Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Little Help from My Friends

One of the principles of the bikeable parish is to rely on existing networks and institutions to partner with rather than repeat or overlap.  Example: we, Judson Church, partners with Bethlehem Lutheran for a program called Starfish Ministries to help those with immediate need.  Bethlehem has a social worker on staff, the institutional heft Judson lacks, but a cooperative spirit. Even though the equation is tipped in the favor of Bethlehem, together we can do more than we could separate or alone.  Thank you friend, thank you neighbor.

So here comes the thought for the week.  After Ash Wednesday I saw several posts on twitter and then in the New York Times about the Anglican Church's call for a Plastic Free Lent.  I thought this was a great idea, wish I had thought of it.  But I didn't, and that's okay.  I consider myself a fairly conscientious person who tries to reduce his use of plastics, but the Anglican call has made me realize how pervasive plastic is in my life.  And how deliberate and intentional one has to be to try and rid oneself of plastic.

Example: yesterday I went to the local bread shop to purchase some potato rolls.  I did not think to bring my own bag, so without thinking I went to grab a plastic bag for the rolls.  But then I heard the voice of Justin Welby say, "oh no you don't".  I scanned the display and discovered a paper bag for a loaf of French bread, which I used to place seven potato rolls (five for dinner and two for egg sandwiches the next morning).  When I took the bag of rolls to the counter I announced that I had a bouquet of potato rolls, the clerk was not amused.

I am thankful the Anglicans brought this to my attention.  I am thankful and trustful of friends to help me along.  I think churches and houses of worship should try and trust more of their local congregations for activities like this.  We don't have to do it all ourselves, its ridiculous to even try.

The Archbishop of Canterbury may not hold any sway on the state of my soul in eternity, but he is providing a good example for life here and now.  Thank you friend, thank you neighbor.

Friday, February 16, 2018

To Will One Thing: a Lenten Experiment

I have actually read Kierkegaard's Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, but I cant remember a damn thing about it other than the great title. 


When I was ordained in 2002 (I was licensed back in 1997, for those who want to update my stats on my preacher cards) I had a retired pastor deliver my charge to ministry.  For those who have never been to an ordination service in the free church tradition the charge to ministry is kind of like an imperative from another pastor not to screw up the beauty past generations of pastors gave their heart and soul to create.  

His charge was simple but beautiful: There are many worthy and noble causes that will demand your attention and time, but you cannot save the entire world.  Find the one or two issues that speak to your heart and give them everything you have to bring change and salvation and redemption in that particular area.  Over the years I have tried this approach, but there is always another worthy cause beckoning my energy and attention, or colleagues win me over with their devotion and energy to a certain cause.  I try to stay focused, but there's always something else...

Then one day I was at an event, just to listen, with a group of 20 year old activists.  They had the greatest gift idea: trust.  In their words, "Trust that we will do our thing and we trust you will do yours!  We're never going to get anywhere near where we need to be if we do not trust each other." 

But it is hard to trust and to stay focused during the Trump era.  Right now I wake up every morning and try to stay away from hearing or reading the news until after my prayers, after I read the bible, after a cup of coffee, and say good morning and i love you to my lovely bride and wonderful children.  Because if I read the news or hear it on NPR then my day is done.  I have nothing but scat in my heart, mind, and soul.  And my mind is broken, my concentrated will on one thing is fragmented and I feel the pull of a thousand different issues beckoning me to come toward them.  

But if I am going to have anything to contribute to this world I have to stay focused and centered.  I cant keep feeling like a pinball at the mercy of a pinball wizard going hither and yon.  I have come to realize my one issue is bicycling.  It seems small and meaninglessness but I have seen a transformation in my life, my family's life and the life of my community because of my commitment to bicycling.  All the issues that matter to me: environmentalism, racial reconciliation, economic equality, joy, beauty, nature, justice, health are all available through my concentration on bicycling.  

Trust that I am doing my work, I trust that you are doing yours.  Together we can help bring a spirit of human flourishing.  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January 2018 Books Read

Every year I say I am going to read at least 60 books, sometimes I get close, sometimes I do not.  This year with a summer sabbatical, a book project and a mind that will not cease seeking answers to interesting questions...I think I'm gonna make it to 60, maybe even blow past it.  But this is what happens: I read a backpack full every winter month then as soon as the weather warms up I stop reading.

But this year...

1.  The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated by Helaine Olena and Harold Pollack.  (This book makes an appearance in chapter 2 of the bikeable parish).

2.  Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin.  Reading Scottish detective novels in preparation for our time in Scotland, but it also makes me think we'll have to step over piles of bodies in Edinburgh.

3.  The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from teh World's Most Beloved Neighbor by Amy Hollingsworth.  This book initiated my Mr. Rogers journey.  Also where I learned Mr. Rogers and Henri Nouwen were friends, of course they were.

4.  March: Volume Three by John Lewis.  Amazing.

5.  Book of Acts by Theophilus. Yes, I count books of the Bible.  Acts also makes an appearance in chapter 2.  I forgot how much I love this book.

6.  Why the Dutch Are Different: a journey into the hidden heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates.  Good book, interesting but I dont think I would have read it unless dude from Modacity (twitter city planning + biking dude) had recommended it.

7.  I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Mr. Rogers by Tim Madigan.  Great book, I cried often while reading it.  Mr. Rogers was an amazing dude.

8.  Be My Neighbor with Words of Wisdom from Fred Rogers by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanhoe Mr. Rogers + public transit + bicycles and neighboring, what's not to love? And yes, I count kids books too!

9.  A Month in the Country by Joseph Lloyd Barr.  CBC Radio had a story about a playwright who reads this book every January.  Although one can read this book in one setting it took me a few days. Why?  Lots of English phrases and words that were new to me.  A WWI veteran goes to an English village to uncover a painting in an Anglican Church.  The longer he stays in the village the more he heals.  I'll reread it again in January 2019.

10.  The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers.  Quotes, amazing and beautiful quotes.  I read the book too quick.  I need to savor the quotes.

11.  Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace, and Healing by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice.  This was the selection for a book study for a pastors group.  This book was worth it for me because it focused on the small and slow work of reconciliation and its relation to the larger work of reconciliation.