December 2011


I love me some books. While it’s true that I’ve loved me a brand new daughter this year more than I’ve loved me some books and therefore I’ve loved me a lot less books than usual, I still love me some books.

Here’s my top ten from this year, in no particular order. How about you? What did you read that I should read that’s not on this list? Comment below.

It’s an annual tradition as familiar as a Christmas ham or a Labor Day taffy pull. (What? You never had a Labor Day taffy pull? Me either, but it sounds like a great tradition. Let’s start it.)

I’m referring to my favorite posts of the year. The top ten things that made me laugh, made me cry, or generally made me glad that they weren’t one of the other horrid pieces of parakeet cage lining that I usually crank out. (Did I write that out loud?)

Here they are, in order of appearance:

E’rybody knows that the week between Christmas and New Years is no time to have deep thoughts on a blog. Nope, it’s the time to realize that we have eaten so much food that it’s causing our blue jeans to defy the laws of physics, a time to figure out how to spend the $25 Barnes and Noble gift card (an immobilizing decision for me), and a time to come up with witty captions for photos taken during setup for Christmas at the Summit:

20111227-235144.jpg

Yes, this is Jason Gaston, the esteemed Student Pastor at the Summit, and yes, he’s on the roof. All that’s missing is your commentary on what he’s doing up there.

Best caption wins a free morning of deer hunting with Rev. Gaston himself. He’ll be glad to take you just as soon as I tell him that I promised he would.

Comment below.

Yesterday my family and I embarked on a fun-filled 9 1/2 hour road trip. And by “fun-filled” I mean “looking for the nearest cliff to drive off if a certain nine year old asked ‘how much longer’ when the ETA was clearly marked on the GPS.”

Road trips like that always enable Merriem and me to ponder the deeper mysteries of the planet, such as what would be the worst job we could possibly have (me: porta-potty cleaner, her: podiatrist) and where we would live if we weren’t in RDU (her: Nashville, me: Canada. Or maybe San Diego. But I guess the right answer would have been “Anywhere you are, my precious.”).

But the most interesting conversation revolved around what gender social media is. She’s new to Facebook over the last few months, and  claimed that the ‘Book is decidedly an arena for women. “You look at my Facebook page” she said, “and you’ll see a bunch of posts and comments that are 98% women.”

I wanted to argue that was because 98% of her Facebook friends actually are women, but I was still in a bit of trouble for wanting to move to San Diego when she was going to Music City, USA, so I decided to keep my trap shut.

She then went on to declare that Twitter is a guy’s playground, and blogs are neutral. So let’s review…Facebook is for women, Twitter is for dudes, WordPress is for Chaz Bono.

Which led me to ask more questions, both out loud and to myself. If every social media outlet has a gender, then what are they? Pinterest is easy: that’s a girl’s game. LinkedIn: mostly dudes. MySpace: creepy dudes who pretend to be girls. Foursquare: whatever gender you’d classify as “bugs the bejeezers out of me.”

So what do you think? Does social media have a gender? Are certain outlets more prone to men vs. women? Comment below, because this blog is a safe place for all the peoples.

Christmas Eve, 11:32 PM, and I was stuck smack in the middle of an ethical dilemma. A moral conundrum. A rock and a hard place.

It wasn’t my annual night-before-Christmas problem: drinking Santa’s cup of milk. You see, I’m not a milk drinker. It’s not that I’m lactose intolerant. I’m actually quite tolerant of lactose when it comes in the form of ice cream and queso dip. But straight milk? No thank you. I’m a grown man and I’ll pour Santa’s homogenized offering right down the sink and go for a Dr. Pepper instead.

But back to my problem: Merriem and I were finishing up with the last of the gifts under the tree. And it was at that point that we noticed what our nine year old wrote on his note to Santa…

Dear Santa,

The (oatmeal) cream pie is for your trip. The other one is for now.

If you are real write a [symbol 1]. If not put [symbol 2]. Please be honest.

Your kid,

Jase

******************************

Sheesh.

There I was, backed into a corner right beside the Christmas tree. 2011 has been the year of doubting for Jase. Regardless of your viewpoint on the big man in the red suit, it’s tough when your kid makes another step from childhood to adulthood.

And there lay our conundrum. The rest of the letter would have been tough enough, but when he added the “please be honest” tag at the end, well that was just the ol’ proverbial knife in the toy sack on our backs. And then “your kid”?!? It’s like he was taunting us with what he knew to be the truth.

Just so you know, we ended up writing “Jase, enjoy being a kid. Merry Christmas!” But on Christmas morning, the jig was up. Jase made a break for our bedroom closet where we’d stashed the special Santa wrapping paper. You know – the paper that only Santa is allowed to use, unless of course it’s December 23rd and you’ve run out of the mere mortal wrapping paper and so some of the stuff that you bought magically turns into stuff that Santa bought. But I digress. Jase found it, and the great mystery of childhood was once and for all solved. And a little part of me was very, very sad.

At the end of the day, it was a dilemma that would make an ethicist scratch his head. The parent in me wanted to keep the fat man around a little longer. The realist wanted to tell him the truth and settle the question. So what would you do? How did you handle the St. Nick question with your kids?

Comment below.


We have a nativity set in our house. Okay, we have several nativity sets in our house, but right now all but two of ’em are boxed up, ready to move.

One of our favorite new traditions with Haven is telling her the story of Jesus every night. We line up Mary, Joseph, the angels, wise men, and one odd-man-out elephant (Dumbo was in the manger?!?), and we tell the story.

But my other favorite thing is when Haven kisses baby Jesus night night and puts him to bed, just before she goes to bed.

WARNING: this video is so sweet it’ll put you into a diabetic coma.

(And no, we don’t know what was going on with her hair in this video. I’d assume it’s too early for male pattern baldness.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph this season. You know…Joseph of Nazareth. The forgotten parent of Jesus. Russ Moore’s excellent blog post earlier this week both encapsulated and expanded on much of what I’ve been chewing on.

Because you see – this year more than ever – I can identify with Joseph. Not “Hey-I’m-teaching-a-deity-how-to-ride-a-tricycle” identification, but identification through adoption.

Joseph raised a child who wasn’t biologically his. He loved him. Fought for him. Protected him. Taught him. Guided him. Trained him. Prayed for him.

Adopted him.

I’d never thought through Joseph’s experience until this year. I’ve played Joseph a few times in nativity scenes and Christmas programs. But back then, I only understood Joseph’s role as a father.

This year I understand him as daddy.

I wonder what it was like when he found out Mary was pregnant. Was he hurt? Confused? Scared? Excited? What was it like in the final days of her pregnancy? Was he preparing a nursery? Preparing his finances? Preparing his heart? How about when he held the infant king for the first time? Was he fearful? Did he feel inadequate? Did he think he’d be the best earthly daddy to that little guy?

What was it like to raise Jesus? Did he ever tell him of his conversation with Gabriel? Did he ever mention the tears he shed with Mary? Did he ever get gut-level honest and tell Jesus he wasn’t sure he was fully equipped for the task at hand?

Did it take him a few months to feel like a daddy, or did he claim that title as soon as he looked into the eyes of his son? Did he get up in the middle of the night to check his breathing? Did he sit by his crib in the morning, waiting to see chubby hands rub sleepy eyes?

Did he rush through his work at the shop so he could get home to play with his little buddy? Did he neglect household chores for a while because he was so enamored with the miracle in front of him?

Did he ever drop to his knees and thank God for picking him for the job?

I don’t know…I can’t know all of the things Joseph experienced. There’s never been another adoption situation anywhere close to his. No angel announced our daughter’s birth, no smelly shepherds attended her arrival, no Fed Ex package has arrived with myrrh.

But when it comes to being a daddy who claims and loves a child as if it were his own…I think I understand. I think this year, for the first time ever, I can say I’m standing with Joseph.

We’re one day away from Christmas at the Summit, a three-day five-event yuletide spectacular complete with flying angels, live camels, a real Hebrew baby Jesus, dancing snowmen, Buddy the Elf, authentic frankincense, and snowball fights on the hour.

Okay, so maybe it’s just music and some cookies in a tent. But they will be GOOD cookies. I promise.

You’re not down with C @ the S? Well you can consider this your early Christmas present. Check out this video that’s on the local airwaves this week…

christmas at the summit from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

If you’d like to RSVP, sign up for Summit Kids, or volunteer to be one of our dancing snowmen, visit ChristmasAtTheSummit.com.

As I type, I’m sitting in a McDonald’s at 7:49 PM on a Monday night. I can’t tell you why I’m sitting in McDonald’s, but I can tell you that it has nothing to do with the fact that one of my offspring may or may not be at a social event with a member of the opposite gender, and I’m the one with a driver’s license hanging around until I pick them up.

(Absolutely not. Not a chance. Who started that rumor, anyway? Why would you even bring it up?)

Anyway, as I sit here in this McDonald’s, I’m being kind of observant. The first thing that I’m observanting is what I would rate as The Worst Marketing Campaign in History. Yes, I’m referring to this poster:

Seriously, McDonald’s? A shaped and formed pork patty is the “taste of the season”? I’ll accept the fact that the Peppermint Mocha Milkshake is the taste of the season. You might even convince me that one of your apple pies (Caution! Filling is HOT!) is the taste of the season. But the McRib? No way.

This is almost as bad as your primary McRib advertisement on your once-every-five-weeks McRib relaunch: “The McRib Is Back.” (Incidentally, isn’t that exactly what people say two hours after eating a McRib?)

But I digress.

It’s the first time that I’ve landed at a McDonald’s since the advent of free wi-fi under the golden arches. And as thankful as I am for free wi-fi at the same place that inspired the cinematic genius of Super Size Me, I find it odd that McDonald’s offers people a spot to play on their computers, but offers no way to charge those computers.

That’s right. In this entire restaurant, there’s not one single electrical outlet. (Well, there is back in the kitchen. How else do you think they power up the paint sprayers to give the McRib its luscious barbecue hue?)

So the message that McDonald’s is getting across – the subtle cue that they’re sending – is “Enjoy the internet, but not too long. Answer your email and hit the road.”

Other places have subtle cues as well. A friend who worked at the Shoney’s Restaurant chain once told me that it was their practice to turn down the A/C when a tour bus pulled up. They figured the colder people were, the faster they’d eat and get out.

Wal-Mart’s subtle cue is front door greeters that double as security guards. Zappos’ is a non-marketing strategy that is reluctant to tout their products but focuses on their incredible customer service, which in turn bolsters their bottom line. Chick Fil A’s is a practice that they don’t “discount” their food’s price or quality through special deals, but they will give it away with some pretty stinkin’ awesome coupons.

Different things drive your cues. It might be your corporation’s policies, it might be your culture, it might be your employees. And the scary thing is, you may not know the cues you’re subtly tossing out there. But make no mistake…they’re there.

So what are the cues of your church? Is it a place where people will be loved? Where they can be known? Where they can show up with all of their baggage and drama? Do your announcements and sermons and facilities and policies work together to give people the subtle cue that you expected their visit and you want them to return?

Take some time and check out your cues. Maybe with a warm McRib in hand. Because remember: it’s the taste of the season.

Hey gang. I’m back from a brief six-week blog sabbatical. I’m going to jump right in with some new…

Editor’s note: Wait. What? You can’t just “jump right in.” Explanation, please. What gives?

Huh?

Editor: You’ve been out for six weeks. Six freakin’ weeks. That’s longer than the gestation period of a rabbit. So what have you been doing? Breeding rabbits? Maybe running a rabbit matchmaking service, arranging a rabbit wedding, and THEN breeding rabbits? Because you’ve had the time.

I don’t think rabbits actually get married. They…

Editor: Stay on topic. You don’t just drop a blog and stay gone for 42 days. There had better be a good reason. Alien abduction? Witness protection program? Bleeding ulcers? There are at least four people out there who want to know where you’ve been, one of ’em being your sister.

Hey, it’s been busy. If you haven’t been paying attention, I have a new daughter. And she’s cute. And when I get home and she wants to play, you’d better believe that I darn tootin’ play. We sort shapes.

Editor: You do what?

Sort shapes. It’s a game where you take little plastic shapes and put ’em in little plastic holes in a little plastic ball. There are only about ten shapes that we sort, so it doesn’t take long. She’s pretty amazing at it, and probably is the best shape sorter in the history of shape sorters. (I’m convinced she’s smarter than your kid.) But then she wants to do it over and over and over and over again.

Editor: Like over and over…?

Like 42 days’ worth of over and over. She’s very persistent.

Editor: So what else?

Um, you know. Two kids playing basketball. I preached a sermon or two. We have this thing called Christmas at the Summit. Oh, and we sold our house.

Editor: And that’s a big deal because…

It’s a big deal because our house would’ve been on the market for five years this February. FIVE. YEARS. I can’t imagine doing anything fun for five years. And do you know how many generations of rabbits you could breed in five years? But it sold. Dang it, it sold. So that’s been fun. We’ve been packing up and cramming eight years’ worth of household goods into boxes, so that shape sorting thing has come in handy.

Editor: I’ll bet you could write a whole series of posts on what God has drilled into your thick skull during this process.

Yeahbuddy. Another post for another day.

Editor: So you’re moving? 

Yep. We close right after the first of the year. And don’t ask where, because we don’t know. Somewhere in Durham. But we’re waiting on The Right House.

Editor: Defined as?

Some house we haven’t found, but we know is out there. Preferably with more square footage than what we have now and a garage and one that’s not out in the middle of flippin’ nowhere which is where we’ve been for the last eight years and a comfortable mortgage payment and if my fourteen year old has his way a full-sized basketball court complete with locker rooms and a scoreboard.

Editor: Bottom line…are you going to be more consistent in this blog? Should people get their hopes up? And more importantly…will you be interesting? Because the people, they like interesting.

I don’t know. Probably not. And you know the answer to that.

Editor: So…see you tomorrow?

Maybe. I got shapes to sort.