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: