Archive for December 2008

Simply Taken for Granted?

December 27, 2008

What is it that your take for granted? How about car doors, gutters and kitchen pipes? If you are like me, you probably do take those things for granted. What would a car be without doors? Exposed to the elements, just like they were one hundred years ago, I suppose.

Gutters, what a wonderful invention. They carry the water off our roof and to a place safely away from our home’s foundation.

Pipes in our kitchen, bring hot and cold water to our sink, for cleaning, cooking and drinking. Other pipes are there to take the water away, out of the sink, out of the house, carrying soil, scraps and bits with it.

I don’t often think of car doors, gutters and kitchen pipes. I simply take them for granted, along with all the other technological solutions that bring to our life convenience, ease and comfort. This past week I did think of these three things. You wonder why? Well, we are in the midst of a thaw after two weeks of very cold, snowy weather. Several days before Christmas, I intended to take the girls to see Grandma Lois and we went out to the driveway in the snow, to get in the van to go. When I went to close the sliding door, it fell off. I was able to prop it on the side of the van, we pulled the other van out of the garage and put the green one in the garage so that the rain and snow did not get in through the unclosed door.

In the midst of the storm, Debbie and the girls saw several of our gutters fall down, laden with ice and snow. I have not gone out to reattach them yet, but that will have to occur soon.

As I sat, catching my breath and contemplating broken doors and downed gutters, Debbie called me into the kitchen. A pipe was broken under the sink and water was pouring out onto the floor. I was able to diagnose the problem, a compression fitting had come apart. I made the repair and cleaned up the water mess.

Each of these three failures of a simple technology caused difficulty and inconvenience for me. Yet, I have been thinking about what these technologies mean for me and my family. How blessed we are to have them and how easy it is to take them for granted.

Let’s face it, what I take for granted in small town Oregon would be considered opulent by many and downright incredible to some. A car door represents mobility, ease and comfort in movement. Within an hour, in my van, I can travel to many spots of natural beauty, visit hundreds of commercial establishments and thousands of homes. I can travel quickly, safely and comfortably in a vehicle, which to many in my town is considered outdated, but is actually a marvel.

A gutter represents stable and safe dwelling for me and my family. Though several gutters are now broken, I know I have the wherewithal to repair them. In the meantime, I sit in a warm dry home with ample space, comfortable surroundings and up-to-date appliances. My children can eat an abundance of food without leaving the house, they can play games and read books and care for pets. We have shelter from the storm and more; we have the means to communicate with those not in our home, we have access to a plethora of media, and we are able to enjoy each others’ company without fearing for our lives, health or security.

That pipe in the kitchen? As much as we complain about the water in our town, it is abundant, safe to drink and relatively cheap. We can cook, clean, drink and wash as often as we like, with no threat of having the water run out.

How many people in this world have limited or no mobility, never leaving an area that they can walk to in a day? How many people in this world are unable to sleep well at night because they are cold, wet and hungry due to lack of adequate housing and nourishment? How many don’t have access to a most basic human right; safe and available water for drinking, washing and cooking?

When it gets right down to it, hurray for broken van doors, downed gutters and busted water pipes.! I have a lot to be grateful for.


Necessity is the Mother of Invention

December 22, 2008

Sunday morning in Newberg was cold, with a lot of snow on the ground. On top of the snow was a 1/2″ layer of ice. The street in front of our house looked like a hockey rink right before the Zamboni comes out; bumpy, ice and snow chunks strewn across the top of a glazed surface. Sammie the cat ran out of the house ahead of me at about 6:50 am, and his paws broke through the ice crust, causing his legs to sink into the snow. This frightened him and he bumped and jumped out into and up the street.

I logged onto email, anticipating a message from North Valley. Sure enough, there was a message from Stan, announcing that there would be no Sunday morning worship service. I wondered if this might be the time to introduce an idea to Stan in regards to an online gathering. I have been using an online conferencing tool in my work as a distance educator and have been quite happy with the results in interacting with students who are not in the same geographic location through the use of this medium. I sent Stan an email and asked him if he might be interested in a trial. I sent him a link to the conference room, along with the password and log in instructions.

About 30 minutes later, Stan called me, he had made his way into the online space. I hung up the phone and joined him there. We tested out the text chat, voice feature and the whiteboard. Stan suggested we invite others to join us at 10:30. I sent out an email to the North Valley email list and invited others to join us. It was 9:30. I stayed in the room and over the next hour eight people joined me. By 10:30, we had a group of eight or nine and we worked out some technical difficulties. Stan made an introductory statement which asked us to consider the Manger, the Mystery and the Meaning of the Advent. He asked us to speak about which character in the story had been important to us as a child and what meaning did that character have for us now.

People began to speak, both through voice and chat. As people spoke, I was able to upload various pictures of the nativity into the space, and as best I could I selected pictures that corresponded with the comments that were being made by each speaker.  One picture that made a strong impression was Botticelli’s picture Mystic Nativity.

People continued sharing about various aspectes of the advent story. I also had the opportunity to share some Christmas music as well, by streaming music from my Pandora feed through the mike. Stan sent several poems, which we put up on the whiteboard, for all to see.

This was an impromptu meeting and we had no way to prepare. However, it was evident that those of us that gathered were prepared or at least in anticipation of hearing and learning. I was personally pleased that we had a meeting and I wonder what might happen if we do this again with fuller preparation.

I would not consider this meeting to be a substitute for our typical Sunday morning worship at North Valley. I would say though, that real meeting took place in the online space that we shared for an hour this morning.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

God With Us

December 15, 2008

It happened two thousand years ago, not that long in the entirety of human history, I suppose. The people spoke languages that some still speak today. Their experience of life was not much different than people alive in a number of regions of the world today. Technologies like the water well, the block home, the wagon, pack animals, metal working, paved roads and sailing ships were all employed.

In Palestine during the time of Caesar Augustus, men built houses, tended animals, argued in court, worshiped in temples. Women baked bread, raised children, grew gardens and haggled over prices. Children ran and played, chased pets and eagerly awaited the holidays. Yet, a strong and severe empire stamped its rule of Roman justice, Roman strength and Roman ways on a people who dared to think that their One True God would call them back to independence again.

People were going about their business, trying to maintain their lives, their loves, and their hope of deliverance. This people had a checkered history as a nation; from Father Abraham and the Patriarchs to Moses on the Holy Mount, Joshua and Rahab and the establishment of a nation. The Blessings of the Most High had been on the kingdom of Saul and David and Solomon. Yes those were the years of glory, the years of strength, a golden era. And what followed: division, dreams, invasion, and exile. There were times of longing, calls for justice, hoped for return, expectations and dashed hopes, prophets’ visions, dirges in dark times and a tearing of garments.

And then, at some time prior to the advent, there came a brutal intrusion by heathen invaders; cruel armies of idolatrous rulers, representing false gods and unclean ways. Pax Romana came with a cost. The cost to the Jewish people was conformity to a system utterly repugnant and in opposition to the Most High. Some Jews conformed, some rebelled, some withdrew, others played along; for there were children to raise, Torah to study, stomachs to feed, and lives to be led. The Temple remained and the Priests maintained their sacrifices. Rulers made deals with Roman overlords. And somewhere, in the corners, in the shadows on the edges, seekers and visionaries dreamed dreams and heard from God. Yes, in every generation there are those who recognize the voice, respond to an urge, open their eyes, and see the divine.

The story of Emmanuel is a story of people going about their lives, yet waiting for something more. It is the story of hopes, buried within, and manifest in the soaring expectation of life beyond the cruelties of soldiers’ whips and governors’ taxes. Those hopes were borne on the memories of kings and the Great I Am. Hopes were still nurtured by the prophets’ steady stream of challenge and comfort. “God with us” “The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”. Indeed.