Celebrating Our Uniqueness (aka, My Mushroom Obsession!)

I realize it’s been a long time (several months) since I’ve blogged here. I know I need to do better. This is now the main place where I record (at least publicly) what the Lord is doing in my life.

And, despite being 65 years old, retired, and a Jesus-follower for the past 57 years, I’m happy to say God is still doing things in my life! (And Lord, do I need it!)

Retirement has been unexpectedly FULL. For the first two years or so, we had this little pandemic (Covid) hit and I found myself as a leader at our church very busy trying to hold things together in the midst of all the new challenges — of keeping people safe, processing through all the silly controversies, and helping keep our church afloat when some chose to leave. Thankfully, most others committed to the Body of Christ stayed and even upped the ante on the level of their commitment and service, and thanks to them, our church is now doing better than ever, in many ways!

During this timeframe we also needed to replace a lead pastor. Our beloved lead pastor of 25 years announced (right before the pandemic started) that he was leaving for a new ministry assignment as a hospice chaplain, and so we began the search for new leadership. Complicated by the pandemic, that was a significant challenge, but God is faithful and he ultimately brought us (a little more than a year ago now) a vibrant new lead pastor who is a brilliant communicator and leader and focused on all the right things he needs to be focused on to help get us to the place where God wants us to be.

During the year in which he joined us I served as the chair of our elder board, which is the lay position in our church with the heaviest responsibility for the overall health and well being of our body. I enjoyed that a lot, but was also greatly relieved when December 31, 2021 rolled around and I was mandated by our church constitution to set aside elder responsibility after six consecutive years of service, and go on hiatus for at least a year before I could be once again eligible.

And another key retirement priority has been my health. I’ve recently managed to lose about 30 pounds and to get my blood sugar under better control (as a Type 2 diabetic). This takes a lot of work but I know will be worth it in the long run.

During retirement thus far I’ve also been doing a great deal of traveling. Two weeks ago I returned from my fourth annual coast-to-coast mushroom tour in the RV. I love road trips and touring with my son-in-law Mike and with other close friends has been a blast.

A year ago my tax advisor and I reached the conclusion that my mushroom “business” could no longer be classified (for legal purposes) as a business and was more akin to a hobby. (This mainly means I spent way more money on the business than I generated in income.) That’s okay, because I realize it truly is a hobby. I have a passion for hunting exotic edible mushrooms, and for helping others learn how to do the same. And I really don’t care that much about the money.

MushroomObsession.com is primarily active in the Spring, when morels are fruiting in high-altitude burn areas in the eastern half of the state of Washington (as well as elsewhere throughout the U.S., though I’ve only really hunted morels in Washington and Oregon). but most active in the beautiful Fall months here in Washington State, in the foothills around Mt. Rainier, when fall mushrooms (such as Golden Chanterelles, and many others) are fruiting. Hence I typically hunt a bit in May and June, and a lot more in September and October, and sometimes into early November depending on weather conditions.

I hadn’t really thought much about what the Lord had done in my life through my passion for mushrooms, until the past few weeks. Our pastor, Ryan White, asked me to sub for him at the pulpit while he took a small vacation, and he wanted me to talk about “The Gospel According to Mushrooms.”

I agreed. But while I love talking about mushrooms in general, I was quite perplexed about how to figure out the spiritual implications of fungus and actually inspire and encourage a group of people, mushroom lovers and haters alike, with anything I might have to say about mushrooms!

The Lord shifted my focus a bit during our mushroom tour, while Darlene and I were visiting at our daughter’s small farm in Pennsylvania. One evening after darkness fell I went outside and was enjoying a multitude of stars and planets as they appeared. It seemed there were soon far more than I have ever seen here in the Pacific Northwest, and I was awestruck.

I also enjoyed, closer to earth, a beautiful lightshow by fireflies or lightning bugs, as they are commonly known. We don’t get those here in the Pacific Northwest, but I know they put on quite a summer display in the Midwest and East.

With lights above and lights below, I suddenly realized the focus of my sermon would not simply be mushrooms, but how God speaks to us through the natural order He has created.

We know that He speaks to us through His Word. Pastor White had preached the prior weekend before I was up to bat on Psalm 1. Suddenly I realized that the next logical piece was Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

The Hebrew word for “heavens” is precisely the same word used in Genesis 1 where God talks about creating the “expanse.” I realized when seeing the connection between the stars and the fireflies that we are all of us (not just fireflies, but also mushrooms … and even us human beings!) part of God’s “expanse” that was designed solely to declare His glory.

I was also very interested in the nature of the “speech” that the heavens pour out. The Hebrew word for that is omer, and I learned that word is no ordinary word indicating plain talk. It’s far more profound, and is most often use to denote a declaration of God’s truth to us. And it is also closely akin to the designation of Jesus Christ, in John 1, as “the Word” who was with God, and who was God, and the One through whom all things were created! Jesus is the declaration to us of exactly what God is like.

During my sermon, which you can watch below if you are so inclined (it includes a slideshow with tons of photos of mushrooms as well as astronomy), I outlined at least four (five, really) ways that I could think of that mushrooms declared the glory of God. And then I closed the loop by sharing my conviction that as a free moral agent, who has a choice whether or not to use my voice to declare God’s glory, choosing freely out of love to do that thing which we were created to do, is the highest form of worship.

You are probably aware that the term “mushroom” or “fungus” doesn’t even occur in the Bible. But if anyone ever asks you, What are the spiritual implications of fungus? you will now be equipped to give them a reasonable response … and more!

*Please don’t misunderstand me to be saying that everyone who left our church did so for selfish reasons or out of anger. I recognize that a few who departed did so on good terms and for the right reasons.

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