Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions

There are many things I love about the Christmas season. The reason being that my family, and especially my mother's side of the family, has always made a big deal about Christmas. Christmas has always been a wonderful celebration filled with family, food and gifts.

One of my favorite traditions growing up was in the decorating of the house and tree. We made it a family event. I remember that there was always egg nog involved. Most of the years we would set up the same fake tree we had had since the beginning of time. We all would assist in the sorting of the fake tree branches according to the color painted on their wire ends. There would always be lights to unravel and plug into the wall to check before we wound them around the tree. Mom would get all the ornaments out and place wire hooks on them in preparation for us to hang. I remember snowmen, Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, and small plastic candy canes of assorted colors. While the Tijuana Voices or Andy Williams Christmas albums were playing in the background, we would string lights, hang ornaments and place the garland perfectly on the tree. This is a tradition I have kept with my family now as they grow up. (With more musical selections of course.)

Another Christmas tradition that I truly cherish is the exchanging of ornaments. The first year we were married, Maranda and I decided that we would exchange ornaments every year and those would be the only ornaments that we would decorate our tree with. When children came along, we started to give them an ornament every year as well. We give an ornament to commemorate or signify something that happened that year. For the children, we have tried to give them ornaments that show their interests that year. It has been a wonderful tradition that brings back many memories every time we decorate the tree.

Along with the exchanging of ornaments, this year we have started ornament journals where Maranda and I will write a note to each other explaining why we picked the ornament we did. We also keep separate journals for each of the children that they will be able to take, along with their ornaments, when they establish their own households.

These are just a few of my favorite Christmas traditions. Enjoy the following Andy Williams video and don't forget to comment and let me know what your favorite Christmas traditions are.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I learned a new word from Snopes.com yesterday and wanted to share it:

is the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without actually getting one's hands dirty, volunteering any of one's time, or opening one's wallet. It's slacktivism that prompts us to forward appeals for business cards on behalf of a dying child intent upon having his name recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records or exhortations to others to continue circulating a particular e-mail because some big company has supposedly promised that every forward will generate monies for the care of a languishing tot. Likewise, it's slacktivism that prompts us to want to join a boycott of designated gas companies or eschew buying gasoline on a particular day rather than reduce our personal consumption of fossil fuels by driving less and taking the bus more often. Slacktivism comes in many forms, but its defining characteristic is its central theme of doing good with little or no effort on the part of the person inspired to participate, through the mechanisms of forwarding, exhorting, collecting, or e-signing.

This was an eye-opening, punch-in-the-gut for me. If you're like
me, and I'm guessing some of you are, it is easy to get on face-
book and "like" until your little heart is content. The problem
with this is when we allow that little click of the "like" to produce
within us a feeling of accomplishment but we really haven't done
a thing.

Sure, we can post our bra color and say we are supporting the
fight against breast cancer, but are our checkbooks, time and
energies doing anything about it?

Sure, we can post a cartoon character in our profile picture and
say we're doing our part to raise awareness of child abuse, but
when it comes down to it, are we really helping in anyway, or are
we just posing and making our friends think there is some sort
of substance to us?

Don't fall for the trap. As Public Enemy would say, "Don't believe
the hype!" Put your money, time, energy, etc. where your mouth
(facebook post, "like" button) is and do something to make a
real difference.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Travel Envy

I love to travel. I don't have the resources (money, vacation days) to travel as much as I'd like to (every other week), but I love to travel.

Driving is the way to go,
especially if you don't have small children and a time constraint. I enjoy the scenery and freedom that car travel provides. I like the ability I have pull over and take a picture or check out that hole-in-the-wall place that turns out to be an absolute gem of the area's culture.

Music is a must. Good tunes shared with good friends are essential for road travel.

I've noticed that travel is becoming an idol in my life. I live from trip to trip. Immediately when returning from a trip, I'm already planning for the next trip. If I don't have someplace to go for several months at a time, I find myself getting restless and discontent. I get jealous of friends that get to travel often.

I share this today to declare my love of travel, but also as a public confession. I share this so you can slap me around if you see me talking about a trip with more passion than I have for God.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not the Man

I'm not the man I want to be. Whether it be physically, mentally, spiritually, parentally, husbandly...I am not the man I want to be.

One of the biggest fights in my life is trying to get out from under the lies the devil tries to feed me, that I can't be anything else than what I am. The other lie is that I have to do it myself. The devil has done a good job of shutting me down and bringing me to a state of debilitating self-loathing. I've come to my wits end in so many areas of life and am tired. I'm battling depression and lies, knowing in my mind the truth of God's word, but still not able to somehow allow that truth to cross over into the reality of my life.

I have a group of friends that recently went to a conference and brought back a different thought concerning grace. Grace is not merely linked to salvation or mercy. Grace is a strength and showing of God's power when our own strength is inadequate.

I think this view of grace is congruent with Paul's pleading with God to remove the thorn from his side. God replies with "My grace is sufficient for you..., for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Another passage has been floating around in my head. 2 Peter 1 tells us,
"3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

Our God is a god of second, third, fourth...chances. He's come to make all things new. He's come to give me a new life and he's given me everything I need for life and godliness. I'm not sure how that happens though. I'm not sure how to depend on Him. I can say it, pray it, and strive with my own power, but nothing seems to change.

The best I can do right now is recognize the lies and try to shoo them away.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


4-24-10...11:24 PM

It's been a looooooooong day of driving. We woke up early this morning and after a good homemade breakfast, we got on the road shortly after 8:00 AM.

We encountered quite a bit of rain today. There were times it was tough to see the road around St. Louis. We came upon a semi-truck that must have had some issues too as his truck and trailer were jack-knifed on the road. That caused us to experience a bit of a delay. It looked like the driver of the truck was safe and sound.

We stopped in Concordia, Missouri for lunch at a place called Biffles Smoke House Bar-B-Que. I had the combination plate that consisted of 2 pork ribs, smoked ham, smoked pork, and smoked brisket. I chose fries and baked beans for my sides. It was way too much food and sat heavy for the next couple hours of riding in the car. It was very tasty though and I would recommend the place. The sauce they used seemed to taste like more of a Texas-based sauce....or at least what I always thing of Texas-based sauce to be. :)

We continued to boring drive across Illinois, a bit of Indiana and finally into Kentucky. Before hitting Mark's brother's house we stopped at Zaxby's, a fast-food chicken finger joint. We got there at 9:42 PM before they closed at 10:00. The help was not happy to see us and I'm sure they probably spit in our food. Zaxby's is nothing special and it is not something I will crave or seek to go to again.

Overall, it was a good day of travel and conversation. The entire journey today has seen lush, green, tree-covered, rolling hills. It's been beautiful.

Some things we listened today in the car included NPR Podcasts and "It's Tricky" from Run DMC!

MANTRIP 2010 Day One Log

The first 120 miles have been pleasant. it rained much of the way. The hills along Hwy 26 are coming to life with a beautiful Spring rain.

Sticking with the only rule of MANTRIP 2010 (When eating out, you must eat local and not chain.) I've sat down to lunch at Front Street, an old-western themed tourist schtick in Ogallala, NE. I've ordered a water and the 6 ounce New York steak lunch special, medium-rare of course. It was cooked perfectly and brought to the table hot. It should've been since I was the only person there at the time. The special came with a side salad, coconut cake cup and slice of Texas toast. I got it all for the special low price of $7.76. The service was great and the place was slow, which I expected for 2:00 PM.

I hopped back on the road and headed east on I-80 for Lincoln...

I arrived at Mark and SheriLynne's around 7:30 PM. The Hansen children were their usual funny seles and were excited to have an audience. We ate in and Mark and SheriLynne cooked up an amazing meal of chicken marsala with orzo.

Mark had purchased some special beer to celebrate the beginning of MANTRIP 2010 and to celebrate the fact that he didn't have to go back to his job ever again. I don't remember the name of the brew...Duvelt or something along that line. It was OK. It was a little more bright and fruity than I prefer.

The rest of the evening was spent in conversation with friends and making last minute plans for us to head out in the morning.

It's midnight and I need to get to sleep. We have an early start to Louisville in the morning!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nay! Nay!

"Twelve men went to spy on Canaan,
Ten were bad and two were good..."

So, starts a favorite, childhood, Sunday-school song. I'm amazed by the biblical account of these twelve men and their trust or lack of trust in God.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the story, the Israelites had escaped from Egypt and were headed for the promised land. They got close to it and sent in twelve men to scope it out. The men came back to give a report and ten of the twelve back saying that it would be impossible to do, there were giants in the land and lots of them. There were two, Caleb and Joshua, that knew the land could be taken and believed that God's promises are true. The ten nay-sayers spread their negativity around the camp and ultimately swayed everyone to their negative way of thinking, more importantly their God-less way of thinking. Because of the ten, the whole community of Israel was cursed to roaming around in the desert for forty years and every one of them that complained against God and did not believe his promise, would die in the desert and not see the promised land.

I think about this account according to my perspective and faith today. God has made some great promises to us pertaining to forgiveness of sin, eternal life, His presence and power within us...and yet, there are many days I'm choosing to complain about life and really living my life without paying heed to those promises. I notice that when I choose to ignore those promises, my life feels like a desert walk: lonely, dry, lacking passion.

I think about the role that the nay-sayers have and how I sometimes allow them to shape my attitude and thoughts.

I admire Caleb and Joshua for their faith and trust in a God who has been nothing but trustworthy and faithful. I desire their boldness in declaring that faithfulness of God and being willing to stand up for those things that I know God wants to accomplish. I love that they saw the giants in the land and were not dissuaded, but knew the strength and might of the God they serve.

God, I ask for vision to see where you are leading, for boldness to stand up in the midst of nay-sayers and proclaim your plan, and for faith to trust in your plan completely.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why Shady Deeds Are More Likely to Happen in the Dark

Take a look at this article!

Why Shady Deeds Are More Likely to Happen in the Dark

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7

Face to Face

Numbers 12:1-9 really stood out to me this morning in my reading. It made me consider my humility. Take a look.

1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this.

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

4 At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6 he said, "Listen to my words:
"When a prophet of the LORD is among you,
I reveal myself to him in visions,
I speak to him in dreams.

7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.

8 With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the LORD.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?"

9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.

Oh, to be as humble and faithful as Moses, and to have the awesome opportunity to meet and speak with God face to face...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blogs Are Totally Rad!!

I'm writing this entry tonight for the simple fact of trying to look cool. I really wish I had something profound to say. I don't. My fist raises to my head and knocks against my skull only to get the hollow coconut sound we're all accustomed to from our favorite Saturday morning cartoons when we were kids. Maybe I could write about cartoons. They are cool, right?

I keep trying to introduce my children to cartoons that I loved when I was a kid: Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Scooby Doo, The Flinstones. We have found a cartoon that we all love. Phineas and Ferb. If you haven't seen it on Disney, you really should check it out. In the same vein as so many great cartoons in the past, it is written with humor adults can enjoy without destroying the innocence of our children.

I'm semi-addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook.

My friend, Mike, wrote a blog this evening and mentioned something in there about a pie bazaar. I wish he wouldn't have because now I'm totally jonesin' for a slice. I'm craving some homemade coconut cream pie that is still warm from the oven. I had that once at The Feed Barn in Mitchell, Nebraska. The place is great for a homemade slice of pie and cup of coffee. Homemade pie is hard to find in restaurants around here these days.

I don't spend enough time writing music or taking pictures. I would love to do both more. I should focus on that.

Level 42 is one of my musical guilty pleasures that the majority of my friends, and my wife, all shake their head at. They are this weird, jazzy, poppy, prog-funk group. You should check them out. I highly recommend their earlier works from 1982-1986. Get their Physical Presence Volume One and Two if you get the chance.

I don't have a problem with coveting much in life...but travel is one of those things where I really struggle with coveting. When I hear of friends taking trips or my folks taking trips, I really have to fight the urge and focus on being content. I love traveling and would do it all the time if money were not an issue...oh and time off...

I get the opportunity to go on a cross-country venture with my friend, Mark, later this Spring. We will be headed to South Carolina to visit a mutual friend of ours. I'm so very excited about this trip...giddy as a school girl might be a more appropriate term. This will be uncharted territory for me as I have never been further east than Louisville, KY. I'm hoping to snap lots of pictures, eat lots of good food (we have made a rule that we must eat at only local places...no chains), and take you along on the journey as I blog about MANTRIP 2010!!!! In my head there was lots of reverb on MANTRIP 2010!!!!

I'm done with my rambling. Have a good night!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

I'm listening to some Matt Redman in the office today and just came across the song "You Alone Can Rescue". A memory flashed in my mind that brought a blessed smile to my face and prayer from my lips.

I remember backing out of the driveway in our mini-van with Milo sitting in his usual spot behind the passenger seat. In the bridge of the song they sing, "We lift up our eyes, lift up our eyes, to the Giver of Life.". As the singers get to this part in the song, my son starts belting it out. I look back and my 3-year-old boy has both arms raised, singing his little lungs out. It was a precious and funny sight to behold. It's winter, he has his big, winter coat on, hood up and fastened tightly. He can barely move, kind of like little brother Randy from "A Christmas Story"...but there he was shooting those arms up toward our God and singing to the Giver of Life.

The prayer from my lips is that my children will see God's light and glory all the days of their lives. I pray that they will be devoted worshipers of the one, true, living God. I pray that they will be mighty warriors for His Kingdom. I pray that I might be the kind of husband and father and pastor that reflects God's light and glory for my family to see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The news concerning Haiti and the earthquake there stirs lots of feelings in me. Feelings of helplessness, sadness, thanksgiving, and compassion for people that I don't know.

I feel helpless because I'm here in Nebraska and am very far removed from the situation there. I feel helpless because I don't have money to go down and help. I feel helpless because I have no building skills whatever to go help with rebuilding in time.

I feel sadness knowing that many lives were lost, probably lives that didn't know Jesus Christ.

I am thankful that the Northwest Haiti Mission was unharmed and the people there are safe. I am thankful that my friend, Ferdinand's, family is safe. I am thankful that the group of people in Haiti from the church in Norfolk are safe and there to help minister to the hurts and needs of the Haitian people.

I don't have much today in the way of help for the people of Haiti, but I do serve a God who created them, loves them perfectly and will deliver those who call on His name. God I entrust Haiti and the people of Haiti to Your more-than-capable hands. Bring them hope and deliver them from this trial so they may see Your power and glory and give You praise on the day of Your return.

Samaritan's Purse has established an online donation system to help Haitian relief. I don't have much, but I do have $20 that can help. Anyone join me?


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Job and Hebrews...the two great tastes that taste great together!!!

In my reading this morning, I came across this passage from Job. I had never noticed it before, but this morning I felt Job's anguish and frustration as he considered his options in dealing with, and approaching, an Almighty, All-Powerful God. It caused me to stop and praise God and it gave me a fresh appreciation for Jesus today.

Job 9:32-35
"He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot."

Hebrews 4:14-16
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Hebrews 9:14-15
"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."