Monday, September 29, 2014

Let's Talk About Camping*

I first learned about this amazing tent-trailer when a friend posted it on Facebook last weekend. If I ever planned to explore the outback of Australia, this is how I'd like to do it. The technology, the convenience, the creativity is just breathtaking. I think I could even get into camping if I had a rig like this!

I actually used to be really into camping, but it was when I was a kid and had only two obligations: to do what I was asked when I was asked, and to have fun! I loved camping -- those family outings that took us away for a weekend or a week at a time and parked us somewhere near a river or lake or ocean, the station wagon and trailer jammed full of food, clothing, bedding, gear and games to keep five kids busy and happy. Food tasted better when it was cooked on the camp stove or over the fire -- pancakes and bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches and a big pot of bean with bacon soup, an aluminum foil packet of chicken and vegetables cooked in the coals. After lunch we'd go exploring, looking for seashells or pinecones, fishing in the river, or driving up winding mountain roads. What could have brought us more joy than s'mores and singing, telling jokes and playing games around the campfire after the sun had gone down? Nothing I can think of.

There was, of course, not a lot of joy in trying to get comfortable on an air mattress inside a tent that had been placed, inadvertently, on a slope or a rock no one had detected when camp was set up after dark. And then there were those mornings when you unzipped the flap of the tent and took your first step out, only to discover that it had rained in the night and just outside your door was a stream that hadn't been there when you'd gone to bed.

The long walk to the public restroom was never quite as scary as the experience of using said restroom when you finally got there. But that was what you had to give up for all the fun stuff you got to do.

Looking back on it, I wonder why my parents went through the massive effort to get us ready for a week-long camping trip. I have friends who do the same kinds of things for their families now, but in the 50s and 60s there were fewer conveniences to take the hard work out of getting ready for the fun. And there were certainly no UEV-440s back then!

Ah, but we did have a tent trailer when we were kids. We five kids ranged in age from three to nine when the trailer became part of our lives. We usually arrived at the campsite in the evening, after Dad had worked a full day, and our parents would start the process of unfolding the two beds from the center of the trailer and extending them over the edges of the trailer. They'd put the poles in place and drape the canvas taut over them, fastening them to the sides of the trailer. They'd level the trailer out and secure it in place, drop the step down so that we could get in, then we'd all start hauling our supplies out and setting them up. By the time we'd finish it was late, but our home on wheels would be tidy and the workout had us ready for a good night's sleep.

The trailer resembled a sardine can once we were all tucked in for the night. With a parent and a little boy on each of the narrow beds and an air mattress for the other three of us kids on the floor between the beds, there was little room for anything else in the trailer.

As far as I know we don't have any pictures of the trailer. But this one looks most like the one we had of any photos I found on the internet.

I looked at lots of pictures before I chose this one. It was the zipper that pulled me back to my childhood andreminded me of the claustrophobia that I experienced when we were all crammed into the trailer but also the sense of safety, knowing that we were all seven together when that zipper was down. Maybe it's the many times we couldn't really get the tent dried out after a rain that gave it its own peculiar odor, not a bad smell, but a kind of heavy smell. It filled my nostrils when I saw this photo and my breathing changed slightly.

I felt the trailer sway slightly in my mind as I imagined being inside. When you'd put your foot on the step it made a bit of a clanging noise and it moved slightly, reminding you that everything about this camping experience was temporary.

Well, not everything. I still have my memories, and they are nothing but sweet.

* * * * * * * *

*Sometimes, on dreary winter days when we were young and we couldn't play outside and we were out of ideas of what to do inside, someone would pose a question: "What do you want to talk about?" We all gave the same answer: "Let's talk about camping!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Church of the Beloved

Do you remember the Wedding Camp that Tom and I went to over Labor Day weekend in 2011? Tara, the daughter of Tom's closest friend, married Nathanael at Ghormley Meadows Christian Camp in Naches, Washington, and invited their family and friends to join them for the weekend. I've never been to another marriage celebration so relaxed or so sanctioned by community as Tara and Nathanael's.

Tara and Nathanael

So why bring it up again, three years later? Because the couple is a part of Church of the Beloved, a Christian community in Edmonds, along with many of the folks we met at the wedding. Ever since that weekend we had wanted to attend a service there, and last Sunday evening we finally had a chance to worship with them.

Housed at Rosewood, a century-old house that, over the years had been a hunting lodge, a brothel, a place to train German Shepherds -- Nathaneal pointed out the tree under which Rin Tin Tin is said to be buried -- and a nursing home, had fallen into disrepair when Ryan Marsh, pastor of Beloved, inquired into purchasing it. Set in a residential neighborhood in Edmonds, the large house with several bedrooms now provides housing for renters as well as space for Sunday evening services and other church-related activities.

Rosewood Manor

A community garden fills much of the back yard, as well as children's climbing toys and a sand box.  If neighbors want to use a patch of the garden they are welcome to it. The chicken coop is empty at the moment.

Here's what the Beloved's website says about itself:
Have you ever been invited to share a meal with someone you didn't know well where you felt truly welcomed? You've been there, right? 
Stories are told around a common table; warm dishes are shared among strangers and friends; laughter, drink, or a song stops time just long enough to remind you that you are human and you are not alone. 
We think God would show up to a table like that -- and that He has, and still does. 
At Church of the Beloved our name reminds us of our purpose in the world, to be loved and to be love.
Everything about our experience Sunday told us that this group of folks is intentional in the way they live in the world, just like we experienced at Wedding Camp three years ago.

They are a people who work together and play together and fellowship together. At camp everybody found a job to do, working in the kitchen, helping set up for the wedding, cleaning up, whatever. There was plenty of time for hiking or paddling a canoe, playing bocci or doing the zip line. And eating in the dining hall gave us a chance to fellowship over a meal.

Helping set up for the wedding reception

Taking my turn in the kitchen

Not where you usually find the mother of the bride on Wedding Day!

Announcements on Sunday included an upcoming potluck and an invitation to show up next Sunday to  dig a ditch. The theme of the service was Confession and after the message people could respond at any of three stations. One was a table where people shared their thoughts on confession. Listening in, I was moved by their openness to the Lord and to one another.

Two things stand out as fundamentally important in the life of the Church of the Beloved: children and holy communion.

Several children came in with their parents -- a darling curly haired girl wearing wings, toddlers, a young boy who joined the pastor at the communion table and mimicked his hand motions. Some were demure, some grew restless; all were welcomed. Partway into the service they were dismissed to Godly Play, but they came back in time for communion.

The communion table was set when we arrived. In the middle of the living room, with chairs and couches all turned to face it, the table was a large slab of a tree, maybe 8 or 10 inches thick, with an irregular edge and the rings of the tree highly polished. It was set on four tripod legs and held two cups and the bread. When it was time for the eucharist, Ryan filled the cups, gave instructions, consecrated the elements and made the invitation.
The table of Jesus is your place of gathering.
Here you are welcomed, wanted, loved.
Here there is a place set for you.
So come all you who thirst and hunger for life.
All you whose souls cry out for healing.
All you who are weighed down with worry.
All you who go hungry in a fat land.
All you who search for meaning, or belonging but cannot find it.
Jesus invites you.
Draw near and trust that God is with you.
The children came first, gathering around the table. Pastor Ryan squatted down, handing each one the bread and speaking to them of Jesus' gift. They found the lady with the juice and dipped their bread. A mother whispered something to the pastor and he placed his hand on her small girl's head and prayed for her before she took the bread from him. The tenderness of the moment didn't end with the children. Each one who came to the table was offered all of God's grace for all of our needs.

When the service came to a close, we were sent home with this blessing:
And the blessing of God,
Host of Creation
The blessing of Christ,
Guest of humanity
The blessing of the Spirit,
Source of Communion
go with you
for the sake of the world.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hymn of the Month -- Lead, Kindly Light

It is my guess that you'd have to be quite into church music to be very familiar with the hymn Lead, Kindly Light. At least it's not one that I have known well. I hear it in my head played on a big pipe organ and sung as a king of dirge. You may have a different experience with it than I, but this is what comes to mind when I retrieve it from my memory bank.

Lead, Kindly Light was written as a poem in 1833 by John H Newman and set to a tune by John B Dykes in 1865. In 2007 The Telegraph published a short but interesting story of the origin of the hymn.

I recently came across a re-write of the song by musician Audrey Assad. She's updated the words but kept to the intent of the original lyrics, and she's given it a new tune. It is one of the loveliest songs I've heard in a long time.

Lead, kindly light, amidst the grey and gloom
The night is long and I am far from home
Here in the dark, I do not ask to see
The path ahead -- one step enough for me
Lead on, lead on, kindly light.

I was not every willing to be led
I could have stayed, but I ran instead
In spite of fear, I followed my pride
My eyes could see, but my heart was blind
Lead on, lead on, kindly light.

And in the night, when I was afraid
Your feet beside my own on the way
Each stumbling step where other men have trod
shortened the road leading home to my God
Lead on, lead on,
my God, my God,
Lead on, lead on, kindly light

© Audrey Assad Inc (BMI) / Heavily inspired by Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman's poem of the same name>

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Today's Purple Sunrise

My friend Colleen Rupke took this photo of the sunrise over the Cascade this morning
Today's pre-dawn sky was the color of eggplant against mountains the shade of a nearly black plum, finally ready to eat. At 5:50, it was still an hour until sunrise, but the hint of color brought with it a hint of the day's promise.

We've been a one-car family for the past three months and occasionally I commute with Tom the 33 miles to his office so that I can have the car for the day, then return to pick him up in the afternoon. It's not a great longterm solution, but it works for now. I've witnessed a lot of sunrises with my husband this summer, and that has been worth the inconvenience.

When we began our treks together it was just after the first day of summer and the sun was rising about 5:15. The sky was already bright enough to read in the car without a light, but who could read? Colors streaked the sky, horsetail clouds formed whispy patterns around us, and fog often lay just above the ground over the farmland and along the slough in Everett. Some days were so glorious that I forgot to breathe. Each trip found the sun rising a few minutes later than the previous trip, providing us a tangible reminder of nature's clock.

Sunrise was 6:49 today. I couldn't get enough of it. How often we've remarked that we should have had a camera on our morning trips to work, but even if we had it, you can't exactly stop along the freeway to snap a shot.

After dropping Tom off I was determined to find a spot where I could pull off and get a good, long look.

If you know Everett, perhaps you remember the overpass by the Evergreen Cemetery which will take you from South Broadway (overlooking Lowell), across the freeway, then down on to Broadway. It has not been kept up -- that is, there are lots of weeds along the sides of the road -- but it is still in use and still offers a great view of the Cascades and the Snohomish River valley. It's not wide enough to pull over but there was no other traffic on the bridge so I did stop momentarily and drink in the view. The sun had still not risen but the sky was turning orange and the clouds, light grey puffs that scattered across the sky, were lit from underneath. Fog settled in the low places, faint enough to see forms -- trees and buildings -- in the distance.

Even the sewage treatment plant just north of Everett was radiant in the moments before the sun appeared above the mountains. Reflections in the pond were filled with pinks and yellows and oranges and purples, and the details in the mountains above were beginning to be washed out by the brightening sky.

The sun had fully risen by the time I turned off I-5 onto Hwy 532. I was too far north by now to see it until, heading west, it glared in both my rearview mirror and my side mirror, temporarily blinding me. By the time I pulled into our driveway the day looked like any other. It might be, too, except that I had seen the sun rise this morning and had known the secret of its splendor. It had whispered its beauty to me and filled me with its wonder.

It just wouldn't be right to waste a sunrise.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Looking Ahead

It'a just two weeks until I reach the 5-year anniversary of Three Minutes to Nine. I woke up one morning in 2009 to find my son on the computer. "Please hurry and get off the computer," I told him. "I'm going to start a blog today." I was as surprised as he was. Before noon I was up and running. I've loved every minute of blogging.

I have ideas for things I'd like to write about. They cover the gamut from the technology of Lewis and Clark to teens and texting, from fascinating people who give away money to children who raise funds for others, from stunning books I've read to the amazing people who wrote them. The problem is this: as I pursue the crazy array of topics that come to my mind, I don't get much else done in a day.

This fall I will begin leading a women's Bible study. That's just one of several things, including other writing projects, that I want to give my attention to over the next months.

So here's the thing. For the time being I won't be blogging on any regular basis. I'll try to share a Hymn of the Month and maybe a Yes You Can post each month, and other thoughts along the way, but they may not post three times a week at 8:57 a.m. Just so you know.

I will continue to post the link to my blog on Facebook each time I publish. But let me suggest that you follow by email or subscribe to Three Minutes to Nine. That way you'll be notified whenever a new article is posted.

I'd love to hear from you at

I'll close today with the following video. In April, when the folks from PorterWorks came to interview me for a documentary called In Their Memory, which is the story of Stanwood's Memorial Barn, they recorded me reading a blog post I published about the barn in August of 2012. I was delighted last week when they sent me a link to the YouTube video they had uploaded of my reading. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When Jesus Stood

In all of scripture, I am aware of only one passage where we read that the exalted Jesus stood. We normally read that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and has been there since he ascended into Heaven (Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:34-36, Ephesians 1:20). Kings sit on thrones, and that's what Jesus is -- the King of kings. Being enthroned denotes a king's power, authority, and honor. In Christ's case it also shows his deity. He is the Son of God, having completed the work the Father had sent him to do. Taking his place beside the Father is a sign that his sacrifice was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world. "It is finished!" he cried from the cross. Indeed, it was finished so that he was able to take his rightful place beside his Father in Heaven.

He's not resting there, as if to say, "Phew! I made it!" No, he is working on our behalf -- pouring his Spirit on the church (Acts 2), revealing himself to people (Acts 7), encouraging the church (Rev 1), interceding for believers (Romans 8:34), advocating for us (1 John 2:1), and offering us mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

All of this Jesus does from his throne. But one day Jesus stood.

It was the day that Stephen -- a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, faith, God's grace and power, a man who did wonders and miraculous signs -- was dragged before the Sanhedrin to face charges of blasphemy (Acts 6-7). He stood before those gathered that day and recounted the story of God's appearing to Abraham, the history of the people of Israel and their rejection of God's Son. Stephen, whose face was like the face of an angel, lifted up Jesus to the people. His words were truth and should have convicted them, but when he blamed them for killing the Righteous One, they were furious.

But Stephen full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (7:55-56).

As the action builds at a basketball game and a player wrests the ball away from the other side and breaks for the basket before the final buzzer sounds, the crowd jumps to its feet! In solidarity with their team, the fans cannot keep their seats. I wonder if that's not part of what was happening when Stephen looked up and saw Jesus standing in Heaven. He was affirming Stephen's words. As Stephen had been Jesus' representative before his killers, now Jesus stood for Stephen to show that they were on the same team.

Besides that, judges in the Roman court system would stood to pronounce their final verdict. Was not Jesus standing to pass judgment on the scene being played out on earth? "Stephen, I am with you. I do not believe the lies that are being told about you. You are my beloved follower, and you have not failed me. Neither will I fail you!"

The death of Stephen is the first record we have of a Christian being martyred. It is also the first record we have of the ascended Christ showing himself to anyone. Since then, millions of Christ followers have been martyred for their faith. Even now the heat is being turned up on those who stand firm for Jesus in the face of persecution. Perhaps the Lord is once again on his feet, showing himself faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Keep looking up. The Lord we love is faithful and stands for us. And one day He will return and set things to rights. In the words of Samuel Rutherford (1600 - 1661), "O, sweet Jesus, take wide steps! O my Lord, come over the mountains in one stride!"

* * * * * * * *

Photo from Project Guttenberg
A sermon by J. Ligon Duncan was particularly helpful in thinking through this issue