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Turkeys are set to join the 47%

Turkeys are set to join the 47%

The Minnesota State Fair

Life

Let me begin by saying I am an Iowan. I like Iowa. I understand Iowa. The Iowan traditions are familiar and comforting to me. We ask kids to tell a joke before they get candy when trick or treating. We don’t allow the good fireworks, but the cops (mostly) know to look the other way the weekend of July 4.

And we have the state fair by which all other fairs can be judged. There, I said it.

I got into a facebook discussion with one of my sister’s friends named Gianna after the Iowa State Fair had concluded. Apparently, she took offense to something I said about how the Iowa State Fair is far superior to all other fairs as if that just isn’t factual. I understood her local blinders about how great the Minnesota State Fair is in her eyes and got to wonder if maybe I have similar blinders about the Iowa State Fair. So I visited my sister over the Labor Day weekend and visited the Minnesota State Fair for one day.

One day is not enough time to give any fair a proper evaluation. But one day is really what I had available to me. My sister and her husband have four kids, ages nine months to eight years. They were real troopers for the one full day we spent, but asking them to do a second day would be pushing it.

The Minnesota grounds are pretty flat. The Iowa State Fair features a hill that can be a bit challenging for some, but the hill adds character to the fair. And there are rewards for climbing the hill, whether you want to sample some new dairy products, catch a great interactive kids show, stomp some grapes into wine or just find a great deal on lemonade. A flat fair is outside of my definition of what the fair should be, so I’ll accept this as a preference based on familiarity.

Both fairs have a ride called “Ye Old Mill.” Its hook my confidence a bit when I saw that the ride is essentially identical from one fair to the other. And from what research I have done, it appears that Minnesota had their ride first. So I must give a point to our neighbors to the north.

The Minnesota State Fair also has a permanent structure haunted house. “Seems a bit early in the year for that,” said the sensible Iowan.

There are food stands throughout the Minnesota fairgrounds, but the center of the food is essentially a giant food court. Lots of fish items are served. We shared an order of “Smelt,” which tastes better than it sounds. In the food stands, I got a sense that this fair is all about Minnesota while the food stands in Iowa are all about Iowa. Sure, you can get a corn dog at both fairs, but the differing items are where the state shines through. And because of this, it is difficult to declare a winner.

I expected much better stages in the Minnesota fair. In Iowa, you can walk around and visit several stages capable of holding hundreds of people to see a free music show or talent contest. I didn’t see that in Minnesota.

The Iowa State Fair is much better organized. We have buildings and areas on the grounds for certain types of attractions. The Minnesota State Fair appeared to have a more haphazard method of “first come first served” when deciding where to place things. It was like visiting a town that didn’t have any zoning. If you want to see the items you can only buy at the fair, I can name about four buildings where you might find it. If you want information about a local college, the Education Building is a great place to start, but your search may take you elsewhere. This could be another familiarity issue, but I don’t think so.

So Gianna and I have contemplated a challenge next year. She will visit the Iowa State Fair and I will visit the Minnesota State Fair. I’m thinking we can make categories to judge one against the other. Food, People Watching, General Feel, Free Attractions, Butter Sculptures and so on. Maybe I will have recovered enough to compare the Ye Old Mills, but I don’t think a Haunted House category is suitable in August/September.

Happily Ever After

Life

I’m starting to think that everyone needs to define for themselves what “Happily Ever After” looks like. Write it out someplace and refer to it frequently. Update it as you find new things and new contexts. Share it with those you love the most and let their own “Happily Ever After” story and your story influence each other. If you are married, you should have already done something along this line of thought already.

If you are unmarried, perhaps hurting, this is still important, but revealing your deepest longings to another person may need to come incrementally. And sometimes it might just come gushing out, leaving you overly vulnerable. But if you are going to reconnect with others, eventually you will need to share yourself with them. Yes, this requires you to open yourself to the risk of pain. But here’s the deal. You will never know if you can truly trust someone unless you open yourself up to them. To put it another way, you must trust someone to discover if you can trust them.

So how do you come up with your own “Happily Ever After” anyway? Let me take a stab at it.

Start with your non-negotiables. What are the aspects of life that make it worth living to you? These are the things that must be present at all stages of your story. These are also the things that any partner in your story must share with you if they will be joining you in your “Happily Ever After.” If you walk through life with someone who doesn’t share your non-negotiables, or worse if they work against your non-negotiables, you cannot be happy. And if you discover this after you have pledged your life to them, life will be difficult at best.

The non-negotiables of your “Happily Ever After” shouldn’t require another person, by the way. An abiding and growing love for Jesus is my number one description of “Happily Ever After” for myself. I do desire a partner in my walk through life. And this same love for Jesus must be present in anyone who I walk with. I have other non-negotiables, but I don’t need to share them all for you to get the idea.

The obvious follow up to non-negotiables are the things that you can negotiate. Life doesn’t always follow the plans that you make. In fact, it seldom does. Because of this, I currently have concepts in this category, not absolutes. And vague concepts don’t really belong in my definition of “Happily Ever After.”

I have also considered adding information of how I wish to obtain to my “Happily Ever After” but if I have solid instructions, they belong in the non-negotiable category and if they are vague concepts, I don’t want to clutter my “Happily Ever After.”

So that’s my take on how to define your “Happily Ever After.” And what is mine? I’ve only shared that with a few people, and I think one of them doesn’t even realize that I was sharing this with them. In fact, I’m pretty sure of it. I gave a heavily edited version, anyway, so if I share it again, I will need to share my current version.

I’m reading the Pilgrim’s Progress right now. And the allegory of that story goes well with my “Happily Ever After” theme. I could say that I have abandoned the City of Destruction and am on my way to the Celestial City. That journey provides the setting for my happily ever after, even as it includes the trials and heartaches I have been encountering and will continue to find. I want someone to run to that city with me through the difficulties and the joys. Hand in hand. As partners, as teammates. If nobody joins me, I will keep running.

But I’ve given as much of my “Happily Ever After” as I am willing to share in a blog post. There is more to it. And it is beautiful. And I am longing to share it in full with somebody. In God’s time. In God’s way.

Sleep Update

Life

I’m a little nervous writing this now. The last time I told someone that I had a good night’s sleep was the last time I had a good night’s sleep. Two nights ago, I got almost six hours. And that was great! Last night, I think I got closer to seven. But I’m not sure.

My legs aren’t as wobbly today. I don’t feel any nausea from exhaustion. I caught myself smiling this morning. God is good. Please don’t stop praying for me.

Sleep Deprivation

Life

I got some world rocking news about two weeks ago. And just like so many other aspects of my new life, I can’t get into the news here. You’d think I was with the CIA or something. Well, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since then. I’m talking half the sleep I would normally get, compounded by two weeks. Yesterday I had my first successful nap in that time, and I have been exhausted, and trying to put up a brave front.

I think the breakthrough of the nap came when I realized that I need to do some serious forgiving for somebody who is not interested in apologizing or even acknowledging any wrongdoing. It’s hard, but I believe that is what I need to do.

So if you, dear reader, could just remember me in your prayers, I would appreciate it quite a bit. I thought I had forgiven, but I’m finding pockets where I hadn’t. And those pockets need to be flushed out.

Update: July 30

Life

This is NOT a “feel bad for me” post. I’m extremely happy! And I figure a random thought stream will do for now.

Sorry I haven’t been posting like I want to. I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster lately, dealing with the sort of stuff that I can’t discuss on a public forum. And that also means it’s stuff I can’t discuss openly on Facebook. But I can on Google+. (Nudge, nudge.)

There has been a teaspoon of drought and doubt in my recent weeks that was quenched by a liter of water, both literally and figuratively. I have excluded certain paths that were there for the walking in favor of other paths that are more promising. I have met people who rightfully should be awkward people to meet, but it was very relaxed and inviting. I think I might get asked on a play date sometime down the road. Not sure how to handle that.

And I have found a great non-chain ice cream place. Think for a moment. The best ice cream memories don’t come from Cold Stone or Dairy Queen. They come from the neighborhood places. And a lot of those places look about as clean as a concession stand at the high school football field. Over the Top in the Des Moines area is clean, bright, professional and NOT A CHAIN.

Well, that’s all I have for you at the moment. Sorry, no theological ponderings today. I have some percolating right now, as my remnant of prior readers can attest I always have theological thoughts in my head.

All in good time. For now, I’ll leave you with laughing.

Thought for the day 07/18/12

Life

I just thought I’d share something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(Matthew 5:17 ESV)

Jesus came to fulfill the law because mankind is marred by sin and unable to fulfill the law on our own. The Law is never declared a bad thing either. It is a good thing that is fulfilled and not abolished. Let’s not forget that.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 ESV)

The law of Christ is not contrary to the Law or the Prophets. We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ. What is that law? When Jesus was asked to give the most important law, this is what He said:

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
(Luke 10:27 ESV)

One way for you love the Lord and to love your neighbor is by bearing their burdens for them and with them. So ask yourself how you are bearing other people’s burdens. And if you are burdened, share that burden with someone who is eager to walk beside you and help you. And please do not consider yourself to be a nuisance. You are NOT imposing! You are presenting yourself to others that they may joyfully fulfill the law of Christ.

Even if they are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Especially if they are sorrowful yet always rejoicing!

Chicken Sandwiches and the Reason for Man

Life

I sat in the food court at the local mall yesterday, wolfing down a wonderful grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s, and contemplating certain theological matters. I was alone, and when left to my own devices I have a tendency to think in that direction. I thought it would be good to share with you the thoughts that I was having, since I usually forget to write them down. So here goes.

Why did God create us? He didn’t do so out of loneliness or any lack of His own. Our existence does not “complete” God in any way. And even as He created us for His glory, He is no more glorious for having created us and would be no less glorious if He hadn’t. This is not only true regarding the creation of mankind, but for all of creation.

God would be content without us. Think about that for just a second. This means that God doesn’t need you for anything. So why are we here?

We were created to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. He created us so that we might joyfully reflect His glory upon all of creation. So while we exist to extol the virtues of God, our praise does not create the attributes of God, but rather it celebrates who He is. Much like the person who visits the Grand Canyon does not make it any more magnificent by their enjoyment. And even then, their own enjoyment would be incomplete if they were prevented from responding to it with praise.

So God created us for His glory that is properly responded to with our enjoyment of Him, and our enjoyment is incomplete until we express it.

There are aspects to God’s glory that never would have been revealed had He not created us. In the garden, God presented Himself to Adam as creator and provider. He empowered Adam to act as His regent among all of creation to subdue it and bring order wherever he would find chaos. And when Adam failed, God was able to reveal other aspects of Himself that would never have come through. His mercy, His justice, His love for the undeserving. All of that made possible because of the sin of mankind.

So God created man in His image, not because of any shortcomings or anything like that. But we were created that the glory of God would be enjoyed and celebrated. And God did this out of His love for us. John 3:16 explains the reason why God sent Jesus. He expressed His love to us by sending His only son to die. Had mankind not been created and had we not fallen, God’s love for us would have never been revealed to this degree.

God is in the business of revealing Himself to us. We need to be in the business of enjoying Him and praising His revelations.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:11-12 ESV)

Right about then, my sandwich, fries and Arnold Palmer iced tea were finished, the food court was busy and it was time for me to head to a painting party for a family at church. I may pick up where I left off here, but I’m pretty sure I would need another chicken sandwich to get going again.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Life

I started my day off right. I played this song on repeat all the way into West Des Moines to meet with my discipleship group. That’s a good half hour plus, for those keeping score at home.This is my favorite song to sing at church right now, and even if we sang it weekly I would still say that we don’t sing it often enough. It’s called “Beautiful Scandalous Night” and it takes ownership of the contradictions that people try to attach to the cross.

The cross is where the love of God is revealed and also where the wrath of God is revealed. Not two events, but one. It is the great exchange, where a holy and righteous God took His own punishment in our place. It was a beautiful, scandalous, miraculous event to be sure. The gospel frees us. The gospel gives life abundant. The gospel sustains us. The greatest event in all of history is the most scandalous.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Enjoy the song in the YouTube video. And I suggest you follow along in the lyrics I’ve provided. Let it nourish your soul today.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Go on up to the mountain of mercy,
To the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.

Follow Christ to the Holy Mountain,
Sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall,
Cleanse your heart and your soul.
In the fountain that flows,
For you and for me and for all

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

On the hillside you will be delivered,
At the foot of the cross, justified.
And your spirit restored,
By the river that pours,
From our blessed Saviour’s side

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

You carry the sin of mankind on your back,
And the sky went black.

Go on up to the mountain of mercy,
Go the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

On that beautiful scandalous night,
Beautiful scandalous,
Miraculous night…