Thursday, April 28, 2005

On Saying Goodbye

Today I had to say goodbye to good friend of mine. We met just a few months ago as she worked for another Senator on my floor. Her boss sits on the agriculture committee, which my boss chairs, and so we were able to work together on several issues and developed a friendship in a very short time. She is leaving the legislature to go work for a private corporation in Detroit and today was her last day. This afternoon, we exchanged one of those awkward hugs in the hallway when both people really don't like to say goodbye. We also talked about how we'll get together soon and call and email etc. But I know that things will change and I am going to miss having her close by.

Since moving to Lansing in January of 1999 I have noticed a familiar trend. I meet people either at work or church or in the community and we quickly bond. Typically it is with someone whom I didn't anticipate becoming friends but I end up enjoying their company. We begin to hang out and then about a year or two go by and my new friend has a job opportunity in another town. So I say goodbye, get a little discouraged that my friend is moving on and wish that I was the one moving instead. Then after a brief time a new friend comes along and fills the vacuum that was left by their absence. I conservatively estimate this process to have repeated itself 10 times in my brief time in Lansing.

Quite frankly it is getting harder and harder to be the person left behind as others move on to other cities and new jobs. However, I have learned several valuable lessons from this process.
  1. I make friends fairly easily and with a broad range of people. This is truly a blessing because I have noticed others are not able to develop relationships so quickly.
  2. Along with number one, I never know who my next friend will be. My friends have included liberals, conservatives, men, women, extroverts, introverts, blacks, whites, Christians, non-Christians and I have even been friends with an Oakland Raiders fan.
  3. Each time I lose a friend, God has been faithful to provide new friendships. For this I am very thankful. I just have to be patient.
  4. I value the friends that I still have in Lansing a lot of more because I know how tenuous our time together is.
  5. True friendships transcend geographic boundaries. I now have friends in about a third of the fifty states. This provides me great opportunities to travel. Thank God cell phones have free long distance.
  6. I would not have as many friendships if my other friends had not moved away. I would have been comfortable with my old friends and missed out on getting to know a lot of really cool, interesting people.
  7. It now takes me a little longer to open up to people because I fear I might have to say goodbye. But each time I do invest in others, I don't regret it even when they leave.
So while I say goodbye to Heidi today, I wish her well and pledge to keep in touch, but I also eagerly anticipate meeting the newest member of my circle of friends.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Benedict XVI

The following is the text of Cardinal Ratzinger's homily to the college of cardinals as they gathered to pick the pope. It provides a glimpse of the new pope's worldview.

"At this hour of great responsibility, we hear with special consideration what the Lord says to us in his own words. From the three readings I would like to examine just a few passages which concern us directly at this time.

The first reading gives us a prophetic depiction of the person of the Messiah - a depiction which takes all its meaning from the moment Jesus reads the text in the synagogue in Nazareth, when he says: "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4,21). At the core of the prophetic text we find a word which seems contradictory, at least at first sight. The Messiah, speaking of himself, says that he was sent "To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God" (Is 61,2). We hear with joy the news of a year of favor: divine mercy puts a limit on evil - the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: encountering Christ means encountering the mercy of God. Christ's mandate has become our mandate through priestly anointing. We are called to proclaim - not only with our words, but with our lives, and through the valuable signs of the sacraments, the "year of favor from the Lord". But what does the prophet Isaiah mean when he announces the "day of vindication by our God"? In Nazareth, Jesus did not pronounce these words in his reading of the prophet's text - Jesus concluded by announcing the year of favor. Was this, perhaps, the reason for the scandal which took place after his sermon? We do not know. In any case, the Lord gave a genuine commentary on these words by being put to death on the cross. Saint Peter says: "He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross" (1 Pe 2,24). And Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: "Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree', that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal 3, 13s).

The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in his body and on his soul all the weight of evil, and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of favor meet in the paschal mystery, in Christ died and risen. This is the vindication of God: he himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering - and become willing to bear in our flesh "what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col 1, 24).

In the second reading, the letter to the Ephesians, we see basically three aspects: first, the ministries and charisms in the Church, as gifts of the Lord risen and ascended into heaven. Then there is the maturing of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as a condition and essence of unity in the body of Christ. Finally, there is the common participation in the growth of the body of Christ - of the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.

Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards "the maturity of Christ" as it is said in the Italian text, simplifying it a bit. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the "measure of the fullness of Christ", to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery" (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching", looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13,1).

Looking now at the richness of the Gospel reading, I would like to make only two small observations. The Lord addresses to us these wonderful words: "I no longer call you slaves...I have called you friends" (Jn 15,15). So many times we feel like, and it is true, that we are only useless servants. (cf Lk 17,10). And despite this, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in a dual way. There are no secrets among friends: Christ tells us all everything he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust, and with that, also knowledge. He reveals his face and his heart to us. He shows us his tenderness for us, his passionate love that goes to the madness of the cross. He entrusts us, he gives us power to speak in his name: "this is my body...", "I forgive you...". He entrusts us with his body, the Church. He entrusts our weak minds and our weak hands with his truth - the mystery of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (Jn 3, 16). He made us his friends - and how do we respond?
The second element with which Jesus defines friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans "Idem velle - idem nolle", (same desires, same dislikes ) was also the definition of friendship. "You are my friends if you do what I command you." (Jn 15, 14). Friendship with Christ coincides with what is said in the third request of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". At the hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will in a will shaped and united to the divine will. He suffered the whole experience of our autonomy - and precisely bringing our will into the hands of God, he have us true freedom: "Not my will, but your will be done". In this communion of wills our redemption takes place: being friends of Jesus to become friends of God. How much more we love Jesus, how much more we know him, how much more our true freedom grows as well as our joy in being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!

The other element of the Gospel to which I would like to refer is the teaching of Jesus on bearing fruit: "I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain" (Jn 15, 16). It is here that is expressed the dynamic existence of the Christian, the apostle: I chose you to go and bear fruit...". We must be inspired by a holy restlessness: restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it would also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others - we are priests meant to serve others. And we must bring a fruit that will remain. All people want to leave a mark which lasts. But what remains? Money does not. Buildings do not, nor books. After a certain amount of time, whether long or short, all these things disappear. The only thing which remains forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity. The fruit which remains then is that which we have sowed in human souls - love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching the heart, words which open the soul to joy in the Lord. Let us then go to the Lord and pray to him, so that he may help us bear fruit which remains. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.

In conclusion, returning again to the letter to the Ephesians, which says with words from Psalm 68 that Christ, ascending into heaven, "gave gifts to men" (Eph 4,8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up his body - the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity! But at this time, above all, we pray with insistence to the Lord, so that after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, he again gives us a pastor according to his own heart, a pastor who guides us to knowledge in Christ, to his love and to true joy. Amen."

Busy Lately

I have not written as much lately because I have been busy. I usually try to keep a lot of free time for myself but that has not been the case recently. About two weeks ago I started teaching a class on Wednesday night for my church. We are studying world missions from a biblical, historical, cultural and strategic perspective. I have to admit it is a little more work than I first anticipated and I wonder how qualified I am to teach the material, but so far things have gone well. I am hoping that the class will spur an increased interest for missions in our church and encourage new leaders to participate in missions.

Then this weekend I went to Cincinnati for niece's birthday party. She just turned three and is the cutest little girl and has the sweetest disposition. She is full of smiles and it was a joy to be around her. I was also able to see both of my stepsister's new houses and both are living the good life. In comparison I am living in a ramshackle apartment. Seeing their new homes has motivated me to start looking at buying a home if I decide to stay in Lansing.

On the trip back to Michigan we drove through a snow storm which is totally unacceptable. It's not like this is North Dakota or something. Despite the weather, my family had a good time playing games in the car and we were actually able to name all but two of the presidents. Finally my degree in history pays off. However, I suck at hangman and after losing to my nephew I may never play it again.

Now I am back home and I have to prepare again for this Wednesday's class at the church. I am hoping to get a schedule down so I don't have to prepare the night before like I have done the first two weeks. That would free up some time to write a few more posts. Or watch the west wing marathon on Bravo.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


I usually stay away from posting my daily activities because I think most people will find them pretty boring to read. But yesterday was a fun and eventful day and I wanted to share some of my experiences.

The day started at 10:00 am which was much too early because I was out until 3:00 the night before. Anyways, my church was holding its monthly Christ In Action (CIA) event and we bought down the price of gas for one hour at a local gas station. We lowered the price by a quarter and then washed people's windshields and chatted with drivers as they filled up. It was a cool event. We drew a huge crowed and had lines at every pump. People were surprised but very happy to get the discount and most were happy to have company while they pumped their gas. All in all we reached over a hundred cars and also the owner of the gas station who I believe is not yet a Christian. Today's Lansing State Journal even printed a picture of our event on the front page which is great free publicity. The day reinforced the theory that small acts of kindness can be an effective outreach tool.

Then last night I was able to attend my first fashion show with my family. My sister in law's cousin is a student at MSU and he was one of the designers. His designs were very good and based on a Charlie Chaplain theme. It was a lot of fun and the female runway models were all attractive. So was the gal sitting next to me in the audience. I tell you guys, fashion shows are a good place to meet girls and you face no competition because the other guys in the crowd are all gay. The only down side of the night was when one male model came out on the runway in underwear and fuzzy white boots. I guess that was for all the other guys in the audience. Yuck.

After the show we went to a really bad karaoke bar in East Lansing. I felt a little bad for my Mom because she was noticeably out of place but she was a good trooper. It was funny listening to all the drunks singing. It was like being at a really bad American Idol tryout.

Anyways that was my day. Later this week I am going to write on dating, careers choices and servanthood. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 11, 2005


I was going to write a tribute to the Pope in wake of his passing but it seems like every other website has beaten me to the punch and I have nothing significant to add that hasn't already been addressed. However, it has been amazing to watch the huge outpouring of support that Pope John Paul II has recently received. Millions of people paid tribute to his memory and life work. The world mourns the pope because he provided moral and spiritual leadership to over a billion people. He was a man of integrity, honor and charity. Who today shares these attributes? Who else do we admire and respect enough to emulate. Who are our heroes today?

Are today's heroes politicians? Hardly. Deserving or not, most politicians are seen as selfish and fake. Half the country feels such apathy for them that they fail to even vote for or against them. Are they famous celebrities? Maybe. We do live in an entertainment culture that feasts on celebrity gossip and reading about stars in the tabloids. But I wonder if today's celebrities and their licentious lifestyle are really worth celebrating. Do we really want our kids to grow up and become the next Madonna or Eminem? Are today's heroes the rich? No. There is certain level of disdain and jealousy for the rich. We might want to be rich but we don't respect them. One can hardly blame us for that feeling after watching all the recent corporate scandals.

So who is left? Who are the leaders of tomorrow? Who is the next John Paul II? My suggestion is that you and I have to fill that role. Before the Pope was the Pope he just a boy named Karol from Poland. I am sure he never figured he would be a hero to so many but he lived his life with purpose and compassion that eventually won the respect of the world. People are hungry for real leaders. The world wants to believe in someone who places others before themselves.

Our calling is not to be famous but to live a life dedicated to serving the less fortunate and standing up for right and wrong. By doing that we can be a hero to the people around us. And while millions may not gather for our funeral our lives will be worth celebrating.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Missed opportunities

Last night my friend Jason, my nephew David and I all went out to Champs to watch the basketball game. What looked like a blowout turned out being a very close game and we had a good time cheering on both teams. Maybe the best part of the night was our waitress, a very cute, friendly brunette named Natalie. Now I never can tell when a waitress is flirting because they like me or if they simply want a good tip but it seemed like there was a connection between us. But instead of asking for her number I left a big tip and walked away. This is becoming an increasingly familiar pattern in my life of missing potential opportunities with women.

Last summer I met an amazing woman on a flight from Chicago. We talked the whole way, had lots in common. I am sure she was interested in me but I chickened out at the last minute and didn't ask for her number and now have no way to contact her. I regret it to this day. Then last Fall I was afraid of committing to a good friend of mine. We had been "hanging out" all year and she was really cool, smart and attractive but every time she would try to move things along romantically, I would get cold feet and pull away. Now I regret that I didn't give that relationship a chance.

Last night, Jason and I were talking and both complaining about not dating. The problem is we have been having this same talk for ten years. I fear it will be the exact same talk another ten years from now. When I was younger, I was okay with being free and having no commitments. I had plenty of time to find Ms. Right and I could pretend that when I was thirty I would settle down and find someone. Now it is not so fun. I fear that I am living a life of regret because of my fear of rejection and commitment. What if I have already walked away from my perfect woman because I was too scared to pursue her? What am I waiting for? How do I break this pattern? They say insanity is doing something over and over again even though it doesn't work. I think I am going crazy.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Baseball Predictions

Each year before the season I usually write out which teams I think will make the playoffs and then win the world series. This year I am deciding to make my predictions public so I can claim fame and fortune for accurately selecting the correct teams.

American League East - New York Yankees
American League Central - Minnesota Twins
American League West- Anaheim Angels
Wildcard - Detroit Tigers

You heard it here first; the Red Sox will miss the playoffs this year and will be replaced by the once lowly Tigers. When I look at the Red Sox I just don't see how their starting pitchers can hold up for the whole year. The Tigers are young and promising and even though their pitching staff isn't that much better than the sox, they play in an easier division and will win more games. The Twins will be very good again this year and have the best pitcher in baseball. I also love their young players. The Angels will win a watered down division and the Yankees, well they're the Yankees.

National League East - Atlanta Braves
National League Central - Pittsburgh Pirates
National League West - San Diego Padres
Wildcard - Florida Marlins

Yes another big surprise in the National League with the Pirates edging out the Cubs and the Cardinals to win the Central. They have last year's rookie of the year in Jason Bay and budding superstar Oliver Perez. I hate the Cardinal's defense this year and the Cubs will find a way to lose by season's end. I picked the Braves because they have won the division every year since the first Bush administration. The Padres have great young pitching and their batters have had a year to adjust to their new ballpark. Finally the Marlins will win the wildcard by scoring a lot of runs and hoping their bullpen doesn't have to do much.

The American League Champion will be the Twins over the Yankees in 7 games.

The National League Champion will be the Marlins over the Padres in 6 games.

And in a classic World Series between two teams that were supposed to be contracted three years ago the Twins win in 7 games.

Feel free to share these predictions with your friends so you can show off your baseball knowledge.