Archive | June, 2012

Nuthin’ Cuckoo in (Rancho) Cucamonga

13 Jun

As Steve has shared, I am visiting our second daughter, her husband, and their children. They are trying to buy a new home. They are a wonderful example to me of how a couple tries to make decisions led by God. They pray together. Rejoice together. They truly are acting the reality of being “one” from two people. They realize that all they have belongs to God and is held in trust for God.

They are eager to build a community of caring people in their new neighborhood – a community that will witness to the love of Jesus and serve him right where God plants them! Whether we live in an apartment, a condo, a home or even on the streets – God is there, and that makes it “home”.

There is a saying, “Bloom where you are planted!” As God’s people, that is our day-to-day calling!


Why I Am a Christian…

13 Jun

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”
(Prov. 15:30-33)

So many passages in Proverbs give a sense of ‘that makes sense’ or, ‘did I ever need to be reminded of that!’ This is one of them. And it also uses that ‘hot button’ phrase: ‘fear of the Lord’. I typically turn to alternates like ‘awe’ and ‘reverence’. But this is not saying I have any problem with the good old-fashioned “fear of the Lord”. Don’t you think we would have to be kind of crazy not to be fearful of someone who created all that exists from nothing?

Almighty God, how can we be anything but wildly grateful that–despite your Might and Power–you seek us with a strong, relentless hunger, to show us how much you love us! Forgive us, Gracious Abba. How, just like children, we prove each day how much we do need your gift of wisdom. Amen.

As I’ve shared, Beauty is in southern California visiting some of our children and ‘grands’. She is staying with Ken & Amy. I couldn’t help but be touched when I started toward the bedroom earlier. There, sitting before the hallway door, waiting for Beauty to come out, was Otis. He is a bowling-ball mix of Pug and Boston Terrier we ‘inherited’ from Amy & Ken. He is very well-trained, and an excellent watch dog. He and Mr. Ruggles make a daunting duo.

A couple of months ago, when we thought we might be losing Ruggles, Otis lay beside my ‘pound puppy’ (whom I got for us while Mary was in Denver several years back), and rested his head on Mr. Ruggles.

Yes, getting him was a big surprise! When I picked Beauty up at the airport, and pulled in front of the house, Ruggles jumped on the dining room table (at the big picture window!) I protested as inaccurate her claims that she just saw a dog in our house! But it was love at first wag!

If you like surprises, some time I’ll tell about our Catalina anniversary trip.

This may be rather disappointing to some; in particular, to any whom expect some treatise. It ain’t comin’, folks! As I believe I’ve shared previously, my ‘theology’ is pretty simple. My Statement of Faith is quite direct. I am aware of some of the objections to Christianity, such as, ‘the Bible is self-contradictory’, ‘a loving God would never do that‘, ‘Christianity is only for weaklings who need a crutch’, and ‘where do Christians get the right to “negate” the claims of other religions?’. The list is ‘Legion’ (to borrow from Scripture.)

The bottom line, for me, is that I have a personal relationship with Jesus. To pose it another way, could you deny the existence of someone you know? Me, neither. There have been so many times in my life–in sundry situations–where Jesus has been so present, and so significant, that only someone who is committed to being a dutiful-doubter, could doubt. Yes, that is my opinion, but it is also a belief based on–again, my–empiricism.

Yes, I know that’s not scientific empiricism. So what? By the way, I believe in science; no, I LOVE science! I don’t have any issues with evolution. If God chose to create through an evolution-like process, there is no reason I should tell God he should have done it a different way. That would be pointless, don’t you think?

This photo was taken in Tanzania. Behind me is the Oldupai Gorge in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey (and after them, son, Richard) made incredible fossil and bone discoveries about early man. I wanted to come here since elementary school. OlduVAI is an understandable mispronunciation by German scientists.

I can acknowledge the existence, love, caring, provision and steadfastness of God, because I ‘experience’ him through our daily relationship. Who do you think was the first to ever ask: “Can we talk?”

Doubt? Uncertainty? Curious? Totally convinced it’s all a bunch of ‘bunk’, of ‘crapola’? No problem.

Does it matter enough to you to ask him to prove himself to you? No games! Even if you do it as a joke, he just might amaze you!

After all, he IS the God of mystery, surprise, and amazement.

On the Road Again…

12 Jun

“Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word! The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave.” (Prov. 15:21-24)

This passage once again points us to follow a direction guided by wisdom. It does not imply we are incapable of making astute decisions. Rather, it reminds us of a variation of the blessing of diversity in Creation: situations considered by different people from different world views. If you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor– “thinking out of the box with fresh eyes.”

Seeking God’s wisdom as a ‘normal activity’ of life enables us to more frequently offer an “apt reply” to others, without a reactionary ‘shooting from the hip’. Wisdom leads us to a life of God’s blessings.

Jesus, help us seek wise counsel from those in our lives we respect. Help us turn away from the attitude that ‘going it alone’ is the ‘macho thing’ to do. We were created for community and companionship. Amen.

to go south and visit some of our children and grandchildren. The real “task at hand” is staying with Ken & Amy’s two sprout-lings so they can enjoy an exciting ‘escape’. Gram-Mary will be in her element! If she’s very lucky, she’ll get to spend time with three of our four daughters and our son, JJ.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN in Washington
Molly & Damon (& family) are in mid-move from Green Lake (Seattle) to Gig Harbor. They are renting while their house is ‘readied’ for them. Their daughters delight in sharing (via Skype) all about the deer that daily visit their front and back yards. Unfortunately, they also visit their neighbor’s garden, and feast to their hearts’ content. Those folks are trying their third type of fence to ban the ‘beasts’.

This morning, Beauty shared that she was going to have her ‘quiet time’, but first needed to get her cell phone. Hmmm.

Hey, Caveman! Walk upright…!

9 Jun

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.”
(Prov. 15:13-16)

This passage–and so very many in Proverbs–make me feel like the ‘proverbial’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) two-faced man. How often do we present two different people to those with whom we interact in life, all the while convinced we are men or women of strong integrity and steadfastness.

Holy Spirit, grab our attention! Convict us of our haughtiness, but don’t leave us languishing in self-serving self-pity, pretending we want to repent, to truly ‘turn around’. Set our hearts on fire with a Fire for the Ages. Amen.

Well, that would be me (Steve; like I needed to clarify! Beauty would have been ‘Faerie Delight’. I refer you to George MacDonald’s “Phantastes, a Faerie Romance…”) Anyway, Beauty has been suggesting that I walk ‘straighter’. Without belaboring it, I guess I lean forward from the waist when I walk, although I think I’m ramrod straight. It has quickly become clear that this is going to take some time and effort.

Is it any wonder? Several years of hip and knee issues took its toll. I was just happy getting around, eventually with a cane. In chatting with a Fuller friend the day before she left for Texas, she mentioned, “Steve, in three years, I’ve never known you to not be in pain.” That pretty much tells the story.

I have now had enough parts replaced to authentically qualify as the $65 man. Beauty & I were both happy when, six weeks after hip replacement, we were able to go on a 5.5 mile hike out of Chantry Flat in the San Gabriels. Before heading home, we enjoyed some delicious pulled-pork at the Pack Station, and some (always interesting) conversation with several of the long-time area residents.

Its an odd feeling trying to re-learn correct posture. When I think I’m straight, her answer, more often than not, is “not quite”. It’s not until I feel like I’m practically about to fall over backwards that she tells me that I look pretty straight. All in all, I’m feeling strong and energetic.

Our San Joaquin Presbytery enjoyed a “grand” day in Visalia. It was a nice combination of our Presbytery meeting, a lot of fun and fellowship, and a chance for our churches to display and demonstrate some of their ministry efforts. We’ve got a lot going on in the SAN JOAQUIN!

See Beauty’s POST, below.

More soon with photos.

at Coalinga First. Worship begins at 10. C’mon by if you’re in the area.

Terrifying & Exhilarating!

9 Jun


I (Mary) had the great pleasure of hearing Rev. David Loleng, from the Evangelism and Church Growth division of PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) who came to San Joaquin’s Presbytery in the Park Mission event today in Visalia. He inspired many thoughts – among them the image of ministry with fellow believers as terrifying and exhilarating.

Following Jesus is like riding a roller coaster (actually Space Mountain sends me into a panic attack!!). You know the feeling of the dips and sharp turns where your stomach feels like it has leapt out of your body? But as you come out of the turn the exhilaration that you made it! Then as you climb the hill, preparing for the next fast circuit – how your body begins to brace for the next descent? That’s what following Jesus is like!

There are moments of holy terror. What have I signed up for? God, you’re asking me to do WHAT? And as a pastor, at times you question, “Am I listening to God strongly enough?” “Who are you to lead God’s people?

But then there are the times when God begins to move and you are on a fast moving ride holding onto the coattails of the Holy Spirit! It is joyful and exhilarating to participate in God’s mission here on earth! And there is nothing quite like seeing God move in the lives of people and I am amazed to be a part of it!

On the horns of the Derby dilemma

6 Jun

“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. ‘Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.'” (Prov. 9:1-6)

Lord, please give us wisdom. Give us one molecule of your understanding. When we make decisions for ourselves, may we turn to you for your guidance and your purpose. Help us exhibit your heart for fairness, justice, and kindness when we make decisions impacting others. May someone’s day be better and brighter because we touched their life. Amen.

HORNED TOAD DERBY DAZE I was going to leave the BLOGging to Beauty today, but then she handed me the weekly paper, with the advisory, “You’d better check the Letter to the Editor.” (In a small town, the editor is not often deluged with more than one.) The letter offered numerous examples about how the Derby Parade and Derby itself were so much different–and less ‘homey’–than in the ‘good ol’ days’. The Chamber of Commerce has been hosting the Derby since (I believe) 1933. As a Chamber board member, I tend to care about any comments pertinent to our ‘bailiwick’.

One of my first conclusions after reading was that many of the comments were (I suspect, unknowingly) not aimed at the Chamber, but at the ‘greater community’. Perhaps I should change that last phrase to ‘our community that needs to be greater’. I am particularly sensitive to this because of ongoing issues here in town that keep people and organizations ‘at arm’s length’, and also current happenings in our Presbyterian (PCUSA) denomination. The Presbyterian debacle is for another time.

Here is my resulting letter to the pastors of our local Ministerial Association:

“Hi, ‘Min Assn’ folks-

I’d like to call your attention to today’s LETTER TO THE EDITOR about this year’s Derby.

My point, actually, is not about Derby, but about our larger community. Comments are made which–to me–point to the need for us to re-commit to our plans to host a CCC.

In my opinion, this article reveals, community-wide: poor communication, organizational disunity & fracture, a lack of caring or interest by the public, a lack of purpose, and unclear direction and focus.
Other ‘opportunities for creative change’ probably come quickly to your minds.

I strongly support putting the CCC back on our ‘front burner’. Without minimizing the benefits of what we have already done together, I believe we have before us a more important challenge. I often hear that the Church no longer leads, but follows. Whether or not true, the CCC is a way we can both lead, and include and empower other community leaders to combine efforts for the benefit of all greater-area Coalingans.

Yes, I know we are all ‘too busy’ already, but I believe this is a genuine and authentic need here in Coalinga.
If we don’t accept this challenge, who will?”

CCC: Coalinga Community of Caring…
is modeled after a program in Sanger. Community leaders from across the community come together not just to address problems, but also to combine assets, resources, strengths and experiences to–TOGETHER–build bridges to make life better for everyone.

How about YOU? Are you a bridge-builder? When was the last time you found a way to fasten a length of rope to a rock, and threw it across a chasm? When was the last time you helped make a scrawny length of rope the beginning foundation for a rope bridge? Slowly, but surely and steadfastly helping to make it stronger and stronger and stronger, until…

that bridge that began with nothing more than Doubt and a hint of Hope, became a Bridge of Hope, then stronger as a Bridge of Growing Understanding, then more flexible and resilient as a Bridge of Fellowship, and–ultimately–a Bridge of Love. A Bridge of Love so enduring that, should the bridge itself disappear, the Love–all that really matters–would continue on. For the Bridge had done its job: to Bridge Hearts together with Love.

yesterday, in ‘Proverbially Speaking’, I described a metaphor as painting with a brush of words. This Bridge of Love is a metaphor for God’s Love for us.

and all those you love and adore.

May the God of Love guide your every step, whether it be crossing the most rickety bridge being tossed by torrents, or in the safety of a bridge built to last ‘forever’.

Only Jesus Christ is the bridge who truly lasts forever.

“Nib-less” Oblige

5 Jun

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” (Prov. 8:12-17)

spr: We might think of a metaphor as painting with a brush of words. As the letters and sounds are stroked and swirled onto a canvas, they often produce a stunning portrait. This passage is a portrait of “Wisdom”: her character and her characteristics.

She lives with care and thought for the future. She has knowledge and tactful circumspection. She wields a seething hate of pride, arrogance and all expressions of transgression and evil. She has good and gracious judgment, and is a powerful paramour. For those who passionately love her, she will make their dreams come true.

Loving God of all, we embrace your hope. We lean on your help, not as weaklings, but in your strength, with a deep desire to be stronger still in the might of your Holy Spirit. Grant us your understanding, and the knowledge that leads to a reverence for you. Amen.

Beauty & I had our first date 42 years ago today!
Our congratulatory conversation went something like this: “Hey, Happy Anniversary!” “Oh, yeah. Right.”

I love fountain pens. I remember in undergraduate days reading “The Age of Napoleon” [Vol. XI in the Durant’s The Story of Civilization], and Jean Orieux’ “Talleyrand”, and enjoying taking notes with a Parker fountain pen that wrote with tiny, paper-saving precision, and with a clarity no other pens could match.

I remember being happy to discover that my father had a fountain pen desk set (Sheaffer–which is now in front of me on my desk here in the Manse) in his office at John Burroughs.

I was pleased to see recently an online article in The Telegraph [Great Britain]: “If you want to write like Hemingway…”, about how fountain pens “take us to a simpler, more romantic world.” I am even thinking of transitioning back to that world, and completing my correspondence with sealing wax stamped with a large, regal “R”.

I confess to a bit of snobbery. I feel a sense of “nib-less” oblige: a responsibility to share the joy of fountain pens with the ‘less fortunate’–those relegated to the realm of roller balls and ball points.

Subtitled: ‘What to feed your beast for a colorful feast!’ Fountain pen cartridges of ink are amply available. My personal preference is to use a converter, and load it with bottled ink. (Yes, you will probably get a little ink on your fingers. One wag has offered the playful quip: ‘What colors are on your fingers today?’) I have fairly good luck with Dawn liquid soap for removing tell-tale ink.

While cartridges hold more ink, converters invite and beckon you into the amazing world of seemingly-endless colors! The thought of writing in rich purple bored me, until I saw it in ‘living color’ on paper.

*** Converters and Cartridges are MANUFACTURER-SPECIFIC…! They are NOT all interchangeable!

The best paper in the world is France’s Clairefontaine (they also produce Rhodia.) That’s not just my opinion–research it. It is a wonderful surface for fountain pens, and minimizes bleed-through. Very important when ‘journaling’. The ubiquitous Moleskin notebooks are notorious for ink bleeding through (showing on the other side.) Clairefontaine is also so smooth that even the finest nibs rarely ‘catch or snag’ on the paper. Try it!

There are more nibs (the tip that writes) available than are typically ‘available’. That gibberish just means that all the nibs that are listed on this sample list of nibs may not be readily available. I usually like an extra-fine, because I like sharp, precise writing. A friend in London (Mike) sent me two Parker nibs for which he had no use. One was an extra fine, and the other was a ‘needle’ nib. Oh, my gosh, does it ever write with ‘minuscularity’. Sorry, sometimes I just can’t help but ‘craft’ new words. Webster (of dictionary fame) does not consider me a friend.

For pens, I suggest Teri Morris, owner of Peyton Street Pens in Santa Cruz (CA). She is very knowledgeable, and even more helpful and friendly. You can reach her at: Peyton Street Pens.

For pens, notebooks, bottled ink: Allard’s Art Supplies [1-559-225-1500 / 5350 N. Blackstone, Fresno 93710). If you’re familiar with Fresno, it’s next to Trader Joe’s.

Amazon–I find that many bottled ink prices here are MORE EXPENSIVE than at Allard’s. Do your own research.

I thought I would share with you the very first love letter I ever sent to Beauty:

Have a wonderful, Love-laden day.