Friday, December 22, 2006

Three years ago...

About a week and a half ago, Kiddo turned 3.

My little baby is 3 years old.

Of course, that night after Kiddo went to bed Sweetie and I had to pull out the old videotape of the days surrounding his birth. We laughed at the pile of luggage I lugged to the hospital room ( that why it's called "luggage", because you "lug" it everywhere?), winced as we watched Sweetie's pain during early labor, laughed again at the sudden change in her demeanor AFTER the epidural, cried as he was born, and went through the whole range of crazy emotions we felt in the following 3 or 4 days, emotions intensified by an INCREDIBLE lack of sleep.

On the one hand, it felt like yesterday.

On the other hand, it seemed like a lifetime ago.

I remember taking him home from the hospital. As we got into the car, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" was playing on the radio--we were videotaping ourselves driving away, and with the music and the freshly fallen snow outside, it honestly sounded like a movie soundtrack. One of these days, if I have a chance to convert that video to digital, I'll have to post it because it's entirely too funny. I remember driving home white-knuckled, more nervous than I've ever been behind a wheel since I was a teenager learning the ropes in an empty parking lot, knowing that I had this brand new life that I was responsible for in the back seat.

I remember walking into the house, setting Kiddo down in his carrier, looking at Sweetie helplessly and both of us saying to each other, "okay, what do we do now?"

I remember the first diaper change at home. Now, you need to realize that I've changed many a diaper in my day, even before Kiddo was born. I did a lot of babysitting growing up, and worked for a time at a child care center. But I made a classic mistake for this first "at-home" changing. He had pooped a little bit, and I had him on the couch, butt facing outward, as I knelt with my face at butt level, getting ready to wipe him off. Well, you can guess what happened next. That's right, he wasn't quite done pooping yet. Ever had a faceful of baby diarrhea? No? I swear, it was something right out some B-grade new parent comedy movie, except if it had happened in a movie I would have said "that's too unrealistic, that NEVER would happen in real life!"

I remember having the entire Nick at Nite lineup from midnight to 6 AM memorized.

"Memories...light the corners of my mind...wispy watercolor memories...of the way we were..."

Happy belated birthday, Kiddo.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Eat your hearts out, candidacy committee!!!

Turns out I'm less heretical than I thought...

...though this particular quiz didn't have a question about whether one thinks it would be so totally cool to attach a zip line from the sanctuary balcony to the chancel area, and on Reformation Sunday have the pastor dressed as Martin Luther fly over the congregation, down to the front, and upon landing throw his fist into the air and yell "HERE I STAND, I CAN DO NO OTHER!" all while the organ is BLASTING A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

Not that I'D think that was, not in the least...

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Mommy, it's a FEEDBOX!"

Well, Kiddo's starting to get a handle on the Christmas story. Every night before bed, he gets to read 3 books. The last couple of weeks, by Mommy and Daddy's perogative, book #3 each night has been a kids' version of the Christmas story. Last night, Sweetie was reading it to him, and just like other stories when you try to deviate from the script he knows, he set her straight. In the story he hears, Jesus is laid in a feedbox. Sweetie wasn't paying attention and accidentally called it a manger, but he corrected her right quick. "No Mommy, not a manger, it's a FEEDBOX!"

Funny thing is, for the first few years of my life I just assumed "manger" was just a fancy word for "crib." Maybe Kiddo will have a better grasp of that little detail of the story. We'll see.

Later, Sweetie was corrected again when she had the angels sing "glory to God in the highest," instead of "glory to God in heaven," like the book says.

Who knows if the comprehension is there. Bottom line is, he's remembering the details. Comprehension can come later, but it's oh so important to know the framework of the story in the first place.

Oh, there's SOME comprehension there. The other night, after he finished his bedtime prayer, he looked at me and said, "Daddy, when I pray I'm talking to Jesus, just like baby Jesus who was born!"

Keep talking to Jesus, Kiddo. Keep talking.


"Calvin"-ist Comic of the Day

Entering the final days of Advent, in the spirit of the fire-and-brimstone "you brood of vipers!" sermons of John the Baptizer, I give you...



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why the new name?

Well, first a confession. When I began this blog in October, my original intent was to remain completely anonymous. I figured I'd just write about anything and everything, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Hence the Anonymous (Pipe)Dreamer tag.

It wasn't very long at all before I decided that I wanted to let people in on my "secret." It was about a week, in fact. Woo hoo. I held out a whole week. Actually, I think it was even less time than that. So I told friends and family about the blog, included it as a tag on my email address, etc. But then I was no longer anonymous. I only looked pretentious.

The more time that went on, the more it began to bother me that I was calling myself anonymous, AND that my blog title and "pen name" had nothing to do with my faith, which is of utmost importance to me.

So here we are. The Anonymous (Pipe)Dreamer is now LutheranHusker. I still, for the sake of safety, intend to speak in generalities when referring to life's details: names and such (one can never be too careful). Sweetie and Kiddo will retain their blog identities. But at least the blog is continuing to evolve as I grow into what I'm trying to do with it.

And the blog's new title is entirely intentional as well. These are not posts of a confessional nature in the way we often think of confessions (actually, this particular post is an exception to that, now that I think of it). I'm not here to pour out my sins, though some of that may very well happen. Another very Lutheran definition of confession is a statement of belief. More often than not, that's what I've written, and will continue to write about. What is it I believe? What do I believe about God, about life, about friends, family, football, music, and so on and so do the many and varied pieces of my life fit together?

So here I am, world. LutheranHusker. Saved by grace through faith, and living in God's country west of Omaha.


Monday, December 18, 2006

A Scrubs Charlie Brown Christmas

I can't believe I stumbled across's just too perfect. What would happen if you took the animation from A Charlie Brown Christmas and had the actors from Scrubs overdub new lines, using their characters' personas from the show?

Turns out, a couple of years ago, that's exactly what the producers of Scrubs did for the cast Christmas party. And what they created is part-Peanuts, part-Scrubs, part sweet, part funny, part naughty and part nice. It's just over 10 minutes long, and be forewarned...while Scrubs is generally a PG-13 show on TV, there's a couple of "bordering-on-R-rated" lines here.



It's been a hell of a weekend. A very fulfilling weekend, but a tiring one.

The events leading up to what this weekend became started last Sunday, when the pastor at the church I work at (who I'll call Pastor #1) got word that his wife's brother had lost his battle with cancer. The funeral was to be in Minneapolis on Thursday, so Pastor #1 and his wife left to drive up and help with arrangements on Tuesday.

Wednesday, a member of the congregation came in the office to tell us that his father-in-law, a relatively young (early 60's) and prominent member of our congregation had died very suddenly the night before of a heart attack. After getting in contact with Pastor #1, we found a pastor at another church (Pastor #2) who was able to come and be with the family. They decided to have the funeral on Saturday--Pastor #1 was scheduled to be back in town by Friday, so Pastor #2 had a preliminary meeting with the family to discuss the general shape of the funeral service. Hymns, readings, some stories to be shared during a homily, that sort of thing. That way, when Pastor #1 got back, much of the initial legwork would be done. They asked me to be the organist for the service and sing a solo, and I of course said yes to that honor.

Friday, I got a call from the president of the congregation. She said that Pastor #1 had called her to tell her that he (and his wife, AND most of the family who had been at the funeral in Minneapolis) had a bad case of stomach flu, and that he wasn't going to be in any shape to preside over the funeral the next day. And, depending on how things went, he may need me to lead worship services on Sunday. I knew that on Saturday I was going to be busy all day with the funeral, the dress rehearsal for the Sunday School Christmas program, and a dinner Sweetie and I had been invited to at a friend's house, and I also knew that chances were I wasn't going to know until Saturday if Pastor #1 would be ready to go on Sunday or not, so I spent about 4 hours on Friday writing a "just-in-case" sermon, and going through the Lutheran Book of Worship to figure out an order of service we could use if I was leading worship. I'm generally the organist, and didn't think it would be the most proper use of the liturgy to accompany myself on the chanting parts like a Lutheran Billy Joel or something.

Saturday came. The funeral was scheduled for 11, so I showed up at 9:30. Since Pastor #1 wasn't going to be there and I'm on staff, I figured I'd be the "go-to" guy for any questions, so I wanted to be there in plenty of time to assist with any last-minute stuff. Pastor #2 had met with the family again on Friday after getting her own call from the congregational president to finalize details, and they had decided to add a couple of hymns and move some other things around. So I had a chance to run through those real quick, help the Shrine Chanters warm up for their piece of special music, and show Pastor #2 around the church.

The funeral itself was an incredible witness to the power and hope we cling to as Christians. And it was huge. Our sanctuary can seat about 250 people--there were easily 450 there. We set up extra chairs in the balcony, and eventually had to seat a bunch of people in the narthex with piped-in sound. The processional hymn was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which I thought a little odd at first but as I read the It was right. and the recessional hymn was "Thine Is the Glory," a wonderful Easter hymn. They started with Christmas and ended with Easter--there's a sermon in there somewhere.

After the funeral I cut in line to grab a quick bite to eat so I could start getting things set up for the Christmas program rehearsal, which was set to start at 2. Rehearsal went from 2 to 4, then I rushed home to change clothes, and Sweetie, Kiddo and I went to dinner at our friend's house.

We excused ourselves at about 8:45 to come home, since it was way past Kiddo's bedtime. And we really SHOULD have gone to bed after laying him down, but that night was the NCAA volleyball national championship match between Nebraska and Stanford, and there was no way either of us was going to go to bed without watching it. We had set the DVR to record it, so we watched. A match for the ages--one of those where it was really too bad either team had to lose. Nebraska won in 4 games, but the largest margin of victory for either team was 30-26. Volleyball is probably my second favorite sport to watch after college football--there's nothing quite like a well-played volleyball match. And the good guys (or in this case, the good girls) won, so it was worth it. And they played the match in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,200 in Omaha's Qwest Center, an all-time attendance record for a women's volleyball match. Good stuff.

Except my adrenaline kept me up until 1:30 in the morning, and I needed to be up by 6:30 to go to church in the morning. Sunday being a workday really cuts into Saturday night activity...turns out Pastor #1 was feeling well enough to lead worship, so my sermon was unnecessary, and I was able to stay up in the balcony and play the organ--no Lutheran Billy Joel tricks yesterday. I had some time to come home for a couple of hours afterwards before heading back to set things up for the Sunday School Christmas program, which started at 5.

The program went great! A member of the congregation had written the script--it told the Christmas story from the perspective of the animals, and was really well done. The kids did their parts well, the little kids looked appropriately cute and sang terrifically, and a bunch of parents and grandparents showed up to watch. A personal observation--I LOVE using the song "Go Tell It On The Mountain" for kids' Christmas programs, because no matter what the church is, no matter where you are, it ALWAYS sounds like this:


While shepherds dum dee dum silent flocks dum dum...behold la la dee la la...there um um la la liiiiiiiiiiiiight...


And, you know what? The payoff when the kids get to the chorus is worth the squirming while they're struggling through the verses. Go tell it on the mountain, kids! And keep telling it when you get older, even after you learn that supposedly four-letter word: evangelism. It comes from the same Greek root as the word angel, the same angels you're singing about right now, and it's all about telling the good news!

Woo hoo!!! So that was my weekend. Busy? Yes. Full? Yes. Am I REALLY tired? Yes. Am I fulfilled?

Yes. Thanks be to God!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Favorite Calvin

Well, maybe I should qualify that. There's probably two hundred Calvin and Hobbes comic strips that I could honestly say are my favorite...but this is the one that I have remembered ever since the day it was in the newspaper, and that I first think of when I think of Calvin and Hobbes.

Without further ado:

(Click on the comic strip to make it bigger)


Calvin and Hobbes Political Statement of the Day

(click on the comic to make it bigger)

So many directions one could go with this... the wise words of Peter Parker's uncle, "with great power comes great responsibility."

It's true in our relationships, it's true for parents, it's true in government, and it's true in the church.

Back in the 60's, Robert Short wrote a little book called The Gospel According to Peanuts. Since then, there have been a flurry of The Gospel According to (fill in the blank). There's so much good theological thought to be mined in those old Calvin and Hobbes comic strips...I wonder if Bill Watterson would ever consent to allowing a Gospel According to Calvin and Hobbes to be published?


Gotta go.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Getting to Know You--Holiday Edition

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Egg Nog (rum optional!)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
He just sets them under the tree. Busy guy, you know!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Depends on the look you're going for. White for the classy, "adult" look, colored lights if you wanna look kid-friendly. Our tree this year has all-white lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope--I don't need an excuse to kiss my sweetie!

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Depends mostly on when we have the time. Ideally for me is the afternoon of the first Sunday of Advent.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
It's a tie between my mom's meat stuffing and a new favorite, Sweetie's green bean casserole!

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I think just the whole Christmas Eve/morning routine. With relatives scattered to the four winds, we usually didn't have anyone to visit, so we'd open gifts from aunts/uncles, grandparents, and each other on Christmas Eve after supper, then go to church, then go to bed and try to get an hour or two of sleep before waking up EARLY to see what Santa had brought under the tree and in our stockings. I was always the first one awake, and the rule was we couldn't go downstairs until everyone was awake...I wasn't allowed to do anything to wake up my sister, so I'd just go into her room and look at her until she woke up. Ever get the feeling someone's watching you? Well, it also can happen when you're asleep...usually it would only take 5 minutes or so and she'd be awake.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Not sure--I think I was pretty young, but I don't remember when I found out.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
See #7 for the routine when I was growing up. Now, it just kind of depends on who we're visiting or what we're doing.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
It's been different each year, but this year we have white lights, dark red beads, all of The Kiddo's ornaments, and a few of Sweetie's and mine from when we were growing up. We've had to cut back on our ornaments because between the 3 of us, we had so many that if we were to hang them all up you wouldn't be able to see the tree!

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Snow is evil and must be stopped at all costs. The only time it's acceptable for it to snow is on Christmas Eve. Give me half an inch with nice big flakes, let it stay on the ground until January 2nd, then give me a nice couple of days of 60 degree weather to get rid of it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Much in the same way that a toddler can run. Yes, you can call it skating, but potential disaster lurks every time I move my feet.

13. Do you remember your favorite Christmas gift ?
My favorite Christmas gift actually came on December 11, 2003, when The Kiddo was born.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Reading Luke 1-2, going to church, and singing those wonderful Christmas hymns.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Cranberry mince pie!!!!!!!!!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Listening to Handel's Messiah during supper each Sunday in Advent, with the advent wreath lit. If you usually take about a half hour for supper, you can get through the whole Messiah in four weeks.

17. What tops your tree?
We have a beautiful gold and silver colored star.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
I LOVE to give gifts!

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
O Holy Night.

20. Candy Canes! Love them or hate them?
Mmmmmmm....candy canes....especially in hot chocolate...


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"My peace I give to you..."

For a number of reasons that I won't bother you with, I was having a tough day yesterday. Then, at work, I was going through a box of stuff that I had brought with me when I left the Lutheran Student Center, and discovered a manuscript from a sermon I preached back in May of 2004. At first, I just scanned it, refamiliarizing myself with the general idea. After a few moments, I began reading in earnest, and midway through decided to go back to the beginning and devour the whole thing.

It was as if God was comforting me with my own words.

Advent is supposed to be a time of hopeful anticipation for the coming of the Christ Child. More often than not, however, it ends up being not much more than the frantic preparations for Christmas...not so much the Christmas of Mary and Joseph and Jesus, but the Christmas of gatherings and gifts and decorations. I have to continually remind myself to keep things in perspective, to allow the gatherings and gifts and decorations to serve Christmas, and not the other way around.

That's not what was bothering me yesterday. But whether it's busy-ness, or illness, or work, or family demands, or loneliness, or death, or a multitude of other things, the pressure for our days to "be merry and bright" during this season can be overwhelming, and can easily spiral folks in the other direction.

Anyway, the sermon I found has to do with peace. And hope. There's two main texts that I covered: Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 and John 14:23-29. The Revelation passage speaks of the New Jerusalem (if I remember correctly, this actually used to be an Advent text before the lectionary was revised), and in the passage from John, Jesus speaks of sending the Advocate, the Spirit.

May God grant you peace and hope as you anticipate the coming of Christ. Christ in the manger, Christ at the end of time, and Christ in your daily life. Amen.

Here's the sermon text:

It’s been a tough week. Monday night, within a span of about 3 hours, my son, then myself, then my wife all came down with a pretty violent case of the flu. I’ll spare you the details, but with all 3 of us down at the same time, and with no one truly “well” to be able to take care of the others, it was pretty miserable. Thursday afternoon, Pastor Larry Meyer at the Lutheran Student Center found out that the cancer he fought a year and a half ago has come back, and is growing in a lymph node near the original occurrence. He’ll be meeting with his doctors this week to see exactly what he’s up against and what his chances for recovery may be. Halfway around the world, an American civilian was ruthlessly beheaded in retaliation for the sickening dehumanization of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of some of our own soldiers. Gunfire and missiles continue to fly between Israeli and Palestinian forces all over Israel—the roadmap to peace seemingly on an interminable detour. Stocks are falling, prices are rising…

Where is the good news?

Where is God?

We see images every day of the “Old Jerusalem.” Quite literally, the city of Jerusalem, torn apart by centuries of war, of distrust, of terror…we see so many scenes of the aftermath of violence, we see so many images of crying parents over lost children, of so many crying orphans lamenting the loss of their parents. After a while, all the stories blend together, lose their edge—oh, it’s another killing. Oh, it’s another bombing. It’s just another tragedy in Jerusalem…we lose track of it all.

Look with me at John’s vision of the “New Jerusalem” from Revelation: “And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 22I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

Wow…last week we saw how God makes all things new through Christ. It’s a message of hope in the here and now, a message that calls to us through the pain and brokenness of our lives, and a message that is continued in today’s texts. How powerful, how incredible, how absolutely amazing is the image of the new Jerusalem! To see the city that these days is one of the biggest symbols of humankind’s brokenness and separation, lifted up in this way…the nations walk by its light, kings and people bring into it the glory and honor of the nations, the river of the water of life flows through it, the tree of life grows in the middle of the city…the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations!

I’m going to come back to this image of the New Jerusalem, but first we need to look at the Gospel lesson. Without the words of the Gospel, the New Jerusalem is nothing than a pipedream, a beautiful image of something that doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t exist yet, something to look forward to in some distant time or place, some future otherworldly heaven that has no effect on us in the here and now except to give us hope for what lies ahead. If that’s all it is, then it does us no good…it’s like having your head banged over and over and over against a brick wall and being told “don’t worry, someday the banging will stop, and you’ll be out of your pain and there will be no more brick wall.”

This week, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to only look ahead to some future paradise. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit, described in the NRSV translation as our advocate…it’s also been translated as helper, counselor, comforter…it is the spirit of the living Christ! Through the Spirit, Christ is with us, Christ is in us, Christ advocates on our behalf, he helps us, he counsels us, he comforts us!

In a world of bad news, Jesus tells us “PEACE I leave with you; MY PEACE I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” As Christians, it’s easy to find ourselves falling into the trap of waiting for that beautiful day someday when all pain will cease and all will be right. If that’s all life is, waiting for some magic end out there, then why deal with everything that happens between point a and point b?

If we do that as Christians, we miss the incredible gift God has given us in the Holy Spirit. We feel uncomfortable sometimes as Lutherans talking about the Holy Spirit, but it is the Spirit that is with us today—it is the Spirit who gives us peace.

There are those out there who will say that God blesses them because of their belief in Christ. They will say that they put their faith in God, and suddenly life gets easier. There are less questions, less bumps in the road, things just go well. Jesus never promised us that. He doesn’t promise us that in today’s gospel either. Peace is not the absence of pain. Peace is not sailing smoothly through life. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, the peace that Jesus gives to us, is not a promise that we will not have to deal with illness, or the uncertain future of a loved one. It doesn’t mean that we will stop being touched by evil and sadness and hurt, whether it’s headlines from far away or events that directly affect us right where we are.

Peace through the spirit is the trust and assurance that even though pain and suffering do occur, we know who is ultimately in control and who has the final say. The world offers us many things—the world offers us a version of peace, the world offers us security, the world offers us happiness. But the world lets us down. The world doesn’t always keep its promises. We have the Holy Spirit who is with us, teaching us, reminding us of all Jesus has told us. When bad things happen we have a God who suffers with us and who is always there to comfort us, and who has already defeated the powers of sin and death on our behalf. We have a God who keeps his promises!

Earlier, I asked, where is the good news? It’s right here.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. These are words coming from the very one who in a matter of hours will be arrested, beaten, and crucified. And they are spoken not just to the disciples 2000 years ago, they are spoken to us today. What’s going on in your life? What pain, what uncertainty, what trial, what is it that you are facing today? You have a loving God who created you! You have a loving God who gave himself willingly for you! You have a loving God who even today is with you to comfort and guide you, and who works through you to comfort and guide others!

This is the peace of the New Jerusalem, this is the assurance of life and love that Jesus has given us. The New Jerusalem does not have to be some future paradise we need to wait and hope for, the New Jerusalem IS a picture of the peace of Christ! The kingdom of God has already broken into our world—in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and we have been freed! And every time we taste the bread of the Lords table, and every time we drink from the cup, and when we hear the words “this is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you,” the old Jerusalem dies once more in us, and God gives us his peace, builds in us the New Jerusalem.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Through pain, through fear, through darkness, through sin, through whatever it is we face, Christ has given us his peace, has built in us the New Jerusalem, has left with us the helper, the counselor, the advocate, the Holy Spirit.



Friday, December 08, 2006

More Thoughts of a Precocious 2 Year-Old

More Wit and Wisdom, courtesy of The Kiddo:

Referring to the cute 6 year old girl at daycare:
"Payton's my girl."

Setting the scene for me as we get ready to play "pretend":
(pointing to four invisible people) "We have a witch, a prince, Little Red Riding Hood, and a dinosaur. So we're going to go on a picnic. I'll bring the keys so I can drive. Daddy, you can bring the food and I can bring Alex." (Alex is his doll.)

Trying to convince me not to take him to daycare:
"Daddy, it's too cold outside to go to Barbie's house. (note: her name is Barb, but the kids call her Barbie) So I'll just stay here and play in my pajamas, okay?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A teacher's legacy

I ran into Mr. Reimer, my high school choir teacher while on my way to the Nebraska-Colorado game a couple of weeks ago. He's still teaching, though it's at a different school now. He "retired" from the high school he had taught at for the past 29 years just this last May, and his son put together a big surprise party for him, inviting all the alumni he could find. There was at least one person there representing each class from 1977 through 2006. And, with only an hour beforehand to practice, we had a mass alumni choir sing 3 songs a la Mr. Holland's Opus, with our beloved teacher directing. I've got a clip from our rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water below.

Part of my job description now is church music director, and as part of that I'm responsible for directing the church choir. Other than my high school choirs, I have absolutely no formal vocal or choral training whatsoever, so whatever I do have I owe to Mr. Reimer. I found myself slipping in a "Reimer-ism" during choir rehearsal last night. The choir was practicing "Still, Still, Still" for the Christmas Eve service. The men and the altos keep time with half notes for most of the arrangement, with the sopranos having the only real moving part in the song. We were short on sopranos last night, and they were being overpowered by the others, so I stopped them and said, "okay...sopranos? You're Gladys. The rest of you? You're all Pips. All you Pips out there, when you're singing, think to yourself, 'can the congregation hear Gladys?' And Gladys? You're the one everyone came out to hear, so let 'em have it!"

Anyone reading this who was never in one of Mr. Reimer's choirs right now is thinking "well okay, that's nice." I can guarantee you though, that if you're reading this and ever had Mr. Reimer as a teacher, you've got a big ol' goofy grin plastered on your face.

Here's the clip from Bridge Over Troubled Water from back in May (sorry, our camera didn't have enough memory to get the whole thing). If I say so myself, not bad for a bunch of amateurs who were doing some glorified sight-singing...please excuse the audience members who started clapping woefully out of time:


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes...

I was in a hurry yesterday morning to whisk The Kiddo off to daycare so I could get to work. As he was eating breakfast, I was rushing around the kitchen straightening things up. After a few minutes I noticed that he had stopped eating and was watching me. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Keep eating."

Kiddo: (with a big grin) "Daddy, we almost forgot to pray before breakfast!"

Me: (thinking to myself) "No, we didn't almost forget. We, or I, was in too much of a hurry and hoped you wouldn't notice. What kind of church Christian Education Director and dad am I anyway? I suck."

Me: (to The Kiddo) "You're RIGHT!!! We did almost forget!"

Kiddo: "Fold your hands, daddy. I'll pray for us."

Me: (folding hands) "Okay."

Me: (thinking to myself) "Yes, please pray for me, the hustling, bustling Martha to your smiling Mary. Kid, I love you to pieces. You're only two and already teaching me things."

Kiddo: "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen."

Me: "Amen."

Amen, indeed. Let it be so! Kiddo, thanks for reminding your daddy of my need to pray, especially during those busy and hectic times.

Amen, amen, and amen!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Favorite Christmas Songs/Hymns

Well, I've covered musical Christmas's only right that we should address that Christmas is the subject of some of the most beautiful music ever written. Honestly, I think that's what annoys me about BAD Christmas's like, there's so much GOOD stuff out there, why did you have to go write and/or sing this crap? My Christmas musical taste generally covers two extremes, which maybe mirrors the two theological extremes that converge in the Christmas event. In reflecting, I love big, powerful Christmas music, and I love quiet, simple Christmas music. Much of the stuff in between is fine too, but those are definitely my two preferences. And in a way, maybe that does mirror what happened at Christmas...we have the Lord of the universe coming with choirs of angels...but we also have a relatively anonymous teenaged mother giving birth in a barn. And both perspectives describe the same event. The post-modernist in me LOVES that kind of juxtaposition. So, on to the music (again, in no particular order):

Oh Holy Night: A couple of caveats here. First, ya gotta include all 3 verses. The first verse is nice and all, but the other 2 verses are such treasures...and far too often we don't get to hear them. There's some good, meaty theology of the cross to chew on in there. The third verse in particular is my favorite. Here's the text of the whole hymn for those who may not be aware of the other verses:

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices,
Oh night divine! Oh night when Christ was born!
Oh night divine!
Oh night divine!

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King, before him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name!

Christ is the Lord! O praise his name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

The second caveat is almost as important. This hymn HAS to be done right. Strong and powerful in the appropriate places, soft and subdued in other places. This isn't one that you can just belt it out for all it's worth (like say, Joy to the World) and it's not one that you can sing as a lullabye (like Silent Night). It's a little of both. And when done right, it will raise the hairs on the nape of your neck and bring tears of joy and wonder to your eyes. As far as versions you hear on the radio, there's actually very few that I'd classify as very good. Faith Hill does a good job with the nuances between strong and soft, but if I remember correctly she only sings the first verse. Most versions only sing the first verse, which is really too bad. I think musically my favorite version is Michael Crawford's. I haven't heard it yet this year and I don't remember offhand if he uses more than one verse, but I think he does. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

What Child Is This? First, I love the hymn. I love that it addresses both the humanity and divinity of Christ. The humility and the exaltation. I love that there is a verse that also points to the cross: "Nails, spear, shall pierce him through; the cross be borne for me, for you; hail, hail, the Word made flesh; the Babe, the son of Mary." And I love, just simply have fallen in love with the gorgeously simple arrangement John Denver did of this beautiful song. For me, his is the definitive rendition.

What Child is this who, laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

Mary, Did You Know? A relatively new song that also points to the cross as well as addresses the humanity and divinity of Christ. It was originally written by Mark Lowry, who is well known in many Christian circles (though not by many Lutherans) as part of Bill Gaither's band and a funny, though hyper Christian comedian. Frankly, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I first found out he had written this. It's been recorded by a number of folks, but I have yet to hear the recording that does full justice to this beautiful song:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would someday walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the Great I Am!

Joseph's Song Maybe it's because I'm a daddy now...but this beautiful song by Michael Card gets me every time. Just imagine Joseph holding his baby, eyes closed, asking God "how could it be? How can a man be father to the Son of God? Lord, for all my life I've been a simple carpenter--how can I raise a King? How can I raise a King?" Doggone it, I'm getting all teary-eyed just TYPING about this song. I know how completely unworthy I felt when my own son was born...this song really drives home how Joseph must have felt. Whenever I accompany myself on this song, after the final "how could it be?" I always go up an octave and play the "sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace" ending from Silent Night. It seems to fit well, both thematically and musically, even though it's not part of the original arrangement.

If you've never heard this song before, do me a favor. Go out and purchase a copy of Michael Card's The Life, and listen to Joseph's Song. While you're at it, listen to the rest of the double-album as well--it goes through the life of Jesus, and Michael Card is an incredible songwriter. Here's the lyrics for Joseph's Song:

How could it be, this baby in my arms
Sleeping now so peacefully?
"The Son of God," the angel said--how could it be?

Lord, I know he's not my own.
Not of my flesh, not of my bones.
Still Father let this baby be the son of my love.

Father show me where I fit into This plan of Yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord, for all my life I've been a simple carpenter.
How can I raise a king? How can I raise a king?

He looks so small, his face and hands so fair.
And when he cries the sun just seems to disappear.
But when he laughs, it shines again.
How could it be?

Father show me where I fit into this plan of Yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord, for all my life I've been a simple carpenter.
How can I raise a king? How can I raise a king?

How could it be, this baby in my arms
Sleeping now so peacefully?
"The Son of God," the angel said--
How could it be?

For Unto Us a Child Is Born That's right, an oldie but a goodie by our old friend George Fredric Handel. Rich text, lifted straight from the prophecy in the 9th chapter of Isaiah, beautiful and memorable melody, and when done well by a chorus and orchestra, an amazing experience. Not to mention the fact that I always think of my sister, who when she was young was convinced that the song was about a "Wonderful Constable."

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.


Birthday Meme

The Rules:
1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)

My Birthday: April 30

My Events
1492 - Spain gives Christopher Columbus his commission of exploration.
1803 - Louisiana Purchase: The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million, more than doubling – overnight – the size of the young nation.
1945 - Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide after being married for one day.

People Who Share My Birthday
1916 - Robert Shaw, American conductor (d. 1999)
1933 - Willie Nelson, American musician, composer, and actor (COMPOSER?!?!)
1982 - Kirsten Dunst, American actress (Woo hoo! Eat your heart out, Spiderman!)

People Who Died on my Birthday
1994 - Richard Scarry, American author (b. 1919)

Holiday or Observance
Scandinavia - The arrival of spring, Walpurgis Night.


Monday, December 04, 2006

"Scrubs" Rant of the Week

Dr. Cox talking to Chief of Medicine Dr. Bob Kelso:

"You know, Bob, I've been thinking about all the times that you've manipulated me and toyed with me, and, well, I can't help but recall that children's fable about the race between the tortoise and the pain-in-the-ass chief of medicine that everybody hates. You see, Bob, the pain-in-the-ass chief of medicine that everybody hates kept running out in front of the tortoise and taunting him; but right at the end -- gosh, I'm sure you remember what happened, Bob -- the tortoise bit clean-through the chief of medicine's calf muscle, dragged him to the ground, where he and all the other turtles devoured him alive, right there on the racetrack. It's a...disturbing children's book, Bob, I know, but it's one that stuck with me, nonetheless."


"So, Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas..."

From the Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians:

Open up your heart and let the Patrick Swayze Christmas in.
We'll gather at the Roadhouse with our next of kin.
And Santa can be our regular Saturday night thing.
We'll decorate a barstool and gather round and sing.

Oh, let's have a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year!
Or we'll tear your throat out and kick you in the ear!
It's my way or the highway, this Christmas at my ba-ha-haar.
I'll have to smash your kneecaps if you bastards touch my car!

I got the word that Santa has been stealing from the till.
I think that that right jolly old elf had better make out his will ohh!

Oh, let's have a Patrick Swayze Christmas, one and all.
And this can be the haziest...this can be the laziest...
This can be the Swayziest Christmas of them AAALLLLLLLLLL!"

Silly? Pointless?

Yes. (After all, that was pretty much the whole point of be both silly and pointless, in an incredibly intelligent way.)

However, I would contend that there are "Christmas" songs out there that get regular radio airplay that are just as pointless. Or, dare I say annoying. And I'm not talking about songs like Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer or the McKenzie Brothers' 12 Days of Christmas (you know, "on the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...a beer." Yeah, that one.). Those are meant to be silly, pointless, mildly annoying, etc.

But, here, in no particular order, is my list of most annoying Christmas songs that just get under my nerves and I really hate them with a passion:

1) The Christmas Shoes. I'm a sucker for sappy stories, but this one is just too doggone contrived. All they needed to do was put in something about a dead dog and a pickup that won't start and they could've had a country hit on their hands. I'm not sure why, but instead of feeling sad when I hear this song, I feel sarcastic. And used. And a little bit angry. Not exactly "the Christmas spirit..." Oh...and just because something mentions Jesus doesn't mean it's not a piece of drivelish crap. You don't get a free pass musically OR lyrically just for writing a Christian song.

2) Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. At least I think that's the title...after all, that's pretty much all he sings the whole song. And the tune, once it's in my head it never leaves. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing sometimes, but with this song since the tune is just ONE LINE LONG it's the same thing over and over and over..."simply having a wonderful Christmastime...simply having a wonderful Christmastime...simply having etc."

3) Last Christmas by either Wham or George Michael...does it really matter? "Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away. This year to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special..." GAG. Personally, I think his problem is that he doesn't realize one can give one's heart away on days OTHER than Christmas. George, if it doesn't work out, you don't have to wait another 364 days, buddy! But PLEASE quit singing about it...

4) Step Into Christmas by Elton John. Um, only Elton John can get away with beginning lyrics like "welcome to my Christmas song, I'd like to thank you for the year." And the only thing that even MAKES this a Christmas song is that he uses the word "Christmas" a few times. The song itself, honestly, I do enjoy. But the absolute #1 most annoying thing about this one is the way it was mixed. You hear the instrumentals just fine, but it sounds like Elton's singing in the next room. I can just see him banging on the wall: "Hey! You!!! Welcome to my Christmas song!!!"

5) Christmas Canon by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. First, I'm kinda jaded about the whole Canon in D thing--too overused for pretty much EVERYTHING. But I could live with it if it wasn't for those KIDS singing "on this night, on this night, on this merry Christmas night, on this night, on this night, on this merry Christmas night" over and over and over and over and OVER. It's like a musical woodpecker eating away at your brain.

Well, that's 5 to get you started. Any others to add to the list?


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Go team go!!!

This is a picture I took of my TV screen during a football game yesterday. I actually had to rewind the DVR and rewatch this 3 different times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.

As you can see in the upper left-hand corner, it's the first quarter of the USC-UCLA game. UCLA has just kicked the extra point after scoring a touchdown, and all the cheerleaders are standing around like nothing's going on except the one in the middle, who's actually doing her job, celebrating the score...uh...what's that? What's that you say? Those are the USC cheerleaders?!?!?!



Help! I'm being over-run by (Wild)Cats!!!!

My stat tracker tells me that I've been inundated by visitors from K-State's Rivals board today. Just wanted to give a friendly Husker hello!

Thanks, take care, and God bless!


Friday, December 01, 2006

And now, for your viewing pleasure... of the most improbable endings to any sporting event anywhere. It's a Texas high school football game between Plano East and John Tyler high schools from 1994. Make sure your sound is up on this one--the announcers are just as entertaining as the game.

There's a YouTube comment on this clip that sums up the announcing:

Al Michaels: "Do you believe in miracles? YES!"
Plano East radio guy: "I done wet my britches!" (and yes, that's an actual quote.)

To set the stage, as the clip begins, John Tyler H.S. (in the light-colored uniforms) is ahead 41-17 with 2:42 left in the 4th quarter (that's right, less than 3 minutes until the END OF THE GAME). Plano East currently is on offense.




Thoughts of a Precocious 2 Year-Old

Some word-for-word quotes The Kiddo has said in the last 24 hours:

Said very loudly upon seeing a boxing match on TV in the restaurant where we were ordering food:
"Those guys aren't being very nice to each other."

After overhearing my wife and I discussing a football team that lost a game:
"They lost just like the Yankees lose!" (Wrong sport, but right sentiment...daddy was very proud after hearing that one!)

Watching me pop a mint in my mouth:
"I'm glad I'm growing up, otherwise I might not ever get to eat mints."

After passing gas while getting ready for bed last night:
"I'm not poopy,'s just air."

Sitting up in bed, at the top of his lungs at 2:30 this morning:


Thursday, November 30, 2006


No, I'm not running for office. But I am in the candidacy process with the ELCA. Basically, it's a pretty thorough process that the church goes through with each person who wants to become officially rostered. Many "candidates" are future pastors...however, I'm going a different route. There's a designation for laypeople called the Associate in Ministry (or AiM, for short). You still write the same candidacy essays, have the same candidacy interviews, and undergo the same candidacy psychological testing as a future pastor, but you only take the equivilent of 20 credit hours of classes, and there's easier to obtain (AND cheaper!) resources at your disposal than what you might do through a seminary. At the end, the church affirms your call to a ministry of Word and Service, which can take a number of different forms...basically any church position that isn't a pastor.

One of the steps in this process is writing an entrance essay. There are specific questions you're asked to answer through the course of the essay--it's basically a chance for your synod's candidacy committee to get to know you, what you're about, and what you feel God is calling you to in the future. After writing the essay, you meet with the candidacy commitee and go over what was written. I did mine back in January...with some small edits to eliminate specific names I used, here it is:

When asked to list the people who have most influenced the shape of my life and who I am today, my “family of origin”; that is, my parents and my sister, very easily come first. My parents were high-school sweethearts from a small town in south-central Massachusetts. My father served 20 years in the Air Force, and my mother was a nurse. Being a military family brought with it some unique challenges, as well as many unique joys—many of which helped make me who I am today. First, the transient nature of military assignments meant a lot of moving from place to place. My family was blessed in that we did not have to pick up and move very often at all, but even when we were able to stay in one place, the faces around us were constantly changing. On the one hand, it helped teach me how to quickly make friends and the importance of treasuring the time we had together; on the other hand, it made it difficult for me to form the kind of deep bonds lifetime friends have. On the one hand, I became used to the idea of friends and family being separated and scattered around the country; on the other hand, it didn’t allow for the sense of “roots” that so many others have and cherish.

My parents were wonderful, loving, Christian examples for my younger sister and me. We ate meals together, prayed together, and went to church together. Church in particular, growing up, was hardly ever an optional activity—we were there, whether I wanted to be or not. My parents also set a good example with their church involvement. My father served on church council and on call committees, and my mother was a Stephen Minister and coordinated visitor calls.

My sister and I have always had a close relationship. She is three years younger than me, which as it turned out was the perfect amount of separation to allow each of us to be our own person, but close enough to be friends. Since the military family lifestyle doesn’t give one many opportunities to have lifelong friends from birth, my sister and I ended up developing that type of relationship. Even today, though we live hundreds of miles apart and each have our own families, that bond remains.

I’ve been married since the summer of 2000 to a wonderful woman. She is the love of my life and my best friend. We have one child who was born in 2003. We’re a very close-knit family—although we both work, we’ve been very intentional about keeping our evenings as free as possible to have time together with our son, as well as time together as a couple. Like many young families, we have found it necessary to live on two incomes, and although we have been careful about putting some money away for savings, our children’s college, and our eventual retirement, we still basically live paycheck to paycheck. I am still paying off my college loans, but other than that, we have no large debts besides our mortgage. We are all in good physical, spiritual, and emotional health. That has never been so evident as this past month. The last two weeks of December, 2005 brought three separate family “bombshells:” first, the funding for my position at the Lutheran Student Center had run out and I made the decision to leave; then my wife's “favorite aunt” was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor, and finally, my 55 year-old mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Although we have had to deal with the shock and grief associated with each of these events, we’ve been able to lean on each other, other family, and most importantly on God for support, comfort, and healing. We know there are difficult times ahead, but we also know that God is beside us. Instead of shaking our faith, in a very real way our faith has instead been strengthened.

My sense of call has been developing for a long time, and I realize the process of discernment is never complete. I first sensed a call to the ministry, interestingly enough, in Confirmation class. My pastor took a group of confirmation students to a camp in Chadron, NE each summer. Since we lived on the other side of the state in Bellevue, this meant a long van ride there and back. Both summers, during the ride, I sat in the front passenger seat, and while my pastor drove, he and I would discuss theology, church politics, and church history. I was a virtual sponge—throughout junior high and high school I devoured all of the theological education I could get my hands on. I remember thinking at the time how great it would be to become a pastor, to have these sorts of conversations and study these sorts of things as your job. It was my first insight into the true meaning of “vocation.”

After high school, I went to a public liberal arts college in Missouri. There was only one Lutheran church in town. It was a Missouri Synod church, but oddly enough still used the Lutheran Book of Worship. Unfortunately, though the church had a “Lutheran House” right next to campus for students to live in, there really wasn’t much intentional ministry for the students, and the church itself was not very student-friendly. After a few months, I stopped going to church altogether…at least during the school year. Church was still a requirement when I was home on breaks, and during the summers I worked as a counselor at Camp Carol Joy Holling.

Camp was the first place where my internal sense of call began to be supplemented by an external sense of call as well. I had the privilege of working with some incredible young adults, meeting and learning from some incredible pastors, and being mentored by two big influences in my “call story.” These two people both encouraged me to take a closer look at the ministry, as did a number of the pastors I had the joy of meeting. Looking back, I see the encouragement I received from these pastors both as an affirmation of call, and as examples of the power those in authority have to give wings to dreams. There are a few pastors who probably have no recollection of the conversations we had ten or twelve years ago, but I remember their comments vividly. God speaks through those around us, even though those people might not realize or even mean to be that sort of “mouthpiece.”

My “call story” took a major detour after I finished college. During my junior year, I had started to date someone, and after just nine months of dating we had became engaged. At this point, I had been planning on going to seminary as soon as I finished my undergraduate degree, and decided to modify my plan slightly. I got a job as a youth director at a church in Hastings, NE while my fiancĂ©e finished the last year of her bachelor’s degree in Missouri. During that time, a couple of things happened. First, we discovered that we had most likely gotten engaged too quickly, and had some life goals and dreams that were not necessarily compatible. Partly because of that, and partly because of the distance, we encountered a second consequence: we began to each develop our own separate lives and visions for our futures. Finally, we decided to call off the engagement.

With that decision, my sense of call took a backseat as I grieved the loss of a perceived future and struggled to define who I was and where I was going. I moved to Lincoln to be closer to friends and family, working at a daycare center, a telemarketing firm, the Cliffs Notes home office, a dental insurance home office, a dot-com virtual high school, and a life insurance home office. I met, dated and married the woman who's now my wife, and through it all redefined my call and vocation as that of a layperson who would always take an active role in their home congregation, but nothing more. I served as a part-time music director for a church in Lincoln for two and a half years, and later became a member at a different church in Lincoln where I served as a lector, taught Sunday school, sang in the men’s chorus, and occasionally filled in as a substitute organist on Sundays. I was happy with my marriage, happy with my family situation, and happy with my church involvement, but still felt a vocational void as I jumped from job to job, always hoping that the next thing would be “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” and always coming up disappointed.

In the fall of 2003, I was dealing with the latest vocational disappointment. My wife was pregnant, and after conversations with her and a lot of prayer, I had decided that when the baby was born, I would use that time off to find another job. It wasn’t two weeks after I had come to that conclusion when Pastor Larry Meyer called me completely out of the blue from the Lutheran Student Center, and asked me if I was satisfied with my current job situation. When I told him I wasn’t, he replied, “Good. I have an opportunity for you.” Pastor Larry had known me for years, and for some time had tried to convince me that my vocational call was in the church, but until then, I had always had a reason to ignore him. I interviewed for and was selected to be a lay minister at the Lutheran Student Center, a new position LSC had created to reach out to the other college campuses in Lincoln.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after I began my work that Pastor Larry was re-diagnosed with esophageal cancer. As part of my job description, I was expected to apply for candidacy and work toward earning the Associate in Ministry designation. However, with two brand new ministries I was trying to build and a third that I had ever-increasing responsibilities for as Pastor Larry’s illness progressed, I never had the opportunity. Instead, I was busy with the day to day workings of helping make three different ministries run. After Pastor Larry passed away in April 2005, LSC was unable to find an interim pastor. In many ways I became that interim lay minister as I led Sunday morning worship services, wrote and led Bible studies, and helped coordinate with the student committees to make all of the different programs happen.

An amazing thing that DID happen during my time at LSC is that, after almost ten years of being finished with college, I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. More accurately, in my discernment process, God showed me where I think He wants me—in the church. I have a renewed sense of internal call, and it’s only been bolstered by the countless external affirmations of that call I’ve received in my time at LSC. It even became a running joke with the other staff to count how many times somebody would ask when I was going to seminary, or suggesting that I ought, or offering to help me find ways to make it happen.

God has showed me where he wants me. Right now, what is more unclear is exactly the role in which He would have me serve. While I do sense a pull toward the ordained ministry, I also have concerns about how that would impact my family. Having grown up without roots, I realize I have perhaps an overzealous desire for my own family to have what I didn’t. In addition, with my mother’s medical situation, not knowing how many years she has to get to know her grandson, I want my family to remain in the Omaha/Lincoln area for the foreseeable future. With all of this in mind, I have begun taking courses through the SELECT series to work toward the Associate in Ministry designation. In addition, a pastor here in Lincoln has offered to teach me Koine Greek, and I’ve begun working with him. If the opportunity arises to enroll in seminary either as an M.Div. or as an M.A. candidate and take a majority of courses online or with short amounts of travel, my family and I might be open to that in the future as well. Either way, having a working knowledge of Greek will help me learn about my faith as well as teach others. I realize that the discernment process is never complete, and I have faith that as He has done in my past, God will show me either that where I’m going is where I need to be, or that He wants me to be doing something else instead.

One of the positive things about my personal faith journey is that I have had a chance to do and experience a large number of things, both in the church and in the secular world. Always having been fairly introspective, I’ve discovered a number of personal strengths and weaknesses. Some of my strengths are working with other people, learning new things, listening, preaching, teaching, and music. Among my biggest weaknesses are the desire to do too much, disorganization, and a fear of confrontation. Though none of these has ever seriously hindered my ability to be effective, I do recognize these as areas in which I need to grow.

As a commissioned associate in ministry, I recognize that no matter what the actual “job description” might be, my ministry would be first and foremost one of word and service. My gifts, experience, and interests seem to point me toward a position along the lines of a Director of Christian Education or a Lay Ministry Coordinator. Of course, at this point in my journeys of faith and vocation, I am wide open to the possibilities God may present. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through my long and winding road thus far, it is that God takes great joy in surprising us with the unexpected. It’s freeing to let go of the sense of control, the sense of “I need to get it all figured out,” and for once, see what God has in store. The discernment process will continue, but for the first time in a long time, I’m not doing all the talking and deciding on my own. I’m listening. I’m watching.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer

Our Father…OUR father. Our FATHER. With the very first 2 words of the Lord’s prayer, we’re acknowledging two important truths. God is OUR God, he is with us, he is for us, he was before us, he will be after us, he created us, he wants a relationship with us, we are his and he is ours. And when we use the word Father, we’re acknowledging a family relationship. Actually, the word Jesus used when he prayed was Abba, which implies a closer relationship than just father. It’s more like daddy. And as we all know, any guy with a functioning reproductive system can be a father, but someone is only a daddy through a kind, caring, loving relationship with one’s child. God is that loving parent. Our Father.

Who art in heaven. Our heavenly father, our heavenly Abba, our heavenly daddy, is in heaven and has prepared a place for each of us. What great news, and what a hope for us! Someday, we will be able to spend eternity with our father in heaven.

Hallowed be thy name. Hallowed…when I was a little kid, I thought we were saying hollow is your name. God’s name does ring pretty hollow to a lot of people, doesn’t it? His promises, his blessings, his presence, his forgiveness, all of it can very easily become shallow and hollow if we don’t continually remember who God is, how much he loves us, and how much we depend on him for all we have and all we are. Hallowed be thy name…hallowed is just a fancy word meaning holy. Holy is just a fancy word meaning set apart for a special purpose. God is holy, and through his love and forgiveness he has made each of us holy too. We are set apart as his children, called for the special purpose of spreading his word and loving our neighbors.

Thy kingdom come. God’s kingdom will come when Christ comes again, but God’s kingdom already has come. We as Christians know the tension of living in God’s kingdom now, living in the day to day knowing that Christ breaks into our lives in new and unexpected ways, and looking forward to the ultimate coming in the future.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God is all powerful—through him, any and all things can happen. But God calls us to do his will as well, to be his hands and feet here on earth. Many times, we’re not sure what God’s will is. Things aren’t always black and white, and that’s why we pray. We ask God what his will is, and for the strength and courage to carry his will out.

Give us this day our daily bread. In the US, the richest country in the world, it’s easy to lose sight of how much we really depend on God for everything we have. God does provide us with all we need, and for those of us who have been blessed with more than we need, we are called to be God’s hands again in giving to others in need. Bless us Lord, that we might be a blessing to others.

And forgive us our trespasses…For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In the Lutheran tradition, we begin each worship service with confession, because we’re all in need of forgiveness. As much as we can try to get it right, we’ll never succeed, because our old rebellious sinful selves are there at our core. We depend wholly and fully on God’s grace to forgive us, even though we have done nothing to deserve it.

As we forgive those who trespass against us. Here’s the flip side. If we expect God to forgive us, we can’t just go and hold grudges against other people too. We are called to forgive ALL who have wronged us, not just those who say they’re sorry or those who we think deserve our forgiveness. God acted first and showed us love and forgiveness while we were still sinners—he calls us to do the same with our fellow human beings.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. God doesn’t tempt us with sin, he will not put us to the test. We do a pretty good job of leading ourselves to temptation sometimes, don’t we? We ask God for guidance in staying out of situations that would feed our sin. This is another powerful use of the tool of prayer. Just the short prayer “God give me strength,” when facing a temptation. God hears us, and he will help us.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. God is the king of the universe, as well as the king of our hearts. Because of his goodness, because of his grace, because of his power, he deserves our thanks and our praise constantly. When we live our lives with joy—what better way to acknowledge God’s amazing power?

Amen. Amen is an ancient Hebrew word meaning “let it be so.” We say amen at the end of prayers trusting in God’s power to answer prayer. It’s the ultimate affirmative to God, the final yes.

Do me a favor.

Next time you're in church and say the Lord's Prayer, pay close attention to the words. Don’t let the familiarity of the prayer take away from the meaning. This is prayer as Jesus taught it, communication with our heavenly daddy, from his loving children.

Amen. Let it be so…


Rant of the Week by Dr. Cox of "Scrubs"

Dr. Cox: [Whistles.] All right, everybody! Gather around here, circle it up, will ya? Bring it in nice and tight. Look, I know I'm pretty quick to point out other people's mistakes but...I have a son now, and I also realize that it's important to recognize when someone does something right. Mr. Blake down in Bed 3 came in here with what seemed like a basic heart block. But someone took the time to find out that recently he'd been camping and correctly diagnosed him with Lyme Carditis. Now, I'm sure some of you are gonna think this is a silly exercise, but I'd like that someone to step forward and stick your hand up in the air so that the group can recognize your great good work. This--this is no time to be modest. Come now.

He looks around at them expectantly while raising his own hand.

Dr. Cox: Oh! My God! It was me! I did it, I'm a genius, I'm a huge brain in a ripped up body, I am Jesus H. Cox...M.D. Still, I probably couldn't have done it by myself, so I'd like to go ahead and recognize some of the other players who were involved. There was the intern who originally misdiagnosed the patient...

Lonnie: That's me, daddy.

J.D.: Put your hand down, Lonnie.

Dr. Cox: And then there was the resident who confirmed that misdiagnosis.

J.D.: In my defense, I was up late watching a 'Designing Women' marathon.

Dr. Cox: And, last but not least, there was the surgeon who wanted to crack open Mr. Blake's chest like a walnut and put in a pacemaker that he didn't even need. Now, he's too modest to introduce himself to the group, so I'll do the honors. [Approaching Turk] He is so black, so bald, and he can't eat cupcakes because he's got diabetes. Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Turk!

Turk: Can you just get out of here so we can get back to work?

Dr. Cox: Not until people start chanting my name so that I can exit the room with my hands held high above my head in a victorious gesture. Capisce? You see, this diagnosing machine, this fabulous thing? Well, it runs on props, so I'm going to need to hear it. Come now.

Group: [Unenthusiastically] Cox...Cox...Cox...Cox...Cox...Cox....

Dr. Cox: [Making his victorious exit] Me. Me. Me. Oh, so me!


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Images from Friday

Well, I had the chance to go to the Nebraska-Colorado football game this last Friday. More about that experience and the weekend as a whole later, but I did want to get 3 videos posted here that I took that day.

#1 is for any "band geeks" out there...a short clip of part of the NU marching band beneath North Stadium getting ready to head out for the pregame. I gotta say I enjoyed the bouncing trombones (and no, that's NOT a euphemism!).

#2 is my wife and I were in the tunnel for the "tunnel walk." I'm personally taking credit for Mo Purify's wicked amazing catch during the game after giving him some (Pipe)Dreamer karma with a high-five on his way out to the field. Normally the team would almost immediately rush on to the field after passing by, but since it was Senior Day, the seniors were personally introduced. The whole experience was a rush...pretty frickin' sweet.

#3 is the team leaving the field after the the end of the clip you can see a few players carrying the Big XII North championship trophy off the field.

More thoughts, reactions, etc. tomorrow. Just wanted to at least get these up.

Oh...actually, one thought before I leave. I've discovered that ground buffalo on the grill with some Misty's seasoning makes an EXCELLENT post-Colorado game meal. =)


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

It'll probably be a few days before I post again, but I do hope to regale you on my return with stories of so many blessings to be thankful, friends, birthdays celebrated, Husker football games won, and buffalo burgers consumed (the ground buffalo sits in my freezer as I type), among others.

Through the busy weekend, may each of us take some time of quiet to reflect on those things and those people that we have been blessed with in our lives, and how we may more fully be a blessing to others.

May God be with you all.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rant of the Week by Dr. Cox of "Scrubs"

To a patient who has very obviously done too much tanning:

"You, my friend, look so damn leathery I'm honestly tempted to wrap you around a baseball, cinch you up with a belt, and stick you under my mattress so that you're good and broken in for the big game on Sunday. Buuuuuut, since I'm here to heal, not judge, I'm gonna go ahead and write you a couple of prescriptions. You'll find that this first one is for an extra large mallet to help you pound some sense into yourself. The second one is for a big floppy hat that you're now to wear every single time you leave the house. Have a great day, ya look like a purse!"

From My Boss's Free Haircut
Scrubs Season 4


Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, my friend...

Pastor Larry Meyer was my friend and mentor, as he was to countless people across the country and around the world. For those of you who may not have had the privilege of meeting Larry, he was the ELCA campus pastor for the Lutheran Student Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1989 until his death from esophegeal cancer in 2005. He served universities in Washington and South Dakota before that.

Tomorrow, November 21, would have been Larry's 60th birthday. One of his daughters wrote an incredible email that she's given me permission to share with you here. This Thanksgiving, and every day, may we all be truly thankful for the blessings God has given us.

Larry, the can of crappy beer I'll be drinking on Friday after the Nebraska-Colorado game will be in your honor. Happy Birthday, my friend...

Here's the email:

Dear friends and fam...

Tomorrow, November 21, is my dad's birthday. This year would be his 60th. Thanksgiving in the Meyer household has traditionally been a two holiday week. Amidst the feast preparation, we'd all be scrambling to figure out what the heck to get dad for his special day. He, of course, was no help - always claiming that he didn't want or need anything. But, since it's a birthday and you get gifts for birthdays, we'd hunt for unique VW memorabilia, a college dad sweatshirt, or if
all else failed, new work gloves for dad's big day. And after the turkey and potatoes and pie, we'd sing a happy birthday song and open his gifts, tossing them aside quickly in order not to miss kickoff and the afternoon ball game.

Dad's connection to Thanksgiving seems only appropriate. With its no frills approach, you see what you get with Thanksgiving. Lots of food and family - all you need to be grateful for. The perfect Thanksgiving, in dad's opinion, would consist of sauerkraut, the Huskers playing Colorado, and no one in the house starting a car once all day. Forget the over the top decorations, loads of gifts or commercialization - that's for the month to come. Thanksgiving, pure and simple, is about being grateful.

Last year was the first year that we mourned dad's absence on both his birthday and Thanksgiving. This year, strangely enough, the void where he belongs appears to be just as gaping. I guess there are truly some wounds that time just can't heal.

And so, in the midst of this dreary message, I write to you - friends who also hold my father dear to their hearts, even if just through their connection of friendship with me. Selfishly, it's therapeutic for me to honor dad and share his memory...and still I write to you and ask you to help remember him this year, to help celebrate the 60 years he's made an impact, if not all on this earthly place. So as my dad would tell me, "Hot shot, stop your bellyachin' and get to the
point." And I will.

This year on Thanksgiving just be thankful. Be thankful for those things that bring you much joy and those that bring you great pain - because both remind you of how lucky you are to be alive and feel so fully. Be thankful that the sun shines and that Thanksgiving day will come and go into another day that is meant to be embraced. Two springs ago, with cancer ravaging his body, my dad told my sister from his living room hospice bed. "Well, not much is happening. We've got the screen door open, and the wind is blowing. It's sunny and beautiful out: I just can't complain about a thing."

Oh that we might all have such grateful spirits.

So this year thank God for the little things, the big things, and the ability and power to be thankful at all. And somewhere, in the heaven he now knows, my dad will be changing oil in a car in 108 degree weather while football plays on the radio. And he'll grin one of his classic cheesy grins. And it will be Thanksgiving.

Bless you.


Update..."Overkill" as featured on Scrubs

While bumming around on YouTube a little bit ago, I ran across the clip from Scrubs that features Colin Hay singing Overkill. I wrote about it a few posts ago when talking about my newly-discovered or re-discovered's the clip:


But the Lilies of the Field Use Photosynthesis!

A friend directed me to a very funny sketch that originally appeared on British TV. For those who are fans of The Wittenberg Door, Monty Python's Life of Brian, and the like, be prepared to literally laugh out loud.

If you are of the opinion that one ought not to ever laugh about something as important and sacred as our faith, then please do not play this video:

The clip's about 3 1/2 minutes long.

I think the running gag lasts about 30 seconds too long, but there are some great moments in the clip. And it does give one pause, on a number of issues:

  • The issue of those who wave a Bible over their heads, completely forgetting (or not knowing) that Jesus didn't speak in English. So the English words they quote are translations from Greek. And if you translate word for word, you're going to lose meaning. And if you translate for meaning, you're going to lose some word-for word accuracy. So somewhere along the way, translators have had to make decisions of how things were going to be said. And the Greek texts...well, the scrolls that we get the Greek texts from had no spaces between words or punctuation marks sobasicallyinordertocreateeventhegreeknewtestamenttheyhadtodecipher somethingthatlookedkindoflikethis Where do you cut off words? How do you create sentences? Again, editorial decisions had to be made. So does a camel go through the eye of a needle, or was it a very large rope? And the earliest-written gospel? Mark? You know, the one written in 60-ish AD? How long was that after Jesus' death and resurrection? 30 years or so? So, you're saying about the same amount of time as has passed from Nixon's resignation until now. And all that time in between, Jesus' words were kept alive by an oral tradition? So then, you who judge based on one or two verses of Scripture, you who insist on truth residing on figuring out exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but completely miss the wide expanses of Truth that flow through the entire narrative of scripture...I pity you. Not for your narrowmindedness, but rather that by insisting on little particles of truth, you have missed the transforming grace of Truth with a capital T.

  • The other main issue is one that the Matthew character brings up. God has told us not to worry. God has told us he will give us what we need. But he never told us HOW. There's a joke I heard once. A man was in his house as it was raining and raining and raining. Before long, it was apparent that the rain wasn't going to stop anytime soon, and flooding became a real possibility. He prayed to God, "Lord, keep me safe. Rescue me from the oncoming flood." He had prayed many times before, but for the first time, he heard a little voice answer. It said, "do not be afraid. I will take care of you." Not long after that, a policeman knocked at the door. "Come with me," the policeman said, "and I'll make sure you get to safety." "No thanks," the man replied. "God will take care of me." The waters continued to rise. A while later, someone came by in a rowboat. "Come with me, and I'll get you to safety." The man had the same response: "God will take care of me. No thank you." Finally, the waters had risen so high that the man had to go to the roof of his house. A heliocopter came by, and someone called out, "come with us--we'll take you to safety." The man yelled back, "no thanks, God will take care of me." Eventually, the flood waters swallowed up the whole house and the man drowned. In heaven, he marched right up to Jesus and said, "Lord, you promised you'd take care of me, yet I drowned. What gives?" Jesus shook his head sadly and said, "my child, I sent you a policeman, a rowboat, and a heliocopter. What else did you want?"

So many people take God's promises and put their own limitations on how God can fulfill those promises. They don't want God to be God. Far more often than I care to admit, I'm one of those people. It's easier to try to keep God in his small, predictable little God-box in the corner of the room.

Or at least it seems easier. At the time.



Thursday, November 16, 2006

If I was king for just one day, I would give it all away...

Ten points to the first person to pick up on the song quote in this post's title!

A response to the "Christmas Music" post got me to thinking...what kind of rules would I make if I was king of the world? So, in no particular order (other than the order in which I think of them), here's King (Pipe)Dreamer's Rules for his New World Order:

1) Making a right turn on red would ALWAYS be allowed.

2) Putting up Christmas store displays the day after Halloween would not.

3) Chocolate cheesecake would be declared healthy.

4) Able-bodied people who park in handicapped parking spaces at the store without a sticker or a tag would have their legs broken and would be forced to park in the farthest reaches of Wal-Mart parking lot BFE, upon which they would have to walk between their car and the door to Wal-Mart over and over and over. For a month. Eight hours a day.

5) And THEN they would be forced to write a letter to someone who actually NEEDS a handicapped space, explaining their reasoning for being such a selfish bastard and begging forgiveness.

6) Schools wouldn't be allowed to schedule events on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings.

7) For that matter, neither would kids' sports teams.

8) Dollar bills would read, "In God we trust--all others pay cash."

9) All members of boy bands would be exiled to the island of Corsica. Any fans over the age of 21 would also be asked to join them.

10) Every individual would have a salary cap of $1,000,000. Any money made above that amount each year would be subject to a 100% tax, all of which would be tax deductible if it was donated to a charity instead. (Okay, go ahead, call me a socialist...I still think it's a good idea!)

11) Sports teams would not be allowed to charge more than $10 for a ticket. How's a dad ever supposed to teach his kids the intracicies of the halfback draw or how to score a baseball game if he can never afford to take his family to a game?

12) A food or drink item at a sporting event shall exceed the cost of the least expensive ticket. In other words, if you can pay 5 bucks to get into the berm seating at the local minor league stadium, a beer shouldn't set you back $6.

I could do this all day...this is kinda fun. I may add some more later--in the meantime, feel free to add your own rules!