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How to navigate to "Straying Home," my e-book about adolescent self-discovery through global travel. Just click on a Chapter tab, 1 to 5, immediately below.

Friday, November 17, 2017

PEERING INTO OUR IMMEDIATE FUTURE / peering dans notre avenir immédiat

Scott Galloway writes to the young, the bright and the hopeful. About their immediate future amidst "The Four:" Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google.

A useful book! Yes, as you'll see. But Galloway sullies it with over-the-top use of four letter words. That's sort of sickening to a reader like me. I guess it's his device to hook a certain audience.

But, well, Galloway isn't a theologian. He's a marketing prof, oriented to sell. Apparently he (and some politicians) believe that dirty language sells, and helps to sell even a semi-academic book.

Let's skip all that and go on to the meat: Galloway really does dissect "The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google." He emerges from dissection with thoughts we all need to understand.

A great example: in his final forty pages he identifies four assets a young person needs to sell one's skills to the high paying, talent-driven and global-reaching Four.

As Galloway points out, The Four pay in huge dollops but employ relatively few. The Four know how to make money and redistribute it to their highly talented workforce. A vast reach and relatively low business expense leads to big wealth.

I like this sentence: ". . .it's never been a better time to be exceptional, or a worse time to be average." (p. 230.)



Will Nikki master Algorithms
and break into one of the Big Four?

Abigail Prior, artist
Used with permission


So here it is: You are your product. Here's what you need to sell yourself to the Four Giants.

  • Curiosity. (p. 235). So crucial to success.
  • Ownership: (p. 235). Own your task, your project, your business.
  • An outstanding education. (p. 238.) 
  • Live in a city.  London, New York City, Seattle. Opportunity is concentrated.(p. 240.)
I'm not a twenty-year-old. No way. But I find Scott's ideas on the digital society to be mind-opening. Business people, young and old, read The Four--yes--but also church leaders, human rights advocates, political party leaders. Any and all will benefit. No one can lose by reading this book.

Conclusion: your talents are your product. Learn how to sell yourself to the Four Giants of the Earth. 

P.S. The book raises a host of issues for me.
  • As the rich increasingly dominate, how will democracy,  which relies on wealth distribution, survive? 
  • Does the newly-connected world help or hinder winning the challenge of global warming?  
  • Are the Four just a current version of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, War and Conquest? And thus as threats to human existence? 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

REMEMBERING BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS

"The military is one of the great engines of Pierce County economy," said the Auditor of Pierce County, Washington. With the giant Madigan Army Hospital and the sprawling Joint Base Lewis-McChord stretching for miles across South Pierce County, the military certainly definitely is an economic engine.

It's also a social engine. Get away from the anonymous noun, "The Military." Focus on individuals for a moment.

From my childhood days in Pierce County until my retirement years there, I knew military men and women. When I was very young (five or six years of age) Don, a young soldier from Ohio, was based at Fort Lewis. Through a church connection he became a close friend of my parents and myself. He'd spend weekends at our house and we shared the upstairs bedroom. Seventy years later now, and what do I remember of Don? Friendliness, and a buoyant person, a role model. 

I had a similar friendship with a soldier named Lenny. I learned a lot as a child about the human side of the military from these two men and from many other veterans with whom I worked and worshiped.





In training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Photo in public domain

Years later my wife and I began our retirement years living in DuPont, Washington, a town just across the Interstate Freeway from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  The iconic Mt. Rainier loomed above. 

Occupationally, our neighbors were primarily military people. We loved them and their kids. 

Remembering the military dead, in particular, became a Saturday ritual in DuPont. Every weekend, Wear Blue: Run to Remember organized a run. Hundreds turned out, running for a mile or more. We ended in the city park with a circle of fellowship, remembrance, and prayer. Wear Blue: Run to Remember has grown into a large organization with multiple programs. Check their website.  





The "Wear Blue: Run to Remember" T-shirt has become iconic. After my family moved to Oregon I was shopping in our neighborhood QFC. To my surprise I spotted a man with a Wear Blue t-shirt. I approached him. "I see your shirt. I have one too." We had an instant bond. We shared about our DuPont years.



The El Alamein military cemetery Cross of Remembrance

Photographer: Dominik Knippel, Niedernberg  
                                     This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.



I visited the El Alamein military cemetery in the 1980s. El Alamein is sited in dry desert sand along the coastline of Egypt about 150 kilometers west of Alexandria. What stark loneliness! Hundreds of tombstones, lined up in perfect geometric order as if marching off into the desert sands--or as if marching off as into eternity. The photo below is the stone of a soldier, inscribed as  "known only to God."

I was moved. My windpipe choked up. I wiped away the tears.




Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Genericlicense.  via Wikipedia


Saturday, November 4, 2017

HOLY BLACK AND HOLY WHITE



Saints’ Day is celebrated worldwide by Christians on November 1.

Today is November 4.

I’m writing about saints I love to remember, but I’m three days late.

An excuse: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland, will celebrate the Eucharist for all saints tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, November 5. If Trinity can wait four days, why can I not wait three days and feel great about it? Okay, on with it:

Let’s start here. Every single person has died or will die. Once they die, they still live or live again, however you want to think about it, in the afterlife. It’s our connection with those who’ve died that we celebrate with All Saints.

Who are your saints? If you’re religious at all, your religious group probably has a list of saints. You can pick and choose.



Image: Saint George and the Dragon
(Ethiopian, 1970s)


But maybe you have your own personal list of saints—deceased relatives, mentors, teachers, friends—that you want to remember. That’s where I’m at too. Particularly, people with traits you can use to guide your actions and decisions in life. We all want to live better lives, right? Saints are your tool kit to build a better life.

In West Africa, the dead are real life figures. They still live, oftentimes right in the community. You placate and love with them through offerings at their shrines. An ancestor shrine can be very simple or quite complex. Simple one pictured below.

West Africans look to their saints—ancestors, deceased family members--for help and for reminders of the best ways to live. It’s important for the living to remember the dead. They’ll punish you if you forget to honor them. On this blog-site I’ve posted a fascinating story of one punishment by an angry ancestor. Navigate to Chapter 4 on this site  and scroll down to the page that contains the image you see below. (It’s about halfway through the chapter.) Look there for the story of one poor man who was stricken because he failed to sacrifice to the ancestors.



An ancestor shrine near Bo, Sierra Leone, 1960-61

Christians? Around the world, depending on the church and the culture, Christians remember the saints: with icons, pictures, cemeteries, etc.

Every single time my Christian parents took me from Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A., to Spokane, about three hundred miles away, we had to visit the cemetery. Both my mother and my father were raised in Spokane. Their dead family members were all buried in the same graveyard. We’d go there, walk from grave to grave, perhaps place a flower, and remember.

I remember my grandmother, Emma Colburn. A saint, I guess. Her husband died mid-life and she supported herself by growing and selling flowers. She moved to Tacoma to be near her daughter and family, which included me. Grandma just never gave up. Though she needed to use crutches to walk, she never gave up mowing her own small lawn with a push mower. Taciturn, tall and thin, rarely smiling, but loving.

Grandmother Reeck, almost the opposite. She lived with her daughter in Spokane, spent her days on the couch, looking plump and happy. She was the picture of contentedness.
Never give up and always project kindness. Those are some traits I remember from a couple of my saints.

I remember my uncle Art. He and his wife owned and operated a small neighborhood grocery store in N.E. Spokane. Art was masculine, deep-voiced, tough but tender. He served ice cream and ate it by the quart. Traits I’d like to follow, except in moderation on the ice cream bit.


Who are your saints? No matter where you live, what religious tradition you follow or don’t follow, use this occasion to make a list of them and their traits that you can copy with pride and use in your life.

Friday, October 27, 2017

TRICK OR A TREAT? MARTIN LUTHER'S REFORMATION

A young man stood in front of the church door in the town of Wittenberg, where Luther displayed his 95 theses that led to the Protestant reformation.

This guy was me. Young man with an American passport. In the Fall of 1960. I was 21 years old. There I was, standing before the simple wooden church door, awed: years before, some hand-written points nailed to the humble door but so important in world history.

I knew Lutheran friends. I'd been taught a few basics. I knew that Luther was the founder of the reformation. I knew a bit about Luther's thinking: "By Faith Alone." But I knew little of Luther's impact on politics and even psychology. That came later through reading.

Speaking of reading, at this link you'll find a compelling article on Luther's importance. Please read it.  Very informed and witty. You'll like it.



Martin Luther
Painter: Lucas Cranach, 1529
Hessisches Museum Darmstadt
In the public domain via Wikimedia Commons


For now, follow me on this track: "Was Luther's act on October 31, 1517, a Trick or a Treat?" It's amazing that Luther's rebellion and Halloween both fall on October 31. Let's have a little fun with that.

Luther did his thing and it was a TRICK, you could argue.

  • As a young a priest, Luther had already knocked on the Pope's door, figuratively, by asking for a change in Church fund-raising: Basically, the Church was selling the forgiveness of sins. 
  • The Pope replied to Luther's protest by raising a military force to capture him.
  • Certain nobles decided to defend and protect Luther. That led to vicious wars, especially across German-speaking lands. Death and destruction accompanied the wars.
It was a TREAT.

  • In Luther's mind there was no reason for a priest to live without a wife. Therefore, he married Katharina, a young nun. They lived happily together (but under the protection of a prince). From that moment on, protestant pastors and priests were free to marry. I'm a protestant clergy-person and very glad I haven't had to live as a celibate. Luther's treat!
A TRICK..
  • Luther's revolt led to a divisions and a weakening of the Church. Undoubtedly true in a worldly sense. However, divisions in the church had already occurred in lands to the east and south of Rome as Orthodox Christian churches had left the Catholic fold.
A TREAT.
  • One might say that Luther's revolt strengthened the church by cleaning up its theology and giving power to protestant and reformed church leaders over the past five hundred years. 
A BAD, BAD TRICK.
  • Luther unleashed his tongue and spouted furious vibes at Jews living in German-speaking lands. Causation is difficult to detect in social situations, but certainly his diatribes helped to set the stage for pograms in the Twentieth Century. 
Missing the pomp, the theology, the global reach, the inspired liturgy, the missionary outreach of the Catholic Church? I certainly am. I miss a lot about the Catholic Church. So I could go on arguing Trick or Treat for a long time.



If only Twitter were available in 1517. ML had a God-given gift for short, provocative, unforgettable outbursts, just the sort of message that matches our current social media. More than a match for anything the White House has produced so far in 2017. 

What are your thoughts about it? Was Luther's act on October 31, 500 years ago, a TRICK or a TREAT? As a post-reformation human being, you are free to believe and think your own thoughts. 

Live free. Live Responsibly. In Luther's lingo, Live Faithfully.





Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dreamers All: Dreaming of New Vision, the New Renaissance

Let me tell you a story. Last evening my wife and I were at my daughter’s dinner table.

I ask my grandson what he was studying this year (10th grade, Sunset High School, Beaverton, Oregon.)   

He replied with something about World History and mentioned a very special word, “Renaissance.”

“Renaissance,” said I. “How great! What does Renaissance mean?”

“Something like renew, rebirth,” he said.

“Fantastic,” I shouted. Then, more quietly, “Re-naissance. French: re-naissance, re-birth,” I said with all the enthusiasm of a Humanities Division professor. “Finally, you're studying something I’m really interested in! Michelangelo! He was a dreamer.!

File:FlorenceSkyline.jpg

Grand Old Florence, a center of the Renaissance

Photo by Infrogmation, presented here under terms of GNU Free Documentation License by Wikimedia


Yes, the Italian Renaissance (Michelangelo and all of the others) was a re-birth of a stultified civilization. It transitioned all of Europe from the Dark Ages, so-called, into modern forms of government and economics. It laid foundations for nation-states.

Today, the world (and not just a particular single nation) needs a renaissance—a rebirth, a dream of a new order.

A neighbor explained that last week she went to her doctor with a complaint. “I’m so fatigued and worn out.”

“Why so?” he asked.

Because of all the political name calling—the lying—the hypocrisy, she said.
The doctor raised his fist in the air and exclaimed: “I’m with you there!”

Not just in the U.S. but in many nation-states around the globe, the old form of organization—the nation state—is proving to be dated and inadequate. New inventions—global internet, space travel, artificial intelligence, lethal intercontinental weaponry, global warming —have made national boundaries and governments archaic.

The United Nations is a very noble start toward this new renaissance, but only a start. The world needs imagination that goes beyond.

If the entire world needs a new renaissance, then based on what? Not on the revival of white nationalism (the alt-right vision currently infecting America and Europe like an end-of-life disease). Rather, we need a set of ideas and beliefs that embraces the globe as the context and gives an opening to the future for all.


Maybe your children or my grandchildren will contribute to the new birth. I'm sure it'll take someone in their twenties or thirties. That's when genius peaks in human beings. If you're reading this and you're of that age group, the opportunity is yours. Dream big!

A prayer: May God (by whatever name in every language) guide prophetic vision, and may visionary prophets create a new renaissance, an age of secure political organization guaranteeing life for persons in sustainable society everywhere on planet Earth. 

Please start here: comment, share the post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter. Thank you, reader!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

SUBURBIA FOR PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE TOO? HERE'S HOW.


QUACK QUACK QUACK. HONK AND HOWL. RIGHT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD

A short drive north and west of Portland, OR lies the Tualatin Valley, a flattish landscape with orchards, berry farms and Intel and NIKE headquarters. There's also the high speed MAXX transit line. The Valley is rimmed by wooded hills. Housing developments are under construction but are hemmed in by Oregon's progressive urban boundary law.

There's more here than meets the eye. Side by side with suburbanite neighborhoods live multiple wild species, enabled by far-sighted water resource management and forested set-asides.

I walk a lot in my neighborhood: my therapy goal is heart rate of 120 beats per minute. I log two or three miles of rapid-walk a day. This walking has brought me face to face with wild creatures: billions of crows and geese, one coyote, ducks, muskrats, bald eagles and white ospreys for example.

DEER IN THE DEVELOPMENT

Today's walk just east of home brought me face to face with two deer. Mind you, this was right in the neighborhood.  The first photo, just below, shows them grazing in a fenced lot. Eventually a house will be built here. In the upper left you might make out two poles of a power line. The power line and the sub-surface gas line beneath  run from the wooded hills three miles north to end-users south of my viewpoint. The line hosts a walking-biking trail and lots of brush--perfect for deer that want to stay alive in their native territory. 

The deer were wary but not frightened. They calmly walked up to the fence while keeping an eye on me, fifty yards away with a phone-camera in my hand. A couple of photos later I left the deer to graze.


Working their way up the empty lot



A nice set of horns, an intent stare


Lucy and I have seen single bucks and a doe with the cutest fawns right in our part of town. Perhaps they're actually safer here than in the woods, where hunting is permitted in season. 

Back to birds. An Audubon member-friend told me that the suburbs will save the birds. Odd, I thought at the time, but I've changed my mind. Bronson Creek wetlands, located a block from my home, is hospitable to many species of birds. The nearby golf course, with its grassy fairway and pond, helps geese (by the billion, it seems) during winter, when golfers stay indoors.

PROTECTING A HUMMINGBIRD BROOD

Tiny birds. In 2016 a mother hummingbird raised her brood in a vine maple tree within sight of our bedroom.  



This mom and her two chicks kept us fascinated for weeks in 2016


COYOTES ENJOY DOG FOOD

It's not all "nice." Walking down a paved neighborhood street, I saw a dog-like creature, taught and tense, stand on the pavement, gaze, sniff the air. Between me and the animal a woman was walking her pet dog downhill in the direction of the critter. She saw the critter too and immediately reversed direction.  We both recognized that we'd seen a coyote, during daylight hours, right in the neighborhood. The coyote soon headed straight toward Bronson Creek wetland. After, I imagined, a meal of dog-food left out on a neighborhood porch.

CO-EXISTING TAKES PLANNING AND PRECAUTIONS

I'm not, I hope, being naive. I just think that with appropriate land use, including ribbons of set-aside for creeks, ponds, and pathways, animals and birds can enjoy their lives and grace our lives.

Could this sort of Green land planning occur in New York City, Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berlin, Cairo, Capetown? It could and does. It could be enhanced by greater public pressure, leading to more pro-active policies.

I hope that legislators will keep the birds and animals in mind as they develop zoning plans. Land-use planners too. Maybe you'll help them by communicating your desire to share your suburbia with birds and animals.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

PASTOR ACTIVIST--SAVING PEOPLE AND LAND IN LOUISIANA DISASTER ZONE

(Updated October 22, 2017)         It's September 27, 2017. My wife and I visited with two wonderful Presbyterian pastor friends, Dr. Kristina Peterson and Rev. Richard Krajeski, I want to introduce you to their unique earth care strategy in and around Gray, Louisiana and the larger Gulf Coast.

What is Menucha? It's the Presbyterian conference center located near the western boundary of the Columbia River National Scenic Area. (Previously I've posted re. Brother Cyril's positive views on the Scenic Area. Click here to go to the page.

Kristina's story: Rev. Kristina is a former student of mine at University of Puget Sound, Tacoma. After college she completed more theological training and still later earned a PhD. at University of New Orleans. Now a pastor in Gray, Louisiana, she's recently founded the Lowlander Center, with others such as Rev. Richard Krajeski, her spouse and co-pastor at Gray, LA Presbyterian Church and supporter of the Lowlander Center. 

At lunch we learned much from Kristina and Richard. About how the population of Bayou country varies, from original Indians to old French language settlers and on to newcomers such as Vietnamese refugees. About the mix of ethnic cultures that enriches the area. 

Kristina and Richard serve a Bayou population with a very urgent practical problem: the land on which they live is disappearing! Disappearing under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico! The Bayou consists mainly of water bodies gently meandering through marshes and wetlands. In recent years the wetlands are eroding and islands of remaining land masses are shrinking. People are moving, involuntarily displaced from once safe island communities. They are resorting, in some cases, to adapting to higher water with elevated housing mounted as much as 20 feet above ground. The Bayou itself is in crisis and so are the home owners.


Hurricane Irma gathering strength prior to punching the Bayou. Contrast to beauty in photo above.
September 6, 2017
Photo: NASA photo, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons


Just this year, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (2017) led to more extensive flooding and many lowlander men, women and children became refugees once again. 


Hurricanes have damaged the Bayou country regularly. Wreckage 
from the Ike Johnson hurricane, 2008
Creative Commons License: Photo by Junglecat via Wikimedia Commons

 Okay, I understand property damage.  

But why is the LAND disappearing? Kristina cites two main causes:

                1: Subsistence caused by levees starving the marshes and oil pipelines and extraction leads land to sink into the Gulf.

                2: The rising level of powerful storm surges erodes the already-sinking land and kills the former fresh water vegetation and trees, thus destroying the roots that held soil in place.

How much can people and the earth take? What, in this case, is the calling of these two pastors and their congregation? For Kristina and Dick,, it's care for disappearing land and threatened people. 
                                            
Their story continues. Dr. Kristina and friends have organized a not-for-profit agency specializing in coordinating the flood control efforts around Gray and recovery of communities across the Delta. 

Here's how they describe the mission of the Center:

"The work of the Lowlander Center is to help create solutions to living with an ever-changing coastline and land loss while visioning a future that builds capacity and resilience for place and people."

(More Center details including photos are available at their website. Please click and visit. )

Their immediate concerns include: projects to assist lowlander families in recovering from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Nate, the blockbuster storms of 2017. 

In other communities such as Sierra Leone, West Africa, churches find that helping save land is saving people.

Your financial support is welcome at Lowlander Center. (See the website form for your use). I can vouch for the integrity of the organization.

I rewrote this post on a Sunday morning in October, 2017, and consider it to be my ministry for that day. (Disclosure: I'm an ordained United Methodist clergy-person.) I hope you'll be inspired by the story.

A prayer: ". . .we thank you. . .especially today, for all who are helping in the wake of recent fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and disasters of our own making."  (From the ritual of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, October 22, 2017.)