Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oregon: Haystack Rock Birds

Unless the puffins are the same as those in Scotland (don't know, too lazy to look up), I saw all life birds on our last day in Oregon!

Tufted Puffins (here)

Pelagic cormorant (here)

Western gull (here)

Pigeon guillemots (here)

Black oystercatcher (mine)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Congratulations, Willamette '09!

The Lovely Daughter
Cum Laude
Honors in Sociology
Phi Beta Kappa

The Housemates!

The Campus!

Monday, May 25, 2009

More Gardens

I posted a little about The Grotto in Portland over at Desert Year; the final picture above was taken there as well.

We also visited the Chinese Garden, which fills a block in the heart of Portland. It is exquisite, with so many small, intricately designed spaces, each one different from the last. And quite inspiring, given the miniscule size of our own yard at home. One of the most interesting aspects of the garden is the way in which sunlight is incorporated onto the multitude of patterns and textures by means of window design and tree placement -- you almost feel as if the sky itself is being redesigned. The effects are somewhat apparent in the image of the courtyard tile design called "Cracked Ice"~ just what it looks like.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Unformed Thoughts on Worship

None of my thoughts are well formed these days, so why should those on worship be any different?

At least that's the excuse I'm using this morning when no, I am not in church. I have some hope, though, that there will be some contributions in the comments that will lead, eventually, to some degree or another of sorting out.

My disorganized thinking on the subject has been generated by Quotidian Grace's
post challenging an earlier post written by Bruce Reyes-Chow, the Moderator of the PCUSA, in which he offers the beginnings of a rationale in favor of twittering during worship services. QG objects primarily on the grounds that we struggle enough as it is to focus during worship. Bruce, as I understand it, finds twittering to offer valuable potential for community response to God and to one another.

It's no secret that I've struggled mightily with worship over the past several months. (Perhaps not a politic admission for a seminarian, but I have concluded that there is some value to be found in addressing the real-life fallout of bereavement.) When I go to my own church (in which, as far as I know, no one twitters ~ but some of us do take notes on the bulletin, and pass occasional commentary back and forth), I am usually overwhelmed by the energy and sense of community ~ aspects of our worship that I treasured a year ago, and for many years before that. (And apparently I also have a bit of PTSD going on. It had never occurred to me before that there might be a good reason to avoid having your child's funeral in your own church sanctuary.)

And yet, I keep returning ~ to other churches when I cannot manage my own. Worship is not, after all, much about me. I try to find places where other people are praying, and singing, and engaging with God in some way, even when it seems beyond me personally. And I am very aware, and grateful to acknowledge in some some way, that what is beyond me personally is being taken up on behalf of myself and my family in synagogues and Catholic and Protestant churches all over the country.

The other day, a friend talked about having gone to church a couple of weeks earlier for the first time in over a year. Her family is in the thick of it these days, contending with her husband's devastating and tenancious cancer. "I was SO BORED," she said. "All that ritual ~ it's boring and meaningless. I'm too experientially oriented for church. A day in the wilderness ~ that's my church."

The wilderness is a church for me, too. God in all things. But the ritual, the liturgy, the sacramental community, the attentiveness to text ~ I love all those things, too. It occurs to me, however, that they all ~ like the wilderness ~ require an education before they can be fully appreciated. I can't comment on where my friend has directed her energies. But I know that I can find God in the wilderness in part because I have invested years in the study of birds, in art because I read and look and listen to what others have to teach me about painting and architecture, in church because I practice (in the literal sense of the word) my religion intently in a variety of ways.

"Twittering" asked my 24-year-old son, when I told him about the discussion. "That incredibly irritating practice?" "How would you know whether it would be a problem in church, since you don't go to church?" I asked him. "No, but I think I understand the point," he said. "And what about the people who have prepared for and work so hard on the service?" he asked. "I don't think I've ever attended a church that lacked a coffee hour ~ why can't people socialize there?"

I will admit that one of the first things I had thought about, in response to the initial posts, was the effort that goes into leading a service, and how dismayed I would be as the minister, the preacher, the music director, the liturguist, the choir member, to know that people were twittering among themselves rather than offering themselves and their attention and participation to the drama of the service. I don't doubt that God is in the twittering, as one of its proponents argues. (Although I have to say, that last one felt like a really bizarre sentence for me to write.) But worship is an opportunity to focus on God's self-disclosure, rather than upon our own, and to respond directly to God, rather than to one another.

In the end, I realize that perhaps my own orientation is just contemplative enough to make twittering during worship an outrageous proposition. I can imagine that if one is directed more completely toward the evangelical (in the sense of sharing), the prophetic, the social, or the kinesthetic in one's engagement with God, then twittering could have its place. Given my own extraordinary challenges these days, I am willing to make room for others to experiment with approaches to theirs in creative ways that might seem frustrating or damaging to me.

I will share, though, as representative of my own viewpoint (with apologies for the unabashed male gender of the language) the following quotes which appeared
here, on the blog The Website of Unknowing yesterday. I found it pretty humorous that they popped up in my blog reader as I was pondering this topic.

The tragedy of modern man is that his creativity, his spirituality, and his contemplative independence are inexorably throttled by a superego that has sold itself without question or compromise to the devil of technology.

The contemplative seeks to liberate his soul from all external control, to purify and detach it from material, sensual, and even spiritual compulsions, and to surrender it to the truth and creative freedom of the Holy Spirit.

I personally question the liberating power of Twitter. But I'm willing to listen to the arguments.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just for Fun

As a former attorney for Chessie Railroads (another life, eons ago), I remain fascinated by trains, and the UPAC was in evidence throughout our travels. I really wanted a picture of a train winding through the Columbia River Gorge; this one enlarges more or less OK with a click.

The Bridge of the Gods is, as Gregarious Son says, a human erector-set-like version of what was, according to Native American legend, a "natural" bridge across the Gorge formed at one time by a logjam of debris at a turn in the Columbia. A mural -- too faded, alas, to photograph -- on the bridge foundation depicts its long history in its various forms. I took some photos for Chicago Son, who was fascinated by engineering and architecture, and would have loved to have photographed the bridge himself. We used it to cross to the State of Washington, so the grandparents could say that they have been there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Columbia River Gorge

I'm sure I posted similar pictures five years ago (can it be that long?!) after the Lovely Daughter and I made our trip out west to look at colleges. But those images have vanished into the stratosphere, so why not some new ones?

I didn't get any further than the bridge at Multnomah Falls on that venture. This time I made it to the top -- a hike of 1.5 hours up and 45 minutes down. The final photo is from about halfway.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Old Town Cafe

If you're headed for Portland, Oregon, then I suggest a meal in Scappoose!

Lisa and I "met" on AOL Journals back in the old days, four or five years ago. She's a wickedly incisive writer, whether about the pitfalls of the Republican Party or the pitfalls of small business ownership ~ and she's a fabulous cook. I've missed her writing since it's taken a back seat to the restaurant, so I was grateful for the chance to relax after the plane trip west and catch up a little.

That's the Lovely Daughter with the proprietors in the top photo, and the Lovely Daughter with her momma in the bottom -- and, oh, yeah, her dad and brother and grandparents, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Graduation Summary

Fabulous lunch at the Old Town Cafe with Lisa (one of my oldest blogging friends) and Matt.

Columbia River Gorge - I hiked to the TOP of Multnomah Falls!

Gardens all over the place.

Lauds at 6:30 am with the monks at Mount Angel Abbey.

Phi Beta Kappa Luncheon.

The Lovely Daughter is a cum laude college graduate!!!

Haystack Rock and birds, birds, birds ~ including harlequin ducks (here).

And then ~ Gregarious Son and I caught the Lovely Daughter's little tiny cold and got so so so sick. All we can figure is we got a ten-fold wallop from an Oregon virus we hadn't encountered before.

So . . . when I get better: pictures of my own.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods

Well, ok, over the Grand Canyon and through the airports . . .

to graduation we go.

The Lovely Daughter graduates on Sunday. We leave for the great state of Oregon on Thursday, where we hope to see Lisa, the Columbia River Gorge, Cannon Beach, and ~ oh yeah, a few important events at Willamette University!

It will be tough, to make this trip that for four years I had looked forward to sharing as a family of five. But it will be wonderful, too, to help our beautiful girl celebrate friendships and achievements that began with that fateful hurricane four years ago.

Back in a week or so ~

Saturday, May 09, 2009

From Your Mother

One of the hardest things is trying to figure out how to be ~ just plain be ~ when two of your children are here and one is somewhere else.

I suppose that the division of my blog posts tonight reflects that hard reality.

This one is for the two who are here.

I am eternally grateful to love you, to care for you, to laugh with you, to cry with you, to be on this planet with you.

Happy Mother's Day in reverse.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Yesterday ~

a meeting which left me wondering why it is so important to some people to register such disdain for views which do not comport with their own ~ and realizing that if ~ or, no doubt more accurately ~ to the extent I do the same, it's time to stop ~

a second effort to preach without notes, a task at which I realized I was going to fail as soon as I took one last glance at my sermon and realized that any recollection of same had evaporated (one of the hazards of my current general state of mind is that chunks of it frequently evaporate without warning), and which has made Imodium my best friend for the second time in two weeks ~

an impromptu conversation which should have drawn on the best I have to offer, a realization that dawned on me hours later as I realized that I had been so preoccupied with the first two incidents that I had completely missed the opportunity extended to me to listen to another suffering individual.

I need to re-think a lot of things. Maybe my whole life.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Shout Out (Well, OK, A Whisper)

Great post here on meditation and religious cross-fertilization.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Week

Wow, I don't usually miss an entire week.

I guess I've been busy, but I don't have a lot to say.

I do seminary stuff: my Matthew paper, my Calvin research, another sermon ~ year almost over.

I dread summer Hebrew.
Thank God for good friends with whom to trudge through it.

I do spiritual direction stuff ~ midyear review coming up.

I try to deal with internship possibilities and I procrastinate Presbytery stuff.

I ponder whether I should try to look forward to Guelph in August.

I talk to the Quiet Husband and Gregarious Son about daily life and to the Lovely Daughter about her graduation, two weeks from tomorrow.

I look forward to walking the beach at Haystack Rock, something the Lovely Daughter and I did together five years ago when college in Oregon was just a fantasy.

I take a lot of long walks.

I read a lot of stuff about discernment and spiritual desolation.

I miss my Chicago Son.

I want my other life back.