Friday, December 28, 2007

Thinking About Christmas

I showed this video clip during our Christmas Eve service. It is a pretty powerful reminder of how important it is to remember why the Baby came in the first place. I hope the true significance of that first Christmas continues to impact you throughout 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007

As the memories of Christmas 2007 begin to fade...

Do NOT take this picture to mean that I am fading fast. Hmmm, maybe it's a Freudian slip? I'll get back to you on that one!

Sorry I have been slack in my blog again, but the past several weeks have been just too packed with stuff that just got in the way of my bloggin'! Since I have been SO slack in sending out Christmas cards (here after referred to as New Year cards!...and they may even become post-Valentine Day cards!), here is my Christmas letter...(which some of you "may" get a hard copy of..."maybe")...

Dear Everyone,

I will never forget 2007. It was a year filled with firsts:
  • My 50th birthday
  • My 20th anniversary as a staff member
  • My 15th anniversary as pastor
  • My church's first "off-campus" revival at a local farm
  • My church's first Chrismon tree
  • My church's first collegiate World Changers team
  • My first prayer at a ribbon cutting for a new grocery store
  • My first dedication of a tree on Arbor Day for a friend
  • My church's first Thanksgiving lunch for the community with other local churches
  • My first attendance at an International Mission Board commissioning service in Richmond, VA., for Ricky and Niki Cook and family who are serving in Zambia for two years. Ricky and Niki were teenagers when I first arrived in Denmark.

On the sadder side:
  • I officiated or assisted in eighteen funerals, a personal record.
  • In March, my family had to say good-bye to Tom, our Golden Retriever (brother to my Dave), who brought us much joy in his too-short eleven years with us.
  • The Thursday before Christmas I officiated at the funeral for a two and a half month old precious little girl named Samantha, whose parents, grandmother, aunt and uncle are all members of the church. It was very unexpected, sad, and overwhelming, but God was very faithful to the family and me as we got through this horrible week. It really put Christmas in perspective, reminding me that even in the original Christmas story (Matthew 2) there was death and tragedy with the slaughter of the innocents at Herod's command. The real message of Christmas - that the world is very dangerous, often unfair, and tragedy can occur at any minute, BUT it was into this mess that God entered in through Christ to BE WITH US. That truth has never been driven home to me as vividly as it has this week.

Sorry this is late, but December has been filled with "ministerial opportunities" that put me even more behind than usual. I hope you all had a very meaningful Christmas. If you want a new twist on Christmas next year, you might want to check out

It's all about having a more spiritual (and biblical) Christmas. Did you know that it is estimated that this year we will spend 480 BILLION on Christmas retail shopping; three billion on our pets' presents alone! Over a thousand churches are attempting to reign in our tendency to "over-participate" in the consumerism of Christmas by joining the "advent conspiracy" this year. Their approach is simple: WORSHIP MORE, SPEND LESS, GIVE MORE (in relational gifts to those you know and more money to the poor in the money you save from shopping less), and LOVE ALL. I have found their approach innovative, challenging, and even a bit uncomfortable. Then again, that first Christmas was anything but comfortable for anyone, yet in it the greatest gift given to man was being born.

Go to my blog: for more updates (oops, you're already at my blog aren't you!?), though, at times, they may be slow in coming! Sorry this is so late, but that's typical, isn't it! Happy Christ's Birthday and Happy New Year!

In Him,
Back to my blog: Thank you all for your patience. I do hope and pray you all have a significant 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In Case I Don't Get Around to Sending Cards...

I realize that is the epitome of laziness (though there remains a glimmer of hope that some cards "might" get sent!). I got these at Sam's Club in an hour! The nativity is in our baptistry. Here are some more pics of our santuary and also an outside scene from last Sunday night's choir cantata.
The starbursts on the cross and on the top of the tree were added by using the FREE program, GIMP, which is a pretty extensive photo editting software package that can be downloaded at:
Consider it an early Christmas present!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Want to Become Part of a Conspiracy?

If you want a new take on Christmas which is really a very old take, then watch this video.

[AC] Advent Conspiracy from Jon Collins on Vimeo.

The speaker is Rick McKinley of Imago Dei Community Church in Portland, Oregon. For those of you who have read "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller, this is Miller's church, and Rick is his pastor. I have found Rick to be quite an impressive communicator of the gospel. (The church's website:

The idea of the advent conspiracy is intriguing and I can't help but think that Christ would appreciate this approach much more than the prevailing one in our culture. You know, that Christmas is essential to our nation's economy and that this economic reality is the real "reason for the season" least in their eyes.

It still amazes me that last year Americans spent over 450 BILLION (that's right...BILLION) dollars on retail purchases during November and December...3 billion of that was on Christmas gifts for pets!

So much of this money was put on credit cards....going into debt just so a child can have a PlayStation 3?? What does that teach that child...that it's OK to enter into the unnecessary bondage of debt just to satisfy your immediate need for gratification?

Surely there is a better way to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. The advent conspiracy is a start. If you want to know more, go to:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

If You Haven't Seen Ratatouille - See It

One of the things I did get around to on my vacation was seeing Disney- Pixar's latest flick, Ratatouille. The name is derived from a French recipe for vegetable stew. (look it up on Wikipedia if you must!) This is an important plot point! At any rate, I was moved, yes, I said "moved," by this story. Actually, it is on its way to becoming one of my favorite "Christmas" movies. Oh, it has nothing to do with Christmas per se, but it did have as a theme, what is a person to do with her/her cynicism about life.

If you do watch it, pay attention to the villainous (though misunderstood) food critic Anton Ego. He's not just some mean-spirited cynic, but someone with a damaged heart that needs help (maybe even a good helping of Ratatouille!). Remy, the rat who longs to cook, is a great hero. Though his father wants to relegate him with his wonderful gift of smell to poison-detector for the clan, Remy's dreams refuse to die and he ends up in a famous Parisian restaurant that is languishing, needing a new spark.

The message is simple. Don't settle for mediocrity; don't let your passions die. It reminded me of how easy it is to go through life, or the Christmas season, without passion. We, like the rats (except Remy), too easily settle for garbage (like a life of sameness with no growth) when God has provided a feast of opportunities every day to grow and to impact others for good. Before I ramble on and on (and it is Sunday morning and time to get ready for church!), let me point you to Christianity Today's review of the film....a much better one than mine!

The Golden Compass - To See or Not to See

Emails are circulated about how Christians should not see the upcoming movie, The Golden Compass based on a series of books by author Philip Pullman, an atheist who has expressed his apparently bitter disgust for Christianity and who, in the course of his three books, has the protagonist—a young girl named Lyra—join people who are trying to kill God and the Christian faith … and they succeed.

If you have seen the previews, this fantasy "epic" is going to be very, very appealing to children, so the question is, how should Christians respond to this film? One of the best thought-out responses I've read is by Jeffrey Overstreet writing for Christianity Today. Here is his response...hope it helps!