This morning Pastor Greenbean left his comfortable little hamlet and traveled south.  A good friend and I carpooled down to Eugene, Oregon for the yearly gathering of the regional expression of our denomination.  These meetings are usually comprised of pastors, church leaders, and denominational employees.

The drive down was not bad at all.  It is about a 4 1/2 hour drive; depending on traffic.  It rained most of the way.  On the drive down we solved, in order:  The budge deficit of the U.S. Government, Immigration, tax problems, and the problem with church today.  As you may have guessed, we felt quite accomplished before we ever arrived!  Besides that, I thought I might share some of the highlights significant events of the day.

Event One:  On the drive down, my friend asked me if I wanted a piece of gum.  I said, “Sure,” and he gave what he called “Japanese gum.”  He said he gets from friends in Japan.  The gum felt like a cough drop–with all the nasal opening power of Vick’s Vapor Rub.  It is called Black Black.

Event Two:  I went to the bookstore almost straight away.  One of the benefits of these meetings is the portable bookstore they set up.  I saw the most beautiful book I’ve seen in a long time.  The cover was, and I can’t overstate this, gorgeous.  I said out loud as I held the leather bound decorative book, “Can you judge a book by its cover?”  A woman standing about 5 feet away, who I didn’t even know had heard me almost shouted, “NO!”  We both giggled and we decided that if they had spent that much money on the cover; that must mean the contents are junk.

Event Three:  Just after finishing the book store I ran into a colleague I haven’t seen in several months.  He took one look at me and said, “Looks like you’ve put on weight.”

Event Four:  I come to these things for two primary reasons.  The first is to meet up with people I don’t get to see very often.  The second is for the preaching . Ed Stetzer preached this evening and it was very good–really more of a sobering reminder of what everyone in the room already knew but needed to be refreshed.  He preached from Matthew 4:17 and talked about the Kingdom of God being about the “reign of God,” the “rebellion of people,” balanced by the good news that the Kingdom is “presently near,” and that we as people need to “repent.”  He did pretty good–three of them even start with the same letter.

I haven’t had a chance to look at a schedule for tomorrow yet; but I”m sure it will be a great day.


Thursday afternoon I had the great privilege of participating in a writer’s workshop presented by Athanatos Christian Ministries.  The whole endeavor was very encouraging for me and I learned many things.  In the afternoon I made my presentation about the hooks which make the story interesting.  Part of what it addressed was the three basic stories.  One of the participants asked I could make those three available in written form:  so, here it is!


Story One:  The Warrior

The warrior story is so common that it needs little explanation.  Indeed, it might be the oldest form as it is exemplified in The Iliad.  In most of western culture the King Arthur story is classic backdrop—knights running off to do battle.  The warrior story has a subset of rescue drama—rescuing the damsel in distress.  In many stories today the rescue story has blended completely into the warrior story as a patriotic tale where the warrior, whether male or female, is fighting to save or protect the nation (female persona).


Story Two:  The Sacrifice

The sacrificial story is one which believers in Christ immediately identify with.  It is the story of the person who gives his or her life so that other people might live.  Because of this connection to Christ the sacrifice story often has religious or metaphysical aspects which propel reader interest.  The best example of this is Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  He gives himself up willingly so that others might benefit.  The sacrifice story, though, does not have to involve death explicitly for the sacrifice could be time, relational, or monetary.  Jane Austen books tend to emphasize this concept.


Story Three:  The Journey

In American culture this has turned into the “Road Trip” motif, but it is a highly effective story.  The classic example is, to go back to Homer, The Odyssey.  Movement from one place to another always captivates an audience.  There are subsets to the journey story as well.  These include the love story, the coming of age story, and personal growth story.  A good example of this is the Harry Potter character.  The story is a journey, but it is the journey of the boy Harry becoming the man Harry and realizing his destiny.  That is what makes it compelling.  Wizards, witches, good and bad have all been done before, but Rowling hit upon a compelling image of this boys coming of age story mixed up in all of that.


The best stories will find a way to maximize all three of these stories by weaving them through the narrative.  Consider Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.   In so many ways Frodo embodies all of these stories within his one character.  He is waging a war although he is not the primary combatant, he is making sacrifice, and the journey motif from one place to another is the basic plotline of the story.  The trick is combing these instinctive and well-known stories into tales with characters and situations that do not seem forced or artificial.


The Greenbean family arrived safely back in Western Washington last night around 11pm local time.  I mean to emphasize that local time issue.  Arizona and parts of Oregon still confuse me.  We had a thoroughly splendid time putting over 8,000 miles on the Altima as well as enjoying our ancestral homeland.  In a previous blog I compared myself to Chevy Chase and listed our itinerary.  Now for some follow-up.

1.  Arches National Park, Moab, Utah:  Arches was a lot of fun.  We arrived late in the evening on July 4th and no one was there to take our fee for entry into the National Park, so it was free which made it much more fun.  We enjoyed just being in the desert.  The unique color of the dirt and the rocks plus their formations were spectacular.  Being there at sunset and then dark gave it all a magical feel.  Apparently you can camp out there and take extended tours; but it was enough for us to drive up and see.  The wind blew hard and knocked my hat off a couple of times, so I have red dirt stains on my Tilly hat.  I may not wash it.

2.  Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, Colorado:  In many ways this was the park I was looking forward to the most.  I’m an archaeology enthusiast anyway and seeing and learning from the park rangers how these ancient people’s lived daily was very interesting.  The drive up was beautiful and awe-inspiring.  Cool Fact–I had no idea that these people from the distant past used and manufactured cotton!  Of all the national parks I’ve been to, this is the one and only one I’d like to come back to and spend a week or so doing all the tours and taking advantage of independent study on site.

3.  The River Walk, San Antonio, Texas:  We did several Texasy things like the Big Texan in Amarillo and the Cadillac Ranch.  But my favorite was the River Walk.  We rode a boat, walked around, shopped, and ate really tasty Mexican Food.  My daughters and wife were serenaded by a Mariachi band at our table.  Priceless.

4.  Tombstone, Arizona:  I had more fun here than expected.  We didn’t get to see the live show because it was in the afternoon and we were there early in the morning, but we did visit the O.K. Corral and watch the animatronics display.  We also saw neat photos and time period tools.  The best part was the 25 minute diorama story in the theater.  It was so cheesy it was actually fun.  I bought a book

5.  Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, Arizona:  I posted an earlier blog about this one (CHRIST IN THE RED ROCKS) so here it is enough to say that I recommend it.  If nothing else, the geography around Sedona is spectacular.  The area was well-developed with classy shops and businesses.  Not to kid friendly, but I wouldn’t mind going back someday with a pocket full of money and lots of time.

5.5.  Hoover Dam, Boulder City, Nevada:  The Hoover Dam was not on my original list, but since we were so close we went ahead and saw it.  Got some great pictures and the thrill of “driving over” Hoover Dam.  The only downside was we were late getting there that day because of car trouble.  I met some very, very interesting people in the waiting lobby of the Big O Tires in Kingman, Arizona.

6.  Rachel, Nevada:  Area 51 made this itty bitty town famous.  By itty bitty I mean, one store/restaurant/bar/hotel called the Little Alie’Inn.  They served great pie and it was interesting talking and taking pics.  We did see some interesting things flying in the sky, though, as well as several low (75 ft?) flying aircraft painted all black.  Oh, and we had to come to a complete stop because of a bull standing in the middle of the highway.

7.  Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon:  I’d never been there before and had been told it is the greatest waterfall.  I liked it a lot, especially the height of it, since you can stand at the base and look up.  That is different from many waterfalls which only have an observation deck at fall level.  The drawback to it was the nearness to the freeway.  I love the roar of the waterfall; and the speeding semis sorta ruined that for me.

If there is a theme to this years trip it would be mystery.  Mesa Verde and Arches both echo back to a time long ago and seem to point to unknowable aspects of our past.  The Tombstone story is one of mystery because, contrary to most film and literature, it is far from clear whether or not the Earps were in the right or wrong.  The grave for the Clanton’s in the cemetery says they were ‘murdered.’  Then we throw in Area 51 and the deep echoes of a towering waterfall and now we’ve got the makings for deep mystery.

I’ve got some pics to post later and more blogs from the trip including windmills and what I read while I was away; but now my mind turns toward a fresh mystery–the great mystery of God’s presence manifested through the church.  Ahhh, back to work.


This is not a long blog post, but, a fun one.  After I see all my church family this morning at worship the Greenbeans are handing over the keys to the house to our trusty house sitter (thanks Megan!) loading into the car and heading south.  Tonight, if all goes according to plan, we will be spending the nigh this evening at the Best Western in Boise, Idaho.  Here is a brief outline of the things we hope to do.

1.  Arches National Park, Moab, Utah.  I’ll try to post a pic or two from there.

2.  Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, Colorado.  I’ve always wanted to see these cliff dwellings.

3.  The River Walk, San Antonio, Texas.  Last year while at he lake house we went to Sea World.  That as okay, but this year I just want to stroll and eat great Texmex.

4.  Tombstone, Arizona–On the way home I want to drop by.  I’ve been told it is kind of boring; but really, I just want to go there.

5.  Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, Arizona–I’ve been told this is worth the stop.

6.  Rachel, Nevada.  Last year we drove through Roswell and ate at a UFO shaped McDonald’s.  We thought we’d complete the trek by adding Area 51 this year.

7.  Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.  Although this is close to home, I’ve never been there and I am a sucker for waterfalls.


We have learned that it is never the things on vacation you expect, but the unexpected that make it truly great.  Whenever we hit wi-fi, I’ll try to keep my blog updated on my impressions of how things are going.