Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gone

I'm off to the Annual Meeting of the North Pacific Conference at Cascade's Camp for the next three days, so I suspect this place will be a little quiet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Small-town Politics

Suddenly Lakebay is famous, for all the wrong reasons. . .

A local fire commissioner was jailed after a fight in which a fellow commissioner was attacked with a coffee mug, apparently the latest incident in a long-standing feud.

The commissioners, 71-year-old Allen Yanity and 64-year-old Jim Bosch, both of Lakebay, got into a heated exchange Tuesday during a break in a meeting as they were standing with their wives, sheriff's Detective Ed Troyer said.

Yanity bashed Bosch repeatedly on the head with a coffee mug, Troyer said.

It's like watching kids on the junior high playground. "I'm gonna get you!" "Oh yeah? Well I'm gonna get you!" "Betcha couldn't!" "Betcha I could!" "I dare you!" "I Double-dog dare you!"

Honestly, I would expect better from adults. But this isn't my first experience with one of them, and in our last exchange he acted just like the same petulant little kid. And people say the kids are messed up. It's these guys who worry me. . .

Alone

I've been "alone" for a week. And out here on the Key Peninsula, alone can mean alone. It can mean going a whole day without talking to another human being. It can mean going most of a day without seeing another human being. It could be very lonely.

But I've been too busy to notice. A trip to Cascade's Camp last Thursday, a busy church day on Sunday, a trip to Seattle on Monday, dinner with friends last night, going back to Cascade's for the Annual Meeting of the North Pacific Conference tomorrow through Saturday. . .people keep asking me how I'm coping, and they don't seem to believe me when I say "fine, really. Don't worry about me." In fact, I still don't have time to do all the things I'd like to do - read some books, practice my mandolin, take a long bike ride, sit on the deck and enjoy the evening, wash the Jeep, weed the flower beds, beat Pac Man 2 on the PS2, take a drive up to the mountains. . .

Not that I don't miss the girls. The house is quiet, meals are a little lonely, our bed seems so empty. I miss playing with Clara, and working in the yard with Olivia. But it's not like I'm moping around feeling like the world has come to an end. And I hear that the girls are having fun hanging out at Nana and Tata's house, looking forward to a trip to Mexico this weekend.

So, to all of you who care, know that in spite of the fact that the women in my life are all in California on vacation, I appreciate your concern but, I'm doing fine. Really.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

this is a test


I'm just playing with Picasa's Blog This button. . .
Posted by Picasa

Welcome to Another Planet

Since we stopped watching television, one of the ways we've filled the entertainment vacuum has been through Netflix. If you are a Netflix user, you know that they give you recommendations based on other movies you've watched and rated. Quite often we pick our movies based on those recommendations, and it's led to some wonderful surprises.

Last weekend I sat down to watch one that they said I would really enjoy. It tells the story of two young men who escape from one of those desert survival camps that troubled kids are sent to. On their way across the desert they bump into two bumbling Mormon missionaries, steal their car, and head into town. They are forced to take on the role of said missionaries while they wait for the heat from their escape to die down.

Seemed like a funny premise.

Unfortunately, the move didn't pan out that way. Instead, the plot was full of holes, the acting was poor, the dialogue stilted, the characters unbelievable. Mostly because it was made by a Mormon, and reflected a lot of Mormon values. So you have hard-core bullies, rough-and-tumble types, who swear by saying "freakin'" instead of the other words that they would really say. And, in one of the climactic scene, the "bad guys" of the town (the redneck-types) decide to take out their vengeance against the "sissy" missionaries by . . are you ready for this? . . .taking them out into an orchard and challenging them to a paintball tournament. Right. That's how small-town bullies deal with people they don't like. They shoot them with paintballs.

At first, I was miffed at the fact that I had been tricked into watching a Mormon propaganda film. Like they had snuck one over on me. And there were times throughout the movie that I was starting to be offended by it, such as the scene when the cute waitress says "Sometimes people look at my uniform and don't see the person me inside - I guess waitresses and Mormon missionaries have a lot in common."

But then I got to thinking that it's really no different from when Paul Crouch makes a TBN movie and sells it as "First-Rate Entertainment!" when we all know that it really stinks. They are so caught up in their little world that they have no idea how to crawl out and see what the rest of the world is doing, and thus could never make a "realistic" movie. So it probably was with this one. Perhaps the director had not ulterior motive, no great desire to "push" Mormon doctrine on the world. Perhaps he's just so deeply entrenched in the culture that he has no clue how the rest of the world works. Maybe he does think that bad boys do say "freakin," and bullies do take their vengeance with paintball. Maybe.

What's most odd is listening to the director and various actors on the bonus featurette, all saying things like "I was drawn to this script because of it's realism. . ." and such. Are they just saying those things because they want the movie to sell? Or because they actually believe it? I hope it's not the latter.

So, anyway, that was my experience with Mormon culture over the weekend. Please don't misunderstand me - Mormons have as much a right as anybody to make movies. They have the right to believe what they believe. And they have the right to try to tell me about it. But this. . .this felt the bait-and-switch move. Which, granted, we as Christians do often enough. I've just become so sensitive to it that I make every effort to NOT pull it off (you know - offering FREE PIZZA to teenagers and then forcing them to sit through a gospel presentation that they didn't know was coming, or inviting your friends over for dinner and then saying "while you're here, I have a little business opportunity I'd love to tell you about. . ."). Thus, when it comes my way, I'm more than a little bothered by it.

The moral? No more movies about Mormons from Netflix.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Black Friday

We are not a nation that mourns well. We do not enter into sorrow and reside there. We do not weep with those who weep. We do not put on sackcloth and ashes. We do not wail in anguish. We do not sit in silence.

Instead, we make soundbites. We use tragedy as selling point. We pontificate. We offer quick answers and opinions. We rant. We hijack for our political agenda. We talk and talk and talk and talk.

For instance,

- within 12 hours of the VT shootings, local radio stations already had promos saying things like "For continuing coverage, listen to [fill in name of radio station]." And "You heard it all here on [name of station] first!"

- Over the last few days I've spent too many hours driving places (which is why this blog has been silent). Which has given me too much time to listen to talk radio. Where I've heard the right wingers state "If those kids in the classrooms had had their own guns, they could have taken the shooter out!" just as the left-wingers were saying "If guns were harder to get, this never would have happened."

- Within just a few hours, blame was being pinned on the university president, on email, on campus security, on immigration policies, on guns, on Hollywood. . .

- witness the minions offering meaningless opinions. The media ran after everybody who had the most tenuous of connections to "get their reaction." College students in Washington telling us all "how this makes me feel," millions of myspace users writing about "how they feel about this," as if their feelings had any bearing on the situation.

Someday, we will need to seek out answers. Someday, the gun question must be dealt with. Someday, we should sit around and discuss how we feel witnessing this kind of violence in our world. If there are officials who responded in the wrong manner, someday they should be dealt with appropriately.

But for now, let us grieve. Let us allow those hurt to hurt. Let us pray, weep, and wail. Let us offer words of comfort and condolence. Let us, as Job's friends did, sit in silence with those who are broken. Let us cry out to our God.

Let us not look to their tragedy and say "well, that's too bad, but let me tell you how I feel. . ."

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Prophet Speaks

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

Habakkuk, chapter 1

Saturday, April 14, 2007

End of An Era

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Albert and Molly McGee had 7 children; two boys and five girls, to be exact. The first bunch were born in North Carolina, the second in Washington. The last of those seven children was Margaret, my grandmother.

Margaret's older sister, Elizabeth (Betty) married Bert Olding in August, 1931.

Last Wednesday Bert passed away, just short of 97 years old. And he was the last of that generation to go. My grandmother passed away in 2001, Betty passed away a few years later, and now, with Bert, all 7 McGee children and their spouses have gone on. The next generation - my mother's generation, is now at the top. Of course, I hardly remember most of my grandmother's siblings and in-laws- they all seemed so old when I was a young boy, and with all the time I spent in California, I missed most of their passing. But this one is significant, because it truly does mean a whole generation is lost; those family memories are now taken from us for good. Any connection to the McGee generation has been severed. So drift the sands of time.

My mother tells me she's actually the oldest surviving member of that line of family now - her older cousins have also died. I told her it's about time she took charge then. If she's the matriarch, we ought to use that to our advantage, no? Perhaps we deserve certain signs of respect - kissing the ring, bowing in our presence, that sort of thing. If we were a mafia family. . .watch out.

In seriousness, the funeral is next Tuesday in Tacoma, and I plan on being there. Last winter I was able to reconnect with the Whitmarsh side of the family at my uncle Bob's funeral. Now's a chance to reconnect with the other side, at another funeral. It will be good to see everybody, but sad that the former p/matriarchs will be unable to make it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

We got the call

It came a couple weeks ago.

Way back when, about 12 years ago, long before I knew Karina, I decided it would be good to share some blessings around. So I signed up to sponsor a child through Compassion International. Really, why wouldn't anybody? For a buck or so a day, a human being gets to eat, go to school, have regular medical care, and grow up with hope, rather than hopelessness.

They gave me a little girl. I wrote her a letter, she wrote back. Then, about a year later, I got a letter from Compassion, stating that this particular girl had left the program, much to their regret. But would I be interested in a new person to sponsor? Of course I said yes. And so began our relationship with Tanairi, a young girl in the Dominican Republic.

And then we got the call. It seems Tanairi is all grown up now. She's graduated from the program. She's actually going to college to study business. She no longer needs our sponsorship. And are we interested in another child to sponsor?

Compassion suggests you write one more letter to say goodbye and God be with you, and then cut the relationship. They discourage the sharing of personal information, just so nobody ends up with people at their door saying "Hi! We're here from Nigeria! Can we move in now?" So we get one final letter, and then that's it. It seems so sudden and so forced, but I see the wisdom of their advice.

May the Lord bless Tanairi as she moves into her adult life; may she make a difference in that land in Jesus' name. It's really been nothing for us to support her; in fact, it is a blessing to know that the Lord used us to help this little girl climb out of poverty and take solid steps toward independence and self-sufficiency. We simply pray that the Lord remains first and foremost in her life for now and for always.

And by the way, we've already been given a young Kenyan boy; I think he's about 10. And now we get to write another letter, one that will begin "Hello! We are glad to meet you. . .

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Easter Morning






A couple pictures from the sunrise service (all my Turlock friends: eat your heart out. . .)

On Dealing with Difficult People

There's a person who has been coming to our Wednesday food-giveaway program. A month or so ago, he broke one of the cardinal rules - he got too friendly with a young girl, wouldn't leave her alone, and allegedly attempted to get her into his car. When the leadership found out, they escorted him off the property. The police were called. A report was filed.

Two weeks later, when he showed up again, he was asked to leave and never come back.

Ever since he's been calling the church, demanding to speak to "the minister." I've attempted to use healthy communication skills - "I can't do anything, sir. The leadership made their decision, and I can't go tell them to change their minds. You have to speak to them directly." I cannot and will not be drawn into the middle, becoming the third point of their triangle. I can only seek to bring the various parties together.

Yesterday he came into the church, demanding to meet with me. And he was angry. Very angry. It's rare that I'm sitting in a meeting thinking "what are my escape options here," but this time I was. Maybe I read the situation wrong, but still, when you confront that kind of anger, it's tough to predict what will happen. I think he was hoping to get to them through me, but since that wasn't going to happen he stormed off, saying he'd come back to meet with the leader of the ministry. Which he did. And they listened to him, and then politely asked him to leave and never come back again.

Now we'll see if that's the end of it.



Maybe it is. That was just him on the phone telling me he's done with us. And he seemed much calmer. Perhaps this little chapter is over.

But the truth remains, whenever you reach out to "the least of these" you take them as they come, not as you wish they would be. And sometimes that means addictions, anger, anti-social behavior. Sometimes it means danger. It also puts you in the middle of their squabbles - sometimes people make accusations against others solely out of spite. I'm not implying that happened here, but sometimes it does.

Lately Doug has been saying "They aren't bad people, they're just doing the best they can with the tools they have." And that's how they come to us. While some of them probably are bad people, some are just eccentric, some never learned communication theory, some of them are socially still junior highers, some are probably demon possessed. And some are happy, joyous, pleasant to be around. You get them all.

But, in the end, I'll gladly wrestle with the problems if it means we can offer food and clothing to the Least of These. I'd rather be on the ground here meeting people with real needs than be trying to convince the rich that they ought to sell their SUV and buy a hybrid. Maybe that's just me, and it means this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

I went out last night to get some firewood; it was dark. And I thought "you know, if he wanted revenge for his perceived slight, it's awfully dark out here. . ." But then I remembered that my life is in the Lord's hands, and that I'm safe as long as he's watching over me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Welcome!

I just unveiled this blog over at my other one, so I'm assuming a lot of people are showing up for the first time. Make yourself at home, and leave me a comment, just so I know you made it over.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All I Can Say Is

Wow. What a great weekend. The Maundy Thursday service was powerful in its own way. As I walked down the hill following the service, it struck me that there is really nothing quite as powerful as a group of believers simply reading scripture. No commentary, no sermonizing, no explanation, no "how does this make you feel?" Nothing but voices in (somewhat) unison reading the sacred stories, going back 3000 years, telling again the story of the Last Supper. There is something to be learned here.

Sunday morning was spectacular. After enduring rain all day Saturday, we woke to a beautiful dawn, the sun breaking over green hills to warm up the clear blue sky. As we gathered early at Penrose Point, a bald eagle held court high in a fir tree overhead. The sunrise service was held beneath the sun, rather than the clouds of years' past. And the crowd - around 80 people showed up to gather close around the fire and hear again the story of the first Easter morning. Many hung around to enjoy the morning long after the service ended.

For the last few years, we've offered an Easter breakfast, consisting of pastries and fruit. This year I challenged the church to do a full breakfast and see what happened. So they did. . .and close to 100 people showed up to enjoy ham, eggs, and french toast. yummy french toast, I might add.

Then the service was wonderful as well. In keeping with ancient tradition we held a baptism, we rejoiced in our risen savior, we heard again the power of the gospel, and at least one person accepted new life in Christ following the service. It really couldn't have been a better day.

Oh, and it ended with a small herd of deer grazing in our field, under a light rain, as evening fell upon the land.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for showing once again just what happens when you show up.