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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Olympic Games, Canadian style

When the Olympic games roll around every couple of years, us folks out on the prairie suddenly get all "greek." What I mean by this is that we get caught up in the events, cheering folks from all sorts of countries that weren't even countries when many of us were kids, and finding ways to hold up to the integrity of the "game", moreso than who wins or loses. (Unfortunately, the media that broadcasts the games does not hold to such a high standard, and often only shows stuff in real time that feature folks from Canada or the USA. Oh well...)

Back in the day when the Olympics were conceived, the purpose was to showcase talent and skill, and laurel wreaths were a way to recognize superior achievement...but soon (probably after the first semi-final match) the games became all about the winning...and as the Greeks eventually lost to Ceasar, you cannot win forever...That's why the integrity of the game is so important...it can survive wars, arguments, protests, disagreements, and downright hatred...whereas winning and losing comes and goes...(unless, of course, you are the Minnesota Vikings, and winning never comes around).

Out here on the prairie we live in a world where things come and go (we haven't seen warm weather in about three weeks), and where something has to mean more than a quick flash of success or fame or a drought of hope and promise...what best exemplifies the spirit of the Olympic games for us is our land, our prairies and rivers, buttes and valleys, and its constancy amidst the swirling winds of change...(We would agree with Lord Alfred North Whitehead, the famous British mathematician, who noted that everything moves...even rocks...they just move very slowly.)

It is that constancy that allows us to understand the land as a gift from God...that we are just stewards of the mysteries of life, and that somehow, winning or losing, the land, and even ourselves still have purpose and meaning...it's tough to remember that these days amidst 8 ft. snow drifts...but when Spring does come...oh what joy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sustaining the Unsustainable

I have a friend who argues that until the world runs out of oil and gas we will never change our habits of dependence upon them. In other words, as long as there is oil and gas we will use it. (He also drives a small Suzuki car. I guess so that he can keep the oil and gas around as long as possible. In his world, a true future-oriented person would drive a Hummer with over-sized tires to the mailbox so that we could get to the next stage even faster! Conservation just keeps us addicted to oil and gas technologies and their ways of life.)

But it is pretty clear to most people that the world as it existed for the past sixty years is unsustainable in its present configuration. Whether you're woried about the planet, energy, human over-population, clean water, food supplies, or affordable education, there is a crisis at hand...or better, everything is in some stage of crisis. Take, for example, the professional basketball league, the NBA (it stands for the National Basketball Association, or, in some circles the "No Benjamins Association.") According to its executive director, the league will lose $400 million this year.

There are teams that cannot sell tickets to games for $5. (Which is $3 less than a movie ticket here in Bismarck. Basically, people are saying they would pay more money to watch Kristen Bell romp around Rome than basketball players run around Minneapolis or Indianapolis or Los Angeles, etc. This would not be a problem, except that Kristen Bell makes a lot less money than those basketball players, and she's the one who gets the people to pay!) What would a world look like without professional basketball? Since most people do not care, for a great many life would just go on in the same old, same old way.

But a lot would change in other ways. Sneaker sales, for example, would change. Hoop dreams would have to be replaced with...? With what, exactly?

There is the rub...we have nothing to replace the unsustainable life we have created for ourselves over the past sixty years...We have forgotten families and dinner tables, we have neglected the neighbor and stranger...we have ignored the widow, abandoned the orphans, and left the children to not be left behind, but not encouraged to go forward either...Since we have nothing to replace this unsustainable life we have, we just keep sustaining the unsustainable...and we will twitter and blog and facebook ourselves into a communinty of despair...

For those of you who have God, consider yourself lucky...you are like the gambler in front of the slot machine...you may not have much of a chance, but you have a chance....And for those of you who believe God has you...well, maybe we should stop all this effort at sustaining the unsustainable, and be looking for new dreams...new visions...new realities in a world connected by people, and not miles of cul-de-sacs powered by oil and gas...or as Jesus of Nazareth once said, "What will it profit you if you gain the whole world, but lose your soul?"