Tag Archives: Minnesota

Perpetual Embers

A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not go out.
Leviticus 6:13 (NRSV)

My family vacationed at the same place every year. Camp Idlewood on Rainy Lake in Minnesota was where we spent two weeks in early August every summer. There was a campfire pit just outside the boathouse and a fire was lit every night as families gathered around to swap stories, sing songs, and enjoy each other’s company.

As childhood gave way to the tween and teen years, we were allowed to stay later and later at the campfire. Eventually the parental unit would head to bed and we were allowed to hang out at the campfire until the wee hours of the night. Occasionally the wee hours gave way to dawn and we would still be there huddled around the fire pit.

I remember those nights watching the fire evolve from blazing bonfire to glowing embers. Still, we would stoke it and tend it and keep it going through the watches of the night as conversations continued, friendships were forged, and camp romances occasionally were sparked to life and then quickly went out.

I thought about that campfire as I read this morning of the ancient sacrificial fires prescribed by God through Moses. They kept going. Wood was added. The embers were stoked. The spiritual conversation and relationship continued around the fire.

This morning I’m reminded that my worship, my sacrifice, and my offering to God is not a compartmentalized act confined to a Sunday morning. It is a campfire in my spirit which does not go out. Every day, every stretch of the journey it blazes, it ebbs, and I tend to it;  I stoke the embers into flame again and again. God and me perpetually around the fire through the watches of the night, into the wee hours, and on to the dawn.

Top Five Things I Love About the Twin Cities

I’m headed to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul today. I’ve been going to the Twin Cities for many years and have had many clients there over the years. Wendy and I try to make a habit of spending at least one or two weekends a year enjoying all that the area has to offer.

Here are the Top Five things I love about the Twin Cities:

  1. Cool summers. Yes, the winter can be brutal, but the other three seasons of the year are absolutely spectacular. I love that when it’s sweltering back home I can feel crisp, cool air in the Minnesota mornings.
  2. Vikings! As a life-long Vikings fan I love going to see my favorite Purple People Eaters play. And, even when I’m not going to a game I get Vikings chatter on the local sports stations.
  3. The Guthrie Theater. The best regional theater in the midwest with three amazing stages, world-class productions, and a facility that truly lets you experience what an evening of theatre should be.
  4. The Minneapolis Children’s Theatre. Trust me, it’s not just for children. I have never attended a play at MCT that didn’t leave me inspired, entertained, impressed, and wanting more.
  5. Al’s Breakfast. (pictured) The hole-in-the-wall diner in Dinky town has been a family favorite for many years. It can’t adequately be described. It just has to be experienced.

My Quirky Passions and Illuminated Manuscript

The Chi Rho monogram from the Book of Kells is...
The Chi Rho monogram from the Book of Kells is the most lavish such monogram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Besides a love of family and an arguably tragic loyalty to the Cubs and Vikings, I have realized that God instilled in me three passions/interests in this life journey:

  1. God
  2. Art
  3. History

In retrospect, it is no wonder that I was mesmerized when in I walked into the library of Trinity College in Dublin and first gazed on The Book of Kells. I can’t believe I had never heard of it, but I am eternally grateful for my travel companion who insisted we visit the ancient, handwritten copy of the Gospels. It was my first real introduction to the world of illuminated manuscripts, and in that fateful moment I experienced a harmonic convergence of my passions. Here was the Word of God presented in an obvious work of art that was steeped in the rich stories and context of history. I have been fascinated by illuminated manuscripts ever since.

Before the invention of the printing press, both scriptures and books of common prayer were affectionately and painstakingly copied by hand. Often, these handwritten copies were the work of monks who embellished the written word with beautiful and colorful illustrations. In the case of The Book of Kells, the illustrations included mysterious symbols and celtic imagery. The printing press and moveable type changed history forever. Books could be quickly and efficiently published and copied. Handwritten illuminated manuscripts were a thing of the past.

Last year I stumbled upon news of The St. John’s Bible. For the first time in hundreds of years, a team of calligraphers and artists began working on a completely handwritten and illuminated copy of the Bible commissioned by St. John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota. I discovered that high resolution copies of the modern manuscript were available in multiple volumes and this past Christmas I received two of the volumes: The Pentateuch and The Gospels and Acts. Since then I’ve added The Books of History. I also, by the way, received a copy of Bernard Meehan’s gorgeous history and analysis of The Book of Kells for Christmas.

So, each morning I’ve been opening and reading a chapter from the gorgeous copy of the handwritten St. John’s Bible. I’ve been blown away by the incredible effort, craftsmanship and artistry involved, along with the textual nuances of the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version in which it was written. One of these days on a trip up to the Twin Cities I hope to make the trek up I-94 to St. John’s and see the original for myself.

 

Top Five Favorite Places in the World (So Far)

Last Friday I wrote of my limited travels and it got me thinking over the weekend about all of the places I’ve traveled and seen. Among all the places I have been on this Earth, here are five of my favorites places:

Sunrise, Rainy Lake
Sunrise, Rainy Lake (Photo credit: jck_photos)

5. Rainy Lake, Minnesota: Sentimental reasons. I grew up going to Camp Idlewood with my family two weeks of every year. This is where some of the most glorious memories of my childhood are sourced. It will always hold a dear place in my heart.

Courtyard of the McNay Museum, San Antonio
Courtyard of the McNay Museum, San Antonio

4. The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX: Sentimental reasons once more. Wendy and I discovered this gem of an art museum on our honeymoon. The courtyard at the McNay is one of my favorite places. I could sit there for hours, and I even get to return there a couple of times a year on my business travels.

beefeater @ london tower 031909 LR

3. London, England: I can’t name one place within London. I just loved the whole city: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the Globe Theatre, the All England Club, the Tower of London, etc., and etc.  I can’t wait to return someday.

grouponarbel

2. Mount Arbel, Israel: Just off the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Arbel is most likely the place referred to when it was written “Jesus went to a mountain side to pray.” From the top of Mount Arbel you can see across the Sea of Galilee and the towns and villages that dot its shores. I looked down and heard Jesus words: “See the fields white unto harvest.” It is a thin place and my brief time there left an indelible impression on me.

Ahhhhhh

1. Vander Well’s Playhouse, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri: There are a number of exciting and exotic places I’ve visited, but as I pondered my favorites – well this special place tops the list. Like Mount Arbel, it is a thin place. So many precious memories of family and friends combine with a place of quiet refuge and retreat. How blessed to be able to return there often! 🙂

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Date Weekend in the Twin Cities

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Wendy and I had a fun weekend in the Twin Cities as we made our annual pilgrimage to a Minnesota Vikings game. It was a perfect fall weekend with lots of warm sunshine during the day while the evenings and mornings were crisp with cool fall air. The drive up on Saturday afforded us time to catch up on some much needed conversation. Road construction in Minnesota was awful and gave us more time in the car together than we really wanted, but what do you expect from Minnesota (nine months of winter – three months of road construction)?

We arrived at our hotel which was just blocks from Mall of America field. We checked in and freshened up before heading to our favorite Twin Cities’ haunt, the original Buca Di Beppo’s (literally translated from Italian thats “Joe’s Basement”). Wonderful meal. We headed back to the hotel to watch Zero Dark Thirty which we’ve had from Netflix and have been trying to watch forever. We cuddled into bed and pulled it up on the ol’ laptop. Fascinating movie. Definitely kept us awake.

Sunday morning dawned and we walked the mile or so from our hotel to Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown by the University of Minnesota. Al’s is a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon that has been in operation since the area populated with rail workers back in the old days. Al’s has thirteen bar stools. That’s it. People line up behind the bar stools, out the door, and down the sidewalk to wait for a chance at breakfast made on the grill right behind the bar. It’s a unique experience for sure. We enjoyed a big breakfast and then walked back to the hotel to get ready for the game.

It was another mile or so walk to the stadium, but with all of the feasting we were happy for the exercise and the weather was so beautiful we didn’t care. The Vikings are building a new stadium next year so this is likely our last visit to the old Metrodome. We had great seats in the seventh row on one of the end zones. I got a chance to catch some great shots with my camera. Being the home opener, it was packed with fans expecting the Vikes to take it to the hapless Cleveland Browns. On the way to the game Wendy said, “I hope it’s not a blowout. I hope it’s a close game and the crowd is into it the whole time.” She got her wish as the lead went back and forth. Unfortunately, the Vikes gave up a winning touchdown with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter and it happened right in front of us. Bummer. As one fellow fan put it, when you lose to the worst team in the NFL, that pretty much makes your team the worst team in the NFL. It’s going to be a long season.

We walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a drink on the patio of the neighboring micro-brew while we waited for traffic to thin out. We then headed to the suburbs where I had client meetings scheduled on Monday and Tuesday. Sunday evening was spent enjoying pizza on the bed while we watched Sunday night football.

Monday evening we went to Mall of America and did a little shopping. Wendy found some great stuff and we both bought hats at a cool little hat shop I don’t ever remember seeing there before. We grabbed a bite at Buffalo Wild Wings before heading back to the hotel. After client meetings on Tuesday we headed home.

On the way home Wendy mentioned how refreshed she felt by our weekend getaway. I was grateful for that. We got home at 6:40 and had just enough time to change our clothes ant be at the community center for a 7:00 rehearsal. Talk about an abrupt re-entry. Nevertheless, it was a great weekend together.

Purple Pilgrimage

Earlier this week I had a couple of days that required my presence with a client in the Twin Cities. Wendy and I seized the opportunity to mix a little pleasure with a business trip and make our annual pilgrimage to the Metrodome to watch our beloved Vikings playing the San Francisco 49ers.

We left on Saturday morning and drove up to the Mall of America. Wendy and I have been doing this massive purge of our closets and drawers this fall. Clothes that we haven’t worn in years along with clothes that no longer fit us are being given away. We both had a short list of things we needed to replace, so we did a little shopping on Saturday afternoon. That night we dined at the flagship of perhaps our favorite restaurant of all time: Buca Di Beppo’s in downtown Minneapolis.

Sunday was beautiful as we walked from our hotel to the Metrodome. Wendy reminded me that since we’ve been making our (somewhat) annual pilgrimage to watch our beloved “purple people eaters” she had never seen them lose. I explained that she should prepare for that streak to end. The 49ers, who many hold to be the most talented team in the NFL this year, held the edge over our rebuilding Vikes in almost every aspect of the game.

The Metrodome is loud when you pack tens of thousands of screaming football fans inside. It’s raucous. It’s a blast. You quickly build camaraderie with your fellow fans sitting around you. You’re in this together. You’re family. Everyday on the street it’s easy to feel beleaguered and besieged by annoying cheeseheads, but on Sunday afternoon inside the Metrodome you are surrounded by brothers-in-arms. You are a force to be reckoned with.

Wendy made the observation that while we love the game of baseball, the truth of the matter is that the crowd at a baseball game has very little impact on an average game. The crowd cheers after something momentous happens. There is generally no swell of crowd noise until the bottom of the 9th, if at all. In football, the crowd can actually make a difference. When it’s 3rd and long for the opponent and the Metrodome crowd starts to scream, the crowd knows that they are making it almost impossible for the opposing team to hear plays getting called in from the sideline. It’s equally impossible for the opposing quarterback to successfully call an audible. It’s easy for the opponent to make mistakes amidst the deafening din. The average fan can be an active participant in the outcome of the game, and that’s kind of a fun feeling.

The game Sunday was perhaps the most fun we’ve ever had a Vikings game. The Vikings played their hearts out and pulled the upset. We and our fellow fans had a ball cheering the team on. Wendy’s streak is still in tact.

It was kind of a crazy summer for the two of us, and we’ve been really looking forward to a little time for the two of us to relax and enjoy some R&R. Our purple pilgrimage was just what the doctor ordered.