Saturday, April 20, 2019


Green Jacket


Three of my brothers-in-law and I stepped out of the Ford Freestyle, just as the sun was making its appearance over the distant pines of south, central Wisconsin.  Once a year, the four of us would gather in a central location to battle it out on the fairways.  We play to win.  We play for pride.  We play for a Goodwill green jacket.

We like to arrive early…so early, in fact, that the course has not yet opened and even the squirrels were still snug in their nests.  Why so early?...to avoid the possibility of being seen by onlookers who may ridicule our game or unfashionable clothing.  I stood and waited for my fellow competitors to secure their cleats to their feet.  As I lingered, I couldn’t help but sarcastically mock them at the “imperative” value that these cleats will have on their game.  “Wow! Now you are going to win for sure!  I would hate to have you slip and fall while making that crucial putt! Boy I wish I had cleats…because then maybe I would have a chance to win!”

We walked to the first t-box.  I set my overpriced coffee down on the dew covered grass.  It was a short par 3…only 115 yards or so to the pin.  I pulled out my pitching wedge and teed the ball nice and high to limit my distance.  I can modify my swing to three stages…hard, harder, hardest.  I stepped up to the ball and gave it a nice hard stroke.  The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back looking at the tree tops…while all three of my brothers-in-law were rolling with laughter…I should have worn cleats.

I was so inspired this past week, as I watched Tiger Woods achieve legendary greatness by winning his 5th green jacket…at the antiqued age of 43. I am astounded that he can even walk, let alone play golf.  You would think he would need a walker by this time…perhaps even a wheel chair…or at the very least a cane…although he could probably get by using his putter to keep him upright.  I know how he must feel because as I rolled out of bed this morning to popping knees, twisted neck, and a back that kept me folded in half until 30 minutes after my shower…I realized…I am also 43 years old...in fact, I am a month and a half younger.  Thus…by the definition of the transitive property…I should also be able to win the next Masters tournament…although my odds may increase just a bit if I played golf more than once a year.

During one of our annual tournaments I was leading heading into the last hole.  My brother-in-law was easily within striking distance.  I was on the t-box and all I needed to do was a nice easy swing and keep the ball in the fairway.  So I wondered, “What swing should I use? Hard, harder or hardest?”  I opted for hardest…that should be a nice easy swing to keep it onto the fairway.  I swung the club nice and hard…crushing the ball!...hooking it hard to the left…on a “dogleg right!” Yikes!  There goes the game…the match…the tournament…the green jacket!  Until…my ball hits high and hard on a giant white pine…and kicks hard right…into the middle of the fairway…set up for a lovely look to the green.  My brother-in-law rolled his eyes and said, “What was that!”

“Clean living Dave…clean living.”

There is a story that Jesus shares in the Gospel of Luke.  It is a story about a father who had two sons.  The younger of the two sons, insults his dad by asking for his inheritance early…a request that pretty much says…“Dad, I wish you were dead so I can have my share of your money.”  This disrespectful son then goes off and spends all of his inheritance and finds himself broken and poor. When he comes to his senses and goes back home…his father lavishes love and riches on him once again…while the older brother looks on with disdain.  He says “Dad…I never received a party in my honor…what about me?”  The irony…is that both sons were not in love with their father…they were in love with themselves.  They only saw their father as a means to “get what they wanted.” Both sons were lost…only one comes to realize it…but the other does not.  Have you been lost? Are you lost now? Are you lost but you don’t realize it?  There is direction.

Sometimes we go through life thinking that if I do all of the “right things”…if I live a “clean” life, then God will bless us.  In a case like that…what are we concerned about?...God or ourselves? Do we want God or do we want stuff from God? Do I care about God or do I simply care about keeping my ball on the fairway.

Are you lost? There is direction…it is Jesus.

Friday, April 12, 2019


Winter Storm Wesley



Sometimes it is difficult to look out the window and watch the snow fall in torrents…especially as we have all waited so patiently for spring to arrive.  Yet, I think if we try really hard, we can come up with some benefits…advantages…nicenesses (made up word) about our recent encounter with Winter Storm Wesley.

Top 10 advantages to the recent snow storm:

10.  We can be thankful that our name is not Wesley.  Unless of course your names is Wesley…in which then I am desperately sorry for all of the ridicule, hate mail and blame that you may have received with the recent mid April snow fall that you brought us.  How could you? What were you thinking? This is all your fault!

9.  Many of us were able to spend an extra day at home with our children since their school got cancelled.  Is there a better way to spend a snow day than to be locked inside with aggressive, stir crazy children that cannot find anything better to do than to fight and make messes?  What a blessing to have them around!

8.  We were able to double check the effectiveness of our 4x4 transmissions…and be reminded of the poor traction of our minivans.

7.  This storm allowed us to divert our frustration from our children to the plow driver who just plowed our driveways in with 2 feet of heavy wet snow.

6.  We get to wear our favorite sweater and boots again!...and here we didn’t think we would be blessed with that opportunity again for 4 months! Hooray!

5.  Our brown lawns are no longer brown!

4. The robins in the tree are easier to see and watch…although they appear to be angry and confused, perhaps thinking that they have all gone suddenly colorblind.  I am pretty sure I just heard a baby robin say, “Mommy…what is happening! Everything is white! Am I dying? Should I go into the white?”  Or did it just say…“ Tweet! Tweet!” Hard to tell…it could have been either.

3.  This made us procrastinators look brilliant! “No dear…this is exactly why I didn’t put the snow blower away yet…No, it did not have anything to do with laziness…or watching the NCAA Basketball tournament…It was all a plan to be able to continually provide you a nice clean place to park...outside the garage…because inside the garage is where the snow blower has to be kept.”

2.  It gave us all something to talk about. “Well how about that snow huh?”  “Yep, it’s something” “Yep, sure is.” “Supposed to get quite a bit” “Yep, sure are”  “Well it’s been nice talking to you.” “Yep, you too.”

1. Well, now at least you don’t have to go to your Great Great Aunt Mertle’s 15th birthday party for her pet cat Fluffy.  “Oh, Aunt Mertle, I would love to come…but I am sorry, this snow storm has got me totally blocked in…no, no, you don’t need to use your tractor to come and plow me out…no it isn’t safe for you to come…no really…please this is not necessary...Aunt Mertle?...hello?...Aunt Mertle?...”

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Wall


I was talking with my dad after my last blog entry about pulling stumps…He said to me, “You make me sound like a slave driver.” In which my mother replied…“You were!”   
However, people change. It was just a month and a half ago, that I asked my dad if he wanted to head out ice fishing, with me and my son.  The snow was too deep to be able to drive out onto the ice…and dragging a sled would probably leave my son way too exhausted to fish…especially after the multiple trips he would have to take to pull the sled out, ice augers, bait bucket, tip ups, heater, rods, and the rest of the gear.  All the while, I may have frozen to death waiting for him to get all of the equipment out and set up.  Needless to say…we needed grandpa to join us…he had the snowmobile.  My dad replied...“It’s too cold!” 
“What!?” I replied… “What happened to the man who used to make us head out to cut those three cords of wood in -30 below weather?”
“He got older…and wiser.”
Hindsight is always 20/20…but as I have grown older, I have come to know the wisdom of my slave driving patriarch.  If he hadn’t pushed me and my brothers to help with the wood cutting, we would have likely frozen to death in that country farmhouse…only to wake up to the news reports…“Family of 6 parishes in bitter Minnesota winter due to lazy children.”  But on the flip side…if dad hadn’t taught me this work ethic, I might still be living in his basement eating Cheetos and allowing my mother the privilege of washing my dirty socks…although...I would probably just walk around barefoot…unless, of course, dad didn’t have enough wood to keep the house warm…then I might wear his slippers.
This “wiser man” has now switched to propane…and now makes the three of us boys install 15 year shingles on his roof, instead of 30 year shingles...he doesn’t plan on living long enough to make us re-shingle again.
This man is so inspiring, that I cannot help but live up to his example.  “Hey Isaac…go grab a spade and start digging a hole in the back yard!”
“Why?”
“Because we don’t have any stumps and I don’t want you living here till you are 43!...Now Dig!”
Daniel Chapter 5 contains a semi-well known, but obscure, story about a spoiled brat.  At the time of this story…a man by the name of Nabonidus is the King of Babylon, but he has left the city of Babylon to build himself a palace in Tayma…(south and east of Babylon).  He has been gone for 10 years and has left his son Belshazzar in charge.  The problem is that Belshazzar is nothing but a partier…reveler…and a drunkard.  While Belshazzar is busy partying…the King of Persia has surrounded his city and is ready to attack.  However, Belshazzar has plenty of food, wine, water, pizza, Xbox and a city that is so well fortified he could about live out his life in the city without worrying about anyone…let alone Persia.  In his arrogance, he takes the sacred vessels that had been taken from God’s Temple in Jerusalem and uses them in his mockingly arrogant fiesta.
There is only so much that God will take…and at this moment, he has had enough.  God’s very hand writes on the wall and says…“Numbers, Numbers, Counted, Divided.”  Translated: Belshazzar…God has numbered your transgressions…they are counted against you…and you will be cut down!”...the writing is on the wall.
Then it happened…that very night, his city was conquered and he lost his life!
What’s the point?  We serve a very loving and gracious God…but there will come a point where as if we are not coming to know Him…and or leading others to know Him…he will cut us off.  I can’t help but to contrast the response between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.  Both are given an opportunity to know God…however, only one finally chooses to follow Him, while the other chooses to mock Him.  It is difficult to reconcile God’s response…but He desires to transform us.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


Stump


“Hey boys!...Want to have some fun?”

“Ummm…I don’t know Dad…The last time you asked us if we wanted to have some fun, you took us out to cut 3 cords of wood in -30°F temperatures…cut, split, stacked, unloaded, re-stacked…then we went inside for popsicles.”

“No…that’s not right.” My brother replied, “The last time was when he had us help him put the 30ft. antenna pole on top of the 10/12 pitched 2nd story roof, in a wind storm.”

“Oh yeah…that’s right…Sorry Dad…I think we’ll pass on this one.”

“Nope…no passing allowed…grab an ax, a spade and the grub maul…we are going to pull some stumps!”

“Dad! It’s like 98 degrees outside!”

“A little sweat is good for ya!”

“Oooo, how exciting…maybe afterward we can go inside for some hot cocoa!”

The vast 3 acres of land that surrounded my boyhood home was littered with box elder trees.  These trees were fabulous for recreational climbing as well as escaping the retaliations of younger siblings.  Yet, these trees were notorious for falling limbs…blowing down during thunderstorms and taking all of our summer freedom and childhood dreams of play away as we spent endless hours pulling stumps.

It is possible that the “stump grinder” had not been invented yet.  Though it is more likely that my father was unwilling to rent or hire out the job of grinding the stumps…because it is much cheaper to replace ax handles, bandage up bleeding heads and rebuild manual transmissions.

My dad, two brothers and I picked up the tools and got to work.  We chipped away at the ground around the stump, following the roots out until we could sever them with the ax.  We hacked away at the roots one by one...digging deeper and deeper as we attempted to get under the stump.  We would jab away with an old steel ice chisel until we could get a logging chain wrapped under the belly of the stump.  We would secure the other end of the chain to the Chevy Silvarado…back the truck up right to the edge of the stump…rev the engine…dump the clutch and gun it.  The truck would come to an abrupt bone crushing stop!  We usually remembered to secure our seat belt…after we peeled our teeth off of the steering wheel from the initial attempt.

“Must still be some root holding on…”

“Really Dad? You think?!”

Hack, hack, hack, chop, chop, chop, dig, dig, dig, poke, poke poke…”Ok…Try it again!”

Vroom…vroom…vroom…whaaaa…slam!...”Hey Ryan…your nose is bleeding…maybe you should buckle up!”

Hack, hack, hack, chop, chop, chop, dig, dig, dig, poke, poke poke…“Ok…Try it again!”

This pattern continued until the stump would finally come free. 

I recall pulling one stump when I was home from college one summer.  As we were working, my future brother-in-law pulled up into the driveway.  My dad sauntered up to the smitten young man, 

“So…I hear that you want to marry my daughter huh?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then secure this logging chain to your truck.”

The only thing better than using a 4x4 to pull stumps…is to use a future son-in-law’s 4x4 to pull stumps.  In times of old it wasn’t uncommon for a young, bespoken, affianced man to pay a dowry for the hand of his soon to be bride…or in some rare cases…the use of your 4x4 to pull a stump…and perhaps the cost of a new bumper…seems a fair price.

If stumps are left in the ground…it is not uncommon to see some life still spring up from the base.  Small young branches may sprout and grow.  However, when the roots are cut…and the stumps removed…that tree is gone for good.

There is a story in the book of Daniel…chapter 4…about how God cuts the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, down to size.  Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and arrogance is over the top.  Nebuchadnezzar sees himself as the mightiest man in the world…yet, God does something remarkable.  God removes him from power…he cuts him down.  Yet, God leaves the “stump.”  God cuts Nebuchadnezzar down…not to destroy him…but rather to draw the king to himself.  God leaves the roots and the stumps because he desires to put Nebuchadnezzar back on the throne.  God changes Nebuchadnezzar’s heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh…and he does so, through some very painful experiences.  In the end Nebuchadnezzar glorifies God and praises him for what He did.

Can you praise God through the pain?  Will you?

Saturday, March 9, 2019


Fire


A few months ago my son was into jumping.  If he saw a garbage can he would say…“Hey Dad! Do you think I can jump over the garbage can?”

“I don’t know son…do you think you can afford reconstructive knee surgery?”

He stopped asking…but kept jumping.

I have watched him jump over chairs, railings, boulders and more…sometimes successfully…sometimes he prefers to leave evidence of his attempts on his elbows, knees and face.  Recently, while he was walking behind me as we were entering our local Walmart, he attempted to leapfrog one of the tall cement pillar.  I heard a “thwack” behind me…followed by the voice of an elderly lady, “Oh dear! Are you ok?”

I turned and saw Isaac face planted on the concrete.  I shook my head…chuckled…and said “Knucklehead!...I wonder if I could get the security video from Walmart…I’d bet that would go viral.”

Just last summer I caught Isaac jumping over several campfires…“Knucklehead!”

He has always had a bit of a destructive streak in him.  As a young child he threw our vacuum cleaner down the stairs and attempted to burn down the house by cooking Sarah’s “corn-bag” in the microwave for an hour.  Fortunately, we found it after only about 20 minutes…we were able to salvage the house…but not the corn-bag…or the microwave.  I set the microwave on the curb and wrote FREE on a piece of cardboard.  Some young college bound student came by…“Sweet! Check it out Jimmy!...It’s FREE!...and it already smells like burnt popcorn!”

“Awesome!...that’s so perfect!”

Fires are dangerous!

A couple of years ago our sweet children wanted to bless Sarah and I on our anniversary by making us breakfast in bed.  Popover pancakes were on the menu. What they didn’t realize is that too much butter isn’t always a good thing…and that if handled correctly…or perhaps incorrectly…butter is combustible.

The words, “Happy Anniversary!” lack a little of their restful luster when they are immediately proceeded by, “The oven is on fire!”…so much for sleeping in.

I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of keeping a serviceable fire extinguisher in your kitchens.

I grabbed a box of baking soda and began dousing the oven fire.

“Pancakes are ready!”

“I think I will have toast.”

“Actually…about the toaster…”

Fire can be extremely destructive…devastating even.  I have had friends, family and neighbors all lose their homes to fire.  Yet fire can serve purposes of great value as well.  If you are lost in the woods…the three top necessities include; water, shelter, and warmth (fire).  Fire could literally save your life…not to mention make eating squirrel much more palatable.  Perhaps #4 on the survivors list ought to be salt and pepper. 

There is a story in Daniel chapter 3 that is filled with fiery times.  In this story you find fire that destroys…is intended to destroy…used as punishment…yet, God uses it to bring glory to himself.  Three men are faced with the dilemma of whether to bow down and worship a pagan king and his pagan idol…or resist and burn alive in a furnace of fire.  God saves them from the flames, while others die.  The miracle that God performs changes the object of worship from a golden statue to God Almighty. 

We may not always have control of the outcome of the fiery situations in our lives…yet, I believe that I can say confidently…“When we follow Jesus…He will ALWAYS use them to bring glory to His name.”

I need to be ok with that…what about you?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Far From Home


The Chevette was fully loaded. The small compact car and the trailer it pulled, were both filled with luggage, food, people and a motorcycle…but not a car seat…there would not have been enough room for such an unnecessary item. Six and a half of us climbed into the 5 seat vehicle. My dad and grandfather manned the two front bucket seats, and each took turns driving. My mother, who was 5 months pregnant, sat in the back seat taking care of my 13 month old baby brother, while my older brother and I crouched in the hatchback eating sandwiches and getting bored of our coloring books.  The excursion began at about 4:00 a.m. from northern Minnesota and the goal was Panama City Florida…more than 1500 miles away. 

I remember my dad’s words as we were loaded into the back of the small car.  “This is going to be a very long trip…you need to be ready for that…I don’t you asking, ‘Are we there yet!’”

“Ok, Dad, I won’t”

After what seemed like an eternity…I couldn’t stand not knowing our position and ETA any longer…”Are we almost there?” I moaned.

With apprehensive tension my dad replied…”We have only gone 8 miles…ask me again 1500 miles from now”

It is possible that trip may have been the longest trip of my dad’s life…non-stop…through the night…moaning children and a crying toddler.  Rather…perhaps it was the second longest…the longest being the trip home when we added a dog to the list of things to pack.  The coon hound puppy traveled 1500 miles home in the back of the trailer vomiting and excreting at every opportunity.  He is the only dog that I have ever met, that HATED car rides. I can’t help but wonder if this experience somehow scarred him?

My wife was teaching some young pre-school children at church on one Sunday morning.  She asked these kids, “When have you been far from home?”

As children will do, they exclaimed their answers, all at once,…in “outside voices.”

“Wisconsin!”

“Ikea!”

“Upstairs!”

Distance is really quite relative.  Whether it is 1500 miles away or ten miles down the road, it can seem to be an insurmountable gap.  For some, the distance from home to Ikea is the equivalent of Frodo Baggins going from the Shire to Mordor, while for others the task of being sent upstairs can feel as far away as Neptune.

Daniel chapter 2, takes place while Daniel is far from home.  He, along with his friends, has been exiled to Babylon…over 500 miles away (as the crow flies) from Jerusalem.  I wonder if Daniel ever asked, “Hey Uncle Nebuchadnezzer…How much further?”

“Quiet back there…we’ll get there when we get there!...Don’t make me pull this camel over!”

There is a great deal to glean from this chapter in Daniel.  In it we can find, the incredible sovereignty of Almighty God, images of insecurity masqueraded by power, keeping our character, faith and hope while we are far from home, and the promise of a Savior who will come and establish an eternal kingdom!

In truth, each follower of Christ is far from home.  We are exiles…resident aliens awaiting our permanent, eternal home.  Yet, within the waiting, we are called to make this place better…proclaiming the Gospel, reflecting His image and pointing to His greatness.

“Are we there yet?”

“No…but each day we get a little bit closer!”

Perhaps we should load up the car…hitch up the trailer and bring as many with us as we go.

Saturday, February 23, 2019


The Eyes Have It


My dad has blue eyes.  My mom has brown eyes. I always thought it would be nice to have blue eyes…or if not blue, then brown would be fine. I remember sitting in 9th grade science class learning about how different genes makes different parts of us different.  For example, one poor sap in our class was blue-yellow color blind.  You wouldn’t think it would be such a big deal, until his girlfriend tells him to sit by him at the “blue table”…only to walk into the dining center to see him sitting at the “yellow table” with a group of girls. It’s over!  I had another colorblind friend who was fired from a strawberry farm…apparently the farmer felt it was important to only pick the red berries.  My friend WAS able to land another job at the same farm…pulling all of the “red” weeds...no problems after that!  Abominable genes!

Genes make us who we are…at least physically.  I recall my three siblings and I standing in the kitchen with my mother.  She had in her hand four straws.  Each one of us took a turn drawing a straw.  The one with the shortest straw had to take out the garbage, and cut the grass, and haul in wood, and take a shower.  I drew the short straw.  The shower was the worst!

I am afraid that this short straw pattern may have carried over into my gene pool as well.  My father has a high forehead with a thick head of hair to cover it up.  My mother has a lower hairline…but her hair has always been naturally thinner.  Guess what I get? High forehead…thin hair…some call it balding…but I call it…abominable genes!

I have flat feet, poor eyesight, back pain, shoulder pain, bad sinuses…when I get a cold I pass out for three days due to lack of oxygen.  Abominable genes!

I have eyes the color of swamp water.  I could stand in my grandmother’s 1950’s era kitchen and have people say, “Wow! Your eyes really make these vomit green cabinets pop!”

I married a good woman.  Without getting too personal, she likes my eyes.  Whenever I walk into a room she says things like, “I’m hungry…do we have any olives, or maybe some avocados?” 
Sometimes she will purr like a kitten when she looks into my eyes…she must think that my green eyes make me look somewhat catlike.  I have wondered…that since she likes my eyes so much, if maybe I should “give” them to her…but then I didn’t really “see” the point in that.

Astoundingly, she likes my eyes so much that she will go out and intentionally buy me green shirts because she says it makes my eyes stand out.  Crazy! She actually wants to draw attention to my dead seaweed colored eyes!

In Daniel chapter 1, we encounter four men who are willing to allow themselves to “stand out,” to be noticed, to be put on display…to actually make God shine all the more!  Daniel and his three compatriots have been taken into exile in Babylon.  The enemy’s intent is to completely assimilate them into the Babylonian culture.  Yet, we see the character of Daniel stand out against the Babylonian culture.  It’s like God is putting Daniel on display…to make Himself stand out all the more!

I guess if genes make me the way that I am…I can use myself to put God on display…to somehow use my character to accent Him.

Now, if only I could get my big legs to fit into these Levis! Abominable jeans!