Monday, December 31, 2007

Try to Celebrate a Birthday at Christmastime

Our son Doug has the unfortunate fate of having a birthday in late December, following all the Christmas hubbub. When he was younger, we always tried to make his birthday as “special” as those at other times of the year, but, admittedly, this is not a great season to have a birthday.

So we celebrated anyway yesterday with Doug and Jamie, enjoying brunch after church at Doug’s favorite breakfast eatery, the Blue Star CafĂ© in Wallingford. You simply cannot find a better breakfast/brunch than the ones available there. And, for some strange reason yesterday, there was not a waiting line out the door.

We then took a drive east from Seattle to the scenic Sammamish plateau, then on to Fall City, and finally to Snoqualmie Falls for an up-close look-see (lousy quality “hazy day” photo is from my phone cam).

On the way back, of course, for Jamie and Kay Lynne, we stopped at the Mad Scrapper in Issaquah (don’t ask if you don’t know), while the birthday-boy and I got some Baskin-Robbins reinforcements next door. The final stop was at the Outdoor Emporium adjacent to Safeco Field where Doug and I checked out the latest in steelhead poles for floating jigs.

Doug’s parents and wife sure had a wonderful time on his birthday. We trust he did, too. After all, he was driving.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Afterglow

Christmas 2007 still lingers in our hearts and in our memories. We had the privilege of enjoying the benefits of our immediate family all being together in Oregon at Gregg and Elaine’s beautifully restored 1920’s farmhouse. And it even snowed for much of the day (didn’t stick long, though).

Above, on Christmas Day, are our granddaughters, Talli and Hayley, and that's Aubrey on the right on her new Disney Princess two-wheeler (a sparkling beauty unlike anything I’ve ever seen).

Doug and Jamie joined us for the day, along with Elaine’s parents, Ken and Margene Haworth, who live nearby. Of course Gregg and Elaine’s dog, Jack, and our dog, Buddy, were both part of the festivities.

All of us are thankful for a great year, and now we can reminisce for a time and also contemplate some possibilities for the New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Leads To Apostleship

In her sermon today at church, our associate Pastor Alison Shane zeroed in on what Christmas can mean not only at this time of year, but also all year long. She painted, first, a broad-stroke view of the Christmas story as given in Matthew and Luke, but then she honed in on the apostle Paul's suggestion that Christmas provides “mission” for our lives.

What was amazing to me was that she took the wide-ranging topic of “Christmas” and navigated skillfully through all the “stuff” to offer a singular, cogent focus for us at this Holy Season.

After talking about the interesting perspectives of Gospel writers Matthew and Luke in relating the story of Christ’s birth, she turned to words by the apostle Paul in the first chapter of Romans, that was also a part of the Lectionary readings for this past week:

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ… set apart for the gospel… concerning his Son… Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith..”

Pastor Alison pointed out that Paul did not have the benefit of Matthew’s or Luke’s animated narrative of the Incarnation story. Based on what he knew, however, Paul linked the coming of Christ to our mission, with the above words. He understood the full implication of the Christmas story, but he took it to the next step and applied it to everyday living.

Lutherans look at “apostleship” mostly in terms of vocation, that is, how we live out our faith. Pastor Alison offered that Christmas takes on added meaning for us as we realize that, in addition to sending His Son, God has gifted each one of us for “mission”, or apostleship.

This season, as we contemplate the Christmas story, we can also know that God continues to equip us for the particular “apostleship” to which He has called us. In this way, Christmas is not only an event we observe and celebrate, but it is also the basis for mission and meaning for our lives.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finding Strength in Weakness

If we think we’re ready to accomplish great things for God, chances are we won’t be called upon.

In one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith, the apostle Paul tells his brothers and sisters in the faith at Corinth that “…I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Several times, recently, this and other paradoxes of the faith have come to mind as I’ve read scripture, listened to sermons and perused books. Especially at this Advent season, the simple humility in which Christ entered our world, for me, is an incredulous irony.

Christ didn’t arrive in royal robes. He didn’t assemble armies to conquer the known world. And he certainly didn’t set up any political kingdoms. Instead, he chose the peaceful pathway as a (confounding to me) model for us – that is so hard to follow.

I guess the point of the paradoxes is that our faith is all about GOD’S work in the world. Our assessments of our abilities (to help God get the job done) are pretty much useless. Rather, we ought to just BE – ready and willing to allow God to use His strength (maybe even through us) to accomplish His purpose in a sick, deteriorating world.

Confounding as it is, these paradoxes are part of the mystery of God. Just before Paul made the comment above (in the second paragraph) to the Corinthians, he had been pleading with God to remove a physical ailment that plagued him. Instead, God responded with these words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

If only we could comprehend it and practice it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Emptying of Self

I’m currently reading a book, a type of which I have not read too many, mostly because I haven’t chosen to do so. The book is about meditation, contemplation and the emptying of self – not exactly topics of which I have a lot of knowledge or experience (as a competitive American).

The book is titled Simplicity, with the subtitle, The Freedom of Letting Go. It is written by Richard Rohr (pictured), a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.

If we want to understand the contextual Christianity which Christ taught and exemplified, Rohr suggests, we must find a way to totally and completely empty ourselves of culture, education, desires (self), theology, and, yes, even “the church,” before we can really begin to understand how to live the faith.

One of the best ways to do this, he offers, is to learn how to properly meditate and contemplate. Much of the book is given to several approaches that he has practiced in his lifetime. He offers the following, from his book:

“I believe that there are two necessary paths enabling us to move toward wisdom: a radical journey inward and a radical journey outward. For far too long we’ve confined people to a sort of security zone, a safe midpoint. We’ve called them neither to a radical path inward, in other words, to contemplation, nor to a radical journey outward, that is, to commitment on the social issues of our time.”

Additionally, our western world concepts convolute our analysis. He further observes:

“The practical definition of freedom that we have formed under capitalism is to have endless possibilities and options. But Jesus also said that we should expect no freedom from the world. The freedom it offers us is always a freedom that serves its own purposes. It is a tiny freedom. It is the ‘Pax Romana,’ not the ‘Pax Christi.’”

For me, and I would suppose for most Americans, this is a radical book. But more and more I want to know about the “radicalness” of the Gospel. It’s in this “radicalness”, I think, that we find the counter-cultural aspects of the Christian faith, about which we westerners know so little.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Church Christmas Concert Gets Rave Reviews

Earlier this evening at church – First Lutheran of Poulsbo – two vocal choirs and two hand-bell choirs combined to create an outstanding Christmas music event, giving their annual Christmas Concert. The church was packed to the rafters.

Two outstanding musicians, Tricia Siburg and Debbie Collier, combined to direct the performances. Tricia teaches and directs the Joyful Ringers youth hand-bell choir, and the Joyful Singers youth choir, and, as well, directs the Liberty Bells adult hand-bell choir. Debbie directs the Cathedral Choir, and tonight, additionally, she led the Cathedral Choir women in a wonderful rendition of O Sing to the Babe.

The two-hour performance featured a quartet of numbers from each of the four groups, with additional performances by the women’s choir and combined choirs. There were several standouts in my estimation.

Collegian Megan Leibold's solo of O Holy Night, accompanied by the Cathedral Choir, was especially good. She has a pure, wonderful soprano voice. Megan also assists Tricia in directing the Joyful Ringers and is the accompanist for the Joyful Singers. She often is also a soloist with the Cathedral Choir during regular worship services.

Fum, Fum, Fum by the Joyful Ringers and Do You Know the Way to Bethlehem? by the Joyful Singers had special heart. Coventry Carol by the Liberty Bells was extremely good, but Jesus, What A Wonderful Child by the Combined Choirs was the perfect, hand-clapping, audience-swaying climax for the night. Our church organist Miriam Haddon provided the perfect accompaniment.

Of course, Scandinavian Lutherans always end an evening like this in the Social Hall with good coffee, good food and good fellowship.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What’s NOT In A Photo May Be More Important Than What Is

Sometime in the last month or so someone mentioned to me how good everyone looked in a certain photograph. My memory’s hard drive is so full that I am prevented from recalling who it was or what the photo was about. Not thinking much about it at the time, I think I agreed.

Now, I’m not so sure. For some reason I’ve kept thinking about photographs, how we view them, what they are, why we enjoy them so much – and even what some cautions might be. Even though I can’t remember much about the incident mentioned.

I think it’s good to look neat and somewhat groomed in a photograph. A snapshot taken just after a shower is not an inviting image to preserve on a desktop. But how important is it to “look good,” really?

A photograph reflects just a snippet in time, and it’s by no means a full indication of someone’s true condition. You can clean up a homeless thief, groom him or her, and then take a photo. The image will look “good,” but it is giving you a very false impression. The subject is likely still hungry, without shelter, and may be hurting badly enough to continue stealing.

If we’re good at looking good in pictures, does that really say anything? When Andre Agassi was peddling Canon cameras on TV several years ago, his pitch line was, “IMAGE is everything.”

Is it?

I think not. Too many of us look in the mirror every day and try to make ourselves look like something we’re not. The long line at the plastic surgeon’s office tells us that many Americans are either not seeing what is there or they are seeing something that isn’t there – or both. And they’ll do anything to change their “appearance.”

Looking at a photograph that “looks good” tells you very little. Take the photo above, for example. At best, it says that at one point in time, this young lady looked good in a parka. What it doesn’t tell you is anything about who she is. The snapshot means nada. What IS important is who she is and what she is all about.

I think if there’s a danger in focusing on “images,” it may lie in looking at life itself as if we’re staring at a photograph. We are unable to see the reality of the complexities, challenges and struggles the subject faces. Conversely, it’s often easy to project a “wonderful image” if we photograph well. In either case, reality is obscured.

If we view life as the “image” we’d like it to be, we’re in deep trouble. If we ourselves project a “cool” image, no one will know we’re hurting. When we look in the mirror, or at a photograph, we need to take an honest look and see beyond what’s in the image. We need to discover what’s NOT in the impression.

Jesus said it well, and I’m paraphrasing from memory: “Humans look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” The heart (or one’s “personhood”) is what is NOT in a photo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another Gathering of Friends in Discovery Bay

Our time in the SF Bay area last weekend was far too short. But one of the things we wouldn’t have missed was a get-together with old college roommates (two of the Baggars) and their wives.

Call it fate, or whatever, two of six old college buddies have ended up in retirement, living on the water just a few doors from each other in the Sacramento River Delta community of Discovery Bay, near Brentwood. Great friends since childhood, Dwight and Lynnette Klassen and Ralph and Gayle Higgins still talk almost daily “over the fence,” so to speak.

Kay Lynne and I joined them on Saturday afternoon for a dinner at Cap’s in Brentwood and dessert, great conversation and the singing of Christmas Carols at Klassens’ place. I snapped the above photo as we gathered around the piano to sing together the joyous sounds of Christmas in celebration of our Savior’s birth.
Ralph and Dwight, both incredible musicians and my envy all our lives, capped the evening by improvising together on the piano keyboard, “dualing” some familiar old tunes. I offered to step in and try playing some melody, but still, after almost 50 years, I can’t find the right notes for Waterloo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Christmas Gathering in the Santa Cruz Redwoods

Last Thursday we flew down to San Jose for an evening get-together with three couples at Mt Hermon Christian Conference Center near Santa Cruz. The event was a buffet dinner and Christmas concert held annually there – actually the first of eight performances over two weekends.

This year’s featured artists were harmonica virtuoso Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor, a talented multi-instrument accompanist and comedic cohort. Both hail from Nashville, and their performance was extremely entertaining.

Joining us in the pouring rain that night in the Santa Cruz mountains were our friends Ted and Sharon Petersen of Lake Wildwood, Mike and Gwen Silkwood of Morgan Hill and Ed and Darlene Wall of Almaden/San Jose. This was probably the fifth or sixth consecutive year we’ve gathered to enjoy the annual holiday concert among the Redwoods.

After the concert was over, we drove into nearby Santa Cruz, checked into our beachfront hotel and headed to a local all-night eatery for some fellowship and more food (after all, it had been at least three hours since we had fed the monster). Sometime well after midnight we crept back into our hotel rooms for some welcome zzz’s.

The pic above was taken the next morning after breakfast at the hotel’s oceanfront restaurant. Back row, l to r, are moi, Ted, Ed and Mike. Middle row, l to r, are Kay Lynne, Sharon and Gwen, with Darlene in the front center.

Among all our fun activities, we reminisced back some 39+ years when we’d meet at Uncle John’s Pancake House after Sunday night church services in San Jose. The kids would all be asleep in their hand-carried, folding porta-beds (long since obsolete) by the time we headed for home. Thanks for the memories…

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Light

We got home last night from almost four days in the S.F. Bay area visiting two groups of lifelong friends. We had a wonderful time, and I'll add some posts and photos of our experiences in a day or two.

Today, however, I'd like to share this video which my pastor-son, Gregg, made a year ago. It is just as powerful today as it was then. Watch...

The narration, in order, is by Gregg, our granddaughters, Aubrey, Hayley and Talli, and our daughter-in-law, Elaine.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Beat The Rush; Be A Disciple NOW

Today is the first Sunday in Advent (the beginning of a new Church calendar year with a four-week season that celebrates Christ’s birth and coming into the world). Our lectionary readings for the week included passages from Isaiah, Romans and Matthew.

During the Sunday School hour, our adult ed class, taught by Pastor Kent Shane, focused on the first five verses of Isaiah chapter two where the prophet gives a glimpse of future occurrences in Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah spoke of a time (in the future) when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

These words are oft quoted when we speak of the coming peaceable Kingdom of God. However, in one sense, this Kingdom began when Christ took human form and lived an exemplary life among us. Our problem, because we are part and parcel of a fallen, sinful world, is in trying to replicate His example.

Our class discussion was full of many good, thoughtful (and diverse) ideas about Kingdom living. As we were concluding our discussion by massaging how difficult it is to live now as if we were already in the Kingdom of God, Pastor Kent made a wonderful spontaneous utterance.

“Beat the rush,” he said, “be a disciple NOW.” How true! If we could just practice it!

The more I think about it, I see possibilities for the use of these words as a bumper sticker…


I’m just not sure how many would “get it”.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Winter Is Here For A Few Hours

This is what it looked like a couple of hours ago, just after it started snowing, looking down our driveway toward a neighbor's house. About an inch and a half fell in about a half hour. It was heavy for a short time, but likely the white stuff will be gone by tomorrow (thankfully).

Click on the pic for a much larger view where you might even pick up the snow flakes.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Computer Crash

Well, I'm slowly getting back up to speed after my four-year-old laptop crashed yesterday morning. I was just starting to work on a story for the local newspaper when the screen went black.

Fortunately, we we able to salvage the harddrive from the old one, so I believe at this point that all or most of my data files and pics are still there. I should be able to use it in a "receptacle" device I bought that has a USB connection to this new laptop. It's going to take some time to get the old files and photos tranferred over, so it may be a few days before I can do much posting.

I love the new laptop, but I wish I were more patient! I'd like to have everything "just like it was" much faster than is possible. Really, I'm just thankful I didn't lose everything.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Can’t Figure Out Presidential Candidates? Take This Quiz To See With Whom You Resonate.

Have you been having as much difficulty as everyone else in trying to figure out which presidential candidate to follow? Join the crowd!

I got this online quiz link by email from a relative in Chicago. It’s fairly short, but by answering the questions honestly, it’ll show you the candidate(s) with whom you resonate mostly.

I have no idea how these computer tests work, but click on the following link to take the quiz and learn a bit about yourself: QUIZ

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Break Time

Today we had nothing but errands to do, so I’m taking a break from any lengthy postings. Among our chores, my wife and I did go to the Belfair area to take care of some details on the purchase of our lot there. Pic above shows the Hood Canal and freshly snow-capped Olympic mountains as we would see them from our rear deck after a home is in place there. Btw, it appears all the potential obstacles have been removed as far as building the home we’d like on this particular lot. You can click on the pic to bring up a larger image.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Speak, Lord, For Your Servant Is Listening

Of late, the ancient story of the Israelite boy Samuel, who heard the voice of God in the living quarters of Eli the priest, has been coming to mind.

You know the story. Hannah, Samuel’s mother, had offered her son back to God’s service, after long years of praying for relief from her barrenness ended with his birth. In thankfulness, she gave him to God at a very young age, bringing young Samuel to live with Eli where the boy ministered to and for the Lord.

One night, Samuel heard a voice calling his name. Thinking it was Eli, he went to the priest. “I have not called you,” said Eli. “Go back to sleep.” Three times it happened, and then Eli realized it might be God speaking. He told Samuel to respond with the following if he again heard the voice. Say, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening,” instructed the old priest.

Well, it happened again, and Samuel responded properly. God revealed to the growing boy the ominous fate of Eli’s sons who were violating their duties as priestly offspring, and Samuel went on to be a faithful prophet of God.

He listened to the voice of God, and acted accordingly.

Over the past year or so, my wife and I have been increasingly sensitive to a recurring missive that, at this point at least, might be presumptive to assume is the voice of God. However, we don’t want to ignore the possibility, either.

We have become increasingly burdened about the almost obscene inequity of wealth between our western societies and third world poverty. We have so much, and they have so little. It’s not fair; it’s not just; and it’s not right. And for sure, it’s not God’s will.

Yet we do so little about it.

Of late, especially, we’ve been praying and realizing that of course, the two of us can’t solve the problem. But we’re also realizing that we don’t have to continue as we are. In our own way, we can at least begin to be a part of the solution, rather than exacerbating the problem by tacitly condoning it.

We don’t need all that we have. We can convert some assets. We can live on much less. We can use the proceeds to become more active in efforts to alleviate the inequities we see.

We can use our gifts in the myriad of opportunities that are there right now, many through our own church and denomination. We can do less thinking and take more actions.

Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Fun With Granddaughters

We were fortunate this year to have both sons and their families here for Thanksgiving. To say the least, a great time was had by all.

Yesterday, we went to a nearby harbor where our granddaughters (and all of us) enjoyed the gorgeous late fall scenery in the archipelago. Gregg took this picture of Hayley, Aubrey and Talli (l. to r.) enjoying a perch on a waterfront tree. And, btw, he used my new Canon Rebel XTi to do so.

We hope you and yours had an enjoyable holiday time as well.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wasted Effort

Here in the Seattle area, some 2,500 shoppers were in line when a Target store opened at 5:00 this morning. According to news reports, similar scenes occurred across the country.

Supposedly looking for “bargains”, as many of them indicated, these folks were willing to spend most of an overnight standing (or sleeping) in line just to make a purchase – likely something they really don’t need but just want.

From one perspective, what a waste of time and effort.

Give a thought to this: What if all of these people had invested the same amount of effort (money notwithstanding) in gathering just things we/they don’t even use regularly and making the items available to those less fortunate world-wide?

That would be effort worth expending.

We live in (and unfortunately, as Christians, buy into) a culture gone amuck. We’ve mistaken abundance of things for spiritual blessings. In contrast, Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” I need to do things differently this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Do We Really “Trust God”?

If you ask the average American Christian the question, “Do you trust God?,” you’ll get a “yes” almost 100% of the time. But, I’d like to ask, do we really?

Think with me for a moment, if you would. The same person who answered “yes” to the above question likely lives in a warm, comfortable home and has two cars, a good job (maybe two if both spouses work), a big turkey on the Thanksgiving table, piles of gifts under the tree at Christmas, all the latest electronic gadgets and is totally “connected” via the virtual world.

So, really, for what might this person be trusting God? Everything mentioned is self achieved and self attained.

Well, you might answer, “it’s God’s blessing.” Oh?

Do you mean that because by some stroke of birth luck (being born here instead of in Bangladesh, for instance) one is entitled to all this abundance? What kind of a God would favor some, and not others, in this way?

Just ponder that, because I’m not even going to try to answer this question now (I think the scriptures gives us some poignant pondering points, however). But instead I raise the question simply to entreat us to look at our priorities and examine in whom we truly place our trust (and fate).

As Kay Lynne and I ponder the steps just ahead of us in our “golden” years, we are sincerely looking to put things into the proper perspective. As we do, it becomes more obvious by the day that the very biggest obstacles to trusting God are things.

In our culture, it is admittedly difficult, if not almost impossible, to “trust God” when we have virtually everything. More and more, she and I are thinking that we must get rid of a lot of these things and learn to trust God for everything, including our sustenance, instead of looking so much at income or assets. Two posts ago, I alluded to some of the following words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?...

…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?...

…Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

It couldn’t be clearer. We’ve got to stop allowing our culture to define the difference between “needs” and “wants”. We've got to refocus our interests on Kingdom issues. Learning the concept likely involves giving away some things. And as we do, God may have some suggestions for us regarding the lessons of “equality” and “justice” (on a world-wide scale) as we listen and look to Him for guidance as to how we can best live out our part in carrying out Kingdom priorities.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Both At The Same Time

Our perspective has a lot to do with how we live our Christian life. Today, I got a fresh (Lutheran) perspective… on perspective.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how becoming acquainted in more detail with mainline Lutheran beliefs and thinking has turned out to be an incredibly wonderful and “freeing” experience. This morning one of our pastors, the Rev. Alison Shane, continued teaching her class on “Fundamentals of the Lutheran Faith” that we lovingly call “Reformation 201”.

Today’s class subject matter was not particularly about the point I’m bringing up; it kind of was said “in passing,” but it struck me and stuck with me. I wanted to get my thoughts “on paper” (metaphorically speaking) because that’s how I process concepts.

I must admit that my Christian perspective has been and can be quite linear. We’re born, we “get saved,” we die, and we go to heaven. It’s all consecutive, and occurs by the numbers (i.e., linear). What I’m learning from mainline Lutherans (I guess I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out on my own) is that God isn’t linear. He’s not limited by time, space, or dimensions of any kind.

With God, everything is in the NOW; it’s only our subservience to the time dimension that makes things appear sequential to us. And that’s what came up today in class.

We often think that when we are “being good” (behaving well), we’re acting “saintly.” And when we are doing less than the standard, we are being "sinners." My past perspective has separated the behaviors (in typical linear fashion), and it has caused no little consternation for me to try and live saintly most of the time. In honesty I pretty much had concluded it was hopeless.

This morning Pastor Alison pointed out that Martin Luther believed, and Lutherans typically believe, that we are both at the same time. When we are saintly while at our best behavior, we are still a sinner. And when we are sinning, we are still a saint. Simply, it’s a step toward a more freeing, non-linear thinking.

As I’ve thought about it through the day (non-linearly, I hope) this totally fits with the Lutheran concept of “saved to serve”. In other words, the provision of salvation by grace through Christ has totally freed us to live out our vocation in service to Him. And as we do so, we’re both saint and sinner at the same time.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Almost Feel Like A Turncoat

You’ve heard the sayings like, “I’m a Ford person.” Or “I’m a Chrysler person.” Or “I’m a Chevy person.” These are often life-long reflections that give clues as to who you are.

Yesterday I bought a CANON camera, and I almost feel like a turncoat. I’ve always been a NIKON person. As well as a FORD guy (although now my newer car is an import). And as well as a WINDOWS guy (rather than a MAC person). You get the picture.

So why did I come home with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel SLR XTi (photo) when I left home with the full intention of buying a NIKON D40x Digital SLR? I’m still asking myself that question.

Seriously, I’m thrilled with the new camera. It has 10.1 megapixels (enough to create up to 12 x 16 prints) in its CMOS sensor and DIGIC II image processor (ask my son Gregg what that means). What it is, in layman’s terms, is a sophisticated computer that takes very high quality digital images in almost any situation.

It’s true that I’ve always been a Nikon person. In my business life, back in the “old days,” I used professional cameras for photo journalism, portraits and scenics. Back then, Nikon was king for professionals. I still have a classic Nikon “F” black body and a full “FM” system with lenses and accessories. Of course these were 35mm SLR film cameras, now considered to be virtually “obsolete.”

But yesterday, when I compared my current needs against both brands, the Canon comes out a clear winner. I no longer need “professional” usage. I want to be able to take great quality digital pictures at family gatherings, on trips and perhaps on short term missions ventures in the future.

For these usages, there is no question that the Canon offers significantly more in features and capabilities within the price range and category I was looking. Dave Guinn at Kenmore Camera spent several hours with me in guiding my decision with excellent, professional advice.

My Canon came with an 18-55mm zoom lens (the equivalent of 27-80mm in the old 35mm film format) for normal usage. This covers wide-angle to portrait focal lengths. I also got a 70-300mm telephoto zoom (105-450mm in old 35 terms) for long shot capabilities.

Admittedly, for the very high end professional applications, Nikon still may wear the ultimate crown, especially their lenses.

Soon, I hope to be spending considerable time outdoors in the grandeur of the picturesque Northwest, fortified with my new Canon armor. I’m glad, however, that my tech-savvy sons are going to be here for Thanksgiving so they can explain to me how to use this awesome, but intricate, contraption.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Should A “Child-Like” Faith Mean For Us?

Jesus said some very interesting words in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, verses 16 & 17:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never see it.”

What was Jesus getting at? Is it a “trick” question? Is he serious? Must we re-learn how to think as a child? What good is our education? (I seem to always have more questions than answers.)

These verses were discussed today in an online daily devotional I receive by email. The particular thoughts were written by a Mike DeVries. To try to perhaps get a handle on what Jesus meant, Mike decided to observe his young kids over a period of time.

One thing he noticed right off the bat was that young children live in the present tense. What happened yesterday is no longer important, and they could care less today about what they will do tomorrow. What does concern them is what’s happening right now.

I have no clarity as to whether or not this is all of what Christ was getting at. But I think it might open the door to some interesting considerations for our faith-walk. Kay Lynne and I are spending considerable time these days trying to determine for us what it means to follow Christ today, in our world.

We’re thinking that what Jesus suggests with regard to having child-like faith points us in the direction of learning what it means to have complete and total dependence on God for everything. In fact, if we apply the above characteristic of “child-like" faith, we should primarily be centered on what is going on today. or at least in the present. Our past is behind us; our future is assured in the Kingdom, and our trust should be in God alone for today’s sustenance.

Easier said than done, you’re probably thinking. And, of course, you’re right. Perhaps, however, Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew at the end of chapter 6 can throw some light on Luke 18:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.”

Can we trust these words? We’re excitedly anticipating where learning to live by “child-like” faith might lead us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Trying Times For My Allegiances

Tonight, here in the Puget Sound area, the Seattle Seahawks will host the San Francisco 49ers in an intra-league game that really only has significance for the Hawks.

Both teams have struggled so far this season, moreso the Niners. It was thought early that these would be the two teams who would knock heads for the NFC West title, albeit a weak division. So far no-one has exhibited a strong desire to take control. Seattle leads the division with a mediocre 4-4 won-loss record, while the Niners lag behind at 2-6.

Since the 1950’s I’ve been a die-hard 49er fan. I’ve seen Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Steve Spurrier, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, and now Alex Smith all quarterback the Golddiggers. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest some years ago, I “adopted” the Seahawks as my co-favorite team. After all, Seattle does have some “ties” to the SF team, with coach Mike Holmgren and Linebacker Julian Peterson both having deep Red and Gold connections. And of course the Hawks have at least been to the Super Bowl within the last couple of years.

So for whom do I root tonight? I guess I’ll take the Yogi Berra method and “see it both ways.” In all honesty, the Hawks better win, because they are, on paper at least, the superior team. However, the Niners have a nasty habit of spoiling parties in the Northwest.

The truth is, I’ll be happy with whoever wins. If the 49ers happen to have more points at game’s end, then the Hawks should not be believing the press clippings up here which have them virtually crowned as NFC West champs in a division that doesn’t seem to care. But if the Hawks win, it’ll at least give some small degree of progress toward ending up on top of a weak division. Hey, winning your division at least gets you into the playoffs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Confronting Our Culture

One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice the ills in our culture – especially here in the western world and more specifically in our own country.

Excessive wealth and opulence. Lust and greed. Immorality of every ilk. Deceit. Devaluation of life. We could go on and on.

For a Christian who sincerely desires to follow the teachings of Christ, and still be a functioning, contributing member in our society, he or she faces a dilemma of some dimensions. How do we live and effectively model Christ amidst a culture that could care less?

Our pastor, Don Jukam, in a recent adult ed class during our Sunday School hour, made this statement, that is affecting my thinking as I’ve contemplated it:

He contended, “We confront our culture’s value system by NOT conforming to it and letting GOD ‘do the battle.’”

Stop and think of the implications.

Pastor Don named Biblical characters like Daniel, Sampson, Esther, Paul the apostle and Stephen the martyr as obvious but effective examples.

As I’ve thought about it, when there has been effective, progressive change in a culture, the modifications almost always have occurred by this model. Legitimate civil disobedience in our own country over the past 50 years would likely be an example for our living generations.

The battle is not ours; God is sovereign. But our faith compels us to live counter-culturally to effect transformation, as did Christ.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Is The “Good News”?

Yesterday at church in the late afternoon during our SPLASH activities, I had occasion to meet with Paul Davis, our Director of Faith Formation (photo). Being new to the Lutheran tradition, I’m always full of “theological” questions, so when an opportunity presented itself for a “one-on-one” with someone who knows the Lutheran perspective well, I took advantage of it.

We were discussing Lutheran worship practices but somehow got off on what salvation is all about. We were considering what it means to “become a Christian” – whether it’s a “decision”, a “baptism” an “actualization,” a “transformation,” or what.

“It’s really simple, but it’s also complex” Paul offered. “It’s God’s grace.”

“That’s all?” I asked (former “evangelical” vestiges starting to appear as raised eyebrows). “Don’t I have to do something? Like at least make a decision? Or be baptized?” I entreated.

“Let me read you a story from Mark chapter two,” he said.

He read, “When he (Jesus) returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around so that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

“That,” said Paul, “is the ‘good news’ (or Gospel) we are commissioned to take to all the world.”

He went on to explain. “When someone asks me ‘when’ I was saved, I tell them it was 2,000 years ago when Christ died on the cross and was resurrected.” The paralytic in the full house said or did nothing, yet Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.”

This is the essense of the Lutheran perspective on the Christian faith. We are “saved by grace (alone), through faith” was Martin Luther’s mantra. Of course church praxis includes the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, confirmation, and regular liturgical worship to provide sustenance for living the Christian life as a follower of Christ.

But at its roots, our salvation is the “good news” of the Gospel: “Your sins are forgiven.”

Thanks be to God

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More Reformation Implications

Even though last Sunday, October 28, was Reformation Sunday, in our adult ed class during the Sunday School hour today, we continued to focus on ramifications of this historic theological event.

As we know, not all of the (malpracticed) Roman Catholic faith was forsaken by the emerging “protest-ants”. Many liturgical worship forms have been preserved almost intact. This was true for most of the reformers and their followers.

Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, for instance, all brought the basic elements of liturgical worship to their respective Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist traditions. Of course that is why, even today, when you worship in any of these mainline traditions, the prayers, creeds and order of service are quite recognizable to each other.

In our Lutheran tradition, we observe more than a half dozen elements of liturgical worship, depending on how you categorize or identify them. First, there is confession. Then there is the asking for forgiveness of sin for absolution.

Following are the reading of Scriptures and the proclamation of the word (the sermon). After the sermon, worship continues with the offering in which we offer our thanks to God for his provision. We then recite the creeds and partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The benediction then sends us out into the world to serve and live out our faith.

It is very interesting to me that even though these rudiments of liturgical worship may vary slightly in content and/or order by particular tradition, they are all essentially there in most mainline denominational worship praxis. And it has been so, for the most part, for two millennia.

Both my wife and I are deeply moved by this kind of a worship experience, and we have learned to genuinely appreciate what we practice weekly in our Lutheran Church. We are gaining spiritual strength and finding continuing spiritual sustenance from it. Additionally, it is comforting to kow that we are participating in and observing the creeds and practices that go back a very long time, many to the origins of our faith in the first, second and third centuries.

For me, that works out to authenticity in the practice of the faith.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We Should Take (Our) Theology Out For A Walk

As we do on the last Sunday of each October, we celebrated Reformation Sunday at church yesterday. Of course in a Lutheran church, we took note of some of the thoughts of one of the prime Reformers, Martin Luther (pic).

In our adult class during the Sunday School hour, Pastor Alison Shane keyed on the wonderful, “freeing” aspect of Lutheran theology. Luther’s view was that as Christians we are not “bound” by things of this world. Our lectionary readings for the day included these words by Jesus from the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John:

“Very truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” But also in the chapter he said, “if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

The theology of Martin Luther was remarkably simple. His basic beliefs involved two concepts: justification and vocation. We are justified (made holy in God’s eyes) by grace through Christ alone, and we are then called (by God) to serve, or, live out our faith.

It’s not rocket science, but at the same time, living the faith can be very thorny. In fact, in our Lutheran liturgy we confess every week that “…we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves” (words penned by Martin Luther).

But thankfully, through God’s grace, we are released from sin’s clutches and we are enabled to live freely as a follower of Christ. A little later in that liturgical prayer we conclude, “Forgive us, renew us and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.”

I think that’s what Pastor Kent Shane was alluding to, when, in his sermon yesterday, he suggested that we should regularly “take our theology out for a walk”.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why Do We Worship?

All my life I’ve gone to church not only because I felt it was the “right” thing to do, but also because I thought I could get a lot out of it. I just assumed I was worshipping God when I went to church.

But there may be a whole lot more to this story.

Of course going to church to worship God is the right thing to do. But it’s quite another question as to whether or not the worship of God was occurring when I went to church.

I’m discovering a wealth of wisdom from Marva Dawn’s book, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down (see past post). Here’s an example: one shouldn’t go to church for “what one can get out of it.” According to her, the valid reason one goes to church is to worship God (with a complete and total focus on Him as both the object of worship and the subject of worship).

According to Dawn, what “I get out of it” is of little importance and may reflect a cultural distortion. Ouch! That’s like getting slapped in the face with a cold, wet mop. You need to hear her out, however, before you pass judgement. She’s likely right on point.

We live in a society that is on information-overload. In our genre, if it’s not new, it’s not interesting. Further, we live in a television “news-bite,” entertainment-oriented, self-centered world that is full of virtually unlimited choices. Our senses (mostly the visual) are titillated daily with more than they can process. Computers and the internet only compound the issue.

Unfortunately, points out Ms Dawn, when we try to find a church that might be right for us, we use these same, overloaded and possibly aberrated senses, looking for a similar kind of satisfaction. This is antithetical, she believes.

However, it’s no wonder so many churches have gone to an entertainment and/or a “feel good” format to attract worshippers. The apparent success of mega-churches who encourage and practice “contemporary” worship and include massive doses of I/me-oriented “praise songs” is indicative of and a natural evolvement in our self-gratifying society.

But do these phenomenon reflect true worship? Ms Dawn thinks not, but the title of her book offers that true worship is and can be possible without acquiescing to society’s tentacles.

She goes on to discuss and document (from the Bible, church history and tradition) what true worship is. She reminds us that true worship is totally focused on GOD. True worship does not involve how we feel about it. We are simply the worshipper. She incisively questions the current attempts to substantively alter forms of liturgy, music and sermons to accommodate the personal tastes of boomers, Xers or others, for the purpose of "attracting people".

Instead, she suggests, we should worship in the way God has ordained, which serves as a true reflection of who God is, rather than as a "package of entertainment" that might be popular but grossly distorted.

As I near the finish of her book, I’ve learned that God created us in His image so that true worship of Him is not only natural, but also it is the unique way by which we get to really know Him. We have a Biblical record that outlines these worship elements and an enlightening tradition as to how they have been practiced.

What Marva Dawn is afraid of, however, is that we’ve allowed our ego-centric cultural compulsions to seep into the church and consequently into our worship.

I’ve also learned that what God desires in worship are actions and attitudes that focus totally on Him and that have little to do with how it makes me feel (good or otherwise) or what I might think about them. The church (or true worship, for that matter) cannot be altered by the changing whims of society. (Does this mean that a “seeker-sensitive” approach is by definition NOT worship? It’s certainly excellent food for thought and could very well be so.)

Of course not all mega-churches are lacking. And not all contemporary services are wont. But the ones that are authentic have found a formula that includes what God requires, regardless of our individualistic desires and feelings. That’s where I want to be.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cleveland “Fainting Goats” Can’t Revive To Go To World Series

If you watched the ALCS tonight from Boston, you saw the results of a severe case of myotonia congenita by the Cleveland Indians. That’s the disease that causes a certain breed of domestic goats, when startled, to “faint” and actually fall over on their side for a period of time.

Well, it appears Cleveland was startled big time this past week in game five in their home park when Boston’s Josh Beckett stilled their bats and beat them, 7-1. Had the Indians won that game, it would have sent them to the World Series instead.

From that point on, the Cleveland “Fainting Goats” stiffened, fell over, and never got up. Ageless Curt Schilling last night shut down the Goats, and tonight a barrage of offense by the Red Sox “rest of the line-up” (other than Big Papi and Manny) beat Cleveland into total submission. That’s Kevin Youkilis in the pic who had some key hits tonight in the game.

I had kind of been hoping for a Colorado – Cleveland Series, but it’s not to be. Instead, we’ll get to see two very hot teams see which one can keep the heat going for four more wins.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What Are You Getting Out of Church?

According to the author of a book I’m almost finished with, this is actually the WRONG question to ask. In fact, it’s an irrelevant question.

Marva Dawn, in her book Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, not only suggests this is a wrong question to ask, but she also implies that it’s a totally improper question.

Most of us would say that we go to church to worship God. But when asked about the experience, the answer often is, “I didn’t get that much out of it”

Marva Dawn is not surprised by an answer that centers on us. Because in her analysis, worship is not about US; conversely, it’s ONLY about God.

Even though I haven’t quite finished the book yet (I’m going s-l-o-w-l-y to deeply inhale the breadth of content on each page), it is an IMPACT book. I already consider it perhaps the most insightful and theologically sound book I’ve ever read on this topic. I wish it had been written 50 years ago. Many of my faith knots might have been untied sooner.

I can give you a gist of the content, but it’s just one thread in a beautiful, complex tapestry. Being a theologian, Ms Dawn clearly articulates her posits and documents her inferences not only from a theological perspective but also from a sociological one.

She calls to attention that when the Old Testament Hebrews worshipped God, they did so by bringing gifts, or offerings, to Him. They worshipped by being obedient in presenting offerings (often a sacrificial unblemished lamb) according to God’s prescribed wishes. Worship was an expression of submission, respect and duty.

In the New Testament, with sacrifices no longer required, the early church established a form of worship that involved forms of liturgy, music and preaching, virtually ALL of which was focused on the adoration of a Holy God.

Through the centuries things have changed, especially since the Reformation and more specifically in the last 50 years. This is due to multi-faceted reasons that cannot begin to be covered here. However, the point is that today, in our instant-gratification, hi-tech, ego-centric, entertainment-oriented society, we often decide where our church home will be, based on how it makes US feel. Or what it seemingly DOES for US.

This book takes strong, but loving issue with this whole approach. Dawn believes that GOD must be the subject AND the object of our worship. Unfortunately this has totally been lost in many churches today where the stage is the focus and the worshipper is the passive observer rather than a participant in true worship.

Church music has deteriorated to repetitive, watered-down expressions of how we “WILL love God or how we CAN serve God”, with the whole focus on what WE are doing. (I hope to do a post on her critique of "Praise" music in the not-too-distant future.) She laments that great old hymns of the church like “Holy, Holy, Holy, LORD GOD Almighty” (pure adoration rightly directed at GOD) are all but forgotten.

Additionally, she feels that the following conclusion needs some serious scrutiny: "that because we have massive numbers of people attending ‘contemporary’ services or mega-churches, that God must be in it, and therefore it’s a good thing”. It’s probably not so, she believes.

To quote her, “How destructive it is to measure the success of a church by the numbers of people attracted rather than by the depth of faith and outreach nurtured.” And, unfortunately, much of the “large numbers” is coming from other less entertaining bodies with proportionally little coming from true regenerative growth.

This book makes you think. About worship and what it means. About how a worship service ought to be exercized (based on history and tradition). And about what spirituality and spiritual growth really is. And about the place of worship in an “information overload” society.

I’m still reading… and thinking…. and praying… and already sensing a freshness to weekly worship and the sustaining celebration of the sacrament of Holy communion. I’ll report more when I finish the book and have a little time to digest it some more

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our Dog Thinks He’s Royalty

No matter how busy my wife and I get, our dog doesn’t get caught up in it. All he cares about is being close to us – and, of course, getting his habitual treats and meals on time.

As I type this, Buddy is asleep (and snoring, actually) on his large, cushy pillow on the floor right next to me. He’s a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and all that breed wants from life is to be near their human pack leader – and live like a king, of course.

Cavs were originally bred to provide a warm and friendly ambiance in the castles of the British monarchy. From our experience, they perfectly fulfill their purpose.

When Kay Lynne and I decided to get a dog almost two years ago, I, for one, had hoped that the dog would be a fishing buddy as well as a constant companion. Well, he is certainly a constant companion – and couldn’t be a better one.

But as fate would have it, Buddy bonded more strongly with my wife. I admire his good taste. When she is home, he is constantly by her side (except if he hears me open the treat box). He always keeps an eye, though, on wherever Kay Lynne is (just off camera to the right, in the photo). And if I leave to go fishing, he just sits on her lap and tail-wags a good-bye to me. So much for the fishing buddy idea.

If she’s away – like today when she does volunteer work – Buddy will then “settle” for me as the companion. Our only slight problem is that he’s bonded with us almost too closely. If we have to leave him overnight at a kennel, for instance, he exhibits separation anxiety by not eating nor drinking. It freaks out our kennel/vet.

Fortunately Buddy loves both of our sons’ places, so that if we have to travel, we can ignore the kennel. That makes King Buddy very happy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Last One?

Several years ago when we moved to the house in which we now live, we said it would be “the last one” before the old folks home.

It’s beginning now to look like maybe we were wrong. There appears to be at least one more move for us in the future. But we have no idea when it might happen.

This afternoon my wife and I stopped to look at a vacant lot that is for sale in Belfair, about 10 miles or so west of Bremerton in Mason County on the Hood Canal. We’re thinking of down-valuing (in terms of money tied up in property, not necessarily downsizing much), but we’ve become addicted to the water and mountain views where we are.

Terra firma costs considerably less in rural Belfair than it does in our present location, but as you can see by the photo above, the views are every bit as beautiful. Off to the right, the Olympic mountain range looms large on a clear day. Click on the pic for a larger image and for the full impact. We’d likely build a single level house on the property which would be much easier on my arthritic knees.

Kay Lynne and I had exactly the same reaction today when we reached the site, as we had years ago when we first saw the setting of our present home. We simply looked at each other and said, “This is it!”

Actually accomplishing a move like this would give us the resources to do something more worthwhile with the rest of our lives, using the gifts God has appropriated to us. Can we spell g-o-o-d w-i-l-l m-i-s-s-i-o-n-s ?

But it’s all out there in the future sometime (down-valuing and building another home). If we want a spot on which to build when the time comes, however, we might have to act soon.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Coupla Things…

After two relaxing, enjoyable days here with the Petersens, who hail from California’s Sierra foothills above Sacramento, they headed back home in the late morning on Friday. Fortunately, our Fall Northwest weather – which can rear its ugly head at this time of year – turned quite nice and remained so while they were here.

Mainly, we kicked back and caught up on each of our families' activities and took some short driving trips around the area. We had a difficult time not stopping at any of the aromatic Norwegian bakeries when we went through Poulsbo. We also had some great conversations about church and our respective faith journeys following a stop at First Lutheran in Poulsbo where we worship.

Then Friday morning for a time, the sun overpowered the clouds that usually hang over the Olympic mountains giving us a glorious glimpse of their gorgeous, freshly snow-capped peaks. Nature provided our guests with a great send-off!


We very much enjoyed our worship services at church yesterday and noted how well they fit in with the observances and conclusions in a book I’m reading by author and theologian, Marva Dawn. Her book is titled Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down and is a rather poignant critique of what worship has (unfortunately) become in many churches today.

She points out that in our “entertainment-oriented” culture, we often lose sight of the fact that true worship focuses on GOD, and (she fears) “when the congregation becomes an audience and its worship a vaudeville act, then the church finds itself at risk; the death of faith and Christian character is a clear possibility.” (Italics and emphasis mine.) Wow, that’s strong and very much worth thinking about.

More later on Marva Dawn’s thoughtful book.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This ‘n’ That…

The coho salmon have arrived in the Sound… and my fishing boat sits on a used boat lot 50 miles away. Sometimes I wonder about my dissipating ability to make good decisions. (It SOUNDED good 10 days ago that someone was interested in buying it.)

Last Sunday evening we went to Oregon for a presentation at my son’s church from the group that went to India a month ago. Our 10-year-old granddaughter Hayley was part of that mission. For her part in the program she created a beautiful computer slide show with photos she and Gregg had taken, all accompanied by her specially chosen music. It was fabulous!

Later today our long-time friends, Ted & Sharon Petersen, arrive from California via a stop or two in Oregon. We’re looking forward to seeing them and catching up on the latest regarding our group of California friends. Two others of that group, Ed & Darlene Wall, graced us with their presence in August. We cherish the wonderful friendships with which God has blessed us.

Our weather has been cool of late (read doggone chilly for this time of year), but it looks like we got a bit of a break today. It’s not sunny, but neither is it raining. Up here, that’s “good” weather. All part of the incredible life in the Northwest!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sub Correction

In my last post I mentioned that we had seen a nuclear submarine on our recent fishing venture out on Puget Sound. I need to make a slight correction, however.

When I told a friend, who is a high-ranking Naval officer, about our incredible sighting, he of course was aware of the situation. He said the submarine we likely saw was the USS Ohio, originally a vessel capable of carrying nuclear warheads but that had been scheduled to be retired in 2002.

In the late ‘90’s, the Navy decided to convert the nuclear-capable sub to one which would instead carry a load of cruise missiles with conventional warheads (like the Tomahawk or other similar weaponry). However, she would remain nuclear powered.

The Ohio recently completed its three-year rebuild, and it went so well that many more are undergoing similar changes. In fact it’s resulted in a category of subs aptly named the “Ohio Class,” which now has more than a dozen ships. The photo above shows the Ohio getting its makeover.

I mentioned that that the sub we saw appeared to be quite large. She is – stretching almost two football fields in length and having a girth half as wide as a cruise ship. “Ohio class” vessels are the largest category of subs in our Navy. The Russians have a class that is slightly larger.

The correction that needs to be made is that I thought she still carried nuclear weapon capabilities. Not true anymore. Now, she can only wreak havoc on a few city blocks at a time or on an enemy military convoy – but with precision accuracy.

“Ohio class” subs are the ones featured in recent Tom Clancy books (at least one of which became a movie), The Sum of All Fears and Debt of Honor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where Is The Run Of Ocean Silvers?

My son Doug and I took our Arima boat out on Puget Sound yesterday – again to no avail.

Where are the silvers?

Twice now, the ocean-grown silvers (coho salmon) have been reported “on the way”. Our key for this is the catch count in Sekiu, about 100 miles to the west, on the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Two weeks ago the catch count there suddenly spiked, and we thought the run was coming. Usually, the coho begin assembling in the Sound around September 15, so we thought maybe it’s an early arrival this year. Wrong.

Then again late last week the reports came in that Sekiu had once again picked up. So we thought we’d give it a shot.

We fished the incoming tide hard for almost five hours. I even left the cooler in the car and didn’t take the camera to hopefully not jinx anything. Didn’t help.

However, we did see an extremely rare sight. One of the Navy’s Nuclear Trident Submarines was conducting maneuvers (or just cruising) a mile or two off to our portside, accompanied by two Coast Guard escorts. And I had left the camera at home! I was amazed at the ship’s length and sleek, sloping lines. She’s one beautiful sight, albeit a lethal one. She carries enough missile power to approximate dozens of Hiroshimas.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


This past May our eldest granddaughter, Talli, traveled to Japan on a short-term student exchange program. She stayed with the Kata family in the rural town of Wadayama, northwest of Osaka.

Yesterday, her Asian counterpart, Miu Kata, arrived in Oregon to spend about a week with Talli and her family. And being weekend, already today they are traveling in the Northwest, to mainly enjoy a Seattle Mariners baseball game tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Of course Mariners center fielder Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s most popular Major Leaguer. and catcher Kenji Johjima will be the players of interest for Miu.

That’s Miu, Talli and Hayley (just back from her India venture), left to right in the pic above, just after they arrived here earlier this evening. Five-year-old Aubrey and their mom Elaine also came. They’ll all spend the night with us tonight and then head to the game late tomorrow morning where they’ll meet up with Miu’s full group of Exchange students who will travel tomorrow morning to Seattle from Oregon.

Seattle, of course, is the closest Major League city to this country of 3,000 islands. Today, baseball has become the most popular sport in Japan, even ahead of sumo wrestling. Nippon (the Japanese word for Japan) has its own professional baseball, with a total of 12 teams in their two leagues. Many of these extremely talented players, like Suzuki and Johjima, are sprinkled throughout the Major Leagues.

Next week Miu will attend school with Talli and take part in the normal family activities. I’m sure they’ll do their share of other fun things as well. Miu already has been exposed to the “American Mall” as they made a several-hour stop today on their way here. I’m discovering there’s not a much higher priority for two teenagers, even though they’re from very different cultures.

Welcome to America, Miu.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Passing The Faith To The Next Generation

Our church’s new Director of Faith Formation, Paul Davis, and the Rev. Alison Shane, our associate Pastor most responsible for youth, kicked off a new church-wide program today called SPLASH.

Church doors are thrown wide open at 2:30pm each Monday for four to six hours of interaction – by ministers, staff, church leaders and church members of all ages, with the focus on students.

The program is intended to facilitate the overall goal of having grandparents and parents “pass on the faith” to their kids and grandkids. This mentoring/discipleship environment hopefully fosters the worthy objective of teaching the faith to the next generation

The picture above shows a parent helping her high school daughter and other students with a school assignment. Mentoring is one of the integral ingredients of SPLASH, as parents volunteer their time to help students. As an outreach, students (and parents) from the community are invited to participate where they feel comfortable, especially in study hours and recreation time.

The Christian (multipurpose) Center is open for basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, ping-pong and other fun games. The church library is open for study and mentoring. From 4 to 5pm various youth music groups practice, and from 5-6pm a number of self-formed groups explores Christian education topics of interest.

At 6 pm a church-wide dinner is held followed by a time of singing and fun (picture above). At 7pm, “Head-To-Heart”, the current confirmation class, meets for instruction, while adults may choose from a number of adult Bible classes.

The first-time event was a wonderful success. It’s a working experiment in progress. We’re watching with great interest to see how SPLASH provides new opportunities to “pass on the faith”. My wife and I have decided to be a part of SPLASH as we are able (that’s Kay Lynne, above, with three wonderful pre-schoolers this afternoon).

Guess Monday night football doesn't make the cut in the scramble of Fall priorities.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Another Glimpse of Hayley’s India Ministry

Two posts ago, I wrote of the incredible “blossoming” of our 10-year-old granddaughter Hayley during her venture to India last month with her dad.

Of course they’re back at home now, and more and more pictures from the trip are emerging. The photo above shows Hayley literally surrounded by her new friends at the girls’ home in Dharwad.

You can see the sheer joy on her face as she experiences what it means to love and be loved by those far less fortunate in a culture totally different from hers. The photo was taken on the last evening of the team’s visit to Dharwad when the Indian girls showered Hayley with handmade gifts they had crafted just for her – a necklace, bangles and ear rings.

My son Gregg said that in many ways on this trip he watched his daughter “grow up before my eyes”. It’s true – Hayley is a more grown up young lady now, thanks to her mission half-way around the world. We pray God’s touch on her will be life-long.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Wish This Coulda Been a Fish Story

I finally got the Arima out on Puget Sound yesterday, and we went straight to Point-No-Point, a spot where it had been reported there were plenty of Pinks and increasing numbers of Coho.

Not yesterday.

Among all the boats doing the same thing we were, we only saw one fish caught. Admittedly, the atmospheric pressure had changed overnight, and we had to deal with clouds, a wisp of fog, and rain. But did that send the fish away?

Our church’s faith formation director, Paul Davis, and my good friend Steve Holzhey, also from church, were my fishing buds for the day. We threw everything we had at the wily creatures, all to no avail. The bait balls were there, and so were the birds. Where were the fish?

Paul was the only one who had a salmon on (we think), but it spit the hook. And, oh yeah, we got one of those infamous dog fish (an immature shark).

In spite of all, it was an enjoyable day out in the briny air of the Sound (along with a few exhaust fumes), albeit no salmon. Pic above is part of the Eglon waterfront, about three miles south of where we were fishing.

I probably should have asked our Pastor Don Jukam, a former Navy Chaplain, to appropriately bless the boat before taking it out for the first time this season.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hayley “Blossoms” on India Journey

Our middle granddaughter Hayley is 10 years old. She is in India right now with her dad as part of a group of about a dozen, nearing the end of a two week mission to that country.

Yikes, isn’t she a bit young to travel half way around the globe to a third world country? You might think so, but Hayley didn’t. She wanted to go.

And it’s now obvious why. God was leading her.

It turns out that of all those in the group on the fact-finding mission to India, young Hayley has had as much of an impact as anyone.

The purpose of the trip was to explore if their church, Newberg Friends, could find a partnership in India with an existing ministry that protects children who are vulnerable to being exploited by human trafficking. On their trip, the group has visited several such agencies where they have been given opportunity to meet with and interact with scores of these young girls.

And guess who can relate best to another young girl, no matter what their culture? Right, a young girl like Hayley.

These precious young Indian girls have followed Hayley around like she was a magnet. Hayley has taught them songs, played games with them, prayed with them and loved them. I can only guess that her life has been forever impacted. Click here to read Gregg's narrative of Hayley's connection with the girls (on his blog post from India).

In the map above you can pick out the three areas the team has visited. They arrived in Mumbai (Bombay), on the northwest coast of India, then traveled south by train to Hubli-Dharwad, and finally took another train trip south and a bit east to Bangalore from where they’ll fly back to Mumbai, their gateway to back home. Click on the map for a larger image to see the cities on their route.

We’re anxiously awaiting their arrival home on Thursday so we can hear first hand about the incredible journey and how it has affected all of them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Sun Always Shines When Granddaughters Are Here

Two of our sweet granddaughters, Talli, 13, and Aubrey, 5, are here for a few days visiting their grandparents who are loving every minute of it.

In the meantime, our third granddaughter, Hayley, 10, is on her own adventure, half-way around the world in India with her dad on a fortnight-long church mission. We miss them.

Today we just “hung out” and then this afternoon we went to a nearby State Park here on the west coast of Puget Sound.

We took our dog Buddy along, who posed for above photo with Talli and Aubs on some monster driftwood (big logs, actually) on the beach. That’s Ballard across the water in the distance behind them.

Grandma, the girls and Buddy had a grand time walking and running up and down the beach in search of shells, crustations and whatever else had washed ashore. It was fun, fun and more fun, as they came back with a big bucket of beach "stuff".

It’s been cloudy for a week, but the weather has cleared marvelously for the girls’ visit. Truth is, no matter what the weather, the sun always shines when our granddaughters are here.

Tomorrow we may catch a ferry boat and venture over to Seattle for a visit with Aunt Jamie and Uncle Doug. And of course all the girls may do a little “shopping” in the city.

I’m just the chauffer.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Historic Belmont Hotel in Port Townsend

Last Sunday, on our day trip to Port Townsend with our California friends, the Walls (see last post), we had a late lunch/early dinner at the vintage, red brick Belmont Hotel.

The historic inn is the city’s only remaining 1880s waterfront restaurant and saloon and is recognized as one of the “Northwest Best Places” by AAA.

Much of downtown Port Townsend’s main drag is lined with improved or restored Victorian edifices.

A walk up and down the quaint sidewalks takes you past building after building and store front after storefront that causes you to feel like you’re experiencing what it was like 120 years ago. Only the horses and buggies are absent.

In 1885, saloon keeper George Sterming erected the building that still bears his name. He put offices on the upper level, and the lower floor facilitated the soon-to-be famous restaurant and saloon. Sterming’s clientele was an eclectic mix of rowdy sea captains, arguing cargo brokers, adventurers, gun and rum runners, gamblers and hustlers.

In spite of the carnival atmosphere, the Belmont also was often a welcome conclusion to a terrifying sea passage for those seeking a fresh start in life.

The cuisine was sumptuous, and the ambiance was equally splendid. If you’re ever up in the Northwest’s Olympic Peninsula, the Belmont Hotel and Port Townsend are worthy stops.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Weekend With Old, er, Longtime, Friends

My wife and I have known Ed and Darlene Wall since 1964 or closely thereabouts. That’s them above in historic Port Townsend, where we had dinner Sunday, against the backdrop of the Admiralty Inlet which links the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Puget Sound. The Port Townsend—Keystone ferry is behind them to the right just leaving the dock on a scheduled run.

We all met in San Jose when they were newlyweds and Kay Lynne and I were courting. At the time I was working on the staff of a large church and Ed was with the old Crocker Bank before it was gobbled up by the big boys. After Kay Lynne and I were married, we got to know one another much better in a “young marrieds” class at the church.

Through the years we raised our kids together, took trips together, and, additionally, Ed and I were business partners for about 15 years during the 70’s and 80’s. This past weekend, they were in our area primarily to attend Darlene’s 50th High School Reunion in nearby Bremerton. The remainder of the time we just did “stuff” together.

Whenever Ed visits, we have to do a tour of his boyhood homes in the greater Port Orchard vicinity. He lived in more places than McDonald’s has franchises. His famous humor line about it is, “I was a teenager before I learned it was ok to move in the daytime.”

We exposed the Walls to some good Lutheran theology on Sunday morning when we went to church in Poulsbo. They’re used to singing praise choruses from words projected on a large screen, but I don’t think it hurt a bit to reacquaint them with a hymn book and some participatory liturgy.

Yesterday, Ed and I went fishing (well, ok, “line-wetting”) at Mineral Lake which is located south of Tacoma at the foot of Mt. Rainier. It’s a beautiful lake and location, and the conditions couldn’t have been better. But the fish had lockjaw – not only for us, but also for everyone else. One possible reason: it’s August. But as they say, the worst day fishing is better than the best day doing anything else.

Best of all, we were able to enjoy some quality time with longtime friends.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

756 Is One More Than 755

Tonight, Barry Bonds has become the all-time homerun king of Major League Baseball.

Whether Barry Bonds did, or whether Barry Bonds didn’t, is likely to continue as a matter of discussion for baseball fans, and, maybe, for a few outside of baseball.

But for now, he has hit one more round-tripper than the classy Hank Aaron, who held the record for more than 30 years, and, who sent a congratulatory video message to Bonds that was played on the big center field screen at AT&T Park following the shot.

It’s a monumental achievement that, in my humble opinion, deserves to be recognized and congratulated. After all, he did hit the homeruns.

How history will treat the accomplishment will be up to others.

Monday, August 06, 2007

“…One’s Life Does Not Consist in the Abundance of Possessions” –Luke 12:15

In our Gospel reading from Luke (10th century image, left) at church yesterday, we heard Jesus’ words once again: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

This time however, Pastor Alison Shane, expanding on the text in her sermon, gave the passage a “down home” connotation that is causing me a bit of pause.

The Scriptures do not condemn wealth, per se, she observed. The difficulty, she quickly zeroed in on, is greed, accumulation for its own sake and amassing riches so one can “party” (verses 19 & 20 of Luke 12).

In our western culture, and especially here in the U.S., we Christians often rationalize the idea that, relative to others in our society, we are safely avoiding all of the above.

But in so thinking, we are overlooking – perhaps even avoiding – our brothers and sisters around the world. Compared to them, how does our understanding of greed and accumulation stack up?

Pastor Alison pointed out that later in the chapter Jesus cautioned, “from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.”

When we compare OUR “much” to third world “much,” a whole new light is shed on the situation. “We need to think about wealth and greed in terms of the world,” she suggested.

Ouch. That’s getting a bit close to home.

Are real estate holdings “accumulations”? Are investments “amassing riches”? I’m probably “copping out” to say I really don’t know. I can see, however, how they could be considered such if compared with possessions of people in the third world and with their ability to accumulate.

In Jesus’ parable, the rich man who had amassed enough so he could relax and party received this rebuke: “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.”

Pastor Alison suggested that excessive accumulation beyond sustenance is the point with which we ought to wrestle. But even for sustenance, God has promised provision.

After pointing out how God takes care of even the birds in the air and the lilies in the field, Jesus offers this advice beginning in verse 29: “And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Wow. This is a kind of faith and this is a perspective that I have to admit is pretty much absent in our western culture. And I’m bothered by it.

But will I be bothered enough to take action in my own life?