Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Inverted Kingdom of God

Every day during Advent, Diana Butler Bass is sharing her reflections on her Advent Calendar over at the Sojourners website. I found her comments yesterday particularly impactful, especially in light of the lesson I heard last night at church, from Luke 1:46-55:

46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
It's a hymn of praise to the God who works in unexpected ways, and who breaks into our world to turn everything upside down.

Here's Dr. Butler Bass' thoughts:

A set of double doors marked “17″ on my Advent calendar opened to a charming image of a minister surrounded by children.

My first thought was of one of the most famous passages in the New Testament:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the
disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of
God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive
the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the
children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).
This biblical story inspired a picture that hung in my childhood Sunday school room. I remember children all around Jesus—sitting on his lap, hanging over his shoulder, sitting at his feet—with him smiling and hugging them, obviously enjoying their company. As a child, the scene was warm and reassuring to me, an invitation from Jesus himself.
The same passage was also the subject for the major paper in my first college New Testament course. Sitting in the college library, surrounded by commentaries, I was surprised to discover that children were not considered cute or lovable in ancient society. Instead of being cherished and coddled in the ways we treat our children, our ancestors assigned children one of the lowest rungs on the social scale. Their worth was equal to that of women, dogs, and servants. They had no status, no rights, and were not understood to be fully human. Children were essentially the possessions of their parents to be used as those parents wished.

For the first time, I realized that Jesus did not welcome children because ancient people liked them. He welcomed them to make a political point—those who are least in this world will be first in the kingdom. God’s reign embraces the outcast, the lowly, the unacceptable, and strangers. Jesus is acting the role of the social revolutionary, the tender prophet who upsets the status quo. Mark’s story was not of a cozy, homey Jesus. It was a story of the wild, unpredictable Jesus who offered God’s radical hospitality to those whom society marginalized.
Thus, the passage from Mark became for me part of my passage to adult faith. The Sunday school wall art moved to the space of sacred memory, and the Jesus of scripture called me to leave comfort behind to receive the inverted kingdom of God.


LH

Friday, December 12, 2008

The gift that keeps giving...

About a month or so ago, Sweetie and I were discussing what to get the other for Christmas this year. We really couldn't think of anything all that important, and we really didn't feel the need to add to the ever-growing pile of crap/junk that tends to pile up when one has a couple of young kids in the house.

So instead of giving each other gifts this year, we're pooling the money we would have spent and we're going to lend it at www.kiva.org.

Kiva's tagline on their website is "Loans that change lives." They act as the middleman between organizations in third-world countries who want to make micro-loans to people in extreme poverty, and individuals like you and me who want to fund those loans. It's really a pretty cool concept, and it's very well run.

Take this example--Mrs. Yi Thy is a married 35-year-old woman that grows rice and raises pigs to earn a living. Her husband is Ngeng Vanna, age 38, who works on the farm along with his wife. They are the parents of two children and live in the Kompong Cham Province. Yi's goal is to provide her children with a higher education. She has applied for a loan to purchase more piglets, feed, and a cow for her family's business activities. Mrs. Thy Has applied for a $150 loan to be repaid over the course of 10 months through Hattha Kaksekar Limited (HKL), a partner of Save the Children. There's already 3 people...one from the United States, one from Japan, and one from Australia, who have given a total of $75. So when $75 more is given, the loan will be funded.

Let's say Sweetie and I provide the other $75 through Kiva. Mrs. Thy will get the loan through Hattha Kaksekar, and as she repays them, the $150 principal eventually comes back to Kiva, and our $75 share comes back to the Kiva account Sweetie and I set up. We then will be free to loan it to someone else on Kiva's site.

They have hundreds of people from all over the world who have applied for loans from anywhere between $100 and $2000 dollars. Many of these people are women, all are small entrepeneurs trying to provide for their families, and these microloans are for them very real ways to break the cycle of extreme poverty. Reading through the lists of individual situations and business plans from so many parts of the world--it's eye opening.

As these are loans to real people, there's always the chance of default. But Kiva's default rate is only about 3%, which is very impressive when one considers some of the places these loans are made.

It's giving a hand-up to hard working people who want to provide for themselves and their families. And personally, I think it's a really cool way to serve our neighbor, affirm their dignity, and give a gift that literally keeps on giving.

Check them out. www.kiva.org. Good stuff there.

LH

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Kiddo on his 5th birthday

Dear Kiddo,

I know you can't read yet, and you probably wouldn't be all that interested if I tried reading this letter to you, since there won't be references to Spiderman or LazyTown or Moxie. But I'm going to write it anyway, because I'm your dad and this is the kind of sappy thing parents do when their kids have birthdays. You'll understand someday.

Mommy and I try every day to tell you how much we love you and how proud we are of you. You're growing up into such a cool person--even if you weren't my son, you'd still be one of my favorite kids. You love to make people laugh...you've always had a way of doing that. But you're caring and sensitive, too. You genuinely care about others, and are sensitive to their thoughts and feelings. I hope you continue to develop and nurture those two traits especially, because as you get older, other boys might not see them in the same positive light that your parents do. There will come a time in your life (maybe not too long from now) when being caring and sensitive hurts, and you'll be tempted to grow that same shell of cynicism and selfishness that so many other people have. It will protect you, yes, but it will come at a cost.

It will come at the cost of being able to feel anything--even joy, or love. And once it's grown, it's so hard to crack. And even harder to shed. Some people carry that shell around with them their entire lives, and its tremendous weight eventually distorts them almost beyond recognition. May you continue to remain caring and sensitive, even though that means being vulnerable and sometimes unprotected.

What an incredible big brother you are, too. Pumpkin is very lucky to have someone like you to watch out for her and who loves her the way you do. Already, Mommy and I can see that she's starting to look up to you, and that's only going to grow. The bond between siblings is a special one.

And your faith. My son, your faith in God is a sight to behold, and an inspiration to your dear old dad. I just love our conversations in the car to and from preschool--just yesterday, you told me that God must really like to joke, because he keeps fooling all the weather forecasters. You know that Jesus is your friend, and he's always the first thing you say you're thankful for, followed usually by your family and the world. As you get older, your questions will become more complicated, your thoughts will be more in-depth, your faith will be more mature. But your love for God...my prayer is that your love for God and your assurance of God's love for you may be as strong as it is today.

Five years ago this morning, Mommy and I were checking into the labor and delivery floor of the hospital. Little did we know that we still had 14 hours to wait until we got to meet you (your birthday was ALMOST tomorrow!). It seems like so long ago, but yet not so much. Time flies...and it doesn't. All at the same time. I know that sounds weird, but that's the way things get when you become an adult. Someday you'll be feeling the same way.

I love you SO much, Kiddo. As you like to say, I love you all the way to heaven and back. And I'm so proud of you, and who you are becoming. You are an articulate, compassionate, funny, curious, confident, and intelligent young man. May God bless you on this special day, and on all the rest of the days to come.

You'll be getting plenty of gifts, but I want to leave you with two special gifts right now.

The first is a song. My mom--your grandmother--gave me a gift of a song many years ago. It wasn't her song...it was originally written by Bob Dylan, in fact. But it may well could have been her song. I want to give you that song, too. It's called Forever Young, and is Mommy's and my prayer for you. Our favorite rendition is by Joan Baez:


And here's the lyrics:

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.


My second gift is this: I know you like to look at pictures--here's a very small sampling of pictures of you from the last five years:





Love,
Daddy


LH

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas is Waiting

Yesterday, I posted a critique of a piece of poetry that I've received via email on more than one occasion. In case I wasn't abundantly clear in that post, I thought the poem got it all wrong and was more hurtful to rescuing the meaning of Christmas than it was helpful.

Today, I'd like to post a different poem. I think it does a good job of reflecting the tension we live in everyday--Christmas has already come, Christ has already entered the world...but at the same time we still live in a state of Advent. Preparing. Waiting. God's kingdom has come, but at the same time it has not yet come. And for some, that sense of waiting and longing for a savior means much more than making sure the house is properly decorated and presents are bought and wrapped. How are we called to serve those for whom, in a different but very real sense, Christmas has not yet come?

Christmas is Waiting
by Gerard Kelley

Christmas is waiting to happen.
Outside, a vacant hillside
Lies silent, strangely empty
Of any angel’s choir.
A stable waits
For bookings at the inn to multiply.
Distant Kings study charts
And keep gifts in cold storage,
While shepherds plan their memoirs
In expectancy of unexpected fame
And keep a chapter free
For miracles
A small velvet patch
In the black night sky
Stands ready to hold a new born star,
And oppressed peoples everywhere
Cling wildly to prophecy and song,
And whisper the word: Messiah.

They’ve switched on the lights
In Oxford Street,
Counting off the buying days
Like Guardsmen on parade
Shops are stocked and standing by
Revving up the engines
Of their debt-powered swiping machines
And history watchers mark another year
To start the slow count to 3000.

But here, an old man lies
In the stairwell where he fell three days ago
And no one knows.
And here a young girl loiters
In a streetlight’s unholy halo
To sell the only thing she owns
That men will pay for
And here an infant sleeps
On a sack on the hard earth floor
Where even a mother’s hand
Is empty
And there are places where Christmas
Is still waiting
To happen

LH

Monday, December 08, 2008

And to all a whiny night...

***SIGH***
Every year, the same recycled pieces make their rounds of the internet. Some are of better quality than others. I received the following Christmas poem--one that I've received many times before--in my email inbox the other day. For the record, this is one of the *ahem* "lesser quality" pieces:

Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
The politically correct police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a " Holiday ".

Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Rama dan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.

Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.

So as you celebrate "Winter Break" under your "Dream Tree"
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday!


It is time, as my favorite English teacher used to say, to "explicate and analyze."

Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
If that is indeed the case, we Christians have nobody to blame but ourselves. Time to look in the mirror, point the finger inward (no, not THAT finger...the index finger!), repent of of the flippant way we often approach our faith and the Christmas celebration, and be renewed by the hope of the Christ child.

The politically correct police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a " Holiday ".

Um...nobody can take away the reason for Christmas. The reason is still there. Maybe it's been covered up or forgotten, but if that's the case, then again we (Christians) have nobody to blame but ourselves. The "reason for the season" can never be taken away...it can only be given away by those who have been entrusted with the story and the good news that the story brings. As for no pageants in the public schools...public school has never done a very good job of telling the Christmas story anyway, has it? Or should it? The creator of the universe showing ultimate, unconditional love for humankind by entering humankind's story as a helpless, vulnerable baby born to an unwed teenage mother in Palestine? I'd much rather have the church be telling that story anyway.

Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
How many of those pushy shoppers do you think would identify themselves as Christians? We can't accuse others of taking away our celebration's meaning when we have so willingly given it away. Christmas has been sacrificed on the altar of consumerism, and it's not just the rest of the world that's to blame.

Retailers promoted Rama dan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
May God have mercy on the church if we depend on big box retailers for evangelism. Don't blame the stores--their bottom line is to do whatever it takes to sell stuff. If that means saying "Merry Christmas," then they'll do it. If it means saying "May a reindeer spike your eggnog," then they'll do it. With very few exceptions (Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil-A are two I can think of off the bat) big chains don't do things like that solely for principle. I'll take a genuine "Happy Holidays" over a prostituted "Merry Christmas," said just in the hopes of keeping my business, any day.

Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Really? Christians intimidated by inclusiveness? Sensitivity? Diversity? If our faith system can't stand on its own when placed side by side with others, then maybe we need to examine the validity of our faith system. Those words shouldn't be intimidating. They should be challenging, exciting, and incredible opportunities for witness.

Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
Jesus never became part of the "establishment," religious OR governmental. He was too busy working on the edges of society. The de-centering of Christianity from public life may well end up being one of the best things that ever happened to the faith, as it forces Christians out of a position of comfort and into the big, murky questions of faith. We're called to be counter-cultural. When religion buddies up with politics, each helps make the other fat and lazy. Give me a church on the fringes, a church more comfortable showing the love of Christ than complaining about the language politicians use.

And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
Come on. Seriously. Nobody's taking away anybody's faith. Faith is a gift that can never be taken away...it can only be willingly given. We're called to be in the world, but not of the world...but for some reason we expect the world to be "of us?" There's not much more unbecoming than a whiny Christian. Instead of complaining that the world's not hearing our message, and that they're not doing things our way, maybe we ought to be working to make sure the message the world's hearing (and seeing) is a worthwhile one. To make them wonder in a positive way instead of a negative way, "why do they act the way they do? What is it that compels them to love and serve like that? And where can I get me some of that?" Of course, the gospel, the true message of Christmas, IS a worthwhile message, but too often along the way much gets lost in the telling, by both our words and deeds.

So as you celebrate "Winter Break" under your "Dream Tree"
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday!

This Christmas, may you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you all now and forever.

LH

Friday, December 05, 2008

Turner Gill--Coach of the 2008 MAC Champion Buffalo Bulls

Turner Gill just led the Buffalo Bulls football team to their first MAC title ever. And in doing so they'll be going to their first bowl game. Ever.

And they did it by beating Ball State--the 12th ranked team in the country. Which, as someone on HuskerPedia pointed out, gives them exactly one more win over a top-15 team in the past six seasons than my beloved Huskers.

Buffalo was invited to the Tangerine Bowl in 1958, but they declined the invitation because the bowl didn't allow black players to play. And the Bulls had 3 black players on their roster that they refused to leave behind.

And now, with a black coach, they're going to their first bowl game.

Coach Gill is a man who just EXUDES character, class, and faith. He doesn't see himself as a coach as much as a campus minister who works with football players. But he does a heckuva job of coaching, too. Check out these stats:

* Buffalo has won 8 games this season....in 12. Prior to Gill's arrival at Buffalo, it had taken Buffalo 54 games to win 7.

* Gill has coached Buffalo now for 36 games (not including tonights contest). Buffalo is 14-22 in those 36 games. Prior to showing up in Buffalo, you have to go back 92 games to count Buffalo's prior 14 wins.

* Gill was 5-7 last season. Buffalo hadn't won 5 games in a season since 1996 when they were 8-3. You have to go back to 1986 to find the next 5+ win season.

* Buffalo has now put up 13 wins over the past 2 seasons. You have to go back to 1985-86 to find the last 13 wins over 2 seasons.

* In the nine seasons before this one, Buffalo was 17-89 in Division 1...with only Duke having a worse overall record.


And in the postgame interview, he was the very picture of humility. He told the interviewer at first that he was "speechless." I think he was trying to find the words to describe the enormity of what had just happened, and of his own struggle and journey...and they just weren't there. His voice cracked and he shed some tears when talking about how proud he was of his players, and afterwards, when his athletic director came over to hug him, Turner broke down completely, sobbing in his arms.

Gotta admit, my own eyes got a little sweaty, too... =)

(Here's the YouTube clip of the end of the game, including the postgame interview. Amazing.)


I've written about Turner Gill before. Here and here. The man is my hero.

Congratulations, Turner. You deserve every bit of success that comes to you and your teams. God bless you for doing what you do and for being someone who helps show young men what it means to be part of something larger than yourself, what it means to love sacrifically, what it means to lead by serving...and for pointing to God as the source of your strength and your example for service and love.

9-9-08 EDIT--I found the following nugget about Turner Gill on KLIN's website. John Bishop (one of my fave Husker radio guys, btw) put into words much better the thoughts that I was struggling to express. Here's the link, and here's the text of what he had to say (pay close attention to what I bolded near the end...that, I think is the key to understanding who Turner Gill is and what he's about):

JOHN BISHOP'S SUNDAY SCHOOL
Buffalo 42, Ball State 24
Welcome to a special MAC Championship edition of Sunday School.
I am going to admit, I sometimes find writing this column to be tedious. After a long week at work and a long day at the game, all I want to do is lay down and do nothing. But tonight is different...oh, so different.

If you call yourself a Husker fan and didn't get excited for Turner Gill and the University of Buffalo Friday night, then please turn your Husker fan card in at the door. We not only saw a program go from irrelevant to relevant, we saw a Husker legend solidify right before our eyes.

Turner Gill as a player and an assistant for the better part of the years 1980 to 2004 had already established a permanent place in Husker lore. But with his Buffalo program becoming MAC champs in three short years under his tenure, Gill just took "the Nebraska way" and planted its flag in upstate New York.

But did you see the postgame interview? If not, then you need to. You Tube. ESPN. Buffalo Bulls website. Find it. Because in two minutes of national TV airtime, Turner Gill went from Husker legend and U. of Buffalo savior to Husker icon and the epitome; the definition of what a leader of young people should be.

Again, go find the tape. It was on SportsCenter, I'm sure you can find it somewhere. If there was any recruit sitting on the fence about going to UB, they probably fell right off. There had to be other coaches watching, some of them tired of the long grind, ready to take a break, frustrated by the rigors of the job of herding young boys-to-men who might just have received a wake up call about why they do this job in the first place. Why they wanted to make a career working 18-20 hour days and living on the edge every gameday with their careers and livelihood hanging in the balance. Turner just showed us all in two minutes what motivates men to excel, to push harder, to work for something and someone greater than ourselves. And then give all the credit to the right people and give all the thanks to his Maker.

I know it got me off the couch and on this computer to write this column.

Way to go, Turner! A Buffalo Bulls nation and a Husker nation are very proud of you.



LH

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A couple of Kiddo updates

Two stories:

Thing #1: A couple of evenings ago, Kiddo was watching the TV show LazyTown (which Sweetie hates...not that it's a bad show, just very annoying to her). Sweetie told him, "I bet your perfect day would be to curl up on the couch with your blankets and Mr. Bear, watch LazyTown, and drink Moxie" (a soft drink that I've let him have a few sips of and he loves...and Sweetie hates. Almost as much as she hates LazyTown. She thinks it tastes like Robitussin. Poor, misguided Sweetie...).

Kiddo thought that sounded like fun...so he announced that he was going to tell US what OUR perfect days would be.

"Daddy, your perfect day would be to sit on the couch, watch The Office, and drink Moxie."

I laughed. "Pretty good, Kiddo."

Then he turned to Sweetie with a mischevious gleam. "And YOU...YOUR perfect day would be to go to work..."

*pause for effect*

*giggle*

"watch LAZYTOWN and YO GABBA GABBA..." (even more annoying than LazyTown, btw)

*pause*

*giggle*

"and drink LOTS OF MOXIE ALL DAY LONG!!!!!!"

He seriously could not have picked anything worse for Sweetie's "perfect day." And he knew it. The kid's got quite the teasing sense of humor.

Yep, he's a big brother all right.

Thing #2: Next Thursday, December 11th, will be Kiddo's fifth birthday. Be prepared for the obligatory sappy "I can't believe my little baby is growing up" post next week.

Today, I've gotta tell you what we'll be having for supper that night. We told him he could have whatever he wanted. So here's what he came up with for the menu:

pancakes,

sausage patties,

sweet potatoes,

corn,

and...






Moxie.

Sweetie can't wait. Heh heh...

LH

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

This is one of the best little videos I've seen in a long time...what could happen in Christians stopped focusing on what our consumer society has turned Christmas into and turned Advent...a time of preparation for the coming of Christ...into a time for remembering Christ's call to love and serve our neighbor? How much more meaningful would Christmas be, rather than a relief to just get through the season? And how much more of a witness could we be as Christians to God's love for humanity by being counter-cultural in this kind of way?

The video's only 2 and a half minutes long. But its impact will stay with you much longer, I promise:



Check out http://www.adventconspiracy.org/ for more ideas on restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.

LH

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is this the way to Bethlehem????

Kiddo's in his second year at a church-sponsored preschool. Every year, they have a Christmas program where they sing songs and re-tell the Christmas story.

This is a picture of Kiddo at last year's program:

Yes, he's the one in brown standing off to the side next to one of the teachers, holding his lower lip. That's pretty much how he spent the entire program last year. Poor kid was just scared out of his wits in front of all those parents.

This year's program is Friday night the 7th. When I picked Kiddo up from preschool today, there was a note attached to the weekly newsletter with a piece of news that I never would have expected last year at this time.

The teachers picked Kiddo to play Joseph.

That's right, the biggest, most central male role (other than the doll that will be representing Jesus). My son. Joseph. The kid who cried and wouldn't even get on the stage last year. Joseph.

For me, this isn't about "my kid needs to have the biggest and best parts" or anything like that. Yes, I'm proud, but the biggest source of pride for me is just seeing the change in him. His self-confidence has just soared...he used to be timid and quiet around new people and new situations, he used to be afraid to try new things. And now...Sweetie and I were at church last Sunday, talking to someone after the service was done, when we realized Kiddo wasn't with us. After scanning the atrium, we noticed him over in the middle of a crowd of 7 or 8 high school kids, just being part of the conversation. Now remember, he's all of four years old.

My son is starting to spread his wings before my eyes, and I just couldn't be any prouder of the human being he's becoming.

Joseph. I still can't believe it.

LH

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!


Yes, the annual Nebraska-Colorado game is nearly upon us. A very creative poster on HuskerPedia.com created the following ode to the game, so with a couple of minor edits, and with deepest apologies to Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis I give you The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Go Big Red Version):


It's the most wonderful time of the year.
When the Buffs visit Lincoln
And NU Fan’s thinkin'
"I'm glad the game's here!"
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's the hap-happiest season of all.
No health hazards like Folsom,
It’s usually wholesome
If refs blow a call!
It's the hap-happiest season of all!

There's no batteries for throwing,
or reefer for smoking,
or rocks inside balls made of snow.
There'll be no lasers flashing or
car tire slashings or tales of '01,
long ago.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s a failed CU season,
Hawk might be the reason
the team's not in gear!
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

There'll be no field of debris,
Or effing eff bombs heaved
at old folks you see dressed in red.
There'll be no vehicle keyings,
Or whole sections leaving
Before the game has reached an end!

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Enjoying Buff fan bashing
(Yes their teeth are gnashing)
No pee bombs to fear!
It's the most wonderful time,
It's the most wonderful time,
It's the most wonderful time of the year!


LH

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving

In the presidential proclamation for Thanksgiving Day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln had this to say:

"It is the duty of nations as well as of citizens to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord....

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."


And a Thanksgiving prayer for the day, found elsewhere on the web:

Our Father in Heaven,
We give thanks for the pleasure
Of gathering together for this occasion.
We give thanks for this food
Prepared by loving hands.
We give thanks for life,
The freedom to enjoy it all
And all other blessings.
As we partake of this food,
We pray for health and strength
To carry on and try to live as You would have us.
This we ask in the name of Christ,
Our Heavenly Father.

Amen.

LH

And I Feel Fine...

Pearls Before Swine
A couple of weeks ago, I was driving home with Kiddo after his swimming lesson. The lesson had gone well, we were both in a great mood, and as we approached home, one of my favorite songs of all time came on the radio.

So I cranked it up, and Kiddo and I sang It's The End of the World As We Know It by R.E.M.

Well, we sang the chorus...all seventeen or so times it came around. And "Leonard Bernstein." I don't think even Michael Stipe knows the rest of the words.

Happiness is yelling "LEONARD BERNSTEIN!" in the car with your four year-old son at the top of your collective lungs on the way home from swimming lessons.

And I felt fine. =)

For any interested in the actual lyrics, here's the song (with subtitles):




(As a quick postscript, Kiddo was sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast when I found the YouTube clip for this post. He stopped watching "Curious George," a big smile came across his face, and he said, "I LOVE this song!!!" So of course we both had to sing along again.)

LH

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This is an awareness test...

Watch the video--how many passes does the team in white make? Pay attention...the video makes a good point:



(Scroll down for a few further thoughts after watching the video)
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It's easy to miss something you're not looking for...how many of us fail to see God at work in our day-to-day lives simply because we aren't looking?

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, may we all be aware of our blessings. May we be looking to see where God is meeting us in the "stuff" of our lives, and may we be looking to find where and how God is calling us to serve our neighbor. It's there, and sometimes even obvious, if we simply look.

As obvious as a freakin' moonwalking bear.

LH

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Prayer of Thomas Merton

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Amen.

LH

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Birthday Gift of Sorts

Well, today would have been Pastor Larry Meyer's 62nd birthday. He was my friend and mentor, and basically the person who dragged me kicking and screaming into ministry. I've written about him a couple of times.

To keep a promise I made on Facebook, as I write this I'm finishing up a beer in his honor. Yes, it's just after 10 AM, but that was the designated Facebook remembrance time...and if today were a Saturday and there was college football on TV, it wouldn't be TOO horribly early, right? Larry loved his beer (and college football, for that matter). Mostly Schlitz, because it was cheap, but still was (sort of) beer. I didn't have any Schlitz available, but Bud Light will just have to suffice. Forgive me, Larry, for purchasing a 24-pack of Bud Light for 5 dollars more than a 30-pack of Schlitz would have cost me.

Larry, you would have called that bad stewardship.

But the beer isn't the gift.

No Larry, my gift to you today, as well as to the family who loved you and supported your ministry for so long, is this: my public announcement that, about ten years after you first made the suggestion, and about five years after you began the process of hounding me mercilessly, I've finally given in and have submitted an application for seminary. That's right, the M.Div. program. Ordination track. At Luther in St. Paul.

Damn it Larry, you win. Happy?

I know what your gut reaction would be. Bad stewardship. For about the same investment, the church could have had me already ordained, and next year I could be looking at a 5 year ordination anniversary instead of fretting over how I'm supposed to pass Koine Greek. But you never would have said that...to me at least. Or at least, not seriously. You would have said something to the effect of "better late than never," and then would have put me on a preaching and ministry schedule designed to give me a better first-hand education than I'd ever receive through lecture and discussion in a classroom.

Oh, about the classroom. Larry, you knew that one of my big hangups concerning seminary was the relocation part of it. Picking up my family for two years of classes, picking up again for internship, a third time for classes again, and then finally for first call. Luther Seminary now has what they call the Distributive Learning program for the M.Div. That means that I can stay in Lincoln, take about 2/3 of my classes online, take the other 1/3 on campus in St. Paul in short week-long intensives, and do my internship, CPE, and contextual education all here at home. Without that program, no way would I be doing this. I know it's a new program, and I know you were never all that hot on all this internet crap. But I also know that you were big on finding ways for folks who had the tools and the calling to pursue that call, and I can't help but think that you'd be telling me, "Well, I'd rather have you on campus, but if this is what it takes, then what the hell are you waiting for."

I'm not doing this for you, Larry. I'm not chasing ghosts here. But I do recognize that you were the one who got me back on the road that eventually led me to where I am now. There have been so many other twists along the way, so many other folks who have enabled the journey to continue. But today, this is my gift to you.

Happy birthday, my good friend. Soli deo gloria. And thanks for giving me an excuse to have a beer at 10 in the morning.

LH

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sounds Like Love 2008--"Twinkle, You Little Lutherans, Twinkle!"

It was about 9:30 Saturday night at the Sounds Like Love festival in the Twin Cities a couple of weekends ago. 500 high school youth had been rehearsing for over 6 ½ hours, singing songs, learning choreography, turning notes on a page into music for people’s hearts, and everyone was tired. Voices were straining, movements weren’t as crisp as they had been hours earlier, and it was getting hard to stay in focus and on task. There was a section of a Christmas song where different groups of youth were supposed to shine their mini-flashlights at different times, and it just wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. Finally, in a fit of directorial frustration, conductor John Jacobson cried out, “Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!!!”

I heard this exhortation of John’s and immediately thought two things: first, that is SO going to be on my church's Sounds Like Love t-shirts next year. Second, and this is more of a sign that I’m just a theology nerd than anything else—I thought, what a great take on that passage from Matthew 5, verses 14-16, which reads: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The last part of that we hear as part of the baptism service, a reminder that a life in Christ is not merely an adoption, but also a calling. Can’t you just imagine Jesus standing in front of us? Sometimes in encouragement, sometimes in frustration, but always in love, crying out “Let your light shine! Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!”

I had the pleasure of accompanying 24 of our high school youth and 7 other adults to the Sounds Like Love music festival in the Twin Cities last weekend. Sounds Like Love is, in a nutshell, an annual gathering of about 500 high school students who sing and learn choreography for 7 Christian choral songs, and then put on two concerts. Really, on the surface, that’s it. Pretty simple. But I’d be selling the work of the Holy Spirit short if I left it there. Because so many kids arrive expecting that surface stuff, but along the way something surprising happens. The Spirit shows up. The Holy Spirit, who as we profess in the Small Catechism calls, enlightens, and sanctifies us, makes an appearance, transforming the weekend from just a fun time of singing into a call into relationship, a call into mission, a call into participation in the act of opening hearts and lives to the goodness of the gospel. If you were one of the youth who went and are reading this, know that in the midst of geckos and “moosh moosh moosh moosh,” in the middle of trying to dig your flashlight out of your pocket while still trying to sing AND do the choreography with one hand, in the middle of the games, the silliness, the hard work…through ALL of it, YOU were missionaries in the truest and best sense of the word. You were on a mission: twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!

During the weekend, the theme passage was Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” For the purposes of the weekend, it was boiled down into three thoughts: One Lord. One Body. One Hope. Our large group study time, guest speaker, and small group study all focused on what that means. What does it mean to proclaim one Lord who is over all and through all and in all? How does it transform the way we see those around us when we see them as fellow children of God, part of the same body, fellow travelers on the journey of life and faith? What IS the hope that we proclaim in Christ? Is it only for the next life? Or are we called as beacons of hope to shine the light of God’s love in the dark places in THIS life? Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!

Sounds Like Love. All weekend, we heard those sounds. We heard it through the laughter of friends, old and new, from 6 states and 23 churches. We heard it through worship and our worship leaders. We heard it through the welcoming hospitality of over 100 host families. We heard it through the adult sponsors who gave a weekend to allow our youth an amazing experience. We heard it through families and friends who drove 7 hours to be a part of the weekend and be at the concerts on Sunday. And yes, we heard it through the music itself. God’s amazing, unconditional, life-giving love for all was proclaimed through beautiful, life-giving music. Sometimes upbeat, sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes tear-jerking, but always powerful and always the gospel. The message is this: you have a God who loves you so much that he didn’t allow death to have the final word. He didn’t allow sin to hold us captive. God loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die and defeat death through his resurrection FOR YOU. This isn’t because of anything you’ve done to deserve it. It’s through Christ alone. Through grace alone. And as the question asks, now that you know you don’t have to do anything, what are you going to do? Now that you’ve been freed from having to live for yourself, how are you going to live for others?

The answer? Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.

Or, in the words of that great theologian John Jacobson: Twinkle, you little Lutherans, twinkle!

LH

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What if Santa was one of us...just a stranger on a bus...

"Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake." So reads the series of ads appearing on Washington D.C. buses, courtesy of the American Humanist Association.

I gotta give the AHA some props here. Running the campaign in November and December is good timing, as it's one of the two times of year that even the "Christmas and Easter" Christians turn their thoughts toward faith. And as a lover of puns, their take on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is witty.

But am I the only one who sees the irony here?

They're questioning belief in God...using not a religious symbol, but the very symbol most Christians associate with the commercialism, greed, and well...secularism...that has overtaken Christmas. They're using a secular symbol to represent a religious entity.

Yes, yes, I know that Saint Nicholas was a real person and so on and so forth. But the guy in the picture isn't dressed in the gear of a bishop. He's ready to hang out on some housetops with flying reindeer, or at least sit on a throne in your local mall.

Maybe I'm overthinking this, but in my humble opinion, by using the admittedly catchy double entendre of "be good for goodness' sake," they screwed up their message.

On top of that, their play on words is also taking advantage of some pretty bad theology. After all, they're implying that Christians don't just try to be and do good for the sake of being and doing good, but rather for some other reason. Maybe so God won't get mad at us ("us" being Christians). Or because the Bible says so and we're incapable of doing our own thinking on the subject. Or maybe because we need to live up to some sort of standard for salvation.

All of that, to be perfectly frank, is horse puckey.

Why do Christians try to be and do good? Precisely for the sake of being and doing good. Because Christ's death and resurrection has freed us from having to live up to any sort of standard, because we're free from needing to live for ourselves, we are empowered to live for others. That's the good news of the gospel--the good news isn't something that we have to wait for after we die (contrary to what many Christians would have you believe), the good news isn't that we no longer get to think for ourselves because the Bible does all our thinking for us (also contrary to what you'll hear from many Christians), the good news is that we have been freed from the power of sin, death, and all that seeks and serves to enslave.

We can live for the sake of our neighbor. Not out of fear, but out of love. That's a life worth living, and it unfortunately is what the AHA's ad campaign has distorted. I don't blame 'em. I honestly doubt it was through any malicious intent. The theology they're putting in our mouths is a theology that is often proclaimed, and loudly, wrong as it may be. It's just too bad that so many non-Christians have a distorted view of what Christian faith and life can be about.

We Christians need to re-frame the story we're telling. Because if we don't do it ourselves, others (like the AHA, or even other Christian groups) will do it for us. And we might not like the story they have to tell about us.

LH

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Memory Walk 2008

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written here…I’ve been a very bad blogger. As usual, it’s not been for want of things to write about, but the time, opportunity, and inspiration just haven’t been there all at the same time.

I still haven’t written about the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk back in September. Thanks to the generous support of friends, family, and even complete strangers, I raised $2,626 to help support Alzheimer’s research, treatment, and support programs.

The day itself was amazing. Gorgeous, sunny day, no wind, warm but not hot…and about 1,000 people came out to enjoy the sun and walk for a great cause. Sweetie and I arrived at Antelope Park after church, registered, got our t-shirts, and wandered around the booths that were set up, listening to the live music playing in the bandshell. Many of the folks there were wearing the official walk t-shirts, but many teams had made their own shirts—some with the name of the organization they were with, and others celebrating the life of someone they knew that they were walking for.

After a moment of silence in remembrance of those who had been affected by Alzheimer’s and a big countdown, the walk began. It wasn’t too long—maybe a mile and a half, but the experience of being in the midst of so many who for a myriad of reasons were united in the same cause as we were…just so incredibly powerful, AND empowering. There’s nothing like the experience of knowing that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and that’s exactly what the day was.

Thank you again, so many of you, through your contributions and prayers, through your thoughts and well-wishes, through your obvious care and concern, for helping make the day so special and for giving me and Sweetie the chance to feel as though we were able to DO something for my mom. Because of you, we raised more money than any other individual in the state of Nebraska for the 2008 Memory Walk. That’s something for each of you to be proud of.

I’m including some pictures here to give you a general idea of what the day was like:










LH

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pumpkin

Not much to say tonight but this one thing: as a dad, it really doesn't get much better than this...

LH

Monday, October 06, 2008

Oh Boy Oh Boy...Oh Danny...Boy.

I'm part Irish. Therefore, by definition, Londonderry Air brings me to tears. (Paired with the beautiful words of the hymn O Christ The Same, I can get downright inconsolable. But in a good way.)

Today, however, I was brought to tears of laughter by my beloved song. Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if The Swedish Chef, Animal, and Beaker from The Muppet Show sang "Oh Danny Boy?"

Neither have I.

But, in their typical ridiculously sublime fashion, the Muppets pulled it off. Watch and enjoy:



LH

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kiddo's Husker Experience

Saturday, my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers took on the Virginia Tech Hokies in a highly anticipated game that was supposed to be the first real test for the Huskers (and their new coaching staff) this season.

Nebraska lost, 35-30. At times, they didn't look very good at all. As a fan, it was a disappointing night.

But as a dad, it was freakin' AWESOME.

My parents had tickets to the game, and as it turned out they were going to be out of town for the weekend. Sweetie had access to a ticket with her parents, so that meant I was able to take Kiddo with me. Section 16-B1, Row 85. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay up in South Stadium.

It's amazing how being with a 4 year-old can help mellow out even the most rabid fan (me).

Our day started well before kickoff, though. We left the house about 4:15, getting to our usual parking spot by 4:30. On our way to the stadium, we stopped by the HuskerPedia tailgate. HuskerPedia is probably the best online source in existence for Husker related news and bulletin board chat. I've been posting there for a few years now--one of the perks of being a member is that you can stop by the tailgate tent before each game and enjoy some great food, great beer and great company. Saturday, the great company included the Husker Elvises (I had my picture taken with them, but haven't gotten a copy of it yet) and Joe Orduna, who played for the 1970 Husker National Championship team. Joe was kind enough to sign Kiddo's hat, and he and I spent about 5 minutes talking about family, football, and just life in general. Good guy.

After having our fill of food (and an adult beverage), we made our way to the Husker Nation Pavillion, which is located right next to the stadium and has live music, facepainting, balloons, games for kids, and televised football on a gigantic screen. Kiddo got his face duly painted, and had someone make a balloon sword for him.

After finding our seats in the stadium, Kiddo just soaked in the atmosphere. He clapped along with the band's pregame show, delighting the fans around us by singing along to There Is No Place Like Nebraska. He was enraptured by the spectacle of the Tunnel Walk, even telling me afterward, "Daddy, during the Tunnel Walk I almost had tears in my eyes because it was just SO COOL!" and by kickoff, he was yelling right along with the crowd.

Until the second play of the game. Which was when he informed me that he REALLY had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW.

Remember, we were in row 85...AND right in the middle of our row. I apologetically excused myself past the 8 people to my left, Kiddo and I walked down 20 rows worth of stairs until we got to the exit, then down a series of LONG ramps until we finally were at street level.

I found the men's room, took Kiddo in, waited patiently while trying to discern what the crowd noise above me meant (turns out VT had scored on a safety), had Kiddo wash his hands, then got ready to head back up to our seats.

It was then that Kiddo informed me that he was REALLY hungry.

No problem. We were down by the concession stands...we'd just stop real quick and grab something....

....hmmmm....funny. Where's my money?

I slapped my forehead as I realized Sweetie had it all.

For some perspective, I was in the south endzone. Sweetie was on the west side of the field, right on the north 10 yard line.

And apparently Kiddo was about to melt into a pile of nothingness without something to eat NOW.

SO...we went down another flight of stairs to get to field level, went around the corner to get into West Stadium, walked in front of the VT visitor section, and down the entire length of the field until we got to the north 10 yard line. Then up 17 rows...until finally Kiddo saw his mommy, grandma and grandpa.

Retrieving the money, we kept going up the stairs until we were at the concourse level in West Stadium, stopped by a stand for a couple of hot dogs and a big ol' lemonade, back down to field level, back to South Stadium, up the series of ramps, out to the stands, up 20 rows of stairs, over 8 people, and back to our seats.

Phew.

We watched the rest of the first half while enjoying our dogs and sharing our drink. After our first touchdown, Kiddo let go of the 3 red balloons we had been holding on to, and we marveled at the thousands of balloons that floated away (a truly COOL tradition, letting the balloons go after the first score).

At halftime, we had promised grandpa that we'd come down to visit, so we made the trek back to their West Stadium seats. by this time it was almost 9:00, and Kiddo, while enjoying the game, had started to get tired and ask when it was going to be done. In an attempt to hold him off, Sweetie suggested maybe we should get him some ice cream.

So we did...after standing in line for 20 minutes. Then came the trek back to North Stadium, Row 85. I was amazed the kid was still standing after all the walking he did.

Speaking of standing, we stood for the majority of the game, which was something I was ready for, but hadn't considered when bringing Kiddo with me. But he was a trooper, standing on the bench in front of us and watching the game through his binoculars.

The 20-something year old guy in front of us taught Kiddo how to cross his arms to "throw the bones" for the defense, and Kiddo led our section in the "Goooooooooooo Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig Reddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd...GO BIG RED!" cheer, which the fans around us got a BIG kick out of. Kiddo almost became our section's mascot--whenever the Huskers scored, everyone around us gave him high fives--and he just ate it all up.

Finally, when the game ended, I had the opportunity to teach him a little about sportsmanship. He asked why all the players were kneeling in the middle of the field, so I explained that they were saying a prayer together, and that even though they were on opposite teams, they could still say a prayer to God together. As the players finished praying, the Virginia Tech section started chanting--when Kiddo asked why, I said that they were happy that they won, just like we'd be happy if we won, and that it was okay to be happy for them.

"In fact, you know what?" I asked him. "Something that Husker fans do that I think is REALLY cool is this--whether we win or lose, after the game we clap for the other team when they leave the field, and tell them that they did a good job." So as we made our way to the stairs, we clapped for Virginia Tech as the players ran off.

Even with all the walking, even with the standing in line, even with the Huskers losing, even with the completely pointless unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Bo Pelini in the 4th quarter, I had an incredible night.

Because I was with my son.



On our way from the parking lot


Kiddo and Sweetie at the HuskerPedia tailgate

Watching the game...check out Joe Orduna's autograph on his hat!



Cheering from Row 85

In Mommy's seats at halftime


Kiddo takes in the Tunnel Walk

Gooooooooooooooooo Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig Redddddddddddddddddddd...GO BIG RED!

LH

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coventry Health Care Doesn't Care About Babies!

Okay, that's a little strong, but I just got off the phone with their customer service folks earlier today and had promised myself that if I got the answer I thought I was going to get, that I'd be sure to let the world know.

This is a good place to start.

Here's the deal. Our health insurance is through Coventry Health Care of Nebraska. Our plan covers preventative care at 100%, up to $500 per person annually...after which there is no preventative coverage at all.

So far, not MUCH of a problem. I'd rather see it be subject to deductible and coinsurance after hitting the $500 limit, but okay. I'll deal.

Here's my problem. Unlike EVERY other health care plan I've been on, the $500 limit ALSO INCLUDES CHILDREN UNDER A YEAR OLD. When you consider that just setting foot in the doctor's office runs over $100, not to mention all the vaccinations they receive...that's a hell of a lot of uncovered care.

My kids' pediatrician sees children about a week after coming home from the hospital, then at a month, 2 months, 3 months, 6, months, 9 months, and a year. Each time we've gone in since the one month point, there's been at least one immunization, and usually more like 3 or 4. Some of these vaccines run over $100 a pop.

I don't want this to turn into a debate over immunization safety, so please don't go there. The point is that subjecting children under a year old to the same $500 limit WITH NO COVERAGE AFTERWARDS makes it real tempting for parents to not get the kind of preventative care their child ought to have. Basically, you use up your entire year's allowance by the second visit, then you're stuck paying the rest out of pocket.

Not only is it not in the best interest of the kids, I'd think from a business standpoint if you're responsible for paying claims if kids get sick, that you'd want to encourage parents to do everything they could to have their kids NOT GET SICK. And those first year checkups are vital...not just for the immunizations, but also for catching problems early that could grow into bigger ones later. Not covering those first year appointments just doesn't make sense to me either from a care standpoint OR a business standpoint.

I'm going to be writing a letter to Coventry, and this way when I tell them that I've started informing people what their stance is on early childhood health care, I'll be telling the truth.

LH

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nashville

I had the privilege of spending this past Thursday through Saturday at the Foundations youth ministry conference in Nashville, Tennessee. It was sponsored jointly by Youth Ministry Architects, an outfit headed by Mark DeVries (whose articles in Group magazine are some of the few worth reading, IMO), and the Center for Youth Ministry Training.

Unlike most youth ministry conferences, this wasn't about the latest and greatest programming. All of the workshops, speakers, and presenters revolved around the structure of ministry. It was a crash course in systems analysis...and I took more useful information away from those three days than I ever have for any professional conference. Ever.

The weekend wasn't all work, though. Here's a few non-ministry tidbits that I found interesting. You may not find them quite as interesting, but this is my blog, so read on. Or don't.

First, I flew down to Nashville by way of Memphis, which is about an hour's drive from where I was born in Blytheville, Arkansas. When I was a little kid, we used to meet my grandparents at the Memphis airport when they'd come to visit...it was also where we'd fly out of when we'd visit extended family. So, in a strange little way, my hour-long Memphis layover was kind of a homecoming for me. I hadn't been there in about 30 years, after all. Pretty cool.

Second, while I was in Memphis waiting for my plane, a familiar bald head walked past me. For those who don't know (or remember), one of my dirty little secrets is that I'm an American Idol junkie. I quickly ruffled through my mental roladex, and realized that Phil Stacey, one of the American Idol finalists from a couple of years ago, was sitting about 20 feet away. Phil used to be in the Navy, and came off as a really decent human being on the show. Good guy, totally in love with his wife and kids, and committed to his faith. I wanted to respect his privacy, so I left him alone until about 5 minutes before our plane was ready to board, then I walked over to wish him well and ask for a picture. Turns out he was heading back to Nashville (on my flight) after doing some shows in various casinos and clubs across the midwest. We talked about life and family for a few minutes, and he did end up posing for a picture with me:



Third, my conference was held at Brentwood United Methodist Church in suburban Brentwood. There's a Christian musician named Mark Schultz who most folks don't realize got his start as a youth minister at Mark DeVries' church a few blocks away. At Mark's invitation, he came back to do a mini-concert in the BUMC youth area for the 80 or so of us in attendance. One of the songs he sang is called Walking Her Home, which follows a couple from their first date through their last night together in a nursing home. I had heard the song one other time before the concert, and like that first time, I was left a sniffling mess afterwards. Here's a video of that performance:

There's a couple more things I'd like to write about, but it's bedtime. Those will wait for another time.

Goodnight.

LH

Monday, September 15, 2008

ESPN Hates You

I saw this elsewhere...good stuff. And it's so true, too...although ESPN really DOES hate the Huskers. And I bet it loves anchovies on its pizza. Because I hate 'em. =)


ESPN hates you.

And more importantly, ESPN hates your team.

ESPN will go to any length to diss your team. Any length. You know that LSU coozie you used to have but can’t seem to find? ESPN took it. Because ESPN hates LSU. That is, if LSU is your team.

It has nothing to do with you being too passionately involved in both liking your team and hating other teams. ESPN just likes to mess with your head. That's why when Mark May says something like 'LSU has question marks at quarterback. Watch out for Florida in this one' you get mad. Sure, you just read the same thing in the Times Picayune. But the Times Picayune isn't ESPN - who clearly is having a love affair with Urban Meyer and the Gators while simultaneously throwing the LSU Bengal Tigers under the bus every chance they get.

Unless you're a Florida fan. In which case the time that Chris Fowler made that dig about Urban Meyer's 28-point loss to Alabama is clear evidence of an ESPN-wide plan to, in fact, shut the UF football program down.

Remember that time ESPN ran a story about your favorite player getting arrested? Nevermind that he actually did get arrested. That's bull. ESPN is bull. And it is obvious that, by running timely stories about factual events, ESPN is biased against your team.

It doesn't matter who you pull for.

Whoever your favorite team is, ESPN hates it. ESPN hates anything you love, and loves anything you hate.

ESPN hates your dad. Unless you hate your dad. In which case ESPN loves your dad.

If you love bread, ESPN is 'anti-sandwich.' If you hate end-pieces, ESPN will run a special about end pieces. Mark May will hold up two hard, crusty end pieces and hype the hell out of them all year long. Bob Ley will run a special called ‘Outside The Loaf.’ Ivan Maisel will write a column with a pun-filled headline like 'The piece to the end puzzle' and mind-force you to read it and then email him in anger about it.

If you were for the Union, ESPN was for the Confederacy.

If you had a Sega Genesis, ESPN had a Super Nintendo. If you had a Super Nintendo, ESPN had Sega Genesis.

If you liked like Tombstone, ESPN liked Wyatt Earp.

If you preferred Use Your Illusion I, ESPN preferred Use Your Illusion II.

If you pulled for Dan, ESPN pulled for Dave.

If you think OJ is guilty, ESPN is black.

ESPN hates everything you stand for. Unless you stand for something else. Then ESPN hates that too.



LH (who ESPN hates)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

2 Days!!!!

Only 2 more days, and the long, dark time of waiting known as the offseason will be over. Husker football begins again, and hope springs eternal!!!

GO BIG RED!!!!!

Memorial Stadium in the fall...the band is on the field, the jets are doing a flyover, and football is about to be unleashed!!!

LH

Monday, August 25, 2008

Memory Walk Update

The more time that's gone by, the more amazed, touched, and downright humbled I've been at the response to my request for donations for the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk. The walk itself is just under four weeks away, and with the help of friends, family, and even relative internet strangers, we've raised...

$2,165.

Over twenty-one hundred bucks that will be going toward Alzheimer's research, treatment, and support for families with loved ones who suffer from this evil disease. What a wonderful tribute you all have paid to my mom, who many of you know, but even more of you do not. She, my dad, and I are deeply grateful.

I've gotta admit, though--when it comes to this cause, I'm greedy. Not for myself...not on my own behalf...but because I want so much for this very worthwhile organization to have as many resources at its disposal as possible.

Alzheimers--you've made this personal. And I'm gonna be part of the collective butt-kicking I expect you to receive as we find out more about you, the way you operate, and how to put you away once and for all.

A HUGE thanks once again to all of you out there who have helped in this fight.

UPDATE (to the update):
My mom will be participating in an Alzheimer's drug study. I just got more info on the study last night. The drug is called Bapineuzumab. Here's what clinicaltrials.gov has to say about this study:

This is a multicenter, double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized, outpatient
multiple dose study in male and female patients aged 50 to 89 years with mild to
moderate AD. Approximately 200 study sites in the US and Canada will be
involved. Patients will be randomized to receive either bapineuzumab or placebo.
Each patient's participation will last approximately 1.5 years.Bapineuzumab is a
humanized monoclonal antibody, which binds to and clears beta amyloid peptide,
and is designed to provide antibodies to beta amyloid directly to the patient.
It's beta amyloid peptide that causes the "brain tangles" that most scientists think cause Alzheimers. So the hope is that the drug will bind to, clear out, and prevent the return of that stuff. According to the site, 3/4 of the participants will receive the drug, while 1/4 will receive the placebo--and neither the participant nor their doctor will know what they're getting during the trial.

I know my mom's excited both to be able to help in the fight against Alzheimers AND at the possibility that in the process, this drug may be of benefit to her as well. It's this kind of study that the money from the Memory Walk helps to support.

So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, thanks again, and God bless.

LH

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"That's one funny sheep you've got there..."

Tonight after dinner, we were playing with Pumpkin on the floor while Kiddo was upstairs getting ready for bed. Sweetie took this little soft rattle that's shaped like a multicolored sheep and pretended like it was running toward Pumpkin.

This was quite possibly the most hilarious thing that Pumpkin has seen in her 5 1/2 months of existence. At least, judging by her reaction.

I mean, we've heard little giggles from her before. We've heard her scream happily when she's doing something she enjoys. But tonight was the first full-out no-holds-barred belly laughing that we've heard from our daughter.

It was beautiful.

Enjoy the video:



LH

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Odds and Ends

Odd and End #1:

This will be the one item that is non-chronological, BUT it must be Item The First in terms of importance--today is Sweetie's *mumble mumble* anniversary of her 29th birthday!!!! Happy birthday, Sweetie, and thank you for making me the luckiest guy on earth. I love you!

Odd and End #2:

Going back a few days, now...Friday, I took a group of high school kids from the church out to Camp Carol Joy Holling for a "last weekend before school starts" retreat. We played paper charades (AWESOME game, btw), did a couple of Nooma Bible studies (also AWESOME, btw), played Capture the Flag in the dark as well as a couple of games of hide and seek, had a campfire with smores, did a series of trust-building games and activities...you know, starting with human knots, going to trust leans and trust lifts and trust falls...that sort of thing. We cooked out hot dogs, and then spent 3 hours in the afternoon on this:

The Camp Carol Joy Holling Commitment Course. To give the picture some perspective, it's a bit over 50 feet high, with two levels of high ropes elements, most of which involve finding very difficult ways of getting yourself and 4-5 other people across what amount to tightrope wires with various things in the way while being held up by nothing but a tether. Then, when you've gone through the 10 or so elements, ending it with a couple of hundred foot zip line back down to the ground.

It ROCKED. Seriously, incredibly rocked. I have a pretty tight-knit high school group, but I saw these kids working together in ways I never would have thought possible. And I got to participate with them, which was great for me. Well, mostly great. The course itself was amazing, but the non-amazing part brings us to:

Odd and End #3:

I came down with strep throat. And I'm pretty sure it started Friday night, while I was out at camp. Yeah, with the kids. About 3 hours after arriving, I suddenly got this horribly sore throat, and had the hardest time sleeping that night because I didn't want to swallow. Overnight, I started to get congested, so much so that by mid-morning I was convinced that I had a really bad case of allergies. I borrowed some allergy meds from the other adult sponsor which helped me feel a little better and get through the day, but I seriously was considering still not going on the commitment course. I told myself, "okay, come on...it's for the kids," and pushed on through, but by the time we got back to Lincoln Saturday evening, I was exhausted and had a definite case of the chills. Took me unil Monday (and a 103.3 fever) to get to the doctor, but sure enough, strep it was. But now, after two days on antibiotics, life is MUCH better. Much, much much much better. I still have a freakishly annoying cough and some decent congestion, but I'm finally feeling like a human again.

I still have yet to unpack my van from the weekend, though. Gotta get to that soon.

Odd and End #4:

More pics (and a video!) of the kids to share:

Yes, that's Kiddo going down the freakishly large blow-up slide and riding on the fast turny-thing carnival ride from the family day at his grandparents' church here in Lincoln. Sweetie was there with both kids by herself because I was shivering at home in a strep-induced haze, so that meant anything Kiddo wanted to do he had to do it alone. For those that know him (he's always been a little...shall we say...timid about these sorts of things), these pictures will be a much bigger deal than perhaps to the average viewer. But they're cute nonetheless:



And Pumpkin continues to grow--in the video below this picture, you can see how much she enjoys bouncing in her ExerSaucer. Fun times!!!!







Odd and End #5:

Last one, I promise. About a month ago, I announced that I was raising money for the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk in honor of my mom. Well, today we passed a milestone that I never thought was possible...we've raised over $2,000. I can't say enough thanks for all who have been a part of this--on behalf of my parents, as well as my own thankfulness. This whole experience has been incredibly overwhelming.

FWIW, the original post with the donation link is here.

LH

Friday, August 15, 2008

Like Father, Like Son...Like Daughter?

Um, not much to write here. Just a few captions.
This is me, in 1974:
This is Kiddo, in 2004:

Aaaaaand...this is Pumpkin, in 2008 (last night, actually):

'Nuff said.

LH

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Many Faces of Pumpkin

Tonight, while I was busy at church leading a high school Bible study, Sweetie was busy with the kids and the camera. And she got some great shots. Kiddo has a very expressive face, and it appears as though his sister may be following in his footsteps.

May I present to you, The Many Faces of Pumpkin:












Ain't she a beauty? =)


LH