Marvelous Monday

Each morning, the driver of the bus I ride makes an announcement over the loudspeaker as we arrive at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. It may be that his former vocation was pastor or politician; he seems to love alliteration. I suppose he wants to make sure we’re all awake and that we will get off his bus; he always makes an effort to sound upbeat (apparently he hasn’t read my comments on the advisability of pre-noon cheerful chatter in a previous blog entry). Mondays are Marvelous, Tuesdays Terrific (at the Terminal), Wednesdays are frequently Wonderful in Winslow (the actual name of the village at this end of the island), and Fridays either Fabulous or Fantastic, at the Ferry, of course. I don’t ride the bus on Thursdays … I wonder if he extends the alliteration to include the ‘h’, as in “Thankful Thursdays”?

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This is the #90 bus with the cheerful driver, stopping for me at the Nazarene Church Park & Ride. Don’t be fooled (as I frequently am) by the #33.

He usually has something positive to say on Fridays, but the Monday crowd is pretty somber … today he decided to spice it up a little:

“I’m happy to report that they haven’t moved the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal over the weekend; not that they usually do, but you can never be too careful on a Monday.”

It actually brought to mind a funny mental picture of black-masked desperadoes carrying the terminal away piecemeal in the dark of night, perhaps attempting to rally popular support for their struggle against the oppressor, but nobody even cracked a smile as far as I could see. I guess if he wants a better reaction, he’ll have to drive an afternoon bus route or start working the improvisational comedy circuit.

Dashing he may be, but he didn’t steal my ferry terminal.

It is always interesting to see how different people cope with jobs that lack sufficient scope for their personality. One of the drivers for the shuttle van service that is provided by my employer is an intelligent, articulate man who formerly managed a television station in Bremerton. Whenever I sit in the front seat, I like to engage him in discussion that ranges across a variety of topics … I can’t help feeling that his gifts are wasted as a shuttle driver. Many of the security guards that I encounter are friendly, gregarious people who seem to be well above the mental capability that one would expect in such a position. Perhaps one positive effect that the economic down-turn has brought about is a certain leveling of the playing field … some of the social stigma associated with service industry jobs has been swept away, as hundreds of thousands of ‘professionals’ have been forced into such employment, if only temporarily.

When I was in high school, I worked at a nearby hotel as a yard boy, bellboy, and eventually, desk clerk. When business was slow, I used to help out in the restaurant, busing tables. Later I sold fish across the counter at a nearby fish-market, served another hotel as a desk clerk, and worked the deli counter in a supermarket. Over the years I have held numerous office clerk and typist jobs, including an 8-month stint as a secretary. Those experiences cause me to closely identify with the people that I encounter who are working in service jobs. I try always to be kind, generous and courteous to anyone who is serving me.

One of my favorite little books is Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, written by a (14th?) century (French?) monk. It is well-worth reading, and for that reason, I will not attempt to summarize the secrets of that little pamphlet here. It is noteworthy, however, that this weighty little book was written by a person who held (as far as I can tell) no significant position of leadership, but rather served in the kitchen as a dishwasher and occasionally as a commissary agent for the monastery.

Whatever the world may say about success and the measure of a man’s life, it seems that God has the final word:

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things … and the things that are not … to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God … that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” I Corinthians 1:20-25

When those of us who love God stand before Him (or more likely, when we fall on our face before Him) we will be held to account for every word that we speak, and for what we have done with the gifts that He gave to us. I suspect that many of the good and faithful servants will turn out to have been people of little account according to worldly standards.

As is expressed in the well-known Psalm, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10a) It doesn’t seem to matter what we do or how much we earn or who we impress, as long as we please God and enjoy Him.

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Friday the 13th

It is Friday, the 13th, (well, it was when I wrote this, anyway) and so far nothing particularly unlucky has happened to me, although a pigeon just flew past my table inside the ferry and is now terrorizing nearby passengers with the fear that it may be incontinent. When I worked at the Department of Agriculture, one of my co-workers once suffered from a pigeon’s indiscretion on his bald spot … he was thoroughly disgusted, as I recall. Hopefully this bird can escape through the open doors at the front of the ferry without offending in this manner.

We were delayed leaving the dock by a large Egyptian ship, the Wadi Alrayan, registered out of Alexandria. Carrying in the neighborhood of 700 sea-containers (11 rows, 13 columns, stacked on average 5 high = 715), this squat barge-like vessel wallowed across our watery path in languid insolence. One can only speculate as to what Seattle could be shipping in such quantities to Egypt, if that is indeed the intended destination. At the rate they are currently traveling, I hope it isn’t anything perishable, like, say, coffee?

Today is the last day of Vacation Bible School at the Quilcene Bible Church … the reports I hear from the kids are very positive. Joshua was given a role in the closing program skit, which he invariably enjoys. I hope to get to the church in time to see some part of the program, if the road construction delays are not too severe.

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[Roll the clock forward two hours ...]

As it happened, I walked in the door of the church just as Joshua was narrating for his group’s skit … I hope that he saw me standing in the back. He did a great job, and was complimented by a number of people. At the end, he stepped out of his role as narrator and joined those in the skit who were crossing over the bridge from death into life — he wasn’t too cool to physically climb up on the table and walk across, even though he could have avoided it as narrator. I guess he knew which side he wanted to be on — I was proud of him. Now I’m sitting outside, behind the church, in self-imposed exile with my two youngest (and loudest) children, as the closing program continues in (relative) quiet.

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Kathy and I are thinking seriously about moving to a rental house somewhere closer to my work. Whatever the future may hold, it seems that we must plan for the strong possibility that I will not be able to work from home in the near term. Kathy’s friend Julee was here Wednesday and Thursday, singing the praises of Lakewood. We contacted a rental agent and found a few homes that might provide enough room for our horde while not breaking us financially. One possibility is that we might make our existing home available to The Refuge over the course of the next year. Alternatively, we might find an inexpensive smaller home, and live part time in town, part time in the country. I think that both plans have merit … it will largely depend on what we find in terms of available rental properties.

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Poor in Spirit –KME

I did an intense study about being Poor in Spirit this evening. Much of it was filled with passages sharing how God deals with those who are broken before Him. As I was looking up some of the scriptures I stumbled upon a sermon on true Christianity. The study focused on Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 1:21. In my reading I was convicted on the idea of laying down my life before the Lord, of dying to myself and surrendering to Him. How petty and selfish I have been lately. It shames me to think of my prideful attitude. I have been dealing with a relational problem for several months now and if I’m not careful I let it consume my thoughts and my conversations. I’m afraid I forgot my own place of brokenness. I forgot my own unworthiness and helplessness before the Lord. I forgot that the Bible tells me to put other people before myself. I should be thinking more about how I can serve the Lord and how I can love Him and hunger and thirst for Him, and less about myself and my troubles and the ways I’ve been hurt.

Some Inter-Varsity W&M friends on graduation day

Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We sang this song often in Inter-Varsity when Tim and I attended the College of William and Mary. Tonight the words spoke to me anew. Jesus loved me so much He was willing to die for me. The life I live is in Him. I must come to Him emptied of my self, of my selfishness, of my own pride, even my own ideas of how life should go and be filled with Him. He offers true life, true bread and water, and a promise to always be with me.

This changes my perspective on many things!

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Fog of the Soul

Today looks to be another bright day filled with sunshine, topping out at 85 degrees. But a dense fog lies over bridges and coastline this morning, muffling sound and motion so that even the mammoth Washington State Ferry creeps in to the dock “on little cat feet” (a nod to Carl Sandburg, who is not my favorite poet).


In some ways this fog paints a picture of my heart these last few weeks. I have been carrying around with me a sense of bitterness and disappointment in the way that God is managing my life, and it cuts me off from a lot of the joy of living as one of His children, just as a thick fog prevents us from enjoying the beauty of the world around us. At the risk of over-extending a shaky metaphor, there may be a parallel between the limitations that fog can impose on speedy travel and the limitations that distrust in God may place on our rate of travel on our spiritual journey.

A large contributor of the shadow in my heart is lack of sleep. I am a night person, and waking up weekdays at 5:42 am is a significant hardship for me. Even after more than 100 days on this schedule, I cannot seem to get used to it. Everything seems gloomy to a person who is tired.

We were delayed in boarding the ferry this morning for several minutes after the west-bound passengers had disembarked. Finally a woman staggered up the ramp, slowly threading her way between the packed and indifferent Seattle-bound passengers. A moment before she passed me she lost her balance and staggered into a large man a few feet in front of me. I got a good look at her face as she passed me … her weary expression spoke of despair and hopelessness. Apparently she had fallen asleep on the ferry and was belatedly awakened and ejected by the crew, who are responsible to clear the ferry of passengers between voyages. Her clothes and figure suggested a woman in her late 20′s, but her face looked at least 20 years older.

I hope that my face doesn’t look quite that bad as I make my tedious commute. In the interests of upholding the standards of photographic art, I will not be posting a picture.

I am disappointed with the loss of my high-salaried work-from-home situation, and am not as grateful as I should be for my new job in Seattle, even after 17 months of semi-unemployment. I feel betrayed by the way that the conflict with our former church played out and by God’s apparent unwillingness to uphold His Word and discipline His Church. Imagine my surprise, then, as I read from I Peter and discovered that it is not all about me!

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. I Peter 4:12-14

I think that is exactly how I feel … I continue to be surprised that (for example) my firm stance on a literal interpretation of the Bible would result in shunning and insult from other believers. And yet these verses indicate (as do so many) that life, even ‘my’ life, is not about me, not about my rights or prerogatives or comfort. Instead, it is all about the soon-to-be-fully-revealed glory of God.

Peter goes on to talk about the difference between suffering for our own crimes and suffering for the name of Jesus … it makes me wonder how much of my loss in privilege and compensation was a result of my own lack of diligence, and how much of it is caused by factors outside my control? These are not comfortable thoughts … I would much rather think of myself as a victim than as the architect of my own misfortune.


The last time I was this tired on a consistent basis was during Basic Training when I enlisted in the Army as a private (first class). As the summer of 1986 faded, I routinely faced days of grueling physical training on less than four hours of sleep. In that circumstance, I had deprived myself of considerable privilege and compensation (a four-year college scholarship through the Army ROTC program) through my own lack of diligence, yet I would very much have preferred to think of myself as a victim and spent many entertaining hours blaming the Army and my professors. Is my history repeating itself?

I suppose I could ask my former boss how it came about that I was selected to be laid off, among the other 20-25% of the people in my department. I had received a good performance review at the beginning of the year, but things can change quickly in a corporate environment. As I think of it, though, the point may be moot. It matters much less what my boss thought and it is all about what God thought. The summer before I was laid off, I took a lot of time off from work, some of it associated with the birth of Sarah, but much of it connected to the construction of my deck. I would not be surprised to discover that God was displeased by my lack of diligence in my work, even if my former boss was unaware of the extent my attention was focused elsewhere. There is no doubt in my mind that I could (and should) have worked harder, especially considering the salary I was earning and the privilege I enjoyed of working from home, four days a week.

The long and short of it is that I seem to have betrayed myself, at least in the matter of my work. If, because of my own untrustworthiness, I am now required to work on-site for less pay and with more tedium, I have no one to blame. Rather, I ought to be thankful for a second chance and an opportunity to redeem my career and relearn a proper work ethic. It is perhaps time for me to stop complaining about my job and its associated commute, a topic that has perhaps been over-featured in this blog.

As usual, it depends on how you look at the situation. From one perspective, I am being punished by God, from another, I am being given a chance (as in Basic Training) to learn (or re-learn) diligence in a job that is frequently tedious, not always fun, and that requires me to be away from my family for a large portion of the week. I guess the question is, do I want to be a well-trained servant, able and ready to work for the Master, or would I rather sit around & drink blends? (That was a rhetorical question, no answer is necessary or desired. And of course, there is no higher calling than making blends, if not drinking them.)

So, what about the trouble with my former church? Did God, in fact, let me down? The prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 28:16 indicates that I am the one who let God down, by failing to trust in Him fully:

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”

Is it reasonable that I would be vindicated by God according to my timetable? Is it proper that He allow my opponents in this situation to apparently or at least temporarily go unpunished?

Again, it seems that it is not all about me. Much of my motivation in desiring justice in this matter is so that I may be vindicated … so that those who have insulted me would be humbled and forced to admit that I was right, for the greater glory of Tim. If God chooses to defer judgment in this matter or even to entirely forgive, isn’t that His prerogative, and doesn’t that mercy accrue to His glory? I find myself in the place of the wicked servant illustrated in Matthew 18:23-35, when I refuse to forgive my brother for a small debt, having been forgiven millions myself.

How do I go about forgiving those who have wronged God, and have wronged me in passing? I have tried repeatedly in my own strength and yet I continue to feel bitterness toward several in this category. The only answer I can think of is that I can pray … starting today I can pray and ask God each day to give me a spirit of forgiveness.

At some point I hope to remember that I am a servant of God, not the Master. It is appropriate for me to suffer, and that I should consider it joy to be allowed to suffer in the interests of His glory. Admittedly, it will take some effort to clear away this fog of self-pity and self-importance. I need to continue to study the scriptures that point to Christ, and get my mind off my own desires and comforts.

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Although the middle of the Puget Sound was heavily covered in thick fog, we eventually crept our way to the docks of Seattle, where the sun blazed through, slashing the dense mists into ribbons of insubstantial vapor. I think perhaps God is not intimidated by the fog over my soul, either; His truth can incinerate my clouded thinking in much the same way.

It looks to be another beautiful day, dominated by blues and greens and golden sunshine … how delightful to be able to look around and enjoy it!

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It was a bright and sunny day on Monday, already near 70 degrees by the time I boarded the ferry, with hazy blue skies and mountains on every horizon. The last time I checked the weather, they were saying this week would be partly cloudy and in the low-to-mid 70s; now they are predicting 90 degree temperatures.

Sunday was one of those picture postcard summer days, with sunshine pouring down like a golden waterfall. The kids spent almost the entire afternoon in the pool or playing with the sprinkler on the lawn. We bought a funny sprinkler that has twenty or thirty little nozzles on flexible tubes coming out from the main hose … when turned on, the nozzles flail about like a bunch of spitting snakes. Rachel appointed herself “Sprinkler Drill Sergeant” and amused herself (and the rest of us) by ordering the snakes about in an imperious voice. Leanne came over and they played outside for several hours.

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At one point (Kathy and I had retreated inside by this time) they came up with the bright idea of using a hose to create a mud hole. Then they began wallowing around in it like hogs … I wish I had taken a picture. By all reports, they covered themselves from head to toe in mud; I made them all wash up thoroughly in the little pool before coming inside. The pool (which we had just cleaned and refilled) was brown with their residue.

A week or so ago we invented a variant of Dodgeball that can be played on our deck … this weekend we played it for quite a while. The rules are simple and it is a game that can be played by everyone on various levels. Joshua makes it a matter of pride to avoid being ‘it’ for as long as possible, and never moves from the position he thinks is most defensible. Daniel delights in the brinkmanship of taunting whoever is ‘it’ and runs from safe zone to safe zone whenever the ball is dropped or not immediately returned. Rachel combines these two strategies, while David (as a pseudo-combatant) runs freely around and is only occasionally struck by the ball (usually by accident). Sarah provides cover for the others and makes a big production out of hiding behind the deck box for safety.

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This is a moment that may not last for very long, wherein the children are all of an age where they want to play with me. In just a few years, the older ones will have moved on to other interests, most likely. But for now, there is a window of opportunity in which we can all play together, and everything can become a game.

Somehow I got a hold of Joshua’s blow-dart gun, and a new game was born. Possession of the rubber-tipped blow-dart entitled the holder to the dart-gun itself, and the hunt would begin. The objective was to shoot an opponent with the dart without losing possession of the gun … all the kids joined in the mad scramble to retrieve the dart whenever it was fired, in hopes of becoming the new hunter. Sarah went around asking to be shot, and David shrieked with glee (and simulated fear) whenever anyone would brandish the blow-gun. It was a lot of fun, for some reason.

I guess I simply like being a Dad. I really enjoy being fun with these strange little people; it never stops to fill me with wonder that God has allowed Kathy and I to have a part in creating these precious lives. Sometimes I worry about my lack of ability in molding them into the kind of people that God wants them to be, but mostly I just revel in the fun of being a parent. I figure if I can teach them to love God, the rest is gravy.

We had scrambled eggs and toast and grapes and cantaloupe and root beer floats for dinner, watching one of the “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. After supper we wrestled for a while on the living room floor and then I sent them off to bed. I read them a chapter from the Bible (we’re back in Genesis again) and then a chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It was a very good day.

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