Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Coolest Gifts Ever

I took my last 1/2 day of vacation for the year this afternoon. (Probably good to use that thing up!) I stopped by the grocery store (twice), worked around the house, and got in a 4.6-mile run. It was a bit snowy and windy for running!

This Christmas, I received two very special gifts. I've learned that I'm kind of an emotional guy and both of these resulted in some seriously watery eyes. The first came in the form of a totally unexpected Christmas card. In this modern era of instant communication, Christmas cards almost seem to be a ritual of the past. Yet, I still send them - and receive them. This year, an unexpected card ended up in my mailbox and included some words that were so encouraging that I was truly awestruck. The second gift came in the form of a tin of cookies. On Tuesday, I sat down at my desk and right in front of me was this tin of cookies with a card on top. My first thought was, "How the heck did someone get into my office and leave a tin of cookies?" However, I read the accompanying card and, again, just sat their awestruck.

Too often, I find it easy to slip down that dangerous slope of sadness and woefulness - to question what the heck is going on - to wonder if this thing called kingdom-building really is possible - to struggle with a sense of purpose. These two gifts provided a huge reality check that there is a larger purpose - that other things are going on that most of the time I don't even see.

Happy New Year!!

Todd

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Send Your Rain

Wow, can't believe it is already 11:04 PM. I went to a family gathering in Mishawaka after band practice and need to get to bed soon! However, I just wanted to write a quick reflection about band practice tonight. We sang this beautiful song, Send Your Rain. The holidays have definitely been joy-filled. Yet sometimes, they almost seem hectic and crazy - just going from one party to another, going to packed shopping facilities, dealing with crazy weather. You probably know the drill. Tonight, though, in a darkened room, we sang quietly, worshipfully this song.

Send your rain, oh Lord
Send your rain, oh Lord
Send your rain, oh Lord
to your people

May your kingdom come
and your will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven

This is basically the song and their is repetition of the verses.

Yet, in the midst of what sometimes has been a chaotic holiday season, this song proved to be a powerful reminder... of Jesus and his kingdom.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sunday Afternoon Post



Wow, is anyone else just pretty much shocked right now at the weather over the last week. Just a few days ago we had frigid temperatures and ice covered everything. Today, the sunshine is out and provided for a second day of running. Yesterday, it was warm enough to break out shorts. Yep, I wore shorts almost all day on Dec. 27. I even got a few smiles in the parking lot from... ah geez, I'll stop right now.




Yesterday, Troy and I had an interesting experience in the Meijer parking lot. I tend to park the Cavalier pretty far out in parking lots. There is a two-fold reason for this practice. First, I like the extra walk that this provides. Second, it is just less hectic to park further away from the door. After a quick stop at Meijer, we headed back out to the car - a red cavalier relatively far out in the parking lot. We got in and I put my bag in the back-seat. Then, it dawned on me, "This isn't my car!" I quickly turned around and grabbed the bag and we made a mad dash away from the car!




Last night, we had the Huff family Christmas. Years ago, Grandma made Merry Christmas bingo. This has been around as long as I can remember and now we play this with white elephant gifts instead of doing the more formal gift exchange. This year, it struck me how much effort and love that Grandma put into making this game. Guess what? We still enjoy it today - our second Christmas without her. I kind of wonder if this is a little gift that she left with us. Last Christmas, Dad wrote a poem and lit a candle to give Grandma some physical presence at our family gathering. I arrived late to Christmas this year. After grabbing some food and a bingo card, I settled in at the table. A moment later I realized that the the light of this candle shone right in front of me. The picture above kind of startled me because the candle has this special coating that reflected the flash and made the candle look totally different. I thought about this some last night and realized that things are not always as they appear. Perhaps this is another gift from Grandma.




Saturday, December 27, 2008

Under Armour


My brothers gave me some awesome gifts. Chad gave me an Instant Canopy (tailgaters beware - we are going to a new level next fall!), Bob Dylan and Beatles CDs, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell. Troy gave me a Saint Joe mug and an Under Armour sweatshirt (he still has 3 more Christmases of Saint Joe gear - can't wait!).
I've never understood the Under Armour hype and thought it had to be over-rated and too expensive. However, I tried out this sweatshirt today on a run and was pretty impressed. First, this thing is so light it feels like I don't have anything on (I know, that sounds pretty scary). Second, the hood is the perfect size. I have a big head and have never have had a hood that really fits right. Third, it kept the wind from penetrating. Fourth, it kept the sweat away. I am a major sweater so this was pretty surprising. I'm not sure where the sweat went. Normally, when I run with a sweatshirt, it gets drenched. Not this sweatshirt.
My brothers rock and picked out some great gifts!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Of the Tablecloth and Jesus

Whew, the day after Christmas. Troy and I had planned to head off to Chicago this morning on the Southshore. Brilliant plan. Avoid road traffic by taking the train. However, there was one small problem. We couldn't get to the train! Ice completely covered the road. Being the stubborn Huffs that we are, however, we did attempt the trip. We did not make much past Community Gospel church before encountering a roadblock. Already running behind, we knew at that point that we would not make the 8:48 AM train and nixed the trip. Maybe we'll try again on St. Patrick's Day (seriously, as Pumas we can march in the St. Patrick's day parade!). Upon arriving back at my house, we hunkered down for some serious work - watching Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban. I haven't watched a movie at 9:00 AM well maybe ever. So today ended up being a pretty relaxing day and we'll probably head up to Mishawaka tomorrow.





Rewind to Christmas Eve night. One of the traditions that we have at Grandpa and Grandma Wise's house is the tablecloth. Each Christmas Eve dinner, every guest must add a drawing, phrase, etc, to the tablecloth. We have years and years worth of drawings and have expanded to two tablecloths. Well, I went to Grandpa and Grandma's house and then left to come back to Bremen for church at Horizon. After church, I headed back to Grandpa and Grandma's house. While driving, I thought about what I would draw. Jim has talked several times about two spheres, Heaven and Earth, that he saw in Europe. So I decided to draw two circles slightly overlapping to represent this connection between Heaven and Earth with the birth of Jesus. To clarify the drawing, I wrote "Heaven" and "Earth" in the circles.



Later that night while with the fam at the Grace Christmas Eve service, I thought more about these simple circles and was startled by something else. In my mind, I rotated the combined circles 90 degrees and peered at the overlap region. I traced the overlap and smiled (I know that I was smiling because one of the singers from the praise team came up to me after the service and said that it was nice to see a big smile in the congregation).
Situated neatly between Heaven and Earth is this symbol, the Ichthus. In some circles, this "fish" is a symbol for Jesus. I really like this drawing of Heaven, Earth, and Jesus. I tried to visual the drawing in 3D and all of the sudden the Ichthus is like this small portal (like a wardrobe, painting, or garden door in the Chronicles of Narnia) between Heaven and Earth.

So I'm sure that this is probably not a new drawing, but it is pretty crazy that even a tablecloth can be a remember of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A New Look

Yesterday, Trent gave a Photoshop lesson that resulted in the new blog banner. This led to giving this blog a whole new look that even required getting in and tweaking the HTML. (There are a couple new features including verse of day and chemistry webelements.) As I was working with Trent, I thought a little bit about how easy it is to get into a rut. It is easy to just let the world go by and kind of lose track of new technologies. It is easy to just do the same things over and over and over again. It would be easy to just go to work and just go through the motions. It would be easy to go to church and just kind of pretend to worship. However, there is so much out there. I really hope to do some more work in Photoshop and create some new backgrounds and other artistic elements for the Powerpoints and Copperfield. This could help take our internal and external communication to another level and that would be exciting!

Well, today is Christmas Eve. That means tomorrow is Christmas - the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. I like to think of this as God in the Bod - God entering into this world in an entirely new way. God entered this world as a man - Jesus - who experienced pain, suffering, love, friendship, anger, abandonment, betrayal, compassion. Jesus - God - entered this world in a new, personal, relational way.

In Jesus, we get a new look at God.

In Jesus, we get a new look.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sledding



So last night, I had this idea. I'm not sure if any of you have noticed, but the ground is covered in ice. That means that the sledding hills are covered in ice, too. I started thinking down the list of people who might be interested in sledding. This afternoon, I called Tim. He sounded a little hesitant and then remembered that he had stats at the basketball game tonight. However, the game ended up being cancelled and we headed out to locate sleds in B-town.


Family Dollar - NO


Dollar General - NO


A bit despondent, we looked and beheld a sign hanging outside Koontz Hardware.


Sleds


Alright!


After getting some warm clothes, we headed over to Sunnyside park. Sure enough, the hill is covered in ice. It was awesome. We could sled all the way across the soccer field to the parking lot. (Actually, my red racer made it 3/4 away across the parking lot.) Because of the sleet, we stopped by my house for safety glasses and goggles. This is definitely a benefit of working with chemicals! Off to Shadyside park for more sledding and a bit of a snowball fight. I asked Tim why he sounded a bit hesitant when I first asked him about going sledding.


He said that it just seemed a bit spontaneous.


Spontaneous.


I like the sound of that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today (Sunday)

Last night ~6:10 PM: Arrive back in Bremen at Horizon for church (see previous post).

7:30 PM: Return company car

7:45 PM: Arrive at Christmas Vacation move night. Great movie. Great times.

At the end of the movie: Roll over on side. Crash.

~11:15 PM - Wake up. Watch some TV. Laugh.

~11:45 PM - Get back home. Crash again.

Sunday 6:37 AM: Awaken to phone call. "Toddahito," says the voice on the other end of the line. I learn that the power is out in much of Bremen. This means that garage doors don't open. However, Clella needs to get out on a plane from South Bend to Detroit to Portland, Maine. I wait to hear back if the flights are still ago.

7:17 AM: Power goes out at my house.

7:18 AM: Receive confirmation that Clella's flight is a go.

7:19 AM: Call Clella. "Let's go."

7:20 AM: Stumble over shoes. Put them on. Find spare key to car because can't find regular key ring.

7:25 AM: Leave house. Drive through dark streets of Bremen. No lights on anywhere including stoplights.

7:30 AM: Pick up Clella. Start journey up 331. Treacherous.

8:19 AM: Arrive at airport.

8:45 AM: Get to counter. Ticket agent looks up. Oh no. "The Portland leg is cancelled," says the agent. Get on phone.

8:50 AM: Decide that Clella can continue on revised flight plan.

9:10 AM: Depart from airport. Use change from floor of car to pay $2 parking fee because no cash in wallet.

9:20 AM: Receive call from JDM. Turn around to go back and get Clella. Portland, Maine is supposed to get 2 more feet of snow.

9:30 AM: Meet Clella at Northwest line. Wait in line.

9:40 AM: Waiting in line. Waiting in line. Waiting in line.

10:30 AM: Get to counter. Full refund!

10:43 AM: Out of airport and on the way back to Bremen.

11:30 AM: Arrive at Steve and Amy's. The power is still out in Bremen but they have a generator and gas heat. Hang out with Steve, Amy, Jim, JDM, Clella, Charlotte. Good times!

3:00 PM: Taco soup time. Beans. Oh yeah!

4:45 PM: Arrive home. Take much needed shower.

6:00 PM: Arrive at farm. Enjoy a few hours with fam.

9:00 PM: Arrive home again.

10:00 PM: Reflect.

Wow, the last few days have been pretty amazing - honestly, in a good way. In recounting everything tonight with my mom, she inquired how I managed to stay calm out in New York. Actually, I just pretty much felt at peace with the entire situation. I was kind of taken aback by this sense of calmness.

Tonight, it dawned on me about what a blessing it was to spend time with folks today. It is kind of weird that adverse weather conditions bring people together in a special way. Helping Clella get to the airport and back home, maintaining steady contact with JDM to work on the travel situation, spending the afternoon with a group of people just having fun and staying warm, hanging out with the family. I can't imagine a world devoid this richness of relationships. I can't imagine a world without this huge opportunity to do this thing called living with these people.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday (Today)

Thursday ~ 8:00 PM: After talking with Dylan and Alex, I have a premonition that Friday's travel plans might be a bit dicey due to weather in Chicago. My flight is to depart at 9:30 AM. Oh, if it could just leave a little earlier. Bingo. I check out the United website. Syracuse to O'hare - 6:00 AM. Only one seat available. Syracuse to O'hare - 7:00 AM. Multiple seats available. Ah ha! Thinking that I am pretty clever, I go to bed in order to be ready to wake up at 4:30 AM to arrive at Syracuse, standby, and get on that 7:00 AM flight. Pretty clever!

Friday ~ 4:30 AM: Alarm goes off. Quickly get ready. Put on remaining clean shirt. Check out.

5:30 AM: Return rental car. Head to United line. The line is long. I mean long. Those cool little Kiosks aren't working and the line is long.

6:00 AM: First flight to Chicago leaves on time but presumably mostly empty because the 6:00 AM people are still standing in line due to the aforementioned technical difficulties.

7:00 AM: Second flight to Chicago leaves on time. This time it is full because the ticket agents call the 7:00 AM passengers to the front of the line (novel concept). The 6:00 AM passengers are still waiting to be re-booked.

7:30 AM: Finally, I get to the ticket agent - a bit smugly, of course. I mean who would have thought that it was necessary to get to the airport 4 hours in advance? (Me, of course.) The agent is looking at his screen and says, "Oh no. Here we go again. 6752 is cancelled." (Yes, that's right. 6752 is the third flight, my flight to Chicago.) Keeping my composure, I wait for the possibilities. The only remaining possibility for today is 5:30 PM in Rochester, NY. Okay, I'll take it.

7:45 AM: Go to rental car counter. I need a car to go back to work and then to Rochester for a 5:30 flight. The agent looks up. "That's not a good idea. There is a winter storm warning until 10:00 PM. You won't get out." I call my boss (one of them anyway) for advice. He says to find something for Saturday and head back to work.

8:00 AM: Proceed back to United line. It is not moving. Call travel agent. She says 5:30 PM Saturday is earliest on United. Call travel agent again. What about another airline? American has a flight at 12:45 PM. Call boss to see if okay to purchase another ticket. Call travel agent and get ticket on American because United line hasn't moved.

8:45 AM: Go back to rental car counter and rent a car. Previous car is Pontiac G5. Can't get this one back. End up with Ford Focus.

9:00 AM: On the way back to Oswego. Starving. Stop for McDonald's break.

9:45 AM: Arrive at Oswego plant. Change clothes. Replace "clean shirt" with outer shirt from Wednesday as under shirt and outer shirt from Thursday as outer shirt again. Head out to plant. Pass break room and notice box of chocolates. Eat a piece. Eat another. Eat another. Eat another. Amazing. Head out to plant. Work.

12:30 PM: Chinese carry-in. Delicious. Enjoyed company of Oswego folks.

Afternoon: Work on floor plans. Check dimensions. Continue studying platers.

5:00 PM: Pack box of dirty wire mill clothes and wet gym clothes. Nasty. Ask to have sent back on a truck. No rush.

5:30 PM: Depart for Rochester. Stop at Big Lots for clean underwear, socks, and t-shirt

8:15 PM: Arrive in Rochester. (Note: 78 miles)

8:30 PM: Head to restaurant. Monterrey chicken sandwich (includes avocado!) and a beverage.

9:30 PM: Gym

10:15 PM: Shower

Now: Bed

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shocking

The other night I read one of my favorite verses. In fact, this verse is printed on a plaque that hangs in my dining room. However, I happened to read it in the Message and it was as if I was reading the verse for the very first time (just a reminder, this is hanging on a plaque in my dining room).

So here it is in the NIV.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Despite the fact that this verse is hanging in my dining room, if I would have referenced this verse in any way shape or form, I would have thought that "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" was the verse in its entirety.

It is almost like I just totally ignored the other part of the same sentence - the part in blue.

Check it out in the Message.

Brace yourself.

This is shocking!

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2 MSG)

I have more to write but am pooped and tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Link Love

Just wanted to welcome a new blogger to the blog-o-sphere - although I know some of you have already found this blog! If you live in Bremen (and even if you don't), take a gander at the 12/15 post. This dude touches on some pretty important stuff. Although it is in the context of a merger, it really addresses some areas in our town that need some serious consideration. So, check it out.

Chuff's Thinkings

Keep up the good work, bro!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some pics...





Sunday, December 14, 2008

Psalm 1

Last night, I wrote about finding Praise Habit by David Crowder. This is a book that I have already read. However, lately, I have found my daily Bible reading to be increasingly difficult. I struggle to maintain any type of focus. In his book, Crowder takes various Psalms and reflects on them in the in the tradition of Lectio Divina. I'm hoping over the next few weeks to also reflect on the Psalms that he has chosen and may share some of these reflections.

Psalm 1 (MSG)
How well God must like you—
you don't hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.

Instead you thrill to God's Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.

Two phrases from this Psalm really stood out in my mind.

The first, "You're a tree replanted in Eden."

Reading this, I was reminded of post by Trent about this tree named, Rudy. If you click on the link, you'll see that Rudy is getting pretty big. Eventually, he'll need a new home. What would it be like if that new home were Eden and Rudy had the opportunity to drink of never ending streams of living water? What if Rudy could breathe in air free of pollution? What if Rudy could take root in rich soil filled with nutrients? What if Rudy could bask in the radiance of the sun and simply praise God and produce bountiful crops of "whirly-birds"?

The second, "who are mere windblown dust."

An image came to mind that is in stark contrast to the above image. One winter, I was on the way to Rensselear to a basketball game. Needing to release a 24 oz coffee, I stopped at gas station. Upon getting out, I was taken aback by my surroundings. This area is particularly flat and wide open. For miles around me, all I could see was snow covered with this dirty brown film. The winds had turned up dust from the farm fields and covered the clean white snow with grime. In fact, while dashing up to the gas station, my face was pelleted by these grains of sand.

Psalm 1 clearly delineates between the righteous and the wicked. I'm thankful for this God who offers an alternative to the barren wasteland.

Out.

(Stay tuned for some crazy pictures.)

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning

The lyrics to this hymn go with the same tune of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

For anyone interested in faith and learning, take a minute to read and reflect on these beautiful words.

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning

Praise the source of faith and learning
Who has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning
How the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing
From the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing
And renew our need to pray:

God of wisdom, we acknowledge
That our science and our art
And the breadth of human knowledge
Only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation
Lies a depth we cannot sound
Where your purpose for creation
And the pulse of life are found.

May our faith redeem the blunder
Of believing that our thought
Has displaced the grounds for wonder
Which the ancient prophets taught.
May our learning curb the error
Which unthinking faith can breed
Lest we justify some terror
With an antiquated creed.

As two currents in a river
Fight each others’ undertow
‘Til converging they deliver
One coherent steady flow.
Blend, O God, our faith and learning
‘Til they carve a single course
While they join as one returning
Praise and thanks to you their source.
---Thomas H. Troeger (born 1945)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Blessing or a Curse




I know some people who are extremely organized. Some people have a place for everything. One of my friends even has his garage completely organized. This amazes me.


I am not one of these people.

I'm just not wired that way.


The strange thing is that I know how to organize things and have done this for various projects at work - dies, cabinets, even tools for operators. However, I have absolutely no interest in maintaining the organizational scheme once it is set up.


Since purchasing the house, I have been on a purging mission. However, trips to New York and school interrupted this mission. This afternoon, I hit it hard again for a few hours - organizing files and cleaning in one of the closets. While working in the closet, I was just baffled by the randomness. I really don't know what is going through my head or how things end up where they end up. Above you will see some pictures to demonstrate the point.


The first picture is of various items that were piled together on a top shelf.


A blue sweater vest
Finger nail clippers
Discolored wire samples from when I was working in Lafayette
A broken umbrella
A paper entitled "Controlled Reactions on a Copper Surface"
Sheet music for Halle, Halle, Halleluja and Christ Has Risen

The second picture is the contents of a plastic bag stashed on the shelf. Items in the bag:
A German Dictionary
7 unused envelopes
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
pg 92 of UL1581 - Physical Properties of XLPO Insulations
The second page of sheet music for Were You There?


The third picture is the contents of a second bag stashed on the shelf. Items in this second bag:
A letter from Bremen Chevrolet
Praise Habit by David Crowder (I have actually been looking for this book so was delighted to have it appear.)
2 notebooks
A couple pads of unused sticky notes
Cleansing the Leper by Bob Swank
2 one dollar bills
1 glove


Okay, now I'm actually laughing out loud at this random compilation.


This really leaves me with the question: Is this deficiency in organization a curse... or a blessing?
Out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gifts

Tonight, at student ministry, we did a little activity. Each person had a gift envelope filled with phrases describing gifts falling into four categories: leadership, service, teaching, and encouragement. Each person picked the statement that best described him or her. Then each person taped descriptions onto other people. After everyone was done taping, we sat down for a discussion. However, there was a little twist to the activity. The phrases were color-coded according to the four categories. One of the students realized that we each had a color that was more common. It was pretty cool to read through the descriptions and realize how accurately we had identified the gifts of each person in the room. This led to a really interesting discussion and each person had insights to share. One student shared challenges that she encounters because of her gift. One thing that really stood out to me was how we identified the gifts of others. Isn't it weird that others can sometimes see our gifts - maybe even more than we can see the gifts in ourselves? Isn't it crazy that each of us has a gift - a gift to share with other people? What an amazing responsibility. This kind blows my mind.

1 Peter 7-11, MSG: Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Intrinsic Motivation

This semester, I took accounting and economics at Bethel. I have always really enjoyed school. However, this semester, more than ever, I experienced intrinsic motivation or "motivation associated activities that are there own reward." In other words, the freedom to just learn for the sake of learning pervaded my experience in these two classes. Economics helped me to think more about how and why we make decisions. Accounting was like solving these cool puzzles that also happened to be quite practical - like developing a mortgage amortization schedule or calculating present and future values of money. Tonight, though, my professor said something that just really took me by surprise. After turning in the final, he handed me my last homework assignment and held out his hand. I thought that was kind of strange, but I shook his hand. He said, "In all my years of teaching, you were by far the best student I have ever had." What? That just floored me. However, some things really started to make sense to me. I like school. I like learning. I like being a student. The cool thing is that it isn't even about grades anymore - it is about learning. Is it possible to be a professional student? That would be amazing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Evening Journey

Well, tonight I did something a little bit unusual (at least for me)...

As I opened the door of the car, the sharp air took my breath away. I started on my way. Soon, I turned the corner and looked up. Before me, through the flurries and amidst the sounds of the carillon, stood the Golden Dome. To its left stood the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. My pace quickened in anticipation of the the warmth inside. I climbed the steps and opened the door to find a church filled with people. A few seats remained in the left section of pews. I sat down, and a moment later, the organ filled the cavernous structure. Voices sang out, "Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear." The procession rounded the corner in front of me and soon the pungent odor of incense filled the air.

The Feast of Lessons and Carols was a beautifully solemn experience anticipating the coming of our Lord. This year, more than ever, has proven, thus far, to be difficult to find a few moments to contemplate the coming of Christ. Tonight, however, provided an opportunity, amidst the hustle and bustle and uncertain times, to think about Jesus. As the incense permeated the air, I thought about Jesus permeating our lives offering this amazing connection, this link, between Earth and Heaven.

______

Justin shared this link to Advent Conspiracy. Check it out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Glory to God in the Highest

Okay, I want to be honest about something tonight. I have been going, going, going for days, weeks. Sometimes, I feel like the game Atari Pong. We still had my dad's game when we were younger. My brother and I would play it on the old TV in our upstairs bedroom. My favorite part of the game was when the Pong block would get "stuck" and just go back and forth horizontally. That is what it has kind of felt like lately with work, school, church, and trips to Oswego. So honestly, Holy Walk this year seemed kind of like another thing on the calendar.

Holy Walk is this great event in Bremen that has been around for 28 years. In fact, my parents were involved in organizing the original Holy Walk and it was at our farm. It is a journey to Bethlehem and includes encounters with Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels, the innkeeper at the inn, the merchants in the village, Jesus in the manger, and the wise men.

With some reluctance, I donned the angel garb and headed out in the cold with my trumpet and halo. The amazing thing is that it was so worth it. The "heavenly hosts" had a riotous time telling stories, laughing, eating. Several groups had passed by and then this special group came up to visit the shepherds.

Upon observing the signal, I did the little trumpet fanfare and exclaimed:

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12, ESV)

As I said, "Fear not," every person, EVERY PERSON, kneeled. Now typically, the shepherds will kneel and maybe a few kids, but in this group, every person kneeled.

Then, the rest of the angels sang,

"Glory to God in the Highest,
Peace on Earth,
Goodwill,
Toward men."

Wow.

Seeing those folks kneeling, hearing the angels singing, I thought about worship, about Heaven and Earth touching, about praising God.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Monday

Okay, I realize tonight is Wednesday night already. However, I'd like to back track to Monday for a few moments to record two events for posterity.

Monday morning, I headed into the weight room just like any other Monday morning. After lifting for awhile, I started cardio on the stationary bike. Usually, I just stay on one machine, but for some reason, the treadmill looked enticing. (I had some negative vibes to sweat out and the bike just wasn't getting it done.) So I cranked that thing up to 9.5-10 mph and got in a quick mile and then was ready to head to the stepper. I backed the speed down and then pressed "stop." The machine continued to slow down and I thought it was slow enough to step off.

Uh, yeah, about that.

It wasn't.

The floor felt kind of hard after flying off the machine.

In the past, I would have been pretty mortified by this little situation. However, I just got up and head over to the stepper. It was kind of comical really.

Fast forward to Monday night after class. I was heading south from campus and it was sleeting. I was droving slow because of the slippery road. However, despite the caution, the headlights from the car behind me were not reflecting in the rearview mirror. No, they were shining right into my eyes. In an instant, my car had rotated 180 degrees and was still in the correct lane. So I checked the other lane, turned the car around, and headed on my merry shook up way.

These two events were pretty powerful reminders to me. I needed these events. They reminded me that some things are beyond our control, that life is fragile, that sometimes it is necessary to just get up and get going again, that sometimes it can feel like things are going in completely the wrong direction. However, the enemy - whether it be embarrassment, guilt, shame, even death - has been defeated.

We sang this great song from Hillsong last night...

The enemy has been defeated
And death couldn't hold You down
We're gonna lift our voice in victory
We're gonna make Your praises loud

Monday, December 1, 2008

Music

Music has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. As a youngster, I remember singing in the programs at church. Piano lessons started in 1st grade. Band started in 5th grade and extended all the way through college. I even took some piano in college. Now, I play keyboard in the worship band at church. However, this is extremely difficult for me. Why? Well, the music is not written out on the page. By this, I mean that all of my music background has involved reading the music - attempting to replicate the notes, rhythms, tempos, etc, that are written on the page. In fact, as students, we were graded on how close we "perfected" the sheet music. This past Friday, instead of replicating someone else's music, we (Trent, Ben, and I) created music with the dulcimer, guitar, and keyboard. No sheet music. No plan. We just played. I don't know about the other guys, but this was really amazing for me. I felt free.

I think that there is much more to this experience. The parallels to both life and church seem quite striking. Do any of you ever feel that your life is somehow trying to be scripted by our culture? I do. There is the right type of haircut, the right job, the right car, the right clothes. However, what happens when we are free to create the music and not let the sheet music create us?

I think this is similar to the church, too. So much of contemporary Christianity seems scripted, religious, just going through the motions. Honestly, that is what it seems like for me right now. Yet, last night I was reading about this amazing Jesus - the Revolutionary. The Jesus who deliberately healed on the Sabbath, who defied traditions, who ate food with unwashed hands, who healed with spittle and clay - in direct defiance of Jewish law. (see Pagan Christianity) To continue on with the analogy, Jesus created his own music - a song filled with freedom, spontaneity, and joy.

What would it be like to be a part of this music - to be at the "center of the beating heart of God?"

Right now, I don't know.

However, I long for this.