Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year

I am looking forward to the turn of the calendar from 2008 to 2009 for many reasons. 

One simple reason is...a friend gave me a new calendar and I can't wait to read what "the office" saying is for January 2, 2009. 
In case you are curious, the January 1 saying comes from Michael about being the "top dog in a fairly large pond".

The year 2009 means I am one year closer to graduation for my master's degree. And trust me, that is a very good reason to look forward to the turn of the calendar. 

Another reason is the new year always holds all these new possibilities. Maybe the old year had some disappointments, however the new year has not disappointed anyone yet. Don't get me wrong, 2008 was a good year. Yet, along with the joys there always are some tears.  
This upcoming year only has joy in my mind. I guess I am a "glass 1/2 full" kind of person. The older I get the more open I am to the unknown. 
Okay, for those of you laughing so hard you are falling off your chair...I mean that I do much better not knowing what is ahead. 

Andy preached a couple weeks ago about the angel saying to the shepherd "Do not fear". He pointed out that for some of us that is all we need to hear from the Christmas story. This year, I needed to hear the angel's proclamation to the shepherds.
Fear can trap us into needing to know the next move. For me, fear has a lot to do with a need for control. As long as I know what is ahead, I can in some way prepare and it is less scary. However, there is really no way to know what is ahead at all times. We just cannot manipulate our days to that degree. 
I know I am not alone - I know many of you out there. This is a safe place to proclaim the fact  - we are recovering control freaks!

I am claiming the "recovering" part of the title because for 2009 I am holding no expectations (well, okay only a few). I am going to embrace the unknown of this next year (well, okay reach my hand out). Remember, it is all about baby steps. 

See you in 2009 and all the new year holds. May we laugh and yes at times, cry together in the next year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas isn't Christmas until...

It is Christmas day. I just finished some left over pasta from my dinner Christmas Eve (thanks Barth). I am now eating some banana bread (thank Martha Stewart-Peck) and sipping some hot cider (thanks Erin Bryan). I am going to see Marley and Me with some friends later. 

It's Christmas day. How are we suppose to spend Christmas? What is Christmas suppose to look like? What is the day suppose to feel like? What is Christmas?
A lot of questions, not so many answers.

It's Christmas day.
I'm at my computer because I am attempting to work on my sermon for Sunday (don't feel bad, I am doing it now so I can be free on Saturday to spend with my family). 
The fact is - I am struggling to get to the real core of what I want to say.
The sermon is about Jesus (no surprises there). 
The sermon is also about Simeon and Anna in the gospel of Luke. They didn't miss Jesus, they didn't miss Jesus' purpose. They got what Christmas was suppose to be? Do we?

It's Christmas day.
I am very aware this Christmas of the loneliness in hearts this time of year. 
I held a widow's hand recently attempting to console her as she struggled with her first Christmas without her husband after 50 something years.
I am aware of divorced parents spending this Christmas alone because it is the off holiday for custody. 
I am aware of families attempting to make the best of the day in the midst of financial struggles. 
I am just aware of the heartache in the world today.

It is Christmas day, what is it suppose to look like?
Did Jesus mean to make a one night appearance where people scurry around in preparation and the anticipation is incredibly high and then it is over?
No, I think Jesus came - Emmanuel "God with us" because of hope.
The hope of the Christmas story is to be a part of each moment all year long. 
Nativity sets are great. However, Jesus did not stay a baby.
Jesus came to bring salvation, to bring hope to a broken world. The hope is not just for today, but each day. 

It's Christmas day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Isn't that just like God?

I have been pastoring. No, I have not been out in the field watching my flock by night. That is a pasture. This is about being a pastor. Gotta it?

I have been talking with someone who is struggling with life. Nothing deep or even different then what life hands each of us every once in awhile. Just life. 
I like when God gives me words that surpass any wisdom I would ever think of having at a moment and I get to pass those profound thoughts on to another. That is pastoring (no, it is not a real verb - but I like the word anyway). Give me a break, I am not writing a paper for my philosophy class, just putting some words down on a blog...don't get distracted by my made up words. Stay focused.

The interesting aspect of this moment is the fact it took place over facebook. Yea, the internet community that carries advertisements for teeth whitening and Oprah's new diet ideas. God used this crazy "devil filled" internet so I could reach out to someone hours away and say, "hey, I hear you and I understand". 

Isn't that just like God? Yea, God used a burning bush with Moses. God used a talking mule with Balaam. And God used a pregnant teenager (that I still believe was a virgin) to bring a savior into this world. Don't underestimate God to use about anything to remind humanity that their creator is still well aware of their needs and loves them passionately.

Isn't that just like God?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Its A Wonderful Life

My favorite Christmas movie is "It's A Wonderful Life". At least once a season I watch the happenings of that "ole broken down Building and Loan". I had my appointment with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed this past Monday night. 

I posted my last final for the semester and plopped in the recliner to reintroduce myself to the Frank Capra classic.
It never fails - I got nervous when I knew George is going to be getting in trouble and I still wish Uncle Billy wasn't such a flake. Somehow he should know the money is in the newspaper. And what is with Potter being such a jerk! 
Of course, it doesn't matter how many times I have seen the movie, I still cry at the end. 

However, this year I watched the movie with a little philosophy of religion (one of my last semester classes) on my mind. The most interesting topic this past semester was the idea of what makes up someone. Is it our physical being or our soul? As a Christian, I always thought soul right off, without any more discussion. However, a new option was given this past semester, what about our relationships? The idea that the relationships in our lives make us who we are intrigued me.
In the movie George was still physically present after Clarence grants his wish of "never being born". Obviously his soul was still around. However, did he really exist? Yes, he interacted with the world now known as Pottersville. Yet, he was "missing" his life.
What was missing for George that finally drove him to want his wonderful life back? 
His relationships. His wife Mary and his children. 

What makes me cry every year? It's not the soul part of George - when we see the presence of God working in his life through Clarence (though that is a nice part of the movie). 
It's not the physical aspect - when George's lip starts bleeding again. Though I get excited right along with George when he starts screaming "my mouths bleeding, Ernie, my mouths bleeding". And don't forget Zuzu's petals. 
No, I completely lose it and break out the tissues when Uncle Billy comes in with the basket. 
When all of George's relationships pile into his crowded living room you know why Clarence gets his wings.
So, I don't know how I did on my philosophy final. But it is a wonderful life. 

Merry Christmas, Mr Potter!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

fantasy football again

I will be glad when fantasy football season is over.

Every Sunday, I pull up the game center screen to see my team members bringing in the points...or not bringing in the points and I question my decisions. 

If I had put the Patriots defense in instead of leaving the Cardinals defense line in I would have 15 more points. 
Why did I keep Jacobs in the alternates? 
Was Hills on the injury list last time I looked at my team lineup?

My afternoon ends up full of regret simply because a Running back that I do not even know what team he plays for has a hurt toe and could not play again the Raiders this Sunday afternoon. Seriously, I am not distraught over the fact my Groundhogs are last in their division (possibly the league). However, I spend a little time thinking "if I had only...".

This got me thinking. 

How much do I say "if I had only..." (or if I had only not...) on issues a little more important than the Groundhogs lineup? Several members of our congregation have lost family members in the last several weeks. This week we will have a service for a man that loved horses, tennis and his family. I did not know him and only have a letter he wrote to his daughter and a letter his daughter wrote to him. But something in those letters tells me that his life was lived with a confidence of his salvation and the love he had for his family. 

When it is all said and done my Groundhogs will probably have a losing record and that will be okay. When it is all said and done for me, I want to have lived with the confidence of a life well lived and no "if I had only...".

Friday, November 21, 2008


There is a preschool in the building where I work. Over a hundred infants to pre-k travel the hallways throughout any given day with many conversations and songs being shared on the journey. 

Earlier this week, I was heading to the kitchen and stopped to allow a group of pre-k to turn the corner and head to the playground. I caught an interesting question being shared over and over by a little girl to the girl in front of her. "Is Madeline (name has been changed to protect the curious) or I your best friend?" Over and over this girl asked the question in an attempt to get the answer she wanted from the girl she hoped was her best friend. I never heard the answer.

As I continued my path to get ice for my afternoon diet coke, it hit me how early we seek significant relationship in our life. Wow, four years old and this little girl is determined to find out where she stands on the friendship chain. 

I remember my best friend Stacy who lived across the street when I was 4 years old. We watched Donny and Marie together, went in her dad's jeep to get Icees or followed our older brothers around the neighborhood. That is what best friends did together. 

Now, thirty-five years later I had dinner with a friend last night. She mentioned what it meant to have me there when her daughter had surgery. She has given me invaluable advice over the dozen plus years I have known her. That is what best friends do together. 

We are wired for relationships, especially women. We want to share life together. When we are 4-5 years old it is about who is going to play with who on the playground. When we are "much" older it is about encouraging my friend to get her interview papers done for her chaplain application or for a friend to tell me that it is okay to feel "jr. high like" for the moment.

We all are asking the question or similar questions - am I significant to you? That is just how we are wired. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I have been thinking a lot about significance lately. Mostly because that is the sermon topic coming up and my mind has to go there. However, it also has a lot to do with the election period we just went through as a country. 
It is said this will be record breaking voter turn out. I am not going to attempt to guess what the reason for the record breaking numbers - it really doesn't matter in the long run.  People got out and voted because they believe their vote is significant to a big decision. I waited in the voter line for 45 minutes because I thought the way I filled out the little circle mattered. I still believe that to be true. I think it is important that we vote and each vote matter. 

But the election is over. There has been a lot of energy (or at least Facebook space) used toward this election. What's next? 

What we do with our time does matter. The causes we support and the energy we used toward activities and events matter.  Does what I focus on day in and day out make a difference for the kingdom of God? 
I don't mean to upset anyone, but in twenty five years from now will anyone thank you for the words you spoke or the words you typed for a particular candidate. I don't know - maybe because of the history made during this election some will be remembered. 
Still, I think the words will be forgotten in a couple decades. 
However, this morning I ran into one of my youth sponsors from (you guessed it) twenty five years ago. I remember the time she poured into our youth program. My heart is full with what she meant and means to me. I can remember different moments she spent with us as youth. Her time was significant to me and who I am today. 
I want to spend my time being significant. 
Just a thought. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

I can hear the pump truck emptying out my septic tank this morning as I get ready. Yes, my house is on a septic tank and too often I have to have it emptied. I am in hope I do not have to go into detail of what is being pumped up and taken away. But please stay with me - I have a point. 

Before I became completely aware of what was taking place in my back yard - I was in prayer. Prayer for family and friends in my life - I do that as I dry my hair in the morning (you should try it, it is a great time to spend with God and also explains why my hair either looks really good or doesn't look too great).

Back to my point...when I realized the sound and what was taking place - it hit me. I was praying that the lives I was lifting to God would be cleared of the situations or circumstances that were hurting or causing them pain. That God would move in their lives toward healing or discernment. 

The sound of the pump truck made me wish I could just have a truck pull into my heart or life and start cleaning out the "eck" that can fill it some times. The people I care about could just call "Pump It" and have their lives cleared of the pain and hurt that can fill their days.

That became my prayer.

So in case you don't think you can pray because you don't know what to pray for...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

what's it say?

I have two pending thoughts on my mind right now (okay, possibly more - but two that are pushing against my thought process).

First, I am getting close to having 100 facebook friends. Why has that become a goal? Seriously, facebook friends are not people I am going to be able to call to borrow money - so why is it important to get to 100? Is it about popularity - I don't think so. Seriously, does it define me? NO.  It probably is as simple as the round number will just make me feel better. Nothing more. 

Second, have you noticed that people are more likely to speak their political views than their religious views. Being in ministry,  I will admit I am more likely to keep my mouth shut about who I am going to vote for and my mouth open about who I serve (that would be God). I know people will respond to that comment with a simple - but, don't you want your candidate to win and you want people to know why. Don't I want people to know about my savior? I am not against speaking your political views. My question is - do you speak your religious views as boldly? Are you more likely to feel that is a personal choice to follow Christ or Buddha? So, you shouldn't say anything. How can you feel that way about religion (I am not a fan of that word) and not feel that way about politics? Jesus came to save the world...isn't that important. Or is that just one opinion among many opinions about religion in the world? Wait, isn't that politics also. Again, I am not against speaking your political views - my question is: are you as bold when it comes to your faith? Or is the question - are you as sure about your faith as you are about you politics? That is another blog discussion.

I may get a "I love Jesus" sign to put in my yard. Can you image a debate between Jesus and Buddha?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

bad directory pictures

It became time for a new church directory, which means a new picture. Since I still use a directory picture taken over 8 years ago on my staff ID, you can imagine my excitement about getting my picture taken again. Not.

I really should have known how this would go when I had to reschedule my appointment three times. Can't do it on Thursday - concert, move it to Wednesday, no - walking club. Friday 9:10 p.m. after the wedding rehearsal - yea, that will work.

I left the cheesecake at the rehearsal dinner and made my way over to the church to sit in front of the lights. The photographer snapped, I waited for the salesperson to show me the results and then I said, "I would like a retake". 

I forgot how tired I would be after working since 9 a.m. (or at least that is what I am blaming the poor pictures on). My eyeballs literally went in different directions in the picture - that cannot be good. 

Here is my point, you know I have one. That one moment behind a camera captured on digital does not capture me. Anymore than one moment or season in our lives defines who we are or what are life is about. There will be moments when I look good and moments when I look bad. There will be moments full of laughter and moments full of tears. It is part of this journey. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

brain overload

Sometimes my brain just shuts down. Have you ever had that happen?

Between figuring out my assignments due for Discipleship of the Family and writing my Philosophy of Religion paper on the account of freedom mentioned in the Westminster Confession - the brain is fried. Oh wait, I forgot to mention that I also have a full time job. Hmmmm, would that explain the lack of sleep?

Anyway, my brain is on overload, so I pause to drop some thoughts in the "ole blog spot".
The thought has to do with my cat. 

I jump from one responsibility to another in complete chaos, while she sleeps. 

Yes, she will jump up from her spot on the chair to graze at her food bowl or to take a few sips of water. She will walk over by me and stroll across the area between me and my computer - to remind me that she is still around. Or maybe she will lift her head to lick her toe (paw, foot...whatever it is) from her resting posture. However, most of the time she sleeps. 

I want to relax like that. And here is my thought on this desire. I don't think my cat's ability to relax has to do with the lack of things on her "to do" list (she doesn't have one in case you wondered). I think it has to do with the fact that this is just what she does - she sleeps and lays around. I want to call it an attitude to make a particular point in this blog. 

Do I have to overload my brain? What if I took a break and called a friend? Would the sky fall? Maybe the condition of my brain has more to do with my attitude. What if I just took some time to relax? Maybe my brain would not get lost in theological determinism. Okay, it probably would anyway - but at least I might get a nap in!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's that about?

The Israelites wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years. They whined and complained most of the time. 

I am very aware of this because I am reading the book of Exodus right now and I just turned 40. Experiencing those two things at the same time is probably not healthy for the psyche. 

I want to whine and complain about a list of things in my life, yet I see where it got the Israelites and I shut my mouth quickly. 

God did not provide for the Israelites because they complained. God provides because God is faithful. 

I am wandering and I have been wandering for 40 years now. And yes, God has been faithful and has been faithful for 40 years through times of drought and times of manna. My complaints have not related to the drought or manna times - but my lessons have!

What's that about?

Friday, September 5, 2008


I am taking part in a fantasy football league. Yes, the Groundhogs are my team. The unusual part of this statement is - I know nothing about football. I will watch a high school game if a student I know is playing. I may put on some Chief apparel because I lived in Kansas City for a couple of years and my brother is a fan. You would have never found me sitting in my recliner watching a Sunday game - however, that is all about to change.

I found myself this morning during hospital visits wanting to yell "go team" to a woman wearing a Patriots sweatshirt (Tom Brady is the quarterback for my fantasy football team). I can now tell you which player is probably going to play this weekend in spite of his hurt foot. A teammate stepped on it with cleats while he was wearing socks during a run. Couldn't tell you if it is my running back or my wide receiver. (It is the first week).

I feel pretty good about my team. It was an automatic draft and I just let the cards fall where they would. And it worked out well for me, I think.  (Remember I don't know much about football.) 

This is an interesting thought process since I am in the middle of philosophy of religion and reading about God's interaction with humanity. Does God interact? How much free will do we have? Is it all about a flip of the card and a spin of the wheel? I don't have all the answers to those questions (it is only the first week of class). 

I believe God does guide us. As the pillar of cloud and fire guided the Israelites in the book of Exodus - I believe God guides me. Sometimes I am not always following, but that is a whole different issue. 

So, I will leave my Groundhog team up to fate, but my life is in God's hands.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I washed my ipod this morning.

At this moment, the only person celebrating is Steve Jobs - he knows I will have to buy another one. It sucked. I can't believe I did it. Not because of some material issue. It was stupid of me (I should have known better) and I hate that. 

I have spent the day wanting to rewind and not toss it into the washer with my sheets (its a long story). This desire to rewind got me thinking about how many times I wish I could rewind moments. Some of them good and experience them all over. Other times I would want to play it differently this time. The slip of the tongue, the wrong word at the wrong moment and even the cruel words when I should have shared kind words.

However, I can't rewind any of the moments. So the lesson learned is - try to get the moment right the first time!

Friday, August 22, 2008

one inch deep

I heard a bible study teacher awhile back talk about how we have 100 relationships, however they are only an inch deep. Sometimes, that is more obvious than other times in my life.

I was talking yesterday with our pastor about facebook. I have 41 friends, which is little compared to the 500+ that many have. Yet, most facebook friends are not people you would call if you found yourself in jail and needing someone to bail you out at 2:00 in the morning. So what does that mean?

We have 100 relationships that are only an inch deep.

When I purchase a new cell phone, my first concern is getting my phonebook transfered. I don't want to lose the 75 phone numbers I have programed. Yet, if you were to check my call history - there is only 4 phone numbers I call/text on a regular basis. 

I have 100 relationships that are only an inch deep.

I will admit, I text because I don't want to bother the person on the other end or I don't want to be bothered on this end with a long conversation. I have unlimited texting.

I have 100 relationships that are only an inch deep.

This phenomenon is not a problem as long as somewhere in our phonebook we have one or two relationships that run 100 miles deep. Those that we can call when we find ourselves in need of a rescue (and even more important - can call us). How is your depth? It takes time, something most of us are limited on. 

The other problem with this trend is that we tend to consider our relationship with God in the category of shallow relationships. So, we never develop an understanding of the passionate love Christ expressed for us and the peace available through taking time to develop the relationship. 

Just some shallow thoughts on a Friday afternoon.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I thought when I finally set up a blog - I would have such profound thoughts to share. Now I cannot think of one single thing to say. I hate when that happens. 

I am in the middle of Church History 2 and we heard a lecture today on Karl Barth. I thought the guy was an idiot before I read his stuff. Why did I think he was an idiot? Because people that quote him come off as idiots (I will let you figure out who that might be). 

So, to throw myself into that bunch... "It is by Him, Jesus Christ, and for Him and to Him, that the universe is created as a theater for God's dealing with man and man's dealings with God". Karl Barth "The Doctrine of Election"  Isn't that use of the word theater kinda cool?

"What God does not find in us He finds abundantly in Him - with sufficient wealth to make up for all that lacks in us". Karl Barth "Theological Anthropology"

"Him" - that's Jesus! 

I will not stay long in this 19th century theologian place - trust me.