Re-entry, Friends, History

I predicted that the sabbatical would really hit me when I woke up after returning from Ireland and did not have to go back to work. I was right. The last week and half has been weird while also being great. I have cleaned parts of my house (like that plant shelf in my kitchen) more thoroughly than I have in the past. I have slept, read, caught up with so many friends, seen some good films and explored some of Southern Idaho.

Saturday breakfast with Phil and Jodi, before they spent the weekend with Trinity Lutheran, Nampa.

Friends: Thank to everyone who wanted to catch up with me during this interlude between Ireland and the Monastery at St. Gertrude’s in Cottonwood (where I’ll head Aug. 8). It has been great fun to hear friends’ stories. I value friendships so much and am thankful to have friends who are colleagues (professional public ministers who totally get what I do) and to have friends who work outside the church (who give me insights into fields like public education, science, and private practice). I also got to meet new friends (Phil and Jodi, pictured above).

Last Trivia Night with Emely and Brendan (center) before they move to Costa Rica for new jobs.

McCall: I had not been in McCall for a weekend in about seven years. There were so many people! Still, the lake front is beautiful and it was good to worship Sunday morning with about 30 people at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

Movies: Toy Story 4, Rocketman (such great storytelling!), Late Night (great cast), and Joy and I saw Apollo 11 (incredible technical work on this one) on a rainy night in Limerick.

Museums: I still have a few on my list but I did get to visit the Idaho State Museum. Here are some of my favorite sections:

In Mountain Shadows is on my bibliography for my Doctor in Ministry project.

Trinity Lutheran Church delivers school supplies to Duck Valley at the end of each summer.

Loved going into the theater and listening to each of the origins stories–so well done.

Every Gen X person, like me, will love seeing this.

Wonderful interactive displays, like this one, on the lower level.

Good use of visual arts.

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Musings after the Ireland Trip

I have so many things to write about after my trip to Ireland with my friend Joy (July 5-23). It was a great decision to not take my laptop and to only post photos and captions in my blog. These factors allowed me to really experience each day without over processing everything. Here are the ten things, in no particular order, I am pondering the day after my return.

My parents gave and continue to give me so much. Everything from the way I pack a suitcase to the way I make connections to my love of learning can be traced back to both the home I grew up in and and experiences they encouraged me to have without them.

I will always love physical books but I cannot believe it took the Lilly grant for me to finally buy a Kindle. For traveling, there is nothing better. I am always sure to have enough reading materials in case I get stuck somewhere (thanks again Mom and Dad). Now I will always be prepared without having to lug multiple books.

Go to enough museums, have enough conversations, read any history and you soon realize that the Irish narrative is one of continual invasions and robbing the Gaelic people of their language and culture. I do not know what to make of this yet but I think it is an interesting coincidence that I a began my sabbatical in Ireland and will end it on the Pine Ridge Reservation in my home state of South Dakota speaking with the Lakota.

My travel companion Joy has told me about John O’Donahue’s book Anam Cara since she first studied in Galway. I finally read it on the trip. It is beautifully written and so full of wisdom. Wow!

I love my job as a parish pastor but I also still love history, one of my college majors at Concordia, and I think I would have loved being a museum curator today. We visited a variety of museums which use technology to different degrees. The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin and King John’s Castle in Limerick both did masterful jobs using technology to tell stories.

When I was preparing for sabbatical I will admit that I was thinking of storytelling mostly with words, probably because I have always loved words. My other college major was English writing. But the art galleries and concerts we attended reminded me that the arts (music, painting, dance) can all tell stories very effectively.

Joy and I only spent a little under two hours with an intern at Narrative 4 in Limerick but it was an important piece of the trip. I love what this nonprofit does–teaches kids empathy through listening and storytelling. Thanks to my college English professor Dr. Dawn Duncan for recommending this stop.

Another small (if measuring time spent) but significant stop was the Moth and the Butterfly in Galway. They only meet once a month so I am so happy we were able to join them for the evening. The stories we heard are still swirling around in me. I bought Moth and Butterfly founder Orla McGovern’s book, Dublin Folktales for Children. I have added The Moth (produced by The Moth in NYC) to my list of podcasts. So far it is great.

Joy has been teaching in the United Arab Emirates for two school years. I knew hearing about her experience would be part of the trip. In addition to being proud of my friend for following her dream to live overseas, I am now fascinated by this country; I even looked up books about it while at the Newark airport yesterday. I picked up my mail today, which included the latest issue of The Christian Century, and turned to this article about religion in the UAE.

Finally, staying in Bed and Breakfasts is an amazing way to hear stories. I thought we would hear stories of the Irish people in the pubs in the evenings but it was hearing from our hosts upon arrival (or in their cars as they drove us somewhere) and then hearing from other guests over breakfast that ended up being the biggest surprise. What a gift to exchange stories over morning tea and toast.

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Ireland Part Three

Venue-Katie’s Cottage, Galway

Ready for storytelling

Joy and I with “Moth and Butterfly” founder and host Orla McGovern

At the Cliffs of Moher

View of Aran Islands and Connemara from the Cliffs of Moher

Attended “Trad on the Prom” in Salt Hill.

Part of the Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF)

Three Oscar Wilde stories woven together into one play (GIAF)

In the big tent at GIAF. RTE National Symphony John Williams tribute concert

Worshiped at St. Mary’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland, Anglican)

Great exhibit at Limerick’s Hunt Museum on a rainy Sunday afternoon

Wonderful morning with staff at Ireland’s Narrative 4

More storytelling through visual arts, this time at the Limerick City Art Gallery

Limerick City Art Gallery

View from atop King John’s Castle (begun in 1212)

King John’s Castle and bridge over the Shannon River

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Ireland Part Two

Sheep block the Western Way in Connemara


View from the front door of our Saturday night lodging at Lough Inagh Lodge

Leaving Lough Inagh

Into the Shire (what Joy and I began calling every forest)

Boat ride out of Leenane on Ireland’s only fjord-Killary Harbour

One of many stiles we used July 15

Our Western Way guidepost

Descending from Sheefry Pass

Croagh Patrick (Patrick’s Mountain)

Track down to Westport Bay

Town of Westport in County Mayo

Attended “Atlantic Notes” at Westport’s Town Hall Theater-music, dance, and stories from the Wild Atlantic Way


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Ireland Part One

Dublin Writers Museum


Book of Kells and Old Library Trinity College Dublin

Room about Storytelling at Irish Emigration Museum

  • Bronze Age hill fort on Aran Islands

    Kilronan Village (where we stayed)

    St Benan’s Church

    Boardwalk in Lackavrea Forest

    River in Maam Valley


    Traveling Friends



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Sabbatical – Week One

I am leaving this morning, Saturday, for Ireland. I am so glad I gave myself a week to rest and unwind before departure. I went shopping for the trip. Thanks to a few Trinity members for suggesting I go to Costco for a wide brim hat–they had one hat in two colors which is the right amount of options for me. I went to REI to get trail snacks, more Smart Wool, and iodine tablets. I might have cried if I had had to choose from all of the hats there.

I have had fun remembering my trip to Lutherland last summer. I have been reading Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, which I bought on the trip. After looking at piles of photos and travel memorabilia for seven months, I finally completed my Lutherland scrapbook! I also am up-to-date on my Nampa scrapbook, had stuff in another pile going back to summer 2017. It was kind of relaxing. I did not cut cute shapes or make nice backdrops for photos but I did get everything pasted into the books and added some commentary. That is a win for me.

The most surprising thing about the week was the lack of sermon preparation and what that did for my head. Even when I go on two-week vacation or continuing education trip I look ahead to what I will be preaching on when I return. You never know when inspiration will hit you. But looking at the texts for Oct. 13 seemed ridiculous. So I pulled out my doctor in ministry project bibliography. I downloaded all of my journal articles, thanks to access through the Graduate Theological Union Library, and then I went to the local library. I learned that I can have two interlibrary loan requests in at a time with the Nampa public library. The best lesson of the week is that as a resident of Idaho I can get a library card for Boise State University’s library, which has three books I need.

(Christa and me on Idaho Street)

(statue of former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, near the State Capitol)

The highlight of the week was catching up with a friend. Christa’s three weeks with her Boise family overlapped with my first week of sabbatical. Christa served as pastors of two local Methodist congregations when I was a few years into serving at Trinity. Now she is 20 months into a call serving a Nazarene (her home denomination) congregation in Nashville. We spent much of Wednesday in downtown Boise (on Idaho’s anniversary of statehood day) and most of Thursday in Nampa.


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Sabbatical Companions

Who are the people I will travel with or visit between July 1-Oct. 7?

My companion in Ireland will be Joy Donathan. I met Joy my first month in Idaho, November 2010, at the ecumenical 20s-30s Bible Study (back when we were both in our 30s) held at Thomas Hammer Coffee. Joy was the lone Episcopalian and had worked for the Idaho Episcopal Diocese with Rev. Karen Hunter, who now serves Grace Episcopal Church, Nampa. In 2010, Joy was finishing earning her teaching certificate from BSU. She went on to teach math at Frank Church High School and North Junior High. After earning her master’s in education from Michigan State, program housed in Galway, Ireland, she pursued her dream of teaching overseas and moved to Abu Dhabi (UAE). That was two years ago. I think both of us would trace the nurturing of our friendship to five summers of attending the Idaho Shakespeare Festival together.

I will travel to Prince Edward Island with my childhood friend (we’re talking Custer Elementary and Sunday School at Custer Lutheran Fellowship) Jennifer Cerfogli and Jennifer’s oldest daughter/my goddaughter Celia, age 13. Jennifer and husband Frank also have twins Ann and Sofia and their youngest is Henry. Our friendship never would have faded but we were blessed during most of my time as a pastor in Iowa to live only 2.5 hours apart. Jennifer, a veterinarian, finished a fellowship in Oregon and came back to get another degree from Iowa State University, Ames. She served on the faculty there for many years but last fall she was hired by Texas A & M, College Station.

I will be staying with my parents, Linde and Jerry, in Custer, SD. I will spend time with my half-brother Steve and sister-in-law Peggy. For a few days, I will accompany Pastor Larry Peterson, an old family friend who has spent much of his life pastoring on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and has recently been the major driver behind founding the Woyatan Retreat Center in Rapid City, SD. Our lives first crossed professionally when Larry was serving on the South Dakota Synod Candidacy Committee. He conducted my entrance exam to candidacy at a picnic bench in Hill City, SD. Of interest to some Trinity members, he happens to be the brother of Ann Sansgaard, wife of Dick Sansgaard, who served as Trinity’s interim pastor before you called me. It can be a small Lutheran world.

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