Portland, Oregon

Immediately after I returned from Wichita Falls, I started formulating trip plans for Portland and Long Island. The best bet for going to Long Island looked to be one of two weekends in October. Portland was a harder call. I wanted to travel to the places in the order than I’d heard them in March of 2013. I had to compare potential travel plans against known and expected commitments to work, kids, and church. That ultimately meant shoe-horning Portland into a weekend in early May, which decision I didn’t make until late April. I made last-minute hotel and flight reservations, while keeping one eye on my work schedule. Job demands had gone through the roof in March, and the ridiculous pace continued through April and into May. Appropriately, the day after I made my last-minute reservations, I had to push those same last-minute reservations back one day to accommodate a meeting at work.

The night that I initially made my various travel reservations, I found a church online that I wanted visit while I was in town. I poked around Portland maps on the internet to get a feel for how the city was laid out and how my hotel and the church fit in the scheme of things. It looked like I wouldn’t need to bother with renting a car. I put together a document that had all phone numbers, addresses, and reservation information that I’d need for the weekend. I printed relevant maps, along with my info document, and created a portfolio that also included the map which had spawned all this craziness.

In the spasm of (and maybe because of) trip planning and working class stress-o-rama, I was also dealing with a wicked upper respiratory situation. I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in two months, and my seasonal allergies were making all things worse. No amount of antihistamines or sinus rinsing brought any lasting relief. I feared that I had a sinus infection and wondered if I should cancel the trip altogether. On the Friday morning before my Saturday flight, I went to a doc-in-the-box to get checked out. No infection; just really bad allergies. The doctor gave me two prescriptions. I got them filled and set the meds on my bathroom counter, where they sill sit today, unused. I hate taking medicine. I hoped that the coastal air in Portland would bring sinus relief.

I bought a new pair of walking shoes for the trip. My old running shoes were worn out and pretty gross. I figured I owed it to God and the process to look presentable in Portland. New shoes meant a lot of practice walking for a few days to get the right combination of insoles and arch supports inserted before I left for a trip in which I figured to walk many hours each day. I also bought a pair of lightweight quick-dry pants that I could wash and wear for throughout the trip. Light travel is peaceful travel.

It was against that backdrop mostly devoid of peace and rest that I finally went to bed on Friday night, worn out but secretly pretty jazzed and humbled that I got to be a part of such an adventure.

SATURDAY

Saturday morning, I got up and started going through the motions of the pre-airport routine. I had planned my morning to the minute, in order to get to the airport in time to deal with all that air travel entails these days. I had breakfast, did an obligatory sinus rinse, loaded into my car, and drove to the airport. I got to the remote parking lot that I’d scoped out online during reservation night. The shuttle drove me to the terminal for my flight, where I discovered said flight had been moved to a different terminal.

One of the TSA guys searched my wallet and ‘joked’ (twice) that I’d have to pay him $10 to get it back. That whole TSA thing is bad mojo and the main reason I will drive long distances to avoid air travel. There are many discouraging historical parallels to average humans being given great authority over the daily routines of others.

I chastised myself for not verifying my flight info earlier in the morning, in which case I wouldn’t have been surprised by the gate change. With a bunch of other re-arranged travelers, I made my way to the tram that would take us to the correct terminal for our flights. Fortunately, I only had to go to the first stop. On to the gate, where I had over an hour to kill.

No immediate job worries to speak of that Saturday morning. No trip planning to squeeze into a hectic life. Just some time to sit and reflect on what was evidently my serious commitment to The Triangle. I had moved a couple of mountains in order to schedule and book a trip; via a mode of transportation that I’ve grown to detest since 911; to a place I’d never been or ever before considered going; based on an inaudible voice listing me three places in the United States. I sat and pondered how unlikely it all was and how very much any number of people might think I really should have been sitting, instead of at an American Airlines gate, in an admission process at a psychiatric facility.

*

We boarded our plane. It was a model that had rows of two seats on the left side of the cabin and rows of three seats on the right side. I was on the left side, on the aisle. My seat neighbor by the window was a woman who appeared to be in her late 50’s or early 60’s. We settled and shuffled ourselves into our next four hours’ worth of home, without speaking. I wondered if we’d be able to maintain the silence for a four hour flight. I’m never opposed to not talking to strangers. Especially if the conversation we don’t have would be one that might call my sanity into question. Naturally, after settling in, she pivoted towards me and warmly asked,

“So what takes you to Portland?”

I’ve been on a lot of flights in my life. I’m pretty sure that no other seat neighbor has ever asked me why I was going where our plane was going, immediately upon us getting seated. Probably it’s come up in conversation during flights, but not the very first thing. Much like with the highway patrolman in Wichita Falls, I was caught off guard by the question. But unlike the situation in Wichita Falls, this time I was poised with casual (suave, even) confidence when I answered,

“I’m not really sure.”

“Well, that sounds exciting!” she enthusiastically replied. I told her I’d show her something when we got airborne and I could get at my portfolio under my seat. Once the captain turned off the seat belt light, I pulled up my portfolio, showed her the map and told her the whole story about hearing the voice about the places. She asked, “Well, are you a Christian?” “Yes, I am,” said I. “Because sometimes God talks to us like that,” she continued. I agreed that, yes, God does sometimes talk to us like that. He surely does.

And that was how we started what turned out to be a totally unexpected but very pleasant four-hour conversation about God, prophecy, end times, work, family, our travels, and whatever else. Her name is Cheryl, she’s from Corpus Christi, and she was going to spend the night in a lighthouse on the Oregon coast, among other things. I have her email address, and I need to get in touch with her now that she’s famous in my blog that has one follower.

**

Upon landing I made my way to the ground transportation area and caught a shuttle that would take me to my hotel. During the ride I found a tourist map of Portland stuffed down in the cushions of my seat. I opened it up, located my hotel on the map, and verified the route that I’d walk to the church. The shuttle driver was very gregarious. He pointed out a bunch of food trailers in a park near my hotel. He told me that those trailers were the best ones around.

At the hotel I checked in and unloaded my few belongings, ate some almonds and an energy bar, and took note of a headache that was starting to creep up the back of my skull. I also began offering an onsite prayer for Portland and her people that didn’t really end until I got in the air on my return flight three days later. After finishing up the quick meal, I packed my portfolio (with The Map) and a bottle of water in my backpack and set out for the church.

***

Portland is beautiful. No joke. Clean air, mountains, a river whose name I still don’t know how to pronounce, and much lush greenery in and around all of the aforementioned. I had only been to the Pacific Northwest once before, and that was for a hectic one-day work trip to Seattle. Slowly walking the unfamiliar streets of Portland that afternoon, I ‘got’ the Pacific Northwest appeal very quickly. I also understood why it would be so easy to live in a place like that and successfully ignore God’s calling in one’s heart. It seems that often, the closer to Eden humans get in this life, the farther from the Creator they move; worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.

Part of the creation that afternoon was the humming preparation for a Portland Trailblazers vs San Antonio Spurs playoff game in the Moda Center. My route took me right along the property of the venue. Twice, actually, because I had navigation issues. I hadn’t been following professional sports with any regularity in the preceding months. I was only vaguely aware that the NBA playoffs were happening at all, much less in the city to which I’d mashed together this sudden trip. As I walked past the arena, there wasn’t much visible activity to see; but sounds of unseen people and machines betrayed the raucous action that was only hours away.

I had found the church website on a list of downtown Portland churches, when I was planning in April. Intentionally or not, the church website photos are arranged in such a way as makes it appear the church is in a field of some sort. I vaguely wondered even in April how they managed to get a field and church into downtown Portland. I was still looking dubiously for the field that Saturday afternoon, when I practically walked right into the church, on top of a hill on very small lot at a reasonably-urban Portland intersection.

****

It’s a strikingly beautiful old building, made all the more high contrast by the fact that I hadn’t seen any other churches on my walk. That same theoretical walk in Dallas could have easily scared up a half dozen churches, each from a different brand of Christianity. I had recently read online someone in the Pacific Northwest commenting on the nature of Christian faith in that part of the country. His point was that church there wasn’t the social expectation that it was in a place like Dallas. If the Bible belt has (increasingly past tense ‘had’, I think) it’s pressures for people to attend church, to a degree, for the sake of being seen and counted, there is no such social force in the Pacific Northwest. I walked around and looked at this anomalous beauty of a building, the very construction of which seemed to humbly praise God in Heaven. I wondered if the people who met there were operating, in general, from more pure motivation than I and the church congregations I’d been in during my forty-five years of pretty regular attendance. There’s a basis there for an engaging graduate thesis that I will never write.

I continued around the building still admiring its simple beauty but also trying to find a way in. I could hear the band rehearsing inside. The main church doors appeared to be not in regular use. Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember if they were barred over. There was a side door and a back door. The sound level at the side door made me think that I’d be stepping out into the band, were I to enter there. I can’t remember now why I didn’t think to go in the back door. Anyway, I decided I’d wait for someone else to come along and go in, and I would follow them. There was still better than an hour until the service started, so I figured I’d have to wait a while.

I waited about half an hour until a man and young boy drove into the parking lot. When they got out of the car, I recognized the man was the preacher I’d seen on the church website. He walked up to me and introduced himself, and we had a brief conversation. We established that I had just arrived in Portland, and I confirmed I recognized him from his webpage pictures. He asked me what brought me to Portland. I told him, “Well, I think I’m here to encourage people. And you might be someone I’m supposed to encourage.” So I ran through the whole voice-triangle-map thing and showed him the map. He looked at me with all the polite suspicion appropriate for the circumstances. I can’t remember what else we said. It wasn’t much. He and the boy entered the church via the side door, which answered my most pressing question of the hour.

I followed them inside. The band was rehearsing on stage to the left of the door. I seated myself in a pew and settled in for another round of waiting. It was still about forty-five minutes until the service was to start. I watched the band rehearse. Like many musicians who never got the lavish fame and fortune we so clearly in our own minds deserved, I can be a pretty vicious music critic; especially when it comes to contemporary Christian praise and worship music. Many of the more popular songs leave me absolutely bored, and I wonder how the majesty and grandeur of God, Jesus, redemption, etc, can inspire such numbing fare. Is just my opinion, and I really should just shut up write something better. Which I am. I think. But that’s another deal altogether. The point is, the church band there in Portland was excellent. Killer instrumentalists. The drummer and bass player were locked in. The drummer was a blast to watch; he was clearly having fun. The lead vocal/pianist was impassioned, sincere, and had a dynamic voice. Strong backing vocals in the group. So watching them rehearse wasn’t the drag that it might have otherwise been.

More people started filing into the building. Something weird about travel is that you can, if you so choose, be the ultimate conspicuous voyeur. Sitting in that church, watching people rehearse and find a seat and eat a quick bite before the service, I had no immediate expectation I’d ever be back there again. So I was watching people live their routine lives, without me personally being invested in the process with them. That dynamic is probably what leads some people to be obnoxious travelers and for some people to resent any travelers in their midst.

A man walked up to me and introduced himself. I stood and we talked. I explained The Triangle. If he was put off, he didn’t show it. Turns out he was from a smallish town in Texas. I raised the topic of Pacific Northwest church attendance versus that in a place like Texas. I believe he said something about how it’s much more of a personal and deliberate choice up there. He stepped away and another man came over to greet me. Things got especially interesting. Our initial conversation, to the best of my memory:

Him: Welcome.

Me: Thanks.

Him: Is this your first time here?

Me: Yes. I’ve never been to Portland before.

Him: When did you get in town?

Me: About four hours ago.

Him: What brings you here?

Me: I’m not sure.

Him: So, you just came into town a few hours ago, you’ve never been here before, and you’re not sure why you’re here.

Me: Right. Well, there’s this…

And I went into the Triangle explanation. The voice; the three places; the Wichita Falls trip. And Portland.

Him: You know, all three of those places are significant to me. I went to high school in Long Island; I went to technical school in Wichita Falls; and I live in Portland.

Me: Wow.

So here’s this guy in Portland, where I’ve been on the ground for four hours, and he’s lived in all three Triangle places. Can there be many people in the world who have lived in Wichita Falls, Portland, and Long Island? And in the same order that they were spoken to me?

Him: My name is Spirit.

Me: (resisting urge to laugh out loud and scream, “OF COURSE YOUR NAME IS SPIRIT!” Were I writing a screen play, I wouldn’t even attempt this stuff, because no one would buy into the story.) I’m Joe.

We had a lot to talk about. We talked until the service started. The service was tops. Excellent musical presentation; authentic and energetic preaching; worshipful and engaged congregation. Spirit and I talked more after the service. He’s appears to be a thoughtful and humble guy, and I’ve grown to wonder what God intends for him up there in Portland or wherever. Almost four months after the fact, I believe that the whole triangle thing is specifically for Spirit as much as it is for any one person. After all, he alone (in my orbit) actually lived in all three places, in the same order that I heard them. What that means to him and what God does with that are topics worthy of a follow-up visit with him, at some point.

*****

The service ended. After visiting with Spirit and the man from Texas, I walked back out into Portland. The sun was setting behind an impressive assortment of clouds, the likes of which don’t typically make it to Dallas. I stopped on a bridge spanning the river and looked west at the sunset out past the river bends, the mountains, and the hidden Pacific Ocean. There were Canadian geese all over the place down at water level. A hundred yards behind me, the NBA playoffs were in full force. I reflected on the notion that stepping out in faith can net results such that the unbelievable quietly becomes the norm.

******

I made it back to the hotel in time to notice that my creeping headache had turned into a relentless vice. My intent for the trip was to sleep on a Central Time schedule. I collapsed in bed at about 10:30pm CDT. I turned on the movie ‘Prisoners’, of which I’d missed the critical first fifteen minutes. I never could figure out what was going on. Even still, I watched until the movie ended, staying up way past my intended bedtime. Then sleep in Portland.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning I woke up about 0800 CDT. My head was still killing me. It was just late enough in the morning that I could go grab Continental breakfast downstairs. Hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, granola, and muffins. After I ate, I went back upstairs and took a shower. My headache wouldn’t quit, so I took some ibuprofen. I faced the reality that waking up at 0800 Dallas time made for a really early start of the day in Portland. I didn’t have any plans at all, so it wasn’t the end of the world if I had the streets mostly to myself for a while. I opened my windows and let in some of that fantastic Portland air. I would end up keeping the windows open all day, every day, closing them at night only to cut down on the noise.

*

I left the hotel at about 0730 PDT. Not a lot of activity on the streets, for sure. I scoped out the gigantic Powell’s bookstore, a couple of blocks from my hotel. I noted their opening time and made plans to come back later.

(insert walking, praying, eating)

Back to Powell’s at around 11am. I spent a solid hour and a half browsing their military history section. Then to the streets again. I wanted to see what the river and bridges looked like in the mid-day sun. Wide rivers and their spanning bridges are seriously cool. I retraced my route to the Moda Center from the afternoon before. The river and bridges were still impressive. Down below I saw throngs of people on a river walk. I wound my way down to the walk.

There were any number of people walking, eating, sitting, playing instruments, painting, skating. I walked and watched them. Then I sat and watched them, because my feet and legs were pretty tired. I prayed while I watched. I doubted that the point of me getting the Triangle message was for the purposes of mere sight-seeing. I believed, while in Portland as in Wichita Falls, that God had given me an opportunity to make some kind of spiritual impact there. I asked God to use me in spite of myself. I prayed various blessings over Portland and the people there. I thanked Him for the opportunity to do something as His agent and told Him I was truly humbled by the opportunity. I asked Him to help me use my time wisely.

I became aware that there was some live music happening out on the grass farther ahead. I moseyed over to find a band of Central or South American Christian musicians playing guitars and hand drums. I watched them for a bit and considered talking with them during a break. They didn’t ever take a break. There were a handful of folks lounging in the grass, watching the musicians worship. One guy in particular was doing a discrete head bob to the tunes. I wondered if any of the people watching were Christians.

About a hundred yards farther along, there was a huge open air market with arts and crafts booths and many food trailers. Wall to wall people. I roamed around the booths, praying and blessing silently. I bought a fat bowl of pad Thai and sat to watch the crowd while I ate. I noticed a woman wearing a really wild hat; it was like a homemade Uncle Sam hat, but not red, white, and blue. She was offering something to people around her. I watched until she was close enough for me to read the writing on her hat. She was evidently passing out pieces of paper advertising an online Bible study. Something like that. I didn’t see anyone interested in what she was offering. I admired her courage and doubted I could ever put on a crazy hat and pass out Bible study info to such an unreceptive crowd. She passed on by, and I turned my attention back to other humans and my pad Thai.

I finished the meal and crushed the bowl into a trash can. Back to walking. I moved with a crowd toward a crosswalk. The Bible study woman was just ahead. This was an opportunity to encourage someone. She was stopped at the walk, waiting with a crowd for the light to change. I walked up beside her. “Do you get much positive response out here?” I asked. I’m not sure she even looked at me. “No, not really,” she replied, with what might have been a twinge of sadness in her voice. The light changed and we all started across. I told her, “I’ve just been walking around praying for people.” She turned and smiled brightly at me at said, “That’s the best thing we can do!” and veered to the right, while I kept going straight.

I poked around that part of the market, stopping for a bit to listen to a blues band. There was a woman nearby reading palms or doing some otherwise psychic activity in her own booth. Between the Bible and contemporary deliverance ministers and other authors whom I respect, I’ve never read anything that indicates such activity, if genuine, is anything other than demonically inspired. I figured I had some authority in Portland to address such things. I stepped up to the booth and stood facing her sign, where I could look like I was just reading about her practice. I prayed a whispered command that any demonic psychic ability would leave her immediately. Nothing exploded, and I walked on to see more sights.

There was the Bible study woman again. She was standing next to a man who had a long pole in his hand. At one end of the pole was something about Jesus – either the name or a picture, something like that; I can’t remember now. They were talking to one another, and it looked like they were part of a team. They walked off to my left, out of sight. I turned and looked at a couple of booths. I mulled over going to talk to the Jesus people and decided to do so. I followed the path they had taken out of my sight earlier. There was nothing there but a train pulling out of its stop. Presumably, they had gotten on that train. I moved to where I could both clearly see the interior of the train and also be visible to someone in the train. I wanted to wave to her, to encourage her. The train crawled past, car by car. She was in the last car, with her hat off and a bottle of water in her hand. She saw me and came up a bit out of her seat, smiling and waving enthusiastically. I smiled and waved back. We were both encouraged, I think.

**

I left the market area and began winding through the streets, trying to find any familiar street name. There was a store front with a long line of people waiting out front. It was a place called Voodoo Donuts. Portland loves them some Voodoo Donuts, apparently. Lotta people waiting a long time for donuts. It smelled real real nice outside the shop, shonuf. I was stuffed on pad Thai and didn’t want to wait in line for a donut. I noticed music was happening and then saw a guy singing and playing his guitar through a portable PA, aiming his intentions at the patrons in the donut line.

I turned to keep on looking for my weekend neighborhood. But I eventually stopped because the man with the guitar had something serious going on. I went back to listen. He was playing and singing in such a way that almost seemed like he was having a private moment of sorts; but he obviously wasn’t bashful. To the contrary he was comfortable performing with a vulnerability that should have been uncomfortable to watch but wasn’t. He had soulfulness and power, apparently devoid of pose, oozing out of him. There was something jarring about seeing a God-given gift so prominently contrasted against what I assume was typical fare at that shop on that intersection of that city on that day.

It’s easy (for me, anyway) to get jaded about music. ‘Music’ can become (in my mind) a big mass-marketed schlock fest with no redeeming value other than to enrich folks I generally do not want my kids to emulate. And that’s just the Christian music scene BA DUM TSS. Obviously, music is much more than whatever synthetic product various focus-grouped corporate music machines crank out. When I see a guy with a mic and guitar basically being transcendent at a donut shop, music is re-clarified.

I leaned on a mailbox and watched him for a minute, eventually dropping a tip in his jar and heading on. He thanked me in mid-song and continued doing his thing next to the donuts.

***

I stopped at a food trailer near my motel and got a kebab. While walking the kebab back to my hotel, I noticed that my sinuses were completely clear for the first time in weeks. I offered much praise and thanks to God for that huge blessing.

MONDAY

My only plan for Monday was to ride public transportation, in order to see as much of the city as possible in one day and to cover that same ground with prayers while riding. After another fine Continental breakfast I went out to learn the ropes. I saw a couple guys at a bus stop and asked them how to get transportation passes. There are a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings that look to be living on the streets of Portland. These two guys had that look. They directed me to a train stop a few blocks away, where I could buy a pass.

I bought a pass and rode a full circuit of the NS streetcar line. Then lunch and more foot travel around the downtown area. I wanted to find a way to walk up on the huge interstate highway bridge over the river. I never found a way to do that. I finally decided to ride the MAX commuter rail out to the airport, just to get feel for the trip. I planned to take that train on Tuesday to catch my flight out.

I went to the MAX stop nearest my hotel. Turns out that there had been a power failure on one of the river bridges, and the MAX service was shut down in one direction. Low level chaos was ensuing amongst the evening commuters. A young woman with a clip board approached me. I assumed she would be asking me to sign a petition. She was actually enrolling people to finance clean water infrastructure in Mexico. She gave me her sales routine. I told her my miniscule disposable income was growing more miniscule and I wouldn’t be committing any money to that particular cause.

Then I told her I had one for her. I pulled the map out of my portfolio and told her the story. When I told her I was from Dallas, she asked me if I’d known her father. She said he was a “strong” Christian who had moved from Oregon to Dallas. I didn’t know her father, but I was interested that I’d met yet another Texas (Dallas, even) connection in Portland. I referred her to Spirit’s church, in the event that she might ever want to attend. She wished me well on my journey.

I rode a bus that was surrogate for the failed MAX train. People were coping with the disruption in their evening commute. I felt a little guilty at being so unconcerned with the situation. I had nothing but time and wasn’t inconvenienced by the power outage. If anything, the evening was made more interesting by the chaos. I kept that observation to myself and rode the bus as far west as I could. Ultimately, I didn’t get to the airport that evening. At time of this writing I can’t remember why I didn’t continue on to the airport. I walked back into town over the same bridge on which the powerless MAX train was stranded. There was something eerie about seeing the vehicle, designed for one thing only, failed and abandoned in the process of doing its job.

*

I bought another food trailer meal and took it back to my hotel. From my room I could hear music playing out into the streets. I assumed the sound was coming from one of the apartments in the building across the street from me. The sound was strong enough that wondered how anyone could deal with the noise in their own apartment.

After dinner I went back out to walk around one last time on my final evening in Portland. No particular place to go. If anything I was proving to myself that I’d actually learned my way around a part of the city pretty well. Eventually satisfied with all that, I decided to go back and hit the sack. A few blocks from my hotel I again heard the same music that I’d heard from my hotel room. There was something odd about the sound, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It had a ‘live’ feel to it, mostly, but not entirely. I decided to find the source of the tunes, which required I backtrack down one block. I turned a corner and found what I was looking for. There was the guitar player from the doughnut shop. He had a drummer with him, playing on buckets and such.

Without a bass drum or bass guitar, there was no low end to their sound. The drummer didn’t have a regular drum kit and had no cymbals, except for one that he had under his right foot for the hi-hat ‘tssp’ effect. All of which explained the incongruous distant impressions about their music. There were some folks standing around watching them. I was tired and interested in sleep more than watching the guys perform, so I went back to the hotel. I got my belongings gathered up and halfway ready to go. I’d have a few hours on Tuesday to really pack up and move out, but I didn’t want to leave everything undone that night. I closed my windows and got in bed. I could still hear the metronomic pop of the drummer striking that bucket. It was about 10pm as far as my body was concerned, and I was ready to relax into one last night’s sleep in the hotel.

But I couldn’t sleep. All I could think was that I needed to go tell those musicians about The Triangle. I wanted to sleep. “I want to sleep,” I explained to me and maybe God. I considered the many times I had regretted and still do regret not taking opportunities that later seemed likely to have been invitations from God. “If I don’t go talk to those guys, I will always wonder what could have been.”

SLEEP.

Regret.

SIGH. I dumped myself out of bed and got dressed, grabbed my portfolio, and walked back down to the street musicians. I sat on a curb about ten feet from the drummer, watching the passersby watch the players. The guys had a nice groove going. Musically, it was a different dynamic with the drummer added, instead of the solo guitar from Sunday. The audience moved on, and the guys stopped playing. I asked if they planned to take a break anytime soon. I don’t remember what they said. I got up and walked over to them. I told the guitar player, “I saw you yesterday at the doughnut place.” “Voodoo Donuts,” he smiled in reply. Ignoring the fleeting impression that I looked like some kind of ridiculous salesman, I opened my portfolio. “I’ve got something I think I’m supposed to show you guys.” I told them the story and showed them the map. They were both immediately attentive. I told them, “I don’t really know why I’m here. But I believe I was supposed to come. I think God cares enough about Portland that He’s bothering to tell some random guy in Dallas to do something. So here I am.”

We exchanged a few words. I said something I can’t recall in the brief segment of conversation, and the drummer really perked up. “Wait wait wait. So you’ve been to Long Island already?” “No, I’ve been to Wichita Falls and now Portland. I’ll probably try to hit Long Island in October.” He said, “Something you said just now really did something in me. I’ve been really depressed lately, and you said something and it did something inside me.” He started quoting from the book of Psalms, relating a Psalm to whatever he’d just experienced in our talk. I felt myself try to slide into a detached “Is this really happening” mode, as I had done so many times during this whole Triangle lifestyle. But I didn’t slide all the way there – in fact, I stayed fully in the moment, confident (for then, at least) that life is just going to look consistently different when I follow God’s leading, versus when I do not.

I don’t know the Psalms well, outside the big names, and I couldn’t follow what he was saying. I eventually said in response to something he’d offered, “The world around us says we are valuable because we can do this thing or we have that thing or we know such and such people. The truth is we have value because He made us.” He said something about how “some guy in Dallas hears something and starts taking trips and here he is in Portland, saying exactly what I needed to hear right now.”

I’ve been on his side of the equation several times, jarred with blessing into a changed condition by just the right words from someone who couldn’t have known the right words to say. It was gratifying to be a vector for blessing like that. I take zero credit for anything that happened in that guy’s spirit. I don’t have a clue what I said that affected him; so I couldn’t try to use it on someone else if I wanted to. I introduced myself, and they reciprocated. The drummer’s name was Todd; the guitarist was Will. We shook hands. “You guys need any water?” I asked. They had been standing right in the light of the evening sun. “Sure.” I got them to give me directions to the nearest market.

I made the round trip to the market and back in about ten minutes. They were packing up their gear when I returned. I handed them the waters. I told them about Spirit’s church. Will said he’d heard of it and knew a guy that used to play there. We said our goodbyes and I went back to my hotel, walking with an energy and clarity of purpose than I’d lacked when first going to meet the musicians. Without a doubt, encouragement had happened. Todd was encouraged. I was encouraged. I don’t know what Will thought, but I doubt he’ll forget the encounter.

Back to the hotel. Back to bed. Last sleep in Portland.

TUESDAY

Long day. My flight out of Portland was delayed. And I was already up a couple of hours earlier than the Portland clock read. So I had a six-hour wait before I could catch the train out to the airport. The hotel folks were nice enough to let me stay in the room for an extra hour.

Sometime during the wait, I was sprawled in the hotel room easy chair. It occurred to me that the places of the Triangle get progressively larger as they advance through the order given to me. Wichita Falls is basically a large small town, with a population of around 100K people. Portland is a legit metropolitan area with a population of several hundred thousand. Long Island is a land mass with towns all over the island, judging from a map I’d glanced over. I wasn’t familiar enough with Long Island to even know if were any actual cities on it. I would have to figure all that out later. The only thing that mattered in Portland that day was that the places got bigger with each step. Interesting.

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I was bored. Then I took a train. I was bored some more. Then I took a plane. We landed in the rain. That’s what I did on Tuesday.

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