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Today Colston and Jen constructed a miracle of modern engineering by using every block in the tub:

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Next up: A full scale model of the Golden Gate bridge.

Last week we took the kids on their maiden voyage to the bowling alley:

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So we’ve put our kids on a path towards psuedo exercise, wearing other people’s shoes and greasy food.

A couple of weeks back I spent some time in Asheville and had the chance to hike a bit:

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There’s something about being out in nature that recalibrates my soul.

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately.

Like most folks, I’ve just been busy with the usual- like doing tv interviews.

OK, that is way outside of the norm for me, but I did spend some time today with a reporter from the local NBC affiliate.

You can check out the finished product HERE.

I went to court yesterday.

I wasn’t summoned to attend as a juror, plantiff or defendant.

Rather, I went to support a friend who made a bad decision a while back and is having to answer for it.

Believe it or not, this was my first time in a courthouse.  I’d never darkened the doors before, for even so much as a jury duty notice.

After a day to digest the experience, here are a few thoughts:

Courthouses are seemingly designed to be as non-stimulating as possible. Everything is neutral and bland- the architecture, the furniture, the finishes, etc.  There are no seats in the hallways to rest on, no vending machine available for public use, no music, no artwork.  The only vibrant colors I saw in the whole building were on the state and national flags.  I began to think that the boredom factor had been turned up either to calm those who were nervous- or as a preview for those who might be going to prison.

The pros weren’t what I expected. Although I’ve never been to court before, I’ve watched tons of Law & Order (it’s on ALL the time), read multiple Grisham novels and have partaken in a few celebrity trials on cable.  I’d seen plenty of D.A.’s, P.D.’s, Baliffs and Judges.  But the ones I met yesterday weren’t exactly as advertised.  The lawyers weren’t nearly as interesting or as sharply dressed.  Instead, the words “ordinary” and “rumpled” come to mind.  The judge was cordial and very even keeled- not nearly as grumpy or sarcastic as Judges Wapner, Judy or Joe Brown.  And then there were the baliffs.  Those poor guys seemed to have a gig equivalent to your middle school hall monitor.  Aside from getting to announce the judge or escorting shackeled prinsoners, most of their day was spent asking the crowd to “shhhh”, waking up a couple of folks who dosed off, and running notes from the D.A. to the judge.

I’m glad I’ve never been before and I hope to never go back. The courtroom is a living reminder that people are broken and freedom is revocable.  As luck would have it, my friend didn’t get his day in court when I was there.  He had to return today and I wasn’t able to be there to support him.  Fortunately, he acknowledged his mistake without receiving a punishment that would take him away from his family for a long time.

Now, let’s hope neither of sees the inside of another courtroom anytime soon.

    Yesterday I mentioned to our faith community that for the longest time I didn’t understand all of the extra fuss about Easter.

    Don’t get me wrong- I like the seasonal candy as much as the next guy.  (Reese’s eggs anyone?)

    And as a follower of Jesus I understand the importance of the empty tomb.

    However, I came to faith in a church that taught that Jesus’ resurrection was something we celebrate EVERY Sunday.  (Seems like I remember that being the explanation for why we met on Sunday- “It is the Lord’s day.”)

    With hindsight, I think I never fully appreciated Easter because I hadn’t taken much time to dwell on the suffering of Jesus.

    Sure, I understood that He was beaten and crucified.  I’d even had the process graphically explained to me.  But I never stopped to dwell on the grief, sorrow and loss that Jesus’ first followers experienced.

    And I learned that without the grief- you can’t fully appreciate the joy of the resurrection.

    So this week I’ll be writing a series of posts based on the 7 Stations of the Cross that appear in John 19.  Our church community spent last Sunday’s gathering walking through them.

    If you are interested in prepping for Easter, join me each day this week.

    Read the scriptures- maybe out loud and/or several times through.

    Sample my reflections.

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Sit before God in prayer.

    And see if a little darkness and grief doesn’t make next Sunday’s morning sun shine a bit brighter.

    station1jesusmockedSTATION 1: JESUS IS CONDEMNED

    Opening Prayer:

    Lord Jesus Christ,
    take me along that holy way
    you once took to your death,
    Take my mind, my memory,
    above all my reluctant heart,
    and let me see what once you did
    for love of me and all the world.

    Scripture Reading:

    John 19:1-16a

    For Reflection:

    After a night of exhausting trials, Jesus finally finds himself before the Roman magistrate Pontius Pilate.  The man who holds God’s fate in his human hands is conflicted.  Pilate doesn’t believe Jesus should be convicted of anything.  But he also has to deal with the reality of the bloodthirsty mob that is begging for violence.  Seeking middle ground, Pilate turns Jesus over to the Roman soldiers for a beating.  Unfortunately for Jesus, these men take pleasure in their craft.  Leather, metal and bone meet flesh.

    I don’t even need to tell you which wins.  In all, Jesus takes 39 lashes.  Stop and count out loud to 39.  Takes a while, doesn’t it?  Some who were condemned never even survived the beating.  But Jesus does.

    crownofthornspainting1And for good measure, the soliders decide to give Jesus a new wardrobe.  As the Creator of the Universe, Jesus  had worn crowns made from the brightest stars and robes so lush that the most beautiful places on the planet only begin to hint at their majesty.  On this day His wardrobe is much less regal.

    His torturers weave a crown from some thorny branches- then properly seat it so that it will stay in place.  Someone finds a tattered, filthy scrap of purple fabric.  This is installed on Jesus’ raw back and shoulders with enthusiastic pats.

    The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is being mocked.

    His body is being broken.

    And the worst part is…His suffering is only begining.

    This beating won’t slake the blood lust of Jesus’ enemies.  Only more pain, more blood- and ultimately death- will suffice.

    Q: What do you think Jesus’ friends felt when they heard Pilate order that Jesus be scourged?  Do you think they had the courage or felt the obligation to watch?  Would you?

    Q: The soldiers’ mockery of Jesus was obvious for all to see.  Have you ever mocked Jesus’ or His authority in your life?  If so, was it blatant or more subtle?

    Closing Prayer:

    I adore you, O Christ,

    and I bless you,

    because by your holy cross,

    you have redeemed the world.

    img_01732In January of 2008 our church community started looking at an old health club building that was for sale.  Although it was in pretty horrible shape, and needed lots of upgrades to meet current codes- we liked the location and the idea of reclaiming something that had been tossed aside.  Plus, many of us said that the space just felt like a fit for our community.

    However, in February of 2008 we decided that we couldn’t afford to both buy the property and renovate it, so we passed.

    Last summer some friends of our church community called to say that they were considering purchasing the building we had looked at.  They were willing to rent it to us at a reasonable rate and to split the renovation costs with us.

    In August, with a lease in hand, we hired our architects and expected to start renovations and be in before Christmas.  Then reality set it.  After months of designing to navigate the new codes and trying to select the right contractor, we finally began renovations in December.

    img_06161On Friday we received a temporary certificate of occupancy.  Coincidentally (?), that afternoon we also got a call saying that we couldn’t use our usual Sunday am rental space.  So on Saturday about 40 folks from our community came together to do some last minute moving, scrubbing and prepping to make our new space liveable for our Sunday gathering.

    There was a great energy in the air on Sunday morning.  We had a record total of 191 folks of all ages.  More than a building, we celebrated the end of one phase of our journey and the beginning of a whole new era.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing more about the space- some pics from our first day, transformation shots, maybe even some info about how we’re hoping to share the space with our neighbors.  Until then, you can read about our journey our renovation blog HERE.

    For now, suffice it to say that we’re grateful to be in.  Thanks for all of your prayers and encouragement in these last months!

    joepress2Just the other day I was thinking to myself, “I want to listen to some Dylan”. Then I happened upon Joe Pug.

    Talk about serendipity.

    While I’m sure no artist wants to be compared to another, Joe delivers much of what I was seeking from Dylan: a unique voice, passionate delivery and lyrics that drip with life, poetry, soul and social conscience.

    He’s even got an intriguing story about how he came to play music:

    “The day before his senior year as a playwright student at the University of North Carolina, Joe Pug sat down for a cup of coffee and had the clearest thought of his life: I am profoundly unhappy here. Then came the second clearest.

    Pug packed up his belongings and drove the longest route possible to Chicago. Working as a carpenter by day, the 23 year-old Pug spent nights playing the guitar he hadn’t picked up since his teenage years. Using ideas originally slated for a play he was writing called “Austin Fish,” Pug began creating the sublime lyrical masterpiece that would become the Nation of Heat EP.

    The songs were recorded fast and fervently at a Chicago studio where a friend snuck him in to late night slots other musicians had canceled. He was short on money, but his bare-boned sincerity didn’t require much more than a microphone and it dripped off of each note he sang.”

    What does Joe Pug sound like?

    You can listen to full versions of Joe’s songs HERE.

    Or start with this sample:

    Hope you enjoy as much as I have.

    One of the things you do when you have young kids is celebrate holidays that you might not otherwise.

    Like St. Patrick’s Day for example.

    The day started with a green foods party at Addy’s preschool.  With the aid of a dash of food coloring, we contributed Rice Krispy treats with an emerald hue.

    For dinner we popped into Chick-Fil-A.  Unbeknown to us it was “Family Night” and they were having their own St. Patty’s shindig.  The kids got shamrock flocked hats, decorated iced cookies with green sprinkles, applied a shamrock tattoo and met the Chick-Fil-A cow.

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    Colston was afraid of the cow, but managed to compose himself for this shot.  Can’t blame him, I was a bit creeped out too.

    But the really big deal happened today.  Addy was prowling around our back yard and bounded in with this:

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    Yep- that’s a natural 4 leaf clover.

    Addy told Jen it would bring our family good luck.

    Lets hope so.

    bwmwater1A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that our church is partnering with Blood Water Mission in a project to help provide clean drinking water for a few of the 316 million people in Africa who don’t have any.

    44 people in our faith community have agreed to give up all beverages except water from March 1- April 9th.  During that time we’re supposed to keep track of how much money we’d have spent on other drinks.  On Easter we’ll pool this cash together (along with some funds from others who aren’t doing the water-only thing, but still want to contribute) and send it to BWMission.  Every dollar we give will supply 1 African with water for an entire year- which is pretty cool.

    In addition to helping others, we’re hoping that this small sacrifice will help benefit us too- making us more sensitive to the suffering of others and more appreciative of what Jesus sacrificed for us as we get closer to Easter.

    Today marks day 13 of my water-only experience.  So far I’ve stayed on track- except for one brain lapse.  One night during the first week Jen baked home made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I poured myself a nice, cold glass of milk and ate my portion.  I didn’t even realize what I’d done until about 15 minutes later.  This slip showed me how much I take for granted being able to drink and eat what I want- when I want.  Almost mindlessly so.  Much of the world has a dramatically different daily existence that I have to work hard to even imagine.

    If you asked me what this experience would be like before I started, I’d have said it would be tough for me.  I’ve never been a big water drinker- mostly under the guise that I like flavor in my beverages.  Although I’ve had the day or meal where I wished for a sweet tea or diet coke, drinking water instead hasn’t been a big deal.

    The first couple of days I had a mild headache as my system asked not so politely for some caffeine.  The week after that I saw regular dips in my energy level- often after meals where I would normally feed my body not only caffeine, but good amounts of sugar via sweet tea.  I tried to use both mild forms of discomfort as prompts to pray for those this project will help.

    I’ll check in again in a week or so and let you know how it is going and what else I’m learning.

    Blessings,
    Fred

    Addy has been going to pre-school two days a week since the fall.

    Of the 12 kids in her class she only seems to know the names of the boys.

    One of whom (Shepard) has become her best buddy.

    Shephard’s mom told Jen that he comes home upset if Addy doesn’t sit by him.

    See where this is going?

    Today, Addy brought this home:

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    Her first love note.  Complete with Dinosaur.

    Jen told me that she’ll save it forever.

    And I believe her.

    img_1705Apparently there’s something making the rounds on Facebook called “Mom Share”.

    Moms interview their kids with a standard list of questions and post their answers.

    Here’s Jen’s session w/Addyson (age 4 1/2):

    1. What is something mom always says to you?
    tell the truth

    2. What makes mom happy
    when i don’t tell a lie

    3. What makes mom sad?
    when i don’t obey

    4. How does your mom make you laugh?
    by tickling me

    5. What was your mom like as a child?
    little

    6. How old is your mom?
    uhh 20 years

    7. How tall is your mom?
    340 inches long

    8. What is her favorite thing to do?
    play with me

    9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?
    play with boo (colston)

    10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
    because I am the greatest mom in the whole wide world

    11. What is your mom really good at?
    playing with me

    12. What is your mom not very good at?
    jump roping

    13. What does your mom do for a job?
    take care of kids

    14.What is your mom’s favorite food?
    ummm mashed potatoes

    15.What makes you proud of your mom?
    because when you give me special reward things

    16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
    you would be me and I would be you

    17. What do you and your mom do together?
    play together

    18. How are you and your mom the same?
    because I have blonde hair and you use to have blonde hair when you were little

    19. How are you and your mom different?
    because your hands are bigger, your hair is brown now, and we have different shirts

    20. How do you know your mom loves you?
    because I am a nice sweet mommy and you tell me

    21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
    he is so funny

    22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?
    with me

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