Monthly Archives: September 2006

Friday Night Football

Last night I went to a high school football game for the first time since I was a sophomore in high school, back in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. I never attended a football game at the California school where I attended my last two years of high school, and haven’t attended one since. Haven’t had a reason to. But last night Pam’s niece, Kelsey, was playing the sousaphone in the Whitco marching band, and since Pam’s Mom and step-dad were out from California, we all went.

They honored the Whitco team that won the state championship 20 years ago. Probably 40 players from that team, along with coaches and various other personnel, including five cheerleaders, were lined up in front of the home crowd during halftime, and the announcer read off information about each one–name, the person’s position/role in 1986, where the person lives now, and where he/she works. I was amazed that the vast majority of them still live in the general area, with a large number still in South Whitley. Interesting. Only one guy was wearing his letter jacket, or could fit into his letter jacket, and he was serving in the military in Alabama.

Beyond that, I have no great insights to share. No wise ruminations about then-and-now, how sports brings a small town together, kids today vs. in my era, and nonsense like that. So I’ll stop.

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Ann Kiemel, Wherefore Hast Thou Been?

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I have rediscovered Ann Kiemel.

I love Donald Miller’s writing. But having finished Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, I’ve been searching for someone else who writes with such authenticity. Searching in vain.

Until, last weekend, I thought about Ann Kiemel, whose books I devoured during my post-college days of the 1980s. She wrote in simple free verse, and mostly just told about her encounters with people and how she shared Christ with them. She was a great inspiration to me, and since we were both single at the time, I felt a kinship of sorts.

Then she agreed to marry Will Anderson. I saw her doing such amazing things to influence people–not only people in her immediate sphere of influence, but people like me who read her books. Now she was abandoning all of that (abandoning me!) to live on a farm in Idaho and raise a family. She has, indeed, pretty much disappeared from the Christian landscape.

I found two of Ann’s books on my shelf, I’m Out to Change My World and Yes! I brought them home. Though her recent years have not been good (I understand that she wrote a book in 2004 airing some dirty linen), there was an exceptional real-ness to those earlier years when she wrote those books which moved me so much. Would her writing still move me?

Well…it does. The other morning I read six chapters (they’re short) in I’m Out to Change My World, and in each one, I got choked up. The Agnostic, God is So Good, The Taxi Driver, Homesick GI, Ordinary Days, Spinach and Dreams. This heart for God which so captivated me 20-some years ago still comes through, and I find myself, today, again inspired by her words:

I’m an ordinary girl in a big world,
but I’m going to change it–
God and I
and love.

UPDATE August 2012: Ann Kiemel has returned to writing, with her own blog. Check it out at AnnKiemel.com.

Additional posts about Ann Kiemel Anderson:

 

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Chop Off Your Finger — But Hey, Keep Working!

A month ago, Dad chopped off the very end of his middle finger on his left hand. I learned about that this afternoon when I dropped by for a visit. Dad was working on my nephew’s house in Willshire, Ohio, when a window pane came down and sliced it off. So he wrapped up the finger in a cloth and drove himself to the hospital in Decatur, Indiana, where he underwent surgery. They removed some skin from his inner elbow and grafted it onto the end of the finger.

And then, Dad drove back to my nephew’s house and worked another three hours. I would like to say that my 73-year-old Dad merely suffers from short-term memory loss, and forgot that he had just chopped off his finger. But no, there’s nothing wrong with his memory. He told me that since the finger was still numb, he knew it wouldn’t hurt. So why not do something productive?

At this point, I realize, definitively, that I am adopted. Because whatever DNA Dad possesses that prompted him to return to work after lopping off part of a finger and undergoing surgery–well, I don’t own a speck of that DNA. Heck, I left work early Monday because I felt nauseus. I need to commence searching the internet for my real parents. Is there a Wimps-R-Us.com website?

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Evangelical Flight to the Suburbs

Well, bummer. Churches are fleeing the part of the city where my church exists. It’s not that there are fewer people in our area. No, these churches just want to make their future in a different part of town. A “better” part, perhaps.

First it was Abundant Life Tabernacle, which wants to buy First Assembly’s building on the north side of town (while First Assembly moves to the old Calvary Temple building). Just heard about that on Sunday. St. Francis University, right across the street from Abundant Life, will buy that property. So that’s one major church exiting our neighborhood.

Tonight I heard that the Wesleyan church, just down the street from us, plans to relocate to the suburbs. The good ol’ suburbs. That’s where it’s at. Forget about all those people living in the inner parts of the city. Sure, they need Christ. But do they have money? No. You can’t build a church on poor people. You need bucks. And the suburbs is where you find bucks. Lawyers, doctors, businessmen–they’re in the suburbs. Those people deep in the city–they’re just a bunch of uneducated, high-maintenance losers. God doesn’t care about them nearly as much as he does the people in the suburbs with nicely-groomed yards.

Yeah, I’m ticked. I’m sure there are all kinds of places like our neighborhood throughout the city. But does anybody think of planting a church in places like that? Not usually. No, you plant a church in the fast-growing suburbs, so you can cherry-pick the middle and upper-middle classes, and maybe land a truly rich person or two. That’s what my denomination has done for about as long as I’ve been around–go to the suburbs–and it seems to be everybody else’s strategy, too. When denominations talk about planting churches in major cities, what they really mean is plant churches in the suburbs. But there’s a whole lot more to cities than rich suburbs. Sure, maybe they plan to have a “mission outreach” into poorer neighborhoods. But to base yourself there? No way.

I’m sure Jesus would go straight to the suburbs, so he could hob-nob with rich people. Forget about the poor and needy. Let them drive to the suburbs. Oh, they don’t have a vehicle? Well, maybe they can take the bus. (Okay, Steve, take a breath, chill.)

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Starbucks and Sports

Today, with the promise of a free drink at Starbucks, I filled out an online survey about my customer experience. One of the final questions asked my age. The last category was “50 and above.” I’m 49. In less than one month, I will be in Starbucks’ oldest demographic segment. Ugh.

Meanwhile, in sports:

  • The Colts had a tough time with Jacksonville yesterday, yet still prevailed. Lots of people were predicting a Jaguars win. Looks to me like the Colts will do just fine without Edge.
  • Michigan State really blew it. They had the game in hand, and let the Irish come back. But I’m happy with the result.
  • George Bush, Sr., will flip the coin at tonight’s first football game back in the New Orleans Superdome. Then at halftime we’ll here from U2 and Green Day. That’s Green Day, as in Billy Joe Armstrong singing “Don’t Want to be an American Idiot,” which skewers a particular George Jr. Interesting.
  • When I get home from church on Sundays, I have the choice of watching ESPN’s pro football roundup, or the FoxSports pregame show. ESPN has Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Michael Irvin, and Ron Jawarski. Fox has Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmie Johnson. Can’t go wrong with either. The CBS team, despite Dan Marino and Boomer and Phil Simms, is a distant third. But hey, the subject is still football, so I’ll listen anyway.
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Thoughts on the News Programs

I can barely stomach Fox News anymore. Sorry, Mom and Dad. It’s just so blatantly partisan, a rubber-stamping lapdog for all things Republican. That morning “Fox and Friends” show is an absolute joke. Greta is relegated to the Nancy Grace universe, doing “missing white girl” stories. Bill O’Reilly is becoming a caricature of himself; I just don’t buy his purported fairness anymore, and it is most definitely a spin zone. Britt Hume has begun trashing anyone who questions anything about the Bush Administration (most recently Colin Powell). Hannity and Colmes just play roles, and their views are entirely predictable. The only thing on Fox that I still like is Shepherd Smith’s news hour. He’s unique, and that show deals with actual news. Whatta concept.

The whole “fair and balanced” thing is make-believe, like the term “compassionate conservative.” Terms designed to fool you whilst they act in ways totally contrary to their own label. Fox News is occasionally fair, rarely balanced (though lightyears from either on “Fox and Friends”). When they assemble several commentators, show me the one who leans left?

CNN has this liberal label, but I don’t see it. In general. CNN still aspires to be a professional, objective worldwide news channel, and since they do, indeed, have a worldwide presence, they’re probably the only American broadcaster which can lay that claim with any creedence. I certainly trust CNN, as a news source, far more than FoxNews (I trust the ABC and NBC news operations, too). I’ll take Paula Zahn over Greta any day (though neither of them most days), and I’m becoming a big Keith Olberman fan, much preferring him to O’Reilly’s schtick. Larry King still does his thing better than anybody else. Criticize him however you want (and I’ve found his show far less interesting than in previous years, and rarely watch it anymore), but he’s still a unique TV presence and does his thing with precision.

I also increasingly like MSNBC. In fact, I often turn there first, since it’s easier for me to hit channel 14 (MSNBC) on the remote than it is 17 (CNN). There’s scientific reasoning for you. Of course, channel 44, FoxNews, would be the easiest to finger, but on my preference list, it’s below MSNBC and CNN (though still several pegs above Nancy Grace, who is, unquestionably, The Devil).

As for the major network broadcasts: I like them all. Brian Williams is my first choice. But I like Charlie Gibson, and I also like the new Katie Curic broadcast. It’s fashionable to bash her, but I think she’s doing okay…for someone who made her career on the Today show. It’s just so nice to have Dan Rather out of the picture. And Sam Donaldson, too. Whatever happened to good ol’ Sam, he of the ego matched only by Rush Limbaugh? Well, wherever he’s at, let’s let him remain there undisturbed with the rest of the dragons.

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Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”

Over 20 years ago, a church friend told me about Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer,” a marvelous piece of satire. I found it in a small book and immediately became smitten by it. “The War Prayer” is directed at those who glory in war, and it extrapolates the effects of their prayers for battlefield victory.

“Help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended, the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied. For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet. We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

It’s a pretty amazing piece.

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Caring Too Much About This World

Pam and I have been listening to sermons by Pete Hise, pastor of a highly-evangelistic church in Lexington, Kent. We became aware of this church through someone we met at the ChurchMedia.net conference in June. I wrote earlier about this church, how they’ve had 1300 conversions during the past seven years. Anyway, we really enjoy Pete Hise’s messages. He’s very humorous, very informal, very engaging. He seems to have a lot of fun when he preaches.

We listened to three of his sermons a few weeks ago as we returned from vacationing in Michigan. In one message, Hise told about his annual month-long getaway…to a monastery! He eats and worships with the monks, while planning the coming year at his church–vision, sermons, etc. He mentioned one monk whom he described as the Simon Cowell of the monastery, the guy who decides whether or not a prospective monk gets in. Hise asked him, “What are some of the reasons you would not accept a person who applied to become a monk?”

The monk told about one young guy who seemed like a perfect fit for the monastic life. But before becoming a full-fledged monk, you spend several years as a novice (with a different colored robe). You see if the monastic life suits you, and other monks watch you.

As time passed, this novice kept dropping ideas about how to do things a little better. They could turn down the temperature a bit to save some money. During singing, they could bunch of a little to make it sound better. He had a number of such ideas. And when he came to the end of his novice period, he was told, “We’re sorry, but we don’t think this life is for you.”

This puzzled Pete Hise. “You mean you turned him down for offering suggestions?”

“No,” the monk told Hise. “He simply cared too much about this world.”

The monastic life is a life of denial–of possessions, of ambition, of sex. The monks live not for this world, but for the next world. That is what they set their minds on. This fellow so much wanted to improve the here-and-now. And that disqualified him. Now, you can argue why it’s not a bad thing to improve this world. But it does give something to think about.

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Dancing in Teheran

This week’s Time magazine has a cover story about Iran, with an article about what a war with Iran might look like. Sounds like we’re definitely headed toward a confrontation. My opinion? Sure, go ahead and invade. The Iranian people will welcome us as liberators. They’ll throng the streets as our tanks drive by, showering flower petals on our troops and breaking out the wine glasses. They’ll be swinging, swaying, records playing, dancing in the street. All we need is music, sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere.

George Bush can occupy Iran, and then let the next president deal with it. As soon as he/she deals with catching Bin Laden…and leaving Afghanistan…and Iraq…and rebuilding New Orleans…and filling in that unsightly hole in the ground in The Big Apple…and fixing immigration…and health care…and global warming. Okay, our soldiers in Iran might have to wait a few years. But hey, it’s not like they’ll be in danger or anything. Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for some more tax cuts so we can do some more shopping. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

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The NCD Survey – Measuring Partial Health

My church has taken the Natural Church Development survey several times, and it’s a useful tool for identifying church weaknesses and strengths. But I’ve had some nagging doubts. The folks who developed the survey claim they studied healthy churches in all kinds of settings around the world, and that the survey is universally applicable. But when I take it, the questions always seem geared to a white suburban or smalltown American church. Would they really apply to a persecuted house church in China?

In particular, I didn’t remember any questions about how the church cares for the poor, the dispossessed, widows, homeless, prisoners, etc. The Bible is pretty clear that these are things a church must do. So how can a church be “healthy” when these areas are totally ignored?

Today I looked over an NCD questionnaire, just to see if my suspicions had any basis. There are 91 questions, and number 82 does ask you to give a response to the statement, “Our church does something about hunger in the world.”

But beyond that reference to world hunger, the survey makes no attempt to measure whether the church is doing anything for poor people, for people with AIDS, for single-parent families, for the homeless, for people in prison, for social justice, for immigrants, etc. There is not even anything about race, like whether or not your congregation contains people of other races and ethnicities. These issues may not matter (sadly) in American suburban churches, but they certainly matter in most of the non-Western world. Yet, if your church does help poor people, fight injustice, and seek racial integration, the NCD survey won’t give you any credit for it.

While not dealing with those issues, the survey does ask, “Despite my church activities, I still have sufficient time for my hobbies.” It’s nice that the survey is concerned about my hobbies. I might propose a statement like, “My hobbies get shorted, because I’d rather give my time to church work” That seems like a better indicator of health.

If this survey were truly international in scope, there would be questions like:

  • Our church remains strong in the face of persecution.
  • We lovingly reach out to victims of AIDS.
  • People of various races feel at home in our church.
  • We are an advocate for social justice.
  • We help people around us who live in poverty.

But no, the NCD survey evidently doesn’t require that a church worry about the homeless, the dispossessed, the prisoner, the stranger, people of other races. You can receive a healthy score without doing any of those things, and you can feel good about yourself. If we measure what we consider important, then the NCD survey considers our hobbies more important than poor people. Yeah, Jesus would agree with that.

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