Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, WA

My objective since May 1st has simply been to “unwind.” In the course of the last 9 weeks I have travelled to nine states; visited three countries, and stood at the border of three more. Before the next four weeks are over I will visit two more states.

I visited national parks and historic places from Bandon to Bethlehem, and have put a lot of miles on my hiking boots and my trusty ASICS running shoes, where the dust of both Oregon dunes and biblical ruins remain.

I have seen bald eagles, black bear, elk, deer, and a variety of other wild animals. The vistas have been breathtaking, and the sunsets…new every evening, as well as at least one moon-set (over Tiberius, Israel) that I will never ever forget.

Moon-set over Tiberias

I have stood 1ft. in front of a working lighthouse at Cape Blanco and have seen 2000+ yr. old aqueducts on the Mediterranean Sea, both of which testify to the power of human ingenuity.

Some of this I have done on my own. Traveling solo has some great advantages…no time-table, I can eat whatever, whenever, and wherever I choose. However, the moments that have meant the most are the opportunities to connect with people. Sharing the the common connections of family…faith…and life, as we experience it together.

We are reminded in scripture to, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). The past nine weeks have been a gift that has afforded me a special opportunity to show honor to those who have had an impact in my life, as well as those where the paths of life have deviated. My free wordpress account will not afford me the space to feature all of the powerful people images I have collected, but here are two…

The love of my life

Libby and Pudi

His name is Douglas but family called him “Bud.” He is my uncle and sometime yesterday he found himself in the presence of God. I cannot lay a special claim to him as I am just one of 40+ in my generation who could call him uncle.

He was a pastor, husband, father and visionary educator.

His name can be found on page one; paragraph three in the history of Denver Seminary, though he was one of the pastors mentioned in paragraph ONE who had the vision to establish a first-rate institution of Pastoral higher education on the front range of Colorado. He presided as an administrator over the foundational and risky early years of the school.

Last month he was honored by the seminary for the sacrificial role he played in those early years. “The Bible begins with the words ‘ In the beginning God’, but when the history of Denver Seminary is written it will begin ‘In the beginning, Doug’,” the speaker noted to the gathering of graduates and guests in May of this year.

He came from humble roots. The eldest son and perhaps most cantankerous of the 11 children from the copper country of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan, he was the one who pursued full-time ministry as his vocation.

Many others will gather to pay tribute, but as one of my generation who is serving as a full-time minister of the gospel, I can say I looked at him as an example of a life that has been set apart for the Lord’s work. “Holy” is the word that scripture uses to describe such a person.

I am sure he wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t keep him from being “holy.”

I stopped by to see him several years ago as I was moving my family to a new ministry assignment in Oregon. We spent the afternoon talking about life, church, theology, and family. I recall some years earlier when he and my Aunt Lucille stopped by our humble little home in Roseburg just to visit and encourage us.

Until recent years he faithfully penned and sent Christmas and Easter letters with a redemptive message to those he knew and loved.

I will miss him. The world will miss him, and others like him.

But Jesus won’t. The Lord let us have him for these short 100 years as if to say… “This Bud’s for You!”

(Photos from the Birk Family FB page)

My boots were on sale at Big Five, my day pack…clearance at Marshalls. Obviously, I am only a casual outdoorsman, or at least that is what my REI friends think.

But they never hiked to the summit of Humbug Mt., located on the Oregon Coast just south of Port Orford.

Now I have hiked some trails, and have pictures on top of some pretty cool peaks, but this was my first venture by myself, solo; in fact for the first 75% of the hike I was the only human on the mountain. I did pass two couples on the way down, but other than that I was alone.

Yet even in this isolated location I was “found” by TWO friends who were texting me, trying to entice me into making fantasy football trades. ( I rejected both offers).

After three solid miles of climbing, I reached the summit. Mountain summits are supposed to be breathtaking, and this one promised so much more with its proximity to the Ocean. I couldn’t wait to fire off an amazing Facebook shot for all the world to see my accomplishment. Just two more switchbacks and then…

As far as small mountain meadows go, it was…pleasant. Perhaps this is where the name of the mountain came from. Humbug. I’m sure glad that I outfitted myself with items on sale!

So, I ate a ham sandwich.

As I descended the mountain, I had some time to think. I was considering the significance of those trails, their history, and the many people who have, and will, ascend to that disappointing view.

There are some trails or roads that point us to something exciting ahead.

There are other roads that are not as obvious, and they have been around for a long, long time. People have stopped taking these ancient paths, as pavement and prosperity have made their lives and livelihoods easier. And that’s when it dawned on me. The expectation of an ocean view was distracting me from what really mattered. I was missing both the creation around me and the creator. I was missing the opportunity in my solitude to engage with the one who made all of this.

“Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘ We will not walk in it.'” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Sometimes God says, “make this choice,” “go this way, and when you do you will actually find peace.”

Some people still say, “humbug.”

Don’t.

Me and Roger Singleton

He was just a regular guy, busting his rear end to make a living and care for his family. He drove a bus, and was based out of the Greyhound station in Grand Rapids, MI.  He did his job, built relationships, and punched the clock. “If you are not five minutes early, you are late,” he would say. He always new where he was going and he took his riders with him.

Then something happened, and his life was changed.

He went back to school and pursued a different calling. While his skills as a bus driver would still be used, he now operated out of a different terminal. It was a terminal that I had began to frequent.

I had providentially stumbled into his world as a H.S. student.  I became acquainted with the former bus driver as he had kids who were my age and younger. He had a great laugh…still does.

He took a special interest in me and my friend and after a few short months challenged us to be leaders.  “The two of you will either make, or break, this youth group,” he said. I remember the two of us goofballs looking at each other and wondering who he was talking about.

Some months later, sensing as a senior in H.S. that I had no set plans for my future, he asked my parents if he could take me out of a day of school and check out college. It was the college he attended while driving a Greyhound bus.  To save money a friend of his let us sleep  in the basement of his church. The next day we toured the school and met with the admissions people.

Long story, short: I enrolled that June, and in August began pursuing a degree in psychology…or so I thought.

It didn’t take long to realize that my life calling would not be in counseling. I found no joy in the subject, and had to rather quickly determine what I DID want to pursue.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that what I REALLY wanted to do was be like him…the bus driver.

Many years have passed, and I was able to catch up with the bus driver in his hometown last month. I wanted him to know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if he hadn’t gone out of his way to invest in my life and show me a path that would ultimately lead me to where I am today. A path that has afforded me the opportunity to know where I am going and to take others along for the ride.

For Roger, the Greyhound Bus Driver.

If you don’t come from a large family you won’t understand this, but it is impossible to keep up with everyone.

Here are some of my extended family stats.

-My mom was one of 11, my dad was born in Norway and was one of three.

– At last count there are over 44 first cousins, and that doesn’t count any of my wife’s family

– I am one of seven kids

In the last 24 hours I have been gifted with the opportunity to make ONE reconnection, with my eldest brothers youngest daughter and her family…and it has been a treasure to fill in the gaps and to enter into genuine dialogue that had been lost over time and distance.

I had not seen her since 1994.

But it is not just her…there are others…living in at least 20 different states. It would be easy to go on living our lives separate from one another focusing only on our own immediate clans. We forget… memories dim in the shadows of our past, and sometimes those shadows can be dark.

I can’t possibly keep up with everyone, but I caught up with this one, and it was good.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7)

As we walk through the path of life there are times we pause to celebrate life.  Yesterday was one such day.

A young family dedicating their first-born daughter shares a scripture from James 1:17 on behalf of their beautiful child,  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Hours later in a renovated movie theater seven individuals, ranging from 16yrs. to 70yrs, confessed and professed their new life through baptism. Romans 6:4 reminds us of what was taking place in that Coscto swimming  pool, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Two events, so similar yet so different.

New life celebrated with both Hope and Grief. Grief by those who desire to bury their past and embrace the future; and Hope in what lies ahead.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

IMG_0285I am happy to share that the Elders have decided to offer me a three-month sabbatical to begin May 1.

I am not ill, or in a desperate state.

There are three primary reasons that I was approached to take this much appreciated time off : 1) For rest  2) spiritual renewal and 3) clarity (as our church prepares for the future).

With that in mind I wish to let you know that I will not be available between May 1 and July 31, either in person or by email/phone. If you need to communicate with me concerning areas of his ministry or oversight, please contact the Redeemer’s office so that they can best direct you to the person covering that particular area.  I will give occasional updates on this blog.