Come the revolution !

These were words my mother often said when I was a child, I suppose mostly in reference to the patterns (or lack thereof) I was forming that didn’t quite fit her expectations, either of me or of the larger family. In other words, I was to buckle up an mind my peas and queues to do what I purportedly and innately already knew. Well, my mother would be the only at this stage in my life to attest to what she expected of me and how I actually am today.

Truth be told, I’ve had front row seats for two revolutions and each time I can’t help remembering the words of my mother. Of course, revolutions in real life can hardly be compared to childhood experiences, or as they say in Spanish, “Nada que ver.” Three days ago, I was with my family Istanbul at their international airport for what was supposed to be a short night as we exchanged one flight for another. We landed at 11 pm and were to board our next flight at around 3 in the morning. An hour after settling down and almost falling asleep, I awoke suddenly to a rush of people fleeing. The image that came to mind was of a flock of doves at a square when a child goes running into the mix. I opened my eyes to see only foreigners, no Turkish people anywhere in sight, when I could have sworn I’d seen many an hour earlier. My kids were awake and saying they had heard gunshots from within the building. The people all had looks of fear or bewilderment. Nobody seemed to know what was happening. We looked out the window of the airport at the Tarmac below or to see a few soldiers walking hear or there. Not many and seemingly not to anxious. Of course everyone was thinking ‘terroriest’ given the attack at this same airport only 2 weeks earlier. But since nobody knew Turkish, nor was there any report over the PA to say what’s was happening, we were left to our imaginations and the speculations of anyone willing to share them.

Occasionally a distant gunshot could be heard, mostly soldiers shooting in air to apparently fend off a crowd of civilians. But soon the tides had turned, and the civilian crowd had grown and was pursuing the soldiers, who though armed, fled in the other direction. The crowd consisted mostly of men, some were employees judging from the badges around their necks, and many waving the Turkish flag. I’m not sure when someone suggested this was a coup in progress, or if it wasn’t until the next morning that we fully realized what was happening. Around 1 a.m. we settled back down to catch a wink, again, unawares of what all was going on, only to be awakened by a loud boom as two or three jets swooshed by the airport at near ground level. The windows rattled profusely, as if ready to shatter. The jet flew by two or three more times in the next two hours. It was very unsettling, to be sure. Again, nobody seemed to know what was happening more what the proper response should be – flee for safety, consider leaving the airport, or stay put – which is what the majority of us did. At one point the ground shook from a rather extensive explosion.

Nobody slept much that night and the next morning the airport was filled with non-Turkish travelers, all of us rattled, tired, hungry and confused. The news was on…in Turkish…though nobody seemed able to translate. Eventually we learned that a coup had been attempted but had failed. Some of the military had instigated the effort while the police and others had not gone along. It was later learned that the president had used Twitter or Facebook to appeal to the populace to gather en masse at the airport and downtown in opposition to the coup and to show their support of the democratically elected president. We learned that in 10 minutes over three million people had filled the streets and some had gathered in the airport – likely those who had suddenly fled when I first awoke. Furthermore, we were told, the mosques ushered calls of prayer during the night to alert the people to gather. Oddly, neither of these facts seemed to make the news reports when the event was reported around the world. In short, the general public had risked their lives in show of support of their elected president, good bad or otherwise.

For my family and me, the confusion extended throughout the next day. We had hoped only to change planes and be on our way to Madrid, where we had hoped to spend two days of sightseeint. But the airport in Istanbul was in chaos. We saw the janitors and a few shop employees show up, but absolutely no security nor airlines officials from Turkisih Air. OF course we all wondered and worried what to do next…would our tickets be honored, would we leave soon, how long would we be left in limbo??? My daughters observed several people ‘helping themselves’ to goods in the sandwich shops. Fortunately, this was a rarity but the temptations and opportunities were real. After lunch we met our first of only a few employees from Turkish Airlines. The news was not good as it was sketchy and inconsistent. Nobody really seemed to know too much nor where nor how to proceed in order to get on with life and travels.

If there was ray of sunshine in the midst of this ordeal, we met some wonderful people from various countries. One was a German young man who shared some accurate details of the coup. Another was an Egyptian family  who lived in Saudi Arabia where both worked as doctors. For much of the afternoon, we stood in line with the son and father in an isolated part of the airport – standing in line for three+ hours – as we waited to update our tickets for the next flight to Madrid. We had no phone service and our only means of communication with our daughters was through this family’s cell phone. We learned later that the Mrs had fed our girls as dinner time had come and gone. This family was helpful in the next stages as we decided to spend the night in a hotel at the ailrines’ expense, but which meant getting a visa to enter the country as US citizens. It cost $30 per person and a couple more hours of standing in one line or another trying to jump the hoops we were told to pursuit. We arrived at the hotel around 11 pm but had to awake at 3:30 a.m. in order to arrive at the airport with enough time to get through customs and security. I thought the roads would be empty but learned that many of the Turkish people had stayed up all night celebrating the victory of their elected president.

We had no trouble getting through security as our luggage had been checked through to Madrid when leaving Athens, Greece. The flight to Madrid was unevenly, though one of great relief. We were disappointed, however, to learn that one of our two checked bags did not arrive. Ugh! Yet all things considered, we were glad to have our health and lives in tact.

Thanks be to God.

Please pray . . .

To our beloved family & friends!

As we say good-bye to Greece, I learned this morning of the unfortunate incident in Nice, France just last night. What an unhappy world we seem to be living in these days. Can anyone fully understand why anyone would harm innocent people in such ways?

It seems the best response I have is to pray. Pray for those most directly involved:  the victims of those hurt or killed, the first responders, the government officials who are challenged with restoring peace…as well as for the instigator(s), whom I’m certain felt called to make a statement of sorts which only time will reveal more accurately. Perhaps the hardest prayer a Christian can pray is for one’s enemies in the midst of unjust actions? This was Jesus’ prayer from the cross – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Pray also for me and my family as we board a plane this afternoon for Spain. We’ll be in Madrid for two days before our pilgrimage walk on the Way of St James (el Camino de Santiago). We’ll be in Spain about two weeks before the family’s final stop in northern France and eventual return home.

We trust God to travel with us as we make our way through Europe. May the world come to know His providence even more so in the aftermath of today’s event.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus. Amen (Philippians 4:7)

Finding Your Place In The World

A couple, one tall the other short, holding hands walking down a New York City street on their way to (most likely) work. A father and son, both in shorts, walking leisurely and talking about a paintball happening. A young woman plugged in running at a good clip on the same sidewalk in Brooklyn. In fact, it seems that all the single people (not walking with someone) has their earbuds in, listening to music or sound from somewhere else. The streets are all lined with cars parked one after the other, each in their ‘place.’ Y=There are few, if any, open parking spaces. While this is all new to me, a visitor, this typical morning scene is mundane, normal, the usual.

I walk into a small shop with 5 or 6 tables crammed next to the window. The counters are coolers filled with deli type goods, pickles, onions, olives and all the rest. It’s clear this is a small place where locals can grab a quick bite, mostly in sandwich form according to the menus on the wall. The usual sale, based on my brief observation, is an egg sandwich and a  cup of coffee. People waiting patiently, only to leave with a purpose, on their way to tackle the day.

It occurs to me that people, all of them, are coming from somewhere called Home, on their way to somewhere called the Day. The radio blares overhead, “Like a small boat on the ocean, Sending big waves into motion,” the opening words to Rachel Platten’s hit song. All of us, myself included, are trying to find our place in the world. To feel loved, to be somebody, important and indispensable. To matter  to oneself an to any others who would willingly do so. Is this not the fundamental, univesal goal for all of humanity – who am I, why am I here, what differece does one more life – my life – make?

Reflection: What is your life purpose? Consider your hopes and dreams, the stuff that makes you happy  or the times you’re able to lose yourself in activity. Those are good clues to follow.


It’s been said that it takes most people about 2 weeks to decompress or let go from all that happens during a normal work week. And for most people, 2 weeks is the average length of a single vacation. That means that most if us in this country rarely fully decompress, or learn to let go from al“`commitments in the work environment.

Being that this is Day Two, I can’t presume to be through this process for myself, though there’s no doubt that once I boarded the jet & headed down the runway, I was entering a new reality of time and purpose.

A primary rationale for taking a sabbatical every 5 – 7 years is just for this reason. Often summarized by the 3 R’s: rest, reconnecting with family and renewal of purpose / spirit. The concept is rooted in the Third Commandment, remember the Sabboth Day to keep in holy. This commandment, as noted in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, shares in an activity God saw necessary when, after 6 days of making the world and everything in it, God rested and took time to disengage from the activities of the week.

While a great concept, the notion of resting 1 day a week seems to continue to evaporate with each passing year as families attempt to cram more and more into both their week and their weekend. It seems a legitimate rationale for not attending a church service these days goes something like, “Well, my real job is Monday thru Friday, and Saturday I do the incidentals like wash, clean and shop, so Sunday is my only free day to rest and do what I want to do.”

REFLECTION: What does Sabboth mean to you? How long does it take you to decompress from work, and how often do you do this in a year? Do your get-aways include your family?

The First Leg: “We Made It!”

I was blessed, or cursed, by what I’ll call a “Wes-ism.” It goes like this: “If you wait till the last minute, it will certainly only take a minute,” in reference to leaving the packing till the end. So while I was rushed to get everything put in its final bag, all of which was light and mostly newly purchased, I want to say without reservation that “last minute” doesn’t quite fit today’s final push out the door. Let me explain. First of all, this trip is unlike any other I’ve ever taken, at least accompanied by a family. To leave one’s house for 3 full months is no easy matter. Second, the length of trip warranted early preparations out of necessity. Third, no matter how prepared I might have been, there were agendas circling around my head like sugar plums for days. At church, there were final expense reports & other clerical details needing attention. There was a final cleanup of the office, as well as a brief mtg with staff – whereupon I heard for the first time that an office worker announced that he’d be leaving town before I’d return. Lastly, this was no simple or short trip away from home for my family and I would be traveling to four European countries over a period of 2 1/2 – 3 months. Ergo the title: –A TRIP OF A LIFETIME.

REFLECTION: What would a trip of a lifetime look like for you & your family? Where would you go? What would it cost? What would it take to make it a reality?


Thank You

Let me begin by saying thank you to all who made this ‘trip of a lifetime’ possible. First & foremost to the Lilly Foundation for providing a grant to underwrite the cost of this trip. My family and I will forever be impacted by our time spent traveling outside the country on this sabbatical.

I’m also grateful to the love & support of the people of First Lutheran Church for their encouragement and willingness to do their part, again, to make this trip available to my family. My prayer and hope is, as the grant instructions suggest, that this pilgrimage is not just for the pastor and family, but that we all grow in faith and clarity of purpose and mission in the church.

Furthermore, there are many family and friends who have expressed joy & support at the onset of this trip which helps only to ease our anxieties as we venture overseas into mostly unchartered waters as a family. We are excited, nervous, overwhelmed and humbled…all wrapped into one. Sometimes I find it amazing that we’re able to sleep through the night!

To God alone be the glory for this wonderful opportunity.