Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living

I'm alive.

That's all for now.

Talk to you soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chicago Travels

I’m writing this as I ride to Chicago with some of my favorite people. We are listening to satellite radio while the driver keeps us on our course to a great friends wedding.

I was really hoping to have some fall foliage on this trip, but so far, the only foliage I see is on the ground. Sad. Also, since I’m in the back seat, the windows are tinted or polarized and the beautiful blue sky looks eerily grey. It’s kind of fun.

The only time I have been to Chicago was when I was a very young child and my cousin was getting married in Ohio or Indiana or some state this way and we passed through (I don’t think we stopped). So this trip is really exciting for me.

Anyway, I don’t have anything to say, but I wanted to check in with you all.

Where should I go while I’m here?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Returns, Exchanges, & Disappointment

Today I returned two items to two different stores, Menards and Ikea. I thought it was interesting what happened at each, so I’ll write about it here.

I went to Menards, walked in with my receipt and the curtain rod. There was no wait, so I went up to the counter, made my exchange. They scanned my receipt, scanned the item, handed me the receipts and, had I left at this point instead of browsing, I would have been in and out in 3 minutes. Good service!

When I went to Ikea, there was a line. I took my number 56, looked up and saw that they were on 53. I sat on one of their couches, grabbed a catalog and leafed through it. By the time they called my number, it was probably 10 minutes from when I first sat down. They couldn’t apply my credit to the card, because B used her card and I didn’t have it. They had to give me in-store credit. Yuck. Bad service indeed!

Even still, I hate Menards and love Ikea. Here’s why:

Menards’ slogan is “Dedicated to Service and Quality.” Except for this one time, I have yet to see either. When I was browsing through the store, and every other time I’ve been there, I could not find anything, nor could I find help. When I did find what I was looking for, it was the wrong size and the person that helped me find it dashed off before I could get more help. I left without buying anything else.

When I sat at Ikea, I saw that they have spare parts up for grabs on their wall. This means that if you lose a screw or break a plastic doohickey, you can just walk in and get the thing you need. There is no cost. There is no need to ask for help. It’s just there. Also, I mentioned that I was missing this iron-on hem for some curtains I was keeping and the return clerk went in the back and found me some.

I hate Menards because this is the first time I’ve returned anything and the first time I’ve had good service there.

I love Ikea because even when I have bad service there, I get good service in the end.

Menards, please change your slogan, because I never get service or quality at your store.

Ikea, please keep up the good work.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Put your mask on first, before helping anyone else

Today I wrote to a friend who recently moved and mentioned the Prayer of Jabez…not really the book, but his actual prayer from 1 Chronicles 4:9-10:

Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked. 

Here, Jabez is asking for God to help himself out, he’s not praying on behalf of others, nor is he praying for trivial or even specific things, just his own well-being.

Now I don’t know why it’s in the Bible, but it’s there. To me it seems like it’s like the flight attendant saying, “Make sure your mask is put on first before helping another with his.” In other words, if you ain’t healthy, you ain’t helping no one.

I prayed this for a while in college. Don’t know why I stopped, but I modernized it. Here’s something similar to what I prayed, I encourage you to pray it:

“Oh that you would bless me and increase my influence, and that you will be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm to myself and those around me!”

 

Blessings, friends!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

If I Had a Million Dollars

So there was a story on Public Radio the other day about a former public radio reporter who wrote a choose your own adventure novel about winning the lottery. Also, today a friend and I got on the topic of what we’d do with a winning lottery ticket. So here is my incomplete list:

First off, I would make sure my house and all the houses of my family members are paid for. (~1 million)

Second, no debt for any of us. (~1 million)

Third, retirement would be taken care of. I figure we are now 3 to 4 million down. (~2 million)

Now it’s time to have fun.

Give money to the church where I work, to the one I belong and to the parent organization of both. (~3 million/7 million total)

Give money to the places I volunteer. (~2.5 million/9.5 million)

Give money to the Luther Sem. Music and to MSU music and probably St. Olaf (~2 mill/11.5 million)

Give money in honor of my first music teacher Judy Cooper. (~500,000/12 mill)

Give money to Shriner’s Hospital. (1 mill/13 million)

Get some friends out of debt (2 million/15 mill)

Dump money into a startup company (1 mill/16 million)

 

Wow! I just blew through 16 million dollars I don’t have. I better go buy a lottery ticket.

 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Godspell

I saw Godspell for the first time the other night. The performance was well done, a friend played Jesus and I knew a bunch of other people, including Jesus’ mother, played by the mother of the actor who played Jesus. They did a great job.
The following has nothing to do with their performances, they were great. This is about the play itself.
I don’t get it. I must admit with a theological degree I can ascribe meaning to it if I want to, but I don’t get it. There’s a collection of parables that are done in the strangest of ways. Jesus seems angry, belittling his compatriots, and uses “miracles” to shut people up. He’s EXTREMELY legalistic throughout.
Additionally, the first half of the show is over-the-top goofy and the second half is straight and completely serious…ending with Jesus singing “Oh, God, I’m dead.” What? Why would someone sing that they are dead, let alone HOW would a dead person sing?
I just don’t understand it. Could someone help me?
B3QN8NJHSVXQ

Friday, August 13, 2010

Politics & Mormons, Negative & Positive Ads

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of politics. I’m tired of anger & hatred being the most common things on television. I don’t care about dogs and cars and DWI charges. I really am simply tired of it all.
Oddly enough, I’m also sick of the positive ads of mormon.org too. I don’t know what it is about them, but I cannot tolerate them any more. Even more so than the negative campaign ads. It might be that there are two ads in a row. Mind you, I don’t hate Mormons or LDS or members of the Church of JC of LDS, I’m just tired of the ads.
Oh well, I will just continue to turn off the television and find something else.
What are your thoughts on these?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Jim McGowan for SD 67 East Side Saint Paul MN State Senate

_DSC0101Friends, I’m not much for pushing my politics out to friends, but a friend of my family, Jim McGowan is running for State Senate for the East Side of St. Paul. If you live in this district, or know someone who does, please suggest that they vote for Jim in the DFL primary this Tuesday, August 10.
You won’t find a more down-to-earth person ready to earn your vote than Jim McGowan. He’s ready to hit the ground running as soon as he’s elected. If you are interested, please check out his pages.
http://www.facebook.com/McGowanforSenate
http://www.mcgowan.mn/

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Youthful Voices

Tonight I participated, as a leader, in a children's hymn festival. It was great! B took pictures, most of which will not appear on this blog, but the clip to your left is one she took of my shadow on the wall.
The festival marked the end of a week of working through hymns, music development and just plain fun. They got to tour St. Paul's Cathedral. They got to know each other. There were a few older youth who led the younger and befriended them...the little ones adored them.

The children may never realize how awesome this was for me, but I hope someday that at least a shadow of this experience will follow them in their futures.

Have a great week, every one.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

5 Ways to Make a Crappy Camping Experience Awesome

This weekend, my bride and I went camping at Myre/Big Island State Park near Albert Lea, MN. Our second night (of two) we were caught in the middle of a severe thunderstorm warning. The tent lost some of its stakes and the awning sprung some leaks, while we tried to sleep under the leak.

With all that, we still had fun. Why? I don’t know, but we did have a blast. Here are some thoughts as to why.

  1. Choose your companions carefully. The weather only put a damper on the weekend, had we been there alone or with people we didn’t like, it would have been awful.
  2. Make the most of the good time you have. We had a great Saturday. We went biking, canoeing and napping, all of us, in the shade of a tree. It was great. It made the crappy night we were about to have more manageable.
  3. Realize that “this too shall pass.” The whole night, I was telling B that she and I were going to have a great story to tell when the storm was over. Unfortunately, the story is boring, but we were making the end of the storm the focus during the storm.
  4. Have lots of treats. We ate a ton of food… really good food. B made desserts on the grill and all was great. Food makes the foul weather seem insignificant.
  5. Have a back-up plan. When the tent started to lift off the ground and the trees started swaying and bending in half, we moved to the car. Our back-up plan made us feel safe.

This is my best guess at why we had fun. It was a great trip…B and I need to learn how to canoe, though.

Have a great week, friends!

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Apologies, friends

Hey, all. I apologize if you’ve received some blank emails that I updated my blog. I am now using Windows Live Writer which downloads the website so that as I edit, I can tell what it will look like. Along with this, there are some neat features that I am learning how to use….like the ability to upload photos easily, with watermarks and other effects. See?

Pirate's Cove, Brainerd, MN

And putting in tags:

By the way, it’s B’s birthday. Wish her a happy birthday.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Greeks, Orthodoxy, Icons and Music

Last weekend, I went to Rochester, MN for a handbell festival for Area VII of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. It was a great event, I learned quite a bit about handbells and handbell conducting. However, the highlight of the weekend was really on Monday morning and had nothing to do with handbells.

Monday morning, all the board members and conference committee members were leaving to head back to their respective homes and one of board members needed a ride back to her car parked a mile away at a church. I obliged.

After dropping her off, I saw the gold dome of a Greek Orthodox church. Seeing as I had nowhere to be for many hours, and I have been fascinated with both church architecture and all things Greek for many years, I drove towards it. When I saw that there were cars in the parking lot, I pulled in and walked towards the doors…all were locked up tight. Defeated, I turned to walk towards my car, but then I saw the “Office” door and a doorbell, so I rang it.

The church secretary gave me a personal tour of the sanctuary, but unfortunately the sanctuary was under renovation and there was scaffolding covering the dome of the room. The dome, she said, was where the best icons were. After she gave me a description of Orthodox worship and a little about her past life (recovering Catholic), I was going to leave when the pastor/priest/Father came in.

The Father asked me a couple of questions, but then said, “Wanna go up?” I stammered, “Uh, what?” He then repeated himself and in a few moments we were running up the rickety ladders, 100 feet in the air. Just a few feet from icons of the prophets and of Jesus, a dozen dozen feet in the air, we discussed theology, music, Greek and Church history, and translating the Bible. He was fascinating and then he sang some of their settings of the Liturgy for me, showing their notation (WAY different from Western notation). As I left, he handed me their hymnal (in Western notation) and asked me to come back for worship.

While I may never convert to Orthodoxy (I don’t get praying to pictures), but I will definitely find an Orthodox church some Sunday. I can’t wait. If you happen to find an Orthodox church, stop by… definitely the highlight of last weekend!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Public Singing

I wrote this for a friend for her church's blog: http://humblewalkchurch.org/2010/06/28/guest-blog-from-sean-johnson/. I hope you enjoy!


A few years back, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was the first grandchild on my side of the family and every member of my family rejoiced. Truly rejoiced.
An interesting thing happens when a child enters into the equation–nothing is the same.
My sister, whose voice fell silent during family caroling many years before my niece’s birth, is now singing lullabys in front of my family. My brother-in-law, whose singing was inaudible even during hymns on Sundays, is vibrant and energetic as he sings, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” with my nieces. For some reason, children bring out this need to sing publicly.
But public singing isn’t only for parents, when sports teams score a goal, a song plays on the PA and the crowd starts cheering and singing along with the music. When we feel joy, we need to share it with those
around us. For some reason, song is the way we choose to share our emotions.
After the 9/11 tragedies, congress stood on the steps of the Capitol singing. Amid one of the greatest tragedies America has seen, our leaders took time out of their day to sing. When a leader dies or is killed, from Jerry Garcia to the Kennedys, and Mother Theresa to Martin Luther King, Jr. their followers gather together and sing songs of mourning.
We are social beings that express emotion in song. Whether we are singing about the joy of a baby, the loss of a leader, we have a fundamental need to express this song. We lose the self-consciousness of every day life and just let out our emotions…as part of something larger than we are.
Isn’t it great when we lose ourselves and become part of something greater? I completely recommend it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

House (Buying?)

B and I are attempting to buy a house... in Richfield. It's our first time and I'm really excited.
Today we brought my dad along for the ride and realized that there is a LOT of work related to this house. And again, I ask myself, "Why are buying a house instead of just renting?"
While I don't know why we shouldn't just rent, I do know that it will be nice to have a building to myself. To not listen to conversations in the hallway, to not worry about the movie I'm watching going to long into the night, or being too loud, or not having a good dishwasher, etc. Soon we'll be able to BUY a dishwasher and BUY a range and SPEND lots of money on everything.
I'm excited and nervous. Wish us luck!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Of In-Laws, Wives, and Polygamy

Yes, you read that correctly, I wrote polygamy. I have a guilty pleasure, HBO's Big Love. It is fascinating!

When my family went to Florida last January, the place we stayed had HBO and every night they showed Big Love while I went to bed. I was intrigued.The show is about a sectarian Mormon family that believes in polygamy. Bill Henrickson, the protagonist, has three wives, each completely different from the next. When I got home from Florida, I immediately put in to get the DVD's from the library. B and I just finished the first season.

In one of the episodes, all of Bill's mothers came to stay with the family. Talk about nightmare in-laws! No one has it worse than a wife (or wives) who have 7 different women telling them that they are doing everything wrong. Oy!

This is actually my second round with a season of Big Love. Last Lent, I decided to not watch broadcast television and borrowed the second season (yes, I know that I watched them out of order, I HAD to). During that time, I actually had nightmares about being married to three women. It was AWFUL!

Even with nightmares, the show is an interesting, albeit fictional, account of the life, theology, and mindset of polygamists. I completely recommend this show to anyone for entertainment and for a look into a lifestyle different, probably, from yours.

Monday, June 07, 2010

"Tour de Cure" Bike ride to cure diabetes

Saturday, B and I rode 45 miles for the American Diabetes Associations "Tour de Cure." We raised nearly $1000 for diabetes research and treatment, but that was not without a cost... it rained. All. Day.
It was a beautiful day, before 7am, but from 7-4 it was gross. I was not happy. In fact, I was grouchy, plain and simple. I marked the last 10-15 miles of the trail and started grouchy. Whoever invented Spray Chalk should be drug out into the street and shot. It doesn't work. At least not well. Yes, I wrote spray chalk, it comes in an aerosol can and is great in concept, but neither I, nor the 8 other people marking the routes had consistent luck with it.
I was supposed to ride 62 miles, but I had so much trouble marking the trail that I didn't get done until after that ride began. Plus, as I wrote before, I was grouchy. However, it gave me the opportunity to ride for 45 miles with B. She liked that and my grouchiness subsided (eventually).
Anyway, you might be wondering how we amassed such a pile of donations. To that end, I will let you know that we have the best friends in the whole world! B suggested that we host a couple of Spaghetti Dinners, one at our apartment complex's party room, the other at our church home. Between the two, and many online donors, we got that much. B's still a little short of her goal, if you care to donate, feel free to do so at: http://main.diabetes.org/goto/beckyj I'm not fishing for donations, but if this is on your list of important causes, please donate.
On that note, on of the larger donors was a friend from High School who I haven't seen for a dozen years and our only contact since then has been via facebook. Thanks, D! And Thank you all for a great ride!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Death, Resurrection & Prevention of Death

Last night I was talking with one of my ringer's moms about her trip to India. I didn't realize this, but 4 days after she got back, her father died.
It was a great story, it seems as though he was on a lot of machines and so they could hear everything going on with his body. All her siblings sat with her dying father and their mother and sang hymns. After they sang "Abide With Me," his heart stopped beating. He died with these words:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

This reminds me of the story of when my grandmother died, 3 years 11 months ago. I had, for some reason, brought in a hymnal and left it in her hospice room. My mom and all her siblings ended up spending the night singing through as many of the hymns as they could. It was a few weeks after Easter, but they sang the Christmas songs just as fervently as the Easter songs. Early the next morning, with their repertoire exhausted, my grandmother, exhausted from battling cancer, died.

They both went out singing. This is the fate I hope for myself, I'd rather go out singing, than swinging. As I spoke with my world-traveling friend, she mentioned that a common friend of ours also had a dying parent. The next day I found out that my friend's dad had died, but my friend said his goodbyes on Easter. Easter is a great day to say good bye, because we are reminded of the life to come on that day. And every year at Easter, they will remember both the death of their loved one and that they will meet up again.

My grandmother died a few weeks after Easter, but what I remember is reading the Easter story of John to her. A few weeks before she died, I was on break and my mom suggested that I bring her communion, so I did. I read to her the upcoming Gospel message, which happened to be the story about the women going to the tomb and bringing back the disciples: Peter and the one whom Jesus loved. Every Easter, I am reminded of my exchange with her. Every Easter, I hear this story and remember her questions, her responses, her teaching me.

Death seems to be so scary to us. The only thing scarier is suffering in death, or in life. To help prevent that suffering, I have been getting more and more active (I love that summer's coming). Becky, my mom & dad, my brother & his girlfriend, my aunt, cousin, a co-worker and hopefully many more are training to ride in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure. I am going to raise more than $1000 to help prevent, cure and treat diabetes. If you want to ride or donate, please join us here: http://main.diabetes.org/goto/smj We can use all the help we can get!

I hope that you are all in good health. God's blessings to you all. Happy Easter!