Sunday, August 31, 2008

not so good

so, i was waiting to see whom john mccain would choose as his pick to run with him for vice president.
go with an old friend, someone's who's been in the congress a long time? mccain is famous for working with democrats and republicans to do good things.
or, as happens with presidential candidates as they're looking for likely running mates, go with a governor, or congressperson, whom perhaps most people don't know well, but who have done some good work and represent something important to the ticket and the party?
well ...

  • mccain chose a governor from a Western state. good, i guess. if it's a governor with a proven, solid record.
  • she's a woman who's been governor for only a year and a half. not necessarily bad, but not so good.
  • mccain chose a woman. good. i mean, good, if it's the right person for the job. and not good, if it's not the right person for the job. i don't give a shit if someone's black or white or red or male or female or gay or straight: i want the right person for the job at hand.
  • but mccain saw that many woman voters who supported hillary clinton could be won if a woman candidate were on his ticket. not so good. he chose a woman who, in her acceptance speech, invoked Geraldine Ferraro, who ran for vice president in 1984, and Hillary Clinton, who ran for president this year. both of those women are democrats, who would disagree with this woman's stand on every issue i can think of. but let's face it: it was a smart strategic move for mccain in a year when millions of women felt angry or sad that the woman they were supporting didn't get to be their nominee. so, here's a woman. let's get the women. and while we're at it, we can get nice middle-class republican women too.
  • mccain chose someone from outside the washington establishment. which can be good. the insular, self-possessed conglomerate of washington politics can be very unhealthy, i believe.
  • but someone who - did i hear this right? - until recently had no passport? who has no experience with federal government? who lives so far outside the beltway that she doesn't know anything about how even to participate in what's happening in washington? not necessarily so good. (not entirely a bad thing - jimmy carter was a relative unknown and a washington outsider - and he's an amazingly good man - but wasn't a great president. etc etc etc) (george w. bush came across as a washington outsider, but come on - a president's son?)
  • mccain chose a fresh face. someone with obvious personal charisma. that can be great. a leader.
  • but i don't know enough about this person to know whether her charisma is in the service of a good mind and heart and healthy purpose, or not. not so good.
  • mccain chose a woman who represents the traditional values of the conservative movement of the last 30 years, including yes to guns, no to abortion, yes to "family", yes to "patriotism", no to same-sex marriage, yes to military expansion, no to large government, yes to religion and government being connected.
  • john mccain only espouses some of these values/positions, and is against some of them. many conservatives said that they were reluctant to support him. so he chose a running mate who is all about conservative stands and values. now those conservatives are saying they will vote for him. not so good.
  • mccain is a decorated and recognized veteran and survivor of a p.o.w. camp. he represents courage. very good.
  • he chose someone whose son is a soldier in iraq, and who is a flag-waver. not so good, if it's being done for political button-pushing. which i think maybe it is. i don't ever see mccain capitalizing on his being a veteran. i have huge respect for that. but she came out swinging her son's being deployed to iraq. creepy.
  • mccain is strong and tough. good. (i wouldn't wrestle him; he'd kick my ass.)
  • mccain is 72 years old and has had cancer twice. not so good. especially if his running mate is someone whom the american people have only a couple of months to test, and get to know, and put in the pressure cooker to see what she's made of. not so good. i don't want a vice president, who very well might become president, whom i haven't had a chance to see over time.
mccain has always been, in my experience, someone who has been independent thinking, and willing to compromise in order to achieve a greater good, and yet also willing to stick to tough principles when it was the right thing to do.
this doesn't feel like that to me. this feels like a strategic choice, one in which he bent his own views on the issues in order to appeal to more conservative voters, and chose a woman to pull in women voters who don't agree with him or his running mate but are pissed off, and did all of this not to get the best thing done but to get elected.
again, creepy.

it's a move that will absolutely work with millions of people. they will see her as a woman with a great story - five kids! the oldest a soldier in iraq and the youngest with downs syndrome! see how good a mom she is! - who fights corruption and stands up to the good old boy network. they'll see her as a mainstream heartland soccer/hockey mom just like them, who was active in the pta and then town council and then became mayor and then became governor and now she's going to be vice president. an american story.
and yeah, i guess all that is true. but i know lots of mainstream heartland soccer/hockey moms who are active in their communities with lots of kids, and i wouldn't want them in charge of a picnic, much less the country.

and ... i'm disappointed in john mccain. none of this feels like the part of him i felt i trusted. i've never seen him as an unworthy candidate. i've always felt that - even if i disagree with him on particulars - he's a good man with integrity. this doesn't feel like integrity. it feels like politics. did he do it because it was the right thing to do for america? true to his deepest convictions? or did he do it because it was a smart move, and it fit his image of being independent and tough, and he's not going to do what you expect? or did he do it because he just wants to win and this was a way to defeat an opponent in an election about change, with all the change juice on his side?

not so good.

ps i know obama selected joe biden partly because joe biden has experience with foreign policy, and is experienced in washington politics, and is seen as an everyday common dude, all of which obama's critics had said he wasn't strong in. but joe biden is a man we've known for decades, whom we have the opportunity to test and whose record we can know, and i also think joe biden is cool, and smart, and strong. i've thought so for a long time.
the smartest thing obama could've done if all he wanted to do was get elected would've been to select hillary clinton as his running mate. but he didn't. she wasn't the best person to work as part of his administration and what he's about. he chose for larger reasons. he didn't sell out. but i think maybe mccain did.

oh well. same shit, different candidates?

Friday, August 29, 2008

he would be very, very excited. very proud.

i am tired of small politics - or, as senator obama said last night, those who make big elections about small things.
i am ready for what i believe - i really do hope - will be a substantive, intelligent, well-matched presidential election season.
i believe that both obama and mccain are good, decent men who are deeply committed to doing the right thing.
i believe that they respect each other.
i look forward to our two major political parties attempting to raise the level of what they're willing to deliver.
i love that obama and mccain have both been so honoring to one another, even though they disagree and are in competition with each other.
i will be more earnest in my praying for each man every day. this is a hard job.

last night was historic, whether you like obama or not. last night was a major milestone - no, not just a place to put a bookmark - last night, barack obama became the first african-american candidate for president of the united states of america by one of the two major political parties.
last night my daughter said, as we were watching obama's acceptance speech, "i think dr. king would be very, very excited about this. very proud."
i agree. not just proud of obama. proud of all of us. for how willing we are to be present and not shrink back in fear. to stand up. to have hope. to be strong.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

donald miller lays down the jesus mojo

i'm not an evangelical, but i am a follower of jesus. and i wanted very much to hear what donald miller, whom i know and respect and love, would say to and pray about among those with power. cameron strang, of relevant publishing, was asked to do the benediction for the first night of the DNC in Denver - as an overture by the Dems to include and hear from the emerging church. strang declined, saying he felt it would be wrong for him to be seen as partisan. he suggested Don. yee haw.

The Closing Benediction for the Democratic National Convention on Monday Night

I’m honored to deliver the closing prayer at the DNC. Evangelical voices have been scarce within this party, perhaps since the Carter administration. But as strides are being made on key issues of sanctity of life and social justice, as well as peaceful solutions to world conflicts, more and more evangelicals are taking a closer look at options the Democratic Party are beginning to deliver. There is a long way to go, but sending a message to Washington that no single party has the Christian community in their pocket, thus causing each party to carefully consider the issues most important to us, is, in my opinion, a positive evolution. I am glad that, for the most part, the dialogue has been constructive and positive. Will you join me in keeping the conversation thoughtful and not reactionary?
That said, I am honored to speak to, and especially pray with and for, the DNC. Here is the full text of the prayer:
Please join me for the next few moments in our Benediction.

Father God,
This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.
We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.
We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.
Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.
Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.
Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.
Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.
Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.
Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.
We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.
Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.
A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.
Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.
Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.
Lastly, father, unify us.
Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.
And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.
God we know that you are good.
Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.
I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.
Let Him be our example.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ain't that the sweetest thang you ever seen?

i don't know how to respond to this except to say, here it is, folks. working-class, good country christian salt of the earth people celebratin' one of life's joyous occasions. in the waffle house parkin' lot. hallelujah.

Monday, August 18, 2008

backing into the right thing to do

a good friend and i were sitting at the warehouse the other day, talking about journey stuff and life stuff and faith stuff. he was talking about what he's learning, and i talked about what i'm learning, and both of us are in a place in our lives where it's not about theory - it's real. what we're learning is happening, to us, and through us in relationship to the world around us. our choices matter. what we contribute matters. and ... sometimes our decisions turn out well and we're all growing and happy, yay, and sometimes none of that happens.
this man and i were chewing on this sort of thing the other day, and, at the end of a story about a relationship that's complicated and potentially really beautiful and healthy, he said, after a pause ...
"I might have backed into the right thing to do."
after i stopped laughing it hit me, That's all there is. walking in circles and then ending up where you need to be? that's fine. find an oasis that becomes a m*a*s*h unit that sends you back out to learn & serve more? even a direct step in from the front may not be anything like we expected. wandering around hoping? yes.
all there is, is just backing into the right thing to do. even if you're michael phelps and you are focused on the goal that's ahead of you and never waver. surely some of what he has used to make himself the greatest olympian, was in some way due to experiments that went wrong or learning the hard way. that's my experience: you can't get there til you get there, and til then, here's to looking for the right thing to do, and getting there however we can.

Friday, August 15, 2008

every tiny smidgen of transformation is welcome

i drive with the headlights on all the time. i heard years ago that it is a safety feature, that it makes your car more visible and therefore less likely to be hit by an inattentive driver. that may all be wrong. but i've been in the habit for a long time. get in. turn car on. buckle seat belt. check mirrors. turn on radio. turn on headlights. go.
when i stop and turn the car off, i have to remember to turn off the headlights - or else a ding ding ding ding ding goes off, reminding me that if i don't turn off the lights, the battery will go dead. that reminder is a good thing.
however, it is also extremely frustrating - because, though i seem casual, i'm kind of o.c.d. in some ways. i like to do things in order. i like my plate turned a certain way. i don't like stacks of paper and projects in my office unless they're urgent. i don't like stepping on cracks.
if i'm running errands or trying to get somewhere not to hang out but to have a meeting or get some task done, when i park and turn off the car, i'm ready to get out and move to the next thing - but i'm often also a bit flustered. i have to stop. get my sunglasses clip-on thingie. check for my backpack. look at dashboard; is car off like it sounds? make sure it's in Park. unbuckle seat belt; help it retract all the way or close enough. get cell phone and anything i need for errand/meeting. get out. put keys in pocket. pat pocket again before locking and closing door. pat pocket again to check for keys. walk off.
somewhere in there, sometimes, i'll forget to turn off the headlights.
this used to infuriate me. when some years ago i began to feel my feelings about myself and my life more clearly, and express them, if i left the lights on and that ding ding ding ding came on - if i turned off the ignition and was reaching for something, instead of turning off the headlights first - i would say "SHUT THE HELL UP! SHUT UP! I'M DOING THE BEST THAT I CAN! JEEEEEZUS!" i'd seethe. hit the steering wheel. truly bizarre, emotionally sideways stuff. think it was old voices of judgment in my head saying "you aren't doing your best" ... ? bwaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa
here is what has happened in 2008: when the ding ding ding ding comes now, i say to it, "Oh, thanks." and i mean it.
how did this happen?
maturity. letting go. resting more. naps. working on my book proposal. forgiveness. gratitude. acknowledging my fears and self-judgment rather than to stuff it. loving and receiving love with the family i am a part of, the friends i am blessed to have, the faith community i am so lucky to serve.
or maybe i'm just mellowing out ......... but i don't think so. i'm more stubborn and grumpy and hard-nosed about a lot of things - way more than i used to be.
maybe it's just another george bailey growth curve. ... whatever it is, i'll take it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

it is intense

i took my really cool 14-year-old niece maggie to "the dark knight" saturday, along with our kids and their significant others.
when it was over, i asked maggie what she thought. "it's intense," she said, smiling.
she said there were parts of the movie that made complete sense to her, and a few parts that were a little jumbled. i remembered that i felt the same way after the first time i saw it. it took me a while not only to sort what happens in the plot but also what the movie's digging down into. neither one is simple.
(by the way, i realize maggie's only 14, and that "the dark knight" could've been too intense for her. but her mother - my sister - doesn't like intense or suspenseful movies, and maggie starts 9th grade in a few weeks, and she'd be the only kid in her high school who hadn't seen this movie, and maggie's wonderful and smart and mature. so, i figured, hey, be a good uncle and help a sister - and a niece - out. plus, i got to see tdk again. maggie did fine, btw.)
maggie and i kicked it around and ironed out the plot details - "the dirty cop was who again?" - and then i suggested a few thematic issues. that it's about the dilemma of what to do if the world is screwed up. or someone is telling you something that sounds possible and logical and yet you know isn't deep-down true. or your heart gets broken. or you don't feel like you can handle what's been asked of you. and, mostly, that it's just about good vs. evil.
in response to its being about good vs. evil, maggie said, Yep, that makes sense.
and it hit me again - this is pretty much it. this is the real stuff. this is what human beings struggle with. what's good and what's not. how to behave. what is true. what do we do with pain. what's my part. what do i serve and how do i go about that.

if you know someone - or you are someone - who isn't exploring and experiencing those questions, beware.
because the other preoccupations are about whether the cable tv repairman called on time, or whether one notebook looks better than the other, or why didn't such-and-such call me back, or why are waiters so incompetent. and someone preoccupied with those, has all the other big questions beneath the surface - but the more s/he is upset about the surface things, the more s/he is avoiding the big things.
the stories do the work for us, if we're not careful. let the batman go into that dark place for me - that way i can walk out of the theater and check back into the little matrix the culture and i built together. the one that keeps me asleep.

screw that. fight the good fight. it's within you.
it's about good and evil, what is true, what is worth doing, and what to do with our pain. how to serve. what matters.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

i don't give a hoot about what you think

i like the band weezer. i don't ever know exactly what's going on with them, but i love their music. it's weird and alternative and beautiful and hard and funny all at once. it's nerds playing rock and roll. hence, i guess, the name weezer. as in, a nerd, wheezing while he tries to run track or be cool or not freak out if a pretty girl is nearby.

here's the latest song of theirs that i love: "pork and beans." and it says what we say at journey all the time: i ain't gonna do what the world tells me - i'm dandy with the me inside. god loves me. screw you if you can't deal with it. i'm gonna (in this song, spelled "imma") do what god tells me to do. god and my soul know. i ain't got a thing to prove to you.
(this is of course only an affirmation of faith; some days i don't feel like this at all. so i say it, to remember.)

They say i need some rogaine to put in my hair
Work it out at the gym to fit my underwear
Oakley makes the shades to transform a tool
You'd hate for the kids to think that you've lost your cool

Imma do the things that i wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans
Excuse my manners if i make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
One look in the mirror and i'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think

everyone likes to dance to a happy song
with a catchy chorus and beat so they can sing along

timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the charts
maybe if i work with him i can perfect the art

Imma do the things that i wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans
Excuse my manners if i make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
one look in the mirror and i'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think

no, i don't care
i don't care
i don't care
i don't care
i don't care
i don't care

Imma do the things that i wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans

Excuse my manners if i make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
one look in the mirror and i'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

so the shack is getting up in people's shit and that's wonderful

here's an audio interview from an oregon public radio show.
paul young, aka william p. young, the author of the shack is interviewed, along with a heretical blogger and an off-road emergent pastor. the pastor talks about church stuff, and emerging models and theology, which is nice. not really the point, but nice. there's a comparative religion professor who is good too - and he argues that the pictures of god in the book are actually orthodox. go figure.
but paul young is the good stuff. he's so wise and patient and real and doesn't get all up in people's criticism - or praise - of his book. the book he originally wrote for his children. the book that's a huge seller without being part of a publishing machine. HA!
and they take some calls, which is interesting. one woman suggests that the book is really dangerous because it contradicts scripture completely and causes rebellion against the church. paul young is very gracious. yay. he's a journeyer, nooooooooooo doubt. one of the things he says is that even if people criticize the book, that's good, because the point is for people to be engaged in conversation about theology and life.
many important christians think the book is bad. that makes the shack a good thing, as far as i'm concerned. paul young mentioned that he's heard of non-christians giving the book to christian friends, recommending it to them ... he laughs ...
we also hear some of paul young's story, which is powerful too.
anyway, the interview's not short, so don't worry if you don't want to listen. but i listened while i did some paperwork and cleaning in the man-cave, and i found my brain and heart stirred up and my sense of my calling affirmed and strengthened.
go paul young!