Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 11 Summer Reads (because 10 books just isn't enough)

By Laura H

For those of you who don’t know me, I love to read and I think that’s why I was asked to write this post.

Although I have an ever growing “Reading List in Progress,” I make a separate “Summer Reading List.”  There’s something about the idea of summer reading that offers a fresh start, the need to make a list especially for this season. Maybe it’s lingering habits from all those library summer reading programs I did as a kid. I still feel nostalgia remembering my weekly bike rides to the library and the sense of satisfaction in returning a completed pile of books, mingled with the excitement of wandering through the lines of shelves to carefully select the next batch. And of course there was the free dilly bar I got for every 10 books I finished. Although, I hardly needed the dilly bar, the joy of systematically making my way through the long row of tattered Nancy Drew books was incentive enough!  

So, my task here was to assemble a list of Top 10 Reads. To be completely honest, I struggle with the concept of a “Top 10” list of books.  Coming up with ten titles is no problem; I could give you 50 if you want, but it’s that pesky little word “top.” As if these are the definitive books of my literary endeavors.  It’s too absolute. 

I’m forever evading questions asking me to rank my favorite books, usually either refusing to answer the question altogether, or fudging my way through it with emphatic disclaimers, like, “These are some of my favorite books” or “Not in any particular order.” Each experience with a book is so unique, there are so many and such varied reasons why a book may be meaningful that it’s difficult to take them outside that experience and compare them to one another. I have no problem claiming certain books to be of the best I’ve ever read, but to be forced to assign them a precise slot in a ranking order as if I could quantify their beauty, genius, the enjoyment they’ve given me, the impact they’ve had on me?  It can’t be done.   And, quite frankly, I’m too indecisive, so I just can’t commit to an ordered list of, well... anything.

But, all that aside, I’ve spent much of my time preparing this post by staring at a list of 18 titles and wondering how to narrow it down to 10. I finally managed to get it down to 11, making some particular decisions along the way. One of my intentions in compiling this list was to include a variety of genres, for diversified reading (though I admit that my default taste falls to 18th and 19th century British literature, and I can’t go too long without a good fiction read), as well as books encompassing various time periods. I wholeheartedly embrace C.S. Lewis’ insightful words that we must, “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can only be done by reading old books.”  

So without further ado, here are some books that I believe have great worth, have inspired much pondering, and which have given me much pleasure in reading. I hope you add one or  two of these to your summer reading list...or maybe even feel inspired to write a summer reading list for the first time!

The Aeneid by Virgil (published c. 20 BC)
One of my favorite aspects of this epic poem is the incredibly beautiful language and imagery that carry the story. It’s especially striking in the battle scenes. Be sure to get the Robert Fitzgerald translation.  

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (published 1866)
Dostoevsky has a genius understanding of the human soul. He brilliantly confronted the worldly philosophies of his day not through an academic treatise, but through story-raw and human.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (published in 1908)
Witty and endearing children’s stories that give a beautiful portrait of turn of the century English countryside life. And Mr Toad will have you bursting out laughing!

Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis (published 1955)
Lewis’ account of his childhood and early adulthood, especially as regards his own spiritual journey.  His experience and explanation of “Joy” resonated immediately and deeply with me.  I highly recommend this book.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (published 1678)
Allegorical story of the Christian’s life that has an innumerable amount of characters and concepts to connect with.  Consider getting a modernized translation or annotated original, as the archaic English can be difficult, but well worth the challenge. 

The Confessions by St. Augustine (published 398 AD)
A beautiful and soul-stirring book, from a man who writes in an intensely human way, from the depths of his soul.  It feels like you’re reading pages torn from his journal, which they kind of are in a sense.  Much to glean regarding life and theology.

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (published 1954), and The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (published 1872)
I cheated here and included two in one. Two fantasy children’s stories that give a  powerful picture of God’s good sovereignty.  George MacDonald’s writings had a profound effect on Lewis and his spiritual searching. 

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (published 1980, with updated eds)
Covers from 1492 to 2001.  I liked that Zinn openly acknowledges that all historical accounts have a bias, but is straightforward about what his bias is- to give a voice to the  people, especially those whose voices weren’t heard. It’s all the history I didn’t learned in school. Helped me to create a more holistic understanding of history by seeing it through other perspectives.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (first published 1887)
An enormous amount of material here, consider starting with some of his long stories.  While “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is the most famous, I suggest reading, “A Study in Scarlet” or “The Sign of the Four.” Conan Doyle has created a most fascinating character in Holmes- his genius will astound you!  If you want quick reads, get a collection of his short Sherlock Holmes stories- there are 56 in total.

MacBeth by William Shakespeare (published c. 1623)
Time to revisit our old high school friend with fresh eyes. Fascinating plot and characters- it’s helpful to keep SparkNotes as a companion! Shakespeare presents an interesting theme regarding the idea of a fixed versus a self-fulling destiny (obviously it’s not from a theological perspective, but it may inspire some good conversation on the topic!).  

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (published 2000)
Gladwell is a social theorist who here explores how little, small scale things or events  “tip” to become epidemics.  He explores everything from fashion trends to crime rates, and the people behind their spread. Very interesting and easy read.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Women at Hope: Women’s & Men’s Softball Update Week 7

Hope IV played hard in Week 7, but fell short of a win.

Check out the scores and highlights below from this week’s softball games.

Hope Women

The Hope Ladies pulled off their first win this week! The team mentioned that the win is so newsworthy it may need to be announced on Sunday morning  Anyone have connections?

Here’s the full recap from the team manager:

“We won 14-12. It came down to the last inning. We scored two insurance runs and held them to no runs on defense. I have to say as manager and a former player it has been hard sitting on the bench watching the girls play, but this game was super fun to watch! Awesome plays. Honorable mention to Megan Fink who made a double play getting the out at 3rd base and throwing the second out at 2nd base. Leah Kent played awesome at first base! Kiersten had some awesome pitching and outs! Heidi Schermerhorn I think goes down as the MVP. She had at least five outs at short stop and batted very well getting on base every time! In fact Heidi caught the winning out! Amy Frietag and Rebecca Aspelund also got on base every time! They all did great! Felt so good to get a W!

The cool thing we do at the end of the game after we slap hands and say "good game" to the opposing team, is we get in a circle and put one hand on top of the other in the middle and on the count of 3 we say "hoo rah!" ”

Hope I (Men)

The Hope I team struggled this week and came up with two losses.

The first game was quite the heartbreaker, with the loss at 10-9. Fortunately it was also one of the most fun games they have played this year. Unfortunately, Bethlehem Baptist (you know those friendly neighbors down the street?) found a way to crank a clutch 2-run home run in the top of the 7th to take a 10-9 lead, and the Hope bats came up just short in the bottom half of the frame.

It’s just too heartbreaking to recap, so I’ll let the team manager give you the details on the second game….

“After the gut-wrenching loss in the first game, our low spirits unfortunately carried into the second game. Our bats did not come to life, scoring only 5 runs, and our defense struggled a bit, allowing a few big run innings for Bethlehem Baptist, which combined to put this game well out of reach for any late-inning heroics. This second game aside, we have been incredibly competitive in the recent few weeks, and I am continually hopeful to string together some victories before this season is out!” The final score of the second game was 20-5.

Hope II (Men)

It seems that the Hope II team is trying to rally more fans coming to their games by leaving the details to onlookers only….  They lost their first game 11-9 but came back for a win in the second game 11-3! Check out the team schedule at to find location and game times (you can also find Hope I and IV on there as well).

Hope III (Men)

The Hope III team won again in a tough, back and forth game, with the game ending 11-8. It was Justin Rohloff’s birthday, so the team named him player of the game (plus he went three for four and had a stellar diving stop at 2nd base, so it may have been deserved anyways).

Hope IV (Men)
A Hope IV player stands ready at 3rd base in Week 7's game.

Hope IV is still in first place in their division, but Sunday’s first two losses were a tough blow to the team. Both games were lost by only one run, the first game 11-12 and the second 15-16. There were some highlights- the team scored 6 runs in one inning in the first game to take the lead for awhile, and somewhere in the two games a player finally made it successfully through a pickle (if you’re now confused, check with a sports fan). It was good for the team to have some closer competition, but they definitely missed the feeling of a win at the end of the day. Hopefully next week they’ll be back on track!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Footloose and Fancy-Free: Tales of a teacher on summer vacation, Vol. 1

 by Laura K

Hi friends!  My name is Laura, and I hope you are excited because this summer you get to live vicariously through me – a teacher on summer vacation.  Normally I teach summer school, but so far it is looking like I won’t be back in the classroom until September. So for now I am free as a bird.Those of you who don’t know me personally might recognize my face from Kids' Ministry, Beth Moore Bible study, or from telling you at the Spring Brunch that I go on blind dates with boys with kangaroos. I just wrapped up my sixth year of teaching kindergarten at an urban school full of children who bring so much joy to my life.  I am a big believer in achieving your dreams.  Here are few dreams that I have made come true in the recent past: owning a hammock to lay outside and read in, celebrating Canada Day in Canada, riding horses in Argentina, meeting Twins players (I'd like to say befriending Twins players, but that might be stretching the truth.), swimming in a pool of coffee, and coming soon – visiting Austria and seeing the sights of The Sound of Music.

Other than my European travel plans, I do not know what this summer will bring.  I've tried opening a lot of doors, and God has closed a lot of doors.  I like to be busy, busy, busy, and between grad school, teaching kindergarten, leading Bible study, and eating/sleeping, I don’t have a lot of downtime during the school year.  Perhaps God is helping me take some time to slow down, build relationships, spend time with Him, and just enjoy life.  Perhaps He has something else up His sleeve that He hasn’t told me yet. I can’t wait to find out!  Join me as we find out together during my summer blog post series: Footloose and Fancy-Free: tales of a teacher on summer vacation.  (Or if you can't stand the suspense between posts, check out my personal blog –

I’d like to use this blog post to introduce you to a few of my favorite summer pastimes, some of which are listed below:

  • Walking around the many lakes in the area: Calhoun, Harriet, Nokomis, etc.
  • Getting ice cream at delicious places: Sebastian Joe’s, Grand Old Creamery, Izzy’s, etc.
  • Twins Games! 
  • Playing bag toss and sipping lemonade (I don’t know if I’ve ever actually done these two things hand-in-hand, but doesn’t it seem like they’d be nice together?)
  • Lawn bowling at Brit’s 
  • Grilling out
  • Canoeing, paddle boating, and mini golfing
  • Outdoor concerts at the Lake Harriet Band Shell
  • Lying in my hammock reading a good book (I encourage you to make friends with a hammock if you don’t already have easy access to one.)
  • And probably my favorite part of summer (besides sleeping in and a lack of a job) – MOVIES IN THE PARK!  
If you are of the understanding that movies in the park only exist in films like The Wedding Planner and Valentine’s Day, you are sadly mistaken.  However, do not despair!  I was once like you, uninformed and ill-prepared for all that summer could offer me.  Let me be your Movies in the Park mentor and help you look like a seasoned veteran, whether you are or not.  

Step #1: Know your venue. 
This is important for a couple of reasons.  First of all, on the rarest of occasions, you might get into a fight with the Minneapolis website, and it might send you to a wrong location, where you will end up feeling like this:

Another reason is that the venue affects the type of seating arrangement you provide for yourself (to be covered in step #2).  And finally, the neighborhood of the park also determines whether you need to walk, bike, carpool, or stay safe using the buddy system.  

Step #2: Bring appropriate seating arrangements.  Let’s just be honest for a second, folks.  The ideal seating arrangement would be a cozy couch.  However, that does not fit in my trunk, and most likely it doesn’t fit in yours either.  Through trial and error, I’ve identified the runner-up best options.  Here is where knowing your venue comes into play.  If you go to Lake Harriet Band Shell for a movie, you don’t really even need to bring your own seating because they have a plethora of benches.  At other venues, it is really the culture of the park that determines whether your best option is to bring a camping chair or a blanket.  If everyone else at the park is sitting on a blanket, you don’t want to be the one person blocking the blow-up movie screen with your fancy lawn chair.  You also don’t want to be the one person on a blanket in the back unable to see anything.  To solve this potential dilemma, I usually keep a blanket, throw pillow, and camping chair in my trunk.  This way, I am prepared for anything.  I’d also like to suggest a wild card option: the canoe seat.  This is a cushion that offers you back support, while still sitting flat on the ground.  I know what you are thinking – the options are endless.  And you are right.  They really are.  Don’t limit yourself to my top three seats.  Be creative.

Step #3: Check the forecast.  First off, no one wants to watch a movie in the rain.  Secondly, these movies start when the sun goes down, meaning the sun’s warmth leaves as well.  Dress in layers, with a light weight sweatshirt, or bring another blanket.  You won’t regret it.  Trust me on this one.

Step #4: Bring Snacks. Pack a cooler or a few Ziplocs with some fun summery snacks.  Or bring a whole picnic and stake out a great seat earlier in the evening.  Some of my favorite snacks for movies in the park include: cherries, trail mix, crackers, a bottle of water, a thermos of chai tea, or mustache cupcakes if it is a friend’s birthday. Be sure and bring enough to share with friends!  If you bring something especially delicious, you may even make new friends with those seated around you.

Step #5: Determine your arrival time. Depending on what park you are heading out to, you might want to consider arriving early to get good seats.  If you are heading to Loring Park, this is mostly essential. At other locations you might be able to sneak in at the last second and still have a chance at seeing the movie screen.  This is a great time for picnicking, group crossword puzzles, or playing cards. Last year we even saw a group doing yoga together in a field.  This could be you, if you so desire.

Step #6: Sit back and enjoy the show. You will love your newfound summer hobby. Well, I think you are fully prepared to enjoy summer movies in the park. Google your local city to find movies showing near you.  Click here for the Minneapolis site. In case you are still confused, here is a photo demonstration of people who could be ready for a movie in the park.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that we are actually at soccer in the park, not a movie in the park, but note the blanket, the crosswords, and the fun. These things would all be present at a movie in the park, so I hope you can use your imagination and pretend that is the event we are attending.

I hope that you have a lovely summer.  Remember, my calendar is looking pretty bare, so call me up and let’s be friends!  Tune in next month for part two of my summer saga, which will be subtitled The Best of Europa!  (That is me, practicing my high school German in preparation for my trip)  
What are your favorite summer pastimes?

Any recommendations of fun things do to in the Twin Cities?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If only Eve hadn’t eaten that fruit in the garden I could just run around in my birthday suit

Let it be known that my guilty pleasures include People Magazine and people watching. One of my favorite things about these two people oriented hobbies is checking out what other people are wearing. Some might say I’m a closet fashionista. I’ve also been known to check out a cute shoe or two while bowing my head in prayer.

With the recent weather of hot death, I’ve gotten to see some new cute summer fashions. My favorites so far included a fun navy sundress and some sparkly gold sandals. I truly enjoy the bright summer wardrobes, the leaving home without a jacket, and the ability to leave my house with bare feet if I want to. What I don’t enjoy about the summer is that sometimes it’s harder, some might say ‘trickier,’ to find cute outfits that won’t make me melt or leave me baring too much skin to the everyday people.

If only Eve hadn’t eaten that fruit in the garden I could just run around in my birthday suit and never worry about the appropriateness of my outfits. But that’s not my reality and I live on this side of the fall where modesty matters. The recent hot weather (103 degree day of misery) has got me thinking more about the appropriateness of my summer attire and what the Bible has to say about it.

Here’s what I’ve been learning from Scripture on this issue. I know some of you just took a good long sigh, but stick with me on this. First a mini reading of Genesis 3:7-10,21:

Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin clothes. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking around in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees in the Garden. But the Lord God called the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”… And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Here’s what stands out to me. Pre-fall people were naked and felt no shame. There was a purity and innocence about nakedness. However, post-fall nakedness demonstrated the inability of people to make themselves presentable before God. God saw this and had compassion on his people. God, by means of an animal sacrifice (that’s how they got garments of skins), made clothing for His people and covered them so that they could be presentable before Him. This clothing covered not only their bodies, but also their sin and shame. If you’re following me you might also note the parallel of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and how his death alleviated our shame and clothed us with His righteousness.

What does this all mean? It means that clothing can be a tangible reminder of God’s grace toward us. Clothing was a provision from God so that Adam & Eve might feel presentable before him. And that, my friends, is the point I’d like to stress. Our clothing can be a witness of God’s provision for us. The way we dress can point to God or distract from him.

To take it one step further, in Romans 13:14 we are told to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s Christ in us that truly makes us beautiful. Our clothing is just an outward expression of an inward beauty.

My question for you is: Have you thought about what your clothing says about you? Have you thought about what it says to your brothers in Christ? Have you thought about what your beachwear says about you? Are you thinking about more than just yourself when you get dressed?

I don’t ask you these questions because I care about moralism or because I want you to dress like a prude (trust me I don’t want either of these things). Rather, my desire is that your clothing would honor the people you interact with daily and even more so that your clothing would honor Christ.

So here is some summer fashion advice from an expert people watcher. This summer, as you get dressed, whether it be to go to the beach, church, work, or just for life, ask yourself: Does what I wear on the outside display or distract from the righteousness of Christ in me?

My hope is that Christ would be displayed in you this summer and that I would glean a larger repertoire of cute fashion ideas from the women I meet around Hope.

Thanks Friends,

~Rachel (Your resident closet fashionista)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Week 6: Women at Hope: Women’s & Men’s Softball Update

And he's safe on 3rd base! Hope IV didn't win their games in Week 7, but they had some exciting innings!
Hope IV player Stan O. releases a smooth pitch at Week 7's game.

Check out the scores and highlights below from this week’s softball games.

Hope Women

The Hope Women’s team had a great evening playing together! But sadly the game ended in another loss. They feel a W coming soon, though! The team they played was named Just sayin'. Just sayin' they beat them 18-1.

Faith noted, “The positive here, besides the fact that we get together every week and do something we love to do with other Hope women is, ......we haven't been shut out!!!!! ”

On June 26th, the Women’s team is heading to the Hope I men’s softball games to grill for them and show some support! Good sportsmanship ladies!

Hope I (Men)

Game 1:

The Hope I team came up with their first win of the season winning 17-11! Craig noted, “Everything finally clicked for us, and we were able to win our first game of the season! We have been improving bit by bit each week, and we were finally able to string some great hits together, make some excellent defensive plays, and grab a win.” Congrats!

Game 2:

The second game of the night proved a bit more challenging, and the team finished with loss of 8-14. The bats didn't come alive in the second game of the evening. They had some great opportunities toward the end of the game, but some good defensive plays by the other team squashed any hope of a late-inning rally. Still, one of their players is quoted as saying, "I can’t remember having this much fun on a 1-9 team."

Hope II (Men)

The Hope II men’s team unfortunately came up with two losses last Sunday night, the first game ending 26-7 and the second 15-13. Hopefully this week will be more successful!

Hope III (Men)

The Hope III team suffered their first loss, but the sadness of losing was soon forgotten as they enjoyed root beer floats afterwards at Jamie and Suzanne Anderson's house. At least they had some team building 

Hope IV (Men)

The Hope IV team continued on their winning streak with another two wins for the night, 19-7 in the first game and 15-6 in the second. The opposing team had an injured player, so Hope stepped up and lent a player for them to field, a great show of sportsmanship. Veteran catcher Andy Karsky showed his endurance by playing through the games after his ankle was injured, maybe he was hearing Steve say “Walk it off” in the back of his head…

The two wins were great, but Todd Farrington had to make it look it easy by hitting two home runs over the fences, one going over the freeway fence behind the park and one being a grand slam. As long as he doesn’t hit more than 2 out of the park each game, the team is happy to have him continue batting lie this 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Labors of Love: Advancing the Kingdom in Minneapolis

by Kaelin

A little bit about me...

My name is Kaelin Elizabeth Ireland. I am married to Paul David Ireland, as he will undoubtedly introduce himself!  He is handsome and faithful and lovable. And, as a guy at Bethlehem Baptist Church once said to me, I am a very blessed woman to be married to him! I first stumbled across Hope Community Church on Google Maps while living in California looking for a wedding venue in Downtown Minneapolis. Little did I know that what I thought was just a church I would say my vows in would turn into my solid family of believers who would carry me into marriage and motherhood.  

Once a dreadful sinner, and arguably still that at times, I now have the delightful privilege of sweating it out for my Father’s Kingdom! Currently, I live just a short walk from Hope (bonus!) and am serving as the wife of an Urban Missionary and the Mother of two very energetic, very determined boys that I completely adore. I am thrilled from head to toe that God loves me and protects me and provides for me as His beloved daughter. What an adventure I am on!

Advancing the Kingdom in Minneapolis
We were at the neighbor’s barbecue last week when a young woman who lives there asked, “Why the city? Why are you raising a family in the city?” I kind of chuckled, thinking I should give the same answer I gave people when they asked me what I was going to do when I graduated college: “Only God knows!” Which is mostly true. But here, I guess I do know at least some of it. As I stated in my bio, the Lord led us to Hope via Google Maps and the location of the church had far more significance than I would have ever dreamed at that point. Four years ago today I lived in gorgeous Long Beach, California. I had no plans whatsoever of ever moving back to Antarctica, ahem, Minnesota. Well, except for that time I prayed we would move back here (Paul still lovingly scolds me for that one), but that is a different story.

God is good, and very organized, too.  He plugged us right on in at Hope doing LDI our first year of marriage and then found us a home within walking distance of Hope the following year. Since then, He has deepened our roots right here, no matter how hard we’ve kicked and screamed. When the opportunity to become Urban Missionaries for the EFCA came along, we felt it was the path God wanted us to take, since we were already performing the majority of its functions! So here we are, in Downtown Minneapolis, trying to live out the Great Commission. 

Summer Ministry in the City

A couple nights ago, to my GREAT joy, we were invited over to the neighbors’ house to play a late-ish night game of volleyball. And hey, what’s a game of volleyball without bad beer and red bull and cigarettes (yes, some even hanging right out of the lips of the players! Nice!) For the record, I did not partake in either the frightening red bull (wow so bad for your heart), the nasty cheap beer, or the icky smokes, but I was SO thrilled to be among them. Now, maybe I sound like a cheesy mom here, but my heart was filled with joy to be accepted by this enthusiastically sinful bunch. I think deep down it’s because I used to be just like them. I guess to a certain extent I still am. Maybe I had enough self control that night to refrain from intoxication, but a decade ago? Not so much.

Paul has been on the neighborhood board for Elliot Park almost 3 years now. He also heads up a block club for our block. At a recent training, he was encouraged to catalyze social events that get the neighbors meeting each other so that we will know each other,  and therefore watch out for one another.  So, we thought we’d get it rolling by doing our own neighborhood BBQ.  

At our BBQ, I overheard my husband explaining that if you put a religious person (as in legalistic) and a non-believing pleasure-seeker on the two ends of a continuum, the pleasure seeker is likely closer to seeking God than the person relying on rules. Having this in mind, I took a step back and saw all of these people acting out on something God has placed deep within them. They are after pleasure, they are after adventure, they are after the thrill that it is to be alive and doing and enjoying! So close, so close! All they need from here is the startling love of the Lord of the universe, the One they’re actually looking for. And I got to stand there as a living example of someone who is on an adventure, fully alive and adequately fulfilled because I have Jesus. So here we are, loving the people of the city.  Which brings me to our big remodeling project.  My husband and a band of volunteers have been renovating the Salem House in the Phillips neighborhood.  Here are two lovely Hope ladies volunteering their handy woman services:

The Salem House is a large community space located right across from Abbott and Children’s hospital. We are hoping to use this house for many of the ministry initiatives we will be doing. As Paul has been chatting with people in the neighborhood he’s starting to discover the drastic need for good male influence there.  The Salem House has been graffitied twice since we’ve been working on it; one of which we think said “Diablo”, which is Spanish for “the devil.”  Big surprise, right? 

And just how do I fit in?  I’ve been doing the cooking!  Nearly every Saturday for the last two months I have been making chicken-in-the-crock pot sandwiches.  I give my love and support to my husband, take pictures, and then I take the kids over to the park across the street.

Modeling and Sharing Christ

Having a family in the city has provided a great number of ways to model and share Christ with people here. Being a mother is apparently pretty disarming. Lots of people initiate conversation with me through my children. One of our most missional pastimes currently is eating snacks out on our front lawn and talking with neighbors and people who walk by. My oldest son Luke, like father like son, will talk to anybody. It really is heartwarming to watch. After one person leaves I’ll give him some pointers and phrases he can say before the next person comes along. The other morning I told him, “Luke, you’re a great missionary!” And he said, “Yeah, I tell people about Jesus!” The best thing, in my opinion, that has happened on our lawn this month was when the girls from the apartment buildings across the street came over while we were reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. Luke got interested in other things and while everyone was kind of just playing and doing their own thing, I looked over to see the nine year old girl reading the Bible!!  

Can I just say that one of the most hilarious interactions was with a guy carrying a guitar on his way to a band contest at North Central college. Luke was asking about this guy's guitar and telling him about his own guitar. So the guy asked, “Do you know how to play Smoke on the Water? You know, the song that goes (starts to sing) dun dun dun.. dun dun deh deh...”  And Luke, with a puzzled, nearly disturbed look on his face uttered, “No, I just play music.” Next month, I am very excited to tell you about my most challenging and most exhilarating work: Discipling Children. Partly, because I share in this ministry with some pretty amazing ladies...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Michelle's Update

(Michelle's first post)

Q: What do you think would be valuable for the readers to hear about your story since your blog post appeared?

A: Since posting, a lot has happened. My husband and I are continuing to grow in our faith and we are becoming more and more connected to the community at Hope.

The biggest change in our lives will happen in three weeks when my younger brother, Richard, comes to live with us in Minneapolis. We are so excited to welcome Richard into our home and expose him to the people and ministry at Hope. Our small group has stepped up to the plate again and again to support us and pray for us as we take on this new challenge.

Q: How has posting this blog benefited (or not benefited) you?

A: For me, writing a post strengthened the promise I made to God and myself to learn how to lean on Him more by making that promise a public declaration.

Q: What steps have you taken in the process of raising the bar?

A: It is difficult to love and not feel loved in return. With my family members, our relationships are often strained to the maximum capacity. However, loving others is so much easier to do when I keep in mind that I am doing what God calls me to do: share HIS love. Knowing that, helps take the pressure off, and I can feel totally feel to love with abandon.

When my brother Richard moves into our home later this month, one of our main priorities will be to overwhelm him with the love that Christ has placed in our hearts. Having grown up where he lives, I have a feeling this will be a totally new experience for him.

Q: What challenges have arisen?

A: My pride tends to get in the way of my asking for help. Constantly, I have to remind myself of what it means to be humble and to be a follower. This will become especially challenging, I predict, when we are called to follow and lead simultaneously as we welcome my 18-year-old brother into our home.

Q: What joys have arisen?

A: Reading about God's love is inspiring, but EXPERIENCING that love is a totally different ball game. It is overwhelming in the best possible sense of the word. As the new editor for the Women at Hope blog, I have felt so blessed by the eagerness of all our volunteer writers and editors. I have to confess, that I love being one of the first people to read the blog updates. It gives me a little thrill every time I get a sneak preview of the Spirit at work in our community.

And again, we are over-the-moon excited to welcome my brother into our home. It is impossible to say how great it will be to share with him all that God has blessed us with: A strong church community, a cute house in the city, a silly puppy dog, opportunities to travel, a loving household, awesome friends and so many more things.

Q: What’s next?

A: Next? Oh boy... lots!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Women at Hope: Women’s & Men’s Softball Update Week 5

Last week’s softball recap is i! Check out the scores and highlights below.

Hope Women

Well the Hope Women suffered yet another loss. 11-2 against a team named diamond lake divas. Let’s just say…they weren't so diva-ish.

The girls had great fielding and we were within close range of the other team throughout most of the game. They did great for playing in 100 degree weather!!!!

See the below pictures from the game, taken with one arm due to Faith’s broken collarbone.

Hope I (Men)

Game 1: Lost 5-17

Summary: We were leading going into the 5th inning, when Willowbrook exploded for 14 runs. We couldn't stop the bleeding, and by the time the inning ended the game was over! We are usually one bad inning away from a victory, so we are going to try and improve on finishing off innings so they cannot snowball on us!

Game 2: Lost 11-23

Summary: We scored runs steadily in this game, just not enough to keep up with Willowbrook. Once again they had an explosive inning, scoring 9 in one frame, which is what did us in. If we can end those long innings and score a few more runs, we are confident a victory will follow. Unfortunately, the game outcome was overshadowed by an injury on the other team. Willowbrook's coach severely sprained his knee on a play in the infield. Keep him in your prayers.

Even though we are still winless this season, we are improving every game. I see advances both on offense and on defense in every player on this team, and we are having a great time in the midst of defeat!

Hope II (Men)

The Hope II team lost the first game 12-17 but came back for a win in the second game with 15-6. No details available regarding what happened during the games… you’ll have to let your imagination determine the cause for their big comeback in the second game 

Hope III (Men)

Hope III ended up winning again with a final score of 15-10! Even though they were missing some of their regulars, they were able switch up a couple positions and play well together again, both offensively & defensively. It cooled down to a comfortable 89 degrees for the game, awesome!

Hope IV (Men)

Hope IV came up with another two wins – a serious winning streak of 6 games! The first game finished at 18-9 and the second game was close to a shut out at 17-1.

It looked like we almost lost kung fu panda - our franchise player- Todd Farrington, as he was rounding 3rd base and running into home, but he insists that his leg is okay. The wins were fun, but going out for pizza as a team afterwards was even better. Next week may be more of a challenge as we play White Bear United Methodist who is so far undefeated.

Getting to know the Ministry Associate for Women and Small Groups

Phew! What a mouthful that title is, eh?

Naty often jokes about the length of her job title here at Hope Community Church. But her 13-syllable title doesn't even begin to describe all that she has does for the Hope community. On many a Sunday morning Naty will make us laugh as she gets up in front of the congregation and reminds us of brunches and small groups and other ways we can "get involved" and become more connected to the body of Hope. But how much do we really know about Naty? We know of her preference for hooded sweatshirts and pony tails, sure, but who is Naty, really? 

To give you all a glimpse into what makes Naty... well Naty... we had a top notch crew of editors compile this list of questions, which Naty has provided witty, yet thoughtful, answers to. And now, a Q&A with our Ministry Associate for Women and Small Groups: 

1) Is Naty even your real name? 

No, Naty is not “even” my real name.  It is something my family has called me since I was really little. It wasn’t until late in elementary school that my friends adopted it.  One of my friends called me at home and my mom answered the phone…because in 1986 I didn’t have my own cell phone…and when my mom called for me to pick up the phone she yelled “Naty!” to get my attention.  Well, my friend heard that and went nuts.  She told all my friends…I was super embarrassed, but from there it really caught on.  By a year later I don’t think people even knew my name was Natalie. 

As a side note:  I chose how to spell Naty.  As I was not in the era of phonics, my spelling is horrible and the spelling of my name reflects that.  My husband constantly reminds me that it should have 2 t’s…I guess that is why 10-year-olds don’t edit a lot of important documents. 

2) As a child, what was your dream job?
This might be hard for some of you to believe, but I really wanted to be a comedian.  Hmm…it’s hard to imagine. My dad did not encourage this pursuit saying, “That’s no way to make a living.”  My response was to tell him I would be a lawyer by day (because even little kids know lawyers make bank) and then be a comedian at night.  That way I would also have a ‘living’.  

If you want to see the real nature of my sense of humor I recommend you take SHAPE class, I test out new material in that class. I am learning Christian humor more and more everyday. Since I became a follower of Christ as an adult, I have made some changes in my choice of jokes…I have found Christians have to work ‘harder’ to be funny…there are no easy outs…it’s smarter humor.   

In high school, I wanted to write funny greeting cards. That is still my fall back if this Hope gig doesn’t pan out. 

3) Name your favorite and least favorite parts of being on staff at Hope CC.
Favorite:  This is going to sound totally canned, but I am going to say this anyway: I love almost all of it! Really, our staff team is amazing. Steve leads with such an attitude of grace that it makes our team compassionate towards each other, and also encourages us to take big steps of faith. I get to meet so many people, including a lot of the people who read this blog. And, I get to influence women by pointing them toward Christ on a daily basis. I think the best thing is that it is fun/funny. I laugh a lot at work and there are rarely dull moments

Least Favorite:  This list is less short and therefore easier to think of examples. I will list a couple.  First, it’s hard to draw a line between work and “life.”  So much of my work is tied to people I love dearly, and for whom God has given me incredible love and compassion. I have a hard time “not working.”  Second, Hope is growing so quickly, that I can’t keep up with as many names as I would like to. I am actually pretty good with names, so it frustrated me that I will meet someone for the third time and not be able to recall his/her name. If you are reading this and I have forgotten your name, it is not because I have forgotten you! Wear a name tag for crying out loud; throw a girl a bone!

4) Describe your ideal date night.
With my husband (that is key, really). He hates it when I go on date without him. I have been working on that. I say to myself, “Naty, if you are going to go out on dates, you just have to remember to ask Jared to go with you.” (I hope you all know that I am kidding.) 

Jared and I really just like low-key hangout time without our kids for date nights. Since you have been watching me on Sunday’s you may have noticed that I am a casual dresser. So, I lack the clothing for anything more formal. Actually, I really dislike the clothing for anything more formal.  (Though I do have it. Ask me about my box of bridesmaid dresses!) Dinner and a movie is perfect for us. 

5) If you had a secret two extra hours each day that no one else had, how would you spend them?
Sleeping. My life lacks the appropriate amount of sleep. It seems to be the one thing that gives way in light of my family, job and PTO involvement. Yes, I am the president of the PTO. What of it?

6) What is something that most people don't know about you? 
I am not sure what type of answer you where hoping for here, so here is a mixture of answers:  I am left-handed. I like ‘nerdy’ TV (mostly Discovery & History channels). I like to read. I have a very short attention span, so I almost always have an object in the pocket of my hoodie to ‘play’ with while I talk to people. It helps me focus. I didn’t attend Hope until after I graduated from college. I was a geography major at the U of M. I am a pretty open, authentic person, but I am very private about a lot of my life and heart outside of the ministry/Hope aspects of my life. 

7) Do you prefer dogs or cats? And why?
I like both, but prefer dogs. They are typically more social animals. I tend toward being a mildly social person…just a little bit…(If you know me, that should be a pretty funny line.)

8) What is one hobby or passion that you want to pursue further in life?
I lack hobbies in general. I find that my interest in activities changes based on what is in front of my face. I like sports, but the type of sports changes sometimes. I am heavily/easily influenced by my friends as to what I read, the music I listen to, and the movies I see.  I just don’t care enough to do the research myself. 

Again, this could sound totally canned or over spiritual, but my passion is teaching the Bible and teaching people how to find their unique fit into the body of Christ. At the end of the day I want to help God in making fully devoted followers of Christ by encouraging people in leadership and using the gifts He has given them.

9) Tell us your favorite non-conventional Bible verse or passage (i.e. not John 3:16).
Right now, as this changes a lot. I am presently reading the Bible in 90 days (which I would recommend to anyone), so I have a lot to think about these days…Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  I like the way this verse celebrates the greatness (how big and powerful He is) of God, but also how deeply He cares about every person. 

10) What's a lesson in your faith walk that God seems to teach you over and over again?
Well, God keeps needing to teach me a lot of lessons over and over again, unfortunately. I can be thick headed sometimes. Thankfully, He hasn’t given up on me in these areas either. I think the most common theme I see him commonly reminding me of is my need to wait for him, to not run ahead of his timing or plan. That just never works out, but it is my constant temptation. He is patiently teaching me his timing and plan is always for my good.

      11) If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 
I would totally pick mind reading. That would go a long way in my line of work. If I am being honest, I feel like I have been given an exceptional ability to read people and a pretty good BS-meter, and I have found that to be a huge blessing in ministry. But mind reading would be pretty entertaining. Don’t you wish you could live in the head of some of your friends for a day, just to understand them better? I think I would have a lot more patience for people who think differently than me if I understood just how their brains worked.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

So, you're going to be an architect? - post 1

By Sara M.

A little about me:

My name is Sara. I am a junior studying architecture at the University of Minnesota. Though it has been a gradual process over the past two years for me to get to this point, I can now confidently say that I love this field. My "life vision" is being continually refined and developed, but currently I'm hoping to someday work internationally, helping to bring stability and better living conditions to developing countries without destroying tradition and culture. I have a lot of learning to do before I can begin to know how to engage in that movement. I feel a necessity to document ordinary, yet beautiful moments and am excited to share some of those photos and videos with you this summer.  

A little about my video...
Not not ever, but not now, is a drawing study that I did recently as a visual journal.  For me, expressive drawing can be a way to externalize and relieve emotions like sorrow and disappointment without needing words.  The theme of the piece is lost dreams, lost hopes, and lost expectations.  Over this past semester, I’ve been hit with a series of closed doors to dreams that I had pursued and hoped for.  Then there have also been things that I have given up out of my own selfish ambition.  Somewhere in this journey, the Lord helped me understand my need to give both my current and lost dreams to Him.  After a recent disappointment, the Lord led me to a place of peace, teaching me that these dreams may not be a “not ever” thing, just a not now.  

"Not not ever, but not now"

Click here for a higher quality version of Sara's video.