Saturday, December 16, 2017


Anticipating...Love


I love Christmas.  I mean, there is so much to love about the season isn’t there? I love the excitable nature of the children when it comes time to decorate the tree.  There is nothing quite like the shrill of a gleeful young voice, who has just had her favorite ornament stolen by her brother and broken in a spontaneous wrestling match! I love fixing broken ornaments…and lamps. 
I love having all kinds of delicious cookies and treats to test my will power…and fail.  I love adding additional holes in my belt with each passing week!...I have already added THREE this year…well…I “anticipate” adding three!
I love the Christmas music!  I wish I could listen to those same 3 songs all year long.
Most of all…I love the Christmas lights…when else do I get a chance to go on top of an icy roof and use little plastic clips that break in the 20 degree 20mph wind conditions to hang little clear glass bulbs from my gutters.  I love that fact that just being up there reminds me that I didn’t clean the gutters or down spouts last fall…or last summer…or last spring…or ever…I could do it now if the water wouldn’t freeze before it made its way to the ground…that would be fun too! 
I love how the light bulbs and wires get all caught up on each other and won’t come apart…and when you pull them out of the box and plug them in it looks like Frosty’s head, all glowing and cheery…and creepy.  I love how it’s like solving a Rubik’s cube to untangle them…I love puzzles. 
I love spending hours replacing all of the burnt out and broken bulbs.  It’s so fun trying to find the one single bulb that is keeping all of the other lights from working. 
I love how, when you finally get them all hung and you plug them in and admire your work, there is a 5 ft. section in the middle that doesn’t work…that’s my favorite!
Truth be told…if that is what I loved about Christmas…I’d likely find myself in a deep vegetative state sitting in the corner mumbling…“HO, HO, HO, HO, HO, HO” while trying to fix that broken ornament of my daughter’s.
No…what I love most about Christmas…is love.  There are 66 books in the Bible…60 of them use some form of the word love…some 686 times…which leaves me to assume, that love must be a pretty important message throughout the Scriptures.  In John 3:16, we find a powerful and profound statement…“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son.”  That is the epitome of Christmas.  God loves you…and gave you his Son…Jesus.  Merry Christmas!
What is even more humbling to me, is what we find in Romans 5:8…“God demonstrates his own love for us in this…while we were still sinners…Christ died for us.” Again…Merry Christmas!
Christmas…love it or hate it…it doesn’t change the love that Jesus Christ has for each one of us. It is a gift that has been given from God…to us…and no matter what you do…you cannot separate yourself from it.  You cannot flee his love…you cannot hide from his love…in the depths of our despair…his love is there.  Whether you are having a good day…a great day…or a day that resembles Mary Queen of Scott’s last day at Fotheringhay Castle…his love is there. 
That is what Christmas is all about…a Love that came down.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Anticipating...Joy


I have four children.  I remember the day each one was born…mostly.  The one that is always the clearest in my memory is my first born.  You’d think it would be the most recent birth…(the youngest)…but that’s not true…it’s the first.  It’s kind of like how I remember having my very first cup of coffee…I hated it…and now I can’t even remember how many cups of coffee I have had today.
Hannah, my oldest daughter, was born on the coldest day of the year…it was a cold day in late January…pushing 40 degrees below zero.  My wife, Sarah, was about a week overdue…all three of our girls were overdue.  I have learned a few things about interacting with a spouse who is pregnant and overdue.  Such as..."Don’t ________".  You could fill in the blank with anything you like…it’ll be accurate.  For instance, don’t eat all of the chocolate ice cream…that’s for her.  Don’t paint the walls…it smells bad.  Don’t let her see raw meat…it makes her sick.
Sarah always talked about loving being pregnant…up until the last 7-9 days…by that time she was just ready to be done.  I can’t say that I blame her.  Did you know that the average gestation period for a human is 280 days?  That leaves only 85 days when you wouldn’t be pregnant. That’s barely enough time to return the shirt you were going to lose enough weight to fit into, but realize that was just a pipe dream. 
We should just be glad that we are not elephants.  The gestation period for an African Elephant can be between 660-760 days! That’s crazy! I couldn’t imagine what that would be like…living with a wife who is 100 days overdue! That’s a lot of time to “anticipate” a new baby.
I remember the months, days and even the hours leading up to Hannah’s birth.  I remember hearing her heartbeat for the first time.  I remember feeling her move, and I remember watching her doing somersaults and contort Sarah’s belly.  Each visit to the doctor was a step closer.  Each day was one day closer to the due date…and then each day later was another day…late.  It could happen at any time.  Finally, seven days after Hannah’s due date…the doctor told us…it’s time…to induce.  What she meant to say was…“We will admit you to the hospital…hook you up to a bunch of tubes and wires and then you will have this baby in about two days from now.”
I remember the three hours of pushing…myself up out of the chair to encourage Sarah to keep breathing.  It’s hard to encourage your spouse to breathe when her left hand is closing in around your throat.
The room was filled with screaming!  I was saying push…breathe…you can do this!  She was saying…“Don’t touch me! Just Stop! I CAN’T breathe.” Everyone in the room is attempting to talking this hyperventilating patient down from the ceiling…when a new sound entered the chaos of the room.  The sound of a wounded, tiny, purple faced screech owl reached my ears and my life was totally changed.
I was filled with fear.  I was filled with joy like I had never experienced before.  I looked down and made eye contact with Hannah.  I still remember that moment.  I thought to myself…I don’t know what to do…I don’t even know how to hold her.  I still don’t know what I am doing…and I still don’t know how to hold her.
However…I still know the joy I felt that day.  The whole experience was a sequence of anticipation…drawing Sarah and I toward a joy that words cannot express.  Each day brought us closer and closer to the moment of our anticipation.
In Luke chapter 2, we read the well known story of the birth of Jesus Christ.  We read about how an angel appeared to the shepherds and they told them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  There is something there! God fulfilled ancient prophecies about a Savior that he had promised…that the people had anticipated...and it came in the form of a message of joy…that is for ALL the people.
It’s a message of joy for you…and for me.
What are you anticipating this Christmas?...Gifts? Family? Traditions? Trees?...Joy?

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Anticipating...Peace


My parents were good parents.  They would often take my brother and me to fun and exciting places… like “their” friend’s house, where they needed to “drop something off quick.”  My brother and I would wait in the car for them…and wait for them…and wait…for…them.  One time, my dad and his friend were standing in front of the car talking…and talking…and…talking.  No six year old boy wants to wait in a car and “watch” their dad talk to his friend for hours (probably 10 minutes…but it felt like hours).  As time would go on, my brother and I would get antsy.  On this particular day, I began to “fiddle” with the shifter.  This turned out to be a great lesson in physics and gravity, because as soon as the shifter slid into the “N” slot…I watched my dad and his friend become very wide eyed as the car began to roll down the hill toward them!  It is fortunate that at the age of six my dad was still only 27, so he had plenty of athleticism to jump out of the way and run after the car to jump in and hit the brake.
There was another exciting time when our mother took my brother and me to the local Catholic Church Carnival.  Here, they have all kinds of exciting games to play like…spin the wheel (at our young ages, spin the bottle would have been very inappropriate) and pop the balloon with a dart…yep…REAL darts!...with dangerous sharp metal points. This was at a time in history when you could still buy “Lawn Darts” at your local Pamida…which we all know now are very dangerous and very bad for you...and you should not make your own at home.
One of our favorite games at the carnival was the “fishing game.”  In this great game of skill…you would pick up a broom stick, which had a string tied to the end.  The string then extended down to a Land O Lakes ice cream pale.  The game player would then need to raise the broom stick with a bucket over a blue curtain (the blue curtain is symbolic of “water” in this story).  Once the game player felt a tug on the line…that person would again raise the stick and bucket back to their own side of the curtain and see what they “caught.”  My brother was the first to go…when he pulled his “fish” in…it came in the form of this really cool plastic frog that when you pushed down on the frog’s “backside” it would flip forward and hop across the floor.
I couldn’t wait for my turn!  I was bursting with anticipation!
I raised the stick…the bucket went over the curtain…I felt the tug!  I pulled the bucket back over!!!
Wait…what is this?
This is not a hopping frog…or a police badge…or a spooky spider ring…
This…is…a…barrette!!!  A HAIR CLIP!
Perhaps I neglected to share with you how my long haired, hippie parents had yet to cut their six year old son’s hair…EVER!!!
So much for anticipation!
I remember many Christmas gifts as a child. I remember the anticipation.  I remember in many cases having my anticipation being rewarded with exciting gifts that were exactly what I had hoped for.  I remember others when my anticipation was left stuck halfway down my throat as I attempted to croak out a “thank you” for this green worm windup toy from one of my aunts, (to remain nameless)…it’s just what a twelve year old hopes for…apparently sometimes our family members, who live long distances away and have not seen us in 8 years, think that time stops while they have been away.
I find Christmas to be a time filled with more moments of anticipation for me than any other time of year.  Yet, what I come to anticipate, looks much different now than it did when I was a child.  As I look to Christmas, I find myself looking forward to some times of quiet…rest…peace.
This causes me to reflect on what the angels told those shepherds on that first Christmas night in Luke 2:13-14…”Glory to God in the highest…and on earth PEACE, on whom his favor rests.”  I am coming to learn…where God’s saving power is displayed, his Glory is revealed…and, Peace comes when a relationship with that God of salvation is made right.  Jesus is the only way that relationship can be made right.
I hope that you will anticipate…and find…PEACE this Christmas.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Purchased


I remember, as a boy I would look to my parents and see them as people who could do no wrong.  They seemed to know everything!  However, when I turned 13 years old, my parents suddenly appeared to be losing their minds…they became foolish…unknowledgeable…unwise…non-understanding.  Ironically, it was at this same age that a great and marvelous metamorphosis took place in my life.  It was at this time that I unexpectedly became endowed with all kinds of great wisdom and vast knowledge.  This led me to become very concerned for my parent’s well being.  So despite being 20 years younger, I felt that I needed to inform them of all of the important decisions that needed to be made in my life, because my “old” 33 year old parents could no longer undertake the task.  I was forced to train my parents for 6+ years! I tried to teach my parents responsibility in raising children by doing things like leaving the car on empty…eating all of the bread and drinking all of the milk to see if they were even paying attention to what was going on at home…after all…it is a parent’s job to provide for their children…and life is not all about them, am I right?...Hey, I was just helping them out!  When I turned 20…they finally seemed to get it…and they seemed to snap out of their stupor…must have been a phase they were going through…(note: I stole that line…but I couldn’t find a source).
Sadly, I have some memories of my teenage years that I would just as soon forget.  Despite my regret, I must admit…some of the choices of my teenage years…and the regret that followed, shaped me into a better person…hopefully.
I remember one event in particular.  I had a t-shirt that I was particularly fond of, however, I would consider it to be a “near fit.” In other words, it wasn’t too big…and was borderline on being too small…and eating the way I did during these 6+ years the shirt wasn’t going to be getting any bigger any time soon.  So this being the case, I had given specific, demanding instructions to NOT DRY the shirt…it should be air dried…that is NOT too much for a teenager to ask of the laundry workers is it?  Inevitably, the day came when the shirt got dried. I was livid! I went and yelled at my teenage younger sister (yes…there was a day when my parents had 4 teenagers at the same time…it’s no wonder they were going through a phase), for her ignorance in keeping my demands.
It was about 10 minutes later…that my mother came at me in tears and with the shirt in hand…she threw it in my face…and said, “I am the one that dried it you selfish twit!”  Huh, I didn’t see that coming.
I apologized for my behavior.
It’s remarkable to me how a parent can continue to love their teenagers…at least I should say, I find it remarkable how my parents could love me through my teenage years.  How a mother can love her son, when all she receives is criticism and unappreciative solicitations and demands is beyond me.
But that’s love…isn’t it?
We can’t really define it…can we?
There is a remarkable story of love in the Bible.  In the Old Testament book of Hosea, we find the prophet Hosea being asked by God to marry a woman named Gomer.  He does it.  Then we find that Gomer is unfaithful to Hosea.  She goes and gives herself to other men.
What does God do?
God tells Hosea…“Go…take her back…love her again.”
God then goes on to tell us in this book…how he is going to use the love that Hosea shows to his wife…to show us how much he loves us.  He shows us that even though we turn our backs on him…we disrespect him…we criticize him…we worship other things…He still loves us.
In fact, he still pursues us! Get this…Hosea, not only has to go and get Gomer and bring her back…he actually has to buy her back! He pays money to take his unfaithful wife back.  Yet, that is exactly what God does…he has bought us.  Jesus paid the price.  You have been bought for a price! (1 Cor. 6:20).
That…is LOVE!

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Tree Stand


On Friday, I fell from a tree stand.  I would not recommend this…especially to anyone over forty.  This is the third time I have come down a tree stand at a gravitationally accelerated pace…once in my twenties…once in my thirties, and now hopefully the only time in my forties.  If this happens again in my fifties, I am pretty sure that will be the end of me.  This one was, by far, the most painful…I came down face first and then injured my shoulder.  The good news...nothing was broken…aside from my pride…and breaks in my skin. The bad news…everything takes longer to heal, and I like pain less now, than I did in my twenties and thirties.
When I got home, my wife asked me why it is always me that is the one who is falling from the stand and getting injured and not anyone else… “Just lucky I guess.” That, and the fact I like to attack any task that lies before me.  Although, I have to admit…after I smashed my face on the newly cut oak log below…I had no desire to climb back up and begin to put the tree stand up again.  Truth be told…I was afraid to climb up anywhere over 12 inches high.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to…my younger brother (38) who was with me, willingly took the lead and did all of the climbing.
It’s interesting how our life circumstances affect the way we look at things.  The older I get, and the more I fall from trees, the more apprehensive I find myself to be when climbing to any kind of heights.  We could call it “learning” from life lessons…but I think there is more to it than that.  I noticed that I had a strong desire toward “self preservation” after my fall.
I was reminded of David, when he came to the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, (1 Samuel 17).  A man named Goliath stood between the ranks and called out to the Israelites…shaming them and shaming their God…Yahweh.  All of Israel was afraid.  Somewhere along the line, they had lost their confidence.  They no longer looked at the Lord their God for their strength, their protection or their confidence.  Rather, they found themselves fearful…and looked only to their “self preservation.”
Then, David came onto the scene…with a peculiar confidence…a peculiar perspective that had been forgotten by the Israelites.  We then saw the Lord, use this young peculiar person, to bring back a peculiar perspective to the entire nation of Israel.
What about us?  Are we more concerned with “self preservation?” or are we willing to become a “peculiar person” with a “peculiar perspective”…that transforms others around us into having a “peculiar confidence” in The Amazing God.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Bacon


When my oldest daughter, Hannah, was in first grade, her elementary school music class produced the soon to be Broadway hit, It’s a Barnyard Moosical.  With a title like that, you expect nothing short of The Music Man or State Fair caliber production.
Like any great musical, there would be auditions.  In the weeks leading up to the auditions our daughter was beside herself with excitement.  She wanted what any normal aspiring actress would want at age 7…to be a chicken.  Fairies, Princesses…and Fairy Princesses were so “last year”…now only one thing would do…to be the silly, strutting, clucking, giggling…chicken.
Sadly, Murphy’s Law reared his ugly head, and our daughter found herself sick on the day of the auditions and missed the assigning of the parts.  There would be no tryout for her…there would only be resting the role of the chicken stardom, into the hands of destiny.
Later that evening…Hannah was feeling well enough to attend our Wednesday night ministry night (AWANA).  Even as we drove to the church…she couldn’t wait to find her fellow classmates to ask if she was indeed one of the celebrated chickens.
However, it was not to be.  Rather than having all of her first grade dreams come true…she was told that she would not be a chicken…instead, she would be a cow.  There is a slight pause…and Hannah responds, “That’s ok…the cows dance…I like to dance…”
For the rest of the night…Hannah could not stop talking about how excited she was to dance and be a cow.  Even the next morning…she was excited for music class…where she would learn all that the cows would say and do.
After school…she got into the van…and we asked…“So tell us about music…what dance do the cows do?”
Hannah replied…“I’m not a cow…I’m a pig…”
“How do you feel about that?”
“It’s ok…pink is my favorite color.”
What I wouldn’t give to have that kind of perspective when encountering “hardship” after “hardship.”  It’s humbling to recall how a first grader can handle the ups and downs of her complex first grade life...when many times I can’t get outside of myself and gain any true perspective.
In John 11:1-16, Jesus is thrown into the midst of a situation that causes everyone around to him loose perspective.  We would find ourselves in the same boat, I’m sure.  But, Jesus displayed a different perspective.  His good friend Lazarus had died…and where everyone around him saw danger and tragedy…Jesus saw an opportunity for the Glory of God to be revealed.
It makes me wonder, “What am I missing?  What do I need to see…that I am not seeing?  How does my perspective need to change?”
What about you? What do you need to see that perhaps you are not seeing?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Need

I was asked to coach 5th and 6th grade football for the past two seasons.  Apparently, the only prerequisite to being qualified to coach football at such a grade level, is the fact that you are breathing, have a son who wants to play football and unlike the majority of the other kids’ fathers…you can’t say no…I should have said no.
The extent of my football knowledge is the 1988 Darren Nelson drop, the 1999 Gary Anderson missed field goal, the 2010 Bret Favre interception, and the 2016 Blair Walsh frozen flop.  I really have no business trying to teach anyone how to play football…yet, that is what I agreed to do.  At least they “doubled” my pay this year, compared to last year…yet it is still zero dollars….hmmm?
Football isn’t like baseball (which I would also have no business coaching), when it rains…you still play.  This past Monday, we held our usual scheduled practice…in the rain. By the end of practice, there wasn’t a dry spot on my body…which is remarkable, because I was wearing two raincoats.  Perhaps, I need to invest in either a new raincoat…or at least make myself a suit out of Tyvek house wrap.  Cautiously, I had put my cell phone in my pocket…beneath both raincoats…only to find that somehow water still penetrated through both coats, leaving  my phone sufficiently wet enough to fry it.
That’s a bummer…
Not only do I not get paid for coaching…but apparently I actually have to “pay” for the privilege of coaching screaming, inattentive 5th and 6th graders.
I am humbled to say…that I missed my phone much more than I expected.  I never would have lumped my phone usage in the arena of “needing” a cell phone…I now realize that I was wrong.  As a result of being “cell free,” for just 36 hours, I nearly left our daughter home from school alone, locked the dog up unnecessarily, and missed the pick up my other daughter after Cross Country practice. Do I need a cell phone?...Technically…no…but it kind of feels like I do.  This has caused me to ponder.  What do I need? Do I need a car?...Again, I suppose, technically, no…I would just have to choose not to go to certain places.  Do I need food?...Yes…but not as much as I think I do.  Do I need deodorant?...I say no…Sarah says yes…hmmm…I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.
Do I need Jesus? Yes…I believe that I need him…whether I realize it or not.  In John 10-31-42, Jesus continues to interact with Jewish leaders and other Israelites.  I find in these verses a picture of two groups of people. One group (Jewish leaders), reject Jesus and see no need for him…the other group (other Israelites), believe that Jesus is who he says he is.  Yet both groups have something in common.  They both desperately need Jesus for their salvation…the difference is…some see it and some do not.
My prayer for you is that you will come to see that we ALL desperately need Jesus…whether we think we do or not.