Thursday, September 29, 2005

Northwest "Power" Living

Living in the Pacific Northwest certainly has its benefits. However, there are also idiosyncracies. When the first good autumn storm hits, many of the gorgeous trees that have been damaged over the summer are tested. And so it was today. The high winds and rain arrived after midnight last night, and nearby tree #1 fell on a power line about 3am. The power finally struggled on at 8am. I was hesitant to plug my computer in, because when a storm hits, it often expresses multiple personalities.

When the power is out, our cable is down. Because I have a cable high speed internet connection, when the cable is out, there is no internet access. I'm glad I waited. An hour or two later we heard a big crash which we assumed to be a tranformer blowing, but, after a surge or two, this time the power remained on. But I was still spooked. Good thing. An hour later the power disappeared again, this time for several hours. Another tree had taken out more nearby power lines. So, finally, at days end, I was able to get everything going again.

One last thing, however. There is a certain offbeat beauty about a dark, foreboding, wind-swept storm. Sitting at home by the wood stove as the storm rages brings an odd sort of comfort. But now that the storm has passed, it looks like it's time to pick up the beat again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Brain Cramp

Writer's cramp in the old days occurred in the hand and wrist. In today's hi-tech world it happens in the brain. Try as I might today, nothing materialized in the word world.

I did have a lot to do, but writing is such a formidable (and enjoyable) part of me I usually can come up with something. Not today, for some reason. The only thing I could muster up today was a reactionary comment on my son's blog
-- certainly nothing noteworthy. Some days are like that. The picture depicts my brain's activity today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Acknowledging an Apparent Inconsistency

If you've read the last several of my blog posts, you may have picked up on an apparent inconsistency. I wanted to acknowledge that it's there. Late last week I had a post about the used boat that I/we recently purchased, and then in the immediately following post ragged on about how the influence of John Wesley was affecting my life with regard to sharing what we have with those less fortunate.

Well, let me try to explain (rationalize?:-). Boating has been a part of my/our lives for many years because I love to fish and a boat provides excellent access to same, especially where we live. I consider neither fishing nor boating an OVERindulgence, but rather a normal recreational outlet of which I have few. At the same time I'm trying to learn and be sensitive to possible overindulgent living. Balance is what I believe we should strive for in all areas of living.

So, in that regard, my wife and I are going through the process of evaluating all of what we possess and we are prayerfully considering how we should use what we have to live consistently as followers of Christ and his teachings, which call upon us to help others who need it. In time, we may even discover that the boat will have to go.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A "Lighter" Note - Meet the Teletubbies

After two days of "heavier" posts, it's time to take a break from serious stuff. For some reason I was reminded today of the motorbike excursion three of us took this past June on Quadra Island in British Columbia just off Vancouver Island. I assure you we had had nothing to drink; we were just happy to be together. That's Ed Wall on the left, Ted Petersen in the center and silly Grandpa on the right (actually we're all grandpas - just one is silly). For some reason which I can't remember, the fourth guy, Mike Silkwood, in our group of couples who took the trip, didn't go with us on this high speed zoom around the island. We earned the nickname, The Teletubbies (I wonder why). These four couples have been friends since the dark ages when we all lived near each other in the San Jose area and attended the same church, except for the Petersens.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Overcoming Dualistic Thinking

For many in my generation it’s been very easy throughout our lives to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil and fidelity from fault. I considered myself as good at it as anyone. But I’m being a bit facetious here. We (my generation) may have thought we could make these distinctions quite instinctively, but how are our views holding up in the post-modern world in which we live?

We were, after all, raised by a generation who clung to high standards of character, behavior, and deportment. And we hoped we pretty much stayed the course with regard to rearing our kids. Now, kids of my generation have grown into adults, some even approaching middle age. My case may be quite different from yours, but I’m finding that my sons have quite contrasting ways in which they discern truth than those of my era. And as difficult as it is to face, I’m finding that their processes of seeking truth, justice and the moral way seem to hold up quite a bit better than mine – or at least they stand up better to intense scrutiny.

For us. right was right and wrong was wrong, and we knew (were told) the difference. And if we strayed, look out ‘cause G-O-O-O-O-D (God) was watching. In my case, those childhood learned “rights and wrongs”, “goods and bads” pretty much carried forward into adulthood without much critical thought about them (an example of “skewed Christian formation” as pointed out to me by my more learned sons).

As an example, I was always taught the typical mid-America mores: go to school, study hard, get good grades, work hard, apply yourself. If you do all those things, you can’t help but be successful. And success in a capitalistic society brings a degree of wealth. Here’s the problem: To my best recollection, never once in my upbringing was I ever challenged with the immorality of wealth and consumption in our culture when compared with most of the world. Not from parents. Not from church. And not from school until college – and even then, if you took a course which dealt with western overindulgences, you thought the instructor was a commie.

We took great pride in thinking that we were better than the rest of the world because we had engineered an economic system which brought us so much more, but we totally ignored the immorality of the disparity. At the same time, interestingly, we sure were aware of and understood all the pitfalls of promiscuity, lieing, cheating, stealing, gossiping and hating. We figured out how to profitably navigate morality in our little micro world, but we had no clue that the pursuits of our then fairly isolated sector of the globe would eventually have an effect on the rest of the planet.

The stark reality is that because I was born here in America I was given all this opportunity. This country is a wonderful place, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But in my dualistic world "our way" was equated with being good, right and just. I never considered all these benefits as a chance of birth. I never even thought about the poor hombre just south of our border who works six and seven days a week from sun-up to sunset to earn in a month what we can earn in a week or even a day. And if I did ever consider it, I was thankful I wasn't him. (Why did my mind stop there?)

Don’t misunderstand me. Our capitalistic system has brought just about the greatest everything to our lives. But it is not ALL good (as in a black and white world). The immorality begins to creep in when we discover the unbelievable imbalance both in our riches and in our consumption of resources relative to the rest of the world. And we are moral failures in my view – especially as Christians – when we blindly continue in our ways.

It’s been easy for me all these years to justify my way to a fat and full life. Now I need to confront the very harsh truth that for me to live as I do is an injustice to those who cannot. At the same time I’m a realist. I could give everything away that I have, and it wouldn’t make a dent in poverty. I don’t think that’s the point. In a nuanced world – in contrast to a “black and white” world – we who have the ability to think, read the scriptures, follow the teachings of Christ, and apply them to our lives so it will affect those around us, have an obligation to start somewhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

John Wesley may be my spiritual emancipator

Ok, it’s time to tackle some issues that have some meat. In the half-dozen or so previous blog posts, I’ve just been practicing on training wheels for the real stuff. So far, most everything has been rambling fluff – and that’s fine. But the real reason I’m blogging is, yes, to have fun, but also to chew on issues of life and living that have a degree of meaning and purpose.

As my sons are well aware (who both have been of immense help in the late years of my journey – one’s a senior pastor with an MDiv in theology and the other is an assistant university professor with a PhD in theology), my struggle for spiritual authenticity has taken several turns. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment in the midwest, I necessarily have come away with a lot of restrictive (and probably unnecessary) baggage. My sons have (correctly) implied that due a lot to this baggage, my Christian formation has developed somewhat askew. This is a knotty problem for one who is supposed to be a “mature” person.

I’ve always maintained that all of life (daily grind, the past, the future, the universe, God & science, for starters) needed to come to some sensible co-existence – at least in my thinking. I now realize that the complexities and intricacies of an infinite God cannot begin to be fathomed by us finites. Of course we have some clues. Even evidences. But can it (or should it even?) come together just so I or any human can feel “comfortable” in our belief system?

From this restraining fundamentalist youth (we knew explicitly what NOT to do, but we had little clue as to how we WERE to act as a Christian) I continued to struggle inwardly with what I was being taught (it didn’t make good sense to me even then). During and after college I “evolved” to become a practicing Baptist. A few things improved, but the total focus was still in “getting people saved”, nothing of which is wrong with that in and of itself. However, little was in place to teach us HOW to live fully and fulfillingly as a follower of Christ - to say nothing of our inability to receive authentic theological teaching.

I wallowed in this quagmire for close to 30 years, experimenting with the tenets of various “spiritual gurus” and theories of faith. I even became a Presbyterian, thinking that to be an improvement of sorts. But the dilemma continued, and the quagmire almost swallowed me. I now wonder how my growing sons found any meaningful faith at all in the midst of all this. But the grace of God is truly boundless.

For my 60th birthday, my son Doug (the prof) gave me a book called Rethinking Wesley’s Theology by Randy Maddox, then a Wesleyan Theology professor at Seattle Pacific University – in Seattle, Washington, of course. Maddox combined over a dozen essays about the life and theology of John Wesley, all written by scholars who had extensively studied his works. Inside the cover my son scribed, “To Dad – Happy Birthday and Best Wishes on your theological journeys. Love Doug.” This book was the springboard to my finally experiencing freedom and fullness in my faith journey.

For me, the book was an introduction to John Wesley, not a rethinking. Of all the reformers, Wesley, to me, got it most right. He carried forth just enough of the “traditions” of faith (he came out of the Anglican Church of England) and founded a wonderful “synthesis of faith” (my words) in the sprouting Methodist conference. I had been struggling mightily with Calvin’s concepts of “election” and “predestination” though taught them all my life from fundamentalism through the Baptists and of course later on as a Presbyterian. Wesley, on the other hand, was Arminian in his posture which allows for true “free choice” with regard to accepting or rejecting any or all of God’s revelation and, consequently, in my view, maintains the integrity of God's salvific provision.

I could go on and on. Wesley’s sermons and writings have truly brought back an exuberance and strong desire for me to experience Christian living in a fresh new way. One of the factors in Wesley’s theology is his passion that we as Christians must put shoe leather on our faith by living responsibly in all areas of our life – and at the same time literally share our abundant (western world) means with those who have so much less. I have an immense amount to learn in this arena, but at least now I’ve opened the door to explore it. John Wesley just may be my spiritual emancipator.

By the way, Rethinking Wesley’s Theology by Randy Maddox is available on . And if you'd like to check out another Blog which is full of exciting things on the Christian life, check out my son Gregg's blog:

Friday, September 23, 2005

Boat Fever

In the year+ we have lived at water's edge, the passing boats (adjacent pic) have slowly eroded my ability to withstand buying one. It's been as if each passing boat was another drop in the chinese water torture. Well -- no more.

I/(reluctant) "we" finally succombed and took the plunge into boat ownership (once again). We now have a "pre-owned" Canadian-made Campion boat parked on a trailer down in front of the house. Middle pic (taken at another location) is the front starboard view and bottom pic is the interior view. Though it's technically a 19-foot "runabout", it's just large enough to have a nice little cuddy cabin up front and enough area on the main (and only) deck to adequately move around to fish properly.

Since I took these pics, I have added down-riggers (to be able to hit the salmon on the head and knock them silly so they'll be easy to catch no matter how deep they are :-), a full GPS mapping electronic system (so we "can't" get lost and end up in Japan), a kicker (trolling) motor and a bunch of safety equipment. Even got a "porta-potty" so the women can discreetly relieve any discomfort behind closed cabin doors.

I think, in time, we'll christen the boat "Finn Fantasy" (catch the double entendre? :-). We've already had it in the water but not enough to fish yet. Hopefully that can be accomplished in the next few days. Fishing, of course, is the real reason I/we got the boat. So many salmon and so little time....

Autumnal Equinox

The furnace came on before dawn this morning for the first time this Fall. Of course Fall has only been here a scant 19 hours, but it was interesting to me that on the first full day of Autumn it got cold enough the night before to kick the heat on.

Here in the Northwest, the advent of Fall is of some note. Not in and of itself, but for its many ramifications. Most of us here have a furnace/heat pump combo which allows you to set your thermostat at high and low end limits. If it's too cold, the furnace comes on; if it's too hot the heat pump and related airconditioning kick in. Since late March or April the heat pump has had its share of use, as we've had perfect summer weather -- which still requires air conditioning with all our sun-exposed windows (ponder this: why does a HEAT pump provide air conditioning? Why do you slow down for a speed bump? Etc., etc. ad nauseum). Never once to my recollection has the furnace come on since late Spring. But now this rather innocuous event heralds many anticipatory occurrences.

The days will become increasingly more cloudy (hopefully not for some time yet so we can get some salmon fishing in), and there will be less and less sun breaks among the stretches of cloudy days. Rainy days will increase and will last several days in a row -- hopefully not as much as the 100+ straight days of rain back in 2003. We'll also have to pull out the long pants, sweaters and sweat shirts to help combat the season's chill. Though I was a Californian for more than 35 years and learned to enjoy the sunshine as a steady friend, I am now reprogramming the psyche to learn to accept -- and even enjoy -- the variety of seasonal changes. However, it can be hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Closing Out Port Ludlow

Just as we were about to leave the Inn, a float plane landed and docked near our window. A group of six guys jumped out, golf bags in hand, and headed for the championship course nearby. They must have won a sales contest or something; what a fabulous way to spend an afternoon!
We took a slight detour on the way home to have a late lunch in historic Port Townsend. Middle photo is one of the restored 19th century downtown buildings. We found a quaint eatery, the Belmont Hotel & Saloon, housed in a building which was built in 1885 -- all brick with rustic wood beams now supporting the structure. From its deck we watched the Port Townsend - Keystone (Whidbey Island) ferry chug by and enjoyed an incredible lunch. Then we headed home -- for a nap!

Morning at Port Ludlow Inn

This is the early morning view from our room at Port Ludlow Inn. We've now enjoyed our fresh-brewed Pegasus coffee -- from Bainbridge Island ironically -- and our "free" continental breakfast (quite good, actually -- not just carb city) and are debating whether to kayak, bikeride or relax in our luxurious suite. Take a guess what we did...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Port Ludlow Inn

Well, we're here. And is it beautiful! Top pic is the main building of the Inn (there are other condos, rentals, etc.). Bottom photo is of the adjacent Marina which has guest moorage if one desires. We should have come by boat! Now we're off to enjoy the place...

On the Way to Port Ludlow

The trees are already starting to change in northwest Washington as witnessed by these in Port Gamble. We stopped there on our way toward Port Ludlow. We grabbed a bite to eat at the Port Gamble General Store, which had a sandwich shop and sidewalk cafe (the top pic). Homemade pea soup really hit the spot as the Fall nip is already in the air.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Port Ludlow Here We Come

This past March we celebrated our 40th anniversary. We wanted it low-key, and fortunately our kids honored our request. Their gift to us was a gift certificate to the fabulous Port Ludlow Inn only about an hour's drive away. We put off going to the resort during the busy summer, but now it's time to enjoy their wonderful gesture. If you check their website you'll catch a glimpse of the wonderful amenities which will be at our whim. So, THANKS, Gregg, Elaine, Doug & Jamie, for a PERFECT anniversary present. We'll be back in a couple of days

What will help in the Katrina/Rita aftermath?

The visual images from Katrina's aftermath are sobering. Recovery -- from our perspective -- is overwhelming. What can the average person do, other than contribute some cash, to be of help?
When you're retired, like I recently have become, the obligation to do more than just "relate" and "well-wish" or send a few bucks is looming larger each day. My wife agrees. We took the first steps to do something more this past week by contacting both the Red Cross and World Vision web sites to begin the process of making ourselves available for something tangible which we could contribute to this worthy effort. I noticed online that there are a myriad of volunteer needs in both organizations which are doing a mighty work so far. I have no idea where this will lead, but we'll trust that God will direct us in this regard.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

First Post

This is the start of an exciting new phase of life for me -- managing a Blog. Let's see what happens along the way...