Thursday, August 31, 2006

Waterfall 4

In this spot, it is never quiet. And yet it is always quiet. Quiet is not always measured by decibels.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Waterfall 3

Every second of every day, water from this Columbia Gorge waterfall descends on this rock, splashing, cascading, shaping. Cool!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Waterfall 2

If it's hot where you are today, just meditate on this picture and imagine yourself sitting under the cool, refreshing spray.

You'll find this waterfall along the Historic Columbia River Highway (Rt. 30), just off I-84 east of Portland, Oregon.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Waterfall 1

On the Oregon side of the Columbia River gorge, there is a series of gorgeous waterfalls. To see some of them, you must take a modest hike, while others are quite close to the highway.

My crosses this week will all be made from those waterfalls. I'm not feeling a need to say something profound about each one, but will just let you enjoy their beauty as I did.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oregon Ducks

Early this summer, the sight of this pickup truck elicited the obvious response: "I don't think we're in Nebraska any more!"

Oregon was originally known as "The Webfoot State" before it became "The Beaver State" in 1909. The University of Oregon had a special connection to Walt Disney, who gave his blessing to Donald Duck's relationship with the waterfowl-loving folks in Eugene. They've been the "Ducks" ever since. If you want to read the whole story, click here.

Having a duck as mascot does not automatically strike fear into the hearts of sports opponents, but it does have the advantage of offending no one . . . except the Humane Society which applied pressure to stop bringing live ducks to the games. Ah, well . . .

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blessed are the Persecuted

When Jesus said "Blessed are the persecuted" we Christians automatically think about the difficulties of being a Christian in many parts of the world. But "the persecuted" have also included so many others: Jews, Bahai's, Native Americans, Neopagans, Bhuddists, Scientologists, Muslims, Mormoms, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others.

Are ALL the persecuted "blessed"? Certainly nobody feels very blessed while being persecuted, so what did Jesus really mean?

If you have a perspective to share on this, please leave a comment.

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Friday, August 25, 2006


Another example of something old and rusty in which beauty can be found. This silo is near Mt. Angel, Oregon.

Dictionaries list two things that can be stored in silos: silage or missiles, the stuff of life, or the stuff of death. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, "Choose life."

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Resting Place

About 10,000 years ago, Native Americans called "Kalapuya" began harvesting camas roots and berries and hunting game here, the place now called the "Willamette Valley." Their name for it was "Chemeka" which means "resting place."

Trappers arrived around 1800 and missionaries a few decades later. A new town was laid out in 1844 which the missionaries named "Salem", after the Hebrew word "shalom" which means "peace."

Beginning in 1843, pioneers from the east began the dangerous cross-country trek on the Oregon Trail to find this place which was said to be a new "Eden."

When you spend time here, you understand how "resting place" and "peace" and "Eden" came to be applied to this land. Today, the valley has far too many very busy people to fully deserve those old labels, but the fertile land still retains its beauty and its call.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Light in the Forest

Just minutes before this photo was taken, the forest was dark, for the sun had not yet risen. And just minutes later, the sun's height put most of these in trees again in darkness. So this photo was possible only in the morning, and only for a few minutes.

One of life's joys is being at the right place at the right time--with or without a camera. None of us lives in that perfect moment at every moment, but when it happens, we say "Aaah!" and we sense the nearness of the Creator.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chapel Windows

This is the chapel exterior at Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon. Within these walls all 150 Psalms are chanted or read aloud every four weeks. Meeting for worship five times a day makes this possible. Some of the older nuns have therefore sung every word of the Psalter more than 600 times. And in the daily Eucharist, three other Scriptures are read in the traditional 3-year lectionary cycle.

I sometimes hear people say that the Bible isn't very important to Catholics. But the sisters with whom we sojourned for the month of July lived and breathed the Scriptures not only with regularity, but with passion, faith, and deep joy.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Love Windows

When you start memorizing Scripture as a child, "God is love" in 1 John 4:8 is a good place to start.

Just a few verses earlier, in 1 John 4:1, we are called to "test the Spirits to see whether they are from God." LOVE is that test. Where love is, God is.

All church windows should therefore be "love windows." God's love shines in on God's people, and when we look out those windows to the world, we see the world in the heart-shape of God's love for all--without exception.

Most church windows are either rectangles or neo-Gothic arches. Are there any architects out there who could design "love windows"? What a wonderful and constant reminder that would be!

This is St. Mary's Catholic Church in Mt. Angel, Oregon.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Reminder Water

Those of us in the "believers' church" tradition make a big deal about baptizing only those old enough to believe, understand, and make an "adult" commitment. We disparage infant baptism because babies can't choose it, can't understand it, and can't believe.

But on the other hand, we have no official or regular way of remembering our baptism. We might remember it when we happen to attend someone else's baptism, but it's possible to attend church for months or years without a baptism reminder.

Not so in Catholic churches, where a font with water is always by the entrance to the sanctuary. Upon entering, you dip your hand in the water and cross yourself as a reminder of your baptism. You do the same as you exit, each and every time you worship.

It's a way--as an adult--of claiming that infant baptism as your own. It's a constant reminder that God--in total grace--loved, called, claimed, accepted, and incorporated you into the community of faith without any "works" on your part. And so every Sunday you dip your hand into the water to pray, "Thank you, God" and also to pray, "God, what You and my parents chose for me, I now choose--again--for myself."

This font of "Reminder Water" (my term, not theirs) , is in St. Mary's Catholic Church, Mt. Angel, Oregon.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Metal Beauty

This building in downtown Mt. Angel, Oregon, is for sale. Local residents of this now-abandoned seed-processing business consider it an eyesore that should be torn down.

If I lived in the neighborhood I would probably agree with the "tear it down" folks, but it's always a delight to find beauty in old, rusty, dilapidated things.

We sometimes give up on buildings, but God never gives up on us.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rock and Sand

We tend to think of rock as unchanging. But two men who were looking at this rock formation with me said, "This looks really different than it did last year." This rock, visible only at low tide, is often pounded by great ocean waves, and is wearing, crumbling and changing. From one low tide to the next little change is visible. But over time, even the hardest rock crumbles into sand.

God once said to Ezekiel, "I will remove their stony heart and will replace it with a natural heart." So the fact that stone can change is Good News!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rock Layers

Over and over during the last few months as we traveled through the West, I said, "If only we had a geologist here to explain where these rocks came from, how these formations developed, why these colors appeared, when these layers were formed."

I can guess that these multi-colored, twisted and convoluted layers along Oregon's coast are volcanic, but I'd like to know more details. But for now, I'm simply in awe of the complexity of our earth and its history. It's the complexity and the mystery that creates beauty. That's probably true of people, too.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Purple Butterfly Bush Blossom

Of the making of flower crosses there is no end, but then, who gets tired of flowers? This lovely violet/purple/lavender butterfly blossom is at Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon.

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Oregon Grape

The Oregon Grape is the Oregon state flower. Its waxy green and sometimes red leaves are like those of the holly bush, and its blue berries ripen in the fall and can be used for cooking.

You might not decorate your living room with blue and red and green, but one of the wonderful things about nature is that God's colors never clash.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pink-Purple Butterfly Bush Blossom

This Butterfly Bush is one of many at Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon. Some buds are open and some are about to open. There is beauty at all stages of life, in both flowers and people.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Magnolia Blossom

Magnolia petals are so white, so smooth, curved, fragrant, and pure. I love the way the petals enfold and seem to be protecting the stamens in the center. For me, this is an image, of care, nurture, and protection--as well as one of beauty.

If you love magnolias and want to learn more, here's a marvelous website: The Evolution of Magnolias.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Grass Seed

If you're a Nebraska farmer, you either grow (1) corn and beans or (2) beans and corn. But if you're a farmer in the Willamette Valley of Oregon you may be growing any of over 90 different crops. One of the biggest of these is grass seed.

10% of Oregon's cropland is dedicated to the grass seed business.

60% of the world's grass seed is grown in Oregon.

Click HERE to learn more.

This field is in Mt. Angel, Oregon. The sun has just reached some of the the grass, while the rest still lies in shadow. This photo was taken a couple weeks before the grass was cut (always at night so that the dampness keeps the seeds from falling to the ground), allowed to dry on the ground for several days, and then picked up and separated with a combine. The remaining grass is then baled.

Wherever people are, they figure out what works in that particular location. God made us adaptable and creative.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sunflower Sea Star

Most of us call this type of creature a "starfish." But they're not "fish"--they're "Sea Stars." I love learning things. If your mind is already full of everything you need to know, skip the next paragraph. But if you're like me, you'll want to know that:

Sunflower sea stars are large predators of the sea floor, reaching arm spans of up to three feet. They are surprisingly fast, voracious hunters for clams, urchins, snails, abalone, sea cucumbers, and other sea stars. Adult sunflower sea stars can move at the astonishing speed of one meter per minute using 15,000 tube feet which line the undersides of their bodies. They range in color from bright orange to purple, and have a soft, velvet-textured body and 16 to 24 arms studded with powerful suckers. They are easily stressed by predators such as large fish and other sea stars, and have the ability to shed arms to escape, growing them back within a few weeks. Sunflower sea stars are common in the Pacific from Alaska to Southern California.

See, now you know something you didn't know a few minutes ago. Will any of these be facts be useful in your work or play today? Probably not. But you're better acquainted with one of God's creatures, and perhaps that's enough.
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Flowers in the Rock

These yellow flowers are growing on a vertical cliff face, right out of cracks in the rock. Their tenacity and adaptability are even more amazing than their beauty. The rock looks solid, but has just enough cracks so that these plants can send out roots that find moisture and nutrients.

I suppose we'd all like to be planted in lush, deep, fertile soil. But these flowers are a reminder that beauty is possible anywhere.
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Low Tide

This morning we leave the sea behind. We actually got a bit teary as we left this scene for the last time yesterday. The ocean is primeval, constantly moving, abundantly alive. Each day we learned about another of its creatures, its movements, its moods. Though we were both brought up as solid products of the land, we feel a connection here we want to maintain, at least in spirit.

The ocean's wonders are best revealed at low tide. Mussels and starfish and anemones and crabs and snails and all kinds of seaweeds are exposed at low tide, which in our Oregon coast location can be as much as 8-10 feet lower than high tide. You have to study the tide tables (2 high tides and 2 low tides every day, always at different hours) and watch your watch and the water so that you don't get caught by the rising tide with no way to return to where you started. A very alive place!
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Straw Bale

This cross is made from an ordinary bale of straw as it rests in the morning light in a farmer's field in Mt. Angel, Oregon.

My growing-up years included lots of encounters with bales of straw and hay. My father and his three farmer brothers lived on four adjoining farms in northeast Ohio, sharing a combine, a baler, and labor. The boy cousins all learned how to stack bales on the wagon, competing with one another on how tightly and how perfectly and how high we could stack them. We worked together to unload the wagon, often putting the bales on an elevator into the upper reaches of the barn, where we stacked them in rows and piles.

At a certain age, we had fun by re-arranging the straw bales to create tunnels to crawl through.

I don't suppose the uncles or the cousins always got along perfectly, but this bale fills me with warm and positive memories. I am thankful for my family.
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Friday, August 04, 2006


One of the values of researching your family genealogy is the discovery of facts that put the present in perspective. I grew up in a home where alcohol was absolutely forbidden--though Dad did once admit to me that he really liked his Uncle Joe's home-made blackberry wine which was surreptitiously offered to him several times when he was young.

But then I discovered, as I worked backwards into my father's Amish ancestry, that my Sommers and Kropf forebears were in the brewery business, both in the old country and when they moved to Stark County, Ohio. My great uncle John Sommers told me that he remembered riding in the brewery wagon with his father. And my mother's mother mentions beer-making in her teenage diary during the late 1880's.

I figured out that when the temperance movement hit America, my Amish and Mennonite forebears were at first oblivious to what was going on in "the world," and for a time happily went on brewing their beer. But when they finally got caught up in the movement, they adopted its principles with holy passion.

I have no idea what the farming and brewing techniques of my Amish brewmeisters were, but this cross is from one of the many fields of hops around Mt. Angel, Oregon, which annually holds a huge 4-day Octoberfest which includes plenty of music and dancing and drinking.

I still don't drink beer, though I do agree with my father that a little wine can be rather good! And yes, I can find a cross anywhere.
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