Monday, December 31, 2007

Which candidate should I vote for?

In the United States, we have been given a precious gift: the gift of democracy. As with any gift, my faith tells me that I have a responsibility to be a good steward of the democratic process that has been entrusted to me. It's a responsibility that many, myself included, far too often take for granted. I'm not big into new year's resolutions, but I think a big one for me this year is to make sure I am as informed as I can be when it comes time for the presidential elections in November.

A question that ought to be--and hopefully will be--in the forefront of my mind this year is this: which presidential candidate should I vote for?

In Nebraska, in order to participate in the primary, you have to be registered either as a Democrat or a Republican. Frankly, I'd prefer to just remain a registered independent, but if I were to do that the electoral process would take a relatively important tool out of my hands.

So I'm registered with a party. Frankly, it doesn't matter which.

Because in the end, I really couldn't give a rat's patootie which party a particular candidate has decided to align themselves with. Just tell me where they stand on the issues, how they plan on running things if elected. Yeah, you'll see similarities within each party. But you're going to see a number of differences too. and you'll see plenty of similarities across party lines, whether folks want to admit it or not.

The biggest problem is cutting through all the campaign b.s. to get to where the candidates actually stand on things. I've found a good tool is a candidate selector quiz. There's a number of good ones out there. Their purpose is to do the research and the cutting through the b.s. for you. You answer some questions, and then you can see where different candidates stand on issues relative to where you stand on them.

Now, these are only tools. There's no substitute for doing your own research--watching the news, reading magazines, checking out the candidates' own websites and position papers and such. But the quizzes are a really good jumping off point. And if you take 3 or 4 of them and see a candidate or two popping up at the top of the list more than once, maybe that's a person that would be worthwhile doing some more looking into.

On that subject, I'd definitely recommend taking few of 'em. Because no matter how hard these quizzes try to be clear and unbiased, they all ask the same questions in slightly different ways, they all assign different values to different issues based on what they ask (and what they don't ask). And so you'll probably see different results depending on how the quiz is set up. But again, after taking a few, you may see some trends beginning to develop. And those trends may be worth exploring.

Here's a short list of some that I've run across:

Candi-Date (by Quiz

Candidate Match Game (USA Today)

VoteMatch Quiz (by

Select a Candidate (by Minnesota Public Radio)

Blessings to you to you again next year!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Letter from Jesus

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I may not have actually been born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine. Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest.

Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember:


Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

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.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

And Then There Was One...

Last night, out of the blue, Kiddo announced that he wanted to put on a puppet show. He needed a stage, so we set the piano bench in the middle of the living room and threw a blanket over it. He announced that he'd need spotlights to shine before and after the performance, so we got out a flashlight to wave around. And, of course, he needed puppets. We have three hand puppets that belonged to Sweetie when she was a kid--Kiddo thinks they're pretty cool.

So we were ready. Set, lights, characters...all Kiddo needed was a story. Which he was more than happy to provide. I have entitled his production, And Then There Was One--A Monster Tragedy in Two Acts.

Lights, camera, ACTION!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Program

This past Saturday, the Lincoln Journal Star's religion section featured an article on church Christmas programs. They focused on 3 different church groups, one of which was Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, where I serve. We put together a slide show of the Christmas story (actually a powerpoint presentation) with about 160 slides. Some of the pictures were taken "on location" (at a farm outside of town for some Bethlehem and traveling scenes, or in the church sanctuary for Caesar Augustus' and Herod's palaces), and others with some rudimentary sets in the church basement. The program was narrated by our middle and high school youth, and interspersed with a combination of congregational hymns and groups of kids singing Christmas music. It was a lot of fun to put together, and I thought came out very well, despite some less-than-desirable weather the weekend of the program. =) And the kids thought it was way cool that they were in the newspaper! (With parental permission, of course...)

The article's been on the paper's website since Saturday, but they only now got the kinks worked out with posting the pictures, so those are now available too.

Here is a link to the newspaper article:

And if you want to see the actual pictures, here is a link to the newspaper's posting of the powerpoint presentation (even including slides indicating the hymns!). Probably the best way to see all the pictures is to maximize the page on your screen, then scroll down to the bottom and use the down arrow just to the right of the pictures to scroll through the pics:


Monday, December 17, 2007

Sounds Like Love

What do you get when you get about 500 high school students together for a weekend of prayer, worship, music, fellowship, singing, pizza, host homes, choreography, and Bible study...and end it all with two amazing concerts?

You get Sounds Like Love.

This past November was my first time ever going to Sounds Like Love—in fact, before coming to my current church I had never even heard of it. As it turns out, that was my loss. Sounds Like Love is a Christian high school choral festival. You get about 500 high school students together for a weekend, they learn music and choreography for 7 songs (imagine the world's largest Christian show choir), and put on two concerts on Sunday afternoon.

That’s it in a nutshell. But if I were to stop there, it wouldn’t do justice to the power of God…the way God uses this weekend to touch the lives of the kids who participate, as well as those who help and come to the concerts, is almost indescribable. But I’m going to try anyway.

As church, we gather as individuals who come from different walks of life, different experiences, God has expressed himself in our lives in different ways. He shows himself to us through the faces of others when we meet, and we become community. I witnessed the same thing happening on a couple of levels last month…first, within our own group of kids from my church, and secondly, within the whole group of 500. The folks that run the weekend do a great job of allowing for that fellowship and relationship building time all while still focusing on the goal of putting together a great concert.

But the majority of our time together focused on the music itself. The kids, over the course of a day and a half, had nine hours of very intense rehearsal time. Friday night they split into their sections to work on just the music. They spent an hour and a half that night going over their part in the seven songs for the concert.

Saturday consisted of seven and a half hours of rehearsals, with worship, meals, Bible studies, and special speakers to help break up the day. This was when all the choreography for the music was learned. The director’s name is John Jacobsen, and he’s just absolutely amazing. As soon as he came in he immediately started working on choreography with the kids, and soon everyone was following along—even those who weren’t all that sure about this whole dancing thing at first.

And everything we did tied back to a sense of mission, a sense of calling. The leaders continuously stressed to the kids that what they were doing wasn’t just having fun singing, dancing, and getting to know each other (though all of those things definitely were happening), they were providing a ministry. They were ministering to each other, to the people who were coming to hear them sing, and ultimately they were being challenged to continue ministering when they returned home. Their gift of music is a ministry unto itself, but it involves so much more than that. I tell these kids all the time that they are not the FUTURE of the church. They ARE the church. They are the church right now. And as the church, God has called them through their baptism to lives of love and service. They are a city on a hill. They are the light of the world. And experiences like Sounds Like Love help empower them to discover, rediscover, and live out their calling.

Here's a clip from the opening number from this year's concerts. It's called Sing.



Friday, December 14, 2007

Twelve Days

Yes, I realize the twelve days of Christmas are the days between Christmas and Epiphany...

...but this video is too great not to share now.

It's by Straight No Chaser, an acapella group from the University of Indiana, and is a wonderfully inventive (and very well-sung) version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. You get your first clue that this is going to be out of the ordinary when from the beginning, they lose track of which day they're on. Sure enough, further in, Rudolph, Carol of the Bells and Deck the Halls all make cameo appearances, as do the Dreidel Song and the 80's rock group Toto.

It's a classic. Even better than the Mackenzie Brothers (you know that one: "and a a tree"). Much better sung, too. Of course, just about anyone can sing much better than the Mackenzie Brothers.

Except, of course, Yoko Ono. Eek.

Anyway, here's the clip. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kiddo

December 11, 2003

Actually, Kiddo's birthday was yesterday. He turned four...I can't believe my little baby boy is four. It's true what they say about time flying.

To help us celebrate, Mother Nature gave us a big ol' ice storm with a little bit of snow. School was cancelled across the city, which meant no preschool...and Kiddo was looking forward to celebrating his birthday with his preschool friends, bringing Oreos and all. If he had been a few years older, he would have viewed a snow day as pretty much the best birthday present ever.

I mean, I never got a snow day on my birthday...granted, it's in April...

So anyway, in the evening, Sweetie and I took him to Chuck E. Cheese's. I suppose it's a rite of passage of sorts, the whole Chuck E. Cheese thing. "You, my son, have now passed into boyhood..."

Kiddo loved it. Absolutely loved it. Downed two pieces of pizza, loved watching the creepy animatronic animals singing songs, loved playing the video games, riding the pretend roller coasters, playing air hockey and that basketball game where you try to make as many baskets in 30 seconds as possible, loved giving the roaming Chuck E. Cheese mouse a high five, loved the birthday crown they gave him....loved loved loved it all. We were there for 2 1/2 hours, and spent a grand total of $20.

Most of all, we had fun together as a family...Kiddo's last birthday as an only child.

Not too shabby. =)

Happy birthday, Kiddo. Mommy and Daddy love you more than we'll ever be able to show or tell you--but we'll keep trying. You make us so proud. Thank you for all the joy you bring to the lives of everyone you meet.

Practicing his driving

Kicking Daddy's rear end in air hockey

Nuthin' but net


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Star City Parade

This past Saturday was Lincoln's Star City Parade. It was supposed to have been Saturday, December 1st, but due to a pretty nasty ice storm (which came during the night while I was holed up with 23 middle school kids at a church lock-in), it had been rescheduled.

No ice Saturday. But it was cold. High temp of 17 with 10-15 mph winds. But the parade must go on, right?

Apparently so. Even though all of the high school bands canceled because ACT testing was being held that morning, even though the University of Nebraska band canceled because...well, because trying to produce noise by holding a giant piece of metal to your lips in a sub-zero wind chill probably isn't the best idea in the world. Ever seen A Christmas Story?

So yes, there was a parade. There were giant balloons, and floats, and people walking, pretending to be happy and trying to ignore the frostbite slowly creeping up their faces.

Maybe I'm just a giant Grinch or Scrooge, but it's my opinion that whoever thought that having a December...every year...was a good thing and a smart idea...should be drawn and quartered.

Soooo......Saturday morning, we were downtown. The big 14-plex theatre every year has one Saturday morning where they show a different kids' movie on each screen, and anyone can get in for free, and they give you free unlimited popcorn and pop. Santa's there for the little kids, and theatre workers walk around handing out candy. We took Kiddo to see Flushed Away, a harmless but pretty forgettable movie from the creator of Wallace and Grommit. The movie got out at about 10:45, and the parade was set to start at 11.

Now, Sweetie and I aren't idiots. We thought it would be cool if Kiddo got to watch the parade, but we weren't about to stand outside with him in that kind of weather. So instead, we walked about three blocks and took refuge in an upscale downtown pizza place called Yia-Yia's.

Being the first ones through the door at 11, we had our choice of tables. We picked a table right next to the giant plate glass windows, ordered an early lunch, and watched the parade in style:

We are so totally going to Yia Yia's again for the parade next year. Great pizza too, with just about any and every topping imaginable available for you to order. A bunch of different cheeses and sauces to choose from as well. I had barbeque sauce with mozzarella cheese, roasted chicken, almonds, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. A big ol' slice made to order with a salad, a giant hunk o'bread and a pop runs about $5.

Good stuff. Good times.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Omaha Shooting Tragedy

It's a bit surreal when everyday familiar places become fodder for national headlines...especially when those headlines are as tragic as the ones that came out of yesterday's mass shooting at Westroads Mall in Omaha.

I live in Lincoln now (hence the God's country west of Omaha), but I grew up in the Omaha area. Actually, my parents' house is bout 3/4 mile away from the shooter's house. And the McDonalds he was fired from (the speculated "straw that broke the camel's back" leading to the shooting)? Well, if you sit in the right spot in the sanctuary of my boyhood church, you can see the Golden Arches of that very restaurant through the big window around the cross up front. I spent more than one Sunday morning contemplating the promise of quarter pounders with cheese, hoping that those around me assumed I was contemplating the promise of justification by grace through faith.

Actually, they've since put stained glass in those windows, so the view isn't what it used to be. But I digress.

When I was a teenager, Westroads Mall was, and still is I believe, the largest enclosed mall in the state of Nebraska. As such, it was a popular hangout, and I spent many a weekend afternoon ot evening there with friends.

It's now a crime scene. And not just any crime. The largest mass murder in Nebraska since Charles Starkweather back in the 50's.

It hits home particularly because my parents were out shopping yesterday afternoon. They were looking for some things for my mom, and had been to a couple of stores without any luck. Von Maur at Westroads--where the shootings occurred--was going to be their next stop. But it was 1:15, and they had an appointment for their furnace to have its fall check at 2:00, so they figured they'd better get back home and maybe go some other time.

The shootings occurred right at the time that they would have been inside the store.

The kid that did this said in a suicide note that he was about to become famous. I'm not going to dignify his attempt at fame by writing his name here, which would then become searchable by Google and Yahoo, and indirectly contribute to any perceived "fame" from the destruction of lives.

I do wonder, however, if in his feelings of loneliness and unworthiness, he was ever invited to a church.

Not to say that "ya gotta have religion to get right with yerself" or anything like that. But it seems to me, in the midst of church battles over liturgy and worship styles and having the right theology and whether the pulpit should be on the LEFT or the RIGHT side of the sanctuary...that the real battle is this: to whom have I shown love? For whom have I been Christ?

And if the answer in our deepest heart of hearts is only "those whom I am comfortable with and are like me," then shame on us.

In the meantime, we mourn. We mourn the victims of a horrible crime. We mourn for all victims everywhere, those in places where eight deaths wouldn't even be newsworthy. We mourn a loss of a level of innocence. We mourn.

May our mourning also be a call to service and a call to love.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beaker Sings Coldplay

I stumbled on this and it was too well done not to share...especially if you're a fan of the old Muppet Show. Didja know Beaker doubled as the lead singer of Coldplay? Go figure. =)


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Echo Benediction

Kiddo learned this "Echo Benediction" at preschool--they sing it at the end of the day before putting on their coats and getting ready to go home. Mommy and Daddy used to sing this song when they were camp counselors! Kiddo loves the song so much that he insists on singing it each night as well, at the end of his bedtime prayers. I just had to take a video of it tonight:


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quick update...

Things have been busy both at work and personally, which means basically that I've got a ton to write about and no time to actually DO the writing. C'est la vie. =)

A quick look at the highlights, with hopefully more complete postings to come:
  • This past weekend I took a group of high school kids to a choral festival in the Twin Cities called Sounds Like Love. Amazing experience--500 high schoolers singing and doing choreography to Christian choral music is hard to describe, but an incredible sight to behold...and as a result I have 23 kids VOLUNTARILY singing and doing choreography for two songs in church this coming Sunday. I just love these kids. I really do. I was telling a parent about this on the way back from Minnesota late on Sunday and she said "you sound just like a proud parent." And I suppose I do...I couldn't be more proud of them if they were my kids.
  • Took the minivan in to repair some minor damage caused by a renegade stop sign...while it was in the shop there was some sort of a short in the alternator, causing a strange smell as the wires and casing to the alternator melted and the alternator itself went bad. The guy at the garage told me it was a good thing it happened when people were around, otherwise it could have burned down the shop. So I've been driving a rental for the past week. Except the insurance company just told me today that since the accident repairs were done last Thursday (they've been working on the alternator stuff since then), as of last Friday they're no longer covering the cost of my rental. Makes sense from where they stand...but methinks I'm gonna have to raise some hell with Chrysler to see if they'll cover the cost, since it was their alternator that went out after 13,000 miles. **sigh** I don't have time for drama right now.
  • My dad and I drove to Lawrence to watch Nebraska get pummeled by Kansas. Yet, strangely, it was a really great day.
  • Sweetie and I went to our first "parent-teacher conference" for Kiddo. It's only preschool, but it gives parents a chance to check in and see how their child's acclimating to the preschool environment, see some journaling the teachers do on each student, hear who they're playing with, etc. His teacher said that she's not supposed to have favorites, but Kiddo's a favorite of hers. He's a favorite of ours, too. =)

There's probably more going on right now, but those are the biggies off the top of my head. As things start to slow down, hopefully there will be more time for reflection.

It'll be soon. Just not now. =)


Friday, November 02, 2007

It's (going to be) a...

Hello world!!!

Well, Sweetie had her 2nd trimester ultrasound on Wednesday afternoon (yep, that's right, Halloween). Kiddo and I were both there--usually, they won't let kids into the ultrasound room--too much of a distraction, and if something ends up being wrong they don't have to worry about what they do or say in front of the kid. Smart policy, but I'm glad they waived it in our case--one of the perks to being married to an OB/GYN nurse!

And we found out that we're having a girl.

I couldn't be happier. Literally. Kiddo is going to have a sister. I'm going to be a daddy to a little girl. I smile whenever I think about it. And I can't stop thinking about it.

Hmmm...I need to start saving up for a shotgun.

Just kidding. Mostly.

They printed out some still pictures for us, and we also got a video of what the ultrasonographer saw. Those of you who have ever sat in on an ultrasound know of which I speak when I say that the still pics just don't do it justice. We got to see her sucking her thumb, and watched her do flips and cartwheels for us. She was really moving around.

No wonder Sweetie's been feeling sick to her stomach. Can't even imagine.

We do have a name picked out, but we're going to keep that to ourselves until after the baby's born. Gotta have some sense of surprise for folks.

And so the countdown continues to February 28, 2008.


Monday, October 29, 2007


With all of the World Series hoopla (woo hoo!!!), I neglected to mention that yesterday was Confirmation Sunday at my church. Eighteen 9th graders, their parents, mentors, and baptismal sponsors reaffirmed the covenant made at these young people's baptisms. As part of the lead-up to the weekend, there was a banquet on Friday night for the confirmands and parents. Each year, there's a guest speaker after dinner, and this year they asked me to do the speaking. I thought I'd share my words, along with the pictures that accompanied what I said.

So, without further ado, here goes:

I’m a Boston Red Sox fan.

Always have been, always will be. My parents have a picture that was taken of me when I was about 2 years old with a Red Sox cap on. I didn’t have a chance to get it from them, but here’s a similar picture that I had that my grandma took:

You’ll have to take my word that the hat I’m wearing is a Red Sox hat. Of course it was twice as big as my head, and I probably thought it was just some big thing to chew on, but there I was, wearing it. As I got older, I learned more about baseball. I learned how the game worked, I learned more about the teams, and of course was taught more about MY team, the Red Sox. I even had the chance to go to a couple of games at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

This one was taken during my second visit, in 1987. This is the outside of the stadium, and this

is my dad and I inside the stadium with my cousin and uncle. I have one grandmother who’s one of the biggest Sox fans you’ll ever meet. All through junior high and high school, in the days before the internet, she used to send me these big manila envelopes full of newspaper and magazine clippings with stories about the team. She can tell you the starting lineup of just about any Sox team since the 40’s. For Christmas in 1988, when I was in 9th grade, she got me a Red Sox wall hanging (pay special attention to my totally rad 1980's Cliff Huxtable sweater and acid-washed jeans):

Even today, we email back and forth about how “our boys” from Boston are doing. My dad is a Red Sox fan. My mom is a Red Sox fan. All my aunts and uncles are Red Sox fans. I’m raising my son to be a Red Sox fan.

Here we are when he was just over a year old. My grandma had gotten him the warmup suit and hat. He still likes to wear the hat when we watch games on TV. I’ve never lived in Massachusetts, but that’s where my parents grew up, and much of my family still lives in New England, so it was only natural that the professional baseball team from Boston should become my team.

MY team. Are the Red Sox truly MY team? Or are they my family’s team? My mom’s team, my dad’s team, my grandma’s team, and ONLY my team because my family followed them? Well, that’s definitely how it started. I was an inherited fan—it was almost like it was passed down to me. But there came a point in time where I began the process of no longer being a fan just because my family was, and started being a fan because I wanted to.

It was 1986, and I had just started 7th grade. The Red Sox had played the Angels in the playoffs, and had made a miracle comeback to win that series and advance to the World Series. A little history here—the last time the Red Sox won the World Series was in 1918.

There had been times since then where they had come close…1946 1947, 1949, 1967, 1975, 1978, and now, 1986. In game 6, the game had gone into extra innings, but Red Sox were finally just one strike away from winning the whole thing. One strike away. Then disaster struck. A hit here, an error there, and suddenly the game was tied 5-5. Finally, a Mets batter hit a slow roller to first base. All the first baseman had to do was catch the ball, step on first base, and the inning would be over, giving the Red Sox a chance to come back to bat in the next inning, maybe take the lead again.

Instead, the ball rolled through first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs, a runner came around from 2nd base to score, and the game was over. And for the first time in my life, a sporting event made me cry.

There was still one more game to be played in the World Series, but after the way game 6 ended, there wasn’t much doubt as to how game 7 would turn out. The Red Sox had lost their fire. The Mets won game 7 easily, won the World Series, and the drought continued until they finally won the World Series in 2004.

HOWEVER…game 6 of the 1986 World Series is when the Red Sox stopped being my family’s team, and started the process of becoming my team. After the World Series was over, I started saving money, and between that and what I was given for Christmas I went out and bought this coat. (Note: here, I put on the coat that I'm wearing in the above picture with me and Kiddo) I’ve had this coat since January of 1987—and wore it right up until Christmas of 2004 when my wife had finally had enough of her husband going around in this coat from the 80’s and got me a more current Red Sox jacket.

SO…what does this all have to do with Confirmation, and what does this all have to do with you?

I suppose what I’m getting at is this question: when does Christianity move from "our" faith to "my" faith? I’m guessing most of you probably grew up in the Church. You went to services, went to Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, you may have gone to church camp, and now here you are, about to be confirmed. This weekend, when you’re confirmed, you will be publicly saying, “my family’s faith is now becoming my own. The faith that I was raised in is becoming the faith that I believe, not because anyone else told me to, but because it’s what I believe.”

Notice a few things here. I didn’t say that you now have all the answers. I didn’t say that there aren’t things that you question, or are unsure about. In fact, I’d even go far as to say that you probably ought to have some questions about what you believe. Confirmation isn’t the end of a journey (and I know right now some of you are thinking, “oh MAN!!! Then what did I do 60,000 sermon notes for?!?!), it’s a milestone along the way.

In many ways, this weekend is really the first step in making your faith your own.

For me, it wasn’t until AFTER I was confirmed that my faith really, truly was tested—as I got older and went through high school and college. Suddenly, people were asking what it was I believed. Suddenly, people were challenging beliefs I had held my whole life. Suddenly, I was questioning what I believed.

No matter where you may be in your life, whether you’re a high school freshman, or a senior, or in college, or a full grown adult—that process of questioning, of change, of doubt, of wondering, is tough. It all seemed so black and white when I was younger! I went to church, learned what I needed to know in Sunday School, and everything was fine. Now THIS guy wants to know when I was saved. That happened when I was baptized, right? He’s asking me why I think it’s okay for babies to be baptized. THIS person is questioning my choice of clothes and music. Can I really be a Christian and listen to Fergie or T.I.? THIS person is challenging what I think about creation, THIS person is telling me that I have to pray a certain way, and THIS person is trying to convince me that Christianity is all just a big waste of time!!!!

You know, in order to really think about those types of questions, in order to really discuss those types of issues, as a part of all of that, your faith slowly, but surely, becomes your own. It’s almost a trial by fire. Your family may have given you a firm foundation of faith. Your presence here is a testimony to that. They may have helped you learn, grow, and become closer in your walk with God. You’ve hopefully picked up some things along the way in Sunday School and confirmation classes. But to be honest with you, it’s really these next few years that’ll be when the rubber really hits the road. These years are when you stop believing because of what your family believes, and start believing because YOU believe. And what you will be doing this weekend isn’t the end of that journey. In a lot of ways, it’s just the beginning.

You, my friends, are at the beginning of an amazing adventure. You’ve been called! Christ has called you through your baptism to dare to be different. To dare to make a difference in the world, to make a difference in the lives of others. When he said “let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven,” Jesus wasn’t saying we should sit back, relax, and let our faith get us a ticket to heaven. He was calling us, challenging us, inspiring us to get out there and do something.

There are plenty of well-meaning folks out there who tell me that they’re glad that I do what I do because the youth are the future of the church, and we need to nurture that future. The thing is, you’re NOT the future of the church. You’re the church RIGHT NOW. That means you do have the power to make a difference, to change what needs to be changed, to be Jesus’ hands and heart for the people around you.

We Lutherans like to joke about resisting change. How many Lutherans does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Twelve. One to screw in the lightbulb, and eleven to say that they liked the old lightbulb better.

We resist change. We love to say things like “we’ve always done it that way.”

But like this poster says, just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.

You’re in a unique position. In the process of making your faith your own, in the process of asking the questions and figuring out what this faith of yours has to do with your life, you have the opportunity to be leaders. To sense where the spirit is leading, to show folks my age and older what transformation is about, to help us reclaim our faith even as you struggle to claim your own.

Where is God leading us? What have we “always done” as people of faith that needs to be done differently? Where is Christ calling YOU to serve, to be a light for others? Those are questions I can ask, but that it’s up to you to answer for yourselves. The answers to those questions are going to look different for each of you.

I’m going to leave you with a challenge tonight. The challenge isn’t to have all the answers. It’s not to make sure you’ve got it all together and to be a perfect person. My challenge to you is this: continue to struggle. Continue to wrestle. Continue to stumble toward faith. Continue to be an active part of a community that is committed to struggling and wrestling and stumbling alongside you.

Continue to ask questions, and if you’re not satisfied with the answers, ask some more questions. Continue the process of making this thing called faith your own faith. Don’t let this weekend be the end of that.

Faith is not a “through street.” The process of forming your faith is never through. It’s never finished. It’s never done. In so many ways, you’ve only just begun. Enjoy the ride, and may God bless each and every one of you.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh Brave New World!!!

My 3 year-old son will wake up tomorrow morning with the Red Sox having won the World Series twice since he was born.


It's weird. There really has been no doubt in my mind since game 5 of the ALCS that Boston was going to win it all, and that confidence has been very disconcerting. I've been trying to visit my old friends pessimism, doubt and dread, attempting to conjure thoughts of curses and collapses and blown leads and the like. But it's all been fake. The closest I could come to that comfortable, familiar feeling of dread was cautious optimism.

I knew Boston was going to win.

I think I know why it feels have expected a Red Sox victory all along: because I imagine this must be what it feels like to be a Yankees fan. (eww.)

Not that I'm complaining, mind you...(if there's any question, just ask Sweetie and she'll tell you I'm downright giddy right now!!!!)

As a lifelong member of Red Sox Nation, I'm proud of my boys. They played with heart, guts, passion, and remembered how to have fun in the process. Way to go guys!!!!

The celebratory Moxie has been consumed, and the can will be properly marked with the date and occasion as soon as I can find our Sharpie.

If I seem subdued, that's really not accurate. More like overwhelmed. Amazed.

Very, very happy. Just treading on some extremely unfamiliar ground.

WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sunday's Red Sox Mojo

Courtesy of Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Youkilis, soon to be coming to you on Dancing With the Red Sox Stars (okay, maybe not...)

Here's hoping Papelbon can do some more dancing tonight...


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday Red Sox Mojo Of The Day

Today's Red Sox Mojo song is none other than Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, as sung at Fenway in the middle of the eighth inning of every home game (sing along!!! Sweeeeet Caroliiiiiine, BUH BUH BUH, good times never seemed so good, SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!):

Tonight, the Sox take on the Rockies (and their humidor) in Denver, without the help of one of my favorite players, Kevin Youkilis, also known as Yukon Cornelius:

Kevin Youkilis..............................................................and Yukon Cornelius.

Am I the only one who sees the resemblance?

I suppose the plus side to all of this is when you're in a spot where you can bench a guy who's been hitting .500 in the postseason and honestly say doing that gives you the best opportunity to win, you've got a good thing going.



Friday, October 26, 2007

Red Sox Mojo Of the Day

Dirty Water by the Standells, a staple at Fenway after Red Sox victories (such as game 2 of the World Series against the Rockies...we're 2-0, baby!!!).

GO SOX!!!!

The lyrics, for those who may be mildly interested in such things:

Dirty Water
by The Standells

I'm gonna tell you a story
I'm gonna tell you about my town
I'm gonna tell you a big bad story, baby
Aww, it's all about my town

Yeah, down by the river
Down by the banks of the river Charles (aw, that's what's happenin' baby)
That's where you'll find me
Along with lovers, muggers, and thieves (aw, but they're cool people)
Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home (oh, you're the number one place)

Frustrated women (I mean they're frustrated)
Have to be in by twelve o'clock (oh, that's a shame)
But I'm wishin' and a-hopin, oh
That just once those doors weren't locked (I like to save time for my baby to walk around)
Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home (oh, yeah)
Because I love that dirty water
Oh, oh, Boston, you're my home (oh, yeah)

Well, I love that dirty water (I love it, baby)
I love that dirty water (I love Baw-stun)
I love that dirty water (Have you heard about the Strangler?)
I love that dirty water (I'm the man, I'm the man)
I love that dirty water (Owww!)
I love that dirty water (Come on, come on)


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Go Sox!!! Beat the Rox on Fox!!!

Yes ladies and gents, this year's World Series is being brought to you by Dr. Seuss.

The Sox and Rox on Fox!

Hoppy on Papi!

Okay, maybe that last one was a stretch.

I gotta tell you, I'm downright giddy. My beloved Beantown boys are in the Series for the second time in four years, and they actually went in as favorites. There's a part of me that says "be careful, they're just setting you up for even more heartbreak," but there's another part of me that just keeps chanting "2004...2004...2004..." It's become my mantra. If the Sox could win it all in 2004, then why the heck not now?

And especially after last night's beatdown, the score of which shall not be mentioned for fear of jinxing the whole thing.

SO...for today's Red Sox mojo, I bring you the Dropkick Murphys and their classic ode to Boston baseball, Tessie:

Here's the lyrics, in case all you can understand is the "2-3-4!"


Tessie is the Royal Rooters rally cry
Tessie is the song they always sung
Tessie echoed April through October nights
After serenading Stahl, Dineen and Young
Tessie is a maiden with the sparkling eyes
Tessie is a maiden with the love
She doesn't know the meaning of her sight
She's got a comment full of love
And sometimes when the game is on the line
Tessie always carried them away
Up the road from Third Base to Huntington
The boys will always sing and sway

Two! Three! Four!

Tessie, Nuff Ced McGreevy shouted
We're not here to mess around
Boston, you know we love you madly
Hear the crowd roar to your sound
Don't blame us if we ever doubt you
You know we couldn't live without you
Tessie, you are the only, only, only

The Rooters showed up at the Grounds one day
They found their seats had all been sold
McGreevy led the charge into the park
Stormed the gates and put the game on hold
The Rooters gave the other team a dreadful fright
Boston's tenth man could not be wrong
Up from Third Base to Huntington
They sang another victory song

Two! Three! Four!

Tessie, Nuff Ced McGreevy shouted
We're not here to mess around
Boston, you know we love you madly
Hear the crowd roar to your sound
Don't blame us if we ever doubt you
You know we couldn't live without you
Tessie, you are the only, only, only

The Rooters gave the other team a dreadful fright
Boston's tenth man could not be wrong
Up from Third Base to Huntington
They sang another victory song

Two! Three! Four!

Tessie, Nuff Ced McGreevy shouted
We're not here to mess around
Boston, you know we love you madly
Hear the crowd roar to your sound
Don't blame us if we ever doubt you
You know we couldn't live without you
Boston, you are the only, only, only
Don't blame us if we ever doubt you
You know we couldn't live without you
Red Sox, you are the only, only, only

Go Red Sox,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Sunday evening, Sweetie and I went not to a retirement dinner, but a reFIREment dinner for Pastor Roger Sasse, executive director of Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries. NLOM runs Camp Carol Joy Holling, which is where Sweetie and I met when we were on summer staff together eleven years ago. And for anyone who knows Roger, the term reFIREment is much more appropriate than "retirement." Even though he says he's taking a month to do some in-depth study on the feeding habits of the great northern pike, I don't think he'll ever truly retire. He just has too much fire in him.

The dinner was great--there was a suitable combination of reminiscing and roasting, the highlight of which was the long-time director of buildings and grounds returning an entire toolbelt worth of tools that had fallen off the back of Roger's pickup over the years, then going backstage and wheeling out a gigantic electric generator that Roger apparently at one point had let fall off the back of his truck when he forgot to put up the tailgate.

Oh...and the food. The food. The. Food. Was. Amazing.

I know it sounds weird to hear that about camp food, but ever since NLOM hired an executive chef for their retreat center food preparation, meals at camp (which have always been above average) have become works of culinary art. Savory, tender beef tenderloin strips marinaded and with a cracked pepper glaze. Chipotle roasted shrimp. Au gratin potatoes (the real ones, not the ones out of a big box). Two different vegetable salads. I can't even begin to adequately describe how good the spread was.

And then there were the desserts, which honestly were as good as you'd find at any fine restaurant you'd ever go to.

An all-around wonderful time. We were at a table with old friends, got to catch up with other old friends from camp and from campus ministry, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Kiddo was with us, too. Sweetie and I had told him in the morning that we were going to be going to camp in the evening, and his first question had been, "am I going to get mosquito bites?" We had assured him that no, we were going to be inside. When we got there, we were so proud of how nicely he sat through the hour-long dinner, followed by an hour-long program. He listened, looked around, and intently paged through the books we had brought for him. After the final speaker, the synod bishop closed with a prayer and had everyone stand up and hold hands during the praying. Kiddo prayed right along, holding Sweetie's and my hands. When the prayer was over, he looked at me and asked, "Daddy, is this church?"

Hm. Is this church? Well, not really in the sense in which he was asking the question.

So my initial answer was "no, but it's like church because we prayed and talked about Jesus." As I spoke, though, my words sounded awfully hollow to me. So I interrupted myself.

"Actually," I said, "yes. This IS church. It doesn't look like our church at home, does it? But this is a big church that looks like a camp. And kids and grownups come and sing and pray and play and learn all about how much God loves them."

Kiddo thought about it and said, "that's really cool."

Yep...very cool indeed.

Happy reFIREment, Roger!


Monday, October 22, 2007


Last week was my synod's Theological Conference. As is the case at events like these, just as much value lies in the conversations that take place before, between, and after the formal sessions as with the official presentations themselves...but there's always some good nuggets to be taken away from the keynote speakers.

There's also some sessions that are downright clunkers.

During one such session last week, I decided to pass the time by writing some haiku. Yes, I know.

I'm a nerd.

I started with this one:

I enjoy haiku.
Five and then seven and five
is a fun pattern.

On Monday, before one of the afternoon sessions, the bishop got up to announce that Steve Pederson had just been fired as the University of Nebraska's athletic director.

He was greeted with silence.

He said, "no, really, I'm not making a joke. It happened."

Upon which came a thunder of applause. It was a bit surreal.

To commemorate, I wrote this one:

Steve Pederson led
NU's athletic program
almost to ruin.

The rest came mostly as responses to words or phrases that one of the speakers used that touched a creative nerve. Here's the rest of what I wrote:

Faith is an action,
more than a belief, that drives
me to serve neighbor.

"Take and eat, drink." We
become that which we consume
at the Lord's table.

Do we honor the
parts of the Lord's body that
annoy, stumble, or fall?

Discovering my
God-gifts and using them helps
me serve cheerfully.

The God-sized hole in
my life cries for comforting.
Does the church cry too?

Confirmed in Christ, we
daily remember water
drowning our old selves.

"How is it with your
soul?" he asked, and I shifted
the subject quickly.

The cross, beckoning,
battering, calls us to our
life transformation.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Go Big Red!

Yesterday, Sweetie and I took Kiddo to his very first Nebraska Cornhuskers football game.

It was a resounding success, despite the 45-14 drubbing the Huskers received at the hands of Oklahoma State (good grief...Okie STATE?!?!?! Ya gotta be kidding me!!!! **sigh**). Yes, that's right, the worst home loss since 1958.

I believe that was during the Eisenhower administration. Top song that year was At The Hop, top selling album was the soundtrack to South Pacific.

I gotta wash that game right out of my hair.

Anyway, it would have been a complete loser of a day had it not been for Kiddo. The boy had been looking forward all week to the day, and there wasn't anything that would have gotten in the way of his good time. We left the house at about 8:40 AM, parked in our usual spot by the County-City building, walked up to the stadium, and met Sweetie's dad on the north side of the stadium. From there, Sweetie and her dad went inside to a brunch on the terrace of the Tom and Nancy Osborne Complex, and Kiddo and I walked down to the Husker Nation Pavillion.

Athletic Director Steve Pedersen has made about a million boneheaded moves in his tenure at Nebraska, but one thing he did do right was the creation of the pavillion. It's a big, family friendly area right next to the stadium that has games for the kids (including those inflatable things for them to jump in), face painting, a big field for just running around, a big screen monitor where you can watch ESPN, and a stage set up where a band plays and the Nebraska Football Network radio broadcast does their pregame show. And best of all, it's free.

So Kiddo got his face painted, and we checked out some of the other stuff going on. Then we walked to the Student Union building (daddy needed cash from the ATM), where we saw 1997 Outland Trophy winner Aaron Taylor was signing autographs at the bookstore. There wasn't a line when we got there, so Kiddo got his hat signed. Aaron asked Kiddo his age, and when he said 3, Aaron did a doubletake, and said "wow." That's right--an Outland trophy winner was impressed with my son's size. He moves around well too--sign him up!

After doing some more sightseeing around campus, including buying a balloon to let off when the Huskers scored, and checking out the HuskerPedia tailgate, we went into the stadium. Kiddo just took everything in--the band, the GIANT videoboard, the crowd--he just had this "deer in the headlights" look. But when the band started "There Is No Place Like Nebraska," Kiddo sang along.

The whole game, he kept cheering and singing "There Is No Place Like Nebraska." He did get a little antsy because he wanted to let his balloon off into the air, but Nebraska didn't score during the entire first half. We finally said he could do it at halftime. He participated in the wave, waved his arms in the air with the student section after we finally DID score, and just in general had a wonderful time. In fact, after the game, he didn't want to leave!

Now, I'm about as big of a Husker fan as there is, and watching the debacle yesterday left the "grown-up fan" in me pretty sick to my stomach. But I had the privilege of watching the game through the eyes of a 3 year-old, and through those eyes, yesterday's game was the best Husker football game I've ever been to.

Go Big Red!

Here's some pictures and video of the day:

Outside East Stadium

Aaron Taylor at the bookstore

Kiddo at the fountains in front of the Union

HuskerPedia tailgate...with North Stadium in the background

Go Huskers!!!

Watching the players come out for the 2nd half

Borrowing Grandpa's binoculars

His idea...he wanted to bring his play corn from
home for the CORNHUSKERS...

Kiddo's quote: "They need to try HARDER!"

Joining in The for the video

"There Is No Place Like Nebraska" for the video


Thursday, October 11, 2007

God's laughing his holy hiney off right now...

A little background to set the ironic stage:

The ELCA right now is in the middle of the process of forming a social statement on human sexuality. As part of that, they've put together a series of Bible studies for congregations to go through and respond to together. The responses from the people of the church will help inform and shape what the statement says.

They just recently came out with a youth version of one of the studies, and I've decided to teach it at my church for the high schoolers. Tonight was a parents' meeting to go over the outline of the course and answer any questions they might have going in.

As part of my conclusion at the end, I acknowledged that while I'm not the parent of a teenager, I AM a parent, and hope to come at things with a parent's sensitivities. I jokingly said, "it should be a few years before Kiddo and I have to have 'the talk.'"
Okay. Jump to about 15 minutes ago.

Kiddo woke up with growing pains in his foot. After some TLC (and a little children's ibuprofen), he was feeling better and started telling me about his evening. He finished by saying, "Mommy's really tired, isn't she? Why is Mommy tired?"

I answered, "because of the baby growing in Mommy's tummy. It makes her a little tired sometimes."

His reply:

"How did the baby get in Mommy's tummy?"

(Hm. So much for not having "the talk" for a while.)
"Well, God put it there. He put it there really really small, and now it's growing, and when it's ready to be born we'll go to the hospital."

Kiddo thought about that for a second. "When Mommy eats, it lets the baby eat, and when Mommy drinks, it lets the baby drink, so that the baby can grow?"

"Yep," I answered.

"Will God put a baby in MY tummy?"

(Oh, the innocence of a 3 year old!) "No, Kiddo, God only puts babies in mommies' tummies."

"Not daddies? Or little boys?"


At this point, I expected him to ask why, but luckily his sleepiness was starting to get the best of him. He decided he was satisfied and laid back down.

And somewhere up in heaven, God laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed. I, who had just spent the better part of 45 minutes earlier tonight talking to parents about the importance of they and the church being in conversation with their kids about sex, who had tossed out a throwaway joke about not needing this sort of discussion with my own kid anytime soon, was sweating out an exchange with a 3 year-old.

Holy humor, indeed.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Root Root Root

My aim yesterday was to celebrate the coming of the major league baseball playoffs (and the Red Sox's win in game one) by taking a video of Kiddo singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Well, he showed wisdom beyond his years. Usually, when he gets to the line "for it's root, root root for the home team," he'll sing "Red Sox" instead (as has been carefully taught by his Dear Old Dad). I thought that would be cute, and fun to post.

Except yesterday, the Red Sox weren't playing.

But Kiddo knew the Yankees were (we had been watching them during supper). And when he he got to that line in the song, he remembered who they were playing against.

So, for yesterday at least, it was "root, root root for the Indians!"

Because, of course, our two favorite teams are the Red Sox and whoever happens to be playing the Yankees...

Here's the video (other than my having asked him to sing the song, this is completely unrehearsed):


Sunday, September 30, 2007

"I Must Break You."

This um...somewhat altered picture (edit: okay, I don't have PhotoShop, and this is the best I can do with Microsoft Paint, but thanks for the fun idea, RevScott!) is from one of two scenes I actually remember from Rocky IV, one of the most jingoistic, self-indulgent "rah rah USA" movies ever made (but also, I must admit, a guilty pleasure to watch whenever it's on TV). The valiant Rocky Balboa and the evil Ivan Drago are about to begin their long-awaited boxing match. They meet at the center of the ring, and Ivan Drago tells Rocky, "I must break you."

(FWIW, since I know I begged the question with what I wrote...the other scene I remember from this movie is the one showing Rocky training for this fight in the middle of the Siberia...with things like logs and boulders...while Drago is in this state of the art facility with computers and steroids and such things).

My three year old son thinks he's Ivan Drago.

To be more precise, the last couple of weeks, he's been doing this thing where he'll look at your face...and slowly let his eyes go out of focus so that he's seeing a double image of your head (which is a wee bit disconcerting, because it makes him look like he's looking right through you)...and he'll smile, and say, "I'm breaking you!"

For the record, Kiddo uses no steroids that I'm aware of. =)


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Go Big Red!!!

Nebraska takes on Iowa State today, and Kiddo's all fired up and ready to go! Enjoy his rendition of There Is No Place Like Nebraska, sung as only a 3 year old can sing!!!

(Be sure to stick around until the's cute!)


Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Five

From the RevGals:

On Endings and Goodbyes:

1. Best ending of a movie/book/TV show
Bar none, the final scene of the final episode of Newhart was the best TV series ending I've ever seen. Bob Newhart played Dick Louden, an inn owner in Vermont, who was surrounded by a cast of lovable crazies (remember Larry, Darryl, and Darryl?). In the final episode, he gets hit in the head by a golf ball. The screen goes black.

"Then a light is turned on, and viewers see Newhart in bed, saying "Honey, you won't believe the dream I just had." Another light comes on, revealing not Dick Loudon's wife Joanna, but Bob Hartley's wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). The bedroom is a recreation from The Bob Newhart Show, and – in a parody of a 1980s television vogue – the entire Newhart series is revealed to have been a dream in the mind of Newhart's 1970s character. Bob tells Emily that in the dream, he lived in a weird Vermont town surrounded by strange people: a snobbish maid and her alliterative husband, a dense handyman, and three eccentric woodsmen, two of whom were mute.

When he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blonde in the dream, an annoyed Emily tells Bob to go back to sleep and flicks off the light on her side of the bedroom. Reviving a technique from The Bob Newhart Show, in which one of the Hartleys incredulously flicks back on a bedside light and restarts the conversation, Emily turns her light back on and inquires, "What do you mean, 'beautiful blonde?!' Bob tells her to go back to sleep, commenting, "You should wear more sweaters," something Joanna was noted for. The scene ends to the strains of the old Bob Newhart Show theme song (although this was removed for syndicated reruns)."
--from the Newhart Wikipedia entry:

**edit: runner-up for best ending is Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. The only reason of course being that the Red Sox win the World Series.**

2. Worst ending of a movie/book/TV show
Hmmm....I'm having a tough time coming up with a single one that I'd say was the worst...but in general, I have a great dislike for nice, neat tidy endings. Life very seldom is nice, neat, or tidy. Give me some muck, some non-resolution, some lingering pain, sadness, or uncertainty.

3. Tell about a memorable goodbye you've experienced.
When Pastor Larry Meyer from the Lutheran Student Center passed away, his funeral and memorial service was an amazing, collective goodbye. It was Larry to a T--first, the public memorial service was in a large, classic sanctuary with one long aisle running down the middle and a big ol' pipe organ to blast the congregation out of their pews. He had specifically said he didn't want (as he put it) a "preacher parade," so the procession consisted only of family and participants in the service. There was no eulogy, but there were addresses to the family and congregation, stories told of the things he loved (even with props!), from cheap beer to Volkswagens, Husker football to sauerkraut. And it all came back to his love for Christ and more importantly, Christ's love for him. There were hundreds of people there, many of them former students from campus ministry, and the reception afterwards turned into a gigantic reunion. Larry would have loved nothing better than seeing old friends reunite, share stories, laugh and cry together.

4. Is it true that "all good things must come to an end"?
Yes, it is true, all things--good, bad, indifferent--must come to an end...except for one thing. And that thing is not merely "good," it is perfect. And it is eternal. AND it is given to us, through no deserving of our own, as a gift.

5. "Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it." --Anne Lamott Discuss.
Letting go of something means relinquishing control over it. And that's the scariest thing. Whether it's our relationships, our things, our fears, our prejudices, our let go is to say "I no longer control this. It's no longer in my hands." It takes faith and the willingness to open ourselves up to vulnerability.

Bonus: "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." I've never loved this expression. So propose an alternative: "It isn't over until ____________________"
For my fellow Red Sox fans: It isn't over until Bucky Freakin' Dent hits the home run. It isn't over until the ball goes through Bill Buckner's legs. It isn't over until Grady Little leaves Pedro in the game one inning too long.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Great Read, Great Price...

Hey everyone...not every day an opportunity like this comes along. Gordon Atkinson, also known in the blogosphere as Real Live Preacher, is one of the best writers I've ever had the privilege of reading. A few years ago he wrote a book of essays that was published by Eerdmans, entitled, appropriately enough, Real Live Preacher.

Like most things of quality these days (books, movies, T.V. shows, you name it), it didn't sell very well. So Eerdmans remaindered the remaining 1300 or so copies. Which means Gordon had the chance to buy them back for pennies on the dollar.

And he's selling them himself. Mailing them out of his house in San Antonio. Eleven bucks each. (Original price was fourteen.) With a promise that he'll put little surprises in each book he sends--maybe a surprise comment here or there, a pressed flower, a note, pieces of navel lint (just kidding about the navel lint...well, maybe not...). Who knows what might find its way into your copy.

I'm telling you, if you haven't read this book before, wait until next week when he puts a link on his site allowing you to order, and order one. Maybe two, or five, or fifteen to give away. His thoughtful essays on life, and faith, and family, and the world, and how they all intersect, are masterpieces. I promise, you will bellylaugh more than once. You will cry. You will get angry. You may even get a little embarrassed (this is, after all, a preacher who's not afraid to drop a well-placed F-Bomb if the situation warrants it). Mostly, you will be blessed and strengthened, challenged and comforted in your faith walk.

Real Live Preacher, the book, is excellent reading on the ins and outs of what it means to live as a Christian. And how often do you have a chance to purchase a copy directly from the author, and have the author include a pressed flower for you?

While you're at it, be sure to bookmark his blog too. It's food for the soul.

Here's a couple of links to posts RLP wrote about his remaindered book:

The first post

A second followup post


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Turner Gill, continued

On Monday, I wrote about former Husker player and coach Turner Gill, and the outpouring of letters when he stepped down from the Nebraska coaching staff. Turner has since become the head football coach for the University at Buffalo, and an amazing number of Nebraskans (yours truly included) have suddenly taken a great interest in the goings-on in upstate New York on Saturdays in the fall. Here's some samples of the 761 emails I received during the ten days after his resignation:
Years ago as a sophomore at Westlake High School in Austin, TX I was tasked by an English teacher to write a school report about any topic I wished. Being a Husker "fish out of water" in Longhorn country I decided to report on the history of Nebraska football. My teacher required that we all have at least 3 sources and one interview in order to write our reports. Being young and a little naive, I called the Nebraska football department and asked to speak with you about the Husker tradition, the person I spoke with patched me through to your voicemail. Imagine my surprise (not to mention my parents) when sitting at dinner that very same evening the phone rang, my father answered and said "Brent- Turner Gill is on the phone for you!" I appreciated the call and the 20 minutes you spent talking to a 14 year old kid in Texas back then, and appreciate the incredible example you have provided to the fans, players, and coaches of the Nebraska (as well as other) program. I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors and will be cheering loudly for you in whatever you pursue. Thank you and God Bless!
Brent D
Houston, TX
Dear Turner:You might remember me. I'm the guy that fills your first aid kit in the coach's office. I appreciate the fact that you we're always willing to talk and say hi. You are a class act and a great will be missed. I can't wait to root for you and your new team! I have a feeling that you will be The head coach for the Huskers someday.I'm sad to see you leave the Husker program, but that doesn't mean you aren't a Husker anymore. You will still be in our hearts and our minds matter where you are. God bless you Turner gill .
Your friend,
Dan H
I can't even begin to tell you how sad I was to hear that you are leaving us. I got tears immediately, and as I type this, I have tears. I met you last year, at Fans Day at the Stadium, and I knew, even before meeting you, that you were a kind person, you confirmed that, that day. I have been watching Husker football since I was a little girl (born in '63 in Omaha). I am an older fan I guess, as I remember Bob being our coach, and remembering when Tom came to grace our team also. Two unbelievable coaches, with such awesome class. I remember many great players gracing our team, you are one of them. Someone that believed in respect towards fellow players, coaches, AND the fans meant,and means alot to us. I only hope that all of the above knew/know, how much the fans appreciate this.

I hope the best for you and for your family. I thank you so much for the great memories you have given us. You will never be forgotten, and hope you know you are always welcome here. Good luck to you, going for that Head Coach job, shouldn't be much of a task for someone as talented, knowledgeable, and caring as yourself. God Bless.

Sue J
From a lifelong Husker fan best wishes to an incredible future. We are sooooo very sad to see you go but we know you are a man of great conviction and that conviction will comfort you as you head out into new territory! Selfishly we want you to stay. You represent everything that is dear to Husker fans.....seasons of glory, integrity, character, sportsmanship....I could go on and on......but now here is the chance to transplant a piece of all that is special about this place to another area of the country for other sport fans to enjoy and learn from. We all talk about winning but the greatest impact is influence over young lives. I am glad to see you will still be guiding and directing young men. If I had an athletic son I wouldn't hesitate a second to trust him to you. God Bless and best wishes for incredible success. But please never forget you are a HUSKER for life!
Mr. Gill:
I wish to say “Thank You” for being a leader of men and an inspiration to me personally. As a kid growing up on the south side of Chicago I saw my first Nebraska football game during a Thanksgiving weekend. Little did I know that many years later I would go to Nebraska to attend medical school. When I arrived at Nebraska you were on Tom Osborne’s coaching staff. He would always speak so affectionately of you; much more than a coach speaks of a former player. I was aware of your football exploits as a player for Nebraska but I sensed that you were a special person. As I followed the team, I also followed you. I admired your dignity and spiritual grace. You were a light for my path. You have been and will always be much more than a football player or coach. Thank you for touching my life!
Blessings to you and your family,
Department of Surgery
University of Missouri
Turner,I attended the University of Nebraska from 1982-1986. I was fortunate to get to see you play. In many ways, you invented a new position, not just at Nebraska, but nationally.More impressive to me is witnessing the blessings you have brought to the University and the state of Nebraska. You are a Texan originally, but you will always be a Nebraskan to me. I hope that God's plans bring you back "home" some day. You have helped to mold many young men in your time here. You have made a difference beyond the football field...and you have done it with an incredible amount of dignity and grace. I will always be a fan of Turner Gill...not just because of what you did as a player and a coach, but primarily because of the person you are.
Thank you and may God bless you wherever His plan takes you,
Mike Q
Colorado Springs,
COUNL Alumnus 1986
Mr. Gill,When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, I attended a baseball seminar at an Omaha high school a month or so after the Miami - Nebraska Orange Bowl. Some Nebraska baseball coaches and players were there demonstrating some work-out techniques, and you were one of the players on stage. It was supposed to be about baseball, but the majority of the segment ended up with you graciously answering questions about the game, and about football. I remember at first feeling sorry for you for being blind-sided with football questions at a baseball seminar so soon after what must have been one of the most disappointing events in your life up to that point. One question gave people the "green light" to ask another, then another...soon you had answered questions about that game, that decision, and that play for over a half-hour.As a high school kid, I had always idolized you as a player without knowing what kind of person you were. By the time the emcee' finally cut off the football questions, I then respected you as a man. You didn't wince, you didn't shirk the stood as a strong young man of character and answered all of those tough questions with grace and class. I was blown away.But that's not all. I've never been a big "autograph" guy, but at a break in the conference right after this question and answer session, you were alone in the cafeteria getting a coke, so for the first time in my life I asked, and received an autographed picture of you, which I hung in my locker for the next 4 years. From that point on, whenever people discuss whether athletes are role-models or not, I tell people about you and that day. I tell them that whenever I have had to stand up and be accountable, I have drawn on that memory as an example of how to display strength and class in unpleasant situations. Yes, athletes are role-models, and you were as good as the get.Thank you, Mr. Gill, for the great memories from your days on the field...but also to your service and example off the field. Not only for the scores of Nebraska football players you've coached over the years, but also the people you've never met.
I'll be sad to see you leave, but I wish you the best of luck wherever you end up. I hope my son has the privilege of playing for you in about 13 years...even if you end up being the head coach for OU, CU, or K-State!
Terry H
Coach Gill –I’m sure you’ve received many e-mails from a grateful Husker Nation thanking you for your service and dedication, but I also wanted to add my thanks and appreciation for everything that you’ve done for our state and our program… and everything you’ve stood for… over the years.
These past few years must have been difficult to you and your family, and your decision to leave the coaching staff was undoubtedly one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to consider. I know and trust you are guided by a higher calling, and that – combined with the reality that you and your family will always be in our memories, thoughts and prayers – will hopefully make your future changes in life easier to consider.
I will always be a Husker fan. And now, my second favorite team will always be the one with which you are associated.
Good luck and God bless.
Steve B
Tallahassee, Florida

Coach Gill,As the mother of a current Husker player I want to thank you for the positive influence you have been to my son over the past three years. You have been a role model to many young men who have gone through the NU football program. As a long-time Husker fan I want to thank you for the many years you have given to Nebraska football as a player and coach. You were always a class act and we could count on your love and loyalty for Husker football to shine through in any and all circumstances. Best of luck in your future endeavors and may God bless you and your family.You will be missed.
C. M.
Mother of current player
Many thanks, Turner,,,,First for being the kind of person with faith and integrity that provided an outstanding model for our young men to emulate as they finish off their early development years. While all your other accomplishments were tremendous, this stands out and has made people respect your other accomplishments even more.
Second for the dedication to the University and the program to which you chose to make your early contributions in your career. Never has any question been raised of your commitment and loyalty to Nebraska by any of the thousands of followers out there - how very rare indeed when dealing with the public.
Third for your efforts as a player some seemingly many years ago. Your talent, work effort and dedication brought glory to yourself and to the University.and finally for not letting your success become a distraction to you as a person.We all wish you the very best in your further career, and while we will miss you we celebrate the time you spent with us. You will always be part of the Husker family - no matter which color you wear on the sidelines. I admire your courage to step out into the unknown and seek additional growth.
God speed.
Roger A
Dear Mr. Gill
I'm sure it was a hard day for you when you announced your resignation from the Husker program. I regret to inform your that your resignation has been denied. There is no way that you can possibly leave Husker Nation for you will always be a part of it. I wish you all the best in your pursuit of a head coaching job. I am confident that you will find one.Thank you for all the memories. I was a Boy Scout ushering at Memorial Stadium when I got to watch you perform your skills. You were a diamond in the rough. You were blessed by learning from one of the greatest coaches of all time. You executed the option to perfection but that isn't the most important impression that you will leave at Nebraska. My wife is from Goodland Kansas and her sisters baby sat Brook Berringer. They went to the same church. Going back to Goodland and listening to the people there was amazing. The way that you, Coach Osborne and Coach Brown conducted yourselves and spoke at Brook's funeral showed a lot of people who the people of Nebraska Football really were. They weren't just coaches with a desire to win. They were coaches who cared about their players. But most importantly, coaches that believed in God and could comfortably talk in public and profess their faith. That was a lasting impression on a lot of folk from Goodland Kansas. And to me, the most special thing about you.
And recently, I've been fortunate enough to attend the last 6 coaches clinics in the spring since I started coaching football. I've enjoyed learning from you. I wish I could thank you in person but you have things to do. I'll pray for you and I hope you know you are always welcome in Husker Nation.
God Bless You,
Wayne P
Deshler Nebraska
As a student at the University your junior and senior years (and a fellow North Texas graduate), I really hate to see you leave, partly because it marks the end of an era, in my opinion.You won't remember this but I have been able to tell this story many times over the years. It was August of 1982, you were coming off that leg injury. You were wearing a red t-shirt that said something like "I'm okay, the legs okay, I'm gonna play". I was walking out one of the Union's revolving door when I heard a thud. You were right behind me, but because I was pushing the revolving door faster then you, it hit you. All I could think of was I was a punk freshman who just reinjured Turner Gill's leg and my face was going to be on the front page of every Nebraska paper! Fortunately for me, you were not hurt.Best of luck in whatever you do. I will be rooting for any team you become a part of... unless they are playing NU or North Texas of course.
Joe T
Dallas TX
Thank you so much for the memories and for being a positive influence on the “BIG RED” for so long. You won’t remember this but when NU played Ole Miss at the Independence Bowl a few years ago, my 9 and 11 (at the time) year old sons met you at the hotel before breakfast on game day. Not only did you talk to them, you took at least 10 minutes out of what I know was a hectic day and really talked to my boys. My oldest is very upset that you are leaving. I want you to know that no matter where god takes you and I’m sure there is nothing but greatness ahead for you, that I as well as my boys will always be Turner Gill “fans”.
Thank you
El Paso, AR