09.18.2020 – Much Ado About…Something

The news story was about something else – a church that has refused to abide by local regulations banning indoor services during the pandemic.  We can talk about that some other time. Or maybe not.

It was a sentence at the end of the story that caught my eye and got me to thinking.  It was not much more than an afterthought.  It was as if the reporter remembered one more thing he wanted to say. The third from the last paragraph read:“According to (the pastor), the church regularly welcomes over 7,000 guests to Sunday Service.”

Much ado about nothing?  Maybe.  A reporter’s (or a pastor’s) poor choice of words? Perhaps.

Churches ought to be welcoming. 7,000 is a few too many for me, but some people like big churches. No need for much ado about that. It is the description of those who come on Sunday as “guests” that bugs me.  Poor choice of words or not, that’s one of the things that’s wrong with the American church.  We act as if we’re guests. The host (not what you liturgical types are thinking) owes me a good show.  I come to be served and entertained. I hope your chairs are comfortable and your music according to my tastes. Pastor, please confirm my biases and preferences in what you say.

Lord, save me from a church where those who gather are seen as guests. Continue reading

09.10.2020 – When Death Comes Near

This week’s edition comes a day early for reasons that will be apparent after you have read the post. – BT

The words of two young men.  They are near the same age, one 29 and the other 31. Both are loved by their families and friends. Both have walked deep into the cold shadow of death.  Both speak of what they have seen.  There are differences between the two young men, as well.  Elliot, 31, a Brit, has lived a privileged life, is articulate and successful. He has traveled the world. Jacob, 29, an American, has, by his own reckoning, struggled to succeed. His words do not flow smoothly.  His world is small, limited by the circumstance of birth and race and choices he has made.  Elliot is white. Jacob is black.

Elliot will die soon, perhaps within a few weeks. Jacob will live, perhaps, though, as a paraplegic.

Most of us know a little about Jacob Blake, the 29-year old American who was shot in the back during an altercation with the police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  I first heard about Elliot Dallen when I read his eloquent essay in the Guardian a couple of days ago. At 31, I have just weeks to live. Here’s what I want to pass on.  I have been thinking about it ever since.

I encourage you to stop now and read Elliot Dallen’s piece.  1,800 words; it won’t take long. But you may pause to think for much longer than it takes to read what he writes.

Jacob Blake’s words recorded in a video are widely available.  Just one minute – the heart of the message is this:  I just want to say, man, to all the young cats out there, and even the older ones older than me, it’s a lot more life to live out here, man. Your life and not only just your life, your legs, something that you need to move around and move forward in life, can be taken from you like this, man. Please, I’m telling you, change y’all lives out there. We can stick together, make some money, make everything easier for our people because there’s so much time that’s been wasted.

“Please, I’m telling you, change y’all lives out there. We can stick together, make some money, make everything easier for our people because there’s so much time that’s been wasted.”

Elliot Dallen received his cancer diagnosis two years ago.  His prognosis was never good, though he has been given more time than was anticipated at the time of diagnosis.  But now death is in sight, and he knows it well.  He’s been thinking about what is important, what he would like his friends and family to remember.  Five things, he says: 1) the importance of gratitude; 2) a life, if lived well, is long enough; 3) let yourself be vulnerable and connect to others; 4) do something for others; 5) protect the planet.

Elliot’s writing is articulate and moving. Jacob’s words are raw and jarring.

I want to listen to these two young men – as different and as similar as they are. I don’t want my life experiences, my theological or political or philosophical convictions to get in the way of hearing what they are saying.  What are Elliot and Jacob saying to me?  What might I say to them?

I am not young, and my closest brush with death was nearly 18 years ago.  Unlike Elliot Dallen, I survived my encounter with cancer.  Unlike Jacob Blake, the scar from a long ago surgery has faded and the pain is long gone.

Jacob Blake tells us to change our lives, to stick together, make some money, make things easier for others. He says we’ve been wasting time.

Elliot Dallen has discovered five things to value most: gratitude, life, vulnerability and connections, giving to others, and the planet on which we live.

I ponder these words of two young men. I need not critique or detract from them.  They are words of fellow humans.

What might you say after listening to Jacob and reading Elliot and then sitting for a while as their words to speak to you?

I have nothing to add or to subtract from their words, for they are their words, and I find myself comforted and challenged by them.  I’m not sure exactly what I would say to either of them, but I would affirm what they say and thank them for saying it. Maybe I would tell them a little bit about my story.  I know I would want to say something about spiritual things, about my experience with the God who created us in love, redeemed us in love, and sustains us in love.  I would say something about that love which is better than life and more powerful than death.

What might you say to Jacob and Elliot?  I’d love to hear. Anonymously or not – by permission – I might share some of what you write. Reply to this email/use the response form to let me know.

News of Elliot Dallen’s death arrived shortly after this was written.  – BT

09.04.2020 Canceled by Google!

The long arm of Big Tech has touched our unassuming lives. We have been canceled. We don’t exist. If the oligarchs of Silicon Valley have their way, we will simply cease to be.

For years we lived under the thumb of Big Tech, compromises here and there, but we never thought they’d come for us.  Sure Mark Zuckerberg kept track of our every “like,” and Google maintained a long list of searches and page visits. They told us all our passwords were safe from malicious intruders, and we believed them.  We trusted them, and figured those annoying targeted ads were a small price to pay for access to the world wide web and our friends’ cute pet videos.

Then they came for us. We don’t know if it is personal, something we have done; maybe an opinion we expressed. We do know they are telling the world, our world, that we no longer exist. We don’t count; we don’t matter. Continue reading

08.28.2020 – Habits of Daily Schedule and Habits of the Heart

The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this past Sunday and the nation-wide reaction to it serve as painful reminders that the American dream of liberty and justice for all has yet to be fully realized, and no more so than for the Black community.

We pray fervently in this case as in the too many others of this summer of our discontent that the decisions of review boards and courts, judges and juries, will open wide the floodgates through which justice might roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).

To be sure, our dedication to the proposition that all people are created equal must work itself out in new and changed public policies, with the writing of just laws, and in reimagined and rebuilt systems of opportunity and access to the bounty of our land. But that the prayer of the old hymn might be realized – our gold refined and the mending of our every flaw – will require, too, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville borrowed by sociologist Robert Bellah, new habits of the heart. Continue reading

08.24.2020 – Where’s the Bin?

Today’s Observation comes from my wife Becky. We share 42 plus years of marriage, a wonderful family, and a love of Christ, God’s Word, and the life and mission of the Church. Becky is a keen observer and diligent practitioner of the life of faith.

Becky concludes her post with a question.  If you’d like to share your answer, use our contact form, and I will be sure she sees it.   – Bill


We’ve moved before. Quite a few times; once, literally, from one side of the country to the other. I know how to get to know a community and an area, to find new sources and supplies for the things and services we used in the old place.

Here and now, in another new place unpacking boxes and making our new house a home, I’ve been doing that “get to know the community” thing successfully.  Except in one way:  where to recycle plastic shopping bags.

Bill and I make reasonable efforts to live responsibly.  Indeed, years ago, back in Oregon, the kids used to go with me to the Clackamas County recycling center, where you could find receptacles for strawberry baskets, Styrofoam, and even used motor oil.

In this new place, there is one primary grocery store: Kroger. Two of our offspring live in Kroger country, and I’ve shopped multiple times in the Krogers in their towns. Here in Auburn, I’ve already been at the Kroger several times. Until today, however, I had not been able to locate a bin to drop off our plastic shopping bags for recycling. Though I’ve looked for it. Truly. Continue reading