This is why . . .


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. . . I didn’t get a real blog written this week. Between the 197th Convention of the Diocese of Georgia and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I’ve been insanely busy. Next week: Elephant Seals.


Enjoying the Clergy Spouse Breakfast with Kelly Benhase and Bishop Scott Benhase.


And the novel I am working on–more than 16,000 words into my goal of 50,000 by the end of the month.


A 7-Week Advent


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A Seven Week Advent? Yes! There was a time when liturgical churches used seven weeks of preparation for Christmas to match the seven weeks in Lent leading to Easter.

This tradition remained in the Orthodox churches–Russian, Greek, etc.

Nest Sunday, November 11, is the first day of this year’s Seven Week Advent and begins with this collect:

Eternal God, your Word of wisdom goes forth and does not return empty: Grant us such knowledge and love of you that we may perceive your presence in all creation and every creature; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, now and forever. Amen.

Frank and I created a booklet for a nightly service for a Seven Week Advent, which can be found here if you are interested: Seven Week Advent

You can also find more resources here: The Advent Project


Joshua Tree National Park


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Exploring Joshua Tree National Park at sunset in our rented Rogue.

From the National Park Service:

“While the Joshua Tree area has been inhabited by humans for at least 5,000 years, by the late 1920s the development of new roads into the desert had brought an influx of land developers and cactus poachers. Minerva Hoyt, a Pasadena resident who was extremely fond of desert plants, became concerned about the removal of cacti and other plants to the gardens of Los Angeles. Her tireless efforts to protect this area culminated in 825,000 acres being set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936.”

We’d heard about Joshua Tree National Park for years, and when we decided to turn a trip to California into a road trip that would take us down California 1 then across the state to Barstow before heading to Joshua Tree and then east to Phoenix to visit our daughter.

Joshua Tree didn’t become a National Park until 1994, but the designation added 234,000 acres to the monument. The new boundaries created an important habitat for desert bighorn sheep. Today the park ranges from 536 feet above sea level in elevation to 5,814 feet atop Quail Mountain.

And while the park’s unique landscapes are a stunning combination of the Mojave and Colorado deserts with their unusual plant life and rock formations, we were really there to see the Joshua Trees.

In addition to Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia is known as yucca palm, tree yucca, and palm tree yucca. Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave desert in the mid 19th Century, gave the tree its most common name because its unique shape reminded them of the Biblical story of Joshua raising his hands to the sky in prayer. The Spanish name for the Joshua tree is izote de desierto or desert dagger.


Joshua Tree at sunset.


Looking up into the Joshua Trees.


Joshua tree and rock formation.




A different view of Skull Rock.

Get Your Kicks . . .


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While in California, we ended up in Barstow on our way to Joshua Tree National National Park. We decided that it might be fun to drive a portion of the old Route 66 before turning south to the park, having driven portions of it in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona a few years previously.

U.S. Route 66 was established in 1926 and began in Chicago, Illinois, before traveling through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally California where it ended in Santa Monica, having covered 2,448 miles.

It became iconic for a  number of reasons–from the song, (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 to the 1960s television series, Route 66, to its mention in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (Highway 66) in which it was a symbol of both escape and loss.

The Interstate Highway system eventually killed the popularity of U.S. Highways. U.S. 301, for example, once thrived, as Route 66 did, as travelers made their way to Florida. Like Route 66, one can still find abandoned motels and other tourist attractions along its length. Route 66 was officially “closed” in 1985, but it is still maintained in some sections from Chicago to Santa Monica.


Sign on a service station near Daggett, California



Tony’s Italian and American . . .


Cafe & Motel


Nat King Cole (King Cole Trio) was the first to record “Route 66!—” in 1946. Another version to reach the Billboard charts was recorded by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters on May 11, 1946, which rose to  #14, also in 1946. The song has since been covered by a lot of singers including Chuck Berry, Glenn Frey, the Rolling Stones, Them, Dr. Feelgood, Asleep at the Wheel, the Manhattan Transfer, Depeche Mode, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Pappo, The Cramps, John Mayer, George Benson and Peter Tork & Blue Suede Shoes.

Here’s the original Nat King Cole version of the song:

Carmel Mission


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Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo, also known as the Carmel Mission or Mission Carmel, was first built in 1797, and is one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churches in California. Named for Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy, Carmel Mission was first established in Monterrey, California, in 1770, but was relocated to Carmel in 1771. It is the only mission in California that still has the original bell in its bell tower.


Saint Junípero Serra y Ferrer,  O.F.M., was a Roman Catholic priest and friar who founded a mission in Baja California, and went on to found the first nine of 21 missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco. He was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015.

As a Franciscan, myself, I have to admit that I am deeply ashamed by his treatment of the Esselen and Ohlone Indians who lived near the mission. After they were Baptized, they were forcibly moved to the mission and forced into labor where they were taught to be farmers, shepherds, cowboys, blacksmiths, carpenters, bricklayers, furniture makers, tanners, weavers and candle makers.

Disease, starvation, overwork, and torture killed off most of the members of these tribes, reducing their population from 927 people in 1794 to just 381 in 1823. When Serra was canonized in 2015, Serra’s statue was toppled and splattered with paint, as were the cemetery, the mission doors, a fountain, and a crucifix. “Saint of Genocide” was written on Serra’s tomb, and similar epitaphs were painted elsewhere in the mission courtyard.

Despite its history, Mission Carmel is still what Pope John Paul II commented on his visit there in 1987:

This serene and beautiful place is truly the historical and spiritual heart of California.

The following photos are a few of the many details to be seen at Carmel Mission:

Carmel Detail

Carmel Doorway




In Celebration . . .


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To celebrate the recent publication of the Third Editions of out Best of the Appalachian Trail guides, the Hallowed Treasures Saga is on sale for 99¢ at the Kindle store.

The Path to Misery is the first book in the trilogy. Centuries after an apocalypse, Princess Eluned leaves her father’s kingdom in search of adventure and romance. Instead, she finds herself accumulating a band of compatriots for a divinely-led quest to reunite the Thirteen Hallowed Treasures in an effort to restore peace to the Thirteen Kingdoms. In the process, she transforms from the self-absorbed girl she had been into the strong woman she must become.

Kirkus Review called it, “A page-turning fantasy set in a richly textured world, made all the more delightful by a thoughtful yet spirited heroine and her wonderfully oddball companions.”

You can find The Path to Misery here: Amazon


In Lonely Exile is the second book in the trilogy. It weaves in more of the history of their world and the individuals on the quest as they continue the search for the Hallowed Treasures.

“A delightful reunion with old friends, sure to leave fans of strong female heroines craving the final installment,” Kirkus Review said.

You can find In Lonely Exile here: Amazon

Death's Dark Shadows Cover

Death’s Dark Shadows is the final book in the trilogy. The Questers must now split up to continue the search for the last few treasures. In addition, they must disguise their identities in order to travel to the far reaches of the Thirteen Kingdoms as spies are seeking them out in towns and along the roads. Even on this divinely inspired quest, Omni may not prevent some of the group from having to give their lives to restore peace to the Thirteen Kingdoms.

You can find Death’s Dark Shadows here: Amazon