Archive for December, 2008

Motivated for 2009?

I’m ready for a new year.

I do make new years’ resolutions (I always think it’s good to resolve to make things better for myself and those around me) and I’ll be thinking of them on New Years’ Day.  But for now, I need to get motivated.  Motivated for 2009.  Are you ready?

And here it is: 40 motivational speeches in 2 minutes.  Sorry, no Matt Foley.

My favorites?

I don’t know – there are way too many great films in this. Old School, Muppet Movie, Swingers, Animal House, Ferris Bueller’s Day off, Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Hoosiers, Patton, King Arthur, Dead Poets Society, Untouchables, Henry V, Robin Hood, Rudy, Pulp Fiction…gosh, so many great movies.  I don’t know if I could pick a favorite.

Best line: Sean Connery, “That’s the Chicago way!”

Followed by, “You’re like a big bear, man!” (Swingers)


New Look for Less is More

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but really didn’t have the time until now. I reformatted the blog to make it look a little more like I originally intended.  And I went a little artsy on the photo.

BTW, for those of you who wonder about the title of the blog, check out the about section.

And if you are reading this as a note Facebook, the source of my notes is here.  You might try looking here instead.


60 Years of Marriage. Wow.

Mer & Lois - Then and Now

Mer & Lois - Then and Now


Today we are celebrating my Grandma Lois and Grandpa Merlyn’s 60th Anniversary.  They were married in Oak Park, IL and during the honeymoon they attended the InterVarsity Missions Conference in 1948 held for the first time in Urbana, IL. 

For the next 60 years, they would live in 15 cities in 4 countries, raise five children, and now have 28 grandchildren.  What a legacy.

Eavesdropping on Angels: Merry Christmas from a different perspective

Merry Christmas from the Bilhorns

Merry Christmas from the Bilhorns

From J. B. Phillips – a fictional conversation between two angels:

“Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince.went down in Person to visit this fifth-rate little ball?  Why should he do such a thing like that?” The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust.  “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that he stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”

“I do, and I don’t think he would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice.  For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them.  He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”

The little angel looked blank.  Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.

On Death, Dying and Ending Well

Grandma Lois and I

Grandma Lois and I

I’m quite fortunate in that I have a job where I can pack up my stuff and work from most anywhere when my students aren’t in session. I was planning on driving back to my folks place in Wisconsin on Friday, until I got home and my housemate told me that if I was considering leaving on Friday I should surely reconsider. The snow was a-coming, and blowing pretty hard.

So in the time it took to get a couple of loads of laundry done, I packed up and headed north trying to beat the snow. I succeeded.

My reason for going back to Wisconsin: my Grandma Lois has terminal cancer. She and my Grandpa have lived in my hometown over the past 13 years after living in 4 countries and 15 cities throughout their life. If Grandma had her way, she would have moved to be with her grandchildren years before, but such wasn’t the case.

Americans seem to have a hard time with death. Other cultures seem to embrace it – we don’t. I was invited to share about Dia de los Muertos by a joint programming endeavor with La Fe (InterVarsity’s Latino Fellowship), Sheil Catholic Center, and the Department of Hispanic Student Affairs at the end of October for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

(Does anyone else find it completely ironic that an evangelical white dude from southern rural Wisconsin was invited to speak at a Latino Catholic celebration? I do.)

Little did I know that the preparations I made would be for me more than anyone. I began to think of those in my life who would likely be passing to be at Jesus’ side. I grew up with a lot of “grandmas and grandpas” in my upbringing. I realized that in the next five years, I will probably be seeing the last of a generation that formed me.

Death is something we don’t like talking about in America. We hire people to prepare the dead when most cultures do it themselves. I wonder why that is. Any thoughts on why we are phobic of death?

As I’ve been sitting with Grandma, sharing stories over the last few days, I realize what a great treasure a life well lived is. I know very few folks who have “ended well” – whether it be in a job, a career, or a life.

Grandma Lois is ending well. We sat at her place for lunch, and she was still the consummate hostess, ensuring that we all had everything we needed. As I put my last bite of soup in my mouth, she asked if I wanted more. The woman can’t even stand, and she still is looking out for her grandchildren. A lump rose to my throat, and I told her I would love some more. She said, “Well, I’d get it for you, but i just can’t get up right now.” “I know, Grandma, that’s OK.”

We sit together and still laugh, cry, share secrets, and sometimes are just quiet as she holds my hand. There is something absolutely beautiful about a life well lived that is ending well – and for those those of us who are still called to press on, we need models of folks who have fought the good fight and finish the race. Because far too many don’t.

Grandma Lois is one of them. I’m proud to be her grandson, and hope I end well as she is.

Scars: Signs of Pain, Signs of Healing

I recently had surgery to remove a small lump from my chin.  At first I thought it was a zit, then I realized it wasn’t and thought it would go away on it’s own.

I was sitting among a group of friends on Sunday after church, and we decided to spend some time sharing the needs in our life and praying for each other.  One man shared that ha friend at work had a lump on her neck and he told her that she should get it checked out with a doctor.

She did.  Two weeks later she died.

So I decided to call the doctor on Monday.  The doctor thought it was fine.  I called a dermatologist, just to be sure.

What was a “small lump” ended up being the size of a quarter and the incision took four stitches to heal.  So I have a scar on my beardline right now – I’m trying some scar cream to see if it actually reduces the scar.

I rub Mederma on the incision three times a day.  I wonder if it actually works.  But each time I rub it on, I think about other scars in my life – not just where my body has been stitched up, but where I have scars in my heart, soul, and mind.

Is there a cream that reduces those scars, too?

I’ve always loved Jesus’ disciple Thomas in John’s gospel – often known as “doubting Thomas.”  I’ve struggled with faith and doubt throughout my life – it’s not a secret to those who know me well.  Thomas has been a companion in my doubt.  And I don’t think his doubt was primarily intellectual – it was because he was disappointed and let down.  He was ready to go with Jesus to die with him.  His doubt would only be subsided when he put his hands in the holes in Jesus’ hand and side to feel hope once again embodied as really real.

Which to me begs an interesting question: why did Jesus have holes in his hands and side?  Was his new body complete with…scars?

Maybe Jesus’ resurrected body wasn’t airbrushed like the models on the checkout line as I pick up my groceries.

Maybe the scars meant something more than just physical manifestations of the healing process.

Maybe the pain he went through wasn’t meant to be overlooked or glossed over, but a the scars were a validation of the healing of wounds so deep that the pain is not forgotten, but healed.

Scars serve of memories of wounds, but they also remind us that we are able to be healed.  Perhaps the mark of a follower of Jesus shouldn’t be that they are an airbrushed model (like so many Christians are perceived) but one who has the marks of healing in their life.

Too cool for [Christian] school?

I must say, I feel strange on a Christian college campus.

For those of my friends and only walk in the door of a church for weddings and funerals, you’ll find this strange.  For those of you who know me only in the context of the Christian community, you’ll also find this strange.

Welcome to my paradoxical world…but being at Wheaton is certainly not my normal world.  More like bizzarro world.

I walk in to grab a cup of coffee and I hear Christian praise music in the background.  I see a woman who is reading from her Bible out loud with a sign that says, “40 Days of Declaring God’s Word over Wheaton.”

I think about how that would be received at the universities I’ve served over the years.  I laugh out loud.

She looks at me.  I stop laughing.  I try not to be too cool for Christian school.

Even more so, it’s weird as I walk into Caribou Coffee (who’s wireless is awful, by the way, but they do have free refills on their coffee…but it’s not as good as my beloved metropolis, intellegensia, or even starbucks) I find people talking with Bible’s open in front of them.  People are praying.

I feel…weird. I’m just not used to Christendom in the 21st Century.

Am I in bizzarro world?

I was at Wheaton for one of my intensive weeks of class this week – 48 hours of class time in 6 days.  Monday through Friday, I was in class from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  My brain was full at the end of each day.

Not only was it intensive in the concentration of work, it was intensive in the nature of the discussion.  My afternoon class got to the point where one person stormed out of class and we basically had to call a timeout.  Then we start praying for the professor, praying for the student who walked out.  People start crying and experiencing healing. The professor and the student reconcile and hug.

I walk out of class for the day and think, “that wasn’t quite a typical day of class.”  That would never happen in my undergrad.

Wheaton is a phenomenal institution.  The quality of the faculty that I have engaged are top flight folks.  It’s not just about information – you can tell that the faculty care about their students.  I already am setting lunch appointments with my professors to talk more about ministry and life.  They are real people who care about real things.

Two things that stuck out from my courses.  The first was on Preaching. Quote of the week:

“Next to love-making with one’s spouse, preaching is the most self-revealing activity you do.  It leaves you naked.”

I don’t know about making love to a spouse, but I will say that preaching is freakin’ scary.  If you really preach to connect with folks, you have to talk about yourself in a way that does reveal who you are.  Preachers are subjected to so much criticism.  People feel free to say what they want about you and judge you everytime you walk up to the pulpit.  But have you ever thought about what it’s like to step up to the pulpit – have you ever thought about what is going on in the lives of our audience everytime one of us pulls that lecturn light, or grabs the microphone?  It’s absolutely terrifying to consider how high the stakes really are.

Why do I do this again?  Can I go back to my normal life?

Second was a class in apologetics – or defending the Christian faith.  20 years ago, this was considered super important.  Like people wrote way too many books on this.  As we’ve moved into postmodernism (or post-postmodernism), logically or rationally defending the Christian faith simply isn’t as important as it once was.  Even if I provided an air-tight defense of the Christian faith, my friends would say, “So what?  Show me why this is worth living.”

We all concurred – the best apologetic is the body of Christ living out it’s calling.  And it’s much easier to intellectually prove the faith than it is to live it out in reality.  Some were greatly encouraged by this – that postmodernism only helps us in this regard.

Sadly, the experience I have with the body of Christ just as often looks like an ugly whore than a beautiful bride – and I realize how much more difficult it is.  When the body of Christ gets it right, it’s absolutely beautiful.  But when it doesn’t, it hurts people and pushes them far from God.  And it’s even worse when it doesn’t admit it.

I was asked to develop a personal approach to apologetics and to find my “communication style.”  I was told by preaching professor that my preaching style is conversational – I’m able to connect with people through the intensity of my eyes and my authenticity.  From my apologetics class, I want my approach to be humble.

I hope I can do both well.

December 2008
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