Monday Mornings… and Dad

I am a bit tired from a wonderful, but very full last couple of weeks.

And I am tempted to think, “It’s Monday! I don’t want to get out of bed. I just want to sleep a bit more.” I may even be tempted to be a bit crabby.

Then I think of my Dad.   2015-09-05 10.29.47

He lost the love of his life over two years ago now. His body is giving out, slowly, as is the case with age. He used to be strong and a leader. He was often approached for advice and he was someone who influenced and changed lives. Not many people tap into his wisdom or gifts anymore. Which is tragedy.

But what is he doing? He is living life. He exercises nearly every day. He reads his Bible.. every day.. in Greek and in English. He seeks to sharpen his mind and strengthen his body. He loves his family and almost never misses an event. And currently, he is cruising around the country seeing friends and relatives he has not seen for a while. He is reliving memories.. and visiting place he always wanted to see with Mom, but never did. It is like our own personal Swenson-family version of “Where’s Waldo?” Every third day or so we get a text telling us what state he is in now. He is super happy. And I love it.
He is living life. And living it to the fullest he can as an 80+ (and growing older) man… for whom much of life is now in the rear-view mirror. (But don’t try to tell him that.)

So, when I think of Dad. I realize… I can probably get out of bed just fine this morning.
And I can attack life. That is what my Dad has done for over 80 years. I am only 50.

Time to brew the coffee… take a shower.. and hit the day with passion.

If I can be half the man my Dad is… it will be a good day. Even if it is Monday.

And I am not quite so tired now.

Thanks Dad.

Have a great Monday everyone.

50 Random Thoughts As I Approach a Half Century

50 Random Thoughts As I Approach A Half Century  12795119_10156610050235711_9128133260199630244_o
1. Life experiences will be fickle and can be interpreted by emotion. People will be inconsistent. But one constant is this: God is good.
2. I always believed my parents were special. Not perfect. But special. At 50 I know it.
3. No one tells you when you are 25 that you will, in many ways, still feel like you are that age (or at least 32) when you are 50.
4. An Oreo a day adds up to a lot of Oreos. And it is harder to take off than to put on. One less Oreo a day would have been a good idea.
5. Choose great friends. They will be your lifeline when the storms of life come crashing.
6. Sometimes God speaks loudly. Often he is quiet. Each voice is part of the relationship. And each voice draws you closer.
7. Everyone needs to take Advanced Placement English. It will serve you well the rest of your life.
8. At the end of the day, it is God’s job to get people to Heaven. It is our job to love people well, and to point them to Jesus.
9. Nothing… and I do mean NOTHING… Nothing will rock your world more than the birth of your children. Your heart will explode and you will never be the same.
10. Related to #9 – Nothing has taught me more about the Heart of God than being a Dad.
11. I believe. This does not mean I have no doubt. Doubt is part of faith. And it is okay to embrace and learn from it, rather than fear it. It is better, in my experience, far better.. to live with faith and hope and joy.. than to give in to cynicism and negativity.
12. Very few people truly listen to other people. If you listen well, you will be well loved in return. Truth.
13. A great sermon is, to me, one that names my sin honestly, declares the grace of Jesus Christ unconditionally and calls me to serve the world compassionately.
14. There is inequality in the workplace. Reality. Some of the most gifted leaders I have known are women. And they are treated differently. That is just truth. And it needs to change.
15. Few things are more dangerous and damaging than a Christian leader without legitimate accountability.
16. * Forgiveness is this: a. Giving up the Right to Be Angry (for the sake of the relationship) b. Giving Notice (Being honest about where and how you have been hurt and committing to talking it through maturely and fairly.) c. Giving Gifts (The gift of unconditional love and forgiveness modeled to us first in Jesus Christ.)        * Thanks to Walter Wangerin, Jr. for that summary.
17. A dog will sooth your spirit and love you well. (And drive you crazy too.)
18. Getting married forces you to recognize your own sin. And teaches you how to give and receive forgiveness.
19. Being a parent forces you to grow up.
20. Seeing a parent die will change your life forever.
21. There is a difference, at a funeral, for those who know Jesus Christ and those who do not. There just is. Truth.
22. God will lead us to refining fires, whether we like it or not. He wants us to grow up. And often.. usually.. this is what it takes.
23. Positivity will take you much further than cynicism.
24. The happiest people I know are those who give their life away in the cause of loving other people.
25. There is a vice and a virtue to nearly everything.
26. Narcissism is common. Humility not so much.
27. If you want to be a good actor, public speaker, presenter, etc., the first thing to do is to stop shuffling your feet. It will give you strength in your presentation immediately. And this will transfer to self-confidence.
28. One book read well and applied is better than several on the shelf.
29. The point of reading the Bible is not to “get through the Bible”.. but rather, to let the Bible get through you.
30. Road trips late at night provide the best opportunity for meaningful conversation.
31. The Vikings may never win the Super Bowl in my lifetime. But it is still better to be Purple than Green.
32. Know what you LOVE to do and find a way to get paid for it. Major secret to life.
33. Call your Parents.
34. Harboring anger hurts you much more than the other person.
35. Everyone you meet has a story.
36. Talking to the elderly is important. Very few people do.
37. When you graduate from High School know this: Your 25th Reunion will be here faster than you can spit.
38. There are some issues that are dividing and destroying Christianity. We MUST keep the cross at the center. It will guide everything else. And to realize one is a sinner is the first step towards loving others better in the midst of the conversation.
40. Expectations can be defined as “predetermined disappointment”.  Be careful and aware of them.
41. If you are in a mellow mood nothing tops Simon and Garfunkel.
42. You cannot truly celebrate Easter Sunday unless you have first journeyed through Good Friday.
43. Sometimes, when one is in pain, you cannot pray. Or sing. Or give praise. But the body of believers around you can.. on your behalf. And this is okay. In fact, it is amazing.
44. Riding in an ambulance or being put out for surgery will make one consider whether or not this God thing is for real.
45. As long as there are tests given, there will always be prayer in school.
46. Marriage is Wonderful. And it is Hard. And is the best thing worth fighting for. End of story.
47. At the end of the day, whom will you have loved with the love of Christ and how? That is what matters.
48. The joy of the Lord is my strength. – Nehemiah 8:10
49. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself up for me.        – Galatians 2:20
50. “I could wish you joy and peace, to last your whole life long. I could wish you treasures, or that all your dreams come true. Or wish you all the happiness, that this life could bring. But I wish you Jesus… more than anything.” – Scott Wesley Brown                                                                                                                            

Jonathan Swenson

Pastor and Dad Thoughts After Watching “The Bachelor”

Blondie #2 (my younger daughter) and I keep up on The Bachelor together. I know that may sound weird, but it actually provides good Dad/Daughter conversations about dating, guy/girl relationships, etc.
I haven’t spoken to my daughter about this episode yet. And I know she already knows this, so this is more for others in this stage of life. Here is my general thought after watching this evening’s episode and seeing beautiful young women depart in tears, not chosen, and blaming themselves, and saying they wish they knew what it was because if they knew, they would “fix it”. Here is my my pastoral and fatherly word to all young people.. men or women .. who are in that wonderful, delightful, terrifying, exciting, embarrassing, deflating, exhilarating time of life known as “dating”…

Know This:

You do NOT need to “FIX” anything. You are a wonderful, intentionally-brought-into-the-world-by-a-God-who-LOVES-you creation of wonder, intelligence and beauty. You are a marvel… as YOU. NOT as someone else who you may be tempted to think you are supposed to be or need to be.

Dad and C & C

Do NOT let the world (or even another person) define you or your worth, your “beauty” or your value. God created you to be YOU.. .and the more you grow in confidence of who that wonder, YOU, IS… the more your joy and beauty (inner and outer) will radiate to the world. You do not need to be “fixed,” dear people looking for the love of your life. You are already the whole package.

So, be YOU. Develop YOU. Grow in YOU.. and let Christ shine in and through you, and that love.. that RIGHT love.. WILL enter your life… in God’s perfect and purposeful time and place.

You are loved.

+ Pastor Jonathan, Dad, Friend

Empty Nest

Jana and I spent the summer and early fall at Mount Carmel Family Camp and Retreat Center in Alexandra, MN.  I have been the Interim Director of Programming there the last two years and Jana has been working as their Director of Development.

As a result of being away from our home in Cedar Rapids until just a few days ago, we are aware that our empty-nesting phase had not really begun until now.  It was easy to feel like both our daughters were just “away at camp” this summer … or like we were were all on some sort of “extended leave of absence” from normal life.  Swenson_0031

So this past Thursday was our first full day back in Cedar Rapids… and thus, the first official day of Jana and I being empty-nesters in our actual home…. and under “normal” conditions. We did enjoy the six weeks of early fall quite a bit … going on several long walks, dating more than we have been able to do… talking and dreaming about the future … but we also realized we were not yet fully experiencing life, emotionally, without the girls around. Now that we are home, it is feeling more real.  The days of watching those two little blondies, loaded down with backpacks, heading off to school… are now a thing of the past.  Good… no….  GREAT memories, but memories nonetheless.

And so, a new chapter begins…

Thoughts at the two month mark of empty-nesting? Though it is less crazy-fun and more quiet, I do like getting to know my wife again. I feel like we are EACH getting an old friend back. Not that that person ever left, but the reality is… one’s attention is divided the from the moment the first baby is born, and this is as it should be. But, truth be told, I DO like getting my friend back. (I THINK Jana does too.) 

So, here’s to the new phase… and whatever life will bring. This much I know… though we drive each other crazy at times… the truth is… I love my wife.

I do miss those Blondies somethin’ fierce.. but this is okay. I’ve got a good roommate to keep me company.

So, here we go, Jana Swenson. Let’s do this thing…