Monday, April 30, 2007

Pachelbel Rant

I found this linked from Christy's blog.

If you're not a musician...this is REALLY funny.

If you are a musician...especially one who plays for weddings...and who has played Canon in D at JUST ABOUT every wedding you've been a part of...well, this is just off the scale hilarious.

Comedian/musician Rob Paravonian's 5 minute rant on Pachelbel...sit back, enjoy, and don't drink anything while you're watching, lest said drink ends up spit all over your computer.

(and yes, it's true...the verses to Green Day's "Basketcase" DO have the EXACT SAME chord progession as "Canon in D"...I just tested it out myself. But if anyone asks, I was just practicing "Canon in D." Very fast. And loud. Our little secret.)


Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Five

Okay...had to make time today for the Friday Five!

What are you...

1. Wearing
My favorite Levi 569s with a St. Louis Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt. Feelin' comfy today!

2. Pondering
Later this morning I'll be taking Kiddo to register for preschool in the fall, and I'm doing the "I can't believe my little baby is about to go to preschool" thing, and thinking about all the stuff he's learned in just three short years. It's really mind-boggling how much knowledge we absorb in the first years of our lives. I mean, it wasn't that long ago where he couldn't do much more than smile, cry, and poop. And now he counts to thirty, makes up funny stories, and roots for the Red Sox and against the Yankees (by the way, they lost again last night...woo hoo!)!!!!!

3. Reading
Well, I should be reading The Screwtape Letters, since that's what I assigned for my church's book club which will be meeting in a week and a half...and I haven't read it for about 5 years...but hey, I've got a week and a half, right? It's short.

4. Dreaming
Since I hardly ever remember my actual dreams, here's a recurring daydream I'm having: I'm mere months from paying off my Paul Douglas Teacher's Scholarship eleven freakin' years after graduating from college (that's right, I'm paying back a long as you went into teaching, it was a scholarship, but if you did what I did and changed your mind about teaching, it became a loan), and I keep dreaming about all the other ways I can make that money disappear...

5. Eating
My mother will be happy to hear that ever since I posted about not eating breakfast, I've eaten breakfast every day. This morning it's Post Spoon-Size Shredded Wheat With Bran, strawberries, and orange juice.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

+++Rev. Larry L. Meyer+++

This post is a couple of days early, but the next few days are going to be very busy ones in the LH household (for a number of reasons...maybe next week I'll have the chance to tell you about some of them), and I don't know that I'll be posting again before Monday.

Sunday, April 29th, it will have been two years since my mentor and friend Pastor Larry Meyer died of esophegeal cancer. He was 58 and still at the height of his calling as a pastor to young adults at the time, and it both angers and saddens me when I think of all of the people he still could have had the opportunity to touch.

But this post is about neither sadness nor anger. So I'm not going to let myself go there.

This post is about the impact God made on countless numbers of people through Larry's life. Over 100 pastors currently serving in the ELCA either were students at one of the campus ministries Larry served, or had Larry as an internship supervisor when they were in seminary. Larry Olson, founder of Dakota Road Music, first heard his call to music when Larry tapped him to be a music director at a campus ministry in South Dakota. Hundreds, probably even thousands more people found or affirmed their life's vocation (both in AND out of the church) with Larry's advice, guidance, and prodding.

As this anniversary comes and goes, I feel re-challenged to help others discover their vocation, their calling, just as Larry helped me discover mine.

I want to share a couple of things. The first is the manuscript of the words that I spoke at Larry's memorial service. I had been asked to do two things: talk about his love for woodworking, and speak from the perspective of the many college students he had touched as a campus pastor. The second thing I want to share are the lyrics of a song Larry Olson wrote and sang for Larry Meyer's funeral--it's called One Life. I'll be playing and singing it Sunday morning at church. Even without the added significance, it fits the themes of both the Revelation passage and "Good Shepherd" passage from John that we'll be hearing.

First, the manuscript:
This is one of my most prized possessions. You’d never guess by looking at it, or by seeing where I keep it. It’s a small coat or hat rack, or more specifically in my case, it’s where we hang my son’s diaper bags on the wall of the laundry room in my house. It’s very simple—a long board with three pegs sticking out of it. But it’s well-built…the board is straight, and the pegs can hold a LOT of weight. It’s functional. It does the job it was designed to do very well.

Why is this such a prized possession? Pastor Larry Meyer made it. He gave these one of a kind Larry Meyer original coat racks (or diaper bag racks) to the Lutheran Student Center staff as Christmas gifts in 2003.

Larry loved to work with wood. More specifically, he loved to work with pieces of scrap wood. He’d take discarded, seemingly useless leftover bits and scraps from other projects, and with his innate vision and skill he would shape them into something else…something useful, something with a purpose, something new.

I can’t help but think that the way Larry looked at his woodworking projects was the same way he saw the people whose lives he touched. God gave Larry the gift of vision, and he used that gift to its fullest. In all with whom he came into contact, Larry saw both potential and purpose.

And as with his woodworking hobby, God gave Larry the tools to help shape people…to help them realize and use their own God-given gifts to further the work of the Kingdom. I know there are hundreds, even thousands of stories to be told by all of us who are here this morning of the uncanny way Larry had of seeing gifts in us that we didn’t even know were there.

The thing about Larry, though, was that he didn’t just recognize gifts. He poked, and he prodded, and he pushed, and he kicked, and he cajoled, and he asked, and he just kept relentlessly pursuing you until you finally saw those same gifts in yourself, realized what God had given you, and were using those gifts, preferably in the church, but if not, then wherever the Spirit led you. Larry would use all the tools in the vast toolbox God gave him to help you find your own tools. To Larry, we weren’t just pieces of scrap wood to be thrown away. He knew God has a purpose for all of us, and before you knew it you were singing in the choir, or leading a Bible study, or serving on a committee, or living in the Student Center apartment, or providing special music for services, or ushering, or helping with communion, or making a donation, or going to seminary, or serving as the Lutheran Student Center’s Director of Campus Ministry for Southeast Community College and Nebraska Wesleyan…which is what I’m doing today, thanks to a phone call from Larry back in October of 2003.

I had been working at an insurance company here in Lincoln and was thoroughly miserable in my job. My wife was pregnant, and after a lot of prayer and discussion, I had decided that when I took time off from work after the baby was born in December, I would use part of that time to find a new job. It wasn’t two weeks after I came to that conclusion that my phone rang. It was Larry. I hadn’t seen him or spoken with him for quite a while, so I was surprised to hear from him. His first words were, “what are the chances that you’re dissatisfied with your current job situation?” After I told him that those chances were hovering…well, right around 100%, he said, “Good. I’ve got an opportunity for you.” And he went on to tell me about a new ministry position the Student Center created to reach out to Nebraska Wesleyan and Southeast Community College, and asked if I wanted to interview for it. And here I am today.

It didn’t matter if you were a student, or an alum, or a colleague, or a friend or family member—Larry had a knack for saying the right thing at the right time to the right person in the right way. Sometimes it came through a comment in a Bible study, or an invitation to a conversation over a meal or a drink, or even just a seemingly idle comment in passing. Very often, it came through his preaching. Week after week, I’d listen to his sermons in church, and leave convinced that he had been speaking the whole time directly to me and to my current situation in life. Sometimes, I’d wonder, “how did he KNOW that’s exactly what God needed me to hear today?” The thing was, though, that everyone else in the congregation felt the same way.

It was that knack that made him such a great pastor, but more importantly it’s what made him such a good friend and mentor. It’s why so many of us are crowded in here this morning to celebrate Larry’s life, and why thousands more who couldn’t be here are smiling across the country and around the world, remembering a man to whom God gave extraordinary gifts, and who wasn’t afraid to use them. Whether it was sanding down a rough edge on a piece of scrap wood he was building something with, or helping someone sand down the rough edges of their lives, Larry found his calling in bringing out the beauty God intended in others.

Larry said, “these aren’t useless pieces of wood. These will become a coat rack.” And now, it is a treasure to me.

Larry said, “you aren’t a useless person. God gave you gifts that he wants you to use, and I’m going to help you discover what they are.” And now we know that we are treasures to God.

And today we say, thank you, Larry. You have been a treasure to us.


And the song:
One Life
by Larry Olson (c) 2005

Standing upon the rock
wrestling with the Word
giving it all you've got
so many people served
Oh how the years have gone
this much I know is true
my life is better
'cause I met you

One life, one heart
one dance upon this earth
one life, one heart
so many blessings from God

Where do we turn our eyes
where do we find our home
where do we send our cries
all of creation groans
Somewhere I hear you say
nothing in death or life
can separate us
from the love of Christ

So many stories told
so many moments shared
I am still on this road
sometimes I don't know where
Faith will not let me go
this much I know is true
I saw Jesus
alive in you


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Woo hoo!!!

This warmed my heart so much, I just HAD to do a screen capture and save it for posterity. Yes, I realize it's early in the season, but any day the Red Sox are in first place and the Yankees are in dead last, even behind the Devil Rays...the DEVIL RAYS...'s a good day.


Monday, April 23, 2007

"You've got to be carefully taught..."

Oopsies. I made a "daddy boo-boo" the other day, when my dislike of the Yankees and my sense of humor got away from me at the same time in front of Kiddo. It was Saturday morning, after Boston had scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to come back and beat the Yankees Friday night. I was telling Kiddo that the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees when the following exchange occurred:

LH: The Red Sox won, and the Yankees lost!

Kiddo: YAY!!!! Hey, Yankee...that rhymes with blankie!

LH: That's right! As in, "the Yankees take away little boys' and girls' blankies."

Sweetie: What did you just say to him?

Kiddo: He said the Yankees take away little kids' blankies!

Sweetie: (to Kiddo) No they don't.

Kiddo: (indignant) Yes they DO!!!

Sweetie: (glares at LH)

LH: Um...Daddy was just kidding. Let's play with your trains. (thinking: Someday, my son...someday, you will be ready for the truth...)


Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Five--Surprised By Joy

From the RevGals:

Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:5-7)

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

This week I've been watching parents of the young people slain at Virginia Tech trying to make meaning out of the lives of their lost children, and each one seems to begin by focusing on something joyful about that child. It's a gift that most humans have brains wired to respond in that way. For some of us it can be harder to work our way out of dark places, but I believe joy remains the key. It is the spirit of resurrection.

Tell us about five people, places, or things that have brought surprising, healing joy into your life.

1) Sweetie. When she and I started dating 10 years ago, I was not in a good place emotionally, spiritually, or financially. She was there for me in so many ways--looking back, I'm not surprised in the least, but at the time I was continually surprised at what a healing, joyful presence she was in my life. And she's continued to bring joy to my life ever since.

2) It's not surprising to me that Kiddo is a source of joy...what surprises me is all the ways he finds to bring that joy. Whether it's an unexpected hug, something he says, or something I see him do, he's an amazing fountain of love and joy and life.

3) I'm a hymn-crier. Sometimes, in the middle of a great hymn, everyone's singing and the organ is blasting and I just know God's right there and the goosebumps start on my arms and I get that little catch in my throat, and here come the tears. It's not anything I can predict or cause to happen on my own--it just happens. And when it does, oh, those are beautiful, sweet, refreshing tears of joy and healing and new life.

4) Camp Carol Joy Holling, near Ashland Nebraska. I was a camper there when I was young, and later served as a counselor-in-training, a counselor, and a site manager. I've since come back numerous times for fundraisers, meetings, retreats, and to volunteer. There's something about that place that has healing properties. Maybe it's just the simplicity of God's presence in His outdoor sanctuary. I don't know. What I do know is that whenever I'm out there, I come away spiritually renewed.

5) The weekly text study group. There's a group of mostly pastors and some laypeople that meet every Tuesday to go over the texts for the following Sunday. I started coming to these three and a half years ago, partly as a way to network and keep the area pastors in the loop about the ministry I was doing, which was funded by the area churches, and partly to learn. With the exception of about 6 months when I was working a temp job between church positions, I've been there almost every week. It's been an informal seminary training in and of itself, and I've grown to love it and depend on it as a well of spiritual refreshment to go to. The third Tuesday each month, instead of studying, we have worship with Holy Communion, which gives everyone (except the one person leading) a chance to be a worship participant instead of worrying about the nuts and bolts of leading worship. I'd miss it incredibly if I ever had to stop going.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Feed My Sheep"--Peter's Reflections

I’m telling you, these past couple of weeks…it’s been a whirlwind, that’s what it’s been. Never in my life could I have even imagined a time like this. I mean, I figured we were going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. I had that part figured out long before the donkey and the crowds and the hosannas. I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I knew that’s where we were headed with Jesus. And even with all his talk of death, I figured we’d have our Passover observance and then…watch out, Rome! Watch out, Pharisees! Jesus was going to do something amazing—I wasn’t sure what, but it was only right that we were going to Jerusalem at that highest of holy times for our Anointed One to begin his new world order…whatever that may have been.

If I had any clue whatsoever what that damned turncoat Judas had in mind, I would have snapped his scrawny neck in two long ago. He’d been on my nerves for a while anyway. I mean, what the hell was he thinking? He knew the Romans wanted to arrest him, he had to know that even if Jesus had fought back, we would have been way outnumbered. After everything we had been through together—the crowds, the miracles, the amazing teachings…to betray our Rabbi for thirty stinking pieces of silver? To turn his back on Jesus? To deny our Lord? May he rot in hell for eternity!

Except, that night…I denied him too.

Not once.

But three times.

Judas’ betrayal wasn’t the only one that night.

And don’t think for a second I haven’t thought about that every second of every day since it happened. Jesus was put on trial, he was executed, and as the days went by, Judas’ face kept reappearing in my imagination. In my dreams. And in my dream I rush at him with anger and loathing, screaming the most vile obscenities I can think of at him, drawing a sword and with all my might plunging it into his belly, gutting him like a fish. And he looks up at me with fear in his eyes…

…and the features of his face melt away…

…and what’s left behind it is my face.

That same scene has replayed itself over and over in my mind. It haunts me. Judas may have handed Jesus over to Rome, but what did I do? I denied I even knew the man! The man I had spent three years following, learning from, the man I loved more than life itself…well, I can’t even say that, because when push came to shove, I buckled. I caved. I was no better than Judas. If I wish eternal hell on him, I wish it on myself three times over.

Well, I wished it on myself.

You see, three days after Jesus had been executed, Mary Madgalene came running in all out of breath and jabbering incoherently—something about Jesus’ tomb having been disturbed, and that the body wasn’t there anymore. I was angry. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he had been executed for no good reason, now someone had the audacity to screw around with a dead man’s tomb? And it most likely would have happened on the Sabbath? Oh, you bet I was fit to be tied. I didn’t wait a second—I ran out to where Jesus had been buried. Now I’m a big guy, and not exactly a sprinter…it wasn’t long before I was huffing and puffing, but I was bound and determined. Dammit, if someone was going to mess with Jesus’ tomb, I needed to see what had happened and make things right if I could. It was the least I could do. Maybe that was what the Judas Dream was telling me…

Sure enough, I got to the garden, ran inside to tomb, and there it all was. Burial cloths in one spot, the cloth that had been over Jesus’ head in another. “What the hell is this?” I thought. “What kind of messed-up grave robber takes a body but leaves the burial cloths?” I looked around the cave, but there was nothing that would point me to what had happened. No footprints, no sign of a body being dragged away, nothing except those cloths, folded so nicely, staring up at me and mocking my grief.

I wasn’t angry anymore. Just sad. Deeply, profoundly sad. I had let Jesus down again. I couldn’t even help ensure a decent burial. And now, by entering a dead man’s tomb and touching a dead man’s garments, I had ritually defiled myself. If I wasn’t fit to stand before the Lord after denying him, I sure as hell wasn’t fit now.

Numbness consumed me as I slowly walked back to where we were staying. My mind went blank. I didn’t know what this all meant—and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything anymore. And if I didn’t think about anything, then at least I wasn’t thinking about the Judas Dream.

But your mind can only stay blank for so long before it needs to be filled. And once again, the visions, the dreams, Judas’ face morphing into my own face, came rushing at me over and over and over.

And I had a lot of time on my hands. After all, as Jesus’ followers, we weren’t exactly free to be roaming around Jerusalem. We had found a safe house, and had locked ourselves inside. I don’t know how long we had planned on being there. I don’t think anyone knew. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing, not without our Rabbi with us to lead guide us.

And so the Judas Dream kept coming. After I got back to the safe house, I tried to fall asleep. Yes it was morning, and yes, I should have been getting ready to start my day, but I just couldn’t take it. After everything that had happened, and now this. I should have known better than to try to sleep. Once again, I was swearing, rushing at Judas, sword in hand, his beady eyes, though frightened, boring holes through me, my sword slicing through his abdomen, watching his face melt away, watching as I saw my own face, like a reflection in the water, staring back at me…only this time, I looked down, and I saw Judas’ hands…no, they were my hands now, clutching strips of burial cloth…then a rooster crowing…

…but it wasn’t a rooster. Mary Magdalene had returned, and was screaming again. Only this time they were cries of joy. She was swearing up and down that she had seen Jesus, and had talked to him, and was vividly recounting the conversation she had had with him…poor woman. Poor, deluded woman. She obviously had her own issues she was dealing with—at least I recognized that my nightmares were just that—nightmares. Dreams. Visions. She was convinced that hers was real.

But here’s the thing—Mary was right. I mean, I didn’t believe a word of what she had said, but that evening, there we were, just sitting there, not really doing much of anything. I was just kind of staring off into space when suddenly my reverie was broken by James. He shouted loudly and jumped to his feet. His eyes were wide, as though he had seen a ghost.

Instinctively, I stood up too, ready to run…maybe we had been found! It’s then that I saw…Him.

It was Jesus.

I didn’t realize it at first—I saw someone standing there, but in the panic of the moment I had no idea who it could possibly be. But then I heard his voice: “Peace be with you.”

That voice. Something stirred inside me. That voice, those words…

And then he held out his hands.

There were scars in them.

Could it be?

He gestured to his side.

A wound.

It was The Rabbi! It was Jesus! Mary was right!

But how? Why?

He told us we were receiving the Holy Spirit, and that he was sending us.

But as I stood there, speechless…and as all of this happened…and as the rest of the disciples rejoiced…I remained still.

I knew he couldn’t be talking about me.

He may have been alive…somehow…but I was still Judas. I had still denied him. I had still turned my back on him.

My dreams grew worse. Still the cursing, still the murdering of Judas, still the changing of his face…only now, the face didn’t change to mine. As I ran the sword as hard as I could through Judas’ slimy traitor body, and as his face melted away, what was behind it was the face of Jesus. And as he died, with his last breath he said, “Peace be with you.” He was mocking me. He knew there could be no peace for me, he knew the hell I deserved, and he was making me suffer through that hell right there.

I needed to get away. I needed something familiar, something I could cling to, something to heal my soul.

I needed to fish.

After a few days of hiding, we were able to sneak out of the city undetected. I knew exactly where I was headed. Back home. Home to Galilee. Home to the Sea of Tiberias. Home to something I actually knew. I knew that lake backwards and forwards, I knew fish, and I knew how to catch them. I invited some of the others home with me too. Who knows how long we’d stay there, or if we’d ever leave again.

There’s something healing, something freeing, about being on the water. I don’t really know how to describe it. Even Jesus would get on a boat sometimes if he needed to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate. He would have come up with some creative way to explain what I’m talking about. All I know is that for the first time in what seemed forever, I was able to sleep. Sweet, dreamless sleep. Normally I would have been mad as hell that I couldn’t catch anything…we had put our nets out and had come up empty time and time again, but you know what? After all I had been through, that just didn’t seem important. And so I slept. No Judas. No Jesus. Just sleep, all through the night. And through the early morning, when the fishing is best.

The sun had come up, and I was still lying on the floor of the boat. The other guys in the boat were talking to someone on shore. Apparently, this person gave them some advice on where to cast the nets, because they took the nets and swung them around to the right side of the boat. I shook my head, sleepily, and smiled. It was well past the best time to catch anything, but bless ‘em, if they wanted to try, then more power to ‘em. I sat up and asked anyone in general who it was giving them advice.

Nobody answered, because suddenly the nets were full! The guys started yelling, rushing to grab the nets, straining to pull them in. As one, they pulled the nets over the side of the boat, and they emptied, with what must have been over a hundred fish flapping and wriggling and flopping all over the floor of the boat.

Then, a voice yelled, “It’s the Lord!”

I jumped to my feet and looked, straining my eyes as I gazed into the rising sun to see the shore. Sure enough, it was Jesus! What was he doing here? In my excitement, I just about jumped into the water, but then I realized I was naked. Damn! Cursing at my clothes, I pulled them on, stumbling around and I’m sure looking like a complete idiot. I didn’t care, though. Jesus was there on the shore, and I needed to know how and why.

The fools were still messing with the nets and the fish. I didn’t have time for all of that—so I jumped in the water and began to swim. I swam as hard as my arms and legs would carry me. Why the hell couldn’t I swim faster? Cursing again, I realized I wasn’t that far off shore. Tiberias isn’t exactly deep, even in its deepest spots, so I tried putting my feet down. Sure enough, I could touch bottom. So there I was, half running, half swimming to the shore, when to my left, I see a large shape pass me.

It was the boat.

I am an idiot.

As I got close, I saw that on the beach, there was a fire going. Jesus had some fish cooking, and there next to the fire I saw a couple of loaves of bread lying on the ground. What did this all mean? What was he going to say? “Jesus smiled, held out the bread, gestured toward the fish, and said, “Come.”

“Come and have some breakfast.”

So we came. We all came over to where he was, and even though I was soaking wet, I plopped down on the ground next to him. And we ate. By now, my mind was racing. I honestly don’t remember a word of the breakfast conversation. I think I may have told a couple of the off-color jokes that I was famous for with the other disciples, and I remember lots of laughter, but it was all a blur. Because those visions of Judas and I had come rushing right back. And while a part of me wanted Jesus to be there, needed for Jesus to be there, another part of me wished he would leave, just wished I could go on with my life and fish and forget all about how I had let him down.

It was spooky. It was almost as though Jesus was reading my mind. We had just finished eating, and he looked at me.

“Simon, son of John, do you sacrificially, unconditionally love me more than these?”

I looked to where he was pointing. It was toward the lake. The boat. The nets. The fish.

I gulped. What kind of question was that? Hadn’t I laid down my nets and followed him the moment he had asked me to follow him three years ago? We hadn’t been able to catch anything that day, either, and he had told us to try the other side of the boat…

…wait a second.

I shook my head, realizing that I had been staring at the boat, and turned back to Jesus. He was still watching me intently.

“Yes, Lord,” I answered, “you know I love you…like a brother, even.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was sacrificial…unconditional…after all, if that had been the case, I wouldn’t have denied him after he had been arrested, would I? I would’ve said “hell yes I’m his follower, and if you’re going to arrest him, you might as well have me arrested too.”

But I hadn’t said any of that. My love was conditional. I could love him, but only on the condition that it not hurt me too much. And while my love was sacrificial—I had after all sacrificed my livelihood as a fisherman to follow him—it didn’t obviously go as far as sacrificing my very life.

Jesus nodded, and said something strange. “Feed my lambs.”

Feed my lambs? Huh?

He spoke again, asking almost the same question. This time, though, it was more direct. No gesturing, no comparison, just flat out, “Simon son of John, do you sacrificially, unconditionally love me?”

Damn it…he had noticed the verbal gymnastics I had played. Embarrassed, ashamed, I spoke more quietly. “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

Then, almost in a whisper, “I love you like a brother, Jesus.”

“Tend my sheep,” came Jesus’ reply.

Immediately, Jesus asked me another question. The hardest question of all. A question that pierced to my very soul: “Simon, son of John…do you even love me like a brother?”

Didn’t he know? Of course he knew, he knew it all! He knew about the guilt, the shame, all the sleepless nights, the dreams, how I had come here to escape it…he knew it, and here he was questioning me like this! I knew I didn’t love him perfectly—I knew I had let him down, that I had denied him, that I had betrayed him, but damn it, he oughta know that I love him.

All the emotion of the preceding two weeks came spilling out of me as I jumped up and cried loudly, “Lord, you know everything! You know that I love you like a brother!”

With my eyes I pleaded with him. “Lord, please don’t do this to me. Please…I’m so ashamed of myself. I’m so sorry. I want so much to love you with perfect, unconditionally sacrificial love, but you and I both know that I’ve let you down time and again. Please…”

He said nothing but “feed my sheep.”

And his eyes said “your love doesn’t have to be perfect, because my love is. You have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now go and feed the world with that gift and that love.”

And just like that, all the shame, all the guilt, all the awkwardness was gone. It was as though all was new again.

Jesus must have sensed that, because you know what his next words were to me? They were echoes of the very first words I had ever heard him say.

“Follow me.”

So I followed. And I’m following still.


Thursday Three--Bad Habits

Husker Teacher's Thursday Three for this week: name three bad habits you'd like to break.

1) Evening TV. I watch too much of it. It's not something I'd want to cut out completely, but at the same time I recognize that I really oughta cut way back. It's one thing to have an occasional mindless escape, but it's quite another to surround myself with mindlessness night after night after night.

2) Not eating breakfast. My mom's gonna kill me for this one--as a nurse who specialized in nutrition, she made darn sure we all had breakfast every day and knew of its importance. There's really no good reason why I don't, and plenty of good reasons why I ought to--heck, breakfast food is some of my favorite food anyway!

3) Procrastination. I was going to stop procrastinating today, but then decided I'd do it tomorrow instead. =)

So there's my Thursday Three. If you read this, consider yourself tagged, and leave a message here and/or on Husker Teacher's blog to let us know you played!!!!


Amid our pain, the light shines in the darkness

This litany is based on the stirring words of courage and comfort offered by the Rev. Bill King, an ELCA campus pastor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, at the April 17, 2007 university convocation remembering the students and faculty killed the day before. As members of the ELCA, we walk with those most affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy through ELCA Domestic Disaster Response/Lutheran Disaster Response ( ) and Lutheran Campus Ministry ( ).

Litany: Amid our pain, the light shines in the darkness

L: Compassionate Christ, we bring you our sorrow, grief, and loss.
A: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it. (John 1:5)

L: Help us walk forward in the wake of unspeakable tragedy; help us embrace hope in the shadow of despair.
A: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it.

L: Comforting Spirit, hear our sighs, too deep for words, and our longing for peace, healing, and understanding. Fill us with the wisdom to embrace that which unifies and to reject the seductive temptation to hate.
A: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it.

L: Creator God, even in a time when the darkness of evil seems powerful indeed, we know that the light of love cannot be defeated. We affirm the sovereignty of life over death. Amid all our pain, we claim hope in defiance of despair.
A: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response (designated for "Virginia Tech Tragedy") will support emotional and spiritual care for disaster survivors, caregivers and the campus community. Gifts to Lutheran Campus Ministry support our ongoing ministry at 187 colleges and universities. Learn more at


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NEW from our friends at Old Lutheran...

From the Old Lutheran website:

Whether you are sitting in the pew or preparing to preach, REV the Energy Drink is for you. REV is loaded with sugar, caffeine and other sermon-enhancing ingredients like glucuronolactone and inositol. If you are preaching, drink one can before church and your sermon is guaranteed not to drag. But just in case, keep an extra can in the pulpit. Each can includes recommended dosages for listening to, writing or giving a sermon. Notice: please use this and other Old Lutheran products in moderation.

Here's a link to purchase your very own can of REV, the Energy Drink!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

6 Weird Things

I've been tagged by RevScott, so here goes:

Rules: 1) Post six weird things about yourself; 2) Tag six weird people to do the same.

1) I think raw oatmeal mixed with Hershey's chocolate syrup in a little cup makes a pretty darn good snack.

2) I prefer to keep the closet door closed when I go to bed...not so much to help airflow or anything practical like that, but mostly to keep the monsters out. Seriously.

3) Most of the time, when I'm awake, I have a song running through my head. Somewhere around 90% of my waking hours are spent listening to my internal radio. Except it's usually the same song over and over for hours at a time. And there aren't any commercials. Or DJ's. And just because it's there doesn't mean I like the song. Last Sunday, getting ready for worship, it was Shania Twain's Man, I Feel Like a Woman, which aside from being a song I can't stand, was wrong on just so many levels. I had to practice Now the Feast and Celebration three extra times very loudly on the organ to manually try to switch "head" songs...and because of that, I didn't have time for my morning cup of coffee before worship started. I was not too pleased with myself Sunday morning. Damned internal radio...

4) I really get freaked out when I allow myself to think about what's really happening during a long-distance phone call. Voices traveling thousands of miles with practically no delay whatsoever, after one person at one point has dialed a series of numbers that EVERY SINGLE TIME makes a connection to some specific other point. And don't even get me started on the internet...

5) Most nights at about 9 PM I have a craving for a bowl of cereal. Usually Grape Nuts Flakes, Corn Bran, or Shredded Wheat.

6) When I set my alarm, it has to be set for an even-numbered time that doesn't end with zero, and preferably ends with a 2. 6:28--good. 6:30--bad. 6:32--perfect. 6:35--bad.

So there you have it. Consider yourself tagged if you've read this, and leave a comment if you play!


Monday, April 16, 2007

A Prayer For Blacksburg

I grieve for the people of Virginia Tech in this darkest of days today. May they find healing, peace, restoration, and the realization that through the hell of this morning and of the time to come, there, beside them, surrounding them, are the song, tears, and love of God.

In Deepest Night
by Susan Palo Cherwien

In deepest night, in darkest days, When harps are hung, no songs we raise,
when silence must suffice as praise, yet sounding in us quietly

there is the song of God.

When friend was lost, when love deceived, dear Jesus wept, God was bereaved;
with us in our grief God grieves, and round about us mournfully

there are the tears of God.

When through the waters winds our path, around us pain, around us death:
deep calls to deep, a saving breath, and found beside us faithfully

there is the love of God.


Friday, April 13, 2007

More to come, I promise...

Well, we had the whirlwind that is Holy Week, juggling churchly and family duties...and Kiddo came down with a rather nasty sinus infection, meaning Sweetie and I haven't had the most sleep in the world...and now I'm at a candidacy retreat. So much to blog about, so little time, and so little energy right now...fear not, it will come. In the meantime, I leave you with this thought from Eugene Peterson's book Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, which we discussed at the retreat this afternoon:

Christians don't simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus' name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Aunt Kay

Kay was Sweetie's aunt, my father-in-law's sister. In her life, she wore many hats--as a high school math teacher, a mom, an aunt, a wife, a friend, a mother-in-law...I also used to jokingly call her my "aunt-in-law," after which she'd always remind me that she saw me as her nephew, so the "in-law" was totally superfluous.

It was a year ago today that Aunt Kay died from a brain tumor that had been diagnosed just three and a half months earlier, on Christmas Eve, 2005. She was young--in her mid-50's--and had taught right up until Christmas break.

Kay loved life. She loved people. She loved her family. She loved her students. And everyone loved her. She was one of those rare and special people who truly saw her entire life as a call to ministry. Whether it was with her family, her friends, her coworkers, or her students, Kay was a minister in every sense of the word. Yes, she cared if her students understood polynomials and factors and the quadratic equation, but she cared even more that they understood things like trust and confidence and dedication and love. Kay was more than a teacher, she was a mentor...and not just to her students. She was the kind of person that brought people together.

She was a Presbyterian woman who was a teacher in a Catholic high school--the funeral was at the school gym. A Catholic priest presided, with a female Presbyterian minister preaching, and a group of Presbyterian musicians with a Lutheran keyboard player (me) playing the music.

Did I mention that she was the kind of person that brought people together?

I miss Aunt Kay like the dickens, and I know Sweetie does too. I thought about her yesterday during our traditional Easter worship service--the congregation was singing the first verse of the Hymn of the Day: We Know That Christ Is Raised, which I know I've quoted before, but the whole hymn still bears repeating:

We know that Christ is raised and dies no more.
Embraced by death he broke its fearful hold;
and our despair he turned to blazing joy.

We share by water in his saving death.
Reborn we share with him an Easter life
as living members of a living Christ.

The Father’s splendor clothes the Son with life.
The Spirit’s power shakes the Church of God.
Baptized we live with God the Three in One.

A new creation comes to life and grows
as Christ’s new body takes on flesh and blood.
The universe restored and whole will sing:

As I blasted our poor organ for all it was worth and the congregation sang, I thought of Aunt Kay and had a tear or two. The thing was, though, they weren't tears of sadness...I wouldn't call them tears of joy, either. They were the intensely emotional tears that come at the end of a long struggle. Triumphant tears. Easter tears. Tears of a savior, breaking the fearful hold of death, and of a universe restored and whole, singing, "Alleluia!"

Kiddo wears one of Aunt Kay's hats on March 26, 2006


Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

I thought this an appropriate reflection for Good Friday, as it addresses our sinfulness and complete inability to "come to God" on our own. It's Holy Sonnet XIV by John Donne, perhaps better known by its first line, "Batter my heart, three-person'd God." This Good Friday, may God batter our hearts, take us by force through the power of the cross, and make us new.

Holy Sonnet XIV
by John Donne

Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Personal Updates

Last Sunday was our church's 75th anniversary celebration (on top of being Palm/Passion Sunday). It. Went. Awesomely. We usually have two services on a Sunday morning, but last Sunday we combined the two into one really comprehensive (i.e. long) service. We had hymns, praise songs, 3 songs written by congregation members, a Prayer of the Day out of the 1930 American Lutheran Worship hymnal, a sermon by the synod bishop, a choir anthem, and a partridge in a pear tree...okay, everything but the bird. Most importantly to me, even with all of that, we kept the basic liturgical structure of the service and were able to both celebrate the anniversary while remembering Palm Sunday as well. We may have set some sort of Lutheran record for service length...the service ended up clocking in at:

One hour and forty minutes.

One hour and forty minutes.

One. Hour. And. Forty. Freakin'. Minutes.

And that was with the bishop only preaching for about eighteen of those minutes.

It was a marathon. But a good one. A worshipful one.

Later that afternoon, Sweetie and I both took a two hour nap.


Overheard yesterday in the LH household:

Me: "Well, I guess I'd better get out there and mow the lawn before it snows tomorrow."

Note: It's not snowing yet, but the Weather Channel website tells me it's snowing about 40 miles west of us as I type this, and it's moving east (toward us). It was over 80 frickin' degrees here just on Monday! I love the Midwest, I love the Midwest, I love the Midwest, I love the Midwest...


Also overheard yesterday:

Kiddo (who's fighting a cold): "Let's count the things we've done to help my nose. I took medicine, drank water, ate oranges, and used Chapstick. When am I going to get better, Daddy?"

Note: Not sure where he got the idea that Chapstick had medicinal powers...for the nose, no less...but you can be sure I'm filing that one away for some evening when we desperately need the power of the Three Year-Old Placebo Effect.

Random thoughts on Holy Week:

Holy Week has always brought out my creative side. There's just so much meat in the accounts of Jesus' last week before his death and much to be mined there. I wish I had more time to write, but here and here are links to two "meditations" I've written this week about the Holy Week experience.

Holy Week kicks Christmas's butt up and down--not even close. It's too bad more attention isn't paid by those outside Mainline Christianity to the journey that Holy Week can be. As busy as the next few days are going to be, this is the week I live for each year as a Christian.

Tonight, at the end of the Maundy Thursday service, the pastor's going to strip the altar. I'm going to chant Psalm 22 acapella as he does it.

One of the things Sweetie and I have tried to do for a few years is, after each Holy Week service, after we've returned home, pulling out the Jesus of Nazareth DVD and watching the section of the movie that the service we had been to was about. Not sure how successful we'll be this year, especially with Kiddo's cold...he has very little patience for runny noses, but hates to blow his nose. Bad combination, and one that tells me we may be in for a long few days as far as he's concerned.


Blessings to you on this Maundy Thursday!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Night Before

Jesus sighed.

He had laid down hours ago, but there he still was, eyes wide open, laying on his side and staring blankly at dark nothingness. He rolled on to his back, eyes gazing upward, sighing again. Then, as a thought crossed his mind, the edges of his mouth curled up almost imperceptibly into an ironic half-smile. "So this is what they call 'the sleep of the just,'" he thought.

He turned his head to the left--there, not too far away, he could make out Peter's silhouette. Jesus chuckled softly. Peter was easy to pick out in the crowd of sleeping disciples. Yes, he was a big, broad, burly, hairy man. But what made it even easier to identify Petros, even if it had been pitch-black where they were, was the snore. In the daytime, James and John may have been the Sons of Thunder, but Peter's snoring definitely qualified him for that distinction when it came time to sleep. Jesus made a mental note to find a good time tomorrow to tell Peter that joke. He'd appreciate it.

But it had to be tomorrow.

That thought erased his smile, bringing him back to where he was and why he couldn't sleep in the first place. Rolling to his side, Jesus propped up his head with his left hand and looked around. There, sleeping on the dirt, were James and John, and Andrew, Thomas, Phillip, Judas...


Jesus sighed heavily as he found where Judas was sleeping. Running his heart's hand over the pages of the day now ended, it was all he could do to keep from groaning out loud. The whispers had already started amongst the disciples. They had started even before the woman had come with the perfume. Jesus smiled again as he remembered the faith of that woman, the tears, that beautifully scented perfume, her hair brushing his feet...

...and Judas' rebuke.

His words were intended to sting, and they hit their mark, as the woman had stood there, stunned, speechless. "What a waste! The money for that perfume could have gone to help the poor!"

Judas was right, of course, but he had said the right thing for the wrong reason. Judas knew it. The disciples knew it. Jesus knew it.

So Jesus rebuked him. "Why are you bothering this woman?" he had asked Judas. "She has done a beautiful thing to me." Then he continued, addressing all who were there in the room with him, "the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." As he spoke he had made eye contact with his disciples, one by one, until he came at the end again to Judas. Speaking directly to him, he had said, "when she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial."

He knew that last sentence had made eleven of his disciples wonder what on earth he could be talking about, but for the one to whom it had been directed, it carried an additional message:

"Yes, Judas, I know."

Of course, the whispers had begun. "Judas doesn't care about the poor...he just wanted more money in our purse that he could skim off the top!" Judas was the keeper of what little money the disciples had. For some time a few of the others had suspected Judas of taking his own personal "tithe" for himself.

The other disciples were right to distrust Judas, Jesus thought to himself, but not for the reasons they assumed. Jesus sighed again. Judas wasn't stealing from the communal purse. In fact, Jesus had noticed in the past few days that there seemed to be more silver jangling in the purse than there had been before they had arrived in Jerusalem. Before they had arrived, the treasury had been down to almost nothing. Jesus had privately wondered how they were going to be able to afford the supplies to celebrate the Passover. But not long after the cries of "Hosanna!" died away, the purse had suddenly become a bit fuller.

Thirty pieces of silver would be more than enough to take care of things.

He knew that the Jewish authorities were looking for a way to have him killed, and as such he'd have to find a way for him to celebrate the Passover with his disciples in secret. It was of utmost importance that he wasn't found before the Passover. So much was riding on that detail.

So why had he sent Judas out to make the initial preparations?

"Yes, Judas, I know."

Oh, Judas! Common sense dictated that anyone but Judas should be in charge of arranging a safe place for them to meet, but Jesus knew it was right. Judas was good with logistics, with detail--that's how he had ended up in charge of the communal purse in the first place. Who else in the group would have come up with the idea of having an anonymous man, easily identifiable by the fact that he was doing woman's work--carrying a jug of water--lead them to a "safe house" where they would give a code sentence to the owner, who would lead them to a room where everything would be set up in advance for the Passover feast? Jesus smiled. Judas could have had a career as a Roman spy, and he had told Judas as much when Judas explained all the preparations to him earlier that day.

But Judas hadn't smiled back when Jesus had said that, nor had he been able to make eye contact. He had just mumbled a quick "thank you," uncomfortably shifting his feet, and walked away.

Within that exchange, however, was Judas' unspoken reply to Jesus' unspoken statement from earlier in the day: "Yes, Teacher, I know that you know."

The other disciples had no idea of the errand Jesus had sent Judas on that afternoon. Tomorrow, Peter and John would be amazed when Jesus would have them go and find the man with the jug of water, and the safe house, and the furnished room. But such things do not just happen on their own. There must be preparation. And there's always a cost.

Always a price to be paid.

Jesus let his eyes wander again, finding each of his sleeping disciples one by one. He momentarily held his breath, listening. There was no sign of restlessness in any of them, no squirming in their sleep, no movement at all, and no sound save that of heavy sleep breathing and Peter's snoring.

He stood up, and carefully made his way over to where Judas lay. Gazing down, he watched Judas sleep. In the moonlight, he saw Judas' eyelids twitch--"he must be dreaming," Jesus thought. Then he knelt.

And prayed.

It was a short prayer, but one that came from the very depths of his being. "Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does."

He knows not what he does. How could he? How could he have even the slightest inkling that with his precious thirty pieces of silver he had begun a chain of events that would change the world? How could he know that the money he had received for Jesus' blood he had that very day used to purchase Jesus' blood? That he had purchased a Passover lamb with the money he had received for betraying the true Passover Lamb?

How could he know that the betrayal of one man would lead to the redemption of the whole world?

Jesus sighed.

He leaned over and kissed Judas on the cheek.

Then he silently stood up, returned to where he had earlier been laying so restlessly, and laid back down.

Almost immediately, Jesus fell asleep.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Taylor Hicks--Sweet Home Chicago

Taylor Hicks recently played a concert at House of Blues in Chicago. Bluesmaster Keb Mo was doing a concert there the following night, and joined Taylor on stage for the encore, Sweet Home Chicago. If you enjoy smokin' blues music, check it out.

Forget all that glorified karaoke American Idol crap. This is the type of stuff Taylor Hicks is meant to do, and is the kind of stuff he's been doing on his tour, and is the type of stuff he'll keep doing for years and years. The guy's the real deal.


Taylor Hicks Pictures--Sioux City, 3/24/07

Some time ago, I promised to post my pictures from the Taylor Hicks concert I went to in Sioux City on March 24th...well, better late than never, I suppose!

(Click on each picture for a larger image)

And finally...up close for the encore...


Monday, April 02, 2007

Cross Connections

Yesterday, my son gazed at me with three year-old joy dancing in his eyes. If you've ever been around young kids, you know of what I speak. The expression that says a connection has been made, and something profound is about to be said.

"Look, daddy! I can make a cross with my arms and legs!" He stood up straight, almost at attention, motioning to how his pressed-together feet made a cross's base, then silently using each arm to point to the other outstretched arm, and finally pointing to his head, the "top" of the cross.

I looked at my son.

I smiled at him and hugged him, but something gnawed at me.

It was the parallel vision I saw next to him, the vision of another Son. A Son gazing at his Father with pain and dread in his eyes. These eyes weren't those of a three year-old, nor were they the eyes of the thirty-three years he had spent on earth. These were the eyes of eons, and they spoke with the weight of time, and the words they silently spoke were the echoes of Eden, the distant cry of Abel's blood, the groans of Hebrew slaves, the wailing of Egyptian mothers. And from those eyes fell tears. Salty, bitter Passover tears that cried of exile and captivity.

"Look, Abba! Look, Daddy!" cried the eyes.

And Abba, Daddy, looked at the Son, knowing the connection that was being made. Knowing that something profound was about to be said. Knowing what the Son would ask tonight.

"If it is possible, let this cup pass from me."

And Abba, Daddy, still looked at the Son, knowing the connection that was being made. Knowing that something profound was about to be said. Knowing what the Son would ask tomorrow.

"Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?"

Feet pressed together at the base of the cross, arms outstretched, timeless eyes and timeless questions connecting one day to the next.

One age to the next.

A connection was indeed being made.

And Abba, Daddy, still looked at the Son, though there was no smile. For the eyes through which the Son spoke to him were his own eyes, the pain with which the Son cried was his own pain, and the death the Son was about to die was his own death.

But Abba, Daddy, knew that with that death would come the death of Eden's echoes, the death of the cry of the blood, the death of the slaves' groans, the death of mothers' wails and exile and captivity and tears.

The death of death.

And the birth of life.

Indeed, a connection was being made.

And Abba, Daddy, looked at the Son.

And waited.

Soon. Soon the time would come.

Soon. And then forever.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Toto and Holy Week

You know Palm Sunday has made an impression on your three year-old when after church, he hears the 80's pop hit Rosanna by Toto and starts singing along with the stereo:

"Hosanna, hosanna..."

True story.