Really? We're Still Doing it This Way?

Tonight after supper the boys and I went out to the park for a while. When we arrived back there was something hanging on our doorknob. I had noticed one on another apartment door when we came into the building. Ours says, "HI THERE!" complete with a picture of the Grim Reaper on the front.

The first half of the booklet is about a construction worker named Charlie hanging out with his buddies during a lunch break. Someone tells Charlie to go to hell, so he and his buddies go into this big discussion on hell and heaven and God. Their summary is that the Bible isn't believable, all religions are the same, and we all evolved from the sea, so we're all going back to the earth when we die anyway.

Then, by a twist of fate Charlie falls off the building he's working on (thanks to a visit from the Grim Reaper) and goes to hell. He then gets told that he made big mistakes in not believing in Jesus and will stay in hell. This lesson is complete with the King James version (I don't have anything against the version per se--but, really? God speaks only with 17th century English language?) and a lesson about premillenialism.

The booklet ends with a picture of the Grim Reaper saying, "I'll be seeing you!" and warnings that "the majority of the people who read this story will end up like Charlie Conners" (which I think overestimates who will actually read the booklet) and "This may be your last chance to receive Him as your Savior."

Everything in the booklet is backed up with footnotes with Scripture references. But let's face it, the people who this booklet is trying to reach aren't likely to pick up a Bible to see what those verses actually say (and why should they? Who wants to make sure the Bible backs up these statements saying that they deserve to go to hell).

The very back of the booklet says, "compliments of . . . _______" and then it lists the church from the neighborhood who took the time to reach out to our apartment building with these booklets. I'm not going to go on a tirade against this particular church (the boys and I went there for a Christmas Eve service and it was nice--though the church's sign last summer read, "Think this is hot? Then don't go to hell"); my problem is that too many people think this type of evangelism is acceptable--and that it works. I mean, I'm turned off by it and I follow Jesus.

Other than the pastor talking to me a little before and after the Christmas Eve service, I've never met anyone who goes to this church. Wasn't Jesus' method of evangelism hanging out with people? While we were hanging out in the park I was talking with another stay-at-home dad. He doesn't know I've been in the ministry or even that I follow Jesus at this point. I don't know him that well, but our boys were playing together and we talked. I know that he's not religious in any way. I know he'd like to find a middle ground between being zealously religious and not religious at all. I'm willing to share my faith with him, but I'm not going to push it on him at this point. I know there's an immediacy to believing in God (any of us can die at any point), but I also believe that I need to have a relationship with this guy or he's going to be turned off once again by religion. And he's getting to know me as I get to know him. He knows he can talk to me and I'll listen. He knows I'm not going to belittle his beliefs. So for now I'm just going to love on him. And pray that works better than a booklet about whey God would send him to hell.

We Don't Even Have MTV

Me: Nils, why don't you have pants and undies on?
Nils: Because I'm a rock star!


Midsommar Celebration

The American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis had their Midsommar Celebration today. I, of course, forgot the camera, but the boys wanted to show off their paintings when they got home: Anders has a majstrång (maypole) on his hand; Nils has the flag of Sweden on his cheek.

Midsommar celebrates the summer solstice, full of procreative symbols and partaking of the first growth of the summer (flower wreaths in women's hair, greens on the pole, usually eating the first potatoes and strawberries of the summer). For most, it's just become a celebration of Swedish culture. We enjoy the costumes, the folk music and dancing, the food (mmm, meatballs), children's activites (storytime, carving butter knives, coloring) and seeing some of the wares for sale.

It's our second time attending here--it may become a bit of a tradition; we'll see how it plays out. And, I must insert here, that I love Beth for putting up with my enjoyment festivals that celebrate my heritage (we also enjoy Celtic festivals--though I guess we haven't done much with the German side of things) and even gets into them herself. Not bad for a Norwegian (I jest--the Norse and the Swedes have a very shared history). The boys enjoyed the frog song (Små Grodorna) and have learned some of the words and actions. We've been singing it all day. Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de. Kou ack ack ack . . .


Little Kicks

Last night Anders had his first soccer practice of the season (which is only like 5 or 6 more sessions of practice for 20 minutes & 30 minutes of game--hooray!). It was a new experience for him. We've been practicing a little (though I only know the basics of soccer--like don't use your hands). His friend from the neighborhood, Sophie, was going to do it so we thought we'd give it a try (he and Sophie ended up on the same team--the Marlins).

He's actually pretty good at kicking the ball, but chasing the ball is a new concept. He's more apt to cheer on the other kid next to him. Or just talk to the other kid next to him. Most of his teammates were like that, though. So, I guess it's good that they made friends quickly.

Nils enjoyed it, too, but we had a hard time keeping him off the field. Thankfully, another player's brother was a good companion for playing with. Go Marlins!
(Anders, by the way, is the kid with his shirt tucked into his shorts in all the pictures.)


A Walk in the Rain

The boys, my niece and I were going outside this afternoon for some popcicles and play time, but it was just starting to rain (and Riley's mom just arrived to pick her up early), so the boys just sat on the steps and worked on the popcicles. Beth got home as we were finishing up prayer time before the boys went to bed; I asked her if I could take a walk after we finished, mostly because I sensed my body needed some exercise today. So I put on my sandals and my rain coat and walked down to the path around the lake.

The rain was still going. It was a good, soaking rain which we really needed (still in drought conditions). It reminded me of a rainfall in British Columbia--it was warm out (in the 70s), slowly falling (I was in shorts and my legs were barely wet when I returned)--except that no one else was out (though I did see one lady walking a dog at the end of my walk). In the Vancouver area, rain seldom stops any normal activities.

The walk was a very spiritual experience--more so than my devotions today. Creation was still active, and I was the only one who got to see it. The two great blue herons swooping over the water, the muskrat carrying sedges to its den, the mother duck swimming with her young family, the songbirds chirping from their refuges in the trees. The rain glistened on the conifer needles and deciduous leaves. It fell so gently that you could still see reflections on the lake's surface. Plants shined their green-ness in thanks for the much needed drink. It was a worship experience, better than any with stero surround sound. God was preaching, too--reminding me that He nurtures, cares for and sustains me. I just need to stop long enough so that my roots can soak it up.


Anniversary Weekend

We had a wonderful anniversary weekend. Even with little discretionary spending money, we were able to have a great time. My sister & her husband watched the boys on Saturday night after Beth got home from work. We went out for supper at a restaurant with candles on the table instead of ketchup bottles. Sadly, aside from the sweet potato fries, the meal was unimaginative, at best. Still, the view was good (of my wife sitting across from me) as well as the conversation.

We looked into attending the theater, but couldn't find anything we were overly excited about for the price of the tickets, so we ended up at ComedySportz. We haven't laughed that much in a long time (and it was very clean). A highly recommended outing.

After church and a nap for Beth yesterday, we headed down to Lake Harriet. The boys enjoyed some time in the water--which needs a few more days of sun before Beth and I can fully enjoy it. We spent a little time in Lyndale Park walking through the gardens. Then we headed back to the band shell for a picnic and the evening concert by the Minneapolis Police Concert Band. Even with the kids with us, we can still have a romantic outing. Really. We had a great time. And a wife I love by my side to boot!


Twelve Years Later

Twelve years ago today, my bride said "I do" when Pastor Al asked her if she would take me as her husband. We vowed to make a future with each other in it; we vowed to be with each other no matter what came our way. We were young then. We knew little about real love (we still have a lot to learn). But God has been gracious with us. He's been gracious with me--giving me a very forgiving wife. We've learned that love is a commitment (not a feeling), but also a way of life. Love is learning more about your spouse each day, about their needs, about how to serve them better, about their fears, hopes and dreams. We've had our rough times--sometimes it feels like we've had more of those than times of prosperity--but through it all I would always say "I do" to my wife. God put her in my life to help me become who He created me to be (along with other people--the burden isn't Beth's alone). And I look forward to what lies ahead for us. Whatever comes my way, I am positive that I can get through it with Beth at my side (and with God's grace, of course). I love you, Beth Wenell.


Our Animal Adventure

We managed to score the elusive free tickets to the Minnesota Zoo from our library this past week. They're hard to get (and a huge savings--it would be over $40 just for admission, with Nils being free). And we've been content to go to the free zoo. But variety is good. So we jumped on the passes when we saw them available.

One of the first things we encountered was the deafening noise of a pair of gibbons as we entered the tropical zone. Nils was a bit scared, but it didn't take long for him to start echoing back with his own imitation (first picture). We also encountered a scuba diver talking to everyone from underwater in the coral reef. It was kind of fun--they also had a microphone so kids could ask him questions. Most of the questions were in line of whether or not the sharks were going to eat him. They weren't (of the over 400 species of sharks, very few attack humans. You have a better chance of dying from a coconut falling from a tree and hitting you on the head--or so the scuba diver told us).

It was a bit overwhelming for Nils at time, but the both enjoyed seeing animals that the other zoo doesn't have. And many of the exhibits were done well (like the mammoth dig in the Russian Grizzly Coast in the second picture above). We discovered the takin from China (third picture), which became a new favorite animal for us.

The funny thing for me was that the boys' favorite area was the farm. I suppose it's in part because grandpa doesn't have any animals on his farm. I think it was mostly because they could touch most of the animals (goats, sheep, cows, pigs and baby chicks). I enjoyed it, too. The smell of the barns took me back to growing up on the farm and showing livestock at the county fair.

All around, we thought it was pretty cool the variety of life (including the variety of people at the zoo) that God created. Nothing new for Beth and I, but it's fun to be able to see it through little eyes.


Thank You for Being a Friend

We've missed the last two weeks in the sermon series at church (but enjoyed being in some other churches while we were on the road) so it was nice to be back to church this morning.

Pastor Efrem continued on the Stewardship of Relationships series with friendships today. He reminded us that relationships are a vehicle for God to use to advance His Kingdom on earth. Looking largely at David and Jonathan's friendship in 1 Samuel 18-20 (and also Jesus teaching in John 15), Efrem pointed out six principles of godly friendships for advancing the Kingdom and spiritual growth. These included trust, truth, confidentiality, consistency, accountability and reconciliation. We often become too quick to label someone a friend when the relationship isn't really there yet. And sometimes we surround ourselves with too many "friends," not giving ourselves opportunity to go deep with any one specific person. Friendships should be an extension of our relationship with God.

I've been learning in recent years that I haven't been a good friend to many people and that I haven't let myself develop deep friendships with others. I think a deep, close friendship is one of the basic desires (even a need) of all of us. Sometimes, however, we shy away from them, not wanting to expose our shortcomings and feel vulnerable, or risk rejection from someone getting to know us really well. That's why trust must be there before it can really be a friendship. And we all need that intimacy, we all need someone who can push us to become who God intends for us to become. As Proverbs 27:17 tells us, "As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another" (NLT).

I do have some good long-time friendships; I've also been making new ones this past year. My greatest friend is my wife. I may not have always treated her that way, but I'm learning to be a good friend in our marriage, too--and to let my wife be a friend who can sharpen me. So, thanks, for to all my friends out there.

Reptile Heaven?

While one of the pastors was praying over communion (and our unity) at church today, she mentioned "eternal life." To which Anders queried, "What's turtle life?"


Thoughs on Love and Being Loved

I've struggled off and on for sometime with having a good self-image and not basing my identity or acceptance in my success or how others think of me. I have a hard time remembering all the time that I am a child of God and that He loves me no matter what. Nothing I can do can change (lessen or increase) His love for me.

My name, David, means "beloved" in Hebrew. I guess God knew head of time that I would need that reminder of His love for me. I carry it with me. God loves me, just because I am me.

I was thinking while driving home last night that I can't truly say, "I love you" to everyone, because I don't. Not in the truest sense of the word. I can only love people when I know them. I wouldn't give me life up for some stranger on the street. God, however, calls us to love everyone. Jesus didn't give His life up for strangers; He gave His life up for people He knew (since God knows everyone). When we are called to love people, we're called to get to know them. And once we get to know them, it doesn't matter what the do or how they act, we're called to love them no matter what. Just like God does with us.