Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Is it really possible to refine down to a paragraph or two the significance of a person's life who has spent the better part of it teaching. For 40 minutes today, Enumclaw Public Schools held a reception/tea (I never did see any tea) to recognize all the district employees whose careers come to an end at the close of this school year. Divided among some 20 retirees, the time for each one's biography and summary of career lasted but 2 or 3 minutes. A life time of significance boiled down to three minutes.

Don't get me wrong. It was a nice event. And the superintendant had nice things to say. The Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and the Enumclaw Education Association handed out nice little tokens and certificates. It was nice. I appreciated the efforts given the circumstances.Some of those retiring had put in as many as 35 years in education, specifically in Enumclaw.

 Judy was one of the honorees. She worked for the district 15 years. However she also taught for 7 years in Las Cruces, spent 5 years administrating the Early Childhood Division of Las Cruces Public Schools and was also a teachers aid for a few years when we lived in Renton. All told that is 30 years invested in public education. On average, Judy has probably had 25 students per year. As a teacher and a teachers aid, that means she played a major role in the intellectual, moral, social and emotional development of over 315 students.

As an administrator, that number exponentially increased because there, she recruited, trained, equipped and enabled many more Parents as Teachers home visitors, Head Start teachers, and Kindergarten faculty. The numbers begin to really add up then - something akin to a pyramid marketing scheme.

Of course, that aspect of her life - public education - is just one dimensional. It doesn't begin to quantify the impact that she has had in her many years teaching Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Kid's Quest, and Children's Choirs at Church. Somehow, even when she was finishing up her degree in evening classes, and when she had already put in a full day taking lunch money, keeping track of book orders, individual medical needs, personalized attention in reading and math, and who knows what else comprises the day of a public school teacher, she always seemed to have time and passion for helping young children learn and grow in their faith in God. Energy, creativity, vibrant love, passion and compassion - all came through not only in a school class room but in those special moments with kids kids at church..

There is one more, even more critical and important role she has played (and continues to play) as an educator and that is teaching and exemplifying what it means to be an authentic Christian to our daughters, our grandsons, and our friends. She lives it as an open book. She is who St. Francis had in mind when he said "preach a sermon every day; and if necessary use words." Our daughters and grandchildren are walking, breathing examples of those who see in her an example of faith and love that is so contagious, they too are living into that faith...and are teaching others in word and by example also.

Paul told his young colleague Timothy "entrust what you have heard to faithful people who in turn can teach it to others." (2 Timothy 2:2) And just before that reminded Timothy that it was his godly grandmother and mother who had passed along a great legacy of faith to him in the first place (I Timothy 1:1-7)

The Bible says that those who teach are worthy of double honor. Today, while she was honored, Judy didn't receive the kind of honor of which her life and career are worthy. So, this little blog is my meager attempt as her husband and life-long admirer, to give her the honor she deserves.

I have volunteered in her class. I have seen what its like to be with 2nd graders. She has earned it. And I am so proud.

Friday, May 31, 2013


I am speaking to a men's group this weekend. Since retiring, I don't get all that many opportunities. The question I have been thinking about lately is this: "WHO'S IN CHARGE?" Do I really have control over every part of my life? Or am I living in a state of mistaken autonomy? That is the substance of my talk.

Men like to be in control; to fix things. Men think they can do just about anything including finding their way without a map (or GPS) and figure out how to put a piece of IKEA furniture together without directions.I am like that completely. Just ask Judy.  I like to think I am in control and can do anything.

But it doesn't always add up or work out that way. We - as human beings - are confronted with a paradox that troubles us. We believe in a God who is all powerful, all knowing, and providential. Yet we live in the tension of being "responsible" for daily choices and actions. Some call this "free will."

How do those two things dovetail? Is God really all-powerful and sovereign? Are humans truly "free" to do their own thing? How much of life does a person really have in their control; their own free will.

The famous "Serenity Prayer" addresses this:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

When I was preaching every week, I learned that God never let me preach a sermon that I had not first lived.  For example (and this actually happened lots) whenever I would plan on preaching "The Parable of the Good Samaritan" I would have some visible, very real opportunity to test my own willingness to love and care for my "neighbor." One night - as an Associate Pastor in Renton - I was scheduled to preach that message on a Sunday morning. Saturday night at about 11:30 pm, we were awakened by a phone call. A man was stranded over on Pacific Highway South - a broken down car, no money, no one to call. He called me. Coincidence? I don't think so.A tough decision to make? Yes, Absolutely. In spite of my sense of misgiving and potential risk, I went and helped this "stranger" whom God had allowed (or placed) into my life.

So I am challenging men to ask themselves, "Who is in control of your life? You or God?" As I was preparing a powerpoint outline of my talk, God came through once again and brought or allowed a challenge to come into my experience that confronted me with the same question.

You see, I was hoping that this talk to men would be the first "book speaking" engagement. I based what I want to say on some of the themes that our in our book "THROUGH STORMY WATERS." In addition to speaking, I was planning on having the first box of books available for purchase and signing if men wanted a copy. I believed the books would arrive in plenty of time.

Thursday - No books yet. Panic. Where are they? I thought I had this all under control! Apparently not!

After some frantic phone calls and investigation, we (my publisher and I) discovered a problem with the order. They had not been shipped via two-day delivery. They wouldn't arrive until after the speaking engagement.

Another test of my faith! Who is in control? "Do I believe - really believe - what I intend to tell these men this weekend?"

Martin Luther King, speaking to a group of Civil Rights activists said, "You don't have to see the entire staircase. You just have to take one step at a time." Much easier said than done for sure. But it makes me confront the reality that I am in much less control than I would like to think and that in order to live authentically as a believer, I need to walk by faith. I want to do what I can, while at the same time trusting in a God who is not only sovereign but providentially in control over my life. God has a better perspective and a bigger plan over my life than I do.

So, the long story, hopefully made a little shorter is this: A smaller order of books was shipped overnight delivery and should be here today - just in time for the men's breakfast. We'll see. But if they are not here,

                      "oh well, another lesson for me to make this truth a reality.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A pictorial time line of "Through Stormy Waters"

Through Stormy Waters: God's Peace in Life's Storms"  is a story - our story -  chronicling God's grace and peace in the midst of the storms of life we've encountered beginning on May 8, 1997. If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, I thought I would share just a few pictures that depict our journey through stormy water to a place of peaceful refuge

 April 20, 1997 - The Congregation called me to be Senior Pastor of Calvary Presbyterian in Enumclaw. We immediately began making plans to move from the desert of southern New Mexico to the green, damp Pacific Northwest.

 Northminster Presbyterian Church in Las Cruces where I was the New Church Development and first called Pastor for 13 years

 In 1993, after having interviewed at numerous churches, we decided to stay in Las Cruces. We had this house built believing that we would stay in Las Cruces for years to come..

 May 8, 1997 - Our church bus ready to be sold and ultimately the bus that would crush me then run over me and drag me for 40 feet.  At approximately 4:30 pm, I lay face down, crushed and unable to move. In spite of a realization that I was near death, I felt the distinct presence of Christ and the reassurance that I would not be alone. Judy and Melissa arrived at the church as I was frantically being loaded into the ambulance.


The parking lot, gravel area and in the distance, the basketball court where the bus finally stopped and left me lying face down - C5/C6 fracture dislocation, crushed pelvis, acetabular fracture of the right hip and socket, 9 broken ribs, internal injury and compromise to vital organs  and numerous burns, contusions, abrasions and lacerations on back, legs, face and arms.

MAY 8 - JUNE 12 ICU #14 at Memorial Medical Center in a Roto-Rest bed that kept my neck and legs in traction and the rest of my body completely immobile. This was my home for 28 days before moving to the 6th floor orthopedic ward after having my pelvis repaired and fixated (notice the fixator device in the picture below which, though awkward and uncomfortable, is much better than being in a body cast).

 June 12 - Rio Vistsa Rehabilitation Hospital in El Paso Texas - my home for rehab and continued care until August 1. 4 hours every day of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and CPM (continuous passive motion) treatment to reshape my right hip socket.

June 17 - Judy and I renew our marriage vows for our 25th anniversary in a conference room at Rio Vista and with friends and family. We gave each other silver rings and recited the same vows we had shared 25 years earlier. A friend even sang Paul Stookey's "The Wedding Song."

After release from Rio Vista hospital on August 1, I began outpatient rehab at CORE and at a friends clinic and continued it daily until October 1997. When we moved to Enumclaw, I began treatments 3 times a week at Stuart Jones Physical Therapy.

August 31 - Ready to attend Northminster. This was the first week of walking - albeit with a walker -  in spite of doctors prognosis that months and years of rehabilitation would be necessary. I had lost over 40 pounds..

On October 25, I walked oldest daughter Kresta down the aisle in Nampa, Idaho where she married Ryan Horn. They now have two sons - Sam (12) and Joe (7)

November 1, 1997 - I preached my first sermon at Calvary although I was unable to return to work full time until March of 1998.

December 29, we returned to Las Cruces and Northminster Presbyterian Church where - under the watchful eye of my neurosurgeon - I walked my daughter Melissa down the aisle. She married Jerry Parks. Today they have a son - Davis - who is 12.

December 2004 - after enjoying 6 years of boating on Puget Sound - first on Dawn Treader, a 25 foot Bayliner Cierra, then aboard Sea Quill, a 33 foot Sedan Cruiser, We purchased PROVIDENCE. She is 41 foot trawler with twin Lehman engines, two staterooms, two heads, a galley, salon, dinette and more.

Mission Trips to Africa, Mexico and the Gulf Coast, church retreats, church growth, staff changes, community involvement, including Faith in Action Sundays, Magic String Concerts, Rotary service projects, Bible Study groups, added services and much more have more than filled our lives since that day in May, 1997. How grateful to look back in retrospect and remember how God has comforted, sustained, blessed and cared for us and our family through many storms.

A few days after my accident, a wise, loving former colleague and mentor in ministry sent us a letter with a postscript reference to Psalm 118:17. "I will not die, but will surely live and declare what the Lord has done." These words of David have not left my heart or mind since. Our book and these postings are attempts to fulfill that challenge.To God be the Glory for the things "he" has done!

"When you pass through the waters. they will not overwhelm you..." Isaiah 43:3

Monday, May 27, 2013

What's really important?

This is our house in Surprise, Arizona. Its a lot smaller than the house we have lived in for the last 15 plus years. 
  • What to keep? 
  • What do we throw out? 
  • What are the things that are truly important? 
  • Why have we hung on to some of the things we have hung onto? Those are questions that come to mind this morning. I am sitting in a room with half-filled moving boxes and small stacks of miscellaneous stuff - old phone charging cords, books, pictures, and nick-knacks.

Sunday morning I woke up early. As I scrolled through the paltry choices of Sunday morning television shows, my attention was captured by a show called "Hoarding: Buried Alive." I have to say I feel more like the chronic hoarders featured there. We have stuff - lots of it. Not as much as we had before our garage sale three weeks ago and numerous trips to GoodWill, Plateau Outreach and Enumclaw Recycling. But we have a bunch of stuff. It could be worse I suppose. I talked with a friend yesterday. She and her husband are moving to a different house - downsizing considerably - after living in a spacious home in the country for 39 years.

Some of our stuff has vital uses. Some, sentimental or aesthetic value. Some of this stuff makes us wonder why we have hung onto it for so long. We even have found boxes of stuff that hadn't been opened since we moved from Las Cruces, 15 1/2 years ago. Each pile triggers a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Its really difficult to cull through the things that are truly important, the things that are nice but unnecessary and the things that just need to be sold, given away or tossed. 

Coinciding with this "downsizing of inventory" comes a few very important, life-changes. Judy retires this June after 15 years in the Enumclaw School District (12+ in Las Cruces). Her last day is June 12. On June 15 there will be a large BUDGET rental truck in our driveway - the largest they have. And we will load it up with the help of our daughters (and hopefully a few able bodies) then drive our worldly belongings to Arizona.

The last time we did this, we were leaving Las Cruces. And if it wasn't bad enough having to sort through, box up and decide on what to take, I stood in front of a moving church bus and was run over. For 28 days, I lay in traction in an ICU unit of Memorial Medical Center - stripped of everything; clothes, dignity, health, future, everything. Then it was another 10 weeks of hospitalization - a remarkably short stint considering what Doctors had told us about the prospects of my surviving surgeries to repair a spinal cord injury and re-align and set a crushed pelvis and hip.

I had lots of time to think. While not always lucid (morphine dulls pain as well as thought) I thought alot about what I really valued; what remained when everything was stripped away. Here's what I realized with all clarity and depth: I had Christ. The Lord had never left me. He was there with me on the pavement of the church parking lot as well as in the ICU and rehab hospital rooms. He was there when people visited and when I was all alone. Christ was my present help and comfort when I was in pain or when I was discouraged. He was there the day I first was propped up in bed and when I took my first faltering steps as I attempted to learn to walk again. When life was reduced to the basics of life and death - survival - Christ was there.

So was my family. My wife Judy (who co-authored our book) was there everyday even as she kept her full time job as an administrator with the Las Cruces Public School. Kresta came all the way from Oregon to spend time with me. Melissa, although in the throes of graduation and wedding-planning was with me a lot. My sisters both came. My aging mother even came once I was in the rehab hospital. We had wheelchair races. Again, I realized that had everything else been stripped away I had the strength, prayers and support of a family.

And then there were friends. Lots of them. Sometimes the stream of visitors was too tiring and I had to shut the door. But I knew they were there - supporting Judy and the girls, praying, offering to clean, cook, do yard work; whatever. And it wasn't just friends in Las Cruces, friends from Denver, Renton, from around the US and even the world; friends we hadn't even met yet were there for me - for us. 

What to hang on to? That is the question we are wrestling with again now. And while we hope we won't be confronted with so stark a choice as before, we are realizing that so much of what we hang on to is just stuff.
So what do we really want to hang on to as we transition? Fond memories of 15+ years in Enumclaw at Calvary, in the community, at Southwood Magic many great memories. And friends, so many friends. that we have made. Can't imagine leaving them behind but somehow we know that - a Michael W Smith used to sing - "a friend's a friend forever or what's the friendship for?

Our mission partnerships in Africa. John and Thenny Mpanga. Chimwemwe. George Banda. Rachel Kasanya. The Teicherts and Witherows in South Africa. All those precious children at Healing Place School and all those pastors who labor fruitfully for Christ under conditions that are so spartan - even less than basic. We will hang on to those relationships wherever we go.

Family - always important. Not always easy as we are separated by distance and busy schedules. Perhaps being retired will free us to spend more time with daughters. sons-in law and grandsons. We can't wait for this phase of life.

And of course Christ. We have no idea where we will land as far as church, ministry or involvement in our retirement. For now we have found a wonderful church in north Tacoma/Federal Way where we will continue when we are in the area during the summer months. But during the winter - ??? Who knows. We look forward to the adventure of connecting with a new church, a new ministry, new friends,. But most of all, we know that wherever we are, wherever we go - Christ is our constant companion.

So, now, its back to stuff; sorting, throwing; giving away.

Anybody want a 36" 1998 state of the art TV? It only ways about 500 pounds.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A long journey is nearly complete - A new journey is begining

Once again we have been reminded that God's ways are not our ways. The adventure of the surprising,serendipitous, plans God has in store has been unfolding before our eyes like the climactic twist in a page-turning novel. Let me explain a bit. 16 years ago, Judy and I were getting ready to make an exciting move from our long-time, loved home in Las Cruces, NM and our fulfilling jobs there to take up residence in Enumclaw, WA. I had been called to become Senior Pastor at Calvary Presbyterian Church and was set to begin on July 1. We had it all planned. Leave Las Cruces in mid-June, celebrate our 25th anniversary along the way and seeing family and friends. Before that could happen our journey took a detour via Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces and Rio Vista Rehabilitation Hospital in El Paso, TX. The new direction that detour led us to is chronicled in a book that we have been working on for 16 years. Now retired, and Judy set to retire in June this year, we once again have been planning on a new destination in life's journey. We have purchased a house in the greater Phoenix area and had been planning on moving there in the fall. Because the housing market has been rebounding slowly, we decided to list our Enumclaw house in April in hopes that it would sell by the end of summer. Surprise again! We received a full-price offer for our home within hours of listing it and have to close in mid-June. So we are frantically trying to pack, sell, downsize, and prioritize - all while Judy is finishing out her school year and her long, fruitful career as a teacher at Southwood Elementary. In the meantime, on Thursday the 8th of May we were quietly marking the anniversary of the accident that so drastically changed our lives. Lo and behold, we received word that our book is set to go to press and will be available in bookstores and on line very soon. What a fitting way to mark the day. And once again, we were surprised but not stunned that God had orchestrated yet another turn of events to enhance the journey. Someone once said, "I don't know what the future holds but I know who holds the future." That is the reality we rest in while traveling the unexcpected but fantastic twists and turns that this journey entails. Maybe that is a bit like your life. If so, take heart and hang on. You are in for a wonderful trip. And, if you get a chance, look for "THROUGH STORMY WATERS: God's Peace in Life's Storms" It should be available soon at Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Christian book stores and Barnes and Noble.