Saturday, June 19, 2021

 Tired


There was once a day when my older brother got…tired.  I think that it was mostly due to the fact that I ran over his face with my bike. He is entirely to blame.  Yes, it was my idea to race down the hill, but it was his idea to take a head start.  He crashed in front of me as he looked back to measure how quickly I was gaining on him.  He went down…and I went over him.  He got tired.

Now 35 years later, I often feel like my brother, only it is my children who are running over my face with proverbial bike tires.

“Dad, I got a fishhook in my finger!”

“Dad, I dropped a knife and chipped the floor!”

“Dad, I ran into your truck with mom’s car!”

“Dad, all of the water is running out of the pool!”

“Dad, the washing machine is making a funny noise!”

“Dad, I just spilled Coke all over the floor as I was secretly trying to sneak a drink before you saw me!”

Seventeen years of parenting has certainly left “tired” tracks all over my head and face. 

I remember that first year of parenting.  My wife and I had so much energy then…now it seems like too much work just to go to bed!  When our oldest daughter was born we would religiously apply SPF 250 sunscreen on her delicate skin 20 minutes before heading outside on a cloudy day, only to reapply within 5 minutes of the sun peeking out from behind a cloud.  Now, we grunt and say…“Hey, you better put some sunscreen on.” We are usually ignored…which gives us no choice but to insert an, “I told you so,” after they burn their delicate, now incredibly tender skin.

Let’s be honest.  We get tired.  Parenting will wear people out.  That is why parenting is for the young.  The more kids that one has…the more tired that person becomes.  Then, the next thing you know, your 4th child is putting your socks on for you and telling you that you should drink water and put on sunscreen before you go outside.  Little do they know that a parent of 4 children (or more) has no intention of leaving the sofa.

Revelation 14 gave us a contrast of rest.  We read about how the followers of Satan will find NO rest, while the followers of Christ, though persecuted and even killed, will find a REST from their labors and struggles. Now in Revelation 15-16, we see God’s final wrath against sin and evil is poured out upon the earth and the enemies of God. Yet, in these chapters I am struck with God’s relentless, never ending, and tireless pursuit of people.  He is constantly drawing people to himself, desiring that they repent and turn to Him.  He never seems to get tired of calling us…He never seems to get tired of loving us and pulling us in. 

Oh, to find the rest in Jesus…whose yoke is easy…and His burden is light.  May we come to respond to God’s call…to repent and step into that rest!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

 Cut Down


The intense heat of this past week has left my lawn looking like the blotchy, scaly skin of a confused chameleon. The timing of the powerful heat and lack of rain wreaked havoc.  In addition, we were gone to Nashville during the week which left the formerly green lawn unattended and vulnerable to the deranged effects of the relentless 99 degree heat.  This has cut my pride in lawn care deeply…which was already fragile.

We don’t see these temperatures often in Minnesota.  Yet, it left me reminded of my childhood.  Not just because of the heat that I often experienced after my backside had been lit up due to my disobedient choices…but also because it seemed that the sweltering heat of summer would make the already miserable childhood house chores that much more unbearable.  As you may recall from past blogs, my dad had an affinity for planting large gardens and then employing 4 underage workers to cultivate the 2 acres of miserable vegetables. 

At one point we attempted to unionize and go on strike. With signs in hand, we began to picket and chant, “Oh no…we won’t go…we won’t weed no po-ta-to.”

The strike lasted about 2 ½ minutes when threats of having our supper withheld, led to my other 3 sibling leaving me standing alone amongst the much despised onions and peas.

Admitting defeat, I dropped my sign and went in to eat my supper…of meatballs with onions, (which I hated), boiled potatoes and peas, (which I also hated). Incidentally, I love them all now…oh how I have grown.

Each day before dad went to work, he would lay out the day’s expectations. “I need you guys to mow the lawn and weed the garden. Specifically today, you should hit the potatoes and the onions.  It would be a good idea to get it done early…it’s going to get pretty hot out there today.”

In protest, I would sit and watch Bugs Bunny cartoons until after lunch. “I’ll show him,” I thought…“Won’t he be regretful if he finds me dead of heatstroke while doing the chores.” Sadly…I lived…but barely.

As the hot days endured…my work ethic failed.  Whether from dehydration or frustration from the heat…or lack of care…or perhaps a combination of them all…I mowed over all of the newly planted pine trees, and cut down nearly all of the onions with the hoe and uprooted half of the potato plants.

One thing that I have learned when gardening…once you cut something off…it doesn’t come back, (except perhaps for grass and weeds…and warts).

We lost most of the onions that year, many potatoes were not worth harvesting and the pine trees didn’t even make a nice hedge…just flat, low evergreens about 12 inches wide.

It is harvest time in Revelation 14.  This is the chapter where everything is getting cut down…in some very gruesome ways.  This cutting is a signal for the end.  Once the cutting takes place…the time is done.  There is no recovery from the cutting.  What scares me the most of this passage, is thinking of those who continue to reject God, and the hope of Jesus Christ.  I don’t relish the day of the cutting…I have come to dread it.  When the cutting occurs, it will be too late to turn to the hope of Jesus. 

May we ALL be drawn to the hope that only comes from Jesus.  The Lord will cut down the evil…he will cut down all that is sinful and it will be burned up and consumed.  But…for those who have their hope in Jesus…they…and they alone will be saved.

May we find our hope in Christ!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Say Cheese


There are days when I encounter the real struggles in life and feel that I just cannot endure anymore.  After a year like 2020 and all of the pandemic protocols…you would think that I would be empowered with enough stamina to handle just about anything.  In fact, I thought I could…until the Little Falls Community High School Prom Picture Taking Marathon of 2021 took place. 

My oldest daughter looked amazing for her first prom.  Her escort looked nice too…which made me all the more want to jab that boutonniere pin a little too far into his lapel.  The nice young man showed up at 1:00 p.m. to pick her up and snap some pictures.  I stood and watched…and stood “in” the taking of a large number of digital photographs for about an hour.    

“There…that wasn’t so bad,” I stated to my wife…pleased with myself for the endurance I had just exhibited. 

“Yes…that was nice,” my wife answered.

“Hannah is going to text us when we are supposed to meet them at Maple Island Park for the next round of pictures.”

“Wait…what?...More pictures?” I beckoned.

“Why yes!...but that’s ok…I can go alone…I guess.”

“I will go with you,” I droned.

“Oh…you don’t have to…but ok!”

I parked the car in the nearest spot to Maple Island Park that I could find and began walking the 1 mile trek to the “bridge,” where we would stand and wait for our turn for pictures.

“Now let’s take a shot with one hand in your pocket and one hand waving…now the other hand in your pocket and the other hand waving.”

“Now let’s get a shot of just the girls…now one of just the boys…now one of just this turtle sitting on the rock in the river.”

“Let’s get a picture looking at the water…now let’s get a picture with our backs to the water…now one with the dam in the background…now one with this flowering tree.”

“Oh…we should get one with that white flowering tree over there on the opposite side of the park.”

“We should stand here and think of some more obscure shots that we could take.”

“Dad, are you coming to Grand March to take more pictures?”

If it weren’t for digital photography, we would be out of film by this time and this marathon would be over. 

If this is all I have to endure in life, then I have it extremely easy.  Despite the hours of photographs, I cannot complain.  My daughter makes good choices, as does her very respectful escort…though he may or may not have an extra pin puncture in his upper left torso.   

Yet, there are days when we must endure hardships…some much more difficult than a day of photographs.   

When I think a day of photos is rough…all I need to do is read Revelation 13.  This is one of darkest pictures of evil that we find in all of Scripture.  We find a Dragon and two beasts enter into the picture and bring about incredible destruction and hardship…specifically for followers of Jesus.  Remarkably…in the middle of this chapter…we find a brief word of encouragement.  God tells us that believers will be arrested…and killed…and this will call for “faithful endurance.”

This will take some REAL endurance!.  When we feel that we cannot take it anymore…we are called to endure.  When we don’t have the strength to do it…Jesus does!  We can faithfully endure…because Jesus faithfully endured.   

Saturday, May 8, 2021

 Cake


My youngest daughter had been talking about it for weeks…The Fabulous Footrace!  Despite being a track and field coach for over 20 seasons…I struggle to use the words “fabulous” and “footrace,” in a unified context.  I guess it likely has to do with the way that my 45 year old joints feel when I run, which just goes to show…running is for the young…and for the crazy.

In any case, my daughter was excited for this event.  She spent some minimal time “training”…i.e. running to the mailbox…or running away from responsibility…or away from rabid squirrels.  Most of her efforts in training were spent simply counting down the days until the race.  I couldn’t quite understand her excitement…especially considering how little time she actually spends running. 

“What is the deal with the Fabulous Footrace…why are you so excited?”

“Because Dad, the winner gets cake!”

“Oooh! I like cake!”

“I know right!...Me too!”

The day of the race came…and the group of girls attacked the 800m course.  However, at about the 600m mark…my daughter slowed down and began to walk.  She walked no more than two steps when one of her classmates came up beside her and barked at her, “Erica! You can’t walk! You have to keep running!”

Erica started running again, doing all she could to keep up with her friend and finish the race.

Erica DID finish the race!

However, she did not win the race.

“I am sorry that you didn’t win Erica.”

“That’s ok…I got third.”

“Yeah…but now you don’t get cake.”

“Sure I do.”

“What!?...but you didn’t win.”

“Sure I did!...Addison won…and because she won…the whole class wins…the whole class gets cake!”

I was struck with a picture of Jesus in that moment.  Victory! 

What does victory even mean? What does it really mean to “win?”

It hit me that my greatest victory in life has nothing to do with my own efforts…it has nothing to do with my talent…my work…or my initiatives.  My greatest victory in life has been given to me…because Jesus has won!...and because Jesus won! I win!!!

Jesus has defeated sin and death! Revelation 11:14-12:17, tells of the incredible story of the victory of Jesus…both past and future! 

Jesus wins!...and so do those who follow Him!

Now…when to I get cake?


Saturday, May 1, 2021

 Wontons


I have many weaknesses.  As a young father, I would get weak in the knees when my one year old, firstborn daughter begged to go to the park and play by repetitively beseeching with the two word fragmented sentence, “I play. I play. I play.”

I couldn’t help myself…“Why of course! Let’s go to the park and you can play!”

Now, as an old father, I long to have her crawl on my lap and once again beg, “Dada…I play?”  This reveals yet another weakness…I cannot contain the dehydration of my eyes.

Now instead of, “I play.” I hear the words, “What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys…see you later can I have them please?”  Oh…wait…that wasn’t her…that was Harry Chapin.

My heart tightens as I look at photos from the past and encounter the times that the memories were created. 

I also have a weakness for delicious food, including but not exclusive to: Peanut M&M’s, peanut butter, trail mix, donuts, venison, pork, beef, chicken...well maybe I should have just said meat.  I love spicy foods…hot wings, chips and salsa (with strong cilantro), chili and cheese dips and spicy sausage wontons. 

This past Christmas season, our family spent a lovely evening at my brother in law’s home, in which he hand crafted some of the most delicious wontons known to mankind.  I am well aware of my weaknesses…and thus, I knew that I would have to practice some restraint.  I chose ahead of time that I would, “Just have one”…which turned into…“Just one…at a time”…which turned into…“Several…at a time.”

I also have a weakness against wastefulness…and when I see only one or two wontons left on a try…they are not worth saving…and yet, they are too valuable to dispose of…thus…I do my duty and “take one for the team” and finish the tray.

These wontons were incredibly perfect.  They tasted so good…and felt soothing sliding down my throat and landing in my belly.  My mouth was left with the perfect blend of residual flavor and heat.  It was heavenly.

Until…it wasn’t.

As we drove home from the evening…there grew an unfortunate turmoil in my lower abdominal regions and began boiling upward.  I had my wife drive so I could hurry into the home and take a fistful of antacids. In this case…the Rolaids did NOT spell relief.  My heavenly moment erupted into a gruesome night of explosions as I hugged the white porcelain bowl, for 8 long hours, begging for God’s mercy.  This has not been an isolated incident as I can recall two other similar experiences in my life.

When I encounter moments like these, I cannot help but recall what I have read in Revelation 10:1-11:13.  This passage depicts a powerful image of an angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land.  He holds a scroll in his hand which he asks John (the recipient of the vision) to eat.  John eats the scroll…and though the scroll tastes sweet…it leaves his stomach sour.  Sometimes it is hard to understand the sweetness of God’s plan when we see the sourness of sin being judged.  May we come to see that the plan of God is sweet, yet the final destruction of sin…may be very painful to watch or experience.    

Saturday, April 24, 2021

 Oh!...You're Obese!!!


There are a variety of reasons that people avoid going to the doctor.  Some people prefer to not be touched in awkward ways.  Others hold strong resentment to robes that cover absolutely nothing on their back 50%.  Still more, prefer to not have to answer difficult questions…of which awkward options are endless.

Personally, my hesitancy rests in my strong resentment to the public weigh in.  “Ryan, the doctor will see you now…right this way…now if you will just step on this scale…Hey everyone! Ryan is about to step on this scale!...Yes this one right here in the middle of the hallway…Hey everyone!  Look!...Wow!...You’ve put on some weight haven’t you?  Time to lay off of the cookies, huh?...Now you can just wait in this room for 45 minutes and think about how many cookies you ate yesterday, and what you will eat when you go home after this appointment…I will be back in a few minutes to ridicule your blood pressure.”

One of my greatest pet peeves is what is known as the BMI (Body Mass Index) chart.  According to this “valuable” data chart…I could weigh 140lbs and stand 6’2 and be healthy.  Really!!?? I don’t think so!

Eleven years ago, my in laws gave our family a Wii, along with it was given Wii Fit.  This was the exercise “game” that was designed to trick you into becoming healthy while playing games on your TV.  Perhaps it was a hint to what I was about to learn on my own.  The family took turns stepping onto the Wii board and allowing it to measure our BMI.  After Sarah and the kids had gone through the process of entering their data…and stepping onto the board…and getting their results…the words, “Dad! It’s your turn!,” echoed between my ears, like a steel bearing in a metal coffee can.

“No…I don’t think so…I’m good.”

“Oh…come on!...You have to!...We all did it…and we all made our own Mii characters too!”  After much coaxing, I reluctantly conceded.  I entered my height…my age…eye color…shoe size…and mother’s maiden name and stepped onto the board.

The machine began talking to me through the TV speakers…“Stand Still…Measuring….Measuring…Measuring…OH!... YOU’RE OBESE!!!”

My little Mii character doubled in size on the screen before my eyes as I rebutted, “Wait! What!!! I’ll show you obese!”  I prepared to throw the new machine through the old TV…thankfully…my frugal nature took over and I went to be alone and sulk.

As embarrassing as that moment was…it served as a wake-up call.  It shook me...it angered me…it got my attention and it was at that moment that I changed.  I changed my activity, and I changed my diet…and I am now significantly lighter than I was then.

Revelation 8 and 9, tend to be a difficult and sorrowful passage to read.  We may even find ourselves afraid as we internalize the great judgments that are to come.  In these pages of the last book of the New Testament we find incredible pain, death and torment…we find hunger, and thirst and earthquakes.  God is literally shaking the earth.  I think that He is trying to get the attention of the world…He STILL wants mankind to turn to Him.  God must act severely to sin…yet, we see the love and grace and yearning for mankind to repent…and give their lives to Jesus.  Sadly, the powerful final verses paint a sorrowful picture.  “The rest of mankind…still did not repent.”

May we be shaken today! May the Lord shake our world…get our attention…and then…MAY WE REPENT!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

 Who Can Stand?


My son is a freshman in high school and stands 6’1” tall.  I am 45 years old and hold a one inch height advantage…when I stand up straight…which is less often than when I was a freshman in high school myself.  Isaac has been lifting weights regularly and working hard in all areas of his athleticism…so much so, that he recently called me out.

“Dad…I think I can take you.”

“Huh?...What was that?...You say you want to take me?...Like you are going to take me out and buy me a coffee and a donut?...Why what a nice boy I have?...Yes son…I would love to have you buy me a coffee and a donut!...When do you want to go?”

“No dad…I think I can ‘take’ you…as in…I want to meet you on a wrestling mat…and take it to you!...Take you down…beat you!”

“Wait…so…there is no donut and no coffee?”

“Nope…just me…taking it to you.”

“Let me get this straight…You…who have 4 years of ‘elementary’ wrestling experience, and…I…who have 13 years of competitive wrestling experience, including college…not to mention 4 years of volunteer coaching experience and 9 years of paid high school coaching experience...and you think that you have what it takes.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because you are 45…and I am 15.”

“You’re on…the loser buys coffee and donuts.”

“No way!…I have no money.”

It took us a few weeks to find the time and space to get onto the mats.  I will spare you of the painful details of what transpired…you can ask him yourself...but, I would expect that you may hear him say things like…

 “Wow! He moves fast for a 45 year old.”

“Crazy arm drags!”

“Oh, the pain!”

“My nose bled.”

“I was really hoping to take him down.”

Or perhaps…“He graciously let me have a point.”

I would be willing to bet that most every human being who has ever lived has experienced both victory and defeat…both, the highs of dominance and the humility of lowliness. Each of us, at some point in our lives…need to endure a nice slice of humble pie.  I have endured plenty of bitter slices myself…including one from this same son of mine, who totally surprised me as a four year old, and full on tackled me from behind during one of our backyard football games. 

Despite the pain and bitterness of defeat, I think humility is a better place to be than in the place of pride.  At the end of Revelation 6, we find a group of powerful prideful people, suddenly aware of the power of God…and they cry out in fear and humility…the chapter ends with a phrase that is stated while under the wrath of the Lamb…”Who can stand?” The simple answer is no one.  No one can stand.  There is no one righteous enough to stand under the wrath of the Lamb.  Yet…what we find in chapter 7…is that the love of the Lamb…seals those who follow him. Picture the love of the Lamb…acting as a shield…to the wrath of the very same Lamb.  It is a paradox.  It is a mystery…yet it is true.  As a believer I have been sealed…protected from the wrath of the Lamb, by the very Spirit of the Lamb.

Who can stand?

Not me…unless I have been covered by the seal of the Lamb!