Monthly Archives: December 2011

Working Out In God’s Gym

Most people don’t know that I went to college on an athletic scholarship…they paid me not to play athletics. (rim shot)

Despite my highest hopes and most fervent desires, I wasn’t endowed with natural athletic ability. I like to tell people that when I played intramural basketball in college, people would ask me after the game, “Ever thought about becoming a bricklayer? Because you shoot nothing but bricks.”

Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed watching sports. And in my study of Scripture, I’ve discovered that Paul was a sports junkie like me. Reading through his epistles, it quickly becomes apparent that he enjoyed track and field events.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24–25 (NIV)

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26

A couple of weeks ago, one of his sports-related comments jumped out at me:

 Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7–8

Paul was offering instruction to his protégé Timothy, but I think all of his can benefit from his words.

God’s Gym Can Work For You, Too! 

Interestingly enough, the Greek word for “train” is gymnazo, where we get the English word “gymnasium.” The word can also be translated “exercise.” Last year I delved into this Scripture passage in-depth in my post Exercise Naked

Mulling over the idea of exercise, I realized that getting in shape requires a plan. Despite my lack of athletic acumen, I still try to stay in shape. But if I lack a plan, it simply won’t happen.

Our walk with God works the same way.

This led me to ask to ask myself two questions:

  1. How often do I work harder at getting in physical shape than I do at getting in spiritual shape?
  2. What’s my plan for getting in spiritual shape?

Let’s be honest: growing in godliness doesn’t happen on its own. Our relationship with Christ doesn’t naturally deepen over time.

Plan The Work And Then Work The Plan

As we enter the New Year, I invite you to join me in prayerfully assembling a plan for growing in your walk with God. Obviously, your plan won’t resemble mine. Rather than over planning and setting yourself up for failure, try to establish a plan that you can reasonably follow. Perhaps you may want to spend 15 minutes a day reading the Bible, or set aside 15 minutes a day to prayer and listening to God. For other ideas in growing in your walk with God, click here.

I’m curious to know what your spiritual plans are for 2012. Please share them with the rest of us by commenting at the end of this post.

As I conclude the final Neighborhood Café blog post of 2011, I offer you my sincerest thanks for joining us. On behalf of Eugene Scott, Michael Gallup, and Brendan Scott, thank you for taking the time to read our posts.

May you encounter the presence of the living Christ in new ways in 2012.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. By looking at his office desk, you can tell that 2011 was overly busy. He hopes to slow down in 2012.


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2012: The Year of Living Spiritually

By Eugene C. Scott

I’ve spent many brilliant mornings fly fishing. Why I remember that early summer morning on the Blue River, I’m not sure. I don’t remember catching any fish. But I can still see the rising sun clipping the tops of the Gore Range. The water was cold. Soon the river glittered where the sun touched it. I wore only a shirt, shorts, and old tennis shoes. I missed a couple of Brown trout, then climbed out of the river, my legs and feet frozen.

The sun had clawed its way up into the bare blue sky and I lay in the grass and let it warm me. Though silent, the air seemed filled with words. The very molecules popped. “Look. Over here. And behind you. See. God spoke all this into being. Like poetry.”

It was a transformational moment. I was in my 20s and still had much transforming to do. I had seen God in creation before but this was different. God seemed active not passive, pushing, aware of me and wanting me to be aware of him. Maybe that was the day I woke–at least partially–to the idea that life is as much spiritual as material.

Some people would call that day on the river a spiritual moment. And so it was. But isn’t there more to being spiritual than watching captivating sunsets and mountain vistas? Otherwise being spiritual depends more on mood and circumstance than something we cultivate. As much as I would want to fly fish everyday–hoping to hook another God sighting–it’s not realistic or practical. And spirituality has to be realistic and practical.

And there’s the rub. Most of us struggle even defining what it means to be spiritual much less daily living it. What does it mean to be spiritual?

I think it means to connect with the God-created soul of things. A spiritual reading of Scripture means you hear God’s voice in the story rather than just gather God-information. When taking a walk in your neighborhood do you see homes in which people laugh, cry, hurt, are born and die or just houses? So too with sunsets, music, parties, people. They become spiritual when we see or hear that fourth God-dimension. Being aware of God sightings.

But even if that is a good starting definition, how does one connect with the soul of things? Harder yet, how do we do it daily?

For Christmas this year my son, Brendan, gave each of us six adults in our family a journal and asked that we daily write down one or more things: a blessing, something we are thankful for, or how we have experienced the Presence of God that day. As I wrote in my journal the first day, an interview I had read with A.J. Jacobs kept coming to mind. Jacobs wrote “The Year of Living Biblically,” where he chronicles his attempt to spend a year following “every single rule in the Bible–as literally as possible.”

It occurred to me that what Brendan was asking us to do was spend a year living spiritually. To look at life as if the spiritual is just as real and important as the physical. To see a relationship with God and the world he created as more than obeying rules. To try to peer beyond the obvious and see–as often as possible–that fourth dimension.

If imitation, then, is the sincerest form of flattery, I intend to flatter Jacobs and launch my own experiment: The Year of Living Spiritually: My attempt to live as if there is more to this world than we see.

Each week in 2012 I will record my quest in my blog: the stumblings, successes, questions, and answers (I hope) I discover as I put on my 4D Glasses and venture out into the world.

But I don’t like to travel alone. Here’s my question for you: would you join me? Will you not only read along, but will you go along? Share your insights? Invite friends? Will you too spend a year living spiritually?

Let me know.

Eugene C. Scott has pestered his friends about God sightings for years. He most recently spotted God in his 2–almost 3-year-old grand daughter who said, “Papa, Papa, watch me.” Then she drank a glass of water making a funny gurgling sound. When she finished, she looked at him as if she had just climbed Mount Everest. It dawned on Eugene that God gets delight out of us seeing him too in the mundane ordinary things. Eugene also co-pastors The Neighborhood Church and likes to write fiction.


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Whatever is Lovely

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Well now that the Christmas wrapping carnage has been cleared away and the vertigo has begun to subside, I feel a bit depressed. December 26th is a lot like a hangover as we feel the pain inflicted upon ourselves by over-indulging. I get a little depressed after singing “Joy to the World” as I begin to think of getting back to normal.

One of the ways I cope is to reflect upon the good this year has brought. While it has definitely brought its share of bad, 2011 also delivered moments that offered me a bit of hope for the next year.

I wonder what fed you this year?

What piece of art or literature moved you to look outside of yourself?

What relationship changed the way you felt about life?

How did you live a better story in 2011?

I hope that in this last week of 2011 we can, as the scripture above says, dwell on the good. And, in so doing, ignite a passion to reach for the lovely again this next year.

Being a bibliophile (look it up) one area I love to dwell on is what I read this past year. Here are some of the books I read that made an impact on me in 2011:

The Pastor by Eugene Peterson: This memoir of the author of The Message is the most influential book I’ve read (outside the Bible). Peterson has a knack for God sightings, interpreting seemingly mundane events in his life as providential moments crucial to his vocation as Pastor. This book helped my imagination reclaim a biblical and believable vision of what a pastor could be, of what I could be.

In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen: Over the course of an hour and a half I devoured this little book on leadership. Nouwen redefines leadership in light of Jesus’ temptation. Nouwen calls the Christian leader of the future to be “irrelevant” by pointing solely to the grace and love of Jesus and not to our own ability. What an encouragement for the incompetent among us.

While I read much more, these two books made the greatest impact on me.

So I ask: What did you read in 2011?

Michael is still “hungover” from Christmas but his 2-year-old makes it all worth while. He will continue his survey of “whatever is lovely” from 2011 at his blog A Sprig of Hope.


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The Jesus Birthday party

Thirty-nine years ago tonight, a wide-eyed, eight year old boy was introduced to a new kind of Jesus.

We had just begun attending a wild-haired hippie church called Redeemer Temple in Denver, Colorado. The Jesus Movement was running full throttle at that time, and the church I attended had its foot on the accelerator. Every week, young men wandered into our worship service wearing jeans and no shirts with their teenage girlfriends following behind them wearing short shorts and halter tops. Many of them gave their hearts to Christ. Sunday nights, we baptized the new Jesus devotees in a baptismal—sometimes needing to drain the water halfway through and refill the tank because the water was so dirty. The hippie converts hadn’t yet heard that cleanliness was next to godliness.

In our church’s youthful exuberance, our leaders decided to throw a Jesus Birthday party on December 23. And, they invited one of the most well-known singers at the time.

In his previous life, Barry McGuire was the star of the Broadway musical Hair and singer-songwriter of the angst-ridden Hippie Movement anthem “Eve of Destruction.” Playing next to him was another man—Paul Clark—who attended my parents’ Bible study and would soon leave our church to tour with Larry Norman, the Jesus Movement’s icon.

But what do I remember most about the evening? A throng of young people worshipping Jesus, celebrating his birth.

Now, I like sentimental Christmas songs, even “holiday” songs that don’t mention Jesus. But sentimentalism isn’t the point of Christmas. Nor is family, food, friends, or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It’s not about the holiday season, season’s greetings, or yuletide. It‘s not even about giving gifts to each other.

Christmas is about Christ. Essentially, it means throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Somehow on my side of the world, we can easily lose sight of this amidst Christmas busyness, parties, and family celebrations.

So this year I have a request: keep Christ in Christmas. Give presents to your family and friends—but remember to give Jesus the best present of all: your presence.

On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

If you don’t have plans for celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve  and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church–5:30pm, December 24 in the Dakota Ridge High School auditorium.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’d love to eat a big piece of birthday cake on Jesus’ birthday.


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How You Too, Like Ernest, Can Save Christmas

By Eugene C. Scott

Any Christmas movie worth its weight in cliches tells the story of how someone–or something–has stolen the true meaning of Christmas. Cliches become cliches, however, because they carry a flake or two of truth. Ironically popular Christmas movies strike the chord of yearning in us for this season to be about something deeper than–well–watching movies about elves, bratty kids, or a White Christmas.

Christmas often is hijacked. But, with all due respect to Dr. Seuss, no,Virginia, there is no Grinch who stole Christmas, nor do we need a Miracle on 34th Street in order for it to be returned.

We ourselves are the culprits and we hold much of the meaning of Christmas in our own hearts and hands.

If that’s so, what can you and I do to hold on to or regain the meaning of Christmas?


Don’t hold on. By definition all of our most meaningful Christmases are in the past.

One of my most memorable Christmases was in 1982. A massive snowstorm smothered Denver on Christmas Eve. It shut us down for days. My family could not make it over for our traditional turkey feast. We were forced to share with our neighbors who had no feast because they had planned to go out.

It was magical, like a movie: Christmas music, laughter, lights, the aroma of fantastic food, new friends, babies playing on the floor, 2-3 inches of snow per hour outside. Our families are no longer neighbors but we are still fast friends.

I savor that moment, but if I keep looking back to that event as capturing the true meaning of Christmas, and try to reign it, I will miss Christmas present and never anticipate Christmas future. Worse yet, if I buy some romantic Hollywood notion of what Christmas is supposed to be, reality will always disappoint.


Someone recently asked a group I was part of, “Are you more comfortable doing or being?” Most of us are doers. Christmas especially reflects doing. We shop, wrap, cook, and decorate. It’s because we equate being busy–doing–with being important. At least I do.

When someone asks, “How are the holidays, Eugene?” I usually answer, “Busy.” Then I list all I am doing and all the people I’m meeting in the hope that the person asking will think, “Wow. Eugene is really an important person.”

The problem here is obvious. If activity defines us, who gets to decide which ones are worthy of respect? And where does this leave children, who seem to understand Christmas better than anyone? Yet kids never really do anything important. And how does hanging Christmas lights and wrapping presents make me important?

Our busyness is similar to over-kneading a stubborn piece of dough. Sometimes we work the meaning right out of the holiday. Don’t simply fill your days with busyness. Do decide what truly has meaning and participate in them.


Most rules have exceptions. The two above are–well–no exception. Traditions aren’t as often made as they make us. These things from the past make us who we are. A favorite carol sung, going to Christmas Eve services, the ornaments the kids made hung, drinking a glass of wine–late before Santa comes–are all pieces of Christmases past that add meaning to today. Wrap the present in them like a cherished gift and open them to see what they hold for today.

And the time and effort we do put into the work of Christmas is not all empty. It too lends layers of meaning. Every Christmas Dee Dee makes delicious chocolate and peanut butter ball cookies. They take hours to make and mere minutes to devour. Their flavor comes as much from all the work she puts in to them as the other ingredients. Doing is not all bad.


Present. This year our church family agreed to focus more on being present than on giving presents. After all, Christmas reminds us that God could have wrapped up everything we ever wanted and placed it under a tree. Instead, God took His Presence, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us and hung on a tree. God chose to Be with us.

Our family has taken our churches’ challenge on. It’s funny too. We’re still shopping, hanging lights, and doing all kinds of Christmas traditions. Though we have agreed to do and buy less. But we are also talking to each other more, eating together, planning what we want to do together. And instead of Christmas feeling like an unstoppable blur like a train rushing by, it is becoming a memorable walk toward a day focused on being together.

Our entire family has not been together for Christmas since 2009. And in some ways this is a gathering that has never been and never will be again because we’ve added a new baby and a toddler to that mix. And who, but God, knows what the future holds anyway?

So, enjoy those Christmas movies reminding us how Ernest saved Christmas. Also remember that, like Scrooge, without being haunted by ghosts, each of us can find the heart of Christmas.

How can you too save Christmas? Don’t do but be.

Eugene C. Scott started a new Christmas movie tradition with his family this year by watching a classic John Wayne movie 3 Godfathers. It’s hilarious. And if you are nearby, join us for Christmas Eve at 5:30pm at The Neighborhood Church, or check us out on Facebook.


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How To Celebrate Christmas in Guatemala and the Meaning of Christmas

By Brendan Scott

Last year I learned the meaning of Christmas.  I spent Christmas 2010 in Guatemala, away from the snow of Colorado and more importantly away from my family.  Guatemala, or at least my home city of Xela, doesn’t celebrate Christmas the way most of the world celebrates the birth of Christ.  Sure at the Inter-American School, where I worked, we had a Christmas Play.  Last year the elementary performed the well known play Izzy Saves Christmas, where Izzy the mouse saves Christmas.  Haven’t heard of it?  Well, it’s a Guatemalan staple, or it is now.

I also taught my students what the best kind of Christmas party is; a White Elephant Party.  Who doesn’t want to go home with an alarm clock in a country where it is better to use your cellphone as an alarm at night, because anything plugged into the wall just might lose power.

But where Guatemala, and especially Xela, differs from Christmas in the United States is Christmas Eve.  Growing up as a Presbyterian Pastor’s kid, in the United States my family’s Christmas tradition centered around our church’s Christmas Eve service.  Every year, especially when I was younger, my mom would force me into my Christmas best, drive me and my sisters to church, and we would light the Christ Candle.  As I documented last year in my blog I’ll Be Home For Christmas my family always had the misfortune of lighting the Christ Candle, which never went smoothly.  I fought with my sister in front of 1,000 plus people who’d come to church expecting to hear how Christ came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.  The next year they expected something else, and I did not fail them.   I dropped a lit match on the carpet floor.  Fortunately the church didn’t burn down.

I did not have to light the Christ Candle for Christmas Eve in Xela.  I was a spectator, surrounded by friends and Guatemalan families who had come to celebrate Christ’s birth.  As much as I missed being with my family last year I enjoyed witnessing how the Latin culture celebrates Christmas.  My favorite part of the service at Saint Mark’s was the Posada.  A handful of kids marched into the church dressed as Guatemalan Marias and Joses with sumbreros and mustaches followed by a very Guatemalan baby Jesus Cristo.

Shortly after the service, after I had sung my share of Spanish Christmas Carols I headed back to my house with Skyy, his mom Susan, Jen (co-worker), Blake and Amy (co-workers), Blake’s family, and Holland (another co-worker) and his boys to set off fireworks.  Ask anyone in Guatemala and they will tell you setting off fireworks is the real reason for the season.  I may have spent upwards of twenty dollars on fireworks, which didn’t even match what Skyy (one of my student’s whose house I lived at) spent.  Us guys took the next couple of hours detonating our ammunition.  At midnight Xela sounded as if it were under attack, the entire city lit up like the large Christ Candle.

Christmas Eve has aways been family time for me, quiet and relaxing (after the Christmas Eve service at least).  This year I plan on watching “How Earnest Saved Christmas” with my two sisters.  I look forward to waking up on Christmas morning and being with my family.  But I will always remember how much fun I had lighting off fireworks and celebrating my savior’s birth with people my Guatemalan family.

Christmas is not about what you do, what you give or what you get, but in the end it is about enjoying the birth of Christ with those who are around you.  No matter where you are.  Last year on Christmas day Donna and Laurel McMarlin (Laurel was one of my co-workers) welcomed me into their family and shared their Christmas with me.  They helped make what could have been a lonely day, a day full of love and celebration, which made for a perfect Christmas.


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The Story of Christmas According To E.T.

“I’ll be right here…”

Few scenes from any movie can evoke such deep emotion as Elliot’s farewell to E.T. in the movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. If you’re sketchy on the details, a lonely boy named Elliot befriends an alien whom he calls “E.T.” Despite sharing absolutely nothing in common, the two form a profound bond. Yet, E.T. desperately wants to return home—and while he waits, E.T. begins to slowly die. E.T. eventually (spoiler alert!) dies and comes back to life. Elliot then transports E.T. on his bike to a field in the woods where the cute little alien boards the spaceship that takes him home.

E.T. Was Echoing God’s Promise

So what does this have to do with Christmas?

A great deal.

In their final conversation, E.T. points to Elliot’s head and says “I’ll be right here.”

In what way would E.T. be “right here” for Elliot? A memory, for sure. But more than that, a piece of E.T. would remain with Elliot for the rest of his life.

Seven hundred years before Christ was born, God offered a similar promise:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 NIV

If you were reading this prophecy in the original Hebrew, it would read: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him ‘God with us.’”

If you were reading this passage in the Klassen paraphrase, the last part of the passage would read: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him ‘I’ll be right here.’”

In the Hebrew understanding, our names describe our essence. It’s the core of who we really are. So the nature of the coming messiah is described as being “with us.”

When Jesus was born, Matthew 1:22–23 tells us, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means “God with us”).”

This God who lives in relationship—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will come to earth to be with us. But in what sense is God with us?

  • God is among us. That means he’s present with us. Jesus came to earth in the form of a man and lived among us (see John 1:14). Most Christmas celebrations commemorate this fact. But that’s not the only way that God is with us…
  • God is in us. Through Jesus, God makes his home in us (see Colossians 1:27).
  • God is of us. By clothing himself in human flesh, Jesus has become one of us (see Philippians 2:7).
  • God is for us. Jesus’ birth is evidence that God is for us, not against us (see Romans 8:31).

Through Christ, God Engages Us

All of these truths are important and worthy of reflection and meditation. But this Christmas season, a different understanding of “God with us” has ruminated inside me.

God is engaged with us.

Are you with me?

Actually, that’s what I mean by “engaged.” You’re with me. In addition to being among us, in us, of us, and for us—God engages our hearts. He’s interested in who we are and how we are. He engages us in our sorrows, our grief, our sadness, our despair. And, he engages us in our laughter, our curiosity, even our boredom.

The nature of God, the character of God is to be with us. To engage us. To feel what we feel. To listen to us and hear us.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who wasn’t listening? They may be repeat what you said, but they aren’t engaged in what you said.

That’s not God. God is with us through Jesus. Through Jesus, God…engages…us.

Jesus–“God with us,” “I’ll be right here,”–is evidence that God really does love us, delights in us and rejoices over us with singing (see Zephaniah 3:17).

And through Jesus, God engages you, no matter how filthy your manger that symbolizes your life might be.

f you don’t have plans for celebrating the birth of Jesus during this Advent season and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church as we explore The Gift Of Christmas Presence.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s still learning what it means to be engaged in his world. 

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To See the Stars: A True Christmas Story of a Son’s Dying Wish

By Eugene C. Scott

The following is a fictionalized version of a true story I read in one of the Denver newspapers when I was a boy.

He was just an electrician, blue-collar, working class. Other men were teachers, doctors, lawyers, important. Making big decisions in the world. He just ran wire in houses, attached outlets, lights, switches. And he fixed things. Toasters, mixers, that kind of stuff. He was good at it.

But he couldn’t fix this. Each night when he returned from work, he kissed his wife and asked, “How is he today?” This night, tears in her eyes, hands on her apron, she shook her head. He wrung his big calloused hands, feeling helpless.

Down the hall in his bedroom their nine-year-old son, now barely a wrinkle under the sheets, had grown too ill to even get out of bed. Cancer. The doctor said he may not even make it to Christmas, two weeks away. The electrician prayed as he entered his son’s room, “God, let me help my boy.”

The room was dark despite the drapes on the lone window being wide open. Outside dusk fell on Denver. The electrician switched on the light. His son started in his bed.

“Don’t, please,” his son whispered. “I want to see the stars.” The boy had always loved the stars and talked of becoming an astronaut and being the first to land on the moon. Not now. The electrician looked at his son’s skelatal face and flicked the light back off. He turned and wiped away his tears. He had moved the boy’s bed to the center of the room facing the window so the boy might catch a glimpse of those stars. It’s all he could do for him and hope shone in the boy’s eyes, when he caught sight of just one star.

Now the boy could not see well enough even for that. The father sat next to his son, helpless, praying.

A few nights later driving down out of the foothills, the lights of Denver, Queen City of the Plains, shown below him like stars. He pulled over and wept. “God, give my son one more glimpse of the stars, please.”

He started his truck and pulled back onto the road. The city lights danced below. Then it came. An idea.

The next day after work he asked his boss if he could take home some of the scraps and leftovers from the job. For his son. That night again his son asked, “Are the stars out?”

“Not yet.” After supper, the father descended into his workshop in the basement.

“Come to bed. What are you doing down there?” his wife called down, late.

“You’ll see. Go to bed,” he answered. Every night Christmas drew closer. And every night he worked harder.

Finally on Christmas Eve, as he prepared for work, there was a new spring in his step and the tiredness that usually fell on his shoulders lifted. He kissed his wife.

“I’ll be home early tonight.”

When he came home he visited his son. Sitting there next to the bed he wiggled in his chair like a child. After the boy fell back to sleep,  he drew the drapes closed on the window. Then he went to the garage and drug out a ladder. And trudging through the snow, he leaned it against the bare tree outside his son’s window. Then he retrieved his project from the basement. As he climbed up and down the ladder his wife looked out the back door but never asked. It took him until after dark but soon all was set–just as he had imagined. He took his wife by the hand and crept into his son’s room. The electrician’s heart beat like a drum in his chest.

“Son, son,” he said , shaking his boy gently. “Look!” And just then he drew open the drapes.

The boy opened his eyes and followed his father’s gaze to the tree outside his window. “The stars,” he gasped. “So close.” A smile lit his gray face. “The stars!”

From that night, Christmas Eve, until his son closed his eyes for the final time, bright, white stars of hope–big enough for the boy to see–shone just outside the boy’s window.

The father, just an electrician, had made the stars come out. And they still shine today. For those stars were lights the electrician father strung together in his basement and hung in the bare branches of a tree to give his son a final Christmas gift. Those stars are the lights we string on houses and trees from coast to coast during the Christmas season.

Christmas lights then are more than decorations; they are advertisements of a father’s love. And of a Father’s love.

Our heavenly Father sent us a Light of hope too. Several thousand years ago a Jewish writer named Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” He was writing about the coming of Jesus. The first Christmas Light lifted up on a rugged tree. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. May the light and peace and hope of Jesus Christ illuminate your coming and going today, tomorrow and forevermore.

Eugene C. Scott proudly lives in Denver, where this story took place and he hangs lights on his house every year. He loves stories, fictional and non and is writing a novel. But isn’t everyone. He also co-pastors The Neighborhood Church which will celebrate the birth of Jesus with a Christmas Eve service at 5:30pm. Go to for more info.


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Some Glad Morning

Each week of the Advent season a different aspect of our anticipation of the coming Lord is emphasized. This week’s focus is upon Joy.

While many of us would be quick to list joy as a major Christian attribute, less of us understand it or even worse have ever truly experienced it. For some of us, we even wonder if there is anything to be joyous about at all. So what is this whole joy thing about anyway?

When I think of how joy and waiting mingle, especially during this season, I think of Christmas Eve when I was a little kid. I could NEVER go to sleep. As hard as I tried, sleep seemed to always allude me those nights, but it really didn’t matter; I was just so anxious about what the dawn (and Santa) would bring.

While presents were high on my list, the whole experience excited me. The glow of the tree in the low light of early morning, everyone in their underwear and jammies with hair all a mess, a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy made by my favorite chef (mom!), the huge pile of waste accumulated by the end of the unwrapping session, rummaging through what seemed like a bottomless stocking, seeing the rest of my family open the gifts I had picked out, and the afternoon trip to Grandma’s for even more fun.

It was the highlight of my year and sleep simply could not compare. I knew that just around the corner was a day unlike any other, a day of peace, excitement, and joy.

Yet, I grew up.

I have lost much of that sense of wonder from my youth. I now know better about jolly old Saint Nick and mom is a thousand miles away. I will probably sleep quite soundly on December 24th. Often my only real hope for the holiday season is that I might actually enjoy it.

Is this what we call maturity? Dear Lord, I hope not.

I believe we could all learn quite a bit from our younger selves. They would tell us to play some more, to imagine, and to laugh. They would tell us to let go of our pride and shame and run into our daddy’s arms when things hurt. Oh to have the faith of a child, Lord have mercy on me.

We need these lessons from of former selves because our present selves have incurred the burden of what we call “the real world.” There are bills to pay, things to clean, papers to be written, calls to make, and we alone are responsible. We have awoken to the reality that life is hard. And in this midst of what used to a joyous season, we’ve heaped more burdens upon our shoulders: debt, stress, plans, worries, and strife.

We fill the mall parking lots hoping to fill our hearts, only to find we’ve been lied to. We strive and strive looking for “something,” waiting for “someday” that will set us free, that will awaken that sleepless child from Christmas eve. Yet the more stuff we amass and the more things we do, we still can not find it.

A wise man once said “I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Where are the glad tidings of joy? What will set us free from this life of decay? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I, like my younger self am often in sleepless state but for altogether different reasons. I find rest hard to come by in a world like the one I know. So I wait. Not idly, but actively. I hope, not fleetingly but confidently. Just as Jesus came the first time at just the right time, He shall come again.

Lord knows that there is a day, right around the corner, that will change everything, a day of peace, a day of excitement, a day of Joy indeed! The following Scripture from Romans 8 fully embodies this Advent idea of joy in waiting

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him.

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” (Romans 8:15-21 MSG)

That author knew what was right around the corner and he knew that in the waiting was joy. That deep down inside each of us (and even all of creation) there is an intense longing for “someday.” In Christ, we can know that that “someday” is coming, that He is coming. And we can join all creation in singing the joyous victory song, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last!”

Michael is a student at Denver Seminary and wants nerdy things like books on theology for Christmas. He is planting a church in North Little Rock, AR; you can find out more about it here: He also has a blog, A Sprig of Hope, found here.


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A Force Greater Than Tim Tebow

If you don’t live in the United States and you’re reading this, you may not understand the subject of today’s post—and yes, it does relate to Christmas…

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock the last two months, you know that Tebow mania is out of control here in Denver and across the United States. Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, uber-decorated college football player, has become the most famous, most polarizing athlete in the country.

After sitting on the bench for the first five-and-half games this season, Tebow has now led the team to five wins in six games. The avalanche of media coverage has propelled Tebow into the stratosphere where few people tread. You can read more about this in Brendan Scott’s excellent post from Monday.

Despite the adulation and criticism, Tebow has remained amazingly open about his Christian faith. While I acknowledge a similar devotion to Christ, I’m not sure I would be as outspoken as him. He begins nearly every interview by thanking “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and he always ends with “God bless.”

The man talks about life apart from football and helping kids with cancer, while deflecting praise to his teammates. This guy seems too good to be true, I’ve said to myself on a number of occasions.

This morning, though, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Denver Post—our local newspaper—ran a piece in their Op-Ed section about Tebow’s faith. I winced as I prepared to read the article, but to my amazement, here’s what it said:

While Tebow’s willingness to profess his faith in Jesus Christ grates on some, we don’t fault him for sharing his beliefs…What’s remarkable about Tebow is that he remains humble even as his star soars to new levels.

Yet after leading the Broncos to another come-from-behind victory last week, Tebow told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King what he was most proud of, which was being able to say the name of a young cancer patient in postgame interviews: “I let him know people cared about him. I let him know God has a plan for him.”

Does Tebow have room to grow as a quarterback? Absolutely. Will he lead a proud franchise back to the promised land? Time will tell. For now, he deserves a Mile High Salute not just for helping the Broncos string together a series of wins, but refusing to run from his evangelical Christian beliefs.

While some would begrudge him, we think the way in which Tebow carries himself is something everyone, regardless of faith, can learn a lesson from.

At a time when the Christian faith has become mocked, demeaned, and reviled by so many, God has once again thumbed his nose at his naysayers.

God will be glorified.

Which brings us to Advent: Two thousand years ago, God sent his son to be born in a cow town in backwater Judea. The Jews had gone four hundred years without a prophetic voice speaking on behalf of God. At the most unlikely of times, God thumbed his nose at his naysayers and sent Jesus into the unlikeliest of places.

And God was glorified.

God is in control–even when we doubt him. Even when our faith in him is mocked. Even when his followers and leaders fall short. And somehow, in spite of us, his kingdom will come and will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

If you don’t have plans for celebrating the birth of Jesus during this Advent season and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church as we explore The Gift Of Christmas Presence.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. While initially a skeptic, he’s coming around to being a Tim Tebow fan. 


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