razor wire on a cloudy day


Razor wire crowns a barbed wire fence in Portland’s central Eastside industrial area near the eastern foot of the Ross Island Bridge. It poses a lethal-looking hazard for any person seeking to scale it’s forbidding heights. Surely, it must be in place to protect highly sensitive contents, yes? Or perhaps to protect the general populace from being exposed to dangerous contents from within? Maybe. More likely, the Dairy gold plant simply does not want outsiders to mess with or take its stuff. Yea, I will go with that. After all, it is a Dairy gold plant which the fence protects.

All the same, it made for an interesting photography subject. I enjoy the interplay between the razor wire, the clouds, and the brilliant blue sky. It combines two of my favorite photography subjects, clouds and industry.


The Fremont Bridge


I love bridges. I enjoy looking at them, driving them, and photographing them. I especially like to explore perspectives we usually pass over in order to achieve the iconic shots we typically see in chamber of commerce ads.

The underbellies of bridges and confluence of their onramps offer a gritty look at their massive size. This shot captures the east side of the onramps to the Fremont Bridge in Portland, Oregon. Taken from I-5, the iconic portion of the great bridge is hidden from view. That’s part of the appeal for me. We are forced to focus on details we would otherwise ignore in favor of the money shot which is just beyond our view.

It’s the kind of photo which will never make it into a magazine or be recognized for its genius. Instead, it captures the mood and tone of daily mundane life, far from the glamour of its soaring namesake.

stories untold


It stakes its claim between HWY 30 and the Columbia River between NW industrial and the St. John’s Bridge. A mysterious structure on an industrial property. Carefully watched by an armed guard. I know, because the guard took exception to my presence when I took this photo. No words exchanged. Just folded arms and a spiteful glare. So I left, wondering to this day what stories are left untold by those walls.

A series of Internet searches reveal a wealth of conjecture, but nothing of factual substance.

But that’s okay. Maybe some stories are best left untold. It allows the imagination to fill in the blanks. Maybe it’s a government install–no, that can’t be right. I know, it’s a drug house–umm, no, too predictable. Ooh. I have an idea…. Gotta run. I will let you use your imagination while I engage mine. I will let my story go untold for now while you write your own.

hooping it up with a cast of characters

Tonight was the final night of our winter basketball session. Twelve youth participated. Here they are, posing for a group photo. Yea, they are a cast of characters…


We began the evening with stretching…


Well, most of them stretched…




Then we played five-on-five basketball. There was shooting…



and dribbling…



and even rebounding…


A good time had by all. I’m looking forward to starting up again in the near future. Meanwhile, will you join me in praying for my neighborhood?

Forest Park Hike: Portland Audubon Society

Yesterday I took a short hike starting at the Portland Audubon Society Headquarters. Although I snapped numerous photos, I will only share a few of the best here. Since I approached the trailhead from the East, I was required to make my way from Vaughn St to NW 25th and then to NW Lovejoy which later transitions to NW Cornell. Two tunnels mark the massage. This is the first.


I stopped on Lovejoy to take in a rare behind-the-scenes view of the iconic Montgomery Park building and the NW Industrial Park area. Swan Island lurks in the distance. These are part of my stomping grounds when I drive truck throughout the week.


Portland is known for its long, steep concrete staircases built during its industrial boom season. This is one of them. Tempted as I was to descend, I thought better of it since I knew I would later have to make the return journey.


An owl stood guard at the trailhead immediately behind the Audubon Headquarters. He looked kinda grumpy so I chose not to let him out of his cage…


As I embarked on my hike I saw many beautiful trees, ferns, shrubs and greenery. The Lothlórien Realm is beautiful to imagine. But this is the real thing.





There were also numerous walking bridges. Here is one of them.


the way forward hidden

Photo by Glen Alan Woods
As I entered Ruby Beach in Washington State, I left another world behind. No longer was there warmth and sunshine. In its place fog tried in vain to hide the violence of the rough ocean surf. Signs were posted warning of the dangers. “Know your tide tables,” they said. “And do not get caught at high tide, nor ensnared by the frequent riptides.”
I was on high alert. As I gingerly ventured out past the huge relics of driftwood depicted in the first photograph, I glimpsed the ocean for the first time. But there was not much to see. Fog hid its expanse.
Photo by Glen Alan Woods
 The dissonance between the visual claustrophobia and the aural power was intimidating. It made me wonder what lay beyond the watery veil a mere fifty feet away.
It also caused me to think about the frustrating nature of life, when its way forward seems hidden.
Rarely is life simple. Relationships, responsibilities, obligations, finances, dreams, broken hearts, loss, shame, hope and forgiveness are just a sampling of the artifacts and experiences that etch their mark on our hearts. Sometimes they shine upon us, providing profound clarity. More often, they simply muddy things up, both above and below the surface of our interior lives. Kind of like fog on a dangerous ocean beach.
The past year has brought many changes in my life. In keeping with life’s gnarled nature, they have been hurtful and helpful. But I do not regret the journey. Some folks preach about the importance of vision clarity. I am learning that sometimes it is okay simply to abide in ambiguity, so long as I am clear concerning in whom I place my hope. My ministry career decisions in the past year have killed my future prospects for which I have worked long and hard. I am okay with that. As a young man I promised Jesus I would take up my cross, no matter the cost. I don’t know the way forward, but in the years I have remaining, I am committed to living a cross-centered life among the redeemed and the lost, so that Jesus Christ may be lifted up among the nations. Maybe it took killing my dreams in order for God to pursue his through me in his timing.
Photo by Glen Alan Woods

Forklifts/Warehouses as a Metaphor for Ministry

These are the forklifts I regularly drive at three locations for my place of employment. Take a look at them. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Beyond the obvious cosmetic differences, there are others hidden from view of these photos, not least the controls, the unique characteristics of handling, the environments in which they are operated, the payloads they are required to handle, plus the specific safety features on each one. So take a look. Make a note of what you perceive. I would like to walk us through an examination of forklifts and warehouses as a metaphor for ministry. Having worked in warehouses professionally for over twenty years (much of that time was spent in floorcovering, wholesale and retail), I believe there are some concepts to be gleaned by making observations about the industry as it relates to ministry.

Warehouse tasks and the forklifts that enable so much of the labor to be done effectively are an interesting breed. I have worked in and visited many warehouses over the years. They vary in size, scope, complexity, purpose, personnel, technology, atmosphere, safety protocols, leadership structure, and so on. Some are quite sophisticated and rival clean rooms due to their pristine appearance. Others look like a tornado hit, with workers walking about in a daze, wondering where to find product.

The warehouses I work in fall somewhere between these two extremes. There is a unique culture in each, largely due to differences in personalities, size and management styles.

The forklifts vary as well, so let’s start by pointing out a few key similarities and differences.

Similarities between these forklifts: They all have four rubber tires, a protective roll cage, a lift mast, an attachment to the mast, although the attachments vary in size and function, a start key, forward/reverse mechanisms, steering wheels, electric power, excelerators, brakes, tilt gears, lift gears (all but one have side shift capacity), very large batteries which also serve as a counterweight feature, seats, fire extinguishers, lift/tilt/sideshift gears to the right of the steering columns, plus a number of less notable common features. You get the idea. These are all forklifts. They look like forklifts. They drive like forklifts. They function like forklifts. Yesiree, they are forklifts. But, if they are all forklifts, why are some of them so vastly different in performance, capability, technical specification, sophistication, and functional nuance than their counterparts? It reminds me of churches. From a distance, so many churches look the same, but upon closer examination, moving beyond broad common forms, there are worlds of difference. More on that in a moment.

Differences between some of these forklifts:

The first photo depicts a Hyster. It is used at our main corporate location to move skids of ceramic, granite, wood and laminate, among other things. It has four foot long forks which can be outfitted with six foot extender sleeves, if necessary. It is a solid workhorse, not unlike its Hyster counterpart in the fourth photo below, which is located at our smaller warehouse location, where I primarily work. Yet they are different. The second Hyster has identical controls to the first, with the forward/reverse mechanism located on the foot pedal and with similar performance in terms of lift capacity. Yet they feel difference with regard to responsiveness. It is something intrinsic to their unique usage histories and current work environments. The first hyster is used far more extensively, whereas the second is used minimally. The first gets more use in one day than the second gets in one week, or even two. Smaller warehouse. Different level of intensity. Both have value for their environments, but the requirements on them differ. Isn’t this so much like churches? Small churches are not better or worse than large churches due to their size. They simply have a difference set of expectations at that point in their histories. Those of us in small churches would do well to remember that when talking about the differences. Perhaps this might be true of folks in large churches as well. Yoda was very much correct. “Size matters not.” If you don’t believe me, investigate the Brooklyn Tabernacle and ask yourself how such a small church can have such a large impact. They are not the only ones. So, whether large or small, God has a purpose for your church which far exceeds missionally what you are currently doing. This is true for my church. The churches in our neighborhood. Your church. Even the really, exceptionally creative and effective churches which already have made an international impact for God’s glory. Yes, God would even have them increase their missional impact. While we can celebrate God’s victories in the past, we should never sink into self-satisfaction, which is one portent of ministry decline. Imagine that. Notice that I said missional impact rather than membership size. The two do not always walk hand-in-hand.

The second photograph shows a Halton m500, a great smooth ride which is used at our corporate location for moving carpet and large rolls of vinyl. The forward/reverse is operated by a lever on the left hand side of the steering column. The pedals are for braking and excelerating. It does sport separate right hand controls for tilt, lift and side shift respectively. It has a three stage lift capacity, as opposed to the two Hysters which are only two stage, and thus cannot lift material as high. It reminds me of churches which are uniquely gifted and postured to make a broader community impact, not necessarily because of their size, but more often because of the giftedness of their leadership and members and the opportunity which God has deposited before them for specific purposes. Their value is not any greater than churches which do not garner as much attention, but God has given them an opportunity and responsibility to utilize their gifts in focused ways to share Jesus’ love to their communities and around the world. Ask yourself, is your church being used to the fullness of potential which God has given you? Are you personally being used of God in this way? If not, why not?

You will notice that there are two Yales in the third and fifth photos, the first located at our corporate warehouse as a third backup lift, second located at another large store, with its larger six foot long forks. These two lifts are the largest in size and weight lifting capacity. They are workhorses beasts really. Unlike some of the other lifts, there is nothing subtle about these machines. They are noisy, but effective when a very large payload needs to be handled. The three and four stage lifts used for carpet are much slicker, more glamerous, and frankly more fun to drive. These two lifts are harder to drive with respect to being larger, especially within narrow spaces. The orange and white colored lift in the sixth photo is just the opposite. It is the sports car in a fleet of average workhorses. While the other lifts use eight foot long stingers for carpet, this one uses a ten foot long stinger on a four stage lift mast. It smoothly lifts payloads up to twenty feet high with flair and nuance. Forward/reverse is located on the left hand lever on the column. However, the tilt/lift are ALL on one single lever on the right hand. Only one. The gear functions diagonally. Diagonal left/up/down is tilt up or down and diagonal right up/down is lift up or down. The sideshift is on a second lever. This is something to be mastered before lifting 2,500 lbs twenty feet in the air in dim warehouse with people walking all around gawking.

Although this lift really is the favorite ride among them all, at least for me, it is also one that bears enormous responsibility due to the complex high capacity environment in which it operates and the volume of work expected. So, it also is a workhorse in its own right. It reminds me of the jealousy I sometimes perceive among people concerning churches of greater means. Yes, they may have greater means in certain respects. But with that comes greater responsibility. We would do well to think less about what others have in comparison to what we do not have. Rather, we should focus on who God is and what he is doing in our midst, rejoicing that he is working uniquely in other environments, but asking ourselves and God what might he be up to in our situations, specifically with regard to how we might respond to his heart, his mission, his purposes.

Working in all three of these environments, with their varied management styles and cultures has been a learning experience for me. It reminds me once again that the managed laborer (that would be me) transitions into being a defacto manager, just to keep the respective managers on the same page. That is to say, I have to take pains to remind them of when I am coming and going so that their competing priorities do not cause unfortunate conflicts for me or them. Likewise, I have to document everything, as I always do anyway, so that as I am working in the respective locations, I can better recall specific work related situations concerning customers, receiving records and so on. Of course, they expect me to memorize it all. But with three sites, it just isn’t possible to remember every salesperson’s orders on demand. Documentation helps often, but not always.

Leadership of churches would do well to remember the complex array of responsibilities placed upon their children’s pastors. They are expected to be a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. Even I, as a part-time children’s pastor am on the clock when I am at the church campus on the weekend or during the week just to attend worship. The mere fact that I am present mean I am on the job and people treat me accordingly (not badly-usually-just accordingly with respect to my role), which is fine. I have learned to cope with it. I am, however, very grateful to my pastor and our congregation which has loved me, supported me, encouraged me, even to the extent of saying, we want you to get your rest and refreshment too. My church is so awesome. I have to tell you, why would I want to leave for a more financially lucrative situation when I have a church already that not only says they love me, they show it in practical ways? Why would I want to “upgrade professionally” as some have suggested I need to do, when I am living out my heart’s desire missionally? The only reason I would leave is if God clearly directs me to do so. And it would be demonstrated in terms of mission, not compensation package.

Unfortunately, not every children’s pastor is blessed to be in a situation like mine. It is no small surprise that so many burn out, or transition out into new churches with great frequency. Frankly, I think the general system is broken. I think church leaders and their congregations often are unreasonable in their demands on one individual. Good grief, we expect them to be creative innovators, media gurus, professional therapists to children and their parents, multi-sport athletes, multi-skilled musicians, leadership tacticians, Las Vegas quality illusionists and thespians, mediation specialists, missionaries….well, you get the idea. I realize I am overstating the case, mostly. Sort of. Or am I? With increasing complexity in so many large and multi-site congregations, it is the children’s pastor’s responsibility to see that these needs are met in some form. Even if one person does have all these skills, there is not enough time in the day to do them! Yet the metrics used to guage ministry success is contingent on them. Attendance, salvations, baptisms, confirmations, etc. Where it becomes problematic is when the trends track downward. Imagine that, being disciplined because of a downward trend in attendance, especially when children are dependant on their parents to bring them, or on the church to pick them up and drive them in! So, add transportation secretary to the previous list.

Hopefully this spurs some conversation, but only in a positive way. I welcome your feedback, as always.