Wild Geese

Between the morning rain and lunch, the boys and I took a walk around the lake by our house. We took a snack break (peanuts) on a bench for a while. As we were eating, a family of Canada geese came walking up through the weeds out of the lake. The six goslings were interested in the peanut shells we were dropping. They came within a couple feet of us. It was fun to see them up close--the boys enjoyed it. But I also knew the danger as their mother and father were watching us closely, occasionally giving a warning hiss. The boys did a good job of just sitting still and watching them. As close as the goslings were, it would have been fun to reach out and pet their soft down. But I also knew that as cute, and docile as they seemed, these were wild geese. And any wild animal can be unpredictable and reactive.

That got me thinking about how we try to "domesticate" God. But, of course, God can't be domesticated. Anders and I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia again (again--we read them together when he was born, so I don't think he really remembers them). The Narnians know that Aslan is not a tame animal. He is wild. Mr. & Mrs. Beaver tell the Pevensie children that Aslan isn't safe, but he is good. We need to respect God's "wildness" and not try to make Him tame. After all, do we reallly want a tame God? I much rather enjoy spending time in the wild, rather in pet stores.


It's Hot

I turned on the air conditioner today for the first time this summer. It was around 90 all day--and I don't think it's going to cool down much tonight.

When Beth got home from work (which was a bit late because she had training in St. Paul and the traffic coming back was heavy), we headed over to Lake Calhoun for a picnic and some time at the beach. There were actually parking spaces . . . and the beach wasn't as full as I expected. I guess it wasn't the prime time for being at the beach, but it was hot enough to enjoy it. And we didn't mind a little less traffic. Still, has modesty gone out the window?

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a bit cooler. I don't think that's in the forecast, though.


Over the River and Through the Woods

Last Saturday we headed off to Wisconsin for the weekend. On our way out of town, we stopped to see Peaty & Erin & baby Elliot in St. Paul. (Erin & Peaty are the couple who flew us out from BC to Iowa to do their wedding last August). Just a few weeks ago their baby was born (a few weeks early himself, but he at least held off for a while). Elliot had finally been discharged from the hospital and they were ready to finally get to their new home in Iowa.

It's a cool blessing to get to be a part of people's journeys through life. We first got to know Erin through the P-Cov youth group. Then she and Peaty were on staff at camp for my last three summers while I worked there. Each of them served in my department the last summer--little did I know they'd be getting married the next year. I'm grateful for those who have invited us in.

Next we headed over the St. Croix River and through the North Woods of Wisconsin to Beth's Mom's house. I had a meeting at our denomination's annual meeting that I needed to be at on Monday, so we headed out early to have some time with family. We got to see three out of the seven families of Beth's siblings over the weekend. And the boys got plenty of time with MorMor. In fact, they didn't want to leave her house. Which is good.

And the meeting went fairly well on Monday. For those who would like more details, drop me a line.


A Stay-at-Home Dad

For the last two weeks--and for an indefinite time in the future now--I have been a stay at home dad. Beth was doing some work at a test correcting center and has just started her new full-time job at Target as a Team Leader. We didn't enter into this arrangement lightly. I searched for jobs for a while. Beth had grown up surrounded by stay-at-home moms, so she wasn't sure if she was comfortable being the "bread-winner." But she's also wanted the chance to have a career (hopefully in geology someday). And with our personalities, we think it'll be a better arrangement for the boys. I hoping to be able to add some extra income by writing.

So, we've embarked on a new journey (hmm, that seems to be a theme lately). And being a stay-at-home dad isn't easy. I'm working on being more disciplined at getting things done. But we've had some fun, too. One day this week we biked over to the nature center and had some snacks (top picture), hiked and played. Yesterday was very hot (I think it got above 90) so we took a quick trip to a beach near us for some swimming and had some snacks as well (bottom picture--Nils wasn't happy first about having to put a swim suit on instead of going nakey, then he wasn't happy about having to leave). It's fun to see them growing, too. They're both getting very good at the alphabet (in different ways, of course). Anders has stopped using his potty seat, his booster seat at the table and wearing diapers to bed.


Christ, the Bridegroom

"Let's be honest. Marriage is just plain hard work. It is the most Christian thing I know, besides raising children, because it requires so much more self-sacrifice than anyone has every asked of you."
- Krista Brumberg Stevens, "Wedding Cake Vows"


Midsommar, Art(?) & Anniversary

Yesterday morning we headed down to the Swedish American Institute to partake in a little of the Midsommar celebration. I'm not sure why they celebrate it a week or so earlier than when Midsommarsdag is--but it was a nice day at least. We missed out on the raising of the Maypole and some of the other events, but we did get to hear some good Swedish folk music, watch some children dancing, eat some meatballs and see a little of the museum.

Anders thought the stained-glass knight window was cool. I tried to get a picture of Beth with some of Queen Silvia's formal gowns (which were displayed on loan from the royal palace), but I got chewed out for taking a picture (we never saw signs that said we couldn't, though).

My parents have been in town part of this week doing some work at my sister and brother-in-law's house. My other sister also came up to visit. They all took Anders and Nils for Saturday for an overnight so that Beth and I could celebrate our anniversary.

We went to the Walker Art Center downtown. Of the galleries we saw, all were modern art. I enjoy art. But honestly, some of it is a stretch for being called art. We were halfway through before I saw a name I recognized--and that was Yoko Ono. We did eventually see some works by Jasper Johns (who I only know of because of The Simpsons--that's were I get my culture) and Andy Warhol. I much more appreciate classical art like we saw at the Art Institute in Chicago. Some of it was interesting, but some was just perplexing--okay, most of it was (we're glad we could get passes from the library so it didn't cost us to experience it). Beth's favorite part was the gift shop. Of course we couldn't take photographs inside to let you enjoy it, but we have some of the outside. I love the juxtaposition of the modern art center with the old cathedral. They had a mini golf course outside the gallery which different artists had designed each hole; it was pretty cool. There's a sculpture garden there, too, with the famous spoon with a cherry on it. We'll go back sometime with the boys to walk through there.

It was time together, though, and that's what mattered to us. We went out for supper and finally got around to seeing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. It was the first movie we had gone out to in well over a year.

I'm extremely thankful for the past 11 years of marriage; I'm beyond grateful for my wife who has journeyed through it with me. We've had plenty of rough spots, and I don't think either of us thought that where we're at in life today is where we'd ever be. But it's good to be here together. And it's good to know that the years of marriage ahead of us are going to be better than the ones behind us--because we've committed to making them better, to making us better. I love you Beth. I'm thankful you said "yes." I would choose you again and again to be at my side.


The Loving Father

In my time with God today I got into the 15th chapter of Luke. After reading the familiar story of the prodigal son (which is more aptly titled The Loving Father, as the story is all about the father and his response to the son), I was reminded of this picture by Rembrandt:The returning son, who has committed some terrible sins in Jewish tradition, is swooned over by his father, who is not worried about maintaining dignity in welcoming back his son. The father embraces his son with the fullest amount of compassion and love. The son's actions no longer matter; what matters is that the son has returned to his father--the relationship is restored. Henri Nouwen points out in his book on the painting that the father has two very different hands--his left is very masculine and the right is very feminine. God's embrace is strong, but also compassionate. It is powerful, yet tender.

This painting is by twin brothers Aaron and Allen Hicks; again, the father's love for the son is overwhelmingly beautiful:
It's difficult to get mired down by our own shortcomings when we are mindful that the Father always runs to us, never spurns us away. "How deep the Father's love for us . . ."


A Matter of Trust

At bedtime tonight, I was reading a kids' storybook that we got from the library to Anders & Nils. The lesson was about contentment, basically. In the story, the woodcarver told his wooden creation that his search for possessions cost him happiness, friends and trust . . . he didn't trust his creator to make him happy. For some reason tonight I was struck by that idea of greed & envy being a matter of not trusting in God.

As the woodcarver tells his creation: "You're special--not because of what you have. You're special because of who you are. You are mine. I love you. don't forget that, little friend."


This was listed on a geography quiz I came across online:

Fun fact:
A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock.

I'm not sure waht qualifies that for a fun fact. A sad fact, maybe. Definitely not fun.

A Modern Stone Age Family

Anders and I have been watching a couple episodes of The Flintstones from their first season on a DVD we got from the library. I watched my fair share of The Flintstones growing up, but I don't remember anything from the first season. There isn't the theme song at the beginning, so that's a bit disappointing.

A little known fact from the first season: Dino is a snorkasaurus who speaks in a French accent (I don't every remember hearing him make a noise) who Barney & Fred were hunting on a vacation and Wilma talked Fred into letting her have Dino as a pet. That's my new fact for the day.


Hip Hop

Well, we still aren't sure which church to plant ourselves in. We've been going back and forth. We've been to two Sundays at Emmaus Road Covenant (we like their small size and the friendliness of the people), and today was our third Sunday at Sanctuary Covenant (we like the diversity and the fact that everyone isn't middle class and white). Both have good biblical teaching. And the worship is good at both (though we're adjusting to the different styles we get at Sanctuary--which is good). It's still not an easy decision.
Today was a Hip Hop Sunday at Sanctuary (normally just the third Sunday of the month--they're doing 2 this month). The music wasn't as wildly different than I imagined (there was one rap song, but there was also Lord I Lift Your Name on High and We Fall Down). But there was dancing throughout it--breakdancing, popping, etc. I was quite impressed with the kid who was about 12 years old, up there spinning on his head and doing flips. There was also a graffiti artist on stage for the bulk of the service. I don't always get the art, but it's really fascinating to look at and watch being done.

Hip Hop tends to have a negative image because of the people who bring violence, racism and degradation of women to the culture. Of course, hip hop, in and of itself, isn't bad. And as we saw this morning, it's possible to develop a redeeming culture. After all, isn't that the church's mission to the world?


Learning Time, Play Time, Family Time

Last night, Beth's cousin Nate & his wife Gwyn and their three kids took us out to the Minnesota Children's Museum in downtown St. Paul. I haven't seen Nate since 11 years ago. Neither of us had met his wife or kids, so it was a lot of fun to get together and hang out with them. Of course, the kids tended to run in multiple directions int he museum, so we didn't get a lot of time to talk, but it was good to be with them. And the kids got along well. In fact, after the museum (and a quick stop at a candy store), we stopped briefly at their house and the boys did not want to leave. We had to promise that they'd be able to get together to play again soon.


Misheard Lyrics

Anders felt that the lyrics to Michael W. Smith's song Place in This World say, "Your face is a squirrel's." He may have a point.


One Month

If my memory serves me correctly (which, I'll admit, sometimes I think I'm loosing it), we've been in our apartment in Minnesota for a month today. It's been a hard journey at times, but it's a journey we're committed to taking. And it's also been a lot of fun at times, too. There's a lot to explore here. Sunday afternoon we drove over to see some of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes--just a few miles from our place. The traffic was pretty crazy (it was near 90 degrees, only the 2nd day this year above 80, so everyone was out enjoying it). We only got half way around 1 of the 5 lakes, but we found an open parking space, so we took it. We did a little walking and then a little playing on the beach (there were even a few people swimming--crazy fools). There's a lot left to explore--and a lot of it we can do for free, which is good right now.

But a lot of the journey has been inward, spiritual, interpersonal and emotional. And we're coming along there, too. The road ahead won't always be easy, but it's a good road to be on right now. And life is better because of it--we're better because of it.

You Name It

At church on Sunday the pastor talked about the power of names. I'll be honest and say that I don't remember much about the whole point of it, other than we've lost some respect for Jesus' name. In the Old Testament, once God gives His name to Moses, the Hebrews only use the consonant letters: YHWH. And it got to the point where only the high priest could say God's name and only one time on the Day of Atonement. And Jesus comes along (Yeshua - Yahweh saves; Emmanuel - God with us), and we have a Name that we can call on anytime, anywhere. The pastor wondered if we need to reclaim some of the wonder of the name.

Names have power. Throughout the Bible, people are given names with meaning. Legends and stories are filled with examples of the power names have (Rumplestiltskin, for example).

I've been discovering in the last couple months how naming sin loosens its power--especially when you name it to other people. Not just sin, but the things, situations and even people who trigger sins for you. James tells us to publicly confess our sins to one another. But at best, the church is good at confessing only to a priest/pastor in privacy; at worst we dis-acknowledge our sins all together.

One of the things I need in my life is more true fellowship with others--especially other men. I haven't built the deep relationships I need to keep me out of isolation. That's what the church is called to be--a place of fellowship, communion, where Jesus is present when 2 or 3 gather in His name. That requires that we go beneath talking about the weather and claiming that everything in our lives is "fine."