Saturday, July 28, 2007

Being of Service

School will be starting up soon and I'm excited. In fact, I will be teaching a group of students for a week before the official start. A sort of jump start, helping a score of kids make the transition from elementary to middle school.

I am interested in service learning. I have had several projects which encourage kids to see real world problems, discover real world solutions, and make connections to their community.

Service learning is distinguished from community service in that it is a teaching strategy, not just a student activity. We are making connections between curriculum and the community. Kids need to feel they are apart of their community as they learn how to read, write, understand maps and charts and math and all the other elements of their education.

My wife and I used to watch Little House on the Prairie regularly. Aside from stories about family, faith, and community, it showed kids being a part of their running their farm, connected to their neighbors and friends in tangible ways.

There was a time when kids had clear roles in their society. They did what work they could do, from collecting eggs to helping Pa with the plowing, they pulled their weight.

Today kids haven’t such clear roles. Many fall into believing that a childhood is what they are about. Oh, and school... that too.

Service learning is getting kids involved in filling community needs while they learn lessons of researching, writing, math, and science.

The idea of service has changed over time.

We demand service from merchants. We need this product, or assistance with that, or dang it, shorter lines at the check out counter. I notice the demanding attitude of my fellow shoppers. An arrogant demander of services is an embarrassing role for someone to take. Not when we are really eternal beings created by a humble king.

I often see parents who are demanding more for their children (which is sometimes the right thing to do, sometimes it isn’t). I once had a parent come in with a lawyer and tell me I planted evidence of her child littering to give the student a lunch detention, just to be mean. A lawyer!

The primary goal is for students to learn. The secondary goal is in creating the connection between students and their communities.

There are a lot of negative connotations about service. There’s community service, often court mandated, or just something to be plugged in a resume. Sub-servience roles are held as low status positions, butlers and maids and gardeners and handymen. Hierarchy of authority. Echoes of bondage and slavery.

Nothing wrong in serving.

God serves Man.

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
" Colossians 1:17

He has arranged the universe so that prayer moves His hand.

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:14-16

Jesus, my Lord, was the servant to those he met... kneeling in the dirt to help the fallen, washing feet, preparing meals... even to the point of offering...

"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth." Acts 8:32

He is a being of service.

I see helping students to see themselves as part of a community, as citizens who offer service to those in need, as a way of promoting the underlying principles of my faith.

I have many projects in mind this year. Projects which will connect children to our community, and in learning to solve the problems, move the barriers, avoid the obstacles, they will learn about research and writing and math and geography and science. They will see that learning is not what happens in a classroom but is the natural path of mental growth for all people of any age.

There is another aspect of serving which is good for people, at least it has been good for me.

A few years ago my pastor spoke about service and I realized that if God Himself could serve us, could hold the universe together so we may have a place to make our own choices, even to reject Him, then who am I to see serving as beneath me?

When I am asked to do something I try to see if I can do it. Period. I quickly assess if it interferes with what is good for my family, my wife, my children, and if it doesn't, I do it without complaint.

So there you have it. That is the reason behind the second part of my online moniker. I am Curious Servant because that is what He made me to be. I want to be of service.

This blog has various purposes. It permits me to think through the struggles in my life, to explore the challenges I face.

But I like to think it is also about helping others. That includes you. Yes, you who are reading this post from perhaps a half a world away.

What is it you need? Do you need prayer? Do you need help in some way?

I belong to my Lord, but I am your servant as well.

God bless.

California Trip Reordered

Not too long ago I wrote a series of posts about a trip I took. It started out as a chance to see my father one last time, and evolved into a road trip with my sons and a spiritual journey for me.

As is the nature of blogs, the posts are scattered in reverse order and spreading into archived sections of this little online journal.

So, to keep it in order for myself and others, I am placing this little post here for the purpose of having a handy location to find each relevant post. Here goes, the journey in order...

California Dreamin'



Who's My Father?


Dad -Part 1

Dad -Part 2



Random Rewind

Random Rewind Redux

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Random Rewind Redux

Since two folks liked the pics in the last post enough to ask for more... here are a few more random shots from our 2,751 mile trek through California and child-parent relations.

Ready to roll!

A lot of mixed feelings going through my head as I help my dad suit up for his run.

Bike is ready

Yosemite Valley

Northern California
Definitely click on this one to look closer!

Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite

And another pic of it.

Breath taking!

The boys loved playing pool at Dad's

Adult refreshments

I'd forgotten about this loader with sheep's foot I carved for Dad.

Jeremiah counting out money for an iPod

A dust devil on lake El Mirage

An oasis in the desert

Not the sort of sign one sees everyday

The desert seems a logical place for a solar energy plant

Dueling cameras with my sis.
She is thinking about buying one of these.
I think the Sony Cyber shot is an excellent inexpensive digital camera, sis!

Folks lining up to race their cars, motorcycles, and vehicles beyond description

What the lake bed looks like

Me, Dad, brother David

From the Dr. Seuss exhibit in Laguna Beach, a sketch and final image from "The Cat in the Hat"

Not the Dr. Seuss I knew!

My brother-in-law does a good job homeschooling

Political statement

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Random Rewind

It is good to be home, catching up on chores and such.

It is good to get back in to church, worship with my church family.

And it is good to do all the sorts of little things that give rhythm and continuity to life.

But it seems too abrupt to move on past the adventure I have had this past couple of weeks, so before I drop in another post here, I thought I'd share just a few photos of various events on our trip.

California Border!

The Cafeteria where I swallowed that tooth in first grade.

The new building where I attended church and had several spiritual awakenings as a kindergartner. Same corner... no bell tower or stain glass window.

Breakfast stop. Great soup!

A disappearing dust devil

Do you see a face in this rock?
"Little Corona" -- Corona Del Mar, California

Tide Pool Critters

A Dr. Seuss Exhibit in a Gallery in Laguna Beach


Dad and Isaac

Dad and Jeremiah

400 horsepower on two wheels

Moment of Truth

The Edge of Death Valley



I guess this guy's patriotic

This was a library where I discovered the love of reading at six years old.


A Dragon

Where I sat for 2,751.6 miles

Good to see

Back home... taking Rocky for a walk along the Willamette River.
(He'd sure like to catch one of those geese!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007


What a trip it was. It was exhausting, and it was exhilarating. It was thrilling, it was boring. I was anxious and I had a peace which surpasses understanding.

I traveled 2,600 miles with my sons, a rolling expedition over highways and byways, through the largest sink valley in the world, and through several deserts. That ol’ van climbed over the Sierra Nevada's and parked along the Pacific Ocean. We negotiated packed angry L.A. freeways and wide open spaces without another vehicle in sight.

All that terrain was a challenge to the vehicle (and driver), but the terrain of the heart and soul was more challenging. There were ghosts.

Sometimes we lend our fears more power than they deserve. We become anxious about things that will be all right. We worry over events past and events future which rob us of enjoying of the present. We whisper our fears in the secet places of our hearts, unconscious incantations creating amorphous monsters within.

I paused on the way south in the town of my childhood... and found myself disillusioned by a house, a street, a community that is smaller than I remember.

The ghosts of those memories loomed large.

It was in that 2nd floor room overlooking Plumas street that I learned to fear ghosts... some from the house across the street, from within the walls of the room I shared with my brothers. I once set a trap for the Boogie Man in front of the bedroom door... of wire clothes hangers and kite string. All I caught was my father. He wasn’t amused.

Looking at that house this week I saw other ghosts. Missing trees, a house diminished in stature when seen by a soul having traveled an additional 45 years. On the corner was the ghost of the church which housed spiritual epiphanies for a five year old.

A disappointing bout of nostalgia... not that great a tussle with ghosts of the past.

I was more concerned about the ghost of my father.

In my heart he is still a giant who terrifies with speed and strength and anger.

The point of the whole journey was to meet up with my father, see him off on a dangerous stunt he yearned to complete, and to wrestle with the ghosts of my own fears... and faith.

I felt a pressure to “witness” to him, an attempt meet the command of “the great commission” in my own family, and to let him know that people of faith, well this person of faith anyway, can love without strings attached.

I discovered that he was no longer a giant, in fact he has lost a little height, is shorter than he was a few years ago, shorter than me.

Father & Son

It turned out that suspending judgment was easier than I thought it would be. I smiled and nodded encouragement when he told stories of his life in Thailand. I set aside my distaste over prostitution and the inequities between wealth and poverty, third and first world cultures, and I discovered that there was a gentleness behind my father’s stories.

I saw the genuine affection he has for friends and neighbors, for children and monks and girl friends and prostitutes. I saw how the Buddhist attitude he has picked up from that culture has helped him see each person as having value, having a soul that is eternal, that is beyond the actions within life itself.

I felt a genuine affection for him as I listened to the stories that were tinged with sadness or bravado or pride and even an occasional hint of humility.

I felt my heart warm toward him with a love for him, my own reaction to his soul, though not tinged with the Buddhist view of eternity.

Suddenly I saw that simply loving my father was all that was required of me.

That is it. Nothing more.

I needn’t tell him about the steps to salvation, or make the case for church attendance, or even for prayer.

All I need tell him, all I need show him, was that I loved him.

And I do. I love him.

And I watched a ghost fade away.

As I type this the hairs are standing up on my arms. It is that powerful. A ghost has been exercised. In loving my father I am freed. In giving him respect and acknowledge that he is a soul created in the image of the creator of the universe I find that the man who terrified me, who nearly killed my brother and I, the one who shouted and controlled and was a thundering titan to a small child, is a soul I love and forgive, and am willing to sacrifice for.

I think that this is a lesson my Lord has given me. That in the end, love is all that matters. I think I understand a little how He loved others so well, even those who would betray Him.

“Love God with all your heart, and mind and soul, and love others as you love yourself.”


I suspect that the feeling of superiority I sometimes feel when I deem others as non-christian is truly a sin. In evaluating the faith of others, in evaluating the lives of others, I cease to love, cease to obey Jesus.

There were other ghosts on this trip as well.

There was the echoes of relationships, ways of behaving, with my sister, with my mom.

My sister, a strong Christian, has offended my father with her judgmental comments, her passive-aggressive words always implying deeper meanings.

I found that in simply loving her, in not replying to challenging statements, just loving, the ghosts of past arguments failed to materialize.

On the journey home there were massive thunderheads. It was difficult to appreciate their true size. They were so large, that they could be seen from over a hundred miles away, their tiny companions grew huge as the miles rolled beneath the van, and still the giants beyond them loomed over the mountains.


The clouds were beautiful, their amorphous nature suggesting shapes to our minds as we climbed toward the Siskiyous. And they dropped heavy rain and released bolts of lightning as we climbed toward the Oregon border.

Note: that teeny dark cloud,
the one in front of the dark grey thunderhead,
just above the horizon is actually very large

Clouds are nature’s ghosts. They are born in invisible vapors over the ocean, drift across uninhabited seas, and materialize as they are squeezed as they climb mountains.

Likewise, my own ghosts rise out of small thoughts, small fears, and materialize only when squeezed by the mountains of experiences in my own life.

Like the clouds which washed the dust of deserts off our van, my ghosts have dropped their loads and I see them as simple metaphors of living and loving and forgiving.

My father plans on making another attempt at that record in November, a time that is supposed to be particularly difficult with high winds.

I feel no desire to go.

Not that I haven’t concerns for his safety.

But the desire to see him one last time, or to tell him about my faith, or to simply tell him that I love him, has evaporated.

Another wonderful part of this trip was the time I spent with my sons. I was able to talk to them for hours and hours and answer all sorts of questions and simply let them know over and over and over how much I love them.

First stop in Yosemite, the waterfall is probably 40 feet high

On the way home they told me many times how much they love me... sweet words.

"You know, what, Dad?," Isaac said. "There isn't anyone else in the whole world I would rather have be my dad.

I spent some time in prayer in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

In the valley

We traveled through Yosemite, pausing to appreciate granda vistas, listen to brooks and streams, watch wildlife feeding in meadows, listen to the roar of waterfalls.

Momma deer & 2 fawns

El Capitan


A place to pray

I still have other fears in my life. Things I need to work through, to understand, relationships to repair.

But this journey of thousands of miles was a greater journey of the heart.

I think many of us have ghosts. Fears and anxieties over things we know will really be allright.

My blessing this past week was the exorcism of some of those ghosts.

It was a good trip.