Thursday, August 31, 2006

What do they teach those kids in school?

Miriam came home from her first day of school on Monday with a list of possible elective courses she could sign up for. Every six weeks the school offers another passle of "exploratory" courses, and each student identifies a #1 choice and a few tolerable others.

Mia's choice for the first exploratory was Weight Training. Seriously. Maybe in the next section she'll learn Hapkido. Unwelcome suitors, beware.

Other options available to her classmates include Liturgical Dance, Needling for the Needy, Shadow Puppetry, Calligraphy, Bubble-ology, and Mia's second choice, Wood Finishing.

Now, we're thrilled that the school promotes learning for its own sake and for delight and enrichment. I'm not a champion of an exclusive "Great Books" curriculum. Not every class has to be a mental marathon, nor must it necessarily have a practical payoff. Still, rather than, say, "Bubble-ology," as a busy parent I can think of a few classes I wish my middle-school eldest could take:
  • Landscaping 101
  • Basic Auto Maintenance
  • Understanding the U.S. TaxCode
  • Making the Most of What You've Got: Closet Organization
  • How to Make Those Windows Sparkle and other Household Tricks
  • Supplementing Your Parents' Income
  • In-depth Bible Study: Exodus 20:12
Further suggestions?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Shaniqua on the Job

One of our favorite children’s books is Julius Lester’s “What a Truly Cool World,” which features the wonderful character, Shaniqua, the “angel in charge of everybody’s business.” When something fortuitous or especially providential seems to happen (e.g. a parking spot opens up right next to the entrance as we pull into the mall parking lot), we will often give the credit, tongue-in-cheek, to our friend Shaniqua.
So a couple weeks ago this fellow comes to my door, giving me the "opportunity" to "win" $1000. I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I'm not quite that dim. Still, I was polite while the fellow urged me to sign up, and explained that if I didn't win the 1K, there was a "consolation" prize: to have the carpets in my house cleaned.
I’m not exactly sure why – it had something to do with the tiny chance of winning some money, something to do with confidence in my ability to say “no” to products I don’t want or people I don’t want in my house, something to do with… well, with the cosmic order of things. I signed the card.

The following week, I received a phone call, saying I'd "won" the consolation prize, and when would be a good time for Mr. Vacuum Guy to do my household carpets.

"Well, we don't have any carpet in our home," I told her. "We have wood floors and a few area rugs."

She replied, "An alternative would be for him to shampoo any upholstery you have."

"Nope. None of that neither," I said. "But I DO have a car that desperately needs some shampooing, after a chocolate something or other exploded in the back seat and sprayed the car with gunk."

Undeterred, she began to set up an appointment. We settled on a possible time, and I then asked if the fellow would be ready not to shampoo the carpets, but to clean my car.
"I'll have to check on that," she said.

"You check on it, then," I said. "When you do, and have confirmed that my car is what he'll do, call me back and we’ll put the appointment in ink." She agreed and I figured that was the end of that story.

Imagine my surprise the following week when Mr. Vacuum Guy showed up at my house, 30 minutes before the time we had sort of arranged, ready to step inside and show me the collection of dust and insect doots and who knows what carpet-loving evils I subjected my family to each day -- and of course, his marvelous solution.
Well, we were just sitting down to eat, I told him, and I hadn't really agreed to a visit for carpet cleaning. But I did have a nasty car that needed help. If he were eager for my attention, I could observe him cleaning my car and give my opinion of the machine he used to do it. He was unsure what to do, so he went away, apparently called his boss, who gave him permission to give me an “outside of home” demonstration. When he returned after dinner, he was ready to clean the car. "It's pretty bad, I said. You’d be surprised.”

"No problem," he replied. "I used to do auto detailing. We'll get 'er in shape right away." I got him some lemonade, and we spent a nice hour, chatting pleasantly as he did a spectacular job on my car.
Then I mentally checked off a huge item off my "to do" list.
Way to go, Shaniqua!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mr. Hollander's Opus First-Draft

The CICW posted this week their latest feature story about 'contemporary' worship planning and structure. I was heartened to see that all the good folks quoted and mentioned in the article -- Shannon Sisco in Chicago, Dean Kladder in New Jersey, Peter Armstrong in Seattle, Allison Ash and Guy Higashi in California -- all of them have, at one time or another, been students of mine. They're all out there doing great work and teaching others and serving the kingdom. I'm proud to be part of this network of creativity and inspiration, but of course, I've just handed on to them what I've received myself.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


You know how there's that point in the life of your mortgage when you're finally paying more towards equity than you are toward interest? When you turn the corner and feel like you are really beginning to reap the benefits of your investment?

Well, we're a long way from that point with our real mortgage.

But I think we may have reached that point with Miriam. Here's what I mean: for the past few weeks she has stood up at the conclusion of our end-of-the-meal prayer and made her way into the kitchen. Then, un-urged and even un-asked, she will turn on the water and begin WASHING THE DISHES!

The first time she did it I asked her who she was and what she had done with my own daughter. Now we still make that joke, but she just rolls her eyes and keeps scrubbing. And she does a good job of it, too -- probably better than I'd do.

Oh yes, life is lush.

Now if we can get Jacob and Philip to do the yard work I could become a man of letters and leisure.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Birthday Bashes

This past week was a big week of birthday celebration. Jacob turned 11 on August 1 (see the picture: candles 7+4=11), and on the 7th Deb turned... well, look at her. About 29, I think.

For Jacob's special day we went to John Ball Zoo where Jacob got to ride a camel, watch a Pacific tide roll in, and generally having some cool animal adventures. (Not quite as cool as his Aunt's, but cool nonetheless).

Deb's big day involved a trip to Meijer gardens and a family gathering in the evening which included a bit of gift-giving and lots of laughter courtesy of Dad Rienstra, one of the world's worst joke-tellers (which makes him doubly funny as we all wait for him to flub the punch line).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Splish Splash

A couple weekends ago the whole family went to Chicago for the baptism of my namesake nephew, Samuel Ronald. John and Michelle honored me by inviting me to perform the baptism, along with their own pastor, at their own church, Pilgrim Congregational in Oak Park.

At their request, we splashed Sammie good with freshly imported water from Lake Michigan. As I looked at the somewhat murky pitcherful on the table, I thought that we were certainly following the ancient advice to use "living" water when baptizing (that's Johnny and his oldest, Gabriel, laughing at the abundant moisture).

John and Michelle (Sammie's parents) were eager to use real Lake Michigan water for the baptism because both sides of the family have summer cottages and deep connections to the "Big Lake" as home. So in the service I pointed to the link between family initiation and initiation into the larger family of God.

But more than that, I suggested that using water from this natural resource -- so dominant and precious to us in the midwest -- highlights the deep connection between the grace of God offered in baptism and the responsibility we gratefully take on as Christ's disciples to care for the world in which that grace is manifest. It says something damning to us if the water in our great lakes (or backyard streams, or rivers, or oceans) is so polluted that we cannot in good common sense bathe in it, or in good conscience call it "living" water. Perhaps my nephew Samuel will grow up, in service to Jesus, to be a biologist who concerns himself with the health of Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Ontario, and Erie.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Assault on Par

The 7th Annual Worship Wonk Invitational -- a regular golf outing I take with a handful of good friends and liturgical geeks -- was, as usual, a fabulous success. You can read more about it here.

The one thing Mary forgot to mention in her post is the score of the game. Yes, we were playing best ball, and so were not playing to compete with one another. But at least three of us are fierce competitors; and so our goal was to beat -- or at least make a serious run -- at par. On a day when the heat index was in the triple digits, I feel like we did pretty well, then, to end up at one over for the day.

Of course, while keeping score, I did note whose shot we played for each stroke of our glorious 73. In this way, there is some comparison that can be made between our team's individual players. Who had the most stokes deemed "best" as we played? Who had the most putts? The most of our drives? The most of our chip shots?

I won't reveal the results here. Suffice to say that my most significant contribution to our effort was as the cameraman.