Some days are hard being away from everyone you know. Then there are those glimmers of hope--like today, when a complete stranger does some really nice stuff for you.
The story goes that God called Abraham to follow Him so that God could make a nation (Israel). Abraham is pretty old at this point, and he and his wife Sarah have no children. So God makes the barren fertile and at the age of 100, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. Then when Isaac is around age 12, God tells Abraham to take him up on a mountain and sacrifice him--his only son, the one that God is supposed to make a nation out of. Genesis says that it's a test to see if Abraham will obey God--but Abraham doesn't know that. Abraham takes Isaac up the mountain and says, "Daddy, I see the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb?" And Abraham replies, "God will provide, son." And just as Abraham raises his knife when Isaac is on the altar, God stops him and shows him a ram caught in the thicket. And then Isaac grows up and begets Jacob & Esau, and Jacob begets 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel (more or less).
It's a story that shows the great level of faith that Abraham has. But it's also a very disturbing story. Even if God is only testing Abraham, and won't actually have him sacrifice Isaac, essentially Abraham is still expected to follow a God who could ask him to sacrifice his child. And in essence, it's a foreshadowing of God providing Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. But it's not a story that's easy to read to your son; heck, it's not a story I'm comfortable reading. But it's there in the Bible, so we can't escape it--even if we could, there are plenty of other disturbing stories in there. Maybe the story is supposed to illustrate faith, but it raises questions about God for me. On some level, though, that's comforting; I'd much rather have a God I can question than one I have to take at face value.
I spent the afternoon helping a guy from group move to a new apartment. When I was done I went home for supper with the family. Beth had made Oreo cheesecake for my birthday. The guy who I helped move stopped by tonight for some cheesecake, too. It's good to be starting to make some friends around here.
So, I could do the reflection on how I'm at the same age as Jesus when He was crucified, but that doesn't seem very helpful to do. A lot has changed since last year. I'm realizing things I wished I had done--which is a good motivation to be making the most of my time. And building deeper relationships--especially with other guys--is something I need more of in my life. It becomes so easy to waste life. So, I'm making a stand to make it count.
Earlier this week, Anders and I were reading a chapter from Little House in the Big Woods. Laura was complaining about their Sundays and how they weren't fun because they couldn't do anything. Then Pa told her a story about when her grandfather was a kid and they had to spend the whole afternoon sitting and working on their catechism (which sounds like work to me)--so it was much better off for her than it used to be.
Part of the Sabbath struggle is honoring it without falling into legalism. And what's good for one person on the Sabbath, may not be good for another. I think the spirit of the Sabbath is in making it a different day--a day where you don't do your usual thing--especially anything vocational. Rest time is important (especially with two little boys in the house). We try to do things as a family--sometimes with others, too, but always things we can do together. Like going for a walk or a bike ride or even cuddling on the couch with an old Disney movie.
Then [Jesus] said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." - Mark 2:27
The pictures were all taken by Beth today, so I'm using hers (I usually try to use mine to avoid plagiarism)--the camera battery was also almost dead, so we didn't get a whole lot.
This time, we focused our time mainly at the conservatory. We did get in on a story time at the zoo first, which Anders enjoyed. And after we finished at the Conservatory, we walked through a little of the zoo and saw some primates, bison, African ungulates and big cats. But for the bulk of our time there we enjoyed ferns, flowers and the Japanese garden. Anders loved looking at the koi in the pool.
Which also makes me miss gardening. I have a few containers that I need to get some soil for, but we also don't have much space inside for plants. But I love taking a seed, covering it in soil, nurturing it and watching it grow into something bigger (I think what I enjoy is that connection to our Creator that it brings about). I enjoy the tranquility that plants bring to a room. I enjoy the oxygen they produce. And I love to grow plants that produce fruit or herbal flavorings. Beth picked me up a succulent today on her way back from the grocery store. It's a good start.
Dr. Laaser brought up this theory (I think I'm remembering the essence of it, at least): Sin is anything that distances us from God. In not addressing your feelings toward God, you are distancing yourself from Him. Therefore, it is more sinful not to share your anger at God than to be angry at Him.
It's hard to be upfront with God about how we feel--especially our feelings toward Him if they're anything less than good. But to move toward intimacy with God, as in any relationship, we must be honest with our emotions (so I've learned). David and the other psalmists were brutally honest about their emotions at times. So were Abraham and Moses. So that's one of my lessons on my journey right now. So, I think I'll go write God a letter.
We checked out Westwood Hills Nature Center this afternoon--it's just a few blocks away from us. It has a lot of trails; we first explored the center. The boys liked the live snakes, frogs, turtles and birds inside, as well as the stuffed mammals and birds; the displays of furs, skulls and bugs; and the books and puppets. As we got to the center, we were surprised to find some wild turkeys in the path, eating the seeds that had fallen from the bird feeders. And the boys enjoyed a little chipmunk that wasn't too shy. It was a fun educational place--we'll be back for sure.
After a short hike to the lake, we spent some time at the playground. Nils is quite the climber--and has little fear, so we keep our eyes on him (and our hands close, too).
It's nice to have lakes, woods and marshes around us. It would be hard for me to live in a big city and not have a good connection to God's creation nearby. I think it's good for all of us. Jesus spent His time in the city around the people who needed Him, but He also got away--to the lake, to the mountain, to the wilderness.
Emmaus Road was a plant of a community church in 2005; they joined the Covenant in 2006. They meet in a community center, but I think there's a good sense of community among the people. They're still a growing church and we can see how it'd be easy to plug into being part of things.
It's been a while since we've really been in a position of choosing a church to attend. The Evangelical Covenant Church has been wonderful to us, so we haven't had to look outside of the denomination, which helps in not looking at every single church around us. But we've got a number of Covenant churches around us. And it seems that we could fit into most of them. It's not easy to pick a community that you want to be a part of without really knowing them--and, true, we could get to know them first for a while, but we also want to get plugged in to a community fairly soon.
Last night April (Aunt A-po) & Wilder came over and MorMor went with us to see the fireworks as part of Golden Valley Days (5th Annual!). Golden Valley is the suburb right across I-394 to the north of us. It's city hub is closer to us than a lot of things in St. Louis Park, so we've been there a little bit. It's a nice little community on the edge of Minneapolis, like St. Louis Park. We didn't have big expectations for the fireworks. They were good--just short. Which was good, because Nils wasn't too fond of the noises. He didn't even care for the displays that didn't have a lot of noise, which surprised me because he tends to like lights. But it was a nice outing.
This morning we headed up for the parade. It was a regular small town parade in most aspects. There weren't big flashy floats. The entries were mostly churches, sports teams and a few businesses. Surprisingly, there was a big lack of political representatives or candidates. The Pillsbury Dough Boy (we really have no idea what he was supposed to be affiliated with in the parade) was a big hit for Nils. Anders has been admiring the John Deere Big Tricycle for a while (it's parked in a yard on our route to the park in Golden Valley), but it was fun to see it in action. Candy was passed out (handed to us, not thrown for the most park). And people greeted those they recognized. The end of the parade was the new vehicles purchases by the city recently. Anders finally got a big truck to respond to his "semi-truck horn-honking request motion". One of the funny parts is that the intersection that we were near was still running. The parade would stop when the light turned red so that cross-traffic could go through.
After the parade we stopped at the park for a little play time and then back for lunch before MorMor's ride left back to Wisconsin. Tomorrow we explore our next church. We're looking forward to it--and Sunday as a whole.
Anders got to wear his short pajamas to bed. Nils did get on some pajamas (the picture is just Nils in his element--swinging under the bed with few clothes on). Bedtime was a little longer because we were waiting for the arrival of MorMor. We've had quite a few visitors to the house in the last couple weeks.
After MorMor arrived and the boys got some hugs and Anders talked with her for a while, we put them down for the night. Nils usually gets "Jesus Loves Me" sung to him. After we left, Anders called out for a song for him. He wanted Beth to sing, but he decided it would be okay for me to sing to him. I sung "Trygarre Kan Ingen Vara" (the original Swedish of "Children of the Heavenly Father"). He sung along with me tonight (as well as he could figure out some of the Swedish words). It was precious, to say the least.
There's also those moments when he prays . . . not just his usual mealtime prayer, but times when he randomly sits down and just starts praying about something.
That's "faith like a child" for you. Sometimes I'm a bit jealous of it. I guess it's something for me to grow into.
And yet, Joseph is able to say to them: "God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And He is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt (Genesis 45:7-8 NLT)." Basically, Joseph realizes that he had to go through all that in order for God to be able to create His own nation which was promised to Abraham.
I think most Christians like to believe Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose - NIV). But Joseph actually lived that out. He harbored no resentment or anger toward his brothers at all, but instead offered them a future. I am well aware that sometimes we bring the difficult times on ourselves as a consequence to our actions, and sometimes they just happen to us as Joseph experienced. But I believe in either experience that God does use it to bring about something better in our lives--if we let that happen.
I guess sometimes we just need the right perspective and belief that the difficult parts of life become something better down the road. And sometimes through that we've got to let ourselves be open to growing, learning and changing. Sometimes we have to learn to stand steadfast. But it all starts with being aware and open to God being in control.
We had a good Mother's Day. Really good, if I may say so.
We've been here just over a week now. We didn't get to church last
Sunday, so today we tried our first congregation (we don't plan on
checking out more than 2 or 3). So this morning we went to Sanctuary
Covenant Church. It was good. We sang in English, Spanish as well as
some African language. We were maybe in the minority as white people.
But it was very nicely blended--we see segregation even in racially
mixed congregations; but here it was everyone sitting together. And
Pastor Efrem Smith spoke to us where we were at: in breaking the
curses in families that started in Genesis 3, and becoming a part of
a family that follows God (no matter what your "family is like; we're
all invited into the family of God). The boys enjoyed it too.
Then we went to Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. And apparently, so did
everyone else. It took us a while to find a place to park--which
ended up being a street outside the park. We picnicked in the back of
our car, instead of lugging everything several blocks to already-full
picnic tables. It was in the upper 50s with a cool breeze. Anders had
helped me make some of the food for the picnic.
The Como Park Zoo is free. It's not as big as most zoos, but it was a
good time. The boys really enjoyed it. Nils picked up a new word
today: zee-bah (zebra). Though he called the giraffes "zee-bah" as
well as the zebras. And even though the zoo is free, Beth got a pass
for it from the library (they have free passes for a number of
museums). It gained us 5 tickets in the "amusement park" connected to
the zoo. So Beth got to take Nils and Anders on the little train ride
and Anders got to "drive a car."
And we came home wiped out (we forgot the stroller--which was
actually good with all the traffic in the buildings; but Anders
walked the whole time and we carried Nils off and on). So I popped
some popcorn and the boys cuddled up with Beth on the couch while
watching Curious George.
We may not have any money to do anything big and fancy for Beth right
now, but we had good time together as a family. And that's what's
important. Really, what else do you need to honor a wonderful mother
like Beth, than to have a good day together as a family.
And thank you Mom, for raising me in a good family. And thank you
Bonnie, for raising a wonderful daughter.
2. It's frustrating when in order to get your car titled & licensed you have to get documentation from US Customs since you've had it titled outside of the US for a year. Actually that's not the frustrating part. The frustrating part is that in order to get the documentation from US Customs, you have to get a letter from the car manufacturer stating that it meets US EPA and DOT standards. And that's going to cost around $90 to get that letter. From a car we bought in the US, that was manufactured in 2004 and has only been outside the US for one year and it got tested in Canada to make sure it met Canada's emission standards, which are more stringent than the US. So, in order to prove that our car is okay to get tilted in Minnesota, it'll cost us $90--to show that a car we bought in the US, have previously had titled in the US and have driven in the US for most of it's life.
That's bureaucracy in action.
We drove through rain pretty much all day long (thankfully it wasn't as long of a drive). And the wind eventually lessened.
And the boys were still very good--especiall considering that we did almost 2000 miles. We got to my brother-in-law & sister's house a little before 6pm. And we were very happy to get here. Tomorrow morning we'll go over and get the keys to our place (and whatever else we need to do) and then begin the unpacking process.
I've been going trough Genesis again lately. As I've read the stories about those patriarchs and matriarchs who travelled crazy distances with their household (Terah, Abraham, Rebekah), I'm in awe of how they followed God across hundreds of miles with all their possessions in a camel caravan. I can appreciate their journeys in a greater capacity (not that I'm comparing myself with Abraham . . . ).
But you can't get anywhere without a journey. And a lot of times we need to go somewhere. And it's not always easy. But God goes with us. And He is good . . . all the time.
It was a long day of driving. Still, the boys did very well. In retrospect, we should have tried to find a hotel in Bismarck instead of going the next 100 miles to Jamestown, North Dakota (home of Louis Lamour and a white bison). But I wasn't aware of how late it was when we had supper in Bismarck, and Beth thought I was adamant about getting to the hotel we had booked in Jamestown. It was after 10pm when we got checked in. But we'll stay a little longer in the morning and use the pool. Tomorrow's trip shouldn't be very long. We'll probably stay with my sister and her husband tomorrow night and then find our apartment and unload on Saturday.
I'm ready to be there. It's been a long trip--and we haven't had the luxury of time or money to make stops at all the fun places along the way.
Oh, and our truck is a diesel. Diesel fuel has been almost a dollar higher than unleaded fuel. Thankfully, it's dropped a lot as we've headed east. I hate to think what a tankful would have cost in Canada. It was somewhere around $4.75 a gallon in western Washington. The last spot I saw had it for $4.19. But it doesn't help that we have to fill up that AND the car.
Sorry that there's no pictures--the camera batteries are almost dead (and we're not sure where the recharger is) and we haven't studied up on how to download pictures off of our cell phones yet.