the Night Before Christmas

I’m only familiar with the first few lines of the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas. While we were watching a movie tonight, a loud snap in the garage brought the first few lines to mind.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a [RAT].

'Twas the night before Christmas

Apparently with all the snow at our house, everybody wants to come inside, including the rats. I say “rats” plural because when I went back out the garage to take the above picture, another one scampered across the floor. Perhaps we’ll have another “gift” to open Christmas morning.

UPDATE [10:29AM December 25]: Indeed, rodent #2 was caught overnight. Here’s Mr. & Mrs. Rat.

Enjoying the Process – The Book

*I am excited to announce that I completed a major project last week and picked up copies of the finished product on Friday.1

A Bit of Context

During the final week of May, I adapted 14 sermons from my Ecclesiastes series into a book for the graduating seniors in our ministry. They endured 61 messages over the course of three years, and I figured this was the least I could give them. So I holed up in my home study for 16 or so hours a day for three days in order to rework and format the material. I self-published through Lulu, and for what it’s worth, I could not recommend their product more highly.

The first order of books arrived in time for graduation and I presented a copy to each graduate. But the closer I examined the book, the more I regrettably realized how much it looked like something put together in three days.2

I needed help. So I asked Patti Frisk, our school’s secondary English teacher, along with my mom, also a high school English teacher, to edit the book. Each one graciously agreed and went to work with red pens in hand. They returned improved manuscripts to me before June ended, and the ball was back in my court. Thank you, ladies.

Somehow, other projects kept creeping onto my calendar. Since I was eager to clean this meaty task off my plate, I spent the month of November and the early days of December making revisions, adding a chapter, and polishing the layout. I delivered the first copies of the second edition Friday night to the youth staff at our Christmas party.

The Contents

As the table of contents below reveals, roughly one paragraph in each chapter of Ecclesiastes turned into one chapter in my book. The chapters represent what I believe to be the high points of Solomon’s reminders in Ecclesiastes. They were chosen not only to expose the vanity of life, but also to turn the reader to God for true joy under the sun.

  1. Vain Repetition (1:1-11)
  2. Looking for Life Under the Sun (Pt 1) (2:1-8)
  3. Looking for Life Under the Sun (Pt 2) (2:1-8)
  4. Enjoying the Process (2:24-26)
  5. Everything is Beautiful in Its Time (3:9-15)
  6. 15 Minutes of Fame (4:13-16)
  7. You Can’t Take It with You (5:13-17)
  8. Loathing the Process (6:1-6)
  9. Get Over Yourself (7:15-22)
  10. Following and Influencing the Man (8:1-9)
  11. Act Now Before It’s too Late! (9:7-10)
  12. Out of the Mouth of Fools (10:12-15)
  13. Basking in the Sun (11:7-10)
  14. The End of the Matter (12:13-14)
  15. Why Ecclesiastes Needs the Cross (1 Corinthians 15)

Get a Copy

I’m glad this part of the process is done.3 I’d gladly massage each chapter more, but that may be the perpetual tweaker in me, so this will have to do for now. Anyone can order or download a copy for themselves from my storefront on Lulu. The 242 page paperback is $12 plus tax and shipping; the PDF download is only $5.


  1. You read that right: I picked up the copies from FedEx; they were not delivered by FedEx. The package tracking information read “delay beyond our control,” meaning, there was snow and ice on the roads. It wasn’t all bad; I learned at least one thing, and most importantly, I got to enjoy the process.
  2. I Twittered my excitement along with a link to the storefront on June 6, leading one friend to actually purchase a copy. Sorry, Eric. This edition should be better.
  3. Blogging frequency may not increase even though this project is complete, since it’s high time for me to turn my attention toward Augustine and repentance for our upcoming Snow Retreat.

The Laying on of Hands

Lord willing, I will be ordained this Sunday night. I am humbled and excited by the implications of this occasion.

Different churches (and denominations) obviously take different approaches to ordination. The typical approach in our tiny corner of evangelicalism includes a rigorous series of tests, in which a panel grills a man over his biblical, theological, and pastoral understanding. The process may also involve the candidate preaching an abbreviated sermon to the board of elders, and then answering any questions the board might have for him.

To me, that program seems to duplicate seminary. I agree that a pastor should know his Book and be apt to teach it. He should be able to rightly divide the Word and always ready to preach it. He should stand on solid biblical and theological convictions when evangelizing his neighbors and when equipping the saints. But the ministry is more than academic, and a man’s calling to ministry cannot be confirmed by looking at his transcripts. In my case, I already took tests and wrote papers and passed classes proving that I could regurgitate the information.

Regarding the biblical requirements for elders, Doug Wilson recently wrote:

One of the easiest things in the world for the Church to do is to drift into another set of requirements entirely, never quite noticing that we have replaced what the Bible requires with what we require. Nothing against Hebrew, Greek, or thorough knowledge of the patristics. Good to have, great to have, yay for having them.

I am all about Greek (and working on my Hebrew).1 I love learning and talking about theology.2 But wolves can enjoy those same things and use them to exploit the sheep, not care for them.

Ordination is not an academic issue primarily, nor is it merely a program. A great danger of the interview approach, it seems to me, is that a man may pass the “test” without demonstrating any spiritual giftedness. But the call to ministry cannot be determined by a panel or paperwork; it is personal.

In the Pastoral Epistles, the qualifications for pastors/elders/overseers are primarily concerned with persons, their desire for the work, their character, their families, their conduct, and their reputation. To know these things, men must be observed and known, and then affirmed. The objective requirements are affirmed subjectively by other godly and gifted men. The “gift,” affirmed during an ordination (1 Timothy 4:14), is observable in action, not just in an interview, however many hours it may last.

That’s why I’m excited to be ordained by this Body of believers and by this group of elders. They know me. They have been a part of my life, my family, and my ministry for seven and a half years. They have treated me with grace as I’ve made progress, and have encouraged me not to neglect my gift.

Being ordained won’t change my role or responsibilities. I’ve been functioning as an elder for some time and the title on my business card includes Pastor. But beyond annual tax benefits and authorization to marry and bury, this event is a spiritual celebration of God’s grace in and through me. I anticipate I will appreciate this benchmark of affirmation the rest of my ministry course, however long God let’s me run it.


  1. John Piper emphasized the need for pastors to know the biblical languages in his biographical message on Martin Luther, in which he concluded that the mother of the Reformation was Greek. I take that to mean Greek is important for the gospel and the church.
  2. Doug Wilson also wrote a fantastic post on the requirement of doctrinal integrity for elders, in which he urged elders not only to study doctrines afresh (cf. Acts 17:11), but also to work through those issues with their fellow church leaders.

To Infinity and Beyond

Disclaimer: Some of you have heard parts of the story below but have waited a long time to see actual pictures. Others may wish they had never seen pictures when it’s all said and done.


As a newbie to the Grace Community Church high school staff in 1997, I was recruited to be part of the promotion for summer camp. Little did I know how much that event it would change my life.

The theme for camp was based on Toy Story; we called our version Camp Story. My friend, roommate, fellow staff person, and then communications professor at The Master’s College, Josh Seat, played Woody. I’m sure he’s played Woody in every Ice Capades production of Toy Story since. To put it another way, I suspect Tom Hanks took cues from Josh, not visa versa.

I was cast to play Buzz Lightyear. My space ranger outfit was constructed on a limited budget. It essentially consisted of various sizes of buckets and a large Rubber Maid trash can, all precariously placed over top of an old set of shoulder pads and a black Power Rangers’ costume. My wings (not seen in the picture below) were an old school ab flex and my shoes were ski boots. You can’t make up this sort of thing.

Here are a few pictures from our photo shoot with the GCom publications guys as they prepped for the brochure and posters which were. To my joy, the posters were plastered all over the church campus, causing kids to call out, “There’s Buzz!” as I walked by. (Each picture below will open in a larger version if you click on it.)

* Woody and Buzz being buds.

* Buzz without his wings.

And here is the final production.

* I recommend visiting the Toy Story link above to see the DVD cover picture we copied. There was an actual discussion over copyright infringement at Disney due to the striking likeness, but thankfully they threw our little non-profit back into the lake.

Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll share the story about Buzz and the 70 yard zip line over an amphitheater, one end tied to a light pole and the other to the front bumper of a U-Haul.

State of the Void

Today is the first snow day of the school year. Since I’m not teaching at a school anymore, a snow day isn’t the novelty it used to be. But the church office is a virtual ghost town when the Academy is closed, and it’s always fun to stay home anyway. In a while, the kids and I will bundle up, throw snow at each other, build a snowman or two, shovel off the driveway, and spend a couple hours looking forward to hot chocolate.

Because the day’s schedule is different than usual, I committed to myself that I would write something for the Void. I miss it. Though I have been working on various other projects–one of which I’ll be free to publicize here in a couple days–I like writing and posting more than pithy quotes from dead theologians and amusing anecdotes from home.

So what’s the problem? Where are the gold bars of new posts? It appears sitting my rear in the chair and turning away from distractions are still the most difficult parts. I am fearful of becoming another armchair pundit who acts like he knows everything about everything, but the primary blame falls on my mental laziness.

There are reasons for me to write. First, I am a pastor, and this blog is one platform for fulfilling the teaching part of my responsibility. Having a blog doesn’t mean I’m the best teacher or only teacher. But for my sheep, this site ought to be a resource connected to our larger ministry context. Second, being a shepherd is a personal thing. This site ought to be a place for the sheep who normally don’t get to hang out with me to get to know me a bit better. The blog format also preserves my holdout from Facebook for at least a while longer, and hopefully provides more substance than updating my status or notifying followers when I’ve been tagged in a photo. Third, the blog helps me stay connected with far away friends and family. Undoubtedly some of my posts are tangential to their lives and interests, but they can read if they want. Fourth, it lets me practice writing. Most writers I’ve read have written that if a person wants to become a better writer, they should write more. Fancy that. Fifth, composing a post often helps me think through a given issue more clearly. Sixth, the blog provides a place to communicate things that didn’t fit the flow of a sermon or that I ran out of time to say. Seventh, the blog is a better platform for sharing things I think are silly rather than turning my preaching into a comedy bit. Eighth, I just like it.

As I look to the end of this year and a review of my 2008 resolutions, and as I consider opportunities for spiritual progress in the new year, I’m ready to include more writing and posting to the Void in the process. So there it is; I finally wrote something. For me, that’s better than nothing.