When The Past Doesn’t Shatter The Mirror

It was long ago. Better, it was in the early 70’s, which is long ago. I made a decision. We all make decisions. And, I imagine, at the time it could be 20/80 in terms of accurate eyesight. And. Is this for you also? It can become 20/15 in hindsight.

The way of eyesight…deeper, the way of life.

Truth is this: I hadn’t thought about this. Period. No, I don’t think it was a mistake. Label it one of those “curiosities in the life trail.”

Back story important. I was an Associate Pastor at the First Congregational Church in Eugene, Oregon, the designated Senior Minister when the Senior Minister retired. He didn’t retire, which I learned of the promise-broken the Monday after I preached my first sermon. The agreed-upon notion we’d rotate Sundays for the homily was toileted. Bam. Hey, life happens.

The real story, though, was Eugene was in Lane County. In the 70’s Lane County was more than totally “owned” by the Democratic Party. Senator Wayne Morse was a member of our church. We became friends, much to my utter delight. I loved his irascibility, especially that he and Senator Gruening from Alaska voted AGAINST the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

But, more important Jim Klonoski was the Chair of the Lane County Democratic Party. And the bulls-eye factor was we lived at 2774 Sorrel Way in Eugene. Not sure why, but that may be the only address I remember…and there’ve been lots of them…like I was candidating for the WPP.

Fact, a new political district was formed. It was a slam-dunk for the Democrats. I remember Jim, who was also a member of our church and a Political Science Professor at the University of Oregon, asked if I would run for the Oregon House of Representatives.

Ah, politics. I never eschewed interest in that area of life’s sordid and at times beneficial functioning. I did think about it. Then decided it would be not a good time for me to do same. Plus, practicality taking over, my future in that church was somewhere between none and forget it.

Why all this?

Because our nation smolders in political realities today. Triggered by I read this morning that the New Yorker had disinvited Bannon to speak. And Bannon now can give his version of a volcanic explosion.

What surprises me, and I guess it somehow triggered the “Eugene Option,” is how stupid of the magazine. No way. No way in a Trumpian contextual culture would they believe a disinvite would be calm water. I guess it was done for publicity.

Still, on a day after Labor Day. Still, on a day calendared as September 4, 2018, I think back on my conversation with Jim Klonoski and realize, for once in my life, I made the good, even better decision.

But, even deeper and somewhat preachy, NO MATTER the decisions we make today…if it is the Voice of Our Heart, we live with it. Well, come on. I will live with it no matter what. But, down deep, today is today…and as the KOIN radio station would bless us at the end of their morning blather, in the 1940’s, “Today well lived…”

Know how that ends? Better. Know how that is good for today, no matter the decisions you or I make?

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Fishing is Therapy

Not an enduring or endearing image. Life, however, in particular moments, reflects a pin-ball machine as an apt metaphor.

Yes, you can “function” the results with deft clicking and strategic moves. But, for the most part, life is lived within certain unpredictability. And surprises that beckon standing ovations and very bad—brushing into worst, devastations.

All you can do is, even though somewhat pedantic in many cases, “do your best and live your fullest.”

Still, the “moments” never linger…at least during the day.

That happened to me last Friday, August 31. In many ways.

Before setting off from dock space C-14 with Zorba, a dearest friend who “just happens to be a fishing guide,” I looked over at the next boat. It was clear the owner is Bill Monroe, Jr. It was empty. I knew why. For this day, Friday, was the day for a funeral service. It was for Bill’s sister, Kelli, who was killed in a car accident when a truck driver came across the median. The boat was empty. I winced at that.

No, I had never met Kelli. But, Bill, Senior, is a trusted friend, one who’s written, as I pen it, 1,000 years for the Oregonian as their Outdoor Editor. Such a tragic loss. Such a tragic loss. The boat was empty. A time when the day didn’t start with a zest. At least for me.

It also started with a recent memory. Let me explain. This time of year, it’s called Buoy Ten fishing, is the most popular and “most catch-fish” time for Chinook and Coho salmon. On Thursday four of us fished with Zorba, and not different than many other guides, hardly any fish were cleaned for the BBQ. Cannot remember when the salmon tossed a shut-out. One Coho to the net, but it was native, which meant it was released.

So, that, “would today be any different?” crept into my fishing psyche.

Another tug, though, before we left C-14. This hit me so much harder than I had imagined. For years, pushing two decades, when I’ve caught Chinook Salmon from the Columbia, I’ve taken one of them [Yes, there were times when more than one was caught and kept!] to a friend, Mark Kujala. He and his family own Skipanon Cannery in Warrenton, Oregon, immediately west of Astoria. They’ve helped my ministry over the decades with smoking and canning my salmon. Come on. Tell me what’s better for a hostess gift—flowers, chocolate, wine or an 8 ounce can of smoked salmon their pastor caught? The fish not the can for you pushing your sarcastic button!

Sure, I’m no longer pastoring a church, but the cupboard’s bare of smoked, canned salmon. So, before fishing I stopped by to visit with Mark and “make sure” he would smoke and can a salmon.

I had called. No answer. The recorded voice only indicated to leave a number.

Got out of the car, saw the sign, “Cannery Office,” and went to the door. I opened the door. Walked in. And came close to fainting. The cannery building was empty! WHAT???

Mark was there, doing some finish-up paperwork. I had no idea. None. But, my heart ached. For over 100 years the Kujala family, immigrants from Norway, operated Skipanon. The reality is getting workers was not happening. I so ached. A legacy done. Down. Not again. The thud of emptiness…excruciating.

Well, Friday morning leaving C-14, a day before with no bumps on the rod, the day for Kelli’s Celebration of Life service, the empty space not to be changed at Skipanon, we went fishing.

No. I could not have ever anticipated it. No, I really wasn’t thinking of what might happen.

All I knew is Steve [a friend who joined in with Zorba] and I were fishing.

The day had everything Oregon can offer…fog, slight wind, some rain and very warming sun. [Remember, in Oregon you more often rust than tan.] And much to our amazement, the fishing rods were never quiet. Bam. Bam. Bam.

We weren’t able to retain the Chinook because of new regulations, but we could keep the hatchery Coho. As we returned to C-14, we had three Coho and had released six Chinook. What a day. And, with the filleted, vacuum-packed Coho, I’m sure I’ll become the most popular guy in my neighborhood.

In it all, though, this “time away and time within” preached to me. Each day dawns with an invitation to live. There will be life and death. There will be heart-aches and heart-elations. But, in it all, there is God…who gives a rip about us and all creation. For that, the bottom line, that God never leaves us no matter what, is the best affirmation for, to, with, within and hopefully through each of us.

So, a picture…for the time away and within. Thanks for getting to this part of my blog.

Tight lines and Singing Reels,

Mark.

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Balanced Relationships Don’t Happen

Talking about relationships, no matter the factoring…as parents, as spouses, as siblings, as friends…as any two. Will use two-some in my reflection.

Have kept with the definition of covenant as “two people each giving their fullest for the good of the relationship.”

Circumstances impact the imbalance. I say imbalance, because in my limited understanding no relationship is balanced, except in that rarer than rare moment when the twosome shift from 49% to 51%.

Thought of that this morning per my recent blog. Obviously my toleration of the President is severely imbalanced to support him. I was displeased of no recognition of Trump as a worth-of-support guy. Given the trashing of McCain by Trump—you know the quotes, perhaps the most skewering was “A POW if not a War Hero.”

This morning, reading matters I had not remembered [maybe that was selective; I’m not a denial guy.] how often McCain ranted against Trump. The article gave ample times when Trump would respond more than attack.

So what? Well, I believe it’s important now that McCain will move into a future with God closer than ever before, it’s Theoretical but only when passing can be actual.
important to realize and recognize ALL relationships have changing patterns.

I think the key is, and I’m perhaps the least master of this than anyone you know, to know all relationships flux. The key is when there’s ire and damage that indicates the relationship is actually splintering to think deep and pray deeper to give effort of moving toward some kind of better balance.

More, and I do believe Jesus knew this better than any of us, it’s crucial we not let a 10/90 imbalance cast out the 10% person. What’s key to me is what happened when Jesus and the disciples were at the Last Supper moment in the Upper Room.

Recall the words that begin our Sacrament of Holy Communion, “ON THE NIGHT IN WHICH HE WAS BETRAYED…”

Oh, my, Jesus could’ve been very human, refuse to break the bread and said, “Why did you betray me? Why don’t you support me? Why am I at 90% and you at 10%? Will you ever not betray?”

BUT HE DIDN’T! THANK GOD HE DIDN’T!

He took the bread and broke it, identified it and served broken bread…to broken lives and gave hope to every relationship.

The key to all this, in sharing with those most important to you…and thinking of those least important to you, can you remain committed to getting the relationship back to semblance, something more like 50/50? And when each of you is at least 49/51, don’t let up on giving your fullest. For we each are broken, and we each need to receive the bread and the wine…no matter what.

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A Hiccup in Ordained Ministry

Fred Trost and Herb Davis—all combined are my middle names, latched on to Henry.

I’m thinking of them today, Friday, August 24, 2018, for a primary reason.

They, both in their own ingredient and gracious way to reflect ministry, taught me more than any combined classes at seminary.

It’s true, ever since my first step with them in July of 1966, I learned what’s most ingredient and necessary as an Ordained Minister.

Sure, intelligence, wisdom, knowing the difference between the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] and the forcing prongs of John, knowing how to create a good sermon [making sure you have the Bible, newspaper and church roster in hand], leading classes, even when some members [not at St. Pauls but in another pastorate as senior minister] tape-recorded without permission the lectures, then got out their dissecting knives on Monday night to make sure any claim of heresy had footnotes of their heretical claims.

With this, knowing how church budgets are statements of faith and the mission of the church is beyond the church’s zip code.

Yep.

HOWEVER, what I learned most frequently and deeply which is the most basic need of an ordained minister is this: pastoral care. Being WITH the members, no matter their ire or success.

That triggered within me today, and I reserve the right to be wrong, but not wrong is Senator John McCain’s decision to stop treatment for his brain cancer. It might be wrong that as of 5:15 p.m. CDT not one mention of McCain by our President. Damn, damn, damn. Heartless to the core. I could subsequently be wrong about this…if so, I apologize in my next heart beat.

I grimace also in realizing that many ministers still serving, find no value let alone function in pastoral care as a seminal value to faithful ministry.

JUST CARE! Just let the loving heart, somewhere in you, be visible and heard and received by others.

Always coming to mind is a dearest of colleagues, Dani Loving Cartwright. She and I worked together my last years as Conference Minister in Austin. Dani was the Regional Minister for the Disciples of Christ, helping hundreds and hundreds of churches throughout Texas. Diane had major surgery, was in the hospital for more than a handful of days. It was a tough time. Really tough.

Then one afternoon, as I sat bedside with Diane, I looked up. No words. No trumpets. But the joy in our hearts had no hesitance. There she stood. Dani stood at Diane’s hospital door, holding what has to be the most beautiful bouquet of flowers ever created. THAT was pastoral care. And Dani knows she pulsed our heart with depth and value. Pastoral Care…oh, PC, where art thou today?

Life for churches is grim. I know that. I’ve preached in three different churches the last month, all Disciples of Christ congregations, and in each the pangs of maybe not making it pierce their life and hope. But, then. And I maintain it’s the best Herb and Fred lesson: clergy, give a damn about your people. Be with them.

Life isn’t dependent ultimately upon anything other than God’s being with us. But, no matter what or where, to not see yourself as a partner of pastoral care with God, figuratively tears up your ordination certificate.

When Jason went down with the hematoma brain surgery on January 7, I knew immediately where pastoral care came from. Was never wrong. The calls, the notes, the fervent prayers with me on the phone.

I also had a hunch where Diane and I wouldn’t hear…and chagrin piling on…I was never wrong.

So sad.

Pastoral Care, when it’s missing in action, is the first cause for churches to wonder if they matter.

Yep.

John McCain. My prayers are with you and your family. I so respect you and hope you know when you move to the heavenly world you will be at peace and the well-being of your soul will never languish. Never.

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Prayers…Please

I’m asking for prayers. Lots of prayers.

Many if not most of you know I’m blessed with two of the dearest friendships that began in the earliest times…grade and high school.

Doug White and I were born within a month of each other and lived less than a block apart. Jeannette Butts Hereniko and I met in high school and have been the dearest of friends since.

Doug and Cathy live in Eugene and Jeannette and Vili Hereniko live in Hawaii.

Today, Thursday, August 23, Doug and Jeannette need our prayers.

Doug underwent major abdominal surgery, is in recovery mode, but such to happen takes time. Much time.
Jeannette and Vili and their family are, very unfortunately, targeted by the hurricane. No one knows what will happen, but such danger fraught with fear.

So.

Please pray for Doug and Cathy [Cathy had a heart attack within the last year and is recovering nicely] and Jeannette and Vili.

Our bonding in friendship means the world to me…your prayers give me strength also.

Mark.

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Prayers….Please

I’m asking for prayers. Lots of prayers.

Many if not most of you know I’m blessed with two of the dearest friendships that began in the earliest times…grade and high school.

Doug White and I were born within a month of each other and lived less than a block apart. Jeannette Butts Hereniko and I met in high school and have been the dearest of friends since.

Doug and Cathy live in Eugene and Jeannette and Vili Hereniko live in Hawaii.

Today, Thursday, August 23, Doug and Jeannette need our prayers.

Doug underwent major abdominal surgery, is in recovery mode, but such to happen takes time. Much time.
Jeannette and Vili and their family are, very unfortunately, targeted by the hurricane. No one knows what will happen, but such danger fraught with fear.

So.

Please pray for Doug and Cathy [Cathy had a heart attack within the last year and is recovering nicely] and Jeannette and Vili.

Our bonding in friendship means the world to me…your prayers give me strength also.

Mark.

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The Best Fly-Casting Teacher

Not sure a kinder man graced my life. Del Edwards had to be gentle and patient. He was the high school driving a car for the first time instructor at a Eugene High School. He and his wife, Maecel, were members of the First Congregational Church where I served as Associate Pastor.

One day in conversation after worship, Del inquired of my interest in fly-fishing for trout on either the McKenzie or Willamette Rivers. That’s like asking if I like to breathe. And most days, it’s a question answered before asking.

What I didn’t know is Del had a 16-foot wooden drift boat, was an excellent boat-man, wending and weaving around rocks and rapids and threatening corners under low limbs.

He also made dry flies and nymphs…the surface and near the bottom stuff. The first time we fished was like heaven. Quiet, gentle breeze, more blue than clouds, shades a must. That particular combination doesn’t happen in a state where you’re more likely to rust than tan.

I remember one place especially. There was a tail-out with water coursing its way back toward the rapids. Del cast to the head of that pocket and before I could compliment him, SMASH, the dry fly was no longer dry.

Then the next time…and there were many next-times, we floated very thin water, no more than 6 inches in depth. I saw nothing. I wasn’t Del. As we headed to the next drift Del had other things in mind. He lifted his rod, cast his #16 Pheasant Tail to the edge of the river…and it was like life took on new meaning. A huge rainbow grabbed the fly and the fight was on. With deft skill and immeasurable patience Del brought the trout to net…said its length…”24 inches” and released it gently to the McKenzie River as if nothing had happened.

Well, for me, everything had happened. The skill, the perceptive gift, the competency in floating his boat, and the time shared.

Del wouldn’t win a speaking contest—still water runs deep—but our time together was a gift of heaven.

I left Eugene, a promise to my pastoral future thwarted, and took another path. Yet. Del Edwards was always part of that path, for every Christmas he gifted me at least 20 dry flies he made. Until he could tie no more, the eyes in a failed mode.

And yet. I know in my spiritual heart Del looks down on me and is happy I’m still fishing. Sure, the legs crumble haltingly when trying to wade for trout, but still, every time I fish I offer a soft prayer to God in Thanksgiving for Del Edwards.

Now, why all this?

Because another “Del Edwards” in my life, you know him as my Rabbi Guide in Colorado, send me a NYT article about a 14-year old girl who’s a world champion in fly-casting.

And with that…even deeper believe it or not than all the political amorality going on, I retouched with Del. Knowing that kindness and gifting others maintain balance and never gives up integrity.

Del, Grace and Peace continue for you and Maecel. I know it does.

And this day, as I re-read the article about a 14-year old girl who outcasts them all, in term of accuracy and distance, I am grateful that next week, the 30 and 31 of August to be exact, I’ll be with a very special guide, Zorba, another “Del”. The salmon are terrified already.

Read the article…and then name in your prayers and the voice of your heart, one person who’s been your “Del Edwards.”

Grace and Peace and Tight Lines,

Mark.

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