Thursday, July 28, 2011

Family Vacation

Since we are spending this season of our lives in a very small community, one of the things our family really enjoys is trips to "the big city," and round here that means Chicago. We want our children to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of places outside the little world we inhabit, and to have fun visiting a place we wouldn't want to actually take them to live in. So off we went, to ride the El, eat Chicago food, see museums, shop at their favorite stores (American Girl and the Lego Store), and eat chocolate.

Our enthusiasm remained undimmed, despite bouts of the worst family infestation of stomach virus I've ever seen. Hopefully, you can see that in the "highlight reel" below:

This is the Pioneer Zephyr, the train that set a land speed record for its non-stop run between Denver and Chicago back in the day. This was also one of the kids' favorite parts of the Science and Industry Museum. Personally, since it was my first trip too, I could have spent a lot more time looking around the U-505 submarine and the associated exhibits. The history connected with that was irresistible for me, but alas, not so much for the kids.

This is Nate's evaluation of the experience of riding the "El." The others weren't quite so impressed, but it was still the only time in my memory when public transport was a highlight...

On our last day, the boys and I headed off to the Lego Store, home of Lego Darth, Lego Woody, Lego Yoda, and a large assortment of Lego sets, games, and miscellaneous pieces (to help you re-build the sets to which you have mysteriously lost some of the pieces). It was a fun sort of trip to a version of boy heaven (except that nothing there comes by grace), and John and Nate got to pick out some small things to add to their collections.

Our adventures in Legoland ended, and so it was time to journey down a floor to join the girls at American Girl. With Sara off still figuring out exactly how to spend the $50 in squirreled away allowance (far easier than it sounds, in that place--$50 doesn't go that far), I got Ashley to be my all star American Girl while she waited with the boys and I by the door. As an aside, why are there never any comfortable chairs in a girly store? Don't they know that men and boys are often semi-willing participants in the shopping excursion there?

And finally, it's just not a Horn family vacation if there' no stop at Cabela's or Bass Pro somewhere, so this was our last stop on the last day. If you can't read it, the sign over the door reads, "Welcome Hunters, Fishermen, and Other Liars." At lot to be said for truth in advertising, if you ask me, so I'm wondering how a sign like that would look over the doors at church.

Friday, July 8, 2011

And now for something completely different...

When I was 7 years old, my dad took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was completely captured by the experience, and for several years wanted to be Indiana Jones. Fortunately for me, my parents had a large wooded yard at the time, a lot of which was left untamed and without grass. They had really good cap guns in those days (if I could find ones like the ones I had, I'd trade you even up on a Smith and Wesson .22 semiauto), and Dad's barn was full of rope to make whips. A boy with an active imagination could easily spend all day exploring the "jungle" and raiding the lost city of Tanis.

So when a friend sent me the following video, while there is a part of me which thought, "I can't believe this guy makes his living doing this," there is also another, perhaps deeper, geekier, more boyish part which thinks, "If this pastor thing ever doesn't work out, I have found my new calling!" Anyway, enjoy a laugh or two with me:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 15

I've been preaching through the book of Genesis this year at Chilli Bible, with the goal of preaching the first two major sections (Creation-Babel and the Life of Abraham & Isaac) this year and punctuating them with trips elsewhere (2 Peter after chapters 1-11 and probably into the minor prophets again after we wrap up Abram and Isaac's stories). But what has long stood out to me is the very humanness of the Bible's central characters. There are no plaster saints, no perfect men but Jesus the God-man. Abram himself, particularly before his late in life demonstration of great faith on Mt. Moriah, is probably best described as a man of questionable loyalty to God, whose life alternates between periods of great faith punctuated with incidents of epic stupidity and disobedience.

If you didn't know your Bible, in fact, you could be forgiven for wondering what God will do with a man like Abram, who disobeyed God in taking Lot and all the goods of his father's house off to Canaan, and who then abandoned the land of promise for Egypt, where he also lied about and then gave up the wife needed for the child of promise in exchange for a good dowry from Pharaoh. In short, Abraham has sinned and rejected all the things God had promised to go his own way. Yet in chapter 15 God is right there, re-affirming His covenant with Abraham.

And He does so in a most unusual manner, instructing Abram to cut in half a heifer, a ram, and a goat, and to lay out a young pigeon and a dove, leaving a bloody aisle between the halves. This was part of a covenant making and/or sealing ceremony, in which the covenant participants walked the aisle between the pieces, and in so doing laid on themselves an implied death sentence if they break the covenant (i.e., "May it be done to me like these animals"). But after all is arranged, it is God alone (symbolized by the torch and smoking firepot, v. 17), who passes through, symbolizing that it is God alone who will keep the covenant, since He alone made it.

In this, I find great personal encouragement and even sanctifying grace. For, as Paul says in Romans 15:4, "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us..." And what this little incident reminds me is that I have a much better covenant than Abram, for mine was sealed not with God symbolically pronouncing death on Himself, but with the actual slaughter of the Son of God, whose death paid for my covenant breaking and established a new one, which likewise God alone keeps with me. Through that covenant, enacted by God's merciful, holy love, I cannot be rejected despite my ongoing sinfulness, because God has already paid the penalty for my sin. And since no matter what I've done or do, God is right there re-affirming His love for me, I am motivated each day to confess my sin and live in greater obedience. This is indeed, amazing grace.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day Camp

Here's some of the photos from Heartland District Cub Scout Day Camp with John:

John loved playing Robin Hood, but he is cross-dominant, which means that even though he is right-handed, his dominant eye is his left. Due to the the shortage of left-handed bows, this meant that he needed to shoot right handed and cover his left eye. So despite looking like a pirate with a caution tape "eye patch," he did learn to shoot pretty well and really enjoyed himself!

Here, John is doing his other favorite camp activity, BB guns. He earned his sharpshooter patch, and outshot everyone else his age. Needless to say, Dad was pretty proud of John's first time out.

This is human foosball. It is set up exactly like a foosball table, only with ropes instead of rods. Each player slides down the rope using the pieces of PVC they are holding and knots in the rope limit movement to their zone of play, like the stops on a foosball table. The boys had fun, but about 1/2 hour's worth is all they could take before they wanted a break. John is in the center, wearing a clear poncho, because it had just stopped raining (again!).

Wild Honey

I spent part of last week at Cub Scout Day Camp with my oldest son John, who is a Wolf Scout this year. It was a great time of learning to shoot BB guns, make things out of leather and emboss them, build a bird feeder, shoot BB guns, play human foosball, practice with bows and arrows, learn how to properly fold and care for a flag, shoot each other with water guns, and yes, shoot BB guns.

It rained off and on all three days, including an epic downpour on the first day. On the night of the second day, there was a massive storm that knocked down trees all over the park where we were having camp. So our Cub Scout Service project was helping pick up limbs and sticks for an hour. But we all also spotted the huge hollow treetop that came down which contained a honey beehive. As the intrepid sort who had to try to collect some, and since the odds of me coming across another wild hive like this in the future are somewhere between slim and Barack Obama's re-election prospects, I waited until all the boys were otherwise occupied and then hustled back to the truck for some gallon sacks to stick some honeycomb in. For the curious, no, I did not get get stung. What I got was a lot of honey filled comb with no very good idea how to extract the honey.

I called a friend, who told me that commercial honey producers cut open the combs and separate the honey from the comb with centrifuges. Huh. Learn something new everyday. But my garage being a little light in the centrifuge department, I had to rely on something else: hillbilly ingenuity, which quickly devised a plan involving a bowl, a glass jar, a funnel and some brand new knee high pantyhose (which were a bargain at $ .33 a pair). Clean, sweet, fruity tasting honey was the result. I was excited to be able to show the kids where honey comes from and more excited (being kinda cheap), not to have to buy honey for a couple weeks.

Next project: Find some wild locusts to eat with it and a camel hair coat to preach in next Sunday...