Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Random Thoughts Over Caffeine and Cough Drops

Am sick as a dog today, just like yesterday and day before. Endless coughing, sore throat, sniffling, achy body, fever, etc... I've got it all. Unfortunately, the business of the church waits for no many, so here I am, in my chair, just having finished up the bulletin for Sunday.

Just giving my folks an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

Anyhow, for the first time in can't remember, I'm skipping "Ten Things I Think I Think" and just going for some random thoughts. Here's hoping they make sense.

- How out of it am I? Well, this morning the PTO at Max's school sponsored its annual "Donuts With Dad" breakfast. I drug myself out of bed early enough, but had a hard time getting the motor started with all the coughing and wheezing and wanting to die. Finally, I pulled myself together, hopped in the shower, threw on a some clothes, grabbed Max, and we hit the road. We were late, but would have made it...

if only I had driven to right school.

3rd and 4th graders in our district go to Maplewood Elementary. K-2nd grade go to Elmwood.
Max is in the 3rd grade. I'm sure you can figure out the rest.

With no hope of making it on time, I did the only thing I could to salvage the situation.

"Instead of 'Donuts with Dad', you wanna stop at McD's and get "Breakfast with Bryan?"

Max was game, and I started off my day with an Egg McMuffin.

- Our annual "Harvest for the Hungry" food drive was a success. To date, we've raised enough in cash and kind to purchase over 1.4 millions pounds for the West Ohio Food Bank. Thank to everyone in the community who participated. I'm sure Bambi and all the rest of the good folks over at the food bank are saying a prayer as their funds for the year are largely depleted. This will do nicely to carry them into 2008.

- Word on the street is that the Columbus Dispatch named the official who missed the Illinois fumble that turned out to be a touchdown, and the official is from here in Lima. I haven't seen the name in the Lima News, and I hope I never do. People who forget that OSU's D couldn't stop Juice Williams in the last eight minutes of the game are likely to do something stupid as a way of taking out their frustration. Considering the team lost most of it's offense last year, not a soul in these parts could have envisioned a better season for the Bucks (even with a schedule padded with patsies like Youngstown State, Akron, and Kent) last August. The team fared well in a lousy conference. Let's just cheer them on as they take on Michigan in the "Big House" Saturday.

- The local UAW representing workers at our Ford plant approved the national labor contract it has with Ford, but turned down the local contract. I didn't realize there were two separate contracts until today. The national contract covers issues like wages and benefits, but the local contract covers issues like use of non-union labor and work rules on the floor (who works where and does what). The Lima plant has, until now, out of fear they would close the plant and go elsewhere, always been ahead of the curve on these issues. Voluntarily the labor at the plant has voted numerous concessions with the idea that with new engines about to come on line, they would be positioned well to be awarded the line by management. No one seems to know why all of a sudden 60% of the local union seems to have decided they've gone as far as they can. It'll be interesting in coming days to find out what's going on.

Back in college, I took a number of classes from a Political Geography prof named James Rubenstein. To be honest, had I known what the heck Political Geography (the study of how stuff is distributed, produced, and consumed) was before I went to college, I would have chosen it as my major. As it was, I didn't take my first PG class until my Junior year (as a part of the social sciences requirement for my Secondary Ed degree), and switching majors would have involved another an extra 1.5 years of classes. Lots of people go to school for six or seven years, but they call those people doctors and lawyers, so I just took as many PG classes as I could before graduation. Rubenstein's class was a study on transportation issues, focusing mainly on automobile industry (his knowledge, of which, is in demand worldwide by all those tied to the building and selling of cars).

I remember him telling us that the real difference between Japanese and American automakers wasn't quality (because the American companies in the early nineties were talking massive new steps toward higher quality... a gap that has largely been closed as of this year). The difference, he said, was that in every 60 seconds a Japanese worker is paid to work, he or she is working 59 of those seconds, while (as of the early eighties) American workers worked about 42 of those seconds (the rest of seconds going into breaks, down time, and the like). And it wasn't that Japanese workers were better than American ones. Honda and Toyota plants in the US employed people on the line who worked the same 59 seconds as their Asian counterparts. All things being the same, the issue was two-fold: the number of breaks an American union auto worker received as opposed to a non-union American auto worker and the unwillingness of the UAW to allow their union members to be "cross-trained" on different tasks needed up and down the assembly line. These two issues, he told us, would be bones of contention between management and labor for years to come.

I think I heard those words back in 1990. How true they appear to ring here in our town in 2007 as work-rules and cross-training (and also the use of non-union labor) appear to be the sticking point. The guy obviously knew his stuff.

- Much ado is being made these days about the forthcoming release of the movie, "The Golden Compass", a movie based on a children's book series about a group of people out to kill the God of Christianity, who is portrayed as a mean dottering fool. Apparently the movie, which is based on a three book series, has been watered down immensely to keep Christian groups at bay (think Ron Howard's movie version of "The DaVinci Code", which was not only watered down, but downright boring) but the fear is that by seeing the movie, children and their parents will be encouraged to buy the books, reading the unvarnished version of one atheist's attempt to undermine the Christian church using fantasy in fiction (a ying to the yang of someone like CS Lewis who did the same thing in his "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" only as a way of winning children and families to Christ).

Now before you get all hot and bothered that somehow I'm one of those people who telling you to stay away from Harry Potter (cause I'm not) because it will inspire your kids to take up witchcraft (highly unlikely), the concern across the Christian spectrum appears to be real., the website dedicated to unearthing urban legends, confirms that the author of the books, Philip Pullman is an avowed atheist, something that can be confirmed by going no further than his own website, which contains this tidbit from a Q&A section:

His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?
I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away. Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them.

Not much doubt there about how he feels. All of us associated with Christianity, or any formal religion I suppose, are off of Pullman's Christmas Card list. Can't say I'll be buying the books for Max, or taking the boys to see the movie this Christmas. They'll be thinking critically about God, Christ, the church, and the rest on their own soon enough. I'd rather not deal with sort of thing in elementary school. But you can bet I'll be checking out the books at the library to get a sense as how this new breed of angry atheist is spreading his message, this time under the guise of fiction (which is ironic, if you think about it).

- I get the feeling we'll learn quite a bit as Senator Grassley (R - Iowa) begins his investigation of the six televanglists/pastors who have set themselves up for such an investigation by flaunting IRS rules on how non-profit money can be used. Benny Hinn (one of the six) is said to be gearing up the troops and circling the wagons of his ministry, already in financial trouble (despite working toward raising $36 million dollars so he they can buy Benny a new Gulfstream jet), and I'm sure the other five will follow. Joyce Meyers has already come out to say that God gave her all the stuff she has, including a marble commode valued at over $21,000 (wonder if he shipped it UPS or DHL?). I can't wait to hear who these evangelists begin to blame for these investigations. It ought to be rich.

I remember back in 1997 when Michael Pitts, a pastor with a checkered history at a prosperity gospel church, after getting picked up for allegedly exposing himself along a busy street in suburban Toledo, accused other churches in the Toledo area of being jealous and constructing a smear campaign against him for revenge. Strangely enough, Pitts, by name, singled out the church I was serving at the time (Epworth UMC in Ottawa Hills) as one of those churches. Why on earth a streetfront preacher pastoring an independent church would single out a high steeple mainline denominational old money church from the suburbs was beyond me. Maybe he thought like most mainlines we were shrinking and becoming desperate (which wasn't the case). Maybe he just remembered the name cause he and I went to the same high school (his brother was in my class), and had read an article on my recent appointment in the Toledo Blade. Or, maybe he thought we really were out to get him. I guess I'll never know. It provided us with a pretty good laugh, though, the thought of all those late night meetings we were having to somehow take down Michael Pitts... whose church we couldn't find, let alone name. I get the sense that as the heat gets turned up, lots of similar allegations will be made in attempts to explain why, all of a sudden, the checkbooks of these churches and pastors are going to be investigated.

The other weird part of this, though, will be the strange bedfellows this is going to create. As the Senate continues its investigation, I'm sure that I will begin receiving many emails warning us pastors of how this is just the first step toward all churches being stripped of their tax-exempt status, and that all of us need to do something about it. Thus, those of us who really want to see this whole prosperity gospel thing get nipped in the bud, will be asked to take up the fight to defend these very same "evangelists", "apostles", and "bishops" in the name of protecting ourselves.

So, this thing will get more interesting with time. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Alright... back to coughing my head off.

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