Monday, December 31, 2007
Now playing: Brandi Carlile - Fall Apart Again
We had a great weekend of celebrating Caleb. He was very excited to be the one to open presents all by himself. In September, he has to sit by while Ben and then Matthew open presents during their birthdays. Now it was his turn.
One of the other highlights of this weekend was Caleb joining us in "our class" at church. After 4-years-old, our church has kids sit in the service. It was one of the things that drew us to our church. It is a great (and at times difficult) thing. For instance, when we start to sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and Ben looks down at me and smiles because he knows that one, it is very encouraging. We wouldn't get that type of thing if they were somewhere else. Caleb is still a little young to be there, but he will quickly catch on.
It is easy to celebrate such a beautiful and sweet person as Caleb. We love him so much and thank God for the many blessings that he brings to our family.
Now playing: Brandi Carlile - What Can I Say
Friday, December 28, 2007
When we were in Alpena for Thanksgiving, Mom gave me a few books. One of them was Climbing the Heights a devotional compiled by Al Bryant. It was my dad's book, given to him by his Aunt Hilma and Uncle Max. (Great names!) I took it mostly because of that, but it has proven to be a great way to start my mornings, filled with thoughts like this from this morning.
Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path.
"God only is holy, He alone knows how to lead His children in the paths of holiness. He knows every aspect of your soul, every thought of your heart, every secret of your character, its difficulties and hindrances; He knows how to mold you to His will, and lead you onwards; He knows exactly how each event, each trial, each temptation, will tell upon you, and He disposes all things accordingly. The consequences of this belief, if fully grasped, will influence your whole life. You will seek to give yourself up to God more and more unreservedly, asking nothing, refusing nothing, wishing nothing, but what He wills; not seeking to bring things about for yourself, taking all He sends joyfully, and believing the "one step" set before you to be enough for you. You will be satisfied that even though there are clouds around, and your way seems dark, He is directing all, and that which seems a hindrance will prove a blessing , since He wills it."
-Jean Nicolas Grou
Another great book that I just got for Christmas is The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. I read the following prayer at the Dave Nagel Christmas dinner. Afterwards, I said to Dave, "Say what you will about Reformed theology, but the part that I love about it is that it is all about Christ initiating and doing the work. If my salvation and relationship with God were left up to me, I would fail every time."
THE GIFT OF GIFTS
O SOURCE OF ALL GOOD,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreate and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with now will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and
enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tiding of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my redeemer's face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.
My prayer for each of you is that God might, through Christ, draw each of you unto himself in a greater and deeper way, maybe for the first time; and that we might all respond, through grace, with great joy, obedience and exaltation.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Now playing: Ryan Adams - The Sun Also Sets
Monday, December 17, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Winter in Minnesota is one of those things that must be embraced. It certainly isn't going anywhere. As the boys get older we are getting better and better at this. I always enjoyed winter in Alpena: skating, sledding, skiing, getting into accidents with my new driver's license.
Yesterday we went sledding with Dave and Brad. It was a lot of fun. I got some great videos and photos. Caleb and Ben both loved it. Caleb fizzled out toward the end, but Ben would have stayed for another hour. We are looking forward to doing more outside activities when Gregg and Allison come up for Christmas. Bring your long johns.
Now playing: Indigo Girls - Tried To Be True
Friday, December 7, 2007
I discovered her through Paste Magazine and found out that I liked her through the music that she and her label give away on the net. (Why don't more artists and labels do this?) If you'd like to check out Neko, get some of her music here, here, here (a great live show), or here (NPR live concerts podcast). On the NPR live concerts podcast you can also download a great show from a band that Neko plays with, The New Pornographers. They are a great band. After you've listened to all of this, let me know what you think.
One of the most important things for the sanity of the boys and thus our sanity is that the boys have some time outside every day to burn off some energy. This is really easy in the summer. We just send them outside and say, "Don't kill each other." Since the cold weather has come to Minnesota this has become much more difficult. When they finally do get outside after layers and layers, the boys really love it. The other night while I was out shoveling the driveway, the boys and I played for about an hour and a half. It was great. The funniest part of the boys playing outside is that Matthew can hardly walk once he gets his clothes all on (think A Christmas Story.) You can see the rest of our December pictures here.
Now playing: The National - Apartment Story
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Our church recently started a new campaign to pay off our campus' building and to begin some other work. They call it Treasuring Christ Together. We have talked to the boys about this and how we can be involved. Amanda was talking with Caleb about church and money and how we should all try and give some of our money to God. His response was, "Yeah! And then maybe I can have TWO snacks." We got a pretty good laugh out of that.
Now playing: Los Straitjackets - Sleigh Ride
Monday, December 3, 2007
- The family is a mom and dad and their four kids. They home educated their kids. They never come out with it, but Amanda said she thought they were Christians.
- The family paid off their first home in 9 years.
- They grocery shop once a month. It takes them five hours, using coupons and walkie talkies to communicate.
- The book outlines lots of ways to pinch pennies, cut corners and get lots of deals.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Often times my tastes in music have come from the people that I care about. This probably began with my friend Anna Manente in high school. Her dad played guitar in a bar band. Music like Eric Clapton, John Denver and James Taylor was always playing at her house when I was there. Tricia was in college at this time and she brought home artists like David Wilcox and Nanci Grifith. I passed along the music that I was discovering. When I got to Taylor I met people like Mike Wooten (Johnny Cash, Springsteen, Dylan, Bill Mallonee, VOL), Ben Arendt (Smashing Pumpkins) and Amanda (Over the Rhine). Over the Rhine is a great example of this. Before I met Amanda I had heard them and even been to one of their shows. I didn't really like them. I didn't "get" them. Once I saw Amanda's excitement for them, I wanted to like them and gave myself over to them. They have become one of my favorite bands and I look forward to each upcoming album.
I have also had the opportunity to introduce people I love to music that I love. Tricia began listening to the music that Anna introduced to me. Amanda has embraced almost all of the music that I like. My friend Jared has become a big Springsteen fan. Bill from work has begun listening to OTR and likes it. I recently passed on some music to guys I'm still in contact with from Taylor and Ryan Adams was a stand out favorite. Probably my most satisfying contribution is to my boys' musical tastes. Ben, Caleb and Matthew are Springsteen fans. Someday they will talk about the music that they listened to growing up. That will be fun.
I am always interested in the music tastes of my friends. To what are you listening? Who has influenced your musical tastes?
Now playing: Gillian Welch - Revelator
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Now playing: NPR - Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard in Concert: 05/10/2007
Last week we watched the NOVA program Intelligent Design on Trial on PBS. It was very well done and raised more questions than answers for me. I was especially frustrated by the Christians that were involved. The Intelligent Design movement seems like a meager attempt at repackaging Creationism and "backdooring" it into mainstream thought. Many of the people interviewed came out and said as much.
Since, I have been seeking for either some Christians who believed in evolution that could reconcile their views with those of the Bible well or for Creationists who were seeking to scientifically support the words of the Bible. This is when I came across Reasons to Believe. It is an organization that seeks to support a Biblical creation model through science. The founder, Dr. Hugh Ross, is a former CalTech fellow. All of the people on his staff are also REAL scientists. I listened to a debate that was hosted by the Veritas Forum (an awesome organization). In this debate, for the first time, I heard Christians who all believed in Jesus debating evolution and creation. It was great. I think at this point I have come to a few working conclusions.
- I believe that the Bible is true and does not contain any "myth".
- I believe that science can and does support claims in the Bible. All truth is God's truth. The more we find out about science, the more it will help make sense of the Bible.
- These are tough issues for smarter people than me, but I am expected to work on them in my own way.
- Smart people who love Jesus disagree on these issues.
Now playing: Mar - Mother Star Sun (Edit)
Monday, November 26, 2007
We also did Christmas gifts with Mom while we were in Alpena. Benjamin and Caleb both got a great Lego set. We spent around eight hours building them both. When the set comes with two instruction books, you know you're in for some time. It was a lot of fun though. Mom got me a Stir Crazy popcorn popper and an ice cream maker. We made our first batch of ice cream last night (cookies and cream). Amanda said that it was as good as any ice cream she's eaten. I would agree. Mom said that there is a Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book on Amazon. I'd love to get that for Christmas (hint, hint.)We are excited to try some new recipes.
One downer of the trip and yet a very funny moment was that I got a ticket in Wisconsin on the way back. This is at least the second or third ticket that I've received driving across Wisconsin. The police officer was very nice though and "let me off" with just a city ticket that he said would not affect my insurance and would be no points. When the officer went back to his car Caleb asked, "Are we all going to jail?" Then Ben said, "Dad, I will give you some of the money out of my piggy bank." Amanda and I almost cracked up laughing. They are all such wonderful people and we are so blessed to have all four of them in our lives.
It was a great week and we are so thankful for each of you that are important parts of our lives. See all of the pics from our week here.
Now playing: NPR - Neko Case in Concert: 04/09/2006
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
There are five children five-years-old and younger here at the Gammons' house. It's a lot of fun, but if you're not used to it, it's a lot. We have had a lot of fun hanging out with the Falder clan. Matthew and Davy are fast friends. Mom bought all of the kids matching camo pj's. Tomorrow is our attempt at a brined turkey. More to come on that. Sharon is down stairs right now yelling at me about getting the salt dissolved in the water.
Now playing: Neil Young - Long May You Run
Sunday, November 18, 2007
There are great things about coming home. It always helps me remember good things about home and how it has impacted me. The popcorn bowl above is the one that we used growing up. We had an old black pressure cooker pan that my dad would use to make popcorn on the stove. If it was a very special night, he would bring home an eight pack of Pepsi bottles. Tonight we popped popcorn on the stove and had our usual Sunday night family meeting, big yellow bowl and all.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
This morning we woke up, had a cup of coffee and went outside. I love being outside in Alpena. It was a beautiful morning with low hanging snow clouds. The boys and I made a huge fire on the beach and walked by the water. Tricia, Alex and Davy come on Tuesday and we are looking forward to having them. More from Alpena to come later this week.
Now playing: Agapeland - Smile
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
"If we want to give thanks, we need only two things. Something we’re thankful for and somebody to thank. Seems so obvious, but I think I need to say it because it’s amazing how many people can say, “I’m thankful for _____ ,” without admitting that God is there to hear their thanks."
We have been doing our "I'm thankful for . . ." banner after dinner each night this week. I need to remind the boys to whom we are thankful. What are you thankful for this year? Post them in the comments. Here are some things that have ended up on our banner.
Molly (almost every night from someone)
Star Wars figures
Poor people (I think Ben meant that we should pray for poor people.)
Jesus (Caleb knows we like this answer. He's a second child parent pleaser. I think he is thankful for Jesus though too.)
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Raise Your Hand
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Spirit In The Night
Friday, November 9, 2007
One week from today we will be embarking on our yearly holiday trip to Alpena. This trip always brings a myriad of emotions. I love going home. It is a place of solace and rest for me. That might also be the fact that I'm always on vacation there. There are many things though that are peculiar to Alpena to which I look forward.
- Fires: I love a campfire. If I could I would build a fire every night, sit outside, smoke my pipe (I don't smoke anymore Mom.), and be near people that I love, I would be very pleased. I think this love started at Summer Camp growing up in Alpena. After the campers all went to bed, the counselors would sit around the fire that Bill Fitch had built, talk, pray and sing way into the night. These were amazing times! I got to know the saints of our church, learned to talk about this Jesus that I loved and grew up. I love fires now because it is something very masculine that I can do with my boys. I am teaching them things, they are breaking sticks, and we are being together. Fire is a gift to men. Men don't say things very well face-to-face. But if they are all facing a fire, words come more quickly and more gently. Every year when I go on our Guys' Weekend with my friends from Taylor, we experience this. We have talked about staying in hotels on that weekend, but someone always says, "What about the fire." I hope to have many a fire in Alpena while were there.
- Connie's Cafe: This is a little restaurant in Ossineke, Michigan a few miles from Mom's house where we always like to do at least one breakfast. Sometimes Mom will even keep the kids and Amanda and I get to slip off for a breakfast by ourselves. Sweet and precious time.
- Tricia, Alex and Davy time: I have missed seeing little Davy grow. I am looking forward to seeing them. Tricia was able to be so involved in the lives of our first two kids. It has been difficult to not be able to see Davy and Drew and be involved in their lives.
- Walks on the beach: At least once while I am in Alpena, I get to take a walk with just Amanda, one with just my mom and one with the whole family. Mom's spot there is so beautiful. The beauty of winter is one of quiet, cold, barrenness. It is a place where you can bundle the boys up, send them out and know that they are going to have good "boy" time: jumping in puddles, finding sticks, walking on the ice, pushing limits.
Now playing: Over The Rhine - My Funny Valentine
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - I'll Work For Your Love
"What?," I said.
"There's going to be a second show in March!"
That's right. Springsteen is coming back to the Twin Cities on March 16! Benjamin has been very into the new album lately. He keeps saying, "Dad, can we listen to the new Bruce Springsteen album?" When we put it on and turn it up loud, he bounces around playing his air guitar (which Matthew mimics). If he's getting really into it, he runs back to the bathroom and gets his hair wet. "Rock and rollers are always sweaty," he says. I tell him, "That's right buddy." The other night when we were jamming out, Amanda said that it would have been so great to take Ben to the show. Well, maybe we'll get our chance. Would a five-year-old like to get Springsteen tickets for Christmas? Would Ben rather go to a Springsteen show or get Lego's? Would Caleb freak out if just Ben and I went to the show? Tickets go on sale Saturday at 10:00 AM. Maybe you'll see Ben and I in line down at the Xcel Center with all of the 40 and 50-year-olds.
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - Gypsy Biker
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
of my life. But like all such experiences, there's always much to be gained and I think there's a lot to be learned." WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GIRL? She talked about how she spent the first half-hour after she heard about it crying. Then she was able to pull herself together and do what needed to be done. In response to this incident, she decided to give each of the girls a cell phone with her number on it. Do you think Oprah is going to be answering the calls from those little African girls? "Hello, you've reached Oprah Winfrey. I love you, but I can't take your call right now. Please leave a message." The causes that she tackles are admirable, but it always seems like it all about Oprah and not about caring for people. This seems to be just another example.
Monday, November 5, 2007
- This season is about the most important gift ever given: the gift of the incarnate savior Jesus Christ and his eventual death, resurrection and redemption.
- Secondarily, the holidays are about being together with family and people that we love. As part of this, we give and receive gifts that are expressions of that love.
- If anything in #2 takes away from #1 it should be subordinated until #1 is paramount.
- Our culture makes the main part of this season getting the things that you want out of the Toys 'r Us circular (or Best Buy in my case.)
Now playing: Brandi Carlile - The Story
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I love this picture of Ben. He's so serious.
We had a great time last night. My favorite part of the evening was talking to the two widow ladies on our street. We tried to talk to them for a while. The first one said, "Are you having fun?" I said, "We sure are. Are you?" She didn't really know what to say. As we left she commented, "What a beautiful family. You've made my night." Again, a reminder to us that such a small thing to people in need really can make a difference. Shube said that we should invite one of them down for dinner. That would be scary, but I think we should too. I am sure either of them would love to come down.
Check out the other pictures from last night here.
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Staying with the theme that has dominated most of the past few years at our house, the boys decided on being Star Wars characters for Halloween. Molly didn't have much of a choice, so she became Pricess Leia. This "costume" was Amanda's and my craft project for about an hour last night. (Notice the duct tape.) Benjamin is Anakin Skywalker. (That's Darth Vader before he went bad for those of you non-Star Wars freaks.) Caleb is a clone trooper (the storm troopers before they went bad). Matthew is Darth Vader. He does a great "Luke, I am your father."
I was able to go into Ben's class this morning and help with the Halloween party. It was a fun morning. I spent much of the time praying for one of the boys that did not come with a costume, the blind girl, the handicapped children and the boy who wanted to wait for his mom to put his costume on. He eventually put it on with about twenty minutes left of class. I was once again so thankful for the ways that God has blessed me. I was once again gripped by how much I need to offer to His groaning world. I hope all of you will have a fun night with your family, whether you decided to celebrate Halloween or not.
Don't ever buy a Sony camera. We are on our second one in four years and it is a hunk of junk. I am hoping to enter the digital SLR world before Christmas.
Now playing: Pierce Pettis - Desire
Monday, October 29, 2007
Now playing: Neko Case - That Teenage Feeling