A Boy's Outing

The boys and I went out this morning to give Beth some time to work on things. Anders was kind of throwing a tantrum when we left--he has a tendency to do that when we're going on a fun outing. I tell you this now because it will come into play later.

We went to the zoo (it's free. Free outings are always good). It's been a while since we've gone and spent time looking at everything. The boys enjoyed it.

We also spent some time in the conservatory. They actually wanted to stay and see some of the plants and flowers. It was, at least, a warm place to spend some time.

On the way back, we partook briefly of the St. Paul winter carnival--the snow sculptures at the fairgrounds. They were pretty cool.

So, when we got home, I had forgotten to have Anders take his time out from the tantrum he threw before we left in the morning. He reminded me himself of his own time out. I'm not sure where we got him from.


It's Time to Talk About What We Have Learned Today

Recently, Beth picked up some things that were on clearance in the toy isle in Target. Most were up for consideration for a gift exchange, but we ended up using different items. Some things got returned to Target, but we ended up keeping a few games and things because they were so cheap and the boys would utilize them. One of them was a set of books with a DVD where the DVD uses the book kind of like karaoke and puts the story to music. It works on short vowel sounds.

Long story short: All that is background for me saying that today Anders read the whole way through one of the books pretty much by himself (with some coaching, of course). I'm proud of him.

And Nils is starting to finally get his colors down. And he has recognition of a few letter and number shapes.

Beth and I are continually learning as well. I think right now it's mainly about ourselves, each other and God. I just got back from my Monday night group.One of the things I was reflecting on tonight is how my image of God keeps changing. And it should--at least if I'm investing in getting to know Him more and more. If my view of Who God is hasn't changed in a while, then I'm not growing much spiritually. That's my new revelation. It's not new, but it's something I'm recognizing to keep myself in check about. I think there's probably a lot of people out there whose view of God has changed very little over their lifetime. If that's the case we we have put God in a box. So, my God is now out of His box, and I'm seeing Him differently than I did a year ago. He's taking me out of the box I put myself in as well. I'm learning more about myself and who He made me to be.

Learning is good. Not always fun, but good. And important for becoming a fully-alive human being.


Reflections On the 44th Presidential Inauguration

Whatever your political persuasion (or lack of, as the case may be), today was an historic moment for our nation. Our nation--for the most part--yearns for change. Many are looking for it today. We must be reminded that the presidential office has the power to influence, but it is the people of the nation who have the power to produce change.

Let me offer my reflections on today's inauguration:

The crowd erupting in applause as Obama left the church after a time of worship and prayer was fascinating. Reporters commentated on how unusual that was for the cheering to begin so soon in the day.

There was much grace between the Bushes and Obamas as they met at the White House. I was touched by Michelle giving Laura a present upon arriving there. It seemed a very touching and gracious gesture, something that parents would have taught children to do as the polite thing.

The music and poetry was wonderful. Aretha belting out: “Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where our fathers died . . .” The beautiful melody that Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill and Gabriella Montero produced. The wonderful reminder of “the gift to be simple . . . the gift to be free.”

The picture of the vast crowd gathered on the National Mall. It really was a microcosm (albeit a grand one) of America gathered together. People from all walks of life: caste, race, religion, ability, political persuasion. All stood together as Americans.

A country bowed in prayer.

A speech of honesty, warning, hope and challenge.

The reminders of the oppression that was prevelent in our nation less than a half-century ago, of how far we have come today and how we're not done yet. We are all made in God's image.

The plea, “Help us make choices on the side of love, not hate; inclusion, not exclusion, tolerance not intolerance,” in the benediction by Rev. Lowry.

As I am watching now former-president Bush board the helicopter with his wife, I marvel at the relative ease in transfer of power--and the warmth that has been shown through it. It must be a quiet, lonley ride as they leave their home of the past eight years. However you feel about the former president, we must thank him and his wife for their years of service to this country, making hard decisions for what he felt was the best interest of the nation.

May we be mindful that Rick Warren's prayer should not be the first nor the last prayer said for our nation and our new president.


Dreams, Success & MLK

I think Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be delighted with how far our nation has come since his assassination. And, he would probably say, we've got a ways to go. But we have come far.

There was a breakfast this morning at which Pastor Efrem was at with several other leaders including keynote speaker Colin Powell. They showed part of it on PBS Kids. Colin Powell shared part of King's speech that talked about a new definition of success. He used Jesus' words that the greatest among us is the servant. That leveled the playing field for everyone. Anyone can be successful by that definition. Success no longer has various definitions: your title, how much money you make, your accolades, etc. In God's eyes, success is based solely on if you give yourself away to others. Anyone can do that; everyone should.


Overheard in Church Today

Today was Hip Hop Sunday again. The first song we sang was a version of Aerosmith & Run DMC's song Walk This Way--with different lyrics, of course: "Walk His way, talk His way." It made me smile.

After doing a bit of dancing in the aisle, Nils told Beth, "I'm dancing for Jesus." Indeed he was. What more could a parent ask for.

During the sermon, Pastor Efrem shared a piece of a conversation he had been having with Neeraj Mehta, who is on staff at the church's Community Development Corporation. They had reflected on how poverty isn't about a lack of money. Poverty, at its core, is a lack of relationships. If you know people you can get a job. If you know people, you can get an education. When we were unemployed, we didn't worry too much, because we knew people and God took care of us through them. Indeed, that was one of the times in our lives when we knew how rich we truly were.



We recently (like just a couple hours ago) got above zero (2 degrees) for the first time in over 80 hours. The past three mornings have started at or near -20 (that's Farenheit & without windchill factored in). It's cold. Very cold. The heating for our furnace can't keep up when it get's below zero outside. It's been hovering in the low 60s in our apartment. We're all in layers. Even the rocking moose.

Yesterday, the local weatherman from the station that's just a mile or so from us showed how fruit and vegetables left outside overnight can effectively pound nails into a board. We have a saying in our house: "At least we're not in International Falls" (where temperatures got to a record -46 the other day).


Shifting My Thinking

Our current sermon series at church is ShIFt: if we could be the church God intended . . .
(We missed the first Sunday's installment as we were at Beth's family's Christmas last Sunday--if I can find the time, I'll listen to it on the church website soon.)
Pastor Efrem's message centered around how if the church is going to be the church, we need to change. We need to get back to the biblical mandate for the church and how we're to be an agent of change in the world. And obviously, as I think I've reflected on before, we need to change ourselves if we're going to be apart of a church of change.

I've known about how God is a God of transformation, how we need to be changed and how we need to be about changing the world. But for most of my life, I've never really gotten that. At least I've probably more lived life thinking that I've already given myself over to God and it's in His hands to take care of the rest. I've been learning in this past year that change is continual for Christians; God calls us to daily transformation in Him.

Pastor Efrem noted that in order to prepare ourselves to be changed we need to:
  • Have intimate experiences with God
  • Take time for ecclesiastical reflection (think about what the church is supposed to be doing in the world)
  • Embrace eschatology (live with the belief that Jesus can return at any minute)
At the end of the service we were given the question, "What is one area in your life that is in need of change?" It's not an easy question to ask yourself--especially if you intend to follow through with it. I'm still processing it myself, but I know I'm still working on my intimate relationship with God--at least in remembering he is with me all the time and to interact with Him in that way; and to live like Jesus can return at any moment--remembering to keep my priorities strait.


The Hill

The neighborhood park has been a godsend for apartment living. Very seldom has a week gone by that we haven't been there at least once. The weather has to get pretty bad for that to happen--or we have to be out of town. As long as there isn't much wind, we're pretty much game for some sledding this time of year. I know there's some bigger hills in the Twin Cities metro area, but ours is pretty decent--especially for the size of the boys. Way better than the ditch we had for sledding down in our yard growing up.

New Year's Day, Beth's cousin and their kids came over. Five people on a toboggan is a good time.

Anders got a little snowboard at the Fisher family Christmas list last weekend. He keeps getting better with each practice. And Nils, well he just enjoys throwing snow at me. And sledding. Mostly throwing snow, though.

It's funny to hear how many people who grew up in the northern Midwest don't like staying here for long when they visit in the winter. There's an old saying in these parts: "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes." I've got nothing against winter, myself. There are plenty of good times to be had.


Epiphany in Four Stanzas

They studied the stars
Trying to unlock
The secrets of the universe;
Instead a sign appeared
Revealing to them
A sign from God.

A bright celestial object
Announced the birth
Of someone important:
The son of God.
Revealed to foreigners
From the East.

They came bringing gifts
For the One they knew
Would be King.
His mother pondered
Their arrival
In her heart.

Years later His cousin
Would baptize Him
In the Jordan.
God again announce
His Son to the world,
For all humankind.


A Prayer for the New Year

Father, go before me in the year to come.
Jesus, remind me of where you've brought me from.
Spirit, keep me rooted in the here and now.
Keep me in want, that I may be depend upon Your provision.
Give me all I need and keep me from desiring what I don't.
Give me more than I need, so that I may give to others.

Father, may I be able to continually praise Your name, remembering all You have done and given me, O God. May I be truly thankful. May I lift before You those I love.
May I be led by Your will rather than by my fantasies. May I follow Your ways and be guided by Your precepts.
May I grow more and more in love with You. And may I know more and more Your love for me.

Jesus, may I become increasingly aware of your grace, mercy and forgiveness. May I be able to share that with others.
Connect me with Your bride, the church, in greater ways. Help me live more in community and less in isolation.
May I grow more and more in love with You. And may I know more and more Your love for me.

Spirit, may I know your continual presence with me; draw me increasingly into God's presence.
Help me to hear Your voice in my daily life: in the decisions I make, the people I talk to, the things I do.
May I grow more and more in love with You. And may I know more and more Your love for me.

I lift up this prayer to You, O God: Father, Son and Spirit Divine.