Art on Ice

On Friday we stopped by Medicine Lake while we were out running errands to check out Art Shanty Projects. It turned out that nothing was open during the week. The lady who lived in the Shan-Tea we walked into informed us of that. She was wearing a beard. We didn't ask further questions.

Art Shanty is "a four-weekend exhibition of performance, architecture, science, art, video, literature, survivalism and karaoke, ASP is part sculpture park, part artist residency and part social experiment, inspired by traditional ice fishing houses that dot the state’s lakes in winter."

It quickly became our new top Outdoor Winter Activity Outing (Special Event category). There are 20-some ice shacks with creative designs. Each has a different focus to explore.

The second picture is one of several "dice-shacks"--they've got a table, benches and several games to play while sitting inside.
The third and fourth pictures are of the Nordic Immersion Village Art Shanty. Today was Danish day.
The fifth picture is the Art Swap Shanty where you bring in a piece of art you've created and trade it for one that someone else brought in. And yes, that is a knit hat on top of it.
The sixth photo is Anders & Nils on vacation in Egypt in the Stay-cation Shanty.
The seventh picture is Nils and I entering the Tiny Shanty.
The eighth photo is inside the Gunderson Residence. The refrigerator is the secret entrance into Listening Post Seven-Gamma--a top secret spy outpost (but you didn't hear that from me).

There is also a working post office (the only one on ice--it has its own special ZIP code) and a branch of the local library where you can check out books.

The picture on the left is what I traded for in the Art Swap Shanty. It's by Sylvia St. Claire (though the back is signed by Jan Elftmann, so we've got some researching to do).
The second is a photograph I "bought" in the Shop Shanty. They had several things to "buy" but you couldn't use money for them. I got the picture by guessing what city it was taken in (Madison). There was a large vase you could "buy" by bringing a live bouquet for it, a red shirt you could "buy" if you had a Target ID card on hand and some DC Comics stamps you could "buy" if you showed a superhero pose to a stranger.

So that was the last few hours of our afternoon. It was cold, but we had a good time on the ice.


Hot Comics was the Name of the Store

We set foot in a comic book store for the very first time yesterday. It was my wife's idea, of all things. She had a classmate from high school who illustrated a comic and she's been interested in finding it.

They had a section of comics appropriate for all ages. And it was more than just Casper the Friendly Ghost and Donald Duck. We ended up getting a couple comic books for the boys (Tiny Titans for Nils and Batman: Brave and the Bold for Anders). The only time I read comic books when I was young was when I went to the barber shop in town. The barber had a whole counter full of comic books to read. Mainly Casper, Richie Rich and Archie. They always had those adds for Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Glasses. They don't have those anymore (at least in the DC Comics the boys got--I didn't check in Archie).

We've been enjoying our nerdy sides more lately, thanks to The Big Bang Theory. Beth picked me up an Iron Man T-shirt recently. I enjoy superheroes, but I'm not very up on them. My knowledge mainly comes from movies and the cartoons that were on when I was a child (remember "Wonder Twins, activate!"?).

Superheroes are always fun, though. There's always good action, evil to overcome and campy quotes ("Holy isotopes, Batman!"). Not to mention all the spandex. And mutant evil-doers.


Imagination Fair

Tonight Anders' school held an imagination fair. Students could sign up and have a display of something they created, studied, collected, (some of the displays were of science experiments--volcanoes, non-Newtonian fluids and such, Lego creations, horse collections, sports trivia, etc.). When we were visiting Beth's cousin's family in St. Paul earlier this month, he saw a picture of a scarlet tanager made out of shapes that one of their boys made as a school project. Anders loves birds, so he thought he'd try doing some of birds we see around our neighborhood. We looked in my bird book; Anders decided what colors and shapes he needed and I helped cut them out. He glued them down and then wrote the name of each bird along with where it lives and what it eats.

In addition to the Cardinal (his favorite bird), the Blue Jay (his other favorite) and the Canvasback, he also made a Wild Turkey and a Great Egret. He was one of the few Kindergartners there. Parents, school staff and people from the community went around the tables and asked questions about the project. He did well. He's got a very artistic eye.


I Tried out for Jeopardy!

I took an online test for Jeopardy! tonight to try and end up as a contestant on the show someday. It's a long shot. But I've always been encouraged to try it sometime, so I thought now is as good as a time as any.

The test gives you 50 questions to answer within a time periods of fifteen seconds each. That clock counts down far too quickly. And that doesn't include time for Alex Trebek to read the question for you.

Taking a trivia quiz like that is a good way of reminding yourself of how much you don't know. At least, that's what I found out. And this is always a good reminder. There aer old proverbs about how the wisest people are ones who are aware of how little they know.

I've always liked to learn things. I like to know things. The problem is that sometimes I don't use what I know. I've got tons of information about spiritual disciplines in my head, but I have a difficult time incorporating them in my daily living.

And knowledge is useless if it's not used, if it's not acted upon. So that is my goal. Whether or not I make it onto Jeopardy! and get to meet Mr. Trebek. I intend to use more of what I know.


Surviving Tragedy

Earlier this week, a six-year old survivor was pulled from the wreckage in Haiti. Each day--even nearly two weeks later--survivors are being found here and there. But thing that got to us in that event was that the boy was just a year older than Anders. He had been in the wreckage for almost a week. Alone. No parents. Trapped under a building.

It was hard to imagine. Our hearts broke when we heard of it. We couldn't imagine what it would be like for Anders to be trapped, alone, for nearly a week after surviving a horrific earthquake.

We're not at a place in life where we have financial wiggle-room. To be honest, we're raising a family of four under the poverty level. That's mostly our choice, as we want one of us home with the boys instead of putting them in day care; it's also because we haven't been able to find better-paying jobs in this economy. It can be easy to look at all we don't have and want: a house, a second car, a vacation, opportunities for the boys. But when you see a country with absolutely nothing recovering from such a catastrophe, it puts in perspective how much you have. We didn't have much to give, but we gave (we went through Covenant World Relief). We haven't given to every catastrophe that has happened in the past few years, but we felt God saying to open up our wallet for this one.


The Pioneer Woman's Fork and Knife

Yesterday we stopped at the library for a quick stop on our way to find a birthday present for a party Anders' is attending. They happened to have a special talk going on when we got there--a woman dressed up in 1820s clothing, pretending to be Mrs. Snelling, the wife of Colonel Snelling, one of the early residents of what was then called Fort St. Anthony, now called Ft. Snelling. Fort Snelling was the start of Minneapolis/St. Paul. We sat in for a while. The boys did well at the beginning--I think they were actually quite interested--but it couldn't keep their attention forever.

The historian, playing the role of Mrs. Snelling, told us what life was like in her time. The closest city was St. Louis: 700 miles away. There were no roads in Minnesota, so boating up the river was the only way of travel. No refrigerators, so you had to be prepared for the winter. Stoves were new technology, so no one in the plains had them.

One of the interesting things she showed us was the eating utensils they used back then. It was a broad, flat knife (no serrations) and a two-pronged fork. That was standard. No matter what you were eating. And the knife was the main utensil--it was held in the right hand.

There's an old poem I memorized when I was little that goes:
I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on my knife
It turns out, the poem was true.

They ate with a knife in a fork in the 1820s for two reasons. The first was that the British had a different utensil for every food and course of the meal. After going through two wars with England, Americans had little love for anything British. Using only two utensils was a backlash against them.

The second reason was that, according to this historic actor, they believed that everyone was created equal. If an soldier's family was eating with the colonel, they didn't have to worry about showing their lack of education or upbringing because they didn't know which utensil to use. Everyone was equal at the table: a place of gathering, fellowship and unity.


Who I Work for

I don't have anything to say. I just wanted to share these pictures of the family.


Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day

To be honest, I never saw much racial diversity growing up. Mainly because I grew up in a town without color. Albert City, Iowa, is a town with less than a thousand people living there, and most of them were originally from Swedish descent. There was a Laotian family who lived there for a couple years. One of their kids was in my class. We were good friends in 1st and 2nd grade. Then they moved. There was another kid whose dad was African American that was in our class off and on. I'm not sure any of us understood how hard it was or him to be bi-racial in a small, Midwestern town where he lived with his white mother. I'm not even sure if he knew his father well or at all. He never really spoke of him. We never really asked.

But for most of childhood, everyone around me was white. It's not that way any longer: there are now people from all over the world living within a half hour of where I grew up. But back then it was white. Diversity, we joked, was having Swedes and Germans getting along in the same town. We heard stories of the activities of the KKK in our town from our history teacher, but their activities were harassing the Irish Catholics.

College wasn't much different, either. Orange City, Iowa, was a town founded by the Dutch. It was known for it's buildings with Dutch fronts (even on Taco Johns) , Reformed churches and annual tulip festival. The diversity at Northwestern College came mostly from Korea and a few other Asian areas. I had a friend from Bahrain and new a few other people from different parts of the world, but the majority of people were white. I took a class on African American literature, but the authors where the only ones in the class who could speak to living as a minority in America.

Seminary was where I first encountered diversity. The area of Chicago where we lived contained some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world, we were told. It wasn't unusual for my wife and I to be in a store or on the El and be the only white people around. I had classes with a Palestinian Catholic woman, a Korean man, an African-American woman from inner-city Chicago and a Christian man from communist China among others. We shared our stories, our experiences and our journeys.

When we settled in Minneapolis we ended up becoming members at Sanctuary Covenant Church largely because of the diversity. We wanted our kids to see a bit of the spectrum of Heaven. We wanted to fellowship with people who weren't the same as us.

You can't truly learn to love your neighbors until you've gotten to know them. You can't be someone's brother or sister if you haven't heard their stories such as what it's like to be pulled over just because of the color of your skin.

Martin Luther King spoke often of how the greatest sin was doing nothing in the midst of injustice. That's not a racial issue--that's an issue of love. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, he used a priest and a Levite--people from the upper echelons of Jewish society--in contrast with a hated Samaritan. But it was more than their ethnic background; the story was about their actions. Martin Luther King said, "The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'"

Whether we live amidst diversity in a big city or in a homogeneous town, may we live in the spirit of Martin Luther King (yes, he was a sinner, with sinful actions at times, but he was also a saint saved by grace who had much to teach us on the teachings of Jesus). May we stand up for injustice in our midst. May we love those to whom no love is being shown. And may we continue work toward building a land where all children can play together without judgment.


From Moses to Joshua

Pastor Kevin preached today in church. His text was the last chapter of Deuteronomy into the beginning of Joshua. Those chapters chronicle the end of Moses' life (as well as leadership of Israel) and the beginning of Joshua's leadership. Moses had been with the people a long time. After leading them out of slavery in Egypt and through the delivering waters of the Red Sea, he spent 40 insufferable years with them in the wilderness.

First they complain that there is no water. God provides the water. Then they complain that there is no food. God provides the food. Then they complain that there is no water again.

They've seen God take care of them again and again, but they keep chiding Moses with how much better off they were in oppressive Egypt. It eventually gets to Moses. At one point, instead of commanding water from a rock, he strikes it. Twice. God is not pleased with Moses' disobedience, and he is not allowed to enter into the promised land. In fact, when he dies, Moses is 120 years old with perfect vision and leadership capacity. The negativity of the people has gotten to Moses too much. It's time for new leadership.

So Joshua is raised up. He grew up amidst the grumbling and complaining, he was the only one of the twelve spies besides Caleb who had scoped out the Promised Land and came back optimistic. God tells him to be strong and courageous as a leader. He repeats that admonition several times in the opening verses of Joshua.

Negativity creeps into our lives--at least it does mine, and I don't think I'm alone. It's easy to start thinking about how the economy has us down or a job loss or a troubled marriage or personal failures. The negativity of the culture around us becomes our own.

Let's head into what lies before us with boldness and courage, not listening to the negativity and grumbling around us, but with assurance that we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength to do what He has called us to do (Philippians 4:13)


Earthquakes, Prophecy and Love

Christians and non-Christians alike cringed at the words of a man regarding the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Pat Robertson was all over the news for blaming the Haitian earthquake on the nation's sins. It's not the first time he's been there for such pronouncements. And he's not the only one. This past summer John Piper said the tornado that hit Minneapolis was because of the ELCA's pending vote to ordain homosexual pastors. Jerry Falwell blamed a whole list of "sinners" for the 9/11 attacks. They're not the first to pronounce judgment on people or entire nations for their sins. And, unfortunately, they won't be the last.

God does still give people the spiritual gift of prophecy. But it's a gift--meant to build up the church, not condemn others. According to 1 Corinthians 14:3, the gift of prophecy is given to edify, exhort and comfort. According to Jesus, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict people (or nations) of sin, of righteousness and of judgment to come (John 16:8-11)--it's not the job of any man.

Bad things happen to everyone (even good people as Rabbi Harold Kushner has pointed out). No one is immune from natural events or the consequences of ours (or other's) sins. There is evil in the world. Our sins have let it in. We live in a fallen world--and the world isn't going to be perfect because of that. Jesus said that the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45).

The Bible has many exhortations for us to be slow and thoughtful in speaking. God does not pronounce judgments upon anyone through natural disasters. I ask you to find a place in the Bible where it says He will do so. God's message is about love for others--and that He has provided a way out of the muck and mire for us.

Pat Robertson has made many people upset. But let's not point the finger at him alone. Don't we all say things that are hurtful at times? Don't we all neglect helping someone because it's inconvenient for us? Don't we all turn a blind eye to injustice at times? I know I do. Instead of being angry at Pat Robertson, why don't we use this as an opportunity to examine our own sins. Why don't we take time to pray (not in condemnation, but in love) for him, for Haiti, for ourselves, for the world. Confess our sins--both our individual ones as well as our corporate sins. And then turn around with a forgiven (and forgiving!) hand and offer it in love to people who need our help and love. Whether it be in Haiti or the house next door.


A Walk on A Frosty Morning

Outside my window
Hoary frost clings to the tree branches
Like burdock to clothes.
I put on my coat
And head outside for a walk
Around the pond.
The air is crisp,
But it doesn't steal
My breath away.
The snow crunches, scrunches,
Almost squeaks under my feet.
Whiteness is all around me:
On the ground,
On the trees,
Even the air seems white today.
Rabbit tracks meander across the pond.
Birds have left their prints
On the ground
Under the evergreen tree.
Halfway around the pond,
I wish I would have put on
My thermal underwear.
I keep moving,
Hoping my thighs
Warm from the friction,
Enjoying my solitude
And communion with
The wintry landscape.
Only me and God are out here,
And He reminds me
Of His promise that He alone can
Wash me whiter than snow.


The Pool

Anders began swimming lessons today. They're just a half hour in the afternoon. Five kids in a class. The instructor took turns helping each kid float or kick as she led them in a small circle.

There are three big steps to learning to swim: 1) getting in the water, 2) putting your head under water, 3) letting go of the edge of the pool.

It's a lot like following Jesus. You can sit on the edge and watch all you want, but at some point you've got to get in the water if you want to swim. Jesus invites all to follow Him. It's up to us to respond.

You can keep your head above water all you want, but you can't really learn to swim until you trust yourself and the water enough to put your head under it. Following takes a leap of faith if we want to go deeper at some point. We have to trust Jesus. We also have to trust ourselves--that we will excede in this new life we've been given without falling back in our old patterns.

And you can learn to put your head underwater and kick and all the other skills, but they don't matter unless you're willing to let go of the side of the pool. Following Jesus means that we have to leave a lot of our old ways behind--the unhealthy habits we developed that gave us security. Jesus invites us to go deeper with Him and experience something wonderfully new.


Potty Beauty

Nils is one who finds beauty in everything. Today were were in restrooms in a few different stores. Upon two separate occasions, Nils declared regarding the shorter urinal he was using, "Awww, how cute!" I'm not exactly sure what makes a urinal cute, but Nils is the only one who can get by declaring it so.


Time was Never Money

I was just listening to Switchfoot's song Gone / on the radio. One line says, "Life is more than money/ Time was never money/ Time was never cash."

I was reminded how a couple days ago our neighbor called to see if I could jump the battery on her car. She mentioned she was going to call a taxi to take her sister to the airport while she got the issue with her car taken care of. We said that we could do it (Beth didn't have to be in to work for a while, so we were available). Beth ended up driving her down; she was offered some money for the errand. Beth turned it down, of course. We didn't do it for the money.

People may say time is money. It's not. It's more than that. Time is love. We use our time for work to make money to pay our bills, sure, but we also do it because God has given us skills and passions and expects us to serve Him and others in that position--out of love. We give our time to our families because we love them. We serve others out of love. We give up our own time for others.

It's easy to get trapped into thinking that time is money. I can look at a purchase in reference as to how many hours I have to work (or my wife has to work, as the case may be) to pay for it. But that kind of thinking turns me away from helping others. I don't stop to help the person with the flat tire on their car because I don't have the time to do that (translate: it's not worth it to me).

How would my little corner of the world change if I started thinking of my time being an opportunity to love? And I followed Jesus example in giving love away?

It's a Smooth Ride

Nils: I'm going to ride on my Speedo bike. (I'm hoping he meant speeder, as they were playing Star Wars).


Twelfth Day of Christmas


Wise men traveled from a distant land;
A land where the God of the Jews
was unknown,
Where Ahura Mazda was the god
and Zoroaster his prophet.

Wise men traveled, following the light:
Light from a star which showed
the way,
Which foretold of the birth of a
great King.

Wise men traveled bearing gifts:
Gifts of gold, worthy of a King
who owns everything;
Gifts of the most valuable incense,
worthy of a god;
Gifts of myrrh, for preparing a body
for entombment.

Wise men arrived from Persia;
Arrived at the home of a carpenter
and his young bride,
And their infant Son who
was worthy of their worship.

Wise men announced the birth of a King;
A baby whom Herod
wanted dead,
A baby whom shepherds
alone had praised.

Are we wise enough to follow as well?
Do we decide to journey to the Light
to find the Son?
What do we give Him
that will be worthy?


Julia Child, Blogging and Art

Last night my wife borrowed the movie Julie & Julia from our neighbors so we could watch it (which reminds me that I need to take it off my reserve list at the library). The movie is based on a blog that a woman (named Julie) wrote about cooking all of Julia Child's recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking within a year's time. Her blog gained a huge following over time and was eventually made into a movie which compares and contrasts Julie & Julia's lives as well as chronicling how Julia Child impacted Julie's life.

It's been just over six years since I began this blog. The first four years were hit or miss--I didn't write much at all. There's not even an entry about Nils being born.

The blog really came into being when we moved to British Columbia. It was an effective way for us to continue sharing our lives (and, perhaps more importantly, pictures of the kids) with all the people we were leaving behind in the Midwest.

I've continued the blog since then since we still have friends from all over the world that we logistically just can't keep in touch with as often as we'd like. I also feel connected to my readers; having a comment on a post just makes my day to know someone took the time to read and respond to what I was thinking. And perhaps at this point I write mainly for myself. I need to take the time to reflect and connect . I need to keep writing--I have a dream to someday have something published. And whether or not that ever happens, it's good for me to do. I guess blogs can end up being a bit narcissistic, but I hope that in helping myself I can also help others, that I can speak to them, than even in cyberspace I can minister to others.

I would love to be able to have this blog springboard me into something bigger, as it did for Julie Powell. Writing is something I can do at home while I'm watching the boys. It's be nice if it could provide a little income as well.

The other thing I've been doing from home is painting and drawing. It's mainly a hobbie for enjoyment, but I've been humbly trying to sell some as a way for people to brighten up their work spaces (Cubicle Art).

I just sold my first pieces this weekend. Sure, they were to my sister. But she wanted them. It wasn't just charity on her part (at least I'm fairly sure it wasn't). I probably would have never thought of selling my art if it weren't at the suggestion of a friend. I've still got a lot to learn about painting, but it's enjoyable and relaxing to me, so I'll continue. Even if I don't think I've got much to offer yet.

I guess with anything we do, we need to do it for ourselves as well as doing it for others. Sometimes in taking care of ourselves, we keep ourselves healthy so that we can serve others. And all we do needs to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). So as I take care of my boys, do housework, write, paint or whatever, I do it for me. I do it for someone else (whether it's my wife or you) and I do it for God. Yet another good reminder that I need to love God & love my neighbor as myself.


New Year, New Life

The boys and I rang in the New Year in Des Moines. We drove down with my sister and niece on New Year's Eve. We reached my other sister's apartment a little after 10:30. Nils at least was still up until midnight. I was laying in bed trying to get them both asleep. It's a glamorous life.

We had Christmas with my mom's extended family on New Year's Day. The boys got to swim with the cousins on Saturday (once they opened the pool). And we arrived back home late last night. We went (since we could get a ride with my sister), knowing we won't have a lot of these Christmas gatherings left, and we don't get to go to them too often.

With that said, the New Year kind of came and went. The boys and I did take some time on New Year's Eve to remember what happened in 2009. I didn't focus too much, though, on the things I need to change and learn from. But I think I've kind of been doing that a lot in the past year, so they're in the back of my mind at least.

We've been to family gatherings over the past several weekends, so we haven't been in our own church for a while. It was good to be back so we can go there today. Pastor Efrem spoke on the Holy Spirit. It was a good message for starting a new year.

One of the basic affirmations that the Evangelical Covenant Church upholds is "a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit." I don't think many of us have a good working knowledge of Who the Holy Spirit is, what He does and what he enables us to do. Actually, that was Efrem's premise for today: that in order for us to live more fully in the Spirit, we have to have a better knowledge of the Spirit. (And if you want that part of his sermon, it'll be posted here in not too long.) I know I turn less to the Holy Spirit than I do to the Son or Father. He's the most over-looked member of the Trinity in most Christendom (and over-emphasized in unhelpful ways in some parts). So, starting the New Year with a foundation of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does is a good place to start.

For me, the sermon was a reminder of what I desire for the year ahead: to live more in touch with God each day, which can only happen through a more conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit's indwelling in my life. Efrem commented today that "being Spirit-filled is like drowning in God's love." That sounds like the outcome of a good New Year's resolution to me.