Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

You hear it a lot these days.  These days being those around Christmas, after Christmas and a bit into the new year, which this year is 2019.  It's the thing to say.  It's the greeting of the season.  Some of us may even think about what we're saying.

It's an easy greeting to understand unlike so may greetings we take for granted.  Hello, it that anything more than a sound we make when we see someone or answer the phone.  Or hi, what's that all about.  Farewell, we can see that one wishes another to "fare" "well," may things go well with you.

Ciao, common in Europe, a deviation of "I'm your slave."  Really?  I guess it was a polite thing to say once showing your willingness to serve.  Aloha, it's Hawaiian and it sounds nice, either coming to going.  Adieu and adios, it's a God thing, "to God."  Are you sending me off to God?  Wouldn't "with God" be better?  Good bye or goodbye, another God thing, "God be with you" poorly deviated.

Back to "Happy New Year."  All the words in this greeting are clear, simple and English.  We're wishing for you that the new year will be a happy one for you.  We'll let you define happy but what is a new year.  It's some type of bump in the annual cycle of seasons and circling the sun.  Some time ago some created a way of recording the days of the year which today we call a calendar.  Somehow that calendar started about ten days after the winter solstice.

So the new year is when we get a new calendar and hordes of people think that something new will happen.  Other than a memory of staying up to late, midnight typically, or a party with friends or family, the first day of the new year is the same as the last day of the old year.  Well, for many it's a holiday and they don't have to go to work.

Yes, this has been a post of just rambling with one profound point but then maybe it's similar to the reason we celebrate the changing of a calendar.  Anyhow, I do hope that your next year, starting with the change of the change and a midnight kiss, or starting at this moment whenever that may be, is one in which you can find positive feelings including happiness.  Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What a Day!

First stop - 6:00AM - let Marc out at Roger's Automotive Repair in Monmouth so he could arrange for a diagnosis of their Volvo which yesterday began to sputter as if one cylinder was dead or broken.

Second stop - 6:20AM - let Denvy out at Enterprise Rentals on Mission Street so he could pick up a seven-passenger van for the upcoming trip with the grandkids.  After a brief walk around to see which vehicle might be most suitable, and prepared to dig out the camping chair at the front door to await the 7:30AM opening, he found two employees waiting for their boss coming from Beaverton.

Third stop - 7:50AM - Gail and Dominic check in at PDX to meet Payton and Deona.

Phone call - 8:00AM - "We've checked in.  Got a pass to go to the gate and the plane has landed."

Phone call - 8:10AM - "I'm talked to the mechanic and am walking to downtown to sit in the park."

After some compromising and waiting for a vacuum and wash job,  Denvy drove off with a big black eight-passenger gas-guzzler and picked up Marc about 9:20.  Gail and passengers were in Woodburn and after hours of waiting at the repair shop, the rental office and the airport, everyone's coming together.

A lunch and the girls lay down for a nap after their very early flight and a very late going-to-bed.  Others followed creating a very quiet afternoon.  Later packaging was transported from temporary storage in the house to the big bomb.  The perspectively huge space in the van almost immediately filled.  Oops, that was not great judgement.  We're work it out tomorrow.

Marc and Gail went to Monmouth to retrieve his car which turned out to be less complex then anticipated.  Apparently the coil, not the cylinder that went bad.  Good news.

Late in the evening the travelers discussed their expectations, ate homemade pizza and made more preparations.  Now it's time for a good sleep so we can have a fresh start in the morning.


Pat asked me at our 50th class reunion some years ago why our parents would tell us to not associate with folks who go to church on the other side of the tracks.  The Catholic Church was on the south side of Main Street and the railroad, the Protestant churches were a block or two on the north side of the tracks.  He was Catholic, I was from the north side.  I nodded in agreement and shook my head having no answer to the question.  Definitely my parents had told me that and apparently his parents had told him much the same.

I learned later that the segregation was much deeper than that in this small farming community of about 1500.  The Germans from Russia were by culture assigned to the northeast corner of town with its smaller houses called Moscow.  I guess everyone else was pretty much German; I don't remember of know of anyone who wasn't.

Sixty years later after having a Afro-American president of our country and almost a woman, the same thing is being said to people in our society.  It's not north and south now, it's red and blue, it's conservative and liberal, terms that don't mean anything but to draw lines.  When can we simply be humans and care for everyone and make decisions to better all rather basing our decisions on color, or language, or where our parents came from?

We're just a week from the end of July, in the middle of a ten-day steak of hot temperatures and months of no rain.  While the temperatures in the morning and evening are below 90, preferably 80, I work in the yard.  We've dug our potatoes so we don't have to water them.  We've pulled many pea stalks because either the drought or the varmints was gotten them.  We're fixing fences and cutting off the iris and spring flowering plants.

The church continues to wane, in part because it's summer, in part I think because our leadership (pastor) is only half-time and seems to not support many of the projects from our heritage.  Even our worship service format has changed to seem quite foreign to us.  Fortunately the members are strong enough to continue to love God and neighbor without that support.

It's time to slip on the straw hat and brave the heat for a while.  Take a deep breath and head outdoors.

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.