Monday, April 23, 2007

Study Shows Clergy Have Top Job Satisfaction

A study released last week shows that 87% of clergy surveyed (compared to 47% of all workers on average) stated that they were "very satisfied" with their work and 67% (compared to 33% average) added that they were also "very happy" in what they did. Physical therapists and Firefighters came in second and third respectively with over 75% indicating that they were "very satisfied" in their profession.

The Chicago Tribune, which wrote the story, stated that
The worker satisfaction study . . . is based on data collected since 1988 on more than 27,500 randomly selected people . . . (representing) 198 occupations.
Last on the satisfaction list were "Hand packers and Packagers" followed by Bartenders, Laborers (not construction), Waiters/Servers & Roofers.

As a pastor myself, I think that the 87% satisfaction rating for clergy seems a little high. I have to ask myself, am I "very satisfied" with my vocation 87% of the time? Am I "very happy" with my work 67% of the time?

Actually, I might come very close to those figures in my own life and ministry but I have been reading a lot of "gloom and doom" statistics lately as to how 20% of Presbyterian ministers leave the ministry in the first 7 years and that, nationwide, nearly 9 out of 10 ministers leave ministry before retirement.

Stress and burn-out are frequently cited as taking the most wear and tear out of a pastor. Congregational conflict and lack of functional support systems also contribute to this problem along with long hours and seemingly endless evening meetings!

As with most polls I take this one with a grain of salt. But I find it encouraging that at least one study has found that clergy are, for the most part, a happy and satisfied group of people. I have found this to be true for most of the clergy that I have been associated with (from all denominations) over my 28 years of ordained ministry.

Perhaps its because we only work on Sunday mornings? Not!

Rather, I give the credit to having the opportunity to serve and witness to Someone greater than myself and having the privilege of sharing in some of the most intimate and personal areas of people's lives; including birth, marriage and death (and everything in between).

I know that I could never do what I do without the power of the living God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) at work in me. As one clergyman once put it, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"

I will not retire wealthy in finances (although my Presbyterian Church USA denomination has a wonderful pension plan) but I will have lived a life in which I was (most of the time, at least) "very satisfied" and "very happy."

Apparently, "easy" does not equal "happy" and "satisfied" when it comes to one's profession.

I entered ministry reluctantly but with a joyful heart (after already completing a graduate degree in another discipline). I have never regretted saying "Yes" to what I believe was a "call" from God.

I would like to share something that I have found to be true for everyone, no matter what work they perform: If you seek to please God in all that you do, if you work at becoming the sort of person that God created you to be and if you can somehow rise to the place where you begin to "love one another" in the same way that Jesus showed love to us, then you will almost always be "very satisfied" and "very happy" . . . even if you are a "Hand packer!"

Friday, April 20, 2007

US Agent Says There Were WMDs Found (& then lost) In Iraq

Were there weapons of mass destructions in Iraq when the United States et al invaded that country in 2003? According to The Spectator, highly respected and decorated Davd Gaubatz,
having served for 12 years as an agent in the US Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations . . . a trained Arabic speaker, was hand-picked for postings in 2003, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Nasariyah in Iraq. His mission was to locate suspect WMD sites, discover threats against US forces in the area and find Saddam loyalists, and then send such intelligence to the Iraq Survey Group and other agencies . . .

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq — two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.
In subsequent investigations by two US Congressmen, it was discovered that all 60 of Gaubatz' classified intelligence reports from Iraq have disappeared, supposedly erased from a computer at a US base in Saudi Arabia where they had been sent by Gaubatz.

According to the article, Saddam's thugs teamed up with Syria and Russia to excavate the materials and ship them to Syria after the group responsible for uncovering these weapons refused to follow up on Gaubatz' reports.

Apparently US intelligence knows where these materials are being stored in Syria. They also, apparently, are aware that the nuclear materials are now being enriched in Syrian labratories.

Why haven't we heard of this? The article speculates that it is because the chain of events is too revealing of the total incompetence of the Bush administration's handling of the invasion and that Democrats do not want to draw any attention to the possibility that there actually were WMDs in Iraq since that would undermine their entire basis for opposing the war in the first place.

Is there any truth to this story? If not then we have just one more conspiracy to debunk.

If the story is true, however, it would shake up the geo-political status of not only the Middle East but of the entire world. Syria, Russia, Iran & North Korea collaborating with Saddam's Baathist's to create the world's first "Arab/Muslim Nuclear Bomb"?

Personally, I expect this story, like so many others, to be casually dismissed by the MSM and relegated to the obscurity of internet blogs like mine where it will undoubtedly disappear from sight and mind entirely.

And the truth? One day it will be revealed to us all. Hopefully not with an unexpected and unusually large explosion somewhere.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One Thumb Down for Michael Medved & the VT Shootings

Yesterday morning, as the shocking news of the Virginia Tech shootings began to ooze its way through the media, talk show host Michael Medved picked up on the initial description of the shooter as being "Asian." "Could this mean 'Asian' as in Chinese or Japanese?" Medved asked, "or as in Indian or Pakistani?"

Medved then went on to speculate as to whether the shooter was possibly a Muslim linked with terrorism.

While I appreciate Medved's transparency in opening his mind to us and letting his stream of consciousness fall out of his head through his mouth I do wish he would have stuck his foot in it a little more tightly and held his peace . . . at least on this matter.

Wild speculations serve no purpose in covering an unfolding news story. It is always best to let the facts come out and deal with them as the pieces of the story add up and begin to form a coherent picture of what has taken place.

Medved stirred up trouble where none was necessary. He conjured up fear and anxiety where none was called for. The facts of yesterday's tragedy provided more than enough fodder for any talk show host. To create a speculative scenario out of thin air was, at the worst, irresponsible, and, at the best, simply bad form.

One thumb down for the mispoken Michael Medved on yesterday's show.

Heroes of Virginia Tech

There were heroes among the victims at Virginia Tech yesterday. The Jerusalem Post considers the life of one of those who was killed yesterday while holding the door to his classroom closed as the killer continued to shoot through the door.

The man was Professor Liviu Librescu, a 75-year-old survivor of the holocaust. He is but one of many who tried to do the right thing against rampaging evil.

Universal Precautions and Virginia Tech

The church I serve as Pastor has a health & safety policy that we have adopted. It is commonly known as “Universal Precautions.”

What this means is that, when we must interact with bodily fluids such as blood we always presume that it is infected with the AIDs virus or hepatitis or some other serious contagion. This way we always approach the child’s cut (for example) with the highest possible caution. We wear latex or other protective gloves, we use a dilute bleach solution to clean up areas that may have been contaminated and so on.

We know that it is very unlikely that anyone with a bleeding cut is infected with HIV or hepatitis and that even if they were the chances of transferring that infection to another person is slight. BUT, we always presume the worse in order to protect our preschool teachers, office staff and church members.

In a related matter, whenever we see a police helicopter circling the area where our Preschool is located we immediately order a “lock-down” of our children in their classrooms. In the past we have had bank robbers escape from our neighborhood banks by hopping our school fence and cutting through our play area. We have increased the height of our fence in recent years to prevent this from happening again but, when we see a police helicopter nearby we do not take any chances. We gather the children into a safe place.

I have no doubt that the health services and medical personnel at Virginia Tech are well-trained in the policy of “Universal Precautions.”

It is sad and disappointing, however, that this same preventive measure was not taken in regards to yesterday’s tragic shooting.

In order to protect the students, staff and others on campus that day there should have been a policy in place to immediately secure the safety of everyone and to inform them of the nature of the threat.

It is human nature to generally assume the best. In the case of Virginia Tech it was (fatally) assumed that the shooter had finished his business for the day after he had shot and killed two students in the dormitory.

The concept behind “Universal Precautions,” however, corrects this natural inclination, by forcing us to presume the worst-case scenario and to be prepared to deal with it should it come to pass.

The evil spirit and broken mind of the student assassin was the “infection” that was set loose on the Virginia Tech campus yesterday. This “virus” carried two handguns and was well equipped and prepared to do serious injury to others.

Had the Virginia Tech administration, the campus security and local law enforcement practiced “Universal Precautions” after the initial killings yesterday it is quite possible, indeed likely, that the killer’s freedom to move about and choose his next targets could have been significantly reduced.

Along with most commentators I place the ultimate responsibility for this tragedy on the young man who did the killing. On the other hand, I pray that the three university campuses where my three daughters will be attending next year have campus security plans that include the concept of “Universal Precautions.”

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech--God Weeps

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don Ho R.I.P.--Aloha

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Don Ho died this morning at the age of 76.

It is hard to imagine Hawaii, or at least Waikiki, without Don Ho.

Some people, like Herb Caen and San Francisco, become inseparable from a particular time and place. Don Ho and Waikiki were like that.

My wonderful wife first met Don Ho when she was a little girl living in San Francisco. On a visit to Hawaii with her parents her father, who had done some private work for Ho, took her to his show and introduced her.

Some 40 years later my wife and I took her father & step-mother to the Don Ho show and I got to meet him myself. His health was poor but he still put on a cliche-filled, self-deprecating and entertaining show.

Don Ho was a good man who helped shape the ambiance of Waikiki for more than a generation of tourists. He was not particularly representative of Hawaiian music by any stretch of the imagination but he was respected. The Honolulu Advertiser's headline called him "The King of Waikiki Entertainment."

His schtick was "Tiny Bubbles" and he squeezed every drop of sentimentality out of that song as he could! He did it with so much class that nobody really minded all that much.

Don Ho: We will miss you. Thank you for singing for us all these years. Aloha.

Note: You can access the Honolulu Advertiser's Don Ho photo gallery here and his biography here.

Bunny R.I.P.--We Love You, Lizzie--Aloha

My Daugher #1, who lives in LA, has two bunnies in her apartment, Mr. Darcy (call him "Mr.") and Lizzie. They are a bonded pair. Lizzie has had bouts of illness since my daughter adopted them and the past few days she has not been herself. An appointment had been made to visit the vet this morning but last night around midnight, Lizzie died.

My daugher loves her bunnies (and most every animal she gets to know) with deep and passionate feeling. Lizzie's passing will be hard for her and we are encouraging her with our words and prayers of support from 2,000 miles away.

Mr. Darcy seems to be doing OK so far but time will tell how this will change the dynamics of my daughter's "household."

In any case, I thought I'd remember Lizzie with two photos, one I took myself almost two years ago and one, the "cuddly one", taken just a few days before Easter. Lizzie is the one with the flop-ears.

Bunnies can, I think, teach us humans something important about friendship and love.

Lizzie, We love you. Aloha!

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter Poem for 2007

Each year I write a new Easter poem. This year's came by accident. After a long, early morning walk (due to a short-term medical condition that disrupted my sleep-cyle) I sat down and began to jot down a few pre-dawn thoughts.

I was surprised when the thoughts immediately became a poem and even more surprised when it concluded as an Easter poem! My muse was clearly having a good day! (I only write what I am told, you know!)

Here it is. Perhaps a part of it will speak to your own life and the words and Word that make you who you are.

Poetry & Prose-ac

It seems to me . . . almost . . .
As if most poets are depressed;
Throwing words around like Prozac
To distract, to hide or to cure
Their malady.

Such pills have, for some,
The power to be recycled for use
By others who eat them chew them
Swallow them for both immediate and
Timed relief.

I, too, find words to be reusable.
Some I rework into the threads
Of new ideas where they find new
Contexts in which to burst forth
And flower.

Other words I use more sparingly,
Like precious gems in short supply.
Like diamonds such words can cut through
Glass and steel plate but must be used
With caution.

With words I question God and then
With other words (and some the same)
I answer my own questions from the Word
That has been given me
From above.

Still other words fly out, returning
Void to void, increasing nothingness
To infinite proportions. Yet from the void
God spoke his Word and began
The beginning.

Every word comes from Word and carries
Within a spark of life and light and hope.
Each word has the potential and promise
To create new worlds and universes
Within us.

Depressed? Don’t simply take a pill . . .
Take a word or two or three and string
Them together into the shape of a cross
Perhaps or, better yet, an
Empty tomb.

-Jim Tweedie, March 6, 2007

Good Friday

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Grunewald paints it as well as anyone. It's hard to imagine that this is God's "love letter" to the world! It's also hard to imagine what the world would be like today were it not for Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Such love both frightens and attracts me. Ultimately, when I allow it to possess me, it saves me.

Maundy Thursday

We held a quiet, simple Maundy Thursday service last night. The choir sang and we all sat together at one long Lord's Table that was set up down the center aisle of the church. We shared the Gospel stories of betrayal, the Lord's Supper, the washing of feet and the New Commandment to "love one another as I have loved you."

The Lord was with us and, by faith and God's amazing grace, he followed us to our homes afterwards!

I wrote a short, simple song for the service. Here are the words.

"Is it I? It is I!"
Words & Music by Jim Tweedie

Is it I? Is it I? Is it I, Lord Jesus?
Could I kiss you away and betray you, Jesus?
Could I trade you away for something I love more?
Could it be? Can it be it is I?

Is it I? Is it I? Is it I, Lord Jesus?
Could I leave and forsake you my dear, Lord Jesus?
Could I turn from your side, run and hide, Lord Jesus?
Could it be? Can it be it is I?

I may not be a Judas but I’m just like the rest
Who all turned from you Jesus when it came to the test.
Is it I? It is I! No I can’t tell a lie!
When I ask, “Is it I?” It is I.

Is it I? Is it I? Is it I, Lord Jesus?
Could I really deny that I know you, Jesus?
Could I do this today? Even now, Lord Jesus?
Could it be? Can it be it is I?

I may not be a Judas but I’m just like the rest
Who all turned from you Jesus when it came to the test.
Is it I? It is I! No I can’t tell a lie!
When I ask, “Is it I?” It is I.

—Maundy Thursday, April 05, 2007
Based on Mark 14:17-21

Thursday, April 05, 2007

British Sailors Fly Home with Iranian "Goody Bags"

The New York Times relates that,
Fifteen Royal Navy personnel detained at gunpoint in the Gulf were heading home to Britain today, seated in business class on a British Airways flight from Tehran with shiny new suits and goody bags filled with traditional Iranian gifts.
"Goody Bags"? "GOODY BAGS"????????

And "shiny new suits"?

I should think that they ought to have prefered to wear their British uniforms and, as for the "goody bags," they ought to have dropped them into the nearest trash recepticle as a token of their esteem.

I have so much respect for the British government and the British people. They have been time and again the last bastion of civilization in Europe and our closest and staunchest ally in just about everything you could name. Yet today I am of two minds.

One part of me wants to laugh at the image of these kidnapped British sailors smiling and waving and carrying on with handshakes and "thank yous" and videotaped confessions and apologies made to the representatives of a government who were using and abusing them of every conceivable legal right and stripping them of every shred of human dignity that they could get. The Onion could not have come up with a scenario such as this. National Lampoon could not have come up with a cast of such wild and crazy kids as these seemingly air-headed sailors turned out to be.

The other part of me just wants to cry. Is this the best that Britain has to offer? Who trained these young men and woman? Do I feel safer knowing that these are the modern representatives of what was once the greatest navy in the world? Czn these possibly be the progeny of Lord Horatio Nelson who gave his right eye at Corsica, his right arm at Tenerife, and his life at Trafalgar.

These 15 British sailors will never find themselves honored with a state burial in St. Paul's Cathedral. But they do have their "goody bags."

John Walker Lindh Wants a Better Deal

Remember John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" (sic) guy who worked out a deal that lowered his sentence from two consecutive life sentences to just 20 years?

Well, after seeing the even better deal cut by Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks earlier this week, Lindh wants to revisit his own sentencing.

Captain Ed has a good post on the subject that reminds us why Mr. Lindh should thank Allah that he got the good deal that he got.

A Short List of Pelosi's Admirers

Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Israel and Syria has left most of us scratching our heads and wondering what in the world does she think she's doing and who in the world does she think she is?

Fortunately, WorldNetDaily reveals that there are those who are able to see the whole affair clearly and with applause. Among these Pelosi supporters are:

Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, declared that,
I think it's very nice and I think it's much better when you sit face to face and talk to Assad. It's a very good idea. I think she is brave and hope all the people will support her. All the American people must make peace with Syria and Iran and with Hamas. Why not?"
Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, said the willingness by U.S. lawmakers to talk with Syria "is proof of the importance of the resistance against the U.S."

Khaled Al-Batch, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, expressed hope that Pelosi would continue winning elections, and added that her Damascus visit demonstrated she understands the Middle East.

Meanwhile, today's editorial in the left-leaning Washington Post had something a little less enthusiastic to say:
Ms. Pelosi was criticized by President Bush for visiting Damascus at a time when the administration -- rightly or wrongly -- has frozen high-level contacts with Syria. Mr. Bush said that thanks to the speaker's freelancing Mr. Assad was getting mixed messages from the United States. Ms. Pelosi responded by pointing out that Republican congressmen had visited Syria without drawing presidential censure. That's true enough -- but those other congressmen didn't try to introduce a new U.S. diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. "We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Ms. Pelosi grandly declared.

Never mind that that statement is ludicrous: As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush's military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.
What to make of all this?

I would suggest that the word "chutzpah" might be appropriate except for the fact that I would not like to further insult the nation of Israel by associating a nice Yiddish word with someone who managed to make Syria look good at Israel's expense.

On the other hand, I don't think that Israel would take any offense if I suggested the word "yenta" instead.

HT: PowerLine

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Iran Releases British Sailors--Why All the Smiles?

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Well, it appears that the 15 British sailors captured or kidnapped by Iran have been released. This is, of course, good news. But why, I wonder, were the British sailors waving and smiling so happily at their public relations meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad?

What possibly could have been threatened to compel this happy behavior? Even the NY Times article that described the "ceremony" (and provided these two photos of the event) noted that,
Iranian state television showed Mr. Ahmadinejad smiling and shaking the hands of some of the captives. Dressed in clothes apparently issued by their captors, the Britons waited in line to meet the president, looking almost as if they were a visiting sports team. “We are grateful for your forgiveness,” one said to Mr. Ahmadinejad, seemingly off the cuff.
I could not help but notice that at least three of the British sailors in the photo at the top of this post (the ones on the right) were not smiling. Indeed, these three looked as though they would have rather faced down a firing squad than be caught smiling at a farcical and humiliating moment like this.

Even so, I can only wonder where were the expressions of defiance? Where was there any sign of uncooperation with their captors? Where was there any refusal to wear civilian clothing instead of their uniforms which were both their right and privilege to wear?

I can only contrast this smiling group of seeming happy Brits with these more sober photographs of the crew of the USS Pueblo, after they had been captured by North Korea back in 1968.

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These men signalled their resistance and displeasure . . . and suffered greatly for it in return. Surely, at the very least, the British sailors could have politely refused to eat in front of a camera or to wear the hijab. Why didn't they? Perhaps we'll know soon enough. But, instead of becoming icons of the famous British aplomb they have become icons instead of the suicidal impulse to act as though all it takes to get along in this world is to, "Smile, darn ya, smile!"

In this last photo it is clear that Ahmadinejad is smiling. He is happy. He has scored another hollow victory for a morally bankrupt regime held together by spiritual and mortal terror.

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While it may not have been prudent to have done so, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if this British sailor had chosen to spit on the ground in front of Ahmadinejad instead of shaking his hand.