Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Andrew's Memory game Tactics

Last week I was playing Memory with my 4 year old, who by the way, is amazingly talented at that game! As we were playing I noticed that he had this little habit that was helping him get the edge on me. When it was his turn, if he accidentally flipped over a card he knew was there, or that he thought was something else, and it wasn’t what he wanted, he’d flip the card back over again and pick two more. I called him out on it a couple times, but then I decided that winning all the matches in a game of Memory with my toddler son isn’t all that impressive so I quit making a big deal of it and let him get away with the extra moves.

As I think back on 2010 and even years previous to it I can’t help but think, “It is too bad I haven’t used that strategy with some of the decisions I’ve made in my lifetime." I could have avoided myself some pain and struggling if I had more quickly ‘flipped the card’ back over and made different choices along the way. That is the choice we have every time we are confronted with temptation. Flip the card over and start again, our waste 'a turn' doing something we no offers no lasting value.

In Memory wasting a turn doesn't mean much, but in the scope of eternity it does.

10 Highlights of 2010

1. Running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN
2. Family trip to Cragun's Resort in Brainerd, MN
3. Annual vacation to Michigan
4. Finally passing pay grade interviews at work
5. Watching Stephanie's basketball team in the State Tournament
6. Taking Jacob to Twin's game at Target Field for kindergarten graduation
7. Pheasant hunting trip with neighbor Brian to Marshall, MN
8. Adding a dog, Manny, to our family
9. Playing in hockey tournaments in Chicago and Blaine
10. The many small family trips to movies, bowling, baseball, pajama parties, fireworks, parades, times with grandparents, fun at the neighbors, trick-or-treating, swimming pools,etc.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hitting the Target in 2011

I'm working on a list of 2011 targets. These are targets that if I can continually move towards the center and hit the bulls-eye, my joy and love for God and others will deepen, and my life will be increasingly filled with happiness and fulfillment. Here's what I have so far. If you have any additions leave a comment.

Target #1 - Knowing God More Intimately
Target #2 - Knowing God More Scripturely
Target #3 - Fight Your Sinfulness More Courageously
Target #4 - Living Your Life More Healthy
Target #5 - Loving/Respecting Your Spouse More Selflessly
Target #6 - Raising Your Children More Graciously
Target #7 - Serving Your Church More Faithfully
Target #8 - Working More Purposefully
Target #9 - Reaching Out to Your Neighbors More Intentionally

Monday, December 27, 2010

12 Gifts of the 2010 Christmas

This is a condensed compilation* of my family's favorite gifts this Christmas. Thank you to everyone who made it memorable with your love and generosity.

12. Reading the Christmas story with the Balvin family and creating stars
11. Brenton's Think book by John Piper
10. Stephanie's absolutely awesome hair straightener
9. Andrew's Imaginex ambulance
8. Isabelle's CD player
7. Jacob's Moose themed pajamas
6. Family Membership to the Children's Museum
5. Andrew's Thomas the Train sets
4. Jacob's DSI-XL and many games to go with it
3. Stephanie's glittery scarf and clothes pin picture frame
2. Isabelle's Rebekah American Girl doll and some cute outfits
1. Brenton's Taylor Made driver and zip up golfing vest

*Gifts are not ranked by coolness and many other awesome gifts were left off this list for the sake of time.

** One more: all the date night supplies like Wild tickets, movie tickets, and restaurant gift cards!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Stephanie's class is reading Harper Lee's literary masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird. Whenever her class reads a book I usually read it too. I hadn't read To Kill a Mockingbird in a long time and all I could remember was the name Boo Radley. As soon as I started reading I was absolutely hooked. I read the whole thing in less than three days; I literally couldn't put it down.

Lee's use of dialog in the book is spectacular. She did such an amazing job of creating characters who say things like 'ain't, yess'm, and sehr' in ways that come across as authentic and alive. The characters in the book come alive and I felt like I was watching a movie as I flipped through the pages of the book. I couldn't get over the way Lee's writing makes the pages of the book come alive in the imagination, without over stimulating and giving unnecessary or boring details. I was never bored with one page, and extremely rarely with even one paragraph.

I was also drawn in by Lee's ability to write about such emotional moral and ethical behavior. The story illustrates deeply held beliefs about racism, sexism, religion, and societal tendencies. Lee is able to walk the reader through deep water by telling the story of a child walking through some tough, complex circumstances. The characters of To Kill a Mockingbird all represent a way of living and thinking.

I doubt it if To Kill a Mockingbird meant as much to me when I first read it as it does now. I loved the book and will definitely be reading it again in a few years.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Balvin Blizzard Highlights

We were snowed in today but we found some fun things to do. Here's a quick rundown:

- Izzy and Stephanie baked lots of Christmas cookies
- Andrew and I go to help frost them
- A few loads of laundry
- Kids version of Charades
- many rounds of 20 questions
- built a Thomas the Train track
- watched Ramona and Besus
- watched The Christmas Carol (scary Jim Carey version)
- Snowblower in the driveway, 2x
- Sausage sandwiches for breakfast
- Stephanie's amazing chicken salad for lunch (and dinner...yummy!)
- Andrew built a fort in his bedroom
- lots of coloring and bead-making

Connectedness & Decision Making

You don't know how many people your life is connected to until you do something that lets everyone down. When we screw-up we see most clearly (if we're willing to look) how we are tied to others. Very few people live in such complete isolation that their choices have no effect on someone else.

I once heard Pastor John Ortberg describe how he uses his journal to write down as many of the negative consequences he can think of if he were to choose to give in to a temptation facing him. I think that's a great exercise and I wish I used it more often. Stopping to think about how our choices affect others can act as a deterrent to errant behavior.

Should You Cancel Church due to Bad Weather?

Read this blog post from Pastor Rob Ketterling of River Valley Church explaining why he has a hard time canceling church services because of weather...
* The reason we don't cancel is because years ago during the first Gulf War, my brother Rick was about to be deployed to the middle east. It was his last Sunday before deploying and he lived in Arkansas. That Sunday they received a snow storm and when the pastor got to church, only 100 people were there. Read the rest....
I've never been a big fan of canceling church either. For starters, the weather is usually not as bad as people think. Secondly, it is my feeling that most people would brave the storm for a Vikings game, and how much greater is it to spend time praising Jesus with his people.

Friends, leave early and drive slowly but DON'T skip church!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reactive v. Proactive Living

Mark Batterson wrote in a blog post today,
When I'm frustrated spiritually or relationally [professionally], it's often because I'm in reactive mode. I'm just reacting to the circumstances I find myself in. And that's when you default on life. When I'm feeling fulfilled, it's usually because I'm proactive. I'm going after goals or executing a plan or living out my priorities.
I know all abut being in reactive mode. Living in some of it right now but working to get on the proactive side. Developing a plan takes time and it can be really hard work, but it really does pay off when you feel less stress and have a greater sense of where you are headed.

Monday, December 06, 2010

You Don't Have to Get What You Deserve

There is a prevailing attitude in the culture around me that says, "You should get what you deserve." This kind of thinking pervades all kinds of situations. Here's some examples:

- Guy can hit 100 homeruns, he deserves to get paid $100 million.
- Guy gets behind the wheel and hurts someone, he deserves to spend time in jail.
- Girl messes up her sister's make-up, she deserves to get her hair pulled.
- Girl struggles with addiction, she deserves to lose her kids.
- Guy organizes dog fighting, he deserves to suffer for the rest of his life.
- Girl gets pregnant as a teenager, she deserves to being ridiculed or labeled.
- Girl lived a nice moral life, she deserves prosperity and blessing.
- Guy never hurts anyone, he deserves to life a cancer free life.

I'm sure you can think of your own examples.

Most of the time the concept of: "my behavior = deserved result/consequence" is a good thing. It helps us understand boundaries and it has some potential to deter damaging behavior. It also is a positive way to make sure that people receive fair treatment and judgment for similar actions.
The amazing thing is the way the Bible takes this concept and totally flips it with regard to man's salvation.
Romans 6:23 says that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Is it even arguable? All people mess up in one way or another. Everyone lies, steals, cheats, kills, or chases after other gods.

Watch the news. Talk to your neighbors. Read the paper.

No person is as Holy and Perfect as God. The result of this kind of sinful behavior is death. Death here in this life and eternal separation from God. So based on the aforementioned concept (my behavior = deserved result/consequence) humankind has a problem. Human beings are sinful, so human beings deserve death.

This is the astonishing news of the Gospel. Jesus Christ comes to earth and lives a sinless life. He then willingly sacrifices his ife on the cross and pays the penalty for the sin. And through faith his payment is applied to our debt. This is the Great Exchange of Christianity. Jesus lived the life we couldn't live and died the death we were supposed to die in order to pay the debt we could never pay.
Praise be to God that Jesus Christ became an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Praise him for GRACE and MERCY. Thank God that you don't have to get what you deserve.
Remember that during this Christmas season. And maybe imitate the behavior of God and show a little grace and mercy to those around you as well.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sound Sleep is God's Gift, as are Children

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalm 127:1-5 ESV)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How Do You Talk About Death

We've all heard comments like this. Many of us have probably uttered them at one time or another.

- 'John Doe' is in a better place now.
- Heaven is reserved for the very best.
- They're resting with the angels.
- I know he/she is watching over us.

I understand many people don't know what to say in the face of death. Death is a sad thing. The ironic thing to me is how spiritual people get when they encounter death. "There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole" they say. Well, there are very few atheists when it comes to dealing with death.

When someone dies suddenly everyone is 'praying' for the grieving family. Sometimes people even commit to 'praying' for the dead person. I don't get it. The same people who get live entire lives focused on themselves and serving their idols (be it the god of sex, money, good feelings, power, fashion, or fill-in-the-blank), these same people are talking about angels and better places.

Shouldn't that tell us something about the existence of God? And if it does, shouldn't the existence of God have some impact on the trajectory of our lives? And if it should, shouldn't there be some way human beings could know what God expects of them?

The answers are in your Bible. It is God's game-plan for creation. It is HIStory. And someday you and I are going to meet the God we talk about so much. It would be wise to be ready for that meeting.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No One is Righteous But Through Christ

I've been reading and thinking on Psalm 118 for the past couple days. It is an amazing song of praise to, and confidence in, the Lord God. Today while doing some mundane task at work I was thinking about the Psalmist reference to 'the righteous.' In verse 19-21 he writes,
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
(Psalm 118:19-21 ESV)
As I thought about it I felt an evil spirit trying to speak to me and bring me down. It was saying, "You'll never enter the gates to the Lord because you are unrighteous." I even thought of the verse in Romans which say, "There are none who are righteous, not even one." (Rom 3.10) As I thought on it, I wanted to enter the gate of God into his presence but I wondered if my unrighteousness was holding me back.

Then a wonderful thing happened. Jesus spoke to me and reminded me that my righteousness before God is not determined by my action. I am righteous in God's sight because when God looks upon me he sees me covered in the death of Christ, and included in his resurrection through faith. In that moment at work the Lord brought to mind the verse in Galatians 3:6 which declares that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. And now, through the grace given me to believe, my faith in Christ is what has placed me in a righteous standing before God.

I CAN enter the gate of the Lord because I am RIGHTEOUS in Jesus Christ. My faith in Christ puts me into the wonderful, protective, guiding, leading company of a Heavenly Father!