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 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!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


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.



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.)


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)






It's easy to miss something you're not looking 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.


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.



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 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.


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!


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.


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: