October 30, 2021

It has been quite a ride since my cancer discovery about two months ago. Reporting the blood in my urine, the CT scan which took all of 5 minutes and then the phone call from Dr. Wachsmuth which came just as I announced a class break in my Boise Leadership Cohort class. I heard the bladder cancer and then the news about the “stuff in the lungs” which looked like cancerous nodules. First I was trying to comprehend what the news meant as I went back to continue the active discussion in the class, the evening pondering and prayer, then reporting to Sherry when I got home on Wednesday. That was a bit nerve wracking but her response was a very loving “we grow old together.” I told Chuck and Josh, my bosses at Western but held the information very close since there was a lot I didn’t know and felt I needed some more specifics before going to family. The news was going to be very hard for Cyndee and Bethany. They had to hear it from me. That was achieved, I am glad to say, and it was super hard so my concern was accurate. It was very sobering for Donn/Susan, David/Samantha who heard in a family Zoom call along with Cyndee/Sherry. I was able to give the news personally to my other non-legal kids as well as many others I am close to. Then I went public with the announcement to the Grace elders, the seminary faculty, and then to my web site, Facebook and Instragram. There were some I wanted to share my soul with but could not contact directly who heard through mutual friends. Keeping up with all the texts and FB messages has meant a large investment of time which is a richly rewarding thing.

People constantly surprised at the level of my activity, thinking that with all the cancer in my body, I should be in bed. But with no symptoms or ill effects of any kind, I follow God’s word, “This is not the end. Keep on with what you are doing.” The pneumothorax did stop travel to Costa Mesa this week, so I did my classes by Zoom while many of the students were gathered in the classroom there.

It does seem odd to accept conference invitations like Preston Sprinkle’s at the end of March 2022 and at Clydehurst at the end of July 2022. Of course they know about my cancer and that it might have to be a “no go.” One good thing is that Western is finally beginning to move on hiring people to join in teaching the Leadership Cohorts. My overload is staggering but incredibly fulfilling.

Lastly I just saw this video. It’s truly amazing!

September 4, 2021

I love doing weddings, in part because I only do them for people I care about, in whom I get to invest deeply. So my prayer with Josh and Morene at their first look on Saturday Aug. 21, was a great joy. Morene worked in the Western office in San Jose so I knew her when she joined my theology for counseling students class. She hinted to me that she was interested in someone. I asked if I might know him. Indeed I did!

Josh/Morene Jen

Josh was one of “my guys” in Portland who had just taken leave of his student ministry position in Newberg to do another master’s degree at Jerusalem University College. Later in the day Morene and I did a Facetime call to Josh to share the joy between CA and Israel. We talked about their relationship often, but I was quite surprised and honored when they asked me to perform their wedding. They both have pastors that are powerful in their lives – and they both did prayers of blessing in the ceremony. I keep thinking that this might be my last wedding but I keep getting involved in people’s lives!

When I think back through the wide variety of weddings I have done I still think my favorite is Peter and Debbie Dodd who just passed the 30 year mark on August 10. They were two people I was the closest with and my parents were in town so they were at the wedding and the next day breakfast with their families before they went on their honeymoon. That’s the only time I have ever seen a couple do something like that. They are long time missionaries in Taiwan whose two daughters just graduated from Corban University.

On another note, I am zero for 30 in matchmaking but my last attempt has not crashed and burned yet! Stay tuned to this channel.

Western Fall Facult Kick Off

I did my third annual weekend conference at Calvary St. Petersburg Florida last weekend. It was a quick one – down on Friday and back Sunday evening in order to be present for our Fall Faculty Kick Off (above), my 42nd time to participate in such an event! Then I was involved in a most difficult situation when, Murna, our Nigerian counseling student who went to Africa this summer to marry Stephen, went to the Nairobi airport to come back for fall classes discovered that their ticket had been cancelled by British Airways! Still not sure why, but their agent was able to get them on a Kenyan Airlines flight to JFK the next day and I was able to purchase an Alaska flight to PDX for them. They boarded, sat on the taxi way for almost three hours before returning to the terminal when all flights out of NYC were suspended with hurricane Ida storms in the area. Getting a hotel room and then getting a Lyft ride to the hotel involved many texts and several people though the night. Finally they arrived here at 11:30 pm and I delivered them to their quarantine apartment. Way too much drama!!!

July 27, 2021

It’s been a long time since I journaled largely because there is SO much going on that it’s hard to know just what to include. But in the current list is my finishing two years with two of my leadership cohort groups. The Costa Mesa group is done now and the Portland group finishes on August 6. The CM group suggested we finish with communion so I got to lead them as we took the bread and wine in a large circle (30 in the room and three on Zoom) after singing a song. They gathered around me and prayed blessing before we sang the doxology. There were many remembrances as the group dispersed over the next hour. Then about a dozen of us gathered at Scott Cunningham’s house to share his smoked meat and ride his back yard roller coaster. You can see that adventure here.

Toward the end of the final class session, I found myself commenting on Twila Paris’ The Warrior is a Child. It speaks deeply to my soul thanks to a Warrior friend who helped me hear it with full openness.

The hardest thing was Laurie Bloomquist’s tragic death in an Idaho microburst caused 7 car pile up. She honored me with her trust when she came as a student in 2007 and our friendship continued as she served as an adjunct and then as a full time prof before stepping out to focus on her counseling practice with troubled children and adolescents. Western’s statement is here. Because of COVID and her stepping off FT faculty, we had not had food for over a year. I thought to myself, “I gotta call Laurie.” But we hit another restaurant shut down so I didn’t. Just a few days later she was dead.

We are gathering our fall semester at Western. We hav a new pastoral theology prof to replace John Johnson who has retired to write, and a new counseling prof who lived and worked in Beijing for 8 years so she brings a great multi-cultural gospel oriented counseling strategy. The sad thing is that with my extreme overload, I have had to hand over the theology for counselors theology sequence.

May 1, 2021

Our week was about family! Sherry and I flew to Kansas City for Donn’s birthday. My sister, Ann, and her husband, Jack, drove up from Dallas and joined us for the day on Saturday. We all went to my cousin Steven’s home to see him and Betty. Unfortunately Michael (7) had been exposed to COVID at school and was under quarantine so he and Susan didn’t go to Steven’s home.

I spent lots of time playing with Michael who loves his new bicycle as you can see in this short video. Sherry found a dump truck for Donn to construct and Michael to drive though he got a little help from his father. I got to watch Elizabeth do her figure skating, but she was mostly working on elements she wasn’t good at so I won’t post any videos. There were many conversations and interactions.

We got back on Tuesday in time for Joy’s graduation from Ecola Bible College. Sadly COVID restrictions meant no parents or grandparents allowed to join in person, but join by Facebook live we did. I captured her walking across to receive her certificate. David and Sam spent the night with us on their way to bring Joy home and then they all dropped by for Red Robin celebratory feast – take out because of COVID rules so no bottomless french fries.

Sherry and I are both double vaccinated now so hopefully catching COVID will not be a part of our lives, though it has impacted our lives deeply of course.

My work at Western continues to be very full and very rewarding. One example: Dominic Done, the lead at Westside, A Jesus Church, announced his departure to do his PhD at Oxford with Alistar McGrath. The transition has been quite unsettling for many of the staff. Since I have close relationships with many of them as current and former students whose lives I have hacked into, I got LOTS of calls – can we process with you? That sort of thing happens constantly along with the theological and personal shaping that is part of my professoring.

Instagram is a source of beautiful pictures as well as views into the lives of friends. One picture that ticked a lot of memories is Hug Point. It’s just down the road from Cannon Beach so I have been there often. It’s been a place of soul conversations and prayer, that have shaped my life with Jesus. I relish them.

We are planning a quick trip to Alaska in August to introduce Michael to a state he is fascinated with. Looks like Donn, Cyndee, Elizabeth and I will join him for our time of intense frontier activity that will be a little too much for Sherry, so she isn’t planning on going. But don’t tell Michael – it is a secret!

March 6 Update

The fourth time worked! I was at Westnomah breakfast, our first in a year, drinking clear liquid (coffee) when Kaiser called and upped my time from 2:30 to 12:30. So I hustled to the car, got the magic cleansing elixer and chugged two cups as we finished our time. Everyone including the server was compassionate! I finished the treatment at home, gifting a lot of liquid to the toilet – but it was brown, not clear. When I checked in, I was a familar face to the staff but the doctor was new. He checked me for vitals and then I let the nurse see the color of my emissions. She declared them clear and in an hour it was all done. His assessment was all is good and I had an Auntie Anne’s pretzel on the way home. My system is still messed up for all the fasting and induced diarrhea but it’s nice to eat!

Phil’s memorial was a full Anglican service with Father David Humphries leading. It was reverent, personal in the liturgical way with three very well done memorials by his son, his brother and a long time friend. I was a little surprised that only three Multnomah folk attended – probably others were viewing the live stream.

Sherry was able to get her first COVID shot tonight. She had a 6:00 appointment in the drive through site at the airport. We texted as the evening went on. At 8:00 she texted “Heard someone say they were a LITTLE behind. Hate to be here if they were way behind!”. Finally she got her shot at 9:42!!. Fortunately she was not standing in line. I am still waiting for the mythical call from the system to schedule an appointment.

March 4, 2021

Grant, Caitlin and EllaGrace Fisher

This is season is a very different one in two ways: memorials and colonoscopy. I generally don’t do memorials in part because I am not a vocational pastor and in part they aren’t something I naturally resonate with. But I have done two and will do another on Saturday. The first was Grant Fisher, 23 year old 100 fold man, married to Caitlin, the daughter of Matt and Rhonda Patrick, two of our pastors at Grace. He was driving to work and was run over by a man in a F-250 truck going at a “high rate of speed” and died at the scene. The story of his life is here and of his death is here. So Caitlin is a 23 year old widow and four month old EllaGrace will never experience her Daddy flying her around the room or all the other things an outstanding Daddy does. Sitting with the two families to prepare his memorial was one of those unforgettable experiences. The memorial itself was probably the most worshipful full grief personal one I have ever been to. The video of his memorial is here.

Jacqueline and Greg Phillips were at Grace for a while and their family kept connection even after the moved. She had an extended illness that was capped with COVID. Though I didn’t really know them, I was her favorite preacher and they asked me to have a part in her memorial which I was glad to do. Celebrating her Jesus centered, family oriented life was joyful, though doing these two memorials on successive days along with preaching in Matt’s place on the next day was a load I could harldy carry along with all the professor and other pastoral roles I fill.

Grandpa Phil and Debbie Johnson

The third memorial is this Saturday for Phil Johnson. He served as Multnomah University librarian for 30 years before being released in a fiscal cutback last summer. Debbie was one of my top counseling students in private practice at River Ridge along with Dave and Hollis Wenzel. Phil was part of our Westnomah breakfast group for a good while and they were at Grace before moving to St. Matthew’s Anglican. They went to visit grandkids where Phil indulged his “Christmasoholic” passion deeply! But they came back with medium severe cases of COVID. Phil didn’t get his energy back and suddenly the doctors realized he was going downhill. He ended up intensive care for four weeks before finally dying. It was a blessing that his doctor overruled the normal practice and allowed Debbie in the room for a couple of days prior to his death. She and two believing nurses were with him when he went to being with Jesus. I was a bit surprised when Debbie asked me to do the homily at his memorial, but when I sat with her and heard the rest of the story, I was very glad for the impact of my Exodus 34:6-7 lesson in their lives.

The second “thing” in my life is the colonoscopy. Last time I donated platlets Red Cross sent a letter saying there was bacteria in my blood (!!!!) and suggested I tell my doctor, which I did. I also told him of one bloodly stool that might have had a connection. He ordered a colonoscopy. I wasn’t real excited but I don’t argue with doctors on such things and soon the procedure was going.

The clean out process is deep! Gatorade, apple juice and coffee diet along with major laxatives and the clean out elixir, all of which I did carefully. Definitely not clear when I went in for the procedure last Friday. I got to eat on Saturday and then began a two day clean out to a Tuesday procedure. I told the scheduler that I didn’t think I was clean but she said to try. They sedated me and the very nice doctor took a look but still not clean. So back home with the super powerful cleaner for a Wednesday attempt. I redid my packed schedule, went in, described the state of my clean, but when the doctor came in to interview me (after a two hour delay for difficult procedures before mine), and looked at what I left in their toilet, he cancelled it again. So back home for a fourth day of cleaner, another schedule rework, and fasting for another attempt this afternoon. As of this morning, it does not look hopeful. So with nothing to eat since Saturday night, four days of laxatives and cleansing elixers, there is still some murky colored poop in toilet. I’ll take the last quart of cleansing elixers this morning in hopes that a 2:55 written in appointment will result in a colonoscopy. If I fail again, I am done for sure. But then I have to interact with Dr. Wachsmith . . .

January 17, 2021

The semester is underway with record enrollments, the announcement of Chuck moving into the presidency, Randy going into a professor of spiritual formation and writing a history of Western, Josh Mathews moving into the Vice President of Academic and Dean’s office along with Julia Mayo who finished her ThM and was promoted ot Associate Dean. There are a whole tickle down of changes along with those. The sad event is that Steve Korch is on hospice and death is imminent. He’s been with us since 1991 so he has touched many lives.

Guy Gray

My semester began Friday, Jan. 8 on a Zoom Leadership Cohort Bible class working under Guy Gray who is the teacher of record. Guy started River West church a quarter of a century ago in his living room. Since then it’s grown into a very influential church and Guy has mentored some of the best pastors around. He has finshed his lead pastoral role at River West, handing it off to a man he mentored for 10 years.His biggest pastoring joy these days is working in Myanmar (as you see in the picture), Egypt, and Rwanda. He began doing some co-teaching with me and now has his own group of classes in the MABL program. I have wonderful plans for his life!

The very fun thing of these items is that Randy, Josh, Julia, and Guy are all people who began as people under my tutalege. It is such a joy to see them all progressing to where I am working under them as they do their work with excellence.

Steve Walker

Monday had me teaching my Theology for Counseling Students class from a departure gate at the Portland Airport. Fortunately the airport is not busy so I can do that uninterrupted. It felt a little strange as I sat in a chair with my laptop on my lap and my headset on interacting with my students about demonic issues before moving down to catch my flight to Boise for my all day Tuesday Leadership Cohort class there which I cotaught with Steve Walker, another former student. The class is at Calvary Boise with students from all over the Treasure Vally and one from Salt Lake City. The big challenge was to discover at the end of the day that one of the new students had just been terminated from his pastoral position and another student in the class is a part of the elder board the did the termination. So Steve and I have some pastoral work to do! But that is what leadership cohorts are about. I am also working intensely with a former cohorter whose marriage hit a big snag. The marriage is doing very well, but the end of his pastoral role was announced last week.

January 5, 2021

New Year’s Eve was special with Esther joining us to get to know each other more deeply over supper. She is a counseling student from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I met her when I was in Kampala in 2018. After she graduated from the Bilingual Christian University in Beni, she decided she wanted to do graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling. The USA is THE place to do that of course. So she applied and was accepted to Wheaton but was without funds. She and her family pray “give us this day our daily bread” in a very live way – daily bread is never something you can depend on. Getting funds for a MA program was out of the question. But following the suggestion of a friend she contacted me and through an incredible series of providential connections, she found a sponsor and began as a student, doing classes by Zoom from Beni.

Then she did her visa interview and received approval. I was at the airport to meet her along with her sponsor. It is impossible to express how miraculous this is. You see her warm coat – there wre actually two of them waiting her arrival, thanks to the generosity of many people.

I was on a counseling walk on Mount Tabor and told Katie about Esther’s story and hopes to come to the USA. She said her sister was moving out and they would love to have Esther join them and their 3 year old daughter. So now Esther is with them, enjoying Maggie’s energy and helping with family life in the home as she prepares for spring term classes that will begin on Monday. She will be carrying 11 hours of classes which would be a large load for anyone, but especially for someone who does English as a fourth language!

December 30, 2020

Chuck and Diane Conniry

Western just announced Chuck Conniry as Randy Roberts’ successor as president. Randy has been doing the president thing for around a dozen years and between some health issues, decision fatigue, and a commitment to finish well, he announced his transition a year ago and the search process began. Chuck joined us from Fox when Rob Wiggins retired, beginning as Academic Vice President and Dean and then adding the Provost job to that around the time of Randy’s announcement. I always figured Chuck becoming president wasa no brainer but the search process is important just to confirm that he really is the right person for the job.

The big issue for me is our next Dean since that’s my immediate boss. The MABL program continues to grow and working out things like my successor as program director and getting the right faculty to teach in this unique program is a big issue.

Steve Korch

Another difficult development is that Steve Korch, our pastoral theology prof in San Jose had a stroke just after his son-in-law died suddenly. It’s too soon to know how he will do in recovery, Steve is a very athletic guy, always with a big laugh and a pastoral heart. Well never know how much the stress of the sudden death played in the stroke. I feel for Wes who now has to fill in professors for Steve’s spring classes. There are not a lot of good options to do that. It is one thing to do pastoral work and another to teach others how to do it. It’s a little like me and pre-marital. I can do it well, but teaching someone else to do it is hard when so much of it is implementing principles in wisdome that experience teaches you. That isn’t transferrable.

I will donate platelets again tomorrow. That is something that require laying complely still for more than two hours with needles in each arm and blood that’s cooler than body temperature coming back into me – which chills me. They provide warm blankets but I can still end up shivering for the whole experience which is exhausting. Other times it’s fine. Whichever, it is literally a life saver so it’s good to do.

I really like this cup. It’s a little hard to read. so I’ll quote it here:

It isn’t wise to count your friends on a sunny day when the sky is blue and smiles come by the bushel. Instead wait for a stormy day when the clouds roll in the the day grows dark and laughter’s scarce. Whoever stands with you then deserves the name “Friend.”

Thank you, My Friend, for braving the storms with me and for making the sunny days a little brighter.

Linda Lee Elrod

The last days of 2020 are here. COVID continues to restrict life significantly, but it has little impact here in our home. I met with a pastor friend whose life has gone upside down this fall. Trying to think through options to get back on track is a challenge and a privilege. There are lots of those pastoral challenges!

December 24, 2020

Cyndee is with us for Christmas break, adding sugar and fun to our house. She will join Sherry in making our Christmas Pumpkin Pie this morning and preparing for tomorrow’s feast which Sherry Atkins will join too. Grace is having two live family services as well as premiering three pre-recorded services. We are trying to meet the needs of many different people.

I will preach this Sunday on Matt. 8:18-21, Jesus putting speed bumps before the eager, naive disciple and a focus on the conflicted disciple. Following Jesus always has challenges and commitments! Part of the sermon will be my 2020 overview and some shepherding about taking the COVID vaccine. We have the ful range of opinions on that issue as well as a good number who are still undecided. Initially the preaching team was very reluctant since it’s not from the text. But I was able to persuade them to see the pulpit as more than Bible teaching but less than authoritative mandates.

Schlender “boys” – missing Bethany and Emily

Cannon Beach Conference Center is closed for break and with government shut downs of Venues and groups cancelling with COVID fears, there won’t be much going on there in the next months, which is worrisome for Cyndee. Western is doing some flex classes. My Costa Mesa cohorts are super eager to gather but SoCal is locked down so we may go to Las Vegas where one of my students is on staff at Central Church. I just need permission from the Western leadership. We will also start the Boise Leadership Cohort January 12. That means monthly trips there which also means seeing Bethany, my non-legal daughter and her family. I’ll admit that was a significant part of agreeing to adding this to my commitments.

The fall has seen me faciliating bringing grievances against a local pastor. That led to the elders having their eyes opened to the situation and the pastor being fired which threw the whole church into disarray. Extremely intense process, one where I wish I had been advising the elders.

Along with two weddings, I have been involved with several marriages that are in serious difficulty. One is a couple I married. Both have significant trauma in their backgrounds and that is wrecking the marriage it seems. The husband won’t talk with me, thinking I am on his wife’s side and unfortunately that really limits the help I can give. Another is a pastor and wife with a history of hard things and a sinful emotional bond blew the lid off things. It’s in a much better place now, but there’s still a lot of intense work to do.

A friend asked what we are doing for Christmas. When I listed things, she playfully said “That will keep you out of trouble.” I found myself replying, “I go into a lot of trouble to bring Jesus there.”

A Favorite Nativity that graces our home year ’round

September 3, 2020

It’s amazing how quickly a month can go by! I taught another CRU class by Zoom and had 20 people from all over the USA. In my April class my ignorance of the emotions of racism led to me seriously offending some folk. I asked for their reflections on the Ahmaud Arbery shooting to get the discussion going. A former police officer immediately pointed out that we don’t know what happened behind the truck, coming from his investigator instincts. I heard the gasps from others for whom this was an obvious lynching (where I am inclined to go too) that was ignored by the local authorities. In that tension, I went to try to define that very nuanced and emotion laden term: “racism.” My error was saying “there is no legal racism in the US.” One of the women clicked out of the class at that point. What I didn’t clarify is that the overt legal racism of Jim Crow white/colored fountains are no longer around. But it was too late. I had a long chat with one of the men who stuck around, a wise Vietnamese immigrant, who helped me. I also did a deep dive into the literature. Then in my August class I was way more prepared. BUT I had a fellow who immediately went into the defensive “I am ot a racist” mode and the class got tense again. But I was more prepared and the discussion got back on track. His evaluation of the class was quite negative!

The overload in my life is going to a higher level with the approval of the Master of Applied Biblical Leadership. The Leadership Cohorts have been burgeoning but now it’s going public with a degree program. There is a LOT of administrative stuff to do with students choosing whether to stay with their current program or changing to this program. There’s also the job of designing the third year Ministry Leadership classes – areas I am not an expert in. I am overseeing development of the Boise site along with the two groups in PDX and two more in Costa Mesa. And then there’s the high level of interest that requires my attention as program director. Trying to give away some of these responsibilities is frustrated by my own activism that wants to get things done now along with my lack of trust that has me more involved in what others are doing than I should. I also am not really good at defining the tasks well enough so people know just what to do. This comes from my own “organic” vs. “scripted” way of doing things. All that along with a teaching load that is 2.5 times a normal academic load has me concerned! And then there’s the pastoring pastors, church consulting and helping hurting people!

One very fulfilling thing is helping two African counseling students. They are in places credit cards don’t exist. So how do you buy Kindle books? Or any book for that matter? Many things that are taken for granted here are impossible in undeveloped Africa. So I am making things possible for them.

Having Donn, Elizabeth and Michael here was a blast, even if it was only four days! Sherry wanted a screen on our front door and thought it might be a good Father/Son event for Donn and me. We looked at the instructions and pretty quickly decided it was past our abilities – that largely based on a similar project Donn had done. BUT not to fear! Susan’s dad is a great handiman. So we texted him and he happily joined the three generation team. Michael was a very active participant if not actually helpful 🙂

I got asked to do the graveside memorial of the matriarch of two families I have had a lot of involvement. I don’t do many memorials so it’s always a learning exercise for me.

We had our faculty kickoff (I refuse to call Zooming in my basement a retreat!) with introductions of several new faculty and the update on Randy’s edging to retirement as president. Looks like that handoff will come in mid-spring. It is a bit nerveracking to think of handing the keys of the kingdom to someone else! But this has helped me adjust to the fact that my role at Western Seminary is changing, though not ending.

August 2, 2020

Unprecedented is the word of the season! My March trip to my Costa Mesa Leadership cohort was cancelled with COVID and everything since, including Elizabeth’s France trip and our fetching Michael to be with us while Donn and Susan spent an extra week with her in France. My participation in the Honor Shame conference at Wheaton, the Calvary Global Network conference, etc. all gone. Acton went virtual in June and ETS will be virtual in November. Of course almost all churches are virtual now. But things are changing slightly.

I had my first airplane flight since January – flying to St. Petersburg, FL to speak at the Calvary there. It was great to see friends I’d made a year ago and speak with live people in the room: masked and distanced of course. I had KN-95 masks for the event. Empty middle seats other than families and severely depopulated airports. PDX is in a big building phase though there are almost no people in the place. So strange after the crowds in January

The Bible Project Board Retreat last week was an outstanding event. Being at Riffle Ranch on the banks of the Deschutes alone made it epic! But reviewing the impact we are having while planning out for 5 years made us stop and pray gratitude to God for our impact. Translations is a project I advocated three years back which is going gang busters! 18 languages with at least 10 videos now and more than 1100 localized videos and more than half our views are outside the USA. More here.

Today I will preach to a drive in service at Bethany Baptist in Beaverton. The musicians and I will be under a tent broadcasting over a low power transmitter to radios in people’s cars as well as a live stream to the rest. It will be a novel experience for me!

David called me yesterday morning to process what his church will do after Governor Brown issued a “stay home” order for Umatilla county. It was really short notice for them to decide whether to stay with their distanced services which now exceeds limits on gatherings or go back to livestream when they can’t pre-record. The unprecedented challenges of our day!

I get beautiful pictures on my PC every day thanks to the folk at Microsoft. This picture of sun-moon lake came a few days ago, bringing back so many memories of wonderful days serving in Taiwan. Seems those days are past, but prayers and learnings are still real. There is so much to wonder at.

We are looking forward to welcoming Donn, Elizabeth, and Michael in a week. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get together with David and his family in a park in the Dalles, even though the Stay Home order ruined our celebration of Joy’s graduation from High School at their home.

June 30, 2020

I keep hearing people saying how much time they have to reflect in the CV-19 era with lock downs and such. That has not been my experience at all! Western has an all time high enrollment in summer classes – and I see many students. To be sure they are all on Zoom from my basement, but with very lively personal interactions. There are followups with many as issues get tweaked.

Patrick Schreiner notified us just after my prior post that he will be moving to MidWestern Seminary in Kansas City. That left us with a NT opening and a short time frame to fill it. We advertised on ETS job board and got in excess of 50 applications, most of whom were initially qualified. The search team narrowed down to two primary candidates and after a series of Zoom interviews, we are making an offer to a fellow. I’ll say more after his acceptance is final.

For the past 30 years, I have led the search process for new faculty, but no longer as I handed the Center Chair over to Josh Mathews. I managed to keep out of the process until the interview with the Bible/Theology Center. Amazing how distrustful I am. I wanted to be sure we were open to women candidates (we were) and to non-Calvinist candidates (still don’t know).

I had my interview with the Dean about next year’s contract. With my position as program chair for our newly approved Master of Applied Biblical Leadership degree which is built on the Leadership Cohorts I have been doing for a decade, there are a bunch of new responsibilities. And the Cohorts are very popular which has me teaching a LOT next year even as I work hard to hand things off to others. Amazing how many young pastors and people want to interact with an old man.

In the wake of George Floyd, racism has demanded a lot of my attention. It’s a very complex issue with many Christians denying its existence (astonishing!!) and others making it the only issue for conversation (astonishing!!). Trying to be nuanced and thoughtful in this extremely emotional issue is demanding my best. I have led in my church, classes and with church networks, despite the reality that I am hardly an expert on it.

Sherry and I watched West Side Story Sunday night. It has been decades since I watched it or saw it in a stage performance. I realized how much that impacted my views on race. The Jets vs. the Sharks on one hand with Puerto Ricans vs. Anglos. But also the song “America” and the rampant Police brutality and despising of Detective Shrank and Officer Krupke and that in the context of the love between Tony and Maria. Her iconic posture after Tony is killed in an almost Messianic way and her kneeling over his body can’t but remind one of the Pieta. There that flicker of hope when the Jets pick up Tony’s body and accept help from two Sharks.

I was a bit surprised how extremely emotional watching the movie was for me. In part that was because of the quality of the story, the context of racism, but also because of the hope. Also “One Hand, One Heart” is of the songs I chose for our wedding so there is that deep emotion too.

May 15, 2020

We got news that Cannon Beach is opening very slowly. One good outcome is that Cyndee is being called back to the Conference Center. Sherry will take her back on Tuesday and she’ll begin working on Wednesday. There is a huge question when they will be able to have guests again. No hotel, motel, rentals are open yet. But the Payroll Protection Plan and some very generous donors mean they will not have to do the overall payroll reductions they’d already announced. She’s had a lot of company here with watching movies, doing cooking, and playing games with Sherry as well as getting sleep while I worked and watched to interrupt her nightmares. Now she’ll be alone in her house. It will be a big change after almost 2 months here. We’ll work on her Zoom capabilities so we can talk with visual connection

Jay McKenney is a long time friend. He was the founding guy for the acapella group Rescue. They started as just a local Christian singing group but they were very well received and soon began touring and getting a lot of recognition. But the wear and tear on family led him to resign from the group and become worship pastor at Sunset Presbyterian Church in Beaverton. After a dozen years of commuting from Troutdale, he was open to a new assignment. We were glad to bring him on as worship pastor at Grace. He had his first bout of abdominal cancer with major surgery to remove massive tumors. But there is no healing and the tumors returned from time to timd.

His skill at social media meant a wide presence of his living witness as a worshipper and a father. He also got into health coaching and that expanded quickly, resulting in him having to choose between church and Optivia. He chose health coaching and was proclaiming Jesus everywhere. But the cancer recurred . . . and recurred. Finally there was nothing more to do medically. It was a very strange time when he and I were texting about end of life issues while he was in the hospital. The doctors sent him home to die with his family. He continues to live very worshipfully even as his energy ebbs. This picture with his older daughter shows a lot. His smile is as wan as his emaciated body.

Expectations are so important. Jay was expecting God’s healing and walking his daughters down the aisle of HS graduation and wedding. Now he can hardly walk to the kitchen. Yet he still brings coffee to Allie and shows his love for her in the midst of loss. He expected doctors and surgery to bring an end to the cancer, but there were only more surgeries. In his case cancer; with another friend it’s his back. So painful. My soul expected continued deep connection with another, but that’s just shreds now. It was a shock to hear that Galen Norsworthy died suddenly in his sleep last week. Sherry’s athritis continues to advance. Her shoulders are painful enough that she can’t even play video games any more.

We were going to fly to Kansas City for Memorial Day weekend and be with Donn, Susan, Elizabeth and Michael. They are full of fun and we were eager to see them live. But alas, it is not to be. Kansas City is still pretty shut down and flying is still dangerous with Sherry’s compromised health. Their August trip to see grandparents is a bit in the air too. Losses from CV-19 continue to whack us.

April 27, 2020

The shut down is getting a bit old, I have to say. The one respite is that Cyndee and I walk around the Glendoveer Golf Course most days. It’s a two mile trail through along the course and through the woods. Very nice. I put a video up in my Facebook account. Can’t figure out how to embed a pulbic video into my blog. I know there’s a way, but alas!!

The flowers in our yard are so beautiful! I just wish I could capture them all in one picture. Happily they don’t require any expertise to keep them blooming since I don’t have any.

I tried to mow my lawn yesterday, but the mower wouldn’t start despite MANY pulls on the starter cable and lots of priming. I’ll have to take it down to Gateway Hardware and get a tune up. When I had the Previa, that was easier since I could pull the back seats out easily. I did something to mess up the seats in the Siena and I can’t do that. But we’ll figure a way.

I haven’t been to Western in almost two weeks. When I was there last, they were painting the building . . . the blue vertical columns are going to be white! I don’t think I’ll be able to get in touch with the new color. I hope they’ll make it the same shade as Armstong Hall, but who knows. Doing all my classes by Zoom from my basement means I don’t have to check out the new color scheme!

I will be teaching a theology class for CRU this week – all by Zoom of course. It’s been a very fun organization to work with and I am eager to meet my new students. The down side is that covering 1/3 of the topics in theology in a total of 20 clock hours means a VERY fast tour through the issues in Man, Sin, Christ, and Salvation. There are times for dealing with issues like racism, gender issues, marriage that need addressing too. Whew!!

We celebrated Donn’s 51st birthday on Saturday – video session is nice when we can through the image on our large screen TV and interact.

Elizabeth was going to go to France with her sixth grade class at her school, spend a couple of weeks living with a French family and doing their explorations. She’d been looking forward to that since Kindergarten. We were going back to KCMO and fetch Michael here so Donn and Susan could join her for an extra week of family touring. But the shut down shut all that down. We are still hoping to go there for Memorial Day weekend, but alas, it’s looking less likely all the time. Sherry has breathing issues along with her arthritis, and I don’t think exposing her to airplane life is a really good idea. We’ll see

April 4, 2020

For a decade the idea was that there was so much deferred maintenance on the Mt. Tabor campus along with a 1960 design that is not ADA compliant much less fitted for today’s internet driven world. An upgrade would run more than $8 million dollars according to a professional estimate. So a team explored many options for relocating. None of them worked out. Finally the board asked Cliff Stein, our super competent maintenance head, to give an estimate. His number was about $2 million. I am very glad to say it’s happening!

Some of the projects: The shingles around the top of Bueemann hall had long since given up their ability to keep water out. Now the gargantuan task of replace them is done. The process included me doing class by Zoom while workers were stripping shingles on the other side of the wall I was beside. We have a lift that will take people with mobility issues down to the level of the first floor bathrooms. I am glad we are still at the head of Hawthorne and I can skulk around Mt. Tabor with students.

Adrian Tijerina is one of my students as well as a member of our Student Success Team. He also has quite an active sense of humor. His April Fools Day joke focused on my mid-eighties Western Polo shirts. Little did he know how popular the idea was! When he put it up on his social media, including my fact book page, the response was huge. Many people wanted them. The problem was that they existed only as funny pictures on his PC. So now he’s looking to see if they can actuallly be produced.

I didn’t know anything about this and initially it really took me aback. I don’t like celebrity status in any form, though realistically I will admit that I am a minor league celebrity since I know so many people. Hearing it was an April Fool’s joke a couple days later in my class eased those feeling somewhat.

Cyndee is here with us with Cannon Beach Conference Center closed for the month – at least. It’s scary for her not to have an income though we have made it clear that she’ll be covered. I think of the many folk who don’t have family to fall back on in this most uncertain time

Our custom at Grace is to do communion as a church on the first Sunday of the month. I have to admit I can’t find the verse that mandates that, but it must be in the Bible somewhere. Today is the first Sunday – but we aren’t gathering for our service. So we are asking people to get some juice and bread to do our communion. We’ve explained in our all church email and Jay will in the service today. I am very interested in what the response will be. I am even more interested in what the emotional response we will have here in our family room.

March 22, 2020

Sherry and I celebrated our 52nd anniversary today! Usually we go to Salty’s but I was scheduled to preach at Antioch Church in Bend so we went about 10 days early. Turned out to be a very good choice because the COVID-19 crisis that cancelled my Bend trip also cancelled Salty’s! We ended up going to Cannon Beach to hang with Cyndee. The cancellations have resulted in CBCC being closed too. So we talked a lot about what that meant for the conference center and Cyndee’s work arrangements after they laid off 7 of their 26 conference assistants. Lots of uncertainty. Fortunately her job and mine are as secure as any job can be these days.

Oh, yeah. We took her a most precious present – a six-pack of toilet paper!

Preaching the COVID-19 Way!

After we got back from the coast, Jim came over and I recorded next Sunday’s sermon for Grace. Seems strange to deliver a sermon a whole week ahead of time and to preach only to a camera and a very passive operator! But the COVID-19 “Stay Home; Stay Healthy” order comes with the full support of the mayor of Gresham who is also a member of our church. So we are giving that feel

The biggest change in my life has been the Leadership Cohorts. They are aimed at folk who already have a half decade of full time ministry and are currently in full time ministry and are strong leaders/teachers. I started with an experimental version with 10 students in 2010, expecting that would be a one-off. Instead they have continued to grow only through word of mouth – no advertising. So this year I have two groups going in Portand and a double size group (33) in Costa Mesa. I have done ones in Anchorage and San Jose as well. Next September, I expect we will start groups in Portland, Costa Mesa, and Boise, for a total of five groups!

Chuck Conniriy, our new vice president for academics, proposed taking the two years I currently do, one of Bible and one of theology, and adding a third year of Ministry Leadership to make a three year Master’s in Applied Biblical Leadership. I led the team to write the proposal which has now been approved by the faculty, then the formal proposal to our accrediting societies. We just got regional approval. Chuck is quite confident that professional (ATS) approval is coming. So now I have a whole new set of responsibilities as program director as well as primary faculty person! All this in a time when I expected I would be slowing down. But it’s a blast!

I continue to serve on the elder team and preaching team at Grace, be a pastor to pastors, and work with some extremely challenging pastoral situations. But I have handed off my jobs as Center Chair which I held for 31 years, secretary treasurer of NW ETS, which I held for 25 plus years, and Program Units chair at national ETS, a post I was handed without my knowledge and held for about 15 years before I was finally able to hand it off.

Teaching in the “no gathering” “keep social distance” world means my classes are now done by Zoom. I can see everyone, show my documents just like I do on the projector at school. I can pick on students when they aren’t really paying attention (mostly I don’t though), and lead very involved live discussions. Still it’s not the same as whole person gathering where we can grab food and exchange hugs.

The big change with COVID-19 is that I am not traveling and doing no guest preaching for the duration. There has been no overseas travel since my Leadership Cohorts go year round and fill most weeks. That is something I hope to change as we add adjunct faculty with growth of groups.

Very grateful for friends who stimulate me to connect in more than just daily rememberings and prayers. It is good for my soul.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *