Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Vaca" Pictures

If you think it is lame and cheesy to refer to a vacation as a "vaca," you are right. It is a joke from the movie "Stranger than Fiction," one of my new favorites. Anyway, all that aside, here are some pictures from our recent trip to the Napa Valley. Karina, Matthew, Jack, and I joined my side of the family there a couple of weeks ago. We all stayed together in a house for a week. The house looked out at a river, and Matthew and I braved it a few times. He was pretty nervous about going into it, but he was able to adapt decently. Mostly, we waded across the river, sat down, and then threw rocks. He loved throwing the rocks, and he also loved watching me dunk myself. Everything else was pretty scarry to him.
One of the highlights of the trip was that this was the first that that Matthew (and Karina and I) were able to meet Hadleigh. Hadleigh is the daughter of my sister Ami and her husband Dave. Matt and Hadleigh had a good time together. He now talks a lot about how he misses Hadleigh, and he was also quite taken with Uncle Dave. Dave is pretty tall and Matt commented at one point, "He's so big and high!"
Speaking of Dave and Ami, here they are with Matt and Hadleigh. Dave and my brother Chris also served as our wine experts (being in wine country and all). They were tireless. That's not to say that they drank too much, just that they went all over, exploring vineyards and wineries.
And, speaking of my brother Chris, here he is with his wife Rubie. They are both doing graduate work. We had a lot of fun hanging and talking. Their the only couple in our family with more kids, but they are probably better with kids than any of us. Matt had a great time with them.
Finally, here are Mom and Dad with Matt (being a ham, as always). We not only got to spend the week with them, but Matthew and I (and the rest of the family except Karina, who is too pregnant to fly) got to spend last weekend in SoCal to celebrate my dad's retirement from his second career. He has been volunteering as the full-time executive pastor at their church for the last five years. Now he is moving on to his third career with Action, an organization that looks to mobilize believers to serve in their communities. It was a great time, and it was fun because we all surprised my dad by showing up on Friday. He had no idea we were coming and then the door opened and Matthew walked in. It was fun.
Now we have no more trips for the Summer and we focus on preparations for Jack. The due date is in the vicinity of August 30th. We shall see. We can't wait to meet our new son (and Karina can't wait to no longer be prego).
Oh, before I forget, I put up some new movie reviews for those of you who enjoy it. It is sequel time, so I put up my thoughts on Spiderman 3, Ocean's 13, and Live Free or Die Hard. You can click on the link on the right.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lessons From a Kayak

Now, just to make something clear up front, that picture on the left is not me. It is just a stock picture of a guy on a kayak. I included it, however, because this past week on out family vacation in the Napa Valley (more on this later, when I get our pictures onto my computer) we stayed in a house right next to a small river, and I got to go out and do some low-intensity kayaking. To be honest, I usually just kayaked to a nice swimming spot, and then got out and enjoyed a relaxing swim. Still, going around in the kayak, alone and quiet, made me think a lot about how managing a kayak can be similar to managing our lives. Here on some thoughts that I had from my kayak adventures this past week.
1. I Like to Coast. This does not come as a huge surprise to me. I was not out to kayak to build muscles or to learn the skill. I mostly wanted to just sit and have the current pull my lazily down the river. My goal was to have to do as little as possible. I wanted to get everything in position and then let the current do the work. I consistently found, though, that the nose of the kayak would refuse to stay straight, and I would have to use the paddle to straighten it out. This annoyed me because I was busy trying to find a way to lie completely flat in my seat. I didn't want to have to even look at where I was going, let alone have to steer myself. It made me think of my walk with Christ. I want to get everything in order so that I can just coast through life with little or no maintenance. However, how true it is for me that if I don't continue to maintain my priorities and my direction, that I drift from my goal. I seem to believe that I will somehow find a way to live the Christian life with little or no work. This is not what God intended. He does not intend for us to live our lives trying desperately to do as little as possible. He means something much more for us.
2. I Can Go Somewhere or Be Brought There. In a kayak, there is nothing wrong with simply kicking back and letting the river take you where it will (at least I can't think of anything wrong with it). However, this is no way to live life. God has made all of us to pursue things that matter, things that last. We have the choice, however, to do this, or to simply let life take us where it will. If we live passively, out lives will very infrequently be meaningful. Now, some of you might be thinking, "But we can end up battling God on where we want to go. We try to paddle one way, while his current is trying to pull us where he wants us." To that I say. . .okay. But for the purposes of this particular analogy, I have something different to say. Some of us might battle God by being too active, but I see a lot more of us battling God by not being active enough. I think there aren't enough of us who are trying to do something for God that he doesn't want us to do. I think there are many more of us who are trying to do something for ourselves, and we have only passing thoughts on whether or not God might approve of our plans. If you struggle with the former, fine. I struggle with the latter, so that is where I will focus.
3. Going Upstream is Difficult, but not Impossible. Especially on the particular river on which I kayaked. The current was not very strong, so I was able to paddle against the flow to my favorite swimming spot. My arms got tired a couple of times, but it was doable. Those of us who are following Jesus live our lives against the flow. We have the flesh, the world, and the enemy all pushing the current the wrong way. Sometimes we become weary of going against the flow, but it is possible. And yet it is difficult.
But then I thought, I can paddle upstream in this river, but what about one that has a much stronger current. I would need breaks. I couldn't do it hour after hour, day after day, year after year. And then I thought. . .
4. A Kayak is Inferior to a Canoe. The reason for this is that, in a canoe I could be carried upstream by others when my arms get too tired to continue to paddle on my own. Also, the paddling will not be as difficult when others are helping out. Maybe we as the body of Christ are all in a giant canoe, paddling upstream. Only the problem is that many of us are not paddling. Just as the Apostle Paul talked about certain parts of the body choosing not to be a part of the body, some of us on the canoe are choosing to be dead weight. This makes it hard for the kingdom to advance. And when some of us treat the canoe like it is our very own kayak, we can end up being very unhelpful to our canoe partners.
No analogy is perfect, but I think there is something to this one. We all do have to choose whether we will coast or passionately pursue. And we also must choose whether we will use what God has given us for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7), or if we will egocentrically pursue what seems best to us.
Anyway, I hope these thoughts from the kayak make you think as much as they made (and continue to make) me think.
By the way, my father-in-law (Randy Alcorn) now has a blog. Some of you already know about it. Great stuff. By sure and check it out. You can get to it through the Eternal Perspective Ministry link (I couldn't figure out how to directly link his page to mine; sorry).

Monday, July 02, 2007

Getting Ready for Vacation

This Saturday we leave for Napa for a vacation with my side of the family. The other day Karina got her big gray backpack out, and Matthew put it on. The big pack looked so funny on him that I asked him if he was going to go on Amazing Race (we rented the first season, and he watched the final episode with us). He now frequently talks about how he is going to go on Amazing Race. Good stuff.
I've been getting advice from people lately on how we can have a successful road trip with a toddler. We have picked up some good ones. My favorite came from Ken and Sue Newcomb. When their daughters were young, they had a set-up where every so often the girls were allowed to open a package of some sort. In the package would be a book or a toy or a snack. The idea was that this broke down the journey. You know, in two hours you get to open the next package. Now, with the Newcombs the packages were supplied by the grandparents and they contained new things. I think with Matthew, though, we will just wrap some of his toys and books and let him open them up every so often. It will be just as much fun for him to open up one of his Curious George books as it would be to open up a new toy. We'll see how it goes.