We spent the weekend, like usual, at Covenant Pines Bible Camp. Over Memorial Day weekend they have a Work & Worship camp where families and individuals go and help get the camp ready for summer while having a lot of fun. While many churches go from the Twin Cities area, our church kind of makes it our church retreat.
I had attended a similar camp with my family growing up in Iowa. It was a good memory for me. So before we even attended our church, we were going to Work & Worship. It's where we met our church, actually. 

The Benedictine monks use the phrase "ora et labora" to describe their calling. It's how our church refers to the weekend. It means to pray and to work. Work and worship.

Our pastoral associate spoke on Sunday morning at camp. She used Psalm 127 as her text.
Unless the Lord builds the house, / the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, / the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early / and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—/ for he grants sleep to those he loves. 
Children are a heritage from the Lord, / offspring a reward from him. 
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior / are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man / whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame / when they contend with their opponents in court.
She reminded us that God is at work. No matter where we're at. Whether we're working at a Bible Camp or at a gas station. If we're not working alongside God, that work doesn't matter.

Then the Psalm switches to talking about children. An odd transition. Maybe. I wonder if it's not getting at the importance of viewing our parenting as worthwhile work. That if we see where God is at work in our children's lives and join in, we will find rich blessings. 

(Now, I know the church unfortunately often elevates marriage and families and disregards singleness which Paul lauds as the higher calling, but I don't think this Psalm intends to diminish  being single. I think the children thing is just an example. Possibly. Maybe it's not even related. But no matter what your relational status, God wants to you to rely fully upon Him and not your own efforts.)

My oldest son wanted to paint this weekend at camp. So we found a job painting. It turned out to be inside, instead of out--which was maybe okay since it turned out to be really hot, and we probably would have ended up with bad sunburns. He took a few breaks, but worked alongside me most of the day. My younger son joined for a short time, too. 

For some reason I can't always get them to work with me at home. But at camp they're much more willing. It was good to get to talk with them as we worked. It wasn't necessarily deep conversation, but it was getting to know them more. In the afternoon, the oldest and I went out in the woods behind the building we were painting and took a peanut break--just sitting and eating some peanuts together. 

On Sunday there was a lot of free time. Both the boys wanted to try a new activity called "crate stacking." You simply stack milk crates as high as you can while standing on top of them. I was proud of my oldest for wanting to try it. He doesn't often want to try new things--especially activities with a potential for failure. But he did it and did great. 

One of the hard parts of parenting is that you never know how your kids will turn out. No matter how much you invest in them, they're still independent souls who will make their own decisions one day. They might not always be the right decisions, either. 

We can only trust that by investing in where God is at work in our children that He will build the house.



This weekend we were in Iowa celebrating my niece's graduation. Actually, she graduates next weekend, but she's also involved in a few state track meet events that same weekend, so her party was this weekend. High school graduation parties are a big deal in Iowa. The party involves a "shrine" to the graduate (pictures, awards, etc.--a small portion of which is shown here), gift giving (which seemed like pretty much people are just giving cards--presumably with money--in her area) and plenty of food (either small meat and cheese sandwiches with various salads and a cake or some creative theme--my niece had a chocolate fountain with various dip-able foods).

Because her cousin was also graduating, they both had their parties together at the same time. They were expecting around 250 people. I'm not sure if quite that many showed up, but it was a lot.

We don't have many rites of passage in our culture. High school graduation is one of the few. It should be a big deal. Generally, most schools in Iowa--the smaller ones at least--don't celebrate other steps (ie. Kindergarten graduation, 6th grade graduation, middle school graduation). So after thirteen years of school, and essentially becoming an adult--going off on your own--it's a noteworthy time to celebrate. 

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Tonight at church (we got back to Minneapolis with just a few minutes to unpack the car and get ready!) friends had their youngest son dedicated. It's another milestone of sorts--not that the child does anything to accomplish it other than being born. But it's a rite of passage nonetheless.

It's a big step for parents to dedicate their child. Essentially, they're saying, "God, you've given us this child to take care of as best we can, but ultimately the child is Yours. Whatever plans we have for this child take the back seat to Your plans. We know that someday we have to let go and give this child up to You."

I appreciate that along with the child's family, extended family, and family friends that we as the church body affirm the blessing of the child in our midst. We commit to being a part of their development.

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It's good to mark milestones in life. Especially in children. We need to celebrate children more. Not to build up their self-esteem, boost their ego, or pamper them; but because there are steps towards living an independent, interconnected life that are work marking. They need to know they're doing things well and that they have the support of many people who love them. 


The Week

Here's how this week has played out so far:

On Wednesday my wife flew to Pennsylvania to work at her research site for 10 days. She flies home on Friday and then back out to a different venue on Sunday for three more days. So she'll be home for two out of fourteen days.

On Thursday, my class at school left for an overnight camping trip (in cabins, but no electricity or running water, so it was primitive for most of the city kids). We had two days of outdoor education. The weather cooperated, and it was nice to be outside in spring weather. My youngest son's class also was on the trip, so my oldest spend the night with friends.

Those friends invited us over for supper and a movie on Friday night, so it was nice not to have to come home after a trip and make a meal. Friends are a good thing to have.

I also discovered a cold was setting in that night. I can't tell you how many tissues I've gone through.

Saturday started with my oldest son having beginning orchestra and my youngest having hockey at roughly the same time. So I dropped of my oldest with his violin at the church where they practice, then ran my youngest over to the ice arena to get all his gear on. Then it was back to the church to finish hearing my oldest, and then back to the ice arena to finish watching my youngest play. Thankfully this was all about a mile apart at most.

Saturday was also Free Comic Book Day, so after practices were finished, we visited a few comic book stores for some new reading material.
Today we decided to venture out to the local May Day Parade. It's the largest in America, I'm told. It's put on by the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater which helped volunteers make all sorts of creative masks and costumes.  It's not like anything I've ever been to before. The fresh air was good, though. And there was a fun spirit of welcoming in spring. After the long winter we've had, we need it--and after the long week of rain we've had, the sun was good. I think my youngest has a little bit of a sunburn on the back of his neck.

At church tonight I went to a session that looked at haiku as a way to pray the Psalm we were reading. The busyness of the week necessitated some good, quiet prayer time. Meanwhile, the cold is still raging. More prayer needed.
We didn't get in any good Star Wars-themed activities for Star Wars Day (May 4th--as in May the Fourth be with you--get it? terrible pun, I know, but it's nationally recognized). But the boys donned their helmets for a bedtime photo.

May the Force be with you--and me--in the week ahead.