Song for My Father

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to experience an amazing event with my father. We attended the David Letterman and Rachel Maddow Conversation at Ball State University. It was definitely fun, thought-provoking, and entertaining. At the end of the “conversation”, both my father and I were surprised at how much time had past…time literally flew in Emens Auditorium last night. My father commented that he was “ready for them to go that long again!” It was another great experience in a long line of great experiences that I owe to my father.

Last night on my way home, I began to recall some of the great experiences I owe to my father. Here is a list of some of the things I can recall:

– He introduced me to the music of Frank Zappa!

– He took me to my first Indy 500

– He took me to my first drum clinic (Louie Bellson, the old man could play)

– He took me to my first Rush concert (which was also my first official “real” rock n’ roll show…the Christian rock shows my mom took me to didn’t really count)

– He let me “borrow” most of his good records

– He took me to Franks Drum Shop…when they were still located in their “old” location…where surviving the elevator ride was just part of the adventure.

– He introduced me to good jazz

– He inadvertently shaped my love for NPR by forcing me to listen to it when he was driving (which includes my great appreciation for Garrison Keillor).

– We saw Barack Obama while he was on the campaign trail…it was a pretty powerful moment.

That’s not an extensive list. And, let’s not forget that my mother provided a lot of great experiences too! But, since last night was father/son time, I thought I’d take a moment to recall some of these experiences I’ve shared with my father.

So, thanks dad!

All I Want for Christmas is…

Warning: If you are someone who is easily offended when someone calls into question “traditional celebrations of holidays”, you should probably not read beyond this point. But, thanks for visiting this blog. Check back later when I might step off of my soapbox.

It’s the time of year that people have started asking the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” And, like most people, of course there are things that I “want”. My list is generally ridiculous…

1. Porsche Carrera GT

2. Taylor 614ce Guitar

3. Noble & Cooley Solid Oak Jazz Kit

4. 1967 Rickenbacker 365

5. Dinner at Le Bernardin (the chef’s tasting menu, with wine pairings, of course!)

Now, as I said before, my lists are generally ridiculous!

The truth is that I really don’t “need” anything for Christmas. So, when people ask, I give them a list of items that are well beyond what anyone would even consider as a gift.

The honest truth is that I really don’t “want” anything for Christmas either. I’m being serious…honestly…I mean it.

In our materialistic, consumer-driven society, we have gotten so far away from the true meaning of Christmas. Over the last several years, due to movements like the Advent Conspiracy, films like “What Would Jesus Buy“, and books like “Christmas is Not Your Birthday”, my views on Christmas have been quickly changing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my girls eyes light up when they open gifts on Christmas day. However, I’m convinced that I need to teach them a better way to celebrate the birth of Christ. So, even as I stand on my soapbox, I’m conflicted.

Often, we compete to see who can give the biggest, the best, the fanciest gifts to our friends and family members. We stretch ourselves financially, many going further into debt in order to have a child go “wow” for about 3-seconds and then quickly forget that you just gave them the latest piece of crap that the toy manufacturers convinced you your child needs. I mean, let’s be honest, how many of the toys (or video games or clothes) that you purchased for last years Christmas celebration are your kids still using?

According to information you can “google”, the average American will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $700-1,000 on Christmas this year. Many will spend more. Some will spend less. Most do not have an extra $700-1000 sitting around and will put that amount on credit cards or will take out a “holiday loan” from their favorite lending institution…meaning they will pay more than the sticker price.

And, we just don’t compete to “out do” each other. Many will keep track of things…to make sure that they received as many presents as their brothers and sisters. Many will make sure that mom and dad spent just as much on them as they did their siblings. We want to make sure we received what we deserve.

So, maybe we should start viewing Christmas differently.

Rather than purchasing lavish gifts (or a bunch of not-so-lavish gifts that still add up), we could give one another the gift of our time…of our presence.

Rather than tearing into our gifts and viewing Jesus as a nice after-thought to our celebrations, we could come up with creative ways to make Jesus the focus of the day (I know this is kind of dorky and borderline conservative fundamental cheesy religion, but we’ve been known to have a birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus).

Rather than buying gifts as usual, we could make a conscious effort to buy products that help others (like products from Toms or Equal Exchange).

Maybe for Christmas, we could take the money we would have spent on gifts for one another and do what Jesus calls us to do…to demonstrate our love for Him and our love for one another by clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for the needs of the least of these.

Mike Slaughter challenges people to give as much money to worthy organizations as they do on their Christmas celebrations. So, if you spend $700, give $700. Many of us would say, “I couldn’t afford to do that.” If that’s the case, then we don’t have the $700 to spend on Christmas in the first place.

For me, the bottom line is this…I need to re-examine how I celebrate Christmas and why I’ve chosen to celebrate it in that manner. Then, I need to address how my family can adjust the way we celebrate to better honor Jesus.

And, in all honesty, I need to do my best to withhold my judgment towards others who make the decision to celebrate in a different manner.

So, if you are someone who feels like you really need to get me something, here are some realistic ideas…

1. Make a one-time donation to Mission Guatemala for the amount that you would have spent on a gift. This mission organization if very near to my heart. Tom and Dave do incredible work and I can guarantee that your funds would be used to better the lives of those in the greater San Andres area.

2. Make a donation to Kids Against Hunger. A small donation goes a long way in feeding children in our local communities and around the world.

3. Make a donation to charity:water. It’s amazing how easy it is to take for granted access to clean drinking water.

4. Pull a George Costanza and fool me by making a donation to “The Human Fund”.

 5. Or, I guess, if none of these things appeal to you…you could buy me a 4-pack of Guinness Pub Draught Cans.

What are your ideas for celebrating Christmas differently?

Challenged Accepted…It Is Over!

And, the winner is…Team Jason!!!

This morning, Emily officially threw in the towel. She said, “It’s not that you look bad…I just can’t handle the back!”

I guess the mini-mullet that I’ve been rockin’ for the last few weeks has finally forced her into submission.

So, by throwing in the towel, that means Emily will have to take me to the Burger Bar in St. Louis where I will enjoy the Rossini burger (kobe beef, sauted foie gras, shaved truffles, madeira sauce on an onion bun). I may let her shift the plans and take me to the Publican in Chicago instead…but we’ll see about that!

What does all of this mean? Well, I won’t look like Chef Keller. And, in about three minutes I’m going to the garage to shave off the mullet!

Old Man

Today, I will embrace my last day as a young man. Starting tomorrow, August 8th, I will no longer be able to claim the “young adult” status.

So, that means today I will embark on a journey to be foolish…to be immature…to live with reckless abandon. Because tomorrow all of that has to end. I finally have to grow up and accept my position as an old man.

Tomorrow, I will officially fall out of the “young clergy” group. In not so many words, the UMC defines young clergy as those under the age of 35. Yep, it all ends tomorrow. So, even in the work place, I will be kicked out of the “young guy” group and be one of those old fart pastors. Of course, I do work with the “youth”…so I’m not sure how mature and responsible I will have to be! And, due to the fact that I’ve always considered myself a bit of a rebel, I will have to start a revolution…one that focuses on the ageism of various institutions…Church included!

Tomorrow, I will become a crazy old man. You know, the kind of guy who wears dark socks with shorts…or socks with sandals…and wears his pants above his belly button…But, don’t get me wrong, it comes with perks. Old folks are not responsible for what they say…people just dismiss their comments by saying, “Oh, he’s just old…it’s okay.” And, even better is the fact that old folks are not responsible for the noises that come out of their bodies. People make excuses saying, “Oh, he’s just old…he can’t help it!” So, this whole getting old thing does come with some pretty sweet perks!

Of course, I have the desire to be a cool old man…The kind of old guy that still gets invited to parties…The kind of old guy that people listen to…The kind of old guy that still knows how to have a good time. I want to be the kind of old guy that young guys look at and say, “I hope I’m that hip when I’m 36!” Sadly enough, I’m only “kind of” kidding…I’m “sort of” serious!

So, while today I mourn the loss of my youth…I look forward to see what happens. What kind of old man will I be? I think I’ll ponder that question over a beverage at my all-time favorite pub in the world, the Heorot, this afternoon before I consume mass quantities of Concannon’s awesome cake!

Challenge Accepted…Slow Progress.

The great hair challenge continues!!!

the mo fro

The progress is quite slow. But, hey, it is growing!!!

Lately, Emily has attempted to make comments that would encourage me to throw in the towel. In fact, it’s not just Emily. Some of the “Team Emily” supporters have been rallying the troops. It went so far as receiving comments about getting my hair cut while on work sites in Guatemala. That’s pretty low.  By now, “Team Emily” should realize that I can pretty much take any harassment that comes my way. I will be victorious!!!

I have noticed that my hair somewhat resembles that of barbeque master chef Steven Raichlen. So, maybe I am just working my way through a list of chefs seen on PBS on this journey towards a head of hair like the great chef Hubert Keller!

Some people continually point out how immature all of this is…of course it’s immature! Do you really believe that I do not understand that this is ridiculous? But, let’s be honest, it’s a harmless way to have some fun. So, my advice to the “holier-than-thou” club…stop taking yourselves so seriously…relax…enjoy life…cut loose and have some fun! It’s only hair.

Steven Raichlen


Hubert Keller