Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I love breaks and rest

It's been great having some downtime this past week.

I've been enjoying 1984 by George Orwell, Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King, the priestly blessing from Numbers 6, bowl games, Rack-O, catching some geek surf (i.e. internet), playing extended basketball games at the gym, and enjoying unrushed time with the family (tonight Cameron told the Goldilocks story in its entirety at bed time).

Speaking of reading... Click here for an article on President Bush's reading habits. I wouldn't have guessed he was such a voracious reader. I especially liked the quote, "Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one [Bush being a simple minded, non-reader] is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small minded critic."

Tonight I'm reading and watching the Holiday bowl. Go Big 12.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The easiest $50 you'll make

Today I went and drove a Dodge Ram truck and made $50. Well, the money is in the mail.

Click here to see how. There's nothing in this for me, I just thought I'd pass it along. The deal was originally posted on www.slickdeals.net That's a great website to frequent for deals. Slick deals, that is.

ps...the deal ends Feb. 2.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thanks, Red!

This is one of the more important leadership principles I've discovered...

"How you select people is more important than how you manage them once they’re on the job. If you hire the wrong people, for whatever reason, you’re in serious trouble and all the revolutionary management techniques in the world won’t bail you out.”

- Red Auerbach, Boston Celtics

I have to be good at selecting people, because managing them is not a strength of mine. I've seen this over and over- the good and the bad. Right now I'm reaping all the benefits of a rockin' staff team. I just finished doing evaluations with all of my staff, and the team is hitting on all cylinders. I don't see a lot of weak links. Well, except for... (just kidding)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kurt Warner is officially...

...the Man.
Click here for an incredible read on Kurt Warner. I cried like a baby reading this. 

Go Cardinals!

Monday, December 22, 2008


We're trying to make this Christmas season as spiritual as possible.

So we plan on watching plenty of movies. 

Last night we did the usual family movie night and watched Wall-E. We've got "Nativity" in the cue. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Nativity a couple years ago, but I can't remember if it's kid friendly. 

But Wall-E definitely was. What a brilliant movie! There was little dialogue, and yet the story had such depth. The thing that stuck out most to our kids... it seems like it would be fun to eat and be entertained all the time, but you will end up overweight and unable to walk. That's what I loved about the movie- there were some accessible themes, and others requiring more thought.

I just can't think of them now... we're watching the Duggers...she had #18!

Esmerelda Tear Down

Today was a sad day, watching the Esmerelda set go down. I think I sustained the worst injury- stepping on a nail that almost went all the way through my big toe. Oh yeah, there was one death, which you'll see below. So I guess I'll take the nail-pierced toe.

(Above) Here's Mike, watching his masterpiece go down. He's a brilliant producer, and the mind behind the set. I'm excited for him to help produce Anthem this Spring. 

(Below) So much for the "magic"... here are the lifts that a couple engineers designed and built. It's amazing the time that went into the set design/construction (all to be torn down in 7 hours). But it was all worth it... 6,000 people exposed to the life changing message of Christmas. As I worked in the auditorium today, I thought about all the work God has done in that room over the last 10 years. People being saved, healed, baptized and God regularly showing up. For the people who sacrificed to build it- do you have any regrets?

Check me out. Just call me Samson.

My boss... 
The poor thing (some kind of mouse/mole hybrid). As soon as someone spotted the living creature, Troy was on it like blue bonnet. That thing didn't have a chance. 

So a pierced toe and a death.

Praise God for keeping us (i.e. humans) safe. Good bye Esmerelda.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No weekend services

For those of you who attend Cornerstone, there are no weekend services due to the winter storm. Pass the information along...

And to all my readers in SoCal, cue the email about the devastating storm damage we in the Midwest rarely hear about. That cracked me up the first time I saw it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Best Christmas lyrics

1. "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight"
- O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks, 1867
2. "he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found"
- Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, 1719
3. "veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity" 
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley, 1739
4. "and the government shall be upon his shoulders"
- Handel's Messiah, 1741 (click here to watch the Mormons rock it out- I used to make fun of my dad for actually choosing to listen to this kind of stuff). It's not really fair to nominate this as a best lyric, because this is from the Bible. So of course it's good. But as one who sees the Kingdom of God as a present reality (and not merely a future longing), I love to think about this lyric.
5.  "why lies he in such mean estate while ox and (bleep) are feeding- good Christian fear, for sinners here, the silent word is pleading."
- What Child is This? by William Dix, 1865 
6. "long lay the world in sin and error pining ("painful longing"), til he appeared and the soul felt its worth...fall on your knees."
- O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau, 1847

It's interesting to me how "new" these songs are. I guess I had the idea that people have been singing these songs for "hundreds of years." They're pretty new. 18th century is old, but not relative to church history. 

So maybe it's time for a new round of Christmas songs. 

But it will be tough to beat some of these lyrics. And even harder to overcome tradition. Even our church, as non-traditional as we are, is inclined to crank up the classic Christmas songs on Christmas. 

Not that I have a problem with it. I'm usually the one helping to plan the services.

What are your favorite Christmas lyrics? Any suggestions for our Christmas Eve services?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Toto Christmas

When Leatha told me to come over and check out this accapella group, I said, "Do I have to watch the whole thing?"

Then I watched it and I never imagined Christmas could meet 80's nostalgia in such a cool way.

Sorry, fellas

Nine years ago today, I married the most amazing woman in the world.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Batting Average

If you do the math, you'll see that we're batting about .588 (10 out of 17) on our Advent family devotions. That means about every other day we do the Advent Tree as a family. That's amazing. Think if someone was batting .588 in baseball!

Monday, December 15, 2008

This is for you- Esmerelda

For those of you that saw Esmerelda, you'll remember one of the most moving scenes...the night dancers.

This is a part of that scene that ended up getting cut.

Actually, the TSC staff was asked to help tear some of the set down. Next thing you know we're hooking ourselves up to the flying equipment and seeing if we can touch the ceiling of the auditorium.

Why did we do it?

It was fun.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

World "Pictures"

John Milton was an old school Puritan who wrote the classic Paradise Lost. He would be 400 years old if he were still alive today. I was reading an interview with Leland Ryken, a Milton scholar and well-known Christian thinker, about this classic poem (click here for the interview, and props to Challies.com for the vine)

I found this Ryken quote interesting:

I think that Christian readers should begin by reminding themselves that they live not only by a Christian world view but also by a Christian world picture. In addition to the great doctrines of the Christian faith, we live by the great images of the faith. Milton's poem puts us in touch with the images of the Christian faith—images of Satan and hell, of God and heaven, of Paradise and original perfection, of temptation and fall, of sin and salvation.

Our Christmas musical, Esmerelda, has really affected me. I saw a picture of Jesus had never seen before. It was a compelling picture that has changed the way I view parenting, pastoring, and, well... living. I want to know that person more. He's a person I want to spend eternity with.

I had this same feeling after reading The Shack.

But this quote made me think about the "world pictures" that shape how I think and live my life as a follower of Jesus. There is power in a story, a poem, a musical, a movie that can give us a new picture of life with God.

Ryken contrasts "doctrines" with "images." I was thinking about this as I just preached on Romans 8. To me, Romans 8 is a musical called "Esmerelda." Justification, reconciliation, and adoption converge in a man helping a lost, cursed girl find her way back to her Father. It's a chapter in which words seem to fall way too short. An epic fairy tale seems more appropriate.

Maybe I should start singing and acting out my sermons in story form...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last TSC of the semester

It has been another fall semester of standing under the water fall of God's blessing. God's favor was thick this semester.

Tonight I spoke on "Adoption" from Romans 8:14-17. One thing that sticks out to me is God's method of compelling us down the path of righteousness. It's not by hovering over us to tell us what we're doing wrong and by "keeping score." On the contrary, it's by "testifying with our spirit" that we are "children of God."

"Holy Spirit, what do you do?"

"I remind you that you're a child of God. I tell you how much God loves you."

That's one of my favorite parts of being a parent. It's ending every day whispering into the ears of my children, "I love you. I think you're awesome." No matter what they've done, those are the words they'll hear.

Why do I so often make guilt the basis of my relationship with God?
Why do I question God's unconditional love for me?

I often have a jacked up view of God. That is why I need to preach Romans 8:14-17 to myself in the mirror everyday.

Nevermind. I don't like my sermons enough to do that...

But everyday I try to utter, "Our father..." as the first words out of my mouth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Last Monday Prayer :(

"Prayer is that slender nerve that moves the arm of omnipotence." C.H. Spurgeon

This picture was taken this morning at our last prayer meeting of the semester. This is the only ministry in the history of the Salt Company that hasn't changed... 7 a.m. every Monday that Iowa State has classes, you'll find around 100 students seeking God in the Memorial Union.

There is no doubt that God has acted on our behalf (Is. 64:4)

Also, Leatha and I were privileged to see a dress rehearsal of Esmerelda (our church's Christmas musical) yesterday. I knew a little of the story line, special effects, etc, but I was totally unprepared for what I saw.

It was one of the most compelling and epic stories I've seen. I was emotional at different points as the story of redemption connected with my soul. I walked away thinking, "The Gospel is the most amazing thing ever. And what a God and Savior is ours."

Over 6,000 tickets have been sold for this. If you have someone in mind to bring, but don't have tickets, my suggestion is to bring them anyway. I'm sure there will be some open seats.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Good Life and The Road

Over break I watched the movie "The Good Life" (click here) and read this book, The Road. I saw this in Borders and it looked interesting. So I checked it out from the public library. It's a quick read. It's pretty dark and the ending didn't bring me out of the valley as much as I'd hoped, but it was still a good (not great) book. It's about a father and son's journey of survival in a deserted world. It shows the best and worst of humans in their quest to survive.

My free Monday redbox dvd was The Good Life. I wanted to watch this because it was written and directed by a guy I used to skate with back in Omaha (thus the allusions to Nebraska in the movie). It was a solid drama, and the storyline kept me interested in where the movie was going. It's not a movie I'd strongly recommend seeing, but it gets into some of the issues of disappointment of life, and what brings about true freedom and happiness. Steve Berra has a typically Hollywood take on what that is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


"Advent" is a word every pastor and probably every person should know.

The only problem is that I'm a pastor and a person (I've met a lot of pastors and the latter is not necessarily a given...) and I didn't know exactly what advent was.

What's worse- we've had an advent tree the last 2 years.

Wikipedia to the rescue...

Advent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming") is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus; in other words, the period immediately before Christmas...

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ.

The second section is money- I've never thought of Christmas as a celebration of the return of Christ (Latin "adventus" is the translation of Grk "parousia")

Here are some pictures from our Advent family devotions that we started December 1st and do until Christmas...

Our first one was a total disaster. The kids didn't listen to a word I said.
Here are the kids by the advent tree with all the symbols on it. We use the book "Family Celebrations" by Ann Hibbard (Click here for the book)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter is Here

I've been way too busy over-eating, over-sleeping, and watching too much football and movies over the past few days to post a blog entry.

I thought all the food, sleep and TV was supposed to make me rested, but now I'm sick.

Oh well, it's a typical winter cold I guess. But with the winter comes snow...and with snow comes- FROSTY the SNOWMAN! The kids went right to work after this first real snowfall...

Impressed? The prune eyes were my idea.

Now here's a picture of the snowman to scale (in case you can't find it- it's to the right of the miniature kids football).