Saturday, April 4, 2020


Get to the Table


It’s hard being a boy.  Girls think that they have it so rough…but it is boys who really have the greater hurdles to overcome in life.  Girls get to stay inside and play with tea sets and dolls…while boys have to go outside and play Cowboys and Native Americans…when we shoot our cap-guns at each other and say… “Hey I got you…”

“No you didn’t”

“Yes I did…”

“Fine…but it was only in the liver…I have a few minutes to live before I kick the bucket…so I got you back…”

“That’s not fair.”

“Oh yeah!?...I will show you fair.”

Then the wrestling match ensues which relents to fists flying and me grinding my brother’s face into the dirt, until mom calls out, “Boys!...Get to the table…supper is ready!”

When we arrive to the table and sit down…our mother then sends us away to “wash up.” 

“Why?” I ask…”I am just going to get ketchup on my face anyway.”

When girls come to the table, they are already washed up and ready to dine.  This just doesn’t seem fair.

Girls have long flowing hair…boys, lose their hair.

When you finally find your place at the table…the girls get served first, which appalls young boys because they know that they are hungrier than girls, (except for the brother who just ate a pound of dirt), because after all…they either just had the tar beaten out of them…or spent all of their energy bloodying their brother’s noses. There is nothing like physical altercation to build an appetite.

“Why does she get the first hot dog? I just spent 48 minutes looking for the baseball that I hit over the barn…Oh look mom…I just found a wood tick!...Cool!”

“Go wash again.”

Here is the thing.  No matter where I had been…or where my brothers had been…or been into…or what my sister had been up to…when it came time to be called to the table…there was a place for us at the table.

In fact, even when company was invited over…there was room at the table.  There were times when chairs needed to be added…table leaves brought in…card tables set up…TV trays and piano benches…but there was room at the table. Why? Because when it is time to get to the table, all who are part of the family…whether blood or adoptive had a place at the table.

There is a time in John chapter 13, where Jesus calls people to the table.  He and his friends are in the upper room and he begins to share the meal in a unique way.  He breaks bread and uses it as a symbol for how he will give his body for them.  He shares a cup of wine in a symbol of how he will shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  Despite my endless list of imperfections and inadequacy…that is a table that I want to be called to. The beauty is…He is calling us to the table.

Perhaps it’s time…to get to the table?

May you find yourself led to RSVP to the invitation…to become a part of the family of God…and get to the Table.


Saturday, March 21, 2020


Soul Peace


About a year ago, my dad bought himself a Harley Davidson.  He has owned many motorcycles in his life, but never a Harley.  I recall him day dreaming about Harleys when I was a child. Well…he finally pulled the trigger.  There are certain possessions or experiences that can make people…well, how should I say it…weird.  The first time I saw the Harley in person was when my parents came to visit us one night last summer.  Both of my parents have lived more than 6 decades and yet…this experience seem to throw them back into the teenage years that they never quite out grew.  My parents arrived in their leather chaps, sunglasses and bandannas like the young characters out of easy rider…minus the red, white and blue helmet.

The biggest tell in their regression toward the nether regions of their youth was when they saddled up to leave…my dad fired the twin cylinder engine and my mother held two fingers out in a “v” formation, and said… “Peace.”

Sure could use some of that right now, huh? It’s fascinating to consider the time in our nation’s history when those two fingers first came into prominence…the 1960’s.  The nation was filled with tie dye shirts, bell bottoms and tiny round John Lennon glasses. Peace was all around…kind of.  The nation was at war, the civil rights movement was in full swing and the drug culture was expanding greatly, and people were calling for peace.

Truth is…I think we ALL want peace…I think we all NEED peace. The peace we need is not the kind of peace that comes from raising two fingers and letting your hair blow in the wind.  The peace we need…is deep peace…inside kind of peace…a peace in the very depths of our souls.  We need soul peace. 

In Acts 9:31-43, we find the New Testament Church is experiencing “a time of peace.” What does that mean? It is really interesting, because in this passage we actually find; sickness, death and mourning.  Yet, upon deeper reflection…what we see is that the followers of Christ were free to live in peace…because the peace giver was living within them.  They lived freely…because peace had been freely given. They still encountered death and dying…but they also encountered life, love and peace.

May the Lord grant you deep, inner soul peace as you rely on Him…lean into Him…and let His loving and peaceful arms wrap around you.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Toilet Paper


It’s band concert season again.  It kicked off last Monday with the 42nd Annual Massed Band Concert at the Little Falls Community High School.  This is the concert where all of the bands from 5th grade up through high school, gather to play 4 songs together.  When you have 400+ students playing their instruments…you also have the parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, neighbors, and teachers of these students, gathering to hear the music.  1,200 people sitting on each others’ laps raising the room temperature to 98.6 degrees and sharing air and breath mints.

The concert began with the 5th grade band playing something like “hot cross buns”…and carried through the grades and ended with all of the band members for each grade moving their chairs into a huge 400+ piece band playing something like “hot cross buns.”

To entertain myself in the down time, I like to wave at my children and other children I know in the band.  To do this, I raise my arm as high and as straight as I can, and then flutter my wrist so that my hand flaps wildly at my children whom I love…to torture.  I have vowed to continue this motion until my children wave back at me.  Then, I move on to the next child…one by one, until they return the wave.  I may, then, turn my attention to other students that I know…I wave until they wave back.

After this years’ concert, my 8th grade son told me a story.  As he sat in the regrouped massed band, next to a senior, baritone saxophonist, he heard the upper classmen say… “Hey did you see that crazy dad waving at his kids in the band?...That guy is weird…funny…but weird.”

My son replied… “…____...” with silence.  He said nothing.

Sadistically, I took this upperclassmen’s comments as quite a compliment.  It meant that I was peculiar…different…odd…weird even.  It is not necessarily my life’s goal to be as strange as possible…but I will admit that it is not necessarily my life’s goal to blend in and conform to the world’s standards of accepted behavior.

For example…I don’t want to live my life in fear as I am convinced the media wants me to live.  I don’t want to conform to the values that the world says that I should value...just because the world says that I should value it.  I want to be a person who loves in a peculiar fashion…be a peculiar giver…I want to care in peculiar ways. 

Our world is currently entrenched in fear of Covid-19…and honestly…I get it…I find myself fighting the urge to conform to the fear.  But I refuse…I fight, to refuse.  It is not easy.  This does not mean that I have not and will not continue to wash my hands vigorously and perhaps avoid touching things or even shaking hands.  But, I refuse to allow fear to affect the peculiar way I may love and care for people.  I may not shake your hand…but perhaps greet you in another way…like giving you a roll of toilet paper in the name of Jesus.

Acts 9:19-31, gives us a picture of what Paul’s life began to look like after he became a follower of Christ. It is an evidence of love, care and boldness…not of fear, bitterness or resentment.  It is an evidence of a peculiar wisdom.

As followers of Christ we need to be both wise…and loving…both sensible and caring…both discerning and faithful.  We are to share the love of Christ…with or without toilet paper.

Saturday, March 7, 2020


Chevy vs. Ford



We all have a plethora of opinions that we hold to…there may be differences, however, in the way that some people choose to share…or not share these opinions.  Often our opinions and beliefs are rock solid…unchanging…etched in stone, like the Est. 1890 cornerstone on the historic courthouse in Little Falls, MN, that may or may not exist.  Let’s be honest…how many of us are actually swayed by political debates?  Most of us have already chosen our favorites…then we just sit on our sofas, eating nachos, while rooting for our debater to score a touchdown.  Are we swayed by the arguments of others?...Doubtful. 

As I was growing up through Jr. High and High School, I was adamant that there was only one automobile manufacturer worth their salt.  General Motors. The rationale was simple…two reasons. 1. Chevrolet’s wide ability of interchangeable parts.  You could take an engine from a 1968 Camaro and drop it into a 1978 Silverado.  Everything fit…without the temptation of excessive creative language. (Truth be told…Ford was probably the same…but I insisted that they were not). 2. General Motors is what my dad drove and swore by…thus by default…I was also adamantly loyal to General Motors.

In college, I would often spend my time helping people out with car problems that they were experiencing in the campus parking lot.  I replaced alternators, starters, radiator hoses, thermostats, changed oil, shocks, head gaskets, mufflers, oxygen sensors…and many more I do not even recall.  On one such occasion my bald headed friend Geno called and gave me an offer that I could not refuse.  “My Ford Ranger won’t start…I want you to fix it or I will remove your eyeballs.” Geno was on the football team.

“Geno…I already know the problem!”

“Really!? What’s that?”

“It’s a Ford…”… “No! No! Geno…put down the spoon…I was only kidding…I will fix it…I don’t mind…it’s only -30°F…it’s not like it -40°.”

I braved the snow and cold and began to work on Geno’s Ford Ranger.  It was the starter.  I already had a predisposed disgust of Fords and my frozen fingers were not aiding in building any affinity. I banged my head 3 or more times on the frame of the Ranger and Geno’s truck likely still has some of my frozen knuckle flesh left stuck to the bell housing. I finished the job and went back to my dorm room to thaw. The next morning, when I woke, I could not move my neck…like at all. I went to the doctor so that he could tell me that I was dying of Menegitis…instead he said it might be cancer.  “Go home and take this Vicodin…and if you are alive in 24 hours you will be ok.” 

It was neither of those illnesses.  I am convinced that it was the curse of the Ford.

Fast forward 4 years.  I married a beautiful girl from the Detroit area whose dad was a Ford Engineer for 30+ years.  This was an interesting twist in my life.  One of the first things I did after we were married was went out and bought a Ford Ranger.  What can I say…I had a change of heart…I was converted.

In Acts 9:1-19, we find perhaps the most incredible conversion recorded in the history of mankind.  Here we find a man, Saul, who was actively involved in the destruction of the church and the Christians that were following Christ that were establishing it.  Saul was involved in the plans to destroy the followers of Christ…to the point of murdering them. This is perhaps the greatest enemy of God, who is fully converted into the fold.  Saul…the arrestor of Christians…becomes himself…arrested…by the incredible grace from the very one he is persecuting…Jesus Christ.

I, in no way, deserve the grace of Jesus…yet, I have been arrested by it.  I have been captured by it.  I need his grace more than any of you…more than all of you…combined…AND yet, you also, need his grace more than anyone else. I hope you see…that we ALL need his grace…we all need to be arrested…we all need to be converted by His grace.  Ford or Chevy no longer makes any difference to me…but Jesus Christ does.

Saturday, February 29, 2020


Following


I remember when my dad would go off every fall for the annual deer hunting season. On those Saturday’s, while he was up north sitting in a tree waiting for Bambi to walk by, I would gather up my toy rifle and head outside into the cold morning. I would take my winter parka and turn it inside out to reveal the orange interior, pull an orange hat over my head and climb my favorite tree and wait. It took about 3 minutes and 35 seconds until I was bored…at which time I would go in for hot cocoa. I wanted to do what my dad was doing.

I used to take my “He-Man” action figures…all of which had muscles on their earlobes…and make a “weight bench” for them out of my erector set.  I would take the big, black, thick wheels of the erector set and make it look like these muscle bound plastic men were bench pressing 405lbs.  Why…because I watched my dad lift weights regularly.  I made triceps pulley machines, pull up bars, squat racks and as many other gym paraphernalia that I could conjure up.

When my dad was working on the house, I would take all the scrap boards I could find and cut them up and drive all kinds of nails though them. Why…because I wanted to do what he was doing.
Why did I yell at my siblings for destroying my stuff? Because my dad yelled at me for cutting up and driving nails into all of the lumber that he was using to build the trusses for the house.

I have video of my own son pushing his bubble making lawn mower behind me as I cut the grass on a sunny summer afternoon. Why…because he wanted to do what I did.
When I would sit on the sofa and play my guitar…he would go and grab his own guitar and sit next to me to do what I was doing.

My young son would follow me wherever I would go.  He would follow me through the aisles of the grocery store. One time he followed me into the Napa Auto Parts store and the parts dealer gave him and I, each a free Napa hat.  After that, when I would wear that hat, I would find him heading for his closet to put his own Napa hat on.  Oddly, he seems to now want to avoid following my fashion trends…huh?…what’s wrong with wearing shorts, winter boots and a parka?

During one Sunday morning, he was following me all over the church building.  However, what he didn’t realize is that he had lost sight of me and as he came up and grabbed hold of “my leg”…it wasn’t “my leg.” It was the leg of a handsome, young former student of mine…it is easy to see how he could make that mistake. 

We are all following someone.  Who we follow matters.  In Acts 8:26-40, we find Philip.  He is being led away from where he had been in Samaria…to a desert place…for a divine appointment.  Despite the fact that Philip is an early church leader…he is at heart a follower.  He is a follower of Jesus.  He goes and does what Jesus leads him to do.  It is in Philip’s willingness to follow Jesus into this incredible divine appointment that the Gospel goes out to the “ends of the earth.”

Who are you following?

Saturday, February 22, 2020


The Lecture


He sat next to me on the bus seat.  My brown paper lunch bag sat between the two of us.  I loved this little guy. He was wildly popular with most of the 2nd grade boys.  Despite the fact that he wore a purple helmet, had a hook for an arm and skull and crossbones as a belt buckle, he was still my favorite. Perhaps what made him so cool was the little eyelet on his helmet and the bear trap jaw attached to his face.  In the He-Man Universe his name was Trap Jaw and he was a bionic man…half man and half machine.  His hooked right arm could be swapped out with weapons, like hooks, claws and laser canons.  I remember taking some of my mother’s thread and running it across my bedroom…threading one end through the eyelet on his helmet and letting him zip line safely onto my bed pillow. 

I had brought him to school with me that day for show and tell.  His popularity quickly elevated my own popularity into the “acceptable for today” status.  Before the luxury of updating our own status on Facebook, we used to have to rely on the status assigned to us by others.  However, by bringing cool things in for show and tell, one could elevate their status quickly.  One time I brought in a yo-yo with some sharp edges cut into the edge to be used as a weapon…(just be sure to wear gloves)…I quickly reached “super cool” status until Mrs. Tucker took it away and it disappeared forever in the cesspool of her bottom left desk drawer. 

As the bus approached the bus stop, I put Trap Jaw into my empty lunch bag so that I would not forget him or lose any of his “attaching implements.” The bus stopped and I hopped off…I did not realize that I had left my lunch bag sitting on the seat.

That was the last day I saw be treasured and beloved Trap Jaw.  I told my parents about my devastating loss, while I fought back the tears.  My dad was super helpful in my time of distress as he said to me, “I think it is about time that I give you a lecture.”

This was great! As he began to go on and on, endlessly sharing his thoughts, I spent my time wondering, “What is a lecture…and how does this help me get my treasure back.”
But as the tireless speaking continued, I came to realize that a lecture must be a “distraction from our problems!”

“Wow! Thanks Dad! That was super distracting…I wasn’t even thinking about Trap Jaw during that long winded speech...We should keep this lecture thing in mind the next time I haven't done my homework...and i am worried about what the teacher will say...you could give me a lecture...and I could forget all about my worrying!"

I never did receive a replacement for Trap Jaw, but that doesn’t really matter. I have found many other things in life to “treasure,” cars, bikes, guitars, baseball card, etc.  I think that “treasures” might be one of the big challenges in our human nature and one of the greatest distractions to the Gospel.

The Gospel is the single greatest treasure the world has ever seen…and yet we tend to hold other things as having a greater value.  Perhaps, we “do” hold the Gospel to the great value that it is…yet, we often tend to believe that we have to somehow earn the Gospel treasure.  We can’t.  The Gospel cannot be purchased.  You cannot afford it.  There is nothing you have that is worth more.  There is nothing that you have that could earn it for you.  It has already been purchase…by the only one who could actually afford it.  Jesus.

Acts 8:4-25, presents a wonderful narrative.  We find that this treasured Gospel has spread outside of Jerusalem and is now being spread in Jerusalem.  There is a man there…a magician…who tries to quite literally…buy the power of the Gospel. Peter confronts him with the truth…which is where I think we need to find ourselves.  Here is it…the Gospel…standing before us…what will we do? Repent? Believe? Accept? Or, will we default to un-acceptance…or needing to “earn” it? What will it take for us to understand and believe?

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.