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!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's Beginning To Sound a Lot Like Christmas...

There's a radio station in town that for the past 3 or 4 years has played exclusively Christmas music on the weekends in November, then the day after Thanksgiving has played Christmas music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right up until December 26th.

Bah, humbug.

Don't get me wrong--I'm as much a fan of cheezy, schmaltzy Christmas music as the next guy. But good grief! Christmas has become a hungry monster, gobbling up every ounce of love and meaning in its path...and it must be stopped.

I have a pastor friend who was a broadcast journalism major in college. He has a Sunday morning radio show called Emmanuel in the A.M. that plays on the "Christmas station." He plays a wide variety of music, most of it excellent, and much of it that you really won't hear anywhere else. He takes great pride in finding fantastic musicians who play Christian music who have gone unheard or undiscovered.

But, if you haven't done the math already, since his show is on a Sunday, and the station is committed to playing only Christmas music on weekends, he's been told that he also must play nothing but Christmas music on his show from November 5th (ALL SAINT'S SUNDAY...ugh) through December 24th (when it will FINALLY be appropriate, but so doggone tired out that nobody will care).

The first year the station did this, he said "no" and the station put another show in its place for 2 months. But last year, the pastor decided he didn't want to do that. He has a lot of regular listeners, and there's a lot to be said about a local person with local ties doing this ministry. He realized he was missing out on 2 months of mission opportunity through his show. So he gave in.

Sort of.

He agreed to play Christmas music, but never specified what he would play. So, the first Sunday in November last year, he played Silent Night. For 2 hours. He went through his archives and found every single different version of Silent Night in existence. Another week he played a Christmas choral concert from a local Lutheran college.

And so it went.

I've been listening to the show on my way to church, and so far this November, as much as I can tell from my 15 minute commute, he hasn't had a "theme day" yet. But for 2 consecutive Sundays I HAVE heard a song that sounds like it's by the Rolling Stones lamenting the commercialism of Christmas. When I track down the title and artist I'll post the's cynical, but with the tiniest note of hope.

Anybody have any ideas for either individual songs or "themes" that my friend can play on his show to "stick it to the man" and protest forcing Christmas on us while still playing Christmas music? If you have any good ideas, I'll definitely pass them along.

I think I'm going to suggest that he play The Messiah by Handel in its entirety. That's about 2 hours...


Friday, November 10, 2006

Cool "Scrubs" Quote of the Week

"Lady, people aren't chocolates. Do you know what they are, mostly? Bastards. Bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling. But I don't find them half as annoying as I find naive, bubble-headed optimists who walk around vomiting sunshine."
--Dr. Perry Cox
Scrubs Episode #75: My Common Enemy

Could Dr. Cox be a Pauline theologian in disguise? Pretty much sums up the second chapter of Romans, no?

Except, for Dr. Cox, that's where it ends.

Well, he's got it half right at least.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

2 Year-Old Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” --Ephesians 2:8-9

There’s not a lot of grace involved when you live with a 2 year old son. These are all sentences I have actually said word for word over the past few months: “IF you eat your supper, THEN you can have pudding.” “IF you put away your toys, THEN you can watch Dora the Explorer.” “IF you go poopy on the potty, THEN you can have a poopy treat (Smarties).” Life with a 2 year old is a lot of IF/THEN…because it has to be. If you’re good enough, then you get rewarded. 2 year olds understand works righteousness very well.

On the other hand, moments of grace do come. Ever since The Kiddo has been able (in theory at least) to sleep through the night, it has been my job when he does wake up at night to go to his room and comfort him. The reason for this is simple—I am a much lighter sleeper than my wife. When The Kiddo makes noise, I’m going to wake up either way, so it makes more sense for only one person to wake up than both of us.

Back this past spring, he had been waking up with night terrors. It was completely normal for his age, but when you are woken up at 3 in the morning by the most inhuman screaming, it can be a bit disconcerting, to say the least. When it first started, we got him a nightlight, and made a really big deal about how he has a “special light” in his room so he can see that there’s nothing to be afraid of. After that, when the night terrors came, I’d go into his room, sit down next to his bed, rub his back and help settle him down. Then we’d talk about his special light and how he doesn’t have to be scared. I’d ask him, “does mommy have a special light?”


“Does daddy have a special light?”

“No, only me.”

“That’s right, only you have a special light. So you don’t have to be scared.” (Don’t ask me why that made sense, but for some reason it was a big comfort to his 2 year old mind.)

Then, usually, he’d be comforted enough to lay back down and go to sleep.

After he had had the nightlight for a couple of weeks, I was pretty proud of how well our discussions about the nightlight were working in helping him go back to sleep. So one night, I decided to take the discussion one step further. We went through our usual litany, and then I asked him another question, to see how well he understood what we were talking about: “so why don't you have to be scared?”

His answer? “Because Daddy comes.”

The “Theology of the Nightlight” meant nothing to him. What mattered was that in the middle of the night, daddy comes. Psalm 61:1-4 reads: “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.” Daddy doesn’t come because The Kiddo ate his dinner or because he put away his toys or because he went poopy in the potty—Daddy just comes. When he is so terrified that all he can do is cry out, he knows that Daddy comes.

That is faith.

The theology of justification means nothing to us. What matters is that in the middle of the darkness of our sin, our heavenly daddy comes. He came to us in the manger at Bethlehem, he came to us on the cross at Calvary and in the empty tomb, and he comes to us today. God doesn’t come to us because of anything we’ve done, He just comes. When we’re so terrified, when we’re so lost, when we’re so dead in our sin that all we can do is cry out, we know our heavenly daddy comes.

That is faith.



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post-Election Thoughts

Well, the mid-term national elections were yesterday, and it looks like change was in the air...the Democrats took control of the House, and depending on how a couple of close races shake out, they might end up with the Senate too. Closer to home, Republican businessman Pete Ricketts spent about $12 million of his own money, only to garner about 35% of the vote to incumbent Democrat Ben Nelson's 65% in what had been a very nasty race for the Senate. In such an incredibly conservative, Republican state as Nebraska, one might have expected at least a little bit closer of a race...but Nebraskans are not only conservative, they're also independent. Ben was smart in the last couple of weeks by focusing his ads on how he's not a party-line guy, but instead he's a Nebraska-first guy. Whichever party has the right answers for what's best for the state, even if it's not his own party. Whether that's entirely true about him can be debated...and I'm not gonna. Bottom line though is that it's a message that resonates with this state's voters.

Nebraska also voted down a proposal that would have legalized video keno (a.k.a. video crack in smoky small town bars). I was overjoyed when we voted down proposals (can't remember if it was last year or 2 years how time flies!) to legalize casinos, but I was afraid people might see this as not that big of a deal, figure "what the heck?" and vote it through.

If only we could repeal the lottery...never gonna happen, but a guy can dream, can't he?

The last item of interest was a constitutional amendment that would have created a formula for a state spending lid. While the sentiment was a good one (controlling government spending), I'm incredibly wary of constitutionalizing formulas, because as soon as you do, some weird situation is going to come up that you never dreamed of, and you're gonna want some way to make an exception...and you won't have the freedom because of the damn formula.

Yes Virginia, sometimes it's possible to restrict government TOO much.

Well, that's about all the political talk you'll hear out of me. We now continue with your regularly scheduled blog.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Musical Notes

I've been receiving an education lately. It's amazing what one can pick up by just surfing around random blogs. I've been paying particular attention when folks have been listing their favorite music.

I realized recently that I've gotten into a rut music-wise, which is a pretty easy thing to do, especially when one's petty cash tends to go toward things such as toys for the kiddo instead of toys for oneself. And I've pretty much given up on the radio. Yes, there IS music out there that gets airplay that's right up my alley (such as pretty much anything by Five for Fighting), but for the most part it's crap. There's a local station that plays mostly 70's and 80's stuff, with some 90's and more recent songs thrown in, that I listen to if I have to have the radio on. But after a while, even Hotel California, Rocketman, and Against All Odds begins to get stale.

So as I've perused the blogosphere, I've paid particular attention to music recommendations. And I've picked up some great suggestions...singers or groups I had (mostly) never heard of before, and who have quickly become personal favorites. Some examples that I've begun listening to are The Shins, Teitur, Rachel Yamagata, James Morrison (AMAZING!!!), Matt Caplan, and Great Big Sea (think Irish maritime rock). I've also rediscovered Ben Folds (remember Brick from 8 or 9 years ago?), and Colin Hay. Colin's name may not sound familiar, but you'd recognize his voice immediately. He was the lead singer for Men At Work (yes, of "I come from the land down under" and "who can it be now?" fame) and he's since put out some solo stuff. To be honest, I'm not so fond of the stuff that he's put out with a band backing him up, but there's one album that is pretty much just him and a guitar. It's called Going Somewhere. Good stuff. There's a bonus track on there of a cover of one of his old Men At Work songs--again, the title may not sound familiar, but you're almost guaranteed to recognize the song. It's called Overkill, and was featured on an episode of Scrubs where Colin Hay followed JD around all day playing his guitar and singing the song. The song both annoyed the hell out of JD and constantly reminded him of how uncertain and worried he was, both as a doctor and a person. One moment Colin appeared as a hot dog vendor, the next he popped out of a hospital bed as a patient, etc. Catchy tune, great lyrics, and Colin Hay's voice was made to sing it. Here's the lyrics:

I can't get to sleep
I think about the implications
Of diving in too deep
And possibly the complications
Especially at night
I worry over situations
I know will be alright
Perhaps it's just imagination
Day after day it reappears
Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear
Ghosts appear and fade away
Come back another day

Alone between the sheets
Only brings exasperation
It's time to walk the streets
Smell the desperation
At least there's pretty lights
And though there's little variation
It nullifies the night from overkill

Day after day it reappears
Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear
Ghosts appear and fade away
Come back another day

I can't get to sleep
I think about the implications
Of diving in too deep
And possibly the complications
Especially at night
I worry over situations
I know will be alright
It's just overkill

Day after day it reappears
Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear
Ghosts appear and fade away
Ghosts appear and fade away
Ghosts appear and fade away


Monday, November 06, 2006

Random Monday Thoughts

Thought #1: I was re-reading my initial, introductory post this weekend and came to the startling conclusion that I really came off as a jaded cynic. As such, I have created The Anonymous (Pipe)Dreamer's Rule #1 for Blogging, which reads as follows:

If you are not normally cynical, but are for any reason whatsoever in a cynical mood, do not...I repeat, do NOT begin a brand new blog. If you already have a blog and feel the need to make a cynical post, more power to you. But make damn sure your first post is an accurate reflection of who you are, not just your mood on that particular day.

Don't's a long rule, I won't make you memorize it, and there won't be a test.

What I didn't write in my first post that I realize I ought to have, is that while there are areas of my life and interests that I have not tended to and need to be more conscious about, on the whole I am incredibly blessed. I have an amazing family, amazing friends, a job that is fulfilling, makes a difference in the lives of others AND pays the bills (my personal triumvirate of job criteria), AND I have the opportunity and choice to pursue those interests that are enjoyable. Everyone has interests...not everyone has the chance to explore those interests. I am lucky to have the CHOICE--if I'm not being the person I really am, it's nobody's fault but my own.

Not everyone is so lucky.

So when I said in my introductory post that if you were to ask me tomorrow for a description of myself, that it may change...turns out I wasn't kidding. I think that's why I like the name I go by on here. I'm a dreamer--anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that. And I'm aware that many of those dreams can never become reality. Hence the pipedreams. But I put the word pipe in parentheses for a reason--to subordinate it. I'm a dreamer first. Not all dreams are impossible ones. Hey--I'm a Red Sox fan...I experienced 2004. If coming from behind 3 games to none against the Yankees to beat them in the manner my Sox did that year to win their first championship in 86 years isn't an example of that, then what is? (A quick aside...I know they still had to play the World Series after that...but it was a mere technicality, a formality...after that come-from-behind, a bunch of Cardinals weren't gonna get in the way of destiny!) I'm Charlie Brown running to kick the football. 999 times out of 1000, Lucy may pull it away at the last minute, but surely there's BOUND to be a time where she waits a little too long, or is thinking about something else, or...

...has a change of heart.

Thought #2: Ever seen the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC? It's one of the few positive examples out there of what "reality" television could be like. Basically they find a family in need of a new house, send them on a week's vacation, build them a dream home during the course of a week, then bring them home to their new house, which they see for the first time in a very public unveiling. Well, last week, the design team was right here in my hometown. There were Ty Pennington sightings everywhere, the local newspaper ran updates on the construction progress and related "human interest" stories every day...the whole town had a buzz about it all week. Amazingly, there was more talk of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition than of the upcoming Nebraska-Missouri football game which would for all intents and purposes decide the Big XII North race. That's saying something.

I have a confession to make. I went to the "move that bus!" unveiling. Having been a casual viewer of the show in the past, and knowing that I had Friday off, my curiosity got the best of me. So I drove to the site, parked a few blocks away, and walked to where there were well over a thousand people milling around behind guardrails up and down the block (I hope ABC compensates the neighbors for having their lawns trampled on for a week by the faceless hordes of onlookers). I found a place and waited. And waited. And waited. The paper had said that the family would be arriving somewhere between 1 and 2 pm.

So by 3:20 the crowd was getting a bit restless. Chants of "Go Big Red!" popped up here and there (okay, so the game wasn't TOTALLY forgotten). Finally, the big limo carrying the family showed up, Ty met up with them, they moved the big bus out of the way, and there was much yelling and screaming and hugging and falling down in joy for the family. In all honesty, setting aside all cynicism about the non-reality of "reality" was pretty cool.

But I couldn't shake this thought: wouldn't it be amazing...if every time a new house was built with Habitat for Humanity...that there was this kind of response? The newspaper reported that over 3,000 people signed up to be volunteers during the week. Businesses went out of their way to help the family, help the TV crew, and help the volunteers. The general public came out in droves all week to check up on things. If a city can band together to help what seems to be a good, deserving family when there are TV cameras and celebrities around, why can't we do the same without the cameras and tanned faces? Imagine what would happen if Habitat had so many volunteers for a project that people had to be turned away...if the general public took such a vested interest in the project's progress...if there was a huge party for the family when they took possession of the house, with thousands of people taking pictures and cheering and chants.

Thought #3: I was in a play at church last night. It had nothing to do with Christianity, religion, or faith. Ever seen the movie Clue (if not, you really of the funniest movies EVER)? This little one act play was very much like that movie. A whodunit that takes place in a mansion where nobody can leave, and one by one people begin to die...or at least that's how it seems. And some incredibly silly humor:

"What is it?"

"A letter."

"What does it say?"

(holding letter to ear, listening) "Nothing."

But while the play had nothing to do with religion, it had everything to do with church. 10 parishoners spent 2 months rehearsing together, having fun, building trust and friendships, and last night about 100 other churchgoers showed up to be entertained and spend some time together. In good Lutheran fashion, there was of course homemade desserts and coffee (decaf, because it was in the evening) for all afterwards. And when everyone was done talking and eating, those who were able stuck around to take down all the chairs and the set, and put it all away so the election commision could set up the room as a polling place for tomorrow's elections.

So it had everything to do with church. If the church is the body of Christ gathering, growing, and serving, then we had church last night in our little murder mystery.

Plus, I got to carry a harpoon. That was true coolness.


Thursday, November 02, 2006


Scrubs is, for my money at least, the best television show on today, and in my top 10 all-time list. It's been a long time (probably since The Wonder Years) that a show could make me laugh so hard AND bring me to tears all in the same episode.

For those who haven't experienced the show, it's a half hour comedy (NOT shot in front of a live studio audience, though) that revolves around a group of young doctors who work at a hospital. And while the hospital is the setting, the show isn't really about the hospital, or medicine. It's about a group of very different people dealing with the slings and arrows of life--their own personal lives, but also the lives of the patients they treat.

And the comedy. EXACTLY my sense of humor. I don't know how to describe it other than offbeat, off the wall, sometimes slapstick, very imaginative, and freakin' HILARIOUS. should watch it. Everybody should.

Now that's gotten me to thinking...what would I call my top 10 favorite shows of all time? This is off the top of my head, just brainstorming, and are in no particular other words, it's a working list that's subject to MUCH revision. For the sake of clarity, I'm leaving out shows that I LOVE like The Daily Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? that, while brilliant, don't really have storylines and characters and such. And...these are my favorites, and not necessarily the BEST shows of all time...just the ones that for whatever reason spoke to me the most. Unfortunately, there's a lot of good TV out there that I've just never had the opportunity to watch (for example, The West Wing). So, with those caveats, here goes:

The Wonder Years
The Muppet Show
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Twilight Zone (the original one)
Quantum Leap
Moonlighting (except for the final unfortunate case of a series hanging around too long)
The Carol Burnett Show
Everybody Loves Raymond

Well, I guess that's ten. I bet I'll be doing some revising in the next couple of days after more thought, but there you knee-jerk top 10 list.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Post-Mortem

I was unsuccessful in my quest for a free sampler bottle of Captain Morgan (see the post below for more details). My wife and I DID take our son trick-or-treating to the house on our block that we affectionately refer to as "the alcohol house," but the way the little bottles were arranged in the container, we couldn't see any labels. I grabbed one that looked close to the right color, but turns out it was Fighting Cock whiskey.

Okay, okay, let the double entendres begin...
Got it out of your system? Okay, we continue.



So anyway, it was cold...for our part of the country at least...temp was in the lower 30's when we went out around 7 pm. But the little kiddo had a great time, mom and dad each came home with a fermented treat of their own, and even with just going up one side of our block and down the other side, the kiddo had a pretty full bucket of sugary delights.

After putting our son to bed, my wife and I watched a special on Bravo that had what they called the 30 scariest moments in the movies. I don't think we had even HEARD of about 20 of the movies...I didn't realize I was that out of touch. And there were some notable mention of The Birds, The Sixth Sense, Silence of the Lambs, ummmm....PSYCHO?!?!?!? Go figure.

**November 2 edit** Come to find out, this top 30 list was the SECOND list Bravo's put out...a couple of years ago they did a Top 100, and none of the movies that made the original list were repeated on the "Top 30" show we saw on Halloween. Which makes a bit more sense. Though I do find it hard to believe that A Clockwork Orange, which was on the Top 30, didn't make the original Top 100. Now THAT'S one freakin' messed up movie...