Thursday, December 28

Christmas this year has left me reminiscing "nostalgically" about the different ways the season has changed in my life over the years.

When I was young (pre-college and pre-marriage), Christmas was an "extended-family" affair. As I remember it (and I admit that it has been quite a few years ago now), Christmas morning was at our house. But there were a lot of family gatherings: at my great-grandparents on the Armstrong side (with the sticky popcorn balls and the scary pictures of dead ancestors on the second floor) and at grandparents on both sides of the family. The Armstrong side was smaller (just ten of us, with the occasional visit from the Palmers or Aunt Sharon's family) and more sedate. The Huber side was larger, with more cousins who were a little more rambunctious.

When Gina and I were first married, Christmas really got out of hand for a while. We had at least seven Christmas celebrations (not counting our own). And since all of our family lived within 30 miles of each other, we were expected to try and hit all of them. It was rough on the babies (and, hence, on us) some years.

Over the past several years, Christmas has fallen in to a more comfortable flow. Typically, we attend the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our home church in Ft. Scott, KS. Christmas morning is at Gina's folks - a big breakfast with eggs, bacon, biscuits, and gravy - with her sisters and their families. Then presents and lunch. Most often we will then head in to my Mom's for Christmas with her and my brother and his family and my grandmother. Our traditional Christmas dinner is deep-fried shrimp (and chicken strips for those crazy people who don't like shrimp). Then presents. For many years, it also included the "grandkids" trying to figure out a way to catch Santa delivering the Christmas stockings. They never succeeded, though Stacy claims to have seen him in 1993. That was our last Christmas with my Dad. It's hard to believe that it has been 13 years.

But this Christmas was different. For the first time in 50 years, Gina wasn't with her parents on Christmas. For the first time in 48 years, I wasn't with my mom. Because of Stacy's recent surgery, we decided to stay in Springdale. We missed being with brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. We missed being with our parents.

But, in my mind, it was also a special Christmas. For the first time, it was just our family. We had the big, traditional Christmas breakfast - eggs, bacon, biscuits, and gravy. We opened presents. We took naps. We watched movies. We played dominoes. And it was good.

Who knows when it will happen again. Things are in transition. We don't know for sure where Erin will be next year or what her work schedule will be like. Stacy will be graduating from college in a couple of years. Changes are coming.

And though it took Stacy's surgery to make it happen, and though we missed being with our extended family, God did bless us with, for the first time, a very special Christmas at our house.

Tuesday, December 12

It has been a couple of weeks since I've posted. They have been a busy couple of weeks with several things to mention, but tonight is a night to say good-bye to a couple of men who touched the lives of many people - including mine.

On Dec. 1, Josh Lantz died doing something he loved to do - canoeing. If you would have asked me which of the 18,000 students at the UofA would be out in a canoe on a rain-swelled river on a 20 degree day, I would have said Josh Lantz. He loved to be outside: mountain biking, ultimate, running, hiking, on the river. On that day, his love for those things out-weighed his good sense. When his canoe tipped, Josh was unable to get out of the water. When they found his body about three hours later, it had a peaceful smile.

In almost 25 years of working with college students, I don't know that I have ever know anyone quite like Josh. He definitely walked to a different drummer, but you didn't have to be around him very long before you realized that drummer was Jesus. Josh was passionate about Christ - he loved to worship, he loved to pray, he loved to study God's Word. You could see it as he played guitar and mandolin (most often barefoot) in our worship band. Josh was passionate about people. When you talked with Josh, you had his total attention. He wanted to know all about you. He had a way of making everyone who met him think that they were one of his best friends. There was no pretense - just complete sincerity. He was full of hugs and always ready to pray with you. And because of Josh's passion for God and for people, he was passionate about making a difference in people's lives - especially those who were in need. The last trip he took with Christ on Campus was to Indianapolis for the National Missionary Convention because that was where he was heading. His plan was to use his civil engineering degree to build water wells for impoverished people.

As I sat in Josh's memorial service last Wednesday, a passage of Scripture came to my mind. As I was thinking about it, Josh's pastor began to speak about the very things I was thinking. The passage is John 13, where John says that Jesus knew where he came from, who he was, and where he was going. Because of that, he was free from any need to prove his superiority or fight for position - he was free to demonstrate his love by washing his disciples' feet. I don't know that I have ever been around anyone who was more comfortable with who he was and more sure about the direction of his life than Josh Lantz. Because of that, he didn't feel a need to impress. He was able to squeeze the most out of everything that he did. He was just free to be passionate about the things that were important to him - God and people and serving both.

A week before Josh died, we had talked about him being one of our "young guns" - one of the freshmen and sophomore men who were going to lead ConC over the next few years. He was excited about that. I'm going to miss that chance to serve with him, to walk with him as he walked to the beat of Jesus. Josh was 19.


On Monday, Seth Wilson went to be with our Lord. Seth was 92. Seth's legacy is too long to go into here. Let it suffice for now to say that he was Ozark Christian College for most all of its existence, serving as a professor, academic dean, and guiding force for decades. He was also the professor that I took more hours from than any other. His influence on my life - and the lives of hundreds of others - was huge. His love for God and his Word looked different than Josh's did, but was just as passionate and life-consuming.

I went to college with many who were too intimidated to take classes with Seth. Seth was a demanding teacher. Role call was taken each day and the expected response was not "here" but the number of hours that you had spent preparing for that class session. The expected response was two hours. I took most of my Life of Christ courses from Seth. Each day (Tuesday-Friday) we would take a different section of the Gospels. As class began, he would call on a student who was expected to stand and recite the passage from memory. And when finals came around, it was even worse. Seth's finals were essay finals and we were given a four-hour time slot to take each final. With Seth, you expected to be in that final for all four hours. If you finished the test he had prepared, he would have another for you to do! On the other hand, if you wrote all four hours on the first question, that was OK. He just figured you knew that much about the other questions. His classes could be intimidating and rigorous and life-changing.

From Seth I learned a passion for God's Word and the necessity of spending time with it, meditating on it, and seeking the Truth that was there. I learned that when it comes to the things of God, he deserves the best we have to offer.