Monday, August 29, 2022


So on our hikes in the Smoky Mountains we got to see some bears! Twenty years ago while there we didn't see any, but this time we must have seen bears some 5-6 times, including around our hotel! We saw some adults, juveniles, and a few cubs, too. Some pictures:

Here's one looking right at the camera.
(If you click on the picture and zoom in, you'll see it better.)

A cub climbing a tree. We looked but didn't see mama around anywhere.

Here's the one who prowled around our hotel one evening. Pretty big!

Not all the trash cans were bear proof!

Finally, here's a video of two cubs walking across a log. (Click on the full screen option for the best view.) We actually saw mama bear first and were watching her when the cubs came along! Even though you can't see mama in the video, she's in the foreground, under the plants. When watched for a while, but once mama decided enough was enough and started walking towards us, we decided enough was enough and continued on our hike!

But all in all, not only good hiking, but what good fortune to see so many bears, too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022


One of the things we did on vacation was hike. Always good to get outdoors in the fresh air and see the wonders of creation and nature. We spent a fews days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and then at our newest National Park, New River Gorge. Some pics . . .

We hiked to some waterfalls . . .

Even got to go behind one.

We hiked into crevasses.

At our nation's newest National Park in West Virginia.

The view from the top . . .

and the view from the bottom!

Yes, we hiked all the way to the bottom! That was the easy part. It was going back up that was tough! Here's how it look on the "Map My Walk" app:

Tomorrow: Bears!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Back in the Saddle . . . Kind of

I'm back from vacation and now the task of catching up with everything from the past two weeks as well as jumping into the normal schedule! I'll post on our vacation over the next week or so (he said hopefully!), but in the meantime, one picture to get you going . . .

What shall I preach this Sunday? :-)

Saturday, August 6, 2022

A Little R&R

I'm leaving for some R&R today - much needed! I know I left you hanging with my last post . . . I promise I'll get that up when I get back! I just didn't have time for the blog trying to get everything done before leaving. I've got other stuff to post, too. So see you in a bit!

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Higher Things, Day 5 - The End, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The last day, as most of you know, is a half-day, a travel day. We say a lot of goodbyes and then start the journey home. Our plan was to load the van after lunch and before the closing service, then get out pretty quickly. 


When I got to our van, it was dead. Completely. Didn't even try to start. :-(  I saw someone in the parking lot and tried to jump it, but couldn't really get a good connection on her battery, so it didn't work. Not even close. So we left our stuff in our dorm rooms and went to the Closing Service and would deal with the van after that. The Closing Service is one of the highlights, IMHO. I snuck out after communion to call AAA. Sadly, they basically said that someone would be there up to 1.5 hours from then. We would just have to wait and see how long it took. Sigh.

So after watching most folks leave, another friend offered to try again to jump - this time with a better battery connection. Thankfully, that worked, but the battery wouldn't hold a charge, wouldn't restart by itself. So it was off to the auto parts store for a new one. The first place wouldn't install it for us, but the second would, and did. All-in-all, not too bad, but it did hold us up leaving, which meant we get to our hotel later in the night. We were hoping to leave by 3 CT, 4 ET, but ending up leaving after 5 ET. (This was the "Bad" of the title.)

But before talking about that, some pictures . . .

Pastor Stan Temme, Evansville, IN, and his son Simon. Stan is the one who finally got our van started and followed us to the auto parts store to make sure we got taken care of. Thanks Stan! (Part of the "Good," along with the last parts of the conference.)

Pastor and Headmaster Steve Kieser of Plano, TX.

Almost 1,000 youth in attendance.

The final standings of the "tetramorph challenge" - the different teams the youth were divided into. Our team, Leo, was victorious!

The theme of next year's conferences, with an apologetics focus.

So, the trip home . . . went smoothly, at first. Stopped for a quick dinner in Fort Wayne, then wound our way through rural Ohio to our hotel outside of Pittsburgh. The fun always starts after dark when we begin to get silly remembering all that happened during the week and laugh a lot. We also started a new "Higher Things after Dark" tradition this year . . . but you'll have to wait for that until the next post!

But what about the "Ugly" in the title? Well, that happened around midnight when we were in eastern Ohio, trying to get onto a highway . . .  we got to the on ramp Google led us to, which was closed for construction! So after pulling over and figuring out how to get to the next on ramp, we started down the road when we were stopped by a freight train! TWICE! By the same train! It went across our street, stopped, a man pivoted a switch in the track, and then it backed up across our street onto the new track! Fortunately, it wasn't an ultra long train - only about 40 cars, but still another hold up, causing us not to get to the hotel, checked in, and to our rooms until after 2 AM!

So now, after a couple hours of sleep, we'll be off again soon for the last leg. Got to get home and get ready for church tomorrow! But check back - I'll try to get a post up later today about our new tradition. Trust me, you won't want to miss that!

Friday, July 29, 2022

Higher Things, Day 4 - Second Full Day

The schedule for Thursday is much like the schedule for Wednesday, and by now everyone knows the drill and things tend to run smoothly. All the youth seem to be having a good time and it sounds like good learning, too. One difference was that last night there are some fire pits to sit around and chat about . . . anything on your mind. I was one of the pastors "assigned" to a fire pit to talk with the youth (and some adults) that came. It was an enjoyable time to talk with them. During the day, with the panel Q&A, there were some really hard questions asked! I did not get any doozies, but still good chats. They had announced that they were not providing S'mores this year, so my daughter and I walked over to the Dollar Store across the street from Valpo and bought the ingredients ourselves - so whoever came to our fire pit got some! ;-)

Some more pictures for you . . .

Jocelyn Benson, Head Teacher at Wittenberg Academy, my daughter's school. This picture should come in handy one day, don't you think?

Kathy Berg, wife of Pastor John Berg of Sheboygan, WI. I sang with Kathy in the Schola Kantorum at the Seminary when her husband and I overlapped there.

This is the room I taught in - a recital hall! The video screen was ginormous! I had to take a picture of it! I taught again today, and while I had fewer in attendance, the presentation went a bit better. 

I previously posted a picture of the inside of the chapel - here's what the chancel area looks like from the outside. Pretty impressive.

Pastor Larry Feldt (I think I'm spelling that right!) of Denver, IA (the mile WIDE city!). Larry and I overlapped at Seminary.

The Douthwaites all together before the start of one of the plenary sessions.

And finally, last but certainly not least . . .

What is this monstrosity, you ask? The air conditioning system for the chapel! Who's the genius engineer who design that rat's nest of hoses!

Anyway, one more day (a half-day) and then the long trek home. But that's for tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Higher Things, Day 3 - First Full Day

Today got started with a bang as I met my old friend, mentor, and sign language teacher Dave Bush in the lobby of the student center. He looks exactly the same as 27 years ago!

Some other friends (and relatives!) - old and new - that I ran into today . . .

My nephew Adam (the "other Pastor Douthwaite" in attendance!)

Adam's wife Sarah, also a deaconess. Their church is in Dallas, TX.

Tom Olson, from NC.

Grace Martin!
The Martin family were members of our mission congregation before they moved to Texas.

Dr. Dan Brege, Indiana District President (for a few more weeks). His daughter Heidi attends my church.

So this is how the day went: breakfast, Matins, plenary session, Lunch, vespers, breakout class, panel discussion, another breakout class, dinner, evening prayer, a third breakout class, free time, compline to close out the night. There is some time between each of these to do some other things as well - to chat, do some pastoral duties, etc.

I taught my first breakout this afternoon. As some of you know, my topic this year is: A Small Catechism on Predestination. A meaty subject! But one that I think is important to have a conversation on with the youth. Lots of misunderstanding and bad theology on this out there. I felt like I did just okay. The room dynamic was quite different than I am used to. It was a large recital hall and I was up on a stage, so a bit separated from the folks. I think that made it hard for me to get feedback as I was presenting. But I received some good comments afterward and good questions at the end from the youth, so I guess that's a good sign. I get to do it again tomorrow, so that should be a little better.

Finally, here's our group photo:

Tomorrow: The Second Full Day