Sunday Night Musings: The Cost of Following

In Luke 9:57-62, we get the following interaction between Jesus and three potential disciples:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (NIV)
Now we don't know the whole story. We don't know who these men were, if Jesus had just encountered them or if they knew each other, and we don't even know how the stories play out. We just know two or three sentences in each conversation. The stories aren't so much about what happens, but about Jesus' views of discipleship.

 With some insight from my friend Tonya who preached tonight, I think Jesus is telling us three things:
  1. Following Jesus wont meet our presuppositions and assumptions. We may say we're willing to follow Him wherever, but are we truly? Are we even if it means we don't have a permanent place to call our home? Even if it means we are not accepted by others? Discipleship won't follow a manual. It won't be what we assume it will be; much of it will be unexpected.
  2. Following Jesus will change our priorities. Now we don't know if the second man's father had just died immediately before the scene takes place, or if he wasn't even dead yet, but the burial of one's father was the important duty of a Jewish son. Jesus tells him that it's not his main priority any longer. Now he is to go and proclaim the Kingdom of God. Priorities have shifted.
  3. Following Jesus is future-oriented. Yes, the past is important, but once we commit, we keep moving forward. We don't look back wondering what our old life would be like. We move forward, knowing the best is yet to come.
Having grown up in a Christian home, following Jesus just happened. I made decisions and all, but it happened gradually over time; I don't know if I really understood the ramifications fully.

And it's not that I wouldn't have made the same decision to follow Jesus if I had known what following Him really meant. I think I would have followed Him better, though. Sometimes I can take too much for granted. Sometimes I get off on my own path, rather than staying on His.

In my teenage years I did a better job of following the crowd than following Jesus. In my twenties I did a better job of following the culture. In my thirties I did a better job of following my own desires. And I'm not saying that I wasn't a follower of Jesus during those times or that my life is a failure, but I didn't follow fully. And in not following fully I was missing out.

So know what you're getting into...but if you're going to get into it--do it with gusto!


Stoping Along a the Sakatah Hills Bike Trail

Brown water dappled with green
From specks of duck weed
Flows below the bridge
Where I sit on a cedar bench--
One of several build on the sides
For pedestrians and cyclists 
To pause and rest, to take in
The beauty of the natural surroundings  
The naturalness may be tainted by 
The zooming of cars on the nearby highway 
Or the homes upstream,
But for the moment I am finding 
A subtle peacefulness as I sit. 
Billowy clouds fill the horizon
While wispier ones fly overhead. 
I don't always take the chance
For a bike ride by myself,
Often resigning to a loyalty
To patristic duties, but every now
And then I listen to my wife's offerings
And take some time for self-care. 
So I left our group camp and the
Friends still sitting around the campfire, 
The children playing with each other
And biking down the hills,
And took off own my own of a while. 
I am not a serious cyclist. 
I do not bike merely for the sake
Of logging several miles. 
I enjoy the exercise, yes. 
But I also will take the time
To watch a heron feeding in the reeds
Of the marsh along the trail,
Or take a picture of an interesting shadow,
Or to stop on a bridge over a river
And enjoy the scenery and peacefulness
Like in this moment 


After Doing Some Gardening

Having grown up on a farm and now living in the 'hood, gardening is my connection to the land. I am not a good gardener by any means. I start the majority of my plants from seed; many never germinate. I garden by faith--hoping that what I plant turns out right.

It's mostly vegetables; I'm utilitarian that way. But I have planted a number of flowers to keep the yard looking nice.

Friends of ours put a little "fairy garden" in the corner of their garden for their daughter and son to have. For her birthday their daughter received a number of items for her fairies. Today I came across a parking lot green house that was clearing out their remnants at a %70 discount. They had a few plants in a "fairy garden" section that I picked up for the boys for creating their own version--maybe a "gnome garden." Nils helped me plant the flowers and then he called his brother out to work on it.

They ended up going with an "animal garden" (initially Nils wanted a "Star Wars garden" but I vetoed that because he wanted to use his old toys we were trying to sell). They built some fences out of sticks and put a little pond in using a lid from a peanut butter jar. Pebbles became a pathway and a few more sticks became a bridge over the pond.

* * * * * * * *
  • Gardening connects me to God's creation. I get to be a part of the creating cycle. I get to witness a dead seed turning into a flourishing plant that produces more seeds.
  • It teaches the boys about where food comes from. We get to eat right out of the garden--they know produce doesn't simply come from the grocery store.
  • For me gardening is therapy. Stress alleviates when I pull some weeds. I can lose myself for a good part of an afternoon pulling clover out of the grass (though I found myself not keeping up with it as well lately and having to resort to harsher measures).
  • Gardening gets dirt under my nails. Mainly because I don't wear gloves. Gardening is good work. It's honest work. And it's rewarding.
  • Working in my garden connects me to my neighborhood. My wife keeps a very tidy house (and directs me into my part of that) which is an act of hospitality to our guests. But the garden is where I get to by hospitable to the neighborhood. Frequently when I'm working outside someone walking by says hello or exchanges a few other words. Acquaintances and friends stop and talk--or at least honk their horns in a friendly manner.  Some will comment on how nice things look; occasionally some will ask for a tomato. When I'm working in the garden, I interact with the neighborhood in ways I don't get to if I were doing other activities.
    A few of the animals with their pathway and bridge across the pond.
I may not feed my family for the winter or have beautiful blooms. My Brussels sprouts plants may not produce (last year's didn't). Some of the seeds may not even germinate. I may not have planted a proper mix of flowers to produce blooms year-round. But I will keep gardening, no matter what the results.

And we'll see how the "animal garden" grows through the summer. I'm excited the boys have their own little patch of dirt to play with.


After a Bike Ride

The boys and I went for a bike ride today. We haven't gotten one in since before school was out when we did a little trip from a park to a beach just over a mile and a half away.We really haven't gotten in many short rides this summer yet. We're either going places or it's rainy.

Today was the first opportunity we took to get in a longer ride--almost three and a half miles one way, close to a seven mile ride. We took our bikes on the car and went to a park along the Mississippi River just north of downtown. We got onto the bike path that goes right under Target Stadium. The boys thought it would be exciting to bike under where the Twins play (it's really not--but it was motivating at least). We ended up going to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

The Walker Art Museum commissioned artists to design mini-golf course holes. The boys probably spent an hour looking at them, even though we didn't play (it would not have been a cheap outing in any way). We walked around the sculpture garden a little as well, stopping for a small picnic.

As the day was hot and humid, we started back to our car shortly after--getting back with time to play at the playground where we parked before any rain started (somehow we ended just getting a few sprinkles, though the streets were completely wet on our way home).

Biking and swimming are my two main forms of exercise (okay, and hiking--and canoeing and kayaking, but I don't get to do those very often). I love the rhythm, the movement of my body, the physical strain.

I love that when you bike, you're able to take in the scenery and interact with it at will. We passed a mulberry bush along the trail today, so we stopped and picked a few berries.

I love that the travel involves your body. You can't do a passive bike trip (well maybe on a tandem, but that's not going to make your partner happy).

I love that it is accessible. Yes, plenty of people spend plenty of money on their bike, clothing, and gear. But almost anyone can get a used bike for a reasonable price. My 15-year old bike still keeps me going without any special clothes or gear. I'm not winning races, but I'm enjoying the ride.

I love that even in the city, it connects me back to nature. I can get on a bike trail and go through the woods, along the river, or around a lake. As I'm biking I notices smells and sights. I am aware of fluctuations in the weather. I've seen deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, eagles, great blue herons, and plenty of other fauna on my rides. Even when I'm clipping along, I notice wildflowers growing along the path.

I love that we can do it together as a family. My wife is a runner; my oldest son tried it out today for the first time with her (I'm proud of him for doing so). I am not. But we all enjoy biking. And today's trip gives me a little hope that we can do some more rides this summer that go beyond our neighborhood.


After an Evening Swim

After partaking of a delicious Indian supper (I daresay I think I'm doing pretty well with some of these ethnic foods) and doing some clean-up, we headed to a beach to cool off. It had reached 90 today.

It was only the second time that we've been to a beach this summer. The boys and I went several days ago; they swam, I didn't. It was a bit too cold for me to brave yet.

The lake wasn't exactly warm tonight, but I was hot enough to keep pushing through the cold. It did feel quite refreshing.

It was the first time the boys have been able to swim out to the raft with me (or that I've been able to swim out to the raft since usually I have to stay shallower to watch the boys. I treaded (trode?--my spellcheck doesn't recognize the word "treaded") water for a while as they did some jumps and watched other families playing on the raft.

Wispy clouds brushed across the sky as I floated on my back. Seaweed (why do we call it seaweed when it's in a lake?) fiendishly grabbed at my feet.

I'm drawn to water. I love to swim, kayak, canoe. I love to hike through wooded/mountainous areas where a stream runs through. I love to walk along Lake Superior. Ghost River in Alberta is still one of my favorite places I've hiked along.

When God created the heavens and the earth--before He even said, "Let there be light"--there was water. It's fundamental to life. The majority of all life on earth is made up of water. I think in some ways, water connects with us spiritually.

Much like food, the Bible is replete with stories and events that involve water: Noah and the flood, the Israelite's exodus from Egypt, Psalm 23, Jesus' baptism, the river that flows through New Jerusalem. Baptism is as central to the faith journey as communion is. In the waters of baptism we are changed. When we come up, we're not the same as when we went under.

It took me a little while to get fully submerged tonight. I'm not always good at just diving under in cold water. I tend to wade out slowly until the water's deep enough where I have to just get wet. But the water was quite cold--we've had a long winter and it's been quite rainy lately. So it took time for me to go under, but once I did it was quite comfortable. We were in for a while--until the sun was setting behind the trees.

Water is refreshing, renewing, relaxing. I love summer because it means time at the beach, camping at a lake, and hiking along a river. I look forward to family swims the rest of the summer. And to more refreshment on hot summer days.


Sunday Night Musings: Demon-Possession and Pigs

One of today's lectionary texts is Luke 8:26-39. You may remember this crazy story (if not you can read it on the link) about a demon-possessed man who lives naked in a cemetery. Jesus sails across Galilee and finds him. The demons acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and beg for mercy. They don't want to be tortured or thrown into the Abyss. So in an act of mercy(?) Jesus sends them into a herd of pigs who then run off a cliff into the water and drown. The man becomes himself again, but the townsfolk are afraid and ask Jesus to leave.

There's a lot of peculiarities to this story--which is part of the beauty of the gospel. Here's a man who has been chained up and given a guard by the villagers. But he keeps breaking out of his chains. Apparently the demon who possesses him prefers that he lives in solitude (you'd think the demons would want to raise a ruckus in the town, but maybe that's just in the movies--maybe real demons prefer to go unnoticed). And apparently the demon drives him to live naked amongst the graves. We're chock full of crazy here.

(personally, I think the pigs should have glowing red eyes)
Then the demon (which is referred to in the singular up to this point), tells Jesus that his name is "Legion" because there are so many of him. Even though few humans do, the demons recognize Jesus. The know who He is and the authority He has. So they beg for mercy. I don't know much about the theology of demons and their "hell" but apparently they can be tortured which they're not too fond of, and they don't want to go to the Abyss (because as we all know thanks to James Cameron, there are aliens down there). So for whatever reason, Jesus allows them to be cast into a herd of swine which promptly goes and drowns itself (who knows what happens to demons after pigs die?).

Then the swineherds tell the townspeople who come back to check things out. They find the formerly possessed man sitting at Jesus' feet, returned to normal. Their reaction? Fear. No one seems to be angry that their valuable livestock died. No one celebrates the restoration of the man. No one asks questions or brings him some clothing or sees if Jesus can cure their acne. They are afraid, so fearfully they ask Jesus to remove Himself from their vicinity. The restored man asks to go with, but Jesus encourages him to stay and tell people what God has done for him, which he does.

Like I said--it's kind of a crazy story. It leaves me asking a lot of "why" questions. Here's one of mine: Why does Jesus sail across this lake to heal just one man when He's going to be asked to leave right after He does it? Why doesn't He go into the village and restore everyone? Surely all the townsfolk were in need of some healing, some restoration, some salvation? Why doesn't Jesus do something a little "bigger" if He's not going to be in the area for long?

Here's my thought: in the Kingdom of God, one person makes all the difference. Yes, Jesus came to save all humanity, but His restorative interactions are almost always with individuals. Each individual matters.

But each individual is part of a community. Jesus asks this restored man to go back home and tell his family what God has done for him. So because of one changed individual, a whole community gets to hear about Jesus.

Still, I wonder what's up with the pigs? That one I don't have an answer to. But I kind of like the image of the ungodly stuff in my life going running down a steep slope and drowning in the sea, never to be seen again.

So maybe for me that pig--that delicious source of bacon--is a reminder of what God has done in my life, of the crap He has helped me get rid of, and of all the things I have to share about what God has done for me. And that list is much longer than I'm even aware.


A Concert at Lake Harriet

The first summer night
That we've been able
To head down to the lake
To take in a concert.

The band is enjoyable:
a guitarist/singer,
drummer, and bass player.
Their name I never
Really caught--something
With "Prophet" or "Profit"
In it. I think it is the former.
The music is described
As "American rock and
Roll with Soul."
You never know what
You might get, but
Overall it is quite enjoyable.

In the background
Sailboats skim by on
The lake while rollerbladers
And bicyclists pass
Around the perimeter.
A family plays bocce
Ball in the grass
While airplanes scream
Overhead, heading toward
The airport. They drown
Out the music momentarily.

 People in the benches sit;
Those around us in the grass
Eat sandwiches and drink
White wine. Talking,
Laughing, reading the paper.
A few kids and adults
dance near the stage.
Men walk over with
ice cream cones for their
families or dates. Couples
share a bag of popcorn.

We have not seen some
Of the usual people we
Frequently saw at concerts
Last year. But a group of
Neighbors sitting next to
Us is quite friendly.
Bicyclists stop to catch
Some of the music.
Dog owners abound:
Large dogs on leashes,
Small dogs carried under
Arms. Our children return
From the playground and
Enjoy spending time sitting
With us on the blanket,
Listening to the music.

The temperatures reached
Into the mid-nineties today,
But a cool breeze aids
To an relaxing evening--
A wonderful way to
Spend a summer evening.


Parenting Trials: The Checklist

By this time in the day I was hoping to have biked along a trail to a beach or somewhere fun, picnicked, and been enjoying the outside. We're still at home. Because of my 8-year old.

Let me back up. A few days ago I decided to make a daily checklist for the boys. We'd been having a hard time getting things done around the house. Things like cleaning their room. Or a little daily math work. So, I made a list of things they needed to do each day. Accomplishing those things means that we can go do something fun: a bike ride, the free zoo, time at a beach, a playdate, etc.

The list includes:
  • Go to the bathroom, get dressed, put pajamas away
  • Eat breakfast, clear the table, brush teeth, brush hair
  • Do two chores from a list (take out recycling, put away laundry, put away dishes, clean room, etc.)
  • Do 15 minutes of writing (a story, poem, journal--anything)
  • Do 15 minutes of math

Reading is not on the list.  They would do that most of the day if I let them. But I want them to retain the things they've learned in school and work ahead a little, so math and writing are on there. Nils has a workbook he generally enjoys doing. Anders needs to keep working on his multiplication tables. He at the moment really dislikes math. But we've talked about how practice will make it easier.

The last few days have gone pretty well. They got their checklist done right away and we've been able to get out and enjoy playdates and bike rides.

Today has not gone well. It's been a continuous tantrum. Which means that Nils and I aren't able to do anything else yet. We could be here all day. I seriously hope not.

But I've got to stick to my guns. Even if it means the rest of us miss out on what we'd like to do. I will readily admit that not every battle is worth fighting. But our children know that we won't give in to tantrums. A tantrum will not get them what they want. And this is for their sake.

We want them to grow up well. We want them to know they won't always get their way in life. That there will always be work we don't want to do that has to get done. That working through tough things is a reward in itself. That it's not all about them--their choices effect other people.

But it is tough to not give in and just say, "Never mind. Let's just go bike to the lake." It would be easier. I know plenty of people who do it. But I also know the long-term effects aren't worth it. Giving in will just set up my child to believe that he will always get what he wants and have life his way.

I'm trying to teach them that life isn't about always doing what we want, but doing what needs to be done. That we can find joy in life, even in tough times. That serving others is much more rewarding than being self-seeking. That obedience is a show of love.

Hopefully he'll make the right choices yet today. And each day after that. Summer won't last forever. But hopefully these life lessons will.


United We Ride

I've messed up plenty along the way--
Broken promises, unkept vows.
Each day is a new chance
To star over, to begin anew;
To treat my bride 
As well as she deserves--

I believe that love can overcome.
It can overcome the mistakes,
The hardships, the grief,
The stagnancy, the self-centeredness,
The fears, the resentment,
All the difficulties that creep in at times.

We make choices every day.
And choices can drive us apart
Or pull us closer together.
Often we don't realize 
What choices we are making
Until it's too late.
But I don't believe
That it has to be too late.

I can still make choices
That build up instead of tearing down.
I can make a choice each day
To not be selfish, 
But to be more giving.

Like the thunderstorm growing outside,
My wife is amazing,
Powerful, and beautiful.
And I intend to behold her reverently,
Growing together on a journey
Where the destination is less important
Than the journey together.

* * * * * * *

We didn't really get a chance to celebrate today. As soon as my wife was done with work today, she came home, we packed the car, and drove to Iowa. We're with my whole family this weekend for a belated celebration of my father's birthday: my mom got tickets for a train ride which we'll be doing tomorrow.

On the way my wife joked about celebrating at Subway. One of our first times out together in college was at Subway. And after our wedding--and early wedding with lunch--as we were on our way back to our apartment on our first night, we realized we hadn't planned for supper. And there was nothing along the way. Nothing. Just a handful of small towns, and we realized that Subway was becoming our option for food. Our only stops were for bathroom breaks and to refill the gas tank, however.  

We keep intending to do something special for one of our anniversaries--something big. More than just a night out together. A trip to Sweden was discussed at one point, but then my job got cut. Someday something will happen. 

For now we'll enjoy this weekend together with family. We'll try to fit something in during the next week or so. But I know that what how we celebrate this one day is less important than how we live each day. 

I've officiated six weddings so far. I've been through sixteen years of marriage. And I'm still learning. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self the things I know now. But marriage isn't about what we know, but about how well we implement what we learn. 

I intend to keep learning. Because I love you, Beth. Happy anniversary! 


The Perplexities of Time

Technically speaking, our sense of time is based on two things: the earth's rotation on its axis and its revolution around the sun. Our rotation produces a day that we divide into 24 hours. Our revolution takes about 365.24 days.

If you go anywhere else in the galaxy, time is different. A year on Mercury is shorter than three Earth months. If you travel to Venus, a year lasts 224.7 Earth days, but Venus takes 243 days to rotate on their axis, so a day is longer than a year. I have no idea how that plays out with Venusian birthdays.

But on Jupiter, a year lasts more than a decade on Earth, but their day is about 10 hours long. It takes nearly 165 Earth years for Neptune to make a trip around the sun--so since Neptune was discovered it has only been around the sun once (July 2011 marked it's one year birthday).

Planets made of gas, like Neptune, usually don't rotate at a uniform speed. There it takes the equator two hours longer to make a rotation than it does the poles.

If it were possible to travel to the sun would you experience days or years? Would time stand still?

And consider that the light from the sun takes about 8 minutes to reach earth. The light from the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri) takes about four years to reach us. When we look into the night sky, we're looking into the past. If an alien living in another galaxy looked through a powerful enough at Earth today, they would in theory see a prehistoric earth.

Einstein asserted that time is relative--that someone who could theoretically travel in a space ship at the speed of light would age differently than someone on Earth.

Time becomes even more perplexing when we consider that God has no beginning and no end. He is outside of time. He is in the past, present, and future simultaneously.

But for something so relative, it is also so central to our way of living. We live by time: Time is money. I'm late. You're early. Your time's up. Wait a second. Got a minute? We get into arguments over time--like how old the earth is (which I wonder if it matters so much from either end when time isn't as universal as we like to think it is).

Sometimes, especially around birthdays or other milestones, it feels like time is against us. We only have so many days of life on this planet. In the Star Trek movie Generations, Captain Picard says, "Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived"

Later in the movie Insurrection, Captain Picard is told by a woman named Anij who has been able to turn back time on her life, "We've discovered that a single moment in time can be a universe in itself, full of powerful forces. Most people aren't aware enough of the now to even notice." I wonder if the same single moment in time can hold that full of a potential for us...


Sunday Night Musings: Fixed Action Patterns

Our message tonight at church was from a local representative from World Vision. He shared about a literary technique called "fixed action pattern." It shows up in psychology and ethnology and probably several other areas. It means that a character or a person keeps on doing what they've always done in life. If a person grows up being afraid of water, they're going to avoid water as they get older as well unless something changes. The element of change is called a "moving action pattern" (at least according to our speaker--I was never taught this in my literature classes, but the premise still works).

Jesus is a constant moving action pattern. His fixed action pattern as you read the gospels is to go through some town. But then something happens. He sees Zaccheus up in a tree. He asks a woman at a well for water. He encounters a funeral possession for a widow's son.

And Jesus reacts/interacts/acts upon the situation. He calls Zaccheus down and stays at his house. He talks to the woman about her life and she tells the town about the Messiah. He raises the dead boy. And lives are changed. Life is always the outcome--a fuller life, a better life, life instead of death.

Tasks never trump people with Jesus. He'll stop what He's doing and talk with someone or help them. Almost any interaction with someone becomes an opportunity for a "moving action pattern."

Our day-to-day living is constant fixed action patterns. If you're like me, it becomes easy to becomes fixed on the task at hand. We get in fixed-action-ruts.

My days are more memorable when I take advantage of moving action moments. When I stop and play with a lonely student during recess duty rather than just watching and making sure everyone is getting along well. When I interact with the cashier rather than just make my purchase and get out of the store. When I invite my child to cook with me rather than just doing it myself and letting them watch television.

So being a good World Vision representative, he shared during dessert time about helping to bring clean water to children who don't have it (via a half marathon). There are plenty of cross-cultural moving action moments that we can take advantage of--simple things we can do to change the life of someone in the world:

I could go on and on, of course. We all know plenty of organizations through which we can make a difference. We don't always do it. And it's not just about sending money somewhere. It's just as much about stopping the lawn mower to talk with our neighbor when we see them rather than keep on mowing. So let's get out of our fixed action patterns and change the world. One action at a time.


Sunday Night Musings: A Busy Week Ending in Celebrations

It's been a long week. My wife doesn't return for a couple more days from her conference/trip to Iceland. Last weekend we were at Bible Camp and returned Monday afternoon/evening. Tuesday was the boys' last day of swimming lessons. On Wednesday we had supper with friends for my birthday. On Thursday Anders had violin lessons, and we had an ice cream social afterwards at school. On Friday my sister and brother-in-law stayed with us on their way to the North Shore to celebrate their first anniversary, so my other sister and her family came over for supper. On Saturday morning we traveled to Wisconsin for Beth's niece's wedding (the first of 22 grandkids on that side to get married). We came back today and arrived in the Twin Cities just in time to get some food to bring to church before it started.

I know many single parents do it all the time. But I'm worn out. There are clothes in the washing machine, but that's about all I have energy to do. The lawn needs to be mowed. The car is in need of a thorough cleaning after the last two weekends of travel. There is plenty to do around the house.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

The wedding was nice. It's hard to believe that the little girl who was in grade school when Beth and I were married is now married herself. All the family was there (minus a few nieces and nephews, and my wife). The groom's brother was supposed to be the best man, but he is serving in the armed forces and couldn't be there. But he sent a video which was played during the reception that brought a tear to most eyes in the room.

I'm pretty sure Nils only ate potatoes and cupcakes along with Pepsi. I was going to help him eat the rest of his real food, but he had to go to the bathroom and the tables were cleared while we were gone. I'm pretty sure all that sugar (grandma bought him an ice cream cone during the time between the wedding and the reception as well) aided in him being a bit energetic on the dance floor. (Quick side note: It's very hard to erase the memory of my mother-in-law dancing to Sir Mix-a-Lot's song "Baby Got Back.")

My niece and her husband met while on an ice fishing trip (they're from Wisconsin, after all). Her husband's family lives on a trout creek. During their grand march, the wedding party came out with fishing gear, waders, or life jackets. Again, only in Wisconsin.

I admit to feeling guilt during weddings over the vows I haven't held up well or have down-right broken. But I am also refreshed with commitment to my wife and look forward growing old with her. I think there is plenty of adventure ahead (hopefully I can make it with on one of her trips sometime!).

So to Anna and Kyle I wish all the best. I pray they're able to cling to the vows they made yesterday. I pray for a long, adventurous road ahead that brings much joy. I pray above all that their journey together brings them closer to God--and that in Him they may find the love that may make their love more complete.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

Tonight at church we celebrated our youth leader/seminary intern who just graduated and became our pastoral associate while our pastor is on sabbatical. I'm excited for her (as well as a bit envious).

Our pastor picked the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 from John 6. Our pastor reminded her that "all we need is what we have." Jesus used the boys' two small fish and five loaves of bread to feed a small town. The boy was willing to give what we had, even if it didn't seem like it could make a difference.

As I thought about what to share in appreciation of our friend, I realized that the majority of the people in the story didn't have what they needed. They didn't bring food (or maybe they just weren't willing to share it like the boy did). Nonetheless, Jesus took care of their needs. Sometimes we don't have all we need, but our community has it for us.

That's why one of the main New Testament images of the church is "the body." Connection to others is critical. We all bring different gifts. We need each other. As much as seminary is about equipping a person to be a leader and minister in the church, it is just as important to remember that we don't have it all--we need others.

Which is why God created marriage. He knew the man wouldn't be complete on his own, so a woman was created. Now, I don't believe marriage is for everyone; I firmly believe that singleness is a gift that the church needs to uphold as much as it does marriage (if not more!). But the Body of Christ and the marriage union are both reminders that we need others.

So I am looking forward to my wife being home. Not simply because I need her around to help with the boys and with housework and to keep me sane; I want her back because she makes my life more complete. She helps me aspire to become more than I am. She helps me get outside myself and see the others whom God has placed before me to serve.

Two more days. I can do it. But it'll be so much better when she's back.