General Mills and Nils

Nils and I biked over to General Mills corporate offices today and had some fun exploring the sculptures on their grounds. He found his harmonica in the bike trailer, so we had some music as we biked on the way there (you can see him playing it in the first picture).

It was a nice day--better than the 90 degree days with high humidity that we've had lately--and we enjoyed the bike ride and the time together. He's been going through this phase of checking boundaries (by that I mean constantly pushing them); it was a welcome reprieve to have some time with him where he wasn't disobeying or jut not listening. Maybe he just needed some focused attention. Maybe we all do.


Cattails and Playgrounds

These are from a couple recent trips to the nature center near our house. One thing the Minneapolis area does well is preserve a lot of natural areas and parks.



God created Adam by shaping the dirt
Then breathing His own breath
Into the artwork made
In His image.

Millenia later,
After Jesus returned to Heaven,
God breathed life into His people again.
He sent His Spirit,
Like tongues of fire,
Like a rushing wind,
Upon people from many races
Gathered together to celebrate Shavout,
Marking the 50 days after the Exodus,
When Moses received the Commandments
From God upon the mountain.

As Jesus was "Immanuel"--
God with us--
God is still with us
As the Holy Spirit has been poured out
Upon all believers.

God's breath in us,
He guides us, directs us,
If we allow ourselves to follow Him,
Choosing His will--
His good, pleasing, perfect will--
Over our own.

The Spirit did not just descend
Upon one person, however.
It descended upon the nations.
Together we must do His will.
Together we display His image.
Together we are the church.

Less than a Month

We're just under a month away until we move into our new house. We're very excited about it--at a bit nervous yet. We still have to decide upon insurance and look into a few other things, but everything is coming along.

Things I'm excited about:
Not having to maintain a stash of quarters for doing laundry
Being able to compost instead of having to throw away
Garden space
More room to move about and not having to store things in our garage
Room to invite people over

Things I'm going to miss:
A good sledding hill next door (thankfully, we've still got a park practically next door)
"Utilities included"
Anders' school and his friends
The convenience of our neighborhood--we're easy to get to, right off the interstate, near a few shopping areas, near a nature center, etc.
And most of all, good neighbors

But we're only moving 7 miles, so it's not like much has to change. But, still, even after just two years here, we've grown fond of this place and the people here. And I know that can happen wherever we go--we'll make more friends and connections.


And Then there Were Two (Wheels)

Last Sunday I had to replace a tire on Nils' bike. It had worn through. Tires that small are impossible to find. Thankfully, a good friend from church had some extras. While replacing the tire, Nils asked if he could have his training wheels off; Anders was already expressing interest in trying to ride without his. Anders had tried last summer, but I had pushed him into it a little too much, and he wasn't confident enough to try it.

Now, they both seemed to be ready. Admittedly, I had expected Nils to be able to ride without training wheels before Anders. He moved up to a two-wheel scooter this spring and has great balance. He has the potential to be a great gymnast if he was born in a family who could afford it.

Anyway, they were both ready to try without the training wheels. And they both did remarkably well on their first attempt. Nils was actually riding down the side walk with me walking beside him, not holding on to him, as Beth drove home from work. The neighbors were impressed and thrilled that Beth got to see it. They've both been practicing some all week, and I'm trying not to push it too much with them. Nils requested his training wheels put back on this morning so he could ride without someone having to help him start and stop all the time. That'll give me more opportunity to work with Anders, anyway.

Riding a bike requires two things: confidence in yourself and trust in the person who's helping you. I suppose it requires protective gear, plenty of practice and persistence and a bike, of course. But confidence and trust are good lessons to work off.

To accomplish or succeed at anything, we need confidence in ourselves. That confidence comes when we root ourselves in the knowledge of who God created us to be. We need to build ourselves up in the fact that God loves us more deeply and more passionately that we can ever know. That keeps us humble, preventing overconfidence, yet bold, knowing that God gives us the strength to do whatever He calls us to.

We also need to trust the One who will help us do what He calls us to do. That goes without saying, but sometimes we forget (I'm including myself in this) that He empowers us to do whatever is in His will for us to do.

With practice, following God is like riding a bike, so take off your training wheels.

(And I totally have to give credit to Amy Mingo on the photos as I'm always running alongside and can never get a picture of my own taken of the boys)


I try (rather unsuccessfully at times) to limit the amount of television I watch. There are much more productive things to do with my time; there are better ways to grow my marriage and myself. But sometimes I get sucked in by compelling characters, good story-telling or just something that gives me a few laughs in a day.

A popular new-comer this year was Community. It's season finale airs tonight, so I admit I'm a bit late in talking about the show which is about an eclectic group of students at a community college who band together to form a study group for the Spanish class they find themselves taking together.

The show features a cynical ex-lawyer trying to get an authentic bachelor's degree to practice law again, a feminist atheist struggling with direction, a Muslim Palestinian-American pop-culture junkie, an evangelical African American single mother, a repressed Jewish former Adderall addict, a former high school athletic star Jehovah's Witness, and a racist and sexist retired business tycoon who belongs to a quasi-Buddhist cult (through which Chevy Chase make s a wonderful comeback in his career).

The group's only common bond is Spanish class. Their eccentricities and differences often lead to misunderstandings, heated arguments and hurt feelings, but they also have developed deeper friendships and even a greater love for each other. Though initially joining together over a need to do well in Spanish class, their community is formed as they learn to tolerate each other's differences, stand up for each other and even unselfishly make sacrifices for each other.

With such a mixed group, moral behavior isn't going to always be present, of course. But the group has reminded many in our culture of a need for something most of us have been missing out on: community. We all belong to communities of various natures, but we seldom experience true community. We need relationships that build us up, take us out of our comfort zones, love us and accept us.

Donald Miller reminds us that we need to be intentional about creating this relationships.
We're probably not going to end up in a study group that facilitates the relationships we need. Our friendships must be intentional (they always are on some level as we decide who to invest in or not). And those relationships also require a commitment. We must decide to intentionally get together regularly for fellowship. We must be purposeful about building relationships up outside of group times. We must look beyond ourselves to the needs of others (hmmm, this is beginning to sound like the ideal church).

Interestingly, almost every person in the group on Community has been forced out or chosen to get out of the group for a time, but they always come back and are welcomed with open arms. Forgiveness and acceptance are always present. Indeed, the group comes to realize that they need each and every person in the group. Cheers reminded us years ago that "sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." Community is reminding us that we have a deeper need beyond just being known. We need to feel accepted and connected.

Streets of Golden Buildling Bricks

Anders: What's heaven like?
Me: It's a wonderful place. God is with us. There is no more crying or tears . . .
Anders: Are there Legos there?


Thought-Provoking Movies

In the last couple weeks we got a couple movies from the library; both are set in L.A. I've been to Los Angeles once, just over a decade ago for a wedding of one of Beth's college roommates. L.A. is a distinctive city; it becomes a character in both movies.

Crash came out a few years ago, receiving several acclaims. We checked it out because our church had hosted a racial reconciliation discussion around the movie recently. It's a rough movie. There is much violence as well as language and brief nudity. But it also has a lot to teach us--especially about race relations. It is the story of a myriad of people who's lives are intertwined through the course of a day and a half.

The thing that struck me during the movie was how much anger was in everyone's life--and it often came out through racism. I'm not sure that racism is even the real issue, but it masks all the anger in people's lives. Many addictions also have their root in anger--the addiction being a coping mechanism to "deal" with the anger. I think many of us have anger in our lives that works it's way out in unhealthy ways. We need to learn to deal with it better.

The Soloist came out just last year, also receiving good reviews. It is based on a true story about a journalist who discovers a Juilliard drop-out playing beautiful music on a two-stringed violin on the streets of LA. The man is a musical genius, but schizophrenia has made his life unstable, and he ends up living on the street. It's a beautiful story about the importance of seeing people as people--getting to know them rather than simply feeling pity for them.

On the wall outside the homeless center where much of the movie takes place is this verse: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." I was struck as all the transients (there are 90,000 homeless in the greater LA metro area alone) milled about in front of the wall about how the wages of sin lead not only to our death, but to the death of others as well. Our lives are interconnected. Jesus tells us that whatever we fail to do to the "least of these" we do to Him as well. And, at the Judgment, He will separate the sheep from the goats. And the goats will be sent to eternal condemnation. We need to get to know others, not just treat them as charity cases.

The Blind Side is a more recent movie (the last one I actually saw in the theater!) that shares similar lessons on racism and getting to know others. I hope that with whatever movie you watch, that you get something more out of it than just a couple hours of sitting and being entertained (even if it's just some good laughs). But I also hope you're finding movies that you can have great discussions around with others. Movies are a great, unassuming way to get into deeper conversations with others about issues that can speak to the greater Truth.


Waiting & the Ascension

Today is the day on the church calendar that we celebrate Jesus' Ascension--40 days after Easter. In ten more days it will be Pentecost when we remember the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of Jesus' promise that He would always be with us. The Sunday after is Trinity Sunday. I'm realizing that it's important to remember those days even though we don't makr them at the church we attend.

I was just reading an article by Lisa Burnette in The Covenant Companion called "The Revealing Work of the Holy Spirit." She talks about how following Jesus' resurrection He gave the disciples the instruction to wait. Then 50 days after Easter, 10 days after the Ascension, The Holy Spirit is sent upon the disciples at Pentecost.

There's a lot of waiting in the Bible: Noah's family waiting for the waters to recede; Sarah, Rachel, Hannah and others waiting to conceive; the Hebrews waiting to enter the Promised land; all of Israel waiting for the Messiah to arrive.

Even on the church calendar we wait. We've just been through Lent, a period of 40 days waiting for Easter morning to arrive. Now we're in the midst of 50 days of waiting for Pentecost.

My wife and I feel like we've been waiting the last two years for the next journey in our life to begin. Waiting is difficult. It sucks at times. I know it's supposed to develop patience, perserverance and a deeper trust in God. That's not always reassuring when you're in the midst of waiting.

And this is why it's important to remember those church holidays I mentioned at the beginning of this post. We are in the midst of waiting: Ascension Day reminds us of this as we patiently await the return of Christ. Pentecost reminds us that we're not in this waiting alone. The Holy Spirit is with us. We often forget this--at least I do. I don't realize the Holy Spirit's work in my daily life, even though He is busily working. It's important to take time to reflect on how God has been at work in our daily lives.

It's important to remember the Holy Spirit's presence during our waiting, I'm realizing. I need that reassurance. I need that hope. Our God is One, but He exists in three distinct manifestations. Each is important in our life. I need the reminder of the Holy Spirit's presence during struggles with waiting.


Blaming or Owning

We all like to point fingers. Even in the church. For years the Catholic church has blamed pro-choice and pro-gay marriage advocates for accusations of abuse in the church. No longer, though. The Pope has owned that it's the fault of sins within the church--not those outside. I've only skimmed to article linked above, but I appreciate the Pope taking ownership on behalf of the church. Now if we could all do the same. It's not just the Catholic church--we're a nation (maybe even a world) of blamers.

I became an expert blamer. I didn't want people to think ill of me, so I became good at pointing my finger away from myself. It was a dis-empowering act that had long-term consequences. I'm doing better at taking ownership for things, but I still must guard myself.

And while I'm doing better at taking ownership, I already see my son becoming a blamer. Nothing is his fault. There's always an excuse. We're trying to nip that in the bud right now, but it seems like we're going to have to be persistent and patient in waiting for it to end.

When we blame, we weaken ourselves. When we own, we empower ourselves, even if it means looking bad for a little while. It makes us stronger; it makes society stronger. So, let's follow the Pope's model and start taking ownership of things.


Treasure Them in Your Heart

When Anders was young, probably around two or two-and-a-half or so, we had the other volunteer youth group leaders at Pomeroy Covenant Church over at our house in Iowa (I remember at least Pastor Karl & Cindy, Jane DeVries and Beth and myself). We were praying for the year ahead, for the students, for guidance and so forth. We were all gathered in our living room. Anders sat on the floor in the room with toys scattered before him.

As we each took turns praying, Anders would sit and pray as well. He did so by looking around the room and thanking God for everything he saw--each little toy. I think he believed that one of us would pray and it would all be done (as at mealtime), but as we each took turns praying, Anders paused and started all over again. It was at least 10 to 15 minutes of praying.

Luke ends his narrative of the visit of the Magi by saying, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). There are plenty of those moments from my children's lives that I hope I remember to continue pondering them for the years ahead.



Yesterday I had the privilege of being one of the communion servers at church. I love being a part of Eucharist--whether I've led it as a minister or serving as a laity. Those hands-on, sensory parts of worship seem to connect with people more than usual.

I enjoy getting to serve at our church because as the people walk through and take their wafer (personally, I dislike the wafer, but I understand the ease of using them in a big church) and I say to each one, "The body of Christ broken for you," I am reminded of God's great love for us. Each person who walks by is made in God's image, yet each one is completely different than the one before them. And God loves them each so much that He lived among us and died an horrific death for them. His body was broken. His blood was shed. And it was done for each of those people--young and old, black and white, rich and poor--who passed before me to participate in that sacred re-enactment of Christ's love.

It is humbling. It is joyous. It is solemn. It reminds me of who I am before God. I pray it never becomes something that I just go through the motions in doing--"not because we must, but because we may" as one of the words of institution in the Covenant Book of Worship reads.