Saturday, May 30, 2009

rough week

just realized it's been a couple weeks since I wrote. This past week was the third most difficult week that I can remember. (1 was the week my father died after a 10 day hospital stay, 2 was the week I decided to leave Texas in 2002).

Can't say much now--more info in a couple days...but it was a rough week. Lots of prayer, conversation, seeking counsel, looking back, looking ahead, asking questions...

I haven't slept well, haven't eaten much.

But the one solid (besides God--and he and I are still wrestling through some stuff) has been my family. Jamie has been wonderful, and my kids give me more joy than I ever imagined possible.

Home has really been a place of safety and love; and I am so thankful for that!

Today was particularly rough--I dreamed of my father last night. Dad died 5 years ago--I can't believe that much time has gone by. In the dream I was with him. I remember knowing that it was a dream, but that was OK, because in the dream I could talk to him, and hear his voice, and touch him.

I miss my dad. I wrote a poem about him recently; I'll post it soon.

tonight, however was pretty great. My friend David hosted a party, inviting his Convergence friends and friends from other circles in his life. It was a great time; got to meet and talk to some really neat people. thanks David!

if you're still reading, thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

President Obama's address at Notre Dame

Following is a transcript of President Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17, 2009, as released by the White House:

Well, first of all, congratulations, Class of 2009. (Applause.) Congratulations to all the parents, the cousins -- (applause) -- the aunts, the uncles -- all the people who helped to bring you to the point that you are here today. Thank you so much to Father Jenkins for that extraordinary introduction, even though you said what I want to say much more elegantly. (Laughter.) You are doing an extraordinary job as president of this extraordinary institution. (Applause.) Your continued and courageous -- and contagious -- commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all. (Applause.)

Good afternoon. To Father Hesburgh, to Notre Dame trustees, to faculty, to family: I am honored to be here today. (Applause.) And I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to be a part of your graduation.

And I also want to thank you for the honorary degree that I received. I know it has not been without controversy. I don't know if you're aware of this, but these honorary degrees are apparently pretty hard to come by. (Laughter.) So far I'm only 1 for 2 as President. (Laughter and applause.) Father Hesburgh is 150 for 150. (Laughter and applause.) I guess that's better. (Laughter.) So, Father Ted, after the ceremony, maybe you can give me some pointers to boost my average.

(Read the rest here)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

snarky thoughts on worship (sorry)

From a friend's facebook on a Sunday morning:

"The band is rocking over 100db today. I love it. Can't wait to see what else God brings today."

Does this seem kind of bizarre to anyone else? No offense to my friend--he and his church are doing incredible things. I used to love the type of worship that they are doing (and I'm sure God did do some great things in their worship).

But I think that "worship" in many churches has become not much more than a rock concert with songs about God, paired with a message that helps us live a better life. There is a sense that worship happens when we rock it out, and sing songs that lead people to emotional highs (or lows).

I'm also concerned that if you don't play an instrument or sing; there is no place for you in worship. think about that. somehow we've created a system where in churches of hundreds of people, with hundreds of gifts, only a few of them are invited to do more than watch and listen and sing along (in an atmosphere so loud, they can't hear themselves).

I don't mean to complain. We don't have it all figured out, but we're trying to expand our understanding of worship so that everyone can participate. We're learning that this means worship looks radically different, and takes a lot of work.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mothers Day poem--Billy Collins

I know I've posted a couple Billy Collins's poems recently; but here's one that is perfect for Mothers' Day (or the day after Mothers' Day). It's also great to hear Billy reading his own work.

"The Lanyard" - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


it's mothers day; the rest of the family is off to Newport News for A's soccer game. I'm sad not to be with them; but am getting some work done in a quiet house before heading to church...

yesterday I was running some errands, and had a long drive through country/farmland. it was a beautiful day--and a really peaceful drive.

I was thinking, praying, reflecting--and I realized that these days I am stressed most of the time. I don't like that. I was thinking back to life before family and pastoring and a mortgage and cars that don't run. I was rarely stressed. (I was poor and selfish, but pretty relaxed.)

I don't want to change my life--I love my family more than anything, love Convergence, (and hoping for a new car soon)--but I want--no need--to be less stressed. thinking about some ways to address that--yoga, better job scheduling prayer and silence, exercising.

something to think about...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Is President Obama a Christian?

A friend sent me a message in response to my post on the National Day of Prayer, with a different thought...wondering whether the President is really a Christian; and stating that they thought the President was moving our nation towards secularism. I want to honor my friend's anonymity, but thought I'd share my response:

I understand your perspective--but I think we sometimes have different ideas of what a Christian should do to prove their faith in a particular role.

President Bush claimed to be a Christian, often quoted Scripture, and usually lined up with what the religious right wanted. But I felt that his use of Scripture was usually done to support his actions--including acts of war and violence that I believe were often un-Christian. He often misquoted and misinterpreted (and I think twisted) scripture to give support to his arguments.

I thought it was very interesting than in an interview after he left office, he said this when asked if the Bible was literally true:

"You know. Probably not. ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is 'God sent a son,"' Bush said.

He also said that he prays to the same God as those with different religious beliefs.

"I do believe there is an almighty that is broad and big enough and loving enough that can encompass a lot of people," Bush said. (From a Fox News interview)

I imagine many evangelicals cringed at these comments. I was glad to hear them; I think they were honest.

I know that many question Obama's faith because of his views on abortion. While I don't completely agree with him there; that's not enough to make me question his faith. I don't think we can use any one issue as a litmus test. (I'm not saying you are doing this--but I know many who do).

I have read Obama's books, and I believe Obama wants to serve and help and care for all people. I think he is for peace and health and opportunity for all people. These are values that line up well with Jesus, in my opinion.

As for his faith, I think we start with his own words:

"So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called "The Audacity of Hope."

"And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

"It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn't fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn't suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works." [Speech, 6/23/07]

As for his moving the country toward secularism; perhaps. I don't think he is a fan of the religious right, and its exclusivity. (Neither am I, as I'm sure you know).

But even as a Christian, he is the President to all people, regardless of beliefs, and in that role, has a responsibility to represent them all equally. So I don't think he's moving towards secularism, but toward inclusiveness and equality.

I have a diverse group of friends in the Church, with a wide range of perspectives. I'm learning to share and listen--without feeling like I've got to argue or convince others that we are right.

so I hope I don't come across as argumentative. I feel strongly about my opinions, but realize others do too, and want to respect that.

national prayer day

ok, it's been a while since i got into anything controversial; but here goes. Evangelical Christians are up in arms because President Obama did not have an official white house ceremony for the National Day of Prayer.

The white house issued a statement that the President would spend time in prayer as he does each day, and the president issued a proclamation about the National Day of Prayer. But Republican Congressman Randy Forbes, co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, said, "Hopefully we'll have millions of people around the country that will make up for the void we see at the White House on the National Day of Prayer."

Void? It appears to me that many people are more concerned with this being a public event than they are with people actually praying. Personally, I'd rather have a president who prays than one who tells others to pray.

Also ironic that many of those upset are baptists, or at least evangelicals, who advocate separation of church and state. It seems that when some people talk about this separation; they want government to leave their religion alone, but they should be allowed to insert their religion into government.

we should pray and love and act to influence people with the love of Jesus, not force it upon them through government sponsored events. Instead of complaining, blogging, facebooking, and calling news conferences to complain about how terrible it was to not observe this event publicly--how about spending that time PRAYING!

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
--Matthew 6:5-6

my birthday

yesterday was my 44th birthday. I think. Jamie sent out evites for a birthday party next week that said I was turning 43. She blamed it on me; said I told her so. But I refuse to take the blame--I mean, I'm's her job to not be confused (anyone know the movie reference there?)

It was a great day. It started with an early breakfast with Josh at McDonald's. Josh is one of my best friends--we always have a great time. we talked for a couple hours and could have gone on, but I needed to get home. we watched the first couple episodes of an internet show called Words. (You've got to check it out--incredibly funny.)

When I got back Brady greeted me at the door. Jamie and Cash were in bed--he was up at 7 but had fallen back asleep.

Brady and I had breakfast--it was a wonderful time. He was in a good mood--smiling and laughing as we munched on Captain Crunch. Halfway through breakfast he reached out and pulled my arm toward him, then hugged me for a minute. Those are the best moments.

I spent most of the day with the boys while Jamie and Ashley were out. We wrestled, bowled in the hallway, read books, listened to Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen, watched the greatest basketball game ever played (GMU over UConn, 2006) was a great day.

I got some rare one-on-one with Cash; he woke up from his nap before Brady. I took him into our room and we lay down on the bed next to each other. Then he climbed up on my chest and lay down on top of me; another beautiful moment.

I watched the movie The Wrestler while the boys napped; very powerful--fantastic performance by Mickey Rourke.

After the ladies were home and the boys were in bed, Jamie, Ash and I started to watch a movie together. I was hoping to enjoy some time with them, but I fell asleep during the movie. what can I say, I'm middle aged.

It was an exhausting day; but a great one. happy birthday to me.