A Weekend in Review

Since my last post was full of whining about my preaching engagement, I'll get that part of the update out of the way immediately. It went well. To be perfectly honest, I was more nervous about the benediction (something I've never done) than about the preaching (which I've done four times). The service felt so short. It felt a lot like a musical performance or a fancy meal: lots of time to prepare and then it's all over in a moment. Most people gave me positive feedback. Apparently, my clear, slow speech makes me an excellent preacher for the hard of hearing. There weren't a lot of comments about the content, but I'm sure I'll get more of that when I meet with my supervisor tomorrow.

My weekend was pretty full even without the preaching assignment. DJ, a friend from college who's now studying in Spokane, came out for a visit and one of his friends from Corvallis got a ride to Salem to join us. They both arrived on Friday evening. Getting everyone together was sort of a comedy of errors involving lots of people unfamiliar with Salem. It only took us about an hour of calling back and forth and driving hither and yon to gather everyone in the same place. I cooked for the first time in months and had a great time doing it.

Since neither DJ nor Keun Ha had been to the Pacific Coast before, we drove west to see the ocean. We went toward Lincoln City and turned north once we reached the coast and headed up Route 101. Our journey took us to various places, but the one stop where we spent the most time was at Cape Lookout, where we hiked the Cape Trail. It was an easy to moderate hike, which zig-zagged across a peninsula for two and a half miles. The weather was nice and cool and the sun was shining. My feet were killing me because the Chacos I recently acquired either weren't adjusted properly or simply are not made for hiking, but it was still a fun time. Having lunch high above the ocean, looking back at the Oregon Coast, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the water was spectacular.

After our hike, DJ wanted to stick his feet in the ocean, so we continued north. Along the way, we stopped at Tillamook Cheese Factory and got some ice cream. Even further north, we stopped at Rockaway Beach, where DJ and I stuck our feet in the water. On our way back to the car, we stopped at the shower to rinse our feet. There was one button that operated the shower and another that operated a lower faucet to clean feet. Without thinking, I pressed the wrong button and gave myself an unexpected shower. A little surprised and disoriented, I tried to press the correct button and gave myself another shower. Third time was the charm. Fortunately, there were plenty of people around to enjoy the show.

Before we returned to Salem for the night, we went to dinner in Lincoln City. We were hoping for some delectable seafood, but ended up getting overpriced, sort of bland seafood instead. If you're ever in Lincoln City, I do not recommend Maxwell's. It's not bad, but it's definitely not good either.

Yesterday, I preached, but I already told you about that, so we won't go there again. After the service was over and I'd met with a few people for some extra feedback, DJ, Keun Ha and I went to Pita Pit, my favorite lunch place in Salem, to eat. There was a festival by the river, so the place was packed, unusual for a Sunday. After finishing lunch, DJ and I went to see Wall-E. The movie was super-cute. It's definitely worth the price of a matinee and the big screen adds to the viewing experience. It would actually make a really terrific date movie.

After the busy weekend, I was glad to get back to the place I've been staying and just veg on the couch. I might do some more of that this evening. Sitting in the back yard reading a book sounds like just the thing to do.

Btw, Daniel, several people here have recently schooled me on the proper nomenclature for the land abutting the Pacific Ocean. They assure me it is "the coast" or "the beach" and never "the shore." I demur to your greater experience of the West Coast. The people talking to me about it before must have been mimicking my own incorrect usage. ;)

I Chose This

This Sunday will be my first time ever preaching a sermon outside of an academic environment. I've been in Oregon for about a month, have met more children than adults, and yet will be trying to bring a message from God to this congregation I barely know.

All of that is not so daunting, until I remember that I chose the Old Testament passage for the week. What's the problem with that? you ask this woman who claims to love the OT? Well, the problem is that the passage I'll be preaching on is Genesis 22:1-14, known as the sacrifice of Isaac to some and the binding of Isaac to others.

We all know the Sunday school answers for this passage about how God knew beforehand that Isaac would not be killed, that provision was made in advance. Unfortunately, such easy statements just don't cut it for me anymore.

If it were you asked to sacrifice your son how much solace would you find, after three days of torment, in the fact that God provided a ram at the last moment?

If it were you bound, laid on a pile of wood, prepared for sacrifice, would you ever be able to trust your father again?

What do I say to this congregation expecting a word when I don't even know what I think of the words I'm interpreting? Is it possible to challenge, encourage and assure without confusing and killing faith?


It was a rather uneventful weekend, but after a week herding nearly fifty children, it was a welcome lack of events. I had some plans, but I decided that the rest of the summer would have more than enough plans to suit my taste, so maybe it would be a good idea to rest up. Of course, I was also making an effort to conserve gasoline, since it's so expensive and I am a poor grad student who would like to take a major trip down to Crater Lake National Park later.

In other news, over the past few days, I've developed a pain in my shoulder. Hopefully, it's just a muscle thing that will get better in the next few days because I don't want to have to use my entirely-too-expensive insurance policy out-of-network. Does anyone have any experience going out-of-network with the PTS student policy? How'd it work out for you?


In the few months immediately after graduating from Houghton, I had several "odd" jobs, including sample lady at Sam's Club (where I was the youngest by nearly 40 years) and pretzel sorter at a chocolate factory (I'm not exaggerating folks...).  Even working at M&T as a customer service rep seemed like one long odd job because I disliked it so intensely.

This pastor thing is different.  It's odd, but not because I haven't got enough gray hair to qualify or because I have a college degree or because it's so terrible customers make me cry at least once a week.

It's odd because there's a level of authority that goes with the job/calling/vocation/whatever that I'm not comfortable owning.

It's odd because people expect me to know things about life and God, things I'm not sure I'll ever be able to speak about with any confidence.

It's odd because most people seem to be under the impression that we (the staff) sit around in our offices all week and then do the real work on Sunday.

It's odd because a premium is placed on everything remaining the same from day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year.  Of course, this particular oddity isn't the exclusive territory of the religious.  Most of us don't want things to change.  Routine is easy, comfortable, reassuring... addictive.

This Sunday, I'll be standing in front of the congregation offering the prayers of the people and giving the children's sermon.  The novelty of my presence will be interesting to some, but it won't even matter to others.  What will matter is that I'm standing in the right place, following the right format, and wearing the right clothes.

No judgment, my life is full of routine and lacking in spontaneity.  I'm just wondering what it would take for all of us to break this addiction or if it's even necessary to do so.  Is religion the one area of life in which we should be the most conservative, the most routine?  Or is it odd that we try to keep it as similar as possible from generation to generation?

Anonymous Calls

So, someone at a church in Minnesota called me twice this morning before 8:30 a.m. They didn't leave a message or anything, I had to look it up on Switchboard.com. Weird...


The current project at church is a musical in four days.

A musical about Joseph.

In four days.

No, I'm not kidding. We started yesterday and will finish up with a performance on Thursday. We have kids entering kindergarten and a couple going into their senior year of high school. There are some (boys) who were tricked into participating and others who are all-star performers. It's quite a crew, let me tell you.

The show's not going to be perfect, by any means, but I think it will be good. Even the kids who didn't really want to be here at first are finding it difficult to resist the catchy tunes (that all sound almost like another song you know, like Celebrate Good Times or The Flintstones Theme Song) and the peppy dance routines.

There is an incredible lack of boys, so we have girls cast in the roles of Joseph and Jacob and most of the 12 brothers.

We'll see how it comes together, but I'm beginning to think that the process is the most important part. The performance will go by in a flash, but the kids will keep cracking the same jokes and talking about the time they spent participating in this at least for a while. And many of them will come back next year, ready to start all over again.

Friday Fun

I spent a good part of yesterday in Portland, specifically at Powell's City of Books. Kat, the associate pastor's daughter, who just graduated from high school, came along with me. It was a fun trip, though I wish I'd taken the time to explore Portland a bit more. There are more weekends and there shall be more trips.

The cost of gas is a little depressing, though. Not that I have an intense need to travel all over the countryside, but I'm here and I'd like to do so without completely breaking the bank. My internship pay is generous, so I have no complaints there; I'm just wondering how people who commute an hour each way for a job that doesn't pay all that well are dealing with shelling out $4.20/gallon at the pump. It's unfortunate that such prices seem to be the only real motivation many people have to hope for the development of new fuel sources. A hit in the wallet always seems to work.

Despite the cost of fuel, I've decided to make a trip down to Crater Lake National Park in late July. If I bring all of my own food and camp at the cheapest place, I should be able to do a three day/two night trip for under $200, most of the expense being gas for the four hour trip there and back and driving while there. Hopefully, I'll be able to rack up enough hours at church to take that Thursday off. If anyone is interested in joining me, let me know. Most of you would have to pay for a plane ticket, too, but that's a small price to pay to enjoy a weekend in nature with me. ;)

From the Left Coast

Here are a couple pictures from my long past trip to Cape Meares Lighthouse.
The first is the lighthouse itself (duh...) and the second is of a rock about a mile and a half off the coast called "the old man." What appears to be stubbly hair on top of his head is actually a large flock of common murres.


What Are You Taking?!!

Every year since I was in eighth grade, the end of school brought the excitement of signing up for new classes. In college and grad school, that excitement doubled, as we had all new classes at the beginning of each semester. Inevitably, for the last few weeks before final exams, if cafeteria conversation wasn't about papers or exams, it was about which classes everyone would be taking in the coming semester or school year.

Because of some of the recent curriculum changes at PTS, my classmates and I didn't really get a change to have that kind of conversation. After all, what's the point of getting your hopes up about a class only to find out later you have a scheduling conflict? Anyway, we didn't begin registration until today...over a month after finals were finished. So, we didn't get to discuss the merits of various classes and compare schedules.

To stave off the sadness that engenders in my little heart, I am going to tell all of you what classes I'm taking.

First, I'm signed up for Christian Ethics and Modern Times with John Bowlin. In this course, we'll be dealing with exciting and difficult questions like: How shall we love our neighbors, show hospitality to strangers, bear the burdens of sinners and enemies, and speak truth to power in these modern times? Are the ideals of neighbor love and prophetic justice compatible with the norms of liberal democracy, with individual freedoms and equal rights, or not? I've heard great things about Bowlin.

Next, there's Religion and Time with Fenn.
This course focuses on the contribution of Judaism and Christianity to the experience of time in Western societies, with special reference to the Sabbath, the fate of the soul, purgatory, millennium, and apocalypse. I can't even imagine what we're going to discuss, but it sounded like the most interesting course to fulfill a requirement.

Third, I'm taking Healing Relationships with Norbert Wetzel. NORBERT!!! This class focuses on family and couples therapy, a field which I'm considering as a career, so an appropriate class. Unfortunately, Dykstra isn't teaching anything first semester, but I do plan to take one of his offerings in the spring.

Finally, I might sneak into Historical Hebrew Grammar with Dr. Seow. I'm the only person enrolled at the moment and I don't know if I'll be able to do it with my three other classes plus field ed plus TAing Hebrew...so, we'll see.

Anyway, all you students out there, whether high school, college or grad school, what are you taking next semester?

Churches Are Funny

My summer internship seems to have begun in earnest today. The first big event I'm involved in for the summer begins next Monday, so we're gearing up for that. I have a mailing that needs to go out by tomorrow, for which I still need to make another flyer and a permission slip. My learning-serving covenant is due to PTS by Wednesday, so it must be completed by tomorrow's supervisory meeting. Anyway, it all seems to be coming at once. Ten weeks is not a very long time and, as of tomorrow, I will have completed my second week.

I'm a little stressed and definitely hungry, so here's a photo to tide you over until I'm more reflective. Poppies line the roads around here. My wildflower book arrived on Thursday, so now I know they are of the Mexican Gold and California varieties. This photo contains only California poppies that I can see.

Another Day, Another Trip...Cancelled

So, I was going to take my little self up to Mt. St. Helens today, but looking at the weather forecast has given me a change of heart. It's snowing up there. I do love the snow, but it wouldn't make for great conditions for taking photos. So, I guess I'll try to find something closer to Salem to occupy my day off so that I'm not wasting my days in Oregon. Mt. St. Helens is still on the docket for the summer, but I think it's something I'll do in July, when it's warmer.

You Want to Live Here...

This picture was taken on May 30, near Oceanside, OR, the place where I first dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean. You know you want to move here.

First Photo from Oregon

This isn't a picture of Oregon, but it is a picture I took from the plane on my way here.

Things are going swimmingly. It's always a little bit weird to get used to a new job and a new place, but everyone here has been very welcoming and helpful. For all intents and purposes, today was my first work day at church. The entire morning and part of the afternoon was spent in staff and worship meetings.

I'll be preaching on June 29th. Today I discovered that the lectionary text for that day is the story of the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22. This will be my first sermon in any venue other than preaching class...should be interesting. The congregation isn't huge, but it's definitely a lot bigger than preaching class.

My big project for the summer is planning a weekly activity for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade for each of six weeks between June 25 and July 30. My thoughts so far include a rainbow theme, with a color for each week, somehow tied into the fruits of the spirit, with a few fruits sharing weeks. Feel free to offer any suggestions as this is my first time being in charge of something like this.

Well, I should get this letter written so that it can go out relatively soon. More pictures tomorrow...promise!