Friday, May 18, 2007


Today's leg of our 25th anniversary trip took us away from Lake Tahoe (after a week) and through a place my wife has not been since she was a little girl: Yosemite National Park. It is indeed an awe inspiring place, with plenty of sights and a variety of topography: from thick, lush forests to bare towering rock formations.
Unfortunately, the pay station on the east end of the park (where we entered) was closed. Sooooo..we had no map to guide us to the more spectacular sights. We could have stopped at more trail heads and rest stops to explore, but we really needed the map.
We did manage to see some neat things, including a couple of things we thought we had missed. But because of some awkwardness with my camera and the difficulty of parking at the more spectator friendly sights, I didn't get all the pics I had hoped for.
Disappointed? A little. But as I have explained many times before, it's the journey and the one I get to spend it with that's fun. As my wife and I had dinner tonight after checking in at our new "digs" for the night, I commented that it has been so much fun not having to be somewhere, not having to set something up, not having to be concerned about who's ready for what, etc. Reality will set in soon, but for now...we're seeing silver!
Before arriving at Yosemite, we stopped to overlook the Mono Lake Basin. Park of Mono Lake was used in the early 60's as a weapons testing ground.Ellery Lake, elevation over 9500, one of many lakes in Yosemite Most of it is still frozen from
the winter weather.Another lake. Notice the picnic tables in the water. We passed a visitor who joked with us and said, "Why didn't you have your picnic out there?" I replied that my Boss knew how to walk on water, but I never learned how (the visitor didn't reply...he just walked away).The lines in the rocks are called glaciel erratics. Lines and freestanding boulders sit on a gently sloped rock table, the end result of fairly recent glaciation. And in the middle of the pic, the tiny point is "half dome", a rock formation popular with hikers and climbers.
Earlier I mentioned how much fuller our trip would have been with an accurate map. It got me thinking about this other journey all of us are on and our efforts to make sense of life. A lot of us stumble through life without a map. Oh we may hit upon a "truth" now and again, but nothing really lasts us. What we need is the instructions in God's Word to guide us and direct us.

And the journey continues....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I grew up watching the television series Bonanza. I was really too young to remember Adam, but my parents assured me he had been there and left. That left Ben, Hoss, and Little Joe (and Candy and assorted other characters). I enjoyed the show, but it wasn't until I several years ago when I discovered the treasures of the internet that I learned that the program was set in Lake Tahoe.

Fast forward many years. My wife and I are planning to stay in Lake Tahoe for part of our 25th anniversary trip. I enjoy tv and pop culture trivia. Hey...let's check out where Bonanza was! Great idea! I popped online and tried to triangulate our position. However....

1. Most of the outside shots were done on sound stages or on locations waaayyyy far away from Lake Tahoe.

2. The famous opening sequence was filmed in at least two different locations. Some of the land is now private property. Given enough time and patience, I could possibly compare photographs and get an approximate location. But that is a project I may have to wait on (although it isn't that far from here...we'll see!)

3. The famous Ponderosa Ranch was a popular tourist attraction around these parts. Sadly, it was closed down in 2004 and no longer exists.

Sooooo...what to do? Simple...we went where Ben and the boys would visit Sheriff Coffee and get supplies: Viriginia City. Virginia City is the location of the famous Comstock lode, which created a (get ready) bonanza of wealth for the region. It is also famous in real life as one of the homes of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. It's a town full of history, from the board sidewalks to the uneven stone buildings (many of them rebuilt after a devestating fire in the late 1875 wiped out 80% of the town). It's a short drive from Carson City (the state capital), unless you go the wrong way (thanks to a navigational error on my part). The looonnggg way is full of very tall, very sheer mountain driving--not our favorite---and seems to go on forever. The short way is actually not too bad at all.

We were too late for the train tour, but we did get in on the trolley tour, where we learned all sorts of historic trivia about the city and its inhabitants. It was a pleasant place, but the walking takes a little attention, with steep hills and very uneven wood sidewalks. Traffic along the street is also tight, with cars, pedestrians, the aforementioned trolley, and tour busses vying for room on the road. If you come early enough, you can purchase a pass for the train, trolly, and several of the museums. Here's a few random pics:
On the Virginia City Trolley, ready for departure

Historic school building...the Fourth Ward School Cultural Center

Presbyterian Church...only one of the few buildings to survive the great fire of 1875

Catholic Church. According to the tour guide, this church was a mega-church in the 1800's, with 4000 members! Incredible.

And the adventure continues....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Before I share our further adventures, I want to let everyone know that today, May 15, is THE DAY. Today marks our actual, official 25th wedding anniversary. You would never know it from the way she handles parents, staff, and children, but my wife is quite shy. So as I began this series of posts, I assured her that I would not get too personal. But if I could resort to a cliche, it seems like only yesterday that we met. It was in college...she was a freshman, I was a sophomore. We met and soon became inseperable. We even did children's ministry together--a Christian service project called "Backyard Bible Club."

I could go into details about our engagement and wedding. Our pastor had actually done the wedding of Brenda's parents (and in an interesting twist, I was pastoring my first church in Colorado when Brenda's parents came for a visit and asked me to "officiate" the renewal of their vows for their 25th anniversary). Wow...just thinking about everything that has's like scenes are fast-forwarding in my memory.

But as I sat next to my wife today during our latest adventure, I thought about how fortunate, how blessed I have been for the last 25 years. I know...from Jackie Gleason on down, most men say their wives are the greatest. Well, mine really is.

When we decided to spend some time at Lake Tahoe, I went online to find out things to do in the area. And lo, and behold, we found the "Lake Tahoe Cruises."

The Tahoe Queen, an authentic paddleboat.

The two and quarter hour tour took us across the lake (Lake Tahoe, by the way, is HUGE) and over to Emerald Bay. The Tahoe Queen, has three decks (including a dining deck) and incredible, unhindered views of the Lake. We stayed on the third (top) deck and took in the view.

Looking forward to Emerald Cove

Looking back at the big paddle wheels (they also slice and dice and make julian fries!)

The Bridge

The shore from where we departedSing it with me: "What do you do with a great view of the Marina?" (sorry....a rather feeble attempt to parody a Sound of Music tune. Must have gotten too much sun!)

Above pics: sites and scenes

The cruise was very relaxing and least what we could hear from the captain, due to a speaker that tended to fade out. Emerald Bay has a history of its own with a hand made building on the shore called Vikingsholm Castle. A little granite island in the bay features what looks like a castle turrett. And from our vantage point, we could look up and see the high, narrow highway that brought us to town!

So our Silver Anniversary vacation continues. Signing off from beautiful South Lake Tahoe...

Monday, May 14, 2007


Today, my wife and I did a little exploring of South Lake Tahoe. After a nice breakfast, we drove around, checked out a visitor's center, did a little shopping, and made our way over to a complex known as "Heavenly Village." It's a combination of upscale, open air mall and time share condos. While there, we watched Spider-Man 3. If you haven't seen it, it's worth the look. It's a little intense for youngin's, but it also contains a lot of themes that line up with Biblical values. It's hard to describe the values without giving away the plot, so maybe we'll re-visit this particular movie another time.

On the way out, I saw two celebrities just hanging out

Jake and Elwood Blues themselves! About the only thing I have in common with the famous Blues Brothers is that I'd like to think that I too am on a mission for God. (only I don't say it with the midwest accent).

It's time once again to sign off. But before I do, here's a couple of quick pics from just outside our door.

Our home away from home for most of this week.

Gorgeous mountain on the horizon. Don't know what it's called, but I'll find out and let you know.

SILVER ANNIVERSARY TRIP: A MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE WITHOUT BLOWING YOUR TOP boldly explore a harsh alien landscape! Could this be the planet where our alien visitors from a previous post come from? Wow...I could have the makings of a novel here. But in reality, the picture above is from a place that has the potential to be more dangerous to life here on planet earth...or at least a portion of it in this region. I'll explain in a moment...

My wife and I are continuing our 25th wedding anniversary vacation (that's silver, for those of you who keep track). I mentioned in my last post that we ate at an incredible place called Black Bear in Susanville, California. It is rare that I am surprised at a resteraunt visit, but this place made me go "wow." The staff was friendly and personable and seemed to make an extra effort to insure the food was exactly how you liked it. The food arrived quickly (under 20 minutes in a rather full place). It is served on a platter (not a plate). A big platter! And nearly every square inch is covered with food. The bacon cheeseburger I had was incredible: thick and juicy and delicious. And for my colleagues at the DC, I want you to know that I had bisquits and gravy on Sunday morning before we left! And there was so much, I couldn't even finish it all. I guess one of the biggest surprises was to discover that there is a Black Bear branch in my proverbial "neck of the woods." When I get back, I will have to look it up.

The Bear bids us a fond goodbye from Susanville

Before heading to our ultimate destination of South Lake Tahoe, we decided to visit Lassen Peak, home of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Our previous post mentioned seeing Lassen Peak from afar and that it had erupted in 1915. Well, in 1916, it was made a national park because of its significance as an active volcanic landscape. According to the documentation, all four types of volcanoes in the world plus active hyrothermal areas are found in the park. And, what I found most interesting, "Lassen Peak is one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world (is? as in present tense?). It is considered to be active today." (today? about tomorrow?)

So yes, ladies and gentlemen, we took part of our silver anniversary and decided to get up close and personal with an active volcano! Is that cool or what?

To reach this sign involved a relatively steep drive up the highway and another steep drive up the access road. It's a gorgeous view, but a looonnnggg way down.

After getting our permit from the ranger post up the road, we proceeded along the highway. Our first stop was "Sulfer Springs", which is a study in contrasts. At the parking area, there is this:

Snow drifts bigger than me (there was more snow higher up even deeper!)

But there are also active sulfer pits a few yards away...pits that belch out hot plumes of gas. Yes, the picture we started with above is one of those pits. What you can't experience from the picture is the size (probably about a yard wide), the smell (rotten eggs), and the sound...a deep bubbling, churning, sloshing sound from deep within.

The drive up the mountain is steep and the snow from last season is piled high along the sides. But there are some great views along the way:

We saw several bent and broken pine trees, victims of the huge amounts of snowOur God is an awesome God

Because of the heavy snow, we were stopped at another parking area and had to turn around. Up ahead was an area called "Bumpass Hell", named after a settler who lost his leg in one of the sulfer pits. But access would prove problematic:

Whaddya mean the trail is closed? I don't care if there is enough snow to swallow an RV, I want to hike!

So with that adventure over, we headed back down the hill and to our ultimate destination of South Lake Tahoe. And except for some rather challenging stretches (there is a narrow ridge at one point that is a sheer drop off on either stuff!), we had a good trip.

It's great to get away, but it's even better to get away with the one you love!

To learn more about Lassen Peak, they have a website:

Saturday, May 12, 2007


My wife and I are on vacation. What's the occaision? Wellllllll....(drum roll), this week marks our 25th wedding anniversary (trumpets sound, cherubs sigh, fluttery paper hearts drift lazily downward, doves ascend into the blissful get the idea).

A lot of married folks say, "I wouldn't change a thing." I have to confess...I would change some things. The times of doubt and the times of frustration. Seasons of poverty. Mis-managing priorities. Yup, I'd change all of that, because, personally speaking, my wife deserves a whole lot better from the last 25 years. And that folks, is the heart of the matter: there's plenty I wouldn't mind changing, but the one thing I wouldn't change is the companion I chose to go through it with. allergies are kicking in a little, so let's move on. By the way...I always looked at silver anniversary couples as "old." That tradition stops here, because we are most definately not old.

Our first stop was Susanville, California, a short three and a half hour drive from southern Oregon. I snapped some pics along the way for your enjoyment.
Lassen Peak now....(above)

....and then. According to the display, Lassen (a volcano) erupted in 1915. Gulp.

What's wrong with this picture?A section of Highway 44 is undergoing major repairs. We were stopped for about ten minutes while waiting for a pilot car to escort us through the rough, torn-up dirt road. Being on a long interstate trip means always looking for ahem means to satisfy one's uhhhh know. I glanced over and saw a typical construction site "porta-potty." There's only one problem. Did you spot it yet? That's of the wheels isn't even touching the ground!

Our evening in Susanville was a pleasant one, with a very nice dining surprise. More on that in the next entry. Until next time...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Somebody once asked me, "What is your typical week like?"

I bristled.

Actually, I didn't bristle, but I do have a certain disdain for the question. I presume that the reason is curiosity: what does a "children's ministries director" really do? It's a hard question for me, because, proverbially speaking, I wear a lot of different hats. If you want to be really technical about it, I have two paid jobs at my church, neither of which is "children's ministries director." That's right--the thing that occupies a great deal of my time, thoughts, energy, and creativity is, in reality, a volunteer position! I'm fortunate, though, in having a paid job that gives me a certain amount of flexibility in carrying out the children's ministry. But to divide my week into what segments fall where? Uhhhh, that's a little hard to do.

6:15 a.m. Open the facility for the church DayCare. This includes retreiving messages, unlocking doors, getting out toys, double checking the schedule, etc. I also make the coffee, which is Biblical (there's a whole book in Scripture about it: He brews!). By 6:30, the kiddos start trickling in.

8:45 a.m. Teach one of the 4 year 0ld classes. Sociologists call this a "contra-typical career position." They've obviously never watched Kindergarten Cop or Daddy Day Care, otherwise they would realize that early childhood education is just bursting with near-middle aged bald guys who know the names of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and three Power Puff girls.

11:00 a.m. Class over. Time for what I affectionately (delusionally) call "me time." In the next 1.5 hours, I will eat lunch, catch up on the news, maybe go online, do some yard work (maybe), get a quick "power nap," run errands, etc. This isn't absolute...sometimes, I am needed later at the DayCare, sometimes I choose to just jump right into something else. And some days, when there is no class, I'm off even earlier, giving me even more "me time."

12:30 p.m. Job #2 is "Administrative Assistant." This is where the flexibility comes in. My mission is to serve the needs of the pastor and the church. For my pastor, it is a matter of removing obstacles and distractions (like screening phone calls, visitors, helping drop-ins, etc.). As part of my duties, I also handle publicity and promotion (the church newsletter, press releases, etc.). I carry out "missions" for the church adminstrator (finding out if any of the pile of old keys fits into any existing doors).
But the rest of the afternoon is pretty much up to me. When I'm not handling "official duties", I'm free to study, prepare, pray, call, research, and otherwise carry out things like children's ministries, sermon and lesson prep, etc. It's such an incredible blessing to have the time and freedom to do these things each day.

Weekends, of course, are a whole different animal. Obviously, it's a time to recharge, spend time around the house, dialogue with the occaisional cult member who chooses Saturday morning to come to my door, and so on. I enjoy the time with my wife. But at some point, I run down to the church to put together last minute items for Sunday and to set up the room for our children's program. Since we meet in the fellowship hall, everything we have is moveable. A lot of items are stored on the stage, so we have to take it all off the stage to put in its various places.
If all goes well, the process is fairly quick. If we run into trouble (such as the sound board not producing sound), then it takes a little longer.

And that brings us to Sundays, a day which deserves its own post. I try to arrive early (about 8 a.m.) to do any last minute chores. Our "Celebration Small Group" meets at 9 a.m. I gather the kids and dismiss them to their classes. Then I "hightail" it to the other side of the building to teach an adult Bible study.
At 10:00 a.m. is "Celebration Large Group." I facilitate and teach the kids during this time, unless I'm filling the pulpit for the pastor when he's away. After it's over and the parents have retrieved their children, we put everything back on the stage again.

And then Monday, it starts again.

That's it...a typical week. But not so typical. Every day the Lord gives a fresh batch of mercies and grace to meet whatever challenges come up. It is indeed an adventure! I get to work with cool is that!!!

And next week? Well, I'm taking a break from my "typical week" to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. As I have the time and free wireless, I'll probably blog about the sights. In the meantime, the adventure continues (cue Indiana Jones music and fade.....)

Saturday, May 05, 2007


There I was, in the church office, doing my church office stuff, when our church DayCare Director (who doubles as my wife, incidently) called and said, "We have a situation here, we're going into lock down! I'll explain later!" Even though the DayCare is located on the other end of the facility, I went ahead and locked the outside office door. When looking out the window, I counted three sherriff's vehicles zipping by. I made my way to the back and asked what was going on. Apparently a highly agitated young man had entered the facility and asked to make a phone call. He then asked for a ride...right before leaving the building. His behavior prompted us to call the police, who informed us that they were looking for him and that we should go into lockdown!
Sooooo....the kids were herded into their safe areas, all the doors were locked, and all of the drills we've done for this scenario paid off. A half-hour later, the police called back with an "all clear," and the kids got to tell their parents about their adventure.
The local paper had a passing reference to us, stating the suspect "hid" in the church. It's more like he "passed through" the building. At any rate, here's the link if you want to read about it right here.