To the Teen Missions 2014 Dominican Republic Team

The following is a letter I sent to the Teen Mission International Dominican Republic Team, which my sister is on right now.

Dominica Team

You have no idea how much I am envying you all right now. I went on six teams from 1998-2003 and those are very fond memories for me. What most FTM’s won’t tell you is how they cried like a baby the first two nights at Boot Camp (which I did). Some of you are feeling very homesick and lonely right now. You are dreaming of the terrible things you will do to that person who convinced you to come to this evil place. They lied to you: telling you that this would be a great experience and that you would learn so much. 

Dominica, I’ve been there. I’ve been there many times. But take a moment and look forward to two months from now. Most of you will be standing in an airport terminal looking as one by one your team members walk away. You will never see most of them again. These people who shared a terrible and memorable experience with you will be gone. You will remember that homesick feeling you had in your chest from Boot Camp except you will now feel it for these precious people who are walking out of your life. 

Yes, Dominica, that will be you. 

You see, this painful, lonely, hot, mosquito-ridden, swamp will be a hinge point in your life. I cannot imagine my own life without Teen Missions. To this day I have difficulty explaining to people who have never gone what Teen Missions did for me. On the France Team in 1998 I learned some very painful and terrible things about Chip Gruver. I learned that I am not a good person and God is not lucky to have me. The irony of the situation is that once I knew I was a lazy, immature, foolish, and desperate little boy, I was ready to accept what Jesus did for me as a precious gift. God loved me while I was that bratty child. 

Don’t be discouraged Dominica. You have some very painful challenges in front of you as a team and as individuals. Those dark moments will hurt, badly. Please hear it from someone who has been there, it will be worth it. This is a precious time. As much as you can, savor it. One day you will be sitting in an office in Minnesota, looking at images of Boot Camp on Facebook, and you will wish you could go back.

So, keep you hands up at the wall, keep an extra pair of dry socks in your backpack, drink plenty of water, and cherish this time. This is the adventure of a lifetime and you are getting to do this as a teenager. You are privileged to be where you are. One day it will feel like a privilege.

I’m rooting for you all.


-Chip Gruver

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To the Mole in My Backyard

moleDear Mole,

I was cleaning my yard yesterday and I noted an unwelcome sight. On the northern side of my yard, beside the fence, there are two mounds of soft brown earth. Clearly you have been working your nefarious deeds in my yard.

Now I understand you selecting me as your target. You clearly have done your research and have been looking for a weak target for your subterranean exploits. You scouted for a homeowner who lacks the skill, wisdom, or desire to stop you. Well you found him. I do lack the strength or desire to drive you from the northeastern corner of my property. You may feel you have won even before you started.

A mole of your obvious skill and foresight should also be aware that while I lack the ability to kill you or starve you out of my yard, that does not mean I am helpless. You must respect what careful planning and a well selected attack can do. Of all creatures, you must respect that.

So consider this letter the first volley in a war that you cannot hope to win. I may not be able to drive you from my yard, but I can make you the most infamous mole in history. My strengths do not lie in a passion for my yard, but in the power of the written word.

Imagine this for a moment. You arrive at one of your mole parties where you eat grubs and discuss the yards you have conquered. As you look around the room, you see many moles turning their backs on you. After they heard that rumor that you had made friends with a cat and may have been using the cat to eliminate your enemies, you may be less popular. Soon mole fathers won’t want you dating their daughters. You will be isolated from every mole in the area.

Sure, you can pretend you are a loner who does not need the company of another mole, but I know you better. Your little rodent heart quakes at the thought of my great rhetorical powers being expended on you. You know that every mole in a yard with wifi will be following this blog, wondering if these creepy rumors about you are true.

Speaking of rumors, I heard that you once turned on a waterhose and flooded the hole of another mole who offended you.

You see how easy it is for me. You see how all I have to do is suggest you did it and you must then spend hours and days telling your version of event. It sounds messy. What if there were a more equitable solutions?

I would be willing to keep all of your indiscretions to myself if you would simply leave my yard alone. That’s it. Just move your furry rodent butt out of my yard and we can go on with our lives. Understandably, you thought my yard was easy pickings. Now that you see the cost, I’m sure you can find someone else’s yard to dig your filthy tunnels in.

Thank you in advance for accepting this offer. I think you are a wise mole to bring your little dirty mounds somewhere else.

Respectfully,

-Chip

Photo by J Marsh and used with permission

Learn to Babysit Your Kids

613px-Father_with_childGuys, I’m talking to you.

Take a look at your wife. She is the lady you chose to spend your life with. Your soul-mate. The love of your life. The apple of your eye. You chose her to be the mother of your children. Your companion through thick and thin.

Now I know she is hard to understand sometimes. She wants to talk a lot about feelings and relationships. She is not quite happy with that thing you “fixed” last weekend. I know it’s functional, but she wanted it to look better than that.

At times, it can be difficult to know how to please her. She seems to want “time with you” and “your attention.” You spend lots of time with her. You can listen while playing Angry Birds, really you can! But she doesn’t see it that way. There is something mysterious about that femininity that pervades her. The movies make it out to be mysterious and seductive. It really is just odd. Why can’t she be more like a guy?

I don’t have all the solutions for you. I too am perplexed by my own wife. She is so pretty, so smart, and yet so very dedicated to the concept of sweeping the kitchen every single night. I don’t get it either.

But one complaint that the ladies have about us is legitimate. There are a lot of well-educated, competent men out there that cannot watch their children alone. How can this be? How can professional, organized men not be able to manage the adorable cooing poop factories they call their children.

To be honest, I really identify with the difficulty men have watching kids. They are complicated. It involves a lot of know-how from how to change a diaper to remembering when bedtime is and knowing how warm the bottle should be. There are actually a lot of skills to know to keep a little human alive.

In addition, there is the pressure. You can feel your mother watching with disapproval as you wash that baby’s bottom off in the bathroom sink. You know there are wipes, but you can’t figure out where they are. You are sure that if your wife, mother, friend, coworker, neighbor, mayor, mailman, evil twin, or dog catcher ever found out about this, you would be humiliated. The myth you believe is that they did it any better the first time.

To top it off, you wife seems to think that house should not be a trash heap when she returns. Seriously, where does she come up with all these expectations. Watching kids AND keeping the house clea…well…not filthy.

But in reality, every struggle you face in caring for you kids at home is one your wife is facing too. Have compassion on that poor woman and learn to take care of your kids by yourself. Ask your wife what you will need and talk with another guy who knows what he is doing with his own kids. Your wife needs you to be able to independently care for your children in such a way that they will not need therapy later.

You can do this dad.

-Chip

P.S. Get one of those removable shower heads for your bath. It makes life a lot easier. You won’t have to use the sink to wash them off anymore.

Photo by Barbara Murdter and is used with Creative Commons Permission.

Sex, Lies, and Star Trek (Reblog)

This article by Cap Stewart is part of the inspiration for my article The Requiem For a Dream Problem. It is quite thought-provoking. Enjoy!

I confess, I’m something of a Trekkie. I’ve been looking forward to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness more than any other movie this year. While reading a few content reviews, though, I came across a snag. The film contains a scene in which a woman changes clothes after asking her male companion to turn his back to her—obviously for the sake of decency. After feigning compliance, the man sneaks a peek. So does the camera, giving the audience an unobstructed view of this woman in a state of undress.

Here’s what I have decided: I cannot financially support this movie. Why? Because I want to grow in my ability to honor God and love that actress.

In James 1:27, which I recently wrote about, we are told, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James gives the two distinctive fruits that grow from the root of genuine Christianity: love and holiness. Followers of Christ should exemplify these traits when interacting with the world—including the realm of entertainment.

Holiness

Let’s talk about holiness first. Believers have grown to ignore, accept, or even endorse tantalizing sexuality in films. Based on the lax standards of Christian moviegoers, an unbeliever might conclude that the Bible takes no clear stance on immodesty and nudity. But God is far from silent on these issues.

Scripture associates public nudity with shame (Gen. 3:7; Isa. 47:3; Nah. 3:5; Rev. 3:18). Because of this, God Himself provided clothes for Adam and Eve after the Fall (Gen. 3:21). Job made a covenant with his eyes so that he would not look lustfully at women (Job 31:1). David fell into adultery by seeing a naked woman, even though it was in a “nonsexual” situation (2 Sam. 11:2-4). Jesus refers to a wandering eye as adultery worthy of hell (Matt. 5:27-30). In using the human body as a metaphor for the church, Paul describes it as having “unpresentable parts” that require “greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). Whether sexual or nonsexual, nakedness outside of marriage is shameful.

Countless Christians deny that movies with nudity and/or sex scenes affect them. But as Doug Wilson has pointed out in Reforming Marriage, such denials come from two types of men. The first man is a liar; he is either attempting to fool himself or someone else—and probably both. The second kind of man is telling the truth, but only because he “is so deadened in his conscience that it would take a lot more than that to get him going.”

When Noah became naked in a drunken stupor (Gen. 9:20-27), his son Ham took the situation lightly and told his two brothers about it. Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, treated their father with respect and covered his nakedness without looking at him themselves. This story shows that, even if it is possible to encounter nudity without being aroused, it still cannot be considered a legitimate form of entertainment.

See the rest of the article by clicking here to go to Cap’s blog

Ten Observations of a Visitor to Tallahassee

Florida State University - Talahassee, FL.It is not often I travel these days. With a small army of young children and a full life in Minnesota, I don’t get out of the state much. Over the past week I did make one of those rare excursions into the wide world when I traveled to Tallahassee, FL to visit my sister. Usually I see a city and it leaves no impression on me, certainly not enough to be worth a blog post. Tallahassee is different. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my top ten observations about the mighty capital of Florida.

10. The Beautiful People

One does not need to be in Tallahassee long to realize that is full of lovely people. Through some combination of wealth, genetics, skin care, hair and nail treatments, gym memberships, and surgery the people of Tallahassee are an attractive lot. I’m sure having Florida State University there doesn’t hurt, but it is more than that. I began to wonder if I, as a gentleman of modest appearance, was going to be whisked away by the looks police and told I can’t go back into the city. Maybe being with my attractive sister protected me. I shall never know.

9. The Protesters at the Capitol

Throughout my stay there I drove by the Florida Capitol Building several times. It is a stately structure that represents well the people of Florida. In front of the capital, as is there right in a free society, were protesters. This is well and good for a people who possess free speech and use it. The only problem with these protesters is that after driving by several times, I still don’t know what they were protesting.

What was observable is that they were angry, wearing white shirts, and had signs that did not tell me what they were angry about. Not only that, these generic signs made such a firm impression on me that I can’t remember what a single one of them said. So if you are planning to protest in Florida or anywhere, please make sure I as a passerby can know what you are protesting.

8. Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery

There is a quaint pink building on Thomasville Road with a cute little sign that says Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery. Inside you will find a green entryway with an artsy appearance and a few tables that have some of Tallahassee’s beautiful people sitting in them.

The counter on your left is where the good stuff starts. Cupcakes! Lots of delicious and lovely cupcakes. I had the Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake and I must say it was delicious. At $2.75, this is well worth a visit

7. Gameday Chic

At the back of Lucy and Leo’s there is a cute little clothing and fashion shop called Gameday Chic (pronounced Sheek not Chick). Normally I not go into such an establishment as it is fashion related and I am actually a living Neanderthal. They don’t make good clothing for hominids with sloped foreheads like me.

This one has a special appeal to me because my sister owns it. I must say it is a cute little shop and I enjoyed looking around. If you should ever visit, check out the manikin in the back left corner by the dressing room. That one was my idea. My one and only business acumen.

6. The FSU Seminoles

One of the strange things about universities is how obsessed they get with their team names and colors. My own alma mater, The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is awash with orange and white at all times. We even shout about being the Tennessee Volunteers despite the fact that I don’t think we are particularly good at volunteering for anything.

FSU (that is Florida State University) is no exception. They are bombarded and bombarding their world with how much they are Seminoles despite the fact that the university has only a nominal connection with the tribe itself. As an outsider, it was both amusing and strange to see all of the Native American based apparel and colors with little or no real connections to a Native American heritage.

5. The University Center Club

On the FSU Campus there is a prominent brick building (or I should say there are many prominent brick buildings) called The University Center Club. It has large meeting rooms and is rented out for various meetings and parties. I had the privilege of attending such a party with my sister and other family members. The occasion was Tallahassee’s Top Salon competition which my sister’s salon had been nominated for.

The decor is the classic southern pillars that I have been used to seeing since I was a child but never at this scale. We were in a large rectangular room that was dimly lit. Being with some of the most beautiful of the beautiful people of Tallahassee, we also got to see them becoming increasingly inebriated as the evening progressed.

Overall the evening was enjoyable and memorable. Unfortunately, Kiersten Smith Hair and Beauty didn’t win.

4. Unconquered?

Outside The University Center Club there is a large statue of a horse-mounted Seminole with a spear prominently brandished. It is a striking sculpture that really creates a sense of awe. Below that there is a single word inscribed in the base.

UNCONQUERED

Now this fits very well with the statue and with the school’s aforementioned obsession with the Seminole people. But the more I thought about it, I have come to believe that it is a liability.

As many of you know, FSU was the National Champion this year in college football so the inscription is actually quite fitting. They were, in fact, unconquered. It struck me that this is one of the very few times in FSU history that the inscription was actually true.

So imagine another year where they are repeatedly and severely beaten in any sport. The opposing team needs to simply pull their bus in front of that statue and allow the banal college humor to roll. While the moment I saw engraving was profound in its appropriateness, it must spend the vast majority of its time being humorously inappropriate.

3. The Roads

Tallahassee has many things going for it. It’s roads are not one of the them.

The road system in Tallahassee sucks. It is difficult to get your bearings and once you do, you will find you are going the wrong way on a one way street. If you would like to find out for yourself, try visiting the intersection between Thomasville Rd, N. Meridian Rd, and E. 7th Ave. If you are on Thomasville then you will pass by with no trouble. If you are on any of the other roads, Heaven help you. There is a special magic to this intersection that it reads your intended destination and somehow blocks you from going there.

The confusing nature of the roads can only be aggravated by the angry intensity of the other drivers. I think Tallahasseeans drink road rage with their breakfast. I had more people riding my bumper and blasting their horn than in any other city. One look at the complex streets and the MN plate on my car should have helped them to see my desperate plight. But no, better to hit the horn and give me the finger.

2. Meridian Road

Amidst this mess of one-way streets and angry drivers, there is a single and profoundly beautiful road. North Meridian Road is a straight drive of several miles with beautiful trees and spanish moss overhanging. In the full sunlight of north Florida it creates a lovely shaded ride that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area. Just don’t look in your rearview mirror because there will be someone riding your bumper and likely scowling at you.

1. Kiersten Smith

Let’s face it, I would never have visited Tallahassee except that my adorable and lovely sister lives there. What is Tallahassee’s greatest draw? Why Kiersten of course! Even though you may not be related to her, I would recommend getting a haircut from her and visiting Gameday Chic. She is a delightful person and, if you ask, I’m sure she can find a good look for you.

So, for all my adventures in Tallahassee, I had a good time. It is a city worth visiting. So go there, bring your GPS, have a cupcake, get a haircut, and take a cruise down Meridian Road.

That’s what I did.

-Chip

Groundhog Day Predictions!

Punxsutawney Phil Makes Annual Forecast On Groundhog DayAs many of you know from my previous post, I follow the groundhog with religious devotion. So I thought I would update you with the results of the groundhog predictions this year.

Punxsutawney Phil say there will be six more weeks of Winter. I feel sorry for those on Pennsylvania, but only a little bit. We in Minnesota can expect ten more weeks of Winter.

General Beauregard Lee has predicted an early Spring for the good people of Georgia. We’re happy for you….

Buckeye Chuck has predicted an early Spring for Ohio which creates some forecasting difficulties as it is unlikely Ohio and Pennsylvania will have a very different Spring. In these cases, I always go with Punxsutawney Phil.

Wiarton Willie predicts six more weeks of Winter for Canada. This is to be expected. It is Canada.

But the biggest news of the day is with Staten Island Chuck. The New York Mayor’s office has had a tense relationship with Chuck since 2009 when he bit Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Many groundhog followers were hoping for a new day with Mayor Bill de Blasio taking office. Unfortunately, after some conciliatory remarks from Mayor de Blasio, Staten Island Chuck jumped from his hands twice. It was hoped that some bridges could be mended between the groundhog and the New York City government, but things appear to remain tense.

Staten Island Chuck predicts six more weeks of Winter, possibly out of spite.

On a personal note, our Groundhog Day celebrations have gone off without a hitch. Uncle Larry is pacified by General Lee predicting an early Spring so he is much less likely to pick a fight.

So Happy Groundhog Day. I will leave you with a video of Staten Island Chuck jumping from Mayor de Blasio’s hands.

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-Chip

My Challenge to Older Men

old-man-talking-to-two-young-boysNever have generations been so different.

The older generation grew up in the depression and in the 1950s. They are hard working and frugal. They grew up in churches and were mystified by the sexual revolution. They were stunned when the cultural changes of their children came.

Most of them relied on the stable institutions of culture to reign in the exuberant change among their children and grandchildren. But, unlike in generations past, the change didn’t slow, it accelerated. With growing knowledge and technology we became both smarter and more foolish. My generation rejected the wisdom of the past. We didn’t need it, we didn’t want it.

Many institutions that tied older and younger men together were crumbling. With increased travel, grandchildren were further separated from their grandparents. The dinner table because less important. In churches, Sunday School separated into grades which further isolated generations from each other. With the advent of the internet, my generation became one of the most isolated in history.

In our foolishness, we not only became isolated, we celebrated it. We pretended that our Guild Leader in World of Warcraft was our friend. We lied to ourselves by saying we have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook. By only becoming close with people of our own generation. We pooled our ignorance and have become idiots in everyone’s eyes except our own.

Older men, that’s why we need you.

We don’t know how foolish we are but we do know how lost we feel. We need you to bridge that gap.

I know I am asking something extraordinary of you. The differences between the generations is so significant that it is more like crossing cultures than crossing the street. Despite the barriers, it is so important to serve the young men who aren’t in your churches. They are the leaders of tomorrow and they are the least likely humans to be in a church.

The current and coming crisis of your men is heartbreaking. My generation of men are a mess. They are terrible fathers, husband, friends, and lovers of God. While I am part of them and suffer from many of the same weaknesses they do, I am often exhausted to see the rampant foolishness they have.

We as a church need to ask the older men to sacrifice their preferences to serve the lost generation of young men. We desperately need those stately old men to engage with younger men and challenge them to better things. One of the great sins of the older generation is that they have not worked to bridge the gap to us younger men.

We need you.

One day there won’t be any of you older men left. You will have died and my generation will be the ones left to guide the ones after us.

God help us all.

We are not prepared for this. I’m begging you older men to reach down to us younger men and guide us. We are a generation of runaways who don’t like to be pushed or challenged. It will require extraordinary patience on your part to chase, encourage, correct, and love us. We are not so different than you.

Think about it, when you were young, you were foolish and stupid, just like us. What if no men had helped and supported you in that time. Where would you be now? We have grown up without fathers to show us the way. We need you older men to invest in us.

So, to the older men. Please love us enough to get past our smart phones and video games. We are crying out for someone to show us the way. We are lost and need guides. The choice is yours. You can abandon us or you can love us enough to break down the barriers we have put up.

Please choose to love us.

-Chip