Saturday, October 31, 2020

Night of the Living Profile

It was a cold December night 5 years ago that I experienced a moment foreign to my existence. 


There was an electric excitement among local folks for the multi-church concert coming the following night. To celebrate the months of planning reaching its near fulfillment, my wife and I took the headlining rapper and DJ out to a wonderful dinner in a nearby town. After amazing food and conversation, we headed home. Our parallel parked Honda made up the metaphorical meat, sandwiched between two larger vehicles on a one-way street. As I attempted to merge into the flow of holiday traffic, I didn’t think anything of it when a law enforcement vehicle passed us in the nearby lane. Traffic let up a few moments later and we entered the stream.  

    As we laughed and joked in the car, I noticed something strange. The law enforcement vehicle that was some 15 cars ahead of us shifted into the slow lane. Car after car began passing them in the left lane as their speed declined. Less than two minutes later they were parallel to us in the opposite lane. They looked into my car and I looked back at them. Then they pulled behind me. I did what anyone in this situation does… immediately begins wracking their brains with all the what-if’s. Had I stuck my nose too far out into traffic on the street trying to merge? Maybe a headlight was out? I wouldn’t have to imagine what happened much longer when the ominous red, white and blue flashed. I slowed to a stop in front of a pizza place and then waited. Both officers approached the car from both sides with flashlights. “License and registration…” to which I obliged, and they disappeared for what felt like 10 minutes. “Where are you going,” was the question asked when they resurfaced, all the while peering into my backseat. “I’m headed home.” As the words came out of my mouth it began to dawn on me what might have been happening. “I’m a pastor, what’s this about?” They disappeared again for what felt like another 10 minutes. 

    Carefully approaching the vehicle for the final time, the officer hands me a ticket and my license, informing me my tabs were expired. I had no idea, and immediately apologized. How could I be so careless? 

    As we drove home it dawned on me that when they first passed us, it would have been impossible to see our tabs angled into the sidewalk. I then realized it was the contents of my car that got me pulled over; a white couple with a black and Mexican man. 

Shame turned to anger.

     I apologized profusely to them for this seemingly random Washington experience. My friend, made in the image of God, told me it actually wasn’t my fault. It was his. He was pulled over on a regular basis. Did he represent an isolated occurrence? His experience was then confirmed by the mutually shared experience of the other man. In this moment I realized that our lives were tremendously different. I began to think of rare times where I accidently drove to Redbox without a wallet (or with expired tabs). I had a squeaky clean record and hadn’t been pulled over for years until that moment. What if I got pulled over more often though? Chances are my record wouldn’t be as clean. In this moment I knew our lives as Christian men in America were very different. 

    The next night the main event required my entire focus… and from there the busy-ness of life just rolled on. Having been given a window from God to a different world, I never did anything with it. In a way, I still don’t know what to fully do with it other than share the experience. If you’re like me and don’t know how to enter into this arena, the Gospel Coalition’s podcast ‘As In Heaven’ season 2 is a great place to start

( ). ‘AIH’ approaches the history of race in America from a profoundly Biblical perspective and I can’t recommend it enough. 

    In closing, I want to say I’m deeply thankful to law enforcement. I live in city where they are few and far between. I’ve witnessed a car gang (not political at all) shut down a street during rush hour traffic unopposed and guys walk down the street late at night with multiple bikes (or barbecues!) in their arms. There simply aren’t enough law enforcement around to restrain the escalating crime and gun violence. The racial issues of our day go uncomfortably deeper than police though... It’s me. No easy answers, but as a white dude to other white people, I want to encourage you to listen to black voices that might challenge the way you see things. Before God, I know their life experiences are very different from ours and that isn’t right. 

    In Deuteronomy 29:1-3 Moses speaks to Israelites who didn’t experience the exodus from Egypt as if they actually did. They were presented a choice of life, that required obedience in light of the God who miraculously saved them. Would they listen to his commands and succeed? These young Israelites weren’t even there when the previous generation failed but were held responsible for their future choices as if they had directly experienced God’s gracious rescue. I’m not sure if this principle directly connects to America with slavery in the past and civil rights today. What I do know is that we need to be faithful today to what God has for us as an entire people in light of what he’s done for us in the past. This looks like seeking justice for all, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Day By Day

     Fall is by far my most favorite time of year. Who could imagine dying leaves could look so good? After hesitating for months, I committed to being in a long(er) term relationship with Oregon by submitting the various car tests and inspections to the Salem DMV to transfer my WA license plates for one with a big green tree on it. You know, writing that made it sound so much easier than it really was.

    Over the last few years I’ve been pursuing a monthly rhythm of all day solitude and spent my first day alone in Oregon at ‘The Grotto’ in Portland. The prayerfulness of the place is unreal. Some prayers must have been heard because the following day I got my first major assignment graded that took me weeks to write; 96.7%. I could have cried, but didn’t. That weekend Lauren and I got away to my favorite Fall place on earth, Lake Quinault. On top of a beautiful drive to get there, we got to watch an impossible Seahawks win that night that really set the tone for the weekend. We made the 3 hour drive around the lake to see the leaves and waterfalls which really charged up my batteries. Lauren paddle boarded and I swam. That night (10/12) we met a sweet retired couple from Louisiana and became temporary Saints fans to support them. We talked about life and God and what lay ahead. The Saints came marching back from a 21(?) point deficit to form an ‘inclusio’ on our Quinault experience. It’s funny what God can use to lift spirits. On the ride home the next day we saw elk and drove over the longest continuous truss bridge in the United States as we stopped in Astoria for dinner. I knew the two day vacation was over Wednesday when I received my first B- on a major assignment since 2011. After disagreeing with the marker on multiple points, ultimately I think it was good for me and even learned some stuff about truly formatting papers correctly. 

    This last weekend brought a quick Sunday drive out to “Fruit Loop” in stunning Hood River after a friend from our Monday Bible study recommended it for fall colors. The hour+ drive out of the city to the gorgeous countryside to pick up fresh pressed apple cider from Draper Girls Farm, was a solid change of pace. We got to see such sights as ‘The Bridge of the Gods’ and a phenomenal sunset over the river. Since moving here, I feel prayer has become a more central act in my life and recently praying has become even sweeter. I don’t fully know what’s brought that on, but I’m thankful for it. On Monday the 19th came an answer to prayer that I had long forgotten about. In the Western cafeteria that afternoon I was stopped by a random guy on a Zoom call while I microwaved leftovers for lunch. “Do you, do you ride a bike and live at Anchor NW apartments?” The morning before we rode the elevator up to our apartment after church and saw a dressed up guy get in with us briefly and said hello. “Are you the guy from the elevator,” I replied?! We later concluded that there must be another Christian guy living here as that wasn’t him, but we both discovered that low and behold, there was another Western Student with his wife living in THE SAME BUILDING. Sharing the news with my wife, she reflected that God had already answered our prayer months ago in July (when they moved in a week apart from us) but had just revealed it to us now. That was a profound insight on God’s over the top faithfulness. Today I wrote the last entry in a journal that spanned 2.5 years. Reflecting on God’s faithfulness this morning was overwhelming as I flipped through the worn pages. Many memories. Some good, some painful. All amazing though in light of what God has woven together. Tonight we go out to dinner with the christian couple that lives in our apartment complex and I can’t help but think that this is the start to something beautiful. 

Solitude spot at the Portland Prayer Grotto

Lake Quinault Lodge

Quinault in early October is unreal



"Fruit Loop"

"Fruit Loop" pt. 2

Hood River Sunset

2.5 Years in these pages

Monday, October 5, 2020

Falling Into Place

Above: Western Mugshot 

Yep. That’s right. Start as you mean to continue… and I began the blog with a horrible pun. What hasn’t been horrible is the wild journey God has brought us on. Learning to trust more and more even when I have less and less idea of what we’re doing here. I’m becoming ok with this, at least today.

Above: Door of Hope

(9/20) After the fiery exile of smokey Portland air, we kicked off Fall right by attending the first in person service at Door of Hope. I then made my debut as an usher the following week (9/27) with Lauren. It’s been a wonderful experience to be reunited with the saints here. There was more than just smoke looming over my head as I decided to drop a class and attempt to test out of it. With all the wild happenings, I felt overwhelmed and underprepared to write essays for three classes given the circumstances. (9/23) The oral examination took up a lot of real-estate in my brain as I prepared for it- but fortunately I passed the hour long test with at least some colors flying. Very thankful to receive credit for a class and not actually have to take it as my academic adviser originally instructed. (9/24) That evening we met all of our neighbors at the apartment complex as a fire alarm went off which made for some cool opportunities to chat with many people at once.

God has blessed us relationally by going out twice with couples from school and our homegroup. We got to take one of these couples from North Carolina to In-n-Out Burger for the first time (10/2) which is always a tremendous honor. A small library crew of guys is developing as we study together. My study philosophy has always been “if the libraries open, I’m in it,” and that remains true today which has provided a helpful rhythm of daily work and rest. I’ve been cranking out essays and feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. What remains uncertain is to what we’re to be doing here when not studying. I feel a pull to get back into ministry (maybe?) but don’t know what to do with that. Portland is expensive and since everything is over Zoom we’re not sure what the future really looks like but optimistic. It’s truly one foot in front of the other as we keep be-leafing in what God is going to do this October and beyond.

Above: Jumped in the icy Willamette River on a smokey evening...