Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

White Privilege

June 23, 2011 1 comment

My son is finishing his baseball season this week.  He’s in “machine pitch” minor league.  That is supposed to mean that there’s a spring-loaded arm that flings a baseball at a consistent speed to a consistent location over home plate where a little boy stands ready to take on the world.  That’s what it is supposed to mean.  But the league, which has 12 teams, has at it’s use a total of 1 old and broken, inconsistent pitching machine.

Here’s something else to know about this league: the children are placed on teams based on neighborhood.  In fact, within 1/4 mile of our house there are 6 boys on my son’s team.  The coach lives two houses down, and the assistant coach lives three houses down.  We are blessed to live in a really nice neighborhood.  The lawns are manicured, the houses well-kept, dads are playing ball in the back yard with their sons and my next door neighbor, the police officer, plays catch with Alex and me.  In fact my former congressman lives down the street.  I say all to say that we live in a very upper middle class area.

My son’s coach, disgusted by the lack of machines in “machine pitch” basebal,l decided to use some expendible cash and purchase his own machine.  We practiced with it, and the kids got used to the speed.  Each time we played another team there were some significant differences.  These other kids did not have a machine, so we used ours…they were not used to the speed and weren’t able to hit well.  It was clear these kids had not had as much back yard time.  One last difference: these other teams were put together based on their own neighborhoods.  Our team is the only one with no children of color.

The denomination I’m a part of is going through a process of trying to understand white privilege.  As I’m sitting in a task force to lead the denomination in the conversation, I came to think of the Holland, Michigan little league.  My son’s team wipes up the field with about every team they come across because they have a distinct advantage with a machine and, while this is obviously an uninformed blanket statement, plenty of parental back yard time.

As a white male I have many privileges that most people of color do not have.  I’ve outlined one above.  Coming to notice things like this make me uncomfortable.  There are definitely some deep wounds that my denomination needs to address, but also some that I need to address.  The whole idea of white privilege brings about questions of justice.  Do I ask my neighbor to stop using his machine?  That doesn’t seem very “American” and wouldn’t go over well in my neighborly relationship.  Do I, as a white male, offer to purchase machines for each team?  I think there’s a distinct problem with this, too.  Do I attempt to make changes to the way the league is organized – bringing up the idea of mixing neighborhoods?  I happen to like knowing my neighbors in this manner.

One thing is for sure: I’m uncomfortable.  And that is a start.  And that is a good thing.



Read At Home

January 27, 2011 1 comment

Every other Thursday I go to my son’s classroom and grab a milk carton full of gallon freezer bags.  These bags have books in them and a name on the outside.  I call out three names from three bags.  The children whose names I’ve called get up from their desks and join me.  We head down the hall to the Read At Home room.

The RAH room is full of books separated into reading levels.  Every kid has a level.  2nd graders fall in a wide range: some at 9 or 10 (tend to be the kids who forget their books at home a lot), and some at 25 or 30 (tend to be the kids reading longer chapter books, and returning them every day).  Each child either goes and finds a new book to replace one they have completed, or they sit down to read to me. 

Every kid gets to read to me.  I only have one hour, so they only read a page or so.  I have to stop them and say, “Ok, let’s pause there and you can finish reading this at home…maybe to your little brother or sister.”  Some, I know, will not read at home for various reasons.  Others will make it the very first thing they do when they get home.

I know that as a male adult I have a unique role in a couple of these kids’ lives.  There is a chance that I’m the only consistent man in their life…and one who remembers their name.  I care about them and encourage them.  Some really are making remarkable steps in reading, and some, you can tell will not make too many steps because they are carrying the burdens meant for an adult, and don’t have the time or resources to read into the future.

The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  I pray every week that I’m able to join those kids that the Kingdom of God is recognizable and ushered a little more into their lives.  I’m at a public school, so I can’t give them something to read from the Bible, but I’m hoping that in the long run my presence will be a paragraph that makes a difference in them understanding that the Kingdom is for them particularly and attainable through the person of Jesus Christ.

On Thursdays my son comes home from school and I check to see that he’s reading what I helped him find in the Read At Home room.  And I hope to help him read the Kingdom at home, too…as difficult as that can be.  Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Read that to whomever God brings into your sphere of influence.

The bird, not the Catholic

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment


Our house is covered in snow.  Coincidentally, by nature of being nearby, so is our backyard.  We’ve got, I don’t know, 20 inches or so – enough that our dog doesn’t want to go out and enough that my kids do want do go out.  At lunch today I had a sudden inhalation of breath as I looked out the kitchen window.

Along the fenceline between my house and Roy Gibson’s house is a line of bush/trees.  Not sure what they are, but I trimmed them last spring from 15 ft. to 7 ft. with the help of a friend.  They looked extravagantly ugly at the beginning, but later in the summer they ended up looking great – vindication for a risky springtime pruning.

Anyway, the bush/trees are thinned out and have only a remnant of dead leaves hanging on…brown branches with brown leaves – you can see the stark white of snow through them.  And then the thing that made me take a breath out of nowhere.  The unexpected pop of color, a cardinal (the bird, not the Catholic – that would also have made me catch my breath, but in a freakier way).  In the middle of the branches one, wait two…Dana come and look at this…now I see three cardinals in the bush/tree back there.

We just stared out the window while my soup bubbled on the stove and her bagel thawed in the microwave.  It had the ability to stop us dead in our tracks and put everything else out of mind for a moment.  A laser beam of focus on the bright color in the middle dappled brown and white.

What must it have been like for shepherds in the field who saw, then heard, angels?


November 12, 2010 1 comment

Alex enjoys reading.  And apparently Pizza Hut is not above bribing children to read.  If they read a certain amount within the month of October they get a free personal pan pizza.  Then you have to take them there and pay for your own food.  Not bad marketing…plus it looks like you care if kids read.  So…Alex had a coupon for a free personal pan pizza.

Add to that the fact that school got out at 11:30 today for conferences.  Lots of parents taking lots of kids for their free pizza.

Add to that the brilliant minds at Pizza Hut corporate headquarters who make this a celebration month for their 110th anniversary: Mon-Fri lunch buffets are $3.99.

So…it’s 11:45 and all that addition equals a zoo of a Hut.  There are kids with coupons, parents with kids, people getting out for lunch with co-workers, some guy sneezing all over the sneeze gaurd over the salad and me with my family (before we go to see MegaMind in 3D).  It’s loud, it’s crowded, the waitresses are doing their best to keep a smile on their faces and not accidentally spill drinks on people as they weave through the tightly packed crowd.

“I’m trying really hard not to freak out and let anxiety get ahold of me here, Dana.  I just have to take a deep breath every minute or so.”  I say.  She responds, “This is just community.  Isn’t this what you’re always preaching about?”  She has a wry smile.  “This isn’t community.  This is a cattle yard feed lot,” is my response.

Then I start to take closer notice of all the people around me.  There’s a huge group with 5 tables pushed together – an extended family.  There’s every booth filled with 4-5 at each table.  We’re sitting at 2 tables pushed together.  Right behind me is a really loud lady.  Behind Bis is a mom with her two kids at a booth.

Behind Dana is an older woman.  She’s probably 80 and enjoying the buffet deal.  This kind of atmosphere makes me want to scarf food and get out of there.  But not this lady.  She’s quietly sitting alone.  The noise doesn’t seem to bother her, and she just quietly eats.  And I wondered about her.  I wondered about her community, and if she has one, and  if this is her only chance to be around people, and if she relishes the opportunity.  I could be wrong about her.  I hope I am.  But I suppose for some who have no community – real community – the cattleyard is as good as it gets.  People in the same vacinity who don’t know each other and just consume in each other’s midst. 

It doesn’t have to be that way.

October Headache and Medicine

October 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s October.  That means two things: 1. Creating a Budge. 2. Trees Change Color.

If you know me, you know that my math skills stop at about a 3rd grade level.  I rely upon my bride to keep us in the red…or black.  I don’t really understand those two colors in regards to budget – can’t remember which is which.  So, October is always the time when churches start putting together their next year’s budget (unless they have a different fiscal year).  Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Outside resources start to wean new churches as they get older.  The understanding is that you’ll be growing and raising up stewards.  This gives you a couple of years before you have to be on your own (as if God’s not really pulling all the strings).  This is the case with us.

I feel like we’ve been doing really well as a new church.  If we have to talk about numbers…let’s do it.  We have about 70-80 people in church on a Sunday morning (this includes 20-25 kids).  A good number of those people are followers of Jesus Christ and have given their hearts to him.  They are on the path of becoming deeper disciples of Christ and that means growing in stewardship.

However, we have a fair number of people who are not believers.  So…it only makes sense that they would not be as quick to give to the church.  Now, I need to say at this point that I could be completely wrong about this.  I have absolutely zero knowledge about anyone’s giving (except my own family’s).  Anyway, we’re not self-supporting (again with the thought that God’s really the support).

So, we’re cutting where we can cut and going to talk more about stewardship.  Perhaps we’ll ask people to make some commitments regarding their giving for 2011.

I have my annual October headache.

I live in Michigan, though.  And this means that God has blessed me with a headache-help.  It’s called the changing colors of the trees that line my street and leaves that fall on my lawn.  I guess it reminds me that it happens every year, and that God makes it happen, AND that it will happen again next year, AND that next year it will be God, yet again, who makes it happen.

I think he’s got the whole thing under control.  Whether we’re talking about green or orange – it all falls from above.

None Of My Business

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I make my office in about 5 places: Way Cup Cafe, Western Theological Seminary’s library, Panera Bread, Barnes and Noble, and home.  I’ve always been that way, can’t quite settle into one place for too long.  I can study and sit still for about 2 hours at a time then I get distracted.  That’s not too bad.  It gives me a chance to observe a variety of places and people.  I get to have a lot of conversations with a lot of people, and I have all the resources I could need in those varied places.

As I was entering Panera Bread the other morning I noticed two other guys coming toward the door at about the same time.  Now, I have this selfish side to me.  I know, this comes as a surprise to you, but it’s true.  Through my head went this thought, “Can I make it to the door in the appropriate amount of time where it won’t obligate me to open the door for them?  Because if I have to open the door for them, then they’re getting in line before me, and I’m kind of hungry.”  Sorry, if you thought I was a saint…I’m not.

Fortunately, one of the guys took a strange interest in the worn paint of the outside lighting fixture.  I know, didn’t see that coming, did you?  Neither did I.  I made it to the door, and felt a little bad, but…enjoyed my pastry nonetheless.  The two guys were dressed in dress slacks, shirts and ties.  Their laptops in carry bags and their shirt sleeves rolled up.  Normal business guys meeting for a coffee and to finalize plans for their takeover of the world.

As I sat reading the Bible (see, back to saint, huh?), I noticed one of the guys take an inordinate interest in the interior decoration of the place.  He got up really close to the wall and inspected the chair rail – that was obviously coming off and discolored.  He was hard at work at something, so…I interrupted him.

“Excuse, me…I couldn’t help but notice you were checking out the lighting outside and now this woodworking.  Do you have an invested interest in this place?”  I realize now, writing this to you, that I am so nosey, and that it’s none of my business.  I was just curious because I wondered if this was some undercover boss type of thing.

Turns out the guy was the VP of something snooty for the Panera mother company and checking out the place.  He hadn’t been there in 3 years and was seeing how the investment was going.  We had a nice chat about my experience in his restaruant and if I had any comments about it.  I gave a glowing report.  He was happy.  Later, as I was leaving, he looked up from his computer and we gave our polite goodbyes.  Nice guy.

When the vineyard owner comes to check out how we’ve done growing fruit, how will he find us?  How will he find me?  How intentional am I about the chair rails and paint on the lighting fixture of my heart and of my light to the world?  Let’s not pretend that he’s not involved each and every day with each breath we take – helping us to produce his desired fruit.  See him there, invested.  Work for him and live intentionally for the purpose to which he’s called you.

Ride Along

Last night my neighbor picked me up to take me to work.  Not my work, but his work.  He’s a cop.  Here’s a brief list of the pure awesomeness that happened:

Briefing: cops talking about what to expect tonight.

Tour of the jail: nobody in it…yet.

Disturbance at a house: third car on the scene…first to leave.

Drunk Driver: looked good to me, but blew a .099 and failed some field sobriety tests.

Walking in the shadows of an apartment complex looking for a guy with a warrant out for his arrest: couldn’t find him.

Pulling over a lady in a Volvo who ran a red light we were stopped at: no ticket.

Closing time at the bar: why can’t people just use the bathroom before they leave instead of the bushes or the wall.  Also…at what point should friends say, “hey, you know? that’s probably enough.”

There is an amazing amount of reasons to  pull someone over legally.

How many police officers does it take to search an enormous broken into building?: three to walk through and one to watch for people exiting.

Another question: how many license plates get run by a police officer when they are driving around?  Answer: All of them.

Here’s what I gathered: it’s a dangerous job.  I’ve been pretty sheltered.  There is a lot of brokenness in the world.  Waaaaaay too much happens at night.  My Granny was right: “Nothing good happens after 11pm.”  Where are God’s people from 9pm to 6am?

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