Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year in the Life

Let’s face it:

For many people, 2010 was a rotten year. It’s been a hard time in just about every way possible.

It is tempting to tell people to think about others in the world who are worse off than they are. And there is some merit in that. Perspective is good, and it can help us to be more thankful than we are. But it doesn’t pay a bill that there’s no money to pay for, and it doesn’t erase the emotional or physical pain that a lot of people have been through over the past year.

I am hoping and praying for something very simple: I’m hoping and praying for a better year this year.

Anybody with me on this one?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Don't Like Mondays Either

So. You ever have one of THOSE days?

Yesterday was a Monday. It was horrible. I was tired all day, feeling down and restless. My mind was wandering all over the place. Erratic.

I tried to work on some music, to distract me from myself, but everything went wrong. Everything. Something happened that messed up all the files, literally ruined the mixes of all the songs I’ve been working on for over a year. It was madness. I was starting to panic and I had no idea what to do.

So I did what I do when I don’t know what to do.

I prayed.

Then I called my friend Tom.

Tom fixed my songs. Tom was patient with me. Tom was kind. It took a lot of time that I know he doesn’t really have. It was sacrificial. An act of grace.

He’s just that kind of guy.

I don’t know what I’d do without friends like Tom. I have some others like him too, who give and give to get me through. I don’t deserve them. I know it. I feel bad because there’s no way I’m as good a friend to any of them. I just do what I can and hope it’s enough. And remain thankful for my friends, who get me through.

Good friends do that, I guess. They get you through Mondays.

Let me just say: Thank you. You know who you are. All of you who help me get through Mondays, whatever day of the week they happen to happen.

Thank you.

Proverbs 17:17
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010


I’ve learned to be more careful over the years about making pronouncements about myself or my plans or what I think God is going to do. I’ve become wary of making declarations of intent, as if I need to tell people what I’m going to do or what God is going to do. My soul just cries out at me to shut up about it. Too much talk just complicates everything and brings out my foolishness. We think we have to proclaim our intent in order to accomplish it, but I’m not so sure about that.

Which goes against the grain in a world where we’re supposed to catch a “vision” and cast a “vision” and call people to do “great things.” We’re supposed to do this personally, and we’re supposed to do this as leaders if we’re in leadership positions.

Here’s a problem with all of that.

How do we define “success” or “great things” these days? That’s easy, right? Success = more. That’s really what it seems to come down to most, if not all, of the time.


People give lip service to other things but, let me tell you from experience, “more” is everything in this world. If you have more, then you are “successful” and admired. More money. More influence. More people showing up. More power. Whatever you have, what you need is more, more, more. If you get more or make more or do more, people will affirm that. They will be impressed. They will take it as evidence that you’re doing things right, and you will too, most likely.

Maybe you are. But maybe you aren’t.

It makes me wonder how many people are stuck in the middle of some grand vision, some quest for more, trapped like rats, knowing they are not ever going to be satisfied. Not really. So many people seem to have everything, but inside they are empty, starving for approval and affirmation. It’s like Kurt Cobain wrote in his suicide letter about his fame and success in Nirvana. He wrote, “I've tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do, God, believe me I do, but it's not enough).”

Do I really just want to lead people to more? Do I want my own life to be about this constant reaching and grasping?

I have been personally victimized by this idealization of “more.” Not that “more” has anything intrinsically wrong with it. More of the right things could be good, I suppose. "More" is not an evil concept in and of itself. It’s just what we do with it. It’s how we turn it into a little god to bow down to that I find disturbing.

This passage from the Bible has me thinking about these things: Ecclesiastes 5: 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.

And this one. Jesus said this: Matthew 5:37 Simply let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your`No,' `No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas: Anno Domini 2010

The reason we have Christmas to celebrate, instead of something else, is because we have sin that needs to be dealt with.

Sometimes you hear that Christians “stole” the holiday from pagans, which isn’t really true. When Christmas traditions first developed, they shared the stage with several different pagan celebration days that people took part in. But honoring the birth of Jesus simply became more important to people as time went by. It didn’t really matter if Jesus was actually born on December 25th or not. The point was the honor people wanted to show him.

I’m sure there were also leaders in the church, and probably in governments too, hoping to steer people away from some of the pagan days of feasting that caused a lot of trouble due to excess partying and craziness. But it was a progressive thing: people began trading away empty pagan celebrations, that were an excuse for sin, for a holy day that reminded them of how God worked to meet their needs. It’s sad that the opposite seems to be happening now: meaningful things being abandoned for pointless, empty things.

Some complain about it, but it’s really no surprise that people carried some of the old symbols into the new celebrations. They simply tried to redeem them, make them useful for the faith. After all, God is in the redemption business, isn’t he? In their simple ways, they were celebrating the truth that Jesus is God’s unique, one and only, way of dealing with our sin, like the Bible says in John 3:18:

John 3: 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

“Condemned already.” Look around at the world we live in – the funeral homes and the police blotters, the history of war and violence we have lived – and try to deny it. We can try to blame God, but God knows we’re the problem. And, like it or not, no one here gets out alive. So we really NEED that baby in a manger. We really need what he did for us on the Cross. Because God loves us, he has done what it takes to meet our need:

John 3: 16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

We didn’t deserve it, but God humbled himself to become one of us and die for us. We need Jesus to save us because we can’t save ourselves.

All glory be to his name.

Merry Christmas and...
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paranoid for the Holidays

I don’t really know why but, for some strange reason, lately I have this feeling that I’m being . . . observed.

It’s kind of freaking me out.

When I’m sleeping, somehow I feel like I’m being watched. And when I wake up, I just get this gnawing feeling that someone is keeping track of it, you know?

Yesterday I was driving in the car, and I let myself get, shall we say, a little bit aggressive. I know, I know: it was inexcusable. But I was by myself and you think you can get away with a little attitude when you’re by yourself. But, I felt like someone knew I was taking it too far.

It was just a feeling.

And so, for the sake of all that is good, and in order to try and reduce the feelings of being watched, I’m pledging myself to being, shall we say, “Good.” I will submit to my inner urge to, as they say, “watch out.” I will seriously try to refrain from crying. And pouting is completely out of the question.

At least until the day after Christmas, when I sense, for some unknown reason, I can go back to being a plain, normal, self-centered human being again.

Peace to you. Merry Christmas. And watch out for the guy in this picture. I hear he’s trouble...

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not What I Expected

When I was a kid, Christmas was a problem for me. I mean, it wasn’t just Christmas, but Christmas illustrates the problem.

I was one of those kids: I would build it up so much in my mind that when the actual day arrived, there was no way it could compete with the fantasy I had created. The food was good, but not quite as good as I had anticipated. The presents were great, but they never really satisfied like I thought they would. And if there was no snow, well, there you go. There’s nothing worse than a green Christmas.

In my own heart, this has been a thing I’ve had to deal with my whole life. I have a very good imagination. I can “envision” things. I can construct complex ideals in intricate ways within my heart. You might say I have big dreams. And I am surrounded by the phantoms of life, screaming with their common sense voices, “Wake up!”

Another example: One of the things that has kept me from recording music over the years is the fact that I have tried it and the results were always much less satisfying than the version I could hear in my head. I have now reached a point where I may be able to get something done right - we are at least trying - but I kind of worry about it in a way.

And it’s not just the music. I feel this way about a lot of things. The reality falls way short of the vision.

But it’s also true that, in some ways, life is much better than I ever expected. I never expected marriage to be such a great thing, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, apart from the work of God in my life. And I never had a single clue about what a joy being a dad would be. But it is revolutionary to the heart, soul and mind. I never thought about working in the Church for a living, not seriously. But that’s where I am and it is an honor every day.

In the end, I realize that my expectations are not the stuff of life. They can guide some of my decisions, but reality has a taste of mystery to it that I have had to learn to embrace because I can’t figure it out and I’m honestly getting tired of trying. The world inside my head does not define the world on the outside. And, while I don’t need to abandon my dreams, I do need to be sure I have a good and meaningful connection with what is real.

I can imagine a great Christmas, or a great whatever.

But simply enjoying the one I have can be a much better thing sometimes.

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Caroling With Dickens

I’ve been reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol again for the umpteenth time, and this book never gets old. Never. It’s a masterpiece, and Dickens himself was really happy with it. He paid a lot out of his own pocket to have it specially bound and illustrated, then he set the price really low so low income people could afford to buy a copy. Which means he made very little profit on the release.

But it was a passion for him because it was an expression of his heart.

When Dickens was twelve years old, his Dad and family were put into a debtors prison. Only young Charles avoided prison, because they put him to work in a factory that made boot polish. It was nasty work, especially for a twelve year old. But it gave Charles Dickens a compassion for the poor and for children that was rare in his lifetime.

Hard times really do shape our character.

There’s that scene early on in A Christmas Carol, where the man collecting for the poor is mistreated by Scrooge. They want a little donation from the skin flint, but he refuses, of course. And Scrooge tells them the poor will have to go to the “prisons” or the “workhouses” if they want help. So the man replies by saying, “'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.”

Here’s what I think: When Dickens wrote that, he knew what he was talking about. I think it’s how he felt about it. The shame and helplessness he had been through as a twelve year old boy was still with him. He had experienced true poverty first hand, and his response was great personal generosity to the poor and the broken, throughout the rest of his life.

What this makes me think of is the reality that empathy is often earned through hard times. Generosity is sometimes learned through poverty. It’s when we experience our own hard times that we learn how important it can be to show kindness to others.

At least, that’s my experience.

Bah, humbug?

Galatians 2:10
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Honest Christmas Carols

In keeping with the Scrooge mind-set I struggle with on occasion, I’m thinking of starting a new trend. You could call it “honest Christmas carols.” Perhaps you could think up a few too. See if you can figure out the melodies. They would go something like this:

I’ll have a bland Christmas with or without you
It’ll be so bland just doing what we always do
Decorations and food
Bought with money galore
It’s always the same dear
But we keep buying more

Or the should-be-a-perennial-classic:

Dashing through the snow
In a beat up Chevrolet
Through the slush we go
Sliding all the way
Horns are ‘bout to ring
Making people fight
Everybody’s going crazy
It just isn’t right
Push and shove
Push and shove
Your way to Christmas day
Hey, that parking spot is mine
So, get out of my way   hey!
Push and shove
Push and shove
Your way to Christmas day
Hey, that shopping cart is mine
So get out of my way!

And then there’s the simple but meaningful:

I want to wish you a nondescript holiday experience
I want to wish you a nondescript holiday experience
I want to wish you a nondescript holiday experience
From the bottom of my politically correct hearrrrrrrrrrrt!

Okay. I’ll go back to being merry and bright now.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Why does everyone want to hang out with the winning team?

If you’re on a winning team, and you’re a genuine part of their climb to “success,” then I get that. But if you’re just a groupie for the winning team? A Cheerleader? Hanging on the sidelines and watching from a distance: to me, that’s absolutely boring. You see a team is winning, so you want to be a part of it, vicariously. Why? So you can get in on the spoils?

I understand why people are attracted to the winners. It’s fun. It’s easy to be a groupie with the winners. You don’t even have to contribute to the victories. You can just feel good about yourself by being there for the win. Witnessing it. Feeling like you are a part of it, even though you really aren’t. So winners draw a crowd.

Have you considered how much more interesting and challenging it is to join with the underdog? To join with people who actually need you there? To be a part of a team that has somewhere to go besides down?

Sure, it can be a lonely, difficult business. And it certainly takes a lot more energy and commitment than hanging out on the sidelines with the winners. The groupies will accuse you of not caring about success. They’ll accuse you of not being serious enough or not passionate enough. You will be called a “loser” and it can make you question yourself. People will see you as “weak.” It goes with the territory.

But you will know better.

So, instead of spending so much time watching winning teams, maybe we should spend some time working with losing teams. Making a difference. Learning wisdom and compassion by living to build others up according to their need.

Please understand: the winners don’t really need you. At least not as much as the rest of us do.

Matthew 9: 11-13; 1 Corinthians 1: 27-31
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Well. The outside Christmas decorations are finally up. Got the lights on the bushes and the blow up thingie blown up and the trim around the door and all that. Christmas kitsch is alive and well.

Wasn’t sure I’d get the outdoor stuff up this year. There have been a few years where things were so nutty that I just never got to it, which disappoints the wife and kids. But I took Nike’s advice. I just did it.

I really enjoy the decorations that people put out on their lawns at Christmas, even though, if we’re honest about it, we’d have to admit that 99.9% of all the decorations are pretty horrid. I’m with the horrid crowd myself: Slapped together hodgepodges of this that and the other thing. Even in the big fancy neighborhoods, where people have enough money to do a coordinated decorating extravaganza, most people just put up whatever they saw in the store that they thought was cool at the time.

One thing that makes it a challenge is that if the stores end up stocking some decoration that happens to be really nice, and not overly priced, then EVERYONE buys the same thing and you see it all over town.


I like the decorations. I like that people take the time to put them up. And some of the most horrible decorations are the most fun to look at. I love it when people go crazy and make their yard look like some kind of deranged Christmas circus. I wouldn’t want to live next door to them, but I like the drive by. Some streets absolutely glow as you turn onto them because they have so many decorations.

At our house, we take advantage of the spectacle: It makes for a good trip through the neighborhood every year with the family. A very cheap night out “on the town.” We pick a night, and we drive slowly from street to street for a few hours, listening to Christmas music, eating some unhealthy fast food drive through grub and talk about, you know, stuff.

It’s a family tradition. I highly recommend it. And you can’t beat the price.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010



My youngest progeny is turning seven. She’s having a great time with it. One of her favorite gifts so far is an Elvis Jukebox ornament that plays the first section of “Blue Christmas.” We’ve been listening to it all morning. All. Morning. I will officially be sick of it in about fifteen seconds from now...

Yep. I'm there.

This daughter was our “Christmas Baby.” She is a kid's kid. She loves to play. She has a great nature about her. She likes to joke and have fun. She forgives quickly and loves to give hugs. She's really a joy to be around, unless you’re trying to brush her hair when it’s all tangled and messed up. This is when she turns into an irrational and whiny shadow of her former kinder, gentler self.

She’s got a lot of kid time left, and I treasure every minute of it, but we understand the reality that when this child leaves her childhood behind, our whole household leaves it behind (Until grand-kids, that is. Yikes.). She’s the end of the line. Which is bittersweet.

That word, “bittersweet,” really describes how I’m feeling lately.

I’m not having a blue Christmas, but I am having a bittersweet one so far. It’s like a birthday where too many people at the party are hurting and having a hard time. You want to have fun, but the mood isn’t right. As Dickens said, Christmas is a time “when want is more keenly felt.” I deal with a lot of hurting people, and it just gets to me sometimes.

I’m working hard, for myself and my church, to remember the holiness of this Holy Day and the season that leads up to it. What really sets it apart isn’t all the stuff we hang on it, like cheap ornaments on a beautiful tree. What really sets it apart, makes it holy, is what God has done in Christ.

I actually enjoy a lot of the kitschy elements of Christmas time. I like the lights and the gifts, the TV specials and the songs and the whole thing. Still, because I’m tired and worn, there are times when the whole thing seems tired and worn. And I don’t blame the kitsch. I know it’s my heart that is the issue. How I feel during the holidays is usually about how I feel going into them. All that’s happening is that my heart is being exposed to me. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

A bittersweet Christmas can be good for the soul. When I feel this way, I find myself a little more sensitive to the people around me who are hurting. And it helps me to remember that, while the kitsch is fun, it’s not the point.

As always, with all things, at all times: Jesus is the point.

Colossians 3:11
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010