Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Spare Arm?

You know you're having fun in ministry when you get to write messages like this to church musicians at the end of your day:

Al and Karen, did you have a case with a spare arm in it when you played at the
harvest meal? I now have a plastic hand with an arm on it, and I don't know who it belongs to. It came from a large case that was near you during the meal. Thanks,Clay

Monday, October 8, 2007

In An Emergency--Be Prepared

I remember seeing photos and reading stories of the 1918 flu epidemic which killed millions of persons worldwide nad in the US. A typical Sunday worship service in some places included a pastor and three or four widely scattered congregants, all wearing masks. It was a dark and intimidating period.

Last week, the Northfield clergy attended another update on the avian flu virus threat. We met at the Northfield Hospital and received a refresher course on the disease and its activity levels around the world. Part of the message was this: if anyone thinks the H5N1 risks have gone away or decreased, they are mistaken. Historically, pandemics like the 1918 flu were diagnosed a decade or more before they spread widely to a world populace. Avian flu was first diagnosed just about 10 years ago.

In that decade there have been under 400 diagnosed human cases--a bit over 100 in Indonesia, a bit over 100 in Vietnam, and around 40 or so in Egypt. The rest are distributed elsewhere. There is about a 65-70% mortality rate associated with the disease.

Since there is no pill or procedure to "cure"the illness, practical public and personal health steps seem the most relevant in case of an outbreak. In other words, the most useful method to prevent illness is to prevent transmission from person to person. If there were a major outbreak, the most effective way to contain the illness would be to restrict or minimize person to person interactions. We might possibly be encouraged to remain in our homes for a period of time, not to go to workplaces, schools, or other public gathering places. Hospitals might even need to be closed since they could only offer palliative care for the ill, while jeopardizing their own medical staff.

Individual households can prepare for the possibility of a pandemic by storing 3-days to two-weeks'supplies at home, then using and replenishing the supplies routinely so that they do not spoil or become outdated. The federal standards suggest: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation, food for theee or more days, battery powered or hand-crank radio and NOAA weather radio with extra batteries, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle to signal for help, dust masks, plastic sheeting, duct tape, personal sanitation items (including moist towelettes, garbage bags and ties), tools, wrench or pliers to turn off utilties, can opener for food, local maps.

Other suggested items: prescription medicines, infant or pet foods and items, important family documents--including insurance policies, ID, etc. in a portable, water-proof container, cash and change, emergency reference materials, sleeping bags or blankets for all, changes of clothing, cold-weather outerwear, household chlorine bleach (for cleansing items or treating water), matches, personal hygiene items, activities, games, books, etc. Emergency information, SSNs, etc. For more federal information, you may go to ready.gov Such preparations help you to prepare for a variety of other natural disasters, including flooding or tornadoes.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tourists in Time

Mary Lynn and I are planning to travel to the Grand Canyon soon. It is pleasant to be a tourist in mid-October.

I have a friend who will travel with us who seems to fear that someone might fall into the canyon. I guess that's a possibility. It has happened.

But I have to admit that I get a stronger sense of sheer vertigo from thinking not about the depths of the canyon, but about the sheer age. Our universe is about 10 billion years old. The earth itself is roughly 4.5 billion years old, give or take a few hundred million years one way or the other. If you go the Grand Canyon; some of the rock you see in places in the deepest parts is two billion years old.

I cannot fathom this. How does one measure the rock of ages?

I did some rough mental calculations, then turned to the web. If I live to be about 70 years old, I will have lived around two billion seconds , one second for every year of that ancient rock, or one-half second for every year the earth has been around, or one-quarter second for every year of the universe. My life-span is such a small sub-portion of a percent of the age of the earth that there is no point in even talking about it. I am birthed, raised, matured, withered and gone like one of those fragments of a second.

So we go to the Grand Canyon as tourists looking into the depths of time. We come to the edge of "the depths of the earth" which themselves merely rest in the the divine hand (Psalm 95:4). All time and all manner of things rest in the divine hand.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Dog in the Sunlight

October, when it is not raining this year, is beautiful. There is some fleeting something I see in every face of the busy, creative, working people around me which says, "Today (to be honest), I would rather be a contented dog resting in the sunlight in my backyard." I honor this. We should all go home early. We should each get a wool blanket from the closet, spread it on the sunny ground near the maple, circle that blanket three times, and then lay down to day-dream and nap. Whatever running we do should only be in our dog-dreams, where we are successfully gaining ground on some quarry.

Monday, October 1, 2007

America's God?

At the Sunday Confirmation class we were studying the proper use of God's name. The question came up, whether using the Bible to swear in public officials was an acceptable use of God's name. That led to a question about using the Koran for a Muslim public official like Keith Ellison. This confused most of the 7th and 8th graders, and one girl remarked that she wasn't sure it should be okay since it wasn't a promise based on "America's God".

I wasn't teaching the lesson, so I didn't comment much. Still, it might be worth mentioning that the God of all history and creation is larger than the history and values of the United States, and recognizes the yearnings for truth, love and justice expressed through a variety of faiths, ethnic groups and nations. This is one of the reasons our own nation was founded upon religious tolerance and diversity, rather than establishment of a State-supported religion; the Founders intuitively and reasonably saw that no nation possesses God; rather God "lets the nations know that they are only human" (Psalm 9:20).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Word Alone

Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes in Life Together, "(Avoid) the net of self-centered introspection....There is no more time to observe ourselves in meditation than there is in Christian life as a whole. We should pay attention to the Word alone, and leave it to the Word to deal effectively with everything....If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness..."

So we absorb the Word in all the words.

Starting on Thursday, September 27, 7 p.m., at the church we will begin to read the words and the Word with the help of our Bibles and copies of the new Transformation Journal. We will pray and study--and so we will also grow in love toward God and toward our neighbor. Please count this as an invitation to join this form of Covenant Discipleship group. We will study and discuss the important things in life. All are welcome. I will help to guide the study. Perhaps together we will "gain happiness" and learn to "leave it to the Word..." Please call or e-mail me if you would like to join the group.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heavy, Dude.

Thinking of Crop Walk, I learned this week that US citizens make up 4% of the world's population and 7.3% of the weight of the world's people. Now, that's heavy.

By the way, our first Super Wednesday meal is Wednesday, September 26, 5:30-6:30 p.m. What made me think of that? We're serving pizza and the fixin's. Please invite friends, family and neighbors. Everyone is welcome, and we can spread the heaviness around, dudes and dudettes.