Every time I watch the Piano Guys, I find myself doubting. They cannot possibly be doing this with just one piano. This is truly remarkable. I could write more about being inspired to use old tools in creative ways, or the power of team work, or the discipline it must take to perfect this kind of performance. Instead, I’m just going to take it for what it is – a beautiful piece of music that should be savored.
“Are they brothers?” Over the last decade and a half, I been asked that question hundreds of times. And yet when I hear it, even now it stuns me. Often, the question simply fails to register. It sounds, quite literally, nonsensical. “Is your foot your foot?” “Is the moon the moon?” My answer is commonly an awkward, “well, of course.”
Yes, yes, I know what the questioner is asking — all about biology, right? (The need to inquire and why it matters is perhaps another issue, and perhaps not.)
Yet, should I say no? Can I possibly? “Are they brothers?” No, they are not. — And so I say, “No, my sons, you are not brothers.” What are you? You are less-than, other-than. Not. This, I will never say. Not once. Ever.
The question itself breaks my heart. What would you have them be if not brothers? So surely the questioner does not understand that the question can have only one answer and so isn’t a question worth asking at all.
Yes. Because they are. Just as your foot is your foot and the moon is the moon, they are brothers. It can be no other way. They are family. In every way. Bonded and bound, and blessed beyond measure to be true, real brothers.
So ask me “Are they brothers?” And I will say yes every time.
This post was written by Lisa Larson. This was posted as her facebook status on November 19, 2013. I asked her if I could use it for my blog because I thought it was beautiful and needed to be shared. Lisa is a proud Iowan, but currently lives in Eureka, Missouri. I met her in 2006 when her family came to Eureka so that her husband Duane could serve as the Senior Pastor of Eureka United Methodist Church. I was a seminary intern at Eureka UMC for a year with Duane as my supervisor. In that short amount of time I learned a lot about being a pastor and raising a young family. I remember little Sarah coming to her Daddy in worship, and think of them often when my own little girl does the same to me now. Lisa let me use this picture of her beautiful family, and I hope she is able to write another guest blog for me someday.
This Advent, I am going to run to Bethlehem, but I need your help. As a way to encourage people to Live Well, I’ve started a new virtual running event. From November 28 until December 25, I want to run the virtual journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. According to Google Maps, this is a 106 mile journey. For me to run the 106 miles, I would have to average four miles a day. While not impossible, it is an impractical goal. So I’m enlisting help.
My Pulpit Fiction co-host and best friend Eric Fistler and I are going to do this together. We are asking all of the Fat Pastor readers and Pulpit Fiction listeners to do the same. If we can get a few people to do it with us, the 106 mile journey will be a lot easier. In fact, I figure if there are ten people running, we might be able to make the return trip too.
If you want to participate in the Run to Bethlehem, just submit your time and distance on this google form. We’ll compile the information and post our progress as we go along. We’ll start tracking on Thanksgiving Day, and we’ll go until Christmas (maybe Epiphany)
If you’re on twitter, use the hashtag #AdventRun to post pictures or tag routes if you use something like Map My Run.
Also, don’t forget to use #BeChristInChristmas to share ways that you, your family, or your church is trying to be Christ in the life of your neighbors.
1. Don’t get mad at people when they wish you “Happy Holidays.” I’m not sure who decided that anger is the right Christian response to a polite greeting from a stranger. I say “Happy Holidays” all the time. Is it because I’m a politically correct, overly emotional, too-sensitive, mamby-pamby, liberal pinko who hates Christmas and wants to hang an Obama Tree in my living room? Maybe, but I’m only a few of those things (I’m not telling which). I just think it is a nice thing to say. People that are looking for Christ at the check-out register of Target might be looking in the wrong place. Frankly, I’m not too interested in finding Christ at my daughter’s public school either. Check that. I can find Christ anywhere, but I find it in the heart of my neighbor, not in slogans, signs, or songs.
2. Go to worship. It might sound overly simple, but maybe we can look for Christ in his house. The purpose of worship is to connect with the divine, so look for Christ in the hearts of your brothers and sisters. Find Christ in the songs of the ages. Find Christ in the passing of the peace, in the breaking of the bread, and in hearing the Scriptures read and proclaimed. If you’re not a church-goer, give it a try. Most churches are at their best in the weeks leading up to and on Christmas Eve. There are few moments of the year I enjoy more than singing “Silent Night,” and lifting a candle on Christmas Eve. I’m not going to guarantee that every House of Worship will suit you. The body of Christ has many flaws and scars, yet the presence of Christ can be found in the midst of this imperfection. Then go out into the world and be the presence of Christ for others.
3. Read the Bible. Again, sounds simple. There are a lot of ways to encounter Christ, and one of them is to read the stories of his life. Read the Christmas stories as found in Matthew and Luke. Read about Jesus’ ministry and discover what he said, who he loved, where he went, and what he did. Allow the Sermon on the Mount to challenge your life. Allow the parables to challenge the way you think of the world. Discover the radical strangeness that is the Kingdom of God. Be like a tree planted by the waters, and delight in the stories of Jesus. Then maybe his birth will mean something more.
4. Volunteer. Give your time to a cause that is meaningful. Use your talents, skills, and passion for something larger than yourself. Love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God. Find a soup kitchen, a food pantry, a clothes closet, or a shelter that needs help. Sign up with the Boys and Girls Club. Offer to teach a class at your church. Volunteer to read to kids at your local elementary school. Then after Christmas is over, keep doing it.
5. Shop fair trade. Buy products you can feel good about. Support economic justice by making sure that the people that created the products you buy are paid a fair wage. There is a shop in downtown Davenport I buy a lot of stuff from called SIS International Shop. Equal Exchange is another great company that I love to support. Ten Thousand Villages is a wider chain with some great merchandise as well.
6. Buy gifts that will improve relationships, not just add to clutter. A few years ago my brother, sister, our spouses, and I decided that we weren’t going to buy each other presents. Instead we gave our parents a night with the grandkids, and the six of us went to dinner and bowling. I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like, so I cherish that night we shared much more than any t-shirt or book that they might have gotten me. Last year my daughter got a big Lego Star Wars set for Christmas. It was great, but the best part of that gift were the hours that we spent together working on it.
7. Make one of these. I could buy a cheap box with terrible chocolate to pop out each day leading up to Christmas, or I could make this. The Advent calendar of children’s books is an amazing idea I’ve seen from a couple of people on Facebook. I hope I take the time to make the former. I’m afraid I’m going to end up buying the latter.
8. Go on a prayer run. This is a term I first heard from a follower on my Facebook page. She told me that while she runs, she prays. She solicits prayer concerns from friends from church, and takes them with her as she goes on a run. Sometimes she listens to the Bible as she runs. I’m hoping she adds the Pulpit Fiction podcast to her playlist too. The point is, she’s improving her physical health while at the same time strengthening her spiritual life. She told me recently that she ran her first 5K. I’m so glad she shared her joy with me on the FB page. Now I share her idea with all of you. You can also participate in the Virtual Run to Bethlehem. The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is 106.2 miles. Join in the virtual run to see if we can cover that distance as a team between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Submit your miles here, and see how far we can make it.
9. Throw a Baby Shower for Jesus. There is a women’s shelter near you. There is a scared teen mother you know. There is a Children’s Home that is struggling to stretch their budget. Invite people to a Baby Shower for Jesus. Have games, food, and decorations just like a regular baby shower. Invite everyone to bring gifts just like at a regular shower. Then give them all away to someone in need, and remember that Jesus said, “I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:40; CEB) And if the idea of throwing yet another party before Christmas is too daunting, then wait until Epiphany (January 6, 2014), the day we remember the coming of the wise men to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.
10. Advocate for Justice. The unnamed miracle of Christmas is that Mary survived. Mary gave birth among animals and filth. There was no professional to help her. She was probably very young. The fact that she survived the birth is a miracle that few name. This Christmas, name that miracle. Tell the stories of the thousands of women who give birth in similar conditions every day. There is a natural connection between the need to advocate for maternal health and family planning and the coming of Christ. I wrote this reflection after I went to Washington to meet in Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. Understand though, that you don’t need to go to Washington. Write or call your local Congressional office. They pay attention to what people talk to them about.
11. Tweet #BeChristInChristmas. Share ways that you are being Christ to someone else this holiday season. Use the power of social media to share the good news of Christians being like Christ. Last year there were a few people that participated and shared some great ideas that included sending cards to soldiers, shopping for an Angel Tree, and singing in nursing homes. I’m hoping that this idea can grow, and we can all be inspired to do something for mercy, justice, and kindness. Be the hands, feet, heart, mind, and mouth of Christ this Christmas. And please, have a very happy holiday!
I can’t help but feel like the best way we can support Veterans is to pray for peace. When you get up from your prayer, do something like write a Christmas card, support the USO, hire a soldier coming home, or offer free babysitting to a family that is missing a parent.
Little ones are infamous for their love of repetition. I swear my three-year-old daughter could watch the same episode of Daniel Tiger on repeat all morning and be happy. I cannot tell you how many times she has said to me, immediately after finishing a book, “Again. Read it again Daddy.”
Most of the time, the repetition can be a little tedious. Well, I found a video that Lucy wants to watch over and over, and I’m totally okay with that. Watch this video, baby. Watch it again. Watch it as you go to preschool. Watch it on my lap and don’t worry about the tears rolling down my cheek. Watch it when you start middle school, even if you don’t want me to walk with you to school any more. Watch it in high school, and before you go on your first date. Watch it when you go to college, and know who and whose you are. Watch it when you feel discouraged. Watch it when some one tries to tell you that you do not count. Watch it when you feel like you cannot make a difference.
You are Malala. You are infinite hope. Hear these words. Hold onto these words. Watch it over and over and know that as long as I have strength to stand, it will be by your side.
“It is time for you to decide. Would you choose to fight for what you believed in? Would you do what is right? If I need you, would you stand tall with me, right here by my side? Be the change you want to see. Take a look through my eyes.”
Inspired by Malala Yousafzai’s incredible courage, this video was created by Girls of the World to support the Malala Fund. I found it here on Upworthy. Go to Malalafund.org to learn more about supporting education for girls. Follow The Malala Fund on Facebook.
The fourth track on Michael Jackson’s 1987 blockbuster album Bad, the song “Liberian Girl” is not one of the King of Pop’s most popular. When the video was shared on Facebook by a West African friend of mine the other day, I watched it. Liberia holds a special place in my heart, so I was intrigued by the song title. It is a simple, beautiful song, but it was never released as a single in the US. The video however, is memorable.
It is veritable “Who’s who” of 1980s pop culture. See if you can name all the stars that appear in this video.
There’s Malcom Jamal Warner, Danny Glover, John Travolta, Olivia Newton John, Suzanne Summers, Whitley from “Another World,” one of the Coreys, Apollo Creed, the Hulk, Lando, that monkey, and many, many more. For a fun party game, play the video and see how many you can name. Check this wikipedia page here for the full cast. Perhaps most surprising of all is the absence of Eddie Murphy. Given that he and Michael together made the worst video of all time, maybe that’s a good thing.
There are a lot of people that clamor to put the Ten Commandments in public places. I believe too firmly in the separation of Church and State to want to see that happen. Yet sometimes I wonder why no one seems to want to put the sermon on the mount in the courthouse lobby? Jesus said, “When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too.” How would that go over? After we put the sermon on the mount at the courthouse, could we put Luke’s sermon on the plain on Wall Street? How would that fit? He said to “lend expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35 in the sermon on the plain). What would that do to our economic system?
Really, I can’t help but wonder if there is any way to reconcile a realistic society with Jesus’ teaching. Does our justice system of punishment and retribution have anything to do with the grace and peace that Jesus taught? Could our society function on the premise of turning the other cheek? Could our economic structures survive Jesus’ teaching about money? Jesus places some pretty big demands on his followers. It is hard to imagine how it would even work.
But then, do the systems we have in place now work? I’m not sure a society can function under the rules Jesus laid out, but I’m also pretty sure no society has really tried.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton