Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas in North Dakota - Pt. 3

Wednesday brought a new adventure for the kids. Ice Skating! While there were skates to fit the two oldest kids, little AJ had to endure skates too large for her tiny feets. It's strange watching little kids learn to skate, struggling to skate, when I have hard time remembering a time when I didn't know how to skate! So, my brother held AJ while Dad, H, and C, made a chain gang with the kids in the middle, and we had a blast!

Christmas in North Dakota - Pt. 2

Tuesday of Christmas week meant sledding. Off to the Magic City hill to demolish some powder!

Although there were several fantastic runs down the hill, this one just had to be shared.

Everything started off well.

But something happened along the way.

Where are they going?

At least they're still making forward progress...

Almost made it.

And... Done. Finally. Backwards, but done. At least it eliminated snow in the face. Maybe? :)

I couldn't resist throwing this one up here too!

And back up the hill for more...

Christmas in North Dakota - Pt. 1

After a long autumn it was wonderful to be reunited with family at home in North Dakota. Between the siblings and in-laws and nieces and nephew we shared mom and dad's B&B ( between eleven people. It was amazing! Nothing beats sleeping in for a week in a hundred year old mansion with two feet of snow outside and a never-ending supply of home-made goodness flowing from the kitchen. Although I didn't take as many pictures as I would've liked, I got a handful that documented the week of bliss.

Amtrak served as our sleigh, but Santa certainly wasn't driving. Instead, we had an train conductor that was less human and more evil elf (a terrible troll, an ugly ogre - all three aptly describe his look and/or attitude, but evil elf fit the metaphor). Additionally, our train was delayed by three hours so we got home late, but we did get home. Underscore home. Sigh of relief.

Before the siblings arrived we had an informal open house for all our ND relatives and friends who were unable to be at our wedding back in June. Naturally, some people who did make it to the wedding decided to crash the open house - Ben... Aleks... :)

Here's a pic before the festivities began of Amy and I in front of the main tree (there were six!)

It was great to see so many relatives and family that I never get to see anymore and that Amy had never met. I won't lie, though, I definitely cracked open the old photo albums the night before to brush up on some relatives that I hadn't seen in a while. Fortunately, there was only one or two people that came through the door that gave me a panic while I whirled my mental rolodex for their vitals - name, relation, profession...

Things really kicked into high gear once the three-pack arrived. And by three-pack I mean my five year old niece, my three year old nephew and my two year old niece. The youngest promptly found Harrison the bear and a two-year-old size chair and planted herself in the hallway. What a cutie!

The next day we were greeted with 12 inches of snow! Woot! Dig out the tractor and attach the snowblower! Pull on the snow pants and make a few angels! Climb aboard with Papa and take a ride on the tractor!

So many pictures, so many stories. More in the next post!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nothing to write about...

Lately, I've been getting in touch with my hypocrisy. It's a short story, and goes something like this...

(cue dream music/bubble sound effects)

Tis the start of day. Breakfast cereal in hand it's time to check in on the world.

*click* (open internet window)
*click* (check news)
*Command T* (open new tab)
*click* (check facebook)


*click* (select drop down menu of favorite blogs)
*click* (check WA family's world)

Disappointment. Oh, man... No new stories about the niece and nephew. No new pictures to tide me over till the holidays. Oh wait! Yep, there's one. A three-sentence story. Phew! Better than nothing, right? Maybe it's part of some attempt at concise writing. Effort noted, but I also love the good long stories that give you a crick in the neck from reading the laptop screen too long. But, you know, it's your blog. Don't let me cramp your concise style. Just cause I'm a professional rambler... *awkward cough* ....

*click* (select drop down menu of favorite blogs)
*click* (check NY family's world)

Let down. How long has it been since their last post? For as cute as my niece is they have to have plenty of stories they could put up, right? hmmm.... I suppose I could call more often too... Well, in the mean time, let's watch that awesome video again. *click* WHAT?! The link still isn't working? How can I inform them that the link isn't working without giving away the fact that I check their blog way to much? ...
No answer.
Deep Sigh.

Pause and regather.

*click* (check National Review online for the latest op-ed piece on how screwed up the world is)

[note: I am now just sitting, waiting for the news to refresh, finishing my cereal]

Oh yeah! Email! Maybe someone wrote me!

*click* (open mail)
*click* (refresh inbox)

scroll.scroll.delete.delete.highlightentiresection - delete. Oh! One from Mom! Phew! What a relief. Oh! And another email from that one thing that sends me updates all the time that I always say I'm going to read but never do. They put so much effort into sending an encouraging message but because I have an appetite for family blog their heartwarming message just falls short. delete.


Finish cereal.


Contemplate another bowl and one more round of internet...

Yes to bowl, no to internet...


Okay, so somehow that just became a story about morning internet drama. Sorry, I got distracted by the onomonopia of typing *click* (oh, i did it again :)

Anyways, the point was to illustrate the way I can't wait to see if something new is posted by my family, but I never post anything myself. Blatant hypocrisy. I doubt they do what I do, but maybe sometimes they check my blog and say, "Really, nothing since May?" Or, "Why doesn't he ever post pictures, we still haven't seen what their apartment looks like?"

So, to my family and friends who hopefully don't check my blog nearly as often I check theirs, thanks for bearing with me. Maybe I'll learn to write more, or recognize to a greater degree the blogability of my life. Then again, maybe my lift ain't all that blogable and I should just give up. On blogging - not life.

Note: Thanks for blogging! This wasn't meant to be a subtle attempt to guilt you into writing more. So don't read it that way. Of course, if you do decide to blog more, know that I'll know, and know that my mornings will be happier :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thankful that there's more to life...

Tonight I'm thankful that there's more to life than text messages, twitter feeds, facebook updates, exclusive news reports, international conspiracies, terrorism, and flat tires.

Each day is such a splendid opportunity to live. I'm so thankful for friends past, present, and future, who inspire me to live. Live completely. To not hold back. To not be hung up by pride or fear. To be human, and fallible, and fragile - and strong and courageous and bold.

Today I am thankful that I have an amazing gracious, loving, and forgiving family - even though I haven't been the most loving sibling, dotting uncle, respectful son, or patient husband.

Today I am thankful for the grace God gave us at the cross through the death of Jesus. I am thankful that he gave his life so I could live mine - free from the trappings and snares of sin and disobedience, free to love God and love everyone without limits, free to live righteously, free to worship God with a pure heart that has been cleansed by Him who died for me.

I am thankful for the peace of knowing he has set in order what we made into chaos. I am thankful that he dwells with me, in me, resides in me, communes with my soul. I am thankful that he does this with all whom he saves - how he is building a new community of life through his people. I am thankful that they met his grace and mercy and extend it to me, too. I am thankful that I am able to comfort them, too, with the same Gospel that saved us.

I am thankful for all of this.

It would have been more timely for me to write this a week ago, but it didn't happen. I was busy cooking turkey.

Today I pause and am thankful.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Ranks of the Doored

Last night I joined the ranks of The Doored.

Last night I was hit by a door while riding my bike. A door may seem like a non-threatening inanimate object but I assure you this one was prepared to go the distance and definitely won the tilt. I was making my way to The Counter, a great burger place on Diversey and Clark, when a cab door opened on my left knocking my handlebars askew and forcibly dismounting me from my bicycle. This isn't a story of massive injury. My cat-like reflexes kept me on my feet. However, Red Rocket and I landed about five feet from the collision point and the chain almost came completely off. After seeing a bike twisted like a pretzel a few weeks back from a run in with a delivery truck, I'm content escaping without any injury to me or Red Rocket.

Anyhow, it could've been worse. And I'm glad it wasn't.

Naturally, the cab driver looked at me like it was my fault. And he's right. I telepathically instructed him to drive in the bike lane and again telepathically instructed the passenger to open the door precisely as I passed by. Caught red handed... how are cabby's so smart?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Bakery? Unsanitary? Never!

Since releasing the announcement yesterday that I might someday open a bakery, there have been stirrings amongst our friends and relatives in support and offers of advice - all welcome, naturally.

However, several persons have said something that disturbs and somewhat upsets me. Apparently, upon hearing the potential name of my establishment, The Bearded Baker, those people immediately thought the name sounded unsanitary.  

One friend suggested a 'beard-net'. I countered with the option of wearing a bandana in bandit style. Yet still there is dissent. 

What is to be done? If I have a bakery will I have to swear off my beard forever? Woe, woe, and woe again. Let it not be so!

I might not take these accusations personally, but my beard does!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Full of Surprises!

Today I followed in the footsteps of my father, brother, and grandfather. A proud moment indeed.

Growing up my dad owned his own painting and wallpapering company. He also did a little remodeling, dry wall, siding, and if he really liked you, maybe some bathroom fixtures. Never electrical - the stuff's dangerous, leave it for the pro's.

Anywho, Jim's Painting and Paperhangning was my family's basket of bounty. Being an entrepreneur has its ups and downs, but I always respected my dad for doing his own thing and being really good at it. There are many houses in Minot where he can list off every color underneath the present shade because HE'S been the one to do it for thirty some-odd years. Now my folks are still being their own boss as owners and innkeepers of the famed Dakotah Rose Bed and Breakfast.

My brother, immediately after graduating from college, started his own furniture business and was also very successful. My grandfather, after leaving the service, opened a couple of laundromats and a car wash and had rental properties. On my mom's side there's a whole gang of farmers and ranchers, all doing their own thing. I guess we have a flair for independence.

Family history aside, something happened today that has never happened to me before. Something happened that opened an entirely new vista of opportunity before me.

k, I'll cut the drama.

I sold bread! Although most are unaware, I love to bake. In particular, I love to bake bread! I can thank my mom for giving me my start and I can even thank 4-H for giving me a little confidence in the quality of it. Most of all, though, I just love every part of making bread. It's an art, a stress reliever, and beautiful process. There are endless options. Countless ways to vary and change and make a recipe your own. I just think it's great.

While living in the dorm in college my greatest woe was not having an oven. Now that I'm in an apartment, however, I get to do all the baking I have time for. So now I'm turning out bread as often as I can and experimenting with recipes and ideas. It's awesome.

As if this weren't enough, though, my wife has taken the liberty to brag up my bread at work. Then she took some with her and we got the line I've heard before - "oh wow, you could sell that". But it was a variation of the line. This time it was, "Can I buy some?" This is entirely new territory.

So, I went to the store and got more supplies and this morning set out to make "for sale" quality Red Pepper and Roasted Garlic Cheese bread. And it was wonderful. They were beautiful little ten-inch oblong loaves with shredded colbyjack and roasted garlic cheese settled and melted into the scoring along the top of each loaf. What a delight!

So now (although I technically am not a business yet or have a license or a store or anything legit), I feel as though I am a little closer to being an entrepreneur too.

Only time will tell if this will actually turn into a really business future, but today I was paid for my skillful little creations and that felt pretty cool.

P.S. If it's not too early, I also have a name for my business. My store is tentatively dubbed, "The Bearded Baker".

Life Changes, pt. 2

Greetings World!

I've been remiss. Six months ago I put a single line in my last entry and then never explained myself. Most likely there is no one reading this who doesn't know the events of the last half-year, but nonetheless, I'll recount a brief overview now.

The short story: I failed to graduate from college when I intended and found myself confronting parts of myself that I had neglected and overlooked for some time. I wish I could say I was in over my head and no one would've succeeded in those circumstances, but that would be a lie. Rather, I reached a point of busyness and responsibility that demanded I rely on others and not just myself. I reached a point of breaking where I could refashion the manner in which I used my time and energies or I could watch everything crumble around me. I reached a point when I needed to be human and instead chose the route of playing God. I am not God.

Consequently, I watched much of my world crumble around me. I was blessed to be surrounded by persons who encouraged me to be present in my brokenness and receive the redemption that God wanted for me. As a result, as I stated in my last post, I once again began to feel.

I do not presume that I have gained the heights of sagacity an am now prepared to dish out wisdom, for that I suggest that you fear God and get some humility. I have learned however that in isolation, in the attempt to keep all the plates spinning on my own, in the madness of pleasing others and constantly striving to achieve titanic standards of perfection and excellence, I stop being human - and that's not okay. In fact, it's death. Death for me, and a death sentence of separation and isolation from my friends, family, church, and spouse. Not to mention from God.

So, I've began to heal. I am also retaking a few classes so I can finally graduate. This is a constant reminder to be present in this process of redemption. Had I got what I asked for back in April (an extension so I could turn things in late) I would have received pity, not mercy. And I would never have received the grace of learning and growing out of my insecurities and deficiencies.

This is a summary of that part of my story from the last six months. God has proven faithful, I have proven to be much more of a stubborn mule than I ever guessed. Praise God - he used Balaam's donkey and he sees fit to use me too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life Changes

Today I have began a journey that matters.  I don't know what to say yet, but I'm learning how to feel, and that's a start.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I am not a "man-ape" (and I have the Man Card to prove it)

Can they get any more ridiculous? I am not a "man-ape"! 
I can only hope that what happened to our beloved "Climate Scientists" happens to our dear "Human Evolutionary Biologists". Someone, please, hack their emails and find incriminating evidence that exposes the absurdity of their thinking.
You know, I am kind of interested in finding out, however, just how many imbeciles out there believe we came from apes. I want them all to brand it on their forehead, or tattoo it on their hands. Or at least wear t-shirts constantly that say something along the lines of... oh, I don't know, "My Great Aunt is an Orangoutang", or "Don't tick off my cousin Larry, when he gets mad he throws his poop". You know, something like that. Something that says, "I made it! 1st Generation Human!".
As long as we're entertaining the absurd, I think I should point out something that these scientists seem to have missed! They've been looking at fossils from millions of years ago trying to find the missing link, but there are living missing links all around us! 
For example, take the ones who have body hair like nobody's business. I knew this guy a few years back and every morning, I kid you not, he had to divorce his head from his chest by shaving his neck - all the way around. (He somehow managed to get married. She must have a thing for sweaters). Another friend had to regularly buzz his arms because they took on the characteristics of coarse wool. Scientists! Look to these men! They stand before you in hairy glory!
Okay, I'm done with this. If you really want to read the article, just click the headline. Knock yourself out. And if you're feeling inspired, go get a stick and poke around a termite mound. Or better yet, have some family bonding time by grooming each other for tasty insects.
As to the title of the post, I do in fact have a Man Card. It was received by myself several summers ago by authorities on the issue and I have borne it ever since in solemn gratitude and dignity. 
It reads: This card entitles the bearer to all the rights and privileges of manhood, including strength, courage, and headship. 
Bam! I ain't no man-ape! 

Unexplained Hypocrisy

Pop Quiz:
Which Christian Holiday is more significant - Christmas or Easter?

If you're unsure, here are some definitions to help.

Christmas: a certain day set aside to celebrate mark the birth of Jesus Christ, God incarnate.

Easter: the day that celebrates and marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, his power over sin and death, the shedding of his blood for our transgressions against God that made communion with God viable, and the verification that everything he ever said was more reliable than gravity.

True, both days celebrate miraculous happenings. Both days are centered and focused on the Godman, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. And Christmas is necessary for Easter - he had to be here in order to die and resurrect here.  But whereas Christmas marks the beginning of the fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophecy, Easter (including the Holy Week) is the climax of the Christ's earthly ministry, particularly his work on the cross. Let's face it, had he not died on the cross and risen three days later his incarnation would've been phenomenally amazing but a bit anticlimactic.

So here's a little weirdness to be considered: Why, in a post-modern, post-Christian America is there so much hoopla by non-Christians (all-inclusive, i.e. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, etc.) about Christmas, and not a whisper about Easter? 

It's possible I missed something in the news about Easter protesters, but as far as I'm aware nobody causes a stir about Easter. In fact, it's just the opposite. Straight from the first-hand experience of a reliable source (my fiance, who works in retail) there is revealing two-part report given here. 1) at Christmas in particular, folks are predominantly anti-Christian and they don't want to be wished a Merry Christmas. Sometimes they observe another holiday. Sometimes they're just haters who want to sterilize the calendar and culture. Regardless, even those who do observe Christmas (with biblical conviction) tend to be timid when it comes to wishing others a Merry Christmas. After all, who wants to risk being the recipient of our new cultural curse: The American Atheist's Evil Eye of Scorn and Disgust (it is given whenever a "Merry Christmas" is ill-received).  2) People left and right have been wishing my fiance a Happy Easter all day long. She has had the distinct privilege of filling in for a coworker today and for eight hours has encounter coffee addicts out for a Sunday stroll. And from their lips has come a bright and joyful, Happy Easter!

So. Do the American areligious simply avoid going out-of-doors on Easter Sunday? Or are they just ignorant of the fact that Easter is the biggest deal in the universe?! It would only make sense that if someone were anti-Christian or at least opposed to the observation of Christian holidays, the very last thing passing through their lips would be a greeting calling attention to the risen Christ. Please, could someone offer some sort of explanation for this hypocrisy?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


As part-and-parcel with my position as a youth director at my church I am now the proud steward of my very own box! You know, the box. As in, "Just put it in my box and I'll get to it later", or "Oh look, a memo in my box." THE box. I never realized till just now that somehow I've managed to go my whole life without a box. How did I ever survive such an injustice?

*play trippy time-warp music*

At this stage my only interaction with mail looked something like this.

- Mom: Jonathan, can you run out and grab the mail?
- Jonathan: O.K.

Basically, I handled mail, I didn't receive mail.

Adolescence and Teen years:
Repeat the above scenario but occasionally throw in a random credit card advertisement. These, while meaningless and not applicable to my lack of adulthood, made me feel like I was almost there.

Adulthood (at college):
Now I get more credit card applications, bank statements that remind me how little money I have, and catalogs in which to spend the money I don't have. And I didn't even ask for the catalogs. They just say, current resident - as if I don't have an identity or interests of my own! (A special thanks to Eastbay and Lands End and CosmoGirl) The only highlight of the last few years has been getting other people's mail on accident and then having to give it back to the campus mail people.

*play trippy time-warp music back to the present*

Nope. Now I have a real job and get real mail in my box :) Real mail. Except that every piece of mail that has slipped into my box hasn't had my name on it. It has been addressed to  "Youth Director", or "Youth Pastor". (Apparently they didn't get the memo that in the PCA you have to be ordained to be a pastor, and I am not.)

All this to say, I get a lot of mail addressed to whoever is doing what I do, and I sometimes get mail and think, "if this organization knew anything about me or this church or denomination or the type of kids in our youth group there is no way they'd send me this."

Case In Point:
I received letter the other day from an organization that will remain nameless. (it's not that I want them to remain nameless, but I already threw the letter away and I'd have to dig through coffee grounds and banana peels to get it back.)

It was a letter on one side and a color picture and info on the back, all espousing the greatness of this team's evangelistic powers. Included in the troupe is one (1) outstanding illusionist, one (1) professional skateboarder, one (1) BMX Stunt Team, and two (2) rock bands. (If there was a pastor somewhere in the mix, he didn't stand out. I guess he just didn't have enough pieces of flair.) All this and more, center stage and in full technicolor, at the unbelievably low low price of fifteen thousand dollars!!! (yes, count out your pennies, break the pig. $15,000. Or 1,875 Spanish doubloons for the 18th Century pirates among us.)

I mean, seriously. Did the ESV make a bad batch with a few glaring misprints? Or was this just part of the Message Remix?

I don't know about you, but I would be very timid about evangelism if Romans 1:16 read something like this: "For I am not ashamed of entertaining people, for pageantry is the power of man for salvation to everyone who is dazzled, awed, and has their autograph book ready."

No. Jesus died a gruesome death. He humbly took on himself the torturous agony of the cross. He extinguished his life so that we might be resurrected from the dead. He took our sin and declared us righteous. He took our filth. He died our death. He severed his perfect unity with God the Father so that we might be adopted as sons and heirs with himself, the risen Christ. All for the glory of God. We did not and still don't deserve it. His grace is just that great.

I went to a few of these extravaganzas when I was in high school and I remember there being some kids who said their lives changed as a result. To this I humbly admit that God works in mysterious ways and is somehow able to make his still, small voice heard, even in the midst of razzle dazzle bang whiz pop. I can't claim to know who these people are who put on these events. I'll never know their hearts. I'll never know how effective their ministry is. But I'll also never know how effective my own ministry is either. It's all in God's hands. And for that I'm thankful.

Hopefully, when all the speakers and bandstands and microphones are packed up that group is able to say that the word was preached, God was made great, that our sin and depravity we not rationalized or played down or excused, that Christ was faithfully represented, and that the gospel was given out to all who would receive it. Hopefully, that can be said of all of us.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The news that doesn't make the headlines

Although I am tempted to adopt the mindset of Chicken Little following the recent advancement of Obama-care, a second and more insidious threat looms on the horizon. It pertains to a battle that started between students and their administrators (my favorite) about five years ago and has steadily worked its way through the lower courts and has now arrived on the steps of the hallowed halls of the U.S. Supreme Court itself. The best part, in my opinion, is that the students picked the fight!

Problems began "when leaders of the CLS (Christian Legal Society) chapter at Hastings (College of Law) asserted the national policy of the organization, which states: “In view of the clear dictates of Scripture, unrepentant participation in and advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle is inconsistent with an affirmation of the Statement of Faith.”

As I read that portion of Al Mohler's blog I was stunned for a few reasons:

1) As a student at Moody Bible Institute I regularly forget that God is at work in more places than my little school. He is present and powerful in the lives of his people all around the earth - Christian schools do not hold a monopoly on the God of the universe. 

2) These students are not ignorant. They know their God, they know their bibles, they know their faith. A nominally Christian student group would never push for that kind of language in their statement of faith, nor would they have the endurance to fight it for five years and take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. These men and women have more courage and tenacity than some pastors I know. 

3) This will not end quietly. Not every case that goes before the supreme court is foreseeable as precedent maker, but the outcome of this case will answer many many questions that have been a long time coming (also attended to by Al Mohler) : Are Christian organizations to be allowed to remain Christian, or must they all morph into secularized associations?

Must the Christian Legal Society surrender its biblical convictions in order to remain a recognized campus organization? Does religious liberty now stop at the law school door? Can Christian organizations remain Christian in an age of ideological “tolerance?”

Read Mohler's post. Pray for the students. 

Also, check out the CLS Purpose Statement, Statement of Faith. They deserve our thanks.

Floating White Stuff

Nothing ruins the arrival of spring like a crotchety snow hag shaking her dandruff collection over the earth in a series of guerilla raids. It's like she hasn't gotten the memo! True, some days - if you didn't know better - are fairly indistinguishable from fall. But over the last week my fiance and I have been excitedly marking the growth of the tulip stalks in the sidewalk planters of our neighborhood, and though it han't broken the seventy degree mark yet (the forecast says next Wednesday) the air has definitely changed.

Granted, I wouldn't normally be yakking about the snow hag except that as I crawled into bed I noticed that the parking lot within view of my window was a lighter color than usual, and some of the lines in the lot were a little blurry, too. Why? Hag dandruff. Little sheets of it. Everywhere. 

For the record, I love snow. I love playing in it, throwing it, hiking and rolling and snowboarding in it. I even like eating it (well, the fresh stuff). BUT. When it interrups the triumphal entry of spring and threatens my tulips, it immediately is demonized to the status of "hag dandruff". I mean, dang it. The Twins are in Spring Training, not "the last vestige of winter" training. Ugh.. and now I've lost sleep to a snow hag...

So. Floating white stuff. Please make your exit. Do not bow. Do not make a curtain call. Do not peak. You'll get your cue in eight months. 


I wrote that at three in the morning. I may have been hallucinating about the snow. But I sure thought it was real at the time...