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Sweet Sixteen

I know, this blog post is supposed to be about today, or at least, the photo is supposed to be taken on or near this day, otherwise, what is the point of a Project 365 blog?

Rules, or at least the following of them, have never been my forte.

This picture was taken near Rachel’s 16th birthday, back in December. Some dear friends loaned us their cool bus (pictured below) and Rachel took a group (gaggle?) of girls up to Bellevue Square to window shop. We decorated the bus, stocked it with goodies, but we still needed a driver.

Fearless Driver
The birthday girl and her driver

“There’s no way I’m going,” I bluffed, trying to look like I was really digging in my heels. “Shopping with a dozen girls, in Bellevue? That’s not really my scene.” I was weakening, and Rachel knew it. She gave me her ‘please, may I have a kitten?’ look, which she has been practicing for years.

I began to panic. Six or eight hours driving and shopping didn’t sound like much fun to me. “Wait, what about Michelle?” I blurted. (There’s nothing like a good panic to get the ‘ole brain cells firing.) “She loves to drive, and she’s a girl, so she probably doesn’t mind shopping!”

A few text messages later, Michelle was on the hook to drive the bus. What a great friend. Thanks, Michelle! And a special thank-you to our dear friends, who loaned us their bus, and didn’t even fuss when we blew out a fuse with our hot-water pot!

A gaggle o' girls
Rachel has a nice group of friends.

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Christmas Peas

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but some pictures raise a thousand questions.

This is hardly unusual when my son Joshua, and his crafty cousin Rebecca, are involved.


Let’s just say that there was a prank involved, and Grandma was the victim. Or was she?

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The Last Hot Day of Summer

On the last hot day of Summer, I decided to take my family to the shore. Although our part of Washington abounds with lakes, and we live just a few miles from the Puget Sound, there’s just something about the Ocean that demands special attention.

Earlier in the week, I rallied the kids: “We’ll go to church on Saturday evening, and then leave just after Sunday School. We’ll be on the beach, playing in the waves, by 1 pm!”

Of course, we didn’t leave right after Sunday School. We came home, made a lunch, lolly-gagged around, and eventually got on the road about an hour after I had planned. Still, we reached the edge of Ocean Shores just before 2 pm.

Blazing, hot sunshine had persisted throughout our journey, with temperatures in the upper 80′s. Passing through Aberdeen, one bank boasted 89 degrees on their electronic marquee.

“What a great day to spend at the beach,” I chortled.

Kathy was the first to notice that something was wrong. As we approached the beach, there was a sudden cessation of sunlight.

“Hey! Where’d the sun go?” Kathy worried aloud, outraged. Living in western Washington, Kathy has learned to really cherish the sunshine we do receive.

The last 'hot' day of Summer
Kathy was underwhelmed with this ‘last hot day of Summer’.

As we drove onto the beach, a thick mist surrounded the car, blotting out the last of the Summer’s heat, transforming the sun into a pale yellow ball with the wattage of a dim streetlight.

“It’ll let up any minute,” I pronounced, sagely. (I’m famous for my weather predictions, and coined that phrase during a very rainy visit to the zoo, many years ago.)

For some reason, no one seemed visibly heartened by my prediction. Numbly, we watched our van’s temperature gauge drop briskly through the 80′s, 70′s and 60′s, settling at a frigid 58. Reluctantly, the kids and I got out of the car, bracing against the chill wind.

Kathy stayed in her seat. “I’m not going out there,” she said firmly.

Kathy in hiding
Rachel: “C’mon, Mom, get out of the car.” Kathy: “Nope. Not budging.”

My children seem to lack even a rudimentary sense of self-preservation, and ran to play in the waves. I scanned the water for ice floes, and gingerly dipped my toes in the water, shuddering with cold.

Swimmers in the mist
Swimmers in the Mist

The balmy waters of the North Pacific
They ran even faster, to get out of the waves.

The kids created an elaborate sand-kingdom, originally Narnia, but which was eventually transformed into Mordor. “The skies are more like Mordor,” Joshua insisted.

Joshua Smiles Cheerfully
Not the actual Lord of Mordor

After an hour of building sand castles, the girls staged a rebellion, master-minded by Kathy, who still hadn’t stepped out of the car.

“We need a bathroom. And sunshine,” they pleaded.

Eventually, even I had to admit that the fog wasn’t burning off, and we set off in search of sunshine. Just a mile or two inland, the sun shone brightly. We followed the coast north, hoping to find a place where the sun and the shore could live together in amity. I was determined to see a Pacific Sunset, and squandered the rest of the afternoon speeding along route 101, trying to outrace the fog.

My beloved family
We did find time to pose for the obligatory family portrait. “Everyone smile, or you’ll wish you had,” I threatened.

At the limit of everyone’s patience, I found a place where the road met the shore, and the sun still shone. Even here, the fog hovered just offshore, casting a shadow in the sky, if not directly on our faces. The wind blew fiercely, and the temperature held stubbornly at 63.

Daniel Crosses a Stump
Daniel poses heroically, just because he can.

Daniel and Sarah amused themselves by constructing a fort of driftwood. Joshua ran up and down the beach, while Rachel took pictures of her feet and the footprints she made. David planted a tree with more optimism than horticultural skill.

David plants a tree
I’m thinking, driftwood is unlikely to sprout.

We stayed until the sun was obscured by the ever-present bank of fog, calling that a ‘sunset’, before heading for home. It had been a very different day than I had expected — spent mostly huddling in sweatshirts rather than sweltering in t-shirts.

Sunset over the Pacific
Sometimes, you just have to call it a day.

It made me think about life — how so often, it turns out differently than we expect. Still, we had a pretty good time, because we were together as a family, and were determined to be cheerful. Stopping for milkshakes on the way home was perhaps my most inspired idea of the day.

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Tears and Laughter

This morning, I got up early to drive Kathy to the airport. She’s traveling to Minnesota to be with her Mom and to care for her Dad, who is very sick, being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

We’ve been praying and praying, and Kathy has been teary-eyed as she thinks about the uncertain future and her Dad’s health. It has been a sober and serious time for our whole family.

Sometimes I am amazed at God and how he brings joy and laughter into our lives, even at the darkest of times. This was one of those times.

Heartfelt apology
Joshua wins this round in the Great Sock War.

Rachel and Joshua went off to Winter Camp with the youth from our church … clearly, I should have watched them more closely as they were packing, yesterday afternoon. Although Joshua’s feet are bigger than mine, he takes great delight in stealing my socks (probably because I don’t run around outside sock-footed, and so mine aren’t all stained and hole-y.)

You have to wonder at the mindset of a boy who takes the time to write a note like that. I especially enjoyed the underline in his text:

I Took Your Socks. I’m Not Sorry.

To think that people say I’m the quirky one!

He’s a strange duck, that boy. Of course, that leaves the whole weekend in which I have free run of his room … bwahahahaha!

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On the Night He Was Betrayed

Last Saturday evening our church, like many other churches around the world, celebrated the ordinance of communion, or The Lord’s Supper, as it is known to some.

Most people don’t know all the work that goes into communion, in terms of the filling of the cups, the placement of the trays on the altar, the orderly serving of the seated congregation, and even the devotional that usually accompanies it. In our church, the elders are responsible to receive the communion trays from the pastor, and to walk the aisles, serving the congregation in their seats. Responsibility for the devotional falls to our senior pastor, but he likes to include the other pastors and even the more reliable elders.

It should be noted that I am not one of the ‘reliable elders’; I have never yet officiated at the communion table, and I like it that way.

One of our elders is an intelligent, capable sort of man (I hope he doesn’t read this, ’cause it would give him a big head), who remembers his appointments and cares about details. He is usually given the task of rounding up a suitable number of elders to serve communion for the second service, and everything runs smoothly because of his attention.

In October, this all changed, when our church added a service on Saturday nights. I decided to support the Saturday service, and so (in spite of fierce opposition on the part of my traditionalist family) we now attend the worship service on Saturdays, and go to Sunday school on (when else?) Sunday mornings. (I don’t think ‘Saturday School’ will ever catch on.)

Communion Tray
Our church uses the ‘single-pass’ trays, with the bread in the center, surrounded by the cups.

When it came time to serve communion this week, we were short on elders. There weren’t any other pastors in attendance, and there were only two ushers present (ushers are our usual fall-back). We need four men to properly serve our church; the only other likely candidate available was a man who is no longer active as an elder, but served for many years as the chairman of our board of elders. The problem was, he is also part of the worship team, and was standing, up on the platform, in front of the congregation.

Our pastor is crafty, though, and managed to alert him through repeated calls of Psssst! during the prayer, drafting him into communion service. I wonder what the worship leader thought of all the ‘Psssst-ing’ during his prayer?

But I digress.

I like serving communion. My heart is warmed by the smiles of the people on the aisle, as they receive the trays from my hand. I hold my breath with the parents, as their shoulders slump in relief, when the communion trays are successfully passed by their children without mishap. I enjoy the sacred, secretive look on people’s faces, as they are confronted with these tangible symbols of the awesome love of Christ, who gave up His life for them.

Kathy tells me that my children are sad when I’m not the one who passes the tray to them, and glad when I do. I guess it is sort of like the way that David and Sarah used to fight over who got to hold my left hand when walking through parking lots (they liked the hand with the ring on it). Hopefully Dave (the usher) won’t read this or be hurt by it.

For some reason, I often lose a communion tray. You’d think as a programmer, I could master this basic math: two hands, two trays. Two men serving a section of pews; a total of four hands, four trays. Pass ‘em down the first two rows, then move to the third and fourth rows to receive the other two trays, repeat until you’re out of rows. It is hardly rocket surgery.

But people don’t sit in an orderly fashion. (Personally, I think they do it on purpose.) Sometimes one couple will sit all the way to the left or right of an empty row, and so the server on that side has to serve them without actually passing the tray down the length of the row. By the time we got to the back of the church, I had only one tray, and there were only two visible in play. I frantically walked back up the rows of worshipers, but to no avail — the tray was gone.

Maybe this happens to keep me humble, or maybe there is a conspiracy among the ushers to embarrass me — I don’t know for sure. The tray was eventually located, and three of them ended up in my partner’s hands, which is always fun to watch. I tried to pretend as though one tray was all I had been given, and demurely made my escape through the swinging doors at the back of the sanctuary.

As I returned to sit for my family, the pastor read this passage from the first letter to the Church at Corinth:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I’ve heard that passage read nearly every month since I was a little boy — and because of that, I tend to hear the King James version, which says: ” … this is my body, broken for you … “, whatever the pastor actually reads. I often shudder when I think of the horrible pain and anguish Jesus felt, as they nailed Him to that cross, and as the Father turned away from the sin that was placed upon His Son.

For some reason, this time, the words ‘on the night He was betrayed’ kept resounding through my head. I thought of the times I have been betrayed, and how my thoughts on those occasions were focused on vengeance, not grace. How could Jesus think of establishing a New Covenant for His disciples, knowing that the one who would betray Him, sat listening to His words?

“Is it I, Lord?”

As we begin this new year, and we think of all the disciplines we want to renew, it is easy to become ‘weary in well-doing’. I find it helpful to meditate on the deep, deep love of Jesus, who, even in a time of great personal anguish, still found the strength to purposefully and intentionally love me, almost two millenia before I was born.


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