15 March 2008

Last Blast of Winter

While Megan is "whinging" about the 40-degree Indian Summer temperatures in Melbourne, Australia, I wanted to post some pictures from last weekend, when Tennessee received what I hoped would be our last blast of winter.

We awoke Saturday morning to three inches of snow--our largest snowfall of the winter. I had planned to take the boys to a Christian kids' conference, but I walked out to Highland Drive, then Highway 109, only to find that both were still covered with snow!

Later in the morning we went out to enjoy the snow.Owen decided to try out his biking skills on the snow-covered driveway. It's pretty clear (above) how that turned out. Maybe his knobby tires weren't knobby enough.

Jenny and Jo-Jo worked on a snowman, giving him arms, legs, and a baby-carrot nose. Owen named the snowman "Mr. Michael." By 3 p.m. the snow was melting. As we ate dessert, we saw the snowman teeter over and collapse on his side. By Wednesday night all that was left of him was a snowball--the last snowball in Tennessee, I figured.

I spent the day working on the church website. It isn't quite ready yet, but it was a fun way to spend a day indoors.

07 March 2008

My Summer with the Whales

I haven't yet gotten to share with you my Christmas present--one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Julie was here for Christmas. I gave her a framed map that had pictures of our road trip along the Santa Fe Trail last summer. She gave me a T-shirt from Hard Rock Cafe London.

(That place has special memories for us. The year I was at Newbold, she and Mom came over at Christmas Break. The first night they were there, Mom slept off jet lag while Julie and I took a walk, ending up at the HRC, where we had to yell above the music to catch up on four months apart.)

I had told Julie that the money probably wouldn't be there for a road trip this summer. Julie had a great idea to alternate East and West road trips. Later that night she told me, "I've been talking with Don about this summer." OK. "If you would be willing to plan the trip, we will rent an RV and pay for gas. All you would need to cover is food and admissions."

I have to plan a trip? Really?

That was an incredible gift before oil soared above $100 a barrel. I live to plan awesome road trips--as many of you know. Within seconds I had a plan for an epic journey.

Last summer we followed the greatest of American mammals--the bison--across the prairie. This summer we will focus on The Whale.

The journey will officially begin at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. When I was a kid, I loved the huge blue whale that hung in a gallery in the Museum of Natural History (I understand it recently fell and shattered). If they don't have another whaling exhibit, we will go to the Museum of American History for the whale hunting display.

From DC, we will cross through Delaware, race up the Jersey Shore and across Long Island, ferry across the Sound into Connecticut, and make New Bedford, Massachusetts our destination. During our stay in New Bedford, I'm hoping to take the kids into Boston for a day and go out on a whale-watching boat trip from Portsmouth.

From the landing of the Mayflower to the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania in 1858, oil came from whales. Whaling vessels from the Massachusetts ports of New Bedford and Nantucket sailed around the world and hunted whales--particularly the mighty sperm whale. The greatest of American novels, Moby Dick, was set within this important industry.

Whaling is central to the American character, and I can't wait to learn more about it. It is a dream come true--a pretty great Christmas gift indeed.

In advance, I'm reading everything I can get my hands on. The books I have read (or am trying to read as in the case of the 624-page Melville opus) are:
  • Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. The definitive book on the whaling industry--and the American spirit. Captain Ahab is the Ur-American in so many ways.
  • Leviathan: the History of Whaling in America, by Eric Jay Dolan. A solid and comprehensive look at whaling from the 1600s to 1910.
  • In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick. The tragedy that inspired Melville, a whaling ship is rammed by an enraged sperm whale and 39 crew must survive 93 days in the South Pacific.
  • The Whalers. A Time-Life book that has great illustrations and really takes one back in time.
  • The Perfect Storm. I've been wanting to read this one for a long time. It's the tragic story of a Gloucester fishing crew, but it's so much more--a vivid description of life at sea amidst one of the worst storms of the past 90 years.
  • The Man Who Talks to Whales by Jim Nollman. After covering history and literature, why not some psychology? Is it possible to read too much?
  • Whale Nation by Heathcote Williams
  • Assorted books for kids.
Do you have any suggestions? I'm thinking of the recent novel Ahab's Wife, which is based on the Moby Dick anti-hero. There is room on my shelf for a few more before we leave in June.

05 March 2008

Among the Believers

Sometimes my dad will stop by and tell me about a church where he has preached. While he is no longer a serving Adventist minister, he often fills in for pastors around the KY-TN Conference.

"I preached to the believers in X-town today," he will often say.

On Saturday evening Jenny got a call from our District Superintendent, asking if one of us would fill in for a pastor with the flu. Jenny was already committed to meet a patient after church, so I was the natural choice. The church, I was told, was in Tucker's Crossroads.

Tucker's Crossroads is the kind of place that used to be common in Tennessee. There is a general store, a Methodist church, eight to ten houses, and then farm after farm after farm. The church was one of those quaint, whitewashed structures one often sees on drives through the Tennessee countryside (the sign said it had been built in 1879). Seventeen people were waiting for me when I arrived.

I had a hymn picked out. I noticed that the pianist had to look around to find the "new" 30-year-old hymnal, and I assumed that they were much more comfortable singing out of the older, 60-year-old hymnals. Ellie read the scripture, we had two opening songs, and then I was up.

I preached on John 2, building on a blog post I made about two years ago. I don't get a lot of comments on my spiritual blog posts, but it's nice to have a place to write my thoughts, and it's a great source to draw from when I am asked to speak, whether it's about John or Einstein or anything.

The basic gist of the original post was that Jesus' first miracle--turning water into wine--was echoed in his final miracle, turning wine into blood. As I spoke, it occurred to me that these three liquids so wonderfully describe the three parts of the Bible.

The water is the law given to Moses, which stresses cleansing and by which we are freed from sin through the act of baptism.

The wine is Jesus own ministry among us. It is sweet--almost intoxicating when you really think about it.

The blood is the saving grace he provided with his sacrifice and confirmed with the Resurrection. After blood there is no more fluid, only spirit.

Anyway, it was a privilege to share that message with "the believers" in Tuckers' Crossroads. It was the first time I had spoken for a Divine Service in exactly ten years (my last sermon was given in Globe, Arizona). After church, Ellie and I explored the back roads and somehow found our way back to Lebanon.