Saturday, July 30, 2011

Congratulations Chase and the Raspberries!

Yes, you read that right. Raspberries. A group of 13 and 14 year old boys named their maroon-shirted soccer team the Raspberries. Well, I guess that is OK, since they not only won the regular season, but were champions in the playoffs as well. Way to go, son.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farther Along

I heard about the new Josh Garrels album, Love & War & The Sea In Between, from The Rabbit Room, NoiseTrade, and a friend at nearly the same time. I have been listening to it constantly now for days. I love it.

Josh Garrels appears to be one of those radical Christians who trusts in God to the point of sacrifice. He is giving away the album for free—I guess that is what giving away means—for a year, both electronic and physical versions.

I highly encourage you to go and download this album. If you love it as much as I do, please donate (visit the store on his website). This is the kind of music that Christians should be listening to rather than the pop driven, mindless drivel played on so many other Christian outlets.

My favorite song so far is Farther Along:

Farther Along

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves em’ both
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I’ve seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin’ that line back home

So much more to life than we’ve been told
It’s full of beauty that will unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
And wash away all the things you’ve done
Forgiveness alright


Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin’ for my soul
And I’ve got no place left go
Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin’ on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I’m free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I’ll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the son of god is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we’re the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon


Thursday, July 14, 2011

It All Ends Tonight

w00t! We have tickets to the midnight show of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 for tonight at 12:01am.  Mackenzie, Chase, Kayleigh, Matt, and I will all arrive early at Carmike Wynnsong in Mounds View for the fun and festivities. Well, actually, we just want to see the other fans in costume and watch the final installment of a great story and a cultural phenomenon.

I know the Cherokee Hills subdivision pool boy will be there. What about you? Stop by the biggest screen and say hi if you go.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Power of Love in Little Things

This morning in the shower doubtful thoughts about Christianity were attempting to enter into my thinking like 10,000 Uruk-Hai trying to enter Helm’s Deep. Relentlessly. These thoughts made sense, at least it seemed like they did while bleary eyed under the warming spray. They breached the gate on multiple occasions with the only voice of true resistance being the thought that I knew I was tired, I knew I was still fighting post-vacation traumatic stress disorder, and I knew my prayer life and Bible time had suffered while visiting family and driving 5,000 miles. Therefore, even though I couldn’t fully refute these arguments right now, I would be able to later when I was more awake and less weary.

The strongest thought trying to gain entry was not that Jesus didn’t exist or that God wasn’t real, but that he wasn’t so much relevant now as he was 2,000 years ago. After all, we haven’t really heard from him since he ascended into heaven, and his book has been torn asunder by generations of exegetes (or eisegetes, as the case may be), many of whom have found far too many differences in one text. If thousands of scholars over centuries can’t agree on what one book says, how can it be true? How can we know Christianity is still real when our book is so old? How can we differentiate a real movement of the Holy Spirit from a simple event felt by a person who desperately wants to experience something? How do I know the Holy Spirit is real when it seems like most “movements of the Spirit” can be explained by a cynic? How do I really know that Jesus wanted me to sell my house and move from Washington to Minneapolis? How can I pray, even now, that he help me know whether we should buy a house here? Or that my career best matches my gifting? Or that I was meant to be an administrator rather than a pastor?

Jason, I whispered to myself, you are tired. These doubts only have strength because you are tired and weary and mildly depressed about coming home and re-entering the rat race. By God’s grace—and I don’t say that lightly—the doubts receded and I was able to get ready and head off to work, knowing that after this brief reprieve I would have to go out and face the horde of orcs, much like Aragorn and company rested briefly before counter attacking out of the inner keep.

But instead of charging into a renewed battle with gallant courage, knowing that I would face certain death, and then being rescued by √Čomer, the Savior came to me sooner, before I even entered the battle again. He came in a couple of blog posts.

The first was by Andrew Peterson about Harry Potter:
I couldn’t get Harry’s story out of my head. I doubled over in the back of the auditorium and sobbed with gratitude to Jesus for allowing his body to be ruined, for facing the enemy alone, for laying down his life for his friends—Jesus, my friend, brother, hero, and king—Jesus, the Lord of Life, who triumphed o’er the grave—who lives that death may die! Even now, writing those words, my heart catches in my throat. In that moment I was able, because of these books, to worship Christ in a way I never had.
Let me be clear: Harry Potter is NOT Jesus. This story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth, that the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian story, and the main character of the Christian story is Christ, because I believe in God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only begotten son—and because I believe that he inhabits my heart and has adopted me as his son, into his family, his kingdom, his church—I have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King. Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? Remember when Santa Claus shows up (incongruously) in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? It’s a strange moment, but to my great surprise I’ve been moved by it. Lewis reminds me that even Father Christmas is subject to Jesus, just as in Prince Caspian the hosts of mythology are subject to him. The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave.
I think it fairly obvious how this passage by Andrew began to fight back the hordes that had been standing outside my mind’s door all morning.

Continuing down the Rabbit Room blog, I read the following about U2, written by Stephen Lamb:
Crawling into bed that night, I picked up the book on my bedside table, Ian Cron’s Chasing Francis, a biography of sorts in which a man documents his spiritual journey through journal entries addressed to St. Francis. I opened the book to the page where I had stopped reading two nights earlier and picked up where I left off. Here’s the first thing I read:
Dear Francis,

A few years ago I went to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, just three months after 9/11. Most of us in the arena that night probably knew someone who’d died in the Twin Towers; we’d lost three people in our church alone. I’ll never forget the end of the concert. As the band played the song “Walk On,” the names of all those who had died were projected onto the arena walls and slowly scrolled up over us, and then up toward the ceiling. At that moment the presence of God descended on that room in a way I will never forget. There we were, twenty-five thousand people standing, weeping, and singing with the band. It suddenly became a worship service; we were pushing against the darkness together. I walked out dazed, asking myself, “What on earth just happened?” Of course, it was the music. For a brief moment, the veil between this world and the world to come had been made thin by melody and lyric. If only for a brief few minutes, we were all believers.
This brief excerpt is not all that caused the next thing to happen. I suggest you read the whole post, but as I completed these two blog posts, an overwhelming feeling of God’s goodness, the Holy Spirit’s presence, and the saving work of Jesus Christ washed over me. My eyes were hot with tears, and I slid my chair back and leaned over my knees and cried. I was not thinking about Harry Potter or U2 at that point. I was worshipping my savior who would deign to take the time to reach out of heaven and touch me, as if to say, “Yes, Jason, I am real and powerful and here 2,000 years later. I don’t always come riding to the rescue like √Čomer and Gandalf charging the orcs with 2,000 Rhorrihim at their back. Instead I work through little things, through foolish things, through love and word and deed and art and music and small cold glasses of water. I am even present enough to meet you, right now, through two blog posts. I can touch you and show you, through the written word, that I exist.”

It only lasted a minute, but it was real. I realize that many cynics can, at this point, say I simply had an emotional response to two emotionally charged blog posts. But I don’t think so. I am a doctrinally solid believer in Jesus Christ and his written word. I believe that God speaks primarily through that word. I have a working understanding of proper hermeneutics and theology. I don’t think it is normative for God to touch people like this. Yet, I don’t doubt that in many cases this happens. I am not so naive that I don’t think I will ever doubt again. After all, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields happened after the Battle at Helm’s Deep.

But for now, I am content. Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Visual Reasons We Miss Home


Kell’s Irish Pub

lucky ceiling @ Kell's, originally uploaded by wenabell.


big fir, originally uploaded by wenabell.


Mt. Hood, originally uploaded by wenabell.

Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock, originally uploaded by wenabell.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just for the record...

Throwing frozen hamburger patties on a gas grill is not true grilling. It does require a lot of skill in flare-up management though. Think on the bright side.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Humility Stands Out Because It is So Rare

I was happy to see Derek Jeter gain his 3,000th hit with a home run. I have always appreciated his clutch skill when watching him during the playoffs against my favorite teams. It seems that the Yankees always did my Mariners in during the first round years ago, and now do the same thing to the Twins. Jeter always got his hits in the clutch.

The following paragraphs are what stood out to me when reading the article about his success. O for more outward actions like this...

But even more impressive, to me anyway, was the way Jeter reacted to it. Surely, he knew as soon as he made contact that the 3,000th hit was finally his. Quite possibly he knew it was leaving the ballpark, his first home run over the fence at this stadium in more than a year.
But there was no bat-flipping, no jumping up and down, no Cadillac-ing around the bases. Jeter left the batter’s box as if he had dribbled one down the third-base line and needed to run like hell to beat it out. And when it was obvious that no one was catching this one, he settled into a respectful trot. He did not leap onto home plate, or pump a fist, or do anything to embarrass the opposing pitcher or himself. He simply continued running into the embrace of the first of 24 teammates rushing out to meet him at home, who happened to be Jorge Posada, perhaps his closest friend on the team.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011

Things I am thankful for...

the mischievous grin of my 13-year old son … a sudden hug from my 10-year old daughter … Burgerville cheeseburgers with extra spread … a hot shower at the end of a cold day … a steaming mug of freshly ground Sumatra … worship led by Dan Holst with all of Bethlehem singing exultantly … the warmth of my wife’s hand in mine … Kayleigh’s happy declaration of the number of books read this year … the sizzle of perfectly seasoned ground chuck on a charcoal grill … a sharp intellectual argument from my oldest daughter … a long conversation about literature with a close friend … the “But God” in Ephesians 2:4 … praying before every meeting … the silence of a fresh snow … twenty-one years of marriage to my best friend … the solidity of the safety net of God’s sovereignty … hearing my children pray with intensity and emotion … the generosity of strangers …