Neighbors and Wise Men: A Book Review


Neighbor’s and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places is the spiritual memoir of Tony Kriz, also known as the Beat Poet from the book Blue Like Jazz. Tony’s book outlines his experiences as a young new Christian, a missionary in Albania, a struggling theology graduate student, a volunteer clergyman at Reed College, and a community member in one of the most secular cities in the country Portland, OR.

The emphasis of his book is that God as an all powerful communicator, is able to speak to us through people and means that are unexpected and often are outside our Christian sphere. The Biblical examples he uses are the parable of the good Samaritan, who after all, wasn’t a Christian or a Jew, yet he listened to God’s prompting in his life and was obedient in his care for the wounded man in the road. He also discusses the Wise Men who came to adore and present gifts to baby Jesus. They were completely outside the scope of Jewish influence, and Christians didn’t even exist yet. But God alerted them to the coming Messiah, and used them to communicate His love to the new Holy Family. Tony’s argument is that God continues such work today.

To illustrate his point, Tony uses experiences, relationships, and conversations in his own life that guided him towards Christ. As a youth group kid, he was taught that there were essentially two teams in life: the God team, and everyone else. Gradually over time, Tony has come to the conclusion that it’s less simplistic than that. After nearly abandoning his faith, he learned that even people in the most secular or opposite “team” can speak God’s truth into his life. That the hairy guy in the bar can teach him persistence, and encourage him not to abandon his theological studies. That Islamic clerics can teach him that God is bigger than he thinks. That his neighbor across the street can teach him that gardening can be a spiritual practice. And that his home church group can teach him how to be a servant leader, and that forgiveness is the key to Christ-likeness.

I didn’t agree with everything in this book, but Tony writes in such a way that you don’t need to agree with him to enjoy him. He’s communicating his own testimony and experiences, so who can argue with that? I do believe that his way of approaching ministry in the 20th century is on the cutting edge. In this new era, we need churches that point people to Christ, even if that means pointing them away from Christians or a traditional church. People need more freedom to disagree, and forge their own path to Christ, wresting as they go. Less conformity, more “real life”. I think Tony’s book is a terrific example of why we need more people like him who are able to connect to the outsider, with respect and an attitude of learning rather than superiority.

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A quick update!

We’re in Cocoa Beach, Florida! Today is maintenance day, which for us means laundry and grocery shopping and getting an oil change for the truck. And with the downtime, updating the ol blog.

One big development is that the owner of the land we liked in Montana has made us an offer we can’t refuse, and we signed off on an agreement today! We’re so excited, and the kids are even more excited than we are! To them it means tree houses and chickens. But to us it means a lot of work ahead and a building project. Pray for us as we mentally prepare to end our vagabond life and head back to reality in the next month or so.

The Blue Tattoo: A Book Review

the blue tattoo

One thing I’ve been doing as we’ve traveled, is pick up and read books that are pertinent to the area we’re visiting. While visiting Oatman, AZ I picked up the book The Blue Tattoo by Margot Mifflin. It’s the story of Olive Oatman and her life as a pioneer girl captured and held by Native Americans for 3 years.

The book is a biography, but it reads like a novel. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction!

Olive’s parents were Mormons headed west to start a village. Her father was part of a Mormon sect that believed in monogamy, and although he started out with a group, due to his less than charming personality his family ended up on their own driving through hostile territory. Predictably, their family was attacked by a war party of Yavapai Indians, and all but three siblings were killed. Her brother, was left presumed dead, but later he recovered and was able to get back to a Fort. Olive and her sister were captured, and held prisoner.

After a year with the first tribe, they were sold to the Mohave Indians. Olive and her sister became completely assimilated to their new life, and even voluntarily became tattooed as a sign of belonging and acceptance. Unfortunately Olive’s sister died during a famine. And at the age of 19 Olive was “rescued” and returned to live the rest of her days in the confines of Victorian American society.

Once Olive returns to life in white America, a biography is written about her, and she tours the country giving speeches about her experiences. During the days of the circus freak show, many people came to hear her speak in order to see a tattooed woman, something practically unheard of during her lifetime. Her blue unmistakable facial tattoo marked her forever as a woman who had a close encounter with native people, and survived. She went on to marry a wealthy business man, and spent the rest of her days in Texas upper crust society.

Her story is fascinating! I learned so much about Mohave Indians, and their society pre-westward expansion. Her experience shows a fascinating contrast between two distinct Indian tribes, and their treatment of captives. Olive’s story shows how much a person can go through, and not just survive, but excel! It’s a fascinating read of a unsung western heroine!

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Trip Planning

Since we’ve last posted, we’ve been doing less sight seeing and more visiting with friends and family. Which has been amazing in many ways. But as we’ve lingered with our loved ones we’ve realized that we need to make some alterations to our travel plans. We’re realizing that spring is coming. And as it comes closer, our window of opportunity to start our new life in Montana comes closer too.

It’s time to stop hoping down rabbit trails (my favorite past-time!) and make a direct path towards our future.

We have an atlas, and on our atlas is a yellow line. That line is one I drew months ago. I found a post on the internet about road trip routes and picked one that linked all the national parks in the most time efficient way.


I’ve fallen in love with this route. It’s curvy, and scenic, and it stops in the most amazing places! It’s quite seductive, this yellow line.

But as my sweet husband has pointed out, at some point, we need to prioritize and do the things that are most important to us, and leave the rest behind.

At first, I wanted to argue my case. I have become attached to my yellow line. And honestly, I’m the kind of person who really wants to get her way. If it were up to me, we’d spend another 3 months out here on the road, maybe even a year. But if I stop and listen to my husband, and think with my head and not just my heart, I know what needs to be done.

So we are planning to say goodbye to the yellow line.

We’re going to make a more direct path from Arkansas (where we’re visiting DJ’s mom) to Tampa, FL. From there we will drive the coastline of Florida south to the tip where we will visit the Everglades. Then travel north along the Atlantic coastline, go to Disney World and Cape Canaveral, and then it’s a B line back to Montana. We’re hoping to establish ourselves sometime between the beginning to middle of April.

Another not so fun motivation, we need to get back in time to file taxes. Fun times!

On the Trail

I’ve been playing this game called The Trail, and it’s made me think, real life traveling is quite different than playing a traveling game. Perhaps that’s obvious, but that’s my deep thought for today.

Traveling is hard. It’s tiring. It’s constantly looking for things that you “know” is around here somewhere. It’s pushing the buttons of your traveling companions. It’s avoiding hurt feelings. It’s making do. It’s going much longer than you’d like without a shower. It’s being dirty. It’s being extremely thankful for a clean place to do your laundry. It’s the extreme luxury of finding an RV park that has a Jacuzzi, and then being too tired to use it. It’s a lot of learning. LOTS of learning! Learning, is often not that fun, but it’s good, in a deeply soul penetrating way.

We haven’t posted much lately, we haven’t made any new videos, we’ve been deeply entrenched in learning.

Here are some of the things we’ve learned:

1.) The Grand Canyon is a VERY international place.


The very first outlook we visited, I heard no less than 5 languages being spoken. Some, I didn’t even recognize. I also saw a sweet Amish family. I kind of knew that a lot of people visited this natural wonder, but I was amazed by their origins. It is truly not just an American wonder. It’s a wonder that belongs to all humanity.

2.) January is fickle in Arizona. We’ve had 75 degree days, and 30 degree days. We’ve also had overnight lows in the 20’s. We had sun at the Grand Canyon, and we had snow.


3.) When boondocking (aka. staying at a place without hook ups) it’s a good idea to switch your refrigerator to propane. It drains your battery a lot less, and makes it possible to stay longer while using fewer resources.

4.) We’ve learned exactly how picky our dog is! He likes his food bowl full, and his water bowl, and if they aren’t full he guards them and gets very snippy. He learns very quickly where the dog park is if we’re staying at an RV park that has one.

5.) We’ve learned that the best time for the girls to do school work is on the road. And that sometimes the best lessons, are the ones that happen outside of school time. We’ve had some concentrated parenting moments, in tight spaces. And guess what, we ALL learned something from it.

6.) We’ve visited many national parks and monuments for the past week or two. And we haven’t taken any time for ourselves. Through this we’ve learned, we need to slow down a bit, write a bit, video a bit, and sit a bit.

7.) Taking time to do RV cleaning and maintenance is important!

8.) Taking time to do personal maintenance is important!

9.) Switching your dog’s dog food during a trip like this is probably not the best idea. And has meant an extra stinky dog for a couple weeks. Lucky us!

10.) Eating regularly scheduled meals is important! At times, we have skipped lunch and pushed ourselves to go somewhere or do something to disastrous effect.

11.) Traveling can be isolating. We’ve been doing our best to stay connected to friends and family, but it requires more effort.

12.) Guided hikes and other ranger programs at National Parks are WORTH going to! We have been on several great guided hikes and ranger talks, and all of them without exception has been awesome! We’ve learned a lot of great science, as well as connected with some great people.

13.) We weren’t expecting much from the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park, but as it turns out, it was super great! Petrified wood is BEAUTIFUL, and hiking through an alien-like landscape covered with it was a big highlight of our trip so far!


14.) You meet a lot of great people while traveling! We have connected with fellow travelers, National Parks Volunteers, store clerks, and RV park managers. It’s been great to meet new people, and has given us renewed hope.

15.) DJ has been refining his photography skills, and I’ve been reading a lot. We’re pretty sure these are things which will contribute to our future. Kinda exciting!

So I think that just about covers it for now. We’re hoping to make more time for ourselves for blogging and taking videos, so hopefully you’ll hear from us more regularly.