Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Spirituality of Children

During the interview process at West Hills I was asked about my experience with children's ministry. I was completely honest with them, I had very little experience/education in working with children. Thankfully, the meeting was willing to allow me to learn while on the "job." I am so thankful for that opportunity, especially because I have discovered a new interest in the spirituality of children. 

West Hills Friends uses a program called Godly Play, which describes itself as a program "based upon the recognition that children have an innate sense of the presence of God. All they lack is the appropriate language to help them identify and express it so it can be explored and strengthened. The Godly Play approach teaches classical Christian language in a way that enhances the child's authentic experience of God so it can contribute to the creative life of the child and the world."

Part of the process of "learning on the job," was attending several trainings on Godly Play technique and process. As I worked my way through the training I began to realize how interested I was in the spirituality of children. The model of Godly Play, based upon the Montessori tradition, provides the opportunity for children to wonder and play with the great Christian stories. I have learned so much about the importance of exploring those stories and finding ourselves within them. I now realize how much I have to learn from our children.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Teach us, and show us the Way.

OE class of 2006 listening to the stories of Helen and Clayton.

While we are all giving thanks, let's take time to remember our Native brothers and sisters.

Take a moment of silence to mourn and honor Native ancestors 
and the struggle of our Native brothers and sisters to survive even today.

We need to continue to educate ourselves and remember to ask: 
Teach us, and show us the Way.  


Chinook Blessing

We call upon the earth, our planet home, with its beautiful depths and soaring heights, 
its vitality and abundance of life, and together we ask that it:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the mountains, the Cascades and the Olympics, the high green valleys and meadows filled with wild flowers, the snows that never melt,the summits of intense silence, and we ask that they:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, 
that flow in our rivers and streams, 
that fall upon our gardens and fields and we ask that they:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the land which grows our food, the nurturing soil, 
the fertile fields the abundant gardens and orchards, and we ask that they:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with the earth in their roots and the heavens in their branches, the fir and the pine and the cedar, 
and we ask them to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests and the seas,
our brothers and sisters the wolves and deer, the eagle and dove, 
the great whales and dolphin, the beautiful Orca and salmon who share our Northwest home, and we ask them to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon all those who have lived on this earth,our ancestors and our friends, who dreamed the best for future generations, and upon whose lives our lives are built, and with thanksgiving, we call upon them to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

And lastly, we call upon all that we hold most sacred, the presence and power of the Great Spirit of love and truth which flows through all the Universe, to be with us to:
Teach us, and show us the Way.

Monday, November 22, 2010 you still have electricity?

When I (Mark) told friends and family that I would be a "Quaker" youth pastor, many folks began asking questions like,  "So, does that mean you are going to live without electricity?" or, "isn't that like"

I completely understand the confusion. Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish seem to be lumped into the same grouping. So, now that Beth and I have been here for a while, I figured it would be helpful to shed some light (haha) on what it means to be Quaker, especially as a youth pastor at West Hills Friends. Please know that I am fairly new to the Quaker or Friends (without going into a history lesson, the terms Quaker and Friends are used similar) tradition, I have a lot to learn myself.

Firstly, I should say, that I feel at home in the Friends tradition. Why? Probably because I identify myself within some of the core beliefs of Friends. Of course, each of these "beliefs," and my place within them, deserve pages of elaboration. Brevity will prevail here.

Friends believe that "there is that of God in everyone." This presence of God in each person is often described as  Light (thus my chuckle after using the phrase "shed some light" above). This has many implications for the ways in which Friends approach worship, leadership, prayer, and communication. Ultimately, these implications establish a "different" type of gathering for worship. When you acknowledge that "there is that of God in everyone," the common assumptions that pastors, ministers, priests, etc. have a special access to God are challenged. Therefore, most Quakers spend time sitting in silence during their time for worship. The silence creates a space for everyone to listen to God, and if they feel inclined, to speak about what they are hearing. For Quakers this time is sacred, mainly because it is acknowledging that God is moving in everyone gathered together in that space. The words of anyone and everyone in that space are sacred.

How awesome is that? This belief (which some of you may recognize as namaste, which with several meetings, may be translated as "that which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you") opens doors instead of closing them. It is a belief of welcoming, of peace, of respect, and honor.

So, as a Quaker at West Hills Friends, I am proud that it is a place of welcome. It is a place that allows everyone to be heard and respected. Beth and I are comfortable and happy here for these reasons, and more.

As the youth pastor at West Hills Friends I acknowledge that I am not a "super Christian." I am entrusted as a part of the community to listen to God especially as it pertains to the youth who gather there. I have been released from some of the typical responsibilities of secular life to focus more time and energy towards discerning the needs of the young people at West Hills. For this I feel both thankful, and deeply responsible to the community...they have made it financially possible for me to do this.

I realize that some of the language in this post may be confusing...I hope that it is making some sense. Part of the reason this blog exists is to communicate with folks who I cannot see/talk with on a regular basis. I wish we could be having this conversation in person.

I will continue sharing why being a Quaker is unique, and uniquely awesome. As I said above, there are many implications for holding the belief that "there is that of God in everyone." I focused on a few, I hope to elaborate further in future posts.

in other news...Beth and I will be returning to Pennsylvania for Christmas! We will be in town from December 23-January 1st! Yay!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


moss covered Oregon!
You couldn't tell it from reading this blog, but Beth and I have been having a BLAST here in Oregon. Please do not mistake the silence on this forum for the last few months as a sign that our lives have been boring. Just the opposite in fact, we have been rolling, dare I say bathing, in the beauty and creativity of Portland, and of the West Hills Friends community.

I have been reflecting on restoration as of late. Our time in Denver was filled with its share of challenges, especially as they relate to our understanding of how God works in our lives. When you start to doubt the beliefs you have about how God leads, and about how God provides, you must then go through a process of restoring, or correcting those original beliefs. These last few months have been a process of restoration. Questions like, "How did we end up here?" and thus, "How was God working in this process" have been circulating in my mind as of late.

I'm not totally interested in discussing the theological and biblical workings of this, because I am more apt to simply say that God leads in a much different way then I originally thought. What if God isn't that condemning, anti-imaginative, anti-creative, anti-playful voice on my shoulder? What if God, instead, is the voice saying, "I dare you...just for a DREAM, go absolutely wild, I have NOTHING to say to you to stop you from dreaming." If that is God's voice, then I have to say that we listened to the voice of God, and here we are.

When a community like West Hills Friends gives you the opportunity to respond to that voice of God, you naturally feel unbelievably thankful. One of the many things I am thankful for is that because of them, many things have been restored to me.


Thursday, July 15, 2010


Greetings from Portland, OR!


We arrived here on Saturday July 10th around 12:30pm, after driving 20 hours over two days from Denver, CO. The first leg of the trip took us 13 hours and had us stopping and sleeping in Boise, ID. We hit the road again on Saturday around 5:00am and within thirty minutes we crossed the border into our home state, OREGON! The next six and a half hours were spent driving through some of the most beautiful country. We joined up with the Columbia River for the last section of our trip, and followed the gorge it has created in Northern Oregon until we arrived in Portland.

Beth, Oliver, and I stood on the front porch of our new home and waited for one of our new landlords to answer our knocking. Matt answered the door and walked us through our new apartment. Within hours the apartment would be filled with boxes.

Thanks to the folks at West Hills Friends (where I will be the Youth Pastor starting this Sunday July, 18) we had plenty of hands to help us unpack the 16ft moving truck. We felt so welcomed and blessed by these folks! Everyone brought us food and house warming gifts! Beth and I are so thankful to be a part of this amazing community.

The following morning we attended our first meeting at West Hills Friends and were greeted with a lovely sign...

How awesome is that? 

In the days that followed Beth and I unpacked dozens and dozens of boxes. Our apartment is just now taking shape, and we are excited to have room to move around and to relax. 

We have spent some of our evenings exploring our neighborhood. We had no clue when we picked this neighborhood back in the spring that it was such a happening place. Just a few blocks down is Hawthorne Blvd. a lovely street packed full of cafe's, restaurants, stores, etc. Across the street is Laurelhurst Park, a park that makes you forget that you are minutes from the center of a major city. We are excited about this neighborhood, and all the fun places yet to discover. 

Most importantly we feel like we are home. This has been our dream for a long time, and it is finally happening. As we walked down Hawthorne the other day I said to Beth, "I love this place..." Beth responded, "Yea I know, and we actually live here, we aren't on vacation." 

Thanks for checking in! More to Come!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Moving Date

All arrangements have been made, and we pick up our moving truck on the 8th!  We already have most of our things packed up, so this last week here shouldn't be too stressful.  

Though we are bursting with excitement, we are also so very sad to be leaving everyone here.  Every moment we spend with our friends and their families during our last days here is being savored, and we will treasure these moments until we see each of them again.   

So, with the help of our friends and some of their family we'll get the truck packed up the afternoon on July 8th, and then head out early in the morning the next day.  We have reservations at a hotel in Boise, ID where we'll spend the night after a 13 hour drive, then finish the last 7 hours the next day.

We will arrive in Portland sometime in the afternoon on the 10th, and with the gracious help of some of the members of our new community at West Hills Friends we'll get the truck unloaded and begin to settle into our new apartment and into our new journey as Oregonians!

Can you believe that?  We've dreamed for 4 years now of calling Oregon home, ever since the day we stepped foot there in 2006 when we attended the Oregon Extension.  It still feels so surreal!

To our Pennsylvania family and friends, thank you for standing by us, loving us, and cheering us on from across the country!  We love and miss you all dearly and can't wait to finally visit!  To our Colorado friends and families, you all have truly been shining lights in our lives, encouraging and loving us, thank you for making us feel like family!  A big part of our hearts will always be in Pennsylvania and Colorado!  Without all of you, we wouldn't be who we are or where we are today!  Thank you for all your love and support no matter where our journey has taken us!



A recent picture of us taken and sent to West Hills Friends so everyone can see what we look like before we arrive! 

And of course I have to include a picture of our Oliver!  He's growing so much, and becoming quite the big boy!  This was taken on a recent hike near Breckenridge, CO.  Oliver is a true mountain dog.  He's surely going to love Oregon!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Big News

I (mark) have some big news. I have just accepted the position of Youth Pastor at West Hills Friends in Portland, OR. This is incredibly exciting. Since graduating from Eastern in 2008, Beth and I have been longing to do "meaningful" work. It seems like things are starting to really come together for us. We will be moving to Portland starting July 9th, and will rest our  eyes in our apartment for this first time on July 10th.

Please continue to hold us in your prayers and thoughts as we prepare for this move and transition, but most importantly let us celebrate! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Another one of those massive updates...

Our visit to Portland was just the beginning of the good news to come our way! Our interviews went well, and we were able to get a good feel of the city and some of it's surroundings. The position Mark interviewed for, was open before we could make a move to Portland, so we decided it would be best to pass it up. There is a possibility that another position may open, but it seems like God may have something even better than we could have ever expected in store for us! Mark is headed to Portland, June 11-13th for another interview, this time with a Quaker church for a youth pastor position! He's one of the top 3 candidates, and we are really praying he gets the position! We both feel like the church would be a perfect fit for us, and we'd finally be able to get back into Youth Ministry, one of our greatest passions.

Beth will begin her new job as an assistant at a small home-based Montessori school in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood in August! She is beyond thrilled! There are a few details that need to come together with the school, but we are trusting that everything works out.

Our search for a place to live has also proved to be fruitful! Mark posted an ad on Craigslist, and shortly after we were contacted by a family who has a basement apartment in their home for rent! It was exactly what we were looking for! There is even a fenced in back yard where Oliver can play along with their black Lab! Mark is hoping to stop by and meet with the family while he's in Portland and give them part of our deposit. They were so gracious to wait for us, as the apartment has been empty for over a month already. We're looking to move in July, so keep you all posted once we pick a date!

Here are some great shots from our trip of the gorgeous land we are looking forward to calling home!

The Columbia River Gorge is about 20-30 minutes from Portland! We got to see lots of great waterfalls along the river, and you just wouldn't believe the gorgeous colors of green that blanket everything in the forest!

This was taken at Ecola State Park, near Cannon Beach, OR, just an hour and a half from Portland, OR!

I'm sure it's not hard to see just why our hearts have been in Oregon ever since the first time we stepped foot there! And If you've been around us enough, you know that we talk about our experiences in Oregon A LOT! It's been "home" to us ever since, and we are truly excited to be able to make it our physical home.


We celebrated Oliver's 1st birthday on April 3rd! He's adorable and ornery as ever!
(And continues to grow like a weed!)

Isn't he handsome!


Beth continues to knit, and has been knitting up lots of baby hats for our friends back on the East Coast that are expecting! She's been knitting from patterns, but hopes to come up with her own design soon to post on her Etsy shop! She has also started getting paid to clean a couple homes, as well as a local church. It's really helping us save up for the big move to Portland, and she actually kind of enjoys it!

Beth calls this "Stitch and Pitch," knitting at a Rockies game!


Ladies and gentlemen, the hair is gone!

And Beth got a trim and some side bangs. :-)


With the start of baseball season, Mark has really enjoyed keeping up with his Fantasy League team, and of course rooting on his Phils! We got to go see game 1 of their series against the Rockies with some of our favorite Denver people! The Phils won of course! :-) Unfortunately games 2 and 3 got cancelled due to weather... but we're looking forward to going to one of the makeup games!

Adam and Joe

Carrie, Mal, Brit, and Me

They're all one reason we'll be sad to leave, Denver. We love them all so much!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


"If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet wiht a success unexpected in common hours." -Thoreau

We have been allowing ourselves to dream about what we want to do next, since things just haven't quite been working out for us. February Mark and I both started exploring other options that were beginning to interest us, and let ourselves dream about what that might look like for us. Finally a couple weeks ago, we received good news! We are headed to Portland on Saturday for a couple interviews! We'll be there Saturday through Tuesday. We'd feel a bit better if we each had at least one more interview, but if not that's okay too. We are just grateful that someone is actually interested in meeting with us!
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

After the suggestion of a friend, Mark began exploring the possibility of working in residential treatment centers for youth. We’re excited because these type of positions seem to fit Mark a lot better than any youth ministry position we have looked at. He has not been able to find any openings here in Denver, so we decided to check out Portland. Mark emailed a connection we have there, and it turns out he had some pretty good leads for him. Mark was able to line up an interview almost immediately with Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services, a residential treatment center for youth.

I've been exploring getting into Montessori Education, and I really think it will be a great fit for me. I have been considering going to one of the Montessori Institutes to become a teacher, but decided to look into job opportunities first. I found a posting for a position as a classroom assistant in a small Montessori school run out of a mother's home in SE Portland. It seems this would be a great opportunity to gain a significant amount of experience before seriously considering becoming a teacher. It also just so happens that she is into local/organic foods, gardening, community, yoga, etc. That made me even more excited! I emailed her and she said she’d be very interested in meeting me, so we went ahead and set up an interview when we found out about Mark’s interview.

We feel like we finally have hope that something will finally work out for us. We are trying to stay calm though, we're so afraid of setting ourselves up for disappointment. So please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!
"Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations.
For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I often hesitate to update this, thinking that unless I have some update on our lives that it really isn't worth writing anything. I have to remember that this blog isn't strictly informational in the "I just did this, we just did that" sorta way. I guess there are plenty of things that I wish you knew about the two of us. Chances are, when you learn these things, we will have found another thing in common. We like that common word. Community.

I have been reading a lot of David James Duncan as of late. More specifically My Story As Told By Water. I guess you can call it a memoir. If you call it that, then I guess you could read it and hear our story too. I (Mark) feel like it is as much of My Story As Told by Water as Duncan's. His descriptions of the Pacific Northwest feel hauntingly like the very words I use to describe it, the images created by his words are the very photos and mini-movies I have preserved in my memory.

So I have been flipping through all of those as of late. Remembering and reliving those sacred moments in Lincoln, OR. Beth and I both go through these times often. Beth calls them the "Oregon Homesick Blues."

Take for example the photo below. A picture of our honeymoon road trip starting in San Francisco and traveling north through the redwood forest.

Thinking about that first full day of our We arrived in San Francisco, rented a Jeep Patriot from a shady rental place, and turned that thing north. We traveled for nearly seven hours, passing through the rolling, grass covered hills just north of San Francisco, then dodging in and out of dense redwood forest and the subsequent fog. We stopped in tiny towns for burritos and gas. We drove by roadside attractions like "The Legend of Bigfoot," and laughed.
We met Paul Bunyan, who amongst the giant redwoods, seemed at home, but thankfully retired many years ago.

We were headed to a campground on the coast in Brookings, OR. Our second night as a married couple was to be spent in a tent, and we preferred to set up that tent with plenty of daylight. But as we entered into the ancient forests the headlights started to beat out the sun as far as illumination. After hours in the forest we rounded a corner and beheld the mighty Pacific and the setting sun. Still hours from our campground we decided to stop and embrace the disappearance of our easily set up tent. We took this photo:

Man, how I wish we could repeat this again soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thanks to Beth, the blog has a pulse. I figured I should follow up, show some signs of life myself. The days of winter here in Colorado have a nice cyclical feel to them. A week of absurdly warm weather (I'm talking 50 plus degrees here folks) teases us with the thoughts of sprouting vegetables, and hours more of sunlight. These pleasant and Vitamin D filled thoughts are squashed by the blast of arctic air seemingly pouring off them mountains just west of us. And when I say squashing I mean it in the most unprepared, rude, and destructive way, because before you know it your looking at -15 degree nights. yea. This is usually followed by a dump of snow. 10-15 inches usually. The snow hangs around forever, even as the temperatures start to climb back to a more understandable level. The snow melts and turns to ice and you have daily mini-heart-attacks when your treadless shoes decide to move just slightly faster then the remaining 96% of your body. Thankfully no bones have broken, nor heads cracked. Just lotsa' "take deep breaths honey" types of sentences after recovering from so many near death experiences.

I wish I could be more specific, but that's a little tough now. I think a lot of things are going to change for us. We're realizing that the $50,000 education that was supposed to be "an investment into your future" has actually just taken a huge dump on us. sorry to be crude, but man I can hardly think of a better way to express that. I'm thankful for my education in many ways, just not in that "your gonna work at Starbucks and be poor/slightly miserable, for much longer then you EVVVVER expected" sorta way. Did you start reading to hear me whining?

So yea, things are probably going to be changing. There. Stay tuned. K?

Oliver (yes we are those type of dog owners) is forever growing in size and sass. He is even talking back to us now when we "correct" him. He gives us this throaty and disgruntled growl after you tell him to "shoosh!" And will continue to do it until you grow tired of his teenager ways. Kids.

Other then that I would strongly encourage you all to take care of your appendix's. If that tiny little pouch of flesh decides to get all infected and angry you WILL land yourself in the hospital. Also, that little stay in the five star hospital will cost you a pretty gosh darn fortune. Yep $16,000 for that little dangly flesh hanging off your small intensities. (Prepare yourself for sarcasm) Thanks to our unsurpassed and completely functional health insurance industry I paid next to nothing for this procedure. (Prepare yourself for absolutely no sarcasm whatsover, seriously) Except for a year later (which was about a couple days ago) when you receive a bill for $4,000 benjawashinglincolns. psssssst we have no such money!

Yep. SO the crapping on continues. Take care of your appendix's folks.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year, New Post

We're not very consistent bloggers to say the least, but in our defense, we honestly haven't had the time nor the motivation. So here's what we've been up to...

Mark's parents and Beth's family came out for a visit in October a few days apart.

Beth sold her knits at a couple craft shows.

Oliver experienced his first snow, and it turns out he LOVES snow!

We celebrated Christmas together at home, and then again with the Preston family, and then the Beach family. It was wonderful to be welcomed into their family celebrations, as we were definitely missing our families back in PA.

After coming home crying one too many nights, Beth decided to quit her job at AE. We both decided money wasn't worth being treated less than human. So since then she's been cleaning and doing all the laundry that we've put off for over a month, spending time with Oliver (who has spent way to much time pent up in his crate), knitting, and spending time with Mark. That's been the best part of course, since we were both working 40 hours per week, we rarely saw each other. We've also gotten to spend a lot more time with our friends out here, which we have both missed as well. We also got to see a couple of our dear friends from out east when they were in town visiting family.

SO that's just a tiny bit of what our lives have been like lately.