St. Patrick’s Day Archive

The following is my 2009 St. Patrick’s Day entry. I thought I’d share it again…

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. For those of you who know me well, you are fully aware that this is my favorite holiday. Of course, I prefer the secular-style celebrations that focus on great food (Irish stew, bangers and mash, etc) and wonderful beverages (a pint of Guinness). However, the true celebration is to honor St. Patrick (a former slave in Ireland, turned missionary in Ireland…taking the message of the Cross to the very people who had enslaved him…pretty incredible stuff). I do believe we can honor St. Patrick while enjoying our food and drink! So, today let us honor St. Patrick and celebrate with great joy with friends and family!

I thought it would be fitting to end this post with a prayer that has been credited to St. Patrick:

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

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?

Old Style Hospitality

DT Kirby’s is pretty much my favorite place in the Greater Lafayette area.

It’s a humble joint…just a small bar, a handful of tables, a tiny kitchen, a ton of TV’s, and some Cubs and Bears memorabilia.

However, it’s in this humble pub that I continually experience examples of radical hospitality.

As soon as you set foot inside the door, you are warmly greeted…especially if Don is in the bar…and Don is usually in the bar! I kid you not…it’s very much like Cheers. You walk in and your presence is recognized…in a positive manner (unlike some places when you walk in and the staff looks annoyed that they will have to actually work)…I continually wait for someone to yell out, “Norm!”

The DT Kirby’s staff wants to make sure that you have a positive experience. Whenever I’m there, someone continually checks in…seeing if everything is to my liking, if I need anything, etc. They go out of their way to do all they can to make your visit great!

And, I’m far from a regular. I can only imagine that I’d be treated like royalty if I were on a first name basis with the staff (sort of like when I would walk into the Heorot on a Friday and the bartender would start pouring a Guinness and put in an order for a mushroom pizza before I even sat down).

I’ve been in DT Kirby’s when there is not a seat available. This is when Don and his staff truly work their magic. He notices the order people come in…he entertains them and tells them that if they’ll just give him a little time, he’ll get them a seat…he gets them menu’s and drinks while they wait. Then, when something opens up, you get a seat…and he won’t let anyone snake you!

But, he has his limits…for example…don’t ask for a Jameson and Coke. He’ll simply look at you in disgust and say, “We don’t do that here. I can sell you a Jameson. And I can sell you a Coke. But, I won’t put them in the same glass!” I like that. It sort of feels like High Fidelity when Jack Black says, “Do we look like the kind of record store that has ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’? Go to the mall!” The man has principles! I also get the impression that he won’t let you treat his staff poorly.

The folks at DT Kirby’s go out of their way to make sure you have a positive experience. And, if you are not having a positive experience, they will work hard to fix that. Of course, if your poor experience is because you order drinks like a teenage girl, well, that’s your own problem! Como hombre!

I’m continually amazed at how the staff makes each person feel like they are welcome…that they are important…and that they are highly valued. Don has a way of talking to people that makes you feel like you’re long-lost friends. He makes you feel like you are his most important customer.

To top it all off…it’s genuine. I’ve never felt like someone is just working for their tip. I’ve always felt like when I’m asked how I’m doing…the person asking actually cares…to the point that they stop and take the time to actually listen. I know, it’s crazy!

Then, your food comes out and there is so much of it that you could feed a small village. That’s the kind of hospitality that says…”we don’t want you to go hungry!”

In all honesty, every time I go to DT Kirby’s, I find myself thinking about how we can make the church feel as warm and inviting as this little pub. How can we make people feel welcome? How can we make people feel at home? How can we make them feel like they are surrounded by long-lost friends? How can we make people feel that we truly do care about them? How can we make people feel like we are concerned that they have a positive experience?

It all starts within, of course. We need to have a heart of hospitality. We have to possess a desire to look beyond ourselves…beyond our own experience…beyond our own comfort…and truly have a concern for the other.

It’s my prayer that I might be able to get out of my comfort zone and practice the kind of old style hospitality that I have experienced firsthand at DT Kirby’s.

If you’re in the Greater Lafayette area, I suggest you experience the old style hospitality at DT Kirby’s. Order a tasty sandwich (like the Uncle or the Triple Hog) or an amazing hot dog (my favorites are the Sonoma and the Sweet Carolina) and, of course, an Old Style! By the way…it’s a bar…21 and over!

Romans 12:13- “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Hebrews 13:2“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

1 Peter 4:9- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

3 John 1:8“We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”

Cheap Imitations

This morning, I was reading an article about pilsner beers in the latest issue of All About Beer magazine. It’s actually a fascinating read on the incredible history of this beverage.

It appears that when the pilsner first hit the scene, it truly captivated the world. It was something new, something refreshing, something different, something wonderful.

Then, as one would almost expect, the pilsner had its name dragged through the mud as numerous sub-standard, cheap imitations began to hit the scene.

These cheap imitations had an almost disastrous impact on the few true and noteworthy pilsners in existence.

Brewing experts talked about how people were slapping the pilsner name on just about anything that remotely fit the specifications of the genre. This resulted in thousands of variations…most of them an insult to the original.

However, the future looks bright for the return of the true pilsner. There are some powerhouse pilsner brewers who have stayed true to form for a long time. Today, there are new breeds of brewers rising on the scene who take their brewing seriously and are doing their best to craft pilsners that rival the real thing. And, there are conscious consumers who understand that not all brews that claim to be “pilsners” are truly pilsners.

As I read the article, I found myself thinking about the Christian faith.

We have this beautifully rich faith that calls believers to a certain way of living and interacting in this world. When Christians attempt to get it right, it can be an amazing, transforming, awesome thing.

However, when Christians get it wrong, it simply becomes a cheap imitation.

There are many cheap imitations of the Christian faith out there. These cheap imitations drag the name of Christianity through the mud. These cheap imitations take something beautiful and turn it into something hideous.

And, it’s not just Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s not just the Christians who think the most effective way to promote their agenda is to blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors who perform abortions. It’s not just the extremists who are dragging the name of Christianity through the mud. It’s also yours truly.

You see, every time I settle for less than what God would intend, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I fail to help out a neighbor in need, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I make a snap judgment based on one’s outer appearance, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I fail to speak on behalf of those who cannot, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I fail to work for justice in the face of injustice, I’m just another cheap imitation. Every time I make the choice to “fit in”, I’m just another cheap imitation.

The truly disgusting part is that sometimes I’m okay with being a cheap imitation. I mean, on paper, I’d deny it. But, my actions (or lack of actions) seem to say that I’m okay with it…And, I do my best to justify my role as a cheap imitation. I’m like the brewer who puts a “pilsner” label on my beer in order to help move more product, knowing I’m settling for less than the real thing…less than the best. I’m like the Pharisee who prays, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11-12).

However, like the new breed of brew masters who are emerging on the scene attempting to do their best to brew a worthy variety of pilsners, I long to become more than a cheap imitation. I long to become a high quality imitation, a clear reflection of the One I claim to follow. I desire to get it right!

What kind of imitation are you? High quality or a cheap knock-off?

3 John 1:11- “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”

Romans 12:2 (MSG)- Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Stuck in Muncie…

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday, Emily and I were traveling to Muncie to drop the girls off at my parents house as we were headed to Delaware, Ohio for my class at MTSO.

When we were just outside of Alexandria, IN, I received a voicemail from the church office informing me that someone from MTSO had called to let me know that this weekend’s classes had been canceled due to the pending snow storm.

The question was, “what do we do now?” We were about 15 minutes from my parents house…

One option would have been to turn around and return to Lafayette.

The other option was to finish our trip to Muncie and visit family and friends.

As most people know, if the grandparents are planning to see their grandchildren, you can’t call and say, “we’re not coming.” From my experience, that is almost as severe as pulling the plug on ones parents.

So, we made our way to Muncie. We stopped off at my mom’s school. Grandma enjoyed parading her grandkids around the building and in the teacher’s lounge. It was in the teacher’s lounge where I decided I no longer wish to visit my mothers school. Some of my former teachers tried to imply that I was not exactly a “model student”. They implied that I was talkative and always in trouble. Of course, they are getting older and their memories probably just aren’t what they used to be.

Then it was on to my parents house where we found my father up on a ladder fixing gutters before the pending snow storm. It didn’t take him long to get the ladder put away and get inside with the girls.

So, we decided to stay the night and visit.

Emily called some friends and planned an evening out. Greg and Carol invited us to join them for dinner and asked if we would like to go to the Indian restaurant. Emily asked if that would be okay and my response was, “Muncie has an Indian restaurant?”

By the way, the Sitara is awesome! The food was amazing! The service was great…there is a long story that would explain how hard they will try to please their customers with strict dietary guidelines.

At dinner, Greg and Carol also informed us of a new Thai restaurant in downtown Muncie.

I guess when Adam Weber started the whole “Muncie…We’re Trying” campaign he was right. Muncie really is trying!

Of course, overnight the snowstorm made its way across the state and now we are “stuck” in Muncie. Of course, by mid-afternoon I expect the roads will be greatly improved and we’ll be able to consider heading back to Lafayette.

However, a Friday lunch trip to the Heorot will be required…if I can get there!

In reality, we’re not stuck in Muncie. We have numerous friends we can visit. We have some relaxed time to spend with my parents. And, we have the possibility of a trip to the Heorot!