An Invitation to Mora Prayer Walks

Prayer Walk Mora

I wanted to invite Christian men from the Mora community to join me a noon-hour prayer walk.  I’ll be doing these for the next 8 weeks every day Monday – Friday, rain or shine.  The format is simple.  Meet at my office down-town Mora ( in the Mora Mini Mall.).  Walk from 12:05 – 12:30 with about half of that time spent in prayer, and then spend a few minutes eating lunch together at the office.

I’m planning to do the walk on my own if no one shows up knowing that I need the exercise, I need the time in prayer, our town needs prayer and I need the quiet unhurried time in my schedule. I also feel a strong need for more fellowship and I hope  guys will want to join me for this.  Below are the core details.

WALKING: 12:05 – 12:35 – taking various loops around Mora starting from

PRAYING: 10-15 minutes of the walk (or more)

EATING: Bring a bag lunch and eat together at after the walk

WHEN: M-F March 24-May 16 (40 Days of prayer – and exercise)

I want to mention that this won’t be an overwhelmingly serious affair, and if you’re not comfortable praying out loud, it’s totally fine.  The speed of the walk is meant to build fitness as well – we’ll walk at the pace one walks when late for an appointment.

You’re welcome to join any time, but texting me in the morning to let me know you’re coming would be nice. 612-802-8650.

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Lethal Force as a Christian – What do you think?

CHristian using gun

I recently sent the question below to John Piper’s “Ask Pastor John” podcast. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone who wants to hear super-deep and serious answers to Christians’ everyday questions in 8 minute snippets.

Pastor John,

How do you think about self-defense, lethal force and defending your family?

How would Pastor John respond in the following situations and more importantly, why?

  1. There is an invader in your home attempting to steal your goods
  2. There is an invader in your home attempting to steal your goods and you are armed
  3. An intruder is attempting to harm you, and you have access to deadly force (a knife, a gun)
  4. An intruder is attempting to harm your wife or daughter, and you have access to deadly force (a knife or gun)

Would your answer change if you were serving on the missions field?

Since my twenties, I’ve had this “I’ll gladly lay down my life for Jesus and for the spreading of his Kingdom” mindset, and that’s the mindset I carried with me to Turkey as a (single) missionary.  However, now as a father and a husband, I realize there are aspects of my role as a defender/protector that I should take seriously as a man of God and I don’t know how to gel these two perspectives . What do you think?

Jake in Mora MN

Whether he responds or not, I would love to hear your perceptive on these questions.  Leaving a comment below is easy.

Please try to disagree with others in a way that is civil and furthers the conversation.

I’m also not interested in discussing what’s legal.  I know that we’re legally entitled to own a gun and to use deadly force to dissuade invaders in our home.

My question to you, friends is this – when do you think it’s RIGHT to use deadly force, and why?

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A week of accomplishment, a week of failure.

I had a great week last week; I had a terrible week the week before.  A week ago, I felt like I was just off track.  I noticed on the last night of a long run of late nights.  It was 9:00 pm on Thursday night, the kids were finally asleep and I was on my way back to the office, I had just picked up a huge bag of sunflower seeds, a bag of candy corn and a huge cup of cappuccino (gas station classy style.)

I went to the office and finished a marathon of a week that involved finalizing a big batch of articles for the local advertiser paper. I had agreed to do a writing assignment where I’d interview and write a paid article for 20 businesses in Mora.  It was not going well.  I was way behind and it was turning out to be a lot harder than expected.  I spent those last two weeks going into the office after the kids slept and working on these articles late into the night.  I’d set my alarm for early the next morning and snooze over and over again.  I’d get to the office way later than expected, way too tired to focus, and way to distracted to do my work well.

At the end of that little marathon, I realized I was getting way off track.  I was eating really poorly, I was consuming sugar like a teenager, my sleep schedule was way off, and I was performing really badly at work.  My home life wasn’t a mess yet, but it was headed there, I was just tired or unfocused whenever I had time to be with the kids or Rana.  I kept reminding myself that this is what hard work looks like and that I’m learning a new skill (writing), and it’s not supposed to be easy, but I knew it wasn’t healthy.

That all led me to setting some pretty big goals for the following week; the week just past.

Weekly Goals

I decided that at work, I would:

  1.  Limit personal email and Facebook checks to specific break times in my day, and NOT leave those windows open while I work.
  2. Get to inbox zero at the start of the day and at the end of the day
  3. Prioritize using James Wedmore’s 3 step task management system
  4. Keep a tidy office.

Physically I would:

  1. Sleep by 10:30pm daily
  2. Wake at 5:00am daily
  3. Run three times
  4. Do pushups using the 100 pushups app daily
  5. Take a multivitamin daily
  6. Do a sugar fast and eat according to the slow-carb diet (4 Hour Body)
  7. Drink 2 Nalgenes of water/day.

Personally I would:

  1. Spend quality time one on one with Rana, Aksel and Mia
  2. Make plans with refreshing friends on the weekend
  3. Read three chapters of a physical book
  4. Spend rewarding time outdoors

Spiritually I would

  1. Have breakfast with my old bible study guys from last year.
  2. Give some time with the church
  3. And meditate on scripture at least 4 times

I have to say that although I failed at the running, only met my daily goals 3-4 days out of five and the guys didn’t show up for breakfast on Wednesday; I felt amazing progress.  All of these little actions led to a major change in the makeup of my days, and I feel great about it.

On Friday, the special newspaper that I’d worked so hard on came out, and I feel really proud about what I was able to accomplish, and that I was entrusted with that task.  I realize that despite all of the poor habits I’d gotten into; I was getting paid to write published material.  Not much, but it was a huge accomplishment.

As I think about all of this; I realize that I have so much to learn and so much to work on, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment with all that happened last week and with the big improvement in my energy and focus that resulted.  I look forward to another great week of setting clear goals and failing just a little less.

discover cover

20 articles in here were written by me. That’s huge for me.


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A Perfect Duluth Day Trip with Friends

Chester Creek TrailLast weekend we had a perfect day trip with friends from Trio Church in Mora.  This summer, our church has been meeting early (9:00 am) to give folks a full day after the worship service to get out and enjoy the summer. This week, our family and three other families made perfect use of the day.

Church finished around 10:30, and we were on the road to Duluth by 11:00.  Around 12:30, three of the four families and one single met up at Whole Foods in Duluth, where we and bought last minute picnic goodies. By 1:00 we were situated at a perfect picnic spot at the upper trailhead of Chester Creek Park.  We enjoyed an informal picnic while the kids played in the creek and caught minnows.

ThimbleberriesAfter a hearty lunch we set out on a 2.5 mile hike down one side of Chester Creek and back up the other side. The hike was just right for 9 moderately fit adults and 9 children aged 3 – 15.  The trail was well marked and pretty safe for the kids under supervision.  We found that the trail was lush with thimbleberries.  Adults and kids enjoyed snacking on these soft and rich members of the raspberry family for the duration of the hike.  Near the end of the loop, the kids found a perfect bend in the river where we could throw skippers, get our feet wet and climb on the rocks of this low creek.  We stayed there for quite some time and the fourth family to joined us coming up from the lower end of the trail.

After about 45 minutes of relaxing at this pool in the woods with no bugs, we headed back up the other side of the trail.  Our two younger kids had to be carried on shoulders and backs for most of the second half of the loop, but that was alright, Ryan and I needed the workout.  At the end of the hike, the kids played on the playground for a while before heading down to Leif Ericson Park by car.  There we sat by the lake, skipped rocks, the kids took a dip in Lake Superior, and we all enjoyed getting to know each other a little better while sharing stories of past trips to Duluth.

We closed the night by having pizza at one of our favorite restaurants; Pizza Luce, in Downtown Duluth.  As always, the Pizza Athena was a hit as was the Quito Pizza and the Watermelon Lemonade.  Pizza Luce is a hit with parents, as they provide a great observing area where kids can watch the guys in the kitchen throwing and stretching the pizza dough and enjoy an assortment of board games available for patrons.

We were home by dark all a little tired and a lot refreshed after a wonderful afternoon on a perfect summer day with friends.  I’d recommend this itinerary for any small group wanting a great taste of the outdoors and some quality time in Minnesota’s best loved small city with the world’s greatest lake.

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Some of the nice surprises about life in Mora

Today I wanted to write a bit about some of the little blessings about life in Mora that we’ve discovered since moving to my home town after many years away.

TrioTrio Community Church – Our church has been such a blessing to our family.  We joined a little church that meets in the middle school.  The size of the church (less than 100) has been just right for us to feel like we’re truly a part of the community after only being here a short while.  Rana participated in a Beth Moore study that she really enjoyed shortly after moving and I was blessed to be part of a men’s morning study through the winter and the spring.  It’s great to be a part of a church where we actually know the leadership and know that the church is expectant to see God move in our community.

Great resources for moms and kids – I’ve been amazed at the abundance of resources for our kids and for my wife, who is a full time mom.  Throughout the year, there have been weekly meetings for MOPS, the ECFE program through the school that gathers preschoolers and their moms for education and community, preschool for our four-year-old, a weekly visit from a teacher at Lakes and Pines (Headstart) to work with our kids and the Sunday program for kids at Trio.  I never would have guessed that Rana and the kids would have so many quality relationships after only a year in town.

The Mora Aquatic Center – The local pool has been huge blessing this summer in providing swimming lessons to our kids at the same pool where I learned to swim over two decades ago.  It makes a great afternoon outing and I’m amazed at how comfortable our kids are in the water after only a few weeks of lessons.  The quality of service offered there is really great for such a small community.

Bugmeisters – The best investment we’ve made since moving was to spray our yard for mosquitoes.  After the month of June where we could hardly go to the car without being eaten alive, we’re now enjoying the great outdoors more than ever.

The Dave Ramsey Course – Grace Lutheran hosted Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” this winter and our family was really blessed by the quality of the course and the opportunity to engage with other families on this ever so important topic of personal finance.  It was a really cool opportunity to meet others from the community as well.  I highly recommend this course.

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Life in Mora after 1 year. part 1

Making the best of Winter in MinnesotaIt’s been about a year since my family and I packed up our stuff and moved across the ocean from Adana, Turkey to Mora, MN.  One of my hopes before I arrived was to keep a blog that would chronicle the transition from a very urban lifestyle to life in a small town.  I’ve failed in that regard over the first year, but I believe it’s never too late to start doing something that you think you’re gonna love.

Over the past few months, I’ve wrestled with the question a lot of what I’d really like to be doing with my life career-wise.  I am still really beside myself trying to answer that question, but I do know a few things.

  1. I can never go wrong by writing about the journey.
  2. Any dream job I can imagine usually involves writing.
  3. Mastering the tools of the Web can only serve me in the future.
  4. In the past I’ve processed my thoughts best in writing.

With that in mind, I’m committing again to keep up a blog.  I long for the blog to one day be a place that celebrates all of the best things about life in East Central Minnesota, but for now, it’s going to be a place where I process my journey of bringing my family to my home town.

In my next few posts, I intend to share some reflections on our first year in Mora Minnesota by looking at these topics.

  1. What have been some of the nice surprises about life in Mora?
  2. What have been some hard things about life in Mora?
  3. What little projects have we endeavored to tackle in our first year in Mora?
  4. What led us to move here in the first place and how have those things panned out.

If you’d like to follow along, you can check back here every day, or you can sign up for my email list by clicking  here and get a little prompt delivered to your inbox every time I write something new.  The best way to participate is to leave a comment and to add to the conversation here.

If you want to comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions – “what would (does) living in a small town look like to you” – in your real life or in your imagination?

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A Chain Saw and an Axe

Forests edge before

It amazes me how the little things in life bring so much enjoyment when I’ve been deprived of them for so long.  One would not have looked at our lives in Turkey and thought that a big component was missing just by the fact that we weren’t home owners and I didn’t have access to land of my own.  After all, we had the things that matter most; family, friends, a relationship with God.  That said, I’ve wanted to own a little piece of the world for so long, and I think it just grew so much that every little thing about home ownership just brings me such enjoyment.  The big thing of late is the act of being able to cut down and or cut up dead trees and chop them up with the axe.

I got an axe for Christmas, and last weekend went out and bought a chain saw.  These two things represent a lot to me in terms of being able do something with my hands, even in the winter, to shape the land I live on.

The axe has provided a great physical outlet for me almost daily to stand up from my desk and go outside to chop some wood a couple times every morning to work my body, wake myself up again when work is putting me to sleep, and do something productive, (even though we don’t need the wood for anything.) I work from the assumption that man is not made to sit in front of a computer all day and that the work I do is inherently unnatural.  Something about getting outside and swinging that axe makes me feel more alive, and for a guy that works from home in front of a computer, this is much more life-giving than the typical coffee break.

Poulan 14 inch chain sawThe chain saw has been an even bigger revelation.  The little wooded area at the end of our property is a tangled mess of blown over trees and brush.  I’ve had a vision of that area being a place where we want to spend time in the warmer months.  I knew that in order to make that happen, I’d have to get and learn to use a chain saw.  Last weekend, I saw just how much can be done with that one little $100 tool.  Right at the edge of the wooded area, there was a handful of large trees that have fallen down over the past couple of years.  They looked terrible.  In about two hours of work, I was able to clear out three of them and convert them into links of firewood and a big pile of brush that will be shredded into mulch for my gardens before the winter is over. Over the week, in little spurts, I’ve split and stacked most of that firewood.

Forests edge before

The Tangled Mess “before”

I know I’m a total amateur in these realms and that my peers in Mora would think of this as “a city boy trying to be country” but I don’t care. This was just so satisfying to be able to transform a little area of 75 square yards.  I’ve had a dream of there being a little camp site out there with a fire ring and a spot where friends will love to gather on spring and fall nights to sit around a fire and chat into the night.  In just one week, plugging away in short spurts, I’ve seen a big step toward having it transformed into that.  It’s incredibly satisfying.  I didn’t know what I was missing… or rather I did know what I was missing, and that’s a part of why we’re here.

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Wild Fermentation – a New Adventure

wild-fermentationRana gave me a great book for Christmas called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.  The book goes into detail about fermenting and eating live foods.  The concept behind the book is that people for generations have prepared and preserved their food and beverages through various methods of fermentation and that the same methods can add a lot of enjoyment and health to our lives.

I’m excited about this book because I know it will help me take my fermentation adventures to the next level, and this is one area where I hope to expand my skills in 2013.   In the past two years I’ve learned to make a number of things that involve fermentation; homemade yogurt, Kefir, home-brewed beer, hard cider, homemade bread and sauerkraut.  I will be sharing some of my adventures with fermentation here on the blog along with recipes, how-to segments and even some failures that are sure to come.

For today, I just want to give a preview and say that it gives me pleasure joy to look up on top of my fridge and see four jars of sauerkraut and a jar of kefir fermenting away.

If you have any interest in following along in the journey with me, feel free to pick up the book and we can share our experiences with this fine art of fermentation.  Just click the book to buy it on Amazon.


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Life as a Solo-Act with Don Bursell of

Don BUrsellI have a dream  of creating a collection of interviews with interesting people in East Central Minnesota who are living the kinds of lives that make this area a better place to live, work or visit.  Don Bursell of DonB Ministries graciously volunteered to be my first interview and he fits the bill.

Don has known my family for many years, but I haven’t had many opportunities to sit down face to face and talk to him.  This interview was a real pleasure because Don and I got to know each other a LOT better.  That’s the real driving force behind these interviews; to give me an excuse to sit down and have an intentional conversation with extraordinary people.

Don is a full time performer who does juggling, unicycling, clowning, magic and plate spinning, among other things.  His goal is to entertain while getting opportunities to share his faith.  He does faith-based and mainstream events.

I was interested to hear from Don about these topics:

  • His reflections on having raised two kids in Mora his daughter is a Sophomore in college, son is a Junior at Mora.
  • What excites him about life in Mora
  • What he’s looking forward to in 2013
  • What life as a solo-act is like

Please visit Don’s website and check out some of his videos.

If you know someone who would be a great interview, please let me know in the comments.

The video that Don mentioned is below.

Don talked about what excites him about 2013.  What excites you about the new year?  Let us know in the comments.

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A New Home-Owner’s Christmas

I’m so excited about all of the goodies that I got for Christmas and the new skills that they represent that I have to share the excitement. Most of the gifts that I got represent skills that I want to develop more deeply now that I own a small piece of land in Mora Minnesota.

An Axe

An Axe – I’ve recently cleared some undesirable trees from my back yard that would be shading my garden for years to come.  All were Box Elder trees, which represents a lower quality of firewood, but perfect fodder for back yard bonfires.  The axe I got from my parents will allow me to chop wood for mid-day exercise as I work from the home office.  I got a good workout today and it felt great.

Wild Fermentation by  Sandor Ellix Katz is one of the two authority texts on home based fermentation projects. I love making lacto-fermented sauerkraut, brewing beer and have recently started making Kefir again.  I’m excited to learn more about fermentation and the probiotics that fermented foods have to offer.


Artisan Breads in 5 minutes a Day by  Jeff Hertzberg will take my obsession with homemade bounty to the next level as Rana and I experiment with making new types of bread for our home.

artisan breads

4 Big Logs and a Shiitake mushroom starter kit from my brother the forester was the perfect gift for turning the shaded areas on the north half of my land into a mushroom producing wonderland.

The True Temper Mulching Fork that I got from my folks will be the perfect tool for turning the compost bin and spreading mulch on my garden beds.

A Mother Earth News subscription will be sure to keep my mind full of interesting ideas for how to make my little 1 acre urban plot into a wannabe homestead.

I’m excited for all of the little projects that this list of gifts represents.  I look forward to sharing my progress here on the blog as I learn to make the most of life in small town USA.  What were some of your favorite gifts this year?

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