31 January 2007

Storyhill - Give up the Ghost

Another Storyhill video from Storyhill Fest last summer - this is the first track on their new self-titled CD on Red House Records

Four Things

Four movies I have watched over and over again
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
2. The Usual Suspects
3. Indian Summer
4. So I Married An Axe Murderer

Four Places I have lived:
1. Wakefield, Nebraska
2. Titusville, Florida
3. Monterey, California
4. St. Paul, Minnesota

Four TV shows I love to watch (In no order)
1. Friday Night Lights
2. How I Met Your Mother
3. Lost
4. 24

Four places I have been on vacation
1. Ireland
2. Germany
3. Yosemite National Park (California)
4. Washington, D.C.

Four of my favorite foods
1. Pizza
2. Prime Rib
3. Butterfinger Dessert
4. Sweet Corn

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. In an Irish pub with a Guinness in one hand and a Dunhill cigarette in the other (hey, no one said it had to be all GOOD things...)
2. In uniform for the Cornhusker Marching Band at Memorial Stadium while we pound the crap out of Texas
3. Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany
4. playing guitar and singing with my favorite duo, Storyhill

30 January 2007

Then Again, Maybe I'm NOT Ready To Be A Parent

I'll consider this article the most recent entry in the "What F$%!$ng Planet Do You Come From" Contest.

It's Official: Lincoln Marathon

I registered for the Lincoln Marathon this week, one of the first hundred or so from what I can tell. So now I'm in for good. Training has been put somewhat on hiatus due to the arrival of AJ and the subsequent lack of free time & sleep, but as we get used to our new schedule I'll be back on my training ASAP. The goal, however, remains the same: 4567!

29 January 2007

AJ Comes Home & Has Visitors - Auntie Kimmie, Grandma & Grandpa Johnson

It was a fun week in the hospital. We had a few visitors, including some of Beloved's Confirmation class from church. What fun!

But we're most happy to say that she's home! We came home Thursday and have been working to make our little AJ feel welcome in her new home.

Auntie Kimmie came for a visit on Wednesday night and stayed throughout the weekend - and are Mom & Dad ever glad! We can't say enough how much we needed her help, support and laughter through our first weekend as a family. Thanks, Kim!

On Saturday night we got great news: Grandma & Grandpa Johnson were coming north for a short visit! They had one day to get away before the baptism and they decided they didn't want to wait a whole month to meet Grandchild #2, so they hit the road Sunday morning and stayed until just before lunch today. Ainsley loves her Grandma & Grandpa already: she fell asleep with Grandma on the glider Sunday afternoon and was always checking them out when she was awake during their visit. (By the way, Grandma & Grandpa Mooneyham & Oregon Boltzes, you can see the rubber plant behind Grandpa Johnson - thanks again!)

Home bath #2 came Sunday night. Unfortunately, so did Projectile Poop #2. This time Grandma Johnson cleaned up the mess while I finished the bath - the first time, Auntie Kimmie cleaned up the mess while I finished the bath. I don't know what I'm going to do now: we don't have anyone coming to help until Thursday, which means I have to clean up poop all by myself. ;-P

Nights have been, well, tough, but not SO bad. We're trying to get AJ on a schedule of only two feedings during the night. Last night it worked like a charm, but tonight she's already a bit fussy. But, considering she's a newborn and we're newbies, I don't think we're doing too badly. I will say that I've treasured bringing Ainsley into the living room to sleep on my chest so Beloved can also get some sleep; Daddy does love his bonding time.

But life is grand with AJ. We are a family now and couldn't be happier.

26 January 2007

Friday Five: Renewal

In my office the other day, two church members asked about the boat on my table. I told them it was a gift from a seminary classmate, a reminder of the work and teaching of our professor, Kirk Jones, author of Rest in the Storm: Self-Care Strategies for Clergy and other Caregivers. He always reminded us that Jesus went to the back of the boat and took a nap.

Not surprisingly, I could not find an image of Jesus resting. Preaching from the boat, yes. Calming the storm, yes. Walking on water? Oh, my, yes! But no one seems to want to picture Jesus taking his rest.

In this week that looks unlikely to hold a complete day off, I am pondering renewal. List four ways you like to relax or give yourself a break. Then name a fifth, something you've never been able to do, a self-care dream.

1. Music. There was an awesome piece of woodcarving on the back wall of the performance hall when I was a music major at the University of Nebraska. It read something like this: "Of all the arts, only music has the capacity to calm the human soul." I wish it were a more direct quote, but I can't find it anywhere. Be that as it may, I relax and even meditate to music. I have loved music of all kinds for as long as I can remember: Statler Brothers records on my parents' huge console stereo, All-State Honor Band in high school, David Maslanka's Symphony No. 4 for Wind Ensemble in college, the great hymns of my Lutheran tradition, my new Ovation guitar, my daughter dancing to the sound of a Storyhill concert when she was still in the womb. Nothing touches my soul like music: it reminds me of the old quote attributed to Martin Luther: "Those who sing pray twice."

2. Baking. I've been known to retreat to our kitchen on Friday afternoons to bake while I write my sermon. Of course, I'm a cheater: I mix in a breadmachine. But the feel of good dough and the smell of bread baking & cooling makes me feel as though I'm home and all is well.

3. Running. This is a new one in my life - I've been running for just over six years now. I started running seriously while I was going through a really rough time; I lost a lot of weight and a lot of my friends & family were concerned. But I discovered that losing myself in the rhythm of a run brings rewards far beyond physical fitness (though that is important, of course). When I run I focus on breathing, pace and posture, removing myself from the distractions that surround me, and I find that I gain a perspective on my surroundings that I often lose when separated by a car window.

4. Reading. When I was a first-grade student, my teacher told my parents that I was her first student who needed to read less and work on assignments more. I've always been a reader and always will be, and genre doesn't matter: good writing does. Right now I'm reading The Once And Future King by T.H. White and loving it all over again - next I'll be venturing into The Kite Runner and who knows after that?

5. A Dream Renewal. This is so easy right now it's laughable: I am renewed by cuddling with our five-day-old daughter. Sorry for the sap, but I've waited 32 years to be a Daddy, and even with no sleep and changing diapers I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Hope for Bears Fans Everywhere

We're Home!

Beloved, AJ & me came home from the hospital yesterday. At this point we're still wondering when the baby police will come to take her away from us, since we're obviously unqualified to be in charge of such a precious thing. :-) AJ & Dad had another bath last night, and Dad had his first experience with tactical pooping - all over the bathtub, bathmat & Dad's shirt. The best part? Auntie Kim cleaned up the damage while Dad finished with lotion & dressing AJ!

Last night was an adventure, as we supposed it would be. But AJ only woke three times and only once for more than 10 minutes before or after a feeding, so we got off easy. We'll see how things go in the days and weeks to come.

But we still love our little Ainsley and will keep talking/bragging/boring everyone with updates for quite some time!

24 January 2007

Stuff about the name...

Lots of friends have been asking about Ainsley's name. When we found out AJ was a girl at her 20 week ultrasound, we got a BIG baby name book and started just going through names - I'd read ones I thought had potential and Kristin gave them yeas or nays. But one of the first that we liked a lot was Ainsley.

A few weeks later we were just flipping channels and found the West Wing in syndicated reruns somewhere, and it was one of our favorite episodes. Here's the recap from Television Without Pity, but the gist of the story is that a young, pretty spitfire named Ainsley Hayes kicked Sam (Rob Lowe) up one side and down the other in a debate on national TV - while Josh & Toby hollered for popcorn to eat while they watched. When our little miss came screaming, red-headed and pretty aware of her surroundings, we just thought it fit even better. Joy is Momma's middle name and Suzanne is Grandma M's middle name.

So, there's the story of the name. AJ and Mommy come home tomorrow - and then we're really in for it, huh?

Washing AJ

Ainsley's first bath - good lungs!

23 January 2007

New Baby, continued

So, I get up this morning, and here's my day:

Job 1: learn to wash a baby's head. Actually, I've kinda got this one down already, though we didn't generally use shampoo in Dr. Teig's Worship class at seminary.

It's okay, Ainsley - Daddy loves you and bath time is good for you! (once Daddy gets the hang of washing more than the top of your head, that is...)

It sounds so simple. Wash the baby. Surprisingly, it's harder than one might think it would be. But check out the grip! Left hand strong, long fingers - Daddy might have a guitar duet partner in about 14 years...

4. This kind of determination is cute now - wonder what it will be like in a month or so.

And so went day two AC (after Child), with lots of cuddling that didn't get captured on camera. Mommy is healing quickly, Auntie Kim is coming to stay tomorrow night, and AJ gets to come home Thursday. Visitors welcome (especially if they bring food!).

22 January 2007

It's a Girl - Pictures

So, here we have the lovely Lady Cluckington getting an IV from Toni, the most wonderfullest delivery nurse in the world. Okay, so we don't have a lot of comparison material, but hey, man, she was THAT good to us.

Yes, Mom, I'm STILL in labor...Yes, Karen, I'm STILL in labor...yes, Kim, I'm STILL in labor...

I cannot believe I'm STILL IN $%@#!&ING LABOR - I'm gonna take a nap.

Hey, this doesn't feel so bad - kinda like a nap from the waist down...


Still not happy...

Still not happy!


Hey, whozat?

Look closely - the Mooneyham pout is in full effect.
Turn your computer upside down if you need perspective...

NOW I'm happy!

Momma & Ainsley share a moment (Dad ruins it with a shutter, of course)

That's right - it's a Johnson, but it's a girl. Will miracles never cease?

Introducing the newest member of the Grey's Anatomy cast - McDaddy!

This will be the money shot for embarrassing future dates.

Or maybe it'll be this one - Dad's first diaper change.

But, in the end, bliss. At least until Dad has to repeat this at 3am...4am...5am...

21 January 2007

It's a Girl!

Ainsley Joy Suzanne Johnson was born by caesarian section on 21 January 2007 at 8:16 p.m. after 36 hours of labor by her mother, Kristin, who just might be the toughest Lutheran youth director EVER. AJ, formerly known as "Lumpy" and "Little Miss," weighs 7lbs, 2oz, is 20.5 inches long, and has the Mooneyham nose and quivering lower lip. However, she also bears a remarkable resemblance to her father, including lots of red hair, a strong set of lungs and a healthy appetite.

Mom and baby are resting at Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, MN and doing just fine. In a move that should surprise no one, Daddy dragged his exhausted butt home but forgot to bring the camera along, so pictures will have to wait for tomorrow night. Thanks be to God for a healthy delivery and a new life to celebrate in the world - we are truly blessed.

Love to you all,

19 January 2007

Dashed Hopes

I came downstairs to use the wc before finishing up some work I'm doing at home this afternoon. Beloved was sitting in her chair with A Letter Concerning Toleration by Locke in her lap. For a moment I was overjoyed: my I'm-not-an-intellectual wife was reading philosophy! Then she picked up the book, placed it under the form she was filling out, proceeded to use it as a writing surface, and all my hopes were dashed against the cold, hard rocks of reality. *sigh*

Everything Must Change

Jan Edmiston over at A Church for Starving Artists has an eloquent post about what we are facing in the days to come. I'll comment later when I have time, but you should read her post - it's worth you time and thoughts.

Badda Bing Badda Boom Friday Five

It's been a very full, busy week. Here's the F5, short and sweet.
The questions are simple, the answers unlimited. Go!

Beloved Momma, aka Lumpy the Magnificent, aka My Lady Cluckington


NOW would be great. Today would be really good. Next Friday would be, umm, uncomfortable to say the least. Even though due date is not yet here, Momma's body says it's time to deliver, except she's not delivering.

The Birthing Tub at our hospital. The labor room at our hospital. Anywhere but the seat of our car on the way TO said hospital. (Honey, the upholstery...)

Because Momma is tired, uncomfortable and her body has been getting ready for nearly three weeks now.
Because if Momma's body gets any more ready, Daddy is afraid Baby-to-be will just fall out when labor does begin (see upholstery above).
Because Momma wants DESPERATELY to sleep on her side again.
Because Daddy is tired of sleeping in the bed all by himself.
Because Daddy is tired of sleeping, period.
Because Momma & Daddy want to learn how to change diapers.
Because both Momma & Daddy cringe every time the phone rings: if we answer, we have to tell people why Momma hasn't delivered yet, and if we don't answer, people assume that Momma is on her way to the hospital to deliver.
Because when you've waited 32 years for something, no word in any language can describe the interminable wait of the last few days.
Because Momma & Daddy have the collective patience of a tsetse fly.

Bonus: How
For this we've had many suggestions, some of which we've tried and some we have not. You get to figure out which is which:
Bumpy Roads
Spicy Mexican Food
Spicy Mexican Food followed by a hot bath.
Mowing the lawn followed by a hot bath (or, in our clime and season, driving the snowblower followed by a hot bath)
Walking on the treadmill.
Pogo sticks (Daddy might take it up just to relieve stress)
Cleaning the house
Watching "A Baby Story" until Momma cries

Life is good. Baby-to-be is healthy. We're not complaining. Okay, yes, we are, but we laugh a lot, too. Pray for us!

17 January 2007

Still Waiting

So, we still have a reluctant PK yet-to-hatch. Beloved is growing more and more uncomfortable. We know that every day in the womb is another day of development, but it's rough for Beloved to deal with the discomfort and it's rough for me to watch.

It's funny how your mindset changes. Two weeks ago I basically hovered around the house waiting for the baby to pop out. Last week I just kind of checked in every few hours to see how Beloved was feeling. Tonight I had to remind myself that, yes, we WILL be having a baby sometime in the next month.

But the priorities haven't changed at all. They continue to be
1: healthy baby; 2: healthy wife; 3: happy daddy. So far I think we're doing okay on all three counts. Pray for us!

16 January 2007

What if?

This is a powerful article by a German pastor on the state of affairs with America and the world. Disagree if you wish, but it's worthy of a read nonetheless. I especially appreciated these concluding paragraphs:

The point is that due to their many ground-zero experiences, European nations have learned the lesson that the functioning integrity of societies is as much dependent on social stability and just labor relations as it is on their military establishments. For the U.S., on the other hand, the experience of being the global winner has become a trap. President Eisenhower's prophetic warning about the danger of the "military-industrial complex" tending to become the all-encompassing economic factor has become all too true...

It will not suffice to put the blame on President Bush and his administration alone. The temptation is there, and it will increase as the Iraqi quagmire continues to get worse. But this would be a sort of scapegoating, and it would prevent us from looking at the underlying issues.

Let me also suggest the movie "Why We Fight" as a means of investigating some of the underlying causes of the American predilection for military combat.

Only 99%?

You are 99% Lutheran! This is most certainly true.

Nicely done! Martin would be proud of you! You may or may not have room for growth in understanding Lutheran terminology and culture. Good thing Salvation is by Grace and not by merit. We can add nothing to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. But it never hurts to learn a little more about the church on earth. Thanks for taking the quiz!

How Lutheran Are You?
Create a Quiz

13 January 2007

Thoughts on John for tomorrow: Sweet Excess

"A Wedding Toast" by Richard Wilbur

St. John tells how, at Cana's wedding-feast,
The water-pots poured wine in such amount
That by his sober count
there were a hundred gallons at the least.

It made no earthly sense, unless to show
How whatsoever love elects to bless
Brims to a sweet excess
That can without depletion overflow.

Which is to say that what love sees is true;
That the world's fullness is not made but found.
Life hungers to abound
And pour its plenty out for such as you.

Now, if your loves will lend an ear to mine,
I toast you both, good son and dear new daughter.
May you not lack for water,
And may that water smack of Cana's wine.

Thanks to Magdalene for sharing this beautiful poem.

What I've Learned This Week (with additions from Beloved)

Hi all, Kristin here. So: no baby yet!
Scott came up with a "Top Ten List" of things he's learned this week...I have decided to add my own lessons learned to this list (his are in bold).
1. You're 4 centimeters dilated, fully effaced, the baby's head is so low it's practically out, you're membranes have been stripped and you need to be on bed rest because "you'll be in labor before you know it!", does NOT mean you'll be in labor before you know it so cancel every appointment you've made for this week and go sit at home and watch movies until your baby arrives.
2. Mommies-to-be sitting on stability balls do not like being clucked at.
3. Watching every episode of TLC's 'The Baby Story' will not help induce labor. In fact, it will only make you more depressed to know that your body is 4 TIMES as far along in the "delivery process" than these woman who have gone into labor.
4. Fiercely pregnant women get sympathetic glances from every woman they meet. Men accompanying fiercely pregnant women get cold stares at best - open hostility is always a possibility.
5. Cats do NOT like feeling babies-to-be moving in Mommy's tummy.
6. Just because walking on a treadmill a few weeks ago put you into labor when you didn't want to be in labor, you should NOT assume that it WILL put you into labor when you WANT to be in labor.
7. You can only do so many laps around a Target/JcPenny/Herberger's store before you begin to get REALLY depressed and start to buy clothes to make yourself feel better.
8. Don't take it personally when even your midwife walks into your exam room with a look of "you're still pregnant?" There's no better feeling than "stumping" even your own doctor as to why you haven't gone yet.
9. I will never underestimate again the pleasure of sleeping on your side/back/however one might want to sleep.
10. If the best way to make God laugh is to make plans, we have been God's comic relief for about 10 days now.
So there you have it. I think we are both learning the first lesson in parenting: patience! :0)
Thanks for all your thoughts, prayers and phone calls. We hope to have good news soon.....or I may just enter into the hospital because I've gone INSANE!!!

Friday Five: Five Favorite Folks

Last night my TV Boyfriend Keith Olbermann made some comments I really appreciated, and it got me thinking about what makes one person admire another. In the spirit of Keith's show on MSNBC, welcome to the Friday Five Countdown Edition.

Please count down five living people you admire and tell us a little something about why they make your list. These could be famous people or people you know personally.


Songbird from RevGalBlogPals
5. Tom Osborne
Dr. Tom was the head football coach at Nebraska for 25 years. In those 25 years he averaged 10 wins a season, won three national championships, and cemented the University of Nebraska's football legacy for years to come. But Tom was also known as a caring person who believed that his vocation was only a means by which he could be a positive influence on the lives of people around the state. Tom & his wife Nancy started a mentoring program that is still thriving today in the Lincoln area. He served two terms as a U.S. Congressman before making a run for governor (and losing graciously in the Republican primary, one of the most shocking political upsets Nebraska has ever seen). Now Dr. Tom (PhD in Educational Psychology) has returned to the University to teach. He's 70, a living legend in Nebraska, and still feels like he needs to contribute. When I was a boy I dreamed of playing football for Dr. Tom - today I'd just like to have dinner with him and learn what I can about how he views life, teaching and faith.

4. Turner Gill.
Gill is the head football coach at the University of Buffalo. Until 2005, Gill was deeply connected with Nebraska football. He was the starting quarterback on the 1983 "Scoring Explosion" team that lost a heartbreaker to Miami in the Orange Bowl. He was the quarterbacks coach and, some said, destined to become head coach when Frank Solich retired. But Solich was fired, and Gill left a year later for the Green Bay Packers.
But I'm writing about Turner Gill for another reason. My best friend put together an internet "farewell & good luck" card for Mr. Gill. When Gill got word of it, he wanted to say "thank you." He did it in person. I can't remember if BF went to Gill's house or Gill went to BF's house, but I know they met face to face so Gill could say "thank you." Classy beyond belief.

3. Brian Stoffregen
Brian is a Lutheran pastor in California. Every week he posts exegetical notes for anyone & everyone to use as they see fit. It must take a lot of work, and I certainly have appreciated it over the few years I've been preaching weekly. He's got a great sense of humor, reads some really good commentaries and always has something for me to think about as I prepare to preach. Check his website out if you're a preacher or just want to know more about the scriptures we read every week.

2. Susan Briehl
Rev. Briehl was the keynote speaker at our Synod Rostered Leaders' Retreat two years ago, and I'm still impressed. It couldn't have been easy for a poet from the Pacific Northwest to come to a Minnesota pastors' retreat (read: non-poetic Norwegians who view emotions and passion with deep suspicion, if not dread), but she did, and it was incredible. As a musician I've appreciated her skill at the art of liturgy and hymn composition; as a theologian, I was blown away by her confession of faith. She's as solidly Lutheran as they come, and I think just about everyone was impressed with her deep understanding of the Psalms and how they can speak to us in ways we never expected. Her lectures are still shaping some of the worship practices in our church.

1. Gordon Atkinson (aka Real Live Preacher)
At a First Call Retreat a few years ago, one of the presenters mentioned a weblog he frequented, something like "Real Live Preacher." I checked it out and met Gordon, a Baptist pastor from San Antonio who just flat out ROCKS. His original writing is great, but what I really appreciate is his ability to comment on life and faith. The humor and deep love that he has for his family and his church resonate through these posts and make me realize the giftedness of my own life and family, which, dare I say, should be one of the functions of great preaching. Maybe sometimes he uses rough language or posts a bit more than you'd like to know, but I think that might be a desperately needed counter-balance to those of us who hide our flaws and our rough edges for fear that someone might find out that we're not perfect after all. Thanks to RLP, I'm a little more willing to be open and rough these days, and that's a good thing.

10 January 2007

Or maybe a good voice for preaching...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

North Central
The West
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Apparently I need to stop moving so much...

08 January 2007

No Baby Yet, With a Little F-bomb Pondering...

Beloved is fully effaced, 4cm dilated and feeling the baby's head moving inexorably downward, but no baby as of yet. I was supposed to go to Detroit Lakes tomorrow morning for a Synod Worship Commission meeting but elected to stay close to home just in case the blessed moment arrives. Ditto my attendance at Luther Seminary's Mid-Winter Convo Wednesday thru Friday; as much as I would have enjoyed it, I envisioned Little Miss would have making her appearance while I was frantically bombing my way up I-94 to Alexandria and elected to cancel my Convo registration.

Granted, people have come out of the woodwork to tell us how long they were dilated this much, and I don't doubt their stories. It's a continuing Advent thing: we wait until the time is right, and then it's glorious. Until then, I jump every time my phone rings.

We watched the movie Thank You For Smoking last night (EXCELLENT, BTW) and I had an interesting experience. There is a fairly high amount of strong profanity in this movie, including a number of occasions where the f-bomb gets dropped (The F-bomb, for those of you who are wondering, looks like a duck and sounds like a duck but isn't). As usual, the wonderful flexibility of this word was in full display: it got used as an adjective, an adverb, an imperative and several times in its most normal habitat, as an exclamatory expletive. None of this really caught my attention; it's not the politest word for conversation, but sometimes you just have to drop the bomb because nothing else will do.

What did catch my attention was the moment when two of the main characters are watching television in bed after having sex. The woman looks at the television, sees a tape of her partner's interview playing on the news, and says, "Let's f%$#. I want to f%$# you while I watch you on television."

That moment in the film really bothered me, and I have no idea why.

Well, I do have an idea. I think I'm averse to using the f-word for making love because it cheapens a beautiful act, a gift of God. As an expletive or an adjective, it is profane and vulgar, sometimes intense, but usually doesn't directly impact God's creation in the same way it does when you substitute "f%$#" for "make love." I've been known to drop the f-bomb myself on occasion among friends or when I'm really worked up, but I've searched my memory and I can't ever remember using it as a verb in that way. EVER. Somehow it just doesn't feel right, which is odd, since the word's origins are of course sexual in nature.

And perhaps it has to do with a Madonna complex, too - it was, after all, the female who said it, which rarely happens outside of pornography (or so I'm told). And perhaps the fact that we are expecting a little girl has something to do with it as well - it certainly is changing everything else in my life, why not my outlook on things I never thought would be affected?

At any rate, it was at the very least an interesting moment and something that's been coming to mind again and again today, so I thought I'd share. What you do with it now is up to you.

06 January 2007

Further thoughts on Pat Robertson (YOU SUCK, PAT!)

A Jewish boy from New York City comments on the latest from Pat Robertson, the latest entry in the "so embarrassing they make me want to be post-Christian" contest. (thanks, LutheranChik)

05 January 2007

Friday Five: Birthday, Redux

Yours truly had a birthday this week, and while we've done the birthday thing before, I'm going to do my best to come up with new questions...

1. "It's my party and I'll [blank] if I want to..."
Favorite way to celebrate your birthday (dinner with family? party with friends? a day in solitude?)
Definitely a dinner with family and friends. No presents, just good food, good beer/wine, good conversation, maybe some music, and a sober ride home afterwards. Couldn't get any better than that.

2. "You say it's your birthday... it's my birthday too, yeah..."
Do you share your birthday with someone famous? (Click here to find out!)
Karl Marx, Brian Williams and, I had to giggle at this, Tina Yothers.

3. "Lordy Lordy look who's forty..."
Milestone birthdays:
a) just like any other birthday--they're just numbers, people.
b) a good opportunity to look back/take stock
c) enjoy the black balloons--I'll be hiding under a pile of coats until the day is over
d) some combination of the above, or something else entirely.
Not having reached 40 yet, I'd honestly have to say B. That may change in 8 years.

4. "Happy birthday, dear... Customer..."
Have you ever been sung to in a restaurant? Fun or cringe-worthy?
The worst punishment any sadistic restaurant can force on its employees. Somehow it always sounds like the staff singing to the boss in Office Space. I've told family and friends that if we ever go to a restaurant and they start singing the Birthday song to me, I'll walk out of the place. I mean it. Let me celebrate in peace and I'll even tip you better afterwards if you don't pretend to care.

5. "Take my birthday--please"
Tell me one advantage and one disadvantage about your particular birthday (e.g. birthday in the summer--never had to go to school; birthday near Christmas--the dreaded joint presents)
EDITED TO ADD: This could also simply be something you like/dislike about your birthday (e.g. I like sharing a birthday with my best friend, etc.).
Well, considering I look about as Mexican as Benny Hill, sharing Cinco de Mayo is less than great. But really, no complaints. I get about halfway to Christmas and then I get presents, the weather is usually nice enough to grill some mean cow, and I don't have to dodge holiday commitments. What's not to like?

LATER EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to mention that my birthday usually fell during spring semester finals week. Actually, I can believe that, because I remember so little about those birthdays. My 21st birthday was Friday of Finals week when I lived with Cousin Eddie, one of the hardest-drinking people I know. He and a few friends took me out for the obligatory bar crawl, back in the day when Lincoln bars still gave away free drinks on your birthday. I do remember drinking my first stout that night (not a good combination drink), wasting everyone's time at the strip bar because I was embarrassed (still would be) and getting into a Citron-slamming contest to close out the night at the "Band" bar, P.O. Pears. I have not touched a drop of Jack Daniels since most of the shots I drank that night ended up on the curb outside of my friend Erik's apartment. What didn't end up on the curb ended up in my trashcan the next morning. Now I've traded that experience for Synod Assembly. Funny how my head winds up aching either way...

04 January 2007

The 2007 List

As stolen from the Lutherpunk

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Ran my first marathon, my first half-marathon and made a baby. Busy year.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Nice thing about blogs - you've got an archive. I went back and checked last year's resolutions.
1. Keeping the four cardinal virtues (Wisdom, Justice, Discipline, Courage) - Not a really measurable goal. But I think I did okay.
2. Creation, Not Consumption - Definitely didn't make as much progress as I'd hoped. But we are doing better.
3. Less time wasted on television - we've done well. I've read a lot of books this year, especially the latter part of the year. We have cable again, but we turn it off more often than we did before.
4. Submit an essay for publication - I'm a chicken.
5. Begin work on my first book - I'm a daydreaming chicken.
6. No more buying books - well, the budget sheet says we've bought fewer books, so chalk that up as a partial success.
7. Pay down credit card debt - yeah, not so much.
8. Run the Fargo Marathon - CHECK!

I hope to keep the one resolution I did make for this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
One couple from our church (treasurer and member of the church council) had a son, but that's as close as it got in 2006.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandmother, Ruth Johnson, died on 3 January 2006.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
Better financial management for the household - we need to finish paying off some of our debt.

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
3 January - my grandmother died.
15(ish) January - I first started to think I was suffering from depression.
24 March - Beloved suffered a miscarriage while I was in Winnipeg at a youth convention.
20 May - Fargo Marathon!
25 May(ish) - Beloved wakes me at 4:30am to tell me she's pregnant again.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not to beat a dead horse, but the marathon was pretty huge.

9. What was your biggest failure?
DivorceCare was finally put on hiatus at our church. I've been trying to get it going for two years with lots of struggle. Just not working for us as a church right now, basically because no one shows. Too bad, because DC helped me a lot when I was separated and I know it could help others as well.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not particularly - maybe one or two colds is all I can remember. Oh, and a shin bruise that developed into a HUGE lump before it started to heal.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Wow - definitely Red, my new Ovation guitar, with my iPod coming a close second.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My Beloved wife, who has been an absolute trooper throughout the pregnancy. She has handled things better for nine months than I could handle them for nine minutes. YOU ROCK, BABY!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I'm going to plead the 5th here. Oh, wait, Pat Robertson has had a banner year. So, yeah - Pat Robertson. YOU SUCK, PAT!

14. Where did most of your money go?
I don't have the foggiest idea. Do you?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Becoming a father. Definitely becoming a father.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
"Vertigo," U2

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Happier, pretty much the same and, well, pretty much the same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more?
Running and other types of exercise.

19. What do you wish you'd done less?
Worry over things I can't control and aren't my responsibility

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
In 2007 I imagine we'll be planted under the tree for Little Miss' first Christmas.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?
Every time I woke up in the morning.

22. How many one-night stands?
Um, none.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope - and I'd like to think I've moved a few people in the opposite direction. Except for Pat Robertson. YOU SUCK, PAT!

25. What was the best book you read?
Wow, tough choice. Anansi Boys was great, as was Gilead, The Solace of Leaving Early, and Eragon. Can't decide and I probably left a couple out as well.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Wild Clover Band, which is really sad considering one of my closest college buddies plays bodhran in the WCB. They are, as my music links tell you, the best damned Irish band in Kearney, Nebraska!

27. What did you want and get?
A completed marathon, an Ovation guitar and an iPod.

28. What did you want and not get?
Debt free!

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Again, tough choice. I think I liked A Prairie Home Companion best of all the films I saw this year, with Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire and XMen III up there as well.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 32. I drove to Moorhead to prep for the Synod Assembly, drove home for dinner with Beloved and a movie, then drove back for a weekend of thrilling church discussions and parliamentary procedures. And I thought I'd forget how to party in my thirties...

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A Cornhusker victory in the 2006 Big XII Championship and the following bowl game. Bitter end to the season. And because that's all that I can think to suggest, I suppose that means it was a pretty good year.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
I managed to remember to clothe myself before leaving the house. Isn't that enough?

33. What kept you sane?
Music. Always music. It's how I pray.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Keith Ellison - he's handled some pretty ignorant critics with style, wit and dignity.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Pretty much anything and anyone having to do with the Current Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

36. Who did you miss?
My grandmother.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Since I can't remember her name, I think I'll pass on this one. (How horribly embarrassing!)

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006.
In a solid, honest, trusting marriage, shared grief can draw husband and wife closer to each other.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Highlight of my life, dreamer in my dreams,
Everything is not only as it seems.
Just beneath the rippling surface of the stream
There's something even greater weaving us together.

In 2007...

1. Will you be looking for a new job?
I don't think so.

2. Will you be looking for a new relationship?

3. New house?
See #1 above.

4. What will you do different in 07?
I will definitely sleep less and change more diapers.

5. New Years resolution?

6. What will you not be doing in 07?
Sleeping as much, golfing as much, pretty much anything having to do with free time is going to be reduced so that we can focus on the sainted baby in our midst. But I'm still going to golf!

7. Any trips planned?
Washington D.C. and Boston around Memorial Day for a wedding and visits with friends. Lincoln, NE for my birthday, my brother's master's degree and the Lincoln Marathon.

8. Wedding plans?
For me, no. As a professional wedding guy, yes.

9. Major thing on your calendar?
Well, it's kind of a moving thing, but sometime in the next few weeks I'm going to become a daddy.

10. What can't you wait for?
See above.

11. What would you like to see happen differently?
I'd like to see more parents bring their kids to Sunday School and stay for worship and fellowship.
I'd like our church council to show stronger leadership. I'd like to see more of our members stretching themselves in new ways this year.

12. What about yourself will you be changing?
Other than sleep, diaper digits and wrapping myself around a tiny little finger? Not much.

13. What happened in 06 that you didn't think would ever happen?
I made a conscious decision to save for something and had the patience to wait until I had the money before buying the item in question.

14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about?
Nicer than what? I do my best and ask for forgiveness when (not if) I fall short.

15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in 06?

16. Will you start or quit drinking?
You can have my beer (my one nightly put-in-a-good-day's-work beer) when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

17. Will you better your relationship with your family?
Um, I don't see how things can get any better, but sure - why not?

18. Will you do charity work?
Yes - and it will be for something unrelated to the church.

19. Will you go to bars?
Yes - and I'll eat greasy chicken wings and drink beer and laugh uproariously with my friends. I'll lift a beer to my friends in the Wild Clover Band when I finally see them play live. I'll tell you when and you can come join us if you like.

20. Will you be nice to people you don't know?

As nice as I am to the people I do know - see above. I agree with LP, by the way - "nice" is a stupid word.

21. Do you expect 07 to be a good year for you?
I can only answer that in hindsight. I'll tell you this time next year. But I can say this - "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

22. How much did you change from this time last year till now?
I honestly, truly feel like I'm an adult now. Anticipating the birth of our first child done growed me up in a hurry.

23. Do you plan on having a child?
No - I am ill-equipped for that task, and the one with the equipment is busy finishing the child she's been working on for 9 months.

24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now?
Provided we don't become assholes (or asshole-ish to a degree far surpassing present levels) I don't see why not.

25. Major lifestyle changes?
Baby: 'nuff said.

26. Will you be moving?
Don't think so.

27. What will you make sure doesn't happen in 07 that happened in 06?
Doing my taxes late and having to get an extension for the second year in a row.

28. Will you have someone to kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve?
Can't say - left the crystal ball in the car. But Magic 8-ball says "all signs point to 'yes.'"

29. One wish for 07?
Healthy baby
Healthy baby Healthy baby Healthy baby Healthy baby Healthy baby... You get the point.

03 January 2007

A Terrible Day to be a College Football Fan

Nick Saban has been hired as the head coach at Alabama. After insisting for nearly three weeks that he wouldn't take the job. His contract, by the way, is 8 years and $32 million. Guaranteed.

I hope Alabama tanks and tanks hard: that would be a fitting reward for both this carpetbagging coach and the bigwigs who engineered this mess. What has happened at Alabama is the worst pile of BS generated by an institution of higher education. No one person is worth the media scrutiny and exorbitant salary generated by this travesty of a job search.

Pat Forde at espn.com says much more, much better than I can. But I'll end with this: some might think I'm being too hard on Alabama, that wishing for a team's downfall is too bitter. But folks, this is football we're talking about. It's a game. No game is ever worth what has happened in Tuscaloosa these past few weeks, and if it takes a meltdown of large proportions to make that point, then I'm all for it.

01 January 2007


That's the resolution for this year: 4567.

I'm entering the Lincoln Marathon, to be run on 6 May in Lincoln, NE. So my resolution could be stated thus:

4 hour marathon on May (5) 6, 2007.

Simple, right? I'll keep you posted

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with the flocks,

then the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost,

to heal those broken in spirit,

to feed the hungry,

to release the oppressed,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among all peoples,

to make a little music with the heart…

And to radiate the Light of Christ,

every day, in every way, in all that

we do and in all that we say.

Then the work of Christmas begins.

--Howard Thurman, adapted

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain an hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Luke 3.4-5

Dear brothers and sisters,

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Savior Jesus Christ. God bless you in this time of Christmas, as we remember the birth of the Messiah and look for His coming again to fulfill the promise of His kingdom.

We’ve spent our time with family and friends. We’ve opened presents and squealed, some of us in horror, others in delight. We’ve eaten lutefisk, lefse, potato sausage, turkey, ham, goose, figgy pudding, pie and other delights until our guts are filled to bursting – and then we’ve gone and done it all over again a few hours later. Football has been played. The tree is starting to shed its needles. Parents are anxious for the kids to go back to school. With luck, snowmobiles and fish houses have been put to good use. So – is Christmas complete?

No, not by a long shot. As Howard Thurman said, the work of Christmas is just beginning. It will soon be a new year, and a new opportunity to make Christ known to a world desperately in need of His good news. All the trappings of our holiday season have been removed, and what remains? The boy-child, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Now that the holiday Christmas is gone, the work of Christ remains – and we remain as Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

We’ll soon be holding our annual meeting. We’ll set the budget, talk about the ministry we’ve done in the past year, cover any concerns we need to discuss as a congregation. For many of you, we’ve seen you at Christmas services for the first time all year. This year, why not make a change? Why not come and be part of the ongoing work of Christ? After all, this is the purpose of our church: to make Christ known for the sake of the world, not just at Christmastime but in all times and for all people. God has given you gifts for the good of the world – why not volunteer those gifts to the church in service to the One who gave them to you?

I pray for you always, and I hope you’ll grow in your service to God and our church this year. Merry Christmas to you, and a Happy New Year.