The day after our camping trip Royal tripped and smashed his forehead into a wall corner, knocking a gouge almost a half-inch long into his forehead. Blood everywhere. Shouting, cursing, and crying galore.
Gratefully we were able to get Royal in to see his regular doctor instead of the ER. It was a simple steri-strip and glue job. It took awhile for the adrenaline to run down.
Graham’s birthday party was a space theme this year. We held it at a nearby park. So many people showed up. Comically, I don’t have many pictures of the birthday boy himself. He spent most of the time playing far from the action.
We were amazed to discover that a friend of Amie’s, Jim Walker, from her days in Pittsburgh was riding the bus to Crazy Horse Memorial with us! He’s suffered terribly in the intervening years since the Hot Metal church plant, but Holy Spirit sent Amie and I to encourage him that his work has not been in vain.
For Graham’s birthday he and I went on our first camping trip together!
We set up the tent, explored the area, started a campfire, and roasted hot dogs and s’mores. Graham was so excited the first night that he couldn’t stop moving until nearly nine o’clock.
Since we had to reserve at least two nights, we picked up Amie and Royal and all of us stayed overnight for the second evening.
Graham had to work through some feelings when we arrived back at the campsite with Amie and Royal. He was happy that Royal was there, but also disappointed that he no longer enjoyed the woods undisturbed. But he and Royal got through it and had a glorious time pretending to be pterodactyls.
My friends Tommy, Gerry, Kim and Jennifer dropped in at the campsite. They’re in the Black Hills looking for a plot of land to bootstrap a retreat center. So glad we could visit with them!
Not long after the boys were put to bed it began to rain. Amie and I sat in the car to chat, but when we went to our tents I discovered Royal fast asleep on an island in the center of a pool of rainwater. I was ready to call it quits but Amie suggested we could fit into the two-person with she and Graham. So that’s what we did, though I joked that I’ll have more room in my coffin.
In spite of the tight squeeze and being cold, both boys thought the camping trip was spectacular and can’t wait to go again.
I’ve been on an unscheduled hiatus in May. We began to host visitors and I was battling some discouragement from some ministry opportunities that may be delayed. I’ll catch you up on the highlights soon!
My energy levels have been low for almost two weeks now. The same amount of time we’ve been assaulted by #allergies. Whether it’s the allergies or the allergy medication, it’s not great. We have about three months a year without allergy symptoms, January through March, and then it’s back to it. Ugh.
The term ‘accountability’ is frequently thrown around Christian circles. It fills me with unease because I think of it as giving another authority to punish me for failure. Which is why Dr. Cruickshank’s definition in her book, Ordinary Discipleship, is so helpful to me.
“But accountability is merely the ability to ask for an account of [my] actions.” (pg 143)
Just hours before our neighbors were coming over for tacos and fellowship they came down with a violent illness. We ran the tacos over to them anyways, but I’m annoyed when it seems our adversary has gotten the upper hand. The spiteful, petty resistance is wearisome.
It reminds me of the behavior of the Unman in C.S. Lewis' Perelandra.
“What chilled and almost cowed him was the union of malice with something nearly childish… this petty, indefatigable nagging…”
I was stoked when a #missionary family presented their call at #church yesterday. I went up to the husband afterward with hopes of learning from him about their successes/failures in their work in Rapid City (before they’ve moved to another country).
My hope sank level-by-level as I realized that he had no framework for #MakingDisciples and a view of #evangelism in the “build it and they will come” mentality 😭.
I’m grateful for the music of #CommonHymnal and #MaverickCityMusic.
The Praise & Protest album strikes at the heart of so much struggle in the U.S. for #truth and #justice (It’s been my demolition music-one needs to break something when listening). Kingdom Book One is a triumphant reprieve in the struggle for justice through remembrance of the live and victory through Jesus the Christ.
This is the most rational and persuasive plea to read the Bible I’ve ever read. My favorite quote:
“…the majority of [Christians] aren’t actually familiar with what the Bible says. Too many use the Bible as a self-help book that they read whenever they need a pick-me-up, while others use it mainly as a tool to manipulate others or make more money.”
I mentioned yesterday how happy I was using native #html, #css and #WebComponents to create a web interface for a service at work. Here’s my write-up of the project for those interested in more detail.
I was explaining prompt engineering to Amie yesterday by sharing that AI can be trained to generate representations of character dialog, say Bart Simpson for example.
Instead of getting into the mind of Bart and writing all the new dialog for another episode, a writer could instead dialog with an AI to hone it’s impersonation of a character. Teach it to BE Bart Simpson.
I think a lot of the creativity remains, but now via computer dialog. And you move on to a new character.
For my part this actually sounds like a lot of fun. Instead of inventing lines for one scene of dialog in the next episode of The Next Best Thing™️, you could chat with the computer to fill out the character’s personality and history, give it the scenario, and let it generate the dialog.
“Hmmm, that’s not quite right, computer. Sorry, I mean Sonny. You’re skeptical about Fred because he stole that pencil from you in the 3rd grade. You know, before your parents moved to Seattle.”
May it always draw my wonder and devotion that the rightful King of Creation uses his eternal authority to adopt and restore me, a privileged descendant of racists. Like a colonizing Roman centurion among Israel, I have no right to share in the blessing of Abraham and the children of the oppressed. But his mercy extends, scandalously, even to me. And now my life is not my own, but for him and his kingdom.
Until his victory over death is realized among every nation and community!
“A mark of maturity is surrendering to the person you actually are instead of the one you wish you were… Hate to break it to you, but the vision you’ve always had for your future won’t come true because that vision was predicated on the person you wish you were, not the person you actually are.”
For my 35th birthday Amie planned a three-day trip to Bighorn National Forest, about three hours west of us in Wyoming. The two of us haven’t been away on a trip together without the kiddos since Graham was born; five years! But just two days before our departure there was a severe storm warning all across Bighorn with a no-travel recommendation. Oh no!
Together we tossed together a local itinerary. First, a restful day in Rapid with a downtown hotel. Next some hiking and a lodge in the Black Hills. Lastly, an adventurous day skiing at a local ski mountain.
The morning was a rush to prepare for the trip. I hadn’t anticipated how much there’d be to do and was a bit grumpy. We did want to prepare everything well for Amie’s mom to watch the kids for the whole three days.
When at last we departed, Amie and I had the space to reconnect outside Harriet & Oak before getting coffee and brunch. This was one of many, many times I was grateful to be her husband. What a gift!
After delicious acai bowls and a pour-over, we walked down to the Alex Johnson for check-in. On our way we met a homeless man named Collin and his son-in-law Matthew Arapahoe. We walked them to a Starbucks for a little coffee and food. I have not yet called the number, but Collin gave me his daughter Heather’s phone number so I could help him get a state ID. We left Collin somewhat disappointed (he also wanted cash) and walked next door to check in.
Before we departed for Crazy Horse Memorial we visited a couple shops downtown. A spice shop that was more professional than most we’ve seen and a cookie shop where we split an oatmeal raisin cookie.
I joked on the way that, given the choice between visiting Rushmore or Crazy Horse, I’d choose Crazy Horse every time. I hadn’t been to either yet. But I did not expect what I found.
The granite carving is epic. It’s the largest carved statue in the world. But I thought that was all we were there to see. Instead I discovered that the statue is actually only the beginning of the vision of Chief Henry Standing Bear and Korczak Ziolkowski. They set out to create an entire campus, with a university, a hospital, and an airstrip, that would serve the Lakota people and preserve their heritage. From early on it was clear to Korczak that he wouldn’t see the work finished, but he and his wife Ruth laid the foundation for the entire project, even if it takes multiple centuries. He didn’t even get to see the face completed, but so great was his sense of honor to build a memorial for an entire people that he turned down more lucrative work elsewhere and ran two other businesses to fund the early years.
There's more that I could say, but you should go visit yourself. I plan to visit again this summer if you'd like to join me. It is a glimpse of the Kingdom, to see the peoples of this land honored as divine images and the generosity of spirit that created a memorial to remember their heroes without disparaging the colonists who invaded them.
We stayed at Crazy Horse until it closed, then drove ten minutes to Custer. It was a surreal experience shifting from a memorial honoring the Lakota tribe to a town honoring the U.S. colonel who attacked them. But that’s not why we came to Custer; we came for the food.
Amie had discovered Skogen Kitchen, a restaurant in the last series of nominations for a James Beard award. It’s easily the best restaurant in all of South Dakota. Somehow we’d gotten a reservation the day before–there were only about eight tables and none sat empty–and we were treated to a lovely meal. Amie’s favorite part was the espresso with a little sugar and a sliver of lemon peel.
We slept in and had a quiet brunch at a local Australian coffee shop, then headed into the Black Hills. This time north since we were staying at Spearfish Canyon Lodge at the north end of the Black Hills.
We’d planned to go for a hike longer hike when we arrived but the weather became foggy and the snow piled up as we gained elevation. We chose to check in at the lodge early instead, but not before we stopped to enjoy the quiet snowfall.
After we checked into the lodge we found a shorter hike near the lodge. To Amie’s surprise there was a beautiful waterfall she didn’t even know existed!
When we returned to the lodge we noticed that a few more people had arrived. Wanting to have the hot tub to ourselves, we jumped in our swimsuits and headed to the outer deck. It’s exhilarating to walk onto a snowy deck in 20℉ weather with nothing but a swimsuit.
The warm soak made us hungry so we went straight to an early dinner after. Then it was time to break out my birthday present; a new board game called Sleeping Gods.
After our second relaxing day it was time for adventure. To the ski slopes!
Neither of us have been skiing in twenty years and we were nervous. After we picked up brunch at a coffee shop in Lead, we headed over to get our ski rentals. It took less than ten minutes to get fitted and head to Terry Peak.
We started on the bunny hill and I thought for sure that I’d fall on my face. But we managed to get to the bottom without incident and the memories were flooding back. Overjoyed to be outside in the beauty and the exhilaration of skiing, I said “let’s go to the top!”
By the time we’d made it all the way down the mountain, I felt like no time had passed since I’d donned skis. Amie gave me several tips to improve my atrocious form and I was ready to move up to blue runs.
I’d thought we wouldn’t endure the full four hours until the lifts closed, but that’s exactly what we did. It was a perfect amount of time, there were almost no others on the slopes, and we had a spectacular time. I did crash once, but I was moving slowly and it was comical.
My birthday was the best staycation of all time. How I needed to get away with Amie for a few days of rest and adventure.
Here are a few highlights from Royal’s birthday celebration last Saturday.
In the morning Royal opened our gift. Our gift philosophy tends towards longevity and versatility. Royal’s imagination has exploded in the last three months and we wanted to either get him a dollhouse or a cooking station. We ended up with the dollhouse because I thought it’d be more fun for we adults 😜.
The family get-together was lunch at Texas Roadhouse. I’m reminded yet again that the “traditional” celebrations are not fun. It was good to see the family, but Amie and I would have been much less stressed out if we’d just had everyone over for lunch. I probably won’t succeed every time, but I’m considering boycotting all restaurant gatherings for the next five years.
The day was bitterly cold so we opted for the indoor dinosaur museum over the outdoor air and space museum. The boys flew through all fifty dinosaur models in fifteen minutes, but they spent a long time in a tiny mirror maze at the end of the tour. It was especially nice that the grandparents were there to share watching them.
It was a busy day, with so many out of the ordinary events. The boys and I were all grateful to go hiking the next morning on a familiar trail for a nature reset.
Lastly, here’s an amazing, hilarious video of Royal standing on the stove, talking about what, and who, he wants at his birthday.
For several years now the main tools Amie and I have for rest together are, in order of frequency, television, books, and board games. We need more options that require little mental or physical effort to compete with the temptation of drowning our exhaustion in a tv show.
My obedience from our last #DiscoveryBibleStudy is talk with the Father about his plan to let the weeds grow alongside the wheat. Like the farmhands, who questioned the farmer’s seed and his farming wisdom, I share their confusion that the kingdom on earth is fraught with weeds. Instead of advancing in victory and moving to the next place, each success is mixed with defeat. The weeds choke out the wheat so that they do not reach full potential. It is the most inefficient strategy I can imagine.
Father, give Andrew and Laura courage to speak openly about what you are teaching them of your love and presence. Draw the members of the rock-climbing community to your delightful love and call them to follow your Son. Bring repentance to team members who have become more concerned about behavior than right relationship and form a vulnerable, committed apostolic team at Basecamp. For the kingdom eternal, do it.
Oh how the boys love gymnastics courses! Both managed to land on the pillows, for the most part. Graham hit the pillows then did a somersault and bumped his head against the wall. So we put more pillows along the wall 😊.
Amie’s been sharing lots of crafts with the boys in the last week. I’m so impressed by her thoughtfulness and creativity. She’d say that the ideas came from others, but it’s her inspiration that implements them for our boys.
One such project was swirling color into a pan full of shaving cream. In the first try, the color never made it to the pan. But in the second, when Amie smoothed the shaving cream herself, they added some color!
This project was an inspiration from Black History Month. It’s their space paintings.
And this craft is to make flowers using cupcake holders on popsicle sticks.
Amie and the boys built this awesome marble run with some PVC pipe we’d gotten for a Halloween costume last year.
Graham purchased a volcano kit with his birthday money last year.
I’ve heard about the #Asbury #revival from multiple sources. Today I discovered that similar revivals have started in further universities, some hundreds of miles apart.
This is joyous news, but it feels far away and irrelevant for our lives. I find myself hoping this renewal among Christians will be more than a momentary response to the close presence of the Holy Spirit. May He spark a movement of obedient disciples who make disciples to the hundredth generation.
I’m grateful that yesterday was a bank holiday. It was good to have an extra day off after illness to remember what’s important.
Amie and I enjoyed a date morning at a local Australian coffee shop that almost felt like we were back in Chicago. In the afternoon I met up with Andrew at Westminster for a chat about work, #dmm, and prayer. We’ve got an evening of prayer for his rock-climbing business on the calendar in a couple weeks.
The DMM Summit in Mesa, AZ three weeks back was inspiring and life-giving. I’m so happy to have met others in the region who share our passion! Many of the talks have been uploaded to the DMM YouTube channel; I’m sending links to friends and re-watching them with Amie.
There were a couple key take-aways.
First, our team is primary and foremost the four of us (me, Amie, Graham and Royal). I am asking Jesus about how to equip and support my little family as a team of disciple-making disciples. This is a monumental task and I’m still working out how to break it down into achievable milestones.
Second, I need to improve how I engage with invisible spiritual powers. This is a life theme that Jesus is reminding me of again, and I am exploring how to train.
While I was in Arizona, Amie, Jaynne, Wes, Graham and Royal were hard at work priming and painting our entire vaulted living room. I was so surprised when I walked through the door!
I refer to #dmm in my log entries, but I don’t know that a web search does the acronym justice. It stands for #DiscipleMakingMovements. This video by Harry Brown from New Generations explains the ethos, though not the practices, that comprise this yet-another-three-letter-acronym.
I no longer have flu symptoms, but was still fatigued when we hosted our friends yesterday. I’m so glad we did.
The boys and Skyler’s kids had a great time for the most part. Skyler and I talked about #qigong, #evolution, stages of #faith development, out of body experiences, dreams and visions, invisible spiritual #evil and more. It’s validating to my conviction that I must learn more effectively to fight spiritual battles. And nice not to feel so lonely.
I built a local demo site with the #11ty static-site generator (#SSG). I was particularly interested in the #WebC template for vanilla #WebComponents. It was a cinch to write web components that are integrated into another template language like Nunjucks. Win!
The documentation is poor. I needed an overview of the build steps and configuration options, but that’s not forthcoming. However, I have enough experience with the tools to get stuff working, along with example sites on GitHub.
OneDrive has done it again. The image embed feature has disappeared for new photos. That’s the last straw.
You may notice my images will slowly be replaced with WebP versions. These are much smaller in file size while looking good for the Web. Rotation might be wonky while I figure out which need to be flipped.
Sometimes I’m exasperated with Graham because he‘ll fixate on his work and forget about bodily needs then have a meltdown when he becomes aware of himself again. Which is something I do on a weekly basis.
You get it from me Graham, you get it from me… #parenting
I’ve not had this degree of doubt about my capacity to keep to any habit for some time. But I’m convinced it’s crucial to find a way.
Nearing the end of January, #memorization is holding. Almost through Hebrews 3. #Exercise is spotty, but progress is still evident with only four tries (and I was sick for a bit). Unexpectedly, I may also add something from #Qigong/#Taiji. I’m having more success in part, I believe, because I’m working on #habits with at least one other.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Amie and I watched Descendant last night.
One of the unanswered questions about the horror of Clotilda’s theft of one-hundred and ten people from Africa to slavery in Mobile, Alabama in 1859 is the question of justice. How does one make right such a grevious wrong? There was no satisfactory answer.
Somehow the transfer of assets from the Meaher estate to his captives feels insufficient. I wonder if the insufficiency of financial restitution lies in the absence of purification? It may be true that restoration demands both justice and purification.
Had a lovely conversation with Chris Boette today about digital gardens, note-gathering and note-taking, and parenting. I am freshly grateful for tools like Calendly that hold space in my calendar for unexpected conversation with total strangers.
We’ve both been impressed by Matt Webb and also too intimidated to schedule a call with him!
Sometimes I have a vague sense of danger and unease about my life. Parenthood, work and friendship are all good, but their gravity pulls all my attention into their orbit. Be a better parent, make my next career move, form new friendships… it never stops.
But how often am I among the desperate? When do I rub shoulders with the outcast, or befriend the poor? My social and physical location seems a hundred miles from where I’d expect to find Jesus, and thus where I must be.
Yesterday was one of the most consistently fun days in recent memory.
It started with a miracle; the boys slept until 8:15! We had an easy breakfast, then headed to the premier sledding hill around 11:00.
We left for lunch well before any meltdown could happen (we were also well stocked on snacks) and went to Sheels to purchase Graham a pair of new gloves. Amie and I picked up Noodles & Co. and I enjoyed a brief chat with Tommy.
We drove around for a half-hour to let Royal take a nap, but he never fell asleep. And to my surprise, the boys were willing to go back to the sledding hill. So that’s exactly what we did.
Royal was really upset when some boys accidentally decapitated a snowman he’d helped build, so we built our own in the front yard.
We opened our Christmas packages from Memaw-campfire poles-and I built a fire to keep us warm and to grill hot dogs.
All of that would have made it a wonderful day, but then we also played a game of Terraforming Mars! 🥳
For the second time in six months a buyer for our condo with a pre-approval letter for 50k more than our asking price was suddenly denied a mortgage at the last stage. I thought maybe the lender was sketchy in the first denial, but the second is a multi-billion-dollar bank.
Our condo is under rental contract, so there is almost zero financial risk for nearly a year, and it’s prime Evanston real estate. The whole thing stinks of power abuse.
Thanks Jaynne’s help with setup while we were celebrating with Amie’s dad and to the help of Tom and Julie during the event, the largest party we’ve ever hosted was a roaring success!
We started boiling the potatoes just 30 minutes before we were scheduled to eat. Though it ended up taking 45 minutes, that’s not too shabby for a Christmas meal for 20 guests. Amie led everyone through pulling their English Christmas poppers while they waited.
Jaynne brought over a HUGE pot to boil all of this, plus our own pot. It was so full that I had to pull out lemons, corn and water early to make room for the shrimp. My southern ancestors would be proud.
Eating without utensils was a new experience for some, but folks warmed up fast. Some even ate salad and dressing with their hands!
One of our primary goals with this Christmas party was making sure the kids were given special attention. I installed our indoor swing in the basement, and Amie put together Christmas-themed sensory bins. Jaynne created stockings for each of the kids.
After the stockings we opened the White Elephant gifts. Each person was assigned a number, then each picked out a gift or stole a gift from someone else.
I started a fire outside that served as a pit stop on the way to people’s cars. Royal and I played a final game of Monster outside with Maddie and Cora.
Every week I attempt to synthesize my writing. I find the activity enjoyable and sometimes discover new insights in the process. Eventually there’s enough to warrant its own major category, what I call a “garden”.
Here’s some of what I’ve written about trust. Comments, references and quotes welcome.
I’ve tried three different approaches to fit a board into this doorway, but I can’t lay it at the right angle to slip into the existing flooring. It requires a positive 10° incline to set, but there’s no room under the door jam for that amount of lift. I’ve ruined a couple boards in the attempt.
I’ve landed on a final idea: break off the joint and use wood glue to connect the door jam piece to the existing flooring.
We began to add ornaments to our tree today. The flood of happy memories are definitely the best part of decorating a Christmas tree. I stumbled on last year’s ornament memorial; I wonder what new memories I could add?
I’ve been waiting all year, and now it’s here! Renée is an exceptional leader, preacher, storyteller and coach, and the cohorts she’s forming have enormous potential for the development and encouragement of female leadership in the global Church.
If you’re a #preacher or #church leader, sign up for a January or April 2023 cohort quickly!
And if you know a female leader in your church, this is the best Christmas gift.
So thankful for my manager (Mike Hartmann) and the rest of the IT leadership at Performance Trust. A friend of Amie’s mom is a contractor and we learned last-minute that he could come by with his table saw tomorrow afternoon to help me lay flooring in our bedroom.
Needed to take a half-day, approved to take a half-day. 🙏🏻