Saturday, October 27, 2012

Losing My Religion, part 2

This is a continuation of a blog post I made yesterday.

Tammy came downstairs yesterday morning and out of nowhere, she asked me what I thought about attending a church that openly welcomes gays and lesbians. We must've been doing a mind-meld because I'd just finished reading a blog post from a pastor whose point of view I admire very much. He was discussing this very thing—openly accepting members of the GLBT community among their congregation. It would be such a departure from the disappointment I'm feeling concerning Hosanna's approach to this issue; an approach that looks at the issue through a funhouse mirror lens where a disproportionate amount of emphasis is placed on certain scripture/sins over others in a way that makes no sense to me.

Philip is one of Rachel's roommates in Rochester. He's gay and he's working diligently to reach people in the city who will soon be casting a yes or no vote on the Marriage Amendment. He grew up in a Catholic family in Texas and hoped that his move to Minnesota last year would be one where he would feel more accepted for who he is rather than what had been his experience in the life he'd left behind. The marriage amendment has done so much to unravel any of the warmth and acceptance he'd been enjoying here.

He was volunteering at ARTWalk in Rochester recently, approaching people, inquiring if they knew about the marriage amendment on the November ballot and to encourage them to help in his effort to defeat the proposed change to the state's constitution. At one point he was talking with a couple who were enthusiastic about becoming volunteers themselves and helping out. There was a father and his young son nearby listening in on the conversation. When he finished talking with the couple, he turned to speak with the father. He asked him if he was familiar with the amendment, to which the little boy responded: "Me and my family are fighting you." Philip struggled to understand how someone so young even had an understanding of what was being discussed, say nothing of the anger being expressed by him.

It wasn't until later that night while at home reflecting on what had happened in that moment that he broke down and cried about it, consumed by both sadness and anger, struggling to understand how anyone could encourage their children in such a way.

We're taught to hate.

Philip's story really touched me. When Rachel first told me about it I remember laying in bed later that night trying to imagine how he must have felt. Unless we're in Philip's shoes I don't think any of us can truly appreciate how that must feel. But what about when it's not some 9-year-old boy throwing it back in your face that you're different. That you don't measure up. That you're not worthy. That you're the enemy. What about when it's your church that is trying to marginalize you? How terrible must that feel? I can't imagine.

Greg Boyd is the senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church in North St. Paul. I first heard of him when he came to speak at a men's breakfast at Hosanna a few years ago. His words touched me then and continue to today. I was cruising Facebook late last night when I came across a link to Greg's blog on a friend's wall where he was blogging about Homosexuality and the Church: Finding a "Third Way".

In his writing and in his sermon from last week, he hits on all of my concerns that have been so troubling to me about the way Hosanna and other churches are dealing with this group of people we've done so well at making appear to be sinners on a whole other level than the rest of us. People who only want acceptance and the ability to worship without a constant concern and fear for what disruption their presence may cause. People who simply want the ability to someday marry the one they love. Is that really such a terrible thing? Don't we owe them that much?

I thank God for people like Greg who truly get it when talking about 'what would Jesus do?' And I thank God for people who are different than me. So should we all.

A short follow-up...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Losing My Religion, part 1

The first church I was a member of as an adult was Family of Christ in Lakeville. We started out as not much more than a dozen families meeting at what is now Kenwood Trail Middle School off highway 50. That would've been in the spring of 1988. The church grew over the next few years and we eventually built on a piece of land in an undeveloped area south of 185th street just east of the freeway where it remains today.

As part of any new church, there were formalities we needed to follow in the organizational process and one of those formalities was in officially calling our pastor to the position of Pastor of Family of Christ. Dell had been serving in that capacity for around four years so I assumed this was a no-brainer of a decision. But it wasn't. To my surprise, one woman stood up and voiced dissension with the nomination. I couldn't believe it. What was Kathleen thinking?

I was totally oblivious to what had been happening there behind the scenes. It would take a couple more years to fully play out but in the end, Dell would be forced to step down in disgrace. My desire for organized religion suffered a hit and I would walk away with much disappointment.

Churches are like that though. Ask anybody who works on the inside and sees firsthand the turmoil that too often plays out behind the scenes away from the image that the general public is treated to. We all come with our faults, even those who stand before us Sunday morning and minister.

It would take several years but I would eventually make my way back to church but not to Family of Christ. (An interesting blog post if you have the time.)

Hosanna, where I still attend is what you would consider a mega-church. Their approach appeals to the masses but I'm not sure that that's always a good thing. Hosanna used to be a part of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) until we broke from them 3 years ago after the ELCA took the stance that they would allow gay clergy to serve in the church.

I was troubled by this move, not so much that we'd no longer be under the umbrella of the ELCA because that to me didn't really matter. I was troubled by what prompted us to leave. We took a vote as a congregation which left no doubt about how people felt. The congregation voted 97% in favor of leaving the ELCA. To me, that vote was as much a vote about church members' repudiation of the gay/lesbian lifestyle than anything else. I wondered then how welcomed any gay couples among us at Hosanna must've felt. Not very.

Two Sundays ago our lead pastor, Bill Bohline, stood before us to speak about the same-sex marriage amendment we'd be voting on in a few weeks and to remind us that by not voting on the amendment, for whatever reason, it would count as a 'no' vote. The implication was clear. He was encouraging us to vote in favor of the amendment which would ensure that there could be no same-sex marriages in our state should current law (which makes them illegal) ever be overturned. My heart sank as I listened. Why, why, why?

I waited a week before emailing Pastor Bill about my thoughts...

Greetings Pastor Bill,

This is a letter I'd meant to write two or three years ago when we broke away from the ELCA. Your message from last week sort of brought back some of those same feelings again. I appreciated very much your delivery in talking about such a difficult topic but still, your words left me wondering if your approach toward the GLBT community isn't maybe lacking.

Why did you feel it necessary to speak out in favor of the Marriage Amendment? It was clear to me through your words that you will be supporting the amendment, going so far as to remind us that not voting on the measure counts as a 'no' vote. Isn't it enough that same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota? Was it really necessary to add your voice to those who are piling on? Do you realize that the person who brought this amendment to our state is himself divorced? Does that not seem just a little hypocritical to you?

In your sermon last week you were very careful to assure those in the GLBT community that they're welcome at Hosanna but how many do you really feel you were speaking to? I can only imagine that the vast majority of them left a few years ago when we voted as a congregation, (I believe) 97% in favor of breaking from the ELCA. That vote to me was much more a vote on the repudiation of the GLBT lifestyle than it was about leaving the ELCA. I say that considering what prompted us to leave the ELCA.

What troubles me is your focus on persons in same-sex relationships within our congregation and how you tend to single them out...that their sins are somehow greater than the sins of the rest of us. I've been coming to Hosanna since '97. I was here when you dismissed Missy and her partner from serving at Hosanna. I have to wonder if their sin is somehow so much greater than the sins of others among us that you felt you needed to purge them from our ranks? Gluttony is a sin is it not? Do you have any overweight people serving on your staff? It would seem to me that their sin is at least a choice unlike those in the GLBT community. Correct?

You lifted up a tidy verse in Genesis to make your case for one-man-one-woman marriage. Moses also wrote in Numbers 31:15-18, defining marriage as between a conqueror and his plunder. The Bible also gives plenty of examples of marriage being defined as a relationship between a man and many women in addition to his concubines. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 22:28 where he defines marriage as between a rapist and his victim. Easily the most difficult verse in the Bible for me to come to any sort of understanding of and one which leads me to conclude that some of Moses's writings were his own interpretation of how things should be and not necessarily from God. The God I worship I'm quite sure would've instructed the people of the community to rally around the victim in this case and provide for her, not allowing her to become an outcast to be shunned. My God would not banish her to a life of torment at the hands of her abuser.

I think we would better serve the GLBT community if we would simply welcome them with open arms and allow God's word to move them if that is what he truly wants for them. We don't reach them by singling them out as you've done and making their sins to seem somehow more than the sins of the rest of us because none of us are being singled out in such a way. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm missing something really important here which has left me ignorant of your understanding. Please feel free to correct me because I'm really struggling with some of this and have been for some time to the point where I feel as though my desire to be involved in Hosanna is suffering more than ever.

I'm torn about whether or not to send this to you because I would guess you've heard enough push-back from those like me.

I'll leave you with a video. Please watch this through to the very end.

Thank you very much for your time, Pastor Bill.


Kevin Gilmore

This is getting lengthy and I have more to write so I'll finish it tomorrow.

Losing My Religion, part 2

Monday, October 22, 2012

Makeovers and a Twist

Rachel is beginning to worry me. I'm not sure this college thing is such a good idea.

About a year ago a friend at work had a new procedure done on his knees in an attempt to restore lost cartilage. The procedure involves harvesting stem cells from your bone marrow and injecting them at the site of the injury. Stem cells have the unique ability to become the cells needed to repair an injury. The science is still new and will undoubtedly improve in time but even now it appears to be beneficial. Barry was treated by the people at Regenexx and says that one of his knees feels 100% while the other is improved but without as good a result. One other guy at work also had one of his knees treated recently. Jeff used to run ultra-marathons and hoped to begin training for them again but his procedure didn't yield the results he'd hoped for. There are no guarantees but the procedure has piqued my interest and I'm considering having it done.

For the longest time, my knees have been my Achilles-heel so to speak. I first injured my right knee in high-school and within a few weeks of having my leg's full-length cast removed, I re-injured it in a fall that had my leg back in another full-length cast. My left leg has had to carry more than its share of the load in the years since and all that extra emphasis placed on it during my long-distance efforts both running and cycling has caused it to begin to rebel. I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee 20 years ago to clean out some debris from years as a distance runner which actually seemed to help it quite a bit but I decided then that my running days were over. The pain I feel in both knees keeps me from pushing as hard as I'd like on my rides but I've been able to work on my pedal stroke over the last couple years so I'm not putting as much pressure on my knees without sacrificing power. It's helped a lot.

I made an appointment last Monday with my regular doctor to see if he could schedule me for MRIs of both knees and to see what he thought about what the folks at Regenexx were doing. I sort of expected him to poo-poo the idea but he didn't. He was familiar with the main doctor heading the procedure as they used to work in the same network together. I was able to get the images taken later that day and was surprised at how long the scans took; roughly 25 minutes per knee. I left Suburban Imaging with a couple of discs of the scans then made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor to see what he felt about the overall health of my knees and to get his opinion of stem-cell therapy.

The orthopedic doctor had x-rays taken of both legs and put my knees through some motions to assess them. He felt that their overall condition was good. The joints were stable and my condition isn't bone-on-bone but I do have a loss of cartilage and a condition called chondromalacia. I knew that but I was very relieved to hear him say that that's all it was. My concern going in was that I'd wasted away much of my cartilage from years of running and cycling and that I would continue to damage them if I kept doing what I've been. He actually encouraged me to keep riding. I mentioned that it seems the pain gets worse when I ride infrequently and I've never understood that. He said that through a process called diffusion, exercise (working the joint) helps bring a new supply of nutrients to the joint to keep it lubricated and healthy. He felt the stem cell therapy was worth looking into but offered that there's still a long way to go with that method of treatment before it's more accepted. He also talked with me about Synvisc injections into my knee as well as cortisone shots to relieve pain. Synvisc, yes—cortisone, no. I have no interest in cortisone injections because I think there are just too many long-term side effects from them to contend with.

I left the orthopedic doctor's office feeling so happy about his evaluation of my knees. I haven't ruined them and I'm not looking at any sort of radical surgery anytime soon to repair them. I have an appointment with the people at Regenexx next week and will hear their analysis of where I'm at and if their treatment can get me off the anti-inflammatory drugs I depend on so much these days to minimize my knee pain.

I'm quite sure that this is easily the most boring post I've made in a while but this is important for me to write about for years from now.

Our geek-room at work got a nice makeover last week and is reopen for business.  The new configuration has a few fewer slots but I think it's worth the trade-off.  It's where we geeks spend our breaktime, giving our eyes a rest from the stress of staring at the radar. Oh, trust me, it really works.

Speaking of a makeover: Tammy and I went shopping for new eye-glasses a few nights ago. It's been a few years and while our prescriptions didn't change much, we felt it was time to update our look. The doctor did notice a small cataract developing in my right eye. He said that what I'm experiencing is a normal part of the aging process but that I'm a few years ahead of schedule. He told me that eventually, they'll replace the lens of my eye with an artificial lens, one with my new prescription built into it. That part appeals to me very much. Cataracts can be caused by several things; long-term exposure to ultraviolet light (which I get plenty of during the summer out on my bike) and Corticosteroids (which I get plenty of in the form of Prednisone when I'm in a cluster-headache phase). I would guess it's the latter that is responsible for my condition. There's also another possible cause, that being the glassblowing we do. I'll often stare straight into the gloryhole without eye protection while working on a piece and I'm guessing that's not so good.

A Marriage Amendment is on the ballot here in Minnesota defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I'm opposed to it for multiple reasons. We heterosexuals have sort of made a mockery of marriage with our high divorce rate plus I simply feel that the amendment is forcing religious views on others who may not share those same beliefs and that's not right.

Watch the video below to the end for an interesting twist. Actually, watch it twice!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One Man's Great Leap and Another Man's Great Fall

I'm sitting here in awe after having just watched Felix Baumgartner make his leap from 128,000 feet then free-fall at speeds exceeding the speed of sound (at one point 833.9 mph) back to earth. Just wow! What incredible bravery! Tammy and I watched it together, both spellbound as he stepped out onto the capsule's platform just before his leap.


His jump is easily one of the most incredible things I've ever seen! But what is equally as impressive if not more so was the jump of Joe Kittinger from 102,000 feet in 1960 considering the technology of the day. I didn't realize while watching the coverage that he was the guy in communication with Felix, going through the checklist with him as he prepared to jump.

I had to laugh just a little because while they got all of the highly technical stuff down just right, they really struggled to accurately get Felix the current surface winds for his touchdown. Clearly, one of the more no-brainer things on their to-do list.

It could be said that Lance Armstrong's fall has been even further.

If there were any doubters about Lance Armstrong's suspected blood doping during his professional (and post-professional) career, there's little left for them to doubt since the release of court documents from the depositions of several people who raced with him in addition to other witnesses. I haven't been through all of the testimony yet but I read enough in depositions from some of the more notable riders who were part of his inner circle to get a clear picture of the extent of the blood-doping program that US Postal and Team Discovery were involved in. From the link above go to the Appendices and Supporting Materials tab then read testimony from the likes of Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, and George Hincapie. I found it to be incredible reading.

As believable as Lance was in his profession of innocence, it's been several years since I stopped believing his lies. Sad, really. I and so many others wanted to believe he was the real deal.

Paul and Kate (who we made the stained-glass panels for) came into town this past week so we got or small group from church together at Chianti Grill for a few hours of catching up. It was a nice time and so good to see Paul and Kate again as well as everybody else. They moved out to Montana and built a home with the most beautiful view of the mountains behind them. They went from 28 years of shoulder to shoulder apartment living to as much wide open space as you can imagine. That's quite a change.

Our neighbor's Halloween display appeared overnight. I took the pups out for a walk this morning and Charlie wasn't very pleased to see it.

Speaking of displays—I'm not sure if I'll be putting up our outdoor Christmas lights this year. I began doing it 13 years ago for Tammy and Rachel when Tammy and I were first married. I enjoyed doing it and the look it gave our home but it can be a lot of work. There's always the one section at the highest peak that unsettles me enough to where each time I get the lights strung there I'm very relieved. Hmmm...could this be the year I end the tradition?

I woke up a few mornings ago and looked out the window to see two white squirrels foraging for food beneath our bird feeders. One of them looks quite young yet. I've got a soft spot in my heart for the mischievous guys and will no doubt make plenty of food available for them this winter as I usually do. I wondered if maybe they hang out together considering they've got so much in common.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No, I Don't Need to Pee

It's been a busy weekend. I went into overdrive on the stained-glass panel project we're making for Paul and Kate. They'll be returning to town this week from their new home in Montana for a visit and I wanted to have it completed for them to take home. I'm happy to say that it's done and securely packed away.

I found myself really enjoying being down in the shop working on it even though it was often beautiful outside. That's always been the sole reason for me only ever doing stained glass in the winter—it just can't compete with a beautiful fall or summer day. But I'm happy to have made this exception and envision I'll not be so averse to doing it again in the future, especially once I'm retired and every day is Saturday. 451 days to go.

I've been contemplating what I'd like to do for my next stained glass project and I'm kicking around ideas for some sort of landscape scene—one done on a very small scale with lots of tiny pieces. Possibly something like these windows we did a few years ago except even smaller; more intricate than anything I've ever done.

This has been the year I've discovered walking as an alternative form of exercise since my health issues back in January sidelined me from outdoor riding. I'm getting out 2-3 times each week for a lengthy walk of anywhere between 10-15 miles. It's some of the more enjoyable time of my week as I walk along listening to podcasts, music or just nothing at all. Just me and my thoughts. Lately, my favorite route (15 miles) takes me out west along some nature trails where the softer ground makes it ideal for me to run some as well. It's not the heart-pounding workout I'm used to but I often come home feeling pretty spent.

In addition to walking, there has been one other unexpected silver lining that came out of my health-scare that I'm grateful for. That being the purchase of my CompuTrainer. It's so completely changed my approach to my riding. I'm stronger on the bike than I've been in years and there's no other reason for that than the focused rides I've been doing down in the basement. This past week I've begun using ERG Videos. There's nothing I'm aware of out there that is more high-tech or motivational than these videos. I don't know many people who look forward to hammering out miles on their trainers indoors but I love it! I was going to write more about the ERG videos here but I'll save that for another more geek-oriented blog post.

I spent all of yesterday afternoon out in the yard doing the first round of major leaf clean-up. Before and after. I collected 22 bags worth and will easily do more than that this next week I'm sure. My obsessive-compulsive side took over as I arranged our leaf bags. Nobody has a neater stack than I do!

I stumbled onto a video the other night of a father leading his 4-year-old son down a mountain bike trail. I don't think the smile ever left my face as I sat spellbound watching it. The little guy was so excited at what he was experiencing, calling out to his dad as he overcame challenges along the way. The father coolly encouraging him. I got to thinking about how there's nothing else in my life that brings me back to my youth anywhere near the way my bike does. The excitement of the little boy mirrored many of my own sentiments as I negotiated trails down by the river last winter. Sadly, I'm not sure I'll ever make it back to the trails again but there's still the thrill of so much else for me on two wheels. I'll manage.

Oh, the title of the blog? Watch the video...

Monday, October 1, 2012

That's the Pros for You

I walked out in the yard this morning when I let the dogs out and noticed that fall had arrived overnight. Several of our trees have begun to shed their leaves in earnest. And so it begins, The Battle of the Leaves, 2012.

Rachel is probably busier now than she's ever been in her life. I texted her Saturday morning around 9:30 and was surprised to get a response. She was up early studying. In addition to college, she's taken on a part-time job working as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) with a local retirement facility in the city of Rochester. She'll be working three six-hour shifts per week (a .6 in medical jargon). She was trying to get some studying done before her shift later in the day.

Once again this year finds her filling roles as co-captain of UMR's Ballroom Dance team; student ambassador; student liaison representative for UMR (where she sits in on staff meetings among other duties) as well as serving as one of the coordinators for STLF (Students Today Leaders Forever). STLF is the group she's involved with that puts together spring-break trips across the country where they organize volunteer opportunities. They'll spend a week on a bus clocking thousands of miles as they complete their tasks. There's a lot of preparation that goes into it. Like I said, she's a busy person.

I'm not sure where she has time in her schedule to fit in the CNA job but she doesn't have much choice. She'll need around 1400 hours of medically related experience before she can apply to whichever Physician's Assistant school she decides on. Her hours spent as a CNA will count toward satisfying that requirement.

Did you purchase a TV, monitor or laptop computer that contained an LCD flat panel screen between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2006? You no doubt answered 'yes'. You may want to check out this link (edit: it's no more) to see if you qualify and then add your name to the list of people who will be sent checks in the amount of at least $25 provided you're in one of the 24 states that participated in the suite. I first heard about this from a local news program. Apparently, there was a class-action suit against some overseas manufacturers who colluded to keep prices higher than they should've been. No receipt is required.

Being the sometimes political junkie that I am, I'm looking forward to watching at least a little of the presidential debates that begin this week. But I don't know why because all any of us will likely hear are just more of the same soundbites we've been hearing all along. What good is that, really? I'd much prefer an in-depth discussion of what led us into the mess we find ourselves today and what steps need to be taken to get us out of it. Will there be any talk of the lack of regulation in the banking industry and on Wall Street that created an environment where sub-prime mortgages flourished beyond the scope of any prying eyes? I seriously doubt it. Will there be any mention of Dodd-Frank and the need for even more regulation, not less? Doubtful.

Unless you're willing to invest a fair amount of time either reading about what happened or watching documentaries about it you'll have to settle for the likely misleading, slight-of-hand talking-points that barely scratch the surface of what happened and you'll remain woefully uninformed. For those interested, here's a four-part series Frontline recently did. It's a good place to begin.

Speaking of slight-of-hand, here's something that I find quite cool. Watch closely but watch it more than once because once just simply isn't enough to see what happens. I'd recommend at least 3 or 4 viewings to fully appreciate it if that's even possible.

Jauregui from Jacky Durand on Vimeo.

The translation is something along the lines of this:

The guy in the white mumbles "perfect" Kinda of like "not bad"
Jackie Durand says "did he just change bikes?'" " I hardly saw that!"
The guy in the glasses says "that's the pros for you"