Moving On Over

February 16, 2009

I’m no longer blogging at this site.  I’ve moved to

(For those who do the rss thing, here’s the new feed —

Why move?

I’m tired of explaining the “godsnowhere” gimmick to people.  I need a break from WordPress, which is an awesome blog site (probably the best), but the features are limited if I don’t self-host my website (which costs money)…and requires a certain level of tech-savvy that I don’t have.

I’ll be doing the same kinds of things at the new site.  I would be much obliged if you’d join me over at KOINONIA.  Thanks…


Lessons by Connor

January 15, 2009

Here’s a re-post of an article my dad wrote; originally printed in the January issue of the Northeastern Iowa Synod STAR newsletter.  The stories shared by my dad and the other pastor remind me that young people can do amazing things in our congregations.  Sometimes, all it takes is for adults to get out of the way.  EU

– – – 

This summer, Ruth and I had the opportunity worship with our family and the family in which I was raised.  Seventeen of us filled two pews for the first time in many years.  It was good to be together, to confess and be forgiven, to sing and pray, to hear God’s word and taste the heavenly feast together.

The highlight of the service, however, was the reading of scripture.  A young man, perhaps 4th or 5th grade, came forward for the First and Second Readings for the day.  Though he could barely reach the microphone, he had fully prepared to proclaim God’s Word through these readings.  He did not call attention to himself but rather, by his presence and the inflection of his voice, he pointed us to Holy Scripture.  Each sentence was read with respect and a genuineness that revealed the young man’s faith.  I am certain that I have never heard Romans 8 read with such power and conviction.  (Yes, I’ve already written to him expressing my thanks and encouraging him to become a pastor!)

When I shared my gratitude with one of his pastors, the Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, she offered another example of this ministry of the congregation.

It is usually on the 2nd Sunday of the month that we call upon the children and youth of St. John’s to serve as lectors – those who proclaim the First and Second Readings.  Do not be mistaken – this is not training for when they grow up and become “real” lectors.  These children and youth are full members of the body of Christ and of this particular community of faith, and as such they are also called to proclaim the life-giving Word of God in the assembly.

On the 2nd Sunday of April, one of our 4th grade girls stepped into the lectern for the first time.  She read the introduction to the First Lesson with clarity and composure, paused, then taking a deep breath, she looked up and announced with even more volume and conviction, “People of God, listen for the Word of the Lord!”  Everyone in the sanctuary immediately sat up straighter.  Wandering minds snapped back into the moment, those nodding off woke up, and the preacher let go of her usual pre-sermon angst!  Here was a witness, ready to proclaim the Word “from the housetops,” as Jesus directed.  

And the entire assembly responded with equal strength and conviction: “Our ears are open!

Perhaps you have young people in your congregation who are willing to serve the congregation and God’s word in this way.  In addition to the necessary reading skills, it will be important to find individuals who are persons of faith who are committed to properly prepare for the readings.  I believe that it will enrich the congregation, connect with young people and deepen the faith of the reader.  Much good comes when we encourage our children and youth to share the “Book of Faith” in the congregation.


— Steven L. Ullestad

Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod

Did You Know?

December 28, 2008

The fam spent much of the day in our Hyundai Elantra going to & from Osage, IA.  The kids traveled pretty well, for the most part.  While they were watching a movie in the back seat, Allison and I came up with a new version of a game my parents used to play on road trips.  Back in the day, when my sisters and I were listening to our Walkman’s and filling out our Mad Libs books in the back of the van, my mom would read Trivial Pursuit cards to my dad.  As we got older, they would occasionally ask the kids some of the questions they thought we would be able to answer. 

Anyway, with the use of my Blackberry Curve and an unlimited data plan, Allison found a random assortment of trivia questions on various websites.  It was a lot of fun…something I’m sure we’ll do on future trips.  One question that stuck with me all day, as we drove past 300+ miles of farmland, was:


What percentage of the cost of produce goes to the farmers —  5%, 15%, 25%?

Sadly, the correct answer was 5%.  



Toothless Anna

December 22, 2008

We had a milestone yesterday – our oldest child lost her first tooth.  Anna was a bit reluctant to let anyone pull it out…and then Grandma Diane came for the Christmas Program at church.  Once she got a look at Anna’s tooth dangling out of her mouth, it was all over.  Furthermore, since this was done at church, Anna proceeded to show everyone in fellowship hall her tooth.  Here are a couple of pics, in case you feel left out…














Here’s the problem.  She literally LOST the tooth.  If you’ve been around the church after a Christmas Program, it resembles pigs being taken to the slaughterhouse.  The kids (pigs) are running around, trying to avoid getting captured by their parents (farmer).  If captured, these messy little creatures will be forced to put on their coat and be strapped into the car.  The kids almost always have a cookie in each hand (usually there’s more frosting than cookie), a red juice mustache, and crumbs all over their face and clothes.  It’s chaotic.  


Which gets be back to the lost tooth.  Somewhere, amidst the chaos of being parents of three little ones AND wearing my youth minister “hat”, Anna’s tooth (which was in a large ziploc baggie) got misplaced.  We’re going to look diligently for it today.  If we can’t find it by bedtime tonight, she’ll write a note to the tooth fairy explaining what happened.  I hope the tooth fairy is gracious to her.  


Speaking of that winged bone collector, I’m told that she’s been giving Anna’s friends $2-3 for each tooth.  I guess the tooth fairy business is the one enterprise that hasn’t been impacted by “these tough economic times”.  (She must be a union gal…)


Here’s a cute pic of Evan and a couple of his nursery buddies randomly playing / banging on the piano last Wednesday night during our Akaloo meal.  All the parents were doing other things, and looked up to realize all 3 kids had simultaneously wandered over to the piano.



December 16, 2008

Our middle child, 4-year old Isaac, is a a fickle sleeper.  Even something as harmless as a 20 minute afternoon cat-nap will render him sleepless until at at least the witching hour of MIDNIGHT.  He’s been this way since he was almost 3.  It’s really frustrating; but a cool byproduct of his temporary insomnia is that Allison and I are treated to a new round of “Isaacisms”.  

The way we deal with his sleeplessness is to involve him in some of our nighttime rituals after his siblings have long since slumbered – cleaning the house, running to the grocery store, trips to church, etc.  Tonight it was a trip to Hy-Vee for milk and cereal, followed by a trip to McDonald’s to satisfy Allison’s late-night hankering for McNugget’s.  When we arrived at the drive thru window, I recognized the McEmployee as one of my former Confirmation students.  We struck up a brief / awkward conversation before I was on my way with fried chicken parts and BBQ sauce.

Isaac, curious about the fact that I was familiar with the bearer of the McNuggets, asked a question:


Isaac – How do you know that person?  Do you come here a lot?

Me – I used to teach him in Confirmation class

Isaac – Does he still go to our church?

Me – No, he doesn’t.

Isaac – What church does he go to?

Me – I don’t think he goes to any church.  He stopped going after Confirmation.


Isaac – I bet that makes you really disappointed, doesn’t it?


It did make me disappointed…but, more than anything, I was surprised at Isaac’s ability to empathize with how I might be feeling.  It’s nights like tonight that I’m reminded of one thing — parenthood sure is a wild and unpredictable ride!

Darfur Meets the Sims

December 10, 2008

A friend passed along this simulation game to me earlier today.  Isaac and I had a good time playing it…and a heart-warming exchange followed.  

Isaac:  Dad, it seems really dangerous for people to get water in this game.  Why don’t they live in houses that have sinks like we do?

Me:  Because these people were born in a different part of the world.  Lots of people are dying in Darfur because they don’t have enough food or water.

Isaac:  Well, that’s not fair.  We have lots of food and water over here.  Maybe we could share some of that with the people who don’t have any.

Sometimes I wish we could all see the world through the eyes of a 4-year old.

Simon Says

December 7, 2008

I spent waaay too much time in Yuppieville today – a.k.a. the Jordan Creek Town Center.  Between having lunch with a friend, getting my computer a tune-up, watching a teeny-bop love story about vampires (Twilight), and shopping and eating with the family…I spent enough time in at the mall to tide me over until 2011.

There were a few highlights of the day, however:

  • The Apple Store guy hooked me up with $100+ worth of refurbishments, just because I had questions about my battery life and other stuff.  I’m also discovering that an “archive / install” can make a lot of things better.
  • There are few things more satisfying than attending a matinee…even if the movie features vampires playing baseball.
  • Watching the way Anna and Isaac look out for Evan when playing at the germ-factory / play-place.
  • Bourbon Chicken, steamed veggies, and rice at the Chinese food place in the food court tickled my tummy


However, the best part of the day was the surprise present Allison gave me – a book of all of Paul Simon’s lyrics in poem-form.  Some of the lyric pages are copies of the scribbles he made on legal paper when the song was first written.  For someone who adores Paul Simon, this gift made my entire week!  So, kudos to the bestest wife in the world.  If that book is the reward for surviving 8 hours in a suburban mall, it was well-worth the sacrifice.

Paul Simon Lyrics