Tuesday, December 29, 2009


From Lucy Ruth

When we named Molly's middle name after her great grandma Pearl, I wrote a post about why we made that decision.  When we were deciding on names for our newest Gammons girl, we new from the start that we wanted to have her middle name be Ruth.  It holds a few significances: Shirley's (Amanda's mom's) middle name is also Ruth and my grandma's (Dad's mom's) name was Ruth.

I could celebrate so many things about my grandma.  She was lavish with her love.  She would open the windows and "air out" the house for days before we came for a visit.  My love of sweets is an inherited gift.  Breakfast at her house was either Froot Loops or pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream.  Everything that my mother knows and that I would eventually learn about hospitality we learned from Grandma.  When people were in her home, she served them.  I loved to sit next to her and touch her wrinkly smooth skin and wonder at her big bicep.  She played with us.  She touched us.  ("Do you need an adjustment?")  She payed us endless attention.  She laughed.  Her life ended too soon.  When my dad died, it broke her heart and began her downward path.  She and Grandpa died within a month of each other.

The thing that I will always be thankful to her and Grandpa and especially to God for though, is the heritage of faith that she and her family have given to me and my family.  I love Jesus because Grandma loved Jesus.  My mom became a Christian, I think, through the love of my dad's family.  I can still hear her reading Our Daily Bread and a psalm from the KJV around the breakfast table.  That made an impression.  When I pull the Bible out after dinner, I think of her.

My hope for Lucy Ruth is that some day she will grow into the kind of lavishly loving, always serving, ever laughing, woman of God that my Grandma Ruth was.  I wish my dad were alive to know how important he and his family are to me.  I was 19 when he died.  Too young to have figured any of this out.  I look forward to the time, through God's grace, when I can introduce Grandpa Don and Great Grandma Ruth to sweet little Lucy Ruth Gammons.  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus.

You can see some more photos from the last few days by clicking on Lucy's picture below. 

Lucy Ruth

Happy Birthday, Cal Joe

Six years ago we a got a great Christmas gift.  Caleb is the life of the party at our house.  His creativity, care and excitement are his best attributes.  I am excited to see what this year holds for our little Caleb Joseph as he moves from a preschooler into the life of a kid.  We love you Cay!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lucy Ruth Gammons

Today, out of his unwarranted grace and mercy, the Lord has richly blessed us with our newest daughter, Lucy Ruth Gammons.  She was born through cesarean section at 1:54 PM.  She weighed 6 lbs. 15 oz.  (our smallest yet.)  Amanda is doing well.  We are all thrilled.  Thanks for praying for us.  More pictures to come.


1:00 PM.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What are you doing for Christmas?

Here's our tentative schedule.
  • Christmas Eve service at church
  • Christmas morning at home
  • Christmas with Amanda's family
  • Having a baby
Merry Christmas to you and yours.  May God draw you to himself as you celebrate the birth of our savior.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gammons Annual Christmas Lights Tour

Friday night we went out to do our annual Christmas lights tour. We usually just drive around and see what we can come up with. This year, I checked the listing in the Star Tribune. I wish I would have brought my camera. There were some pretty good ones. I'll list our couple of favorites and make a few comments.

Shoreview (These are both close to church and both worth seeing.)

303 Snail Lake Rd.: Light display synchronized to music courtesy of the Borowick and Jensen families. Food-shelf donations are being collected, and you can preview at www.mnlightshow.com.

492 W. County Road J: Rich and Tina Haavisto have pumped up the holiday spirit with 74 different inflatables to decorate their yard and house. (There were so many blow-up things in their yard, there was not room for anything else. This symbolized the spectacle of Christmas.)

If you have seen these or are planning on it, let us know what you think.


Yesterday morning the boys and I went down to our neighborhood rink to do some ice skating. I spent some time trying to teach the boys and then I decided to do some skating of my own. I flew up and down the ice. The next thing I new I was in the back of an ambulance and eventually in the ER.

The boys performed exceptionally. Ben and Matthew stayed by me and helped me to get up. Caleb ran for help and got some of the neighbors to come and call 911. He even remembered our phone number so they could call Amanda.

It was a concussion, but not much more (as you can see from Ben's picture above.) I was able to go to church this morning, but I feel like someone has beaten me up. I'm thankful for God's gift of ibuprofen. It may be a few days until I'm back out on the ice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why I Blog

I blog for my family.

I blog for my friends.

I have found that the main benefit of blogging for me is that when I see my family or friends in person I get to skip the normal first portion of conversation. They don't have to ask, "So what have you been up to?" They already know. This why I appreciate when my family blogs. It helps us go just a little deeper than we would have otherwise. I blog about my thoughts too for this reason. It helps promote deeper conversation when I see my friends and family.

If you're not family, you're always welcome. If you're not a friend I see that often, you're welcome too. Family and friends, keep up the blogging. I love it and it helps me feel more a part of your lives.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Favorite Picture

I love the innocence in Matthew's face. That's who he is all the time. I love the interest in Aunt Loretta's face. That's who she is. I love the light.

Read Alouds--The Door in the Wall

We just finished Marguerite De Angeli's The Door in the Wall. It was okay, but I would have to say that it was our first real miss from our home school curriculum's read aloud list. I think the boys liked it but it was hard for me to plod through. It is the story of a medieval boy in England. His father is off fighting the Scots, his mother is a hand maid to the ailing queen and he is left to be taken care of by a monk and a traveling minstrel. The last three chapters were the most exciting. I'll let you read it for yourself and see what you think.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Small Groups

Here are Abraham's 5 reasons he doesn't like to be in a small group.

1. It’s another church service.
2. You’re either in or out.
3. Quitting feels like breaking up.
4. Kids equal chaos.
5. I’d rather be by myself.

How about you? Are you in a small group? Why or why not? Let it fly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hymn of the Week--Angels, From The Realms of Glory

This was one of our HOTW's last Christmas. It is a good one. I love when a Christmas hymn bids me "come and worship." I want that to be my main goal and end at this time of year. I am easily caught up in many other things. This hymn keeps me focused.

Hymn of the Week
Angels, From The Realms of Glory
Words by James Montgomery
Music by Henry T. Smart

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.


Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Quotes: I'm gonna hold she

Amanda was putting Molly to bed the other day and she pointed at the baby in Amanda's belly and said,
I'm gonna hold she and she's not gonna cry.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tante Comes to Minnesota

This weekend my sister Tricia came to see us. It was so good to have her. It was difficult for her to leave Alex and the kids behind and we missed them, but it was fun to have just her. When Amanda and I were first married we lived in the same town as Tricia and the three of us would hang out all the time. Amanda said after Tricia left that we missed Alex and the kids but it was like old times having just her around. We so appreciated Alex handling the kids all by himself all weekend so Tricia could be with us. Living so far away from all of my family, we don't get to see them as often as we'd like. These moments together are treasured and help us get through the long absences.

We love you Tricia and Alex. Thanks for making the effort!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hymn of the Week--Who Is He In Yonder Stall

Last week Abraham posted the request, "Recommend some Christmas music that most of us have never heard of." Shube recommended the hymn Who Is He In Yonder Stall? I had never heard of this carol, but I have listened to it a lot this week. It is great. I even sent a request (I've never done this before.) to Pastor Dan that we might sing it together some time during advent. I hope that you enjoy it too and that it helps you worship the "King of Glory!"

Hymn of the Week
Who Is He In Yonder Stall
Words and music by Benjamin R. Hanby

Who is He in yonder stall
At Whose feet the shepherds fall?
Who is He in deep distress,
Fasting in the wilderness?


’Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Read Alouds--White Stallion of Lipizza

As I've mentioned before, sometimes when we pull a book out of our read aloud pile, I am skeptical. I was with this one. Who wants to read a story of a little Austrian boy who want to grow up to ride the famous white Lipizzaner stallions? Answer: my little boys and I do. White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry is a story more about dreams and the struggles to make them come true than about the white stallions. Hans Haupt (I struggled with the German names and words through out this book.) wanted to ride the Lippizaners from the first time he saw them. But he was only the son of a baker.

There are so many levels of a good children's book. I know the kids appreciate the good story. I hope that from time to time they get a little further down and recognize the deeper themes. This is another one that I would recommend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hymn of the Week--O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Welcome to the season of Advent. Since coming to a church where we celebrate Advent I have grown to love and appreciate this time of year even more. I love the fact that Advent is about looking back and remembering the way that God has kept his promise to the world by fulfilling his many prophecies in Christ's first advent. I also love how we look ahead to Christ's second advent and all of the joy and consummation that it will bring.

This week's hymn is definitely a looking back. Can't you hear the expecting Jews longing for their messiah, longing for deliverance from their oppressors? There is lamentation here. I join them longing for Christ's return. But like the psalms of lamentation, the chorus reassures and celebrates, "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel." This is our hope this Christmas, that Christ will come to us in our fears, will come to us in our pain. Long with the exiles for our Emmanuel.

Hymn of the Week
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Words from the Latin
Music from Veni Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You're a big kid now

Ben got his own library card yesterday. He was really excited.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hymn of the Week--Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

It's Thanksgiving time! This seems to be our traditional Thanksgiving hymn. This year, I am thankful mostly for God, but also for his many gifts. Pastor John has been preaching through John chapter 6. In this chapter Jesus feeds five thousand people. They want to make him their king. They love him, not because of who he is but because of his gifts (the bread he gave them.) I certainly don't want to seek God because of his many good gifts, but I do think that I can be thankful for and love God for his gifts AS WELL AS love him for who he is. What do you think?

Hymn of the Week
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Words by Henry Alford
Music by St. George's Windsor, George J. Elvey

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

Country music in Heaven

Abraham over at 22 Words wrote a post this week about whether there would be sad country music in heaven. I couldn't really get this idea out of my mind, so I wrote the following comment.

I have been thinking about this a lot this week. Whether because of my love of classic country (and new classic country, i.e. Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin) or because of my deep interest in and longing for Heaven, I’m not sure.

Two points: First, I’m not sure that there won’t be sad songs in Heaven. What better way to glorify God than to remember the pain of this world and see no longer through a glass dimly how He redeemed those sad things. So while we’ll hear those great old country songs like “I’m so lonesome I could cry”, we will understand them in a new way.

Second, there are so many GREAT country songs that speak of God’s redeeming work. How about this for a great post–”What good country songs are we sure to hear in heaven?” I just heard JC sing this morning “Like a Soldier”. Give it a listen. This is for sure to be one I’ll request of him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C20mOQvdqqU

Whether Willie will be there to sing the harmony, I’m not sure. Maybe we could find someone to sit in.

What do you think? Will there be "sad" things in Heaven? I was talking with some friends at church last week about prayer and how sometimes we don't understand the answers that God gives us to our prayers. I said that I would not be surprised if there is a film room where we can watch episodes of "Redemptive History". Wouldn't that be an amazing way to give God glory? I said that I would love to watch creation happen or to see Joseph reveal himself to his brothers or to see my dad sharing the gospel with his friend on the banks of the river. Maybe this will be part of the "knowing as you are known".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hymn of the Week--This Is My Father's World

Caleb is memorizing the first two verses of this hymn for his Wednesday night class. Hopefully at some point I'll be able to post of video of him doing it. (Wouldn't that be great!) I told the boys that this was the first song that I ever sang in church by myself. I can remember how nervous I was when Tom Knight and I sang this song. I think I was 10 or 11. Funny.

Hymn of the Week 
This Is My Father's World
Words by Maltbie D. Babcock
Music: Terra Beata, traditional English melody

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Read Alouds--The School Story

We finished The School Story by Andrew Clements last week. It's a story about a little girl who writes a novel and how her friend and her work to get it published. It has some fun elements that the boys really liked. There's the friendship of the two girls, the suspense of whether it will all work out, and the story of the little girl and her mom. I'd recommend this book. It's not a classic, but it is a good page-turner.

Hymn of the Week--The New Church Hymnal

As I've mentioned here before, I grew up signing old hymns. My parents love(d) them and passed that love to us. As we've been singing hymns after dinner we've collect some old hymnals, but they are hit or miss. What I've really wanted was a set of the same hymnals for all of our family. I mentioned this to my mom and she got busy. With the help of friends from her church in Alpena, she collected six of the old hymnals that I grew up with, The New Church Hymnal.

When I got the box in the mail with six beautiful books, it made me so happy. These are the hymnals that my dad led singing out of; these are the hymnals that saints from Northern Michigan have praised God over; these are the hymnals that countless sinners have seen God in. I'm one of those sinners. I now pray that my children will see God in these songs and that they may be a part of their knowing and loving Him.

Thanks to Mom and Mrs. Kirschner. I look forward to singing these hymns with both of you and many others from "the old church" in heaven.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This weekend we had a surprise party to celebrate the 31st anniversary of Shube's 29th birthday. It was a great time. As you can see from the above picture she was very surprised. (Sorry about the photo quality. My lens has been having some problems.) All of Shube's family from Chicago made the six hour drive up to celebrate with us. Gregg and Allison even flew in for a whirl wind 24 hour trip. Shube's friends Jim and Jean Anderson were the only non-Wendts who made the cut. (But they are both very Scandinavian so that has to count for something.) The Nagel girls (Amanda, Sarah and Allison) put a ton of work into making it a success. The food was good, the setting was beautiful and the company was close. It was great to see everyone and great to celebrate our love for Shube. We are all very blessed.

You can see all of our pictures here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quotes: Big girl

Yesterday as we were getting drinks ready for dinner.

"I don't want da lid. I big girl."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hymn of the Week--The Solid Rock

Many of those around us are struggling with sickness and pain right now. This seems like a fitting hymn for a week like this. All other ground is shifting sand: health is shifting sand; job is shifting sand; family is shifting sand; relationships are shifting sand. On Christ the solid rock I stand.

Hymn of the Week
The Solid Rock
Words by Edward Mote
Music by William B. Bradbury

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gammons karaoke

This is the sign that Ben posted on our wall going down stairs last night. We have been doing "karaoke" for fun in our basement. This consists of us using our keyboard and mic to sing along to the songs on the song bank. These are such hits as "Mary had a little lamb", "Camptown Races", etc. Last night Caleb did a great rendition of "On top of Spaghetti".

It is fun to get inside Ben's head with something like this. Having kids sure is fun!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Glad for Amanda

This Luther quote was retweeted by Pastor John from a tweet his wife sent out. It makes me thankful for Amanda.
"Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave." --M.Luther

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

From October

We had a great time on Saturday night. Shube came over as usual to help pass out candy while Amanda and I took the kids first to my bosses house and then to our neighbors. My boss has a whole room full of sports memorabilia like autographed balls from Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana and others. Ben thought this was one of the highlights of his night. While we were there, he kept slipping back to the room to check things out. My boss thought that was pretty cool. She loved having us and I was so glad we went.

Trick or treating is always a highlight because we get to see a lot of the neighbors that we don't see all year. There are some old people that really like to see the kids and I like to stand and talk with them for a while. Each year, I get a little braver and stay and talk a little longer.

As soon as the costumes hit the floor we started talking about what we would be for Trick o' Tweet next year. Any ideas for three boys, a little girl and a baby? So far, Robin Hood, his merry men, and Maid Marian are at the top of the list. You can see all of our photos here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Preview: Halloween '09

More pictures to come on Monday.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Eschatology: What do you believe about the end times?

I have been doing some listening and thinking lately about eschatology. I have not done much thinking about this before. Of course I have read through the book of Revelation and vaguely remember my pastor growing up preaching through the book, but I don't remember much of it. My views come more from osmosis and popular culture. This is probably where I was at prior to my investigation.
  • Jesus is coming back. We don't know when. He'll come in what is called the rapture.
  • He'll set up a reign on earth for 1000 years. I was cloudy on the details.
  • At some point, there will be a judgment.
  • At the end, whenever that is, Christ will defeat Satan and throw him into Hell or the lake of fire.
  • There's a tribulation (7 years?) in there somewhere.
If you're like me and don't really know what you believe or even what the differing views are, then I've got a couple of good resources.

Pastor John moderated a discussion entitled "An Evening of Eschatology", of the three main views of the millennium: Premillennium, Post-millennium, and Amillennium. It was very interesting and very spirited. They do a pretty good job of giving an overview of the three viewpoints.

Since I think I am leaning toward an Amillennial view of the millennium period and of eschatology, I sought out one of the experts in this area, Kim Riddlebarger. He is also one of the guys on my oft mentioned favorite podcast White Horse Inn. If you're interested in a more extensive explanation of Amillennialism, you can listen to Kim's lectures here. I finished the first one today at lunch and it was a great overview. One thing I appreciate about his argument is that he says all of us come to every argument with certain presuppositions. These need to be brought out in the open and tested.

Here is a helpful article by Pastor John with some definitions of important terms in these discussions.

A few main texts that are always talked about in these end times discussions are the following.
  • A couple of places in Daniel
  • Matthew 24
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 & 2 Thessalonians 1:5-2:12
  • Revelation 20
What do you believe about the end times? Is this something that you ever think about? Any other resources that you think might be helpful?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Read Alouds--Tales of Robin Hood

The boys are really enjoying our latest read. What could be better than stories of men running around the woods, stealing money from rich people to help their friends and sticking it to people of power? This is why the tales of Robin Hood have been perpetual favorites of all kids. It is so much fun to be reading something to which the boys long for me to keep reading every night. This book takes old tales and updates them in language, while still being rather advanced, is still understandable. Another recommended read.

Read Alouds--The Little Riders

We finished last week a great little book by Margaretha Shemin, The Little Riders. When we first started it I thought it was going to be a snorer. It is about a little girl who lives with her grandparents in German occupied Holland during World War II. She loves sitting in her attic bedroom, watching the little riders in the clock of the church across the square. This all changes when a German officer takes her room and begins to live with them. It is the classic story of stereotypes shattering once you get to know the "other". Apparently it has been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. We'll have to see if we can get it from the library. This is a definite recommended read.

Hymn of the Week--Rock of Ages

With a hymn like this one, I wonder how much teaching I should do. I know that the kids don't get many of these words and the concepts are pretty huge. I decided to do none last night. I think the tunes and the words are important in and of themselves. The concepts will come down the road, Lord willing.
Hymn of the Week

Rock of Ages
Words by Augustus M. Toplady
Music by Thomas Hastings
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hymn of the Week--I Need Thee Every Hour

On Monday, thumbing through the hymnal after dinner, I said to everyone, we need a hymn about how much we need Jesus right now. Ben piped right up and said, "How about 'every hour I need thee.'" It's a good one.
Hymn of the Week

I Need Thee Every Hour
Words by Annie S. Hawks
Music by Robert Lowry

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Music to Suffer to

Suffering is relative. Our whole house is in some degree of the flu. We're not suffering right now though. Our friends the Colberts are suffering. The family at church who's mom has "one foot in heaven" is suffering. But many people that we know right now are struggling through difficult things: sickness, sadness, loneliness, lack of sun, boredom, grief.

This got me thinking about good music when things hurt. Abraham did a post about your favorite song for sadness. I answered "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. That's not the kind of music that I'm talking about though. I'm thinking about my two favorite suffering albums. They both help to acknowledge and lament the fallenness in which we find ourselves and yet point us to the hope that we have in Christ. This is how the psalmist laments in Psalm 73. This is how I want to walk through suffering (whether lack of sun or watching someone I love die.) I want to weep for a time and then turn to God in hope. This is the kind of thing that happens multiple times a day: weeping . . . hope, weeping . . . hope, weeping . . . hope. If you are struggling right now or if you love someone who is, buy one of these albums and send it to them. Better yet, buy it and listen to it with them. Weep . . . hope.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Go Vikes!

Yesterday we watched another nail biter from the Minnesota Vikings. As I've previously mentioned, this is a great time for the boys and me and it also gets pretty intense. The Vikings are now 6-0. It is so much fun to watch a winning team. I grew up watching the Lions lose; my dad used it as an excuse to take a nap. I remember Tricia getting excited about watching the Pittsburgh Steelers when they lived there. Well it's our turn.

I did get some of my old Lions feelings though yesterday when the Vikings did almost everything they could do to lose the game. If the Ravens hadn't have missed a list second field goal, we wouldn't have won. It's been a great season though so far. If we can just keep the old man (number 4) healthy and make sure that Adrian Peterson stops coughing up the ball, we'll be all set. Go Vikes!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Read Alouds--Twenty-One Balloons

We have all really enjoyed William Pène du Bois' novel "Twenty-One Balloons." In this story, a retired school teacher decides he will live in a hot air balloon for a year. His balloon drifts to the south pacific and on to the island of Krakatoa. There he discovers a community of very wealthy individuals living a tremendously interesting life. The boys have loved the story and especially du Bois' illustrations.

Hymn of the Week--O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing

In our catechism this week we are reading about how God did not leave man in his misery but sent a redeemer. What better hymn to choose to celebrate that redeemer?! This is a great one. It is so short that I want to sing all four verses. We usually just sing the first first a couple of times.

Hymn of the Week
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Words by Charles Wesley
Music by Carl G. Glaser
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

Monday, October 12, 2009

You did that for me

There is a family in our church that is struggling with cancer. I have been following their journey on their blog. Yesterday at church most of our singing was about the realities of heaven: prophecies from Isaiah and John, joining the angels and saints singing "Holy, Holy, Holy." As I looked at this brother and prayed for him to trust the God that he AND his wife would sooner or later see face to face it was grace.

In our small group we are talking about preaching the "gospel to yourself." This idea that the gospel is more than what we accept when we become Christians. It is our life and breath every day. It is all that Christ bought for us on the cross. One thing that I am so thankful for is that he bought for us an eternity with him free of sickness, pain and struggle. Check out the song below. It is by Sara Groves but Pierce Pettis wrote it. I have his version and it is also great.

I am thankful that He did that for me.

First (and Second) Snow

From October

We woke up to snow again this morning. Check out some great pictures from our friend Teresa's new blog. It will show up soon in our blog roll to the right.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another Great Door County Vacation

From Door County

For the past few years, we have traveled to Door County, Wisconsin to meet up with Amanda's mom's family. This year's vacation was made a little less fun by Shirley not being able to join us. But we felt it was our duty to have a great time on her behalf. We did our duty well.

The rainy weather did not dampen the spirits of all those present. We hit all of our favorite places and enjoyed some new haunts as well. Here are some highlights.
  • Al Johnson's Restaurant--I had a delicious lunch of Clam Chowder and perch sandwich.
  • Door County fish boil--We ventured from our normal spot of The Old Post Office restaurant to try White Gull Inn. It was even more quaint and "Door Countyish". If you don't know what a fish boil is, you can see my video from last year here.
  • The view from the Fjlander's condo and lobby. See picture below.
  • Our day at Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin's largest state park. If you have an opportunity to go here, it's great. Camping here would be a dream.
  • Climbing the Eagle Tower just before dark with my family on Monday night.
  • Swimming in the poll every day with the kids.
  • Seeing and spending time with the Wendt clan.
Although we missed have Shube with us, it was great for our family to be together all day for four days. Thanks so much for a great vacation, Shirley. It will be one that we'll all remember. You can see all of our photos by clicking the photo below.
Door County
From Door County

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Friendships: Do you have them? How did you get them?

In my earlier post about friendships, I postulated that putting someone in your debt was one way of initiating a friendship. Abigail from our small group, said that she thinks the most important component of lasting friendships is commitment. Read her post here.

Here's my response to her post. What do you think? Do you have meaningful frienships? How did you get them? Please enter the conversation.

You’re right on. Commitment is a two-way street though. It is something that has to be mutually agreed upon. No one is married to someone who does not want to be married.

I have been a part of groups of friends like this. Strangely it mirrors marriage more than one might think. There often has to be a “ceremony” at the beginning where the commitments are made and agreed upon. What are we going to commit to each other. There are hard times, struggles, highs and lows. The commitment has to be constantly renewed.

So what does this look like pragmatically? If there is a person that I would like to be friends with (not just say hello friends), then I have to ask for that persons friendship. If the offer is accepted, the commitment is made and the adventure begins. At what point should this offer be made? Difficult question. There should probably be a time of acquaintance. But then a decision is made, will this person be my friend or will we wane towards nothing. In relationship, there is no such thing as static. It should happen sooner than later though.

Monday, September 28, 2009

An Emotional Epic From Start To Finish

Yesterday we watched the Minnesota Vikings home opener. Ben is really into sports right now. Collecting cards. Playing football outside. Sporting his new Brett Favre t-shirt. He is also a pretty intense seven-year-old.

The game was a back and forth battle. About half way through the forth quarter, it looked like the Vikings were going to lose. I asked Ben, "Who do you think is going to win?" He started to cry. We talked about this and I said that he needed to not get so worked up about this. Caleb from the other side of the room parroted me and said, "Yeah, Ben. It's just a game."

But when Brett Favre threw a forty-some yard touchdown pass to win the game with two seconds left and my little boy, with tears streaming down his face ran and jumped in my arms, I could hardly stop myself from crying.


In the book we're reading right now for read aloud, the author talks about how in the Balangao culture friendships develop through service to each other. For instance, the Balangao people will often ask a friend to do something for them in order to put that person in their debt. This indebtedness develops relationships.

Our small group has been talking about going deeper into each other's lives. Yesterday Amanda wasn't able to go to church. I had to get the kids pulled together. Easy. Except Molly's hair. I did my best, which wasn't very good. On the way to church, I thought to myself, maybe if I see one of our friends from small group, I could ask for their help. Then all the thoughts of "Don't be a bother;" "It's no big deal;" "Don't make this all about yourself, Andy." As I was parking the car, I saw the D's coming in. I knew that God wanted me to risk it. Of course, T was completely gracious and even seemed excited to help. It gave us a connecting point and a chance to talk about life.

What do you think? Are the Balangao people on to something? Do you struggle with asking for help? Do you think that if you did, it would give people permission to ask you for help when they needed it?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Star Wars in Concert

One of the greatest sagas of all time. Some of the best movie music ever. A full symphony orchestra. One of the largest touring screens. STAR WARS in Concert!

Unfortunately it is not coming to Minneapolis. Maybe they'll extend the tour and the boys and I could check this out. Watch the video below to whet your appetite.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A few Molly favorites

A good reason to pray

"Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

1 Kings 18:37

Monday, September 21, 2009

Officially Minnesotans

We have lived in Minnesota for almost four years. As you can see from the picture above, I think it's official. The kids are Minnesotans.

Promised picture of Samuel

From September
Here's the promised picture of Samuel from a few weeks ago. We got to see him last night and the whole family seems to be doing great.

A Weekend of Celebration

From September

So much to celebrate! God has gifted me with 33 years of life. Saturday we celebrated Benjamin's seventh birthday. Tomorrow we will celebrate Matthew's forth. To celebrate all of these, yesterday we had a party of family and friends at our house. We were blessed by approximately 20 adults and 28 kids, mostly friends from church and our small group.

The kids played tug of war, we went to the park to play, ate chili, cake, pie, sat by a fire and generally enjoyed a wonderful evening. We were so thankful to God for the people we were celebrating and the the people with whom we celebrated. You can see the photos here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Read Alouds--And the Word Came With Power

As a part of Ben and Caleb's home school curriculum this year, there are a number of read aloud books. The first one that we've tackled is "And the Word Came With Power" by Joanne Shetler. It is the story of how a young missionary woman goes with Wycliffe Bible Translators to the Philippines. So far it is a great story of how God provides for her many needs and works in the hearts of the Balangao people. The book is a well written, interesting account of the joys and difficulties of entering into another culture. You can read a little bit of the story at Wycliffe's site here.

Read Alouds--Caleb's Story

We finished our latest Patricia MacLachlan book, "Caleb's Story" a few weeks ago. It was another good one. In this chapter of the tale, the little brother Caleb takes over the journal writing and narrating. It is a story of forgiveness and redemption. It's a good father/son story as well.

The boys all love these stories. This was especially fun for our Caleb too. I believe there is one more left in this series. I think we need to hold off on that one though for a while. I'm glad though that we are off to a different world for our next read aloud.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Welcome Sam Dave

Samuel David Nagel was born this morning to Brad and Sarah. Here are the stats.

21 inches
9lbs 6oz
red hair like james
cute as a button

Big boy! Congratulations to Brad, Sarah and James. Amanda promises pictures after her visit this afternoon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All Ben Wants For Christmas

From September

Using Dave's floss trick, last night I got Ben's snaggle-tooth out. He did not want me to pull it. It was a good exercise in trust though. It was literally hanging there. He put it under his pillow and the Tooth Fair did pay him a visit. According to Amanda, the going rate for a tooth these days is a whopping $2.00. You want to talk about hyper-inflation!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Snaggle Tooth

One down. One to go.
From September

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Wonderful Minnesota Day

From August
It's fair time again in Minnesota. On Monday, I took the day off and we all went out to the "Great Minnesota Get-together." It was a great day. The high was 72 degrees, the sun was out, the food was great and the company was even better. Copying Abraham, here is my list of things that I enjoyed.
  1. Riding the bus for free.
  2. Getting there early. We were there by about 8:45 AM. We beat the crowds and the temp was great.
  3. X Zone--Skateboarders from age 9 to professionals as well as BMX bikers put on a great show.
  4. The SkyGlide--This is a ski lift that goes out towards machinery hill. Great views and a lengthy ride. Our first year of doing this. We will be back.
  5. Car displays--I loved walking around to all of the different auto displays. Amanda, Shube and the kids took breaks while I meandered from display to display.
  6. The GIANT slide--I love doing this with the boys.
  7. The food.
Amanda said this morning that she wanted to go back. We can't wait until next year.
From August

Hymn of the Week--How Great Thou Art

My deepest memory of this hymn is how every summer at our church's summer camp, Donna Pollard would sing it at the Wednesday night service. The sun would be setting over the lake. Most of the people that I loved the most were around a circle of picnic tables. I was tired and dirty from one of the best weeks of the summer. It was not hard to wonder at how great God was. I love this hymn. It has taken us a while to get to it.

Hymn of the Week

How Great Thou Art
Words by Carl Gustaf Boberg
Music--Swedish Folk Song

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We have begun to reap the bounty of the season. Our first tomatoes came a few weeks back. Today I had the first of our heirloom tomatoes. It was delicious. It was very ugly with a lot of black rough spots on the outside but he inside was meaty, bi-colored and flavorful. As you can see above I had it for lunch with some cottage cheese and chives (from the garden.)

This weekend we got a bushel of Michigan peaches from a local orchard. They were spread on our dining room table on beach towels to ripen. Last night Amanda and Shube worked like beavers to put freeze them. We had some last night and again today at lunch. Delicious! I love this time of year because of the reaping of the work that we and others have put in.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Outdoor Kids Games

Here is a great list of 30 outdoor kids games. Anyone for a game of kick the can?

Quotes: Great Shape

We were at James' birthday last weekend and all of Sarah's grandparents were there.  (She has all four or her grandparents! It's amazing.) Early on in the event I asked Ben if he knew who all of the other people there were. He said he didn't. I told him that they were James' great-grandparents. His response:
I would have guessed they were his grandparents.  They are all in such great shape.
When relayed to the great-grandparents, they got quite a kick out of this. I told them that the next time they go to their doctors let them know that a six-year-old to them they were in "great shape."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Yesterday we had our ultrasound and found out that we will get another little girl in December. We couldn't be more pleased and grateful. Amanda was especially excited. She is thankful that Molly will have a little sister. We can't wait until "Sis" gets here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gammons Wordle

Jamsco encouraged us to make a family wordle. This was more fun than I thought it would be. What do you think? If you know us well, what words were you surprised about or what words did we miss? Give it a shot. You can make your own at wordle.net. If you do one, check out Jamsco's tips. See the comments for the list of words that we used.

Image used with permission from http://www.wordle.net/.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's the best thing that parents can do for their kids?

What's the best thing that a parent can do for their kids? This is the question that I got to thinking about after reading Jamsco's post on The Responsible Puppet. His post was mostly a critique of a book review in the Star Tribune of the book "Bad Mother" by Ayelet Waldman. I had heard an interview on NPR's Fresh Air (Don't stop reading, Gregg.) It was a very interesting interview. On the Fresh Air page, they link to an article that Waldman wrote for the NY Times about how she felt guilty, she felt she was a bad mom, because she loved her husband more than she love her kids.

What do you think? Is it bad to love your spouse more than your kids? I would say, "certainly not." Furthermore, I would say that the best thing that you can do for your kids is to love your spouse more than anyone. Isn't this a common opinion and even conventioal wisdom among Christians? One of my goals in relating to my kids is to let them know that God is my Lord, Jesus my Savior and their mother is my best friend in the world. If I could accomplish this, I don't think it would make me a bad parent. It would help my kids to feel secure that their home is a stable place, that they are not the center of my universe or the universe in general and it would set a presedent that they could follow in their marriage. It seems that many marriages that fail, fail for just that reason. One of the people loves the something more than he/she loves his/her spouse. If you want to talk about being a bad parent, then setting up a situation where there is not a stable marriage at the center of the family would certainly be one way to do it.

I hope my kids when they are able to articulate something like this would say that dad's priorities look something like this.
  1. God
  2. Church
  3. Mom
  4. Kids
  5. Work
These are high hopes and ones that daily fall flat. My list most often looks like this.
  1. Andy
This is something that I pray for God's grace to my wife, children and me. I am in need of his cross for forgiveness and for the strength to get my list right.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

V--A return to the 80's

I can't be the only one who, growing up, totally enjoyed the miniseries and then eventual series entitled "V". Well, obviously I wasn't because ABC has decided to "reboot" the concept this fall. ABC says that it will be on Tuesday night so that I can at least give it a chance. It doesn't start though until half way through the fall season in November. Watch the preview below.

Read Alouds--The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew is my favorite of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. (At least it was when I read them all in college. That may have changed.) I have always imagined sharing some of my favorite books with the boys and having them love them just as much as I do. Of course like many of my relational fantasies, this one didn't quite work out.

For the past few years the boys have been listening on and off to the cd's of the Chronicles. They have enjoyed these, but haven't "loved" them. I have also read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to the prior to this. So when I suggested that we read the TMN, Caleb said, "That's boewing (boring). I already know what's going to happen next." They have humored me though. Ben seems to really enjoy it and Caleb at least lays quietly. I love these books and look forward to continuing with the others at a later point. If you're thinking about buying the CD's, I might recommend not. There are some books that should be shared with your kids. The CD's seem to not have enough "weight", if that makes sense.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Read Alouds--Skylark

Mom recently sent us Skylark, by Patricia MacLachlan. This is the sequel to my recently mentioned Sarah, Plain and Tall. It is just as lovely and profound. She writes about a very difficult time for the family. The fields are brown, the dust is thick and they are waiting for rain. There is more than fear and misery though. There is hope.

Anna, the narrator is a young girl who is trying to figure out how to go navigate these difficult times. Her companions are her new mother Sarah, her brother Caleb and her father Jacob. It is another gift from the author and one that I would highly recommend. The boys would certainly echo that. I asked last night if they wanted me to keep reading. Ben said, "Yes." Caleb said, "Yes." Matthew said, "No." Thanks for sending it mom.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hymn of the Week--Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

I just looked at my usual hymn website and found out that there is a verse to this hymn. In our hymnal, it didn't have it, but I think it's a good one. Maybe we'll have to try and learn the verse too. The recording below is from Alan Jackson and includes the verses. Give it a listen.

Hymn of the Week

 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Words and music by Helen H. Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are you a father or do you know one?

If you are either a father, would like to be, or know one, you need to check out a new blog, Responsible Father. It is by a brother from church. I read his current blog The Responsible Puppet. His new blog is about fatherhood. He has seven kids ages 12 to under one. They have adopted their last two children. They are a very neat family and I am really looking forward to read what he has to say. I'll add it to my blog roll on the right so you can follow along.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Read Alouds--The Indian In The Cupboard

One of my latest joys is the time that I get to spend in the evening reading to the boys. This is something that I have always looked forward to about having kids. Having the kids bring me book after book of Sandra Boynton, Dr. Seuss, etc. has never been my favorite. But getting to read a well written, gripping and sometimes moving story to my little boys as they lay in their beds quietly listening is awesome.

I know that for some of you with smaller kids this is but a dream. But be assured, your time will come. I thought it would be somewhat interesting for me to regularly share my Read Alouds and give you some reaction. I have done this earlier with Soup and Me and Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Right now we are reading The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks. My mom taught forth and fifth grades for many years and this was one that she recommended. She has given us some great suggestions of books that boys would really like. This is one of those. It has Indians, cowboys, horses and is written from a definite boy's perspective. It is so much fun to have Ben and Caleb say each night when we finish our chapter, "Please, can you start the next one? Just a little!" Matthew has fallen asleep some nights as I've read. I think he is a little young, but I think it's still good practice for him to try and listen.