Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Fotos de Colombia


Here are a few pics from my lightning trip to Bogotá last week. I had a couple of meetings with our mission partners there on Thursday and Friday and was able to spend some time getting to know the city and its culture in the afternoons.

Monserrate is the obvious tourist destination in Bogotá. It's a high overlook on the east of the city. Like any such location, it's set up with all the kitschy photo ops. I gave in and paid a few dollars to have my pic taken with this tolerant llama before we boarded the tram to go up the mountain.


Said tram. We took this up, and the cable car down. I stood right at the window on the downhill side, contemplating what it would be like if the cable pulling us up the mountain should snap. Not comforting. However, everything went fine and we didn't die. Thank God.


The view of Bogotá from the top of Monserrate. It's a huge city and has swelled recently with a million and a half refugees from the crisis in Venezuela. More on that below.


My guide, Diego, and I walked around and through the marketplace atop Monserrate talking about culture, coca tea, tourism, missions, and more. I tried eating ants and we turned down food from multiple vendors (we'd just enjoyed a massive lunch). Around the back of the marketplace, we found these workers who bring supplies up for the restaurants on horses and donkeys.


The climb is truly intimidating, and I have no idea how long it takes them to get these supplies from bottom to top.


Back to downtown Bogotá. This picture doesn't seem like much at first. Look closer. All these intricate paper figurines on the street are folded from Venezuelan currency. The piles of cash at the center of the display are not outdated, they have simply lost their value in the economic crisis in Venezuela. They are literally not worth the paper they are printed on. This enterprising vendor uses the bills to fold handbags, animals, and decorations in order to try to convert cash into something with value. Colombia is reeling under the weight of so many who have fled Venezuela. Yet even in that, we heard stories of how God is working in the midst of this crisis to spread his word through evangelical Christians who have fled Venezuela and are sharing about Jesus wherever they go. It sounds almost like Acts 8:1.


Me and Simon Bolivar hanging out in the square at the heart of Bogotá. So few North Americans know any of the history of South America, and that is a tragedy. Reading just a few quotes of Bolivar's political and personal philosophy on the statues and in the National Museum, I was very impressed. Furthermore, it's a little humbling to look at the history of other countries in comparison to our own. For example, Colombia passed an edict freeing African slaves (much like Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation) a full decade before the United States.


This gets at the heart of the reason I was in Colombia last week. These are a few of the church leaders working to reach indigenous peoples in Colombia. The whiteboard is covered with names of tribes and individuals who might be key to this work. I have tremendous respect for these leaders, most of whom are themselves from various indigenous groups, for the wisdom, care, and passion they bring to this gospel work. It is a privilege to be associated with them.


These are avocados. The size of your head. Well, almost. Amazing.


Bogotá is in the throes of dynamic change, and this is one example. It's the bull ring where up until a few years ago, matadors played out the traditional business of bullfighting. These days the bullfights have been shut down, though one recent leader tried to bring them back. The effort was drowned in protests. There are lots of protests in Bogotá over various issues. On the whole, though, the Colombian people have a strong sense of what is good and important in their city and country. They work hard to make life better for themselves and for others (like the Venezuelan refugees). I was impressed and look forward to my next chance to visit.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Letting go of the season

Even though I haven't taken my Christmas tree down, we've moved on. It's mid-January now. All the markers of the post-Christmas transition have passed. Sales have ended. Those post-Christmas parties that we couldn't squeeze in before the holiday have happened. The radio stations went back to non-Christmas music on the 26th, of course. I just need to get that tree down.

It's a real tree, not artificial, so there's some urgency. Within a matter of days, it will be dry enough to start dropping needles. I'm already a little intimidated to think about what will happen when I take the decorations down. What a mess.

I'm headed back to Colombia for a quick trip, and I should probably buckle down and get rid of the tree before that.

Why is this so hard?

It's not, really. I can screw up my will to do hard things, whether it's pushing a needle through my own skin for a necessary insulin injection, finishing off a wounded animal, or having a difficult conversation with a friend. But part of me hates taking down the tree.

This reluctance balances out the irony my daughters would be quick to point out, of course: I hate putting up the Christmas tree until just a few days before Christmas. Once it's there, I want to hang on to the season longer than most.

At the risk of both anthropomorphism and excessive sentimentality, let me say: Goodbyes are hard. They are more difficult yet when there's not some shiny new thing to be looking forward to. The Colombia trip is a good thing. I have some more travel coming up in February for my daughter's wedding. It's not like life is bad.

I just know I'm going to miss sitting in the evening with the Christmas lights on and enjoying the twilight out my window as the sun sets beyond the lake.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Epiphany 2020

2020 has been glorious thus far. Contrary to most years, the weather has been nearly perfect for a Minnesota winter. Oh, sure, there have been a couple ice storms and some annoying blowing and drifting. But the temperatures have been pretty consistently above zero, and the sun is shining more days than not. Today it's an amazingly bright and glorious day outside. I'm going to go enjoy it in a bit, maybe breaking my snowshoes out for the first hike of the year.

My daughter and son-in-law just drove out. They were working like mad through Christmas, so we enjoyed the weekend together, celebrated a late Christmas, and just generally hung out and talked about stuff. I can't begin to express how precious conversations like that are to me. As I've written here before, I desperately need that conversational mirror that helps me see reality more clearly. The encouragement, correction, and delightful humor they brought this weekend was such a gift.

So much of what makes life meaningful is the web of relationships that give us a place. Love anchors us to each other and to the world. In essence, that's what today is about. Epiphany is a celebration of Jesus coming into the world as light. In 1 John you can read two unequivocal statements about the nature of God. They're not contradictory but complementary.

1. God is light and in him is no darkness at all.
2. God is love; the one who loves is born of God and knows God.

I think sometimes on Epiphany about the interrelationship between light and love. We use both of these words to describe the very best of relationships. (And for those of you who idealize the 1970's, here's a link to get the song thoroughly stuck in your head.)  Instinctively we associate light with love and vice versa. On this day when you can finally feel the days getting longer, it's appropriate to think about Jesus coming to be the tangible presence of God's love among us. It is this same Jesus who said, "I am the light of the world."

The sun is starting to drop in the sky as I write this, so I'm going to get my snowshoes strapped on. I hope your Epiphany is full of light and love!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Visions of 2020?


Happy New Year!

I have to admit, I'm a little awed to be here at the outset of 2020. At various times in the last decade, I figured I knew exactly what 2020 would bring. When I was leading a big church in the Twin Cities, this year served as a benchmark for my thinking and planning. And when I burned out in spectacular fashion, I had a very clear (but very different) picture of what 2020 would bring.

What was Shakespeare's line? "The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry." Yeah, that.

In the last few weeks, I've felt drawn (and sometimes chased) toward the idea of trusting God. I don't usually pick a word for a new year, but I have a deep sense that this year is going to be all about trust. I've even got a theme verse to go with it, from Psalm 37:5:
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (NIV)
God has indeed brought me into good pasture. This place and the community of the church I serve are such a gift to me. Being rooted here drives me deeper into my particular God-given roles. (That's the part about "do good" in the verse.) Finding a voice here continues to be a challenge and a blessing. If I was to hazard a guess about what 2020 will bring at this point, I suspect it would have a lot to do with exactly that: Finding a voice and having the confidence to sing out loud. How people take that song, and who is harmonizing with it, those things belong to God. Trust.

I suspect it will be an interesting year. And I have no idea what it will bring.

On a slightly different note, Scott Sauls made me want to jump up and down and cheer with this post. I highly recommend it if you are pondering how to observe the outset of 2020.

Whatever your visions for this new year, may God bless you and keep you and make his face shine on you.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Noel

I am sitting and drinking coffee and pondering this morning. So much to be thankful for this Christmas: beautiful relationships with family and friends, meaningful work, the opportunity to live in the presence of amazing beauty, and so much more. Writing these days is taking up a ton of my time, and I'm excited about that. 

Even so, I find myself stirred at Christmas (and so often), longing to reach out beyond my limits and say things that cannot be said. Some of this stirring borders on grief and loss, both that which is current and that going back many years. Some of it grows out of things I wish were different, in spite of the blessing of my circumstances. The book of Ecclesiastes says that God has set eternity in the human heart. I suppose that's part of it as well. Admiring starlight from a distance seems so inadequate when the heart is yearning for the stars themselves. 

That's the miracle of Christmas in a nutshell, I suppose: In our incompleteness, brokenness, we long to reach out and touch the face of God. Some of that is hubris, but some is set in the human heart by God. Per aspera ad astra. That yearning is given by God himself. In his mercy, he came to us rather than us reaching him. He finds us in our incompleteness and longing. 

This is a little-known poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, written in 1936:

Noel

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind,
the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

Friday, December 20, 2019

It's about time!

First off, thank you to so many of you who have encouraged me with this new book coming out! You're the best.

It's been a busy week. The first case of New Wineskins arrived on Monday. I hadn't seen a hardcopy of the book, so I was nervous. But it turned out great. I am so pleased with the cover my daughter designed, and several of you have commented on it as well. It's crisp and clean and appealing, and far better than what I had in mind! There are a few minor tweaks to the inside of the book that I wish now I'd done differently, but overall I'm very, very happy with it.

When I wrote my book on the Exodus story a decade ago, the world of publishing was very different. At that time I wouldn't even consider paying to have my book published. I thought self-publishing was for people who couldn't write well enough to sell their book to a traditional publisher. Since that time, self-publishing has changed in major ways. So has the entire book publishing industry, for that matter. As I researched how best to put New Wineskins out there, it became clear very quickly that self-publishing was my best option.

A major part of this experience has been learning how to self-publish a book. It's been an education! While (as I said above) there are things I will do differently next time, the real encouragement is that I really want there to be a next time. I'm already working on an updated, expanded version of From Slavery to Freedom, my book about the Exodus. When I first wrote that book, I completed the manuscript in mid-2007. Going through a traditional publisher, it came out in print almost exactly two years later. One of the miracles of self-publishing is that I'll probably have the second edition in print by mid-January. Amazing!

I've realized that this season of my life is about finishing projects I've started. I've got so many rough drafts and book outlines stored away here and there. I'm eager to pull out those manuscripts and outlines and get some books available. There's always a little fear in that process; it's like an author I know said: Putting a book out is like walking on stage, taking off all your clothes, and saying, "What do you think?" But I've also realized that I'm eager for the conversations that come with writing a book. Sometimes those conversations are joyful and affirming. Other times people want to argue and critique. Both are absolutely important and necessary.

So... and I'm hesitant to say this out loud because then I'm accountable, right? My goal for 2020 is that by the end of the calendar year, I'll have half a dozen books in print. Deep inside, part of me is shivering at that. But the stronger part says, "It's about time!"

One of the joys of this season of life for me is finding the tools to let me pursue that goal. It's exciting!

Friday, December 13, 2019

New Wineskins book announcement!

About a year and a half ago, my daughter Mathea and I took a walk through the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. While we walked, we talked (among other things) about the Bible. Out of that conversation, I made a decision to blog my way through the gospel of Luke. My hope was to make a sort of dialogue out of the project. Some of you have probably read those blog posts.

This summer I collected all those writings and put them together in a collection. Then I reread that manuscript and decided it needed a LOT of work. (ouch!) I spent several months doing a ton of conversation, revision, study, and editing. (Anyone who says writing isn't work has not tried it.)

One of my weaknesses over the years has been that I love to start projects, but the detail work of creating a finished product puts me off. I promised myself this Luke project was not going to end up just one more manuscript figuratively collecting dust on my laptop. So I ground it out, did the work, and did all the work again. Then I asked for help and did some more work.

Along the way, I had the chance to ponder Jesus on a whole new level. I thought and prayed about him and his agenda–what he called his "kingdom." I thought and prayed about what God is up to in our own time. There seems to be a mass extinction going on in churches these days, not to put too fine a point on it. The mainstream press loves to talk about the rise of the "nones," those who claim no religious affiliation. Churches like the one I grew up in seem to be going the way of the passenger pigeon.

At the same time, there's a breath of new life in certain circles and certain places. Here and there, people are discovering Jesus in new ways and getting really excited about him. Those abundant, growing places almost always have a few things in common. They're rooted in taking the Bible very seriously, but in a joyful way. They're focused on Jesus and his Spirit. They're living the biblical word out in a community that meets in home-sized groups, not just in giant celebrations. Finally, they recognize that knowing and following Jesus requires them to care for this world in really tangible ways.

Jesus spoke frequently about these kinds of changes. One of the most intriguing ways he talked about this kind of thing is when he said you can't put new wine in old wineskins. When you've got a powerful, fermenting wine, you need fresh wineskins that have the elasticity to hold it without breaking. And he said that people who are tied to older, tradition-bound ways of life will reject this new wine, claiming that their version is better.

Realizing what a theme this is for Jesus, especially in Luke's gospel, I called the book New Wineskins. It's designed to lead the reader through a reading of Luke and hopefully into conversations about Jesus and his way of life. Even though I write about Greek words and first century cultural and historical context, it's not a book for scholars. It's for everyday people who want to know Jesus better. It's for those who want to have a conversation in their own community about who he is and what he's up to. It's for those who are open to his new wine, looking for flexible wineskins that can hold his Spirit's dynamic life.

I'd love to have you read it and let me know what you think. Your feedback is so important! I've realized in a new way through this process that writing needs to be a conversation. As I'm working on more projects (and promising myself I will finish those in the near future as well) your input becomes a key way for me to improve my writing. Thanks in advance. You can click on the picture to the right or here to order a copy from Amazon.

If you want a signed copy, send me $12 and your address and I'll mail one to you! My mailing address is:

Jeff Krogstad
12720 51st St. NE
Spicer MN 56288

Friday, December 6, 2019

Home again, home again

Life has been kind of crazy good and busy lately.
  • I had the joy of spending Thanksgiving morning with one daughter and son-in-law, then they drove me to the airport and I got to be with my other daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law out in Seattle. That was so very much fun. We got to share some fantastic meals, get their Christmas tree, see her office, and just enjoy each other. What a privilege.
  • I flew from sunny (not even kidding) Seattle to (rainy) Orange County CA for a "Finishing the Task" conference. This gathering focuses on efforts to reach previously unreached people groups with Bible translation, the message of Jesus, and church planting. Our church is specifically invested in the unreached people groups of Colombia. It was a joy to hear mission leaders from all over the world along with host pastor Rick Warren casting a vision of greater inter-agency cooperation and to hear stories of amazing things that are happening all across the globe. 
  • At the conference, we had the opportunity to network with missionaries and mission agencies, as well as connecting with some old friends. Saddleback did a fantastic job of hosting the event.
  • In California, my lead pastor and I were able to take advantage of the time and meet with some great leaders who are eager to help our church grow. So we got to share in tons of strategic conversation about The Open Door Christian Church and what God is doing here. So good. 
  • While I was on this crazy trip, I finished the publication work on a new book called New Wineskins: A commentary on Luke's gospel. My daughters helped tremendously with this project, one with the editing and the other with cover design. Pretty amazing talented women.  At the moment it's listed on Amazon but there's no image for the cover, so it looks like you can order it. I'm excited about this book and will write more about this project soon!
It was an odd experience to be away from home for nine days, to see bits and pieces of what's going on in the rest of my world through social media. It's an odd sensation, and more than a little disturbing, to have your heart pulled in so many directions. In that sense, it's fantastic to be home. We rolled in about 3 am last night, so today I am still a little foggy and off-balance. But the sun is shining and there's a beautiful tracking snow on the ground. Lots to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Let it snow...

Got a dusting of the white stuff that actually stuck this morning for a few hours. It looked like the real thing, and my understanding is that south and east of here (including the Cities) is supposed to get more than that. Appears we are well on our way to winter. I remember a year ago we got a nasty, sloppy wet mess of delightful winter preview about this time in November. So we'll see.

The deer have decided it's fall. They're changing their patterns to adjust to the weather. I'm getting out to sit on stand occasionally, loving the quiet and hoping for venison.

I'm writing. Lately I've been working on a commentary on Luke based on the entries shared on this blog. My plan is to self-publish that and have it available for some of our Life Groups that are approaching the one-year mark and will complete their study of Mark. So that's exciting. Once it's up for order, I'll post that info here as well. If all works as planned, it will be available both as an e-book and in print. Choices, choices.

Seems like early November is always a time of restlessness and questions in my mind. That, along with deep, deep joy. I'm a paradox.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

What a view!



Just a pic to highlight how amazing fall can be here at Decision Hills. This is last Friday night, enjoying that westward view across the lake. We've been doing Friday Night Fires here and have had a pretty loyal group showing up. For whatever reason, nobody else showed last Friday. It was a gorgeous evening, and I got to sit by the fire for most of the evening soaking in spectacular views like this.