Saturday, November 30, 2019

Unnatural Ease

Yesterday I said something about how eating and drinking often keep me going, and I speculated that my dependence on those sorts of "stimulations" to keep me going might be classified as addictions, but tonight, as I think about it more, I wonder if that's true. Maybe it's that we're not typically moving around enough as 20th and 21st century Americans to be stimulated a different way, that is, by physical activity. As I think I mentioned before, it's hardest for me to keep going on tasks that don't involve physical movement, and writing this is one of those tasks.

I know I'm more aware of my physical activity, or lack of it, than others are. There are several people I'm close to in my life who don't seem to mind sitting for extended periods of time. That's certainly true with lots of bus drivers. I think they do turn to snacks to keep themselves awake and alert, but I'm not sure they're aware of what they're doing.

So maybe my "need" to eat or drink something to stay alert and productive is tied more with just not being active at those times, more than I could fairly describe as an addiction.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Fasting & Addiction

It's the day after Thanksgiving. Yesterday we were at my sister's place in Plymouth. We ate a lot of very good food. And I am thankful -- for family, for food, and for a warm place to be on this cold morning. We're not having as full a morning as we thought it would be. One of the kids is sick, so the rest decided not to get together. So I can write a bit more. Sort of on the same subject as yesterday.

Yesterday morning, before we went to my sister's for a midday feast, I had chosen not to eat. I had done something that I've heard called "intermittent fasting" before Toni and I went on our European tour in the early fall, so this wasn't strange. (You may not know anything about this if we haven't talked or if you're not on facebook. I'd be glad to share with anyone who asks.) It was hard, though, because when I'm fasting it's difficult to keep mentally focused on non-essential or non-physical tasks. The other times I did fasted from night until noon was before going on my trip, and during those days I was working. Yesterday I wasn't. I did manage to write a little during the fasting time, but it wasn't easy at all. I finished writing yesterday's post after we got home from my sisters in the early evening.

I've been reminded about how much I depend upon the stimulation of eating and drinking to keep myself moving since I started my periodic fasting. I'm guessing that that "dependence" could be classified as a kind of addiction. I'm guessing, too, that most of our lives, that is, among those of us who have enough food and drink, are driven by addictions of some sort. And I think taking time to fast is helpful to uncover those addictions, and, perhaps, to begin learning to depend directly upon the Lord. I'm often not very good at that. But I'll take it on as a challenge today.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Alone with God

Blogging, which I used to do a lot, is not social media, at least not in the way we think of social media in the mid to late 2010s. Blogging is a more solitary pursuit. At least that's true in my case. It's been almost a decade since I turned to blogging as a way of interacting with others. It was, back in the day, far more social than the once a month columns I would write as a parish pastor. It would get out to the people quicker, more people could theoretically read it, and, most importantly for me, people could comment!

As I was up jotting that previous paragraph before 3 AM this morning, and now as I resume writing shortly after 7, I know it's challenging for me to write alone. And not only writing. It's hard to do much of anything alone. That's not to say that I don't. I do. But it's easier for me to do "whatever," that is, something that is worthwhile (Colossians 3:17) if I think there's some kind of community out there that might notice, even if after the fact, even if they really don't care what I'm doing or might even laugh disparagingly. That might be strange, but it's true.

Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, addresses this in the Sermon on the Mount. Two of the "whatever you dos" mentioned there are prayer and fasting. Another is giving to those in need. Jesus begins this section by telling to avoid doing those good things so that others will notice. When you give to those in need, says Jesus, do it quietly. When you pray, do it in secret. When you choose not to eat (when you "fast"), don't let others know. Why? I don't think it's because God wants us to always be alone when you do good things. The warning, in Matthew 6, is against the temptation to put on a show for others. If that's what you're doing, if that's your purpose, God isn't involved. It's just public relations. It's just seeking attention. It's not "real." It's a show.

I don't think this is just about giving or praying or fasting. I think the principle can be applied to any good thing you or I do. If we're doing it for show, or to build up our reputation, then it's not really a positive thing in terms of our "soul" or our life with God. But I don't think it means we should always be doing everything spiritually good in private. The scripture story of Jesus, for example, makes it clear that others noticed when he would get up early to spend time with his Father. On Jesus last evening before his trial and execution he asked his disciples to stay awake and not too far away while he prayed. And Jesus' teaching prayer, the "Our Father," assumes a community of pray-ers. So the point isn't to be completely alone. Just don't do it to show off.

Personally I appreciate the encouragement of others. There are many other places in scripture, at least in the New Testament, where we're told to encourage and warn others in various ways. (It'd probably be good if I'd cite examples but I'll skip that because I still haven't gotten to my main point.) If spiritual life was intended to be entirely private there'd be no way we could know when encouragement or admonition was needed, and we'd never receive it when we were the most in need. And I need it because on my own I lose energy for my spiritual life, and any of the semi-spiritual good things that would be good for me to do.

I think blogging is one of those things that are good. There are lots of other things too. And though this is not "in secret," it's not in a place where very many people see it. I'll say that's okay because just doing the work, with the Lord, gets me into His Word and spending this personal time with Him.

That's enough for now.

Have a good night. It's 9 PM now.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Time for Deeper Things

Are others "troubled," or is it just me? I'm troubled, or perhaps another word would be "disturbed," way down deep inside my mind and soul, and pretty much as a regular thing, because there are so many topics and questions and challenges about which I want to express myself, and pray about, but don't seem to ever take enough time to do that prayerful communicating when I'm in a situation where it would be appropriate. Part of the reason is that there are so many other things to do. Washing and putting away dishes. Cleaning. Taking care of grandchildren and parents. Dealing with the important but practical details of life. And I didn't even mention working for a living!

So what are some of those topics? I'd like to revisit the question of marriage and sexuality, not to change what I've said before, but to dig deeper. I'd like to say something about why I don't believe some topics, such as sexuality and marriage should be addressed "in public" as a first priority concern, while other topics need to be brought into the foreground. I'd like to write more about my understanding of what Jesus did to the world through his death and resurrection. Then I'd share what all these things mean for evangelistic work today.

But tonight, as I sit here after putting one of our grandchildren to bed at his home, I'm tired and would rather do other things before his parents get home. Then, in the morning, it'll be back to work. I'm thankful, so much so, for this life, but I do often feel "troubled" as I wrote above. I'll just need to pray, let go, and trust that the time will come for those deeper things.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday Shorts

Instead of posting thoughts on facebook, I'll try posting short thoughts here for awhile.
  • Speaking of shorts, I brought my bus driver uniform shorts to get let out in the waist. "Galls," the place where Metro Transit drivers get their uniforms, said there was an inch of extra material on there they could use.
  • I've been hitting my exercise routine even harder than usual in the last few days, going to the gym for my weight routine, and also doing more running and biking again now that the weather has warmed up and I've got much needed new tires on my 13 year old bike. My recent added workouts might mean I won't need the extra space in the waist.
  • As of today, I've chalked up 100 days in a row working on "French via Portuguese" on the app "Duolingo."
  • Naomi went back to work today after 3 months of parental leave. Toni and I will have her 3 month old son Asher with us on Wednesdays beginning the day after tomorrow.
  • Shatera and Dan's son Liam is here on Fridays from about 10 until noon, and we sometimes go up there to be with Liam on Sunday evenings when his parents are leading their church youth group.
  • Sometime near the beginning of March dad had a minor accident with the car that he and mom own together. Since that time I've been bringing mom and dad to their church most every Sunday. There's so much to say about that.
  • Mom and dad, with the help of my sisters, are seriously considering a move to "Parkshore," a senior living campus in St. Louis Park. Tomorrow we'll go take a look at an assisted living apartment that will be available in early May. Not sure if they're quite ready to move.
  • Toni's been busy with her business and with music, singing in two choirs, leading a wind ensemble, and soon rehearsals will begin with a band she's part of in the summer. Right now she'a playing piano. I love it when she does that!
That's all I'm going to write for now. God's peace to all in Jesus' name.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Beyond the Photo

Thanks to Toni for taking this pic!
It's the day after the day after Thanksgiving. Yesterday, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we had two of our kids and their kids here. On Thanksgiving Day Toni and I were out in Chanhassen at my brother Peter and his wife Leah's place. I'm told there were 31 there -- the extended Paul & Joan Thorson family -- though I didn't count them all myself. (Leah's mom, and perhaps others, had left before we lined up for this photo.)

In the midst of all this great family time I went to work yesterday, and I've been thinking about bigger issues, issues that we don't talk about much as a family. (I've posted about some of those issues in the last week or so in social media.) I don't think we're intentionally avoiding certain subjects--we just don't have a lot of time together. Our conversations, therefore, focus more on what's going on in our personal lives, or what's going on at the moment in our gathering.

That's how it is usually is when I'm with groups of people I care about -- whether at work or among friends. Groups that have more than 2 or 3 in them usually aren't a good place to talk about political or faith issues. Those kinds of talks happen more when two or three are gathered. Or, now-a-days, online.

The adults in the picture above, dear family members, are intelligent Christian people, capable of deep thought and careful conversation. I look forward to talking with many of them about these larger issues in the months to come.

Let's try to do that. If you're reading this, let me know. Then let's try to find ways to share. It'll take some work. It'll stretch us intellectually and emotionally. It'll challenge us to listen... and to love one another when we disagree. I do think, though, that we need to do that if we're going to be good citizens and helpful members of the church.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Abortion -- A Troubling Question

As some of you know, I threw my support behind the Minnesota "DFL" party during the past election. Many of my friends would not agree -- partly because of the issue of abortion. I'll try to say a few words about that here.

When I think about abortion, I can't help but think of the baby... and the mother too. I do think of the unborn child as just that, a child. And, still, I do believe that a woman, that is, a mother, has the final word on how she will deal with life, both hers and the life she is carrying, when she becomes pregnant. I am staunchly anti-abortion, but I believe that the mother will make choices, choices that only she can make -- unless you're wanting to take away a part of what makes her a free human being.

It's clear, I believe, from science and scripture, that "life" begins at conception. When an ovum is fertilized by a sperm, a new life begins. Some of those new lives survive until natural birth months later. Others do not, for a variety of reasons, some of which are known to the mother, others that are just mysteries.

In any case, for the first few months of life, until that child can survive outside the womb, one life (that of the child) is entirely dependent upon one unique other (the mother). Because of that dependence, it doesn't make sense to me to think of the child as having an independent life. That independent life begins when the child takes his or her first breath. So the life within the mother's womb is not the same as the life of the mother.

Somehow, as we think about abortion, and the many choices that a woman makes about how to care for themselves and the children they nurture during pregnancy, we need to recognize and respect the woman's right to choose. I always hope they will choose life. I hope I'll always be willing to do as much as I can to support her and her children, born or unborn. But, when it comes to the choices that woman makes about the life that's completely dependent upon her, until it's born, I'm not willing to have the government tell her what to do.


Added Monday, November 19: A loved one challenged me about what I wrote above, saying what I wrote above shows that I don't really believe life begins at conception. I need to think about that more. To do that I listened to a two year old "Depolarize Podcast" interview with "Christian ethicist, writer and pro-life advocate Matthew Lee Anderson." There's a section in particular in that interview that I'm looking at closely, actually transcribing it.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Good Night

It's been close to a month since I've written on here. There's just always a lot going on it seems. And now I'll be heading to bed soon.

Toni and I are home after being gone most of the day, first in Northfield with her mom, and then up at my sister's place in Blaine to celebrate birthdays including my mom's 88th.

I'll be up just after 5 AM tomorrow as usual. Good night.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Differences and Truth

Good morning! Toni and I are up at the Dahlin cabin. Today is my last vacation day of 2018. I saved it so we could come up for a long weekend with Toni's mom, mostly, I guess, to "close" it for the coming winter.
Yesterday, after church, we got all the outside stuff into the little garage, took the canoe over to Schoolhouse Lake, and then went out for a meal with some friends. There'll be cleaning etc. to do inside today before we can head home.

The pic at the top of this post was taken, as it says, at Grace Lutheran Church in Hayward. I was hoping to hear Tony Stoutenburg preach, but he was out of town at the LCMC gathering. I was still glad to be there. There's a connection between that church and my own story, a story that has "Truth" at its center.

No two stories are alike though. Even when we are in dedicated service to the Truth, and to the One who is "The Way, The Truth and The Life," there will be differences among us. That's always been the case: It was true among Jesus' first followers, as they emphasized different aspects of discipleship. and it continues to be true today.

There's been a heightened public awareness of those differences during the last 2-3 years, an awareness that has made it more difficult for me to write significant posts on this blog. And there's no clearer example of that than what we just went through in recent days we here in the United States as we have all suffered, in different ways, through the gut wrenching confirmation of Brett Kavenaugh to the supreme court.

My personal story of truth-telling and truth-following has led me to connect, personally and professionally, with Christian brothers and sisters who are often more liberal or more conservative than me. ++ As someone who is hugely concerned with environmental issues, including human caused climate change, and who believes that there is indeed such a thing as "white privilege," something that I've benefited from my whole life, I should be at home among liberals or even socialists. ++ But I can't go there, not completely, because, I'm also convinced that there is a God-given design for family, violations of which have wrought so much suffering on those are not able to protect themselves, particularly among the young. Liberals, in general, have a "love is love" philosophy of relationships that does not generally honor God's original design.

So I find myself, often, without a "tribe," that is, without a conservative or liberal community that I see eye-to-eye with.

I've seen that play out as my friends have cheered, or been angered by, the Kavenaugh confirmation.

It's been puzzling, troubling, gut-wrenching, at least ever since Christine Blasey Ford brought forward her story of sexual assault. I was shocked by Kavenaugh's angry, partisan, conspiracy theory centered denial, and very much saddened by his unwillingness to admit that he could have, perhaps, done something that harmful under the influence of alcohol--so many years ago. I was even more troubled as I saw our presidents supporters cheering as Donald Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford, and even more bothered as I read comments of my conservative Christian friends who just can't seem to admit the possibility that a "brilliant legal mind," like Kavenaugh's, could have been clouded by alcohol "back in the day."

So I'm betwixed and between, neither conservative nor liberal. It's uncomfortable, but, I'd rather stand with what (and Who) is True than just allow myself to be swayed by friendship or party loyalty. I pray, every day, that I'll be open to hearing any aspects of Truth that I've missed. I pray that I'll always be open to changing my mind when necessary, and that I'll never be too afraid to fail in service to the Truth.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Toni and I bought a car today. An SUV. It's called a "compact SUV," but it's about 20" longer than the compact car (a Ford Focus). It doesn't seem very "compact" to me. We were able to buy this car because Toni's dad gave his fancy Buick Enclave to Toni before he went to be with the Lord. We are thankful that we were able to exchange the Buick for $9-10,000. Not quite enough for the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox that we chose -- but enough to certainly make it easier to pay for.

Now we're home. Both of us are glad we made the decision, and the purchase, today, before we analyzed it to death. There are always things that we could wish were different. Best just to decide. So that's done.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Burning the Midnight Oil

Monday evening. Toni's on her way home, I think, and it won't be long until I go to bed. I didn't sleep well last night, so I'm looking forward to sleep.
I wrote that 5 days ago, at probably about 8:00 PM. When Toni did get home that night, I was fast asleep. The next night (Tuesday), I didn't sleep well at all. It went like that all week, sleeping well one night and then not much the next. Now it's Saturday night and I'm up again. It's been kind of rough, but I have had some good naps so don't feel too bad.

Since mid week I've chosen to get up and do things if I'm not sleeping. That's what I'm doing now. I'll get tired enough soon to go back to bed, where Toni already is. She sleeps well, consistently. It's rare that she doesn't. Maybe only when she's ill.

One of the things I did last night and tonight was to finish making a list of books that Toni brought home from her parents. She'd been there getting her mom settled into a different apartment following her dad's funeral. The books mainly belonged to him; the ones I've been listing are mainly theological and Christian. Books I'd like to keep if I had space.

One thing I could do at night would be to read, I suppose, and I do that sometimes, but reading takes a sharper mind than I usually have when I'm sleepless. I told our son Daniel this week that doing fairly "mindless" tasks at night is helpful for me. Reading theology wouldn't be mindless at all. It's also not very physical. Keeping my body moving at least a little bit is good to do at night.

So it's getting close to 1 AM. I think it's time to try to sleep again. First I'll finish putting the silverware away -- I put the dishes away earlier. Then maybe I'll take a shower before I go back to bed.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


I'm at our son Dan and daughter in law Shatera's place tonight, "watching" our grandson Liam. They'll be back momentarily from the youth group that Dan pastors. It's a pleasure to spend time with Liam, and also to help his busy parents a bit. Tomorrow I'll be back to work.

Toni comes back this evening from Northfield where's she's been helping get her mom settled in her new apartment. I think it'll be a great situation for Grandma Jo.

I don't think I mentioned in this blog that Toni and I are thankful, and awed, at the birth of our son Jon & his wife Breanna's fourth child. That makes six grandchildren now, with one more on the way. Naomi is expecting to give birth to her second child in February.

We're in the sandwich time of our lives. Between grandchildren and our aging parents, we certainly have enough to do.