Sunday, December 31, 2006

"New Years Eve Partying" Has Become An Oxymoron

It’s New Years Eve. But we’re not partying.

For my wife and me, the phrase “New Years Eve Party” has long since been an oxymoron. And I couldn’t be happier.

Tonight I’m watching the final NFL game of the regular season on the tube, being played in Chicago. I’ll bet most of my Chicago-area relatives are also either at the game or glued to the tube.

An hour or so ago, my beloved 49ers knocked Denver right out of the playoffs, allowing Kansas City to sneak in the back door at the last minute. Plus my second beloved team, the Seahawks, are in the post season and are assured of playing one more week at the minimum.

Watching a football game is a wonderful alternative to partying. No over eating, no sweaty dance floors, no potential headaches, no icy roads, no having to negotiate impaired drivers, and virtually a full night’s sleep. O, how my focus has changed over the years.

The best thing about bringing in the New Year this way is that, after ceremoniously opening our bottle of Sparkling Cider at midnight, I’ll get a New Year’s kiss from my wife as well as a happy lick/kiss from our dog Buddy. And we won’t have to drive home.

Happy New Year to you and to all. Click here for a fun way to bring in 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sharing Environmental Viruses

Are viruses airborne? Or on stationary surfaces? Or can they jump, like fleas, from person to person?

Not that it really matters. A cold is a cold, and once you get it, it’s pretty much gotta run its course.

My wife caught her cold first. We don’t know from whom or where. Mine could have originated with her or any number of other possibilities.

I’ve learned this. Cold viruses can’t reproduce on surfaces, but they are infectious for a period of time. They can only multiply inside our bodies.

Our mothers telling us to wash our hands often was for good reason. So, to stay free of colds, you’ve got to not touch any surface that might contain a rhinovirus nor breathe in deeply when you’re near someone who’s got one. Sounds like an impossibility to me.

Diagram at left shows how a cold virus attaches itself to your nose lining. Looks like a space vehicle docking with a station. Then it multiplies until it takes over your nasal passages and sinuses. No wonder my head has felt like a balloon for the last two days.

But our colds are getting better now. Did you know you can have a cold and not have symptoms? True.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas –The Coming Together of Heaven and Earth

The imagery of Christmas usually focuses on scenes of the Nativity – a babe born in Bethlehem who was the Savior of the world. And that is all true. We celebrate that historical event today.

But what is its significance?

I am not smart enough nor educated enough to fully contemplate that question. However, Anglican N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham and a favorite theologian of mine, has a lot to offer in this regard.

Expounding on the above imagery, Bishop Wright suggests that not only is Christmas good tidings of comfort and joy, but also it's about “incomprehension, rejection, darkness, denial, stopped ears, and judgment”.

“It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations – and the darkness not comprehending it,” says Wright.

In our recent “discovery” of, and participation in, a more mainline Lutheran church, my wife and I have been enriched over the past few weeks regarding teachings on the Incarnation. And the nuances of the Incarnation are precisely what Bishop Wright is talking about.

He points out that the liberal theology of three decades ago, which denied Christ’s deity, is left wanting when you link Genesis, “In the beginning God made heaven and earth,” and the Gospel of John, “in the beginning was the Word”.

We need to re-learn the difference between mercy and affirmation, he declares. (We need to understand the dissimilarity) “between a Jesus who both embodies and speaks God’s word of judgment and grace and a homemade Jesus who gives us good advice about discovering who we really are”.

This has life-altering implications for those of us who desire to follow Christ. You can read the full text of Bishop Wright’s thoughts here. They are taken from an article in Christianity Today.

You can also click here for an innovative visual nuance concerning the Incarnation. It's a video my son Gregg created and used in a sermon a week ago.

When the Word became flesh, to paraphrase Wright, it was the coming together of heaven and earth.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Very Quiet Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve here and in the North Pole (above), and Santa is already on his way, bringing good cheer and joy wherever he goes.

This day and evening is usually the most exciting day of the year for us. This year, it’s very quiet.

Our “Christmas Eve” was three nights ago when our whole family was here. Tonight, we have great memories and a lot to be thankful for at this significant time.

We had a wonderful church service this morning and we may go to the candlelight service later on from 11pm to midnight. This is the time to give thought and thanks to a great God for visiting our world through the Incarnation and becoming one of us.

May your Christmas Eve be wonderful and meaningful.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Holiday Jaunt To Seattle

Well, it’s eerily quiet around here now, as our kids and granddaughters have gone home to other Christmas celebrations with the other sides of their families as well as at church.

Even our dog Buddy is moping.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. Gregg, Elaine, Talli, Hayley, Aubrey, Grandma and Grandpa all went on a holiday excursion to Seattle.

There we met Doug and Jamie for lunch among the lighted city decorations and were treated with a visit to the very top floor of the building (left photo), where Jamie is employed.

As one would imagine, Seattle was packed with people. After missing one reservation at the Cheesecake Factory because Grandpa became gridlocked in city traffic, we finally settled in to enjoy a wonderful lunch together.

If you’ve been to a Cheesecake Factory and seen their 20-page (book) menu, you know how hard it can be just to make a selection. And everything is scrumptious there.

Almost too full to move, we waddled down the street where Jamie gave us a deluxe tour of where she works on the 50-somethingth floor. The 270-degree view of Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, Lake Union and the city is nothing less than spectacular, and I would have included a photo. But I managed to blur it into infamy (tried to get tricky w/o a flash). The very top left front corner of the building is the conference room from which we viewed the panorama.

Ever gracious, Jamie gave us a wonderful tour that of course included her spacious work area. What a sweet, but well earned, position she has in an incredible setting and with one of Seattle’s finest financial firms. Can this really be work?

To cap off a great outing, we walked across the street to the City Center where there was an exhibit of creatively made Gingerbread Houses. Big ones. One edible example is pictured top right; it’s a replica of Seattle’s Smith Tower, once the city’s tallest building. The creation is made entirely of sugar, frosting and gingerbread.

It was a happy, but tired, family that returned to the home digs last evening.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our Family Christmas

Our family tradition has always been to have lasagna for dinner and open gifts on Christmas Eve. This year, with our sons’ wild schedules, the closest we could get to Christmas Eve and still have everyone together, was this evening.

So we celebrated.

The entire Koskela clan gathered in our home tonight for, yep, grandma’s lasagna and related goodies. Of course during the meal, the kids chomped at the bit to open packages.

Immediately following dinner, tradition also dictates that the kids of all ages first check out the goodies that Mrs. Santa Claus (Grandma) has selected for each one and placed in their personalized stockings. Everyone found a variety of "treasures" in their sock.

Then we alternately opened our gifts, squealing, "oooohing" or "aaaahing" in response to the particular present. That’s four-year-old Aubrey in the photo proudly holding her “angel” gift for Grandma that she made with her own hands. She could hardly contain herself until gift time, but she successfully kept secret the special gift.

We had a wonderful time, and, as usual, we agreed that this was “the best Christmas ever”.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Brother Assists Brother In Steelhead Success!

My son Doug organized and planned the trip and drove his car. He even gave his older brother an early Christmas present – a beautiful steelhead rig (long graphite pole and spinning reel that was perfect for drifting a jig under a bobber).

And it was Gregg (at right) who got the fish, a beautiful, chrome-bright hen with sea lice still clinging to her side (translation: it was so fresh it had come from the ocean in less than a day or so).

This may be the fastest I’ve ever seen anyone get the skunk off a new rig. What it really means, though, is that Gregg is a very savvy steelhead fisherman.

After a two-and-a-half-hour drive from our home, to the west and deep into the Olympic National Park and Forest, we arrived at the Bogachiel River (above), near the small town of Forks. Three world-class steelhead rivers come together in the area – the Bogey, the Calawah and the Sol Duc.

Plus, it’s not far from a state steelhead hatchery which virtually insures that there are fish in the rivers at this time of the year.

Well today, for Gregg, there sure was. The wily fish made three desperate runs downriver, trying it’s hardest to spit the hook. But the fisherman prevailed. Another look: Doug took pic above with Gregg's cell phone cam at river's edge. The steelie was a seven-pounder and stretched a healthy 27-inches. Click here for Gregg's perspective.

It was a fabulous (and very rare) day together for the three of us. Doug and I will get ours next time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

My sons and I after a salmon trip on August 25, 2004

Both of my sons are here tonight, and we're getting our gear ready for a steelhead trip to the Bogachiel River tomorrow. We leave at 4:15 am.

I'm sure both Gregg and Doug will outfish me, and that's just fine. I trained them well.

I will enjoy tomorrow in a way that's inexplicable unless you have sons with whom you share a passion. It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, December 18, 2006

There’s No Place Like Home

After a little more than three and a half days without power, heat or water, our house is once again “connected”. And you can’t imagine how good it feels to be in a warm home.

The inside temperature has come up over 25 degrees today, so the place is once again quite inhabitable.

In spite of it all, we are one of the fortunate ones. About 200,000 homes in the northwest still are cold and uncomfortable without power. Our thoughts and prayers are tonight with those folks.

The juice is flowing once again just in time. Our elder son, his wife and our granddaughters will arrive sometime tomorrow to spend most of the week with us. My other son and his wife will join us throughout the week to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Hopefully, all of us boys will get a steelhead fishing trip in on Wednesday. If we’re successful, you’ll read about it here in the days ahead. Silence on the topic will indicate our disappointment.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Another Day… Another Motel Room

Well, we’re spending a third night in a motel room, as power, water and heat remain absent from our house.

The temperature inside our home was somewhere BELOW 40-degrees this afternoon when we went by to check things out.

A friend from church offered to let us use his spare generator, and that would maybe save some food in the freezer. But without water (we’re on a community well with an electric pump), we can’t do much as far as “living” is concerned, so we declined his kind gesture.

So, we wait it out.

It could be another day or two before we get power restored. We’re one of about 600 nearby homes without power due to fallen trees on local power lines. The main transmission lines have been restored, but the infrastructure is still struggling. It’s more important that the power company focuses on larger outages rather than smaller ones. That’s understandable.

We’re thankful that things aren’t worse.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

70 mph Winds Knock Us Out of the House

I’m writing this sitting in a nice warm motel room about 20 miles from home. The horrendous wind storm has knocked us out (of the house).

With no power, no heat and no water, it became wiser for us to spend evenings and nights in a more temperate place -- not that we’re wimps, or anything, but we were concerned for our dog, Buddy :-).

The pic shows a man in Kitsap County just trying to get to his damaged car in front of his house after winds blew a large tree down that landed right on top of the vehicle (photo from an online newspaper).

During the height of the winds Thursday night I opened the front door to see what I could see. Not much (it was totally dark). But I could hear the 70+ mph winds bellowing up the Puget Sound Passage our house faces.

It sounded just like I imagine a hurricane sounds – just a steady, freight train-loud roar. Fortunately, our home is set back enough so that we were sheltered from the main gusts. To make it even worse, the temps dropped below freezing last night, leaving a real chill even indoors.

We went back to the house today to see if power had come on and to get some clothes for church tomorrow. It had not. So I guess we’re here for another night, at least.

The severe storm that came through Puget Sound beginning late Wednesday has drawn national attention. One thing has become apparent. It’s the largest power outage ever for Puget Sound Energy.

All tolled, about a million homes were without power for at least some time, meaning that maybe as many as two million people were on their own. The power company is in the midst of herculean efforts to get the juice flowing again, but it’s a daunting task.

Fortunately shelters have opened where there is power, and there have been few reports of injury or deaths (or freezings) as a result. For that we can be thankful.

However, I will miss a football game tonight. The motel TV doesn’t have the NFL Network. Buddy's gonna miss the game maybe more than I will. It could be a whole lot worse.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Last Day With California Friends Before Heading Home

First to Santa Cruz…

In the early afternoon on Friday of last week we spent the last few hours on the Santa Cruz side visiting Kay Lynne’s sweet elderly aunt, Beulah.

She still lives on her own in her home, just steps from the ocean cliffs near the landmark Santa Cruz lighthouse. Aunt “Beu,” as we all call her, is still sharp as a tack and getting around just fine. A classically beautiful woman in her prime, and still very attractive, Beu’s greatest asset is that she is a beautiful person – inside and out. She is a pure pleasure to be around.

We thoroughly enjoyed the time with her, catching up on the New side of the family. My wife has three cousins, two second cousins, and two third cousins, all from Beu and her late husband, Lee – Kay Lynne’s mom’s brother.

Then to Morgan Hill…

As evening approached, we returned to San Jose, picked up Darlene and headed for Morgan Hill, some 15 miles to the south. Eddie Wall, my old ad agency partner was driving home from an LA business trip and was to meet us, his wife, and Mike & Gwen Silkwood for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Oooops, wrong partner!

Ed's never seen a naked statue

After we all met at Mike and Gwen’s beautiful Morgan Hill “mansion”, and viewed HD TV in their high tech theater, we headed out to yak it up and get our fill at an Italian eatery. We enjoyed our usual, humor(?)-laden banter. We soon had the wait persons talking to themselves and regretting ever taking our table. But such is common with this irreverent group.

The funniest part of the evening was when the bill came. Buddy Ed and his dear wife had ordered the most expensive entrees on the menu. As Ed picked up the check, he announced, “Down here we always just split the bill by the number of couples; it’s much easier than trying to figure who got what.”

I’ve gotta remember that one. Seriously, Ed & Darlene are probably two of the most generous people we know, so I can needle him. I’m still trying to figure out if he was just testing my humor limit :-).

After dinner we returned to Silkwoods for more
friendly banter and enjoyed some (Marie Callender) pies that Gwen “had slaved over all afternoon”. We flew back home the next morning following a restful Friday night stay back at the Wall’s Almaden home that was gorgeously decorated for the holidays.

That's Ed & Darlene left above & Mike and Gwen at right above.

Hopefully our paths will again cross somewhere up here in the Northwest next Summer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On to the Mt Hermon Christmas Dinner & Concert

On Thursday of last week, after a restful night at the Wall’s home in San Jose, we headed south “over the hill” (that’s what locals call the 1,900-ft high coastal range between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz) to Scotts Valley (another place we once lived for six years) and the nearby Mt Hermon Christian Conference Center.

This was our third or fourth time at the annual Santa Cruz mountain Christmas event, and it features a quaint holiday gift boutique and a very nice buffet dinner, followed by a Christmas music concert in the auditorium.

This year’s guest artists, for the week we were there, were Tim Zimmerman and the King’s Brass from Winona Lake, Indiana (“poor” available light pic at top).

They get a WOW! for a spectacular performance.

Accompanying us to the Mt Hermon concert were Ted and Sharon Petersen, Mike & Gwen Silkwood and Darlene Wall (minus hubby Ed who was in LA).

At evening’s end, we joined Ted & Sharon at their beautifully rustic mountain cabin right on the conference grounds. There we spent the night following a “catch up” on our respective interests and involvements while enjoying the comforts of easy chairs and sofas.

That’s Ted and Sharon in the other photo, taken at the cabin. I’ll include pics of Silkwoods and Walls in the next post. We really enjoyed the time with Ted and Sharon, as it had been about six months since we had seen them. They are the kind of people who enrich your life by just being around them

The Petersens live in Lake Wildwood, a gated community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where the pines are tall and the lake is a short walk from their doorstep. Living on the second hole of the LW golf course just adds fun to everyday goings on. Don’t play Ted for money, however; he’s good. He hits long and very accurately – just the opposite of my golf game.

Sleep came quickly and deeply (I believe I might have snored a bit) in the cool mountain air. Sure hope they can come visit us next summer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Making the Rounds in the Bay Area

Late Wednesday morning of last week we left Discovery Bay and headed to Fairfield, where we last lived in the Golden State, for a meeting with our financial advisor. Of course we had to drive by the house we then lived in. It appeared to be fine.

We then drove south in our rented mini-van (an UN-impressive Mazda MPV) toward San Jose, some 80 miles away, where my wife Kay Lynne had a dinner get-together planned with two of her friends from high school with whom she has stayed close.

She met Lorene Olszewski and Paula Brodick at a restaurant in Valley Fair, the extremely popular Westfield’s mega-mall. Valley Fair is one of Santa Clara Valley’s (and perhaps California’s) very first shopping centers. Macy’s was its first department store, opening in 1956, which became the center’s anchor retailer. The pic is of Valley Fair Macy's today.

Said to be the “best” mall in northern California, with the possible exception of the Stanford Shopping Center, Valley Fair is now all enclosed and is home to more than 200 stores, many quite “upscale”.

Kay Lynne was a Macy’s teen fashion model/consultant there “way back” in high school. All three of the gals were “pom-pom” girls (cheer leaders) together at San Jose’s historic Lincoln High School. I have photos, but I value my life.

The ladies had a great time at dinner, catching up on news and events in their lives. Lorene has two grown sons in the engineering and computer professions while Paula has a son who is in law enforcement.

I find it quite interesting that much like the six of us “Baggar” guys (see last post), my wife has remained close with several friends who also go back a very long way. She has known Lorene, for instance, since kindergarten.

All these “old” friends, however, make our periodic visits to California most enjoyable. More posts to follow on our Bay Area visit of last week.

Monday, December 11, 2006

50-Plus Years and Counting

Last week we were in California visiting many of our long-time friends there. On Tuesday night we enjoyed a restaurant dinner in Discovery Bay with friends we’ve known for 50-plus years.

In case you hadn’t thought about it, that’s half of a century!

The common thread – for the guys at least – was the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, San Jose State and a church-sponsored college group known then as Tri-C.

About that time and in those places we all became friends. Life-long amigos, it turns out.

Let me identify all the neat folks in the photo above, taken at the Klassen’s Bay home following our meal. Left to right in the back row are Joe Medal, Bill Brooks, Ralph Higgins and Bob Rodde. Front row are Dwight Klassen, Gayle Higgins, my wife Kay Lynne (seated), Mary Rodde and Lynnette Klassen.

Dwight, Ralph, Bob, Joe and I all lived together at one time or another during the above mentioned years. We were known as the Baggars. Bill roomed for a short stint with both Joe and Ralph near the end of the time frame. Unfortunately, Joe’s wife and Bill’s wife were unable to be there, but both guys drove some 80 miles from San Jose to join the get-together.

We enjoyed a wonderful, extended evening reminiscing about old times, many humorous, and catching up on what’s going on in all of our lives. Several had been touched by illness and are still in the recovery process. Thankfully, everyone is doing well.

I don’t know if it’s rare, but how many people do you know who have close, meaningful friends of more than 50 years? I’ve known Bob the longest, for 53 years, and Dwight for 50 years this annum.

Bob and I were high school friends, and I met Dwight as a college freshman. I’ve known Ralph and Joe a year or two less, as our paths came together in San Jose at the college group beginning in 1958. Bill joined the fellowship soon after.

The wives blended into the “Baggar Band” at various times along the way and, truth be told, are probably somewhat bored with the repetitive stories each time we assemble. In fact, we guys now just raise fingers to indicate the story number and then laugh like crazy. (Saves re-telling the tale and limits the growing exaggeration.:-)

Rare or not, each one has a special place in my life. And I’m the richer for it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I Don’t Miss Topical Sermons

We’ve been in California this past week visiting a lot of long-time friends, and I’ll have some upcoming posts on that. But we came home a day or two earlier than we might have done otherwise, due to my wife’s Sunday School teaching responsibilities.

On the way home from church today, I came to the realization that we hadn’t heard a topical sermon since we began attending First Lutheran some 16 months ago.

I don’t seem to miss them at all.

In my previous Christian life, our weekly worship experience almost always included a topical sermon. I guess I should make the distinction clear.

Topical sermons are based on current societal events (such as “a statistical increase in premarital sex” or “global warming”) and usually are flaunted with a catchy “with it” title. I could come up with a dozen typical topics, but I’ll spare you.

Well, I just can’t pass up one. Ever seen a topic like this? “Is Global Warming God’s Warning?” You get the picture.

Topical sermons then attempt to snatch scriptures (many times out of context) and create a spiritual hypothesis about the subject. Some of these efforts may actually contain truth but to my way of thinking rarely teach us much about how we ought to meaningfully understand and practice our faith.

Conversely, in our church, sermons always are an exposition of scripture itself. Moreover, they usually follow the lectionary relating to the church calendar, which results, over a period of time, in a broad but relatively complete picture of the Bible’s teachings.

Today, the second Sunday of Advent, our pastor preached on the New Testament lesson taken from the first chapter of Philippians. Paul’s salutation to the Philippians is also a summary of his counsel to that body and also to us. I won’t try to “re-preach” the sermon here but I’ll just mention the highlights.

Pastor Jukam indicated that if we follow Paul’s advice, we should be more intentional about four things: First, to let Christ show through in our living (e.g., how long does it take someone to realize we are followers of Christ?).

Secondly, we should pray regularly and earnestly. Thirdly, we should be joyful in sharing our faith, and fourthly we should let our love overflow so that it affects others.

Sort of simple, yes, but very practical and effective advice from the apostle Paul that we can all benefit from and endeavor to put into practice in our faith walk.

How our climate might relate to a scripture verse here and there is of less relative consequence.

Monday, December 04, 2006

California Sun?

Most of this week we are hopefully enjoying some warm sunshine two States to the south of us, visiting six couples whom I like to kiddingly call our “California Cronies”.

We’ve known all of them for at least 40-plus years, and two of the guys I’ve known for over 50 years, one going all the way back to high school.

We’ll touch both ends of the greater San Francisco Bay Area on this visit, from Discovery Bay up north on the Delta all the way down to Santa Cruz, on Monterey Bay to the south of San Jose.

We have to leave our dog Buddy in a nearby kennel that also houses our vet and animal hospital facilities. That way, if he suffers separation anxiety again and doesn’t eat or drink, they can put him on IV’s till we get back :-).

Actually, my wife likely will have more separation anxiety than Buddy will.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


We’re in a meltdown of snow and ice.

Our weather warmed overnight, and the five or six inches of snow – which covered a thick sheet of ice – is slowly disappearing.

By this afternoon we might even be able to get out safely. It was in an unsafe mode that I drove out and back the past two days.

Our driveway consists of a steep incline. Getting out is not too bad; you just aim the car and hope you can make the turn at the bottom that fortunately heads up hill again to help slow you down.

Getting back in is another matter.

I had to get the car moving – not too fast – on the snow and ice-covered gravel road in front of our house to at least get some momentum in order to make it up the frozen incline. The left turn into our paved uphill driveway provided the first thrill (to somehow avoid a side skid). Coming out of the turn into the driveway, I then had to “gun” it all the way up and let my “on demand “ AWD take charge. Right.

In spite of the AWD, I still fish-tailed precariously close to the drop off edge while ascending, and then I had to hit the brakes in an (un)controlled skid at the top so as not to crash into the garage. A hair-raising experience – but fun in a sick sort of way.

Well, I somehow got the MDX into the garage twice without damage. Thankfully, it’s over for now.

But I think I now could maybe qualify as a stunt driver.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Morning After

The scene above is what it looks like this morning from our vantage point as the sun is trying to make its way above the horizon. You can see the beautiful fresh snow cover on the Olympic mountains in the distance as well as in our driveway and yard in the foreground. (You can click on the photo for a larger version.)

Just a typical November here in the Northwest. Not!

If you were watching Monday night football last night, you saw the snow coming down at Qwest field in downtown Seattle. It was a great game, and the good guys eventually won. But the weather was more Green Bay-like than Seattle-like.

We get a respite of sunshine for most of the day today, but they say another storm is powering up just off the coast. So more of the white stuff is on the way, but after that it’ll all change.

Warm air is behind the next storm, so all the fallen leaves will be soon visible again. Guess I better give the leaf blower a test.

Monday, November 27, 2006

SPU’s “The Sacred Sounds of Christmas” Provides Glorious Launch for the Holy-Day Season

Here’s a holiday recipe: Take a choir of more than 100 voices, add a full symphony orchestra and complement with a resounding pipe organ. Blend the ingredients in a presentation of the finest Christmas music from past and present. Accent with both male and female narration and stage in a setting of Christmas poinsettias and greenery.

The result? Last night’s musical production, The Sacred Sounds of Christmas, presented by the music department of Seattle Pacific University, and held in Seattle’s renowned Benaroya Hall (exterior pic above).

For my wife and me, it was a glorious launch for the upcoming “holyday” season. And to top off a virtually perfect evening, as we exited the building, large, beautiful snow flakes were floating gently through the seasonal lights to the street below.

As SPU President Phil Eaton indicated in his introductory remarks, with all the societal “pressures” currently on Christmas celebrations, this concert affords at least one marvelous opportunity to enjoy the true meaning and splendor of Yuletide expressed in melody.

And so we did.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Time For Thanksgiving

With Fall colors emblazoned across our landscape, we are reminded that it is the time of year when we express our Thanksgiving for the blessings of life.

And so it is with deep gratitude to God, the creator of all and the author of our faith, that Kay Lynne and I wish you a Happy and Wonderful Thanksgiving. May you and yours be richly blessed at this holiday season.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Buddy Is Set For Football Playoffs

Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Buddy, is now set for football playoffs and the Super Bowl, even if the weather is chilly, thanks to my cousin Jim Narva and his wife, Kay, who live in Sunnyvale, California.

Today the mailperson delivered Buddy's beautiful turtleneck pullover sweater, in Seahawk colors no less, from Jim and Kay.

The note in the package indicated it was a thank you gift for when they stayed with us the first weekend in November.

We, in turn, thank them for their perceptive thoughtfulness, and we thoroughly enjoyed having them here as well.

Buddy is ecstatic about the sweater, as you can see in the top photo. In the second photo, Buddy is showing off the cool football on the back of his sweater. His gait has taken on an added swagger when the sweater is on.

Also included in the parcel was a gorgeous, colorful 2007 photo calendar of Cavalier KC canine specimens which we'll hang in a place where Buddy can also see it. In looking through the calendar photos, it's obvious Buddy's markings are classic for the tri-color Cav.

Buddy really enjoyed Jim & Kay's attention while they were here, and we could tell he missed them after they were gone. When he smelled the sweater this afternoon to check it out, he wagged his tail. I think he knows the pullover is from them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Banquet Buffet Feast Amidst Famous Historical Aircraft – All For A Wonderful Cause

This past Monday night my wife and I enjoyed one of the most interesting events we’ve ever attended. We had a banquet buffet feast under the wings of the Spruce Goose. Yep, THE Spruce Goose.

Howard Hughes’ famous eight-engine flying boat and dozens of historical aircraft from WWII and before, provided a fascinating ambiance for the banquet that was a primary fund raiser for Twin Rocks Quaker Camp on the Oregon Coast just north of Garibaldi.

The affair was held at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, now the permanent, weather-proof home to the Spruce Goose, an SR-71 (the world’s fastest airplane), several WWII bombers and a myriad of other flying machines going back to WWI.

In the photo above, you can get an idea of the immensity of the “Goose”. This is just the nose and cockpit, taken from eye level.

The gargantuan, glass-front hangar had enough available floor space to easily house the 900-plus attendees who were seated at circular tables accommodating ten persons each.

Most everyone arrived early to gawk at the famous aircraft specimens. Just about everyone got an up-close look at the impressive Spruce Goose, which is actually made mostly from birch wood. (Wags in the press tabbed it the "Spruce Goose".)

The gigantic craft flew only once, in 1947, piloted by Hughes himself, for only a mile, getting just 70-feet off the water in its short check out flight. (Have you seen the movie, The Aviator?) The jet age made it obsolete before it was completely ready for commercial use.

Pic at left, taken with available light, is a Boeing B-17 Flying fortress, a workhorse bomber in WWII.

My favorite aircraft was the sleek, dart-shaped, black, stealth-like SR-71, a piloted plane capable of speeds in excess of 2,000 mph. It’s an awesome spectacle at rest, but it was even more incredible in flight.

When I was doing my cross-country work during my private pilot training in the 1960s, I happened to fly over Beale AFB in northern California and watched an SR-71 take off below me and off to my right. As it left the runway and rocketed into the stratosphere ahead of me, my little Cessna 150 shook from the sound waves. I’ll never forget it. To the chagrin of many, including me, the SR-71 is no longer in active service.

Of course the focus of the evening was on the exciting future of Twin Rocks Camp. Our son Gregg’s family and our granddaughters have already benefited a great deal from this wonderful place, and we were interested in seeing the future plans.

The outstanding multi-media presentation on the $1 million first phase of the expansion was perhaps the best produced we had ever seen. Work has already begun on the initial phase that will soon create a green belt, add and upgrade cabins and re-invent the entire maintenance processes. Of course we participated in the campaign in our small way, as we have personally enjoyed activities there, and we believe completely in its potential.

This was one occasion that will long be remembered for its unique setting and effectual presentation. Unfortunately, my dear wife had to endure an on-coming migraine during the evening, but she still enjoyed the proceedings.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Too Much Going On – Blog Takes the Back Seat

As my readers (whom you can probably number on one hand) know, I blog for my own (self serving) interests more than anything else.

Blog posts enable me to exercise what few writing skills I have, and the composite blog then provides a nice chronology for events. (At my age I need assistance later in remembering in what order things happened and in keeping everything in perspective.)

Fall colors are now in bloom, as you can see, but lately I’ve not added much to these pages. Maybe for good reason.

During the past 10 days we’ve had the wettest five days in our State since records have been kept. Our kitchen renovation was finally completed after more than 12 weeks of semi-disarray. And we had house guests from California over last weekend while celebrating my cousin’s 60th birthday.

Additionally, due to some of the above, I missed out on a salmon fishing excursion to the Oregon coast with my California buddy, Ed Wall. We’ll have to do it next year.

With Thanksgiving approaching, the days will stay busy. We’ll likely spend Turkey Day with relatives, enjoy a day or two in Oregon next week with our granddaughters and then look forward to an early December week in California with cronies.

Hopefully, I’ll have time to add posts for most of it (not that anyone’s interested but me).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Martin Luther Bobblehead Is An Object Lesson For Reformation Sunday

Our Lutheran Pastor, Don Jukam, not only has a sense of humor, but he also knows how to illustrate a point.

At church today during “kid’s time”, Martin Luther - in Bobblehead form - made an appearance in the hand of Pastor Jukam, as we observed “Reformation Sunday.” (My cell phone cam caught the image shown at right following the service.)

All of us kids will not soon forget it.

The “theological” problem with the Bobblehead (where did he ever get one of Martin Luther?), suggested the Pastor, is that his head moves mostly up and down (indicating the affirmative). This is somewhat inconsistent with Luther’s famous declaration to his adjudicator, “No, I will not recant (my writings); here I stand.”

Perhaps a better Martin Luther Bobblehead would have the head only able to move side to side.

In his regular sermon, Pastor Don went on to shed some light on the Reformation. Luther, of course, was not the only Reformer but likely is the best known. There were some before him and many after him. Their shared anxieties were the transgressions of the medieval Roman Catholic Church.

Our pastor graciously pointed out that the then Roman Catholic Church was quite different than today’s Roman Catholic Church (with whom we share many scriptures and salvation through Christ.) Today’s idiom longs for unity rather than schism.

Pastor Don’s primary summarization of the celebrated Reformation focused on its three essentials: Faith, Grace and Scripture. All else, according to Luther, was “adiaphora” (matters that are "indifferent," that is, are not commanded or forbidden by God.)

The practices of the Catholic Church of the 16th century included a lot more than Luther’s stated requisites – among them penances and indulgences that could be purchased and papal infallability. Luther’s study of the book of Romans had convinced him that it was only the grace of God that justified humankind through faith in Christ and his provision of salvation.

That simple but profound belief by Luther was what we celebrated today.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Café “From the Heartland” Right Here in Port Orchard

There’s a corner café in Port Orchard, at the south end of Kitsap County, that could be comfortably at home in most mid-America towns. It’s Myhre’s Café, pictured above.

My wife’s number was drawn for jury duty this week, and so our dog Buddy and I decided we’d chauffeur her the first day to get the lay of the land. We dropped her off at the hilltop County Campus just before 1pm, and so I decided to drive down the hill and find a spot to have some lunch.

At the bottom of the incline, I coincidentally came across Myhre's Café, on the corner of Sydney and Bay Sts, a block south of the foot-ferry terminal.

After making Buddy comfortable in the car, I walked over to the restaurant. The menu in the window looked good, and the sign said they served breakfast lunch or dinner all the time. My kind of place (I like breakfast food at lunch time).

Plus, I saw that they had “Joe’s Special” (a favorite sauté of mine from Original Joe’s in San Francisco) on the menu, and that sealed it.

Inside, it looked like any café from the heartland. A dark mahogany-stained counter with attached stools was surrounded by tall wooden booths of the same hue. Of course there was a pie-filled pastry case along with ever-moving waitresses who seemed to know everyone by name.

I wondered if my California bud Ed Wall had ever eaten here, as he lived in Port Orchard as a youth and teenager. I’d almost bet on it, as, from his travels, he knows every great eatery in most west coast towns.

The café was founded in 1927, but in 1963 a horrible fire gutted the place. If you look closely at the lousy pic at right (that I took in the dark cafe hallway with my cell phone cam) you might be able to make out the smoke billowing from the building. It was obviously rebuilt soon after and has been in continuous service ever since.

I didn’t know what to expect from a small northwest café with regard to the famous “Joe’s Special,” a hot-pan fried mix of ground beef, onion, scrambled egg and whatever.

Turns out it was delicious, just not quite as “Italian” tasting as down in the Bay Area. But definitely worth a return visit.

While Kay Lynne endured the jury selection process (she didn’t get picked today but must go back tomorrow), Buddy and I drove some seven miles down Beach St and around the point to Manchester State Park.

What a fabulous and beautiful place! The dog had a ball romping along the beach at water’s edge and enjoying every fragrance along the way as I tried to keep up.

Buddy mistook the salt water of Rich Passage for fresh lake water and quickly learned a lesson about life. His tail would be still wagging except that he’s exhausted and is sound asleep on my chair with a smile on his face. Such is a dog’s life.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Wife Tolerated LUTEFISK, and I’m Supposed To Be The Scandinavian

Today Kay Lynne spent most of the day at our church, helping serve Lutefisk and other Norwegian “delicacies” to over 1,000 diners who came from as far as California for the event.

The occasion was the 94th annual Lutefisk dinner (actually a fundraiser that has become a renowned event) held at the First Lutheran Church of Poulsbo.

Lutefisk is one of those (Scandinavian) “delicacies” that you either relish – or hate. Like caviar.

For starters, let me explain that the dish is basically a codfish carcass that’s been soaked first in cold water for five days, then in lye – you read right – (actually a caustic birch ash liquid) for two more days and then rinsed (soaked in water) for six more days, refreshing the water daily. It’s now ready for cooking (why would anyone want to eat this?).

On the day of the serving, the remaining fish glob is steam cooked for a time in the oven and then baked in a dish for an hour until it becomes creamy and jelly-like. “To enjoy lutefisk”, they say, it must be spooned onto Norwegian lefse (potato flat bread) that has been covered with soft, boiled potatos. Some require bacon, peppers or hot mustard (or all three) to be added before they can tolerate it.

CAUTION: If you don’t wash the cooking pots and pans immediately after usage, the fish (and odor) may never come off.

My wife said she actually liked it. She even brought home a sample carton of the “delicacy” along with delicious potatoes and lefse. I did eat some, but I much preferred the Norwegian meat balls that she also brought home.

How do you describe the taste and texture of lutefish? It’s not easy. I found this account on a blog:

“Lutefisk is pretty much what you'd expect of jellied cod; it is a foul and odiferous goo, whose gelatinous texture and rancid oily taste are locked in spirited competition to see which can be the more responsible for rendering the whole completely inedble.”

I don’t care for caviar in any form, and even though I’m a Finnlander, I’ll likely not look forward to eating Lutefisk again. I still have a fishy taste in my mouth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Forgiveness… The Way God Deals With Evil

This past weekend my wife and I were in Oregon having fun with our granddaughters. Of course on Sunday we went to church at Newberg Friends Church (bell tower shown) where my son Gregg is senior pastor.

For the most part, for me, the sermon is the element in a worship service that speaks to me the most. The sermon Gregg delivered Sunday was powerful and impacting. If put into effect, it would be life-altering.

The sermon topic was “forgiveness”, and with all the recent media coverage of the Amish schoolgirl shootings by a madman, there was plenty of fodder for discussion. You can find a link to his sermon here or on his blog.

A common response to the Amish acts of kindness and forgiveness (by Christians as well as the general public) has been surprise and incredulity, as well as “he got off too easy” and “he should have had to face execution or spend his life in jail”.

Gregg, however, suggested that the Amish people lived out their faith as it should be. “I see forgiveness as capable of profoundly changing our lives,” he said.

Using a video film clip from Les Miserables, he showed us how, when the bishop voluntarily forgave the professional thief Jean Valjean, it altered Valjean’s behavior for the rest of his life.

We looked at the ancient Biblical example of Joseph, who forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery in Egypt (from which he became a powerful ruler).

In both of these examples, as well as with the Amish, forgiveness was imparted before it was even asked for. And this is the revolutionary, counter-cultural aspect of Christ’s teachings.

In Christ’s time, Judaism dictated that forgiveness was not automatic; in fact, it required earning by the wrongdoer with genuine attempts at atonement. In that context, a murderer was forever doomed with no opportunity for atonement to a dead victim.

However, God, through Christ, extended forgiveness and atonement to each and every one of us, “while we were yet sinners” and even before we asked for it. That’s the astounding way God deals with evil in the human race.

Does this mean evildoers get off scot free? Hardly.

One of Gregg’s seminary professors, Miraslov Volf, a native Croatian personally affected by the war in Kosovo, has written a poignant book titled, Free of Charge. In it, Volf says, “In the very act of forgiving, there is an act of condemnation.”

Gregg went on to paraphrase what Volf wrote with these words: “Forgiveness does not ignore or white wash or overlook wrong actions. It is not weak or whimpy or blind or fake. Forgiveness takes the bold, courageous first step of naming wrong as wrong, of condemning an evil action as being evil…and in the very act of naming it as wrong, forgivenss chooses not to demand payment of the debt the wrong act incurs.”

“Forgiveness,” Gregg taught, “names someone’s actions as wrong, but makes the choice not to forget, not to bring vengeance, but instead to release the other from the debt they owe.”

When a repentant wrongdoer does ask for forgiveness, the opportunity for reconciliation is then possible. But with or without repentance on the part of the wrongdoer, the act of forgiveness is a powerful and life-altering practice for our culture.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Are Auto Extended Warranties Worth It? Only When Needed – But That’s the Point

Today I am singing the praises of automobile extended warranties. Of course it’s only because it paid off to the tune of 300%.

We seriously debated the merits of such a policy when we acquired our “pre-owned” Acura MDX almost three years ago. The main reason was the healthy chunk of premium – almost $1,500 – but it would last three years or up to 100,000 miles, whichever came first.

All drive line problems are covered, plus a few other things, but not including tires, batteries, etc. The only caveat is that you have to maintain the car according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

Hmmmm. No major car expenditures for at least three years. We decided to buy it.

As fate would have it, the engine warning light came on a few weeks ago while I was creeping in traffic approaching the Narrows bridge. I took it to a local guy who said the diagnostic code indicated I needed to take it to an Acura dealer. Uh oh.

Long story short, the entire transmission and 4WD transaxle needed to be replaced. The estimated tab? $4,895. Yikes.

“Is it covered by my warranty?” I asked. “I’ll check it out,” came the reply. After a seemingly "agonizing" wait of only a few hours, I got the news.

“You’re covered fully,” the technician said. “We’ll even provide you with a loaner at no charge”. Whew! Thank you, Lord.

Yesterday afternoon we picked up our MDX with a basically brand new drive line. It runs like a dream. The line of ciphers at the bottom of the invoice was icing on the cake.

Now I’ve got another “problem”. The loaner Acura had satellite radio on it. I only drove it for 10 days, but I’m hopelessly hooked. Gonna check it out for the MDX this afternoon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Re-Drafting My Spiritual Formation – Log #11: Context is Critical and Perspective is Principal

Once again, our Lutheran pastor has shed new light on views I’ve likely misappropriated for most of my life. As we learned in the sermon yesterday, context is critical and perspective is principal.

The sermon text centered on Jesus’ rather explicit comments on marriage as recorded in Mark chapter 10: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”. Yikes. Uncomfortable words in our culture.

The Pharisees had tried to get Jesus in political and religious trouble by asking him if it was “lawful” for a man to divorce his wife.

This text, along with others on interesting transgressions (like homosexuality and fornication), are often selectively used by conservative Christians as standards for behavior of their fellows, even at the ballot box.

Before you come unglued, hear me out. I am not condoning ANY sin. But in his comments yesterday, our pastor beautifully painted “the big picture” of God’s grace.

He indicated that we don’t know for sure, but the reason this issue may have come up at all, was because Jesus had traveled to Perea, the area governed by Herod Antipas, who married Herodias, the wife of his own half-brother.

It was Herodias who cunningly caused the death of John the Baptist. So, in this context, you can quickly grasp why the question arose where it did.

The perspective offered by our Pastor was what particularly hit home for me. He pointed out – as we should know only too well – that there is not one of us who doesn’t sin. The lesson from the above text, he suggested, should not focus on the particular shortcoming. Rather, it is broader than that.

The full message of the Gospel is overwhelmingly one of forgiveness and reconciliation, and that’s where our center of attention should be as well.

Christ died for our sins – every single one and for every single person. Our task as followers of Christ is not to focus on a few selective sins of church members or public officials or anyone but instead to communicate and participate in the encompassing Gospel message of pardon and restitution which is available to all.

The grace of God has freed us to so live. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Does Our Living Reflect Our Faith Values? – Still More On “The Centered Life”

My current adult Sunday School class on The Centered Life continues to stimulate thought and motivate changes in the way I live. In a recent post I marveled how that it is God’s grace that frees us to live out our vocation (the Christian life).

Last Sunday our class broke up into small groups and we did some self examination. We made a list on the left side of the paper of five of what we considered to be our (faith based) values (e.g., family, devotion to God, kindness, service to others, etc.). Then on the right side of the sheet we listed the ways in which we spent our time, daily and weekly.

The point was to ask ourselves if someone else read the list, would they conclude that we lived according to our stated values? Try it sometime. It’s a revealing exercise.

Chris Bellefeuille, pastor of a large Minnesota Lutheran church observes the following:

“If you think of every moment of your life as a moment of discipleship, it can be a bit overwhelming. But every moment of your life is an opportunity for discipleship. God has given each of us many great gifts: time, money/material things, relationships and our particular talents. As Christian people, we use all of these gifts to live out our values in the world.

He continues, “Think of discipleship as minute-by-minute stewardship of these gifts: how are they being spent, to what purpose are they being directed?” (Bold mine)

This is the challenge I’ve been pondering so far this week.

Parker Palmer, a Quaker educator and personal friend of The Centered Life author Jack Fortin, has written a helpful book titled, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. He describes how we can look inward to reflect on our own life experience and listen for the inner voice that reveals our various callings. In it he states, “That insight is hidden in the word 'vocation' itself, which is rooted in the Latin for ‘voice.’ Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear.”

May my eyes and ears be open, moment by moment, to living in God’s grace.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Finally Have a FISHING Boat

They say three times is a charm, and that’s exactly what it took to turn my Arima into a fishing boat.

I had the boat out on salt water today for just the third time, this trip with my son Doug. The skunk came off the vessel at 1:30pm east of Jeff Head, in 104 feet of water, on a green/silver Coyote spoon trolled behind a flasher some 45-feet beneath the surface on my downrigger.

The fish was an ocean grown Chum salmon, weighing 8+ pounds and measuring just about 30 inches in length.

Chum are the hardest fighting, per pound, of the various species of salmon available in Puget Sound. This guy lived up to his reputation, making three powerful runs, once trying to go deep under the boat, before he finally tired enough for Doug to deftly net him.

I owe getting the fish in to Doug, because while I was focused on something else, he saw my rod tip start to dance and watched as the fish snapped the line off the downrigger clip with a powerful strike. It was he who grabbed the pole and firmly set the hook that then gave me a chance to have a lot of fun while the fish made its runs. Thanks, son.

Chum are said to be the least desirable of the area salmonoids for eating, but Doug wanted to check it out. We filleted a slab and threw it on the barbie after marinating it a bit in his secret salmon sauce.

The fish tasted just fine. Probably due mostly to his tasty marinade. It didn’t hurt that we bled the fish immediately and kept him cool in the fish box till we got him home, where Doug took the above pic. It’s hard to goof up fresh salmon just out of the water.

I love living in the Northwest!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Two More Boat Firsts

Yesterday was another boat first in a couple of ways: a) we took the boat out in a fresh water lake (rather than the salt water of Puget Sound), and b) our dog Buddy went along.

First mate Kay Lynne did just fine in helping me to handle the boat, but as you can see in the photo, Buddy never quite got his sea legs. He did make flawless jumps onto KL’s lap every time we were rocked by speedboat wake waves.

I wanted to get a handle on the trout population at Kitsap Lake near Bremerton. They’re there, but we didn’t have a fish fry for dinner.

This time I just trolled deep, looking for the big ones, but luck wasn’t with us. We did enjoy a couple of hours of gorgeous sunshine, northwest scenery and viewing lakeside homes. One palacious estate had its own seaplane at dockside.

When we pulled the boat out, I asked around for the best baits to use for trout. “Use pop gear and trail some power bait,” one guy offered. “You can’t keep ‘em off your hook!”


But then, I didn’t want the “plants” he was talking about; I was looking for the “big daddies”.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Fresh Perspective Can Be Liberating

Taking a mind trip through my 55+ years as a Christian, I can’t recall a time when there wasn’t some kind of an “onus” on me. I fully realize that, indeed, the “onus(es)” may have been illusory, or even self-induced, but then again I’m not sure.

It all depends on how one looks at things spiritual. I’ll try to explain.

Even though I was fully cognizant that salvation itself was a gift from God, I always felt that I had to hold up “my end of the bargain”.

In grade school, I couldn’t cheat because, even if I got away with it, God was watching. In high school, I needed to carry a Bible among my books “to be a witness”.

In college I needed to develop a solid apologetic for my faith so I could “defend the faith” (not surprisingly, often weakly). After I got married, it was important to “establish a Christian home”. At work, I needed to “act like a Christian” in a supposed effort to be “salt” in the world. After retiring, I needed to figure out how I could possibly still be of any use to God. And on it goes.

Note the (misplaced) emphasis was always on what I had to do.

In contrast, the Lutheran perspective, that my wife and I are richly discovering, maintains that it is the grace of God which frees us to live out our “call” or “vocation” (see last post). What?

Did you say the grace of God FREES us to just live? That’s indeed what Martin Luther – and other reformers – believed and practiced.

This fresh perspective may appear to be semantic or oversimplified. But to me it is revolutionary and liberating.

The emphasis is not on me or I or what I have to do. I am free to just live, with God as my center, in a world that he created and in which he continues to creatively involve himself (read Psalm 104).

I am part of his continuing creative work (as are you). Now, in a fresh way, I am free to immerse myself in it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Free To Live Out Our “Call” – More on "The Centered Life"

Yesterday I again attended our adult Sunday School class on The Centered Life. The concept is gaining clarity and meaning for me.

With God as our center, as Christians we are freed from the need to earn our salvation or justify our existence on earth. The Lutheran tradition suggests that through God’s grace we are freed to live and serve our neighbor.

A 1993 ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) statement on “vocation” maintains that God calls all Christians to a life of vocation. Vocation in this context means “living out one’s call.”

Lutheran thought conceptualizes “vocation” or “the Christian call” as transpiring in FOUR domains: our workplace, our home, our community and our congregation. We spent a lot of the time yesterday massaging the first – the workplace.

Jack Fortin, author of the book of the same title as our class, defines “workplace” as “wherever we spend a significant portion of our time, engaged in activity (whether compensated or not) that produces goods and services, that makes use of our God-given talents and that provides us an opportunity to serve God’s purposes in the world.” Wow. That even includes us retired folks!

Fortin then explains that God calls us in individual ways that often fit our own unique personalities and situations. However, God’s call can take many forms.

Peter the fisherman was called in a whole new direction as a disciple and subsequent apostle. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was called to live differently in his same occupation. Frederick Buechner thinks our calling lies in “that place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need”.

How, then, should we discern and live out our own call?

That is my ponderance for this week. Lord, give me sensitivity, understanding and the freedom to live it out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

September Showers Interrupt Piscatorial Fancies

Several days of rain and showers this week have kept my thoughts away from the boat and fishing. Besides, we’re doing the final prep work for new counter tops in the kitchen. But it’s predicted to clear up tomorrow through the weekend, and one never knows what might happen.

Fall weather definitely arrived this week with cooler temperatures along with the moisture, and that means that the water temperatures in nearby lakes will correspondingly drop. I’m anxious to try Kitsap Lake near Bremerton, known mostly for its bass and spiny ray populations.

What’s not as well known is that the Washington DFW at least annually stocks the impoundment with trout of various sizes, including triploids, but the problem is locating them.

The lake is large enough and deep enough to accommodate trout year around, but it is somewhat of a mystery where they go during the warm summer days when jet skis and water skiers abound.

If they go real deep, there is usually less oxygen than needed for sustenance. Somehow they manage to find the right level in the thermocline that is both cool enough (60 degrees or less) and yet contains enough life-sustaining oxygen.

With the water sports enthusiasts finally diverted to other seasonal interests, now may be a perfect opportunity to scout out the trout that made it through the heat of summer and have grown even larger.

For a month or two, as water temps gradually decline, the trout lines need to get wet. The fish will instinctively be foraging for food before the lethargy of a cold-water winter sets in. Maybe I’ll get a chance to give it a try.

Unless the ocean Coho salmon start rounding Point No Point first (check last post).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Is the “Balanced” Life a Myth For Christians?

I attended a new adult Sunday School Class for the first time this week. The subject matter has been on my mind ever since.

Our study is based on the book, The Centered Life, by Jack Fortin, a Lutheran scholar. One of the benefits of joining a church of a new denomination has been and continues to be the exposure to fresh (for me) Christian thinking.

In his book, Fortin points out that most of us futilely seek a “balanced” life. Our new buzz word is “compartmentalization”. We try to walk a tight rope, giving ample time and focus to home, family, work, kids, politics, education and a social life. Is it a wonder most of us live a tension-filled life?

Rather, suggests Fortin, as Christians, we should seek a “centered life” – centered on God, through Christ, who created us. The Church at its best, he feels, is the place where we can find and practice this centering.

Fortin proposes that there are four dimensions to the “centered life”—
· That we are awakened to God’s presence in our life
· That we are called to live our faith in every situation
· That we are set free to contribute our unique gifts to God’s work in the world
· That we are nurtured and supported by a community of faith

For me, this is a nuance in my faith journey that I’m looking forward to not only exploring, but also to hopefully put into practice. I’m looking forward already to Sunday.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bobbing Like A Cork In A Washing Machine

Yesterday my son Doug and I fished for Coho salmon in my recently acquired Arima boat. The story of the day, however, was weather-related, not fish-related.

After launching around 7am at slack tide, we headed some 10 miles from the ramp to Point-No-Point (PNP) at the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula.

The massive amount of sea water that flows into the entire Puget Sound with each incoming tide passes through the channel between the PNP lighthouse and Possession Bar at the south tip of Whidbey Island some four miles to the northeast.

Of course that’s the spot we chose to fish. When the ocean grown salmon come into the Sound from which they make their upriver spawning runs, they have to come through here. Right? Right, IF they are coming. Unfortunately, they’re not migrating quite yet.

But back to the non-fish story. The day started great – fairly calm, not much wind and a slight cloud cover. Nothing out of the ordinary was forecasted.

By 9:30 or so, however, the tide was moving in at close to 10 knots, and a 20 mph wind had come up directly contrary to the tide. When this happens, mother nature is not smiling.

Combine the aforementioned with the incredible rip tides that occur in the area along with the rolling wakes of ocean freighters, and you’ve got liquid mountains of swelling, roiling chop.

It takes every nautical skill you have to man the boat, the downriggers and your lines when the vessel is tossed about like a cork in a washing machine.

In spite of it all, Doug managed to hook an apparently large Chinook that stubbornly stayed down and eventually broke his leader. We took solace in the fact that, had it been a Chinook, we would have had to return it to the water (Kings are not in season there). And he got one dog fish (small pesky shark). We both threw back several shakers (juvenile Chinook).

The boat performed wonderfully, even in the tumultuous waters, despite the fact that it’s only 16-feet long. We never felt unsafe – just a bit queasy at times.

When it finally calmed down in mid-afternoon, I snapped the above photo of Doug with my cell phone (and then made a phone call on my fish-finder :-). We’ll get the Coho next time.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Air Up Here (In the Northwest)

Earlier this evening, as light was fading, I walked out on our front porch and was immediately swathed in our exceptional Northwest air. There is nothing quite like it.

I took a long, deep breath. And I did it again. And again.

Northwest air actually has a wonderful fragrance. It is at once fresh, clean, moist, crisp, cool and is permeated with oxygen and ozone from the forests and seasoned with a perfect tinge of saltiness from Puget Sound.

I believe if you could bottle its bouquet, you could get rich marketing it.

Northwest air is invigorating – right down to your core being. It’s also rejuvenating. Get some exercise while breathing it, and you’ll sleep like a rock and wake up refreshed. It’s also addicting. You can never get enough of it.

As Buddy our dog bounded back up the stairs after refreshing himself, I enjoyed one last deep breath. The air up here creates a pleasurable experience even out of routine things. And I am thankful to be here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fishing for Men and Women

I’ve often wondered about Christ’s suggestion that we should be “fishers of men” (and women, too, of course).

Reason is, I’m a fisher, and “fishing” can often be rather brutal on the target. As beautiful and enticing as the bait or lure may appear, the hook is rather sharp and usually effectively permanent.

Of course we need to acknowledge that “fishing” has changed somewhat from what it was two millennia ago. In Christ’s time, large nets were used as the primary means by which fish were harvested.

Once a school was located (without an electronic fish-finder, interestingly), a net was thrown out, and the fish were gathered onto the shore or into a boat, sometimes even threatening the vessel’s capacity.

What has always caused me wonder is thinking about how we are to carry out this directive with regard to people. How do we locate possible “prey”? Will our targets respond in unison as a school of fish does? What is the modern equivalent of the large, casting nets? And are we to “herd” unsuspecting victims into the kingdom?

Admittedly, the questions are rhetorical. Of course reason tells us that our Lord’s imperative was allegorical rather than literal. And I've so far not even acknowledged a critical ingredient in Christ's proposition.

"Follow me", he urged, "and I will make you fishers of men". If we are true followers of Christ, then we'll likely be living our lives in ways that the Gospel will be seen as being appealing -- or at the least something worth exploring.

I’ll probably reflect on this again sometime when I’m out fishing. Maybe it would be even better if I invited someone along who might be interested in engaging.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bible Study Provokes Thought and (Hopefully) Action

We often think of Jesus as a perfect model. It isn’t often we encounter his humanness.

Last night in our men’s Bible study at church, we discovered a very interesting (and for many of us, overlooked) aspect of Christ’s ministry. Our focus was on the second chapter of Mark’s Gospel where Jesus deals with the Syro-Phoenician woman who wanted help for her demon-filled little daughter.

A Greek woman, she had come down to Tyre where she must have heard Jesus was. Truth be told, Jesus was there trying to avoid the pressing crowds and to get some rest. But the woman would have no part of it. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

In fact, the Matthew account of this incident says that Jesus initially ignored her requests and that the disciples actually asked him to “send her away” because of her loud, distressed cries. The Lord’s apparently stark and harsh response was what astounded us last night.

“First, let the children eat all they want”, Christ told them, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” In Matthew, his response was, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”, which sort of explains what he meant in Mark’s version.

But it also raises a LOT of questions.

Why did Jesus avoid this apparent opportunity to show his power in ministry? Did Jesus really “look down” on Gentiles as is implied? Or does this event simply show his weariness, frustration and humanness? Why didn’t he act immediately? What is going on?

Of course when the woman answered the Lord by saying, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” Jesus responded with wonderful and comforting words. “For such a reply (which exhibited her great faith), you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

The episode ends well, but the trail sure took some interesting turns. We spent quite a bit of time discussing what we can learn from this occurrence. Among many possibilities, the myriad of relationships between faith and works (especially from Luther’s perspective) emerged as a worthy ponderance.

Because we are justified by faith, we should now act accordingly, rather than "resting on our laurels". Faith, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead, says the book of James.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Inaugural Voyage For New (To Me) Arima Boat Gets An A-OK

In my last post, I mentioned that I hoped to get the Arima in the water sometime this weekend. Good thing it was still part of the holiday “weekend” today, as we launched her this morning.

My cousin Joel Narva joined me for the inaugural voyage, and we pronounced it a splashing success at day’s end. We even caught fish, albeit not the kind we were after.

In reality, today’s trip was a bit stressful. Whenever you acquire a used boat, there are a multiplicity of things that need checking out. Hull, main engine, kicker, radio, depth/fish finder, batteries, switches, downriggers and bilge pumps all need scrutiny. Most importantly, how does she handle the waters of Puget Sound?

Just fine, thank you. All systems are a-ok.

We even caught fish – dog fish! (Puget Sound small annoying sharks) Pic at right shows one of three that managed to spoil our fun. I couldn’t figure out why they would hit a salmon lure until we saw half of a “shaker” (a salmon too juvenile to keep) on the hook with the shark. The small Chinook hit first, and the shark took advantage of easy prey.

Above left is Joel manning the tiller handle of the kicker as we trolled through fairly calm waters for about four hours. The best news is that the boat passed the test with flying colors. We’ll get the Coho later when they finally get here. We might have been a tad early for the ocean fish.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Great Time of the Year

The past couple of weeks have been as good as they get for us older folks. And of course the vast majority of it had to do with kids and grandkids.

It began, however, with my finding a highly-desired Arima fishing boat with just about everything on it that I need to fish. Then I got to spend two solid days with my son Gregg, helping drive his new-to-them RV home to Oregon from Colorado.

Then Gregg and Elaine and family came to visit, and to make it even better, our granddaughters were able to stay over for a few days of fun activities after their parents had to return home. And our other son Doug and his wife Jamie came over while all were here, giving us the cherished time with the whole family together.

We finally took the granddaughters home via Amtrak this past Tuesday (note the kid-empty train car above on our return trip), and since then I’ve focused on getting the boat ready to fish. I hope to get it in the water maybe sometime this weekend.

Hope y’all have a great holiday weekend! Why do we NOT work on LABOR DAY? It’s a question for the ages.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fun With Granddaughters

The past three days have been nothing but fun with our sweet granddaughters who remained here in Washington with us after their parents left last Saturday. We enjoyed having the whole family here, including mom and dad (son Gregg and daughter-in-law Elaine), for much of last week.

That's Hayley and Talli above left at Seattle's famous waterfront Aquarium on Monday, and at right just above is Aubrey "the Octopus" at another part of the aquatic exhibit.

A little later in the day we took in the Space Needle and enjoyed lots of rides in the Seattle Center amusement park. The girls especially enjoyed a visit from their uncle Doug and aunt Jamie who stopped by the Center for a time in the afternoon.

Unfortunately for us, the fun times came to an end yesterday as Grandma and Grandpa accompanied the girls on an Amtrak train trip home to Oregon, a first for all three of the young uns. It was a great experience for all, although the grandparents were ready for the sack last night after eight hours on the train.

To Amtrak’s credit, they have made travel by train quite acceptable (we had opposing seats with a table between for eating and games), but they certainly are not as customer-friendly as are airlines.

As an example, you can make and pay for Amtrak reservations online, but instead of issuing an actual ticket with a seat assignment, you can only print out a voucher. Then you have to wait in line at the station to convert the voucher to a ticket and then stand in line again to get a seat assignment. Kinda redundant.

Unfortunately, Amtrak is still an ego-centric corporate monolith rather than a customer-friendly company like Southwest Airlines or Jet Blue. Too bad for Amtrak, as they could be attracting a lot of travelers right now, but alas.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Boat Search Ends Suddenly and Surprisingly With Hometown-Made Arima

A funny thing happened in my search for an aluminum fishing boat.

I ended up acquiring a fiberglass, highly sought-after, Seattle-made Arima (used, of course).

It’s a boat that was originally designed primarily for nearby Puget Sound but is just about as light as an aluminum lake boat and will work just fine in local ponds. Arimas come in many different models. Mine is a 16’ Sea Chaser. You can locate it on the Arima link above.

I’m totally pleased with the purchase and am finally satisfied I have the right boat for my needs and interests.

At left above is the interior, looking forward from the stern. There's a small cuddy/storage area in the bow through the center doors. At right is the port side view from aft.

I happened to see it last Wednesday on Craig’s list just two hours after it came online. By the time I called, someone was already looking at the boat. As fate would have it, the engine didn’t start and the interested party spooked.

Turns out the guy who showed the boat (son-in-law of the owner) didn’t know how to work the choke properly. The 60-hp outboard runs just fine.

The boat has a fish-finder and downriggers, but I do need to find a kicker motor for trolling. I’m checking out Craig’s list again as soon as I finish this post.

The beauty of this boat is that it offers safety for the bigger waters of the Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca (for salmon) but is at the same time perfect for lake fishing (for trout), both of which I like equally well.

So… if you like to wet a line and you’re coming our way, let’s go fishing!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Rare Occurrence

I experienced one of those great “family” happenings this past week that are far too few in frequency. I got to spend two solid days with my son, Gregg.

He’s a busy pastor, husband and father of three who rarely has a moment for himself. So to get to spend time with him for 48 straight hours was sheer enjoyment.

Some time ago he and his wife Elaine began looking for a self-contained Recreational Vehicle that would provide family fun as well as serve as a “guest house” for when my wife and I and others visit them in Oregon. Long story, but local building regulations prevent them from adding the guest facilities they desired. The RV became the perfect answer.

He located a vehicle online in Denver that met their criteria (pic above), so last Thursday he and I flew to Denver to pick it up and drive it back to his home. That’s what bestowed me with the prized time with my hard-working son.

After test-driving and checking out every nook and cranny of the RV, Gregg completed the purchase and DMV registration right at day’s end. We hit the road in Denver about 6:30 that evening and headed north to pick-up westward-bound I-84 in Wyoming. We tested two of the four beds just after midnight in a Rock Springs, WY Wal-Mart parking lot (with W-M's blessing). But only for less than six hours.

Refreshed in the morning (great mattresses) we headed for Utah and the rest of the trip home. The hours were spent catching up on life’s details we never usually have time to talk about. I enjoyed every minute and am ecstatic that someone of Gregg's caliber is my son.

He’s a “tekkie”, so whenever I was driving, he’d be working on his laptop. He even devised a spread sheet that told us breakeven cost points between RV travel versus journeying by car and staying in a motel.

For instance, if you don’t drive more than 400 miles a day, then for his size family, he might be putting a penny or two in his pocket via the RV. The high cost of gas makes auto voyaging a hair cheaper if you drive longer distances in a day.

The RV’s amenities include beds to comfortably sleep six (eight in a crunch), fridge, stove, oven, microwave, sink, bathroom and shower (interior pic above of kitchen and bedroom peek) plus an eating/game table with bench seats and even a couch – literally all the comforts of home. With the benefit of wheels. It was a great acquisition, and the whole family is excited.

Because we didn’t sleep all that much on the two-day motor jaunt, the time element is now much of a blur to me. But I’ll remember every minute of the enriching discourse with my son.