"So that like the birds wherever they fly always find the air, just so wherever we are, we find God present."
     - St. Francis de Sales


First Day of School: An Ode to Teachers

First day of school. Granted, it's only for the new students in a classroom (which for us means anyone who transferred into the school as well as anyone who moved up a level--ie. 1st graders and 4th graders). That was about half our class, though. The day is meant to help introduce those students to the classroom and how it works.

The teacher I work with got stuck in California, however. She was there for a family funeral and was to be back last night. But a flight delay led to her not being back today. We were busy last week with workshops and getting the classroom ready that we didn't have much time to talk about what today was going to look like. It's a new classroom for me, and a new level (E1 as compared to E2 in Montessori-speak). It's all new. And I knew very little.

Thankfully the Assistant Director filled in for the teacher. It was good because she knows some of the challenges we'll be facing this year. There are a lot of great children in the class and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow this coming year. But there will be some challenges.

Did I mention yet that it was almost 100 degrees and the building does not have air conditioning? And because Minneapolis Public Schools declared that their children were not to go outside today, that meant we couldn't walk over to the nearby city park for recess. The one with the wading pool.

After supper I went for a swim. No one else wanted to go (the boys had already played in the yard with the slip-n-slide with some neighbor kids), and normally I wouldn't go by myself, but I needed to cool off and get some exercise. I ran into a friend's mom, so we treaded water (okay, spell check is telling me "treaded" isn't a word--do I go with "trod" or simply "tread"? Oh, the things that get to an English major) and chatted for a while. It was refreshing. So was the cold shower to rinse off the lake smell when I got home.

Tomorrow will be interesting. First day with all students. Hopefully the teacher is back, but I'm afraid we didn't get today's students prepared very well. And it'll be nearly 100 again.

The children seemed to have a good day today, at least. Not that it was bad. Just a little challenging at times.

* * * * * 

My mother was a teacher when I was little (she still is!). My first teacher, in fact. When she started, she wasn't full time. She devoted time to raising a family, but also to the children she taught. We spent a lot of time after school while mom was putting in extra time for her class.

She wasn't alone. Many teachers were there well after they were contractually obligated to be. The usually came in before they were supposed to start school at the end of summer (though maybe didn't stay past the last contractual day at the beginning of summer! Everyone needs a break at that point).

If you're friends with any teachers on facebook you've probably seen those post that talk about if a teacher was paid at the same rate as a babysitter (it would actually be a lucrative profession!) or about how many hours they put into each day.

For entrusting our children (and the future) with education with books as well as life, teachers don't receive what they deserve (neither do parents, of course, but that's a different blog post). For eight hours a day, nine months of the year they pour their time, talent, and often their own personal money into our children. They often put up with a lot of crap that they shouldn't have to--often from parents. This of course is not just the licensed teachers, but assistants, paraprofessionals, administrators, office staff, kitchen staff, janitorial staff, etc. I'm not just saying this because I work at a school. Well, I guess I am. But not because I want recognition.

We, as a society, need to give less recognition to politicians, athletes, and rock stars, and give more respect to those with whom we entrust our children's lives. So hang in there, teachers--even on these super hot days--and know that what you do is worth it.

Hopefully, you'll be told that more and more.


Sunday Night Musing: Rhythms and Practices

At church tonight we heard about the time Jesus was in the temple on the Sabbath and saw a woman in need of healing and frees her from the bondage she has lived with for many years (this in itself is something to talk about as usually people come to Jesus and ask Him for mercy). The religious leaders get upset because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus calls them hypocrites saying that they would untie their oxen on the Sabbath in order to give them water, so why shouldn't this woman be released from her bondage as well.

Our guest speaker used the passage to look at how we practice our practices. Keeping the Sabbath is central to the Jewish faith. Rooted in the creation narrative, it has been practiced since God gave Moses the commandments on Mount Sinai. Of course throughout the years scholars debated and made their own rulings on what was appropriate to do and not do on the Sabbath. Somehow healing was not appropriate for Jesus to do on a day meant for renewal according to those leaders in the temple back then.

We all have our practices, though. Not just those spiritual disciplines like fasting or meditating that aid us in relating to God, but those things that give life to our spiritual rhythms. A yearly retreat for reflection and revitalization. Meeting with a spiritual director each month. Attending church each Sunday. Having a time each day set aside to read the Scriptures or pray. And we practice those practices in different ways and for different reasons.

What are your practices?
How do you practice them?
Why do you practice them?
How do those rhythms impact your life?

We left church a little early and without dessert tonight (which created a lot of ^fun^ responses from the boys) to try and have a better bedtime tonight (last week's attempt at early to bed, early to rise after church was not successful). Tomorrow is the first day of school. We're settling back into rhythms and practices that hopefully create more successful days for us as a family.

I am aware of my need to practice my own spiritual practices with more intent and discipline. We're all aware of how difficult that can be in a busy work day with a family life involving young children. But we're also probably aware of how important those rhythms and practices are for our lives. Or maybe we're not. Maybe we practice because we're supposed to or to look religious. Maybe we don't practice because we don't know how or because we choose to fill our time with other activities. Part of the lesson from today is not condemning others' practices, but being intentional with our own.

We don't practices our practices in isolation, however. Our own rhythms are part of a bigger communal element--or at least they're intended to be. Our guest preacher at church tonight pointed out that Jesus practiced His practices for the sake of being focused when God brought something before Him. Like the woman in the crowded temple in need of healing. Jesus frequently withdrew to lonely places for time with the Father. And these times alone helped Him keep focused in His ministry to others. It was an example to the disciples who followed Him.

Entering into a new school year I intend to make good use of my break time during the day. It has been a place where I can take a little break to spend time with God and reach out to others--practices which aid me in being focused the rest of the day. I intend to fit in at least one personal retreat in the next year so that I have some time to get away, have a change of pace, and take time to reflect and look ahead at life. I intend to find some good practices for our family to help our children develop those rhythms in their own lives. We all need space and time to bloom and grow.



We got away yesterday for a night of camping--the first time in a few months. Camping is a loaded word. Everyone has their own definition of what that means. For some it's a fully-loaded camper with cable hook-up and wi-fi. For some it's carrying everything on your back into the woods where no other human is around for miles. For us--being in our late 30s with two elementary-aged children, it's car camping. We drive to a State Park, back our car into a site where we registered to camp at in the park office, and pitch our tent. Sometimes we get a hike-in site where we walk a little ways to our site--often with a cart for our stuff. We occasionally do something more rugged. Rarely will we go to a commercialized campsite (I did it last summer with the boys on a super hot day so that we had a swimming pool).

Yesterday we went to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park just south of the Twin Cities. We were headed down that direction for an open house of some friends who moved to Northfield this summer, so it worked well to camp the night before.

As we reached the south edge of the Twin Cities for some reason I realized at that point I had forgotten to pack the tent. I have no excuse for forgetting it other than I don't do well when I have to pack everything on my own. For some reason I didn't think to have Beth help me the night before get everything ready to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything (I guess it could have been that we had an open house at school that night, so there wasn't much time).

This isn't the first time I have forgotten to pack the tent, I hate to admit. The last time we were in the market for a new one anyway, so we picked up one on sale at Wal-Mart to use for a few years. This time we did not need another tent (and we really didn't want to turn around and drive back to our house). Thankfully, our friends who were having the open house had a tent we could borrow (which ruined the surprise for the boys of seeing their friends--they didn't know about the open house).

* * * * *

I need time in nature.

I get renewed outdoors (even if I feel more tired after a long day in the sun). It is often a spiritual experience for me--it's a place I commune with God.

We all hiked yesterday as a family. Just on a short (thought rated "most difficult") trail down to the "Hidden Waterfall." Which of course, wasn't that hidden as the trail led you right to it.  The water was low, so it wasn't overly spectacular (though still pleasant) and it had a potential
risk of some bacteria, so we didn't play in the water like we thought we might since it was a hot day.

We did hike along Prairie Creek downstream and found another waterfall--which was probably more hidden that the main one. We did let the boys wade in places where the water was moving pretty well. They liked exploring, my wife loved the rock formations and strata, and I enjoyed being outside with my family. 

It was a bit cooler in the valley where the river wound. A lower elevation, the shaded canopy of the big woods, the element of moving water.

As we hiked we noticed a lot of sticks, weeds, and other natural debris wrapped around trees along the river. Apparently in July the park had seven inches of rain in three hours. I would have loved to have seen the waterfall then. It had to have been an amazing torrent. Seriously, the debris was several feet above the creek's current path.Today the creek was a small trickle in a lot of places. We walked across it back and forth as we hiked downstream.

* * * * *

This morning after breakfast was cleaned up we borrowed a GPS unit from the park office to try out one of their geocaching activities. Collectible cards with birds are hidden in each of the state parks. The boys didn't want to at first, but they discovered it was fun--even if it was on the same trail we had done the day before.

We tried out a different trail for a little ways. It was one Nils had wanted to explore the day before (probably just because it was called "Beaver Trail" and he expected that might mean seeing a beaver along it). They didn't make it too far down the trail before they wanted to turn back (I think the swings at the playground were beckoning), which was fine as I was given the opportunity to hike by myself the rest of the trail.

It wasn't too long. It wasn't too difficult. There weren't any breathtaking vistas.

But it was good. Basswood, oak, elm, maple towered overhead. Ferns and wildflowers carpeted the undercanopy. Sunshine illuminated leaves in trees. Acorns and dogwood seeds occasionally dropped to the forest floor. Rubbing branches made creaking noises.

Signposts along the path pointed out the direction of travel. It wasn't really necessary. The path was clearly marked. If another path branched off, a map was present to guide you on the desired trail.

I've wandered through woods off the path on occasion. Generally it's when I know I need to travel a certain direction or elevation change to reach a certain destination. It's not as easy going. And if I need to find my way back on the same route, I know to occasionally look behind me to get an image of the return path.

When walking a designated path (which is generally recommended--we actually couldn't go off path in parts of the forest because of a rare lily that only grows in three counties in Minnesota and no where else in the world),  there isn't much to worry about. You can just enjoy the hike. As long as you can read a map and identify if the path loops back to your starting point or not, you're generally in good shape.

If only life was so easy. If the paths were marked out. If it were clear where junctions in the path led.

You've probably heard the Bible called "life's road map" before. As if all decisions you need to make are clearly marked out. As if the direction you need to travel is clear all the time. Sometimes it is. Often it's not.

God doesn't place big, blue arrows along your path in life. That's not how He works--not always at least. I think with life it's more important to be in touch with God. The Bible helps. So does prayer. They're connection points in developing that relationship.

I still struggle. I struggle to fit in time in the Word and make it meaningful. I struggle to pray in ways that feel like I am sharing with God and hearing back from Him. I struggle with that whole relationship thing more often than I like at this point in my life.

The nice thing is, God keeps creating opportunities to get back on the right path when I'm off it. And maybe at some point I'll get that relationship thing done well enough to hear His voice when He says to "go left" or "stay the course."

I think being in the woods and hiking actually helps with that. 


For My Nephew and Bride

On an old Amish farm--
Now a bed and breakfast--
Nestled between the large hills
Of southwestern Wisconsin,
The nuptials take place,
Romance comes to fruition.
Rows of white wooden chairs
Face the wooden posts 
That create a frame for the
Couple to stand in front of 
While barn swallows swoop
Across the pond behind them.
An old silo looms overhead
And honeybees buzz amongst
The wildflowers in the surrounding field.

Years ago the first couple
Came together in a garden
Amidst wildlife and wildflower,
An ordained union meant
For relational completeness:
Male, female, and God.
The sacrement has continued
As lovers come together
Committing to each other,
Vowing unconditional love,
And creating a new organism
From which family will come
And blessing will flow.

Today the young bride
And her bridegroom
Embark on a new journey
In relationship and in geography
As they learn to love during
Good times and bad,
Loving each other's faults
As well as their qualities
Which first caused attraction.
Struggles will come
As well as indescribable joy
While love learns to thrive--
May blessing be poured upon
The newly wed couple.


Sunday Night Musing: Not Peace but Division

I don't know if you've ever come across those parts in the gospels where Jesus tells people that from now on families will be divided and such, but it's a bit alarming. I mean, Jesus is the guy who is supposed to redeem everything and bring it all back together. Then He goes on to say that he hasn't come to bring peace, but division. Not the stuff that sells Jesus' message very well.

But it's there. In the Bible, God's Word

Lately I've been reading a book for review that applies to this, I think. I'm not done with it yet, but it's called This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. The subtitle gives further insight into it's theme: "Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God."

The Kingdom of God is central to Jesus' Mission. Throughout the gospels, they tell us that Jesus came to preach repentance and the good news of the Kingdom of God. And Jesus tells us in many parables and lessons that the Kingdom of God is here amongst us now. But it's also not here fully yet. It's a paradox of existence.

But when we learn to live in that tension of paradox, we get it. Most of us, though, tend to see only one part of the Kingdom. We may be focused on what is yet to come, but miss out on it's presence here now. Or vice versa. But then we tend to be focused on personal piety, but not issues of justice. Or we may be into stewardship, but not focus well on discipleship. But it's both. Now and not yet.

And I think that the Kingdom is why Jesus says families will be divided. The Kingdom, by nature, is divisive. It separates the things of Heaven from the things of this world.  Jesus makes it clear that we can't love the things of this world more than the things of Heaven. And not everyone gets that. It's also a threat to some, which creates more division.

So what's it mean for me? What do I need to take away from this passage? That's always the question at hand with reading the Bible isn't it? (Thought often we need to switch "me" with a communal "us.")

I can easily worry too much about what others think about me and try to please them and keep myself in good terms with them. I need to realize that following Jesus will not always put me in the good graces of others, but that doesn't matter. I am to love others, but not cater to their perception of who I should be.

I also need to hold the tension of the Now and Not Yet Kingdom. I need to pay attention to the Kingdom of God at work around me and join in it bringing justice and hope. I need to keep myself focused on following Jesus as no one knows when He will return. 

So peace be with you. Now...and not yet.


Summer Regrets & Blessings

I start back to work at school tomorrow.


I know a lot of people are ready for it, but not me. I enjoy the summer: swimming in the lakes, camping, sunshine, gardening, children playing, time to write. Part of the problem is that I plan for a full three months of summer. The reality is that it's a week over two months, and it goes by quickly.

There are so many things I thought we'd get done--things I hoped to do, things I planned on doing:
  • more bike rides
  • more museum trips (didn't do a single one--but those are kind of a rainy day thing, and we didn't have many of those)
  • more camping (which had better happen this fall)
  • more projects around the house
  • more marketing on my book
  • more swimming
  • more summer concerts
  • more writing done
  • more hammock time (I was in it maybe once all summer--scandalous!)
  • more hiking and exploring natural places
  • having more people over for grilled supper outside
  • playing more kubb & molkky
  • doing some day trips
But it's easy to want more--the hard part is being content with what did happen. Actually, that's not all that hard. There was a lot of blessings this summer:
  • A train ride with the Wenell family
  • Seeing the boys fish for the first time
  • Two fun camping trips with friends
  • The Trumper family reunion
  • Cabin time in Wisconsin
  • 4th of July parade
  • Fireworks
  • Concerts at Lake Harriet (including one followed by watching The Goonies)
  • Soccer games
  • Farmer's Market
  • Swimming at Cedar Lake
  • Going to the zoo
  • Playdates for the boys at the park
  • Longer bike rides with the boys than we've been able to do
  • Seeing flowers and vegetables grow in the gardens
  • Most importantly, time with the family
But the savings account is dwindling, so the paychecks are needed, and back to work I go. And work is good, and it doesn't mean the fun is over. There is still time for things to happen: fall camping, evening picnics, weekend day trips, etc.

Sometimes it can be go hard to go back to school and hear all the reports on "What I Did This Summer." I can get jealous of the big vacations, expensive trips, expansive travels. But summer isn't about how much we get done or how much money we spend doing things. It's about how you spend the time, and we had some good quality time and enjoyed life. No regrets.

Well, maybe a few, but they're overshadowed by plenty of blessings.


Sitting near the Shore

Like the surface of an old mirror
Where gravity has slowly pulled on the glass
So that it sags in some places,
Distorting the reflection of its gazer,
The woods surrounding the lake--
Birch trees, white and red pines--
And white and gray clouds overhead
Are reflected on the lake's surface.
All seems to be at peace.
I can ignore the sounds of
Traffic on the nearby county road
And the conversations taking place
By adults up the hill in the cabin,
But it is hard to disregard
The cawing crows perched in tall red pines
Across the bay or the
Occasional "plop" from a falling acorn
Or the rarer haunting cry of a loon
Or fish splashing in the shallows--
Probably a minnow trying to
Escape the jaws of a blue gill.

Written 9 August, 2013
at Lake Arbutus near Eagle River, Wisconsin


Rainy Cabin Evening

Rain drops plip-plop on leaves   of oak and maple
And splat-splat-splat
   from the eaves of the
   screened-in porch
Where I read an old
   hard covered Ian Fleming novel--
   the pages crisp and musty
   from age and storage.

The rain creates a fresh,
   just-cleaned-the-earth smell
As well as stirring up
   the scent of decaying wood
   and dead leaves
   and moss from the forest floor.

The lake is devoid of noise;
   even the loons are silent.
Only the sound of gathered
   rain drops falling from
   the cabin roof
Or bouncing of tree leaves
   is to be heard.

So I sit in peace
   on the three-season porch
Leaning against the arm
   of a white wicker loveseat
And reading about the tale
   of a young motel worker
   in 1960s upstate New York
Who will at some point
   encounter a spy
   named James Bond.

written 8 August, 2013
on Lake Arbutus near Eagle River, Wisconsin


Sunday Night Musing: Prepared

Tonight we heard these words of Jesus from Luke 12:32-40 (NIV):
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Be prepared. That's the essential message. Be ready.

Jesus will return. We don't know when. But it will happen. And we'd best be ready.

I like to think I'm ready, willing, and able.

But I'm not. Not always, at least. Not to the extent Jesus calls us to be ready.

I haven't sold my possessions and given to the poor. Just a couple of days ago I was in some antique and thrift shops looking for a few books that I've been trying to hunt down.  Jesus makes is clear, however, that valuing treasures on earth cause us to miss out on treasures in Heaven.

But I can't give away all my possessions...not really, not with a family to take care of. Child Services will be knocking on my door (unless I've already given that away) if my children don't have certain things.

But what do I value? Do I value what I own over the relationships I have? Would I be willing to part with something for a stranger in need? A loaf of bread, a few dollars, maybe. But what about something special to me? Do I have things I treasure more than God?

I could be wrong, but I don't think Jesus is necessarily saying we can't own things. Yes, we may be better off spiritually without worldly attachments, but I also believe God doesn't mind us having possessions (otherwise, why would Job gain back everything he lost tenfold?). I do believe, though, that God is concerned about where our heart is with what we own. Do we cling to it, or do we hold it loosely so that God may use it?

"Be dressed, ready for service" (v. 35)...Being prepared means being ready to serve when God calls us to do so, and I think our possessions may come into play there. Generosity.

It all centers around the Master. When our focus is on Him, everything else is secondary to His will.

Am I ready? Not completely. But I want to be. I try to be.

Cabin Time

Wednesday Night:

We sit around the campfire with sticks sharpened to a point for skewering marshmallows on for roasting. After some toasted brown marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate and graham crackers, we tell stories. Each person goes around the circle adding one word to the sentence that is forming. Often we forget where we're at in a sentence after a bout of laughter.

My son is in his socks, so I hoist him on my shoulders. Barefoot, I make my way carefully down the steps to the beach. We stand on the shore for a minute and listen and look. We walk over to the dock and walk out on it. We lay down and look up at the stars. I point out the creamy swirl of the Milky Way. He finds the Big Dipper. I trace the "W" of Casseopiea. Then he sees his first shooting star. A few minutes later, his second one whizzes through the sky. We find a couple satellites making their orbital path across the sky. He lays on top of me.


After breakfast walk down to the lake to explore some more. I cleaned off a paddle-boat the day before, which Anders gets into with a fishing pole and some crackers. I kayak with him over to a spot where someone else has thrown in their old Christmas trees and felled timber. A myriad of pan fish swim in the shelter of the branches and nearby reeds. A few larger trout patrol nearby. After a while we see a larger bass.

Nils walks down the beach toward our direction with Aunt Wendy. I paddle over and board him into the kayak with me and take him out to the paddle-boat with Anders. A few crackers are crumbled into the water; the lure and bobber drop into the water nearby in hopes of a catch. 

Later, as we land the boats I notice a couple of leopard frogs along the beach. I point them out to the boys and they go to work trying to catch them. We find another batch of them later. In the end the boys have caught eight or nine brown and green amphibians. They are kept in a kayak for a while. I hear Anders talking to them as he paddles them around. 

After lunch the three of us do some work gathering rocks for a fire ring and other places around Aunt Wendy and Uncle Pete's new cabin. Then we each get into a kayak and head across the lake. The boys are remarkably good at paddling a little boat by themselves. 


In addition to Beth's sister and her husband who are hosting us the cabin that belongs to my brother-in-law's sister (long story, but Beth's sister and husband are building a new cabin, in the meantime, his sister is letting them use hers which is next door), we were joined by two other couples last night. I've heard there is another family joining us tonight. One of Beth's brothers was here the first night with us. Everyone else is here to help on the new cabin. Beth has helped a little bit, but frankly I'm here to vacation. I start back to school a week from today. Plus, and I realize these are long-seated issues I'm working through, I feel inadequate when helping others who are more skilled--and more inadequate when my wife is helping them. Stupid, I know. I could learn a lot by being up there helping with whatever area they're working on now. But I also haven't been asked and someone needs to be with the kids. 

And it's not easy for an introvert to vacation with strangers. We did this last year on our Boundary Waters canoe trip. It wasn't bad because it was only two other couples that we were planning on spending the time with, so we got to know them and had a good time. The quiet weekend at the cabin reading, writing, playing guitar, and enjoying the great outdoors isn't quite the way I expected it would be, but it's still a good time.

So we had more time at the lake today. A couple more frogs were caught (we let the eight that were in buckets go at the end of the day yesterday so that the raccoons didn't have a feast). Holes were dug. We paddled over where the fish are. Anders caught a small pan fish, but didn't like getting the hook out, so we headed back.

We tried doing a bike ride along the back roads through the north woods. It didn't go as desired.

Which means that the boys spent the first mile and a half whining, and I was tired of it, so we turned around. After attitudes improved we did a little more kayaking. 

The boys and I kayaked out to a little island (usually partly submerged, but out of the water this year--it's where the loons breed) and explored (which takes all of ninety seconds to circumnavigate it). They headed back to the bay and I went to the north part of the lake where I hadn't been yet. The water is deeper there, so that's where the loons hang out now.

There is something about loons that attracts me. Maybe its because they're mainly found in secluded lakes in the north woods, found in places where I enjoy exploring and relaxing. Places surrounded by tall white pines and birch trees. Places where large rocks dot the landscape left from glaciers long ago.  Places where wild animals lurk in the woods and leave their tracks along the beach. Places where there is more wilderness than civilization. 

As I was headed back to the cabin, the male loon surfaced near me. I presumed it was the male loon because I had seen another adult loon few minutes earlier with two children, and as far as I'm aware, penguins are one of the few species of birds where the male spends time with the children. I'm fairly certain loons don't behave this way. 

So I sat there stared at the male loon for a while, and he stared back at me. His long black beak protruding from an even blacker head and white dappled body floated on the body, as my kayak floated several yards away. We just sat and watched each other in reverence--at least I was giving a measure of reverence to brother loon; he was maybe just being wary of me. He slowly paddled off toward his family, I slowly turned around and headed back toward mine.


The last full day here. We'll take off in the morning in able to get back in time to come up with some food for supper at church tomorrow night. We headed into town this afternoon. We explored a few antique shops and an ice cream parlor. There really isn't much to say about going into town. 

I haven't gotten as much reading done as I'd hoped. I've done a bit of writing. And we've spent a lot of time down by the lake. I could kayak every day--oh, wait, I did. A few times each day. I had hoped to swim. None of us did much more than wading. Except for Nils, who was just in up to his neck, despite saying that the water is the coldest it's been. The previous two days I saw a guy who was swimming around the lake. I was feeling ashamed that it was too cold for me to get in--until I saw his wetsuit yesterday. Now I don't feel so bad--even thought I would have liked to have done some swimming. The past few weeks just haven't been typical summer temperatures.

After roasting marshmallows with everyone around the campfire, Nils and I headed back down to the dock. He had been waiting for the Perseid Meteor Shower to occur all week. No, it wasn't the best time of night or the height of the activity, but I would guess he saw at least 15 meteors in the forty minutes we lay there. Some were really fantastic bright lights that left a little tail behind them. Anders join3ed us for a few minutes, but he wasn't wearing warm enough clothes. It was nice to just lay their with my little one cuddling against me, laying on my arm, and talking about the vastness of the universe and how cool it is. A great way to end the time up north.


Sunday Night Musing: Generosity & Possessive Pronouns

When I was growing up sometimes the people in church (especially the older ones) would refer to the building as "God's House." And usually when they referred to church as God's House it was to impart to us a sense of reverence in how we behaved in the church building: no running, climbing over the pews, or general horsing around.

Granted, they probably at times were a little too rule-focused and uptight (at least it felt that way as a child), but having a healthy view of church as God's House could be a good thing. It would mean that our own political and theological agendas would be pointless. It would mean that the church building would be used to help those whom God would help: the orphans, aliens, widows, the sick, the outcast, the homeless.

Too often we refer to the building as "my church" or "our church." We tend to use those possessive pronouns simply to indicate that it's the specific church we attend. I wonder, though, if our use of possessive pronouns sometimes has adverse effects on how we view things.

Tonight we heard a story from Luke 12:13-21 in which Jesus told about a farmer who was already quite wealthy. This season his crops were doing spectacularly well, and he realized that he didn't have enough storage space for them all. So he decides to build bigger barns, and since he'll have enough stored up to live off of for years he can take it easy. "Eat, drink, and be merry." A rather Old-Testament God shows up who tells the man he is being foolish and that his life will end that very night and he won't be able to enjoy all the things he's saved up for himself.

Jesus tells this story to illustrate how foolish greed is. We like to amass material possessions and wealth for ourselves, but it does us little good eternally.

Recently I've been around several discussions at church and other places that are directly related to things I wrote about in my book. This is another of those topics. It's a good thing they keep coming up, because I need reminders to keep living more abundantly.

I wrote about how the possessive pronouns we use to describe possessions effect how we use them. If we tend to use "mine" and "my" a lot, then we're probably a bit more tight-fisted with our stuff. What if we referred to our own house--not church--as God's house? How would that change our life in it? Would we be more likely to open it up to people in need? Would we create warm, relaxing spaces of beauty?

What about our car? Our money? Our time? What if we referred to them all as God's? We we be more respectful of them? Would we be more generous with them?

I think the more possessions we cling to, the more fear we have--fear of them being stolen or taken away. More stuff does not give us more security. Stability in life comes from being rooted in belonging to God. And when we belong to God we acknowledge that all we have is His. All around us is His. All creation is His. And when we see things that way, we tend to be a little more generous and a little better at stewardship.

I can be a little too possessive of the things I own. One area of success we have is trying to keep a guest room in our house (which means the boys share a room). Right now we have a guy staying in it whom I had never met before yesterday. He's an acquaintance of Beth's whom she had met at a couple professional conferences. He's in town for a conference. The guest room is his.

It's been used by several different people in the three years we've lived here. By plenty of family members visiting, of course. By an aunt in town for a funeral. By a former summer staff member from Bible camp when I worked there who was taking a class for a week. By the family of one of Beth's former co-workers who stayed the night before their flight from the airport. It's open for those in need of a bed.

I hope to be more generous with other parts of my life. And that's the key word: generous. Give, not gather. Seek stability, not security. Greed says "mine." Generosity says "Yours."


A Little Self-Promotion

If you haven't checked out a copy of my book, Cultural Enslavement: Breaking Free into Abundant Living, please be sure to pick up a copy. In the book I look at how we become enslaved by the ethos of our culture--not through anything inherently bad, but through things that take our focus off our walk with Christ. I also look at ways we can counteract that enslavement and find a more abundant life in Jesus.

The book is available through the following places:
The book includes discussion questions for personal reflection as well as for use in small groups, Sunday school classes, and book clubs. Be sure to leave feedback on any of the retailers websites if you like the book (if you don't like it, then just hide that from my fragile ego--only joking). I do appreciate any word-of-mouth promotion I can get. Thanks!