Tag Archives: family

Traditions: from one generation to the next

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6.6-7 NIV

Being human means that we need events, experiences, and traditions to remind us of what is really important.

My family, both immediate and extended, has kept family traditions all year long, especially during the holidays. There are a few Christmas traditions in my family. Every year, we attend 1-4 holiday parties, each one incredibly different, and that just within my immediate and extended family (not including work, church, etc.)! 

Christmases past consisted of gift-giving and sweet treats. We normally didn’t have a meal and everyone brought sweet treats like Christmas cookies, puppy chow , deviled eggs, and – my personal favorite – Cheelognas.

It’s pronounced like bologna and consists of a combination of Cheese Whiz, onion and, you guessed it, bologna. (“Cheese” + “Bologna” = “Cheelogna” …get it?)That mixture is spread on bread – any kind – and popped in the oven for 2-5 minutes on a high broil, just until the edges turn brown. The flavor is even more exceptional if they’re a little burnt.

And it’s incredibly delicious.

Fattening too, I suppose. But hey, I live in Minnesota. It’s cold here and a little extra cushion keeps you warm. Then again, I limit my intake, good as those little treats are.

A family tradition

“Traditions are a part of life. They set standards of behavior. They impart family values. They help knit together family members into a tapestry that gives each one a sense of belonging and acceptance…not limited to a particular season…” – Richard Ivy, Memories of Dad

It’s true.

Those family traditions are deeply rooted in our family’s history. The Cheelogna recipe has been handed down a few generations now and probably didn’t start with Cheese Whiz as a staple ingredient since the product made its national debut in 1953.  

And it’s over those sandwiches that we’ve shared some of our best conversations. My uncle, who is in the Air Force, would talk about his travels and life experiences. Another would share stories of his Harley-adventures. My aunts, grandmother and mother would share what God was doing in their lives, both in the year past and currently, and I would sit and listen with awe and wonder at how active God still is, here and now.

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings [or traditions] we passed on to you… 2 Thessalonians 2.15a

And it’s those same traditions I hope to pass on to others, whether I have a family of my own one day or not. I can still share the joy of Christ with everyone who crosses my path.

How about you? What traditions are part of your family’s history? Do they reflect the life of Christ here and now? If not, how can you start today to include him? What would that look like?

28. extended family

The holidays

Every year, people gather together with extended family members. Some enjoy a meal together. Some watch the football game, enjoy a few beers and riotous yelling in front of the big screen in Uncle Sam’s den. Women typically flock to the kitchen – some gossip, others stand by in silence.  And others catch up with a few while avoiding those who don’t meet their personal standards or those they seem to have had a falling out with.

The joy…

  • of family and community
  • of being so closely knit together that you know what may or may not be going on in the lives of those you see once or twice a year
  • of being scrunched under one roof with forty of your closest relatives for the next three to four hours
  • of possible drama

The list goes on.

And I can hear a collective “ugh” coming from some of you.



And be thankful for what you have been given

I’ve discovered that there is so much more to these holiday gatherings than what meets the eye. Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m called to be more than what the world sees. I’m called to love in spite of differences. I’m called to forgive in spite of how I am treated. I’m called to so much more that the world doesn’t understand.

So what if a cousin raised her voice at last year’s turkey dinner?

So what if Uncle John left early without saying goodbye?

I’ve been learning that I cannot control the actions of others. I can only control myself – how I react and respond. I have a choice. I can choose to allow Jesus’ love and mercy to be extended to those around me (and not just family) rather than put up walls and be stand-off-ish. I can choose to love my family in spite of myself and maintain that love after spending four days in the same house with them. On another note, I don’t know what each of them are really going through. All I can do is pray for them and see them as valuable. They are, after all.

A challenge for you: Instead of avoiding the people you call family, take some time to really catch up with them this year. Pray for them and their needs; offer to. Love on them and if you don’t have the strength to do that, ask God to do it through you. That is what they need most.

I’m thankful for all of our differences.

I’m thankful for the power of forgiveness and what happens when love is extended.

I’m thankful for the healing that the grace of God can bring to a relationship.

And I’m thankful for you, my extended family. May God continue to bless you and keep you, not just today, but all year through.

19. my home

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24.15bhome2

Whom do you serve?

Who has the leadership role in your life?


Or God?

I struggled a bit this morning as I contemplated what (or how, rather) I would write about when it comes to thinking about the roof over my head.

You see, I’ve been blessed with a good-sized apartment in downtown Minneapolis, not to mention at a great price with some pretty decent amenities. My commute to work is just ten blocks, so I hike; it’s easier and free…not to mention, better for my health, overall. I also have an amazing view. For that, and so much more, I am thankful.

Those things pale in comparison to who I share my home with…or rather Who.

Jesus has taken his rightful role of leadership in my life (most days…I do fail occasionally) and through that, I am also blessed in opening my home to others.

I was blessed with the gift of hospitality.

I love hosting and planning and having people over…more Martha than Mary, I’ll admit, but Jesus and I are working on it. I also lack the space to hold bigger gatherings.


But, if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24.15

No matter who sets foot in my home, they know where I stand when it comes to my faith and who I follow. And in spite of the bad rap Christians get these days, my hope and prayer is that all who enter will feel the love and acceptance of Christ through me rather than feelings of judgment and condemnation.  I know not where their hearts are, but I do know that they are loved, just as I am loved.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 8.1

So I’ll ask again.

Whom do you serve?

Who leads your life?

Seek Him first, always.


18. good food


That holiday evokes visions of turkeys, cranberry sauce, and other sights, smells and sounds of noisy, family gatherings. It triggers memories of the tastes of stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and leaves my mouth watering.

It brings a smile to my face.



The time of year that kicks off the holiday season, falls smack dab in the middle of my favorite time of the year and well, consists of food. food1

And I love food. Not in the sense that I pig out every chance I get (my body wouldn’t thank me if I did), but in the sense that I enjoy it. I enjoy cooking, baking (especially this time of year), tasting and, of course, eating.

Every year, I try a new holiday dish and make my pumpkin and sweet potato pies…which, apparently, are to die for according to my Dad’s side of the family. Not to mention the fact that Thanksgiving weekend is when I do the majority of my holiday baking in my mom’s kitchen. It’s bigger than mine and, on the plus side, I get to spend time with her and my sister, which makes it that much more enjoyable.

I firmly believe that baking and cooking should be a social event. In fact, I spent this past Saturday baking pies with a friend. Fun times…

My love of food doesn’t simply stop there. It also spills into my spiritual life, which should cover every other part of my life.

Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life:

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6.35

Jesus had just fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The crowd was excited and thrilled over what he had done and he used that miracle pair with a moment in Israel’s history to “land the plane,” so to speak. Jesus reminded them that it was God who had provided the manna for them in the desert and used that moment to point the truth of their spiritual depravity back to him.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

He is the Living Water.

What nourished the body, he uses to picture what nourishes the soul.

Only he can satisfy those soul cravings.

We were created to hunger and thirst for only that which can fill us in completely.


Only Jesus

We have a hunger for God that nothing in this world can fully satisfy.

Sure, the things of this world do satisfy…and that’s the problem. We can deceive ourselves into thinking that the “next thing” will bring fulfillment and it does…but only for a short time. And then we’re off, looking for that “next thing.” We all have our own vices and maybe even an addiction. Much of what is of this world can be good in and of itself but if that thing becomes the “main thing” (whether it’s a job, a relationship or a new “toy”), it becomes and idol and therefore, takes precedence over God.

Sadly, many will live life search for “bread and fish” and miss out on the Bread of Life. Many will get stuck in the never-ending cycle of pursuit to fill that void and miss out on what it means to “have life to the full.”

Only Jesus lasts.

I’m slowly learning that truth in my own life and have discovered when I choose him over anything else in my day (meet with him first thing in the morning, choose to pray on my way to work rather than ponder over whatever situation I may dealing with or that of a friend, and putting him first in each decision I make…not to mention my writing), I experience such depth and richness in this relationship and in my life than I would if I didn’t choose him.

Only Jesus lasts. Only he can fill.

And when we embrace that truth and seek Him first, we will be filled beyond what we can imagine and we’ll keep coming back from more, become so satisfied that we won’t hunger for anything else.

17. the family of God

familyIsrael was frequently referred to as “the children of God.” They were his chosen people and had this family relationship with God that no one on the planet had. Before Christ, all gentiles, of any pagan faith, had to convert to Judaism to be recognized as true children of God. Even dating back to Cain and Seth (the sons of Adam) we see this referenced:

Cain’s lineage was referred to as the sons of men.

Seth’s as sons of God.

And we follow the story of God’s children and their interactions with “outsiders” all through the Old Testament.

Enter Jesus.

He came to establish a new family, a family based on faith in God, not physical lineage. This was made clear from the beginning of his ministry. Read Matthew 12.

His physical family had come searching for him and when they found him, someone informed him that they had been looking – verses 48 and 49 capture Jesus’s response.

Jesus was God in flesh and he is the only one who could establish this change. There was authority in his teaching…not arrogant authority.

Authentic authority

Humble authority

When he established the last supper (communion as we observe today), it went against everything the Jews believed. He did not celebrate it with his blood relatives, but rather with his family of faith.  He identified the bread and wine as his body and blood, broken and spilled for all of mankind and thus, making a new covenant with all who walk this planet.

I don’t believe he disowned his own physical family; he was welcoming in and making room for the new family based on faith. And no matter what who my physical relation is here, I’ve been adopted into the family of God based on my faith.

And it’s that same family that I look forward to serving with, lifting up and spreading the gospel with each and every week. This family is always growing. It’s kind of like living in a house full of kids and we all get excited (and throw a party) when another finds his way home.

While God’s family is scattered all over the globe, I’m thankful for the local branch he’s given me: The Vine.


The photo above may be outdated, but we’re still there…serving together, both near and far.

I love you guys. And I thank God for each and every single one of you.


9. family

I’m so incredibly grateful for the family I’ve been blessed with…and I’m talking about my immediate one here; those related to me by blood.

It’s currently Veteran’s Day weekend and I opted to skip town and go home. My parents are also celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this weekend (more on that later) — on a side note: yay them! Here’s to a weekend full of mini-adventures. You never know what could crop up when you spend time with family.

As for the rest of you – be safe!


Closer Than a Brother (or Sister)

. . . there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege tocarry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged-Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness-Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge -Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee-Thou wilt find a solace there.
-Joseph Scriven, written 1855

Joseph Scriven knew heartache and devastation first hand. As a young man his hopes and dreams vanished on the day before his wedding when he watched in horror as the lifeless body of his beloved was pulled from the water where she had drowned. Sorrow overwhelmed him, yet in the months and years that followed, Scriven turned repeatedly to the only Friend who would never leave him. Although he battled loneliness and depression for the rest of his life, he never let go of the hand of his Savior. Scriven knew that Jesus cared and that He was acquainted with loneliness and sorrow. This man knew that he could take his grief to Jesus and find strength and peace that no one else could give. Years later Scriven took what he had learned through his pain and put it into the words of a poem that we now sing as “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

My friend, in your moments of trial, temptation and hardship, turn to the Friend who is always there. Listen to His words as He speaks to you through the Scriptures. Be honest with God and with yourself about your thoughts and feelings. Spend time in prayer and experience the comfort of His presence. Seek His forgiveness when you stray from Him and His ways. Be encouraged as you remember that no matter what happens, He will not leave you. He will not abandon you. Let Him hug you close to His heart. Rest in Him and find peace for He truly is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother!

Week 41: An Afternoon with My Dad

This past weekend, I had one of the most memorable moments of my life. Each year, we draw names with my grandmother, one aunt, an uncle and the rest of my family; I got my dad. Since I get discounted tickets through work, I thought it would be cool to see the Vikings play at the Mall of America Field. Granted…this decision was made long before their whopper of a season came into play.

So, I told him of my idea and wanted to see if he would be all for it. He was and chose the game against the New Orleans Saints on December 18th. Since my grandmother would be turning 80 the day before, my entire family decided to come up and celebrate with her. We also figured why not throw in the Christmas party while we were all up here?

Saturday rolled around and my entire family (in-laws included) showed up around 5 pm for dinner at Teppanyaki Grill in south Minneapolis. If you’ve never been and love seafood, sushi, Japanese, Chinese and American cuisine, I highly recommend at least checking the restaurant out. Great food! I had my fill after one plate.

We then headed back to my apartment (a small space for 11 people, but doable) and enjoyed opening gifts and playing a few games, including an uproarious round of Telephone Pictionary. We’re still trying to figure out how one gets “An elf making love to a Christmas tree” out of “Happy Holidays…” but the mystery continues. I might add that the artwork was quite hilarious.

Sunday morning brought brunch at my grandmothers and then a nice walk (the weather was absolutely beautiful) down to the Metrodome. The first half was interesting…second…I think our team forgot there was another half of a game to play. It was brutal; hard to watch…and yet, we still made the most of it and had a blast.

Life definitely is mostly about how you react to the situations that get thrown your way. We could have chosen to be depressed over the fact that our team was really lowzy, but we didn’t. We chose to enjoy ourselves, laugh at stupidity and overall, have a great time.