Thanks be to God


Saturday was one of those near perfect days. We drove to Garibaldi, a sleepy fishing town just north of Tillamook, and hopped aboard an old steam train that chugs along the coastline up to the little resort town of Rockaway. The train ride was delightful, and I am fairly certain that Aaron never closed his mouth for the forty-five minutes that that train moved. Elijah was perhaps the most amusing passenger, though, as he insisted on standing up on my legs and leaning out over the bar as far as he could possibly stretch, the way our dog used to behave in the back seat of our Volvo station wagon when a window was open.

I hadn’t thought through our destination and had failed to pack appropriate swim gear for the kids. This was, of course, of virtually no concern to them. Doug and Sarah took the big kids out to frolic in the surf, and by the time I joined them with Elijah, they had settled along a quiet little inlet where all three fully submerged themselves in the shallow waters.

I had packed a full change of clothes for each child, but of course no towels. So by the end I stripped each kid down and sent them over to Doug where, with a broken bucket some other child had cast off, he gave them a “shower”. Of course the change of clothes I packed for Elijah happened to include the pair of pants that just barely fit over his ample thighs, so it was quite a sight to see Doug and I wrestle his wet, chubby body back into clothes.

Like all good Oregon coastal towns, Rockaway has more ice-cream and taffy shops than anything else, and so before we boarded the train home we lined up on benches outside of one and ate our fill of Tillamook’s finest.

A funny moment came as we were boarded and settled on the train for the ride home. Moments before the train was ready to pull out, I looked at Doug and asked: “Where is the bucket with the wet clothes?”

We realized that we had left it sitting one one of the benches outside of the ice cream shop so Doug jumped out of his seat and went flying across the street to recover the sandy, soaked clothes we had stashed in the shower bucket to carry home. It was that movie kind of moment where Doug was running, the train was preparing to pull out and we wondered if he would have to leap aboard a moving train.

On the ride home, Aaron resumed his stance on the bench with his Daddy with his face pressed into the wind. At one point Doug kept trying to get my attention about something. Finally I realized that my son had fallen asleep, standing up on a moving train.

The train wound its way along the shoreline, passing through other small towns, past camps, and even along the highway. And every time we would pass behind a row of houses or through a railroad crossing where cars waited, or behind a cluster of fisherman or clammers, people would wave. The urge is nearly irresistible, whether you are on board or on the ground. People of all ages and every walk of life would stop what they were doing and wave.

I thought about that yesterday morning when I stood up in front of Doug’s mom’s congregation and preached for their two services. It was a sermon that I preached first for my home congregation in Los Angeles, and then later re-worked a bit for a church in Simi Valley. When we were in Seattle last weekend, I preached yet another version of it in my home congregation, and now here I was with the same text and most of the same message to share with another family of faith.

The message for each community was of course different; the congregations all very unique. And yet the Word was the same for each. It is incredible to consider how the scriptures, the good news of Jesus, the presence and work of the Spirit rest at the center of so many communities of faith, filled with people of every age and race and station. I do not usually preach a sermon more than once but doing so these past weeks has brought home to me this reality of how a worldwide community has gathered throughout history around the same set of stories we preach, or hear preached, every week.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful day…can’t help but wish I’d been along!! Aaron falling asleep eating dinner at the lake was quite a sight, but I think Elijah falling asleep standing up on the train wins!! Miss you all…so glad you’re having a great visit!

  2. Actually, it was Aaron who fell asleep standing up not Elijah-I realize the way I worded that it is not totally clear. He fell asleep last night at a church potluck last night much like he did at the lake 🙂

  3. Great stories. I’m finally learning that if my kids get within eyeshot of water, they will get wet. Sometimes I even remember things like bathing suits and changes of clothes, but either way I’m reconciled to the wet, sandy/muddy and chilly reality. We’ve had quite a few car rides home with nearly naked kids in the back seat!

  4. Yeah, Mercy did not have a dry shirt so she just wore her sweatshirt home, and yes, I can totally relate to your phrase “sandy/muddy and chilly reality”. 🙂

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