Monday, December 27, 2010

no need to dream of white Christmas

Well, we got a white Christmas...and then some. Our Christmas Eve services were obviously affected by the six-seven inches of snow that fell in Normal on the afternoon of Christmas Eve into the night. Many churches cancelled, but of course we didn't. By the time I had arrived at 3:00 p.m. there was a full crew making our lots drivable along with our tech guys and some musicians. We still had a couple of thousand make their way out to the church to celebrate the Eve of what we celebrate as the birth of Christ. Still one of my favorite worship service of the year (even if I'm major distracted by the hundreds of anxious kids with more energy than all the Christmas lights in town)! Only one real mishap when a little boy snapped the glow stick we used instead of candles and got the stuff in his eyes - don't worry not toxic, washed out with water and he's o.k.

Had a great week with both my family and Sara's family in Indy and Cincy. Good to see these loved ones who are growing up so fast (I saw three nieces/nephews who I remember being born and are now in college, along with my two adult children!)

Got some cool gifts for Christmas. Of course, my mom always comes through with gift certificates and/or cash for clothes. My sister took a picture of me (in one of my favorite fedoras) and had her friend who does characitures (is that spelled totally wrong - I could spell check it...nah!) and gave me a print of the picture attached.

My wife got me some really cool first and third century coins from antiquity from our trip to the Promised Land.

My greatest gift was to hang out with my wife and boys on Christmas day eating, laughing and talking with each other. Christmas is totally different when their this age, but the warmth is still the awesome family Christmas that I remember growing up. And of course, it was a snow covered ground and a warm fire in the fireplace that made it all that more cozy.

Then the Cowboys lost in the last seconds and I thought of letting it ruin my Christmas...but even that couldn't. Hope your Christmas was as good as mine. Looking forward to a great 2011. Trying to prepare for Sunday's Q&A teaching time. It's like preparing for an oral exam over the whole Bible. There have been some great questions sent won't want to miss this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

some traditions are very good

Christmas is a time for traditions. Sometimes the word itself can hold a negative connotation. And in many instances traditions are negative. I think traditions are bad in two ways. Traditions are bad when they become the way we do things simply because we've "always done it this way". Sometimes this prevents us from doing things a better way. Traditions can also be bad when they become the way we expect everyone else to do things even when their tradition is perfectly fine. But this blog is not to really about all that.

this is a blog that celebrates tradition - especially Christmas ones. Sometimes traditions are very good. They are good when they take you back to a place or to people you really love. They are good when they help you remember things that should be remembered. They are good when they bind you together with others who share the tradition. As I sit in a hotel lobby in my favorite town (Indianapolis) on a brief Christmas vacation, I ponder some of my Christmas traditions:

this quick trip is becoming a tradition. We left church yesterday after second hour and made our way to downtown Indy. tomorrow we are heading to Cincinnati and Sara's family and then the following day back through Indy to my brother's house for my family. I love it all (supposed to snow too).

While in Indy I take in alot of tradtion stuff. Walking on the monument circle, seeing the toy soldiers and the lights - all this stuff takes me back to my chubby little childhood. It just makes me smile! This past weekend, we served over 850 families at Eastview's "IMAGINE" with coats, toys, and food. This is a four year tradition now for our church. Most of you don't know but this really touches me on so many levels - one is that my family grew up poor and benefitted from our church family providing food many times in my growing up years. There was more than one winter that I would have gone without a coat if some kind person would not have purchased one for me. I can remember at least two Christmases with one toy under the tree. This is not a "woe is me" remembering. I was a completely happy and content kid. It just warms my heart that thousands of kids will wake up Christmas morning and have a present under their tree because of Eastview's annual tradition.

Another tradition Sara and i have started is to go up to Chicago and see "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre. Did it again last week and as we left the play, it was snowing a beautiful light snow with the lights of Michigan Ave. twinkling between snow flakes - awesome.

We also have begun taking up a special ministry offering each December for expaning ministry at Eastview...and even thought there was a blizzard last week, and nearly 2,000 people less in attandance - the offering beat last year's! We are still getting checks, so it's not over, but we're on the way. Great tradition of giving.

Finally, I'm already working on the sermon for this Friday night's Christmas Eve services at Eastview. I love this time of getting the whole family together (even though preaching with tons of kids in the room is a lot harder) and celebrating the season and the REASON together. I have a lot more traditions, but we'll talk of them in the future.

Monday, December 13, 2010

16th Christmas party

Sorry for the late post, but I just got back from one of my favorite events of the year! The annual Eastview staff Christmas party! This year we went to Alexanders and it was awesome. Seeing all those who do so much to make the ministry of Eastview happen each year with their spouses laughing and eating and sharing stories. It brings joy to my heart like a father with his children (I know that sounds old...but i guess i'm getting there). It's just a great chance to say thanks for all they do and to celebrate all that God is doing as he works so mightily at Eastview!

The other thing this annual party does is remind me of the journey. This is the 16th staff Christmas party since i've been at Eastview. 12 of those I was either the youth pastor or associate pastor, for the last four as the Sr. Pastor. A lot has changed in those years. That first year we went to Jim's Steakhouse (Biaggi's wasn't even around back then). The only remaining staff members from that first staff Christmas are me, Mark Warren, Sandi Knapp, Bill Leech, and Stephanie Shifflett. Great memories that I can't recall for you at this time...just smiling from ear to ear as I think of the journey.

The highlight of each year since I've been Sr. Pastor is the best decorated office for Christmas. We give cheap little prizes away, but everyone gets excited about hearing the winning entry - it's like winning the movie of the year at the oscars - only much smaller. Anyway, this year's winners were Dan Fulkerson with his toy train set up, Julie Heinold and Rachel Warren (they share an office) with peppermint shop, and Jason Sniff with family holiday (his whole family was there in pajamas there today for the judging).

Let me tell you, this staff at Eastview is awesome! You may not know it if you have not seen other church staffs, but I've seen dozens of churches all over the country in these last 25 years and I wouldn't trade these people for anything. Tell them how much you love them next time you see them!

And did I mention skillet that's a merry christmas celebration.

Monday, December 6, 2010

the most wonderful time of the year

it's no secret that I love Christmas - the snow, the stories, the kids eyes, the lights, the parties, the songs, the RED SPORT COATS :-), and the chance to share Jesus to a group that thinks about Jesus only this time of the year. I keep believing (and praying) that this year, this service, this sermon will be the one that God uses to draw them home.

Some stuff that made this weekend a most wonderful time of the year for me:
I got to baptize a family of five yesterday after second hour - it's so special when an entire family takes the faith plunge! Also baptized a sincere young Jr. High boy - love it when young men (with father filled with joy in the background) take this bold stand for Jesus!

I'm gonna say it - "I loved the sermon yesterday!" That's rare for me. I just loved the idea of "let's go back to Bethlehem" (return from Moab - from Ruth 1). Had a young lady who came up to me yesterday and has a DUI court case coming up tomorrow, but she's turning to God at this time and has a great young faith and sincere desire to let Jesus take over her life.

Also had a great trip down memory lane after our Christmas concert last night (both nights were sold out - though we had some no shows, the concert was great - God has blessed us with such talent - not to mention awesome staff in this area: Matt Ludwig, Scott Sarver, Karen Norris, Dan Fulkerson, Jake Stubbs and Matt Holderby...simply awesome!). First I ran into Sue Whitsett (not sure on the spelling) who was one of the people who started Eastview Christian Church in 1955! Her sisters (Donna and Linda Faull) still attend. Anyway, she just simply said, I can't believe what God has done with Eastview. She was very complimentary of the program.

Then I ran into Bob Phillips wife in the atrium. Bob was the second full time pastor at Eastview from 1962-1975. He led us from the building on Emerson Street to Towanda Ave. She said Bob loved the concert and was proud of us. Finally, I ran into Gary and Janet York. For those new to Eastview, Gary was the Sr. Pastor from 1975 to 2007. He hired me as youth pastor and led the church through the move from Towanda Ave. to our current location. He complimented the music and said good job. You can't imagine what these God encounters did for my soul. It reminds me that we are building on a firm foundation of people and sacrifices that God used in the past. May I be found as faithful as these great servants.

Then of course, it is that time of year for our annual staff Christmas party...but that's for another blog. And it's's all good!