Category Archives: Events

Beautiful Birthday Bash

On Friday we celebrated Kathy’s birthday.

Some people are born on the 29th of February, and can only truly celebrate their birthday once every four years. I once worked at a chemical company with a 9-year-old computer programmer who had held that job for more than 12 years.

Others are born near Christmas, or their birthdays are overshadowed by some other major event or occasion — some of them eke out unhappy lives plaintively wishing that someone would celebrate them.

Not so in this family. Birthdays are a big deal for us all, led by Kathy’s passion for celebration — a typical birthday includes massive decorations (Kathy routinely stays up past 2 am hanging streamers & signs), breakfast in bed, an elaborate party, an avalanche of presents, and immunity from all regular work or school for at least the actual birth day itself. When we eat the cake, we always sing “Happy Birthday” and blow out the candles twice (once is never quite enough).

Kathy holds to this philosophy with regard to her own birthday, as well. So it begins in early June, with not-so-subtle hints about how it will “soon be my birthday”. Excitement typically builds to a fever pitch a day or two before her birthday, tapering off a week or so later. Eventually the festivities fade to whatever passes for normalcy in this household around the end of the month, just in time for Kathy’s brother Thom’s birthday.

Two years ago, disaster struck. In all other ways, it was a very good day, but with regard to birthdays, it was terrible: our daughter Sarah had the unmitigated nerve to be born on the 16th of July, the same day as Kathy! We begged and pleaded with the hospital staff to forge the birth certificates, but they took refuge in some legal technicality and refused, point-blank. (Too bad I didn’t have this blog back in those days — I could have traded on my influence by threatening to negatively expose them to my vast readership.)

Last year wasn’t too bad — Sarah was contented with the traditional piece of chocolate cake, and preferred the wrapping paper anyway. But this year the relentless creep of her individuality made itself felt — Kathy had to actually share her birthday.

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The older kids tried to make it up to her. Joshua organized the breakfast-in-bed committee, and Rachel covered the kitchen in crepe-paper streamers. Daniel served as the “right-hand man” and (like many who have served in that capacity) it was not entirely clear how he contributed. They all conspired with a neighbor to purchase presents in advance, and wrapped them the night before, secreting them away in Joshua’s room. It isn’t every mom that can have fresh fruit, chocolate milk and blueberry waffles served to them in bed at 8:20 am. Following the breakfast, they wheeled in the kid’s video player and watched an episode of “Little House on the Prairie”.

I made reservations at a Thai restaurant for that evening, and met Kathy & four friends for dinner there, while Annjanette and Sierra graciously babysat for the entire tribe (our five plus three Burt children). Kathy really seemed to enjoy the time with these dear friends — gifts were presented, pictures were taken and we went for a walk along the Poulsbo waterfront at sunset.

But all the time, it was there in our minds — Kathy is really sharing this birthday with our youngest little girl. When we got home, all the kids pretended to have fallen asleep draped around the living room (even the babysitters) — Kathy and I were completely duped and tiptoed around wondering what to do! It was a good joke, and a fun ending to the day (especially when the babysitters refused to accept payment)!

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On Saturday we opened presents, pretty much all day. Since I had not managed to wrap anything in advance, each gift required a trip to the wrapping station I had assembled on the deck — I am a very slow wrapper. We tried to give Kathy a “not in charge” day, but with five kids, a lot of the parenting splashed on her anyway. It was a very pretty day; certainly the Olympic Peninsula cannot be accused of failing to produce weather fitting the honor of Kathy’s special day. I tried to have the kids come to me rather than bothering Kathy, and Joshua graciously made lunch for everyone — we did manage to give her some time off. Typically, she couldn’t stand to be left out of things, and followed us around, even when we were all out on the deck trying to give her a break. I even changed a diaper or two — a chore I have pretty much abdicated ever since I started my job in Seattle.

I did have one ‘coup’ — Kathy had asked for a new cordless phone, and it occurred to me to give both my birthday girls a new phone. Sarah’s phone was a big hit — the phone allows me to record a message that she can listen to when I’m away at work. Sarah hardly puts it down and pretty much all the kids have thoroughly enjoyed it — a well-spent $7.

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For some reason, Sarah got the idea that it was my birthday. Each time a gift was opened (most of them were for Kathy), she would gently take it from her Momma and bring it to me for approval. I got a good chuckle out of this; perhaps a little too much — but I found it very amusing in a sort of ironic way.

Kathy hates for her birthday to end; this year I’m a bit more clever than usual. Instead of paying extra shipping charges to ensure that all her gifts arrived on time, I deliberately ordered them with the cheapest shipping modes, so that some will be late in coming. I’m expecting several gifts throughout the week, and (with my sloth-like wrapping speed) I expect to parlay this birthday out for another 8 or 10 days at least.

I don’t know what the future will hold — can Kathy and Sarah work through this whole birthday conflict, without a lot of bloodshed or expensive therapy? Maybe one of them can shift to another day (or week, or month?) but it is hard to see how it will work out. I guess each day has enough trouble for itself — we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, Sarah thinks that she got a square deal, and we just have another two weeks or so of Kathy’s birthday celebration. We haven’t yet made a cake, so we can probably spin that into a couple of days, if only to clean up the mess.

Some people might think that this is a little excessive. “She’s a grown woman”, they might exclaim — “Why is she carrying on as though her birthday is such a big deal?” But we know that merely conceals their secret envy. How many of us ever got enough celebration as children or adults? One of the really special things about my Kathy is the joy and fun that she brings into even the most commonplace of household rituals. If that means we spend the month of July singing “Happy Birthday”, then it is well worth the effort.

It’s true, though — the party hats and noisemakers do start to get a little shabby, after the third week of parties.

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Martin the Warrior

In a moment of inexplicable weakness, Kathy and I relented on our “No Pets” policy. Admittedly, Rachel wore us down, week after week and month after month, wailing about how much she wanted a kitten. When I saw that Kathy was starting to weaken, I knew I needed to act.


Don’t get me wrong. I like kittens … indeed, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t (even my neighbor, who pretends to hate them). The problem with kittens is that they grow up to be cats. Some would say that about children, with a few notable exceptions. Let’s face it … a full-grown cat (or human) is substantially less charming than its younger counterpart.

But actually, I like cats. I’ve never been owned by one, but I enjoy their simple-minded ferocity and unabashed selfishness. I know how to handle cats and they usually enjoy my company, if only because I once worked at a seafood retailer. Many people aspire to be like cats … taking what the world offers without concern for anyone else’s rights and giving only when it suits them.

My wife is a bit on the jumpy side. I am constantly startling her by simply walking into a room. I knew from the outset that a small prowling feline in the house was a bad idea. With the stress of five young children and a rather weird husband, I often worry that Kathy is ‘on the edge’. I really don’t think we need a cat around the house to push her over that edge and into residence at the “Whispering Pines Home for Nervous Moms”.

Rachel loves all animals, almost without exception. As neighbor after neighbor capitulated to the onslaught of pet acquisition, I knew we needed to take some kind of action. “I’d even take an Ant Farm!” cried Rachel in a pitiful, quavering tone.

One of the things I dread is the long period of time after the novelty of a pet has worn off but before the pet moves on to their eternal reward. For many pets, this period occupies 98% of their lives; I was determined to find an animal which would be short-lived. Cats, I am told, can live to be more than 14 years old (although not, I later heard, on the Duckabush). The prospect of buying a kitten for Rachel was overshadowed by the likely ten-year period in which the cat was no longer appreciated by the children yet hung around the house, shedding fur and expecting a free handout.

Enter Martin. Here he stands, a juvenile Guinea Pig with a life expectancy of 3-8 years (considerably less, if he bites Daniel again).

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We picked him up at the Pet Smart store in Silverdale, along with $130 in accessories (who knew a Guinea Pig needed accessories?). He is installed in a cage in the living room and seems content as long as he gets out from time to time. He likes watermelon and most leafy greens … he’ll eat as many clover stalks as the kids can harvest.

Given the opportunity, he will hide under or behind furniture (not surprising in a rodent). He is surprisingly timid with respect to strange surfaces … he will often remain completely still when placed on something with unusual texture. He won’t jump down from anything higher than about 5″ — not much of a mountaineer, our Martin. Lately I have taken to putting him on the Jungle Climber … being plastic, it is easy to clean if he decides to relieve himself. We have learned not to let him burrow into my shoes — it is very hard to get him out!


He seems to enjoy being held and is particularly fond of Rachel … they both know how to wrinkle their noses in a similar manner. Martin and I have an understanding: he doesn’t bite me and I don’t stake him in the forest as bait for cougars. This is a hardship for Martin, since Guinea Pigs experience the world in terms of Moh’s scale of hardness, as measured against their teeth. I suspect that in Guinea Pig society, a gentle nip is like a handshake; I’m sure he feels regularly snubbed by our failure to bite him.

Already it seems as though his novelty is wearing off (although Sarah still squeals with delight whenever we take him out). Within a few more weeks, Kathy will have become the proud owner of a Guinea Pig, as the attention of the children moves on. Strangely, though, I am quite fond of him … he has grown into his name and into being, in a small rodent-ish way, a member of the family. Each morning when I leave, he is the only one awake to see me off; in the evenings, he is usually still bustling around his cage when I go to bed.

Truth is, I always wanted a Guinea Pig. I like the idea of a docile, contented rodent affectionately nosing about the corners of the room. Admittedly, now that I own the house, I’m a little more worried about pets being house-broken than I was when I was growing up. But there is something amazing about rubbing shoulders (or ankles) with an animal … it must have been very cool to live in the Garden of Eden.

I’ve always suspected that the references in the Scripture to the “lion lying down with the lamb” are more than allegorical. I guess we’ll have to go there to find out … as I often say, “This would be a GREAT day for Jesus to return!”

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A Birthday Party

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Today we celebrated Daniel’s 7th birthday. We’re almost a month late! Oh dear! The weeks do slip by. Daniel’s birthday fell two days after we returned from Michigan. That weekend Joshua and I were away at a homeschooling conference. The next weekend the little ones were sick (not a good recipe for a party). The following Saturday the neighbors, who make up 3 of the party’s guests, were out of town. We couldn’t have a party without them!

Thankfully, while we were in Michigan we had a party for Daniel. So, although his big party was delayed, he hasn’t been suffering. The neighbor children were here in force this morning and made up a goodly crowd, as you can see by the picture. A friend stopped by with his grandson who was thrilled to find a party going on. Ha! He joined right in.

In a delightful turn of weather the sun was out for the entire length of the party. At the close of our Edgren Lego Island party the rain began and continued for the rest of the day. I love birthday parties and somehow have managed to share the enthusiasm with the older children. Joshua planned the entire party, helped me with invitations. organized the games and then proceeded to implement them. Yay! Rachel handled the decorations. She made posters and signs and hung an assortment of streamers. It’s fun (and touching) to see the children take on (and copy) some of the party traditions I began with them. Joshua even made the cakes (with some help from David and Sarah).

Here is a picture of my devoted Cake Bakers:

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It’s wonderful to see the children work together, especially when the older ones show patience and kindness to their younger siblings. David loved working with Joshua on the birthday cake so when I asked Joshua to make cookies for a neighbor he quickly asked if he could go and get David to help him. They had a great time creaming the butter and sugars, mixing the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and so on. Finally it was time to combine the wet and dry ingredients. I helped David add in the flour mixture and then in a moment of complete insanity told him to turn on the Kitchen Aid. Aieeee! He flipped the switch on and flour and sugar went everywhere! I rushed and turned it off but not before a mess covered the counter and other appliances. Joshua, David and I stood there in a moment of silence. Finally David looked at me, with his adorable blond hair, brown eyes and irresistable three year old face and said,

“That was too hard!”

Joshua and I burst out laughing. Ah, the joys of cooking with children.

Here’s a picture of the Lego Birthday Cake. I don’t have a picture of the ill fated chocolate chip cookies. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they were DELICIOUS even with a little bit of missing flour, salt and baking soda. :)

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Happy Birthday Daniel!! We love you and are so glad God placed you in our family.


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Honoring an Expert Builder


I recently had the delightful privilege of attending the 25th anniversary celebration of Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Canton, Michigan. Pastored from its inception by my father-in-law, Reverend Bill Moore, the church was founded in 1979 and has enjoyed tremendous blessings from God of growth and ministry throughout the past quarter-century.

As a special treat for my wife’s parents, the celebration committee flew my entire family in from Washington (all seven of us), housed us lavishly at a nearby hotel, and whisked us out from a storage closet at the proper moment in the program. It was a glorious surprise, especially considering how many people were “in the know” — Kathy’s parents were overjoyed.

The congregation was unstinting in their enthusiastic desire to heap honors on Pastor Moore and Cindy — indeed, they presented them with a series of gifts and accolades that awoke a deep sense of “holy envy” in my heart. As I considered the ministry of that church over the past 25 years and all the spiritual “bricks” that built it, I was filled with a yearning that my life would be shown to have produced this kind of eternal fruit.

What are the bricks that make up a church? I’m not talking about the physical building, or even the individual members that exercise their spiritual gifts during a particular time slice in the life of a church. I’m referring to an N-dimensional church — one that occupies the usual three physical dimensions to be sure, but that extends across time and a number of spiritual dimensions as well.

Imagine a church that is measured in “length” in Biblical teaching, perhaps in “width” in fellowship; “tall” in terms of evangelical outreach. Viewing the slideshow of pictures assembled from the last 25 years, I was struck, even stunned, by the large number of lives that have been dramatically changed by the ministry of this church. Marriages saved, relationships restored, griefs comforted, families bound together. Men and women, boys and girls have found meaning, freedom and purpose in an intimate relationship with their Creator.

I think that a church, at least a thriving church, has a distinct vision or driving purpose specific to that particular body of Christ. It will possess a continuous history and often a connection to a larger organization. It may have scars and blemishes. Some churches acquire a disfiguring handicap that can transcend a particular time or membership and stunts growth for generations. Others develop policy and procedural “muscles” that help it to remain vital and to avoid falling into error or apathy.

One of the tributes for Pastor Moore involved a skit along the lines of “what if Bill Moore had not been our pastor?” The parodied Pastor Howitzer and his “my-way-or-the-highway” organizational philosophy threw Bill’s gentle style into sharp relief. Here Howitzer displays the organizational chart for his “Church of the Army of God”:


A few minutes later, the spoof pastor has his secretary do pushups for failing to remember creamer in a cup of coffee — it really helped me to reflect (by dramatic contrast) on the type of influence that this particular pastor has had on this particular church, through patience, peace and kindness.


I fear that if I were a pastor, I would tend toward the Howitzer model, particularly the camouflage vestments. This could be one among many reasons why God has not called me to be a pastor. :)

In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”

In my mind’s eye, I can picture Pastor Moore walking around the construction site with a set of plans, correcting a crooked wall here, arguing about windows with a foreman there, bringing cold soda-pop to a group of roofers in the hot sun, talking on the phone with material suppliers and generally overseeing the construction of God’s church over the years.

I think of my own life, and the things that I have built and am building that have eternal value. How much hay and straw and wood am I using in my day-to-day activities, as I serve my church, raise my children, build my business? And where can I lay my hands on some gold, silver, or costly stones?

It seems evident that my father-in-law, along with many others, has built with gold, silver and costly stones. Trinity EPC is a vibrant church with a large number of members actively using their spiritual gifts in the ministry of the church. Truly it is an honor and a privilege to be a part of God’s work and to see the result of our labors become so much larger than the sum of individual contributions.

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The Passion

Photo courtesy of Aztlan Communications Network

Under a certain amount of duress, I drove with Kathy to Tacoma to see The Passion today, while my Mom watched the kids. Receiving free tickets, and even being chauffered to the movie theater by my Dad, it was all accomplished with very little inconvenience or pain to me. Except, perhaps, the pain of watching.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought the movie was very well done, extremely effective and reasonably true to the Biblical accounts of the Gospels. I found the scriptural quotations to be well-chosen and believe the overall presentation was closely representative of the actual event. But it was a difficult and draining experience to view the portrayal of Jesus’ agony up to the moment of his death, in such graphic detail.

I’m glad that I went, for some values of ‘glad’.

(This is a programmer joke — 2+2=5 for some values of 2 and 5. Admittedly, not a very funny joke, but, hey, I’m a programmer, not a comedian.)

What I mean is that I felt responsible to see the movie and I’m proud that I went through with it, but it did not, technically, make me ‘glad’. I went to see it because I think for the next month or two it will be one of the most effective ways to engage a non-believer in a discussion about Jesus; indeed, I tried it out on a WalMart checkout clerk on the way home and found the conversation to be very easy and natural.

My wife says that I am too negative in this posting and that I fail to inspire my potential reader to rush out and see The Passion. Perhaps so. Frankly, to quote an obscure line from “Knight’s Tale”, going to this movie is “something each man must decide for himself.” I will probably not allow my children to see this movie, but I would encourage my brother to do so, if he hasn’t already. If you love God, seeing this movie will probably deepen your understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made as He died in your place. If you don’t love God, and you reject His Son, then going to this movie may not help you particularly, unless the Holy Spirit uses it to touch your heart and change your mind.

I was very moved by the scene in which Mary manages to connect with Jesus as he makes his way along the Via Dolorosa. Rather than speak of his suffering, or even express his love for her, the actor playing Jesus says, “See, I am making all things new!” (As far as I know, Jesus does not actually say this until quoted in Revelation 21:5.) Gibson communicates Jesus’ sense of purpose and submission to God’s plan very accurately, using flashback scenes to carefully underscore the fact that Jesus gave up His life; it was not taken from Him. Even as His mangled body is crushed beneath the weight of the cross, Jesus’ unswerving commitment to fulfilling the will of the Father blazes forth in this majestic moment.

There was nothing in the movie that surprised me, particularly, except a few ‘jump’ scenes (as when Jesus stomps on the snake’s head or when a Roman soldier knocks an offered cup of water out of a woman’s hand). I’ve seen the Puyallup Passion Play several times, where considerable effort is made to realistically portray the beating and crucifixion of Jesus. And of course I’ve studied all four of the gospels fairly carefully and read a number of commentaries that explain various cultural customs and practices more clearly.

I was impressed by the way that Gibson used Satan to actually present the essence of the Gospel, in the opening scenes of the film. Satan, trying to discourage Jesus, tries to tell him that there is no way one man can bear the sin of all people. Through this backhanded device, the viewer can clearly understand that Jesus’ intent is to bear the sin of all men in His own body, according to the will of God the Father.

There was, perhaps, a bit more reverence of Mary than seems appropriate to me, but from a Catholic perspective, it was fairly restrained.

I strongly identified with the thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him, when he comes into his kingdom; the power of God never ceases to amaze me as revealed in that scene. In the midst of the darkest moment of all of Creation, as the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords is being brutally tortured to death by His own rebellious creatures, God reaches out and uses that opportunity to snatch a soul from Satan’s grasp.

Truly, he makes all things new.

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