capacities when no one is watching matters much.  Every ability and gift deserves investment for full development.  Training--in a combination of exploring to new information, physical discipline, spiritual exercises, and the rhythm of solitude and community—makes all the difference when challenges come.  Training is a life-long discipline; it may matter even more as one ages.

It takes an element of faith to move forward, to go deeper, to reach higher, to become more fully alive.  Without it, we tend to get stuck, repeat the past, become agitated with ourselves and blame others.  With faith, we respond with our whole being to an invitation to move toward something—though unknown—which beckons us toward fullness of life.


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Read all 10 actions (in Twitter's 140-character format) that can reveal your heart of faith when faith feels like little more than a leftover.

I will continue posting comments on all 10 actions over the next few days.

Your responses and comments are welcome.