The Passing of a Neighbor

Our next door neighbor died today. Having been here for just over two months, we didn't know her well, but we've talked. She had just shared recently about being a few weeks pregnant (we weren't even sure she was still of child-bearing age). She also talked about having pneumonia and water on her lungs. So, it wasn't a big surprise in some ways. She had just returned from an appointment yesterday with a walker. Still, death is always a shock, and it is always unnatural.

Early this afternoon the medical truck from the fire station pulled in front of our house. A few minutes later, the police arrived. We heard her nephew talking on the phone about how he came home and found her not breathing.

Within a half hour about 20-30 people were gathered outside of the house, weeping and supporting one another. That's what loving neighbors is. We're slowly getting to know the neighbors we have (there are five open houses around us--one just went on the market). Some neighbors, of course, are easier to know than others. But no matter what our neighbors are like, we're still called to love them. Maybe the difficult ones even more so. And we need to do it while we have the opportunities.


More Ellipses

(See the previous post for the first installment on ellipses)

This morning we saw Theater for the Thirsty perform their play "My Name is Daniel." It is, of course, a retelling of pretty much the entire book of Daniel from the Bible.

The story starts when Israel is lead away into captivity in Babylon...
Yes, there are those ellipses again. Daniel is part of that group lead into captivity. He is aware of the prophecy of Jeremiah which says that Israel be captured, Jerusalem will fall and they will be in captivity. For 70 years.

Daniel stays the course in a foreign land where many gods are worship through the reign of at least three rulers. He and his friends were pressured to give into the religious regulations of the land, but held firm to their beliefs. He would most likely never see his people released or his homeland again. That is life between the ellipses.

And through it all--through oppression, pressure, hopelessness--Daniel remains unwavering in his faith. Yes, Daniel was raised to important positions in Babylon (again and again after being forgotten by each subsequent ruler), but he still faced many hardships (remember that lions den ordeal?). I admire him for his steadfast faith. I hope I have the same.


Life Between the Ellipses

My facebook status today read that I was "reminded closed doors are an answer to prayer, though it can still hurt a little when they close on you."

A friend's response was: "..."

I replied, that "so much of life is lived between the ellipses
(I think that might be the title of my next book)."

Side note: I am hereby claiming "Life Between the Ellipses" as a title for a book I will write (possibly co-author with my friend Tonya Toutge as she laid claim to writing it with me, and she was the author of "...").

An ellipsis (...) is used in writing to show an omission (usually in shortening a quotation) or to indicate a pause, hesitation or break. I probably overuse them--and probably inappropriately as well.

We sometimes have omissions in our sentences of life (don't worry, I'm not going to overdo that whole "life is a book" metaphor). I think more often we have those pauses, hesitations and breaks. Perseverance is a virtue. Waiting is a part of life. It often sucks. Sometimes the ellipses of life make up most of our life.

Life is also made up of living between the paradoxes (a seminary professor of mine already wrote a book about those paradoxes entitled Between Two Truths). One of those paradoxes is that we're called to be active--not passive--and we're also called to wait on God. We must discern when to act and when to wait patiently for God. Sometimes, living in the midst of paradox is where we encounter God, and sometimes we just have to wait...


Pride & Humility in Balance

"Each of us should have two pockets," the rabbis teach. "In one should be the message 'I am dust and ashes,' and in the other we should have written, 'For me the universe was made.' "
- Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict


Of Green Lanterns & the Hood

Earlier this year our family made our first visit to a comic book store (actually initiated by my wife!). I admit to buying a few and checking them out from the library--I'm enjoying the stories of superheroes. Just as the first installations of recent movies like Spiderman, X-Men and Batman have contained a lot of moral lessons, so do the graphic novels and comics that these stories originated from.

I recently checked out some stories about The Green Lantern from the library. Fear is a central theme in many of the story lines. In some stories, the Green Lanterns (there are more than one, I have learned--each patrols a different sector of the galaxy) battle those who wear yellow power rings (there are other colors, too). Yellow power rings feed on fear. Green power rings feed off the willpower of their user. Green Lanterns were usually chosen because fear was not present within them.

Fear is a presence I'm noticing more as we live in North Minneapolis. I'm learning that fear thrives in the "rougher" parts of the city. Even without experiencing violence, knowing the stories and knowing people who have experienced it makes us be more guarded. I occasionally look at cars that drive by suspiciously, wondering what their intent is. After having my wife's bike stolen from the garage shortly after we moved in, we found ourselves checking out the bicycles that would go by. One of our neighbors has told us things we need to do so we don't become victims. I'm sure she's being helpful, but it's spoken in fear. And fear becomes hard not to listen to, especially with the amount of it on the television.

There is healthy fear, true. It gets us out of harms way. It keeps us reverent of God. But generally fear is not the mark of a Christian. We are told in 1 John that "perfect love casts out fear." If I am walking in Christ's love, I have no fear within me. That doesn't mean I'm not precautious or naive about my actions, but that I don't let fear motivate me. Instead, I let love. Or at least, that's what I'm supposed to do. It'll come--if I keep focused on love instead of fear. And when that happens, I can figure out how to love my neighbor, instead of being fearful--whether or not there is reason to be.

Living in Community

"The message of Benedictine spirituality is a consistent one: live life normally, live life thoughtfully, live life profoundly, live life well."

- Joan Chittister


Watching My Tongue

As my kids are getting older, I'm realizing more and more how I need to watch my mouth. Not because I use obscene language or anything in appropriate around them, but because I need to be more intentional in the words I use.

Anders frequently catches me when I tell him, "Just one second," and it takes more than one second. Sure, I use it as a figure of speech meaning give me a short amount of time to finish what I'm doing, but my son needs me to say what I mean.

I've been reading through Joan Chittister's The Rule of St. Benedict: Insight for the Ages lately. St. Benedict talks often about being intentional in what we say, and not saying it too readily or saying too much (in fact, he chastened monastics to not speak unless asked a question).

My lesson (as an introvert who doesn't have a problem in saying too much) is to speak with intent and with blessing. Saying "Have a good day," "See you later," or "How are you?" have little meaning. So, I'm asking myself, "What if I got rid of those meaningless phrases and said things that matter?"

"May you discover the blessings of this day."
"Our visit was a blessing for me; I hope we can do it again soon."
"What has God been teaching you today?"

It's really a shift in thinking. Or maybe just thinking instead of reacting, instead of saying what we say out of habit. So I know I won't get there right away. But I'm thinking about it. And I have a six-year old who will remind me when I have said something I don't actually mean.


More Like Falling in Love

Not too long ago I posted a quote by G.K. Chesterton in which he said that Christianity should look less like a theory and more like a love affair. Not too long afterward I was listening to a song on the radio, "More Like Falling in Love" by Jason Gray, and recognized that quote embedded in the chorus. Here are his lyrics (if you want to read more about the song, go here):

Give me rules
I will break them
Give me lines
I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet
It ought to be

More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love

Give me words
I’ll misuse them
I’ll misplace them
‘Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free
It’s gotta be


…It’s like I’m falling in love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made
Me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

I think I've written of my desire to live like that a few times now--and my struggle with doing so. It's the same with my marriage. I want to love my wife more deeply. I fail miserably at doing so. The fact is I make choices throughout the day that impact how I live--or I neglect to make the choices that will have a deeper impact on my day.

Instead of choosing to be prayerful as I work around the house, I turn on music and let my mind be distracted. Instead of thinking of ways to surprise my wife when she comes home, I spend time doing something I want to do for myself instead.

So, it's up to me. God loves me. My wife loves me. I need to be active in choosing how I return that love.


"True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness."
- Albert Einstein
"Break the conventions. Keep the commandments."
- G.K. Chesterton


Clear Lake

This past weekend my family had their annual weekend campout. My parents and my siblings, spouses and kids (as well as my sister's boyfriend and his mother) gathered together at Clear Lake, Iowa--a location partway between all of us. We set up our tents at one of the state parks around the lake.

The weather was great this weekend--warm enough during the day to enjoy the lake and cool enough at night to sleep well. Plus, oddly we didn't really have a storm, which is odd as my parents are cursed with getting rain anytime they go camping. We spent a lot of time at the beach; the boys really are improving at swimming. It was fun to see them progress, even over the weekend. We also got to play a lot of molkky and kubb (a couple of Scandinavian lawn games I made), which was great.

It was only the second time the boys and I have gotten to go camping this summer--and both times were with my parents. Camping is one of those places where I feel at peace, where I feel God's presence. So I know I need those outings. We all have special ways we connect more deeply with God (maybe through studying, through serving others, being creative, etc.). It's important to recognize what we need and take time to nurture our soul.


Color Blind?

Today at some point, Anders commented about being the only white kid around at times. I asked him how it makes him feel. He said he doesn't always like it because it makes him feel different.

He doesn't really have "labels" yet. He refers to some people as having brown skin or others looking like Lauren (who is of Korean descent) or Nu (who is Hmong). So he does notice differences. But he also notices when he is the one who is different.

We talked about how everyone was created by God--so we're all the same. But we're all unique as well--so we're all different. Even though he may feel different because he is the only white kid at the wading pool, everyone else has differences, too.

This morning I hung out with a pastor friend at his son's soccer camp. He's African American and lives more on the south side of Minneapolis. So at the soccer camp, his son (who is in Anders' Sunday School class) was one of the few brown-skinned kids there. I shared this with Anders, and we talked about how his friend is often the only brown-skinned kid in many situations.

In the boys' children's Bible tonight we read some of "The Teachings of Jesus" (paraphrases of the Sermon on the Mount). The first one was "The Golden Rule": treat others the way you would want to be treated. So we discussed how we would want to be treated by others. We talked about how none of us want to be left out or ignored, so we need to make sure we're not leaving others out.

Our trouble comes not when we notice the color of someone else's skin (because even young children notice that there are differences--we can't be color blind); the trouble comes when we are unable to put ourselves in their shoes and "do unto others." We can only empathize when we get to know others.

Racism is still around. Even the the boys and I have experienced it, being called "honkies" and "crackers" one day while walking to the park. Racism comes out of fear and anger. We're called to love. Even if we aren't like anyone else around us. That's a lesson I'm learning as I teach it to my kids.


National Night Out

Last night was National Night Out--a great opportunity for neighborhoods to get together, get to know each other, have some fun, eat good food and do whatever fun activities they might come up with. It would have been a lot of fun...if our neighborhood had done it. It doesn't help that four of the houses that surround us right now are empty (plus half a rental duplex). And if we had lived here longer than a month and a half (and if Beth hadn't had class the last three weeks and the boys and I hadn't been gone as well), we may have considered hosting something. We want to get to know our neighbors.

Instead, Beth had planned a get together with a guy from her class who wanted to meet our family and have us meet his wife as well. It didn't end up happening because of something in their schedule. We ended up going with our plan anyway--picnicking at Lake Harriet and taking in their nightly concert. It's somewhat between our place and where Beth works, so she met us there when she got off her shift.

So, the boys swam a little, we had a lovely picnic consisting of a lot of veggies from the Farmer's Market and we sat and listened to local artist Brianna Lane (backed up by a fiddler and a washboard player) sing some bluegrass/"Americana". It was a lovely evening. Sometimes your National Night Out needs to be with your family and a few hundred strangers (though most of the time I advocate for hanging out and getting to know your neighbors).



Orare est laborare, laborare est orare.
To pray is to work, to work is to pray.
- St. Benedict


From Head to Heart

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.
- G.K. Chesterton

Dave's Day

I've got to give a shout out to Famous Daves (and to my parents for naming me David). Today was Dave's Day at Famous Daves. The boys and I went after church for lunch. Anyone named Dave (or David or Davy) gets a free entree up to a certain amount. Anyone with a middle name Dave (like Anders has) gets half off up to a certain amount. I guess we ordered inexpensively enough because our waitress gave us the whole meal for free (thanks, Sally!). Plus, there was live music today, so the boys and I enjoyed the meal. Some days it's good to be a Dave.

The Gifts of Following

Jesus promised His disciples three things- that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.
- G.K. Chesterton