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1. You need a jump to make it fun.


2. Kids need toughening up. They need to learn to be able to take a hit and not quit. They need to feel pain (at least a little) and not give up. Sledding can be good for this. One of my daughters especially had to get past her dislike of being jarred or flipped. But she did. And then she enjoyed it more.


I was quite proud of my son who, when asked if he wanted to leave while he was bleeding from his mouth, said ‘no’. The puddle of blood on the snow was his red badge of courage.


And I loved it when my youngest (5) would laugh hysterically after being upended when a brother ran him over.


3. While descenders should not try to hit those walking up, it is up to the walkers to get out of the way.


4. Round (by this I mean ‘unsteerable’) sleds should be abolished. I know that some are against legislating morality, but I think even Vox Day might agree with me that there should be state and federal laws against selling these things for underage use.


5. Your kids may ruin their mittens by steering, but this is worth it. You need to be able to steer.


6. It’s good exercise, continually walking up a hill with a sled and an extra ten pounds of clothes.


7. Try the train. We went with seven on four sleds. You can make it a whole family experience that ends in laughter. Who wouldn’t want that?


8. Dads! Come on! Don’t stay at the top. What, are you so grown up that sledding isn’t fun?


9. When I asked my kids for other point, by son Barrett said “Never go over the jump in the blue sled.”


Happy New Year From JamFam!

If you are considering spending a lot of money for something fun, consider: Is there a way you can experience the same amount of joy more cheaply?

1. In the beginning of 2006, I followed the suggestion from the Evangelical Outpost and began reading books from the bible 20 times in a row. Most of them have been the shorter books from the bible (see the link to get that list) but I actually started by reading Ephesians, which is one of my favorites. Since it was a little longer, I read it only ten times before going on to the next one. But this month I have been reading Ephesians again. It is amazing with these books how they continue to show how deep they are, and how much detail can be missed even after several reads.


2. Last fall I began reading the 1000+ page book ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Any book that has captured the interest of Vox Day, Pastor John and my (very astute lawyer) friend April had to be worth reading, I thought. I’ll have to comment more on this later – and there is a Friday Everything (or two) pending.


3. Also last Fall I began reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my children. This is the second time we’ve gone through them, but the first time that all six of them have been listening. Another Friday Everything is pending.


So last night at around 8:30 I finished reading the last chapter of “The Last Battle” to my kids (it is a very sweet ending) (next up: The Hobbit).


And at around 11:30 last night I finished reading “Atlas Shrugged” (next up: a lighter techno-thriller).


And this morning at around 7:30 I finished reading Ephesians for the twentieth time. It was the 14th book of the bible that I have read twenty times in the last two years. (Next up – I’m not sure. A read through the Bible plan, perhaps?)


I found it interesting how these more-than-a-year reading seasons all finished within 12 hours of each other.

Yesterday (Saturday) I made it my goal (with some help from my kids) to (A) find every toy in the house, (B) get them sorted and organized, and (C) get them put away.

Step A included (1) going through every room in the house with a box or bag, collecting everything that could be considered kid related (including lots of scraps of paper), (2) moving every significant piece of furniture to get what was under/behind them (I just counted – I moved 6), (3) getting the kids to go on search-and-pick-up missions under each of our three bunk beds, (4) moving all of this up to two card tables set up in our living room.

Step B (the kids helped me quite a bit with this one) included one by one emptying these bags and boxes (15) onto the table and meticulously sorting into these categories:

Game Pieces
Lincoln Logs
Toy Weaponry
Cars and Trucks
Toy Kitchen Items
Trains/ Train Tracks
Arts and Craft Supplies
Things that aren’t toys and shouldn’t have been in their rooms.

. . . And these are just the main ones.

Last night at about 5:30 we were in the worse-before-it-gets-better phase and our living room looked ridiculously messy.

Step C included getting these in crates and (here is where it turns dark) put most of these sets in the garage. My wife had decided that our kids need a little toy simplicity in their lives to help them learn how to clean up after themselves.

So the only thing left in the toy closet is Legos. Yikes. Cold Turkey with the toys. We’ll let you know how it works out.

Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From Pastor John’s Advent Poem: Ruth (Parts 3 and 4)

How few there are who wait for God to act! How few who trust the solid pact that God has made, that he will work for those who wait for him, nor shirk one moment in a ten-year plan, or more. Perhaps he wills to span a thousand years before the space of time is full for him to place His final king upon the throne. And when he does, it shall be known that here in Bethlehem we played a part. *** Waiting is a holy work of faith in God. *** Nor does there lurk beneath the timing of his ways some secret malice that displays itself in holding back the flow of future grace.  *** God does not go from here to there by shortest routes; He makes a place for faith and doubts. Nor does he hasten on his way, but comes when it is best, today, or maybe twenty years from now, or more. *** We will bow to God, and there embrace the truth: Some serve like Mara, others Ruth. *** Don’t you believe, My son, that Moses meant to weave together with his law that we leave something for the poor? *** It seems to me the holy Torah ought to be interpreted to see as much compassion as we can.  *** The Torah says that I should love my neighbor just the way I love myself. Would you not say that if you labored for a boss, it would be good to see him toss the barley every now and then? *** We ought to read the Torah, to see as much compassion as we can. Go read, and find it has more mercy than you think. *** I would not touch a woman, be she good or great, outside a covenant. *** I think the Lord has fought today, and with his sword has stuck a sin up on the gate. *** As for the badge of shame, you tell: The line of Judah bears it well, and will for generations yet to come.  *** The book of Moses set me free.  *** There is a mercy in the law of God beyond my skin: By faith God makes a person right, be she a Jew or Moabite. *** Ignite in us the faith of Ruth.

With the idea shamelessly stolen from that Piper kid’s blog


1. My kids letting me sleep in until after 8.

2. Having all of my kids (except a sleeping Foster) and my wife sitting on our bed and singing happy birthday to me.

3. Watching the kids getting down the stockings and being pleased with what was in them.

4. Having excellent French toast for breakfast (mine with lit candles) after my family sang to me again.

5. The Advent Reading (as written by my wife) and getting to light the Christ candle.

6. A little 15 minute after-breakfast nap with my wife next to me and the kids all napping spread out around the house.

7. The way my kids handled it when they found out they weren’t going to open any presents today (relatively agreeably).

8. Finding out that the wrong turn that I made ten minutes ago (on the way out to my Aunt and Uncle’s place) wasn’t going to cost us more than five minutes.

9. Walking in to a house filled with people who loved us.

10. Getting to tell the ‘Bringing Foster Home From The Hospital Story” again.

11. My cousin Andrea’s great interest in Foster and willingness to feed him.

12. Singing a Christmas carol before our prayer.

13. Good Ham.

14. Discussions of blogging around our table.

15. Finding out that aunts and cousins had bought our kids (all of them) presents so they got to open some anyway.

16. That no one forced me to eat the Cayenne Pepper Chocolate truffles.

17. Getting to know my soon to be cousin-in-law.

18. Laughing at my younger cousin’s funny conversation.

19. Hearing nice words about my Dad, and how people miss him.

20. Getting home not too late.

21. Have a good meaningful conversation with my oldest son right before he went to bed.

22. Finishing a movie with my wife.

23. Finding out that my friends were in our paper (They sit kitty corner from us every Sunday in the service and recently gave us a ministry opportunity.)

24. Getting this cool idea for a Christmas blog post idea.

25. Blogging while my wife slept on the couch after feeding the cutest one month old in the Twin Cities.

26. Being grateful that God gives us joy as we give him glory.

27. Finishing this list.


Merry Christmas From The Responsible Puppet 

There is something more right with the world (at least here in Minnesota) when we have a white Christmas.  It’s very white this year and this can be seen as a symbol of how God sees his children.

I was struck, during the conclusion of this Sunday’s sermon, by Pastor John’s unique take on the pivotal figure of secular Christmas: 

Santa’s Sack of Substitute Treasures

Therefore, the real contradiction of this text is not the bookstore, but Santa Claus (and, of course, I mean Santa symbolically—what he stands for culturally.)

In Jesus we meet God. We know God. We fellowship with God. In Jesus we find the infinite treasure of the all-satisfying God. Santa Claus, with his moralistic legalism and his sack full of substitute treasures, is the new temple for many.

So you have a choice. You can go with the Santa-Claus way of connecting with God—the Santa temple:

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.

And this is not good news for people like you and me—sinners.

The Jesus Way of Connecting With God

Or you can go with the Jesus way of connecting with God—the Jesus temple.

“I lay down my life for the sheep. . . and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:15, 18). “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). I am the new meeting place with God. “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). That’s good news. That’s the best Christmas gift you could ever receive.


Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From

Pastor Piper’s Advent Poem – Ruth (Part 2 and 3)


Just grief? It seems to me that God was doing more. *** Sometimes creed can’t keep up with the speed of pain, and has to make the meaning plain when suffering slows down. *** The day would come when tortoise faith would catch the bounding hare of pain and match his power, not his pace, and win. Judge not from how the two begin. *** A servant in the loft and two old men can manage with a fox’s den  *** Should the sin of Lot destroy the good for every generation, then there is no good in any men. *** Think with care, Lest you forget. *** Incest is not unique to Moabites. *** Pick your people, tongue, or tribe, for none is pure from disrepute, not one. *** Meanwhile in the darkness here, where tribes and races hate and fear, O Lord, let Bethlehem ignite a flame of truth, and let us fight with love and joy to make it plain that fam’ly links are not a chain, and origins do not control. *** Half images are not the whole, nor true, and take a rending toll. *** Beneath the skin there is a soul. And may we lift this light and truth for Boaz and for every Ruth. *** There is a debt to parentage that one can feel. *** It is not love to trade for grain your God.  *** I will not suck with these the breast of foreign deities. I’d rather starve beneath the wings of God, than live with foreign kings. *** Our God is on your side. *** This very hour God makes the sin of man, with power, to serve your faithfulness. *** I’d rather live beneath the wing of God, or die there, if I must, than try to save my life by trust in my own plans.

Adventures Of Ogden – Man of the Suburb

Minnesota’s tallest building is the fifty-five story IDS building, in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. At street level of this building, there is a large open area called the Crystal court. In this court, since it is December, near the three-story waterfall, and next to the Minnesota Item Shop there is a very tall Christmas tree.


Near and a little hidden behind this tree stands a young couple. It is Ogden and Greta. They have just been to the Macy’s seventh floor display (Ogden’s first time, Greta’s thirteenth) and ten seconds ago Greta’s heart started to pound as she is just now noting a very serious change in Ogden’s demeanor. And very loving words.


Tears come to Greta’s eyes as Ogden suddenly smiles and he pulls out a small jewelry box and says “Marry me? Marry me, my wonderful darling friend.”


And he takes her hands in his. She smiles too. She has, of course, recognized the Austen movie reference. She knows that it was a throwaway quote (made by herself) from the same movie that had ignited there friendship last spring, but she also knows that in the movie, Emma has no verbal response to this proposal.


So Greta simply says “Yes, I will.” And they embrace. And Ogden opens the box, takes out the ring and puts it on her finger.


And then they realize that there is a girl, maybe eight years old, standing right near them, looking up at them. And she asks, inquisitively, “Did you just ask her to marry you?”


“Indeed, I did.”

“What did she say?”

“She said ‘Yes!’”

“I’m glad. That makes me happy!”

“Me, too” said Ogden.

“Me, too” said Greta.


In his pocket, Ogden has mapquest directions to “The Old Spaghetti Factory.” Ogden has never been there, but has learned from Greta’s mother that it was Greta’s favorite restaurant to go to every time they visited her Grandmother in Minneapolis.

For some of you, I am too late – the pattern is set and there’s nothing you can do about it, but for those of you with children young enough to not really remember Christmas from last year, here’s my family’s advice for you: Avoid making Christmas all about the presents.


“Oh, sure,” you say, “Everyone says that. But how about some tangible suggestions for how to do this?”


“Huh.” I say, “I had no idea you were going to ask that question, let me think about it for awhile”. Then I think about it for awhile and come up with this list – All proven ideas successfully employed by Jamfam.


1. Don’t put the presents under the tree. This just makes them think about it.

2. Don’t have a set date for when you open presents. Traditions are great, but not with this. It sets them up to focus on that moment. Do it differently every year.

3. Do other fun non-present opening Christmas related activities.

4. Keep Santa on the down-low.

5. Don’t buy a lot of presents.

6. Talk lots about Jesus.


Our goal, when we ask our kids what their favorite part of Christmas was (or is) is to have them say something besides “Receiving Gifts”.


Other suggestions? Ideas? Exclamations that we are crazy/mean?

For Abraham’s 22 word Kid Story Contest:

From my (nameless) 8-year-old son: “You can tell boys from girls because girls don’t have anything on them and boys have hats.”

(yes, a day late)

So I was just finishing up a project of unclogging the drain for a sink in the bathroom off our bedroom (a job successfully done that didn’t take too long) and I suddenly became aware that my wife and oldest (7) daughter were screaming. Like something was seriously wrong in an emergency type way. It sounded like my wife was yelling ‘Stop!”


I made my way around to them quickly and found her sitting on the floor in front of the other bathroom sink and she was yelling to the kids to bring her towels (“All that you can find!”) and saw that water was flooding from the sink cabinet. Hot water. She later said it was like a waterfall.


I ran downstairs (noting the water now pouring into the downstairs bathroom from upstairs) and turned off the main water.


We spent some time with lots of towels cleaning up and when the floor in four rooms were reasonably dry I went to look in the cabinet of the excitement-creating sink. And I quickly saw the problem: A one inch gash in the flexible tube coming from the basement water heater to this sink. It must have burst open.


I happened to have a replacement part, so I replaced it fairly easily. We are still drying towels. It looks like (to the best that we can figure out) it was just a coincidence that I was working on plumbing on the closest sink when this happened. But my wife had been yelling “Stop!” because she thought it was a result of something I was doing.


We are grateful that our daughter Anna spotted the problem and urged (with great urgency) my wife to go look.


And speaking of kids, have I mentioned that Foster (our newest) is really cute and getting cuter?


Oh well, how about a picture?



Here are pictures from Bethel’s Festival of Christmas, as mentioned last week .

My boys were in the front row – you can see them all in the eighth picture.

Oh well, why don’t I just show it to you?


(That’s Barrett behind the silver ball).

When someone says “But that’s not the point! The point is . . .”, he is actually saying: “No matter how valid your last comment was, I am going to disregard it (and demand that you do the same) because it hurts my case in this argument and I only want to focus on stuff that helps me.”

Speaking of my old college, one of the more famous former-attenders of Bethel is Joel Hodgeson, who in the years after he was there, had an idea and the cable channel Comedy Central let him (and a few others) run with it. The result (bear with me if you already know about this) was  Mystery Science Theatre 3000 , a quirky, fairly popular show with the main premise of three funny characters making fun of really bad movies while they played in real time.


The clip below (if I recall correctly) was from a show where they made fun of a movie with the title something like “Santa Saves The Earth From Martians”. And in this episode they made reference to Apache Plaza, a mall I used to walk to as a kid. But none of that is in this clip. This is just goofiness.


And if you wondering “Why doesn’t he give us more names and specifics and other historical facts?”: Repeat to yourself, “It’s just a blog, I should really just relax. . . ”


Warning: Some PG Language



Every year, Pastor John reads, during each of the four Sundays of Advent, an advent poem that he has written as a gift for our congregation. They are quite good. This year, the story is about Ruth.

Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From John Piper’s Ruth Advent Poem


My daddy’s always making rhymes but they’re not very good — sometimes. *** It better satisfies the ear to close the eye.  *** It blunts the beauty of a thing to feel a rival pleasure make appeal  *** The story starts with God, as all true stories do. *** None could stay his hand, or make undone the deed of God. He had his aims. *** God names whom he will have, and moves the earth to bring them to himself. *** No price paid to her gods of wood and stone could ever cleanse her heart, atone for sin, or satisfy the just and holy claims of God. Sheer dust upon the scales, all this, to weigh against idolatry each day. *** The hand of God is very roundabout, and there is time and room to doubt at every turn.  *** Clean and upright boys will never sleep with girls until the day they keep one woman for a wife. Beware, young man, no commoners should dare, nor even kings, to break this law. *** The broken saint just took them in without complaint, and from her lips and from her way they met her God and learned to pray. *** Could be, my good grandson,that you will sing, and put the truth on wing with harp and psalm and song. *** I pray that bitter providence today, tomorrow will taste very sweet, and every famine that we meet and every broken staff of bread in death, will bring us life instead.

For 52 years Bethel University (my college) has been celebrating the season with their “Festival of Christmas.” This year the Theme is Night Of Wonder: Christmas Through The Eyes Of A Child and they decided to have a Children’s Choir. My three oldest auditioned and made it in.


So every Monday since October they have been practicing and this week they have performances Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and two on Saturday.


We parents have been helping to keep them corralled during down times before and during the performances. This evening I got the opportunity to escort half the choir in. As I type this, I am waiting with the kid’s choir and the parents for their cue to go on for the Grand Finale.


It is a busy, sweet time. I am proud of my boys.


And as I understand it, this is my 501st post.

A very sweet Christmas tune by BNL (no, I’m not going to type out what those initials stand for) and Sarah Mclachlan – who are obviously going for a Peter, Paul and Mary sound. It works. My apologies for the video, they could have chosen more appropriate pictures for the slide show.

When I turn on the Christmas stations, this is the song I most want to hear.

Everything I eat with butter on it is just an excuse to eat butter.

Update: My wife asks – “Everything?”

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December 2008