Friday, January 30, 2009
One of the pleasures of living in the west is the large amount of art that celebrates western expansion, the cowboy life, and indian history. My golf club has some great examples. Don Basha, the successful Arizona grocer, has a private museum that is open to the public with one of the finest collections of western art anywhere. We will go there if any of my relatives comes to visit.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Friends, its a great week to live in the desert. We enjoy the yearly visit of the PGA tour up in Scottsdale. This is the first year in a long time I am not going up. I really wanted to go on camera day and engage that passion but a dentist appt. messed me up.
The Phoenix Cardinals will have a shot at the SuperBowl. A great weekend. I put my photo of the witnesses to my perfect shot, my first hole in one. Yep, I am not a pro golfer and hated being on the football team, but for one shining moment last year, the ball hit softly and rolled in the hole, perfect...Sweet. Would'nt it be nice if Kurt Warner does something perfect Sunday Evening...Sweet.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I stopped during lunch to take some pictures of Red Mountain. I had taken some with my old camera back in August. I expected to see a radical quality difference but it was not that much, and, in August the sun was creating a lot of depth in the mountain that was beautiful.
I saw an Artist and asked if I could take a few shots of her at work. It was a beautiful afternoon in Mesa, AZ
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Once a year our men's Bible Study on Wednesday mornings reaches out and has a breakfast. We always hope to add some to the study but it also brings the Christian men together in our community. I love those French Chef hats. Food was good, speaker informative, men's quartet entertaining.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I sold my 3 year old camera and accesories to a friend and reinvested in a small camera to carry around and something for Laura to use when we take our grand kids to Disney Land in March. Amazon had it on sale for almost 25 percent off last weekend. I am using Amazon alot, I know I should shop locally but this is just too easy and so far very reliable.
I did not want something too small, my hand is too large. I also do not, I repeat, do not enjoy taking picture using the monitor screen. I just have too many years looking through a view finder the way God intended pictures to be made, heh!
It reminds me of the Yashica I bought 30 years ago when I first got into photography. I loved that clunky old thing, looking through the viewfinder I used to pretend it was a Leica like those that made most of the Life Magazines so interesting.
So, its the Powershot A590 IS if your interested. 130 at Best Buy, 100 on Amazon last weekend. This means I might actually get in some photos where we take our two kids to Disneyland.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I have enjoyed having a nice digital camera. Today I discreetly took pictures of the funeral of one of our most precious missionairies, Iliana Pincu, who was born in Romania and spent half the year overseeing the building of rural congregations, youth ministry and the care of a group of widows and handicapped people.
These singers are all Romanian, and they sang a hymn in their native language. It was very moving. Her death at 61 was totally unexpected as was the medical malpractive death of her husband who was the pastor evangelist seven years ago. Its mysterious why some live and some die young. Iliana was the real thing, and with all my heart and soul I believe she lives on another shore, in a greater light.
Friday, January 23, 2009
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I love this country and appreciate the price paid for maintaining freedom from tyranny. I am a conservative person politically. I have listened to Rush and Hannity and I watch Fox. I have always been sensitive to racial and ethnic mistreatment and hatred. It goes was back to to those impressions I got when I moved south and lived through the Civil Rights struggle close up and personal.
In the last decade I have been examining the foundations of my Christian faith and have really grown in the gift of seeing the image of God in broken people and the gift of life God gives to all, and the power of the love of God in Christ. I long to see non violent answers to our most serious problems. It bothers me that this is seen as some impossible pipe dream by most conservatives.
I have concerns about the possibility of losing our way of life and the opportunity this county has affords us to enjoy freedom and the pursuit of happiness. But I am put off a bit by the flood of predictions that we are 100 days away from an irreversable socialism that will cripple our future.
Watching and praying and hoping.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
People in Phoenix have this treasure within minutes of downtown. South Mountain Preserve is a leisurely 2 mile drive up the end of Central Avenue with divides the city into east and west. There are three vistas to begin a hike or just look at our valley of the sun.
I am also pretty sure God hears prayers from up there. I have gone at least yearly since moving here 19 years ago and many times it was because I was wrestling with a problem or an issue. But lately my mission was photographic, just to record the beauty for my private collection.
During our time here, South Mountain area has undergone an amazing transformation. Once the street for huge flower farms, and run down homes, the area has become upscale with resorts, golf courses, luxury condos and shopping areas. The south end of Central Ave has horse barns and horse rentals for the park, and an old FDR era welcome station. The park is only open during daylight hours. It always has 50 to 100 cars coming and going, there are some watching benches and of course it is the home to a major bank of electronic and TV and radio signal towers.
I am always refreshed by the investment of time to get above the city and see our huge spread out home to millions of sun lovers. If you come visit, I will take you up there.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Our past president knows that the evaluation of history takes time. I have taken the reader through the first 15 years of our marriage, with the purpose of honoring my wife for the long suffering, lover that she is. My partner, my friend, still mysterious after all these years. I leave the events of the next 19 years to a future series, knowing that we left the south to chase some dreams and most of them turned to dust, but the things that did happen allowed us to grow, and be tested and have some great western experiences.
The Church system treats its servants differently. Some start small and preach to thousands, some have ups and downs. I continue to be a searcher of the scriptures and one who is hopeful, but in all honestly my expectation in finding healthly functioning churches is not great. Our church which I enjoy and which has fine believing Christians, has functioned like the Buick they were raised in. We are meeting the needs of retired people, and we do it with a relaxed traditional worship, a few hymns and choruses, piano and organ, the sermon as the conclusion.
We are doing what we can with the grace of God to share the love of Christ in word and deed. The task of reaching this generation is passing to younger leaders, may God give them courage to try old things and new things.
I have been a minister of the gospel for 33 years, and husband to the Laura in my life for 34, and a wide eyed embracer of life since my memories became recoverable.
President Obama is the first president in my ministry years who is younger than I am. Today I sat on top of a mountain and looked at the city I now call home. Way right I saw the old ASU Stadium were the Cards played for years, way left I saw the New Cardinal Stadium looking like a Giant Space Bubble where they won the ticket to the Super Bowl. Then I looked at the desert and the cactus who have survived the dry and the wet of the desert... and I thought.....I will survive....I will enjoy life......I will finish the journey, with my wife by my side. Thank God.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The system may be the problem, but in our lifetime the fulltime minister takes a call, moves to a field of service, takes a salary, attempts to become part of the community and works to achieve the Churches spiritual goals.
I never really stopped preaching or quit the ministry, I served a two church field in Neshoba County where Laura's mother had been raised. I healed some hurts and got some perspective and we were called to Moss Point Ms in 1983. A Community of 20 thousand amid a tri city area of 50 thousand. Once again we had a nice building and 150 fine folks.
We had so many happy memories watching our kids grow up in a large old home, becoming active in local service clubs, education, politics. We were three miles from Lauras mother who came to work part time for me at the church. My folks were 80 miles away. We had ocean swimming and fishing, great golf courses, a terrific youth group and lots of couples our age.
We made a commitment that Laura would be a full time mom until our youngest went to school. It kept us living pretty frugally, but we loved living close to the gulf of Mexico. We had good race relations with the majority of blacks living in our town. We welcomed some of our kids black friends to summer bible study. I bought my first computer and became a computer nut.
It was rewarding and joyful, not perfect, but good. We might be whistling dixie today if there had not been two issues that got us to dream. One, our children's education, which we sensed was lacking, two, my reading about what the church could be and some experiences with contemporary worship. Laura did not want to leave her mom, but she allowed me to candidate for a move to a big city. O my Lord, have mercy.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
This blog is by me but not about me this week, and the Lord and I have long settled this next period of our life. But I got very discouraged and had a lot of "is this all there is to ministry" thoughts.....and I quit, I walked away, I resigned with no real visible next step.
Long story short, we became very poor and struggled for three years to survive. I did lots of things to put food on the table and we lived in two homes and I ran completely out of money. We were surrounded by happy wealthy people and we were broke and it put a strain on everything.
Even though it was my fault and God used it, Laura never quite warmed up to the way Christians are, and never followed my lead with quite as much enthusiasm. I accept the way our wounds haunt and affect our future. I live with it, and God is greater than all our sin and foul ups.
We had seven great years after those three rough years, and that was a God thing. Through it all she loved me and raised our kids with compassion, but one night while bathing the kids the window stuck in the crappy small rental house and she let out her frustration and banged the window, and ended up in the emergency room with stitches.....yep, it was that kind of trial.
Photographic postscript: Matthew dropped my Ricoh 35mm SLR on its head in 1980. I had a series of inexpensive cameras throughout the late 80s, and started printing them. And they now lie dormant in a huge box, all mixed up and bent from the kids digging through them. So from 83 until my first digital, I have no history to show, unless I decide to get good scanner. Sheesh.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The last year of seminary was a blur of finishing up, looking for a first place to serve, Laura finishing her student teaching, Laura helping me lose more weight with the first of many diets. We moved to the next phase of our life.
Crystal Springs Ms was a quaint town of 8 thousand, 20 miles south of Jackson, little town square, once the Tomatopolis of the world, producing a large part of Americas tomatos in the rich pourous soil. Our Presbyterian Church was over 100 and had 150 faithful among the flock. I was ordained on our nations 200th birthday, July 4th 1976. The month before we moved into the old manse and made our first baby.
The child raising decade is an adventure. My photos from those years show us enjoying it all. Our church loved our little children and this picture above shows Melissa and Matthew returning from the hospital in a 74 Chevy Impala. I enjoy reading the blogs of those living in this period. Laura was and is a great mother, and grandmother.
Honest confession, during those years I discovered that having your office and books 20 yards away from your home created lots of opportunities for me to dissapear and leave the poopy diapers to Laura. Like the rest of you, for those years we forgot what eating out and going to a movie were like. We spend time dressing, bathing, brushing. We stayed in that church for a little over four years. At that point I made a mistake that wounded my wife and required a divine rescue which came after spending time in the school of personal pain and confusion.
I have a recurring dream that at some point in my career I return to a church I once served. It is often this church in my dreams. Its complicated.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Laura and her mom, me and my mom 1975.
Prattville Alabama is an old southern town with an ancient cotton thread spinning plant and a large military population due to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery. After our wedding and a short honeymoon in New Orleans we began our marriage in ministry.
I made a paycheck and bought Laura and half caret diamond ring and then realized I had no money to live on for a month. Those early months were so special, you can see by the picture that the tonnage on my belly from single guys hamburger helper was going away. One of the Elders gave us a new queen size mattress which we enjoyed in every sense of the word. Our little apartment was connected to a widow ladies home by a small hallway and the door to that hallway had diagonal slats.....we always worried about laughing and "celebrating" too loudly, as least I did.
I remember moving to that apartment as a batchelor with all my worldly belongs in the trunk and leaving with my wife with an 8x12 Uhaul. Every move of our life since that day would require more truck for more stuff.
Bottom line, having Laura with me in youth work, later ministry, was always an asset, a personal blessing, and fun. Teasing her about her obsession with As the World Turns. He neatness habits that literally saved my life. I only wish the ministry had been more rewarding for her....I hate to say it, but there is a price to pay for fish bowl living....or sheep tending....they nip at you while you are tring to help them.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
So its March and I have experienced love at first sight. Our date to the symphony was perfect, her long dress breathtaking, the conversation was flowing like honey, our love of this kind of date would never stop. We go to concerts, plays, ballets, and movies regularly. But I was then scheduled to move five hours away in June and live their as an associate pastor and youth director for one year, between my second and third year of seminary.
We did the best we could, both being in school, to spend quality time together and to see if we were as compatible as it felt like that first week. Lots of hanging around the dorm, a couple of dates. One of the hilarious things about Laura living for a couple of months with my ex girlfriend was the story she told Laura about my crappy Ford Falcon that ripped her hose when we dated. It was true, the car was old, crappy and the frayed cords on the seat ripped pantyhose mercilessly. While in South Florida doing a summer ministry I bought a beautiful 72 yellow Ford Gran Torino that was sweet. So Lauras dates with me were in what I still think is one of the most beautifully lined vehicles ever made.
If you do the math you see our wedding was about 10 months after we met. We had three month of dating, and then seven months of letter writing with a few hasty weekends. But, in the providence of God, as we Presbyterians were taught to say, on a weekend camping trip with my Bible Study group, I met Lauras parents. They had moved that year to a new country home and several weeks later, while I was cutting classes one morning, I returned with messages to call Laura. Her father died of a heart attack at 57 years old.
I drove her home, and was immersed in her extended family, home church, a funeral, and mother to comfort, and the woman I knew I loved, stunned and hurting. There is no other way to conclude this overlong post except to say, God made me the head of that household that weekend. Laura's mother, slightly suspicious of a mustached seminarian, now new I loved them. Mary Richardson would be my best grandma and friend and would work for me during the remaining eighteen years of her life
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
January 18th, 1975-plus 34 years coming up this weekend. I want to blog for the next several days on the meaning of my marriage. I start with a disclaimer. I am a neglectful husband. I do not treat my wife with the care and concern I should. I get wrapped up in my never ending 7 day schedule. I immerse myself in the web, in books, in movies. Yet our love and friendship has endured and is the greatest blessing of my life.
I was not a prolific dater. Too shy. Had two steady girlfriends and a smattering of prom type dates before I met Laura. After two years in seminary I was scheduled for a year of youth ministry in Alabama. I returned from the break up of a relationship that was mostly long distance and went sour when it got serious. That was the spring of my 23rd year. I had a long thoughtful thousand mile prayer and planning meeting in my head while I drove back from south Florida to Mississippi.
The next few days I started cruising my college campus across town, as I often did. Slowing down as I approached my old girl hunting upper class dorm, I saw this petite brunette with long hair walking across the campus. I was taken with her appearance and beauty.
I plotted with Mrs. Dennis, the sweet dorm mother, who had befriended me in the outworking of my plan to find a good woman. I found out that Laura was a junior and had completed Junior College on the gulf coast, and when Mrs. Dennis told her a Seminary guy would like to meet her, I later discovered that Lauras first roomate has been my ex girlfriend. Laura had seen my picture among her things and saw her present boyfriend and apparently commented that she had broken up with the better looking fellow.
After waking up with this women for 34 years, I still remember the palpable queasy excitement of meeting her that first night. I asked her to attend the Symphony with me. I went back to my dorm and told my roomates I had met my future wife. Sure, yeah. What a joke?
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Two years ago I performed a backyard wedding for a widow and his girlfriend. The best man was his son. He just looked familiar. Have you seen this man?
Yep, you guessed it, Larry Wilcox, the motorcycle cop, the straight man in the late 70s and early 80s TV series CHiPs. I did not even watch the show regularly but something in that marvelous data base we call the brain made a connection that told me I had seen this man before. I just checked out the IMBD on him and he had quite a TV appearance career there for about a decade or so. He was always trying to keep the latino Poncherello from jumping the gun, the calm one.
I don't think he became independently wealthy in acting, couple of failed marriages but his kids and dad still loved him. So do I, we connected in a nice way that afternoon.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Almost a year of making hand out sack lunches for the Rescue Mission. We meet monthly and it goes like clockwork. Cookies and pretzels bagged, two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a note of encouragement, today a navel orange. You can see all the heads hunched over at work in the picture.
I was moving boxes of bags out to be moved to the car for transport when I bent over and pulled out my lower back. It siezed up immediately and I have been suffering the rest of the day. I am amazed that I can play golf weekly and have nothing go wrong and then one wrong bend with five lbs and I'm out.
I love to see our folks gather and visit and work so industriously. I reminded them that the homeless population in Phoenix is rising and contains many slipping anew into the needs of this current fiscal crisis. Our Phoenix Rescue mission is a model of caring and doing what can be done in the crisis of homelessness.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
We enjoyed a Board dinner welcoming our new and thanking our old church board members. It was well organized and fun. We all rededicated to being a welcoming family this year and learning from hardships that will come together. We wore Hawaian which reminded me that Laura and I were last in Hawaii three years ago this week and wish were could be there again soon.
Friday, January 9, 2009
This camp has has a dozen buildings, generates its own electricity from a moving stream, and had a full time couple that maintain the property, feed the guests, and mow the landing strip. They use fallen logs for repairs and some new buildings they are planning. this is an old saw mill they use to cut logs into lumber.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
This is a view of the approach to the grass runway above the Salmon River. My pilot flew along the river and looked to see if any deer or elk were on the runway, then he turns and goes in for a touch down. It was exhilarating and the closest thing to a missionary pilot landing I will ever experience. This camp only has access by plane and river, no roads. Theoretically you could get out on horseback if you knew the way. I felt so wonderfully isolated.
In that part of the river the camp side of the river was lush and green, the far side was still bare from a major forest fire several years earlier. I spent time with Binoculars looking for Elk and Bear unsuccessfully. The deer came to a salt lick outside my cabin every morning. Every day I would walk from the camp down to the river and then back up to the end of the runway. The altitude was a factor in the speed and stamina of those walks. Great memory, glad I had my first Gateway digital with me that week.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Almost four years ago I spent a week at a private camp in Idaho on the Salmon River. I was processing the things I learned at the Renovare national conference. I got a vision of the "with God life" reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. The fruit of that change of direction has not stopped producing wonderful changes in my life. Its not because I have become a marvel of spiritual disciplines, but I found authors and ideas to move more in the direction of enjoying the faith and away from defending the faith by getting it all right.
This picture shows the small plane that dropped me off leaving the grass runway. The owner uses this runway to allow missionary pilots to practice landings and take offs.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
My hobbies fill time formerly wasted on TV, as TV has left me. I have very little interest in fake reality shows. Even the dancing and singing ones.
Photography allows me to look at the life happening all around me, to search for beauty. The way our city blends its streets and homes among the foothills in Awautukee is marvelous. Golf Courses, Water, Home, Hills with preserved desert flora and fauna.
I go to the Flickr site to see how other people are capturing their own beauty and I see sunsets that lasted a moment being kept for others to share. Pristine winter snows that disrupted the life of the city, become crystalline monuments to stillness and whiteness. It is beautiful, and I love it as I love God's creation.
Click on this picture and see what I saw as I stopped on a hill to see the blending of man's desire to live amongst the stark beauty of the desert foothills. I thought there was a cross on the hill above, but it was a lone Saguaro Cactus, thorny and proud, overlooking the sharing of habitats with transplanted westerners like me.
Monday, January 5, 2009
I had skates with rubber wheels in the early 60s, technology way ahead of its time. I was proud of my parents for finding them. We lived in a newly asphalted neighborhood so for a glorious summer I skated everywhere. Remember these things hooked onto the shoes, with skate keys and straps.
Before we moved up to bikes and greater travel ranges, we got the idea of making skateboards. I do not know when they were made available but we just found a piece of pine and nailed my old rubber wheeled skates to the bottom. It worked great. We had several glorious Saturdays shossing down and up a street with a long gentle slope in the area, until those poor rubber wheels wore down to nothing. It is a wonderful memory.
The City of Chandler must have spent a good bit on contructing this huge skateboarding and skating area. The wheels on these new skates and skateboards are super high tech. I watched and photographed them last week, and knew in my heart that we had a blast with our makeshift toys over four decades ago.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I have always loved the Schwinn Bicycle Company but never owned one till today. I wore out a mountain bike before I moved here and now Laura and I can ride together and I have another way to burn calories.
Schwinn is emerging from bankruptcy and is putting a lot of obvious quality in a relatively inexpensive bike. 18 speed Shimano derailleur, not ultra lite but not heavy either, its for the road, not off street, where I am in my life, and the upright handle bar and shorter length are very comfortable, as I just returned from a 20 minute ride. I am a little over two miles from my office and there is a pleasant back way through our sister neighborhood, and a shower if I need it. That's why I am glad it has a back rack to strap a bag on. Resolved........
Friday, January 2, 2009
What a moviegoing experience we had this afternoon. Thank God movies like this still get made. Powerful acting, the New Orleans setting, a premise so odd and beautiful that it allows the exploration of the meaning of life, and narration that reminds you that this is the work of an artist.
This is a story of a 60 year love affair where two people find romance in the middle and a deep love that is timeless. The message and the mood were so well captured. Life is a precious gift, people who are aging are rich, not poor, no matter what our talents and challenges, we should make choices that keep us alive and loving.
It was a powerful experience, go see it.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
It's not about resolutions or the lack thereof...it's about the rhythm of life, changing through the seasons. I am a big advocate of living in the present, all change takes place only now, but it does not feel that way. We can see a coming change of date or year and plan for the moment to initiate change in the present.
Here is an odd thing. This summer I absolutely loved mall walking. An hour in the mall during the late afternoon heat before heading home was healthy and refreshing. Now that its cold, I can't seem to get to the mall, and walking seems a huge chore.
Time to recommit to better eating habits and excercise. A New Year is a good time to begin to live in the moment of creating better choices. If this day or week fails, look for another. As long as we are alive we can and will continue to change. The calendar helps me to shift through the year, in my life, preaching, living. Welcome 2009, lets live each day to the fullest.