Sunday, April 30, 2006

Some of Us “Have It”, and Some of Us Don’t

Early this past week, as my son Gregg and his wife Elaine were leaving for a Pastors Conference, I noticed his golf bag on the ground next to the car waiting to be packed into the trunk. The bag had a healthy coat of dust on it.

Pastors don’t have a lot of time for golf. But Gregg doesn’t allow that little restriction to affect his game.

As we were chatting several days later upon their return, I casually asked, “Well, where’s the golf trophy?” I should have known better, as Elaine pointed to the back of the house and said, “It’s still in the car.”

Gregg had won the annual Pastor’s Golf tournament – a much enjoyed recreational break at the conclave of Friends Pastors who work so hard all year in their respective churches.

I stand in awe of those who are so athletically gifted. He hadn’t touched a club in almost nine months. Yet, he was able to work out the muscle kinks quickly and make some shots.

I’ve wondered to myself if his best natural athletic talent isn’t on the golf course – his lifelong passion for and stellar performance in baseball notwithstanding. Gregg has what is called a “sweet swing”; the ball just “seems” to go right where it should almost all the time.

A few years ago he and I at the same time got nice sets of new faux “Major Brand” golf clubs, custom fitted for each of us by a California Pastor friend who does this as a hobby. I kidded Gregg that it must have been his nice newer clubs that got him the win.

Funny, my new clubs are exactly the same as his, but I still manage to add more than a stroke a hole to his score.

I guess some of us “have it”, and some of us don’t.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Opening Day

Today was the general trout season opener for lakes in the State of Washington. To avoid the crowds, my son Doug and I went to Fish Lake in Chelan County, near the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth, because it’s one of a few open to fishing year around. The crowds were at the lakes that opened today.

The decision turned out to be a good one. In just over five hours of fishing, we netted over 20 nice rainbow trout – many healthy 12” to 14” “carryovers” along with some of this Spring’s spunky plants.

By Doug’s count, we caught 23; by my recollection we got around 20. Believe Doug. In any case it was enough to release the anxiety created by lack of fishing for the past several months during the winter season (except for one nice steelhead trip).

Before anyone has a conniption about limits (five per person per day on Fish Lake), we used artificial lures most of the time and released the fish safely back into the water. Trout caught in this manner are not counted in the “keep” limit.

Fish Lake is without doubt the most dependable, consistent trout lake I’ve ever fished. Doug has LIMITED EVERY TIME he’s gone there, and that is about 30 trips! I haven’t always limited, but I’ve never been “skunked” there.

All in all it was a great day. The weather conditions at the lake were perfect for fishing, while it rained all day here at home. Usually the opposite is true. Besides, to be able to enjoy a bit of recreation with your son that both of you relish makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Heading for the Finish Line

Yesterday was unforgettable. We watched Talli, our 6th grade Middle School granddaughter (above) run the anchor leg of her 4 x 400-meter relay team at a track meet near the Capitol city of Oregon. And this was after she had endured both the 1500-meter and the 800-meter runs less than an hour before.

I don’t think I ran that far -- even in high school -- during my entire four years.

Add it up. That’s over a mile and a half total, most of it at a well paced sprint. Just thinking about it makes me tired. However, I recall that in my youth, I was pretty fast also – for a full 30 meters, at least.

But, to compete over a mile and a half at speed, all during a single meet -- and in Middle School, no less, with some runners two years older -- that's a real athletic accomplishment!

Talli has inherited some good running genes. Her mom was an outstanding distance runner on her own in high school and college. Her great grandfather on her dad’s side was a decorated Nebraska high school high hurdler in the late 1920’s. And I’m sure there’s more which I’m forgetting.

We’ve enjoyed the better part of this week with all three of our granddaughters while their mom and dad were away at a conference. The metaphor of this blog is also suggestive of a distance run. It’s a great time to be alive.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Glorious Day… and “Thar She Blows”

Today is another one of those days that explains why those of us who live here in the Pacific Northwest choose to remain here. It is drop-dead gorgeous – not a cloud in the sky in any direction.

To the west of us, the freshly snow-capped Olympic mountains are gleaming in the sunlight, set off by green forests and the deep blue waters of Agate Passage in Puget Sound. Truly, the firmament today shows the fathomless handiwork of God himself.

I snapped the above photo early this afternoon just after returning home from church. A few minutes later I was taking in more of the glorious scene from our front balcony, while keeping one eye on the dog attending to his duties, when I noticed the water stirring in just one place about 100 yards off shore.

Such an occurrence I had not seen before, so I kept watching. Suddenly the turbulent water parted, and a large, ballooning mist shot upward some 20 feet or more into the air. I blinked – and blinked again – and yelled for Kay Lynne.

A large whale had just exhaled right in front of our house. After blowing, she slowly rolled forward, back into the water, and her tail appeared momentarily just before she disappeared. It was a visual I’ll never forget.

I assume it was a “she” because I’ve heard of mother Grays and Orcas guiding their calves into the shallower areas of Puget Sound to more easily teach them a life lesson. Usually the sightings occur in the deeper waters of the main Sound,

We have had sightings recently, however, in Sinclair Inlet in the Bremerton area. But never, since we’ve lived here at least, in Agate Passage, which at high tide doesn’t reach 10 fathoms.

I’m going to assume it was a gray whale because I saw no large dorsal that are distinctive of Orcas. But whatever the species, it was large. I just wish I’d have had my camera on the balcony.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Re-Drafting My Spiritual Formation – Log #7: Fresh Meaning for the Easter Season

I’ve been a “Christian” for going on 60 years. But, in a fascinating sort of way, I’m just now discovering some of the richness in the faith that I had obviously just “glossed over” in the past.

Last night my wife and I went to Maundy Thursday Services at the Lutheran Church we are attending. Maundy Thursday is the day during which we observe and celebrate Christ’s last Passover meal with his disciples, just before he was led away early the next morning to be crucified.

The event is commonly known as “The Last Supper”, from which the practice and Sacrament of Holy Communion is derived. But the Maundy Thursday rite embraces additional truths.

First, it is the inauguration of the “Triduum”, the three final days of Lent. In the Lutheran tradition at least, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Saturday night’s Easter Vigil (waiting, as the women did, for the resurrection) are observed as a continuous celebration commemorating the central acts of Christianity, as each day requires the others for full understanding and meaning.

At some Maundy Thursday observances a “foot washing” ceremony is held, signifying the servitude Jesus exemplified as he washed the disciples’ feet as they gathered for the Last Supper. Our service, incidentally, did not include the foot washing custom.

The word “Maundy” is an English form of the Latin word for “commandment”. We also get our word “mandate” from this root. Jesus’ new commandment to his disciples was that they should “love one another even as I have loved you”. His ultimate example of love was to give himself on the cross for all of us.

After a sermon by the Rev. Kent Shane that expanded a bit more on the reasons for this observance, we then concluded our worship with the celebration of Holy Communion, along with the prayer that we will become Christ-like in offering ourselves in loving service to the world around us.

We dismissed, interestingly, with no benediction. The same will be true at tonight’s Good Friday service as well as at tomorrow night’s Easter Vigil. The benediction is withheld until Sunday, at the glorious conclusion of our Easter celebration, when the meaning and message of the season is complete.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Re-Drafting My Spiritual Formation – Log #6: Anticipating Worship

I must admit, regrettably, that heading for church on Sunday mornings has not always been the wonderful experience I would have hoped for. For a long time this has been a source of frustration and disappointment for me.

Lately, however, I find myself looking forward to each Sunday’s worship. I’ve spent a good deal of recent reflection trying to discover why this is taking place. And the truth is, I’ve had a difficult time putting into words the sort of metamorphosis that is occurring.

In discussing the quandary with my wife at brunch after Church last Sunday, I think we might have had an epiphany. We had just experienced a wonderful Palm Sunday worship service at Poulsbo First Lutheran Church, where we have attended, as possible, for more than six months.

As we entered the narthex, we were handed palm branches and told that we would “process” into the sanctuary momentarily. The opening liturgy – Scriptures, recitations and hymns compiled to allow God “to gather us for worship” – took place right there in preparation for our entry into worship.

Then, accompanied by a processional hymn, we proceeded into the Sanctuary to our seats to listen to God speak to us. He did so in diverse ways. We sang hymns. We read Scripture from the Old Testament, from the New Testament and from the Gospels. We prayed together and recited the ancient creeds of the faith.

One of our Pastors, the Rev. Alison Shane, delivered an insightful sermon about the meaning and implications of Palm Sunday, particularly contrasting Christ’s ministry up to that point with that in the (Holy) week just ahead, the last days before his crucifixion and resurrection.

The light went on, I think, sometime between the worship service and our brunch. The key to our newfound delight in worship may hinge on one primary factor: participation.

We suddenly realized that in the “evangelical milieu”, where we had been for the past several decades, Sunday church is a spectator event for the most part. We were entertained by musicians, music groups, drama troupes and media-driven sermons. We were even made to feel good – for the moment, at least. And all we had to do was arrive and get comfortable in a pew.

Sometimes the sermon was even strong enough to impact our lives. And we would try like mad for a few days to effect it. The entertainment factor usually wore off by Sunday night, however, when the boob tube took over with superior amusement. For me, the staying effects of that kind of worship often resulted in what felt like spiritual "let down" much too soon.

In contrast, we realize, in our present worship experience, we participate at almost every level. We process into the sanctuary (at least on last Sunday). We sing the hymns together. We recite the scriptures. We rehearse the ancient creeds. We partake in the Sacraments. We respond to the sermon. Week after week this has had a very positive cumulative impact on our spirituality.

This fresh (for us), seemingly more authentic mainline worship experience has resulted in a discernable change taking place in our lives. It’s hard to quantify, but we know it’s there. For one thing, we are spiritually sustained throughout the week. In fact, we’re already anticipating worship in God’s presence next Sunday.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Photo Reminiscences of Disneyland

Above shows the immense size of the Silver Bullet hanging roller coaster at Knotts Berry Farm. The coaster is ABOVE you and your feet hang loose on this ride and extend straight up toward the sky when you loop. It was Talli's (above right) favorite. Below are Elaine, Hayley and Aubrey on the monster ferris wheel, and below that the three kids enjoy cotton candy on the one cold day when it rained.

Doug, Talli and Gregg are about to be hoisted straight up the tower some 100-plus feet and then dropped in a free fall. Yiiiikes.

Aubrey and Hayley enjoying the happiest place on earth.

Grandma took the bottom pic so we are including her above to show our whole family group. Aubs lucks out and gets in twice!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tower of Terror

This is the "hot" new ride at Disneyland's California Adventures that all the kids want to go on. It's called the TOWER OF TERROR. As usual, Disney does not disappoint.

The descendants of old Walt have created a wonderful, sort of creepy, story around the 1920's Hollywood hotel, the Tower, long since gone from the scene. Basically, it's an "elevator" ride in total darkness with incredible sights and sounds from inside the old hotel. The "elevator" can also go forward and back in addition to up and down. Of course the narration keeps you wondering what's going to happen next.

After entering it on the ground floor, the "elevator" eventually lurches to the high point of the building, and the doors flash open for a second, giving you a panoramic view of the park and establishing the feeling that you are high up in the air. Then, just as suddenly, the doors close -- and you plunge downward very rapidly, only to be jerked to a stop and accelerated up again for another dose of "drops" in the dark.

It's a great ride and well worth the time. Disney, of course, is unsurpassed in creating a seemingly adequately long ride around 30-seconds of elevator ups and downs.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Hollywood Effect

You just can't go to southern California without feeling its effects. On our recent family trek to Disneyland, our almost four-year-old granddaughter, Aubrey, succombed to the Hollywood look for an evening. You can't see it in the picture, snapped by her mom, but that plastic-looking "tube" around her neck is really a "light-ring" which pierces the night in a dizzying circle of multi-colored laser pulses. She was HOT!!