Friday, October 5, 2012

You know politics is having an effect when...

We have a wonderful bronze plaque in our store. It reads:

Bidden or not bidden God is present.

A customer earlier this week, while looking at that plaque exclaimed, "Biden?! What is Joe Biden doing on a plaque in your store?!"
We explained that Vice President Biden has a single "d" in his name and the word "bidden" has two of them. We continued, "'Bidden' means to ask and the plaque is saying that whether we ask for God or not, God is still present with us."
She replied, "Oh. Okay. Sure, I know that."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bob B.

I attended the celebration of Bob’s life today. He was quite a fellow.
For over 30 years he was self-employed as a supplier of office paper supplies for businesses in the Seattle area. Even though he “had no truck with organized religion” Bob lived the life of Christian service to others and had a big impact of everyone he met.

His family told stories to the overflow crowd about parts of Bob’s life that most of us did not know. As I remarked to another person on our way in to the event, “All these people. And I thought that I was one of Bob’s few friends through his business.” She replied, “Yes, me too. He had that effect on everyone.”

We were told that Bob had very few possessions and a huge heart for helping others. Making money was not important to him. Helping others was of utmost importance to Bob. By providing office supplies, his specialty was all sorts of paper products, to businesses he found that he could help others. Bob would go way out of his way to find and bring to you whatever paper product you wanted.

Learning more about Bob’s life was very inspiring today. He positively impacted the lives all that he met.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is the Holy Spirit at work here?

A customer writes the following:
Dear John,
I don't know why I asked you how soon you could ship Enriching Our Worship but maybe the Holy Ghost prompted. It arrived on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday I went on call as the night chaplain at St. Luke's Hospital in xxxxx. Was called to 3 deaths last night so the book got some use..
Just wanted you to know your extra trouble made a difference.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A peek at the world outside the Big Box stores

Our supply of bookmarks with our store’s logo on them recently ran out. The old-time printer, husband and wife, we have used for years has retired. It’s time to find a new printer for our book marks, and other things.

I contacted a local independent printing business. They promptly replied with a couple of choices in prices, one for digital printing and the other for offset printing, as well as a “proof” copy of the future book marks.

One should always have at least one more bid on a project for comparison.

I contacted the local branch of a national printing business corporation. They replied rather quickly with a single price and a proof. Their price was about 10% lower than the first business.

Nancy and I discussed the two price quotes. We decided to give our business to the local independent printer.

This afternoon the president of the local independent printer came in our store. He brought to us a still-warm, freshly baked peach pie. It was a “thank you” for our business with them and a result of their July promotion of their business (that we did not know about). The pie was made today, did I mention still warm(!), by a local independent pie shop in the same neighborhood as the printer.

We immediately stopped our work for an impromptu “pie break.” It was a wonderful pie!

I doubt that the national printing corporation would have matched that level of customer care and thanksgiving.

There is more to life, and business, than simply the lowest price. There are intangibles that are sometimes priceless.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So many Wednesdays

Hello to another Wednesday morning.
I’m impressed and amazed at the number of Wednesdays there have been in my life. The days and weeks flow by like a swollen river, unceasingly.
Do I treasure each Wednesday, each day? It may be easy to take them for granted as they roll by but each one is precious to me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Do you know the effect of your church's website?

Here is part of a message from a customer in Belgium.

I already got my book this Friday, July 20 (7 days delivery time). It was even faster than the previous order, maybe because the package was smaller. Thanks a lot and I have to say I appreciate very much the personalized way you make contact with your customers. I wish everybody would do as you do.

You may be surprised top have a customer in Belgium who is not even a native speaker of English, but the story is this. I discovered the Episcopal church by chance (or by the Grace of God?) in 2004. I watched the funeral service of former president Ronald Reagan at Washington national Cathedral on television and I was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral and the solemnity of the service. I tried to re-watch it on the web and so I discovered the cathedral's website and from link to link I learned more about Episcopal liturgy and I began reciting the daily office first on the Internet, than with a BCP I orderd from the cathedral's webstore.

... We have an Episcopal congregation in Waterloo, Belgium but it is not really close to my home so I go on attending my local Roman Catholic parish church but I use the BCP for my personal prayer and this combined trans-denominational worship fits me well, since I've always believed we are all christians in our common faith and catholic, anglican, protestant or other depending much more from our historical background or the place we live in rather than from a personal choice.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An alternative health care story

Today, the 5th of July, I joked with our FedEx delivery driver about having all of his fingers on the day after The Fourth Of July celebration. He removed his glove and showed me that he is actually missing his thumb.
Then he told me more of the story. In the country where he comes from he worked in a factory that made wheels. In an industrial accident his thumb was badly injured. At the hospital they had two choices of treatment. Those who had money had their fingers repaired. For those who could not pay for the repair the treatment was amputation. And that is why he has nine fingers today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I stand with the sisters --buttons

We have a basket full of special campaign buttons that state “I stand with the sisters.” They are on display near our cash register for visitors to take and wear as it suits them. I am in full support of the women religious (nuns) and their plight with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. In my humble opinion the women have been doing the work of Jesus in their daily lives and work as they see it, for centuries. The bishops are wrong in attempting to curtail their work, for whatever reason.

The buttons express the wearer’s support of women religious. I wore one the first day. I have not worn one in the past few days. Nancy, immediately upon seeing them this morning, pinned one to her blouse.

My reluctance to wear a button has me trying to discern my feelings. Obviously I support the women in the devastating decision by the male leaders of their denomination. I can, and have placed political yard signs in my yard, at times. But I have resisted putting political stickers on my car and have not been known to wear buttons.

As I think about it, I think (but the person any one of us can fool the easiest is ourselves) that my reluctance to wearing a button is that I do not want to draw attention to myself (yet I am writing this message, these thoughts, that can be read by people I may not know).

You go, you women religious. Stand up for your values and your ministries. Speak truth to power. I support you. I just think that I’m going to leave the buttons in the basket on the counter.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Grandma Marshall, Tavis Smiley, & vacationing in Duluth

Yesterday I heard part of the Tavis Smiley show on National Public Radio. In the segment that I heard Tavis was interviewing a man who encouraged families to take their children into the wilderness in order to help teach the children the importance of wilderness in all of our lives. Part of his reasoning was that when children grow up knowing the value of wilderness we will be less inclined to agree to the removal of the natural resources, especially energy reserves, stored in the few remaining wilderness areas so that the those wilderness areas can be preserved in their natural state for the generations to come.

Tavis asked the man he was interviewing how poor families from the inner city could achieve that goal of having their children experience wilderness life.

I have an answer for Tavis. To my mind it fits with Tavis’ ongoing encouragement of each of us to live up to our potential. We can each do it if we put our minds to it and commit to it.

This is a family story that I been told by Dad about his life as a child, living in Duluth MN.

My paternal grandmother, Mary Richardson Marshall, was a petite woman no taller than 5’ 2”. She and her husband, always referred to as The Duke, lived in Duluth MN in the early 1900s where The Duke worked for the Northern Pacific Railway Company. For railroad workers at that time vacations were not included as part of their employment.

The Duluth Marshalls did not own a car and generally had no need of one. Here is the tale of how each summer Grandma Marshall took the family children, and sometimes their friends, on vacation.

After preparing for the vacation Grandma Marshall would hire a taxi to pick them up at their home. The canoe would be loaded on top of the cab and all of the stuff they needed for a week’s vacation was stuffed inside along with the kids and Grandma. The taxi would deliver them to the train station. Grandma loaded the kids and their stuff on the passenger train, canoe included. An hour or so outside of Duluth the train stopped and the entourage’ was unloaded from the train.

The canoe was filled with all their gear. Then everyone pitched in to carry the canoe about one mile down a path to the lake. Grandma Marshall and the tribe of kids camped at the lake for a week. They caught fish for dinner. They swam, played, and camped out.

At the end of the week they reversed the process. They carried the loaded canoe back to the train stop where they flagged down the passenger train. Everything was loaded on the train, and then transferred to a taxicab for the ride home.

My father said that Grandma Marshall organized this vacation every summer for several years.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Starfish, Earth Day, and us

A good sermon is one that I remember beyond Sunday, or even beyond the parking lot at church.

Last Sunday The Rev. Fletcher Davis gave a memorable Earth Day sermon, tied to the Gospel lesson. Here is the image from the sermon that has stuck with me.

On a saltwater beach after a large storm a caring individual saw many starfish that had been tossed by the storm high up the beach. They had attached themselves to the seawall way above their normal habitat. They would not survive way up there. A thoughtful beach walker began peeling one starfish after another off of the seawall and with a strong thrust throwing them back into the water where they would have a much better chance of surviving.

A person walking down the beach saw the tossing of the starfish, stopped and asked, “What are you doing? You know that you cannot save them all. There are too many of them.”

The individual replied, “That may be true, but I …. Can …. save…THIS…One” as the starfish was, with effort, hurled back into the sea.

The moral that sticks with me is that I may not be able to effect much change in our world, but I can do something.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Balancing a dichotomy in military life

We received an order for Prayer Book for the Armed Services for a chapel at a military base in the U.S. today. We are glad to help supply our service men and women with books for their spiritual needs.

Perhaps it is “of course” a chapel at an army base would include as part of the signature, “Faith and Firepower.” It sticks with me the dichotomy of trying to hold both parts of a serviceperson’s life together that is reflected in that closing statement. The Army is rightfully about firepower. The individual humans in the Army also have a spiritual side that can be described as faith.

How do they hold those two parts of their in balance?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A heresy that I am willing to embrace.

Listening to a couple of sermons recently, and reading a thoughtful article in The Christian Century, I see a heresy that I am ready to embrace. I don’t want to recite the Nicene Creed each week in worship. I want to recite the Beatitudes in place of the Creed.
It seems to me that Jesus the Christ was living and preaching the Beatitudes and not the Creed. The Creed comes from, in my humble opinion, the hierarchy of the Church and not from the life that Jesus demonstrated in his words and actions.
This is simply my heresy this week. Thank Goodness I am not ordained!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An interesting challenge

We have had an interesting challenge with our store. Should we, how do we, change banks?

For as long as we have owned the store we have been banking with one of the giant national banks. There have been many advantages to banking with them. Well established, they offer every business service we need. They are experienced at working with businesses both larger and smaller than we are. All of their products that we use are reliable. For instance, we can contact them any time, day or night, holiday or weekend, and they will be there because they are so huge that they never close.

They are also in many ways not like us at all. They do not conduct business with the same heart and mind as we do. They were part of the national mortgage scandal, their top executives are paid immoral amounts of money, they adjust all their services so that they always make money. When congress enacted new regulations that eliminated some fees and assured that others fees would be openly displayed this bank created other fees and hid them. Since last October several changes have been made without informing us. Our credit card transactions are more difficult and more costly now, and those changes were made without informing us.

There is a somewhat young, local bank that has shown us that they are trying to manage their business with a philosophy that fits ours. They offer significant personal care for each individual customer while still using sound business practices, and they are well capitalized and financially strong.

But, they are “small potatoes.” Can they be reliable? Can we trust the financial side of this ministry-which-is-the-store to them? Our financial future will be dependent upon working securely and efficiently with them.

Nancy and I have taken this decision path slowly and deliberately. We have verified with other businesses that this local bank does work the way that they claim. We have studied their business proposal with us and it looks sound, reasonable, and fiscally responsible.

One insight that we have learned in this time of discernment is that we do not need to move everything to the new bank at one time. We can wade into the water slowly and carefully. We can open an account and move part of our business to the new bank while retaining the old bank’s services. As we become comfortable with each part that we move to the new bank we can then move another piece to them. If we find some difficulties we can then move those parts of the business back to the behemoth bank with little loss, other than our efforts and time involved in the transitioning.

One of the joys that I experience in owning our own business is the challenge of making big decisions such as this. We have the freedom to change banks. We know that freedom involves responsibility to learn about and work with the dangers and rewards that come with the decision. As an entrepreneur there is the thrill of making the decisions and living with the consequences that do not exist when you are an employee of a boss, an institution, or a corporation.

We continue to strive to meet two goals: to treat our customers the way that we would like to be treated (“do unto others as you would want done to you”), and to keep the business of the store financially sound so that it will continue in the future. Perhaps this change in banking will help us to continue with our theology and business philosophy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What happened to Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers?

Today is Shrove Tuesday. I realize that I have not heard from local congregations announcing their Shrove Tuesday pancake supper this evening as I have in past years. I have asked others, customers and staff, about pancake suppers at their congregations this evening. The reply has been the same. “No, we aren’t having one this year.”

A few years ago, as I remember it, most of the congregations held Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers. Now I can’t locate any that are offering one in Seattle.

Questions arise:
1. Is this only a Seattle situation or are congregations across the country forgoing Shrove Tuesday events?
2. I wonder why has this happened? What am I missing?
3. Has the penitence of Ash Wednesday displaced the last minute celebration of Shrove Tuesday?

I don’t have answers today, only questions.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A story of integrity

A gentleman visited our store yesterday and as part of the conversation shared this story.

His grandfather, Paul, with his brothers inherited his father’s farm in Iowa. A few years later Paul developed two hernias and could not work the farm. That was before hernia repair was the simple outpatient surgical procedure that it is today. Since he could not work the farm Paul’s brothers bought Paul’s share of the farm. Paul moved into to town and opened a barbershop and saved his money that he received from his portion of the farm. A few years later the Great Depression hit.

Rancher, Tim, while getting his haircut shared with Paul that it looked like he was going to lose his ranch to the bank because times were hard, the price of beef had fallen lower than anyone could remember or even imagine that it could, and he owed the bank for seed and feed for his ranch.

Paul offered to help Tim stay afloat by paying some of the payments to the bank. The two men discussed it. Tim finally accepted the offer with his commitment that he and his wife would work as hard and as frugally as they could, but would accept Paul’s help when they needed it. The two men sealed the agreement with a handshake.

Paul helped pay some of Tim’s loans. Tim and his wife worked the ranch. The Depression finally eased, and the Second World War began.

By the end of WWII Tim had paid back all that Paul had loaned him. Tim kept the ranch. Paul continued to barber. The men became very good friends.

Does anyone today enter into an agreement involving paying off debts to the bank and paying back the money loaned by an agreement that is sealed with a handshake?

That, my friend, is integrity and trust. That is the way part of the world used to work.

Part of the joy of this ministry-which-is-the-store is that I never know who today might visit the store and share a portion of their story.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why is our congregation in existence here?

When a congregation experiences shrinking attendance I wonder and worry about them. Some I have observed lose members and barely “hang on” as a result of clergy abuse that remains unhealed, even after the abuser departs, even many years after the abuser departs. I understand that situation because it parallels the trouble that individual persons experience who have been abused and do not receive recovery help. You, too, may know of women or men, perhaps in their fifties, who have just discovered that they were sexually abused as children but have suppressed it so much that they are not even aware of it. They require excellent counseling to help them towards recovery. There are congregations that parallel that, in my humble opinion.

Other congregations appear to lose sight of their reason for existence within the community. By not meeting the needs of the community there appears little reason for those seeking a church home to join them. A wise priest we had in a congregation many years ago pushed the questions upon us until we provide accurate answers, “What makes us different from any community club in this local area?” and, “How would this community be changed if we were to close?” At first we were hard pressed to present a viable argument and that was quite disturbing.

There is a congregation located near our bricks and mortar store in Seattle that shows one path to vibrant spiritual life. The pastor of Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, Paul Hoffman, has written a book that has just been published that details the simple yet profound change in direction in his congregation over the past 15 years. They have developed a (very) successful yearlong process of faith mentoring that has become the center of the congregation’s ministry.

Hoffman’s book, Faith Forming Faith, is an easy, yet compelling read. I recommend it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Marriage Equality in western Washington State

Here in the State of Washington it looks like the legislature is about to pass the Marriage Equality act.

Where does the Episcopal Church in western Washington stand on it? Here are the thoughts of our Bishop Rickel as posted on his blog.

Marriage Equality: A Conservative Proposal
 Posted on February 1, 2012 by bishoprickel
 It is expected that our Washington state legislators will very soon, perhaps even tomorrow begin floor deliberations on HB2516 & SB6239 with the Senate to begin. Passage of these bills or a version of them would make same sex marriage law in our state. Our Episcopal Church, after a long discussion about this over the years is poised to do roughly the same this summer at our General Convention.
 While I am careful about wading into our legislator’s business, I would say this is the church’s business too. I have been asked by many about my feelings on it, and I have decided to share them. The ideas are not new, I have shared them openly in the walk-abouts before becoming your bishop and in many venues before and since.

Christianity has held, when considering relationships of all sorts, but especially in relation to two people in marriage, fidelity to be our value. Fidelity is the value in most all our sacraments and also in our life as Christians.

It seems to me we have held our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in a “catch-22″. We say they cannot live up to our value because they cannot be married, or even blessed in their union. While many of them have begged for this, it is still not possible. What they ask of us, the church and the government, is to put boundaries around their relationship, to hold them in the same regard and with the same respect, which would also mean that we expect the same from them. They are not asking for special treatment. They are asking for equal treatment. They are asking to be accountable, as a couple, in community. To me, this is a conservative proposal. I am for it, and I hope we will finally make way for this to happen, not only in our society, but also in our church.


The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel

Monday, January 23, 2012

Will you sell to us?

A woman phoned today and asked about ordering a Parish Register to record baptisms in her congregation. She explained that her congregation is one of the Anglican churches that has pulled away from the Episcopal Church. Recently they have been told that the building belongs not to them but to the Episcopal diocese. They are setting up church on their own.

She asked if they would still be able to purchase merchandise, like the Parish Register, from us since they have severed their relationship with the Episcopal Church. I replied that we accept orders from other churches, even (with a grin) Lutherans, United Methodists, Roman Catholics, and others. I reassured her that if her congregation has a need for merchandise that we can supply we are glad to do it.

As our baptismal covenant states, “Respect the dignity of each person.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Seattle snow

Due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean and the onshore weather systems Seattle usually experiences mild weather, not too hot in the summers nor too cold in the winters. The trade off is an abundance of clouds and moisture that arrives with the marine weather.

It’s been a couple of years since we have experience snowfall in Seattle. Last Saturday, after days of media hype, a light snowfall began.

Immediately the customers visiting our store disappeared. An hour or so later we told Daniel who had come in to help us on Saturday that he could go home even though the snowfall had stopped by then. An hour or two later some sun peaked through the clouds. We had perhaps three customers “brave” the improved weather.

Sometimes we refer to ourselves cynically as weather wimps. More likely we simply are not used to snowy weather. That, coupled with our numerous steep hills and overcrowded streets, makes for a city that does not handle this weather comfortably and encourages most individuals to have opinions about it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Feast of the Epiphany

So, I try again at this blog-thing. It’s been way too long. Advent and Christmas activities at our store used up my time and creative thinking. Christmas is past. Perhaps I can share some thoughts with you again.

The Season of Epiphany recognizes the days between Christmas and Lent. Here’s a memory. Many years ago when we lived in another community and had a set of close church-going friends we enjoyed a special Twelfth Night celebration. On the evening of the Twelfth day of Christmas, which was also the night before The Epiphany, several friends would gather at our home. We all would offer the left over Christmas goodies, including cookies, candies, and cookie-like things (home-made marshmallows, krumkake, and others) to share with each other. A recording of excerpts from Handel’s Messiah was played and we all sang along. It was a special way to mark the end of Christmas with our friends.

This week our son who is the Episcopal priest shared with us an event at his congregation for this the First Sunday After The Epiphany. One of the traditions of Epiphany is the celebration of the Magi, the three kings arriving to honor the baby Jesus. Grace Episcopal Church, San Marcos CA is urging its members to bring to the Sunday Eucharist service their family’s figurines of the three kings. All of the figurines will be displayed in the sanctuary as part of the worship service on Sunday. 

I love this sharing of the church families’ three kings at the Feast of the Epiphany. It will be fun for the worshippers to see the many variations and kinds of figurines. All who participate will feel included in a special way in the service. It will add a special festive atmosphere to the worship space. The result will be a memorable time of sharing during worship. Excellent!