Category Archives: vacation

Summer Vacaton 2007 (6 of 6)-Religion


There is a definite change in mood as you get closer to the East coast and as we got closer to Minnie’s fundamental family.

Between Kansas City and St. Louis there are dozens of adult book stores and adult clubs along the highway. That changes as you get farther east. The adult businesses were replaced with huge religious billboards that offered strange church-language messages-telling people that they were sinners and to repent and asking passerbyers if they knew where they would spend eternity. Sinners, repent and eternity. Old words that used to hold common meaning and now sound foreign and for some reason harsh. The world does not have a religious foundation like it used to. Culture changed dramatically. Christians haven’t changed that much over time.

Minnie’s family still hands out tracts to people. In my opinion billboards and tracts are an easy way for Christians to feel good about themselves without actually having to invest time and energy developing relationships with others. Then again so are looks and stares and judgments. I can’t dismiss them altogether, but I question their effectiveness. I can’t name one person that I know that was saved via a billboard or a tract. I do have friends who have accepted Christ as a result of other Christians who have become true friends to them. Offering acceptance, friendship and finally offering direction to a missing piece in their life.

But these antique religious messages also send a negative message, “CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE DOING”, but why? And change to what? There is no message of hope and no message to turn to a personal, intimate God who desires to relationship with mankind. It is a fundamental difference of what it means to be saved-of what salvation means. To these folks it is being saved from hell. To me it is being transformed so that we can enter into a relationship with God. One is positional and the other is relational. The first involves freedom from punishment and the latter involves a friendship that blossoms now and fully develops in another life-heaven.

Then there is the Amish and Mennonite country of the East-Pennsylvania Dutch country. First there is the names of the towns, cities and townships. Many are named after biblical words and names, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Emmaus, etc. But then it gets a little weird, Harmony, Fertility, Blue Ball, Puseyville, Lucky, Unionville, (I am NOT making this up!), Pillow, Fruitvill, West Middlesex. I thought there was a Chastity, PA, but I can’t find it now. What were these pious people thinking? OK, I know that some names hold much different meanings now than at one time…but come on! There is a bumper sticker that reads “In Pennsylvania Intercourse is just this side of Paradise” And it is geographically accurate. And those names all seem to clash with the visual (there is a town named Media)-horse and buggies and wool clothes and pastries and farmers markets and quilts and head-coverings and overalls and bikes for the progressive, and long beards and the black hats. We saw a horse and buggy that had been hit by a car. I do not know if anyone got hurt.


Like I mentioned before, The In-Laws are fundamental Independent Baptist. Which means they are first and foremost Christian-I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. And then they are Calvinists (once saved, always saved) and then they are fundamentalists-which practically means that they have issues with those that don’t believe exactly as they do. I understand this, I attempt to have friendly, thought-provoking discussions, and finally agree to disagree, and most of the time we walk away still friends (or at least still related).

And there’s my cousins and my sister-in-law. Cousin Melanie married Josh. Melanie comes from a missionary family, she is a preacher’s kid-she grew up in South Africa. She has had some wild times in latter years, but she is now trying to lead a life that honors God. The rest of the family has high hopes for Josh. Now I wouldn’t label Josh as a pagan or anything, but he is not a professing Christian. I would label him as a seeker and I think that he might even want to accept it all blindly, but he just can’t. Why should he!? He seems to be analyzing and, well, seeking. And that is totally cool, I respect that very much. Sister-inLaw on the other hand just can’t wait for Josh to “make a decision” to follow Christ. It is this terminology and mindset that troubles me.

There are so many people out there just waiting for someone to say a prayer or to make a confession. To me those initial steps are crucial, but not the end all. For me it comes back to a relationship. At the essence it is a relationship with Christ, but the journey often involves relationships with those around us, friends, family etc. Fellow believers that offer advice, encouragement and most of all, an example.

It kinda starts with a warped view of Calvinism. John Calvin was a theologian and one of his core beliefs is “perserverence of the saints”. Which means that one cannot lose thier salvation, they just can’t wake up one day and not be saved-like they lost their keys or something. But is has also come to mean that one cannot willingly walk away from the faith. This is where we differ. I do not believe that anything or anyone else can steal our salvation away from us. But I do believe that we can leave it behind, we can walk away. It is though we walk beside Christ and as we pause (as we stumble, as we make bad disicions, as we hurt ourself and others) Christ continues. We can always ask for forgiveness and opt to catch up. But sometimes we don’t chose to catch back up, we camp out in our weakness and selfishness and often times lose sight completely and it is then that we need to re-establish our relationship with Christ-to be put back beside him again. It is the “inbetween” that folks aregue about. Where would one spend eternity if they are in that “out-of-sight” state. The state where they have done nothing to improve thier relationship with God and do things to hurt God. Sin is sin and it still separates us from God.

Apparently I am one who was hindering Josh from making his end-all dicision. I pointed out a shirt on the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD. It was a Harley-Davidson shirt and the back said, “If you can read this then the b*tch fell off.” I thought it was a pretty funny, I still do. It is just a shirt. It is pop culture. ANYWAY, Tammie let me have it via my wife. Apparently Josh said something to Tammie to question my salvation. And she was accusing me of preventing Josh from making that fateful decision. I am not so sure what Josh actually siad.

So Josh, sorry bud if I offended you, reall, forgive me. Even though Christians aren’t perfect some still have a sense of humor. Taste is another issue. I might not have much of the latter, but I like to laugh, a lot! And we could have a whole discussion on cussing and wholesome conversation. I always strive for wholesome conversation, but sometimes I cuss, it might be a bad habbit, but sometimes coming from someone like me, well it is out of place and adds to the funny! There are also those that cussed in the Bible, those that used very strong and curt words-cussing I do however, try to pay careful attention to who (whom?) my audiance is.

Tammie, I am sorry that it got back to you, but when Josh is ready to enter into a relationship with Christ I hope he has a full understanding of what he is getting into, at least that is what I see him looking for before he makes a dicision. There is nothing wrong with that. I just hope he doesn’t think that he has to surrender a life of fun and humor for a life of solomn boredom and family baggage. The Christian life is so full of LIFE and freedom and joy and fullfillment.


Summer Vacation 2007 (5 of 6)-Riding in Cars with Boys

All total we traveled 3000 miles. I must have filled up over 10 times! We stayed in 3 hotels. We went under mountains and through them and over them. We passed by fields, forests, lakes, an ocean, over bridges and through tunnels. All the while with four boys and a back-seat-driving wife! Minnie did something that she often does-something wonderful and magnificent and magical-she brought audio books along! SWEET!

We listened to 2 great books, Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen. And A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. we also listened to part of Culture Warrior by Bill O’Reilly, but since we did not finish I will save my review until another time-I will say I found what I heard extremely interesting and appreciative.

Water for elephants was about a man’s story in a circus in the 1930s in the midst of the Depression. It is told within a couple of years ago as he is much older. He starts out, “I am 90 or 93, I forget which…” It was a very touching story. It made me miss my dad. But it also made me thankful that he did not outlive his mind and body. It was also a story about life in a circus! It is a fairly new book and it was great, I highly recommend it. The ending was fantastic.

A 1000 Splendid Suns was also a great book. It journaled the life of 2 women who grew up in Afghanistan. It started in the mid 1970 and went to just a few years ago. Afghanistan, as it turns out, was peaceful and beautiful and radiant in the 1970s. Then the cold war hit smack dab in the middle and the U.S. gave the Afghanistan tribes weapons to fight off the Russians. Communism was established and land was taken away. The one thing that communism did bring to the region was a great importance on education and to have it equally to males and females. But women were allowed to learn and go to universities before this. Religion was downplayed and so was commerce. Once the Russians retreated the tribes were left with weapons and fought each other for power. Many people died at the hands of their own country men, but different tribes. There were fighters who tried to establish free elections, but they too were motivated by power and greed. Some tribes that had felt like they had been oppressed fought not for fair representation, but for total control. Then the Taliban came and everything went to hell. The Taliban proclaimed and enforce Sharia law. Women suddenly became worthless and oppressed. Women had to be covered in public by wearing burkas. They were never allowed to travel without a male escort and could not laugh in public or initiate conversation. Women were forbidden to work and attend schools. Hospitals were segregated. The character in the story was forced to attend a hospital with little electricity and ran only by women. They were not allowed anesthesia and the main character delivered a baby by cesarean with no pain medication whatsoever. A drought hit the region at the same time. Finally, Al Qaeda forced out the Taliban. I do not know how things went after that. There is actually a love story woven in and a relationship that strengthens between a young wife and an older wife married to the same abusive man. The few story lines take a bit to develop but are well worth the wait.

The Afghani book was written by an Afghan for Westerners. It showed how the people in general do not hate America, but have become oppressed and have been kept uneducated and taught to love war. It made me realize how little I know of the region, culture and history.

Since I am in review mode I will talk about Ratatouille which I saw with my family. Transformers was completely sold out. Disney’s Ratatouille was entertaining and the story was pretty good. The ending TOTALLY and completely sucked though. The multitude of rats running the kitchen was unbelievable and dumb. They spent all this time making us think that it is special and uncommon for a rat to interact with a human and to cook, then just expected us to think that it was OK for hundreds of rats to do the same, out goes special. It was like saying “Hey this is special and magical and now it is common life, no big deal.” The story with the food critic was pretty cool, I liked that-it was creative and fun-I liked the resolution. Then the very ending with the transitions that happen in the restaurant was just joltingly sudden and just disappointing. It was like they created a great script and built up to a great conflict then just wasn’t quite sure how to resolve and wrap things up-so they made a few wrong decisions…and it became boring and disappointing. I guess the theme came through: Anyone can cook. Yippy.


Summer Vacation 2007 (4 of 6)-Oceans of Fun

On the fifth of July we traveled to Ocean City, Maryland. We got there a little late but still had time to play in the ocean. Corbin hated the water. I think he was scared of the moving water and the crashing sounds-the water may have been too cold for him too. Kaleb & Keegan LOVED the water. Calvin warmed up to the ocean on day 2.

The Boardwalks has a whole host of beach shops, games and rides. Kaleb & Keegan and I rode on a few roller coasters and had a blast! We ate cotton candy. It was a beautiful evening, warm but not hot with a cool breeze.

That evening there were fireworks! They had been cancelled on the 4th Due to wind and they had also been cancelled in PA due to heavy rains! They were very beautiful at the ocean. The weather was perfect! Corbin hated the fireworks.

Day 2 at the beach was an adventure. Kaleb & Keegan had boogie boards and they got pretty good at it. Calvin was timid of the water but loved the wet sand and splashing along the “finish line” as he called it-where the ocean met the sand.

Sand…I learned that I hate it. It would not have been so bad, but I did not wear my swim trunks to the beach-neither did Minnie. I don’t know what I was thinking! I brought it to the beach, but there was no where to change! You were not allowed to change in the public bathroom! So I had jean shorts on and therefore only waded in the ocean. I also failed to put sunscreen on my legs-they got burned real good.

That evening we met up with Minnie’s cousin Melanie. Her husband met us later and we all had a nice visit. Melanie is trying to get into modeling and Josh is trying to get into the comic book business.

We found out after we returned home and attended church that our pastor and his wife had been to Ocean City on the 6th! We were all there at the same time! Pretty cool.


Summer Vacaton 2007 (3 of 6)-Family

Vacationing in Pennsylvania means visiting family! Specifically, The In-Laws.

Staying with tradition I cut my hair before we left Kansas City. The tradition started the first time my wife and I visited her family on their turf. I met them when they came here to Kansas when Minnie and I got married. My hair was long and my wife’s hair was short! My wife’s family are fundamental Independent Baptists and they did not like my long hair! So I cut it all off when I went to Bethlehem, PA for the first time. And this trip was no exception…I was WAAAY over due for a whacking anyway!

Breaking with tradition we stayed with Minnie’s sister Tammie instead of Minnie’s parents…Tammie, what to say about her? Well, I lover her. She is strong-willed and stubborn. She rebels against her mom and dad while ending up just like them! She works too much-work has become her identity and I fear that one day all the lack of sleep and stress will take its toll on her. I hope not. She’s wounded and she is struggling to live a healthy life, but then again so are most of us. We butt heads most of the time, but what I really want to show her or prove to her or persuade her of is that there is a whole world out there that is better than the one she places herself in, the one she hates and tolerates and escapes from and martyrs through. It isn’t MY world, but it is different and one that I have found by grace. But just the fact that I want it for her usually is the reason she won’t attempt it. Although she did say that if she could find 1 job that paid the same as her current 2 jobs that she’d consider moving out here! Hey, that is something!

Minnie’s parents are in a new house! It is away from their previous book-cased, row home, house and it actually has a yard! And a car port! And flowers and trees! And none of it is shared with the neighbors! SWEET!

Minnie’s aunts, Darene and Fran, haven’t changed much. They still live together in the same house with their dogs. A couple of new dogs and a couple less than before. They show their love by giving us all kinds of gifts that they have gotten over the years…backpacks and games and toys for the boys. An expensive telescope that we strapped to the roof to transport back to KC. Other nick knacks. And then the stuff that we just couldn’t fit and had to leave behind, exercise equipment and all kinds of really cool stuff.

The rest of her family offered things to take as well, food, a weed whacker, blankets and more exercise stuff…drinks and candy and…well, gifts that they lovingly lavish on Minnie and her family.

They all bide for Minnie’s time and attention. Tammie “won” the most by hosting us! And she was an awesome host and we felt very comfortable and taken care of! Tammie also traveled with us on much of our vacation. We had a great time visiting with her. Minnie has grown very close to her sister over the past years and Tammie loved getting to know the boys more. Minnie’s parents won a little bit by offering meals and a new house to visit and check out (new neighbors and a new yard and a new garage and a new basement), but I know her dad wanted to spend more time with Minnie-even though he got to hang out with us a the Knobels theme park, I am sure he would have liked to spend more time with just Minnie without everyone else. Minnie’s aunts won a little by offering stuff! They buy all of this stuff for us but we have to personally pick it up! They took us all to lunch one day-that was very nice. I think all of the children are a little overwhelming for them-the kids are messy and loud and Darene and Fran are quiet and have their routines.

Minnie is the prodigal daughter, the one that returns home every so often-not often enough. The one that made it out. The one that lives too darn far away! The one that married. The one that didn’t stay home. The one that went off and started her own family far away from the East. Just about the only one in her immediate family who is not bound to the rest of the family by physical location and emotion. That is a blessing and a curse, good and bad.

There is always running around trying to visit everyone and worrying about “equal time” and such is true on any family trip-Mine when I go back home to Iowa and Minnie’s as we traveled through Pennsylvania.

We got to see Minnie’s ailing grandparents. They seem to be doing well. We got to see Minnie’s best friend Kenda and her family-well most of her family. And we got to visit Minnie’s cousin Melanie and her husband in Ocean City, MD.

I love Minnie’s family, my family. And I love that they love Minnie and the rest of us.


Summer Vacaton 2007 (2 of 6)-Observations about the East

The East is cramped. Tiny 2-lane Turnpikes and highways. Pressed together row homes. Long, narrow alleys. Narrow, curvy roads through the mountains and valleys. Cars parked all along both sides of the curbs. The beach was crowded. Cramped.

The East is impatient and FAST. This I actually like! I like speed, I like to go fast. I wanna go, go go! But when you combine tight spaces with speed it can be disastrous. Fortunately, we had a safe trip-even when those motorcycles came out of freaking NOWHERE!

The East is beautiful. Driving under and through the mountains & valleys. Dancing around at the beach, and wading through the crashing raves. Driving by the forest, marshlands, rivers & bridges. Going to parks, through old Amish & Mennonite country, by corn fields & tobacco fields, farms, and country towns. Heck even the old abandoned steel factories in Allentown, PA were sadly rusty and beautiful.


Summer Vacation 2007 (1 of 6) – Vacation from My Vacation

Maybe it is transporting 6 people all across the East. Maybe it is 3000 miles I am putting on the rented Yukon. Maybe because I am not visiting my side of the family. Maybe it is the awful East coast driving in cramped space. Whatever the reason, I need a vacation from my vacation!

Now don’t get me wrong…it is great seeing family (even The In-Laws!). The mountains in PA & OH are a spectacular site. The beach at Ocean City, MD was powerful and soothing and neat. But it was rush to get there, rush to see everyone and rush to do everything once you are there and with family and friends!

Where is the relaxation! NO TIME!

My children and wife had the time of their life. I am VERY thankful for that.