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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Security


When my wife and I finally squared away our rental car for our honeymoon, (see blog post 3/4/17 for details), we traveled to our remote destination in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We made wrong turns, detours and near moose collisions along the way.  As we pulled into Conway, New Hampshire at nearly two o’clock in the morning, we were exhausted and on the edge of our first fight, still within the first 48 hours of our blissful marriage.
Unfortunately, Conway is not our destination. We still need to get to Jackson, and we have no idea how to get there…especially since it’s dark…we are tired…Jackson is such a small town…it doesn’t appear on many maps…and of course GPS is not yet available to the general public.
My new bride convinces me to stop and ask for directions…now you know we are close to our first conflict! We find an all night gas station and we pull in to face the humbling “I’m lost…can you tell me how to get to Jackson” music.  I exit the car and Sarah locks the doors from the inside, because after all we don’t know where we are and who knows if there are any rabid moose who know how to use a door handle.
As I approach the station, I feel like I am walking to the principal’s office, after getting caught covering some poor sap’s locker lock with Coppertone.  I approach the acne faced teen at the counter and ask “Can you tell me how to get to Jackson?”
“Jackson who?” he replies…
Well that didn’t work.
After studying a map for a short while…I find what I believe to be the route.  I head back to the car slide the key into the lock…unlock the door and open it…WHOOOP….WHOOOP…WHOOOP!!!
I guess I didn’t realize that the rental car also had a car alarm.  Perhaps I should go ask my teenage friend inside how to turn it off?  However, rather than humble myself again…I get in and drive….WHOOOP…WHOOOP…WHOOOP!!!
About a mile down the road…WEEOOO…WEEOOO…WEOOO….”Hmm…that doesn’t sound like our alarm?”…“Does our alarm have flashing blue and red lights?”  “I don’t think so…” “Apparently the Po-Po behind us does.
I explained the situation as best as I could to the officer…and he kindly pointed me toward Jackson.
Why do they even put security systems on a rental car?...I mean if I rent a car…and it gets stolen…it’s not on me.  That’s why I paid the extra insurance!...that and the fact that they made me pay it.
Insurance…security systems…ways to protect ourselves….
Our culture is obsessed with security…yet, how often do we feel totally “insecure.” Let’s be honest…we are all desperately insecure much of the time.  We try hard to be accepted by people…we protect our feelings…we secure our possessions...yet, insecurity threatens us.
John 10:28-29ngives us an incredible picture of security. Jesus tells the people around him…that if they will just believe in him, they can find security…a perfect security.  In fact, he puts it this way…“NO-ONE, can snatch you out of my hand…NO-ONE, can snatch you out of the father’s hand either.” You can take my car, my possessions, my insurance, my health and even my life…yet, as a believer in Jesus, I am secure in him…forever.  What about you? Do you feel secure? Or do you feel insecure?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Time


My wife, son and oldest daughter are in the midst of taking their firearms safety course.  I have discovered that my wife is a natural shooter and a regular Annie Oaklie with a firearm!  She puts me to shame…along with many other local sharp shooters…she is good!  Really good!...Who knew?
After years of hunting, I still remember some of the first words of wisdom my dad shared with me in regards to becoming a successful hunter, “Make the first shot count.”
Last year, I blew it.  I could have heeded to his words a little more closely. That wasn’t the first time. I didn’t get a shot at a deer until my second year of hunting.  As I was struggling to stay awake and break apart the boredom of the afternoon, I was suddenly surprised by a nice doe, not 40 yards away.  Quickly, I raised my 30-30 Stevens bolt action…aimed down the iron sights of the barrel and fired at the center of the brown mass…I missed.
My next opportunity wouldn’t come until the following year.  I could hear the deer coming…walking along the trail…crunch…crunch…cra-crunch…crunch…crunch…cra-crunch.  When I see it, I can tell, it has been wounded and is moving slow…real slow…and limping hard.  Again, I raise the rifle…aim down the barrel…ca-blam!...I missed…again.
This pattern continued until I was 17 years old.  This time, I was determined to make it count.  On opening morning, I got my opportunity…this time, when the deer presented itself…I took aim…and fired…blam!...I missed.  BUT!!! The deer didn’t run!...again I fired!!!...missed.  The deer still didn’t run.  I fired again!...MISSED!!!  This time the deer finally moved…but not quickly…I fired one more time…and this time he ran…but he was staggering…I hit him!  I made contact!  I tried to fire one more time…click…out of bullets!  I quickly opened up the chamber…inserted a single round…pulled up and fired one final round…at last…down he went.  The streak was over.
I have come to realize that time is like a bullet. Once it has been fired, you can never call it back or get a second “first shot.”
I could not begin to count the hours of my life that I have wasted.  Time…wasted doing unimportant things…like counting flowers on a wall…that don’t bother me at all…or playing solitaire ‘til dawn with a deck of 51…thank you Statler Brothers for that fine metaphor. 
I don’t think anyone can argue that life is busy.  It’s crazy really.  We have so many things to do…people to meet with, rooms to paint, traveling to visit family, projects to complete, grass to mow, homeschooling the children, children to birth, children to raise, children to discipline, athletic events to attend to, decks to stain, tables to refinish…and this doesn’t include eating and showering…(that is one multi-task that I have not mastered…I think they need to start making bread to be like Captain Crunch…where it doesn’t get soggy in the shower).
There is a parable that Jesus shares in the Gospel of Matthew.  It’s about these 10 bridesmaids, who are waiting for the bridegroom (Jesus).  Half of these bridesmaids are wise…and half are foolish.  The foolish ones do not take the time to do what is important… prepare for the arrival of the bridegroom, (Jesus).
With all of the busyness of life…there is one task that is far more important than ALL others…and that is the preparation of ourselves for the return of the bridegroom…Jesus.
If we are not ready for that…then there will be no second “first shot.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017


Basement


It is possible, that I was the meanest and most sadistic older brother a little sister could ever have had.  I internally found great satisfaction to tormenting and controlling my siblings.  Though I was only the second oldest, I grew at a faster rate than my older brother, so I inherited the title of King Brother…self titled…self appointed…and humble too.
If my little brother was sitting where I wanted to sit…I would throw him out of the seat…and take it for myself.  He would scream and attack me with arms flailing…and I would shove him away with my foot to his face or throw him down and sit on him until mom would get fed up with it and yell at me to get off of him.  “What!?...He started it!...He was sitting in the seat that I wanted to sit in!”
My older brother and I didn’t fight as often…I think it had to do with his “ok, whatever” personality.  It was rare that he would speak up and actually challenge me…and when he did…he usually had a big piece of wood in his hands and he’d use it with unfortunate precision.
My sister probably received the worst of it.  I frequently would…”accidentally”…hold her head under water.  Not long enough to do any real damage…just long enough to make her cry…see?...I’m not so bad.  I wouldn’t resort to physical attack with her, like I did with my brothers…rather, for her…it was developing some mental anguish.
I would convince the poor girl that our house was built on a graveyard and that spooky skeletons would come out of the basement and attack her…and then, I would lock her in the basement…the dark basement…of which the light bulbs had been loosened so as not to turn on.  I remember sitting there…holding the basement door tight…listening to her scream and cry on the other side of the door.  After a while, my emotions would get the best of me…and I would laugh.  There was only one way into the basement…and one way out of the basement…and it was through me…I controlled the door!
Wow! I am so sorry sister!!! I was such a jerk.
Fortunately for me…I have a very gracious sister and she now laughs at the stories…and has forgiven me…I think.
In John chapter 10, Jesus shares a metaphor about shepherds.  He says that there are some bad shepherds who have mislead and treated his “sheep”…the Israelites…harshly.  He tells us how they don’t care about the “sheep” at all…instead, they care only for themselves.
Jesus then refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd”…the kind of man who cares for the well being of his sheep…who protects them…loves them.  He then also talks about how we are invited to be his sheep…and that there is ONLY one way to be a part of his “flock”…and it is through him.
I was a BAD brother…like these bad shepherds…and likewise…I was a BAD gatekeeper…
Jesus tells us that he cares for us so much…that he is actually willing to lay down his life for us…his sheep.  Not only is Jesus “willing” to lay down his life…but he actually did it.
He laid down his life.
Instead of holding the door closed…He opened it.
Instead of locking us up in fear and sin…he frees us.
We have a Good Shepherd.
The sheep…just need to listen for his call…and then follow him.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Camping


We took the kids camping this past weekend…for one night only.  We took the kids camping last Labor Day weekend as well…also, for one night only…you would have thought that we would have learned our lesson.  Camping is exhausting!
Here is how our camping works.  We spend 63 minutes loading up the van and trailer.  We take the 18 gallon plastic tote down from the high dusty shelf in the garage, and throw it into the trailer, hoping that everything we need is still inside.  We grab some matches…an ax…bug spray…(if we remember it)…the tent, and sleeping bags.  We pull out of the driveway, certain that we have forgotten something…usually we are right.  This year is no different…fortunately Sam Walton created a store for just such circumstances. We purchase the bug spray inside.
We arrive at the campsite and immediately start setting up camp.  Camp set up consists of me working on the tent…Sarah organizing the bedding…and the children opening all doors to the van in hopes of gathering as many mosquitoes as possible, and keeping the interior van lights lit to add to the adventure and the wonder…will the van start tomorrow?  Last year, we needed a jump start.
When I have the tent ready and Sarah has the bedding set, we begin working on the fire…while the kids dig into the cooler for some pop to drink and spit sunflower seeds all over the picnic table…first rules of survival…shelter…fire…pop and sunflower seeds.
With the fire going, we dig into the hot dogs and beans…roasting them over the fire.  Immediately following, we turn to the marshmallows…we make our s’mores and start a pot for coffee…just in time… for the rain to come.
Quickly, we pack the chairs, food and wood into the van, so as not to get wet and head into the tent that “sleeps five comfortably.”  With the six of us packed into the tent, we decide to play cards. This forces  (about) 40 year olds to sit, in ways that, not only were, (about) 40 year olds not intended to sit, but also in positions that (about) 40 year olds cannot get out of.  We soon discover that our tent is, apparently, not water proof…that’s disappointing…and my coffee still sits over the fire…also disappointing.
Two and a half hours later, the rain appears to have let up, and I have got to get out of the wet tent and out of my “one legged pigeon pose.” We rekindle the fire…and we enjoy a nice mosquito swatting percussion symphony.  Finally, we head to our damp bedding, only to wake up with pruned fingers and soggy socks.
Now we get to pack up…head home…and dry everything out on the line…yell at the children for not helping…all the while, dog tired from not sleeping well in restful bliss of “nature.”
And truth be told…we will probably do it again next year…because somewhere along the line, I have become blind to the work that camping involves, and instead, cling to the enjoyable memories like whining children on a nature hike…crying girls who tripped over the stump…sharing our deepest darkest secrets in a rain soaked tent and family time around the campfire.
Voluntary blindness is interesting.  I think of birthing babies…not that I have ever done it…but I’ve heard it is “challenging.”  I have watched the pain that my wife has endured during the childbirth process and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy…yet, I think mothers become blind to the pain, when they choose to have another child.
In a similar, but rather different, sort of way…I think we live, relatively, blind lives.  I think we are blind to many of the things that we do in our lives that are wrong.  In other words…I think we are frequently blind to our own sin….and even when perhaps we finally realize some of the sin in our lives…we continue to either diminish the same sin or, not even acknowledge that there could be more sin…other sins…in our lives.
In John 9:8-41, Jesus heals a man who is physically blind…and then uses this event to point out how the religious leaders were spiritually blind…what a contrast! I believe, wholeheartedly, that Jesus wants to heal us from our spiritual blindness.  In fact, I believe, that when we can admit to our own spiritual blindness…we will find ourselves yearning for spiritual sight…a spiritual light that can only come from the light of the world…who shines in our darkness…revealing our blindness…revealing a Truth that only Jesus can provide.