Sunday, December 27, 2020

Making the Final Inch

In a podcast entitled, "The Osterholm Update"by epidemiologist Mike Osterholm, from the University of Minnesota, he used a phrase that ignited numerous thoughts, "A vaccine is only a vaccine until it becomes a vaccination."

An early present arrived from my daughter. I now have a Peloton bike in the basement. It is more than a stationary spin bike. When you get a Peloton (bike or tread) you also are required to purchase a monthly subscription to their live and on-demand classes. The classes focus on a total body workout. Yes, cycling and running are primary depending upon your piece of equipment. In addition you can access strength training, meditation, yoga, stretching, and numerous other activities to provide a complete training regimen. Now I have more than a basement bike. I have a multitude of exercise options, with both a live and virtual community.

Phrases like, "This is the beginning of the end." and "Soon we can return to normal." have been prolific since the two vaccines have received emergency use authorization in the United States. There is a sense of relief and giddiness. Yet, until a vaccine becomes a vaccination nothing substantial changes. The final inch! Getting the vaccine into the body is when change occurs.

Another recent acquisition made its way into the basement. Prior to the Peloton, I brought home a Nordic Track Pro ski machine. A friend did not use it any longer. He said, "I just cannot get into a cardio workout in my basement." As I set it up in the basement I used a cleaning solution along with wood polish to give it a clean and natural appearance. From indications it appeared to have been accumulating dust, debris, clothing and other non-essentials for a significant amount of time. It was no longer used for its intended purpose. Sounds familiar, does it not? Good intentions. Maybe even some good use. Finally the luster wears off. Getting on the machine and staying on until it becomes part of a lifestyle is difficult.

Many of us have completed or soon will complete the season teeming with feelings, sensations, and emotions. Glad tidings, good intentions, resolutions, sights, sounds, expectations, and promises to make future celebrations special are abundant and I believe, heartfelt. Similar to wanting the pandemic to end and to change into a healthier lifestyle, words of wanting a different Holiday Season are easily verbalized.  As the phrase states, "If nothing changes, nothing changes." It is when change gets into your choices that life becomes different.

If you are familiar with the early stories in New Testament Christian Scriptures, two particular people (Mary + Joseph) hear that they to be pivotal characters in God's salvation. Had they only enjoyed their sweet, angelic dreams without taking action would anything have changed? They made a 70 mile journey on foot, traveling numerous days, while Mary was in the later stages of pregnancy. After giving birth to a child in a relative's house in Bethlehem, another dream told Joseph to take his now expanded family to Egypt for safety. Once again, the request was placed into action. Who did they know in Egypt? They traveled over 40 miles to get to safety. Remaining in Egypt about 3 years. Had they only thought nice thoughts and not changed their choices, their pivotal role may have ended without traveling an inch!

Faith, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation are only concept words until they are acted upon, incorporated, and practiced in our daily lives. I sense we all hang a lot of non-essential things on the aforementioned words. It seems easier to voice the words than to get onto something that will change our lives. Making that final inch, getting on that machine, living spiritual values will expose us to a community which we previously have not experienced. It will be difficult, challenging, and frustrating work. Yet those are the markings of change. 

I hope you make that final inch. Whether it be a healthier lifestyle, spiritual growth, connecting to a supportive and honest community, or rolling up the sleeve when the COVID-19 vaccine is offered.  The final inch is the most difficult, as well as the most important distance for all things in life. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Decorations -- The Reason for the Season

The prominent Norway Spruce proudly stood near the intersection of our farm driveway and the gravel township road. Every December, with the bucket loader on the front of the Allis-Chalmers WD-45, along with an extension ladder and long poles my father would wrap that stately conifer with large, colorful incandescent bulbs. His efforts over the years provided vivid light in the darkness of the rural landscape. I enjoyed the opportunity to place the plug into the extension cord and gaze in wonderment at the beautiful sight unaware of the frigid temperatures. 

December 1996, our older daughter wanted lights hung on the outside of the parsonage. It was a rambler, so only a tall step-ladder was necessary. Placing plastic hooks on cold aluminum gutters without gloves quickly made for numb fingers. Plastic breaks easily in sub-freezing temperatures. Copious amounts of snow had fallen since early November. Ladder placement beyond the driveway was only possible after shoveling. At least the aerobic activity with the use of mittens provided some respite for my fingers.  Finally the lights were strung. Some areas sagged due to broken plastic hooks. Some of the miniature bulbs did not light. I was not going to fiddle with small lights with frozen fingers! The job was done. I swore to never do it again. Besides, it paled in comparison to what my father produced in a more difficult setting.

Before you conclude that I am a Scrooge, I thoroughly enjoy the lights and decorations of the Holiday Season. In my footed exercise around the Fargo-Moorhead area (North Dakota + Minnesota border cities), the lights and displays take me down streets and avenues usually untraveled. I appreciate the physical efforts, the visual effects, the creative beauty, and the random chaos of the exposition. From breath taking to belly laughing my wonderment for decorations is as great as ever. If I do not have to be involved my joy is multiplied!                     

The seasonal phrase, as well as the marketing slogan, "Jesus is the reason for the Season" has been popular for decades. I sense it is often shared with the sentiment, "the real meaning of Christmas." My observation of light displays and lawn ornaments do not appear to go in that particular direction. Will Ferrell's, Elf Character, Nutcrackers, Santa, and Snow People are as popular, if not more popular than the traditional Nativity Scene. Multicolored lights aligning roof lines, moving snow flakes, and colored dots swirling on house siding are mixed together with air inflated Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Star Wars characters. 

I do not advocate a particular meaning for the Holiday/Christmas Season. The traditional Nativity Scene is not necessarily historically accurate. I wonder if snow people grace the lawns of people in Columbia or Figi? What I really appreciate are the efforts of people to place lights and displays providing color in the cold and dark areas of my life.  Especially as the pandemic continues and uncertainties swirl like flakes in a snow globe, I am grateful for the distractions.  The multitude of displays provide hope, amazement, chuckles, and gratitude in my daily life.

I also ponder thoughts of God, a Higher Power being quietly displayed in our human actions. A traditional Christmas hymn has lyrics that capture my thoughts, "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in you tonight" and "how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given." (O Little Town of Bethlehem)  This portion of the Gospel of John, also provides me reason to contemplate, "A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched." (1.5 VOICE Translation)

From a majestic Norway Spruce decades ago to a mannequin with a homemade sign, decorations are the reason for the season!  They express more than we can ever say.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Tradition & Experience

According to, "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." is their initial definition of tradition.

The later weeks of November through December seems to carry more tradition than any other time period in the year. With the tradition comes an extraordinary amount of emphasis placed upon everything from food, to movies/television, decorating, shopping, emotional euphoria, and the need to perpetuate the rituals.

(Lower center between parents) 
As long as I can remember my mother was a Registered Nurse. Her usual shift was overnight. In this way she could have some daytime and evenings with the family. However, she always seemed to work holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. "Other people need to have time with their families." was her answer to why she was working. The day itself lessened in significance as the weekends before or after became our time to gather. Thanksgiving was spent with my maternal grandparents. These grandparents were in the same room long enough to eat. Otherwise, they were not together. And the stuffing was always pulled from the cavity of the turkey. Plump, wet raisins dotted the glistening dressing. Nothing could be worse for someone who only ate raisins when they were leathery dry and either in cookies or wheat cereal.

Marriage brought Thanksgiving at the in-laws complete with a children's table. I always found the children's table more fun than the adult table. And it was in a separate room. My mother-in-law was so busty passing and refilling platters and bowls that her food had to be cold by the time she sat down to eat.

My dad flanked by my family

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as a pastor caused my mother's words to reverberate in my brain. It seemed that working those days became tradition. My family always came after the time honored Candlelight Worship needs of the congregation(s). It seems strange now (but not at the time) to allow the tradition of the congregation(s) to set the tradition for our family. Add to all of this the unwritten rule of being at the in-laws ASAP following services and you can picture a tradition of chaotic movement. 

With both daughters grown but Christmas Eve & Day still being part of vocational life, emphasis was been placed on Thanksgiving. In the past decade Thanksgiving has been spent in Italy, Las Vegas, Florida, Arizona, serving meals to families in a hospital, experiencing "zoo lights", eating at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and visiting my father. So, I ask myself while looking at this from many angles, "Is there a tradition to be found?"


I recently finished the book, "The Pursuit of Endurance" by Jennifer Pharr Davis (2018). She wrote, "Feeling stuck is no excuse for staying where you are." As I look back, as well as look around the spectrum of tradition is everywhere. A certain day, a certain menu, the regularity of knowing what come next, and the deep meaning of generational gatherings clings tightly for many. Equally I see lasagna and whiskey, queso and tacos for daily grazing, and this year, faces seen on video connections. I listen to the bemoaning of cultural norms, as well as the loss of the Black Friday frenzy. 

Southwestern treat

This year was spent quietly at home. With the generosity of another family the normative foods of Thanksgiving were delivered with "no contact." COVID quarantining provided the structural reality. No trips. No family. No gathering. Were we stuck? What does this mean during this year's emphasis upon holiday gatherings? Pandemic be damned! What about future gatherings? Each day, every experience is a part of life. The value is not in completing a huge puzzle. I believe it is in taking the piece provided and finding its beauty. Staying where I am is an option if I choose to close my eyes and wish for something different. However, I choose to embrace each day for what it provides while attempting not to judge it. I cannot stay where I am because each day provides new pathways on the journey of life. Earlier I wrote, "You can picture a tradition of chaotic movement." It is only chaotic if you attempt to impose your order on it. I choose to practice life and gratitude as my tradition even when it appears nontraditional. 

Friday, November 13, 2020


In last week's video mention was made of boundaries being fluid instead of rigid. I believe we are to live grace-filled lives not encumbered by the past, but flowing into our current setting.  In the November 9 reading from Ryan Holiday's, "The Daily Stoic", the story of a battle ship of the Athenian hero (Theseus) is being preserved in its battle ready form. Over time boards rotted and were replaced. Eventually every piece of wood on the vessel had been replaced. So the question is asked, "Is it still the ship of Theseus or is it a new ship?"

I see life as constantly changing, evolving, and fluid. Included are 3 pictures of business in Fargo ND. The first is looking at West Acres Mall from the southeast. It opened in August 1972, near the intersection of I-29 & I-94. Originally this area was crop land on the edge of town. I remember in the early 80's on a trip to Fargo, eating in the mall at the Grainery. First time ever for beer cheese soup with popcorn on the top.     

Additions, renovations, retail transitions, and consumer shopping habits have changed over the years. How long will this massive structure remain viable? Are investors wanting to place resources into an aging retail concept? Soon a 1 million square foot Amazon Fulfillment Center will open on the north edge of Fargo. It will be 50,000 square feet larger that West Acres.

The purple painted building was originally a Krispy Kreme which opened in 2002. The "hot light" drew thousands of people to this place for about 6 years before it closed. Now a custom made mattress store has a drive up window. And I believe the "hot light" is gone. I wonder why I have never seen a line outside of this store for people waiting to get a mattress? I guess sleep is more important than donuts. However, just as 

you use your smartphone for an alarm clock, there is a "hot light" app which will alert you when fresh, sugary, melt away donuts are available. 

The final structure housed the "Toys "R" Us." The open square footage must make for easy display of massive Halloween products. How many blow-up pumpkins can fit in one store? As Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday in the United States who needs toys? Not to short the toy industry, I fondly remember the Lionel train my bothers and I

shared for a Christmas present. The black transformer box would get hot the longer the train went in its circular track. Pushing the red button created a horn sound.  Later in life I attempted to regain an interest in trains, HO scale. In this effort to recreate the past, all I achieved was spent money and time. 

Yes, I mourn the loss of people, places, events, and institutions that were a part of my life. Memories bring a smile to my face and comfort to my being. Yet memories are not reality. Memories are ephemeral constructs of the mind. Longing for the past does not help me live freely in the present. To reiterate a phrase from last week: "We need to listen to the music of the past, so we can sing in the present, and dance into the future."  Creation is continually being recreated. It is still creation, but it is not the creation of decades, weeks, or even hours ago. Everything is flowing and fluid. What enhances life is the ability to live unencumbered each day. This does not make for comfortable living. Constant adjustment and new visions consume physical and emotional energy. In other words, it is exhausting. AND, I believe it is worth the energy expended. 

This 50k ultra running event in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico will not occur again. I got to share in my son-in-law's first ultra finish two years.

These are the 2 race directors who not only created a great event for many ultra runners, but were the pinnacle of hospitality. When you picked up your bib number you picked up placement into their family.

39 years ago in a small church in rural Faribault County, MN a person not known for impulsivity made a commitment to be my partner. What occurred in that church is recorded in the Courthouse. What has happened over the years does not define our relationship today.  

I am not a singer or a dancer. Many rotten and misaligned boards in my life have been replaced. Everything is fluid. We are the ones who place opinions and make reactions to the events of life. I continue to believe that living with the fluidity of each day. especially in the realities of human behavior and viral behavior is worth the effort.

I end with an email quote from a friend who watched last week's video, "I think that if you are not challenged in the way that you think about things that you begin to die and what you hold true becomes.....moldy."  Very well said, Mark!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Vacation Romanticism

According to a vacation is: "a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel."

I remember loading up the 1960 Ford Fairlane station wagon and traveling through North Dakota, Montana (Tip-Top Motel in Wolf Point), Idaho, Washington (I fell off a swing and went unconscious), Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore + Wall Drug) before returning home. Endless hours in the car, picnic meals, no air conditioning, getting a turn to sleep in the station wagon instead of the motel,  no advanced reservations, no chain motels, and natural beauty beyond the dreams of a southern Minnesota farm kid. This was a rare occurrence for my family which held and still evokes a certain romanticism.

Tepee lodging.
The latest lapse in posting was due to a vacation. One daughter and I ventured to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many hours were spent in a car (not flying during the pandemic). No picnics, but plenty of online ordering for curbside pick-up or drive thru. Reservations were made in advance, but no national chain properties. Three nights in a tepee and one in a mountain top cabin. The cabin was close to a cancellation due to rental car malfunctions. The romanticism of flawless, relaxing, and rejuvenating suspension from routine was not a part of this adventure. Yet the natural beauty of so many places, the shared experience, insightful and challenging conversations, and personal introspection produced meaning and memories. 

Trail vista.
My daughter enjoys hiking, specifically day hikes. Her fitness and stamina are excellent, but the thought of multiple days on the same trail has no allure. When I hike the mind goes to forward movement.  Eating and drinking can be accomplished while in motion. Following our initial 12 mile out-and-back Appalachian Trail hike, she stated that future hikes needed to incorporate at least one 15 minute break. The 8 mile loop of the succeeding had the sit, eat, relax break. As we resumed the hike she asked, "Dad how long did we rest?" Not having looked at any time measurement device I responded, "I am sure at least 15 minutes." To which she replied, "We stopped for 8 minutes." Ouch! 😲So what was my hurry? Beautiful day, beautiful scenery, pleasant company. Established patterns are difficult to change. So much for suspending my mind set of pushing for endurance.

Heat for a cold night.
The malfunctioning vehicle (electrical issue-absolutely no current flow) came without any warning. Calling the toll free number and being promised an exchange at the local airport was easy. Swapping the vehicle at the airport was not going to happen.  The desk manager was unrelenting in his denial even when spoken to by the person on the toll free number. At least the manager returned my phone. My daughter had dealt with these situations numerous times, pre-COVID-19 or as she says, "In the before time." I am not forceful in stating what I expect in order to resolve an issue. The phone connection dropped while in the midst of a hopeful sequence. My daughter is texting me while I am attempting to hear the next person I connected with at the toll free number. On my return to the car where my daughter was waiting, she waved with urgency. After opening
The view from the modern bathroom.
 and closing doors, walking around the car 4 times clockwise and 4 times counterclockwise, all while evoking the name of Justin Timberlake, the car started. The fickle, but currently operating carriage got us to the base parking area for our two mile hike to the mountain top cabin. World it start in the morning? Flip a coin!! Huffing, puffing, and perspiring along a steady incline with everything needed for the night in our backpacks while twilight progressed into darkness, headlamp and flashlight turned on took my attention off of the car.  A cabin with no electricity, propane stove, cold running water, and a wood burning heat source was our respite from the chaos. The hosts in a near by cabin were gracious, welcoming, and understanding. Their hot shower and hospitality were welcomed. We heated up leftover bbq from lunch and settled in for the night. The wind was strong, the sky was clear, and the temperature found its bottom in the upper 20s.  Our wood supply (my daughter is a wood stove maven!) was depleted by 4am. The brisk, bright morning had a unique beauty. The 2 mile 
Stream along the cabin trail.
descent (yup, to the fickle car) while quicker than the climb had its share of slippery hazards and intense beauty.  The car....well it started! 

Returning to the city where my daughter resides was uneventful. A little different route allowed for new scenery. The worry about the car starting each time it was shutoff for fuel or rest area sat in the back of my mind. All went well and we parked the vehicle. The night included laundry and conversation.
View from the cabin porch.

In the morning I moved the vehicle from the street in order to get close to what I needed to load. The rain was beginning to fall. With the car loaded and hugs shared I went to start the car. It was completely dead once again. The prior ritual had no effect this time. Was it clockwise or counterclockwise first? 😕 A phone call and BOOM! A tow truck loaded the car and I exchanged it without a hassle. 

Experiencing diverse beauty, being in an area where COVID-19, masking, and distancing are alien, listening to thought provoking podcasts while hiking, being challenged by my daughter on perspectives and patterns of behavior, all while realizing that life is good, produced a reality while not the reminiscent romanticism of vacations past it was indeed a rare gift! Returning to my routines while easy and safe does not provide the stimulation I experienced on this time way.  I have found that definitions do not always determine reality. 

Halloween decoration in the city.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Flitting Fall


For decades the season of fall has been my favorite time of year. The sights, smells, sounds, colors, temperatures, and harvest activity never get routine. Yet in the midst of the inspiriting I also encounter bouts of foreboding and depression. The lessening of sunlight, the landscape becoming monochromatic, harvest activity abruptly ending, and a personal issue with cracked skin on my hands does battle with my uplifting perspective. 

The influence of Stoic Philosophy has provided untold benefit to curb my fluctuating feelings in this prized cyclical space. In particular the words of Epictetus in Discourses are foundational, "There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will."

I have learned to embrace what is. Exposing myself to both the majestic colors and the invariant tinctures of brown and grey, as well as the autumnal sunlight and precipitant clouds provides a broader appreciation of nature. It is outside of my power and will to affect nature. Thus I plunge myself into its reality and discover more about myself and the world. These discoveries are of immense value. Such discoveries enliven not depress me.

What is to come? That is a powerfully diverse question! In a pandemic, an election season, as well as in the midst of economic, technological, and cultural eruptions it is easy to worry, move along the spectrum of depression, and envision catastrophe. This not only comes naturally to individuals, but it is used by multiple influencers to stir intense reactions promoting a closed perspective and overwhelming fear of the future. These promotions of false dichotomy only serve the purpose of those making the assertions. Nature is more powerful than humans. Worrying about that over which we have no power is wasted energy.

As Jesus of Nazareth said, "Do not worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today." (Matthew 6.34  CEV) 

Yes, time moves steadily forward and the seasons glide one into another. Fall will pass with its own character and personality. In the northern plains (where I reside) many people live with a dread of what is to come. Dread cannot change what has come for eons. Happiness, internal well-being comes with accepting each day, without value judgement for what it provides. I believe each day is a gift and I have been given the ability to hold it, view it, and use it. 

I am including a link to a book of daily readings focusing on Stoic Philosophy by Ryan Holiday.  The Daily Stoic  (I get no commission nor personal gain from this link. It is for information only.)

A podcast that I find helpful in a general outlook on life comes from Tony Dufresne PhD. The link will take you to his web page:  Java Bud
On that sight you can find a great deal of useful information and a link to his podcast. (I have met Tony in person. I find him genuine and helpful. Again, I receive no benefit from this link.)

During the pandemic I have also found useful scientific and practical information with minimal bias from Mike Osterholm, epidemiologist and Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention. 

Finally, I publish a writing every two weeks. I alternate the blog with video offerings on my YouTube Channel. However, I am choosing an opportunity to be away from 
easy access to technology in the weeks ahead. There will not be a written blog post until November 1st.  Thank you for giving your time to read this blog!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Impact - Interpretation - Implementation

What I have experienced over decades is uniquely mine. The impact, interpretation, and implementation of response to these numerous events are uniquely mine. Yet I believe many events are universal.  It is as individuals respond to said events where variety becomes noticeable. 

A portion of seminary education (Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus OH) consisted in the proper understanding of key events and doctrines. The rites of the church and in many ways the rites of passage were to be understood and provided within a set framework. Individual experiences (baptism, confirmation, and communion) were valid and meaningful if understood and practiced within established parameters. There was little room for variance if these were to produce their understood benefits. 

Impact, interpretation, and implementation crept into these aspects of my pastoral life. Baptisms should only be performed at a Sunday worship gathering. Confirmation needed set standards of academic performance (memory work, sermon notes, passing knowledge tests) in order for faith to be validated. Proper understanding of Communion (Jesus is present - in, with, and under the bread and wine {Lutheran words}was vital for proper personal benefit. Anything less was eating and drinking damnation onto one's self. All of these dos and don'ts were challenged in the daily lives of the people with whom I served. Eventually decisions of practice needed to be made, obey the aforementioned rules or serve in ways that exhibited what I believed was the intent of God's grace and commitment to humanity.

Fast forward about 4 decades. Baptism is all about God and God's grace, not the status of parents or sponsors. The couple pictured had their child baptized on a Sunday and as part of worship. The child's sponsor joined via FaceTime. People were mindful of COVID protocols. We laughed about the child either being baptized with a Super Soaker to maintain distance or using hand sanitizer instead of water. Changing times call for creative options! God's steadfast love and grace is the theme of baptism, not the lives of the participants nor the day on which it occurs. 

After a couple of years of meeting on various days and at a variety of times, this teenager took responsibility for his faith at an outdoor gathering. The rural location with hens and llamas, as well as his sponsors, parents, sister, relatives, and friends made for a meaningful occasion.                  

Confirmand and sponsors
The following is what he shared at the ceremony: A big thing we talked about with Pastor Tim was faith. I had always assumed religion and faith were one in the same, but I learned that my faith is something that is specific to me. I also learned that my faith is always developing, and will continue to develop throughout my life. One of the most appealing aspects of growing in my faith was that I can carry it with me throughout my life. Through hard times I can look to my faith to guide me, and I'm ready to start on that path today." No measurements of class attendance, memory work, or Sunday mornings at worship. 

This family lives with faith integrated into daily life. I enjoyed the lively discussion that helped to make what can be so esoteric usable in life.

My role as a pastoral care provider focuses on relationships: relationships with people, relationships between people, and God's relationship interwoven in all aspects of life. The seminary training provided foundational materials. Throughout the decades building on a foundation in order to be creative, flexible, authentic, and free is necessary to find meaning and strength in life. 

I am grateful for the opportunities and relationships that have enhanced my life!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Is In a Name?

Many Boomers may remember a children's chant, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." (The Christian Recorder - March 1862) or "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me." (Anne J Cuppler - 1872)

Early photo - Timmy
Throughout childhood I was referred to as: Timothy, Timmy, Tim, Syrup, and Two Bellies. Obviously not all of these names held the significance nor conveyed the same meaning. In its original form, Timothy (Greek origin) means "honoring God." My two older brothers had names from Christian Scripture, as well.

Concluding my year of internship as a portion of graduate divinity school in order to become a pastor in Lutheran traditions, this advice was offered by an elderly person, "Make certain that people call you, 'Pastor' because it is a name of respect."

Names and labels are everywhere. Not only are they used to identify, but as previously mentioned they stir up feelings and images. Some are lighthearted and laughable while others cut deep into our sense of being. The present culture seems to use names as weapons to paint with broad strokes those with whom they disagree. Pharmaceutical companies create names for medications that seemingly have no connection to anything. In a previous entry titled, "Training for Life" posted July 14, 2020, I shared my perspective that everything we do and experience should train us for daily living. Now I want to explain the rest of this blog's name, "SPC Adventures."

As the previously mentioned person insisted that I be called "Pastor", that name held images and power for me. There was status, respect, and a vocational definition in that word. I was not totally certain of its parameters, but I found some safety and aloofness in the title. As years passed my previous understanding of the name became uncomfortable. I questioned how (in my understanding) maintaining a rigid and at times impersonal stance allowed for personal integrity. Was I playing a role or being myself?

Opportunities for more training were crucial in helping answer questions concerning pastoral identity. Yes, I still serve part-time as a pastor for 2 congregations.  However,

Hillsboro ND Parish
I enjoy assisting with the integration of faith into life.  Life is an adventure. There are surprises, disappointments, deep awe, and painful missteps. I combine Specialized Pastoral Care into life's adventures. Pastoral care comprises emotional, spiritual, and social support. This is not bound by religious structures or institutions. Pastor: a Latin word meaning "shepherd." So pastoral care is concerned about the feeding, well-being, and growth of people throughout the spectrum of life. I specialize in relational care, creative education, and life transitions. The importance of faith, as well as the dynamics of faith are to be used in daily adventures. At times there is need for assistance, insight, and accompaniment on the adventure. Those are the times when I can be of assistance. 

Thus the name: Specialized Pastoral Care Adventures and the tagline: Training for Life.

I was recently interviewed by JJ Gordon for his podcast, "JJ Meets World." JJ is a radio personality on KFGO 790 in Fargo ND. He is on the midday show "It Takes 2." He also acts, is a stand-up comedian, and enjoys movies. His in-laws attend the Hillsboro United Parish.  If you have some time to listen, we discuss many topics. Our discussion is longer than my sermons!!  You can access the podcast via the colored link "JJ Meets World."

Friday, September 4, 2020

More Minimizing Musings

The previous post contained some thoughts, as well as struggles with attempts to minimize the multitudinous stuff in my life.  Following that post, one of my daily readings based on Stoic Philosophy contained this from Seneca, an ancient philosopher and foundational figure in Stoicism:

"No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they do not have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have."  (Moral Letters       Letter 123, Section 3)

I doubt if marketing was a recognized vocation as time measurement moved from BC to AD, but Seneca's observations indicate that human desire to have it all is timeless. Today our culture packages that desire in both blatant and subtle ways. As much as I resist, the desire for MORE is powerful!

As I was developing topics and ideas for future videos (I have a channel on YouTube) the thought of better equipment entered my mind. A camera meant for multiple purposes (I currently use my phone), a Bluetooth remote control, wi-fi enabled to post instantly or livestream, ways to attach the camera to multiple things all while having a stable picture, and the software to edit the footage were being entertained in my mind.  After spending almost 2 hours researching(time not set aside), I abruptly ended my search. Realizing that more technology means more time futzing, learning, and getting frustrated; these videos while being enjoyable are not necessary nor income generating; and not wanting to part with the hundreds of dollars necessary for all the equipment, I returned to my original activity of setting schedules and ideas. 

In reality I have so much. Actually I have too much stuff which distracts from my enjoyment of life. Time spent on stuff is time taken away from activities and relationships I enjoy. A recent time with family on the North Shore of Lake Superior helped to again refocus my daily expectations. Simple hiking, biking, a rustic cabin, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, and time spent with a flexible schedule brought so much, none of which was frustrating. The photos posted are flowers in Gooseberry Falls State Park. Simple yet magnificent!

Another ancient philosopher wrote, 

"Again I observed another example of how fleeting life is under the sun: a person who is all alone - with no child, no sibling - yet works hard their entire life. Still the person is never satisfied with the wealth gained. Does the person ask, 'Why am I working so hard?' or 'Why am I depriving myself of life's simple pleasures?' This too, is fleeting, like trying to catch hold of a breath; it is a miserable situation."  (Ecclesiastes 4.7-8   The VOICE Translation)


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Recycling More Than Plastic

 One of the many definitions of recycle is, "to pass through a cycle again;repeat a process from the beginning." In my life, recycling has been evident whether it be beliefs, interests, lifestyle, or perspectives. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought back actively "minimizing" my life and footprint. I find it more than Marie Kondo's question, "Does it spark joy?" My ongoing efforts to minimize go beyond the material stuff into emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects of daily living.

Storage Units in Argusville ND
Storage Units in Argusville ND 

While some construction has slowed, I have noticed storage units being built in many locations. It appears to be a common denominator that we all have more stuff than can be stored in our homes. From personal experience, maintaining an accessible place out of the elements where things I rarely need can be securely kept is a costly proposition. So I ask myself, "Why do I need this stuff? Am I fearful that something I own is so precious that I cannot survive without it? If it is so important, why do I place it out of my reach?"

During the pandemic the new question I have learned to ask myself, "Is this necessary?" Is it necessary to go into that business or store for that item? Is it necessary to go into the convenience store when I can pay at the pump? Is it necessary to get new clothes when I rarely get into the public to work? Video conferences are not fashion statements (although the market place tells us how to decorate the walls behind us.) 

Another way I heard this question was, "Is it essential?" A great deal of energy has been expended defining what or who is an essential business or worker. I chuckled when someone (after weeks of being closed) stated that churches are essential businesses and clergy are essential workers. Is it necessary to meet in a building or be face-to-face in order for faith to be nurtured? I have come to realize that a lot of what I think about and react to is out of entrenched habits not necessity. When automatic attitudes and habits that have worked in the past are challenged, the response is often to say they are essential. 

2 sizes of winter sleds

Further pondering leads me to ask, "Am I fearful of change?" In preparing for long distance events it is said that we often "pack our fears." What happens if I run out of clean socks? What if it takes longer and I run out of food? Can I really go 3 days without brewed coffee? Then I also need enough stove fuel. What if a canister isn't full? Looking at the picture of winter sleds I can pack a lot of fears (and extra pounds) on the blue/red sled. AND that sled is made of heavier material! I speak from experience. I packed enough food for a multiple day bikepacking trip. As I was riding I ate some of the packed food. When I came into towns I bought hot foods I craved telling myself I would eat the packed food later. I carried way too much food. Most of the packed food was not necessary. I packed my fears before I honestly answered the "what if?" question.  I have never been malnourished. I have never been without clothing. I may smell, but I survived. 

What is essential? I believe the deeper question is, "Am I essential?" The world was spinning before I was born and it will keep spinning after I am dead. Those people with whom I am close, those people with whom I am in relationship will certainly survive without me. I currently have no debts nor regrets. So again I ask myself, "What fears am I packing?"

Minimizing, taking stock of what is necessary, and viewing most things in life as not essential, I believe are crucial to experiencing freedom. The "what ifs" have been foisted upon us by others for a variety of reasons most of which promote fear. The pandemic has allowed for a recycling, a time to explore and test, and for me a time to work at breaking free. My goal as I once again recycle is to gain greater freedom, tranquility, and serenity seeing each day as a gift.

You can view my YouTube channel at this link. I post new content every 2 weeks.

Friday, August 14, 2020

On-Demand Spiritual Access

For years we have been an "on-demand" culture. The concept of set days and hours for stores to be open was eclipsed by online shopping. In North Dakota physical retail could not open until noon. Legislators were afraid that no one would attend religious activities. While those beside you were singing hymns you could be placing your order online. At least you were in a church building, right? Streaming services are making "set-day set-time" network programming obsolete. I am old enough to remember my parents setting aside Saturday evening to watch Bonanza. When it moved to Sunday night so did the pattern of our family's life. They devices which make worldwide access to information and entertainment make live, in-person events less important.

A recent sample of church signboards indicate the lack of flexibility to the on-demand culture. Since COVID-19 caused in-person in-building gatherings to be suspended, a number of congregations began live streaming. Some were recorded and available online while others were set-time viewing only. Some church leaders believed that there was a set time for worship and inspiration. As more faith communities begin in-person worship the touting of "normalcy" places emphasis on live events at set days and times. Are the sanctuaries filled?  Are people cautious about gathering in groups in enclosed spaces? Are people getting what they need by viewing online? Does this "set-time set-place" continue the compartmentalizing of faith from daily activity? Do people only want or need spiritual access at certain times?
Carey Nieuwhof in an article entitled, "7 Disruptive Church Trends" lists as #7: On-Demand Access Will Eclipse Live Events. Over the years Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings were sacred days and times for Christian organizations. I grew up in, as well as worked for decades in that structure. When life (school activities, community organizations, sports, etc) began to encroach on Wednesday evenings a loud cry went up in the community. These days and times provided meaning, regularity, and mileposts for many people. However, did it serve the purpose of integrating faith and spirituality into the fabric of daily living?

As we continue to evaluate schedules, organizations, and in-person live events in light of caring for self and one another in the ongoing pandemic, I believe the on-demand integration of spirituality into daily existence will increase. This is the way it was originally intended, but perspectives change over time. The separate structures which neatly kept our lives in compartments (divided plates so the peas did not touch the gravy) are giving way to fusion (curried spaghetti and meatballs) while enhancing life and diversity. The recent coronavirus crisis did not cause this change only accelerated what was already occurring. I have been given the opportunity to sit with teenagers and adult family members in kitchen and places of work to discuss Sacred Stories intertwined with daily events. I have hiked trails and sat on camp chairs listening to and interacting with couples discussing life issues. These took place on their schedules with their particular needs and interests in mind. We could binge for a couple of days or a few weeks so that other commitments, vacations, and seasonal activities could occur without penalty for "non-attendance." This did not take away from faith integration. Instead it was a platform for blending life, spiritual enhancement, and faith.

Whether the signage catches up to the realities is not as important as being able to access the support and guidance for all of life's adventures. The training for life does not have a finish line!

I am posting video reflections on my YouTube channel every 2 weeks. These are accessible at any time. I encourage you to subscribe to those videos, as well. 


Saturday, August 8, 2020

Strength Through Brokenness


My "summer" tires were needing replacement as they had served their purpose over the past few years. A gravel riding friend (Ryan) had a set of slightly used 29"x 3" tires to sell. A great bargain was snatched. Not a week after the new rubber was mounted on the rims I developed a flat in the rear tire. My on road repair attempts proved futile. The 65 degree+ dew point and the massive swarms of bugs provided the added frustration to my attempts. I called Ryan to rescue me, but he failed to answer the phone or texts. I resorted to calling my wife. These situations only reinforce her view that I am crazy. I pushed a flat tired bike more than a mile (bugs kept pace with me) to the agreed upon pick up point. I was hot, tired, bug bitten, and broken in many ways!

Not only are bikes currently hard to find, but parts (including some tire sizes) are scarce. The replacement tire was ordered, but estimated arrival was late September. In order to keep riding I placed my 26"x 4,25" fat tires (winter use) on the bike. The second time riding these tires I was on the North Country Trail in the Sheyenne National Grasslands. I had volunteer work to perform. The bike gets that accomplished quicker. Another rear tire failure! Air pump first aid lasted about 500 metres. After three times of this, I decided to once again push my bike. No one to the rescue as my vehicle was less than 2 miles away. Within days, two rear tire failures! The bike had been a reliable and consistent part of life and activity...until now!

With the gracious help of Chris at Paramount Sports in Fargo ND, the Pugsley is back in riding form. Two new fat tires (they were in stock), new rear cassette, new chain and I am ready for riding. Back to a reliable, sturdy and invincible 2-wheeled machine. Oh, Chris also encouraged and taught me how to do more maintenance to prevent future failures. Purchasing some tools and equipment helps me realize the bike needs attention more often than I have previously provided. 

I have heard that only the proud and arrogant believe they are unbreakable. Yet the advances in technology and design seemingly make things last forever. With the LED bulbs in the lamps and fixtures I will never have to replace another bulb. Synthetic lubricants allow new vehicles to go almost 10,000 miles between oil changes. The vaccine for COVID-19 will make the pandemic cease. All of this indicates that unbreakable may be a reality.

All of this sounds accurate, but it is deceptive and ultimately not true. Nothing is unbreakable. Everything and everyone is flawed and finally breaks. Yet that is exactly where strength and resiliency begin. I cannot control tire wear, road debris, etc. I can control my reaction to the brokenness. Pushing the bike gave me plenty of time to assess my situation. It is in those times when insight is gained. The bugs were annoying and painful, but that is what bugs do. I focused on other things and kept moving. The tips and tools which Chris provided allow me to connect with and care for my bike in new ways. I will still experience brokenness on my bike no matter how much attention I give it. My response to those situations will not wield the same impact as previous ones. I will be stronger and more thoughtful in my reactions.

Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile, says we become better because of what we go through. We become stronger in deeper ways then if we had resisted and never been broken. Those who cannot break, cannot learn.

"And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us." (Romans 5.3-5   International Children's Bible)

Strength comes through accepting and responding to our brokenness. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Taking Care of Business - My Business

A favorite location for many of my activities is the Sheyenne National Grasslands in the Leonard and McLeod, North Dakota area. Jorgens Hollow Campground makes a great place to park, organize, refuel, and relax while accessing the North Country Trail. Along with the pump for cold, fresh water, I make use of vault toilets within the primitive setting. 

As a person who often reads signs, this one made me chuckle and contemplate. I understand in a primitive "pack-it-in, pack-it-out"campground someone may want to easily and anonymously discard their garbage. Human nature is fickle in that we desire pristine beauty while believing someone else can pick up our garbage. 
What made for the contemplation is the thought of someone else removing garbage from the deep, blue pit of waste products. Why do people feel responsible to pick up the discarded garbage of others?

A fable written by the late Rabbi Edwin Friedman entitled, "The Bridge" speaks to the aforementioned reality. A person was being responsive to their new vision for life. While crossing a bridge on the way to pursue that opportunity, a passerby gave the person the end of a rope. The passerby jumped off the bridge being tied to the other end of the now taunt rope. The passerby, dangling from the rope said to the person on the bridge, "Remember, if you let go, I will be lost." Verbal exchanges continued between the two. "Why did you do this?" the person asked. The one dangling from the rope responded, "Just remember, my life is in your hands." The person on the bridge finally said, "I will not accept the position of choice for your life. You decide which way this ends." The other shrieked, "You cannot mean what you say. You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility." You can find the conclusion to this fable by using the link above.

Questions of responsibility are cast about frequently today. The unpleasant situations of life are thrown into the hands of others. The question needs to be individually answered, "Do I want to remove someone's trash from the pit?" Do I want to create and foster dependency? Do I desire to promote that all people are able to respond to their circumstances?  What is the difference between assisting personal development and taking care of someone else's life and behaviors? Are the lives of other people in my hands?

My outlook has become focused on responding in conjunction with my core values. I am able to respond as an individual. I choose how to act. My action will not "change the world." I do not have that much power. I do believe that when individuals respond in agreement with their core values greater changes occur. The critical work for each person is the foundational work. It is discovering and living into a vision of self-empowerment which by its nature will impact our surroundings and society.

Please do not throw garbage into the blue liquid pit and expect someone else to remove it. Take care of your business!

If you want to view my video reflections, here is a link to my YouTube channel

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


There was always a garden plot (to me it seemed like a field) on the farm where I was raised. My parents enjoyed tending to the plants, as well as enjoying the plot's produce. Green peas and sweet corn were field crops for the local cannery, so those did not consume garden space. Hours of heat, humidity, and biting insects remain etched in my mind when I think about gardening.

Summer Squash
A colorful array of vegetables now compliments most of my meals. The diverse tints, textures, and tastes are a sensory explosion. Long gone are the traditional vegetables of my youth. Yes, some meals consisted only of corn on the cob! Now kale, eggplant, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, beets, summer and winter squash, carrots, cabbage, and broccoli are in the dietary rotation. The availability and variety in the grocer's produce section makes this a reality.

Early this spring I noticed information about a local CSA (community supported agriculture). After as bit of investigation money was sent to secure a weekly half-share box that continues into the fall. Local, a worthwhile job and skills training organization, easy to access, and reasonably priced ticked all of the boxes for me. Being a few weeks into a blissful vegetable coma, I remembered something from my youthful gardening experience: seasonality. How many yellow, patty pan, and zucchini squash can a person consume? Recipes have been exhausted. Shredded zucchini in zip-top freezer bags are tucked into the corners of the freezer. My friends fail to reply to text messages about summer squash giveaways.

A mid-60's rock band used Hebrew Wisdom Literature as the basis for one of their hits. "Turn, Turn, Turn" was made popular by The Byrds. The third chapter of Ecclesiastes states, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (New International Version)

Local CSA
The present reality of availability and variety (not only for vegetables) has placed seasonality into the category of boredom. Attention spans have shortened. Palates have expanded. The expectation of new and novel determine everything from media to medicine and education to business. I, too have become reliant upon a vast array of stimuli to sense fullness in life.

Seasonality is a forgotten entry into serenity. Enjoying what is present; seeing and savoring each day; discovering meaning in the minute and  overlooked grounds me in gratitude. I find that constantly seeking the next new thing fails to provide fullness, instead it produces frustration, The philosopher, Epictetus wrote, "Those who are wise do not grieve for things which they have not, but rejoice in those which they have."

I will savor and rejoice in the summer squash. The taste, the texture, the curvature of the produce, the various hues and striations, and its simplicity are qualities to cherish. There is a time for every activity. I will revel in seasonality. There is no rush.

I also produce video reflections. Click this link for my You Tube Channel.