Full of Life

Seedling in fertilizerRecently, I was fascinated by poop.

(Yes, you read that correctly.)

Actually, it started in a public outhouse-style “restroom”. If you’ve never used an outhouse, or a “port-a-potty”, it’s just a big container collecting all the liquid and solid waste, rather than flushing it away down a nice, convenient pipe—out of sight, out of mind.

(And, if you’ve never used a toilet that doesn’t flush… well… that is also fascinating!)

At first, I was grossed out. And rightly so, I believe. It’s gross. I really don’t even like using public bathrooms with plumbing, let alone the variety that collects all of the waste for you to view while you’re adding your own.

But a secondary thought (thankfully) crossed my mind before I left.

Wow, what if we didn’t have toilets that flushed? We’d just have to find some place for all this gross stuff… but then… it does make really good fertilizer. Hmm…

And then I remembered that we use various animal waste products as fertilizers, to enhance the soil and to grow better food. (That’s oversimplified, but generally true.)

God is so full of life that even the waste from his living creations produces more life!

That is both amazing, and completely understandable.

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.1

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life… 2

For in him we live and move and exist.3

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.4

It’s obvious that the One who could, by a simple command, give life to all that is would be abundantly full of life itself. And that life being so fantastically complex that we’re still trying to understand it. We’re even looking for—and even finding—signs of it on other nearby planets, created by this Giver of Life.

That the waste generated by the Life he has breathed into his creation would also produce life is indeed astounding, and yet, it is as it should be.

God is life. Life beyond our wildest imagination. And he has breathed that same life into you and me.


Oh, the things you learn from a pile of poo!

DOMA Arigato

Defense of Marriage Act, section 3 ruled unconstitutionalJust about a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was in the news for two rulings in regards to same-sex marriages. One was specific to California (Proposition 8), and I won’t address that here, but the first was regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of section three (§3) of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In a 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS ruled that §3 of DOMA was indeed unconstitutional, based on the protections guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. (The Full Faith and Credit clause.)

And so, what began as a not very good idea continues to crumble.


In 1996, Congress rushed through (with great approval, based on the votes) the Defense of Marriage Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton—who at that time personally, publicly opposed gay marriage, in addition to his belief that it should not be sanctioned by the Federal government—and ever since then, DOMA has been challenged by one court case after another, slowly eroding its frail constitutional structure.

And really, I agree with this ruling.

I do not agree with same-sex marriage. I think God was pretty clear (stick with me here) speaking strictly anatomically, that there is a proper “match” between a man and a woman. The physical is obvious. And then there is the story of Adam & Eve: when God made a partner for Adam, he made Eve. (Not “Steve”.. haha!! Good one!!!) 🙂

And, the other obvious reason for a marriage to be between one man and one woman for life is procreation. You can’t actually have kids without both sexes being involved. Are you with me?

Now, I know there are seemingly a billion nuances to this. There’s one side yelling, “Homosexuality is a SIN! God hates fags!!!” And then the other side—properly and rightly offended—begins to hate the God whom these “Righteous Ones” claim to represent. And the former dig deep into the scriptures to sling judgmental condemnations straight from the Mouth of God upon these forlorn, wayward, despicable sinners! (Meanwhile ignoring their own filthy rags, and/or logs in their eyes, etc.)

The debate about what is right and what is wrong will never, ever get us anywhere.

So, if we’re arguing from the Bible, let’s take a look at Jesus. He is the final, fullest revelation of the Father, right? So, Jesus must have said plenty of times that he hated homosexuality (and then, it stands to reason, he hated homosexuals too, right?)—AND he hated, opposed, campaigned against gay marriage. Of course.


But… I don’t think Jesus ever addressed homosexuality? Weird.

Does that mean it is not a “sin”? No. Does it mean it’s “right”? Still, no. (In fact, logically you can’t presume something is “right” from the absence of a declaration of it being “wrong”, can you?)

Liberty is Paramount

What I think it does show us is the first way that we can deal with this issue.

Back off. Love people. “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We are not the police of anyone. (Unless of course you are a police officer, and then, well, we thank you for your service.)

It’s not my job to tell you—or as is the pattern of some—to make you do what I think you should do. If you want to marry someone who has the same body parts as you, well, I personally can not “sanction” that, but, I do sanction your right to choose differently than me.

And I expect you to do the same for me.

This is the crux of the whole thing for me: Liberty. It’s not a moral issue, though of course underneath the minutia of all these cases, and legal and political battles it has moral implications.

It’s an issue of liberty. And not only that of the people wanting to legalize same-sex unions.

I may strongly disagree with you, but inherent in my understanding of liberty is your liberty. You are entitled to live your life however you please, so long as no one else is hurt (without their full, willing consent) in the process. We are all guaranteed these inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even if it’s “wrong”, or even if it might hurt us. (Larger portions at fast food restaurants? Smoking? Drinking? Marijuana? Driving without seat belts? Riding bikes without helmets?)

We have become a people who no longer celebrate diversity, and we are increasing the pace toward total control over everyone’s lives.

Equality? Or Victory?

The cry from those who want to legalize same-sex marriages at the Federal level—thus requiring all States to abide by this legal status, whether or not they sanction such unions—is that of “equal rights”. But what is happening is really just an attempt to gain control, and force others to do what you think they should do. One group telling another how they can and will act. Bakeries have to make wedding cakes, and churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages1.

The bottom line is: if you want freedom, then you must also give freedom.

You can have freedom, and the consequences of freedom, and you must concurrently and equally allow others to think and live differently than you. There are obviously places where these freedoms intersect, and at that point a society must decide how to resolve such disputes. That is what our Constitution (and the government it created) allow for.

I am opposed to gay marriage. But I am even more opposed to legislating any bit of this. In fact, I’m all for unlegislating marriage altogether. I love being married to Jen—it’s maybe the most important piece of who I am after being a child of God. Do I care that New York State “recognizes” my marriage? Not really at all.

Much of this fight is because of tax penalties (including the case that brought about last Wednesday’s ruling) and legalization of immigrants, and other financial/taxation concerns. So drop them, as much as possible. Don’t tax money bequeathed to a loved one. Don’t provide financial benefits to married couples.2

Just leave me be.

Legislating Morality

I agree with the Supreme Court that defining marriage is unconstitutional, but not because it violates the constitution as much as because the federal government has no place defining marriage in the first place. Traditional marriage, or same-sex marriage, or multiple concurrent marriages, or polygamy, etc, etc.

Some seem to see government as the protector of morality, but is that really our government’s role? I heard a statement in regards to this subject on a podcast just this morning:

“It’s the government’s job to treat [marriage with] equal[ity], it’s not the government’s job to make moral choices for people.”3

Spot on.

Stop thinking that you can pass laws and make people into what you want them to be.

Laws do not shape people’s minds and hearts. Education, the Holy Spirit, and in general, a caring instructor will do that. (As well as common sense and life experience; those can be the best teachers sometimes.)

You can’t say “Gay marriage is legal and approved!” and change people’s beliefs by that statement. Nor do we conform people to “right thinking” by saying, “Gay marriage is abhorrent and banned!!!”

It just doesn’t work that way. The morality of our laws and government reflect who we are, the do not make us who we are. In addition, our laws are about blind justice (not preferential prejudice) and equality, for all.

God made us free. Our Founders recognized that. We are born with the right to choose, and our government is We the People, protecting each other’s inalienable rights. I’m still going to disagree on the specifics regarding gay marriage, but that’s my inalienable right. And yours.

And that is what we most need to protect here.

It’s not “hate” to say that homosexuality is a sin. (Nor is it usually very helpful, in a public setting.) It is encroaching on freedom to say that someone can’t think that, or even express that.

(Again, it may not be helpful, but let truth be truth. If you say homosexuality is not a choice, but as natural as different skin or hair colors, then let that be true. Don’t force it on someone who strongly disagrees.)

But that’s where we fall sadly short. We are supposed to be the Land of the Free, but we really want to be free to make other people like me.

How sad. We’re meant to be more.

Love mercy, do justly, walk humbly with your God

So let’s be. Love your neighbor—whatever they believe. Find common ground, even if there’s barely any to be found. Stop trying to make other people think like you do!

And most of all, pray. Not for God to change other people, but so your eyes will be opened to what he is doing. First in you, and then around you.

I think it’s good that DOMA is being questioned. DOMA arigato, SCOTUS. Hopefully that means there is a semblance of constitutuional liberty still present in our bloated, overreaching federal government.

And now we proceed with liberty our goal. And justice for all.

True justice, not petty political victory.

May God help us as we do.


  1. Note, I realize this is in Denmark, but this mentality is being championed here in the US. When we make the gay view the “right” view, the same errors in how we treat each other will inevitably be carried out, just in the reverse.
  2. I’m sure there is much more here than I even have time to consider, but the general principle makes sense to me. Less government is better government!
  3. Wayne Jacobsen, The God Journey Podcast – Sexuality & Transformation (6/28/13)

The Bible Tells Me So

Old Bible Cover“Yes, Jesus loves me… The Bible tells me so!”

Perhaps you sang those words just now as you read them because they are indelibly engrained upon your soul from countless repetitions in your early childhood. (And maybe you still sing them regularly with your own kids.)

It’s a great song, and it’s true.

The Bible does tell me that Jesus loves me. In many different ways, through all of the books; this central message reverberates: the God who is made me and loves me and invites me to Life with him.

Sometimes it’s fascinating to me how differently we apparently see and interact with the Bible.

What is the Bible? Is it a reference manual for Christian living? Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth? Those things have definitely been said of this collection of ancient books.

Rather than a Owner’s Guide or User’s Manual, might it be a collection of stories God wanted to tell us … with him as the main character? Does God reveal who he is through the story that weaves its way through dozens of authors over many centuries, even millennia?

Stories seemed to be Jesus favorite vehicle for communicating the meaningful.

How about this one: Is it infallible? Does it ever claim to be? Does it need to be?

I mentioned in my post about heretical thinking earlier this week that sometimes I have even questioned the reasons for inclusion of certain books in the cannon of what we call Scripture. The Catholics have additional books of “Scripture”, as do the Latter-Day Saints. (Though there are certainly differences there as the Catholic apocrypha was from a similar era as the books that are accepted as inspired Scripture while the Book of Mormon and other additional books included by LDS believers are from a later point in history—at least their translation.)

Here’s the thing, though… how much of all that matters?

I have been reading through the Bible, cover-to-cover for a little over a year now. (The slow pace due partly to meandering through various other points in Scripture simultaneously, as well as, of course, many other books. There’s only so much time in a day, you know!) In this current journey through its pages I am reading many familiar verses and stories, as well as many I don’t think I have ever actually read. (Certainly not in their proper context.)

What strikes me the most is the story. Flowing through the entirety of Scripture are small stories and big stories, all telling a larger story.

God so loved the world that before anything ever existed, he knew you intimately, and orchestrated a grand plan to allow us to realize his boundless love for all of mankind—and each individual Image Bearer—and to restore a friendship with him that we didn’t even know was irreparably damaged. (Irreparable from our vantage point.)

Story after story reveals the struggle between we of free will and limited knowledge, understanding, and vision … and he of limitless patience, kindness, mercy—our Father, who dearly loves his children. And we who only barely understand Love, struggle to understand Him—for He is Love.

I am re-learning that Scripture really can not be seen as a giant reference guide of proof texts. And it’s certainly not a how-to manual for bringing judgment upon the world, or even upon yourself.

Nor is it to be venerated or worshipped. It’s a book. (A library, might be more accurate.)

Anything we set up between us and our Creator (including the Bible, “Christian” discipline, and even “church” activities and involvement) can become an idol that ends up keeping us from the full life God intends for us when our eyes (and hearts) are fixed on him.

And one thing I have learned from this tour through the Old Testament: God does not like idolatry!

So we will take verses like:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.—2 Timothy 3:16

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.—2 Peter 1:20-21

And we say that these prove that the Bible is infallible. But do they? Paul is reminding Timothy, his student/disciple that Scripture is useful; I certainly agree there, don’t you? And Peter says that prophets were inspired by God. Again, no argument there.

But I’m not sure God himself (nor the pages of Scripture) claim infallibility nor inerrancy, do they? Perhaps the test of prophecies being that all will be proven true as a proof of the origin of the messages—that being from the Creator God, the God of Israel.

And still, I think I digress. As this topic of conversation is so wont to do.

When we make the Bible (and discussions of these books) about being right or wrong, we just get lost in endless quarrels. So many fractured opinions and vehement discourse to prove one point or another end up making Christians and their church look like it does today: silly.

I will maintain that all of Scripture is useful, even the giant sections that give every messy, gory detail of our own ugliness. Not just the things we proudly label sin like murder, lust, idolatry, rape, incest, greed, deceit and betrayal (and many more) … but our lack of faith in vividly displayed, our repeatedly running to idols and our own strength and knowledge rather than abiding in Father’s Life and Love.

This is why, as Christians, and living in the age we now inhabit, Jesus is the decoder ring. Everything else makes a bit more sense when we start with him.

The book of Hebrews1 says that God spoke in many ways through history, but his final and fullest revelation was through his son, Jesus. And also we learn and see that he is the full representation of God himself. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. God himself, as a man. We don’t get his messages second-hand through angels and/or prophets: he came to us.

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.2

If you’re reading the Bible like a manual, or an reference book—please stop. First, you’re missing out on the bigger, fuller story. You might even be missing out on Jesus:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”—John 5:24

It’s so easy to do. I think we all do it. I mean, how magically incredible is this book we call the Bible? Really! Preserved nearly flawlessly over millennia, and with enemies trying to wipe it out: but it is the most ubiquitous book still today.

But the Bible is not our source of life, Jesus is.

And, it’s important to remember that we have a direct connection to Truth in Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember this?

But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.—1 John 2:27

Holy Spirit will teach us everything. It’s always nice to have a tutor. (Especially when the tutor is the finest teacher ever!)

The Bible is a beautiful story, and we can glean so much life through its pages, through the stories told there, and especially the central story told throughout of our God’s ever-present love and care for his people. (That’s all of us, not just those born into the family of Jacob, as they used to imagine.)

It’s not about rules, or doctrine. It’s about Him. I highly recommend reading it like a book, like a story…

And look for the signs of Life as they weave in and out of His story.

God’s story, with us.


For further reading, here’s an article I found a real long time ago: Why "The Bible is our Instruction Manual" is the Worst Metaphor in the History of the World | The Ruthless MonkThe Ruthless Monk.

Also, one last note: For what it’s worth, I really do recommend reading in large chunks. There is certainly a place for detailed, intricate, line-by-line study, but there’s also great treasure to be found in reading through whole books at a time, or at least larger chunks. Then string books together back-to-back over a few days or weeks. When I read Scripture like this, the bigger story is much more evident, and I see God moving in his characteristic, Jesus-shown ways through the whole of history. Different voices, echoing the same story: God loves me.

  1. Hebrews 1-4 Yes… all four chapters! Reading in big chunks gives better context. 🙂
  2. John 14-17 (Again, read the whole thing. Chock full of greatness!)

Allowing For The Process


Sometimes I’m really, really impatient. Also short-sighted, selfish, and in general unwilling to let others—even those I love the most—enjoy the blessings that I have received and thrived upon throughout my life.

Yikes. That really doesn’t sound good!

But it’s (in a way) really true.

God is reminding me recently that he is patient beyond comprehension. He understands the various processes of life. Learning, growing, grieving, maturing… many “ing”s take time. Lots of time.

And at times, I think I’d prefer we skip to the good part: the end!

But everything worthwhile takes time. You can’t have the delicious, sun-ripened fruit without many weeks of heat and quiet toil. You don’t get the good end without the process.

Our lives are like that. It’s always amazing to look back and see what God has brought us through, and where he’s brought us to through all of those things. We learn from our own decisions and their consequences, and we learn from events we’re thrown into in the chaos of life (through no fault or credit of our own). Everything along the way shapes who we are.

Parenting is like that. As a dad, I can not just shape my kids into who they will be. I thinkI do have a good deal of influence, but in the end, each of my kids is a unique individual, created by God for a life-long journey with him. Their own life-long journey.

Sometimes I tire of repeating the same instructions to each of my kids… many times, daily. I wish they would just get it! Think of someone besides yourself! Be a peacemaker! Be kind to your brother/sister! Will you please just listen to what I say?

But it’s a process. A long, slow process.

Just like I have been allowed to have.

I’m far from a perfect parent. That’s for sure. I am going to need to receive many reminders that I am not the Potter in my kids’ lives. I am not the one moulding them into the masterpiece they were made to be.

My father is. (No, not you Dad… I mean your father, too. No… not Grandpa…)

Each of us has a journey, and we’re each led (personally, individually) by our Maker, Shepherd, Father… he’s many things, he’s everything.

And he’s got a plan.

If you’re frustrated with the process right now, just take a deep breath. Talk to the One you’re following and enjoy the place, the moment that he has you in.

Then—even more difficult sometimes—do the same for the people around you. Maybe your kids, or your spouse. Maybe just a good friend of yours. Stop meddling. Leave room for the process, and the Sculptor.

Allowing for the process will produce the greatest results. (I’m not even sure there’s anything else we can do, really! We are not the ones in control, that’s for sure!)

So breathe. Relax. And marvel at the process. In your own life, and also in the lives of the people around you.

Maybe another place to find the fun!

Find The Fun


I am an optimist. I tend to pretty easily see the good, or the potential good in nearly every situation and circumstance. I am generally also very trusting of others—their motives, agendas (or lack thereof), and actions—which seems to stem from my general outlook on life.

Was I born this way? I don’t know. Sometimes my wife thinks that I am.

Jen is the opposite. She is very critical, cautious, judicious, and very distrusting of most people; especially people she doesn’t know.

You might call us a good match: the Optimist and the Pessimist. She keeps us out of trouble and I help keep life more fun.

So if this is just a matter of our genetic code, what do we do with verses like this one?

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

There are a few others. (Check out Colossians and Philippians.) Always be joyful? Be thankful in all circumstances?

Sounds pretty optimistic.

So is pessimism a “sin”? How about when I described it as I did above: critical, cautious, judicious? Those are not bad things; not sins.

When the younger people in our home start grumbling more than they are not grumbling, I can often trace it back to some ingratitude in their hearts. Somehow they are not able to see the potential in a situation, or be thankful for the good that is there—that is always there.

So I remind them of the truth of these verses. I don’t see them as commands coming down from an oppressive ruler. Rather, I think they are reminders that to live life fully—a desire Jesus expressly stated he has for us—we will do better to look for the good, to be joyful, be thankful.

A couple weeks ago I was saying these things to the kids again and I used the phrase “find the fun”. That seems appropriate. If you find yourself beginning to grumble or complain, then intentionally look for the fun.

You’re a smart person! You can do it! Take a breath, ignore anything that’s bad, and focus your mind and heart on something good. (Even if the “good” is that your current situation is only temporary!)

Find the fun.

Since it’s repeated in scripture multiple times, I’m guessing that practicing optimism is not only an innate personality found in a portion of the population. It would seem odd that if God made some of us to be pessimists—incapable of “finding the fun”—then he wouldn’t have admonished us to be joyful or thankful always.

There must be something there that makes all of our lives better.

So today I admonish you to find the fun. Go ahead, do it right now. There’s something today, something right now that is a knock-your-socks-off kinda good. You might be separated from it by geographic space or time (maybe it’s a person you love, or something you need to wait for right now) … but it’s still good. It’s still fun.

And your heart will be lighter. Your day will be brighter.

You found the fun.

May your day be full of fun. It’s out there, waiting to be found!

Maple Sugarin’!

maple-sugarinWe’re trying something new this spring: we’re sugarin’ our maple trees!

It’s fun to see how things are made, and in my opinion the best way to see is to do.

The process began a while ago, when we talked about doing it. We live on a small, quarter-acre lot in a somewhat urban-ish setting. It’s entirely possible that our tiny plot of land has the most trees of any other parcel on our block. (Or several blocks.) Appropriately enough for the task of making our own maple syrup, many of them are maples!

After initially assessing the plausibility of our task, we decided to do it! Part of my encouragement towards this particular backyard project comes from college friends of ours (one of whom I work closely with on many web projects) who have been “sugarin'” for years. (They strangely took a break this particular winter… the first winter we are giving it a go…) A couple seasons ago they sent us a sample of their work; it was delicious!

We knew that we would need to put taps/spouts in our trees—later we would learn that they are called spiles—and some containers to collect the sap, and then finally some way of cooking down the sap.

And that’s about what we knew.

Thankfully, the friends mentioned above recently used an episode of their weekly podcast to explain in great detail the wonders (and the challenges) of maple sugaring. (You can listen to it here.) They also recommended a few good resources, including a book called Backyard Sugarin’, which I promptly placed on hold at our local library. All of that came together nicely to help build my confidence towards giving this a try.


And so, on one chilly, late-winter afternoon… I bought six spiles.

It’s a meager, humble beginning; but it’s a beginning.

(A two week adventure through hockey tournaments, three separate family birthdays, and LOTS of really hefty sickness delayed the implementing of this project. That, however, is for a different post. Or… perhaps none at all.)

Early this morning, just after the sun fully brightened the March sky, I decided to tap my maple trees. The book had suggested using empty plastic milk containers to collect the sap (rather than the more expensive option of tin buckets with cool lids) and since we are always happy to find an equal-but-less-costly option, I gladly rummaged through our recycling bin. To my chagrin, there were only a couple containers that did not have that lovely milk-not-quite-completely-rinsed-out aroma, so I emptied the 1/3 of a gallon (or so) of milk in the open container in our fridge into a different container, and was thus able to score two sap collection containers to get us started.

Our property is quite long. It’s a walk of a couple hundred feet from the road to the back property line. The healthiest maple tree on the premises is about five short feet from the back of this long plot of dirt. Now, I say all of this because I was going to need to drill holes. And my only drill is not cordless.

So I needed extension cord. And plenty of it!

I unburied and unwound both hundred-foot, bright orange extension cords sitting in our basement and—sap collectors, spiles, hammer and drill in hands—I headed straight for the nearest maple!

drip2It was mighty chilly this morning still, and with only two containers, and having no idea if this would even work, I decided to stick to the two maples closest to our house. (Half of that extension cord for now naught. At least, temporarily.) I plugged in my drill, tightened the bit, and looked for a good spot to drill.

I knew that it was good to drill on the south or southwest side, as that would receive the most sun. Sun gets the sap flowing. I also knew that sap flows best toward a large root. Figuring that our giant maple would be a good candidate for more than one tap (eventually) I chose that tree first, and found a good south-side, root-below spot to drill my hole.

It felt pretty weird to take a drill to my living tree, I’ll have you know…

I drilled at a slight upward angle, and out came the fresh tree shavings. My bit actually got stuck and came out of the drill! I wiggled it free and made sure to keep the drill speed up a bit higher, and was able to make the appropriate 1 1/2″-deep hole. No sap was flowing early in the morning, so I took my time and gently tapped in the perfectly-fitting spile. It all seemed to be going great! (Aside from the no sap, part…) I hooked the first milk container onto the spile, and headed toward the second maple.

Having gained some confidence from the first tap, I quickly found the perfect spot, drilled (more successfully this time) and hung the second sap collection unit. (A better sounding name, don’t you think?)

I had no idea if this was going to work. Really. I quietly collected my tools and put everything back where it belongs, and went on with my day. There was still more sick care to be given to many members of the family. There was a good deal more parenting to do as the Mom is one of the sicker family members at the moment. There was work to be done as well. A normal, full day of life.

As the day was coming to a close, I remembered the taps.

collecting-sapAbout 4:30pm or so, I checked on the second tap, which is near the front of our property, visible from our front porch.


OK, not full… but it held enough clear liquid for me to use ALL CAPS to relay to you the excitement I felt when my eyes first beheld that sight!

I ran inside to get shoes on and to get as many kids as could amble to see the start of this latest backyard adventure! They quickly finished up a task I requested that they complete, shoed and coated up, and we headed out our front door, camera in hand!

There were gasps of excitement, joyful, exuberant jumping, clapping, and lots of rapid-fire questions. I snapped some photos, and explained the whole process I had gone through early that morning, and we decided to do one more tap following our apparent success!

Kirsten was perhaps the most excited of all four kiddos. (Cam joined us later, unwilling to miss the backyard project party, though he was not conscious for much of today thanks to his current battle with sickness…) Kirstie wore the biggest smile, asked the most questions, and hung on every word of my stories and instruction.

sugarin-campbellsFollowing a very successful third tap—we decided to tap the healthiest maple, the one at the back of our property, and the sap was flowing within a second of the drill first penetrating the tree!—Kirsten discovered the book I had gotten from the library, and began flipping through the pages, yearning to learn more. I saw this and said, “Kirstie, you can read that if you’d like. That’d be great.” At this, she quickly headed for the living room couch, a visible bounce in her gait!

Learning is fun. Doing is also fun. Combined, they are really fun! And learning by doing together… you can’t beat it.

Now hopefully we’ll get the boiling down the sap part right, and have a super-tasty final product!

But even if we don’t… I can unabashedly say this backyard project has already been a wonderful success!

It’s Raining Diamonds!

It Rains Diamonds on Neptune?One topic of study currently in the Campbell home is astronomy. Mom and most of the children are part of a home schoolers co-op that go through science curriculum together, and this year’s topic for the middle kids is the science of space.

(My favorite! Our kids had a leg up on everyone else as we have always watched space-related documentaries, and we subscribe to several NASA video podcast feeds as well. Yes, we are that awesome!)

This past week, one of the girls said something to me about learning that it rained diamonds on Neptune. My first response was a smile and a chuckle, and a silly, “Noooooo, it does not!” Little girls who are four, six, and eight can have a different way of hearing and passing along information, right? But she insisted that it was true, and her older siblings and Mom confirmed it.


I had to look this one up, so I did.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

If experiments at the University of California, Berkeley, are any indication, future explorers of our solar system may well find diamonds hailing down through the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus.
These planets contain a high proportion of methane, which UC Berkeley researchers have now shown can turn into diamond at the high temperatures and pressures found inside these planets.

“Once these diamonds form, they fall like raindrops or hailstones toward the center of the planet,” said Laura Robin Benedetti, a graduate student in physics at UC Berkeley.

Whoa! Neat! Are you kidding me?!

Space is just incredibly amazing. Our planet alone is amazing… then that God would create such diversity across the billions of light years of space. Holy moly.

BUT, as cool as that theory from last century is … (and I suppose it’s still possible, as most of what we know about those planets still falls under the “theory” category)

“Some scientists have claimed that diamonds may form inside both Uranus and Neptune, but I do not believe that is true since the methane is confined to the surface where the pressures are much less,” says Monash University astrophysicist Dr. Andrew Prentice. “I think that is wishful thinking. In any event, the ‘falling diamonds’ would hardly have any influence whatever on the internal heat budget of Neptune or Uranus.”

So says Mike Bessell, a professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, via this article.

Party pooper.

I thought a theory from 1999 might be a tad outdated. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

And I’m still holding out a little hope that this is actually happening!

There are a lot of wild theories out there! I read recently that we think that the best way to divert “Killer Asteroids” from smashing into our planet might be to spray paint them.


I think the diamond rain is cooler.

For further reading:

You Have Value

Note: The following thoughts are not really well-formed, nor necessarily “going anywhere”. I am mostly working them out as I type.

In the season of life I am currently in, it’s been quite obvious to me that we, people, are flawed. Even the best of us. There’s a deep-rooted—at the core of us—tendency… but more than a tendency… to (at best) choose selfishly, if not actually intending harm for others around us. (Or, the malice can be aimed at one specially chosen person, rather than randomly.)

But the other side of the coin is that there are often great examples of sacrificial love for others. Jesus said there’s no greater love than to lay down your life for someone else. I’ve seen it. I don’t mean necessarily giving up your physical, living-and-breathing life. There are other ways to “lay down your life”. And some (many?) people do that, too.

In a brief conversation recently with someone whom I perceived to be another Jesus follower (a person that I do not know, just interacted with briefly) I took note of the care which he showed for me. (And, I was extending him the same care.) That seems so rare… (sorry for the unintended rhyming) 🙂 I do think that most people are good at caring about or for friends, for the most part. And I also think that a lot of Christians (with the best intentions) do “care” about other people, but often it is more out of obligation to “be Christian” than actually placing value on the person being cared about (or for).

And that’s it right there.

We are all flawed, but we possess intrinsic value because God values us.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Eph 1:4-5

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Rom 5:11 (But read verses 6-10 also)

And, of course:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 (The Tim Tebow verse!)😉

There are so many verses, stories, quotes, etc. from Scripture that clearly show that you and I have value to God who made us. Not because of a special talent, or ability, but simply by our existence. That’s really, really not the “way of the world”.

Scary video time! This video of George Bernard Shaw (below) would be an example of valuing people only for “what they do for you”… (Closed-caption will help.)

Sir, or Madam, would you be kind enough to justify your existence? Most people won’t say those words, but I think our actions might tend to suggest that is how some (most?) people see the others around them.

But with Jesus it’s different. Everyone matters. One of my favorite things about him is how he would stop what he was doing to focus on one person whom the crowd was ignoring. Scripture is clear that each one of us has value to him. Each one.

So when we treat each other like he sees us, life is different. If we see every other person around us as a prized creation of the Creator, doesn’t that affect how you treat them? Do you cut them off in traffic? Do you forgive them when they do that to you (perhaps even accidentally?) Do you fight and claw to get whatever it is you think you need, or do you gladly and willingly consider the person next to you first?

We tried something in our home recently… the girls were not being kind to each other, so I said, “Wait wait wait!! What if your sister was a queen? Would you talk to her that way? Or treat her that way?” The response was a silly, “Nooooo!” Then I continued, “She is a queen! Or, at least, a princess. A daughter of The King, God. Each of you are! So while we’re playing and cleaning up, make sure to see your sister(s) as a Queen, and treat her accordingly.”

They had so much fun with that, and the whole atmosphere in that room changed. There was fun, kindness, respect, laughter, and actually, they got the clean up job done a lot more quickly, too.

You have value. And so does EVERYONE else around you. That value is because we are made by (and valued by) the One who truly has all value, worth, glory, whatever word you might choose. He values us, simply because he made us. We are his prized possession—each one of us—whether we know it or not.

If we could see that, know that, live that… life would definitely be different.

I will continue to intentionally view the world (and you) that way. And teach my kids to do the same. Hope you’ll join me.

The Way Things Are

When I think of the ugliness of the way most of us selfishly fight to get what is “ours”, often based on an unnecessary fear of rejection and/or insecurity… my heart is saddened almost to the point of despair.

Why, God? Is this the beautiful world you created?

Quickly my mind is ushered to the images of a young man choosing to bravely face his quite-likely death on the beaches of Normandy, or the story of Desmond Doss who stood firm in his beliefs, and personally saved dozens of fellow soldiers… without a weapon of any kind. Those stories and thankfully many more (including non-wartime stories) remind me that God did place beauty and strength and courage and honor within the human heart.

But so often we misplace it. We so often get trapped by trying to “get ours”.

Then I think of the hurt in the world that is not (directly) caused by the ugliness of man, of the flesh. I think of our friends whose daughter is daily faced with the very real threat of her own death… for over two years now. (And still no real end in sight.) I think of another friend who lost her dad far too soon, and of a precious little boy who only spent four very difficult months in his present-earth body, leaving behind a hole in his family that will never be replaced.

But again, I am quickly reminded that in those four months that little boy brightened the lives of so many dozens—even hundreds?—of people without speaking a word. And that even in the very midst of pain, joy can be found in little things. I’m even reminded of the incredible intricacy of design that keeps any of us living and doing mundane daily tasks at all (have you seen what happens in a cell??)

There does seem to be two sides to the story.

I think of the hopelessness of our battle with sin. But then I think of Jesus.

I think of our society’s continuing to push God away, deny him at every turn. Then I think of the many people who are living lives of Grace that draw people back to their true Father (not some dusty religious version of him).

I think of my own struggles (internal and external) and then I am reminded the Jesus is walking through them with me. I am not alone.

Though I won’t even pretend to understand it… there is some incredible beauty in the midst of the seemingly hopeless brokenness of our world. I really don’t get it. (Shaking my head ‘no’ even as I think and type these words.) But the Spirit is so quick to remind me any time I ask “Why?” … there’s no answer to my direct question; only a reminder that there are just as many evidences of good as there are of evil.

That doesn’t fix anything, but it does help me breathe.

Jesus, please fix my eyes and heart and mind on all that is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…excellent and worthy of praise.

I think that’s just you, Jesus.

See: Philippians 4:8, Hebrews 12:2.

Pure, (Truly) Awesome Creativity

We use the word “awesome” far too often in our culture. That sounds like something you’ve heard your grandpa say, or your great-grandpa. (Or his grandpa…) We assign it to anything and everything: sporting events or just a moment in said event, a movie, a meal, and pretty much anything that may happen in the course of a normal day.

But today, as I was reading Genesis chapter one, the first word that came to mind was “awesome”.

Jen and I are going to try to read through the Bible together in 90 days (using YouVersion.com‘s Bible in 90 Days plan). We just wanted to ingest Scripture again, not in small chunks, but in its entirety. Might be aggressive with all the other reading we enjoy doing (have you seen my “currently reading” list in the right sidebar of this website??), as well as the daily to-dos with work and family…

But it seems it will worth the extra effort. And there already has been a “wow” (“awesome”) moment.

(Not that there will be those every time, nor that such moments are the reason for such an undertaking. But… it was kinda neat, so I am sharing.)

Two things struck me about Genesis 1. First, in the New Living Translation, the phrase they used for “and it was so” was, “And that is what happened.” It made me chuckle out loud the third time I read it. So matter-of-fact: And that is what happened. Period. I love that the reality is, God spoke it, and that is what happened. Certainly something I’ve seen, noticed, considered before… but somehow I was struck this time with the simplicity of it.

Which led me to the second point: the account is incredibly simple, but the actual result is so complex what we have learned about the processes behind the operation of the universe in the subsequent millennia completely blows us away.

And I thought, God merely spoke a simple command, like, “Let there be lights in the sky” and “that is what happened.” The enormous complexity down to the quantum level and the vastness of the “lights in the sky”… all from a couple sentences.

The sheer power of this Creative Being created that vastness, that complexity, by only speaking a few words.

We would take years and years of planning and testing and building (and failing) until we had something pretty close to good. God spoke our entire universe—reality itself—into its intricately complex and ridiculously vast existence in six days.

We can argue about what a “day” is, or if God used “evolution” to create everything… or if he made things and let the process work itself to what we know in modern/recorded history. Certainly he placed adaptive capabilities into all that we know as life (and even other processes) on our planet and beyond.

But evident to me today was the unfathomable power of creativity that couldn’t help but produce greatness… seemingly without any effort whatsoever.


Amazing. Beyond words.

And that is what happened.