Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas... cake

We make a birthday cake for Jesus every Christmas.

In the past, we would make the cake and then just eat it. That is, until Elise had this conversation…

“Dad, I’m thinking about Jesus birthday.”

“I’m wondering why, if it’s Jesus birthday, why Jesus doesn’t get any cake?”
“Good question, Lisi (not knowing what else to say!). What do you think about that?”

“I think we should whip cake into the air for Jesus.”
“I think that’s a terrific idea.”

And our tradition began. Now, every Christmas, we take our Jesus birthday cake and each whip a piece into the air for Jesus.

Jesus gets cake. And I think God smiles.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve… “In”

I’ve had a few thoughts this weekend, regarding Christmas. I’ve been to a couple of Christmas Eve services. Both had their strengths (not that I’m rating them), and I was struck by a contrast. One that I went to, was able to stay at the manger… the other was not. I wonder why the one stuck in the manger spoke to me more than the other.

The one that couldn’t stay at the manger reminds me that the manger isn’t the end of the story… there’s a life lived and a sacrifice made. This is an appropriate part of the whole story. Often, though, it feels like we want so quickly to get to the end of the story, that we pass over important beginnings.

The one that remained stuck in the manger… made me stick. It made me ponder a hay-filled, dung-smelling, birthing place for the creator God coming close to God’s creation.

The story goes that, “there was no room in the Inn.” I sometimes wonder if, even for Jesus followers, we leave little time for room in the “In”… the “In-between,” the ‘In-process,” the “In-coming.” Isn’t this where Jesus first comes?

And we pondered at this service that, if God can show up here… he can show up anywhere, any time, in any circumstance.

Let Jesus come to the “in.”
Let the story unfold.

Let’s stretch ourselves and embrace the uncomfortable in-between. This is where Jesus meets us.
At the manger.


My friend Adam Kenyon wrote this song. It’s been my central Christmas song this year. Here are the lyrics.
Merry Christmas, friends.

Adam Kenyon

Unmarried and with child
The hope of the whole world
Came alive and kicking
In the womb of this young Jewish girl

She traveled on her journey
Folks believed she was a liar
It wasn’t what they pictured as
The rise of their messiah

Imagine how they looked at her
Do you think she felt like you?
Do you supposed she ever doubted
That God was coming through?

This is what Christmas means
Not just miracles
But the in-betweens
It’s darkness
Where the light breaks through
And Jesus comes to me and you

Enters in
And intervenes
This is what Christmas means

Endured the labor of our lord
In a dank and dirty place
The family inn had room for a whore’s disgrace

The kept the law they purified
And then the prophet told
The worst ain’t over yet
A sword will pierce your soul

Imagine what they thought right then
Do you think they felt like you?
Do you suppose they ever wondered
If he’s ever see them through

This is what Christmas means
It’s not plastic pretty manger scenes
It’s darkness
Where the light breaks through
And Jesus comes to me and you
Enters in and intervenes
This is what Christmas means

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Today’s the day. I’m the big 4-0.

Not only did I have a surprise tubing-day last weekend, but Jen threw me a huge surprise party on Sunday. I think over forty people showed up to wish me a happy birthday. We’ve only been in Grand Rapids for a year and a half and I am amazed as I consider the number of people who have already touched our lives in significant ways.

Wednesday was my last day of work before the holidays and the office threw me a party too!

It was a GREAT party.

It’s a good life.

Today, on my birthday, I run and be festive. I feel blessed to still do both.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Peace

Tonight , after we attend Mars Hill’s Christmas Eve service, we will head back to Milwaukee to visit family and friends. Our schedule is full as we celebrate my birthday, Jen’s and my anniversary, and Christmas.

I’m officiating a wedding for a great couple on the 23rd. Emily, the bride, was a former student in my high school ministry. These are the thrills that come with doing student ministry… continuing to be a part of "students" lives after high school is over.

After Christmas, we head to Northern Wisconsin to Fort Wilderness where we’ll be at Elmbrook Church’s Middle School Sno Rodeo retreat. I’m speaking for the retreat and our whole family is going.

In the midst of this busyness, I wanted to be sure to wish you all a Christmas filled with meaning and peace. I wrote in a recent email, this:

As with every year end, I find myself assessing my past year and dreaming of what might be for the next. All this is mixed in the context of the unknown- a place filled with surprises, grief, and joy all wrapped up in one. This is the world Jesus enters and Christmas celebrates.

God’s blessings on you in your year’s “ends and beginnings.”

God’s peace from our family to you- Steve, Jen, Kara, Elise, Lauren

Monday, December 19, 2005

Advent… names

Saturday, going up the tube-lift, I got to talking with a four year old who was riding up next to me. I could barely see him as the tube literally swallowed him up. It was his birthday and his dad was taking him tubing. After we chatted for a while. He blurted out, ”My name is Nathan!” And then he turned to his dad and said, “Right Dad? That's my name?”

I smiled.

Then I realized that four-year-old, birthday boy, Nathan just reminded me of something.

He reminded me of names.

Where do we get our name?

Someone gives it to us.

A mother and/or father says… you are Nathan, you are Steve, that’s who you are.

And it defines us.

This Advent… think of Zechariah and Elizabeth and John the Baptist…
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1.13-17)

This Advent… think about Mary and Joseph and Jesus…
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1.31-33)

These are the “big names” I suppose and it’s hard to compare. But I have a name. You have a name. Maybe God stirs in moms and dads all over the world to give the perfect name for their child. And God calls us…


My child
My delight

Too often, our world has other names for us. Degrading names. Shameful names. Discouraging names.

Below average.
Waste of time.

Advent comes and is filled with names.

Names that God the Father calls us…
… reminding us who we are.
… reminding us what we’re worth
… reminding us of what we can become.

"That’s my name, right Dad?"

"Yes," the Father says. "It certainly is."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

40- The Crisis Begins...

I’ve been trying to avoid the inevitable, but I can’t hold it off much longer.

This Thursday, December 22 I turn 40 years old and yesterday, Jen surprised me by taking me out to face the reality by celebrating with some dear friends. We did what all people clinging to their youth should do… go tubing.

Yes… this place was great, although I’ve never seen so many signs with the word “No” in front of another word or phrase. There were lots of rules…and I think we may have broke half of them. By the end we were jumping on each other’s tubes in mid-flight and experiencing tremendous wipe-outs.

As for awards…

Jen- Jedi points (went down the hill with her hat over her eyes with no hands while kneeling on her tube! The force was with her all day!).

Troy (the bullet)- Gets the most points for breaking the sound barrier multiple times.

Dave- Gets demolition points for colliding with the most people sending them airborne.

Linda- Gets the style points… for dancing on her tube and taking some pretty serious wipeouts (she’ll be Advil girl today).

Me- I get Naked points… for officially begin my 40-year crisis by tubing with my shirt off…

After this adventure we went to a place to warm up had a great time by a great fire in great conversation. This was a memory-making day for me.

If I can have my 40 year-old crisis with friends like these… I think I’m going to be okay.

But remember … until December 22… I’m still a 30-something.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Advent... meet

Kindness and truth shall meet;
Justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And justice shall look down from heaven.

The Lord himself will give what is good
and our land will yield its harvest.

Justice shall walk before him,
And salvation, along the way of his steps.

– Psalm 85.10-13

Tonight our house church met. Dan led us through a reflective liturgy, which included sharing communion together.

I was struck by this passage in Ps 85… stirred by this picture of the meeting, the melding, the fusion of things…

Kindness and truth.
Justice and peace.

Jesus seems to be where...

Eternity encounters the time-bound.
Spirit meets flesh and blood.

Royalty touches poverty.
Power embraces weakness.
Authority hugs obedience.

The Lord’s Supper celebrates close proximity and invites others to join in.

Advent is about surprise meetings and up-close encounters. It’s about us being touched by the God of the universe who seems to say in an up-close tone, “I’m glad to meet you.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Narnia… bad was good and good was bad

So, we went to The Chronicles of Narna this weekend. Overall, I was happy with the effort. I felt like it remained true to the book. I thought Georgie Henl (Lucy) was amazing and the true star.

I think I’d give it a “B” as the movie is never as good as the book. For comparison, I thought The Goblet of Fire was a “C” as there was too much in the book to capture in a two-hour movie.

So there was only one thing that frustrated me– Aslan. I think the movie really missed on Aslan’s character. The quote is true… Aslan is kind… but not tame. In this move, Aslan seemed tame. Too small. Too manageable. When he talked, I felt like I was at a puppet show. I think Lewis’ Aslan is much bigger, more wild, a blur.

So how can a movie miss on the central character? In contrast, I thought the white witch (Tilda Swinton) was incredible. She was portrayed as one with limitations except in her cruelty.

Do you think that we, as people, are more capable of creating a more believable evil than a believable good? If so, why?

The question scares me a bit. It scares me to think, what we are capable of... and how much more “natural” it is to create hell than heaven on earth.

And the only finger I’m pointing is in the direction of my own heart.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Advent... small

It’s easy to feel small. I think we feel small all the time. That’s why we try so hard to get big. When we’re young we want to be older, bigger, capable, successful. When we’re older, we don’t necessarily want to be older, but we want to be significant. It’s the fuel of all marketing, isn’t it? Buy this… be that.

I think we know we’re small.

I think I don’t like to admit it.


Advent takes us down the road of seeing the greatness of God. This time asks us to pause to consider our place in relation to God. His coming places things in perspective. Accomplishments, titles, connections, awards, religious bling don’t make us big, they only hide our smallness and the only ones who seems to buy into it, are those sporting it, craving more.

God the reality… the big reality puts things into perspective. God does it without needing to do anything but… be. When I notice the greatness of God… I am reminded that I’m an XS in a XXL cosmos.

i’m small.


hardly noticeable.

gets our attention
… small

It’s the biggest thing God could ever have done.

It fills my smallness bigger than I can ever imagine.

ps– This third week of Advent is marked by the lighting of the pink candle- a symbol of faithfulness that encourages those on the Advent journey that they are halfway there. Keep preparing for the one who is coming…

Monday, December 05, 2005

Emergent West Michigan Gathering- December 14th 10.30AM-12.00

The Emergent West Michigan gathering is made up of ministry leaders in the community who are wrestling with how to express the Gospel throught the church in our rapidly changing culture. This group has been a huge lifeline for me and I have made some great friends here.

I'm facilitating the conversation on Wednesday 12/14. Here's the topic and what we're hoping to explore. If you're in the nieghborhood, stop by (See directions on the EWM blog). If you're not, feel free to weigh in here or at the EWM blog.

To: Emergent West Michigan Gathering
Fr: Steve Argue

Hello EWM journeyer. We’re looking forward to connecting at the gathering on Wednesday (12/14).

Over the past few months we have felt a desire to explore the Emergent Order and talk though the four values outlined on the Emergent Village website. We felt that this would be a good springboard for discussion, help us wrestle with core values that emergent declares, and to begin the address the fair challenge made by some who want to know what we’re “for” rather than what we’re “against.”

This month we’re taking a look at the third value. I think our conversation will be enhanced if we give some think time to this value. Below, I’ve tried to quote or summarize this value, raise some issues, and ask a few questions.

This merely serve to get us ramped up to our gathering and I hope it will inspire more questions and comments. Hopefully it will help us begin to answer the question, “What is emergent for?”

Rock on-

Members of emergent hold in common four values and practices that flow from them. In the language of a religious order, we call these four values our order and rule:

1. Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus
2. Commitment to the Church in all its Forms
3. Commitment to God’s World
4. Commitment to One Another

EWM Focus on Value 3: Commitment to God’s World

We practice our faith missionally – that is, we do not isolate ourselves from this world, but rather, we follow Christ into the world. We seek to fulfill the mission of God in our generations, and then to pass the baton faithfully to the next generations as well. We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else. We see the earth and all it contains as God’s beloved creation, and so we join God in seeking its good, its healing, and its blessing.

• To build relationships with neighbors and to seek the good of our neighborhoods and cities.
• To seek reconciliation with enemies and make peace.
• To encourage and cherish younger people and to honor and learn from older people.
• To honor creation and to cherish and heal it.
• To build friendships across racial, ethnic, economic and other boundaries.
• To be involved at all times in at least one issue or cause of peace and justice.

A few Questions for us…

• Emergent folk use “mission/missional/missionally” a lot. How would you define this or explain it to someone? Is this really any different from being seeker-driven or committed to evangelism explosion? How do we keep this from simply following culture, as many critics have challenged?

• In what way are we tying our beliefs to historical Christianity, in what ways are we pushing underdeveloped elements of the gospel forward (I believe these to be complimentary, not mutually exclusive), and what are we completely missing?

• What does “commitment to God’s world” look like in West Michigan? What steps can we take? I’m curious to hear from you some of the things ministries are attempting. If you choose to share, I think it would be most helpful for it to be explained in a way (this might be a good conversation at the EWM Gathering or online here)...
-- That is framed in a theological/missional understanding (The “why”);
-- That shows tangible how it embraces a cause for peace, justice, and extension of the gospel;
-- That the potential to include other ministries for a combined (co-op) commitment.

Additional Reading…
The following steam of conversation has been floating around. I urge you to look, especially at:
• John Hammett’s Article . Hammett’s critique is fair and respectful. An Ecclesiological Assessment of the Emerging Church Movement
• Tall Skinny Kiwi on Emergent. Andrew Jones responds (6 parts) to Hammett’s critique.
• Jason Clark gives a good summary of his take from Hammett’s paper. Jason Clark's Blog

A final Comment…
Our hope, as we look at this order, is to stretch ourselves in light of some fair critiques of all, younger, emerging (I use this word in the broadest sense) leaders and ministries. There is a time to define who we are by what we are not but there’s also a time to define who we are by what we express (which encompasses what we believe and do).

The last thing we need to do is defend an icon called “Emergent” or run to the defense of Emergent Village. If we are emerging out of our historical past and are commissioned by the Sprit and the church (for this is what discipleship is) to express the gospel to younger generations... then this calls for listening to the questions even if we are accused of entertaining ones that some deem irrelevant (postmodern or otherwise), responding to the needs that show up on our radar screen even if we are accused of being driven by our culture (as if our predecessors are not), and inspiring others to do the same (which we hold loosely because it may not look the same as we’ve done it in the future).

The “now what?” challenges us as it does any idea or movement. If we are committed to our world because we believe it is God’s world and that he’s bringing healing to every part of it. We do not have the option to be casual spectators but active participants.

I hope our gathering on Wednesday springboards more conversations that steer us this way. I am hungry for it. See you Wednesday. Peace.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Advent... Heal

In those days there appeared John the Baptist, preaching in the Wilderness (Desert) of Judea And saying, Repent (think differently; change your mind, regretting your sins and changing your conduct), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3.1-2)

I think everyone wants to feel better about something in their lives… some might dare desire healing.

It’s this way in the physical world. Sometimes the pathway to health is surgery. Sometimes the road to recovery is therapy. Surgery and therapy just don’t happen, they are very intentional.

That’s probably how it is when it comes to the heart (the “spiritual”). I find that there are a lot of things that are damaged and broken in my life. Some are self-inflicted, others are other-inflected. They mess me up, wreck my compass, knock me off balance, send me spinning. It’s the stuff that confuses my inner core of being and the confusion seeps out in my thoughts and actions.

The sad part is when I get used to living off-balance. When I allow the messed up parts of my life become the norm, making things right seems more difficult. It’s like someone who’s addicted or who lives in an abusive situation; one prefers the familiar (though destructive) over the unfamiliar (though the path to healing).

And this is what repentance is about, reflecting on the second Sunday of Advent. Anticipating Jesus’ coming and us preparing the way, preparing our hearts, aligning ourselves with the one who, with a word, realigns the center, makes things straight, calls us back, makes us whole.

Jesus’ own words to the paralytic are haunting (John 5)… “Do you want to get well?” A rather odd question to someone who is paralyzed, but the right question for us all who are paralyzed. Do I want to be well? Am I willing to walk toward the healing path of the unknown rather than stay in destructive known?




Steps toward healing.


Steps toward the Healer.

Who comes.

And asks.

“Do you want to get well?”

I think this is a daily question I need to answer.
God give me courage.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Advent... See

This week in house church, we were discussing the necessity of Advent. Why do we need to take a special time to do what we should be doing all the time? A point well-taken.

For me personally, I find the rhythms of the church calendar and the church service essential or immersing me in the story of God– It helps me take a look around.

It’s too easy for me to fall into patterns of my faith pursuit that make me blind to my surroundings. For example, I can read a passage in the Bible and read it like I always read it, not stopping long enough to see it in a fresh way… or not stopping long enough for God’s Spirit to speak through the text.

I do this in life, too. When I live life on auto-pilot I miss the scenery. It’s like I live outside of life efficiently running from one obligation to the next, never enjoying anything because I’m not immersed in it.

I want to see.

I “wasted time” and took this picture this morning. My morning run was in the snow today. The world looked different. I felt I was running on the inside of the scene rather than checking “run” off my to do list.

I hope today I live inside of life, not outside of it.

I want to see.

Pride and Prejudice

David Rudd seems to think I resemble Mr. Bingly (the one on the right) in this movie.

Click the title post and tell me what you think.

I'm not sure why I'm highlighting this other than I'm baffled that David would use precious brain cells pondering the topic.

Poke around his blog. He has some good thoughts and musings here...

Thanks David!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS Day is Today

Pray for healing in our world from this pandemic.

You can light a candle and take a quiet moment online

There are many organizations doing great work in fighting AIDS. World Vision is one of them. Here's place you can contribute to AIDS relief through
World Vision