A Halloween unlike any other…

…(said in Jim Nantz voice, of course).

A peek into our office today:

Pastors pic Halloween 2018

That’s Lead Pastor the Rev. Danita R. Anderson with me preparing for our church’s preschool to parade by our offices.

It’s a tremendous gift to work with Danita, who is always ready to laugh. One of the reasons we work well together is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

I also like to repost my favorite office Halloween moment from a few years ago. Apparently I like to dress as Batman.


I was feeling a bit silly today, so… Hope you enjoy watching this even half as much as I enjoyed creating it! ūüôā

H/T to Colleen Erbach for editing help. Another H/T for inspiration to HISHE, BatDad, and of course, this guy.

Match Game: a Christianity21 Quiz #c21denver

Last week I attended Christianity 21, an excellent and fun conference organized by the incomparable JoPa Group. It is a conference ostensibly offered for those of the (E)(e)merg(ing/ence/ent) persuasion. Whatever that means anymore.

Based on my experience at this gathering, it means something along the lines of, “smart, compassionate, diverse people who want their Christian faith to matter in tangible ways in the world, now and into the future.”

On the mainstage, 21 speakers were given 21 minutes each to offer their Big Idea for Christianity in the 21st Century. It was a hard 21 minutes too – they were truly on the clock and when time was up an ‘Applause’ screen appeared and they were done. It was even more effective than the orchestra at the Oscars.

In the near future I hope to offer deeper insights from my time at C21. But for now I thought it might be kinda fun to try a little match game. See if you can put the presenter together with her/his Big Idea. Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with any of the presenters. I didn’t know them all going in – and I heard similar thoughts from, well, from everyone I talked with at the event. Just have some fun with it!

DISCLAIMER: In my estimation, not every presenter declared a distinct “my big idea is X“. For those, I’ve done my best to represent what I heard as their big idea. For that matter, I’m sure I haven’t perfectly captured even those big ideas that were overtly declared. Any errors are mine. I ask for grace in these matters.


1. Jonathan Merritt

2. Paul Raushenbush

3. Noel Castellanos

4. Nadia Bolz-Weber

5. Kent Dobson

6. Sarah Lefton

7. Mike Foster

8. Romal Tune

9. Charles Lee

10. Phyllis Tickle

11. Sarah Bessey

12. Enuma Okoro

13. Bruce Reyes-Chow

14. Sarah Pulliam-Bailey

15. Jose Morales

16. Ani Zonneveld

17. Jamie Wright

18. Joshua Dubois

19. Sarah Cunningham

20. Tony Jones

21. Doug Pagitt


Z. A personal gospel

Y. We don’t need¬†a new way to think about how God is, but an encounter with the God who is.

X. Christianity is so wide-spread that no country can claim to be the center of the faith.

W. People want to be loved and belong somewhere.

V.¬†Faith embodied as a movement of innovation. Don’t argue with your words but instead with your execution.

U. Be good allies.

T. Take sacred texts and have people make things (art, apps, movies, etc.) out of them.

S. Reclaim and embrace apocalypse.

R. Remove the words “missions”, “missional”, and “missionary” from our vocabulary.

Q.¬†I don’t know what the future of Christianity is, but I know I’m not going back.

P. ¬†Let’s¬†recover a theology of fun; let’s “gameify” faith.

O. Spiritual connectedness: each of us can decide where we can be ‘No Man’s Land’, i.e. the middle person grabbing one hand of a person to the left of us and one hand of a person to the right of us.

N. The margins are at the center of God’s ultimate concern.

M. Do greater things than Jesus; Recognize¬†where we’re acting like God wants sacrifice not mercy; Be friends, even with evil people; Figure out a new understanding of created order.

L. Pneumatology

K. Relearning faith (in this case Islam) as a progressive movement.

J. Let’s be gangs of the Gospel.

I. Stop being professional Christians and start being disciples of Christ.

H. Seeing our lives as prophetic outposts for the way of faith

G. Embrace the hyphen.

F. Reflect on what you are doing and respond to questions.

ANSWER KEY (not squished together because I hate that; too hard for my old eyes to read. And because this is the internet not a newspaper; space isn’t an issue.)

1. Y

2. Z

3. N

4. F

5. Q

6. T

7. W

8. J

9. V

10. L

11. H

12. X

13. U

14. P

15. G

16. K

17. R

18. I

19. O

20. S

21. M

How did you do? How many did you match correctly?

Finally, our C21 benediction from conference musician, Heatherlyn:

Maybe it might be, hopefully it’s true.

Happy Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas!

It’s my Christmas day tradition to post this Isaiah passage (which is a reading for Christmas Eve worship every year), Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” (the world’s best – and most challenging – Christmas song), and a lighter second song that changes each year. You’re welcome. ūüėČ

Isaiah 9:2-7:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

No, not “all the boots of the tramping warriors” or “all the garments rolled in blood” have been burned as fuel just yet. But I do believe there will be a day when both the weapons and the uniforms of war will be obsolete. I think that’s why I like “Happy Christmas” so much: it simultaneously acknowledges that the reality of evil in the world and reminds us to hope for – and actively strive for – a better future.

Yes, our sisters and brothers in Syria and South Sudan know all too well that war isn’t over. The Prince of Peace wants all wars to end. To worship the babe born in Bethlehem means facing reality, means seeking to end war. But following God in the way of Jesus also means we don’t believe in hopeless! It means we’ve got some work to do.

(Trigger warning: some images involves children, many are difficult to watch.)

Still, childlike joy is also an important part of Christmas. This song has been around a long time now but still makes me laugh every time.

Merry Christmas from the Buerstetta’s to all who celebrate. Happy Wednesday to all who don’t.¬†

Changes for the Holidays

“One word can bring you round”

To say that change is difficult is no kind of insight. We know this is true. Yet change comes to us all and sometimes even proves to be a Good Thing.

This fall our wonderful partners at the West Suburban Community Pantry changed how they distribute food boxes at Thanksgiving and Christmas and how they distribute gifts at Christmas. Let’s face it, giving money and unwrapped gifts just doesn’t feel as involved – doesn’t feel as good – as giving a box of food or a gift chosen and wrapped for a specific person. But here’s the effect of that change: previous years the Pantry had food boxes for 400 families at Thanksgiving. With the change in procedure this year they gave food boxes to 1300 families!

But wait, there’s more…Previously at Christmas they only had gifts for families in Woodridge. But we know they serve people from all over DuPage County, not just Woodridge. The change in procedure this year means they have a gift for every child (up to age 12) who comes to the pantry!

Read that again: food boxes for 1300 families and gifts for every child. This change was most definitely a Good Thing. Being part of that rocks. Hungry people being fed rocks the most.

“This year, let the day arrive when Christmas come for everyone, everyone alive!”

Obviously, music is a huge part of our Christmas traditions. Everybody has a favorite. Hopefully we’ll sing yours on Christmas Eve. (If not, be sure to request it at the hymn sing on December 29!)

I love a lot of the regulars: “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, the aforementioned “Star-Child”. I’ve said before that I really like John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas” and the Bare Naked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan collaboration “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen/We Three Kings.”

My current favorite is “The Trumpet Child” by Over the Rhine. (H/T David Weasley.) I love, love, love the jazz references and the plaintive tone. Check it out.

How about you? What are your current favorite holiday songs?

Giving ’til it feels good

As the end of the year approaches, my congregation is, like many organizations, in the midst of our stewardship campaign. That campaign will determine the level of financial support for our ministries in 2013.

There is much biblical support for giving to such a campaign. If you’ve been around most any church for most any length of time, you’ve likely heard many of those examples. “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Cor 9:7) and “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) spring to mind.

Our congregation is involved in many ministries for which we give thanks. Funding those ministries is another excellent reason to give to the campaign.

But how about we get a little more mundane for a moment? How about considering the benefits of giving on the giver? Inspired by an article (which, inexplicably, isn’t online) in the December issue of Men’s Health, we can say with confidence that giving to help others affects our brain, our body, and our spirit.

First, your brain: “Recent neuropsychological research shows that donating to charity activates neural activity in areas of the brain that are linked to reward processing ‚Äď the same areas that are activated by pleasures like eating and sex.” [read the rest]

Plus, from the not-online Men’s Health article: “Giving to charity can activate the parts of your brain associated with social attachment, a National Institutes of Health study reveals.”

Next, your body: From the International Journal of Psychophysiology, “People who offer social support to others had lower blood pressure and stress levels.”

Giving can help to you to be healthier. And with those lower levels of stress and blood pressure, maybe even help you to live longer!

Finally, your spirit: “New research by one Harvard scholar implies that happiness can be found by spending money on others” (emphasis mine).

“Michael Norton, assistant professor of business administration in the marketing unit at the Harvard Business School (HBS), conducted a series of studies with his colleagues Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Together they showed that people are happier when they spend money on others versus on themselves.” [read the rest]

I don’t know about you, but I find this fascinating…and more than a little fun. So stimulate your brain, be healthier, and feel good. Consider these the good, selfish reasons for giving!

Is it May 4 yet? redux

We’re just an hour away from our Call + Response screening, but this new Avengers trailer is just so good I had t to take a breather from promoting tonight’s event.

Granted, The Dark Knight Rises is almost certain to be a better movie. My guess, though, is that Avengers will be more fun. Here’s the new trailer:

“I’ve got an army.”

“We’ve got a Hulk.”

That’s cinematic gold right there. “Gold, Jerry, gold!”

Much like Heath Ledger and Joker, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Robert Downy, Jr. playing Tony Stark. He is that character.

See ya at the movies on May 4!

2011 Favorites – Picture & Post

It’s basically mid January, high time to be done with this little retrospective series. (Previous entries were movies, music, and – believe it or not – hockey goal.)

This post during my week as guest blogger at The Hardest Question was my most viewed post of the year. But I think this post was my favorite. I am so beyond sick to death of running into this “debate” in Christian circles. Enough already. Women are fully human beings and need to be treated as such.

Finally, the image that sums up the year. Taken during the Arab Spring, I wrote a little about it here and here. I find this picture a tremendous example of non-violent protest, of faithfulness, of the way forward. I hope as the Occupy movement here in the U.S. continues and gains traction, it will find a way to emulate this anonymous women:

2011 Movie Favorites

I’m trying hard to remember what movies I saw in 2011. There was a time in my life that I saw a ton of movies. But, as many of you no doubt have experienced, that was Before Kids. Now we see a few here and there in the theater, and a few more On Demand. I can’t remember the last time we rented a DVD. Oh wait, yes I do. It was more than a year ago when Blockbuster went from charging $0.99 for kids movies to charging $5!! Haven’t been back since. How’s ol’ Blockbuster doing, by the way? Anybody heard much from them lately? ‘Cause I haven’t.

I know I saw Moneyball, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, New Year’s Eve (Hey, it was date night, what can I say? Plus, it was reasonably funny.), The Road (yes, I know it’s a few years old but I saw it for the first time this year), X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Cars 2, The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle (on demand. No idea why I thought it might possibly be entertaining. It wasn’t. But you knew that didn’t you?), and let’s see…oh yeah, Thor and Captain America.

There may have been others earlier in the year, but I don’t remember them. What’s missing from my list? Oh, I don’t know, pretty much every movie on anyone’s ‘best of the year’ list.

Based on my very limited list, I’m sure Moneyball is the “right” answer. And it was very good. We laughed a lot more than I expected. Turns out Brad Pitt is more than just a pretty face.

But this is my favorites list and I’m a comic book geek…a comic book geek whose two favorite super heroes happen to be…Thor and Captain America. Yep, those are my 2011 favorite movies. Don’t make me pick one, because I can’t. I first started collecting Thor and Cap comic when I was in junior high. Picking between them would be like picking a favorite child. It just cannot be done.

While neither movie, er, rises to the level of The Dark Knight, they were both plenty of fun as both offered humor, subtle hints and homages for fan boys like me, and a good mix of fealty to the source materials with a fresh, contemporary take on the stories.

Thor was at its best during the scenes with Thor figuring out Midgard. That’s when his humanity emerged and he became likeable. Which, after all, was pretty much the point. Of course, the big fight scene with the frost giants was pretty darn cool too. And I loved the Hawkeye cameo.

Captain America was at its best creating a new reason for Cap to wear his classic costume. I thought that was brilliant. I also loved how the futuristic fair where Steve and Bucky and their dates go is right out of Marvels – including a glimpse of The Original Human Torch. And making Bucky, the future Winter Soldier, a sniper? Terrific.

Finally, there’s the Marvel signature: post-credits preview of what’s next. With these two movies, that means… The Avengers! (Have I mentioned I’m excited for May 4?)

How about you? What were your favorite movies in 2011?