Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Economy

In my day to day work, which I try not to write about much here, I see lots of reminders that we are in a recession. I told Amanda last night that it seems that I have been seeing many more adults. In the last three days 10 out of 13 appointments have been adult learners. Many of those mentioned to me that they were out of work after a layoff. Today a man in his early 50's and his wife came in. We got to talking and my heart went out to them. He said, "I never thought I would be going back to school at this age." This and so many other things makes me so thankful that God has provided for me and my family. I have a good job. I don't have to worry where my next meal is coming from.

How about you? Where are you seeing evidences of the downturn in our economy? Has someone that you know or love been affected by the recent layoffs? As you sit down to dinner tonight or before you go to bed, say a prayer for all of the people that are dealing with difficult decisions and circumstances.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Springsteen--Old Me.

Today Bruce Springsteen releases his latest album, "Working On a Dream." This album kind of sneaked up on me. At the release of Springsteen's last album, "Magic," the boys and I had been anticipating it for weeks. We went out that Tuesday night and bought the CD. This time around though, I have not been anticipating it as much. I have downloaded the pre-release freebies and done some reading about it, but it hasn't really grabbed me. I even thought about just downloading it from iTunes today. (I have hard copies of all of my other Springsteen albums, just in case.)

I think that I have lost track of new music over the last year. Music has always been a way that I have sought to stay engaged with culture, but this year, I have not really been able to do that as much. It may be my increase in reading or the fault of my overloaded iPod (the subject of a future post.) The further away from college students I get, the further away from new music I get. I will definitely go out in the next few days, maybe even tonight, to get "Working On a Dream." Rolling Stone gave it 5 stars, just like almost all of Springsteen's latest albums. I am currently listening to it on lala. You can listen to it below. Make sure you catch The Boss at half time on Sunday.

Springsteen comes to St. Paul on May 11. Tickets go on sale on February 2. I think that this may have to be Ben and maybe Caleb's first Springsteen concert. We wanted to go so bad last time, but didn't pull the trigger. Tickets are so expensive, but I really want the boys to see him before he stops touring with the band. Will you be buying the album or seeing him on tour? Gregg and Brad, I already know your answers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hymn of the Week--I Surender All

Per the suggestion of my mom, this weeks HOTW will be I Surrender All. This is a good old hymn that I have sung all my life. This is what many Baptist bulletins call a "Hymn of Response."

On a theological note: One thing that I have become more sensitive as of late are hymns and songs that seem to be triumphal, focused on what I have done and often about the emotion of conversion. While conversion certainly is an experience with passion and emotion and not simply cerebral, the Christian culture has become fascinated with and even focused on the emotive. I think that this hymn borders on that. When we sing it as a family, I will simply ask, "How do we surrender all? Who gives us the ability to surrender all? Do you think that we surrender all to God once and for all?" Sometimes when I ask the kids questions like this, I hope that I am not reacting to my own evangelical/fundamental upbringing and confusing them. If I'm going to err though, I certainly want to err on the side of giving God the credit for my conversion. If it were up to me, I am sure that I wouldn't surrender anything. I certainly wouldn't surrender anything meaningful. Thanks be to God through whom I am able to surrender daily, get up after falling flat on my face, surrender again, and so on.

Hymn of the WeekI Surrender All
Words by Judson W. Van DeVenter
Music by Winfield S. Weeden

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my bless├Ęd Savior,
I surrender all.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Gregg forwarded this to me today. I am not usually one to pass along things like this, but this is a good one. See my comments at the end.

In a supermarket, Kurtis the stock boy, was busily working when a new voice came over the loud speaker asking for a carry out at register 4. Kurtis was almost finished, and wanted to get some fresh air, and decided to answer the call. As he approached the check-out stand a distant smile caught his eye, the new check-out girl was beautiful. She was an older woman (maybe 26, and he was only 22) and he fell in love.

Later that day, after his shift was over, he waited by the punch clock to find out her name. She came into the break room, smiled softly at him, took her card and punched out, then left. He looked at her card, BRENDA. He walked out only to see her start walking up the road. Next day, he waited outside as she left the supermarket, and offered her a ride home. He looked harmless enough, and she accepted. When he dropped her off, he asked if maybe he could see her again, outside of work. She simply said it wasn't possible.

He pressed and she explained she had two children and she couldn't afford a baby-sitter, so he offered to pay for the baby-sitter. Reluctantly she accepted his offer for a date for the following Saturday. That Saturday night he arrived at her door only to have her tell him that she was unable to go with him. The baby-sitter had called and canceled. To which Kurtis simply said, "Well, let's take the kids with us."

She tried to explain that taking the children was not an option, but again not taking no for an answer, he pressed. Finally Brenda, brought him inside to meet her children. She had an older daughter who was just as cute as a bug, Kurtis thought, then Brenda brought out her son, in a wheelchair. He was born a paraplegic with Down Syndrome. Kurtis asked Brenda, "I still don't understand why the kids can't come with us?" Brenda was amazed. Most men would run away from a woman with two kids, especially if one had disabilities - just like her first husband and father of her children had done. Kurtis was not ordinary - - - he had a different mindset.

That evening Kurtis and Brenda loaded up the kids, went to dinner and the movies. When her son needed anything Kurtis would take care of him. When he needed to use the restroom, he picked him up out of his wheelchair, took him and brought him back. The kids loved Kurtis. At the end of the evening, Brenda knew this was the man she was going to marry and spend the rest of her life with.

A year later, they were married and Kurtis adopted both of her children. Since then they have added two more kids.

So what happened to Kurtis the stock boy and Brenda the check-out girl?

Well, Mr. & Mrs. Kurt Warner now live in Arizona , where he is currently employed as the quarterback of the National Football League Arizona Cardinals and has his Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

I knew I liked Curt Warner for a reason. He is an outspoken Christian. And unlike other quarter backs in the league, he seems to not be an egomaniacal hot head. I'll be rooting for the Cards on Superbowl Sunday. How about you?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Last night Amanda and I were freezing our tails off. We had all of the curtains drawn our flannels on and we were still freezing. When it's -19 outside, I guess it's going to be cold inside no matter what. Here's a look at this week's highs and lows.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hymn of the Week--Wonderful Words of Life

It was request night last night at the Gammons house. Grandpa Dave requested this weeks Hymn of the Week, Wonderful Words of Life. It is a great selection demonstrating the sacramental nature of the Word of God.

Hymn of the WeekWonderful Words of Life
Words and Music by Phillip P. Bliss
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Some audio tests

We got Caleb a new tape recorder for his birthday. This has led to a lot of fun recording sessions. I thought that I would try to figure out how to get some of these online. This weekend I did just that. Here are a couple of short ones that I think everyone will get a kick out of. The quality is not very good, but come on, it's from a cassette tape.

In case I disappear, come looking for the voice on this recording.

I LOVE to hear Matthew laugh. Whenever I hear him chuckle in the back of the house, it makes me get a huge smile on my face. Give it a try.

Friday, January 9, 2009


My post about the clippers made me think of one of the Nagel family's favorite "Daveisms". It's not a phrase, it's more of a gesture. Whenever there is talk about whether someone should go with a generic item or a cheaper item over the more expensive purchase, Dave simply does his gesture (see picture below). He kind of moves the top hand back and forth. Which means he thinks you should go top shelf. This gesture is closely related to "Pay peanuts, get monekys." Dave has a number of these and my dad did too. After my dad died, I spent some time writing and tried to collect all of these sayings of his. It seems that now, they continually pepper my everyday conversation. It is a good thing. Do you remember any of your dad's favorite sayings? To begin the comments, I'll list some of my favorites of my dad's and Dave's.

  • "You're almsost as good looking as your dad."--usually delivered on Sunday morning in front of the mirror.
  • "You'd be pretty good looking if it weren't for those two brown spots on your chest."--usually delivered when Joey and I were fresh out of the shower.
  • "It's colder than a well digger's hind end (or witch's titt in a brass bra.)"
  • "You look more nervous than a whore in church."
  • "Giminy Chirstmas!"
  • "You run out of money, before you run out of great deals."

Male Grooming

Gregg made a very interesting post about his new safety razor over at their blog and it inspired me to write about my favorite male grooming tool. I have been cutting my own hair (what's left of it) for the past ten years or so. I have owned a number of different sets of clippers. This past summer I was getting a hair cut at the State Street Barber Shop in Alpena, Michigan, while on vacation at my mom's. I asked the barber where I could get a pair of clippers like the ones he had. He recommended the Internet. Ha! So I went online and found the Oster Classic 76 clippers. I also purchased the T Finisher clippers (both pictured above.) The set cost approximately $150. I figured with four heads to trim, these would pay off quickly. I have not been disappointed. These clippers fly through hair like a hot knife through butter. What would normally be a long, disappointing and sometimes painful experience with my old cheap clippers, has now become an quick, enjoyable time.

So jump online and get yourself or your favorite man a set of Classic 76's. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gum, Geckos, and God--by Jim Spiegel

When I was a student at Taylor, there was a professor that I got to know a little named Jim Spiegel. I never took a class from him. He taught philosophy and at the time, I think I thought that was a little to "academic" for me. Now being a student affairs professional, Spiegel was/is the kind of professor that all of us hope for. He was interested in the whole person and the whole of college life. I can still vividly picture and hear his Nostalgia night performances of Dylan tunes (probably my first introduction to Dylan.) I had a few good conversations with him while I was a student and every time that I have been back to Taylor he has been gracious to me.

Before Christmas I came across his latest book, Gum, Geckos and God. It is all about how conversations about God with his four kids, eight and under come out of everyday things like backyard campouts, baseball on the radio and the family pet gecko. This is something that I have thought a lot about and worked hard at at home, so I was excited to get into it. Amanda read it first and really enjoyed it. Last night I read the first few chapters. Spiegel captures the ease, risk and work that surround these conversations. I have said though (and Spiegel reiterates) that if I could have everyday conversations about the nature of God and his kingdom with college students, I certainly need to be able to do that with my own kids. As I read last night, I thought back to my reading from Dueteronomy 6.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

One of the most important things that I do in my life will be the catechizing of my kids in the faith that God has given me. These verses capture my desire and also point to my deep need for the grace of God in this endevour. I will always fall short in this task on my own.

I am hoping to finish the book this week. For all of you who are parents of younger kids, order this book from Amazon and give it a read. Also check out Jim and Amy Spiegel's blog here. It is full of interesting anecdotes about their family, films, reading and life.

PJ Day

From January

Yesterday was a PJ Day at the Gammons house. This happens every few weeks. When I come home at lunch and find everyone in PJ Day apparel I know that either someone is sick, everyone is sick, Amanda is exhausted or Amanda is exhausted because everyone is sick. Sometimes it happens to just for fun. Yesterday was a PJ Day because Molly had thrown up at night for the past three nights and Matthew was complaining of his tummy hurting. Amanda and I have also both been "under the weather".

We are on the mend though. I am hoping everyone is better by this weekend. Last weekend I had to stay home from church with Molly. We have our first small group of the new year this weekend though so I am hoping everyone will be back to 100%.

Hymn of the Week--May The Mind of Christ My Savior

This week we have been singing the hymn May The Mind of Christ My Savior. I'm not sure where I learned this hymn, but I think it is fairly new to me. Maybe it was Calvin. It is a great hymn and hooks us into our churches focus this week on scripture memorization. This is why we memorize God's word, so that the mind of Christ (as revealed through his word) might also be our mind.

Hymn of the WeekMay The Mind of Christ My Savior
Words by Adelaide A. Pollard
Music by A. Cyril Barham-Gould

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Ordinary Man--Book Review

I am on a committee at work that chooses a book each year for the institution to read together. I think the idea is a good one. Ideally it would lead to a common conversation for all of the faculty, staff and students. In order to choose the book, the committee accepts nominations and then chooses around 6 or 7 to read over the Christmas break. I have been reading a lot. I just finished "An Ordinary Man" by Paul Rusesabagina. It is the true story behind the movie "Hotel Rwanda" about the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. I had of course heard about this movie, but I've not seen it.

The book was very good. It was an inspiring story of how one man can make a difference in the lives of his neighbors and even his whole country. Paul Rusebagina was a hotel manager in Rwanda who helped to save hundreds of people from the killings that were happening all around him. It was so interesting to read his account of the atrocities and why he made the decisions he made. I found myself, as I read, longing for him to know Jesus. It seemed that he was SO CLOSE. He was a former Seventh Day Adventist seminarian and talked about his relationship with and to God, but it always seemed just out of his reach. I have met many people like this and seem to always be drawn to them: coworkers, friends, Bruce Springsteen. They are people who know about God, maybe have even had experiences with him and his church, but for many reasons they choose not to trust and believe. They live lives that are genuine, true, admirable and even Christ-like, but they are Christ-less and therefore lost. I have had opportunities to talk to some of these people and tell them how much I would love for them to know the Jesus that I know and love. I long for them to know the forgiveness that Christ offers for the sin that they are often so aware of. They are often difficult nuts to crack. I pray for them.

I've drifted from my book review. If you are looking for a book that speaks of the total depravity of man and yet the hope that still lies in the heart of each man, the you should definitely read "An Ordinary Man". It is also a great book to open one's eyes to the world outside our normal vision. This will be my recommendation for our common book for next year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sledding video

2008 Wrap-up

From Christmas '08

I read Gregg and Allison's post reviewing the year that just closed and appreciated it so much that I thought I would take a wack at it myself. In order to do this, I actually got out a pencil and paper and rolled back through this year of posts.

This year . . .
Some of our favorite reads from this year
  • Chaim Potok's The Chosen and The Promise
  • Edith Schaeffer's books about family and home
  • Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer
The themes that have dominated this year are getting to know our kids as people even more, loving our church and finding connections there through ministry and our new small group, a struggle for contentment in vocation and developing a deeper partnership in parenting and life for Amanda and me.

It has been an interesting year and one of many blessings. We have seen God's hand in our lives drawing us into deeper relationship with Him. We have experienced frustrations as parents and even greater joy. We thank God for our family and friends--if you're reading this you fall into one of those. We pray that God shows us even more of himself in 2009 and this morning, I pray that for you as well. Thanks for reading.

New Year's and Breakfast with Caleb

For the past few years we have headed to Yost Park down the road to go sledding with Dave and Brad. It is always a Christmas vacation/New Year's highlight. This year was highlighted by both Brad and I going off of the jump and bruising our tailbones. I'm not sure why I did it after I saw Brad laying on the ground in pain after his run. I always seem to get some very fun pics and video from these days. I love the ones of the kids below.
From January

From January

From January

From January

You can see all of our photos from sledding (or sliding as they say in Minnesota) here.

On Wednesday, Amanda called me and reminded me that I had forgotten to take Caleb out for breakfast for his birthday. This is our annual tradition and I couldn't believe that I had forgotten. So, this morning we enjoyed another Cobblestone Cafe breakfast. It is so nice to be alone with each of the kids. I am thankful for Caleb and the joy that he brings to my life.
From January