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


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


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.


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

MHS Reality Store

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work at Munster High School's "Reality Store." It is an event for Freshmen in which they are assigned a life situation (married, single, kids, job, etc), and then must create a monthly budget and live within their means.

I, of course, worked the charity booth, in which I invited people to give to charity. It was a fascinating experience. First, the organizers of the event had the charity booth located about 2/3 of the way through the event --- other booths, such as food, transportation, housing, lawyers, etc were all before they would get to the charity booth. What is interesting is it continued the often held notion of seeing charity as giving our leftovers, one we have satisfied all of our needs(wants?). Many of the kids would perpetuate that stereotype by saying they would come back after they saw what they had left over.

Second, often heard phrase was: "Do I have to?" as in --- Do I have to give to charity? No, it was voluntary, unlike most of the other items that they were required to budget (as it should be!)

Third, they had a list of suggested charities that the youth could give to. One of the items was "religious organization". They had offered suggested gifts to the various organizations (but more on that later.) What was fascinating to me was, of the 150 to 200 youth that I saw one 2 (TWO) wanted to give to "religious organizations." Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your point of view) one of the two was my daughter. The youth were happy to donate to the Humane Society (probably the biggest recipient) but wanted nothing to do with their churches. What are we teaching out children . . .

Fourth, as I mentioned earlier the organizers of the event had offered suggested donations for various organizations (usually in the $20 range), I suggested to the woman who was working the table with me that we hid the suggested amounts and see what happens. IT WAS AMAZING! While the gifts were to the same organizations, they amounts increased. My guess was the average gift after our "experiment" was close to $200 per student. When allowed to be generous on their own without being given an out the really stepped up to the plate!

Fifth, the other thing that we pondered as we worked the table was: is there a relationship between the students that give and their parents giving to charitable organizations, or the reverse. Did students who walked right past the booth, or asked if they "Had to give" had that attitude modeled at home. No way to test that, but it made for an interesting discussion.

One final note, the other student who wanted to give to his church said that he wanted to tithe. AWESOME! He figured up the amount and wrote it down (his math skills weren't too good --- a problem for lots of Christians????) and what he wrote was 1% not 10%. I explained his error and he began figuring again. This time when he got the correct amount he said to me: "I can't afford that!" I suggested he look at his budget and see if there weren't some things that he could change so that he could "afford it." As we looked I noticed that he had purchased a very expensive sports car, I suggested that my be a place that he could make a change. Instead he wrote down a number equal to about 2% and said --- "nah, this is all I can afford." I had to chuckle!

By the way, in case you are curious, the "suggested amount" given by the event organizer was $40 per month. For most of the students that was around 1% of their calculated income.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jim & Betty Dye Foundation (the meeting)

The scholarship committee of the Jim and Betty Dye Foundation met today, and it was my first experience with the team. I spent about 6 hours reading through the approximately 80 applications to prepare for this meeting today. Every application was scored based on a number of criteria. As I mentioned earlier --- it was not an easy process.

As we met today it became abundantly clear the Mr Dye and I were the high scores, while a couple others were much more demanding. But it really doesn't matter, because all the scores of the eight members of the team were combined. Thus as long as one was consistent in their scoring, it all come out in the wash. (I think I was consistent, just consistently high.)

If someone is reading this and plans to apply in the future, let me offer a few suggestions. First, type your application --- it is a PDF that can be typed right into it. Second, check your spelling!!! Unbelievable how bad some people spell in a document that they are giving to others!!! Even worse were those who hand wrote theirs and it was illegible! Third, find some people to give you a honest evaluation not a form letter. One teacher from Lake Central wrote the exact same thing for 2 or 3 students, and one point failed to correct the gender of the person they were writing for. Another teacher from Munster hand wrote the recommendation letter and said NOTHING but I suppose it really didn't matter because it was illegible. Shame on you!!! (Not the student, the teacher!, but knowing that particular teacher I was not surprised!) Fourth, BE CREATIVE! I read the same B.S. 75 times, only 4 or 5 were really creative (and I am willing to bet they all will get a scholarship offer).

Jim and Betty Dye are offering a wonderful gift to Northwest Indiana. I hope that next year as we sit down to evaluate the applications that we have twice as many! If you want to know more about the scholarship go to the web site, or drop me an note.

I look forward to hearing the announcement in a few weeks about who has received the scholarships --- we had a great group of kids to select from!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Playing For Pizza

The Cleveland Browns are up big in the AFC Championship game --- just a few minutes from the Super Bowl --- in comes third string quarterback Rick Dockery. He manages to throw three interceptions and lose the game.

Rick Dockery has been a journeyman quarterback his whole career --- his best role is caring the clip board. But now that he has become the biggest goat in the history of the NFL he is running out of teams to play for. His agent finds him a team in Parma, Italy and convinces Rick to go.

Master story teller John Grisham weaves a wonderful tale of football, food and history as we follow Rick and his adventures in Parma and the Italian Football League.

Nancy gave me this for Christmas and once I started reading I could not put it down. It is a fun and fast read. And Yes, there really is an American Football league in Italy!

Jim and Betty Dye Foundation

I spent this morning finishing up reading the applications for the Jim and Betty Dye Scholarship. WOW, what a difficult task. The top candidates were pretty easy, as were the bottom few --- but the rest --- YIKES! It was not easy.

Part of my problem was I scored way too high to start and so I made my spread so very narrow. It did got give me a lot of room for the evaluations. But somehow I got them done, I am looking forward to meeting with the full committee as we compare our results.

If you are not familiar with this scholarship it is awesome! Jim and Betty Dye created a foundation that awards full tuition scholarships to the state schools in Indiana for students in North West Indiana. It started originally with just Purdue and Indiana, but today it includes IUPUI, Purdue Calumet, IUN and Ball State.

I feel very honored to be a part of the Jim and Betty Dye Foundation. For more information about the scholarship program go to the foundation site.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

You gotta be kidding

I came across a funny story the other day. If you didn't see it, it is worth reading. A bunch of high school kids decided to test their schools drinking policy. OK before you freak out --- did you read the story?

Well, the way it goes is a couple kids at their high school got suspended from playing sports because pictures showed up with them drinking out of red cups. So a group of kids from the school decided to show that drinking out of a red cup didn't mean that you were necessarily drinking beer. They throw a kegger party and before long the house was overflowing with kids.

As you can imagine the police were called and began making the kids take breath tests. The only problem was --- it wasn't a keg of beer --- it was a keg of 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer. Even once the police realized that it was a root beer kegger they didn't stop but continued to check out the kids and even did a room to room search of the house. Over 90 kids had a breath test done on them.

"It was a tremendous waste of time and manpower, but we still had a job to do, and our officers did it," Joling said. "If one kid had come there, even hadn't drank there, but had come there and had been drinking and had left and crashed and burned, then what would the sentiment be? Why didn't the police check everybody out?"

What's next? Hanging out at McDonald's and checking everybody just in case somebody was drinking! Don't get me wrong, I am all in favor of police checking for people who are drinking and driving but at a root beer kegger? How about sitting outside the local tavern and checking everybody who walks out and gets into the driver seat of a car, now maybe that would bring up some results!