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Archive for the ‘Thankfulness’ Category

About a month ago I purchased Minnesota Gopher Hockey tickets from a co-worker for a game coming up this week. For those of you who are not from

Book by Kyle Idleman

Minnesota, typically the University of Minnesota Gopher Hockey are one of the hottest venues for sports entertainment in the State, especially for games against other teams that are doing well.

Yesterday, I decided I better try and find the tickets that I paid $70 for. After turning the house inside out, and searching my work bag 3 times, I came up empty handed. “Well,” I thought, “at least they might still be in my desk drawer at work.”

After getting to work, I searched all the cabinets and drawers. No tickets! Bummer.

I called Lisa for something else this morning and relayed the outcome. I asked her if she’d be kind enough to help me look one more time at home. Sometimes my bi-focals play tricks and I miss the obvious right in front of me. She also had to pick me up this evening at the park ‘n ride. When she picked me up at 5:30 I got in the car and said I was sorry I’d misplaced the tickets and wasted $70. And then I said, “I think I should ask the Lord if he’d show me where they are.” And I asked her if that sounded like a dumb thing to do. Lisa and I have been studying about God’s sovereignty over all things and 2 missing tickets seemed such an insignificant item in the vast schemes, plots and problems of the world. But we said let’s just pray while we drive home.

We prayed. I asked God to forgive me for asking about such dumb thing as this, and that I felt bad about wasting the money and not keeping track of stuff. I said it was okay if we didn’t find the tickets, but that I really wanted to feel better and not beat myself up over such insignificant things.

After dinner Lisa helped me go through the usual spots in the house  where we usually put stuff like tickets. Then we got out my work bag for the 4th time. She started emptying out the contents and working our way through the items.

Suddenly, a book I’d recently finished fell out on the floor. The book is by Kyle Idleman called not a fan. Becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus.” The book asks readers a simple question: Are you a fan or a follower? And to quote the back cover, the point of the book is that Jesus isn’t interested in you being his fan (e.g. an enthusiastic admirer.) “Fans want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires sacrifice….Jesus was never interested in having admirers. It’s not fans he is looking for.”

I picked the book up off the floor, rifled the pages and the 2 Gopher hockey tickets tumbled out.

Lisa and I looked at each other and I started laughing. And then I got a little teary eyed. God has a sense of humor, oh yes. But he also used this to remind me of something very important. I can talk to him about anything and everything. He’s in every little detail of everything that happens in the universe every day. And he reminded me that being a follower means talking with him regularly and talking about more than just Gopher hockey tickets.

He loved on me just enough to get me to laugh and loved on me hard enough to cry and receive his grace and his invitation to converse…daily. I’m a fan of Gopher hockey and not a fan of Jesus, but a follower. Hope you are too.

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Well, we did it! We’re moved. And what an exciting ride so far. We apologize for the lack of posts for the last month. There certainly was enough fodder for good laughs and learnings, but for the last 3 1/2 weeks we were in the “packing, moving and staging zone.”

Lisa created a plan to pack and label boxes by room with a color coded sticker. On the back end of moving, that has really helped us organize the unpacking effort. But in the end, there were so many boxes that keeping track of where stuff was became impossible. I don’t know if it’s even possible to ever keep track of everything. But all things are possible with God. The really important stuff was moved last. Meaning, the stuff we rely on and use everyday: computers, TV, modems, wi-fi, prescriptions, keys, etc. And of course the cat was the last to get captured and put in the kitty carrier. Those are an eclectic mix of items, so we had to specially mark those boxes so we could find them easily when we arrived at the new house. The cat has been “freaked out” since the first box of stuff was sealed with tape. I think she was afraid she would be left behind as she witnessed all the items disappear into the garage before the move.

But the one critical element to this process has been God. We’ve been praying for 3 years about where we should live. We’ve been separated from our church by 40 miles since getting married which made it difficult to be actively involved there. Our prayer was that we’d be closer to church and manage a shorter commute to work at the same time. He accomplished both!

One of the reasons we signed the purchase agreement on our anniversary was due to hearing from God through the neighbor. While we were walking through the house for the second time, the neighbor walked past the window a couple times as he was cleaning up some items from the deck in the back. We’d begun that day like all others, by praying in the car as we set off on the commute together. We knew we were going to go back and look at the house for the second time after work, but we asked for confirmation that the house was the right place to be. We asked God to be part of the decision making process and asked for a clear message from him that it was the right decision to put money down.

When I noticed the neighbor, I went outside and began talking to him. Within minutes he was asking where I and Lisa worked. When he found out that Lisa worked for our church he inquired which church. Then he smiled and asked if we knew specific people and the names he mentioned were people we know (there are over 2,500 in the congregation, so it isn’t a given that we know them all.) He mentioned that he and his wife had attended the Christmas service at our church in December!

Then he looked at me and said, “My wife and I have been praying that fellow believers would move in next door.” And he talked about how exciting it would be for them if we were to consider moving next door. I couldn’t believe that he said that. I’d only just met the man. I didn’t tell him about our prayers, he had no idea what we’d been praying for. I asked him to repeat what he said to make sure I heard him correctly. Then he invited us to come over so we could see how he and his wife had decorated their place and give us a tour. No kidding!

So we went over and got the tour and met his wife. I must’ve had a strange look on my face when I came back inside after first meeting him. Lisa and our realtor asked me what happened. I was just staring into space and said they wouldn’t believe me. I told them the story and Lisa looked at me knowingly and smiled. They sent us encouraging text messages over the last month, sharing their prayers with us and reminding us how excited they were that we were going to move in.

It was so cool how God is involved in the intimate details of our move. There are more stories about how He showed up. I’ll save them for another post!

 

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We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: Lisa and I are moving. We’ve been on a whirlwind adventure since our last post in mid January. Several

We signed a purchase agreement on our anniversary!

times I’ve wanted to sit down and just jot a few lines here. I find it difficult to throw a few lines together and post them because I feel like the post should be more than just an online diary. In other words, I like to try to bring you my thoughts after I’ve had a chance to think about it and offer you, dear reader, something more valuable than “what’s happening now.” In the comments let me know if you disagree. Especially valued are the thoughts from fellow bloggers who have thought about this before. I’d love to know how you keep fresh, relevant and new insights going in the midst of limited time to really think about it. If I get enough responses I can try and post shorter, more frequent updates about what’s going on.

Lisa and I have been preparing for a move for over a year. We’ve been praying and waiting on the Lord to let us know where that should be. Recently my employer announced they would be moving a huge number of workers to a second headquarters location that is not in downtown Minneapolis. I am included in that move. The good news is that they are letting us know about this move 2 years in advance. That’s pretty fair in today’s world. Why does it matter?

It matters because it helped us narrow down where within the Twin Cities we wanted to focus on for a move. We were open to moving to either side of the river (which is another topic for a future post.) With the announcement it helped us focus on the north and western suburbs of Minneapolis. We spent a couple

Bike paths with key locations important to us marked in orange

weeks with a map of bike paths in Minneapolis and all associated suburbs. We marked the items we thought were important to us for shopping: SuperTarget, WholeFoods, a Co-op and Costco. We wanted to find a place that supported our enjoyment of cooking (hence all the supermarkets) with easy access to the fabulous system of bike paths. Our current location is great for both. And we felt the new location needed to continue to serve those those requirements.

The bottom line is we had only looked at 2 or 3 locations when we found a spot last Sunday that really spoke to us. Some might say it was an accident, but we think it was divinely directed (more on that story next time.) We were offered incentives to close before the end of February. We went home to think about it and on Tuesday we went back with our realtor to look at it again. That’s when God made it clear we were in the right place at the right time. I’ll leave that as a teaser for the next post. Suffice it to say we found ourselves signing a purchase agreement on Tuesday night – which just happened to be our anniversary. So it made for an exciting evening.

More to come….

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I’ll just be honest. I don’t like having a broken foot. I don’t like spending most of my day on our futon. The futon isn’t that cozy. And my “to-do” list is growing.

I don’t like watching my husband do a good share of the cooking, cleaning and laundry. I know that might sound silly, but I am definitely ready to jump back into having a mobile life again. I want my freedom back. For three weeks I’ve been unable to carry anything and unable to drive and there’s barely one position that works comfortably well for sleeping these days.

I know that sounds like a lot of complaining. The truth is there’s nothing to really complain about. I know this is temporary. It’s obviously not in the top 10 of medical issues that deserve extreme sympathy. Not even close. And I’ve got a great husband who is taking good care of me. As I write, he’s downstairs doing the dishes. How can I complain?

I’ve had my moments of frustration and even self-pity. My to-do list grows and the house is a little dusty, but I’ve also felt new compassion for people who have truly long-term health challenges. That is one of the gifts in this season of inconvenience. Sure the scooter was sort of fun, until I experienced the awkwardness of it running out of juice in the middle of a busy aisle at Costco. And then came the looks of pity from passers-by. I have been humbled to ask for help when there was no other way. 

There have been other unexpected discoveries. I’ve seen how just hobbling around in a boot with crutches seems to break barriers. Perhaps it comes from being in an obvious place of vulnerability. All sorts of people have opened up conversations with me that I’m quite sure never would have otherwise.

People have gone out of their way to open doors, offered to help, given advice from personal experience with broken bones and extended encouragement. Total strangers have smiled and wished me well.

On the way home from the doctor, we got into long discussions with couples who sat next to us when we stopped for lunch. I think it ended up being a timely encouragement for all of us. Last week two women stopped me at Target, asking if they could pray for me. What a sweet gift. At the Ordway, two women shared a bunch of their life story with me while Brent went to get the car. When he picked me up, he was amazed at all I had learned in a mere 15 minutes. I love to hear people’s stories and am reminded to pray for them as they come to mind.

We know that God has purpose in this latest adventure he has us on, so we’re doing our best to sit up and take notice. We’re praying that the inconvenience, the extra sense of weariness we feel at the end of the night, and the momentary frustrations don’t get in the way of all he wants to show us. We don’t want to miss a thing. 

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I don’t imagine we’ve been married long enough to suppose we can offer too much in the way of marital advice. But one thing we’ve experienced in our short time together as man and wife is that while challenges and trials can put great pressure on a relationship, they can also deepen and cement it. Right from the start this was evident for us.

While we were dating, I ended up needing a biopsy. I was scared, but not having dated all that long I had no idea how Brent would react. I was amazed at his response. He assured me that he’d be there no matter what the outcome was. He even sought out the advice of a female friend, wanting to understand what I might be going through from a woman’s point of view. Thankfully, the outcome was good, but we knew a bit more about what each other was made of.

Not long after we were married, we found ourselves facing considerable home expenses that were completely out of our control. The economy, the timing our our wedding, having to sell one of our homes and unexpected home repairs all came together at the same time. Quickly, we learned even more about one another. Yes, it was stressful for both of us. At one time or another, each of us struggled with it. But I was grateful that more often than not, Brent’s response was something like, “Well, God’s in control. He owns it all anyway. He must have a purpose. He’ll see us through.”

Through every challenge you learn more. You learn when and how to communicate. On a lighter note, just this week I realized I had adjusted my method of communicating impending traffic dangers during our busy morning commute. In the beginning, I typically let out a loud gasp while pressing that pseudo passenger-side brake. Unfortunately, that only alarmed Brent and was not helpful. I see now that I’ve adjusted my communication to a gentle side-to-side wave. (It’s sometimes still accompanied by braking.) This is much less alarming, seems to work fairly well and gets a chuckle or two from Brent.

My prince in shining armor

This week we’ve entered a whole new lesson platform. After a major miscommunication with the stairway, I ended up with a fairly severe fractured foot. This will mean six or more weeks of being dramatically to roughly incapacitated. And that means Brent is making dinners, cleaning, doing laundry, driving and more. That might sound like a dream for some, but being someone like me who always has a long list and has a hard time even sitting through one TV show without getting up to clean something, this will be an immense challenge. I’m in pain, impatient with the healing process already and poor Brent is fetching me everything from Tylenol to meals to ice packs. Tell me we won’t learn a thing or two in the coming weeks! We could use your prayers.

We’ve been reading a lot about the sovereignty of God lately. That’s probably not a coincidence in itself. We’re trusting that this current little “blurp” in our plans has his fingerprints all over it. It’s a pain. I’ve complained already and it’s annoying. But we’ve also begun to see him unfold some opportunities we’d never have had outside of these current circumstances. And so we hobble along and pray for his grace to see and embrace these unexpected opportunities.

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Brent & Lisa arrive at the feet of "The Claw"

This was one of our busiest weekends of the year. Our typical agenda was interrupted to dedicate the entire Saturday afternoon and evening to the U2 360º Tour. This came on the heels of my 30th high school reunion on Friday night. I will circle back and blog about that later this week. Two nights in a row where I didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. It’s tough to recover from one late night let alone two in a row as I push closer to the mid century mark.

For those of you who went to the concert this weekend or a previous one on their current tour, or you’re a fan in general please feel free to chime in with your impressions.

This concert has been well covered in the media, much of it delayed by a year as Bono underwent back surgery and recovery. By now you’ve read the facts of the expenses and receipts to generate one of the most intimate major rock experiences in history. With their giant “Claw” or “Spaceship” circular stage, U2 transforms mega outdoor stadiums into a living room experience. It’s very hard to describe in a few words. The band lands themselves exposed on all sides of their circular thrust like stage which is engineered by Belgian company Stageco. The band has purchased carbon offsets in consideration to the environmental impact to transport 3 identical 360° Tour stage sets around the world.

You feel like you can reach out and touch a portion of the setting and the artists themselves. For those who waited in line for general admission floor access, they got intimate enough to have Bono and the band drip sweat on them as they criss-crossed the concentric circles via moving brushed steel bridges that spun around the circumference of the central stage. Fortunately, the rain that eventually drenched the venue halfway through the show washed the masses clean. The rain did not diminish the performance in my estimation. In fact the incredible electronic central video graphics performed well despite the weather. Resembling a large circular scoreboard at a hockey arena, the video screen is made up of over a million parts and descends down toward the center of the stage and over the band for fantastic visual effects. The elongated hexagonal video panels are all connected together and machined to create a truly unique experience.

So you can have all this really expensive machinery, stagecraft and logistics to manage it, but it takes a really outstanding group of performers to

Ready for the Crush!

pull off the complete package. U2 satisfied on all counts, even in a torrential downpour of rain. My reasons for saying this?

  1. The band genuinely enjoys performing together. They smiled at each other, played to each others’ strengths, and had fun with one another during the performance. In the final set, Bono came swinging across the stage on a circular red illuminated microphone hanging from a cable wearing a black leather suit decorated with red lasers. Wild!
  2. The band desired intimacy with their audience. They know where they are. They weren’t confused about which city they were in and they understood unique aspects of the Twin Cities. Hours before the concert in Minneapolis, Bono was meeting with local Somali leadership regarding the famine conditions that desperately need world attention at a time when world governments in the West are more consumed with their own insolvency and budget issues. For those readers who don’t know, the Twin Cities has the largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia in the world.
  3. U2 writes and sings smart, intelligent lyrics with deep meaning and philosophy behind it. And you can understand every line even when Bono’s falsetto cracks a bit.
  4. The band didn’t create this performance around a new CD. They understood that their fans wanted to hear their favorite tunes that spanned the decades from the earliest days like I Will Follow on Boy to Rejoice on the October release to Get on Your Boots from No Line On the Horizon.
  5. The crowd was engaged from start to finish. Concert goers spontaneously sang back at the band without being prompted, singing and tracking through every moment. The band actually stopped playing and listened to the audience sing to them a couple of times. For “With or Without You” the crowd simply hushed and listened.
  6. The band knows who they are and their talent is bigger because they’re comfortable with themselves. The audience understands this. What results is parents bringing their entire family to the concert. A band that speaks to generations of fans that are younger than 10 to well over 60. A friend’s daughter, about 6 or 7, when asked, “What’s your favorite song?” didn’t hesitate and said confidently “El-e-va-tion!”

My favorite song? Until the End of The World.

That song makes me thankful that even though I’m as guilty as Judas, He chose me to His inheritance before the beginning of the world. I don’t know why He did that. The only thing I can do is live up to His choice and be who He made me to be until the end of the world.

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Victory. It’s a word I recently used to describe a newly organized closet. Used it to claim the rare win the Twins tallied last night. And I’ve called anything from a tasty new recipe to hitting a really great sale a victory.

These are not victories. At least not in light of THE victory. Victory is Christ defeating death after willingly accepting the cruelest of tortures.

I can’t begin to imagine the raging war that took place the night before he faced the Cross. I know there’s some artistic license in this film, but I love this scene from The Passion of the Christ. It’s chilling. It’s heartbreaking. It foreshadows victory.

I know how it ends. There’s never a doubt that he will do what he came to do. Triumph is imminent. But when he crushes the head of the serpent, I cheer and tear up all at once.

Again this Good Friday, we read from Isaiah 53, the prophecy telling of Christ’s death for us. There are few other words than, “Thank you Jesus.”

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him
 the iniquity of us all. …

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

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