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!