Thursday, April 21, 2005

Collateral Damage

I attended a PRSA Detroit luncheon today Dick Martin, former head of PR for AT&T, gave me something to chew on that I had not thought about before. He was talking about the PR and other gaffes AT&T made since the 1984 breakup settlement with the Department of Justice. In Martin's opinion, one of the things that put the final nail in AT&T's coffin was the Worldcom fraud. Worldcom drove the price of long-distance down so far that it sucked the profitability out of the business. Then they hid it by making up numbers to satisfy Wall Street.

I never viewed AT&T as a victim of Worldcom's fraud until today. I always viewed the employees and shareholders as victims, but I had not thought of their competitors as victims before. But they were. They were competing on price against a company that was just making up numbers to keep the shareholders happy. And in the process, AT&T killed itself.

Think about the innocent victims that get wiped out in everyday life. In years past, many farmers were driven to bankruptcy by rising property taxes created by urban sprawl. When houses went up on the fields next door, it raised the value of the cornfield if it were sold. But if a farmer just wanted to grow crops, he didn't get more money for the crop just because the land was theoretically more valuable. But he did get taxed.

I believe evangelicals are guilty of a lot of collateral damage due to their over-emphasis on the vertical (me and God) relationship at the expense of the horizontal (me and the church) relationship. The attitude of "my sin is between me and God" ignores the damage that a believer's sin causes to others. When a church leader, lay or pastoral, has their sin become public, many people are damaged. Certainly their families are hurt. Their fellow laborers for Christ also suffer. Some lose faith, others encounter more opposition and resistance, and others cannot find the funding they need because of a lack of confidence in church leaders. The thought that my sinful actions could cause a child to reject Christ scares the pants off of me. And when I am tempted to do something that I know better than to do, keeping the thoughts of who might be affected in my minds helps me to remain obedient. It may not be the greatest motivation, but it does work.

Monday, April 18, 2005

800 year old prayers

Yesterday in church we sang a modernized version of "All Creatures of our God and King" composed by St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th Century christian who founded the Franciscan Order of priests. St. Francis is the Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment, and that is something I can see.

My wife and former pastor both affectionately call me a tree-hugger. The environment is a passion of mine. Not the kind of passion that causes me to attack others or impose governmental regulation to protect. Rather, I like to persuade people to change their behaviors to protect the environment, keeping in mind that the world was made for us to use, as stewards would take care of their Master's estate.

That being said, "All Creatures" has always spoken to me. I have a little bit of the gift of seeing God in His Creation. Rich Mullins really had the gift, and I love his music for that. Recently we found out that our beloved dog Hannibal is not long for this world. He is a wonderful 12 yr old Lab/Golden Retriever cross who is wonderful. I feel a little Franciscan in the way I love him and take care of him. We recently have undergone a role reversal where I am the one looking out for him and protecting him, instead of him doing that for my family. He is a little senile, has some arthritis and is rapidly losing weight from a liver problem. It is an honor to care for him this way after all of the joy, protection and companionship he has given me and my family. My girls have always known him to be there, and he watches over them constantly. This will be a hard goodbye, but one with a great deal of fond memories of him. I know dogs aren't people, but I would like to see him again in heaven without his infirmities. Just to play fetch again.

I'd appreciate your prayers. He is fine now, but the vet didn't even vaccinate him this year. As the disease progresses, it will get harder. Right now he just seems like a skinny, older version of himself.



Friday, April 15, 2005

What I am reading

In case you were wondering, I read a great deal. I have always enjoyed reading, and lately have rediscovered the joy and stimulation of thought-provoking books and websites. Below is a partial list of what I have read recently and am reading now.

My friend Kurt has started his own blog with his musings on life.

Leonard Sweet's Soul Tsunami is a brain-bender.

Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline is a wonderful treatise on the spiritual life. His insight into prayer has greatly helped me with a sometimes stagnant prayer life.

Henri Nouwen's Making all things New is a great call to holiness. And an easy read.

The OOZE is a great source of discussion and thought-provoking articles. Membership is free.

Ginkworld is another great site for post-modern musings.

Here are some thoughts on life from a Lutheran perspective.

I hope these help you on your journey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The wonder of spring

I dislike spring. There, my secret is out. I truly dislike the up and down temperatures, the mud, the garbage that blew in over the winter months. I just despise spring. I realize I am a buzzkill for a lot of people, including my kids, when I go on a rant about spring.

My youngest daughter has been itching to get outside as soon as the snow melted. She got "Real Rollerblades" for the first time and cannot wait to learn how to use them. If the temp is above 50, she is out on the sidewalk, helmet and pads locked in place, practicing her stops, starts and turns. And she does it with a sense of wonder in her eyes that makes me sad for what I have lost.

Spring is a time of renewal. New leaves bud out, birds lay eggs, bunnies are born and the grass greens up again. But renewal is often messy. Fixing dead spots in the lawn requires removal of the dead debris, planting, watering and patience. A great deal of rain must fall to provide the proper growing conditions for many plants to bloom and put out new branches. That rain also brings mud and canceled plans. Spring is very unpredictable, and maybe that is what I dislike so much. I like change. But I like predictable change. And Spring is a reminder of how little I actually control and how Sovereign God really is.

Like my feeble attempts to control the effects of the weather in my little corner of the world, I cannot control God when he decides to change my world or the world around me. He works on a level I cannot understand and does things that I may never understand in this life. But I have to trust him, even when I cannot predict what he is going to do. And that is really hard.

Consider the words of God spoken to Job in chapter 39:
1 "Do you know the time the mountain F432 R1079 goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer? R1080 2 "Can you count the months they fulfill, Or do you know the time they give birth? 3 "They kneel down, they bring forth their young, They get rid of their labor pains. 4 "Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; They leave and do not return to them. 5 "Who sent out the wild R1081 donkey free? And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 To whom I gave the R1082 wilderness for a home And the salt land for his dwelling place? 7 "He scorns the tumult of the city, The shoutings of the driver he does not hear. 8 "He explores the mountains for his pasture And searches after every green thing. 9 "Will the wild R1083 ox consent to serve you, Or will he spend the night at your manger? 10 "Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes, F433 Or will he harrow the valleys after you? 11 "Will you trust him because his strength is great And leave your labor to him? 12 "Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain F434 And gather {it from} your threshing floor?

I don't undertand why God does things the way he does, but I do know that He is Sovereign and that He has our best interest at heart. I'll take a little mud now and then to know that he is driving the bus. And I'll keep trying to be content with being a passenger and stop trying to navigate.

BTW - Autumn is my favorite season. Cool nights, warm days, good fishing. Go out West in September and you will understand.