Christmas Carols – Minnesota Style!

Just for fun I thought I would put together a top 10 list of Minnesota versions of popular Christmas Carols.  You will probably recognize most of these songs, and if you live in Minnesota you will hopefully enjoy the little Minnesota twist.  Christmas is a time of joy, so I hope you enjoy this…

10) It’s Beginning to Lutefisk Like Christmas

9) Zygi Bells

8) We Wish You a Mauer Christmas

7) Brett Favre Got Run Over By a Reindeer

6) Deck the Halls with Bowls of Hotdish

5) O Come All Ye Lutherans

4) Rudolph the Red Nosed Viking

3) O Holey Metrodome

2) It’s the Most Uff Da Time of the Year

1) You Betcha! The Herald Angels Sing

A Funny Thing Happened While Shoveling My Driveway

So we just had a beautiful Minnesota blizzard this past weekend.  For those of you who did not experience it firshand, the snow started on Friday night and kept falling all day Saturday.  Here in Chaska we got somewhere around 16 inches according to the accounts I have heard.  But what made it so bad was the wind.  I went out Saturday afternoon to begin shoveling out my driveway and when I opened my overhead garage door, I found a wall of snow in it’s place.  The drift was almost 3′ tall.  It was the width of my 3-car garage.  And it was about 5′ long before slowly tapering off to about a foot and a half.  I just stood there staring at this winter wonderland wondering where in the world to start. 

Finally I got into action and began clearing a path by scooping the snow and throwing it as far as I could.  Then gradually after I cleared a path I started picking up a shovel full and carrying it over to the side of the driveway and dumping it there.  After working for about an hour I had cleared away about an 8’X8′ section of driveway and the wind was already filling that part back in behind me. 

Thankfully about that time my next door neighbor came by and offered me the use of his snowblower.  I gratefully accepted and after another hour of manhandling that blower through my huge drifts I finally had a semi-cleared driveway.  I still needed to go back the next day and clear out some more areas by hand, but the bulk of the work was done. 

It was a lot of work, and by the time I got inside I literally had icicles formed on my eyebrows.  In times like those you have to ask yourself, “now why again did I move to Minnesota?”  But you know, a funny thing happened to me while shoveling my driveway.  I found myself becoming more and more thankful.  It began with just a short thought, but snowballed into more of a movement within me to give thanks to God for so many blessings that I was reminded of from this storm. 

For instance, being out there for 2-3 hours in that cold wind and snow I was more thankful than ever for the shelter that God has provided for me and my family.  Sometimes we wish our house was different.  We complain about this or that and we talk about what we would like to do differently with our home, but it is in times like that snowstorm that I am simply reminded of how good it is to just have a home where we are safe and warm and dry.

I also found myself being thankful for the work that God allowed me to do just over the last couple of months to clear out our garage so that there was plenty of room to maneuver and get the cars inside and have stuff not be in the way.  I found myself thanking God for the big driveway, even though a bigger driveway means more to shovel.  I thanked Him for the neighbor who let me borrow his snowblower.  I thanked Him for even just letting me be done and that I was warm again.  I just kept finding myself thanking God for one thing after another.

So while I didn’t enjoy the shoveling, I think our little snowstorm helped me to be thankful.  It is sad, but sometimes it take a moment like that to remind us of all the wonderful blessings we often take for granted.  I don’t want to wish on you a snowstorm to help you be thankful, but I encourage you to be thankful. 

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica told them to, “give thanks in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5:18a)  I think tough times sometimes cause us to be frustrated, impatient, angry, bitter, or discouraged and we find it tough to be thankful.  But God wants us to give thanks, no matter what the circumstances of life are.  And sometimes it takes those tough times just to remind us to give thanks.

Winter Preparations

So, I am new to Minnesota and I am still getting used to some things.  For instance, this weekend I spent Saturday shrinking wrapping my windows to winterize my house.  I have never had to do that before.  I have to admit that I had no idea a hair dryer could be such a useful household tool.  As a homeowner it is good to do those kinds of things that will help prepare our home for winter.  But at this time of year there are also some other preparations that we should be making at our homes as well.

Christmas is just 18 days away.  Usually people say, “only 18 more shopping days til Christmas.”  But it might be better for us to say, “only 18 more preparation days til Christmas.”  I’m not talking about shopping, wrapping, or organizing our Christmas parties.  I am talking about preparing our hearts.  Christmas is one of the most important times of the year.  It is a time for us to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Speaking as a father, this is a critical time for my children.  If I don’t take advantage of this time leading up to Christmas to speak into their lives and teach them what Christmas is really all about, then they are going to be taught by what they see all around them.  If that happens, then they are going to be more excited about getting gifts, eating Christmas cookies, looking at all the christmas decorations in the neighborhood, and watching Frosty the Snowman on television than on focusing on the birth of the Savior.  And who can blame them?  If we don’t take the time to help prepare their hearts, then their hearts are going to be prepared by what they see.  And even though I am no longer 9 years old, the same is true with me.  If all I invest myself in this time of the year is buying Christmas gifts, baking Christmas cookies, and decorating our house to prepare for Christmas, then that is where my heart is going to be too.

So my challenge for us is to make the most of these 18 preparation days before Christmas to prepare our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones for this Christmas season.  So how do we do that?  Well, let me offer a few suggestions…

1) Nativity scene (or Creche) –  Use the nativity scene to help you remember what you are really celebrating.  Give it a prominent place in your decorating.  As you set it up, consider what the different pieces represent.  Maybe even use the nativity scene as a teaching tool.  I have heard of families who build the scene throughout the time leading up to Christmas, having Mary and Joseph arrive on Christmas eve and the baby Jesus on Christmas morning.

2) Christmas carols – Take a walk and sing some of your favorite Christmas carols.  And as you sing, consider what the carols are saying.  We have sung these songs so much it is easy for us to forget the meaning behind the words.  But listen to what you are singing.  It is hard to sing “Joy To The World” and not have a smile come to your face.  Try it.

3) Advent calendar or special devotional – An Advent Calendar is simply a calendar that uses some means of helping you celebrate each day of advent beginning December 1 and leading into Christmas.   The idea is to help you focus each day on some element of the Christmas story.  Last year we started as a family reading through a devotional book called “Jotham’s Journey” by Arnold Ytreeide.  It is broken down into a portion for you to read and talk about each day of advent leading into Christmas.  My kids couldn’t wait for December 1 this year so they could start the book again. 

4) Serve – Find someplace or some way to serve.  Having an opportunity to serve others is a great way to get our focus back where it belongs.  If you are looking for a place to serve in the Chaska area, check out the Love INC (In the Name of Christ) website,

These are just a few ways to prepare you heart.  Maybe you have others.  Feel free to send your comments back about how you like to prepare your heart for the Christmas season.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, everywhere you look it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  If you drive through neighborhoods you see lights and decorations on more and more homes and lawns.  The television commercials and other advertisments are reminding you of all the gifts you need to buy from websites like Flyp.  There are radio stations playing nothing but Christmas music.  I am cutrently sitting in Dunn Bros. sipping my Earl Grey tea from a cup that reminds me to “share the joy.”  You can venture to downtown Minneapolis and enjoy the Holidazzle Christmas parade or the animated holiday display at Macy’s.  And don’t even get me started on the Mall of America.

So along those lines, this weekend I will begin a Christmas sermon series at The River Church.  I will be preaching on the Christmas story from Luke 2.  But during this series we will not be focusing on Santa Claus, or snowflakes, wrapping paper or wreaths.  We will be focusing on the real meaning behind this season. 

I want to invite you to come and check us out during this holiday season.  Or if you have visited us in the past, but it has been awhile, you might want to come back and check us out again.  There are some changes going on and we would love to see you again.

Enjoy this Christmas season.  Go out and check out the lights.  Go downtown and see the parade and the display.  Enjoy your time shopping at the Mall, but also make sure to get to church and spend some time focusing on what this holiday is really all about.