Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Love Hugs

This video reminded me of how much our family is a "hugging" family....and how much I love that! One of the things that my daughter Kate noticed when she went to college was how much she missed getting hugs from Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother - and I missed her hugs as well.

To be embraced by someone that loves you unconditionally - it doesn't get much better than that.

May you feel Jesus' embrace this day and know that His embrace lasts forever.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pass the mashed potatos

You can now have "family dinners" via video-link! (Read about it here.)

At first I was put off by this....but as I ponder it I'm intrigued. I know that I treasure the times that our family is all gathered around the table, sharing a meal, and sharing stories. The biggest downside I see is that no one could pass the food "virtually" least not yet....and that would leave me to my own cooking!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have yourself....

a very merry Christmas! (And thanks for stopping by!)

If you'd like a couple of great "deeper" thoughts for this day.....go here.

God has wrapped himself in human cool is that?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let Loose - Remix

The following is a post from last December - but it has been on my mind once again and so I am "re-blogging" part of it here.

On one of my fave blog sites here there was a discussion about what word you would choose to meditate on for Christmas......after pondering this I chose the word(s) "let loose". I was reading "The Message" translation of the story of the birth of Jesus and in describing the shepherds in Luke 2:20 it says,"The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. "Those words "let loose" have been rolling around in my head ever since with thoughts such as:

God let loose his Son on earth.

I should let loose of things that keep my focus off of Jesus
when was the last time I really let loose in praise and glorifying God.

Jesus let loose of his life and died for me.

The list goes on....

God satisfies - I need to let loose and let Him all the way in so that I can truly grow and become who He wants me to be. That is my prayer this day.....that this Christmas, as I remember Jesus' birth, that I can let loose of those things holding me back from being "birthed" into the man God wants me to be.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"A Worship Service That's Not Inn"

That was the title of "the lesson" this past Sunday for SMYG (our name for Sunday School at our church - Sunday Morning Youth Gathering). We adapted a worship service from "The book of Uncommon Prayer" by Steve Case - a fabulous resource by the way - that has the kids go outside for a worship experience after they discover there is no room at the Inn.

We had a great time with this - all of our leaders wore name badges as employee's of the "Bethlehem Inn". The leaders played their roles up pretty well. We had locked the youth room up and set up a hotel front outside the door. The innkeeper took names on a waiting list and directed the kids upstairs to the shuttle waiting area. Of course, the shuttle driver called and the shuttle was broken we walked. (Being in MN we were blessed with a perfect day - mid 20's, light wind, sunny and no snow on the ground!) As we were walking one of the kids even said, "The sun is sure bright!" and that of course led to comments about following a bright star!

Our "journey" eventually led us to an area set up outside between a few trees. I had put up two big blue tarps to frame the area. We had a manger and some candles. Once we gathered we had a very cool worship service that included group prayer, an advent celebration, a responsive prayer, bible readings, and then a re-telling of the Christmas story using 4 of Max Lucado's writings.

Then we closed by singing Mercy Me's version of Silent Night.

It was great - to be outside, trying to relate to what it was like for Mary/Joseph when they were turned away from the Inn. The journey they were on and that continued on from there. To ponder what is must have been like to be entrusted with protecting, nurturing, and letting go of God's son.

It was a great way to start the day!

Friday, December 15, 2006

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Yup. It was going to be a fine morning. No meetings. Nothing big on the schedule. Good quiet time to think through and prepare the message for our Sunday Morning Youth Gathering (SMYG). And then Alexey says, "Dad, the Christmas tree fell down."

I walked into the "Christmas Tree Room" and saw this.
Of course when I shared this story with Kimpa she had to ask the question: "Did you know it was going to fall down?"
Well...truth be told...over the past couple of days I would look at the tree and think: "Is it leaning a little to the left?'s just the way the branches look. I'm sure it's fine. It must be my imagination."
Obviously, it wasn't my imagination. *sigh*

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I've just been diagnosed with diabetes.

This creates some interesting ponderings when put into the context of the conversation I had with God about my needing to "Clear The Temple" about a year ago. Maybe if I had followed His leadings back then I could have avoided this diagnosis now.

Anyway - I can only go forward from here. The good news is that I have been consistent with my exercising for the past 3 weeks (and Drew is still checking in with me!). The biggest challenge now will be diet. I've got some reading to do to figure out what the best "diabetic" diet is - what to avoid (sugar/starches?) and what to lean more toward. Luckily, I'm not a huge fan of sweets.

I'm already noticing that my mind is craving some things I shouldn't eat - I think simply because I know I shouldn't eat them, not because it is a food I absolutely adore. I find this interesting as well. Why is it that when we are given so much abundance in our choices we focus on the ones that come with the words "anything but that." Maybe this is how Adam/Eve felt (fell?) in the garden.

So some lifestyle changes are required. Diet and exercise. And maybe better listening skills and follow through when God nudges me.

Of course I'm off to breakfast with friends going to the Original Pancake House this morning! Here is a picture of their famous apple pancake. Lord, give me strength...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Listening in....

Bits and pieces of conversations i hear around me as I hang out at Bruegger's Bagels....

"I need help!"

"I smelled great!"

"Would you say that is a flat trend, diminishing trend, or something else?"

"The next day they had lights on their porches, too."

"Can I stall?"

"She is so crabby right now. It is hard being around negative get sucked down."

Hmmm. Makes me wonder what God thinks as he listens in on my conversations during the day. The good/bad news is that He hears the whole thing in context - both comforting and scary at the same time!

Regardless - I'm glad He cares enough to listen.....and to speak.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Christmas Story

During our weekly small group gathering at our home, we took some time to share our fave childhood Christmas stories. Here's mine.

When I was a kid, our Christmas Eve tradition was to go for a drive and look for Rudolph. Mom, Dad, myself and my two brothers would all pile in the car and drive aimlessly around looking for Rudolph's red nose up in the air. Of course, we spotted him numerous times - my parents seemed to have an especially keen eye for spotting Rudoph. There would be screams of "I see him!" "There he is!" "He must be getting close to our house!" Since Rudoph was obviously cruising the neighborhood we were very excited then to return home and see if Santa had visited yet. Of course, before leaving on our adventure in the car we had left cookies and milk out for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. Magically, every Christmas Eve, when we returned home from our drive there would be presents under the tree, the milk and cookies would be partially eaten, and a few good nibbles were gone from the carrot!

Well, the brothers and I got tired of always missing Santa so we convinced our parents that we should stay home on Christmas Eve and wait for Santa to arrive. So on Christmas eve, as we were sitting around the dinner table we suddenly heard the sound of reindoor hooves and bells jingling!! My dad says, "Quick, let's go outside and see Santa and his reindeer - they must have just landed!" We go sprinting outside and look up to see......nothing! My Dad yells - "We must have just missed him, I bet he's in the house!" We all go tearing back into the house and my mom is there waiting exclaiming, "Ahh, you just missed him!"

And there were the presents - under the tree!

In a child's mind - it was magical. And was probably the reason I believed in Santa until I was....well....let's just say I hung on for awhile!

Good times.

(For those of you wondering - my dad had rigged a rope that went up through the chimney and attached to some old boots and jingle bells. When my mom had gotten up to get "something from the kitchen" during dinner she yanked it.....and the rest as they history!)

If you love penguins....

you might want to skip this game.

Otherwise, my best was 320.5. What's yours?

Warning: This game is addictive and a TOTAL waste of time. Sort of like 24.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Do you have "the word"?

We were traveling in the car somewhere, my family of five and I, along with Alexey's best friend Peter. I'm driving and most likely pondering the to-do list for the next youth event at church (or NOT!) when from the back seat my son Alexey calls to me, "Hey, Dad!" Being the good dad that I am I respond with, "What?" And with that comes hysterical laughter from two 8 y.o. boys along with screams of "You've got the word!"

"THE WORD" Have you ever played the "You've got the word!" game? The object, at least in the example above, is to get someone in your vicinity to say the word "what" - thus subjecting them to laughter and embarrassment until they can make someone else say the word and thus alleviating this almost unbearable burden of being stuck with "the word".

Did I mention that I hate the word game?

I was thinking about "the word game" as I was teaching last Sunday.

We were looking at the story of Joseph and Mary's encounter with Simeon and Anna at the temple. I was focusing on how all of them had gotten "a word" from God. We talked about the story a bit and then we talked about the words associated with Advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. We spent some time pondering what each word might mean for us this season. Then we had a time of prayer - lighting the Advent candle and then listening for what "word" God wanted each of us to hear during this season of advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, or Love. I had made some cards with each word on it, a scripture verse and then a prayer that turned that verse into a prayer back to God and encouraged the kids to personalize it as much as possible as they prayed back to God, a prayer based on the word they felt they were being led to.

Maybe there is a word I need to be "stuck" with this season.

Maybe, if I listen a little closer, I will hear God saying, "Hey, Dave!" And I will respond.

Of course, God is hoping we all get stuck with "the word".

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The loss of "childlike" faith

Here is an interesting article about how "Tweens are becoming the new Teens". Not earth shattering and certainly something most people working with kids have noted, myself included.
But as I've been pondering what it means to have a childlike faith, this article struck me from a theological perspective....which is rare for me - I'm not a big theological type thinker.

The reasons stated in the article for changes both physical, emotional, and behavioral were related to diet, obesity, and exposure to more "adult" themes at earlier ages - mainly through media. Yeah, I can see that.

But then I think of the many times Jesus spoke of children and faith:

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Mt 11:25-26

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." Mt 18:3-5

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Mt 19:14

It makes we wonder if one of the reasons "tweens are becoming the new teens" is that they are being exposed to sin at an earlier age than ever before. And as their eyes, ears, brains, senses are "marinated" in culture - they are losing not just their childhood sooner but their childlike faith - and how this must break Jesus' heart in some ways.

It also makes we wonder what my response should be as a "youth guy" - hoping to create an environment to allow childlike faith to blossom, occur, recur, or ???? in our gatherings and in the relationships we strive to form with and among the kids we are entrusted with.

It brings up a lot of other questions in my mind as well. But those I'll ponder in my heart for a while longer before (if?) I share them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Lap, Dance, Grumpy

Yeah, maybe that title is a cheap way to get your attention....but it worked didn't it? Stay with me....I might pull it together! (But grab a cup of java first....this is a long one!)

I've been stuck on the phrase "child-like faith" the past couple of days. It has been rolling around in my head. As I've been pondering that phrase and I've been watching how my son, Alexey (8 y.o.) explores the world, I've been struck by a couple of things.


Alexey naturally desires to spend "snuggle" time with mom/dad.

At night, when we put Alexey to bed, he loves it when I lay next to him (or sometimes on him!) and tell him a story, sing a "silly song", or read to him. I've decided it isn't so much about the story, song, or book as much as it is about having something that makes the "snuggle" time last longer. When I am putting Alexey to bed we'll snuggle and do a story/song, then I get up and get him a drink of water. That is usually when he says, "I wish Mom was putting me to bed. She will lay down with me after I drink my water." Alexey can't get enough snuggle time.

Alexey is also in the habit of seeking me out in the morning after he wakes up (he usually finds me typing random thoughts on the computer!) and will ask, "Can we sit on the couch?" And we will go and I will hold him on my lap and we'll just sit....Alexey resting on my lap and snuggling in. Not saying a lot. Just enjoying each other's presence.

As he is getting older these times of snuggling and sitting on my lap are gradually decreasing. Some would say this is "natural". Yeah, maybe. Maybe the natural way of the world. But is it right?

The sad part is, as I reflect on this, the decrease in time spent "resting together" is not because of changes in Alexey's wants/needs as much as it is about changes in me. Being too stressed out and/or busy - worrying more about getting Alexey to bed so I can finish watching a TV show, or read a book, or prepare for youth group - than honoring his desire for "snuggling" - resting with me. Same thing in the mornings. More and more often I'm busy on the computer, doing some laundry, writing my list of things to get done for the day - instead of welcoming Alexey onto my lap to just sit and rest in each other's presence.

Am I training my son to lose this desire to spend time with his Father? Was I trained that way?
Is that why I struggle with spending time with God? Is that why it so often seems to be a discipline rather than a desire? Am I trying to reclaim a desire that was trained out of me? I don't want to be the one that takes away my son's childlike faith. I want to be the one that nurtures it. I want him to always have the desire to rest in his Father's presence - to rest with God, enjoying each other's presence.

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me. Matthew 18:2-5


A couple of days ago, Alexey was dancing around the living room (which he is prone to do!) as he listened to a Mercy Me CD. He was jumping, moving, twisting with his hands in the air. As he was dancing he started to take off his shirt. When I asked him what he was doing he said, "I was going to take off my shirt and then jump into the crowd! That's what rock stars do!" Complete, childlike abandon. How cool. How unlike myself - me wondering if people are staring as I raise my hands in praise - and definitely not thinking that my clothes are getting in the way of worship - but maybe they are? Hmmm.......

Our family is going to the Michael W. Smith Christmas concert this weekend and as Alexey and I were talking about it he said, "Michael W. Smith won't be taking off his shirt and jumping into the crowd." Wow. Somehow, he has already "framed" his thoughts about how to "behave" during various concerts. Why don't I praise with the abandon that is demonstrated by kids/youth as a rock concert? What am I training my child up to learn? Am I nurturing his spiritual growth or stifling it? Lord, I need your help.

When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, "Hosanna to David's Son!" they were up in arms and took him to task. "Do you hear what these children are saying?"
Jesus said, "Yes, I hear them. And haven't you read in God's Word, 'From the mouths of children and babies I'll furnish a place of praise'?" Matthew 21:15-16


The other night I was exuding all of the bad characteristics that I just mentioned. Now, I don't get grumpy often (my wife claims I only lose it about 4 times a year!) - but the other night everything was bugging me. I was feeling sorry for myself because the house was a mess and I didn't think the family was helping enough to pick stuff up. Alexey was irritating me because he kept randomly breaking out into song/dance while we were playing a game. It was a great pity party. And of course, my mood ended up making everyone uncomfortable. It was horrible. And it was my fault. I couldn't get to the place wher I could enjoy playing a game with my family, watching my child dance and sing just for fun, because I was focused on myself. I was about as far from a child-like faith as I could get. Shame on me. God forgive me - and I hope my family does as well.
People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Luke 18:15-17