Monday, December 15, 2008

Of birds and bees

I'm sitting at the computer with my granddaughter in my lap. Somehow the next generation down makes me a little reflective about the meaning of life and such things. Here she is, totally self-centered, and we think it's cute. When she doesn't like something she cries and we change it. When she is hungry, tired, wet or angry she cries and we jump to. We coo and make fools of ourselves. Who wouldn't? We would be callous not to.

Recently the Senate rejected pleas by the American auto makers for a financial bail-out. The Senate was ready to offer them the deal on the condition that they bring their pay-scale into line with those of non-American auto makers. They Big 3 refused. So who is to blame? Or are they like my granddaughter, believing that the world still revolves around them?

American auto makers held sway over the world markets for most of the first half of the 20th century. Chevrolet and Ford commanded great respect overseas, and Toyota and Nissan were the cheapies you bought when you didn't have money to buy something good. As the Japanese auto makers improved they began to erode that reputation with better and better automobiles. The American auto makers have had to face this threat for 30 years and more. Somehow they have managed to stay at the table, innovating, and in some cases immitating their foreign competition. That is to be lauded. That is the American entrepreneurial spirit.

But now to insist on special treatment as if to appeal to faded laurels of the past is to return to the heirarchichal systems of Europe that our forefathers fled, it betrays the American spirit and it looks a whole lot like the behavior of my 6-month old granddaughter.

That's not the end of it. Our Executive Branch is poised to pinch-hit for them. The reasoning is valid, in a sense...all the people who will be out of work and the hit the economy would take, etc. They are admitting that there is one sector of the economy that has the rest of us over a barrel. No need for armies to persuade us when the reduction of greenbacks will do the same thing with less backlash. We willingly choose slavery for the sake of bread.

So where is the American spirit? Or is it slowly dying at our own hands?

Friday, September 26, 2008

conservation of the soul

In the midst of what some call an economic meltdown the Outdoor Channel just ran an advertisement for the country of Costa Rica. They showed volunteers out on the sandy beach bagging up sea turtle eggs to be transported to a hatchery. The program has been going on for decades, and has literally brought back the leatherback turtle from the brink of extinction--laudable work that I believe in.

Maybe in the midst of the turmoil there is some altruism out there after all. Maybe that's the only solution we really have in the long run.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There's a lot of controversy flying around these days about the government bail-out of AIG. One commentator said that now the Federal Government is in the insurance business. The Federal Government is in the insurance business anyway. It's supposed to ensure the freedom for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In pursuing this end it has done what another pointed out--that this is a loan, not a gift, and that it will be repayed. The government will own AIG for a while, but it will not run it (thank God!)

That leads me to my real comment. The reason the government sees fit to intervene in this situation is that such financial giants as AIG and Merril Lynch have such influence over the economy of the globe that they must be maintained in place lest the economic earthquake at their collapse send the world economy into a tail-spin. That, for me, is a scary thought. Their very existence is the tiger's tail, and we've got hold of it with both fists. We watch our government like a hawk lest one party amass too much power. Our whole system of government is supposed to live by a system of checks and balances. Yet apparently our economic system does not bear such scrutiny. I believe in a free market, but when another's freedom to make unwise investment choices shakes the world's economic security perhaps things are a little out of whack. If we go on in this direction soon it will be more important who your employer is than what passport you bear. We will no longer belong to the Republic of these United States of America, but to Exxon-Mobile or Citibank.

Perhaps it is best in times like these to remember that as a believer my primary citizenship belongs in a kingdom whose king bought my allegiance with his life, in whose realm the greatest is the servant of all, and whose greatest strength is the power of selfless love.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday School

Today was the first day of Sunday School for the fall semester at St. Christopher's, Killeen. We had a great turn-out. Oh, by Baptist standards 25% of our Sunday attendance is probably nothing to crow about, but for Episcopalians it was a fine showing. 82 people between the ages of a few months to many decades filed into a line-up of classrooms to study our faith under a variety of tutors and teachers. I find a deep satisfaction in my soul even now, at the end of the day.

Two things occur to me to mention.

1. Someone said, "This is how St. C's should be." She was harking back to some time in the past when Christian Education was a high priority not only by the leadership, but by the congregation. We had drifted from that mooring, and it was good to get back. But I take her words differently. This is how it should be regardless of any past experience. Episcopalians are notoriously uneducated about our faith, and that is not a good thing. 82 people began doing something about it this morning, and I cannot commend them highly enough.

2. Be aware of the predictable ebb and flow of energy. Right now it's all a wondrous new thing, and we're all excited about it. But if we are truly going to learn the faith we must still have 82 people in Sunday School in three months, and six months, and in a year's time. Even now in the midst of the euphoria let us commit to the perseverance necessary to let these instructional hours truly began to transform our lives. There will be good lessons and not so good ones, great days and not so great days, but the true student of the faith looks to the material to be gained, not at the quality of teaching on any one day to determine their continued commitment. One of our Core Values is education. Let's make this year the year of education, how about it?

Monday, September 1, 2008


Perhaps we learned something from Katrina after all. Gustav hit the Gulf coast and went pop, downgraded to a Category 1 within hours of making landfall. But in view of what it promised to be at least one pro football game kick-off time got advanced, and a New Kid on the Block concert got postponed. Even the Republican Party Convention took on a more somber tone due to Gustav. Evacuation announcements made the news, but not the evacuations themselves. So how long before we forget? Probably as long as it takes people to elect politicians for other reasons rather than these.

Today was Labor Day, on which very few of us really labored at our jobs. Congratulations to the American Laborer who works with dignity and integrity--may he or she always be compensated justly. But in another way we all labor--we labor not to forget the important things even when they are no longer urgent. We labor to keep in mind the significant things even when they are not in the news. We labor to keep heavenly things before us, even when all around we see earth.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stewardship of relationships

All that I do with all that I have after I say, "I believe." This definition of stewardship is rather all-encompassing, involving my relationships. Those are perhaps my hardest challenge. Relationships by definition involve more than one person, so the dynamic of the relationship is not entirely under my control. It's easy to get bogged down thinking that if my relationships are not going well then I am not being a good steward. On closer scrutiny, however, there is a buried pride in this. My control does extend over my behavior in the relationship, but it ends there. Perhaps the best thing and the hardest thing at the same time is to be honest in those relationships. I may be wrong, but I can be honestly wrong. I may be right, and I can humbly, honestly be right. Owning my own feelings and behaviors is stewardship of the most severe kind, for it calls me to godliness and also those with whom I am in relationship. My fear, of course, is that some relationships cannot stand that kind of health--and perhaps my fears are not entirely unfounded. But what is the pay-off? If a relationship is predicated on falsehood it cannot last anyway. A good dose of humble, healthy, owned honest will go a long way to setting things straight, and in the long run it is the only godly thing to do. Remember: "All that I do with all that I have after I say, 'I believe.'"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

my thoughts about family

We've just had our granddaughter here. She's just over two months, which means she is a cross between a super-hero and a witch. She has the power to make a fool of me and make me like it, and she has a magical charm that brings strangers from across the room to make fools of themselves with me.

I was struck, however, by the essential difference in how my son, the baby's father, and I see the situation. He is full of a healthy, holy dread. There is a tender seriousness in the way he picks her up. He solemnly informed me that he no longer drives over the speed limit. Overnight this little creature has dominated his time, altered his marriage, and commanded his future, yet he rises to it with an almost cosmic sense of urgency. I well remember the days when I felt that way about him.

But I feel quite differently now. I've been there, done that, and I'm ready for something new. Sure, I want to just look at her and marvel. Sure, I will do anything for that magical smile. And sure, my whole discretionary income is suddenly happily at her disposal (well, almost!) But that's not the heart of the matter. When one is a new parent one is aware of launching out into unknown territory. When one is a grandparent one sits back and watches one's own launching bear fruit. My joy is in a line come full circle.

Perhaps that is how God feels when we do something for the least of these.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

beginning thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about death and resurrection, how it lies at the heart of living. Of course you can point to all the natural illustrations, winter into spring, seeds into flowers, the death of an idea and the birth of a new one. But on another level human maturity comes at the death of certainty. We praise the simplistic solutions of youth, and they are inspiring with their clarity and simplicity, but we don't operate on that level because sooner or later we come to mistrust the simplicity--they don't encompass all the complexity of life. We would like to assume that with our increasing maturity we could handle the increasing complexity, but soon even that outstrips us. To imagine that we still control it all is illusion that sooner or later makes us out to be the fools we are. But to die to my own capacity is redeeming--it allows space for community, it allows room for honesty, and ultimately, it allows place in my life for the experience of God.