Thursday, July 20, 2006

Humbled by grace

This morning in the midst of some prayer and study time an old patriarch (Mr. B) of the congregation came for a visit to talk about some outreach possibilities to consider. After that exchange, he inquired about kks. He was one of the first people outside of close family and friends to find out about kks and her developmental struggles. Mr. B only found out because the Sunday after we learned about the magnitude of her struggles, I was trying to keep it together enough to preach a sermon. I also knew that Mr. B prayed, and that if I told him what was on my mind and heart that he would truly pray for kks. Nearly two months have passed since I told Mr. B about the situation, while I struggled to fight back tears. Today I told him about current strides and frustrations, and he reminded me to be patient.

Good reminder for me.

I also told Mr. B about anxiety and hope related to our upcoming evaluations at the University of Minnesota. He asked about the evaluations and the specific dates. He wanted the dates so that he could pray specifically about and on those dates.

Specific dates????????

My episodic indignation with congregational life establishes the building blocks for me to be a cranky old man. (One good thing about that indignation, I will at least be less likely to talk about "the good old days." In my mind, they don't exist.) However, there are times when I am so moved by the grace of God that congregational indignation falls into the background of my thoughts. Currently I live my life as a pastor, one called to hold up the community of faith in prayer, and I could not live the prayer life of Mr. B. I do at times, but I am not wired like this man. This humbled by grace event does not surprise me. I believe in the ability of the people of God and the Holy Spirit to move the church far more than I believe in the clergy. If anything, I/we hold back the Church. Mr. B provided another example of what is possible in God. Today, if but only for a moment, I am healed. I thanked Mr. B, and we wished each other well.

Another God moment came after I sat down to pick up where I left off with my reading. I was in the middle of Philippians chapter 4, no ordinary reading in my faith life. The first pastor I ever really knew used to close every sermon with Philippians 4:7. My faith in the power of God as a child centered on that passage. It connected my life experience to a faith passed passed on from generation to generation, over thousands of years. Few passages in the Bible offer me comfort, but this one does, and sometimes I take this word for granted. Not today.

Here is the section of Philippians I was reading when Mr. B came in:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I spoke of my worries and hopes today, and someone who offered to pray for me and my family guarded my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Neither my indignation, nor my anxiety will rule the day, nor will they consume me. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding serendipitously came through my door, and I had enough of God's wisdom today to recognize it.

May God's peace come through your door today as well.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Still hot

I think I was outside a total of three minutes yesterday. It was a good thing my daughter and I didn't go camping.

I don't think I have ever lived in a state where the tempature rose to the levels it did in South Dakota yesterday..

If you have a spare prayer, pray for the people of Mobridge, South Dakota (a town in N. Central South Dakota on the Missouri River--check out this drought map), and all people whose livelihoods have been devastated by drought. It's debatable whether this area was ever suited for agriculture, or even ranching in the first place, but some folks say this year's drought is worse than the Dust Bowl years.

We're going to the water park today to wear our daughter out, so she can get to sleep before 11 pm--maybe I can be asleep before 1 am.


Friday, July 14, 2006


My daughter and I planned to go camping this weekend in our new Honda Element. I dreamed of exploring the outback of the Northern Great Plains in NW South Dakota--not really a tourist destination--an opportunity for kks and I to spend some time together and leave my wife with fewer distractions while she writes.

We decided not to go because the forecast calls for triple digits in Sioux Falls and near or above 110 west of the Missouri River. I remembered how much I love going to the Missouri River with a day trip to meet colleagues in Pierre yesterday. The temperature rested at a chilly 95 degrees. I am vividly reminded of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington/Oregon when I approach the bluffs off the Missouri River. To cross the bridge makes me feel closer to the land of my youth and the land of my heart. My home right now is in South Dakota, and that is good.

The weather only works for going outside about 6 months out of the year. At least for this guy. The heat is dangerous for a we stay inside most of the weekend.

I am a delicate flower, you know. I wilt in the heat.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Differing perspectives on ethanol

Ethanol is a big deal in South Dakota. The state US House and Senate delegations continue to tout corn-based ethanol as a means to gain independence from foreign oil. I struggle to buy in to ethanol as the centerpiece of US energy policy--mostly because I am leery to trust farm subsidy type of investments.

I do not know enough to be able to speak definitively about ethanol--and the discussion is rather one-sided here in South Dakota. To speak suspicion about ethanol sets one up for a fight. I know this because ethanol probably saved one of the towns I served: Hudson, South Dakota. Leave it to a Seattle paper to call for a balk at ethanol development in the stories it chooses. I could find just as many persuasive articles about opportunities with ethanol.

I believe we live in the center of a propaganda in relation to energy policy, and the key players do not operate like they deserve any trust: the oil lobby and the farm lobby? For all the posturing about smaller government that comes from farming and oil magnates and workers, there are fewer industries outside of farming and oil that suckled more at the teat of a bloated government.

As gasoline prices rise (you won't catch me acting like Chicken Little over this development) the debate over ethanol will only escalate--I can't believe everything I hear.


Friday, July 07, 2006

An interesting personal experiment and statement about consumerism

Leave it to someone from my home state...more accurately, Seattle.

The Seattle Times reported today about a woman, Alex Martin, in Seattle who decided to wear a brown dress for 365 straight days. You can check out the above link if you want the details and your questions answered. A few brief comments about the experiment:

1. I would love to do something like that. Just to be different. Although it wouldn't be all that different if someone has already done it. My lame excuse would be that I could not find an outfit that would work in South Dakota. It's too damn cold in the winter and too damn hot in the summer. Yes, Ms. Martin did wear outerwear, so I could handle the winter part. But the summer? Forget it.

2. Seattle is the perfect climate to pull off something like this, and I might have to consider the experiment if I ever move back.

3. Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be able to run or bicycle in a single set of clothing. Martin did put a swimsuit on, but she bicycled and danced in the dress. This experiment seems to suit women more than men. Men have a much easier time with clothing, I agree. My wife can work herself into a frenzy about finding the right something. I can finish my clothes shopping for the year in a collective 2 hours. But a little brown dress on a woman can be quite functional.

I suppose I could take up wearing brown dresses. I think I'll pass on that one. For those of you who know what I look like, can you imagine a big, hairy dude like me walking the streets of any town in a brown dress? Ack.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Silky vocal harmonies on tap

The CBC hooks me with some great music. If you're in Winnipeg this week, go check out Winnipeg's own "The Wailin' Jennys" at the Winnepeg Folk Life Festival. This is some of the best harmony I have heard in years in the folk genre. And since Winnipeg doesn't have The Jets any more (how does an NHL club have a team in Phoenix and not Winnipeg?) The Wailin' Jennys might be worthy of the same energy as the Jets.

I won't be able to get up to Winnipeg this week, but I can download lots of Wailin' Jennys and David Lee Roth turning old school Van Halen into bluegrass hits...



Monday, July 03, 2006

How my friend and I "discovered" the real Midwest

We Pacific Northwesterners are curious folk. I remember my high school class scattered all over the country after graduation for adventures in vocation and education. My friend Boaps and I were the only ones out of our class (minus a guy who took off for Northwestern in Illinois) to explore and brave the area of the country known as "The Midwest". Though no one thought we were idiots for going to the Midwest--Boaps to Grand Forks, North Dakota and I to Lawrence, Kansas, people thought this area of the country to be a great mystery. One of my friends wanted me to send a souvenir when I arrived in Kansas, "something that smelled like wheat."

After living in the Midwest nearly half of my life, I wonder if Boaps and I have learned a damn thing. Sometimes I think I know less about this place than when my father and I crossed the Rocky Mountains in the summer of 1988 on my way to McCollum Hall at the University of Kansas. However in the Midwest, Boaps and I did well in the spousal department, and we have made great friends and received great opportunities. Sometimes however, we have been distinctly out of our cultural element. That's okay, I suppose. God often communicated to the Israelites that they will always be reminded to care for the strangers because they and their ancestors lived their lives as strangers in Egypt for many years. If that kind of life is part of God's story, I suppose I can tolerate being a stranger for awhile.

When do I get to cross the Red Sea?