Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Giving It All

I came across this story today:

Once upon a time at a church meeting a wealthy member of the church rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith.

"I'm a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life." He went on to recall the turning point in his relationship with God. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar and he went to a church meeting that night. The speaker at that meeting was a missionary who told about his work in the mission field. Before the offering plate was passed around, the preacher told everyone that everything that was collected that night would be given to this missionary to help fund his work on behalf of the church. The wealthy man wanted to give to support mission work, but he knew he couldn't make change from the offering plate. He knew he either had to give all he had or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give all that he had to God. Looking back, he said he knew that God had blessed that decision and had made him wealthy.

When he finished, there was silence in the room. As he returned to the pew and sat down, an elderly lady seated behind him leaned forward and said, "I dare you to do it again."

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Need For Vision

Yesterday on the "Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo" Thomas Friedman made some comments that rather intrigued me. If you want to watch the clip you can view it here. What I heard in the interview was an argument that we've changed for the worse since 9/11. What I heard Friedman say is that since 9/11 we have been focused on metal detectors and not on what, in the past, has made America great and that's the next big idea.

To twist it into my own words, I would say that we have moved from having a vision for the future that we can enthusiastically work towards and rally around to simply trying to react to the latest threat or crises. I think there might be something to that notion. If Friedman is right, I think this should be concerning for us. I think that's why I was most excited during Barack Obama's acceptance speech when he stated a goal of being completely oil independent in 10 years. Now, I don't know how realistic it is, but it excited me. It is also problematic because it was in the midst of pie in the sky promises made by a politician so the odds of his making good on it may be slim.

For me, that becomes a lesson for the church. When we have a vision for the future, for where God is leading us, we can get excited about it and rally around it as a community. I think that increases the likelihood of the congregation moving forward and making an impact for the sake of God's Kingdom with their ministry. Unfortunately, I think we too often spend our time and energy focusing on reacting to the latest threat, focusing on metal detectors (or is coffee stains on the carpet?).

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Did you catch the opening of Saturday Night Live last night? I know it was awful rough on Gov. Palin, but I've got to admit it made me laugh.

What do you think of the clip? What do you think about Gov. Palin? How about thoughts on any of the candidates for Pres. or VP? Are you leaning one way or another yet?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day After Debate

Yes, we did watch the presidential debate last night and here is what I'm thinking about this morning. First, I was disappointed that both candidates essentially said this current financial crises and pending $700 billion bailout won't really effect their leadership, especially in terms of spending. Are they in denial? Is it a case of a culture that no longer knows how to sacrifice? Is it just a symptom of the campaign process?

Then as they came to their closings I thought they articulated their foreign policy differences quite clearly. John McCain, like many of my Republican friends said when we started to struggle in Iraq, sees that Iraq is the key to finding peace and stability in the world, especially in the Middle East. Barrack Obama feels that is too narrow a focus and we needed to widen the lens of our world view. I can see both of them being right really. So what I would like to see is some experts in this area (i.e. Henry Kissinger types, etc.) having a meaningful discussion these two different world views and the merits of each position, not about the candidates themselves so much. I don't know that I'll get that or if it's even a realistic expectation, but I would like to see it happen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

More On Finance

OK, so this whole financial crises has really gotten me a bit worked up. I suppose I'm just falling into the trap of the hype laid out by the media, just like I did with David Blaine, but this does seem pretty real. It also seems pretty frustrating. Last night there was a report on CBS news that highlighted some peoples frustration to our reaction to bail out these billion dollar businesses, but the common folk are still left dangle and dig out of this mess. Here is that report:

Watch CBS Videos Online

I don't know about you, but it does feel awful unfair to me. I suppose the unfairness factor isn't really helped by the complexity of the problem. We seem to have a problem of with a system that under girds the system that lies under the system that we actually see. So to this point the problem hasn't totally hit my pocketbook, but if this bailout doesn't come it appears I will feel it soon enough. How does it all work? I have no idea, but enough experts have spoken to convince me that something needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon.

It just makes me wonder why it is when a bank, or other financial company, makes a series of poor decisions and loses hundreds of millions of dollars they get bailed up and feel minimal effects. Yet if I were to make some poor decisions and end up losing thousands of dollars I have to keep paying for it for years to come. I don't know about you but it feels unfair to me that the rich get helped and the poor (or maybe I should say relatively poor) don't.

Which leads me to another pondering related to this. How is it that we chose to react? Watching our leadership I wonder if we even know how to react to crises in a reasonable manner. Let's take a look at John McCain over the past month. (I apologize now for those who are John McCain fans. I don't mean to pick on him alone, but he does offer a couple of recent examples that are easy to point towards. I do honestly think his reaction is an more the rule of leadership than the exception.)

First there was Hurricane Ike and the Republican Convention. Did you notice that the first day of the convention was essentially cancelled because of the hurricane? I wonder if that is really the appropriate call. What power does McCain actually have when showing up in that region to help? I understand President Bush calling off his appearance there because he does have the power to do something there. McCain was reported to be stuffing care packages for those effected. Did he need to travel there to do that? Could he have set a better example for the rest of us by showing up in St. Paul and showing us how we can help from a distance?

Then there is this whole financial crises. He has recently moved to a position that says we need to close up shop and focus on this issue and this issue alone. Yes, it is absolutely serious, but it sounds like an overreaction. Here is a clip from the Daily Show on McCain's reaction to resent events.

After this clip in an interview with Bob Schieffer Jon asked, "Have you ever scene this where a presidential candidate in the midst of a crises says, 'Wow, this is some crises. I better stop talking to everyone about what I would do.'"

Now in John McCain's defense of what I perceive to be his overreaction (and other leaders for that matter) it seems to me that nowadays if a leader doesn't overreact in this manner they are perceived by the public as not caring. How did we ever get to this point? What ever happened to level headed, reasonable responses from our leaders? Yes, we want caring, compassion, even outrage when appropriate, but in levels appropriate to the situation. Is the problem perhaps we have become so numb to reality because of our greed and isolation to reality through our wealth (be it real or through smoke & mirrors which has led us to this financial crises)?


I'm frustrated, but I don't know if I am more frustrated with them or with me. A couple of nights ago we came back from a walk with Andrew and turned on the TV while we were feeding him. There was a David Blaine special on. He's the one with some pretty cool magic tricks and some really ridiculous stunts (i.e. burried in a block of ice for a couple of weeks). It was the only show on with no real plot so we could pick up on it in the middle of the program. We also felt we could then easily turn it off when we were done and ready for bed. Funny thing is we didn't turn it off.

Maybe I should say, we couldn't turn it off. His big stunt at the end of the program was called "The Dive of Death." We were riveted. What was it going to be? So we kept watching and we kept waiting. For some 40 minutes we watched and our anticipation grew. Then the moment finally came and we watched. He jumped. He hung there a little. Then he was pulled up. Then Dawn and I turned to each other and wondered, "Was that it? Will there be something more? What happened? What did we miss? What was it supposed to be?" I feel like we were completely duped. I also can't help but wonder how the announcer came on at the end of the program and with straight face said something about how amazing it was. Really? Are his expectations that low? Is he that big of a sucker? Am I that big of a sucker that I got sucked into this?... I guess hype works. I fell for it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Financial Mess

Like a lot of other people I've been thinking about our countries recent financial mess. How can you not, it's all over the news? Here's what I've been thinking about. At first glance it is troubling from the stand point that it all starts with mortgage's and housing, something we all need. Our financial troubles are all tied into life's basics, and that's scary to me.

However, as we continue to look at it we realize that it's not just about a basic roof over our head. We've run into this mortgage problem because of the greed of companies trying to make more money and so they begin offer unbelievable rates. We fall into the trap and start believing these incredible rates and our greed kicks in and we start feeling like we need more home, and so we bought them. All of us got in over our head and we've come to realize that there was a reason we shouldn't have believed the rates.

So, in some ways, I don't feel all so bad because we brought it upon ourselves. In some ways I think we can learn some valuable lessons that our grandparents, who are products of the Great Depression, have been trying to teach us all along. This credit generation probably needs to learn these lessons once and for all. Unfortunately, learning experiences are often painful.

I hope and pray that we do learn. Meanwhile, I grieve for the innocent bystanders who are getting washed ashore in the turbulent waters of this financial mess. I pray that our leaders will use wisdom in leading us out of this, that there will be generosity for all and accountability for the sake of our future.

We need not panic, but we must be wise as we watch this mess in the days ahead.


As we were driving up to seminary for one of Dawn's classes today we came across a section of road that narrowed from two lanes down to one lane. As you can imagine it created a bit of a back up, especially since we were getting rather close to St. Paul. It was interesting for me to note that it was a much worse back up than one that we came across a half hour earlier for some other bridge work. Sure part of the problem was that there were simply more people on the road at the second construction site. Yet, it also got me to thinking.

As I watched as traffic slowed from 65 m.p.h. to stop and go I couldn't help but wonder... why is it so very congested? Why do we make it so complicated? I understand that there is going to be a slow down, but did we need to come to a stop? It made me wonder... is this just another sign of our selfishness as humans? Honestly, if people were to allow the traffic to naturally merge where it is designed to merge it would slow down, but not come to a halt (I don't think). Instead, though we try to rush ahead and cut in at the very last second because we are more important. We pull up as close as we can to the car in front of us so nobody can merge in with us. If you're like me you even pull into the other lane a little bit to discourage other cars from trying to sneak past me. In large part, I think, it comes down to selfish greed. It really is a part of who we are. I suppose that's what we refer to as "original sin". (OK, oversimplified I know, but that's who I am.)

Maybe we can all try and be a little more selfless and a little less selfish. I know that's something worth my working on.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall Friday Five

It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness.

And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn.

As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall:

1) A fragrance
It's a toss up for me on this one (and others as well really, I think fall is my favorite season of the year). Pine is a smell that comes to mind for me, especially with a hint of campfire in the background. Although, I think the slight winner goes to damp leaves. I don't know what it is, but I love that smell.

2) A color
I suppose it depends a little. If it is clothing, it's probably more of a rust color. If we're talking leaves on a tree we're looking at something more like the bright yellow or red. The combination of the two on a woods in the distance is unbeatable, unless of course you add sunrise or sunset to the equation.

3) An item of clothing
One of the reasons I love fall is that things start cool down a bit. It is this time of year where you break out your sweatshirts and you can just live in them. I have a sweatshirt that my wife gave me last year for Christmas. Hands down my favorite fall item.

4) An activity
Wandering the woods. In years past that meant going for a run. Now that I'm currently not in such good shape, I think that might mean more of a meandering walk. A few years ago I ran a 1/2 marathon that brought us through a state park on the hiking trails with the colors at their peak. That was absolutely AWESOME!!! In fact, it's giving me the chills right now thinking about it.

5) A special day
Again, there are many fond memories. In college before our home invitational the cross-country team would venture down to a local park and we had to catch a leaf before going home. We put that leaf in our shoe the next day for good luck. I have also run a couple of marathons (mostly Twin Cities) which have wonderful memories. However, maybe one of the best would have to be three years ago this October on a beautiful fall day I was ordained. That was a pretty special day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


One of my favorite programs is the Daily Show. They point out some of the many ironies happening in the news. They point out some of my frustrations with the partisan politics that seem to happen today. Here is a clip from The Daily Show on Sep. 3 when they were broadcasting from the Republican Convention in St. Paul. Here a number of clips pointing out the biased, partisan nature of our politicians and political pundits. To be fair, this could probably be just as easily done with Democrats, this just happens to be a clip that I've come across. Why is it so hard for us to be consistent, fair, and unbiased? I'm sure I do the same... but it's also why I sometimes get a little frustrated with the politics of today.

Hush Little Bay

Here is one of my favorite songs. I hope you enjoy if you haven't heard it before. The song is actually called "Irene" and is by Toby Mac, but the chorus catches my ear even more now...hence the title of this post.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Here is reason #347 why comparing our fatherhood experience to God as father is limited and doesn't always work.

Last Friday we were driving from Milwaukee to Egg Harbor when we stopped for gas. I sent Dawn in to grab me a drink while I filled up. As I was wrapping things up outside Dawn came back out and told me that the option I wanted wasn't as much of an option as we assumed it would be. So I said to her, "Why don't you come in with me and we'll get our drinks together."

Dawn replied, "I don't think we should leave Andrew in the car alone, should we?"

Oh yeah! I had forgotten that we had a baby in the car. Our baby! I don't know about you, but I don't think our Heavenly Father ever forgets about us.

Fun Politics

It's always a bit of a challenge for me as the political rhetoric revs up and the ads become increasingly negative. Honestly, there are days I don't want anyone to win. However, as dust begins to settle I'll take a closer look and make my decisions on whom to vote for in November. However, in the midst of what has been a fascinating election cycle, but one that is starting to wear on me I am grateful for the opening to Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Did you catch it? If you didn't take a look.

Family Conflict

Well, it's been a while since I posted. We've been off to a family wedding in Door County. As I catch up with other things here are a couple of pictures from last week. It might give you an idea of how poor Andrew is bound to get caught in the middle of our family conflict.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Welcome Lesson

Yesterday, we got the opportunity to visit a different congregation. It was one of Andrew's first outings. It was an interesting experience... to not be the one on the inside or the one in charge. Here are a few observations that I made about our worship experience.

* We arrived and the parking lot was full. We had to park on the street, meaning on one of the very first times using the car seat we had to swing our sweet little cargo out onto the street. Made us a little nervous.
* We got inside and the folks we perceived to be greeters kind of stared a little, but didn't really say "hi" but continued with their conversation with their friends.
* Upon arrival to the sanctuary it was packed. We didn't really feel like we had permission to ask anyone to skootch over and those who saw us looking lost didn't really offer. We tried a couple of entrances and nobody really helped us at first, but we did have a few people rush past us so they could steal the couple of seats we were aiming for. Finally, a really nice fellow (an usher I believe) helped us get a seat.
* We sat in the very back where folks were regularly going in and out. It made me nervous every time someone walked by that they were going to kick the car seat, and our precious little cargo. (The floor in front of us was the only option for setting him down.)
* I was nervous throughout the service because because Andrew is still young enough that there is no warning between content and sleeping and screaming for food or diaper change. If it happened, I wanted to be ready to leave immediately...and I didn't know how people would react.
* I loved that they had multiple flavor options for coffee. Each one I tried was great.
* They must be doing something right in making people feel a part of the family as there were lots of little kids fussing and squawking throughout the service. At times it sounded almost like being in the school gym before a game. I loved it. We even had a couple of teenagers sitting by themselves next to us, one of whom was texting his way through the service.
* I loved how the pastors led the service in a relaxed way teaching their way through the service.

I think they did a lot of things great to try and establish a welcoming atmosphere. Yet at the same time I didn't feel terribly welcomed. I felt uncomofortable most of the time there. Much of it was my own issues I'll admit. However, it really made me think about those people coming to visit at other times who aren't as versed in the liturgy, etc. as we are. How must they feel? What must that experience be like?.... Anyone have any thoughts about what we can do as a church to help make people feel more welcomed? Share your comments. I honestly want to know.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Some perhaps have heard the news already, It's a BOY!!!! Andrew Bradley was born at 7:22 p.m. on Tuesday, September 2. He weighed in at 8 lbs. even and 21.5 inches long. Below are a couple of pictures. However, I also wanted to share a quick story related to a post I made a few days ago... humility.

First of all, just having a child is humbling in itself. While we were at the hospital, though, I started feeling kind of proud of myself for how my parenting instincts were starting to kick in. I was doing really pretty well. We came home around lunch time on Thursday and my parents came down to help around the house. After dinner, feeling pretty good about things, I pushed us to go to Culver's for a little frozen custard treat (it was Really Reeses after all). Andrew was doing great. Not three minutes after sitting down he started crying and screaming like a mad man, or a two day old. He was giving the clear signals that he had taken care of some serious business down in his diaper. We looked at each other and realized we were not smart enough to remember to bring the diaper bag. Doh! A humbling experience indeed... thankfully we're not so tired we can't laugh at it.

So, here it goes, a couple of pictures from the hospital.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Prosperity Gospel

Preacher John Piper, gives his take on "prosperity gospel".... take a look at this clip.

What do you think?

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Challenge

As some, or many, of you know we were anticipating our first child to arrive on Aug. 22. That means we're over a week past due. It's really not in a problem area, especially since Mom and Baby are healthy and doing well (OK, I know "well" is a relative term because after 41 weeks of pregnancy there have got to be certain uncomfortable things that just won't go away). What it has done, though, is forced us to be patient. This, of course, got me to thinking some.

Two of the characteristics that are encouraged by our Christian faith that are so difficult to talk about are patience and humility. They are to be a part of who we are as followers of Christ. Yet neither is one that you can just "order" someone to do. Be patient! Be humble! You just don't do it. Sometimes when thrown into a situation where you have little choice, like where I'm at in life right now, you manage to live one, the other, or both. Yet, that's not the norm. So how do we help others be patient and/or humble? Any thoughts? Ideas?

For those who are reading and wondering. If "baby" doesn't naturally show up today we are scheduled to be induced tomorrow. ("We"... listen to me. It's like I'm going to go through it or something.)

Gustav Curiosity

First, I would like to make it clear from the outset that I feel deeply for those who find themselves in the path of Hurricane Gustav. My prayers, and the prayers of many, go out for those who are finding their lives turned upside down by this storm. Watching the reports related to the storm have left me wondering about a few things. If you can help me with my quandaries I welcome your comments and thoughts.

My first curiosity is about the reporters down there riding out the storm. If officials are trying to get everybody out of harms way, why do we need to have reporters there? Couldn't they set up a camera that would be able to catch images of the wind whipping trees or something and allow the reporters, camera people, etc. to leave? By having the reporters there I get one of two messages: If the severity of the storm is true then they are recklessly endangering the lives of those there to report from the middle of the storm. If they are not being recklessly endangered then it seems that officials are lying about the severity of the storm and the message, if I lived in that area, is that it just might be fine for me to stick around and ride out the storm. Why do the TV stations do this?

My other curiosity is related to John McCain and the Republican National Convention. This, I fear, is going to show my naivete. I realize that there are delegates whose homes are in the path of the storm and they probably feel a bit torn. (On the bright side they are safe from the storm at the convention.) However, how does suspending the convention help with the storm? There have also been reports that John McCain may not make it to the convention because of the storm. Why? I understand President Bush not going too the convention because he is in a position where he can do things to make things happen with his position as president. John McCain is not president yet, what can he really do? Is he going to roll up his sleeves and muck out houses after the storm passes? I doubt it. It seems to me the best thing he could do is use the podium of the convention to rally troupes to help with recovery efforts.

Am I just being naive? I don't know. I think this storm is serious business and the lives that are being changed is serious business. However, isn't this a bit of an over reaction? The storm is just beginning to hit land as I write, yet the reactions are as if thousands of lives have already been lost. They've evacuated nearly 2 million people, and that's a great thing. So how much damage can we anticipate? How much should all of us, especially those of us who live a thousand miles away, be expected to shut down our lives in response to the storm?

Please, don't hear this as not caring about those caught in the path of this storm. How many people have just gotten back on their feet, or are still getting on their feet from Katrina? It's painful to think about, so I pray fervently. Yet I wonder about our other reactions in regards to the storm. Maybe somebody can help me better understand because I am honestly curious.