Sunday, November 28, 2010


luke-yoda“Adventure, heh. Excitement, heh. A Jedi craves not these things.” So says Yoda to a young Luke Skywalker seeking training to be a Jedi Knight.  But we are different. We like at least a little adventure in our lives.

My friend, Craig, craves the adventure of climbing. He and his wife and his two children are avid climbers, having climbed a lot in the Rocky Mountains. Craig became somewhat famous a few years ago after surviving a one hundred foot fall. His story can be found here at After The Fall Ministry website. Maybe Craig will never be a Jedi, but he’s a Knight in the Kingdom of God. He’s got a great story to tell of the love and mercy of God and isn’t afraid to tell it – whether hanging from a fifty foot ledge or in front of a group of people in a church.

My friend, Richard, craves the adventure of composing new music. He’s dedicated his life to making music. As anyone who’s ever tried to make a living at it, it is not an adventure for the faint of heart. SoutherRichard also came close to death living his adventure – nearly losing everything, even his life, contracting botulism while in a recording studio. Richard may never be a Jedi, but he’s a Knight in the Kingdom of God. He tells the story of God’s love through his music – whether on local morning TV, in a restaurant, in a recording studio or in front of a group of people leading worship. Find out more about Richard here at his website.

There is no lack of adventure in this world that God has given us. In fact, God is the author of adventure! The adventure of Noah and the Ark. The adventure of Abraham traveling from Ur to Canaan. Moses’ adventure at the Red Sea. David’s adventure with Saul, Goliath, and Absalom.

But the greatest adventure is that of Jesus Christ. We’re coming up on Christmas pretty fast – four weeks away, where Jesus’ earthly adventure – His ministry among us – began when He was born in Bethlehem.

The four weeks the precede Christmas are called by Christians the adventSeason of Advent. Advent comes from a word that means coming. But the word also is part of the English word adventure which also comes from a word that means “that which will happen.” These four weeks leading up to Christmas are a great time not only to prepare for the big day of gift-giving and family gathering – including the adventure of shopping for gifts – but also a a time to prepare for Christ’s second coming.

Jesus is coming back. It won’t be like His first coming. There were few people who knew about at the time – Mary, Joseph, some shepherds, and eventually some wise men from the east.

When Jesus comes back the second time everyone is going to know about it.

Now is the time to prepare for the return of the King of kings. This Advent, prepare for the greatest adventure!

Friday, November 26, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 26 (Bonus)

452421639_68b7375d94The day after Thanksgiving is a day of decoration for my family. We usually head out into some wilderness and cut down the family Christmas tree, bring it home and then decorate the house.

We listen to great Christmas music, have turkey sandwiches and leftovers from yesterday’s feast for lunch, and then watch a Christmas-themed movie.

GEDC0085I hope you enjoyed my thoughts over the past 25 days. I also hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Don’t let the thanks-giving end. Live a life of thanksgiving – make it thanks-living!

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 25

prairie sunrise

Just minutes before dawn on Thanksgiving morning I crawl out of bed, find my shoes in the dark closet (trying not to wake my wife) and head down to the kitchen. I plug the coffee pot in and then walk out to the garage. It’s cold outside as I get the turkey that’s been thawing in the fridge for the last couple of days and bring it into the house to finishing thawing in the sink.

I’m thankful for all of that, because I know what the rest of the day will bring. My dad and his wife will be over later for dinner. My brother and his family will also be stopping by. My wife will be making dinner in the kitchen while my sons and I watch the parade on TV. Tonight we’ll be heading to my mom’s to celebrate with her.

This is our first Thanksgiving back in the Midwest after four years in California. While we were happy in California, we are really thankful to be back home. Last night my wife and I, along with our three sons and my mom, went to Thanksgiving worship where I will be helping out as a vacancy assistant pastor. We heard a great message about blessing the Lord in response to what the Lord has done for us. We communed together as a family along with about a hundred other brothers and sisters in the Lord. The music was wonderful – piano, organ and handbells.

Later today the weather calls for snow flurries. I think we’ll put a mediumfire in the fireplace while we watch football and eat my homemade pumpkin pie (see Day 24).  I’ll also have a slice of blueberry pie my wife made especially for me (it’s my favorite).

I’m also thankful for you, for reading my posts this month about the things that I am thankful for. I hope you enjoyed them and they brought a little of God’s joy and blessing to you. When I give thanks, I am blessed by God and feel his love for me in Christ Jesus.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 24

pumpkinpiedoneAbout 7 years ago I discovered Alton Brown’s Good Eats on the Food Network. It renewed a interested in cooking in me that finds its full expression at this time of year.

One of my favorite parts of our Thanksgiving dinner is the pumpkin pie. I’ve only had pumpkin pie made from a can so this year, after watching an AltonBrow_John_12899398_600episode of Good Eats, I decided that it was time to try my hand at making a pumpkin pie from scratch.

Alton Brown makes everything look so easy, but in this case it actually came out that way. It took me about 2 hours and I think it came out just great! I changed the recipe just a tad to reflect my own tastes, and I’ll share that at the bottom of this blog.

I’m thankful that God provides all the produce for a pumpkin pie – pumpkins, eggs, cream, spices, sugar. I’m thankful also for whoever figured out how to put all these things together in just the right amounts, in just the order.

Wednesdays are usually the day my wife and I make the pies for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s today!

We’re closing in on the big day! Let me know if you try this recipe this year and how it turned out!

Alton Brown’s Pumpkin Pie (modified)



6 ounces grahm crackers (Brown’s recipe calls for gingersnap cookies)
1 tablespoon golden brown sugar (Brown’s recipe calls for dark brown sugar)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted


16 ounces Pumpkin Puree, recipe follows
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (Brown’s recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust: Combine the graham crackers, brown sugar, and ginger  in a freezer bag and crush with rolling pin (Brown’s recipe calls for crushing them in a food processor). Crush until the crackers are fine crumbs. Drizzle the butter into the crumb mixture and shake to combine thoroughly (Brown’s recipe calls for pulsing it 8 to 10 times to combine).

Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom, up the sides, and just over the lip of a 9-inch glass pie dish. Place on a half sheet pan and bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool crust at least 10 minutes before filling.

For the filling: Bring the pumpkin puree to a simmer over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the half-and-half, nutmeg, and salt. Stir and return the mixture to a simmer. Remove the pumpkin mixture from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, and yolk until smooth in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour the prepared filling into the warm pie crust and bake on the same half sheet pan until the center jiggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 to 3 hours before slicing. Pie can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Pie is best the day after it is made.

Pumpkin Puree:

1 (4 to 6-pound) baking pumpkin, rinsed and dried
Kosher salt

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice a small piece of skin off the one side of the pumpkin so when laid on its side, the pumpkin will lay flat without rolling. Remove the stem and split the pumpkin in half from top to bottom (I used a large knife for this – Brown uses a cleaver and mallet). Scoop out the seeds and fiber with a large metal spoon or ice cream scoop. Cut the fibers with kitchen shears if necessary.

Sprinkle the flesh with kosher salt and lay the halves, flesh side down, on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan. Roast until a paring knife can be easily inserted and removed from the pumpkin, 30 to 45 minutes. Test in several places to ensure doneness.

Remove the half sheet pan to a cooling rack and cool the pumpkin for 1 hour. Using a large spoon, remove the roasted flesh of the pumpkin from the skin to the bowl of a stand mixer (Brown uses a food processor). Use the whisk attachment on low for 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.


25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 23

206-1In 1973 Charlie Brown hosted a dinner of toast, pretzels, popcorn, and jellybeans to some of his friends for Thanksgiving.

Watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is part of my family’s traditional Thanksgiving celebration. It is a fun and interesting 25 minutes that helps my wife and I teach our sons about good manners and why it’s a good thing to pause and give thanks.

This Thanksgiving special is part of a trilogy for my family that beings with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and concludes with A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving includes Peppermint Patty, Marcy, and Franklin, who are not in the other two specials. Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, which puts Charlie Brown on the spot to provide a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for his friends, even though he can only make cereal and toast (although he can’t butter the toast, for some reason). As the dinner begins, Linus once again charlie_brown_thanksgiving_outdoor_Wallpaper_wnvhgsurprises everyone with his knowledge of historical events, sharing with everyone the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Charlie Brown’s grandmother saves the day by inviting all of Charlie Brown’s friends over to her condo for a real Thanksgiving dinner.

I am thankful for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because it gives my family a half-hour or so of quiet time to enjoy each other’s company and relax at what can be a very hectic and busy time of year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 22

I’m thankful for the pilgrims.1620-pilgrims

The winter of 1620-21 was, by most accounts, pretty harsh. Of the 102 people who crossed the North Atlantic to the shores of northeastern North America 47 survived the first winter, due to disease exacerbated by cold and snowy weather.

Yet they endured. Their faith in God, in Jesus Christ, got them through that first winter.

Thankfully, they met a Native American by the name of Squanto. He 220px-Squantoteachingspoke English and he taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and plant corn. He also may have been a Christian – at the very least he know about Jesus Christ, learning of Christ from Spanish Friars during his time in Spain.


The Pilgrims sought freedom to worship as they felt was right for them. They could not do that in Europe. So they made the difficult choice to find a new place to live.

150 years later, a country was formed in North America based partly on their faith ideas.

That we can now worship as we choose, in freedom and peace, is reason enough to give thanks to God today. But wait, there’s more! This land that the Pilgrims settled in, paving the way for a new veggienation, continues to yield a bounty of produce seldom seen elsewhere in the history of the planet. Nearly 400 years later we still have more than enough – to enjoy and to share with the world.

That’s what I’m thankful for this day.

True Men Thanksgiving Tips

1378549_height370_width560Many in USAmerica – if the news reports are to be believed – will be traveling this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Here’s some tips that will help you actually enjoy the time.

Get a good night’s sleep the night before traveling. It can be done if you plan a little bit ahead of time.

Pack light. Remember, unless you are flying Southwest, you are going to be charged for checking luggage. You have a 50 pound weigh limit, too.

Pray for patience. Just about every problem encountered during the Thanksgiving holiday – travel included – can be countered with a healthy does of patience. It helps me to remember that the airline employees are not your enemy. They are trying to move thousands a people an hour through their area in as an efficient way as possible.

Don’t drink alcohol before or during your travels. I hope its obvious that you shouldn’t be drinking if you are the one actually driving. But even if you are the passenger, don’t drink. Call me a prude, but think about it – alcohol impairs your ability to think, make good decisions, and stay awake. Abstaining will help greatly in the patience department as well.

Limit the other drinks as well. Keep hydrated, of course, but stick to water instead of caffeinated drinks. You’ll be visiting the bathroom a lot less. For me, there’s no bigger hassle while flying than using the on-board bathrooms. And have you seen airport bathrooms?

If you see someone at the airport or at a stop along the way of your trip that appears to need help, help them. This is the Thanksgiving holiday, and a great way to give thanks is to help, extending a helping hand to someone in need.

When the family gathers together this week, remember that these people are supposed to love you and you are supposed to love them. If you are sitting across the table from someone who disagrees with you politically, theologically, or sports-ily, just say to yourself, “I love them and dinner is almost over.”

thumb_1231456732501_0p5858853643823351Give thanks. That was the original intent of the Thanksgiving holiday. There’s nothing wrong with eating turkey, watching football, and taking a nap. But also give thanks. Pray. Go to worship. Thank God for what you have.

This is just  a couple of ways I thought of to have a more enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.

What are some of yours?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 21

Closing in on Thanksgiving Day and today I am thankful that I can worship with my family.

Over the past 15 years I’ve been a pastor in three Lutheran churches. I can count on two hands the opportunities I’ve had during that time to actually sit in a pew with my family to worship.

That bugs me because I’ve exhorted families to worship together – and I’ve exhorted dads to worship with their wife and kids whenever possible – while sitting 25 yards from my own family (at best) and not having them in church at all (at worst).

The last three months I’ve taken time off from being full-time pastor. While I’ve filled in at two churches, I’ve taken more opportunities to worship with my family – actually sitting in the pew with them.

This morning was one of those times. It was wonderful! I sang hymns with my son sitting next to me. I took communion with another son kneeling next to me. I heard two of my sons sing an anthem with the choir. I stood next to my wife as we greeted other worshipers.

For a husband and father, there is nothing that makes the family and marriage stronger than worshiping and praying together. There can be no reason – not even being a full-time pastor in a church – that a husband and a father doesn’t worship with his family on a regular basis.

And this year, I’m thankful that I have even more time to worship with my wife and sons!


A day of national thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the 4th Thursday in November. The date isn’t as traditional as the principle is, nor is it more important.

thanksgiving_imageA day of thanksgiving – rather several days – has its origins in what would later become the southern United States when the Berkeley Hundred established a colony in Virginia in 1619. Their charter expressly stated,

    "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
["THE FIRST THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION — JUNE 20, 1676". The Covenant News. Retrieved 2010-11-20.]

Most baby boomers and older remember learning about the “first” Thanksgiving at the Plymouth Colony in 1621 with William Bradford, Squanto, Massasoit and others. This celebration was held to give thanks to God for the blessings of a bountiful harvest, the crucial help from the native Americans, and God’s mercy that saw them through a harsh winter.

thanksgiving-tableToday, Thanksgiving is a day of turkey, pumpkin pie, football, and family gatherings. And to me there’s nothing wrong with that as long as that’s not all Thanksgiving is.

At my house an integral part of the Thanksgiving celebration has been the worship of God. We have either attended a local church or I have led worship and preached as the pastor of a church.

We give thanks to God by hearing His word, singing His praise, receiving His sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ (the Eucharist – from the Greek word for thanksgiving), and sharing of our abundance with others. We do this through our giving in the offering and adding canned and boxed foods to the food offering.

offer thanksThis is something that America needs to recapture about Thanksgiving. Worshiping God and giving thanks by helping others. Thanksgiving has to be more than just receiving – turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie. Think about the word, thanksgiving. It is a compound word that means giving thanks.

God has given us so much – our homes, our daily bread, our families, our salvation through Jesus Christ. But the nature of these gifts is in the giving – first His giving them to us and then us giving to others. We are blessed when we respond to God’s love by giving to others out of what God has given to us.

It isn’t hard to find commentary and opinion about what is wrong with America. The level of civility is probably the most blatant example of a lack of thanksgiving in America. If we could stop looking inward and start to hold out hands of thanksgiving to help and build up, our country would be able to turn the corner from a very bad place it finds itself in right now.

Now is the perfect time to do that. Families will be gathering this week. Extend a hand of love and appreciation to them. And then take that feeling home as the family-dinner-thanksgivingAdvent/Christmas season begins. Don’t focus on the negative, instead be the positive force of thanksgiving and change that our country needs. You can do it because God has already done it for you through Jesus Christ!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving - Day 20

I love snowfall.

Thanksgiving SnowfallLiving in the Chicago area – practically on the Illinois-Wisconsin state line – we could anticipate the first snowfall sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving Day.

I looked forward to that day as a child. But that was because I didn’t really had to shovel that snow to clear the driveway and the side walk at my house.

Now, as an adult, that’s what I have to do. It’s a lot of work. But you know what? I still look forward to that first snowfall!

grill in snowI have this kind of weird thing that I like to grill steaks during the first snowfall of the season. Usually grilling is a summer-time event, but I like to fire up the grill in the cold, snowy air and stand there shivering while the steaks sizzle and pop and the snowflakes steam away on the lid.

The first snowfall is magical, especially if it is before Christmas. It fills me with anticipation for that wonderful day of celebrating the gift of a Savior.

And I am thankful for that!


Friday, November 19, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 19

Ok, this is going to sound weird. In fact, you aren’t going to believe me. Some of you probably would say, “You are a liar” to my face if you were actually sitting in front of me instead of this computer screen.

I like to shop. I’m thankful for shopping.

I think I have to turn in my LHM Man Card for that. But it’s true. I like shopping.

Now, I’ve been camping in the wilds of Idaho and fished for trout in Ed fishingthe North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. Nothing tastes better than freshly caught trout from an ice-cold river next to a campsite I hiked an hour to carrying my tent, clothes and fishing gear on my back.


Craig, Ed, Irving Rock ClimbingI’ve climbed rocks in Joshua Tree National Park with a one-legged man in 110 degree sunshine. It wasn’t easy and I couldn’t get very high on the scorching rocks, but I learned a lot about myself and about God’s plan for me in His Kingdom. I also made friends for life.



But I really like grocery shopping, too. It must have something to do with watching the Food Network. It also might have something to with this time of year – a time when my family has some of my favorite foods to eat at a family dinner.

SuperStock_1555R-300054I enjoy finding the special ingredients, walking up and down the grocery store aisles,smiling at people – and either encouraging them or making them wonder what’s wrong with me. And thinking about how wonderful the food is going to smell as it cooks, taste as I eat it.

And I’m especially thankful that I get to prepare it with my wife and share it with my family on Thanksgiving Day.Thanksgiving 2008 023

Tired of Commercialism at Christmas?

If you feel there is too much commercialism at Christmas, don't boycott the store - take it over for a time!

A Random Act of Culture

Found this via a link from Susan Isaacs.

Using Twitter Effectively

For the past month I’ve had a lot of time to really explore the twitter universe. I have three twitter accounts – a personal account, one for my internet radio show, and one I oversee for True Men Ministries.

I’ve been on twitter for nearly two years and here are some ways to use twitter that I have found work really well.

1. Followers are not the end-all-be-all of Twitter.

After you’ve been on twitter for about a week or so, you will begin seeing email from different websites that promise thousands and tens of thousands of followers. But you probably already know TANSTAAFL. (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). Some of these sites are out-front with it – they’ll get you a plethora of followers for a set price – $5, $10, or more. Some are more subtle about it – they won’t ask for money, but they will require your email address, which they will then sell to others and in return you will be have an avalanche of spam email sent to that address.

These websites are trading on the near-addiction that twitter can lead to – people wanting as many followers as possible. While having followers is the point of Twitter, I much rather have 300 followers who are actually reading my tweets than 3000 followers who ignore me.

Cultivate your followers as the relationships that they should be – one at a time. For the last month I have gained nearly 100 followers for my internet radio account by actually dialoging with each follower. I have personally talked – via twitter – with each follower at least once.

2. Building followers via Follow Friday

In keeping with the spirit of relationship of point 1, don’t just fill a  tweet with as many tweeters as possible along with the ff hashtag. I now include only one or two other persons or groups in each #ff tweet. And I include a personal reason why I’m recommending them.

3. Follow active tweeters

Every couple of weeks I clean out my following list, deleting those tweeters who haven’t tweeted for more than 7-10 days. And related to this is

4. Be active.

I usually generate 10-30 tweets a day. I utilize a pending tweet option that my twitter tool offers and set up many of my announcement tweets ahead of time. But I also tweet my own thoughts and replies in real time.

5. Use a translation tool.

I have followers from all over the world, especially for my classical music internet radio show. So I use Google’s translate tool to generate tweets in the language of my followers.

6. Consider the local time of your followers.

For example, if I want to announce an update to my radio show that the London Symphony Orchestra will be a featured artist, I will tweet this when my followers and intended audience are most likely to be online. Since I live in the UTC –6 time zone, I will tweet it at 9:00 a.m. – when I am usually online. But I will also tweet it at 3:00 a.m. where I am – which is 9:00 a.m. London time. There are numerous sources of research available that show that most people who use twitter are usually online between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. local (where they are, not necessarily where you are).

7. Use Hashtags

You can target your tweets with a twitter hashtag. It is the “number” or “pound” sigh – # – before the target word. I target tweets that I want to reach Londoners, for example, by using “#London”. The tweet will then show up in a list of tweets with that hashtag. People looking for any and all tweets about London will then see it because they will  use #London as their search operator.

It is estimated that there will be 200 million people using twitter by January 2011. There has never been a free source of advertising and contact available to people like this before. Twitter can be a tool to get your message to millions of people. Use it well!

LiveJournal Tags: ,,,

The Gettysburg Address

147 years ago Abraham Lincoln – 16th president of the United States of America – gave a short speech to dedicate the cemetery at Gettysburg, PA.

It is short. It is succinct. But it is possibly the most powerful speech in the world’s history – and certainly in United States history.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation,

conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us

- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom

- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

text taken from

Thursday, November 18, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 18

In August my family and I moved back to the Midwest after living four years in Southern California.

The week before we moved, a house became available to rent literally seconds down the road from my mom’s house (and where I grew up).

We moved in and the moment all the boxes were unpacked and the furniture was where we wanted it, I felt like I was home. The house is the same style as my mom’s so it really feels like I’ve gone back in time.

Now that Thanksgiving is one week away, I’m really thankful for this house. It has everything I need: a fireplace, good insulation (temps are dropping into the 20’s at night), a backyard to play in, it’s close to my mom’s, it’s an hour’s drive away from downtown Chicago – and, most important of all, it has my wife and three sons in it with me.

I’m thankful for my house because it provides walls and a roof for my home.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 17

I love Chicago Bears football. As I’m sitting here writing this, I have my Chicago Bears hoodie on. My keys are hanging around my neck on my Chicago Bears lanyard. I drove this morning wearing my Chicago Bears sunglasses.

On most Sundays, I watch at least two football games. First and foremost – which means I actually plan around this – I will watch the Bears play. But I also like to watch the Packers game – but just to cheer on whoever they are playing.

But this Sunday I won’t be watching the Bears play. That’s because they are playing Thursday night! We now have Thursday night football, and I am thankful for that!

When I was growing up, the only Thursday football games where when the Lions and the Cowboys played on Thanksgiving Day. But this year, my sons and I will be able to watch the Chicago Bears play on the Thursday before Thanksgiving.

Ok, yeah, it’s just football. It isn’t life-changing and I’m sure there are more important things that we could be doing.

But my sons and I will be able to sit down together, with some chili-cheese dip and chips, and some pop and watch some football. The most important part of all that – and that for which I am so very thankful – is being together with my sons.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 16

Sox at home - December 2008 003Two Christmases ago, my sons and I surprised my wife with her very own beagle. She named him Sox, after the White Sox (my wife is such a good sport, claiming the Sox as her team even then she’s from St. Louis, just because she married me, a die-hard Sox fan).

Even though Sox is, technically, her dog, somehow I’m the one who he snuggles with at night to keep warm, comes whining to when he has to go out, and cowers from when he does something naughty in the house.

Somehow, even though Sox is my wife’s dog, I’m the one that takes him for walks in the pre-dawn hours (most days) and cleans up after him when he’s done something naughty in the house.

Actually, I don’t mind at all. Even though Sox is my wife’s dog, he’s Sox with Santa 2009 001really the family pet. And we’re all very thankful for him. He’s a lot of fun to play with. He loves chasing his toys when we throw them around. He wrestles nicely (meaning he doesn’t bit hard at all).

He also is a good watch-dog. Sox doesn’t like even squirrels or birds to be in our yard, much less two-legged strangers.

When it gets chilly at night, I’m especially thankful that he likes to snuggle because he’s soft and warm and keeps me warm. Sox is great companion for our family and really is a part of our family.

Monday, November 15, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 15

I’m thankful for the time I get to spend with my wife. Because we GEDC0029both work, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together awake. I’ve tried to make sure that the time we do spend together is good.

We make dinners for the family together, we fold laundry together, we watch TV and DVD’s together.

But the most important time we spend together is our devotional and prayer time each evening.

We’ve been married for 19 years and have been parents for 14 years. Time for just the two of us has been little and far-between but we make the most of it (most of the time).

We don’t know for sure what kind of time we’ll have after the boys are out on their own so we keep that in mind when given opportunities to spend time together now.

This time of year is our favorite. We love decorating the house, making holiday treats, and cooking holiday dinners – all together!

And we’re thankful for that.

25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day 14

I am thankful for the privilege of proclaiming the Law and Gospel of God in front of a congregation, as well as being the lead worshiper, on Sundays and other days of the week.

I just finished up a sermon that I preached five times over the course of four days. I really enjoyed sharing the message of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.

I also enjoyed the different styles of worship – evening casual, morning traditional and a contemporary praise service.

I’ve been preaching in churches since 1988. But I’ve been preaching in – or rather, through – my life for 45 years.

Preaching the Gospel is not something I do just from pulpits in front of churches. In fact, I do it more powerfully (good and bad) through the way I live my life.

I am thankful for this privilege. But I am more thankful that God touches people’s hearts through – and sometimes in spite of – my proclamation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do Whatever It Takes

If you are a leader, you have to do whatever it takes to lead your team to success.

That doesn’t mean breaking the rules, though. You need to know the rules inside and out in order to lead within them.

“Do whatever it takes” may mean to step down from a traditional – or stereotypical – leadership role. Sometimes you need to lead by becoming servant of all.

Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, led His disciples by taking the role of a servant and washing their feet. This was not a symbolic act. It was a task that needed to be done. The men’s feet were dirty (they wore sandals and walked everywhere, after all!).

In washing their feet, Jesus took His leadership of the disciples to another level. They had recently been arguing about who among them was the greatest. Other, than Jesus, of course. Certainly they must have know that Jesus was the greatest among them. So the argument must have been about who, other than Jesus, was the greatest.

Jesus tells them, “let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26). But He also shows them by washing their feet.

Jesus did whatever He could to successfully lead. Within a few hours, He would lead them all to salvation by keeping the Law perfectly and performing the ultimate sacrifice – by dying on the cross. He was without sin, but took all the world’s sin on himself and paid the price for all that sin.

As a leader, I will do whatever I can to lead those entrusted to me. My wife and children and anyone else. If that means sacrificing my own personal comforts, then that’s what I will do. If that means getting a second job to provide for my family and not over-burden a congregation (because I’m a pastor), then that’s what I will do. I will not resort to actions or activities outside the law. But I will do whatever I can within the boundaries of the law to lead.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day 13

A couple of years ago, my sons and I decided to save up our money and purchase a Nintendo Wii game system.

We wanted to get something that we could all play together. The Wii had the games we could play together.

And today I’m thankful for that.

We love playing Wii bowling and Wii golf. Four can play at a time and we take turns playing together since there are five us in our family.

My wife enjoys bowling with our sons. I enjoy golf. They also love competing against each other in Wii 3-on-3 basketball, table tennis, regular tennis, but they also like playing as two-men teams in Super Mario Galaxy.

On a day like today – chilly and rainy – we put a fire in the fireplace and fire up the Wii.

So, I better get back to the games!

Friday, November 12, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day 12

Pizza. I’m thankful for pizza. Any pizza.

Chicago Style PizzaBeing from Chicago, I certainly like Chicago-style pizza. To describe Chicago-style pizza as “deep dish” pizza would be like describing the Grand Canyon as a “big hole.”

Chicago-style pizza is generally 5-pounds of crust, cheese, sauce and, for me, another three pounds of pepperoni.

But today I am especially thankful for home-made pizza. Ever since home made pizzamy youngest son was old enough to eat big-people food we have made it a tradition in our family to have a family pizza night.

It started out as a Saturday night thing but when the church I was serving as pastor started a Saturday night service, we moved family pizza night to Friday night and it has been there for the last 10 years or so.

EmergencyThis tradition was inspired by something my dad did with me and my brother. Back in the early 70’s the three of us would order pizza and watch Emergency! on Saturday nights. That’s a great memory for me.

It’s great that now they have Emergency! available on DVD so my kids can enjoy this campy but exciting TV show and I can bond one of my favorite childhood memories with them.

Family Pizza Night! I’m looking forward to that tonight!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving–Day11

I am thankful for the men and women who served in our nation’s armed forces.

iwojima-gravesFour men in my family are veterans. My grandmother’s brother served in the U.S. Marines in World War II and died on Iwo Jima. While he died a long way from home, he died protecting his home. While I never met him, having been born 25 years after he died, he sacrificed his life for me and for that I am thankful!

I am also thankful for my grandfather. He was a private in the 1st Dad ArmyDivision of the U.S. Army in World War II. He fought at Normandy and at Bastogne. He received the Purple Heart and came home to raise a family. He then served as a U.S. Postman till he retired. He died in the late 80’s while I was a seminary student. He never told me about his experiences in the war, much like most veterans.

That is why I am also thankful for historians like Stephen Ambrose who were able to get veterans to open up about their experiences and publish them in books like “Band of Brothers.”

I am also thankful for my uncle, who served in the U. S. Marines but not in combat. He was part of a peace-time military that is also important to the protection of our nation.

ArmyAnd I am especially thankful for my dad who served in the U.S. Army in the tenuous peace of the early 1960’s. He served in a missile defense unite that proved to be vitally important to winning the cold war.




I am also thankful on the 11th Day of November for military chaplains. Veterans Day is on November 11 because that was the day the Armistice was Chaplain Taylorsigned that ended World War I.

But November 11 is also the Feast Day of St. Martin of Tours. He is considered the patron saint of soldiers. Military chaplains are also saints to soldiers, often being the first person to provide comfort when tragedy strikes.

My friend, Kurt Taylor, is a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force and has served troops here in the U.S. and in Southwest Asia. I thank him and all chaplains for their vital service in our nation’s armed services.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving–Day 10

I am thankful for my mom. GEDC0025

She was the first to love me and has never stopped – which is saying something (if you knew me)!

One of the things that I’ve always admired about my mom is that she treated my friends like they were her own kids. My friends were always welcomed by my mom. She would feed them and provide a place to sleep at the drop of a hat.

This time of year I am especially thankful. Whenever I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas I think of my mom. The smells that come from her kitchen are a vital part of the holidays.

And for the last 14 years she has been a integral part of my own family’s Christmas. Ever since my youngest son was born, we have visited my mom no matter where we lived. We would travel home sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day and spent time with mom. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without her.

The last four Christmases tested this for us, as we lived 2000 miles away in California. The last two trips back home were especially dicey. We narrowly missed being snowed in at my mom’s on December 23 both years and I need to be in my church to lead worship on Christmas Eve!

This year will be much easier. In August we moved back to the Midwest, actually living in a house literally just down the street from my mom’s house.

I think the one thing I really love about my mom and am especially GEDC0216thankful for is her relationship with my wife. My mom had just me and my brother. My wife was her first daughter. And for my wife, my mom is the only mom she has right now, her mother passing away when my wife was a teenager. Those two have a very special relationship and I’m a better man for it.

Thanks, mom. I love you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day 9


I am thankful for my dad. He provided a good home for me during my formative years.

He also instilled in me the importance of an active church life – what today we call “being the church, not just going to church.” He wasn’t perfect. But he lives the “forgiven” life and taught me to live the same.

My dad loved to travel, which is where I get my love of travel from. The one trip that stands out above all others is the trip he and I took to Italy. We stayed in Cortina and skied where the 1956 Winter Olympics were staged. We also took a day-trip to Venice that I will never forget.

But it wasn’t all travel and church growing up. There were the wonderful Fourth of July parties, Memorial Day parties, New Year’s Eve, Christmas and Easter celebrations. The dinners with my grandparents, aunts & uncles, and cousins. The ball games at Comiskey Park and listening to E.G. Marshal host old-time radio shows while driving home.

Now that I am a dad to three boys of my own, we have spent many Thanksgiving dinners with my dad. He and Nonnie  have made the trip to our house many times to be with me and my wife and sons.

Because of an early memory I have with my dad of venturing into the California wilderness to cut down a Christmas tree (what I remember is mud, mud, and more mud) my wife and sons head out into whatever wilderness we can find where we live and obtain our family Christmas tree.

So many memories and I’m sure I’m forgetting much more than I’m remembering.

But the most important thing I know and am thankful for is that I am the dad I am today due, in large part, to my dad.

And the reason I say “I love you” to my sons nearly every day, if not several times a day, is because of my dad.

Thanks dad. I love you!

Monday, November 8, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving–Day 8

I am thankful for Monday mornings.

No, really. It sounds weird, I know. We have been taught by our United States culture to believe that Monday mornings are evil. That Monday mornings are the day Satan must have been created (which may be true, but irrelevant to this post).

But for me, Monday mornings are a great time.

The house is quiet after 7:30 a.m. The boys are off to school. My My home work areawife is off to work. And It is my time to shuffle down to my work area in the basement and spend some time with God that is all my own.


While technically Monday is the second day of the week, it is the beginning of my work week. But it is a more relaxed day because I tend to work on Sundays while most people have that day off. Sundays are the day I become the lead worshipper in a church. Mondays are the days that I get to spend time with God and write and play music on my radio show.

I start the day reading Scripture, praying, and asking God what He has planned for my week.

I then check email, log in to Twitter and start sharing my thoughts and ideas about life, the universe and everything – and how Jesus Christ has changed my life and can change other people’s lives for the better as well.

Yes, I am very thankful for Monday mornings. They get my week started off on the right foot!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day 7

On this seventh day of Thanksgiving it is appropriate that I note that I am thankful for the freedom to worship.

This morning I – as I read on Twitter this afternoon – exercised by 1st Amendment right and worshiped at the church of my choice.

I used the “extra” hour of sleep to get the family up to worship together. We even picked up my mom at her house. We all sat in the same pew. We sang “For All the Saints” and “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise.” We heard about saints who have gone before us and are now in heaven because of the gift of God’s grace. We celebrated at the table of the Lord.

I am thankful that the Founding Fathers felt it important to add these words to the foundation of the United States:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….

I am thankful that in the United States of America, I have the freedom to worship God.

But I am even more thankful that God has given me the freedom to worship Him. He has set me free from my sin, from death, and from the power of the devil  by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I take this freedom – both these freedoms – seriously and will fight, if need be, to the death to keep them for me and for my family and for my country.

I am thankful for the freedom of worship.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving–Day 6

Saturday mornings are a traditional time for my family.

Starting when my oldest son was old enough to eat regular food (not baby food) – about three or four years old – my wife and I decided to start a tradition of having pancakes for breakfast on Saturday mornings.

That was about 10 years ago.

I just got up from the table with my sons (my wife is at work already today) and we had a wonderful pancake and bacon breakfast. It was a somewhat typical breakfast with all boys – sights, smells and sounds.

I am thankful that I can spend this time with my sons. It’s even better when my wife joins us – and her not being here this morning left a hole in our hearts and at our table.

Soon – too soon – there will be less at our table. Our oldest son will be going off to college in another three years or so (God willing). Then three years after him, our middle son, then four years after him our youngest. We have less Saturday morning pancake breakfasts in front of us than we have behind us.

So I am making the most of each breakfast I have with the family. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and three great sons.

I am thankful for pancake breakfasts!

Friday, November 5, 2010

25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day5

I am thankful for classical music. I started to really get into classical music in high school. The music of John Williams that he composed for the Star Wars movies was what started it, really. I wanted to find more music like his and since the London Symphony Orchestra performed his music on the Star Wars soundtracks, I picked up a recording from them. I don’t remember what it was, but I know that I soon found the recordings of Wagner’s music – The Flying Dutchman overture – and there was no going back for me.

In college I sang in a chamber choir – the Kammerchor of Concordia University Wisconsin, directed by Ken Kosche - and my classical music world opened wide.

During my seminary days, I hosted a classical music radio program at KFUO Classic 99 (sadly, this award winning radio station is no more). Now I host The Classical Stream on the internet.

There is one piece of music that is my very favorite. It is a piece I never grow tired of listening to. It is Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, composed by Ralph Vaughn Williams. It is a very popular piece of music, used most recently in the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. It has a depth to it that reveals something new just about every time I listen to it.

The theme by Thomas Tallis is from the 16th century and is used for at least one hymn that I have sung on Sunday morning in church (I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say in Lutheran Worship, 1981).

Classical music has a way of getting into my soul and helping me be thankful for being alive. It provides the soundtrack to much of my life. It helps me worship God. It calms me when I need peace. It excites me at celebrations like Christmas and the Fourth of July. It provides the background for a romantic dinner. It takes me away to other worlds while walking in the woods.

I am thankful for classical music. How about you?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leadership from the Biggest Brother

Another excerpt from my current book project.

Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.

Dick Winters was a leader. He was trained as an infantry officer in the paratroopers. He could jump out of airplanes, survive the trip to the ground and then lead men into battle.

But that meant that he didn’t do everything that was needed to be done. He delegated responsibility to those who were specially trained. Mortar teams fired mortars. Medics took care of the wounded. Radiomen kept the company in contact with Command HQ. Sharpshooters took the difficult shots.

Dick Winters didn’t try to do everything himself. He didn’t believe the old cliché, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Officers who did that in a war zone didn’t last long and neither did the men under their command.

For more information on this project, check out the Leadership from the Biggest Brother homepage.


25 Days of Thanksgiving-Day 4

I am thankful for hot coffee at sunrise. Today was especially beautiful. It was chilly but not down-right cold. There was just a hint of frost on the pile of leaves that I will be burning later today. The sun was gorgeous as it peeked over the horizon into a pale blue and cloudless sky.

I wish I had the gift of verse so that I could write a poem about this morning, but instead I just have to be thankful to absorb the sunrise as my hot coffee tries to fog up my glasses.

The coffee I enjoyed this morning is nothing exotic – just regular, ol’ coffee. I do add pumpkin spice creamer to it – just because it tastes good and reminds me of this special time of year.

It is a time of Thanksgiving. I do not celebrate “day” holidays (Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Easter Day) for just one day. I make a season out of it.

I have too much for which to be thankful to celebrate Thanksgiving Day for just one day.

Today it is for hot coffee. It warms me up after a cool night, it jolts my system awake. But it also slows me down to contemplate and pray a prayer of thanksgiving.