Monthly Archives: December 2014

Reflections on 2014

It has been a year. That sentence in its simplicity speaks volumes for my life and the life of many I know. It hints at grief, uncertainty, joys and surprises. My brother blogged about his life in review at The Kansas Expatriate Like him, I really enjoy the “year in review” from newspapers, magazines, new commentaries and even those “facebook” movies. Every event in a year in “review” hits people differently. However most people, I would guess, view the year from a very personal set of lens.

Certainly my year has been filled with ups and downs. Several of my posts have focused on a year of grief after the death of my mother. Some showed frustration with my broken foot and how that affected my mobility and ability to do what I wanted and loved to do. Others spoke of the gift of pastoring when grief was thick and deep as so many of my congregation died this year and some of those deaths tragic which reminded me of my own grief.

My year has also been filled with joys. I walked a 5K on Thanksgiving day, something I could not have done earlier with my broken foot. I spent wonderful days with family and friends and found ways to focus on the good in spite of what could have been an invitation to spiral into despair. I also took the challenge to blog daily during November and while I didn’t make it every day, I did most days and that felt great.

In many ways it has been a difficult year, but it has also been a very good year. I love the Kingston Trios “It was a Very Good year.” It is a melancholy song relating life to wine and that each year is a very good year. In truth, even in wine, some years are better than others. The weather, the sun versus the rain, the timing of the harvest affects the grapes and how they produce the final product. I have decided that while life is often like wine, I have the choice of how the weather, the circumstances and the events of the world and my little place in it affect how I choose to live in response. I choose faith. I choose love. I choose joy.

So as I review 2014, it has been a year. A year of sorrow, a year of joy and a year of deepening faith that grace abounds and God loves me, God loves us all more than I can possibly imagine. So on the eve of 2015, I ran across this photo from Codeblack faith on facebook

May it be a prayer that ends this year and gives comfort and strength for the year ahead. In the midst of it all, I truly am graced to serve.


Filed under Uncategorized

Advent 3: Joy

Only one more Sunday in Advent and Christmas Eve to go and then it’s CHRISTMAS! You wouldn’t know that by the stores…some have even begun the “12 Days of Christmas) not realizing that the twelve days of Christmas BEGIN Christmas day and finish on January 6. Don’t get me started!

West Heights, the church I serve, has a long tradition of incredible music. Last week, I posted about the Stan Kenton Christmas Brass. The other musical event is “Festival of Choirs” which was held this morning. Every musical group has an opportunity to share in this wonderful service.

Let me own it up front, West Heights in not “liturgically correct.” Stan Kenton’s music includes Christmas Carols and much of what the choir sang was Christmas music. I love the Advent hymns, but the twelve days Christmas do not leave alot of time to sing the songs of joy. I believe we need joy, not happiness, which is transitory, but true joy that knows, proclaims and lives God’s presence in the midst of fear, anxiety, grief and uncertainty. Joy knows God is with us in the all of life: it’s ups and downs, in our brokenness and failures, in the moments of happiness that surprise us.

“Mary Did You know”

So on this third Sunday of Advent, when we light the candle of Joy, I share a few audio files from this mornings service of worship. Like Mary, “may our souls praise God and rejoice in God our Savior” as we make our way to that Holy Night when Christ is born.

“Sing Noel”

“Calypso Gloria”


“Who Will Go to Bethlehem”

“O Holy Night”


A big Thanks to Ian Beyer who recorded this audio for me to share, preparing for Christmas, I am graced to serve.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Week Two: Advent Continues

There is a long tradition at West Heights of celebrating Advent with what we call “Stan Kenton Christmas Brass.” This year, was the fortieth anniversary. The first year it was done, it was pretty “edgy” for the 1970’s. The idea of doing big band/jazz charts as part of worship was pretty unheard, at least in Wichita, Kansas.

Stan Kenton was a well known innovator, educator and jazz composer. Church “legend” has it that some of the charts that are still used were given to Newton Graber for that first Kenton Christmas forty years ago. Whether or not that is true, what is known, is that after Newt died Henry “Hank” Elder took over directing and keeping track of the charts and replacing musicians as needed. After Hank died, the charts were gifted to West Heights by his family and Lisa Hittle began directing.

The sound of these particular arrangements are nothing short of amazing, in my opinion. The opening notes of the Christmas Medley is stunning. No recording can do it justice, but I share with you the original Kenton recording as an example. It’s long, but so worth it.

Around here, there are people that wait all year long for this group of musicians to assemble. They drive from all over south central Kansas to play these charts and for the few that are still playing, they say “West Heights feels like home when we come to play.”
Some folk of course could care less, but I have joined the fan club, Advent begins with the opening notes of the Kenton Christmas brass.

This year, one of the trumpeters, who used to make that instrument scream, was not playing. It is probably his last Kenton Christmas, and for the first time he listened as the others played their hearts out. Bryce Luty is a man who kept this group together.
He’s the one that kept things going when there was uncertainty and many of us love him. It was a gift and a joy for Bryce to be there and listen and smile and encourage the 40th anniversary with his very being.

If you want to hear the whole service, Ian Beyer made a good audio which I will share here:
Kenton Christmas Brass 2014
It is also posted on the West Heights facebook page and my own facebook page.

Everyone has different traditions that evoke the season of Advent and Christmas for them. Mine often have to do with music and ritual. Maybe that’s why I am a preacher. I need lights, an advent wreath, way too many Christmas trees and a little Stan Kenton Christmas. Those horns will blow away any holiday blues I have any day of the week.

As I live into the second week of Advent, I am graced to serve.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Advent Calendars

Remember them? Some of them had little windows that you opened each day and there was a little picture of something that had to do with Christmas?

Some of them had bible verses to read and the really fancy ones had candy or little toys or ornaments. Some parents were very crafty and created their own. The point was to begin on December one and count down until Christmas day. For those who just wanted something for the kids to look forward to they would have scenes with Santa and reindeer or candy canes. For those who wanted to keep the religious focus the scene was often the manager with Mary and Joseph and shepherds and sheep.

At the church I serve, we gave each a family an Advent devotion book called All I Really Want.

Quinn Caldwell has daily readings for morning evening and adds a “Christmas Calendar” that has something to do each day. For December 1, it has you find an Advent calendar. Now I could buy one, but there are also some amazing online Advent calendars. So today, I will share several links to online calendars and one link to a daily devotional site I love, and a link to a prayer site that encourages coloring.

Church of Scotland

Saint Margaret Mary Parish

Loyola Press

Hyde Park UMC

Advent Village 2014

The November 28, 2014 post from the Praying in Color blog has printable Advent calendars to color.

One of my very favorite online devotional sites also focuses on Advent: Sacred Spaces

May your Advent be filled with a little fun, alot of laughter, a deepening appreciation for the Christ among us and love.

UPDATE here is one I could not remember nor find in my bookmarks. This Advent calendar is wonderful and I thank Donna Brooks for reminding me.

Busted Halo

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized