Monday, July 31, 2006

Touchy Subject

Divorce is tough on everyone involved. Some friends of mine are in the process right now. I have been through it myself, and would not wish it on anyone.

It is especially difficult on the children involved. Some people will tell you that it is harder on smaller children, but in many situations I have known, grown children of divorcing couples are affected deeply as well.

If you have read this far and are ready to set this column aside because you are not and don’t plan to be involved in a divorce, hold on! Keep reading; I promise this column will be relevant to you, too.

As adults, especially as parents, we all share a responsibility for the raising of our children. I happen to believe that this responsibility is not only to my own children, but that part of being an adult means sharing a general responsibility for the raising of all children.

In our society today, though, many adults are preoccupied with their own lives and desires and interests. Sometimes this is to the detriment of their children. Certainly parents need to do things to take care of themselves, but we have to learn to do this in ways that do not impinge on care of their children.

This obviously affects single parents more extremely than married parents. If two parents can work together to make sure the needs of the children are held in high regard, space and time can be found, negotiated or carved without such severe effects on the children.

This summer I have met youth from all over this part of the country. I have heard many stories from them, and seen in casual observation at these events and just out and about in the world that youth are hurting. The children and youth of our culture are in general paying a high price for the too prevalent selfish desires and appetites of the adults in their world.

Our children and youth deserve better. We owe it to them to do better.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Coming to an end...

I am moving to noncon. For the next several weeks I will be sending emails and otherwise helping people find me there.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Middle East

Whatever else I can tell you about the current war in the Middle East between Israel and Hizbollah, let me assure you of one thing. These events are not part of God's plan to bring an end to the world.
This is a difficult week to write a column. It is Sunday afternoon. The difficulty arises from having no idea what might happen between now and Wednesday/Thursday, when most of you will be reading this.

By the time you read this, there may be some Christians who are excited at the escalation of violence in and around Israel. Those who pick and choose and convolute scripture to say that Jesus will return and we will be saved when such things happen are no doubt actually cheering these recent events. It is a depraved mind indeed that rejoiced in the suffering of others in the name of imagined future peace for oneself.

I am very concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. The area has been a tinder-box for war and aggression seemingly forever. Even during times of relative peace, people there must be constantly on guard.

By comparison, many of us, even most of us, live in relative peace. The biggest real threat to our peace here at home from day to day is an unexpected traffic jam or an irate parent at a little-league game. I fear we have been lulled into a false sense of security by virtue of living in this land of freedom and peace and seemingly unending opportunity.

It strikes me that throughout scripture God's people have equal difficulty living as faithful followers in times of peace and the resulting complacency as they do during times of war. Whether in times of war or peace, we all share a need for God to be more involved in our lives. He promises he will, if we will but ask.

People who are following Jesus are not rejoicing over war in the Middle East. They are, however, praying that God will make himself known there, as well as here.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Horse update

In case you were worried, Barbaro is doing well. Assistant trainer Peter Brette says "He's doing fine. He's in a good frame of mind."

Do you remember Barbaro? He won the Kentucky Derby this year, and quickly brought up discussion that he might become the first triple crown winner in almost thirty years. Instead, he shattered a bone in his leg before the first turn of the Preakness.

They used to "put down" horses with such injuries. But not Barbaro; the loss of millions of dollars of potential stud fees was too hard to stomach, so some of the world's best doctors were assembled to repair the leg.

After this latest surgery, the article explains, Barbaro spent a night in ICU. I have visited several ICU's over the years and never came across a horse in a bed.

I don't want to know how many millions of dollars are being spent on this horse's injury. I do want to remember how willing we all are to chuckle about such devotion to the life of a racing horse while we complain at the cost to society of health care for people who cannot afford it.

I went to seminary in Kentucky, in horse farm country. Several of my fellow students had part time jobs as security guards for some of the horses. These horses, they told me, lived in more luxurious conditions that some of the people of Lexington.

I realize this is a capitalistic country, and the market "freely" decides what money goes where. But when the efforts to save the life of a horse, and that only so his owner can receive stud fees, make actual "news," that tells me something is wrong. When there are so many people who live below any reasonable standard of decency, I can't chuckle at the absurdity of these reports anymore.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Notes from JYMO

I've been at JYMO (Jurisdictional Youth Ministry Organization) for most of this week. We are meeting at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana.

JYMO is a nearly annual youth ministry event for youth groups, and especially youth leaders from the 15 conferences that make up the Southcentral Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. Most of the event is for leader training. There are daily sessions of Bible Study and worship services.

The youth take a large role in leadership in JYMO. They do an excellent job.

I have heard several adults stress that this is a "youth led youth event." I infer from this that as much as possible the youth are to run the event. I will admit here that I don't really buy this theory. I think that youth have much to offer, and that adults should listen to what they have to say. I also, however, think that youth still deserve to receive the benefits of being led, directed, guided, and taught by responsible, wise, caring adults.

One of the daily events during the three days of JYMO is a legislative session. This year the legislative sessions have mostly been filled by elections to various positions.

Imagine my surprise at finding that two fairly vocal proponents of this being a "youth led youth event" were very carefully and clearly instructing the individual youth from their delegations on how they should vote.

Perhaps the youth of their delegations didn't know for whom they should vote. Perhaps they didn't completely understand the democratic process.

I was thinking that maybe it would have been more appropriate to offer to help the students make their own decisions, rather than to tell them how to vote.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I'm still processing this, so I will respond more completely to it later, but I found in my email this morning something from the Waco District. Our Conference has decided that in September all our churches will unite in emphasizing the church's mission: MAKING DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD.

Incredibly, attached to the email were outlines for the sermons for the 3 Sundays we are to plug this theme. I won't even have to figure out what to preach!

Except for the fact that I am not going to use their outlines.

Unless the Bishop puts it out on podcast, in which case I'll lip-sync.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Where are you from?"

I am at a family reunion in Centralia, Illinois. Centralia is as close as anything I know to being my hometown. Does one have to have lived in one's hometown?

I was born in Monterey, California, but moved from there before I was a year old. I have moved 21 times since then, lived on both coasts, the midwest, and the far east. Between moves, once, when I was in fourth grade, we stayed in Centralia for about a month and a half.

When people ask me where I am from, I usually name the town I live in at the time. (Though sometimes I simply say "yes") Though I have only lived in McGregor for 2 1/2 years, I am now in a sense "from McGregor."

Jacob Heyduck came to the United States in the mid nineteenth century and settled in Centralia. My grandpa, Floyd Heyduck, as far back as I knew in the family, lived here all his life. My family visited here about yearly as I was growing up. Even now, when I come to Centralia to visit, I feel, somehow, I am from here.

I think that one difficulty a lot of us have these days is rootlessness. Good Americans, we are told, deny their heritage and the culture their family emigrated from. We are all supposed to learn English, but the English would tell you ours is a rather crude version of the language.

One quarter of the US population moves every year. For sanity's sake, some children disconnect from their families of origin as soon as they are old enough. Many do so for a variety of reasons on the opposite end of the spectrum from sanity.

In the face of this rootlessness, I have to think that having a hometown is a good thing. Even if one has never really lived there.

Everyone needs someplace to be from, don't they?

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Standardizing Thrill

Robbie and I visited 6 Flags St. Louis yesterday. The weather was incredible! I can't remember the last time I was chilled on a sunny July afternoon, but following the water rides, the air was cool and dry enough that I acknowledged one advantage the midwest might have over central Texas.

Being roller coaster fans, we were looking forward to trying some new rides. Since we both own season passes that are good at any 6 Flags park in the nation, all it cost us was parking.

We just walked past several of the roller coasters. Apparently the 6 Flags corporation can build replicas of the same ride at different parks more cheaply than it can design different rides.

As Robbie and I had decided that on this trip we would be finding local, non-national-chain restaurants for all of our meals, we were, perhaps, a bit too aware of the cookie-cutter, mass-production values of the theme park world.

One of the advantages of the national-chain-restaurants is they tend to carry a standard of expectation, predictability, and familiarity that offers comfort to travelers who might be far from home.

It seems to me, though, that theme parks, especially when it comes to their roller coasters, ought rather be offering just the opposite.

For more on the local eateries we have discovered, check noncon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Middle America

Life is just easier out here in middle America, right? I'm in Springfield, MO. for the night. Robbie and I are on our way to the great Heyduck Reunion in Centralia, Illinois.

So, this morning, since I get up way to early to rouse a 17 year old on vacation, I went and filled the tank in anticipation of driving another 200 miles and of gas not getting any cheaper.

As I pulled away from the Conoco station, I reached through my steering wheel to reset the trip odometer. Unfortunately, I did so as I was turninga corner, and my wrist got stuck in the wheel.

Since I am typing this, you can see that I made it out of that situation alive, and with at least one hand able to type. (My voice recognition software tolk me I was too loud)

Don't try to do too many things at once. Or at least, while you are driving, make sure your right hand knows what your left hand is doing.

New digs

Check out the site toward which I will be moving, for a variety of reasons.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How do you like me now?

My first real job was at McDonald’s. I know what some of you are thinking: “Man, I bet you got tired of the food there!”

No, I didn’t, and the purpose of this column is to explain why.

The McDonald’s at which I worked through high school and whenever I was home from college, was the first store owned by a new owner-operator. It was this man’s dream to eventually own more than one McDonald’s. Before my tenure was over, he owned three.

He ran the restaurant well. Employees, even high school students, were treated with respect until they earned otherwise. We each received a performance review at least quarterly and raises were a real possibility.

One angle of the theory was that it would cost more to constantly be training new people than to reward the efforts and commitment of those already trained. The theory proved right.

Much of what I learned working at that McDonald’s was basic customer service and business sense. If we took care of our customers, they would return. If we didn’t, there were plenty of other places for them to eat.

Much of what I learned at that McDonald’s I have translated into church leadership. Too many churches are for the people who have been there forever. When a visitor (or customer, if you’ll bear the analogy) comes in, he or she is treated as an outsider, as someone who doesn’t belong. When we are treated that way at a church, we usually don’t come back.

Though I learned a lot about people, about service, and about how a church can do better from a job at McDonald’s, that really is not the main point I want to get across here. The main point I hope you take with you is that a lot of people would look down their noses at a punk-kid flipping burgers under the golden arches.

Stereotypes can be a bummer sometimes, can’t th