Monday, September 18, 2017

Back to Self

Last evening Toni and I were at the home of one of the other couples that participates with us in a small group, a small group organized through the church that we've been involved with for a little over a year now. It was good to get together again; we haven't met together as a group since summer began, but, for me, the best part of the evening was when we decided what we'd be studying together this fall.

I made two suggestions and the group decided to accept one of them. It wasn't the one I first thought of, but that's okay. I'm sure we'll benefit by going through Dutch Sheets little book God's Timing for Your Life. (I actually found my copy of this little book as I was searching for my first choice. Maybe finding that other book, and the groups choice to study it instead of the other was an example of God's Timing. We'll see.)

As I think of this now, I realize that both of the books I suggested, plus the other two that I had in my bag but didn't suggest, were about the self. Neither of them go into the more common topics of conversation that Christians, and others, engage in: studies of doctrines or Biblical books or religious practices or church denominations. All of them had as their purpose the work God is doing on our own lives, and, specifically, on the areas of our lives that we have some control over. I think that's good.

Too much of my own mental energy is spent on things beyond my control. It's true that there are some things out there in the world of others, near and far, that the Lord does want me to pay attention to, but when I focus out there too much I get distracted from the work God wants to do in me. I will pray that others learn to focus on themselves too. Perhaps studying and meditating on God's Timing for Your Life will help in that process. But mostly I need to allow God to continue the hard work in me that he is desiring to do, letting go of what He's doing in the lives of others.


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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Good Mistakes?

What if mistakes and errors are a part of God's good creation? What if the problems they cause are necessary to God's plan? What if God's not interested in "perfection," at least not in the way we normally think of it. What if those challenges have always been a part of the "good," as when God said "it is good"?

I'm hoping to find time to study this in depth. Soon.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sadness and Encouragement

Happy Saturday! It's a beautiful day here in Roseville, and, I'm sure, in the rest of the upper mid-west*. I've got a pretty long list of projects to take care of here, including picking apples and replacing my bike's front tire tube. (Toni and I are starting to plan a long weekend to go biking and camping, and maybe canoeing too, later this month.) Before I get to those and other thing I wanted to take time to share a bit of encouragement that I received from the Lord earlier this week.

For a long time I've felt melancholy and sad about the ways that our lives have had us moving away from people who mean a lot to us. Personally there are so many that I've worked with and have connected with in other ways in the churches and communities we've served, many that we don't see much anymore. Occasionally we can visit, like we went to visit Ladysmith on a Sunday morning earlier this summer, but, as the saying goes, you can never step into the same river twice. People change and move on. Many I'd like to have seen and connected with there weren't around. And that's just one example of those I miss. ("Saudades" is the Portuguese word for this. Look it up.)

As someone who has worked in ministry for many years, not only do I miss people, I miss seeing the fruit of my/our work in their lives. We've been told, and we've seen, how some people's lives were impacted by our ministry work, but there are many others who we just don't know how it is that they're doing right now. I would love to talk in depth with many of them. That in depth conversation, however, in many cases, probably won't happen. I don't have the time to be together with those individuals and families for long enough to really connect. And some just aren't interested in doing that with me any more. Again, it's sad for me. It's a sadness that overlays a lot of what goes on in the my mostly happy day-by-day life.

That's why I was so thankful earlier this week to read the following spiritual meditation by Oswald Chambers. Maybe it will be encouraging to you too. It was based on a verse from John 7:38 where Jesus says: "He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

Here's the first part of the devotion:
A river reaches places which its source never knows. And Jesus said that, if we have received His fullness, “rivers of living water” will flow out of us, reaching in blessing even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) regardless of how small the visible effects of our lives may appear to be. We have nothing to do with the outflow— “This is the work of God, that you believe…” (John 6:29). God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.
You can read the rest of it here. The devotion goes on about the unstoppable power of rivers. Obstacles will be overcome! O.C. writes: "The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source."

That's what I need to do -- to stay focused on the work of Jesus Christ -- the source of all good. When I get discouraged about the lack of contact with people I love, with people I've worked with or been involved in "helping" in one way or another, I will just need to trust that that work of God will not be deterred. It will continue -- in my life, and in the lives of those I have loved down through the years.

God's peace will flow when I trust Him, and when I ground my life in His great promises, like the promises I read in that devotion this week. Time to get to work.

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* This is hurricane season in the southern USA. I've noticed, often, in other years, that it tends to be such beautiful weather when it's stormy down south. Amid all the world's tragedies, of which there are so many right now, there are moments of beauty. I'm thankful for that today. Peace to all of you who are in other situations right now, in Jesus' powerful name. Nothing can stand in the way of His Love -- not even a hurricane.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Response to Nashville Signers

I posted what follows just now on the facebook page for the "Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood," the organization that sponsored the "Nashville Statement." Here's [ a link ] to my post on that page.
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Dear Nashville Signers: Where can I go to have some in depth and careful conversation about the various points in your statement? Like you, I see the biological differences between men and women as part of God's good creation. I even see these differences as scientifically self-evident and necessary for the the continuation of life, so it's obvious to me that God wants those biological differences to be honored. That's true even though I don't read the first chapters of Genesis (and the account of Adam and Eve) as history, at least not in the sense that we understand history "normally." Therefore, much of what you say in your statement is something I can resonate with.

I have some questions, however:

(1) I've read that you affirm, and even insist upon hierarchy in gender relations, and that your Article 4 about "divinely ordained differences" includes that hierarchy. Is that true?
(I would have been pleased to see the word "biological" inserted there, as in "divinely ordained biological differences.")

(2) Sin is first mentioned in Article 9. What is your definition of sin? Is sin always blameworthy, or is it sometimes a "missing of the mark" as in the Greek ἁμαρτία, an error, a "problem" that can become rebelliousness but can be, in some cases, more of an inherited or culturally inculcated problem that needs gentle care more than "confession and forgiveness"?

(3) I wonder if you believe that it's sin to be cruel toward those who identify as homosexual or transgendered? Do you?

(4) In Article 10, you say that it's sinful to approve of non-"straight" sexual relations or "transgenderism." What do you mean by "sinful"? Do you mean erroneous or rebellious?

(5) Also in Article 10, you say that approving of "homosexual immorality or transgenderism" constitutes an "essential departure" from the Christian faith and witness. I'm inclined to agree with this, but mostly because many of those who approve of these things evidence departure from Christian faith and witness in other ways, and not because such approval is by itself "heresy." There are many other ways in which Christians disagree with one another, and though I agree that the issue of sexuality is particularly serious, because it ties in with the way that new life comes into the world, other things are serious too. Some Christians, for example, deny the full implications of Jesus' command to "love your neighbor as yourself," and his definition of "neighbor" as those who are essentially different (as in the story of the Good Samaritan), Jesus' command to "love your enemies"  and other portions of the Sermon on the Mount) that also may show that same departure from true Christian faith and witness. Would you say the same of those and other "departures" from Christian faith and witness, or are those things in some ways not "essential."

I'd love to talk about these things but don't know who to talk with about them. Let me know please!

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What Happens When We Know Jesus

There's an excellent and even, dare I say, perfect aspect of life that I've had the privilege of experiencing over the years that I'd like to say something about this morning. This excellence and perfection doesn't belong to me. It's universally available, that is, it can be experienced by anyone who is willing to give up their life and say, in faith, that what is going on with me isn't the product of chance but is a part of God's plan, and that God can use everything about the circumstances of my life for Good. This is a faith-filled position. It's only available when an individual trusts God absolutely. And the only way to trust God absolutely is to know, for certain, that God is Good and that He is personally involved in and interested in every aspect of personal life. And we can only know that when we know Jesus.

Knowing Jesus in this way doesn't mean there will be no problems in my life, but that all those problems are seen, and known, to be ways in which God can and does work through for my good and for the good of others. The frustrations and inconveniences and even the pains of life (not that I've experienced much of the latter) are known to me as tools that God is using to refine and challenge me, making me into more of the person that God wants me to be. Even the sin in my life, both my willful rebellion, the ways in which I choose comfort or distraction over honest character building, and my errors, the ways in which I simply "miss the mark" God would have desired for me--both of these types of sin can and are used by my Lord to deal with me, sometimes harshly, but always in love. But I can only know that when I know Jesus.

I want you to know Jesus too. Jesus loves you with a love that will never stop, a love that is more powerful than anything you or I will ever have to deal with. We know this when we know that Jesus rose from the dead, and that he will work the same resurrection, both literally (in the end) and metaphorically (now). I am praying that He will make Himself known to each and every person that I have known in my life, and to all those I see and deal with everyday now.

If there is any way in which I can come along side you in your journey, please let me know so I can at least pray for you by name, so I can keep you in my mind and heart before the Lord. We are in this together, and someday that's where we will be.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Nashville Statement

The "Nashville Statement" was put together by a group that wants to maintain, or somehow re-establish, the so-called "traditional" roles of men (father and leader) and women (mother and homemaker, etc.), so it's difficult for me to even respond to it. There's too much to say in that regard.

I am interested, though, in a scientific look at sexual differentiation and its role in the conception of each and every human on earth, not to mention all species that reproduce through some sort of intercourse.

I can't personally get past the notion that God's plan for life on earth connects with such differentiation. I don't think the existence of other sexual orientations or the existence of, for example, hermaphrodites, takes away what I think is a logical conclusion that God created sexual differentiation and reproduction as a unique and irreplaceable "blessing."

Do you see this differently than I do? If so, can you help me understand?

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Out Flow

Here at the lake the water has been high all summer. At the south end of the lake there's an outlet that only open during summers like this. When the lake is low there's no flow.

Jesus said, as recorded in John 7:38, that trusting in him will allow "living water" to flow out of me and you. When we don't know Jesus, when we don't understand his absolute rock-solid love for us, when we don't know Jesus is God Almighty, then we're prone to worry, and when we worry we're like the lake when the water's low. There's no flow.

When we know Jesus, and when we have the basics of life, many of which are to be provided for us through the community of faith, good will flow from us every day.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

See You Again

Yesterday we said goodbye to Kelly and Abigail. Kelly is someone we've known and loved since we met her many years ago at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp when she was on staff there. She told her life and faith story the first time we met her, at a campfire, and it was her story that drew us to her. I remember seeking her out right after that campfire. Over time we've become like a second family for her.

After Okoboji, and after some time spent with a production in the Western USA, she came back to serve with Youth Encounter, on staff there, and on a team that traveled to East Africa (not necessarily in that order). Since that time she moved to Africa where she's been working with children, at a quasi orphanage called Neema House. She came to visit us this summer and now is back in Tanzania. We hope to see her and Abigail again in 3-4 years, and hopefully her husband Dixon will be able to come too.

When I get sad about goodbyes, of which I've had to deal with many over the years, I have to remember the promise of the Lord, and of the grand reunion to come. And I still desire, and go out of my way, to make contact with people near and far, with people who have been, and always will be, very important to me. I don't let go.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Brag or Example or Praise God

It was a little rainy when I got up this morning, but after it got light out I decided it wasn't too bad, so I went out for a little run, the same run and route that I used when I was training to be a "running buddy" for my nieces this spring. The doctor I saw yesterday about my arm doesn't want me to do upper body exercises, but she said running was fine.

I'm not fast. Never have been. And slower now that I haven't been training lately. Still, it felt really good. I'm thankful for almost no pain. 5.8 K.

I like to post things like this but I don't want to do it on social media. That would seem too much like bragging. I'll post here though, on my blog, because if anyone wants to see it they will need to do it intentionally. Social media is more like a push.

I do want to set an example for others though, so I hope this is part of that. Plus I want to praise God for giving me the health and energy and motivation to do this. I know how privileged I am.

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Friday Night Lights

Toni and I went to the State Fair last night after I got back from work. We drove down Fairview to a local church parking lot and took a bus from there. We shared a "Spicy Pork Bowl" from the "Blue Barn," walked through the crowds, stopped in the Heritage Center and the Education Building, tried going to the Fine Arts Center but it was closed at 9:00 PM, stood in line and then rode the "Great Big Wheel" where we saw lightning on the horizon, got 2 cream puffs and got on the bus back to our car before it started raining. A pretty perfect way to end the week.

(Toni had already been to the fair with friends during the day yesterday, so she didn't have to get a ticket. In fact, their tickets were free because they played with a band in the afternoon State Fair parade.)

It's a rainy day today so I'm glad we went to the fair last night. Now I've started a list of things to do today. Great to have a day off.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Muscle or Tendon?

Today I went to see a family practice doctor about my right arm. It was hurt sometime during the first full week of this month. Since then there's been a "stinging" or "burning" sensation whenever I extend the arm fully, especially when I do pull ups. I've stopped doing hard exercises with that arm -- and I'm trying to be good to it. Next Tuesday I'm scheduled for an "MRI of the upper arm to evaluate for a distal biceps or triceps tear."

I'm thankful for health insurance, and for the fact that it doesn't hurt when I drive.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Self

Many times I don't remember what I've written previously on this blog, at least not without looking back, or searching. I did a quick search right now for a particular word and can't find that I've actually written anything on this one word, so I guess I haven't.

The subject isn't "self," but, instead it's the word "self." At the beginning of 2016 God gave me that word as a sort of "theme" -- a central concept or organizing idea, an idea that has held my attention now for more than a year, a word I keep coming back to when I get bothered by things beyond my control.

When I read Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest, I'm brought back to that theme. When I read scripture or hear a sermon I'm called to self-examination, not to being critical of others. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, and find my mind rushing to so many things that I can't do anything about, the Lord brings me back to "self." Not self-ish, self as in "Let God work in YOUR life, and let Him have his way with others in His way."

I don't need to manage anyone else's life, not even those closest to my heart.

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Here are three examples of what I've written on this topic before:

A facebook post from May 7, 2017
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A blog post from the beginning of this year
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The last half of a blog post from 2015
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Off My Work

They took me off my work* this morning so I'm home at this relatively late morning hour. I'll go out in a few minutes and get some exercise, maybe walk, maybe run. I've hurt my right arm so I won't be doing any pull ups. Today I'll go back to the doctor to see what's wrong with the arm.
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*Margie, a dispatcher, sent me a message yesterday early evening telling me that I'm off for this morning only. I'll be back this afternoon. The contract between the union and Metro Transit says that part time bus operators need to be replaced with full timers when part time operators drive more than 30 hours a week. Dispatch tends to take us off before Friday (when we part timers actually would go "over our hours") if it's seen that we've been coming in late on Monday, Tuesday etc. It's a sort of preventative measure because there are fewer full time drivers who want overtime on Fridays.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One August Evening

Right now, at a little after 9 PM, I'm at the desk that Toni usually uses in the little multi-purpose room near the back door of our house here in Roseville. Through the open door I can see the fridge in our under-construction kitchen. It (the refrigerator) had been out in the garage during the demolition and during most of our kitchen project, but now that the walls and ceiling, for floor and cabinets are pretty much done, we could bring it back in. It sure is nice to have it back in the house. We still have no counter tops or kitchen sink, and there's a lot of trim work to do, but we're getting closer to being able to fully use it. The oven is in place, a microwave is mounted above (though it's not the one we paid for... ). We're still doing food preparation and cleanup down in the basement laundry room, but, as I said, we're a long ways along in the project. Paul Currie, our contractor, will be back at it tomorrow after his vacation. I'm glad he could take the time off.


Toni's outside talking with a friend on the phone. Kelly, here with her daughter Abigail from Tanzania, is in the living room while her daughter is asleep in our guest room. Our "renter" Nelly and her daughter are downstairs. And Charlie the dog is where he wants to be, outside with Toni.

There's always a lot going on -- with family and work and all the house projects -- plus the reading and conversations I'm involved in. I don't feel like I have much time for writing these days. I miss reflecting in words, getting things down in a way that are at least somewhat organized. Maybe there'll be more time for that in the future. I still do writing, but mostly in conversations, usually on facebook.

I'm going to get ready for bed. I get up early.

Peace and love to you in Jesus' name

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pastor Driver Connections

Many things connect my life as a pastor with my current work as a city bus driver. Among these are hundreds of opportunities to interact with people of all sorts, lots of great people to work with, more complexity and decision making than you might imagine, and reasons to be grateful for the work of other professionals -- including (again today) officers of the law. And, in both occupations, I have so many chances to treat others with respect, including people who others tend to ignore. I'm more thankful for both of these careers than anyone knows. Praying that Jesus would shine in my work. And in yours.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Focus on One

It's Sunday afternoon - actually, at the moment, not quite afternoon, but we'll pass 12 o'clock in a few minutes. I just got up from an after church nap. Toni and I tend to go to the earlier of the two services at Roseville Covenant Church, so even after having talked with friends and acquaintances after services, there's plenty of time for a rest before lunchtime.

When I got up I took a look at the My Utmost for His Highest devotional for the day, and the topic was "The Teaching of Disillusionment." It has to do with learning, sometimes through painful experience, to have a clear and realistic view of how limited and fallible people are, even those we think of as strong and admirable. This brings us to the point where there will be limits to how much we will expect from other people, and that "there is only one Being" that is reliable in the end "and that is the Lord Jesus Christ."

I'm thankful for how the Word of God continually brings me back to that One. No church, no community, no pastor, no friend, no wife or husband, no son or daughter or grandchild, no mother or father, or, obviously no politician or government, no work/job or financial security, and no health care system is able to truly satisfy any of my needs. They will all fail me at some point. Jesus, the One God in human flesh, the One who we learn of from the Bible, He's the Only One who I can really depend upon. When I trust in Him I will not be disappointed. He will bring me safely through--even when I feel otherwise. It's good to be brought back to Him.

I'm not sure right now what Toni and I will be doing for the rest of the day. My nephew Nicholas Grivna is competing in a state meet of the "Minnesota Swimming" organization -- I might bike down to the University of Minnesota to see him in one of his relays later on. Before that there are lots of projects I could keep busy with here at home.

Then tomorrow I'll be back at work. Join me in asking the Lord to always me (and you) focused on Him and His ways.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

What I Think I Need

I wasn't able to sleep so I got up, after spending quite a bit of time in bed, ate a very early breakfast and read a daily devotional from Oswald Chambers. Then I wrote this on facebook:
What is there that I think I need to have in order to make life worthwhile? When I know Jesus and his love and the promise of resurrection that I share with Him, I can let go of whatever that is and simply love and serve with all my will, with all my deep and meaningful feelings, my mind and all the ways I use the various abilities and strengths He has developed in me. When I keep my focus on Jesus, and as long as I have the basics of life, I need not pursue anything else. This brings freedom and joy to every day. All my actions are guided by His call -- as long as I keep Jesus in the center of my plans. This is a great challenge, something I hope and pray I will allow the Lord to plant grow in my heart as long as I live. (written as a reflection on today's My Utmost for His Highest https://utmost.org/sanctification-1/)
Time to go back to bed! God's peace to you tonight.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Applying Bible Verses To Every-Day Life

When Jesus says, in Matthew 11, "Come to me, all you who labor..." and "Take my yoke..." etc., how does that connect with work, as in our every day work-for-a-living that we do except when we've got a day off?

Tomorrow I'll go back to my work at Metro Transit. This week "Bus Operators" like me will pick the routes we'll drive from mid-August through early December. It's a decision I make in consultation with my Lord.

When we come to Jesus with our burdens, when we adopt his attitude toward life, we receive Jesus' promises: "I will give you rest." The "yoke" we take on, that is, the duties that we "do" day after day--they become better fitting for us. Jesus says: "My yoke is easy (well fitting) and my burden is light."

I've experienced joy in my work for many years. I attribute that to Jesus and give him thanks.

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I started this post yesterday -- late Sunday morning -- when I was here at the cabin alone. I began it as follows:
Toni and I are up at her parents' cabin again this weekend. She's been here all along, I came back yesterday afternoon.

It's very quiet right now. The rest (Toni, her parents, her brother, Kelly and Abigail) went into town for church. I didn't want to go there again this week, last week I went with Toni's parents (Dick & Jo) last Sunday while the others stayed home. Now I'm here while the others are gone. Charlie's sleeping on the couch. It's only me and him here.

The church Dick & Jo go to in Hayward is one they served (as pastor and wife) back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That church reads scriptures on Sundays following what's called "The Revised Common Lectionary." So, as I often do when I with people who are going to churches that use a pattern of readings, I looked up and read what they'll hear. I asked Toni and David if they would remember  also went online and listened to the "Sermon Brainwave Podcast" for today - a podcast that's part of the "Working Preacher" website that I looked at quite often when I was preaching from the lectionary, back when I was serving ELCA churches (until August 2010).
Also (writing now on Monday morning), I asked Toni and others who went to church yesterday to take some notes on the sermon. The reflection at the top of this post came out of time spent with the scripture texts those family members heard and the notes my brother in law David sent to me.

How will you apply the Word of God to your life today? Let me know if I can help.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Demolition Update

Written Tuesday:
It's about 11 AM on the fourth of July. I'm about ready to go back out into the demolished kitchen. One thing I need to do is to continue to cut the wire mesh that runs along the length of the soffit -- where it meets the ceiling and wall. All of that needs to be carefully taken out. Thankfully I've got a "multi tool" -- Bonita Garthus gave it to me when we were in Cokato -- that will do the trick.
Before I do that though, I'm going to start the process of moving the temporary wall that I put up between the kitchen and living room. I don't need to move it far, just a few inches at the top so I can get to the edge of the beam that runs through the length of the house. We have a very nice cove ceiling in the living room and we want to preserve that. So I'll need to get more plastic out -- I've got a lot stored up -- to make a second line of defense against the dust.

I'll work on that for most of the rest of the day. Kelly and her daughter, who are staying downstairs during these days when our renter is gone, will be going up to the cabin to join Toni and her parents and brother. When she goes I can begin work to take out the low (at the level of the soffit) ceiling over the back door.

Our contractor was here this morning for a half hour. I got some advice and encouragement from him. I also was reminded how long it will take to get the kitchen done once he starts his work. That will be about 5 weeks.
Now it's Thursday evening. When the contractor was here on Tuesday he told me I needed to remove some 2x2s and 2x4s that were running along the wall and ceiling. They were what the soffits were attached to. I got rid of those yesterday and today, so now I'm ready to tackle the one remaining soffit near the back door.

I thought I'd go out and do some more demolition tonight but I'm weary. I'll wait until morning. Tomorrow I'm off from my bus driving job.

If you want to see more, take a look at the video posted at this link.

Good night.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

God's Arrangements

It's the end of another good day. I'm home. I drove my regular morning and afternoon routes. Tomorrow, July 4, I've got the day off.

Toni and others, including our three kids and four grandchildren are still where I was over the weekend, at my in-laws' Durphee Lake cabin. One of my kids asked if I was sad that I had to come home last night, but I wasn't.

The Lord arranged things so I would be here, at home, for most of this week so I could continue, and, hopefully, finish, getting this house's kitchen area ready for the contractor to begin his remodeling work. He used my tardiness in asking to use vacation days today and two other days this week so I could do this. I'm thankful that He's in control.

Our contractor will come by tomorrow morning so I can get some advice and get a good idea of when he'll be free of his other projects so he can start putting our kitchen back together (in a new way). I'm confident that it's all in God's good timing. I'm not anxious at all.

(See tomorrow's utmost.org for some scriptural wisdom about "worry.")

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Too Tired To Write

It's 10 o'clock on Thursday night. I'm tired after a long day. It's actually been more than a long day. I didn't sleep well last night or the night before. I need to head to bed. I'd like to write about the 2 year safe operator (safe driving) award I got at work, the crazy traffic that ended up having Metro Transit informing the union that part time operators like me were going "over our hours," something that the union contract doesn't allow. I'd also like to write about the work we're doing in our kitchen. This week I started ripping out the soffits... and learned to partly disassemble and reassemble the sawzall my brother loaned me... and how thankful I am that the weather was cool this week for that work! And I'd like to write about which things in my life are governed by my high standards and which things aren't--the My Utmost for His Highest devotions for today and tomorrow are about that discipline and the urgency of not putting off what the Lord calls me to do--and I'd write about how judgmental I can be of others who aren't interested in being "blessed" by discipline like I am--and of myself when I don't meet my standards. (Lord have mercy on me.)  Finally, I'd like to write about the insight God gave me this week as I was thinking about the sense that we human beings have that we "deserve" something, like, for example, a break after a long day, and that somehow we start believing that we earn things by our hard work. So much to say. But I'm too tired. Good night.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Still Praying and Considering

Good morning! It's Saturday! I'm up at my usual time, about 5AM, but I have the luxury of knowing I'll be able to go back to bed in a little bit.

This is a quick follow up on what I wrote in No Answer Yet.

Just what is it that Jesus accomplished (as God) in his death and resurrection?

I agree with the piece I quoted there that "Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing: God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God."

But does that mean that NOTHING occurred from God's point of view at the Cross? Some, including the author of that piece, seem to say "yes," that Jesus actually did not need to die and rise again EXCEPT as a way of changing humans minds about God. I struggle with that idea. I'm trying to understand.

In No Answer Yet, I spoke of Oswald Chambers's point that the Cross (i.e. the "atonement") is "the way the Spirit of Jesus is put into me." I thought, at first, that O.C. was writing about something that occurred on the Divine side of the human-God relationship. But now, this morning, I'm wondering if O.C. could be using the word "cross" here as a symbol for our own self-surrender to the Lord (as O.C. has done in other places in My Utmost for His Highest).

Perhaps what O.C. is referring to my turning away from self-centered ways. Perhaps the Cross that "allows" (is that the right word?) the Holy Spirit to come into me is my own personal encounter with Jesus, as when the Apostle Paul encountered Him on the Road to Damascus. Maybe the Cross O.C. is referring to is the "tak[ing] up of [my own personal cross] and follow[ing]" Jesus (Matthew 16:24),  giving Him preeminence, acknowledging His Lordship, giving up my resistance to the Lord's ways. Perhaps that's the way that the Holy Spirit "is put into me."

If so, I'm no closer to an answer than I was.

Still praying and considering. Feel free to comment as you wish.

equalsharing.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

No Answer Yet

In the day before yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says:
The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by way of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
It's the first full sentence of the devotional, and O.C. doesn't dwell on it but uses that line as a point to start from. Still, the day before yesterday, when I first read it, I've been wondering why O.C. says that.

What is it about the atonement specifically, or about "the Cross of Christ" that makes the Spirit of Jesus to be "put into me?" What does the atonement have to do with the Holy Spirit. How does the Cross bring God's Holy Spirit into "me" (and you)?

It's just one line in O.C.'s devotional reading for yesterday, but I want to understand just what the connection is between what Jesus did on the Cross and the action of Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. I want to know it partly because there's an idea that I've heard recently that some Christians view the incarnation, that is, the entering into human flesh of God Himself, when Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary," is more important than the atonement, that is, the bringing together of God and fallen humanity through what Jesus did on the Cross.

See below for the "email devotion" that I received (forwarded to me) that first introduced me to this "incarnation" over "atonement" idea.

This (above) is from a devotion by Richard Rohr;
as of June 16 it was available at this link
When I first heard read that, I did a little study. Like Rohr, I'm critical of the penal substitution theory of the atonement. But unlike Rohr, I do believe that something really happened through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I don't know just what it was that happened there, but without it, that is, without the death and resurrection of Jesus, there's no way we would have known there was an incarnation at all.

But that brings me back to the question with which I started this blog post. What is it about the atonement that has O.C. claiming that "the Cross," shorthand for all that occurred in the atonement (via the death and resurrection of Jesus), is the means by which the Holy Spirit comes into me. I know I'm reading way more into this one line of O.C.'s devotion than was intended, but I have a sense that it's important.

Maybe something did happen at the Cross that allows for the filling of "me" (and you) with the Holy Spirit. What is that something? I don't have an answer. Not yet. But it's time for me to go back to sleep.

equalsharing.com

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Running Buddies

When I first got up on Saturday morning I had some thoughts that I wanted to get written down, but only an eternal optimist like me would even let it cross my mind that I could write even one intelligible sentence in the few minutes I had before I needed to head out the door. My twin nieces and their parents had invited me to be a "running buddy" for a 5K "Girls on the Run" event. It was an honor to be asked and I didn't want to be late.

I've been doing moderate exercise for years, but I've never gone running. I started a bit last year when my son in law and his church were in pre-training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I stuck with them for a month or so but then stopped. Marathon training is too time consuming. But when my nieces invited me for this 5K, there was no question that I'd do it.

Having partners, or buddies, is a really good thing. Having others who walk or run or study or pray together is a great incentive to start and keep going at whatever. I wrote about this last weekend in "Standing Apart Together," but it's not just the relatively small individual disciplines that benefit as we do them together. Praying, and working, with others, and challenging one another to stick with major goals -- I think overcoming big deal challenges requires some sort of buddy system, some sort of partnership, and some agreements to keep moving instead of giving up.

Toward the end of Saturday morning's race, as I was running up a long but very gradual incline on France Avenue, heading toward West 98th St., I could have stopped running and started walking at any moment. But my 4th grade nieces, and their dad (my fit brother in law) were ahead of me. They were going to make it. And because they did, I could too.

What I was thinking about Saturday morning, and what I wanted to write down before the run, a few words from a conversation that I'd had online about President Trump's decision to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that aims to limit human caused climate change (a.k.a. global warming). I was actually thinking about the conversation, not about the choice to withdrawal from this particular agreement. I was thinking about the conversation because in it someone had said that there's really no way to stop the process of warming because, among other things, "no one is going to eliminate the comforts they have."

Here's the comment that I quoted from above. That "friend of a friend" wrote:
"...If you want to reduce human caused climate change, you have two choices. Reduce the human population, or eliminate the industries that support the biomass. Unless people are willing to turn off the lights, return to little house on the prairie AND eliminate roughly half the population of the earth the argument and discussion is nothing other than mental masturbation. No one is going to eliminate the comforts they have, and no one is going to suggest exterminating 3 billion people." (underline not in original)
[I'd never heard anyone refer to humans as "biomass," though I have, at times, wondered how many human beings this earth can support. I remember reading about the so-called Population Bomb back when I was in junior high, but I've heard, through I haven't studied, that population growth has not been as great as was feared back then, and that advances in technology are allowing the earth to support more people. I was shocked by what this "friend of a friend" said, and I asked the person who wrote that if he knew of "a scholarly publication or someone with credentials who has done research or has an analysis to support your point that there's no way to reverse it," that is global warming, short of such draconian measures. I told him "I'd like to see that for my own study and prayer." He said there were "papers he could reference," but I haven't heard from him about what they are. I messaged him on Sunday. Hopefully I'll hear.]

So what I was thinking of, Saturday morning before my race, was that line "...no one is going to eliminate the comforts they have." I know that's not literally true, since some people do choose to go without comforts in order to be good stewards of God's creation and the resources that come from it. But it is true that it's not very likely that people voluntarily giving up comforts for the common good, in order to be more frugal with energy consumption, or to change what we eat (I've heard beef and dairy are major sources of greenhouse gases), in the numbers it would take to really make a difference in global warming. We -- "all" (or almost all) of us -- are wedded to those comforts. It would take a lot to get us to change.

And that's where running buddies comes in. We need "running buddies" if we're going to make any sort of positive changes in our lives, especially changes that make life more difficult. Running is hard, and without my nieces invitation, and without their inspiration -- they are doing so well - on Saturday I barely matched their pre-training pace -- they finished at least a minute ahead. As I was going out to train, in the weeks before the race, the thought that they were doing this gave me enough inspiration to not stop and walk, as I almost always wanted to do. The fact that we were "buddies" got me going, even through we never trained side-by-side.

Can we be "running buddies" for one another as we make the changes that will be needed to deal with climate change? Can we who claim to be Christians get out front and set the pace, being willing to give up some (or even many!) of our comforts in order to reduce human caused climate change? Will we change the habits of our lives first and then invite others to come along?

Christians need to repent, that is, to change their way of life, so that others will learn it's possible.

That's what I was thinking about early Saturday morning as I got ready to run. I ran again today even though I don't have the upcoming race as an inspiration. It's still not easy, but now I know I can do it.

Maybe we can stick to new challenging patterns of life that will help the environment too.

equalsharing.com

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

End of a Day

It's 7:30 PM after a long day. Today I was trained on the work I will be doing (a.k.a. the routes I will be driving) beginning June 19.* Mostly the trainer drove and I watched, listened and took a few notes. When we got down to the Mall of America on route 5 we took a little break. Then I said I wanted to drive, just to know how it feels to get around that busy transit center. Don't forget to stop at the light rail tracks!

I'm home now and I think I'll get outside a bit. It's a beautiful evening. I don't know where Toni is at -- I misplaced my phone this morning and so can't call her. I sent her a fb message so hopefully she'll get that and now wonder where I am.

Peace and joy to you.

* I did my regular work today too, that is, drove my normal early morning and late afternoon routes. The 4-5 hours of training were sandwiched between.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Standing Apart Together

Toni and I are up at her parent's lake home in NW Wisconsin. We got here late Friday evening. Nice to be here--a good part of yesterday and part of today too was spent mostly with chores, including getting the dock in--for the second time this year.

When we were in town for church this morning Toni's dad bought ice cream, and now Toni and her parents are having hot fudge sundaes. I'm choosing not to indulge. I have this desire to stay strong and healthy over the long run, and eating sweet desserts isn't in my plan--at least not very often.

I stand apart from the crowd. This is normal for me. I choose to work out physically. Other's don't do that so much. Contrary to what most people do with their free time, I don't spend a lot of it being entertained. I spend time on the computer but, honestly, normally, online or elsewhere, I'm usually doing something either productive or intentionally restful -- and when I'm not I notice -- and I repent.

I believe these things in my life are parts of what the Holy Spirit is doing in me. But I recognize, and this is hard, that I can seem to be judgmental of those who chose to live more comfortably. When I actually am being judgmental, I catch myself in the act and repent. Or I catch myself soon afterward. Even so, the very way I live can seem to be judgmental of others. Like when I choose not to have a sundae tonight.

I don't know what to do about this now. Back a few years ago I was part of a small group spiritual experience -- technically it was called a "huddle," part of the 3dm program. The purpose of the huddle was to work with others in the process of transformation that I'm now doing pretty much by myself, or, by myself with God. I miss being a part of that small group experience. So much.

Right now I don't know where to find that sort of group. It's a sort of group experience that messes with our lives. I don't think many people want that. But since God is already messing with me, I'd rather do it with others.

It's a subject for prayer.

equalsharing.com


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Older

It's mother's day weekend. I'll be spending time with mom & dad both tomorrow and Sunday, picking them up at their condo tomorrow and bringing them to my eldest niece's wedding shower, and then Sunday going to Edina to meet them at their church. Mom really likes it when I can come by.

I've got a little chore to do for them too, so there won't be a lot of "me time" this weekend. I can feel unhappy about not having a lot of the unscheduled time I treasure so much, but I can if I choose, keep focused on all these overflowing gifts the Lord has given to fill my days. It's strange that, at almost 61 years old, I still need to make that choice. I'm grateful the the Lord mercifully sets me straight over and over again.

Toni will be with her parents too, partly helping them with the process of getting them ready to move to an "independent living apartment" at a large "retirement community" in the smaller city where they've been living since Toni's dad retired more than 20 years ago. Dick & Jo (Toni's parents) hosted Toni and our kids and their spouses and children for dinner on Thursday night, plus Toni's brother and a niece and her children and husband and his parents. Don't try to keep track. It's a big group.

Both of us still have both of our parents living within an hour's drive of our home. And both sets of parents are still together. My mom often expresses her thankfulness that she and dad are still together, now in their elder years. My dad is the oldest of the 4. He'll be 91 this summer. Both sets of parents are dealing with the challenges that come with aging. Those challenges will come to Toni and me too.

My 61st birthday is coming up. I need to pause and think about that because I don't feel any older than I did 20 years ago. I'm training right now for a "5K" run that I was invited to do with my sister's daughters. Pretty much all of me still works pretty well. I've gotten over the migraines I used to have and the elevated blood pressure I suffered during some stressful times in 2009 and 2010. I have no disabilities or ongoing health issues. I rarely suffer any pain. I often feel like I'm in my 30s. One of my bus passengers, a teenage boy, said I looked that age. I asked him if he noticed my grey hair. He said that could be "a mutation." Even so, time does march on and things will change. I say now that I'll choose to look for the blessings in that too.

An older friend once told me, when he was entering his 80s, that every decade in his life was getting better. That's true for me in many ways, even though there is grief in seeing the older generation getting more dependent on us youngsters. I'm sure the time will come for me when I need care too. We don't live in this broken world forever. So even when things are going pretty well, it's good to keep my eyes focused on the Lord and His promises, promises that are there for EVERYONE who the Lord loves, meaning you too.

Peace and joy in Jesus to all who stumble upon this little reflection tonight, or whenever. God bless you now and always.

equalsharing.com

Monday, May 1, 2017

Another View of Government

Written Monday late morning:

It's going to be a busy day here in our Roseville home. Our neighborhood contractor is here to attach the plumbing to our renter's sink and Jon & family are about to arrive here from Cokato, coming in on the spur of the moment, or at least without much advance planning. Toni's busy getting food ready for them -- our daughter Naomi and her son will probably come by for lunch too.

Last weekend, 8 days ago, Toni & I were up at her family's lake cabin, and while we were there a book grabbed my attention, a book that was jammed in with others above the built in firewood box. I'm not sure why it was there; I asked Toni and she said that maybe it was given to her parents. It's a rather new book -- looks like it was written by a Minnesota Legislator.

This book espouses such a different outlook on government than other things I've been reading over the past few months. Instead of government limited to "bringing wrath on the one who practices evil" and protecting citizens' freedoms, this book's author says that it's good for government to provide some things that "build and maintain an enduring middle class economy."

I haven't finished the book yet, but here are the "five foundations" that David Bly says are good for the government to help with:
  • Quality Education for everyone
  • Health Care for everyone
  • A world-class transportation system
  • Energy systems that maintain a clean and safe environment
  • Living wages for all working people
I can't accent enough how different that vision is from the limited government ideas I've been digesting over the past few months.

----------------------------

I didn't finish writing this until almost 10 o'clock in the evening. When I was at home I mostly played with Jon & Breanna's girls. So much fun.

I need to head to bed now so I can be fresh to help with the transportation system we have in the Twin Cities tomorrow morning, world-class or not.

equalsharing.com

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Taking Care of Our Home

It's raining in Roseville so maybe there'll be a little time to do some writing. I've got a chore to do downstairs, but I need to wait awhile. The chore will involve some sawing and it's naptime for our renter's 2 year old. We need to do some measuring too. It's time to make final decisions on the cabinets we'll be putting in our kitchen when it's remodeled this summer. It's a privilege to own a house but many times I remember our renting (and parsonage) days with some fondness. Less focus on these "house" things. Yuck.

Yesterday Toni and I went to the People's Climate Solidarity March in Minneapolis. Toni made a sign for herself, saying she was marching for her grandchildren (with pictures) and on the other side it said "Creation Care is Pro Life" and a hymn title: "This Is My Father's World."

I didn't make a sign, so when a call came for volunteers to carry signs the march organizers had made, I selected one that said "Governor Dayton | Protect Our Future." The republican legislature is making choices that will negatively impact our state's environmental quality. I'm hoping our Governor, who I haven't always agreed with, will stand against what they're doing when it comes to protecting God's good creation. Part of that is our need to be investing more, not less, in public transportation. Our growing population demands it, unless we want more and more and more traffic.

Human beings are responsible for what we think of as "the environment." God gave us responsibility for it, and its creatures, when we were created. Human governments need to help us take care of the creatures God has made, wisely and carefully managing the environment they depend on. The government needs to help us with laws and regulations, controlling our humanity's selfish and short-sighted behavior. I think that's pragmatically and theologically true. Pogo's "We've met the enemy and he is us" is true. Read the Bible to see how.

Now I'm willing to talk about these things. I'm willing to be proven wrong. I'm regularly studying more conservative points of view, just so I can learn what I'm missing. Please don't be shy about commenting or contact me so I can be set straight. You'll probably learn that I'm not as dogmatic as you think.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

equalsharing.com

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Posted

(I posted what follows on facebook a few minutes ago. I like to post things there because it's more like a community there. People react or comment. On this blog, I have no idea if anyone has seen what I write, and it's rare that anyone comments at all. There are problems with facebook [as this "Hidden Brain" radio show recording shows], but In so many ways I think it's great.)

Here's what I posted:
"We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. 'Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…' (Ecclesiastes 9:10)."

This, from today's utmost dot org, can't be applied to other people, as if we were trying to tell them to be content, for example, in their poverty or sickness or loneliness. Just like we have "no right" to decide where _we_ should be "placed," that is, what the circumstances of our own personal lives should be, we have no right to point the finger at anyone else to tell them that they shouldn't complain or work hard or pray to have their own lives be made better. In fact, one of the things we do as believers is to pray and work and even to complain loudly about the injustices done to others whose lives are hard. That's intercession. But at the same time, as we pray and work and complain on their behalf we will be confident that God is working things out for good in their lives too.
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

My Normal Life (Now)

Monday - Friday
  • 5:00 - 6:30 AM get up, breakfast, get on track with God, drive to work, bus pre-trip
  • 6:30 - 9:00 AM drive bus from garage to beginning of route, drive 2 trips on route 59 serving customers
  • 9:00 - 11:00 AM drive bus back to garage, to Snap Fitness for workout, drive home, half hour nap
  • 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM free time to do whatever chores need doing, talk or otherwise communicate with family and friends etc., study and write, have lunch with Toni, quick nap
  • 2:00 - 2:45 PM drive to work, bus pre-trip in bus garage
  • 2:45 - 6:45 PM drive bus to beginning of route, drive 3 trips on route 19 serving customers, drive bus back to garage, drive home or...
  • 6:45 - 9:00 PM home (M, Th, F) to do whatever, except, on Tuesday I often go to to my parents and to choir rehearsal on Wednesday.
  • 9:00 PM get ready for bed, read, usually I'm asleep by 10
I thought I was going to do laundry today but our renter had monopolized the washer and dryer, so I decided to write this instead. Now I'll get to other chores until I hear from Toni about lunch. I assume she's at work. She has been doing really well with her business with appointments most days Tuesday - Friday. On Mondays she's often with our grandkids!

Weekends are unscheduled except for church on Sunday mornings and small group in the evening every other week. So thankful for weekends free, even though they do fill up with so many things. I love it when we don't have much planned.

Ever since we started the process for buying this house, and since we got it, I haven't been doing any volunteer work in the community. My service to others mainly consists in serving customers on my bus routes, and the study and communication I do during my time off, study and communication that aims to clarify and speak the Truth in Love.

Praise God for each new day.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Baby Jonas and The Common Good

The house is quiet at the moment. It's just after 4:30 PM. I was just now over at Toni's computer looking at some of the pictures that she took last night when we were over at the birth center meeting our grandson, Jonas Steven Krueger. Naomi wrote this about her son:
Our baby boy arrived a week early yesterday! Meet Jonas Steven, born Feb 24 at 6:18 pm at 8 pounds, 7.5 oz and 21 inches long. We are so thankful for this baby! We're all doing well.

His first name is is a derivative of the Hebrew word yonah (Jonah), which means dove--which is a symbol for peace. It's also a very common northern European name, which points to his heritage. His name was also inspired by the main character in the book The Giver, one of my all time favorite young adult novels. We hope our child will have many of the attributes of the character Jonas--courage and the ability to "see beyond" to a better and more beautiful world.

His middle name is after his Grandpa Steve, his Uncle Steve (Tim's brother), and his Grandpa Ron (whose middle name is also Steven.)
My sister Karen commented that it's a "great and honorable name," and I am honored to be one of those who shares his middle name. I don't know Tim's brother very well, but Ron is a great man. As I was praising God for this baby boy, our daughter and husband Tim's first child, Ron offered a blessing. We all joined in. So thankful! Naomi and baby are doing just fine.

This baby, and all children, need a lot of help. God designed human beings, not to leap out of the womb ready to walk and forage, but to be utterly dependent on others. Most needs are provided for by parents and other family and loved ones, and, yes, our Lord God is the ultimate source for all good.

In today's world, either sadly or just realistically, there are a whole lot of things that he will need that his parents won't be able to provide. You might call those things a part of "The Common Good." Jonas will need good clean air and water, food that isn't full of harmful substances or organisms, warmth and light that come through public utilities, an environment in which doves and peace can thrive and a multitude of other things that almost everyone depends upon in our modern world. And, it seems to me, many of those things in our modern world are protected by "The Administrative State." I've been listening to a debate about that today.

In a bit, I'll post a pic of the blessing. I wonder about the connection between God's blessing and the common good. The debate goes on. [Blessing pic finally posted March 13.]
 equalsharing.com

Monday, February 20, 2017

Listening to Understand

I'm starting this at noon and will publish online before 2:00. At 2 I leave our Roseville home for my afternoon work. Toni's gone today, as she usually is on Mondays. She's out in Cokato helping Jon & Breanna with the grandkids. Toni and I were both out there on the 11th & 12th. We were tag-teaming with Breanna's parents as, together, we cared for, and enjoyed, Jon & Breanna's 3 daughters as they were at a wedding in Iowa. It was a good time.

There's always lots to do around here. There's one more project to do on our rental space downstairs -- I've got 6 feet of used cabinets, a used countertop, and a used stainless steel kitchen type sink be installed down there. Our current renter will be glad when that is in and working. We will too.

But it's not family stuff or work around the house that's kept me from posting here since the last time I published something back on Jan. 15. What's been going on is a lot of conversation, much personal thought and prayer, and hours and hours of study. My aim has been to try to understand why it is that many of my Christian friends have come to such different conclusions in regard to the current political situation in our country.

It hasn't been easy, but I'm beginning to understand somewhat. Online conversations have been a helpful to a certain point. I've wanted to have personal conversations with good friends, deeply thoughtful Christian friends, who have ended up with different positions but those haven't yet worked out. In the meantime, I've been listening to many hours of lectures from "The Francis Schaeffer Institute" at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Fortunately, I'm able to do other things at the same time.

More later. I hope.
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Minutes After

I need to head to bed now, but I just wanted to say, before I go there, that minutes after I published that last post (see "I Didn't Go") I got involved in a short (10-15 minutes) but meaningful conversation with one of our church small group members about "the end times." I guess I need to go back and see how much I've said about this on this blog in previous months and years, but this is an example of a topic that I think I have some insights about that need to be shared. I started something about this in a January 8 post ("Prophecies and Politics"). How can I find time and energy to do the background work on this and other topics so I can write in a helpful way. It's a prayer area for sure.

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I Didn't Go

We'll be heading back to Roseville soon. This morning there was a Bible reading discussion. I didn't go, partly because I wanted some time in the cabin when to shower and rest, and partly because, as I told Toni, I'd either say too much in the group or be frustrated that I couldn't say more. She said that just listening would have been good. She appreciated the spiritual depth of the participants in her group.

I know I missed something by not going. What I said above is true though. I have so much to share, believing, as I do, that the Lord has taught me a lot in recent years. I have strong "opinions" about the Bible and about Christianity, ideas that are worth consideration, thoughts that aren't "mainstream," convictions that aren't well known.

More later.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Retreat at Covenant Pines

Toni and I are at a church retreat this weekend. Some might not say that sort of thing online, but I've never been too worried about security. Besides, our renters are at our home, standing guard. ;-)

I hear there are well over 100 people here: older adults (like Toni and me), younger adults (some with small children), and lots of youth. Right now I'm sitting in the "retreat center." People are relaxed by the fire, in circles playing cards, doing puzzles, coloring. I think it's almost time for lunch so I won't have much time to write now. That's okay.

I suppose that our decision to go on this retreat, after being invited by people from choir and the church small group we joined (also after being invited by choir members), marks some sort of transition for us. Toni and I haven't been on any kind of church retreat together since the days of Alpha in Cokato. This particular retreat isn't purposeful in the sense of being educational or overtly spiritual, though there will be a church service later today. I've been out on skis and snowshoes and I've enjoyed good conversation. I'm looking forward to more.

One thing I've been thinking a lot about lately, and not only in anticipation of this retreat, is how much of "church" life is about community. People just like to be together, and whether it's a church retreat some other sort of "being together" thing, it's something people yearn for, even if they don't know it. Many of the people who are connected with this church know it, and they're willing to spend the time and money away from their individual lives to make it happen. It's really a tradition among these folks. I'd like to hear the story of how that came to be.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Prophesies and Politics

I’ve heard from some people that they voted for Donald Trump because they believe certain prophecies that were made about him. Have you heard of that?

I’m interested because I think that some Christian believers are strongly influenced in their citizenship and voting by (1) certain kinds of Biblical prophetic interpretations or (2) dreams, visions and prophetic “words” or (3) both.

I’ve been searching for some analysis of the election and other aspects of current politics that is asks about what political influence these prophetic or charismatic leanings have in the USA and beyond. I’m sure that American politics is influenced by these things, and not only in relationship to the USA’s uncritical support for the present state of Israel.

Let me know if you've heard about this. I've been looking for a serious analysis of this phenomenon among Christian believers.

(I wrote something like this first as a comment on this blog post: evangelicaliberal.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/was-gods-will-done-in-the-us-election-result/)

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Open Secret

Truth is true. It's open to independent investigation. Those with different spiritual beliefs should be able to check it out. #notgnostic

1 Corinthians chapter 1 & 2 speak of special "spiritual knowledge," but that is connected with spiritual values, ethics & morals (such as humility and the idea that greatness comes through sacrifice), not special "truths" that can only be accessed by those who have inside information such as "facts" that no one else can see. Those who want to reject what the so-called "main stream media" reports in favor of conspiracy theories and those who reject the scientific consensus on various topics including climate change need to be really careful that they aren't falling into believing in a sort of "secret knowledge" that everyone else is blinded to. The only "mystery" worth spending time on is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that's open to independent investigation like anything else in history. The resurrection validates the "secret wisdom" of Jesus' humility and self-sacrifice for us. That's the extent of the secrets Christians have on their own, and that's the "secret" that they are desperate to share.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Post-Truth?

"The thing is that Christianity is truth based on truth. That is, the truth of Christ (who is the truth himself) was in the world in an objectively verifiable way. Our witness and our theology is 'scientific' in a way that other sorts of truth claims (religion wise) are not. The attack on Truth is an attack on The Truth. It will not win, because Truth does not change, but many will not come to THE TRUTH when they are blinded by lies."
I wrote that in response to an article someone pointed me to about the "Word of the Year" as chosen by Oxford Dictionaries i.e. "post-truth."

Post-truth is a descriptive word (an adjective) which describes "circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief." An article entitled "Art of the Lie" speaks about this in regard to politics. But I can think of many other ways in which truth has been covered up.

It's very dangerous stuff. Lies are a part of the work of the evil one, who comes to kill, steal and destroy. Lies hurt people, particularly the weak and poor. Love calls us to do all we can to bring truth to light and expose the lies now. It's a holy calling for people of God.

But, as I wrote in the paragraph above, the Truth (Jesus Himself) will win out in the end. As He told us:
"...Do not be afraid... for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." (Matthew 10:16)
Lies, and liars, may win the day, but they cannot endure. God has made the world in such a way that Truth cannot die.

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Night Work

Sometimes when I don't fall asleep right away at night I find myself thinking about things (and people) I can't control. It doesn't help to just lie there. So I get up. Usually I can go back to bed and fall asleep after I've been up awhile... but usually during that time of being awake God gets through to me, gently, turning my attention away from the faults of others and to my personal relationship with Him. Sometimes I even get some things done when I'm awake like this, but the best is what God gets done in me.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Rejecting Bad News?

"Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me. For your thoughts are not of the things of God, but the things of men."

Jesus said that to Peter when Peter told him that the personal path he was forecasting was so bad that it "could not be."

Jesus had predicted a horrible future. He was going to suffer and he was going to die. It was all part of the necessary plan of God. God would bring glory from it. But this required Jesus to stay on that path.

Peter, however, being human to the core, could not see how this could be true. Peter pulled Jesus aside and told him that he (Jesus) should trust God to keep him (Jesus) safe from the future he (Jesus) was predicting. In effect, Peter said that he shouldn't "talk like that" or even think such things. Peter said something like the Devil had said to Jesus in an earlier temptation. Jesus should trust God to save him. He wasn't going to fall. (Matthew 4:6)

But, as Peter echoed Satan's words (foretelling his upcoming sufferings and death) Jesus resisted in the strongest possible way. He recognized the work of Satan, who continually promotes personal comfort and smooth personal relationships at the expense of the work of God.

You and I face similar situations. We are tempted to "go along to get along." We're tempted to ignore bad news and, instead, pursue peace of mind and an easy life. We're also tempted to not care too much about what may really be true or false. Sometimes that's because it's hard work for us to see out the truth. And sometimes it's because the truth hurts. Often it's both.

I can see examples of this in political life. I can also see it in my own personal walk with the Lord. I can see it in my family and in my closest personal relationships. I could include examples here, and I may do that later, but doing that now will distract from the main message that the Lord has laid on my heart to share.

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