Friday, December 31, 2010

A Wonderful Christmas Season...

Well, here we are rounding out a wonderful Christmas season and saying "Goodbye" to 2010.

It's been abnormal and unscheduled around the ol' Elliott household this week...which was wonderful!

We had a great Christmas. The kids were so excited about the gifts they had made for each other. It was truly wonderful to see them more excited to give than to receive.

Ethan and I's project - a kitchen set for the girls - turned out wonderful (if we do say so ourselves;)! We used some plans from Ana White's website and we think the little stove, sink, fridge/hutch set are adorable!

Now we are looking to return to routine and as-normal-as-we-get next week. How about you?

What was the best part about your holiday? And what does normal look like for you next week?

God bless & Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Unto Us a Child is Born...

Blessing to everyone on this wonderful day - The celebration of our Savior's birth!

As we celebrate this incredible gift with our little family, particularly with this being baby Ruth's first Christmas, we are reminded of the hope and anticipation spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Isaiah 9:2-7 ESV)

May we continue in this hope as we know Christ came for us and continues to give us victory.

God bless & Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

There are Elves afoot...

So I've been called lots of things in my life.

Many I can't repeat on this blog.

But one of the most common has been elf - a reference to the legendary Elliott ears (They are the things of legend!) And, whether it was meant to be encouraging or not, I have embraced that title wholeheartedly.

Just check out this little piece of proof if you don't believe me!

So this week, I have really gotten in touch with my inner elf in preparation for Christmas

..and I've got a new son, Ethan.

We've been working night and day behind closed doors making a special gift for the girls. It has been wonderful. Ethan has measured and marked and drilled and sanded; all like a pro! And I have noticed a difference in his confidence and concern for others outside the workshop. I suppose it is his "elfness" coming into full bloom!

Now, of course I can't show you too much yet, but I'll post final pictures after Christmas!

So how are you getting your elf on this week?

God bless & Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Community is...

To kind of wrap up my series of posts on culture, I wanted to relay an experience I had with our Creative Worship Team a couple of weeks ago.

We found ourselves having a Tuesday night where we really didn't have that much planning to do, but since we enjoy spending time with each other so much, we decided to meet anyway and go on a little outing.

As I always like to use the time we are together as a learning experience, I thought we'd visit some places that could teach us something about culture.

So first we went to a local restaurant owned and ran by an Englishman who serves local, sustainable, organic foods as traditional dishes. His desire for his business is to support local community and economy. He wants to build his restaurant into a spot where people come by for food and a good conversation. It was so fun to be greeted with warmth and welcome. Our server was just about constantly with us, answering questions, asking us about ourselves and joining us in laughter. The owner came by a couple times to talk and shake hands. The team had a wonderful time trying all of the unique dishes I ordered up for them.

It was wonderful and refreshing. It was warm and welcoming. As one of us said, "I think I could live here."

After that we all went a couple doors down to a local independent movie theater. As we went into the very humble auditorium, we were all suprised at how rustic and small it was. It quickly became apparent many of the others in attendance were regulars. This fact was accentuated when the movie was about to begin and the manager came in to welcome us and began calling some people by name. He then proceeded to verbally do the announcements and previews before the lights dimmed and the features started.

It was kind of like going to someone's house you didn't know to watch a movie with their friends. But you found them to be the most hospitable and accomadating sort of people. It made you want to go back. It made you want to be a part of what they had.

That community.

As I came out of this experience, I was the most intrigued by how both of these places made it nearly impossible to stay anonymous. In our increasingly self-dependent, individualized culture this type of social interaction is becoming more rare.

And uncomfortable.

And yet, we each found ourselves drawn to these places. I think we all would go back to either one.

So it leaves me wondering, how can I push myself and those around me to face our discomfort and stop being so anonymous.

In that is at least one of the steps towards community.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jesus is Just OK sin?

As I work with young people and our culture, I see a growing belief among young Christians that is alarming.

It is this belief that sin is a given. It's not right; it's not good; but it's just the way things are. I have even seen this thought process grow into believing God "understands" that is the way things are so He is somehow okay with my sin. He forgives me after all, doesn't He?

But I find this to be a gross underestimation of the power of the Gospel. Just this week I was reading in 1 John and came across these words:

"Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:4-10)

Strong words.

And the struggle there is we all know that it is true that none of us are perfect of ourselves or we wouldn't have needed Christ's sacrifice.

So here are some questions for us to wrestle with:

What does it look like to "make a practice of sinning"?
Is that different from a slip-up or a mistake or a moment of weakness?
What does it look like to "practice righteousness"?
Does being "born of God" give us a way to truly & totally leave sin behind?
How do we live in a way that is pursuing righteousness/leaving sin behind, yet not trying to trust in our own works to save us?

Look forward to your thoughts. God bless.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Little Cultural Research (Part 2)...

Today I'm continuing my theme on culture as I try to figure out what makes a culture work (or not work).

This week I watched another movie from decades ago - JAWS. This Steven Spielberg directed film debuted in 1975 (the year I was born), was the first movie to be released simultaneously nationwide (creating the Summer Blockbuster genre), and was the first movie to gross over $100 million (which is still a lot of money;).

And even though it is over 30 years old, it is still a great movie. Somehow it overcomes dated special effects and movie making techniques to continue to be a relevant and entertaining film.

My favorite scene is where shark hunter Quint, marine biologist Matt Hooper, and Police Chief Brody are sitting around on this little boat sharing scars and stories. There is something transcendent and real about this interaction that drives to my core.

So the cultural question of the day is:

How does something like Jaws continue to be culturally relevant while other things (see my previous post) do not?

Happy commenting and God bless!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Little Cultural Research...

So my wife and I were cruising on Netflix the other night after the kids went to bed and decided to watch an 80s classic, Roxanne.

For those not familiar, it is a 1987 film starring Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah about a guy with a really big nose who falls in love with a beautiful woman. It's a modern telling of the 19th Century play Cyrano de Bergerac. The movie is nominally okay.

But it sparked a conversation. We noted that for awhile in the 80s Darryl Hannah was one of those A-list actresses who starred in a lot of big movies but now you don't hear that much about her. On the other side Steve Martin is still going strong.

"Why is that?" we wondered.

So we went on through our week pondering until, thanks to @loswhit over at, I came across this:

Now, about 3/4 of the way through this incredibly bizarre video, there is Darryl Hannah...

...hiding her face

...and possible attempts to maintain youth through some facial modifications.

...amid a sea of other used-to-be's, has-beens, and one-hit-wonders.

And this experience left me feeling...

I don't know how it left me feeling.

Maybe sad, sick, nostalgic, amused, confused?

Here were all these people who we once lifted on a pedestal - about 90 percent of them idols and icons from my childhood - and now where are they?

It appears their life has been hard and sad since they left the limelight. And now these once examples of our society's pinnacle of success are reduced to a joke on Swedish TV.

So here are my questions for you:

1) How does this make you feel?

2) What age is the cutoff for this video even to make sense? (As I had a discussion with a room full of teenagers this week in which I found out none of them know who the Borg or Jean-Luc Picard were!)

Happy Commenting!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Had An Ephiphany the Other Day...

So I can't stop thinking about his concept of Advent this year. Partly it's because I'm teaching the youth about it on Wednesday nights so it's on my mind. But for many other reasons, I'm really excited about this ancient practice. Now, for many of us our only experience with advent was opening those little windows on some Advent calendar as a kid. (I only wish I'd had one as cool as this Smurf one I found online!) Advent though, which comes from the Latin term for “coming”, is actually a season set aside to prepare in great anticipation for the celebration of Christ’s coming on Christmas Day. Now for me, my involvement by opening little doors was simply to mark how close I was to the great gluttonly of gifts that happened on December 25th. The reality of Advent, however, is not in the mere marking of time, but rather a contemplative waiting. In our modern rushed society, we know little of this experience. Advent is meant to slow us down, to force us to savor what this season is supposed to represent. So for many still today, we start four weeks out from Christmas taking time each week to reflect on HOPE, PEACE, JOY, LOVE, & ultimately CHRIST Himself! I’m challenging the youth this year to take some time to reflect on these principles. To take extra time to soak in God’s Word and wait for God to speak. To slow down and make this year more than just a rushed day of presents. And instead making it a preparation for the coming of God’s presence. Will you join us?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Traditions...

So my family decided to start a new tradition today.

We loaded up the van, drove to the country (okay, actually Cole's Tree Farm), and cut down our own Christmas Tree.

Yes, I let Ethan have a saw.

But he did have adult supervision.

Here he is with his conquest.

So we loaded it up on top of our van and hauled it home.

Set it up in our living room.

Decorated it with a few strands of brand new Christmas lights...

and some popcorn strings...

and of course the topper!

We even made some homemade cinnamon Christmas ornaments.

It was such a lovely day. So much better than sorting through piles of ornaments and artificial pine needles. It was refreshing and natural and the kids loved it.

I think we'll do it again next year.

So what are some of your family holiday traditions? Anything new you're trying this year?