Thursday, June 25, 2009

Deaths of the week

There were three deaths that happened in the last 24 hours for me. Two are the famous ones. When I heard that Farrah had died, I googled the poster. I am trying to figure out why that poster was so popular, but my two cousins Hap, Casey, and I went to the 7-11 to get the poster. We all had it in our rooms. Maybe it was the smile or maybe that was extremely sexy in 1977 or so that reached young boys. I am not going to spend much time trying to find that out.

But after Charlie's Angels, I lost contact with Farrah. I remember her and Burt in Cannonball Run, but that is about it. The Burning Bed did not really resonate with me. Then I heard she had cancer and anal was too painful to think about. I just figured they would find treatment and that TV and tabloids were over blowing her health. Today she died. Godspeed.

Then Michael died this afternoon. I never bought Thriller and did not buy any of his tapes. Maybe he was just too cool and too hot and I was too unwilling to like the most popular thing. I am from that generation that takes sledge hammers to the popular. Somewhere in 1991, Michael and MC Hammer feuded and he went freaky with that extended video on Fox where he zipped and unzipped his pants. Then he molested children, allegedly, and it was too weird.

These two deaths shake me, because they mark my youth. However, the one that has more significance is the death of my friend's mom. I have had friends who have lost parents, but they have been older parents or it has been a freak bout of cancer or I just said, "this is abnormal part of life." But this time, I realize this is life. I hurt with my friend who has lost his mom and I am sad for his dad who now lives life alone. They had done life together and done it well. So out of three deaths in the last 24 is the one who died with friends and family. Her fans are not worldwide and her memorial service will not have TV crews or Access Hollywood outside. The mourning will be done with family and friends. It is a death that all of us will experience and none of us want to do so.

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Wake Of Killings, A New Look At Hate Speech : NPR

In Wake Of Killings, A New Look At Hate Speech : NPR

As I think about the issue of hate is that those folks who see themselves as agents or instruments of God is that our work is to shine light into those dark places. Our ministry of justice and mercy is to listen to the ones who are marginalized. Those who are marginalized are sometimes racist and sometimes leftist. But, if Jesus was able to do ministry with lepers and not be made we have the courage to take up such ministry? Can we sit with the one's on the margins and not be made unclean. Can we maintain our identity as people of the Kingdom not of the world?

Sometimes, my vision of the world and God's kingdom I try to defend and do not take it on the offensive. I must remember that Kingdom of God is not to be defended but is to be expanded. The Kingdom of God is offensive not defensive.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mel Hall, when sports heroes fail us

In 1981 the Midland Cubs had Mel Hall, Joe Carter, and Craig Lefferts on the roster. The flashiest and best player on that team was not Joe Carter but Mel Hall. Mel was something special. Since I was a young kid, I followed Mel and chuckled at his excess. Two cougars, his hot dogging around the field, and his nice jheri curl.
Then I heard the news about Mel and his molesting a 12 year old girl on a basketball team. I knew it was most likely true and it saddened me. Yesterday, Mel went to jail for 45 years and I was reminded that sports athletes are fallible folk. They are more fallible than most of us. Their lives are so excessive that many don't have the ability to live it.
Mel was the product of his own addictions. He could have been great, but wound up average. He did not apply himself to the game, but applied himself to a false image. The pressures finally got Mel and he made choices that were abusive and less than human. I am saddened, because I want my heroes to be as good as I imagine them be. However, I must remember that the spectacle of sports and celebrity make them even more susceptible of failure. Charles Barkley was right in declaring, "I am not your role model." He knew the deep dark secrets that lie underneath the false veneer of athletes and he was honest enough to tell the truth.

The Message of the church for today

What is the message of salvation for the church today. I am not sure the issue of eternity really motivates me all that much, because if I am looking to gain heaven as the ultimate then what is this life? Am I in some cosmic waiting room waiting to get to heaven and what is heaven all about...worship? Please no. Been in great worship but if all we do is sing in heaven...I hear hell has a nice charcoal fire for a brisket and a good bar, Robert Earl Keen wrote.

So, what are we saved from? A larger part of the gospel for Americans is Americans and maybe the whole world who looks to us as the center of the world...materialism. Everyday where ever we go on TV, in the paper, and web we are inudated with advertisements telling us that our lives are less than complete. We have not arrived, but could arrive if we buy this product. This constant inudation tells us that we are less than whole and offers a false solution.

Think about all media is about advertising. Truth is not being sold, but ad space. Likewise we build products for consumption. It is an endless cycle. Are we just consumers and producers?

I realized that much of message and the message of Brennan Manning is that we are enough. God loves us as we are. I ponder why that message resonated with me and I think it is that less than quality. I don't need another experience, a great vacation, another child or the Sham Wow to make my life complete. My life is complete in God and the truest experience of all is the experience of grace I find in Jesus Christ. It is pure.

The next part of that situation is that we realize that we are blessed and that our blessings some of our blessings are material. We live in the richest country ever, with more opportunities. People around the world come clamoring to be in America. We are blessed. I often thank God for getting the opportunity to live now. What are we going to do with our blessings? Are we going to build walls of protection? Are we going to build larger barns to take in all we have? Are we going to get a bigger house, a nicer car, or go on a grander vacation to celebrate our blessings? Not that any of those are bad, but that is not the final destination. Are we going to help others and build a better world? Are we going to do good things and let our light shine?

What do you think?

Again as part of my tribe, I reserve the right to take this post back in a few minutes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A couple of years ago, I came to the conclusion that the most significant moment in the latter half the 20th century for the United States was the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Learning the ins and outs of that moment in history was essential for understanding where the United States was now and where it would be heading. The rise of the Islamic Republic in Iran caused several significant things to happen.
1.) The Iran hostage crisis and Carter's inability to bring resolution to it meant the election of Reagan. It also was a low point in the psyche of the United States and a feeling of helplessness. At least with the Soviet Union, we knew each other's rules, but with Iran this was a third rate country beating us down.
2.) Iran also was for Reagan a low point for his presidency. It began the whole Iran-Contra affair where Reagan bought hostages. This gave Iran a sense of legitimacy. Iran also used Hezbollah to bomb the United States Marine Barracks in Lebanon. That also was a very bad.
3.) Iran is a Islamic Republic while we deal with Islamic Dictatorships in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and even Iraq. The poor and disenfranchised in the country could look to Iran as a model and the Arabic folks felt less about themselves and fostered resentment.
In the end, Iran is our thorn and has been for 30 years. As these elections go on, I hold my breath because the best way to kill the reformers is to say, "America supports you." So, I hold my breath and see what change happens. If there are changes in Iran after these protests, will they be beneficial for the United States?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Being a Godfather

This past Sunday I was in Kansas City and was able to attend Catholic mass with my god daughter. One of the highest honors in my life is to be a godfather, because it breaks the rules a bit.  Rob and Susanne asked me to be a godfather despite me being a Protestant minister, or maybe because I am.  I did not ask why, but just took the honor.

The godparents promise to raise their god child in the Catholic faith.  We took that seriously, but had a lapse when she had first communion.  Ouch, we moved to CA and it would mean a Sunday's vacation and trekking the whole familia to KC, a costly trek.

So, I told my goddaughter that I had one goal and that was to go to mass with her.  There are things about the Roman Catholic church that have changed since Pope John Paul II died.  The KC diocese that was very progressive and downright liberal is now very conservative.  The whole idea of an altar as opposed to a table really bothers me and that whole transubstantiation thing bothers me as well.  The bread and wine are symbols not miraculously body and blood.  However, I am a godfather and my task is to raise a good Catholic girl.  So, I recite creeds and do not take the Eucharist because I need to honor the tradition.

So we sat in the KC cathedral on Sunday and I talked to her about the service.  I pointed out the baptistery, "I remember, you were covered with water.  That means you were made a part of God's family."  I pointed out the altar that is artistically shows bushels of wheat under the top and I said, "THey have wheat because this is KC where wheat is a very staple of life.  I come from the place where grapes are the staple.  On Sunday when you take communion, when I break the bread I will think of you with the wheat.  When you take the wine, remember me with the grapes. God will unite us when share in the table."  I know it is a table to me, but she got it.

It is hard at times to do things that I don't fully believe, but I do this act of being a god father because it is important for her to be raised rightly with compassion and mercy not with mere rightness.  So, I try to display that and I hope that in my actions of god father teaching her a faith I don't fully believe she will learn how to have tolerance, honor others, and how important love is in the world.   That is a faith that we can all hold upon to.