The Newest Member of the Family

This is Muddy. Sorry the picture is so blurry, but Muddy is about the size of a quarter, so it's hard to get the camera close enough and still be in focus to see him well.

The turtle was given to Beth from a friend's wife earlier this week. The boys named it Muddy. We haven't been looking for a pet or anything. I think it was found while my friend was fishing. So we haven't had the discussion about pets and responsibility with the boys. We don't even have anything proper to keep it in. Right now he's in a Kid K'Nex toy container, which is working fairly well until we find something more proper (Muddy at least can't climb out and there are wet and dry places for him to explore. For right now, at least, he's around keeping the boys happy. And we'll work on learning some responsibility (right after potty training, picking up toys and obeying).


All Grown Up

Last night we were visited by four friends (three of the Andersons and one of the Lindells) who had all been in our Jr. High youth group when Beth and I were first married. Now they're all in college or graduated and one is getting married herself. We had a nice evening playing together and doing a lot of laughing.

Thankfully they're all younger and have much later hours than we do, so they were still around when Beth got home from work last night.

It's fun to see "kids" all grown up and advancing into the world on their own. And following God through it all. It's even more fun to have been a part of it.


Rebel Scum

As I was reading Psalm 32 today, I was struck at how David calls sin rebellion.
"Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide them. I sad to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.' And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone" (Psalm 32:5, NLT).

Here is King David, a man who never rebelled himself while he waited for his turn to be king, but he was also very familiar with rebellion as even his own son rose up against him. He is familiar with how rebellion pains a king and harms a kingdom. My sins hurt God and harm His Kingdom.

But God is a great and wondrous King. His "unfailing love surrounds those who trust [Him]" (32:10, NLT). He forgives and offers grace to those who obey Him. He cleanses hearts.

I may sometimes fail at obeying and following whole-heartedly, but that's my goal. I'm pledging my allegiance to the King, and rebellion against the prince of evil who tries to get me to join his mutiny against God. Against him alone will I rebel.


Family All Around

We were in Iowa for most of the weekend. My cousin got married. He's a couple months younger than I am, we grew up a couple miles apart, so we were fairly close growing up. I've been bad at keeping in touch with him since college, but it was a blessing to get to be at their wedding, to meet his new bride and to celebrate with them. Congrats again, Jeff & Kris!

While we were in Des Moines, we stayed with my sister in her new apartment. She watched the boys while we were at the wedding. When we got to her place late Friday night the boys said, "This is going to be fun!"

She took us down the the Des Moines Farmers Market on Saturday morning. I forgot the camera, but it was quite a sight. There had to be thousands of people and about 12+ blocks of vendors. Good food to eat, produce to buy, arts, music and more.

We went to the cemetery with my grandmother after that (read previous post). The boys got to see their cousins while Beth and I were at the wedding.

We went to church with my grandmother on Sunday morning and got to have lunch with the pastor and his family, with whom I went to seminary. It was a nice end to the weekend to sit on their patio, eat, soak in the sun and have some good conversation.

In Memorium

While we were in Des Moines for the weekend, we took my grandmother to the cemetery where her husband (a WWII Veteran) and several other members of her family are buried. We all got involved with planting flowers and cleaning the headstones. It was nice to spend a holiday weekend observing what the holiday was created for in some way (usually we've been at camp on Memorial Day weekend). I never knew my grandfather--he died before my parents were married. I did know my great-aunt and my great-grandmother whose graves we at as well. The boys did really well being there (we were there for a while). They did pull out a few flags and pinwheels from sties, but I think they enjoyed being with their great-grandmother and having all of us work together. They may not remember it as they grow older, but I think they're growing a sense of family.


A Blessing

I came across this blessing in the book Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. My former professor Helen Cepero uses it for her children. I like it.

May the love of God watch over you.
May the peace of Christ fill your heart.
May the presence of the Holy Spirit fill your sleep and speak to you in your dreams.


More on Marriage (not Moron Marriage)

Yesterday was hip hop Sunday in church. The guest artist (True Server, I believe his name was) shared something that went along with the message. Reflecting on how God created man & woman in Genesis, he pointed out that a spouse is not meant to be someone we seek after as the love of our life. Rather, a spouse in intended to be our "help-mate" in our search for God's love.

Pastor Efrem's message was similar to last weeks' in many ways, but there were still some points that hit me. I'm being struck by the reminder that marriage (or children or family) is not about us, but about God. It is the first ministry God created to reveal Himself to the world. If we don't have a beloved-identity in God, we will mess our marriage up. Brokenness will not be healed by being married--only in finding identity in being God's beloved can we deal with our brokenness.

Using Philippians 2 (and reminding us that Christ identified Himself as a bridegroom and the church as a bride, therefore Jesus is a model for marriage), Efrem reminded us that the marriage relationship is about putting your spouse first, serving them, dying to our selfish desires (being humble), remembering that we are beloved, checking our attitudes (not complaining or fighting for unmerited reasons) and rejoicing in our marriage.

Beth and I have been living more in those areas lately. We also had a date yesterday (one out of the house!). My sister took the boys while we went and used a movie theater gift certificate Beth had. We saw Star Trek. And we didn't go see it because it has been the number one movie in America. We saw it because we're minor Trekkies. There I said it. I actually got my wife into watching movies and series after we were married. She didn't fight it (like she has with Star Wars). She can actually tell you a bit about the Trek universe--more than I can in some areas. And I love her for it. I love that we're able to be nerds together (and are more and more embracing a nerdy identity rather than running from it). May you (and your marriage) live long and prosper.



Yesterday I took a couple of little pirates over to the nature center. they played on the playground and then we did a nice hike partway around the lake. I definitely don't get as much exercise lately since both boys don't want to be in the stroller the whole time. I biked over, anyway, so we all walked around the lake. Which necessitates a much slower pace on my part.

We saw some turtles, ducks, cardinals, a woodchuck and plenty of gnats, as well as all the flora. The fens are unfurling. Blossoming trees are in full bloom (much to the chagrin of my allergies a few days ago--but they sure are pretty).

Last night we had our first fireworks of the year. They were short, but a good start to the season. Nils, however, is not a fan. They're too noisy. So he buries his head in one of our chests, thereby missing out on seeing the fireworks. It had rained earlier in the afternoon, but the evening was fairly nice. The wind had dried off the ground fairly well, but made it a bit cooler when it was blowing.

The fireworks were part of Golden Valley Days (the arts festival of our suburb to the north). This morning we went to the parade (with a couple extra kids in tow). It warmed up to 45 degrees while we were there. Last year we were in shorts. The youngest two were shivering the whole time. But they didn't want to leave of course. Free candy is too much of a draw. As well as the big trucks, animals and people in costumes. No real floats in this parade. It's really a small town parade bumping up against Minneapolis. The parade has to stop when the traffic light changes so that cross traffic can move.


Like Riding a Bike

Beth's mom recently sent us a check that was part of what she gets for being on the school board. We used it to get the boys some new bikes. They've been using hand me downs, which were fine, but they were a bit hard for the boys to peddle. So we tried out some new ones in stores and found one that was easy for Anders to peddle--and it happened to be on sale. Beth found a trike for Nils that had the peddles and just the right distance for his legs (most of them he's actually to small for and can't reach). We outfitted it with an broom handle so that we can push him as needed.

The first day we took them down to the basketball court to ride around, Anders just rode around smiling the whole time. He wanted to play a game of him chasing me on the bike while I run around trying to get away from him. He's still on training wheels, but he's doing well.

Until we get off the flat basketball court. Then he loses confidence and gains fear. We went for a walk/ride around the lake yesterday. I fought to keep my patience as Anders kept stopping and refusing to go further. The pathway was too bumpy, too hilly and too close to the lake. I tried to reassure him that I was there, that he's been doing a good job--I even tried to talk logic to him that I wouldn't let anything bad happen to him (like him riding into the lake). It came down to me just needing to push him and stand by him, while Nils rode on by himself, fearless.

I feel like Beth and I are reassuring, confidence-building parents. We try to encourage the boys rather than tear them down (Nils can give high fives, fist bumps and thumbs-up in response to what we do to him). I'm not sure where from Anders has developed this lack of confidence in himself. He knows the Veggie Tales mantra "God made you special, and He loves you very much." For several years he's been singing the Veggie Tales song, "God is bigger than the boogie man, he's bigger than Godzilla and the monsters on TV. God is bigger than the boogie man, and He's watching over you and me." Yet, it hasn't sunk in fully. He has doubts in himself.

He probably gets it from me. I struggle with my identity sometimes. I forget that I'm a child of God, and evaluate myself by the world's standards--by which I usually fall short. I get down on myself; I become insecure.

I can ride a bike, though. I sometimes fall off, but I know I can get back on and keep going. So I must remind myself of who I am in God. Sometimes forget and falter, but God's love for me never changes. I will always be the apple of His eye. I will always be His child. And with that in mind, I can press on down the path in front of me, not having to be afraid or insecure but able to journey on in confidence.


I'm not Giving up on Myself

There's always a song or two that sticks in my mind. "Wait and See" has been one lately that they've been playing on KTIS that's been sticking with me. Here's some of the lyrics:

There is hope, for me yet, because God won’t forget, all the plans He’s made for me
I have to wait and see, He’s not finished with me yet, He’s not finished with me yet

Still wondering why I’m here. Still wrestling with my fear
But oh….He’s up to something,
And the farther out I go, I’ve seen enough to know that I’m not here for nothing
He’s up to something

So here’s my time to be a man, follow my heart as far as I can
No tellin’ where I’m ending up tonight
I never slow down or so it seems, but singing my heart is one of my dreams
All I gotta do is hold on tight.

There is hope, for me yet, because God won’t forget, all the plans He’s made for me
I have to wait and see, He’s not finished with me yet, He’s not finished with me yet

- from "Wait and See" by Brandon Heath


Long Shadows

Covenant Love

This year in church, the pastors have been focusing on whole life stewardship. Earlier they preached on financial stewardship. Today Efrem started preaching on relational stewardship.

Marriage was the topic of the day, since that's the first human relationship created in the Bible (before God created other familial relationships, friendships, even the church, He created marriage. Marriage is the place where God first wants humanity to see and experience His love). There's been a lot of discussion about marriage in recent years. Very little of it has been helpful. We can't really enter into a discussion until we know what marriage is. I know not everyone is going to have the same understanding on this. My understanding is that when God created man, He said:

"It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24, NIV)

Pastor Efrem pointed out that "for this reason" refers back to God's mandate in Genesis 1:28 to "be fruitful and multiply." That doesn't mean to have a lot of kids, but to multiply who God is in this world, to spread God's fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, justice, etc.).

Marriage wasn't ruined when the gay rights movement came on the scene. Marriage was ruined long before that. Evangelical Christians have had a divorce rate the same as the rest of the world for decades (over 50% fail). Marriage was ruined when the serpent duped Adam and Eve into believe it was about them instead of about God.

Marriage has never been a place to get our own needs met. A marriage where one spouse thinks that getting marriage will rectify their shortcomings or heal their wounds or meet all their needs won't work. Marriage isn't about us; it's about God. That's why He so often uses the image of a bride and bridegroom when referring to the church's relationship with Him. God is about covenant love (His love for us will never change); he created marriage to be about Covenant love. Very little can go well until we get marriage right.

And since it's Mothers' Day, I'll close by thanking my mom for giving me an example of what that love can look like. Like any mother, mine wasn't perfect all the time, but she did a good job of loving us, loving Dad and loving God. I love you, Mom.


Upside Down to Rightside Up

As of yesterday we have lived in our small apartment for a whole year. Just over a year ago we drove off in a big truck and our car, leaving British Columbia to start I guess what could be called "a new life" in Minnesota. Gas prices were the highest they had been (and we had a diesel truck to boot). We drove 2000 miles in 2 vehicles with 2 small boys. After spending our last night on the road at my sister's house in the northwest suburbs, we drove down to an apartment building that we had only seen in pictures to get our keys and start unpacking.

In some ways, it's hard to believe it has been a year already; in other ways it feels much longer (I guess most of life is like that). It hasn't been the easiest year: starting over finding new friendships, a new church, new work. It's still difficult living in a slightly-cramped apartment with one vehicle. But right now we're doing the things we need to be doing for our family, our marriage and ourselves. And sometimes making things better means making some sacrifices. At least for us.

And of course, it hasn't all been sacrifices. All in all, it's been a rather good year. We're better able to deal with whatever comes our way.

Anders and I planted a garden in a small patch on the side of our apartment building this weekend. I'm a start-from-seed kind of guy. I like to be a part of the process, knowing that each little seed I place in the ground holds within it to become a plant with the potential to bear fruit. Of course, we'll have work to do along the way--watering and weeding, pruning and picking. But that's the way to get good fruit (or veggies in this case). You have to work at it.


In Good Company

Pastor Cecilia tackled Gideon in today's sermon. Not literally, of course (my wife is laughing at that image). She pointed out how Gideon was not a person who expected to be called by God, nor is he a person who we expect God to pick. Gideon is the self-proclaimed weakest person in his family, the least of their tribe.

Are you messed up? Excellent. That's who God wants to use. As Pastor Cecelia pointed out, messed up people can't claim all the credit. They have to recognize that things only happened through God working in them. Messed up people are in line for service for God; they're also in line for transformation.

Moses couldn't speak in public, David was an adulterer, Noah was a drunkard, Paul was an ideological murderer . . . that's just the sort list. Pretty much everyone had their issues. In referencing the AA greeting, Pastor Cecilia said, "We've all got a hello." Hello, my name is ______ and I'm a _________."

Judges 6:34 says, "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon" (NIV). Pastor Cecilia pointed out that the Hebrew word that gets translated as "came upon" can also be translated as "clothed Itself with." God's desire is for us to let the Holy Spirit clothe Itself with us. No matter how messed up we are.

"Hello, my name is David. I've got a lot of issues and am messed up in plenty of ways. But God wants to fill me with His Spirit, so He can use me and transform me."

Sunday in the Park

After church we went up to my sister's house and had dinner with her. We enjoyed the beautiful Spring weather and headed to Elm Creek Nature Preserve to enjoy the day. Plenty of slides, tunnels, rocks to climb and sunshine to enjoy. Ah . . . Spring.

It's the Horns

Me: How's my little Viking?
Nils: I'm not a Viking; I'm a rhinoceros.