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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Off to the park

We’ve recently moved across town and happen to live closer to nieces and nephews. You know what that means. We’ve been added to the speed-dial sitter list.

Last weekend was our maiden voyage.  A full day with the 3-year old twins. As you might imagine, we had no trouble sleeping that night. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the girls, but they certainly kept us going all day.  To any of you who have children or nieces/nephews, this will come as no surprise, but we came away from the day having been reminded of some important things. These are lessons I gained from a day with three-year olds:

1: SLOW DOWN. Normally, it takes Brent and I about four minutes to get to the park on our bikes. Not so with three-year-olds. No, it was a 45-minute walk each way. The trip to the park wasn’t my brightest idea on a 95-degree day. But they were troopers and never complained. Yet it was a slow, deliberate pace the entire way. There was no rush, no sense of needing to get to our destination quickly. No wonder it’s only adults who deal with things like high blood pressure. We’d all do well to slow down our pace a notch or two!

Stop & Smell the Flowers

2: STOP & SMELL THE FLOWERS: One of the highlights on the trail was to stop and smell the flowers. If we’d been in a hurry, the beauty of the landscape and wildflowers would have been missed. It was sweet to see one sister want to share her flower experience with the other. What a great lesson. Stop, take a look around. Be present in the moment, enjoy what God puts in your path and share it with those around you.

Quack Quack!

3. INJECT FUN INTO ORDINARY THINGS. The girls knew we’d be having a cold treat when we got home, but we kept the fact that it was smoothies a surprise. Unwilling to allow an unnamed treat, the twins decided to refer to the surprise as “Quack Quack.” Silly as it was, it brought us all lots of laughter for the rest of the night.

4: KINDLE THE JOY OF READING (no pun intended!). I’ve always loved books. Most of my life I’ve been a voracious reader. But, for some reason, recent years have drew my attention elsewhere. Watching the girls bring me book after book after book to read was contagious. I think we put away about 20 books before the night was over.

5. REMEMBER THE SNEETCHES. One of the many stories we read was Dr. Seuss’ “Sneetches.” It’s a book I’ve had since I was a child and it shows by its well-worn corners. It made an impact on me as a child and I often recall its lessons even as an adult. The basic message is not to get caught up in the latest trends or judge others just because they’re not caught up in them. I think about how our society is so influenced by the latest

Sneetches

hot gadget, fashion or topic. Too often we’re judged by what toys we have or what we wear or how informed we are about the current trending Twitter feed. Yet, being on top of those things has nothing to do with strong character, kindness and living a godly life.

Isn’t it amazing what God shows us through children? What lessons have you learned lately?

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Ever since the jet stream turned course and started sending Canadian high pressure over the border into Minnesota, the relentless tornado sirens have seemingly been more quiet, the humidity has lifted for a couple weeks and Lisa and I have found ourselves coasting into late summer gear.

And that is to say, we have ignored blog updates for almost 2 weeks as we’ve reveled in some glorious Minnesota summer days that are priceless. Priceless because we seem to get so few of them and because the pain of last year’s long winter can still be felt. The local cadre of weathermen/women in the Twin Cities were happy to announce these last couple of weeks as they’ve born the brunt of bad news for months, either too cold or too humid or too stormy or too rainy. Some friends and co-workers just say things like, “I’m not going to complain after last winter, I’ll take anything as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with snow or freezing temperatures.”

I have the sense that they believe somewhere in their heart that if they say anything negative, the spell that is holding our momentary relief will be broken and Mother Nature will hurl us into an early fall and winter as punishment for a display of ingratitude.

Reality is sometimes best left unspoken, if not to hold onto our current spell of perfect days then at least to cherish these moments that will get us beyond the Holidays and through the three months that follow into another spring.

Gary's Cessna 180 sea plane

I will cut this post short so you can get outside and enjoy these moments as much as you can. We’ve kept some notes to build on the last couple of weeks. Here’s what’s been keeping us from spending time at our keyboard:

  • We flew with a pilot friend in his Cessna 180 on floats to a wonderful small town cabin festival.
  • We took time off from work to spend precious time with my sister and her family visiting from Billings Montana – last Friday I went to the Science Museum to see the King Tut exhibit. (You’ll like it if you enjoy history).
  • We’re volunteering at the church picnic today – stop by for free BBQ, kids games and a terrific jazz band.
  • We’re planning a trip up north to a cabin in the woods.
  • We fixed our first blown bike tires – all by ourselves! (Reveling in the small victories)
  • We’ve got tickets for Twins games in the hopes of seeing Thome hit #600!

Now get out there and enjoy the day – because the reality is that we’re losing 2-3 minutes of daylight every day. Ignore the last half of that sentence if you must !!

My sister and me!

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We were involved with activities that postponed our typical weekend update. On Saturday we attended our friend Sank’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. It was a real treat to be invited to share in this special event. It was touching to see how proud Sank and his wife were on their daughter’s accomplishments as she read from the Torah scrolls to the congregation. She did a beautiful job and it should be noted that she honored her parents with her hard work leading up to her special day on Saturday.

The weekend was capped with a beautiful memorial service for my grandmother at the Arboretum in Brainerd, Minnesota. This truly was a weekend where God brought home the message of the 5th commandment, “Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God commands you that your life may be long and it may go well for you in the place he gives to you.”

Jesus refers to this command 5 times and Paul reminds us in Eph 6 that this is the first command with a promise. Whatever our circumstances, it was important to remember that God’s word does not vary, it does not change. God’s word is not subject to circumstances or impressions or anything else. My friend Sank reminded me that the book of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls had not changed from that time to the present even though his word was hand written throughout the generations. God has preserved his word. I was aware of the facts around this, but recalling this was important as my family gathered to celebrate the life of my grandma.

After the memorial celebration and luncheon, I had the honor to speak at the cemetery as we dug a hole and placed her cremains next to her grandson [my cousin]. Throughout the day, I heard many stories of my grandma that were shared by those in attendance. The bottom line is that grandma took seriously the new command that the Lord gives to us in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” There was ample evidence that she lived in a way that so many recognized Christ’s love was in her; she lavished it on so many.

The significance of her obedience to this command is magnified when you understand some things about her:

  • She was 14 when her father died of TB at age 36.
  • She was 20 when her mother died of cancer.
  • Grandma lived with her sister in a rented room in high school before she married my grandfather and she worked making $5/week.
  • When she married grandpa, they had to move around a lot as grandpa looked for work during the depression.
  • Grandma and her sister lived together with 4 children when their husbands were called into service for WW2.

The point is, grandma became a very loving person regardless of her circumstances. How she responded to her circumstances gives us 6 lessons to remember as we obey God and honor her life.

  1. We don’t have to live in bondage to the circumstances of life or the wounds inflicted upon us through the sins and failure of others.  John Chapter 8 verse 31-32 “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” v36 “if the son shall make you free, then you shall be free indeed.”
  2. God specializes in healing the worst of our broken lives through Jesus. He heals our hearts and our condition from within.  2 Cor 5:14-17 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way (by our flesh). Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
  3. Living for Christ is not an exception from adversity. Grandma did not let her circumstances provide an excuse for ignoring God’s provision. Having been entrusted with the secret things of God, how we handle the truth has big implications. 1 Cor 4:1-2 “So then men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”
  4. The prayer of a righteous woman is a powerful weapon. Grandma’s prayer was that her family would be close to each other. James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”Eph 6:10-13,18 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand agains the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand firm.”
  5. Put God first and leave the rest to him. In her last years, grandma responded to the Holy Spirit by actively participating with her church family. Matt 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things [the necessities of life] will be given to you.”
  6. The greatest gift that a mother can give is the assurance of where she is when she dies. Here is one of grandma’s favorite Psalms. We took comfort in the assurance that she is with the Lord as we held hands and read Psalm 121 together out loud.
    1. We lift up our eyes to the mountains – where does our help come from?
    2. Our help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
    3. He will not let our feet slip – he who watches over us will not slumber;
    4. indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
    5. The LORD watches over us – the LORD is our shade at our right hand;
    6. the sun will not harm us by day, nor the moon by night.
    7. The LORD will keep us from all harm – he will watch over our lives;
    8. the LORD will watch over our coming and going – both now and forevermore.
We encourage you to read this out loud with your family.

Grandma on her 90th birthday...just days before she passed.

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This Easter seemed to shine as bright as any that I could remember. Perhaps the long winter finally giving way to a bright, warm day contributed in large measure to the overall experience. On the news people are quoting the same word, “Finally”! Yes, that about sums it up.

The entire country has battled severe weather recently, especially in the 2 weeks leading up to Easter. The floods and twisters left a path of destruction over these last days. In Minnesota, the bad weather down south forced cold temperatures to remain locked over the midwest and turn rain into snow deep into April.

Lisa in her new Easter Dress! Beautiful!

A month ago, I’d encouraged Lisa to buy a new dress for Easter, just getting ready this morning promised that the day was going to be the turning point we needed to get us into spring.

Resurrection Sunday started out by attending Good Friday service. On Friday our hearts were tuned towards a somber reflection of what Yeshua came to do for us. On Saturday we spent the morning and afternoon with family enjoying a wonderful meal and marveling at how big the kids had become just since Christmas. Saturday night Lisa and I went to the Penumbra Theatre and saw the new play “I Wish You Love” written at the Penumbra workshop, produced by Lou Bellamy and performed by Dennis Spears.

The show is a tribute to Nat King Cole, the music and the man. If you have a chance, you should try to get a ticket before the show moves to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. Dennis Spears makes you believe that he IS Nat King Cole. He is truly amazing. The play tells the story of the troubles that Nat Cole had keeping his TV show on the air as he fought against NBC executives who were afraid to stand up to advertisers who threatened to drop their support for Nat’s TV program in the face of the civil rights movement and segregation in the South.

We left the show remembering the costs to so many brave Americans who stood up for the rights of all Americans in the face of segregation. We couldn’t help but think that no matter how horrible that history is, no matter how much suffering was inflicted, it didn’t compare to the suffering that our Lord endured on Good Friday for us.

The play at the Penumbra on Saturday night really helped us remember the salvation that has been offered to everyone:

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

The music seemed louder, trumpets blared, voices sang, drums rolled and we rejoiced that the stone is rolled away and the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father. Does your heart long for peace? Does your soul cry for justice? Does your very identity cry out for a personal, approachable and close relationship to God?

If you have asked any of those questions, then remember the words of Jeremiah 29:13:

“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.”

He is Risen! Happy Resurrection Day!

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I grew up in a family that can be quite traditional. At least when it comes to how we celebrate holidays.

Years ago I brought a Jell-o pretzel salad to an Easter dinner. All eyes sat fixed on it in the center of the table for quite some time before someone blurted out, “What’s that?” When I explained what THAT was, there was silence and then, “Oh.”  And then table conversation continued. No one ate a single piece of it except my grandfather who was hard of hearing. He ate three pieces.

For the next family gathering I asked mom what I should bring and without skipping a beat she replied, “Oh, bring that pretzel salad you brought for Easter.”  After reminding her of what had happened, she convinced me to bring it again. I did and it got rave reviews. I don’t think there was a piece left to take home. I chose to simply chalk it up to tradition. Each dish needs to go through a sort of initiation process before acceptance at the holiday table.

For many years I then brought the pretzel salad to family gatherings. It entered the realm of tradition. Since then I’ve pushed the envelope more, trying out new dishes here and there. The latest attempt was last Christmas. And surprisingly this new arrival got a positive review the first time around! In fact, mom phoned the following week because she wanted the recipe for a dinner party she was planning.

Best of all it’s incredibly easy, relatively healthy and it seems to have been a hit so I thought I’d pass it along to you.

Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (I take the easy route with a bag of frozen, cubed squash!)
2 large tart cooking apples cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C (half a stick) butter
1 T flour (I’ve used whole wheat flour.)
1 tsp salt (Optional – I don’t add this.)
½ T cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Slice and peel squash and apples.

3. Place squash cubes in ungreased 7×11-inch baking dish. Add apples on top and then cranberries.
4. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and then sprinkle it on top. Dot with the butter.

Bake 50-60 minutes.
Serves 8.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

With Christmas behind us, we’re slowly getting back to our routine and back to our blog. It was important for us to spend as much time as possible with family and so we took a little break. I realize that the holidays are a lonely time for many people too. Absent family and friends, many people suffer from the pain of isolation.

As we enjoyed the blessing of family and friends, I had time to think about a topic I started in November called “Longing for a King.” Since the reason for Advent is Christ, and we wait expectantly for the arrival of the one true King, the topic is quite appropriate.

Christ restores and He is capable of restoring the king in you, He is also capable of healing loneliness and isolation. With His arrival, our hope and longing is renewed for good kings in the world. The questions at the end of the entry were:

  • When can you trust a man with power? Do you long for a King? Do you long to be a good King in your realm – your home, your business, your family, your house of worship, your neighborhood, as a little league coach? What are the qualities of a good King?

I hope these questions stirred something in you. They do for me. When I need guidance, inspiration and someone to test my thoughts, I look for a sage. I learned this from one of the sages in my life: John Eldredge. My memory brought me back to the book The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge. In this book, John writes about the stages of the masculine journey. At the end, when he gets to the “sage”, he doesn’t put himself in that category. He describes how he looks for better writers than himself, sits at their feet and lets their work soak into his bones. I’ve met John several times, spent time with him in intercessory prayer, learned from him at weekend retreats and read his books. I see him as a sage, even if he doesn’t. Who looks to you as a King or a Sage in their life? Do you recognize the awesome calling of your heart in those moments?

In this book John also speaks of the danger of isolation men face when assuming their kingdom: whether as father, manager, husband, co-worker, little league coach, business leader or politician (or whatever kingdom lies before you).

As I went back to John’s book and re-read that section that I hadn’t visited for awhile, something struck me as related to a Washington Post article by Anne E. Kornblut that I’d read earlier – “With a GOP Congress, Obama’s social side start to thaw.” The gist of the article is that Obama is “Solitary by nature…a man of boundaries”. A GOP congressman is quoted, “He [Obama] doesn’t suffer fools, and he thinks we’re all fools.” But the criticism comes from both sides of the aisle, “…both parties, complained about what they described as Obama’s arm’s-length treatment.” But the quote that really stuck was this, “On the first page of his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama describes himself as a 21-year-old loner who was “prone to see other people as unnecessary distractions” and to avoid excessive social contact in his New York neighborhood.”

I went back to John’s book. John writes, “I think the greatest danger [for a good King] is isolation.” Now, I don’t want you to think that I see the President as a real king. That’s not the point. I’m speaking about his role as President. Obama has pursued the Presidency, he has yearned for it. Tell me something, do you believe that the people who didn’t want the position of “King”, or the ones who yearn for it, are the ones most qualified to hold the position? Moses didn’t want the role, but he was most qualified to hold it. David refused to take it, even though he could’ve killed Saul. It’s what made him a man after God’s heart.

Whether or not humility is one of his characteristics,  Obama has assumed responsibility for the well being of you and me and the country.

John writes, “If you’ll read about the lives of kings, you’ll notice this tendency to begin to be suspicious of even their closest advisers, and how nearly all of them tend to isolate themselves over time…It’s lonely at the top. The loneliness is exacerbated by the fact…that blame moves to the top, justly or unjustly. When there’s something to complain about, blame the King. And when there are the hard decisions you have to make as a King, and those times will offend, and people will pull away from you.

Think of the men you know in positions of power. How many of them have close friendships with other men? Isolation is like a plague of office…The man becomes removed from companionship, from counsel, and from accountability. He begins to see himself as the only one who really understands, the only one with the right to rule, the only one whose opinion is valid. He will tend toward the tyrant at this point.

Isolation and loneliness. These two things didn’t bode well for King David and they don’t bode well for you or the President either. We need friendships, counsel, confidants, teachers and sages. We need humility. John reminded me that as we mature God will leave more choices in our hands. God allows us to screw up and make really bad decisions. He will allow you to decide to go to Him, or not. Jesus is available. He is the Temple, the land, the inheritance.

Resist isolation, don’t operate out of your own strength, seek rest and counsel. Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Peace to you in this wonderful season of Advent. I pray that you will seek the company of wise men in 2011.

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• “Boring” days. You know, the kind where you experience no accidents, no terribly bad news, no particular relational challenges, no pain…

• Moments when I get to see God at work in a up-close sort of way.

• Friends with whom I can exchange the most mundane, the most embarrassing and most celebratory experiences.

• A husband who tells me nearly every day that I’m God’s perfect gift to him.

• A warm home in this frigid Minnesota weather.

• My iPhone.

• God’s incredible grace.

• Arney Palmers.

• Sunshine.

• Hope.

• Peace even when things are hard.

• Gratitude when things aren’t hard.

These 12 aren’t all the things I’m necessarily most thankful for.  They’re in no particular order and I didn’t spend much time coming up with list. They’re just a few random things that first came to mind when I took a moment to pause and thank God for his blessings. When I did so, a shift took place in me. Just making the list filled me with more gratitude.

God owes me nothing. Yet when life is challenging, there’s still much to be thankful for. I don’t always recognize it or him. But right now, I am filled with gratitude. I’m even thankful for that.

Sure, Thanksgiving is great for getting together with friends and family. The food is fabulous and it’s nice to have a few days off. But, if it does nothing else, the best part of the holiday is its prompt to step aside from life that can so easily be filled with self-centered pursuits so that we can thank God. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to celebrate everyday.

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