Archive for March, 2009

Orthopedic Surgery

Monday Morning, March 30, 2009

Lorey Dan is one of the more popular teachers over there at Travis Ranch School in Yorba Linda.  No surprise that she teaches language arts to junior high kids – she’s got a sharp, quick wit, and an irrepressible sense of humor. 

So this weekend, when she tipped over while piloting a snowmobile with her husband Larry on the passenger seat, and stretched her right leg to the side on the snow covered slope to keep it all upright and snapped both the fibula and tibia just above her ankle, she was, through the pain, making jokes.  Her husband stood by her side.  There was nothing he could do, really, but wait.  Our radio-equipped guide roared to the scene.

Pushing it to the limit is nothing new for Lorey.  She’s always been fearless; aggressive on a pair of skis on the slopes or on a ski behind a high-power boat.  Larry always loves watching her cut loose – she’s as competitive as he is.

We all rushed to the crest in our rented two-cycle vehicles.  We stopped on the hilltop and Larry explained.  It didn’t look good. 

Just a few minutes earlier, we had been set free by our guide to open up those swift snowmobiles in a broad high altitude meadow up there on Mammoth Lakes mountain.  We would test our mettle against machine and snow; the sky a deep cloudless blue and the horizon filled in with rocky white granite peaks.   Tall deep green pine trees formed a border a mile wide in each direction.  The open field was an expanse of gleaming, glittering white.  The action out there was reminiscent of jet-skis criss-crossing an open harbor jumping wakes and waves.  Up until this moment, there were ten or twelve of us racing back and forth on snowmobiles to the sound of whining internal combustion engines pushed on up to their limits.  But now the mountain air went silent around one of our gang of winter adventurers down and injured and enduring the onset of considerable, intense pain.

Our guide didn’t win over any affection from our crew.  He seemed intent on little more than absolving himself of any personal or corporate responsibility in the matter, even though we had signed away any possible recourse against him or his company back at the rental shed.  He went on reciting all the rules and repeating lines from his orientation session as though none of us had been listening back before we started our engines.  I nearly spoke up.  The rest of us, including the ski patrol guys who had been summoned by radio, were more concerned about Lorey than liability.   She lay motionless in the snow.  She told us not to worry about her – we should go have fun.  When they attempted to splint her leg, we heard her involuntary cry.

They hooked up a sled behind the ski patrol’s snowmobile, secured her in, and we watched them pull away making the return trip from the wide meadow back to a waiting ambulance.  Larry followed behind now solo on his machine.   We all agreed, the bumpy trail would be painful.


Lorey on the Ski Patrol Sled

Lorey on the Ski Patrol Sled


So that night, Lorey endured a three and a half hour surgery where one of the finest orthopedic teams in the nation went to work on the nasty break.  They installed rods and plates, repairing tiny pieces of fragmented bone.  Larry waited patiently in the lobby.  The other six of us dined at the Lakanuki in the Village.

“Don’t worry about us,” was the last thing Larry and Lorey said to us back at the hospital.  Funny thing.  They meant it.

* * * * *

It’s Monday morning.  We are leaders, you and me.  Sometimes we get a weekend away with friends and we venture out into the unknown and then the unexpected alters our plans.

I don’t know if Lorey grasps fully how much she is loved by so many.  She’s about to find out.  She’s a teacher, a Mom, a spouse, a friend.  As we gathered first in our condo and then around her hospital bed, we asked God to help her just let it go for a while.  To rest.  To recover.

I was there when the surgeon informed her – she’ll be on crutches for three to four months.  “So I won’t be in class on Monday?” she asked. 

“No,” the doctor answered gently. 

Larry stood by as Lorey let that one sink in.  Lorey carries around a portable list of tasks she takes seriously.  It’s an impressive collection of heavy responsibilities.  It all flooded over her as she imagined herself immobile for the next couple of weeks.

And now, it’ll take an army of friends to step in and do what Lorey does any ordinary day. 

Because Larry and Lorey are the kind of people who have spent a lifetime giving themselves away, that army is ready to go.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2009

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Left Brain/Right Brain

Monday, March 23, 2009

When I first read about the research back in the seventies, I was intrigued.  It caught my attention, I think, because I am left-handed and us lefties always feel like we are somehow qualitatively different than everyone else.  Beyond a reliance on the opposite hand, exactly how we are out of the ordinary remains sketchy. 

We all know that the world was built for right-handers.  Through the centuries, lefties have complained of persecution.  Suffered abuse.  Even the Bible speaks somewhat disparagingly about us here and there.  Heck, the word for “correct” is right.   Get it? 

Me… well, I’ve just had find a way to get over it.

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not a pure lefty like say, Phil Mickelson.  (He’s a good example because with Phil, there’s no hiding it.  Lefties on the Tour are so rare you can spot Mick on any Sunday afternoon in high definition from three hundred yards out.)  I write with my left hand.  Eat left.  Think left.  But most everything else is right handed – including golf, racquetball, throwing a ball and bowling.  Let’s just say I’m confused.

So I was intrigued by the research in the past half century.  It indicates a fundamental shift in the understanding of the two hemispheres of the gray matter floating just inside the bony sphere of a skull we all carry around.  It was once believed that one half dominated the other.  Now, we understand that the two halves of our brain process information differently.  Our thinking always lives in tension between the two halves – one linear the other spatial.  The left half is where language develops and we assemble information in a straight line of thought and action.  It processes data and writes formulas and creates graphs and measures distances.  The right half of the brain is entirely different.  It sees shapes and colors.  It recognizes smells, and associates experience with memory.  It triggers feelings and senses trends.  It interprets and synthesizes.

The first book I read on the subject a long time ago made the modest suggestion that all Western Civilization is left-brained.  Everything from the cataloguing of The Great Books to encyclopedias to industrialization and engineering and space travel and machinery and census taking are all activities of the left brain.  Standardized tests (like the S.A.T.) and the obsession with quantifying and measuring and analyzing are all left brain fixations.  The unforgettable illustration had to do with drawing a simple picture.  Most American kids can’t draw by third or fourth grade, according to the theory, because their right brain has been suppressed by a left brain educational system.

There’s a simple test to illustrate the point.  You can try it.  The results will astound you.  Try drawing a simple reproduction of an automobile.  Use a magazine or coloring book as your source.  Unless you are already an artist, you’ll have trouble getting it right.  In fact, you’ll hear yourself say you simply can’t do it.  You’re lousy.  No good.  You’ll have to overcome the inner voice of defeat.  After you finish, try it again.  This time, turn the photo upside down and draw your own inverted image of the same subject.  When you are done, turn your drawing right side up and compare it with your first.

Why is the second so much better?  You tricked your pessimistic left brain.  You tapped into the creative power of your right brain.

So when I was asked to speak this summer to a room full of all things, church business administrators, I was asked to address this subject.  When I confessed that I am something less than an expert in this field, the man in charge didn’t seem concerned.  Maybe it’s my left-handedness that caused me to agree to speak.

I’ll admit to you here and now that the whole thing fascinates me.

It explains a lot about how we divide ourselves up in this modern world of ours: science/art, conservative/liberal, Mars/Venus, Skinnerian/Freudian, masculinity/femininity, Calvinist/Arminian, West/East, Republican/Democrat, Reformed Church/Emerging Church, Legalist/Libertarian, and so on.  Left Brain/Right Brain. 

So I’m reading a popular business book called “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” by Daniel H. Pink.  He’s making the not-so-modest case that in our brave new world Left Brained folks must prepare themselves for the take-over of Right Brainers.  All the left-brain activity that brought us to this place of dominance in the global marketplace is now being outsourced abroad.  Linear jobs have either gone to India and China or to a computer processor.  What remains is for us all to learn to embrace the right hemisphere of our brains.

Pink also explains that the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body and vice versa.  If you are still with me, you’ll see how my left-handedness plays into all this.  This left hand of mine is controlled by my right brain.  Ha!

So on this Monday morning, as a leader, don’t let your linear, analytical left brain hold you back.  Sing a song.  Draw a picture.  Set aside the calculations and the data base and stop trying to force your life into a formula.  Set aside the how to manual, and read a novel.

Let beauty, love and joy set your imagination lose.  Create.  Watch a cloud.  Think metaphor. 

It’s the right thing to do.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009

More on Left Handedness

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The Radio Preacher

Monday morning, March 16, 2009

It’s not common for a mainline denominational pastor to be a hero in an academy award winning film, but that’s what happened this year.  What’s even better is that the real life character that inspired the screen actor is grandfather to two friends of mine (they are cousins).

This preacher feared no one.  In the roaring twenties, when the consumption of alcohol was a violation of federal law and Al Capone ran Chicago and the Patrick J. Kennedy ran Boston, Los Angeles kept pace with the other major cities in America.  Crime went unchecked.  Guns and grit controlled the streets.  These were the days of economic boom.  Values were high.  The stock market made millionaires.  Unemployment was virtually non-existent.  Parties were extravagant and frequent.  Some consider it a period of moral and ethical anarchy.

“Fighting Bob Shuler,” pastored the largest Methodist Church in Los Angeles.  His technical guys set up a broadcasting tower on the roof of the church and secured a clear channel on the radio.  Shuler’s people, like all Angelinos, suffered at the cruel hands of a get-tough police force that commonly shot first and questioned later.  On-the-spot justice was commonplace.  Some called them massacres.  All this covered up corruption at the highest levels.  It pulled all of Shuler’s prophetic triggers.  The episodes of people in high places breaching the public trust unleashed a barrage of sermonic condemnations from the pulpit and over the air.  It was the lax attitude toward illegal drinking at the highest levels of government.  But lawlessness went far beyond illegal consumption of alcohol.  There were generous bribes; the courts were for sale to the highest bidder; a good-old boy network left the people of Los Angeles vulnerable to the whims of the underground.  Organized crime grew as fast as the stock market and the gross national product.  Young J. Edgar Hoover began his career in the rough and tumble era of the Twenties.

When the good reverend caught the chief of police red-handed walking out of a speakeasy, clearly stone drunk, with two equally inebriated women, one on each arm, neither one his wife, he went directly to his microphone to report the sighting to the entire city.  That put the preacher at odds with the powers that be.  It landed him in a jail cell for a few days.  The entire episode only made him more credible to his listeners and his parishioners.  He is a legend of ecclesiastical history in the City of the Angels.

The film chose to use the name of Shuler’s colleague in the cause and fellow Angelino clergyman for the feature length film.  Reverend Gustav Briegleb, a Presbyterian, became the screenplay’s character for the film.  The well-known and loved actor, John Malkovich, plays the role.  Ron Howard directed the movie until he ran into a scheduling conflict (the production of Frost/Nixon).  The script was so interesting and so talked about in Hollywood that Howard convinced another high profile friend into taking his place as director – Clint Eastwood.

I suppose another draw for Eastwood was the main character of the film, Angelina Jolie (Christina Collins).  Eastwood dropped whatever else he was doing and showed up.  He jumped right into Ron Howard’s spot, and completed the film.

I’ve speculated with my friends Ed and Bob (Shuler).  Perhaps the reason their grand-father’s name didn’t make it into the film is because of potential confusion with the well-known pastor of the Crystal Cathedral (their names are spelled differently).  The moviemakers went with the Presbyterian.  But Fighting Bob Shuler was the man.

The film is disturbing.  And powerful.  Christine Collins (Jolie) is an ordinary woman whose husband left her and her eight-year-old son alone to fend for themselves.  She is a telephone operator supervisor on roller skates whose work kept her away long enough for her son to disappear without explanation one work-day.  Her loss draws her into the blatant corruption of the city at every level. Her primary advocate is the good reverend.

The screenplay, written by newcomer J. Michael Straczynsk, came to light as a true story because the archives surrounding one of the city’s worst serial murder cases in history were about to be destroyed.  Straczynsk recognized immediately the potential of the true story and took a full year to uncover the detail.  Christine Collins emerged as an extraordinary woman who, in the aftermath of losing her boy one ordinary day, survived the tactics of a corrupt and cruel department to silence her.  She objected because they gave her the wrong boy and called it a triumph.  Their response included a blatant attempt to put her away for good in a “psychopathic ward.”  The preacher and his friends helped her cope.  And overcome.

It’s a riveting piece of story-telling.  A period piece.  The Changeling is a story of triumph and hope in the face of cruel odds.  Justice prevails.  I would have liked the film even without the personal connection.  But the portrayal of my friends’ grandfather added a strong element of interest – calling us back to a time when a pastor was both shepherd and guardian.

It’s Monday morning.  You are a leader.  The link between 2009 and 1929 seems to grow stronger by the day.  Stories of corruption in the first decade of the new millennium emerge regularly in the headlines that rival those of the Roaring Twenties when Model T Fords carried guys with big lapelled suits and hats up and down the streets late at night with their machine guns at the ready and fear reigned supreme.  Then one fateful day in 1929, the bottom fell out.

We’re still in something of a freefall ourselves in 2009.  But Fighting Bob Shuler is an inspiration, along with his pal Gustav Briegleb.  It was a righteous indignation that called a city back to its biblical foundation, calling its leaders to account.

And hope made a comeback.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009

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…in the Dalit Freedom Network of Schools

Saturday February 28, 2009 for Monday, March 9, 2009 

I saw the schedule.  And as Joseph would mention the next morning in the worship service at Good Shepherd Community Church, it was a carefully crafted program.  Each participant was informed in advance of order, timing and time constraints.  The program was scheduled to begin at five o’clock and would end promptly at 8:03 PM.  That’s what the planning spreadsheet said.

There were delays.  The most significant was a traffic jam in the city caused by the arrival of a national political candidate. His appearance brought the already clogged streets to a standstill.  Cell phones reported in… cars and busses and VIPs would be delayed.  So much for the time sheet.

It meant that we spent more time in the hospitality tent, set up for guests to relax and enjoy “high tea.”  That would be a carry-over from the old colonial days; but our hosts had their own OM (Operation Mobilization) version of high tea: Domino’s Pizza, sodas, bottled water.  The tent was a brilliantly colored pattern with tassels and a distinct Indian flair.  Students staffed the facility, and made sure we all had what we needed.  The choices from Dominos included personal sized vegetarian, or if you prefer a cheesy calzone. 

We met people from DFN (Dalit Freedom Movement) Vancouver and others who had come a distance for the celebration.  But most memorable was a long conversation with Joseph’s daughter, who just recently completed medical school.  She is a brand new physician.  She told us about her work in the schools, and the goal to have each Dalit campus focused on health issues; hygiene and preventative medicine.  Our guys were charmed, and issued an invitation for her to come to California and tell her story.  Looks like that will happen in April.

The Canadian contingent included a seventy something man, David, who arrived with his wife, Barbara.  They’ve been married less than a year.  So I knew there was a story here.  David, on Sunday morning, asked me to pray for him.  The following day, Monday, he would participate in the dedication of a school funded in honor of his wife of forty-four years who died a couple of years ago after a long battle with cancer.  He looked into the eyes of his energetic bride, Barbara, and told her that he didn’t want her to be uncomfortable.  “She can handle it,” I said.  And I hugged them both.  One look at her, and you would agree.  She’s got what it takes.

The sky grew dark.  The lights flooded the “arena.”  The stage was ready.  The sound system boomed joyful music.  And someone finally took to the mike and drew the crowd to their seats.

With all the fanfare you might hope for, the Class of 2009 was introduced.  They marched in accompanied by upbeat songs of praise and the crowd stood to their feet in raucous applause.  Each wore a bright turquoise gown with matching cap and tassel.  They also wore broad smiles.  They seemed to grasp the import of the moment.  These are Dalit children who had no hope of receiving the privilege of this level of education.  They are poised to grasp opportunities that would have otherwise been out of reach.  It has been more than a ten-year journey.  This is the first class that started at age six.  Now, they are grown.  Poised.  Confident.  Their teachers and counselors have coached and coaxed and mentored.  Implanted in them are dreams that would have only been fleeting fantasies; but now are possible.  Get to know them, and you would call it more than possible – you’d call it probable.

That’s why tears flowed down the cheeks once more of our tough band of brothers; the parents and dignitaries seated around us, too.  We looked over at Joseph and Miriam D’souza, and we could only imagine what he must be feeling with the new three-story Good Shepherd High School as a backdrop for the scene.  Their daughter, the other Dr. D’souza, stood beside us.  Wet lines from her eyes ran down her glowing cheeks.  Her presence speaks volumes about the quality of the home in which she developed into an extraordinary woman – who will make her own mark on the nation.

My iPhone captured the audio.  There was a long succession of speeches – from national politicians to college professors to activists in freedom’s cause.  The children made speeches and three or four troups provided colorful dance.  All of it recorded by an internationally known professional cameraman, Abe.  He was all over the scene with his high definition camera.  The guys are going to produce a video record of the event – it will be stunning and emotionally charged.

For us Yorba Linda guys, a highlight was Matthew’s word of encouragement.  It was carefully prepared and filled with pathos.  Matthew’s pastoral gene kicked in full on as he addressed teachers and parents and partners and then best of all, the graduates.  He challenged them to take what they’ve been given – and to change a nation.  It was a powerful moment.  Then he prayed.

Finally, Dr. D’souza took to the microphone.  He was clearly overwhelmed by the landscape.  He began humbly in his mission work, him and his Dalit wife.  The work was painfully slow.  Converts were few.  And then God’s spirit broke lose and a new vision was unleashed.  It has inspired people from around the world, including a significant new partner – Friends Church in Southern California.

Matthew and I will write a full chapter on this event.  After the ceremony, he stood with a graduate, her mother and her grandmother for a photo.  The girl lived in Pipe Village when they met.  Pipe Village no more, Matthew said.  They were all weeping tears of joy.

Freedom from Pipe Village.  Global Freedom.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2009

Written at the Green Park Hotel, Hyderabad

Ken’s Global Freedom Blog

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Dr. D’souza

Monday, March 2, 2009

I’m not ready to make the parallel between this Indian social reformer and say, Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln or William Wilberforce or Martin Luther for that matter.  It would be a stretch to suggest that he is poised to have this level of national impact.  But there is the clear sense that his inspiration comes from leaders like these; and perhaps the revolutionary course he has carved out for himself will lead him in this direction.  Maybe someday, the entire nation will know his name.  Maybe the world.

As a young collegian, I was content to be an observer.  I was not prepared to accept the consequences of a headlong jump into the protest movements of our time.  There was tumult all around.  Assassinations.  Marches.  Speeches.  Riots.  Action groups.  Sit-ins.  Shut-downs.  The generation gap split families apart – sons and daughters writing off their parents as hopeless conformers.  Parents writing off their children as hopeless dropouts.  Me?  Generally, I played it safe. 

I was curious enough.  I read the literature.  I spent two years on a university campus embroiled in the student revolution.  My classmates were anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-industrial military complex, anti-capitalist and anti-government.  Freedom showed up on banners and generally meant freedom from oppressive rules and restrictions so there was free love, free drugs and free concerts.  The other six years of formal education I hid away in Christian schools with students and faculty who were pretty much like me.

So for the most part, I kept my distance.  I knew about the civil rights movement.  But I didn’t give it a lot of thought.  I came close to being drafted, but truth be told, I did what I could to avoid it.

And somehow, it was easier just to stay aloof.  Now, a little later in my life, I’ve come across a real life Christian who has done anything but play it safe, keep his distance, stay aloof.  He has dedicated his life to securing the freedom of a people from a dreadful systemic injustice that has been in place for three thousand years.  His work has inspired me to rethink some things.

We met with him on the day of our arrival in India in his spacious office.  We are here because it is a week of significant celebration for Dr. Joseph D’souza and his staff.  For most of his career as a Christian missionary, he has studied the plight of some three hundred million Indians who have been labeled by their Hindu religion as “untouchables.”  Dalits.  He even married one.  She’s an elegant woman with bright eyes and a quick wit and the racial divide that keeps people segregated in this country had no affect on his determination to make her his bride.  Now after all these years, D’souza’s team has made substantial progress in bringing an entire people group to a place of dignity and opportunity.  And in many ways, it is only the beginning.

So we gathered with over a thousand people last night, many of them here from distant parts around the world, to celebrate an impossible milestone – the high school graduation of a collection of Dalit children.  When they started, there were no schools for Dalits.  They don’t even rank to be included in Hinduism’s caste system.  They are excluded from religious life, political life, economic life and social life. 

It’s an injustice that D’souza finds intolerable.  So he started schools.  He recruited teachers.  He brought a message of hope and new identity.  He talked about freedom – freedom from the tyranny of an ancient system of cultural norms that robbed an entire people group of their dignity as human beings.  His message is rooted in biblical truth and the love of Jesus.  He’s not out to forcibly convert these vulnerable people, as his Hindu critics have charged.  He simply declares that Jesus loves the Dalits.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.  They bear the imprint of their creator; and they have full access.

There has been opposition.  But is has not deterred Dr. D’souza; or those who share his conviction.  And now, some twelve years later, there are over eighty schools providing education in English, in the basic disciplines, good nutrition and most of all a strong foundation in healthy self-awareness and confidence in a future brimming with opportunity.

To say that I’ve been inspired would be a serious understatement.

As a fellow leader with you on this Monday morning, I’m asking myself some serious questions.  The headlong pursuit of material accumulation this past decade has brought us all to a precarious place.  Maybe it’s time to rethink.

Dr. D’souza’s commitment to the children of the Dalit world inspires a new way to think about investing in a new generation.  Not so much our money (there’s less of that to go around these days).  But our values.  Our faith.  Our confidence that comes from the God who made us for a purpose.

As we immerse ourselves in the lives of those who are far away (as I write, I am on the other side of the globe), it impacts the way we think about those who are around us.  These children are teaching us.

They’ve moved to hope from hopelessness.  To vision from despair.  To enthusiasm from misery. 

We need to hear their voices.  Sense their joy.  Share in their accomplishment.

Maybe these Dalits will show us the way.

Copyright Kenneth E. Kemp 2009

In Hyderabad, India

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