Lost & Found

I found the free pass to the Minnesota Zoo at the library this week so I took the boys yesterday. I usually take a sharpie marker and write my cell phone number somewhere on the boys' arms in case the get separated from me. Forgetting to do that yesterday, I discovered that the customer service desk has wristbands that are available for writing such information on. Thankfully, I didn't loose them. They wander off sometimes, but I can usually find them pretty readily. Once when Anders was pretty little, he wandered away from me in a Toys R Us store. I could not find the little squirt anywhere. Thankfully, a store employee directed me to him.

Some days just not loosing your kids is an accomplishment. Last night the devotion in the boys' Bible was about Jesus, when He was twelve years old, traveling with His family to Jerusalem to Passover. When they leave Jerusalem to go back home to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph assume Jesus is with some other people in their traveling party. It's not until the next day that they figure out that Jesus isn't with them, so they turn around and find Him in the temple (His "Father's house") impressing all the rabbis with His knowledge.

How does one loose the Messiah--their twelve year-old son--for an entire day and not even notice? We haven't gotten to take a lot of trips, but whenever we leave some place I know to always check and make sure everyone is in the car. I guess if God had enough trust in Joseph and Mary to let them parent Jesus, I can have confidence in my parenting abilities, too. Sometimes it's nice to know we're in good company.

Here's the other good thing: knowing that I'm going to do whatever I can to find my child if one of them gets lost, how much more is God going to search for us when we're lost. And I've been lost plenty. But He always comes looking. We may not like it at the time, but it's a good thing.


Farm, Family and Fellowship

Beth has been out of town the past week and a half (and will be until the end of the week) as part of a class she's taking (hoping it'll lead to a job or a position in the doctoral program). My parents have been asking for their week with the boys on the farm, so it seemed like a good time to do it (I stayed hoping to get some time to write, which didn't really happen, of course). We headed down last Sunday night. They love the country--as do I. We had a lot of rain, so there were plenty of puddles to splash and jump around in. Starry skies and lightning bugs make it difficult to get to bed at night.

We went camping one night. We were going to go for two, but came home early for fear of storms--which was a good move as it rained and thundered a lot that night. But we got in some swimming in the lake, some hiking and some time around the campfire.

We were also able to get to a family reunion in Illinois as my sister and her boyfriend were willing to ride with us so I didn't have to do the drive alone. It's my mom's dad's side of the family. We haven't gotten there since Anders was a year old. But it's a place we would go to every year if we could. Others don't understand when we talk about going to our family reunion. It's really an event. Family comes from all over: New Jersey, Michigan, Arizona, etc.

The reunion is held at the house my grandfather grew up in. No one lives there anymore, but they keep it for the sole purpose of the reunion. It's been going on for 64 years now, I believe. We got in on Friday night. Many people had arrived already. It was like we had hung out with them the weekend before. Sure, there's dysfunction, but it's a place I want to be at. I'm accepted, I'm included, I'm known.

My boys loved it, too. Their cousins (they're distant as far as cousins go, but they're as close as cousins) played with them constantly. On Sunday they have a big potluck lunch with very delicious food in vast quantities. Afterward the kids (and a few of the adults) have a big water fight (squirt guns and water balloons), followed by a bean fight (shooting beans through straws). The back yard is a labyrinth of bushes, trees and flowers. There's a sack swing in one of the trees. And rail road tracks which are great for putting pennies on--but you didn't hear that from me. Plus there's a Dairy Queen across the street that my great-uncle initially opened.

I'm lucky, I now. We all need family like that and a place to belong. Really, my family reunion is what church should be like. Once in a while we find a church that is like that--a place where you're accepted, included and known. A place of fun, fellowship and feasting. A place you want to be at and want to keep returning to again and again.

Here's the thing: Sometimes a family and a church like that just happen--they contain the right mix of people. But the majority of the time we have to make it happen. We need to be intentional about making others feel welcome, wanted and accepted. We need to think of others' desires and needs. We need to fight well--not holding grudges, harboring bitterness or putting our own agendas before the betterment of relationships. We need to have fun and celebrate together. We need to love each other: take care of each other, encourage one another and shoulder each others' burdens. When we work at it, then we can have a family and a church like I find at the Trumper homestead in Pana, Illinois.



After working around the house all morning, I decided to take the boys over to Como Park Zoo so that I wasn't neglecting them all day. We seldom go in the summer because the crowds are big and parking is scarce, but summer is the only time to see the butterfly tent and Sparky the Sea Lion shows (which we missed, but saw another presentation) as well as the Japanese Garden at the conservatory. We also haven't been over to see the new Polar Bear habitat that opened up this summer. The pictures are almost all from the butterfly tent, so hopefully you enjoy butterflies.

Anders waited patiently the entire time we were in the butterfly tent for one to land on him. He would even stand still in one place for several minutes. Not until we were about to leave did one finally light on his shoulder. He was quite happy.


Transformational Love

Our church series lately has been on Transformational Love. I was asked if I could write up a piece for the church blog. I thought I'd share it here as well (you can find the original here).

We recently moved to North Minneapolis. We're learning how small acts make a difference. One of our next door neighbors keeps schooling us on living in the "hood." She's probably trying to be helpful, but the way she talks spread fear rather than help.

The family that lives on the other side of her is a Hmong family. The parents speak little English, but our kids like to play together. They've expressed thankfulness that we're in the neighborhood. They've been very generous, sharing food with us.

Our neighbor right behind us is Ecuadorian. He's lived here for over a decade, but his accent is still thick and hard to understand at times. But he was one of the first people to welcome us to the neighborhood. He's offered to help us if we have vehicle problems again (we've had way too many for our budget in the last couple months).

Even when someone walks by and says "hello" or makes a comment on how the yard or house looks, it has a bigger impact on my day than someone who walks by without saying a word. (Of course, I have the choice on how I react to others, but my point is that even small acts of kind words have an impact on others.)

And this is my reminder as well. I can choose to say a small, kind word to someone, or I can just walk by silently. I can choose to help someone, or I can choose to ignore them. I can choose to speak fear or hate to someone, or I can choose to speak love to them. I can choose to just live in my neighborhood, or I can choose to love those around me and in doing so become an agent of transformation.

A few years ago I was the program director at a Bible Camp that served the Covenant churches in Iowa. I saw many lives changed by transformational love there. Often a kid would come for the week who had some "rough edges"--they didn't want to open up, enjoy camp or participate in activities. By little, by little, through patient loving acts, their counselor (or sometimes the other campers) got through to them. And so did Christ. By the end of the week their lives were changed, transformed. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit of course, but it also happened because someone kept doing small acts of love and not giving up when it wasn't returned.

Oddly enough, it seems that transformational love can truly only happen in community (or in building community). Which makes sense, because God doesn’t just love individuals (“For God so loved the world"), and He doesn’t just transform individuals. Yes, when we love others they can become transformed, but so can our whole community (and so can we).


A Six-Year Old and Legos

Today was Anders' 6th birthday. We had his party in the morning (Beth had to work in the afternoon. We met back near our old neighborhood in St. Louis Park at Oak Hills Park. It has a wonderful splash pad. So we started there (thankfully it was already in the 80s by 10am and the rain held off until late afternoon). Some of Anders' best friends were away and couldn't be there, but he still had a good group of kids come from school and our churches.

We started at the splash pad, then the kids wanted to move on to the playground area. We ate (just PB&J, popcorn and juice), had the cake and opened presents.

Anders wanted a Lego theme (because his best friend Noah had one a few months ago, and also because he wanted Legos for presents, I think--at least that worked out well for Noah). Beth made a great Lego cake (well, I made the cake, but she did a terrific job of turning into blocks).

One of his friends creatively wrapped their present in a giant Lego brick (a box with construction paper). Very cool.

He did get a lot of great Lego sets--as well as many other great presents he's excited about (a game, a Star Wars figure from Nils, an Iron Man figure, a roll of paper to draw on from MorMor...). He's already gotten two sets built.

And now he's down to bed for the night--worn out from the day and probably dreaming about Legos. (Oops, I was wrong. He just popped his head downstairs.) We're grateful for the great friends he's made in the two years we've lived here. And we're more grateful for the kid he's turning out to be (not that he doesn't have plenty of areas of growth we're working on, but overall he's on the right track) .

When he woke up this morning and came into our room, we grabbed his baby book and had fun looking at it. God is good.



Yesterday our second church service (we're kind of attending two churches now--it's complicated) was in a park. We picnicked together first. Then we had our worship service, sitting around in a circle in our lawn chairs. Doing that was a good reminder of the freedoms we celebrate on Independence Day--that there are countries where worshiping anywhere, let alone in public, is illegal.

It also forces you to be public in your faith--people are walking and driving by as you worship. It's a good thing. Sometimes we hide behind church walls too much. In the summer the second part of the worship time on any Sunday is going over to the park and having ice cream and sharing it with people in the park. It's good for a church to have presence in the community.

As we were getting to church friends from our other church called to ask if they could get together with us for a bonfire before fireworks (it was a tradition for them, but they weren't able to do it where they normally did). So when church was over we ended up inviting many families over from church and just hanging out in our yard with a bonfire for s'mores. And plenty of good conversation, of course. It's enjoyable to have a yard that we can relax in and have people hang out in during the summer.

As it got closer to time for the fireworks to begin, we made our way down to the riverfront to watch them. It was much different than the fireworks we attended the last couple summers in St. Louis Park. There a few hundred people were gathered in one park where the fireworks were right overhead. And they were really good for a smaller suburb.

The fireworks in Minneapolis weren't as spectacular (they save the big ones for their Aquatennial celebration later this summer) and not as long lasting, but they were still enjoyable. There were probably several thousand of people lined along the Mississippi River on both sides for a few miles. It was a much different atmosphere. Still fun, but different.

Tonight an old friend from Iowa is staying with us (our first overnight guest besides my family who were here to help us move in). I think relationships are the thing I'm enjoying so far about our move. It's much easier to have people over in a house than it is in a crammed apartment. It's much easier to meet your neighbors when you can sit in your porch or eat in your yard than it was living in an apartment where your windows overlooked the parking lot. It's easier to have people stay over when you have a bed to offer them instead of a couch.

Of course our freedom is what makes all that possible. Of that I am aware. And grateful. And I know I've said it plenty times before when talking about freedom, but Spiderman is right: with great freedom comes great responsibility. Once we learn the responsibility side of things, our freedom will be all the much better--as will our nation (and our world, I daresay).



I took the boys to the splash pad recently to have some time with their friends there. Often when we go we find ourselves in the presence of the splash pad bully.

Here's what you need to know about the splash pad:
1. It is designed to be a fun place to cool off in the summer heat, primarily for younger kids who aren't able to go to the pool.
2. There are a lot of fountains and sprinklers and other things out of which water bubbles up or drips down.
3. There are also to nozzles (like on a fire hose) from which the users can douse each other liberally. They also pivot, providing a decent range in which to douse other people.

The splash pad bully is a kid much older than any of the other kids there. He positions himself at one of the nozzles and doesn't move. He has manipulated the pivot point enough that it shoots beyond its intended range--now able to reach into some of the lounge chairs where parents are watching their children from. He is indiscriminate in his targets: parents, toddlers, grandparents, babies, probably even small puppies with big eyes if they were allowed inside the fence.

Yes, if you're at the splash pad, you have to expect to get wet. I can't blame the kid for spraying other people. But at some point a kids needs to be shown boundaries: he needs to be taught why it's not okay for a twelve-year old to knock a toddler down with a stream of water. He also needs to be taught to share, that he can't just hog the nozzle during the duration of his visit to the splash pad.

I'm all for raising kids to be able to enjoy their neighborhood (a mom has a blog about raising Free Range Kids). But in order to have kids that you can trust to behave on your own I've never seen his parents around--at least, if they are around, they do nothing to correct his behavior. Other parents usually step in and ask the kid not to squirt them or to be mindful of the younger kids. But he seldom heeds their requests--at least not for long.

Now I know I'm making this event out to be bigger than it is. The truth is everyone still has fun. Anders actually liked it when the kid squirted him in the face. A few people who wanted to be dry got wetter than they wanted; a few babies may have cried for a short time, but they moved on and had fun.

The kid reminds me, though, that I can sometimes overstep boundaries in something that's enjoyable for me, but doesn't become enjoyable for someone else. Our culture often admonishes us to make ourselves happy and not worry about anyone else.

Scripture tells us differently. Our own happiness is good, but it should never come at the cost of others. God constantly tells us to seek justice and take care of the needs of those who need it--especially the orphan, the widow and the alien among us. Our western culture often puts us in a place of privilege (which is not a bad thing), but we must make sure that we aren't parking ourselves there and ignoring the needs of those around us. God raises people up so that they may help those who are still in the pit--in places where they can't help themselves get out of. Let's not just sit at the nozzle all day, hosing down everyone within reach (unless, of course, they're really hot and that's what they need).