Just as a preface, all year I have had a few people give me the what-for because I haven't set any of these letters on friendly targets (a libel which, of course, must be borne rather than refuted), and I decided back sometime in the spring that, once Christmas rolled around, I would write open letters to you, to Phil, and to two other highly-visible people with whom we are all affiliated in order to end the year as well as possible.
For your friendship, I am grateful. As your friend, I want to take an open letter at Christmas to give you what can't be described any way except as lavish praise.
First of all, you have made the most blog posts at PyroManiacs of any of us. That's a pretty significant feat given that we are all pretty windy writers, but you have the most posts.
As well and good as that is, there's something hidden in that which one can only unravel if one reviews the stats. I've been tracking PyroManiacs with Google Analytics since mid-June 2006. We have had over 8 million page-views over the last 65 months. Of the top-10 posts in that period, I have one, two are index pages (the main page index.html and the Sept 2009 index page), Phil has two, and the other FIVE are your posts. Of the top 25, Phil and I each pick up a couple and you wind up with 19 of the top 25 posts. I didn't want to embarrass myself by going out to the top 50, but let's face it: Phil may have the star power which started our small-pond fame on the internet, and I am good for a few laughs, but without any doubt, the writer who causes people to come back to PyroManiacs for content and substance is you.
You have literally driven millions of page views to this site -- my calculation is over 2 million page views if we include the traffic your Tuesday/Thursdays have drive to this site -- and you have set the tone and character of this blog for most of the readers who come here. Given the company you keep, that's quite an accomplishment.
I think as a direct consequence of that, you also bear another distinction among the team: you are the only one to have published not one but two books with a real publisher under you own name -- and actually sold copies to real people. Yes: Phil edits and suits up the major title for Dr. MacArthur and gets an effusive thanks in the credits, but those books are not his books: they are someone else's books. I can't write more than 3 pages without self-immolating (although 2000+ twitterers are clamoring for a better effort). You have secured 2 contracts and fulfilled them -- with books that, in spite of some significant failures to engage from people who could have done better, have garnered rave reviews and an excellent reception from the people who have bothered to read them.
On top of that, you work full-time in a secular job with integrity, and you have raised one set of children and are raising your younger children with your beloved wife, Valerie, with gusto. You are not only a hard-working man, but also an earnest man with deep conviction and love that anyone who knows you at all can see.
I am proud to be your friend, and I see you as a role model in so many ways. I thank you for your service to all of us as you have worked out your faith among us with fear and trembling, and maybe a little bit of the fire and hammer as well.
So, to the point: this is an open letter. There must be something wrong with you -- let's get it over with.
You see all that stuff I have written up above? Is any of it actually untrue? It's not even really exaggerated in any way, is it? These are the things which are true about you, and which everyone can see if they have eyes. With all of them lumped together in one place, take a good look at them. Lay hold of them. And for pete's sake: will you enjoy them please?
The only thing I have on my list for the open letter, Dan, is that you take this Christmas season and embrace the generous and enviable blessings God has poured out for you, my dear friend, and enjoy them. They are not the tragic ramp to a high place set up to make you fall greatly: they are God's blessing through which he has used you to affect and encourage and exhort so many people -- far more than could have been reached seriously and effectively by one pulpit -- that you have to see them as the way God has worked so many thugs together for good for you, because He loves you.
My Christmas prayer for you is that you will receive these gifts from God in a way that brings you comfort, and solace, and peace. I want you to be able to see yourself the way all of us see you, which is as a good man, and our friend, and our good counsel when we are too much the drunken master.
Merry Christmas, my friend: Good tidings of Great joy to you as we consider the great blessings and condescensions God has made toward us and for us. May all his gifts to you be your guideposts as you enter into the new year and all the new opportunities to serve Him which will certainly come to you.