What I’m Thankful For In 2020

I had some of my students submit video selfies of gratitude. I hope these three minutes put a smile on your face and stoke your holiday spirit.

Stanford students express thanks

Every Thanksgiving I think about this poem from the ever-quotable Chesterton:

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting,
swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing,
and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

G.K. Chesterton, “A Grace”, Collected Poetry

Even in 2020 there is so much to be thankful for. I am grateful that my family has stayed healthy. I am grateful that we live in an age when scientists can produce three vaccines for a new pandemic in less than a year. I am grateful that even in the midst of a pandemic I have a place to live and food to eat.

I am grateful that I love my job — I get to minister at one of the most amazing places on earth. I am grateful for the team of people praying for and providing for this ministry. I am grateful that even in the midst of a pandemic we were able to meet and minister to new people — I hadn’t met six out of the twenty students in the above video before fall quarter began. How wonderful!

I am grateful that God loves, that God forgives, and that God will bring justice. I am grateful that He created a wonderful world and filled it with good things. I am grateful for the cross and for the empty tomb, and I am grateful that in just two days my family will begin decorating for Christmas to celebrate the gift of Jesus — God with us.

May the rest of your 2020 be filled with occasions for gratitude, and may your 2021 be outstanding!

Seventeen Years of Ministering at Stanford

Some thoughts from seventeen years of ministry at Stanford. HUGE THANKS to everyone who has been part of this wonderful journey. Let’s see where the next seventeen take us!

Seventeen years ago today my wife and I drove into Palo Alto in a rented yellow Penske truck. God had called us to minister to Stanford University and we were reporting for duty.

The years since then haven’t always been easy, but they have been extremely rewarding. Here are some thoughts running through my mind on this anniversary:

  1. God does the work. I remember sitting down with a student a few months ago. She had sought me out after coming to faith through reading. She had never been to a Chi Alpha worship service. She had never heard me preach. She had just spent time thinking and reading. Eventually she was convinced and her life was changed. So many of the best things we’ve seen happen in ministry have happened independently of any plan or effort of ours. God does the work and graciously invites us to tag along.
  2. University ministry really does touch the world. Last year, Paula hung a map on our wall and we began putting a dot on the map whenever an international student ate a meal in our home. In one year we had over 50 international students from over 25 nations sit down to eat with us. In Acts 19:9–10 we read that because Paul spent two years ministering daily at an educational institution “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” That strategy still works today.
  3. University ministry really does build godly leaders. By my count, we have alumni working in the governments of three nations, we’ve got alumni serving as professors at five universities (including three professors at Stanford), we’ve had two alumni make the Forbes “30 Under 30” list, one make the MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35” list, several serving as pastors and missionaries, and many more doing amazing things all over the world. Some of these alumni came to Christ through our ministry while others were discipled in their existing faith. We are thrilled at all God has done in them and in awe of what He is doing through them.
  4. We couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve got to extend a huge thank YOU to everyone who has supported us in our ministry. We are so grateful to everyone who has prayed for us, to all the staff who have worked alongside us, to the generous people who have given to help make this ministry possible, and to the students who have participated in our ministry. None of this could have happened without your partnership. We are grateful to you and also grateful to God for you.

So anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about after seventeen years of ministry on the Farm. I’m excited to see what God does over the next seventeen!

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Every year we host students in our home for Thanksgiving. Today we will have just shy of three dozen. They come from around the world and find it difficult to make it home for such a short break.

Since Thanksgiving in a novel cultural experience for many of them, I always give a quick explanation before the meal. For the curious, here’s what I’m planning to say today:

American Thanksgiving traces its roots back to 1621 when the European colonists of Plymouth Plantation celebrated their first harvest on the new continent. 45 colonists and 90 native Americans celebrated together for a three-day feast.

This became a custom in many colonies, but the schedule and the details of the celebration would vary from place to place. On October 3, 1789 George Washington called for the first Federal Thanksgiving with this proclamation. It’s a bit long so I’m going to read the highlights:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be….

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually….

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

That proclamation regarded a single occurrence, not a yearly event. A few generations later on October 3, 1863 Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday which we still celebrate to this day.

I am a Christian, and so this day is very special to me because gratitude is at the heart of Christianity.

As the apostle tells us in 1 Thess 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)

And we do this because even when circumstances are bad, God is good. As we read in Psalm 107:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)

And so this Thanksgiving, join me as we offer thanks for the food.

Creator God, we are grateful for your provision of a universe for us to inhabit filled with wonderful things, including delicious food. Help us to enjoy it and the conversations that fill this room. Most of all, thank you for giving us Jesus as a savior and a Lord.  Today we declare with the Psalmist: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV)

Now let us eat with grateful hearts!


Three recent conversations, presented verbatim:


A Conversation With My Daughter
I set up a line of dominoes running around a corner and had my seven-year-old daughter sit where she could only see the end. I tipped the first domino over and we watched the entire chain fall.

Then I asked her, “How do you know there was a first domino? You didn’t see it.”

She stared at the fallen dominoes with a furrowed brow for a few seconds, then said, “If there was no first domino there would be no world. Nothing could exist.”

Look out, Aristotle. My daughter is gunning for you.

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A Conversation With My Son
Yesterday I took my children to Happy Hollow. As we were entering the park we passed by an Asian gal dressed up as an anime character. I’m not sure which one, but she had on some sort of bulky white body armor. More to the point, she had also dyed her hair purple.

So I said to my wife, “If I was Asian I would totally have purple hair.”

My four-year-old son overheard and said with a dismissive tone, “If I was Asian I’d have black hair.”

A Conversation With A Student
A text message conversation with one of my students (verbatim with a few words removed to preserve anonymity):

Student: “Is public nudity a sin?”
Me: “What?”
Student: “Is it just kind of weird or is it something to avoid altogether?”
Me: “Search biblegateway.com for the term ‘modest’.”

And Then What Happened?

Warriors ...I got back from a trip yesterday and was greeted by my three-year old son. He had something to tell me about preschool:

He said, “Matthew hit me today.”

So I said, “Really? And then what happened?”

He said, “I hit him.”

Reasonable enough for a three-year old. And around this time the teacher is probably about to get involved, and I’m pretty curious about what she did. “What happened after that?”

He said, “He hit me again.”

Uh-oh. This might not be a very good story. “And then what happened?”

He got a big grin on his face. “I tumbled him.”

I started to grin back. It was partly a response to his grin, partly amusement at his inventive use of the word “tumble”, and partly pride in my warrior son.

“I see. And then what happened?”


I burst into laughter. So did Paula. What would you have done?

Is Jesus On Fire?

Fire man!Every morning before my daughter heads to kindergarten I read her a Bible story. This morning I read something Jesus said and asked her if there was anything she didn’t understand.

“Well.… where was Jesus when he said this?”

“In Israel. Why?”

“I was wondering if he was on earth or in heaven when he said it.”

“He was on earth, honey.”

And then my three-year old son said, “Or on fire.”

That’s almost certainly not as funny to you as it was to me, but I present it here for your consideration. Whenever Jesus said something, he was either in heaven, on earth, or on fire.

Settling In To Our New Digs

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes. Oh, and a U-Haul truck with yet more boxes.Some of our faithful movers take a well-deserved break.We just moved from our old apartment to a house elsewhere in Menlo Park. So far we love it! The kids are especially jazzed about the yard and the ensuing prospects for outdoor play.

A big thank you to those who helped us move!

augmentation breast mississauga Props to Ben, Katie, Alan, John, Desirae, Irene, Chris, Femi, Ethan, Lindsey, Scott (way to serve with your postoperative self), Jen and Aaron. Lindsey and Sue deserve special mention because they each watched our kids part of the day, which meant Paula and I could both get stuff done. And a special shout-out to Emily who was planning to help but had to bail due to a last-minute medical emergency (get well soon).

Highlights from the move:

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  • Noticing that a disproportionate number of students decided to wear their Chi Alpha shirts for the move. My heuristic was to wear a shirt I didn’t care about… which makes me wonder how our students really feel about our shirts. 😉
  • Happy Donuts for breakfast. Yum. Bonus: watching Ben get a sugar rush.
  • Hearing my name used as a virtual curse word when people realized how many boxes of books they would have to carry. They love the erudite sermons, they just hate the way I prepare for them. 🙂
  • Backing a U‑Haul into my narrow driveway. Yikes!
  • Chris getting scratched by a rose bush and me (for once) having the right line at the right time, “He doesn’t need a band-aid — he needs a Y chromosome.”
  • New York Pizza for lunch. Two King Kongs and a Large. Excellent.
  • Having our internet activated on the day we moved in. Sweet!
  • Our new neighbor dropping off brownies. How very kind.
  • Having our super-studly moving crew stay to help us assemble and lay out furniture. Way above and beyond the call of duty. THANK YOU!
  • Costco Hot Dogs for supper. Those dogs are delicious. And huge.
  • Double bonus: watching Ben cuddle up after a hard day’s work and drift into la-la land.

For those to whom it matters, our new address is 1032 Ringwood Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025.down periscope free

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California Is Amazing

In the last few days, my work has taken me to preach in Sonora, CA (where I was able to take an excursion to Yosemite Valley and also stand upon Glacier Point divx machine girl the

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(near Santa Cruz) helping with a youth camp, and it’s allowed me to have lunch with a worship pastor in San Francisco. And in the middle I got to hang out with some of the most amazing people in the world at Stanford University.

If you’re keeping score, that’s two instances of mountainous beauty, one day of beachy fun, one incident of cosmopolitan elegance, and several heaping sides of academically elite intellectual stimulation. All in under a week.

I’m blown away at (a) how cool my state is and (b) how delightful my job is.

If your life is insufficiently fabulous, consider coming to California to do college ministry. It rocks.

Feeling Tired

I’m quite tired.

We had our final Chi Alpha worship meeting of the quarter last night. It went awesome. Worship was phenomenal, I think the message was well-received, and we got to hang out and talk for a while afterwards. Plus we actually ended the year with more numbers than we began the year with. That’s rare in campus ministry. If you average the first three weeks of the year and multiply by about 80%, that’s a more typical number to end with. The growth has been great — but a larger ministry means more people to meet with, which means less flexibility in my schedule.

So I’m tired from the academic year.

I’ve also been teaching an extension class for AGTS in Sacramento every Thursday this month. Tonight is the final course. It’s a 2 hour drive there, a four hour class, and then a two hour drive back. It’s been very fun and I’ve learned a lot through teaching the course (which I’ve heard is the experience of most teachers).

But it’s pretty draining. That’s an extra 8 hour day every week. And that’s if traffic behaves.

And I’m serving on a task force for the Assemblies. We had a video chat this morning which lasted about 2.5 hours. It was rewarding, but also draining.

Finally, I’m supposed to be doing a lot of web stuff for Chi Alpha. I just haven’t been able to prioritize it lately. Yeek. Lots of low-hanging fruit, but no time to reach out and pluck it.

All in all, I’m very much looking forward to the change of schedule that comes with the summer. I’ll still be busy, but at least I’ll be busy doing different things. 🙂download shuttle terror by night download

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