Thursday, October 15, 2009

Half a Lifetime Ago

Half a lifetime ago I graduated from high school and wandered down to St. Olaf in Northfield. I left behind 47 classmates who also went on to college or work. Today I reconnected with one of them.

How do you put 18 years into an hour? That's what Nate and I tried to do today -- to learn about each other's personal and professional lives. To see what happened to two kids growing up in southern Minnesota in the 1980s and 90s.

I think the best part of an experience like this is to see the maturity that has developed since those days when our scalps were full but our brains empty -- not empty of facts, but empty of experience in making good judgments. Maturity is its own reward. You may not enjoy the circumstances you face, but you can face them with a heart warmed by Christ's love and a mind seasoned by those decisions you made which weren't so great.

So I had a good time chatting, learning, and growing. I'm hopeful that the years ahead will contain more of these types of meetings. You can't go home, but you can reminisce about it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Doesn't Get Any Easier

Run, run, run. I am the hamster on the wheel.

My wife has her own wheel right now, too.

Rest first or study first? I don't know.

At least all the children minus Evan are in bed.

Evan is at scouts.
I am at home.
My paperwork calls me.
I ignore it.
This isn't haiku, but it is lyrical.
I think.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You like me! You really like me!

When my first son was born, I was terrified.
When my second son was born, I was amazed.
When my third son was born, I was amused. Oh, look, another one. How quaint.

When my daughter was born, I was ecstatic. Thank God! We finally got a girl.

In the ensuing years of parenting, I discovered that the boys took to me pretty much on sight. Something in their little self-wiring knew that they were supposed to identify with Dad, and since Dad was present, identify they did. Furthermore, they had to identify with me since there was always another baby filling Mom's lap. This "connecting with Dad" thing really surprised me, as I was sure I was going to be a failure at raising and leading boys. Quite the contrary. They trust that I know what I'm doing and model themselves wholeheartedly after my ways. Suckers.

The girl bucked the entire system, spending her first two and a half years looking at me as a cross between furniture and cat yaack. Even in a pinch, Daddy usually wasn't good enough. It annoyed me to no end, since I've changed hundreds of diapers, read hundreds of stories, and gotten plenty of children ready for bed.

Over the past three months, Avery has finally started to acknowledge me as more than a distant relation whom she may have seen on one or two occasions. Today she came running into the kitchen when she heard me come home and sort of huggled on my legs for a while before Toby blasted her out of the way. She likes flying up to the ceiling on Daddy-power and sits at my end of the dinner table without complaint. And she smiles.

Thank God, we are making progress.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Epidemic of Homelessness

So I was sitting in the directors' meeting last week, and I shared how were are starting The Truth Project this fall for adult ministries. And one or two people in the meeting wondered if we might run out of space for all the attenders. And I said, "I doubt it. Let's see how many come before we create worries that don't even exist.

Well, I was wrong. The people started coming in about 10:18 and didn't stop for the next 35 minutes. By the time all the chairs were in, and the people were seated, there were 45 people and 4 oxygen molecules in the room. A few were standing in the doorway or sitting out in the hall. Moments later, we began The Truth Project. It's a DVD series from Focus on the Family that explores how Christianity deals with every aspect of life and society. We are taking each DVD in two halves... we watch for about 25 minutes, then talk about what we've seen in the context of brothers and sisters in Christ. Even in the squeeze today, it worked pretty well. The people discussed actively and made some good connections. We also dug into some spiritual truths about what the unsaved person is like and how transformative God is to bring us to his family and himself.

After lunch, we went to Walmart with all the kids. There were two homeless guys begging at the turn into the parking lot. Evan surveyed the situation and then said, "We should do something for that guy."

We shopped. We loaded our stuff. Then Evan said, "Aren't we going to do something for that guy?" (one of them had left). So I said, "What do you want to do?"
And he said, "Could we give him some money or something?"
And I said, "Your money or my money? Are you willing to give him your own money?"

Well, he thought for a minute and then said, "Yeah. You give me the money and I'll work it off." So Tara handed him four quarters that we had in the change holder up front, and Evan walked over to the man and gave him the money. When he returned to the van, Tara looked at me and said, "Good job, Honey. You taught him compassion."

I said, "No, I did not. I taught him the difference between a Democrat and a Republican." And she started to laugh, gently at first, then harder as the reality sank in. Of course Evan wanted to know what was going on, so I repeated myself.

"Evan," I said, "I've just taught you the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. A Democrat helps the poor by taking other people's money and giving it to them. A Republican helps the poor by giving them his own money."

Of course, that's a massive oversimplification, but the core of it is true. It takes very little charity to give away someone else's money. It takes real character and faith to give away your own.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Notes from Our Trip to West Branch

I left school on Friday with all my work done. This is a rare experience, due to extraordinary self-discipline during the day and a crack schedule that includes three (count 'em, 1-2-3) preps in a row on Friday mornings.

I casually mentioned to Tara that maybe we would like to go somewhere for Labor Day weekend. She airily replied, "You organize it and get the kids packed, and I'll be happy to go." So I got out an old Iowa map and started looking for destinations. I'm not sure why I chose Iowa. I think I wasn't sure what part of Minnesota I wanted to see, and anything north of the Cities, even though it exists, doesn't really exist because during my childhood there was never any reason to go there.

So when she got home from Nick and Jessica's about 3:00 on Sunday, I said, "Let's go." And she had had plenty of time to mentally prepare for this, so she didn't even say, "Where?" She just said, "O.K. What's left to pack?"

The destination I had chosen was the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. They had special programs planned for Labor Day, and it seemed a good site for a family with lots of children.

We pulled out around 4:00 and hit 63 south. I think we traveled through until Waterloo, Iowa, where we began looking for a park to stop and eat our dinner (I had packed sandwich fixins in our cooler). The main problem with Waterloo is that everyone is, uh, not the same color we are. From my end, that's not a problem, except that I don't know if it's a problem from their end. I don't really want to be shot for entering a neighborhood where my kind ain't welcome. So we finally settled on something like Lincoln Park, a sort of town square with decorative trees, picnic tables, and a carillon from the Presbyterian Church Across the Street playing the Doxology during dinner. Needing to urinate, we headed across the street to a scuzzy-looking convenience store run by a middle-eastern man and his family. Everyone peed, and in my gratitude, when Aidan wanted a bag of marshmallow peanuts, I happily obliged him.

We were pretty stunned when we hit the cash register to pay, and it was manned by a seven-year-old boy. It got even better when we saw his skills: lightning fast with the cash, the register, the change, and the "May I help who's next?" Aidan was buying the peanuts, so it was even funnier... this little middle eastern boy selling to my almost-six-year-old.

So we got out of Waterloo without meeting our Waterloo. I was struck by several things: 1) how white it isn't, as I already said 2) how different churches down there look from churches in Rochester -- in general, bigger, older, more garish, and more run-down. 3) how people just saunter across the street nowhere near and crosswalk and in very non-Minnesotan ways.

Continuing south, we arrived in Cedar Rapids. I had not booked a hotel because I figured that would give me more flexibility for how far and for what price. (I had done the internet work and knew that 25 hotels in greater Cedar Rapids had availability for that night.) So after lifting a quick prayer for guidance, I exited somewhere on the south half of town. The Lord answered very kindly, because there were no less than 9 motels at the exit I picked. We hit several and finally settled on the Heartland Inn, where the family could swim and where Talli the desk chick promised full breakfast including hot biscuits and gravy and real waffles in the morning. We settled in and let the kids swim until it was pretty late. As a family we don't spend a lot of time in the water, so these are good experiences for them.

Back in our room, we got people down for the night. This is some trick because all four kids aren't used to sleeping in the same room. While they go to sleep, we usually sit in the hallway and read. When we thought it was safe, we re-entered. Only Evan was still awake, and he conked out pretty quickly after we came back in.

In the morning we partook of the said full breakfast and met six siblings in their 50s or so who had been home for a reunion and were now heading back to their homes east of Iowa. One brother told me there were actually 10 of them, but only six were traveling together. Well, this was a delight, and we chatted with them a bit and got them all laughing before we said our good-byes.

There was a little more driving, but we finally arrived at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. It is a very pleasant destination, including Hoover's birthplace (a tiny cottage), a re-creation of his father's blacksmith shop, the Quaker meeting house where his family worshipped, Mr. and Mrs. Hoover's graves, and the actual museum/library. Hoover was an efficient man with a big heart for people and humanitarian causes. We learned many facts about him, his wife, and his family and came away with a much different impression than "the guy who presided over the beginning of the depression".

Evan had many wondrous experiences, including playing in the nearby creek where Hoover had played as a boy, being interview by a newspaper reporter, and meeting the wife of a diplomat who had served under Johnson through Bush 41. We toured everything we could and even bought souvenirs for the family.

On the way home, I determined to take a different route through different towns to see more of the countryside, so we traveled 150 north to Highway 52. Eventually that brought us within two miles of the "Smallest Church in America", which we decided to see, even though it was already evening. The Smallest Church in America, St. Anthony of Padua's, really is tiny. Some woman made a vow that if her son came back alive from whatever war, she would build a church. He got back alive, and she figured she better keep her word. To minimize costs (I assume) she only built a tiny church. If it seats 20, that would be amazing. Still, it has elaborate stonework, beautfiul stained-glass windows, and a tall steeple. There is also a guest register where people can record their visit. I counted 9/07/09. Eleven other parties had stopped and signed today!

The rest of the trip, I would like to say, was un-eventful, but that would be a lie. We arrived in a 30 zone on the south end of Chatfield, and the flashing lights started. But I'm tired now. We got off with a warning (mercy completely undeserved) and made it the rest of the way home.

Presidential libraries are very educational. So is traveling with your wife and four children.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Back Half of August

I'd like to apologize for not blogging for such a long time. I know you missed me.

Business picked up a bit again in August, though for most of the time, it still wasn't inspiring.
Still, it has been much better than July.

One morning as I was staining the deck at Jayson & Christi's house, our associate pastor called and asked if I would like to preach on August 16. Since I had been wanting to preach for some time, I said, "Sure. I'd love to."

It gave me less than two weeks to write the message, which was fine. Tara happened also to take the children to Sioux Falls during one of those weeks, which gave me plenty of alone time to study.

So I was very happy with the message and how it turned out. I named it "Berean at the Crossroads" and delivered it in the morning service. You can click here to listen to it.

Since then I have stained a lot of decks and given bids, some successful, some not. I am also within three hairs of getting my dad's mortgage paid off. God has graciously provided what we have needed so far, and we believe He will continue to provide and then use this circumstance to provide for us in the future.

Grace, grace, grace. Live it. Believe it. Receive it.

Inservice starts next Tuesday. Can hardly believe that another summer is almost gone.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Steady by Jerks

Nothing much happening here.

I must force myself to finish my Latin textbook for 5-6th graders. So close.

Evan spent most of the day with me. I was not terribly good company because I have a sore throat.

Just for my own amusement, I applied for a job in another state yesterday. Can you tell I'm bored?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Sampler

It is a beautiful Sunday morning in southern Minnesota. The birds are singing, the squirrels are chittering, my wife and daughter are laughing. We are getting ready for church, but nobody's really rushing, since the service doesn't start until 9:30.

Our senior pastor resigned after 11 years in that position. Of course that brings immediate changes. To compound these changes, our director of worship also turned in his resignation because a church up on the Minnesota/Dakota border offered him a position leading to worship pastor. So I guess the status quo will be the status ante.

My dad came over for a while yesterday morning. While he was here, he either repaired or contributed to the repair of my small lawn tractor, a roto-tiller, a bicycle, and something else that I cannot recall right now.

We did some aggressive cleaning and organizing yesterday, somewhat to get ready for our Ole Reunion Party next Saturday as well as our houseguest Everett. The irony of this is that Everett wouldn't really be disturbed if our house looked like a war zone. We are looking forward to a nice weekend.

Tara keeps interrupting my blogging to have me feed children. So far I have fed Tater some waffles (he likes waffles) and I plan to nourish Toby in just a moment.

My back has been a source of annoyance again. It feels fine during the day, but I can't sleep a full night lying down. The muscles in the middle become very upset for some reason, causing me to wake up in pain and try to find a comfortable position. I intend to try yet another new strategy tonight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Patience Is a Virtue

Work has been sparse -- thinner than any summer in recent memory. I'm not really complaining, but it does make one change his approach to doing business -- somewhat.

For starters, I'm bidding lower. I hate that. We've had so many not-quite-full days that I feel like it's better to get some jobs even if we're not making a ton on each job.

So my bid this morning was at the home of a government schools teacher in her 50's. I washed her windows and helped her redo a bathroom light fixture that she wanted to grace with a different look. I had another bid later in the day, but people aren't saying yes as quickly as they had been the last 2-3 years.

Lord, we need another house to do. A nice big contract. Thank you for all you have done and all you will continue to do for us. Through Jesus we pray, Amen!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grandpa Plays Ball

The weather has recovered somewhat during the past 20 or so hours and climbed into the respectable 70s today. Since we had nothing better to do, Grandpa came over this afternoon. After he got here, I heard him tell Evan, "Let's go take a few swings." So they headed out to the back yard.

Now my father, whom I did not really know until he was in his late 40's, was both quick and athletic. He coached basketball in his earlier years and played any number of sports well. He has continued to participate here and there all through his 70's. But for the last few years, every time I watch him play, I become fearful that it will be the last time.

The last time that I will see my dad throw a ball.
The last time that his glove will scrape the ground.
The last time he will yell something like, "Ah, you put the ol' dark one by him!"
The last time the crack will echo from his bat.

He pitched for a while until it became evident to him that he just wasn't finding the zone, so he handed that off to me and headed for the outfield. Evan was hitting well, and the balls were spraying all over our expansive back yard. Fortunately Toby was out there too, but Grandpa is too independent, too energetic to stand and let Toby run for them. Grandpa got most of them himself.

I remember his run, the quick acceleration of short, wiry legs well into his 50s. Just the barest whisper of that is left, enough to make me remember as he hustled for the ball. It wasn't running, wasn't really even jogging. But it wasn't walking, either.

Grandpa rolled most of the balls to the pitcher's mound to save what is left of his arm. He threw one, and again I saw the beautiful and heartbreaking echo of what had been.

After it was over, we sat in the Adirondack chairs near the fire pit and chatted. It was a precious time for me, with almost all of the people closest to me actually closest to me.

We love you, Dad.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Having Read all of Harry Potter...

Yes, sports fans, I actually finished something. For those that know me, this is probably half "well, sure" and half amusing. I struggle with having 22 projects going at once, and things of secondary or tertiary importance often get abandoned. For example, this summer I pulled out Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto and decided to pick up where my bookmark was. The bookmark turned out to be a business card for a loan officer who masterminded the loan for my first house, PURCHASED IN 1997. This sort of thing happens to me way too often.

So I am really proud to say that I have read all seven of the Harry Potter books!! I am not to the point of coherent reaction yet, only to say that they are extremely gripping fiction and provided something of an emotional roller coaster during the last few weeks. Also, I was amazed at how well-written fiction and high quality characters yank you into their world. They become so real that you find yourself at loose ends when you're finished with their story.

In general, I liked J.K. Rowling's end to the series and most of her ideas (not necessarily her stated ones in interview, which anti-Harry Potter people keep sending me) but her thematic ideas, taught through the books. I wonder if she's even aware of everything she' advocating. Good stuff, for the most part.

Summer rushes by minus one of its most defining elements: heat! We northerners are stunned by the lack of heat, humidity, rain, and sunshine all at the same time. The last few days our temperatures at a time of year characterized by 85 and oppressive have barely climbed out of the 50's! The children and I now have fires in the evening just to keep warm.

In our spare time, the boys are learning how to hit a softball this summer. Evan's a natural... hardly ever misses a pitch, and pitches well enough for me to hit. Aidan and Toby are quite a bit younger, so it's taking them some time get the skills together. One of the most amusing things has been Aidan shagging balls in the outfield (deeper part of our back yard). I play ball with them just like a coach would... plenty of balls with me, and the next ball is pitched before the first one is fielded. So Aidan runs around the outfield, picking up ball after ball and sometimes carrying 4-5 at a time back to the pitcher's mound and then dumping them unceremoniously in the plastic crate that holds our softball equipment. It's just comical how he does it.

Grandpa is also regaining his strength after a nasty hospital visit around the 3-4th of July. The boys and I are hopeful that he will be able to play ball again when he feels better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Still Reading Harry Potter -- Spoiler Warning!!

I have now finished book five of the Harry Potter series, much to the joy and amusement of my wife and son, who have completed all the reading... finished all seven.

Through all five books, I have been searching for symbolism, theme, and any other "TIER TWO" information that J. K. Rowling may be attempting to incorporate. There is some, and it begins to take shape towards the end of Book IV.

At the end of that book, Harry returned from the last tri-wizard tournament challenge via a portkey clinging to the arm of a dead classmate whose death he alone (from the school community) had witnessed. That set up an intriguing crisis of belief in his fellow students: Did Harry witness this murder by Lord Voldemort, or did Harry commit the murder himself?

In his last address to the students that academic year, Dumbledore made it perfectly clear that he believed Harry's tale. He raised the alarm that Voldemort had returned and warned the students that one of Voldy's favorite tactics was to divide people who were not worshippers of the Dark Lord. Of course, the Minister of Magic does not want to acknowledge Voldemort's return. He instead devises some conspiracy theory about Dumbledore wanting to take over as Minister of Magic.

In Book V, we are introduced to the Order of the Phoenix, a group whose purpose, directed by Dumbledore, is to prevent the return and empowerment of the Dark Lord. Now, I don't know yet, but the sub-groups of people in the book are eerily similar to people in society. Consider:

Muggles -- people completely unaware of the spiritual dimension of life. Non-Christians in the sense of philosophical naturalists. They are uncomfortable if the magic bumps into them, and seek to distance themselves as quickly as possible.

Death Eaters -- people who get the essence of spiritual reality but who have chosen evil knowingly. They serve the Dark Lord.

Ministry of Magic folk -- appear to me as similar to Christians who close their eyes when confronted with the reality of spiritual warfare. They want things to be "just like they always have been" and would rather have what is easy than what is right. They value position over mission.

Order of the Phoenix -- appear to me as a perfect parallel to what the Christian life should really look like. The people in the order are loyal to each other even when it's not enjoyable because they have a mission that they know is crucial to the future of the wizarding world. It may take great sacrifice to work for the Order, but they know it would be greater sacrifice in the end "to not to".

Dumbledore -- I thought for several books that Dumbledore represented God, but I am moving away from that position at the end of five. The evidence in the earlier books is compelling, though: the long white hair and beard (God is pictured often and inaccurately that way); the name Albus (white); his tendency to arrive just before the moment of disaster and rescue those within his school, the others' tendency to seek his wisdom and yet want to hide from him when they were ashamed of their own choices, his almost omniscient awareness of affairs of their world...

I have abandoned this position in light of events late in Book Five. Dumbledore shows fear and then laments some of his decisions in a protracted discussion with a very volatile Harry. While he maintains his calm and gracious demeanor, it is obvious that he blames himself for Sirius' death and his handling of Harry's prophecy. I learned something, too, from his point about youth and age. Youth, he said, cannot feel what it is like to be aged (since they have not experienced it), but age should remember what it is to be young. Dumbledore blamed himself for forgetting and acting only from the perspective of the elderly. I get it. I've forgotten already in so many ways...

I also admire Rowling's ability to produce angst. Harry's behavior at the end of five does not surprise me, except that her ability to capture disillusionment is so fine. When the heaviness of Harry's situation fully soaks in to him, he is no longer interested in trifles, but he also cannot for the most part enjoy simple joys that others might experience. This whole experience has a rather Frodo-esque feeling about it. The heaviness is almost unbearable.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Discussing Harry Potter

This summer Tara and I decided to read the Harry Potter series with Evan. He had been wanting to start them, and with all the controversy, it seemed like a good idea to provide parental guidance as we read.

So the standings are like this: I am in the middle of book 4, Tara just finished book 4, and I think Evan is somewhere in book 4. We have a rule applying to him that he can't go any more than one book ahead of us.

At least in the first four books, I really don't think these books are about witchcraft and wizardry. I think the wizard thing is a vehicle for introducing fantasy/amazing events into the stories. All the magic is certainly there, but it seems like it is substituted for ordinary methods, often to humorous effects. For example, Harry and his close friends take classes all day at Hogwarts, the boarding school for magical young people. J.K. Rowling's descriptions of classes, teachers, and the struggles of being a young student are very realistic and often very funny. They just take place over a boiling kettle of gloop in Potions class instead of over a beaker of slime in chemistry.

If I had concerns about the series, they could be summarized like this:

1) Harry and friends are always breaking rules for a perceived good reason. There certainly are good reasons to break rules, but life usually doesn't present them quite as often as these books do. This series gives young readers the idea that there's always a better route than following the rules, talking to the teacher, etc.

2) Harry Potter presents the use of magic as normal and healthy, which it is not, as we know from Scripture. If the magic is seen as fantasy, I doubt it will be a problem. If readers, however, are looking for special powers, then they could be tempted to seek a magical solution to their perceived weakness. In contrast, the Bible is huge on making sure that we seek our strengthening only through Christ, his word, his ways, and his authority.

Beyond that, I think she's a fantastic writer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting Ready For...

As I crunch down my cereal this morning, I am mostly thinking about things that we're getting ready for. Here are a few of them.

+We're getting ready for a new job today. Friendly Jim's (my painting and outdoor services company) finished a big house last Friday and we're on to something new today. This client asked for an installment plan -- they want to pay once a month until they're finished with the bill. I agreed that they could do this, but it will be interesting to see how it goes.

+ We're getting ready for an ice cream social at our house this Friday night. We want to get to know our neighbors a little better and to see where they are spiritually. If you are a believer in Christ, please pray with me for our event, that it would go well and lead where God wants it to lead.

+ We're getting ready to go on the road. I bought a travel trailer on Saturday from Auto Recyclers. It was made in 1963 but still seems to be roadworthy enough to get us out to experience more of Minnesota and maybe Iowa too. Who knows?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reflections on Early Summer

Yeah, I know it's not summer yet, but in Minnesota any day above sixty degrees is summer. Of course, today is only about fifty and rainy, but hey...

We finished up another school year about about two weeks ago. I had no students with incompletes and was delighted to turn in my paperwork and call an end to the year.

I praise God because he is providing business for us just as we have entered the summer cycle of our lives. In some ways summer is more relaxed and in other ways more stressful. It's like I know that I both need to rest and earn, so I can sometimes get torn between the two activities.

Tara took all the children and herself to the dentist last week, so that is where our extra money is headed. At least for now. ;-)

My dad came over this morning to help me install our new storm door on the front of the house. The last one was ripped when we came and a few weeks ago deposited its fibrous insides all over the front steps. That was a clear sign to replace it. So I bought a new SURVIVOR (tm) storm door and set about installing it.

We were doing well until we came to the direction that said "Peel the adhesive backing off the template and place it around the edge of the door 38 inches from the top." Grandpa and I looked and looked, but there was no template, and certainly not one with adhesive backing on it.

So will drilled the holes ourselves with no guide and great courage. And they basically turned out all right. Could have been better, no doubt, but better than no door at all.

We still have to install the hydraulic closer-thinger and the spring-thinger at the top, but we are well on our way to getting between the inside and the outside.

I am almost ready to start traveling greater Minnesota by van or RV or pull-behind camper or whatever. I want to see the places, do the work, and share the Word. It will be interesting if nothing else.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Great Stuff from Aidan

Maybe two days ago, Aidan came down to my room at 5:45 in the morning. I was on the verge of awake already but not really sure I wanted to get up. He tapped on the side of my bed and I looked at him. "Aidan, what are you doing up already?" I groaned.

He flashed me his brilliant Tater smile and said, "I'm up early so I can spend time with you. I just need some Daddy time!"

Well, you know I got up right away, don't you? Here my precious Tater was telling me that he was willing to get up way early just so he could spend time with me. He had gathered how rushed everything gets at the end of the year and wanted to make sure he got some time with me one way or another. I was touched.

There are some good applications here to make to our relationship with God. We need to seek out the special moments where we can have some "Daddy time" with God. Of course, it isn't God Who's too busy; we are. We get tied up working or playing or something in between. We often forget that Daddy time is what keeps us going strong and in the right direction. I expect that God feels somewhat like I did that early morning -- delighted that we are choosing to spend the time with him.

I learn a lot from Aidan, and I hope to learn more in the future. He is matter-of-fact, funny, and full of wisdom.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Windy Evening

It is windy tonight. I hope to sit outside later and listen to the wind in the trees. For now, I have grades to record.

It is beautiful here. My children love each other. Thank you, God.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bits of This

This evening we took Tara out for Mother's Day dinner. This is much smarter than going out for lunch on Mother's Day because you can actually get a table. We went to Baker's Square, but it was not as tasty as usual. Except for environs, I'm more inclined toward Denny's. The kids were oblivious and ate with abandon. I also ate with abandon, but my chicken primavera was not that good.

I created a new game for the children tonight. Do you remember the Wonder Twins? Wonder Twin powers... ACTIVATE! Form of... Shape of...! Our game begins with at least three participants -- Wonder Triplets, Wonder Quadruplets, etc. All say, "Wonder Triplets... Activate!" The first person leads out with "Form of...[something]." The next person has to come up with something related. The same with the third. Then they all have to be the things they shouted -- together -- at the same time. The audience gets to choose which player's choice shows the least continuity to the others. He then is voted off, and the game continues.

My kids liked it a lot.

I continue to work on my new Latin book for 5-6th graders. It will be called "Rudimentum Latinum" we think and it is due out sometime in July. I'm very excited for this opportunity and pray that the Lord uses it to bless students and enhance their learning.

There are now less than two weeks of school left. That means getting the last assignments of the year graded, end-of-the-year annual tasks, and final exams. This concludes my second year of teaching only Latin and my fourteenth year of teaching at Schaeffer Academy. It is also time to get summer business off the ground.

We are planning to have a garage sale next weekend. Come one, come all. We are out of space in the garage and shed, so some things will just have to go. There are no other options.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Manhood Must Have Been Easier Back Then

What did you do if you were a man 150 years ago? I suspect that you got up, grunted at your wife, fed the stock, and headed out to the fields. Maybe you fixed some machinery if it was a rainy day. By late morning, somebody probably brought lunch out to you. Then you got behind the team again, made a gutteral noise of some sort, and off you went. Good till dinner, which was also prepared for you. You might have made an effort to relate to your family, but we don't know that for sure.

Now let's talk about masculinity in 2009. First, you teach all your classes for the day, which includes everything from 5th grade to sophomores. You try to do creative things because it gives your students another reason to stay awake. But Friday is a heavy class day, and you have a headache by the end of it.

You sit down at the computer and cram lesson plans for an hour and a half or so. You know that your wife is going to Women's Retreat this weekend, and you will be the primary source of adultness for your many wonderful children. So you must get those lesson plans done efficiently. But a parent stops by and wants to learn Latin pronunciation. You teach her... you are, after all, glad that she wants to learn. A colleague calls your cell twice because he is trying to find the home of someone who just moved. It does not bother you. In fact, it is nice to be regarded as someone who would know how to get it found -- and quick.

The time evaporates. You must pick up your oldest son from Grandpa's house in time to pick up your other three children from a friend's home in distant southwest. You make it only a few minutes late, but it doesn't matter because they are all outside playing in the back yard. You load your children, bring them home, and feed them dinner. They all eat appropriately. There is essentially none left...enough for the cats to nibble some meat scraps, but that's it.

After supper you change your gear and then try to head outside. As you are loading the children in the trailer to go to the park, it is discovered that your daughter has soiled her diaper. You are not dismayed by this, because you are a thoroughly modern daddy in every sense and therefore can change diapers without undue strain. So you do. Your daughter finds herself a different pair of jeans to put on over the diaper. You marvel at this, as you could hardly be expected to recognize a pair of your own jeans, much less hers.

Later on, neighbor boys come over to play with yours. You are happy about this and aware that when these boys come over to play, you have opportunities to introduce Christ to them. You treasure these opportunities.

You eventually put all four of your children to bed and later you blog. Masculinity remix 2009. What a strange time in history.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Late Frost Surprises Gardener

On Saturday morning, before making pancakes for the children, I headed off to Walmart to get some plants and something else, though I cannot remember what. [Tara says it was Delsum, the amazingly expensive and amazingly effective cough syrup.] Toby and I found some very fine tomato plants and a few flowers and brought them home. Later in the day I worked aggressively and got about half of everything planted. I was pleased.

Back in my childhood, I remember hearing the date "April 15" as the one for beginning to plant in Minnesota. Southern Minnesota, of course, where I have lived for the vast majority of my life. Apparently April 15 is no longer a safe passage for this. Global warming, my nose hairs.

Going outside this morning, I noticed a rather thick layer of frost on my windshield. And on the tomato plants. The top two or three tiers of leaves were completely destroyed... frozen to death. The lowest layer, apparently too close to the soil, seems to have survived. The other flowers I think were pansies and did not sustain any damage. I guess pansies really aren't.

I sat in on a marvelous lit class today not taught by me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yanks Survive KY -- no attacks reported. Part 3

On Monday morning we woke up to find that we were in Kentucky... it's this whole other state. I think we got going slowly that day. During the morning hours, David got out one of his four tubas and we played a few duets with me on piano. The boys may have played out in the backyard somewhat, and the rest of us got acclimated and tried to figure out what to do. Eventually we settled on the Kentucky Horse Park, not too far from our home base in Georgetown.

It was immense and well-kept. It included a museum, something akin to a show area, stables, and innumerable other outbuildings for specific purposes. It was pleasant, but honestly, out of everything we visited, I liked the horse park the least. There seemed to be comparatively few horses on campus compared to the vast number of stables and stalls. We did get a chance to talk to a few of the groom/jockey/caretaker people, but that was about all.

I believe it was that evening that, upon our return to the Bubba's boyhood home, I inspected the tires again and noticed a large screw driven unceremoniously into the center of the driver's side back tire. It was releasing air at a pretty impressive rate. For the second time in two days, I grabbed Bubba and we headed to some form of car repair center. This time it was Goodyear, just a few blocks from David and Susan's home. We were very thankful to God that we did not have to replace another tire; this one just needed a patch for $14.50 and we were good to go. I know Roy the mechanic made up for the money he didn't charge us, because he was working on some vehicles for Everett's parents at the same time. He didn't let them get off for just $14.50. I guess we just got the Yankee discount.

By this time I was pretty spooked about driving anywhere at any time, know that we had to get this vehicle back to Minnesota, and also knowing that there were only two tires left that had not been affected by sharp road-going objects. What's a driver to do?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Yanks Survive KY -- no attacks reported. Part 2

On Sunday morning I started the day with a shower. While I was showering I became aware that it was dark in the bathroom. At first I thought one of my children had turned off the bathroom light, but I soon came to discover that the electricity had gone out. A horizontal snowstorm in Chicago will do that.

Still we successfully went to church at Everett's church. I was a little groggy but the sermon was about sexual immorality... an interesting combination. The kids reported liking church there... the younger ones had lots of toys available, apparently.

The power came back on and we lunched at the apartment, then packed and set out for Kentucky. As we proceeded south, the weather became less slushy and a bit warmer. The drive through Chicago in the daytime was absolutely amazing. Between the skyline, the immensity of the city, and the many ancient houses crowded next to one another, I was awestruck. I wonder what sort of sewer system serves that community...

Just a little way into Indiana, we hit traffic. We wasted more than an hour doing between zero and 12 miles per hour. Eventually we came out of the traffic and were able to enjoy the Indiana countryside at a more reasonable pace. I discovered that I really like Indiana. Previously I had thought of it as an "also ran" sort of place, but it was very homey and all the people we met were gracious and hospitable. I particularly liked the small farms that dotted the Indiana landscape along the interstate. I'm sure life on them isn't quite as romantic as it appears from the highway, but still it does appear that way. And I have no facts to contradict my impressions. The farms were small, the houses were small, the barns were small. Somehow they must have managed to survive in the midst of all that small.

It was getting on toward nightfall when we hit the Kentucky border. The interstate seemed narrow in places, and I paid the best attention I could to the road and asked God to keep us safe. And He did. We arrived at David and Susan's I think a little before 11:00 Sunday night. It only took a few minutes to get the children situated. We chatted a bit and then fell into bed ourselves.

Stay tuned for Part III, hopefully within a few days before I forget everything that happened!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Yanks Survive KY -- no attacks reported. Part 1

We decided to go to Kentucky for Spring Break.

It took a bit of convincing to get my wife to sign on to this idea. We would be taking my best good college friend Everett "Bubba" with us and staying at his parents' home in KY. She knows Bubba pretty well, but had never met his parents. Moreover, we'd have our four precious offspring with us... in someone else's house... for several days!!

We set out uneventfully and in the late afternoon arrived at Everett's apartment in Chicagoland. It was then that I noticed a hissing hole in the driver's front tire. We sprang into action down to National Tire and Battery, getting it dealt with before it went flat on us. The tire was $65, but somehow the labor brought it up to $107 for their 20 minutes of effort. Please.

We all stayed over at Everett's that night, which was just short of impossible ("The difficult we do first; the impossible takes a little longer."). We had all four children packed into Bubba's bedroom and then Tara and I and Everett were sleeping on couch and fouton in the main living area. That is, until Bubba started snoring. He produces an impressive vibration, and even with earplugs, I was not able to ignore the snore. So I packed up my blankets and headed into the bedroom, which, remember, is already occupied by my four children. I picked the only remaining patch of floor and settled down on a mat. I remained asleep until about 2:00 a.m. when Aidan fell out of the bed and onto... me!! Yes, I was sleeping right below the side of the bed, and Aidan is good at falling out of things. There wasn't really room for him on the floor, so I heaved him back up into the bed and returned to sleeping until 5:30, when HE FELL ON ME AGAIN!. Yes, fans, he really did. Vacation sleep. Whatever.

It just gets better from here. Stay tuned for the next installment of "Yanks Survive Kentucky".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I Don't Blog Much Anymore

There was a time when I was very excited about blogging. Tara and I, between us, read several blogs per day and then discussed the contents with each other. It grew our marriage, you know.

Mostly I am not blogging right now (well, I am blogging right now, but you understand) because I have been dabbling in a friend's life who needs my help (and your help) and especially just God to work a few miracles. Since that has been heavy on my heart, and I can't really broadcast his struggles across the internet, I can't write about it.

Also I have discovered Facebook and been amazed to see how many people's lives I can now either observe or affect through this strange form of friendship.

I continue to work on my curriculum. Jason and Ashley met with me for lunch today, and we outlined our plan for the rest of the spring. It is going well so far.

Finally, it is the end of the quarter. Need I say more???

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Iron This One Out!

So we got our tax refund and have been busy stimulating the economy. My wife declared that one thing we needed was a new iron. Our last one I got "off a dead guy". (In my summer business, sometimes a job entails cleaning out a dead person's estate, and I often get to keep some of their possessions as part of the deal.) It is a nice iron, but of late it has begun leaking profusely while you are trying to iron. So I said, "Sure, go get one."

She brought home a lovely box with a picture of an iron on it. I opened the box. Sure enough, there was an iron inside. With retractable cord. Cool. But then I noticed some scratches on the face plate. Strange. I investigated a little further. There were calcium deposits inside the steam vents. I was a little disgusted, but I figured, oh well. Someone must have tried it out and then brought it back.

I plugged it in and nothing happened. This was disheartening. It was then that I noticed the brand of the iron was "Panasonic" and the box said "GE". Some dishonorable sap had apparently purchased a new GE iron, switched the irons, and then returned their damaged one in the new box and gotten their money back. Deceptive but effective.

Then I imagined going back to Wal-Mart and convincing them that I wasn't the one who switched the irons. How humiliating!

Well, my wife did the dirty work and she reports that no questions were asked. I guess it would take a lot of talent to concoct that scheme and then act like the one who's been swindled.

Stuff like this makes you pine for the good old days, whatever they were!!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pancake Party

Well, I've been limited lately in what I find to write about. Partly that is because I have discovered Facebook, which takes some time and divides my interests. Partly I have also been writing a Latin curriculum for 5-6th graders and that takes some time also. Also, I can imagine that you don't want to read every gory detail of how each unit comes together. I might be immersed in that kind of stuff, but you don't have to be!

A few fun things have happened. One is the next installment in the little almost-restaurant that I blogged about previously. The owner, Helen, called about a week ago and invited us to come and have a pancake with her on one day that week. We chose Wednesday and arrived at her place around 6:45. There were already two other patrons there, a retired Spanish teacher and an older lady. Helen instructed everyone to introduce themselves and we got started.

I got my pancake first. It was a full-plate-sized creation and absolutely delicious. I was just digging in when Evan's arrived. Helen had made Evan the same pancake, except she used M&Ms and butter to make a face on his. He was delighted! Evan also had coffee with his pancake. Not a coffee drinker myself, I had water.

As we were eating, more breakfasters wandered in. There were eight of us that Helen fed that morning. I learned a few days later that our hostess had her 90th birthday last summer! It seemed almost inappropriate to be served breakfast by a 90-year-old woman, but I guess she's been doing it 60 years, and a few more times wouldn't hurt.

They said we could come back next Wednesday. Evan absolutely loved the experience, and I really enjoyed the sense of community, even though I don't yet know these people too well. I'm hopeful for a rebirth of community in our "neighborhood". Real community is centered in Christ, and I am anxious to see if He will allow some growth in our lives in that area.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wrong Boy

I usually get Evan up for school around 6:30 in the morning. My method is to yank the blankets off him, which causes him to stir and then arise. [Evan comments here that he hates that method; he would prefer to be shaken gently.]

Usually he stumbles into the bathroom and we don't see him again for several minutes. This morning I didn't see where he went, so I went about the business of getting my breakfast. A few minutes later I wandered into the living room to see what Evan was up to, and a saw a small boy covered with a blanket on the couch. Only the feet were sticking out. Thinking he had attempted to go back to sleep, I snatched the blanket off in one swift motion. However, it wasn't Evan. It was Aidan, who had come down about 5:00 a.m., snuggled into bed with me, been booted out of bed by his mother, and then curled up on the couch after his eviction.

He didn't quite wake up, but it gave me quite a surprise to find that Evan was in the bathroom as usual and I had almost lambasted Tater thinking he was Evan!

A few posts ago I mentioned visiting the Old Woman Who Makes Sourdough Pancakes. She called this evening to say that she hasn't forgotten about us. This coming Wednesday Evan and I are invited for pancakes at her tiny restaurant (you can only eat there by invitation, I guess). I'm glad that we'll have this opportunity; it feels just the slightest bit like community or neighborliness.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sunny Saturday

I woke up early this morning but didn't feel very well. That makes about three weeks straight of various, moderate illnesses that don't keep me home from work, but also don't make me feel sharp and able to make an impact on the universe.

I made pancakes for my family this morning. I usually do that on Saturday mornings. Then my adult children will be able to say, "Dad always made pancakes for us on Saturday mornings."

Tara left a little after breakfast to buy some stuff and then go to a tea party over lunch. Yes, all the children are home with me. I've moved the legos to the living room so I can watch people building.
I've also thought about what to make for lunch, but I will have to go do that soon.

I am reading _The Fellowship of the Ring_ in my spare moments.

I am also catching up with lots of long-lost friends on Facebook. It really works!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tara Teaches...Latin and Mathematics???

Anita was sick today, and Tara has her name on the sub list, so after some phone calls and childcare gymnastics, she was free to take Anita's classes.

So Tara has been telling people all day on Facebook and whatever that she taught pre-calculus today, and Latin. Sounds educated, doesn't it? Now, I don't know how much actual teaching went on, but I'm very sure that there was decent order in the classes. Better than most, I know Mrs. K.

On to more interesting subjects... like me! Evan and Aidan and I distributed more (belated) Christmas treats in our neighborhood on Sunday afternoon. Two owners were not home, we had a brief conversation at another place with a young family, and then we came to Lowell and Betty's place. Betty came out to meet us, and the beginning of the conversation was a delight:

Me: Hi, I'm Jim, and this is my son Evan, and my son Aidan. We just moved in.

Betty: Oh, which house did you move into?

Me: The little gray one just over there.

Betty: Oh, my! I'll have to go get my husband! He's been waiting to meet you.

Me: (gulp)

Betty: He saw your tractor. He loves tractors. He notices every time you move it and tells me about it.

So we had a marvelous conversation once Lowell came out. He has a John Deere A or something , and he is very proud of it. Even went back in and got a picture of it to show me.

It's interesting to speculate about what ministry will look like down here.

I turned over the first three units of my new curriculum to one of my sophomores today. J----- is going to serve as project editor; A------ is going to write the historical readings that are to be interspersed with the grammar and vocabulary lessons.

We have much to be thankful for. Soli Deo Gloria.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why I Wear Vests

Once I was young. I wore shirts and sweaters. During my first few years of teaching, I noticed that if you get to teaching with energy, a sweater will get too warm. If you're sitting at your desk correcting papers, a shirt by itself will get too cold. The demands of teaching don't leave a lot of time for temperature change.

So I wear vests. I suppose they seem old-mannish and unfashionable, but they handle the temperature factor just perfectly, allowing me to be comfortably warm almost all the time. They also reduce the need for a tie. I am not opposed to wearing a tie, but it does take time to choose one that coordinates and then tie it correctly. And time always seems to be at a premium.

Two of my sophomore students have agreed to help me with the curriculum I'm writing. Since they are just as good at Latin as I am, it is a nice arrangement.

Three fifth graders continue to come at lunch on Thursday to work on Latin enrichment stuff. It's kind of like Math Masters.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another Cause of the Financial Meltdown

I went to the bank after school today. I usually go on Tuesdays before tutoring, but I was in a hurry yesterday and so I waited until today. Since my Wednesday schedule is different from the Tuesday, I also went to a different bank branch.

The teller I got, though some brand of African native, spoke English surprisingly well and provided very responsive service. After we finished my transactions, she asked eagerly if I had a credit card. I told her that I did not, since as a matter of something like principle I don't use credit cards. In fact, I have never had one.

She went on to tell me that there was a very good credit card offer waiting for me, which would give me 9 months of zero percent interest! She said I should certainly think about getting one.

Now this is disastrous for at least three reasons:

1) Wells Fargo knows that a credit card will benefit only a tiny percentage of their customers, yet they offer one to anyone who can even remotely be considered solvent.

2) Wafa (the teller) has no idea that she is participating in the financial enslavement of her customers.

3) The U.S. economy is where it is largely because people are in the habit of spending what they have not yet earned -- borrowing from tomorrow to play today.

So I listened politely and then told Wafa that I didn't think I wanted a credit card today. And I went away burdened for the many people who will think that they're receiving a compliment and sign up for that credit card right away.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Evan Seeks Employment

You know you have an 8-year-old when... he goes out looking for a job? Let me tell you the story.

As many of you know, we moved last November and are now situated off Marion Road, quite a ways from town. About a half mile before our turn, there is a tiny, dilapidated restaurant called "The Grill". It does not seem to have regular hours, but the lights are often on early in the morning. So one morning, a Saturday, Evan and I stopped in to see what it was all about. The lights were off, but the door was open. Inside, we found one of the oldest people in the state, a bent-0ver old woman with train tracks all over her face and a very hunched back. She was accompanied by another elderly woman sitting in a booth.

It turns out that the first woman and her husband founded the restaurant in the late 1940s. Of course, he, being a man, went off and died, leaving her with these buildings and the restaurant. I don't know how long she carried on in the regular way, but now she uses the extra buildings as rental storage and cooks sourdough pancakes to be ready on weekday mornings for a pack of retired teachers. She said she could not make any more pancakes because she doesn't have the strength to do more than one batch of batter.

So Evan had been thinking about this. A few days later, he asked if he could go back and ask the old woman if he could help her. He figured that he would mix the batter and then she'd be able to make two, or three, of however many batches she wanted. We tried to stall him, thinking maybe he'd forget, but he didn't. He kept after the point. So yesterday I drove him back to The Grill and made him go in by himself. His deal, after all.

He was probably inside for five minutes -- long enough for Daddy to wonder if I shouldn't go in and see what was happening. But finally he emerged.

"She said no, Dad. And then she told me why she had to say no. Something about how you make sourdough pancakes. She just went on and on. It was really boring."

Well, of course I was very proud of Evan for seeing a need and trying to help. He didn't really even want any money. He just thought that maybe he could help an old lady who was trying to keep the last shreds of her restaurant alive.

If you need any help...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spewing Paperwork

Whoa. I haven't been this swamped since I taught English. Semester grading... seems like every single class I teach got tested within the last two weeks.

I'll be back to blogging when I get some energy or passion for anything. Right now I feel like the living dead.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Yes, it was an historic occasion. I am delighted to see a black man attain the highest office in America. He is to be congratulated for running a great campaign and capitalizing on the disasters of our nation's recent past.

Yes, some things will be different in Washington. Heaven only knows how different.

Yes, Rick Warren was probably as clear as he was allowed to be in his honoring Jesus. Apparently "Isa" is a muslim version of Jesus and therefore not honoring to the biblical Jesus. However, the tolerance police probably would have demonstrated their intolerance had he prayed any more Christianly.

So, no, he probably shouldn't have accepted the opportunity. It muddles his true beliefs with syncretism.

Yes, I was amused and touched by the Rev. Dr. Real Short Black Guy who gave the benediction. He was humorous, a little down on white people, and obviously a character. However, he also demonstrated that he didn't truly know to whom he was praying. As he is an old man, I'm confident that Almighty God, the King of Glory, will make that abundantly clear to him in just a few short years. Something about not sharing His glory with another or His praise with idols. Still true.

Yes, it will be fun to have children in the White House again. I wish the girls the very best growing up under media scrutiny and the heaviness of their daddy's job.

No, Mr. Obama probably will not lead the nation in the right direction. Big government, social liberalism, and societal meltdown, here we come.

Maybe we shouldn't call it the White House anymore...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Odd Thing About It...

Blogging Time. I'll think I'll give an update on the many, many pieces of my life.

Last Thursday I took a friend out for lunch. During lunch Evan and I found out that our friend hasn't had enough money to buy proper groceries. Mindful of James 2, we started to figure out how we could help. I made an appeal at a men's breakfast and a brief comment later, which so far has brought in over $400 to help him. If you'd like to join us in this effort, just get together with me sometime in e-mail or person. The Lord is good and He will provide for the needs of His children.


Evan and I have also been playing Monopoly again. This is bad because Evan beats me virtually every time we play. However, we play in the evening, so if I'm really discouraged, I just declare it bedtime and we end the game! Last time Evan called me on it, and I said, "Yep, you've already whupped me pretty thoroughly; it's just a matter of the next hour for you to finish me off. So we're going to skip to the death scene."


We had Jayson and Christi over for dinner tonight with their kids. Two large families together requires a lot of table space, so we put two tables in the dining room and lined everyone up. It was a lot of fun and a blessing to see different childrens' approaches to the world.

After they went home, we were cleaning up Aidan and Toby's room when suddenly Aidan went over to his bed, pulled out a broken mini-blind, and said, "Here, I broke this."

Since I was in a pretty relaxed mood (and somewhat tired) I didn't start yelling or any of the other bad parenting behaviors that certainly could happen in a situation like that. I just sat down on his mattress with him and started asking questions.

Me: Aidan, how did it break?

Aidan: Well, I was just pulling on it a lot and then it came down.

Me: Did you not know how to use it?

Aidan: I know how to use the curtains in your room.

Me: The curtains or the blind?

Aidan: The blind. I just know how to use it.

Me: Maybe when we get you a new one, I'll teach you how to use it.

Aidan: I don't think you should get me a new one.

Me: Why not?

Aidan: (sad face) I'm just like a cat with strings. (accompanied by hand motions similar to a cat's paw batting at the strings of a blind.

Me: Oh. I get it.


The boys and I went tractor-sledding yesterday again. That is absolutely the best winter sport. The guys love it. Evan and I went all the way from our house to [insert local radio station name here] on one of our runs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Renewed Sense of Zeal for Ministry

Sometimes when Kevin goes out of town, I get a chance to preach at our church. Since 2006 I think I've had a shot from the pulpit maybe 1-2 times per year. Most recently I delivered a message on December 28th, 2008. It was an encouragement to approach 2009 as an opportunity to build with God. I finally had the courage to review it online tonight and was happy about what I had said. I didn't say anything too stupid, and I agreed with all the applications! You can listen to my sermon here.

Since this speaking opportunity didn't turn into a memorable disaster, and since I actually enjoy preaching (and since I have a passion for spreading the God's word, God's ways, and God's hope in this world) I've often thought about (logistically) how I could do more preaching. Would that mean going back to school for some kind of seminary degree? Seeing if some congregation somewhere would be interested in me as I am? Serving as a lay minister in a situation where a vocational pastor was unavailable? As you can see, there are more questions than answers in this paragraph.

I think one of the most frustrating things in life is what I learned in econ class to call the "opportunity cost". Essentially, if I do one thing, I have to give up something else because there just won't be time to do them all. For example, I would find it interesting to be a vocational pastor, a missionary in Bible translation, an author, a business owner (I've thought about owning bookstores, restaurants, hotels, B&B's, anything where I vaguely understand the business), a counselor, and a traveling, seminar-giving speaker. For all of these choices I have different specific motivations, but for most of them, the delight is getting the worship of God and the reality of the gospel in front of as many people as possible.

Also at the heart of this internal discussion is the fact that I like my current job and have spent many years building the infrastructure that makes my workload manageable.


Evan is into looking for "Christian Worldviews" (as he puts it) in any movies he watches or books that he reads. Sometimes I can't believe how blessed I am as a parent to have children like these who really listen to what you tell them and then try to apply it as quickly as possible. A word of qualification... Evan's not a sophisticated literary analyst yet, and so some of his read-into-the-text attempts seem hokey, but he was able to discern for himself the scene at the beginning of LoTR II where Gandalf is taken by the monster and disappears into the flaming abyss. He perceived Gandalf as a type of Christ in his "death" and descent into "hell". When he reappears, he is clothed in light: no longer Gandalf the Grey, he is Gandalf the White who has triumphed over his enemy. Evan easily recognized the majesty of Jesus pictured through these cinematic masterpieces.

Aidan asked this evening if I would teach him Latin words and if I would please read to him from his Bible. What problems to face!

Toby's wound continues to be... wound-y. He has another appointment tomorrow in which we will see if he has made any progress. Please continue to pray for Toby.

Avery is becoming remarkable in her own way. She understands a lot of what we say and is picking up some mothering traits from Tara (or maybe just instinct...). For example, she heard me talking this morning about not being able to find my gloves or my ear brassiere. She toddled into another room, picked up two non-matching gloves, and brought them to me. Last night when she thought dinner was ready, she planted herself at the top of the basement stairs and yelled, "Boys! Table!" over and over again. Now, she's not that articulate and they aren't that moved by someone babbling at them from the stairs, but Tara and I understood perfectly and were just delighted.

Well, back to school tomorrow morning. Finals start on Wednesday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

End of the Day

I taught some classes today.

I corrected lots of papers.

I talked to students.

I listened in chapel.

I would like to write a Latin curriculum.

I have nothing more to say.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Record and Scraper-Breaking Ice

Every few years some kind soul takes pity on me and my miniscule salary and gives me a car. For the past few times it has been my friend Phil. This is ironic because he earns about the same amount that I do. But I digress.

Phil's latest offering was a 1992 Toyota Corolla (he just doesn't like the messiness of selling old cars). Having been raised in a world that melded pastors in black robes and foraging through other people's garbage, I happily accepted. I have been driving it for a little over a year now, and it's not very pretty. The incidents with the skunk and the deer didn't help.

Though we have a two-car garage, I'm not very good at putting all the vehicles inside (refer to upbringing). So when the ice storm hit on Saturday, my Corolla was parked stolidly in the driveway. I had no need to use it on Sunday since I was busy giving the CHEX TALK and trying frantically to grade papers and do lesson plans before school this morning. On Monday morning, I was stunned to discover a layer of ice at least a quarter inch thick welded to the windshield. Evan and I worked at it, but we only succeeded in breaking two scrapers. I stumbled back into the garage in search of better things.

And I found them. Chisels! With chisels in hand, I returned to my ice-sculptured vehicle and began...uh... chiseling away at the ice layer. When I pulled out this morning, there was a 10"x15" aperture on the driver's lower corner of the window. Unsafe? Probably. But I am a persistent little bugger, and the prospect of giving up and switching to Tara's van didn't appeal to me.

We parked in the south parking lot, facing south.

After my fifth grade class today, one young lady (initial "A") came back with a sheet of paper and a question. "Mr. Kluth, I made up a Latin sentence and I wonder if I did it right."

Her sentence said: Avus longus in Europa hiemo.
Now, I'm sure that if her Latin had been accurate, you'd be able to translate. But it wasn't, so I don't fault you at all.

So I began to translate: "The long grandfather...?" I looked at her in amused confusion.

"No, I wanted it to say, 'The grandfather longs to spend the winter in Europe.'"

[This is where you imagine our conversation where I help A differentiate between long as in "not short" and long as in "desire". We were pretty much out of time, so I just grabbed the pencil and wrote:

Avus in Europa hiemare desiderat. (You'll have to imagine a macron over the final "a" in Europa.)

"Oh," she said, in that way you say "oh" when you realize that you don't know how to get where you'd like to go.

Then she tried for a new path. "You know that thing L comes to with you? Is that just for her?"

(See one of my previous posts for context: one of A's classmates sacrifices her recess every Thursday because she wants to learn all about Latin and how to use it as soon as she possibly can.)

So I say, "The only reason L gets to do extra Latin is because she asked. If you want to be a part of that, you probably could, too."

It appears that I may be able to develop another little Latin nerd in the days ahead.

When I left school for the day, the sun was shining and the ice layer had completely vanished.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Everything You Wanted to Know about Chex

So I went to bed with a stomachache last night and didn't sleep a whole lot. I didn't become badly ill, but some wussy virus attacked me, leaving a headache and strange elimination. I suppose you don't need details of that.

After church we got into something of a discussion about marriage, and I told Evan that if he wanted me to, I would teach him about marriage and related matters. So I was correcting papers in my office around 2:00 and he came in and said, "OK, Dad, you were going to teach me about marriage?"

So we went to his room, flopped down on the bed, and I asked him if he had ever wondered where babies come from. And he said, "Oh, I know about that already."

So I said, "How do you make a baby?"

And he explained in pretty correct detail the female side: ovary, egg, tube, uterus, baby. (Apparently I'd explained this in good detail right after Tara had her tubes tied.) He just didn't realize that Daddies had anything to do with the process. So I asked, "So where does the daddy come in?"

And he looked at me very strangely. And then I explained to him exactly how the daddy is involved in making the baby. After making a face, he said, "Do you have to do that every time you want a baby?"

I explained that it wasn't quite as much of a trial as he perhaps thought it was.
Evan asked a few more very funny things as well, things that you just wouldn't think of if you'd been biologically aware for say, more than 20 years.

But they were great questions and a great discussion. And I explained that God only wants you to do this activity with the person to whom you are married. And then he asked, "So how did [unmarried person Jane Doe] get her babies?"

I almost swallowed my tongue.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Surprise Visitor

Like most people, I went to high school. Like most people, I've done my best to forget about high school. And then, wouldn't you know, a friend of mine from high school called about 11:00 this morning and said that he was in town.

I was at Walmart South, and he was at Best Buy. I asked if he needed directions, and he said he had the GPS, which made me think of minivan in Cars that told the cars of Radiator Springs, "Don't need a map. Got the GPS... never need a map again." Of course, Terry, being a farm boy from north of the Cities, doesn't have a minivan but rather a 2007 Ford F-1000000 or whatever the number is. Actually, it's probably an F-350, but I didn't look.

So Terry stayed for lunch, told us all his stories from the past few years (we haven't seen him for 10) and then helped us move some mattresses between our house and Grandpa's. Tara would like me to say that she stretched some potato soup so that it fed another eight people for lunch today after it fed eight for supper last night.

I would like to say that it was good to see Terry, and that some of us will probably make a visit to his Wisconsin farm sometime this winter or spring. We'll just have to see where it fits in.

Evan is now reading The City of Ember.