15 Tweets for 2015

2015 was the year I finally got on Twitter. With Twitter getting started in 2007, I was only eight years behind. Not bad for me. At this rate I’ll get my first hybrid car in 2037.

But, in recognition of my first year on Twitter (and in a shameless effort to gain more followers), what follows are fifteen of my favorite tweets from 2015:

Best part of the BYU Hail Mary is the receiver who is so pumped he has to hug someone. So he hugs the ref. #loveazebra

How come the painting at the Dunkin’ Donuts by my house has six people eating donuts – and all of them are fit and healthy?

Ministry lessons learned from my doctor today: Listen. Be kind. Take time with people even when you’re busy. And smile. #ihaveagreatdoc

Things I don’t want to see when I take my kids to school: old guy jogging shirtless & speed bumps at intersections. Huh?

Sitting by the pool yesterday. Talking about skin complexions. Mine? Marshmallow.

Getting geared up for my jump with the Golden Knights.

Sunday, my oldest turned 20. That same day, a kid at church guessed that I am in my mid-20s. Not sure how the math works on that one…

It’s hard enough to get my teenagers to hear me. Then someone goes off and invents headphones.

Lesson #1 from St. Meinrad: Under their robes, monks wear jeans.

If there is more than one person in the picture, is it a selfie or an “us-ie”?

I love being at a church that loves its community!

Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s acting on what you believe in the midst of fear.

A first draft always needs revision. In writing, and in life.

Others will tell you who are. Only God knows who you are.

Here I am, Lord. Send me. (Which, by the way, is a great tweet to end one year, and retweet the next.)

5 Christmas Gifts

I’m not sure what follows can be called Christmas gifts, exactly. They’re not. Unless … unless, words, ideas, and hopes can be gifts that point us to what is real, lasting, and true. And since I believe that the best gifts are not usually the ones under the tree, here are five different “gifts” that speak to me, just in time for Christmas. Maybe they’ll speak to you, too.

“Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked No Entrance and left through a door marked No Exit.”  Peter Larson

Is it all sewn up–my life?

Is it at this point so predictable

so orderly,

so neat,

so arranged,

so right,

that I don’t have time or space

for listening for the rustle of angels’ wings

or running to stables to see a baby?

Could this be what he meant when he said

Listen, those who have ears to hear…

Look, those who have eyes to see?

O God, give me the humbleness of those shepherds

who saw in the cold December darkness

the Coming of Light

the Advent of Love!

“To Listen, To Look” – Anne Weems

Where, O where is the child we seek?

In the stories of the aging,

In the kick of the unborn,

In the eyes of the homeless,

In the hearts of the broken.

“The Three Kings” – Simeon Swinger

The last two “gifts” are links you’ll have to click on to “unwrap.” One, is a Christmas song by Over the Rhine I heard for the first time just today. As Linford Detweiler sings, “I’ve committed every sin, and each one leaves a different scar. …I could use a Guiding Star.”

Finally, I loved this blog post that addresses the question, “What does Jesus want this Christmas?” His answer may surprise you, but I can’t help but think, deep down, he is right.

Merry Christmas.

Christmas Traditions

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things was having my aunt come visit us at Christmas. She lived in the frozen tundra of Buffalo, NY, and so I’m guessing she didn’t mind heading south to the (relative) warmth of balmy St. Louis. I remember with great anticipation standing at the baggage carousel, waiting for her luggage to slide down the metal ramp — for she always brought Christmas treats. Some of it we could eat (like amazing sponge candySponge Candy, a Buffalo specialty), and some of it was wrapped, ready to be opened and enjoyed.

Christmas is truly a time for tradition and holiday memories. I have a friend who grew up in a setting where traditions were a bit different than what I experienced. As he described it, he didn’t have any church- or faith-based traditions in his family. The tradition he remembered, he said, was making sure he picked up the right Coke on the table, smelling it, so that he got just Coke – and not Coke and Jack. He also mentioned another tradition he remembered: watching his grandma cook while smoking, and hoping the ash from her cigarette didn’t fall into the food she was preparing. When it did, she would curse as she got a ladle and scooped it out.

Ah, Christmas memories. We all have them. Some good. Some not. But all memorable.

In a recent email, I asked folks some of their traditions. They were all tamer, and perhaps less interesting, then the one I just mentioned:

(My wife’s) family has everyone sit in a circle and open all of the presents one by one as people sit and watch. I have no idea how to react because my family would NEVER have done this. So I’ve had to learn how to fake being super excited about socks without coming off as sarcastic.

In my family we have always done advent with a small devotion and singing a few songs together every night. My parents would spice it up at times (or maybe they were just trying to find something to convince teenagers to come spend family time) by having a special snack or dessert with advent. When my younger siblings were little they would play with a nativity scene toy during advent and they always wanted to tell the Christmas story in their own words.
We started doing advent with (our oldest daughter) a couple of years ago, and now both girls love it. Not only does it help us put the focus back on Christ, it forces us to slow down for a few minutes and enjoy a little bit of family time.

We bake a birthday cake for Jesus and have it for breakfast. We stay in our pajamas all day on Christmas day and never leave the house. We buy each of the kids one big gift and then we spend the rest of our Christmas budget on a family trip. The kids will open up clues (a puzzle, a riddle, etc) and then collectively try to figure out what the trip is. The way we figure it, our kids will have many more lasting memories of the time we spent together doing something fun rather than the stuff they got.

So, what Christmas traditions do you remember? Better yet, what Christmas traditions are you starting? Are they the kind that help you, and those you love, remember the Reason for the Season?

The Three Temptations of Jesus (Guess What? They’re Ours, Too.)

Recently, I have been thinking about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness as he began his ministry. As you may recall, Jesus is tempted by Satan in three ways: turn bread into stones; jump from the temple; bow down to the Prince of Darkness. We learn a lot about Jesus in this encounter — about his call and how he will carry out his ministry. But we also can learn a lot about ourselves.

As I read Matthew 4, I see Jesus being tempted, in the first, to use his power for his own sake. If you are the Son of God, Satan says, turn these stones into bread. If you have this power, Satan seems to say, then use it for your own sake. That’s not just a test Jesus faces; I think anyone who has any power or authority is tempted in a similar way. Perhaps this is a reminder that temptations starts by being personal. It starts with me, right where I am, with what I feel I need.

In Henri Nouwen’s book, The Way of the Heart, he says that the second temptation involves the challenge to be spectacular. Jesus is challenged to use his sonship to do something amazing; to wow the masses with God’s magic show. For me, this is the temptation for the church to put on a show that gets people in the pews; excite them and entertain them, and they will come. In short, this is the temptation to take the work of the Spirit, and try to manufacture it. The opposite of this isn’t to be boring or irrelevant; absolutely not. But if we believe in the power of God, then He needs to be the focus of what we preach and teach, how we worship and serve. What the world needs is not more entertainment, but a real encounter with the living God. That will involve emotion, sure, but not emotionalism. And it will include worship that is engaging and inviting, but not entertaining.

The last temptation seems to be about shortcuts, or success. Worship Satan, and Jesus will gain the kingdoms. And who wouldn’t love to have more and bigger? More people, bigger offerings, greater success — a reach that continues to expand, because surely bigger is better, right? But we are called to worship the Lord, only, and trust that HE will bring the kingdom. It is not my job to bring in the kingdom; it’s His. There are no shortcuts to the kingdom coming. Is it possible that we forget this, and choose successfulness, instead of faithfulness?

So, I’m not to look for success in the ways of the world. I am called; our church is called; to remain faithful. To worship God alone, and let Him lead and guide, and provide what He wants us to have. This isn’t passive or inward-focused; instead, it refuses to go for the quick fix or the easy path to faithfulness. It refuses to let slumps and struggles cause us to shift our focus. It reminds us that our job is to pray, and pray faithfully, and pray regularly – to continue to bend the knee to the Lord. And turn away, as Jesus did, from selfishness, and spectacular-ness, and successfulness. And trust God, following Him wherever He leads. Even if it’s to a cross.