This Christmas, What ‘More’ Could You Ask For?


Four years ago , I was flipping through my journals looking for something that would spark a sermon idea. Our church was heading into the fray of the holiday season and I needed a little inspiration.

As I flipped through my journals, I paid special attention to November and December. That’s when I started to see an ominous trend:

For at least three of the past five years there was a gap in my journal entries during the first three weeks of December!

Nothing. No stories. No thoughts. No prayers. No Scripture. Not even the date on the page.

I sat back in disappointment – partly because I didn’t find a sermon, but mostly because I realized that…

I let the craziness of Christmas cut Christ completely out.

Have you ever felt that way?

Take a look at the word Christmas. If you cut Christ out, all you’re left with is mas.

My Spanish-speaking friends know that mas just means more.

Without Christ…Christmas just becomes more.

More work if you’re in retail…
More spending if you’re not careful…
More traveling…
More cooking…
More cleaning…
More stuff…
Christmas is in less than 6 weeks! How can we prepare for the holidays so we don’t look back and ask, “What happened?” but instead celebrate saying, “wow, look what happened!”
It starts by coming up with a plan, a strategy, a manifesto for getting mas Christ this Christmas!
On Tuesday, I’ll share a few ways my family has done this the past few years. Until then, take a minute to think about what you really want this Christmas season.

One Big Lesson Parents Can Learn from American Girl and Chick-fil-A


I have three daughters, which means there has always been a high probability that at some point I would find myself in an American Girl Doll store. I’ve actually been in two, but that’s a story for another day.

And because I’m a dad, and an American, and a Christian…I love me some Chick-fil-A.

So what did I learn from these two businesses that might not be visible on the surface?

Recently my entire family – joined by my daughters’ dolls – had the pleasure of dining at the American Girl Bistro inside the store. Let’s just say American Girl is very proud of their product (translation = $$$). But sometimes we parents need to bite the billfold bullet and do something special. And I’m glad we did, because American Girl reminded me of something I intuitively know, but often forget…

American-Girl-Conversation-Starters-600x398On the table there was a box full of fun questions – conversation starters. Of course this is brilliant from the restaurant’s perspective – keep the patrons busy while they’re waiting! But it did something more. The questions got us engaging as a family. We practiced listening to one another. We laughed at each other’s answers. We talked about what we would name our horses, if we owned them, and what one word we would use to describe ourselves. I know a lot about my kids; I know how I would describe them. But it was fun to see how they see themselves.

American Girl gets it. Get families talking around the table. It’s fun. It’s incredibly healthy. It gives us parents a tool to be intentional, instead of getting sucked into our phones to see what other people are eating or doing.

Chick-fil-a gets it, too. Every year the local CFA has a Daddy-Daughter Date Night. They do a great job with this, and they take it all the way to the detailed level of the placemats at your table. On those pieces of paper that will soon be covered in chick-fil-a sauce there are conversation starters to help dads be intentional with their little girls (even if they’re not so little anymore). The questions are simple, but they get the ball rolling.

All this gets me thinking about the opportunities I have each week. We try to eat together as much as possible. We’re busy just like you. So when we get together around the table, I want to be intentional. I don’t want to be satisfied with one-word answers like “good. ok. fine.” And I don’t want the meal to just be about getting my kids to eat (if you have boys, you probably don’t have this problem).

So let’s spice it up a little bit. Ask some fun questions like “Would you rather have shrimp for pinky fingers or really hairy elbows?” I bet there thousands of Pinterest pages about this, so just google “conversation starters” or sit down and make up your own questions! But just to throw you a bone, here’s a mom who made her own and offers to send you all the questions! BTW…this works for your spouse or your significant other as well! Be done with dull dinners!

As I said earlier, this is pretty intuitive and maybe you get this already. But this dad needed a reminder to be intentionally pursuing my kids. We have so many battles ahead of us, so my relationship with them is mission critical.

So, all that to say…I can’t wait for dinner tonight.

What a 9 year old Taught me About the Power of Stories


storybookI love stories. Don’t you? And I want to live a life full of great stories. Don’t you?

“Daddy, will you tell me a story?” That was my 9-year-old daughter, who snuggled up to me on a Sunday afternoon.

“No, not right now.” That was me, dad-of-the-year.

I couldn’t tell her a story because I was busy. I was watching a football game between two teams I care nothing about. Way too busy.

Actually, I didn’t think much about it at the time. I wasn’t mean or rude. I was just tired. And she went on with her day.

But the next day I was mowing the grass, and I was thinking about stuff. I was thinking about how I love stories. There are so many days when I’d love to come home, lay on the couch and be swept away by an epic movie with a hero who battles and overcomes and emerges victorious.

My daughter wanted to be swept away, too. She wanted her daddy to tell her about a princess who loved to dance and explore the world with her princess sisters. That would have been a grand story! But I was caught up in a much smaller story. My little story was about one person who never left the couch.

Every Sunday morning I gather with a team of people in an elementary school library to pray. Our church meets in a school. If you think that’s weird, read my friend Chris’s take on it.

On the wall in that library is an epic mural. There’s a dragon, a castle, a knight…all coming out of the pages of a giant storybook. It captures my attention each Sunday for at least two reasons:

1. I’m just a 35 year-old kid! I love adventure and I love stories and I want to live in that magical kingdom!

2. It reminds me that as a pastor – more accurately, as a man who follows Jesus – I get to invite people to see themselves in an epic story – God’s story. A true story.

I haven’t always lived for the bigger story. The smaller stories distract me. By smaller stories, I mean the ones about trying to be popular, trying to get a lot of facebook likes and twitter mentions, committing lots of emotional space to my sports teams, finding the right haircut…stuff like that. Sometimes the small stories offer a taste of meaning and adventure, but most of the time they aren’t big enough.

Thankfully there is a story large enough to capture my soul. It’s the story about a gracious God who is pursuing prodigal people – like me. And when I’m willing to let myself get caught up in this story, I experience what all those smaller stories can’t offer; I experience real life – the life that comes from snuggling up to a little girl and then whisking her away to a distant (but maybe not so far-off) land where she is a princess of great beauty and talent.

Yeah. That’s way better than zoning out watching a game between…well, I can’t remember.

So what story will you live today?


What Shirtless Bob Taught Me About Being a Man


So at the church office we have a neighbor who lives across the street. His name is Bob – I think. Bob is always outside doing something random, and he’s always yelling greetings to us (even though I can’t really understand him)!

Bob came over the other day while a couple of us were having a meeting. He didn’t have a shirt on, but he came on in and sat down with us. He was having trouble getting his new TV remote to work.

Chris (our lead pastor, my partner in crime) has been exchanging greetings with Bob across the street for a year now; he’s done a great job loving Bob. So Chris took the remote control and started working on it.

In the meantime, we started asking Bob questions about his story. Bob has lived on this street a long time. He used to attend a church just down the road from us. I think Bob was telling us a story about a man who used to live in the house that is now our office, and then he said something that totally struck me:

“You can tell a lot about a man who never mentions Jesus.”

The context of Bob’s story told me that this man probably claimed to be a Christian but never talked about Jesus. And this man may have hurt Bob at some point along the way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what shirtless Bob said that day. Jesus is the reason I live in Chattanooga now. Jesus is the reason I have purpose. Jesus put up with a lot of junk in my life and didn’t give up on me.

But I’ve been struck by how seldom I mention Jesus in conversation with people outside of my safe church context. Why is that?

Chris fixed Bob’s TV remote. The batteries were just in backwards.

And Bob gave me a gift – an encouragement to be a man who mentions Jesus.

Much Love!

Wii Recommendations


The Teague family decided to take advantage of the price cut and snag a Nintendo Wii this Christmas! Annie loves to bowl and play Mario Kart! Katie is a champion sword fighter! I’m trying to beat 24 on the 3-point challenge, and I enjoy inviting Chris Jessen over to whip him in table tennis.

We love Sports Resort and Mario Kart, but I’m looking to add a couple more games to the repertoire. The challenge is that I’m not much of a gamer and we are brand new to the Wii community.

So…anyone want to recommend some games?

Beetle Hope


Meet Hope. She’s my 14 month old daughter. Remember as a kid finding big bugs, like beetles, and flipping them over and watching them unsuccessfully and frantically try to roll back over?

Apparently she did this for a couple minutes before my friend started recording!

Can’t Wait for My Pocket R2-D2


motodroid-lg1The countdown is on for the release of the new google-based Droid phone at Verizon on November 6th! I’ve read/heard some pretty good things about it. CNet has a good review on it.

I’m pretty much done with my blackberry. I wonder if this is going to be the answer. Or do I wait and wait and wait on iPhone to come to Verizon?

I’m trying to rid myself of Microsoft Entourage and dealing with the Microsoft Exchange server at work. I’m going totally google (other than my blog platform…sticking with wordpress for now).