Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Speed Linking

  • American corporations earned profits of 1.66 trillion last quarter. These are the highest quarterly profits on record. Some of this was from overseas enterprises. The overall economy might not be doing well, but major corporations are doing fine.
  • An editorial from Time, discusses the courts being ahead of the general public on the issue of gay rights. This is not the only time courts have been ahead of society, as they point out in looking at the civil rights movement and the aftermath of court rulings
  • There is some renewed discussion about the possibility of making Pluto a planet again. Go Pluto!
  • A new study has found that use of the drug Truvada, which is already used to treat HIV, has been found to cut the risk of the transmission of the disease to uninfected gay men. If this is found to be true through further studies, this will be a major breakthrough in stopping the spread of this disease.
  • The Pope has come out and said that condom use by both male and female prostitutes to stop the transmission of HIV is okay in some situations. This is a major move. It, of course, is not without opposition.
  • Social networking continues to cause issues and concerns. Two men are being prosecuted in England for comments they tweeted, which they said where just jokes and where also private remarks, which clearly means they don't get it either. A pastor has told clergy not to be on Facebook because it can cause marital infidelity.
  • Tom Delay has been convicted of money laundering and conspiracy. He could face life in prison, although I highly doubt that will happen. I have a friend from high school who worked for Delay on the Hill. He became so disgusted with what he saw there, that he left politics and also moved considerably to the left.
  • Apparently generation Y is handling their money very differently than previous generations. Since they have not seen stable economic conditions during the majority of their lives they are acting more like the depression generation. This will have significant impact on the future for many things, including the church.

Creating A New Christmas Tradition

This Friday marks the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. People will show up at all hours of the night in order to cash in on the “Black Friday” sales, and then shop, shop, shop. In order to “successfully” do Christmas, we are told, we have to spend hours in traffic, hours in stores, and lots on money in order to make everyone “happy.”

In the meantime, according to a recent survey, 1 out of 3 people say they will return at least one gift they receive; we end up producing 25% more garbage between Thanksgiving and Christmas; and our stress levels, waist sizes, and credit card debt go up, while the meaningful time spent with our family often goes down.

Now think of your fondest Christmas memories. What are they? I would be willing to guess that they probably don’t involve gifts that you received or gave. I know mine don’t. Sure there is the bike I received one Christmas, and a piece of art I created for my brother, but my fondest Christmas memories are about time spent with family, of driving around Phoenix looking at Christmas lights, and worshipping on Christmas Eve. These are things that cannot be bought at the store, but these are the things I treasure the most.

Last year after my Thanksgiving sermon, someone came up to Pastor Joel and said they had more stuff then they needed and didn’t really need to get any more for Christmas. They wondered what the church could do to run a program in which the money that would normally be spent on presents could instead go to charities. We discussed this request during a staff meeting, and while we were in favor of the idea, we did not have the time to implement such a program last year.

But following this request, I started looking around for something that might meet this idea, and came across a program called Advent Conspiracy. Their video, which was shown at the beginning of worship last Sunday (and can also be found here), had me hooked immediately, and so I started doing a little more looking into the program. But I still had some concerns. How was the program received in congregations? What did it look like? How did people undertake it?

In January, I attended a conference in New Orleans and asked other clergy in attendance what they knew about the program. Every single pastor I talked with who had implemented Advent Conspiracy couldn’t say enough about the program and what it had meant to their congregation. In one of the videos created by the three pastors who started the program, they said “kids get this program much better than adults do,” and that is also what every pastor told me. Unprompted they all said, “Kids get it.” They understand that Christmas is about Jesus, not about them.

When I came back from the conference, I presented the video to the staff, the commissions and the church council, who were all enthusiastic and supported us making Advent Conspiracy part of our Christmas tradition. But there is still some confusion for some, so let’s start out with what Advent Conspiracy is not.

It is not a plot to destroy Christmas or to stop you from giving presents. Santa will still be coming to my house this year. Giving is important, but what is being given also matters. Each Christmas when I was growing up, my father received a new pair of Johnston and Murphy shoes for work. He knew what he was going to get, it was important to him, and it was also meaningful to my mother who gave them to him. This was an important part of our Christmas celebration. There is enormous love expressed in giving.

Advent Conspiracy is also not about not receiving presents. If giving is important, receiving is also important, and there is a lot that goes into receiving a gift. When I was a kid, getting socks and underwear was the “dreaded gift.” Now I look forward to getting these things. These are important presents to receive from family members who give them to me. If these are things your family does for Christmas and it is meaningful to you, please keep doing them. Do what makes Christmas special for you, and get rid of, or at least minimize, those things which make this season a hassle and a time to dread or to just get through.

This program is not designed to make you feel guilty about how you have celebrated Christmas. Instead, Advent Conspiracy is intended to return meaning back to Christmas, to move us away from the hyper-consumerism that seems to be expected of us. It seeks to refocus our attention on the coming of God on earth through the person of Jesus, to help us focus on the things that really matter in our lives and to give us a time in which we express our love for friends, family and others through things other than simply spending and accumulating.

In this issue of the Chronicle you will find several “alternative” gift ideas. Use them as you would like, adapt them to fit your needs or ignore them all together. Lots of other ideas can be found at If you have gift ideas you would like to share with the rest of the congregation, please contact Pastor John, and they may be included in future issues.

What the pastors who started Advent Conspiracy also said is that in setting out to celebrate God’s gift to us in the person of Christ, we then also have to understand what Christ calls us to do. One of those things is to reach out to people in need, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And so, as part of Advent Conspiracy, they decided to ask their congregations to take some of the money they weren’t spending on presents and instead to give some of it to those in need.

The outreach commission has chosen to split any money that the church receives for Advent Conspiracy 50-50 between Living Water International, which drills wells around the world to provide people with clean running water, and our school supplies project for the John Marshall Elementary School in Dorchester. There is also a list of other charities supported directly by this congregation, a gift list from UMCOR, as well as other charities listed in this week’s issue of the Chronicle.

If you choose to make a donation in someone’s name as a gift this year, remember that this is about them, not about you. I have a family member who really doesn't care about what’s happening to people in the developing world, and so a gift to Heifer or to UMCOR would not be a good gift for him. Supporting these organizations would be about me. But, he does care deeply about the military, and so a gift to the Wounded Warrior Project or to Local Heroes, would be meaningful to him.

I encourage you to join us for our Wednesday night Advent programs which begin on December 1, at 6 pm. We start with a meal shared together, then at 6:30 the children will head to the chapel for a special program, the 3rd graders will go to a class about the Bible, and the adults will gather for a brief time of worship and will then explore the four focus areas of Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.

Whatever you do this Advent and Christmas season, I hope it is meaningful and important to you and your families. As Dr. Seuss so wisely told us, “Maybe Christmas… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blaming the Customer, Part 4

One of my passions is church history, and my particular area of study is Methodism in post-Revolutionary America. What you find in that period is a time of phenomenal growth, energy, conflict and struggle, which is where I focus. What you also find is that almost all of the history of the time focuses on the clergy rather than the laity. This includes my own writing which includes caveats like, "although methodism during this period was a lay driven enterprise, this paper will focus on the ordained clergy who made up only a small portion of those running the church."

Clergy provided support for local congregations, they did not run them. The laity served as class leaders, they served as preachers on most Sundays, they did the pastoral care, they led classes, they did everything except serve the sacraments (and if you go back just a little ways you will find them doing this as well, which is what leads to the formation of the church). The clergy helped "order" the church, but they weren't there to help run the church.

This changed predominantly after the Civil War, although the change began when the Bishops located themselves starting in the 1820s. But the decline of the Methodist class meeting, and the localization of pastors to serving only one congregation occured at the same time, and with that movement I believe we lost a lot of what drove Methodism. I know that is rather simplistic, because there were lots of other things taking place at the same time, but I don't have time in a blog to full explain everything that was going on.

Now there are some who are pushing for the return of Methodist class meetings, but this too often appears as trying to find the "thing" again. "If only we could return everyone to class meetings, we would solve all our problems." Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. We cannot just take an 18th century creation and drop it onto a 21st century reality. I do believe strongly in small groups and believe that they can help us, but will they solve all of our problems? Of course not. We need to be much more comprehensive in our approach.

I do believe the early church has a lot to offer for us, but we need to look at it and see how we adapt it to our reality rather than trying to force something onto the church simply because it worked in the past. As a recent cartoon I saw of someone trying to teach a Sunday school class, which said "felt figure story telling worked when I was a kid, and it will work today." Meanwhile the little kid is in the corner playing with his PSP.

We also need to look at the early church and recognize the mistakes that they made which have burdened us with unsustainable structures, such as large gothic cathedrals that simply cannot be maintained. We need to fundamentally rethink what it means to be church, what membership means, what our buildings mean, what clergy represent, and we need to do this sooner rather than later.

In many ways the conversation is alreay too late as we are facing crisis daily that will force us to make decisions that we may regret, but we also need to begin now. This annual conference is going to look radically different in 10 years. Less than 25% of our churches will be filled by full-time clergy, and the vast majority will have less than 30 people in worship on Sunday.

We can either let this reality come up on us, or we can choose to do something about it: "the future is now."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blaming the Customer, Part 3

I recently heard Bishop Willimon speak about the serious problems facing the church, and after it was over I thanked him and asked if these conversations were taking place among the rest of the episcopacy because they certainly weren't taking place in New England. I have heard members of the cabinet give some startling numbers to the clergy, but as soon as the laity are in the room a different image is portrayed. There is no doubt we face a serious crisis, one that I do not believe is unbeatable, but in order to face that we have to be honest with ourselves and with our churches, and we are not yet there.

We are not ready to face the serious and hard decisions necessary to turn the church around. What Bishop Willimon told me is that sometimes the problem is so big, and the hole so large, that people cannot simply even begin to talk about it because to do so will make them face the serious challenges, issues, and decisions that they simply don't want to take.

The question is, when will we be ready to face it? When will we be honest with our laity? And what are we going to do if there is a "shareholder revolt"? What if the laity rise up and say, "we are taking back our church because we can tell you can't run it properly?" Could that even happen? Would the clergy allow it to happen?

But here is the more serious question and issue: What if those who truly care, those who want and need the church to be something else have already left? That is, to put it into Rappaport's analogy, they saw their stock prices continuing to diminish and they sold out a long time ago and have left the corporation behind? What if the people who could lead the shareholders revolt have already revolted by leaving?

Now do I think that's the case? No, I think there are still people here who care deeply about the church and have that innovative edge that is needed in order to get the church moving in a different direction. Unfortunately, as I have said many times, most of the time these innovative ideas are not being heard at the center, are ignored if they are heard, or just dismissed because they don't promise the "thing" that will solve everything or because "they are not the way we have always done it."

Unfortunately, we are at step four, but we are still working on the first three solutions. I still hear lots of people who still blame the customer, while also saying we just need to market better, and simultaneously searching for the thing. I don't know what Rappaport would say about companies who are doing all three, but I'm guessing he would say they are in serious trouble.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Speed Linking

Each week I add several articles and links into my favorites tab with the intention of writing on them. Unfortunately this doesn't happen as much as I would like. On his blog, Andrew Conard does what he calls speed linking, in which he just lists a series of interesting things so that you can follow them yourself, and so I have decided to do the same.

My plan is to do this each Friday. This one will be a little longer as I purge out old links:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blaming the Customer, Part 2

The thing that struck me about the article about people dropping cable in greater numbers was a comment made by Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, "The first thing that happens is you deny it. I know the drill. I have been there."

This really reminded me of a statement made at a conference I attended several years ago sponsored by the Harvard Divinity School, called Finding our Way. One of the presenters was Diana Butler Bass who was talking about a book she read entitled The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics by Matt Bai.

She found some comments made by Andy Rappaport about struggling businesses to be completely applicable to the church. This is what she had to say in conveying her memory of what Rappaport had to say to Bai:

There are four steps of an organization that is not succeeding:
The first step is an organization that does not admit that it has a problem. 'Everything is fine, this is just a little downturn' only this downturn has continued for several years, but they keep saying 'Oh, we’re going to get out of this, there’s not a problem here.' That’s the first sort of flag that there is a problem .

The second step is that an organization admits it has a problem, but then blames it on its customers. The organization says, 'if only we market better, they will buy X item. It’s their problem, they just don’t know that we have this product which will change their lives and so we just need to educate these benighted consumers and that then they’ll come back and buy our product.'

The third step is that the organization recognizes that it has a problem, and it’s not the consumer’s problem, it’s them. And so what they begin to do is they will do everything they can to find 'the thing' that will fix them. When you see companies searching for 'the thing' you know the end is near.

There’s the fourth step, I come in with my cash and I buy the organization. But sometimes there is another step, once in a while, it doesn’t work that way, when they get to that fourth step, and something happens in the corporation itself, and the corporation changes. It almost always occurs in the same way, some innovative edge will begin to be heard by the central structures and powers and it’s that creative edge that has a new vision for what that company should be and they begin to bring in the innovation and practices from the edge to the center. That’s the only way that a corporation can renew themselves, and when it does happen it is quite powerful.

Mainline churches have denied there was a problem, that it was the audiences’ problem. Somehow all those very intellectual, thoughtful, open, tolerant Protestants have deserted us, and what we need to do is market ourselves and get them all back. Then we got to the place where we said to ourselves, we do have a problem, and it’s not our congregation’s problem, but it’s our problem and we have to find a solution in order to fix it.

And that’s where mainline denominations have been for the past ten or fifteen years, that’s the stage where most mainline denominations have been in, and we’ve been looking for “the thing” that will fix us. I don’t know if there are any pictures of the ideal consumer hanging up in the denominational headquarters, but I wouldn’t put it past them. That’s when the handwriting is on the wall. Is there any possibility for our communities, is there a creative edge that is working out there that is wise and transformative that can be adopted and brought into the center to revitalize what we are doing.

This statement struck me at the time, and it still does, although she was not remembering what Rappaport had to say correctly. Bass did have the first steps correctly, which according to Rappaport are:

1) Denial: "It's not our fault. we're right, and everyone else is wrong."
2) Acknowledgement: "OK, something here's got to change."
3) Frantic search for the Thing: "We have to find the thing that will save us."

Bai then asked Rappaport what happened to companies after the desire for the Thing had abated. "In some cases, Andy explained, the entrenched leaders of an ailing institution managed to summon the perspective and creativity to make the radical changes needed to save it. But that was rare. More often, real change didn't come from inside, but through what Andy identified as phase number four: the shareholder revolt. Eventually, he said, shareholders came to understand that the people running the company had failed them, and that they were going to have to take control of the situation themselves." (Bai, 65. Emphasis mine)

Of course what he doesn't say, is that sometimes these companies die because either the revolt is rebuffed, it is done too late, or simply doesn't work. The question I want to ask is, what does a "shareholder revolt" look like in a mainline church? Do the people even know enough to know that a revolt might be necessary? And who are our shareholders?

As Bass says, we certainly have seen the first three points encountered in the church, although as I've written numerous times we are still looking for "The Thing" which will somehow magically solve all of our problems. But when is the leadership of the church completely honest with itself and then as a result with the average person in the pew.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tough Decisions

Tre' Newton, Sophomore running back for the University of Texas, has decided to hang up his cleats after sustaining a new concussion several weeks ago. He had also sustained several concussions in high school and one last year. He was advised by the team's medical staff that he should consider walking away in order to reduce further damage to his brain.

After consulting with his family, including his father Nate Newton, a former NFL player, who told him that he had to consider his future because football would end someday, he decided to quit. Unfortunately, Newton has probably already sustained considerable injury which may hurt him in the future. One of his teammates, who obviously doesn't get it, said that he wouldn't quit because in ten years he wouldn't have the memories of having kept playing. The question is whether he will be able to remember his playing days or not.

That is the reality for Jim McMahon, former Super Bowl winning quarterback, who has announced that his memory is shot, both short-term and long-term. He is now speaking out to let other people know, especially those who continue to downplay the dangers, what the future may hold for them.

What all those who are complaining about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's actions trying to limit violent hits don't understand is that at some point, as the medical knowledge increases, Congress will step in and do something. The NFL does not have a God given right to exist and to remain the preeminent sport in America. Look what has happened to boxing. At one point, boxing was one of the most popular sports in America. Now, to many people, it is little different than dog fighting, and the same thing can happen to football.

Nearly a century ago, Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and saved football, which was on the verge of being banned because of the number of deaths taking place, and radical changes were made to the game to make is safer. If he had not done so, football would have been outlawed. I believe we are on the precipice of another such situation.

As more and more ex-players come forward and talk about what is happening to them. And as more evidence mounts of what is happening to these players brains, including what is being found in the brains of high schoolers, people will rise up and call for a change or they will take their dollars, and their sons somewhere else. Here are two pieces about research being conducted at Boston University on head trauma in atheletes (here and here).

Credit must be given to UT for allowing Newton to continue under his football scholarship, rather than rescinding it which is within their prerogative. They have a significant statement about their priorities through this move as well.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Today is the day set aside to honor all of our veterans.

The Methodist church has a mixed history in regards to the military and military service. But the church does honor those who have given of themselves in service to their country, and so do I. So to all of our veterans out there, thank you.

There is not a prayer for Veterans Day in the UMC Book of Worship, but there is one for those in Military Service:
Righteous God, you rule the nations.
Guard the brave men and women in military service.
Give them compassion for those who confront them as enemies.
Keep our children from hate that hardens,
or from scorekeeping with human lives.
Though for a season they must be people of war,
let them live for peace, as eager for agreement as for victory.
Encourage them as they encourage one another,
and never let hard duty separate them from loyalty to your Son,
our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

As a reminder, this Sunday the outreach commission will be running a collection for supplies for care packages to be sent to our military overseas. They will be collecting at Sudbury Farms from 10:30-4.

They are in need of:
beef jerky
granola bars
hard candies
peanut butter and jams (in plastic jars)
protein bars
chicken or tuna in a pouch
baby wipes in portable packs
AAA and AA batteries
feminine products
foot powder
shampoo and conditioner
plastic bags of all sizes.

They will also take monetary donations as each care package costs $12 to ship. The products will be sent to Local Heroes, Inc. in Wilmington for distribution. If you can, please help out this important cause.

The photos are of Joe DiMaggio receiving his sergeant's stripes in WWII and Ted Williams in his fighter during the Korean War. From

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blaming the Customer, Part 1

A recent report from the Associate Press, says that people are dropping cable in greater numbers in the last quarter and most are not replacing it with a similar service somewhere else. The reason why this is happening is up for debate. Some, ie the cable companies, are saying it is the slow economy that is causing people to cut back their expenses. Plausible. Others are saying that Hulu and Netflix, among others, are finally making a significant impact on people's viewing habits and they are simply removing a cable provider because they are not needed anymore.

I think the second explanation is likely to happen sooner or later, so if it's happening now it would be all that surprising. If this is what's happening this will mark another significant movement in what television, and programming, will look like in the future. Network TV hasn't really adjusted yet to the reality of cable, and now this could be a significant move in a new direction.

I personally would have to say that all of television has not really made the accommodations to today's possibilities or lifestyles. How many people still watch the shows they want to see at the time they are originally broadcast? There are certainly a lot, but with a few exceptions, most people I know are watching things they have DVRed (is that a word?) or are watching on demand. The whole idea of set programming is a thing of the past, but certainly not all networks, or shows, are grasping this reality.

I remember going to a lecture in 1992 by someone whose name I wish I could recall because I would love to hear what he has to say now, but his company talked with Fortune 500 companies to tell them what technologies would be available in the future. At that time he said the technology existed so that anyone anywhere in the world could download any movie ever made any time they wanted. Remember this was 1992! Personal satellite dishes of the time where the size of small compact cars. And while 18 years later we still haven't fully yet realized that claim, our technological capabilities and expectations are way pas that. The world is changing rapidly, and people either get on board or they get left behind.

When I got my first computer, we were using 5.25" floppy disks (although I also had a tape drive if you can remember those). The disk held 160K, and then came double-sided which held 360K. Then I moved up to a 3.5 "floppy" which held 1.44 MB. Amazing storage capacity! Then I was into Syquest disks, which could get 80-120 MB depending on the disk. They also set you back several hundred dollars a piece. Then a zip disk, starting at 100 MB (that's 100 "floppies"), then a jaz at 1 gig (100 zips, or 1000 floppies). These were also very expensive, but I remember being amazed at home much they could hold.

I now have a very small 2 GB stick in my cell phone that I paid a little more than $10 for, and I back everything up on an external drive that is 1 terabyte that I paid $90 for. This is all in less than 25 years. If anyone is still operating on a system that uses a 3.5 floppy, let alone a 5.25" floppy they are obsolete. They simply cannot do anything in the modern world with that machine or technology.

Now the question is, how many of our churches are still operating on those outdated systems? Sadly for some this is something that they are not doing figuratively because they are literally still using these machines. And we wonder why so many people consider the church to be out of touch with what is going on in their lives. We have programming that is set to take place at only one time, on one day, like old television broadcasting, and if you miss it, well that's just too bad, you'll have to catch it in reruns. Except that we don't even have reruns, so if you miss it you can never catch up.

That is simply not the world we live in anymore. So the next question is how do we as the church respond? If people are "cutting the cord" to their cable companies (or satellite, or landline phones, etc.) because they don't need them anymore, where does the church stand in the midst of this change? It seems pretty obvious to me that most younger people (including my generation) are also cutting the cord to the church, if they ever even had a cord, because they don't think they need the church, and the church does little to prove that people need it.

We expect that people will come to us because that is the way it has always worked, or at least in the short-term memory of the church that's the way its always worked. But that is not our reality anymore. We are still trying to sell a computer system using 5.25" disks, or a television set using rabbit ears, or a rotary phone, to generations that are downloading videos, books and television shows on their iPhone.

So what do we do?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Taking Time For Yourself

I recently attended the ordination service for the new UCC pastor in town, and one of the speakers said something that I am still trying to digest, and certainly am not yet living into. The speaker was giving his charge to the congregation, and he told them why they needed to support the pastor not working too much, taking a sabbath, taking his vacation and taking time to be with his family. He said, you are not doing this for the pastor, although he certainly benefits, but you are doing it for yourselves.

Someone had once told him, which totally changed the way he did ministry, that if he was not taking care of himself and setting a proper example for the congregation about proper work-life balances then what chance did the congregation have? And so he said, the congregation has to make the pastor do this, and the pastor has to do this, so that the people can have an example to see of how it might be done.

They all know, or at least some of them do, that there is always lots of work to do and by taking time off that means that some work is simply not getting done. That of course is what drives so many of us to work so much. We simply believe that if we don’t keep working that things won’t get done and everything will then fall apart, and so we have to work harder. But that is not sustainable for anyone: the pastor or the church.

As I’m looking at the hours and days I have been working lately this has certainly been rattling around in my mind. I’ve had one day off in the past month, and that was because I took one Wednesday off, and I still did some work directly related to the church. As I write this I am sitting at a conference on a Saturday, which I am supposed to have off, and so I really need to start learning to set boundaries and say no.

Serving a congregation which has lots of people who over function in their jobs, how do I change what I do so that I can set the example for the rest of the congregation? I don’t know. I’m still struggling. And how do I get people to truly understand what this means and why I am doing it, and what this means for them?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Congratulations

I've written several things, but have not gotten them posted, so they will go up next week.

Congratulations to Joe Paterno on his 400th win yesterday. Contrary to what ESPN kept saying, Joe is not the first coach in college history to reach 400 wins. John Gagliardi, from St. John's University, an alma matter of mine, beat St. Olaf's yesterday to collect his 477th victory. Eddie Robinson, of Grambling, had 408 victories. Joe is the first to ever have 400 wins in what was formerly called Division 1 football, an impressive feat and one that probably will never be matched.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Congratulations And The Beginning Of A Long Wait

Congratulations go out to the San Francisco Giants. Who would have thought that Cliff Lee would be beat twice in the series? El Duque's record of starting 8-0 in the playoffs is safe for a while. The only prediction I made that was correct was that we would not witness good baseball, and that's certainly the case. Some of the games were okay, but this is supposed to be the best baseball that can be put on the field, and we definitely did not see that.

So now the winter of our discontent begins as we wait for pitchers and catchers to report on February 13, and we start anew with the idea that once again everyone has a chance. At this time of year I'm always reminded of Hall of Famer Roger Hornsby's quote, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”


Just took my daughter with me and did my civic duty in voting. The turn-out was huge. I have never had to stand in line to vote before, even when elections have had large turnouts. So we'll see where this ends up. I do suspect that the Dems will take a major hit, but I think for the most part it has little to do with their policies and more to do with the fact that they are in power.

There are some who are angry at the Democrats, but it is my sense that more people are just angry at the process and the fact that nothing seems to be getting done. Of course part of the problem is that anger drives politicians to become even more entrenched in their camps, because they think they have the people on their sides, instead of being driven to actually compromise and get things done. I'm sure the republicans will over play their hand on this and they'll end up just like they were in 1996, following the "revolution" in 1994. History does tend to repeat itself.

The one qualm I always have when voting is whether I should vote for who I really want to vote for, or should I vote for the candidate who will best represent my views and has a chance of winning? That of course is a driving issue all the time. All we need to do is remember Gore's election/non-election. I don't want one of the candidates to win and know that in voting for this other person that I do help him because that is a vote away from his opponent. But I felt to vote the way I needed to vote regardless of outcome, and I'm okay with that. And here's the simple truth, if everyone voted for people, regardless of whether they stood a chance, our political scene would be radically different.

My brother has been a supporter of Dennis Kucinich and has had lots of people say, "I like him and his policies, but he doesn't stand a chance and so I can't vote for him." If everyone who said that actually did vote for him he would actually stand a chance. I don't want to have to plug my nose and vote for someone anyways (although sometimes I still have to), I want to be able to vote for the person I think is best for the job regardless of whether they stand a chance to win or not.

If you don't participate in the process then you have no right to complain about the outcome, so please go vote today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Blog

The Consultation on Common Texts has a list of suggested daily Bible readings which correspond to the Sunday lectionary readings. We have had an insert available at the church for a while which lists these texts, but I have now gone one step further. I have created another blog site which has the full text of these daily readings.

In addition, it also contains a link to two chapters from another book of the Bible as a supplementary reading. If you read just two chapters a day from the Gospels, you will get through all four in about a month and a half. That is where these extra readings will start, and then it will move onto the Book of Acts, then maybe back to the Gospels, before going into Paul's letters. As we progress through the year, you will then have the opportunity to read readings relating to the lectionary as well as progressing sequentially through an entire book.

I hope you will join me in making daily scripture reading part of your spiritual disciplines. The readings can be found at