Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dedication. Perseverance. Honesty.

Rarely do I encourage people to "stop what you're doing and read this article."  It's possible you won't like what I recommend...or that you're doing something even more important (like brain surgery or grief counseling or canning tomatoes).  

However, I encourage you to stop what you're doing and read Sally Jenkins' article about Pat Summitt - the greatest coach in women's college basketball history who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  

Oh, and grab a few tissues as well.

Last Thursday, Summitt, Barnett, and her 20-year-old son Tyler, who is a junior at the University of Tennessee, met with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Athletic Director Joan Cronan to inform them of her condition. Barnett warned Summitt that contractually school administrators had the right to remove her as head coach immediately. Instead, Cheek and Cronan listened to Summitt’s disclosure with tears streaming down their faces.
“You are now and will always be our coach,” Cheek told her. With the blessing of her university, she will continue to work for as long as she is able.

What's most amazing to me is her ability to be honest with the world about her disease.  It's easy to stigmatize people with an illness like dementia...especially people with high-profile jobs.  Kudos to her for telling her story, and for the university for standing by her.

Also, she has an amazing 20-year old son by her side:

“I followed her everywhere growing up,” Tyler says. “I followed her on bus rides, airplanes, in gyms and in locker rooms all over the country, and I thought she taught me everything she had. But she saved this lesson, to always come out and be open, to not be scared, to have the courage to face the truth like she’s doing.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jesus and Taxes

A conversation about money and politics played out on my Facebook news feed last week, as my friends shared their thoughts (and re-shared the thoughts of others) about how to solve our current "debt crisis."  

Three things caught my attention:

1.  Warren Buffett's op ed piece in the New York Times
His premise is simple - the "super rich" should pay more taxes to help reduce the national deficit.  It was fascinating to read of one of the wealthiest men in the world make a case for why people like him should shoulder more of the economic burden.

2.  Jon Stewart's Daily Show rant 
The Daily Show host offered some crass, sarcastic, enlightened additions to Buffett's piece a few days later...and took several shots at Fox News pundits (which is, pretty much, his m.o.)

3.  This nugget re-posted by several friends
"In the 1950s & 1960s, when the top tax rate was 70-92%, we laid the interstate system, built the Internet, put a man on the moon, defeated Communism, our education system was the envy of the world, our middle class thriving, our economy unparalleled.  You want that back?  Raise taxes on the rich."

* * * * * 

I'm not sure if raising taxes on the wealthy is the right thing to do.  I doubt it's the answer to our economic problems.  Additionally, I find it helpful to not demonize any group of people - rich or poor.  

I do know, however, that Jesus was pretty hard on rich people in his day.  He aligned himself with the poor and made it known how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven.  

It makes me wonder how followers of Jesus are to consider such matters, based on his teachings.  

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's?  
You will always have the poor with you?  
Sell all you own and give to those in need?  
Blessed are you who are poor...but woe to you who are rich?  

I imagine a biblical / theological argument could be made on both sides.  

What do you think?  Where is Jesus in the midst of this conversation?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Genetics and the Future of the Church

Two of the key items on the agenda at the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly were (1) the report and recommendations made by the LIFT (Living Into the Future Together) Task Force and (2) the proposed Social Statement on Genetics.

Both received more than 90% approval from the voting members, which is wonderful.  (Full disclosure - I was on the LIFT task force and my dad was on the Genetics task force.  I am proud of the work done by these two groups and believe that the Spirit was at work in the midst of their deliberations.)

If you are one of the millions of Lutherans that haven’t read either/both of these documents, here’s one man’s summary:


  • communal contextual discernment is key to mission interpretation
  • flatter more nimble church structure by moving toward networks
  • synods working with congregations to establish mission covenants
  • temporary moratorium on social statements
  • congregations lifted up as centers of ministry and mission
  • elimination of program committees


  • defines koinonia as the entire community of life, not just humans
  • precautionary principle is key to seeking wisdom
  • pursue sufficiency, sustainability, solidarity, participation, and precaution
  • “The human vocation, in an age of unprecedented power, is to respect and promote the community of life with justice and wisdom.” ~ from the introduction during Plenary 2

Part Two coming tomorrow, with my thoughts on "what does this mean?" in the days ahead.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

We're From Iowa

We're entering into the worst six months to be an Iowan.

The unofficial launch of the 2012 Presidential Campaign happens February 6 at the Iowa Caucus.  For the next 180 days, aspiring presidents, national news media, and far too many advertisements will descend upon our fair state.  The caucus is good for the economy and gives lots of free publicity to our businesses, schools, and people.

Sadly, there is some residual damage as well.  Every day, attention-seeking wackos come out of their compounds with big signs and loud megaphones, single-handedly casting Iowans as buffoons with no sense of social decorum.  The caucus also means Iowans spend 15 months wading in the murky, toxic waters of the American political system...which gives a lot of time for families, friends, neighbors, and church-goers to focus on our ideological differences.

Backlash has been mounting for years from people who think Iowa (a state with fewer than 3,000,000 people and only 7 electoral votes) is given too much power by being the first state to begin narrowing the field of presidential candidates.

Even religious folks, like Tony Jones, are hopping on the anti-Iowa bandwagon.  He recently decreed that he's "sick and tired of Iowa" and that "Iowa needs to get over itself."

How come?

"Iowa is really white" and "Iowa's Republicans are primarily conservative."

Oh...of course.


NPR debunks some Iowa myths in the Five Things You Got Wrong piece.  Certainly worth the read.

The growing Des Moines metro area has a lot going for it as well.  (Did you know Des Moines, IA is the #1 city in the nation for Young Professionals and #2 for Business and Careers according to Forbes?)

Iowa is a great place to live, work, receive an education, and raise a family.  There are a lot of intelligent people who are prepared to make thoughtful decisions at the caucus next February.  I hope we'll prove the haters wrong in the next 180 days.

then again...when I see stuff like this, I wonder if the haters might be right about us.