Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The following post does not necessarily reflect the views of the leadership, staff, and congregation of my church, nor of the conservative, Christian, evangelical community in whole and in part.

In other words, I'm about to "step in it."

I have no problems with the expression "Happy Holidays." And I really don't think a lot of people have a problem with "Merry Christmas" either. I do think, however, that by making these expressions the nexus of the so-called "war on Christmas," we are missing the entire point.

Why do people say "Happy Holidays?" While I'm sure someone has a sinister motive and I'm sure some (especially in the retail industry) have a desire not to offend potential customers, I think most people say "Happy Holidays" out of a sincere expression of peace and goodwill. In this increasingly hard-edged, selfish, and cynical society, it feels good to have someone take the time and wish me well. Why squelch that by rebuking the greeter?

Why do people say "Merry Christmas?" For me (and many Christians), it is a theological statement, a way of saying, "Let's celebrate the fact that God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, came to earth as a baby, born of a biological virgin, lived a sinless life, died to pay the price for your sins and mine, and rose again on the third day, so that by trusting Him as your Lord and Savior, you can have everlasting life and a day to day relationship with Him, even as you look forward to His return!" For others, it's merely a nod to the "religious" nature of December 25. But I think a surprisingly large number of people say "Merry Christmas" for the same reason they say, "Happy Holidays": it's nice to say and it's nice to hear.

Puh-leese don't tag me with the label of "politically correct" (them's fightin' words, pard!). I think some of the things that schools, government institutions, and businesses do during December are silly and illogical. I don't know how many have nefarious motives, but a lot of them are just not thinking this through. Hanukkah is not the "Jewish Christmas." Thanksgiving and New Year are not Christmas. They put up all the decorations and trappings and lights of Christmas, then stick up a banner that says "Happy Holidays." As the governor of one state responded to the move to call the state "Christmas tree" a "Holiday Tree": "what other holidays celebrate using a decorated fir tree?" With prolonged use, the whole political correct thing collapses under its own weight.

But I think by insisting that folks utter "Merry Christmas", we are imposing a kind of "Christian political correctness" on the landscape. We gladly proclaim the "Reason for the season", but we must not forget that the Reason goes a lot deeper than a greeting. There is a war, but it's a war on Christ Himself, not just His birth. It's a war that is fought every single day in the hearts and minds of human beings. It is a war in which Jesus is the ultimate victor and in which one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). And that is greater than any mere December greeting.

Happy Holidays
(yeah, I said it).

Monday, December 19, 2011


Effective December 31 (my birthday, by the way!), after 15 years of service, I will no longer be the children's pastor at my church.

To say I have mixed emotions is like saying Shakespeare was a good writer. It is the epitome of understatements. On the one hand (trying to look for silver linings here!), there is less on my plate now, freeing me to finish some other projects in the church office (I'm employed as the administrative assistant for the church. I did the whole children's ministry gig for free), giving me a little more couple time with my wife or releasing me to get some badly needed yard work finished. Plus there's the whole lack of stress thing, which anybody in ministry can tell you is a part of the whole ministry package. Okay, silver linings, check.

But then there's the other side. How do I just walk away from something that has been life and passion for a decade and half (and actually longer, since I regularly did children's ministries in high school, college, and other churches before coming to this current situation)? "Building His Kingdom, Reaching His Kids" was the theme of the first Children's Pastor's Conference I attended, but it's also been a theme of this ministry. I sincerely, honestly, truly want kids to learn about Jesus and have tons of fun! Since I'm officially on the "older" side of the age scale, I've been impressed with the contagiousness of kids' energy. I don't know how to explain it, but for some reason, any aches, pains, and lack of energy vanish from the time I walk in the door to the time I leave. I'll be doing dance moves and goofy characters during the ministry time, only to feel like every bone in my body has been twisted out of shape when I leave. How can I leave a ministry that constantly demands the very best of my adaptability and creativity and gives me avenues to exercise and apply infectious joy? And then there's the smiles, the laughs, the tears, the high fives, handshakes, and hugs. Why am I leaving all that?

I will not bore or trouble you on a public blog with the internal matters of church politics and demographic targeting. Let me be general for a moment (understanding that nearly all churches encounter this with any ministry, not just kids): when the leadership of a church does not share or support the vision for children's ministry, there are few options left. Children's Ministry is a function of the local church and, as such, is under whatever board controls the vision and direction of that church. That's the way it is and that is the way it should be. That does not mean I agree with the specifics of the board's actions and reasonings. I have expressed the specifics to my pastor, but there are very few others with whom I will share the proverbial "nitty gritty." If you are local and curious, I will direct you to the elder board for their take. Causing a ruckus will serve no one.

So I'm resigning. I'll still be at my church for the foreseeable future as I'm still employed in the office. And just because I'm leaving my unpaid position does not mean I'm leaving "children's ministry." I will still be in San Diego for the 2012 Children's Pastors' Conference. I may even have time to blog more and share at least some of the thimble-full of knowledge and experience I may have gleaned over the last 15 years. I may make myself available once again for pulpit supply and guest speaking, seeing as my Sundays are not as tight as they once were. I don't know yet specifics yet, as I'm still in the praying, grieving, and "what's next" stage. But one thing that has been resounding around my brain is this: as important and integral as children's ministry is to my life, it is not God. Think about that--in whatever area of your life is important--that area is not God. God is God...and I serve Him.

Thank you for your prayers and support. And as rule #3 says in our Sunday morning kidmin: "Learn about Jesus and have tons of fun!"

Monday, December 12, 2011


Quick disclaimer: it would not surprise me in the least if someone else has already written on this; particularly those who are in the music field. I didn't do an exhaustive search for this theme, I just wrote what was on my mind at the time.

I love music and I love to sing and I know enough to distinguish good music from bad music (I know enough to know my own singing voice is highly untrained and undisicplined. In other words, no American Idol for me!). Within the whole allowance of personal taste and opinion, I can tell when a note is missed or a rhythym is out of place. I don't enjoy the kind of heavy metal screaming type of singing, but I can appreciate the guy who can play his guitar at a zillion miles per hour in something that resembles a melody. I have favorite songs in dozens of genres and styles. I love music.

One thing I love is a good, tight harmony. I just finished listening to Celtic Woman sing "Oh, Holy Night." Incredible. I enjoy the GoFish guys as they let loose with "Little Drummer Boy." Plug in some of the gospel quartets out there and you'll hear such a seamless blending of voices, it sends chills up and down your spine. I love great harmony.

You know what I like the most about harmony? If you listen to each individual voice, they're singing something different. Each voice is making a distinct sound. But put them all together and it sounds like one smooth voice singing the song.

But here's the part that gets me: next time you hear a really close harmony, notice that the voices sound like an unbelieveably rich single voice. But if you concentrate really hard, you can actually hear each individual voice come through. Distinct voices (I can almost hear them) blending together into one voice (I can hear it).

I got to thinking about the Trinity as I was listening to "Little Drummer Boy" by GoFish. Listen, there is not a single earthly illustration of the Trinity that can fully explain the Godhead, so please do not read too much detail into this. It's just that each Person of the Godhead is distinct, but are also, at the exact same time, one voice! Just like an incredibly tight harmony, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, but one.

Once again, don't take the illustration beyond where it is supposed to go. The theologian in me can already pick this apart. But the music lover in me is in awe.

Listen to the music and glorify God.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


What if you woke up one morning and there were no calendars? Why, how could you tell when it was....Christmas?

Do not despair, oh Gregorianally challenged friend, for I now bring you: The 7 Signs of the Holidays, in no particular order:

1. McDonald's eggnog shakes. Of course, these started earlier this year, but no problem...nothing says the holidays like a thick eggnog shake (minus the cherry).

2. The end of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Yup, when Santa rides in on that unbelievably tall float, it's time for the season to begin.

3. The Santa hat. I have a friend who wears a Santa hat and puts the image on Facebook. When I see that profile pic, I know that Christmas can't be far behind.

4. Activity begins at the Christmas light house. There's a house in town that decorates with spectacular music synchronized lighting. When I pass by and see extra people crawling on and around the building like industrious ants, I get excited because I know that the holiday season is getting close.

5. Steve's 25 Days of Christmas music. Mr. Steve Tanner, who must have enough vinyl in his record collection to supply protective gloves to every hospital on the eastern seaboard, shares a rarely heard Christmas offering every day. This year, in honor of his impending fatherhood, Steve presents Navidaddy. And the neat thing, it's free. Give it a listen here

6. Mannheim Steamroller. 'Nuff said

7. Christmas decorations in the stores. Now this one can get out of hand; I mean, who needs ornaments next to the Halloween masks? But I notice that each day the decorations get more and more pronounced, until after Thanksgiving when everything lights up! It's like a great big party (now if all the guests would just realize who the party is for!).