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?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

On a Scale of 10, This Book Is a Solid 9

I didn’t read Simply Christian because I needed an apologetic to reinforce my faith, although many are touting it as an even better synopsis of things Christian than C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

I read it because the author, acclaimed historian and Biblical scholar N.T. Wright, just could be my favorite “personal religious studies” author. On top of that, this thoughtful theological treatise is written so a lay person like me can easily understand it.

To reflect back a moment, I grew into adulthood pretty much swallowing a brand of Christianity that focused, almost exclusively, on “getting saved so we can go to heaven.”

Let me be clear: there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to go to heaven. In fact, it’s quite preferable to the alternative.

However, this kind of thinking breeds ongoing frustration in that it requires me to try to continually reach out to an all-powerful God, who is out there “somewhere,” but seemingly out of grasp. It’s a deistic approach to faith (man’s domicile and God’s domicile are both real – but they don’t interact).

With this book, Bishop Wright offers us a much more encompassing view of Christianity (and a theology) in which the domicile of God not only interacts with that of mankind, but also has already begun the work of redemption and rehabilitation for those of us who still must struggle in a tired, deteriorating world.

This is a book that describes and elucidates the actuality of the coming together of heaven and earth (in contrast, for instance, to my previous focus on their “separateness”); it is the account of how an infinite God initiated and provided the means for a loving re-interaction with a creation that had fallen irretrievably from its original status. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the agency of that confluence. But he came to earth for much more than just “saving me so I can go to heaven.”.

I can’t begin to try to summarize in this short post all that the book covers. However, I’ll note a couple of recurring themes.

First, according to Wright, there has always been a way where heaven and earth overlapped, so to speak. Ancient Israelites had the tablets of law, for instance, and we today have not only the indwelling Holy Spirit, but also the Biblical canon and the church to both build us up and provide a means for worship of the Living God.

A second recurring theme is that not only has heaven and earth convened, but also the work has been accomplished for the rescue of mankind from his helpless, sinful state. And that rescue enables an incredible, fresh perspective.

Here is how Bishop Wright describes it:

“With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all. A great door has swung open in the cosmos which can never again be shut. It’s the door to the prison where we’ve been kept chained up. We are offered freedom: freedom to experience God’s rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we now have access. In particular, we are all invited—summoned, actually—to discover, through following Jesus, that this new world is indeed a place of justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty, and that we are not only to enjoy it as such but to work at bringing it to birth on earth as in heaven.”

Now that’s quite a contrast to the “slimline” Christianity to which I was initially exposed. Rather, I want to embrace this new vision..

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Simple – and Complex

I’m in the middle of reading a book right now which I wish would have been written back in the dark ages when I was a college student. The book is penned by my emerging favorite religious studies author, N. T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England.

It’s called Simply Christian, with the subtitle, Why Christianity Makes Sense.

The classic book of this genre when I was heading into adulthood is C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. According to many, Simply Christian, in time, may even surpass the Lewis masterpiece as a standard.

I don’t know what it is about Wright’s style that is so appealing. Perhaps it’s his distinctively British manner, which seems to make his thoughts feel fresh. Or it may be the perspective of his expertise on the Hebrew/Jewish culture and its influence on Biblical writings – a perception often either taken for granted or skimmed over.

Whatever the case, I’m really into it. No doubt there’ll be more about this book in future posts on this blog.