Monday, July 31, 2006

At Home in Our New Church Home

Yesterday Kay Lynne and I were received as new members in the First Lutheran Church of Poulsbo. We feel very blessed to now “officially” be a part of this wonderful congregation.

The sermon by senior Pastor Don Jukam serves as an example of one of the key reasons we felt drawn to this body of believers.

We always seem to learn a fresh nuance about the faith, no matter which of the three ministers is preaching.

This is a teaching parish in addition to being a “Word and Sacrament” Church. We are instructed Biblically to grow in the faith, and First Lutheran provides the perfect milieu.

In yesterday’s discourse, Pastor Jukam provided some fresh insight for our Gospel lesson taken from John chapter 6 – even for a long time believer like myself. Did you know, for instance, that there is no Greek word for our English word “miracle”?

Being that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, where, then, did all the references to Jesus’ (and others’) “miracles” come from in our English versions? Most likely from mis-translations.

Pastor Jukam pointed out that the three Greek words that have most commonly been translated into our word “miracles” are the Greek versions of “signs”, “wonders” and “works”. And there is a theological basis for this.

The “signs”, “wonders” and “works” that Jesus did always pointed toward something: namely, that he was the Son of God, and the “greater” things that he did were to be a “sign” that he was indeed the Messiah.

Though there are many who have performed “miracles”, the “signs”, “wonders” and mighty “works” that Jesus did always pointed – and continue to point – to God’s provision of salvation and eternal life for all of us through his son.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

We are privileged indeed

How many parents get to be taught by their children? I’m not referring to trivial insights about everyday living, but to whole, fresh perspectives for life and faith.

In recent years, my wife and I have often been blessed in this way.

Yesterday’s blog post by my son Gregg is an example of what I’m talking about. Click here to read it.

I feel you’ll go a long way before you find a better synoptic apologetic of the Christian faith and how it can affect the way one lives. But then, I’m his dad, so maybe I’m biased (freely admitted).

You may also want to check out his second post yesterday which was a tongue-in-cheek “illumination” of the original. The last paragraph in this particular post could be the spine of a book. It deals with the essence of what our faith should encompass.

This time it happened to be Gregg who has enriched our spiritual understanding. Our other son Doug has done likewise, many times in the car on our way to or from a fishing trip, when you have time to just talk things out.

As parents, my wife and I are privileged indeed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Feeling the Heat

For the past few days it’s been unusually warm here in the Northwest. But nothing like what you friends in California are enduring.

I happened to check northern California weather online today and was astounded to see it was OVER 110 degrees in Fairfield where we used to live, and there were warnings that some locations in the Sacramento valley could top 115. Yikes!!

This is serious Fahrenheit.

I see it’s supposed to cool down a few degrees, at least, in a day or so. Sure hope it does! We topped 90-degrees today, and 225 miles south of us where my son’s family lives, just did tap the century mark.

Is this an example of global warming? Or is it simply a phase in nature’s cycle? You decide. In either case, it’s still hot.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Baseball Tonight

There’s baseball tonight.

For us, it won’t be in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, where I saw my first Major League game, but here in Seattle, where the Mariners will host the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.

Big Papi (above) is coming to town, though there is some question as to whether or not his sore back will allow him to be in the lineup.

Kay Lynne’s brother Rick and sister-in-law Danielle arrive today from Chicago, and tonight our son Doug and his wife Jamie will join us for the match-up at beautiful Safeco Field.

From a personal perspective I can’t think of a better way to “catch up” with relatives than to do so at a ball game. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and (your favorite car)….. what could be better on a hot summer night?

Only cloud on the horizon is that Curt Schilling is not starting this evening. But Jamie Moyer is.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Finally – Floors Are In!

Today there is noticeably less stress hanging around our home. The floors are finally in place, and we are enjoying the improved ambiance.

We’re keeping busy putting furnishings back into place so we’ll be in a position to enjoy the weekend with our guests. I’ll add some posts next week, or perhaps sooner, regarding their visit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kitchen Chaos Hopefully Ends Tonight

Since Monday, our upstairs floor has been in chaos.

Kitchen chairs are in our bedroom and bathroom, the hutch and dining room table are in the living room, and dust is everywhere. All because the kitchen floor, the dining room floor and the floor in the half bath are getting a hardwood covering in Canadian cherrywood.

The job was scheduled to be completed Monday night, but due to “unforeseen contingencies,” the majority of the work is being completed (hopefully) today. But of course it has resulted in living chaos for several days.

Plus, relatives from Chicago arrive Friday. Which leaves us with one day before they arrive to get it all back together and hopefully looking decent. The schedule seemed just fine when this was originally planned out over a month ago. However, things happen, and you learn to deal with it.

I spose it’s our age that further complicates things. I don’t remember such things bothering us much in our younger days. It appears, however, that “maturity” brings with it some extra baggage with regard to tolerable stress levels.

I’ll return to more active posting when the dust clears. But then it’s on to new kitchen counter tops…

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Anticipating Lutheran Church Membership

Following our 11am worship service today, my wife and I attended the “new members instructional class” in preparation for becoming members of First Lutheran Church in Poulsbo.

I am happy to report that we found no surprises in what we learned today, and that likely means we will become members there within a few weeks.

The class was taught by Senior Pastor Don Jukam, a seasoned preacher who knows what following Christ is all about and communicates those tenets very well, often using humor to his advantage.

We learned a bit about church history, about comparative denominations and, of course, about the teachings of Martin Luther. If Luther had one distinctive it was he believed and taught that mankind, or any individual, can do nothing in and of himself or herself to gain salvation. Our spiritual emancipation comes fully and entirely by what God, through Christ, has done for us.

This church is a “Word and Sacrament” Church. The Bible is the final authority for faith and practice, and this church, as do all Lutheran congregations, celebrates just two Sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion. The remaining practices commonly referred to as Sacraments by the Roman Catholic Church and others (such as marriage, confirmation, etc.) are simply “rites” in the Lutheran tradition.

The backgrounds of class members considering Lutheran Church membership were quite varied. The gamut included the spread between Roman Catholic and Baptist with a smattering of mainline denominations in between.

All of us agreed that we have found a oneness here in this church that encompasses what we seek and need as followers of Christ.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Our last volunteer church “work project” in California, before we moved to the Pacific Northwest about two years ago, was to serve on the Building Fund Committee of Covenant Community Church in Vacaville.

During the time we served, the parking lot and church building you see above was a large piece of “golden” grassland.

Quite a transformation has taken place.

The lone building on the property then was a small multi-purpose center that is shown to the right of the roundish tree. Church offices are also in this building.

We responded enthusiastically when asked to serve by the Pastor, John Moser. Kay Lynne was the coordinating administrator on the committee, and I helped with campaign design work and print communications. The experience was extremely rewarding for both of us.

This was the theme/logo our committee came up with for the campaign (it took a bit of trickery to get the original Publisher file to upload to this site):

God blessed our committee efforts, as we were able to garner member faith commitments totaling just about $400,000 back in March of 2004 – and since then the goal has increased to nearly $500,000. As of now, an incredible 75% of the money has already been given to the church.

Based on the member commitments, a construction loan was obtained, and the building you see above was constructed. The congregation has been worshipping in the new edifice for almost a year now, I believe.

The new facility is a multi-purpose worship center which can be set up for worship, banquets, basketball or other recreational activities, as needed. It has a full kitchen and several educational classrooms.

Some day a building that will serve as just a worship sanctuary will be erected on the land, according to the master plan, and from then on this building will function as a multi-purpose/educational facility only.

Kay Lynne and I had not seen the building until our visit down there at the beginning of this month, as we moved away from there a few months before construction began. We wished we could have been there for a worship service, but our schedule did not permit it this time. We look forward to that in the future.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Ron’s Folly"?

On our recent visit to the Golden State, we spent a day or so in San Jose where my wife was born and raised and where we were married and lived for many years.

Back then San Jose’s City Hall was located on Hedding Street on the north side of the city between downtown and the airport.

Not anymore.

Kay Lynne and I were driving through some old “haunts” while there, and we noticed that the new City Hall was located right downtown on Santa Clara St., just north of San Jose State University - a seemingly perfect location.

As you can tell by the photo above, it’s also very beautiful. In fact, I mentioned to my wife that this would even sit well in a big city like San Francisco.

Well, there’s a reason it’s so nice – albeit a little bit out of character for San Jose. Seems besieged mayor Ron Gonzales, recently indicted, sadly, on a myriad of alleged charges relating to misconduct while in office, had pushed very hard during his two terms to get the buildings erected. According to less than friendly wags, he wanted to make sure that he would be remembered.

Unfortunately the edifice(s) reportedly came in at some $100 million over budget. So wouldn’t you know, those same wags have dubbed the new facility “Ron’s folly”?

Wouldn’t you also know that, finally, when San Jose sort of arrives in the big time, the effort is loaded with controversy? I guess it’s hard to convert the world's largest prune orchard into a viable big city in less than a long time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Visiting Old (er, Longtime) Friends and Baggars

Above are (L to R) Petersens, Us, Walls & Silkwoods, taken last summer in Canada

At left are Ralph & Gayle Higgins on their deck that overlooks their Bay. The two "humps" in the distance form nearby Mt Diablo. That's Dwight Klassen at right exhibiting a bit of "Baggar humor" by hugging his (missing) wife Lynnette who was otherwise engaged at the time of the photo.
* * *

As I have alluded to in a previous post or two, we were in California for a week from June 29 through July 5. The trip provided a great opportunity to connect with some life-long friends.

We arrived in Sacramento at the tail end (fortunately) of an early summer heat wave. Unfortunately, three-digit temp days are the norm for Sacramento summers.

The good news is that the next morning we headed up the western slopes of the Sierras to visit our friends Ted and Sharon Petersen who live near Grass Valley where it was a “tad” cooler. The bad news is that “tad” is a slight variance in perception only.

Ted is a retired portrait photographer par excel lance who can’t seem to stop working. He’s now thinking about re-opening (on a smaller scale) his “natural environmental” portrait work to “keep him busy” in between the corporate shootings which linger from his working life. Plus, he has to find time to work on his single-digit golf handicap. Living on the second hole of a beautiful course doesn’t hurt.

Sharon has spent the last few years as the volunteer women’s ministries coordinator in their church. She’s just “passed the torch” to someone else, as she needs a respite from the time-intensive position.

A 12-year cancer survivor, Sharon is an incredible living example of what it means to trust God for everything and to work hard at what He’s called you to do. She won’t mind if you include her on your prayer list.

After our Saturday stop at Quaker Meadows we headed for San Jose, our old stomping grounds, and a Sunday brunch with Mike and Gwen Silkwood and Ed and Darlene Wall.

We enjoyed catching up on things with these wonderful friends whom we’ve known since the 1960’s. We did so via an unbelievable noon buffet spread at the city-owned Hayes Mansion that has been converted into a five-star restaurant. You leave thinking you've bought a bunch of stock in the place, but you're totally satisfied.

Gwen has recently joined Sharon as a cancer survivor and is presently undergoing post-operative treatments. Her prognosis is good, but she, too, is grateful for prayers and support. We spent a long time talking about the “why’s” and “wherefore’s” of life, of course not really figuring out anything, except to agree that we’re thankful for God’s mercy and grace.

A day later, following a Sunday evening stop in Sunnyvale to visit my cousin Jim Narva and his wife Kay, we dropped in on two of the Baggars and their wives who both happen to live in Discovery Bay on the Sacramento River Delta.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Ralph and Gayle Higgins and with Dwight and Lynnette Klassen. Whenever the three of us guys get together, our wives have to put up with our friendIy "Baggar banter" into which we revert as if we were still in college. It probably gets old fast for our wives, but we seem to still groove on it.

I can tell you that the Higginses run a wonderful “bed and breakfast,” just not as a business. After trading stories for hours, sleep came easily in their commodious dockside home, and Ralph prepared a mean Cactus omelet the next morning. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it; it was delicious.

Our little dog, Buddy, simply went nuts with joy when we picked him up from the Kennel upon our arrival back home. It’s so nice to be loved.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Today is Leonard Mallen’s Birthday

Leonard Mallen was a boyhood friend from the Finnish Lutheran Church on Wilson Ave. in Chicago. His dad owned two multi-unit apartment houses at 814-816 W. Cuyler St., just a short distance from Wrigley Field (right, close to what it looked like then) .

I wonder if the then deep red-brick building rentals are still there, and I sort of marvel how I can remember that address from 60 years ago when I have difficulty remembering what I had for breakfast.

Leonard was fluently bi-lingual (Finnish and English), as were his parents (immigrants in those days learned our language first and consequently prospered), but Finnish was what was spoken in their home.

I would often try to get him to teach me some Finnish words (I learned a few) but I never became fully conversant.

Leonard always seemed to have discretionary money that our family didn’t. His kind father taught him to share his bounty, and Leonard would often invite me to go to Cubs games with him.

Through Leonard, I got my first exposure to Major League Baseball and the “love to lose” Cubbies.

In those days, we never paid to get in. I would talk to the attendant to distract him, and Leonard would jump the low fence into Wrigley Field just out of sight of the monitor. Then he would engage the guard from the inside, and I would go down and jump the fence.

As youths it didn’t occur to us that what we did was wrong; it was simply a prankish game we could always play and win. After all, Leonard had the money to pay. Those low fences, by the way, were replaced with 10-foot high cyclone ones not long afterward.

We always had (Leonard’s) money with which to enjoy the game. We both always got the same thing – a hot dog, a Pepsi, some peanuts and a malt cup. For sure, the “Wrigley Field experience” was a bedrock in helping to create my life-long love for the game of baseball.

I remember watching then Cubs players like Andy Pafko or Hank Sauer (LF), Frankie Baumholtz (CF & RF), lefty home run hitter Bill Nicholson (RF) Peanuts Lowry (3B), Roy Smalley (SS), Wayne Terwilliger (2B) and Phil Cavaretta (1B). My favorite Cub pitcher was Bob Rush. (Again, how those names come to mind 60 years after the fact must show the impact it had at my young age.)

Well, Happy Birthday, Len. Though you’re long gone, if the Lutheran tradition holds true, you’re now enjoying the game on a gorgeous new field.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Baseball and Music Like Oil and Water? Think Again.

My wife and I attended a symphony concert yesterday at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. And believe it or not, in the process we learned things about baseball that we never knew.

The event happened to be one of the relatively few stops for the traveling musical multi-media show called The Baseball Music Project that features music associated with baseball – America’s pastime.

My son Doug and his wife Jamie took us to the Concert as my birthday present for this year. It was perfect for an old baseball crony like me.

Using images from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, the program skillfully blends the visuals with a wonderful variety of music related to the game of baseball (there are hundreds of songs out there).

The Project is the brainchild of Robert Thompson, who travels with the show and guest-conducted the Seattle symphony orchestra for its three performances.

Thompson, a passionate baseball and music aficionado, says, “We love baseball for reasons and purposes we don’t entirely understand ourselves… there’s mystery in the game. We believe that Shoeless Joe Jackson could come walking out of a cornfield in Iowa at any moment.”

Among other interesting lore, we learned that the lyrics for Take Me Out To The Ballgame, the third most widely sung song in America (behind the National Anthem and Happy Birthday) were written on a New York subway car in 1908 by one Jack Norworth, after his train passed a sign that simply said “BASEBALL GAME TODAY at the Polo Grounds” (then the home of the NY Giants).

He scribbled the words while his train car continued it's lurching ride down the tracks (there’s a photo of the original script in the program whose cover is pictured above – that’s Babe Ruth at the piano). Composer Albert Von Tilzer soon added the music that resulted in the now famous sing-along melody.

The late Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray helped to make it a national ballpark tradition by leading Cub fans in singing the song before the home half of every seventh inning. Games were televised nationally on super station WGN-TV, and it caught on at parks around the country.

One of my favorite visuals in the program was the famous Willie Mays back-to-the-infield catch of Vic Wertz’ line drive to deep center field in the 1954 World Series between the Giants and Cleveland. I’m old enough to remember listening to that World Series on radio which the Giants swept, incidentally.

Hall of Famer Dave Winfield narrated the show, and guest vocalists were the talented Misty Castleberry and Forrest Mankowski.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Granddaughters Conquer the Rock Climbing Wall at Quaker Meadows

Being up at 7,200 feet above sea level at Quaker Meadows Camp in the southern Sierras of California was not high enough for our three granddaughters.

They wanted to scale the professionally-constructed rock climbing wall there and go even higher.

Mission accomplished.

Left top is Talli, three weeks from being 12. She can scoot up the wall in about 20 seconds. Hayley, 9, middle right, can zoom up in about the same time. Aubrey, three days from being 4, above, can make it about half way up the wall.

Click on each picture to see it full size. I had to "doctor" these photos, as the low light, black wall and distance from the camera all created problems.

All three girls are very athletic. Talli and Hayley both also attempted the climb using their hands only (without placing their feet on a protruding rock, just against the wall).

They could get past the half-way point, but it takes more upper body strength than is available in their young bodies to make it all the way. I believe their Uncle Loren, an experienced mountaineer, made it up all the way once with hands only.

The girls were able to stay at Quaker Meadows for three more days after their maternal grandparents’ Saturday celebration. They spent their time hiking mountain trails, swimming in the pool, taking part in water adventures in the small lake and sleeping in a mountain cabin.

To say the least, the kids of all ages thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Home Again

It’s nice to be home again… after a jam-packed week in California. I love California; I lived in the Golden State for almost 35 years.

But I love the Evergreen State even more.

Today it was forecast to be 90-degrees in Sacramento where we flew out of this morning. However it was a cool 65-degrees with a protective cloud cover when we landed in Seattle just before noon. And no smog.

Last Thursday it was a hazy 105 when we arrived in Sacramento. I had to find a small spot of leather on the rental car steering wheel in order to even touch it. I would have blistered had I grabbed the hard plastic circle.

I guess we’re not used to the heat anymore.

On the other hand, in spite of the desert-like conditions, we enjoyed our trip immensely. We got to visit with five couples with whom we've been friends for over 40 years. More blog posts upcoming on that.

And we really enjoyed a full day last Saturday at Quaker Meadows Camp and Retreat Center, some 7,200 feet up in the high Sierras above Porterville. We were there with a large group of Friends (note the capital “F”) celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of Kennard and Margene Haworth (pictured above), parents of our daughter-in-law Elaine (Gregg’s wife).

The trip odometer on the rental car turned 1,000 miles as we drove into the airport this morning. We really covered a lot of territory, but that’s par for the course when traveling in the expansive State of California.

Methinks we’ll sleep well tonight.