Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Aging and Venting

It's not only moving slower and napping more, it's how thinking changes.  As a younger person I wondered why older persons were so resistant to change.  The answer is not black and white but is infused with many shades of gray.

Certainly there is an element of "I'm too old to learn something new."  There's also an element of "We've always done it that way," which is justifiably integrated with "We've try many options and these seem to work the best."  Maybe surprises, unannounced changes, trigger some portion of the brain that creates an annoyance.  Maybe as the body slows the mind slows and it takes longer to process changes allowing for more time to be frustrated.

This all is around the church, not theology or polity, but little things.  Little things that affect how one chooses a religion, a denomination, a church, and how one participates in that institution.  The removal of certain elements of a worship service.  The attempt to remove others.  The style of worship.  The change in fellowship hour.  Like I say, they're all small things and we shouldn't sweat the small things.

Sometimes leadership can be a burr under the saddle.  There are limitations to what one should or can expect from leadership, no one is perfect, and paid staff have job descriptions with well-defined expectations and limits.  However, hearing almost every time one meets with the leadership you hear something to the effect my brain's not engaged or you need to tell me again and hand it to me when I'm ready to receive the information.  Who's guiding the ship anyhow?

Certainly, life has it's ups and downs and we learn from the downs more than the ups.  However, we do need ups to keep our heads above water and our thinking in the attic instead of the basement.  So some sweet tension is important in our lives, but how much is sweet and when does it become sour.

I think I'm at the point where sourness is starting.  Well, not really starting, more like realizing that sourness has set in and it's time to do something about it.  As I mentioned earlier, it's the little things that enter into making a decision about what to do and where to go.  It's time.  Every time I leave a meeting or gathering at Christ's Church I leave frustrated.  Should I not sometimes feel inspired?  It's time to find something that inspires as well as challenges my mind, my soul, my relationship with God.

It's time.  But will I act on it?  My commitment to Hospitality Week will have to be considered.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Why so Many Cars and Trucks?

We're driving I-5 from LA back home in Oregon.  As we descend the "grapevine" into the central California valley, it's dusk, and we can see a string cars on two highways as far as the eye can see, off to the horizon as flat as the ocean.  I had to ask, "Where are all these vehicles going?'

Compressing time in this writing, the next day I ask a similar question.  This time the question is inspired by the constant stream of trucks.  What are the hauling?  Why?  In this valley one may think about food, produce from from surrounding farms.  Miles and miles of orchards and at least once a mile or so long feedlot filled with thousands of cattle helps one realize how much food is produced in this valley.  The continuous line of cars and trucks traveling more than a mile a minute reminds one of the thousands, actually millions of persons who need to be fed every day.  Food, a driving force behind all this driving.

Is that it?  Occasionally one recognizes a load of steel, or pallets, or machinery.  That's not food, but often it's related to the food industry, the harvesting, the processing, the transporting of food.  Food continues to motivate the travel.  And people, workers going to and from the field and the processing plants.

Now there's a truck loaded with lumber and another with logs.  It's a stretch to say that related to food.  Those products are more likely to be connected to building something and that suggests homes, as well as many other things.  Shelter, safety, comfort from cold and heat, better health, clothing are all rather basic to the human life, right up there in importance with food: shelter, clothing and health care.

Could that be it, that all transportation is related to those basic needs?  Yet, we're on the road, like thousands of others who are not transporting food other than what we might eat as we drive.  Why are we driving 900 miles from Oregon to southern California?  In our case it was to attend a family member's college graduation and to visit with relatives.  Human relations causes us to travel; family, friendships.  Churches and religions are also based on relationship and sharing a common belief.

Of course, some are driving for business purposes, but what is the business?  Is it related to food or the care of our physical bodies?  Often, but not always.  Some are visiting Disneyland.  While these individuals will eat, wear clothing, stay in shelters and maybe be with their family or friends, they traveled for leisure.  They had extra time and money so they traveled to do something fun.

Overly simplistic and weakly developed we are all about food, physical care, relationships and extra resources.  We'll have to revisit those categories again another time.  But for now I need to dress for the day, eat some breakfast, email some friends and work in the wood shop and yard.

Finally, to keep this link indefinitely I will add it here.  It's a story about Roger Robinson and his work to keep Denali clean.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Thought about Prayer

Don't take me off the list of idiots when it comes to prayer.  I have conjured up some ideas about what prayer is and how it works, but there are tons of mysteries and questions, and a lot of evidence that I am an idiot.

Simply put, I think of prayer as talking to God.  Talking with God in dialogue I think of as meditation.

Whenever communicating with anyone it's important to know one's audience; in the case of prayer, God is the audience.  What do we know about this audience.  Not much and yet conjectures abound everywhere.  God is everywhere, knows everything, is capable of everything, is more loving than my mother or father, is gracious beyond understanding, is free of gender, is awesome.  And more.  Based on all that I wonder what I should say.

Should I ask for help?  For better health?  For support and presence at our meetings?  Really?  God is already present.  God knows I need help, why should I have to ask for it?  Do you really think this would be new information for God?  Do you think that God wouldn't know I needed help if I didn't ask for it?  Really?

God is love and love is only truly experienced when it is given freely and returned to the giver.  So it's appropriate to give love to God, but how do you or I give love to someone who already has everything.  That special diamond necklace isn't going to hack it.  Neither will dumping a pile of dough on the altar.

We can praise God by calling God names:  Lord, Father, Creator, Gracious, Almighty and the list goes on.  Really?  Is that what God wants?  I think God expects us to "Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God."  I don't see anything in that list of three suggesting I say "Jesus, I just want to ..."  I think this means that I should love God by loving our neighbors, that's everyone.

I think prayer is to communicate how awesome God is, thank God for all we have.  For being present at meetings, and actually at all times.  Thank God for the food, health, healing, warmth, rain.  For neighbors, for friends, for comfort, for peace.  For challenges and support.

The "Lord's Prayer" suits these ideas well except for the phrase that says "Give us this day..."  Really?  We're telling God what to do, to give us food and other daily needs.  Really?  Spin it whatever way you want, the phrase is asking God, almost demanding that God give us what we want or need.

So here's what I've been up to.  As I "lay my head down to sleep" I say, "God, how are you doing?  So many things are amok and messy here on earth among your children.  I hope you can see some joy among the sadness."  And then I continue with all the specific of the day and week, those who are ill, those who are hunger, and all those things, and I thank God for hanging in there with us.

Then I get a bit selfish, I ask for God's support that I may "do justice and love kindness" more sincerely, and that I and God can have a closer relationship.  Because I can't do it alone, actually I can't do any of it without God supporting me.  I'm rather broken and weak, next to nothing.  But that's okay because God loves me as if I were the only thing that God ever made or loved.  And I apologize profusely for not doing my best, and for being such a clod and klutz.  I know I could do better but somehow I don't seem to do it.  Sorry, really sorry.

And in the tradition of the Christian faith: amen.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

It's Raining - Hard

An obvious redundant statement when telling a story about yourself is "When I was younger."  Yes, you were younger, everything that has happened in your life was when you were younger than you are now even if it were but a second ago.  Not only that, but every moment that you are alive you are growing older and the only way to stop that is not a great alternative, and that is to not be alive.

It's fascinating to listen to different conversations in different setting, in particular I'm thinking about the aquatic center which we visit twice a week.  We choose a time when there is no structured activity or exercise session and apparently the others in the water at that time are making a similar choice.  Gail claims she can't swim but floats well.  I claim that I could swim if I didn't sink to the bottom.  So we exercise our joints and muscles by walking the river, with the flow and against the flow, forward and backward.  Then we walk in the still pool twisting and turning as we go.  After getting our pulse rate up a ways, we move to the therapy pool where the water is warmer.  There we do stretches and arm exercises until we move to the spa for a few minutes of letting the body enjoy the warm circulating water.

The number of persons in all these pools is low while we are there, maybe up to a dozen, usually fewer, in both pools.  Most of them appear at least our age, some a bit younger.  Rarely do we see someone who appears trim and fit.  They exercise in the water probably because it's low-impact and they want to keep moving.  Some set their canes and walkers aside before entering the pool of choice.  Some come with a physical therapist from the local hospital.  Few seem to be there just to hang out.

Besides the artifacts of walking aides and bumps in their chests for pacemakers, the conversations betray some of their motivations for being there. "I had my second knee replaced at so-and-so and it went better than the first time."  "They told me that if I had another heart attack it could be the last."  Those conversations lead into "I'm doing this because my knee was acting up," or "My brother was having problems and I decided that I didn't want the same issue."  Yes, the conversations center around health including costs, benefits, insurance and sometimes the politics of health care.

After a face become more and more familiar, conversations advance to restaurants, diets, families, jobs-mostly former jobs.  Although there was the day when an older gentleman came up to me and gave me a summary of his life in Wyoming and his move to Oregon.  I'm afraid he thought that was important for him to share and for me to know.

The saddest part of these conversations is that I'm way too quiet.  I seldom get past "Good morning."  Maybe my resolution for the next phase of my life when I'm not younger is expand my repertoire of conversation.  After all they're all good people.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


A couple days ago a half dozen Chinese scholars and a couple of their children came to share a midday meal with us.  They had no transportation to our remote hillside home so I made five 40-minute trips to gather and later disburse them.  As we drove closer and closer to our home they came to realize the remoteness of our place and how it was "out in nature" [their words].  And it is in so many ways, "out in nature," even though we have made an artifical human footprint among the trees and wildlife.  They were thrilled, as were we, when nine deer chose to pass through the back yard as we were finishing the meal.

Today is defined as the last day of the year, defined by mankind, in a natural world which has no last  or first annual day.  Even our calendar is modern with respect to the life of the earth and solar system; we define this as a mere 2018 years since we started counting.  The structure of our calendar has made several changes in that time including a recent one just some two-hundred years ago.

Other cultures have different calendars.  The Chinese calendar is over 4000 years old, the Arabic and Hebrew calendars are lunar, based on the moon instead of the sun.  Regardless of the source of a calendar, it is mankind's way of quantifying and defining the cycles of nature.

That all feels logical to me, creating a tool to measure the movement of the sun, moon and stars, to record the changes of seasons.  What feels peculiar to me is the excessive celebrating the change of the calendar from one year to another.  We annually celebrate the birth of our bodies when we left our mothers' wombs; that occurred at a specific time and date and we're glad to be able to live through another summer and winter, so we celebrate.  But the first day of the year which was arbitrarily created by mankind, that it totally artificial.  We just love to find reasons to celebrate.  And we connect it to religion, hence the number 2018, and the seven days in a week.

As the story Christmas Carol by Dickens tells of the conversion of a Scrooge from hating Christmas to embracing Christmas, perhaps there should be a story about the conversion of a Denvy from seeing no value in the New Year's celebration to one who appreciates the festive mood at the end of the calendar.  Perhaps that story has never been written because there is no proper definable conversion.

I hope that your next cycle around the sun is peaceful, meaningful, enjoyable, profitable and reasonable, whenever that cycle may start or end.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Simple Life

During the month of October a half dozen or so persons met and talked about Happiness.  The idea is that God created us to be happy, happy through at relationship with God.  We were invited to challenge ourselves to take some steps to becoming happier.  Among the ideas tossed around was removing oneself from temptations of materialism and strive for a simpler life.

That led to the question "What is a simple life?"  We agreed that everyone probably had a slightly different idea of how to live life simply.  I was motivated to review my own version of a simple life.

In ways I think I have chosen and in part successfully led a simple life.  I find joy in the little bird that hums over a feeder sipping up sugar water.  Through my childhood I only read about and saw pictures of humming birds.  In Alaska never did I see one, even on trips to other parts of the globe.  But when we settled in Oregon, they came to the window and ever since then they come daily.  In recent years for some reason some have even graced our lives through the winter.

In May of 2014 just a month before our 45th anniversary of our wedding, we had a gathering in our yard inviting anyone and everyone who had a birthday that year.  Ninety came.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  One of the simple but lasting and most enjoyable gifts was a bird feeder.  It was wood with plexiglass walls with a wide overhanging roof.  Now I fill the feeder regularly as the birds, and an occasional chipmunk, empty by eating and spilling seeds.  Many larger birds so appreciate the spillage as they feed off the ground when they don't fit on the feeder.  Chickadees, juncos, jays, starlings feed the doves, quails and turkeys.

I believe that God led us to this home, a place where we labor to keep the weeds down and the flowers blooming.  This home is a blessing with trees that touch the sky while others cool the ground with far-reaching branches.  While the lawn is level and is the labyrinth moved into the native grasses, a hillside rises to one side and drops to the other.  The dry ground nurtures fruit and nut trees and gardens of vegetables and flowers, while an unvisited space is filled with flowing water.  After responding to God's call to reach out to the people of the world, this place energizes and relaxes  our bodies, minds and souls.

God created this place and I have the privilege of sharing it.  I hope that the house and other works of my hands don't overwhelm God's work but facilitates his calling to me.  Now I return to using my hands with simple tools and God's materials to create joy for others.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Homeless Issues Coming This Way

If I have a dream of a quiet week, this was not a successful week.  Ten days ago I was involved in a conversation about helping persons who have no homes or are sleeping no the streets.  After several followup moving forward actions were suggested I recommended that the person in the county who heads up this type of service be informed and I offered to do that.  The resulting meeting included a county commissioner with a brief update on the current situation, some pending plans and dreams, and other possible avenues to explore.  No unique and definite solutions were outlined.

That evening at an event at the college I thanked the university president for his support of DACA students and mentioned the need for housing in Monmouth during cold snaps.  We discussed several uses of the now vacant buildings on campus and he said, "Give me a call."

The next day a gentleman who lives our direction from town stopped by the church and wondered about assistance for a man sleeping in his car along side the road.  A couple days later that homeless man showed up at church while we were serving homeless families a evening meal.  We offered him the meal and I said I'd go with him to the county resource center the next day which I did.  After helping him migrate some of the system I left him in the hands of the county with hopes that he would find some way to move forward.  This morning his car was back alongside the road in his safe spot.

While I was at the resource center one of the staff told me that several ministers may be contacting me about setting up warming shelters for this winter.  I only wondered how all this could happen in less than a week with no preparation or preplanning.  It wasn't and isn't on my bucket list or my to-do list but with the rapidity of the events, this was no coincident; it was guided as if part of a much larger master plan.

Oh, yes, and we are helping a lady move out of her apartment but with no specific place to go.

Where will this stop so I can go back to my bucket list?