Monthly Archives: December 2010

Baby Steps for the New Year

The other day I realized that 2011 brings a new decade to my life.  2000-2010 was the beginning to my adult life and brought a number of changes:

  • Graduating from college
  • Marrying Hillary (best decision of the decade)
  • Starting graduate school
  • Starting a coffee shop business
  • My first full-time youth ministry position
  • The births of our two daughters
  • Unemployment
  • Working for the coolest tech company
  • Moving back to the Midwest and re-entering the church world

As we look to the next decade, I almost laugh trying to think about where we will be in 2020.  At that point my daughters will be 16 and 14! AHH!  I can’t even begin to think about where I want to be in ten years.  Knowing the transitions that came in the last ten years, I have realized that it is better to just take one day at a time and be content.

I just looked through my blog posts over the last three years in hopes of finding a past post about New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately I didn’t find any.  As I look toward this next year, my focus in on self-discipline and solidifying healthy habits.  Instead of coming up with huge New Year’s resolutions, I am focused on baby steps.  The other day I read that if other people know your goals, you are more apt to follow through on them. Here are my baby steps for the next year:

  • Continue my running regiment (I’m running the Illinois Marathon in April)
  • Read before bed
  • Write for fifteen minutes a day (My dad and I are dreaming of a book project focused on developing a philosophy of ministry)
  • Spend a good chunk of Saturday morning with my wife having our weekly catch up and planning conversation (We were inspired by Faith Tango by Craig and Carolyn Williford, the past president of Denver Seminary)
  • Continue “Daddy/Daughter Dates” with Anna and Norah

“I’m done!” – A Marriage Moment


During our time in New Mexico last week, Hillary and I had an experience that defines our marriage. Hillary’s dad loves toys and one of these toys is a four wheeler. With us in New Mexico were Hillary’s two sisters and their husbands. After shooting an AK-47 the day before, we decided to borrow another four wheeler and head out to some open space. Hillary was definitely not excited about four wheeling but she didn’t want to be the only wife not going, so she went.

Before I tell you the rest of the story, I want to explain one part of our marriage relationship.  Very early on in our courtship, we realized that I was the dreamer and driver while Hillary was the discerner and voice of reason. When I asked for Hillary’s hand in marriage, it took her a half an hour to say yes because she had to think it through.  Almost nine years later, we both know it was a wise choice. Since then I have been the one to dream and carefully help Hillary out of her comfort zone. She is the one who carefully helps me think through my wild ideas and throw out the crazy ones.  The key word here is “carefully.” It is a perfect balance most of the time.

So back to the story. We drove out to the open space and I could tell that Hillary was not too excited for the four wheeling experience. It was soon our turn to ride the dirt trails of Roswell.  I jumped on with intense zeal and Hillary reluctantly climbed behind me. As we started up the first small hill, she clung on for dear life. Here’s a picture of us starting off:

After the first hill, I drove slow because I really wanted Hillary to enjoy four wheeling.  Then we came to the “Ruts of Death!” There were two deep ruts in the dirt and I chose to go to the right and keep two wheels in the middle of the road and two wheels a little higher off the road.  I went a little too slow and the four wheeler leaned left at about a 25% angle.  Hillary instantly freaked out and slid off the side of the four wheeler.  As she slid off, she yelled, “I’m done! I’m walking back!”

I knew I couldn’t talk her into jumping back on so I drove off and she started the short walk back to the car.   I looped around and came back to her and carefully convinced her to get back on and I would slowly drive her back to the car. As we slowly and carefully drove back to the car, we both knew we had just had a “marriage moment.”

This was one of the marriage moments when my zeal got the best of me and Hillary strongly reacted against it. Buying our big screen TV a few years ago was another one of those moments. I don’t have any principles for marriage yet from this experience, just that I won’t try to get Hillary on a four wheeler again.

If you want to hear Hillary’s side of the story, check it out here.

Post-Christmas Angst

The post-Christmas angst is here.  Our kids are at home and the excitement of their Christmas presents is quickly wearing off.  Some of us long for school to start again so we can get back into our rhythms.  We start to see year-in-review articles and guesses for what the next year might hold.  As we look back over the last year we see triumphs and we see mistakes.  How can we make this year different?  How can we live more organized, purposeful lives?  How can we take a more active role in the spiritual development of our kids?

Here are some websites that can help us as we learn from our past triumphs and mistakes and make this next year a great one:

Zen Habits – (not a site about Zen in a spiritual sense, but focused on simplicity and productivity)
Simplicity Parenting –
Simple Marriage –
Free Range Kids –
Homeword Center for Youth and Family –
Living a Minimalist Life –

Newton Family Christmas Letter 2010

In an attempt to be eco-friendly and save some money, here is our electronic Christmas letter for 2010.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Newton Christmas Letter 2010

The Fighter: Masterful Acting

Image: Paramount Pictures

In the final fight scene of “The Fighter,” I was literally on the edge of my seat, hands in fists and my blood was pumping.  Christian Bale’s character, Dicky Eklund tells his brother Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) to put all the pain and agony his family has gone through into the punches thrown at his opponent.  At that point in the movie, we have experienced and seen the depth of the struggle that Micky, Dicky and their family has gone through.  Everything in us wants Micky to win and triumph.

“The Fighter” is based on the real life story of Micky Ward, a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts who rose to fame in the 1980’s.  In doing a little research and reading it seems as though the movie is more fiction than fact, but this does not take away from the movie in my opinion.  The story line of the movie is reminiscent of “Cinderella Man” and other boxing movies but what sets “The Fighter” apart is the acting.

“The Fighter” has been nominated for six Golden Globe awards and four of those are for acting (Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo). Christian Bale masters the role of Dicky Ecklund who rose to fame in boxing based on how well he did against world champion Sugar Ray Leonard.  When we are introduced to Dicky in the movie he is an emaciated, washed up boxer who is addicted to cocaine.  Amy Adams is no longer the princess in “Enchanted” and plays the role of a hardened bartender with grit and grace.  I felt like Mark Wahlberg played the role of Micky well but his performance didn’t stand out to me.  This seemed to fit with my take on the movie that it was more about Dicky’s redemption and the fight outside the ring than about Micky as a boxer.

I would definitely recommend this movie for those that can wade through some muck to find the redemption.  It is gritty and honest in its portrayal of life in the lower income side of Lowell.  Some might not like the heavy use of language in the film, but after movies like “The Departed” you wonder if the f-word is just another adjective in Boston.  By the end of the movie you will feel every punch that Micky thrusts toward his opponent and you will experience the deep redemption that the family feels.

Tron Legacy: Digital Eye Candy

(From Flickr user: ssoosay)

There are a few cultural moments in the 80’s that I missed one of which was Tron. I finally watched the original Tron movie a few months ago and was bored with the plot and the effects. It was hard to see the movie through the lens of someone in 1982. Back then the movie was revolutionary in its computer animation but in today’s world of Avatar effects, it looks dull and cheap. Ever since I saw the trailer for the new Tron Legacy, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to see what modern technology would do to the Tron world.

Armed with 3D glasses I entered the Grid yesterday and experienced the beautiful, digital eye candy that is Tron Legacy. The movie tells the story of Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) trying to find his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who disappeared when Sam was a young boy. Most of the movie takes place in a digital alternate reality that Kevin Flynn created. The tension in the movie comes when the created turn against their creator. I bet some over zealous preachers will try and use some Tron illustrations this Sunday.

Some reviews of the movie focused on the lack of a compelling plot. Maybe I am naive but I thought the plot was good enough and not too simple to be distracting. The mix of a dark world, neon striped clothing and the bass of techno music was in the words of Kevin Flynn, “Radical!” I personally enjoyed Michael Sheen’s over the top character, Zuse. I wonder about the mass appeal of Tron Legacy but for techie, fantasy world types, I would definitely recommend it.

For those of you who have seen it, what did you think?

Advent Devotional: Sacrificial Giving and the Macedonian Church

We are doing an Advent devotional at our church and this is the entry I wrote for tomorrow:

“Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

The story of the selfless giving of the Macedonian church serves an example of what God can do in a gathering of believers. The Macedonian church was going through some intense trials yet they were driven by the Holy Spirit to give beyond their means and give to the suffering church in Jerusalem. Paul writes later that the reason that they gave was because they had given themselves unreservedly to God.

How would our church be different if we all took up our crosses and lived the radical lifestyle of a Christ follower? The Christian life was never meant to be comfortable.

Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary writes, “If we really believed that one day the new heavens and new earth pictured in Revelation 21–22 will be ours forever, we’d stop trying to get everything before we die and be content to wait, using our goods in this life to serve the least, the last, and the lost.”

This Christmas season let’s make the Macedonian church our example of what can happen when we give more than feels comfortable.

Improving Your Marriage

Today is the day to get tons of stuff done in the office before we head out to New Mexico tomorrow.  I don’t have much time to blog so I thought I would link to a great post on some surprising ways to improve your marriage.  I especially like the digital sabbatical idea.

Check it out here.

The Year in Review: From Google

As a history buff I always like this time of year because of all the year in review articles and discussions.  Google created a great video which tells the year in review story from what people googled this year.  Definitely worth watching!

Race to Nowhere

Are we pushing our children too hard to excel in school so they can get into the best colleges?  How is this pressure to excel affecting our kids?  A new documentary titled Race to Nowhere explores the impact of an achievement culture on American children.  Definitely looks like a movie worth watching and discussing.