Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why Should the Church Have all the Good Music?

Because it's Christmas, that's why. A great reminder here from that astute theologian: Steve Martin.

HT: Matt Chandler

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas. . . for everyone

This is a great post I found today. I hope it's an encouragement to you:

HT: Vitamin Z

Matt Redmond:

I get it. I mean, it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

But allow me to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

read the rest

Monday, December 13, 2010


I'm feeling snippy today:

Church signs are always good for a laugh. . . . or a cry.


Are you having a bad Monday like me? (it's mostly my fault).

If so, this might perk you up. This is just what I needed today!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010: When Sports were too important

And all the wives said: "It's been this way for years!!!". I know, I know. . . let me explain.

I've wondered why there's been such a negative vibe surrounding some of my favorite teams and athletes this year. I've wondered why I've been sucked into some of the stories so much that I lose focus on some things that are more important. I've also wondered at the hysteria/activism surrounding some of the major stories this year.

To wit:

--LeBron James' choice to play for Miami and leave his hometown of Cleveland has caused amazing backlash. The people of Cleveland have been burning jerseys, publicly hoping for LeBron to have a career-ending injury, chanting "traitor" as he and his friends enter a restaurant to have a meal. . etc. . . LeBron has admitted a mistake in the way he went about it, but it is not enough, he has been vilified, and in a year like this, that is no longer just a metaphor.

--Tiger Woods fall from grace. How many magazine covers have been spent on this story?

--The various coaching hires/fires in Colorado this year. Basically the negative atmosphere surrounding CU and the Broncos made it a necessity to fire the head coach.

--Carmelo Anthony's refusal to sign his contract and the ensuing trade rumors.

--The yearly Nebraska football hysteria that cranked up a notch this year with the changing of conferences and us having a world-class 19 year-old athlete named Taylor Martinez on the team. Apparently some folks need to remember his age.

These are some of the big "stories" that I've seen this year. . .and it's just too much. We've "fox newsed" the sports world where everything is a huge, breaking story. . . The games are secondary to the larger social reactions that the media feeds (sometimes creates) and we consume.

I'm not blaming the media for this. The media simply feeds the monster, and we are the monster. There are a few voices of reason, I remember sportswriter Rich Kaipust in the post-game chat after Nebraska/Texas pastoring some crazy depressed fans to "relax everyone, it was just a football game". That's crazy talk Rich!!!! :)

It has been a crazy year. I'm asking for everyone, (and telling myself) to settle down and go read a book, or listen to some music or something. We have death threats against professional athletes and against conference commissioners, we have 24 hour coverage of events, we have helicopters circling airports, waiting for athletes or coaches to arrive, and we have folks (me) spending untold hours on the internet going after every rumor, every tidbit of information so we know what famous athletes and coaches are thinking to themselves.

The bottom line is this: Just like everything else that isn't God, sports and athletes will disappoint you. We can't find ultimate happiness even when our teams win. It's fun. . it's not ultimate. And, your team will lose.

And the practical truth is. . . . these things don't mean as much to the athletes and coaches/administrators as they do to you and I. They are not as loyal, obsessive, and crazy about what they're doing as we are about them. This is because, for them. . this is a job.

Now, of course, they are passionate about their work as we are about ours. But, they are trying to do what's in their best interest (as we are) and so you can't hitch your wagon to an athlete/team/coach for your happiness, when they are committed to their happiness.

What we learn from Tiger, LeBron, Carmelo, etc. . is that these guys are going to work, and they are trying to make money, and make a good life FOR THEMSELVES. . .not for us.

What we learn from Nebraska, CU, Denver Broncos, etc. . is that these guys are human (and sometimes very immature and/or young) and will make a ton of mistakes. There's something sick about grown men such as myself getting really happy or angry about the decisions or performance of a 19 year old.

There's alot to like about sports. If you've ever played organized sports, it's a great kick to watch a team function together. Also, if you've ever coached it's great to strategize and see the scheme behind what is going on. I've done both, and enjoy both about watching sports.

CJ Mahaney has a great book called "Don't Waste Your Sports" which explores the spiritual and character building things we can take away from sports.

We should enjoy sports. We should partake in them. We should root for a team. We should enjoy the good things about them.

This past year became for me. . a bunch of Jerry Springer stories, trumped up by the media, consumed by obsessive team idolaters that took alot of the fun out of the sports we enjoy.

I'm exploring how to go about enjoying sports differently moving forward, so that it can be FUN. Which is. . . kind of the point.

Don't call me for the next jersey burning or airport stakeout.

Theological nerds. . there is hope!!

This is funny: (i think the girl's comebacks are funnier)

HT: Vitamin Z

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Labor of Love

It is my goal, one day, to actually do this song at our church. This is probably my favorite non-carol Christmas song, and how can you argue with a song that starts off. . . "it was not a silent night; there was blood on the ground". Not a silent night indeed. . I love that. I know, I know. . kind of a downer at first.

But, this is a beautiful song. I hope you "get it". Most church folks don't want downers and hard reality around Christmas, and I understand that. I just think it would be really neat for a song like this to be heard around Christmas-time at our churches, . . during a time that is often mythologized, cleaned up, and "smiled up" which usually has more to do with American culture than anything related to the Christmas story. Rant over. . . enjoy this great song.

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David’s town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love