Monday, October 27, 2008


Something has been on my mind for quite awhile now. I’ve tried to resist it. I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve tried not to engage it. I just can’t take it anymore. I am about to take on, once again, an old enemy that I had thought I’d outgrown. For any who have history with me, I’m sure that you’ve noticed a quietness about me on this subject. But now, it’s overcome me and the voices are loud again and I need to confront it head on. I am about to re-engage my one man rant against the purveyor of all that is bad in fast food, healthy food, comfort food, and every food that I can even think of. The mark of the beast in this case is “the golden arches”.
I’ve tried to maintain my dignity through many of their past years assaults against human health, dignity and intelligence. I didn’t say anything when they brought in the, then in vogue, “wraps”. I looked the other way when they tried to pass themselves off with healthy salads. I bit my tongue when their big revelation was to actually use real chicken in their McNuggets. I’ve even almost forgotten the ill fated “pizza years” of the early 90’s. But I have to tell you that I’ve reached my limit this time. This time they are treading on my sacred grounds. It’s the Mcspresso.
If you haven’t yet heard or seen one of their ads, you may not understand this. Maybe you’re not a coffee drinker and it doesn’t affect you. I need to be clear on this. I don’t personally care what they choose to try and pass off as food. I don’t even care if you choose to be deceived. My personal theory on the current economic crisis is that they are at it’s foundation. All of their billions of hamburgers sold have certainly cost us the national debt a few times over, maybe more, and the related health costs are certainly more than one nation could reasonably sustain. All of that aside, this is America and it is their God given right to fleece the na├»ve and get wealthy at it. It is everyone else’s God given right to throw money down the toilet, literally. However……………….when they begin to imply that the reason I drink the coffee that I drink is because of some level of entitlement and snobbery, then I take the gloves off.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t a great many asses who frequent the places that I get my drink of choice. I deal with the triple tall, hold the foam, hold the milk, add the chai, low fat, no fat, no milk, soy, breve, grande, not too hot, but not too cool either, decaf, latte. I have no defense for them. They are people too. Have you ever gotten in front of someone in the midst of a “Big Mac” attack? One is annoying, but the other can be lethal. For a company to imply that I sit here at Starbucks on Monday mornings because of my attitude is just crossing the line. If good taste is construed as attitude, then I guess I’m guilty as charged.
One of the latest ads is elevating the reading of tabloid rags and reality TV addictions and implying that this is the path to enlightenment and that those who order their drinks followed by “do you want fries with that” are the real people of substance. Is it any wonder that the banking industry is collapsing if this is really the measure of intelligence in our country? I want to be clear on this. You can drink what you want to drink where you want to drink it. There happens to be a good reason why their drinks are only half of what I choose to pay. Just don’t make assumptions or critiques about me because I choose not to order mine from a place that couldn’t give me correct change if it didn’t read out correctly on the register.
In the end, I want it known that I tried to play fair. I had chosen to “drink and let drink”. I have watched the “great deceiver” from afar. I tried to stay neutral and look the other way. I can’t do it anymore. Enough is enough.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Today has been a stretch for me. It began with my alarm not going off, me sitting straight up in bed 90 minutes beyond my intended launch time and muttering the first word that came to my mind in the moment. It wasn’t a word that, most generally, one would imagine coming from the lips of a pastor on a Monday morning at 7:15. It was my word nonetheless . I really wasn’t bothered by it, as it seemed to fit the moment. I did feel bad that it was the word that my wife also woke up with seeing as she has no problem with 7:15am. In any event, this was the day I was dealt and I am handling it appropriately. I’m taking a break from it.
So I’m at Starbucks on the beach at 1:30pm instead and I must tell you that it is a totally different experience, in case you were wondering. The mornings here are peaceful, with the possible exception of seniors who can congregate occasionally, and the occasional 2 year old that waddles around in pj’s. This afternoon is living proof of our economic demise as a culture, at least in this town. No one works here, in Seattle I mean. It’s job security if you’re a barista, although I don’t know for the life of me where the money comes from to pay for $5 lattes from people who don’t work. This place is packed out with working age people. To be fair, I’m also here, and passers by might think the same of me. The difference is that I am in fact working…at least I tell myself this anyway. I am in the midst of a sociological study that I’m sure I’ll be able to use for illustrative material somewhere down the road. So I’m here researching. Yeah, that’s it! I’m doing research.
Here are my preliminary findings……..people don’t work here. At least they don’t appear to, unless they get paid to wander, to stroll, to chat, to drink coffee. Wait a minute, I had one of those jobs. It was a union job. Anyway, it’s a very interesting place to people watch. I’m doing fashion research for a future episode of “What not to Wear”. This store alone could fill an entire season, and yes I’m sure it would include me. The only reason I avoid that spotlight is that I have an amazing wife who combines incredible taste with an ability to ask well timed rhetorical questions like “are you wearing that?”. “Actually, no, I was just checking to see if this still fits me so that I have an outfit the first day that I get past your radar.” I could web cam this place and you’d have the stereotypical Seattle fashion runway. This afternoon we have the pajama pants girl. We have the socks and sandals guy, with shorts for added emphasis. We have hoodies. We have fleece everywhere; fleece being, of course, the official fabric of Seattle.
All of these observations are wearing me out. I’m beginning to remember what I’m normally doing when I’m not researching down here at 2 in the afternoon. It’s nap time. The only thing better than waking at 5:30am is napping at 2pm. Today it seems that I have struck out on both ends. I’ve now seen how the other half lives and it’s not so impressive. From now on I’ll leave the research to the experts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I’ve been wandering all week attached to a little magnetized card that identifies me as a guest in a Portland area hotel. It lets me in the building. It lets me in my room. It lets me in the hot tub room and the work out room. It is my lifeline into my home away from home this week. This morning, the magnetized part of my card failed. I lost my identity somewhere in between my complimentary continental breakfast and brushing my teeth. It really wasn’t that big of a deal. I’ve been here long enough that they think I’m on staff, so all I needed to do was to get it zapped and I was back on track with my schedule intact.
It did get me to thinking though about all of the identities that I’ve taken on this week. I’ve been a commuter. I’ve been a student. I’ve been a customer. I’ve been a poor single slob, a husband, and then a poor single slob again. I’ve been a church “spectator”. I’ve been a dad by phone and by text. I’ve been a pastor by email and I’ve been a friend by Facebook. Some of these were all going at the same time. The one thing that they all seem to have in common is that almost all of them would be labels that other people would identify me by. For me, in my mind, its just been me, flowing from one realm of life to another; Just me and my magnetic card.
I am aware though, sometimes regrettably, that the card I carry for each one of these roles sometimes doesn’t work. Sometimes the magnet is not magnetic. The presence might be there but not the identifying force. It is those times that people get frustrated with me. In any of these roles, I can merely exist. I can look the part without being the part. I can be a student who’s not engaged in the study. I can be a husband who’s not engaged in the marriage. I can be a friend who’s not engaged in the relationship. I can be a church member who’s not engaged in the community. I can be a pastor who is not engaged with the people entrusted to me.
When my hotel key went bad, I merely needed to go back to the main desk where they know me and get re-magnetized. I could do that there, because they know me….or I could show ID which I didn’t have because it was locked in the room. For the rest of my life, I need to go back to the one who knows me. I’m not referring to the IRS either. I mean really know me. I’ve been busy this week. It has been a good busy. Some of it has even been a “God” busy. But in the midst of it, I have seen that I have spent a great deal of time trying to “know Him”, trying to understand His word more fully, trying to understand His faith community better, but what I really need by the end of this is to allow Him to know me more fully.
What I’m getting at is simply this; I just need to “be”, quietly, and in His presence. Some of you who read this may be skeptical, but it is absolutely true. Just to be in His presence, to allow quietness, to open your heart to the one who knows you, is one of the most energizing and transforming things you can do. You don’t need ID either. You just come to the desk, smile and hand over your card. He already knows that you’ve locked yourself out.

Monday, October 06, 2008


My, how the years have gone by. I remember the days of toddlers and baby gates keeping little feet and hands confined to safe zones. I remember the day that my daughter, two years old and unimpressed, destroyed one that we had recently purchased, much like Godzilla on a stroll through Tokyo. Much older, any many garage sales later, I am back to employing a baby gate. No I haven’t violated my two hands two kids rule. Initially the gate was purchased to keep my son and daughter-in-laws puppy from eating from our cats litter box. These days it is being used to keep that senile old cat from relieving herself in inappropriate places. She has gone through 8 lives already and this is me being benevolent and not relieving her of her last one.
This is a recent development. I guess these things become “developments” even for old people. Fortunately for humans, they make diapers in all sizes. Not so for cats. Several weeks ago, totally unannounced, she began to use our curtains and carpet for her restroom stop. It may be that the curtains were green and the carpet brown and that she’s confused it for the great outdoors. I’m not sure. I thought I had the plan solved as a byproduct of tearing up the carpet and refinishing our floors. They are gorgeous. They glisten like glass. Apparently she has always wanted to pee on glass, because that’s just where we found her visiting last night. Exit life number 8… This began a series of events that led to “the gate”. She used the curtains….again, so we took them down…again, to wash them…again. This time was different though. The curtains came down revealing a very large spider who had taken up residence on the outside of the window pane. I really admire spiders, and it getting closer to Halloween and all, it could have provided some cheap ambience. It really was a big one though. My wife didn’t share in my admiration of God’s creative abilities. I decided that it wouldn’t be worth it as she feels that every spider outside is really a spider looking to get inside, and frankly, if this was the case with this one, we didn’t have enough room for him in here. Although, I could have traded him for the cat as long as he didn’t pee on floors.
Anyway…not wanting my gorgeous wife to lose sleep while this spider plotted his way in, translating into my losing sleep, I decided to eliminate him. Well…it sounded like a good idea at the time. His window pane was out of reach, but the broom was plenty long enough to reach. In the end, I had one big dead spider, one broken window pane, and one cat behind the gate….just before the police arrived, even though that was for a different matter. I was just glad that I wasn’t going to be featured on COPS.
So now life is different for us. We have a gate. We have a cat and she is not allowed to go, unaccompanied by us, beyond the gate. A small part, a very small part of me empathizes with her. Now I look at her life and I think of the gates that are set up in my own life. Sometimes they’re open and sometimes closed. Wisdom keeps me from opening closed ones. There is probably a reason for them being closed, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. There is someone greater than I who knows that I’ll probably behave inappropriately if I go through the closed ones. He also knows that there is good for me when I’m brave enough to go through the open ones. I always have the option, much like my daughter, of busting one down, but that’s probably not going to be in my benefit. There is a reason that it’s closed. She doesn’t know it now, but I really do have the best intentions for my cat. She may not appreciate the gate, but it’s the only thing keeping her last hope alive.