I keep thinking about something I heard in a Kairos sermon. Basically, the gist is that the best gift you can give to a loved one, more than presents, is presence.

More than going to a store and picking up something that may or may not end up being regifted or donated to Goodwill, maybe the best gift you can give is you. Your time. Your attention.

Who in your life needs to see your actual face (and not just your profile picture)? Who needs a reminder that you haven’t forgotten them?

Is it a relative? Is it a friend?

You can send a Facebook post or a text, but the best is to have a face-to-face conversation, one in which you aren’t distracted by your phone or tablet, but where you fully engage the other person and actually listen to what they are saying.

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Not to be morbid, but you truly never know when it will be too late to have that conversation.

That’s really all I have. Maybe it’s something I need to do myself. Maybe I can find someone I haven’t seen in a while and try to reconnect.

Oh, and may all your traffic lights be green and all your checkout lines be short. Amen.


Advent Is Here Again


“‘Yes,’ said Queen Lucy. ‘In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world’” (C. S. Lewis).

Advent means waiting. Not just waiting. It means waiting with expectation. When I think of the word, I think of me as a kid on Christmas Eve, so excited that I couldn’t fall asleep and feeling that the next morning couldn’t arrive fast enough.

Advent means a child awaiting the last day of school and the start of summer break. Or maybe that delicious feeling you get when you set out the driveway toward your vacation destination.

Sadly, most of the things I looked forward to so eagerly haven’t lived up to the hype. I can’t even remember most of the presents I was so anxious to open. Most of them probably ended up in garage sales or in Goodwill donation boxes.

However, the Advent is different. This present comes in a very small package. The infinite became an embryo and then, a helpless infant. God took on flesh and bone and became one of us. His coming meant the birth of hope, the birth of multiple second chances, and the birth of Love. Not sappy romantic love that fades over time, but real and true love that lays down its life for the beloved.

On a side note, if Advent does anything, it should make you look past the surface. It should make you look beyond appearances to what’s underneath. The Bible says that Jesus was nothing to look at (my very loose translation of Isaiah 53:2) but underneath was the salvation of all who put their trust in Him.

Lucy had it right. What was in that stable so long ago was bigger than the whole universe. What was dressed up in rags was worth more than all the universe and everything in it put together.

That’s what I’m waiting for.



Revisiting the Christmas Movies

It’s that time again. By that, I mean it’s time to dust off the Christmas movies and watch them all again. For some reason, it doesn’t feel right to watch them before Thanksgiving, but starting at 12:01 am I can officially start. Not that I ever start at 12:01 am. I’m just saying I could.

I have my list of annual must-see Christmas movies and I have those that I’d like to watch but the world won’t end if I don’t get around to those.

So far, I’ve seen Elf, The Polar Express, and The Santa Clause, so it’s a good start.

I prefer the older black-and-white movies like the ones they show on TCM, like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas in Connecticut, and A Holiday Affair. Not to say that I don’t like the old color movies like White Christmas. I like ’em all.

I have all the major television specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and all the Rankin-Bass classics. Hopefully, I can get around to watching those this year because they always leave me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Kinda like the tryptophan effect without actually consuming all those turkey calories.

I hope you have your favorites, too. I hope you have your family traditions for Christmas. Most of all, I hope you remember that Christmas isn’t really about presents and wrapping and decorations or even those great old movies. Christmas is about the child born in a stable and laid in a manger almost 2,000 years ago. That is what Christmas is truly all about.


Christmas Eve Eve (Or Is It Christmas Adam?)


Today is December 23. As the old joke goes, the day before Christmas Eve is Christmas Adam, for obvious reasons. And no, I didn’t say it was a good joke or even a funny joke.

It’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit when you can’t even take a moment to breathe. For me, I’ve been working crazy hours and getting some very last minute shopping in. All those plans for having all my presents bought early and devoting more time to celebrating Advent went the way of the BetaMax and the HD-DVD. They didn’t last long.

But as Bill Murray’s character in the movie Scrooged asks, “It’s not too late, is it?”

No, I don’t think so.

It’s never too late to turn your eyes to the manger and see the child laying there. It’s not too late to come and kneel before the infant King with the Shepherds. It’s not too late to make room for Immanuel, God With Us.

Whether it’s December 23 or after a lifetime of missed Christmases, it’s never too late. Even if you’re older than 92, you can still become like a child and receive this gift, despite what The Christmas Song says.

That’s why I love Christmas. God the Infinite became an embryo to show that no place is too small for Him to come into and make a difference. As my pastor always says, all He needs is a place to start, the tiniest opening in the heart, the most hesitant of acceptances to begin the miracle of change.

If God can change a heart like mine, He can change yours. That is what Christmas is really all about, Charlie Brown.

Advent Time Is Here


I’m a total and complete geek when it comes to all things Christmas. I love gaudy decorations (the gaudier the better), sentimental Christmas movies, old-school Christmas music, and all those seasonal drinks like egg nog and peppermint mocha and all things pumpkin spice.

A few years back, I discovered about Advent. I always thought it was a creepy Catholic thing (not that I’m saying there’s anything more creepy about Catholics than about Baptists).


I bought a really nice edition of The Book of Common Prayer and started reading the collects related to the four Sundays of Advent. I found a great Advent devotional called The Christ of Christmas by Calvin Miller, with devotionals for the 31 days of December.

I love the idea behind the five Advent candles, starting with the candle of hope, or the Prophecy Candle. I love the imagery of the verses from Isaiah 11 that go with it:

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-3 NABRE).”

I recently heard Ann Voskamp talk about the imagery here. New life coming from death, the rotting stump of a broken life. Out of the wreckage comes a hope and a future. Out of the smoldering ruins of my dashed hopes and crushed dreams comes a new hope growing in the very spot where those hopes and dreams perished.

Week two is all about preparation, the Bethlehem Candle. Will I choose to make my heart a Bethlehem to receive the coming infant King? Will I be ready to find Him when He arrives not in the pomp and splendor of a throne but in a dirty trough that animals feed in?

Did I mention how much I love Advent? I’m still figuring out how to fully savor these four weeks not get caught up in that “one more present, one more party” mentality.

Look for Part Two coming one week from tonight. Until then, feel free to partake in some pumpkin spice egg nog.

A Beautiful Moment


I saw one example of Eucharisteo paying off today.  My mother and  were on the way back from picking up my grandmother from her assisted living apartment. We had Hank Williams playing in the car, hoping my grandmother would recognize the old music.

We got to the song “Hey Good Lookin'”, a song pretty much EVERYBODY has heard of at some point in their lives. My mom started singing and, lo and behold, my grandmother chimed in. I don’t know why that moment blessed me so much, but it did.

Out of all the great things that happened today– seeing my niece Lizzie’s joy in opening her birthday presents, being with family, driving home at night with the windows rolled down– that moment topped them all. In fact, I’d say it has hit the charts with a bullet for one of my favorite moments of 2013.

I guess I love that moment because I was able to slow down to catch that fleeting moment and savor it. I didn’t miss it like I’ve missed so many others because I was too busy looking back in regret or looking ahead with anxiety. I was squarely in that moment and seeing God at work right then and there.

My grandmother is 89 and her memory’s not what it used to be. I know she won’t live forever, as much as the 10-year old part of me thinks otherwise. I know no one I love lives forever. At some point, I will have to say goodbye to everything and everyone I love this side of heaven. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t relish in every moment I’m given. It doesn’t mean that I can’t build memories of moments that will carry me through the grief back to the joy.

I love my friends, whether they’re in my life for 15 minutes, 6 months, 2 years, or a lifetime. I know better than to assume every friend will always be my friend and will always be around. I also know that each person, whether family or friend, has left footprints in my heart and residue of their spirit in my soul, so that I am forever changed, more like Jesus, because of knowing them.

My prayer isn’t that people will look back and remember me as a really swell guy, but that they will look on the times they spent with me and reflect on how much closer to Jesus they are now because of my small part in their lives.

That’s all.

Falling into Autumn


Officially, today, September 22, is the first day of autumn. Thus commences yet again my very favorite season, filled with colorful leaves, cool breezes, hot cider, hayrides, bonfires, and crisp nights.

For some reason, autumn makes me most nostalgic. Something about the combinations of smells peculiar to fall triggers happy childhood memories of places and people long since gone.

Most of my favorite movies are set during autumn, or at least have memorable scenes set amidst the riot of changing leaves (think When Harry Met Sally or A Beautiful Mind).


Some friends and I took lunches out to Granny White Park. I took my ever-so-yummy burrito from Chipotle’s and drank water like a healthy boss. We threw the frisbee around and had a great time. Later, we played sand volleyball on the courts at Fellowship Bible Church. It was picturesque.

The part of living in Tennessee that is both good and bad is the unpredictability of the weather. In other words, I can’t count on every day until December 21 being this postcard perfect. I’ve learned to appreciate these idyllic days and enjoy each one.


I’m learning to appreciate each day as a blessing from God. Too many people I know who are my age and younger won’t get to see their tomorrows (at least not on this side of eternity). Truly the old saying is true: today is a gift– that’s why they call it the present.

I’m also learning to see God in each and every day. That comes with seeing through eyes of gratitude and thanksgiving and joy. Even those blessings that come disguised in suffering and hardship.

I believe the weather will be hot and muggy later in the week, but I’ll still have the treasure of remembering this day when I’m sweating like the turkey that’s about to be Thanksgiving dinner.

That’s truly enough for me.

Things I Love 24: From a Guy Who’s Running on Caffeine and Hope

island hammock

I had a fantastic conversation with a friend tonight at Starbucks. Even though we’ve never met in person before, we talked like we’d been friends for years. The meds are working. I am still blessed. Which brings us to #656.

656) Laptops that actually fit in your lap (does anyone remember the old portable computers that weighed 50 pounds and had a 2-inch screen?)

657) Conversations that last for hours over coffee drinks.

658) Love that will not let me go.

659) Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

660) Turkey sausage from Cracker Barrel.

661) When someone gets one of my obscure movie references.

662) IMDB for when my usually spot-on memory for names of actors fails me.

663) The little emoticons on Facebook messaging.

664) Free books on Kindle or iBooks.

665) Leaving ridiculous tips, i.e. 50% or higher, whenever I eat out.

666) Not being freaked out by the number 666.

667) Being 2/3 of the way through my list of 1,000 things I love.

668) Bare feet on carpet.

669) People complimenting me on my I Am Second bracelet.

670) Finding that Friends Trivia Game at Music City Thrift for $1.

671) Those people in the Bible who God used who were possibly even crazier and more messed up than me.

672) Gregorian chant music.

673) My organic liquid hand soap that smells like Canadian pine with white sage.

674) Being manly enough to admit that I have organic liquid hand soap that smells like trees.

675) Knowing just enough Spanish to be dangerous (and to order at Taco Bell).

676) Being able to read most of John 1 in my Greek New Testament,

677) Movie soundtracks.

678) Getting packages in the mail.

679) Color correcting old pictures on Adobe Photoshop.

680) Birthday presents.

681) Watching other people open gifts.

682) Christmas presents.

683) Presents in general.

684) Being present in the moment.

685) Leigh Nash’s voice.

686) That guitar sound in the song Luka by Suzanne Vega.

687) That guys aren’t better than girls and girls aren’t better than guys. We’re just different.

688) Being uniquely and wonderfully made.

689) Owning all four seasons of Felicity.

690) A good night’s sleep after a really good day.

It’s Christmas (Eve) Again

In years past, I couldn’t help but feel the inevitable letdown that came once Christmas had come and gone. It was as if I spent all that time and energy waiting for one day that went by awfully fast.

But I’ve learned to appreciate Christmas more in and of itself, aside from all the gifts and trappings.

For me, the more I celebrate the advent season, the less Christmas becomes about one single day and the more it becomes about the entrance into our world of the infant Immanuel, God with us.

If you follow the 12 days of Christmas, then you know that Christmas doesn’t really end until January 6. So this year, I’m milking the holiday for all it’s worth.

Yeah, I like presents. I like giving them, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I liked getting them, too. But more than presents, I like being around family and the intentional togetherness fostered by the celebration of the Christ child who came to bring us peace.

I love what I heard in a sermon tonight. Jesus came to take away our fear and give us joy.

That’s what Christmas is really about, Charlie Brown.


Do You Believe?

polar express

“At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe” (from The Polar Express).

It would be very easy to turn Christmas into a season for shopping. It would be so very easy to get caught up in Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday sales and racking up debt on credit cards to buy more stuff for people who don’t really need it.

Don’t get me wrong. I like me some presents. I like giving them AND I like receiving them. But if that’s all it’s about, then there will always be a colossal letdown on December 26.

Christmas is more than presents and food and tacky Christmas sweaters. Christmas is even more than family gathered together in one place for one night, reliving memories and celebrating together.

Christmas is about the impossible becoming possible. Christmas is about the miracle of God becoming flesh, being born into our world as a helpless infant boy. I love the imagery I heard when someone said that Jesus came to us as the lowliest of the lowly so that he could lift us up from beneath.

That’s what Christmas is all about (in the immortal words of Linus). Christmas is believing that Jesus came for you and me. That when we couldn’t find a way to God, he found a way to us.

I love the sermon at the end of The Bishop’s Wife, a classic Christmas movie:

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. Its his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”