August 2009

dad with us at lake

My Dad turned 65 yesterday.
He spent the day winning a national championship 10K race for his new age group.

His time was actually fast enough that he would have won his previous age group (60+).
Even more impressive.

A few years ago, my dad, who is a life-long runner, had some health issues that caused him to wonder if he would ever run again.
That makes the championship incredible.

Earlier this year, my dad had a health diagnosis that caused us to fear that he would not make it to this birthday.
This national 10K championship is simply unbelievable.

I have always been proud of my dad’s running abilities. Some of my earliest memories are racing him on a track, watching him at a race, and looking at his running trophies.

However, this latest victory showed much more than an ability to run fast for a long period of time. This win was about perseverance and overcoming obstacles. While my dad did not really control the progressionof his latest health challange, he did have the option of pressing forward into life or retreating in the face adversity. My dad chose to face the brokeness of the situation and make the most of the life in front of him.

I admire that courage – regardless of what place he finished in the race.

I only wonder when he will slow down enough so that I can beat him in a 10K.


Flag_of_the_United_States_(upside_down)A few weeks ago I had coffee and a great political conversation with a friend.

This friend and I happen to sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  As anticipated, we disagreed on a number of issues. We also learned from each other and found some common ground.

One thing we agreed upon: no one president (not Bush, not Obama) is able to ruin our country.

The US system has a number of safeguards that protect the nation.  While the role of the president is important and makes a difference, there are serious limits on what they can do. We have checks and balances between the branches of government. We have regular elections in which we vote for who we want to lead us.

So what will ruin America?

We will.
We the people. We are the nation. We are the government.

As much as I do not want to be an alarmist, I think that there are a few ways that “we the people” are damaging the nation.

Allowing Others to Manipulate our Hate, our Fear, and our Greed:There is a danger when we allow our emotions to cloud our thinking and dictate unhealthy behavior. There are powers at work who will gladly manipulate our emotions in order to control our thoughts and actions for their benefit, to the detriment of the nation.  

Unwillingness, or Inability, to have Honest, Thoughtful, and Civil Discussions:We are not excused from basic guidelines of human civility when we enter the realm of politics. Winning a political debate by volume, force, manipulation or deception will only make us a nation of losers.

Tribalism of the Left and the Right:We will not be able to work, or even converse, together if we only surround ourselves with people of the same political camp. There is little hope if we insist on using different news sources and reading different “research.” Minimizing and demonizing the other political camp will lead us all to ruin. 

So what should we do?

I think that it begins the same way that this post began. Get a friend who sits on the other end of the political spectrum.  Have a cup of coffee and a political conversation with them. Disagree with them, but learn from them and find some common ground.

Tristan LaughingTristan LaFave had been a Jesus follower for a few years. She was serving at a small church where she was also being mentored. She was living in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that she knew and loved.

Tristan sensed that God was calling here to something else, and she followed that calling. Tristan moved to the warm climate, rapid paced, urban metropolis of Milwaukee (Yes, everything is relative!). She took an internship working on the ministry staff of a suburban mega-church.

It would be safe to say that Tristan faced a significant learning curve. Things were even crazier than they appeared on the surface. The ministry that Tristan was serving in was in the middle of a major transition. They hired a new pastor to oversee the ministry while she was brand new, and boy was he a punk.

That new pastor was me (I am kind of a punk.), and I arrived when Tristan was just three months into her internship. A couple of weeks ago Tristan finished the second year of her internship. She is moving onto graduate school to train for a future ministry in counseling. I am so grateful that I was able to partner with Tristan for a couple of years. Here are a few of the many things that I appreciate about her.

Work Ethic: Tristan is the kind of person who makes sure that the job is done, and that it is done well. She does what it takes, even if that means working extra or doing things that she does not enjoy.

Pure Heart: Tristan consistently questions to make sure that things were right before God. She takes integrity seriously.

Compassion: Tristan cared deeply about people in our ministry. That desire to see people well has put her on track to a future in counseling.  

Fun: All of those things sound pretty heavy, but Tristan can also relax and have fun when the time is right!

Thanks for two great years T$! We are excited to see what is next for you!

millivanilliI loved Milli Vanilli when I was a kid. In fact, I did not care when I found out that the frontmen were not the people who really made the music. I never even mailed in that $1 lawsuit claim for all of us who had their album.

I recently saw a clip of Milli Vanilli on TV that got me thinking about a couple things. 

What was the public uproar around the Milli Vanilli scandal all about? What was it that left so many people feeling angry and betrayed? The problem was that the people claiming to be the artists who birthed and performed the music were not the actual artist who birthed and performed the music. There was a lack of integrity.

They claimed to be something that they were not.

That go me thinking about about those of us who claim to be Christians.  We talk a lot. We make a lot of big claims. We put on a good show. But how often do we do those things with integrity? How often do we just take statements born out of other people’s experiences and claim them as our own. How often do we make statements that do not line up with our actual life experiences?

I know that there is a danger of going too far in basing all of your belief on your personal experience. There is reality outside of our experience.

 However, if we claiming truths as our own without having any experiential knowledge, then we risk being religious Milli Vanilli.

When Jesus taught about knowing truth he placed it firmly in the context of relationship and experience.  Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Robyn & Jackson houAll of the recent talk about Health care Reform has gotten me to think about an experience that we had six years ago.

– Our newly found health insurance company dropped us, claiming that we had become pregnant before our start date.

– No other private health insurance company would take us on.  

– Our employer would not do anything to help us.

– We were not able to get another job that provided health insurance.

– There was no way for us to pay for the birth and prenatal care.

How is that for a high stress situation?

However, there was one other option for us. The state had a program that provided health insurance for low income mothers and infants for the pregnancy, birth and first year.

How is that for Pro-Life?

We initially resisted this option, but some friends pointed out that we had paid taxes into the system, the system was set up for emergencies like ours, and it really was the best option for our baby. We reluctantly enrolled.

How was our experience as clients of this state funded health insurance program?

1. The state did not interfere with our health care preferences.  After checking out a number of options for prenatal care Robyn was able to choose a holistic, cutting edge practice without even a question from the government.

2. The health care professionals were not limited by the state.There were some signifigant complications in the birth.  Our son was in rough shape. The hospital pulled out all of the stops to care for him. They were not limited by any budget set by the state.

3. We were able to choose best care available. Our son needed a major major eye surgeries in his first year of life. We were able to have a world renown specialist do the surgeries. They went very well.

Now I know that those experiences do not answer all of the questions in the current health care reform debate, but they do answer some of the concerns that have been raised. It is at least possible for a government to provide a top level health insurance.

We are on our fourth private health insurance company in the past five years. None of them come close to the quality of care that we had with the government plan. In fact, as I try to figure out how we can possibly afford to pay for a regular follow-up surgery for my son now that our “out of pocket maximum” more than tripled this year, I would love to be back on the state funded health insurance plan that we had six years ago.

Jim Robyn Vining

8 Years of Marriage

4 Zip Codes
17 Jobs
3 Fixer Uppers
4 Favorite Local Thai Restaurants
2 Favorite Local Coffee Shops
3 Favorite Local Ice Cream Shops
2 Cross Country Moves
4 Churches
4 Vehicles
6 Cameras
2 IPods
7 Computers
2 Coffee Makers
5 Blogs
1291 Facebook Friends
257 Mutual Facebook Friends
3 Conferences Attended Together
2 Degrees
26 Books Released by NT Wright
6 Of Those Books that We have Read
4 Coldplay Albums
3 U2 Albums
7 Mutual Favorite Shows
2 Surprising and Wonderful Children
Countless Diapers Changed
Countless Fun Family Adventures
Countless “Dates” to the Grocery Store
Not Enough Other Kinds of Dates

Happy Anniversary Robyn! I love you!
I think that the numbers have us about a tenth of the way through our married life.
Here is to the next 72 years together!