Remembering Cal

Note: The following is what I read last Saturday when I was honored with the opportunity to share my remembrances of Calvin Nelson, who passed away Thursday after suffering a stroke (or multiple strokes, in the process of things). He was a dear friend, and will be dearly missed by so many people. My co-pastor, Trish Rousu, also posted a tribute to Cal which brought out more facets of who Cal was. Also, his obituary.

1723859_2381143601008_2081569436_nI met Cal about 10 years ago. The church I went to met on Friday nights, and after the service, we would often head to Perkins for food and fellowship.

Cal would usually be waiting for us with a table, after running sound for another church that had Friday night services. We’d shoot the breeze, talk about the Lord, about ministry, and about life. Talking to Cal, you came to realize he knew a lot about a lot of things. And he didn’t just have knowledge, he had wisdom, experience, and just plain common sense. It was always an enjoyable time being with him.

Cal worked in a lot of places. He worked with a lot of folks. But he never viewed what he did as a career or a job. He viewed it as a vocation. He knew he was a minister of the Gospel, though often behind the scenes, he constantly supported the work that so many ministries were doing. For several years, Cal would help us anytime we would do a larger gathering where we needed his skills and equipment.

Five years ago, he started coming around the young adult church we started, just as we moved into a venue in Anoka where we could use a sound system. Cal was one of our biggest supporters, and was always encouraging us in what we were doing. He drove down practically every Monday, whenever he could, to fellowship with us, make our worship team sound good, and hang out afterward at Applebee’s.

He helped our group get a food distribution going that went on for several years. Many hundreds of people have received hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, all because Cal showed up one night with some extra bread from another food distribution that Forrest and others were operating, and it sparked something big.

Cal had a heart for this generation, and wanted to support what God was doing in them, and through them. In 2012, our worship team went to Des Moines to lead worship at a regional conference. I drug Cal down with me, because I wanted someone at the board who shared the values, the heart, the lifestyle of ministry we had, someone who could bring out the very best of what we had to offer. It was powerful. So much so, that the folks who were speaking at the conference were visibly affected by the presence of God.

It wouldn’t have been the same without Cal.
It won’t be the same without Cal.

The past couple years, Cal and I spent most Monday afternoons together. He would come down early, get his errands done, and we’d meet at Wendy’s for a quick bite and we’d spend some time “geeking out” on whatever little project he was tinkering with. He was always learning. He was often doing something neat and creative for someone.
He was kind. He was generous. He was lovable. And sometimes, a bit cantankerous in his “old school” way. He knew exactly who to take under his wing.

The brief moments I’ve shared with you now don’t begin to cover the depth of who Cal was. It’s just a drop in the bucket. Many of you knew Cal much longer than I had, and knew him differently than I had, but I know we can all agree on this:

God gave us a gift when He gave us Cal.
We loved and cherished that gift.
He touched so many lives while he was here.
Many of us will never be the same now that he’s gone.

Our souls are processing the loss of a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a co-worker in Christ.

But let us say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Today we celebrate his life, perhaps through our tears, but soon we will be able to rejoice with him fully! Because today, he is experiencing the reality of who Jesus Christ is in a way that those of us who remain can only dream about and long for.

Scriptures shared

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Philippians 3:20-21

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

My 5 year-old’s prayer for the holidays

It’s an average Sunday night here at the Lang home. Joy is at work. The kids are driving me nuts. It’s dinner time, and lentil soup and a slice of bread is on the menu (the extent of my culinary skills, sadly). My eldest daughter usually offers the prayer of thanks. We get dished up, settle in, and she starts in:

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for this food, and thank you for this day. I pray we have a good time tonight.

Pretty basic so far. Sort of the canonical beginning to the meal-time prayer. At this point, she’ll usually go into something more personal, something that reflects what’s on her mind at the time. Tonight, she was thinking big:

And please make the days shorter… so that Thanksgiving and Christmas come sooner.

Wow. Audacious. She’s been thinking a lot When I heard the first part about making the days shorter, I was thinking about how they were getting “shorter”, in terms of daylight (btw, DST needs to die!), and started chuckling a bit. Then I heard the last bit, and saw how she had worked the whole thing out in her head. If the days were shorter, we’d see the holidays sooner. OK, makes sense. I’ll roll with it. But she didn’t stop there. No, she had this one all detailed out:

And then when it’s Thanksgiving, can you make the days longer again? In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wow again. She didn’t want the holidays to go whizzing by like the days leading up to them. So she made sure she articulated out for the Good Lord that once the holidays start, we can get those longer days back, so we can enjoy the holidays. Let’s not leave this to chance, right?

Daughter and her Grandpa shopping for a Holiday get-together

Daughter and her Grandpa shopping for a Holiday get-together

This has me thinking about the holidays. I’ve gone through possibly every imaginable process, attitude and response to the holidays. From being bitter about the retail-driven covetousness and not wanting to celebrate at all, to a renewed connection with the Good News and values that we celebrate this time of year, to the utter and often simultaneous frustration and elation that planning for and then spending time with family can bring. But here is my daughter, once again, showing me what the holidays look like through a fresh set of eyes, thus far untainted by the forces that seek to ruin this wonderful time of year with their pursuit of money or attention.

My daughter is excited to see her auntie. Excited to visit her grandparent’s new house for the first time since they’ve moved in. Looking forward to the moments that later in life she may not necessarily recall clearly but certainly will cherish.

So this year, I’m going to take a hint from my 5 year-old. I’m going to hasten the holidays, then try to slow down enough to enjoy them. Because of the message of the holidays and the importance of sharing that message with my family, and in spite of the stresses, disappointments, and maybe hurts that would detract from that main event, I want to enjoy the holidays and the people I get to share them with. I hope you take the opportunity to do the same.

Spring hustle


Life sure has been exciting lately. The month of May maneuvered the harsh MN Winter to relent and give way to Spring. With Spring comes the welcoming tepid temperatures, the aborning greenery, and the inordinate number of chores both in the house and around the yard.

The snow gradually melted in my driveway, revealing that the sealcoating I meticulously executed last summer did not stand up to the winter elements as well as I had hoped. Looks like another coat is in order this summer. I’ll have to check my snow thrower and maybe adjust the blade for next season. The small engines have all been ran, but the oil changes still need to be done.

The rains come and the lawn grows like crazy. Most of my neighbors have immaculate lawns. I try to  torture my lawn within an inch (or two) of its life, because I don’t particularly enjoy mowing. My daughter, however, is very excited that daddy is letting her steer, swerving between trees and bedrock landscaping. So my lawn looks like it has been mowed by a four year old, because that’s actually what happened.

I pruned my apple tree for the first time several weeks ago, just as it started budding. I know, a bit late. I had no clue what I was doing, so I coaxed a friend over who is taking an interest in the care of apple trees. We made short work of it. The tree looks really healthy, the blooms are amazing, and I’m looking forward to seeing the harvest. God has been showing me things about the purpose and process of pruning. I’m grateful for the object lesson.

Spiritually, it feels like I’m coming out of a time of pruning and into a season of new life, too. I’m excited to see what areas of new growth will be coming out of this, and I want the things that He is cultivating in me to bring Him glory as the the world looks on.

What is God doing in your life this season? Do you sense, as I do, that there are new seasons of growth coming? What areas are you looking for new growth? Leave a comment and fill me in on your story!

Early March ramblings

Life has been exciting here lately. For starters, we’re expecting our third daughter this summer. Naturally, this wonderful news comes with its share of considerations and lifestyle changes. I don’t remember the first or second having quite the same reality-shifting effect this early on. I guess the third time is the charm. Maybe it’s because I’m now drastically outnumbered by females in my own home. Maybe it’s because the third child will again change how often my wife can work. Whatever the reasons, it’s an adventure, and I’m looking forward to God’s faithfulness in it. We’re trying to make some adjustments to our lifestyle now so it’s not such a shock when suddenly our diaper expenses double.

Next on my mind is the wedding I’ll be officiating later today. This will be the second wedding I’ll have the pleasure of performing. This is one of the many joys of pastoring a young adult church. I’m excited for the happy couple!

Working out at home has gone pretty well for me so far. Working from home, I’ve been able to fit several sets of exercises in between the various work tasks I’m doing. I’ll keep the details of my workout quiet, as to not embarrass myself or solicit heckling. But in any case, the results have been good, both in general fitness, strength training, and weight loss. I’ve lost over 30 pounds now. I’m slowly increasing the number of reps in my sets. I’m happy about saving a little money each month from the gym membership fees. I’m also looking forward to some nicer weather which should make cardio a bit more reasonable.

I’ve been getting more active in tinkering with technology lately. Along with some of the WordPress-related trinkets I’ve done in connection with this blog, I’ve just started dabbling in mobile software development. I’m starting with Android since I have a phone and a tablet to try apps out on. I’ve got an idea or two rolling around in my head. We’ll see what comes of it.

I’ve got a busy weekend ahead. I should probably get some rest.

Leave a comment and tell me what you’re saving money on, and what you’re saving money for.

Bringing the gym home

Feb 2013This spring and summer, I’ll be embarking on a new adventure, something I’ve never done in my adult life. This year, I’ll be figuring out how to work-out at home. (dun-dun-dun) I currently have a membership at the YMCA, and I’ve been loving it. But with our third kid on the way, I have a feeling that getting to the gym (which is a 20 minute drive one-way) will become more difficult in the midst of other demands. I am certainly going to miss Wednesdays as I have known them.

I’m putting together a list of the essential equipment I’ll need. So far, I’m looking at a mat, 2 adjustable dumb bells and a pull-up bar (the kind that goes in a doorway). Please help me out by leaving a comment and telling me what else needs to be one my list. Keep in mind, I don’t have room for anything big. Maybe you have a favorite at-home routine you do. Please share! Thanks so much for taking time to comment. Now, on to the rest of my story. Continue reading

Why I love Wednesdays

I’ve heard that some folks “call in sick (cough-cough)” on Wednesdays. Using simple math, I get that. I would much prefer working 4 days in a week instead of 5, and how much better to break it up into a pair of 2 day segments! Of course, working a normal 5 days a week is still better than the strange quasi “always-on” schedule I’ve subjected myself to for the past several years. But that’s another story.

I’ve never been one to abuse sick days. It’s just not part of my work ethic. Since I started working from home back in 2005, I’ve called in sick a handful of times, on days that were wrought with fever, chills, dry heaves, yeah, you get the idea. None the less, I have my reasons for loving Wednesdays. I’ve made Wednesday something special; my non-average workday. Here’s how:

Most Wednesdays, for the last couple years, I’ve met one of my spiritual sons at one of my favorite coffee spots. We’ll sit across from each other, each working on our own things, sometimes we’ll talk about specific topics or happenings, how to deal with a particular situation, and sometimes we’ll hardly say a word. It’s very relaxed, very low-key, and very enjoyable. We share life. A type of fellowship that I really appreciate. I stick around into the afternoon, I wrap up what I’m working on, grab a quick snack, and head off to the next act of my Wednesday adventure.

For the last year, I’ve been trying to take better care of myself, both in diet and exercise. One of the things that has really helped with getting to the gym is that I meet a buddy there. That accountability has been so good for me. After some cardio, weight training, and a round in the sauna, I feel like a new man. We love finishing the afternoon by taking some sustenance at Subway. Then off he goes to work as a leader at a youth group nearby, and I head home to my family.

After some time with the kids, and dinner, I finish up some work, kiss my wife, and call it a night.

Wednesday is my chance to turn my normal schedule on its ear; to change things up. Variety is good, diversity is good. When I get to do things differently, it helps me appreciate the normal routine.

What day do you look forward to during your work week? What do you do to mix things up and keep the routine from dragging you down? Leave me a comment.

Is “Blog-o-sphere” even a word anymore? (re-launch)

It was a different world back in March of 2007 when I started my WordPress blog. Blogs were fairly new and vivacious. Social networking as we now know it was almost non-existent. MySpace was becoming pretty popular, and everyone was curious who this “Tom” guys was that they were suddenly friends with. Everybody who was a somebody was blogging. Fortunately, I wasn’t a somebody.

I was a young mid-20s, married, full of dreams, not yet a father; I actually had some time on my hands. Such a faint memory now, in some ways. I have no regrets. I started blogged as more of an exercise in discovery than anything else. I wanted to see what it was like.

It was new. It was fun. I got a few comments. I also got a ton of spam. Annoying, ugly spam. It quickly became overwhelming. I let myself get busy, lazy or disinterested, threw myself into the process of life; family, work, ministry. More on that soon.

Today, I have something I didn’t have back in 2007: Necessity. Social networking has evolved, and while it’s grand fun to play around on Facebook, liking statuses (I think that word should be statii, btw), but I want a platform to reach further than my friends on Facebook, and more deeply than my followers on Twitter. By all means, I want to change the world, both in word, and in deed.

You may find a few things not working quite right, as I’ve imported some things from my old WP blog. Fret not, I’ll have things cleaned up shortly. I hope we can enjoy the journey together.

Mutual sadism rather than compromise

The Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed under the political environment of a partisan stalemate, in which Democrats and Republicans could not agree on how to reduce the deficit. It was thought that the blunt cuts of budget sequestration and sharp revenue increases would be mutually undesirable to both parties and provide an impetus and deadline to bring the sides together to solve the deficit problem.

Never underestimate the ability of your government to do “too little, too late”.