>Underneath Baboons


baboonImage by Birdseye Maple via Flickr

My version of Skinamarinky dinky dink (or however you wish to spell it)

Skinamarinky dinky dink,
Skinamarinky doo, I love you.
Skinamarinky dinky dink,
Skinamarinky doo, I love you.

I love you in the morning and in the afternoon,
I love you in the evening and underneath BABOONS;
Oh, Skinamarinky dinky dink,
Skinamarinky doo, I love you.
I…Love…You…two…boop boop-y doo.  Yeah!

I started doing the “BABOONS” thing one night and now it’s every time I sing the song.  My little ones have come to expect it.

I’m SUCH a funny guy…  🙂

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>It’s Just Death


Had a business meeting this morning at the church. We seem to have a lot of those throughout this whole process of building a church. There’s always an issue of money or construction or some important decision that needs to be made. Today was one of those meetings.

The person I was meeting with was quite a bit older than I am. He’s lived a lot of life and the hope is that his perspective on some financial issues would be helpful to the congregation. This is someone I greatly appreciate and we were left making some small talk as we waited for the other parties to arrive. It seems this person had just lost a friend of his…someone he had known in the community for 40 years or so. Long-time friend. As he talked and shared some of the characteristics of the friend who had passed away, he kind of shrugged. He recounted that, upon his friend’s death he thought he might want to get in touch with some of the crowd the two of them had hung out with in the past. However, there wasn’t anyone left in the crowd. Everyone else had died.

I asked how a mutual friend was doing, someone who had been fighting illness for some time. What he said kind of threw me for a loop. He said, “We all know that [said person] is just going to go downhill and will then “pass.”. There was a nonchalantness to his voice. There was a matter-of-factness to the look on his face. It was if he was saying… “Oh well, it’s just death.”

Now I think I need to be clear here that this was really not some grand statement of faith, proclaiming that, since Christ has been raised from the dead “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” No, this was a perspective of one who had been around the block, who had seen a lot of life…and a lot of death. This was a perspective shaped by age. Everyone dies. It’s just death. It happens. What are you going to do? No tears. No emotion. Matter of fact.

While some might view this response, this lack of shrinking before the mystery of death as cold…callous…as I reflect on this conversation, I can’t help but find it somewhat refreshing. While my views might be more grounded in faith language, it is “just death.”. Sure, it can be more tragic–as when the deceased is young, or leaves behind a young family, or dies in a horrible way. Yes, that’s more tragic and will lead to other emotions and tears and anger. But for those who die of natural causes…even it it’s because of personal choices that had been made earlier (the friend who had died had been a smoker), the fact that we die shouldn’t be a surprise.

I hope that, because of my faith, I live as someone who is prepared to die. And perhaps, when I’m as old as the person I met with today, I can accept the simple fact that death is something that lies ahead for all of us. Perhap knowing that will affect how I live my life today.

>Problems with Beautiful Days

>Mr. Sunshine (2010 TV series)Image via WikipediaIt’s gearing up to be another beautiful day here.  It’s 5:53 AM and the sun is already out, although it’s behind some mountains right now.  The sky is clear and blue.  It’s going to be a beautiful day.  This is a problem…on two levels.

First, on a personal level, when it’s this beautiful out, I don’t want to get any work done.  Even when I’m doing work, I find myself looking out the window, wondering if I can squeeze in a bike ride or a long walk.  I think I should get the dog out and tell myself it’s too nice NOT to take him to get some exercise.  As my wife’s a teacher, I know that, on these beautiful summery — not quite “summer” — days, the kids’ at school find it hard to focus. I have some of that going on in myself.  It’s hard to sit at the computer when there’s so much I should be doing outside.

Secondly, and not personal at all, beautiful days are somewhat of a rarity for us.  We live in a rain forest.  We get a lot of rain.  In the winter, we get a lot of snow.  In short, we’re used to a lot of precipitation.  Our ground is used to a lot of precipitation.  Our plants are used to a lot of precipitation.  But after a light snow year this winter, and this spell of sunshine, our ground is quite dry out there.  That increases our fire danger dramatically across the state.   This could be very bad for some people.

So, forgive me if I’m hoping we get a little rain pretty soon.

Until then, I gotta’ find some way to enjoy the day today.

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>More and More the Desire Grows


HousingImage by james.thompson via Flickr

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.
“My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.  It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.
“But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own and to let them know with words, handshakes and hugs that you do not simply like them- but truly love them.” – Henri Nouwen, ¡Gracias!

I’m not sure if it’s “more and more,” but it’s clear to me that some of the holiest of times in ministry come too infrequently.  The most holiest of times are the most intimate, when I am entering into the life of those around me, when I’m breaking bread, not leading communion…when I’m listening, not teaching…when I’m participating in life, not planning for it…when I’m celebrating successes and mourning losses…when I’m connecting most deeply with those around me…when, I feel, my life is most “incarnational.”
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more,” but I know the list of things I have to accomplish in a day of ministry can seem to pull me away from things that matter most.  Yes, I know there are things which just must be done.  There are tasks that just have to be accomplished.  There are reports to file.  There are web pages to update.  There are meetings to be held.  And I do them.  But, at the end of the day, I ask myself where have I connected with those around me?  Where is it that I have truly loved?  Perhaps that’s why I really go to the coffee shops…
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more” but I am feeling a great need…a great pastoral need to love persons deeply and to share life with them.   I feel a need to give myself up in love and not hold back.  And I feel a need for our church to do that as well…our church which has increasing bills to pay, ministries to plan, work teams to house, worship services to conduct.  How do we love…more than “plan to love”?  How do we participate in a ministry of presence…knowing that the stuff of life and business and work still happens around us and in us?
More and more, deep inside of me, I feel a call to love those whom God has given me…those whom he has placed near me, or placed me near them.
And the ironic thing is that the meetings, the planning, the work of the church is the way in which I go about doing this.
This…is how I know to love.
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>"Daddy, Look At Me!" — Showing Children They Are Important


“Daddy look at me.” 

Those words were shouted time and time again as we went down to the tennis courts to practice riding bikes again today.  Our youngest girls just got “big girl” bikes in the past couple weeks or so.  They must be just about the smallest two-wheeled bikes one can have.  They were hand-me-downs and are now complete with training wheels.

Learning to ride a bike for the first time is an adventure…one I’m ten years removed from with our older girls.  Yes, there are falls every once in a while.  Yes, there are tears.  Yes, it can be be frustrating. And, yes, it can be scary for both parent and child.

But it’s NOT boring.

Within the last few days our girls have gotten comfortable enough on their bikes that they feel up to doing “tricks.”  So, as they ride they take their hands off the handlebars…or they stand up on the pedals…or they put their feet off to the side. 

Each new move is met with “Daddy, look at me.”  And I look.  And I smile.  Riding a bike may be old hat to me, but I need to remember that it’s completely “new hat” to them.  Even with the training wheels on, it’s an exciting moment for them when they take their feet off or make a sharp turn or go around in circles or go real fast.  As far as they are concerned, they are being very brave and adventurous.  They are testing the limits.  They are pushing the boundaries.  And they want me to look at them and acknowledge their wonderful accomplishments.

I confess that sometimes they have to yell at me more than once…and sometimes more than twice.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to have quite the same excitement as they do…although I try.   Sometimes, I’m busy talking with someone or trying to get some work done.  And, sometimes, just because they are twins, I’m busy giving my attention to the other sister.   It can be hard to give attention to both at the same time.  I’ve yet to master the art of “bi-location.”

And, yet, attention is what they crave.  And, it’s what they need.  It lets them know that I’m invested in them.  It lets them know that I love and care for them.  It lets them know that they are important to me.  And, hey, these really are big steps for a 4 year old.

So often our kids just want us to “look” at them.  They want us to recognize their accomplishments and also their pains.  They want us to, not make them FEEL as if they are important, but to recognize that they ARE important as well.

This can be a problem in the church, where, often, children are to be seen and not heard…if they are to be seen at all.  We spend so much time an energy trying to keep them quiet or remove them from the “big people” worship that it can be easy for them to think that no one is looking at them and no one is hearing what it is that they have to say…or have to offer.

At Girdwood Chapel, I’ve tried to make it so kids feel like they are involved in worship.  It does come through during communion and the prominent role they can play there, with kids participating fully with the adults.  But, more, I think it comes through during our prayer time, our “Joys and Concerns.”  For it’s here that kids really are on the same playing field as their parents and the other adults in the congregation.  They get to offer up their joys and concerns amongst the gathered body.  This is not a special “Children’s Time” set aside for them. It’s not “Children’s Church” or their own Sunday School.    And so we’ll hear about the usual joys and concerns that adults bring each week, peppered with prayers for “sick goldfish” or “4th Birthdays” or “boo boos on fingers.”  And yet, those are the real joys and concerns of some of our younger attendees.  And by lifting them up and having them recognized by the larger church body, we let them know that they are important and loved and that we recognize that their hurts and happiness are real.

What are other ways our congregation could “look at” and recognize the children we know and care about?

>My Twins at the Piano Recital Last Night

>While my lovely wife is away helping in a family health crisis, I’m holding down the fort.  Last night it was piano recital night and my older set of twins performed.  Here are their pieces for you…and so my wife can get a taste of home while she’s away.

It’s pretty soft on the videos.  I swear it was louder in person.  If you notice the camera shaking, it’s because I have twin 4 year olds grabbing at me throughout.

From May 5, 2011

From May 5, 2011