Monday, October 29, 2007

Warm Chickens and Cool Theology

Our four chickens tend to sleep in the same place on the back yard every night: About 40 feet from the house in a completely unguarded location. I'm stunned that some predator hasn't come along and snuffed them already, but I guess there is grace, even for chickens. However, I know what a Minnesota winter feels like and I can't imagine four medium-sized birds surviving that without shelter. So tonight we instituted Operation ChickenLift.

Tara held the flashlight for me and I scooped and carried the egg bearers one at a time to the chicken coop (yes, they have a beautiful chicken coop that they refuse to use). After each trip, we closed the door to keep said chicken inside. When the first one was deposited, she made a sorrowful noise between a coo and a cluck. We both laughed. Two of the chickens went without protest, one was pretty easy to catch, and the last one led us on a wild chicken-chase all around the backyard before being cornered. It is hoped that they will settle into the chicken house with a little reinforcement.

In other news, we were watching _Because of Winn Dixie_ early Sunday morning, and came across a scene likc this:

Older, wisdom-filled black lady: In life, you got to find the most important thing.

Adorable pre-teen white girl: What is the most important thing?

(Dramatic Pause)

Old black lady: Why, the most important thing is whatever's most important to you.

So I went and asked Aidan (4) what the most important thing was. And he said something like, "God is the most important thing and loving Him and serving Him." He said more, too, with confidence and conviction. For my part, I gave him a high five and rejoiced at God's work in a little fellow. Tears of joy came into my eyes, for he knows the truth, and the truth will set him free!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Well, I didn't think this was going to be difficult, but it was. Jeanne came on Sunday after church and picked up her goats. From a practical standpoint, I could see that it was a good decision, and I was, after all, the one who suggested that perhaps it was time for them to go home. With cold weather upon us, I was concerned that the goats would have a tough time finding food and staying warm.

I didn't realize that I had become somewhat attached to Earl, Java, and Buckeye, three wether goats that have lived with us since late summer. They were very personable goats, especially Earl, who would come and let his head and shoulders be rubbed by just about anyone. They were also funny and got themselves into lots of scrapes while staying with us. Curious to a fault, they even climbed up in my trailer to get a different perspective on the world.

And now they're gone, and the pasture looks so empty. The surrounding land looks empty too, as the farmers have harvested their corn. You can see a long way from our house. It's not bad, but it is strange.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

House Beautiful

Well, we've been working on our new old house since the middle of June, and we're finally getting close on the exterior. I primed the last of the gingerbread/scalloping (or whatever that stuff is called) yesterday. My dad came out for the afternoon and took off downspouts so we could prime and paint behind them. He does a great job though he did lose a few screws (screws lost, not loose... think about that one) in the grass.

I suspect we would have the house done already, but it's been rain-rain-rain in SE Minnesota. That means no painting for days on end.
And that's all from Jim's end of things. He abandoned the computer, so I'm hijacking his post. Someone hop over to my blog and give me a bit of inspiration for what to blog. We're just doing life and that's getting a little short on providing fresh blog material! Thanks!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Latin Secrets Revealed

Here in Minnesota we're on fall break, which is a good thing for everyone even though the liberal Education Minnesota folks are meeting together and plotting their latest assaults on quality education and traditional morality. At my house it means more time with the children, time out for my wife, and house/business/school projects that get attention.

Thus it was last night that I was able to sit down with the 1897 edition of an 1877 Latin grammar. I found it fascinating to discover how differently 19th century scholars approached language study. You can see in their approach that they considered themselves highly scientific (which would have been part of the pragmatism of the day, if I recall my study of Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth) by their use of "science of language" and other similar phrases.

I can also see why people of earlier eras considered Latin study so difficult. Pages and pages of small text bring out intricacies of the language right away. There was no attempt to simplify at the beginning, only to explain. Also a fairly erudite vocabulary of grammatical terms was assumed.

However, I found myself learning (within the first 20 pages) several things that I'd been wondering for years. For instance, what is the vocative of 3rd-5th declension nouns? Bet you don't know. Why is the dative plural of filia filiabus instead of filiis? I used to wonder these things too, but no longer. Eductus sum!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Amazing Evan

When my oldest son was about two years old, Grandma Sheila, my mother-in-law, dubbed him "the Amazing Evan"! I can't speak for her, but I have always been impressed by his uniqueness and precocious ways. Today yielded some good Evan stories, so I would like to blog them.

I was talking to another school parent at the end of school today who told me that she was working in the gym on something a few minutes earlier. Evan had offered to help her, but she told him, "I don't think you're supposed to be in here." Evan replied, "No, it's OK. I'm a staff kid. I have special privileges." (I laughed pretty hard at that. It's so totally Evan.)

Before bedtime I told Evan that I wanted him to read for a while. He pulled a book off the shelf called _The Lord of the Journey_. It's a compendium of prayers and essays in Christian spirituality. He began reading a prayer of St. Anselm and I heard him say, "That's funny." Anselm was highlighting the nurturing qualities of Jesus and comparing him to a mother. Evan didn't quite know what to make of it. He continued to read, and the bookmark is now on the last page of the prayer.

He has also taken to listening to an evening broadcast of "Grace to You" with John MacArthur. He asked to have his radio turned on so he could listen to the program tonight. I was stunned again. I suspect that there are plenty of adults who find MacArthur erudite, even difficult to comprehend at times, and here's my 7-year-old falling asleep to the messages. For my money, MacArthur doesn't even have a soothing voice. However, as I thought more about it, I can see how J.M. would appeal to Evan: intellectually rigorous, fast delivery, no nonsense, and firm conviction. Fits him to a tee.

Well, enough delighting in my son. How great a God we have who gives gifts like Evan.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Preachin' the Word

I have been a committed Christian for about 16 years (and have probably been a Christian much longer than that...not really sure when I became part of the Kingdom) and I'm always amazed by how the Lord uses strange little servants like me. I wanted to teach the Word in adult classes; He's let me do that since I was about 22. I wanted to play on a worship team and lead worship... I've had opportunity to do that. I've wanted to preach, but thought that was kind of distant dream. But God has allowed that, too. In the last two years I've had three opportunites to preach at my home church when our senior pastor has been away.

The last of those was yesterday. I preached two services on "A Life That Bears Fruit", centered on John 15, but incorporating other Scriptures as helpful. I used the illustration of two apple trees in my yard to support my talk. One of these trees in misshapen, badly damaged, and short on branches. The other is gorgeous, nicely shaped, and has hundreds of leaf-covered branches. But only one has fruit. The ugliest tree in my yard produces delicious apples. I brought a small basketful to share with my listeners.

So I enjoy preaching, but it takes a lot of prep, energy, and spiritual warfare. I'm tired today but glad that we are working together to spread the glory of God!

(Edited by Tara to include a link to the sermon. At Berean's website you can click on Jim's name to hear his message!)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wouldn't Do This Day Over

Since our move to the country in June, Evan and I commute quite a distance to the school where I teach and he learns. He is very patient with the drive and sometimes reads to me in the morning (may I say it's pretty amazing to have a just-turned-seven-year-old who is useful reader... Scripture or Laura Ingalls or whatever you want). However, today we left approximately on time and were at the Century light (notorious for its many waiting cars) at 7:27. When I say "at the light" I mean more than half a mile down the hill. The line crawled forward... for more than 25 minutes. Apparently the traffic signal had malfunctioned and no one knew what to do. By the time I got to the light, it was repaired but my day was broken.

When I arrived in my classroom, the desks were in a different arrangement because the maintenance guys had shampooed the carpet on Friday night. So I sustained two major disruptions between 7:30 and 8:00 and never really got my feet under me until after school was out. Even then it was a little late to feel accomplished.

The evening with the children wasn't much better. Toby is at a terribly clingy stage. If you try to leave him, he yells, "Daddy, I want yoooooooooooou!" Aidan is very cooperative and pleasant these days. At his worst, he will end up being a pleaser and wish for approval. Evan is just being Evan... competent, imperious, able to sense but largely indifferent to other people's feelings.

Also, I was going to try to write a sermon tonight (I'm preaching at our church on Sunday) but I was swamped, exhausted, and frustrated, which are not good conditions for sermon writing. I will try again soon... maybe during school tomorrow.

[Aside to Everett] You should be jealous... but I'm sure you've met more great saints in your ministry than I have!! Though I have met a few: James Sire, Gene Edward Veith, J. Bud-ji-chef-ski (no idea how to spell that) as well as some of the most amazing doctors in the world.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

"Mike, C'mere a Minute"

I haven't been to a concert in years, that is, the type that you pay money to attend. I've been to plenty of choral events (being a St. Olaf graduate I suppose it runs in your blood) and I'm a frequent attender at concerts put on by my school, but I typically don't enjoy paying for a concert. Come to think of it, I don't like to pay for anything. But I digress.

I found out a few weeks ago that Michael Card was coming to Autumn Ridge Church. We have a lot of friends there and would easily be able to attend. So we actually got our act together and bought tickets mostly ahead of time. Expensive but not unbearable.

Tara predicted that the concert would be a who's who of Christianity in Rochester, which it actually wasn't. Not that there weren't some great people there, just not as many different churches represented as I'd hoped. We did see plenty of friends and enjoyed a wonderfully relaxed yet profound experience in music, artistry, and worship. I do appreciate Michael Card. I think he's one of the finest musician/poets living and creating in the US at this time. I also make a hearty slap upside the head to any Christian radio station that refuses to play his work. What's your excuse???

As soon as Card introduced his band, I was delighted to see one of my college acquaintances playing percussion with him. Paul was our worship leader for a Wednesday night Bible Study of about 100 college students back in the early 90s. I don't think I had seen him for at least a decade, but I'll say that he's aged pretty much not at all (the opposite of me). I really wanted to talk with Paul, so after the show I found Brian (media coordinator for the church and I happen to teach his kids) and he took Tara and me back. It was great. Every parting, someone said, is a little like a death, and every reunion like the Resurrection. So we imparted a little life, health, and encouragement to each other in those moments.

And then, as we were chatting, Michael Card sort of wandered back out to stage and Paul said, Hey, Mike. C' mere a minute. I want you to meet these guys." So there we were, chatting with Michael Card for a few minutes. It was a real blessing and totally unexpected. He is a real inspiration and a blessing to millions. Thank you, God, for your people in this world!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The First Woman in My Life

My mother passed away on the 16th of April this year after a seven-year battle with cancer. I would like to tell you about her.

She was born into a family full of family problems in the late 1930s. Her mother died when she was four years old, and the five children were split between two grandmothers. Her two older sisters were sent to live with Grandma Catholic. Her two brothers and she were sent to live with Grandma Lutheran. Consequently Mom became and remained a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran for her entire life.

"Grandma Lutheran" was very old when she received the children and she died when my mother was about 13. I cannot imagine what her childhood must have been like, between the dying relatives and alcoholic father as well as other problems that were hinted at but never really stated.

She grew up to become a teacher in the Wisconsin Synod elementary schools, and I imagined her to be the sort of person who would have been an old maid schoolteacher. She taught variations on K-1-2 for 14 years, until she married my father in 1972. Their marriage was unlikely. He was over 40 when they were married and had also taught in the WELS schools, sidestepping a few disasters along the way. She was distrustful of men. I think they met at an apartment warming party that was held for Dad when he moved to the Twin Cities area. I really can't remember the details.

From two homes marred with alcohol and abuse they created one that had infinitely fewer problems. I suspect that it was their sincere faith in Jesus Christ that made this possible. There was no alcohol, no major dysfunction, and a genuine commitment to each other. About year and a half after they were married they had one child. Me. I grew up in an environment empty of children, so actually I did not really believe that I was a child. I was simply the third adult in the house, a little smaller than the other two but definitely part of the decision-making committee. We had our conflicts, but my home was really a refuge from the storm of the outside world. My mother helped make it that way.

She was a woman of great hugs and natural affection. She loved people with her words and with her cooking. Easily scandalized, she struggled somewhat with gossip but it never seemed like gossip because I don't think she intended to hurt anyone. She was very slow to anger and put up with my dad's bizarre ways without much argument. Though she was not stupid as most people would understand the term, she was a simple person who did not have a lot of complicated thoughts or abstractions clouding her mind. If the conversation turned too theoretical, she would wait patiently for about five minutes (much of which I suspect she could barely follow) and then turn it to something about people or practical matters. It was all she could do.

She was a woman of many fears. Driving alone, for example, terrified her. She did not get a driver's license until age 34 (my age now) and directions mystified her. Thinking back, I recall some years that she drove me/other kids to soccer games all across the Cities. Those rides must have been traumatic for her in ways that others would not understand. She would drive alone if she knew the route and the weather was decent. Otherwise she relied on my dad and me for transportation. Dad was always great with maps, directions, and the general how-to of traveling. Mom was not.