Sunday, May 28, 2006

the weekend from hell

this morning, I got up, printed out my sermon, was getting ready to do my outline (my normal proceedure on Sunday mornings) and I got this pain in my abdomen on the left side. It kept getting worse and worse. I broke out in a cold sweat and could barely stand... it all brought back some very unpleasant memories. In my early twenties I passed kidney stones on two occassions.

So off we went to the ER and sure enough, that is the problem. After a number of shots of some serious pain killers the pain dropped from a 10 to a 1 or 2. Since then I've been in bed or leaning over the porcelan god and tonight I'm supposed to fly...

My cynical imagination says things could get worse but I sure hope they don't.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

in memoriam George W. Donkin jr.

Some of you know that both of my parents were admitted into hospice in February. Both had severe emphysema and mom has an abdominal aneurysm as well. Dad died peacefully in his sleep this morning. I got to speak to him yesterday on the phone and assured him that we love him and it was OK to let go, we would see that mom was cared for.

Growing up we had the ambiguous relationship that children often have with their parents. Dad never showed his emotions very well and wasn't there a lot. He was a diesel mechanic and worked hard all of his life. He left for work before I got up, came home, often after a stop at a bar for a beer and talk with friends, took a hot bath, ate dinner, and went to sleep. Saturdays, he slept half the day. Sundays, we went to church and then to my grandmother's for Sunday dinner. Friday and Saturday nights were often cards with family or, for a few years, my parents went bowling. I never remember him missing a day of work for any reason. In his late 30's he had back problems... he wore a brace and went to work and when he came home he could barely stand, I would pull on his legs to relieve the pressure. The next day, he went back to work.

It was later that I began to realize that the hard work was his way of showing love. He understood his role as providing for his family and he did that the best he could as a blue collar worker for as long as he could. He probably should have died a few weeks ago but he hung on because he didn't want to leave mother alone.

When I turned 18 I learned that he was not my biological father. My mother married right out of high school, had my older sister, divorced, met my biological father & married, had me, and when I was 9 months old, he died. George Donkin, in his mid 20's, married Jean with a 6 year old daughter and 1 year old son. Three years later George and Jean had a daughter. My biological father was in many ways a fantasy - he was a first mate on an oil tanker and spent much of his time away at sea. When he was at home, it was all gifts and parties and the realities of living together never intruded. George competed with that image all of his life. I know it was difficult for him but he hung in there.

It wasn't until I was well into my adult years that I began to understand more of him and appreciate his love and the faithfulness with which he expressed it. I hope that I have learned that from him.

I love you, Dad. Peace be with you and may God hold you in the palm of his hands.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

restorative justice

Well, the Enron verdicts have come back and they're guilty. Lay faces up to 45 years in federal prison and Skilling up to 185. Sentencing is set for September 11 (boy that is a wonderful coincidence).

The Enron scandal and the crimes behind it exemplified the worst in capitalism and in human greed. Something inside me hopes these men get the maximum sentences allowed. They brought financial ruin to thousands of people while they lived lives of incredible luxury. There is another instinct in me though... Wouldn't it be nice to see restorative justice play a part in their sentences? Some kind of justice that helps make things more like what they were or at least like what they might have been...

What might that look like? some ideas...

take everything they and their immediate families own and distribute their assets among those who suffered because of their fraud.

take everything related to the benefits that came from their fraud i.e. from family members who benefited from their crimes. Gifts given to family & friends, etc.

spread intangible benefits other family and friends received from the crimes among the victims... For example, if there are children who were educated with those funds, they should be assessed on their earnings for the rest of their lives that come from their education and the contacts they made due to their financial status. I have to say that my gut recoils a little at assessing the earnings of children etc. but that does reflect the realities of class in our society and how difficult it is to move upward... anyone who had their financial futures (and those of their heirs) ruined could see that impact for generations. Perhaps the restoration needs to travel at least one generation...

have Skilling and Lay spend the rest of their lives, 10 hours a day, 6 days a week working for those whom they hurt. That might mean doing menial jobs like cleaning toilets, caring for those folk as they age and deteriorate, etc.

any other thoughts?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


About 20 years ago the Southern Baptists went through a take-over by a group of fundamentalists who threw out the Baptist tradition. Two groups withdrew and affirmed our tradition. One of the groups, The Alliance of Baptists fits me theologically. They're left of center and take stands on issues that are important to me. The downside, is that they think pretty much like me and so one of the values that I hold dearest - diversity - is not evidenced as I or they would like. Their covenant is a good Baptist document. The second group, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is one that I believe holds a great deal of hope. They are more centrist than the Alliance which has enabled them to be much larger and a bit more diverse. Still they own Baptist principles which is clearly seen in their core values.

The American Baptists have been struggling for years with the same issues that ran over the Southern Baptists... and the withdrawal of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest is one battle in this conflict. While the PSW obviously was not able to exert the kind of influence they wanted in the national body, there still has been considerable back peddling from our tradition by the national body. That is seen by the inclusion of a statement about sexuality in the document - We Are American Baptists. No other interpretive statements are included in the document.

The forces that want to discard our traditions of freedom continue to hammer away and will not be satisfied until they can emasculate the power of the scriptures by imposing interpretations that all must believe in order to be "in." I am hopeful though. The push from the right resulted in a backlash among some Southern Baptists that is evidenced in the two bodies I mentioned above. I am hopeful that ABC will react strongly and that the push from the right will result in a new emphasis and ownership of the Baptist traditions of soul freedom, church freedom, Bible freedom, and separation of Church and State. I'm hopeful that these conflicts will push the ABC to own who it is and stand proudly in that identity, stop fighting over issues that need not be on the table, and get about the call to be missional churches in our communities and around the world.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Baby Got Book

I'm a Baptist... and I take the Bible very, very seriously.

so here's a fun little video, Baby Got Book

have fun

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The other day I was talking to a friend about purchasing a new Bible for her 11 year old. We talked a bit about the difficulty of translating, semantic range of words, and how language reflects a paradigm for the universe and that translation is at best difficult and probably closer to impossible.

That got me thinking about words in general and the difficulty of communicating anything. I can't tell you how many times someone has made a comment to me - for good or ill - about a sermon that I preached and I found myself wondering whether they had been in the same room only to conclude that while they may have been in the same room, they were in a different universe. They obviously had not heard what I thought I said. So words are inefficient ways of sharing anything real but they are all we have. I take words seriously.

All that said, I came across this entry at Robby McAlpine's blog
Actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays:

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room temperature Canadian beef.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge free ATM.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

so much for words...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Back in our Albany days, the church there went through a great discernment process. One of the steps was to "better up" all the ideas on the table - to work them through in the best way possible to their logical ends. As I look at the immigration question, it feels as if nobody is doing that. Nobody - or very few - seems to be following their proposals through to their ends. Get rid of the undocumented? What would that do to food prices? Follow that out for those on the edge in the colder parts of the country who are already reeling from fuel prices and choose between heating an apartment or buying food. And what does it say about who we are, this nation of immigrants, if we militarize our borders, criminalize those who are here to make a life for their children, etc.? It smacks of "I go mine, screw you!"

Finally, I'm struck that in this era of globalization, borders have disappeared for goods, for capital, for jobs... but not for people. Somehow, we have things wrong there. Either the borders become porous and rights become consistent or the borders should be more solid (I'll write more about this another day).

My hope is that all of the proposed solutions would come with a discussion that bettered them up...

And of course, there is also the scriptural injunctions regarding aliens, ie undocumented immigrants:
Leviticus 19:33-34 (NRSV)
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. [34] The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

Throughout history there have been holiday's to remember our mothers... but in the US, the first official celebrations took place in 1873 when women in 18 cities observed the Mothers Day for Peace after Julia Ward Howe promoted the day in reaction to the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Looking at the death, she felt that mother's bore the greatest pain of war and therefore needed to organize against it. Boston celebrated this Mothers Day for at least 10 years and it was observed as an anti-war holiday for about 30 years in various places.

As we think today of 2500+ mothers in the US and countless others around the world who will not receive a phone call, card, flowers, or a hug because their children have died in wars, let us join with Julia Ward Howe and stand against this most serious affront against motherhood, the killing of their children. Let us, in the name of all of our mothers, banish war forever.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

heavy rotation

What's in heavy rotation in my i-pod? nothing... I don't have one. So what is in heavy rotation in my CD players?

Sara Groves release - Add to the Beauty is getting a lot of play. The textures, melodies, and the quality of her voice takes me back to some good New England folk music - reminding me a bit of Dar Williams or Jonatha Brook at times. That is cool, but it is the theology that catches my attention. Lines like "Love wash over a multitude of things... make us whole." And the lyrics to "Just Showed Up for my Own Life" all add up to her work really adding to the beauty. Thanks Sara.

Imogen Heap has been a favorite of mine for a few years and her last studio release is amazing. The textures make me wish that I played keyboards and spent all of my time learning to harness computers for music rather than playing guitar. If you don't know her, check out her website here and her myspace here. Wonderful evocative music.

Somewhere deep inside there's a true funk soldier. Which brings me to Prince.

3121 Isn't his best effort but there is some great material on it and when Prince wants to get funky... nobody holds a candle to him. It is interesting to see how he wrestles with the intersection of his notoriously explicit sexuality and his relatively newly found faith as a Jehovah's witness... One of these days our church band will probably end up playing "Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed" and maybe "The Word" too.

Finally an older disk that I hadn't played for a while... Julie Miller's Broken Things which was released in '99.

A good friend of mine's significant other is in Afghanistan. Stephanie and I are recording a few tunes to send to James. As we were talking about songs to do, I thought of Julie Miller and pulled the disk out after not listening to it for a long time. A tune called "Speed of Light" from this CD is on the short list.
the only thing that doesn't change
makes everything else rearrange
is the speed of light
the speed of light
your love for me must be
the speed of light

Julie Miller is an amazing songwriter with a unique voice that you will either love or hate (I love it). Her songs will tear your heart open and then offer healing. I sang "Broken Things" at a service following 9/11 and it remains one of the most meaningful songs I know. The chorus goes:
you can have my heart
if you don't mind broken things
you can have my life
if you don't mind these tears.
I heard that you make old things new
so I give these pieces all to you
if you want it you can have my heart

So... that's what I'm listening to these days.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I've got a link on the side here to Heather Armstrong's blog, much of which describes life with her daughter Leta, now 27 months old and pictured to the right. On Monday's post, she talked about trying to teach Leta to say please... and when she does they would respond with "that's right." Leta quickly added "that's right" to any "please" followed by "huh?" which evidently is a common punctuation in their house. Here's a link to an audio clip of Leta asking nicely.

That little mp3 is wonderfully cute but underscores a pretty serious truth... much of the formation of our children happens as a result of what they see us doing. If we are violent or dismissive of others, they will be. If we model thankfulness, they will find things to be thankful for. If we show love and concern, they will learn caring and compassion. If we want our children to grow up with faith, they need to see us living our faith each and every day.

I know it isn't always that simple. Children have their own minds and do choose, must choose, their own paths but we as parents and as the wider community have a great deal to do with the foundation they have and with the choices they will choose between.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Which Jesus?

Back in seminary days I had a great prof (among many others) for social ethics named Doug Miller. Well, it turns out that Doug lives in Santa Barbara so we get to see each other regularly. He is finishing a book on the political setting and implications of the gospel and came to our adult Sunday school class today to share some of his ideas.

He began by talking a bit about the 3 "quests for the historical Jesus," ending with the idea that accepting Jesus as one's savior means accepting the facts that we can discern about who he was, what he did, and what he said in a specific political and cultural context. Doug sees the political message of Jesus as being somewhat parallel to what we would characterize today as liberal or progressive and as being central to the gospel. Issues such as distribution of wealth, affirmative action, and the role of the government in caring for the poor were/are central to the good news of the gospel. To divorce those ideas from Jesus and to ignore them in our current political setting is to reject the true Jesus and embrace idolatry.

Doug will share again next week in our class... and hopefully the book will be published relatively soon. I'm looking forward to hearing and then reading more.

FWIW, these words are my interpretation of what Doug said and may or may not accurately reflect his views.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

following the links

I was just going through some of my links and came across this post on Jon Reid's blog...

I'm sitting here outside my daughters' “studio class,” which is like a practice piano recital performed for the other students. After an older student finished, the teacher gave his critique:

“It's not that you made a mistake; mistakes happen. But when you made the mistake, you became flustered. For the next few measures, all the notes were right but the music was gone. Get beyond the mistake. Music is not like painting. In painting, if you make a mistake, it's there forever. But in music, if you make a mistake, we forget about it because we are looking forward to what is coming next.”

good theology there...


For months I've been looking at my links and realizing that they didn't reflect the blogs I actually read. I had Tall Skinny Kiwi there because all Christian blogs have to have that link right? But I never read Tall Skinny Kiwi. Gone. I regularly read Dennis McFadden's His Barking Dog. Dennis is a friend and I deeply appreciate him although we disagree about at least as much as we agree. I read him to see what thoughtful folk on the right are thinking about. Added. Billy Calderwood is a local pastor who is extremely thoughtful and creative and a great guy but I didn't have a link to his blog before... added.

A few others disappeared and a few were added so the links are more reflective of what I actually read regularly. so... follow the links and get an idea of some of the stuff I read. BTW, they are in no particular order.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

flying boy

My son John has always enjoyed sports... and he is a big guy (6'2" and 270 as a jr. in high school). At that size he tried football his freshman year but dislocated his knee and decided against it. He really enjoyed baseball but doesn't move as quickly as some of the smaller guys. This year he found a new sport - wrestling. He has been at a bit of a disadvantage because many of the other wrestlers have been doing it since elementary school. Still, he has enjoyed it and is improving.

Last week he went to a state tournament in Greco-Roman style wrestling which emphasizes upper body strength. The dramatic happened when in one of his matches the other wrestler performed a move called a supplex. Well that is them in the photo. John is the one in the blue singlet. If you could see his face it is no doubt a look of surprise - nobody can pick up and throw someone who weighs 270... or so he and we thought.

Monday, May 01, 2006


On Easter every year, the Calvary Chapel in town has its worship service at the Sunken Garden by the courthouse. This year the newspaper reported that they spent $75,000 on the service including advertising and broadcasts. They got about 5000 people there. Today, the march for immigrant rights ended at the sunken gardens... with 15,000 in attendance. Almost nothing was sent putting it together.

makes me wonder what the Church is doing wrong...

A Day without a Mexican II

Today I particiated in a march in Santa Barbara along with 15 thousand others in support of immigrants rights. It was wonderful and amazing to see so many folk in solidarity with those most vulnerable workers in our system - the undocumented.

There has been a lot of hype and fear mongering around this issue. Let me just throw a few pieces out the window. Undocumented workers pay taxes. They do not take jobs away from Americans. They do jobs that most Americans of any race will not take (I can't imagine bending over a field of strawberries day in and day out). Many of them have children who are US citizens. They make a significant contribution to our economy and should be allowed the benefits of the society. Unless you are 100% Native American, you have undocumented immigrants in your family tree. (Even then, at some point those folk immigrated to this continent). If we were to send all of the undocumented workers back to their homelands, the impact on our economy would be enormous. Folk who are having to choose between food and energy now would find that choice pressed not only from the energy side but from incredible increases in food. (One expert has said that nearly 100% of the folk working in the fields in CA picking produce are undocumented... even if they are off by 50% the impact on food costs would be unbelievable).

Si se puede!