Saturday, April 12, 2008

In Praise of Bureaucracy. An Inside Look at the FAA Inspired Crisis at AA

Editor’s Note: I realize this blog doesn’t usually cover airline affairs. However, I have had a number of conversations about the recent maintenance related groundings at AA, the pix & p had to reroute their trip on account of cancellations and this topic is all over the news. So when a friend of the family who works in a management role at AA recently sent me this harangue concerning the crisis, I thought it’d be interesting to post. I realize that the post does not strive for objectivity and overuses capitalizations and ellipses. But I can vouch for the competency of the source and thought you might like to hear an informed perspective on AA’s recent trials.

“As you may or may not know I work for American Airlines on the MD-80's here in Tulsa. I was directly involved with sending mechanics all around the country trying to make the FAA happy. My own MD-80 in the dock was also up for their inspection and was it a trial and tribulation in hypocrisy. I am now so disillusioned with the FAA. I had always had a somewhat positive attitude for them because of what they have to do. Theirs in undoubtedly a daunting task. But after this last bureaucratic mess I am now convinced their leadership and the inspectors on the airplanes have a fantastic degree in bureaucracy and most likely have never even changed spark plugs in their car let alone know about the silver thing with wings and the round thingies in back that are loud. Yes, there are excellent employees in the FAA and do a great job because they have common sense. Not this leadership group.

You cannot believe the idiocy we had to put up with. THIS WAS NEVER A SAFETY OR FLIGHT issue.....but basically how many tie wraps and washers there were and were they in the correct place. Total stupidity. I would have flown any of them with my granddaughter! As an example, we would get the FAA to sign off on an airplane in Dallas and as soon as it would get to Chicago another FAA inspector would ground the airplane that the job was not correct. This info came from a mechanic from my dock out in the field.....not hearsay. Because they got burned with Southwest they go after AA. They have no one to blame but themselves for not listening to those out in the field. What a crying shame the money lost, jobs in jeopardy, our customers so inconvenienced, the slander they put out or implied (we helped them write the original Airworthiness Directive because they don't know enough about the airplane)...............yet they don't care what overseas maintenance facilities do to our airplanes. These wires are connected to a hydraulic unit that is USED ONLY ON THE GROUND to get pressure for the brakes before engine start....not in the air.

Their priorities are skewed because of the butt chewing they are getting from Congress.............good. If they would ever really work with the airlines instead of trying to see what havoc they can cause maybe they could be a partner. But no, they are the FAA and know it all. BS. They are in it to move up the ladder all the while we lose 10's of millions of dollars, PR problems to last for years, while they sit back in their offices toasting each other on how they got 'American'. Congratulations Southwest Region FAA. Pat yourself on the back. Job well done for a bureaucrat. Good god, you must be so proud.

AA was only one of two airlines that did not go into bankruptcy (Southwest the other) in the last few years. Three airlines went out of business last week and another into bankruptcy Friday. The airline business takes an enormous amount of money to run, to but parts, and all these upstarts don't have a clue what it really takes. So we must be doing something, actually a hell of lot of things correct. The amount of money we spend on our maintenance is nothing short of staggering. Did you know the most junior mechanic can keep a jet form flying if he/she is concerned about an issue? I personally have not allowed a jet to be put into service until some additional items were reconfirmed. We take safety as the #1 PRIORITY. We have so many checks and balances......... Check with the others. Ever since I have been at American I really don't see how we do it. While, you can see by the Wall Street Journal article below the FAA is in for yet another PR debacle when even an outsider can see their never ending faults. I now really wonder, traffic delays, the Hoover law, understaffed control towers, the air traffic control system behind the times..........what really do they do right????? They always want accountability................who is watching those that watch us! Yes, the FAA will put a dandy spin on this. I can hardly wait to see it.

These are my own thoughts and I do not represent AA but there are a bunch of us who are just fit to be tied over this. We take our job VERY seriously. Remember, we and our families, like my granddaughter, fly these birds also.”

Friday, April 11, 2008


as many of your know, i regularly have the privilege of assisting and accompanying individuals with significant physical and intellectual disabilities as they take their first steps out of high school sped programs and step into the world of competitive employment. i don't claim to be a perfect advocate for my clients, but i pour a lot of myself into my work, i have helped a number of clients achieve better employment outcomes than they would have likely achieved without me and i revel in my client's success. so please keep the former paragraph in mind as you read the following gross generalization.

family is the greatest disability.

over the past year i have worked with a number of parents who through their love, support, chiding and encouragement have empowered their children to transform their limited skills into an effective means of serving their employer, community, family and selves well. however, more often than i would like to admit, i have run into families who have used their adult children as a ssi funded atm card, protected them from the risk that accompanies almost every success and seemingly expected everyone but themselves to guide their children into personal maturity and social responsibility.

now that i've stepped in it, i'd like to affirm that, fortunately, the majority of my client's parents, guardian's and support teams are incredibly supportive. moreover, i didn't pen this post in order to harangue the failures of families who have been dealt a difficult hand.

rather, a i reflect on the often fractured nature of of the families of my clients, colleagues and myself, i cannot help but wonder what the church is doing to help members develop healthy families that can be characterized by such virtues as service, fidelity, fiscal responsibility, integrity and commitment to city, town and neighbor. i don't know about you, but in the churches i grew up in, and not a few of those that i have attended and, yes, helped lead since, we have vigilantly sought to "protect" the family from perceived threats such as homosexuality, evolutionary theory, drugs,* democrats, "welfare queens" and darker skinned aliens** and neighbors. however, in the midst of our defensive posture we have also too often failed to proactively and comprehensively address the internal poisons that plague so many families and, ultimately, produce these catastrophic disabilities that are so.damn.difficult to remedy.

a month or so ago a close friend said that she thought the church should offer classes on curtailing the gossip that so easily entangles our tongues and damages so many lives. i really think she is onto something. shouldn't our faith communities also be offering innovative and integrative education and accompaniment concerning topics such as interpersonal conflict, anger, infidelity, money management,*** sustainable living, substance abuse, employment assistance, child rearing, etc?

as much as i love preaching Scripture and leading people in a roughly expository way through the teachings of the Judeo-Christian faith, i don't think that occasionally preaching through series such as "extreme money makeover!" is going to cut it. instead, i suspect that we're going to have to completely rethink our past educational approaches and create more holistic learning environments if we are going to replace the nasty generalization i typed**** above with a more positive statement such as:

family is the greatest incubator, encourager and sustainer of ability.

please take everything i've said above with a grain of salt. i'm often quick to generalize and i'm also bit of an asshole. i've also spent the past twenty minutes thinking about the horrendous denkinger call that crippled the '85 cardinals and saddled the baseball universe with an undeserving champion. the latter thoughts have left me somewhat less sanguine than usual.

* not hugs.
** side note: we seriously need to reconsider what Scripture has to say about the orientation of our communities to this group.
*** i realize that many churches already tackle this topic head on, and that's great. however, i don't think a community
can provide enough resources in this area.
**** with some measure of fear and trembling.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Mind His L'il Fontanel"
submitted by: slowfo

Fontanel....that's the best analogy I can think of to describe this part of my Jesus faith (and if you don't recognize the title quote, run, don't walk to your nearest Blockbuster and rent Raising Arizona). It's a soft spot....not very well protected. John the Baptist is my fontanel. I don't get him mostly because JtB is not a Jesus follower. Literally. And logic tells me that he should have been.

Sure, he publicly introduced Jesus as the Messiah who takes away the sin of the world, baptized Jesus (altho' he felt it more appropriate that Jesus should really be doing the baptizing), saw the dove descend and heard the voice of the Father acknowledging Jesus as His son (and shouldn't that have been enough?!?), but JtB didn't follow. He kept doing his own thing. JtB exclaimed that he must become less and Jesus greater, but we don't see anywhere that JtB ever encouraged his own followers to follow Jesus (Andrew voluntarily chose to leave John and follow Jesus). I can actually stomach that later JtB questions whether Jesus really is the Messiah from prison - prison life might make anyone a little delusional.

But if my entire career had been pointing toward one history-defining moment when the true Master would takeover and live, breathe, and speak the words of the one and only God of the universe to humanity, I think I'd probably drop everything and follow Him, wouldn't you? And I'd for sure tell everyone else to follow Him. Geez, the last thing I want to be is Jesus Christ's competitor on the speaking circuit. Getting Jesus a little peeved with me because my show is pulling viewers from His is not my idea of fun.

My only conclusion I've come to is that John was just another voice preaching repentance - but what kind of repentance did he preach after he kicked off Jesus' ministry? Was it repentance through Jesus? If so, then JtB should have naturally at least suggested (let alone maybe he should have been commanding it) that those who repent should follow Jesus. But I don't see that in the Bible. I've got a pretty good foundation to following Jesus myself....I just have this one, vulnerable soft spot.

P.S. My favorite new environmentally-friendly website is Check it out. It's kinda fun.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

it is appointed

tempest shrieks
anchor's cut
sails raised
and torn

cast about
breathing mouth
jagged rocks
welcoming shore

Monday, April 07, 2008

the worst franchise idea ever: monster mini golf

you've played miniature golf before...

but have you done so in the dark?

surrounded by monsters?

now you can at monster mini golf in creepy danvers massachusetts!
parsing pulpit talk
submitted by: slowfo

So yesterday I found myself leaning back in my theater seat and listening to yet another sermon on solomon and his obsessions with women. The preacher went on and on about how many problems this richest and wisest man in the world had because of his hundreds of wives and sex"concubines." Hmmm...knocking down the Angelina Jolie's, Scarlett Johansson's and Amanda Peet's (ok, Amanda's kinda my personal hang-up) of his day while sitting in a cedar palace, observing life with the help of limitless wisdom and surrounded by subordinates willing to carry out every command and respond to every whim. Yeah, sounds like he had a tough life.

However, in the midst of such abundance "Solomon's wives got him to worship the same gods they worshipped," the talking head solemnly reminded us. I anticipated what would come next from him (mostly because I've heard it many times before): "Okay gang, we've got a few gods of our own today don't we? We worship the gods of money, power, sex, beauty, etc. don't we?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold it right there Pastor. I caught that. You just created your own spin on "The Word of the Lord" out of thin air.

Let's be clear on this: temptations aren't gods and gods aren't temptations. Sure they work hand-in-hand but not always. The gods of today are Scientology, Hindu, Wicca, etc. and the temptations are money, sex, and power as they've always been. Let's also include convenience as a tasty temptation for the Church and its pastors. In the name of producing a good practical moral from the story, we stretch, tweak, and spin a biblical text to fit our Sunday morning needs. Count me as guilty. I've done it myself in years past. Good intentions in our ministries don't justify speaking words of God that aren't His words at all; otherwise we create a "false" God ourselves.

Every time a pastor or a member of the church speaks the Word of God in hopes that it will become the Word for Today we must ask ourselves: "With my ministry, am I really reflecting the teaching of God accurately and in accordance with the grammatical/historical context that these books and letters were written in? Or am I interpreting the these texts according to my own lights and shaping the word of scripture so that it coheres with my predetermined theme and so does not challenge the conceptions or either myself or my audience. Have I shaped this text in accordance with my own intentions and so succumbed to temptation of convenience?"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

ecclesiological portraits: seven mile road

(ir)relevant stats
former church name: edgeworth church
current church name: seven mile road
future church name: tba
location: malden, ma
affiliation: conservative congregational christian conference and acts 29 network
leadership: pastors matthew kruse, ajay thomas and kevin luce
sanctioned scripture: the english standard version (esv)
coffee: free and tolerable but not plentiful

this morning kieran and i made our first stop on our ecclesiological pilgrimage throughout greater boston. the purpose of this pilgrimage is to explore the growing number of innovative churches and faith communities in the greater boston area so that we can: get a better sense of what God is doing in our region, provide an idiosyncratic road map that will both help interested parties find these communities and help these communities find one another, and simply spend a morning each month hanging out with one another.

we decided to make seven mile road our first stop because the community is located a stone's throw from rectangle, in the edgeworth section of malden, and i've been looking for an excuse to visit this community for quite some time. since this is only the second post i've penned in this series,* i'm still not sure of the best way to structure these reports. but, since i have to structure it somehow, i'm going to provide you with a brief outline of the liturgy, capsule comments that recount some of my experiences at seven mile road and conclude with a few questions i've raised in the few short hours since my visit. after reading the post, i'd appreciate it if you'd let me know if you found this structure helpful or not

an outline of the work of the people**:

introduction: fairly brief, a little stiff, could very well have been plagiarised from a piper podcast

psalm reading:
wish i remember what it was and don't have a bulletin to double check

"you are amazing God." the worship leader has chops, the sound is clean and spare and, by this point, i'm
getting the warm , fuzzy sense that we won't be accosted with a poorly contextualized movie clip

greet and give:
the congregation gets up to greet one another and give their tithes and offerings by placing
commodities that hopefully fold and do not jingle in a basket on the front of the stage

new testament reading:
i tim. 1:18-20

commissioning of new members:
pastor kruse follows the reading by reminding the congregation that it is
membership sunday. after his introduction, he calls forward about 20 people who have decided to join this
church body, briefly explains the nature of their commitment to the body and the body's commitment to them
and prays over the new members. i am doing this segment of the service no justice. it was quite beautiful.

as part of the series on "timothy's inferno" pastor kruse explicates i tim. 1:18-20 and thematically
considers how we can fire proof the church by "disciplining well." the man can definitely preach, but this is
definitely a sermon for guys who love sermons. start time: 10:24 a.m. stop time: 11:13 a.m.

"nothing but the blood" by matt redman. nothing against matt, but i prefer the original to the remix

pastor kruse says something pithy about communion and without direction people stream
forward to partake of the body and the blood. it takes me a moment to realize that everyone is holding the
elements before taking them. there is very little orientation to the way the church practices the sacrament. i am a
little confused until pastor kruse prays and we all partake together.

it's an original entitled "we are one." this community clearly has some gifted songwriters and musicians. as
superficial as it may sound, i am easily distracted by off-key worship leaders, unnecessarily flashy graphics or
any utilization of the iworship product. fortunately seven mile suffers from none of these things.

"wholly yours" by david crowder. it's a long song which provides a good opportunity for me to slip out and
recycle the aformentioned coffee.

pastor kruse prays over us, challenging us to hold firm onto Christ and dedicating our service to
"God's great glory and our great joy." this latter phrase, that has been repeated two or three times throughout
the service, is a clear pointer to the church's reformed theology and piperian influence.

although the church did not have a formal recessional, they did have a clearly rehearsed conclusion.
immediately after the service everyone stood up, folded up their chairs and took them to the front of the stage
where they were immediately hung on racks. this practice was incredibly efficient, saved the take down team
many minutes and, in a small way, bore witness to the congregation's willingness to serve.

capsule narrative:

7 mile road is an incredibly friendly community. from the moment kieran and i walked in we were warmly greeted and throughout our time at the service people consistently welcomed us, asked us about ourselves and shared a little bit of their stories. it is also worth noting that before, during and after the service children were all over the place playing with one another, interacting with people of all ages and, after the service, streaking around the gym, sprinting through packs of adults and so reminding us of the original purpose of the room. 7 mile eagerly incorporates and encourages children to participate in almost all aspects of their worship. i found this element of their gathering quite beautiful.

as can be reasonably deduced from the outline above, 7 mile road is clearly a protestant church that is primarily focused on worshiping God through the proclamation of his Word. pastor kruse's sermon on church discipline was passionate, well structured and clearly delivered. i suspect that his treatment of the (incredibly difficult!) topic of church discipline was a little heavy on the definition of the problem and a little light on the proposed solution, but clearly this was a man who had wrestled well with the text and had carefully considered the implications this text had for his community. interestingly, in the midst of his sermon the pastor also mentioned that while studying for this sermon he was a little put of by the way a fellow pastor in his network had used this text to, apparently humorously, identify two emergent writers with hymenaeus and alexander, the soon-to-be-excommunicated divisive men who paul instructs the church to "hand over to satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme." by contradicting the teaching of one of the leaders of the acts 29 movement in this way and suggesting that any pastor who has to deal with "hymenaeus and alexander" in the church must do so with much greater humility, pastor kruse bore witness to his courageous authenticity and humility. in that moment, although i realized that there are a number of non-essential*** issues of theology and practice that pastor kruse and i would not see eye to eye on, i could clearly learn a lot from the pastoral heart of this man. in the end, the sermon was not simply an explication of i tim. 1:18-20 but a consideration of how a pastor can call, encourage and exhort his community to biblical fidelity in a manner that is marked by humility. so yeah, i appreciated the sermon.

before the sermon and after, kieran and i made the most of our time to meet the members and pastors in the community, including pastor ajay, who is going to start planting a 7 mile road church in philly this summer. in the midst of almost every conversation i tried to introduce the people to both the point of our little pilgrimage and the fact that we are both involved with the emergent cohort in boston. i emphasized the pilgrimage because i wanted, and subsequently received, their blessing to post this little introduction. i mentioned the second part because i realize there has been a fair amount of hostility as of late between those affiliated with emergent village and the acts 29 crew and i wanted to see how they would react to the "emergent" tag. fortunately, no one cut off the conversation at the first mention of emergent or first sight of the hitchcockian profile of mclaren that i've recently tattooed upon my ass. however, when the e-word was dropped walls seemed to go up and the conversations did seem to become a bit more guarded. i hope that in the midst of our conversations, in which i went out of my way to emphasize my passion for and shared investment in the mission of this church, the members and pastors were able to suspect, if not see, that there are many of us within the emergent conversation that are eager to partner with them as together we pursue God's great glory and await our great joy, namely, the fulfilment of God's Kingdom, Christ's reign and the Spirit breathed recreation of the world.

a question or two:

how in the world do these pastors maintain full-time day jobs, pastor a growing church of this size (approx. 110) and nurture what clearly appeared to be nurturing relationships with their, rather large and growing, families? it's rare to run across such fruitful bi-vocational ministers. my hat's off to them!

when will the acts 29 crew and the emergent cohorts finally reach a detente? both of these movements of the Spirit shared similar origins before they diverged in a wood. i hope one day we all learn not simply to quote, but to passionately live out the old reformation credo: in essentials, unity. in non-essentials, liberty. in all things love.

why do i have the bladder of an eight year old girl? why!?

that's all for now. if you have questions about our visit or would like to drop a comment, correction or critique, please feel free.

* you can see the first post, which focuses on the gathering, kieran and i's home community, here.
** or liturgy.
*** in my opinion anyhow.