Thursday, January 8, 2009

Soaking in Seattle

Somehow, in one quick dash up Columbia Street to Sixth Avenue this afternoon I managed to get completely drenched. I mean drenched like I'd showered with my clothes on. Pants wet. Hair wet. Wool coat wet like a sponge.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Where to plant a new church?

Each United Methodist pastor works in the local church and almost always functions at a denominational level as well. My denominational role is to chair the Board of Congregational Development of our Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. We have several million dollars earmarked for the purpose of starting new churches, but we've had serious obstacles over the last many years. In fact, our last several church starts have ended in failure, costing thousands of dollars, but not leading to new congregations.

So over the last few years I've led the board in a reassessment of our strategies and in hiring new staff to do the groundwork. These last few days our board met, and sad to say, we spent an entire day talking about new locations, but without coming up with a firm commitment on any of them. Vancouver? Lake Tapps? Post Falls? Staff is heading back now to continue the research and make a new proposal, but what a difficult exercise we found ourselves in.

Anyway, please pray for us that we'll get the research right and plant our next churches where they need to be.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2008 is one for the record books

If you haven't seen this video, you'll enjoy it. A special thanks to Rev. Robert Taylor for sharing.

Thanks to King County my muffin has 660 calories

If it weren't for King County I would be living in blissful ignorance of the fatty muffin I've been eating each morning for the last two years. My morning goes like this: I wake up, I stumble down the stairs while pulling my clothes on, I look in the mirror and go "ugh," I go to the garage, I start the car, I drive to Tully's, I mumble the words, "Almond Poppy Seed Muffin," I groggily consume each muffiny bite, I sip coffee, I go home, I shower, I am Sandy again for another day.

Enter King County.

So today I do all the above the very same way, except this time I say, "Where's that nutritional information you guys are supposed to provide starting yesterday by King County ordinance?" The skinny, tattooed, man/boy goth barista who obviuosly needs no calorie information sorts behind the counter for the white notebook. I open right to the page: Almond Poppyseed Muffin: 660 calories.

King County, Mean County. My precious Poppyseed muffin. My morning love. My passion. My rock. My daybreak. Even a donut, even an apple fritter has fewer calories than thee.

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." So I am now free from my favorite muffin. I see it drifting away now, like in a weightless environment. The tiny seeds, the almonds, the delectable bready morsels are floating in the air just out of my reach. Gone.

O ye politicians, ye takers of muffin, ye doers of good. See what ye hath wrought.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Darn rockets and bombs

I'm so sad to see a resurgence in violence in Israel/Palestine. Last January I spent 2 weeks touring Israel and the West Bank with a group of Seattle church leaders. We talked to many people and each held out hope that the current cease fire would somehow turn into a longer peace.

No such luck. The blockade on Gaza continued, the rockets kept falling, and now the bombs are dropping. Word is that ground troops, massing at the border, will soon invade. It's a sad scene, partly because of these often-overlooked facts:

  • Population of Gaza is 1.5 million in an area of 360 square kilometers. That makes a density of 4167 people per square kilometer - the highest density in the world.

  • 75% of Gazans are refugees.

  • 45% of Gazans are under 14 years of age.

  • 80% of Gazan households live below the poverty line, subsisting on less than $3 per person a day.

  • 80% of all Gazan families would literally starve without food aid from international agencies.

No one really disputes the depravity of the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. My problem is the Israeli bombing attacks on Gazans, which are far more deadly, given the population density of Gaza, and far more likely to strike innocent civilians. A case in point is the 400 Palestinians so far killed vs. the 4 Israeli deaths by rocket fire. This is more of a shooting gallery than it is a war.

So, I'm joining tomorrow's march downtown and am planning a statement at the rally. I'll condemn both Palestinian rocket firers and Israeli bombers, Palestinians who make informal terror and Israelis who make formal war/terror. It's all terror and it all should be stopped. These groups will hate each other for years, but both are proving the idiocy of violence as a way to resolve conflict.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best Man, Worst Man

Weddings are weddings. Baptisms are baptisms. Ne'er the twain should meet.

New Year's Prayer

Gail and I welcomed the New Year very quietly last night - with a few recorded episodes of 30 Rock. I'm lovin' that show. Tina Fey's great, but Alec Baldwin steals every scene he's in. What a big, puffy, expressive, funny, egomaniacal hunk-a-chunk.

It could be the effects of the last Christmas chocolate, but this morning I'm mellow, thinking about a year gone by and another year yet to unfurl. Out of that mellowness comes my prayer for this new year:

Dear God, thank you for the joys and even the pains of last year. In every event - happy or sad - you walked with me. In this New Year hold my hand and walk with me again through each fresh joy, each hope, each project, each friendship. And let me and those whom I love accept all that awaits us with trust in your care. Thank you for your love that has brought me this far, and thank you for your love that holds me in this new day. I am yours, put me to your work. Amen.