Sunday, December 31, 2006
Given the opportunity to review all I have seen or heard in a lifetime, what would I review first? What would I assiduously avoid? How different would it seem from the vantage of my current age and experience?
A blog can be my choice to record a small sample of what I have seen or heard. I can also include thoughts and feelings that would not be captured by my little camera/microphone. What shall I choose to record? How much will I ever review? What may I wish I had recorded that is already buried among a vast number of synapses. Buried so deep that I may never again conciously realize that I had known it.
How much time shall I spend scrolling through my own record and the record of others? Every hour spent on this seems to diminish the time I have available for other, "all new" experiences. Yet, there is merit in recalling the past. We are very sorry when we meet someone who has lost the capacity to make new memories. If they had never made any memories at all, how could we even relate to them? If I had no memories whatsoever, would I even be me?
Thursday, December 28, 2006
See the link to their blog on the right side of this page.
Thank you to everyone for your prayers and encouragement.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The last 24 hours were blessedly uneventful.
Pamela spent the night with Julia last night.
Viggo got to visit our home for the night.
An ultrasound done today estimated Daniel Jakob to weigh approx. 2 lb 13 oz.
We have had lots of wonderful encouragement from friends and family. Thank you all. We are hopeful that the wait for Daniel will continue for some time yet. Viggo has been able to complete a couple of translation j0bs in the past week. So he can be gainfully employed as he sits by Julia's bedside. The staff and facilities at Sacred Heart have been wonderful. We have been blessed in many, many ways.
Almost comically, I have taken a couple of falls the past two days. So if you see me limping even more than usual and leaning harder on my cane, you will know why. One fall twisted my bad knee (left). The other fall twisted my right ankle. I am just sore, but ambulatory.
Viggo has completed a Norwegian language blog giving news of their status. Soon he will be posting on an English language version as well.
At that time I will probably let him take the lead on keeping folks informed, but given my prolix proclivity, you will still hear plenty from me as well :-)
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Daniel Jakob is still inside Julia, where he belongs.
The picture above is the new smaller room that Viggo and Julia now occupy.
Viggo sleeps on a cot.
In the picture he is sitting at his "office" next to Julia's bed.
Viggo is doing freelance translation work to create some income.
They have been in the hospital five days now.
Julia is fatigued and a bit weak from the drugs to inhibit labor, but she was able to take a five minute slow walk today with the doctor's blessing.
Our Christmas in Philomath was very nice. Ted and Juanita (Barbara's parents) felt well enough to join us for meals and present opening. I was even able to take a video of a few minutes and post it on Google, and MySpace so that Julia and Viggo could feel closer.
Julia's womb is largely quiescent , yet it gives out just enough pains to keep us terrified occasionally. We are very grateful for the extra time that Daniel Jakob has been give to develop before birth.
As I was rushing through the kitchen to get something yesterday, I slipped and fell hard. I am still ambulatory, but sore all over! Just a little extra something to add to the fun :-)
God has blessed us and continues to bless us in many, many ways. He is also allowing us to go through a time of testing which makes us more aware of how much we depend on him for hope and strength.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Below is the tiny room that Julia was in that first day at Good Samaritan.
It is the same room where she was born more than 23 years ago. Barbara had a 20 plus hour labor with Julia. She was born on her due date. I slept on the floor for a few hours during the process, otherwise I was on duty!
When we arrived, Viggo was actually working a bit at his computer doing a translation job. He should be able to continue taking jobs (via the internet) while he and Julia stay in Eugene for the next couple of months.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Julia and Viggo are being moved to another room in Sacred Heart.
The wait for Daniel Jakob continues, and we hope it continues for weeks and weeks.
Barbara and Pamela are back at home tonight.
Barbara and I are both very tired. However, we were able to enjoy dinner as a family (thank you Marcy for the soup!).
Just now Barbara and I relaxed by the wood stove and discussed the past couple of days and our thoughts about how we may be able to arrange Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We are trying to keep some family traditions alive but at the same time, simplify things so that we don't burn ourselves out.
Pamela and Samuel wrapped a pile of gifts. I had purchased many of them via on-line a couple of weeks ago because Barbara was already very busy with helping her mom and dad. The kids have all bought a few things as well. So we will celebrate Jesus' birth with gift giving. Pamela and Samuel did a great job on decorating our home a few days ago.
We hope to go to church Sunday morning as a family (minus Julia and Viggo, of course). Then we hope to visit Julia and Viggo on Sunday afternoon.
We choose to keep our hearts resting in God's love. We choose to keep the birth of Jesus as the reason for our celebration. We are grateful to be celebrating together as a family.
Early this a.m. Julia had some intense labor, but it stopped before Barbara even left her hotel room in Eugene to go to the hospital. Of course, Viggo has been by her side 24 hours a day.
Julia is resting, things are calm for now.
Julia will stay at the hospital until the baby is born.
Julia and Viggo will then live near the hospital until the baby, Daniel Jacob,
is released, probably near his original due date of March 23.
Barbara and Pamela just arrived home from Eugene.
Barbara is her usual amazing self. Energetic, upbeat, talking with friends, and so on. She hasn't slept much in the past couple of days, so I know that soon she will crash and sleep.
I find myself tired and irritable, so I am just trying to stay out of trouble. I am glad to have my wife home, but sad that she feels pulled in so many directions: Julia and Viggo, Pamela, me and the boys, and her parents. I am working hard at resisting the impulse to try to "fix" everything with a big hammer.
I was reflecting earlier on how blessed we are to have the medical resources, the financial resources, the friends and family, and most of all God's presence and provision, in our lives. I read articles in World Vision Magazine this morning, and I was forcefully impressed by the incredible suffering that is so common to billions of people in the world. I thought about how life is difficult even under the "very best" circumstances on this earth.
May God bless each of you and help you with the struggles in your life, whatever they have been, are, or will be.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Barbara and I drove about town for a while this morning, making last minute preparations for a trip to the Oregon coast to celebrate her 50th birthday.
Shortly after noon we returned to our home to pick up the kids and head out. However, we found our oldest, Julia, lying on the bed having strong contractions every 3 or 4 minutes. She is only 27 weeks pregnant, but it didn't take us long to realize that something serious was happening. We took her to the ER. She was admitted to the Corvallis hospital and was given medication to stop the contractions.
By 7 this evening she was on her way by ambulance to a bigger hospital in Eugene. By 9 we learned that her labor was so advanced that the doctor believe it is very likely that the baby will be born in sometime tonight or tomorrow (Dec. 22) morning. Viggo and Barbara are there with her. My other daughter Pamela is with Barbara for moral support. For now I am at home with my sons. I am also serving as the communications hub for friends and family.
I am thankful that it was 27 weeks, and not earlier. But Julia's little boy is still at serious risk of complications due to premature birth. We have friends all over praying for us.
Now it is getting late and I must sleep, if I can, so that I will be ready to visit Julia and her husband tomorrow. Of course, I will also hold Barabar and give her all the love and encouragement that I possibly can. I have received much encouragement from friends and family. It is a very great blessing to have a church family and close friends at a time like this.
For months God has been using various things to impress upon me the fact that I really do not know what the future will bring. I have some idea of what is "likely" to happen. However, I have no knowledge of what will happen. I pray for wisdom and make the best decisions and plans that I can. However, only God knows what truly lies ahead of us. He has made plans. He loves us. He gives us strength, encouragement and hope. Whatever happens, God will be glorified. I ask that he would be glorified in how I handle these difficult times. I ask that he would be glorified in Julia and Viggo's lives. I ask that God will be glorified by the love that Barbara and I share for each other, for our children, and for our tiny grandchild.
This is one of the trials that our family is going through. Suddenly, all the trials that all the people around me are enduring seem more vivid. God is using this to grow my love for all who struggle in this imperfect world. And all do struggle.
May God bless you all.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
He says "I was born in 1974".
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
God has used many recent events in my life to show me two things. One is disturbing. I realize more and more just how hard my own heart has been for more than five decades. The other thing is encouraging. I realize that God is able to soften that hard heart. I see him growing compassion and caring in me.
A merciful God has spared me from a full revelation of just how much more I need to grow. A gracious God has healed me enough to see how crippled I have been all my life. God, my Lord and healer, is repairing my heart bit by bit, even as my body falls apart bit by bit.
How quickly my thoughts turn to my own needs, desires, or even mere entertainment. How I resist giving of myself to help those in great need. Yet, God is greater than me. He has been able to soften this hard heart of mine. My hope is in him. I hope to learn to love still more deeply. As I love more, my joy increases, and my heart comes to know peace and rest.
I pray that you would know those same blessings.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
It seems odd that a loved one's critical illness would restore a proper perspective. God's ways are much greater than my own.
Recently, I held Barbara's mother's hand and sought to encourage her soon after she lost her position as care giver for her ailing husband. In one day she became too weak to cross a room without help. Her heart is struggling to simply keep her alive. Now she needs constant care and she can offer little care to the man she loves. Physical care is what I mean. Her presence, her love, her faithfulness to her husband of 65 years are all meaningful whether or not she is able to show her love by cooking a meal, cleaning the house, or any other sort of physical expression. I saw that it was true. I saw that she was loved by her family in her weakness, just as she had been loved when she was strong. Her life has meaning because she is Juanita, not because she can do the right things. It came to me forcefully that my own life had meaning because I am Kent. I love and I am loved. Material things and physical acts can be good. They can be an expression of love. However, love prevails with or without them. God is love. We can trust God for the meaning of our lives.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
For example, in an hour long conversation with Julia today, I talked about my aching joints and my new 21" flat panel monitor. She talked about feeling the child moving in her womb, and their plans for moving to Tanzania next year. The last time I talked with Pamela, I felt like a big shot for giving her a little extra cash for the Christmas season. She felt humbled by the prospect of an international internship to help the physically and spiritually bereft folks of the developing world. I am challenged to learn a new piece of software for making project plans, while Charles is contemplating taking an extra heavy load in aerospace engineering next semester, after doing a very credible job of dealing with the crushing load of his first semester at college. I am mastering the finer points of walking with a cane as Samuel flings himself through the air as he learns Parkour. I hope and pray that I will not be one of those parents who tries to live their life through their children's accomplishments. I also pray that God will continue to grow and prosper them. I am thankful for the opportunity to follow the ongoing stories of their adventures.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I think I may not be alone. Recently I realized that the two quotes I had heard most often and most impressionably, both come from the first 15 pages of a 300 page poem.
The first is one that my English instructor wowed me with early in my college career:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." verses 258 and 259.
I clung to that idea for many years. Especially when things got rough, as things will do if you live long enough, I clung to the idea that at least my mind was its own place, with magic powers to transcend my situation. Sadly I seldom seemed to be able to harness those powers to escape the pain, the doubt, the confusion, or even just the tedium.
Recently, while once again attempting to read through Paradise Lost, I suddenly understood why the quote had failed me. The quote is spoken by the character of Satan. I now feel certain that Milton knew full well that the assertion is a lie! The mind is not its own place. And if we try to make it such, we do indeed experience a taste of hell: separation from God. Heaven can only be known in his presence. The closest we will get on this earth is by our faith in him and the love and encouragement of his body, the church.
The other quote, is likewise a lie: "Better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven". The lie reveals Satan's great failing which led to his fall, pride. How could one of God's archangels fail so foolishly?
Better to serve. Better to serve, even in this sin cursed world, than to reign as a prince among fools. Better still to serve in heaven. And so we wait, with hope, for a time when all will be made new and we will see God face to face!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The armored car rolls up to the office or bank. One armed guard goes in while another carefully watches for trouble. The money is carefully transferred in or out of the truck. The vehicle is massive, bullet proof, and contains mostly sacks of paper.
School kids are sent to wait on the corner for a dull old bus with no seat belts. The bus is stuffed full of little children. They are disgorged at the school to walk about and find their classroom on their own.
Now I suppose it is true that money is stolen more often than children. I just can't shake the feeling that there is more to the story than that.
Today I awoke after a short, broken night of sleep. I was insufferably moody. I couldn't wait to tell my closest loved ones how they had betrayed me and fallen short of my needs. It felt like life was full of pain and promised to go on and on for far too long.
I don't know what mood to expect tomorrow. After many, many lessons I have learned that life goes on, regardless of my mood. I am called to love others, regardless of my mood. I want to be more like God, regardless of my mood. I can only hope that on days like today, God sees some me care just a little for others in the midst of my self pity. I also hope that on days like yesterday, others can believe that I care about them in the midst of my reveling over my own good fortune.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
He would have died had it not been for the kindness of strangers who fed him and helped him gain the strength to get up and move around. Twenty four hour care was required . It was months before he could even stand, much less make a trip to the bathroom. Although the guy is reasonably bright, he really struggled to learn the language and customs of the folks who cared for him. It was several years before he could communicate effectively with them.
Now, many years later, he remains very grateful to those who showed him such kindness.
I know because, I am that guy. I don't remember much of the earliest years. But my birth certificate says that it all started in Fort Worth, Texas in 1950. I'm glad I didn't pop out in Roswell, NM. I might just be a lab specimen to this day!
Saturday, September 30, 2006
I've owned the margarine tub for 13 years. I just bought the clock last week.
The story of how either one is made constitutes an amazing, complex tale of international trade, technology development, invention, and so on. If you don't believe me, please tune in to my favorite TV show: How It's Made, on the Discovery Channel. I challenge you to find more than a few objects in your home where one person gathered the materials from the natural world, crafted them, and personally gave them to you to use. You will find hundreds, even thousands of items that came to you in a vastly more complex manner.
When my kids were little, one of their favorite books (and mine) was "The Ox Cart Man" by Barbara Coonts. With a simple story and wonderful illustrations she showed how an industrious New England family in the 18th or early 19th century worked all year to grow food, make clothes, candles, and most of the things they used. At the end of the end of the story, the father leads an ox and ox cart on a several day journey. The cart is loaded with many of the products of their industry. Item by item he sells it all at a coastal city. Then he walks home with a few sewing needles, perhaps some candy, and a few coins in his pocket.
One's first thought might be how wonderful it is that the family is so self sufficient in their agrarian life. One would be wrong. The needles and the coins are made of metal that required a mining, transport, smelting, and a host of industrial processes using sophisticated equipment.
The needles were required for many of the simplest of the home projects: knitting, sewing clothes, sewing harness. Perhaps on other trips he used the coins to buy metal pots, hammers, axes, or a plow share.
Even sugar candy was a product at the end of a long chain of agriculture, industrialization, and international commerce. Sugar not made into candy or sold to bakers around the world was often converted into rum, which fueled a profitable and legal international drug trade.
Any society appreciably simpler than that of the ox cart man's is stone age. No metal. Little trade. And yet even those stone age folks may covet a new flint knife or a better loincloth. They are often willing to fight and kill to get or keep. On those rare ocassions where modern man has found what he thought to be a primitive paradise, as with the south sea islands, we were simply ignorant of what truly transpired there. In the same way we have sometimes chosen to be ignorant of the complex industries that enabled the ox cart man and his family to thrive. We turn our eyes away for a moment and do not think about the wars fought to take the ox cart man's land. We forget about the slaves taken for the sake of growing the sugar cane. We choose not to think of the miners, steel makers, and factory workers that make needles or coins.
Why are people working so hard, struggling, fighting, thinking, buying, selling? Why are all these things made? What is it we hope to gain that our hunter, gatherer ancestors or neighbors didn't have? A steady supply of food. Clothes. A warm, dry place to sleep. A few beautiful objects to admire. Entertainments of one sort or another. How It's Made is a great show. Why it's made is a question for the ages.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Yes, seldom asked questions. In fact, very likely these questions have never been asked.
Why write about Kent’s life?
I like to write. My life is the thing I have had the most experience with. It doesn’t seem fair to write about other peoples lives. I really can’t even tell you exactly what I have done and why I did it. It gets worse when I write about other people.
Do you like it when other people read what you have written?
Yes. That probably explains why I go to the trouble of putting it on the internet where any Yahoo or Google can see it if they want to. However, in searches using the term “Kent’s Life” I am eclipsed by superman’s alter ego and by a Japanese pop star named Kento Handa.
Do you like readers to make comments?
I especially like comments that make me feel important, powerful, funny, good looking, smart, spiritual, etc. There is plenty of room for other comments as well. However, I have a lot of trouble with comments that make me feel like crap. Also, I would never want anyone to write comments out of a sense of obligation. That would make me feel like crap, if I ever caught on.
Should your readers be careful with what they read here?
Yes. I have done a lot of things that people should not try with their own lives. For that matter, be careful with anything you read! I never have understood why folks talk as if reading is automatically better than TV, video games, or drugs. Anything can mess with your head and screw up your life if you are not full of care. That includes reading. It even includes praying, if you are praying to a god you invented instead of the God who invented you.
Has Kent’s life been particularly interesting or exciting?
Most of my life has been pretty unremarkable. I seldom write about those parts. I don’t know if I have had more interesting or exciting times than someone else. Like anyone could ever know that.
Are you always honest and completely open about your life?
No. Too many people might get hurt, and I might be one of them!
Saturday, September 16, 2006
When my kids were very small, I was a bit disappointed to realize that when they were older they would forget all about most of the stuff that we had done together before they were five or six years old. At least, it has been my experience that most folks can't remember much before age 5. I used to wonder if that cutoff age would move higher as I aged. So far, it doesn't seem to be the case. I may have lost a few stories or details from the 5 and 6 year old era of my life, but I don't think I remember it much differently than I did when I was 26 instead of 56.
Sometimes intense emotions seem to promote better retention. For example, my brother chopped a slice in my scalp with a metal toy hoe when we were both quite small. In that case, however, I'm not so sure that it made such an impression on me as it did on my mother who often told the story. In fact, I'm really not sure whether I remember the event or her account of the story.
On the other hand, I distinctly remember taking a card and a tin of home made cookies to a 5 year old friend whose appendix had just been removed. I was 5 myself and had no idea what an appendix was or how one would have it removed. Adults seemed reluctant to discuss the specifics. However, being sent to a neighboring apartment with cookies in hand made it very clear that this was a momentus occasion. I visited briefly with the friend, but he seemed a bit lethargic and his parents discouraged active play. So I was glad to scarf a cookie or two and split.
I also remember hanging out at the apartment house playground with the same little buddy. A very early memory is one of us swinging gently side by side as we each lay on a swing on our stomach. We were discussing something that I can only remember as being intensely intellectual in the judgment of 5 year olds. My friend's mother called for him. We purposed to ignore her and continue our conversation. Eventually we were found and he was hauled off to dinner or a bath or some such incidental matter. The magic moment was disturbed. We were unable to come to a conclusion in our deliberations.
As I write these stories, I realize that dozens of others are springing into my conciousness. The pact to eat berries to test their poison content. Sliding down the side of a freshly painted building in my favorite tassled suede cowboy jacket, thus destroying it. Pulling up handfuls of coarse grass and realizing that it had cut my hands. Popping up at a window and awakening a sleeping baby repeatedly so that the mom had to keep coming back into the nursery to see what was wrong. Burning my fingers as my mother wisely allowed me to play with matches while she supervised.
I am having a pretty good time now with my earliest memories. I hope you get a chance to visit yours soon!
This is one of those quotes that always seemed to make sense to me. Then I realized, it misses the mark in two ways:
1. Those who do learn from history often repeat it anyway. Israel, codependent spouses, alcoholics, warring nations, political parties, etc. may all have a decent grasp of their past and stil make the same dumb mistakes over and over and over.
2. Some lessons are better learned from a present and living God than from a history. Even God's history books in the bible, must be interpreted with the help of the spirit of the living God.
So, sorry George, no cigar. Nice saying, ok sentiment, but I am moving on.
Monday, September 11, 2006
A number of people I know and love have been called by God to dedicate their lives to spreading the good news about Jesus to the whole world. That makes God happy and it makes me happy.
However, there are evil forces in the world. Principalities and powers. Spirits may be the best name we can come up with for them. The impact of evil around us should be enough to convince anyone that such forces are at work.
Well I am angry because those people I love are being attacked by evil forces.
Please join me in praying that those we love will be given the strength to withstand whatever comes against them.
I particularly pray for my daughters Julia and Pamela. For Julia's husband Viggo. And for Pamela's good friend in Ecuador, Bethany Horne.
"Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. You've got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight." --Bruce Cockburn
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Tomorrow is our fellowship's (New Life Fellowship) twenty fifth anniversary. Barbara and I joined the fellowship almost 23 years ago.
The day after tomorrow is the twenty fifth anniversary of my marriage to Barbara.
I spent six hours in the past few days scanning in pictures from the past two decades.
Children were born, grew up, got married, had babies.
I saw faces that reminded me of weddings, suicide, baptisms, funerals, graduations, first steps, last words, friends, fights, gossip, encouragement, singing, wailing, joy, despair, drug addiction, games, potlucks, fear, delight, and the list goes on.
I realized that my life has made a difference in many other lives. Sometimes a small difference.
Sometimes a large difference. Sometimes I was following Gods leading. Many times I was not.
I feel that I have lived a lot, but that it seems to have passed quickly.
In the years or months or days that remain, I want to live my life as though it really matters.
I have come much closer to realizing that it really does.
May God grant us all the faith to believe that we are here to matter.
Julia is pregnant. She is due on March 20. Here is a picture of me holding her when she was a baby. I talk a lot and I write a lot. But I don't have words to express how it feels knowing that my baby is going to have a baby!
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Charles is very happy that his mom came with him, bought a ton of stuff, and helped him settle in. However, Charles is still not ready for cuddly pictures and he is ready for Mom to go home.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I think it is time to stop whining about getting old and to be thankful that this ended so well!
Folks who actually saw the wreck were pretty impressed that we crawled out alive and relatively unscathed. Of course they were a bit distracted by the power lines that swayed, struck sparks, and started a grass fire a few yards from the car.
It happened to be a very busy time in the emergency room. I got to practice relaxation techniques while strapped to a rock hard back board and waiting for the doctor to get to the easy cases like me. I prayed. My family prayed. My church family prayed. I had some tense moments, but I was very grateful for the outpouring of love and support.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I got a cane for my birthday. It wasn't a joke. I asked for a cane because I'm trying to make my arthritic knee last a bit longer.
I have grown kids, including a married daughter. I have a white beard. I walk with a cane.
All of this is genuinely blowing my mind.
The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I still love to learn. I am more and more free of the illusion that I have to hurry up and learn "enough" . There will never be enough. That is one reason why eternity will be a blast rather than boring.
My body is aging and I am struggling a bit to accept that fact. I thank God that he is faithful to grow us in mind and spirit, now and for eternity. I also thank him that we get new bodies somewhere down the line!
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Sometimes they don't show up at all. It seems to want to limit me to five. And if I get all five loaded, they wind up in the wrong order on the page.
I give up on using the blog. But here is a link to a folder on Snapfish: http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=855131155516439017/l=117366418/g=59969900/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB
The opening page has a log-in. Ignore that. Just push the view now button and a page of thumbnail photos should pop up. You can then either view a slide show or select an particular photo.
I've been wanting to post this for the past two weeks, but life has been a bit hectic since I got back. Plus, I couldn't seem to get past the mechanics of it. I hope this works.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Why me Lord? What have I ever done, to deserve even one, of the blessings I've known?
That is a line from a Kris Kristofferson song that Johnny Cash recorded. A wonderful trip like this has to make me think about such questions.
Barbara and I just spent a couple of days at a little hotel on the waterfront of Stavern, a touristy spot a hour or so drive south of where Julia and Viggo live. The Schnake's and the Larsen's (Viggo and Julia) had separate rooms and a lovely romantic time was had by all. We were in crowds of tourists and packed restaraunts and never heard an American word (except us) and the skies were not cloudy all day! Beaches, art, food, walks, etc. etc.
Just today Barbara and I rode bikes straight from Julia and Viggo's house to the nearest city of Tonsberg. A slightly challenging ride for a middle age guy with one good knee, but it was a blast.
We had dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront there and even knew one of the waiters (a friend of J &V). Julia and Viggo were at a missions conference, so we did this on our own. Barbara was exulting about how we weren't old after all, when a twenty something ultra tan blonde in biking clothes passed us going so fast that I got off my bike to see why it had stopped moving (well, I felt like I should).
Here is the other why: So I am sitting at a table just outside the hotel in Stavern, waiting for the others. It is one of the few smoking allowed spots, and a lady walks up and says something in Norwegian that probably meant "do you mind if I smoke". I gestured for her to sit. Then I realized that she looked amazingly like my Mom a couple of years before she died. She was about sixty, short, and overweight. She had a deep tan and the associated facial wrinkles from years of that and years of smoking. Her smile, her dyed blond hair, her cough, and even the denim pants suit that she wore all created an haunting resemblance to my Mom. We didn't speak, so I sat quietly and watched her smoke a cigarette with exactly the same movements that my mom had used.
So why, Lord? Why that particular reminder at such a strange spot and time?
I just couldn't think of a reason. Just like I can't think of a reason that I should be blessed with this wonderful trip and the friends and family that have helped make it possible and wonderful.
Grace. It has to be grace.
Friday, July 21, 2006
However, ocassionally, even I am not too deaf to hear God joyously pronounce "I love you Kent, more than you can imagine" There have been many such moments on this trip. I am with the woman I love so much, celebrating 25 years of a great marriage that is only getting better. I have cruised north of the arctic circle, sunned myself with Julia, Viggo, and Barbara on a big rock at a beautiful beach overlooking the Oslo fjord filled with sun drenched islands and boats of all kinds. I have hugged Julia after almost a year of not being able to. I have slept like a rock and eaten all sorts of wonderful food, as well as some pretty weird stuff just for fun.
At times I have genuinely enjoyed being a clueless tourist. For example, the latest faux pas: I was so busy trying to figure out how to use the coin operated bathroom that I failed to notice that I was entering the women's rather than the men's. It was empty at first, but I was so enjoying the seclusion of sitting in a toilet stall sealed like a bank vault (I think Norwegians are very secretive about defecation), that I failed to realize that the outer room was filling with women waiting for their shot at the toilet. I opened the door of the vault and stared straight into the eyes of 5 or 6 Norwegian women who were probably already ticked off that they had to wait!
All I could do was smile pathetically and say in English "looks like I got the wrong one". Someone said "It's o.k., but it was in the tone of voice you would use with a friend's toddler who has just broken one of your favorite possessions." Even so, I had to take time to wash may hands lest I be thought even more disgusting ! Just me and the ladies hanging out in the shopping mall ladies restroom.
Another time Barbara had spotted Reindeer on a nearby slope as we sat in the hot tub on the back deck of our cruise ship. She had been looking carefully for them since what had seen deer droppings in the port town that we had just stopped at. A French woman and her thirteen year old daughter were sharing the hot tub with us and seemed rather pleased that Barbara was able to haltingly converse with them in French. That is, they did seem pleased until Barbara tried to explain that we had known to look for the reindeer because of the droppings, which she called "merde". I wanted to chime in and shook my head excitedly saying "oui, merde". Well we knew that merde is closer to meaning shit than it is to meaning droppings, but we had to work with what we had. The girl and her mother had a look on their face that clearly indicated that all their doubts and fears about Americans were true after all! We repaired the situation enough so that they did not jump screaming out of the hot tub or avoid us for the rest of the trip.
Since we are on a fecal theme here (for those who haven't signed off already), I suppose I should mention the coin operated public toilet in downtown Tromso (another arctic port town). A couple of guys were servicing the men's side, but seemed o.k. with the idea of me using the other stall. What I didn't know was that the stall was totally mechanized and that the power was about to go out. I could read the operating instructions in Norwegian either. So the door wouldn't lock, the lights went out and I couldn't operate the flush, the sink, etc. Plus as I sat on the stool I tried to hold the door shut and kept thinking that maybe I could lock it by turning the handle. Barbara thought I was locked in and tried to pull the door open for me. I thought it was someone trying to come in, so we both pulled hard on the handle in a bizzare tug of war which I hope to never repeat. The lights came back on and at least I got my pant's back up before a Nowegian lady yanked to door open and began to say of a lot of very excited things in Norwegian. I think she was apologizing, but I can't be sure.
Really I have a lot of very beautiful stories to tell as well, but I cannot easily post photos from this computer, so I will save them for more normal travelogue type post sometime in the future.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
This afternoon we board ship for a 7 day cruise along the coast up the the far northern tip of Norway.
I may have a chance to post here and there.
May God bless you all.
Monday, July 03, 2006
When I was a boy, I felt as if everyone had always been just the way I saw them. Of course they told me that they had once been little boys and girls, but I could not imagine how that “old” person in front of me could ever have been young. My grandfather had always been a stern, gray old man. My father had always been a big, loud, family man. I had always just been me, a kid.
I began to realize that I changed rather quickly from little boy to teen to young man. It took many more years before I realized that my parents and grandparents had grown older as well. It was only recently that I realized I am as old as that stern, gray, old man who was my grandfather. I am much older than the big, loud, family man who shepherded me through my childhood. My dad was 41 when I graduated from high school. I was 55 this year when my son Charles graduated.
I welcome the idea of dying and going to heaven to be with God forever. I dread the inexorable decay of my body as I grow older. I embrace the lessons I am being taught. I cherish my bits of hard won wisdom. I pray that this dying body will be an ever present reminder of this world, and the ways of the world, which will pass away. It is my spirit, and the works of my spirit which God enables, that will remain forever. In my heavenly home, I will be cloaked in a new body. It will be better by far than any I have had in this life. I pray I will use wisely the brief time remaining to me on this earth. I pray that I will join all of you, when we are finally home.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
We laboriously hauled our gear from the dock to a spot half a mile or so along the beach facing the mainland. The boat operator just shook his head at the two skinny teens hauling boxes, bags, and even a metal garbage can filled with scuba gear. Apparently very few folks camped on Ship Island.
It was boy heaven. We had a tiny pup tent. We cooked on a camp stove and a driftwood fire. We swam with fins and snorkels for hours and hours in the relatively warm waters of the gulf. Small reefs were just offshore and swarmed with lots of interesting fish. The scuba tank allowed us to marvel at the sensation of breathing while several feet below the surface. At night we fished off the dock while the mosquitoes enjoyed a hearty meal on our bare torsos. When we bedded down, so many mosquitoes had joined us in our screened in pup tent that we decided on a radical course of action. We sprayed the tiny interior of the tent full of Black Flag flying insect poison. We even sprayed it into our palms and coated our bodies with it. The mosquitoes promptly died, apparently it is taking a while longer for Tom and I.
I don’t know how many nights we stayed. I do remember the huge black squall line that filled the sky as a big storm headed our way. The owner of the gift shop etcetera was kind enough to walk down the beach to let us know that the storm was a big one. He told us we were welcome to come up under his house and cling to the wood pilings if things got too hairy. However, we figured we were safe one or two feet above sea level in a pup tent that was anchored to the sand dunes with long pieces of driftwood. I imagine we might have died had we chosen to camp on the windward side of the island, just a few hundred yards away. Even on the lee side the storm howled and ripped at the tent. One year after we camped there, hurricane Camille cut the island in half. Last year Katrina widened the gap so much that only two small islands are left and all human construction other than the massive fort was swept away.
We awoke to an eerie quiet the next morning after sleeping soundly through much of the storm. We spied the gift shop empresario walking quickly to our tent. Breathlessly he asked if we were o.k. The storms winds were so strong that his building swayed badly on its wooden stilts. The family finally fled to the refuge of the old fort to wait out the storm. After he left, we congratulated ourselves on our cunning resourcefulness in the face of nature’s fury. I had not yet realized that fools bed down where angels fear to camp.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
An early memory is playing in the 95 lb. football league in suburban New Orleans about 1961. My coach was eager to retain a player who was moving on to the 110 lb. league. Even though the kid was tall and skinny as a rail, the coach tried to get him to cut his food intake. He made the kid run lots of extra laps in hopes of sweating enough weight off of him to get him back into the 95 lb. league. To my father’s eternal credit, he came to practice and chewed the coach a new orifice after I carried the tale home.
It was taken for granted in that era that coaches should humiliate and physically punish their charges. Wind sprints until we puked and the like were par for the course. They were expected. My junior high team (7th – 9th grade) started the football season in August of the New Orleans summer, 90 degrees and 90 percent relative humidity. We were sweating by the time we tied our cleats. Practice lasted for several hours each morning. The coaches used every means of control possible. Verbal abuse, kicking, pushing, laps, and the like were common. One coach carried a length of broomstick that we referred to as the green weenie. He had taped one end to give him a no slip grip as he beat our backsides. One form of discipline that I really hated was how water was controlled. Sometimes we were allowed brief breaks to fight among ourselves to get a few gulps from an outdoor faucet. We ran to the faucet and attempted to drink while the other players fought to push in for their turn. If someone was strong enough to stay at the faucet for more than a few gulps, the coach would shove him away and declare that too much water would result in cramps. What I really dreaded however, was watering by rag. The coach would dip a dirty rag into a bucket of water. Those he felt had performed the best were allowed to suck on the rag first. He moved the rag amongst us until the weakest or most inept players were allowed only to chew the saliva laden rag in hopes of moistening their mouths.
Although such things were miserable to endure, they were temporary. That cannot be said of my knee injury. It occurred as I ran downfield during a summer scrimmage. I was blindsided by a running block. I spun completely around while standing on one leg. Unfortunately the long cleats we wore in those days kept my foot and lower leg from turning with the rest of the body. The pain in my knee was perhaps the worst I have ever felt. As I thrashed on the ground the head coach shouted at me. “Get up Schnake. Get up.” Each time I tried to rise, I collapsed in agony. Finally the coached walked over and kicked me onto my back. “Looks like you’re going to have one of these”, he chuckled as he pulled up his pants leg to expose a huge scar on the side of his knee. “Get him off my field” was his next comforting statement. Teammates dragged me to the side of the field. I propped my leg on my helmet since I was unable to straighten the leg as I lay there. Later when practice ended, I implored the coach, “How can I get home, I rode my bike?”
“That’s your problem” he called back, as he strode off the field.
I managed to hop on one leg to the school parking lot where someone’s mom gave me a ride home. I wore a cast for a few weeks. Ten years later, after my leg buckled under me a few times, I had surgery to remove torn cartilage. Now at age fifty five, I wear a brace to minimize the grinding of bone on bone in what is left of my knee.
But I could still swim! In fact I was better at swimming than any other sport. I started about age 12 and continued through college. Most swimming coaches were profane and loved to see us exhausted, but the opportunities for outright beatings and for injuries were fewer. Perhaps that frustrated my college swimming coach. He was very eager to assert his authority. He was a junior member of the coaching staff at a small university (Carnegie-Mellon) that was well known for academics. Athletics were an afterthought. He loved to have us sit shivering in our Speedos as he glared down at us and gave fiery “pep talks”. He also laid out the rules. I had grown a sparse mustache and pair of long sideburns. “No hair on your face”, he declared. “Shave or you are off the team.”
It is important to realize that this was in 1968. Attached is the cover of a Beatle’s album released in 1967, “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. You can see wax figures of the early 60’s Beatles to on the left side of the cover. They were called “mop heads”. By the late 60’s Beatles had mustaches and side burns. It is hard to remember, even for me, how shocking their hair and facial hair was for that generation.
My coach was not alone in deploring my appearance. Our culture was convulsing. Hippies were suddenly a big item in the news. Long hair and facial hair were more than a fashion; they were a political statement.
I really loved swimming, but I also loved my new found freedom at college. How could I have both? I decided to do something that was very uncharacteristic for me, I went to the authorities. In this case, I made an appointment with the Dean of Men. Perhaps he would be willing to hear my case. As I walked into his office I suddenly realized I was fortunate beyond my wildest dreams. It happened that the Dean was a black man with a mustache. I made my case. He listened intently. “I think we may be able to help”, he said.
I attended my next swim practice with my mustache still feebly sprouting from my upper lip. The coach called us together for a shivering session. He paced back and forth. He could not conceal his rage, and he spoke with difficulty.
“Some anonymous coward has gone behind my back.” he shouted. “Whoever it was didn’t have the guts to oppose me to my face. He talked to the Dean, which is just about as high as you can go in the college administration. Now the Dean is telling me that I can’t make rules about hair, beards, and mustaches. But I see a way to deal with this. If you, the team, vote to adopt the rules, then they won’t be my rules. They will be the team’s rules.”
I marveled that the coach spoke as if there was any mystery about who had spoken to the Dean. I was the only team member with a mustache and sideburns. No one else had questioned his rules. How could he not see that it was me? Why wasn’t he speaking directly to me instead of in generalities? I decided to clear things up.
“Coach, I told you I didn’t like the rules. I am the one who spoke to the Dean. Why would you say I am a coward?”
It was years before I realized that he knew full well it was me. Perhaps he was trying to humiliate or intimidate me. Fortunately, I thought he was just a bit slow on the uptake. So I laid things out for him clearly.
The coach still held the vote. It was unanimous, against him.
The team captain pulled me aside and berated me for embarrassing the coach in front of the team. I was amazed. Wasn’t I the one that had been called a coward? How could he be the one who was wronged?
I swam on that team for all four years at Carnegie-Mellon. Eventually I was elected captain of the team. I tied the school record for 200 yard freestyle. But I always sensed that our coach would have preferred to see me quit. In 1972 Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in the Olympics. He had a mustache.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I have not had so many loose threads weave together at once since I became a Christian. What do pagans, vegetarians, naturopaths, the Greens and hippies have in common? This article at the link above explores the connections.
The creation is a good thing. God made it. Some folks just get confused and worship the creation rather than its creator. And hippies forgot about sin, for a while.