River City Days

leonJoin us Friday and Saturday, July 29-30 at City Square Park in downtown Chaska for River City Days.  Every year we have a booth where we hand out FREE balloon animals and connect with the community.  Last year we went through 1,300 balloons and connected with some great people.  It is a lot of fun to see the faces of the kids who love our balloons.  Each year we hear from parents who tell us that their kids remember us from the year before.  If you are in the area, come on by and say, “Hi!”

Fairy Tale Land

I used to coach basketball in Fairy Tale Land, but it was way too stressful so I had to give it up.  Here are the problems I had to deal with:

  • Cinderella was our point guard, but I couldn’t get her to stop running away from the ball.
  • Little Red Riding Hood would get so distracted by the other team’s big ears, and big eyes, that they would steal the ball from her with their big hands.
  • Basketball just wasn’t the Little Mermaid’s game.  She was like a fish out of water.
  • Snow White wasn’t bad, but she kept getting her shot blocked.  I can’t really blame her, after all, the 7 guys she used to play with were a little “vertically challenged.”
  • Sleeping beauty kept falling asleep on defense.
  • And Goldilocks was the most annoying of all.  Whenever she wasn’t in the game she would constantly be complaining about the bench being too hard or too soft.  It was never just right.

Okay, so maybe I really wasn’t the coach of the Fairy Tale Land basketball team, but you can kind of picture the problems that would come up can’t you?  You know that those cute little quirky details from the storybook would get mighty tiresome if you had to live with them day in and day out.  Like imagine how long it must take Rapunzel to get ready in the morning?  Or imagine having to wear glass slippers all the time.  And while I am sure that Cinderella’s voice is beautiful, it would sure get annoying to hear her singing all the time.  And that’s just one princess.  It seems like singing is a pre-requisite for most of the princesses, so imagine all of them singing constantly, not to mention all the birds and mice and other animals getting in the way.

Of course, Fairy Tale Land doesn’t really exist.  Life isn’t a fairy tale is it?  At least it doesn’t feel like it most of the time.  We may have some fairy-tale kind of moments in our lives from time to time, but we also have a bunch of unfairy-tale kind of moments too.  The question is, are we headed for a happily ever after ending?

Well, this Sunday we are going to be talking about our sometimes unfairy-tale like lives as we take a look at the book of Esther.  I invite you to come and join us.

Twas’ the Night…

Here is my take on an old Christmas classic…

Twas’ the night before Christmas, and down at the store,

All the people were hurrying to get through the door.

And there I was with them joining the fray,

Just a few short hours before Christmas day.

“This is crazy” I said with my eyes turned toward Heaven.

My list is too long and it’s almost eleven.

It’s good that the store is open this late,

For those people like me who just wait, wait, wait, wait!

You see, I was shopping late into the night,

And I’m sure that I really was an interesting sight.

My arms full of packages, my feet moving fast,

Because I had saved Christmas shopping for last.

So there I was, impatiently scanning the shelves.

Wishing there really were such things as elves.

I had quite a list that I still needed to find,

And it was nearly driving me out of my mind.

A new dolly for Jenny and a puzzle for Bill,

A book for Freddy, and a necklace for Jill.

Those are the things that I had to buy,

Oh, why did I wait so long, why, why, why, why?

The shelves were picked over, and yet still full of stuff,

But the other shoppers were being quite rough.

I had been bumped, bruised, jostled and jarred,

And I still needed to find a new shirt for Bernard

Kelly wanted a sweater for winter of course,

Bobby was hoping for a plastic play horse.

Sally, my secretary wanted a raise,

But instead I was hoping to buy her a vase.

The company Christmas party had gone really late,

And I was feeling kind of sick from the food that I ate.

My back was still sore from putting up our big tree,

And the lights on my house numbered 4 thousand and three.

And now here I was in this ridiculous store,

Full of Santas and snowflakes and reindeers galore.

Christmas music was playing from the ceiling above,

Saying something about peace, joy, and love.

But I had no time, to listen to carols,

I was on my way to find some apparel.

My wife wanted a skirt, something in red.

And my son really wanted a fast racing sled.

The list just kept going, I was beginning to tire,

But it was my fault that things were getting down to the wire.

Why are the holidays always like this?

What happened to having a merry Christmas?

Could there be more to this time of year?

Something with joy or real Christmas cheer?

“What if I’m missing something?” I thought to myself?

As I reached for a toy from off of the shelf.

My hand stopped in mid air as I continued to reason,

And I remembered something else regarding this season.

A story from church back when I was a child

Something about a virgin, who was tender and mild?

Then I saw something that made my heart skip a beat,

It was in my same aisle, just down a few feet.

A nativity scene was sitting next to a toy railroad track,

And then the whole story came flooding on back.

I remembered the virgin, whose name was Mary,

And the trip to Bethlehem that must have been scary.

No room in the inn so they stayed in a stable,

Like out of a nursery rhyme or a long ago fable.

When the baby was born, he did not have a bed,

So they placed him in a manger, where animals were fed.

As I stared at that nativity scene I remembered some more,

Some shepherds in fields with a sheepherding chore.

And an angel appeared in the middle of the night,

It must have been a frightening sight.

But the message was good and he spoke of joy,

And not the kind that comes from getting a toy.

He spoke of true joy and peace and of love,

Coming down to us from the heavens above.

A Savior was born in Bethlehem,

That is what the angel told unto them.

And I remembered also that some wise men arrived,

Could this story be true, or was it contrived?

And at that moment in the middle of the store,

I bent down and knelt right there on the floor.

I realized that the nativity scene at the end of my aisle,

Was not a coincidence, not by a mile.

God put it there so that I would recall,

That Christmas is not something you find in a mall.

He reminded me what Christmas is really about,

And now I just wanted to stand up and shout,

At the top of my lungs, with all of my might,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Christmas Carols – Minnesota Style!

Just for fun I thought I would put together a top 10 list of Minnesota versions of popular Christmas Carols.  You will probably recognize most of these songs, and if you live in Minnesota you will hopefully enjoy the little Minnesota twist.  Christmas is a time of joy, so I hope you enjoy this…

10) It’s Beginning to Lutefisk Like Christmas

9) Zygi Bells

8) We Wish You a Mauer Christmas

7) Brett Favre Got Run Over By a Reindeer

6) Deck the Halls with Bowls of Hotdish

5) O Come All Ye Lutherans

4) Rudolph the Red Nosed Viking

3) O Holey Metrodome

2) It’s the Most Uff Da Time of the Year

1) You Betcha! The Herald Angels Sing

State Fair

I went to my first Minnesota State Fair this past Saturday.  Actually, it was my first state fair from any state.  I have lived in 5 different states, and 8 different cities, and this is my first time to ever attend a state fair.  And I guess I picked the right one to go to for my first experience.  The Minnesota State Fair is the 2nd largest in the country.  And if the information booth attendants that I talked to are correct, then it is only a matter of time before we move to the top of the list.  Of course, they may be a little biased. 

Last year the Fair set a record with about 1.8 million people in attendance.  The daily attendance averages around the 150-200,000 range.  I find that staggering.  I also find it incredible that the fair has been around for 150 years.  A lady I know has gone to the fair every year of her 47 year old life.  My wife’s parents had their first date at the Minnesota State Fair.  And we have relatives that travel up each year from Chicago just to come to the fair for the weekend.  I guess it is kind of a big deal!

Anyway, I thought I would share with you a little bit of my thoughts on the fair itself.  We arrived at the fairgrounds at about 8:15 a.m.  Which is a great time to go by the way.  The crowd was very thin at that time and the temperature was perfect with a nice breeze to keep us cool.  This made it much more enjoyable to leisurely stroll through the grounds and enjoy the sites and sounds.  By the time we left at 2 p.m. we were encased in a sea of people and the sun and humidity combined to make the stroll much less enjoyable. 

So if you can handle the crowd, there is a lot to enjoy at the fair including: Minnesota’s largest pig, a wall filled with beautiful artwork done completely in seeds, a great international bazzaar with several unique booths, parades, star-studded shows, machinery hill, crazy contests, magic, music, education, agriculture, animals, rides, games, and of course more food than you could possibly ever eat.

And speaking of food, after seeing miles of booths, hanging out with more animals than were on the ark (okay maybe not quite that many), and wading through some of the biggest crowds I have ever seen; the thing that stuck out to me more than anything else was all the different foods you can put on a stick. 

If you go to the Minnesota State Fair website you can use the foodfinder to scroll through the information on all 316 food vendors that have booths at the fair.  When you do, you will find typical iconic fair foods like the corn dog, walking tacos,  gyros, footlong hot dogs, and mini-donuts.  You will also find unique and interesting gastronomic delights such as beignets, spamburgers, sticky bun burritos, texas tator dogs, and the pot roast sundae which is a scoop of mashed potatoes, roast beef, gravy, corn, and a cherry tomato.  But the most mind-numbing fad at the fair is the way that each vendor is trying to outdo everyone else in what flavors they can manage to fit on a stick.  This year’s offerings include: chocolate watermelon, macaroni n’ cheese, deep fried tator tots, cajun seasonsed alligator sausage, big fat bacon, ostrich, deep fried candy bars, pork cheeks, salmon, lobster, porcupine meatballs, sliced ice cream on-a-stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts, stuffed grape leaves, camel, deep fried bologna, hot dish (that’s right hot dish on a stick), deep fried smores, spaghetti and meatballs, dill pickles, mashed potatoes, and of course, Fudge Puppies (a Belgium waffle on-a-stick dipped in chocolate and topped with choices of whipped topping, crunch coating or strawberries). 

As far as the eye can see at the fair there are people walking around eating food on a stick.   Now, I understand the concept behind this fad.  It makes sense that you want to give people food that is mobile so that they can buy it and eat it while they walk.  But if that is true, can you explain to me why we need things like pizza, olives, and dill pickles to be on a stick?  Aren’t those foods already falling into the walking around category before you attempt to put them on a stick?  And while we are on the subject, does anyone really need a deep-fried candybar?  And how in the world do you put spaghetti and meatballs, or mashed potatoes on a stick?  And why do we need to?

I know it is all for fun and when you go to the fair, the outrageous and the extravagant foods are part of the attraction, but we also need to learn restraint.  One of the problems we face as a society is that we do things just because we can.  We struggle with restraint.  I will be talking this Sunday about the fruit of the Spirit.  Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Self-control isn’t easy, but God wants us to be able to exercise restraint.  We need to know when to say “when.”

So enjoy the fair, have fun, but also let the extravagance of the fair remind you of this lesson.  We don’t just do things just because we can.  At some point we need to learn to say, “when.”