Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Boring is Good!"

I'm doing my second overnight volunteer stint at Simpson house tonight (You can read about my first night here). Right now I'm listening to about 40 guys sleep....complete with snoring, coughing, and some general restlessness from a few. I am praying for peace for them....

One of the shelter staff told me as she left that she hopes my evening is boring. Then she paused, looked at me and said, "Because boring is good." Yep....striving for boring is my goal for the evening.

The other background noise is in the TV room - NBA finals are blaring complete with guys cheering for their teams. It's all good....

As long as I can keep the sleeping guys asleep and the NBA guys from getting to loud. Otherwise "boring" may be lost....

The last time I volunteered was about a month ago and I was happy/sad to see some familiar faces. I recognize at least 4-5 of the guys. I don't think any of them remembered me.

When the guys were let in tonight I was surprised that about 6 of them were riding bikes, one brought in a pair of crutches attached to his bike, and another man brought in a fishing pole with him. Seeing these guys and how they value what they have is humbling.

Back to praying for peace....and for a boring evening.....Lord, send Your peace.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Awkward Questions about Jesus

Man, I feel like this a lot of the time when I'm trying to talk about my faith to my own kids. (This vid is from an English sitcom entitled "Outnumbered".)

ht to Scot McKnight

Monday, June 08, 2009

Minding my P's and D's

My son, Alexey is in 4th grade. His report card doesn't have the traditional letter grades yet but rather P's and D's. P = Proficient and D = Developing. I'm proud to say that generally he gets straight P's. (That just sounds wrong but I digress.)

I've been thinking of the P's and D's in my life as it relates to serving and being in a faith community with others. I'm in transition right now - having been worshipping at a new church for about 5 months. As I have reflected on that journey some I've come up with 3 P's and a D.

Planner - The previous two churches that I have served at I became quickly involved in many ministry areas. I have the gift of helps so that is a natural occurrence for me. I was involved in youth ministry, praise band, worship planning, small groups....served as elder, worked on search teams, and generally tried to jump in to help as needed. In most areas that I served I became involved in some degree of planning, leading, and directing. I discovered that I generally experienced my most times of intimate worship with God in the developing and planning process and that when an actual event occurred I was unable to worship with the community. I was too caught up in the evaluating, coordinating, hoping, praying, thinking what's next, etc.

Performer - For much of my time on Sundays over the past 10 years I have played drums in a praise band. Again...many times the most intimate worship times for me occurred during rehearsal, thinking thru music, etc. Once Sunday rolled around my thoughts were usually tied to questions like, "What's the right tempo" "Are we together" "Do we repeat the chorus" "How do we end the song". With all of that rolling around in my head it was usually very difficult for me to worship while playing - at least on Sunday mornings. Yes, I "perform and play" my best for God, but on Sunday...with the added layer of responsibility of leading others in worship my focus becomes split. (It is very cool when you do totally engage and a whole community invites the Holy Spirit to inhabit their praises...but for me those moments are the exception rather than the rule.)

Participant - Here is where I have found myself the last few months. I am not involved in any formal ministry. I have simply been a participant. It has been joyful, refreshing, and challenging. It has helped me learn again how to focus my attention on worshipping - not planning or performing. It has been a blessing to worship in community with my family and friends - to dance alongside (in my awkward ways), raise my hands, bow down, be lifted up - together. It has helped me re-discover the joy or communal worship and to see and experience just a little slice of heaven.
Desire - But now what? That is the question that is haunting me as I try and best discern where and how God wants me to serve. I have come to see some of the gifts, challenges, and dangers of my three P's. My desire is to serve God in the ways He wants me to go and become the follower, man, husband, and father that He wants me to be. I can see Him building into me in new ways, with new experiences, and new relationships.
I pretty sure I'll never get a P = proficient. Nor would I want one as that sounds like an end point. I hope I am always a D student. One who is developing and becoming more like Jesus. Yeah....I'm striving for a D!
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Star Wars vs. Star Trek!

No wonder I like both of these movies so much....

"Beauty is Pain"

Saw this Yahoo vid about how "skinny jeans" are causing nerve problems in people's legs. First, this is not a problem I have to worry about (my kids have told me I look REALLY bad in skinny jeans). But in the vid a woman who appears to be representing a fashion magazine of some sort says "beauty is pain".

It makes me think back to the Dove ad campaign a while back.

I have two daughters and two sons. My prayer is that they each see themselves as "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14); know they were created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27)....and find their true identity in Christ.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Red In The Face

I have a genetic pre-disposition toward skin cancer. I have gotten into the routine of having a "skin check" every 6 months. Usually that leads to a biopsy being taken, a number of small spots being burned off with liquid nitrogen, or other such fun stuff . On rare occasion it leads to a small surgery to remove an actual lesion. None of it is horrible - but most of it is uncomfortable. Of course the option of NOT taking care of those small spots as they come up really isn't an option.

Recently my doctor recommended I undergo "Photodynamic Therapy" or "Blue Light" treatment. I had my first session two days ago. It involves having your face first prepped with acetone to remove the oils on your skin. Trying to breath while someone basically washes your face with an acetone (think fingernail polish remover) soaked washcloth is nearly impossible.

Then an ointment is applied. It is a clear ointment but pretty greasy looking. It has to stay on for an hour. Of course, you can't take up a treatment room for an you go back out to the lobby with a very shiny, greasy face and try to keep your head down while reading old magazines - luckily I like Midwest Living...

After your hour is up it's time for the light therapy! I have never been in a suntan booth. But my face has been now. First you get to put on the really cool looking swim goggles to protect your eyes. (Can you keep your eyes open with those on? Will the rays penetrate at all? Just a few of the questions I had!) Then you sit on a stool, in a room cooled to a ridiculous temperature, with your face in a hot dog bun shaped fluorescent light device. Your nose is almost touching the plastic surface. "Are you comfortable?" the nurse asks....don't even get me started!

Then, while your face is immersed in this hot dog bun shaped light, they place one of those small battery operated fans in your hand. Of course, your face is in a plastic tube and you can't see your hand or how to work the fan. Then you are told that if it gets too hot you can use the fan to cool your face. face is surrounded by plastic - I don't know if I can even turn the fan on let alone get it to blow on my face! Grrrrr.....

Okay - time to turn on the light. It's very bright. It starts out a little warm. The nurse says, "I'll check on you in a few minutes" and leaves the room. I'm all alone. The warm moves into the "I'm being stuck with thousands of tiny needles" stage. I try the fan. I get it turned on and can't really get it to blow on me. Man it is getting hot on my face. This is NOT fun.

The nurse returns and asks how I'm doing. I take the high road and say I'm "moderately uncomfortable" rather than "my face is melting off!" She says, "that's only have 11 minutes left" and leaves the room again.

The sensations and treatment continue. It sort of surges in intensity - from hot to prickly. I think at some point I sort of zoned out because my nose touched the plastic surface of the light machine - does that mean I got too close?

It's finally over. The nurse turns off the machine. She has me wash my face - which is very red now. She says that's good and I should get a good result from the treatment. She then applies a steroid cream and sunblock. Great - Mr. Greasy face heads out into public again.

The rest of the day....and still at this face is red, feels tight, and has that really good sunburn feel to it. I'm supposed to stay out of the sun for at least 3 days. The instructions actually say "Wear a large brimmed hat when walking to your car". Wow.

Here is the picture of me that you have been waiting and reading so patiently for....

I'm thinking I may go back to having my small pre-cancerous spots burned off with the liquid nitrogen again. We'll see....

Study Break - Enlarging How I See Life

I've decided to actually allow God's word to impact me - hopefully daily...but at least more regularly. To help me follow through with that I thought I'd post some thoughts here on the passage I'm reading. Feel free to comment and share how the passage impacts and/or speaks to you - and please know that I have no formal training in this. I'm just asking God's spirit to speak to me and allow me to see more through His eyes and heart than mine. (For me, this is also part of responding to Tony Myles' challenge for the summer.)

The Passage - 1 Cor 1:1-9 (NIV)

1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


4I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

Stuff I notice - and thoughts/questions it brings to the surface of me.

1) Paul is writing with his friend Sosthenes.

  • Who are my friends and encouragers in my journey? Am I building into them or just waiting for them to build into me? In what ways do I acknowledge them?

2) Paul's letter is to the church and all believers. Seems to be to both "the body" corporately as well as individuals who make up the body.

3) Wow - what a prayer/message of Thanksgiving in verses 4-9. The words that jump out at me are:

  • "enriched in every way" - I LOVE that! So often I have to deal with my own questions or the questions of others about what difference does it make to be a Christian if I just try to do good things. I serve, I care, I contribute. That is such a stumbling block for me at times to answer - and this verse simply says....God can use that and do it better. Better than you can possibly imagine. You won't know the difference until you let Him in - and that's a hard wall to break down. But oh....when you surrender your "good" works to Him and let him enrich your speaking...your knowledge. I LOVE that and find great comfort and challenge in it at the same time.

  • "our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you" - who has helped lead me, through their testimony...their love, compassion, lifestyle into my relationship with Christ? Have I thanked them? And who am I sharing my testimony with? (With my words and knowledge enriched through my relationship with God) My hope is that it will help lead to them confirming their relationship with Jesus some day.

4) As a body - we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts. How cool - and points to my need to be in community to experience the fullness of Christ supernaturally. I also love the phrase "as you eagerly wait" - nice contrast to be eager and waiting at the same time. What a sense of expectation - and makes me ask is that the attitude I bring - expectant, eager, watchful, intentional. What's my attitude?

Wow - 9 verses and LOTS there. Good stuff to keep rolling around. Feel free to share your own thoughts and how the passage impacts you this day!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Do you want in?

Tony Myles offers a challenge - and opportunity - to view our summer a little differently. I'm in....are you? (I am a regular lurker at Tony's blog - and I encourage you to visit his thoughts often!)

If you are in - what are some ways we can stay connected and encourage each other along the way? Please feel free to share your ideas and thoughts!

Man, What A Race!

I ran in the Go Northside 5K this past weekend. The picture here is of me and some of my race day fans - my wife, Kimpa and son, Alexey. It was the first time I have run in a "race" since high school. I was a pretty good runner in high school and have some great memories of races and friends from those times. Even so - the 5K I ran in this weekend has moved to the top of the list of my running experiences. Here's a few glimpses of the day.
Track and Weather - perfect! 68 degrees and breezy. The course was pretty flat with the exception of a nice downhill section with the wind during the second mile. It was also well marked and easy to follow. (Not that I had to ever worry about being in front - I had plenty of people to follow!)
People - all ages and stages. Serious to casual. The common factor - was friendliness. This was truly a "neighborhood" race. The course had many people standing in front of their homes cheering and shaking noise makers. There was a drum/dance line that played before and during the race. Good dogs/burgers provided afterwards. The race had a very cool vibe.
The run - I had set a goal of running at a 7 min/mile pace and I finished the 3.1 miles (I really have never converted to metric!) in 20:50.
Friends - I ran with two good friends - Lois and her son, Peter. Peter is 10 years old. He has run lots of races and even a mini/kids triathlon. I asked him before the race for advice. "Pace yourself and breathe." Good advice. He had set the goal of running around 28 minutes and just not stopping. He ran the course in 24:30 or so. Seriously. He won the "most amazing performance" award in my book.
Friends - part 2. My good friend Mitch (Lois' husband) came along to cheer for us all. He and Kimpa kept showing up along the course cheering. It was awesome.
Best moment - after the race I was walking with Alexey and Kimpa. Suddenly, Alexey was hugging me saying "good job, Dad." I can't put into words what that meant to me for a lot of reasons. I am going to have to write a separate post just on that moment. That made the whole day move into the incredible zone for me.
Yep - a good day. I can't wait for next year's race!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Voices In My Head

I know you must be wondering what is bouncing around in the head of a stay at home dad - if anything at all. Here are a few of the random quotes I have been collecting, pondering, and enjoying in my head recently. (I have linked to the original authors where I could if you would like to back track them some. Most I will share alone and out of context.)

"Are you listening to respond or listening to understand?" - From a radio ad.

"As a follower of Christ you are called to be faithful - not successful" - Reverend Hillary Freeman, of the Community Justice Project. She was one of the presenters of the City Matters seminar through Sanctuary CDC. (If you are anywhere near Minneapolis you HAVE to attend this seminar. Challenge your perspectives for $25!)

"Don’t confuse insight with leadership. It’s easy to spot problems. It’s easy to spot holes in the system, things that are quite done right or perfectly. It’s easy to see the problems. The ability to see those problems doesn’t make a good leader. It makes a good critic.

Leaders see opportunities….solutions…possibilities. Leaders are willing to put shoulder to the plow to fix it. Leaders WORK the problem, not escalate the drama or create crisis. Secondary principle here for me is this - empower leaders, not critics." - Grant English on his blog.

"No wonder your tummy was so big, mommy!" - our friend's 3 y.o. daughter shortly after receiving a new bike while visiting her newborn sister in the hospital. It was a gift from her newborn baby sister. : )

"Jerry Maguire was a liar. That woman didn't complete him. You don't need anyone else to complete you. GOD will complete you!" - my paraphrase of Efrem Smith preaching on marriage at Sanctuary Covenant Church.

"Not even God can steer a car that isn't moving." - Marque Jensen during the City Matters course.

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." - St. Paul, Philipians 2:1-4 (Msg)

What's been in your head....and heart.....this week?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kindergarten, Nap Mats, and Marriage

I met my wife in kindergarten. Really.

I have no memory of her from kindergarten....or of kindergarten really. I do remember those bright blue and red nap mats - which I think must mean I really looked forward to nap time or I really hated it. Being a boy I would guess that I hated it....but knowing that my future wife was in class with me....anyway. I do have my class photo from kindergarten and my wife, Kimpa, is in it. Oddly enough, I'm not....apparently I was sick that day.

Why am I sharing this? Because tomorrow is my 26th wedding anniversary...and I'm thankful.

Thankful for the ministry of marriage that God has ordained and blessed.

Thankful that God saw "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man." Genesis 2:18-25 (New American Standard Bible)

At a marriage retreat two weeks ago I came to understand that in my wife, God has crafted and fashioned for me a perfect gift. Not that my wife is perfect - but that she is the perfect gift for me....from God.

Twenty six years. Almost married long enough to be "that couple" that everyone applauds for and has a shot at winning the gift at the end of the marriage retreat for longest married. Never saw that one coming....

Twenty six years. Years of growing in my understanding of love. My understanding being transformed from how my wife makes me how I can show her love sacrificially. From trying to get her to change the things about her that bug me to seeing those edges as places that God is speaking to me....teaching me....loving me.

Twenty six years - holding hands, looking into those eyes, hoping and dreaming, raising four children, pondering together who God is....where does He want us to serve....walking along side each other and cheering for each other. Comforting each other without words. Being more known and knowing another person more than I could ever imagine - and treasuring that.

And looking forward to continued transformation and growing more and more in our understanding in what it means to be love another...and being excited by that rather than tired or afraid.

At our marriage retreat a couple weeks ago we were challenged to speak the following to our spouse...and it bears repeating here....

Father God, I receive, by faith Kimpa, just as she is today. I receive Kimpa as Your perfect gift to me for a wife. I agree with You that You have given me this person for my good. Kimpa...I receive you as my perfect gift from God, and I thank Him for you in my life. I receive as His gift to me those areas of you I have been rejecting. Thank you for being my perfect gift. Amen.

Bring on the next twenty six, baby!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Holy Kiss, Batman!

What I'm about to share has nothing to do with Batman. (Although I do think he rocks!)

It does have to do with kissing....and maybe even Holy kissing.

My son, Alexey, is in 4th grade. Definitely the age at which hand holding, hugging, and kissing your mom/dad becomes way less cool. Recently, I have been more aware of the times when Alexey does reach out for my hand as we are walking - because they are becoming more infrequent. (The last time was coming out of the movie theater after seeing Star Trek - which I thoroughly enjoyed...and the movie wasn't bad either.)

One of the treasures of my day is walking to the bus stop with Alexey. It is part of the rhythm of our day. Wake up, get breakfast, sign the school planner, brush teeth, fix hair (variable depending on the morning!), argue over whether or not to take a jacket, grab a soccer ball, football or other type of ball and then walk to the bus stop.

At the bus stop we'll play catch with the football or kick the soccer ball around. Even in winter. As we do so, we keep an eye out for the bus. You can see it just starting to round a corner and then it takes about 40 seconds for it to get to us. Somewhere along the way, Alexey decided that it wouldn't be cool to have his dad give him a kiss in front of the other kids as the bus pulls up. But - without my asking or suggesting - we fell into a pattern of when we see the bus, Alexey runs like mad up to me and gives me a hug and a kiss. I give him a quick kiss back tell him to have a great day and my son sprints to the bus stop. Having achieved a super human feat - meeting his desire to still give his dad a hug.....but not appearing uncool.
Maybe Alexey is Batman?
Nah, he isn't Batman. He is much more than that. He is God's precious and perfect gift to me. And for that I am humbled and grateful.

Holy kiss, indeed.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. 2 Corinthians 13:12

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Because, I Love Jesus"

Before anything else....go to Grant English's blog and read this.

I'm a regular "lurker" at Grant's blog. I've never met Grant but I have come to respect him through his writing. (I would even encourage you to read his blog regularly....more so than mine!) Grant is a follower of Christ, husband, father, former youth pastor and a new lead pastor. I also believe he is a builder - of relationships and disciples and that he is helping to speed the breaking through of God's Kingdom in the here and now.

When I read the post about the phone call he received from a school district employee regarding his son..... made me joyful. Being the parent of 4 children I can relate to what it's like to get calls like that. Starting off from "Oh no, what's my son done?" and ending at "WOW, that's what MY son has done!" is a great day. made me hopeful. As a Christian, reading about the impact of our attitudes and our serving of others reminds me again it's not about what goes on inside the walls of our churches. made me wonder. How do I respond when someone asks why I do/don't participate in something. And I got hung up on the phrase "Because, I love Jesus". And it has continued to resonate...convict....grow....and just won't leave me. As I have tossed that phrase around in my head I have come to love it. (Yes, you can put the well deserved "Well, duh" in right here.)

"Because I love Jesus" - takes the focus off of me and shines it onto Christ. When I make a God honoring decision and I'm in a position to share the "why" behind that decision I'm tempted to say "because it's the right thing to do (probably true)" or "because that's how I roll (okay, I don't ever say this...I'm too old!)". But if I say "because I love Jesus" then it's not because of MY rightousness....spirituality....individual convictions - it's because of the one who has transformed me and shown me a better way. It immediately points to Christ - opens up the opportunity for others to say "What? - c'mon...are you kidding me" and enter into a conversation that isn't focused on me but on what Christ has done for me. And how cool is that. The chance for seeds to be planted and lives to be changed and relationships to be built.

So, as a Dad, I want to be sure to share that phrase with my kids. To give them that "handle" to use in their conversations. And to continue to use it myself. And that when the phone rings, and it is my child's school......well I can hope can't I?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brueggemann - "Preaching"

What are your thoughts?

If you are a preacher....what do you think?

As a person that attends worship....what do you think?

As a person serving on a "board" at church...what do you think?

(ht - Mark Riddle)

Plugged In - part 2

I started thinking through what are some of the habits that help keep me connected to God. You can find part 1 of this post here. In that post I talked about how music and running help me stay plugged in to God's spirit. Here are a couple other habits that I am finding important for me these days:

Fasting: While I don't have a regular schedule that I follow for fasting, it is one discipline that I have found to be very powerful and healthy. (Which of course begs the question why I don't make this a regular habit...hmmm.) Some of the benefits I have found of fasting include:

  • Space - by not worrying about what, when, with whom I am going to eat it adds HOURS to my day. Hours that I can use to ponder and/or listen for God.

  • Focus - as I turn away from food it automatically reminds me to turn toward God. Without stress, guilt, or other baggage - my focus on God seems to be more "pure" during periods of fasting.

  • Humility - this is important for me because I am wired to seek attention. When fasting, I usually have to answer the question "Why aren't you eating lunch?" and then I have a choice - to build myself up (I'm going super-spiritual today, baby!) or to deflect the question with something like...."I'm eating later". To go through the day connected to God...but not overtly sharing that and turning it into a day of "look how hard I work at my relationship with God" day is important for me.

  • Fasting also reminds me of God's abundance - that I can get thru a day relying on Him and knowing that He provides, prepares, and perseveres with me through all situations.

      Fasting is a discipline rich in layers of connection to God and these are just a few of the things that I find attractive during those times.

      Another way I stay plugged in and connected to God is through creating. I am an artist of sorts - I have a creative streak that runs through me and helps me connect to God in unique ways. Most of my creative juices flow around the idea of creating environments and unique learning activities that help create the opportunity for others to engage with God. Incorporating music, experiential worship and prayer activities, small group lessons, etc. I love to create environments where people can engage with God and in the planning...I experience God myself.

      I still have a couple of other ways that I try to stay plugged in to God that I'll share later.
      What are the habits that you have found most important to your journey to stay plugged in?

    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    Go Northside 5K - Run, Cheer, Volunteer!

    If you are in the Minneapolis area it would be awesome if you could join me for the Northside 5K Run/Walk & Finish Line Festival. I will be running my first 5K since about 1980 so if you can come and run along with me....cheer....or volunteer that would be great! The race helps support Urban Homeworks and the Peace Foundation in Minneapolis.
    So - put on your jogging shoes and join me for a little urban adventure!

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    Building blocks and memory loss

    I have a horrible memory. My memories of my childhood are pretty vague. I have a hard time remembering what specifically a book was about a week or so after I have read it. I'll think of a really awesome phrase or unravel a problem...only to watch it slowly drift into ??? I'll try to remember your name - repeat it after I meet you, write your name down and a detail about you, go for context, takes me a long time and LOTS of repetition to remember it. Maybe I'm lazy....maybe it's just me....maybe it's a guy thing....I don't' know. But I find it frustrating and it makes me tend to go even higher on the introvert scale. I'm not a particularly quick thinker, but I'm thoughtful - and it is frustrating to just watch those thoughts sail into good-bye.

    God knows me. He knows I have a horrible memory. So he patiently builds into me. Through a thought here, an experience there, a conversation over lunch with a friend, a blog post read, a book that catches my attention, a class I'm invited to by a friend...He slowly, lovingly, patiently builds into me.

    I've seen Him do it a number of times in my life where there is "convergence" of thoughts, ideas, and experiences that seem to shout out life change is coming or pay attention or join me.

    I'm sensing now is another one of those "building block" times. God is trying to teach me about....move me my eyes to..........something to do with a deeper understanding of people who are different than me. People who are from different races, cultures, and economic situations.

    Some of the building blocks include:

    Books (I'm not really going to "review" these books as I honestly don't remember a lot of details *sigh* but I would recommend them each - how weird is that!):

    • Letters Across the Divide by David Anderson and Brent Zuercher - I actually have an autographed copy of this book! Apparently I picked it up in 2003. It is a true story of two friends, one African American and the other white, that explores racism, friendship, and faith thru a series of letters they exchange.

    • same kind of different As me. by Ron Hall and Denver Moore - I just finished this book a week or so ago and it totally captivated me. It is a true story about a homeless man who started out life as a sharecropper and an upscale art dealer who end up becoming friends. The paths that their lives take to introduce them to each other and the relationships that form because of it are fascinating.
    • the beautiful struggle by ta-nehisi coates - I read this book last year probably because I saw someone post about it or read a review in a magazine. It is a beautifully written book. Honestly much of the language that was used was unfamiliar to me - some urban terms, some hip hop, just different. But the phrasing, use of language was too engaging to put down. You should read this review to really get a flavor for this true story of a young black man's journey to adulthood in Baltimore.
    Church - We have been worshiping at Sanctuary Covenant Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural church that has challenged my thinking. Can you say "Hip-Hop Sunday!"

    Classes - City Matters - a class offered by the Sanctuary's Community Development Corporation that teaches around Urban issues. It has really opened my eyes, and heart, to issues of poverty, justice, race, and faith in the city. If you live anywhere near the Minneapolis area this is a class you should seek out and attend.

    And so it goes. I might not "remember" much. But somehow all of these experiences are building into me and preparing my heart for something God is already doing and wants me to join in. My prayer is that I recognize what that is....and respond with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.

    Confessions of a stay at home dad...

    Sometimes, I feel guilty about being a stay at home dad. I youngest child is 10 years old. My days during the school year are all mine from 9 -3 every day. I am the luckiest guy in the world to be able to have the opportunity to be a primary influence on my kids during these years times....I still feel guilty.

    I feel a tremendous amount of pressure.....let's see, that's not really the right word....responsibility to use my time wisely. Trying to define "wisely" is the challenge. When I first became a stay at home dad it was all about staying busy. I was actually afraid that I would run out of things to do....or....not do enough to justify me being home. Uhhh.....yeah....there is always plenty to do. As I have matured in this role of stay at home dad, I have discovered that I have to prioritize what is important. Here are a few of the highlights for me....

    Sending and greeting - I treasure the fact that I get to wake up my kids and "send" them off to school...and be there when they get home. That simple, often brief, interaction can help determine the attitude and mood we all will carry into the day and/or evening. Small moments that in a few years will no longer be needed.

    Preparing dinner - I love to cook. I'm not great at it....but I love being slighty creative and trying stuff in the kitchen. I also love the fact that by me taking the time to prepare a meal it helps form a gathering point for us all to check in. our life goes....we probably eat out 3X week and can only all sit down together for a meal about 2-3 times during the week. But those times are significant and beautifully mundane.

    Pondering - I'm an introvert at heart. I like to roll thoughts around in my head for way too long before I can let them go, come to a conclusion, or just get distracted to the next thought. Being a stay at home dad allows me to just "sit and think" at times. This is important for me.

    Getting out - Since I'm an introvert at heart I could easily and comfortably fall into the habit of not reaching out to people during the day. This is a temptation I fight every week. I have found that by listening and intentionally spending time with others - even if it is as simple as eating at the same restaurant during the week for lunch to get to know the wait staff - it helps me grow in understanding and patience. (Anyone for lunch at Ruby Tuesday's!)

    Napping - I used to feel guilty about napping during the day. My wife has repeatedly told me this is okay....and that has truly been a gift. (Either way I would still nap - but I can nap with a clear consience!) My body rhythms are such that I really start to shut down between about 1 - 3 pm. Listening to my body and good.

    Those are just a few - and of course I do actually "work my list" still. Laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, post office, bank, dry cleaner....repeat. But I know that the reason I stay home isn't in what I accomplish....but that I stay home in spite of what I accomplish (as Kimpa will occasionally remind me!)....because it has a huge postive impact on our family.

    The other confession I have is that I am the luckiest guy in the world to have married such a Christ centered, supportive, intelligent woman.....who has blessed me in so many ways. And what a privilege it is to walk through life together raising our children - and growing more in love with each other as the seasons pass. God is good.

    Friday, May 01, 2009

    Plugged In

    I mused here a little about how I need to stay connected to God and what happens when I don't. After a little pondering I have come up with a list of habits (I don't want to use the word discipline for some reason!) that help me stay 'plugged in'. They are not perfect nor do they work perfectly. They are a fairly fluid mix and my ability to engage God through them varies drastically. But for me, I have found that when I follow through with these habits....I better stay in the flow of listening for, resting in, and following God's spirit. Here are a couple to start with:

    Music - both playing and listening. I am a drummer and a beginning guitar player. My first desire in college was to be a jazz drummer. I have a love of music that I can't truly express. But music speaks to me....not just lyrics but the creation of music - all kinds of sounds. When I listen, whether it be secular or not, I can often be moved into the presence of God. Music calms my soul, moves my spirit, and can change my emotions. On the playing side - I worship God thru playing - especially the drums. Sounds impacting a piece of metal or a synthetic drum head can be worship....but it moves me to a place that I connect with God and can "rest" in His presence.

    Running - Running for me is my "quiet" time. It allows me to disengage from the "to do" list and focus. I usually start my runs saying, "Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I'll repeat that over and over and just let it sink in until it is sort of running in the background. Then I'll start to pray....and see what bubbles up. So many times a situation, a specific verse, a small phrase will pop up and I'll play with that for quite a while. The hard part is remembering after the run what I was I try to journal a little right afterwards and come back later to flesh out those nudgings. I have found that I can't run while listening to music (funny that I can't combine the running with music!) because I focus too much on the music and not on listening. Interesting....
    So those are the first two I'll share.....more later....gotta go play the guitar and go for a run!

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    My Attributes....Not God's

    Lukewarm. Apathetic. Lazy. Fatigued. Busy. Disengaged. Distant. Disinterested.

    I had a stretch awhile back that I was wondering (complaining?) about where God was. Nothing particulalry bad was going on in my life. But it felt like I was just going through the motions.

    I fell into the trap of believing that it was God that had pulled back from me. I kept asking God to give me the desire to love Him want Him give me the energy and time to experience Him. I started to apply to him the list of attributes that I was feeling.

    Lukewarm. Apathetic. Lazy. Fatigued. Busy. Disengaged. Distant. Disinterested.

    At some point I finally stopped whining. I decided to think about those activities that were present in my life when I have felt most engaged and "in the flow" with God and His Spirit. It didn't take long to make that list....and then realize that I was not particpating in any of those activities. God hadn't moved of course.....I had lost my focus and my discipline. I had stopped pursuing Him - and God had honored that decision. God is patient...

    I'll share that list in the future.

    But before I do - what would you put on your list?

    Are you actively working that list? Do you need to add or delete some things from that list?

    Are you letting your feelings about God become attributes of God that He doesn't possess?

    This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:15-17

    The perfect start to Father's Day?

    I don't usually start to think about Father's Day this early but.....this would be a nice gift!

    Arlo & Janis

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009


    I had the privilege of volunteering at the Simpson Housing Shelter for homeless men last week. You can read a brief post that overviews that experience here. But for this post I wanted to focus on the voices that I heard from the guests that I listened to.

    The first thing that I noticed about the voices that I heard was that most of them were hard to hear. The majority of the guys talked in hushed tones. It forced me to really listen and focus when I had a conversation with them. This was most noticeable during dinner. I had the opportunity to sit with 3-4 different men during dinner and it took all of my energy to really hear them - both from a sound standpoint and from a "don't try to think of how I should respond while they are still talking" standpoint.

    Maybe some of the quiet in their voice was....

    ...fatigue. It must be very wearing physically, emotionally and spiritually to be on the street all day.

    ...fear. That a conversation they have will rob them of an opportunity they are pursuing if it is overheard. They are all struggling for resources and there are only so many available so they speak quietly of their opportunities....if they choose to share them at all.

    ...they want to draw you close and really listen. Yep, it could be that they want you to truly focus on them.

    ...shame. They are embarrassed about their situation, or their clothes, or ______, and so they speak softly....looking away or downward while still wanting to be heard.

    ...that's just the way they speak.

    Of course, their was also the occasional guy that spoke loudly...trying to control his environment by the sheer volume with which they spoke. But that was the exception rather than the rule on this particular night.

    Regardless of the volume of their voices....God spoke to me thru many of them and for that I am thankful. I hope that they somehow felt His love in those moments as well.

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Music Profiling

    (The following thoughts and/or reactions are soley my response to what I saw today. I have not looked into any factual basis for what I experienced/observed. In other is totally from my perspective.)

    I had some time to kill after an appointment in Burnsville today. Nothing like a mocha and some browsing at the local Christian bookstore to make the time fly by so I ventured into Northwestern Bookstore in Burnsville.

    I have recently been worshipping at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis and they will often have worship times that include hip-hop, latin, gospel flavored music and I am more of a "The Refuge" (contemporary Christian / Alternative Rock) kind of guy so I thought I'd expand my musical base a little....and maybe start to recognize more of the music I'm listening to and trying to participate with.

    First I browsed the "new artist" section and picked up a Remedy Drive CD. Then on to the Gospel Section and picked up The Essential Fred Hammond. Next I ventured into the hip-hop section and...didn't pick up anything at first because all of the cases were empty shells. (Sort of like at Blockbuster when you are looking for a movie!) It was very noticeable because the hip-hop section is pretty small, on it's own rack set apart for the rest of the CD's and is the only section that was presented this way.

    Oh yeah, and then there was the sign over the rack that said "Thou Shall Not Steal" - God and NW bookstores.

    I don't think this would have bothered me a couple of years ago...but recently God has been opening my eyes to people who are different than me in new ways. And this little "empty shell" display that required you to get your CD from the clerk up front, combined with the "Thou Shall Not Steal" sign made me angry....and sad. I eventually grabbed the Urban D Unorthodox shell (he had come to Sanctuary a few weeks ago and led some worship time) and went to the front counter. I asked why they had they had the hip hop section displayed this way - and the clerk said that it is because "a lot of those types of CD's get stolen".

    Okay, I get that. It makes sense to me for the store to notice that a certain item is more likely to be stolen and try to do things to protect their products from being lifted. But this just struck me as over the top.

    First - it seems to say people who listen to hip-hop CHRISTIAN artists are more likely to steal. And I don't think it is a stretch to connect that with specific ethnic people groups/cultures. I know my first reaction when browsing that section and seeing it is the only "product controlled" section was wondering if people were watching me extra close as I browsed. It made me feel uncomfortable just looking at the CD's. (Apparently people who buy contemporary Christian, gospel, latin, alternative or any other genre of music are less likely to steal?)

    Second - the bright neon green 8.5X11 "Thou Shalt Not Steal" sign. C'mon. Really? The product has all been removed anyway so what is the point of the sign? All it does is further communicate to people wandering around the store the assumption that people that listen to hip-hop are likely to steal and need to be reminded that God (and NW bookstore!) doesn't want them to. The sign is what really put the whole experience into the category of "stereotype" for me. (To me the sign and way the CD's are displayed is basically silently and indelibly screaming - if you stand in front of this section you better not be one of THOSE people that listen to hip-hop and steal CD's. You should know better and in case you forgot we, the good people of NW bookstore, are reminding you. Oh, and everyone else is watching you as well at this point!)

    The whole thing just made me feel icky.

    Of course the other part of the ick was that after I left and started thinking thru it all....I thought I should have asked to talk to the store manager - to find out why they had the CD's displayed as they did and then share how I felt as I looked at the CD's. My bad...'cause nothing will change without conversation and engaging people. Okay - fine. I'll go back and talk to them....and blog about it later. Hold me to it tho....I am SUCH a conflict avoider.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Keep in mind - this is ALL told from only my perspective and is subject to over-simplification on my part.

    But how does this strike you? And thoughts about how I should follow up?

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    "Do small things with great love."

    "Do small things with great love." - Mother Teresa
    That small phrase is what would best describe the goal I set for my night of serving at Simpson Housing Services. I have lots to ponder following my experience but thought I'd throw in a quick overview here before I post some other thoughts. For a basic description of the shelter I volunteered at and the services the men there can receive you can go here.

    Okay - this is the first time I have chosen to interact with people that are homeless. At least in a meaningful, more personal way. Sure, I've handed out money, made sandwiches, and done other such activities - but had never put myself in a position where I would have hours of face time with a person who is without a home. Yep, I was a little apprehensive. But it was awesome!

    On a given night there are two overnight volunteers that serve from 5:45 pm until 7:00 am. The three shelter staff start work at 3 pm and leave around 10:15 pm - shortly after all the guests are supposed to be in bed. The volunteers are basically the "eyes and ears" of the staff. We take care of the guests basic needs (there are about 46 overnight guests each night) - handing out supplies, making coffee, directing traffic a little (where to get what), etc. Meeting needs and making them feel cared for and safe. This frees up the staff to meet with guests one on one and do the work of trying to provide better access to care for their guests with the ultimate goal of obtaining permanent housing for them. The volunteers rotate their turns sleeping - one from 10 -2 the other from 2 - 6. I split the difference as I am "shadowing" so I got to try to sleep from 12 - 4...but mainly I just listened to the sounds around me.

    My first impression was that this was a lot like a youth lock-in! I've helped organize many a lock-in for high school kids and there were some similarities....especially in the personalities that were present. The introvert, the helper, the funny guy, the really smart guy, the guy that gets picked on a lot, the guy that thinks none of the rules apply to him, the guy who knows how to work they system....but after spending time with them....the facades start to come down and the real stuff starts to come out. Lots of sadness, anger, loss of hope...balanced with gratefulness, contentment, and the beginnings of hope.

    I tried really hard to learn names. Thru the course of the evening I had about 10 conversations with specific guests that allowed me to listen to at least part of their stories. It was humbling to listen in on their journeys. Some had been homeless for years....some for just a couple of weeks.

    Each face and story was unique - and I tried to respond to each one with love. Thru a smile, an encouraging word, a handshake, cookies and milk, coffee....caring. But of the process I was changed. More on that later.

    So - it was an evening of small moments that were incredibly rich. I can't wait to go back. The volunteer schedule is already full for May....and I find myself disappointed rather than relieved. NOT what I expected. But of course with God in the middle of it....what else should I expect!
    Small moments, small things....hopefully done with great love, indeed.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Serving at Simpson

    I have been blessed by others. One of those blessings is our good friends the Heglands. Their family and ours hang out a lot and have become quite the commune. A couple of months ago Lois (the mom) arranged for our families to make some sandwiches and deliver them to the Simpson Homeless Shelter downtown. They provide the sandwiches to their overnight shelter guests in the morning so they have a lunch for the day. As part of the experience we heard about the opportunity to become an overnight volunteer. That caught my attention (and Mitch and Lois') and we attended an orientation session to become overnight volunteers.

    Well...tonight is my first night to be an overnight "shadow" volunteer. I'll basically hang out with the other two volunteers and learn the ropes of caring for the men that stay at the shelter. Yep, I'm a little apprehensive. But I figure if I just keep asking myself - How can I show them respect, love, and will be just fine. I'm more worried about MY behavior than theirs...should be fascinating.

    One more step into God opening my eyes and teaching me how to better see others with and through His. Besides...I'm not only looking with His eyes...but looking at Him in the faces of the men I will be serving. How cool is that?

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    I love sunsets....

    God said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion."

    Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.

    Arlo & Janis


    Monday, April 20, 2009

    "Do you love me?"

    When Jesus asks that do I respond? This quote from A.W. Tozer struck home with me today....

    "O God, I have tasted Thy Goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long."