Friday, September 28, 2007

Great Blog!

I don't normally print somebody else's blog, but I want to do that today. I hope that you will join me in writting the President.

Thursday, September 27, 2007
What Happened to You, Mr. President? (by Jim Wallis)

Dear Mr. President,

When I first heard that you were vowing to veto a bipartisan bill to expand child health care, my immediate thought was more personal than political: What has happened to you?

I vividly remember a call at the office, only one day after your election had been secured. It was an invitation to come to Austin to meet you and to discuss with a small group of religious leaders your vision for "faith-based initiatives" and your passion for doing something on poverty. I had not voted for you (which was no secret or surprise to your staff or to you), but you were reaching out to many of us in the faith community across the political spectrum who cared about poverty. I was impressed by that, and by the topic of the Austin meeting.

We all filed into a little Sunday school classroom at First Baptist, Austin. I had actually preached there before, and the pastor told me how puzzled he was that his "progressive" church was chosen for this meeting. You were reaching out. About 25 of us were sitting together chatting, not knowing what to expect, when you simply walked in without any great introduction. You sat down and told us you just wanted to listen to our concerns and ideas of how to really deal with poverty in America.

And you did listen, more than presidents often do. You asked us questions. One was, "How do I speak to the soul of America?" I remember answering that one by saying to focus on the children. Their plight is our shame and their promise is our future. Reach them and you reach our soul. You nodded in agreement. The conversation was rich and deep for an hour and a half.

Then when we officially broke, you moved around the room and talked with us one-on-one or in small groups for another hour. I could see your staff was anxious to whisk you away (you were in the middle of making cabinet appointments that week and there were key departments yet to fill). Yet you lingered and kept asking questions. I remember you asking me, Jim, I don't understand poor people. I've never lived with poor people or been around poor people much. I don't understand what they think and feel about a lot of things. I'm just a white Republican guy who doesn't get it. How do I get it? I still recall the intense and sincere look on your face as you looked me right in the eyes and asked your heartfelt question. It was a moment of humility and candor that, frankly, we don't often see with presidents.

I responded by saying that you had to listen to poor people themselves and pay attention to those who do live and work with the poor. It was a simple answer, but again you were nodding your head. I told my wife, Joy, also a clergyperson, about our conversation. Weeks later, we listened to your first inaugural address. When you said,
America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American conscience, we
know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation's promise. And
whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk are not at
fault ... many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen
to those who do,

my wife poked me in the ribs and smiled. In fact, you talked more about poverty than any president had for a long time in his inaugural addresses—and I said so in a newspaper column afterward (much to the chagrin of Democratic friends). They also didn't like the fact that I started going to other meetings at the White House with you or your staff about how to best do a "faith-based initiative," or that some of my personal friends were appointed to lead and staff your new Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the White House. We brought many delegations of religious leaders, again from across the political spectrum, to meet with representatives of that office. Some of us hoped that something new might be in the air.

But that was a long time ago. We don't hear much about that office or initiative anymore. Most of my friends have long left. I don't hear about meetings now. And nobody speaks anymore about this new concept you named "compassionate conservatism." And now, you promise to veto a strongly bipartisan measure to expand health insurance for low-income children. Most of your expressed objections to the bill have been vigorously refuted by Republican senators who helped craft the bill and support it passionately. They vow to try and override your veto. During your first campaign, you chided conservative House Republicans for tax and spending cuts accomplished on the backs of the poor. Now Congressional Republicans are chiding you.

What happened to you, Mr. President? The money needed for expanding health care to poor children in America is far less than the money that has been lost and wasted on corruption in Iraq. How have your priorities stayed so far from those children, whom you once agreed were so central to the soul of the nation? What do they need to do to get your attention again? You will be literally barraged by the religious community across the political spectrum this week, imploring you not to veto children's health care. I would just ask you to take your mind back to a little meeting in a Baptist Sunday school classroom, not far away from where you grew up. Remember that day, what we all talked about, what was on your heart, and how much hope there was in the room. Mr. President, recall that day, take a breath, and say a prayer before you decide to turn away from the children who are so important to our nation's soul and to yours.

God bless you,

Jim Wallis

Take action:
+ Click here to ask President Bush what happened to his "compassionate conservatism" - and urge that he sign this bill.

posted by God's Politics @ 10:04 AM

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Why is that such a hard thing to do?

Somewhere along the way in our genetic structure is seems that their is a breakdown in our ability to truly communicate with one another. We think we say one thing, somebody hears something totally different. It's weird how that happens. Even if the disputed item is recorded, many times we cannot get over what we perceived that we heard.

Sometimes this is over BIG issues, other times it is over nothing of consequence.

We faced that this week at the church. The Education Team decided to dispose of some old wooden chairs, two people ended up giving them away. Who was suppose to make the arrangements --- my hunch is, it depends on who you ask. Both thought they were doing a good thing. Unfortunately, a group of people came to pick them up, and the office found out that they were gone --- oops!

And, why is it also hard for us to dialog with those we don't understand? Are we afraid of what they might say, afraid that they may challenge our own views and we might need to change?

Just some wayward ramblings this morning.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thanks Zephie!

Six years ago, after much pushing and prodding, the girls and I convinced Nancy to let us get a dog. After many trips to the various Human Societies in the area, we came home with a one year old Shitzu. We named him Zephaniah --- Zephie for short.

For the first couple of years of living with the Conger's he wasn't much of a dog --- he was more like a cat. He didn't like sitting on your lap, or coming when called --- instead when he wanted attention he would come and get it from you, but when he was done, he was done! That didn't matter, we loved him all the same, and eventually he became a real loving, affectionate dog.

When I would come home from the church, Zephie would run at me and leap into my arms (the girls say that isn't true, but I know it is!). Every day Zephie and I would go for a 2 - 3 mile walk, it was our ritual, our special time together.

Back in early June, Zephie, almost overnight started to get sick. He would cough and wheeze and be unable to get his breath. When I took him to the Vet, he told me that he had congestive heart failure --- he also reminded me that he had been telling me for 6 years that Zephie had a heart murmur (I never thought anything of it --- now I know what he was trying to tell me.) Overnight, Zephie went from a dog who would walk 3 miles and when we got home want to play, to a dog who could not talk around the block.

Thanks to medicines we were able to regulate the problem, but it seemed like every couple of weeks would would have to increase the dosage. Two weeks ago, Zephie got real bad --- I took him to the Vet and she asked me if I was ready to put him down. I knew that it was coming but I wasn't ready. We gave him all kinds of shots, and even more pills, so that we could let Jessica come home to see him one more time.

Jessica was here this weekend, and yesterday, Zephie was his old self (I am sure the extra pills that I was giving didn't hurt). She got to spend some wonderful time with him, and for that I am thankful.

In a few minutes, I am going to take him on a walk, as far as he wants to go --- we loved our walks together --- and then I am taking him to Dr Matthews so that he can be at peace. Dr. Matthews is a wonderful Vet --- he is truly a Dr Doolittle, and he will let me hold Zephie as we say goodbye to him.

To say that Zephie has been my friend is not enough. He has loved me unconditionally from the day that we brought him home. I am going to miss you my friend!
Here are some pictures of Zephie over the years.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Marathons and Stress Fractures

Nancy is planning on running in her fifth Chicago Marathon in a couple of weeks. And as a result of her fantastic time last year in the Chicago Marathon, (she finished in 3:55) she qualified, and is registered to run in the 112th Boston Marathon in April of 2008.

A couple of years ago, as she was getting close to the race, Nancy felt something wrong in her leg, only to discover that she had a stress fracture. The ortho doctor (who was not a sports medicine doctor) thought that she was nuts for running marathons and told her not to run.

Well, last Friday, after Nancy finished her 20 mile long run for the week, had the same feeling she had before. She was pretty convinced that she once again had a stress fracture. She tried to call the doctor she saw before, but she was not available. I got in contact with Dr Lorin Brown, a ortho doctor who specializes in sports injuries, especially with children and youth. He saw Nancy on Wednesday, and after looking at her was also convinced that she has a stress fracture.

However, instead of ruling out the marathon in 2 weeks, he put an air cast on her leg, told her to run in a pool, and take it easy for the next two weeks, but that she could still run in Chicago on the 7th of October. When you train for something for 6 months, to find out that you might not be able to complete what you have been working for is disheartening. So, finding out that she could still run made her feel great (scared, but great!)
She ran in the Holloway's pool this afternoon, and is going to test the leg in a short run next week --- so keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Purdue Calumet

Last night at Sunset --- Rosh Hashana began, last year I was in Jerusalem and went to an awesome synagogue service. This year, Rabbi Steven's asked me if I would fill in for him and teach his class at Purdue Calumet. The class is The Bible As Literature (Old Testament). Today was their first day actually looking at the scripture and we studied Genesis 1-11.

It was an amazing experience. I love teaching at the church, and thought I would enjoy teaching college age students, but even I was surprised at how much fun it was. About half the class were clearly taking it because I imagine it is a pretty easy grade --- the other half were really engaged in the class. I had a hard time getting the class to talk at first, but (my Disciple classes will enjoy this) I broke them into three small groups and forced at least a larger group to talk. We ended up having a great discussion.

I hope I get the chance to do it again!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


What an interesting afternoon. First, when I got back from lunch I had an email from a visitor to Ridge Church on Sunday. She was upset with Jeff's sermon because it seemed to suggest that Hindu people might be in relationship with God. Just think of what she would have thought about my sermon 2 weeks ago ( I emailed her back offering to meet with her and her husband to share what I believe about God, and Jesus. I am anxious to hear her response.

But that was not a real big deal --- UNTIL --- until Heather forwarded me an article from Leadership ( The article is titled THE REAL WORSHIP WAR, and from the title I almost didn't read it. I am glad I did because this is a powerful and provocative article.

While too often we are busy arguing about worship (style, music, coffee breaks, etc), we are forgetting the whole reason why we come together to worship. Mark Labberton writes: "It's worship as consumption rather than offering." He goes on:
our worship practices are separated from our call to justice and, worse, foster the self-indulgent tendencies of our culture rather than nurturing the self-sacrificing life of the kingdom of God.
Unfortunately he is right, of course. Once upon a time, I used to fuss and fume and lie awake at night, thinking that I wasn't believing the right things. Today, I wrestle with God, not over belief, but over practice --- mine and the church that I am called to lead.
Our community reputation, . . . should be that the church comprises those who pursue justice for the oppressed because that is what it means to be Christ's body in the world. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that it's enough to feel drawn to the heart of God without our lives showing the heart of God.
Thanks Mark! I only hope I can live that way!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I don't know how many of you got the e-mail about the Dunkin Donuts in the past week or so. My copy arrived Tuesday night. As soon as I read it, I knew if for what it was. A crock! Come on folks, if some military personnel were denied service in a restaurant, they wouldn't be telling a secretary at a High School, they would be telling the newspapers and the police. The Northwest Indiana Times has really covered this story the last two days you can go and look the e-mail up there.

But this whole affair poses an interesting question: Why are we so gullible? And it's not just urban legend stuff like the Dunkin Donut affair. We are gullible when it comes to religion, politics, you name it. As long as it is in print, somebody will believe it.

When I reflect on 2,000 years of Christian Church history, this story is played over and over again. Go to most churches on Sunday morning, and the mythology is taught as fact. (That should get some of you talking).

My favorites, however, are the e-mails that (sometimes) contain wonderful stories, but always end pretty much the same way: "send this to 10 friends in the next 1 hour and you will receive a great blessing in the next week, delete this and you will have 1 year of bad things happen." Does anybody really believe that garbage? The sad part is, when I see that at the end of a powerful story, it throws the whole story into question.

As we get to the politics of election 2008 it is amazing what we will receive from family and friends that tell us the truth about various politicians (like the one I received about Barack Obama and his ancestors). We need to look with a critical eye at all this "stuff" as we try to find the truth in it.

Ask questions, inquire, THINK --- the good news is God gave you a brain and the ability to seek out the truth --- wrestle with things people send you before you hastily send them off to someone else.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Alex Cross

OK, I admit it, I am a sucker for James Patterson's Alex Cross books. I have read/listened to almost all of them, and am trying to catch up on the ones that I have missed. While walking the dog, I have been listening to The Big Bad Wolf. It is in many ways typical Patterson, great action, suspense --- BUT, the interesting thing about this book is how it ends, or rather doesn't end. Many things are left up in the air, but I am not going to tell you. You will have to read for yourself. If you are looking for a good novel -- James Patterson's books will certainly fit the bill.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Couple more books

I finished a couple of other books this past week. They are a rather eclectic lot. One was an audio book about golf, the other is Malcom Gladwell's second book BLINK.

I found BLINK to be better than Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point. That book seemed to make so many leaps that it drove me crazy at times. Blink deals with the issue of rapid cognition. How people make decisions, or maybe I should say could make decisions in a matter of seconds. The section that dealt with psychologist John Gottman was the most fascinating. He claims that he can, with 95% accuracy determine whether a couple will stay together for 15 years. While the interview he does takes an hour, he suggests that he can make his determination in a much smaller amount of time.

We all make snap decisions, can we really train ourselves so that we can understand what we are doing and use that to our benefit? Fascinating book.

But what sold me on the book was his reason for writing it. Unfortunately, he does not share that until the very end. I don't want to spoil it, but it would have been helpful to have known his motivation a bit earlier.

The second book (audio book) was in many ways similar, even though it focused on how to become a better golfer. Putting Like A Genius, by Dr Bob Rotella is slow and redundant, and he is not a very engaging speaker, but he does offer some great tips to help one putt better, and we can all use help with our putting! Overall, his approach is much like Gladwell's --- trust your yourself, and don't think too much. If only it was that easy.

Rotella tells you how to tune out extraneous factors such as anger, fear and other emotional responses that often cause you to leave the ball short or run it by the hole. Rotella's tips feature a series of exercises and techniques that will help you visualize success on the green.

What A Week!

This past week has been unbelievable! It all started with RIDGE FEST 07, kind of a welcome back following summer party at the church last Sunday. It was a day filled with all kinds of fun --- a live Jazz band that was awesome, kids games, FOOD (thanks Linda at DQ for the Ice Cream!), and for some, the highlight was Jeff and I getting a bit wet in a dunk tank. I have no idea how many people came out, but there were a number of people that I had no idea who they were. This may just have to become an annual event.

On Wednesday we kicked off our WWE@Ridge (Wonderful Wednesday Evenings at Ridge). We had 60+ stay for dinner and around 100 for the programing part. What a week! And to top it off Bob Birgel who writes a bi-weekly column for the Northwest Indiana Times newspaper had a great article about WWE. Check it out:

I am excited about the series that we are in the midst of: Being a Good Neighbor. Rabbi Stevens of Temple Beth-El will be with us on Wednesday night to help us better understand how we can be better neighbors with our Jewish sisters and brothers. The following weeks will will have representatives from the Hindu community and the Islamic community to help us as week seek to be good neighbors. You can follow our sermons from this series by going to

I love living in such a diverse community --- having people of other faiths live in community with me is a blessing!