Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas fun

Heather's work held their Christmas party out at Des Moines Golf and County Club, so we got all dressed up for the party!
After that Christmas party, Derek's work was throwing their Christmas party downtown at People's on court. Flynn Wright rented the bar/stage for the night and had a band playing, so they let the employees invite family and friends!
Heather and Joni are all smiles as the band starts playing. Heather and I
Joni, Heather and Dawn
The Thursday before Christmas, Heather and I headed to Pella to celebrate Christmas. We went early so we could swing by our Alma Mater, Central College!
Heather jumping for joy to be back at Central College
Me too!
Heather and I on the bridge that goes over the pond on campus.
We had a great time walking around campus and remembering where we first met each other!

Before & After - Christmas Sled

Last year, around Christmas, our nephew Nathan was reading a book called "The Christmas Sled" and he couldn't stop talking about sleds. With that in mind, I found an old runner sled at a garage sale this summer for $7 and had plans to fix it up. As you can see in this before picture, it needed some work. One of the side rails was broken and one of the brackets under the sled was broken as well.
I was able to pull the sled apart, sand down the metal runners and give them a fresh coat of paint.
...and here is the after picture. I outlined the "Airline Junior" and gave the wood a fresh coat of stain and poly.
Added an "N" for Nathan and repainted the original red winds on the front.
The new rail and the old rail I painted black and added a red lighting bolt!
Nathan was excited to get the sled (Chad was too!) and we can't wait to go sledding with him!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Parties

At the beginning of December we got together with our friends the Peterson's and the Shull's to celebrate a little Christmas! We started off the evening at Flying Mango, an awesome Cajun BBQ restaurant in Beaverdale.
After an awesome dinner, we headed back to our house for our infamous gift exchange. Josh and Kelly were both really excited to find his and her designer sunglasses in their gift!
Can't forget the traditional group photo...
...and "silly" faces!
Towards the end of December, we threw an "ugly" Christmas Sweater party with Heather's women's small group (and guests). There were plenty of ugly sweaters and a pair of "mom" jeans!
...and a photo with all that gals.
Merry Christmas!

Book Review: The Sacred Meal

I just finished reading The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher, one of the eight books in the Ancient Practices Series. I really enjoyed this book and the perspective it gives on the Lord's Supper.
Phyllis Tickle, the editor, gives a foreword for the book which she explains that this book is about one Christian's lifelong engagement with the Eucharist and about the richness of being sometimes among the weeping and sometimes among the serving. And I would agree with her, I felt like this book was a reflection of the authors life regarding the Eucharist.
In the introduction we learn that Nora Gallagher has two perspectives about Communion, that of a layperson and that of a Episcopal priest, she went through the process of ordination. She goes on to unpack this spiritual practice. She says "Unlike a habit, like driving down the same street from work to home every day, the purpose of a spiritual practice is to help us stay awake." That statement really stuck out to me because I agree that spiritual practice bring us out of our routines and make us aware of God's presence.
As she starts to unpack Communion as a practice she points out that Communion goes on all over the world in many churches in different languages but in much the same form. I really like that reminder, because it is easy for me to get stuck in my silo of my church and I tend to forget that this ancient practice has been happening for thousands of years and takes place around the world! She also explains that Communion, like other spiritual practices, has the intention of moving us out of one place and into another.
She then breaks down the practice of Communion into three parts: waiting, receiving and afterward. The waiting part is a warming up, it brings us out of our routine and prepares us for something else. Gallagher says "Communion is meant to remind us of a place we can go that may not be always visible in daily life." Part of warming up, in many churches, is a time of confession, whether a brief confession or saying the Lord's Prayer as a congregation, this part of Communion prepares us.
Next comes receiving and that is really the important part here, that we receive. Nora observes that in our fast pace culture we have made productivity our greatest and most important goal and often times we miss out on the ways that God's gift of grace comes to us by doing nothing.
After the receiving is the afterward, Nora describes this as the time when we are closest to heaven. She says, and I love this, "Part of 'afterward' is letting an experience of the holy seep into your cells so that even when your brain decides it didn't happen or you made it up, you have a cellular memory."
She goes on to finish the book by talking about some of the myths and traditions associated with Communion as well as a brief history. I really enjoyed her personal take on the Lord's Supper. This book has plenty of her stories from both serving Communion and receiving Communion.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book and I think it is a great perspective of this ancient tradition.

I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson Publishers "BookSneeze" book review program. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Lord, Save Us from Your Followers

So, I read multiple books at one time and I just finished reading Lord, Save Us From Your Followers by Dan Merchant. This book was fantastic. Dan Merchant also made a movie under the same title, which I am now interested in seeing. Dan basically took two years to travel across America and ask people on the streets and experts "Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?"
For most of his interviews on the streets, he dressed up in what he deemed "Bumper Stick Suit", which was basically a white painters suit plastered with every bumper sticker he could find. He would then ask people 5 questions. The first three were generally the same: How did the world begin? What is something Jesus is known for? What is something Christians are known for? and then the last two questions would often change depending on how people answered. He was basically trying to have conversation with people instead of shouting his point of view, like the bumper stickers do.
The book also contains his interviews with diverse media players such as Al Franken and Michael Reagan. Through these interviews he asks a lot of thought provoking questions as to why America is being divided. He tries to uncover the "culture war".
Throughout the book, his goal is to engage people in conversation rather than try to prove them right or wrong. He has a quote by Tony Campolo in the book that I just love, Tony says, "We're never as right as we think we are; we're never as wrong as we think we are." I think that is a great perspective to have. Dan has an interview with Tony Campolo and during the interview Tony explains that whenever we carry on discussion we always have to entertain the possibility that I could be wrong. In all discussions on all subjects, except for one thing, as the apostle Paul said "There is one thing I know: Christ and the Crucifixion." Aside from that, we have to be open to the possibility that we don't know. I think that is also a great point.
All through the book, Dan brings the reader back to the topic of God's love. That we, as Christians are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and everyone is our neighbors. We haven't done a great job of that as individuals and as the church. Dan does a great job of bringing us back to that message and if we are truly spreading a Gospel of Love, than we shouldn't be dividing the country!
Overall, I thought this book was great. Dan's journey is insightful, objective and humorous. This book made me think about who Jesus really is and who He is calling me to really be. At times, his tactics seemed outrageous but he conducted himself in a humble and loving way, it is a good reminder that we should love all our neighbors.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: The Next Christians

I just finished reading The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons and I would say that it was fantastic. This is his follow up book to UnChristian and I would highly recommend both books.
He breaks this book down into three parts: The World is Changing, The Restorers, A New Era
Part I: The World is Changing
He starts off the book by talking about the shift that is taking place in America today. Through research Lyons states that the church is now longer the center of culture in the West. Christian America is changing, but Lyons goes on to introduce the next Christians that are emerging, he calls these Christians "restorers". He talks about how the next Christians are trying to restore life to what God intended it to be. That is why Christ came, to satisfy our sin debt so that we could experience a new way of living: restoration. Lyons says "They recognize that Christ's redemptive work is not the end or even the goal of our stories; redemption is the beginning of our participation in God's work of restoration in our lives and in the world. Understanding that one idea literally changes everything." I could agree with him more.
Part II: The Restorers
In part 2, Lyons unpacks a few attributes or themes of these next Christians, they are:
provoked, not offended
creators, not critics
called, not employed
grounded, not distracted
live in community, rather than alone
He unpacks each of these themes and gives examples of people he knows who are living these themes.
Part III: A New Era
In part 3 he wraps up his book by talking about what is possible in the future. He reminds the reader that the first thing for the Christian to do is to recover the Gospel, in a way to relearn and fall in love again with good news of God's love. He drives home that we are easily sidetracked with distractions but the truth of the Gospel is the main thing.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was both challenging and encouraging. It is a call to examine the daily choices that I am making and how my daily life does impact the Kingdom of God. We, the church, are called to restore God's plan here on Earth. Gabe Lyons not only challenged me with this book but he also gave solutions and examples of how restoration could look in my community, state, country and world wide. It is exciting to read some of the stories of people making a difference in the world and encouraging to know small choice also make a difference, maybe not in the world but in my neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Office Row Decorations

I recently switched jobs and I am now working at Allied Insurance. Upon arriving at my new job, I learned that they also compete in a Christmas decorating contest and each row decorates based on a theme of their choice. I quickly found out that they take this competition very seriously as I was scheduled in a row meeting on my second day at work and handed a blue print of what our row would look like! It was a ton of fun and here are a few pictures of the rows.
This row's theme was Charlie Brown Christmas.
Complete with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree...
...and Snoopy on his dog house!
The next row was a Gingerbread House theme, complete with an archway from side of the row to the next!
They even had a few gingerbread people meeting under the mistletoe
The next row was O Christmas Tree and each cube had a different Christmas tree.
They got creative with some office supplies!
The next row's theme was Up On the Roof Top
...with stocking hung by the chimney with care.
My row's theme was Santa's Workshop
We also had some archways spanning from one cube to the next
...and everyone in the row was turned into an elf, complete with tools and toys being built.

We had a reindeer pen in the back...for the reindeer
The next row was Frosty the Snowman and each cube had a different snowman
Everyone in that row personalized their own snowman.
The next row won the competition with their theme...
The Pricing Express, they turned their row into a train.
From the other rows, you see the "outside" of the train looking in.
...and from the inside of the train. Each cube was a separate "train car"
This one even had a fireplace
...and a refreshment car, with hot chocolate and cookies!
The next row's theme was the movie Elf
...they had the Sea of Swirly Twirly Gumdrops
...and Gimbel's department store.
We have a few business partners on a different floor...they too decorated their area with the theme of Candy Land
...complete with Lord Licorice,
Ice Cream Slopes,
Chocolate Mountain...
and the Ice Palace! They ended up in second place!
It was a ton of fun decorating our rows, everyone really got into it and results were amazing! This makes me wonder, does anyone else decorate their office for Christmas?