Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sometimes I Hate the Christmas Season

If you've read any of my posts for the past couple of weeks you might sense a theme about me not liking Christmas. Before you get all in a huff (because I know that some of you are very big "huff-get-inners"), note that I didn't say I hate Christmas, because I don't. I love Christmas.  I sometimes hate the Christmas season...

December is always a hectic month for a church. There are roughly 3400 different things going on. If you ask any pastor what it's like in December you'll most likely get a sigh or a shudder. A lot of work goes into the Christmas season. It is mentally draining for almost every pastor.

Then there is the whole buying presents thing.  That's a lot of pressure. I mean have you ever bought stuff for a woman? Ladies have it easy. All you have to do is buy a guy food, a video game, or a tool. Pick one. We're happy with each of them. Buying for a woman is much harder. I once bought a complete outfit for my wife (then girlfriend) for Christmas. Dress, shoes, jewelry. Every single piece of it went back. I have not bought her clothes since. There's a lot of pressure in getting just the right gift. Putting enough thought into it. Making sure she doesn't already own it. Making sure that it doesn't somehow insult her. (hello cooking/cleaning/x-large items)....I mean it seriously seemed like a good idea.  Just a lot more stress in December.

Then there is visiting with family. Don't get me wrong, I love visiting my family. In fact one of the best parts of November-December is that I get to see my family more than usual which is awesome. But you then have to add packing and traveling. More time and more stress (again worth it to see my family!).

Don't forget about traffic everywhere! Since people are out of work and school they are out and about which means that there is traffic. It doesn't matter if you are in your car, at the mall, or even going to get a bite to eat. People are out and about and it adds waiting time and noise to everywhere you go.

That's where it bugs me the most. Noise. Noise everywhere. Distractions. Traffic. Parties. Services. Traveling.

It's all noise.

And all of that noise blocks out one thing. Jesus.

Isn't it ironic that the reason that we do all of this extra stuff in December is blocked out by the stuff that we are doing?

Some people say that Santa Claus takes Christ away from Christmas. I'd challenge that notion. I think that Christmas itself has started to take Christ away.

With everything that goes on in the month of December, I hear people say this: "I can't believe it's Christmas Eve already!"  "I feel like I've been running non-stop."  "I'm exhausted."  "I can't wait for Christmas to be over."  I've heard all of those, multiple times.

Is this what God wants of us?  To work so hard at shopping, and decorating, and socializing that we are exhausted when it comes time to celebrate the birth of our Savior?

I mean if I were God (and let's all thank God that I'm not!), I would have to respond, "Wow, I'm so sorry that the birth of my son, who ultimately died for you, is an inconvenience to you."  I'd be a sarcastic God (again, we're glad that I'm just Jon).

I write all this because every year I get to Christmas Eve and realize that I haven't really given much thought to Christ. So I take a little time and get by myself and sit and think through the fact that God came to Earth as a baby just to save a sinner like me. It's really a humbling thought if you think about it. But it re-centers me on what this celebration is all about. It's about God stooping down to rescue his children.

It's about Peace. Joy. Love. Hope.

Do yourself a favor this week. Take some time to be by yourself and think through Christmas. It might be the best thing you do all year.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the Season pt 3 - Elf on the Shelf

So a couple of weeks ago I went to a Christmas party for my Sunday school class. I was standing around enjoying a plate full of deliciousness when I felt someone watching me. I looked to the left. Nothing. I looked to the right. Nothing. I continued my conversation but I couldn't shake that feeling that someone was watching me. 

Then I saw him. 

The Elf.....on the Shelf.  (or more accurately, on the refrigerator)

I'm just finding out about the new Christmas phenomena called "Elf on the Shelf." You might be saying, "Jon, I know not of what you speak."  That's not surprising. Elf on the Shelf is something that is gaining momentum every year. If you have never heard of this growing trend let me explain it to you. Let's go way back.

You know the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"? (not the Bruce Springsteen version, shudder.) What are the lyrics to that song? "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake..."

But how does Santa see you and know when you've been bad or good? Enter the Elf on the Shelf. The Elf hangs out at your house and watches you. Then every night he flies back to the North Pole to tell Santa what you've been up to. Then he flies back every morning and lands in a new place in your house. Each morning you are supposed to go on a search to find where the Elf has landed.

As you might have guessed I have some thoughts about this...

1.  Does anyone find this creepy? - I mean the idea that there is an elf watching my every move is a bit alarming.  I mean what happens if the Elf inadvertently flies and lands on the shelf in the bathroom. That's just awkward.

2. What's considered naughty? - We all know that presents are what are driving this whole naughty/nice thing. If we're naughty we get less. But what is considered naughty? I'm sure hitting my sister when I was a kid was naughty, but what if it's something less.  What if I had a problem picking my nose and flicking it on the carpet? (uh... hypothetically, of course) Is that considered naughty? What if I picked the lock to my sister's diary? (again... hypothetically)  I mean the Elf on the Shelf wouldn't report that, would he?

3. Is Santa part of the CIA? - When did Santa get into the surveillance world? I thought he kept eyes on us through some sort of Christmas magic. It turns out he has a whole host of agent elves reporting back to him. I feel like the elves should all be wearing black suits with those little ear pieces like CIA agents wear in the movies. I think that this might be the next step in fighting the war on terror. I mean who can resist the little elf sitting there and staring at them....nope, not even terrorists. 

4. I just had a flashback to 1984 - Not the year. No one wants to flashback to the actual 1984. Besides, I was 3 and couldn't remember anything. I'm talking about the book "1984." If you haven't read it, pretty much the government watches EVERY part of your life. If you say or do anything contrary to the government you are "brought in" to be re-educated. I can just see it now.

Kid -"You know this whole Santa thing is a joke. I'm not sure if I believe anymore."
Elf- "That's it, you're coming with me kid. No one calls the big man a 'joke!'"
Kid - "I didn't mean it, I'm sorry!"
Elf - "It's too late. Repeat after me. "I love BIG SANTA"  
(If you haven't read 1984, this whole reference is lost on you. I'm sorry)

5. We tend to see God like Elf on the Shelf. - I'll be writing on this early next week. Then I'll link to it so you can see what I mean.

So what are your thoughts when it comes to Elf on the Shelf?
Good? Creepy?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tis the Season pt 2 - More of the Worst Christmas Songs Ever.

Ok, so these posts are never as popular as the original. In fact, the first post in the Tis The Season series was the most popular post on this blog...ever

But the fact is that after last Friday, almost every conversation I had included the phrase..."you know what other song is terrible??"  So I thought I would include some more of the worst Christmas songs ever.

1. Baby It's Cold Outside- Now I hate that this song made the list because I love it. In fact whenever I hear it I think of the movie "Elf" which is hilarious.  But the truth of the matter is that this song is just a guys attempt to get a girl to spend the night. She's all like, " I gotta go, my mom and dad are gonna be freaking out." Does he care? No. His response, "It's cold outside." I mean really, I have heard some lame lines from guys but, "it's cold outside?" I mean how cold does it have to be to keep her from going home? this isn't Antarctica. And her car should have anti-freeze. Of course she probably can't drive because he's already spiked her drink in the song....So help me I'm already talking Kate through this one....but I digress.

2. All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth-  I was at a restaurant the other day and the original version of this song came on. You know it's sung by a little boy (or by some 43 year old guy named Carl who can make little kid voices.) ...And he whistles every time he says Merry Christmas. It was the most annoying thing I've ever heard. I've never wanted to punch a little kid in the face so badly. Can I say that? I think that might be in the pastor handbook somewhere. Anyways, that song is terrible....I bet he got his teeth knocked out in the first place.

3. Little Saint Nick-  I love the beach boys. My first two tapes (remember tapes?) were the Beach Boys. Before that we owned the records (Remember records?...for my students, records existed before 8 track.....which existed before....nevermind) It would otherwise be an ok song....except for one line. "Christmas Comes this Time Each Year"  What??? Christmas comes this time each year? What is the purpose of that line? Were people forgetting? Were people saying, "Hey it's the winter solstice time, something else happens this time of year, yet I can't remember what it is....OH IT'S CHRISTMAS! Thanks Beach Boys!

4. Dominic The Italian Christmas Donkey -  Never heard of this song? Yeah I hadn't either. It's only been around roughly 50 years.  Apparently in Italy, Santa uses a donkey to pull his sled instead of reign deer. I'm not trying to be mean, but this song sounds like something someone would write when they are with a group of friend and under the influence of.....certain substances. On the lighter side, a friend of mine's sister heard the song on the radio and thought it said "it's time to kiss the donkey". That would make for an interesting tradition.

5. Blue Christmas by Porky Pig - Call me Captain Sensitive but I don't like laughing at people with speech impediments.  When someone suggested this song I looked it up on Youtube. While poor Porky Pig (say that 5 times fast) was singing there was someone laughing in the background. I mean really, can't you have some decency? First off this poor Pig is butchering a classic song and you're laughing at his stutter! Don't be surprised if we find you on Karaoke Night and laugh at your rendition of Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now"...

6. Feels Like Christmas - Cyndi Lauper - I had never heard of this song either. (mostly because I blocked out the 80's.) So I checked it out on Youtube and found a live version from a talk show performance. I can safely say the only words I understood where "feels like Christmas". For all I know, the rest of the song consist of Cyndi singing the recipe for making fruit cake. No one knows.

Honorable Mention -
  Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney - horrible display of 80's synthesizers and repetition.
  I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas - I want a group of songs that don't ask for random stuff.

Well that's that. I realized afterward that I was a bit more cynical and mean in this version. It's probably because I spent half the night with my hand down a garbage disposal, but that's another story.

Join us next week when we take a look at the Elf on The Shelf.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

God told me to.

A friend of mine posted a status on Facebook that caught my attention. It was a conversation between her and her daughter.

Mom: What made you think to make a sand angel last night?
Daughter: God. He told me to, he thought it would be funny. He laughed. 
Mom: Being 3 is so awesome!
This is such a cute conversation. There is something about a little kid's innocence that adds a layer of sweet to everything. 
But this little conversation got me thinking about people who say, "God told me to."
 In fact my first comment on her post was..."It's not so cute when they are 13, is it?" 
Yeah I know, I totally killed the moment.  There reaches an age when hearing someone say the phrase "God told me to." causes you to first think, "Wait a minute, is this person crazy?" 
 I think that happens after puberty. Puberty screws a lot of things up. 
But have you ever heard someone say that phrase? You can't tell me that you haven't thought in the back of your mind, "I wonder where the closest exit is."
Why is that?  Why do we get so weirded out by the thought that God has told someone to do that? I have a couple of ideas.
1. Crazy people really do exist- Last month an actor from the t.v show Ugly Betty killed his mother with a samurai sword because God told him to kill the demon inside her......oooookkkkk that's creepy. In fact it seems that the only time God gets major publicity for something is when someone crazy says it. Sidenote:  Why do crazy people get so much publicity?
2. It's hard to prove otherwise.- I mean anyone can say "God told me" about anything and you can't really argue with them. Why did you buy a Justin Bieber cd?  God told me to....really? I mean in my imagination I picture God having much better musical talent than a 12 year old with the same hair as Tom Brady, but who am I to say that it didn't happen? I know that God won't tell you to sin so that limits things. Is buying a Justin Bieber cd a sin?
"I need more product!"
3. Because T.V. preachers say that God is telling you to give them money- Let's be honest. It cost a lot to have this hair. It takes a ton of product to defy the laws of physics and have this stay in place...but really, televangelists have been giving God a bad name for a long time. I've heard multiple televangelists say that God is calling people to give them money for His glory only to later learn that the money was spent on an airplane. If you want to glorify God, you can fly coach with the rest of us. Although I might hope that God tells my 7 month old to throw up on you.
4. If you hear from God, there's a chance He wants to talk to me too- I think that this is a fear of a lot of people. If God told you to do something, then He might tell me to do something too. What if He tells me I have to give up my stuff? What if He tells me I have to move to Africa? What if He tells me to take up my cross and follow Him? That's hard. Really hard. I think a lot of people don't want to admit that others hear from God because they fear that God might tell them something they don't want to hear. 
 Have you ever heard from God? 
Did people think you were crazy?
Drop a comment below. (I turned off moderation so it should appear immediately!) 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tis the Season pt 1 (worst Christmas songs ever)

Since it's  December we can now turn our attention to Christmas. You're welcome Pilgrims. So each week I'll be writing a post about Christmas called "Tis The Season".

If there is anything that drives me nuts it's listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. In fact we I have a rule in our house that you can't listen until Turkey Day is over. (Mollie listens to it all day on Black Friday. I think it's to get back to me.)

Honestly, I don't really like Christmas music. I like some songs but by the time Christmas rolls around I've heard each of them roughly 47,000 times. Lately as we've been listening to the holiday station on XM radio something unspeakable happens. The channel plays a series of terrible songs consecutively. That's right. It's a block of crappy Christmas music. So today I present to you the 10 worst Christmas Songs ever. (at least in my opinion)

1. Last Christmas - So last Christmas a guy gave his heart to a girl and she dumped him after a day. I'm still trying to figure out how this one night stand relates to Christmas other than the time of year that it happened. I just know we've heard this sung by the cast of Glee, Ashley Tisdale, and Taylor Swift already this year...ugh.

2. Little Drummer Boy(mollie's choice)- I asked Mollie why this was on the list. "It's stupid. Pa rum pa pum pum??? There wasn't even a drummer there. It's dumb...and it's annoying...and I didn't get any sleep last night. (perhaps I asked her at a bad time)

3. Christmas Shoes- I understand that this song is liked by a lot of people. It's sweet that the boy wants to buy a gift for his mom before she dies, but it's sooo stinking depressing. Somehow this song is always played right after Holly Jolly Christmas. It's like going from 60mph to Zero on the Jollyness scale.

4. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - The Bruce Springsteen Version - It's live so I'll give him credit for that but it sounds like he drank an entire bottle of drain-o before singing it. It almost sounds like a warning as if Santa coming to town was similar to the redcoats advancing on the colonies.

5.  Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer- I mean really, who dislikes their grandma enough to enjoy this song. You should be ashamed.

6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus -  Imagine a kid who actually saw his mom kissing Santa Claus. That kid is definitely going to have some issues when he grows up. Two words: Emotional Therapy.

7. Santa Baby - Essentially a spoiled woman flirts with Santa in order to get whatever she wants. I heard that the Madonna version was particularly bad. I'm going to look it up on YouTube...... I can't even think of words to describe that.

8.  Feliz Navidad -  I get a lot of complaints about including this one. My question to those people is always, have you listened to the full version at just over 7 minutes?  it goes through the verse and chorus about 97 times.

9. All I Want for Christmas is You -  If a woman said that to me, I probably wouldn't believe it. Really? that's all you want? As a guy that puts us in an awkward place. I mean I should really say it back to you but I really want a Xbox too.  I guess that "All I want for Christmas is a Xbox and You" is not a catchy title. And there is a good chance that if you say that to a woman you probably won't be getting either for Christmas.

10. Oh Holy Night - The Bad Version -  I love the song Oh Holy Night but the following version is terrible. I mean TERRIBLE. I once played it in a church office and the secretaries came running because they thought that someone was hurt. Check it out. You'll see what I mean. (props if you can sit through the whole thing)

Do you agree with any of my choices?
Do you have any choices you would like to add?
Comment Below.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You're a Jerk......I'm Just Sayin'

Seriously, you're a jerk. I think you are a terrible person. In fact I would rather have dental surgery while listening to Brittany Spears cover music from the 80's (shudder).....You're a jerk......I'm just sayin'.

If you aren't familiar with the phrase "I'm just sayin' " (there is no G at the end), it's something that has crept into the vernacular of teenagers and young adults over the past couple of years.  The phrase acts as a disclaimer. Here's an example:
"You smell like my feet....I'm just sayin' "  Let me translate.  "I think you smell bad but it's not socially acceptable to say such a horrible thing to your face. So I will say it and add these three words to the end and it will absolve me of any wrong doing."

You see what I did there?  By adding the phrase, '" I'm just sayin' " to the end of a sentence I can say anything. I can be as mean as I want but because of my disclaimer it's all ok.

I can destroy your feelings and your self worth. I can tell you that I haven't liked you since the 3rd grade when you sat next to that girl Samantha whom I liked. Seriously man, you knew I LIKED HER! But that's ok, because now I can publicly humiliate you and not worry about it thanks to 3 little words.

Man life is freeing now. I don't have to worry about anything. In fact I think I might go tell my boss what I think of him....I'm just sayin'.

I can tell the slow woman at Chick Fil A that she needs to order a number one and move along....I'm just sayin'.

I can tell the police officer who pulled me over for speeding that he looked fat in his uniform...I'm just sayin'.

I can tell the judge that he bangs his gavel like a little girl...I'm just sayin'.

I can tell my cell mate that his tattoo looks like a blind man did it....I'm just sayin'.

Ok so that's a little much but the truth is that I've seen people say things that they would never say otherwise and mask it with the phrase I'm just sayin'. 

How is it that we've gotten to the point where we can openly be so mean to each other. Take a few minutes and think about your interaction with others. How do you treat people with your words?

Here's the deal. If you are someone who is recklessly mean to others......

You're a jerk....I'm just sayin'

Think about it.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

my 15 milliseconds of fame

Yeah I'm in a movie. That's right. I know what you are thinking. How are you so lucky to read the blog of a movie star? I don't know really. I guess you're lucky. That's right. My movie premiered last night on....*cough* Lifetime *cough* ...ok so yeah, I was in a Lifetime movie. Not even a real part either. I was an extra.

You know you are a closet Garth Brooks Fan.
Lifetime was filming a movie called Unanswered Prayers that was based on a Garth Brooks song. So I have two strikes against me. It's on the Lifetime network and it's based on a Garth Brooks song. My mother-in-law suggested we go check it out. So we went.

It was cool. Lots of cameras. Guys yelling things at people. And repetition. Lots of repetition.We were filming a football scene. 5 plays took 7 hours to film.  But it was still exciting to be a part of something bigger than my everyday life. During filming my mother-in-law and I were even moved down to the field to be filmed next to the action. We were definitely going to be on camera. In fact one of the production assistants came to move us a couple of feet to the side because we were blocking the person who was to be in the shot. WE ARE DEFINITELY going to be on screen. Get ready Hollywood, here we come!

Last night my big premiere was on tv. My big scene was in the first 3 minutes. They started showing the first clip that we filmed. It was the one where we were on the sideline. The one where we were sure to be on screen. It was the BIG GAME.

Turns out it wasn't as big as we thought. In fact in the real movie, the football game was being played on a TV making that much more difficult to see us. The whole scene lasted 15 seconds. The part where I could have been on TV: 15 milliseconds.  The truth was that I wasn't there at all. In fact I think that I was a couple of feet to the side of the shot. The exact distance the production assistant moved me.

So I didn't make it to TV. But I was still there and I still contributed. I took part and it was exciting and fun. I even got Bojangles out of it. It was worth it.

Life is a lot like that.  We have the opportunity to take part in what God is doing on earth. Really. God wants us to take part in His purposes here. Does that seem weird to you? The creator of the universe can do anything. He can speak the universe into existence yet He still wants us to be a part of it. That's crazy.

I sometimes dream of what it would be like to make it big. To be well known. To have people almost pee their pants when they meet me. (I should tell you about the time I met Francis Chan) But it's likely that I won't be super rich and famous. There's a chance that in the history of the world I won't even have 15 milliseconds of fame.

And I'm ok with that. 

You see the cool thing about following God is that even doing little, uneventful, non-famous things can make a huge difference in eternity. Following God is so ridiculously fulfilling that I don't need fame or money. Sometimes wish I had better words to explain it to people. Serving God is fulfilling in a way that can't be described.

Jesus said that following Him will make our joy complete.

I will gladly trade my 15 milliseconds of fame on earth for an eternity with God. At least in heaven there won't be Lifetime movies or theologically shady Garth Brooks songs.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Hope

*This is the advent devotion that I wrote for our church's devotional book. If you want to see the entire book (written by members and staff of our church) you can visit our church website You can download it or have it sent to your email daily. To be honest I was really tired when I wrote this so please forgive the lack of style in the writing!*

Acts 2:37-39

A while back I told God that I was stubborn and couldn’t see Him in everyday life. I told him, “God, I just don’t see you in my life. I wish I could, but I can’t” It’s funny how God responds when you are direct and honest with Him. Since that time almost everything I see somehow reminds me of His goodness and grace or in contrast our sin and suffering. It’s been really cool to see God in so many different ways.
              Honestly, the first time that I thought about writing about hope, I thought about the movie Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars. The original Star Wars movie was released in 1977 with the official title being, “Star Wars: A New Hope”

The plot goes something like this. The Universe is being overtaken by the Dark Side. The bad guy of the movie, Darth Vadar is bent on controlling everything. His ship is known as the “Death Star”. I think that says enough about how bad he was.
Out of no where comes an unlikely savior. His name is Luke Skywalker. No one really thought that Luke would end up doing something big until the end of the movie. Luke and a group of others decide that they are going to attack the “Death Star”.  If they could defeat it then there would be hope. Luke and the others attack the “Death Star” hoping to break through its impenetrable defenses. In the end it was only Luke who successfully overcame the “Death Star”.
You might be thinking that this is the most random advent devotional you’ve ever read. Bear with me for a minute.
 A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, sin entered into the world. It has caused trouble and evil ever since. As a result of sin and evil the punishment was death. Many people tried to overcome sin on their own and failed. There seemed to be no hope.
 Then one day in a little known town a child was born. For most of his young life, people thought that this child was rather ordinary. It wasn’t until late in his life that people began to follow him. But there was something different about this man. This man knew how to beat evil and sin. He knew that if he gave up his perfect life as a sacrifice then man could be close to God. That man’s name was Jesus. Three days after he was crucified, Jesus rose from the grave.  In his death and resurrection, he offered mankind a New Hope.
 Using the comparison of Christ and Star Wars isn’t perfect. My hope in this devotion is to help you start seeing that the story of God can be seen in the world around you.

Sin. Death. Redemption. Hope.
 Where do you see these in your life?

Jon Greenhill

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dear Pilgrims, we're sorry. (an open letter)

Dear Pilgrims,
     We're sorry. For what, you might ask? For the fact that we have completely abandoned your holiday. Yes back in 1621 in Plymouth, MA you sat down with some Indian Native American friends for a nice meal. They helped you cultivate the land in order to avoid starvation. You helped them contract smallpox.

This meal would become a tradition. In fact just a mere 320 years after your meal, the president would go on to make this a national holiday. People around the country (yes, we became our own country, but that's another story) looked forward to sitting down with their friends and families and enjoying a bountiful meal just like you did.

Then something happened. Christmas. What's that you say? You celebrated Christmas too? I'm sure you did. But you celebrated Christmas at the end of December. Now we start celebrating Christmas at the end of August. To be honest, you guys don't even get any recognition any more.

We don't wear large black hats and for most of us, buckles on shoes are tacky. To be honest, your holiday gets a cursory nod as something that happens between Halloween and Christmas....oh....I probably shouldn't have said that. Even Halloween (that holiday preferred by witches all and things evil) is more popular than Thanksgiving.

You might be wondering how people can even think about Christmas before Thanksgiving. It's called Black Friday. You see, at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, millions of people line up outside of stores and marketplaces in order to get the best deal on sub-standard quality merchandise.

In the span of 12 hours we go from being thankful for family, to being thankful that we could get a $3 blender before an old lady scoots in on a motorized cart. It's sad, really. Black Friday has caused people to spend all day of Thanksgiving getting ready for the day AFTER Thanksgiving. It doesn't make a lot of sense but here we are.

We also need to apologize for the Detroit Lions. They play football every single Thanksgiving. The only people thankful for that is whatever team gets to beat them. It's horrible and almost not worth watching.

But most of all I need to apologize for the Thanksgiving Day parade. I know that you are probably overjoyed that your holiday now has an official parade. Now millions of people will see an entire parade devoted to being thankful. Right? In fact the most exciting part of the parade is when Santa comes through on his sleigh. That's right. The best part of the Thanksgiving parade is the mention that we can't wait until Christmas.

I don't want to make it sound like we're all not thankful. Some of us are. People who own fitness centers love Thanksgiving because in just over a month their memberships are going skyrocket (then fall off in March). Turkey farms make a killing (pun intended). And college students get fed well for the first time this semester.

But as a whole, we need to apologize. We have hijacked your holiday and turned it into a glorified buffet. I don't know, maybe you and the Native Americans left your meal and went to the local market and waited in line to buy cheap butter churners. But I don't think you did.

We're sorry. We'll try to do better next year.

Jon (and the rest of America)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growing Through Pain - part 2 - UPDATED

Emily at Christmas 2009
This is a littler girl in a hospital room in Durham, NC. Her name is Emily and she is 8 years old.  I know this  because this little girl  is my niece.

Emily was riding her bike yesterday when she got going a little too fast and ended up having an accident. I'm not sure on the details but later that night she wasn't feeling right and so her parents took her to the hospital.

As it turns out Emily has a laceration on her liver and and some damage to her kidney. I don't have a lot of information right now but they are doing some more test today which should shed some light on how serious things are.

I bring this up for two reasons.

1. I would like you to pray for Emily and her family. She is the 2nd daughter of my older sister.

2.  About 2 and a half weeks ago I wrote a post about Growing Through Pain.  I just went back and read it again to be reminded of how pain can help us.

But writing about dealing with pain on a random Tuesday is one thing. Being stuck in another state while your family hangs out at a hospital with your 8 year old niece is another.  It's one thing to write about certain things. It's completely different to experience it.  When I hit a tough time in life there is a song that I like to listen to. It randomly came on in my office today.

it's called "Shadows" by the David Crowder Band. Check it out here.

The line, "When Shadows fall on us, we will not fear, we will remember. When darkness falls on us, we will not fear, we will remember. When all seems lost. When we're thrown and we're tossed. We'll remember the cost. We're resting in the Shadow of the Cross."

Those are great words to remember when going through pain.

When Shadows fall on us, we will not fear. We will remember.
When Darkness falls on us, we will not fear. We will remember.

If you have a few minutes, take some time to say a prayer for my family. It would be most appreciated.

Thanks to all of you.

UPDATE 11/25 - Emily is back home and on bed rest. The doctor's think that she is healing well but they are still keeping an eye on her and her fever. My family wants to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers.


Friday, November 19, 2010

There's Nothing Wrong With Being Old

So this week is a Retreat Week for me. Our group has a retreat that starts this evening and goes through Sunday.  I've been overwhelmed with logistics, emails, phone, calls, and more. It's been a pretty crazy week.  So instead of writing a new blog for today, I've got some oldies or goodies.

Some people would have the audacity to claim that this is just "filler" material. They'd be right. But they've probably never had to run a retreat! Here ya go!!

1. Why Naps Are Amazing - Being a parent of two, I now understand the term "sleep deprived". This is a good reminder from 2 years ago. Naps are amazing. I should fit one in this afternoon before the retreat...I wish!

2. Waiting on God Part 1 and Part 2 - This is a before and after of a time where I had to wait on God. It seemed like a rough time back then but looking at it now I see where God was taking me.

3. The One Canada and Chicken Restaurants - This is a story about how I thought I could effectively speak in a language that I hadn't spoken in 5 years. Yeah, you can guess how that turned out.

4. The One About Rain - A story about prayer and a drought where I live in Richmond, Va. This was written originally written in 2007, re-posted in 2008, and now re-posted again for you guys.

5. My Little Secret - This was my first post on this blog way back 2 and a half years ago. A look at just letting go when you worship.

I hope that these will give you something to look at and think about until next week. I'm sure to have something crazy from the retreat this weekend!!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I saw God during a Football Game

I gotta be honest. When I typed the title I felt like that kid from The 6th Sense. It was cool and creepy at the same time. That has nothing to do with the post but it's fun none the less.

This past weekend my family and I got to visit what we call Heaven on Earth. We met up with some friends in Boone, Nc which is home of the Appalachian State Mountaineers. We know it as our Alma Mater. You probably know it as the team that beat Michigan in 2005.

On Saturday, my brother in law Daniel (a current Mountaineer), my friend Brian, and I headed to a football game between # 3 Appstate and #4 Wofford. This was going to be a big game. If we won, we got at least a share of the conference title....FOR THE 6th STRAIGHT YEAR. If we lost, then we got nothing. It was all or nothing.

The stadium was PACKED.  The environment was ELECTRIC.  It was INTENSE! 

And then the game started. First App drive = Touchdown.

The crowd went wild. Everyone was jumping and screaming and cheering. It was a first blow to our opponents. Nerves settled back in as Wofford took the ball. Would this be a defensive struggle? Would we go back and forth? Would we be able to hold on to our lead??

The first quarter ended with the score App 7 - Wofford 0

Then the second and third quarters happened. I'll summarize it to save some time.

Quarter 2:
FG - APP   10-0
TD - APP  17-0
TD - APP   24-0

Quarter 3:
TD - APP 31-0
TD - APP 38-0

App went on to win the game 43-13 over a team that was essentially ranked the same as us. It was dominating.

But where did I see God?

When we scored our second touchdown in the 3rd touchdown we jumped, we screamed, we laughed. We gave high fives. We hugged people we didn't know. We were overjoyed!! 

and I thought. "This is heaven."

If you are a sports fan you know that feeling. That feeling of euphoria when your team prevails. That feeling you get where you could almost jump out of your skin because it's so amazing.  

You might have a particular game in mind. (Duke vs Kentucky 1992 Eastern Regional Final comes to my mind)

That feeling is overwhelming. 

And then I thought more about my previous though. "This is heaven"

Really? Heaven?  I mean, I'm just watching a silly game that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Yeah there is the conference championship. Sure there is the guaranteed play-off spot.  But to compare it to heaven?? 

Then it hit me. If this is how excited I get watching a silly little football game?  How excited am I going to be to spend eternity with my God in the REAL HEAVEN?  If this feeling of victory is overwhelming, how much more overwhelming will it be when God overcomes and defeats evil forever. 

How much will I cheer to see the end of  DEATH?  PAIN?  HURT?

How awesome is it going to be to experience that feeling FOREVER??

Think back to the game that came to your mind earlier. How much more awesome will heaven be than that game?

Share which game came to mind in the comments section below!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Could Be a Huge Failure

This could be a Huge Failure.

Mollie and I have each gotten into blogging this year. You can read hers here. Lately we've been looking into taking blogging to the next level. We've been working with each other and trying to figure out where to go next. We each have some big changes in store for our blogs in the near future.

As we start on this road to try something new I'm realizing something.

This could be a HUGE failure.  We could invest time and money in all of this and it all fall flat. We could put our heart and soul in it and be shot down by lack of interest.

That's kind of humbling. But truth is that you can never succeed if you never try. Sure you might fail, but I think would rather try and fail then live with regret for never trying. Some of the most successful people in history were failures. Check out this video.

Mollie and I got to talk and plan for each of our blogs yesterday afternoon and really lay out what we wanted to do with them. It came down to this. We want our writings to help other people.  If something that we write helps just one other person, hopefully we'll see that it was not a failure at all.  There's a song I like by a guy named John Reuben. It has possibly one of my favorite lines in any song ever. It says:

"It's just not that simple. I'm not trying to save it all. I just want to create a ripple. And even if one individual is affected, it's monumental with an unusual perspective that's beautiful in essence. Traditional thinking won't suggest this. Is life really that precious, well yes it is. "

I hope to live that verse out through this blog. I just need some helps. I need ideas. What would you like me to write about? It could be serious. It could be funny. It could be something that's absurd. It might be somewhere that you saw God.

Let me know. Drop me a comment!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The One Thing You Should Never Pray For

As a pastor people often ask me how they should pray or what they should pray for. We talk about it and I toss some ideas out to them and they go on their way.

But there is one thing that I tell people to never pray for.


Why would I tell someone not to pray for patience? I mean patience seems like a good thing right?  I mean it's a fruit of the spirit after all. That's true. But Patience is the avocado of the fruit of the spirit. (yes it is a fruit) You look at it and think, this might be good but I'm not sure if I really want to try it to find out.

The problem with praying for patience is that it's the one prayer that God never says no to. Seriously, I've never seen God say no to a prayer for more patience. But God doesn't just give out patience like King Sized Snickers on Halloween. God teaches you patience. That's right, patience is a LEARNING thing.

Let me give you an example.

1. Pray for patience in a car?  You'll get construction. Then you'll have to merge into one lane and if that doesn't test your patience I don't know what will.

2. Pray for patience at work? You'll be assigned a project with the most annoying person in your office. You know the one who laughs like a hyena and smacks her gum while talking about all of the sub plots to Desperate Housewives.

3. Pray for patience while out to lunch? Oh yeah, you'll be right behind the slow person.

4. Pray for patience at school?  2 words: "Wuthering Heights" (the worst book ever)

5. Pray for patience before church?  2 hour sermon with special music from the pastor's wife. (OH THE HUMANITY!)

The road to patience is a tough one but once you get there it really comes in handy. It allows you to keep a calm head in the heat of the moment. It helps you avoid rash decisions (like buying tickets to the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys concert).  It allows you to follow God even when you're not sure where you are going. Patience helps live a balanced life.  You know, I could go for a more balanced life.

So perhaps praying for patience isn't such a bad thing.  Patience is actually a good thing to have in your life!
I'll say this though, if you pray for patience, buckle up, because life is about to get interesting!

Have you ever had to learn patience?


Road Rage

I'm a pretty peaceful person. I try to steer clear of getting overly angry at people. But sometimes there are things that set me off. You can ask my wife, she'll agree. (followed by an eye roll and a head shake) Yesterday something set me off.

My oil light came on.  But that's not what set me off.  Some people might say that once the oil light comes on it's already too late. That's why the first place I went yesterday was too get my oil changed. I was on a short time limit because I had a meeting at which I had to be So I tried to bust it over to the oil change place.

Of course there were two things going against me.

1. My car was smoking and quickly becoming the smelliest car on the road.

2. I was in a hurry.

You can probably guess what happened next.....Construction. Why is it that when you are in a hurry there is ALWAYS construction?

This construction was taking place in the middle of the road so it forced us to merge into the right lane. Now anyone who has ever driven knows what I'm talking about. The merge causes you to do this awkward dance with other cars in order to get in line.

When merging there are a few types of people. They are:

The Quick Merger - This motorist is logical. They see a line of cars and think, "hmm there must be something happening ahead, I better get over now to save trouble later." The Quick Merger changes lane when it's first available. He usually has ample space because everyone is still ok with the situation. The Quick Merger is going to get taken advantage of.

The Non-Observant Merger - This is the person who isn't really paying attention enough to realize that there is no one in his lane but 140 cars in the lane next to him. When he realizes it he slows down and tries to get over as soon as possible, hoping that someone will let him in. This guy frustrates the quick merger. I mean really, he should have been paying attention. Instead he was texting/picking his nose/singing Abba and missed the fact that he was the only car moving. The N-O Merger elevates your blood pressure slightly.

The Last Second Merger- a.k.a - JERKFACE....The LSM is known as Jerkface because that's what he's called whenever he shows up. Honestly he's called much worse but this is a PG blog so we'll settle with jerkface. This is the driver who intentionally drives as far as possible before merging. He flies by all of the other smart mergers in an attempt to get to the front. If it were elementary school, he'd be the kid who jumps in the lunch line. I hated that kid. Everyone else hates the LSM. All of the other drivers try to
hug the bumper of the car in front of them so that the LSM can't get in. Instead this person goes to the front of a line and forces his car in front of someone else.  The LSM causes Road Rage.

The Shoulder Driver - This is a rarity but it's enough to cause you to get out of your car and shake your fist in defiance. This person, seeing that traffic has stopped, pulls onto the shoulder of the road and bypasses everyone. The Shoulder driver makes the LSM say things that would embarrass his mother. Usually when I see a Shoulder Driver, I pray that there is a police officer around the corner that will pull him. Oddly enough it's actually happened twice. I'm guessing that's not the worst thing you can pray for.

Yesterday I saw the first three and luckily I held in my Road Rage.

My question to you is:

Which type are you?  Drop a comment below!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Growing Through Pain

The good thing about having kids that are a year apart is that you can time all of their doctor's checkups at the same time. This saves my wife an extra trip to the doctor's office and little bit of sanity. This morning was that day. We took my daughter Kate for her 18 month checkup and my son Drew for his 6 month checkup.

The greatest part of a doctor office visit is the fish tank. Obviously. I think that when they are planning to open a new practice the first thing that they debate is how big of a fish tank that they will have. I'm not 100% on this but I'm pretty sure if you don't have a fish tank in your doctor's office then they might not be licensed.

The worst part of a doctor's visit with two children under 2 is....well everything after the fish tank. The part that I particularly hate is the time when they get their shots. I can't even look for fear of passing out. The doctor comes in with her tray of needles. I know that you're cringing right now. I can sense it.

The hardest part is that you have to sit there and restrain your child while they are receiving pain. I fight every bit of me to not push the doctor away and pick up my crying little girl and cradle her. I want so desperately to do it but in the end I don't. Why not?

Because I know that this pain is a good thing. 

I know that there are diseases in this world and that they could easily take the life of me and my kids. I wish it wasn't that way. I didn't make it that way.  But the truth is that there are sicknesses. I know that by giving my kids these shots I'll reduce their chances of contracting those diseases. In a sense, because of the pain, they are able to grow. 

One of the questions that I get a lot is, "If God is good, why do bad things happen?"  I often answer that bad things happen for a number of reasons and then I go back and retrace where pain entered into the world.

God didn't create the world with diseases, pain, or even death. Adam and Eve could have lived forever if they had steered clear of the one thing that God told them to steer clear of! But it happened. They ate from the tree and introduced sin into the world. After that, you have sin, pain, even death. 

Ok that's where pain came from, but can it really be a good thing?

Paul writes this in Romans 5;

3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,..."

Rejoice? In suffering? In Pain? 

When I think back to the things that have caused my pain in my life I think that they have helped me grow. Like the verse says, my pain has increased my endurance. I'm able to endure more in this life then I could have a long time ago. Hopefully my endurance has helped me build my character. and my character has built.


One word that means so much. You see when I experience pain it's a reminder to me that this is not how it's supposed to be. God didn't make it this way. God wanted more for mankind. God has promised us more. He has promised that one day Christ will come back and we will live forever in a pain free heaven. 

Pain reminds me of the promise of Heaven and eternity with God. 

Pain reminds me to have Hope for something better.

Pain reminds me to have hope. 

I pray that the pain in your life will remind you of God's promises. 

I pray that the pain in your life will help you grow. 

I pray that the pain in your life will give you hope.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Number 740.

So what is significant about the number 740?

If you live in Southeastern or Central Ohio, this is your area code.
If you live in LA it's an night club.
If you live in Cincinnati, it's your local Catholic radio station

Why are these important? Well they aren't. I just googled the number 740 and that's what came up. It's for facts like this that you read this blog.

 The number 740 is the number of page-views of this blog in the month of October. In the grand scheme of things, 740 is not that many page views. I mean very successful blogs can run 90,000 page views a month. That's over 90 times more views in one month. When you think about that, 740 is nothing.

But what strikes me is that my September count was 250. In one month, the number of page views tripled.  August was 165. This means that this blog is growing. Sure it helped that I wrote more than twice as many posts as any month this year, but none the less, more people are coming here to read stuff. That's exciting for me because I like doing it.

When you look at the graph of my blog's visitors,it looks like the first half of Mount Everest. I mean it goes straight up. That's exciting!!! Then something happened. November started and my monthly count dropped back down to 0. The graph now looks like a full picture of Everest. Straight up on one side and straight down on the other. I want to take care of that. I want to keep growing this blog.

Here's the deal. I enjoy writing and I hope that what I write might impact your lives. To do that I need your help doing a few things:

1. Subscribe - If you click the Subscribe button at the top right, you'll have a chance to follow my blog with a reader or through email. Anytime that I write a blog it will send it to your blog reader or email inbox. I follow roughly 37 blogs so I use Google reader. It makes life easy! Subscribe now!

2. Comment Often - I'm also using this blog to learn how to write. When you comment you help me know what's working and what isn't. If you see something that you like, or hate, or are relatively unaffected by, drop a comment in the comment box. It'll make your day brighter. I promise.

3. Spread the Word - If you like what you read here, tell a friend about it. Send them a link. Tell your crazy Uncle Larry and have him send the link to all his friends (most of whom are imaginary but that's ok). Post something on Facebook or Tweet about it. I've included buttons at the bottom of each post that will do this for you.

4. Look For Changes- I'm looking to update the look of this blog and perhaps even change the name. If you have any suggestions about the look, feel, or content of the blog let me know.

I like the number 740. But this month I want to aim higher. I want to go bigger. I want to get to at least...741. I want to change the world one page view at a time and I'd love for you to be a part of that.


I got Called Out. (an honest admission)

When you are in ministry you are going to upset people. It's usually unintentional but it happens. Usually it's a result of a difference in vision or execution of ministry. A lot of those times revolve around the fact that people think things should be run different ways. It's one of those things that comes with the territory.

But there are times that you have legitimately wronged someone. That's where I found myself last week. I had someone come to me and ask for a meeting. Let's go ahead and set something straight. If someone asks for a meeting, it's bad news. If it were happy news they would just tell you. Instead they want to set up a meeting.

This person set up a meeting with me to discuss some things that had come up. When we meet the person lays it out straight. They told me that they cared for me and because of that they needed to call me out on some things.

Early on in my time at my current church I told people that I wanted ideas from everyone. I wanted it to be a community of ideas, not just me. This person let me know that lately it had become more my way or the highway. Parents had mentioned it. Students had mentioned it.

This person went on to say that a couple of parents had also mentioned that when I'm talking to them I tend to zone out. My wife can confirm this often! My interaction with these parents (or lack of interaction) had caused them to feel unimportant.


It was incredibly tough to hear those things. It still kind of stings when I think about it.

But it's something that I desperately needed to hear

The meeting was great. Painful but great. How can that be?

In Psalm 25:5-6, the psalmist says:

 5 Better is open rebuke
   than hidden love.

 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
   but an enemy multiplies kisses. 

Essentially, if someone truly loves you, they'll call you out when you are being an idiot. They'll do it out of love and not just to get you in trouble. They'll come to you instead of talking about you behind your back. They'll confront you in your sin instead of sucking up to you only to stab you later.

I'm truly grateful for the people who contributed to help call me out. Hopefully they won't have reason to do it again anytime soon.

I want to encourage you in this post. If you need to call someone out. Take a few minutes to think and pray about it. Go to that person in love. Remember, wounds from a friend can be trusted.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below!


Friday, October 29, 2010

WARNING: Don't Become a Same-Sider!!

You know who you are. You might not admit it to others but one day they'll see you out and about and they'll know the truth. You will hang your head in shame and then beg for forgiveness. That's right, you're a same-sider.

If you aren't currently cowering in fear, you might not know what a same-sider is. Let me explain it to you. You walk into a restaurant. It could be a Chick-Fil-A or it could be a 5-star fancy restaurant. You sit down and in the next booth over there are two people staring right at you. You think. "hmmm I guess the third person has gone to the bathroom." You guessed wrong. These are same-siders. They are couples who purposely sit on the same side of the table when they go to restaurants....

To answer the question that is formulating in your brain right, I don't know why they would do that.

But they are still there and they are still staring at you. Why do I dislike same-siders with such passion? Well I'll tell you.

1. The Staring - When sitting across from each other your head blocks out the person behind you. With same-siders that blockade isn't there. This leaves your face in direct line with both of them and the staring commences. This is the point that I start to freak out. Why are they looking at me? did I drop honey mustard on my shirt. My nose itches, but if I scratch it they'll think I am a public picker! It's really quiet overwhelming.

2.The Conversation -  Believe it or not, the human head blocks roughly 83.4% of conversation. When that head is no longer there, guess who receives a full 100%??? I mean really, do I have to hear EVERYTHING that you are saying?  I mean really, I get to hear about your hernia surgery? Yippee! I'm so glad that I'm eating right now.

3. The Cuddlers - When you add the first two to the third you get a lethal combination. Cuddlers are same-siders who apparently forget that the booth at a fast food restaurant is a different social atmosphere than their honeymoon. They are practically sitting on top of one another and have given each other 14 Eskimo kisses. Add that to the conversation of "no, after you my snookie-wookie-ums" (ah yeah! a Jersey Shore/Star Wars reference! I think that might be the first in history.) Or "This tea will never be as sweet as you, my love."  That line alone makes you want to heave a large cup of sweet tea in their general direction. At least they are sitting close you might hit both of them.

The only way to fight "the cuddlers" is to randomly point at them and scream "HAND CHECK!" If you time it right, you might just break the cuddlers up. Other than that they just sit there and stare at you all while giving you looks that imply "you'll never be as happy as me!"

4. The Lack of a Face Checker -  We've all had it happen. We get a little something stuck in our teeth. We have some ketchup on our cheek. It's all good though....if you have someone in front of you to see it and tell you. But what happens when that person is sitting next to you and can't see your face?? that's right. You look like an idiot. You might be in a happy relationship friend but you have a waffle fry stuck to your face. I usually feel bad for a guy and try to signal him about it. This leads us to an awkward game of charades in which we are casually making hand gestures and motioning to our faces. He never realized he had something on his face but he is considering stealing third base.  Seriously though, never underestimate the usefulness of a face checker.

These are a few reasons that Same-Siders drive me crazy. Do you have any reasons?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Smelly Car

Think back to elementary school....Think back to glue sticks and walking in lines..... Are you there?  There was always one kid in your class. He was the kid who didn't take the hygiene talk literally. He though it was metaphor for roll around in the mud. You know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about the smelly kid. You always steered clear of the smelly kid. It was more of a necessity than a preference. I mean the odor would cause you to burst into tears, and being the sensitive kid that you were, you didn't want to walk up to him and make him cry.

Fast forward 20 years. I'm sitting at a stop light in my 1997 Honda Accord. All of a sudden I smell it. You know the smell. It smells like someones care is about 30 milliseconds from catching fire. That day I'm sitting at the stop light and my nose is starting to burn from the stench. I'm looking around at the cars around me.

9 times out of 10 the smelly car is easy to spot. It's usually the car that was made in the 80's. It has at least 5 holes due to rust. There's enough smoke pouring out to make you think that someone just elected the pope. (oh yes, a pope reference.) This car usually has $500 rims. I'm not sure why. It's just always how it is.

so I look around me. New car, new car, new car. that's weird.

And then I see it.  There's a wisp of smoke coming out from under my hood.

The truth hit me like a ton of bricks. I Drive The Smelly Car.

That's when I realized that everyone was staring at me. Staring and holding their noses as if they were in a closet with someone who had passed gas. This little old lady next to me was starting to cry. I guess I can add her to the list of girls who I made cry

I sat and stared forward hoping that no one else would notice my smelly car. My light turned green and I drove off.

It turns out that I had an oil leak and it was burning off on the engine block. But that's not the only thing I've endured with my car.

I've had the shaky car - thanks to a loose engine mount. (I had a student think we were having an earthquake)
I've had the noisy car - thanks to a rattling muffler. (I stopped going through drive through because people would come and crowd around the window to see what was happening)
I've even had the "all of a sudden there is no power in the engine while I'm driving down the interstate" due to a bad O2 sensor. (let's just say, prayer life is enhanced now.)

Each of these things was an easy fix but it's just a realization that my car is getting up there and I'm going to have to move on to a newer one soon.

Any of you have an old car story??  Drop a comment about it below!

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Play the Comparison Game

I constantly compare myself to other people. It's true. In almost everything I do, I compare myself to the people around me. As a result I judge myself quite a bit. I know that's kind of shocking coming from a guy who wrote a blog titled, I'm Better Than You . But it's still true.

I compare myself to others because at times I'm not overly confident in myself.

He's a better handyman than I am.
That blog is better than mine.
I'll never be the Youth Pastor that he is.
We'll never be able to afford what they can.

I constantly check my stats for this blog.Seriously.  How many people are reading it at 2:37pm???  How long are they staying on the site? I actually compare my stats verses my wife's blog.  As of this writing my blog has gotten roughly 1200 page views. Roughly 600 of them this month.  Mollie's blog has gotten almost 3000.

I'm not as good of a blogger as my wife. (you can increase her stats by going to

My constant stat checking and comparison making drives Mollie nuts.  And it should because it's not overly healthy.

Constantly playing the comparison game is never healthy. 

I mean sometimes it can be helpful. "Hmm In comparing my wardrobe to the people around me, I notice that no one else is wearing their bathrobes at Panera. I also notice the manager coming to talk to me. "

But using the comparison game to belittle yourself is not healthy at all.

Why you ask?

When I belittle myself by comparing my life to others I'm essentially belittling who God created me to be.

I tell my students all the time that they are created in God's image and that's all that matters. We were created in a way that God can use us to His glory.

God didn't want me as a handyman. It's fairly obvious. Whenever I try to fix something I break it more. I'm really good at breaking stuff. Maybe I could have side job in destruction.

I'm the youth pastor that God created me to be, reaching the kids that God wants me to reach. I need to be perfectly ok with that.

There are a lot of blogs that are better than mine. Despite the fact that I want mine to be a source of income (hence the ads), my blog might not ever make money. But it sometimes helps people. I might never reach 90,000 pageviews a day like some blogs, but if something I write helps just one person, I should be overly excited by that. (and I am).

I find that I need to be more satisfied in who God created me to be. After all, God is perfect and I am not.

What about you?
Do you find yourself constantly playing the Comparison Game?
Do you often wish that you were someone else?

Take this truth and never forget it. God created you in His image. And there is nothing better than that. You might not be everything that you want to be in your mind, but you are God's and that is the greatest truth you could ever know.

Take comfort and knowing that God created you. Take comfort in knowing that you are created in His image.
Take a minute relish that thought.

Let's give up the Comparison Game and never look back.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thank You Captain Workout.

The gym is a pretty intimidating place to begin with. It starts with the ever awkward new member tour. Here someone walks you around and points at all the machines all the while not giving you any instruction on how to use them. The members on the Cardio equipment give you a look that says; "Look at the new guy. He's gonna be out of here by the beginning of March." All of a sudden your tour guide leaves you because she has to refill the empty coffee pot. You are standing alone in a room with people glaring at you. This is where I stood once.

I decided to try out a treadmill. That seems easy enough. I mean how hard is it to walk in place? I slowly walk through the rows of sweaty people who are wearing tight outfits that no human should wear. They all scan my clothes. A t-shirt and jean shorts. Apparently that's not kosher for the gym.

I climb on the treadmill and am greeted by roughly 32 buttons. I mean really? You only need a key and one button to launch a nuclear missile. Here I need an advanced degree to walk.  I don't want to be seen as an idiot so I start pressing buttons and hope that I'm not fired off the back of the treadmill. Nope, 4.5 mph hour. A good jogging speed. I'm golden.

A guy hops on the treadmill beside me. He's got  matching running clothes. His shorts are about 5 inches too short and he's got one of those ipod arm bands. He stretches for a second and then hits a button sequence that the pentagon could use as a secret code. His name is Captain Workout and he's about to live up to his name.

He starts running. not just running, he's sprinting. 9.0 mph. Captain Workout isn't even breaking a sweat. He decides that running at the speed of sound wasn't challenging enough, he should converse with someone. That someone was me.

"You new here?"
*gasp* "yup" *gasp*
"welcome, my name is troy.. I enjoy a light workout every day for 2 hours."

I had a new mortal enemy. But I couldn't focus on that now. 4.5 mph was proving to be a good workout when done for 4.5 consecutive minutes. I slowed down to a more relaxing 3.0 mph. I look over and notice Captain Workout slowing down as well. HA! I knew he wasn't super human. he slows to 5.0 mph. That's pretty standard I think. I look down to see my time. When I glance up Captain Workout is running backwards.

"really?" I ask incredulously.
"it really works my quads"

I had to leave before I hit him with my 1980's water bottle. I head over to the machines. Being new to the gym, I have no clue how anything works. I squint at the little picture and try to copy it to the best of my ability. A couple of teenage girls start snickering at me. Apparently, I'm doing it wrong. But I don't care. It has to be working some muscle.

Captain Workout moves next to me and starts lifting. He moves 8 plates when he lifts. I move 2. Yes, I'm the two plate guy. When he inhales and exhales things in the room move. I feel like I'm in a tropical depression due to the force of air moving throughout the room.

Captain Workout is now sweating more than middle school boy at a school dance. I've taken showers and been less wet. His face is as red as a tomato, yet he is still lifting.

I give up and head to the locker room. I grab my bag and head towards the showers. I open the door and see a wall with a line of shower heads. What is this high school? I put my stuff back in my bag and start to head out. In the lobby Captain Workout is making his own whey protein shake. While I try to figure out why he has his own blender at the gym, he looks at me.

"see you tomorrow newbie"
"uh yeah"

Thanks Captain Workout, but I think I'm gonna go home and sit on the couch. I'm not even going to make it until March.

*no this didn't really happen to me. Yes, it was inspired by comedian Brian Regan.*

Friday, October 15, 2010

You can save a life today.

So I had something funny planned today. I mean really it was good. But I stumbled across a blog on my reader that I love called Stuff Christians Like.  SCL was started by a guy named Jon Acuff a while back. It's a great blog that I highly recommend.

Several months ago, Jon issued a challenge to his readers. He wanted to raise 30,000 dollars in a month to help build a Kindergarten in Vietnam. So what did his readers do?  They raised 30,000 dollars in 18 HOURS. In fact they went on to raise $60,000 and are building two kindergartens.

Today is at it again. This time they are fighting Malaria. If you donate $10 you can  provide a mosquito net to a child in Uganda. They were hoping to raise $10,000 in 24 hours. (as of this writing they were at $18,500!!) This project ends at 9am tomorrow morning so you should go now!

I would like to use my blog as a way to encourage you to follow up on this. SCL has a great thing going and I wanted this small blog to be a part of it.

Go to for more information. There is a link on his page that you can click to donate.

Remember, $10 today can save a life tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Twofer Tuesday: The one about Bowl Cuts

Back in April, I wrote a post about the Theology of haircuts.  You can read about that one here.

As it turns out haircuts are making a bit of a comeback recently. Here is a video from a couple of guys named Trip and Tyler. They made this with singer Chris Tomlin. I'm thinking we should definitely bring back The Bowl Cut. (keep an eye out for the Francis Chan cameo!)

I'm not sure how the rest of their videos are but I thought that this one was funny. Have a great afternoon.


Twofer Tuesday: The one about Making God Proud. (and Wiffle Ball)

There is a memory that I have held on to for a long time. It's one of the earliest memories from my life. Let me take you there.

I'm five years old and it's early spring. The sun is shining and it's warm outside. I'm standing beside my house holding a long yellow plastic bat. My dad is standing about ten feet away holding a white plastic ball that has holes all over it. You guessed it, a wiffle ball). My dad is teaching me how to play baseball. He asks me if I'm ready and then takes a step and lofts the ball underhanded. I swing and miss. He offers me advice on how to hold the back. Choke Up. Swing earlier. Keep my eye on the ball.

He pitches again. I swing and smack the ball over his head. He claps and tells me that I did it perfect. I did a great job. He goes and grabs the ball and we repeat the process a few times. We keep going until I hit one that soars over his head. He tells me good job again and goes to pick up the ball.

Except this time there is a man walking down the street who is watching us. The following is a conversation I'll never forget.

"Hey there" - the man said.
"Hey" - my dad responded
"You guys playing baseball huh?"
"Yeah we're just learning" - my dad replied.
"Well, he can certainly smack that ball"
"Yes he can" my dad replied laughing.

At that moment I knew something. I knew that my dad was proud of what I had done. You could see it in the way he smiled from ear to ear. You could hear it in his voice. My dad was proud of me. It was the best feeling in the world. A couple of years ago my dad wrote me an email that laid out how proud he was of me. That same feeling came rushing over me. How great is it to know that someone feels that way? 

We long for someone to be proud of us. We long for our lives to matter.  There are so many times that we work and work and work so that someone will be proud of what we've done. And so many times that affirmation doesn't come. As a result we are let down and after a while we don't even try anymore.

We spend our lives doing nothing all the while still hoping to make someone proud.

Fast forward 24 years. I still long to make someone proud. Everything that I do in my life I hope and pray that it makes God proud of me. I long for the day when I stand before Him and He looks at me and says "Well done my good and faithful servant." It's been a long road to get here. It's been a road full of mistakes as well as glories. I want my Father in Heaven to be proud of me. I want my life to count for something more.

I want your life to count for something more. I want you to stand before God and hear Him say that He's proud of the life you gave to follow Him.

I know that sometimes life keeps you from this.

Some of you are too busy to follow God.
Some of you are too angry at God.
Some of you have never realized that your life could matter.
Some of you have never realized that the creator of the Universe could know you much less be proud of you.

The truth is that He knows you more than you'll ever know. He loves you more than you ever know and He desperately wants to be proud of you.

He desperately wants to be proud of you.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Playing with Plungers

Kate In the Bathroom
If you know me, you know that I love my little girl Kate.  I like to think she's a daddy's girl. We play together a lot. It's great being a dad and watching her grow up.  It's amazing to watch her become interested in different things around our house. Notably the bathroom....more notably the plunger.

One day Kate started going in the bathroom and closing the door behind her. She would then shout in the darkness to see what would happen. Then she would open the door and step out and smile like she had just discovered the world....cute right?

After a few times of doing this I just assumed that's what she would anytime do when she went into the bathroom. Yeah, I was wrong.

One day we were sitting in the living room when we hear Kate do her usual yell in the bathroom. All of a sudden things got quiet. Working with teenagers I've learned at least one thing. Quiet is bad. It means someone is up to something. I sat and listened for a minute. Flwop.....Flwop.....Flwop, Flowp, Flowp..... I got up and walked over to the bathroom door. I opened it slowly. Kate was standing in the middle of the bathroom bouncing the plunger on the floor. Flwop. Flwop.

Now Kate knows that playing with the plunger is not an ok activity. We have caught her several times playing plumber in the bathroom. Each time we tell her that the plunger is not a toy to play with. You might be saying, Jon a 17 month old might not understand all of that....oh, you just wait.

When I got up and found Kate Flwopping in the middle of the bathroom, I walked in, returned the plunger to it's corner, and told Kate that we did not play with the plunger.

Kate, with her beautiful blue eyes, simply looked up at me and reached for the door. She closed it every so gently while never taking her eyes off of mine. She shut the door and it was silent for about 5 seconds.


She had looked at me and stared me down and INTENTIONALLY closed the door to do the thing that I just instructed her not to do. Now if she didn't know that it was wrong, why did she close the door in order to hide?

I'm like this with God so often. I get caught up in sin and God gently but firmly reminds me, "This is not what i have for you. If you want the best life, you shouldn't do that. It goes against my way"

And in my own little way I try to hide my heart and my life from God. I think that somehow I can hide my sin from God. All the while He is simply waiting for me to come out of hiding so that He can show me what it means to truly live.

He wants me to have abundant life. I want to play with crap covered plungers.

Here's a question for you. 

Are you experiencing abundant life?

Or are you playing with plungers?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2 For Tuesday... My Treadmill Skills Need Work

This post is in honor of my first post today. If you haven't read it you need to in order to have the right background. You can check it out HERE.

 This video is from the band OK GO. The name of the song is Here It Goes Again. (Capitol Records 2006)

Clearly my treadmill skills need some work.

2 For Tuesday How Your Gut Can Kill Your Pride.

Ok, I have to be honest. I'm the man. I know that I'm supposed to be humble and all that but for real, I'm the man. It's hard to be humble when you are as awesome at exercising as I am...

That's what I thought before yesterday.

At the end of August my wife and I decided to start a weight loss challenge. Every other day we head to the YMCA and do some cardio and some light weights. We watch what we eat and we make it a point to try to be healthy. And since the last week of August, I have lost 8.8 pounds. Pretty impressive right?  Yeah, I thought so.

To be honest, my weight aside, it's the most active I've been in my entire life. I run 3+ miles three times a week. Every new week I push myself to work harder and go longer. And as a result, I've developed a little problem with pride.

That brings me to yesterday. Yesterday I was running for distance and speed. I cranked up the treadmill and ran at 6mph which is a tough pace for me (I started at 4.0 mph in August). Today I was busting it and it wasn't even phasing me. Here's what I was thinking:

"ha! 6 mph isn't even a big deal anymore! I'm so amazing at this." I kept running in a way that was almost strutting. My stride was long. My back straight.  A big smile on my face. "Look at me world...Look at......"

And then it happened. Apparently when I was in my prideful stride I didn't realize I was running faster than the treadmill. I slowly crept up on the front of the treadmill. My gut reached the front of the treadmill first (because it was sticking out). It was at that time that my stomach pressed the "emergency stop" button.

The treadmill track stopped instantly. The only problem was that I was still in my pride stride. I lurched at the front of the treadmill and bounced off of the handle. I then bounced from one side to the other. I felt like I was playing treadmill pinball.

I even let out a yelp which caused the guy next to me to look over. I took my earphones out to see what had happened. I looked over at him and he simply looked at me and said "your stomach hit the button".

Ouch. All my pride was quickly gone. What I was prideful about minutes earlier was replaced with the realization of the work I had left in front of me.The following verse came to mind.

Proverbs 16:18

 18 Pride goes before destruction,
       a haughty spirit before a fall.

I find it interesting that in my case yesterday, pride led to literally a fall. Sometimes my pride keeps me from accomplishing what God wants for me. This is a good reminder to approach everything in life with a lot humility.  I'm going to continue to exercise and run. It's a good way to lose weight and relieve stress. From now on I'm going to be a little more humble about it...