Saturday, February 15, 2020


Hypothetical conversation #592



“Good morning, Sally.”

“Well, good morning Ruby!…Boy!?…Did you not sleep well last night? You look awful.”

Awkward silence.

“I slept really well actually…thanks for asking.”

“Oh…are you feeling sick?”

“No…I feel fine.”

“You look sick.”

“Thank you…I actually feel fine…in fact, I feel really good!”

16 minutes later.

“Are you sure you are feeling ok? You really don’t look good.”

“YES!...I feel just fine.”

Quiet Tension

“Did you put on any make up this morning?”

“Yes…why?”

“You just don’t look good.”

“Thanks…”

“Your eyes look dark…do you feel tired?”

“NO!...I don’t feel tired.”

“Hungry?”

“NO!...I do NOT feel hungry.”

“Did you and your husband have a fight?”

Not so quiet tension

“No!...I don’t see how that is any of your business anyhow!”

“Did you take your temperature before you came in to work?”

“No…I didn’t need to…I feel fine.”

“Do your feet hurt? It looks like your feet hurt.”

“No.”

“Is your back bothering you? You look like you are in pain.”

“No.”

“Do you have a headache?”

“No.”

“You don’t look good…would you like me to make you some chicken soup?”

“No…I think I am just going to go home early…I am not feeling very good…”

“I KNEW IT!!!”

It is likely, in our hyper sensitive culture, that we have offended someone…or have been offended. Perhaps it is even likely that we have offended…or been offended, this past week…or even today.  It seems like someone is always offended. It is possible that we, ourselves, feel that the world is against us…and that everyone is looking to kick us in the nose and throw us to the curbside in hopes of having us be washed down the gutter.

What do we do with these offenses? I see about three options.

1. Lash out and return the offense.
2. Do nothing…right now…let the offenses build…and then lash out and return the offense.
3. Forgive.

I find shortest answer, number 3, to be the toughest answer.  We often will only choose to forgive, when we know that the other person is:

A. Truly repentant
B. Has suffered enough penance
OR
C. By forgiving it somehow makes us look better

I think true forgiveness, however, is bigger…true forgiveness is deeper.  I think true forgiveness is a supernatural act.  In Acts 6:8-8:3, we find an incredible story of one of the very first martyrs of the early church…Stephen.  When he is preaching the truth of the Gospel, he is attacked and killed with flying paving stones…his final words are astounding…“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Who does that!? Who prays for his attackers…asking for their forgiveness? That is supernatural. That is powerful. That is forgiveness.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

I don’t care




I, along with about 100 million other people sat down to watch the Kansas City Chief defeat the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday.  As football games go, it was a decent game.  Yet, despite the quality of the game, I had trouble getting very excited about any aspects of the event. There was really only one outcome that I was desperately hoping for…a tie score at the end of regulation…because if the game were to go into overtime…everyone in America would get free wings from Buffalo Wild Wings.  Unfortunately, it became apparent that as the game neared its finality, chicken wings were not going to be a part of my future. 

What was my deal? Why the apathy? I guess the bottom line is…I just didn’t care.  I didn’t really care if the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes win or if the 49ers come out on top.  I didn’t really care if Andy Reid finally wins a Super Bowl. I didn’t care about Katie Sowers’ time in the spotlight.  Nothing against any of them…sorry world…I just didn’t care.  I didn’t care if or how many touchdown’s Jimmy Garapolo would throw.  In fact, Jimmy could crack corn and I wouldn’t care. It’s just a football game, and so I think I have license to not care…granted…if the Minnesota Viking had played??? I likely would have cared too much.

What do we care about? What makes us passionate about things in life?  Is it just a purple uniform? I care about my wife and children, as I would hope most people would. I care about my siblings…but that hasn’t always been the case.  I can’t adequately express the inner pleasure that I would feel as a child, causing my little brother pain.  When he would irritate me and approach me with that little smug, “You can’t touch me or I will tell Mom, expression,” I would lie wait ready to attack him with the jawbone of a dead cat. 

“Ouch! I am bleeding! I’m  telling Mom!”

“I don’t care! You deserve it…you wouldn’t stop ‘looking’ at me…and then you crossed the imaginary line in the back seat of the car!”

It was the same with my sister.  “Mom! Ryan cut the hair of my Barbie!”

“Bwa haha…Mom’s not hear! Now I will lock you in the basement.”

She sobbed and cried…but I didn’t care.

But I do now.  I remember my younger brother having a tough stretch in college.  He was enduring car trouble, people trouble, financial trouble and likely more.  I cared.  I wanted to do something, so my wife and I put together a simple package of delicious goodies, useful supplies and a check to help him out and we mailed it to him.

My sister and her husband have trying to adopt 3 beautiful foster children that have been in their care for over a year now.  I care that she is frustrated with the legal challenges. I care that her heart is sometimes heavy and sometimes hurts. 

My older brother?...He can care for himself.

I care when my kids are emotionally hurt. When they are physically hurt…not as much…they can take a deep breath, rub some dirt on it and get over it. But, emotionally?…I seem to care a little bit more about that. I care when my wife carries the heavy burdens that only I know that she carries.
I care about how people are treated in our community.  That is not always the case.  Sometimes I distance myself from caring.  Sometimes it is easier to choose to not see.  In Acts 6:1-7, we find the early church in a moment of not fully caring.

The church in Jerusalem was growing and it was still primarily made up of all Jews.  However, some of these Jews grew up in a Greek culture (Hellenistic), and many were true Hebraic Jews…holding to all of the ancient traditions of the Hebrew people. It comes to the Apostles attention that the Grecian Jewish widows are not being cared for. There is prejudice against them because they are not “true” Hebrew Jewish Christians.  They are ALL followers of Christ! The Apostles see this issue…and they care…with everyone’s input, they select 7 men…to care.  These are the people who will help ensure that people in the church will be cared for…while the Apostles continue to care for the spiritual needs…these 7 will help care for the physical needs.  BOTH…are to be evident in the church.

What do you care about?

Saturday, February 1, 2020


Authority


Statistics show that children under the age of 10 ask questions every four minutes.  “Why is the sky blue?” “What are you doing?” “Where are my Legos?” “What are you doing?” “Can I eat lunch?” “What are you doing?” “What are we having for lunch?” “I don’t like that, can I have something else?” “Are we there yet?” “How much further?” “Can we have pizza?” “What are you doing?” These questions go on and on, until parents finally come to the end of their rope and scream “Calgon! Take me away!” But no magic music is suddenly played and the bathroom remains as un-elegant and messy as it was before the magical phrase.  The best that can be done is for parents to lock themselves into the bathroom and sob from exhaustion, while listening to a little fist bang on the door asking, “Mom, when are you going to come out of there?” “Can I have a cookie?” “Is it bad if I just swallowed a marble?”…

Up until the age of 10, children will ask their questions to their parents, after that, Google becomes a primary source of authority for relevant answers.  In either case, we look to authorities for direction during life’s most challenging moments.  We often don’t like to admit it, but we all have authorities in our lives.  Teachers, parents, doctors, government leaders, law enforcement officers, military professionals, all take on roles of authority in our lives. 

These authorities demand and mandate certain actions from us.  Bosses will control our work and our productivity.  Parents will mandate our bedtimes and household chores. Police officers and lawmakers will mandate our civil responsibilities, like speed limits and whether or not we are allowed to walk across the White House lawn.  TSA agents mandate that we cannot bring the melted king size candy bar that has melted in our pocket and is now considered a liquid or a gel onto the plane.  Teachers mandate that we do our school work…turn it in on time…and stop distracting others.

There are times in our lives, where authorities may demand that we work towards something that we know is not right.  We find an example of this in Acts 5:12-42.  The followers of Christ are doing what they know is right…what they know to be the will of Jesus…because Jesus told them so in Acts 1:8.  The name of Jesus is being proclaimed…continually.  But…there is a problem…the spiritual leaders…the Jewish authorities are against them…so much so that they are threatening the very lives of these believers.  What will these Gospel speakers do? They submit to authority.  At first they submit to the Jewish authorities, but when they are commanded to go against Jesus’ words, something changes.  Now they submit to a greater authority.  They submit to THE AUTHORITY. God himself…Jesus Christ…the Holy Spirit…and they are punished for it.

What authorities do we submit to? Do we submit to the authorities of our peers’ expectations?...or, our boss’, parents’, teachers’? We should submit to the authorities in our lives…until we have the choice to choose them over THE AUTHORITY.

“Sarah, what’s for supper?” “Where is my hammer?” “Is supper ready?” “I don’t like that…can we have pizza?” “What are you doing with that broom raise above head like a baseball bat?” “Why did you lock yourself in the bathroom?...”



Saturday, January 25, 2020


The Enemy



In 2009 the unthinkable happened…no, not the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic…nor am I referring to the death of the King of Pop.  Rather, something that hit really close to home for most Minnesota Viking fans.  This was the year that the arch-nemesis and continued object of Viking fandom ridicule, left the ‘dark side’ and came to Minnesota to join the forces of good and fight the dark forces of the Green Bay Packers…defeating the green enemy twice that year.

I cannot imagine that I was the only one struggling with accepting Brett Favre as our new quarterback after having rooted for his demise for 16 seasons. Yet, I was astounded that as he donned the royal purple and gold and began throwing touchdowns for the good guys.  I came to the realization…“this guy is on our side…he is for us…he is one of us.”

I hardly even remember that interception in overtime of the NFC championship game against the Saints. Out of his career leading interceptions…why did he have to throw that one? After that game…he nearly retired…again, which interestingly, would have left him having his very first and his very last NFL passes…both going down as interception.

Instead, he came back in 2010…he did not have the magical year that he had in 2009…but he was still one of the good guys.

This strikes me as a picture of unity.  When people have a common goal…we find a deep unity arising.  That is the beauty of the Church.  In Acts chapter 4 we see a great unity begin in this new community of believers.  They are people from every tribe, nation, culture and language…(it is like every team in football has sent in their representative)…and with the common goal of Christ and making him known…they unite. 

The depth of the unity is so great.  They are willing to give of their time, their money, their property and their love for each other, because of their shared love for Christ. 

May we come to have Christ in common…and unite to make His Name Great!

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Posing



The pressures in middle school and high school are enormous and come in many forms.  Teachers have the crazy expectations that middle school boys should not be pulling the pony tails of the cute girls that sit in front of them.  Teachers should know better than to tempt young boys with a seating chart that places them in such close proximity. Why wouldn’t they put the boys with other boys…oh wait…I see…there is a reason why that corner of the room was called spitball saloon. 

Science teachers seem to have the expectation that young eager minds should not combine sodium (na) and hydrogen peroxide (H202)…Mr. Klawiter has no proof that I caused that mess!  Principals appear to all share the irrational demands that lockers should not be “penny jammed”, slimed or stuffed with exceptionally small 7th graders. Parents unanimously expect their young Einsteins to get good grades and learn things…since when did school become an institution of higher learning.  As best as I can recall, it has always been a place of socially awkward attempts at becoming accepted by our peers.

That may very well be the greatest pressure of all. Despite my awkward social skills, excessive body odor, lack of coarse language, blue jeans 6 inches too short for my legs and the Mickey Mouse decal on my overalls…I still lacked the social prowess to be in with the popular elite.  The years spent in middle school and high school are the mere adventures of young boys (or girls) on desperate journeys of acceptance. 

One day a friend asked me, “Have you ever even had a girlfriend?”

“Yes…of course I have.” I lied.

I wish I had left it at that…but something drew me in.  I saw this as an opportunity for popularity…and so before I could think it all through, I blurted out…“In fact, I have one now.”

“Really!?...Who?”

“You wouldn’t know her…She doesn’t go to this school.”

“Really?...What school does she go to?”

“Verndale…She is from Verndale.”

“Really?...What is her name?”

“Emily.” I said without thinking.

“Really?...What is her last name?”

“Resch”...This was getting deep.

“No way!...I know her!”

This was a jaw dropping moment.  I couldn’t decide…did he really know her?  Did he really know an Emily Resch or was he lying to the same extent that I was.  There was no Emily Resch…I had totally made it up…all of it…none of it was true.

For the next 3 weeks I endured questions and requests to bring her over to his party on Friday night…or the football game next week.  Until finally, I had had enough of this charade and did the only thing I could do.  I broke up with Emily Resch.  I broke her imaginary heart…she wept bitterly and threw her imaginary notebook at my face…but in the end I affirmed her that she would find someone better than me…at least more genuine.  We said our goodbyes…no kiss…no hand holding…just an air hug.  Finally, I was free…sort of.

Our lives are filled with posing. We spend so much time and energy trying to help people see us the way we want them to see us.  Zuckerburg has made it much easier for us...but posing has existed way before Facebook. 

This truth is thousands of years old.  In fact, we see it in the Scriptures.  The book of Acts records an event in Acts 5:1-11.  Two believers in Jesus decide to do something that looks really kind and caring and loving.  Unfortunately for them…they didn’t do it to make the name of Jesus great…they decided to try and build their own names and reputation, so that they would be seen as generous and Godly.  They were posing as “great people”…when they should have been proclaiming a great God. 

I am no different…and if you are honest…you are probably the same as me.  We worry about what people will think.  We want to matter.  No matter what we do…we already matter deeply to the most important person ever…Jesus. When we can come and see that He is the Great One…then perhaps we can stop posing and let him make us into who He wants us to be.

Saturday, January 11, 2020


Road Trip


The rusty 2007 Dodge Caravan was fully loaded with the family, luggage and a trailer in tow. As I pulled the vehicle out of the driveway this past holiday season, I couldn’t help but reflect on this same trip that we have taken every year, for the past 20 years.  So many memories have been made on these highways between Little Falls, Minnesota and Dearborn, Michigan.  Dearborn is a suburb of Detroit, and despite my many visits to the Detroit area, I have yet to meet Kid Rock, Eminem or Barry Sanders…maybe next year. 

Throughout the journey I recalled some of the events of the past as we passed by the sections of freeway where they occurred. I watched mile 115 pass and remembered when we nearly rolled the van on I-94 between Tomah and Hixton, Wisconsin (See Blog Post: Solocam 6/22/19).

When we passed by the Belvidere Toll Plaza, I remembered the time in 2004 where I was forced to pull over to the side of the road due to a backside explosion of our, then, zero year old, firstborn daughter.  My wife and I spent the remainder of that trip through Chicago with our heads hanging out the window like a couple of coon hounds, so as to gain some fresh air to breathe.  How bad is it that smog is healthier to breathe than baby methane?  I would have dropped the diaper into a toll plaza coin catcher if Sarah would have allowed me to.  I figured I could either give the 40 cents…or I could give them something really “priceless.” In the end…I was forced to battle the toxic fumes and the dizzy spells until we reached the Michigan border where we could safely discard the defecated bomb.

So many events have occurred on these roads…countless traffic jams…driving through blizzards…stuck in traffic with 94 degree heat and no AC on the Skyway in Chicago…children fighting in the back seats…spilled, sugary beverages…enough potty stops to shake a stick at…pregnant wife vomiting in the car regularly during 12 hour trip.

This year, as we approached the nearby city of St. Cloud, Minnesota, I remembered an event from just the previous year.  We were on the road early that year. The night before, I had finished loading up the suitcases perfectly like you would expect a Tetris addict from the 90’s to do.  The kids had their pillows and blankets…enough that you would think it would have insulated the noise from their fights…though it didn’t.   I made sure we had the dog kennel and his food…his leash…his dog dishes…even his play toy. 

I feel like I am a very “enjoy the journey” type person…but when it comes to road trips…it is all destination…and how good of time we can make on the way. Diapers, traffic, and potty stops are all obstacles toward reaching the end goal in the most efficient way possible.

As we approached the mini Midwest metropolis…Sarah asked…“Where is the dog?”

Silence…

So much for making good time.

Unbelievable…we had everything…everything…but the dog.  “Do we really have to go back for him?” I asked.

“He will starve to death if we don’t.”

“I know.”

“He will mess all over the carpet.”

“Ok fine…we will go back for him.”

Life is like a road trip.  It is full of obstacles and it is meant to be traversed.  It is much more than just a highway to a destination.  Yet, there exists a destination at the end of it that should motivate us to engage as many people along the way as we can.  It will seem like there are powers that be...obstacles…that are trying to do all they can to prevent us from reaching the destination.  Small bladders, car wrecks and missing dogs being just some of them.

In Acts chapter 4, we find some greater hardships than many of us have yet experienced, though in truth, we may one day encounter.  Two Apostles have just been arrested, Peter and John, and have been accused of doing evil, when in truth they have only done good.  The Lord had just used them to heal a crippled beggar. When faced with these hardships, we find them praying.  Interestingly, they do not pray for ease of journey, nor do they pray for comfort.  Rather, they pray that they will be able to continue on in the journey…that they will be able to continue speaking the truth, even when people are trying hard to shut them up.  They pray that they will have boldness…and strength to never quit.

May you find yourself praying for strength on your journey.  May the Lord grant you the grace to never quit…even under the hardships endured in this world.

Monday, December 23, 2019

No Thanks...I'm Good



I woke up early and went to the bait store.  I walked in and said, “I would like one scoop of the crappiest minnows you have.”

“You mean that you want a scoop of crappie minnows?”

“Yes…that’s what I said.”

“No…you tried to make a bad joke based on a crappie pun.”

“Oh…well…how about some night crawlers too, and some 2 cycle oil.”

I finished buying the bait and the oil as well as some snacks and lemonade and I headed home to prepare the boat.  I set up the seats, gathered the rods and the tackle.  I loaded the life jackets and minnow bucket, and hitched up the trailer to the truck.  I then went inside to gather the last item that I needed to collect.

“Erica! I have everything ready! I am taking you on your first fishing trip today!”

This had been the tradition with the other three children.  When they were around the age of 3 or so, I would take them on a “one on one” fishing trip to catch their first fish.  The excursion would not end at the catching of the first fish…it would continue as I would bring the fish home…cut it up…cook it and make the child eat it…on a Nemo plate. 

I was so excited to take my fourth born and head out to a local lake that day.  I fully expected that we would stuff our faces with pretzels, chips and lemonade and I would see how excited she would be to catch her first fish.

“Sarah! Where is Erica?”

“I think she might be down in her room.”

“Erica! Are you so excited? Do you want to go on your first fishing trip today?”

“No thank you…I’m good.”

“…a…wh…a…really?”

“Yeah…I don’t really want to go…I want to play with my dollies.”

“Really?  Are you sure? You don’t want to go fishing? Just you and me?”

“No thanks…I’m good.”

“…umm…ok…I guess…”

I don’t think she realized what was being offered.  She told me no.  I didn’t take her fishing that day.

I am struck with a spiritual parallel.  Just as Erica, perhaps, did not fully understand my offer, I am not sure we often understand what God is offering to us. It was an offer of love to her.  Likewise, God gives to us an offer of love. We speak a lot about God’s love.  I have come to believe that every concept that I have, of the love of God, falls short of its true depth…its power…its amazing fullness.
In fact, for years, when offered this reality of God’s love…my response was, “No thanks…I’m good. I think I can save myself…I think I can be good enough.  I think I can get everything I want or need out of life on my own…I don’t need or want what you are offering.”  All the while, not realizing what he was offering, and how incapable I was…how incapable I am…of saving myself.

Of all the promises that God made…and kept…The giving and receiving of his love is perhaps the most incredible one to me.

God has always been love…and now…at Christmas…he gives us the picture of just what that love is…he sends his Son…to take our place.