Friday, January 18, 2019


Takeaways from Martin Luther King, Jr. for America, 2019 

Martin Luther King, Jr. (abbrev. "MLK") was a great leader in a time of social stress: the 1960s. The U.S. has set aside January 21, 2019, as a memorial to him.

I have memories related to MLK, mainly because I associated with people who knew and supported him. I spent the academic year of 1963-64 in Chicago as an intern at the Parish of the Holy Covenant, located north of the Loop and near the lake-shore on Diversey Parkway. The work was to fulfill requirements for the Master of Divinity degree at Evangelical Theological Seminary, Naperville, IL. I was newly married to my lovely Lucille. We lived near the church and she commuted to her teaching job in Glen Ellyn. 

My time that year was devoted mainly to learning church development: preaching, teaching, visiting in members' homes, meeting with the co-pastors for planning and evaluation.

An important church executive, Stanley Hallett, happened to be an active member of Holy Covenant. Hallett was Executive Director of the Church Federation of Greater Chicago. Stan befriended me and taught me a lot about urban development, his specialty. But I remember more having participated in a trip he organized to Jackson, Mississippi. 

Stan had a friend, the Rev. Ed King, the chaplain of Tougalou College. Stan reported that Ed King had telephoned him for help in saving students' lives. Ed told Stan that 16 Tougalou students had lost their lives for protesting on behalf of black people in Jackson. Stan helped Ed by organizing delegations of pastors from the Chicago area to stand with the students, especially as they sought to enter segregated churches. I joined one of those groups and remember well the sound of approaching sirens as our integrated group sought to enter an all-white Methodist church one Sunday morning in 1963. After discussion with the police and ushers, we disbanded and returned safely to Chicago to our families and our congregation. The students went back to the college. At least, we had provided the students with some cover in their quest for freedom and equality.

The name Ed King brings to mind Martin Luther King, Jr. (M.L.K., Jr.), whose day we celebrate on January 21, 2019. M.L.K., Jr. fought for equality; Trump has delivered inequality in many ways, especially by delivering higher tax rates for the lower classes while lowering rates for the rich and corporations. M.L.K., Jr. fought for inclusion; Trump is fighting for a wall. M.L.K., Jr. fought for voting rights. Republicans in some areas (with Trump's blessing?) seek to restrict voting roles. 

2018 Peoples' protest  in Seattle. Photo:  Elliot Stoller,
used with permission

1965   President Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the signing of the Voting Rights Act
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

What if Hallett, or Ed King, or MLK, Jr. were here today. What would they advise that we, the people, seek to do?

What’s for Americans to do in 2019? Prioritize these six things. I take them from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

l Steer our President toward decent government, however possible. Congress and Courts, backed by the people and working to restore orderly government, are essential. The President’s own appointees should advise him, reign him in, or just resign as so many have already done. Yes, it's a tough job but that’s their responsibility to us, the people, and our Constitution.

l We the People must act as one body, but how? In 2019 let us have recourse to the traditional values we hold in common: liberty and justice for all. Let us refuse to be driven by fear.  

l Work for, contribute to and vote for candidates who genuinely support Liberty and Justice for all.   

l Favor our long-held American taxation measures that impede domination by corporations and the already-wealthy, lift the poor and strengthen the middle class.

l Use the time out to November 2020 to hinder voter repression in every jurisdiction. “Open and fair elections” in 2020. An essential, necessary and worthy goal.

l Let 2019 be known as The Year of Recovery of Our American Values.


Saturday, January 12, 2019


Yearnings for some family fun? Or better yet: how to learn something while you're having fun?

The short answer is: explore your community: the place in which you live and the people who inhabit it.

Now a longer answer. My family moved forty miles to a new community: Newberg, OR. New to us. Well, actually I must qualify that. We'd visited family members who were living in Newberg since childhood in my wife's case and since our marriage in my case. Why? Because Lucy's grandmother, aunts and uncles lived in the town or nearby. So, before we moved in May, 2018, we already knew something about Newberg.

But we've found more learning adventures in this town than we expected. Here's a recap of one such joyful day.

Two weeks ago we drove up a winding road to the summit of Chehalem Mountain. a place just south of our new home. It's really only really tall hill measuring 1629 feet above sea level at its highest point. Geologists define it as an uplift from the ancient seafloor. Every day we see it from our back window. So what was there to explore? We'd many times driven north to south over the mountain on a very curvy state highway (warning signs recommend a speed of 20 miles per hour at certain switchbacks.)

From Chehalem Mountain, view to Southeast. Lucy and I live down there in the valley. 
Photographer: M. L. Stevens. In public domain. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Two weeks ago, this is what we explored: Bell Road, new to us, running east to west along the top of the ridge.

We traversed forests and fields and  viewed farmhouses, suburban homes, even suburban view mansions. We traveled confusing, curvaceous roads without a compass. The map we used was inadequate and we lost our way a couple of times. But we kept exploring, using our gut instincts for directions.

Finally, we  got a reward for the time we'd spent and risks we'd taken. We found the intersection of S.W. Mountain Home Road and Wunderli Canyon Road!

Very near to the intersection we discovered a small, white United Methodist church building. We hopped out of the car to explore this spot rural gem. Standing to the right of the front door we looked north over the hillside and valleys onto the Tualatin Valley and, far away, numerous suburban neighborhoods. Absolutely breathtaking!

I discovered a display of three cornerstones on the church porch. The earliest stone carried the name "Evangelical Church, 1936." The next showed the words "Evangelical United Brethren Church, 1955". The third stone showed: "United Methodist Church, 1968."

Church history carved in granite.

A bit of personal history: I am retired from the ordained ministry of The United Methodist Church. The fatherly Bishop Maynard Sparks ordained me into The Evangelical United Brethren in Jennings Lodge, Oregon in 1968. And much earlier, in 1940 when I was a year old, my pastor baptized me in the First Evangelical Church, Tacoma, Washington.

The three cornerstones thrilled me because they recited my own personal church affiliation history, which has been so meaningful to me, over my eighty years. I like to say, "I've never changed church denominations, but my church has changed on me three times."

Back to our trip. Lucy, my wife, received the next big personal thrill. At an intersection just north of the church Lucy found a road sign: "Wunderli Canyon Road." Prior to our marriage Lucy's last name was Wonderly. Is there a Wunderli-Wonderly connection?

From Lucy's father years ago I'd learned that his family name in its original German form was Wunderlich. But what about the Wunderli of Wunderli Canyon Road? We wondered, could some distant relative of Lucy's have settled in a canyon near the hill top on which we were now standing? Had someone (maybe an immigration official decades ago?) changed Wunderlich to Wunderli in the case of the Wunderlichs for whom the road was named? Whether "ja" or "nein," the possibility intrigues.

From our vantage point on the farm field we saw  Mt. Saint Helens in Oregon and Mts. Adams, Saint Helens and Rainier in Washington State. That vista in itself thrilled us.

Road-sign reads: Wunderlich Canyon Road.
Lucy Wonderly, gazing off into family history. 
Mt. Adams in central Washington State in the distance.

Recent rains had turned Wunderli Canyon Road into a slippery, muddy one-way track. We drove down into the canyon for a few hundred feet to a turn-around and retraced the route up. We'll return some dry day to explore the road to its end.

Before this exploring trip we had thought we knew the area in which we live. But once we explored it further we achieved some power-packed emotional rewards and a desire to explore more. Your community, no matter where you live in the world, undoubtedly holds similar surprises for you. I wish you enjoyable explorations in your neighborhood.

How can you get started?  Go do it.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

How many ways?

A community booster benefited Newberg, my town, tremendously just last last evening. I'm still excited about the event. 

My spouse and I live in Newberg, Oregon, U.S.A. (Newberg is a town of  about 25,000 on the southern boundary of the Portland, Oregon metropolitan zone.) A few days ago a fellow resident asked, "Are you two going to the Oregon Symphony Concert next Friday?"

"What's that you say? The Oregon Symphony will perform in town here?" That was my reaction. I attend symphony concerts in downtown Portland, 40 miles north of Newberg. But here in the boondocks?

"Yes. Friday, January 4th. The Symphony will play here in town."

"What's the cost?" 

"It's free!"

Impossible, I thought. Lucy and I rushed to the Chamber of Commerce, the reputed source of the free tickets. "Yes," said the receptionist. "No charge." He gave us our two free tickets!

Well, the concert last night was great. The orchestra played shorter, less formal pieces than we normally hear at concerts in-town four times a year. The Bauman Auditorium was filled: the stage with players, the audience seats with hundreds of people of all ages, all modes of dress.

Harney County, Oregon, 1913
Photo in public domain via Wikimedia
Setting a precedent in accessible public music over a century ago

I couldn't get my mind around this. Free Oregon Symphony concert? Just unbelievable.

A friend explained: it's free every year. It's a gift of Mr. Austin back to the community.

Well, who's Mr. Austin? A local, who years ago founded a major dental chair supply business. Headquartered in Newberg. A friend of mine said, "It's his way of thanking the community." The 37 years of annual free symphony concerts is a terrific story of a man's contribution to the quality of his community.

Austin and his wife, Jean, contributed in other ways as well. The prime example is the Allison Inn and Spa. It's  for-profit and not free--far from it. But it does benefit Newberg through employment opportunities and by indirectly supporting local wineries.

You probably can think of people who benefit your community in amazing ways. I think of the Schnitzer family, donors to Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the official Portland base of the Oregon Symphony. The Schnitzer family has been generous indeed.

People can be generous and should be generous as their means permit. If we cannot give money we can give something else: time, talent. As the New Year 2019 begins, you might list ways in which you do or can give to your community.  Jesus taught this pretty succinctly: Love your neighbor as yourself. (The Bible: Matthew 22:37-39.) 

Friday, December 28, 2018



(2018 was a Great Success for the People)

Over the holidays my friend and I got into a discussion of politics. He said, Since the inauguration of President Trump, it’s worse than fiction. Then another friend. She said, “Worse than anyone anticipated. Finally, My preacher said, “This is the end.”

“Yes!” The worst probably is over. There’s hope.

Young citizen celebrating his nation
Elliot Stoller, photographer.
Posted with permission.

Turning point: In November, 2018, we voters of the United States of America elected a majority of opposition party members (Democrats) to seats in the House of Representatives. The federal election of 2018 was the biggest story in 2018, the Year of the People. It’s a positive story. That’s a sound reason for hope.

In 2019, courts, investigators and the opposition party, backed by loyal Americans of every color and class, will work to re-ground and stabilize the nation.

What’s for Americans to do in 2019? These five things:

1Steer our President toward decent government whenever, and however possible. 

Investigators, Congress, White House staff and Courts: do your job to restore order in government. Order with justice for all: that’s the goal. The President’s staff should advise him, reign him in, or just resign as so many have already done. That’s your duty to the President and to the people. 

2. And for ordinary Americans, have your say! Letter to the editor, that’s one thing to do. Social media: another way to communicate your stand for freedom and justice.

3We the People must act as one body, but how? By finding how to realize our common values of “freedom and justice for all.” And with regard to justice in particular, a recent poll found that a majority of Americans favors impeachment or removal from the office of president.

A second thing to communicate: let your voice be heard on shortening Trump’s careening presidential career.

3. It’s not a political party thing, my friends. No, it’s our all-encompassing pledge: “liberty and justice for all”. Much broader than any political party. We recite: “one nation, under God, indivisible. . .” We do commit to that, right? 

Republicans included. Look at Senator Romney's statement. Worth a read, for sure!
Therefore, a third thing to do: vote for candidates who genuinely support Liberty and Justice, and whose main personal motive is love of country. 

4. Another thing to do. Lift the poor and strengthen the middle class. This is a tax matter. Much of Trump’s tax reform (or, better, deform) must be reversed.

5. Use the next months to root out voter repression in every jurisdiction. “Open and fair elections” in 2020. An essential, necessary and worthy goal.

Question: would you add other priorities to this list? 

Saturday, December 22, 2018



Zen on the Trail

Hiking as Pilgrimage
Wisdom Publications, 2018

A couple of decades ago, author Chris Ives and I were colleagues at the University of Puget Sound . He covered Eastern religions while I taught Christian ethics. We've stayed in contact. That's how I learned, recently, that Chris, now a professor in Massachusetts, has  published Zen on the Trail.  

As I read the book this fall I appreciate it more and more. Why? Well, first, "On the trail" reminded me of nature explorations of my childhood. To get to "nature," I hiked west, up and over the hill from my neighborhood, Oakland Addition, to the headwaters of Bowers Creek, a southward-flowing creek paralleling South Orchard Street. I'd just get lost out there in a kind of childhood rapture--away from the paper route duties, school assignments and household chores. 

On these hikes I generally had some company: my pet dog, Rusty and and maybe a neighbor boy. 

This magnet of forest and flowing creek water appealed to me like the spiritual hiking Chris Ives so vividly describes. I call it a "spiritual appeal."  Why? Because in the broadest sense I immersed myself in a Reality. I didn't name it such in boyhood, but I do so now and Zen on the Trail confirms it. That's a gift.

Here's another gift. Ives' book reminded me of a conversation with my Dad, an inveterate hiker-guy himself. I describe his spiritual genre as "ardent evangelical" in the classical sense. By "classical sense," I mean open to a broad range of depictions of Reality. 

Dad told our family, with remorse, that one of his friends, Art Stanke, just never attended church.

Then one weekend, when I was in my junior high (middle school) years Dad returned from a horseback trip with Art in the Cascade mountains. Dad said something like this: "You know, Art pulled his horse to a halt at a lookout point. When I caught up with him and he was just gazing off into the canyon below and the distant peaks beyond. He sat still there for minutes. Art may not be a church-goer but I think that gazing is his type of spiritual moment."

Maybe this comment by my Dad, whose judgments I trusted then and trust still, got me to thinking of spiritual experience as something natural that happens in solitude in nature and not exclusively midst a congregation in a sanctuary.

Out of this childhood background my years have sparkled with attempts to live and relive such experiences "out on the trail." I'll recount one of the most recent. 

Late last summer, 2018, Lucy and I met with our two kids and their families and hiked from Tipsoo Lake counterclockwise around Naches Peak and back to Tipsoo. 

Photo by Ron Clausen, 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International

Twenty years earlier I hike the same trail. A mile or so outbound from Tipsoo I'd entered a period of wordless meditation in connection with nature (and the God of nature? I'd say "yes"). The place: the south side of Naches Peak, about twenty yards above the trail at the base of a fifty-foot slightly concave volcanic rock wall. On the 2018 hike I recognized that very spot. On my solitary hike twenty years earlier, nature, instinct or the Spirit drew me to climb up to the base of the rock wall, to sit there and gaze. I lost myself in rapture: Rainier to the right, Cascade peaks to the south, the lakes and hills of Justice Douglas Wilderness to the east, the brown plains of Central Washington in the haze even further east, the ravens floating on up-winds in the canyon below.    

At that very spot in summer of 2018, I told my co-hikers--my wife, kids and grand-kids--that I'd appreciate their scattering some of my ashes at the base of that vertical rock wall on Naches Peak. That won't be the permanent end of my life hike, I know. Just a way station along the trail. Storms will dump rain and snow on Naches Peak and my ashes will flow down the mountainside, maybe nourishing plants or ants. Some might descend all the way to the bottom of the valley and perhaps wash down the creek into Dewey Lake. That would be a grand destiny.

All of the experiences above flow out of a person formed entirely in the Christian tradition. I found great resonance between my life experience and the wonderful passages rooted in Eastern tradition in "Zen on the Trail."

I thank Chris so much for the many insights in "Zen on the Trail." It's a well of information and resource for inspiration. 

This is my Christmas-tide post. Maybe it seems odd to celebrate Zen at Christmas. Not really, because I remember that Mother Mary and Jesus were "on the trail" when they lodged in the stable. The Wise Men from the East were "on the trail" when they approached the infant Savior in the cradle. Jesus, once out of Galilee as a teenager, lived exclusively "on the trail" for twenty years until his premature death. On-the-trail spiritual experience is greater than any of our human traditions and infuses them all.

Thus, I highly recommend the book to all hikers, especially to those who “feel something greater” than themselves, on the trail.

Saturday, December 15, 2018



CHLOE, dear family pet for nearly twenty years. 

She's an Asian jungle cat. As such, she's slept most of the day and wandered throughout the house most every night. My daughter and her two teen-aged kids and their father have tended her from toddler to senior citizen years. And now, due to her infirmities and illness, it's time to say goodbye.

Today, family members will have to take Chloe to a veterinarian to be put down. Very sad event. Very merciful event at the same time.

CHLOE 12/15/2018
Photo by Christina Prior
Used with permission
All rights reserved

Recently Chloe has lost the ability to stand on her feet. She drinks only running water. In the past she'd leap from the floor to a counter and sip from running tap water. We all loved chasing Chloe, in fun, around the house.

Today she cannot use her legs and must be lifted to the water faucet. 

The veterinarian inspected her and announced the results: Chloe is sick with many diseases.

My family faces a task today that reminds me of my task with my childhood dog, Rusty. Rusty was to me like Chloe is to my grand kids. Rusty wandered the hills of south Tacoma with me. He wagged his brown tail in happiness and love.

When my parents determined that Rusty was too sick to continue life, they delegated me to take Rusty by bus to the city animal shelter on Center Street in Tacoma, and wish him goodbye. The attendants euthanized him that day. I cried.

Much later, when my wife and I had our two children, our neighbors gave us the gift of a miniature collie. We named him Prince. Our Prince accompanied the kids on their daily paper route and was a best friend to all four of us.

My wife and a neighbor friend had to take Prince to the Tacoma dog shelter for a final goodbye when he was so disabled that he couldn't lift his head  off his bed. I remember the tears and also the flowering cherry tree we planet in memory. I hope that the tree--the Prince tree--still grows on that hill in Tacoma.

Pets play huge roles in our lives. Pets are a certain type of animal that can form positive relationships with human beings. Relationships that include friendship and love. I experience the importance of this relationship every day as I watch senior citizens walk their pet dogs. 

Right now, all of this makes me think of the birth of Jesus. Shepherds watching their flocks by night were first to arrive to welcome the new baby. They found the baby lying in a manger, the feeding place of cattle. Did this baby, Jesus, live out his childhood with a pet? I'd like to think that he did.

It's very hard to say a final goodbye to a pet. You experience the very deep pain of loss.  Ultimately the pain will disappear and you'll be grateful for the years of fun, play, and yes, for the friendship, that you enjoyed for many days and years..

Saturday, December 8, 2018


In the midst of government chaos in the U.S. (and U.K., France, elsewhere? I suppose so)
kids, adults, neighborhoods focus on local celebrations of life.

American flag flying proudly in late fall breeze, Newberg, Oregon, U.S.A.

Kids celebrating: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Heritage Trail "fairy" creates altar (to  woodland spirits?)

Newberg, Oregon, U.S.A.

Soothing scene along a heritage trail, Newberg, Oregon, U.S.A.

Phinney Neighborhood Association local community pride 
Phinney Ridge, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

Respect pedestrians, bicyclists, autos. North 1st Avenue and 74th Street, 
Seattle, WA U.S.A.

Neighborhood Holidays Emblem.

Neon monkeys magically appear in windows of merchants, grocery store, fire department along
N. Greenwood Avenue, Seattle, WA. U.S.A.

Smart monkey hangs under the rain porch at Ken's Market, Seattle

Partisans, migrants, would-be global strongmen, stock exchanges, news media, cities, neighborhoods, singles and families: be wise, take a break from fear, fright and fight. May your holidays be fun and energizing.

Are you getting R. and R. during the holidays? If so, how?  Please comment below. Imaginative ideas highly appreciated. 

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young [people] fall exhausted; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:30-31.