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Sharpen the Axe

May Newsletter, 2021  Rick McPherson

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Honest Abe knew something about cutting down trees and sharp axes! 

Often I stumble on the cable TV shows that feature loggers and their various outdoor skills. I watch with interest as they balance precariously on big wet logs and see who can stay on by feverishly and often futilely running on the slippery bark.  It’s mindless entertainment.  But, there is an important lesson that can be learned as it involves the wood chopping events.   The competitors are fastidious when it comes to the sharpness of their blades.  Sharp as a scalpel would not be an exaggeration.  They want their axes to be like razors.  After all, chopping through a 12” pine log in 14.12 seconds is not for the faint of heart!                   (Stihl Timbersports, 2019 U.S. Championship Results)

It was Dr. Stephen Covey, in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, who defined this in his chapter, “Sharpen Your Axe”, by having a balanced strategy to renew yourself in the four aspects of life:  Physical, Social, Mental and Spiritual.

  • Physical:  Eat well.  Sleep well.  Exercise well.
  • Social/Emotional:  Have a good social life.  Build meaningful relationships.
  • Mental:  Learn something new.  Read something new.  Write something new.
  • Spiritual:  Worship.  Pray.  Read and meditate on Scripture.  Relax in nature. 

Every day is a brand new opportunity to recharge, renew and refine yourself.  Devote some time into sharpening your axe instead of chopping away with a dull blade.  You can work smarter, instead of harder and longer. 

Solomon, commonly referred to as, the “wisest” man who ever lived, said,

“If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.” Ecclesiastes 10:10

So, what have we learned?  We’ve heard from Abraham Lincoln, loggers from the U.S. championship competition, Dr. Stephen Covey and last, but not least, Solomon.  They all say the same thing. You can choose to keep chopping with a dull axe and accomplish less. You can work harder and work longer.

…OR…

Take a break.  Sharpen your axe.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m retrieving my whetstone and sharpening my blade.

*****

Special Note:

In the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, the ministry of Pacific NW Outreach, Inc., helping Native Americans, physically and spiritually, has continued.  We are extremely thankful to God and you, our faithful donors, for the ongoing support, even in these difficult and yes, challenging days, in which we live.  May God bless you for your generosity, compassion and faithfulness.   Only Heaven knows the results of what has been achieved, as we have worked together. 

*****

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Required

April Newsletter, 2021  Rick McPherson

Sitting by a wood fire is a good place to think.   After a late winter snow and ice storm, we had accumulated a sizeable amount of limbs and branches that needed to be burned.  Watching the flames and holding my coffee cup I took advantage of the time to say some prayers and listen.  I wasn’t expecting an immediate response, but I got one.  A verse of Scripture popped in my head and I was captured. 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

So, I asked myself the question, “What does God want from me?”  What in the world can I say or do, that will make a difference?  Anything?  Something?  Actually, yes.  And, it’s contained in this verse.  It’s simple, straightforward and direct. 

ActiveChristianity says this:   “This verse shows what God requires.  Other than this, He doesn’t require anything; it is very simple.  But this verse encompasses a great deal.  His desire is that His children should be like Him, have the same mind, the same thoughts, and the same life, and the same godly sorrow over unrighteousness in our hearts.  The same honesty and straightforwardness, when it concerns both themselves, and when it concerns others.”

With that truth in mind, I reviewed our work with Pacific NW Outreach and asked how we measure up?  Are we doing and saying the same thing?  After all, hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another.  The children of Israel that the prophet was talking to were in fact guilty. Micah was speaking to the fact that spiritual blindness had led them to offer everything except the one thing God wanted…a spiritual commitment of the heart from which right behavior would ensue.

Our ministry is dependent on the simplicity and honesty of just doing the physical and spiritual work that will help the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest.  As people say, “It’s not rocket science!”  Helping those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, naked or imprisoned is in fact, a Scriptural mandate.  And, people like you who help us are a big part of fulfilling that ministry. 

Thank you!  Thank you, for your faithful and generous support of this ministry helping Native Americans.  None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.  God bless you abundantly for what you are doing. 

Now, I think I’ll head back to the fire and see what I can hear. 

*****

 

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Newsletter

BLACK ICE!

February Newsletter, 2021  Rick McPherson

The weather forecast was not good.  Predictions for snowfall ranged from twelve to eighteen inches, depending.  Late Thursday afternoon to early evening was the target time for the frozen white stuff.  But, the call from one of our major donors happened and could we come?  Mr. Murphy had once again come to visit as I recalled all the beautiful days that had occurred and driving through the Columbia River Gorge to Eastern Oregon on any of those days, would not have been a problem.  Still, it was not to be and I fired up the Peterbilt and headed east on Interstate 84, checking the thermometer and time obsessively.    As is my habit before every trip, I prayed and asked for safety and protection.  I also asked for a Guardian Angel, who was well-versed in big trucks and bad weather, to ride with me. 

We do live in a particularly beautiful part of the country.  Situated at the confluence of two great rivers, the Columbia and the Willamette, Portland is affected by the winds and weather that accelerate through the Columbia River Gorge from east to west, bringing treacherous winter conditions with heavy snow accumulations and black ice.   The seventy-five miles of Interstate from Portland to The Dalles can be extremely dangerous and is often closed for days during bad storms.   However, it is the only road unless you want to travel up and over Mt. Hood.  Lewis & Clark had the same choice of poison when they made their way with The Expedition to Fort Clatsop and the Pacific. 

Heading home at mid-day, I thought we had dodged the weather bullet, yet was on full alert and driving with both eyes wide open.  Traffic was light but the snow had started and the road was covered.  I had already slowed down when a State Trooper pulled in front of me and continued driving at 45 mph.  Who was I to pass a cop, running with his four-way flashers on, in a snow storm?  Within a few miles he lit up his emergency lights and pulled to the shoulder to help a stranded motorist in an SUV.  Great for me.  I sped up to 50 mph and continued down the road wondering why the traffic was so light.   Nobody out here but me, I thought. 

In a nano second the back end of the Peterbilt, loaded with ten pallets and 33,000 pounds attempted to trade places with the front bumper and slid out to the driver’s side.  My prayer service began immediately as I called out, “Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!”  I lifted off the throttle, didn’t touch the brakes and steered into the slide.  The weight in motion continued to push the truck sideways.  Then, the technique took over and the truck came back to center and then past center to the passenger side with the same determination to swap ends with the front bumper. My prayer vocabulary changed to, “Dear Lord!  Dear Lord!  Dear Lord!”  I stopped counting at five pendulum swings before the truck centered and the black ice was behind me.  In my peripheral vision I had noticed the no-posts in the center median, the guard rail on the river side and the Ainsworth State Park sign.  I was determined that I was not going to put the truck anywhere near any median, river or sign.  Now, I know it wasn’t just driving skill that saved me.  A life-time of driving in winter snow and black ice does not overshadow the power of prayer and the protection that comes when we call on the Name of the Lord!

People often say to me, “we’re praying for you, Rick!”  And I appreciate those prayers.  I really do.  This recent event illustrates the results of those prayers.  You see, in an event that lasted for several dramatic minutes, in a snow storm, on black ice, somewhere near Corbett, Oregon, westbound on Interstate 84 on a Thursday afternoon in February, this guy with a load of supplies for Native Americans, was spared. 

And, I’m thankful for that big Guardian Angel, too!

*****

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January 2021 Rick McPherson

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STILL IN MY ‘JAMMIES!

January Newsletter, 2021  Rick McPherson

We have received toys from the TV12, Les Schwab Toy Drive for a number of years.  There are over ninety charitable, non-profit groups that benefit from this annual event.  We’re blessed to be a part and be able to deliver toys to Native children at Christmas on Reservations throughout the Pacific Northwest. 

This year we got the call to retrieve the toys and could we come in the morning?

I was up early to use our old, Ford E350 one-ton box truck and head over to Portland for the pickup.  Because of the pandemic the location had been changed and all the Covid19 protocols would be in place.  Read, “wear a mask!”  Okay, no problem!

I made a quick stop at Costco for fuel and was sitting behind the wheel checking my phone and waiting my turn.  Glancing up, I noticed steam covering the windshield.  “Oh, oh,” I thought, “Somebody’s got a problem!”  To my chagrin, “somebody,” was me.  What I didn’t need was a busted radiator hose, disabled vehicle and major delay.  Murphy’s Law was in full effect. 

Plan “B” went into motion as I called, Charlote.  “Help,” I cried, “the Mule is dead, you’ve got to pick me up with the Suburban and drive me to the Tri-Met Bus Barn on Columbia Blvd., so we can pick up the toys!” 

“Please hurry,” I added.

“What?” she said.

“I can’t do that, I’m still in my ‘jammies, I haven’t showered, I’m not dressed, I have no make-up on, my hair is not combed,” she continued.

About thirty minutes later, she arrived.  Wearing a baseball cap, dark glasses, a parka, Pendleton scarf and a mask, she was ready.  I jumped in on the passenger side and away we went.   When we drove through the gates, the TV cameras and reporters approached our vehicle.   “Good morning,” the reporter began, “Can you tell us about your charity and where the toys will be going?”

Charlote not only opened her window, she opened her door, stood up, smiled and answered the questions with clarity, poise and warmth.  Her hat, glasses, parka, scarf and mask, not withstanding, she was unflappable.     Later, we discovered she was one of two that actually made it to the evening news broadcast.  Needless to say we were pleased that Pacific NW Outreach, Inc. was presented so beautifully by the most beautiful person on staff!

Even though the day started with steam and frustration, it ended with a bounty of toys for Native children, free media coverage for our Mission and a great story to tell about a remarkable lady who happens to be my wife.

Now, I’m heading to the NAPA store to buy a radiator hose.  

*****

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UNDERWEAR, SOCKS AND TOOTSIE POPS

December Newsletter  2020 Rick McPherson

About a week ago the phone rang at our office.  It was Karen.  She talked to Scott and told him that there were four children who had been neglected by their parents and the Yakama tribe had received custody.  They were in desperate need of everything.  Could we help? 

 

At Christmas we think of toys and gifts for our children.  Things that will make them squeal with joy and excitement when the wrapping paper is torn and the box is revealed.  But these children needed the basics; shoes, socks, underwear, jeans, shirts, jackets, hats, mittens and sweaters.  A few Tootsie Pops wouldn’t hurt either. 

 Scott got busy and called Hub, a long-time supporter and friend of the Mission.  Over the years he and his wife had provided for other projects.  Would they help, again?  So, Karen called Scott.   Scott called Hub.  Hub said, “Yes!”

Within hours, six large cardboard boxes were filled to meet the needs of the four little kids on an Indian Reservation on the Columbia River.  The gifts were purchased with generosity, wrapped with Christmas love and delivered by UPS at the beginning of the week.   The attached photos reflect the joy on the children’s faces.  Christmas Joy!

May I include you in the joy?  Because you’re reading this you’re aware of the ministry of Pacific NW Outreach and what we do helping Native Americans both physically and spiritually.  As the year comes to an end, take time to reflect on the big picture.  Thanks for being a part of that picture and for helping some little kids in Celilo have a very Merry Christmas! Now, I need to find a grape Tootsie Pop, they’re my favorite.

*****

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IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES?

November Newsletter  2020 Rick McPherson

As a boy, I remember singing, “Count your blessings, name them one by one…and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”  My list would include my dog, Spanky, a tri-color female Beagle;  the new bike from Simpson- Sears  that I had bought with money from my paper route delivering the Toronto Star;  my newly acquired Tigers’  jersey and cap from Etobicoke Baseball League;  and then the necessary parents, siblings and friends, notably Ronnie Loveys from the next street over.  We played trucks in his backyard for days at a time.  Life was good.  The list was good.  The blessings were good. 

Truth be told, I had a very limited time span to accumulate much.  Goods and services were limited, you might say.  Now, I’m on the other side of the equation.  My odometer shows that most of the usable miles have been, well, used.  However, in the miles and smiles of my life I have learned some very important lessons.  Some have been learned because I saw them, some, because I heard them.  And some, because I grabbed the electric fence to see if the power was on!

One of the lessons is perspective.  How you look at things that happen to you is very important.  You do have choices and those choices affect your overall health, wealth and well-being.  It was Charles Swindoll who said, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to what happens to you!”  I agree.

Perspective is also what you look at and listen to.  If you focus on yesterday you will live your life with regret and disappointment.  If you listen to critical, hateful words your life will reflect them.  Guard your eyes and ears.  Charles Dickens said,

“Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

I need not remind you that we are living in tumultuous times.  These are days filled with corruption, lies and violence.  Our lifestyles have been affected like never before.  The word, “unprecedented” is used ad nauseam.  It is easy to look at our world, listen to the talking heads and become not just ungrateful and unthankful, but resentful, angry and afraid.  But we must resist the easy and live in the truth of God’s Kingdom not the World’s. 

Here’s a gem from the Apostle Paul, who by the way knew a thing or two about corruption, lies and violence.  In fact if you want to put your life experiences against his, you will be embarrassed.  Nonetheless, he said, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Okay, I’m good with the “rejoice, pray and thanks” part.  In fact, “Amen!”

But, “in all circumstances”?  Really?  Who does Paul think he is, telling us to give thanks in all circumstances? Well, he’s the same guy who wrote the letter to the Philippian church while he was a prisoner in Rome. He also wrote to the Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon while imprisoned.    The theme of his letter to the Philippians?  “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, Rejoice!”  In fact the words “joy” and “rejoice” are used over 30x in the letter.  Yes, I think Paul’s admonition to, “give thanks in all circumstances”, has weight. 

With Paul’s words ringing in my ears and heart, I’m going to give thanks in all my circumstances this Thanksgiving.  How about you?

*****

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October Newsletter, 2020

October Newsletter  2020 Rick McPherson

Yesterday, I was on the Yakama Reservation at Celilo Indian Village just past The Dalles, Oregon.  The Reservation is vast, stretching from central Washington through The Gorge on the shores of the Columbia River.  Many years ago the Natives welcomed the Lewis & Clark expedition as they made their way from the convergence of the Snake River and Columbia in burned out log canoes that the Nez Perce had traded for horses.  The Yakama were intrigued by the white men who were determined to run the treacherous rapids instead of portaging.  They actually waited on the shores to see the spectacle anticipating that they would all drown.  Miraculously, the corps was successful and found the Pacific Ocean at Astoria and wintered in the barracks at Fort Clatsop.

My expedition was behind the wheel of the big, red Peterbilt, driving, “east bound and down, loaded up and truckin’ “, on Interstate 84.  No Indians were on the shore waiting for me to drown!

The load was excellent.  Not only did we have back packs, filled with school supplies, but also, mattresses, blankets, pillows and household items.  The bonus was a pallet of insulated, waterproof boots.  As much as food is needed, and most often requested, the boots continue to be favorites every time.  One of our community partners donated pallets of toilet paper, bottled water, coconut water, miscellaneous snacks and chips and black beans, as well.

On a previous trip, we had given a pallet of hand sanitizer, before the Covid 19 pandemic.  At the time it seemed like, overkill, but it turned out to be a “God send” to help the Village when no other help was available. 

Before returning I asked for a prayer circle to give thanks for God’s provision.  Karen Whitford, granddaughter of the Chief, asked her nephew to pray.  He works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Housing Division, in The Dalles.  His prayer of thanksgiving included God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness.  It was real. 

On behalf of the children, families and men and women of the Yakama Reservation at Celilo Indian Village, thank you for sharing and making this ministry and these gifts possible.   Without your help this work could not happen.  Yesterday’s trip represented thousands of dollars in product and provisions that were given, free of charge, to show the love of God for these precious people. 

Enjoy the pictures!  When you pray, remember to include our friends at Celilo Indian Village.

*****

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That’s Good Enough For Me

September Newsletter  2020 Rick McPherson

Every month I’m privileged to write this newsletter and talk about the ministry of Pacific NW Outreach, Inc., as we help Native Americans both physically and spiritually.  Many of you are long-time supporters, in prayer and finances, of this work.  Others are joining us because of social media, YouTube and good old, “word of mouth.”  Whatever your status, we’re glad to have you.  This communique is a primary means of contact because we want to stay connected.

The past six months of ministry;  in the midst of a global medical pandemic, economic shut-down, civil unrest, riots, looting and horrible violence in the streets, including murders, brutality, destruction of property and businesses, divisive political campaigns and the attack on the foundational truth for civilization, law and order; have been challenging beyond belief. 

Candidly, when everything unraveled in the first quarter of this year, I thought it would be over quickly.  Wrong!  The riots in our own city of Portland have now exceeded 100 days.  The once beautiful downtown is now devastated with graffiti, burned out buildings and vehicles, boarded up department stores, restaurants and businesses.  No one in their wildest imagination would have thought that the authorities would stand down and turn over the tenth largest city in America to militant domestic terrorists. 

However, in the midst of it all, including the fact that marijuana and liquor stores are deemed essential and churches are not, we’re still here.  A friend once told me, “Rick, you’re goin’ to make it!  You won’t look like much, but, you’re goin’ to make it!”  With that sentiment echoing in our ears, we carry on!

Here’s our plan.  It’s simple.  It’s doable.  It’s worthwhile. 

We have targeted our two closest Reservations, the Quinault in Washington State, just north of Aberdeen on the Pacific Coast and the Celilo Indian Village, part of the Yakama Reservation, in the Columbia River Gorge past The Dalles, Oregon.  Some of you have donated recently to help provide backpacks and school supplies for these children.  We are preparing two truckloads with groceries and miscellaneous food supplies (chips, cookies, juices, soft drinks and fresh produce) and pencils, crayons, notebooks and markers for delivery ASAP. 

Once again let me ask…will you send a financial gift at this time to help? 

I’m often asked about the benevolence that we extend to Native Americans.  I guess I’ve heard every reason and excuse for NOT helping them.  But, at the end of the trail, I’m reminded that every Native is made in God’s image just like me.  God loves us equally.  He does not discriminate.  He is not a racist.  He loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us.  And, WHOEVER believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.  That’s good enough for me.  I’ll let the pundits argue the rest. 

In the meantime, let me remind you that Jesus was very much involved in what we now call, “social gospel.”  He did feed hungry people, gave water to those who were thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed strangers, healed the sick and visited the imprisoned.  Should we not do the same?

*****

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Peace & Principles

August Newsletter  2020 Rick McPherson

We live just a few miles from the riots in Portland which have occurred every night for the last 74 days…and counting. The downtown area, particularly around the Mark Hatfield Federal Court House, looks like a war zone. Destruction, violence, lawlessness and chaos are the words that describe the scene. During the Covid 19 pandemic the churches and synagogues have been shut down while the marijuana shops and liquor stores have remained open and deemed essential. Schools remain closed and citizens have been told to stay home and not work. Many are fearful. Many are doubtful. Many are confused.

Realize that fear, doubt and confusion never come from God. You can overcome them with a simple strategy that involves prayer, Scripture and focus. King David gave us a magnificent plan that shows God as our Helper, Keeper, Protector and Preserver. These verses in Psalm 121 were probably set to music and sung by Jewish pilgrims on their ascent to Jerusalem during the annual feasts.

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip,
He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold He who loves Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.”

As you read, meditate and memorize these verses you will discover that they are principles of truth that you can build your life and future upon. Current events and even the “wars and rumors of wars” that are forecast as signs of the times will not undermine these foundations. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” A quick study of the life of Christ reveals that He spoke constantly of principles; truth, that would never change. Truth that we would know. Truth that would set us free. In fact, when questioned by His disciple Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

I don’t know about you, but I’m okay with a secular prophet who speaks truth to my heart. I want the triumph of principles to rule. I want peace. I want a lifestyle that exhibits Biblical truth and principles that are real. I want a lifestyle that constantly chooses His truth, His way, His life. And really, that’s what this life is. It’s a series of choices. Yesterday is gone forever…and its choices. Tomorrow may never come. All we have is the gift of today, that’s why we call it the present. All we have is now. Choose wisely. May God’s principles and truth be triumphant and may you have peace.

*****

PS As challenging as it, our work helping Native Americans, spiritually and physically, continues during the pandemic. We want to deliver school supplies to reservations even though the schedule is uncertain. Your faithful giving and prayer support is needed now more than ever. Thank you and God bless you!