Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas 2015

A highlight of our year was the three weeks in July we spent in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Tetons National Park.  We spent five or six days in each park doing lots of hiking, some epic.  In GNP: Many Glacier to Iceberg Lake, Highline to Granite Park Chalet to the Loop, Mt. Brown Lookout, among others.  In YNP: Mount Washburn, Avalanche Peak, Fairy Falls, Trout Lake, all the Hot Springs and Geyser trails, all Canyon South Rim to Point Sublime, among others.  In GTNP: Emma Matilda Lake, Amphitheater Lake, Cirque and Summit at the top of Jackson Hole Ski Area, Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point at Jenny Lake, among others.  We saw most of the major wildlife: bison, elk, moose, antelope, mule deer, whitetail deer, mountain goats, big horn sheep, grizzly bear, black bear, marmots and other small mammals (no wolf or mountain lion).  On Highline in GNP, Beth leading the hike rounded a tight corner and a mountain goat was right next to her.  Going around Jenny Lake Beth leading the hike suddenly stopped and started backing up.  Fifteen yards ahead was a black bear sow with two cubs.  Driving out west, around and back, we saw road-kill horse, open-range bison and cattle on the roads, drove over 9600’ passes.  We visited a Scandinavian museum, the geographical center of North America, Havre MT, Yaak MT, Sandpoint ID, Missoula and Lolo, Cody WY, Sheridan WY, Deer Haven Lodge near Ten Sleep WY, Devils Tower WY, the geographical center of the United States, Black Hills SD, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, Wall Drug.  We took over two thousand photos.

In February we spent two weeks on Manasota Key near Englewood, Florida.  We have never done anything like that before.  Few days got to 70 degrees, so it was often cool on the beach.  We saw nice sunsets over the Gulf.  We got to walk barefoot in February.  We visited Sarasota, Siesta Key, Venice, Myakka State Park, Boca Grande, the Everglades. At Everglades we took a boat tour out among the Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge and saw dozens of porpoises up close porpoising right next to the hull.  At Shark Valley Visitor Center we did the tram tour and saw over 100 alligators.  Our return to Michigan happened to be on a day when major snow and ice storms were predicted for the next day.  So we made the 1320 mile drive home in 18 hours.

The year began with my job status in limbo.  I was in a temporary position (Executive Project Director in Academic Affairs), subject to lay-off by the end of the year.  In May my temporary position was extended until the end of 2016, diminishing some anxiety.  By the end of September I was offered a permanent position as Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs.  That was a huge relief.  My role is something of a director of instruction for the entire college.  I make decisions about curricular and course issues, about faculty qualifications, about partnerships with other colleges and universities, about academic operations, policies and procedures.  I have made some long-overdue decisions that many (in advising, in financial aid, in the registrar’s office) have welcomed and appreciated.

Beth has grown into leadership for women at church.  She is a mentor for the Mothers of Preschoolers group.  She participates in a women’s bible study.  She is very well-regarded at church.  I am very proud of her.  Her leadership style is quiet, subtle, non-intrusive.  I think that is part of why she is so well-regarded.  And she is very smart and very wise.  She rode her bicycle much this year, perhaps close to 3000 miles.  She now has three bicycles; she just got a new classic-styled bike she calls her Mackinac Island bike.  She and my sister would like to have a permanent summer home on Mackinac Island and grow a vegetable and flower garden together, ride bikes, eat good food, read many books.

Jayne is moving back in with us.  She has firm plans to enroll in an Aviation Technology program through Lansing Community College, beginning Fall 2016.  She wants to save money to pay for the program.  It is a two year program that gets you associate degrees and prepares you to pass FAA exams on airframe maintenance and powerplant maintenance.  Students are in class five days a week six hours a day year around for two years.  Most students in the programs have job offers before completing the program.  Already having a bachelor’s degree, Jayne should be in a very good position to get meaningful and rewarding employment.  We are proud of her.

Kevin and Marissa love each other and love Minneapolis.  Kevin started working this fall for Wells Fargo, promoting mortgage investing to WF investment officers.  Some of Michigan is part of his region, and we are hoping he gets some business trips our direction.

Life is so full of unexpected events, unwelcome changes.  We are survivors.  We love each other very much.  We hope this season deepens your love for those close to you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Resolution 2015

New Years 2015 Resolution
PS: 12/23/15 I made it, kept my resolution!

Not like any other.


I aim to listen to a new song, a song I’ve never heard before, a new song from an established band or a song from a band I’ve never heard before.  Why?  I want to get ready for the Kingdom.  What are you saying?

For a version 23 years later, same meaning and depth:

Or this when I was only 25 years old:

I don’t want to get caught singing an old song. That is the song of funk. The song that those who oppress and oppose God want to sing as songs of conquest, success, overcoming.  But how long will we sing that song of the oppressors?  How long will I sing that song?  Don’t’ know. But I want to be silent during those songs. In protest to their singing, I remain silent.  I cannot sing their song.  I cannot even fake singing it.  Sing not for them.  For their victory march.  I want to be singing a new song.  Every week.  This year. The saints come marching in.

I will sing a new song.  Even if it is one I am not familiar with.  Even if it is one I am not comfortable singing.  I will sing a new song.  How long will I sing that old song?  As long as needed.  But I look forward to the new song.  I need a new song.  How Long? To sing this [old] song?

Don’t know. But in anticipation, I will sing a new song.  Can I do 52 new songs?  The effort will be worth the journey.  I am moving toward the Kingdom. Join me there. Sing the one thing that matters.
And everything else don't mean sh**!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Comfort Ye!

I am doing my annual listen to Handel’s Messiah.  I was struck this year by the first words sung in the opening tenor recitative: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.”  Those are the opening words of Isaiah 40.  These words appear to have been spoken to people who were not in comfortable circumstances.  They viewed themselves as faithful followers of God, who were about to be handed over to a culture, society and political system that despised God.  Why should anyone in circumstances like this find comfort?

The end of Isaiah 40 says it:
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Those words resonate within me at the end of this year.  A week before Thanksgiving I was informed that my current employment might end within a year.  On the very day this was announced to me, the daily devotional I receive via email was titled “A Better Future.”  The text was Isaiah 43.15-21, which includes these words: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (18-19).  I am hopeful.  I am trying to live in excited anticipation to see the way in the wilderness and rivers (notice it is plural) in the desert.

We got out to Minneapolis four times this year to visit with Kevin and Marissa.  It is beautiful to see their love and friendship grow.  We relax when we visit, go for long walks, ride our bikes around the city, go the the State Fair.

Our trip out there in May included a stay at Fish Creek in Door County, Wisconsin where we were able to ride our bikes all over the county.  In wooded areas we saw thousands of Lady Slipper orchids in bloom.

Jayne lives four miles from us, ½ mile from where I was hit from behind while riding my bicycle November 2013.  We enjoy weekly visits with her.  I went deer hunting with her mid-November.  She got a deer.  We processed it ourselves.  She did the best job I’ve ever seen trimming all the meat of fat, sinew and sheath.  It made for very tasty venison.

Beth helps out at church in various ways, behind the scenes work that makes the seen work go well.  She visits and assists her mom almost weekly.  She has ridden her bicycle nearly 2000 miles this year.  She likes her neighborhood, church and community.

By the end of December I will have ridden my bike 4500 miles this year; my first bike ride after my November 2013 accident was March 10, and it felt great to be able to ride.  Mid-summer we got a nice quality tandem bicycle.  Until it got too cool in October, we’d ride that together 25-45 miles on a Saturday or Sunday, exploring places we’d never ridden before.

I enjoyed deer hunting this year.  I did a fair amount of fishing for bluegills on Muskrat Lake, grew a small garden, picked wild black raspberries.  I try to keep connected to the natural world.

Isaiah says that the new thing has already sprung forth: the way in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert.  He asks us “do you not perceive it?”  I need those kind of eyes, like the shepherds at Jesus’ birth who saw the multitude of angels.