Friday, December 12, 2008

Bears Game

I was invited last night to attend the Bears vs. Saints football game at Soldier Field in Chicago. I had a great time watching the Bears win.

I have to admit I wasn't really ready for the United Club. Wow. The food was delicious, the service was great. What a way to get ready for the game.

It was cold last night. 26 at game time with the wind chill in the teens. I was never cold until we went inside for half time and came out during the third quarter.

Bears won the game in overtime. 27 -24.

Here are a couple of pictures I took on my cell phone.


Pretty good seats!




Compassion

Interesting day today.

Went to the wife of a member's funeral --- held at a local funeral home.
The service started about 10 minutes late because the priest showed up late (plus he had never met the family so he needed to talk with them for a little bit.)

It was the coldest --- most un-compassionate service that I can recall.

The priest wanted to make sure that we prayed the person into heaven --- but other than inserting her name into a slot into his prayerbook he never mentioned her.

I could write so much more . . . but that would not be nice.

It made me think of the "standard" funeral that I do for families that I have no relationship with, and how I need to do some things differently. Especially the part where we talk about the need to suffer --- just like Jesus did. Is that really what God wants us to do --- suffer? Or have the powers that be used that as a means to keep everyone in line? Just a thought.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Catching Up

Been way too long since I last posted. And I unfortunately don't see that changing any time soon. Oh well, that is the way life goes.

Monday I will head to Indianapolis to attend a training session put on by the United Way of Indiana to help Long Term Recovery Committees. I think that we will have six or so from LARRI coming for the event. After it is over, I am going to try to take Jessica out for a quick dinner --- she has a commitment that night, and then load up some of her stuff, since she will be moving out on the 21st. Next semester Jessica will be in Australia. Must be nice to be a student today!

I have a few books to share with you. A few weeks ago I finished Who Were The Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William Dever. Not a book that I imagine that many of you will run out and buy, but I really enjoyed his analysis of the development of the Israelite people. His view runs counter to the view of Finkelstein, whose book I had read earlier. I would have to say that Dever's suggestion seems to make more sense. Of course, like many archaeologists Dever questions the historical accuracy of the Biblical story. From my experience in Israel and my reading, again I would have to agree with his position. The final chapter of the book does an excellent job in explaining why he questions the value of the bible as a "history book", but also why it has value despite it's flaws. If you want to really dig into a book that goes into explaining how archeology works and why it is important --- I would recommend Dever's work.

I just finished on Monday, John Dominic Crossan's newest book God & Empire. This is a powerful book. The writing style left something to be desired, but the content is very important! Crossan argues how civilization and violence go hand in hand. The norm for civilization is Peace through Victory. That victory may come by me conquering you, or by my dominating your life. If one thinks about it, this argument is very true. Whether we are talking about the Monroe Doctrine or the Bush Doctrine. Peace in the United States of America is sought through coercion --- or at the end of a gun.

Crossan suggests that Jesus offers to us another way of seeking peace. Not through Victory (or violence) but through Justice! Crossan then goes through the biblical stories (as only he can) identifying what most likely goes back to Jesus and how his life was all about seeking Peace through Justice until the Romans (civilization) decided to seek their Peace through Victory (ie. killing Jesus and many others on a cross).

The most interesting part of the book was when Crossan worked through Paul, and John of Patmos and their understandings of Jesus. Paul, Crossan argues, was on the same page with Jesus and sought Peace through Justice. Wait a minute you are saying, isn't this the same guy who told women to shut up. No, Crossan argues, it is not the same guy. He goes through the 13 books attributed to Paul (1/2 of the New Testament books) and divides them three ways --- those certainly written by Paul --- 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon (7 books) those probably not from Paul --- 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians (3 books) and those certainly not from Paul --- 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (3 books).

In these books, Crossan argues that Paul moves from the Radical Paul (who agreed with Jesus) to the Liberal Paul and then to the Conservative or Reactionary Paul. His arguments make great sense. But I could never articulate them here. But let me say this, after reading Crossan's analysis I can say something I never thought I would say before --- If Crossan is correct -- I really like the Radical Paul! Yes, I really said that.

This part of the book is worth the difficulty in reading it!

The last section he looks at John of Patmos --- maybe his chapter title says it all "Apocalypse and the Pornography of Violence." Crossan walks through how we turned the Prince of Peace into an avenging God seeking to destroy the world. WOW! Being someone who by nature is a pacifist his analysis struck home with me. Jesus did not come to destroy --- we chose to "re-invent God" so that his great clean up would get rid of all those people we didn't like.

This is a powerful book that is work the effort it will require to read.

Crossan asks: "The fundamental question is whether we Christians imagine our God as violent or nonviolent." Well, how do you view God?

In the epilogue he asks three questions:

How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in the American Empire?

How is it possible to be a nonviolent Christian within a violent
Christianity based on a violent Bible?

How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American Empire
facilitated by a violent Christian Bible?
Tough questions! He answers himself by saying: "It is the radicality of God's justice and not the normalcy of civilization's injustice that, as a Christian, I find incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth." Me too!

If anyone wants to read this book and sit down and discuss it --- count me in!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gratitude

About a month ago I invited everyone to keep a Gratitude Journal during a sermon on Sunday morning. A few of you have been busy --- I haven't done as well as I would like, but I know that the days I do it --- it really frames the day.

A few weeks ago, Gloria Banjura from the church shared with me a poem that she wrote in her journal, about things she is thankful for. I asked her for permission to print it here.

GLORIOUS INDIAN SUMMER

Winter brings us cold winds and snow,
But also Christmas trees aglow.
For Jesus Christ came on this earth.
We celebrate his joyful birth.

Spring is shy and comes in late,
For sun and warmth she makes us wait.
Flowers are afraid to stretch and grow,
They may be covered by a late spring snow.

But finally summer does appear.
And what is that strange noise I hear?
Rain! It just goes on and on!
Our years, our cars, our homes are gone.

Then gently, quietly, fall floats in.
With sunshine, warm breezes, so we all begin
To build our lives anew with praise,
Thank God for strength and golden days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

LARRI


LARRI (Lakeshore AREA Regional Recovery in Indiana) was official created yesterday at the second meeting of the Long Term Recovery committee. LARRI is the Long Term Recovery organization created to partner with the people of Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties as they seek to restore their homes to a safe, secure and sanitary condition.

At the meeting we adopted the name LARRI, a set of Policies and Procedures, as well as elected officers to a two year term. Elected as Chair: Steven Conger, Pastor of Ridge United Methodist Church in Munster Indiana; Vice Chair: Gary Olund, of Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation; Secretary: Gordon Johnson, CEO of American Red Cross of Northwest Indiana, and Treasurer: Sharon Kish, Director of Porter County United Way. The seven chairs of the sub committees along with the officers and four at-large members will serve as a steering committee for LARRI.

Also adopted by the organization was a job description for a Director of LARRI (Disaster Coordinator). We are seeking persons who might be interested in this position. Persons interested should contact Steve Conger (219-757-1109) or steve@ridgeumc.org with a resume before the end of November. The steering committee hopes to have this critical position filled by mid-December.

We also discussed our application to Lilly for funds which is due next week. We have currently received $250,000 from Lilly and are applying for round 2 funding (application due November 21). We will keep you informed on the status of this grant application.

Wendy’s of Northwest Indiana made a presentation to LARRI of $9,100 in gift cards. The money was raised at local restaurants in the weeks since the flood. Thank you Wendy’s for your generous donation.

NEXT STEPS

The clean up phase is almost complete! It was reported that about 30 or so houses still need to be cleaned and those should be done over the next two weekends. We know that houses continue to be identified that need our assistance! Thanks to Kathy and her crew who have worked so hard in assuring that all of the homes in Northwest Indiana are "mucked out", and sanitized!

We are very concerned about homes without heat. The Construction/Volunteer management team is working with Case Management to identify the immediate needs and get working furnaces into those homes that need them.

Dates of future meetings:

Construction/Volunteers — Thursday (11/20), 10 AM, Lake Business Center 9200 Calumet Avenue, Munster.
Contact Dale Fieldhouse: fieldhouserefrig@aol.com

Publicity — EVERY Thursday, 3:30 PM Porter County United Way.
Contact: Byron Kaiser: pastor@hammondfumc.org

Spiritual and Emotional Care — December 3, 8:30 AM Geminus Corporation. Contact: Sandy Appleby: sandy.appleby@geminus.org

Preparedness — December 10, 2 PM Lake Area United Way

LARRI — December 9, 8:30 AM Duneland Conference Center, Portage. Contact: Steve Conger: steve@ridgeumc.org

Monday, November 10, 2008

Charge Conference

Last night we had our annual "Charge Conference". I put it in quotation marks because it was called a "Charge Conference" but it really wasn't. The "Charge Conference" is a mandated meeting by the United Methodist Book of Discipline to elect officers for the coming year, and adopted the appointed pastors salary. All of that was to have taken place prior to the meeting last night --- so what we were doing was not really a "Charge Conference." What it really took place was a cheer leading session as we move to a new structure that we are calling clusters.

What is a cluster?

In theory it is to be four or more United Methodist Churches that cluster together to share resources and ideas. How this is going to work is anybodies idea. I am not a fan of anything that is mandated from on high. For years I have had a group of clergy friends that get together regularly to support each other (sometimes just bitch and moan). This too is being mandated from on high, but hopefully what we do now will be sufficient to keep people happy.

I think the cluster idea has some real value if: you keep the clergy out of it for the most part, you have a clear sense of what you are wanting to accomplish, and you acknowledge that this is not a permanent reality, instead it is a temporary one that may morph and change over time. Without those, I am afraid at is destined to fail.

Regardless, it will be interesting as we see where this is going to lead us.

If there is anything I have learned in my almost 25 years as a United Methodist pastor is --- don't expect things to stay the same. There will be another new initiative to save the church and the world right around the corner.

New Generation anyone???

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thoughts from Fred Conger

My father shared these thoughts via e-mail this evening. I hope he doesn't mind that I share them with you.

November 4, 2008

On the Eve of a Great Historic Moment in American History:
The Election of the first non-white man as president of the United States of America.

My great grand father, Philander D. W. Conger was born in the frontier town of Jackson, Tennessee in 1819. He was the mayor of Jackson, an inventor, the owner of a sawmill on the Forked Deer River, and according to family legend, the owner of over fifty slaves. The family was proud of the fact that PDW Conger was so prosperous that he was able to own so many slaves.

As a child growing up in Jackson I was a part of a totally segregated society in which Black people went to separate school, churches, shopped in different stores, drank at “colored” water fountains, sat on “colored” benches in the court square, and could not eat in the restaurants where the “white” folks ate. Black people had their place and had better stay there or suffer the consequences which could include physical harm and in some case even lynching although I never heard of any lynchings in Jackson during my life time. Granted this pattern of segregation and discrimination were worse in the states of the old Confederacy it also existed to some degree in almost every part of the county where there were any sizable number of African American people. I am certain that my grand children are unable to conceive of what Jackson Tennessee was like when I was a child and young person.

Even more deplorable, this pattern of segregation and discrimination was considered to be fair and just by the majority of Southern people I knew, as well as by many people in the North, with many good church people considering this to be a sound biblical teaching that there should be no “mixing of the races”. Anyone who had the courage to challenge this cultural consensus risked being persecuted by the cultural majority. Those who came to seriously disagree with this cultural ethos either kept quiet in order to survive or moved north, as I did when I became a young adult. There was much about the South that I loved then and still do but I left because I did not want to live in a society that discriminated against many of its citizens because of the color of their skins. However, when I arrived on the South side of Chicago in the early sixties, I discovered that prejudice and discrimination, although not as pervasive, were still rampant in Chicago. It was only when the Supreme Court in 1954 ruled that “Separate But Equal Facilities” was unconstitutional and later with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Lyndon Johnson that this insidious pattern of segregation and discrimination began to change.

On Wednesday night when it become apparent that Barack Obama had been elected president of the United States of America in a decisive vote by the American people, I was overwhelmed with a strong emotion that finally we had become a nation that put into practice what we had declared long ago in our Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

I felt that by casting my vote for the first African American president that I had washed out some of the evil stain of slavery that my Great Grand Father had placed upon the Conger family over a hundred and fifty years ago. There were many other cogent reasons why I voted for Obama but this was the most important for me.

The greatness of America is that each one of us can cast his vote for the candidate of his choice according to the dictates of his own conscience. I affirm and support your right to vote for the candidate of your choice and hope that you do the same for me.

Although John McCain, a true national hero, lost this election his concession speech was a gracious moment when he pledged his support to our new president and called upon all the American people to work together to help solve some of the enormous problems that face our nation. If we want to avoid another deep Depression like the one in l929 that ruined my Father’s life and nearly destroyed our nation, then we had better heed his admonition and set aside those things which divide us, seek to find those things that unite us for the common good, and work together to find our way through this national economic crises regardless of political party or the color of our skins. We are not red or blue states but part of the United States of America.

God bless American, Land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her….”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Munster Flood

I have been invited by the Munster Civic Foundation to assist them in coming up with a plan to distribute a fund of money that has been collected to people who were effected by the September flood in Munster. We had our first meeting last night and began laying out the general framework for persons to apply to recieve this money. Currently there is about $100,000 in the fund, not a lot when you consider that more that 1,100 households were effected by the flood. If anybody has some thoughts about how the money should be distributed, you can comment here or send me an e-mail.

In this mornings North-West Indiana Times (our local newspaper) there was an article describing the Munster Civic Foundation. I have attached it for your convenience.

Munster Civic Foundation
About the group: Formed in 1992. Supports the Town of Munster. Meets quarterly. Nonprofit organization.

Mission: Munster Civic Foundation strives to enrich the community through such efforts as beautification and education projects.

Special events: Munster Civic Foundation established a flood relief fund and 100 percent of all collections will go to affected residents. Checks should be made out to "Munster Civic Foundation" and can be dropped off at any People's Bank or the Town Hall; there are no administrative costs from MCF or the bank.
The foundation paid a portion of the cost for the brick parkway along Calumet Avenue and Ridge Road; contributed $300,000 toward the $1.2 million federal grant for the first 10 miles of the bike paths and pays for the town's fireworks display every year. The group pays for holiday decorations on the light posts in town, provides $20,000 sponsorship toward the Blues and Jazz Festival and, in the past, provided $10,000 in sponsorship for the winter festival. MCF made a substantial contribution to Munster Centennial Park and was responsible for the aerial demonstration and the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra performance at the 100-year celebration. Munster Civic Foundation partnered with Munster Historical ociety for The Brass Tavern Cookbook that paired recipes and town history. The foundation encourages the display of public art through tax abatement of community properties and has the ongoing project of eplacing flags on street lights along 45th Avenue, Calumet Avenue and Ridge Road.

Advice: "There are absolutely no administrative costs associated with whatever giving is made to Munster Civic Foundation," said MCF secretary/treasurer Dave Shafer.

How to get involved: Donations for the flood relief fund can be dropped off at any People's Bank or the Town Hall or mailed to 1005 Ridge Road, Munster, IN 46321. For more information, call (219) 836-6945.

People might be surprised to know: "That it's (the foundation) around. We need to do more in the way of self-promotion," said Shafer.


Funds will continue to be collected until mid-late November.

Gratitude

Last Sunday, I preached a sermon about developing an attitude of gratitude. Through much research I have come to understand the physical benefits of an attitude of gratitude, but even more important are the spiritual benefits. When one is thankful for the blessings of life — for the blessing of life itself — it is amazing the way it changes our outlook.

The one thing that I challenged each of you to do is to start a gratitude journal. Every day, take a few minutes and write down some of the things that you are thankful for. I find that I am often writing down the same things, over and over again — and every time that I do, I think of them and think of how blessed I am. I am noticing a difference in me already.

Every day between now and Christmas take a few moments and write down the things that you are thankful for. If you are real creative, maybe you want to write a poem one day, or draw a picture, or . . . well, you get the idea. Every day, take a little time and say THANKS.
If you want to read my sermon (or listen to it), you can find it online at www.ridgeumc.org/sermons. I hope that you will take some time to be thankful, and begin to develop and attitude of gratitude. Just think what the world would be like if we all had an attitude of gratitude instead of an attitude of "get out of my way".

It is not easy to slow down and smell the roses. If you are like me, you are always in a rush — too busy to see all the things we should be thankful for and too busy to recognize all the invisible blessings that surround us. One of my favorite poems is by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes—
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Take some time to see God in your everyday life — and see the blessings that are in your life as well.

Finally, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. Thank you for being a part of my life, and thank you for letting me be a part of yours! I feel so blessed to be your pastor for these last eleven years. I have never lived this long in one place in my life — and I love it! I look forward to being in ministry with you for many, many more years to come. And most importantly, I look forward to taking off my shoes, and smelling the beautiful roses that God has put in our lives!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chicago Marathon 2008

Nancy ran this morning in the 2008 Chicago Marathon. I wasn't sure what to expect since she has had tendinitis in her achilles for the last month or so. She just started running again a little over a week ago.

It was a beautiful day in Chicago to watch a marathon, a little warm to run one. But regardless she did great. Nancy ran the marathon in 3:58:08. I told her she was going to run 3:56:26 before the race and actually, until the last 10K she was an on 3:52 pace.

Running a sub 4:00 means she qualifies once again for Boston! I am not sure she is excited, but I am. My guess is we will go in 2010 and not in 2009 (your qualification is good for 2 years). This spring may be a little crazy with Jessica hopefully going to Australia for a semester.

I will try to get all the pictures from the marathon on my flickr site tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Navigator

I have read quite a few of Clive Cussler’s novels, and am a big fan of the Dirk Pitt series. I can’t say the same about any of his other series. The Navigator is in the Kurt Austin series.

The book opens with Austin on a ship in the North Atlantic hunting icebergs. They come to the rescue of a ship which is headed for a oil rig only to find that it has been hijacked by a group of pirates seeking a priceless Phoenician antiquity.

The story links Solomon and the Queen of Sheba with Thomas Jefferson and Merriwether Lewis. OK, it is a little ridiculous. The story is all about this statue that everyone seems to want, but it is feared that it’s true identity will cause world calamity.

Overall the book was predicable and at times just plain stupid. The jousting scenes made you want to put the book down and say DONE! This was one of the worst Cussler books I have ever read! Don’t waste your time.

Flood part 1

Who would have thought all that would go on the last month? Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate what has taken place. Let me try to fill you in on what has happened since September 14th.

On September 13th, at 2:00 am Hurricane Ike came ashore at Galveston, Texas. We had been experiencing rain for the previous couple of days, but starting that weekend it rained, and rained and rained. I never realized that a hurricane could cause so much damage, so far away from where it came ashore. Sunday morning, we began getting flood warnings, and during the 11:00am worship service we received a cryptic note from the town saying that evacuations were taking place close to the Little Calumet River. Those of you who are from the region know that the Little Cal is hardly a river --- more like a dirty stream. But the rain had swollen the Little Cal to the point that it was flowing over the levee.

After Church was over, Nathan and I took a couple of women home because we had heard that there was a great deal of standing water on the roads in town. By the time I got home, close to 2pm, the rain had stopped, the sun was trying to get out --- and I was feeling guilty that I had decided to cancel Disciple Bible Study for the evening. I had no idea of the extent that the river had spilled its banks. Usually when we have a heavy rainfall my street always floods, not this time. It was very strange.

Monday morning, (my day off), I decided to head into the church, only to find that Nancy could not come in because the only exit from her neighborhood was underwater and closed. Nathan was dealing with water in his basement (seepage), and Kathy could not get across the Little Cal. from home. I spent some time trying to figure out what was going on, but really had no idea.

Tuesday, I started to really understand the impact that the flooding had. We began trying to locate all of the church families that were affected (12), and figure out what was going on in town. I went down to the Town Hall and in talking with the city officials I realized that nobody knew what the faith communities were doing. What I found out was --- neither did the faith communities. I took a phone book and began calling all of the faith communities in town, and invited them to a meeting at Ridge Church the following day. My objective was simple --- communicate what each group was doing and see what we needed to get organized. Not really a big deal.

Somehow my name ended up in the hands of the Indiana VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Assisting in Disasters). I received a call asking me to come the next day to an organizational meeting as the community planned a response to the disaster.

More to come . . .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Into The Forest

Our latest book for our book group was a rather strange read. It was "Into The Forest" by Jean Hegland. Written in 1996 it is a book that looks at what might happen if the world collapsed.

The story is set around two sisters Eva and Nell who live in the forest in Northern California. The story is told by the younger sister, Nell who loves to read and learn and is looking forward to escaping from California and attending Harvard. Eva wants to become a ballet dancer and is gearing up for a big audition in San Fransisco.

As we learn about the family, suddenly, and unexpectedly something happens. We never know what it is that happens, other than it has caused a total collapse of the infrastructure of the country. Was it war, economic collapse . . . we have no idea, and no one seems to interested in finding out. (That part really bothered me).

The mother has died of cancer, and now the girls and the father are forced to deal with living in the forest and surviving. All kinds of challenges ensue. As the girls have to deal with the death of their father and a stranger that changes their lives forever.

There were a couple of places where the book left plausibility. The relationship between Nell and Eli just never worked. Neither did the family's last trip into town. The visit to the warehouse store was ridiculous. And the ending left you scratching your head.

In a study guide to the book it makes the comment that:
Reading Into the Forest will forever change the way you think about a teabag, a scrap of paper, a metronome, an acorn, or a chocolate kiss candy. It will forever change your thinking about dreams and days of the week.

I must not have read the same book, because after I write this and turn it back into the library, I doubt I will ever think of the book again. It did not connect with me, or really any of us in the book group.

That is not to say that it was a bad book. It was an interesting and enjoyable read and does make you think about what the world would be like if there was a catastrophic collapse. But because I live in an urban jungle and not a California Redwood forest, it did not speak to me like it might others.

Friday, September 05, 2008

CHEATING

In my reading this week, I became aware of a book written in 2004 by David Callahan. In 1999, David co-founded a new think tank, Demos, a public policy center based in New York City. Demos combines research and advocacy, working to strengthen democracy and expand economic opportunity within the United States. Previous to co-founding Demos, David was a Fellow at the Century Foundation from 1994 to 1999, where he engaged in wide ranging public policy research and analysis. David received his B.A. at Hampshire College and his Ph.D in Politics at Princeton University.

I have not read the book, but it was linked to in another article. While trying to find out about it, I came across an article he wrote in the journal plagiary. The title of the article was: On Campus: Author Discusses the “Cheating Culture” With College Students. I found the article facinating, especially in light of the national political conventions, but also related to an issue that we are struggling with at the church.

I would love to get a group of people together to discuss the book (or even the article).

Is it OK to lie or cheat, simply because "thats what everyone else does?"

He offers three reasons why it is important why we should resist taking the shortcuts that are often put before us.

First, I think that being true to ourselves and our values is a key to happiness.

A second reason to forget the short cuts is that we all have to live with ourselves. Abraham Lincoln once said that “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. Thatʹs my religion.” Sounds simple enough, but of course we may not feel bad at the moment we do bad. Regret has a way of sneaking up on us, and it may only be later that we feel bad – because maybe we took a short cut we didn’t really need to take, and got something that we didn’t deserve. It’s something to watch out for. A life of integrity equals a life with fewer regrets.

A third powerful reason for why integrity should be important in our lives is that each of us plays a role in shaping the society we live in, and that our children will live in.
I think it is important as we choose our leaders for the future.

Anybody interested in a dialog?

Reflections on the Conventions

OK, I have tried very hard to keep my mouth shut during the conventions, but I came across this clip from one our our great journalists that really sums it all up.

If you have five minutes, it is worth watching.

I can't get it to work, just go to this site

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Its GONE!!!!

Wow, Tuesday afternoon Laura and Steve showed up with a Bobcat and now I no longer have a hole in my backyard, but now I have . . . a backyard! It is awesome, now I just need to get some grass growing!


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pool Bash part 2

Getting rid of that stinkn pool has just about killed me. I have gotten very lucky, however. Last week I was able to get seven truckloads of dirk delivered FREE! It came from a friends house who was putting in a pool.

Saturday and yesterday, we finished getting all the concrete broken up and removed. We found two electrical lines that we did not know were there, fortunately they both were dead. I also got the solar panels all removed. It looks like a whole different backyard.

Later this evening I am expecting a Bobcat to show up and help get the huge pile of dirt spread out.

I cannot say thank you enough to everyone who helped. Matt, Laura, Doug, Richard and Wes, along with Nancy and I got it all done this weekend! THANKS!

Now I just have to get some grass growing and do landscaping and . . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pool Bash (part 1)

This morning a group of men from Ridge Church came over to help me remove the in-ground pool from my back yard. We gathered at 8 am, sledge hammers in hand and began the destruction. Thank goodness, Buddy brought an air jack hammer, otherwise we would still be out there this evening.

Today had to be the hottest day of the year, and we were all toast by 1 pm. Unfortunately, we did not get it all done, so the good news is, all of you who wanted to come, but were busy today, don't worry: Pool Bash 2 is coming!

Thanks: Buddy, Jim, Richard, Bill, Wes, Steve, Dick, and Matt!!

The beginning of the morning
The end of the day

Locked Rooms

Laurie King is the author of a series of books based on the character created by Conan Doyle, Sherlock Homes. In King's novels, Sherlock Homes has met (and eventually marries) a young American named Mary Russell. This is the third in this series that I have read (there are eight currently) and this is the latest, written in 2005. The problem with the series is King writes as if you have read the previous books, so sometimes I think I am missing an inside joke. Regardless, the story flows no matter which books you have read.

In this adventure, Mary and Sherlock are leaving India and have decided to go to San Francisco to visit the home that Mary grew up in. Mary's parents died in a terrible auto crash, and Mary thinks that she is to blame. The story focuses on Mary as she deals with her past (her parents died ten years earlier) and tries to reconcile dreams she has been having with the reality of her past.

What I like about the stories is that they are complicated, yet at the same time, not so complicated that you are constantly trying to figure out who is who. The story is fun and engaging as Mary deals with her memories of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the lies and deceit that followed her family because of it.

The Venetian Betrayal

I have just finished Steve Berry's The Venetian Betrayal , this is the fourth Berry book that I have read. Two of the previous of the books have followed the Adventures of Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt as they have solved some of the worlds great mysteries. Earlier I have commented on The Alexandria Link and The Templar Legacy. Once again this duo works to rid the world of a horrible despot.

While the title suggests that it is about Venice, the book is really centered on Alexander the Great and the desire to find his grave. It was a face paced book, filled with all kinds of historical references, some real and others created to fit the story.

Overall, the story is a bit far fetched. But Berry does a great job in weaving an complicated, let very engaging tale. I thought that he might end it differently than it had, but he obviously is hoping to have the book made into a movie because the ending had Hollywood written all over it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sermon Series

Every once in a while I come across something that really makes me think. Often the books I read do one of two things, they affirm what I already believe (hence why I probably chose them) or they drive me crazy because they see the world sort of as I do, but we differ on some major fundamental beliefs. But every now and again, I find a book that does both of those things, but also challenges the beliefs that I hold.

Months ago, Kathy had given me Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo’s book Adventures In Missing The Point. I stuck it in a corner and totally forgot about it. The other day, I picked it up and began reading. WOW. As I read, I thought, "This will make a great sermon series . . ."

So, on September 5th I will begin a series based on this book. I only have three weeks free, so it will be a short series, and one, if successful, I might come back to in the fall or winter.

In the introduction they write:
What this adventure is about is facing our own blindnesses, our own insanities, our own foggy thinking and clouded judgment. It’s about admitting that we haven’t seen things clearly, and about wanting to think more clearly than we do.
I hope that you will come and join me on this adventure. Invite a friend as well. Who knows, maybe we will all see a little clearer and want to talk about the journey.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fishing in Canada

I wrote earlier about the great time that I had fishing in Canada. I am glad that everyone has gotten a kick out of me locking myself out of the cottage at 3:00 am. Part of the joy of getting older . . .

I wanted to post a couple of pictures. All of my pictures can be found on my Flickr site, but these are some of my favorites.

Quinceañera

I am getting ready for a Quinceañera service, actually the rehearsal, the service is tomorrow. If you are like me, you probably have no idea what a Quinceañera service is or why you would do one.

It is a Hispanic celebration, celebrating the 15th birthday of a girl. The tradition started out pretty simply, but like so many traditions today, it has taken on a life of it's own. Trying to find out anything about this service was difficult with Wikepedia and the Roman Catholic Church being the best sources. Believe it or not, there is actually a Quinceañera prayer in the United Methodist book of worship.

As I get ready for the rehearsal I keep wondering why I said yes. The family does not belong to the church, however they have attended in the past, and I presided over the marriage of an aunt a few years ago. IF I had thought about it, I would have said NO, because that wedding was almost an hour late getting started as the bride seemed to have her own personal clock that we were operating on (or maybe it was a cultural clock?)

Oh well, too late to second guess myself at this point. It is what it is, and it will be an interesting experience I am sure

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Flawed Bible?

I recently came across this great article in a blog that I regularly read by Mystical Seeker. This very provocative blog always makes me think outside the box.

In this one he challenges our notion of the Bible.
Click here to read the full article.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Transformations


Last Sunday, after getting home about 11:30 the night before from WV, the Conger clan climbed into our trusty Mini-Van for a journey to Indianapolis. We went to see Jessica in the play "Transformations" which was being put on by ShadowApe, a local theater troupe from Indy. Jessica spent the summer working on the show, and Sunday was the final performance. Nancy had gotten to an earlier show, but this was the first one that I could go to.

To be honest, I did not know what to expect. It was Grimm's Fairy Tales being retold through the eyes of Anne Sexton. I know virtually nothing about Anne Sexton, other than she was a poet and she committed suicide in the 70's. Peter Gabriel's song Mercy Street was written in honor of Anne Sexton. Transformations is a book that Sexton wrote, ShadowApe took the text and created an original adaptation. It was a bunch of vignettes all linked together -- 90 minutes without a break.

It was AWESOME. Not only was the show very, very good, I was shocked at how good Jessica was. She is really maturing into a fine actress! She still has some of her Jessica-isms, but she did things that I don't think she could have done a year or two ago. I wish I could have seen it more than once!

ASP part 3

One week ago I was very frustrated because I was not able to finish the porch and stairs that we were building. I know the other group was frustrated because they did not get everything that they wanted to get accomplished. But overall it was a fantastic week.

I know that we made a huge difference in Lisa and her families life -- that is what it is all about. Hopefully she has electricity in her trailer now and can get moved in before school starts up again.

We had two "accidents" on the trip. Michael fell off a ladder and landed on his tailbone. His trip to the emergency room was less than pleasant. M2 broke her leg while swimming (not sure how you do that), and her trip to the ER was very positive. Both of them had to miss the whitewater rafting trip on the way home. The three of us sat around, ate breakfast, and twiddled our thumbs until the others returned after about 4 hours -- then we all got the ten hour drive home! The youth who did the rafting had a ball! I hate that I had to miss it.

I would do ASP again, but I would want to be better prepared. We did not have any idea what we should bring, until we were there and realized what we should have brought. The ASP leaders did a terrible job in preparing us in that regard. In their defence, they are just kids themselves --- they are college students who had wonderful ASP experiences as students and now are the leaders of the project -- unfortunately they often are lacking in maturity but that is too be expected. Their hearts are in the right place.

I really enjoyed the chance to spend the week with the youth. I look forward to participating with the youth again on a mission project, but this time Nathan gets to be in charge and I get to come along for the ride.

The youth are putting on a spaghetti dinner on August 17th at 6:00pm at Ridge Church to thank everyone who supported them on this trip and to share their stories. Come and join us!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

ASP part 2

Monday morning began with us gathering up the tools that we might need (since I had not been at the site, I had no idea what we might need), making lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (minus the jelly because they ran out), loading up in the van and heading out to find our site.

We were located up Hinton Mountain Road, about a half hour ride from the school up a very windy and narrow road. I loved driving it every day. When we arrived we found a house that was, maybe in a fire, but regardless was only half there, a trailer right behind it (maybe 10 feet) that had no electricity and was not lived in because of that. This was "smiles". Some say that it was called smiles because the trailer bowed so much it looked like it was smiling. That had been corrected before we arrived.

Our task was to complete the underpinning (skirting) around the trailer. Most of the frame work had been done, but every now and again, we would find a 2x4 that was not nailed in. We quickly came to realize that those boards were in areas where wasps lived. We found out after I was attacked and stung twice in the face. Fortunately, I am not allergic to the beasts!

Over the next couple of days we completed the frame, attached tin skirting, put in 8 vents and w access doors. All of this was competed by early Thursday morning. Our next big task, which we fought to get permission to do, was build a porch and stairs so that the family could get into the trailer. We were dependent upon ASP bringing us lumber and we had virtually nothing to do Thursday morning until they finally brought us some of the materials (not all that we needed, however) around lunch time. That afternoon, we dug the holes for the posts and set them with concrete.

Friday again we had to wait around until they brought material (again at lunch time) so all we were able to compete was getting the joists of the porch attached. We really were disappointed that we could not get the rest of the porch and the stairs built. Hopefully, they are finishing that up as I write.

The other group worked on a house in town that had been burned by arson. The tasks that they had seemed overwhelming and I was glad that we got the trailer to work on that we had.

Most of the pictures are now online.

I will write part 3 later.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ASP in West Virginia

I am slowly recovering from my week with the youth of Ridge Church on our mission trip to Hinton WV with the Appalachian Service Project. I have not gone on a youth mission trip in a number of years, I think my last one was to Oklahoma. That trip I flew in late and flew out before it was over and just came a paid a visit with the youth for a couple of days. This time I was the team leader even though I flew to join the team on Sunday while they drove on Saturday.

The youth left on Saturday morning and drove to Charleston WV to spend the night at Christ UMC. They went to church the next morning and then drove on to Hinton. The big excitement was the realization that some famous actress was a part of the congregation (as far as I know she wasn't there that morning) and her sister was there. I have no idea who it was (they told me but, as they liked to remind me, I am OLD!

I left Munster right after Church on Sunday, I changed my clothes in my office and Nancy drove me to O'Hare. I thought I was on one airline but it ended up being United because it was a code share although my ticket was not very clear. Once I figured out where I was to be, I settled in for my 3pm flight to Washington DC (Reagan Airport) and then a short hop to Charleston WV. We boarded shortly before 3, only to find that their was a mechanical problem. While fixing that issue, another mechanical problem came up, that was fixed, we taxied out of the gate only to sit because of weather in Washington. We finally took off sometime after 6pm.

By the time we arrived my flight to WV had long since departed. Since it was mechanical issues, United arranged for a taxi to Dulles Airport (on the other side of town) for a flight that left in about an hour. I had to run through the airport, but I made it to the flight, only to find it delayed because of weather in Charleston. I finally arrived in Charleston after midnight, still needing to rent a van and then drive the 1 1/2 hour or so to Hinton. Fortunately my van that I had booked was waiting for me.

I arrived in Hinton sometime between 2am and 2:30, Monday morning -- 13 hours after I left Munster. By the way, the drive time to Hinton from Munster is only 10 hours!

I arrived and eventually find the school where we were staying. After an unbelievable adventure with only the light of a cell phone, I found my cot on the boys side of the gym (fortunately I did not wake any of the girls up when I was looking for my bed on their side of the gym . . .). Unfortunately, while they had set up my cot, they had not gotten my suitcase or my sleeping back out of the trailer. It was close to 100 degrees in the gym at 3am and I slept miserably until 5:30 am.

Enough for now, I will continue this adventure later!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Laclu

Greeting fron Kenora, Ontario Canada.

I am up in Canada with Jim Dye and his son in law Peter from Ct.

We have had a great trip so far.

We left Griffith Airport in Jim's Bonanza airplane with Peter flying. We took off about 5:45 am and arrived in less than four hours to Kenora. We then got in a car that Jim leaves at the little airport here to drive to Laclu where his cabin is. The cabin is actually on an island in the lake so we had to take a boat out to the island with all of our stuff.

Last night we had an early dinner and then headed out fishing. We are fishing for Walleye and I caught the first and the largest of the day. Also caught lots of Northern Pike and Perch but we have thrown all of those back.

Today we got Jim's sea plane and headed to a lake about 10 miles away. We got there and a thunderstorm came up. We tried to beat it, by jumping in the plane and heading back to the cabin, but all we did was take off in a torrential thunderstorm. I guess I have determined that I am not going to get airsick!

After about an hour or so, we headed back to the lake and fished again. This time the only problem was that I burned by legs! I wish I had taken my camera, but I didn't. I did not have a lot of luck with the fishing but we caught 6 or 8 nice sized Walleye. Peter caught a monster of a Walleye, easily over 2 feet, but since it was so big he released to to live another day and make more Walleye.

It is just 4 in the afternoon, but I am beat! I slept great last night (except when I got up to go to the outhouse and got locked out of the cabin at 3am --- that's a story for another day). Jim stayed at the house taking a nap, Peter had some work to do and wanted to find an Internet cafe, so here we are in downtown Kenora.

Tonight, I think that we are going fishing for Crappie, but I am not sure. Tomorrow, if the weather holds we plan to fly the float plan about 1 hour north of here to Fletcher Lake --- it is a fish camp fly in lake. Should be fun!

I got some great pictures of Chicago as we flew past yesterday, but I have not had time to mess with them and I may not until we get home.

I will try to update again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

AMAZING

I went to visit one of the "shut-ins" of Ridge Church this afternoon. She is 94 years old, and I love going to see her. The problem is that she wants me to stay for a couple of hours, when all I have is 15 minutes or so.

Well, I spent about a half an hour with her. And she said that she plans on living a least a couple more years. "I don't think about that much." She said. I am sure that she will.

Why she is my hero is because, even though she has failing eyesight, she reads the church newsletter and knows what is going on and wants to talk all about it. She loves to talk theology --- not the conservative BS, she wants to talk about progressive theology. She loves to engage her mind.

She was telling me how she just came across the cool company (The Teaching Company) that puts out all kinds of lectures. She said she is so excited because she is learning all kinds of new things (AT 94 YEARS OLD!!!!) She has been listening to a class on music appreciation. She is telling me all these things that she is learning about how music is structured and why that is important --- did I tell you she is 94?

She also found so Biblical lectures. I told her that I had a few and that I would have to go through them and see which ones she might like.

She is unbelievable. I hope that when I am her age, that I have that passion that she has to keep on learning. To many of us think we know it all and never move forward.

Thanks Amy!

What do you appreciate about the USA?

OK, I know that most of you would say that I am not the most patriotic person in the world. And without a doubt, you are probably right.

  • I do not believe that the flag belongs in a worship space

  • I am not a big fan of patriotic hymns (my favorite hymn is This Is My Song)

  • I am not a fan of the pledge of allegiance (but I do say it every week)
    • The 4th of July has come and gone and I am curious . . . What do you appreciate about the United States of America. How would you answer that question. Eugene Cho, in his blog on God's Politics, asked this very question.

      I am curious how you might answer.

      Check out this blog for some more interesting comments.

      Thursday, July 10, 2008

      Nancy

      I am working on my sermon for Sunday which is based on Genesis 25:19-34, which is the story of Esau and Jacob. As I have been studying their story I have become fascinated with Rebekah, even though she is not the theme for my sermon this week, I have done quite a bit of reading about her.

      In the midst of my reading, it made me want to stop and take a moment to thank the wonderful woman who is a part of my life. I would not be where I am today without Nancy! She is the light in my world.

      Most woman would have a hard time being married to me (and I am sure that Nancy does at times . . .) but, she has the wonderful gift of being willing to share me with so many other people. Most evenings, I am not at home because of meetings or appointments with people. Next week I am going to Canada with a friend who is a member of the church, and she is the one who encouraged me to go. As soon as I get home, I will load up to head off for a week to West Virginia to be with our youth Mission Trip with ASP.

      I am so lucky to be married to such a wonderful woman.
      She allows me to minister in so many ways!
      Thank you! I love you more than you will ever know!

      Wednesday, July 09, 2008

      Getting Ready

      It has been a crazy week, trying to get ready and get all the loose ends wrapped up for the mission trip to West Virginia with the Appalachian Service Project.

      I participated on ASP projects 30+ years ago when I was in High School. I have some great memories of those trips (and some pretty bad ones --- when Lori jumped out the window . . .). We went to Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky and would work on houses that were way up in the mountains. The two jobs that I remember best were digging a new outhouse pit and fixing up the outhouse and painting a tin roof. We always had a blast because on the way home we would be rewarded for our hard working stopping at an Amusement Park (King's Island in Cincinnati) or a side trip to Williamsburg, VA.

      We depart on Saturday, July 19th (well the youth do, I won't get there until Sunday evening the 20th). We will be staying in Summers County, West Virginia at the local Middle School, sleeping in the gym, showering in the locker rooms. It should be interesting.

      The last Sr. High mission Trip I found myself in charge of was five or six years ago when the youth went to Nashville, TN. What am I thinking . . . . . . . I am 48 years old!

      Now that most everything is sort of done --- at least the absolutely necessary items that would have caused the trip to be canceled, I am getting my head and heart around the project.

      What will we be doing? I have no idea for sure, but I know that we will be fixing up the homes of people who cannot afford to do it themselves. We will be traveling to one of the poorest sections of our country. I am sure that this will be an eye opening experience for our youth (and me as well!)

      Not sure how much I will be able to post while I am gone (if at all) but I will try.

      Next week I am heading to Canada to do a little fishing. But more about that later.

      Friday, July 04, 2008

      What a Day!

      Most importantly, welcome Tucker Carl Whybrew! Tucker was born to Sarah and Nathan Whybrew yesterday (July 3rd) in Lafayette, Indiana. Tucker weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and is 20.25 inches long. Ridge Church and the Town of Munster had a nice little celebration last night in his honor!

      Nathan is the new associate pastor at Ridge Church and they will be moving to Munster next week! YIKES! Hopefully, we will make everything go smooth and fairly easy for them. I cannot imagine moving with a week old baby, but that is the way the conference does things!

      Last night Munster held their fireworks display and Ridge Church invited the community onto the lawn. The place was packed as usual and we had a great time. After all the expenses are paid (which fortunately because of the generosity of so many people isn't too much) we will make about $2,600 which goes to support our Vacation Bible School and allows it to be FREE! Thanks to everyone who worked.

      This afternoon is the Munster parade and we will once again have a float in the parade. Nancy, Doug, Laura and Kathy are working on the finishing touches while I am goofing off in my office. It is a huge effort, but it is a lot of fun promoting the church and inviting people to our VBS.

      I will try to get some pictures posted of the parade on line this afternoon or tomorrow.

      Thursday, July 03, 2008

      Finally

      I think that I finally have most of the programs restored to my computer here at the office. I have not put any of my sermons on line for weeks, hopefully, I will find time to do that tomorrow.

      Tonight is the fireworks display by the Town of Munster --- there is no greater place to watch the fireworks than on the lawn of Ridge Church! As a bonus we sell hamburgers, hotdogs, Italian sausage, popcorn, and all kinds of other junk! Virtually everything is donated so that we can use the money that is raised so that we can provide a FREE Vacation Bible School to the community! VBS starts on July 14th and you can register here!

      Come out and join us tonight!

      Tuesday, July 01, 2008

      The Things They Carried


      Nancy and I are in a book group and the current book that we are reading is by Tim O'Brien called: The Things They Carried. It is a collection of stories (sort of) about Viet Nam from a particular soldier's point of view. Once I began the book, I could not put it down!

      It is a fascinating book, because it clearly is marked as a work of fiction, yet, Tim O'Brien did fight in Viet Nam, the narrator of the book is named Tim O'Brien and he constantly is saying that this is a "true war story". I don't know if any of the stories really happened, but I am convinced that they are ALL TRUE. Maybe that is not such a stretch for me, since I look at the Bible pretty much the same way --- I don't see the stories as "history", but I do know that they are "true."

      A couple of the stories really spoke to me. I was really drawn into the story he called "On the Rainy River". It was all about his struggle with his draft notice. Should he go to Canada or should he go to Viet Nam. He brings the angst that so many struggled with alive.


      The other stories that captured me were when he takes his daughter to Viet Nam and the closing story which is about death (life???).


      This is a powerful book that I would highly recommend!

      For more information about Tim O'Brien, check out his web site.

      Thursday, June 26, 2008

      Happy Birthday Stewart

      Today would have been Stewart Wesley Conger's 46th birthday. His life was cut short by cancer on November 11th, 1985. It is amazing how time tempers your memories. All the fights, all the disagreements that siblings have have vanished and all I remember is the good stuff. That is a good thing, I think.

      Twenty three years later, I still miss him and wonder what the world would have been like if he had lived. My hunch is my life would have been very different, because he has given me the willingness to keep on doing what I do, despite the crap that ministry often has to deal with.

      If you have not read my father's book about Stewart and his illness give me a call or drop me an e-mail, I would be glad to share it with you.

      Addicted to . . . OIL!

      Thomas Friedman had a great op ed piece earlier this week in the New York Times. In the article Friedman talk suggests that President Bush is our "Addict in Chief" and that the Bush energy policy is to get us to take "one more toke on the ole oil pipe."

      Friedman then points out that Bush is doing his best to blame our addiction on the Democrats. I love his sarcastic sense of humor.

      He challenges the president to offer the following energy plan:

      “Oil is poisoning our climate and our geopolitics, and here is how we’re going to break our addiction: We’re going to set a floor price of $4.50 a gallon for gasoline and $100 a barrel for oil. And that floor price is going to trigger massive investments in renewable energy — particularly wind, solar panels and solar thermal. And we’re also going to go on a crash program to dramatically increase energy efficiency, to drive conservation to a whole new level and to build more nuclear power. And I want every Democrat and every Republican to join me in this endeavor.”

      There is no doubt but that we are dependent upon oil, and the big oil companies and the Saudi's are going to do their best to keep us addicted. 30 years ago when I was in high school and gas was creeping up to --- oh my gosh --- $1 a gallon we started talking about the need for other energy sources. Unfortunately, until we hurt enough --- we are not going to give up our addiction to oil!

      Transitions

      A lot has been going on over the last couple of weeks. Lindsey is doing great since her surgery. I have noticed a change in her condition, she seems much more stable than she had been prior to the surgery. In a couple of weeks we will do some blood work to see if we have found the right amount of synthroid that she is taking every day.

      Jeff and Heather headed back to Kansas this morning. I wish them well as they begin this new phase in their lives.

      I am moving my office back into the office I started with 10 years ago. I moved when Jeff came and then had to move again (into a smaller room) because we needed the space for the Sunday School. It is a pain to move but I know I will be happier in this new room. I also am trying to get my new computer up and running, I have transferred most of the files, now I just have to re-install all of the programs. WHAT A PAIN!

      At lunch today I went and holed myself up so that I could do a little reading --- I just needed to get away for a while. I finished a great novel by Laurie King. I had previously read a book in her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series called O Jerusalem --- which I loved, because it took me back to Israel/Palestine. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the first in this series in which Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes meet. The book is slow at times, yet I wanted to finish so that I could figure out who the villain was. King does an interesting job in tying together the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with her version of an older (and "retired") Sherlock Holmes.

      Monday, June 16, 2008

      Sorry that it has been so long since I wrote on my blog.

      Last week Lindsey had her surgery to remove her thyroid. Everything went well, but she had to spend an extra night at the hospital because she was oozing more than the doctor liked. She will go back to see the surgeon on Friday, but she is actually planning on going to work this afternoon (she works at the Munster Branch of the Library). She is doing really well, but is very tired and still not very interested in eating.

      Nancy spent the two nights up at the hospital and I spent the days running back and forth. With all of the trips that I made, I am thankful for my little Honda Fit which gets 32+ MPG on the Highway. I also want to thank everyone who kept us in your thoughts and prayers. As I said Sunday, I really appreciate the love and concern that Ridge Church has shown us!

      Today I am still trying to get my Palm data moved over to Outlook so that I can get my Blackberry up and running. Thus far it has been a royal pain in the butt! At least I haven't lost all of my data (yet!!!).

      Sunday will be Jeff and Heather's last one with us. It will be a bittersweet day. I am excited for them, because I know that they are anxious to get home (I remember when I made the decision to leave North Carolina and head back to the heathen North, at least that is what my church people in Richfield, NC thought). But I am also sad to see them go. Jeff has been a phenomenal associate and has really grown over these last three years. I wish he was taking a church, (because that is where his gifts really are) but I know that he will do well on the staff at COR.

      Friday, May 23, 2008

      Appeasement

      I came across an interesting article this morning. It is found on Beliefnet and Sojourners, the God's politics blog called Diplomacy = Hitler Appeaser? It was written by Garth Higgins a Christian Peace activist in Belfast Ireland. It is pretty interesting that Bush used the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Israel to make this comment --- which was I believe a back handed attack of Barak Obama and his stated willingness to talk with our enemies.

      The implication that Bush was making was that there are only two choices --- using Higgins words: "terrorize the terrorists or to cower in fear and denial." I agree with Higgins that there is always another way -- and as Christians we need to seek that alternative vision.

      Throughout the history of the world we have talked with our enemies. Whether is is Roosevelt with Stalin, or the British with the IRA and even Bush with Hamas.

      Is Obama naive? Probably, and I assume that if he is elected he will use every back channel opportunity he has to build links with other powers throughout the world. Some of which will work, others that will not. But the Bush policy of the USA beating up everybody who does not do what we tell them has not worked either. It is time to quite using rhetoric simply for political gain and to starting working for shalom.

      Thursday, May 22, 2008

      What was I thinking?

      Last fall, with Haley joining the Munster HS marching band, Nancy and I joined the "Band Backers." It is an organization that supports and raises money for the Marching Band. We also were asked to sign up to help with a number of different areas. I signed up to help take photo's of the band throughout the year. One of the worse things that an organization can do is ask people to help, and then not give them the opportunity. On the sign up sheet, it stated that we would be contacted by the people in charge of that area. Needless to say, I was never contacted.

      At a recent Band Backers meeting, they were looking for someone to put together a slideshow - DVD of the year and the seniors. Nancy suggested that I could do it. The deadline for the pictures was APRIL 15th --- the last picture I received was May 17th, with a large group arriving on May 12th. I don't know what people think, but putting together a year end DVD with 26 seniors doesn't happen overnight. The banquet is tomorrow and they want 36 copies from me. As I write this, I hope that the final version, is being burned to a DVD. Once I watch it again . . . I can start making my 40 copies that are needed for tomorrow.

      Once this is done, I get to begin working on the Ridge Church senior DVD. That should not take as long (it better not!!!).

      I have been doing some reading. I have recently finished two novels that I picked up at the Rummage Sale and have mixed feelings about both of them. I am a big Clive Cussler fan, especially the Dirk Pitt series. His books are rather mindless, but do take you on some great adventures. FLOOD TIDE was written in 1997 and was one of those books that you knew in reading it that it had to have been written prior to 9-11. It is unfortunate how some details just don't work because of our new emphasis on "homeland security." The premise of the book is that during the Chinese Revolution in 1948, treasures were taken from the country by Chang Kai-shek and ultimately lost at sea.

      Fast forward to 2000 and a modern smuggler is bringing illegal goods and people into the United States with the hope of eventually creating a Chinese country on the West Coast. Qin Shang the smuggler is more interested in building an empire for himself, but is most interested in finding the lost treasure. Of all the Cussler books that I have read, this one seemed the most far fetched. I know that the government can be inept but this was beyond belief. This book gets a "C" from me. I did finish it, so maybe that says something.

      While the video was burning, I read a Tami Hoag book: LUCKY'S LADY. Pat hooked me up with her mysteries when I went on my renewal leave. This one was not typical Hoag. She even tells you that in the forward. Hoag stated as a romance novelist. This book is kind of a bridge between her earlier romance books and her later suspense novels. It is set on the bayous of Louisiana, and centers around the Sheridan family. Like most families they have lots of issues. I have to admit, while I almost put the book down a number of times, I am glad that I finished it. It was well written and had a good message. It gets a "B" from me.

      I will try to find some time while I am burning the copies of the video, to write about the last book, but first I need to go and watch the video once again.

      Tuesday, May 13, 2008

      Catching Up

      It has been too long since I took the time to write, and I will try to do better this week.

      Over the last few weeks, Nancy and I have attended five plays. Two of them were of the professional variety, one was community theater, one had Jessica in it and the other had Haley. Overall they were pretty good shows, but one stood out head and shoulders above the rest.

      The Center for Visual and Performing Arts (Theatre at the Center) in Munster recently held the world premier of a show called Knute Rockne: All American. It is a brand new show celebrating the life of the great Notre Dame football coach. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much --- a musical about football . . . Most stage actors don't (can't) look like football players . . . But I was totally surprised. This is a great show! Hopefully it will eventually make its way to Broadway and I can say I was there at the beginning.

      We also saw, as part of the Broadway in Chicago series, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The performance was very good, but I could not stand the show. It was the first time that I have been downtown and noticed a great many people leaving at the intermission. I don't mind dark stories, but I would like it to go somewhere (anywhere!), Sweeney Todd goes nowhere. I have a hard time imagining how this could be such a successful musical. I haven't seen the movie, and I doubt that I will waste my time.

      The third show is from our local community theater: Towle Community Theater. They are in the midst of a run called: No Way To Treat A Lady. This was a cute musical. Rather dark, but well done and at least it came to some resolution. I love the Towle, the do a great job in a very creative space in downtown Hammond.

      Jessica was involved in a short play (one of six senior shows) that we went to see at Butler last week. All of the shows were very creative, some too long (I imagine they had a time requirement), others just sort of wandered. For me two of the shows really stuck out. One was of a homeless guy who shared his story in an amazing way. Unfortunately, this one went to long and the middle section --- when he decided to preach at the audience got stupid --- but overall it was a powerful look a the mind of someone who is living on the street. My other favorite, of course, was the one Jessica was involved in. All six short plays were done in different rooms throughout a building on the Butler campus, Jessica's was done in a stairwell. Yes, a stairwell. And believe it or not, the used it extremely well. All six of the shows were about relationship angst. The only bad thing about her show was that it started at 9pm went 2 hours and we still had to finish loading her up and drive back home. They all slept as we got home about 2am.

      Haley was involved in the Munster High School production of Guys and Dolls. I have to admit, I am sick and tired of all the "classic" musicals but overall they did a great job. The pit, however, was the pits! Sometimes I wondered how in the world the people could figure out which note to sing since the orchestra was all over the place!!

      Coming up we get to go back to Butler to watch Jessica in Transitus Animae an exploration of the tabOO. I have no idea what that will be about. We also will head back into Chicago to see Avenue Q next week.

      Thursday, April 24, 2008

      Boston sidetrips

      It seems as if this is my fate lately. Have a flight home, a funeral the next day and then flight problems. Nancy and I were supposed to catch a 8:45 flight back to Chicago this evening. That would have meant getting in around 10:15 and getting home no later than midnight. It is now 10:45 and we do not seem to have any departure in sight. If, and that is a big if at this moment, the flight gets off at 11:15 like they are now saying, that means landing around 1:00 am and getting home at 2:30 or so. Nice.

      We had a great day today. We started the morning by going to Concord and saw some of the Revolutionary War sites. We followed along the Battle Road from that first day in the War, April 19 1776, when shots were fired at Lexington and the bridge at Concord before the colonists chased the King’s troops all the way back to Boston.

      Following that we stopped, also along the Battle Road, at the home of Louise May Alcott, the author of “Little Women”, later owned by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Unfortunately the house was closed, but Nancy knocked on the door anyway hoping that someone might let us in.

      We then drove a couple of miles, just outside of Concord to Walden Pond. The location that Thoreau went into the woods for his two year experiment. It was a beautiful place.

      I have to admit that I never realized that so many authors came from this small area . . .

      We then spent the afternoon in Boston, first at Cheers for a late lunch and then Nancy and I walked the freedom trail through town. We had a great time.

      Tuesday, April 22, 2008

      She did it!


      Nancy ran and completed the Boston Marathon in 4:09:57. Her goal was around 4:15 so she did just what she wanted to do.

      This is a very different race from Chicago. Not nearly the crowds, and not the crazy runners or crowds. This felt much more serious than Chicago, which I guess is not surprising. What was amazing was the number of "bandit" runners that we saw, especially early in the race. My guess is that there were 10 or 15% of the runners at the 10K mark that were not "official" entrants in the race. However, by the 20 mile mark, when I ran up Heartbreak Hill with Nancy, the number of "bandits" had diminished greatly.

      Nancy is feeling good this morning, and we are going to go and see the sites of Boston. I have posted a lot of pictures on my flickr site of the race.

      Sunday, April 20, 2008

      Boston

      Greetings from Boston!

      We arrived safely yesterday, but I found myself in charge of driving and managed to get us lost a few times. I like the nice straight streets of Chicago!, everything in Boston goes around in circles.

      We went downtown to find the spot where Nancy has to register (and where the race ends). We spent a couple of hours at the fair, and got all kinds of goodies. Nancy got a few autographs, one from a woman who is running in the Olympic trial this morning.

      After that we went looking for our hotel. I got us lost again! But eventually we found it. We took a little nap and then we went and drove the course.

      YIKES! This is the starting place in the village of Hopkinton (it is a Korean Presbyterian Church). The course is HILLY, a lot worse than I thought it would be, but Nancy for the most part didn't freak out.

      I am glad we drove it, because I will not really see the course again. My plan is to try and see her a few times along the way. One spot about 5 or so miles in, and again by heartbreak hill, and then toward the very end. We will see how this works out.

      Today we are going sightseeing, up to Salem. Were gonna get some of that Old Time Religion, in which we killed people we disagreed with!

      Nancy's number in the race is 19539, you can follow her on Monday by going to the Boston Athletic Association site.

      Thursday, April 17, 2008

      Exhausted

      I am emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted! I think I am coming off the worst couple of week periods in my life. OK, I can think of some worse times, but this has been pretty bad!

      As I got home this evening from visits to the hospital I just wanted to collapse. I tried to take a short nap but even that didn't work. I just need to get away for a few days . . . oh yeah, I get to do that --- but who picked the 6:30 am flight anyway? What was I thinking?

      This week has been exhausting because of all the sickness and death that I have had to deal with. One of our staff members has been sick since the first of the year and they decided to do a little exploratory surgery --- fortunately that has been good news. No cancer, but what exactly is going on?? We are all still anxious to find out.

      On Sunday I was asked to share with the congregation that our Lay Leader (and a great!! friend) had cancer and was having a surgical procedure on Monday to find out if his lymph nodes were involved --- NO! That was certainly good news. Then this morning he had surgery to remove the cancer from his lung. That, too, went well and he is on the road to recovery!

      For the last few weeks I have been spending time with a family whose son is dying of cancer. It has been tough because they have been in total denial and even as the end is drawing closer they cannot see the forest for the trees. It has been frustrating and draining. I think that I have had to re-live a lot of my emotion of Stewart's death, as his brother has tried to deal with his brothers death and all the guilt and anxiety that he feels. Tonight they were moving him to Hospice --- thank goodness for this wonderful organization! As I get ready to leave town I wonder if he will still be alive when I return.

      Last night I presided over a memorial service for Bob Sutter. It was a great celebration of his life. His son Scott and three others spoke, and his words were powerful and from the heart. It truly was a celebration of life!

      All this is going on as I try to create a new scenario for the Ridge Church staff. A very good candidate as an associate has been presented to me and so I am working out what this might mean. I am looking forward to getting to know him better and he and his wife getting to know me and the ministries of Ridge Church. I hope that we both can sense discernment as we go through this period of courtship.

      But all of these things have left me wiped out. I know that spending the weekend in Boston will be a big boost!

      Wednesday, April 16, 2008

      Happy Birthday Lindsey

      Yesterday was Lindsey's 17th birthday. As we got ready to go out to eat and celebrate I could tell that she was not feeling real good. I asked her about it and at first she gave me her usual shrug, as if nothing was wrong --- but I could tell. Eventually she told me that she didn't feel good.

      Lindsey spent her entrance to the teenage years (her 13th birthday) in the hospital. She had just recently been diagnosed with Graves Disease and she was in, what is called, a thyroid storm. That is when your thyroid gland is producing thyroxine out of control. It is the only time that Graves Disease is really dangerous. Four hard years have gone by, and still the Graves Disease plagues her. Every now and again, for no apparent reason, Lindsey just feels lousy. Soon, Lindsey will be back at Children's Memorial Hospital to have her thyroid surgically removed. This seems to be the best option for her at this stage in her life. Hopefully this will resolve this long strange trip we have been on.

      HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINDSEY!

      The Marine Hymn

      Interesting article in today's Northwest Indiana Times. It is about Lt. Shawn Blue, a Munster native who was killed in Iraq one year ago. It was a nice piece written by a friend and I assume fellow Marine. What struck me was the conclusion. He wrote: "I like to think that if the gates of heaven are guarded by Marines, as the Marines hymn suggests, that 1st Lt. Shaun Blue is now forever walking the lines of the perimeter, checking on the Marines defending their eternal post."

      I must not have ever heard the third verse which suggests that heaven will be guarded by Marines. The verse goes like this:
      Here's health to you and to our Corps
      Which we are proud to serve;
      In many a strife we've fought for life
      And have never lost our nerve.
      If the Army and the Navy
      Ever look on Heaven's scenes,
      They will find the streets are guarded
      By United States Marines.

      What an interesting spin on Christianity and our military might. Not only are we the "protectors" of the world, but we are also the protectors of heaven. Not to sure what we are to make of this, but my hunch is that this worldview does not fit within the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview.

      Sunday, April 13, 2008

      The Race

      With the presidential race heating up in Indiana, I decided to read Richard North Patterson's book --- The Race. Patterson, the master of courtroom drama has taken the headlines of today and mixed them with the Pat Robertson campaign from a few years ago.

      It is the story of Corey Grace, a young man who is taken prison in the Gulf War and tortured. Upon his return home, Grace is seen as a hero and becomes a republican candidate for the US Senate. The main story takes place thirteen years later, after the breakup of his marriage when Corey finds himself as a leading contender for the republican nomination for president. I have to admit, I have a hard time believing that Corey could have risen to this stature in the republican party because of many of his political views. But, it is fiction!

      Corey becomes smitten by a beautiful African American actress who steals his heart and threatens to destroy his candidacy. Running against Corey are two other white males. One, Rob Marotta of Pennsylvania, who is the stereotypical republican candidate, who had very little say in his campaign and is controlled by his campaign strategist Magnus Price. The second is a evangelical preacher.

      Patterson weaves a fantastic tale (even if it not fully believable) that captures the imagination and has you cheering and booing! I could not put it down until I was finished.

      As the primary gets closer, this would be a fun book to read, just so that you can "see" maybe just a little of the inner workings of a presidential campaign. But be ready --- the ending will turn everything upside down!

      Saturday, April 12, 2008

      Christianity and Capitalism

      I came across this the other day. I addresses some of the issues that we were struggling with in our DISCIPLE last Sunday evening. We had been studying the book of Romans, and were wresting with how we as Christians stand above/against/sideways to our culture.

      Christine Chakoian writes:

      Chandler Stokes, who’s now a pastor in California, tells of an epiphany he had when he was a student at New College in Edinburgh a number of years ago, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. While Chandler was there, he had the rare chance to hear the head of the East German Church, a Protestant church trying desperately to survive behind the Iron Curtain. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, this leader remarked on the struggle of his audience. He said,

      "Almost every time I come to the West, I am asked by serious and well-meaning church people, ‘How are you able to be a Christian in a communist society, with so many pressures and impositions from the state?’ My usual response is to ask, ‘How are you able to be a Christian in a capitalist society? With every pressure to self-centered consumption and self-gratifying indulgence?" ...

      Capitalism, tempered by compassion, can accomplish great good. Capitalism can inspire creativity, encourage independence, and most importantly, raise people out of poverty. But capitalism can’t teach us to care ... and it can’t teach us that greed is ultimately empty ... and it can’t teach us that, in the long run, sharing what we have brings us much more joy than owning things. Capitalism can’t teach us any of these things. But the gospel ... the gospel can.


      Powerful words. American Christianity has lots of work to do!

      Thursday, April 10, 2008

      Wrestling With God (the class)

      Last night I began a new series at our WWE program (Wonderful Wednesday Event) that is going to wrestle with some of this issues that people struggle with in relationship to God and their faith. I started with a pretty basic questionnaire so that I could get a baseline on where the class was at. Over the next few weeks we will begin trying to address the issues that were raised in this little questionnaire. Everyone is welcome to join the class!

      Someone suggested that I had this out to the entire congregation.
      Interesting idea --- any thoughts or suggestions?

      Fill this out yourself --- there really aren't any right or worng answers (except for #3).


      1) I have read:
      _____ The entire Bible
      _____ Some of the Bible
      _____ Most of the Bible
      _____ Not very much of the Bible

      2) I feel like I understand the Bible and its purpose pretty well.
      ___ Yes ___ No

      3) There are ____ books in the Bible (how many?)
      _____ In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)
      _____ In the New Testament

      4) The purpose of the Bible is to . . .

      5) The Bible is the:
      _____ Literal Word of God
      _____ Some of it is the Literal Word of God
      _____ Metaphorical (symbolic understanding — what it means, rather than if it is "literally true")
      Explain what you mean by the above answer:

      6) Who wrote the Bible?

      7) How does your understanding of who wrote the Bible affect your understanding if the literal/metaphorical nature of the Bible.

      8) How do you understand God?
      Describe God —
      God’s nature, God’s function, God’s purpose, etc.

      10) The part of the Bible that I get hung up on is:

      11) What I really want to understand better is:

      12) I understand Christianity as being:
      _____ The only way to God
      _____ A way to God, but not the only way