Sunday, August 30, 2009
On a big boulder in this area of South Sister, someone has glued a 3-inch copper disc engraved with her name and the dates of her life. And these words: "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
Perhaps her family scattered her ashes here. Perhaps fellow climbers and friends simply placed the marker to have a private place to mourn and grieve. Perhaps South Sister is where the young Kathryn first climbed a mountain and learned to love walking in the sky. It's a beautiful spot from which to see both what lies above and below.
And if we never attain more wisdom than this in life, we shall have done well:
Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.
Words to live by.
Friday, August 28, 2009
The climb began by camping just above that tiny lake, the little blue oval that the toe of my boot is pointing to. Moraine Lake is about 4,000 feet below at 6450 feet above sea level. Once again, my faithful Danner hunter/hiker boots have carried me to the summit in exactly 4 hours. Now all they have to do is carry me back down--which they did in exactly 2 hours.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
It was a glimpse of heaven. It was a way of preparing and reassuring us for what lay ahead: The news of Jean's brain tumor and the struggle to come to terms with the risks of surgery and recovery. It was an experience of a lifetime, a journey neither of us will forget.
Our bodies are aging. We aren't the youngsters we once were. But there is still so much that we can do. Jean is back to painting and sewing. Even when she decides not to keep the card she was working on--even when she doesn't consider it good enough--even then I feel blessed by the sight of her painting "studio".
It's the top of our dining table bought from a second hand store for $15 in 1973. We were newly back in the USA and setting up housekeeping here for the first time. It's still the only table we've ever owned. This morning, it held all the makings for 43 quarts of dill pickles. This afternoon her painting tools, this evening our dinner.
How many days and nights we have sat across from each other at that table! How much living has been done there! How huge a void in my life and the world if she weren't here.
God, thanks for keeping us together and for giving us this past year of life. Amen.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Who knows? This church may indeed be starting a second Reformation. If it helped fix our unfit bodies, who knows what it could do for our minds? We could use that, too.
But it all seems like a product. There seems to be a niche market for every age group and ethnicity. Is it a Slavic Service or a worship service? Is it God-centered or product-centered?
How do all the niche market offerings of the warehouse church actually help make of us the "one in Christ" envisioned by Jesus in the high-priestly prayer or by Apostle Paul in Gal. 3:28?
Is making disciples per the Great Commission a matter of finding a program tailored to everyone's needs?
Or is it a matter of having us finally come into contact with our neighbors so that Christ can live in the midst of us rather than finding a product that makes us feel different for an hour? Is following Christ more than getting our "church fix" for the week?
I haven't found any Jesus quotes about a growth hour yet. Maybe I haven't looked diligently enough.
One thing's for sure, though. Christian churches in the past overbuilt. And they over-competed. See that odd T-shaped flagpole? It's actually a decapitated cross. The upwardly soaring roofline did not start out to be a Buddhist temple.
No, you're looking at the site of the former Epiphany Lutheran Church at NE 165th & Glisan. When Jean and I first moved here, we took mid-week childbirth classes here. That was before we bought a house only a short walk away.
We went to worship here a time or two. It was being led by a member of the congregation. They were without a pastor. We didn't join, and the congregation soon closed. But the same soon happened to the one we did join at NE 133rd and Sandy Blvd. Well, we didn't actually close the congregation but married (or moved in with) another larger Lutheran congregation in the area. That former Gloria Dei Lutheran Church where our newborn daughter was baptized? It's now a Buddhist temple also.
So what happens when the neighborhood changes but the church doesn't? Did the two Lutheran churches close because they lacked a growth hour?
Monday, August 17, 2009
As we think about the words and the public image we in the church project to the world, we might ask, "What do other people see and hear?" Take at look at the first two picutres here. Which one is the warehouse, and which one is the church?
The only clue might come at the marquee sign along NE Sandy Blvd. Tucked way underneath "New Beginnings" are the barely visible words "Christian Center".
The official word is "We Do Church Different". I guess so. Shouldn't it say "We Do Church Differently"?
Saturday, August 15, 2009
It was several years ago that my Mom, then a century alive, said to me, "Do you know how much war I've seen in my lifetime? That's all I've seen is war."
The Great War. World War II. Korea. Vietnam. Gulf War I. Agfhanistan. Iraq. And those are just the ones the USA has had a big part of. Dad died in '89. Gulf War I, Afghanistan and Iraq have all happened since he died. And they aren't over yet.
Today, 40 years ago, I woke up very early, shaved, put on a clean shirt and jeans. I put a change of underwear and a pair of socks along with my shaving kit in the little gym bag I hadn't used since high school. After breakfast, while it was still dark, Mom, Dad and I drove to Omaha. There on the street, we said goodbye; and they drove away in the 1962 Ford Galaxie 500. I opened the door, went inside and climbed the stairs of the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station (AFEES).
At the AFEES, I underwent yet another physical examination that confirmed what the previous physical in March of 1969 had determined: I was still fit to be classified I-A. Mid-morning, with our clothes back on, a bunch of us were herded into a room with the Stars and Stripes, the flag of the State of Nebraska, and the flags of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. A Marine Sergeant strode briskly into the room, ordered us to stand at attention in two lines and raise our right hands. "Repeat after me," he said, "I, state your full name, do solemnly swear. . ."
"Congratulations," he said when we had finished. "You are all official members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America." Four years of active military service had begun. After waiting around all afternoon, we at last boarded a bus for Eppley Field, Omaha's airport, where my fellow airmen recruits and I boarded a flight for Dallas where we changed planes and flew on to San Antonio.
Before leaving the AFEES in Omaha, however, we had time to kill. Some guys watched TV. I tried not to think. A Salvation Army chaplain brought each of us a little gift box of toiletries and a small Bible: New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs. I still have it.
About the exact same time 1500 miles away, Richie Havens was limping off the outdoor stage still strumming his guitar and singing "Freedom, freedom, freedom, yeah, yeah, yeah..." He ad libbed the melody and lyrics to the song on stage. He had never sung it before. He had sung every song he knew and could remember in over 3 hours on stage. None of the other performers had yet arrived at Woodstock.
I didn't even know or hear about Woodstock for weeks, although I'd been in Albany, NY several weeks before--my first time east. I was in basic training and sorta tied up for six weeks.
August 15, 1969. Forty years ago today: my date of enlistment and the beginning of Woodstock.
The Vietnam War was still raging. It would drag on another six years. The unrest and tensions of the nation would explode on college campuses. At Kent State University in Ohio, confusion would lead to bursts of gunfire from National Guard troops. Four students would die on May 4, 1970. Three other airmen, one sailor, and I would drive from Syracuse, New York, where we were in Russian language training, to join the throngs in Washington, DC on May 9, 1970 to protest and march for peace. That's where we met the little kid named Eric who seemed to be out on the street all alone.
It would be two weeks before I would meet a Cortland State University Senior from Kenmore, New York. Her name was Jean Robson.
On January 3, 1971 we would be married. On April 3, 1971 we would begin our married life together in the Republic of Turkey.
It would be another two years later, in February 1973 that we would join a friend, Tom Coleman, and walk the fifteen miles from our home in Yalova all the way to the base where we airmen did our shift work 24/7. It was the Cold War. It was half a world away, but it was home. Home is always where the heart is.
And what began it all started 40 years ago today.
That's how many years Israel was in the wilderness. Some days, it feels like our country is still in the wilderness.
Will wars never cease? My Mom would really like to live in peace. She's been waiting 103 years.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Except that these are blank. God must have accidentally hit the delete key and failed to back up the work. Next time, Father, save it to a non-rewritable CD.
Better yet, write it on our hearts. I think you even had the prophet Jeremiah say something about that once. And I think Jesus said the kingdom of God was very near, perhaps even within us. Nice thought. Awesome reality.
Every time people build buildings and temples and arks and tabernacles and think God lives there, we end up thinking that we are the landlords, not the tennants. And we end up acting more like guards at the gates of a detention camp. Or a prison.
Early Christians understood not only the communion bread as the body of Christ but that they themselves were that body. Harks back to creation and the notion of having the actual breath of God in us.
While we ponder all that, we'd better be mindful of the NO PARKING notice just a few feet from the Home Of God. God may be out doing errands. Wouldn't want to be hogging his space when He drives up to unload the groceries or the 72-inch plasma TV He just bought with the stimulus check. Might result in a flood or something.
We need to be very mindful of our words, especially of our God-words. After all, I did my parish internship at a Lutheran Church called "Family of Christ".
Goodness, a family! I didn't even know He'd been married. Not exactly true. I did hear about a bride once. So who are the kids? What are their names and ages?
And people insist that God-language can only be taken literally. As Joseph Sittler often admonished the church, "Watch your language!"
Thursday, August 13, 2009
But J Sus. . . ? Never knew him. I guess we went to different high schools together. But he died for me according to the mailbox. Well, maybe. Or maybe not? The mailbox is kinda impersonal, you know? I'll bet you say that to all the girls. Or guys.
Did J Sus die for the owner of the maibox? Am I supposed to be relieved and overjoyed by the announcement? Or does it simply add another dump truck's worth of weight to the load of guilt that I'm already carrying around?
I knew a family once that probably typified more than we'd care to admit. Pretty young Mom. Beautiful daughters. And a Dad who dressed in black, drove a flat black car and had wild hair and a scowl as menacing as Hurricane Katrina every time I ever saw him. One of the girls once said she was 15 before she found out her name wasn't "a..hole".
If you're carrying that kind of burden around with you, does it help to know that J Sus, whoever he/she is or was, went to the gallows for you?
"OK, so I'm responsible for that too! My Dad always made me feel responsible for all the crap in life. Might as well end it all right here... Now." The teenage girl I described could think such thoughts. If she could, others might.
There are days when a person might wish that nobody had died for them, that they had died themselves.
We have to be careful with our words because we don't know the heart and mind of the person who might read or hear them. That's why we have to get to know, really know, people before any deeply personal or judgmental words leave our lips. Or decorate our mailboxes, car bumpers, T-shirts or hallelujah halls.
If Jesus is not good news, maybe we'd better seriously examine the messenger before we give up on the message.
J Sus might be glad to hear that, too. But then, he died, I guess. Is that the end of the story?
If so, then maybe it shoulda been J Crew.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
OK, but of what? Genesis 1:27 says we are made in the image of God. Apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:1) says we whould be imitators of God.
When people look at us, what do they see? Are we a reflection of them, a reflection of ourselves, or a window through which one might see God?
When I was a youngster, packaged foods frequently carried the term "imitation". As in, imitation cherry flavor. As in Kool-Aid. Imitation strawberry. Imitation root beer. Imitation watermelon.
Now we call it "artificial" instead. That's a lot artsier than imitation. 'Cuz everybody knows that the imitation could never be as good as the real thing.
Or could it? Those store-bought cookies with the buttery flavor? You couldn't make cookies taste that buttery even if you simply ate pure butter and skipped the brown sugar and flour altogether. No wonder manufactured foods are so addictive. We've figured out how to be imitations that are "better" than the real thing--if your definition of better equals more intense.
Will we ever be better imitators of God than God?
But we were never called to be better than God, just what we can be. And, as the British would say, there's a lot of "headroom" there. In other words, opportunity to be better mirrors, clearer windows.
God's counting on us because He/She gave us that job.
That's a really big deal.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Those words from the screenplay of a long-forgotten film or the script of a long-forgotten stage drama have stuck with me for decades. Every now and then we come face-to-face with the fact that what we said is not what we meant or that what we intended is not what was received.
You'd think that after millennia on this planet, having developed the gift of writing and preservation of our language, we humans would be better at communicating. Yet, day after day, it seems like we're all struggling to pass the Kindergarten Board Exams and actually get promoted to first grade--but we fail.
Consider the above: Have you ever been conned by the fire department?
Maybe it's the name of a town in Connecticut. What's the ZIP code for Fire Department, Conn.?
Oh, it's a connection you say? Really? A connection to the fire department?
I thought it was a connection for water. Usually gases or fluids pass through pipes, not whole departments.
How do we communicate love? How do we communicate faithfulness? How do we communicate grace and compassion and empathy and boundaries and standards of acceptability, discipline and justice? Any better than this sign?
Stay tuned as we journey around common and out-of-the-way places around our area reflecting on ways to communicate. Or not.
And don't be conned by the fire department. Or anyone else.
Monday, August 3, 2009
In BSG (as it's ubiquitously abbreviated all over the paper), it's apparently safe enough to publish your little kids' pictures in the paper to show 'em off for Valentine's Day. Two whole pages of 'em under the title "Our Special Valentines." Paper gives kids' full names, ages, names of parents and Grandma and Grandpa. That's nice. I'll bet the kids are so tickled to see themselves in the newspaper. Paper brings in a few extra bucks to pay the bills.
If you did that where I live, your kid would be stalked by a perv. Doesn't take much googling to find addresses and/or phone numbers these days. In minutes, the guy could be peeking in the window of the double-wide or single-wide trailers where most of these kids probably live. Glad it hasn't been a problem yet in BSG, at least not enough to end the practice there.
In the 2/26/09 issue there was a letter to the editor that caught my eye. A gal named Clare from the town of Wise was responding to a letter from Bill Bledsoe, Executive Director of the Virginia Mining Association. Clare acknowledges that coal miners and their families are hardworking folk. But that's not the point. Point is that Wise County has already sacrificed 25% of its surface area to mining. Mountains are decapitated, plants choked, stream beds buried. Health. Deer to hunt. Water to drink. Air. Families. Health. Finally, climate change. But Clare sees the immediate impacts all around her. She doesn't have to go global to know change can't come soon enough.
What will be left to those little kids when they are 65? Good questions. There must be a lot of damage in Wise County, VA.
"Think ahead," implores Clare. "Think of the big picture. Inaction is not an option."
I wonder if anybody from the mining industry has thrown rocks through her windows? I wonder if there are three wise men in the town of Wise? How about in Wise County?
But is the county where you and I live any wiser? Are we depending on too much fossil fuel to support our way of life? If we put the entire Arlington, Oregon landfill on top of Wise County, VA, would it look any better than the decapitated Cumberland peaks and the forever-vanished streams? Would you want to have your little kids drink the water flowing out of it?
Then why did we make and buy all that stuff to begin with? What are the people who don't make coal going to make in the future? What do you make? What do I?
Any wise words of wisdom? Pray for wisdom. Pray for Wise.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I took it outside the other day. Maximum: 106 degrees Fahrenheit. We missed setting a record of 107 or 108 that day only because there was a light east wind. In Vancouver, WA, it was 108.
Hot. Especially for here. It reached 91 degrees inside our house. Some days we couldn't get it down lower than 84 in the AM before we had to close up windows.
Picture the troops in Iraq in their protective gear with sand blowing in their faces--with temperatures 112-120. Stress that stays in the mind doesn't always come from the sound of exploding IED's or the whiz of rifled bullets or the sight of a ball of fire or a buddy hit by AK-47 fire. Sometimes it comes in the form of intense physical sensations: heat, noise, smells, tastes. All of the above combined with hyper-vigilance, tension, tiredness. And dust and sand blowing in your face and eyes. Your sweaty collar feeling like sandpaper against your neck. Cigarette smoke... The smell of open sewers, diesel exhaust. And cordite...
I doubt that some of the troops who return from Iraq will experience hot weather the same way again. Something in them will remember and feel things.
Pray for cool weather for many reasons. And rest for their minds.