Decaeuxarista [Deca-eucharista] 2021

Every year I develop a list of 10 reasons I’m thankful for each family member, and I try to share it by Thanksgiving, but it’s normally Christmas. I call it my Decaeuxarista–I’m not a Greek scholar, but it’s my attempt at making up a word that means Ten Thanks. It’s good for me to intentionally think about why I’m grateful for each family member. This is the list I shared with them this year. My kids are all adults now, and they still look forward to it–and its unique title. 😉 May it spur you to appreciate your family.

Laura[1]I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names. I think they prefer that.

  1. You are easy to like. You have an easy-going nature and earnest spiritual passion. I’ve always known that, but now I have more evidence since in your role as Assistant Dean of Women you are very popular with the college girls. They all love you.
  2. I love that you are willing to do hard things to spend time with your family. Backpacking in WY is probably the greatest recent example. You did it just because I enjoy it. Not many women of any age will do that.
  3. You are the peacemaker in the family. You want us all to be right with each other. It bothers you when we aren’t, and so you work with us sinning family members to lead us to repentance and reconciliation.
  4. Your absence of fear of man has blessed our family many times. You’re willing to ask questions when I would rather you didn’t, but you persist and we are blessed. On our vacation you asked if we could bring a cooler of snacks on the rafting trip, and I was sure they would say no. They said yes. That’s just one example.
  5. You are teachable; you are still growing spiritually. You’ve told me at least twice that moving to Ankeny has been beneficial for your growth in ministry skills. You’ve taken two college classes just to get better at mentoring girls. You sat in class next to girls that were less than half your age because you have a teachable spirit.
  6. You are the most thoughtful person in our family. You plan and save and shop for your family all year long. You make Christmas very special because you care about what gifts you give. I’m always encouraged at how well you know me and the kids when we get our stocking stuffers on Christmas morning.
  7. Your care when I am sick (and when the kids are sick and they are around) is legendary. You are so compassionate and kind. You think of all the little things to ease our discomfort. You jokingly said, “If Momma gets sick, this family is going down.” It’s true! We need you.
  8. Actually, you “Mom” very well. You are constantly up and taking care of business, getting stuff done for your family. The kids notice it when we’re all together. The rest of us stand around not knowing what needs to be done, and you just take care of things.
  9. You make all our family times so warm and fun. You especially serve at those times. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks you have been baking and comforting and encouraging all of us. You’re the first to jump up and get something for someone. You make home so homey.
  10. Part of making our home so comfortable is your design and decorating. I would probably never hang anything on the wall, and they would look cold and unfriendly. You, however, have a gift—you get the right furniture (always at a reasonable cost) and lighting and paint and wall hangings, etc. so that the house is welcoming. And you change it up regularly. You have an eye for making our home warm and comfortable, and you’re always thinking ahead on changes we can make. We’re in the smallest space we’ve been in since seminary, and it still somehow fits well when our kids visit.
  11. You know I appreciate spending time with you and you will purposely do work in whatever room I am in. You intentionally organize your day so we can be together more, and I love it. You’re my best friend, and there is no one I would rather be with.


  1. You are sensitive to people that might be on the outside of the popular crowd. You will speak up if someone is speaking ill of someone not present. You lock on to people that are being ignored. It’s a way that your love looks most like Christ.
  2. You still call me when you need help. I got called in class when you locked your keys in your car on the first day of school. Of course that was an urgent need, but you also ask for help with your taxes, friendships, job decisions, etc. You are open to advice and counsel. In fact, you look for it.
  3. You intentionally show affection to family members. You still hold my hand when we walk together or when we sit together. You still hug your family members. You’ve never been ashamed of expressing affection. Your family feels very loved because of that.
  4. You are exceptionally careful with money. You are paying your way through college, and you make sure every purchase is necessary. You have almost completed three years without any student loan debt. But you still are generous with family and friends. Money doesn’t control you.
  5. You share the gospel. Mom told me that you have given homeless people at the U some cash or a gift card and a gospel pamphlet. You have witnessed to friends of yours on campus and at work. You care about your Muslim friend and atheist friend at the U coming to Christ.
  6. You work hard in school. No one is watching over your shoulder anymore, but you keep on plugging away. Mom and I don’t get concerned about you living independently because you are so responsible.
  7. You are a grateful person. You don’t expect us to pick up the check or pay for your gas when you come down to see us, and when we do, you appreciate it.
  8. You give up your own tastes (like K-dramas) and watch whatever the family is watching. You have eclectic media tastes and while you would appreciate it if we enjoyed them with you, you never expect it or demand it. You willing give up your preferences for the rest of us.
  9. You’ve always been the child that climbs into the back of the minivan no questions asked and no complaints given. You’ve never had any seat expectation except that you will take the one that no one else wants. That’s a wonderful servant heart.
  10. You have always been the least needy child. Not that any of our kids are needy, but you have always been independent and self-sufficient. You don’t expect us to serve you. You just assume that you will have to figure any problem out (although you still get advice), and you don’t have any expectation that we are responsible to “save” you. You just trust God and move forward.
  11. You are really good at making time for people. You are as busy as any other college student, but you make sure that you take time for lunches, coffee, phone calls, and other touches with family, but also with so many friends. Even though they don’t always reciprocate, you invest the time to build relationships.


  1. I love how you take care of your mother. You are always happy to see her. When she visits you, you are generous. I’m glad you love your mother so well. You are kind to her.
  2. You don’t love money as far as I can tell. You have been generous with all of your family members through the years. You bought your sister a laptop; let your brother use your Mustang; helped another sister get a car and bought gifts for Mom and me. I’m glad you use money to show love; that’s a godly view of money.
  3. You think earnestly about Scripture. I’m glad you read and consider Christian books. You’ve gone to a conference with me and also on your own taken a Biblical Counseling introductory course. I’m glad you work at understanding theology and biblical application.
  4. You love people. That’s why you enjoy social events with friends. You’re great with people because you enjoy being with them. You invest in people.
  5. I like that you are a good friend. A person that has you as a friend is blessed. You will pursue relationship and communication. You will say hard things to them if they need it.
  6. Your sense of humor is a joy to me. I fancy myself humorous, and I like that we can riff off each other. Your humor is not hurtful or unkind, which is more mature than mine was at your age. In fact, your humor often helps defuse a stressful situation.
  7. You have grown a lot in self-discipline. I’m sure the Navy helped with that, but it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). You’re more consistent in your spiritual disciplines.
  8. You have a good study ethic. You enjoy learning new things, and you have lots of interests. You’re always surprising me with your latest interest—plant-based diet, backpacking, guitar, minimal support running shoes, etc. You study things thoroughly. You don’t tend to be impulsive. Actually, maybe that’s a better way of describing it. You’re not an impulsive person which means you’re not the Proverbial fool. I’m glad you are prudent and consider things deeply.
  9. You care about growing spiritually. You willingly did a book study with your brother and I on Sunday nights. You were honest and transparent. You talk to your parents about spiritual things. You want to please God in your growth.
  10. You are committed to attending and serving in church even though a military job with its deployments makes that difficult. You pursue a gospel-centered church at every location—even if only there for a week, and then you forge friendships and serve enthusiastically.
  11. You are a gracious person. You tend to react to others outbursts or braggadocio with grace. You don’t tend to respond to anger with anger. You’re easy to be with because you soften the prickliness of others.


  1. Your focus is a strength. You picked up golf and have focused on getting better. You’ve improved a ton in just over a year. You are never half-hearted in anything you do. You don’t understand why someone might do something without enthusiasm because you regularly give 100%. You take that same focus and discipline to all areas of life.
  2. I admire your confidence. You might not always feel confident, but you regularly radiate confidence to those around you. That’s an encouraging gift—especially if it’s coupled with a deep dependence upon God.
  3. I’m glad you are so involved in your church and in Navigators. You want to learn more about God and His Word. You serve in your church while at the Academy, and you love your weekly Navigators Bible study. You have a hunger for righteousness.
  4. You are efficient with your time. You definitely get more out of your time than the rest of us. You don’t waste time. Even in high school you could get your homework done quickly. It seems intuitive to you how to study efficiently and that has helped you in college. You are wired to redeem your time.
  5. I’m glad you have told other students at USAFA about your faith. You told them the good news of the gospel. You want them to know Christ, and you’re taking some opportunities to exalt Christ in their eyes.
  6. You have gotten more edifying with your talk. You say kind things to all of us that show a growing faith in Christ. At times while growing up you have struggled with your words, but you have grown immensely in the past few years.
  7. You are physically disciplined. You’ve decided to prepare for a half marathon and I don’t doubt that you will be ready. You don’t normally sleep in, and you exercise regularly. It’s good stewardship of your body. There’s virtue in doing hard things, and you love doing hard things.
  8. You have a regular, weekly schedule for calling your siblings. They look forward to your calls. (You also call your Mother on Sundays and she loves it!) You schedule time for your family because you love them.
  9. You prioritize time in God’s Word. You finished your Annual Bible reading by the end of October. I’ve seen you many times getting your daily reading and daily devotions in. You have stopped an activity to make sure you get time with God. I’ve seen it.
  10. I’m thankful for your growing kindness toward and appreciation of your mom. This was not always true of you. You have sent your Mom some texts in the past few months that are especially kind and grateful. God has changed you.


  1. You are willing to be stretched. You taught English for two years, which is your love, but now you’re teaching Algebra. It has pushed you out of any comfort zone, but you are learning and growing and being teachable.
  2. Your willingness to leave one job for another one in a different state is pretty remarkable. It’s an evidence of your growth and maturity. You have always been very cautious—even when learning to ride a bike years ago. 😉 Now you take risks to pursue God’s will. That’s maturity.
  3. You don’t embarrass easily, and Mom and I have tried. 😉 Your struggle with fear of man doesn’t tend to be with public embarrassment and that’s such a welcoming trait to others.
  4. You are growing in your struggle with the fear of man. You think about it when you make decisions for your class. You are getting better at making hard decisions that you know might be unpopular but that are right.
  5. You are affectionate with all your family members. I still get good hugs as do the rest of the family. You’re not embarrassed to let people know by your actions that you love us.
  6. You defend your family more fiercely than probably your parents do. I admire that you are not scared to confront others that slander your family. Your friends know that you love your family much. They get tired of hearing about us from you because you talk about your family A LOT. 😉
  7. You’re very relational. You pursue friendships in your church with all ages. You had friends that were children, young adults, and even senior adults when you lived in SC. You have friends everywhere you’ve been because you like people. That is a great trait for a believer.
  8. I’m thankful that you aren’t tempted to find your worth in social media likes. You don’t spend much time on that. You rarely post. You much prefer IRL relationships rather than social media distant ones. That is a huge temptation for your age group; I’m glad that it seems much less tempting for you.
  9. You read a lot. I mean a lot! There are many your age that waste hours and hours on trivialities, but you would rather curl up with a book. And some of those books are actually good! 😉 Reading is more valuable than watching media and you definitely prioritize reading.
  10. You come close to your Mom in thoughtfulness. You think about others throughout the year, and you have gift ideas for them. You don’t just buy a gift to check them off your list, you like to make sure the gift suits them.


1 I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names. I think they prefer that.

Stop Being Fearful; Start Being Joyful

In college I had a professor that summarized the message of Christmas as “Stop being fearful; start being joyful.”[1]Thanks Dr. Doug McLachlan! This is from Luke 2 where the angel tells the shepherds not to fear, and he also brings them good tidings of great joy for all people (2:10). I’ve remembered this Christmas summary ever since then.  

In the midst of the busyness of this season, it’s hard to find time to consider Christ, isn’t it? Probably most of us have thought at one time or another that this time of year is so busy that we almost dread it. We’ve taken this special time of the year when we could consider Christ and we’ve made it so busy, so crazy, so frantic, that we don’t consider Him.

And it doesn’t help that our world has some suggestions for the message of Christmas.

  1. It’s a commercialized, trivialized story we see on TV specials or read in Instagram posts.
  2. It’s the story of every Christmas movie at this time of year—families overcoming their differences and getting together for a special day.
  3. It’s a time when we celebrate a fat man in a red suit who sneaks down chimneys at night. 😉
  4. It’s a time when we try to have warm feelings towards our fellow man.

But I think my professor summarized it far better than any message the world gives us.

Stop Being Fearful

Clearly the shepherds are being told not to be afraid of the angel standing before them and the brightness of the glory of the Lord (2:9). They’ve never seen anything like this. Fear would be a natural response in these circumstances. However, it’s an unnecessary response.

Maybe fear is the natural response to your circumstances. You’re uncertain about the future. Life in 2021 hasn’t gone as you expected it to go. But like the Shepherds on the night Christ was born, your fear is unnecessary.

Because of that babe in the manger, you and I don’t have to fear. Why? Why is fear the wrong response to your circumstances? For the same reasons that joy is the right response to Christ’s birth.

Your biggest need was not financial. Your biggest need was not relational. Your biggest need was not emotional. Your biggest need was not health. Your biggest need was your estrangement from God because of your sin. And the birth of Jesus took care of that (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus came so that He could die as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. The Bible tells us that all people are sinners and that their sin separates them from God.

Romans 3:23, 6:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.... For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But because Jesus was born, lived, died for your sin, and rose again, you can have peace with God.

Colossians 2:13–14 (ESV) And you, who were dead in your trespasses [separated from God] and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us [you couldn’t keep God’s law.] with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [You were guilty, but God nailed your sins to the cross.]

Peace is a great quality to have. It’s a good state to be in. It only comes through Jesus Christ. In fact, you and I can have peace in the midst of swirling circumstances.

Like the angel commanded the shepherds, you can stop being fearful because Jesus came to take care of your sin.

There is so much to fear in this world. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to fear financial collapse, war, environmental ruin, terrorism, aging, health issues, the future, viruses, or even my own death. I can stop being fearful.

Start Being Joyful

Our world is not very joyful. Oh we could find some people at a bar or someplace today having a good time, and I’m sure they would say that they are joyful. But biblical joy doesn’t come from outside circumstances (Jam 1:2).

One of the greatest American humorists ever to live was Mark Twain. In his day, he really made people laugh. However, in his personal life he was plagued with depression and sorrow. When his daughter Jean died, Twain reportedly said to a friend, “I’ve never greatly envied anyone but the dead. I always envy the dead”

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11, ESV). Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is… joy (Gal. 5:22, ESV). God wants to develop inside you a joy that flows out as a result of your relationship with Him.

Joy is a divine gift of God to believers. First Peter 1:8 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (ESV).

Just like we are commanded not to fear, we are also commanded to be joyful. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. again I will say, rejoice” (ESV).

It’s been 2000 years, but I still believe you can stop being fearful and start being joyful because of the incarnation of Christ. That baby in the manger is the answer to our fears and the source of our joys.

Merry Christmas!


1 Thanks Dr. Doug McLachlan!

3 Encouraging Metaphors of Belongingness

We like to be included, don’t we? In the ’80s there was sitcom called Cheers about a Boston Pub and the characters that regularly came or worked there. Do you remember the song? One line was “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” It was a place you belonged. Granted, a bar is really a terrible place to find this sense of belongingness, but that was their pitch.

Have you ever put something together and had extra bolts? Everything works but you have extra pieces. Have you ever felt like that extra piece? Maybe in some groups you feel like an extra bolt. You don’t think you belong. When I don’t feel like I belong, it’s God’s grace that makes me think of others and not just myself—to stay and please Christ by loving others. It’s hard to feel like an extra part. We shouldn’t give in to that feeling at church because we really do belong.

Our kids are going to be home for Christmas—we’ll see all of them even though we will only be all together for one day. This is a big deal because we have one child in each of the four time zones of the lower 48 states which makes it difficult to get together often. God has been gracious to us, and our family loves being with each other. If your family is close, you have a good start to understanding the three metaphors of belongingness or the three metaphors of inclusion that the Apostle Paul uses to describe the church in Eph 2. They really are remarkable.

You Are Citizens in Christ’s Kingdom (2:19a)

Ephesians 2:19 (ESV) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Paul is using the metaphor of national identity. Specifically here it’s being part of Christ’s kingdom, but it’s a national identity. Our political battles about illegal immigration give us some insight into how Paul is describing us. We’re aware that we have people in our nation that don’t have the full rights of citizenship. Because they’re very concerned about being deported, they are susceptible to being oppressed. They don’t want to draw any attention to themselves, so they won’t contact the police. They feel they don’t quite belong.

In a previous ministry we knew a Canadian woman married to an American man, and she told us that she was always exceptionally careful to follow all traffic laws. In my naivete I didn’t think she could be tossed out of the U.S., but she said she could, and for any reason whatsoever. And this could happen even though she was married with children.

Paul is telling us that we’re no longer illegal immigrants in someone else’s nation. We belong. We’re full members of Christ’s kingdom, not second-rate citizens. There aren’t two classes of residents in Christ’s kingdom: Jews and Gentiles. No, out of the two Christ made one new humanity (2:15).

To use the language of the text, we are fellow citizens—a word only used here in the New Testament. You’re not homeless anymore. You’re not stateless anymore. You belong to Christ’s kingdom. Now you are fellow citizens (Phil 3:20) with people of every race and tongue—saints who have trusted God. You belong. You have an identity in Christ’s kingdom.

You Are Members of God’s Household (2:19b)

Ephesians 2:19b (ESV) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, …and members of the household of God,

Family is a great metaphor because it speaks of intimacy. It’s possible to be a citizen of a nation and be alone. Yes you have security; you don’t get kicked out of a nation. You’re always a citizen and that brings rights and privileges that cannot be abridged. But it doesn’t bring closeness necessarily. It doesn’t bring intimacy. For that we have the metaphor of God’s household—His family.

Being part of a family means knowing you always belong.

When my kids were younger we celebrated many birthday parties at our house. One particular time we were planning it with the child and one of her siblings wondered if he were invited to the birthday party too. The answer was “Of course. You’re part of the family.” Family members don’t need an invitation; of course they can come to the party.

When you go on vacation, you don’t have to tell each kid individually that they are invited on the family vacation. Family doesn’t have to invite immediate family members to Christmas either. They know they are welcome.

That’s the picture of God’s household. You belong. You’re part of the family. Family in the best sense of that word is a good word to describe the relationships that we have with each other and with God in the church.

This is a metaphor that doesn’t really work if we’re talking about the universal church. A local church can be a family in all the wonderful senses of that metaphor.

You Are the Structure of Christ’s Growing Temple (2:20-22)

Ephesians 2:20–22 (ESV) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

It’s still a metaphor for the church, but it uses a growing temple as the picture. A temple where the apostles and prophets are the foundation. And the passage goes on to say that Jesus is the Cornerstone—a real person, not His teaching. And saints are the structure—again real people, not our teaching.

What does it mean that Jesus is the Cornerstone of this growing temple? We don’t get the importance of this picture with our modern building methods. Nowadays with an important building, the cornerstone is laid at the building dedication, when construction is completed. It’s normally inscribed with the date, but it’s not really important to the construction of the building. It signifies the end of construction.

However, in the first century and before, the cornerstone was the very first stone laid. It wasn’t haphazard. It took time to lay the cornerstone because every other stone in the foundation and superstructure was measured by the cornerstone. The position of all the other stones was determined by the Cornerstone. All other stones adjust themselves to the Cornerstone.

The Apostles and prophets and the saints mentioned above all adjust themselves to Christ. Christ gives the church its direction.

We have a structure that fits together but also grows. It’s like a building in that it fits together and is built, but it’s like a plant in that it actually grows. It’s not a static building. And every Christian is part of the structure of this building (cf. 1 Peter 2:5).

Verse 21 tells us that in Christ the entire structure becomes a holy temple “in the Lord”—in Christ. Our union with Christ makes us part of this temple.

The unity and growth of the church are joined in these verses and Jesus is the secret of both. And the growth here is not individual growth; it’s corporate. This metaphor reminds us why we need the church. We cannot grow without it.

You belong; you have an identity. You are a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. You are a member of God’s family. You are part of Christ’s growing temple. All of these metaphors should find their best definition in your local church. That’s where a sense of belongingness is most felt.

I hope you are there on Sunday. I will be.